Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

“Chalking” on Exterior Brick / Damp Basement / Fixing a Window Pane

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm


The bricks on my house have streaks from the aluminum siding’s finish washing down on it. Can they be removed?


I guess you’ve figured out by now that the salesman years ago that said, “Never paint your house again, aluminum side it” may have been telling a little fib.

Some aluminum siding has its own cleaning process known as “chalking”. That’s where every time it rains the paint pigments wash down (sort of a self-cleaning process). Eventually, you’re going to have to replace the paint and also clean where the old chalking went to, the brick wall.

You don’t have to replace the siding because it can be painted. If the surface is properly prepped, the paint will bond and last for many years.

Now for cleaning the chalking off the brick walls; try a Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) solution or a diluted muriatic acid wash in an inconspicuous area first. Be sure to wear rubber gloves, protective clothes and goggles. If that doesn’t work, check the yellow pages under Building Cleaning-Exterior. Companies can spray on a commercial cleaner and then power wash the brick using water under pressure.

A friend of mine used a company called All-Brite Exterior Cleaning Company and was very impressed with the results. You can reach them by calling 586-268-0240.


When I go into my basement it feels so humid I feel like I’m going into a cave. My basement doesn’t appear to leak, so what can I do?


Taking several necessary and moderately inexpensive measures can help to reduce the basement humidity level. Begin by sloping the terrain away from the house four to six feet, with a one-inch per foot slope. Shrubbery that touches foundation walls should be cut back to provide air circulation and the sun can dry the perimeter walls.

Basement pipes should be insulated with pipe wrap. If there is a basement bathroom, install an exhaust fan that vents to the exterior.

Now, if you have and are using a dehumidifier already, possibly your existing dehumidifier is too small for your basement and a second unit is needed on the opposite end. Keep the basement windows closed except on hot, dry days. If you have air conditioning, use it, because air conditioning dehumidifies the air.

Finally, an inexpensive way to dehumidify a small area is to install “Damp Rid”. They are inexpensive, moisture-collecting buckets from what use to be the Vapor Products Company and is now a division of W.M. Barr, which contain refillable calcium chloride absorbers. You’ll find them at home and hardware stores.


I have an old rental house that I rent to tenants. One problem I am having is when I try to replace a cracked or broken windowpane, trying to remove the glass out of the sash without getting pieces of glass all over everything and without cutting myself is almost impossible. Do you have any safe suggestions?


One safe way is to cut two pieces of paper the same size as the broken pane, then coat the sheets with rubber cement and apply them to each side of the glass. You can now break out the remaining glass using a hammer and not worry about broken shards of glass getting everywhere. An even easier way is to use contact paper on both sides of the glass you are replacing.

Now, if you’ve ever tried to remove old, window putty, you know it’s not fun. But a couple of tips to “soften” the job are to use either muriatic acid, lacquer thinner or paint remover. Using a lettering brush, paint over the old putty with any one of those and it will soften the putty but it will also remove paint from the sash if you’re not careful. Another technique would be to use a hot soldering iron with the tip wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it clean.

I guess what I’m saying is replacing glass doesn’t have to be a ‘pain’.

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Patching Rotten Trim / Removing Texture From Walls / Not Enough Hot Water

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2014 at 12:35 pm


The expression “There’s something rotten in Denmark” may not mean anything to you, but I have some rotted trim on my house and wanted to know if I can patch it myself?


Sure you can. If you have small areas of deteriorating trim around a porch column or a windowsill, they can usually be patched successfully with one of the numerous wood fillers available at your local hardware or building supply store. There is basic, inexpensive wood filler called “wood putty” by Durham. You just dig out the rotten area, mix the water putty with water until you have the proper consistency and fill in the damaged area. It will be putty in your hands and it works just fine.


Bondo, DAP and Minwax, just to name a few, are other companies that make wood fillers and hardeners. I think if you follow the directions (as I’ve always said is an interesting concept) you’ll be quite satisfied with the results.


I have textured stucco-like walls in a room of my house; can the rough stuff be removed?


One of the problems with applying textured 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. But understand that like a tattoo, it can be removed with a lot of difficulty and the way I see it, 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 so hard to acquire quality dynamite these days.
  3. Conceal it. There is a product you should be able to find on the Internet called “Plaster-In-A-Roll”. It’s from Flexi-wall Systems. You can purchase it directly by going on their website www.flexiwall.com. It’s designed to go over cracked plaster, paneling, ceramic tile, block and even textured walls that have been somewhat ground down but not smooth.
  4. Finally, try removing it. It’s not easy, but the William Zinsser Company makes a product called “Texture Off”. Who would have thought! It works like a paint stripper to remove textured paint from most walls and ceilings. You apply it by rolling it on with a thick-napped roller, waiting two hours and applying a second coat. You let it sit overnight and then begin to scrape it off. It’s still a lot of work but safer to use than the dynamite and easier to get. It’s available at paint and hardware stores.


I seem to run out of hot water quickly. What could be the cause of this?


If I am reading you correctly, I think you’re talking about hot water tanks. Do you find that when you’re taking a shower, before you finish, you’ve run out of hot water? Have you already tried turning up the temperature on the tank to an unsafe level, which helped a little, but uses a lot more energy (read that as money!).

Well, the problem is pretty easy to correct. Inside the tank the cold water supply line usually extends into the tank and down to the bottom of the tank via a “dip tube”. You see, hot water is lighter in density than cold water, and so the hottest water is in the top of the tank. When the dip tube is installed and functioning properly, cold water entering the tank is directed to the bottom near the burner. If the dip tube should deteriorate or fall off, as a lot of them did in tanks manufactured between 1993 and 1997, then the cold water mixes with the hot water at the top of the tank, thus lessening the supply of hot water.

Replacement dip tubes are available at plumbing supply houses. You just turn off the water to the tank along with the electricity, if it’s an electric tank. Disconnect the supply line and insert the new dip tube. Reconnect, and boy, you have hot water! Speaking of being in hot water, I’m out of here!

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