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INSIDE & OUT | A HELPING HAND

When Tiles in Shower Crack Up, Spare Them

June 21, 1997|JOHN MORELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Q: The tiles in our shower have developed hairline cracks in several places, which I think is due to a poor installation job. In some of the cracks, the glaze has started to chip off. It was suggested to me to use clear nail polish on the cracks, but it doesn't seem that this would work very well. Any other ideas?

L.J., Mission Viejo

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A: You might use a clear sealant on the cracked area, but be careful that the sealant doesn't cause the tiles to become slippery when wet, says Gloria Richey of Tile Importers in Anaheim.

The best solution is to replace the broken tiles, she says. They may have cracked because of settling, which is common, or because of a defect in the tiles themselves. This is why it's always a good idea to store extra tiles after you've had a tiling job done. If there's ever a broken tile, you won't have a problem finding a replacement.

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Q: I've had problems at my previous homes with water deposits harming water lines, water heaters and fixtures. I've moved into a new house recently and I'm wondering if there's any way I can treat the water before it gets into the house to get rid of the harmful deposits.

H.P., Huntington Beach

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A: There is a filtering system available that will remove deposits from your water system, says Scott Blanke of Central Plumbing & Heating Supply in La Habra.

Deposits don't affect the pipes very much, he says. The most damage occurs to your fixtures and water heater. The filtering system isn't expensive, only around $100 to $200 plus installation, and you can put different filters in it depending on your needs, whether it's calcium or other mineral deposits.

These aren't perfect and won't eliminate all deposits, but they will slow them down. Many people who have water softeners assume harmful deposits are being filtered from their water, but they don't work very well for that.

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Q: I have two outdoor lanterns that run all night. They use four 25-watt bulbs each and for some reason, they burn out bulbs very quickly. No matter what brand of bulbs I use, I end up having to change them about every month or so. Is there a problem with the fixture?

T.R., Laguna Beach

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A: You may want to have an electrician check the wiring, says Mike McCoy of Current Supply in Westminster.

If the wiring is OK, you'll need to take a look at the fixtures. It may be that smaller wattage bulbs are recommended, and if you use higher wattage bulbs too much heat is generated inside the fixture, causing the bulbs to burn out prematurely.

Another option is to switch to fluorescent bulbs. These use very little wattage and have a much longer life; however, because of the size of the bulbs they often don't fit into a decorative fixture, and many people don't like the kind of light fluorescents put out.

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Q: For years we've used a particular sealer on our black slate floor because it covered the scratches and gave it a shiny look. It's not available anymore and I'm reluctant to use a varnish-type product because of the fumes. Any other suggestions on what to use?

P.N.

Garden Grove

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A: You've probably been using a solvent-based acrylic, which will have to be removed because you can't put another sealer on top of it, says Richard Haney of Stonecare in Costa Mesa.

You'll probably want to contact the manufacturer to see if they have any recommendations on removing the sealer. They'll probably suggest using paint thinner, or they may be able to point you to another remover.

Once the surface is clean and bone dry, you can use a product such as Glaze and Seal, which provides a glossy finish to natural stone.

It does produce fumes when applied, so you'll need to make sure the room is well-ventilated.

Haney doesn't recommend this approach--even though many people do it--because natural stone has to breath. Gases and moisture can be released from the slab if there's no barrier. You may want to have the floor polished to bring out its natural shine.

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Q: I've heard people talk about strip-painting to add character to a room. How do you do it?

M.N.

Yorba Linda

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A: People do it to jazz up a wall or room instead of doing wallpaper," says painter Ed Duran of Mission Viejo. Get some light-sticking masking tape, the kind used to protect wallpaper from painting, then run a strip straight down the wall.

Making it go straight down is critical; use a plumb line to help. Then, roll on a contrasting or complementary color to the wall. Before the paint dries completely, remove the tape and you'll have a striped wall.

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