Question: We've had problems with water in our drains going down too slowly. A plumber we called said the problem was that roots from the tree in our front yard were breaking into the sewer line and clogging it. I've never heard of this. Is there a way I can fix it myself?
Answer: "Tree roots can damage sewer lines. They break through connections and cause sewage to back up into the house," says Joel Gwartz of B.J. Discount Plumbing and Heating in Garden Grove. "The way it's corrected is a plumber plunges a snake down into the line that has a cutter on the end of it and it clears the line.
"After that's done, you can prevent it from happening again with a copper sulfate product. Copper sulfate kills the new root growth. We carry one product that's flushed down the toilet at night, so it's allowed to sit there in the line and do its job."
Q: I've always heard that you can't paint when it's real humid or it's raining because the paint won't adhere to the wall. Is that true?
A: "If you're working with oil-based paints, humidity is a problem," says Jim Livingston of Paint N Paper House in Placentia. "They'll tend to dry too rapidly and be very difficult to work with. And when it's raining, people tend to have their windows closed, which isn't good when you're working with the fumes created by oil-based paints. If you're working with latex paints, however, there shouldn't be any problem. I would rather paint with latex on a humid day more than anything else because it flows better."
Q: I have an aluminum screen door that has a small crack on the upper hinge that keeps it from closing properly. I'd like to try and solder the crack so it keeps the door up. What type of solder should I use?
A: "Probably the best way to fix this would be to forget about soldering," says Chris Roberts of James Hardware in La Habra. "Soldering really doesn't work on aluminum unless it's been braised, and it's also not for parts that are going to take heavy stress. The easiest solution is to replace the U-channel on the door, also known as the hinge channel, which is the metal strip on which the door is attached. You can find them at most hardware stores.
"Remove the old channel. There are three screws on each side of the door that hold it down, and you might cut a piece of it to take to the store. There are three different widths; make sure you get the one that fits your door. Slip it back on the door; use a hacksaw to cut it to the right size and reattach it."
Q: I've had some success with carnations in pots and I'd like to try them in the yard. The soil, however, has a lot of clay and I know that carnations tend to do best where there's a lot of drainage. Is it possible to create a good, draining soil by adding sand to the plot?
A: "That's not a good idea for a clay-rich soil. Adding sand will make drainage even worse and give it the consistency of cement," says Dan O'Boyle of Armstrong Garden Centers in Costa Mesa. "I'd recommend mixing it with organic material, such as redwood compost and mulch to lighten the area, mixing in the more the better."
Q: All of a sudden the top of one of my bathroom doors has started sticking. I don't want to buy a plane for just that. Can I fix this just by sanding it?
Answer: "You can put sandpaper on a block and work the warped spot down, although it will take you longer," says carpenter Mike Garritey of La Palma. "Before you do that though, check to make sure the hinges are well connected to the door and the frame. If they're loose, you can probably tighten them and end your problem."