In Flooring, HVAC, Plumbing, Q&A on March 2, 2012 at 10:37 am

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We have a stuck diverter tub/shower valve. Do you know of a solution that would free up the valve that doesn’t have a lot of “don’ts”?


If your diverter is in the wall, turn off the water and stop up the drain so you don’t lose anything.

Remove the cap that conceals the handle screw. Next, remove the screw and then pry off the handle. Use a wrench to remove the packing nut. You are now ready to remove the stem. Put the handle back on the end of the stem and turn it counter clockwise. When it’s out, replace the washer. Put plumbers grease on the threaded end of the stem and replace the stem. You may need to replace the inexpensive packing and packing washer (hardware and home centers).

The other type of diverter is the type that has a knob on the top of the spout that you lift. Usually the entire spout will need replacing. That is done by sticking the handle of an old screwdriver or hammer into the spout and turning it counter clockwise. You will be removing it from the pipe coming out of the wall. When you replace it, use Teflon pipe seal on the pipe and hand tighten the new spout. (See, no “don’ts”).

I have a tile bathroom floor that has a small area in the floor that has a grating noise when walked upon. Nothing seems loose, and the grout is intact. The only visible evidence is a few short hairline cracks along the grout tile interface. I had planned to install larger tiles over the existing ones and thought that the larger tiles would span the loose tiles and minimize the problem. Do you think I can avoid removing any loose tiles although I can’t feel any? I guess that the alternate would be to remove any loose tiles I can find and use a leveling compound?

You can tile over existing tile, but if they are as loose as yours appear to be, forget about it. The problem will get worse and the new tile floor will crack and also become loose. In your case, I’d remove the old floor and start from scratch. You may even find your sub-floor is delaminating.

My house was built in the 1950’s and my gas bills are extremely high. I already added insulation in the 1980’s and I turn down my thermostat at night. What’s next?

If the last time you added insulation to your attic was back in the 1980’s, you only have about R-19. That’s not even minimum by today’s standards. You need to add a lot more to bring your R-value up to R-60. R-value is how we measure insulation’s Resistance to heat and cold.

You should also install insulation in your basement at the top of all block or poured concrete walls between the joists. There you can use R-19 insulation.

In addition, you can reduce your gas bills by turning down the hot water tank to 120 degrees and by frequently replacing your furnace air filter.

The furnace that heats the radiators in our home is now 35-years old. Is it time to replace it to gain savings on heating bills? I read your column all the time, but on this issue you always discuss forced air furnaces as opposed to steam heat.

You don’t have a furnace you have a boiler. That’s important since many HVAC companies only work on furnaces. Heating and Plumbing contractors work with boilers.

Yes, you’ll save some energy by replacing the boiler, but will you save enough money to offset the 2-3000 dollar cost of the new boiler? How much are your gas bills? Do you have enough insulation? How good are your windows? Caulking? How long are you planning on staying in the house?

Do the inexpensive things first as well as the math.


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