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Originally published Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Tips for silencing a squeaky floor, cleaning roof overhangs and more

Q: Our older house has developed squeaky wood floors. What can we do to alleviate this? A: The squeaks are caused by wood rubbing against...

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Q: Our older house has developed squeaky wood floors. What can we do to alleviate this?

A: The squeaks are caused by wood rubbing against nails or other wood when weight is applied. Quieting squeaks can be very tricky, and success often depends on having good access to the floor.

It sometimes helps to lubricate the boards in squeaky areas by sweeping talcum powder into the cracks. Carefully clean up any powder on the surface to prevent slipping.

Floor boards in squeaky areas can be renailed. Use two 1/2-inch flooring nails and if possible nail into the floor joists or supporting framework. Set the nail heads slightly below the surface of the wood and fill the holes with wood putty that matches the floor finish.

The best results can often be achieved by working from below, if there is access such as a basement with exposed joists and subflooring. Have someone walk over the floor and mark squeaky areas with chalk. Look for movement in the subfloor when weight is applied above. Slight gaps can sometimes be spotted between subfloor and joists, allowing movement that causes squeaks. Thin wood shims, coated with glue on both sides, can be tapped into the gaps to stop the movement. Packs of shims are available at some home centers and building supply outlets.

There also are special metal braces that can be used to tighten floors from below. Braces are screwed to joists and subfloor, holding loose surfaces tightly together. One source for braces is Improvements (www.improvementscatalog.com, item 105064, four braces for about $15).

Some floors squeak because the joists are not strong enough and the floor flexes when walked on. If that's the case, supporting posts or other means to shore up the joists are needed.

Q: My roof overhangs are covered underneath with perforated vinyl panels. They are mildewed and dirty but I'm afraid to pressure wash them for fear that the water will get into the perforations and cause damage behind the panels. What do you suggest?

A: I agree that high-pressure washing could cause some problems, especially where these panels span vents that let air into the attic. The best bet is to use a low-pressure garden-type sprayer to apply a cleaner and mold killer such as Mildew Check or Jomax. Both are sold at many home centers. Rinse with a fine spray from a hose.

Q: What is the best paint for my cedar home?

A: Cedar can be difficult to paint because the wood contains tannin that can cause dark stains on the surface. The tannin can bleed through paint unless special precautions are taken. Start by cleaning the wood with a deck cleaner suitable for cedar. When the wood has dried thoroughly, apply a coat of oil-based primer and stain killer. Zinsser's Cover-Stain is a good choice. Finally, apply two coats of top-quality, 100 percent acrylic paint.

Quick tip

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Long outdoor extension cords, used with electric string trimmers, blowers and other tools, often get snarled and difficult to keep neatly coiled for storage. A five-gallon plastic bucket makes a convenient holder and storage device for the cord. Buckets are sold for a few dollars at home centers and some hardware stores.

To make an extension-cord holder, cut a small hole in the side of the bucket near the bottom. The hole should be just big enough so that the pronged, plug-in end of the cord can be threaded through it. A sharp utility knife and pointed keyhole saw make it easy to cut the hole.

Pull about five feet of cord (just enough to reach whatever outlet will be used to power the cord) through the hole. Coil the remainder of the cord neatly in the bottom of the bucket. The bucket also can be used to hold tools used with the cord, such as a drill.

Questions may be sent to Gene Austin at doit861@aol.com or 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422. Sorry, no personal replies.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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