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gas grill, grill cleaning

Gas Grill Cleaning Tips

After a couple of months of heavy grilling, my gas grill needs an extreme makeover of its own. Do you any tips for a mid season grill cleaning?

Our Answer

The same char broiling grill action that flavors ribs, chicken, steaks and burgers all summer long can really cause problems if you don't stop and do a thorough grill cleaning once in a while. Here's what to do:

  1. Soak the grids in hot, soapy water and clean them with a nylon scrubbing pad. If the grids are really encrusted, use oven cleaner in a well ventilated area and rinse clean.
  2. Remove the lava rock or ceramic briquettes and clean them with a wire brush, replacing any that are deteriorated. Remove the burner, brush it clean and check carefully for cracks, split seams or holes. If any are found, the burner should be immediately replaced.
  3. Check all the rubber gas hoses for cracks and replace any that show the slightest sign of wear.
  4. Once the grill cleaning is complete, you are ready to put the grill back together and check all gas connections for leaks. To do this safely, mix a 50/50 solution of liquid dishwashing soap and water. Brush the solution on all gas connections and watch for bubbles. If any are seen, the connection is leaking and should be fixed before firing the grill.

Now that you know how to clean the grill, the only thing to do is help make it dirty again! So, here's a recipe for a great barbecue sauce that Leslie likes to whip up. This is the messiest sauce out there but it is so worth it. It works on flank steak, chicken, ribs, or just about anything else you can grill.

Ingredients:

  • 32oz bottle of ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey

Mix well in a bowl and marinate for at least three hours or overnight. Use extra sauce to brush on during grilling.  

Then, see the above gas grill cleaning instructions again!

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Roof Deck Leaking Into Garage Underneath

We have a flat 12x12 deck off our master bedroom.  It sits on top of our garage.  We love it and want to keep it, but it continuously leaks water into the garage below.  We've tried everything we can think of, from rebuilding the deck with outdoor tile to adding more drains (when snow melts, the gutters can't seem to support all of the water.  We make sure they're always free of leaves, but they still overflow).  We're getting to the point where we might just give up.  We don't have a large budget for repair, but we're thinking about enclosing the deck completely, or covering it in glass and turning it into a sunroom just to put this leak problem behind us.  What are your thoughts? Would this affect the value of our home?

Our Answer

A master bedroom deck adds significant value to a home, and, if well maintained, is also an attractive selling point. That said, decking is one of the most difficult surfaces to make watertight.
I suggest taking all reasonable strides toward fixing this problem, and I think your best option is to install a fiberglass deck.  Fiberglass decks are installed by forming fiberglass on top of the old roof surface once those garage roof leaks are repaired.  The fiberglass goes up under the siding and becomes an impervious surface - that is, no water can get beneath it. 
Before installing it, contractors will make your roof as flat and smooth as possible, and will also add a little bit of pitch.  Then, they make the fiberglass, lay it, cover it with resin, add more fiberglass, more resin and so on -  similar to how you'd make a boat hull.  The upper layers have an abrasive sand in the epoxy, giving you some surface resistance.  The whole thing is formed in one continuous piece.  This is your best bet for maintaining your deck while also bringing an end to those troubling garage leaks.
 

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Insulation with Paper Backing

Is it ok to use the roll type insulation with the paper backing in the attic. If so, does the paper go up or down?
Thanks.

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How Can I Fix a Chimney Flue Leak?

I have water leaking from my chimney, through the flue, and into my basement.  This has happened twice - both times we had rain and heavy winds. The first time I had about 1-2 gallons leak in, whereas last week i had only about 1/2 gallon.  Any idea what's causing this - and a possible solution?  After the first incident, a chimney company came and checked out the flashing and chimney.  They said the flashing was fine, and they did some repointing near the top  - but then water got in again last week.

Our Answer

Keeping water out of your chimney is important - but sometimes feels like an uphill battle.  I recommend a masonry sealer for your chimney.  Masonry sealer is silicone-based, and does a good job of keeping out wind-driven rain.  Buy a water permeable one because water permeable lets water evaporate out, and not freeze and eventually crack the brick.  It's a DIY product that can be brushed on, like paint, or sprayed on. 

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Damage to Pool Equipment

Could water left through the winter in the pump/filter system of an inground pool damage the multi-port valves?

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Shopping For An AC Install – What Do I Buy?

I'm about to purchase a mini-split ductless air conditioner.  The site where I'm going to buy it lists the accessories as well as the air conditioner. My question is, what exactly do I need for installation?  I'm having a licensed contractor put it in, but I have to purchase it first, including everything needed for the install. Thank you.

Our Answer

First, you are very wise to hire a contractor to put this together, because installing a ductless air conditioner is not a DIY project!
Have the contractor specify exactly what parts are necessary to complete this project in your home. There are many accessories and options.  I don't have enough information to determine which are advisable, and you don't have expertise - so have the contractor give you a shopping list, or - even better - have him do the shopping for you so he's responsible for the entire job.  The added hourly rate or charge you'll spend to have the contractor handle this for you is worth

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Can I Direct Solar Energy to Melt Snow?

My Rhode Island home is a north-facing property that rises above the sidewalk, built on an embankment. For scale purposes I'm  including this fact; there are 17 steps from the sidewalk to the top of my porch, including 12 steps from sidewalk to the landing (this is the ground elevation), a 5 foot landing and then the final 5 steps to my porch. My home and yard get great southern exposure; but the sun does not touch my sidewalk, leaving it in shadow for most of the day during winter. Could a system of mirrors and/or lenses be effective in bringing light and the energy needed to help melt that snow?

Our Answer

Are trees or foliage part of this equation?  Cutting back overhanging trees, even if it's not your first aesthetic choice, will improve our situation greatly.  Another option is to put sidewalk heating systems into the surfaces, which will also dramatically improve the problem.  Unfortunately, though, these systems can't be retrofitted.  You'd have to reinstall sidewalks altogether.

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Home Improvement Project Guarantee Coverage: How to guarantee your home improvement project is a success

I have some home improvement projects I want to have done this summer. If I have a contract and warranties on all my products, do I need to find a remodeler who offers a project guarantee? Shouldn't I as a homeowner have the broadest guarantee I can find?

Our Answer

When it comes to home improvement, a project guarantee that assures completion in accordance with the contract is very important. The contract spells out what will be done. The warranty assures that the products will perform as expected. But only the project guarantee will make sure this all comes together.
When considering home improvements, having the broadest gaurantee depends. With a company like Home Depot, a homeowner can be pretty confident that Home Depot is going to do whatever it takes to make the project a success. But with an independent or smaller company, you'd want to know very specifically what the project guarantee covers, and what you need to do if you think the home improvement project has not been completed to the contract specifications.

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Painting a Patio Rug

I love the idea of a weatherproof rug for our patio but the designs are limited. Any ideas?

Our Answer

Why not try painting a patio rug in your exterior room? By painting a rug, you can create an interesting decorative element that stands up to the sun and rain. To do this, you'll need a good oil based primer like Kilz and concrete floor paint. If the color choice is limited, you can tint concrete floor paint to any color you need.
To create the rug, first prime and paint on your base color and allow to dry well. Then, lay out a design or even just a border using rug stencils or patterns which are available at your local craft shop. Make sure you wipe the stencil between each use and use a brush that is not too wet.
To add a fun tassel edge to your painted patio rug, pick up a tassel stencil as well. Paint the tassels in a lighter shade first. Allow to dry well, and then use a darker color and off set it from the first round with the stencils. This will create a realistic shadow effect. Be as creative as you like and as colorful as suits your tastes.

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Restoring Dead Grass

The combination of hot weather and not much rain has my lawn looking more like a hayfield. Is the grass dead? Can it be saved? 
 

Our Answer

If you've ever watched your lawn fade from luscious green to a dead grass wheat field brown, you know how difficult it can be to maintain a healthy lawn throughout the dog days of summer.

But while summer heat can quickly turn a blanket of green grass in your yard to a hayfield, lawns can survive to thrive again with just a few precautions:

First, cut back on mowing. In hot, dry weather, grass often goes into a semi-dormant state, appearing as "dead grass,"  but will come back when weather conditions improve. Mowing once a week is plenty.

Also, it's best to keep the grass a little longer in the summer, so don't cut as often. Cutting too frequently can mean the grass loses more moisture from the cut tips, and mower wheels can leave brown stripes on stressed lawns. A good mowing height is 2 ½ to 3 inches.

If your lawn is in good shape you can allow your grass to go into a semi-dormant state by cutting back on watering. If brown is not your color and you prefer to water, do so very early in the morning to give the lawn a chance to dry by night time to discourage problems with bugs and diseases.

It's best to water heavily a couple times a week to encourage deeper root growth, rather than light watering every day. Roots that are closer to the surface are more susceptible to heat and far less likely to turn into a dead grass looking lawn.
 

 

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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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Building a Patio: Easy do it yourself approach

I'd like to make my own backyard patio. I know a little about pouring cement, but what do you recommend as an easy DIY approach?

Our Answer

Building a patio is a fantastic project but considering the expense and complexity of working with the materials involved, you need to know a lot more than a little about cement to get great results with your backyard patio project.
 
Instead, we'd recommend using the concrete pavers available at your local home improvement center for your backyard patio project. The wide variety of shapes and colors make it easy to create a customized outdoor room, and with the proper tools and site preparation, you'll get a long-lasting, weed-free surface.
 
To get started building the patio, do a careful assessment of the planned patio location and its drainage needs. Keep in mind that nearby downspouts can cause erosion and the appearance of unwelcome plants. Also, surfaces that slope toward the house can lead to flooding in basements and crawl spaces.
 
From there, you'll next need to figure out all the materials you'll need to build the patio, including the crushed gravel and sand needed as fill for the eight-inch-deep excavation of the patio zone. A five-inch fill of crushed gravel goes in first and is tamped down with a power tamper, followed by a sand base, more tamping and your pavers.
 
Attention to detail at every step of the patio building project is critical, but the work is worth the attractive, low-maintenance patio you'll have as a result.

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Wood Deck Care

This is my first spring in a new-to-me house, and I'm wondering what care the wood deck may need after the winter season.

Our Answer

Wood decks require regular inspection maintenance to make sure they stay in good structural condition. The first thing to do is check around for any structural weaknesses that require repair or replacement. Any rotted wood should be repaired right away. 
 
Loose nails found popping up above the floorboard surface should be pulled and replaced with deck screws (easily done with an inexpensive attachment for your power drill).
 
If any severely cracked decks boards are discovered, these can be removed and flipped upside down. Since the underside of the board hasn't been exposed to the sun, it is very likely in almost as good a shape as it was when the deck was first built.
 
Finally, give your wood deck a good spring cleaning with a homemade solution of three quarts water, one quart bleach, and a half cup of ammonia-free detergent (careful: mixing ammonia and bleach can form a dangerous gas). Apply the mixture to the deck with a stiff floor brush and let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
 
Now you and your wood deck are ready for a season of sunshine!

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Spray Foam Insulation Concerns Addressed: Learn the features benefits of using spray foam insulation in your home.

We are in upstate New York where winters can be well below freezing, with lots of snow and ice and very wet and slushy springs. We are restoring an 1880 Victorian that is quite large, and the walls have never been insulated.  Because the plaster walls were in such disrepair, we gutted all the exterior walls and now are going to insulate from the inside.  We are very interested in spray foam insulation but the trouble is we only know some of what we should and I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with it. I want to know if my concerns are founded or unfounded, and whether we should do spray foam or not. 

Our Answer

Good question, let me break it down into three parts that address your major concerns:

1.  We have a contractor who says we should use a two-inch thick closed-cell spray foam in all the stud cavities. My concern here is that essentially this creates the vapor barrier on the OUTSIDE wall, and the remaining four inches of the stud bays are open to interior moisture. Could that allow warm moist air to condense on the studs that are colder (due to cold conduction from the outside), leading to mold and wood rot?

We went to the experts at Icynene for this one.  With two inches of closed cell spray foam, the vapor permeance of the spray insulation will be very low and may serve as a vapor retarder.   In climates such as yours (Oswego shows 6792 Heating Degree Days or HDD), which experiences less than 7200 HDD, we prefer to see the system breathe (i.e. no vapor retarder), which will facilitate drying to the interior in the summer and to the exterior in the winter.  

 Wood studs are a thermal bridge, but they aren't as bad as some materials such as metal. Wood, for example, has an R-Value (which measures resistance to conductive heat flow) of about R-1/inch, so your 2 x 4's have an R-value of about R-3.5, which reduces a fair bit of the conductive flow (80+%).  Wood would not be a significant factor in thermal bridging when a thicker layer of Icynene® (a flexible open celled spray foam insulation) is used to insulate the cavity.  

The key to energy efficiency and moisture management is creating an air seal around the building envelope.  Materials such as rigid foam (closed cell) materials can be subject to the shifting structure during freeze/thaw cycles, which may lead to delamination (splitting or separation) from the substrate or cracking that can compromise the air seal and energy efficiency and lead to potential moisture problems. Icynene® (an open celled spray foam insulation that is not a vapor barrier) - would be an excellent spray foam insulation choice for this type of climate.

2.  It is my understanding that wood needs to breathe, especially if it gets wet.

If we do spray foam, then we will end up applying spray foam insulation directly to the back of the house's sheathing (and in some cases, the original Dutch lap siding is nailed directly to the studs, there is NO sheathing). If any water at all gets behind the siding (as in between the siding and the spray foam), wouldn't it get stuck there and be unable to dry out because the spray foam prevents air circulation?

We don't have any known major water problems, but this is a huge, 3-story 130 year old house and some water in some amounts, especially during the ice melts in the spring, may enter walls in places we may never know about. Maybe over the last 130 years water penetration has not been a problem because the exterior walls breathe, but with spray foam might we introduce a problem in this manner?

As mentioned in our response to your other question, we recommend that the wall system breathes in your climate (i.e. is vapor open). In areas where there is exterior sheathing attached to the studs, a product like Icynene® spray foam insulation may be applied directly to the sheathing. In areas where the lap siding is attached to the studs, you must maintain an air space to handle the liquid moisture, which WILL enter through the laps. This requires installation of an alternate substrate such as landscape cloth, Tyvek, or cardboard baffles etc. to maintain that air space between the insulation and the lap siding.

3. A major concern I have is investing 15-20K in scraping and brand new paint, only to have it peeling off the siding in two years because moisture is trapped in the siding and outgases from beneath the paint because it has no where else to go - on account of having airtight spray foam insulation.

As stated above, (in response to your earlier question) in areas where the lap siding is attached to the studs an air space must be maintained for moisture control. If that space is eliminated the paint will peel in these areas due to excessive moisture buildup and lack of ventilation to dry out wet areas. 

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Attic Insulation – How Much Do You Need?: Learn How Much Insulation is Recommended for Your Attic to Lower Energy Costs in Winter and Summer

I am looking to add insulation to my attic.  www.owenscorning.com recommends R-49, however the closest I can find is R-38 and that's 12 inches thick which almost doubles the height of my rafters.  I currently have 3 inches of blown insulation in my attic. Is it ok to go higher than my rafters?  If so, how do I walk through my attic without being able to see my rafters? 

Our Answer

It's great that you are being proactive about your insulation. With 30-40 percent of a home's heat loss through under-insulated attics, you can save energy and dollars by ensuring yours is properly insulated while lowering your carbon footprint at the same time.

Since you currently have only 3 inches, you are wise to add more. If you can see your wood joists (rafters are on the ceiling) on the attic floor, you don't have enough insulation. The Department of Energy recently upped its attic insulation recommendation to up to an R-value of 60 which in most attics means you need a minimum of 19 inches of fiberglass batt insulation or 22 inches of blown insulation.

There are a couple options to make sure your attic is properly insulated. As you already have blown insulation, consider adding 19 inches more of blown insulation to get you up to R-60. Depending on where you live and availability, the portable Owens Corning AttiCat® Expanding Blown-In PINK Fiberglas Insulation Machine and AttiCat® Expanding Blown-In PINK Fiberglas Insulation make it easy and quick to do the job yourself. Check with your local Home Depot or Loews to see if they rent these handy machines.

If the AttiCat system is not yet available in your area, use batt insulation to add attic insulation. Given your current 3 inches, the folks at Owens Corning actually recommend you add a minimum of 16 inches of batt insulation to achieve R-60 which means you won't see your joists. When installing the attic insulation, lay temporary flooring (using planks or plywood) across your joists and work from the outer edge of the attic toward the center. Lay the new attic insulation directly over your existing blown.

Also, because you already have blown insulation in your attic, use only unfaced batt insulation with no vapor retarder. If you add more faced fiberglass insulation, any moisture that does go through the first layer may condense on the second layer which might cause water stains on the ceiling and could lead to structural damage. Rule of thumb, if you're adding to existing insulation, make it unfaced.

Finally, when working over installed insulation, always use temporary flooring such as plank or plywood to provide footing. It's fine to step on batt insulation if you must however you may need to fluff it back up if does not fully recover but it is safer and you'll feel much more stable with firmer footing underneath.

When considering using the attic for storage, first confirm the existing framing can support additional weight of framing to hold the storage and the storage itself. If you need the storage and the framing can support the weight, there are two options:

1. Leave a section of the attic under insulated and only add insulation to the areas that won't be used for storage.

2. This step is more involved and will require some carpentry but is recommended especially if you used blown in attic insulation for the project. Build up the floor area where you would like to have storage close to the attic entry way is recommended. This can be done by adding dimensional lumber perpendicular to the existing framing. Attic insulation can then be added between the new framing and plywood or osb added as a floor. This area of the attic will still be under insulated, but will be more insulated than the first option.