A male downy woodpecker pecks away at a branch in Bear Creek Regional Park. Downy woodpeckers were among the bird species tallied during Colorado Springs’ annual winter bird count.

Dear Ken: Woodpeckers are attacking our house in Black Forest. How can we get rid of them? — James

Answer: Apparently, these little guys use the pecking to stake out a territory and warn off interlopers. The traditional “scarecrow” techniques like hanging owls, tin foil or snakes nearby don’t seem to help. They’re not brain surgeons, but eventually they do figure out that snakes don’t hang on the sides of a house 20 feet in the air! The most reliable cure seems to be to spray a repellent wherever they peck. Pepper spray — the kind used in personal protector aerosols — works well.

One other way is to accommodate them by building a nesting box high up under the eaves. You can buy one ready-made at a local wild bird or pet store or online. Otherwise, you can build one yourself from readily available plans; check out or the Extension Service site at

Around the House: Water in the crawl space? Here are potential solutions

Dear Ken: My mom lives in a townhome. The neighboring teenagers play loud music through speakers on that wall. Is there any way to quiet the noise? — Sarah

Answer: What she’s probably hearing is more likely transmitted vibrations through the floor and wall systems, rather than airborne sound waves. Suggest that the neighbors move the speakers a couple inches from the wall and set them on thick pads of foam rubber.

She can coordinate these efforts through the management company, which can issue a warning and fines for excessive noise.

Around the House: When should sprinkler system be turned on?

Dear Ken: I’m thinking about adding a swamp cooler to the house. How do I decide what size to use? — Sam

Answer: Evaporative coolers are sized in CFM’s — thousands of cubic feet of air moved per minute. Whoever you buy it from can correlate the square footage of the space you’re cooling with the size of the unit, but generally, for the average size home you’ll need 5,000 CFM, give or take. By the way, roof mounted coolers are more trouble than their side-mounted cousins. So, if you can dedicate a rear window to your swamp cooler, you’ll have an easier summer.

The best evaporative coolers from a longevity standpoint are made from polypropylene, heavy duty plastic. You can still get steel, but plastic is my preference.

Around The House: Furnace noise alarms homeowner

Dear Ken: When I hung a shelf, some of the screws apparently poked through a sewer pipe, because it leaks now and then. Do I need to rip out the pipe and replace it? — Jeff

Answer: Probably not. Have a plumber take a look. It’s easy with modern plastic sewer pipe to cut out a section and glue in a short sleeve. Or, if the holes are close enough together, they can attach a “collar” around it — a rubberized clamp with stainless steel, adjustable straps. This is an easy job for your average plumbing contractor. If you have a hole already cut in the drywall to expose the pipe, they can be in and out in an hour or so.

Dear Ken: How big should the air conditioner be for about a 2,000-square-foot house? — Dennis

Answer: Air conditioners are sized in tons. A ton is 12,000 BTU’s of cooling per hour. There are national tables your contractor will use to size the unit based on your insulation quantities, siding type, the compass orientation and square footage of your window glass and, especially, the age of the home. If you want my best guess, however, about 2 1/2 tons in your case.

Dear Ken: How often should you seal the surface of brick and treat fences? — Donna

Answer: Brick can be left alone unless it’s causing some “weeping” into the house. Sometimes a brick chimney, for example, will allow wind-driven moisture to penetrate it enough to let moisture appear inside walls.

If that’s the case, one of the clear water sealers can help. Apply with a garden sprayer about twice a year — more often in year-round, direct sunlight.

Fences, most of which are built with cedar, can be left alone to weather If that gray patina isn’t your first choice, though, you can treat a fence like a deck: scrub it with a deck brightening system and coat it with a good linseed-oil-based deck stain.

Dear Ken: A toilet leaked upstairs and now I’ve got pea-sized bubbles in the plaster walls. How can I fix them? — Deb

Answer: The trouble with older plaster walls is what’s in them. They can contain small portions of asbestos binder, so it’s best to scrape them gently with a large blade putty knife, rather than sand them. If you must sand, however, it’s important to wear an appropriate mask, goggles and gloves and keep it to a minimum!

Also, use a disposable drop cloth to catch the dust. Once the surfaces are smooth, apply some acrylic spackling to the blemishes, prime and then repaint.

Dear Ken: We want to put our house on the market. It’s in a lower priced area, so we’re not sure if we can recoup the money for painting the exterior. What do you think? — Diana

Answer: If the paint is simply faded with age, I’d let it be. Most buyers would prefer to pick their own colors, and they won’t consider faded colors on an older, used home to be a big defect. On the other hand, any spots that are peeling, swollen or checked should be spot primed and repainted, as they can indicate more serious problems.

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

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