Deck Stains, Bambi Woes, and Sitter Suits

Q We have a 15-by-20 foot deck painted gray. Each year, the paint peels and we paint it again. Is there any way, short of rebuilding the deck, to remove the paint, stain the deck, and get out of this annual cycle?


Medford, Mass.

A Your options depend on how much time and money you want to sink into the project, says Howard Clark, project manager for Warfield Services Inc., a commercial builder in Natick, Mass. "I suggest sanding the deck surface and then staining it with a solid-color stain. Railings and lattice should be replaced and stained to match. The sanding equipment can be rented. Remember to reset the nails before you sand, and wear proper gear.

"Stripping the paint is messy and time consuming. There are environmentally friendly strippers that are water soluble, but there is no way around scraping up the gooey paint. Pressure washing will mark and soak the wood and blow paint all over the yard.

"You should know that a stained deck is not maintenance free. Stain penetrates the wood, but the pigments in the stain stay on the surface where it wears off. Traffic lanes can become visible fairly quickly, so the deck will need to be restained every two years. Preparation for restaining is simple: pressure washing with a broad spray."

Q What natural, nontoxic repellents can I use to keep Bambi and his kin from munching my vegetable patch to the roots?


Austin, Texas

A There are many natural repellents, such as wolf urine and pureed animal entrails. But the repellent with the most staying power after a heavy rain, says Paul Parent, host of a weekly gardening program on WRKO-AM in Boston, Mass, is a product that is sprayed on leaves but is sold as a fertilizer: Fermented Liquid Salmon, by Coast of Maine Organics, Portland, Maine. (1-800-345-9315).

Q My sitter was out inline-skating with my children when she injured herself. What are my legal responsibilities?


Hingham, Mass.

A Says law professor Deborah Forman: In Massachusetts, if your sitter works for more than 16 hours per week, the law requires you to have workers' compensation insurance. In this case, since your sitter was injured on the job, she would be entitled to limited damages such as medical expenses and lost wages, paid by the workers' compensation insurance carrier.

If you live in a state that exempts domestic workers from workers' compensation, as many do, then you would not be legally responsible for the babysitter's injuries unless you were somehow negligent or careless.

The sitter can sue you to recover monetary damages for an injury only if your carelessness causes the injury, says Ms. Forman, author of "Every Parent's Guide to the Law" (Harvest/Harcourt Brace).

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

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