Question: About 12 years ago I bought and installed a home security system using an "electronic eye." It worked fine for a while, but it seemed to be overly sensitive. It was set off easily and I stopped using it. Is there a way I can upgrade it to make it work right, or should I just get a new one?
Answer: "Generally, these systems have a sensitivity adjustment, even the early ones," says George Schureman of MarVac Electronic Supply in Costa Mesa. "It works with an infrared beam, similar to the type of beam used in television remote controls. It reads light that's reflected back and when there's a change in that light, it will trigger the alarm. They're easily hidden and they're great for protecting a large area.
"On most systems, you can adjust the sensitivity of the alarm so that it will only be set off if the beam is obstructed. They're fairly easy to install if you're comfortable working with electrical wiring, and have the skill to install the wiring behind walls."
Q: My grandfather used to tell me that when hammering into wood, you should hammer the nail at an angle, since that keeps wood from splitting and helps it hold better. Is that true?
Rancho Santa Margarita
A: "I don't know if they will keep you from splitting the wood, but it will help the nail hold a little better," says carpenter Steve Crow of Santa Ana. "That's usually the rule when framing a project during construction. Drive it in so it's just slightly at an angle. It'll take some practice if you're not used to doing it. The nail or nails work like a hook keeping the two pieces solidly together."
Q: In the house we recently bought, we'd like to cover the tile floor in the den with an area rug. I've been told that it's crucial to get the right kind of padding to save the floor and the rug. If that's the case, what type of padding is needed?
A: "In most of the rugs that will go over tile, we incorporate a backing that's foam with small grips on it that keep the carpet from moving," says Walt Parker of Parker's Floor Coverings & Draperies in Orange. "Your main objective is keeping the rug in place. There's a rubber mesh product you can get at most rug stores that will keep the rug in place and won't harm the tile underneath."
Q: I built an asphalt sidewalk through my back-yard garden, and I want to know, what should I use to seal it?
A: "You can get an emulsified asphalt or coal tar sealant at just about any building supply outlet," says contractor Dave Martinez of Irvine. "You clean the asphalt, pour on a portion of the sealant, then spread it with a stiff, long-handled broom. Let it dry for a couple of days, then apply another coat. The sealant will keep the asphalt from cracking and protect it from water damage."
Q: I'm planning on disconnecting my cable and I'd like to put up an old-fashioned TV antenna. Can I get good reception and what should I look for when shopping around?
A: "Being in La Habra, you're in the line-of-sight of the major television transmitting antennas, so you probably could get good reception," says Don Peavey of Ford Electronics in Buena Park. "The size of the antenna you'll need will depend on how many sets will feed off of it. Antennas are rated depending on how many elements they have, which are the bars that go across.
"If you're in a valley, you may have problems picking up signals, and you may need a more powerful antenna, or one that's installed high above your roof. You may need to use a field strength meter to measure the signal you get from various places on your roof. As far as cost, expect to pay about $70 to $130 for a good antenna."