DEAR SAM: Since we don't have a utility room, we installed our hot water heater in the attic. We occasionally hear flushing sounds from the attic when the presurized water is released. Should we move the hot water heater to another room?

I'm afraid the heater will burst or pipes will leak. Should we install a drip pan and drain; should we move the water heater to another room?

ANSWER: Whether you have an electric or gas hot water heater, both are protected by a temperature/pressure relief valve, which opens to permit water to flow through a drain pipe. It is most advisable to have a pail to catch this drip and to check it occasionally to determine if excessive temperature or pressure occurs.

I agree that it would be better to move the water heater to the main floor, where you could more easily examine it. The noises, too, may be the result of the omission of an air-chamber at the heater so that the "ON-OFF" use of hot water causes a back-up of water pressure with no means to equalize the forward thrust of the water flow. This, indeed, may cause a weakening of a pipe fitting and finally water spillage of serious nature.

Any banging of water pipes should be given attention before the damage occurs. Air chambers should be utilized on both hot and cold water lines to relieve the shock when water flow is quickly interrupted.

DEAR SAM: My house is about 25 years old and has a main floor and basement. Recently, cracks have begun to show in the main floor ceiling. They run parallel to each other from the front to the back of the house and perpendicular to the attic floor joists. There are two major cracks, both about 26 feet long and 10 feet apart. The cracks are not large and if the house were new, I would attribute them to normal settling; however, I am concerned that they might indicate some more serious problem and wonder what steps should be taken.

ANSWER: Since the cracks have developed recently, do you recall any changes made in the ceiling insulation or in the attic storage facilities, etc. ? The age of the house would possibly indicate that a new roof was installed a few years ago or that some previous leakage could have taken place, that might have penetrated to the ceilings and weakened them.

If the above offers no clues, you might consider the construction framing. Are the ceilings of wire or rocklath and plaster materials? Or was gypsum board (drywall construction) used? Today's assembly method house construction utilizes roof trusses which are supported directly by the exterior walls; also, the need for supporting or interior bearing walls is initially deferred and variation in the floor plans can be instituted. Previously, ceiling joists were installed prior to the roof rafters and their dimensions were determined by the span between bearing partitions. Are your joists 2x6's or 2x8's and are they 16 or 20 inches on centers?