Q We are converting our present garage into a family room. What would you recommend for a floor covering over the current concrete? We would like something not too expensive, and easy to install and care for. -- R.
A. A Because the concrete flooring is on or below ground level, your choice is limited to coverings that resist the effects of moisture and alkali that might seep through. This means asphalt tile, vinyl asbestos, certain sheet vinyls with special backing, solid vinyl tile or rubber.
We have listed the possibilities in order of increasing cost. They are all comparable in ease of installation. In deciding among them, bear in mind that asphalt -- and, to a lesser degree, vinyl asbestos -- can crack and be less resilient. The more expensive vinyls are easier to care for and keep a better-looking finish when subjected to wear.
Also, unless the concrete is quite smooth, you will need to have it filled or ground. Flooring manufacturers can advise you about the likeliest material for your needs and the best way to make the installation.
Q Some time ago I read in your column how to care for leather tabletops. At the time I did not pay much attention. Since then I have come into possession of some lovely tables that have leather tops. I would like to know how to care for them and protect the leather surface. -- H. M.
A We would be happy to repeat the instructions. The first rule is: Don't wax it! Leather needs oiling to retain its natural beauty.
First, clean the entire surface with a clean cloth dampened in mineral spirits; wipe dry. Repeat this process until all previous wax buildup is removed. Then apply lemon oil. Reapply several times in the following weeks. The leather will absorb the oil.
If you have indentation marks from wear, they should slowly disappear. After the leather is in good condition, you can reapply a little lemon oil every two or three weeks. This should be all the care your leather tabletops need.
Q I accidentally bent the tubular aluminum leg of a small table. When I tried to straighten it, a section of the leg broke through at the bend. I have tried soldering the leg back together with aluminum solder but couldn't make it stick. Do you know of any way it can be fixed? -- M. C.
A I'd forget about soldering. Even a good joint probably would break again.
Your best bet is to epoxy a length of dowel inside the leg section. Cut the dowel so it extends past the break at least three inches in each direction. Make sure it is a tight fit.
Clean off any residues left behind by your soldering. Then smear some epoxy inside the leg, slip the dowel in place and let set until thoroughly dry.
Q We recently purchased an older home that we are now in the process of redecorating. I have noticed a number of cracks in the plaster walls of the living room and hallway that I plan to paint. How can I cover these up before I paint? -- D. R.
A To cover or repair plaster cracks is a relatively simple job that almost anyone can perform by following these simple steps.
First, remove any loose particles of plaster from the crack. Use any small, pointed tool such as an ice pick, fingernail file or small screwdriver.
Next, dampen around the crack, using a sponge or moist cloth. Use a small quantity of any reliable, manufactured brand of crack sealer, available from most hardware and paint stores. Work the sealer into the crack according to directions on the package.
When hard, it may be painted over without showing, and you probably will have seen the last of the crack.
Q I have a paint roller made of lamb's wool. I want to use it to do some enameling, but have been told that it can't be used with enamel. Is this correct? -- A. W.
A Yes. Lamb's wool is not suitable for enamel. If the roller is the type from which the cover can be removed, get one made of mohair or, if the store doesn't have it, some other material that is suitable for enamel.
These days, most rollers come with paper coverings that describe which finishing materials can be used with them. Questions about construction or care of the home may be addressed to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.