Home repair: Rust around tub drain can be repaired

Q. Is there any way to refinish or repair part of a bathtub? The enamel around the drain is starting to pit and rust. I have attached a picture. I gutted my bathroom and replaced the bathtub 20 years ago, and it seems the steel tub should have lasted longer than that. The rest of the tub is in very good condition. I cannot afford to replace it again. Do you have any ideas?

A. Unfortunately, the rusting problem you are experiencing often occurs when an inadequate amount of sealant is applied beneath the drain. The water comes in contact with the edges of the steel that are not enameled, and rust eventually starts. But it has taken 20 years!

You have two choices. You can try to remove the rust with a liquid rust remover or by sanding it and then apply an epoxy tub enamel repair, which you should be able to buy in hardware and paint stores. Or you can have a plumber remove the drain cover so that a better job of rust removal, application of enamel and sealing can be accomplished.

Q. When our house was built by previous owners, they decided the fixtures in the master bath should be a medium blue. My wife wants to replace the blue fixtures with more neutral ones. I can live with the blue fiberglass tub and shower unit because it is functional, and replacing it will not be cheap. At the hardware store the other day, I noticed a spray-on product for tubs and tile that claims to provide a renewed surface and, most important, a different color. Do you think one of these spray-on products would provide a reasonable, long-lasting solution? Or will I be replacing a tub unit because the renewed surface is flaking and the dreaded blue is reappearing?

A. These kits are usually a temporary solution. Repeated cleaning of the tub will abrade the paint over time. The success of such a solution will depend greatly on the thoroughness of the preparation of the surfaces and the care in application.

Another option is to have the tub covered by Bath Fitter or equivalent. But cleaning the new acrylic material requires extra care, as the finish is not as durable as the original enamel. You will not be able to use abrasive cleaning products.

Q. I would like to get your advice on a problem we are having with our basement walls. The walls are all below grade (no outside access except through window wells).

The inside walls are glazed tile. The wall on the west side has a problem. It gets a powderlike formation on it that is white and rough to the touch. There doesn't appear to be any structural damage, but it sure is unsightly. Do you have any idea what could be causing this and what we can do to correct the problem?

A. The white powder is likely efflorescence, which results when the salt in any masonry product is dissolved. When the moisture evaporates, the salts are left behind, the same process as for the production of sea salt. (Water is left to evaporate in shallow, flat beds and the salt is collected.)

Carefully examine the grade outside the west wall to determine if there are reasons for the internal manifestation of the moisture: a flat or negative grade; a walk, porch, stoop or driveway directing water against the foundation; roof water accumulating at the base of a downspout because it is not carried away by a splash block and sloping grade; a gutter that needs cleaning, etc. Make any necessary repairs so the soil will dry up. Efflorescence is easily brushed off with a stiff brush.

Home repair: Rust around tub drain can be repaired

Q. I read your article about IKO and BP shingles. I have 40-year BP shingles that started failing in seven years. They have now been on my roof 10 years, and they look all dried and chewed up. The grains are filling my eaves troughs, and I have fought with BP of Canada for over a year. The company has us jumping through hoops with pictures and paperwork, only to be denied three times. The town building inspector has inspected and passed it.

BP is telling me I don't have proper ventilation. To meet the conditions of its warranty, the roof must leak and follow national codes concerning ventilation. You said in your article that you didn't bother to file a claim, probably because you lost out only on the shingles, doing the labor yourself, but that doesn't matter. I paid $11,000 for my roof, and my roof is a mess. No one from the company has come to inspect the roof.

Had I known this before about this brand of shingles, I would not have them on my roof.

A. I am sorry about your experience; it's very disconcerting. We had BP shingles installed on our roof two years ago to replace the 25-year IKO shingles that failed in 14 years. Previously, our 25-year Bird shingles failed in eight years, and we had a tough time getting that company to pay what still came to an inappropriate amount before it filed for bankruptcy.

We didn't bother to file a claim against IKO because it seemed futile -- and not because I installed the roof myself, which I didn't. I had just finished testifying as an expert witness in a case against IKO in which the company fought tooth and nails not to honor its warranty on 35-year shingles that failed in half the time. I was not interested in going through that hassle, and I believe that is what some manufacturers hope to achieve by discouraging people from persevering. Blaming ventilation is another one of their tricks.

I am not clear about your statement that the town building inspector inspected your roof and passed it. Does this mean that he or she thought the roof was functional and not failing? If so, I can understand why BP is giving you a hard time; the inspector's comments are helping BP.

I chose BP shingles because my contractor told me he had not had any problems with them, whereas he had had many problems with IKO shingles, which are flooding the market.

My further investigation indicates that organic shingles (felt mats instead of fiberglass) made by North American shingle manufacturers have a history of failure. It appears as if BP and IKO fiberglass shingles (as opposed to organic), both made in Canada, have not shown the same propensity to problems. I understand that neither of these manufacturers is now making organic shingles.

Hopefully, since our shingles are fiberglass, they will last longer, and that is probably why our contractor has had no complaints with BP shingles.

Roof shingle warranties are all very poor. There are so many limitations, and the warranties do not include removal and labor to replace them.

If you are successful in your claim, the company gives you only a prorated amount, depending on how old the shingles are.

• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at henridemarne@gmavt.net. His book, "About the House," is available at www.upperaccess.com and in bookstores.

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