How to tell if walls, ceiling are painted with calcimine — The Boston Globe

How to tell if walls, ceiling are painted with calcimine

By Peter Hotton | June 2, 2005

Is there a way to tell whether a ceiling is painted with calcimine? I’ve removed two layers of wallpaper from attic walls and ceilings, and the underlying plaster is green and/or silver gray in places. I plan to paint and am concerned I’ll encounter the dreaded peeling paint effect of painting over calcimine. Is there a way to know whether or not it’s calcimine? I don’t know the age of the house but it could be 100 years old (I rent it).

LIZETTE

There have been quite a few questions recently on calcimine, a special paint used mostly for ceilings in the early- to mid-20th century, so it is worth talking about. Calcimine was a very white paint and looked good for a long time. It was inexpensive, but it had this disadvantage: If you painted over it with any paint other than more calcimine, the paint would come off on your roller or, at best, in a day or two.

So, to Lizette: From what you told me, breathe easy. I do not think there is calcimine on your walls or ceiling. One way to tell is to wipe it with a wet sponge. If the sponge comes out white, it is calcimine, and you have to put on a coat of Kal-Kote, which is compatible with calcimine.

The green and/or silver gray plaster under the paper indicates to me that there is no calcimine. Also, the fact that wallpaper stuck to the walls and ceilings indicates that there is no calcimine.

When you are ready to paint, apply a thin coat of latex wall paint or latex ceiling paint to a small area and wait several days. If there is no peeling, go ahead with the whole project.

It’s all easy when there is no calcimine. But what if there is? If the surface is calcimine, you have to repaint it with more calcimine, or Kal-Kote if calcimine is not available. An even worse situation is if you painted over calcimine, and the whole project peeled. Then you have to remove everything to the bare plaster and repaint with latex paint.

One good thing about calcimine is that it is relatively easy to remove. Wash with water or a detergent solution to soften the material so it can be scraped. A steamer will also soften the calcimine for easier removal. Finally, you can try this trick (it works for some people, I am told): Apply wallpaper wheat paste to the affected area: The paste will shrink as it dries, and will pull the calcimine off; the next morning you might find all that calcimine on the floor, so put down tarps to catch it.

My driveway is made of concrete with 2-by-4 wood boards set in the grooves (expansion joints); some are redwood, some are pressure-treated, arranged in an attractive pattern. Some of the redwood boards have rotted out. How can I take them out and what can I put in in their place?

REBA ADAMS. Cut Off, La.

Chip out the decayed wood with a chisel. Any sound wood left can also be chipped out. You can put in new pieces of redwood; if the old redwood looked good and lasted 15 years, you will be all set for another 15. Or put in pressure-treated boards; they will last indefinitely. If they snuggle nicely in the grooves, and do not come up above the concrete level, you probably will not have to glue them in. If they come above the surface of the concrete, plane them so they will come even with the surface.

If there is no concrete at the bottom of the grooves, but rather sand or stone dust or crushed stone, you are in luck, and can adjust that underlying material to make the boards flush with the surface. Also, if there is no concrete under the boards, they will last a lot longer.

Should I have a masonry sealer put on my brick chimney? If so, why? My chimney sweep recommended a chimney cap. Why?

BARBARA CHALOKAS Arlington

If there are no leaks in the chimney, there is no need for a sealer. Besides, a masonry sealer on a chimney can trap water vapor and water behind the brick, not only causing leaks but also causing the bricks to spall (to slough off layers of brick). Paint will do the same thing.

As for suggesting a chimney cap, if water is not coming into the chimney, if birds and other critters are not in the chimney, and the chimney is operating properly, then there is no need for a chimney cap.

I have metal patio doors that I would like to hang horizontal blinds on. Each door has a single pane of glass, but only one of them moves. I have drapes there now that are driving me crazy; they are heavy and the hooks keep falling off. I have to manually slide them closed, which is aggravating. They have been there for years and I need a change. I’ve had vertical blinds in the past and prefer not to install those if I can use horizontals. I went to Home Depot and was told that there is no way horizontal blinds can be hung on a metal door. Is this true?

TIRED OF DRAPES

No, it is not true. You can hang horizontal blinds on steel doors, if the movable door swings and does not slide. Use sheet metal screws instead of regular screws to hang horizontals. Sheet metal screws have threads right up to the head and will hold very well in steel and other metal if the predrilled holes are the proper size. Drill small holes in the steel so the sheet metal screws can be driven into the holes very tightly. It will work and will not reduce the insulative value of the doors, Home Depot notwithstanding.

If the metal door has a wood frame inside, you do not need sheet metal screws; ordinary screws will do, as long as a pilot hole is drilled through the metal and into the wood.

My brick fireplace wall is 10 feet wide and 8 1/2 feet high. I want to cover the brick with dry wall, then put on a mantel. I am chemically sensitive so I cannot glue strapping to the brick. How can I secure strapping to the brick?

MICHAEL PARELLA Medway

You could do it one of two ways. Use 1-by-3 strapping vertically, and secure them with Molly bolts. Drill holes in the mortar and insert the Molly bolt, which will expand in the hole as you drive it in. If you want a bit of insulation on the wall, insert 3/4-inch Styrofoam or Thermax between the strapping. Cover with dry wall and paint with a safe latex paint.

Or, use 2-by-3s on their wide side, and use 2-by-2s as a top and bottom plate. Any stud wall will do, and the bottom and top plates can be nailed to the floor and ceiling, respectively. The insulation will be thicker in such a stud wall.

My condo is on the fourth floor, and when I put in window air-conditioners, water dripping on the metal boxes nearly did me in. The drips were loud, gathering speed from the ninth-floor roof to the fourth-floor metal boxes. I was thinking of a rug to cover the boxes. Would rugs do it?

JOHN ELIOT SPOFFORD Boston

The rugs will be excellent. Use indoor-outdoor carpets. I suggest holding the carpet in place with canvas strapping or bungee cords.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton also chats on line about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to Boston.com. Hotton’s e-mail is photton@globe.com .

How to tell if walls, ceiling are painted with calcimine

By Peter Hotton | June 2, 2005

Is there a way to tell whether a ceiling is painted with calcimine? I’ve removed two layers of wallpaper from attic walls and ceilings, and the underlying plaster is green and/or silver gray in places. I plan to paint and am concerned I’ll encounter the dreaded peeling paint effect of painting over calcimine. Is there a way to know whether or not it’s calcimine? I don’t know the age of the house but it could be 100 years old (I rent it).

LIZETTE

There have been quite a few questions recently on calcimine, a special paint used mostly for ceilings in the early- to mid-20th century, so it is worth talking about. Calcimine was a very white paint and looked good for a long time. It was inexpensive, but it had this disadvantage: If you painted over it with any paint other than more calcimine, the paint would come off on your roller or, at best, in a day or two.

So, to Lizette: From what you told me, breathe easy. I do not think there is calcimine on your walls or ceiling. One way to tell is to wipe it with a wet sponge. If the sponge comes out white, it is calcimine, and you have to put on a coat of Kal-Kote, which is compatible with calcimine.

The green and/or silver gray plaster under the paper indicates to me that there is no calcimine. Also, the fact that wallpaper stuck to the walls and ceilings indicates that there is no calcimine.

When you are ready to paint, apply a thin coat of latex wall paint or latex ceiling paint to a small area and wait several days. If there is no peeling, go ahead with the whole project.

It’s all easy when there is no calcimine. But what if there is? If the surface is calcimine, you have to repaint it with more calcimine, or Kal-Kote if calcimine is not available. An even worse situation is if you painted over calcimine, and the whole project peeled. Then you have to remove everything to the bare plaster and repaint with latex paint.

One good thing about calcimine is that it is relatively easy to remove. Wash with water or a detergent solution to soften the material so it can be scraped. A steamer will also soften the calcimine for easier removal. Finally, you can try this trick (it works for some people, I am told): Apply wallpaper wheat paste to the affected area: The paste will shrink as it dries, and will pull the calcimine off; the next morning you might find all that calcimine on the floor, so put down tarps to catch it.

My driveway is made of concrete with 2-by-4 wood boards set in the grooves (expansion joints); some are redwood, some are pressure-treated, arranged in an attractive pattern. Some of the redwood boards have rotted out. How can I take them out and what can I put in in their place?

REBA ADAMS. Cut Off, La.

Chip out the decayed wood with a chisel. Any sound wood left can also be chipped out. You can put in new pieces of redwood; if the old redwood looked good and lasted 15 years, you will be all set for another 15. Or put in pressure-treated boards; they will last indefinitely. If they snuggle nicely in the grooves, and do not come up above the concrete level, you probably will not have to glue them in. If they come above the surface of the concrete, plane them so they will come even with the surface.

If there is no concrete at the bottom of the grooves, but rather sand or stone dust or crushed stone, you are in luck, and can adjust that underlying material to make the boards flush with the surface. Also, if there is no concrete under the boards, they will last a lot longer.

Should I have a masonry sealer put on my brick chimney? If so, why? My chimney sweep recommended a chimney cap. Why?

BARBARA CHALOKAS Arlington

If there are no leaks in the chimney, there is no need for a sealer. Besides, a masonry sealer on a chimney can trap water vapor and water behind the brick, not only causing leaks but also causing the bricks to spall (to slough off layers of brick). Paint will do the same thing.

As for suggesting a chimney cap, if water is not coming into the chimney, if birds and other critters are not in the chimney, and the chimney is operating properly, then there is no need for a chimney cap.

I have metal patio doors that I would like to hang horizontal blinds on. Each door has a single pane of glass, but only one of them moves. I have drapes there now that are driving me crazy; they are heavy and the hooks keep falling off. I have to manually slide them closed, which is aggravating. They have been there for years and I need a change. I’ve had vertical blinds in the past and prefer not to install those if I can use horizontals. I went to Home Depot and was told that there is no way horizontal blinds can be hung on a metal door. Is this true?

TIRED OF DRAPES

No, it is not true. You can hang horizontal blinds on steel doors, if the movable door swings and does not slide. Use sheet metal screws instead of regular screws to hang horizontals. Sheet metal screws have threads right up to the head and will hold very well in steel and other metal if the predrilled holes are the proper size. Drill small holes in the steel so the sheet metal screws can be driven into the holes very tightly. It will work and will not reduce the insulative value of the doors, Home Depot notwithstanding.

If the metal door has a wood frame inside, you do not need sheet metal screws; ordinary screws will do, as long as a pilot hole is drilled through the metal and into the wood.

My brick fireplace wall is 10 feet wide and 8 1/2 feet high. I want to cover the brick with dry wall, then put on a mantel. I am chemically sensitive so I cannot glue strapping to the brick. How can I secure strapping to the brick?

MICHAEL PARELLA Medway

You could do it one of two ways. Use 1-by-3 strapping vertically, and secure them with Molly bolts. Drill holes in the mortar and insert the Molly bolt, which will expand in the hole as you drive it in. If you want a bit of insulation on the wall, insert 3/4-inch Styrofoam or Thermax between the strapping. Cover with dry wall and paint with a safe latex paint.

Or, use 2-by-3s on their wide side, and use 2-by-2s as a top and bottom plate. Any stud wall will do, and the bottom and top plates can be nailed to the floor and ceiling, respectively. The insulation will be thicker in such a stud wall.

My condo is on the fourth floor, and when I put in window air-conditioners, water dripping on the metal boxes nearly did me in. The drips were loud, gathering speed from the ninth-floor roof to the fourth-floor metal boxes. I was thinking of a rug to cover the boxes. Would rugs do it?

JOHN ELIOT SPOFFORD Boston

The rugs will be excellent. Use indoor-outdoor carpets. I suggest holding the carpet in place with canvas strapping or bungee cords.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton also chats on line about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to Boston.com. Hotton’s e-mail is photton@globe.com .


Leave a Reply