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Do-It-Yourself Q&A

Q: My hardwood floor was given a water-based polyurethane finish about two years ago, but now has a number of fine scratches. Can we eliminate the scratches without sanding?

A: You should be able to restore a smooth finish by using a no-sanding process developed by Varathane. This process will eliminate fine scratches that don't penetrate into the wood. The manufacturer says it will work on previously finished hardwood floors and some factory-finished floors and laminates. The process will not improve deep scratches in the wood and will not work if the finish has worn off to bare wood or if the finish is flaking or peeling. It also will not work on floors that have a wax finish or have been waxed to make them shine. You can check for wax by rubbing the floor with your thumb in an inconspicuous area; if the finish smudges, it is waxed.

If your floor qualifies, look for a Varathane Renewal Floor Refinishing Kit at a home center or buy one online. Renewing the floor is a three-step process that includes cleaning with a No-Sanding Cleaner supplied in the kit. The cleaner chemically abrades the old finish to eliminate the scratches and improve adhesion of the final finish. Rinsing with soap and water, is the next step, followed by applying a fast-drying, water-based finish. Two coats of finish are recommended.

If you try this process, you should read all the printed directions carefully and watch an instructional DVD that is included in the kit. It is best to have a helper, especially when applying the fast-drying finish. For more information, visit


Q: Our bathroom is very damp and has a serious mold problem because of poor ventilation. We could replace a fixed window with one that opens, but it would mean expensive renovation. Would a larger vent fan help? Are there any other options?

A: A larger and more powerful vent fan should help some. You also should be able to get a custom-made sliding or casement window to replace the fixed window without major renovations. Other options: Depending on the location of the bathroom, it also might be possible to install a ventilating skylight without making major renovations. Simply leaving the bathroom door open after showers or baths and running the vent fan should improve the situation. Also use a towel to dry the shower or tub after using them (be sure and remove the wet towels from the room). You also might consider installing a small dehumidifier in the room.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422.