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posted: 7/7/2013 12:55 AM

High-quality metal roofs can last a long time

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Q. What is your opinion of metal roofs? Durability? Quality? Longevity?

A. Factory-coated ferrous metal roofs of any color should last a long time. Quality depends on the manufacturer, so choose wisely. Bare metal roofs are more prone to acid rain and creosote damage that can eat the metal. Aluminum roofs are not subject to rusting.

There are many metal roof choices: the less costly are ribbed or V-crimp screw-on panels; the more costly are tiles, standing seam and flat seam.

Q. I noted your comments in a recent Daily Herald about the average life of furnaces' heat exchangers in response to the reader from Palatine who had pinholes in both of his furnaces heat exchangers.

We just had our annual furnace inspection and were advised that there were hairline cracks in the heat exchanger.

We're having the heat exchanger replaced as we are advised that this basically gives us a new furnace. Might this be an alternative for the other party?

In our case, all we have to pay for is labor, as there is a 20-year warranty on the heat exchanger and our furnace is only 18 years old. Might this account for the difference?

A. Replacing the heat exchanger is certainly one option, and in your case, costing you little is hard to resist. Cracked heat exchangers can allow carbon monoxide to be introduced into the living spaces and cause deaths. They need to be replaced. Yearly furnace inspections are essential to detect any cracks in heat exchangers and ensure proper functioning of furnaces.

The decision to simply replace the heat exchanger or the furnace should depend on the efficiency of the existing furnace. If a new one will give you a considerably better fuel usage, it should be considered.

Q. I have a third-story back hallway on my three-story home that has fiberglass insulation and is covered with a heavy cardboard-like material. I'd like to have this painted, but don't know what type of long-lasting paint to use.

Should a primer be used first and then one coat of paint? What types of paint could I use without any detrimental effect on the cardboard? I cannot afford to have the cardboard taken off and replaced with, for example, plywood. Thank you for your reply!

A. If the cardboard is in good condition and not dusty, an oil-base primer should be applied, followed by one or two coats of a quality latex paint.

Q. I have a problem and cannot find a solution. I used an oil-base (white) paint and dropped a few drips on the bricks. I made the mistake of trying to wipe it off with turpentine. No luck. I used various solutions, such as Goof Off. I talked to my local paint store, and they suggested naphtha or xylene.

After application of the products, I used a wire brush, but when it dries, it is a hazy mess. I hope you can help.

A. If the paint is all gone and you only have the hazy mess you describe, I would try washing the bricks with TSP (if its use is allowed in your state) or TSP-PF. Then rinse with a strong jet from your garden hose.

But if there is some paint residue, try a semi-solid, gel-type paint remover, which can be rinsed off with your garden hose.

Savogran makes Heavy Duty SuperStrip and Strypeeze. Either one should do the job. Follow instructions on the can.

Q. I find your column very interesting and full of great advice. I am looking to rejuvenate the plastic shutters on my two-story house. Is there a product that I can paint them with, or am I better off replacing them?

A. After cleaning the shutters to remove all pollutants, prime them with Zinsser's B-I-N and apply a quality latex paint. You may need more than one coat.

Q. I know you have written about this more than once. I just replaced the shingles on our house and remember you mentioning that placing a metal strip along the ridge would prevent staining that often happens. I just cannot remember what kind of metal you said to use. Could you be so kind as to tell me again?

A. The metal is zinc. You can get it in rolls of 50 feet or in short strips, which may be easier for a DIYer to handle. You can buy rolls in building supply houses and big box stores, and strips from

It will take time to see results if you already have algae stains on the roof, but after that, it will work for years to come.

You may have seen roofs with algae that had absolutely clean streaks below chimneys with metal flashing, and barn roofs with clean streaks below metal ridge ventilators. This is what zinc strips will do to your roof. Copper also works, but is more expensive.

Q. I milk 11 goats. Recently, at the beginning of a four-day deluge when the humidity was quite high, my barn floor was extremely wet. Yet on the last day of this persistent rain event, the humidity was quite high and the floors were not wet. I should also say that at the point between when the high humidity and persistent rain turned to cooler temperatures, yet still rainy, the floor dried up. During this time when the floors are wet, the floors are dry next to the doors to the outside, which I always leave open. I'm wondering what I need to do to remedy this situation. Do I need to have temperature- and humidity-controlled fans to provide better ventilation? Is this a result of no vapor barrier below slabs? The barn is probably 30 or 35 years old. Hopefully I haven't confused you, and if you need more info I can provide it.

A. A concrete slab on grade reaches ambient air temperature when the soil below it has warmed. Condensation occurs on it when it is colder than the air temperature on warm or hot days when the relative humidity (RH) is high, while the subgrade is still colder than the air.

On cooler days, and after several hot days, the concrete is warming up and condensation may not occur because cooler air holds less moisture.

The animals also exude warmth, which adds to the temperature within the barn and allows the air to hold more moisture. The areas near the barn doors remain cooler and are better ventilated, so are less prone to condensation on the slab.

Whether there is a plastic vapor retarder under the slab has no bearing on the condensation.

Temperature- and humidity-controlled fans would help materially, but exhaust fans without such control would also work.

Q. Our challenge, about which we would appreciate your advice, relates to permanently getting rid of grass, weeds, moss, etc., among the Omni Stone of our drive. The stone drive largely is covered by shade from the trees.

We have sprayed several brands of weed killer, but none thus far has been effective. What do you suggest we do?

A. Have you tried Round Up? It should work. Follow directions carefully as it will kill everything it comes in contact with -- good or bad -- so it needs to be applied carefully and on windless days.

Q. I have an old home, built in 1927, with a sagging dining room floor. I believe the house settled around the chimney. Our hardwood floor is badly damaged with extensive termite damage that the previous owners let go. The floor is in too bad of shape to refinish, plus it appears to be a pine floor anyway (there is no subfloor -- what you see is it). My husband and I would like to put a good quality laminate over the top, but I am worried how the laminate would hold up with the sag in the middle. I'm afraid it would buckle. When I asked an expert floor installer, he suggested that I putty the many holes and cracks in the floor first, then put down a floor leveler, then the laminate. Is this accurate? I appreciate any advice you can give.

A. What the installer has suggested sounds fine, but it would be better if you could have a contractor experienced in old houses determine if the sagging floor can be leveled. If not, he or she should see if it can be strengthened, as adding more weight may cause too much stress on the supporting framework and cause more sagging and possibly worse structural damage.

Interesting follow-up: "I, too, have a Mannington Gold floor, with all those indentations. A couple of years ago, I invested in one of those upright steamer cleaners. The steamer uses only water, and cleans my floor better than anything I have used. Prior to the steamer, I did use the Mannington cleaner the manufacturer recommends, but I have been really trying hard to get away from chemicals where I can. I have had this same kitchen floor for 19 years now; I know it was installed a few years before I purchased my home. The steamer leaves the floor very clean, and the floor is still shiny! Thought you'd like to know!"

• 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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