Gurus of How-To Fix Your Home

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Housing Stock (Nadege Nau/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 winter home repair and more.

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


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [20]


@Jeff from Brooklyn
Of course I consider breathing clean air valuable -- for everyone! Just wondering if cleaning air ducts would be "doing too much" since I have honestly never met a soul who has done the service before.

Feb. 13 2013 04:45 PM
Jeff from Brooklyn

@Donna from New Jersey:

"My son suffers from allergies. I've heard it is recommended to clean the air ducts in the home to help purify the air. Wondering whether it's worth the hassle and expense to do this?"

How much is your son's (and your) health and breathing and living in clean air worth to you?

Feb. 13 2013 04:08 PM
Peter E. Engler from Berkeley Hts. NJ

I recently had all the drain pipes in the basement replaced to correct poor drainage from bathtub, sink and toilet in the first floor bathroom.

The sink and bathtub now drain well, but the toilet still does not flush properly. The plumber says that a "trap" in the toilet is defective and the toilet needs to be replaced.

Can you confirm that diagnosis?

Much appreciated,

Peter E.

Feb. 13 2013 02:11 PM
Drew from Brooklyn

I just did mold remediation on my girlfriends bathroom. The ceiling fan died (luckily) so I replaced that & found that the fan was just venting into the cavity. The mold was growing down 18" from the ceiling. I sprayed the mold & it disappeared & then I primed over it with kilz & then 2 coats of semigloss paint. I also installed a vent hose to the fan to vent the exhaust out of the space.
It should keep for a few years now.
Kilz is an oil primer, not a metal paint. I use to use when I fixed fire damaged apartments & houses. Stinky but effective.

Feb. 13 2013 01:59 PM
Michael from SI

My electrician wants to run bx next to main stack up to 2nd fl2nd. Should electric run with plumbing

Feb. 13 2013 01:57 PM
Rebecca from Manhattan

Why do I sometimes have brown water coming out of my kitchen faucet and one bathroom tub from time to time in our prewar building. Sometimes I can fill a glass and it will be full of dirt. But this only happens occasionally but it lasts for a week or two.

Feb. 13 2013 01:46 PM

If the toilet seems to burp from somewhere down in the basement, or further along the sewer line inside the houw, does that mean there's a build-up issue?

Thanks for coming back to this topic, if possible.

I've been trying to flush more often to get whatever might be stuck moving through. Will that work?

Also, I nicknamed my remodelers The Bozo Brothers, as time has revealed they made many shortcuts, which the inspections did not catch. The one I knew about was that they cut off the plug and shortened the electric cord for the microwave to hardwire it instead of using a plug outlet.

They told me it was safer...but when the microwave failed it's become a rather nasty problem for me.

It turned out they did not level the floor in the refrigeragor niche (pronounced to rhyme with "itch," not the new fangled French language pronounciation), and now I cannot get my new frig into the recess until I get the floor leveled.

Bad Bozo Brothers, very bad of them.

Feb. 13 2013 01:46 PM
Donna from New Jersey

My son suffers from allergies. I've heard it is recommended to clean the air ducts in the home to help purify the air. Wondering whether it's worth the hassle and expense to do this?

Feb. 13 2013 01:43 PM
John from Fanwood

I'm redecorating my living room and plan to install foam crown molding. I saw the installation on This Old House and it looks easy. Have you had any experience with this stuff, and do you have ant installation hints? I have a power miter saw and other power tools.

Feb. 13 2013 01:41 PM
Jeff from Brooklyn

***Mysterious Sewer Gas Odor in Bathroom**

I live on the fifth floor in a six-story building. Several years ago, I started noticing an intermittent sewer gas type of odor in my bathroom. I would smell it in the area of the toilet and sink (adjacent to each other) but could not quite pinpoint just where the odor was coming from. Then, one day, I caught a whiff of it coming unmistakably from the pole just outside the bathtub that opens and closes the bathtub drain.

But after a while, I could no longer smell the odor from the tub-pole and the apparent source, for some time now, seems to be the _sink_ drain.

The sink does have a "P-trap" pipe underneath.

When I fill the sink with water, it bubbles loudly at first upon being emptied.

Any ideas?

I really enjoy when you guys are on the show.

Feb. 13 2013 01:39 PM
Sharon from Colts Neck, NJ

Is a 'house-level' surge protector available for installation that would sense a surge if it reached a certain level and turn off the electrical service before the surge was large enough to "fry" major appliances or computers?

We have lost an air conditioner and the computer board in our high efficiency furnace. The replacements were expensive so am looking for a solution to prevent this in the future.

Feb. 13 2013 01:39 PM
suzy kunz

I think the architect Trajan also did this work, no?

Feb. 13 2013 01:36 PM
Shelley from Wisconsin

RE: the Ubell answer to the question: Pliny the Elder.

Feb. 13 2013 01:34 PM
Jimmy from West chester

Vitruvius and Alberti both wrote Ten Books of Architecture

Feb. 13 2013 01:33 PM
Joyce from NYC

How can I safely install a ventless washer/dryer in an apt? My question refers to plumbing specifically - can I drain into the toilet drain which is a 4" waste line instead of the others that are only 2"?

Feb. 13 2013 01:33 PM
Frank from Lindenhurst

Sandy flooded the crawlspace under my house. Thus far, I've had it cleaned out and mildew-proofed at a cost of $2100. They tore out fiberglass insulation from under the floor. What do I do next? Are there crawlspace specialists that will not try to sell me a costly lining, an improvement which flood insurance will not cover? It seems like there are a number of vulnerabilities down there as a result of the flood that require different tradesmen, electricians, carpenters, etc. Insurance did not cover a general contractor.

Feb. 13 2013 01:33 PM
Derek from Oyster bay

I have moisture on/in the storm windows in my bedroom.Q; How can I get rid of it? Thank you.

Feb. 13 2013 01:31 PM
Daniel from Hackensack, NJ

My building is about 100 years old. I have been having issues with the plumbing/draining in the tub and the kitchen sink. I recently had a plumber help me unclog the tub and it seemed it was really just hair. What can I do to make sure clog does not happen? Any regular maintenance I should do ?

Feb. 13 2013 01:31 PM
Sarah from Brooklyn

I rent an apartment in a Brooklyn building. A couple months ago, the pipes in the wall of the bathroom started knocking. This was after the heat had been on for a while, and also after I heard work being done on a floor below. It sounds like someone is hammering on metal inside my apartment and it happens at all hours. I read that this is likely caused by a bracket coming loose and not the expansion of the pipes when the hot water comes through. (I'm on the top floor and I have to let the hot water run a full five minutes to get hot water in the winter, and the pipes don't knock when I do that.)

Is there anything I can do to get mgmt to fix this? Are there any NYC laws about this kind of noise in rental units? My Super is not very responsive.

Thanks for your advice.

Feb. 13 2013 01:31 PM
Stuart from manhattan and seaside park

We live and work in Manhattan, but own a weekend home in Seaside Park NJ which we usually use year-round. We were very lucky and had practically no damage from Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy, but decided to winterize our home rather than juggle appointments to restore the water and gas service. We turned off the water under the house, drained what we could from the baseboard heating units and the hot water heater, and put stuff in the sinks, toilets, and bathtubs to prevent freezing. We hope to be up and running again by the end of March. I'd apprecaite any tips or pointers about how to proceed and what to look out for. Thanks so much.

Feb. 13 2013 12:18 PM

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