Q Our water heater is quite a distance from most of the faucets, and it takes a while to get hot water from the faucets. Is there a way to cut the time it takes to get hot water? -- J. Navarro
A There are several things you can do. One, of course, is to relocate the water heater. If that isn't possible, it might help a little to insulate the hot water pipes running from the heater to the faucets.
A better approach is to have a plumber set up a water-recirculation system that keeps hot water in the pipes at all times. There are several ways to do this. One of the most practical systems for an existing house is an under-sink pump such as the Laing Autocirc (www.autocirc.com). The Laing pump is installed under the sink located farthest from the water heater.
Another recirculation pump system is the Comfort Series by Grundfos Pumps (www.us.grundfos.com). This pump is installed at the water heater. For more information, go to the Web site and click on Hot Water Recirculation at the lower left of the home page.
Finally, you can install a tankless hot-water system that will supply instant hot water. Many of these systems will serve a whole house, though the supply of water might be limited if there is a large demand at one time. A good source of information on these is www.tankless-water-heaters.com.
Our plastic-laminate countertop has a small crack between the top and the edging. Moisture leaks into the crack and is causing the counter's base material to swell. How can I stop this from getting worse? -- M. Lowell
You should be able to seal the crack with a countertop seam sealer such as SeamFil. Seam sealers are available in various colors at some plastic-laminate dealers. For more information on application and uses, consult the Web site of a manufacturer, Kampel (www.kampelent.com). Go to the home page, click on "Contents," then on "How to Use SeamFil."
If you can't find an appropriate seam filler, a colored acrylic-latex caulk can be substituted. Cut the tip of the tube or caulking-gun cartridge so a very thin bead of caulk is squeezed out. Wipe off excess caulk with a damp rag.
We live in a ranch-style house and have painted the drywall ceilings, following what we thought were good procedures. There were dark spots along the edges of every ceiling, which we sealed with a stain-killer primer before painting. The paint around the edges is now cracking and peeling. What could be wrong? -- S. Ianello
It sounds like you did everything right in painting. My guess is that there is some moisture in the drywall from an old leak, which probably caused the dark spots in the first place. The moisture might also be in attic insulation above the ceilings. I would check insulation around the edges of the attic to make sure it is thoroughly dry. Any damp insulation should be replaced, of course, and you should make sure there are no existing leaks around the edge of the roof. (Clogged and overflowing rain gutters can cause leaks of this type.).
Even if the insulation is dry, pull it back temporarily to expose the stained drywall areas to air. Scrape off the cracked paint on the ceiling and let the drywall dry out for several weeks before replacing the insulation and repainting.
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.