Q Please give me some information on painting stucco. Some residents in our condominium say the houses should be painted, others say stucco should not be painted. The houses are 12 years old. What kind of paint would you advise if they are to be painted? -- E.E.S.

A The many alkaline-resistant paints on the market today, together with special brushes and rollers for masonry surfaces, have made painting masonry a relatively simple matter. The purpose of the painting, the condition of the surface and the expected exposure all combine to dictate the selection of the right paint. Consequently, these factors should be related to your local reputable paint dealer, who will help you choose the right paint for your project. There are many quality alkaline-resistant paints and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

For example, latex paint for use on masonry surfaces can be used with confidence. They come in a wide variety of colors, are water thinned and can be applied to a damp surface. In fact, the surface should be dampened before applying the first coat. Oil-base stucco and masonry paint are similar to conventional house paints in many respects. Their flat or low-sheen qualities tend to hide surface irregularities and the paint produces good results when concrete and adjacent wood trim are to be painted the same color.

As with any painting project, proper preparation is essential to assure satisfactory durable results. First, be sure that the surface is clean, cracks, indentations and spalls filled, and the surface otherwise intact (no crumbling or scaling) before painting. Wash away oil and grease; remove dirt and other materials with a wire brush.

If there is any white salt-like material adhering to the stucco, it is probably efflorescence. This is caused by moisture that dissolves salt in the interior of alkaline materials and carries them to the surface.

Efflorescence must be removed before painting. Paint will help seal the masonry surface and will help prevent efflorescence in the future. If you have any moisture problems near the foundation, use a colorless water sealer on the lower portion of the building to help prevent problems. This is a wise precautionary measure in almost any case. Afterward, apply an alkaline-resistant primer followed by the finish coats. Two finish coats will be more satisfactory than one. For best results, always choose a quality paint and use a special masonry brush or roller to make your job easier.

If you wish to consider options other than painting, there are firms that will resurface the stucco finish.

Another option would be to use one of the newer products on the market that are stucco refinishers. One such brand is Revive, made by Expo Stucco Products. This material can be sprayed over large surfaces, or rubbed or rolled in areas where spraying is difficult. It has the consistency of very thin paint but won't work on a surface that already has been painted. A natural, untreated, unpainted wall is required; without it, you won't get a good application.

Any of these options will revitalize your exterior stucco. Certainly, painting is a viable option and will produce good results. You will probably have to repaint every three to seven years depending on the exposure and climatic conditions to which your house is subjected.

Q Six months ago I had red brick installed in a border around my lawns, and also as brick ribbons in a concrete patio and as an entryway to my new home. The brick is turning very white and is discolored. Is there any way I can clean these bricks and then seal them to retain the clean effect of new bricks? -- D.D.

A This is a condition known as efflorescence. It is the working through of alkaline salts in bricks or concrete. Water works through the brick and dissolves the salts. Then the water evaporates, the salts remain as the crystalline deposit you mention. Wash the brick surfaces with a stiff brush and a solution of 1 part muriatic (hydrochloric) acid in 20 parts water, allowing this solution to remain not longer than two or three minutes. (Sometimes a stronger solution of 1 part muriatic acid to 9 parts water is recommended, but I would try the weaker solution first). Flush off this solution with plenty of clear water.

Be very careful when using muriatic acid. Mix the solution in a glass, wood or plastic container; remember that acid is highly corrosive and great care should be exercised to avoid splashing it. Wear old clothes, goggles to protect the eyes and rubber gloves to protect your hands.

Mix the solution by pouring the acid into the water, not the other way. Remove all traces of acid from the brick by washing with a solution of 1 pint of ammonia mixed with 2 gallons of water. Rinse again with clear water.

After cleaning, apply a sealer such as Thompson's Water Seal that will prevent moisture from penetrating the brick and the continued forming of efflorescence. Or you can mix your own sealer consisting of equal parts mineral spirits and boiled linseed oil that can be applied with a paint roller. Use two coats for the best results.

Q We recently moved into a home that has a lot of built-in storage. I like the convenience of this storage, but I am having a problem with a number of drawers that stick and are very difficult to pull out. Do you have any suggestions on what I might do to remedy this problem or is it due to faulty construction of the drawers? -- G.C.

A The best solution for sticking drawers is to rub the drawer tracks with paraffin. Rub both the tracks and the bottom of the drawer that runs along the tracks. Even if the construction of the drawers is a single rather than a double track, it will help the drawers glide easier.

Send inquiries 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.