Q. I have just recently started to read your column and am impressed with the broad knowledge about home repair. I have a problem with my patio and hope you will advise me with a solution. The problem is twofold:
First, the contractor who laid the concrete left the job with a deep texture of brush marks. I understand that he may have wanted to produce a texture that would make it skidproof. However, they are very deep and dirt gathers in the bottom of each line, which makes it look like stripes are painted in the concrete, and it makes it difficult to sweep clean or wash. My thought is perhaps I should grind it down with a circular machine that is similar to a floor washer. Does that make sense?
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Second, the concrete has been painted and there are many areas where some of the paint has chipped off. I understand that once painted, it can't be stained anymore. Would it be advisable to paint it again? And if so, is there any good paint that will resist chipping? The patio is about 400 square feet.
I have exhausted a long list of potential advisers and hope you may have some answers for me.
A. Yes, the contractor gave the patio a broom finish to prevent falls from slipping on wet concrete, but he or she may have been too diligent about it. A broom finish is usually quite subtle.
You can clean the grooves with a power washer, which will also remove any poorly adhered paint. An experienced concrete contractor can grind the surface to remove the ridges, but it may also expose some of the aggregate unless it is done with great care. If any paint remains after the grinding, it may be removed with a paint remover.
Another option is to remove any paint remaining after the power washing and resurface the patio with a cement product fortified with an additive to ensure proper adhesion. An experienced concrete contractor will know which product to use and how to use it.
Once this is done, a stain can be applied as a preferred option to paint.
Q. We read with interest your response to a person who wrote regarding the terrible egg-smelling water from a hot water heater. We have well water with a high iron content. We got rid of a practically new hot water tank with a magnesium rod and replaced it with one that has an aluminum rod. However, it made no difference, and in some respects, it made the smell even worse. Now my husband has to flush the hot water tank and put Clorox in it on many occasions.
In your answer, you suggested a power rod that is connected to an electrical current. Can you please explain a little more about this? We have never heard of a power rod and would like to purchase one if we could, which would solve a big problem for us.
A. You didn't need to replace the water heater to change from a magnesium sacrificial rod to an aluminum one; you could have simply removed the magnesium rod and inserted the aluminum one in its place.
You should also know that aluminum rods have other deleterious effects, including on health. Here is a reprint from an earlier column that dealt with these issues: "Aluminum sacrificial rods do have a number of shortcomings, which must be considered when choosing to make the change.
"An aluminum anode produces a lot more corrosion byproducts, which end up as additional sediment at the bottom of the tank, requiring more frequent draining; these byproducts can also float to the top of the tank as a thick cream and end up clogging aerators and dishwasher filters. They are negatively affected with water softened with salt. They can swell and make it impossible to pull them out for replacement.
"And if you have single-handle faucets, aluminum may be present in the water you draw from the cold-water faucet to drink or cook with because of the intermingling of hot and cold with these types of faucets; you should run the cold-water faucet for a minute or so until the water is as cold as it can get. These are only a few of the drawbacks of aluminum rods."
A power anode solves odor problems caused by anaerobic bacteria reacting with regular magnesium or aluminum anodes that produce hydrogen sulfide gas and a rotten-egg odor.
You should have a licensed plumber install it for you.
Q. The Home Depot's Deckover by Behr looks like it could fix up my old deck that needs a lot of help! Any pros or cons, or is the jury still out?
A. I have received quite a number of emails from readers who have had serious problems with this product. I have also consulted with condo associations with similar problems. The product peels off and leaves an unsightly mess that is very difficult to remove. You can read many negative reviews on the Internet from highly dissatisfied customers.
A better way to restore and protect a wood deck is to power wash it to remove dead wood fibers and most pollutants. If you do not find the results to your satisfaction, you can use a deck cleaner to brighten the wood.
The best stain to apply is Amteco TWP, www.amteco.com. On its website, you can choose the series and the shade that would suit you best. Wolman also makes good protective coatings for decks.
Q. We purchased our house in December of 2012. During a large snowstorm, we fit two cars in the garage. Yes, we had a lot of snow on them. When I returned to the garage, I saw so much water -- it was going into a corner and even into a storage room in back of that corner.
I wondered why we never had that trouble when we lived in our previous house. Well, then we realized that the first place had drainage; it sunk down in the middle. This place does not. I have heard from others who don't have drainage either. What is the best thing to do? Can this be resolved, other than by taking all the snow off the car before you put it in the garage? That's not an answer I like.
A. Unfortunately, the concrete floor of the garage was not properly pitched. The normal procedures are either to slope a garage floor 3 inches from the back of the garage to the garage door or to have a drain somewhere, usually in the middle.
You can have a concrete contractor clean the floor, etch it and apply a cement coating on the low spot to keep water from accumulating there. This will not guarantee proper drainage unless the entire floor is topped.
Q. My house has a semi-enclosed space by the front door with two 3-foot-high brick walls surrounding a 3-foot-wide concrete walkway. Each wall has a lantern on a short post at the end. One lantern works; one does not, presumably because the wiring was damaged at some point, probably somewhere between them and possibly under the concrete walk. I don't have time to do the work myself, but I can't get someone to fix the lantern, either. I've asked general handymen and an electrician, and it seems like too small a job to get a mason to show up. How can I get the work done?
A. The first thing to do is to have an electrician (there must be some who will take on a small job) to check the wiring; it could be an easy fix. If he or she can determine that the problem is not electrical, and is able to tell you what is causing it, you will know which trade to call.
Finding the right person seems like a difficult task in your area, but there must be people who will tackle small jobs, if indeed it is a small job. If masonry needs to be torn up to get to the problem, this may not be that small a job.
To find the appropriate repairperson, ask real estate brokers who they call to fix small things on houses they are listing. Retired people in the construction trades may also be available to tackle small jobs to earn some money to add to their Social Security. Banks, trade associations and too-busy contractors may also give you names of retired or smaller contractors.
Helpful follow-up: A reader sent this: "Hi! I want to thank the person who wrote about removing mildew/mold from a shower seam. As he had done, I tried many commercial cleaner/removers with no lasting result. When I used his system of bleach on toilet paper, rolled and stuck to the shower seam for 24 hours, it all went away completely! And, it has stayed clear for over a month with no sign of returning. He was right, see what 5 cents worth of household bleach can do that the commercial products could not."
A. Great endorsement, but the reader who sent me this in the first place was a woman -- and she deserves the credit.
• 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.
© 2013, United Feature Syndicate Inc.