Question: Our bathroom ceiling and walls have been getting these brown "drips." We used a latex, semi-gloss enamel when we painted, and the drips clean off easily, but I'm wondering if there's a problem with the paint.
Answer: "Problems like that usually occur because of a lack of adequate ventilation," says Allan Howell of Imperial Paint in Anaheim. "When someone's in the shower, the vent fan hasn't been on or the bathroom window has been closed, mold forms along the ceiling and walls, and the condensation of the steam collects it. You also see this happen when someone smokes in the bathroom, since the tar and nicotine accumulate, and then the steam makes it pool together. Try leaving the door and windows open while the shower's on."
Q: I have a white and black marble-top table that has water stains. Is there any way I could remove them myself?
A: "You probably have what are called 'etch marks,' which are places where the finish has dulled and is gone," says Scott Pfleinderer of Marble Systems in Laguna Niguel. "You can either have it professionally polished or you can use a marble refinishing kit, such as the one made by a company called Multi-Seal. Be warned, though, that it's not an easy job. After you get the stains off, you should use some type of sealer on it to protect it from stains in the future."
Q: I'm planning on reseeding a section of our back yard, and I don't want to invest in a lawn spreader. Is there a way I can hand-spread the seed and fertilizer accurately?
A: "The problem with hand seeding is there's a tendency to get an uneven spread," says Charles Crum of Flowerdale Nursery in Santa Ana. "It's probably best to do a crisscross pattern. On the bags, it should tell you how many pounds per hundreds of square feet are needed. Then you take half of what's needed for a given area and spread that while walking north and south. After that you take the other half and spread it while walking east and west. When spreading fertilizer, make sure the turf, the blades of grass are dry first, then water immediately."
Q: I'd like to change the old two-pronged outlets in our house to three-pronged with a ground. Is that going to be a big job?
A: "The first thing I would do is remove the old outlets and check to see if it has a ground wire attached to the back of the box," says Ed Steenbergen of Martenet Hardware in Anaheim. "In some of these older homes, the ground is there, and then you'll just install the new outlet and ground it to the box. Otherwise, you'll have to run a grounding wire to each box, as long they're metal, and attach that wire to the grounding rod out by the circuit box."
Q: A few weeks ago I read in your column an answer about removing an acoustic ceiling. I'd like to do that to ours, but I'm worried that since our house is 30 years old, it may contain asbestos. How can I tell?
A: "A vast majority of acoustic ceilings sprayed before 1979 contain asbestos, a known carcinogen," says Dennis Hannah, president of Abatec Inc. Asbestos Consultants in El Toro. "It was widely used in the acoustic spray since it helped the mixture stick to the ceiling. Left undisturbed, it's a very little health hazard. But when it is removed, it can be a long-lasting health hazard.
"You can find laboratories in the phone book that will test your ceiling for asbestos, usually for under $30. While there are no laws requiring that a homeowner be licensed to remove an asbestos ceiling, I'd recommend that should the test prove positive, you contact a licensed asbestos contractor to do the job."