How to make ramp less slippery
Q. A pressure-treated wood ramp, roughly 12-feet-long, leads to the front door of my Vermont home (see attached photo). It's been in place for more than ten years. It barely slopes -- only about 2 degrees -- but when it's wet or there's light snow or a freeze, it can get quite slippery. I've been exploring products that might make it safer. These include Handi-Treads aluminum treads and GripStrip plastic treads, both of which get screwed to the wood. The aluminum is costly and looks rather industrial, but I'm not sure if the plastic strips would hold up. I worry that any kind of attached strip would make snow shoveling difficult. I've also looked at nonslip paints, and have been assured that SlipDoctor's TuffGrip Extreme, an epoxy product, would stick to my pressure treated ramp. I know that there are also stick-down nonslip tapes, but my experience with these tapes in another application suggests that they won't stay stuck down for long. Do you have any suggestions?
A. I tend to agree with you about these various tapes and treads. They should impede snow shoveling and may not last except for the costly aluminum treads.
As a Vermonter, I am sure you sweep the snow off the ramp as soon as the snow has stopped falling so it will not turn into ice. But before winter comes, it is a good idea to wash the steps with TSPPF following the directions on the box to remove any pollutants that have accumulated during the spring, summer and fall seasons and encourage slipperiness.
For winter, I have had very good success sprinkling cat litter, which I kept in a plastic bucket, as soon after I swept the snow off any steps or sidewalk; it works very well for traction.
Q. We recently had 13 windows installed by a franchised but locally owned company on our 30-year-old house. Previously, my husband had installed four other windows by himself without issue but I, in my infinite wisdom, convinced him that we should let a "professional" do the installation job, and he could do all the trim work (he has recently had some significant health issues).
Needless to say, I was probably wrong. Every one of the 13 windows was installed with a two-by-four, which leads us to believe they were measured wrong. When we questioned the man who measured he replied: "The common/safe way of measuring old wooden windows that are going back to the rough opening is to take a measurement from the inside of the casings and to add 1.5 inches to whatever the measurement is. That's because on the interior side of the window has extension jams that the casing covers is .75 inches thick so you add .75 for each side. So on the interior portion of the windows the measurements are the same as your old ones. On the exterior portion of your old windows you had brick mold on the sides and top. But the bottom was an old style wooden sill. Which slants from the inside to the outside. The new windows do not have that slanted wooden sill. They are even all the way around. Now the reason I measured them the way I did is because I have had issues when trying to compensate for the sill. Those issues range from new trim not lining up, to the window not having enough room, etc. Also we could have just split the difference and not put in wood but we do that to provide a solid nailing surface for the interior trim to rest on."
Needless to say, we were not happy but are unsure what, if anything to do? Is his explanation legitimate? Any suggestions, other than just finishing the windows and calling it a day?
A. I assume your husband measured and ordered the earlier four windows himself, and they fit perfectly. Kudos to him!
I contacted my friend, the manager of the service department of a replacement window firm that installs hundreds of replacement windows, and here is what he said: "I agree that it is hard to tell what your reader is trying to show in one of the photos. They clearly added a two-by-four to the bottom of the RO (rough opening) and the other photo looks like it is showing the top, based on the orientation of the window sticker. What I can't tell is whether that two-by-four was added or existing? My sense is the two-by-four on the top was existing. If not, and they added two-by-fours to both the top and bottom, having to decrease the opening height by 3 inches would be excessive. Anytime we find ourselves in a situation like this, going from a wood double hung with a sloping sill to a modern clad window, we always have to pad the sill by 1 inch. As the installer states, a new clad window does not have that thick sloping sill, so there is automatically a difference in the height when comparing like sizes of wood vs. clad. The only thing that can be done is to pad the RO or custom size the height of the new window unit. Most of our customers opt for the 1-inch pad as custom sizing would add more to the cost. I don't know how this installer's sizing or pricing works but we always try to work within Marvin's standard size matrix and modify the opening to fit if possible. In the end, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to have to pad up the sill of the RO as much as they did by adding a single two-by-four. If they added one at the top as well, and were working with a shorter window than they removed, then the homeowners should have been made aware and given the option for custom sizing the height to fit the existing RO. It would be interesting to know if the new window has the same glass size (daylight opening) as the old. If so, then all of the RO modifications will be covered by the trim and there really should be no issue at all."
This is the best answer I can provide. I hope that it answers your concern.
Q. A couple months ago you recommended a substance that penetrates concrete. It protects from salt, etc. What was it? I must treat my garage floor and drive.
A. Here is a reprint of a recent answer to another reader: There are two types of concrete sealers: topical and penetrating. Penetrating sealers are the best and are permanent, but they only work if the concrete is absorbent.
To check if the concrete is absorbent, sprinkle water on it. If the water soaks in, you can use a penetrating sealer, but if the water beads, it would be a waste of time and money.
Topical sealers can be applied on any clean concrete, but need to be reapplied regularly -- every one to three years, depending on use. It is likely that your garage concrete floor was hard-troweled and will not absorb the penetrating sealer, in which case you can use the topical kind, and, being under cover, you may not need to reapply it as often.
• 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 email@example.com.