Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Questions and Answers

In Q&A on February 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm

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I have heard of paint that helps insulate your home. I am interested in using them on the interior of my house, especially in the bedroom, which sits over a garage and the lower basement level. Do they really work?

According to the Journal of Light Construction the effectiveness of the paint will be reduced by dust and have no benefit on walls covered by pictures, bookshelves or furniture.

Keep in mind, almost all heat loss occurs not through radiation, but due to leakage and conduction, which is reduced by caulking, weather-stripping, filling gaps and insulating.

You would be better off adding more insulation to the garage ceiling and walls, as well as the lower level walls.

We’ve got older aluminum windows. Short of replacing them all, what’s the best way to minimize heat loss? We put up shrink window film, but found that after it was on there all winter, the adhesive from the two-sided tape used to secure the film at the perimeters was difficult to remove and takes most of the paint off with it. It looks terrible plus it ruins wallpaper. This makes for very unsightly window perimeters after just one use of the film. What about putting the plastic sheeting directly on the aluminum frames?

Obviously, you cannot afford to replace the windows, but don’t put shrink-wrap film directly on the windows it will not provide any dead-air space. An inexpensive suggestion, install enamel-painted trim spacers (3/4” x 3/4”) and then attach the tape to the trim. Better yet, cut light plexi-glass storm windows and caulk them to the new trim with 3M removable caulk.

I read your column about using vinegar to clean a showerhead connection and I hoped it would solve my problem. I tried putting the vinegar in the showerhead base and kept it there for a while. I think some rust may have gone down the pipe because now when I turn on the tub faucet, slightly rusted water initially comes out. Is this a permanent thing? Have I messed up my pipes? Are my pipes old and need replacing?

The vinegar did what it was suppose to do, loosen the minerals so the water flows better. The rust may also be because you were banging on the pipes and knocked corrosion loose. Remove the aerators on the faucets so they don’t get obstructed and yes; expect to need to replace your old, rusting galvanized plumbing in the very near future.

My windows are ruined.  There is “fog” between the glass panes. Can it be repaired or do I have to replace them?


Until recently your only choice was no choice but to replace them. The good news is that for the most part, bad seals are an aesthetic problem and had no minimum effect on the insulating quality of your windows.

More good news, R&R Window Repair (734-326-2657) has the local franchise that can actually get the fog out. They install a patented micro defogger that allows the vapor to vent out. The costs vary but expect to pay a minimum of $80.00 per window. There is a 20-year warranty and it’s worth looking into. Check out their website at http://www.getthefogout.com.  Don’t wait too long once you get streaking, spotting or small white dots between the panes, the windows cannot be restored.

We recently moved into a 17-year-old house, but new to us. After we use of the showers we notice a vinegar-type odor around the shower area (it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the odor is emanating from). The odor is only noticeable after the shower is used. We are stumped as to what might be causing the odor. Any ideas?

The odor may be emanating from the showerhead. The previous owners may have soaked it in vinegar to get rid of minerals restricting the flow of water. They also might have used it on the tiles since vinegar makes a good glass cleaner. Don’t worry, the odor should pass.


New Product: Bissell Lift-Off Deep Cleaner / Tiling Over an Existing Ceramic Tile Floor / Chimney Leak

In New Products, Q&A on February 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm

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Bissell Lift-Off ®Deep Cleaner

 People have often told me to “suck it up”, and I finally did today, with Bissell’s new Lift-Off® deep cleaner (Model #94Y2) for carpeting, upholstery and spot removing.

I thought that my light-colored area rugs didn’t look that dirty until I used Bissell’s new machine. It really lifted out deep down dirt and made them look clean and new once again. I was amazed at how much dirt was in the carpets.

According to the Bissell fact sheet, carpeting can hold up to as much as a pound of dirt per square foot before you even notice. With an average living room of 250-square feet, could mean up to 250 pounds of dirt living in your carpet. Bissell’s Lift-Off® Deep Cleaner helps you tackle and eliminate that dirt, leaving your carpet really clean while extending its life.

Bissell’s advanced cleaning formula (recommended) works deep into the carpet fibers while the dual dirt-lifter rotating brushes loosen up the ground-in dirt and lift it up with its powerful suction.

I especially liked the portable spot cleaner that detaches from the machine with ease. If you feel like you’re getting two machines in one with this Bissell model, it’s because you are. It comes with a five-foot flexible hose and cleaning tools that work great for hard-to reach places such as stairs, small spills and even pet stains.  I have tried other home carpet cleaners, but the stairs have always been difficult to access and clean thoroughly. The detachable, portable cleaner made it effortlessly to thoroughly clean the stairs. It is also great for cleaning furniture upholstery or even your cars interior. This portable unit really does the work for you.

Make sure you check the labels on your furniture for recommended cleaning as well as carpet manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning certain types of carpeting. Some carpeting (such as wool) cannot be cleaned with rotating brushes.

There is one suggestion I would recommend to the company that could improve the Bissell Lift-Off® carpet cleaner. To install a “low-solution” light or warning when the solvent starts to run low. I ran out of solution part way through a room and had to refill the container and re-do that part of the room again.

The Bissell Lift-Off® was easy to assemble (four screws and it was ready to use). The suggested retail price for this incredible machine is $259.99 and is available at Target, Wal-Mart, Kohls and Bed Bath and Beyond. If you want to find out more information about the Bissell Lift-Off Deep Cleaner® check out their website at www.bissell.com.


I read an article you had written about putting ceramic tile over ceramic tile. I wanted to know what to use and what to do to prep the floor. It’s in a bathroom and I’d rather not bust it up.


First, make sure the existing tiles are secure and well bonded to the sub- floor.

It’s best to remove the toilet and any floor mounted fixtures. Thoroughly clean the existing tile of all dirt, soap scum, wax, etc. Scuff up the tile using a carborundum disk or 80-grit sandpaper then clean, rinse and let dry.

Apply and level the old floor with a coat of thin-set adhesive then apply your new tiles. Try not to install the new grout lines directly over the old.


I have a chimney that has water dripping down the side of the inside the chimney. I called a chimney company and they caulked the chimney flashing, patched holes in some brick and redid the wash on the chimney top. The next day the water was still dripping. They re-caulked the side window that butted up against the chimney, but water still comes in. Any suggestions?


I suspect the wash may not be properly installed or pitched away from the flue. If it is not thick enough (minimum of 2-iches) it may already have re-cracked. Also, do you have a spark-arresting screen on top of the flue that is topped with a metal hood to keep water from doing exactly what it is doing?


Please pass along my blog to all your family and friends ~ I’d really appreciate it!

In Fall & Winter, Q&A on February 7, 2012 at 10:25 am

How come when it gets cold outside and I turn on my heat, my wood floors separate?

The house needs humidity and the wood is drying out. So you need a humidifier and one that’s properly sized for the square footage of your house

It should have a humidistat to control the humidity level. For example, if you’re getting dry, itchy throats you’ll want to, and need to, turn the humidistat up. If you start getting ice on the windows, you’ll need to turn the setting down. The relative humidity in your house is dependant on numerous variables that are always changing. For example:

•    How many people are living in the house?
•    How often and how much is laundry done?
•    Is the dryer properly vented?
•    How much cooking do you do and how often do you cook?
•    What is the temperature in the house, as well as, the outdoor temperature?
•    The type of heat?
•    Amount of insulation?
•    Whether the house is properly caulked, etc.

To people that say, “Oh humidifiers never work”, I’d say, “They are all wet”, but actually it’s just the opposite.

Have you ever heard of people having flies in their house all winter? How do you prevent this?


You find them around all the windows especially on the south side of the house. This is “no fly in the ointment”. You’re experiencing cluster flies, which are slightly larger than common household flies. Your house is the flies’ winter home. They enter via cracks in siding, loose-fitting screens, un-caulked trim, wherever. They search out dark wall voids and attics and just “party all the time”. They become attracted to light and migrate into living areas through window casings and wall openings.

The Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Service Bulletin on cluster flies suggests spraying pesticide containing DVVP (also called Vapona) over areas the flies would pass over: electrical outlets, window pulleys, cold air returns, and in the attic. The bulletin reports it’s best to try to prevent their entry, because once they are inside, they’re difficult to eliminate. That bulletin by the way made a great fly swatter!

I constantly have a banging sound in my steam heat. It seems common, but is normal and can it be fixed?

The steam condensing in the radiator usually causes banging steam pipes. The condensation, slight as it may be, is causing a blockage; making the banging noise you’re experiencing. Now that you’ll find out how easy it is to correct, you’re the one who’ll be banging your head.

Unscrew and remove the air vent from the side of the radiator and put a small pail or pan under that opening. After you’ve done that, turn up the thermostat so the boiler kicks in. After a short while you’ll hear hissing noises from the opening followed by spurts of water. Then you’ll see steam pouring out the vent opening. Next, turn off the radiator at the valve on the bottom of the other side of the radiator and screw in the air vent, turn back the thermostat, and enjoy the peace and quiet.

If you think the air vent is dirty or obstructed, put it in a glass of vinegar for a while to clean out the minerals.


How do you clean dirty grout between those ceramic tiles?

If you couldn’t clean the grout suing any of the zillions of new grout cleaning products and a stiff scrub brush, then it’s time to re-grout.

Inexpensive grout saws can be purchased for a few dollars at home, hardware and tile stores. The saw is carefully dragged back and forth over the stained grout until you’ve dug it out enough to apply new grout between those tiles. Grout can be purchased ready-mixed or the type you mix with water. A rubber blade is used to force the grout between the tiles and then using soft rags immediately wipe off the excess. When dry, seal with a silicone grout sealer. To keep it looking new, rope off the bathroom and never use it again.

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