What Would Bob Do? Raw Wood, Pet Odors, and Grout Haze

Bob Vila answers your questions about painting unfinished wood, curing pet odors, and cleaning up grout residue. To submit a question, visit our Forum Section.

1. PAINTING UNFINISHED WOOD

Paint Unfinished Wood

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I’m painting a bunk bed from IKEA that’s solid pine and unfinished. Do I still need to sand and prime if it is unfinished wood and I’m painting white?

Yes, before you paint unfinished furniture, it’s worth going through the process of sanding and priming. I recommend the following procedure; though a bit tedious, it ensures satisfactory results. Start with some rough sanding. After you’ve done this, wipe away all sanding dust with a tack cloth (avoid using a water-dampened rag). Now apply the first coat of primer and let it dry. Sand the furniture again, this time to a 150-grit smoothness. Tack-cloth the piece once more, then add your second layer of primer and let it dry. Sand one last time (use 220-grit paper at this stage), remove all dust, and proceed to apply your top coats.

 

Pet Urine

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2. CURING PET URINE ODOR
I ripped up carpet and poured KILZ onto the subfloor. That worked great for a few months, but now the smell is back. There is no sign of new cat pee, so I suspect the KILZ didn’t spread far enough under the baseboard into the corners. Can I apply BIN on top of KILZ?

BIN is a quality, fast-drying sealer that can be applied with no problem over KILZ. But what you’re trying to do—seal in the odor—can be difficult to accomplish.

Your chances of success depend on the spread of the urine. If, as you suspect, the urine reached under the baseboard, then it may well have entered the void between your subfloor and the ceiling below. In that case, the movement of air and relative humidity changes are going to continue releasing the odor on occasion.

Related: 10 Natural Ways to Remedy Household Odors

When you first noticed the accident, it might have been wise to remove the baseboard immediately, sanding off the top layer of subfloor before the urine could sink in. Several readers, meanwhile, have reported good results from cleaning their floors with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, liquid detergent, and baking soda.

If you end up applying a fresh coat of sealer and it doesn’t do the trick, try spreading a thin layer of baking soda under the carpet and over the subfloor. Baking soda absorbs odor surprisingly well, but note that you will from time to time need to replenish the layer with a dose of fresh powder.

 

3. REMOVING GROUT RESIDUE

Help! Grout haze on limestone tile. Just laid a new limestone flooring and after the grout was applied, I noticed a chalky haze over the tiles that will not come up. I’ve tried scrubbing and buffing with no results. Please help!

A common problem faced by do-it-yourselfers, grout haze results when tiles are incompletely washed after grouting. You can remove the residue with some vinegar, a plastic scrub pad, and a lot of elbow grease.

If your tile weren’t limestone, I might recommend one of the many commercial grout haze removers available, but most of these products are acid-based and would likely stain or leave blotches on the limestone.

Why not experiment in an out-of-the-way corner? Begin with vinegar and a scrub pad. If that approach doesn’t work, try sanding with a drywall abrasive screen (100- to 120-grit). As a last resort, purchase a nonacidic cleaner specially engineered to remove the type of grout used. You might get lucky.