Handyman on call

Cleaning methods for knotty pine

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / April 2, 2009
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Q. I have a 50-year-old house with a den paneled in knotty pine. The room has a wood stove so the paneling is very dirty. How should I clean it? Can I seal it?


A. There are several caveats concerning knotty pine. Yes, you can clean knotty pine, but if it has not been varnished, the job is difficult. Try rubbing with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If it has been varnished, then the Magic Eraser will work, but so will washing with a detergent solution.

If the wall is not varnished, it may be necessary to sand to the bare wood, then varnish it with two coats of polyurethane varnish. The varnish will seal it so it can be washed in the future.

Q. I'm having vinyl siding put on my house. There is already a heavy layer of hardboard siding. Should that come off before the new siding goes up?


A. By all means. Hardboard siding is notoriously bad stuff, tending to absorb moisture and raise all kinds of problems, among them causing paint to peel prematurely.

Q. My refrig flooded the maple floor in front of it. It has dried out except where the maple boards butt together. The edges are still dark and slightly raised. Any thoughts short of sanding?

MARTY, in Hotton's chat room

A. Let the floor dry out completely and wait for the boards to go down of their own accord. If they stay a little raised, nail them down with galvanized finish nails. After that, sanding may be needed to remove the dark edges, but before you do that, try a little straight bleach on the dark spots. If they disappear, you may not need to sand.

If you do sand, do so only in the immediate area; then finish with varnish; the spot will stand out for a while, but eventually will fade in.

Q. I have a lot of white painted wood trim, much of it very high in the air, and it is getting harder and harder for me to repaint. I have seen the new AZEK solid vinyl trim, and it looks pretty good. Would that be OK to replace the wood?


A. It sure would be. I am not a big fan of vinyl, say, on siding but this trim is ideal, and the white color will not fade. At least the balusters on my Federal porch have not faded. Go for it. It comes not only in ordinary board size and shape (1 x 6s, 1 x 8s, etc.), but in moldings as well. You can paint it, too, but why in the world would you want to?

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Homes Section. He's available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays: Go to

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