Q. I plan to paint my porous red-brick house white. I am at a loss as to the best method of doing this so as to avoid peeling and mildew. I live close to the ocean. Must I seal the brick first? Do I use oil- or water-base paint?

A. I would advise that you reconsider this project. Painting exterior brick in climates that are subject to the freeze-thaw cycle is not advisable. The paint will not allow the brick to breathe adequately and as the moisture builds up it will cause the paint to peel. It can even damage the brick.

Q. We recently purchased a new home that has marble floors in the entryway, kitchen and bath areas. I am uncertain how to care for these floors and would like to know what you would recommend. I want to start out right and use products that will protect them from staining.

A. While marble is durable, it does require special steps to maintain and care for properly. Your floors will require a protective coating and it is important to act fast in case of stains or spills or they will soak into the stone.

The Marble Institute of America recommends a breathable, penetrating-type sealer to help protect polished marble from subsurface staining, followed by a surface coating to provide protection from light surface scratching and wear. Your local marble dealer should be able to recommend marble cleaners, sealers and polishes.

A total care system will usually consist of a cleaner, sealer, polish and a poultice mix -- used for extracting more stubborn stains.

In caring for marble, periodic cleaning is a must, but it's easy. Simply wash the surface with a mild detergent diluted in lukewarm water, rinse and dry completely with a soft cloth. If you use a liquid cleaner, do not use one of the all-purpose cleaners. Choose a product made especially for marble.

The same applies to sealers. Make sure the sealer is appropriate for your type of marble and won't yellow it. Avoid using a wax-base sealer on marble flooring, because the finish is likely to be too slick for safety.

Never use abrasive cleaners, which can scratch and mar a marble surface. Cleaners with oil-base solvents should also be avoided as they can stain the surface instead of cleaning.

Natural marble is alkaline in its composition and highly susceptible to surface etching by acid-based contaminants. Extreme care should be taken immediately to clean and water-neutralize even light acids such as fruit juices and wine.

Most marble sealers will provide only short-term and minimal protection from acid etching. For maximum protection your marble should be resealed two or three times a year.

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.