Q How do I seal my concrete driveway? What type of sealer is best? -- Rod
ASealing a concrete driveway can help protect it against a variety of damaging chemicals, including gasoline or oil spills and salt used to melt ice. Sealing can also help prevent dusting or powdering of the surface, as well as spalling, which can cause small cracks and chipping.
A number of excellent masonry sealers are available. Visit a couple of home centers or building-supply outlets to see what is offered. A widely sold sealer that I like is United Gilsonite Laboratories' Drylok Masonry Treatment (www.ugl.com), a water-based formula.
Concrete sealers can be applied by sprayer, brush, roller or squeegee, but you should carefully read and follow the directions for the product you choose. If you have a large driveway, you will probably want to seal a section at a time, since the first step is a thorough cleaning. If possible, use a pressure washer to flush away dirt and stains. The container should include specific directions for cleaning.
The frequency of application will vary with the product, and the directions are the best source of an application schedule. Some experts say sealing every three to five years is adequate.
Someone who is up on all the latest trends said I should definitely paint my brick fireplace white. I am getting tired of the old bricks. Can it be painted a nice white? How do I clean and prime it? What kind of paint should be used? -- J. Pressler
Over the years I have received many more requests for information on how to remove paint from brick fireplaces than on how to put it on. And it is much more difficult to remove the paint than to apply it. Also keep in mind that decorating fashions can change in a hurry. In a few years, old brick fireplaces could well be in.
But yes, brick fireplaces can be painted. The bricks should be cleaned by scrubbing with trisodium phosphate, sold at paint stores and hardware stores. They can be primed with a masonry sealer such as UGL's Masonry Treatment, mentioned above. A couple of coats of high-quality latex paint will make the bricks white; do not paint inside the fireplace opening. A semi-gloss or satin-finish paint will be easier to clean than a flat paint.
How do we clean our sump pump, and how often? Someone suggested using bleach. -- L. Olson
You should keep the sump clean of all debris and use a small brush to clean the screen or openings where water enters. Check the sump every few months, especially if storms are expected. I would not run anything through the pump except clean water unless it is recommended by the manufacturer.
Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions cannot be answered personally.