This home repair can be like putty in your hands


April 09, 1994|By Gene Austin | Gene Austin,Knight-Ridder News Service

Q: The windows in my older house need new putty. The old putty has deteriorated, and each window has many small panes of glass. How should I fix this?

A: The most difficult part of the job will probably be the first step -- removing the old putty -- since the glass will crack unless great care is used. Also, if you plan to do the work yourself, you probably will have to do much of the work from a ladder, which also requires great care.

An ordinary putty knife, used as a scraper, is often adequate for removing old putty, but my favorite tool is a combination tool sold at some paint stores and home centers. This looks like a wide putty knife with a hook-shaped point on one side and a half-circle cutout in the other. This tool can be used for scraping or pulling out old putty. If scraping won't remove a section of putty, try hooking it with the pointed side and pulling it out. A pointed paint scraper can also be used for hooking and pulling out putty. Avoid prying, which can crack nearby glass.

Very hard putty may be removed by softening it with a heat gun, then scraping. Use a special shield, sold with many heat guns, to avoid cracking glass.

When the old putty is out, the glass will still be held in place with small metal triangles called glazier's points. Use a small paintbrush to clean the recesses where new putty will be installed.

Prime the area where putty has been removed with an oil-based painting primer and let it dry.

There are choices for replacing the putty. Modern putties are usually called glazing compounds and they're sold in cans, pre-shaped strips and caulking-gun cartridges. Some have an oil or solvent base; others are latex- or water-based. I have tried many compounds but seem to get the best results with oil-based compounds sold in cans; UGL's Glazol is an example. When installing an oil-based glazing compound, keep a rag and a small can of mineral spirits (paint thinner) nearby. Dig out a glob of compound with a putty knife, and roll it into a rope about 3/8 -inch in diameter. Press the material into the recesses around the glass and use a clean putty knife to smooth and shape the compound into a neat, triangular strip. Keep the knife clean by wiping frequently with a rag. To help smooth the compound, dip the knife blade occasionally into mineral spirits.

When the compound cures, which might take several days (follow directions on the container), paint it with an oil-based or latex paint. Painting will help prevent cracking and mildew and make the compound easier to clean.

Q: The roof leaked around our chimney, and the bricks of the fireplace developed a white coating that we have been unable to remove. We've tried several cleaners without success. Can you help?

A: The white powder, caused by moisture depositing minerals on the surface of the bricks, is called efflorescence. One of the best and safest treatments is to scrub away the powder with a stiff brush. Wear goggles to protect eyes from flying particles.

The efflorescence will probably return until all the moisture that caused it is cleared up.

Q: We have sliding closet doors that squeak. We tried soaping the tracks, but it hasn't helped. Any suggestions?

A: Spray the tracks and rollers with a silicone lubricant from auto-parts stores or home centers. This should silence the doors and, if repeated occasionally, will keep them quiet.

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