Home fix-up

Q Our home is heated with 240-volt, 3,000-watt, wall-mounted radiant heaters which were made in 1958. Since that time several panels have broken, but the manufacturer has discontinued production. Do you know of a source for replacement parts? Alfred H. Zeidler Manchaca, Texas In looking through my many catalogs, the only manufacturer I have come up with is the Zell-Aire Corporation in Reading, Pa. The phone number is: (215) 376-5401.

Although the largest Zell-Aire unit is only 1,500 watts, rated at 5,121 Btu, the firm may be able to tell you its source for the glass panels and whether or not it can match your size. It's worth a try, at least. Q Because the six-foot-high concrete steps of our house have progressively moved away from the building, it became necessary to demolish them. As I plan to replace the steps, one contractor says I should attach them securely to the house, while another feels the steps should be independent of the house. What do you say? Frank Mango Los Angeles

I would definitely go with the latter suggestion and keep the steps independent of the house. Your house has already settled and any new structure is going to settle as well. Anything as heavy as a six-foot-high concrete stairway will pull at the dwelling and could cause some damage. Make sure the footings of the new structure are designed properly for the soil-bearing capacity. Q We will be building our own home next year and plan to use solar roof panels for heating the water. Can you recommend a few companies in the West so that we can check out their units for both efficiency and price? Robert N. McCauley Mount Vernon, Wash.

There is a vast array of information on solar water heaters as well as a long list of products on the market shelf.

The State of California, in fact, has a toll-free hot line on the subject at 1-800-952-5670. You may also write to the National Solar Information Center, PO Box 1607, Rockville, Md. 20850; the Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20401; the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20410; and the Solar Energy Association, PO Box 1284, Alamosa, Colo. 81101.

Rather than give you a long list of manufacturers, I suggest you first seek general information from some of the above-named sources, plus a book or two from your local public library or bookstore.

Then seek out the manufacturers whose systems are efficient, simple, and proven. You want to make sure the company will be around to provide service when you need it, as well as stand behind its warranty in the years to come.

To the real estate editor:

In response to the inquiry of Nancy Mack about removing paint from a brick fireplace, I agree that it is difficult, but would like to say that I have accomplished it quite successfully. Our fireplace also was painted white. I used Peel Away, a recent product by the Dumond Chemicals division of Brand Name Testing Inc., Glen Head, N.Y. 11545. The product was recommended by a local hardware store.

It's a lot of hard work, and fairly expensive, but I consider the results worth it. I did a small area at a time over a period of several weeks.

I would never try it on the outside of the chimney. When it became apparent that our chimney brick would not withstand sandblasting, we had the chimney stuccoed to match the rest of the exterior. Barbara Moon Sacramento, Calif.

If you have a question about designing, improving, or maintaining your home, send it to the real estate editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Richard A. Kent is a practicing architect and general contractor in southern California.

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