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Robert Lamoureux: Silica sand offers nonskid surface

Your Home Improvements

Posted: March 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
I enjoy your column very much. We have a large painted patio and some of paint has worn off. I want to repaint and put a clear sealing coat with a non-skid surface. Is there a product that will do the job and have a texture to prevent slips/falls? 
Karen S.

Hi Karen,
The first thing to do is get a power scrubber and make sure you remove all of the loose paint. 

Next, you will need to acid etch the concrete surface to prepare it for the new paint. Use a 1 to 3 mixture of muriatic acid and water. This will give you a good surface profile so the paint will adhere properly. Remember, when working with acid, it’s critical to be completely protected. Always wear goggles, long sleeves, long pants and a full respirator with canisters specifically designed for working with acid.

If you can run a fan to blow the fumes away, then do it also. 

Spray the acid on and let it sit. Stay away from it while it’s working. After about 20 minutes, hose it down. Put a lot of water on it to neutralize it. If it’s not neutralized, the paint won’t bond. Put some high speed dryers on it so you don’t have to wait for it to dry naturally. When it is completely dry, apply one fresh coat of urethane based paint over the entire patio. 

While the paint is still wet, broadcast some silica sand evenly over the top and let it dry for 24 hours. Come back and sweep off all of the excess sand. Then apply another two good coats of the urethane paint over that. The sand will give you a good slip resistant surface. 

We bought a new tract home 10 years ago in which the kitchen cabinetry and stair banister were finished with wood stain and varnish.

Despite our best efforts to maintain the kitchen cabinets, they are beginning to show wear and tear.

The varnish seems to be breaking down in some spots and other cabinets have scratches and dings from normal use over time.

The stair banister seems to have a more sturdy finish, but the varnish is also starting to crack and flake in spots.
Is there a way to repair or refinish the problem areas, or is a complete professional re-finish our only option? Thanks so much,
Larry L.

Hi Larry,
Once the varnish starts to go, it has to be completely refinished. Maybe you’ve got the heart to tackle this tedious of a project, but this is something that I would leave to the pros. There are companies that will come out and do the work, but it’s not going to be cheap. Especially with banisters and kitchen cabinets. 

First, they’ll come in with scrapers and start scratching off all of the old varnish.

Then they use palm sanders with vacuum hose attachments. They’ll have to disassemble the banisters to sand it all down. Every part has be scraped and sanded. This is really monotonous work.

After all of the old varnish has been removed, then they will restain and reseal. I’ve seen homeowners just give up and paint over the varnish, but if you want it done right, it has to be stripped down and refinished.

Hi, Robert,
I am a Realtor in the SCV and read your Saturday morning column every week. Great information, thank you!

I have a client who is about to list their home and while visiting one day after the last rain I saw a significant amount of white powdery substance on the garage concrete floor. I recall an article you wrote that explained what it was. I believe you said it was minerals in the concrete that leach out whenever exposed to moisture. 

This was a model home in Northpoint built in 1996 and the owner said this always happens when it rains. 

Can you explain what exactly this is, what causes this, if there is a liability, and if there is a remedy?

I will be taking the listing next week and will have the sellers complete the disclosures.

 I want to make sure we have correct information about this for the seller to pass on to the next owner. Thank you so very much.
Christy I.

Hi Christy,
What you are seeing is called efflorescence. This is the process of water going through concrete, grout, tile, brick, stone, etc and bringing salts to the surface.

When the water evaporates, it leaves the salt behind. These salts will leave either a fluffy texture, or if the leaching/evaporation process keeps cycling over and over in the same area, it will then produce a hazy crystalline surface. 

It is possible for both hosing down the garage floor and a dripping car to cause efflorescence. In these cases, water would penetrate the concrete just a fraction of an inch, dissolve salts and then bring the salts back up to the surface. 

Usually though, when you see this inside of a garage, it is indicative of a failed moisture barrier — meaning the visqueen has been perforated. 

Before the garage slab was poured, a sand base with visqueen was laid down, then mesh was laid on top of the plastic.

Sometimes workmen will put holes in the plastic either by walking on the mesh, which pushes down into the plastic or by using hooks and tearing the plastic when they pull the mesh up inside the wet concrete after it’s poured.  

Once you have holes in the plastic, it’s no longer waterproof. This would allow water to come up through the bottom, depositing the salts on the surface.

There’s no liability. 

The remedy would be to acid etch the garage floor and then put a clear coat sealer on top. Okon is a good product for that. It will seal the surface and will not allow water to penetrate from the top or come up from the bottom. 

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office. 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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