Around the house:

Ken Moon — Around the House

Dear Ken: I have an old patio, and I need to give it a facelift. Should I patch it? Repour or replace it? — Pete

Answer: Most of these attached concrete patios end up settling, cracking or both. They’re ugly and in many cases let water drain toward the house. It’s quite expensive to tear out and replace them since the old — and the new — concrete are heavy and difficult to get through the backyard around landscaping and fences. And so-called cosmetic coatings usually don’t last as long as you’d like (and they’re expensive, too!).

A better idea is to cover up these old white elephants with a brand-new surface — to wit: a new deck. Leave the old patio right where it is and use it, instead, as a huge footer to hold up the new surface. This is really one of the easiest framing jobs you’ll ever encounter, so let’s get started.

We simply build an underlying framework of treated lumber (the green stuff) to hold up the new deck boards. You can use say, treated 2-by-8’s for your floor joists and space them 16 inches or 24 inches apart, depending on the span. The lumber yard can help you figure out size and spacing of the supports.

But here’s the slick part: After you set out the floor joists in rows, you simply install 2x4 legs of the same treated lumber every 3 feet or so, sticking right down to the old patio. Mark each leg in its place, and they’ll cut off at whatever angle the patio surface has settled to. Attach it all together with the same screws you’ll use for the decking. You’ll be amazed at how strong the whole thing will be with these vertical legs underneath.

Now the decking. There are at least three choices here. Sorted by price, lowest to high: pressure-treated Southern yellow pine, redwood or plastic composite. The first two, of course, require periodic stripping and restaining while plastic is essentially maintenance-free.

For the redwood or pine, the decking looks best-proportioned with 2x6 boards, screwed to the under frame with zinc-coated (gold or silver) 3-inch screws. Space them ever-so-slightly apart (the thickness of a nickel is OK), and, when they’re dry, they’ll be just the right distance apart.

Wait a month or so (longer during these monsoons) to finish the boards. Choose a linseed oil-based product, like Super Deck, Behr or Cabot’s. If you prefer water-based, Olympic Ultimate, six-year, works well.

The plastic decking systems usually require special screws and some even come with hidden plastic clips that give a uniform appearance without the intrusion of fasteners.

Dear Ken: I have an attic fan that which seems to run all the time. What’s going on? — Alan

Answer: If it never goes off — even at night — then it probably needs a service call. I’ll assume that the thermostat on the fan is preset around 105 degrees. I’m sure that your overnight attic temperature gets below that.

So you probably need some more attic ventilation. Proper circulation up there relies on bottom-to-top movement of air. So, the most likely culprit is those little soffit vents, up behind the gutters. Shine a light into them and see if they’re covered over with insulation. If so, remove it.

One way to keep track of this is to install a sensor for a remote-reading thermostat in the attic. That way you can correlate the temperature with the on-and-off operation of the fan.

Dear Ken: One of my electric circuits always seems to be going out. What should I do? — Ed

Answer: It sounds like either an overload — you’re running too many things on the circuit — or a weak circuit breaker. If you’re comfortable around the breaker box, you can switch the offending one temporarily with another. If the “new” breaker stays on, then the original breaker is probably failing. They do age and sometimes just wear out. On the other hand, if the circuit keeps going out, it could be overloaded; remember that anything that produces heat draws lots of current.

Dear Ken: My dishwasher doesn’t fill up with enough water. What’s going on? — Rachel

Answer: Check the float — it’s a dome-shaped device that sits in the bottom of the dishwasher tub and senses when the right amount of water has entered. If it doesn’t move up and down freely, service it or replace. Also, the inlet pipe and/or valve may be clogged. You’ll have to remove the front panel, disconnect the pipe and run water into a bucket to test it.

While you’re in there, clean the drain filter in the bottom of the dishwasher and unscrew the spray arm and clean out the holes.

Dear Ken: I have a drywall crack in the living room ceiling of my 1963 house. How can I make it quit cracking and patch it? — Dawn

Answer: If there’s more than one layer of roofing on your house, added load from snow may be overstressing the rafter system. Generally, straight cracks (along a drywall seam) are less worrisome than random ones. Otherwise, spackling and the spray-texture-in-a-can is the only solution.

If it keeps coming back, one answer is to apply a decorative board to the ceiling to look like an intentional decorative or structural element.

Dear Ken: I’ve got a sump pump pit in the basement with no pump, but it has some water in it that smells. What should I do? — Sam

Answer: The smell can be ameliorated with a capful of Clorox in the water. If you’re going on long vacations this summer, you might want to install a sump pump into the pit and run its pipe outdoors. But I must tell you that, if you only have “some” water in it after all this rain, you’ve lucked out!

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

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