Dear Ken: My garage door makes a scraping sound when the rollers go around that curve on the side track. Can I stop this myself? - Sam
Answer: First, it's a good idea to get your garage door "tuned up" every two or three years. The technician will make needed minor adjustments and perform a safety check for less than $100.
But if you're an inveterate DIYer, here are a few tips. The nuts and bolts that hold all the bracing hardware on the door face will loosen over time from the stress and vibration of opening and closing. They can be tightened using your socket set and ratchet. The track also has its own adjustments. Loosen the brackets that hold it to the wall and make ever-so-small changes until the noise goes away. I emphasize tiny corrections because any drastic deviations will bind the door and might damage the motor. By the way, garage door motors heat rapidly, so after about six up/down testing cycles, let it cool for 15 minutes or so. Finally, you can spray the tracks and rollers with a little silicone- or Teflon-based lubricant, but here, too, less is better.
Dear Ken: We have some soap dispensers glued to a mirror's surface. How can we remove them without damaging the mirror? - Marilyn
Answer: Applying gentle heat from the business end of a hair dryer can loosen most glues. The key here is not to overdo it. Raising and suddenly lowering the temperature of the mirror can crack it, so use just enough warmth to allow twisting of the bracket and its easing off the surface. Then, whatever residue's left can be wiped up with a rag soaked with some Goof Off solvent. This same scheme can help remove decorative appliques from the bottom of a bathtub or shower.
Dear Ken: The drain in one of our sinks fills with some sort of gunk about once a week. This is the only place in the house where this happens. What could be the cause? - David
Answer: Check the slope of the drain and the venting of that fixture. The pipe leading away from the trap into the wall may have zero slope - or may actually tip back toward the sink a little. When a high output fixture - say the washing machine - blasts water into the line on the other end, some effluent may find its way into the pipe. Without accompanying water to wash it downstream each time, you get the clog you mention.
Also, if you can, verify that this sink has a vent directly to the roof and outdoors. All plumbing fixtures require this direct vent pipe in the line within a few feet of the trap to equalize the pressure to atmospheric and so prevent that trap from siphoning dry. That would let sewer gases from the street or septic system into the living space.
Dear Ken: Do you know anything about geothermal systems that take heat from the ground through a pipe loop? I'm on propane and can't believe how much I'm paying for fuel. Would the ground system be a good deal for me? - Dennis
Answer: These systems are most useful in rural subdivisions where the only fuel supply is propane or maybe just electricity. In its simplest form, a plastic pipe is laid about 5 feet underground in a loop of several hundred feet around the property. Since the underground temperature at that depth stays at about 55 degrees year-round, that latent "heat" can help warm and cool a house.
An anti-freeze-like solution is pumped through the pipe and run through a heat exchanger and the furnace. The only energy needed from the outside world is enough supplemental gas or electric heat to raise the temperature in the house a few degrees above the geothermal loop fluid. The same principle applies in reverse in the summer, but the air conditioning is essentially free, with almost no external input.
If you think you'd like such a system, you'll need to amortize the high up-front capital cost against your savings in propane over some number of years, depending on how long you expect to stay on the property.
Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 9 a.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visitaroundthehouse.com