The Gurus of How-To

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, are here to offer advice on home repair matters, from drooping stoop steps to leaking roofs and sagging wood floors.

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


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [30]

weldon mcgill from monmouth park, oceanport nj

First time I heard the show, you guys are great! WNYC needs to go national woth you guys right after Click and Clack the Car Guys. That fill in host,however, needs to learn to give those old folks that call in some slack. His lack of patience with them was rude.

Sep. 14 2011 02:17 PM
jayr from queens

how do i reduce the banging sound in my steam radiators and will that increase heat flow through the radiators?

Sep. 14 2011 01:56 PM
Mary from Carroll Gdns. Brooklyn

Related to the hot water turning cold at the end of a shower: My hot water tank is about 8 y.o. and has worked fine for my two family house. In the last couple of months, the hot water is intermittently running luke warm. It's NOT related to everyone taking a shower one after the other. Sometimes the water is hot (as per themostat setting), sometimes cool. The winter's coming and I don't want luke warm water for my morning shower or evening bath. Thjanks, Mary

Sep. 14 2011 01:55 PM
Cait from UWS

I live on the 12th floor, usually sleep with the windows open and screens shut. For the past year I have been plagued with mosquitos. How do they get in? How can I keep them out? Thanks.

Sep. 14 2011 01:48 PM

Do you know what water pipe configuration would lead to hot water coming out of the cold faucet after running for a few minutes.

thank you

Sep. 14 2011 01:47 PM
Mark from Ocean Grove

Since Mr. Ubell (the younger) mentioned dust in the home, I was wondering how they felt about those duct cleaning services. I live in an apartment, and each unit as its own HVAC system (we each pay our own utilities).

Sep. 14 2011 01:43 PM
Jean from Kensington

The band around a paintbrush is called a ferrule. I'm pretty sure that is also the name for the band that holds the eraser on a pencil.

Sep. 14 2011 01:41 PM
DCruz from Lower East Side

QUIZ: That part of a brush is called a Ferrule.

Sep. 14 2011 01:41 PM


Sep. 14 2011 01:39 PM

For basements with a mold and mildew problem there is better alternative to dehumidifiers; Musty Basement Solution is one of several products. It is cheaper to operate, requires no maintenance, and contributes to the health of the whole house.

Sep. 14 2011 01:38 PM
David from NJ

We had about a foot of water in our basement during the hurricane and need to replace the sheetrock that got wet. Is there something we can use that would withstand water? I'm thinking of some sort of cement or stucco but no one else has heard od this approach! Water resistance is more important than esthetics.

Sep. 14 2011 01:38 PM
matt from brooklyn


Sep. 14 2011 01:37 PM
Roy from Cliffside Park, NJ

We live in a 3 floor townhouse. The kitchen is on the top level. Whenever the kitchen faucet is turned on (but especially when it is turned off), a loud clunking sound can be heard on the floor below. Is there something wrong with the faucet (or pipes)? Thank you.

Sep. 14 2011 01:36 PM
Madeleine from Wilton CT

So have I for once inadvertently done the right thing? I’ve had chronic problems with having to replace water tanks, furnace parts and plumbing parts from water in the basement, so a couple of years ago I had a sump pump installed. AND I also put in a large dehumidifier, elevated it, attached a length of hose that runs into the sump hole, and not only has the basement stayed pretty dry (save a shallow puddle during the hurricane that got quickly pumped out), but the house doesn’t seem to smell occasionally mildew the way it used to.

Is this saving me wear and tear of the rest of the house too, from improving the humidity situation?

Sep. 14 2011 01:36 PM
james from Seaford, N.Y.

My crawl space was flooded by rising salt water. It got the joists and in some places, just got the sub floor. A recent check w/ a bright light revealed Mold is growing, what do you think of a bleach and water solution, maybe one part each to be sprayed on.

Sep. 14 2011 01:35 PM
Joel from Westchester

Hi -- I have a running-water-in-the-toilet-tank problem. The tank has a rectangular hollow extending "pipe" in the tank to which the flap for the flush water is attached. The float is a closed cylinder type. I just installed a NEW flap (the old one seemed to leak).

It is very difficult to adjust the flap so that there is no leakage of water. How is this best done?

Sep. 14 2011 01:35 PM
Alon from upstate

Regarding basement dehumidifiers - there are models at Sears (Kenmore) now that automatically pumps water up to 15' up and out (ex. thru window) into yard round the clock. Even if your electric goes out in storm, when it comes back up the dehumidifier starts up again.

Sep. 14 2011 01:34 PM
Annemarie from Manhattan

We own a pre-war apartment in NYC with beautiful wood floors . Unfortunately the floor creak here and there when walked on.. is there any remedy to this?

Sep. 14 2011 01:33 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Whoa, wait a minute. Earthquakes aren't a question of climate. I'm pretty sure you guys actually know better, but please be careful not to give any ammunition to climate crisis deniers.

And a question: do apt. dwellers need dehumidifiers too, or are apts. less likely to have mold problems? If they do, what type/size dehumidifier should we get?

Sep. 14 2011 01:32 PM
Janine from NYC

The stairs inside my condo were left bare (only painted) by the developer.

What sort of aesthetic finishing can I do? They are what I assume is concrete with a metal lip. My condo was built in 2000.

thank you

Sep. 14 2011 01:30 PM
Paul B from Brooklyn

We recently renovated an apt in a pre-war building, including new plumbing branch lines in the bathrooms. Even though the cold water pressure on a bathroom sink is fine, it's really low in the shower. Hot water seems to be fine. I suspect there may be some debris in the cold water line to the shower head -- how do I clean this?

Sep. 14 2011 01:29 PM
margot from Greenpoint

As a Zone A resident of Greenpoint, our basement had more than a foot of water during Irene, which came up from the pipe to the sewer. It all receded, but not before taking out 3 water heaters. Is there a way to plug that pipe so it doesnt happen again? The walls are stone, but the floor is concrete with dirt "moments." Thank you!

Sep. 14 2011 01:27 PM
margot from Greenpoint

As a Zone A resident of Greenpoint, our basement had more than a foot of water during Irene, which came up from the pipe to the sewer. It all receded, but not before taking out 3 water heaters. Is there a way to plug that pipe so it doesnt happen again? The walls are stone, but the floor is concrete with dirt "moments." Thank you!

Sep. 14 2011 01:26 PM
Danielle Jensen

on past shows you have advised us to remove our window ac units and wash them occasionally. do u really mean taking that very heavy thing out of the window and putting it into a tub and then lifting it out of the tub? seems like a good idea to clean it but they're pretty heavy. just asking!

Sep. 14 2011 01:10 PM

Hey Tony, we're working on that one. Sorry about the noise!

Sep. 14 2011 01:03 PM

My roommate and I are having a friendly dispute on whether a window unit fan should be set to intake or exhaust in order to cool a room when it's warmer indoors than it is outdoors.

The roommate's position is that the fan should be set to exhaust and that the laws thermodynamics support the moving hotter air out.

I counter that such a rule would only apply if the fan was removing heat from the air (like an air conditioner) but since the fan is only moving air, it's more efficient to move the cooler air indoors.

Sep. 14 2011 12:59 PM
Julie from New Jersey

Gentlemen: thanks for all your time and advice. I live in an old Victorian farm house, and the attic was converted into living space by someone who didn't know what they were doing. In the ceiling, which follows the slant of the roof, there is portion where two beams are not sistered. There is less than a 1/4 inch of space. The wall board is anchored and seemed at this location according to this space. I want to fill/hide it. I have used spackle and expoxy, and painted it over it. But with the recent strong winds as the house sways so gently, the crack returns What's your advice?

Sep. 14 2011 12:50 PM
Janice from Hoboken, NJ

I own an ancient row house with a flat roof. The roof survived Hurricane Irene with minor leaks, but I suspect the time has come for a completely new roof and roof hatch (to access the roof from inside the house). The existing roof, which dates back to the nineties, is rubber. Any advice about current roofing materials? Anything else to be aware of when getting the job done?


Sep. 14 2011 12:50 PM
Tony from Canarsie

I try to live by the venerable motto "don't feed the trolls," but what's with this Pastor Kelly guy?

Sep. 14 2011 12:41 PM
Augustus from Brooklyn

We need to encapsulate some floor tiles in our cellar that contain asbestos. I remember the Gurus saying that they loved self-leveling flooring before - can they comment on the appropriateness of this type of material for containing the tile? The tile is laid on concrete and is quite cracked and broken in places.

Sep. 14 2011 12:04 PM

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