QWe have a propane barbecue we use frequently. Our pet peeve is that we never know exactly how much fuel we have in the tank. Usually it runs out in the middle of cooking a meal. Is there a gauge I can install on it that tells me when it's close to empty?
A. It's going to depend on how new the tank is, says Bill Nacca of Fireplace & Patio Trends in Orange. There are some gauges that can be added that will fit some older tanks, or you can buy a new tank with a built-in gauge.
There are also a couple of rules of thumb to tell how much propane you have. Next time the tank is empty, put it on a scale. Then after it's been filled, weigh it again. By periodically weighing the tank, you'll be able to monitor how much propane is left.
You can also take some boiling water and pour it on the tank. A line of frost will develop at the level of the liquid propane inside.
Q. I recently had some ceramic tile floors installed and was told I should apply a grout sealer on the grout. As I applied it, some of the sealer got on the tile and left a film I can't get off. How can this be removed without damaging the sealer on the grout?
A. Of course, it's always best to remove the sealer when it's still wet, says Gloria Richey of Tile Importers in Orange. As you're applying it, keep a wet sponge or rag handy and wipe it off the tile as you use the grout roller.
If the film has already dried, you might want to try using some fine steel wool on the tile to remove it. If it seems resistant, try dipping the steel wool in water before rubbing, then sponge the area off.
Q. I've got a butcher block counter top in my kitchen that I'd like to restore. What can I use on it that will bring it back?
A. There are two basic ways to restore it. The one you select is based on how you use the counter top, says kitchen remodeler Dave Gray of Fullerton.
If you use the butcher block as a cutting surface, you'll need to be careful about the finish you use. Sand (hand or machine) the surface to smooth it out and wash it with water. After it dries, apply a simple vegetable oil and rub it in with a clean cloth.
If you use the surface as a regular counter top, sand it down and apply a clear or tinted finishing oil, rubbing it into the wood.
Q. I bought a condo a few months ago that had been freshly painted. However, the previous owner had been a smoker, and I'm having to deal with the smoke odor still in the walls. Is there a way to seal it in?
A. You may need to repaint, using a good-quality primer designed to seal in smoke damage, says Rich Zelle of Hal's Paint & Decorating in Fullerton.
Smoke tends to linger long after a fire or a longtime smoker is gone, which is why you should be looking at the labels on the can for a sealer that can handle smoke. Don't forget that you'll have to paint both walls and ceilings.
If you have wallpaper, that may have to be removed because it could be emanating the odor, and the carpeting may have to be professionally cleaned or replaced if new carpeting wasn't installed when you moved in.
Q. A family member gave us an old upright piano that is missing a bench. We'd like to find a replacement. Where's the first place to look?
A. Depending on how old and different your piano is, finding an exact replacement may be very expensive, says furniture repairman Ed Coombs of Santa Ana. You may need to go with a simple bench that complements the look of the piano, then refinish it to match the piano's wood tone.