Furnace’s Fan Problems Won’t Just Blow Over

Question: Our gas furnace is about 14 years old, and for some reason, when we turn it on at the thermostat, it takes about five minutes before the fan begins to blow. What causes this, and is there a way I can fix it?


Fountain Valley

Answer: “It sounds like you may have a problem with the fan limit control,” says Mitch Baker of Earl’s Plumbing in Anaheim. “The fan limit has a little dial on it that may have to be moved, since it’s causing the blower to take too much time to start. To check, you’ll need to open the panel on the furnace and find the switch, then turn the arrow so it will kick in faster. If adjusting the switch doesn’t work, you may need to replace it.”


Q: I’m planning on installing a brick barbecue in my yard, and I’ve been told by a few people that I should use a “plasticizer” in the mortar. What is that, and do I really need it?


Lake Forest

A: “I think they’re probably talking about a substance called ‘fire clay,’ ” says Jim Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster. “It prevents the mortar from breaking up due to the heat and cold it has to face outdoors. It’s a good idea to add fire clay to your mortar, or you’ll have to eventually make repairs as it crumbles.


“Recently a new fireplace caulk has been introduced that can be used in heat up to 1,750 degrees. This is great for repairing damaged mortar.”

Q: I’ve tried three times to seat our upstairs toilet properly, but each time we’ve had a problem with seepage and I have to get a new seal. What’s the best way to get a good seal?


Buena Park


A: “Something’s wrong, because you should have had a good seal at least one of those times,” says plumber Andy Miller of Santa Ana. “Check the flange to make sure it’s straight and clean. Also, make sure you’re putting the wax seal on correctly. If you’ve made any changes to the floor, you may have to check to see if there’s too much clearance between the toilet and the flange.”

Q: I’m going to be re-staining some oak chairs, and I’ve heard different advice on how to apply the stain. Which should I use, a sponge or a rag?




A: “Brush it on with a Chinese bristle brush, then wipe it off with a clean rag to get the best results,” says Andy Carter of Sinclair Paint in Westminster. “The trick is knowing how long to leave the stain on before rubbing it. The longer you leave it on, the darker it will become. In most applications, you’ll leave the stain on a minute or two. Check the directions to see if it shows you how long it should be left on to get the tone you want.”

Q: I want to install a parquet tile floor in my entryway and need to know the best way to cut into the door jambs so the tiles are flush with the walls at two of the doorways.


Villa Park


A: “Once you’re down to the subfloor where you’ll be adhering the tiles, butt one of the tiles to the jamb and scratch a line into the jamb with a matt cutter or a sharp knife at the level where you’ll need the tile to fit,” says John Lennertz of Austin Hardwoods in Santa Ana.

“Then use a fine-toothed saw like a back saw and cut out the space you need. By marking the line with a matt cutter, you’ve broken through the grain fibers on the surface of the wood and when you go in with the saw, you should get a nice smooth cut. If the saw isn’t cutting easily, you can hammer a chisel slightly just below the line to take out a portion of the jamb and give the saw more room to work.”