Water tank's pressure-relief valve is key safety component
Q. We have a Weil-McLain water tank operating as a third zone on our boiler. It is located next to the boiler in the usual small room in the lower level of our raised ranch. Recently, we went downstairs and were amazed to find a small puddle of water outside the boiler room. It developed when the tank heating coil had belched a couple of gallons of water through its relief valve, which is on top of the tank and has a tube extending down to the floor. The expensive plumber assured us that this is perfectly normal and that code requires the tube to terminate very close to the floor, theoretically preventing us from directing the water to safe disposal.
Our temporary solution is a slanted gutter section leading from the discharge pipe to a nearby sump. However, the plumber also pointed out relief valves for the two heating zones that cannot be so easily drained to safety. I improvised a protective dike by sticking a board to the floor with construction adhesive, but I would like a better solution. Suggestions?
A. The reason the code requires the pressure relief valve to terminate close to the floor is to prevent scalding anyone nearby if the relief valve is activated.
Pressure relief valves do not often get activated. The simplest solution in all three of your cases is to place a metal bucket under the pressure relief valve drainpipes.
Q. I enjoy reading your weekly column in my local Sunday paper. I'm looking for advice with double-hung replacement windows. Seventeen years ago I replaced nine original wooden windows in my home with CertainTeed double-hung windows, which were installed by a local contractor.
I thought I did my homework back then and chose a quality window, but now I'm doubting my choice. For the first few years the windows were great. Now most of them are drafty in the tracks, and the fin seals seem to let in air. I have had to replace parts (mostly made of white metal or plastic) in probably eight of the nine windows throughout the years. These parts include assembly balances, pivot pins and safety latches. Also, in a driving rain, the screens' weep holes won't let the water out fast enough and I have had water actually leak into the room.
I know buying the most expensive window is not necessarily the answer. Am I better off buying windows from a company that sells its own product or hiring another contractor to install a certain brand? Prior to new windows being installed, should I have additional insulation installed? What are the best replacement windows as far as durability and satisfaction?
I've started asking co-workers and friends about their windows. It's so hard to choose because all these companies say their windows are the best. I've checked Consumer Reports, but it doesn't look like they rank replacement windows. Could you also give some pros and cons to fiberglass vs. vinyl material? What are your overall thoughts or recommendations for good comparisons?
A. Marvin makes very good windows and has a good service policy. We have chosen Marvin windows for the additions to our house, and are very pleased with their ease of operation and the quality of the product. I don't know if all Marvin dealers offer installation, but many do. It may be a local decision. If the dealer in your area does not, select an experienced and established contractor, ask for references and be sure to check them.
Andersen also makes good replacement windows, and the company has said it will service them over many years. Andersen also keeps replacement parts for its products, which is not the case for Pella windows, as I have just found out. We have late 1960s Pella casements and need a replacement crank for one of them. Pella's service department told me it no longer has parts for such old windows, nor does it service them.
Fiberglass or a combination of fiberglass and wood, or vinyl-clad wood windows are all good choices.
As far as adding more insulation before replacing the windows, I need more information. Which part of your house are you referring to? Adding insulation to an attic may be needed and may be a good idea depending on what you already have. If you are asking about wall insulation, it depends on what your siding is and if you plan on replacing it in the near future.
Interesting information from a Vermont reader: When I remodeled my kitchen, I set up the old cabinets, counters and drawers in my garage as a workplace. The first winter, mice set up nests in the cupboards. Then I received the enclosed email (it suggested using Bounce for a variety of pest controls). In the fall, I placed sheets of Bounce in all the cupboards and drawers in the garage. The results were spectacular! Not a single sign of mice or even spiders in the spring. Perhaps you will find this tip as helpful as I have.
Q. I have been an avid reader of your column for a while, and I have a couple of questions I was hoping you might be able to answer:
• I live in a brick ranch-style house built around the middle '70s. In the corner of my living room that faces southwest, I am getting spiderwebs on the painted ceiling, and nails are starting to pop through the painted drywall ceiling. I was wondering what might cause these situations with the ceiling. I also was wondering what type of tradesman I should contact to fix this.
• I was going to clean up my son's wrought iron banisters (rusted and peeling paint) and wondered what you would recommend in the way of tools and/or solvents I could use. I read naval jelly would be good, but would like to have your advice.
A. Nail popping often means the framing to which the drywall is attached is shrinking. This generally occurs shortly after a house is built.
In your case, my assumption is that because of the very cold winter we have had, you may have turned the heat up, which caused the ceiling joists to shrink slightly.
I do not have a ready explanation for the spiderwebs, having not seen them and with so little information.
You may want to check if there has been some disturbance of the attic's insulation in that corner.
Depending on the level of insulation you have in the attic, it might be worth considering adding more.
The easiest way to remove rust from irregular surfaces is to spray Rust Off (www.wash-safe.com) on the rusted balusters. Peeling paint can be scraped off with a steel brush.
Q: We have two fans in our home that simply don't take away odors. One is in a bathroom off the kitchen. It vents into the attic.
I need to know what kind of fan to buy and how to have it put in properly so it sucks everything out. I'm guessing there is a brand that can do the job if installed properly.
The other fan in question is a range hood microwave in the kitchen. It won't take out smells, and they travel a long way to the other end of the house. I believe it vents to the outside. Do I have to relocate the microwave to put in a really nice fan? If so, what kind, how big, how silent, etc.?
Not moving the microwave would be nice, but smelling food throughout the house has to stop. Cooking goes on at odd hours, so a great fan would be wonderful. Hopefully you can help me.
A. No fan should discharge into the attic. Bathroom fans that do so dump unwelcome moisture and odors into a somewhat confined space, even if the attic is vented.
Attic ventilation, if well done, can only handle small levels of moisture; adding to that is overwhelming the system. Kitchen fans vented into an attic not only add unwelcome moisture and odors, but also grease, which could start a fire. All bathroom and kitchen fans should be vented to the outside.
You should make sure the microwave venting is in good shape and is venting outside without any obstruction.
There are a number of good fans on the market: Nutone and Broan are two very popular brands, but there are others. An electrician is the person to call to have fans installed.
Q. Our home is in the Chicago area and was built in 1988. It was reasonably insulated for that time with R-30 batts and blown fiberglass in the attic.
We are looking to add more insulation, since the blown-in fiberglass was disturbed by other workers doing recent work in the attic.
We know you suggest using blown-in cellulose instead of blown-in fiberglass. Why do you suggest the blown-in cellulose?
I have read that cellulose insulation additives can eat electrical conduits. What are the pros and cons of adding more insulation using cellulose?
I was also thinking of increasing the attic insulation to R-60.
A. Cellulose insulation is a recycled product, whereas fiberglass takes a lot of energy to produce and contains formaldehyde. Cellulose does a better job of air-sealing, while fiberglass is a filter through which air moves, robbing it of some of its claimed R-factor.
Cellulose is treated with chemicals that make it fire-resistant and that kill rodents trying to nest in it. Fiberglass is sought-after by mice as a winter haven.
Earlier cellulose had some corrosive effect on metals if the insulation became wet and contact was lengthy. The problem was solved by treating the cellulose with borates. The type of treatment should be stated on the insulation bags; check it out.
• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. His website is www.henridemarne.com. Email questions to email@example.com, or mail First Aid for the Ailing House, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
© 2015, United Feature Syndicate Inc.