The Gurus of How-To on Home Maintenance and the Heat

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Air conditioner on the fritz? Humidity buckling your floors?  The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, are here to help! They offer advice on home repair matters.

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

Today's Quiz
Q: Name the open type arbor or passageway having a trelliswork roof with supporting columns on which climbing vines, plants, and flowers grow. Our listeners can find several of them at Brooklyn’s Botanic Gardens.

A: Pergola


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [21]

lauren koslow from Tenafly NJ

I live in a 1920's colonial in NJ and I want to build a window seat in the living room where there is an original iron steam radiator. We would need to replace with a smaller one with a shorter height, about 16", which is proving to be difficult to find. Plumbing estimates on replacing with new iron radiator are in the thousands of dollars. We occasionally check our local scrap dealer to see if they have a lower one with the right fins, etc. Is there an easier way to find? A resource we are unaware of? Thanks!

Jul. 13 2011 02:01 PM
Marisol T. from Jersey City, NJ

I'm a renter in a prewar building and the paint (and what looks like wall material too) of one exterior-facing wall in my bedroom is bubbling and buckling, and is starting to hang down off the wall. The deterioration is leaving crumbs and fine dust. Small bits of dark green mold can be seen on the exposed wall where the paint is hanging off and a poster frame that was leaned against the wall is growing mold.

I want to be sure that my landlord repairs this properly.

What needs to be done to make sure the mold is eliminated and the source of the moisture source is properly explored and fixed?

Jul. 13 2011 01:58 PM
sel from bushwick

I have noticed the paint bubbling under my window sill on my dry wall. I assume there is a crack in the brick work/window sill/window so once I fix that, do I need to replace the dry wall?

Jul. 13 2011 01:58 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The name of the chimney-sweep character Dick van Dyke played in "Mary Poppins" is Bert.

Jul. 13 2011 01:57 PM

And for tin ceiling caller in Bushwick...
Standard Tinsmith on Irving in Bushwick carries the full line of tin, the best place to get tin is in Bushwick!

Jul. 13 2011 01:56 PM
Val from Rutherford, NJ


Jul. 13 2011 01:52 PM
Mike from Jamaica, Queens

My 79 yo mother just renovated her kitchen to make it more accessible. It's beutiful the contractor in his enthusiasm put a bay window over the sink. It's great except she can't reach the crank handles. It turns out no matter what window she had she wouldn't be able to reach the window to open it. We tried using a crank system to open skylights which made cranking easier but she would have to stand across the room on a ladder. Any ideas or solutions?

Jul. 13 2011 01:51 PM
Steve from Howard Beach

The tiles in the shower of my co-op are falling off like crazy. The Super came in and said the wall behind the tiles is corroded, but he said there were no leaking pipes. The building is 50 years old

Jul. 13 2011 01:51 PM
David from Bushwick

Similar to an earlier caller, my wife and are are purchasing a 1920's Brooklyn Townhouse, and have discovered lovely old tin cielings under drop ceiling. We'd love to restore to the original look, but is it safer to avoid the possibilities of lead paint, and just patch & paint?


Jul. 13 2011 01:48 PM
Fred from Bloomfield, NJ

My house has wood shingle siding and was repainted about four years ago. Now, here and there I see rust spots showing up through the paint just about the size of nail heads. Looks like some nail heads that were painted over are starting to rust and staining the paint. What's happening here? and what do I have to do to fix it? Thank you, Fred

Jul. 13 2011 01:48 PM
Lee from South Slope, Brooklyn, NY

Hi guys,

Two questions:

I've had, occasionally, roaches sighted in my bedroom. It's usually at night. Assuming I'm not going to get my landlord to do a real extermination (I'm moving out soon anyway), is there anything I can do to just make sure they stay away from me? Mostly they just make me nervous when I'm sleeping, so I'd be happy to even just draw them away rather than kill them (or trapping them would be better as well).

Recently I agreed to house a friend's cats for a couple of days (I hoped they would nab those roaches). They seem to have 'marked' somewhere in my bedroom. I'm having trouble locating the actual source of the smell. Any tips for that? And, if I do, what can I do to get rid of it?


Jul. 13 2011 01:47 PM


Jul. 13 2011 01:35 PM
Rusty Dab

Discovered, yesterday, small blck ants swarming across my living room. My apartment is on the top, 15th floor of my building. They seem to be coming from an air conditioning sleeve (an empty, but covered, one). Any good ideas about getting rid of them?

Jul. 13 2011 01:33 PM
Ann on Upper West Side from Upper West Side

When does it make sense to pay to do annual maintenance on a window air conditioner, and when should you just let it run until it dies?

Jul. 13 2011 01:32 PM
Val from Rutherford, NJ

(I have e-mailed you a couple of times, you must be super busy! I am trying this way now.) Our roof seems to be melting. Whenever the temperature goes over 75F the roof gives off a strong smell like tar. It wouldn't be intolerable, but our forced air system is in the attic directly under the roof and circulates it around the house. The HVAC unit is in an enclosed space that gets very hot. How dangerous is this for health? I get headaches and a bit nauseous, so we only run the air at night when the smell is weaker. I have two young boys at home and I worry about them. Is there any way that we can fix this without changing the roof (which we cannot afford to do right now). Thanks!!

Jul. 13 2011 01:27 PM
Justin C. from Upper West Side

Why is the pressure and temperature of the water coming out of my bath faucet change when I divert it to the shower? When I divert it, the water is much hotter and there much less pressure. I have a new shower head it can't be that.

Jul. 13 2011 01:21 PM
jmurphy from Long Island

We live in Nassau County and our basement has had moisture issues. We recently waterproofed one of the basement walls from the outside.

We would now like to renovate the basement, but the moisture/musty smell is still there. There is still carpet on the floor which still gets damp, but not wet.

Aside from a dehumidifier, which makes the basement very hot, can we install some kind of mechanical air system to keep the basement dry?

Jul. 13 2011 01:09 PM
chierubi from Gr. Village

When renovating a shower stall (re-tiling the walls and floor), does one always need to install "waterproof board" for the walls and "waterproof sheetrock" on the ceiling?

The existing shower stall is in working condition, and we are just updating it with new tiles. In other words, there is no structural problems with it right now. The exiting tiles will be removed and the new ones be laid on the walls and the floor.

Thanks for your advice.

Jul. 13 2011 01:09 PM
Augustus from Brooklyn

We're about to begin renovation of a circa 1905 townhouse in Brooklyn that has several layers of vinyl and linoleum over the original floors. A contractor thought asbestos was not a problem - the linoleum clearly has jute backing, so its old-fashioned pure linoleum. What steps should we take to verify that the whole sandwich of flooring is asbestos-free before we start pulling the stuff up?

Jul. 13 2011 12:19 PM
Mike from Inwood

A few years ago, I started painting the living room in our co-op apartment on my vacation. It took longer than I anticipated because the plaster (on laths) had numerous soft spots that became holes and at the end of my time off, I just slapped spackle on and painted when it dried. The result looks like the wall had a bad case of acne. I would like to fix this, but I don't know how to go about it. A painter looked at it and suggested tearing out the plaster and installing dry wall, but I can't afford that. Can I sand or scrape the scabs flat and re-spackle? What would be the best way to go?

Jul. 13 2011 12:11 PM
Jenna from new york

I live in a prewar rental building. The management company began repair on the exterior brickwork of the building, however, they have run out of funds to complete the repairs. Repairs include re-pointing, brickwork, and general repairs.
What recourse can be taken about this situation? Or are we just stuck with a half repaired building?

Jul. 13 2011 12:03 PM

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