Q I recently had my fireplace cleaned. There is still a strong odor of old soot and ashes. How can I get rid of it? Also, the chimney was cleaned from the bottom only. I was told that cleaning from the top would break the chimney-cap seal. Is that okay? -- Marian
AGetting your chimney cleaned should help reduce fireplace odor. The chimney cap, which will help keep moisture out of the chimney, is also important for odor reduction. Keep the damper closed when not using the fireplace, and don't burn wood that hasn't been seasoned for at least a year.
You can also try a deodorizer. One called Ex-Stink (www.exstink.com or 888-241-7487) guarantees to help eliminate fireplace odor. It can also be used on many other odors, including those in carpets. A four-pound bag of the product, a volcanic ash, costs about $18. Sprinkle some on the hearth and vacuum it up when the odor fades. You can also put some in a dish or bowl and put it in the fireplace opening.
Also, it is okay to clean a chimney from the bottom only. Some chimney cleaners or sweeps start at the top and then work from the bottom. Cleaning from the top only is not likely to remove all the flammable creosote and soot.
Our shower is finished inside with ceramic tiles. The grout is stained with light brown marks that I haven't been able to remove, even with grout cleaner. Any ideas? -- A. Norman
If cleaning fails, which it sometimes does, an option is staining the grout to restore its original color or make it a darker color that does not show blemishes easily. Staining works only on grout that has not been previously sealed.
Grout stain in many colors is sold by Super-Tek (www.super-tek.com or 718-278-7900). Super-Tek recommends thoroughly cleaning the grout and letting it dry for 24 hours before applying stain. After staining, let dry for another 48 hours before exposing the stain to water. The stain costs about $28 a pint and includes a foam applicator.
The vinyl or rubber weather-stripping on the bottom of our metal entrance door is torn off, so you can see daylight under the door. Is there a way to fix this without removing the door? -- W. Harrison
You should be able to attach a door "sweep" to the inside bottom without removing the door. You can buy a sweep for a few dollars at most hardware stores. A sweep is simply a strip of metal, wood or plastic with a flexible fin along the bottom. The flexible fin should bear against the door's threshold when the door is closed.
Sweeps are attached with a couple of small screws. You will need sheet-metal screws and will have to drill pilot holes for them in the inside metal skin of the door. The holes should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the screw shanks. Be careful to drill through the inner skin of the door only. The body of the sweep can be painted to match the door.
My grandfather clock stopped running, and I would like to lubricate it myself to get it restarted. I find clock repairmen too expensive. Can you help? -- Charles
The clock probably needs to be cleaned as well as lubricated and would benefit from expert service. However, if you want to lubricate the clock yourself, you can get a $15 kit containing clock oil and instructions from the Web site www.howtorepairclocks.com.
According to the supplier, the instructions tell "where and where not to oil" a grandfather clock. A special long nozzle is included for oiling in hard-to-reach places.
Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to email@example.com. Questions cannot be answered personally.