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Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2006 05:59 pm

Patch driveway cracks

Dozens of special products are made for this purpose

Dear Gene: Is it really impossible to patch a concrete driveway? A couple of contractors want to replace the entire driveway, at high cost. The largest crack is about 8 inches long and 1 inch wide.

It is certainly possible to patch concrete. There are dozens of special products made for this purpose, and I am sure you can find what you need at a home center or hardware store near you. Most patches are not permanent, however, and you checked them at least once a year to see whether new repairs are needed. It is important to keep cracks well sealed to keep out water, which can make existing damage much worse.

To patch narrow cracks, up to about 3/8 inch wide, you can use a concrete repair material sold in caulking-gun cartridges. Liquid patches, which are poured into the crack, are also available for smaller cracks.

For cracks from about 1/2 inch to an inch wide, I prefer a vinyl patching mix, often sold in small tubs or bags.

For larger repairs, such as potholes and wide cracks, use concrete mix or sand mix, sold in 60-pound and 80-pound bags.

Most products come with specific instructions, but here are a few general tips about concrete repair: Remove deteriorated material and clean cracks and holes thoroughly before making a patch; use a vacuum or paintbrush to remove dust and dirt.

Cracks to be patched should usually be moistened with water (I use a spray bottle), but don’t create a puddle. Small crack repairs can be smoothed with a putty knife; larger surfaces are smoothed with a trowel. Clean the tools you use for mixing and application as soon as possible with water. A metal wheelbarrow or plastic lawn cart makes a good container for mixing dry patching materials, such as concrete mix.

Dear Gene: We bought a house with 1950-era twin faucets in the bathroom sink. The faucets are coated and clogged with mineral deposits. We have not been able to find replacements that would work on the sink, which is an unusual color. How can we clean up the faucets?

If the faucets can be removed, turn off the water to the sink and remove them. Soak them in a bath of white vinegar overnight (or longer, if necessary). The vinegar should soften the mineral deposits so they can be removed with a brush. If possible, disassemble the faucets, soak the parts separately, and replace the washers.

If the faucets can’t be removed, put the vinegar in plastic bags and tie the bags around the faucets so the vinegar contacts the mineral deposits. You should still try to disassemble the faucets to clean interior parts and replace washers.

Dear Gene: My townhouse has stains on the vinyl siding that I believe are coming from the asphalt shingles on the roof. The shingle manufacturer’s representative says that the stains are bird droppings. How can I prove that they are coming from the roof?

I never heard of shingles’ staining siding this way, even in very hot weather. I would try to remove some of the stain with Fantastik, a spray cleaner sold at supermarkets. If this removes the stains, you can be pretty sure they are not coming from the shingles. If this cleaner does not remove the stains, try a little Goo Gone (www.magicamerican.com), a solvent that will dissolve asphalt. If it takes Goo Gone to remove a stain, your claim of asphalt stains should be strengthened.

Quick tip: Late summer is a good time to check caulking around the exterior of windows and doors. Sound caulk at the joints of siding and windows and doors is important to keep water and cold air from penetrating into the walls. Missing caulk, or any caulk that is cracked or shrunken, should be replaced. A putty knife will usually dislodge caulk that should be removed before the addition of new caulk.

What caulk to use? The wide variety of caulks available at most home centers can confuse even experienced do-it-yourselfers. I prefer high-quality acrylic-latex caulks; some are “siliconized,” an added benefit. These caulks are easy to smooth with a wet finger, can be painted, and can be cleaned up with soap and water.

Those who don’t already own a caulking gun should be sure to buy one of the “dripless” types or one with a thumb control to shut off the flow of caulk.

Send questions and comments to Gene Austin at doit861@aol.com or 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Copyright © 2006 Gene Austin

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