Q: My Front door has a crack in it that is about 10 inches long and just wide enough so that I can see light through it. How can I repair this? j
A: Use a two-part epoxy adhesive. Put strips of masking tape along each side of the crack about 1/8 inch away from the crack on each side. Mix the epoxy and add a little finely powdered sawdust to thicken it enough to keep it from sagging and running; (you can make your own sawdust by rubbing some soft wood with a piece of sandpaper). Spread this over and into the crack, using a small, flexible spatula, then smooth off the excess so it is level with the masking tape on each side. Peel the tape off before the epoxy hardens. When the epoxy is hard, sand it smooth and paint it.
Q: I recently replaced the washers and faucet seats in the bathroom sink. I used neoprene washers as the hardware store advised. Now, after I turn the hot water on at a fairly high volume, it slowly turns itself off and reduces in volume as the water gets hotter. It's almost as if the washer was expanding and shutting the water off. The cold-water faucet is fine. What can I do to correct this problem?
A: You have hit the nail on the head -- the washer is expanding or swelling and shutting off the flow of water as it heats up. Change the washer for one that can take the heat, and your problem should be solved.
Q: My house was built in the mid-1859s, and a sink and toilet were added around 1920. That bathroom occasionally reeks of sewer gas. A plumber told me the bathroom was never vented. Could this be the cause of the problem and, if so, what can I do to eliminate the problem since installing a vent pipe would be difficult at this time?
A: Ask at least one more plumber to check the system and make sure there really is no vent pipe connected to the waste system. If there is, it could be that it is partially clogged and unblocking it will solve the problem. If the waste system is not vented, you should have the necessary additional piping installed -- for health reasons, to get rid of the unpleasant odor and to bring your house into compliance with all building codes.
Q: We recently bought a 55-year-old farmhouse that is heated by forced air. This past winter the heating system kept us quite comfortable, but the basement was exceptionally cold and the first floor always felt cold underfoot. I decided to put insulation up under the floor (between the underfoot. I decided to put insulation up under the floor (between the joists), but at some time in the future I want to finish part of the basement. jThe finished part will then be heated with a wood stove. Should the insulation be put up with the vapor barrier facing up toward the floor, or down toward the basement?
A: The vapor barrier should always be installed on the warm (heated) side of the insulation; in your case the barrier should be facing up. I know that eventually you will be finishing the basement, but when it is heated the vapor barrier won't really matter, unless you leave the heat off a good part of the time. Then it would be preferable to have it facing up.
Q: We recently bought a house that has bricks on the front. The previous owner painted these bricks (and the shingles) many times, but we dislike the look of white paint on brick and would like to restore the original without damaging the bricks. Can you tell us (and several of our neighbors who have the same problem) how we can remove the paint?
A: There are many companies that do this kind of work, either by sandblasting, or by the use of special high-pressure hoses that are used after a chemical is applied to soften the old paint. Done properly, neither of these methods will damage the bricks. Since several of your neighbors have the same problem, chances are that it would pay to get together and hire one firm to do them all at the same time -- there could be a price break that way.
Q: The 22x24-inch plywood panels in my overhead garage door have horizontal cracks clear through the wood; (I can see through the cracks). Replacing these panels seems out of the question since they seem to be set into grooves or slots so that getting them out would involve tearing the whole door apart. Will it be possible to cover these cracked panels with Formica sheet vinyl or similar material, and then paint over the new surface?
A: You can cover these panels as you suggest, but you may have to remove all the paint first, since some plastics are put on with an adhesive that generally will not bond well over paint. I think you would be better off with fiberglass or vinyl, rather than something rigid like Formica. Fiberglass is sold in auto supply stores, hardware stores, and marine supply outlets; it is put on with a special resin and then coated with the same resin. The vinyl that I refer to is the heavy-duty vinyl wallcoverings that are sold in all wallpaper stores. This is put on with a special adhesive that you can but from the same dealer.
Regardless of which material you decide on, fill the cracks first with a polyster putty (sold in auto supply stores for body work). Then after you have covered the panels on the inside sand the outside smooth and apply a fresh coat of paint.
Q: My house has hand-split cedar shingles that were once covered with an asphalt-base paint. I had them sandblasted to get this old coating off, and they are now down to the bare wood. I was advised that the bare shingles should now be waterproofed. Can you tell me what I can use that will still retain the original color?
A: Anything you put on the raw wood shingles will darken them to some extent -- you can get an idea of how much by wetting them with water. However, there are clear coatings that will not change the color to any great extent -- various wood preservatives such as those that contain pentachlorophenol, and even a clear cresote made by one of the large shingle stain companies (Cabot). Any of these will help seal and protect the wood.