Question: I have a patio umbrella that has faded and has mildew spots. Can this be washed and then coated with some type of fabric paint?
M.B.C., Laguna Niguel
Answer: It depends on the fabric, says Peter Eichelberg of Yorba Linda Patio & Hearth. Better umbrellas are made with an acrylic fabric that can be washed. You'll need to detach it from the frame and wash it in cold water and air it dry to prevent shrinking.
If the fabric is cotton canvas, you're not going to have much luck cleaning it. With a white umbrella, you may be able to use a solution of bleach and water to get some of the mildew stains out. Unfortunately, once a cotton umbrella fades or stains, the usual solution is just to get a new one since recovering can be expensive.
Acrylic umbrellas cost more but tend to last longer than cotton. Expect to pay between $200 and $500 for a typical acrylic patio umbrella.
Q I've been using a semigloss latex enamel paint while redoing my bathrooms. In the course of painting, I've noticed that the paint in the can sometimes becomes very thick, almost Jello-like. Is this a sign that something is wrong with it?
D.D., Newport Beach
A With modern paints, it's not uncommon for them to become "thick" or gelatinous over time, says Rich Zelle of Fullerton Paint & Flooring. If the paint's OK, you should be able to stir it well or shake it and see it return to a liquid form. The store you bought it from should be able to re-shake it for you. If the paint remains in that state, you should return it or add a thinning agent designed for latex paints.
Q I have a glass-topped patio table that's 4 feet in diameter and seats six people. I'd like to put some kind of larger, round top so that it will accommodate eight people. How can we do this?
A It's probably best to remove the existing glass top and replace it with a round piece of plywood, says Ali Darugar of Orange Screen & Glass. You can then put a larger piece of plywood on top of that to enlarge the diameter of the table. If you try to add a larger glass top, you may have stability problems.
How do you secure the two pieces? If your underlying and overlying pieces are both plywood, you can drill holes through both and bolt them together. When you're done, cover the table with a tablecloth.
Send questions to John Morell, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.