Insulation is so cost effective that it pays for itself in a couple of years.

Dear Ken: How much insulation should we have in the attic this winter? — Jeri

Answer: The recommendation for the Rocky Mountain region is 14 to 15 inches, or R-48 to 50. Insulation is so cost effective — producing the most savings for the least money — that it pays for itself in just a couple of years. Plus, since there are multiple rebates from all levels of government and many utility providers, it makes sense to do it right now.

And please don’t let anyone talk you into removing what you already have, even though there might be heavy metals present — like in the old Rockwool martial — or perhaps even asbestos. Regardless, removing it will cause a whole new set of problems, including contamination of the living space. Just add a new layer of fiberglass or cellulose insulation on top of whatever combination of materials you have to get you to the recommended depth.

Dear Ken: I have a kitchen/family room that only has two small windows, so it’s quite dark. What do you think of those tubes that let light in? — Barb

Answer: I like the idea. There are several brands of these tubular skylights you can install for a fraction of what a regular skylight would cost. They slip in through a hole in the roof, down into the attic, and terminate on the ceiling with a diffuser lens. The tube is lined with a high-tech reflective material that is extremely effective in capturing sunlight and bouncing it down the tube. It’s so bright — even on cloudy days — that it will remind you of a powerful halogen bulb light fixture, but with zero operating costs. Also, you can add an optional light kit above the diffuser that will simulate daylight after the sun goes down.

They are fairly pricey, so shop around and ask whichever company you choose to give you some past customer referrals, whom you can check in with.

Dear Ken: I have a single- lever shower and tub faucet. Lately it makes strange noises and the hot water surges and then almost stops. What’s going on? — Gina

Answer: It sounds like the faucet needs rebuilding. Depending on the brand, you can buy a kit full of replacement parts — springs, washers and screws — that are fairly easy to install. Shut off the water, remove the plastic handle and unscrew the chrome sleeve that holds the whole thing together. Follow the directions and you’ll have, essentially, a brand-new faucet.

Some brands such as Moen are even easier to work with. You simply remove a central cartridge, which contains all the afore-mentioned parts inside; slide in a new one, and you’re back in business.

Dear Ken: I’ve got a colored and patterned concrete patio that I spilled fertilizer on. How should I get it off without problems? — Ronnie

Answer: Ordinarily I would recommend a remover chemical, like CLR or one of the concrete rust removing products powders you can get at the hardware store — perhaps combined with power washing. But in your case, I’m concerned they might remove the decorative finish on your patio. Instead, let’s wait for our strong UV sunlight to cook it away. It may take a month or more, but be patient.

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 aroundthehouse.com

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