The Gurus of How-To Winterize

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A single shoveler pits himself against the snow Thursday morning January 27, 2011 (Amy Pearl/WNYC)

The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, answer questions and share their advice on how to repair and maintenance. They’ll tackle preparing for the winter—from freezing pipes to ice dams to heaters and furnaces.

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


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [13]

Stephen from Brooklyn NY

My 3 story brick-filled-frame townhouse has a vented plenum between the roof rafters and ceiling. It's insulated above the ceiling, and the roof itself is not insulated. The skylight that may once have provided ventilation for this space is no longer operable, nor are there eave vents.

If I take out my bedroom ceiling on the top floor, can I insulate between the roof rafters and put a new ceiling right up against the rafters? Do I need to use foam vents, or can I completely fill the void with R30 insulation?

Dec. 12 2012 01:45 PM
Bob from Pelham, NY

Following up the caller question about power back-up for a hot-water heating system, would a power inverter run off a car engine be a better solution than the battery backup?

Dec. 12 2012 01:43 PM
William Bugenis from Gravesend, Brooklyn

Is it possible to pump out a flooded basement too quickly so that the walls collapse from flood water pressure ourside the walls?

Dec. 12 2012 01:37 PM
Molly from Brooklyn

I have a down draft coming down the chimney in my apartment that consistently blows out the pilot light on my water heater. I have to relight it every day. I have been told that I have a negative pressure problem in my apartment because the heater will only light if I open a door in the apartment (which is the worst in the winter time when it's cold). How can I fix this problem?

Dec. 12 2012 01:36 PM
Geoff from West Orange

The answer to the quiz is "handscrew clamp"

Dec. 12 2012 01:36 PM
Zack Bennett from NYC

My toilet is leaking from the connection of the tank to the seat. There are two screws that hold it with some rubber washers and one large rubber gasket. I replaced them all but now 2 weeks later it started leaking again. Worse. Can I use some sealants or something?

Dec. 12 2012 01:35 PM
Henry E from Elizabeth, NJ

I have central heat in my appartment; where the landlord eliminated a window and put the system on.
When i get home -no matter the season-, there is a smell in the entrance; right after i opened the door.
I called PS&G and they couldn't find any leaks. Any thoughts?

Dec. 12 2012 01:34 PM
Sharon Lees from Colts Nect, NJ

A lot of my friend had appliances - furnaces, hot water heaters - that were fried by power surges on the power lines as a result of Sandy. We had a surge protector installed on our entire electrical service 20 years ago, but our furnace computer board was fried probably by a power surge as the unit is only 2 years old.

Are there smart surge protectors available for your electrical system that could detect a 10% increase on the line and shut everything off so that there would be no damage? We lost a 4 year old air conditioner 20 years ago that prompted our first surge protector.

Dec. 12 2012 01:32 PM
Eliot from Brooklyn

I live in a brownstone and Brooklyn that has pocket doors to the hallway the ground floor and the parlor level. During the winter, you can feel the breeze coming through the pocket closest to the front facade. How can we insulate there without ripping out the wall?

Dec. 12 2012 01:28 PM
Lou from Brooklyn from Brooklyn

We're planning a 1st floor kitchen / bath gut renovation, in a brownstone.
Could you talk about these 2 extra's Fireplace & heated floor.
Now the chimney is in the center of the house. We'd like to have a working wood burning fireplace. The 'fireplace there is very shallow, (with a nice mantle) I've been told it was a coal fireplace -chimney. does that sound correct?
Can this be converted to a wood burning one? easily -w/out too much extra expense?
About a 'heated kitchen/bathroom floor, it's currently a wood (oak?) floor.
Could you talk about this / the feasibility of this & the cost.

Dec. 12 2012 01:23 PM
Laura from UWS

Smoke Alarm/Carbon Monoxide Alarm Placement? Most people in my building don't keep the detector on the ceiling because it's too high to reach. Please suggest alternate locations where alarm will still detect smoke and carbon monoxide but also be within easy reach to turn off (when cooking smoke causes alarm to go off despite no danger) and to change the battery when it is chirping.

I read a news item once that a smoke detector saved a family from a fire when it hadn't even been put up yet--it was sitting on the floor or on a table.

Thanks--You are all a priceless resource and source of much joy.

Dec. 12 2012 01:03 PM
Joe from Brooklyn

What do you think about interior storm windows? We have double-paned windows with hollow metal frames. They aren't drafty but the metal conducts so much heat. My wife got an estimate to replace all the windows but it was pretty steep. I read about interior storm windows & they look like they could be a cost-effective option. Am I being too optimistic? Thanks.

Dec. 12 2012 01:02 PM
Kevin from NJ

My old furnace has been replaced by a new high efficiency furnace which has a new combustion gas exhaust pvc pipe. The old furnace exhaust route through the chimney is now used only by a 50 gallon gas water heater. Where can I find a guide to determine whether and if so by what amount the old chimney liner must now be reduced in size?

Dec. 12 2012 12:42 PM

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