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stop roof leaks, roof repair

Painting over Water Stains and Mold: How to Repair and Prep After a Water Leak

What is the rule of thumb for painting over water stains? I have a two-story house, and my second-floor shower stall developed a leak, as evidenced by water dripping from the first floor ceiling. The leak is small--a few drops of water after every use--and I believe I have now fixed the source of the leak (failing, cracked grout).

Now that I'm preparing to repair the ceiling, I see that the water dripped out around a nail head which developed a quarter-sized black stain that I assume is black mold. A few inches away, the paint has cracked and is peeling along a two-foot-long drywall seam. I was hoping to simply remove the loose paint, clean the black area with some bleach, re-spackle and re-paint the existing drywall.  Will this work or do you think that I should remove and replace the affected drywall to eliminate the black mold in the ceiling?

Our Answer

Before we get to painting over water stains, let's talk about mold. Mold needs three things to fester: air, food and water. While there is plenty of air and drywall is a terrific food for black mold, the fact that you have fixed the leak means that there should be no more moisture to feed a mold problem.
Secondly, the black mold that you think you have, may not in fact be black mold at all. While mold is possible, water stains--caused by the reaction of water with paper, paint and rust--can also form a black spot. Regardless, a quarter-sized area is nothing to worry about, even it is black mold, as long as the leak has been repaired.

As for painting over the water stain, my suggestion is to most certainly remove the loose paint as you suggested. Then wash the area down with a bleach-and-water solution just to make sure any mold spores have been neutralized. The next step is the most important: paint the stained area with an oil-based primer like KILZ. This will seal the stained surface and prevent it from leaching through to the top layer after you paint. For the best results, prime the entire area and not just the spots that have been impacted by the leak and resulting water stains.

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plumbing clogs

Copper Pipe Leaks: Stresses Contribute to Wear and Tear of Plumbing System

Can copper pipe leaks develop even where there's been no stress on the plumbing? My 30-year-old townhouse has copper pipes and I noticed a wet spot in the basement ceiling. I got the ladder out and peered up into the ceiling from the work room (I could see the pipes going around the area of the wet spot from there), and spotted a slow drip coming from the elbow joint of one of the pipes. The thing is, this is in a part of the house that would have not outside stresses on it, like temperature swings, movement, etc. Before I rip open the ceiling and get out the torch to start sweating one elbow joint, which is not a problem for my skills, I want to make sure it isn't something bigger that's beyond my skills and more expensive.

Our Answer

While it seems that your dripping pipe may have no stress on it, that's not completely true. Plumbing systems are constantly subjected to stresses that, while they may not be obvious, certainly can contribute to the wear and tear factor and lead to the copper pipe leaks you're experiencing. Here are examples of the stresses that can cause leaks.

  • Expansion/contraction: If this is a hot water pipe (or next to one), it is constantly expanding and contracting due to the changing water temperature. Even if it is a cold water pipe, going from room temperature to ground-temperature cold causes the pipe to move. While this is not an issue mid-span in the pipes, the elbows and other joints can find this particularly stressful as a section of the pipe joint moves at a slightly different rate.
  • Abrasion: While it's hard to think of water as an abrasive, it most certainly can cause erosive effects, including copper pipe leaks. Think of the power of a pressure washer, for example. While extreme, this shows you just how abrasive water can become. At lower flows and lower volumes, water, over time, can erode sections of pipes and joints and cause leaks. Have you ever seen a copper downspout? The next time you do, look at the elbows and you'll see how simple rainwater can erode holes in this soft metal.
  • Water hammer: Water weighs about eight pounds per gallon. When a faucet is opened, the water rushes forward in the pipe, building up a kinetic force. When the valve is closed, that mass of water screeches to a stop, sometimes shaking the pipes. This is generally referred to as water hammer and, while unusual, can on occasion break a pipe joint free.
  • Pinhole leaks: Pinhole leaks are believed to be caused by the corrosive chemical reaction between water and some copper pipes, and can also cause leaks.

So as you see, there are actually quite a number of things that can put stress on your plumbing system and lead to copper pipe leaks. If you can handle the repair, open the ceiling and make it. Just be darn careful with that blowtorch!

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peeling paint, exterior painting

Peeling Paint Problem

I am trying to solve a problem with peeling paint.  I painted my daughter's bedroom using primer and then paint. Now it has become my son's room, and there are spots where the paint just pulls off in long strips and looks like rubber. I want to repaint the room, but have no idea how to handle the areas where the paint is peeling. What can I do?

Our Answer

It's pointless to simply paint over an issue like this, because your new finish won't stick to layers and layers of bad paint. Instead, spend the time and effort to strip away all of the old paint so that you can smoothly brush on a long-lasting new coat. There are several environmentally friendly, low-VOC stripping products on the market, including Ready-Strip Plus, which has a color change feature that tells you when the old paint it has been applied to is ready to be removed. After you have finished this step, repair and sand surfaces, then prime before painting with KILZ Odorless Primer. From there, your paint peeling problem will be gone and you'll be able to apply a new hue that will last until your next room redecoration project comes along.

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Interior Painting Preparation: Three Steps to a Beautiful Finish

I'm about to tackle my first interior painting project and don't want to wind up with the same rough-looking results I've seen in other homes. What painting preparation steps do I need to take to make sure my interior painting project turns out well?

Our Answer

There are several interior painting preparation steps you'll need to take to make sure your painting project comes out perfectly, starting with preperation.  Many interior painting projects that have turned out badly are the result of a lack of interior painting preparation.  Too many times first-time painters get so excited about the new paint color that they skip over the "boring" parts of a proper paint job.

Here are the three basic interior painting preparation steps:

  1. Clean all surfaces. The first step in proper interior painting preparation is to scrub away any accumulations of smoke, oil and grime that can keep paint from adhering. Use liquid sandpaper to remove buildup from trim, and wash walls down with a TSP (trisodium phosphate) solution, available at most home centers and hardware stores. Tip: Apply the solution with a sponge-head floor mop for an easier reach and avoidance of ladder catastrophes.
  2. Smooth everything out. Once cleaned surfaces are completely dry, you'll need to smooth them out. This is where a lot of the painting preparation work happens, so don't skimp or get lazy with the details, because the new paint won't hide them. Fill all holes and cracks, followed by a thorough allover sanding and removal of the resulting dust. Then grab a really strong flashlight and hold it against and parallel to the wall to check your work. As the light bounces over the repaired area, you'll be able to see exactly how the surface will look when sunshine hits it. If this test reveals unsightly details, go back and smooth them before packing up the sander.
  3. Mask marvelously. Finally, you'll need to mask off everything you don't want painted and carefully create a clean edge for every coat of paint. For this preparation step, apply painter's tape along trim and glass edges, and use it in combination with plastic sheeting or masking paper to cover fixtures that can't be moved and large surface areas to be left out of the equation. Also remove switch and socket plates (followed by a bit of tape over remaining switches and plugs) and all possible hardware. Also important to your interior painting preparation is make sure the room temperature is below 90 degrees and above 55 so that paint goes on smoothly. Then begin the primer application, cutting in around edges and then filling in surfaces. After the primer is dry, apply your new paint shade in two rounds for a durable, beautiful finish that reflects the proper preparation you've put into your painting project.
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Crumbling Cinder Block Walls

I have a similar situation in my basement.  Most of the blocks in the bottom two rows on the north wall are crumbling.  There are addtional spots here and there on the remaining parts this particular wall.  Do I need to remove all the paint on the wall before using the epoxy patching compound or just scrape away the loose paint?

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Fixing Damaged Wood Shingles: How to repair wood shingle siding

The side of our garage has shingles that run all the way to the ground. These shingles are beginning to warp and fall off.  What can we do to fix the warped shingles?  Also, is there a way to hide this big blank wall?

Our Answer

Actually, this sound's like you have two problems!  The first is structural.  When wood shingles are in direct contact with the ground, they get attacked by moisture from rain and snow, not to mention invite an army of house-munching termites into your walls.  Depending on how high up the damage goes, you can fix roof shingles by removing the first, second, and maybe even the third row of shingles. 
The next step in fixing the wood shingles is to apply a layer of metal flashing beginning at the lowest part of the wall by the ground.  This provides a non porous layer by the moist area and prevents that moisture from traveling up to the shingles.  You'll want the flashing to come up to at least 12" above the finished grade and then you can cover it with a piece of concrete siding painted to match your foundation.  Once the base is in place, you can reapply the shingles and you'll have a wall that is far less likely to be damaged by the elements or the insects
Now that the problem of fixing the wood shingles is solved, consider adding a metal trellis or wrought iron screen to make the wall more attractive.  Frontgate offers some beautiful metal forms that are free standing and can be placed in front of the garage wall.  Some have holders to place potted plants and others offer a great area for climbing plants to grow onto and camouflage the wall behind it.  It isn't a quick fix, but in time you will be very happy with the beautiful and natural results.

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Painting a Garage Floor

My mother's home was built in 1991, and the concrete garage floor was evidently etched, primed and painted with concrete paint. By 2001, it was still in good shape, and cleaned and repainted, but now it's peeling a lot!
The contractor says that all he has to do is power wash it to remove the grease, "feather sand" the peeling areas and apply primer to them, and then apply the concrete paint. Is this the correct method of repair for the double-car garage's floor? The contractor has quoted us $350 to do the job.

Our Answer

The approach sounds correct for painting a garage floor, but the price seems a little low for the project at hand─that could either mean the contractor is offering you a discounted price to correct an error, or isn't actually at the professional skill level required for guaranteed results.
If you hadn't the first time around, check this contractor's license and insurance status, and follow up on available references to see if similar results and repairs have occurred with other customers. And if you go forward with this contractor, beware of the power-washing aspect of the project: following a wash-down, the garage floor must dry completely before primer and finish are applied, or you'll have the same problem all over again. 
Painting a garage floor is a straightforward home improvement project, but if the surface is the least bit damp, the new paint just won't stick.

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Heating an Apartment: How to stay warm and lower heating costs in a chilly apartment

I've just moved to a colder area of the state, and am wondering what I can do to keep my apartment's heating costs down while staying warm this winter. Got any tips?

Our Answer

Heating an apartment that is chilly is sometimes tricky since tenants don't own the heating system that is supposed to be doing the job. While creating a warm and cozy space while keeping heating costs down is a common dilemma for both renters as well as homeowners as we head into the chilly months, there is less that apartment dwellers can do since they don't own the building. 
However, there are a number of things that renters can do to improve the heating in an apartment. Even if you're not responsible for your unit's utility bill, the following efficiencies can yield great comfort in the season to come. 

If your apartment's heating system and rental agreement permit, have a programmable thermostat installed. This'll allow you to set up a comfortable heating routine as you pocket up to $150 a year in energy savings. Just set the thermostat to kick back by a maximum of 10 degrees overnight, warm your apartment again about an hour before you wake, and then scoot temperatures down while you're away during the day.
Make sure that all heating registers are unobstructed by furnishings and window coverings so that warm air can flow freely into the room. If your unit has radiators, slide heat-resistant reflectors between them and the walls to send even more warmth into a room.
Make the most of passive solar energy an improvement the heating in your apartment by opening curtains and blinds during the day on east-, south- and west-facing windows to let the sunshine in. As the sun goes down, close them again to keep heat in and cold out.
Seal possible air escapes around windows and doors with a removable caulking product like DAP Seal 'N' Peel. It'll provide a weatherproof barrier against drafts and moisture when applied indoors or out, and can be removed easily without damaging painted surfaces.
Adding weather-stripping to doors, windows and the attic hatchway can help when heating an apartment. Shop your local home improvement center or hardware store for a variety of easy-to-use weatherstripping products tailored to different surfaces and constructions.
Keep storm windows tightly closed, and if you don't have storms, consider applying plastic window film to standard panes. This simple yet high-tech addition will reflect heat back into a room during cold months, and help keep summertime warmth outdoors.
Turn off heating units in rooms that aren't being used, and shut the rooms' doors to keep warm air moving exclusively in occupied areas.
Install covers on window and through-the-wall air conditioners to block winter drafts.
Interior air that's too dry can make it hard to get warm, so bring in a humidifier for added comfort. Maintaining your home's relative humidity between 20 and 40 percent will not only make things feel cozier, it'll also allow you to set your thermostat at a lower level overall.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, close the damper when it's not in use.
Got an apartment that's too warm? Don't just resort to opening a window. Instead, work with your property manager to solve the problem, as it may signal an issue with your unit's heating system. 

For renters, heating an apartment is the single biggest energy expenditure during winter. But with these easy improvements you'll keep both the warmth and your precious dollars from exiting the apartment.

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Roof Layers: Three layers of roof shingles too many for an insurance company

I was told by my insurance company that they don't cover a roof that has three layers of roof shingles on it, so I've gone to another carrier for an estimate. This other carrier would charge me quite a bit because I'd only have homeowners insurance with them and they're supposedly the only ones who will deal with me concerning the roof. Can you tell me if this is accurate? I'm on a fixed income and can't afford to replace any of the roof at this time.  

Our Answer

Your three-layer roof is definitely a potential structural concern, and homeowners insurance companies might consider three layers of roof shingles. According to the International Existing Building Code, homes can be re-roofed one time by applying a second layer of roof shingles over the existing one, but after that application begins to wear, both layers need to be removed before a brand new roof is installed.
There are important reasons why this code is in effect. For one, a layer of shingles adds considerable weight to a roof─weight that can be hard for a structure to carry when severe weather strikes. Second, the fasteners used to hold shingles in place need to penetrate through to the the roof sheathing under the shingles, and if they damage underlying layers or pop or tear the new shingles along the way (a phenomenon worsened when the roof heats up), the integrity of the roof is impacted.
Additional guidelines may apply depending on where you live, and as stormy seasons approach, the Institute for Business & Home Safety recommend that those in high-wind areas have all old layers of roof shingles removed before reroofing, as working off of clean and sturdy roof sheathing provides much more dependable results.
So, I'm afraid the costs are going to be high whether the existing three-layer roof is insured or replaced. The size and location of your home and available options in roofing materials may still make the latter possible for you, so get estimates from a few reputable roofing contractors.
You'll then be better able to weigh the cost of having a new, safe, easily insurable single roof layer against paying a high premium for the multiple roof layers you already have.  

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Damaged Window Sill Repair: Tip to repair damaged window sills without replacing the entire window.

I own a 30 year old townhouse that has interior window sill which was framed as part of the wall and is leak damaged. Can this be repaired, and if so, what is the best route? Or is replacement the better option?

Our Answer

It sounds like your window sill is made of drywall. If this is the case, or even if it is made of wood, replacing the window sill is not a difficult job and should not require replacement of the window.
Windows are actually sold without the sill so replacing the damaged window sill will neither affect the operation of, nor require replacement of the window itself. If the window sill is made of drywall, cut out the damaged area and patch it with drywall compound or Spackle.  Do this through several thin layers of Spackle until you have reached the original surface.  If the sill is wood, remove the casing and then lift the window sill off and replacement it.  Most importantly, make sure the leak that caused the window to rot has been repaired so that this does not happen again. 

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Clean Algae from Asphalt Roof: How to Remove Those Stubborn Algae or Moss Stains from Your Asphalt Roof

My roof is 6 years old. I discovered some nasty black staining that I believe is a moss or algae. Can you suggest a product to get rid of this and prevent it from returning on my roof? I would like to do this myself, and was wondering if this is a do-it-yourself project, or do I have to hire someone to clean my roof?

Our Answer

Sounds like your asphalt shingle roof has been marked by blue-green algae or "moss", a typical phenomenon in areas with hot, humid summers. Removing the algae is certainly a DIY project as long as you have the proper gear to reach the affected area safely. Removing the algae from your roof yourself is also dependent on your roof's pitch and design. Removing the algae from your roof requires a ladder or scaffold, and extra rigging.
To remove the algae from your roof, you can either purchase a ready made cleaning/antifungal solution at your local hardware store or home center, or make your own algae remover using one part bleach, three parts water and some tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) for extra cleaning action.
Before you begin the algae removal from your roof, make sure to wet down any plantings around your home's foundation in order to protect them from damage caused by the cleaning solution.  Covering them with tarps while you're working will not be enough.
Then head for the roof and use a plastic garden pump sprayer to apply the solution to algae affected areas, letting it sit just as long as is specified by package instructions or, if you've made your own mix, 15 minutes. Then rinse it away using a garden hose.
Do not use a pressure washer to clean algea or moss as it can damage your shingles. If some algae stains remain on your roof, allow the roof to dry completely before making another pass with your cleaning solution. Repeat the rinsing of the landscape plantings once you're done with the roof algae removal.

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Drafty Window Solutions: Keep Windows Drafts at Bay with These Easy Solutions

I have really drafty windows. The drafts are particularly bad when I sit in one chair that is near an east window. I am not ready to go for new windows and am wondering what my alternatives might be. Can you tell me how to fix my drafty windows?

Our Answer

Drafty windows are an annoyance you don't have to put up with. Drafty windows drive up your winter heatings bills. Here are some suggestions on how to end window drafts.
Drafty windows should be caulked between the window and the siding on the outside, and between the trim and the window on the inside. These are the most common areas that drafts slip through. Check for loose or missing weatherstripping, as that may be the source of drafts.
If the drafts are coming in between the window sash and the frame, you might consider caulking the window shut with a special temporary caulk that is designed to be removed in the spring.
DAP makes a product called SEAL-N-PEEL that fixes the drafty window and allows the caulk to be removed in spring. It goes on like regular caulk, but can easily be pealed off after it dries. As a precautionary safety measure, don't use caulk on any window that you rely on as an emergency fire exit.
Finally, you can add a cellular shade to block out window drafts. Cellular shades have a honeycombed design that provide an added layer of insulation between you and the cold, drafty window. Check out the new line of cellular shades from Levolor. These shades offer light and privacy control, energy efficiency, and safe and easy operation. They also come in many fashionable designs. Levolor will even send you free swatches so you can decide on colors from the actual product.
If drafty windows have you ready for window replacement, you can download our free guide to choosing and installing replacement windows.