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Driving Water Pressure

Driving Water Pressure

Henry
San Antonio, Texas

Question: I have a sudden increase in water pressure inside my house. Has the pressure reducing valve gone bad, can it be adjusted back down & what is the recommended pressure?

Answer: The pressure reducing valve is generally considered to be a "life-of-mortgage" product because it is generally not replaced when malfunctioning, but rather cleaned or repaired. You can do this with an inexpensive service kit found at hardware or plumbing supply stores.

Design-wise, it is similar to the kitchen faucet in that dirt or foreign matter on the seating area can cause problems. Actually, it is no more difficult to repair a regulator than it is to fix the kitchen faucet. Recommended pressure reading should be set at 50 lbs.

--Kelly

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Back Deck Add-on Idea

H. A. White
Mountain View, California

Question: My family is considering adding a deck to the back of our home. We really don't have the time to do it ourselves and we would probably need more experience before we could tackle a home improvement project this big. Should we hire a contractor or do it ourselves?

Answer: My father and I just completed the finishing touches on his basement. Now we've done this type of thing before, and we even had to hire an electrician to do wiring and a carpet guy to complete the flooring.

Which brings me to my point: when you talk about building a patio deck, you're talking about preparing the ground, framework, and levelling. These are things best left to the pros. My advice to you would be to contract the work out to a professional (with references). You'll thank me and your back will thank me too.

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Gross Grouting Problem

Mary
Moscow, Russia

Question: The grouting in my bathroom is starting to discolor. Do I have to remove it, or can I bleach it to make it white again?

Answer: The factor that would be important to consider is the degree of the discoloration. Simple surface tarnishes that have not pierced the joint between the tile and the caulking can be easily cleaned with some sort of bleach-based solvent. Allow the solvent to pre-soak on the caulking for 5 minutes. Then, simply clean with a soft-bristled brush. Depending on the amount of mold, you might have to complete a couple of applications. However, should the caulking become brittle and chip away, it is advisable to consider chipping away the old caulking layer and reapply. You could probably do that yourself.

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Attack of Major Molding

Tex Banner
San Jose, California

Question: My summer cabin was closed up tight and moisture became trapped in the kitchen area. When the weather got warm the moisture turned to condensation and the walls and ceiling all developed mold. What can I do to take care of it?

Answer: These are some general guidelines you will want to follow to get rid of the problem. Identify and correct the moisture source. Clean, disinfect, and dry the moldy area. Bag and dispose any material that has moldy residues, such as rags, paper, leaves, or debris.

Substances that are porous and can trap molds, such as paper, rags, wallboard, and rotten wood should be decontaminated and thrown out. Harder materials such as glass, plastic, or metal can be kept after they are cleaned and disinfected.

After fixing the moisture source and removing excess moisture, the cleanup can begin. Wear gloves when handling moldy materials. Remove porous materials (examples: ceiling tiles, sheetrock, carpeting, wood products).

Carpeting can be a difficult problem -- drying does not remove the dead spores. If there is heavy mold, disposal of the carpet should be considered. Bag and discard the moldy substances. Allow the area to dry 2 or 3 days.

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Demolition in the Kitchen?

Charity
Greensborough, NC

Question: My kitchen is currently closed off from my family room, but I'd like to remove a wall and replace it with a kitchen counter that would make the rooms open to one another. How do I know if it's safe to take out the wall, and are there parts of this project I could do myself or is it best to leave it all up to a contractor?

Answer: With any type of major structural modification I would suggest consulting with a home improvement specialist. With the varieties of home plans that are now on the market, it is always safest to have your plan examined by a professional and to solicit his advice before beginning a project. Better yet, get advice and estimates from a couple of different places to be sure that everyone is on the same page about what can and can't be done to your home (and for how much).

--Kelly

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

No Smoking or Yelling, Please

Amanda
London, England

Question: We live in an old house divided into two apartments; the division comes by way of a closed door that is at the top of the downstairs apartment's first flight of stairs. We've had smoke and noise drift through the doorway. Can you tell us how we can make it draught and soundproof?

Answer: My first thoughts about your problem lead me to tell you that part of the problem you can control and part of it you can not. Since I'm a positive person, we will begin with the part you can control. By purchasing a new door from your local home improvement super-center, you can cut down on a significant portion of both the smoke and the noise. Denser materials and seamless fit make for less draft and an over-all technologically advanced door. The part you can not control is the solid construction of the house walls. The only thing that kills noise is a good wall structure.

--Kelly

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Laying Tiles Tactfully

Fran
Liverpool, England

Question: We have just had our kitchen remodeled, and are going to choose wall and floor tiles tomorrow. My husband is hoping to lay/fix them himself to cut down costs. Have you got any labor saving tips? What would you use to keep them straight?

Answer: You have chosen an arduous task, so I'll help any way I can. The first thing you need is a general plan that you will follow. This includes examining a floor plan of the kitchen that has the lengths of the sides listed plainly. This will help you to buy only the amount of tiling materials that you need, saving you some money and time.

You will actually need to use a support rule to make sure that your tiling is straight. Above all, take your time with the project. The cost will really ad up if you have to tear out work you have completed and redo. Consult a professional for specific advice before you begin.

--Kelly

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Restoring Your Former Formica

Margaret
New York, NY

Question: The under-sink cabinet in my bathroom was brand-new in 1986 but now there is substantial wear and tear in the form of peeling formica and water-swollen surfaces. I can't afford to replace the cabinet. What would you advise?

Answer: The heat released the Formica from its adhesive and allowed the bubble. Since you have a hole now, you must work in some fresh adhesive through the hole and cover the hole with wax paper. Then place a large heavy object on top to weigh it down for a day while the adhesive cures and dries.

Once you have secured the counter top, then use a Formica repair kit that closest matches your finish. It is available at Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. The cost should be between $9.00 and $15.00. These kits are available in low, satin and gloss finish, so make sure you purchase the one which is right for your existing counter top.

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Taking the Pressure Out of Pressure Washing

Name: Karl
Middletown, New Jersey

Question: What is the best way to clean a redwood deck other than power washing? I have power washed for several years and it works but it tends to etch the wood. Can you suggest a method that is as effective as power washing but not as destructive?

Answer: Sand splintered areas with 80-grit paper. Repair damaged boards. Sweep off loose debris and clean between the cracks of the boards. For concentrated cleaners, follow the manufacturer's mixing directions.

Use a paint roller with an extension handle, a garden sprayer, or a stiff-bristled push broom to apply cleaner to the entire deck. Don't allow cleaner to puddle in any area. Keep the deck wet with cleaner. Do not allow cleaner to dry. Scrub tough areas with a stiff brush or broom. Avoid using wire brushes or brooms.

Allow the cleaner to soak into the wood. Soaking time is usually no more than ten minutes, but check the product instructions. Rinse the deck thoroughly.

--Kelly

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Filling Faulty Basement Cracks

Name: Colleen
City: Saskatoon, Canada

Question: How can you seal a basement crack against water leakage?

Answer: If you have cracks in your basement that allow water to leak through, you can cure the problem by using special hydraulic cement. Like other types of cement, quick drying hydraulic cement comes as a powder which is mixed with water. It dries very quickly, even under water, and can be used to patch cracks in masonry and cement to effectively seal out water.

Leaky cracks should be fixed as soon as possible, since any water that freezes in those cracks will expand and cause further damage. If a crack reopens after it is repaired, you may have a serious problem. Consult a building professional.

--Kelly

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

Freeing Frozen Windows

Kelly
San Francisco, California

Question: We just bought a home built in 1906, last renovated in the 70s. We are having a hard time sliding open our windows--the ones with ropes for mechanisms. We're even having trouble with the newer windows sticking. Do you have any tips on how to make our windows slide more freely?

Answer: Application of a simple liquid spray lubricant such as WD-40 will benefit you in a couple of ways. First, it will solve the problem of your windows being stuck inside the jam area. Many times, dirt or rust will keep those from sliding the pane up and down properly.

Second, the lubricant will protect your window jam from future rust or corrosion. If the lubricant does not get the windows sliding properly, then you might want to have a professional exam the window frame itself for possible structural damage to the wall. Sometimes settling at the base of the home will cause door and window jams to warp.

--Kelly

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.

The Future in Deck Material

Liz
Boulder, Colorado

Question: I own a home in Colorado which has 3 large decks. Altitude, strong sun, and dry climate make maintaining these wood decks quite challenging. I understand a new decking product, called Trex, is available.

What are your thoughts on this product? How does it compare in cost and maintenance? Are there any special installation requirements? Are there any unique problems or cautions I should be aware of?

Answer: I did a little research on the Trex building material, and I really liked what I saw. Apparently, the material is a hybrid of wood and plastic recyclables. Basically, they take the refuse and create a better product. The plastic keeps the wood from splintering and rotting, while the wood gives the deck a real solid look and feel. It requires no stains of sealants, resists harsh weather, and is splinter-free. As far as installation or price specifics, I can't really say. I would suggest contacting the company directly. I'm sure they have a web presence.

--Kelly

The home improvement advice and information given in this column is a general recommendation only. On-site examination of the problem is required for a proper decision on repair.
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