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ASK THE HANDYMAN : Replacing a Faulty Electrical Breaker Switch Isn't as Tough as It Looks

July 28, 1990|JOHN MORELL

Q. I have to replace a faulty breaker switch in my condominium and I've heard it's a relatively easy job. Is that true?



A. "It looks tougher than it is, but you have got to know what you're doing," says Hector Carmona of Martenet Hardware in Anaheim. "Shut off the main power switch, then remove the panel that covers the breakers on your fuse box. The switches are either wired or clipped. Use a screwdriver to undo them and pull out the one you want. Take the broken switch to a hardware or electrical supply store so they can match up the correct one. Then replace it the same way it went in, replace the cover and turn on the power."

Q. I'm afraid that my dog and cat don't mix with my new flower beds in the back yard. I've tried odor-causing repellents that work on my pets but also on me. Is there another way, short of ugly fencing, to keep pets out of the flowers?



A. "One fairly crude way is to sprinkle a substance such as Cayenne pepper around the bed," says Charles Kyle, manager of Nurseryland in Fountain Valley. "The pets sniff it, sneeze and decide to stay away from there. There's also a product called Tanglefoot that is a sticky, sappy substance used to keep ants and crawling insects off of fruit trees. You might place that around the bed since it makes the pet feel like it's stepped in gum. If your problem is only cats you might use just plain water. Watering your plants in the morning and keeping them moist would repel a cat since they like dry 'sandbox' soil."

Q. In order to install a furnace thermostat, do I need to precisely level it for it to work properly?


Los Alamitos

A. "It should be level but you don't necessarily have to be exact," says Bill Elmore of P & M Heating and Air Conditioning in Santa Ana. "You can simply use a carpenter's level or check the mercury bubble on those that have them.

"There's really not much to installing them, just check the furnace to see if you need a 24-volt thermostat or a millivolt thermostat. Usually, a forced-air attic furnace is a 24-volt system."

Q. A neighbor of mine used rollers to paint the exterior of his stucco house and it took him about a day to complete. I've heard that using a sprayer is faster but also messier if you're not familiar with the machine. Which is best for the novice?



A. "People have stopped using rollers for the exterior as paint sprayers have become easy to use," says Jim Livingston of Livingston Paint and Paperhouse in La Habra. "When you roll paint on, you're making it thinner and thinner and you're not painting an even coat.

"When you use a spray gun, you're getting even coverage into all of the cracks and crevices. The airless spray equipment you can rent at your paint store is very easy to use, a novice could complete an exterior job in half a day. You just have to follow the directions, make sure the paint is properly thinned, that you have the right spray tip and that the guy you're renting it from goes over all of the features with you beforehand. Expect to pay about $45 to $60 per day for the sprayer rental."

Q. We recently bought a 4-year-old house that has some ugly oil stains on the concrete driveway. I've tried the chemical cleaners available at the hardware store, as well as going to my hands and knees with steel wool and a wire brush, and I still can't get rid of them. What are my options, short of building a new driveway?


San Clemente

A. If you've tried cleaning it by hand and you're still not satisfied, you're only other option is to call in a professional. "We clean concrete with superheated water combined with a biodegradable cleaner that's forced out of a nozzle at 3,000 pounds per square inch," says Jon Graves of Jon's Pressure Cleaning in Tustin. "That usually does the job. Then to save it or protect a new driveway, you might want to apply a sealer that will make oil and grease easier to remove. The rate to clean a driveway starts at about $100."

Q. I'd love to install decorative glass blocks in a partition wall in our house. Is there anything I should know before tackling it myself?


Yorba Linda

A. "This isn't an easy job to do it yourself," says Michelle Wagner of Del Piso Tile in Anaheim. "The tiles are expensive, $4 to $21 a piece, so you have to know what you're doing.

"If you're building a free-standing wall, you have to use horizontal reinforcing rods to help support them, and if you're cutting a hole in a wall to create a window of glass blocks, you have to make sure it's the exact size you need, since you can't cut the blocks to fit. There's a special mortar to use as well that you can pick up where you buy the blocks."

Q. I've seen a product in the store that attaches to your clothes dryer vent and supposedly uses the hot air when your running the dryer to help heat your house. Would something like this work?



A. "It will work," says Bill Couts of Couts Heating and Cooling in Anaheim. "It's just that the dryer has to be located in the house, not the garage, and it has to be electric, not gas. You also have to have a pretty good filter on it or you're going to get small lint particles around the house. But a clothes dryer would help warm up a house and it would provide humid air, which is needed since most furnaces provide dry heat."

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