Old home woes: repairing wood floors and worn swings

Share »

Q: My mother’s house has an old wooden swing on the front porch that we enjoyed as kids. But it doesn’t look very safe anymore — the wood seems to be rotting, the paint has mostly peeled off, and it doesn’t swing straight. Is it worth convincing her to replace it? — David H., via email

A: That depends on a couple of factors, besides convincing your mom to let you replace it. One, is there enough interest among the family to continue to have a porch swing? And two, is the porch structurally sound enough to safely put up a new swing?

The reason I ask is that older homes, while probably pretty sturdy, may have developed hidden problems structurally. Porches usually are built outside any load-bearing points, so they don’t present a threat to the house itself, but they are sometimes built with less-durable materials and therefore deteriorate faster. There’s nothing more embarrassing than putting up a sturdy, heavy porch swing only to have to anchor bolts tear out of a rotting beam, dumping out the swing’s occupants.

Have a construction professional who specializes in outside attachments like decks and porches inspect and evaluate the condition of the porch. Tell him your plans to replace the swing and ask about the best places from which to anchor it.

Another option: If the porch doesn’t check out, or if you or your mom simply doesn’t want a swing on the porch, try a freestanding swing in the yard. Again, look for a sturdy, durable model with good supports that will stand up to outdoor weather for several years.

Q: My kids have discovered roller-skating, which is great. However, it’s been kind of rough on my old hardwood floors, especially near the front door, where they come in and take off their skates. There are a lot of scuffs, scratches and dings. Any way I can get rid of them? And is there a way to prevent these scratches? — Tammy in Baltimore

A: The fastest way to reduce those scratched areas by the front door is to make the kids take off their skates outside. And while I’m sure you already have a mat just inside the door, consider buying one that is much wider so that outside dirt and sand will land on the mat and not scuff up the floor’s finish.

Without an idea of how bad the scratches and scuffs are, I can’t say exactly how you should resolve the problem. So I’ll tell you how to deal with a few scratches, and how to deal with a bigger problem.

You can blend in minor surface scratches using a stain marker (available at home-improvement and flooring stores) in a matching color. A video by The Rosebud Company (http://bit.ly/1rVFAn2) shows a couple of ways to blend in the color, particularly by blotting the marker on a cloth and then rubbing the cloth over the scratch to more seamlessly blend it in.

For small dents where the wood is compressed downward slightly, you can try a couple of methods. On unvarnished floors, you can try to steam out the dent. (Always test this method first in an inconspicuous area, and don’t do it if the finish in the test area turns white or very cloudy.) Take a clean, lint-free cloth and a steam iron. Spritz a bit of water directly onto the dent, place the cloth on top, and with the iron on its maximum setting and the steam turned on, press it over the cloth and move in a small circular pattern for about a minute. Lift up the iron, check under the cloth, and then repeat the steps.

A second method, particularly if you’re worried about ruining the floor finish, is to cover the dent with wood putty and stain it to match. Apply the putty one small amount at a time, smoothing it completely into the depression, until it’s filled and flush with the surrounding floor. Then use a stain marker in a color matching the wood — either apply directly to the putty or blot a cloth with the stain and dab or rub into the putty and surrounding area. Allow the area to dry undisturbed for at least a day.

If the scratches and dents are deep and numerous, or if the wood is seriously damaged, warped or splintered, bring in a wood flooring professional to evaluate the problem and provide an estimate for repairs. Wood floors can have a lot of impact on a house’s value, so take care of them and get professional help for a complex job.

Send your questions or home tips to ask@thisisahammer.com. © 2014 King Features Synd. Inc.