Q. I read and enjoy your column often and am turning to you for help regarding water filtration for my home. I live in an area of southwest Pennsylvania where cisterns are the typical water source for homes. Recently, my aged Bruner sand/gravel water filter developed an irreparable leak. The water from this filter was used for every household purpose except drinking and cooking for many years, and the only maintenance necessary was a periodic back-flushing and occasional sand replacement.
I have since found out that this company is out of business, and none of the many people I've spoken to know of a similar replacement filter. I am trying to locate a similar filter because my Bruner did such an excellent job of sediment filtration. The current canister/cartridge filters do not seem to be up to the task of handling large volumes of often cloudy water without requiring frequent element replacement. Other filters I've looked into are designed to filter the relatively sediment-free water from public water supplies. Any suggestions?
A.R.A. Bruner Co. (4129 Scenic Ave., Mequon, WI 53092; (262) 242-5754; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.brunerwater.com) is alive and well. Please contact the company for help in restoring your satisfactory system.
Q. We are senior citizens in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago and live in a raised-ranch home. Bottom line is our roof was inspected for hail and storm damage and the company found damage. We had Allstate out, and it approved a new roof. The company is an Owens Corning certified dealer, but it has recommended IKO shingles because it claims they install better this time of the year.
We don't know what to do. Both brands are of the architectural variety. The company says it will gladly install either one -- it is up to us -- but says the IKO is a great product.
A. I would definitely not agree to IKO. The company not only has had numerous early failures but also has consistently refused to honor its own warranties. The warranties are worthless.
I was an expert witness in court against IKO on such a case. The company went to great expense and length to deny the claim from my client. We went to court three times over months, and each time the company brought in its "expert" to refute my client's claim, but IKO lost and had to pay. It cost the company far more than my client was asking for, as its expert came from the Midwest and had to spend several days in a hotel, incurring airfare each time.
Owens Corning shingles, as well as several other shingle manufacturers, have also suffered from early failure and are facing class action suits because of their refusal to honor their warranties. Others have settled their suits.
The field of asphalt and fiberglass shingles is like the Wild West; you are taking your chances with any one of the manufacturers.
The claim that IKO installs better this time of year sounds like an excuse for whatever reason they have.
I hope this helps. Good luck with the job.
Q. I want to thank you for your excellent column. We are planning a roof replacement in the next few weeks, and your column and your book have been great helps. I don't believe that I have seen you mention TAMKO shingles. The one roofer that we are considering is recommending TAMKO along with GAF shingles because their warranties are so good. Have you had any experience with TAMKO?
A. I have had no experience with TAMKO shingles. But there are reports of their early failure as well, and of difficulty collecting on the warranty. The claims I have read state that the factory representative said the shingles were installed improperly. This is usually a company's basis for refusing to honor a shingle warranty. I have heard that one before, even though this was proved incorrect, and so I am weary of such claims until they have been verified by a competent person.
I have heard the representative of one manufacturer state in court that its shingles were not meant for the harsh climate of that particular area. That argument was shot down quickly by the judge, who asked why the company sold the shingles there. This is an example of the extent to which shingle manufacturers will go to get out of honoring warranties.
Over many years, I have helped clients file claims for early failure, and in each case, we had to fight tooth and nail to get anything, often only after threatening legal action.
After a number of such experiences in my practice, I have become cynical about shingle manufacturers, and for good reasons. After talking to many contractors, I know of none that have not had their problems.
Q. The attic of my dad's house was invaded by raccoons last spring. Because of the structure of the attic, it was not possible to lay a moisture barrier in the attic after cleaning/restoration of the attic space. As part of the repair/restoration of the attic space, the contractors painted all of the interior house ceilings with a moisture barrier paint by Sherwin-Williams. The cleaning/restoration of the attic, including the use of a moisture barrier paint (as opposed to putting a moisture barrier in the attic or, the most expensive restoration option -- tearing out and replacing all of the interior house ceilings) was inspected and approved by the city building inspector.
The attic restoration company left the unused portion of the moisture barrier paint. I am thinking of using the paint on the drywall in our basement, just to get rid of the stuff. Would this type of paint be unsuitable for this use? Is there a use of this paint that would be unsuitable or not recommended?
A. It should be OK to use the paint on your basement ceiling and walls if they are finished with drywall, but do not use it on bare concrete or blocks.
These paints reduce the permeability of the surfaces to which they are applied in order to protect the areas beyond these surfaces from moisture migration -- an attic being a perfect example. These paints are recommended on the inside of exterior walls when there is no known vapor retarder and insulation is blown in them as part of an energy upgrade.
Q. My husband and I (and countless neighbors) are wondering if you know anything about the fall "infestation" of these bugs that we are all having trouble with (photos attached). They appeared a couple of weeks ago and, even though we have had some 30-degree nights already, are still thriving. They choose the sunny side of the house and get into the shutters, screens, corner pieces of the house, etc.
A. Thank you for sending the photos. These half-inch black insects with red markings are box-elder bugs. They congregate on the sunny side of buildings in the fall, looking for warm winter havens. They are harmless, although if allowed inside, they can stain walls and furniture with their excrement.
The best control is to prevent their entry by caulking all cracks between dissimilar materials and around cables (telephone, cable, power), fuel oil filler and venting pipes, etc. Make sure all screens are in good condition, including those to various vents (attic, dryer, bathroom, kitchen, etc.). Make sure that all door weather stripping is in good shape, including the bottom sweep, which is often worn from frequent openings and closings.
Vinyl-sided houses are vulnerable because of the many cracks inherent to this type of siding. The bugs can congregate and winter behind the siding, but if there is housewrap behind it, they are unlikely to get into the walls.
Although chemical treatment is not usually needed, it is advisable on vinyl-sided houses to prevent huge numbers of the bugs from wintering under the siding.
The best time to spray is in the fall when the bugs are starting to congregate. Use a pesticide labeled for building exteriors. Be sure to check the label of all insecticides and to follow the directions on the product.
If you find any of these bugs inside the house, vacuuming them is the best control, as the use of pesticides is not advisable indoors.
Q. Thanks for the information about insulating the walls in a balloon-framed house built in 1909. I never thought of blowing in insulation from the attic.
As far as the fire danger, would it be wise to take some type of thick plywood and block all the studs in the basement? That would at least take longer to burn through.
A. For readers who may not have seen my answer to the earlier question, in balloon construction, replaced decades ago by what is called Western platform framing, the outside walls are framed with full-length studs from the foundation to the roof. The attic floor joists are set on a ribbon (usually a 1-by-6) that is let in (notched into) the studs, which are capped by a plate supporting the rafters. This means that the uninsulated outside walls are accessible from the attic.
Any open stud bay will need to be sealed to keep blown-in insulation from falling into the basement.
Even if you do not plan to blow in insulation, these open spaces need to be blocked by any effective means (thick plywood, etc.) for fire protection.
Q. I read your column faithfully every week and clip out questions and answers that pertain to my home. I failed miserably in this one. You have answered my question, and I neglected to clip the article.
I have a toilet that sometimes sounds like it is flushing on its own. This happens sporadically, but it is happening with more frequency. Please help me!
A. The most likely cause is a tank ball or flap not sealing properly on the flush valve seat. As a result, the water in the tank leaks slowly until the level reaches the point where the filling mechanism is triggered.
This may be due to a small piece of foreign material that has become lodged, preventing a tight fit. Lift the tank ball or flap and run your hand around it to check it out and clean it. If this does not correct the problem, you may find that the rubber has become soft or pitted; the mechanism may then need to be replaced.
Interesting comment from a reader: "A week or two ago, someone wrote to you asking what to do with a fruit fly infestation. If that person has houseplants, it's possible they have fungus gnats. Mine are usually very small and fruit fly-like. My daughter had some that were much larger -- like the one in the link I'm sending. Maybe there is more than one species? Anyway, just an idea. I enjoy your column!"
The link the reader was kind enough to send is www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05584.html. Thank you very much.
• 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. His book, "About the House," is available at www.upperaccess.com and in bookstores.
© 2012, United Feature Syndicate Inc.