Dear Ken: I wonder what’s wrong with my central air. We set it to 72 but the house stays in the 80s. Do we need to have this checked? – Marti
Reply: Probably, but here are a few things to do first. Make sure the oven filter is clean; it must be changed at least once a month in summer. Also check that you have not blocked the cold air return grilles. Even more than heating, air conditioning requires a generous and unobstructed flow of air through the stove.
Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the cool airflow through the floor jets. It should be 18 to 20 degrees colder than the flow through the cold air return grille. If it’s a lot less, you may need more refrigerant on the lines or the coils on top of the stove may be dirty. These are not DIY items so give an HVAC contractor a call.
PS: Don’t forget my recommendation to turn the fan ON in the afternoon to mix the (cold and warm) air masses in the house. That could help lower the temperature upstairs.
Dear Ken: I want to spice up the bathroom. Who should I call to renew my shower? Craftsman or tile shop? – Tanya
Reply: Get a tile store recommend someone to do small jobs like yours. But relocating a shower is one of those homeowner jobs that you can do yourself and get great results even if you have no prior experience. You need a grout saw – a tool with an angled handle and interchangeable blades. Use it to remove the top 1/8 inch or so of the old material. Then, buy a tub of pre-mixed grout at your hardware store and apply it with a large sponge or trowel. You will quickly get the hang of it and after you’ve rinsed and polished the wall you will be proud of the result.
Ofar Ken: I thought I heard you mention that wider gutters are a good idea. Please provide information. – Roger
Reply: In the “old days” it was common – especially with the now outdated T-Lock shingles – to use cheap, 10 cm long galvanized steel channels. But sometimes they do not cope well with heavy thunderstorms when they overflow. This is as bad as no gutters as the water can seep into the ground under the house and cause structural damage.
Now the minimum recommendation is 5-inch gutters for clapboard houses and even 6-inch gutters with tile or heavy asphalt. I prefer the pre-painted aluminum style. They are extruded on site to any desired length on each side of the house. So no seams can leak.
Dear Ken: i have a problem with the garage door. What can I do to fill the gap underneath? And what about painting? It’s kind of metal. – Connie
Reply: Over time, the concrete floor in the garage can shift so that it no longer sits securely under the door. That can let cold air, leaves, and dirt – not to mention mice and other pests – into the garage. An easy way to seal the gap is to screw another layer of rubber sealing strip onto the door. Most home centers have a garage door repair area, and you can purchase the right length to close the space. The new (thicker) stripping presses on the lower level and closes the crack.
You could apply a coat or two of regular latex paint, but first go to a brand store and get a suggestion for the right primer for metal surfaces. Machine wash the door first, prime it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and then apply latex to match or contrast the existing color scheme.
Dear Ken: We don’t have an outside plug, so we plug the lights into one of those sockets screwed into the porch light. But it’s not grounded. What else can we do? – Darnell
Reply: These outlets are not designed to carry a lot of current, especially the 10 amps or more required by multiple Christmas lights. Also, as you state, there is no grounded GFCI protection for the external circuit.
It’s not as hard as you think to cut an outside socket. Go to the most suitable indoor outlet, remove the cover and cut off some sheet material along the edges. Then you can see where a hole needs to be drilled through the outside wall. This allows you to pull wires into a new weatherproof socket for surface mount. Install a GFCI outlet in this box and you are in business.
Choosing the right place for the hole is a little difficult; for example, if you cut existing wires, you are in great trouble. If you are unsure, it is best to leave this to an electrician.
What about the now bigger hole around the inner outlet? You can buy an oversized cover panel that will hide the gaps you cut in the wall.
Dear Ken: I have problems with hot water: low volume on the hot side while the cold water is fine. Any ideas? – Terry
Reply: Single-lever mixers – in a shower or at the kitchen sink – can be prone to decreased volume. If a spring or rubber washer inside has come loose, the sudden rush of hot water can cause these slipped parts to swell up enough to cause volume disturbance. Some brands let you buy a bag of small parts and remodel the faucet; with others like Moen or Price-Pfister, you simply insert a new cartridge that contains all of the faucet’s innards.
Ken Moon is the home inspector in the Pikes Peak area. His call-in radio show airs Saturdays at 4 p.m. on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com