Question: I want to put up a 6-foot wooden post with a lantern in my front yard, and I assume that I can just dig a hole, put the post in, fill it with cement and it'll be done. Are there any specifics I should know before I start?
Answer: "What you might want to do is get a posthole digger, which will make your job easier," says Pete Gorman of Rancho Lumber Supply in Westminster. "But otherwise, a shovel is fine, you'll just be using more concrete. You'll have to go down about 2 feet for a 6-foot post. At the bottom, toss in a few handfuls of gravel to help stabilize it.
"Before putting the post in, it's probably a good idea to treat it. There are several products on the market that you apply like paint to wood that seals it from termites. You can also buy posts that have already been treated, or redwood posts, which naturally withstand termites better than pines or firs.
"After you drop the post in, fill in about 6 to 8 inches of dirt to keep it in position. Then fill the rest of the hole with 45 to 60 pounds of ready-mix concrete. Make sure you use a good brand of concrete. There are specific mixes for setting posts, but I've found that most of those crumble and don't last. If you don't want to use concrete, you can install a metal stirrup in the hole that will keep the post upright and safe from termites. You just put it in the hole, install the post and fill in the dirt."
Q: I have a bed of 20 roses in my back yard, and like everyone nowadays, I'm looking at ways to save water. I was thinking about those drip irrigation systems, and I wanted to know whether there are systems made specifically for roses.
A: "For roses, you'd have to have an emitter that puts out a lot of water," says Tim Snyder of Amling's Nursery in Newport Beach. "Unfortunately, they need a lot of deep watering. Traditionally, the best way to water them has been to build a berm or a bowl around them and fill it.
"Drip systems are great for other kinds of plants or shrubs, though, and very easy to install. They'll either hook up to your hose or waterline. Some go through a timer, so you don't have to worry about overwatering or underwatering. They usually start at about $35 and go up from there, depending on how extensive a system you want."
Q: We have an old house. On some of the interior molding, the paint is chipping and peeling. I'm worried about the old paint containing lead and contaminating the house when we remove it. Is there any way we can test this old paint to see whether it's dangerous?
A: "Probably the only way to know for sure would be to take the chips to a lab, but that would be expensive," says John Walter of Alamitos Paint & Wallpaper in Los Alamitos. "If the house is real old, there could very well have been some lead paint used on it at some time. The best way to protect yourself would be to wear a mask while wire-brushing and sanding, then make sure you clean up all of dust and chips. If you're going to use a liquid stripper, be sure to wear gloves. Before repainting, use a good primer coat to seal it."
Q: Is there any way to repair a large crack in a blown acoustical ceiling?
A: "There's never a quick and easy way to cover a crack," says Phil Zlaket of Fullerton Hardware. "If you fill it in, it will always come back. If it's a typical dry-wall ceiling, you first have to scrape off the acoustical covering, tape the spot, and reapply the acoustic material. If you're real careful, you can just scrape the area of the crack, tape it, then cover it with a small can of aged acoustic ceiling patch and try to match the surrounding area."