Browse Category: Floors

Repairing Linoleum Floors

So you have linoleum tiles down in the kitchen, bathroom, baby’s room, wherever – places that get too much moisture and potential damage for carpets or hardwood. Wise decision, but linoleum and similar flooring materials, though durable, are not indestructible.

You dropped a heavy iron pot on it, or the pipes backed up and flooded it with water for several hours, or the toddler decided it was great fun to poke the floor repeatedly with his Tinker Toy concoction and observe the artistic pattern of dents. What now? One reason for putting down linoleum, besides the fact that it’s durable, is that it’s cheap compared to many other types of flooring. Isn’t that purpose defeated if you have to call in the professionals to repair the damage?

Yes, it would be, but luckily that isn’t a requirement. All you really need to make good-quality repairs is:

1)      A piece of scrap linoleum (you should have this left over from installing the floor in the first place);

2)      Some tape;

3)      A sharp knife, like an Xacto blade;

4)      Something to spread substance with (e.g. a putty knife); and

5)      Some linoleum glue.

It’s especially easy to do the repair job and have no one notice if your floor has patterns in it, particularly if the patterns include straight or curved lines. You can still do the repairs to a solid-color floor, but sometimes it may be a little more visible. What you want to do here is to cut a piece of flooring out around the ding or dings in a regular and measurable pattern, cut a piece of the scrap linoleum to fit, and glue it into place.

You’ll want to match not only the size and shape of the patch, but also the pattern if any. (This is why a patterned floor is easier to patch without it being visible. The patterns themselves create the illusion of continuity and draw the eye away from any imperfections arising from the patching itself, always supposing that you have the patterns matched up properly.)

One way to do the cutting is to place the scrap piece on the floor over where the ding is, lining up the patterns so match, and cut through both pieces of linoleum at the same time. With a good sharp knife this is quite doable. The patch will match the size of the floor perfectly, and because you’ve fitted the lines together correctly you will have a pattern match as well.

Next, you want to remove the cut-out linoleum from the floor. A heat gun is ideal for this, but a hair dryer will work in a pinch. After softening the glue, prize out the cut section, and then fit your patch into the hole to check the fit. Make any adjustments necessary, then glue the patch into the hole. Wipe up any excess adhesive, and tamp down the patch by standing on it for a moment or two.

Repairing Drywall

From time to time, it’s certain that you will have to make minor (or major) repairs to your drywall. Things happen: children, pets, accidents, moving injuries. Damage to your walls can range from minor dings and punctures to large-scale damage requiring replacing a section of drywall. For this article, the focus will be on minor problems.

A minor injury to drywall can be a small hole, such as what is left by a nail used to hang pictures, or a larger hole that may require a repair patch. All of the work described here requires use of drywall compound, a putty knife, sandpaper, and a sharp utility knife. Repair of larger holes may require mesh tape, some wood strips (about 1”thick and 3 inches wide), a piece of drywall for cutting patches from, and drywall screws and a screwdriver as well. A keyhole saw is also helpful. Finally, you will need a way to touch up whatever wall covering you are using, which is of course easier if it happens to be paint, and if you have some leftover paint to use.

The first thing you want to do in patching a minor hole is to go over it with a utility knife and cut away any protruding paper and other materials, leaving a smooth surface other than the hole itself. You should end up with a slight indentation that can be filled with drywall compound.

Apply the first coat of compound to a thickness of no more than 1/8 inch. Allow the first coat to become completely dry, then scrape it smooth with a putty knife and apply a second coat. Keep doing this until the surface is slightly elevated above the rest of the wall. Then sand lightly to produce a smooth surface even with the wall. Wipe it down to remove any particulate matter and touch up the paint.

For a larger hole (up to about three inches in diameter), use a keyhole saw if necessary or your utility knife if this is feasible to cut out the damaged part of the wall in a rectangular shape. Mark your cutting lines using a square and then cut carefully to leave a regular shaped hole. (Be careful of any wiring or plumbing inside the walls!) Attach some wood strips in back of the drywall by inserting them into the hole and screwing them to the drywall with drywall screws. Cut a patch of drywall to fit into the hole and attach it to the wood strips with drywall screws.

Use mesh tape around the edges of the patch. Apply several coats of drywall compound to the patch so as to create a uniform and slightly elevated surface, then sand to a smooth finish, and touch up the paint as above.…

Synthetic Wood Flooring

Like the look of wood floors instead of carpet? If so, don’t rush into buying hardwood floors. Before making that decision, consider the advantages of synthetic hardwood flooring with the look of hardwood but more durability and easier maintenance and for less money. These materials have come a long way in recent years. It’s reached the point where it’s very hard to tell the difference between natural hardwood and a laminate.


There are several types of synthetic wood flooring on the market today that are worth considering. One of these is vinyl flooring. The manufacturing process for vinyl has changed dramatically to avoid the use of heavy metals and other environmentally-harmful substances. The coloring process uses more natural coloring to achieve a realistic wood-like finish, much better than in the past. Acoustical backing is available for wood-appearance vinyl that makes the flooring sound like wood when walked across, as well as looking like wood. Vinyl is very easy to maintain and clean, requiring no harmful chemicals, and is highly water-resistant, making it a good floor material for bathrooms and other areas where moisture is likely to be a common concern.

Another possibility is Pergo and similar brands of synthetic or laminate wood flooring. These products are particularly designed for do-it-yourselfers, being easier to install than natural hardwood. Laminate flooring is made mostly of resins and fiberboard, with a surface layer consisting of photographic appliqué under a protective coating. The flooring is usually made in planks that fit together with tongue-and-groove connections. Some versions require glue to attach them to the floor under layer, while others incorporate a glue backing into the pieces themselves. A foam or similar underlay provides cushioning, sound-reduction, and moisture-reduction properties.

In addition to being easy to install, laminate flooring is also easy to maintain. It’s important to keep the floors clean of dust and moisture, but this is not difficult to do. Dust can over time and with repeated walking scuff the surface of the flooring (as it can the finish of natural hardwood), and water can damage the floor if it pools on it for long periods. Wiping up a water spill within a few hours is sufficient to protect the floor and a once-a-week mopping will keep the dust down adequately. This is an easier procedure than the mopping and waxing that should be used for maintenance of natural hardwood. Laminates are also available with a stone appearance rather than wood.

To be sure, there is nothing exactly like the look of hardwood or the satisfaction of knowing that that’s what you have under your feet. But for the practical-minded, consideration should be given to alternatives.…

Paint or Wallpaper?

So it’s time to do something about those walls. Maybe you have very old paint that’s getting to be more ground-in dirt than paint by now. Or maybe you have wallpaper that was fashionable when your grandmother was a little girl in pigtails, and is peeling besides. Or maybe you have a brand-new home with bare walls. What should you do? What are the advantages of paint over wallpaper or vice-versa?

There isn’t any clear and easy and obvious preference for one over the other, but each has advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed before making a decision.

Paint is usually cheaper. Paint (the stuff in the cans) is cheaper than wallpaper on the average. If you hire someone to do the work for you, paint is also cheaper in installation cost. But:

Wallpaper is more durable. A good grade of wallpaper, properly applied, will prove longer-lasting and more durable than even the best quality of paint. But:

Preparing the walls is easier if you’re painting. Prepping to paint is relatively simple. You can easily paint over an old paint job (that’s dicier, although not necessarily impossible, with wallpaper) and the prep involves nothing trickier than a good cleaning and patching any grievous holes. With wallpaper, you need to be much more careful about making sure the walls are smooth and have no serious irregularities. But:

Wallpaper has greater variety. Although paint comes in many colors and finishes and, with texturing, can even present shapes and designs, there’s no question that wallpaper is more versatile in terms of what your walls can look like in the end. But:

Paint is easier to change if you change your mind. If you paint your walls and decide that you don’t like the color or the way the paint looks, there’s little problem in painting over your paint job with a different color, or applying wallpaper after all. Wallpaper is difficult to cover with paint, and if you layer wallpaper on top of wallpaper you reach a point pretty quickly where your walls are made of papier-maché. Stripping off the wallpaper then becomes necessary. But:

Applying wallpaper is more fun. All right, this is a subjective judgment, but many people find that it’s true. It can also be a bigger headache, because it’s a harder skill to learn, but once you do learn it there’s immense satisfaction in getting the paper on the walls absolutely perfectly. It’s an almost magical feeling.

The final judgment has to be that there is no way to make a final judgment, except in the particular case of a given set of walls. Which one is right will depend on what exactly you want.