The Gurus of How-To

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Winter is here, with snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, are here to offer advice on  combatting drafts, fixing your furnace, keeping your pipes from bursting, and tackling other home repair issues!

Call 646-829-3985 with your questions or leave a comment!


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [31]

cyn from Stuyvesant Town

P.S> Am I in for major demolition after I call the landlord?

producer: please ask and edit

Feb. 10 2011 01:34 AM
cyn from Manhattan

Please speak to us of the dread Black Mold. I'm not yet depressed enough tonight. It's in the bathroom. I am a renter.

Feb. 10 2011 01:32 AM
nyginko from upperwestside

Thank you for discussing the necessity of ventilation to cope with carbon monoxide in the living space. I use a continuous pilot gas range, but I have installed a simply window vent in the kitchen which deflects the incoming air from cancelling out the flames, while providing a flow of fresh air into the room.
Several times over the past few months, while I've been at the gas range cooking, workers standing on the out door gallery sprayed into the window with a chemical I later found out to be ENDUST. My reaction
on each occasion was immediate and painful (My throught and chest..) the fumes
depending on the direction of the winds flowed throughout the apartment.
Voicing my complaint to management and the B.O.D. was met with incomprehension. What to do? There are asbestos issues to that no one seems willing to be direct about.
Do I call the EPA? Board of Health?
How is it that the management company has no training for its workers about these matters? (the unionized laborers as well as the B.O.D. and the site specific managing agent exhibit nil awareness of these matters and nil interest in them (of course THE:Y don't live here.)

Feb. 09 2011 02:06 PM
Arlene from Forest Hills

The wax on my wood floors has worn off in high traffic/dog active areas. Some of the boards are grayish in color, which I believe suggests that they need to be sanded. I was wondering if I could hand sand with fine steel wool in those areas (to avoid the mess of a machine process) and apply Butcher's paste wax with a cloth.

Thank you.

Feb. 09 2011 01:54 PM
Rose from lower east side

I live in a loft building. The living space has an office area separate from the living space. We rent out the office space at the moment. However, we have only one electric account. Is there any low cost way to monitor or separate the electric usage in the two spaces that doesn't involve a complete rewiring?
thank you!

Feb. 09 2011 01:54 PM
nyginko from upperwestside

Please help me find workers who can replace the asphalt tiles in several apt. rooms, then install oak parquet.

Feb. 09 2011 01:54 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

ethan--don't buy into the myth of gas being "clean-burning", which is simply a b.s. marketing term used by the industry. think about how gas is sourced to begin to understand what a filthy process it is--and the industry is targeting new york state for the next "natural" gas boom.

sourcing natural gas, particularly in the northeast, requires a process called "hydrofracturing" in order to pull it from shale thousands of feet below the earth's surface. the process requires millions of gallons of local water to be mixed with a toxic brew of chemicals, and forced that depth via a diesel-engine drill to break the shale and force the gas up. the result is chemicals that stay underground, the waste of our drinking water, and a threat to the exceptional tap water we new yorkers enjoy--not to mention the upstate landscape, cost of that water, and air pollution that will accompany it.

get the facts at, and reconsider what's really considered "clean".

Feb. 09 2011 01:53 PM

I live in a cold water flat and supply my own heat (forced air/gas).

In the winter, which temperature setting uses more gas: 62-degrees or 68-degrees?


Feb. 09 2011 01:52 PM
Matthew from Manhattan

Re: CO2 detectors.

Where should the detector be placed? Mine is high on the wall, very close to the kitchen, and it goes off when the oven is used for any amount of time.

I've been advised that I should moved it to another location.

How high up should it be, and how near to the kitchen?


Feb. 09 2011 01:47 PM
Ethan Wilensky-Lanford from Brooklyn

I was a little shocked to hear your guests present the decision of using heating oil or natural gas as a purely economical one. Natural gas burns much, much cleaner, and I would expect that many NYC listeners would be interested in this, even if the fix-it guru building inspectors apparently aren't.

Feb. 09 2011 01:46 PM
Lori from Montclair, NJ


I have a 90something year old Tudor house. When there is standing water anywhere (like shower, toilet that's not used frequently, etc.) a red brown stain appears. If left alone (like on the bottom of my shampoo bottles) it turns black!

Is this mold and what could be the source? It's a condition that happens throughout the house. (Just saw some inside the washing machine compartment that holds detergent - Yuck!)

Thanks so much!

Feb. 09 2011 01:44 PM

Barge board

Feb. 09 2011 01:44 PM
Henry from Kearny NJ

Where i live, they CANCELED a WINDOW and put in place, a Gas-Furnace or something...

Now the apartment has a central-heating-system --with a programmable thermostat--.

Once I arrive from work, i feel i little smell of gas,
and when i get out.. i feel it in my clothes.

I always SEE the flame when the furnace goes on,
and don't see any DARK SPOTS --leaks...--
I LIT CANDLES all the time and HAVEN'T blow up.

Any ideas? I have left the system off, and still find the smell when i come from work.

Feb. 09 2011 01:41 PM
Meredith from long island city, ny

I'm interested in hanging some picture ledges in my living room. How do I tell what the walls are made of? What is the best type of screw or anchor for picture ledges?

Feb. 09 2011 01:41 PM
Colin from Jackson Hieghts

2 questions

1-What is the Ubell opinion of hot water circulators? be used in a small 10 unit co-op building 1920’s solid brick construction where upper floor tenants complain of slow hot water arrival at bath and kitchen.

2-When is the earliest time that exterior masonry / lintel work is should be conducted in the wintertime? Should I wait till a warmer wetter March arrives?

Feb. 09 2011 01:41 PM
Tony from UWS

Can you tell me about installing glass tiles (4"X12") in my bathroom. I am told they are very difficult compared to ceramic ones. Thanks

Feb. 09 2011 01:40 PM
Derek from Long Island

Can I replace a broken finnagin pin with a New Johnsonrod?

Feb. 09 2011 01:40 PM
alison from SI

i'm thinking of replacing my gas stove with some induction hot plates [one and two pot styles are available].
any recommendations for company brands, as i've seen cheaper imports from china at some supply stores in the bowery, that sit on top of the counter, 120V.
my apt's not that big, and i keep a bathroom window @15ft away open at all times anyway, so that's also how i deal w/ the CO fumes right now.

Feb. 09 2011 01:38 PM
Betsy Naylor

Betsy in Manhattan asks: I let the water run in the shower until it is warm enough to hit my skin. This is a major waste of water, yes?

Feb. 09 2011 01:34 PM
Chris from Brooklyn

This morning I grabbed a pot from my electric stove (which was off) while I was touching the faucet of my sink and had quite a shock run through my body as though I completed a circuit. I was barefoot standing on a mat on a hardwood floor. What happened and what do I need to do to fix this?

Feb. 09 2011 01:33 PM
tom from astoria

In Ralph Mayer's Handbook for artists, which Leonard must know from his days as a painter, he explains that lead based primer must be exposed to daylight to keep it white, otherwise it will turn brown. This can be used to check if your WALL PAINT contains LEAD. Just move aside a picture hanging on the wall -- the wall will be brownish where the wall has not gotten any daylight. I have seen this effect in my apt.

Feb. 09 2011 01:31 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

i've always had a reasonably-priced bionaire horizontal window fan installed in the top of the kitchen window, 365 days a year, set on reverse. keeps extra heat out of the kitchen (ours suffers from both a range and a heat pipe), and you can always adjust the speed up to pull cooking smells out of the kitchen, rest of your apartment.

glad to know i'm keeping the carbon monoxide from collecting, as well!

Feb. 09 2011 01:30 PM
Thadeus from nj

Turkey has an amino acid called tryptophan that causes sleepiness.

Feb. 09 2011 01:28 PM
William from Greenpoint

What does it take to become a building inspector? Would you recommend it to someone who has no construction experience but loves real estate and buildings?

Feb. 09 2011 01:26 PM
amy weiser from new rochelle

We need to replace our oil boiler, do you recommend staying with oil or changing to gas? Also, if we convert to gas we need to install a liner in the chimney, how can we find a reputable company? Thanks!

Feb. 09 2011 01:23 PM
Joseph Cavalieri from east village new york

hi guys-
I've been wanting to remove my plaster wall and expose the brick, then paint it. Would you recommend doing this myself or to hire an outsider? The buliding was renovated in the 1970's.


Feb. 09 2011 01:23 PM
Alan MacInnes from Manhattan

Do shower heads that are supposed to increase water pressure work?

Feb. 09 2011 01:23 PM
Cary in Westchester from Yorktown Heights NY

Up here in the great white north, we have had significant icing which has led to Ice damming and subsequent leaks. How can we tell when the wall should be ripped down to replace the insulation vs just fixing the sheetrock and painting? The insurance company will inspect but they are backed up and will not be coming in the short term. Is there some rule of thumb regarding a behind the wall leak?

Feb. 09 2011 01:15 PM
George from long island

New hot water pipes were installed (made of Pex) they were place right next to a gas line. Now i notice that the gas pipe is getting as hot as the water pipes. Is not this unsafe? The plummer that did the work has not showed up to inspect them, but tells me on the phone that in any case it is safe?
please help!!!

Feb. 09 2011 01:06 PM
Lilly from Manhattan

Can my landlord force me to keep window guards? I live in a rent stabilized apartment in Hell's Kitchen. Building is 5 years old. I have no children and no children come to visit. I have beautiful view of Hudson but these guards are blocking half of view and I can't poke my head out or open top window more than few inches. Please help. Thank you!

Feb. 09 2011 12:57 PM

I have serious plumbing issues and don't know where to start. I have water building up in the basement bathroom floor but I cannot pinpoint the source of leak. How can I get an estimate if I can't show the plumber what to replace?

Feb. 09 2011 12:34 PM

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