Archive for the ‘Q&A’ Category

Basement Moisture Problem / Sewer Smell From Laundry Room Drain / Habitat For Humanity Re-Store

In Basement Moisture, Habitat for Humanity, Indoor Air Quality, Leak Problems, Odors, Q&A on October 7, 2014 at 9:34 am


I moved into my new house last March and noticed a moisture problem around the periphery of the basement above the concrete walls behind the insulation bats. It appears to be condensation. My builder is trying to correct the problem but doesn’t know what to do yet.

The house has 6-inch exterior walls with R-9 insulation; 3/4-inch particleboard sheathing wrapped in “Tyvek” and cultured stone siding mortared to metal lath on all wood surfaces and directly to the concrete in those areas. The basement walls protrude above grade about 3-feet and is also covered with the cultural stone. The upper two thirds of the house is sided with “Hardy Shingles”.

I am about to finish most of the basement but am afraid to proceed until this problem is corrected. Can you offer any solution?


Condensation may be the cause but is it possible the builder failed to install metal brick flashing between the Hardiplank Siding and your cultured stone. If he didn’t install flashing, moisture will travel down the wall behind the exterior walls and manifest itself at the band joists where you’re seeing condensation.

Another possibility is that the Tyvek does not extend down to, and protect the sill plate.

If neither of those are not the case and you do indeed have that much condensation then you certainly have to dehumidify your basement.

Another possibility is the leak could be originating from an improperly installed door or sliding door-wall. Check above that area to verify.

If you don’t correct the problem, in a short time you’ll have rotting, mold and wood destroying insect activity within the walls and to the band joists.


I read your column all the time but have never seen anything in regard to my problem.

After 47 years, in my less than 1000 square foot ranch, I am getting a sewer smell from the floor drain in my laundry area. The other floor drain is ok. My basement is partitioned off but the louvered door separating both sides is always open. I have poured water and bleach mix into the drain but that does not change anything. I noticed the drainpipe is a reddish orange color and the water level is about 7 to 8 inches from the floor. Do you have any suggestions for me? I am a 75-year old widow and hope this is not too extensive.


Well that’s’ a crock, and I mean that quite literally.

That orange colored drain line is a clue. It means you have old crock drainpipe and it may be cracked. You could also have a venting issue.

Have someone look and listen by the floor drain with a flashlight. Have someone else go upstairs and flush a toilet and if they see the water go up and down and see it move, you have a vent obstruction.

If you hear the water flowing but don’t see it move, the line is broken and part of your basement floor may need to be taken up to repair the pipe.

The good news is Cregger Plumbing can come out and run a camera through the drain and tell you exactly what the problem is and give you an estimate. You can call them at 24


Many years ago I remember going to “Yards” in Detroit that sold stuff from old wrecked houses. They sold plumbing, windows, and doors etc. Are they still around and where?


Times are changing and those old wrecking yards have grown and matured into “Habitat for Humanity Re-Store”. As a matter of fact, they moved to a new location at 12630 Greenfield in Detroit. It’s right on the corner of I-96. The Re-Store is open from 9 to 5, Monday through Saturday.

Habitat for Humanity Metro Re-Stores are a great place to find incredible bargains on new and used building and home improvement materials, such as cabinetry, doors, windows, lighting, appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc. They also sell home furnishings.

They get their “stuff” from donations made by individuals, companies, corporations and builders/contractors.

Anyone can donate by calling his or her Detroit location 313-653-4890. Remember donations are tax deductible and this helps our communities and neighbors. Best of all, the bargains are incredible. You can save 50-percent and more off retail prices. If you haven’t stopped in and if you like a bargain, you’re in for a real treat!

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Lingering Smoke Smell From Fireplace / Dripping Bathroom Exhaust Fan / Should You Wrap Your AC Unit? / Condensation on Interior Windows

In Q&A on January 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm


I have a problem with the fireplace in my Bloomfield Hills home. I burn only man-made logs as do many of my friends but they do not experience the smell I am having. I keep the glass doors open when burning the log and clean out any remains after a day or so but still have a lingering smoke smell. I have used the chimney cleaning type log in attempts to correct this problem. What can I do?


Numerous factors could be causing your problem. By the process of elimination I’ll attempt an answer.

Next time you use your fireplace leave a window in the room open slightly. If it stops smoking call Xavier Inc. at 734-462-1033 or www.equiliz-air.com. Jimmy has an inexpensive product that provides clean make-up air and to stop your problem.

If it still smells, have someone inspect the chimney cap and wash. That’s the top of the chimney where the yellow or orange colored flue liner comes through. If it is cracked (and they usually are) or not built properly, moisture cab get down in and around the flue causing a smoky, sour odor to linger for several days. Sound familiar?


I have a ventilation fan in my master bathroom that vents through the attic to a sidewall of the house. The problem is that during cold weather water drips from the fan onto the bathroom floor. I went into the attic to make sure the vent tube is not angled toward the ceiling and found a puddle of water collected inside the tubing.


The fan is exhausting condensation. That moisture is condensing when it gets in the cold attic.

First and easiest step is to wrap the entire vent pipe with insulation. Wrap it with R-19 fiberglass. Do not wrap it real tight since fiberglass is most effective when fluffy with air pockets. You can secure it to the exhaust pipe using wire or duct tape.

If that does not solve the problem, relocate where your vent pipe is exiting the attic. Possibly the sidewall it is currently going to has the wind blowing the condensation backward.


I wrap my whole house air conditioner unit in the winter to protect it. My neighbor said you told him not to do that, why?


What are you protecting it from? The elements? It was built and designed to be outside in the snow, ice, rain and wind.

If you wrap it, the wind cannot circulate air and the unit will rust prematurely. More importantly, covering it will provide a nice nesting place for mice and chipmunks. To rodents, the red and black wires look like licorice and they gnaw on the wiring. Plus, you’ll have to clean out the fecal mess in the spring.

At the most, put a piece of plywood on the top of the unit and hold it in place with a couple bricks. That should keep it clean enough and protect it from falling icicles.


My windows have heavy condensation on them in the mornings. I have never experienced this before. My three-bedroom, 40-year old ranch is on a crawl space with no humidifier. All the windows have storms on them.


Physics teaches us that hot goes to cold. That being said, warm moist air in your house collects on the coldest surfaces. In your case the windows. I expect you’ll find frost on the underside of your attic as well.

Since you don’t have a humidifier to add humidity, you need to ask yourself where is the moisture coming from?

Here are the most likely sources for your house:

  • The crawl space is culprit #1.
  • Do you have and use kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans? Are they vented to the attic?
  • How many plants do you have in your house? They need and release tremendous amounts of moisture.
  • Do you have any aquariums?

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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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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!

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?




Tips for Washer Problems / Ceiling Fan Support / What Causes Dark Lines on a Drywall Ceiling?

In Miscellaneous, Q&A on August 21, 2012 at 10:04 am

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Today’s home repair tip may help you come clean.

If your clothes washing machine isn’t filling with water rapidly, it may be that its supply hose is kinked, the supply valves are not fully open or the filter screen washers may be clogged. The solution to the first two is obvious, but the last problem is a tiny bit more involved.

The first step to cleaning the screens is to unplug the washer and pull it away from the wall to gain access to the water-inlet mixing valve on the machines back where the hoses screw into the washer. Next, turn both the hot and cold water inlet valves off and unscrew the hoses from the mixing valve. A little water may leak out, so keep a towel and a bucket handy. Using a thin blade screwdriver or needle nose pliers, carefully remove the filter from each valve inlet. Clean each screen under running water with an old toothbrush. Re-install the screens with the rounded part of the screen facing you. Before reattaching the hoses to the inlet-mixing valve, unscrew the hoses from the hot and cold supply valves, and check for screens at this end. If you find screens there, clean or replace them if damaged.

Finally, before you replace those rubber hoses, throw them away and install steel braided hoses that are less resistant to bursting, flooding your house and bursting your bubble.

Ceiling Fan Support

We can all use a little extra support now and then but so do those ceiling fans as well.

Conventional ceiling outlet boxes should never be used as sole support of a paddle fan, no matter how securely the box is mounted. There have been documented failures because regular boxes are not designed for rotating fan loads. Read that as the fan falling down and hitting you on the noggin.

To install a paddle fan there are two options: The first is to replace the ceiling box with one of similar size that is specifically listed and marked as acceptable for fan support. Several designs are available in electrical supply houses and home centers for these installations. This method will probably be necessary if the existing box is mounted between the framing members.

The other option is to avoid using the box as the primary support. This approach may be practical if the box is secured through the back to the heavy horizontal cleat or framing member. First, attach the fan bracket to the box then using additional screws of sufficient size and length, secure the bracket directly to a cross member.

I hope I have a lot more fans by sharing this information.


I have a friend who has dark linear shadow lines on the ceiling. Do you know what is causing this? Does the shadow know?


If you have dark lines on the drywall ceiling below an attic, you’ll find it’s no coincidence that they run not only parallel with the ceiling joists, but directly beneath each joist.

Now, although you may have insulation between the joists in the attic floor, the tops of the joists are exposed to the low winter temperatures in the attic. Since the wood joists are not effective insulators, they act as thermal bridges. Consequently, the temperature at the underside of the joists (at the drywall ceiling) is lower that the adjacent sections of the ceiling that is covered with insulation batts. Because of the lower temperature below the joists, condensation (however slight) tends to form along those areas. Over time, the moisture traps dust and also results in mildew growth, which shows up as shadow lines. To prevent this from recurring, wash the ceiling with a mixture of T.S.P. and bleach. Rinse, let dry and then repaint if needed but use a paint containing a mildewcide. Next, install insulation batts over the exposed ceiling joists. Ideally, the insulation should fill the spaces between the joists and cover the tops of the joists as well. This last layer of batts should be installed perpendicular to the joists. However you install the insulation, make sure to use a type that does not have foil or a kraft-paper vapor barrier. And be sure additional insulation does not cover soffit vents or recessed light housings (unless the housings are IC type rated for direct contact with insulation.)

Anode Rods / Snaking a Drain for the D.I.Y. / Removing Graffiti

In Plumbing, Q&A on August 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

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Everyone knows what a sacrificial lamb is but did you ever hear of a sacrificial rod in your hot water tank?

In your hot water tank is an “anode rod”. Water heater anodes are often called sacrificial anodes for a good reason. The glass lining that protects the steel tanks of most water heaters is not perfect (unlike us). Electrolytic reactions with minerals in the water can cause the steel tank to corrode. The anode rod, which is usually made from magnesium, is the least noble metal in the tank. As a result, it’s the first to corrode, sparing the steel tank from a similar fate.

Your water heater’s anode should be replaced when it is substantially depleted. Manufacturers suggest it should be checked every six months when other routine water heater maintenance tasks are performed. Just how many of you out there do six month maintenance check-ups on your water tank: such as testing the T&P valve, draining the sediment, cleaning the burner compartment, adjusting the flame if needed and checking for gas leaks. In some heaters the anode rod can be accessed through a port on the top of the tank. Other manufacturers suspend the anode rod from the water outlet. Check the manufacturers instructions for complete details.

Anode rods are not always made from magnesium. In some areas, the water contains minerals that release foul smelling gases when they react with magnesium (I had that problem at my lake house). Usually, it’s sulfur that’s the most troublesome and in these areas anode rods made from aluminum are substituted. If you experience that problem, check with the heater’s manufacturer to obtain the correct anode rod.


When my sink or toilet gets stopped up will snaking it out be an easy do-it-yourself, money-saving project or do I have to call the plumber again?


If plunging fails, it’s time to use and auger or snake. There are various fancy snakes that attach to electrical drills or have tidy cases, but you’ll get no better results than with an ordinary bent-handled snake. It’ll cost around ten dollars at hardware and home centers. The operating principle of a snake is this: You push it into the pipe until it hits the clog, then screw the spiral tip into the obstruction and pull back toward you. Take the trap off first. The trap is the U-shaped section of the pipe directly below the sink or the tub. Unfortunately, some older tubs have those traps shaped like a drum. Sometimes the obstruction will be in that trap; try pushing it out or snagging it with a coat hanger. As soon as you take the trap off under your sink, buy a new slip nut gasket (that’s the plastic or rubber seal). Take the old one with you for reference. I’ve been told I have a loose gasket but in this case the old gasket will probably not seal tightly a second time. If the nut is worn, replace it as well.

You use a special snake called a closet auger for toilets. The rubber sleeve at the end protects the porcelain from scratches, and the long handle certainly makes the job more pleasant. Closet augers cost about twenty-five dollars.


Some kids sprayed graffiti on my garage. What can I use to remove it?


Aren’t kids just the cutest little things and they write just about the cutest little expressions on the side of your garage. Well if you’re not as amused as I am, and I am sure you’re not, there are removers for that graffiti. There are removers for those kids too, but it’s illegal.

You can remove the graffiti using a product called Zip-Strip Paint Remover from the Star-Bronze Company. It costs about $12.99 for 32-ounces. You brush it on, let it sit for about 15 minutes and scrub it off using a stiff brush. But wait! If you still can read the handwriting on the wall, you can also try Motsenbocker’s “Lift Off” Graffiti Remover. It costs about eight dollars for a 22-ounce spray bottle and is safe to use on any surface, is biodegradable and can be used indoor or outdoor.

Check your local hardware or paint stores for these products.

Removing Wet Mark From Wood Table / Repairing Small Holes From Hanging Pictures / Maintenance To Keep Ceramic Floors Looking Great

In Flooring, Miscellaneous, Q&A on July 23, 2012 at 9:41 am

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I had my nephew over and he set a glass on my wood table (without using a coaster) and it left a large white spot or ring. Do we need to refinish the whole table?


You’ve now experienced the age-old problem that people with wood furniture have all experienced. I just didn’t think furniture was made from wood anymore. I was beginning to think everything was plastic, acrylic or laminate. Nice to know wood is still around, and your nephew is gone!

To remove the stain, mix a small amount of toothpaste with some baking soda and lightly rub it onto the white stain. Rub with the grain using a damp, soft cotton rag. When it dries take a dry rag and wipe everything clean.

If the area you cleaned is now a different shade than the rest of the tabletop, don’t fret, gently do the rest of the table and when done, wipe with lemon oil instead of furniture wax.


The house I am trying to sell has some holes where I hung pictures. I want to repair them but don’t know where to start, can you help?


You know I think most of us have some minor nail pops, cracks or holes in at least one wall or ceiling, especially when you remove a shelf, picture, or even from small settling cracks.

I remember my first apartment. I filled the nail holes where I hung pictures with toothpaste to get my security deposit back.

Well, you don’t have to resort to such devious measures as long as there is easy-to-use, “ready-mixed” spackle or patching plaster available for under three dollars a quart. If you’re really trying to save money, buy the very inexpensive, five-pound box, you just mix it with water for about two dollars.

The only tools you’ll need will be a hammer, possibly a putty knife, a four-inch flat blade trowel and some sand paper. Tap in any protruding nails or remove them and replace them with drywall screws. Clean out and remove any loose pieces and fill the holes and cracks using the putty knife and the flat blade. Push the spackle as far into the crack as you can and then release pressure on the blade and as you get farther away from the crack or hole slowly apply more pressure to the blade. What that does is feather the new spackle down the existing wall. The smoother the finish the less sanding you’ll need to do.

So you see, spackling is also like getting plastered, but on a smaller scale and it’s even ok to drive the car afterward!


What kind of maintenance do I need to do to keep my ceramic floors looking great?


You should know that ceramic tiles are like men. If you take care of them in the short run, you can walk all over them for years and talking care of them means just mopping with a cleaner like Spic & Span, rinsing with water and letting it dry. Better yet, you can purchase the Bissell® Steam and Sweep™ at local home centers such as Target, Sears, Lowes and Meijer. It is chemical free and does a great job sweeping and cleaning.

Unglazed tiles should be sealed with a tile sealer (sold at tile stores) and sealed just about every other year. You don’t have to seal unglazed tile, but you should still clean and seal the grout periodically. Products like “Grout Revive” or “Tile Guard” are available at hardware and tile stores, which do the job nicely.

But if you have stains in the grout or in unglazed tiles that just won’t come out, and you’ve tried all the grout cleaners on the market, wearing rubber gloves, goggles, protective clothing and working in a well-ventilated area, you should be able to get the stains out using a diluted solution of Muriatic Acid mopped on and rinsed with water. If that doesn’t work, Phosphoric Acid will. You’ll also find them at hardware and tile stores. Finally, if you can’t get the grout clean, it can be cut out and replaced or even colored using a grout stain or colorant. Similar to what you use to cover your grey hair.

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

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

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.

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