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Maintenance for older homes and appliances

By: Ken Moon
February 27, 2017 Updated: March 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm
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Dear Ken: I have a house built in the 60’s. Can I add more wall insulation? What kind? -Dan

First you need to know how much you have. Pull the cover off of two or three electrical outlets on exterior walls. Turn off each circuit and probe around the edges of the box with an old kitchen knife. If you need more space for your examination, cut the edges of the sheet rock to make a wider opening. Don’t worry, you can cover the hole with a new, oversized plastic plate. You will probably hear the crinkle of insulation paper facing. In a home of this vintage, you undoubtedly will find a two-and-a-half-inch thick batt.

This examination will demonstrate to you how difficult it will be to inject more material in those wall cavities – whether loose cellulose or polyurethane foam, it will get hung up on the batts plus any pipes and wires that run through the space. Bottom line: It is seldom a good idea to add more insulation to an existing wall. 

You can, however, add more R-value if you ever change the exterior wall covering. If you were to switch to stucco or vinyl siding, the contractor can include a layer of half-inch Styrofoam to start with.   

Dear Ken: I have a ceiling fan with four bulbs. When a light blew out, I tried to remove it, but the socket turned with it. The bulb is too small to grip inside the tulip globe, and I can't slide the globe off without unscrewing the bulb. Any ideas? -Stan                    

Use a piece of duct tape – glue side out – wrapped around your hand, grab the bulb and turn it with this extra grip. If it won’t budge, you'll have to break it. First, put on goggles and gloves, then cover the end of the bulb with a cloth and tap it with the pair of pliers until it breaks. Once the filament is exposed, grip the inside of the bulb with needle-nosed pliers and twist the base out of the socket.  If the socket wants to rotate, let it.  My experience is that the bulb will release before the socket is damaged. To help for future removals, rub a little Vaseline on the bulb threads first.

Dear Ken: I have a two year old dishwasher which isn't cleaning very well.  Could the drain be stopped up or is it a water pressure problem? -Kirsten

Make sure the spray arms are working properly. If there's both an upper and lower rotating arm, check for rotation by swiftly opening the door mid-cycle. If, on the other hand, you have a tower arm that rises to the glassware level, check that it fully extends and that its path isn't blocked by other dishes.

If these tests check out, take the lower arm apart by un­screwing its center. You may need a Phillips screwdriver to remove the parts all the way down to the pump. Check for debris inside this well. Finally, while you have that spray arm loose, clean out its spray holes with some fine wire.

Dear Ken: The paint on the bottom of our water heater is peeling. The heater is working fine. Is this okay? -Gene

     Condensation in and around the tank jacket is normal, and usually reveals itself as minor rust spots. It's probably from the vapor produced by the burning of natural gas. On the other hand, rust and corrosion blemishes accompanied by continuous dripping water – whether a gas or electric model – usually means it's time to replace the water heater itself.

Dear Ken: We have an older Genie garage door opener with a plastic track. During cold weather, it shrieks when it runs. Is there a lubricant you can suggest?  Silicone? Wd-40? three-in-one oil? -Martha                               

Try a white silicone grease stick; it looks like an over­sized lip balm tube. You simply push the stick out from the bottom and rub it along the opener track. A few other lubricants I prefer at my workbench are lithium grease (versus axle grease), Teflon-based spray (rather than WD-40), and light sewing machine oil. 

Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 9 a.m. Saturday and is carried on KRDO, AM 1240 and FM 105.5. Visit AroundTheHouse.com.

 

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