The Gurus of How-To

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, are here to offer advice on spring cleaning, combatting drafts, fixing your furnace, and tackling other home repair issues.

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


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [18]

Nina from Dutchess County, NY

Question - we have a general idea of the location of our well, though we are not sure. It's not identified in our deed - a fact we knew when we purchased the house. Until now, this hasnt been a problem - but now the interior pump is running almost constantly - so we need to find the well to identify the problem, preferably install a submersible pump and also bring the well to code with a cap. If possible, we would like to avoid digging up our lawn in order to find the well -- any suggestions on how to pinpoint the location?

Mar. 25 2011 02:11 PM
Johnny from Long Island

Hey there,

I was listening to the show this afternoon and I have to say that I wasn't happy about your comments about contractors using "code" as an excuse to make more work for themselves.

While I'll admit that there are some dishonest contractors out there, you paint with a very broad brush. Also, your comment that older buildings aren't subject to modern codes is not true.

Yes, work that was done according to the codes in effect at the time does not have to adhere to the current code, but once a licensed contractor touches something, or adds something, he has to do his work to the current codes regardless of the age of the building.

As an electrician, if a customer has a bad duplex receptacle in an unfinished basement mounted in an old 4" round box I can't simply replace it with another receptacle in the same box. I have to replace it with a GFCI receptacle in a box that's listed for the purpose. Any work that I do has to meet the current code.

Yes it costs more than simply replacing the receptacle, but it's what's required of me.

Legitimate contractors have to follow current codes, it protects us from liability, and it protects the homeowner.

I find it offensive to hear someone like you telling people that contractors often cite code in order to make more money. The codes are in effect to keep the consumer safe

Mar. 16 2011 09:01 PM
Claire from Port Washington, NY

We're buliding a custom built-in media/book case that will spam the length of one wall in our "family room". We are having difficulty with what we're calling the "countertop" to this unit. It will be made of paint grade plywood and painted white. But we want the top of the cabinets to be a solid wood. Our builder/cabinet maker is saying he can't get wood as deep as 21" and as long as 13'5". We knew the 21" depth would be hard and thought he could seem two pieces together (with the length not being a problem). He claims he can't get the lenght either and we should considerbutcher block (yuck). Ideas?

Mar. 16 2011 02:12 PM
anne from locust valley

The exterior of our house is faced with Dryvit or some similar EIFS. Last year, ivy climbed up the side of the house. I cut it back and pulled the ivy off, but the plants' tendrils left marks (and probably plant material) on the exterior of the house. Is there any way I can safely remove the stains and/or plant material without damaging the Dryvit?

Mar. 16 2011 01:52 PM
Aaron Mocciola from UWS Manhattan

Don't take offense at the term "ghetto brick"; ghetto means "foundry" in Italian. It has current connotation because the neighborhood that the Jews were forced to live at one time in Venice was called Ghetto Nuovo, since a new foundry had been built there.

Mar. 16 2011 01:51 PM
john from Orangeburg, NY

My roofing shingles are growing lichens, rather then scrape them off, possibly damaging the shingles, can I use a mild bleach solution to kill them?

Mar. 16 2011 01:48 PM
Sarah Follett

I have two closets in my bedroom that are both full of mold due to extensive water damage from a leak in the roof of my building, a 12 storey pre-war in Park Slope. The contractor came and scraped away much of the damaged plaster but didn't clean the mold of the wall surfaces. How can I remove the mold before the contractor returns to put up new plaster/dry wall? If it is not cleaned will the mold grow back? Even if the leak has been repaired?

Mar. 16 2011 01:48 PM
jayr from queens

Is it possible to cover old, dirty brick, which I have on my front porch, with faux stone?

Mar. 16 2011 01:48 PM
Kelly from Point Pleasant, NJ

What are the advantages or disadvantages of adding either a whole house humidifier or a whole house air filtration system to the HVAC system? I recently completed an energy audit. Both the humidifier and the air filtration systems are listed as optional items on the proposal. I am trying to decide whether to add the optional components.

My home was built in 1954.

Mar. 16 2011 01:44 PM
Susan from NJ

I live in an apt in NJ the city is conducting a "mandatory inspection". The city uses intimidation to get in. I would like only one inspector in and I would like to escort him or her. I would also like to make sure they are licensed. For sanitary reasons I would like him/her to wear plastic gloves. What rights do I have?

Mar. 16 2011 01:43 PM
Johanna from Manhattan from Upper West Side

A contractor told me that the price of asphalt roof shingles is going up along with oil prices so it would be a good deal to buy them now at $75 a square foot - now being offered by a local supply store - although we probably won't be replacing the current 18-year old roof upstate for a few years?

Mar. 16 2011 01:36 PM
art525 from Park Slope

I am a big fan of the Ubells. I have had Al Ubell out for an inspection in the past and have had a couple of phone conversations with him. Our coop is experiencing some leaks on the back wall of our 4 story building. People are experiencing some stains on their back walls. We have a member of our coop with some sort of archtiectural experience and he claims we have serious structural problems and we need to have an engineer come in and do a complete inspection and draw up some sort of plans and give us a 15 page report detailing what work needs to be done and what materials are required (ie. how the cement should be mixed etc). He estimates it would cost apporximately 100,000 to do the job. This seems excessive to me. Any thoughts? Thank you.

Mar. 16 2011 01:36 PM
Craig from brooklyn

Is there any substantial savings in cutting off the boiler's pilot light during the warmer months?

Mar. 16 2011 01:35 PM
Arch Currie from Norwalk, CT

The Quiz Answer:


Mar. 16 2011 01:35 PM
Greg from Manhattan

Hi Oh Great Gurus,

I own a townhouse in Manhattan. It is a four story home with natural gas as the heating fuel. I have a chimney - obviously. Recently, I've heard that the chimney may need regular cleaning. Is this true?


Mar. 16 2011 01:33 PM
John from Fanwood, NJ

Hi Guys, I just finished renovating a spare bedroom, wainscoting, bamboo floor, etc., and its time to hang new doors for the closet and entry. I have jigs to rout hinge and door knob locations, but I’d appreciate any hints or tricks you have. I’ve done most of the doors in my house, but they always have to be adjusted a few times before they work properly. Thanks.

Mar. 16 2011 01:29 PM
David Shapiro

Question: What are the correct terms to refer to the heating appliance in a home? We often refer to them as boiler or furnace but does this accurately describe heating for hot water baseboard for the former or forced warm air for the latter?


Mar. 16 2011 01:27 PM
Danielle from Long Island

I want to replace my old basement windows. Two are casement and the others are hoppers. The steel frame is embedded in the poured concrete foundation on 3 sides and the top is wood. Should I use custom made vinyl or standard size windows? I was told the frame has to be cut and the contractor would use a wood frame. Could you please tell me how to proceed. I would appreciate your help.
Thank you.

Mar. 16 2011 01:10 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.