Q We have a brick-paved entry stoop that has pulled away from the brick wall of the house, leaving a crack. What type of caulk should I use to fill this crack? -- A. Roniani
A This crack will probably get larger because of sinking and movement of the brick entrance. That means you will need to use a flexible crack filler that also adheres well to masonry.
Good possibilities are a silicone-rubber concrete-repair caulk or a latex concrete sealant with silicone. You should be able to find these at a home center or hardware store. These caulks will generally seal gaps up to a half-inch wide. Read and follow the directions carefully.
There are also a number of specialty products for sealing so-called expansion joints in concrete and other masonry. These are often difficult to find at regular retail outlets but can sometimes be bought on the Internet. For more information on a line of these products, go to www.lsepoxies.com/ConcreteRepair10.html.
I have heard that there is an intruder alarm that makes a noise like a barking dog. Is there such an alarm, and how can I get one? -- D. Petrucci
There is an intruder alarm that barks like a dog, and you can buy one online for about $70 at www.shopfromyourhome.com (enter "barking dog alarm" in the search space).
This alarm is supposed to sound like a barking German shepherd and also sets off a siren. The alarm is triggered by a motion sensor that is said to detect the presence of an intruder outside a door or wall.
We have knotty pine boards on some walls in our home and kitchen cabinets made of knotty pine. They are very dirty, and we can't find a product that will clean them. Can you help? -- C. Thigpen
One of the best cleaners for finished wood is a solution of mild detergent and water, applied with a well-wrung-out sponge or clean cloth and wiped dry immediately. Widely sold cleaners such as Pledge also usually work well.
Try putting a little dishwashing detergent in some warm water and washing the wood. If that doesn't help, you will probably have to consider refinishing the wood.
Painting would be the easiest solution and would provide a fresh, clean surface that would look good for years. To paint, sand the wood lightly and patch any holes or defects, then seal the wood and knots with a coat of stain-killer primer such as B-I-N or Kilz. Follow with a coat or two of latex enamel.
If you want a clear finish, you will have to remove any existing finish and sand the wood thoroughly to expose a clean surface.
The easiest clear finish would be a wipe-on product such as Minwax Wipe-On Poly (www.minwax.com). Apply several coats for the best protection.
The water pressure in our master-bath shower is weak. All other faucets and showers are okay. What can be done to step up the weak pressure? -- Z. Colville
The shower head is probably partially clogged with minerals. Make sure the water to the shower is turned off, pad the jaws of a wrench or pliers with duct tape to prevent marring the finish, and remove the shower head. Soak it in a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and water for several hours, and then clean out the jets with a sharp toothpick. If the shower head is difficult to remove, leave it in place and tie a plastic bag containing vinegar solution over the head and follow the same cleaning procedure.
Another possibility is that this is a low-flow, water-saving shower head. If it appears smaller than a shower head that is working well and you want to replace it, you can buy replacement heads at most home centers.
A remote possibility is that there is some blockage in the shower pipes. Repairing that would be a job for a plumber.
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.