Q: How can I stop sap from oozing out of several new Douglas fir benches I had made? I’m getting sap all over my clothes. Is there something that will take it off the wood rather than smear it around?
A: The good news is that the oozing sap will slow down and stop in time. The bad news is that it could take months or even longer for that to happen. The best solvent to remove sap I’ve found is turpentine, probably because it’s made from coniferous trees. You can get it at paint stores. Gunk-removal products such as Goo Gone work well, too. Use a putty knife first to remove the bulk of the sap, then clean the area with some solvent on a rag. There’s no coating that will stop sap from oozing in the first place, so you just have to get good at cleaning for a while.
Resurfacing a wood deck
Q: Can I attach synthetic deck lumber directly on top of the existing wood of my deck? I’m tired of finishing and refinishing this wood.
A: I’ve resurfaced a number of decks and yes, you do need to remove the old wood before synthetic lumber goes down. Structurally speaking, applying composite decking on top of sound wood will work for a while, but it will also promote rot of the boards underneath because of the trapped water between the two layers. When the wood underneath rots, you’ll have a mushy mess supporting your synthetic deck boards.
Looking at the stairs in the photo you sent, it looks like the span of the treads is two-and-a-half or three feet wide. This is too far for synthetic lumber to span on its own, so you’ll need to add supports underneath. Lengths of 2x4 on their edge like little floor joists extending from one stair stringer to the other will provide the kind of support needed. Also, use the thickest synthetic lumber you can for the stair treads. Material one-and-a-half inches thick is the thickest I’ve seen.
There are two tools that will help you remove your existing deck boards more easily. A nail puller is an effective tool for gripping and pulling nails that are pounded in all the way. A reciprocating saw with a hacksaw blade is my favourite power tool for careful disassembly of the kind you’re planning. Simply saw through the nails and screws holding the deck boards down and you can remove them without damage or struggle.
Building a cabin on bedrock
Q: Is bedrock a good thing to build on? The soil where I plan to build a cabin this summer is only a couple of inches deep. Will this be OK?
A: Your question about soil depth is a good one. On the one hand, building on flat bedrock is a great thing. You can’t get a more solid and reliable foundation. On the other hand, soil is nice to have because it lets you bury and protect water lines and drain lines. Even a depth of soil that isn’t enough to completely protect against frost is still advantageous because the water lines and power lines can be buried and hidden.
Based on the photos you sent, my guess is that if you dug test holes in the area where you plan to build the cabin you’d be able to find a spot where you could build on bedrock while also having at least a couple of feet of soil to work with. If you can get more soil as well as bedrock, that would be good, too. Even if you had to put some heating cables on the plumbing lines because they weren’t buried enough, that would be much better than trying to protect lines and cables with only a few inches of soil.
Steve Maxwell is a syndicated home improvement and woodworking columnist who has shared his DIY tips, how-to videos and product reviews since 1988.