Q. I recently purchased a condo with a one-car garage. The floor is cracked in three places coming from the drain in the lower center of the floor. I want to put some type of coating over the entire garage floor after the cracks are fixed. I live in western Pennsylvania and need something that would hold up to the salt that is used in the winter months. What would you recommend?
A. Some concrete or masonry sealants are not available in a number of states because of the solvent in them. So the industry is moving toward water-based sealants, which have proved to be effective and more environmentally acceptable. Euclid Chemical makes Baracade WB 244, a siloxane/silane-based blend that provides deep penetration and good surface repellency. There are others. Call a masonry-supply house in your area to get the brand they carry. The garage floor will need to be thoroughly clean and dry. You can clean it with TSP-PF (phosphate free), following directions on the container.
Q. Your recent column on ice-dam solutions involved removing the roof deck. Are there any other ways to effectively insulate the rafter bays on a Cape-style home where the interior is finished with ceilings following the slopes of the rafters? So much of that letter could have been written by me. I have a 54-year-old home with 2-by-6-foot rafters and need to add insulation. Would SIP polystyrene panels be an option? Would rigid polystyrene with plywood or OSB screwed over the existing roof deck, after stripping off existing roofing shingles, work? I live in central Massachusetts and had big problems and damage this past winter.
A. You have several choices. If the rafter bays are fully insulated with fiberglass or cellulose, adding SIPs (structural insulated panels) over the roof deck, after removing the shingles, is worth considering. But make sure the rafters can take the additional load since SIP panels have an integral OSB (oriented strand board) sheathing that will add significantly to the dead load of the roof. A builder familiar with span tables or a structural engineer can tell you that.
If the rafter bays are not filled with insulation, the gain from using SIP panels will be reduced because of the air space remaining between the existing insulation and roof sheathing. But it will still be helpful in reducing, or even possibly eliminating, ice dams. The same would apply if you choose to use rigid XPS (extruded polystyrene) with new plywood or OSB.
Another option, if you have enough headroom, is to add 1- or 2-inch XPS or Hi-R (polyisocyanurate) sheathing to the ceilings and refinish them.
Q. My husband and I are regular followers of your helpful column in our Daily Herald newspaper. We are in the market for a re-roofing job and wonder what shingles you would recommend for the Chicago area. We are currently considering laminate/architectural shingles. While we understand that you have personally re-roofed with BP, it does not appear that BP shingles or certified installers are very available in this area. We would like to stay away from IKO, of course. We would most appreciate your thoughts/recommendation on this.
A. You are correct; there are no certified installers within 25 miles of your area. However, if BP shingles are available, any experienced roofer or contractor can install them.
We installed BP shingles as the best alternative to other brands, but there have been complaints about BP's organic shingles as well. There seem to be problems with most shingle manufacturers, so we are all taking chances on whichever brand we choose -- not too comforting a thought. As a result, I don't feel that I can recommend any other brand to you. Your best bet is to check with longtime roofers in your area who have installed a variety of brands and ask them with which one they have had the best luck.
Q. We removed an underground oil tank when we converted to natural gas last year. Unfortunately, the original builder had placed the tank under the deck off the kitchen, and the deck had to be removed to access the tank. We recently had a new deck built and are happy with the result. Our contractor used pressure-treated lumber for the frame, No. 2 cedar for the deck planks, and knotless fine-grade cedar for the spindles and railing. I know that you have written in previous articles to avoid painting decks and also advise to avoid certain stains. With the weather conditions in Vermont, I would like to protect our investment in the deck by preserving it properly, and I believe that cedar decks, although durable, are subject to stress over time due to moisture, mildew and sunlight like all wood decks. I have read that cedar decks are best finished with transparent, penetrating water-repellent preservatives that contain ultraviolet-light absorbers or blockers to protect against sunlight. The carpenter who worked on the deck suggested that we coat it with Australian Timber Oil (a Cabot product), but the contractor recommended that we just let the cedar weather naturally. Have you any experience with this product, and what do you recommend?
A. You definitely need to protect the cedar. Consider using Amteco TWP 100 Series. It is available in clear and eight colors and more than meets all your criteria: water repellency, UV protection, mold and mildew protection, insect protection. The clear formula will allow the wood to gray naturally, if that is your preference. It will need to be reapplied yearly, as all clear coatings require. Colored stains need be reapplied only every few years, depending on wear and tear. Check the 100 Series and the other choices at www.amteco.com.
Q. I have wooden kitchen cabinets (Legacy is the brand) that were purchased and installed in 2007. I have cleaned the top of the cabinets and the top of the cabinet doors annually with Fantastik. With this annual cleaning, the top of the cabinets and the top of the cabinet doors remain somewhat tacky. As additional information, there is little frying of fatty meats, etc., causing grease spatter. The question is, can you recommend some cleaning product that I can use to help eliminate the tacky feeling?
A. Try Milsek Furniture Polish, the best I know of. The comments from many readers who have used it, following my recommendation, backs this up. Check to see if it is available in your area in hardware stores, or you can order it online at www.milsek.com. We use it at home exclusively.
Q. I'm building a fence using 4-by-4-inch PT posts. Although quite wet when delivered, this lumber is workable, and I'm proceeding to build this fence section by section. The plan is to paint this fence with latex acrylic paint, and I'm wondering how dry the posts should be before painting. Is there a danger that the paint will not adhere if the posts retain above normal levels of moisture?
A. Yes, there is. It is best to apply a product specially designed for pressure-treated wood. Wolman, one of the best-known pressure treatments for southern yellow pine, makes coatings for these woods. You may be able to find it in local paint and hardware stores or home-improvement centers. You can also order it online at www.wolman.com.
Q. I am having a new roof put on my house, and I saw your column about an attic fan in today's paper. I'm a widow and have never had to deal with home repairs on my own, so I'd really like to get a professional opinion.
I live in a two-story home that is part brick and part siding and about 21 years old. I do not have central air in my house, and I have gas hot water heat with baseboards. I do have a window air conditioner in my downstairs and a small unit in my bedroom upstairs, but in the summer my upstairs gets so hot that I can't spend any time up there unless I'm in the air-conditioned bedroom. And forget about going up into the attic; it probably gets over 100 degrees up there.
I have a ridge vent across the whole roof, and the soffit and fascia are all vented, but it doesn't feel like they do anything to help keep the house cool. To install central air would be too costly. The contractors said a turbine would work just as well as an attic fan but would be cheaper because it does not run on electricity. But now that I read your article, I'm not sure either one will help keep my upstairs any cooler.
I have a contractor coming next week to go over the work that needs done. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions so I know what to ask of the contractor? Since I'm having a new roof put on, I'm just trying to figure out a way to try to cool down my house a little without having to put in central air. It just seems smart to do it at the same time as the roof repair. Also, can you tell me if an attic fan is going to be noisy?
A. A ridge vent/soffit vent combination does help cool the attic, but if you have dark shingles, it will not cool your attic to a comfortable temperature. Turbines are useless, so don't waste your money on them.
Attic fans are known to rob the conditioned space of conditioned air, but since you do not have air-conditioning, it would be less of a problem for you, although there are better ways to keep the attic's heat from heating your second floor. Adding insulation in the attic is the most effective way to lessen the radiation from the attic and keep your ceilings cooler.
If there is a floor in the attic, check to see if the floor joists' bays below it are filled with insulation. If they are not, cellulose can be blown in to fill them. If the bays are already filled, the choices are to pull up the attic floor, add 2-inch boards that are known as "sleepers" crosswise over the joists, fill the new bays with more insulation and replace the flooring.
Another choice is to install 2-inch rigid insulation over the joists and replace the flooring, or put the rigid insulation over the existing floor and put new plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) over it. Not only will this make the second floor more comfortable, but it will save on the cost of air-conditioning the bedroom below.
You can also place a fan in a window in one of the other rooms and open one or more windows in the rooms without air-conditioning to draw in the cooler night air.
A less desirable option is to have central air conditioning installed, but it would require extensive demolition to install the ducts, particularly to the second floor. It would cost a lot more than the options outlined above and increase the cost of your electrical consumption -- not ecologically or financially appropriate.
Interesting product: If you suffer from overheated or overcooled rooms, you may want to investigate Activent (www.theactivent.com). It replaces the supply register covers and is controlled by its own electronic thermostat that activates the louvers, closing or opening them to regulate the airflow into the room.
• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. His book, "About the House," is available at www.upperaccess.com and in bookstores. 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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