Fireplace

Fireplaces make an excellent heat source.

Dear Ken: I’m worried about my TV. I have a gas fireplace under it, and it gets extremely hot. What can I do? — Jane

Answer: Most builders will fashion drywall “step-outs” above the firebox to deflect hot air away from the front of the fireplace and into the room. I hope that’s the case with you. As long as there is plenty of air circulation behind the TV, I think you’re fine.

But here’s an idea that has a double benefit. Have a fireplace company install a fan under the back of the firebox. It will cool everything down — and you’ll get an added cost benefit. The fan makes the gas log fireplace more efficient by keeping the warm air in the house instead of letting it run out the chimney.

Around the House: Save money and heat with simple steps in attics and crawl spaces

Dear Ken: I’m looking for one of those curved manifold pipe systems that you stick into the fireplace behind the grate. Where should I check for them? — Brad

Answer: You can find various versions online. They are a little pricey because most come with a built-in blower. These came to the fore in the 1970s as we scrambled trying to get more energy on the cheap. But I’m not fond of this scheme.

The theory is fine: the wood fire heats up the pipes, which then transfer hot air back into the room. The trouble is, huge amounts of interior heated air are sucked up and out of the chimney as the fire burns — plus the incoming air from the tubes can drag smoke into the room.

A better idea is to use a natural gas-powered insert that will circulate room air around the hot enclosure while isolating the chimney gases from the indoor environment. Some can be fitted with a circulating fan, which makes them a more efficient source of heat for multiple rooms.

Dear Ken: I have a mess. I’m trying to get wallpaper off the bathroom wall. It evidently was glued onto the Sheetrock, and when I pull it off, the drywall gets fuzzy. What do I do now? — Pam

Answer: If the fuzz is minimal, you might be able to get it to lie down with a coat or two of primer, such as KILZ. Otherwise, apply a thin coat of drywall mud with a wide-blade putty knife or trowel. Then prime.

If your goal is to paint the wall, you might be disappointed. The paint topcoat might raise that fuzzy grain on the wall again. That’s why I usually say that once a room is wallpapered, it’s best to stick with that system.

If you’re not a traditional wallpaper fan, don’t worry. The days of froufrou, flowery patterns are gone. Now there are textured finishes and faux designs that will unobtrusively blend with any décor.

Dear Ken: We are going to put in a pet door for our cats. But how can we keep out other critters? — Beth

Answer: I would put in two cat doors — one into the garage and one from the garage to the house. Wild animals might check out the garage but might be more reluctant to proceed through the next door.

My experience has shown me that the real worry here is other domesticated cats. They tend to follow their newfound friends almost anywhere. Of course, you’ll want to use that slide-in barrier at night to keep your felines in as well as others out.

But, remember, if you do cut a hole in your house/garage wall, you’ll necessarily be violating the so-called ”firewall” requirements of the building code. There is extra-thick drywall on the garage side that helps keep fire at bay until the firefighters arrive. Generally, “no holes allowed” is the rule.

Dear Ken: I have a bid for about $4,300 for a new 93% furnace. They want another $500 to go to a 95%. Is it worth it? — Danny

Answer: I don’t think so. If you assume a $150 natural gas bill for six months a year, it would take more than 20 years to recover the $500, and only then would you be saving money. I do applaud you, however, for spending about $1,000 more to go from the basic 80% furnace (the minimum allowed) to 93%. That payback will take about eight years, but even that recovery time will shorten up as fossil fuel prices continue to escalate.

Dear Ken: I have a sewer gas odor in the basement — only in the evenings, in cooler weather and also on windy days. Can you help? — Fran

Answer: First, make sure all the drains are sealed. Run water into them once a week — or pour 1 1/2 pints of mineral oil in as a more or less permanent seal. This would include the floor drain, shower or tub and the lavatory. Also, check the washing machine.

Older plumbing pipes can be overwhelmed by the high-flow-rate output from new washing machines; the trap evacuates, letting in sewer gas. To check this, temporarily seal the washer hose with duct tape as it enters the drain.

You also can check on the roof. Sometimes those vent pipes aren’t high enough to let the wind carry away the fumes. They can get plugged with dried waste products as well, so have a sewer cleaning company take a look.

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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