Q. I've noticed lately that whenever I walk past my circuit breaker box in the garage, there's a funny buzzing sound coming from inside. I don't ever remember it doing this before. Why is it happening, and could it be dangerous?
A. Buzzing isn't a problem per se, says Mike McCoy of Current Supply in Westminster. As electricity goes through the breakers and buss bars, there is movement that creates noise. Remember that you can hear high-tension power lines buzz when you get close to them.
Make sure that all your circuits and outlets are performing well and that none of the breakers are continually tripping. If the system seems normal, don't worry about it unless it's very noisy; then you might want to have an electrician take a look at it.
Q. Our 30-year-old gas furnace is getting creaky and quirky, and we know it's not going to last forever. Is there anything we can do now to nurse it along and give it a few more years of life?
A. The best way to preserve a furnace is to regularly replace the filter, says Tom Houlihan of Orange County Appliance Parts in Garden Grove. This should be done annually since it helps keep dust and dirt from getting into the motor. The fan should also be lubricated once a year with a light machine oil.
Old furnaces tend to be pretty reliable. As long as the firebox stays intact and the blower motor works, it should continue to heat your house.
However, if the box develops a crack that can't be welded together, you'll have to replace the whole furnace. A new furnace may be expensive, but it will probably save you money in the long run, since modern furnaces are much more energy efficient.
Q. We're planning to put a new concrete sidewalk in our backyard, but I've been getting conflicting advice on how long the concrete has to cure before it can be walked on. Some people say a week; other people say one day. Who's right?
A. You should be able to walk on new concrete safely after 24 hours, says Pete Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster. "I wouldn't put any heavy pots or equipment on it [for] at least a week," he said.
Within three to four hours, the concrete should be solid enough to get around on it using knee boards. After it's been poured and set, keep concrete moist by spraying a light mist of water on it that first day. This will prevent it from curing too quickly, causing hairline fractures.
Q. I have an old cedar chest that has become worn and nicked over the years. I'd like to see it refinished, but I've heard that woods like cedar are difficult to refinish. Can it be done?
San Juan Capistrano
A. Cedar's not much different from any other wood, except it's more aromatic and has a darker pigmentation, says Mark Bausman of Bausman & Father Furniture Refinishing in Huntington Beach.
Many cedar chests are lined with cedar on the inside, but the outside is walnut or mahogany, although occasionally you'll find a chest that's solid cedar. Keep in mind that you don't want to finish the inside of a cedar chest, since that will eliminate the aroma.
Lightly sand the inside panels of old cedar to restore the scent. As for the exterior, you should be able to refinish it like any other piece of furniture.
Q. At the edge of one of our kitchen walls, our kids keep touching the wallpaper as they go around the corner, which leaves many hard-to-clean marks. Can a sealer be put on the paper or can it be protected in some other way?
A. A sealer wouldn't work, but you might want to install a plastic or plexiglass corner protector, says wallpaper installer Mike Edwards of Placentia. These are long strips that screw into the wall, and they protect the corners from dents, scratches and excess wear.