Q: The 16½-by-14-foot sunroom at the west end of my house is floored with stick-on tiles over plywood, probably lauan, placed over thick planks that were the original flooring. The stick-on tiles are peeling up and breaking. I've wondered if the new flooring was put down because the previous owner thought the gaps between the boards were too big. Sun pours in through the windows much of the day on two sides (a maple shades the third windowed side), so I think heat is the problem.
The sunroom isn't heated in winter. Last year, we put fiberglass insulation under the floor and nailed black building board under that. The porch siding is now Hardie fiber-cement board from the ground up to the windows. There is insulation between the studs, and the inside walls are covered with bead-board-effect wood sheets. All gaps were sealed (no cluster flies or other bugs this year). The ceiling is aluminum strips that look like boards, with no insulation above. The windows slide open to expose screens, and there's a ceiling fan.
I'd like to remove the ceiling and just paint the support structure and underside of the roof to decrease the summer heat in the room and for the spacious effect. I don't use the room much in the winter, and I doubt this would affect the rest of the house enough to raise heating bills noticeably.
The problem is, what about flooring? My contractor wants to take up the tile and paint the plywood, which he thinks is nailed down, but I doubt it will wear well, and I don't think it would look particularly nice.
I'd prefer to take up the plywood, grout between the boards if necessary, and use porch paint on them. Laminate flooring that mimics wood might not survive the heat and sun of summer. I don't want carpet, because after seeing the dirty throw rugs, I'd think of it as a grime deposit. A flooring rep told me I'd have to use expensive ceramic or porcelain tile because the room's unheated in winter and sun-beaten in the summer.
Aside from the expense, the depth of tile, or another layer of real wood planks, would interfere with opening the door to the outside. But is sheet vinyl an option? What about linoleum tile, or bamboo flooring? Or are there other options that won't break the bank? This room is also the main entry to the house, so it does get foot traffic, including a large dog.
I like seeing the view from the sunroom through the window wall of the room to which it's attached, so putting blinds on the large expanse of windows in the sunroom isn't an option, plus opening and closing them daily would be a chore.
A: I am not clear about something. Is the roof of the sunroom all glass? If it is, why the aluminum strips? And if it is glass, I am not sure that just painting it is going to reduce the heat in the summer. An effective shield is one of the 3M films. A shade shop may also suggest a gray shade that would lessen the heat gain but that you could see through.
I agree with you that the lauan plywood would not be a great surface for heavy traffic. Once the lauan plywood is removed, you may be surprised to find that the original boards are OK, but if there are spaces between them, the way to tackle those will vary with the size of the cracks.
If you remove the lauan plywood, which is probably ¼- inch thick, will that give you enough room for an engineered or bamboo floor? I would think that either of those would stand up to the stresses of high heat and sun exposure. Ceramic or quarry tiles would be a great option, and they are ¼-inch thick, whereas wood flooring is 5/8 inch or more.
Q: I find your column a great source of information. I have a few, hopefully quick, questions with the hope of completing things before winter:
• Are dryer lint traps worth installing? We have a second-story laundry room. The dryer vent is higher than any ladder I own. Paying someone to come out every few months to climb up there is getting annoying, but it is necessary to avoid the fire hazard. Can they be installed easily when the vent duct is inside a finished wall?
• The edge of the concrete front porch has worn off. What product or method can be used to re-form a rounded concrete corner?
• A similar problem is happening with the small part of concrete floor that is outside the garage door, but only in front of the third bay. I would have expected this in the bay where our cars have road salt runoff in winter, but not there. What would do this, and how can we fix it?
• We have recently noticed that chipmunks and mice are getting under the cedar siding where outside deck stairs butt up against it. Sealing the gap is probably not a good idea, but how can we keep unwanted pests out?
A: There is no lint filter that I know of for installation in the back of the dryer before the vent enters the wall. Your photo shows that your dryer is now venting through what looks like an unvented vinyl soffit. If this were a vented soffit, the moist air would be sucked up into the attic -- a serious mistake.
Assuming that the vent duct is in an inside wall, there isn't much you can do about changing it to exit through an exterior wall unless you can run it low through an adjacent room and build a chase around it, as if it were a very large baseboard. Not only must the outside jack be cleared of lint, but so must the duct itself, so having a way to do so as easily as possible is important.
Unfortunately, your situation is a difficult one with no easy solution, unless you change your dryer. I own a Bosch that has such an effective lint filter that I no longer have to clean my vent.
Concrete can be patched using one of the vinyl-reinforced compounds available in hardware, general building and masonry supply stores. Thorocrete, Top'n Bond and Sika Concrete Fix are three of the top ones. Sika products are available in the masonry department of Home Depot. As in all cases, following the manufacturer's instructions is key to success.
By all means, seal the holes through which the mice and chipmunks are entering. Mice can go through dime-sized holes, but chipmunks need a larger hole, so you may want to plug them with brass wool or with a can of spray foam.
Q: I am experiencing some dampness under a basement shower that is positioned directly under the front gutter area. I suspect it is coming from excess water reaching the ground from my front gutters.
There are two valleys that feed a lot of rainfall to my front gutter. In the past, I put on gutter screens to minimize leaf and debris problems and installed flow deflectors where the water was shooting over the gutter and to the ground. I thought I had seen somewhere that one might locate deflectors perhaps halfway up the valleys to slow down the strong flow of water getting to the gutter area.
A: Adding deflectors up the valleys is likely to direct water under the shingles and cause leaks inside the house. If you still have a problem with water overflowing the gutters, you may want to consider changing your single downspout to a commercial one, which has twice the cross section of the residential one shown in your photos.
This may speed the flow, but you will still need some baffling on the front section, as a lot of water is converging on that small area. You do have a lot of roof surface to drain, including some areas to the right of the valleys.
It also looks as if this only downspout is draining underground. Check to make sure there isn't an obstruction or a break in that hidden pipe that could cause the basement moisture problem by saturating the soil.
It is not uncommon to have moisture issues in a basement bathroom, so there may not be an external source for that moisture.
Q: My home is 6 years old and 2,500 square feet. We have about a six-degree temperature difference between the first and second floors during the summer. About four years ago, I added a powered attic vent that comes on most summer days about 10:30 a.m. and shuts off about 7:30 p.m.
Last fall I blew in enough attic insulation to envelop the attic to at least R-50. All the soffit vents are "opened" with the plastic chutes. There are eight pod vents and two gable vents. We still have the temperature variance. I have read that powered ventilators can actually remove air-conditioned air from the living space. Should I somehow seal the attic access doors?
A. You have heard correctly that attic fans of any kind draw conditioned air and increase energy consumption if the house is air-conditioned. In the winter, any such fans used to remove excessive moisture from the attic rob the conditioned space of heat. This is because there is seldom enough net free ventilation area in an attic to satisfy the CFM (cubic feet per minute) demand of the fan.
If you want to continue using your power vent, you should seal whatever cracks you can find. You are not going to be able to get them all, as there are holes through the framing for pipes and wiring that will still be sucking conditioned air to feed the fan's needs.
Regardless of the amount of insulation in an attic -- and R-50 is great! -- there will be a temperature difference between floors. Balancing the system seasonally works well. Partially shutting off downstairs registers to direct more air upstairs in the summer or installing special fans in the upper floor registers that increase the air flow are options to consider.
Q: Our home is built on a cement slab and into a hill. From the front, you see the first and second floors. From the rear, you see only the second floor.
We have had water problems over a period of 30 years, which were mostly corrected. Last year we found mold in the two first-floor bedrooms. In the back bedroom the mold was across the back wall of the room and up the wood paneled wall. The carpeting in front of the wall was wet. The front bedroom had mold in the left corner of the room.
This past spring we had extreme runoff from the snow and rain. Workers trenched out across the top of the slope, directing the water into a small stream. This has been working fine, even through our recent Hurricane Irene.
With this work done, what will now happen to the mold? Will it dry out on its own? Can we treat it in some way ourselves?
A: The extensive mold you describe is unlikely to cure itself. The moisture responsible for it may dry up, but the mold is more likely to remain.
Not all molds are a health risk -- mushrooms are mold and some are great for our well-being. If you have not experienced any respiratory problems, runny eyes or other difficulties after a long exposure in these rooms, you may be able to remove the mold from hard surfaces by washing them with a mild bleach solution. The carpet is a different story; you may need professional assistance.
• 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.
$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$© 2011, United Feature Syndicate Inc.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$