Q - We have a 25-year-old ranch house, and during the past nine years we have had a serious problem with mildew. It grows in the closets and on the walls of our master bedroom which is formed by three exterior walls. Our closets, which line one of the exterior walls, are a problem all year around. The walls only give us trouble during the spring and fall. I know we have too much humidity but I run an exhaust fan in the kitchen and open a bathroom window for siring after each shower.

A - Since you are taking precautions to prevent adding a lot of extra water to your air and still have a problem, I'd recommend a dehumidifier. Get one with a humidistat so it will run only when necessary.

If possible, position it so its exhaust blows into the closets. According to the sketch you sent, this problem room faces north. That makes the walls cool and encourages condensation. You could probably solve your problem by insulating instead of using a dehumidifier. But since you say the problem gets worse each year, I'd bet your exterior walls are soaking up water inside. It might be best to use the dehumidifier for a few months before you insulate, to help dry the walls out.

Q - I want to remove the asphalt tile from my basement floor. Scraping it off is practically impossible. If I do manage to remove a piece, part of the concrete surface comes with it. A local tile dealer suggested a hot clothes iron, but who wants to ruin a good iron?

A - A hot Iron is the standard technique for removing tiles, and you can do the job without running the iron. The trick is to place a sheet of heavy kraft paper between the iron and the floor. That should soften the mastic enough to let you get the tiles up without damaging the concrete. But if you have a lot of tiles to remove, the going will be slow. "I'd suggest you avoid taking the tiles up if at all possible. Cover them with a rubber-backed carpet, for example.