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posted: 6/16/2013 4:22 AM

Garage ceiling should have been insulated when enclosed

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Q. I finished my attached garage with insulation and drywall last year, and now the inside of the garage is wet in the winter. I did not insulate the ceiling. The walls get wet, and so does the ceiling, and then it all freezes -- this cannot be good. There are soffit vents and a ridge vent. Any ideas how to solve this issue?

A. When you applied drywall to the ceiling, you effectively contained the moisture brought into the enclosed space by your car(s). All that the soffit and ridge vents do is ventilate the attic, but not the garage.

Since you did not insulate the ceiling, you may want to remove the drywall from it. But I wonder why you insulated the walls and not the ceiling.

Q. Can you please email the name of the product you stated in your column several months ago that would fix leaking gutters?

A. If your gutters are leaking at the joints between lengths of gutters or at corners, these can be fixed by thoroughly cleaning the areas near those joints and allowing them to dry completely. Then apply a gutter caulking compatible with the metal of your gutters, which are probably aluminum or plastic if installed in sections. (Seamless aluminum gutters can develop leaks at the corners over time). Hardware stores and home centers sell such products, but you can also seal the leaky joints with polyurethane caulking.

If the leaks are caused by rusting metal, and holes are not major, you can fix them with a piece of the same metal set in polyurethane caulking. First clean the areas to be patched and a few inches beyond and remove all rust. There are also some fiberglass patches available.

But if the rusting is substantial, it is best to have the gutters replaced with seamless aluminum gutters that have joints only in corners.

Q. I am looking at a new roof soon, and have seen a lot of homes with metal roofs, but can't seem to find any feedback, except from the manufacturers or by knocking on the doors of the houses that have them! Do you have any comments/opinions on the use of metal roofs in Northern Illinois? They certainly seem like a good idea to me.

A. Metal roofs come in a variety of forms and prices. There are a number of configurations of screwed-on metal roofing panels that can easily be installed by do-it-yourselfers or handy persons. This type of roofing is more reasonable in cost than metal tiles and standing-seam roofs, which should be installed by trained professionals and can be quite pricey. Most come factory coated, and they can last a very long time.

If you are considering a standing-seam roof, in order not to be disappointed over time, insist on a 24-gauge metal instead of 26-gauge (which is thinner and more prone to what is called "oil canning" under strong wind conditions). Also important is to insist on double-lock seams and closing of the ends of the standing seam at the eaves. In other words, be sure to have an experienced, top-quality roofer do the job and do not be influenced by price alone.

Q. I love your column, watch for your inputs on people's problems and have some questions of my own. First, I had an Empire space heater, model RH-370 (70,000 BTU input), fired by propane, for more than 20 years, and it served me well with no problems.

In August 2011, I took advantage of being able to connect to the Vermont Gas Systems natural gas line, and at that time purchased a new Empire model RH65-6B space heater (65,000 BTU input) to be fired by natural gas. This new unit created unacceptable noise during the heat-up and cool-down cycles. Each time, it was like a small-caliber gun being fired in the house.

After much communication, an Empire heating systems person did acknowledge that "from time to time" they had a noise problem, and ultimately, in March 2012, replaced the original unit on a one-time basis only, free. It was late March when the new unit was installed, and being the end of the heating season, it saw very little use until the fall of 2012. Initially when run, however, it did seem much less noisy than the original unit -- at least at the start.

The new unit started getting noisier and noisier until it now also sounds like a small-caliber gun going off during the heat-up and cool-down cycles. I've pretty much become convinced Empire has a flawed design and knows it. It refers to the noise as an "oil can" effect. Since the unit is primarily of sheet metal construction, I expect some expansion and contraction noise, but not like a gunshot.

My question is whether you have received any similar complaints from your readers. I now feel stuck once again with an unacceptable unit and don't see a ready solution, but I would like to know if I'm alone in having this problem.

A. Sorry, but I haven't heard from anyone else with this problem. I suggest you call Vermont Gas Systems and ask them if they have heard from other customers with a similar problem, and ask them to send someone to check the unit to see if it is normal or excessive.

If VGS agrees that there is something wrong with the unit, you may want to contact Empire again and tell them that this is unacceptable, and that you expect a replacement unit.

If they refuse, you have the choice of letting them know that you will either file a suit in small claims court or a complaint with the Consumer Protection unit of the state attorney general's office. This may get their attention.

Q. I have a well pit that is under the concrete slab that is part of the step into the house. If possible, could you please direct me to information on how to insulate the pit?

A. You haven't given me much information. Is the well pit easily accessible? Is it a concrete pit or other masonry or just a hole dug in the ground?

Assuming that it is built of either concrete blocks or poured concrete, and that access to it is easy enough to take pieces of rigid insulation into it, use a minimum of 1-inch thick (preferably 2-inch thick) XPS (extruded polystyrene). Clean the surfaces with a stiff brush to remove any loose material and adhere the insulation to the masonry with Styrobond or any brand of polyurethane caulking/sealant.

Q. We have a house that we built three years ago. The problem is spiders on the outside of the house. They build webs all over the exterior of the house. Every morning, when we go to work, there are new webs in the door openings. We sweep the spider webs down, but they just keep coming back. Is there something that we can do to get rid of the spiders?

A. The spiders have figured out where the insects that are their food supply will congregate or fly.

I had a similar problem years ago, and was constantly using a barn broom to knock big gray spiders and their webs off, but they were back in no time.

One day, exasperated, I sprayed the spiders with Formula 409. They immediately dropped to the ground and never came back. Worth a try.

From a reader: In response to my recommendation that a reader use a Clorox pen on Corian countertops that were stained by newsprint, a reader offers her solution: "I read your response about stained Corian in The Grand Rapids Press. I use Dawn Direct Foam, and it works great not only for newsprint, but other stains as well."

And another one: "I read your column every Sunday in the Pittsburgh Tribune and often see questions about wet basements. I'm not a contractor, just a do-it-yourselfer, but I have seen a number of homes -- mine, friends' and relatives' -- with the same problem. The homes were built with downspouts that drain into dead-end, three-foot sections of terra-cotta pipe buried alongside the foundation with nowhere to drain."

A. Thank you; that's an interesting observation and one worth looking into, as well as several others if you have a leaky foundation.

• 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

2013, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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