Q: We have a country home that we do not use in the winter. I cut the water off and open all the faucets at the end of the summer, but this is apparently not enough to eliminate all problems with pipes cracking. What else should I do?
A: Opening all the faucets does not necessarily empty all the pipes; water remains in low spots between faucets and in pipes in the basement or under the lowest faucet. You will have to open a fitting (or install one that can be opened in the winter) at the lowest point or points in the system, and this includes near the water heater.
Don't forget to drain the waste system; water stands in the traps and can freeze. Fill the traps with antifreeze solution (half and half with water).
Q: I have a through-the-wall air conditioner in my bedroom that has more capacity than I need for that room. Adjoining this bedroom is a bathroom I would like to cool. Is it possible to attach a duct to a roomtype unit so cool air can be directed to the adjacent bathroom when the bedroom is being cooled?
A: This depends on the design of your air-conditioning unit and on the size and capacity of its circulating fan. Even if this is adequate, it will probably involve modifying the cabinet and blocking off the air opening, then constructing some type of plenum chamber so the air can be properly divided, with most going to the main room and part diverted to the bathroom
You could accomplish much the same thing with less trouble and expense by simply cutting a hole in the wall between the two rooms, and installing an exhause fan (the kind normally installed in kitchen walls). This fan would blow cool air from the bedroom into the bathroom and could be turned on only when the air conditioner is in use; the rest of the time it would be closed off by the damper or cover attached to the other side.
Q: I recently had some plumbing done in the basement that called for digging up part of the cement. When this was done we discovered that there was a sizable space under the concrete between the bottom of the floor and the ground below. The floor is about 3 inches thick and the depth of space under the floor varies from 2 inches to 12 inches, and spreads over an area about 9 feet by 15 feet. Do you think we should take steps to correct this?
A: The concrete slab that forms a basement floor is usually poured directly on the ground, so there should be no space under it. It seems to me that the earth has been washed away by some flow of water. This should be filled in, but it might be worth your while to consult a knowledgeable builder or engineer to find out what caused the washout in the first place.
Q: We have grass cloth wallpaper in one room. We like the texture, but the paper has become discolored. Can this type of paper be painted over, and if so, what kind of paint should be used?
A: You can paint over the grass cloth with a latex paint. I would recommend using a roller; you will need two coats for uniform coverage. If the paper is painted, however, it will be much harder to remove later on when you want to get it off.
Q: My powder room is paneled in birch that is badly water-spotted around the sink and in one place where water ran down from an overhead leak. Can this damage be remedied without replacing all the paneling?
A: There are two ways this can be done. One way is to use a paint and varnish remover and strip the panels down to the bare wood, then use wood bleach to take out any stains that remain. After this, you can re-stain in the color you want and finish with varnish or penetrating wood sealer.
The other method is to wash the surface clean, then apply two coats of semigloss enamel. If you don't want the effect of a solid color, you can apply an antique glaze over this, then apply a coat of dull varnish over it to protect the glaze color. Antiquing kits and glaze are available in most paint stores.