Dear Ken: Should I do anything with my air conditioner in the winter? — Sam
Answer: I like the idea of shrouding the outside compressor during these months, because it’s so easy and inexpensive. Of course, these units are designed to be outdoors with weatherproof enamel paint and have self-draining holes to get rid of melting snow and rain. But they will give more years of service (not to mention look prettier) if they are protected from harsh winter conditions. You can buy an inexpensive plastic cover, complete with a rubber strap, for less than $15 at a discount store. I use conventional bungee cords to secure my cover, as they create a more snug fit around the bottom. Be sure to roll up the plastic to leave about a 1-inch gap at the bottom. Why? It will discourage mice from nesting inside and will dissipate moisture that would otherwise condense inside and form rust on the metal housing.
One other cold weather chore involves your whole house fan. These are great for cooling down the house in the summer, but they can be a huge energy waster in the winter. Whether they are metal or hard plastic, they conduct gobs of room heat up into the cold attic. You can cover them from the hallway side without having to crawl up into the attic. I found a kit online with Velcro strips that goes on in a snap; one side is white to match most ceiling colors and the other is quilted foil.
Dear Ken: How do you calculate the vent area for good attic ventilation? — Robert
Answer: A good rule of thumb is to take the total square footage of your attic and divide by 150. That will give the number of square feet of venting required. For example, a 1,200-square-foot attic will need about 8 square feet of vents.
My favorite are two or more gable vents in the ends of the attic space. They provide side-to-side ventilation, and you don’t have to worry about them getting filled up with insulation, like you do for those little soffit vents.
Dear Ken: When I went up into the attic to retrieve some stored empty boxes, I noticed some frost on the inside of the roof and the insulation and the boxes were a little damp. Should this be happening? — Tammy
Answers: In our dry climate, this is pretty unusual. Check to see if your bath fans vent into the attic space. If so, reorient the ends of the pipes to point directly at a roof vent, or better yet, run them directly outside through a vent cap and flapper. Also, use the formula above to see if you have enough cross ventilation. Get right on this, so you don’t lose any more effectiveness from your subsiding insulation — or even worse, mold begins to grow up there.
Dear Ken: We’re buying a home with vintage ’70s color schemes. The bathrooms have 2-inch-by-2-inch tiles on the walls and floors. I’ve heard there are ways to reglaze or paint this material. Would you recommend any of these processes? — Pete
Answers: Not really. You could apply an epoxy-based paint right over the old tile, after you scuff it up with sandpaper. Or you could hire one of the porcelain repair outfits, and they may be able to reglaze it with an acrylic finish, like they do for old bathtubs. But these are merely short-term answers that I don’t think you will like.
And apropos of outdated colors: You can paint older, dark trim boards and doors yourself. The effect is amazing. It will make the house seem bigger, more inviting and, of course, more modern. The secret is in the priming. Scuff sand all surfaces and apply a good undercoat, like KILZ or Bullseye 1-2-3. These materials both prime and seal and make a great surface for the new material to grab on to. Then you can use virtually any shade of an off-white acrylic latex paint as a topcoat.
Old paneling doesn’t paint very well. The new shiny surface will emphasize the grain and texture of the wood. It’s better to fill in the grooves with drywall taping compound and then apply a layer of liner paper and then textured wallpaper.
Dear Ken: My kitchen has old glue-down carpet on it. Now I need to get off the rubber backing and glue. Is there any easy way to do this? — Pauline
Answers: If it was stuck down to some old linoleum — rather than the plywood underlayment — you might be able to loosen it by wetting the surface. Add a few drops of detergent into a spray bottle filled with warm water, wet it down and then scrape off the residue with a wide blade putty knife. Once you get it down to a fairly flat surface, you can simply apply a new layer of wood underlayment and start over with a new floor.
Otherwise, you may need to have a professional grind it off. Be careful, though. If this is an older house (say 40 years-plus), there may be some asbestos underneath. Keep it damp, wear protection and seal the residue in plastic bags.
Dear Ken: I left a pizza box on my coffee table and it left a white ring. Is there any way to remove it? — Gene
Answer: Try rubbing it with some very fine (4/0) steel wool and a little mineral oil. Then apply a coat of a good furniture polish or wax.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com.