Q. When a home improvement company renovated my front porch several years ago, it was in a hurry to finish and painted the concrete when it was too cold. So now the paint is peeling. I could strip the peeling paint and apply a fresh coat, but I’m wondering whether it’s possible to seal and polish the concrete to make it look similar to the concrete floors at Ikea, the Home Depot, Costco and other warehouse-type places. My porch has a roof but is exposed to the weather. If sealing and polishing the bare concrete is an option, can you give me any advice on how to do this?
A. Sealing and polishing the concrete is certainly an option. There are a couple of approaches. A company with the right tools can simply polish the surface and apply a penetrating sealer. Or the crew can color the concrete by applying a stain before the sealer goes on. A third option is to sand deeper, enough to expose some of the aggregate, or small stones, within the concrete mix. This leaves the floor looking similar to terrazzo.
Mid-Atlantic Floor Care (www.midatlanticfloorcare.com; 877-745-4705) charges $5 to $7 a square foot for the treatments, with a minimum job price of $2,000. Based in Richmond, the company tackles jobs throughout the Washington area. Find other companies that polish concrete through listings at www.concretenetwork.com.
Tool rental companies carry diamond-grit grinders suitable for polishing concrete. At Sunbelt Rentals (202-529-4667; www.sunbeltrentals.com) an electric grinder rents for $92 a day. So polishing the concrete yourself may seem like a great way to save money, since the process is basically like sanding wood. But to use the machine, you need to buy a kit with the different grinding pads from the manufacturer — and that costs about $600. Steve Howe, the manager at Sunbelt Rentals, says that in six years, he’s rented only to pros except for once, to a homeowner who had ordered the kit. “He got the machine on a Thursday,” Howe said, “and it took him through the whole weekend to complete his project. But he did it.”
When wet, polished concrete is more slippery than broom-finished concrete — the kind you’re probably used to — but less slick than polished marble or waxed concrete. “It has the best slip-resistance of any polished flooring,” says Jeremy Wilkerson of Mid-Atlantic. To keep people from slipping in rainy weather, you can add a mat where people walk. If the mat traps moisture underneath for long periods, it might make the sealer on the concrete look cloudy, but that should disappear once the concrete dries out, Wilkerson said.
Sweeping and damp-mopping usually keep polished concrete looking good. Periodically, you might want to have the surface rebuffed. And after several years, you might need to reapply a penetrating sealer.
Q.I live in a 30-year-old house. One of the toilets is working okay now, but it has leaked in the past and is cracked at the base. A plumber looked at it and discovered it has an 81 / 2-inch rough-in. We have been unable to locate a replacement toilet with such a short rough-in. It’s an American Standard, but the company doesn’t remember ever making such a unit! The plumber said the easiest fix might be to cut away the drywall and create a setback, but it turns out my walls are not thick enough to make much difference there. I hate to be forced into an expensive remodel because of this. Any suggestions?
A.There are commercial toilets with eight-inch offsets, but to install one in your house, you’d have to rework the plumbing behind the walls — not a practical option. However, a simple part called an offset flange might be the answer. It fits over or into the drain pipe under the floor and works like an angle fitting, effectively moving the top opening by up to 11 / 2 inches. That would give you enough room to install a modern toilet designed for a 10-inch offset. Models with this offset aren’t as common as ones designed for today’s standard 12-inch offset, but they exist.
Offset flanges used to be prohibited by the plumbing code in effect in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, but they are now allowed provided they are smooth on the inside and don’t create a ledge or shoulder that might impede flow. Ted Podles, who supervises plumbing code reviews for Prince George’s County, which also handles plumbing code issues for Montgomery County, said the main thing is to avoid an offset that is just an inch or so tall. This type tends to clog — not the fix you want. Home centers carry PVC offsets (about $8 each) that work with plastic drain pipes. If your house has cast-iron drain pipes, you or your plumber might need to shop at a specialty company for a cast-iron fitting; it’s about $65 at Ferguson (www.fergusonenterprises.com; 301-589-6662 for the Silver Spring store).
Before you commit to the job, you might want to double-check what the plumber told you. Measure straight back from the center of the bolts holding the tank to the floor. The distance to the wall is the dimension you need. If there is a baseboard, ignore that when you measure.
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