Q: I recently moved into an old house and have to replace most of the faucet washers because many of them drip. Are there different types of washers for hot and cold faucets?
A:Not really. Most faucets washers are not made of a synthetic material that is equally suitable for both hot and cold water faucets.
Q: I want to mix concrete to replace about 20 feet of sidewalk in front of my house. The instructions on the bag of cement say I should mix 1 volume of cement with 2 parts of sand and 3 parts of gravel. If I just want to use cement and sand without gravel, what should the mixing ratio be?
A: When you mix concrete you must have gravel in the mix to get the strength needed. A mixture of cement and sand can be used only for small cracks and similar patches, but it would not stand up as concrete. Follow the directions on the bag for the best results.
Q: The floor in our kitchen is covered with linoleum. Under this is two-inch thick plank flooring in relatively good condition. Is it possible to sand and seal these wood planks so that we will wind up with the wood floor we have always wanted?
A: It depends on the kind of wood that was used for the floor. Finished flooring is almost never two inches thick, so I am not sure what the planks are made of or what they will look like when sanded. Your first step would be to get the linoleum off. Lift and scrape off as much as you can, then use hot water to get off as much of the old cement as possible.
The floors will then have to be sanded by machine. I suggest experimenting first on a small section before you tackle the whole floor, to see if the result will be worth the effort and to check on the condition of the wood flooring. Sand and scrape one area clean. If the wood looks good and seems capable of taking a finish, then go ahead with the rest of the floor. I recommend finishing with at least two coats of penetrating wood sealer, followed by a good waxing.
Q: I have a set of wicker furniture in need of refinishing. It is now dark, grayish-brown that looks something like shellac, and is quite shiny except on the areas of greatest wear around the arms of the chairs. I would like to paint the set white, but wonder if I can put white paint on top of the shiny shellac -- or do I have to remove the finish first?
A: The best way is to use paint remover to take the old finish off. However, since you do not mention a peeling problem, and since taking paint of the surface of wicker is quite difficult, I think you best bet is to paint over it. You will have to kill the gloss on the shiny areas first. Sanding is almost impossible, so I advise using "liquid sandpaper" or deglossing liquids that are available in most paint stores.
Wipe thoroughly with this, changing rags often so you don't spread the dirt and grime back onto the surface, then prime the pieces with good-quality enamel undercoat. Finish with either high gloss or semigloss enamel in the color of your choice.
Q: In the entry and hallway of my house there is a natural brick floor. I want to keep it looking natural and not shiny, but after nearly 20 years it has dusty look, even after I give it a thorough scrubbing. Is there any kind of treatment or sealer I can use to accomplish this?
A: Most paint stores and many stone dealers sell a variety of clear sealers for use on brick and masonry floors, as well as one stone. Most will darken the brick masonry to some extent, pretty much the way bricks look when wet. If you don't mind this, applying one of these would probably be your best bet. #although some of these tend to build up a bit of shine after several coats brick is so porous I doubt if you would get any shine with just one, or even two coats on the surface. It might be worth experiementing on one or two sample bricks before you go ahead on the actual floor.
Questions about home repair problems should be addressed to The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 200 Park Ave., New York 10017. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column, but unpublished letters will not be answered individually. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Bethann Thornburgh for The Washington Post