Q: I noticed recently that the sink in our guest bathroom has cracked. It was installed in 1990 when we built our house. What would cause this happen after all these years? There are no children in the house to stand or jump on the sink.
—Kathleen Steffen, Valley Center, Calif.

A: Richard Trethewey replies: Porcelain is a fairly brittle material; you don't need a rambunctious kid to break it. All it takes is a dropped jar of hand cream, or a blow to the countertop, or a sudden extreme temperature change from pouring scalding water into a cold sink; any of these could easily cause the crack. It might not show up immediately, either, but repeated exposure to the stresses of cold and hot water and a buildup of dirt will eventually enlarge and darken it to the point that it becomes noticeable.

This isn't an immediate problem, unless the sink is actually leaking, but cracked porcelain can't really be fixed, either. Replacing it will be easy, so I'd be inclined to get it out of there now. While you're at it, replace the faucet and both its water-supply tubes and the stop or shutoff valves under the sink. If they're as old as the sink, they're all ready for retirement.
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