Q: A while back, you wrote about underground home construction and said there are architects who specialize in this. We are interested in getting the names of architects in the Northeast. Can you help?
A: It seems a lot of readers are looking for this kind of information. The best place I know of to find it is the American Underground Space Association, Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455. Write to them for a list of designers and builders.
Q: I am thinking of installing a sauna in my basement, and if possible I'd like to use an electric heater so I won't have to worry about venting off exhaust fumes as I would with a gas heater. How can I find out if my house wiring has enough capacity to take the extra circuit I would need?
A: Go down to your basement and look at your service panel (the box with all the circuit breakers in it). If the box is all filled up with circuit-breakers, the service panel has been wired to capacity. You can't add another circuit without some advanced wiring work. But if there are some unused breaker positions still left in the box, your're in luck. Most electric sauna heaters are 240 volts, so you'll neet two open positions, not just one.
Q: I recently turned my garage into a spare bedroom. The ceilings are gypsum board that I installed and taped myself. I thought I did a careful job, but now that I have painted the ceilings, the taped seams are quite noticeable under some lighting conditions. I guess I will have to try to smooth things out with more wallboard compound. Can I put that material on over the paint, or do i have to sand the paint off first?
A: No need to remove the old paint; wallboard compound will stick to it with no problem. Smooth taping takes real skill, however. In fact, a lot of professional builders hire specialists to do their taping. You might be able to save yourself a lot of work by simply repainting the ceiling with a textued "sand" paint. This stuff contains tiny bits of grit (usually perlite) that gives it a pleasing sandy texture. If your tape joints aren't too bad, that texture should be enough to make those seams disappear.