Q. I have a wooden deck outside my kitchen door. Once in awhile this past hot summer, I noticed a problem. I would have to raise the screen door a little to open it.
I had someone look at it, and he said there usually are some screws on the bottom of the screen door that can be tightened or can raise the rubber a little; however, he said there were no screws underneath this door. The only other thing he could think to do is to shave the floor of the deck near the door a little. I would like to know your opinion.
A. It sounds as if the deck is flush with the kitchen floor -- a mistake. The deck should be slightly lower to a full step lower.
Your screen door must be metal, since the person who looked at it did not suggest shaving off the bottom of the door. Metal screen doors usually have a weatherstripping piece shaped like a U that can be adjusted. The screws are on the face of that piece.
Q. Thank you for your thoughts and information (on gutter guards). I have found out from my research that the LeafGuard is very good over the top of the entire gutter, but the downfall is large icicles in winter if you live in the Chicago area. The company guarantees that if its gutters get clogged, it will clean them at no cost, and that did happen to my neighbor one time shortly after installation.
Some of my friends recommend using no guards of any kind and cleaning the gutters once or twice a year. Others clean with a U-shaped device, as one friend describes: "I have this plastic thing that connects to a garden hose, makes a U-curve at the top and flattens into a shovel (sort of like a garden shovel) at a 90-degree angle that makes it extremely easy to reach up and clean out gutters. I think I got it at Wal-Mart or Sam's for under $20. It works really well for gutters less than about 12 feet high (assuming, of course, you're taller than about 5½ feet tall). Lot cheaper than fancy gutters."
A. The LeafGuard people sound quite honest if they came to your neighbor's house to remove the ice. I wonder how many times they will do that over the years without charging him/her.
The company's video (www.leafguard.com) shows how well LeafGuard works in the fall at preventing leaves from getting into the gutters in a rainstorm. But what happens to smaller tree debris and pine needles that have a tendency to follow the water flow? And what happens in a gusher? Will the water shoot over the outside of the gutter because the surface tension these guards count on to direct the water into the gutter is defeated by the force of the water?
As I mentioned before, I have yet to find a perfect gutter guard; the LeafGuard also does not seem to be one. I have preferred for many years to use commercial gutters and downspouts. Their size allows for a large accumulation of debris, and the downspouts, which are 3 inches by 4 inches (twice the cross section of regular 2-inch by 3-inch spouts), are far more resistant to clogging.
Q. I am installing a new sliding door in my townhouse and have settled on vinyl. Marvin's quote is just too expensive for me. Can you tell me if I would be better off with a Harvey door or Echo by Kas-Kel?
I previously installed vinyl windows by Gorell after you gave them a great rating, and I am happy with them. The dealer who installed the Gorell windows is now working with EcoTherm, a division of Kasson and Keller Inc.
Also, would it be better to go with a triple-glazed window? I live in Vermont close to the lake.
A. Gorell is effectively out of business, having been bought by another firm that has discontinued all but one of its lines. Kas-Kel EcoTherm is a good door, and even though Harvey also makes a good door, Kas-Kel has a dealer/installer in your area -- Acme Glass in Burlington, Vt. -- which is an important selling point and assurance of service in case you need adjustments.
Kas-Kel EcoTherm offers a triple-glazed option, and it is a good idea to go for it.
Q. We are going to pull up our dining room wall-to-wall carpeting and want to refinish the hardwood floor. Which is the best polyurethane (water-based or oil-based) to use for a scratch-resistant hard finish? The floor is in a high-traffic area.
A. Zar Ultramax or Benjamin Moore High Gloss Oil (which is a water-clean-up polyurethane in spite of its oil content) would be good choices. The higher the gloss, the more durable and scratch-resistant the finish will be.
You should put on three coats. Sand the first coat with 220 to 320 paper, and use a tack cloth to remove all loose material. Sand the second coat with lighter paper (5 or 6); again, wipe with a tack cloth. The third coat should end up with a high sheen.
Q. I love your column, and it has helped me in the past. We have a driveway made of pavers that have become weed infested. The installer who did the work for the previous owners 15 years ago said it needs to be cleaned and sealed, and the very narrow joints filled with polymeric sand.
We want the driveway to drain better, not hold ice in the winter and limit the weeds. Do we need to seal the pavers? Will it help with releasing the ice? Everything I have read about polymeric sand says it locks together, which might limit the drainage. Is there something about this type of sand that makes it inhospitable to weeds? Is polymeric sand the right product, or is there something better?
We also have a brick walkway that has filled in with soil and weeds. It has spaces in the pattern that vary between one-quarter and one-half inch. What do you recommend we use to fill these larger spaces, encourage drainage and discourage weeds? I will be doing this work myself.
A. The weeds can be killed using de-icing salt, which should be watered well immediately after application, or an environmentally friendly weed killer. Ideally, a landscape fabric would have been installed over the sand base to control the weeds before laying the pavers.
Pavers are harder-burned than regular bricks, and they should not need to be sealed. Applying a sealer should not make any difference with ice.
Unfortunately, polymeric sand will drastically reduce drainage through the joints between the pavers; drainage will be minimal. Probably the best material to use to obtain some drainage is coarse sand.
The same applies to your walk. If the walk is not too big, you may want to pull out the bricks, lay down landscape fabric, put the bricks back with smaller spaces, and fill the joints with coarse sand.
Q. There is a ding in my fiberglass shower floor caused by a heavy shampoo bottle that fell. Now a hairline crack has developed. The shower unit is a light brown. What can I use to fix the crack before it gets worse?
A. Your best bet is to have a fiberglass repair person fix it. You can probably get one or more names by calling a plumbing supply house; they usually have the names of people they use to repair shipping damages.
Fiberglass repair services also are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Fiberglass Repair" or a similar heading.
Q. I parked my car under a large pine tree and found it covered with pine sap. I tried to wash it, but it would not come off. Do you know of any way to remove it? It's a real mess!
A. Several readers have told me over the years that they removed pine sap with ease using isopropyl alcohol. One reader commented that the alcohol removed the wax and he had to rewax the car.
A New Jersey reader used Goo Gone, which she said removed fresh blobs of pine sap from nonporous surfaces if "rubbed on assiduously" -- scraping, if necessary, with a fingernail or something else that won't damage the surface.
"It even worked for some older dried-on spots, but they take more time and effort," she wrote. "This solvent mixture will dry skin and fingernails, so a good rescue hand cream is needed after working with it, and gloves are a good idea."
Q. I really enjoy your column. Last summer, I repaired my outdoor back steps (red bricks) with concrete. Unfortunately, I overdid it with the concrete. Now I have concrete on my red bricks that I've been trying to remove. Do you have any suggestions for removing this excess concrete?
A. You can buy masonry cleaning products in hardware and building supply stores. You should read the instructions on their use and heed the cautions. You can also use muriatic acid, mixed one part acid to nine parts water.
All these chemicals are highly corrosive and need to be used with great care. Wear heavy-duty rubber gloves, old clothing and eye protection. Use a plastic pail to mix the chemical with the water and use a fiber brush; never use metal tools. Never pour water in the acid; instead, very gently pour the acid in water. Thoroughly rinse when done.
Q. My old green cast-iron tub is developing pit marks on the bottom. I do not want to go to the expense of replacing it. The walls are tiled. Is there some paint I can use to repair it myself?
A. I think you will have a hard time finding an epoxy paint of the same color, but you can paint the entire tub, if that is your wish. You'll have to clean it thoroughly to ensure good adhesion.
A better plan would be to have a firm such as Bath Fitter install a liner in it.
• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "About the House," is available at www.upperaccess.com and in bookstores.
© 2012, United Feature Syndicate Inc.