How To's & Quick Tips

What Would Bob Do? Counters, Flooding, and Decks


I have a beautiful marble countertop on my cooking island. It was never sealed properly and having the stovetop in it, has a few stains. Everything I've read says marble countertops need to be resealed at least once a year-but no one says what to use. I've bought granite-, stone-, marble-cleaners that do nothing except waste money. Could you direct me to a product/instruction on how to clean, buff, and re-seal the marble?

The truth is that not all stains can be removed from marble. Based on the location of your countertop, the stain is probably either oil-based (cooking oil or milk) or organic (food). With the former, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) suggests gently scrubbing with a soft liquid cleanser containing bleach, ammonia, mineral spirits or acetone. To get rid of food-based stains, the MIA suggests hydrogen peroxide (12 percent dilution) with a few drops of ammonia.

A few safety reminders: Never mix ammonia and bleach. When using solvents, good ventilation is paramount; run a fan and keep the windows open. Wear a respirator and work when children are not present. Also, it's good practice to test cleaners on an inconspicuous area before proceeding. For a complete list of marble stain removal suggestions organized by stain type, click here.

You also mention buffing. Very fine abrasives can restore marble's mirror-like finish, and while this is a job for a restoration specialist, you can experiment with 1,000-, 2,000-, and 3,000-grit diamond pads. In the process of honing, use plenty of water, being sure to protect your cabinets, backsplash, and floors. Once the marble is back to where you want it, apply an impregnating sealer. Sealers safeguard against future stains but do not make your countertop stain-proof.


Due to a flood in the basement, about one foot of drywall was cut out around the perimeter of the basement (along with the carpet and baseboards). Given this kind of damage, is there some way to restore the drywall or do I need to go with some kind of solution, which involves wainscot paneling?

Any of several quality materials would make a suitable replacement for the flood-damaged portion of your wall. Before choosing one, be smart and do whatever you can to minimize future flooding.

Seriously think about installing a water alarm, sump pump, backup sump pump or perimeter drain system. Further options include repairing your gutter system, replacing any plumbing valves that no long work, and re-grading around your house so that water flows away from it.

Having taken reasonable precautions, go ahead and install wood wainscot or beadboard panels. You might also consider water-resistant paperless drywall, which features a fiberglass covering and a gypsum core. Pre-finished, vinyl-covered, cement-based wallboard products are also available.

If your basement is damp, install a dehumidifier. Newer models have a built-in pump that automatically drains into a utility sink. Older models drain into a floor drain or must be manually emptied. Avoid using products (like carpeting) that are difficult to save once wet. A better choice would be to use easily removable area rugs over a vinyl or ceramic tile floor.


We recently had a new porch built. Our contractor did not provide any spacing between the deck boards and in just a few months, the boards are cupping, warping, and splitting… . He is refusing to warranty any of the wood, saying that the boards just failed and that it was bad wood. Is this something that would just be considered poor workmanship, or would it be a situation where a Construction Contractor Board would rule in our favor?

The right amount of spacing to put between decking boards depends on many variables, some of which are climate, season, moisture content, board width, exposure to wind-driven rain, and even the wood species. In a porch, however, it's reasonable to butt boards edge to edge, without spacing. It sounds as though your contractor was more worried about the boards shrinking (through moisture loss) than he was about them expanding, as they have done.

Is the space below the porch enclosed, damp, unvented? Is the decking close to grade (less than 18 inches)? Was the porch floor laid on a concrete slab? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, moisture from below might be the culprit. An experienced contractor would have anticipated problems like these, at the very least providing a moisture barrier and adequate ventilation. Without knowing more, however, it would be unfair to make a judgement about fault.

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