Q. I am 79 years old, and my wife is 78. We recently moved into a condo. The fellow next door to us is a single man. We can hear him walking, partying, etc. Just wondered if this is normal for a condo?
A. Unfortunately, many condo and townhouse projects are built with the minimum care for good construction and soundproofing.
Contact information ( * required )
You may want to consult with an acoustical specialist who can suggest ways to alleviate the problem. Or you can have an experienced contractor build a second wall against the common wall between your units as follows: Remove all trim on the common wall. Caulk around the perimeter of the entire wall with acoustical or polyurethane caulking compound. Apply sound deadening board or 2-inch-thick XPS against the existing drywall with adhesive -- no nails or screws. Caulk all joints between panels and adjacent materials.
Apply a strip of cork around the perimeter of the affected wall using construction adhesive (you should be able to find a roll of cork in masonry building-supply houses or from www.brockwhite.com (Item No. 0355600, Expansion Joint Cork, ¾ inch by 3 inches by 5 feet). Caulk all joints.
Build a new framework with 2-by-2-inch lumber, 16 inches on center, 1 inch away from the existing wall, using construction adhesive at the top and the bottom and as few screws as possible on the sides. Caulk all joints. Fill the spaces between the studs with R-13 dense fiberglass. Screw new drywall to the framework and caulk all joints.
There should not be any mechanical fasteners between the new and the existing walls.
This should help considerably, but it is also likely that some of the sound comes through the floor and ceiling.
Q. We just had our basement (and storeroom) Sheetrocked and insulated. Our washer and dryer are in the storeroom.
With the recent cold temps in Vermont, we've noticed some thick frost on the dryer vent tube where it exits the house (through the sill). We do have insulation stuffed in around this tube. This frost is melting, running down the outside of the tube and I also have a growing puddle of very cold water underneath the dryer -- as well as some small pooling on the floor that appears to be coming from behind the Sheetrock wall. (Previously, I've noticed that the dryer is also very cold inside.)
How should we insulate the dryer vent tube to prevent this from continuing? Our dryer tube is that aluminum spring-like tubing. We're also getting frost/ice buildup inside the foundation windows and are afraid the melting of this will ruin the Sheetrock and insulation. Any advice would be appreciated.
A. For water to puddle under your dryer, the vent must be slanting upward from the dryer to the outside. Is there a way for it to be held up above the dryer with some type of clamp so the horizontal run slopes outward? This would prevent condensation from running back to the dryer.
Also check the outside jack; the flap may be stuck or missing, which would allow cold air to follow the vent inside the dryer.
You may also want to consider changing the flexible aluminum to a solid pipe.
Once you have changed the vent and installed it so that condensation drains to the outside, try wrapping foam insulation, typically used as a foundation sill sealer, around the horizontal section of the vent, including the section through the wall. This may be sufficient to stop the damage.
As to the frost on the windows, consider applying storm windows or increase the heat in the basement.
Comment from a reader: "I recently read the question from the woman in Illinois regarding the lack of a heat element in her new (and returned) Bosch dishwasher, which had moisture in the machine after it ran, even on the sanitize cycle. We recently bought a Bosch dishwasher and it has the same "end of cycle" moisture. I understood the question to have two parts, but you answered only the first.
• Yes, it has a way to make sure the wash and rinse water is hot enough. Also, as I recall, Consumer Reports has said the sanitize cycle doesn't get hot enough, long enough to sanitize anything.
• It has no dry cycle. This is not a problem with respect to potential growth of anything inside the machine. I think this was the second part of her concern. I have a GE portable, built in 1988, that still works (the only repair was a broken spring on the door) and was converted to a built-in in 1991. The heated dry cycle has never been used and we have never had any problem with anything growing inside the machine.
If we open the door after the wash cycle is done, the steam comes out, then we close it and the residual heat dries the dishes. The only real benefit of doing this is there is no water in the concave bottoms of the glasses. We lock it every time we put something in between runs in the summer to keep the ants out. If there would ever be a problem with growth, it would be with the machine closed up tight.
It is too bad your writer didn't do some research with regard to her concerns before returning the dishwasher to Bosch."
Q. I am a regular reader of your column in our Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. I own a custom-built ranch home with approximately 1,800 square feet of living area. It was built on a sloping lot, but the landscaping diverts water away from the foundation. It also contains a front and rear bay from the foundation up for large Anderson bay windows.
I designed the home specifying inner and outer French drains. The outside of the foundation was sprayed with a petroleum-based tarlike sealant. I have problems with efflorescence on the inside of my foundation. I have been reluctant to finish my 1,800-square-foot basement all of these years because of this. I have no water seepage into the basement, but the concrete block has been painted with Bruning block filler and acrylic paint.
The offsets in my foundation for the bays are made from precast concrete blocks. I have terrible spalling of these precast blocks and efflorescence on the standard concrete blocks. I have scraped, cleaned, surfaced and refinished these blocks several times over the past 20 years, but the blistering, spalling and efflorescence keeps returning. Any suggestions?
A. The type of sealant applied onto your foundation has probably been absorbed by the soil after all these years or developed alligator cracks. It is not the best way to prevent moisture absorption by concrete blocks.
The application of a foundation waterproofing coating on the inside of the block foundation may have caused any water penetration through the asphalt coating and outside face of the blocks to have built up inside the block cores. This would account for the efflorescence on the concrete blocks.
The severe spalling of the precast concrete blocks is also an indication of moisture absorption; it would also point to poor quality.
Considering the strong possibility that there is considerable water accumulation within the blocks, you may want to drill a few test holes in the vertical joints near the bottom of the first course. Use a cordless drill or preferably a star drill and a hammer just in case water starts gushing out.
The eventual treatment will depend on what you find.
You may need to take a critical look at the outside. Inside and outside perimeter drains are fine, if they work, but they do not prevent soil moisture from being absorbed by porous surfaces.
The answer may be an expensive fix. Let's talk about it after you have discovered what is going on inside the block cores.
Comment from a reader: "I live in a condominium of 256 units, and we have had numerous issues with the roofs here. Most of the problems were the result of shoddy materials and shoddy work.
The following are things that contributed to our problems: 1) cheap asphalt shingles; 2) shoddy ice dam membranes; 3) poorly installed (blown-in) insulation in the attics; 4) insulation blocking air circulation through the soffits; and 5) inadequate inspection by the town official.
Here in Massachusetts, it is imperative to have cold attics so there won't be heat getting up to the roof and melting snow that will then freeze into ice dams near the bottom of the roof. Ice dams typically occur when heat is allowed into the attic, and one primary source is heat from recessed ceiling lights, so they must have special covers.
The state's building code, in effect in 2004 when our units were built, was unspecific about thickness of the ice dam membrane; it just said there must be one. Later code does require adequate thickness.
As you can tell, my expertise is very limited, but my main point is that housing in northern climes does require special protection against ice dams."
A. You are making interesting observations. Cold attics are essential in most climates, not only in northern ones. In all regions where there is snow, cold attics help prevent ice dams. And you are right: Recessed ceiling fixtures are a major culprit and should be avoided. An alternate is IC (insulated ceiling) fixtures, but even they are not a complete solution. Also essential is sealing every possible avenue of convection of warm interior air into the attic -- loose drywall tape, joints of dissimilar materials not caulked, spaces around wires and pipes within walls and electrical outlet boxes (switches and receptacles, as well as all wall and ceiling fixtures).
Obviously, hidden spaces around plumbing pipes and electrical wires can only be sealed during construction, before the walls and ceilings are insulated and the finishes installed.
High levels of attic insulation are required as well as an effective ventilation system. This is best accomplished with full-length soffit venting and externally baffled ridge venting and a clear space between them. So blocked soffit vents are useless.
There is a school of thought promoting closed-cell insulation between rafters with no ventilation, and it seems to have worked in some installations, but I believe that the majority of building scientists still recommend adequate roof ventilation.
The thickness of the ice and water protective membrane has nothing to do with the formation of ice dams, but its proper installation is key to preventing leakage of water from melting snow backing up behind ice dams getting into walls, wetting insulation and damaging finishes.
Thank you for your insights into your roof problems.
• 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 email@example.com.
© 2013, United Feature Syndicate Inc.