Last updated: March 09. 2013 12:20AM - 1499 Views

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Q: I am redoing my kitchen. I have lovely delft tiles I installed as a backsplash in 1981. I am now moving everything from one side of the room to another and want to reuse the tiles.

Do you have any ideas how to do it, and maybe even a reference for someone who has had success with it?

I have asked some of the architectural salvage places — where you find old tiles from time to time — and no one has ideas.

Do you think it is possible to remove them without breaking them? I understand some may break, but I’d like to get most of them off. They were expensive then and even more so now.

A: Removing tiles from a wall successfully seems to depend on the wall and on the adhesive used. For example, it has been my experience that tiles on plaster walls that were installed after the plaster cured are much easier to salvage than those stuck to drywall.

The worst luck I’ve had is with wet-bed installations — tiles embedded in wet concrete. It is virtually impossible and incredibly labor-intensive to do so.

Delft tiles continue to be made and sold. You would be taking on more work than is warranted.


Q: Would you possibly have any suggestions for removing cat-urine smell from a painted concrete basement?

We have disinfected, scrubbed, hosed down and dried, all with three small windows open and fans blowing.

This basement has painted, pargeted stone walls, a painted concrete floor, and an unpainted and exposed floor-joist ceiling.

It appears clean as a whistle but is rank.

A: Concrete is porous, so cleaning the surface isn’t likely to solve the problem for very long with the methods you have described.

You also might try a commercial cleaner designed for such removal. They’re all over the Internet.

You’ll need to seal the floor once this is done, or maybe even go as far as coating the floor with a thin layer of concrete when you are finished.

If the odor persists, I highly recommend contacting a professional to tackle it. Real-estate agents typically recommend such action before putting a house on the market, and it is a good one.


It has been eons since I lived in a house with a septic tank, but I know some of you still do, and this is for you.

The Environmental Protection Agency has some tips on how to keep waste in its place and not let septic-system problems get out of hand:

Spread laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Consider fixing plumbing leaks and installing faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Too much water use at once can overload your system, particularly if it hasn’t been pumped in the past couple of years.

Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain, which can clog your system.

Homeowners should have their septic system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have their tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years. Regular inspection and pumping of a septic system can save homeowners from costly repairs. On average, it costs homeowners $250 to pump their septic system, while the price of replacing a conventional septic system is $5,000 to $10,000. When the holidays approach, consider having your tank inspected and pumped.

Ask guests to put in the toilet only things that belong there. Dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine-hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can clog and potentially damage septic systems.

Remind guests not to park or drive on your system’s drain field, because the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow, causing system backups and floods.

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