Q. My floor in the front part of my home has been making the loudest cracking noises I have ever heard. I built the home 15 years ago and that's how long this has been going on. The snap and crack sound like someone is kicking in the door. It mostly happens when we transition from winter to spring.
It's only in the front part of my home. It's a bungalow so my bedroom is not far. It goes on through the night and during the day. I can hear it outside when the garage is open -- that's how loud the crack is. I can't take it anymore; I can't sleep.
Please let me know if there is a way to fix this issue. My basement is not finished.
A. Since the cracking sounds are limited to the front of the house, and are only occurring as winter turns into spring, my guess is it is caused by the moisture content of the floor components changing as the heating season dries it up.
It sounds as if your heating appliance is directly under this part of the house. If this is the case, and since the basement is not finished, try insulating between the floor joists in the area over the furnace or boiler with R-19 Roxul over a sizable area -- perhaps much of the front of the house -- and installing drywall to the bottom of the joists.
Q. Thank you for the help in the past! I have a new issue with which I would appreciate your help. I have a two-story house with well and septic. For about the past two years, I have noticed what seems to be sewage odor in both floors. It seems to happen more frequently after several days of heavy rain. But, sometimes not. And to further the cause, we won't smell an odor for several months. Every fixture drains adequately and the tank gets cleaned every 12 to 14 months. The toilet and wax ring have been recently replaced. What are your thoughts about this problem?
A. Is the sewer odor only smelled during the season when the windows are opened?
If so, it is likely to be coming from outside through the roof vent when the atmospheric pressure changes, which is common during periods of rain and low pressure. The odor enters the house through the lower windows and rises throughout the house by means of the stack effect -- warm air rises and exits the second-floor windows while outside air enters through the first-floor windows.
In that case, try having a 90-degree collar installed over the roof's vent stack and turning it facing into the prevailing winds. Do not cement this collar to the vent so it can be adjusted if the original positioning does not correct the problem.
From your description, that's all I can come up with. Sorry.
Q. I have read your column in the Daily Herald for years and you have become the handbook for many of my DIY projects. My question is, what is the problem with power washing siding, on or off the building?
Your May 14 column states: "do not use a pressure washer," even though the writer states the siding has been removed?
Also, could you briefly explain why you recommend washing up from the bottom instead of top down?
A. Washing vinyl siding on a building with a power washer risks driving water behind the siding because vinyl siding is not water tight.
If the siding has been removed from the building, as the reader you are referring to had done, it is no longer a problem; the siding can be power washed. My answer was in general because it is unlikely many readers will be washing vinyl siding that has been taken off a building. Perhaps I should have made this clearer.
Washing starting at the bottom has always been recommended by experts because all dirt removed from above will easily wash through, rather than stick to a polluted, dry surface, adding to the cleaning problem of the lower surfaces.
Q. Like other Daily Herald readers, I was thrilled to find your column again. I tried in the past to save each of your articles that contained information I might need some day. I have also given copies of your book to my son and sons-in-law.
Unfortunately, I have a dear spouse (God bless her) with a need to throw things out that she determines I won't ever need. This has resulted in my consternation when I need the name of a particular product you have recommended.
Have you ever thought of creating a database for people to reference? My local Ace Hardware store owner concurred having such could prove most helpful to their store, especially when the shopper is confronted with the plethora of choices in glues, caulks, etc. Perhaps this compendium of your suggestions and endorsements could be sponsored and/or set up by Ace Hardware, the Daily Herald, etc.
A. I sort of shudder at the mention of the word "endorsement" as I am not in the business of endorsing any products.
When I do mention a brand, it is because, after my experience having tried it or heard a number of success stories about it, I deem it helpful to my readers at this particular time. That does not mean it is the only product that works to solve that particular problem. It could also be that another product may soon surface with better results.
So a database may become obsolete or misleading unless it is constantly reviewed and edited, which I probably can't keep up with. But thank you for your suggestion, which is basically a good one, and thank you for your kind comments.
Q. I leave my house in the winter and have used two methods of winterizing, both of which partially failed. The first was leaving my hot water system on and set at about 50 degrees. The furnace quit when the temperature outside was 26 below and furnace repairs were over $800.
This past winter I had a licensed plumber drain all the water out of the house and left the furnace off. None of the pipes burst but when I returned in the spring and turned the water on, three pipes separated because of expansion and contraction during the winter, flooding the basement before I noticed the condition.
Next winter I am thinking of leaving the furnace on set at approximately 55 degrees and having at least two electric heaters inside the house set below the furnace temperature as backups. Give me your opinion on this please.
A. For your boiler to shut off when the temperature dropped to below freezing, there probably was a power failure. I have encountered several similar situations in the past with similar dire consequences when no one was available to reset the control to restart the boiler.
Consider having one of the many available alarm systems installed to warn someone if such a power failure occurs again in the winter in your absence.
These alarm systems range from a simple battery-operated red light in a window visible from the street if you can have a neighbor accept the responsibility of checking it daily, to a fancier system that rings several phone numbers to alert family, friends or a maintenance person who have agreed to be on call and have access to the house.
Google "freeze alarm systems" to see what is available.
• Henri de Marne, a former remodeling contractor turned columnist and consultant, is the author of "About the House with Henri de Marne" (Upper Access Publishing). He continues to take questions from readers for this column and his website, www.henridemarne.com. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.