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A HELPING HAND

INSIDE & OUT : A Brass Cleaner Can Help You Take a Shining to Fireplace Screen

June 24, 1995|JOHN MORELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Q: From a relative, we received an old brass fireplace screen that's in pretty good condition. I realize that brass needs to be cleaned periodically. What can I use on it to keep up the shine?

S.F.

La Palma

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A: There are lots of good brass cleaners available at hardware and cleaning supply stores, says Ernie Gonzales of Deb's Metal Polishing in Orange. You'll want to make sure that what you use is not too abrasive, since you could scratch the surface. Brass generally needs to be cleaned every few months, since it easily tarnishes. You could have it cleaned and polished by a metal refinisher, who will also apply a clear-coat sealer that will protect it from tarnishing.

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Q: I was told that exterior stucco should never be painted but that a new layer of tinted stucco needs to be applied. Is that true?

C.C.

Fountain Valley

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A: No, stucco that's been properly cleaned and repaired can always be painted, says Chris Vidovich of Imperial Paint in Fullerton. When stucco is applied, color goes all the way through the stucco, so when you have scratches or gouges, they're not as visible.

A painted surface, of course, is thinner and over time scratches will be more visible. However, painting helps waterproof and seal the stucco to protect it from stains.

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Q: In our back yard there are a couple of concrete steps that lead down to the lawn from the house. One of the steps has a crack going across it and I'm concerned that it will break off.

Is there something I can use to seal it back up?

B.N.

Tustin

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A: It's going to depend on how deep the crack is, says Bill Sink of Angelus Quarries in Santa Ana. If it's a minor crack, less than a half-inch in width and depth, you could put a thin surface coating of silica sand mixed with concrete glue and cement on the step to hide it. If it's greater than a half-inch, you can use a similar mixture to fill the crack. Beforehand, you'll need to clean the step off and remove any loose or unstable pieces of concrete.

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Q: We recently bought a home with a pool in the back yard. We don't want to use the expensive pool heater very much, so we wanted to know if there's some kind of cover available that will heat the water during the day so that we could use it at night.

J.H.

Placentia

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A: You may want to look for what's called a "bubble cover," says Brad Gaston of Orange Pool Supply & Service. This is a translucent cover that intensifies the sun's rays and heats the water naturally. Being inland, you'll probably notice as summer goes on that your pool will warm up on its own because of the air and ground temperatures.

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Q: What is the advantage of having "hard wire" smoke detectors over battery powered detectors?

L.L.

Santa Ana

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A: "Hard wire" detectors, which means that they're powered by your home's electrical system, don't need periodic battery changes, which is a safety feature, says contractor Allan Wills of Anaheim. Many people forget to replace batteries in smoke detectors, which puts them at risk. If you have detectors on high vaulted ceilings, replacing batteries is a hassle. For that reason, hard wire detectors are often a good choice.

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Q: My refrigerator has a horizontal crack inside in the section that divides the refrigerator from the freezer. I put tape over it for now, but how can it be permanently fixed?

J.U.

Mission Viejo

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A: Refrigerators are very well insulated, says Tom Houlihan of Orange County Appliance Parts in Garden Grove. A crack such as that shouldn't make much of a difference in terms of losing cool air, although I'm sure it doesn't look very good. Repairing or replacing the cracked compartment may be almost as expensive as getting a new refrigerator. You may want to try using white duct tape on the crack, since duct tape helps insulate and white tape will be more cosmetically appealing.

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