Q: We bought a two-year-old house that has radiant ceiling panel heating. The heat was satisfactory this past winter, except for the fact that there is a sharp crackling noise, especially in the living room, when the heat comes on and goes off. I realize this is probably due to expansion and contraction of the pipes - even though we have eight inches of insulation in the ceiling - but we wonder if there is anything we can do to reduce the noise during cold weather.
A: It is probably true that the pipes in the ceiling expand and contract with the chages in temperature as water flows through them, but I cannot really tell you how to correct this yourself because it may involve some plumbing changes or some adjustments to the heating system. It could be that an expansion coil installed in the right place will solve your problem, or it could be that lowering the temperature of the hot water that flows through the pipes will eliminate the noises. In either case I suggest that you call a heating contractor to look the system over and try to find a cure.
Q: For the past 13 years I have had a house two blocks from the ocean. I never had a problem with the paint until this past fall, after I had it painted to give it a fresh look. About one month after it was painted it began to peel, taking off the old paint down to the bare wood. Do you have an opinion as to what could have caused this?
A: There are many factors that can cause paint to peel, so it is difficult to give you a specific answer. The fact that the paint is peeling down to the bare wood indicates that the original coat of paint is letting go. You can blame this on the last coast that was applied. The most frequent cause of paint peeling to the bare wood is moisture in the wood, that is, moisture that gets in behind the pain. This can be from leaks in the caulking or some of the flashing around the outside; overflowing gutters that cause water to back up under roof shingles and then allow it to seep down into the wall siding behind the paint, or open joints in the exterior siding and trim.
It can also be caused by moisture vapor from inside the house finding its way into the wall because of a missing or inadequate vapor barrier. There is also one other long shot that can cause this kind of peeling on older houses - too heavy a buildup of too many layers of paint. If paint gets too thick it will let go from the sheer weight of the film. I suggest that you ask your local paint dealer to contact the manufacturer of the paint you have been using to see if they can send a technician to examine the house, or at least, examine some large chips of the paint that is coming off.
Q: Last year in early spring when the warm weather first arrived we had a swarm of termites in our second floor powder room. This took just one day, and we were not bothered again. We called an exterminator who, after inspecting our crawl space and the outdoor area around the house, said there were no signs of termites in the woodwork of the house. He said that the termites had probably come in from the outside and swarmed toward thelight. It is true that we see no signs of termites going into the woodwork from the crawl space. Is this type of swarming a normal occurence, and should we get another expert opinion?
A: I would call in another exterminator who specializes in termit problems. It is normal for termites to swarm once a year when a mature colony outgrows its nest and the young seek a new site, but I have never heard of them "swarming toward the light." If it is actually a termite swarm you saw (it could have been some other type of insect), and if the discarded wings were left there (termites shed their wings after this swarming period and go permanently underground again), then you can almost certain there is a colony nearby. Play safe and call someone else for a thorough inspection of the entire house.
Q: A brown stain about 12 inches wide, with drippings running down about 12 inches from each stain, has appeared on opposite ends of the painted west wall of our house. The stains begin about six inches below the ceiling, just under a cross beam, and about six inches in from the corners. The stains are tacky and wash off with water. Can you suggest a cause for this and how to prevent it?
A: It is hard to say for sure, but it sounds to me as though you have some type of sap or oil running out of the wood beam you refer to. This probably is being leached out by moisture getting into this beam, either in the form of condensation in the attic or a leak somewhere in the roof or along the eaves. I would start by first making a thorough inspection of this beam and of the roof and outside walls above it to see if there is any place moisture could be entering. Also, look for dampness in the wood - this could indicate a condensation problem in your attic, which means more ventilation is needed up there. After you have solved the moisture problem, scrub the stains off as much as you can with a strong detergent; paint over them with a stain-killing primer, such as one of the pigmented shellac base primer-sealers; then paint the wall in the usual manner.
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