Q: We have a 10 x 20-foot concrete patio that is protected by an awning during the summer. It is four inches thick and painted gray. Now matter how often we paint it, the paint flakes off in many spots soon after, carrying with it a thin film of concrete. How can we resurface this patio with slate or ornamental stone slabs?
A: The fact that concrete is flaking off with the paint indicates that the surface of the concrete was troweled too much when it was orignally put down, or that the mix was not right. If you want to lay slate or stone over this, you will first have to remove all the paint - either with a drum sander or with chemical paint remover. I recommend etching with a wash of muriatic acid solution, using one part acid to two parts water (mixed in a glass or plastic container). Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Allow this to set on the surface until almost dry, then flush off with lots of water.
If any areas remain slick and smooth, chip or roughen these with a cold chisel and hammer. Then the slate or stone can be put down by use of a bed of mortar cement at least 1/2-inch thick. It would be a good idea to mix a masonry adhesive additive to the mortar to help assure a stronger bond.
Q: The toilet in our upstairs bathroom no longer flushes properly, particularly when there is solid waste in the bowl. I replaced the balcock mechanism about two months ago, so I know there is nothing wrong with that. A snake was forced through to check for obstructions and nothing was found. The water seems to rush in much slower than it used to, and objects float around on top of the water without being carried away when it drains. The water also seems to drain slower. What should I check next?
A: Although it is difficult to diagnose a problem such as yours without actually inspecting the plumbing, it sounds to me as though one possibility is that the water level in your flush tank is not rising high enough. This means there is not enough water on hand when flushing action begins, which would account for the slowness of flushing.
Open the tank and look inside to see if the water level reaches the mark indicated on the back wall of the tank. If you cannot find this mark, the water level should be about 1 inch below the top of the overlow tube. If the water level is okay, then chances are you do have a partial obstruction in the waste line - either in the bowl itself, or in the line leading from it. The fact that a snake went through does not necessarily eliminate this problem - the snake could pass a partial obstruction. And this would not tell anything about a problem in the waste line below the bowl.
Q: I live in an apartment next to a noisy neighbor, whom I can hear through my bedroom wall. Is there a type of acoustical tile or paneling I can put on that wall to stop the noise from coming through.
A: I'm afraid that acoustical panels will not help - unless you can get your neighbor to put them up on his or her side of the wall. About the only thing you can do is build an extra wall or partition on your side that is not in contact with the existing wall, so there would be air space between the two - but this will hardly be practical in an apartment because of the expense.
Q: I have recently purchased a home on which the exterior of the first floor is covered with brick veneer. At present this brick is painted white, but I would like to restore the brick to its natural color. I have been told this is a difficult task. What method do you suggest?
A: Paint can be removed from brick with semi-paste chemical paint remover, but frankly, this is quite a job when you have a large area to do. In your case I think the only solution is to engage a professional sandblasting contractor to clean the brick. It will cost more, but it is the only way to do a really thorough job. Even if you decide to do the job yourself with paint remover, some paint will always result in the pores and leave a slight discoloration in several places.