Q: Some of my luggage was covered with mildew or mold. I cleaned this off with a bleach solution, but I can't get rid of the musty smell. Do you have any advice?
A: As a rule, lots of airing out is the best cure for this, preferably in sunshine. You might also try sprinkling baking soda on the inside, or leaving shallow pans of it on the inside for a while - this is a great chemical absorber.
Q: My masonry house has a fireplace and whenever there is a heavy rain, water drips down the inside of the chimney into the fireplace. It seeps past the damper and down onto the fireplace floor. Is this normal and can it be harmful? What should be done to correct it?
A: It is not normal for rain to drip down a chimney when there is a heavy downpour - though it is not unusual.
It may be that the chimney capping at the very top is cracked or needs repair, or it could be that pieces have fallen off entirely. This capping, usually cement, keeps water from soaking down into the bricks. More likely you need a hood over the top of your chimney to keep heavy rain out. An experienced mason is the one to call for this kind of job. A flat slab of cement, supported about a foot or so above the chimney opening by a couple of bricks or supporting posts in each corner, will probably alleviate the problem.
Q: I intend to paint the concrete floor in my basement and want to use latex deck paint that is made for cement. Since the floor has never been painted, do I have to use some kind of primer first?
A: It depends on the brand of paint you use - the label will give specific instructions for each one. Latex deck paint doesn't usually need a separate primer. Most advise two coats of the same paint after cleaning thoroughly first. However, some recommend etching if the concrete is very smooth, or using an acid wash to neutralize excess alkali.
Q: I have a problem on the third floor of my house. The plaster near one of the chimneys crumbles and falls off. In the winter the wall is dry, but all summer that area is damp. I have had roofers and chimney companies inspect the roof and chimneys and there is no water coming through in heavy rain or snow.
This has been going on for about 15 years. Can you offer any advice?
A: Although roofers and chimney companies have inspected the outside, I think moisture is seeping through the chimney or the related brickwork. This would explain why it is dry in winter. The heat in the chimney dries the brickwork before the water can reach the inside. In the summer there is no heat so the dampness travels to the plaster on the inside. Perhaps you ought to call in a mason who specializes in chimney construction and repair. It could be that the cap at the top of the chimney needs repair or replacing, or it could be that the flashing (usually metal) where the chimney joins the house walls along the outside is defective.
Q: Our house is 30 years old, and for some reason the builder did not put an overhang on our eaves. As the result, the gutters are flush with the stucco walls. During the winter ice builds up in these gutters and as it melts it seeps into the walls and window frames. Can you suggest a solution?
A: The best way to solve your problem is to install electric heating cables, designed for use on roofs, gutters and eaves, inside the troughs and downspouts. These are switched on to melt snow and ice and keep the gutters from filling and overflowing.
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