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This Driveway Needs More Than Just a Load of Gravel


QUESTION: Our gravel driveway has become difficult to drive on during the rainy season. I thought of fixing it myself, but I've been told that the job involves more than spreading gravel over the surface. Also, if in the future I decide to pave it with asphalt, what can I do now to make the job easier and less costly?

ANSWER: A gravel driveway is really more than just a clearing with some gravel or crushed stone thrown over it. Ruts develop if the gravel bed is too thin or the sub-base (earth) is not graded and compacted properly. Also, the gravel will be pushed onto the lawn unless curbing is installed.

A good gravel driveway begins with a well-graded and compacted sub-base to prevent uneven settling. To form a suitable base for asphalt, excavate to a depth of about four inches, then cover the area with a four-inch-thick bed of three-fourths-inch diameter crushed stone.

Air-Cleaning Cell Requires Special Care

Q: I have a problem with the electrostatic air cleaner mounted on the return air plenum of my forced-air furnace. It does a good job of extracting dirt from the air, but it's extremely difficult to clean. The particles become statically bound to the extractor cell plates. Soaking the cell in warm water with dishwasher detergent, as per instructions, fails to remove the particles. The plates must be scrubbed with a narrow brush, which is very time-consuming. Is there an easier way?

A: Automatic dishwasher detergents like All, Finish or Electra Sol are effective for cleaning electrostatic air-cleaner cells if they are washed frequently. If not, the particles bake onto the plates. The required frequency of cleaning varies in each home, depending on the amount of tobacco smoke, dust, soot and cooking oil in the air. It is usually between one and six months.

If you have problems cleaning the cell, even with more frequent washings, try using a special detergent available through heating and air-conditioning contractors who install electrostatic air cleaners. This detergent, Part No. 126850, is rather expensive. A one-gallon container costs about $35, so avoid using it if you don't have to.

The Ups and Downs of Ceiling Fan Airflow

Q: We have a two-story contemporary home with a ceiling fan downstairs in the living room and another upstairs in the loft area. In the summer, we open the windows in the loft above the fan and run both fans so they blow air up and out the windows. In the winter, we run the fans down so they blow the warm air from the second floor down to the first floor. Recently I was told this is not the correct way to use the fans. Is it?

A: A ceiling fan is not intended to be used as a whole-house fan, which is how you are using it during the summer. Whole-house fans are very effective, and if that's what you want, you should use a fan that is designed for that purpose.

Ceiling fans are designed to circulate air in a "closed" environment and should force air down during the summer. The downward airflow cools your skin as it moves over it. During the winter months, the fan should rotate so it produces an upward airflow.

During the winter, heated air rises toward the ceiling, and the cooled air settles toward the floor. Depending on the room size and shape, there could be a 15-degree difference between the floor and ceiling. Intuitively, people want the fan to pull warmer ceiling air down during the winter and vice versa during the summer.

The fan speed should be fast enough to break up stagnant air trapped in the corners and in the peaks of sloped and cathedral ceilings, but slow enough so it doesn't create a draft.

An easy way to determine whether the fan airflow is up or down is to look at the fan blades as they rotate. The blades are installed on a slight angle. If the leading edge of the blade (the edge facing the direction of rotation) is up, the airflow will be down. And when the leading edge is down, the airflow will be up.

Tips on Repairing Chip in a Wooden Veneer

Q: I recently dropped a heavy object on my coffee table and chipped the veneer. I can't cover up the marks with a scratch hider. Is there any way to repair it and retain the wood-grain look?

A: You can raise the dents in solid wood surfaces by using a clothing iron and a damp cloth or wet paper towel to drive steam into the wood cells and swell them back into their original shape. But if the dents have broken through the wood veneer, and furniture crayons won't repair the surface to your satisfaction, you might try stick shellac. This product looks and works something like old-fashioned sealing wax.

First, clean the area of oil and wax using a few drops of turpentine in a quarter-teaspoon of stain the color of the table top. Let it dry for at least 12 hours. Heat the stick shellac and allow it to drip into the scratch or dent. Rub the softened end of the stick back and forth across the damaged area. Finish with a matching oil stain applied with a soft brush.

Shower Temperature Affected by Toilet Use

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