Get answers to your questions from "Canada's Handiest Man".
Has a home improvement or repair project got you stumped? Wondering which power tools are tops this year? Need some woodworking or homesteading advice? Why not "Ask Steve". He reads all questions and answers the most popular ones by email or video. Follow your question to get an email alert when Steve has posted an answer.
How should I insulate my basement? I’ve been researching foam products and they look impressive, but I can’t find any contractors who think foam insulation in basements is a good idea. All they recommend is stud frame walls with fiberglass and carpet on the floor.
What should I use to strip paint off one outside wall of my house? The last time I stripped before painting I used a propane torch on the other walls, but that was before I realized I was dealing with lead paint. Now I’m thinking that a commercial paint stripper might be safer.
What can I do to fill the cracks between pine floor boards on my covered veranda? Every four years I need to replace large sections due to rot, and before painting I fill the cracks. In a week or two the filler is falling out. I’ve seen tight verandah floors on other homes, so I know durable filling is possible.
Will it do any good to put drainage tiles under the patio slabs around the perimeter of our leaky basement? The slabs measure 18″ x 18” and begin right next to the wall. Water is leaking into the basement where the wall meets the basement floor, about 8-feet down.
We’ve just rebuilt our cedar deck and want to apply the best staining treatment to protect it. In the past everything we’ve put on other decks has either peeled off or was quickly damaged by the claws of our dog. My husband wants to go with a tinted, transparent product called Cetol Dek, but I prefer a Cabot Decking Stain. What should we do?
How can I extend the height of a wooden fence from five feet to seven feet tall without putting in new posts? I want to install a wooden lattice above the five-foot mark.
What can I do about the sad, ugly finish on my 2 year old cedar deck? The original finish lasted less than two months. Do I need to sand the surface? This would be a huge job, and maybe not necessary. On the other hand, I’ve heard that pressure washing isn’t the best thing for wood. No one is consistent with product recommendations, so I don’t know what to do.
Will the condensation underneath the vapour barrier in my basement go away after I install drywall? The walls are framed with metal studs in some places and wood in others, there’s batt insulation between the studs and a vapour barrier on the inside face. Condensation isn’t happening too much in the area around wood studs, but there’s an absolute deluge of running condensation droplets in many areas framed with metal studs. All this is happening in a basement that hasn’t leaked in years.
I have an outdoor oak bench and cedar chairs that I assembled and finished last year with a clear water repellent, but they don’t look great now. They stayed out in the weather last summer and are dull and discoloured. Should I coat them again with the same stuff?
Is there an economical alternative to spray foam applied by a professional? The verbal quote I have for 400 sq. ft. of foam at R40 seems so expensive.
How should I arrange heating ducts as I convert an unfinished basement space into a couple of bedrooms? Right now the heat ducts are up at the ceiling. Should I extend them down to floor level? Do I need to bother installing return air ducts, too?
How important is it that wood siding be installed over strapping to provide ventilation? My husband and I built a home that we’re now selling, but the prospective buyer is concerned that we installed clapboard directly to the outside face of the exterior walls. The siding is five years old now, and the stained finish is holding up beautifully.
My wife and I are building a couple of Muskoka chairs out of eastern white cedar. Since I’m making them fold-able, I plan to store the chairs indoors. What finish provides the best protection against sunlight while enhancing the beautiful grain of the wood?
I live in a 13-year-old brick bungalow, with about 6 feet of parged concrete block foundation visible above ground. Over the years it’s become messy looking, with faint concrete block lines and damp spots showing through. Can parging be replaced? Is this a good idea? How much would it cost?
Our insurance company tells us that our 25 year-old oil tank needs to be replaced or they won’t extend coverage. Is it better to spend $1,100.00 on a new oil tank or $3,000.00 on a gas furnace? The heating oil people tell me it will cost more to heat with gas, while the gas people tell us we can cut our bill in half with a new furnace. Who’s right? Our current oil furnace is 20 years old.
How can I figure out how much energy my washing machine uses with each load? I’ve already asked the manufacturer, and they suggested I ask EnerGuide Canada. I never did receive an answer from them. All I know is that my machine is supposed to use 293 kWh per year, but I want to know how much it costs to operate my washer per hour.
Is there any kind of plaster that can be applied over old drywall that’s getting damaged as we try to remove old wallpaper? Our house was built in the 1950s, and even though we’ve tried saturating the surface with a wallpaper removing solution, it still doesn’t come off without causing lots of gouges and damage.
Can I use plastic lumber to build some Adirondack chairs for my cottage? It’s now time to replace the wooden chairs I made 20 years ago, and I’m interested in the rot resistance, weight and freedom from finishing that plastic lumber offers. Will this work? Is there a way to finish the cut ends so they match the surrounding surfaces?
How should I insulate a 10 x 14-foot basement space for a wine cellar I’m building? Three walls face soil and a rec room is outside the fourth. All walls are currently insulated. The door is hollow wood and I’m aiming for a 13ºC temperature year round.
How can I expand the living space in my house on a tight budget? We are a family of five and my middle child is 9 years old and has a serious illness involving medical equipment and support workers. As my oldest daughter enters her teenage years, she could really use a tiny bit of space for herself. Is finishing the attic an option for us? We’ve considered finishing the basement, but this space aggravates my daughter’s asthma.
I’m planning to restore an 1860′s board-and-batten home, and need some advice about insulation. Right now there’s none in the wall cavities and I want to change this as part of the restoration. What’s the best type of insulation to use in this situation? I’ve been told that moisture often gets behind board-and-batten siding, so fiberglass batts aren’t a good choice. Rigid sheets of foam insulation are difficult to cut accurately and seal within wall cavities. Some experts have advised the application of spray foam to the inside of the walls, but I’m concerned that the siding boards will be restricted by the hardened foam, then crack with seasonal changes in humidity. Any ideas or recommendations?
How can I cast my own concrete outdoor steps? I’m not impressed with what’s available at home improvement stores, and I remember reading an article of yours about casting concrete so it looks like stone. What’s the process? What sort of mixture should I use?
We’ve moved into a brand new home and we’re having trouble with a section of the basement we requested be built into a storage area. Liquid water seeps into the room and fuzzy growths are appearing on stored items and the exposed wooden framework. The builder has since put white sheets of foam on the walls, but it hasn’t helped. What can we do? The room is worse than useless.
How can I stop water pipes from making noise? The problem appeared when we had a third story added to our 100+ year-old downtown home three years ago. At first the noise occurred once in a while, but now it happens whenever an upstairs or basement tap is shut off. We called the plumber who did the work and he lowered the flow through some of the faucets and suggested turning them off more slowly. The flow adjustment didn’t help, and while gentle turn-offs do sometimes work, we have teen and preteen kids . . . What can I do? Is it worthwhile to try another plumber?
How should I finish my 18-year-old cedar deck? Over the years I’ve tried many products, and none have lasted more than a year. Even products with a five year warranty didn’t fare better. What should I do? The wood is still in good shape.
What’s the best way to insulate and finish a basement cold room so it’s as warm and cozy as the rest of the basement? Right now this space is useless because it gets cold enough in winter to freeze food, and too warm in summer to store produce. The room currently has exposed concrete block walls and a vent to the outdoors.
What can we do about sky-high summertime humidity in our house? The building is 35 years old and sits entirely on a concrete pad. Humidity is fine in winter, but in the warm months we smell mildew in the carpeting if we don’t run a dehumidifier constantly. My plan is to dig around the perimeter of the house and install 2″-thick x 12″-wide pieces of rigid foam against the concrete foundation, and then put the earth back. Will this work?
What’s better, fiberglass or organic shingles for roofing? Two of the three companies quoting on my job strongly recommend fiberglass. From a price stand point, there’s little difference, though warranties look better on the fiberglass. Can you help me make my decision?
How can we stop water from seeping through the walls of the cold room built in a basement underneath our front steps? We’ve parged and painted inside several times with concrete oil-based paint, but nothing works. The room has become a messy combination of peeling paint, leeching lime and mold. I’m determined to rectify this scary situation, but how?
What’s the best way to boost the energy efficiency of my 65-year-old frame house while I’m redoing exterior walls this season? My plan is to remove all exterior layers, including the original 1″ X 6″ sheathing boards, then fill the exposed stud wall cavities from the outside with spray foam, reinstall 5/8″ exterior-grade plywood sheathing on top, then 1″-thick sheet foam, building wrap and finally some factory-finished plank siding. Is there any way I can improve my plan? Our house is very drafty and expensive to heat, so I need to do something.
How can I get rid of the smell of smoke on a century-old oak buffet? I recently bought the piece of furniture at an auction and didn’t notice that it reeks of tobacco. I’ve tried many applications of Orange Glo and Lemon Pledge but to no avail. Any suggestions short of burning it!
I have a problem with a leaking basement window well and I don’t know how to fix it. Water pools in the bottom and seeps in through the basement window, even when it’s closed. I’ve bought some caulking to seal the area where the window well meets the house wall. Is this the best approach?
What can my husband and I do about a very leaky finished basement in the home we just bought? This is our first house, and the previous owners (who’ve lived in the place for seventeen years) assured our real estate agent that the basement was dry. But the last time we had wet weather, the walls looked like Niagara Falls! It’ll cost $10,000 to fix this problem, and our Realtor no longer returns our calls. What can we do?
How should I prepare a bathroom subfloor before installing snap-together vinyl tiles? My plan is to add 3/8-inch plywood over the 3/4-inch subfloor that’s already there. The existing subfloor has gaps between seams and lots of old glue, but it’s not thick. Also, one seam at the edge of a piece of ply is 1/4” higher than the surrounding floor, but I plan to sand that down. Will the new plywood cover up all the sins?
It is a good idea to cover a deck with a roof, while leaving the walls open? What options do I have other than cedar for the new structure? Are there composites available that can hold a roof, possibly with solar panels mounted on top?
My kitchen will be renovated soon and I’d like to expose the bricks on one interior wall. The kitchen has a breakfast room adjoining it, with its own separate roof and lower walls — sort of like a shed tacked on to the side of the house. A small area of brick inside the kitchen extends outdoors, above the roof line of the breakfast room. It’s about 2 1/2-feet high, and this is the area I’m concerned about. Do I need to insulate this on the outside somehow, to keep the kitchen warm? Also, how do I clean the bricks if I find them dirty after pulling down the current interior wall surfaces?
About 5 years ago I installed two posts under a porch and now one seems to be rising out of the ground. I set the bottoms 50 inches below the surface, in bell-shaped holes, to prevent heaving. I also put a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the holes to aid drainage, and topped the backfill off with sloped concrete, to shed rain. I’m now noticing that this concrete cap on one post is an inch above ground. I hoped this might be due to soil settling, but since the porch is no longer level, I know heaving is the cause. Any explanations about why it happened? Should I wait another year to see if it heaves more? What’s to stop a new post from doing the same thing? I thought I did everything right.
I live in a six year-old two story home, and when the shower or bath faucets are turned on in the bathroom, the cold water pipe vibrates and makes a knocking noise. I’ve located the spot in the basement where the pipe enters the interior wall, on its way upstairs, and I can feel the pipe moving if I put my hand on it. If the water is shut off, then on again, it usually stops the sound for that shower or bath event. How can I solve this problem permanently?
Help! How do I get rid of a sticky mess that’s all over my house? I tried to paint the ceramic tiles on my bathroom floor, beginning with a shellac-based primer. It looked beautiful, but as soon as the floor got damp, the paint peeled off in big sheets on bare feet. A few minutes later it was all over the house, including a wood floor. There are a whole bunch of reasons I can’t retile the bathroom. Is painting an option if I did it differently?
Do you still like the low-flow toilets you installed in your bathroom? I came across an old column of yours where you describe this technology and how to install it. I have two toilets in my house of unknown vintage and I’m looking to replace them.
We bought a new home and have a problem with the cold cellar. The roof is corrugated steel, on top of which has been poured a concrete slab that forms the porch floor. The walls are poured concrete, too. In winter it gets so cold in the cellar that soft drinks freeze there. Ice also forms on the steel ceiling. How can I insulate this space so it can be used year-round for frost-free storage?
How can I eliminate attic condensation? A couple of years ago we replaced shingles and the lower sections of roof sheathing that had rotted out. On the advice of my roofer, I added more ventilation in the peak and a little along the wooden soffits. My new roof sheathing is still wet this winter. I don’t know where else to turn for answers.
I’m looking to build a garden shed, but don’t know which way to proceed. I can be handy if I put my mind to it, but it doesn’t exactly flow for me. I’d like the shed to be 6-feet by 8-feet, with a ramp up to the door and a window or skylight. I definitely need hand holding, but I want to try this project. Can you point me in the right direction?
How can my wife and I earn a living in the country so we can move out of the city? We’re over-educated urban dwellers with a dream of becoming homesteaders and permaculture farmers. Should we get certified in some trade before making the leap? Do we need to move to a semi-urban place, then commute for a pay cheque? Are we missing some other option?
How has that linseed oil paint you used a few years ago held up? I ran across your article from 2008 and was wondering if you’ve done any follow-up on the paint condition. I’m a contractor doing research on wooden window restoration for a large hotel and I’m considering linseed oil paint for this job.
Where’s the best place to locate a furnace? My wife and I are designing a new home, and our plans require two furnaces. We’ve heard different viewpoints about where to place the second unit: basement, second floor, even the attic. What’s your recommendation and why?
Can we safely install laminate flooring in our unheated cottage? One salesman told us that it would be okay because the product is moisture resistant and so much better now than a few years ago. Another salesman won’t guarantee a cottage installation. Who’s right?
What’s the best way to stop drafts from coming in around the new recessed light fixtures I’ve had installed? The electrician was careful to replace the insulation around each ceiling box but it didn’t do much good. Can I apply spray foam in the gap between the metal fixture body and surrounding ceiling?
Are sealed, unventilated attics a good idea? There’s a fair amount of debate on the topic, with some engineering folks claiming the advantages of insulating the underside of the roof deck with spray foam. This is a big change from the usual practice of insulating the joist space above the interior ceiling, then ventilating the attic. What’s your take?
How can I boost the energy efficiency of the floor-to-ceiling windows in my high-rise condo? Heating costs are very high here, and I’m thinking of trying window blankets this winter. Any coverings I choose will also need to keep early morning light out of east-facing windows. What do you recommend?
What should I do about the tired finish on an antique, Mission dining room set? My daughter returned it to me after 20 years, and the finish is in bad shape. I’m tempted to have it refinished, but I’ve heard that authentic, antique finishes can add a lot of value to furniture, even if they are worn.
How can I apply a smooth finish on indoor wood? I’m never satisfied with the quality of finish I manage to achieve on my indoor wood projects. Even when I use tack cloths to wipe down the surface, and take care to not overload the brush, I always (and I mean 3M pads for finishing wood furniture ALWAYS!) get these hard, little bumps on the surface when I’m done. I’ve tried many different brushes and brands of urethane, and have even considered using spray-on lacquer if that would accomplish anything. Is there any way I can get a decent finish on my furniture projects without setting up a professional spray booth?
The paint beneath our south facing windows is peeling on the inside walls, but I don’t know why. Some of it’s coming off in large, wide pieces with plenty of plaster attached. The paint that’s still firm on the wall seems to be bubbling. This looks like water damage, but I’m not sure how the water is getting in. The house is 50 years old, with brick on the outside and lath and plaster on the inside. I know from renovations I’ve done elsewhere in the house that there’s a 1-inch gap between brick and lath. We had new windows installed last winter and noticed the problem about 6 months after that. The installers didn’t caulk the gap between the new aluminum flashing and the brick. They said it would be very difficult to achieve a clean look and that the 1/4-inch gap wouldn’t allow water in unless we got a hard, driving rain. Are they right?
I’ve noticed a white powdery substance on the concrete floor of my basement, especially around the outside walls. There’s no leaking, but there is a noticeable gap ( 1/8-inch-wide at some points) between the wall and floor. Whenever I vacuum the powder up, it reappears. What is this stuff? How can I get rid of it permanently?
My wife’s Dad wants to replace the windows on his house with vinyl units, the kind designed to be installed without disturbing the existing wooden frames. We’re thinking of doing the work ourselves, and need to know what precautions to take so the job gets done in an efficient and effective manner. If we decide to have someone else do the installation, what should we look for in their work?
How can I deal with the partially insulated basement walls in my new home? A layer of insulation extends partway down the wall without a wall frame, with nothing at all on the bottom 4 feet above the floor. Should I rip it all off and start from scratch? What about building a new insulated wall and leaving the old insulation in place?
What’s involved with installing a pellet stove as a heating appliance? We’re planning to build in the country next year, and I’m sold on the cost savings of this heating system. Can you recommend specific models? Do pellet stoves need to be installed by a specialist? Does the flue pipe need to be encased as it goes up through a second floor?
Why is condensation forming behind the fiberglass insulation in my basement? I glued 1 1/2″-thick white styrofoam boards to all the exterior walls and in between the floor joists where they meet the outside walls. I sealed all joints with tape and spray foam, then built a stud frame wall and installed R14 batts between wall studs. Last winter I discovered that all the pink batts had condensation behind them, down to a place even with the outside soil level. Below this the insulation was dry. I removed all the insulation, let it dry, then replaced it last year, but the condensation has returned. What should I do? I don’t want to install drywall with this moisture issue unresolved.
What recommendations can you offer for the foundation of a seasonal, water-access cottage we’re building directly on bedrock? I plan to follow your idea of using foam forms to contain the concrete as it surrounds a crawlspace, but I wonder about water drainage between the rock and foundation wall. Do I need to do something to allow water movement? How should be keep the foundation protected from frost over winter?
What kind of flooring can I install in our unheated, 140-year-old cottage? The floors are currently covered in very old rolled flooring on top of wide cedar boards. We considered using rolled flooring again, but we don’t want the curling and cupping we have now. What do you recommend?
I have to disagree with your published opinion that outdoor wood boilers are an environmentally sound way to heat. While they do move the fire, soot and ash outdoors, they also burn twice as much fuel as an indoor woodstove due to heat loss from the boiler to the home. Also, a piece of firewood that would take five or ten years to decompose is converted to ash in a half-hour. This is compounded by the removal of living trees from the forest that would have helped absorb greenhouse carbon dioxide in the air had they not been cut down. How can you say that heating with a wood-fired outdoor boiler is a green option?
How can I stop knots from showing through on painted pine trim? I’m reinstalling original trim in my 90-year old house after it was removed for window replacement, and I’ve heard that I need to apply a special primer before painting. I’d like to finish the trim with clear varnish, but it’s got too many dents and holes. I’ll be filling these before painting.
What can I do to fix the shrinking of my new laminate flooring? It’s happening on the ends of some boards, and I figure that maybe the affected pieces came from one box that wasn’t acclimatized properly. My condo is dry, but none of my neighbours are having trouble with their laminate floors.
What settings should I adjust my new heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to? I had a unit installed in my tightly constructed new house, but I find that running it continuously at low or medium makes the house too dry. The manufacturer won’t provide direction.
Do you still like the low flow toilets you installed at your place? I came across an old column of yours where you describe this technology and how to install it. I have two toilets in my house of unknown vintage and I’m looking to replace them.
What’s the best way to insulate a basement that I’m planning to finish? I’ve been following the technical progress of spray-on foam insulation and it looks great. Trouble is, all ten of the contractors that I’ve asked to bid on my basement renovation job are completely unaware of the new processes and materials, and too skeptical to change their old ways. All they want to do is put up wood-framed walls with fiberglass insulation and carpeting on the floors.
Does it make sense for me to replace my furnace? The one I have now is 21 years old and rated to operate at 85% efficiency. I’m receiving subtle pressure from the furnace maintenance folks to replace the old furnace with a higher efficiency model that’s supposed to achieve 92% to 96% efficiency. Trouble is, the job will cost $5000. Does it make sense?
We are currently renovating an older mobile home. We have the opportunity to install unfinished oak flooring throughout, but wonder whether the situation affects how we should do it. What are your ideas for finishing? I prefer a satin-type finish, but my husband thinks maybe wax is the way to go. What challenges are in store for us as far as installation goes?
I’m wondering about paint preparation on an older building. The exterior walls are covered in asbestos shingles that were probably installed during the mid-1950s. Is it safe to remove loose paint in the usual way, or do I have to do something different because of the asbestos?
What’s your take on the EcoVent dryer vent? I understand the need for a vent that effectively keeps out cold air, but I’m concerned about the foam ball that acts as a valve inside this product. Won’t it wear out after a few years? Carpenter ants usually love foam. Won’t they tunnel into the vent? Is flammability of the foam an issue?
How should I make a creaky subfloor quiet? Back in 1990, I had the second floor of our 60-year-old bungalow enlarged. The contractor used 1/2-inch chipboard for the new subfloor, fastened with nails only. This floor has always been noisy ever since. We’re pulling the carpet up now for new renovations and want to make things right. Will adding screws alone solve the problem or should I lift the floor completely and glue it back down before adding screws?
Should I install a plastic vapour barrier on the inside of basement wall frames? They’re made with wood studs, and I removed old, moldy insulation and drywall then replaced it with new batts. I’ve heard some people say you shouldn’t apply a vapour barrier in basements since it traps moisture within wall cavities. But as far as I know, the code requires a vapour barrier. What should I do?
Is pressure treated lumber safe to use around a vegetable garden? I’ve read that it is, but I don’t know if this is true for the new type of preserved lumber that’s sold these days. Should I use cedar? And what about those finishing products that make wood an even grey colour? Are they safe around plants?
How smooth does a plywood subfloor have to be to accept a new floor on top? We have a 1970′s vintage ceramic tile floor laid over a thick layer of mortar that I want to remove, and I expect mortar will remain stuck to the plywood. Will a subfloor product smooth out this kind of unevenness in preparation for a new floor?
The vent cover for the range hood duct in our new house has four louvres and is noisy and ineffective. Whenever there’s a strong wind outside I can hear flapping sounds and feel cold air back drafting through the appliance’s range hood. If I replaced this louvre with a hooded vent cover (the kind with a single flap), would this solve the problem?
What kind of portable tablesaw should I buy for building a new house and outbuildings? I’m not a professional, so I don’t think I need a professional power tool, do I? I’m looking at a $300 model right now. It has a 15 amp, 3 horsepower direct drive motor. Let me know if this is a really stupid choice. If it’s just semi-stupid I’ll go ahead.
I’ve read conflicting advice about the use of wide boards for furniture woodworking projects. Some say its okay, others recommend slicing the boards to no more than 4 inches wide before gluing them back together again. I have some very wide cherry planks set aside, and I’d like to use them at full width. Will this work? I’m worried about cupping and warping of whole boards in the completed project.
I just bought a 25-year-old house and the humidity is very high in the basement — regularly over 80%. It’s cold down there and our feet freeze when we go downstairs, even if the weather’s hot. There are small vents on each side of the basement that I open most of the time. Do we need more ventilation? I expect so, but don’t know what size. What should we do?
I’m a single Mom, forced into the role of Handy Babe, and I need your help. My three teenagers insist on taking marathon showers, leading to a lot of steam damage in a bathroom that has no exhaust fan. The drywall tape is peeling and so is the paint. How do I fix this?
What’s the best kind of long-lasting, maintenance-free metal roof? I’m considering something that looks like roofing tiles. Our lot is heavily treed and the roof includes skylights. I’d also like to be able to walk easily on the roof from time to time.
We’re having problems with the hardwood floor in our house and I hope you can help. Our place was built last summer, and the floor was site-finished with three coats of varnish after sanding. For the first two months the floor was smooth, but over a relatively short period it developed raised edges along one side of each board. In some places you can even push the raised boards down to their proper level. What is this all about? Is it fixable?
How much smaller of a heating and cooling system will I need if I build with structural insulated panels (SIPs) rather than a stud frame insulated with batts? I’m planning a 1500 sq. ft. wine processing building that will be kept at 15ºC constantly.
Should I be concerned about the drafts I can feel coming in around new windows I had installed? The contractor I hired took measurements, but when the windows arrived they were clearly larger than the windows he was replacing. He ended up cutting things to make the windows fit, and now I’m concerned about water leakage and rotting of the wall frame.
Can I use plastic lumber to build some Adirondack chairs for my cottage? It’s now time to replace the wooden chairs I made 20 years ago, and I’m interested in the rot resistance, weight and freedom from finishing that plastic lumber offers. Will this work? Is there a way to finish the cut ends so they match the surrounding surfaces?
What length of warranty should we expect from a contractor who’ll be building a cottage addition for us? He’s offered one year warranty from date of completion. Is this typical? We’ve never hired a contractor for such a large job and I’m not sure what to expect.
I’m making a small hall bench using maple and cherry wood, and I have a question about finishing. I intend to colour the whole thing with a cherry stain. Is it necessary to pre-condition the wood first? In general, should all woods, including hardwoods, be pre-conditioned before staining?
I’m stripping lead paint from a bunch of wood trim and doors, and I need some advice. I’ve tried different chemical strippers with no success, but have found that a heat gun works. It’s very slow, but most importantly I have concerns about my health. Is it okay to strip lead paint with a heat gun? What other options are practical?
How can I stop mold from growing on the bottom of the interior window frames in my two year old seasonal cottage? It sits unused during winter, heated to about 5ºC. We keep curtains closed for security and leave ceiling fans running. I’m worried that the problem comes from the fact that the building went up in winter, and the wood might have been wet.
What caused the new tea tray I made to warp? I glued thin strips of walnut, maple and purpleheart wood along the length of a piece of 3/4-inch thick oak, then sawed this wood in half and glued the pieces together along their edges. The finished tray looked terrific, but after a few weeks it warped and the whole tray is now twisted. What went wrong? How can I fix it?
A friend owns a cottage and would like to insulate the roof. The problem is the limited amount of space underneath the ceiling, and the view of the exposed rafters he’d like to preserve. That’s what got us thinking about insulating from the outside, on top of the existing roof sheathing and underneath some new shingles. Is this possible? What’s the most economical procedure?
How should I insulate a cold floor underneath a bay window that juts over my open front porch? I’ve removed all the old wood covering the underside of the floor frame, and I have a clean slate. What’s the best way to preserve and seal this space so the bay window up above is warm?
Last winter I had a lot of rooftop ice build up that led to leaking, and now I plan to install heating cables to prevent the problem in the future. I’ve heard these cables work well, but also that the heat might damage the shingles. What do you think? Will cables be enough to solve my problem? Should I look at boosting insulation and ventilation, too? Some water got into the wall cavities from the leaks. Do I need to rip out the insulation or will it dry by itself?
We live in a 3-year old house, a bungalow with an open floor plan. It’s divided down the middle by a wall and several sets of pillars. We’ve been in the house for three winters now, and every year the ceiling lifts at least 1 inch upwards from the walls around the kitchen and the support pillars. After our first winter we hired a home inspector to assess the problem, and he identified that our roof is framed with trusses. So far we’ve relied on the builder to repair the problem, and while he’s been responsive, I’m still not satisfied. He put quarter-round and crown molding around the top of the pillars and walls, and though the ceiling still rises and falls, we can’t see the movement. This doesn’t seem like a proper fix, though I also wonder if there really is any problem at all. Is this an issue? Can you think of anything that we or the builder can do to stop the movement once and for all?
What can I put underneath new carpet to boost floor soundproofing? My father recently faxed me an old article of yours about a rubber soundproofing sheet material made especially for this job. Trouble is, I can’t find a source of supply. My carpet will be installed over old hardwood. I understand that there are more effective soundproofing solutions than underlay alone, but I can’t do anything more than this right now.
Can leaks in a radiant infloor heating system be fixed? The system was installed about 35 years ago by my husband and includes 1-inch diameter black plastic pipe set into the concrete floor. A leak has appeared near one corner of the 1100 square foot basement. Is the pipe deteriorating from age?
What’s the best strategy for insulating the inside surface of the solid brick walls of my 1969 bungalow? I’m planning to strip the interior surface, install 2×4 strapping, then spray the cavities full of foam. Is spray foam safe? Should I be using batt insulation instead?
Four years ago I had the first part of a solid cherry cabinet set installed in my kitchen. Unfortunately, the water-based urethane I finished them with hasn’t aged gracefully. There are grease marks around the door knobs and water marks where wet hands most often reach for a towel. I’ve also noticed spots where grease splatters have soaked through the finish, leaving a mark on the wood underneath. The time has come to install another section of cabinets, but I don’t want the same old trouble with the finish. What should I use on this new wood? If I go with an oil-based urethane it’ll yellow with time, making a match with the existing cabinets impossible. What can I do to repair the finish on the old wood?
How can I fix a new door that has an uneven gap at the top? I know that the proper thing to do is to take out the door jamb and square it up, but I hope there’s another way. After installing the door I realized there’s a space that opens from 1/8-inch at one side to 1/2-inch at the other. What can I do?
What can I do to protect a laminate floor in case of a water heater leak? It’s in our cottage, and at times no one’s around to deal with trouble, should it arise. Everything is located on the same level, with an open crawlspace underneath the floor. Is there anything we can do besides draining the tank every time we leave?
What’s the best way to stop a small leak where the incoming water pipe connects to the water meter in my basement? My house is more than 30 years old, and the connections involve large hex nuts. I’m comfortable doing my own plumbing work, but I’m cautious about simply tightening these nuts because the pipes are old.
What’s causing the brick on the entrance wall of my house to peel and flake? It was built in the mid-1980s, and all the houses in our neighbourhood have the same problem. I’ve asked many of the masons working in the area why this problem exists. Answers vary. Some say it’s bad brick, others say there are not enough drainage holes, others blame the lack of flashing between the brick and concrete foundation. I’m confused. Exactly what needs to happen to ensure a long lasting reconstruction?
We live in a log cabin and the upstairs flooring is just one layer of tongue and groove planking that forms the ceiling of the first floor. As it is now sounds transmit readily between floors and we’d like to solve this problem. We’re considering installation of a floating floor over the pine and wonder if there’s a mat or sheet material we could put down first to boost soundproof insulation.
Can you please direct me to a reliable source of information on the real cost of energy from wind and solar? It seems that these options requires constant government subsidy to remain viable. If nuclear energy is environmentally less friendly than wind, please explain. Everything I read leads me to believe that from a cost point of view, nuclear is a superior choice to either wind or solar using technologies known today.
How can I figure out if the generator I own is big enough to power a water well pump? I understand that any pump demands more electricity while starting up than while running, and I’ve used an ammeter to check maximum current draw on one of the two wires powering the pump. Will the amperage measured on one of the incoming wires be all that’s required to start the pump or is it twice that amount?
What’s the best way to repair damaged areas of veneer on an old piano I’m restoring? I don’t want to replace the veneer or install new pieces, so that leaves me with filling. What filler will accept stain and match the surrounding wood? I plan to create a transparent finish that lets wood grain show through.
I’m thinking about using a kerosene heater to warm things up in my garage workshop. Are these safe to use in a space where I plan to do sanding and finishing? I’m concerned about dust and fumes. I’ve been working on this table far to long to have it (and me) blow up!
How should my husband and I choose an architect? We’ve bought five acres of waterfront property that’s blessed with interesting topography. We envision a small, green home, perhaps using water reclamation technology and solar energy, incorporating local materials. How should we begin?
We’ve just gone to a lot of trouble and expense installing drainage tiles around our basement, but we’re concerned it might not stop dampness and white, fuzzy efflorescence coming up through the concrete floor. We’re planning to finish the basement and need it to be reliably dry before we do. Are we safe to proceed?
All my woodworking experience so far has been with home renovations, but I’ve just started to build furniture and I’m having trouble getting smooth results. When sanding two pieces of wood that meet at right angles, for instance, I find it necessary to avoid crossing the joint with my sanding strokes or I create cross-grain scratch marks. But I’ve seen other people sand right across joints like these and achieve perfect results. Is this because of the quality of sandpaper they’re using or the skill of the woodworker?
Do I need to heat the basement in my seasonal cottage near Parry Sound, Ontario? The basement is partially below ground, built with concrete blocks, well insulated and finished. We have always heated the basement in other years, but with electricity costs going up we’d like to turn the heat off.
Where can I find the Bulldog Grip polyurethane caulking you’ve recommended many times? We’ve got full southerly exposure at the back of our house, and any caulking I’ve used on the windows and doors just bubbles and fails quickly. No store I visit carries Bulldog Grip caulking.
How can I stop white, salt-like powder from appearing on the block walls of our basement cold room? I brushed it off then washed the wall with muriatic acid, rinsed it down with water, then applied a coat of paint recommended by the hardware store. Two months later the white stuff is back again.