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INSIDE & OUT : Stopgap Remedies for Cracked Plaster

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Q We bought our house new in 1957, and over time, we’ve noticed that on the plaster in the corners of the doors and windows, cracks have developed. They’re not very deep, but some are as long as one foot. What causes this?

T.R. Anaheim *

A Plaster walls are notorious for cracking, says Pete Gorman of Rancho Lumber. It’s usually seen in older plaster walls. Drywall has a “skin” that is forgiving when the walls are stressed, but plaster is a solid, cement-like product, and you will see hairline cracks develop in it.

Cracking is generally caused by the house settling and by the expansion and contraction of the house as it heats up and cools down. Unfortunately there’s no sure-fire cure. You could try filling the cracks with a paintable caulk; that will make it more like a rubberized joint and give the crack some flexibility. You could also use a plaster patch and, with a putty knife, feather it in.

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Q We have an entertainment center with a stereo, TV, VCR, computer, etc. Since it’s in a den, we don’t want to have an ugly power strip. Are there any alternatives?

B.H. San Clemente *

A There is another way around your cord situation, says Mike McCoy of Current Supply in Westminster. A “surge” circuit breaker is now available for your electrical panel that protects against electrical surges. The advantage is that all the outlets controlled by that circuit would be protected by it. It’s more expensive than a protective power strip, but aesthetically it’s the best option.

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Q When you have old cars like we do in your driveway, you get rust stains on the concrete. Nothing I’ve tried works. Is there anything else around that could work?

W.C. Santa Ana *

A If you tried all the usual cleaners, you may want try a solution of muriatic acid, says Gary Lillge of Crown Hardware in Corona del Mar. This will eat off a thin layer of surface and remove any surface stains. Whenever working with acid, be sure you’re wearing gloves and protective eye wear. Make the solution by mixing water and acid at a ratio of 20:1, then brush it on and wash it off, being careful not to spray it on the lawn or shrubs.

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Q We used to have rubber, non-slip decals in our bathtub for our children when they were small. Now we don’t need them, and we removed them. However, the tub is stained with the gummy outlines of the decals. How can we get these off, since cleansers don’t work?

H.C. Irvine *

A You may want to try just some simple rubbing alcohol and a rag, says plumber Steve Guzman of Santa Ana. If that doesn’t work, try paint thinner, and, of course, make sure you clean your tub out after using the chemicals. Although you may have taken the decals out because they were old, I’d recommend putting a rubber mat on the tub surface. You usually don’t realize how slippery a surface it is until you fall in one.

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Q I have a table that’s done in a light oak veneer. I’d like to refinish it to match some cherry-wood furniture, but can veneer be refinished?

S.S. Costa Mesa *

A Most good veneer furniture can be refinished, but you have to be very careful while doing it, says Joe Ragsdale of Color Center in La Mirada. Veneer is made with very thin strips of wood, and these strips can be easily damaged if you sand too hard. After removing the finish, use a light paper, such as a 220-grit, and sand lightly with the grain. Once it’s smooth, you can apply your stain as you would with other furniture.

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