Q: Do I need to apply the same clear sealer to the underside of tabletops as I do to top surfaces to equalize moisture movement?
A: In my experience it doesn’t matter if you seal the bottom of table tops or not. Some woodworkers get very particular about this sort of thing, but I’ve never seen it make a significant difference. The reason is because moisture will travel through any kind of finish. Varnish, urethane or lacquer will slow down the movement of moisture into and out of the wood, but it won’t stop it.
The main thing is that the wood you use is dry enough for heated indoor conditions in Canada. If it’s got a seven per cent to nine per cent moisture content, then the wood will remain stable. I seal the underside of my tabletops to reduce the tendency for dust to stick under there, but this isn’t necessary. I’m refinishing a 50-year-old hardwood tabletop right now and the underside has been completely bare since dayone.
Tankless or tank-style water heater?
Q: Should I replace my large gas-fired tank-style water heater with a tankless model? My wife and I are seniors living in our two-storey, four-bedroom home and we intend to stay here for at least another 10 years. We’ve upgraded our insulation, windows and doors.
A: My short answer is maybe. If your current heater is less than 10 years old and in no obvious need of replacement, I’d recommend keeping it. Compared with tank-style heaters, tankless models eliminate the energy loss from a tank of hot water just sitting around between uses. That’s great, but I doubt you’ll recoup the complete cost of a tankless heater within 10 years. I like tankless for some applications, but they’re also more technically complicated and expensive to fix than hot water tanks. If your tank-style heater is on its last legs, then tankless makes sense. If your current heater is in good shape, I’d keep it.
Q: What are your thoughts on tubular skylights? You’ve written about them before, but I wonder if you still like them. Some people I’ve heard complain about condensation forming inside during winter, and others say tubular skylights reduce roof insulation.
A: Tubular skylights are large sheet metal pipes with shiny interior surfaces made to direct sunlight downwards from the roof to rooms below. A clear dome on the roof lets light in while also keeping rain out. I installed a tubular skylight in my own home in 2001 to brighten the area above our kitchen sink and I’ve never had any trouble with it. The installation works very well, there’s never been any condensation and it makes life quite a bit nicer while doing dishes. The unit I installed also has a built-in light fixture inside the tube that lights up when you turn on the main kitchen lights at night.
Repair furniture flaw
Q: How can I get rid of a dull spot I made on a dining table? I was foolish enough to use one of those magic eraser pads to remove a little stain on my father-in-law’s nearly new hickory table. There’s plenty of finish thickness left, it’s just that the gloss is gone. Will the buffing method you posted on YouTube work?
A: Yes, buffing will work. I’d start by buffing with a superfine 3M rubbing pad. Begin gently with some light shining at a shallow angle across the table top so you can see what’s happening. I think the superfine will even things out nicely, but if not, you might want to begin again with the fine silicone carbide pad, then move onto the superfine. Visit baileylineroad.com/7619 for a video tour of how buffing is done.