Q: The gutters around our house leak badly at the joints. The roofer put tar over these joints, but that didn't help much. Can you tell me what can be done?
A: I don't know what your roofer used, or how it was put on, but try this: Scrape the inside clean, then spread a thick coat of roofing cement over the joint inside the gutter. Next, press a sheet of heavyweight aluminum foil over this cement, then spread another thick layer of cement over this. This repair should last for years.
Q: I am having a problem with a sluggish toilet that does not flush properly. A plumber checked the mechanism in the tank and replaced the rubber stopper. He also cleaned the bowl with acid, but we had to call him back a few days later for the same problem. He says he checked and the drainpipe is clear. Do you have any other suggestions, short of buying a new toilet?
A: It is hard to be specific without knowing just what was checked, but assuming that the tank fills to the proper level each time and is flushing adequately, it sounds to me as though it could be a clogged vent stack (the pipe that goes up through the roof). If not, the toilet trap in the bowl is partially clogged, or the drain line leading to the toilet is partially clogged.
Q: For several years I have been having a problem with one radiator (I have hot-water heat) that doesn't heat up. Whenever I bleed it, I get some air out and the radiator is fine for a few days. Then it gets cold again and I bleed it again. Can you suggest a solution?
A: First, make sure you are bleeding all the air out each time. Try bleeding at hourly intervals three or four times in one day. If this doesn't cure the problem, air is getting in systematically. It could be that your expansion tank (in the basement over or alongside the boiler) needs emptying, or it could be that the valve leading to that radiator is leaking and drawing air in with the water.
Q: I want to replace the washer in my bathtub faucet but can't seem to get the handle off to take the faucet apart. I have tried tapping the handle off, but am afraid it will break if I hit it too hard. Can you offer a solution?
A: Your handle is probably held on by a small screw under the decorative button or plate in the center of the handle, the one that says "hot" or "cold" (H or C). This button can be pried out with the point of a knife. You will then see the screw inside. When it is removed, the handle can be tapped off. In some cases, instead of a screw under the button there will be a threaded collar on the underside of the handle. Loosen this and drop it down, then the handle can be pried off gently.