Q. We accidentally chipped the side of our porcelain toilet tank lid. The piece is about 2 inches by 3/4 inch in the middle of the lid. Can you suggest an adhesive or glue that we can use to repair it?
L.E. PUOPOLO, BY E-MAIL
A. For you, the fix is easy, because the porcelain is china. Buy any brand super glue. Glue one side of the chip, then press in place, and hold for 15 seconds. After it sets or cures, sand the face of the chip and the edges with emery cloth. The fix will be invisible. And permanent. Don’t get any of the super glue on your fingers; they will be glued together quickly and will take days to wear off.
Q. I moved into a condo and have a dryer vent that is only a foot off the ground. I am concerned about rodents entering and I wonder if there is anything I can do to protect the opening.
CLAIRE, BY E-MAIL
A. Wrap a quarter-inch galvanized steel mesh over the opening, and make it tight so critters can’t push or pull it off. Or, put a vertical piece at the end and then a U-shaped extension so the end of the pipe is facing down. Cover this new end with the mesh, too.
Q. My question is about cleaning up after using an oil-based paint. The recommendation on the can is to use paint thinner for brush cleanup. This presents a storage and disposal issue; what do you recommend for storing used thinner at my home, and then what options does a homeowner have for getting rid of the accumulation once I have enough to dispose of? The disposal issue is one reason I prefer to use latex paint, but an oil-based primer (at least) provides for a much better overall finish.
A. There will be no storage and disposal issue. Paint thinner comes in a can with a screw top. Let the old thinner you used to clean the brushes settle, separating paint from thinner. Then pour the thinner back into the container because thinner that has been cleaned is just as effective as new thinner. Save the remaining paint stuff until you have enough to take to a hazardous-waste disposal site.
I don’t think using oil-based primers is necessary for a good finish. Latex primers and finish coats, indoors or out, are at maximum performance. The only time oil-based materials are superior, in my view, are floor varnish, semitransparent exterior stains, and indoor stains.
Q. I looked at a 1920s-era house and came away with a question about the stairs. Previous owners turned the attic into two bedrooms, but the stairs are very steep and have very narrow treads.
Is it possible to rebuild stairs with wider, less-steep steps? There’s no more space upstairs to take them, but there is space downstairs.
A. Are the stairs a pull-down type? If so, they are worth keeping, because there is little else you can do. In order to reduce the angle of the stairs, you need space on the floor below. If things don’t work out, a spiral staircase may work better. If you really like the house, then buy it and adapt to the itty bitty (and steep) stairs.
Q. How can I remove paint from a chimney? It has a black top with white below.
A. Hey, your chimney is a Tory chimney. English loyalists painted their chimneys that way to identify themselves to fellow Tories. The rebel Americans (circa 1776) knew this and chased the Tories all the way to Canada. No matter your politics, it’s nice to keep your chimney that way. Besides, it’s difficult to take paint off bricks, so let a professional do it.
Q. My husband and I recently bought a lovely little (and I mean little: 250 square feet) condo in the South End of Boston. It’s one of five units in a brownstone row house built in 1860. We had the unit painted by a reputable company, and were fascinated when the painter told us that the crown moldings in this unit are made not of wood, but of concrete. Was the painter weaving a fiction? Or is it possible that we have concrete moldings suspended 11 feet overhead?
A BOSTON NEWBIE
A. So here’s a little lesson to the uninitiated. It’s the South End, and the houses are not brownstones but town houses. It matters not to me, but city folk are very sensitive. Anyway, it’s possible that the moldings are concrete, but more likely they are made of a very hard plaster.