Q. The screens in our windows are basically in good shape, except a few have small tears. I'd like to close up these tears, as I suspect bugs get into the house through them. Can they be sewn? What should I use?
R.W., San Clemente
A. People often make the mistake of sewing a hole in a screen with thread, says Katy Jackson of Maley's Glass in Anaheim. The thread wears out quickly, and the tears get bigger. You might try using light fishing line. It's strong, durable and easy to work with. Thin wire might be stronger, but it's harder to work with and can increase the tearing.
Q. We bought a condo recently and are getting it ready to paint. In taking off the electrical outlet plates, I've noticed that a few of the outlets stick out from the wall, in some cases more than a half-inch. How can I correct these so they're flush with the wall?
C.C., Santa Ana
A. There is an outlet plate available that has a lip around the edges that's larger than usual, says Mike McCoy of Current Supply in Westminster. But the extension is only about a quarter-inch. Unfortunately, while there are many solutions for an outlet box that is recessed too far, you don't have as many options when your outlet box is sticking out. The box is nailed into a stud and resetting it means removing some of the drywall around the box to remove and reattach it, which means you've got a good-sized drywall repair job after you finish.
Q. Our carpeting is fairly new, and we plan to do some painting. What do the pros use to get fresh paint stains out of carpeting?
K.F., Huntington Beach
A. The best way to get stains out is to prevent them from occurring, says Harold Brobst of Hal's Paint & Decorating in Fullerton. Completely mask off areas where you don't want paint and cover your floor. People who have tried to "be careful" rather than masking have ruined carpeting by accidentally kicking over a bucket.
Keep a pail of water and a rag ready in case you need to mop up some paint. If it's a large stain, keep changing the water so that you're not putting diluted paint on the carpet. Detergent in the water can help break down the acrylic in the paint. If you're using an oil-based paint, use a rag and paint thinner.
Q. My patio has a surface made of small stones that are set in an epoxy. I need some touch-up work done and have not been able to find the materials. Any ideas?
D.R., Mission Viejo
A. It's probably a product known as Futura Stone, which has an office in Orange, says Ken Newland of Tustin Block. It is relatively easy to apply. The rocks you select are mixed in with a resin, and it's troweled on the patio surface, like plaster. It's also durable, and it makes a good alternative to just having a plain concrete surface.
Q. We're considering putting in a white ceramic tile floor in our kitchen, but we'd like to use white grout also. Is it realistic to expect that the white grout won't discolor?
A. I would give it a lot of thought before putting it in a kitchen, says Gloria Richey of Tile Importers in Anaheim. Kitchens are high-traffic areas, and it's going to be very hard to keep your white grout pristine. In order to maintain its appearance, you'll need to apply three coats of a sealer made especially for white grout. Other types of sealers can discolor your grout lines. You'll also have to apply it twice a year, because it wears down after repeated washing.