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Archive for the ‘Building Repair Advice’ Category

David Lee

Barn Boards

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007


I just happened across your web page on the internet and found it very interesting and informative.I do small wood crafts and just starting making bird houses from old barn wood.I was wondering if you have to wash or disinfect the barn boards in any way before you use them for the projects or do you just use a steel brush on them and then go ahead and put your project together.?


Well, this brings back memories. I had a period of about ten years doing things with barn boards. It started when a lady offered me a whole barn if I would totally remove it and clean up the site. It was a treasure trove. Besides the huge pile of beautiful boards, beams and weathered shingles there was a truckload of goodies including a perfectly good parlor woodstove, old tools, even an antique crank telephone. I wonder if there are deals like that anymore?

Barn boards are dirty from being around so long and most of them didn’t shower regularly so it is wise to clean and disinfect them before using. Wear good leather work gloves. Barn boards have slivers galore.

My first treatment was to shake the dust and loose stuff off them and pull out nails while making sure to not damage the beauty of the piece. Then I piled them in a stack with sticking between the layers to let air circulate around each board.

Every few weeks I would rebuild the pile so the boards would dry and weather evenly. While doing this I learned to put my favorite boards face up on top of the pile to let the sun and rain give them a “finish” weathering. Sunlight kills some of the mystery microbes in and on old wood but not all. If I am not too concerned about the color of the barn board I want to disinfect, I spray them with a solution of 1/3 laundry bleach and 2/3 water. I do this at least three times and let them dry in the sun between treatments.

Cleaning your boards with a steel brush gets the loose stuff off. A stiff bristled cleaning brush works without damaging the wood grain too much. For bird houses, brushing and disinfecting should be enough. If you rehab your bird houses occasionally, it would be wise to disinfect them before handling. Birds carry little things you don’t want to inhale or get on your skin.

A way to clean smaller barn board projects is with compressed air. It gets dirt out of all the cracks really well and doesn’t hurt the color, grain or texture of the wood. It is a good way to remove dust from your finished products after they have been around awhile too. Be sure to wear protective eye glasses and gloves.

This may be more than you wanted to know for your bird houses but someday you may get offered a whole barn and you will be ready.

David Lee

The Forever Floor

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Forever Floor

Hello. I love your magazine but I have a question about the floor. I’m disabled. I have several diseases in my back and it’s impossible for me to sweep. I can push a broom, like the swiffer sweeper types. My son has to do the sweeping for me now, and my husband and I would like to find a way that I can do it myself. We are in the process of remodeling and I ran across this article by David Lee in issue #92. My husband got a scrap piece of the roofing and we painted it to see if the swiffer sweeper would go across it or not. Well, it works fine, but my question is how does he recommend mopping with this floor? I mean, I usually use the solution that comes in the swiffer. Will this hurt the paint? Will it clean my floor? Or do I have to use a regular mop with just water? Won’t the cleaners hurt the paint? I’m so sorry to bother you all, I know you must be terribly busy, but we’re trying to decide on this floor or regular linoleum. This floor would cost us $120.00 without the price of the paint, over $330. for the cheapest linoleum. We have a big kitchen and I do alot of canning and cooking in there, and have to clean the floor a lot. Any help would be so appreciated. God Bless you and your staff. And I do really enjoy your magazine. We live on our own little 2 1/2 acres of God’s beautiful land in southern Ohio. I raise most of our food in our garden and love to make homemade bread and can our goodies. Everyone loves my Christmas presents, they usually get canned goods or my famous homemade strawberry jam. Sorry I’m rambling. Any advice would be so appreciated. Thanks. Gail

* * *


The Forever Floor has been a popular floor covering solution since the article came out.

I used the method for years on balconies and small decks. It wears very well when exposed to rain and snow.

We clean our indoor Forever Floors with bucket, mop and and whatever cleaning solution was on sale at the store. None have ever hurt the floor. We have not used the Swiffer solution but I doubt it would be a problem. I suggest you do a thorough test of the Swiffer, with its solution, on your sample of Forever Floor (smart thinking by the way) and see if anything bad happens. That should answer your cleaning question.

If you want extra protection on your kitchen floor you may consider using a high quality exterior latex deck paint for coats three and four of paint on your floor. This might increase resistance to wear and washing somewhat but most latex paint is washable.

When you and your menfolk install the Forever Floor be sure to follow the directions in the article very carefully, especially the part about using just enough, but not too much Plastic Roofing Cement. Too much makes the floor “mushy”, too little means the roofing won’t stick properly.

Since writing the article I have learned a couple more things about this flooring method that may help you. When the granules start to show and it is time to add new paint, you must thoroughly clean away any grease or oil and the floor must be very dry or some of the new paint will come off when exposed to water.

In the pictures of my version of the Forever Floor you may have noticed that I use a rather colorful mosaic pattern. This is for good reasons. It disguises little stains and wear marks. It allows me to only have to repaint the areas of the floor that get the most wear, postponing the need to redo the whole floor. If some damage occurs, like the time we gouged the floor when our refrigerator was moved, it is easier to disguise the repair with a mosaic theme.

One other thing. Oil paints would seem to be better for this floor method. I did a small section in my shop to see how it would work. It took three days for each coat to dry, all the while collecting dust on the sticky surface. One of our cats put paw prints in it. It did not level out very well around the granules. It made the floor slippery when wet. It got dull in the high traffic areas. It took 20 days (!!) to install but I finally tore it out because of its poor performance.

So Gail, I recommend that you install the flooring, give it two coats of mismatched paint, two coats of deck paint, then create a pattern of some kind in various colors, using less expensive latex paints, for the mosaics and get on to making all those goodies.

David Lee

David Lee

More Brick Work

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

Maxine Doty

Oh My! Shane McGarry wants to cover up even more brick than our last reader.

Shane does not say if the brick is inside or outside. If it is outside then a thorough cleaning is needed to remove dirt, contaminants and efflorescence that emerges on aged brick work. Acid wash or sand blasting will get it prepared so the stucco will adhere. Professionals should do the cleaning for you.

However, Shane, if you have $20,000 dollars available I think you could hire a professional to stucco the house, the driveway and two or three of your cars for that amount.

If you bought the stucco spray machine you might be tempted to become a professional stucco application business owner to recoup some of your investment. It scares me to think of someone out there willing and able to take beautiful old brick walls and cover them in stucco. Not that stucco doesn’t have a charm all it’s own. It just seems like gilding the lily.

Please, take some of the $20,000, go on vacation for a couple of weeks and when you get back you will be so happy to see your beautiful brick house that you will hopefully decide to leave it as it is.

However, if you are bound and determined to do this, my last blog has some more information about what to do with brick walls and our friend Oliver has something to say about metal lath over brick that you should read. Check the comments with this blog.

David Lee

Brick Wall Ideas

Thursday, July 5th, 2007


Mr. Phillip Gawel has an exposed brick wall that he would like to coordinate with his knotty pine walls by using stucco.

The brick wall was previously on the exterior of the house and will need to be cleaned. A professional would do this with a muriatic acid wash. I do not recommend that you do this yourself. The acid is a bit dangerous to use, there is a lot of wire brushing involved, it takes lots of water to flush the acid away and the mess could damage the rest of the room.

Sandblasting is another method of cleaning but it is dangerous if you have no experience with it and may also damage other areas of the room. You could have professionals clean the wall and then apply the stucco yourself. Once the brick and mortar have been properly prepared the stucco should stick just fine without any metal lathe.

That would be the usual advice but here we give Alternatives.

First, most people would give an eyetooth to have a brick wall inside their home. It is a dramatic feature. You could leave the wall “unspoiled” and build another wall right in front of it. BHM issue #106, page 29 has an article that can help you with that. The new wall could be finished in knotty pine to match the existing walls and preserve the brick wall for the future.

You could build knotty pine shelves and cabinets against the wall. Or a knotty pine wainscot panel with a chair rail. That would sublimate the brick and coordinate it better with the other walls.

Simply painting the wall with two or three coats of latex paint in your favorite color or color scheme would make a big change. Clean the wall with a broom and brush and go to it.

You can get a “faux stucco” finish on your brick wall by using ordinary joint compound. It comes in five gallon buckets, is applied with a six inch putty knife and smoothed out as slick as you want it to be with a trowel and it sticks to most surfaces very well. Joint compound can be textured with a loop roller, rags, bare hands or any number of items if you are interested in that. Start by cleaning the wall with a broom and brush to remove loose particles. Apply multiple layers of joint compound, allowing several days drying time between applications. Finish with a coat of latex primer.

That brick wall is a good backing for a woodstove. It could also be a good location for a fireplace sometime in the future.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your decision.



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