Dear Ken: I would appreciate you telling me about decks — how to seal them and when and how often. Mine is on the west side and is showing show bare spots. Can I wait until spring? Debbie
Answer: You don’t need to wait. This is actually a great time of year to seal a wood deck. The material goes on easier and cures more slowly when it’s a little cooler — plus you’re applying protection in advance of winter’s harsher weather. Any name brand deck stain is a good choice.
My favorite has always been a linseed oil main ingredient formulation — and these are fine. But there are now water-based products that I’ve had good luck with. I picked a name brand labeled as “6 year” and it works great; it goes on easy and of course the cleanup is so much easier.
Dear Ken: After a hard rain two months ago, I noticed some moisture trapped between the panes of a double-paned window. How can I get rid of it? — Scott
Answer: The seal holding the two panes together has probably deteriorated from weathering. Very dry air is pumped into that space at the factory, and the unit is sealed with a rubberized compound. Over the years, the sun breaks down that material, letting ambient moisture inside.
It’s mostly a cosmetic problem, as the energy efficiency of the unit remains about the same. Unfortunately, the only surefire cure is to replace it. Some folks have reported that applying some low-e tinting film on the inside surface helps hide the effects.
Nonetheless, here’s another approach you might want to consider. A glass technician will drill a small hole in opposite corners of the window pane and then suck the interior air out with a small vacuum pump. Once it is clear, the holes are sealed with a silicone-type product. It’s probably more of a medium-, rather that long-term, solution, but the results are usually very good. Not all glass shops do this, so you’ll have to sort through various vendors on Google. They charge by the square foot, and you may find the process a little pricey. But in almost all cases, it’s cheaper than a complete replacement.
Dear Ken: We have a carbon monoxide detector in the furnace room, and it alarms now and then. It is the kind with a memory, and the readings have been as high as “17”. The gas company tested the readings up in the house, and they seemed fine. Is there anything we should do? — James
Answer: You may have a blocked flue pipe. It carries the fumes up and out of the house, and sometimes it can get plugged up from rust and corrosion or even a bird’s nest.
Readings above about “8” are considered dangerous for long-term exposure, but in a residence we’d like a continuous zero reading, so get a heating contractor involved. You may also need more combustion air to the furnace area.
Finally, since carbon monoxide is a little lighter than air, you need to add one or two detectors up near the bedrooms. My preference is a plug-in unit near the floor, as you’re most vulnerable to this deadly gas when you’re sleeping.
Dear Ken: What do you think about a crawl space dig- out? My furnace is horizontal and my water heater is a low-boy, and I would like to upgrade them. I’m also interested in adding an office down there. — Aaron
Answer: Most real estate agents and appraisers would advise you to buy another house, rather than add living space to a crawl area. It’s a structural nightmare and a very labor intensive (hence, expensive!) project. And it’ll probably catapult your home’s value to the top of the neighborhood price heap, which isn’t a very enviable spot to be in.
Digging out a utility “pit”, however, is a different matter. You can probably pile the dirt in one corner of the crawl space and line the hole with concrete blocks. A new upright furnace and taller water heater are easier to service, and the additional headroom is less of a deterrent to going down there for routine maintenance.
One caution: Make sure the access hole is big enough to get the new equipment under the house, or all the work will have been for naught.
Dear Ken: I’m treating a bathroom door with a clear wood finish. I can’t seem to get the tiny bubbles out that appear when I brush the stuff on. What’s going on? — Heather
Answer: Brushing on varnish-like coatings is a little tricky. Dip your brush halfway into the can — slowly — and try not to brush one spot more than once. That is, use long, single strokes in one direction. The bubbles you have now can be eliminated with a little steel wool or very fine sandpaper between coats.
Ken 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 aroundthehouse.com.