Q: What is a GFCI electrical outlet? Are outlets of this type required in all homes, and if so, where? –Allen D.

A: GFCI stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter. A GFCI outlet reacts much more quickly to the presence of an electrical short circuit than a standard circuit breaker does, so they provide additional protection against the possibility of injury should an appliance, tool or other electrical device malfunction.

The electrical codes throughout the country require the use of GFCI outlets adjacent to any sink in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or similar area; for garages and exterior outlets; and in certain other specific areas such around whirlpool bathtubs. You can check with your local building department for a complete list of GFCI requirements.

GFCI outlets are easily recognizable by the "test" and "reset" buttons located on the face of the outlet, and they should be regularly tested in order to confirm that they are operating correctly. To perform the test, simply plug a circuit tester into the outlet and press the outlet’s test button — the light on the tester should go out. Press reset, and the light will come back on. You can also plug in an electrical device such as a radio or a lamp and test the outlet that way, but a plug-in circuit tester — available inexpensively at any home center or electrical supply retailer — will also confirm that the outlet is properly wired and grounded.

Q: I live in an old house that was built in 1907. I want the garage to have a patio door to be able to see and go out to the backyard garden. I need to cut part of the foundation to do this. Is it OK to cut the foundation? Is this safe? –Midori C.

A: A foundation consists of two parts. The footing, which is wider than it is high, is the lowest part of the foundation and is intended to distribute and transfer the weight of the building evenly over the ground. On top of that is the stem wall, which is higher than it is wide and is used to raise the structure above the surrounding grade. In most cases it is OK to cut into the foundation stem walls in order to install a new door, provided that the footing is not cut. You would want to use a licensed concrete-cutting contractor to do the work, and he or she can determine if there are any other circumstances at your particular home that would prevent them from making the cut.

Q: Can all types of paint be tinted? Also, how much do they usually charge to add the tint? –Jim D.

A: Virtually all paints and primers can be tinted at your local paint store, although there are some types of paint that are pre-colored at the factory and can’t be tinted. When you select a color from a paint chip, the store will begin with the appropriate white tint base, and add tinting colors as needed to get to the right color. If you want a primer tinted to go with that paint color, they will typically tint it to about half the shade of the finished color.

If you have a specific color that you want to match, any good paint store will custom blend the paint to match whatever sample you bring in. And while home centers are fine for mixing a paint to match one of the color chips for the product lines they sell, I have found that it takes the experience and keen eye of the people in a paint store to do very accurate paint and stain color matches.

As to cost, if you are buying the paint from that store there should be no charge for tinting. If you bring in your own paint and want to have it tinted, or if you have a particularly difficult color match, the store may charge you a small hourly fee.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


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