Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Damp Basement / Gutter Leak / Sealing Concrete / What to Watch For When Hiring a Contractor

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm

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Despite several attempts to correct the drainage from gutters on my 2-story colonial, water streams between the house and the gutters. How can I correct this problem?


If your gutters or downspouts are obstructed, rainwater will back up and cause your problem.

Next, make sure the gutters are installed properly and not tilted backward.

Finally, you should have metal drip edging along the entire bottom edge of your roof boards under the shingles. The metal itself should not just be straight and flat, it should have a slight bend outward. The bend or slant directs water into the gutters and not behind them.

The starter course of shingles should overhang the metal drip edging approximately 1/4 to 1/2 an inch. Anymore of an overhang and the shingles will begin to sag with time. The protruding shingles and lip on the drip edging should effectively direct water run off into your gutters.


I am planning on hiring a basement or mechanical contractor. What are some things I should watch out for?


If you need to hire a waterproofing contractor for your basement, you should be careful that they are not charging for work not done.

Are they using poor-quality products? You really won’t know, so get the “specs” on material and quality before you sign the contract.

  • If they damage the foundation, landscaping, furnishings, etc. who pays for that?
  • Are they making claims that cannot be attained?
  • Are they doing unnecessary work?
  • How good is the company and how long have they been in business?
  • Do they guarantee the job? The guarantee may only be as good as how much water it can soak up!

Now, as for furnace repairs, some contractors use scare tactics to intimidate homeowners such as, “you’ll die” (or worse yet) “your cat will die if we don’t replace the furnace”, or “the furnace will blow up at any moment”.

When they are selling you a new furnace, are they representing the furnace’s efficiency to be higher than it actually is? Check with publications such as Consumer Reports.

Are they doing unnecessary repairs or replacement? Some have been known to deliberately break a part in order to increase the fee. (Oh, I’m surprised!).

Is the man who is doing the work qualified to actually perform the job properly? Remember, most contractors are honest; but check them, their licenses, their references, as well as their work, out.


You recommend sealing concrete with 50% boiled linseed oil and 50% kerosene. I never heard of this. I asked a contractor who has been in the concrete business for 30 years and he said he never heard of this. He put in a new concrete sidewalk and apron. Should I seal it? Will it discolor the concrete?


The Michigan Concrete Association strongly urges that concrete be sealed approximately 30 days after it has cured. It must be dry and the air temperature above 70 degrees. The boiled linseed oil mixture will temporarily discolor the surface, but if you want you can use any concrete sealer. The sealer should be applied every 2-years.

Check out the Michigan Concrete Association website at www.miconcrete.org.


I have a basement that is moist and showing spots of efflorescent and paint bubbling. It was suggested to me to start by grading the foundation. What is the correct way of doing this?


You want to grade the terrain away from your house using topsoil. The idea or purpose is to get the ground water away from your foundation. Grade it and have it slope four to six feet from your house with a 1-inch per foot slope. Pea gravel will enable the ground water to sift faster to your existing grade and then slowly leak into your basement. Pea gravel is used below the topsoil and ground cover all the way down to a working drain tile system. That keeps a basement dryer.


Sizing Up Your House / Light Bulbs That Prematurely Burn Out

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm

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When someone says the square footage of a house or a room is “so big” should you always believe them?


You know better than that and especially not when you are figuring out the square footage of a house. There are two basic methods for figuring the square footage. For example, some realtors, builders, appraisers and tax assessors mostly use “overall square footage”. Which means they sometimes measure the outside foundation of the house and multiply the length by width. Remember that exterior walls themselves can add a couple hundred square feet easily to a house since the walls

generally are anywhere from eight-inches to one-foot thick. Then multiply that figure by the number of floors (basements are sometimes included if they’re a finished living spaces and have a walk out). This tells you the physical size of the house, but it doesn’t tell you how much “actual” living space there is. Some people are probably interested in knowing the amount of “actual” living space (but I doubt it).

To find the amount of “actual” living space, you measure the floor area of each room that you would actually live in i.e.: bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and living room, but not any storage areas or garage. Then add them all together and you get “usable” or “livable square footage”. Unfinished basements are considered either storage space or aren’t counted at all.

My experience has found that people want to claim larger square footage when selling their house and smaller when the tax assessor measures it. Otherwise, they only care if the furniture fits in the rooms.

I guess the bottom line is, size does matter to some people.


I have numerous problems with light bulbs burning out after just a few months. Do I have a problem or are they just dim?


They may be, but the most likely cause of the burnouts is the quality of light bulbs. Typically, bargain basement bulbs are made with poor quality control and don’t last the average 700 to 1,000 hours you would expect from a premium bulb.

Vibration could also be another possible source of early bulb failure. Whole-house bulb failure due to vibration can occur if you live near a construction site where constant demolition and digging is taking place, or near a railroad where steady train traffic may cause your house to tremble slightly on a regular basis. If the fixture is wall-mounted near a door that opens and closes frequently the vibrations from that could be the culprit.

To ensure longer bulb life under these conditions, you need to purchase the hard-service type bulbs sold at electrical supply houses. Those 130-volt bulbs have a much stronger filament that better resists normal, ongoing voltage surges, heat and vibration and the bulb life is nearly tripled. Power consumption is also reduced by ten percent. The down side to these bulbs is that they put out less light (by about 11-percent), but you can compensate for this by using a bulb of the next higher wattage. Check with your local electrical supply houses for 130-volt bulbs. They’re slightly more expensive than their 120-volt counterparts and aren’t as readily available but they’re excellent for locations where bulbs are hard to reach. A better solution is to start using L.E.D. bulbs. They are expensive but really do last a long time.

Another possibility is if the light bulbs are enclosed in globes, its possible that excessive heat is building up within the globes, resulting in fast-burning bulbs. In that case the heavy-duty bulbs, L.E.D.’s or C.F.I.’s will also eliminate the problem.

Finally, if you live near a transformer, there’s a remote possibility that the local utility is supplying more than 120-volts to your house. If this is the case, neighbors who are nearby will probably be having the same problem, so check with them.

Removing Tub Decals / Wrap the H20 Tank- Save Money / Fixing a Wobbling Ceiling Fan

In Hot Water Tanks, Painting Tips, Q&A on September 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm

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I have tried, but still cannot remove the dirty and worn non-skid decals from the bottom of my bathtub. How do I remove those bathtub appliqués if they won’t come off?


For those of you not as “sophisticated” as I am, we’re talking about removing those rubber bathtub decals. Most of the time, you can’t even get your fingernail under the edge to try and pull them loose. Well, don’t fret, put a piece of paper towel over each appliqué and soak the paper towel with mineral spirits. After twenty minutes they should loosen up. That also should have made the adhesive easy to remove. If not, try one of those super removers like Goof-Off® from W.M. Barr and Company or Goo-Gone® from Magic American Corp. Those are just a couple of the products that should help you come clean in the tub. They’re also available at any hardware or drug store.

If that doesn’t work, try using Un-Do® by Un-Do Products, Inc. It is the best sticker and tape remover I’ve ever seen. It’s also available at home and hardware stores as well as Wal-Mart and Bed Bath & Beyond.


I have a ceiling fan that vibrates and shakes. Does this mean I have to replace it?


Maybe so, but understand there are several reasons why a ceiling fan wobbles when operating. The fan blades could be out of balance, out of track or warped. The wobble could also be caused by the air turbulence that results from the blades being closer than six inches from one side of a sloped cathedral ceiling or ceiling beam.

You can check to see if the fan blades are out of balance by clipping a spring-type clothespin half way between the tip and the blade iron on the leading edge of one blade. Turn the fan on to the LOW speed and see if the weight stops the wobble. Try each blade to determine if it needs more weight. If the clothespin stops the wobble, it should be replaced with thin adhesive-backed lead weighted tape, which is available through the fan manufacturer’s service center.

Check to see if one or more blades are out of track. Using a yardstick, measure the distance from the ceiling to the tip of each blade. The distance should be equal for each blade. If it isn’t, contact the nearest manufacturer’s service center about correction or warranty replacement. If the blades are not out of track, try swapping blades to correct the problem. Switch the position of two adjacent blades while leaving the other two in their original positions. While the blades are off of the fan, lay them on a flat surface to see if they are warped. If so, then replace the blades. Now as for me being warped, that’s a different story.


Awhile back you mentioned that for about ten dollars I could save five to ten percent of my water heating utility costs. That sounds like easy money, but what is the catch?


There’s no catch. The 40 to 50 gallon tank of your water heater is like a hot water radiator that continually gives off and wastes heat. You can reduce this energy cost in two ways. First, lower the water temperature to 120-degrees. Unfortunately, the temperature setting knobs on most water heaters just aren’t calibrated in degrees. If you have the owners manual you can look up the temperature settings otherwise, use a meat thermometer and run hot water onto it. The point which the temperature stops rising is your hot water heater setting.

Second, cover your gas water heater with a special blanket. Buy a fiberglass blanket to wrap around your water heater. To do it safely, follow the directions that come with the blanket and it’s especially important not to do insulate the top of the water heater, do not cover the air intakes for gas burners, leave the controls and all valves exposed and do not cover any warning labels.

The only exception is some high-efficiency electric water heaters do not need extra insulation. Adding it can void the guarantee so check the owner’s manual. What are you planning on buying with the money you will save? New car? Jewelry? Present for me?




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