Q: We have lived in our house almost 40 years and have regularly had trouble with leaks, even though the roofing has been replaced several times. We have a flat, or built-up, roof. Any suggestions?
A: If an examination shows the roof is basically in good condition but has some flaws that could cause leaks, here's how to proceed:
Obtain some repair "fabric" from a roofing-supply dealer or home center. This is a special tape of asphalt-impregnated mesh, sold in various sizes from about three inches wide to 36 inches wide.
The fabric is applied much like drywall joint tape, using plastic roof cement for the binder. Spread a layer of roof cement over the defect, extending it a few inches wider than the fabric on both sides, and press a strip of fabric into it with a trowel. Top the fabric with another layer of roofing cement.
You don't need nails. You generally should avoid nails when making flat-roof repairs, since they can cause new leaks.
Persistent roof leaks can sometimes be traced to loose or cracked flashing -- the metal strips at stress points such as chimney joints. Flashing should be checked with special care and patched or replaced if defects are found.
Q: I want to strip the paint from an entry door and refinish it without removing the door. I've heard of a paint remover that is pasted to the wood and lifts paint in strips. What is it, and where can I get it?
A: You probably are referring to Peel Away, which is sold in several variations at some paint stores or can be ordered from Dumond Chemical Co., 1501 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10036. Write for information, or call (212) 869-6350.
Actually, removing the door might be simpler than you think and would permit it to be stripped outdoors in a comfortable position. Placing a door horizontally on a couple of sawhorses works well.
To remove the door, pry out the hinge pins with a screwdriver, working carefully to avoid scratching the finish. Most doors can be removed and reinstalled in a few minutes.
Outdoors, any high-quality, paste-type paint stripper can be used. Wear goggles and gloves, and observe all cautions on the container.
Q: Is it possible to reshingle a roof without removing an existing layer of asphalt shingles? Also, how is Roll Vent installed?
A: It is possible to reshingle over a layer of asphalt shingles. In general, if there is more than one layer of old shingles, it is best to remove them, since the weight of multiple layers of shingles can be too heavy for the supporting structure of some roofs.
Roll Vent is a roof-ridge ventilating system. It is a flexible cap, made of fiberglass fabric and nylon, that is installed over a slot in the roof sheathing. For more information, contact the manufacturer, Benjamin Obdyke Inc., in Warminster, Pa., (800) 458-2309. The product is sold in rolls and is available for asphalt, fiberglass or cedar roofs.
Q: What kind of paint can be used on Formica? My counter top is in good condition, but very dull, and I'd like to refinish it.
A: Plastic laminates such as Formica are difficult to paint because the slick, hard surface gives poor adhesion. Counter tops are especially difficult because of the regular wear and tear they are subject to.
The best paint I know for do-it-yourself refinishing of plastic laminates is Kyanize Melamine Super Interior Enamel Finish. It is available in white and pastels.
Melamine Super paint was developed especially for nonporous surfaces such as plastic laminate and ceramic tiles, but should not be expected to have the durability of the original finish. If a counter is painted, I suggest using cutting boards and other protective covers to reduce chipping and scratches.
Readers' questions should be sent to Gene Austin, c/o The Baltimore Sun, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.