Dear Ken: I have a drainage issue with my neighbor. We each have new houses, and his is higher than mine, so all his water comes towards me. How can I resolve this and still be neighborly? - Len
Answer: This is a common problem in city subdivisions because the homes are fairly close together. Your neighbor is allowed to pass his water on to you in the direction of the "historical flow," just as you are similarly permitted to pass yours on to the next downhill house.
The secret here is to combine the two of you into one drainage system. Downspouts represent about three-fourths of all the water you have to deal with around single-family homes, so it's important to get them under control right away. That black, flexible polyethylene tubing I'm always writing about is ideal for this. You can attach a 3-inch piece of the pipe to his downspout end and then, through a wye fitting, you can run yours into the same pipe. You can continue this for however many spouts there are between the two of you and run the whole thing to the street (it's a good idea to switch to the 4-inch size when you are draining three or more downspouts). The hard part is the manual labor to bury it underground. But once it's over, I promise peace and harmony between you and your neighbor forever.
Dear Ken: I live in an old condo building. It has tested positive for mold on the ceiling because of a roof leak, and they say there is asbestos there also. Can I resolve these both at the same time? - Phil
Answer: Yes, but does the resolution need to be radical? That is, if there are simply mold stains on the ceiling, why not seal them and then repaint? Removing any asbestos-containing material is fraught with hazards. No matter how assiduous the technicians are with containment, some is bound to end up in the indoor air environment.
If the ceiling is simply stained from that leak, it can be sealed with a spray primer - for instance, BIN 1-2-3 or KILZ - and then simply repainted. This is far preferable to removal. There are literally millions of homes - usually pre-mid-'70s - with small amounts of asbestos in the drywall or plaster finishing materials. As long as they are kept well-sealed, it's no big deal. Less is better here,.
Dear Ken: My outside air conditioning system needs help. That foam insulation on the pipe is always in bad shape. I can't seem to keep it in one piece. - Richard
Answer: The culprit here is our high-elevation sunshine. That split foam insulation is very vulnerable to UV light and so, as you indicate, it never lasts very long. It's vital to keep this "cool" pipe leaving the A/C condensing unit protected from daytime heat. So, let's try one more application of the foam. This time, however, wrap it with silver, reflective duct tape. That will protect the foam almost forever from sun damage, plus the tape will reflect hot temperatures away. One other thing: That skinny, companion pipe next to the cool one is always warm, so it must be kept separated and uninsulated.
Dear Ken: Somebody refinished my tub long ago, and now it's flaking off. Can I refinish it again? - Glenn
Answer: Yes, but you might want to spend a little more money this time. Refinishing with an epoxy or acrylic resin material usually costs several hundred and lasts five years or so. You can spend three or four times that amount and have a custom acrylic liner installed instead. It's basically a "tub within a tub" and usually comes with a long warranty. Of course, you may want to spend that same amount to get a brand new bathtub installed in place of the old one. Get bids for both schemes and make your decision based on cost, disruption and mess.
Ken Moon is a home inspector. His radio show, "Around the House," is carried on KRDO, AM 1240 and FM 105.5, at 9 a.m. Saturdays. Go to around thehouse.com to contact Moon.