Dear Ken: Do you recommend those foam-type filters in the heat vents in winter? Also, what about those curved plastic gadgets that I’ve heard heat the room faster? — Tom
Answer: I don’t like the foam filters. They add resistance to the air flow from the furnace. Since the blower isn’t designed for this additional constraint, the furnace can over-heat, because less air per minute is flowing over the heat exchanger. All you need is a good furnace filter, changed often, say, once a month in the heating (and cooling) seasons. I stay away from the cheap fiberglass mesh types ($1 or so) and prefer the corrugated paper style. They cost from about $4 to $9 and are widely available. This style traps small particles, down to 10 micros or so, and will help folks in your house who have allergies or hay fever.
I’m not a fan of the clear plastic diverters you mention that stick magnetically to the heat vents. The heating system was designed to wash warm air over the cooler exterior walls, windows and the patio door. The diverters interfere with that design and can make the room feel colder.
Dear Ken: I am moving into a house with lots of wallpaper. What’s the best way to remove it? — Jessica
Answer: If the paper was manufactured in the past 30 years or so, chances are it’s strippable. That means you can grab a corner and pull the top layer right off the wall. You’ll likely be left with a thin layer of backer paper that you’ll need to remove chemically.
Buy some wallpaper remover liquid. This stuff contains enzymes that break down the old glue. Dilute it with hot tap water, and — despite what that label says — pour it into a spray bottle and spritz it on that layer until it’s soaked. Keep the paper saturated for about 15 minutes, and it’ll virtually fall off the wall when you ease a wide-blade scraper under it. To remove residual amounts of the old paste, wipe the surface with more of the diluted solution. Finally, rinse the wall a couple of times to remove traces of the chemical, and you’re ready to redecorate.
If, in step one, you couldn’t peel the top layer away, you might need a scoring tool. This gizmo has sharp teeth attached to rollers on its underside. When you roll it around and across the surface, it cuts tiny holes in the skin. Those holes will let the remover liquid penetrate the surface and loosen the paper.
I know you probably want to paint the walls instead of paper. But many times, you’ll find that the drywall under the wallpaper isn’t textured, or the surface is too blemished to paint. In that case, you can choose a paper with a muted texture or faux-finished look that will blend into the surroundings.
Dear Ken: On the radio show, you talked about insulating the crawl space. Mine has some draped over the walls, but many pieces have fallen off. Can I glue them back on? — Ron
Answer: It’s not a good idea to try to glue batt insulation. Its surface is too gossamer to bond with the cold concrete behind it. It’s better to attach it at the top with a staple gun or some really sticky tape. A listener told me he has fallen in love with new tape made by Gorilla Glue Co. And I like a white tape manufactured by the Duck Tape folks. In any case, hang your crawl space batts a few inches higher than the dirt so it won’t wick up moisture.
I also like an additional layer of insulation on the “ceiling” of the crawl space. Use an un-faced (no paper) batt of, say, 6-inch, R-19 material. Why no paper? Because you don’t want to trap moisture between the new insulation and the floor above. If you can’t find the no-facing variety, then simply slash the paper skin with a sharp knife.
Dear Ken: What do you think of the new no-wax toilet rings? — Rex
These are the new plastic type that resemble a large teething ring. They avoid the sticky mess you sometimes encounter installing the traditional petroleum-based wax ring. But I’m skeptical. Long term, the rubberized plastic material might dry out and crack. I’m not sure this product has enough history right now. I’m old-fashioned enough to prefer the regular wax ring with the built-in plastic throat. It’s very reliable and time-tested.
Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 9 a.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit www.aroundthehouse.com