Sanding is not a project I want to undertake. Are there any detergents or wood cleaners that you’d recommend, or should I stick with a damp mop?
Hardwood floors that were sealed and finished in the ’60s might still be washable, so I suggest you clean them with a wet Swiffer, which contains water and enough detergent to do a good job. If this doesn’t work, and areas of the floor look unfinished, you need to have the floors sanded and refinished with two or three coats of polyurethane varnish.
If some of the sealer is gone in places, water will give the wood a dark, weathered look.
I’d like to renovate my basement; no big deal, just paint the walls and maybe finish the ceiling. Any advice on painting poured concrete walls, and any way to smooth them before painting?
Yes, there are minimum things you can do. First, use paint specifically made for concrete, which will stop seepage. Ask a clerk in a store that sells masonry supplies for the best brand for your type of wall. Don’t try to smooth out the walls; it’s not worth the effort.
For the ceiling, put up spaced strapping (1x3s), then staple on ceiling tiles.
If ceiling height is a problem, try what I did in the basement of my house: I nailed 1-by-1s (3/4-inch square strips of wood) along the bottom of all joists to form a ledge, then dropped in strips of homemade Homasote ceiling sections. They looked good and took nothing from the ceiling height.
For floors, a good but permanent fix is to put down 12-by-12 ceramic tiles with thin-set mortar, then cover with rugs.