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posted: 12/30/2012 5:56 AM

Annoying flies hatch from slime in drainpipes

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Q. My daughter is plagued by moth flies. She lives in a 1957 two-story house. In her laundry room, moth flies have taken over. She has a drain there, as well as in a backroom that used to be a sauna and in the garage.

She has fought them for months using bleach, drain cleaners and enzymes, also cleaning two or three times a day. She called in a plumber; he was puzzled and told her he was going to call his exterminator friend. She also has visited plumbing stores -- not big box stores -- and they sometimes look at her like WHAT?

Do you have an idea where they are coming from or what to do? Thanks.

A. Moth flies, also called drain or sewer flies, are the mature adults of larvae that feed on the gelatinous coating found in drainpipes. Although they do not transmit diseases, they carry bacteria, which they can deposit on food supplies.

To find out which drain they come from, place a clear plastic or glass dish over suspicious drains until you see the moths trapped in it. Then have the drainpipe thoroughly cleaned by a plumber, using a snake, or do it yourself by scouring the walls of the pipe as far down as possible with a stiff brush. This may have to be repeated frequently. An exterminator should be able to help as well.

You also can use a commercially available bacterial digester to prevent the formation of gelatinous material in the drainpipes. One such product is Earth Enzymes, which you should be able to buy in plumbing supply stores.

Vinegar, bleach and boiling water often are suggested as remedies. Although they can kill the flies, they cannot eliminate the eggs that are embedded in the gelatinous coating. This slimy coating needs to be removed.

The moths can be killed with an aerosol for flying insects.

Q. I have looked everywhere for sandbags that I can fill. I need only a dozen or so ... and no one around here seems to carry them! I have tried the Home Depot, Lowe's and building supply stores, all to no avail. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

A. carries polypropylene sandbags with ties. They come in 20- or 100-bag packages. You also can buy sandbags in any quantity for 28 cents each from (800-286-7263). The Home Depot sells sandbags in 50-count packs under the Hercules name.

Q. I have a 12-year-old deck made from pressure-treated wood. Over the last six to eight years, I have been reapplying a clear deck finish to preserve it. Some of the boards were beginning to cup a little. The deck finishes (I tried different brands) didn't seem to help and did not even last the summer.

Would it be wise to install a composite decking over the pressure-treated wood, probably running perpendicular to the present layout? I am getting too old to get on my hands and knees and waste time.

A. I wish you had mentioned the names of the deck finishes you have used. There are longer-lasting finishes that would be a lot cheaper than building a new deck over the existing one.

Power wash the deck and save your knees by spraying or rolling Amteco TWP (

I suggest you use a stain instead of a clear coating, as stains last a lot longer. Clear finishes need to be reapplied yearly, whereas semitransparent stains can last several years. Amteco TWP should last three to five years.

Q. I read your piece in the newspaper on foundation cracks. I have a finished basement room that has block walls covered with textured paint. A couple of years ago, I noticed very small hairline openings along some of the mortar joints. I had a couple of contractors look at it, and they expressed no major concern since there seemed to be no movement of the blocks. There are no cracks in the plaster in the upstairs room, and there are no cracks that extend to the basement floor.

I dug out the loose mortar and filled the joints with Rockite expansion cement. All seemed good until about a week ago, when I noticed a few places that had reopened. Perhaps I should have used a flexible caulk instead.

For what it is worth, about five years ago we had a new foundation drain installed on the outside of that same wall. Previously, the ground sloped slightly toward the house, and the backfill was all clay. After that work was done, there was a good positive slope away from the house, and the backfill is mostly stone. Drawing on my geology background, I began to wonder if the small cracks were the result of the release of pressure on the wall since the stone would exert less pressure than the clay.

Again, I've kept an eye on this, and there is no apparent movement of the block either in or out. Certainly, if this wall were concealed by paneling or wallboard, one would never be aware of these hairline separations.

A. When small horizontal cracks develop on foundation block walls, they should not be filled with anything, as these cracks may be seasonal and may close up in the summer. If you seal them, even with caulking, you are preventing this natural process, and the situation can worsen.

Now that you have replaced the clay with a stone backfill and sloped the grade away from the foundation, the frost pressure has been relieved.

Q. We got some paint spots on our vinyl siding and used paint remover to clean them off, but now there is a white film on the siding! Any suggestions to remedy the problem?

A. You haven't mentioned the color of your vinyl siding and of the paint spots, so I don't know whether the white film is a residue from the paint, which has not been completely removed, or damage to the vinyl from the paint remover.

I suggest you contact the vinyl siding manufacturer, if you can find out its name, and describe the problem. The manufacturer may have a product to restore the siding to its original color.

Q. First, I want to say that I love your column! It's so informative and helpful. My house is about 40 years old and has never really been updated since my in-laws lived here. My concern is in the kitchen. They put up drywall and then paneling, and when they got sick of the paneling, they put wallpaper over it. Now the wallpaper is peeling and completely off in some places (and very '70s ugly). I really want to tear the wallpaper and paneling off, get back to the drywall, and patch and paint. My husband says we should take down the wallpaper and drywall over the paneling, which would be less time-consuming and less expensive.

Our house also doesn't seem to be very well insulated, so would his idea be better in that respect? Or would it be better to go all the way back to the studs and update the insulation?

A. Why even bother to remove the wallpaper? Your husband's suggestion is great, but so is yours to improve the insulation of the exterior walls.

If you can spare a couple of inches in the kitchen, you can adhere 1 1/2-inch-thick extruded polystyrene or iso rigid insulation, and screw half-inch drywall through it onto the paneling behind. This will be a much easier and less messy job.

Q. How would you recommend improving the soundproofing in a condominium bedroom wall? What can be placed in the interior of the wall and/or added to the finished wall that would be most effective in reducing sound transfer from an adjacent condominium room?

Thank you for your thoughts on this. The neighbor goes to work at 4 a.m. and has a loud and long ringer.

A. The most effective way to soundproof the common wall is to build a new wall an inch away from the existing one.

Apply 1-inch-thick foam insulation against the existing wall, and caulk all joints with an acoustical compound. Adhere 3 1/2-inch-wide, 1-inch-thick foam insulation to the floor and the ceiling, and caulk all joints. Erect a stud wall on 24-inch center on top of the floor insulation, using adhesive instead of nails or screws, and caulk all joints. The adhesive can be polyurethane caulking, StyroBond or a construction adhesive compatible with the foam insulation.

Fill the stud spaces with high-density fiberglass insulation, screw 5/8-inch-thick drywall to the studs and caulk all joints.

Q. I read your article concerning the lack of reliability among shingle manufacturers and found it interesting. As we will have to replace the roof on our home one day, what can we use in place of asphalt or fiberglass shingles that would be reliable? Perhaps you could discuss substitute replacements for asphalt and fiberglass and their cost and reliability in a future article. Keep up the good work in your columns.

A. Unfortunately, the history of organic asphalt and fiberglass shingles is abysmal. For years, there have been no brands that I am aware of and have discussed with contractors that have lasted their stated life expectancy. Some haven't even lasted half of it.

Alternatives are plastic shingles, metal shingles and standing seam metal roofing, all of which are quite expensive. Screw-on metal roofing panels cost a lot less, but they are not as aesthetically pleasing for some people. Wood shingles and shakes are also an option, but their life expectancy is 12 to 15 years if not treated with a preservative every few years in all but the dry Southwest climate. They also can be expensive.

Prices vary by geographic area, so you'll need to talk to area contractors.

Q. My husband is a regular reader of your column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and suggested I contact you for advice. This July, we had a 27-foot round aboveground pool installed in our yard. We live in a suburb of Pittsburgh and experience hot summers and cold winters. Our goal is to construct a deck around half the pool, with two sets of stairs for easy access.

The deck on our house is constructed of Wolmanized lumber. The deck is 5 years old, and some of the railing boards have warped and twisted. The deck boards exposed to direct sunlight and rain fade after only one year, and the yearly staining takes three long, agonizing days. I have been using Thompson's colored WaterSeal for this project at the recommendation of a Home Depot employee.

I am reluctant to use lumber for the pool deck, but after much research, I have determined that PVC and other fabricated materials are cost-prohibitive. My concerns with lumber are that the deck will be exposed to the elements and chlorinated water, which I believe will greatly reduce the life of the deck. I have been researching the Restore brand of deck stain, and the reviews seem to be mostly negative, with much less coverage per gallon than the manufacturer advertises and a difficulty applying the product.

If, due to cost concerns, we must construct the deck with lumber, can you recommend a stain or paint that will best resist the effects of weather and chlorine and does not need to be applied yearly?

A. For your existing deck, try this: Power wash it with a detergent to remove the coating you have been using. Then apply Amteco TWP series 1500 in the color of your choice ( Because of the condition of your wood, you may need to start with two coats. It should last several years.

You may want to consider using Trex for the new pool deck, but if the cost is beyond your budget, go ahead with pressure-treated deck boards and apply Amteco TWP after a few months.

• 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 His book, "About the House," is available at and in bookstores.

2012, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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