I’m indebted to a listener named Barbara for sharing a tip with us on the radio show. She had a shower door with hard-water stains that resisted every effort she made with powered cleansers, bleach containing liquid products and plastic scrubbers. You name it. She finally grabbed a magic eraser, and it worked like a charm.
Magic erasers are basically a plastic that in foam form contains millions of microscopic hard-as-glass fine points that grab on to the soil and foreign material. It is basically a super-fine sandpaper. As with all cleaning systems, test it on an out-of-the way spot, as it can sometimes harm delicate or glossy surfaces.
Dear Ken: Our 20-year-old house has ceramic-tile kitchen countertops. It’s the small tile, about 1.5-by-3-inch. Where the front edge of the tile meets the top itself, there is always chipping. Is there any type of molding we can put on to hide the chips? — Michelle
Answer: Why not try wood? You can remove the front edge of tile and simply glue on a wood strip made for that purpose. The now “raw” edge of the top’s tile may not be straight enough to accept the wood, but you can use a grinding wheel to ease off any tiles that stick out too far. You usually see these edge moldings combined with a plastic laminate material, but it should work OK in your case. A countertop shop will have just the right style for you. Once it’s applied, you can stain and seal it to preserve the wood look, or paint it to match the tile.
Dear Ken: You indicate that you could get rid of chilly floors over crawl spaces by insulating joists underneath. You mentioned “unfaced” insulation. Why? Also, would polystyrene panels work? — Mike
Answer: Crawl spaces are unique because the dirt isn’t covered with a layer of concrete to slow down the inevitable water vapor. So, even in the driest ones, there’s always a little moisture evaporating upward towards the living space. The reverse is also true: You create moisture above the floor by bathing, cooking and even breathing. That vapor tends to travel through the floor toward the cooler space below. Theoretically, these competing air masses could trap moisture between the layers of a faced insulation batt. The actual facing is a tarred paper layer that’s quite waterproof. So, in the crawl space case, un-faced material lets the air reach a natural equilibrium, while you get the benefit of toasty toes on a cold morning.
If you install the insulation yourself, use an R-19 batt (about 6 inches thick) and use an appropriate mask (not a cheap painter’s version). After the stuff is in place, string fine wire perpendicular to the floor joists between small nails. Or look for insulation plastic stay strips online that friction-fit between the joists. That will keep it from working loose as you tromp around upstairs.
The polystyrene foam panels you mention can smolder and even catch fire, so I’d veto that approach.
Dear Ken: You recommended in a previous Gazette column to cover the ground in a crawl space with plastic. My question is why the plastic? For moisture or radon? — Pete
Answer: Plastic sheeting — I recommend the black, 6-mil variety — does indeed help keep the crawl space dryer and a little warmer. Air in these areas doesn’t move around much because of the limited ventilation available. So the underlying floor joists and plywood are less susceptible to dry rot fungus if you limit the moisture that transpires up from the earth.
However, plastic retards evaporation, so it can have a deleterious effect on wet crawl spaces. In fact, the first thing we do in a home with water troubles is to roll back the plastic in a crawl space. So, don’t apply it until your crawl space dirt is dry to the touch.
We do use plastic sheeting to diminish radon intrusion. But it requires an elaborate sealing system around the perimeter and a mechanical evacuation system underneath.
Storing valuables in a crawl space is always a little risky. Plastic tubs are best, but if you use cardboard boxes, they should be elevated above the floor of the crawl space on a pallet or other spacers .
Dear Ken: We have a manufactured home that needs some new siding. What kind should it be? More wood or some other material? — Diana
Answer: Why not consider new vinyl siding? It usually comes with a layer of foam insulating board that adds an extra R-3 or so to the wall’s insulation rating. That doesn’t sound like much, but it amounts to another 25% or so, since the R-values of each layer on the wall are additive. Like today’s vinyl windows, modern siding is more color fast and is less susceptible to injury than it was, say, 20 years ago. Choose a local contractor for this work — one recommended to you by a friend or neighbor. Two other precautions: Please shop around, as prices for this work vary a great deal, and don’t pay any money up front — but only as the works gets completed.
Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 4 pm Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com
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