Question: I've got a bathroom counter that I'd like to cover with ceramic tile, but I want to find out how the professionals cut the tile so perfectly to make it fit around molding and other shapes?
Answer: "There's no magic involved. It's just all trial and error," says tile installer Steve Greico of Laguna Niguel. "If you've never laid tile down before, you'd better make sure you have a lot of extras. When you're fitting it around something, you just have to measure out approximately how much you'll need to cut, then use tile nibbers to cut away the space. Cut away small pieces and keep trying it in place to make sure you don't cut too much away."
Q: The toilet in one of our upstairs bathrooms gets clogged at times, and when the lever is pulled, the water rises to the top of the bowl and almost overflows. I've been told I should get a special plunger made specifically for toilets. Is that the best way to fix it?
A: "There are a few reasons toilets clog, and you may not need a plunger," says Manny Gwartz of B.J. Discount Plumbing Supplies in Garden Grove. "There could be an obstruction in the air vent connected to it, which doesn't allow the air to escape. When the vent isn't clear, the water doesn't flow through to the sewer pipe easily.
"Think of the way you might empty a soft drink bottle. When you turn it completely vertical, it just globs out, but when you tilt it to pour it, air is able to escape from the bottle and the liquid flows better. To fix this, a snake has to be run through the vent, which is on the roof, to clean it out.
"Another possibility is that there may be an obstruction in the trap of the toilet. You don't need a special plunger for toilets to get rid of this clog. All you need to do is be sure you're creating enough suction and you're able to loosen up the obstruction.
"If it's an old toilet, sometimes mineral deposits can clog the holes that allow the initial surge of water into the bowl that primes the trap. You can test this by taking a 5-gallon pail of water and dumping it into the bowl. If it flushes properly like this, the problem may be in those holes around the rim."
Q: I've always wondered, what is the purpose of the round end of a ball peen hammer?
A: "You see it used for craft purposes nowadays," says Sid Fox of Denton True Value Hardware in Orange. "When you see copper bowls with a bumpy texture, those bumps have been 'peened' using a hammer. They're also good for rounding off rivets when you're doing that kind of metalwork, and other types of metal finishing."
Q: Whenever I paint, no matter how careful I am, I always seem to get paint all over the can and down the sides. Is there a way to prevent this from happening?
A: "Try hammering some nail holes into the lower rim of the can, where the lid fits," says painter Harry Munson of Anaheim.
"This way, excess paint will drip back into the can instead of collecting in the bottom rim and then overflowing. This will also make it easier to close the lid and get a good seal to keep it from drying out."