The Gurus of How-to Prepare on Winter Home Repair

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, are here to offer advice on home repair matters, from leaves in your gutter to ice on your stoop steps to furnaces on the fritz.

Call 212-433-9692 with your questions or leave a comment below.


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [23]

Gail from Brooklyn

I have a dilemma on a project that the plumber has not been able to resolve. The project is a Kitchen renovation in a small 9th floor apartment in a pre-war building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The Kitchen sink was a direct replacement so the pipes (vent, risers, and their connections) within the wall were not touched. Only the plumbing pipes below the sink are new.

Before construction, the Kitchen sink functioned normally. Ever since construction, the sink makes a loud gurgling sound at random times. We were told to fill the sink and let it drain in the hopes that this would help. Oddly enough, the water forms a very powerful whirlpool and there is a loud screeching sound when the water empties. It seems there is a strong suction drawing the water out. There is no sewer gas smell. We asked the plumber to snake the line to make sure there is no blockage. He snaked down to 30 feet. This did not solve the problem. We were told the gurgling might indicate there is a connection problem with the vent riser but those were never touched during the construction.

Any suggestions? Thank you.

Dec. 14 2011 01:54 PM
Eliza from Brooklyn

I live in an attached brick house from the late 1800s and want to add insulation. We have original plaster walls that I'd like to keep. Is there a way to use spray insulation or so we need to remove the existing walls?
Do you recommend any particular kind of insulation?

Thank you!

Dec. 14 2011 01:54 PM
John Backe from Bronx NY

There is a proposal to place a new tile floor on top of the existing tile floor in our church basement. Is this a good idea?

Rev. John Backe

Dec. 14 2011 01:53 PM
Sophia from san francisco

can you tell that mold is an issue in a building by looking at the outside of the building? cracking/chipping paint, ect...?

Dec. 14 2011 01:53 PM
Carol from Passaic from Passaic, NJ

We just had an energy audit of our home that was built in 1924. We just moved in and we're cold! The company did extensive testing and estimate that we need to spend around $10,000 to air seal and insulate. $5,000 of that , they say, we could get back from the state of New Jersey. Are these energy audits legit or just a way to make money. (The audit itself was only $150.)

Dec. 14 2011 01:48 PM
Beth from Brooklyn

The paint on our ceiling is peeling throughout our apartment. Underneath the peeling paint is plaster that looks to be cracked. What is the cause of and fix for this? It's in all of our rooms except the kitchen and bath. And it's getting worse. Thank you!

Dec. 14 2011 01:47 PM
Chris from Cranford, NJ

I've got an issue with water seepage through a water main pipe in the basement foundation, which comes in from the street. Every large storm leads to water in this area of the basement.
A contractor has suggested injection of epoxy into the foundation at the area of the pipe to solve this problem. Will this work? (I've tried hydraulic cement myself which only works temporarilly...)

Dec. 14 2011 01:46 PM
Wally from NYC

I have a small house on a slab. It will be empty for a year or more. I have turned off water but not electricity. What else should I do?

Dec. 14 2011 01:45 PM
helen from manhattan

its a render!!

Dec. 14 2011 01:44 PM
john from toronto

isometric perspective?

Dec. 14 2011 01:42 PM
Chris from New Jersey

I live in a rental apartment in a huge complex (built in the 1980s). For the past week, whenever I turn on the heat the circuit breaker trips, sometimes the main breaker, sometimes just the individual HVAC breaker. This happens even when nothing else in the apartment is on. I have electric HVAC wall units (circa 1990?) and each unit is on its own breaker. Our neighbors don't have this problem at all. I've lived here since February and didn't have any problems last winter or all summer. What could it be? I'm hoping its the breakers.

Dec. 14 2011 01:42 PM
phoebe from Bushwick

I have a small boiler in my apartment that I use to heat my apartment. It is more efficient to turn the boiler all the way on for a brief period of time and then turn it off or to leave it on all the time at the lowest setting where the radiators never really get hot?

Dec. 14 2011 01:41 PM
mickey from harlem

I am a renter.
I have noticed at night when the heat is not on, I don't have hot water. It's luke warm at best. Not warm enough to shower in.
We have the old fashioned radiators.
Unless it is under 55 outside at night, the heat is not on.
Is the hot water heater related to the heat boiler?
Or is my landlord just being chintzy?
I have called the city but they don't have a way to inspect at night.

Dec. 14 2011 01:40 PM
Michelle from Westfield NJ

We recently bought a home from smokers-the grout in the bathroom is reeeeaaally gross, tobacco colored and dirty- a stark contrast to the white tiles. Any suggestion on how to clean the grout? Can professional cleaners help, or do I need to have all the tile ripped out and re-done?
Thanks for any advice! :)

Dec. 14 2011 01:37 PM
Ruth from Manhattan

This isn't about the cold, it's about chicken soup.

I'm in an old building and the smell of my neighbor's soup cooking is in my apt. 24/7. Yes, maybe they are crazy, but what would be the strategy for sealing up the floor?

Dec. 14 2011 01:34 PM
marcie from new york

1920's era, 16 story upper west side apartment building. open fire stairs. no emergency lighting. we are told that emergency lighting is not required, that exemption is 'grandfathered' in. is the landlord required to install emergency lighting?

Dec. 14 2011 01:34 PM
Joe from Port Washington

I'm all for fire safety, but Christmas lasts until Jan 6 (or even later according to the modern liturgical calendar) so it is premature to get rid of the tree on Jan 1. Rather people should resist the urge to buy their trees so early.

Dec. 14 2011 01:34 PM
Shane from Brooklyn

Lead Paint:

My wife and I are concerned about lead paint and our future baby. First, are the home tests you can buy at the hardware store to be trusted? And, if any testing finds lead, what is the safest way to go about ensuring it doesn't affect our child as I've heard that abatement involving sanding can actually spread lead all over the place; we've also heard it can be sealed by other paint but can it to degree that it would be safe for a baby?


Dec. 14 2011 01:33 PM
Ben J from Long Island

Is the answer to the question Exploding?

Dec. 14 2011 01:31 PM
Andy from NC

A question of efficiency: what is a safe tempature to set the thermostat to when you know you are going to be away from your house for a weekend to use the least amount of energy without risking frozen pipes?

Dec. 14 2011 01:29 PM
katie from Queens

Hi -- I rent an apartment and some contractors came to replace some window frames. They seem to have put a bunch of plaster in the bathroom sink throughout the course of their repairs, and now the sink won't drain. What's the best way to unclog the drain? My landlords are old and crazy, so if there's something I can do myself to fix it, that would be best. Thanks!

Dec. 14 2011 01:28 PM
Don M from Poughkeepsie

I'd like to insulate my basement. But I'm concerned that the insulation will help to trap moisture in an already moist basement. The basement is brick above grade and stone below grade. Is there a method of insulation that will help me prevent moisture and mold buildup but make my basement retain more of the heat from the furnace which sits there?

Dec. 14 2011 01:26 PM
robert from Staten Island #1

A roofer has suggested removing the shingles and nailing new plywood over the old 3/8ths wood. The original wood is 40 yrs old with some leaks and some seperation of the plywood. Should I do this or spend more and rip it all off?

Dec. 14 2011 09:58 AM

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