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Do It Yourself: Driveway cracks can be repaired without much fuss

Q. There are several cracks about 1/8-inch wide in my concrete driveway. Is there any way to repair these permanently and avoid getting a whole new driveway?

A. Small cracks in concrete aren’t difficult to repair, but the repairs might not be permanent and there is no guarantee that the cracks won’t get larger or that new ones won’t appear. Still, a few cracks are not reason to replace an entire driveway.

The simplest way to repair cracks up to about 1/2-inch wide is to use a patching compound that is injected with a caulking gun. Caulk-type concrete patch is sold at most home centers and hardware stores and on the Internet (search for Caulk-Type Patching Compound for Concrete).

Many brands and several types of compounds are sold. One that I have used with good results is made by Quikrete, manufacturer of many types of concrete products. This is an acrylic-latex formula that cleans up with water and dries quickly; it also contains some sand, which gives it a texture that matches well with concrete.

An ordinary caulking gun is used to apply the patch. You can also buy smaller, toothpaste-type tubes to patch a couple of minor cracks.

The patching procedure for most caulks is similar, although specific directions on the container should always be followed.

Clean the crack to remove dirt and dust; an old paint brush is a good cleaning tool. If the crack is deep, fill it to within about 3/8 inch of the surface with sand or foam plastic rope. Push the caulking gun instead of pulling it to drive the caulk deeper into the crack. Smooth the surface immediately with a putty knife and clean up excess with a damp rag.

Check the driveway regularly to see if the cracks have widened or lengthened or if new cracks have appeared. Quick repairs are important to keep damaging water out of the cracks.

Q. The ceramic tiles in our kitchen floor have tilted upward along the front of the sink. The tiles and grout are still OK. The house is built on a slab. What could be causing this?

A. My guess is that some water from the sink has worked its way under the tiles and has caused some swelling. This is especially likely if an underlayment or backing material was used and it is not completely waterproof.

The water could have come from a slow leak in the plumbing under the sink, from splashes or from wet mopping. It is also possible that the tiles were installed too close to the sink base; some experts recommend a gap of about 1/4-inch between the last row of tiles and a vertical surface like a wall, bathtub or sink-cabinet base. The gap allows the tiles to expand with temperature changes and is sometimes concealed by molding.

Repairing this will probably mean removing the last row of tiles and possibly cutting them to a smaller size. Your best bet is to call an experienced tile installer.

Q. I have been trying to change the front wheels on a self-propelled lawnmower but have been unable to budge the nuts that hold the old wheels in place. I use an adjustable wrench. There appears to be some rusting around the nuts. How can I get these things off without ruining the axles?

A. An adjustable wrench is not the best tool to remove tight nuts. A socket wrench with a long handle is much better.

But if the adjustable wrench is all you have, try squirting the nuts with penetrating oil such as Liquid Wrench. Rap the nut a few times with your wrench handle after applying the oil. Wait several hours and repeat the process before trying to remove the nuts again.

If the nuts still won’t budge, put the end of a small chisel against the nut and whack the chisel sharply with a hammer; the impact might loosen it.

Some mechanics use heat to help free tight nuts, but I don’t think this is safe with a mower containing gasoline. If you want to try the heat method, run the mower completely out of gas to empty the tank and carburetor. Then use a gun-type hair dryer to heat the nuts and try again to remove them.

If you still strike out, buy or borrow a socket that will fit the nuts and attach the longest handle you can find. If the nuts still won’t yield, extend the length of the wrench handle with a piece of pipe about a foot long. Turning the socket with the extended handle should give you enough leverage to break loose any stubborn nut.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.