Do It Yourself

By Gene Austin
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Saturday, November 22, 2008

QI have a pedestal-style porcelain sink that needs refinishing. Can I get high-quality results by doing it myself with a refinishing kit, or is it best to hire a pro? -- J. Errington

AIf you start with a high-quality product, have some painting skill and carefully follow the directions, you should be able to do a credible job.

One of the things that has intrigued me since I have been writing this column is the regularity with which do-it-yourselfers get into trouble on projects because they do not read or carefully follow the directions for products they use. This applies not only to paints, but also to cleaning products, patching and caulking compounds, and other products. It is true that the directions on containers or packages are often printed in such small type that some people need magnifying glasses to read them, but directions must be read and followed for best results.

If possible, it is best to read the directions before buying a product. A project that appeared to be easy might prove to be much too complex or even dangerous when the directions and cautions are read.

If in doubt after reading directions and cautions, it is best to have a professional handle the project. Expert porcelain refinishers can be found in most areas by looking in the telephone directory under Bathtubs & Sinks -- Repair & Refinish. Be sure to get a written warranty covering the work.

We have an older ceramic-tile floor that over the years has become very slippery when wet. How can we make it safer? -- R. Clark

Anti-skid treatments are available for a number of hard surfaces, including ceramic tile, swimming pool decks and even porcelain tubs. Some are paints with gritty, anti-skid surfaces, but clear treatments that don't significantly change the color or appearance are also available. You can find information on one brand of the type that doesn't change the appearance at This company offers a water-based treatment that is mopped onto the surface, allowed to work for about 20 minutes and then rinsed off. The treatment etches the surface to improve friction. One gallon of the product will treat a 400-square-foot floor and, according to the manufacturer, improve skid resistance for about five years. The Web site provides a lot of information on the product and how it works.

Our tea mugs get dark brown stains that our dishwasher won't remove. How can we clean them? -- V. Hierl

Scrub them with baking soda. Put some soda in a saucer, and wet a clean cloth with water. Dip the end of the cloth in the soda, and scrub the stains, applying moderate pressure. Powdered laundry detergent will also remove tea and coffee stains. It is important to thoroughly rinse the mugs after a treatment. Running the cleaned mugs through the dishwasher also helps.

Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to Questions cannot be answered personally.

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