Dear readers: After the long dry spell, the summer rains have come. It's important - once or twice each summer - to walk around your house while it's raining. These summer showers come and go so quickly that checking the yard after the fact doesn't give an accurate picture of your drainage scheme. So, grab an umbrella (provided lightning is not nearby!) and inspect all the drainage elements and systems around your house. Look for overflowing gutters, which may have plugged up. Also, are the downspouts directing water well away from the foundation? Make sure that the flex pipe outlets of those spouts terminate at least 6 feet away. Puddles anywhere in your yard - but particularly close to the house - are an indication that some modification to your drainage plan is in order. Fill those areas in with extra dirt so they drain spontaneously.
Dear Ken: A contractor tried to sell us a surge protector to be mounted on the electric panel. He said it would protect us from power company surges and lightning. Do you think it's worth $10 a month? - Doug
Answer: Power company surges are not very common these days, but lightning, at least in the summertime, is. All bets are off if you get a direct strike, but nearby lightning bolts can send static-like electricity scooting sideways across the ground, and it can get into your home's electric system. If you have, say, a home office with thousands of dollars of computers, or maybe a fabulously expensive home audio setup, you may want to purchase your own surge protector. An electrician can install it inside the main panel in just a few minutes. Have them also take a look at the grounding wires. Older homes sometimes lack a connection to the earth and cold water pipes - vital arrangements to bleed off lightning surges.
You'll also need to protect the phone and cable TV lines. You can purchase power strips with connections for these two systems built right in. Don't scrimp here: The more expensive ones react more quickly to power surges and shunt them away from your expensive components. It also would be a good idea to run this by your homeowner's insurance agent to see if you have full coverage for these contingencies.
Dear Ken: My garage is insulated and sheet rocked. I want to heat-cool it year round. Can I connect it to the existing system? - Jerry D.
Answer: You should not tie the garage into your main heating and cooling system! There are fumes in there - carbon monoxide, gasoline and insecticides, for instance - that could get sucked into the house.
I would set up separate systems. You can attach a heater - like you see in tire shops - to the garage ceiling. They come in electric or natural gas-propane versions, and are quite effective. For cooling purposes, you could install a permanent, room-sized air conditioner in an opening in an exterior wall.
Finally, many older homes have a heat vent or two blowing into the garage space from the furnace system. These were allowed (or overlooked) for many years. If you have such an arrangement, it should be permanently closed off.
Dear Ken: I don't like the gold ceramic tile in my kitchen. Can I paint over it? - Jan
Answer: You can, but you might not like it. There are many primers and paints - epoxies and even water-based varieties - that will cover the tile. If it's on the backsplash (a vertical surface) only, the paint will probably hold up OK, but it will be hard to apply it smoothly. The high gloss of the tile surface will reflect even the tiniest brush strokes, and the effect may disappoint you. However, there are refinishing companies that can apply a polymer resin coating to this or just about any other surface in your home. Their results will be much more long lasting, not to mention pleasing to the eye.
Ken Moon is a homebuilder-turned-home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. 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.