Q. I have been replacing the roofing on most of my house with architectural-grade asphalt shingles, which I hope will outlast me -- I'm 75. However, on a recent trip to Europe, I saw no asphalt shingles. Most roofs were red tile. It looks as if tile roofs hold up the best and slate has a few problems. The tile is not fastened; it stays there with its own weight. I started to wonder about becoming the only local resident with a red-tile roof.
I will try to look on the Internet about loading weight, cost of shipping (a real project killer) and such. Do you have any ideas about tile roofs? I still have the front roof to do on my farmhouse.
A. Tile roofs are common throughout Europe and have been for centuries. They are almost a "forever product," but are rarely found in the United States outside of California and a few other areas in the arid South. Europeans are generally more concerned about the durability and longevity of products than their cost, whereas we are more cost-conscious and more prone to just throw things away when they are no longer in vogue. I do not know why these roofs have not had the same success in the United States, except perhaps because they are far costlier.
You may have noticed that in Greece and other Mediterranean areas, the bottom rows of the tiles are weighted down with large rocks because the strong winds can lift them right off the roofs with a deleterious effect on higher rows. If you are serious about using tiles for your house, you would have to find them in the West, as I know of no dealers in the East.
Q. I have a question about my Metalbestos chimney. The chimney runs up through the center of my attic and gives off so much heat that it causes the snow to melt near the peak and then run down and freeze near the eaves or up in the valley, where I get a nasty buildup of ice. This happens because that part of the attic is not insulated; it is a cape. I have an attic vent at each gable end, but guess that is not enough. I would like to wrap the chimney with insulation. Is that possible? What should I use? I know that I am supposed to maintain a 2-inch clearance between the chimney and combustibles, but fiberglass insulation is not a combustible. I am hoping to solve this before next winter. I nearly got nailed by a chunk of ice the size of a washtub this past winter.
A. I am glad you didn't get hurt. An unpainted Metalbestos chimney should not exude heat unless a chimney fire has damaged the integral insulation. These chimneys should be replaced every 10 years or so, according to the fire-department personnel I spoke with. It is OK to wrap fiberglass around it as long as it does not have an integral flammable paper. But its efficacy may be questionable.
I have had two Metalbestos chimneys; one was left unpainted, and the other was painted black. I could put my hand a quarter of an inch or less next to the unpainted one and not feel any radiation, whereas the black-painted chimney radiated heat -- a benefit if you use wood and want to extract as much heat as possible from a wood stove.
Q. I have discovered a minor termite infestation on the exterior frame of my garage. I had it inspected by a certified pest-control contractor, and it has been temporarily treated. He said there is no further evidence of more infestation. He gave me an estimate for total-home protection. I am awaiting some more contractors for additional estimates. Which methodology is the better choice: the traditional hole drilling and chemical infusion or the newer perimeter-baiting method, specifically the Dow Sentricon system?
A. Termites work slowly, so there is no hurry in making an informed decision. The most important thing is to select the firm carefully. Avoid dealing with companies that use scare tactics or pressure you into signing a contract right away because of the imminent danger that termites present. The most important thing to consider is the experience of the person who will apply the treatment, and not the salesperson's presentation. The technician should have years of experience, so don't be influenced by price alone.
The application of a termiticide liquid requires many holes to be drilled into concrete slabs as well as other disruptions to the home. Although the chemicals are not as dangerous to humans as those used many years ago (the fumes were toxic and offensive), some people may object to them as a matter of principle. These liquid treatments are quicker acting than any of the bait systems, which take a long time to get results and need to be monitored by experienced personnel for months or years to be sure they are working.
The price of a bait system is usually much higher than the price of a liquid application because of the amount of labor involved in the follow-through, which is absolutely essential to ensure success.
Q. At a setting of 72 degrees, my Trane two-stage central-air system cycles off at a respectable frequency during the winter. However, during the summer at a setting of 75 degrees, it runs for hours. Do you have an opinion about this?
A. It takes a lot longer to achieve the desired temperature in the summer air-conditioning mode than it does to reach the set temperature in the winter. So the longer-running fan may be normal, but you may want to have your HVAC contractor check the system out to make sure it is working properly.
Q. We recently had a new roof put on our home and added a ridge vent. The previous owner had a fan installed in the attic to vent it. Because we've put the new roof on with the ridge vent, is it a good idea to keep this fan running? If so, at what temperature should the thermostat be set?
A. If you have soffit ventilation providing equivalent to, or greater than, a net-free ventilation area and no obstruction between the soffit and ridge vents, you should have a good system to vent your attic without using power. An attic fan is not only superfluous but research has shown it is counterproductive, as it seldom has sufficient intake ventilation to satisfy its cubic feet per minute requirement, resulting in the fan drawing conditioned air from the heated or air-conditioned living spaces below.
Q. My mother has been having a problem with her heating and air conditioning. She is the original owner of an 18-year-old condo that is about 1,000 square feet. It is ground level on concrete. When she moved in, the heating and air conditioning was perfect. About 10 years ago, the bedrooms and bathrooms gradually lost air movement through the registers. The kitchen, living room, dining room and foyer are still working perfectly. We have had ducts cleaned, and three heating and air-conditioning people could find nothing wrong. The condo association finally had someone come in with a camera to poke around; it didn't help.
Everyone agrees that she isn't getting heat or air in that section of the condo, but nobody knows why. She put in a new furnace and air conditioner, which didn't help. The condo association doesn't want to be bothered anymore, claiming anything inside the unit is my mom's responsibility. We maintain that because something is wrong under the concrete floor, it's their responsibility.
We would like to bring in someone to find out what exactly is wrong so we can determine whose responsibility it is. We simply don't know whom to call. My mom is 97 years old, maintains her home independently, but has limited resources as to how much she can spend trying to solve this problem. We would be eternally grateful if you could point us in the right direction.
A. Because you have had no luck with three HVAC people, it's time to call in a mechanical engineer who is experienced with air conditioning. You can find one in the Yellow Pages under "Engineers" or "Engineers -- Consulting." Be sure you describe the situation clearly before you retain the services of someone who may come and find out that it's not his or her bailiwick at a cost to your mother.
Q. There are brown stains on my shingled roof on the down side of the stainless-steel chimney. The cap is a closed-dome type to prevent rain from going into the oil-fired furnace. The chimney is about 10 feet off the roof, with no obstruction to block airflow. Could you advise me on the cause, cure and prevention of this problem?
A. It sounds as if oil deposits hitting the chimney cap are directed downwind and ending up on your shingles. Consider having your heating contractor check the combustion of your oil burner; the air-to-oil ratio may need adjusting. Oil stains on shingles are almost impossible to remove. Try Oxy-Boost from www.ecogeeks.com; it may help.
Of interest to Illinois readers: Nok-Out -- an effective odor eliminator I have used at various times, including to get rid of a skunk odor for a family member -- used to be only available online. FlagsUSA (www.FlagsUSA.com), based in Bartlett, now carries it. They tell me they are a distributor for Nok-Out -- the only one in Illinois. They have a website devoted to Nok-Out: www.amazingnokout.com. You can also order the product by phone, (866) 879-1776.
• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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