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How to Fix Common Wall and Floor Problems

We turned to three bloggers for ideas on how to tackle some little, but nagging, household wall and floor issues.

A Made-Up Drywall Repair

The problem: Concealing drywall damage is a tricky business that requires a handful of drywall toolsand materials to make walls look like new. To fix coin-sized holes, many traditionalists use mesh or paper tape. But not Lesli DeVito, the DIY blogger behind My Old Country House.

The fix: Cosmetic wedges! DeVito first tried patching the two nickel-sized openings with cement board she had lying around, but the pieces didn’t fit as you can see in the picture below (left).

drywall

Image: Lesli DeVito of My Old Country House blog

Tool list:

  • Make-up sponges
  • Scissors
  • Spackle
  • Putty knife
  • Sandpaper

How to:

1.  Cut the wedges into pieces that are slightly larger than the holes.

2.  Spackle the drywall and wipe off the excess.

3.  When the spackle dries, sand the area until it’s smooth.

4.  Add a fresh coat of paint.

Now DeVito challenges people to find where the holes were; go ahead, take a peek.

Related: Another Clever Drywall Fix

A Seamless Way to Remove Nails from Trim and Flooring

remove nail

Image: Dadand.com

The problem: You can save some dough by using salvaged materials like trim and oak flooring. But before you can install or even safely store them, you have to pull out any old nails — without damaging the wood.

The fix: Although you might be tempted to whack the nail from the back with a hammer and then yank it, don’t. That can mar the surface. Instead, pull the nails out from the back, says Peter Fazio from the site Dadand.

Tool list:

  • Pliers
  • Work gloves
  • Drop cloth

How to:

1.  Put the trim or floorboard face down on a drop cloth to protect the front surface.

2.  Using your pliers, grab the nail and gently roll onto the curved part of the tool until the nail pops out.

If the old filler used to conceal the nail on the front side pops out, it’s easy to fix. Refill the hole with color-matched wood filler (it’ll work for composite trim, too). Scrape the top of the repair gently with a putty knife to remove excess filler — otherwise you’ll leave a noticeable bump.

If you can’t find color-matched filler, repair the hole and gently sand the area smooth. Spot paint to match.

Related: More Tips for Repairing Old Trim and Molding

The Trick to Spiffing Up Grody Grout

grout

Image: Virginia from LiveLoveDIY

The problem: When Virginia from LiveLoveDIY painted her kitchen cabinets bright white, her dingy tile grout became a real eyesore.

Sure, cleaning agents like hydrogen peroxide can brighten discolored floors, but they won’t do much for grout. Grout is gritty and easily stains; despite scrubbing, it may never appear clean.

The fix: Using what she calls the “best product ever,” a bottle of Polyblend Grout Renew (there are other brands, too), a stain- and fade-resistant grout paint in snow white. It cost $10 for an 8-ounce bottle, which was enough to cover the all grout in her kitchen.

grout after

Image: Virginia from LiveLoveDIY

Tool list:

  • Grout paint
  • Toothbrush
  • Rags or paper towels

How to:

1.  Squeeze a dollop of paint on the grout and scrub it in with a toothbrush. (The paint Virginia used dries fast, so you’ll need to work quickly.)

2.  Wipe off the excess from tile with a paper towel.

Including a few breaks, it took her about four hours to complete the job, which she says was time well-spent. Virginia also says the grout paint is easy to keep clean.

Tip: You might also want to seal the grout paint after it dries.

Erase Ugly Scratches from Your Wood Floors

Dogs chase kids, pans drop, chairs scrape, and soon you must repair wood floors and erase scratches that make a mess of your red oak or Brazilian cherry. A professional floor refinisher will charge $1 to $4 per square foot to apply a new coat of finish. No worries. We’ve got inexpensive ways to remove wood scratches and repair deep gouges in a few easy steps.

Camouflage Scratches

Take some artistic license to hide minor scratches in wood floors by rubbing on stain-matching crayons and Sharpie pens. Wax sticks, such as Minwax Stain Markers, are great scratch busters because they include stain and urethane, which protects the floor’s finish.

Don’t be afraid to mix a couple of colors together to get a good match. And don’t sweat if the color is a little off. Real hardwoods mix several hues and tones. So long as you cover the contrasting “white” scratches, color imperfections will match perfectly.

Homemade Polish

Mix equal parts olive oil and vinegar, which work together to remove dirt, moisturize, and shine wood. Pour a little directly onto the scratch. Let the polish soak in for 24 hours, then wipe off. Repeat until the scratch disappears.

Spot-Sand Deep Scratches

It takes time to repair wood gouges: Sand, fill, sand again, stain, and seal. Here are some tips to make the job go faster.

  • Sand with fine-gauge steel wool or lightweight sandpaper.
  • Always sand with the grain.
  • Use wood filler, which takes stain better than wood putty.
  • Use a plastic putty knife to avoid more scratches.
  • Seal the area with polyurethane, or whatever product was used on the floor originally.
  • Apply the polyurethane coat with a lambs wool applicator, which avoids air bubbles in the finish.

Fix Gaps in the Floor

Old floorboards can separate over time. Fill the gaps with colored wood putty. Or, if you have some leftover planks, rip a narrow band and glue it into the gap.

Related: Great-Looking, Low-Maintenance Floors

How to Remove Old Caulk

How to remove bathroom caulk? With patience — and plenty of it. It’s not hard to do, but if you rush it, you’ll regret it. Plus, a little patience pays off by making the job much, much easier.

How to Remove Old Caulk in 4 Easy Steps

Step 1. Apply a caulk remover, such as 3M caulk remover or McKanica silicone caulk remover gel. Then be patient. Very patient. The directions say to wait 2 or 3 hours, but the longer you wait, the easier it will come off. Overnight is good. If it’s a particularly tough job — such as very old, hardened caulk or multiple layers — wait 24 hours.

While you’re waiting for the caulk to soften, browse our pictures of home improvements gone bad. They’ll inspire you to do the job right while tickling your funny bone.

Step 2. Use a caulk remover tool to pry the caulk loose. (See video below.) Pros use a utility knife or blade, but don’t be tempted unless your hands are as steady as a surgeon’s. Otherwise, you could damage the tub, sink, shower, or wall you’re trying to improve. Most of the caulk should come off easily in long strips, although you might need to use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to pull out some bits.

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