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posted: 12/22/2013 12:32 AM

Black & Decker's snake light won't be ready for holidays

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Q. Recently, you recommended a new Black and Decker Snake Light. Which model was it exactly? We started filling toolboxes for our sons when they were in primary school. Now they are in homes of their own, and very capable at home repairs, building, etc. Seems like these lights would make a nice addition to their tool collections and something very useful. I hope I am remembering the brand correctly.

A. The Black & Decker Snake Light is very useful indeed and will make a great addition to your sons' toolboxes. The one I recently tested is the new model No. BDCF-4SL.

The news release that announced its coming onto the market states a price of $29.99 and a November availability at and However, my trying to buy this model at Amazon as a gift for a son-in-law resulted in a higher price of $40.27 down from a list price of $44.99 and a notice that it was out of stock at this time. I placed the order, nevertheless, for delivery when available.

I have had several lengthy conversations with Black & Decker and found out that the Snake Light will not be available until January. They also told me the price mentioned in the news release is the manufacturer's suggested list price, but that retailers can put any price they want on the items they sell. They also told me that Black & Decker does not sell retail.

It sounds as if production lags behind promotion and their public relations firm is sending erroneous information. I am sorry to have printed misinformation from the public relations people and misled you.

Q. I live in southwest Michigan and would like to know what I can use to clean headstones on cemetery plots. They have been growing some kind of algae, mainly in the spaces where the names and dates are. It also attaches to the top of the stone (where there is no shiny finish). I am assuming the stone is granite. Some were put in 1988 and the last one was only 2011. Also, is there something to use to prevent this growth from coming back, assuming I can get it all off to begin with?

A. First, my thoughts are with all my Midwest readers following the terrible tornadoes that wreaked havoc in your communities on Nov. 17. The devastation is beyond comprehension.

To clean the granite headstones, use a plastic spatula to remove the heaviest encrustations. Wash the remaining flora with a mild detergent solution, such as Dawn, using a soft-bristle brush. Rinse thoroughly.

Wear rubber gloves and protect the vegetation surrounding the stones as best as you can by covering it with plastic. If you have no access to a supply of pressurized water to rinse, this chore will be a challenge.

I don't know of a solution to prevent recurrence.

Q. I always follow your advice, and now I need your help. I have a textured plaster ceiling (not popcorn). It seems that a coat of white ceiling paint was applied without the proper primer. It was latex being applied over a semi-gloss (probably oil-based) primer paint. The ceiling paint bubbled in spots. I scraped and primed the spots with Zinsser B-I-N primer. Then I tried to paint with Behr Premium Plus ceiling paint. The old white ceiling paint started to peel off, even in areas that had not bubbled. Right now, the only paint that is adhering to the original primer is the Zinsser. The rest is a peeling mess. It looks like I need to get all of the old white ceiling paint off the ceiling. Ideas? It is a big room! I have the same plaster all throughout the house and this room is the only problem.

A. If the white ceiling paint peeled following the application of the new Behr paint, it is because the bond between the original primer and the old white paint was too weak to resist the additional weight of the new coat of paint. It does sound as if you need to take off all the old white paint and start with a new application of B-I-N, which seems to have been successful.

Q. The house in which I live is a one-story, single-family residence built in 1960. A down draft, natural gas, forced air furnace is located on the main floor.

The floor in the crawl space is covered with plastic sheeting. The crawl space height is three to four feet. There are five screened vents mounted in header joist openings. The vents can be opened and closed from the outside. Each vent is covered on the inside with a half-inch-thick piece of Styrofoam against the vent and a 3-inch-thick piece of wall insulation against the Styrofoam.

Should the crawl space vents be opened and closed seasonally, or should I continue keeping the crawl space vents closed with the inside insulation and Styrofoam installed? Should I use a dehumidifier?

A. With plastic covering the crawl space floor, the vents should be kept closed at all times. In the summer, it keeps hot, humid air from entering through the vents, and in the winter it keeps the air warmer.

You need a dehumidifier only if your nose tells you that it smells moldy after one or two seasons. It is unlikely to be needed.

Q: My wife and I built our center-hall Colonial 34 years ago. At the time, we couldn't afford the traditional standing seam roof we felt the design deserved, so we opted for corrugated steel panels. It has held up pretty well -- considering that a new SS roof is warrantied for 35 years -- but over time, the paint has deteriorated, rust has formed and it now needs help. We considered having it painted, but there are some other issues we'd like to remedy, so we think that replacement is the best solution. The house roof has a 10/12 pitch and has plywood sheathing underneath, although I'm sure some if it will need replacement because we have experienced some water penetration around the chimneys and vent pipes.

We have contacted several standing-seam roofers and each has an opinion on what elements make the best roof. Here are my questions: We recently had some masonry work done, including new crowns on both chimneys, and our contractor suggested that since we were going to replace the roof, the re-flashing work should be done by the roofer, so that one contractor has responsibility for potential leaks. Is this the right approach?

Most have quoted using 24-gauge panels, but one maintains that 26-gauge is his standard material. It seems logical to me that the heavier material would make a better roof, but which do you think is best?

One roofer specified "single-lock seams" for easier repair and replacement. The others have not specified. What do you recommend?

One roofer has specified using "high temp ice and water shield" for an underlayment on the entire roof. Another has specified using the same material, but only on the bottom three feet along the drip edge, using "titanium synthetic" on the rest of the roof. Others have not specified. What do you recommend?

I've always thought snow guards would be a good method to capture snow slides, which I think would alleviate the excessive snow deposits in front of the rear entrance. I also think properly placed snow guards would allow us to install seamless gutters, which would reduce the volume of water in that same area that renders the door unusable during heavy rain events. Water sometimes finds a way into our basement during these events as well. Is this a correct assumption, and if so, which type of snow guard/gutter combination should I choose?

What would you recommend to reduce the volume of water that now drips on the front porch and splashes back against the door. Although we don't use the front door often, the water problem has caused us to replace the door (and part of the sill) twice.

I'll attach photos of the house that should help. If I've left anything out, please let me know.

A. It is best to have the roofer do the flashing wherever it is needed while installing the new standing-seam roof.

By all means use 24-gauge metal; it's thicker than 26-gauge metal and is less prone to oil canning in strong wind.

Insist on double-lock seams. The logic that single-lock seams are easier to repair and replace doesn't make any sense: The roof is there to stay and if properly installed, it should not need repairs or replacement anytime soon. It sounds like an excuse for not doing the best job.

Be sure that whomever you choose will caulk and lock the ends of the seams at the eaves to prevent wind-driven rain penetration. It's easily done by creating a tab that is folded over the seam. Unfortunately, few installers do it.

Using an ice and water membrane over the entire roof is more and more commonly done, but there is some concern among building scientists that it should only be done if the roof sheathing has adequate ventilation, such as is found in open attics. Otherwise, condensation could develop on the sheathing and rafters.

Either full coverage with an ice and water protective membrane or one of the synthetic underlayments is fine with the caveat just mentioned because synthetic underlayments have poor permeability.

All eaves, valleys and roof penetrations (vents, chimneys, etc.) should have an ice and water protective membrane. The old standby No. 30 felt over the rest of the roof is still widely used and may be preferable if the attic is not well ventilated or over cathedral ceilings; because of its permeability, it allows any moisture getting under the felt to evaporate. But there are some disagreements with this, as asphalt singles and metal roofs are considered impermeable anyway.

Synthetic underlayments have considerable advantages over asphalt-impregnated felts. They are more stable, easier to lay down -- particularly in cold weather -- and can be left exposed to the weather for long periods of time, which felt cannot.

Snow guards are a good idea, particularly to protect areas where snow sliding off a roof causes safety problems and damage to gutters. There are a number of snow guard styles. The types I favor are the two-pipe style with ASG3000G or ASG4025-mini brackets specially made for standing-seam roofs. You can see what they look like at Click on "Standing Seam Roof Snow Guards" for more details.

As always, I recommend commercial gutters and downspouts over residential types. They handle greater volumes of water and do not clog as easily as the smaller and more commonly used residential gutters and downspouts.

• 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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