My kitchen cupboards are desperately in need of an overhaul but I can't afford to replace them. Can you suggest ways of brightening them up?
Tania Chow replies: If the cabinet doors are wooden you could simply repaint them. Sand down to create a smooth surface for reworking, wipe away any residual dust with a damp cloth, then, using a satin finish, paint in the colour of your choice.
If the doors have been laminated, re-covering is much more difficult. Removing plastic laminate is a nightmare, and it would probably be better to replace the doors with new ones. Any good handyman or contractor can take accurate measurements and replace the doors using the existing hinges and door handles if they're in good condition. Expect to pay around $15,000 to replace doors on cabinets underneath a three-square-metre worktop and hanging cabinets above.
Depending on how much you use your kitchen, you could cover the existing doors with vinyl. Just make sure the edges are sealed down firmly and ideally protected by one-centimetre wide timber beading, painted to match the covering.
Alternatively, remove the doors altogether and fix a stainless steel rod underneath the worktop. Add curtain rings in wood, plastic or metal, then hang fabric to cover all the open units. The fabric can then be removed for cleaning whenever necessary.
I live on the top floor of my building and damp patches appear on the ceiling after heavy rain. How do I repair or reseal the roof-top?
Mark Fraser replies: If safe, get up on the roof and check for any cracked or damaged areas where water could be getting in or concave areas where water is building up. If you're fortunate enough to isolate areas that correspond with the damp patches indoors, remove the damaged surface with a scraper or wire brush and allow the area to dry out completely before patching it.
If the roof surface is concrete you can use quick dry cement ($25 per kilogram) which comes in powder form that you mix with water. It dries very quickly, even in damp conditions, so make sure the area is clean and ready to be patched up before you begin. If the roof is topped with a bitumen layer you can match up with black bitumen emulsion ($340 per 20 litres).
If you can't find the source of the problem, you could try coating the entire surface with Kangaroo Waterproofing Membrane ($980 per 20 litres), available in grey or white. To avoid a sore back, apply with a roller attacked to an extension pole. All materials available from Yuen Fat Ho (tel: 2546 8020).
My living room ceiling is fairly high with no overhead beams and I'm keen to create the effect of a vaulted ceiling open to the sky. How do I go about it?
Paola Dindo replies: First, you'll need to do a bit of research in books or magazines to find an example of the arched ceiling you'd like to recreate. Choose a design proportional to your ceiling size and depending on your painting ability, it is better to aim for something straightforward.
Make sure the consistency of the ceiling is sound, with no cracks or peeling plaster, and assuming your ceiling is emulsion-based, like most in Hong Kong, you can work in water-based emulsion or watercolours. To create the sky, mix a range of shades ranging from light blue to white, then using a damp natural sponge apply colour to the ceiling. You will have to work fairly quickly to 'mix' colours before they dry. If using white emulsion as a base, dilute it two parts emulsion to one part water.
Once dry, you can create the optical effect of a vaulted ceiling, usually found in wood or masonry, over the top. Find the centre of the ceiling and sketch in beams, radiating outwards, which are wider at the edges of the ceiling and thinner towards the centre. Make sure the proportions are correct before you start applying colour. Once dry, you can add vines, birds or butterflies if desired.
Tsang Chi Fan
Christie's Hong Kong
Paola Dindo & Associates
RC Landscape Specialists