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ASK THE HANDYMAN / JOHN MORELL

Amber Lenses Make Outdoor Lights Glow

March 26, 1994|JOHN MORELL

Question: I have a set of 12-volt Malibu lights outside my house, and I haven't been able to find amber replacement bulbs. Any ideas?

T.H.

Laguna Beach

Answer: "It's not going to be easy," says Tom Becker of Harbor Lites in Costa Mesa. "It will probably be better for you to get new amber-toned lenses for the lights. Then you can have just a standard bulb in each fixture, and you'll be getting the amber look from the lens. Take one of the fixtures down to a place that sells the lights, and they should be able to find a lens that can work for you."

Q: I put wallpaper in one of my bedrooms, and the fact that my walls were crooked made it a frustrating experience. Before I paper another room, is there anything I can do to improve the situation?

R.R.

Laguna Niguel

A: "Unfortunately, uneven walls affect nearly everyone, whether you have a mobile home or a mansion," says paperhanger Martin Sanchez of Santa Ana. "The problem, of course, is matching the pattern. If the gaps created by the uneven wall are significant, you can try to carefully patch a matching piece into the gap. You may also want to consider a paper with a simple pattern and stay away from complicated looks like plaids."

Q: We have kitchen cabinets with a dark, walnut finish. We'd like to paint them white. If we strip the wood down before painting, would an oil- or water-based paint be best for a kitchen, and should we sand between the coats of paint?

R.M.

Irvine

A: "First of all, it's not necessary to strip the cabinets," says Harold Brobst of Hal's Paint & Decorating in Fullerton. "What you'll want to do is sand them down enough to take off the sheen of the finish. Because they're dark and you'll be painting them a light color, you can try applying a good primer first.

"An oil- or alkyd-based paint can give you a long-lasting finish that dries very hard; however, these types of paints tend to yellow over time, which is a problem if you're planning on using a white paint. They're also more difficult to clean-up. The water-base paints may not have as tough a finish, but they hold their color and are easier to work with.

"It probably is a good idea to use very fine sandpaper to sand the paint finish between coats. This helps the new coat adhere and create a tougher finish."

Q: I replaced some outlets in my house recently and found that the circuit breaker labeled for the room I was working in didn't control all of the outlets. Why is that?

C.N.

Fountain Valley

A: "It's not uncommon for there to be multiple circuits in a room," says Kathy McNally of McNally Electric in Anaheim. "Generally, when a house is built several outlets are allotted per circuit, and usually a bedroom may have only two or three outlets, so a circuit may control the outlets and lights in other rooms or hallways as well. That's why it's always a good idea to test an outlet to see if still has power before working on it, even if you think you've turned off the right circuit breaker."

Q: We recently bought a 19-year-old home. In one of the bathrooms, there is a fan as well as a separate heating fan on the ceiling. Both work fine, but the grills on both are nicked and discolored. How do I replace the grills?

D.W.

Brea

A: "The problem isn't replacing the grills; it's finding them," says Rich Haagsma of Faucets n' Fixtures in Orange. "The first task is determining who made the fans, then contact(ing) the manufacturer to see if they have a grill that will fit yours. The problem is that since yours is nearly 20 years old, it may be hard to find one to fit. And if you have an off-brand made by a small manufacturer, it could be impossible. If you can't find replacement grills, your next step would be to replace the fans themselves."

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