Question: We have an area rug that has been in storage for several years that we've put in the den in our new home. The problem is that it won't lie flat and it's rippled through the surface. Can this be fixed?
Answer: "It can, but how this is fixed depends on the kind of rug it is," says Walt Parker of Parker's Floor Covering & Draperies in Orange. "Most area rugs are either woven, Oriental, Persian or domestic with a jute backing. If you're dealing with a rug with a jute backing, the best solution is to steam it until it's smooth. You can often get carpet cleaners to come out and do it inexpensively.
"After being in storage for a while, the latex in the backing tends to crystallize and stiffen, and the steam is able to smooth it out. With other types of rugs, it's best to take it to a place that specializes in cleaning them and have them clean it and get out the ripples."
Q: I use a 5-5-1 fish emulsion on my container plants that include bougainvillea and tomatoes. Is there any other form of 5-5-1 other than a liquid? I need to green up the foliage.
A: "Liquids are a problem because they are used up quickly by the plants and need to be replaced often," says Dan O'Boyle of Armstrong Garden Center in Costa Mesa. "I'd suggest a time-released fertilizer instead of fish emulsion. The problem with emulsion is the low nitrogen content, which is the first number.
"A time-released fertilizer works very well, especially for container gardening, since many people don't feed their plants often enough. As for adding foliage, you'll want a fertilizer with a high nitrogen and iron content."
Q: I want to order mini-blinds to fit inside my window frames. What's the best way to measure the frame? Do I take into account the hardware?
A: "It's best to use a tape measure, and have a helper if it's a large window," says drapery and blind installer Chuck Malden of Santa Ana. "If you want it to fit on the inside of the window, get the exact measurement, vertically and horizontally, of the frame. I always measure it twice and at different points just to make sure it's as exact as possible. The manufacturer will factor in the hardware size when he makes the blind, so it will fit perfectly if you've given him the right measurements."
Q: I want to install a phone extension in another room and while it all looks pretty straightforward, I wonder about the safety of the wires. Can I get shock if I mishandle them?
A: "A phone line doesn't really have much voltage running through it, and the amperage is low so it wouldn't hurt you if you got shocked," says Claude Bradley off Canning's Hardware in La Habra. "It's probably best to use the same safety precautions you'd use with electrical circuits. Make sure your hands are dry and the wires aren't wet and take care that you don't 'misconnect' them."
Q: What's the best way for me to get some dead branches off of the top of a 15-foot bottlebrush tree? It's too messy to climb and reach.
A: "You'll have to use what's called a pole saw or pole pruner," says professional landscaper Mark Leighton of Lake Forest. "These can sometimes be rented from garden supply stores, or if you have some good sized trees and bushes in your yard, it might be worth buying one. The best kind have long, telescopic poles that let you reach 15 feet or more.
"The saw portion is curved and the teeth are pointed backward, which makes it easier to saw. Some also have a pruning clipper attached that lets you snip off small branches."