Home Improvement : Break Up...

Associated Press Newsfeatures

Q: A large tree near our house has caused the nearby sidewalk to crack. In one place, the concrete has lifted several inches. Do I have to remove all the concrete and how is it done? Also, how can I prevent the tree roots from causing further damage. A friend says if I cut them it will kill the tree.

A: Use a cold chisel and a sledgehammer or other heavy hammer to break the sidewalk into several pieces. They can be removed more easily than if the concrete is left in one or two pieces. Cutting the roots with an ax will not kill the tree. After the roots have been chopped so they no longer can extend themselves, put down new concrete, using expansion joints if necessary. You can use a concrete mix that needs only the addition of water, or mix your own from sand, portland cement and aggregate.

Cut Hardboard Panels With a Special Blade

Q: I have several large panels of a synthetic wood with a kind of plastic finish that looks like marble. I probably will use it on a project I have in mind. The synthetic is very hard. I have a portable saber saw which I use sometimes to cut plywood. If I use it on these panels, will it ruin the saw?

A: It sounds as though you have panels of hardboard. It is not synthetic, but made from regular wood logs that are converted to chips and wood fibers and bonded under heat and pressure. It can be cut with most saws but might not yield easily to a saber saw unless you use a special blade. Since there are some differences between standard hardboard and tempered hardboard, it would be a good idea to take a sheet of the material to your local lumberyard and ask what variety of hardboard it is and what saw blades can be used to cut it.

‘Flat Plate’ Collector Draws Solar Energy

Q:. I hope to convert my house to solar energy. I constantly see the term “flat plate collector.” I know what a solar collector is but the words “flat plate” mean nothing to me. Can you help?


A: A flat plate collector generally consists of an absorbing plate, often metallic and painted black to increase absorption of the sun’s heat. It is insulated on the back and covered with a transparent cover sheet to trap heat within the collector. There are many variations of flat plate collectors. You will find out more about them when you are ready to have a conversion made.

Compression Faucets Are Older, Use Washers

Q: I have read a chapter in a booklet telling how to repair what is called a compression faucet. How do I know whether my faucet is that type?

A: In a compression faucet, a threaded spindle is turned and the washer at the end of the lower end is pressed against a valve seat. This shuts off the supply of water. Modern faucets do not use washers. If your faucet has one, it is of the compression-type. Despite the big inroads into the market of washerless faucets, the majority of houses still have compression faucets simply because they are old.