QExposed pipes in a small room in my home get severe condensation even though the pipes are insulated. Any suggestions? -- M. Mitchell
ACondensation on exposed water pipes is common in basements, bathrooms, kitchens and similar areas in humid weather. The moisture can cause problems such as mold, mildew and musty odors. If water drips, it can damage floors.
The most effective solutions are dehumidification and improved ventilation. Insulating the pipes sometimes helps.
If it is possible to run a small dehumidifier in the room, that should clear up the problem quickly. In a small room, operating the dehumidifier occasionally should be enough; in large areas such as basements, regular dehumidification might be needed. Air conditioning will also dehumidify air.
Improving ventilation can sometimes be as simple as opening doors and windows to allow better air circulation. If condensation occurs in a closet, installing louvered doors instead of solid doors can improve air circulation and sometimes solve the problem. Exhaust fans, to pump overly humid air to the outside, are extremely helpful and are common in kitchens and bathrooms.
If a musty smell is the main problem, an odor absorber can help clear the air.
The grout in our ceramic-tile kitchen floor looks dirty even after being bleached and resealed. A contractor told me to put in a new floor because the wrong kind of grout was used. Is there any other option? -- A. P.
If only the grout is in poor condition, there is no reason to replace the tiles. Also, if the grout had not been sealed, you could stain it to restore the color you want.
Your best option now is to replace the grout, which is a tedious but not difficult job. The old grout must be removed, and several tools are available for this. A small "grout saw" is often used; you can buy one from most tile dealers. For faster removal, a special bit can be used in a rotary tool such as a Dremel.
Once the old grout is out, replace it with a latex-modified grout in your choice of colors. A darker tone, such as gray or brown, might be best for your floor. Follow directions on the grout container for grouting tiles. It is important to remove any grout from the tiles before it dries or a difficult-to-remove haze will result.
Of course, you can also hire a tile contractor to grout the tiles.
A number of thermal windows in our 20-year-old house need to be replaced because the glass has become fogged with dirt and moisture between the two panes. Would it be more cost-effective for us to replace just the glass units or the entire windows? -- L. Smith
If the windows are under warranty and the manufacturer will replace the glass units at no cost, then it would pay to replace just the glass units. (Unless you make the replacements yourself, you will still have to pay someone to install the glass, since most window warranties do not cover labor.)
If the windows are not in warranty, your best bet is to replace the windows completely. You will be able to get the most up-to-date, energy-efficient windows, everything will fit well, and you should insist on a lifetime warranty against leakage of the glass seals.
Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions cannot be answered personally.