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Table's Finish Requires Right Touch

ALSO: * Crumbling grout; * Low-flow toilet


Question Our dining room table has a teak veneer top. Over the years, oils and wax have accumulated and soiled the wood. Is there something we can use to clean it without harming the finish?


Laguna Hills


Answer Because it has a veneer top, you'll want to be careful about what you use on the table, says Mark Bausman of Bausman & Father Furniture Refinishing in Huntington Beach.

Take a soft rag and put some mineral spirits on it before lightly rubbing the dirty parts of the table. That should dissolve some of the dirty spots without harming the finish.

If this doesn't work, you may be able to have it refinished depending on the condition of the table and the thickness of the veneer.

Also, after using the rag, be sure to spread it out and leave it outside. If you ball it up and throw it away before the mineral spirits dissipate, a chemical reaction could cause it to catch fire.


Q Against the threshold of my kitchen door is a line of grout that constantly cracks and crumbles. I've replaced it often with the original 10-year-old sanded colored grout. Is there anything I can use to strengthen the joint in this heavily trafficked area?


Santa Ana


A Although there's nothing to add to the grout mixture, there is a product that should prevent cracking, says Gloria Richey of Tile Importers in Anaheim.

Check with your local tile store for grout caulking. There are many manufacturers, so write down the brand and color of your current grout to find a match.

The caulking comes in sanded and smooth textures and can also be found in an easy-to-apply tube. You simply squeeze out a bead of the grout, smooth it over and let it dry. It contains silicone and other ingredients that allow it to be flexible and resist cracking.


Q A couple of years ago we installed a new low-flow toilet. Although it looks nicer than our old toilet, it just doesn't have the same flushing capability as the old one. Is it possible to install a pressure-assist mechanism in the tank, or would I have to replace the whole toilet?




A Unfortunately, there is no retrofit kit that would allow you to make your current gravity-flow toilet operate with a pressure-assist, says Joel Gwartz of B.J. Discount Plumbing & Heating in Garden Grove.

Pressure-assisted toilets operate using the same amount of water as new toilets--1.6 gallons or less--but they also use compressed air to force the water into the bowl and clear it.

The disadvantage to these is that they're expensive, costing $200 or more, and noisy.

Consider a new gravity-flow toilet. In the past two years manufacturers have responded to consumer complaints about low-flow toilet problems, and many of the newer models flush very well.

If you have a question about your home or garden, 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.

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