The Gurus of How-To on Home Repair Issues

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, are here to offer advice on spring cleaning, combating 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 [31]

Taylor Parker from Pocatello, ID

My husband and I have been thinking about doing our own home repair project. We thought that it might be resourcfull to just do the repairs ourselves instead of paying money to hire someone to do it. We've been wanting to do our basement for a really long time, and now seems like a good time to do it. We've been saving up for a long time, and now that our kids are older, we won't have to worry about little one's being in the way while we work. Are there some good books, or web sites that we can get home repair ideas from? We'd like to go with some modern styles, and we'd like to invest in some really nice furniture. Where can we find some ideas for modern styles and within a reasonable price?

Jul. 26 2012 11:05 AM

I love home repair. Most of the time it is better to read about it than to do it. So i wrote a bunch of home repair articles and posted them at
I hope this helps.

Sep. 15 2011 05:55 PM
Sabine from CT

It's always great to have gurus in home

Jun. 01 2011 10:18 AM
eric from brooklyn

great non answer about painting on masonry. all latex acrylic paint allow moisture in and out. alkyd coating systems trap moisture. i think you should clean, sand, chip away and then recoat with zinzster primer sealer (latex) and then paint of your choice (latex) - also, real paint shops have masonry paint meant to let moisture in and out as well.

May. 04 2011 01:55 PM
Kate Perry from Brooklyn

Yep - that us - the ones with the collapsed ceiling in the dining room. Luckily it was only an 7 x 6ft area - but it made a hell of a mess.
Like WWll

May. 04 2011 01:49 PM
Yuna L from Manhattan

I live in a pre-war apt building in Manhattan. During very cold winter nights, a lot of condensation develops on the metal frames of our windows (not the windows themselves)--so much so, that the water drips down and causes mold on our window sills. Is this type of condensation a common problem or is it a problem with the type of metal used in the window frame? Should we seek to replace the metal window frames?

May. 04 2011 01:44 PM
Evelyn from Brooklyn

We live in a 2 story, attached, single family home in Brooklyn. In 2005 when we renovated our kitchen, we eliminated a door and a stoop on the side of the kitchen extension and opened the rear window into a door and built a new staircase. We plan to sell our house in about 2 years. My husband is worried that this change will present a problem (we didn't get a permit for this) when we try to sell. Do you think we will or won't. If it is a problem what can we do now?

May. 04 2011 01:42 PM
Barbara Cohig from Nyack

Those spray foams contain iso-cyanates and are not really safe to use except with supplied-air respirators

May. 04 2011 01:42 PM
Jon from Manhattan

Zapatas is the answer

May. 04 2011 01:41 PM
Capper from NYC

I understand that once you install window guards, by law they cannot be removed, even if the children surpass the age they are required.

Is this true?

May. 04 2011 01:41 PM
Grace from Manhattan

I live in a co-op apartment. Recently water from my neighbor upstairs dripped through the light soffit into our kitchen. Their bathroom is above this location. When their plumber came to see where the leak was, he determined it was easier to go through our ceiling to find the leak. I allowed this. When he was opening up the ceiling large sections of the drywall fell off (around the leak). Clearly, there had been a drip for some time. It turned out it was my neighbor's toilet's floor seal. In years' past, there have been other drips -- from their bathtub, etc. I now have a hole in my ceiling, and I am wondering if there is something I can do to my ceiling, on the other side of the drywall when we have it fixed, to catch the inevitable future leaks from their bathroom?

May. 04 2011 01:40 PM
Erin from Brooklyn

Thanks very much!

May. 04 2011 01:40 PM
Todd Sparrow from Elmhurst, Queens

I have a question about kitchen vents. I live in Elmhurst, Queens in a row of identical frame houses, each house separated by a driveway. Most homeowners have their kitchen vents blowing out onto their own driveways. Our neighbor recently renovated and placed his kitchen vent facing on our side so that his fumes blow out onto our driveway. Is this violating some property code (or just really discourteous)?

May. 04 2011 01:39 PM
robert from brooklyn, ny

We have a smell coming from the back out our house. We thought it was poor plumbing vent but our contractor says it smells like a dead small animal.

May. 04 2011 01:37 PM
Brian O'Connor from Kips Bay

We live on the top floor of a fourth-floor walk up, and every spring at this time mosquitoes re-introduce themselves to our apartment. We go nuts trying to kill them, one at a time, and we're at our wit's end. We mention this to other Manhattan-ites and they look at us like we're crazy.
Can mosquitoes breed in a NYC apartment, or are they getting in through open windows? We thought a complete facelift in the bathroom would take care of it. How can they be controlled indoors?

May. 04 2011 01:37 PM
Bill from New Rochelle

My yard in New Rochelle has an underground the back yard. The back is graded lower than the street, and in heavy storms I get a lake.

I want to build a masonary dry well. I don't want the modern plastic void; do they still make "igloo blocks" for a dry well?

May. 04 2011 01:37 PM
Diego from Washington Heights

I live in a building dating back to the 20s. The shower faucet electrocutes us (mildly) when we touch it. The sink and even the water from the sink does this too! It cost us a roommate. Any idea what could be happening? How to fix it? Sometimes its pretty strong and we're starting to worry.

May. 04 2011 01:37 PM
Norm from Irvington NY

Are you guys members of ICC, and if not, why not.

May. 04 2011 01:36 PM
michele from New York

I own a 4 family brick building in Harlem. We moved the fire escape from the back to the front of the building. steel plates were bolted to the inside of the wall. Should I be concerned about cold air or mold.

May. 04 2011 01:35 PM
Jeff from Brooklyn

Hi I live in an old apartment building in Greenpoint and the cooking odors from my neighbors are drifting into my apartment, how best to track down the leak and cut off the cigarette and burned fish smell from my abode?


May. 04 2011 01:33 PM
karen from Brooklyn, NY

I live near the BQE in a great neighborhood & when the weather gets nice I like to open my windows. Unfortunately, when I open my windows there is a layer of soot & grime that's left on my floor & walls (and the air which affects my breathing)--is there anything I can do (barring moving to the Scottish highlands?) as I really like to open my windows and not always use an AC.

May. 04 2011 01:32 PM
Meryl from Brooklyn

Many apartments in my 7 story coop in Brooklyn want to replace their windows and the question about vinyl windows have come up from shareholders that want windows that are more energy efficient. Are vinyl windows allowed in 7 story buildings and if not, what are the most energy efficient windows allowed in a 7 story building?

May. 04 2011 01:32 PM
Erin from South Midwood, Brooklyn

We live in a brick townhouse. My husband has been trying to install window guards on the second floor windows, but we can't get the drill to go in more than ~1 inch. Once it's in that far, smoke starts to shoot out from the hole! How do we know whether we are hitting brick or metal? Would a masonry bit help? Any other advice is greatly appreciated!!

May. 04 2011 01:31 PM

Wait a minute... !

Is Gilbert Gottfried back??!

May. 04 2011 01:31 PM
Gerry from Park Slope

What is the best way to insulate (sound proof) a party wall...

May. 04 2011 01:30 PM
Joe from NYC

We have a large plastic industrial sink as our kitchen sink. the landlord did not install a splashguard, and the wall behind the sink is moldy and crumbly where it meets the sink. What can we do to fix this problem? Are there standalone splashguards that can be installed?

May. 04 2011 01:30 PM
Jon Berry from Northern NJ

In a recent show, the guys said that the growth sometimes seen on roofs (lichen?) does not harm the shingles. I have a lot of this on my roof, and pieces of the lichen that have fallen off show that the stuff actually takes some of the asphalt shingle with it! I'll send them a picture.
How can the stuff be safely removed? Bleach would harm the environment.
I've heard that ZINC strips at the top of the roof can prevent these from growing in the first place.
Jon in NJ

May. 04 2011 01:30 PM
Kathy from NJ

Why do all "waterproofing" companies seem to want to fix basement water problems form the INSIDE? Can't it be fixed from OUTSIDE??

May. 04 2011 01:29 PM

Re: Distilled white vinegar and the washing machine

I've used distilled white vinegar to remove sweat stains from my laundry. Am I damaging my washing machine by doing this? Does it make a difference if I pour the vinegar into the wash as opposed to pouring it directly on the item of clothing? Thanks for your help!

May. 04 2011 12:38 PM
Danielle Jensen

what do we need to do to window ACs besides cleaning filter. Every year around now I get flyers from companys for "spring cleaning"i.e.vacuuming coils,oiling motors,sealing air leaks,etc. Is this really necessary-isnt the motor,etc sealed? What do they mean by air leaks?Is this a rip-off?

May. 04 2011 12:21 PM
Rochelle from jersey shore

Last night I was turning off a hall light. I moved the switch unusually slow and caused an electrical buzz. There was a slight burn smell. Of course this freaked me out so I removed the switch plate to see if the house was on fire (inside the wall). It wasn't. But should I be concerned? Should I replace the switch? DYI? BTW, this is one of 2 switches that control the hall light.

May. 04 2011 11:50 AM

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