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posted: 10/28/2012 4:31 AM

Garage access to attic helps vents heat

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Q: I know you aren't a big fan of attic fans, and neither am I, but I would like to share with you what I have experienced.

I have a trilevel home with an attached two-car garage facing east in the Chicago suburbs. The house has roof, gable and soffit vents.

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In the garage is an access door to the attic. During this brutally hot summer of 2012, I've left the garage access door open, and it dropped the temperature in the attic substantially.

For having the air conditioner running almost continuously this summer, I thought my utility bills were not that expensive.

A. If you have an attic fan and used it while the access door to the attic in the garage was open, that access door amply supplied the CFM intake needed by the fan. But that is seldom the case, resulting in conditioned air being sucked from the living space to make up the difference.

If you do not have an attic fan (I am not clear about it from your email), the open attic access in the garage increased the intake airflow that exhausted through all the other high roof openings.

That tells me you probably need more insulation in your attic to reduce the radiant heat through the ceilings, which you experience when the access door is not open. A very high level of attic floor insulation (R-40 or more) would delay the heat penetration through the insulation until the cooler evenings, at which time night radiation takes over.

That was an interesting and ingenious experiment.

Q. I am having a problem with paver stones on my patio. About three years ago, I had the stones installed. They were from a company called Techo-Bloc. The style was Blu 88, I believe. The installer advised me to put a sealer on the stones, as he indicated they were porous and could stain if food, drink, grease, etc., was spilled on them.

Prior to putting down the sealer, a haze began to form on the stones. I tried to remove the haze with a hose and brush, but it did not have any effect.

I therefore put a sealer on them, using a product from Quikrete that I purchased at Home Depot or Lowe's. It was supposed to seal concrete driveways, paver stones, etc. My thinking was that I had to get the sealer on before any more haze formed.

Unfortunately, the pavers looked worse after the sealer was applied. I asked my installer, and he thought the haze was caused by efflorescence, which now was being trapped under the sealer. He recommended stripping the sealer and cleaning the stones with a product that cleaned efflorescence.

He began that process by using a strong stripper. However, after two attempts, sealer remained. He has not even tried the cleaner yet, as he cannot get all the sealer off.

In the meantime, I had a second patio installed, this one off my basement. I had the installer use the same stones. Again, the haze appeared.

This time I did not use a sealer, and instead the installer had a representative from Techo-Bloc come out to look at the pavers. He determined the haze was caused not by efflorescence but by the polymeric sand. He called it "polymeric haze." He thought something from the environment was causing the sand to create this haze. He recommended a cleaner.

The installer then used the cleaner, and indeed it removed the haze. However, it also removed or changed the color of the pavers. They now look much duller.

The installer is now recommending that I remove all the pavers from both patios and buy new ones, which he will install with a different sand. He will then use a sealer that he thinks is better than the one I used.

Any thoughts? He is proposing a huge expense, which I would like to avoid. Have you ever heard of polymeric sand doing this? Is there anything else we can do to remove the sealer from the top? Can anything be done to clean the stones without changing the color? Is this a common problem with pavers, and should I have done something differently? Would you recommend a sealer and, if so, what brand?

A. It was a mistake to seal the Techo-Bloc Blu-80 pavers (there are no 88 pavers) so soon. The haze you experienced was efflorescence, which is a normal part of all masonry products. Water dissolves the salts in them and, when the water evaporates, the salts are left on the surface. There are two stages to efflorescence: the immediate one that shows very quickly, and the later stage from the deeper salts.

You did the right thing by trying to remove the salts with a brush and water, but you should have allowed a lot longer time for all the salts to work out. Once the sealer was applied, the salts were trapped in the pavers, just as your installer thought.

The stripper he used is not strong enough. Contact Techniseal (www.techniseal.com) and ask the company to recommend and sell you a stronger stripper. Once the pavers are stripped, let them weather for several months until all efflorescence has subsided. Then clean them and apply the recommended sealer from Techniseal. It is best to use a penetrating sealer, which you need apply only once. Topical sealers add a shine to the surface onto which they are applied, but they need to be reapplied frequently.

If your second patio did not suffer from efflorescence, which would be unusual, the haze might also have been caused by dust from the polymeric sand that was not properly removed. Any water coming in contact with this dust will cause it to harden. The cleaner your installer used to remove the polymeric haze worked, but so would power washing it. Treat these pavers in the same way as the first ones.

I can't tell you how to get the pavers back to the original color.

Q. I have a compact refrigerator that I keep in the garage all year. It is used only for keeping beer and other beverages cold. Recently I have noticed little specks that look like dirt on the lower shelves of this unit. They are also in the door shelves. I have tried wiping down the fridge several times with bleach. I have disconnected the unit from the power supply and washed it down completely. I have taken it out and let it sit in the sun. Every time I reconnect it to the power supply, the specks return. I assume it is some sort of mold, but don't know what else to do with this fridge. Any ideas?

A. The small specks are very likely mold. A garage is a damp environment regardless of the season, and the fridge is probably sitting on the concrete floor, which compounds the problem. Try setting it on a wood platform, which should help. The bleach will remove any mold spores, but they will recur since the ambient conditions are still the same. You will have to repeat the treatment as needed.

Q. How do I fix the look of our vinyl siding after my husband used a power washer on it? After cleaning the siding with the power washer, you can see lines where the power washer's spray hit the siding. I tried cleaning it again today using siding cleaner and a sponge, but you can still see the lines. I am hoping the lines will fade over time. You can't notice them from a distance, but I can still see them.

A. Your husband may have used too strong a stream for the purpose. The best setting would have been a wide, revolving head. The industry actually recommends the use of a car-washing brush at the end of a garden hose.

The lines may fade over time, but you may be able to remove them by further hand-cleaning the siding with the siding cleaner you have used or with TSP-PF.

Comment from an experienced reader: "I try to read your column each week and enjoy it very much. I am writing after reading your response to a brick paver question. I have been installing pavers for about 30 years and have seen many changes in the industry.

"The question was about getting rid of weeds in the cracks of the pavers. There are several issues that need to be addressed. First, the weeds that grow in the joints of the pavers seldom come from underneath unless the pavers are laid directly on top of soil, then the fabric should be installed. Weed seeds blow around and settle in the joints.

"The joints have the perfect growing environment for almost any seed. Moisture is retained by the sand and soil in the joint, the sun heats up the pavers and presto -- weeds. While de-icing salt will take care of the problem, it is only temporary, and it can kill all the other vegetation adjacent to the pavers if no precautions are taken. Vegetation killers like Roundup work well, but the same precautions need to be taken.

"The polymeric sands work well. They do create a little extra runoff, but for the most part they do their job. Once spread in the joints of the pavers, if done correctly (read the instructions on the bag entirely), the sands will harden off and prevent weed seeds from penetrating the joint. This also prevents some movement in the pavers with the freeze/thaw cycles and can, in extreme cases, cause some cracking in the pavers.

"The sealer does only two things: helps preserve the color of the paver and creates more maintenance (resealing every couple of years).

"For the driveway, I would recommend pressure washing the pavers and cleaning all of the old sand and dirt out of the joints. The polymeric sand will reduce the weeds for several years to come. The sealer is cosmetic and an end use preference on the look they want to achieve.

"For the sidewalk, I would recommend re-laying the areas affected with the larger joints, but I would not install the fabric over the sand. And I would follow the same cleaning as with the drive. I would also recommend that your reader contact his local manufacturer for its recommendations, as all the different climates have different variables for installation.

Great recommendations and comments. Thank you.

Comment from a reader: "I have lived for about 25 years in a 50-year-old raised ranch home that had traditional open gutters. I now have LeafGuard gutters that were installed 15-plus years ago and have never had a gutter blockage since. The gutters have been able to handle the water load through all the storms we have experienced without incident.

"Due to how the LeafGuard gutters are mounted on the house, there is no water backup under the shingles. I believe we have fewer icicles since no snow collects in the gutters to freeze up.

"LeafGuard gutters are a one-piece gutter system formed by a roll forming machine; they are not gutter caps or covers. LeafGuard gutters eliminate all things collecting in the gutters. Besides no leaves, acorns, sticks, etc., they are great for families who often get tennis balls, Frisbees and other types of toys stuck in the gutters. Perhaps pine needles may create problems, but we only have large maples and oaks around our home. I used to get up on the roof at least four times a year, but with LeafGuard, I have not had to clean gutters or pick out toys for the last 15-plus years.

"I called LeafGuard out once to do some maintenance work after a new roof was installed, and there was no charge. I highly recommend LeafGuard in the Chicago area. LeafGuard gutters are at least 50 percent more expensive than traditional gutters, but for me, the money was well worth it. I have no affiliation or connection to LeafGuard in any way.

"Thanks for your wonderful article."

There is nothing better than a thoughtful comment from someone who has a long experience with a product. Thank you for sending it.

• 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 henridemarne@gmavt.net.

2012, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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