Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

Washerless Faucet Leak / Removing Asbestos Tiles Safely / Ridding Wallpaper Blisters

In Asbestos Tile, Plumbing, Q&A on October 30, 2012 at 10:39 am


We have old crumbling tiles on our basement floor that we think may be asbestos. Do we have to call in those companies that wear protective clothing and respirators?


Old, crumbling floor tiles can be safely pried up with a scraper, but first wet them down lightly so there is no dust disturbance. Put the removed tiles in double bags of 6-mil thick each. They should be disposed of at a dumpsite licensed to accept materials containing asbestos. Or you can just put indoor/outdoor carpeting on top of it.

If you’re not sure if the tiles care asbestos wet a piece of tile down to remove it and then put it in a small zip lock plastic bag and take it to a testing laboratory. If the tiles do contain asbestos and they’re in good condition, leave them in place. Just don’t use a buffing machine or stripper machine on them because that will disturb the asbestos and release the fibers into the air.


We have a single-lever Delta faucet that we were under the impression was never suppose to leak, but it sure does. What can we do?


No one ever said they aren’t supposed to leak. The advertising claim is that Delta faucets, and many single-lever faucets, are washer-less and you will never have to replace a washer. The ads are right. You will, however, have to replace 0-rings, springs and seats. This job is easy to do and kits can be purchased containing everything you need for the job, including an Allen wrench. The kits cost under five dollars and are available at most hardware centers.

Start by determining the brand’s model of your leaking faucet. Purchase the repair kit. Turn off the water and stop up the drain. Next, you’ll have to follow the directions on the kit for your particular faucet (you knew there had to be a catch). But believe me, they’ll be simple to follow.


My sister hung wallpaper at my house but since then I’ve noticed some bubbles in the paper. What is causing it and how can I fix the problem?


Wallpaper blisters are usually caused by air trapped behind the paper, or it might be a speck of grit or a paint chip. Lightly press against the bubble with your finger to feel for any foreign object under the wallpaper. If you feel something, purchase some wallpaper seam adhesive and follow these tips to fix it.

Get an Xacto knife, which has a very sharp, thin blade. Cut a small diagonal slit across the blister and carefully lift one edge to remove the grit or paint chip with a tweezers. Using a small paintbrush with a thin tip, apply the seam adhesive behind the slit in the wallpaper, into the blistered area. Press the area firmly against the wall and wipe off any oozing adhesive.

If the problem is an air bubble, cut a tiny slit with the knife or razor blade over the bubble, and inject a few drops of seam adhesive using the glue tube’s applicator tip or a glue syringe. Then press out the air through the slit and wipe away any excess adhesive with a damp cloth.

Another cause of blistering is a paint bubble. In this case, make a small X-shaped cut through the blister and peel back the four corners of the wallpaper. Scrape away the paint bubble with a narrow putty knife and then apply seam adhesive to the underside of each corner. Press the paper firmly back into place, smoothing the joints and wiping away any excess adhesive.

Seams can be the most troublesome areas of wallpaper, but they are easy to fix. Simply apply seam adhesive to the loose edge, press the seam against the wall and wipe away the excess glue. Now that you’re not “glue-less” any more, there’s no excuse for falling apart at the seams.


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Are Steam Heat Pipes Wrapped With Asbestos? / Fluorescent Bulbs / Dimmer Switches

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

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I have an older home with steam heat. Are the steam pipes most likely insulated with asbestos containing material?


Most likely, yes. And the asbestos is probably wrapped in a cloth covering. That material probably looks like white or gray colored canvas. If you see loose or broken sections do not touch them. Those are what are referred to as “friable”. That means that the asbestos is easily crumbled or can be broken with hand pressure. If that’s the case, it becomes a hazard.

The real hazard comes when people think, “well I’ll just pull that stuff down and throw it away”. When that happens the people living in the house, visiting the house, or working in the house, start inhaling those tiny, invisible asbestos fibers. When that happens, their chances of getting asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer are increased.

If you are curious or worried that your house may contain asbestos, you should have it inspected by an expert in that field. Check the yellow pages under “Asbestos Consultants”. Make sure they are licensed and certified by the state.

Remember, it’s unfortunate but like in any business nowadays there are un-reputable firms. This field is no different. Get a second opinion and at least three estimates for enclosure, encapsulation or removal of the asbestos.


Why is it that some fluorescent fixtures don’t work well when it’s humid?


Fluorescent bulbs operate at high voltage. However, if a bulb is dusty, some voltage may be traveling through the damp dust instead of through the bulb. With this in mind, clean the fluorescent bulb and fixture before doing anything else. If that doesn’t help, make sure the bulbs pins are making good contact with the socket. First, see that the notch on the bulb’s end cap aligns with the socket’s entrance slot. Also, check whether the socket contacts and pins are free of corrosion and dirt. Shut off the power to the fixture before cleaning the contacts. Preheat fluorescent fixtures require a starter to heat the electrodes in the tube. Other fluorescent fixtures – rapid start and instant start, receive this heat from the ballast assembly, which is covered by the housing of the light fixture. The starter looks like a small aluminum cylinder and is usually located near one end of the fluorescent fixture. To remove the starter, simply twist it out of its socket like a bulb and replace it with the same size.

There certainly is a possibility that you have a burned out tube and if none of these procedures work, there might be a grounding problem. Since fluorescent fixtures can be grounded in several different ways, have a licensed electrician check it out.

One last thing- this is something I found out when I replaced the fixture in my office – fluorescent ballasts are classified according to their noise level. A-rated ballasts are the quietest and best choice for homes. C-rated ballasts are noisier and designed for commercial buildings. If you use an A-rated ballast and it’s noisy, vibrates and hums, the ballast or fixture may be loose. Both parts must be fastened securely to eliminate vibrations that could cause bussing.


Do dimmer switches really save electricity?


Yes, dimmer switches do save electricity. At least the modern electronic ones do. Old-fashioned “rheostat” dimmers controlled the flow of electricity by adding resistance. Power that wasn’t going to the bulb was lost as heat so no electricity was saved.

Electronic dimmers work differently. Those used on incandescent bulbs switch the flow of electricity on and off very quickly, at a rate that keeps the filament glowing at the desired intensity. Fluorescent lights and low-voltage lights require “full-wave” dimmers, which don’t turn the electricity on and off, but instead change the voltage. Both types do save electricity on your lights. But if you are really interested in saving electricity try using compact fluorescent bulbs or L.E.D.’s instead of incandescent.

Also, reduce wattage of bulbs. Wherever you have a 100-watt replace it with a 75-watt and replace a 75-watt with a 60-watt and so on.

You can also save electricity by keeping bulbs clean. Dirty bulbs absorb light. Use light-colored lampshades and I guess one of the best ways to save electricity when it comes to lighting is turn off the light when you leave the room.

Removing Textured Wall Surface / Saving Touch-up Paints / Laminate Fixes

In Painting Tips, Q&A, Uncategorized on October 9, 2012 at 11:43 am

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How can I remove the rough plaster on my textured walls of my family room?

The problem with applying texture to walls is that it’s like a tattoo. You’re going to have to live with it for a long time and hope you don’t get tired of it. And like a tattoo, it can be removed, but with a lot of difficulty.

You have four choices:
1.    Leave it and live with it, which requires the least amount of physical effort.
2.    Explosives! But remember they’re illegal, as well as dangerous, and it’s getting hard to acquire quality dynamite these days.
3.    Conceal it. There is a product you should be able to find at your paint and wallpaper store called Plaster-in-a-Roll from Flexi-wall Systems. It’s designed to go over cracked plaster, paneling, ceramic tile, block, and ever some textured walls.
4.    Finally, try removing it. It’s not an easy job, but with the William Zinsser’s Company makes a product called Texture-Off, which is available at paint and hardware stores. It works like a paint stripper to remove textured paint from most walls and ceilings. Apply Texture-Off by rolling it on with a thick napped roller, wait two hours and apply a second coat. Let it sit overnight and then the fun starts – scraping it off. It’s a lot of work, but safer than dynamite and easier to get.

How can I save paint for touching up some walls or woodwork at a later date? Mine seems to always be dried up when I go to use it for my touch-ups.

The way I see it, if your house doesn’t need any paint touch-up, then it was just painted within the last three days. I think we all know it’s a good idea to save extra paint for those inevitable nicks and scratches, but have you found that when you go to use the saved paint, it’s dried up and worthless? Well, next time you paint, save the extra paint in one, or all of these ways:

1.    Save some of the paint in an old nail polish bottle that has been cleaned thoroughly with nail polish remover, and then with soap and water. You can use the nailbrush on the cap for small touch-ups.
2.    Allow small, clean bottles, or bottle and brushes to completely dry and pour extra paint in them.
3.    Label the bottles as to which room they are for and whether they are for walls or woodwork.
4.    Saving extra paint in pickling jars is a “dilly” of an idea and they work great.
5.    You can leave the paint in the original can, but if it’s latex paint, don’t store it in the garage or a shed where it will freeze and become ruined.
6.    If you leave the paint in the original can, you can buy plastic paint savers for around a dollar at your paint store.
7.    Make sure the lid is secure and store the paint can upside down to last longer.

My kitchen counter top is scratched and worn is there anyway to restore it short of replacement?

Well if it’s not scratched, don’t itch it! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself there for a moment.

If your kitchen laminated counter top has small scratches and knife cuts that are not very deep, thoroughly clean the surface and then you can temporarily restore the finish by applying an automotive polish such as Nu-Finish or Westley’s. They should shine like a new car.

If you have a small gouge or nick in wood-grain laminate, a temporary patch to fill in the area such as a wood-finishing crayon. The gouge will still be there but won’t be as noticeable.

If your countertop has a burn mark in it that’s making you hot under the collar, oftentimes the whole section can be cut out and a wood or ceramic cutting board can be inserted in its place.

And finally, to avoid these problems in the future, take my wife’s advice and stay out of the kitchen!

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