Q. My neighbors leave early in the morning and come home between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. They have room air conditioners and ceiling fans, which they run for hours so fast that the noise jumps out. Could running ceiling fans full speed cause a fire, or make them spin out or dangle? It would take only a few minutes to turn on the air conditioners when they get home.
A. Ceiling fans are engineered to run at any of the speeds manufacturers provide (usually three) for any length of time. If they choose to do that instead of turning on their air conditioners, it's a personal choice.
Q. I really enjoy your columns! In today's Daily Herald your column discusses the problem of the sacrificial anode of magnesium causing odor in a hot water heater. We had this problem (we have a well in western DuPage County in suburban Chicago) and had an intolerable odor from a new hot water heater with a magnesium rod. Taking the rod out got rid of the odor, but as you said, voided the warranty. In fact, it caused the hot water heater to fail in less than two years! However, with a new hot water heater, we tried the optional aluminum rod and voila! No odor! And no voiding of the warranty!
This might not work everywhere -- perhaps it depends on the water, but it's worth a try.
A. Aluminum sacrificial anodes are one way to eliminate the odor problem, which magnesium anodes can generate as they are "eaten away" by corrosion while protecting the steel parts of the water heater. But they do have a number of shortcomings, which must be considered when choosing to make the change.
An aluminum anode produces a lot more corrosion by-products, which end up as additional sediment at the bottom of the tank, requiring more frequent draining; these byproducts can also float to the top of the tank as a thick cream and end up clogging aerators and dishwasher filters. They are negatively affected by water softened with salt. They can swell and make it impossible to pull out to replace them.
And if you have single-handle faucets, aluminum may be present in the water you draw from the cold-water faucet to drink or cook with because of the intermingling of hot and cold with these types of faucets; you should run the cold-water faucet for a minute or so until the water is as cold as it can get. These are only a few of the drawbacks of aluminum rods.
A better solution is a power rod, which is connected to an electrical outlet, draws minimal current and never needs replacing.
Q. I've been considering and would love to have a metal roof, against the consternation of my wife who, rightly so, knows the pricing difference. Besides the "price per square" of metal roofing, I realize the biggest objective is finding a well-qualified contractor who specifically deals in its installation. We're only interested in metal roofing that meets the UL 790 Class "A" fire, UL 2218 Class 4 Hail and 120 mph or greater wind warranty.
Between Internet and home show visits, I'm getting pricing ranges from different manufacturers anywhere from $32,000 to $60,000 total installation. (Yikes!) A recent visit to a home show brought us to the Gerard Barrel Vault metal roof system (with batten installation included) on a 40,000-square-foot roof for a completion price (tear-off, etc., included) of $7.95 per square.
Is this in the "ballpark" by your estimation and if not may you give me some guidance here? Our current architectural roof is holding up at 18 years of age so far, and we both have about 20 to 25 years to go in this home.
A. I am not qualified to answer your question about the price of the Gerard Barrel Vault metal roofing system, as much depends on the complexity of your roof design, its steepness, the distance between your house and the qualified contractor's office and warehouse, among other things. You'll need to get a price from a certified installer.
The question you need to answer for yourself is whether or not it is worth the cost amortized over the time you expect to stay in your house and whether or not it will add significantly to the value of your house at time of sale. A real estate broker who is familiar with your neighborhood may help you with that question.
Q. I have written to you before and you always helped me with my problem. This is a hard one: I have cream color vinyl kitchen chairs and have a couple ink spots on the back of them. I have tried a few things but nothing works. Someone told me to use hair spray or olive oil. I have even laid wet rags on the spot with Tide for several hours, but can't seem to find a solution. Do you by chance have any thoughts on this that I can try?
A. You should be able to remove the ink stains by gently rubbing them with any vegetable oil -- or olive, canola or whatever you have handy in your kitchen -- using your fingers in a circular motion.
Once the stains look as if they are gone, wipe the treated areas firmly with a disposable clean cloth, which will now be ink stained. You may have to repeat the process. Hair spray may also work, as may WD-40. But try them in an inconspicuous place first.
Q. I have two skylights on the west-facing side of our home. In the winter months, condensation forms on the inside of the windows and drips down into the drywall ceiling. We have had the roof checked and the outside area around the skylights thoroughly checked.
The skylights themselves were replaced six years ago. The replacement was for the same reason -- dripping condensation.
Insulation was thoroughly updated in the attic in summer 2010, but that has not alleviated the problem. Any suggestions or thoughts on the matter?
A. Condensation forms on cold glass surfaces when the relative humidity (RH) is such that the dew point is reached.
The solutions are to reduce the RH in the house, which may not be the healthiest thing to do, or to add removable storm panels to the bottom of the coffer for the winter.
Q. Presumably due to age and settling, several fine to medium-fine floor cracks have developed over the years in the concrete basement floor of our nearly 50-year-old house. No water leaks through these cracks, and there is no efflorescence. Still, I would like to fill/seal these cracks.
What would be an appropriate product to use to fill/seal these cracks? Does this prevent further cracking in the existing floor cracks where the product is applied? I know from reading your column on a regular basis, you are not a fan of Drylok.
A. If the concrete on both sides of each crack is on the same level, the cracks are not due to settlement, which should reassure you. If one side is lower than the other, slight settlement may have occurred.
Looking at the photos you sent, the best filler for the cracks would be a cement slurry, which you can work into the cracks after you have thoroughly cleaned them, using an old toothbrush to remove any dust in them.
Drylok makes waterproofing coatings and floor paints, but as far as I know, does not make concrete crack fillers besides their hydraulic cement, which you may want to try. My negative comments about Drylok were that I do not recommend its use to waterproof concrete or cinder blocks from inside because water can build up within their cores and cause serious moisture problems in the living spaces as it evaporates.
A useful follow-up: Just thought you might like to know this. You printed information from a painting contractor who listed Restora as an excellent product for vinyl shutters. He said you could purchase it on Amazon. I went to Amazon and they do not have it.
I went online to the Flood Corp. (makers of Restora) website and learned it is discontinued. No listing for the reason or if it will be available again. In the meantime, we will keep looking and hoping someone has a good solution.
A. Sorry for the false information. I neglected to research the product, which has effectively been discontinued.
From a reader: I am commenting on your recent column dealing with a troublesome wet roof.
When my next-door neighbor moved into his new house, he taped plastic over his gable vents in the winter, because of the cold air that was coming in. When he went up there one day, he noticed the underside of the roof sheathing was soaked. He called his contractor and he told him to remove the plastic. After he did the moisture went away.
I was thinking the guy in Chicago may have a similar problem, such as no vents or clogged vents.
A. Ventilation of attic spaces is helpful, but the amount of wetness that your neighbor experienced was probably due to the convection of warm, moist air from the living spaces into the attic. This is something that should be checked and corrected. He is lucky that his gable vents were able to cure the problem, as gable vents are not the best solution to attic ventilation.
The most effective ventilation is provided by a combination of continuous soffit vents and a continuous, externally baffled ridge vent. The soffit vents must have a net free ventilation area equal to or greater than the ridge vent, and an unobstructed airflow between them is also essential.
• 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.
© 2013, United Feature Syndicate Inc.