Q: Now that warm weather is approaching, we will want to keep our front door open for fresh air. The trouble is that people can see in through the screen door-all the way into the kitchen. Is there anything we can put on the screen to insure our privacy and still enjoy the breezes?
A: Several manufacturers of screen mesh now make what is called solar screening. Its primary purpose is to shade out a high percentage of the sun's heat, but it also offers almost complete privacy because people cannot see through from the outside during the day, while you can see out. It does not cut down on the amount of air admitted to any appreciable degree. You can replace the present screen mesh in your door with this material.
Q: In my house there is a built-in cedar closet that is about 20 years old. The original aroma seems to be gone from the wood. I there a way to restore this aroma?
A: You can usually restore the aroma of cedar by sanding the surface with fine grit paper (No. 120 or No. 150). Sand all surfaces carefully and evenly, then dust thoroughly; the aroma should then return.
Q: I have been told that firewood should be dried before being used in a home fireplace in order to make it burn better. I have an attached garage in which I could put the wood to dry, but am reluctant to do so because of the possibility this might attract termites. Can you tell me how I can get around this problem and still dry my wood?
A: If your garage has a concrete floor it is unlikely that a pile of wood on the inside would cause a serious termite problem since termites cannot come through solid concrete. However, they can come through small cracks in concrete, especially cracks where the floor meets the walls, so if a pile of wood were left undisturbed for a long time over such a crack termites might beat a path to this wood. I think you can safely stack the wood in the garage if you raise it off the floor by placing bricks or cement blocks underneath. If the floor is cracked, fill the cracks with patching cement first if you want to be doubly careful.
Q: We have lived for about five years in our two-story, 15-year-old brick house. We have a problem with fungus growing on the metal window frames and the windowsills in some of the rooms. Downstairs, where the window frame is enclosed with paneling, the fungus is growing on the paneling. The only change we have made this year is to install a new humidifier in the heating system. Could this be causing the problem?
A: It seems to me that the humidifier is at the root of the problem-either because it is set too high, or because you already had enough humidity in the house without it. Metal window frames often accumulate condensation in cold weather, and this dampness is the cause of the mildew. Try lowering the setting on the humidifier, or even shutting it off entirely for some time. Also, install storm windows if you don't already have them.
Q: We have a fully inclosed garage attached to the house. Our den is located right above this garage and is quite cold in winter due to the fact that there is no heat in the garage. Can you tell us how to insulate the ceiling of the garage to keep the den waremer?
A: You can put up conventional batts or blankets of fiber glass insulation. If the beams were exposed you can put the insulation up between them. If the ceiling is plastered or cemented, you best bet is to rip the existing ceiling down to expose the beams, then put the insulation up between them before putting new ceiling panels up. Use insulation, and make sure there is a vapor barrier installed above all the insulation-that is, up against the underside of the warm floor above.
Q: Just past the water meter in my house the copper pipe has a long vertical air chamber near the main valve. When either the upstairs or downstairs toilet is flushed, there is a banging noise in the water pipes like water hammer. The banging stops when the tank is filled. I hear the same banging when the washing machine fills. Do you have any idea how this noise can be stopped?
A: The vertical air chamber is supposed to prevent water hammer, but sometimes these chambers become waterlogged. Ake the cap off the top end (after you shut off the main water valve) to see if there is water inside the chamber.If there is, drain it, then reseal the cap tightly with compound on the threads. If the air chamber has no water in it, check the water pipes to see if there are enough mounting straps to prevent movement and vibration, because this is another frequent cause of water hammer. Pay particular attention to where elbows and fittings are close to wood beams and see if these move enough to bang against the wood when water is flowing. If so, install wood blocks next to each and secure with mounting straps. If all else fails, you may need additional air chambers (anti-hammer devices) near each inlet valve leading to a tank or appliance.
Q: The kitchen and den in our 75-year-old house are both built over a crawl space, and both are cold and drafty. Would foam insulation help?
A: I don't think so. You need insulation under the floors of those rooms, and fibreglass batts or blankets generally are used. This will help conserve heat, but drafts should be stopped by using weatherstripping, caulking, or whatever else is needed to close all opening through which cold air can infiltrate.