The Gurus of How-To on the Nuts and Bolts of Home Maintenance

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, are here to offer advice on home repair matters, from grout to caulk to shingles and sidewalks.

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


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [29]

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Jan. 17 2013 08:40 AM
larry from bayside

re gas conversion--the city is not giving incentives to switch to gas--they are finally taking on the 9000 buildings in nyc that are burning #sid bunker fuel--which is the residual tar left over from the distillation of crude oil when they crack oil at the refinary. They 9000 boilers are responsibile for over 3/4s of the particulate pollution in the city. Boiare required to convert to either #2 oil or gas by 2015. I hope the real estate lobby doesn't delay or lobby the new mayor to delay or stop this.

also inspite of rising demand world wide, natural gas is about one fourth the was twenty years ago. Hydrofracking is a very dangerous process--injecting millions of gallons of water polluted with distillates and diesl fuel and sand will poulte the aquifers and the hollowing out process seems to creat geological disturbences(earth quakes).

It is the environmentalists delemia--methane is so much cleaner than oil but the harvest process is destuctive. What to do? Larry

Feb. 10 2012 05:39 PM
lyn from manhattan

I live in a hi-rise bldg. and smell cigarette smoke coming thru the walls. I have written many letters to mgt. and they ignore them, refuse to acknowledge the problem. Get all the symptoms of being around cigarettes and it's making me sick (frequently). Especially because of working at home and/or needing to be plugged in to outlets. Sealing outlets does nothing (foam, plastic covers, etc). What's wrong with the bldg (smokestack effect?), how can it be fixed? how can I get it improved besides air purifiers in every room? Please help thanks!

Feb. 09 2012 11:31 AM
Bob from p

Re the caller's question on replacing his co-op's boiler -- in the late 1980s our 10 unit co-op in Brooklyn Heights took advantage of a Brooklyn Union program to put in a seasonal "off-peak" water heater, with a very favorable rate from April through October and gas shut off during the other months (during which we used the existing oil boiler for both heat and hot water). Actually paid for itself (about $8,700)in first year because of greater efficiency and lower cost of gas.

Feb. 08 2012 02:01 PM
Aeriadne from New York

Regarding the possible mercury mirror, please don't throw it out into the regular trash if it will indeed be disposed of - please take it to an organization or recycling facility that can properly dispose of mercury, as it is incredibly toxic for the environment and wildlife.

Feb. 08 2012 02:01 PM
Aeriadne from New York

Regarding the possible mercury mirror, please don't throw it out into the regular trash if it will indeed be disposed of - please take it to an organization or recycling facility that can properly dispose of mercury, as it is incredibly toxic for the environment and wildlife.

Feb. 08 2012 02:00 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

btw, ALL taxpayers are paying for this new infrastructure "improvement" in nyc--but only a few (co-op) owners, will benefit. natural gas is subject to the worldwide marketplace, not domestic production of gas. now that northern europe is looking to un-tether themselves from russia and the ukraine (who've turned off the gas spigot on more than one cold occasion), they're looking for the u.s. to solve their capacity and price issues. net: don't count on "natural" gas prices to go down, since worldwide demand is going up--it follows oil pricing in practically a lockstep.

Feb. 08 2012 01:57 PM
grace from UWS

When considering converting to gas, you have to bear in mind that Con Ed is unable just now to keep up with the demand for building out its infrastructure to provide gas on the scale required for heating a building as opposed to just for cooking.

Also, Con Ed's price for building out the infrastructure might be vastly higher if you're going for so-called "interruptible" as opposed to "firm" pricing. So even if you're technologically equipped for dual fuel, you may have to go with "firm" pricing of gas, at least for a couple of years, in order to be able to afford the infrastructure improvement.

Feb. 08 2012 01:57 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

isn't it amazing that the city is incentivizing co-ops like this caller to convert to "natural" gas, thus increasing the demand for natural gas here in new york state, and the (rather false) belief that we "need" to frack for it here--regardless of the fact that doing so would not afford us "cheaper/domestic" "natural" gas?

Feb. 08 2012 01:52 PM
vick from long island

how do i put in invertor for power outages and what size would i need for a 3000 sqft home

who makes it and cost ?

Feb. 08 2012 01:51 PM
Bonn from East Village

A few years ago, I told my super I had mold around my bathtub. He looked at it and said, "It's not mold, it's mildew." Well, I checked, it's the same thing. So after many months of nagging, I finally got the landlord to agree to having it remediated. However, the super used his low-paying worker to "get rid" of it. Of course, I see it lurking behind the grout and coming out again. I also have black mold around the kitchen sink. The super's advice: Don't get it wet. Duh. It's a sink. How can I get this done properly? Do I need to find an environmental specialist and pay for this myself? How can I convince them to hire a specialist? Thanks.

Feb. 08 2012 01:50 PM
vick from nyc

can yo talk about Formby's® Tung Oil Finish vs. lemon oil

Feb. 08 2012 01:48 PM

Waaaay too over the top today guys!!! If I want that kind of ridiculousness I can listen to FOX! Or Click and Clack. It may be funny to you but it was pretty obnoxious.
Long time listener...big fan!

Feb. 08 2012 01:48 PM
steve from queens NY

I have steam heat with iron radiators in 2 story house and I have a problem with pipe knocking when the heat starts up in 1 location. That location is 1 pipe going up to my 2nd floor bathroom. If I take off the check valve steam & water come out of the radiator. I have drained it and pitch it so the converted steam will drain back into the boiler. I know it’s caused by water in the pipe. How can I fix this knocking problem

Feb. 08 2012 01:47 PM
EL5 from Brooklyn - Windsor Terrace

How do you get the heat up?
The 1st floor of this 105+- yr old Brick house heats up VERY well the 2nd floor not so well
It's a hot water boiler system running on natural gas, there are 2 'red circulator pumps' in the boiler room.
The radiator valves don't seem to do anything.

Feb. 08 2012 01:45 PM
Howard from Bronx

Are there thermostatic on/off valves for hot water systems. We are on the first floor of a 15 story building and we are usually at 85 degrees for most of the year.

Feb. 08 2012 01:41 PM
Elias from Queens

In terms of steam boilers, if the "near-boiler piping" is done incorrectly (very often this is the case), you may be getting "wet steam". It may be impossible to correct the spitting vents without a properly piped steam system. I would highly, highly recommend the books by Dan Holohan. The man's a genius of steam.

Feb. 08 2012 01:40 PM
Lisa from NYC

More heating questions....I live in a small 2 family house. The large heating pipe that runs up through the floors is making that horrible banging. It's not coming from the little radiators as most people speak of but rather that huge vertical pipe. I understand there may be water in there - how is this resolved?

Feb. 08 2012 01:39 PM
Jane from NY

Wait a minute, a spitting radiator is bad?!? :-/ mine always spits.

Feb. 08 2012 01:38 PM
Matt from manhattan

Do you two ever agree on anything?

Feb. 08 2012 01:31 PM
Chris from hightstown NJ

Quiz question answer: Electroluninescence (light emmitting material -in one word- in safety strips

Feb. 08 2012 01:30 PM
Paul from Brooklyn, NY

I live on the 1st floor of a 16-unit co-op with steam heat. My apartment is closest to the boiler, and the radiator first on the line is constantly spitting some water, to the point that I keep a tray to catch the runoff. The (part-time) super claimed the radiator needed emptying and did so, as well as changed the air valve. Subsequently, the problem got WORSE! I understand the balance of a steam system is a bit tricky. Any thoughts on how this could be solved? Thanks!

Feb. 08 2012 01:29 PM
Edward from NJ

The air vent on my steam radiator is stuck open. I tried cleaning it with vinegar but it's still stuck, and it hisses and spits the whole time the steam is on. I purchased a new valve with a 1/8 inch connector, and it doesn't seem to fit. Do older radiators use an odd size connection or might there be some sort of build up fouling the threads?

Feb. 08 2012 01:27 PM
Matthew from Brooklyn

Speaking of stalactites, I figured out why they grow in the subway:

Feb. 08 2012 01:27 PM
Tom from ALbany, NY

Hey guys - great stuff but fyi, the mold on the bottom of the plywood is NOT due to energy efficiency, it is due to moist air leaking into the attic from the house. The fix is to seal the attic floor from the house. Ventilating just increases the pressure force driving the air into the attic in the first place.

Feb. 08 2012 01:24 PM
Jake from Bushwick Brooklyn

I have a question about my bathtub. I rent a loft in Bushwick, so nothing fancy. But my bathtub (which we only use to shower) gets ridiculously dirty. Partially, I think that it is not at the proper tilt to drain (maybe?)...but also, is it possible that there is some kind of coating that needs to be redone. When we came in there were are a lot deep scratches in the tub. Anyway, regardless of how well it's draining, it gets mucky fast. I have read that maybe we need to re-glaze it...but I don't quite understand the process and it seems like it's too much for me to do, and might even displace us a for some time. Can you shed any light on this?

Feb. 08 2012 01:23 PM
Rachel from NYC

My shower won't drain normally. It drains eventually but the water fills up while showering. I tried snaking it from the drain and the hole above the drain on the tub wall. Nothing comes out. The snake doesn't seem to go down into the drain but goes up into the top hole. I tried Draino but that doesn't help either. I tried plunging it, nothing comes out either. I imagine hair and shower products are causing a clog but I don't know how to break it up. Also, the water doesn't come up into the sink so I know it's not a clog further down in the pipe. Thanks!

Feb. 08 2012 12:07 PM
Ron Singer from Manhattan

We recently bought four new wooden, double-paned lower windows, each 48" by 48", for our apartment in a 100 year-old building.These are much heavier than the rotting single-pane windows they replaced, so the old chains and counterweights won't open or close them.(I think they broke when we tried.) We're told we have two options: we can either get new, more robust chains and counterweights, but these are hard to find and would require a lot of labor to install; or we can get hydraulic devices for each window, which are expensive to buy (and we don't want ugly devices next to our new, beautiful windows). Please advise.

Feb. 08 2012 11:46 AM
Steve Goldberg from North Brunswick, NJ

My house was built in 1987 and I still have the original wood vertical siding. During Hurricane Irene's wind & rain storms, I had water coming down the inside of one my walls (an outside wall). After having two contractors diagnose my problem, it was determined that there are smalls gaps in between the vertical siding slats, where during extreme wind & rain storms, water can make its way into and down the wall. Aside from replacing all the siding (which is of course what the contractors wanted to do), is there any other way that this can be sealed? Thanks!

Feb. 08 2012 11:04 AM

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