Photo credit: @julesdwit.
A not-for-profit media organization supported by people like you.
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!
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
"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...
The window sills in my apartment are chipping..is there anyway to repair without scrapping??
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
how do you soundproof a wall ?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
Email addresses are required but never displayed.
Leonard Lopate hosts the conversation New Yorkers turn to each afternoon for insight into contemporary art, theater, and literature, plus expert tips about the ever-important lunchtime topic: food.
Leonard Lopate Weekend: Joseph Stiglitz, Nick Kroll on "Adult Beginners" & "Wolf Hall"
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio
stations, broadcasting the finest programs from NPR, PRI and American Public Media, as well as a wide range of award-winning local
programming. WNYC is a division of
New York Public Radio.