Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Drafty Storm Windows … Getting Your Snow Blower Ready for the Season … Fixing Cold Floors Over Crawl Spaces

In Q&A, Winter Tips For Your Home on November 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm

My storm windows are a little drafty can they be caulked all around them?

Surprisingly storm windows, whether they are wood, metal or vinyl should never be caulked around or sealed along the bottom edge. According to some sources the primary purpose of storm windows is to protect the interior sash and frames from wind and foul weather. They also obviously reduce air infiltration, regardless sealing the bottom edge of a storm window can trap moisture between the interior window and the storm window, the trapped moisture will cause condensation problems even mold and eventually rot. When I’m inspecting a house for a perspective purchaser I find a lot of that deterioration.

The sill is especially prone to rot, so be sure rainwater can run off the sill either through weep-holes or a small gap at the bottom of the storm sash. Most aluminum and vinyl combination screen/storm windows have weep gaps built in on the bottom sash to let water out, so make sure they are not clogged or caulked closed.

I want to get my snow blower ready for the season. I used up most of the fuel last year. Do you think it’s ready?
Not a chance. As a matter of fact if you haven’t prepped your snow blower here are a couple of tips in addition to what you may have done.

Drain any leftover fuel from the tank and replace it with a fresh supply. Old fuel can turn gummy and really screw up the engine. Change the engine oil in four-cycle engines (two-cycle engines use a gas and oil mixture). Consult your operator’s manual for the recommended weight. If you have a two-cycle engine, you may need to make minor carburetor adjustments. Again, consult your operator’s manual. Also install a new spark plug and keep the old sparkplug as a spare after you’ve cleaned it. You better inspect the belts. If they show signs of cracking or thinning, buy and install new ones. If your snow thrower is a chain-driven type, get a spare master link for the chain. Also, lubricate the chain for smoother operation. Buy extra shear pins/bolts. If you hit a rock chances are you’ll have to replace a broken pin. One year I broke four shear pins. Replace the fuel filter and air filter or if they’re washable, wash them.  Then put a couple drops of oil on the air filter and then squeeze it out. Apply a wax to the auger and on the inside of the discharge chute to prevent snow from sticking. If you don’t have any wax use a silicone spray or even Pam cooking spray.

I read your column in the Observer and have a question hopefully you can help us with. We have a crawlspace under our 30-year old addition of our house. We redid our family room in the addition two years ago and installed hardwood floors instead of carpet and now the floors are cold in the winter. Can you recommend a way to fix this problem?

Is the crawlspace insulated? If so, how much? I would install at least R-19 insulation to the three perimeter exterior walls. Is there any ductwork in the crawl and if so are the ducts insulated as well? The ductwork as well as any plumbing should be insulated. The pipes, so they don’t freeze or drip condensation, and the ducts so any heat or air conditioning can get into your family room. Make sure the ductwork has not fallen or become loose. You should also have a vapor barrier on top of a dirt floor. The plastic should completely cover the ground in the crawl, overlap each section of plastic and tape it to the adjoining plastic. If you have vents in the perimeter walls, they should be closed in the fall and open in the spring. Now your tootsies should stay toasty.


Questions & Answers

In Q&A on November 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Q: We recently sold a family members house that had an 80-percent efficiency furnace. The purchaser hired a home inspector and everything passed with no problems. I was told later that there was no flue liner in the chimney and that it was a new code to have one.

A: You need to check with the furnace manufacturer. Most require the chimney be relined. But there are caveats. If the chimney is in the middle of the house, it may not be as critical to reline. Chimneys on outside walls are colder and contribute to greater downdrafts. Another consideration is the local code enforcement officer. They have the final say on whether it is needed. To summarize, most need relining, which prevents downdrafts and condensation from accumulating in the colder chimney. Relining helps eliminate carbon monoxide problems. As you can see it is almost always required.

Q: In the past you have stated to install ice shields to eliminate ice dams. What did you mean by installing them minimally 6-feet past the exterior wall? What about 6-feet from the eave edges of the roof (with a 2-foot wide soffit) making it 4-feet past the exterior wall? What width do ice shields come in?

A: I always would want the ice shields all the way up any and all valleys. I know many people who installed 6-feet of ice shields past the exterior walls and still had ice damage to the interior. By the way, that included my house and for that reason I installed the ice shields back up 12 feet. I also ran them all the way up all valleys and around all skylights. Don’t take the chance and try to save a few bucks, it may be short sighted. Finally, ice shields come in 3-foot wide rolls.

Q: I want to install an exhaust fan in my bathroom. What brand do you suggest?

A: The brand is not as important as size. There are several criteria you should follow. You need to know about the amount of cubic feet in the area so you know how much volume of air to move around. To determine, measure height times the length times the width of the bathroom and it will equal cubic feet. You’ll want a fan that has a capacity to change the air a minimum of 8 times per hour. Multiply the cubic feet by 8, which gives you the cubic feet per hour. Divide that by 60 minutes to get your cubic feet per minute (CFM). All fans are stamped with that number. Also, get a fan with the lowest “sone”. The lower the sone number, the quieter the fan. Finally, vent the exhaust fan to the exterior and not into the attic.

Q: My Birmingham condo’s basement floor is covered with cement dust that seems impossible to clean up. The building supervisor said to clean it with muriatic acid. After reading the label it sounds like I should not be using this product in a basement with only one small window for ventilation. Should this be the builder’s responsibility to clean this up or mine?

A: I agree with you. It should be the builder’s responsibility. Dusting on the surface of concrete is called “laitance” and too much water in the concrete or premature finishing causes it. The water that rises to the surface in newly placed concrete should disappear prior to troweling. Whoever ends up doing it should know that the dust could be removed with a 5 percent solution of muriatic acid. Indoors, use Trisodium Phosphate (TSP). Wear gloves and goggles and thoroughly rinse with clean water. Let the floor dry and apply a concrete sealer. Make sure the sealer can be used indoors and is safe around the furnace and hot water tank.

Power Flo-Pro Paint Sprayer

In New Products on November 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm

HomeRight’s®Power Flo-Pro Paint Sprayer

Friends and readers who know me, understand my aversion to painting.

Painting to me is very tedious work if done properly. I don’t like hard work, don’t enjoy tedious and get bored easily so I’ve never been a fan of painting.

But now I can paint the town red using the new HomeRights® Power-Flo-Pro® paint sprayer and actually enjoy painting!

The Power-Flo-Pro® is a professional-grade tool priced for homeowners. It has a suggested retail price of $249.00. While that may seem pricey, it’s not. The Power –Flo-Pro® draws the paint directly from one or five-gallon paint cans and can apply those five gallons in as little as twenty minutes. According to the manufacturer, it can spray 2000 square feet in about thirty minutes.

It can do it because it has a professional quality, ½-HP piston pump airless sprayer that produces 2,800 PSI of spraying pressure. In English, that means it can handle even the thickest exterior paint.

Another feature I liked about the portable sprayer is the convenient carrying handle. The Power Pro-Flo® only weighs 19-pounds but works like a heavyweight. It comes with a 25-foot hose and is easy to maneuver. The HomeRight® Power-Flo-Pro (model #C800764) is also great for staining decks.

The other thing I didn’t like about painting was the clean up. With this unit, clean up is incredibly easy. You place the tip in a bucket of water and turn on the sprayer and in a few minutes, the water will start spraying clean. Just wipe everything off and you’re done.

The Power-Flo-Pro® is available at www.homeright.com, http://www.homedepot.com and http://www.amazon.com.

How come it always seems my walls need some touch-up painting but when I go to find the “saved” paint it’s always dried up and worthless?

The way I see it, if your house doesn’t need any painting touch-ups then it was just painted within the last three days.

I think we all know we should save extra paint for those inevitable nicks and scratches. So the next time you paint, save the extra paint, in one, or better yet, all of the following ways:
•    Save some paint in an old, empty nail polish bottle. Clean the bottle thoroughly with nail polish remover, and then with soap and water. Allow the bottles to dry and then pour extra paint in them. Label the bottles as to which room they are for and whether they’re for walls or woodwork.
•    I found saving extra paint in pickling jars (and labeling) them also prolongs the life of the paint.
•    You can, of course, leave the paint in the original can, but if it’s latex paint, don’t store it in the garage or shed where it will freeze and ruin.
•    If you leave the paint in the original can, you can buy plastic “paint savers” for around a dollar at your paint store.
•    You can also make sure the lid is on securely and store the paint can upside down. It lasts longer.

The Importance of Having Smoke Detectors (Part 2)

In Smoke/CO Detectors on November 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Dear Readers,

A good friend of mine, Lt. Chuck Riesterer, recently sent the following letter to me.

Chuck is a Lieutenant with the Troy Fire Department. I am asking you all to read it because what Chuck is saying. This could indeed save your life or the lives of your family.

Lon ~

Dear Lon,

It’s not just the fact of having a smoke alarm in your home, the device has to work.  And, it is just a part of the overall plan to keep you and your family safe.  Other factors in the plan include:

  • Testing the device regularly (to ensure operation, and to orient us with the sound so we know what to do when we hear it).
  • Having a plan to escape (two ways out of every room).
  • Having a meeting place (sidewalk, tree, mailbox, etc).
  • Knowing not to re-enter until advised by the FD it is safe.
  • Calling 9-1-1 from outside the home.

There is a concern in this nation that people (kids) do not respond as well as adults to smoke alarms.  I think it is due to conditioning.  They are not well-practiced with the sound of the device.  Ask any first, third or fifth grader what they do when:

  • They hear the doorbell (answer the door).
  • They hear their cell phone ring (answer the phone).
  • They hear the microwave beep (food is ready).

They have been conditioned for this sound until it becomes second nature.  Why don’t we do this with smoke alarms?  A majority of people hear the fire alarm at work and do not vacate because:

  • It’s just a false alarm.
  • There is no plan, they’re not sure what the plan is, or they don’t know what to do.
  • And for some they don’t know what the noise is.

These are dangerous habits to develop. Over 80 percent of those that die in fires, NEVER SEE THE FIRE!  People are overcome by smoke and its by-products long before they see the flames.  The general populace is under the mistaken idea that they have minutes to escape, when in reality, they may only have seconds.  Early warning is the key!  Early warning coupled with a plan will give you a BIG advantage.

It only takes a couple of minutes to plan the correct action, and less than a couple of minutes to practice the plan.  That couple of minutes, at least once a month, may be all you need to save your life.  Install and TEST your smoke alarms regularly. Have a meeting place.  Practice your fire drills regularly. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER ignore the smoke alarm.

This past weekend we changed our clocks for daylight savings time.  Maybe we can remind folks that when they change their clocks, they could change the batteries in their smoke alarms.  The majority of homes in this country have smoke alarms.  But when was the last time you tested yours? Smoke alarms are good for an average of 10 years.  Then they need to be replaced.  Standard battery-operated smoke alarms should have their batteries replaced annually. Now is a great time to take care of that.  If you don’t know when it was replaced, replace it.  Install a working smoke alarm (one that has been tested/listed by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Factory Mutual (FM), or Electrical Testing Labs (ETL).  Then plan a drill and test the device.  It’s only a few minutes out of your time. Time well spent for those you love.

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