Dear Ken: We have a ceiling fan with a remote control. About six times in the last year, the lights in the fan came on by themselves. Last week the fan itself started when no one was near the control. Help! We don’t want it to start when we are away. — Dennis
Answer: First, remove the batteries in the remote for a half-hour; that may reset the circuitry inside. But there may be another, similar fan and remote setup next door that is actuating your equipment. So try resetting the DIP switches. These are tiny little toggles inside both the remote and the receiver in the fan. There are usually eight or nine of them, and the remote and the receiver need to be set to the exact same configuration — that is, certain toggles on and certain ones off. So change the setting sequence in each one and see if that helps.
Dear Ken: I’m going away for 12 days. I will shut off the main water valve in the basement, but I don’t want to turn the water heater off because it’s too hard to light. Is that OK? — Bill
Answer: Turn the water heater control to the off position. It’s OK to leave the pilot on so it’ll be easy to reenergize when you get back. For longer trips though, I think it’s a good idea to turn everything off, including the pilot.
Dear Ken: I bought 8 gallons of interior flat latex paint and it’s been sitting in the garage. Now I’m worried that it may have frozen. How can I tell if it’s OK or not? — Pete
Answer: It’s rare for a garage interior to get below freezing. I’ll bet, even on the coldest nights, that the temperature in there never gets below about 45 degrees. Dissipating heat from your car’s engine and heat flow through the common house/garage walls keeps the ambient temperature in the garage fairly moderate. Open up a can or two; look for lumps or other signs of breakdown. But if you see nothing more than separation of the carrier and pigment liquids, stir it up and use it as intended.
Dear Ken: I have a toilet that won’t quit running. I replaced the flapper valve and the filling valve, but it still dribbles into the bowl. What else can I do? — Doug
Answer: Sometimes there can be cracks, pits or other imperfections around that porcelain hole where the water runs into the bowl, so just replacing the flapper is not enough. Look for a flapper kit that includes a new valve seat. That’s a metal disc that the flapper falls on to when the water starts refilling. It comes with a glob of puttylike mastic to glue it into place. Once the new valve and seat are installed, you should have a tight, leak-proof fit.
Dear Ken: How can you clean the ceramic tile in a shower so you can apply a sealant? What products do you recommend? — Steve
Answer: When you say you want to seal the tile, what I think you really mean is that you want to seal the grout between the tiles. That’s the material that can stain and deteriorate, rather than the hard, slick tiles themselves. Unless this is a brand-new home, you’ll need to remove the old stuff first and regrout (it’s not nearly as daunting as it sounds). Rent or buy a grout saw — a little handle and carbide wheel gizmo — and groove out the grout lines as deeply as you can go. Then use a sponge to apply some premixed grout — available in tubs at the hardware store — into the lines.
Check the label on your liquid, silicon-based grout sealer to see how long you should let all this cure. A week or so is probably OK, during which you should shower someplace else; then apply the sealer.
Dear Ken: I stained the ceiling tile in the basement while watering plants. Can I remove the stains without repainting? — Neil
Answer: Virtually any style of ceiling tile is so porous that there’s really no way to eliminate or clean the stain, so it probably needs to be covered up. One side benefit: Tiny particles of this stuff surely are drifting down into the room below from people tromping around upstairs. So a seal coat will stop that deterioration and sloughing process. Apply a primer/sealer, like Bullseye 1-2-3 or KILZ, to seal off the stain, then paint with some latex semi-gloss interior paint.
Dear Ken: I have a corrugated fiberglass patio cover that leaks. What can I use to seal it? — Craig
Answer: When these systems start to break down they really need to be replaced. However, you can buy yourself a couple of extra years by using some clear, silicone-based roof sealant spritzed from a caulking gun. GE, DAP and Gorilla are three brands to check out. Force it into any cracks and holes and along the seams that join the sheets together.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 4 pm Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com.