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Chat with Peter Hotton -- July 19, 2007

Kenrob__Guest_: Peter, A few months ago I had two steam boilers installed in my house -- one for each apartment. Every time we turn the faucet off, or the toilet refills, we get a bang in the pipes. I have called the heating company that installed the boilers and they tell me that the installed boilers have no relationship to the bang. Our oil company are the installers of the boilers. I trust them. However, could they be wrong. Regardless, how do we get rid of the problem. Thanks.

Peter_Hotton: Kenrob: Welcome to Hotton's zoo, and zoo it is. Today's critter is the ant, lowly but most of the time harmless, except that more than a few drive wives bananas. My own wife, who should know better, got all hyperbolic and reported hundreds of ants, while there were only a dozen or so. I say sweep them up and throw them away. As for you, Kenrob, that banging you get is water hammer; it is the kinetic energy of water stopping or starting suddenly. It usually can be fixed by putting a water hammer arrester on the offending pipe, making a cushion of air to ease the bang to nothing. A plumber can do this.
Norm__Guest_: I have a damp, almost muddy dirt floor crawl space under my cottage after a cement block foundation was installed. Have cross-ventilation under there w/2 windows. Any solution to dry the place up ?? Thanks.
Peter_Hotton: norm: Sure. Open those windows and put a fan in one of them exhausting out. Do this from May to October; no need in winter, when the air holds less moisture. The almost muddy floor of the crawl space might eventually dry out, but I think it is muddy because the water table is high, very close to the floor level. Later it will probably go down and the floor will dry out. It can come back if the water table goes high again.
geebee__Guest_: Hi Peter; I have conflicting problems. My house is very dry with forced hot air heat. It is also covered in EIFS, ten years old, which keeps moisture out, but also does not let it escape. I want to add a humidifier to the furnace and my heating guy wants to sell me a $3500 steam unit with humidistat. Should I just learn to live with extra dry air? Should I get a typical cheap furnace unit? What do you think of these fancy steam humidifiers with humidistat? thanks.
Peter_Hotton: geebee: What in the world is EIFS? Your house is probably not as dry as you think. but instead of spending $3,500 for a furnace humidifier you can buy a console type humidifier that you can put in your first or second floor. That way you can keep the water cleaner. The cheap furnace humidifiers I do not think work very well.
Evie__Guest_: Peter, you've mentioned concrete stain several times lately, but for the life of me all I can find in the stores are semitransparent stains for wood. I suppose that will work, but I want more color -- any idea where I can buy semitransparent colored stains or stains made for concrete?? Thanks a whole bunch!
Peter_Hotton: Evie: Yes, I have, but all the stains specifically for concrete have been taken off the market for some reason. Toxicity, perhaps. The semitransparent deck stains will work. Colors are limited, but you can get light gray, dark ray, tan, beige, brown, barn red etc. You should be able to find a color that will satisfy you and you-know-who. Only one coat is needed. And if you are putting these stains on a garage floor or unlived-in basement floor, why bother?
Lurker__Guest_: My house is a Sears Kit House built in 1910. It still has the original floors. Perhaps they aren't hard wood, but soft wood?
Peter_Hotton: Lurker: They may be hardwood such as oak, cherry or maple. They also may be fir, which was commonly used in 1910. Fir is a soft wood, but still is pretty hard. It also may be hard pine, which is also called southern yellow pine. My wide pine floors are at least 230 years old and they are still in great shape. It is not the hardness of the wood that protects them, it is the finish.
Auggie__Guest_: We have a large bay window with four crank-out type windows, one of which doesn't work anymore (just spins); we open and close it manually. Can this be repaired without replacing the entire window?
Peter_Hotton: auggie: See if you can find the brand of the window. If it is a name brand, you can take the mechanism out and take it or HD or other hardware store for a replacement. I have done it.
JEFF__Guest_: Well they did it again to you (and Martha, but who cares). Just for a stupid hat trick. I told them off. And they screwed up the community profiles in Globe Northwest. Instead of Acton Bedford Concord, they had Andover Tewksbury Methuen
Peter_Hotton: JEFF: You are my hero, who told those bozos off. What annoys me the most is that the hat page, a whole bloody page, had half of it taken up by one stinking hat. Where did those morons get the idea that information is no damned good. Gawd. But thanks for the tirade. I hope more will let them know their perfidy. Those stupid page 3 full-page travesties increase circulation? My ass.
MotherEarth: Hello, We have a two-car attached garage that has developed a mold problem. About two years ago, we added a room above the garage and had the garage ceiling insulated, blueboarded and plastered. The walls were also boarded and plastered at this time. Since then, the garage seems very moist and there is mold that grows on anything in the garage that is fabric. Have tried Damp-Rid. Is there some kind of vent we could put in the garage to improve air circulation? 'Moldy' in Hopkinton
Peter_Hotton: MotherEarth: Try opening windows for cross-ventilation, which should work just as it does in the basement. You might have to put a vent in one or more windows in the garage door. You have to have cross-ventilation to release that excess water vapor. Put an exhaust fan in one window. If you have no windows, then put in a vent wherever convenient. A vent at the rear plus vents in the door should do it. No need to vent in winter; cold air holds less moisture.
alaska__Guest_: Recently had living room fireplace surrounding wall done using fieldstone. Whatever was used to hold the stone together keeps shedding grit/sand. Any suggestions to prevent the shedding?
Peter_Hotton: alaska: What holds the stone together -- do you mean mortar between the stone? If it is shedding grit and sand, it is defective, and the guy who did it should come back and do it right. Actually, that grit and sand may be just the surface of the mortar that was spilled outside the joints. That can be removed with muriatic acid and water. If the mortar in the joints is crumbly, you might be able to set it with a coat of masonry sealer.
Newfy__Guest_: Problem: Ice dam near valley where 2 sections of roof meet and in the eave overhang. New roof 2 years ago. Main roof: tongue and groove ceiling with one by twos to raise old roof, then rigid insulation,plywood, ice and water shield over entire roof, finally shingles. Two foot overhang on roof.. 2) Roof on ell has attic space with regular insulation, plywood, ice and water shield, shingles. First noticed when water started dripping through wood under eaves, then later when dam apparently backed up and leaked inside the house. Need cause and solution. Builder suggests heating wires. I contend that if job was done right nothing else should be necessary.
Peter_Hotton: Newfy: You said everything but ventilation. The attic under that roof, new or old must be ventilated, to keep the roof cool and prevent ice dams from forming. Ventilation is best achieved with soffit vents(under that two-foot overhang). The best soffit vents are 2-inch or better yet, 3-inch wide screened continuous strips the full length of all soffits. Plus a ridge vent. The leaks under the eaves may be due to an overflowing gutter. Gutters usually overflow because they are not located properly.
J_E___J_E__: Do you know what those bugs that look like cockroaches are that I sometimes find inside my windowsills the next day....and are they harmful? We were worried they are termites or some such wood-eating bug...
Peter_Hotton: J.E. If they look like cockroaches they are cockroaches. If they are as big as cockroaches, they definitely are not termites. They could be the old house borer or powder post beetles. Call an exterminator who might be able to identify the bugs. Or call an entymologist.
Aja1__Guest_: Hi Peter, we have an old clay pipe that leads to the sewer. We have had to roto-rooter for roots once and I fear we will again soon. When does one have to replace these pipes? Is it always the homeowner who has to pay? Anything to know about that process?
Peter_Hotton: aJA1: You say the pipe leads to the sewer. Is it a part of the sewer? If so, keep roto-rooting it. I don't think there is a lot more you can do, unless you replace it with pvc, which may be more resistant to root invasion.
jay__Guest_: Hi Peter, I live in an old row house in the North End and due to the size of our boiler the basement is always 90 degrees, which really heats up my first floor condo. Is there some sort of vent I can have installed into the brick basement? if so, what type of contractor do I call to install the vent?
Peter_Hotton: jay: If the condo includes that part of the basement and the boiler, then you can cut a hole in the floor to bring some of heat up. You may need a second opening to act as an air return. Check with a heating man first.
jay__Guest_: Hi Peter, I have a recycled wood/fiberglass/plastic deck that I spilled some olive oil on, which left a stain. What I can use to remove the stain? I tried Murphy's oil but that didn't work, also tried dish soap. Thanks.
Peter_Hotton: Jay: How can you spill olive oil?: Shocking!!! Try this: Wet the stain with paint thinner, then put down cat litter or Speedy-Dry (an absorbent clay) or baking soda to absorb it; when it dries , sweep it up and throw it away. Repeat as necessary.
Peter_Hotton: OK, boys and girls, I am overtime to make up for a screw up earlier. See you next Thursday. A good chat and you can continue by e-mailing me at