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Robert Lamoureux: Oil base or latex? Know before painting

Your Home Improvements

Posted: March 20, 2009 8:58 p.m.
Updated: March 21, 2009 4:30 a.m.
Mr. Lamoureux,
Hi. This is the first time I've written in. I have a front door that has become very dull. It has lost its sheen. I bought some latex paint, but then started thinking that maybe there was oil base paint on the door originally. They said I can't put latex paint on top of oil base. Is that true? And, how would I tell if there is oil base paint on there now? Also, I saw a product that you can put on top of the paint and you don't have to sand it. What do you think about this? Thank you.
Greg J.

Hi Greg,
No, you can't apply latex paint directly on top of an oil base.

One way to find out what type of paint you have is take some rubbing alcohol on a rag and rub it on the surface of the door. If it restores its sheen, then that's an oil base paint. If it becomes gummy and gooey, then you have latex paint.

If you have an oil base and you want to put a latex paint over it, you first have to use a transitional primer. All of the major paint suppliers produce their own brands of transitional primers.

Personally, I don't like using the products where no sanding is needed. I like the fact that you have to roughen the paint for a better finish. There's nothing wrong with taking the time to do good job. I'm one of these guys that like to do it once, do it right.

So, apply the transitional primer and follow the manufacturer's recommendations and then sand. To finish, put their top coat on.

You can go with a satin, semi, or gloss.

Dear Robert,
We have a leak in our roof. The HOA sent some contractors to take a look at it and they said it was an air conditioning related problem. One of my neighbors thinks it may be a leaking condensation line. The question is, would this by my responsibility or is the HOA responsible? Is there an attorney you could recommend that specializes in these matters? Thank you.
Chris K.

Hi Chris,
I would first find out what did they mean by "an air conditioning related problem." If they are talking about a mechanical failure, then this would be your responsibility. For example, if the problem is caused from the suction or liquid lines that are over condensating and running back through the insulation and into your unit, then that would be your responsibility. This is because your a/c unit is not running efficiently. It could be its low on refrigerant or it could be a dirty filter, or a bad pan inside the package unit.

Sometimes, they will say an a/c problem meaning that it's the pad or the cap sheet under the a/c unit. If the cap sheet over the a/c pad is in bad shape, then this becomes the responsibility of the HOA. Once this cap sheet is damaged or compromised, then you would also be getting rain water inside your home.

For new construction, the condensation lines or drain lines go into the closest basin to that a/c unit. In old construction, they used to run them across the roof and into a gutter that would flow down to the ground.

But do to the new building codes, with water recycling they want the water going back into the basins.

If you do have a leaking condensation line, this water tends to be slightly acidic. If this water is allowed to sit on your roof, it will rot through the roofing membrane which will require a major re-roof in the future.

Hello Robert,
I'm sure this is a very easy question, but I just want to be sure. I have a front patio that has two 4 inch x 4 inch posts on either corner. I made a wooden railing with pickets to go between these two posts that are about 12 feet across. I brought in another 4 inch x 4 inch post and placed in the center because it looked better and to help stabilize the railing. The question is, how do I secure the new post to the concrete patio?
Kevin S.

Hi Kevin,
Use a retrofit standoff bracket for the 4 x 4. They have two clamps that come up the side of the post. Screw the bracket into the post, and use redheads to secure the bracket into the concrete.

There are basically two types of these brackets. One is designed to be sunk inside wet concrete for new construction, and the other to be bolted to the surface which is what you would use.

This will keep the bottom of that post off of the surface of the patio and keep it from standing in water during rain or washing.

The right way to do this would be to saw cut the area where the new post would be located and then break out and repour the concrete using the type of standoff bracket that is embedded in the new concrete. But, since you're only supporting a light weight wooden railing, this will give you the stability you are looking for and will elevate the post to protect from water damage.

Hi Robert,
We have a towel rack in our bathroom that is always loose. I have tightened up the screws so many times but it keeps coming loose and starts to hang down. I even used a full tube of super glue in there which worked for a while but it is loose again.
Tanya B.

Hi Tanya,
A lot of times, these towel racks are put in with plastic anchors which will not last. For something like this that is used every day, use toggle bolts - some people call these butterflies. Push the threaded bolt through the wall mount of the rack, and push the spring loaded toggle into the wall. When tightened, this toggle will secure itself on the inside of the drywall.

All of my towel racks are fastened with toggles and I've never had any trouble.

Mr. Lamoureux,
I noticed some rusting on my iron fencing at the beginning of last summer. I sanded everything down, primered and painted with two coats of a special rust paint. Now I have the problem again. Why is it rusting again?
George H.

Hi George,
You no doubt have hollow tube. The expansion and contraction of the metal from hot and cold is causing condensation on the inside of the tube. The tube is sweating internally. What you've got is rust that is eating from the inside out. This along with the sprinklers hitting it makes for an ongoing maintenance issue. Anything that is exposed to the weather requires maintenance.

You can go with solid metal and not have this problem, but for most this is not cost effective. It is just the nature of the beast. I have this at my home and I am constantly with a paint brush. Sand, repair, sand repair. It's just part of being a homeowner.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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