Question: Our Labrador retriever dropped his favorite rubber ball in one of our toilets upstairs and it was accidentally flushed. We haven't had any flow problems, but I can't believe the ball has traveled freely through the sewer system. Should I try to work a plumber's snake through it to force it through, or wait until it starts to clog?
Answer: "This is a common problem in homes with pets or small children," says Rod Albright of Albright Plumbing & Heating Supplies in Los Alamitos. "Unless it was about the size of a golf ball, chances are it didn't go all the way through the toilet, and if you haven't had problems yet, you will. You'll have to remove the toilet and take it outside, then use a snake or a garden hose, turn the toilet upside-down and try to dislodge the ball."
Q: We have a couple of paint cans left over from having our living room painted five years ago. I'd like to go through and touch up certain areas, and I've been told that I should strain the paint. Is that true, and how do I strain it?
P.W., Newport Beach
A: "It would be a good idea to strain it, and the best way to do it is to pour it through a nylon stocking," says Joe Ragsdale of Color Center in La Mirada. "When you first open the can, check to see if the paint is still good by rubbing a few drops between your fingers. If it feels gritty, it's too old, but if it's smooth, it's fine.
"You should cut away the dried skin on the surface and pull that out, then stir the paint, and strain it to remove any impurities that may have built up over time. If it appears too thick, you may have to add some solvent or water to thin it."
Q: Several of our kitchen cabinet doors are old and are loose on their hinges. I've tried using larger screws at the hinges, but they've also become loose. Outside of getting new cabinets, how can I make these doors sturdy?
B.F., Costa Mesa
A: "This is a fairly simple job. All you need to use is a drill and a jig saw," says Mark Wenders, a carpenter in Irvine. "Depending on how large the holes in the door are, you can find wood dowels or even golf tees that will fit inside them. Glue the dowel or tee into the hole to plug it, then when it dries, use the saw to cut it off so that it's flush with the door. Drill a hole through the plug with a tiny bit to give the screw a start, then screw in the hinges."
Q: In the last rainstorm I've noticed that my aluminum gutter has some pinhole leaks in a few places. How can I patch these securely without replacing the sections?
C.M., Yorba Linda
A: "There are products like plastic aluminum or epoxies with steel powder that would seal either aluminum or steel," says Mike Delaney of Fullerton Hardware. "These are just applied on the clean surface of the metal and work great for pinholes or small leaks in seams, although they're not going to work on holes much larger than that. And once dry, they can be sanded."