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posted: 2/23/2014 12:01 AM

Water's high acidity requires a specialist's attention

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Q. Our house was built in 1967. It's an all-electric house. Over the years, we've been having a problem with corrosion on the hot-water fittings, mostly around the faucets. It is green and the faucets get a thick buildup on them.

We've asked about it, and no one seems to know what we should do. Can you help us with this problem?

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A. From the little information you have given me, I think you have a water problem. The green stains indicate you probably have copper pipes, which are slowly being corroded by the acidity in your water.

Neutral pH is 7; if your water has a potential hydrogen (pH) lower than 7, it is acidic and will corrode plumbing and appliances. A pH lower than 6.5 should be addressed.

A water specialist is the person to consult to test your water and suggest the appropriate treatment. You should be able to find water treatment firms listed in your Yellow Pages under "Water Softening & Conditioning Equipment & Service."

Q. Two years ago, we replaced our roof and had new vinyl siding installed on our house. The roofer ripped out all the old shingles and installed a ridge vent. We have a few soffit vents in the overhangs. We also have gable vents.

There is no access to the attic. The people who blew in cellulose insulation did it through the gable vents.

Our neighbors tell us that they noticed, shortly after the work was done, that water was running down the front and back siding. Icicles form all over the back and front of the house. We can actually see water running, coming out of the drain holes in the siding panels.

We checked our gutters; they are free of debris. The installer has been here to check things out, but has no idea what the problem is. This happens only during the winter.

What would cause this?

A. Yours is a puzzling situation, which is best analyzed on-site. You might want to contact a professional engineer to study the situation and advise.

My guess is that when the cellulose was blown in through the gable vents, the insulators had no way of installing baffles at the rafter seats. The insulation is probably blocking the soffit vents, which, by the way, are not adequate to work effectively with the new ridge vent.

Soffit and ridge vent combinations require that soffit vents provide equal or greater net free ventilation area (NFVA) than the ridge vent. There must also be a full-width unobstructed channel in each rafter bay of at least 1½ inches deep between the soffit and ridge vents.

If the soffit vents are blocked, the ridge vent is practically useless and only offers some relief in the summer. With this scenario, attic venting occurs between the gable vents and the ridge vent, and does very little in the winter. And if the ridge vent is not externally baffled, it can admit rain and snow under windy conditions.

Here are some possibilities:

• The roofer may not have installed an ice and water membrane at the eaves. In this case, snow melting would freeze at the eaves and in the gutters, and subsequent melting snow, blocked by the dam, may infiltrate under the shingles, leak inside the soffits and come out where you see it. Of greater concern is whether or not the water is also leaking inside the walls.

• If the roofer installed a membrane, water blocked by ice in the gutters may enter the soffit at the joint of the roof sheathing and the fascia boards to which the gutters are attached. This can be remedied by removing the gutters, and inserting a piece of metal flashing under the starter course of shingles, bent to cover the opening at the eaves. The gutters are reinstalled through the new metal flashing.

• The attic should be checked. An access panel can be cut in a closet, plywood panels built as dams to contain the cellulose, and the coffer insulated with rigid insulation laid over its top. Or a look-see may be had by removing a gable vent, just as the insulators did. This would show whether or not there has been leakage through the ridge vent, if the cellulose is wet and to what extent, and if there is significant frost buildup on the rafters and sheathing. If there has been significant leakage or dripping condensation, it may not show on the ceilings below if there is a plastic vapor retarder stapled to the bottom of the rafters.

• You should consider having a contractor remove the soffit boards, install full-width baffles in each rafter bay, make sure there is no insulation in the soffits themselves and install full-length vent strips.

• If the ridge vent is not externally baffled, you should consider having it replaced with Shinglevent II, a product of Air Vent Inc. Wind blowing up a roof and hitting the external baffle of a ridge vent is deflected over the ridge instead of driving rain and snow into the ridge vent. This creates a negative pressure in the attic, increasing the effectiveness of the soffit vents -- a process known as the Bernoulli Principle.

Q. My Sears garage door opener is more than 25 years old and works perfectly. My problem, however, is that the remote (which is the same size as a pack of cigarettes) is broken. Is there any way to match a universal remote with the signal emitted when I activate the opener with the inside wall-mounted transmitter. Sears and several garage door companies could not help me -- saying the equipment is too old!

A. If you choose not to replace the door opener, which, according to the expert I talked to is probably your best option, try to find a company that will order repair parts for your remote.

A garage door company manager, whom I have worked before and who provided and installed our own special-order door, told me there are universal remote parts available to fix the opener, but the age may be a problem. He also questions whether you want to spend close to $100 for a remote instead of buying a new opener.

Q. I have excessive attic moisture in the winter and I don't know why! This never used to happen until I got new siding, roof and gutters. When it is extremely cold outside, I get a layer of frost on the plywood of the roof in the attic. When it warms up, this melts and rains down onto the insulation and onto the second floor ceiling. Our home has a finished basement, but it shows no sign of moisture. We do have a whole house humidifier, but have it set low for the season. Any ideas what is causing this and what I can do to correct it?

A. How old is your house? What type of windows and doors do you have, and did you replace them also?

What comes to mind is you may have a leaky house, which you tightened up when you had new siding installed. And if the new siding was installed over some type of rigid insulation, either integral or separate, it has reduced the need for heat and, thus, the number of air exchanges an older furnace generates.

An attic is like a lid on a pan. It can reflect moisture problems from the foundation to the attic. Since you do not have moisture problems in the finished basement, the source of the excessive moisture is your humidifier. Please shut it off, wash it off with a bleach solution and dry it thoroughly.

The next question is: What else have you done besides new siding, roof and gutters? Any changes to the insulation of the attic or its ventilation? Do you have recessed lights in the ceilings below the attic? Any cracks in ceilings? Drywall tape separation? Is there an access panel to the attic that is not weatherstripped and effectively insulated?

Have you also changed some of your living habits: added water-loving plants, added family members or pets, dry laundry on racks, store firewood inside, etc.? Are you using bathroom and kitchen fans less or at all?

If none of these apply, see what happens over the rest of the winter after shutting off the humidifier. If the conditions do not improve, you may need to look at improving attic ventilation. But keep in mind that no attic ventilation system can handle convected moisture from the living spaces, so all possible avenues of such convection must be found and sealed off.

You may need to have an energy audit performed. Check with your utility providers to see if they provide such services or can lead you to someone who does.

Q. My husband thinks he remembers something in your column about not covering window air conditioners during the winter months. This is the first year we have had our window air conditioner permanently installed in the wall, so we won't be removing it as in previous years. In searching the archives of your column, I can only find reference to not completely covering an outdoor air conditioning condenser. Will covering our window air conditioner during the winter help prolong its life or is there some reason we shouldn't do it?

A. Window air conditioners should be covered with insulated covers in the winter to protect them from the weather and to insulate that section of the window. In your case, an insulated cover will insulate the section of wall through which the unit is installed.

These covers should protect the units from condensation forming on internal parts.

It's outside condensers of central units that should only be partially covered to allow some ventilation, in order to protect these units from potential condensation.

• 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 henridemarne@gmavt.net.

© 2014, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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