Q: We have two marble-topped tables that have had their surfaces scarred by rings from glasses. Does the marble now have to be refinished, or can we try to use a marble polish?
C.E., Mission Viejo
A: Natural marble is calcium carbonate, the same basic material that makes up our bones and teeth, says Richard Haney of Stonecare in Costa Mesa.
It's very acid sensitive, and acids in alcoholic beverages and fruit juices can dissolve some of the surface. Rings on marble are where the surface has been eaten away. You can try a gentle polishing with a product known as 10 Oxide, which is available at many stores that sell marble.
It's a very mild abrasive that's mixed with water and rubbed with a cloth on the damaged areas. You have to be very careful not to damage the surface any more than it's already been affected. You might want to try practicing on an inexpensive marble tile to see how the process works before taking on the table.
If you have reservations about doing it yourself, it's probably best to take it to a professional.
Q: We've cleaned up our garage and added cabinets, and now we'd like to paint the concrete. Can this be done successfully, and how is the surface prepared?
A: The problem with painting garage floors is that heat from your car's tires tends to pull up most finishes, says Steve Willsey of Orange Paint Store.
You have two other options. A concrete stain that's designed specifically for garage floors and patios can be used, and the good quality stains won't lift off onto tires. The other option is a two-part epoxy that firmly adheres to the concrete surface. When using the epoxy, one has to first score the concrete surface either by shot blasting or by using an acid solution.
Q: I recently bought a soldering iron, and I'm having fun making minor metal repairs around the house with it. I've run into a problem, though, when I've tried to fix a lampshade. The metal ring that sits around the socket and holds the shade in place has broken, and although it seems like an easy soldering job, I can't get the two pieces to come together no matter how hot I get them. Is there a special solder for things like this?
A: You're probably using the wrong solder, says Gary Lillge of Ace Crown Hardware in Corona del Mar. Make sure you're using a solder that's recommended for nonelectrical use, since of course the shade is nonelectrical.
If nothing seems to work, you may want to try a heavy-duty epoxy such as J.B. Weld, which is available at many hardware stores. The only problem with using an epoxy is that it usually needs to set overnight, so you'll need to apply it, then clamp the pieces together somehow.
Q: We bought a house last year, and the previous owners had two cats and two dogs. It's been almost a year, but the pet odor is still lingering. We replaced the carpeting when we moved in; what's causing the smell?
A: Although you replaced the carpeting, it's possible that odor can be coming from the subfloor, says general contractor Alan Schmidt of Buena Park. In some cases where a pet has urinated continually in one spot, the urine soaks through into the porous concrete or the wood subfloor and is there virtually forever unless a sealer is used on it.
You may also want to check the walls. Dogs often like to rub against some walls, and these areas may have been merely painted over. If the wall seems to really have an odor, you may need to apply one or two more coats of paint.
If you have a question about your home or garden, A Helping Hand will help you find the answer. Send questions to John Morell, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.