Q. My older home has two-pronged outlets in some of the rooms, and I'd like to replace them with grounded three-prong outlets. If I just connect them up, does that mean they're grounded?
A. The best way to ground an outlet is to run a grounding wire back to the circuit box, says Mike McCoy of Current Supply in Westminster. With an older home, you might be lucky enough to have a raised foundation. This will give you room to run the wire underneath the house back to the box. If the home has a slab foundation, you may need to install a grounding pole outside the house.
Q. My 8-year-old dishwasher almost seems haunted. Sometimes when it's turned on, it runs normally. Other times, the unit runs, but no water goes through the machine. What could be wrong?
San Juan Capistrano
A. Most machines have some type of float mechanism at the bottom of the dishwasher that regulates how much water gets in and how high the water level can get, says appliance repairman Steve Green of Placentia.
Debris and water deposits can foul the float and make it stick in the closed position. A float near the door can also be affected by a loose or broken rubber door seal. Clean off the float and check to see if it operates freely. A new door seal may have to be installed.
Q. I have off-white ceramic tile on my kitchen counter top that is outlined by white grout. The grout seems to stain easily. Is it OK to use bleach on it?
A. You'll probably want to stay away from bleach because it can discolor the tile, says Gloria Richey of Tile Importers in Anaheim. There are several grout cleaners available at tile stores. Look for one recommended for white grout.
Spray it on and leave it for a few minutes, then use a stiff brush on the grout and rinse it down. After it dries out, apply at least three coats of an acrylic sealer on the grout to prevent staining in the future.
Q. We have a gas stove that has a built-in vent to take cooking odors outside. However, our entire home is inundated by the smell of the day's cooking even with the fan running constantly. Is there any way to make the venting more efficient?
A. You might want to try getting on the roof or up on a ladder to see if there's much of an air flow going through the vent, says contractor Dave Timmons of Santa Ana. The line from the stove to the vent might have been jarred loose and is blowing inside the house. It could be plugged up. Grease can also build up on the venting fan and make it run less efficiently.
If you have a question about your home or garden, A Helping Hand will help you find the answer. Send questions to: John Morell, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.