QOne of our toilets leaks around the base and is probably damaging the tiled floor. A plumber looked at it but did not do anything. What should we do? -- P. Tummey
AThe leak is probably caused by a defective seal in the wax ring at the joint of the toilet base and the drain-waste pipe in the floor, although moisture can also come from a leaking water-supply pipe under the toilet tank or from condensation on the tank.
Changing a wax ring is not difficult, and any plumber should be able to handle it. If you have some tools, mostly wrenches, and some skill at home repairs, you can probably do it yourself, but you should check with your building-code office to see if do-it-yourself toilet repairs of this type are allowed in your area.
Basically, the toilet bowl and tank must be drained of water and the toilet removed from the floor. There is a wax ring at the joint of the bowl and drain pipe that must be replaced to make a tighter seal. Replacement rings are sold at most home centers and hardware stores and should include instructions for installation. The toilet's retaining bolts should also be replaced.
While the toilet is off, you should be able to inspect the surrounding floor. It is possible that you will need to remove only a few tiles surrounding the toilet and dry out the underlying floor with a heat gun or hair dryer on low setting. Sometimes flooring must be replaced.
When you are satisfied the floor is fine, replace the toilet bowl over the new ring and bolt the bowl to the floor. Do not over-tighten or you can crack the base of the bowl. When the toilet is fixed in place and the floor is dry, you can reinstall or replace the tiles.
Our concrete sidewalk and front stoop had a reddish tint. Recently the walk had to be dug up and replaced, and the new walk does not have the reddish tint. Is there something we can spray on the stoop and walk to match the colors again? -- P. Kaufman
Concrete can be stained or painted to give it color, or the concrete mix can be tinted with pigments before it is poured. I would definitely not try to paint a sidewalk -- peeling, discolored paint could haunt you for years.
If you are determined to get a color match, staining is probably your best bet, since it is less likely to peel than paint. A dark color will probably give you the best match. Concrete stains are sold at most paint stores and home centers, but applying a stain or paint is generally more difficult than just spraying it on. Cleaning and preparing the surface often require more time and effort than the coloring. Read and follow the directions on the container. To test, stain a small, inconspicuous area on both stoop and sidewalk to see how the colors look when dry.
In my opinion, your best bet is to try to live with the existing colors.
I want to put glass doors on my fireplace and keep them closed to help keep smoke out of the room. When I examined the manual for a set of doors, it warned against closing them when the fire is burning. Can this be true? -- P. George
It is true that glass fireplace doors should generally be kept open when the fire is burning, both because the temperature of a high fire might crack the glass and because the fire needs room air for combustion. Many doors can be kept closed when the fire is first started and when it is dying out, but it is best to follow the manufacturer's instructions.
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.