Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Ridding Attic Mold / Installing Glass Block Windows / How To Get Rid of Slab Ants

In Q&A on April 23, 2012 at 10:14 am

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How do we get rid of mold in the attic on the roof boards?  We have four roof vents. We had our carpeting cleaned and the house was full of steam, which rose to the attic and created the mold. How can we remove the mold?


Four roof vents do not sound like enough unless your house is very small. Additionally, you need soffit vents to work in conjunction with those roof vents. You need one free square foot of attic ventilation for every 150-feet of attic space. The ventilation should be divided between your roof vents and soffit vents.

If indeed the mold was caused by a single incident such as the carpet steam, it “may” not be a health hazard. The mold should be tested. You can call any home inspection company. Some do testing, but all should be able to refer you to an environmental testing company they know is reliable.

The type and the severity of the mold growth in the attic should determine your course of action.


I’m a senior citizen and own my own home. One of the ways I want to make my house safer is by installing glass block windows. Currently there are four approximately two-foot by one-foot windows. I’ve never opened them and doubt they even can be opened.

My son who lives over an hour away told me it’s illegal. He said I have to have at least one window that can open. He said it’s to get out in case of a fire. Is that true?


Yes and no. First, you probably could never get out that small window or even up to it if your life depended on it.

Regardless, that use to be code. In 2006 the code was altered. It is now permissible (read that as legal) to replace all unfinished basement windows with glass block windows unless there is a bathroom. The code also states that if the basement of the dwelling becomes finished, one egress window must be added.

Basements with a ceiling height less than 80-inches also are not required to have emergency escape and rescue windows.

The code also states basements without habitable spaces and having not more than 200 square feet of floor area shall also not be required to have emergency escape windows.

If an egress window is required, the bottom of the opening of the escape window must not be greater than 44-inches measured from the floor. The window opening needs to be a minimum of five square feet and open to a well equipped with steps or a ladder. Some of this applies to new construction. All of it applies to finished a basement.

Since a permit is required for escape windows as well as finishing a basement, the local inspector will make sure it’s done correctly.


We have a house with a slab and we are always finding small ants. Is there any environmentally sensitive pesticide that the ants can take back to their nest?


My recommendation includes Terro® “Liquid Ant Baits”, which is manufactured by the Senoret Chemical Company. That is part one of a two-step process.

Step #1:

The sticky chemicals main ingredient is Borax. It is about the safest poison that I know of that works. As a matter of fact, it is specifically made for killing sweet eating ants (your slab ants).

You place the Terro® Liquid Ant Baits where the ants are seen, then just sit back and wait a few days, the ants carry it back to their nests and within a couple of weeks your problem should be eliminated.

Step #2:

Most ant infestations are linked to a colony that is located underground. A good second line of defense is to spread Terro® Outdoor Ant Granules around the perimeter of your house.

From experience, I know this process will have to be repeated periodically. Terro® is available at hardware, garden and home centers.

You can go to www.terro.com for more information.


Michigan Map of Radon Zones / Shower Problem / Roofing Membranes / Getting Hot Water Faster / Water Softener Problem

In Q&A on April 10, 2012 at 10:44 am

To all my followers: Please pass along my blog address to all your friends and family. I’d appreciate it!

Where can I find a map/survey of local Southeast Michigan radon levels? Some areas are apt to be lower/higher than others based on local geography.


Go to www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap.html. The color-coded map divides Michigan into three-color zones. The zones are based on aerial radioactivity, soil, geology and existing indoor radon measurements.

Zone 1 counties have predicted indoor radon averages greater than 4 pci/L.

Zone 2 has predicted indoor screening levels between 2 and 4 pci/L.

Zone 3 is averaging less than 2 pci/L.

It is important to understand that thousands of homes in zones 2 and 3 have elevated radon levels and that all homes should be tested for radon.


We have a home built in 2002 that has Moen fixtures. The full bathroom with a shower/tub combination seldom gets used, but when we went to use it found out that the shower could not produce cold water (only hot) from the tub head. What could be causing this problem?

First, check the coldwater shut-off valve to make sure it is open. If you still have a problem there could possibly be a chunk of solder or minerals that may be obstructing the inside of the faucet cylinder. Turn off the water disassemble the faucet and check to make sure. Shut-offs should be in the basement on the line going to the tub. If not, check the access panel for the valves.


What the heck are roofing membranes or ice dam membranes?

Roofing membranes are 3-foot wide rolls, which have adhesive on the entire bottom side. Membranes should be installed from the very edge of the roof, behind the gutters and back up the roof.

They are applied directly to bare roof boards. Shingles are nailed on top of the membrane and they seal tight around the nails. Ideally, they should be applied all the way up all valleys, around all vents, chimneys and skylights. While minimum code requires only 3-feet past the exterior walls, it’s best to go at least six to nine feet, depending on the pitch of the roof.

The membrane protects against damage from not only ice dams but where applied, against water damage from missing or torn shingles.

Many manufacturers make the product and it is sold under many names.
Your roofer will know all about them, that I can guaranty.

I have a house that has a long straight run between the master bedroom and the kitchen. The water heater is right under the master bedroom. To get hot water to the kitchen I have to let the hot water run. Would I need to have an instantaneous hot water tank for the master bedroom and also one for the kitchen?

You have a couple of choices. You can install a tankless water heater, which provides endless point of use hot water near the kitchen. Or another solution is to install a circulating pump that circulates water from your hot water tank throughout the system. You’ll never have to wait for hot water since it will be instantaneous.

There are at least 2 manufacturers; Grundfos (www.grundfos.com and the other is AutoCirc2® www.autocirc.com.


I purchased a home with well water and after moving in I found that the 4-year-old softener was unable to exchange the water’s high-iron content so I installed an iron removal system. The system was installed with chlorine injection because of suspected iron bacteria. Prior to installation of the new system, I had the well chlorinated and all the plumbing lines were flushed. The iron removal system was installed in sequence with the softener unit, but preceding it. The new iron filtration unit has reduced the iron content, however, it still stains the tubs and sinks and anything else with which it remains in standing contact with. Can you help?

You may need a larger capacity water softener. Depending on the number of occupants living in the house, as well as visitors will determine the size needed. It’s not uncommon for discolored and smelly water from a well when the unit is too small.

Drain Odor / Tips for Carpeting a Basement / Wet Yard Problem

In Q&A on April 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

To all my followers: Please pass along my blog address to all your friends and family. I’d appreciate it!

Q: Can you help me with a problem with my bathroom sink? I notice an awful odor coming from the drain.

A: Many times I’ve gone out to people’s houses to inspect for an odor or specific problem and found pieces of roofing shingles obstructing the vent stack opening. I’ve also found birds, wasps, leaves and other nests in or on the vent. But first, pour bleach into the overflow pipe and scrub with a baby bottlebrush. If the odor persists and you can safely go up on the roof, look down the vent stack. You should see nothing but a clean, unobstructed pipe. Oftentimes, the pipe will go down a few feet and narrow to a smaller pipe, but it should be clear. If there is an obstruction, you may be able to snag it with a wire from a coat hanger. Don’t push what you find down farther. It should be removed. If everything looks good, you may be able to blow out a minor obstruction using your garden hose. If all else fails, call a plumber. That’s why they get the big bucks. By the way you can install hardware cloth screening on top of the vent to keep out debris and nests.

Q: I plan on carpeting my basement. Is there is a way to retard humidity through the concrete and also insulate the floor?

A: One product is a sub-floor system from DRIcore™. It consists of engineered wood panels. The underside is bonded to polyethylene with raised “cleats”. The cleats provide an air space between the cold concrete and the wood sub-floor. It also is a moisture barrier. Contact them at1-888-767-6374. Another product is called Enviro-Cushion. It is a carpet pad for concrete floors. According to the manufacturer it has an R-factor of 4.5 yet it is only 3/8-inch thick. The padding is available locally at Fair-Way Tile & Carpet. You can call them at 248-588-4431.

Q: I have discovered mold on some couch cushions that I stored in a second floor hall closet in my house. How do I go about correcting this problem on a very medium income?

A: There are literally thousands of different types of mold. Not all are hazardous and some certainly are beneficial. Just because you have mold on a few cushions, is not a reason to panic. To have mold you need three things: Air, a food source for the mold (in your case it’s those cushions) and moisture. You cannot eliminate air from the equation, but you can get rid of the moisture. Begin by asking yourself these questions: Why were the cushions wet? Did the moisture come from a pet, plant, roof or plumbing leak from above? Once you have answered those questions and corrected the problem, its time to clean and restore those cushions. They might be able to be cleaned using Concrobium Mold Control®, which is effective against mole and mildew organisms on both hard and fabric surfaces. It comes in a one-quart, ready-to-use spray bottle. Always test a product first in an inconspicuous corner or edge before ruing the entire cushion. Concrobium can be purchased at Home Depot for about nine dollars for a one quart spray bottle. You can also call a local dry cleaning establishment and ask if they can clean and restore those items. They probably can. Put them in plastic garbage bags and take them to the cleaners. When you get them back, lay back and enjoy your fresh, comfortable couch.

Q: We have lived in our house for nine years and recently noticed one side of our yard and the front lawn are constantly wet. I suspect either tree roots or poor drainage due to our lot position. Who would be the best person to determine what might be causing the problem?

A: If you have a sprinkler system, there could be an underground leak. If your lot is the lowest in the area, it could be the immediate neighbors yards are draining to yours. If the water is not sitting next to the house you can wait. You’ll need to call a landscaping company to install a french drain or a dry well to help with that problem.

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