Q. I'm interested in putting ceramic tile in both of my bathrooms. There are thick plywood subfloors in each, and they seem to be very solid. Do I really need to put a concrete underlayment on the subfloor before installing tile?
F.I.; Costa Mesa
A. You need to use some type of preparation for a wood subfloor, says Gloria Richey of Tile Importers in Anaheim. Even though your subfloor appears solid and immobile, it probably has some give, and over time that will increase and will break your tile floor. There are new materials designed for underlayment that are only a quarter-inch thick, which makes them easy to work on. There's also a flexible mastic available that has some give to it, which allows you to use it on surfaces that move, but there are no guarantees that it will prevent cracked tiles.
Q. We had a new asphalt shingle roof installed four years ago, but we've noticed that much of the white grit on the shingles has already worn off, and it now has a dark tone from the black asphalt underneath. Can this type of roof be painted?
A. You can, but you have to think first about how your roof used to look, says Chris Vidovich of Imperial Paint in Fullerton. Most asphalt shingle roofs appear to have gradations in color because the grit that's used doesn't uniformly have the same shade. When you paint it, the roof is going to be one solid color, which may look funny if you're not ready for it.
The paint you'd use is an acrylic roof coating, which is typically used on mobile homes. It usually takes two coats, and it's applied with rollers, preferably a few days after it rains so that the surface is clean.
Q. We have small porcelain sinks in our master bathroom and have found some tiny hairline cracks at the bottom of them. Is there a way to repair these?
P.H.; Huntington Beach
A. You usually see this problem in older sinks, and unfortunately, there's no easy remedy, says Mike West of Orange Coast Pipe and Supply in Fountain Valley. They could be caused by something that's dropped into the sink and broken it, or by the use of harsh abrasive cleaners. Porcelain of dubious quality also tends to crack easily. There are porcelain refinishing services available that can repair cracks and blemishes, but they may not be able to make the sinks look like new.
Q. The house we recently bought has wallpaper on the ceiling of the den. What's the easiest way of getting it off so that we can paint?
D.N.; Tustin A. There's no trick to removing it from the ceiling that's any different from removing it from the walls, says Jim Grant of Dutch Boy Home Decorating Center in Santa Ana. If it's a foil paper, you can rent a steamer to remove it. If it's vinyl or paper, you'll first need a perforator to create some holes in the surface, then apply some removing solution with a Hudson sprayer, which is the type of sprayer you might use to distribute fertilizer in your garden. After that soaks in, you'll need to take a putty knife and scrape away. After the paper is gone, make sure you wash the surface to remove any leftover wallpaper paste.
Q. I leave my computer on all the time, and I usually have some other electronic gear on much of the day. I've heard that when there's a electrical brownout, electronic appliances can be destroyed. How can I prevent that?
S.S.; Laguna Beach
A. If you need to keep your electronics on 24 hours a day, you may need to invest in a UPS, or uninterruptable power source, says Mike McCoy of Current Supply in Westminster. Many businesses have these, and they're basically a battery backup that keeps power going on through brownouts, which are lapses in the amount of power in your line, or blackouts, which are complete cutoffs of power. The only catch is they're expensive; they start at around $500. But if you have thousands of dollars invested in your equipment, it may be worth the extra cost.