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For this, you’ll need an expert

Question: My husband and I are selling our home, and the buyer is requesting the removal of the oil tank in our basement. We switched to gas a few years ago. Do you have any advice for how we should go about having the tank removed? The oil was siphoned out when we switched to gas, but I don’t know if it is 100 percent clean and dry. In other words, I don’t know if it would be a big mess if we call a scrap metal guy to come cut it up.

Answer: The solution is much easier than if the tank were one of those buried in the yard, because all sorts of environmental regulations kick in, and for good reason, since having fuel oil leaking into the groundwater is very bad.

In your case, you should contact the nearest company that deals in removing basement tanks. The company will ensure that all the sludge is cleanly and safely removed before the tank is sliced up, and will carefully dispose of any remaining fuel and the tank as well. By the way, since the landscape is shifting to a seller’s market, and the removal of the tank is something that the buyer wants, talk to your agent about splitting the cost.

Question: We have an entire wall in our family room made with what has been described to us as “old bricks.” Unfortunately, the bricks around the fireplace have darkened, from soot, I assume. Can you suggest the best way to clean them, other than using some caustic chemical? We want to have a new mantel and bookcases built on that wall and don’t want to mar the new look with a dirty portion.

Answer: I used straight white vinegar and a scrub brush on the inside of my fireplace and it lightened the bricks up considerably. I only had time to do it once, since the gas insert people arrived early. Repeated applications could solve the problem. You should give it a try, but make sure you wear gloves and a mask and open the windows, and cover everything else before you start.

Questions? Email Alan J. Heavens at aheavensphillynews.com or write him at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101.

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