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posted: 11/4/2012 6:40 AM

Roof membrane: too much of a good thing?

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Q. I am a homeowner with good do-it-yourself skills. I followed the advice of two local contractors (one a building inspector) and covered my entire roof with Grace Ice & Water Shield before applying Owens Corning shingles. Now I am told that the roof will not be able to breathe and that this situation will create mildew, rot and all forms of homeowner disasters. The house is a Cape style. I have improved the ventilation from the soffit to the gable vents, increased the insulation and eliminated ice dams. I swore this would be my last roof.

A. Covering entire roofs with an ice and water protective membrane is becoming more common. I have no firm opinion on this, and to date I haven't heard about any problems that can be attributed to the full coverage of a roof deck.

Some authorities will tell you that it prevents the roof from breathing, but asphalt shingles are waterproof and do not allow a roof to breathe anyway.

A roof breathes best from adequate ventilation, which you seem to have done with success, although an externally baffled ridge vent is far more effective than gable vents.

If mold and mildew form on the underside of a roof deck, it is more likely to be from warm, moist air convecting from the conditioned space below the attic. Such a situation should be addressed as soon as possible.

Q. Our house is a 50-year-old ranch with one bathroom. We have replaced the pink sink and toilet with white ones. However, we still have a pink bathtub. The bathroom is only 5 feet by 7.5 feet, and this tub inconveniently sits under a window.

Do you have any suggestions for turning this pink tub into white? I know there are companies that can put a replacement tub over this one, but is this the best way to go? I believe there are other companies that can put a new finish over the old one. Would this be a satisfactory solution?

Our walls are white tile, and we would not want to cover them in case we ever have plumbing issues. The shower plumbing is not accessible except by tearing out that wall, as the other side backs up to kitchen cabinets.

Any guidance would be appreciated. There are only two of us, and we both shower. I would consider replacing the tub with a shower only, but my neighbors said that would make the sale of the house more difficult.

A. Either an acrylic liner or porcelain glaze can be used to change your tub's color, but be aware that neither will be as tough as the original finish. You should not use any abrasive cleaners on them.

Bath Fitter installs liners in tubs only or over the entire area above the tub. You can find a porcelain glaze contractor in your Yellow Pages under "Bathtubs & Sinks -- Repair & Refinish" or similar listing. But consider that it is easier to take down a kitchen cabinet to access the plumbing than to open and then repair a tiled wall.

Consider asking a real estate professional's advice on whether having only a shower would make your house harder to sell.

Q. On the back of my brick house, there are cracks with missing mortar that are letting water leak around the windows. Repair people have suggested that I replace the lintels above the windows. Is this standard, or is it extreme? I would appreciate your thoughts.

A. Thank you for sending the photos. They show that the lintels over the windows are too short and do not seem to be properly supported by the brick walls.

The ladder crack under the small window below the roof is due to settlement caused by too short a lintel.

A structural engineer should evaluate the situation and recommend the proper repair.

Q. Because of condo association rules, I have to put wall-to-wall carpeting over my beautiful laminate flooring. Many carpet installers will not put carpeting over laminate. Some want more than $1,000 to remove the laminate. Others say they can do it, but they will charge extra.

What is your opinion? Can carpeting be laid over laminate, or should the laminate be removed?

A. The condo rules require carpeting for sound control; hardwood and laminate floors would transfer impact sounds to lower units.

According to my sources in the industry, the price quoted for removal is absurd. Removing a laminate floor is easy to do because it is loose-laid.

Installing wall-to-wall carpeting is not advised because nailing tack strips to the perimeter of the room would restrict seasonal movement of the laminate and could cause it to buckle. Therefore, either the laminate should be removed or a satisfactory alternative found.

Ask the condo association if you would satisfy its requirements by laying an area pad and rug, leaving a border of the laminate showing. A carpet store can measure and hem a rug to fit the area.

Q: I am about to use the vinegar formula for roof moss, and I have questions. Do I spray it all over the moss and leave it there? Or do I wait for a period and rinse it off? Will it work in the New England fall temperatures?

A. Spray the vinegar formula (three parts vinegar to one part water) over all affected areas. Do not rinse, as it takes quite a long time to kill the moss. The moss will die, but it will not readily come off the shingles. Time and weather (rain, snow, wind and sun) eventually will dislodge it after the roots have died.

The treatment is best done in warm weather.

Q. I have a question about ventilation in a school that has been newly renovated. My child has been sick for the first month since she started in this school, which is completely covered in carpeting that is 1 year old. There is a smell of what I think is new carpeting. When I go in to volunteer, I get itchy eyes and a runny nose, and when I stay for long periods, I get a headache.

I have spoken to the maintenance man, and he answered questions about the ventilation system, which sucks in air from outside every 10 minutes. The school has air conditioning that runs 24 hours a day, but there is still a smell in the building that I think is bothering my child. The maintenance man just got annoyed with me and told me all he could do is fill out an air quality complaint report.

I have spoken to other parents who say their children had issues last year when the renovation was still ongoing. I do not know what to do; I am thinking of taking her out of this school for fear of health issues. We have chemical sensitivities in our family. I have considered allergy testing, but I am not sure what she is being exposed to.

A. Newer carpeting is VOC-free and no longer exudes chemical fumes that can cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive people. So it is doubtful that the carpeting is the cause of your daughter's allergic reaction and yours, a year after installation; the adhesive should have outgassed a long time ago.

In view of your chemical sensitivities, consider having your child and yourself tested for allergies. It might help determine the cause of your reaction to the school's carpeting. Carpeting has some advantages over hard-surface floors in that it traps dust in the air, whereas the dust on a hard floor covering gets stirred back up whenever someone walks on it. But carpeting must be vacuumed frequently with a vacuum equipped with an effective filter to remove the trapped dust. Perhaps this is not done as often as it should be.

Q. I would like your opinion about two issues on my newly upgraded roof. The contractor started each shingle row (Owens Corning Duration) flush or with little overhang of the drip edge, stating some industry guideline and to prevent "curling." I would have directed him to maintain at least one-half inch. New gutters with leaf guards are a part of this upgrade. These were "stuffed" well into the gutter depth at the back ridge. Though it may allow runoff to cascade across the leaf guard, I maintain that tucking the guard between the drip edge and shingle provides no recess for leaves to lodge, thus being more efficient for their intent.

A. The industry's specifications are to overhang the metal drip edge by one-quarter to three-eighths of an inch. The suggested slight overhang is to reduce the risk of water running back between the shingles and the drip edge by surface tension.

I don't know which type of aluminum guards you installed, but the ones I have used in the past with little success were to be installed as you suggest -- tucked between the metal drip edge and the shingles. What method does the manufacturer of your choice suggest?

Q. Our Cape-style home is 23 years old. It seems like the upstairs oak flooring is noisier with age. There is some minor space between some of the boards. Summer humidity and winter heat change the minor spacing. I believe the subflooring was properly installed. Is there some kind of wood oil product that can be applied on occasion to eliminate this noise?

A. By noisier, do you mean that the floor is squeaking? If so, the separation between the flooring and the subfloor can be eliminated by using special screws manufactured and sold by O'Berry Enterprises. At the company's website,, you will find videos on eliminating squeaks from a variety of floors.

If the noise is not related to significant separation between the hardwood floor and subfloor, you may want to try spraying graphite between the noisy boards.

Q. I have a house that is sided with white vinyl siding, then red brick to grade. I have noticed throughout the years that the white color from the vinyl siding has bled down onto the first three to four courses of the brick, causing a white, hazelike stain. I have tried to remove it with things like muriatic acid, ammonia, paint thinner and simply pressure washing. None of those things has even begun to work. Is there anything I can do to remove this white stain from the brick?

A. All vinyl siding eventually "chalks" as it ages; white is particularly susceptible to chalking. This is what has discolored your bricks.

Chalking is caused by the elements, and in some materials, especially alkyd paints and some siding products, it is designed to refresh the paint or coating by slowly shedding the aging topcoat.

Try cleaning the bricks with a solution made up of 2 pounds of TSP-PF dissolved into a gallon of water. Scrub the bricks using a stiff-bristle brush that looks like a giant hairbrush. (In the earlier days, we used to call it a calamine brush, but it is known as a Tempico brush nowadays.) Leave on the solution for a short while to soften the pigments causing the staining. Hose it off.

Be sure to wet the ground and vegetation around the area to be treated and cover them with plastic. Wear old clothes and eye and skin protection. Rinse profusely afterward.

• 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

2012, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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