Q: Less than a year ago, I installed a cultured-marble counter and sink in our second bathroom, and in a very short time, I've noticed small hairline cracks forming around the drain. Is there any way I can just buff those out?
A: "That's unusual for a new sink to develop cracks like that," says Larry Hohenstein of Amco Builders and Plumbing Supply in Costa Mesa. "They usually form with age. There's really not much you can do at this point because of the way the sinks are made. Cultured marble is made with a plastic overlay that gives it color. However, what happens is that during normal use, when you get toothpaste, cleansers, drain cleaners and all the other things people put in their sinks onto the surface, it destroys the plastic. When it gets to the point where you're really embarrassed by it, you'll just have to replace it.
"There is one product, 100% cultured onyx, that can be repaired. It's a little more expensive than the marble, but when you have cracks, you can attach a lambs-wool pad to your drill and buff them out."
Q: The plaster surrounding the outside of my shower has formed blisters in which the plaster has bubbled and inside there's a powdery substance. I would assume it's caused by moisture. How do I get rid of it?
A: "It sounds like it's a gypsum plaster, and what really needs to be used in that area is a cement plaster or a cement backer board with tile, something that won't absorb water," says Lee Ferguson of Alpine Plastering in Fullerton. "Ideally, the plaster in that area should be removed down to the bare studs and a paper-back lath should be put on, then the cement plaster applied on top of that."
Q: Isn't there something I can put on my hands and arms while painting that will keep paint from sticking to my skin?
A: "Try a product called 'Glove Coat' that you rub into your hands before painting," says Mike Payne of Vista Paint in Orange. "After painting, you just wash with soap and water, and it should come right off."
Q: In remodeling our bathroom, I'd like to keep the present bathroom tile, remove the tub enclosure and install a shower curtain. However, the enclosure is about 9 years old, and I'm afraid that once we get it off, we won't be able to make the tile on the walls that are underneath match the rest of the tiles. Any suggestions?
A: "When an enclosure has been there for years, it will tend to discolor the tile," says John Wintercorn of Martin Shower Door in Chino. "Unfortunately, there's no magic solution to remove it. After removing an enclosure, we will scrape it with a putty knife and then a single-blade razor to remove any caulking, then go over it with scouring powder. I've heard of people using pool acid to try to get stains off, but that's really too dangerous to work with. I'd recommend just trying with abrasives and filling in the holes left by the enclosure with some type of quick-setting sealant."
Q: In rearranging furniture, I found a problem with a lamp I'd like to have sit on a corner table. In order for it to work, I would have to string the cord 10 feet to the nearest wall socket. Would it be hard to string the cord under the carpet to the socket?
A: "That's probably the easiest and best solution; the only problem is it's illegal," says Arlan Strong of Uni-Lite in Anaheim. "The fire codes say you can't have electrical cords under rugs, mainly because they're stepped on a great deal and they get worn and you don't notice it until it starts a fire. The only other way to do it without having the cord show is to install an outlet on the floor."