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Oil-based stain won’t come off a stucco surface

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Question: I splashed oil stain/sealer on my stucco wall. How can I repair it without damaging the paint or the stucco? Some friends recommend acid wash. — Benedict, Tracy, Calif.

Answer: Let's hope you read this sooner or later, because my e-mail answer to your e-mail question got hurled back in the handyman's face.

So, the answer is: Getting an oil-based stain off stucco or any other concrete is virtually impossible, unless it is just minutes old. It can be dissolved with paint thinner when it is still wet, but once it dries, that's all she wrote. You have to let it wear off, which would take years. An acid wash won't work because the stucco is painted, and acid takes off only lime in the stucco. Chemical paint remover will remove the stain but also take off the paint.

Your best bet is to paint the stain with a latex house paint or a latex solid color stain. If the stain is quite dark, apply a stain killer such as latex-based Kilz first. Otherwise the stain might bleed through paint or stain.

Question: The linoleum in my kitchen, hall, and den is worn out, and the only thing I can do for the moment is to put a rug over it. Could I cover it with the stick-on vinyl tile? A floor man offered to install hardwood over the linoleum for $5,000. I thought that was high. — Ruth Foster, Belmont, Mass.

Answer: You can put the stick-on tile over the old linoleum, as long as the old material is flat and even, and not coming loose. It is a jury rig of sorts, but will do well enough, and you can still put down your favorite carpet.

The price for the hardwood floor job sounds high, although I don't know how much flooring would be used. But I think you could save a bundle if you install prefinished hardwood. With prefinished flooring, you eliminate the sanding and three coats of polyurethane varnish or any other finish.

Question: Some asphalt shingles made several tarry marks on my bluestone steps during a roofing project. In fact, a lot of little marks. How can I remove them?— Maureen McNeil, Marblehead, Mass.

Answer: Try pressure washing the stains; it will not hurt the bluestone or any mortar between stones. If that doesn't work, try scraping off any that will come off with a putty knife. Then sand the rest of it off; sanding will leave light marks on the bluestone, but weathering will even them out in a short time.

If the tar is really stubborn, dissolve it with paint thinner, then put baking soda on the stain to absorb the dissolved tar. Leave it for half an hour, and sweep it off. Repeat as necessary. The bluestone will absorb almost anything, and if you do not use the baking soda, the dissolved tar will go deeper — and more permanently — into the bluestone.

Question: The ceilings in my 1950s house are skimcoated with calcimine; they are smooth but peeling off the plaster. The ceiling is full of shallow craters, 10 inches in diameter. Can I fill them with joint compound to smooth out the ceiling before repainting? — Maarj Needham,Concord, Mass.

Answer: If it is calcimine, it is probably paint rather than a skimcoat. Calcimine was popular before and after the war, and an inexpensive, good-looking finish. But it was not compatible with any paints; people would paint over calcimine with latex or oil paint and the paint would come right off on the roller.

You cannot fill those craters with anything; the joint compound may stick to the plaster but will not stick to any calcimine; nothing sticks to calcimine except more calcimine or a calcimine substitute.

You can do one of two things: Scrape, sand, and wash off all the calcimine, revealing that fine old plaster. Real plaster. The calcimine should wash off with one or more washings, and you must get rid of every trace. Then paint with a latex ceiling paint.

The alternative is to sand the ceiling smooth, feather-edging the borders of the craters to even them out. Then paint with Kal-Coat or other calcimine substitute.

Question: You suggested using Era with oxygen bleach to clean mold off my semitransparent stained shingles. I can't find it; I can only find Era with a bleach alternative. Where can I find it with oxygen bleach? — J.F., Waltham, Mass.

Answer: I believe the bleach alternative is oxygen bleach. Try it; if it works, fine. If it doesn't, go to the next best thing: one part household bleach and five or more parts water.


Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton will answer reader questions. Write him at the Boston Globe, Boston, MA 02107.