Finding the Sealant of Approval

Question: We have a clay tile patio in our back yard, and I've noticed that after watering the plants or the grass around it, water collects in a few spots. I've swept the water away, but can it damage the tile and grout?


Lake Forest

Answer: "It's really going to depend on how well the tile's been sealed," says Gary Gitmed of California Discount Tile in Westminster. "To check it, put a few drops of water on various places on the patio. If the water beads and runs off, the seal is still working. However, if the water is absorbed by the tile, it's probably time to reseal.

"On most tile patios, it's a good idea to reseal at least once a year. There are several sealants available with different kinds of finishes, and nearly all are simple for a homeowner to use."

Q: We have a cut-leaf maple tree in our front yard, and unfortunately, several kids in the neighborhood have carved initials into its trunk. We've fenced the yard now to keep the kids out. Is there a way to fix the tree without hurting it more?


Santa Ana

Answer: "Try getting a can of heavy-duty tree sealant, which is that black, tar-like substance used for pruning and grafting," says Dennis Huddleston of Loma Linda Nursery in Fullerton. "Take dabs of it and go over the top of the initials and carvings to cover them up. That will protect the trunk from moisture and insects, and eventually it will heal itself."

Q: Our aluminum sliding glass doors and windows are 20 years old and they tend to be drafty and noisy. I don't want the sectioned glass and wood windows; I'd rather stick with the sliding aluminum. Are good sliding windows and doors still available?


Corona del Mar

A: "When sliding windows and doors cause problems, it's usually because the mohair stripping has worn out," says Agnes Green of Green's Discount Glass & Screen in Garden Grove. "That's the fuzzy brown lining around the frame. Many times it sticks to the window or it slides into the channel. You can take a small portion of it to a window dealer, and they can probably match it with new stripping for you to get the right size. That could work for you to eliminate the noise and drafts you've experienced.

"However, since they're 20 years old, you may also have problems with the hardware in the doors and windows. Most window shops can order new ones for you. They're probably going to be a less expensive alternative to the sectional doors and windows."

Q: Is there any way to get rust off of an old wrought-iron patio set? We have tried many things, but every spring we have to repaint it because the rust has worn through.


Laguna Beach

A: "There are no magic products for a job like that. the only thing that will work is a lot of elbow grease," says James Livingstone of Paint N Paper House in Placentia. "First, use a paint remover to get all of the old paint off so you're down to the bare metal. Then, scrub away at the rust using a wire brush. After it's been brushed, wash and rinse the pieces down with a detergent and warm water and let them dry. Before you repaint, it's probably a good idea to use a metal primer that's designed for exterior use. You can apply that or spray it on, then paint."

Q: We have a lot of those ugly earwig insects in our flower beds. How can I get rid of them without using an insecticide?


Huntington Beach

A: "It's a good idea to control earwigs around flowers, since you may have already noticed the holes they put in leaves and petals," says professional gardener Mike Hamel from Costa Mesa. "I've known people who've successfully gotten rid of them by putting some rolled up newspapers by the flowers. Apparently, they like the tight spaces provided by the paper. After a few days, they then throw the paper away, along with the earwigs."

Q: I have a Drexel dining table that has a perfect original finish, but I'd like it to have a mar-proof finish. What can be used for it?


Buena Park

A: "There are all kinds of finishes that can be used to protect your table, and your choice depends on your objectives and what you want to spend," says Ford Duggins of A Carolina Craftsmen in Anaheim. "If you're dealing with a high-quality piece of furniture, you might want to spend the extra money and have it done right. There are catalytic lacquers, epoxies and polyurethanes that are difficult for the do-it-yourselfer to apply that will work very well. If you just want to protect the table top, you can expect to pay around $200 to $300 for a professional job."

Q: I've heard that the aluminum gas connection to my water heater should be replaced because it's dangerous in an earthquake. Is that true?


Santa Ana

A: "The danger is that they may be too rigid and will break during an earthquake," says plumber Mel Juraski of San Clemente. "Corrugated connectors will flex and move during a quake. They're not difficult to install, and they're a safer choice."

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