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Chat with Peter Hotton -- May 17, 2007

jkmhm__Guest_: here's agood one there are varmints in my attic but there is no opening for me to get up there and i don't see anyway for whatevere is up there to get in besides a teleporter.

Peter_Hotton: jkmhm: Hi everybody, welcome to hotton's zoo. And with the many questions awaiting, I will get down to brass tacks. You can cut a trap door in the ceiling of a closet; it can be maybe 24 by 26 inches or so if you are skinny enough, so you do not have to cut any joists. You may not have to do that if you can spot a way the critters are getting into the attic. If there are no visible holes, check the eaves for some that are not necessarily visible. And check any vents that might have the screens broken. Animals: mice, other rodents, and bats, and especially insects can et through incredibly small holes.
Diane_H___Guest_: I emailed yesterday about noisy plumbing in a bathroom bordering a bedroom. Is there anything to be done? Insulate the walls? Pipes? Sound deadening sheetrock in the bedroom:
Peter_Hotton: Diane: Insulate the pies but this is impossible unless you expose the pipes Sound deadening board will not help because sound-deadening board stops sound aimed at it, not behind it. Both ideas are hard to make work, but insulating pipes or insulating the walls the pipes are in is the best way to go.
Tom__Guest_: OK, we goofed by using acid based grout remover on marble. I missed the warning on the label that this was meant for tile, not marble. So now that I have areas of dull surface caused by the acid, is there any way of buffing them out? Or, do I need to break out the affected marble squares and replace?
Peter_Hotton: Tom: Buffing by a pro is the only way to fix that marble tile (and it is a tile) which is the worst thing y8u can use as a floor because marble will stain if you look at it, and it must be sealed by a marble sealer.
Sue_Chat__Guest_: My office is in a 100yr old building. Whenever the tenant next to me, or upstairs from me flushes the toilet, my toilet "gurrgles" Also when the septic gets "slow" if I plunge it comes up into the sink. Someone told me it might be the vent pipe that is blocked. Any thougths?
Peter_Hotton: Sue_Chat: The gurgling is probably harmless, but the regurgitation is not, and i ThINK THE GUY WHO SAID THE VENT PIPES MAY BE blocked is right. Have a plumber check it out. At least the super should check it out.
chris__Guest_: Hi Peter, Do you know of a way to take off linoleum that has been glued to the wall as a backsplash in the kitchen? I can't imagine how to get it off - we hope to tile the backsplash eventually. thank you!
Peter_Hotton: chris: Apply heat from a hair dryer on high and use brute force to scrape it off. With luck you won' mess up the wall surface. Don't use a hot air gun; it is a hazard indoors. You caN ALSO RENT OR BUY A POWER SCRAPER, which might be helpful.
Messy__Guest_: I spilled varnish on some bluestone patio. I have tried everything to remove it. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks
Peter_Hotton: Messy: Chemical paint remover will do it. The sand the bluestone with fine sandpaper; it wll lighten the bluestone but it will weather quickly to match the other bluestone.
mark__Guest_: Hi Peter - any idea why the soil on one side of my house appears damp? It's been pretty warm for a few days now.
Peter_Hotton: mark: If the land is lower than other areas of the yard, it may be the water table (water level underground) sowing up on the low areas. It should go away after several dry days. If yu have a septi8c tank or cesspool, it might be failing and all he leaching field is saturated so the effluent has no place t go except up. Or, there is a water leak somehwere
mark__Guest_: How about moss growing on the roof? There's a few patches I can see. Will it damage the shingles?
Peter_Hotton: mark: Moss on the roof will take a long time to damage the shingles. You can scrape it off wih a wide putty knife
Blondie__Guest_: Hi, Peter, I love Thursdays at 2:00. If they would expand your chat to 2hrs it will be twice as good. OK, here?s my current problem. Call me crazy, but during a recent downpour I took a walk around the house to see what was going on. At the northwest corner, the rain was falling on the crushed stone and splashing back on to the concrete foundation. This can?t be good for the basement, especially on the north side, correct? There is no downspout, don?t know why. This is at the end of the driveway, but will not be much longer, as the driveway is moving (not by itself) to accommodate the new garage. The lot slopes a few feet down to the road. It will be a perfect time to make changes on this corner. I suspect the landscaper and the builder might not have the same solution in mind. Where do I start? I?m hoping you?ll say I can start with a downspout and a diverter.
Peter_Hotton: Hello again, Blondie; I think you are a regular, which is nice. A little water splashing on the foundation will not hurt anything, unless it runs down the foundation and causes a leak. If there is no downsput, it may mean there is a downspout at the other end of the gutter. If there is a gutter up there, where is the water coming from? If it coming from the deluge, forget about it.
Foundation_follie__Guest_: Hi Peter ... I have a question about a stone foundation. I just bought a house that was built in 1831, and our inspector said the foundation needs some work (it's a stone foudnation). It's bending in very slightly in one spot, though we had a contractor look at it and he said the movement probably happened 100 years ago. What's my next step? Should I have a mason look at it to see what kind of repair work is needed? Will remotaring the foundation give the wall more stability?
Peter_Hotton: foundation follie: A very slight bend probably needs no fixing. If you are concerned, hire a structural engineer or a foundation expert to give you an opinion. If it happened 100 years ago, you house has had no real problems for 100 years. Remortaring will not make the foundation more stable because the stones are touching ech other. Remortaring will be OK to keep out the weather and critters.
alb__Guest_: Hi Peter- What would you estimate the cost of replacing the exterior window framing( 18 windows) on our foursquare house. I'm thinking that it should be replaced when the house is reshingled. New wood of course.
Peter_Hotton: alb: If you mean just the outdoor casing, (not including the sills), Which is THE BORDEDR OF tHE WINDOW, A LIttLE LIKE A PICTURE FRAME. Maybe $100 to $200 PER WINDOW. mORE IF tHE SILL HAS TO BE REPLaCED.
ML__Guest_: Peter: Thanks for this wonderful column, I have quick question about repairing the lower level of a typical new englend split-level house from water damage from floods that occuresed a couple of months ago
Peter_Hotton: ML: I know your first question is incomplete, but it has to do with flooding, which occurred because of the recent floodings, not excessive rainfall. If that is so, a french drain might not be necessary. But if you do get water in the basement at reglar priods, then a french drain is indeed necessary. A french drain (interior) is probably more efficient than an outdoor drain. A sump and a pump must be installed with the drain. It is the best way to go, in my opinion. As for being more expensive than an outside drain that does not make sense since the builder would have to dig down to the footings on all four sides of the house in order to install such a drain.
123__Guest_: Hi Peter, we have double pane windows and they are a bit drafty in the winter. Would adding storms be worth the money?
Peter_Hotton: 123: If double-glazed windows are drafty, they must not be installed properly. Or they are creating their own draft by cooling the house air as it meets the cool glass, making the air drop, making it feel like a draft from outdoors. If that is the case, it can be fixed. But in both cases, storms will help. The best storms are True Channel, made by Harvey. Make sure they can indeed be put on the casing outdoors. sometimes the main window frames are too wide so it would be difficult if not impossible to take out the storm sash to wash.
Ogrerugby__Guest_: Peter, I need to replace some boards under the sill of my exterior door. The board will touch my concrete steps and will get wet. If I use pressure treated lumber, can I apply any waterproofing to it now, or do I have to wait a few months before doing so (like I would for paining)?
Peter_Hotton: Ogrerugby: Huh? Use pressure-treated wood. Wait six months before priming and painting.
CASHMONEY__Guest_: My screen door to my sliders frame bent.I cannot find a replacement nor do I know what kind of
Peter_Hotton: Cash: Try putting the screen on a flat surface and straightening it out using a sheet metal hammer It has a square flat head and makes the work easier. If that fails, go to a meal fabricator and have a screen custom made.
Doug__Guest_: I have a single family house that I rent out. I need to replace the flooring (currently carpet) and Im wondering if carpet would be the most cost effective solution (less wear and tear, installation costs, etc) over laminate flooring or hardwood flooring?
Peter_Hotton: Doug: I think carpeting is the least cost effective solution. Hardwood is more expensive but will last 10 times longer. Let tenants get their own damned rugs.
Jason__Guest_: Hi Peter. In your column today you talk about termites and wood touching the ground. One side of our house has wood shingles that just about touch the ground. This is the garage side of the house, so there is no basement there, and I am not sure how far up the concrete extends. You mention rebuilding "steps of masonry"--what does that mean? Should we have someone cut the shingles and expose more concrete? Thanks a lot!
Peter_Hotton: Jason: It would be better to expose more foundation and keep the shingles away from the ground, if that is possible. As for rebuilding steps of masonry, what do you think it means? It means replacing the wood steps and building concrete steps or brick steps or steps of any kind of masonry.
Peter_Hotton: OK, boys and girls, gotta go. I hope some day I can do this two hours, but a least I go a lot of Qs answered today. I am gonna strike for overtime pay. My email is and you are welcome to use it.