HOUSE TO HOME: Rethink your garage door to create a worthy focal point (copy)

Dear Ken: We have a squeaky garage door. What kind of grease should I use? — Owen

Answer: Grease is not a good choice. In an open-air location such as this, grease tends to attract dust and grit, and soon the rollers and tracks are filthy. Go with a liquid spray lubricant such as WD-40 or a Teflon product (my favorite). Apply a very thin spray coat to the rollers and the track — especially the curve at the top.

If it still squeals, you might need help. The tracks can move slightly out of parallel over time, or the door itself can gradually go out of square. This is no DIY job since the door weighs hundreds of pounds and is served by highly torqued or stretched springs that can cause severe injury.

In fact, it’s a good idea to get a garage door “tune-up” every other year. The technician will balance the springs, adjust and tighten all the lag bolts and screws, check the tracks, lubricate everything and make sure the opener is working as designed. The best season for this is fall so it’s ready to go into cold weather — the toughest time on garage doors. Expect to pay around $150.

Dear Ken: Our family room has a concrete floor. While installing a TV set, I got close to the floor and noticed big gaps and voids where the floor meets the foundation. There are no cracks, but should I worry? — Daryl

Answer: This is quite common, especially in tri-level homes. The floors of a third level (usually a family room) are installed on top of soil that has been hauled back in to fill up the foundation. Sometimes builders are overly cautious about tamping that dirt because it could injure the then-new foundation wall. The result is that the dirt eventually subsides and creates voids under the floor. It’s usually not a problem because this slab isn’t part of the support structure of the house; it’s an independent component that typically supports itself. That’s why you’re not seeing any movement or cracking.

Count your blessings. Some folks have more severe versions of this soil subsidence problem. The outside 2 feet or so of the floor edge can crack and drop an inch or more around the perimeter of the room. Or the floor can shift sideways to leave a gap between it and the foundation. These too, however, are essentially cosmetic problems that can be filled in with floor patching compound, foam or caulking before the carpet is installed.

Bottom line: If there aren’t other signs of structural trauma — such as random, zigzag cracks in the drywall, or doors and windows that don’t open properly — you’re OK.

Dear Ken: I have a smelly bathroom. We can’t tell where it’s coming from, but it’s that familiar rotten egg smell. What should I do to get rid of it? — Chelsea

Answer: The shower drain is the main suspect. It accumulates hair and other gunk that can siphon water out of the trap and let city sewer gas into the house. You can use a liquid drain cleaner if you like, but I prefer to extract the material. It’s quick and easy and doesn’t have the odor issues and toxicity regular drain cleaners have. Just buy a cleaning brush on a flexible wire handle. They look like an old-fashioned baby’s bottle brush, but they are smaller in diameter and the flexible handle lets you snake down to and then up through that trap under the drain. Once the material is removed, rinse with cold water and you’re back in business for a year.

The same thing can happen in the lavatory drains, only a little less often. Pull out the stoppers and soak them in ammonia for 30 minutes. Then place a bucket under the piping beneath the vanity, disassemble it and clean out the trap and that horizontal pipe going into the wall.

Dear Ken: Our glasses are always cloudy after running them through the dishwasher. By the way, we are on well water. What can we do to clear them up? — Denise

Answer: Make sure the water is hot enough. Use a candy thermometer to measure it at the kitchen tap. If it’s 120 degrees, that’s barely OK; 130 or 140 will do a better job in a dishwasher. But remember there’s a scalding hazard with hotter water, so if kids or infirm adults are in the house, you might want to invest in scald-proof bath and shower faucets.

Many people, especially those on hard well water, don’t use enough soap. Measure the grains of hardness in your water supply, then visit the soap manufacturer’s website to get an idea of how much you need. You might find that the manufacturer recommends one of the pod soap products, which contain softening chemicals and wetting agents that might be helpful. Also, use that liquid rinse dispenser in the door of the dishwasher, and keep it filled.

Finally, you’ll probably need to scrub each glass by hand first with a kitchen pad and some Comet or Bar Keeper’s Friend after you’ve made the aforementioned adjustments.

Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His call-in radio show airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit

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