The Gurus of How-To Embrace Spring

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring in New York Spring in New York (hajime7/flickr)

The Gurus of How-To, Al Ubell and Larry Ubell, answer questions and give advice on how to repair and maintain your home or apartment.

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


Al Ubell and Larry Ubell

Comments [20]

Andrew Richter from Northern Westchester

We have a house built in the 1920s of stone and timber. The timber siding has become quite dry. I have heard that "Australian Timber Oil" (which I believe is a blend of linseed and tung oils) is very good for this purpose. Do you agree? Are there better treatments? Thanks for your help.

Apr. 27 2013 10:41 AM
Arianna from Brooklyn

Hey Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn,
I've never heard of a rat snake! DO you mean a real snake? Or it's a device called a "rat snake". Where do you get?

Apr. 11 2013 12:14 PM
Lee from Manhattan

I'm trying to remove old epoxy glaze from terracotta tiles (with little success). I don't want to sand because I'd like to preserve the natural texture of the tile, which is a bit rough. Is there a way to remove epoxy glaze without resorting to sanding or harsh chemicals?


Apr. 10 2013 01:56 PM
Morgan from Brooklyn, NY

Arianna - We have an ongoing mouse problem and an 18 year old cat who is not up to the task. Get a Rat Zapper - also called a Raticator, I think. It operates on a regular battery and electrocutes the mouse when it steps on two plates inside, completing the circuit. Put in a little dry cat food or crackers etc. A light on top flashes when the circuit has been tripped. You just tilt it to empty it into the trash (you don't have to touch the mouse), reload with food, reset it & wait. Easy peasy.

Apr. 10 2013 01:53 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Rodent Issues:

1. Cats: both prevent and solve rodent issues. Believe it or not, many shops in New York City have cats as "mousers."

2. About 6' of rat snake. They can get in the walls and other places that even cats can't go and they actively seek out rodents as meals, as opposed to cats, which will deal with the problem by playing with the rodents they catch.

Apr. 10 2013 01:49 PM
Tom from Nyack

"Water vapor" is the name for water in its gaseous form. If you can see it, it has condensed and is liquid water. Since what's inside the bubbles is invisible, it has evaporated, and is water vapor. So the caller was correct. Larry, not so much...

Apr. 10 2013 01:47 PM
Carol from Bronx, NY

The window sills in my apartment are there anyway to repair without scrapping??

Apr. 10 2013 01:47 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Arianna - I had the same thing. The high-frequency devices didn't really "keep them away" when a neighbor was taking the next-door brownstone down to the studs. They have to be warned away by being done away with (was looking for less awkward language--it all sounds bad). We had an exterminator who did the sticky sheets, all sorts of things.

Here's what worked: all holes into the house/apartment (radiator pipe holes, crevices in wood floors, baseboard gaps) have to be filled with common steel wool. Then set out old-fashioned snap traps, using peanut butter as the enticement. Obviously, if you have dogs or cats, you have to be careful about placement, but positioning these near points of entry (look for droppings) does the job. You might also consider flexible trim for the bottoms of exterior doors that block those openings.

Good luck!

Apr. 10 2013 01:45 PM
erik from Bloomfield, NJ

My blacktop driveway was well sealed when installed 4 years ago with hot liquid asphalt. It has shrunk away from the foundation (brick) about 1/8 inch at this point, too wide to fill in with cold liquid paint-on blacktop sealer that is sold in home improvement stores. The heat variation is considerable, as the asphalt is in direct light of the sun.

Should I try to get some sort of silicone product, applied from a tube? If not, what technique will seal against water longest and allow reapplication in coming years?


Apr. 10 2013 01:41 PM
Sharon from Bergenfield, NJ

We have a working fire place in our home which we do not use. We get calls from Chimney Clean Companies every spring to clean out the chimney. Do we need to clean it out even if it is never used? Can you recommend a reliable Chimney Company?

Apr. 10 2013 01:40 PM
mike resnick

I'm planning to paint the outside of my house. I live in Rockland County. If I'm in the middle of the painting, will the forthcoming cicada eruption affect this?

Apr. 10 2013 01:39 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

To the moth sufferer: each and every garment must be washed and dry or dry-cleaned before puting them away for the season--and they need to be put away immediately following cleaning. Moths are drawn to the oils and skin cells we leave within clothing.

Plastic boxes or bags are usually quite bad for storing the cleaned garments--they create environments that encourage larval growth. If you are going to store these garments yourself, using wood closets/trunks or canvas-covered boxes, where some air can reach the garments, is best.

But really, most dry cleaners will offer free seasonal storage of woolens if you clean the garments with them. The ones that send them to refrigerated locations are best.

Apr. 10 2013 01:39 PM
Laura from Brooklyn, NY

Hi! I have a drainpipe leading down from the gutters at the roof-level, but instead of plugging into a drain that leads underground, it just pipes the water into my backyard... the seller who renovated our building (and sold it to us) did it this way, on the cheap, we suspect. Is it better to pay to have this drainpipe plugged into the underground sewer (I assume) drainage system, or is adding a rain barrel and collecting the water to use in the garden a viable solution? Or will that standing water just attract mosquitos?

Second or Alternative Question: Is black locust lumber for an outdoor deck really the most awesome material to use, as it's anti-fungal, anti-termite...? Or are there other non-toxic woods that are equally good or better to use?


Apr. 10 2013 01:39 PM
molly from new york city

how do you soundproof a wall ?

Apr. 10 2013 01:35 PM
Michele from Queens

I have to replace the windows in my small house and am paralyzed by the choices out there! Could you give us a primer on windows? Differences between vinyl and wood - which is better, types of glass, how to choose an installer (small or big box store). Also, my home is quite modest. I like wood windows but I don't think I'd ever make back that investment. Should I get vinyl? Is there good vinyl? To do a quality job must one buy wood windows?

Apr. 10 2013 01:33 PM
Arianna from Brooklyn

Hey guys- a question that has faced every New Yorker:: I have a mouse or mice that have arrived at my apt. In other words theyre new. A construction crew is tearing out the insides of the building next door and i think thats why they are fleeing to my apt. What really works on mice? And where do you buy it? Do i need to go to a professional exterminator or is there something I can buy online or from a supply store that will do the trick? And whats the final word on those frequency devices that only mice can hear that are supposed to keep them away...those dont work right?

Apr. 10 2013 01:33 PM
Chris from Staten Island

My mom is renovating her bathroom right now, and her contractor rerouted some of her electricity around her home's chimney. I'm very concerned about it, because they placed a piece of insulation on the chimney, and ran the electricity over the insulation. This seems dangerous to me, given that all of the heat from the chimney will come into direct contact with the insulation. Aren't there better ways to re-route electricity around a chimney?

Apr. 10 2013 01:32 PM
Paul from Hoboken

The past two year I've been getting bombarded with smaller moths that have eaten my wool sweaters.
I've tried to put moth balls all over the place this year. Will this do anything as we hit the warmer weather ?
Will the moth ball smell kill me before it kills the moths?

Apr. 10 2013 01:26 PM
Barry from Edison, NJ

Love your show!

Will leaving an unoccupied NJ apartment without any AC over the summer lead damage from much heat or humidity?
How much humidity is too much?

Apr. 10 2013 01:20 PM
Brian from Jackson Heights

Hi Guys! Regarding bathtub and tile reglazing:
When I purchased a pre-war co-op in 2009, the bathtub had recently been reglazed. When the caulk between the tub and the wall tile started to mildew after a couple years, I decided to recaulk the area. Of course I promptly ruined the edges of the glaze when scraping out the old caulk.
Was this just a poor reglazing job, and should I have it reglazed again? If so, is it possible to reglaze the tub and the surrounding tile so that caulk isn't even needed? Or perhaps it's best to just replace the tub entirely?

Apr. 10 2013 12:06 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.