Every year, thousands of Arizona residents email Rosie Romero's website or call his radio show with questions about everything from how to prevent fires in their chimneys to what to do about the tree roots invading their sewer systems. One of his goals is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. In this column, he focuses on questions about home maintenance and improvement in the Tucson area.
Question: Our home is about 10 years old, and we have seven smoke detectors that seem to be interconnected electrically in some way. Every time a battery runs down in one of them, that one goes off and then they all go off, and we don't know which one needs a new battery. Can we disconnect the wiring among them in some way so that won't happen anymore?
Answer: Disconnecting them could be very dangerous to you and your family. Depending on the size of your house, a fire could start in your kitchen while you were asleep in your bedroom and you might not be able to hear the sound of the alarm. But if your smoke detectors are 10 years old, they actually need to be replaced. As detectors get older, they often signal you with "false positive" alarms. New models are less likely to have the problems that you have. Only the detector that needs a new battery should start chirping. Installing new detectors is usually a pretty easy DIY project.
Q: I live in east Tucson and need to replace my water-supply line to the house. The house has galvanized pipe that is 60 years old. I bought PEX pipe to replace it, but have seen no recommendations for using PEX underground. What type of pipe should I use?
A: The abbreviation PEX stands for "cross-linked polyethylene" tubing that is used in all types of pipework systems, including domestic water pipes. It has become a viable alternative to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or copper tubing for use in residential water pipes. PEX is widely used in Arizona as it is sturdier than PVC but less expensive than copper. Ultimately, copper is the best of the best for your home, but using it makes for a very complicated and expensive replacement job.
Q: What is the best way to clean my cultured marble countertops?
A: Cultured marble is made from powdered marble cast in polymer and then covered with a gel coat. With everyday use, the gel coat loses a little shine, and surface scratches reduce the luster of cultured marble.
Restoring the life to the gel coat on cultured marble takes patience. To start, you need an electric buffer with a 1-inch-thick wool buffing pad plus a solid polishing compound. Be careful not to use a buffer that has more than 1,800 to 2,300 RPMs; a higher-powered buffer can burn the cultured marble. We suggest using a solid polishing compound rather than a liquid. The solid will turn to dust when used, which is easier to clean up than the splashy mess a liquid creates.
Never use an abrasive cleaner on cultured marble. However, if you are trying to remove cigarette burns from the countertop, first make a paste from Comet and water. In gentle circular motions, rub the burned area with a rag until the burn is gone. Now you are ready to buff the entire area.
If you have deep scratches on the countertop, they should be repaired by a professional. However, light scratches can be buffed out with a little TLC. First, rub the compound across the buffing pad; do not apply the compound directly to the marble surface. Next, very lightly touch the slowly spinning pad to the surface and slowly circulate over the area. For a lighter touch, hold the buffer pad perpendicular to the surface and gently "sweep" threads of the spinning pad across the scratches.
Be careful not to penetrate the gel coat; once it wears away, it cannot be replaced! The goal is to bring the shine back to the gel, not to the marble itself. At least two layers of gel coat should have been applied (about the thickness of a business card) by the manufacturer. Sometimes, though, if only one layer was applied, the gel coat will wear off almost instantly, so be cautious. Once you have buffed the cultured marble, apply carnauba car polish to protect the surface.
To maintain your newly shined counters, avoid abrasive cleaners or scouring pads that can scratch and dull the gel coat. Most cleaning chemicals will not cause damage.
For hard-water stains, try using a cleaner to remove iron, calcium or other mineral deposits that are in your water supply. Also, remember that nail polish remover can severely damage the gel coat. Hairspray buildup can be removed by applying water or denatured alcohol and rubbing with a soft cloth.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program, heard locally from 8-11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) and -FM (97.1) in Tucson and KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 1-888-767-4348.