Do It Yourself

By Gene Austin
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Saturday, September 20, 2008

Q. We want to get new windows for our house and are considering either new-construction windows (replacing jambs, sills and all) or just so-called replacement windows. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of window? -- J. Hoffman

A. I think replacement windows are one of the best home-improvement products to come along in many years. These windows are complete units, with their own frames, and they are easy to install from the inside of the house. The frames of the existing windows are left almost intact. Many do-it-yourselfers, including me, have installed their own replacement windows and saved a great deal of money. High-quality, energy-efficient replacement windows, with double panes of glass, tilt-in sashes for easy cleaning and maintenance-free frames, are available at most home centers and building-supply outlets. Some have lifetime guarantees against failure of the seals between the glass panes, which in older windows often led to fogging between the panes of glass.

Installing replacement windows doesn't mean you'll need to continue painting the exterior wood frames and sills of the old windows. These can be clad with pre-finished aluminum or vinyl skins that never need painting. It is best to have this part of the job done by an experienced window installer.

A minor disadvantage of replacement windows is that they have a bit less glass space than the original windows because their frames take up a little room.

New-construction windows require tearing out the old frames and sills. These are a splendid choice for remodeling if you can afford them. The windows themselves cost significantly more, and professional installation is almost a necessity.

Q. My plumber told me that water-saving toilets and shower heads are bad for the sewer system, eventually causing backups and other problems. I understand the toilets do not work well anyway. Can you comment? -- D. Overton

A. Some critics of water-saving toilets contend that the low flow of water leaves sediment in sewer pipes that can cause corrosion and other problems, but I haven't seen any evidence that this is happening. Advocates of water-saving toilets say that water conservation outweighs any liabilities. At any rate, there isn't much that can be done because federal law requires that all new toilets sold in the United States be of the water-saving type, using about 1.6 gallons of water per flush vs. 3.5 gallons or more for older toilets.

Early water-saving toilets often had clogging problems, but they have improved and now work well.

Water-saving shower heads are recommended by many experts and offer a simple, inexpensive way to save water and cut water bills. I know of no evidence that they harm the sewer system.

Q. I am having a lot of trouble removing adhesive stickers from an old bathtub. It appears they were put there in the 1970s. Can you help? -- Lisa

A. Try applying moderate heat to the stickers with a heat gun or gun-type hair dryer. This should soften the adhesive so you can lift a corner of the sticker with a sharp knife or razor blade and pull or scrape off most of the sticker. Be careful not to scratch the tub. Residue can then be removed with Goo Gone, a solvent sold at many supermarkets. This method also removes bumper stickers and unwanted labels on various products.

Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to Questions cannot be answered personally.

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