Q: If aluminum siding becomes dull or discolored, thorough cleaning or repainting can often restore the appearance.
The aluminum siding on my house has a cloudy appearance. I've tried several household products to clean it, to no avail. Can you suggest a remedy?
A: The paint on the siding is probably badly chalked or powdered, which gives a faded or cloudy appearance. Chalking is common on older aluminum siding.
To check for chalking, wipe a gloved hand or clean cloth across a piece of the siding, pressing firmly. If the glove or cloth comes away coated with fine dust that has the color of the paint, chalking is present.
Power washing with a house-washing detergent is the best way to clean chalked siding. Some house painters provide a power-washing service, or the equipment can be rented at many tool-rental agencies. Power washers that develop enough pressure for house washing -- 1,000 pounds per square inch or more -- are also sold at some home
Aluminum siding can also be hand-cleaned using a solution of household detergent and water or a siding cleaner. Cleaners such as Dekswood, made by the Flood Co. of Hudson, Ohio, are sold at some home centers and paint stores. Flood rec
ommends Dekswood for cleaning aluminum and vinyl siding as well as decks.
Follow specific directions for any cleaner, but the usual technique for hand-cleaning is to wet the surface, scrub on a diluted solution of cleaner with a soft brush and allow the cleaner to work for about 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with a strong stream of water.
Cleaning will sometimes restore the appearance of aluminum siding so repainting is not necessary.
If aluminum siding must be repainted, clean it first to ensure new paint will adhere properly and prime any bare spots. If the finish is badly deteriorated or still has chalk after cleaning, prime the entire surface with an oil-based or alkyd primer suitable for metal.
Finish with a high-quality acrylic-latex paint.
Are sauna kits available? What is the best wood to use in building a sauna?
A leading manufacturer of sauna kits is Am-Finn Sauna Co., 1288 Valley Forge Road, Valley Forge, Pa. 19482. Owner Fred Sorcsek said the starting price for a two-person sauna kit is about $2,100, but there are "100 different sizes."
Mr. Sorcsek said saunas, which were extremely popular in the '70s and early '80s but began losing ground to hot tubs, are making a gradual comeback. For more information about kits, write Am-Finn or, in Pennsylvania, call (215) 983-3212. From outside Pennsylvania, call (800) 237-2862.
Other sauna dealers are listed under "Sauna Equipment & Supplies" in the Yellow Pages.
Western red cedar is generally considered the best wood for lining saunas, in which bathers expose themselves to "dry heat" of 200 degrees or more. The heat is supplied
by a special stove. Heat exposure is often followed or alternated with cold baths or showers.
An excellent book on sauna construction is "Spas & Hot Tubs, Saunas & Home Gyms" ($9.95 paperback, Creative Homeowner Press). The book is available at some bookstores or can be ordered by sending a check for $12.45 to Creative Homeowner Press, 24 Park Way, Upper Saddle River, N.J. 07458.
I had my bathtub refinished some years ago, and it looked great until recently, when the new finish cracked and peeled around the drain area. A contractor told me the entire tub would have to be stripped and refinished at a cost double the original job. Is there a sensible alternative?
A tub-refinishing expert told me that it should be possible to refinish the tub without stripping off the part of the old finish that is still adhering well. He suggested carefully scraping off the loose finish, cleaning the scraped area, and touching up around the drain with a waterproof tub finish. When the touch-up cures, the entire tub should be given another coat of new finish.
If you want a contractor to do the job, I'd get opinions from several to see if stripping can be avoided. Besides the extra cost, stripping might leave chemical residue that would prevent good adhesion of a new finish.
If you want to try doing the work yourself, tub finishes are sold at some home centers and hardware stores. One widely sold brand is Klenk's Epoxy Enamel Tub & Tile Finish. A mail-order source of refinishing supplies is ADe Porcelain Repair, Box 68531, Oak Grove, Ore. 97268. Write ADe for more information.
Readers' questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, c/o The Baltimore Sun, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.