Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Stains Versus Paints / Hot Water Problem With a New Hot Water Tank

In Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing, Stains and Paints, Uncategorized on June 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm

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Stains Versus Paints

Stain is a thin paint with a low volume of pigments that provide deep colors, hiding power, and film-forming qualities.

There are two types of stains:

Semi-transparent- are considered true stains and solid color opaque, which more closely resemble paint because of their pigment content.

Stain penetrates surface wood fiber and dyes it, whereas pain seals the surface with a hard film. Stain costs less than paint, but a gallon of it may cover less area because it soaks in. Stain weathers and loses color faster than paint, but won’t chip, peel or blister so subsequent coats require little or no preparation.

The semi-transparent stain colors and protect bare wood without hiding its natural grain or texture, but accentuate defects such as knots, rust stains, uneven weathering and watermarks, so they work best on clear, fine-grained wood.

Semi-transparent stains penetrate better than solid blends, and oil-base semi-transparent stain penetrates better than latex-base. Rough or weathered wood absorbs the most stain. Two coats of semi-transparent stain on it will last six to ten years, compared with only two to four years on the new, smooth wood. Solid color stains, however, will last up to ten years on smooth wood.

As a rule, stain should be used only over bare wood, or to cover another stain or preservative of equal or better penetrating value. That means preservatives and semi-transparent stains go under paint or solid stains where they can act as a primer but not cover them, because they soak in.


If you are planning on painting your house, keep in mind that if you’re looking for color, stick with paints since the choice is obviously greater.

Paint also provides a better finish and more protection from the elements than stains. If you have new wood siding or trim, and you can’t decide whether to paint or stain, try some of those semi-transparent stains, you may like the results. Remember, you can and should try out the color on a piece of scrap siding or extra boards prior to doing the entire house. That way if you don’t like the color or look you won’t be living with a “white elephant”, so to speak.

Keep this in mind as well that both stain and paint, if properly applied, are durable but if you have a lot of blemishes in the siding, it’s better to use paint.

Choosing between latex or oil base paints is one of those preference things nowadays since many latex paints are as durable as oil base. Oil base paints dry slower and are definitely a lot more difficult to clean up.

Latex paints dry quicker, are water soluble, easy to clean up after and believe it or not, hold color better.

One misconception is that you cannot paint latex over oil base paint. With proper preparation, you can do almost anything. As a matter of fact, a quality latex topcoat over an oil base primer is probably the best finish to use.


I recently had a water heater installed and since then I’ve never had a consistently hot shower. A few times I have had the hot water shut off completely. The plumber who installed it claims that nothing is wrong. Do you have any suggestions?


It’s possible the hot and cold lines were reversed when it was installed, which you can check out yourself. On top of the tank where the water goes into the tank it will be stamped “cold”. Feel the pipe to see if it is warm or hot (it should be cold), they need to be switched or the dip tube moved to the hot side. Speaking of the dip tube, is it intact or damaged?

New tanks generally only heat the water 120 to 125 degrees. The lower settings save energy and reduce accidental scalding and burns.

You may need to replace your old showerhead. Older showerheads have a flow rate of 3.5 to 4.5 gallons per minute. At that rate, you’ll easily run out of hot water with a lower setting in approximately 10 minutes. Replacing the showerhead with a flow restrictor puts out 1.5 to 2.9 GPM and allows for a longer, hotter shower.


Leak in Radiant Heat Pipes / Cleaning A Relined Bathtub / Flushing Problem / Can You Repair A Rip in Vinyl Flooring?

In Q&A on June 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

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We have a leak in our radiant heating pipes in the concrete flooring. Is there a way to detect a water leak? How do we find it?

A previous time we contacted a plumber who jack hammered nine different holes in our floor to find the leak. Is there a detector available?


The solution to your problem comes from the space program.

Thermographic imaging devices detect cold and/or hot areas in walls, ceilings, floors, etc. Companies that do thermography can be found by Googling “infra-red thermography”. They can easily pinpoint where your leak is occurring. That’s because the temperature of the water leak will be different from the surrounding soil.

By now, you’ve realized the code has changed and they no longer bury any plumbing or heating pipes in a slab unless they are wrapped and protected from the concrete.

Concrete is acidic and slowly disintegrates pipes. Additionally, the pipes expand and contract, that movement against concrete wears them out.


I had my bathtub relined by a company in Ann Arbor and they said to use dishwashing soap to clean the tub. That doesn’t work very well and wonder if you had a better idea. Would it be safe to use Soft Scrub for instance?


Dishwashing detergent won’t work either. Whatever you use must be non-abrasive and good for acrylics. Some suggestions that do work well are Formula 409®, Scrubbing Bubbles® shower cleaner, Clorox Bleach Cleaner® and Gel-Gloss®.

I contacted Re-Bath Bathtub Liners of Michigan on Maple in Troy and they told me they sell a tub re-liner cleaner for $6.00. They said if whatever you use doesn’t work, or you need advice call them at 248-577-0047 and they’ll be glad to help you out.


I am having a flushing problem with my toilet. When the toilet is flushed, water comes out of the laundry tub in the basement. Can you tell me what could be the problem? Can I fix this myself or do I need to call a plumber?


You have an obstruction in the line beyond the basement laundry tub.

If you are up to it, rent a snake or auger at one of those tool rental stores and snake out the line. Otherwise, call a plumbing-sewer cleaning company.

If you want to do it yourself, you should remove the toilet. Start by turning off the water at the valve behind the toilet. Drain as much of the water from the box and stool as you can. Now, remove the bolts holding the toilet to the floor and carefully lift up the entire unit and set it aside. Run the snake down from that point. Buy a toilet wax seal to replace the existing seal when you re-set the toilet.

If you call a plumber, expect to pay between $95.00 and $185.00 to snake out the line. If they have to pull up the toilet to clear out the obstruction, plumbers will probably charge a minimum of $200.00. Either way, you should have a royal flush when you’re done.


I want to have a new vinyl floor installed but have this place in the floor covering that has separated. What caused this and how does one fix it so new linoleum can be installed?


The photo you enclosed with your letter show the separation is not just an easy to repair seam. The vinyl has ripped due to a poorly installed sub-floor. You don’t have to remove the old vinyl but it is recommended.

Whatever caused the existing sub-floor to become loose or separated should be corrected. Screwing or filling gaps can accomplish that. Better yet, by removal and replacement of the sub-floor.

New sub-floor material is usually Masonite or Luan. When it is installed the seams of the new sub-floor should not be installed directly over a pre-existing seam. That’s providing you even leave the old sub-floor.

Insulating Your Hot Water Tank / What Causes Nail Pops? / Cleaning An Old Paintbrush

In Cleaning Old Paint Brushes, Fixing Nail Pops in Walls, Insulating Hot Water Tanks, Q&A on June 12, 2012 at 9:31 am

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Can insulating your hot water tank get you into hot water?

Before you insulate your hot water tank you should check with the manufacturer, especially if your tank is newer. Some newer tanks not only don’t need to be wrapped with additional insulation, but by doing so could void the warranty.

But if your tank is older, whether it’s gas or electric, you’ll save money by wrapping it with a water jacket for about twenty dollars. If you have an electric tank, you can just buy a roll of R-13, foil-faced, fiberglass insulation. Cut lengths of the insulation to cover the circumference of the tank. The insulation can extend to the floor and use duct tape to keep it in place. Cut around the access panels to the elements as well as for the T&P valve. You can even cover the top of the tank.

If you have a gas water heater they sell pre-sized jackets, but it’s important that you do not insulate the flue pipe or even the top of the tank.  You should also keep insulation away from the T&P valve, burner and the floor.

I have a lot of nail pops in the ceiling of several rooms in my house. What causes this?

It’s common knowledge that nail pops are a result of wood shrinkage. The nail heads usually don’t loosen and pop out. Instead, the wood shrinks away from whatever is nailed to it, and the nail head stays in place.

To avoid nail pops, keep in mind that wet lumber shrinks a great deal more than dry lumber. So let lumber dry out before you begin to nail or screw it together. This is especially important when you’re building with pressure treated lumber, which usually has a high-moisture content.

Also, keep in mind that the amount of movement on the nail will be directly proportional to the length of the nail (which means the distance the nail penetrates the wood). If the nail penetrates half the thickness or width of the framing, for example, the degree of the pop at the head will be equal to the shrinkage in half that framing member. That’s why the industry developed shorter screws to replace nails in wallboard. The screw has the same holding power as the nail, but much less penetration.

Another industry development that has helped reduce nail pops is today’s wide range of construction adhesives. When you use adhesives, you reduce the number of nail or screws needed. Less nails equals less pops.

To deal with your nail pops, pull out each nail and replace it with a drywall screw. Put an additional drywall screw approximately one-inch from the original and spackle over both of them.

I have an old favorite paintbrush that is all bent out of shape. Can you share or should I say help “brush up” with one of your painting tips?

Very, clever! I guess you already know how to ‘lay it on thick’ so here’s today’s tip. If the bristles on the paintbrush that you used last time, are all bent out of shape and making the bristles on your neck stand out, out the brushes under a flow of hot water from the tap. This will soften the bristles and return them to their original shape. If you are using nylon brushes with latex paint and want to paint right away, then put the bristles under cold water for a moment to set them “back” in the correct shape.

The same procedure will also work, to a degree, with the bristle brushes used for oil-based paint. But the bristles can’t be used right away because the moisture that the bristles absorb will interfere with the oil-based properties of the paint.

Buying Paint / Replacing Plumbing Pipes / Do Odor Killers Really Work? / Try “Flush-n-Sparkle”

In Odors, Plumbing, Products Worth Checking Out on June 5, 2012 at 10:23 am

When buying paint, do you really need to buy the best?

There are two rules of thumb to help you choose the type of paint you want to purchase.

First, choose an exterior paint for outdoor surfaces and vice versa. Second, select a top of the line paint for a reputable manufacturer (one that has been around for awhile).

Yes. Some paints contain additives, such as mildewcides or pesticides that improve the paint’s performance. Some also contain better quality binders and pigments than others.

With latex paints, 100% acrylic is the best binder, followed by acrylic, and then vinyl.

With oil-based, alkyd is almost universally used as the binder. As for pigments, titanium oxide is best. It covers better in both latex and oil-based paint. Be wary of paint that has a lot of calcium carbonate. It’s used as a filler to reduce the cost.

You can bet the more you spend within a manufacturers’ line, the better the quality of paint but choosing between brands is not easy. One manufacturer’s best quality may not be as good as another’s middle grade. To find out more about the paint you’re buying, ask your paint dealer for technical information sheets, or have them explain the differences in the grades.

I want to replace my old water pipes and am considering copper pipes. What are the advantages of copper? Which is better copper or PVC and which would you recommend?

Houses built prior to the 1950’s used galvanized pipes for plumbing. The pipes rust and corrode. They should be replaced as soon as possible. If you are low on funds, as we all seem to be (except plumbers) you can replace just the hot water horizontal pipes at this time because those are the ones that are the first to fail.

The choice today is copper, plastic or a combination of each. Semi-handy homeowners can do it themselves by using C.P.V.C. plastic. It’s easy to cut, fit and weld joints using a solvent. The system is excellent, but the one common failure of do-it-yourselfers is using enough hangers to properly support the pipes.  More serious do-it-yourselfers and plumbers generally use copper or PEX plumbing. The only caveat with installing copper is make sure you don’t burn the house down when you’re soldering the joints.

PEX plumbing is a system generally used by professionals. It is, as are the other two, also excellent, but requires two special tools i.e. a PEX cutter and a crimping tool along with unique crimps. The crimps connect all ends and fittings and absolutely must be installed properly or they could fail. The bottom line, if you are doing it yourself and you’re handy, read directions (an interesting thought).


Do any of those odor killers really work? They just seem to mask the odor, but the smell still comes back.


You must correct the cause of the odor first, because if you have an odor and don’t eliminate the source, it could continue to smell.

Once that is accomplished, you should use enzyme odor killers that truly eliminate the odor. There are several on the market such as “Smells-B-Gone” or “Odor Mute”.

I have tested and was impressed with a couple of products from Neutron Industries. One is called D-Molish, which comes in an orange or spring fresh scent. D-Molish is sprayed on and removes stains and odors. The other product is called “NI-712” and eliminates airborne odors. NI-712 also comes in a variety of scents. They both work great! Check out their products at www.neutronindustries.com or give them a call at 1-888-712-7127.

We bought a toilet 2 years ago and had to replace the flapper. I heard many flappers deteriorate when exposed to bleach or chlorine. That means no sanitizers, discs or anything like that in the tank.

You’re right, the chemicals that you drop into the tank help but do degrade the plastic and rubber components.

All is not lost. Fluidmaster (949-728-2000 / www.fluidmaster.com) has an easy-to-install product called Flush-N-Sparkle™.  It is a toilet bowl cleaning system that has a replaceable cartridge. The cartridge releases a measured amount of cleaners into the water flowing directly into the bowl. It is available at home and hardware centers.

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