You might be able to synchronize the chimes on an antique clock yourself. But if it’s that simple, a pro will do it cheaply. (BigStock)


I have an 18th-century French mantel clock. It runs quite well, but its chimes are not properly synchronized with the time, so I hear things like nine chimes at 7:30 and one chime at noon. How do I find a reputable clock repair place?


AGetting things synchronized can be as simple as manually moving the hands, ever so gently, until the time matches up with the sounds, says Steve Halter, owner of It’s About Time Clock Shop in Alexandria (703-751-0400, Halter, who has run the shop since 1972, says some people do it themselves. But there is a risk of breaking something, and the cost of having a pro do it isn’t all that great, so why risk it? Since a mantel clock is easy to carry, you can bring it into the shop and he can probably do the adjustment while you wait, for $25 or less.

Another shop with skilled clockmakers is the Clock Shop of Vienna (703-938-3990, www.clockshopofvienna.
). It’s been in business since 1974. (How long a shop has been around means something when you’re dealing with clocks, especially antiques.)

As to your underlying question of how to find reputable repair shops, the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute offers a “find a professional” feature on its Web site, The local affiliate, the Horological Association of Virginia (www.havhome.
), is another good place to start. Horology is the science of time.

I went 17 years with a dry basement. But then came the earthquake in August, Hurricane Irene soon after and more heavy rain in early December. The September rains left my basement flooded with two to three inches of water. I was able to dry it out before any mold started grow, but the soil around my house has been wet ever since. A few puddles appeared on the floor during the December rain. My house has a French drain system outside, without an interior sump pump. The basement is a walk-out type, meaning the front is completely in the ground but the back is not; the sides slope down from front to back.I have called several companies, and they all want to install an interior sump pump and drain tiles at a cost of $20,000 to $25,000. What should I do?

Upper Marlboro

Because you have an exterior drain system that worked well for many years, you might want to start by having a drain-cleaning company snake the line to determine whether it has become blocked or even broken from the earthquake.

Carl B. Seeds, a sewer-, drain- and pipeline-cleaning company based in Prince Frederick (410-535-1937,, charges about $265 for this service. If the drain leads to a community storm drain and there is a blockage, the company can clear it.

More likely, the drain leads to what’s known as a dry well, an underground pit filled with large, round rocks. Normally, water pools in the spaces between the rocks until it gradually sinks into the soil. It’s possible that the September storm simply overwhelmed the capacity, in which case you might want to expand the pit or rig a way for extra water to flow safely away. Or perhaps the spaces between the stones have become clogged with silt, in which case a landscaping crew could rebuild the pit or install a new one once the weather warms.

Basement waterproofing companies often recommend interior systems. The costs are easy to estimate, the procedure is basically the same from house to house, crews can do the work year-round, and the systems work regardless of conditions outside, which are often difficult to assess.

However, these systems require power to operate, so if you do install an interior system, be sure to get a backup pump. Water-powered pumps that harness water pressure in the incoming line free you from worrying about whether the batteries will last until the power returns.

Unless you have a large house or some other complication, the price you cite for an interior system seems awfully high. It’s typically half that or less. Perhaps a glut of orders in the wake of the hurricane pushed up prices? If you decide you need an interior system, you might want to wait a bit before you invest.

The backsplash in my kitchen is outdated. The countertop is granite and the appliances are up-to-date, but the backsplash is white ceramic Florida Tile with a hand-painted design. Can ceramic tile be refinished or painted? If so, what would be used?

Submitted to Home Front online chat

It is possible to paint ceramic tile, but will you be happy with the result? The big problem isn’t getting the paint to stick— that’s easy, as long as you use a primer formulated to stick to slick surfaces, such as Sherwin-Williams’s Adhesion Primer, or a self-priming epoxy acrylic finish, such as what’s included in Rust-Oleum’s Tub & Tile Refinishing Kit. (The epoxy finish is the only way to go on a bathroom surface that’s wet frequently, but for a kitchen backsplash you can probably get a plenty durable surface by using a suitable primer topped by a good-quality water-based paint.)

The tricky part is figuring out what to do about all those grout lines. You can try covering them with masking tape and painting only the tiles, but it’s not easy to get tape to stick to grout, and there’s a good chance some paint will seep underneath. So the best solution usually is to prime and paint the entire backsplash, then paint over the grout lines with a contrasting color, using an artist’s brush that matches the width.

Painting tiles doesn’t cost much or take a tremendous amount of time. So you might want to start with that. If you’re not satisfied with the result, proceed to the surer but more expensive option: replacing the tile. If you want a guaranteed solution, just fast-forward to redoing the backsplash.

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