The Gurus of How-To

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The gurus of how-to, Al and Larry Ubell, answer your home-repair questions. Leave a comment or call us at 212-433-WNYC.

Comments [24]

tana kamine from montclair, new jersey

I have a lamp fixture that says to use 60 watt maximum bulbs. Can I use a higher wattage of the NEW energy efficient bulb in its place

Jan. 14 2009 02:40 PM
jerry from yorktown

Hot water comes out of the cold faucet for a couple minutes then it turns cold.

Jan. 14 2009 01:57 PM
Stephanie from Huntington, NY


I live in a two hundred year old house divided into three apartments. We have steam heat (with old fashioned iron standing radiators.) Also the windows are original and in some cases not too secure. I've lived here for five years and painted when i first moved in, but in the last year or so it looks like there's been a puff-back in here. It has become so dingy, particularly on the walls where there is a radiator. My landlord did change the heater last year,and I believe that the "damage happened prior to that.

I asked him to come have a look as I feel that painting is in order once again. He thinks that all that is required is a good cleaning with a light bleach solution. The walls are plaster and I've tried to clean them as he suggested but it doesn't really come clean (as much as smudges.)Cleaning it would seem to be a bigger job than painting. Obviously he is trying to avoid having to pay for cleaning or painting. What is this stuff and what will clean it? What is his responsibility?

Thank You,
Stephanie Cartwright

Jan. 14 2009 01:49 PM
Margarita from New York, NY

We live in a duplex apartment with 2 bathrooms. We hardly use the downstairs bathroom. Occasionally, we notice that the bathtub downstairs has a thin film of rust-colored sediment. It's as if the bathtub was filled with water and then dried up leaving the sediment. We've talked to our super about it and he thinks water goes up our pipes and spills over to the bathtub when he snakes the neighbor's bathtub. What do the gurus think?

Jan. 14 2009 01:43 PM
andrea from rockland county

Is the answer to the question - collapse.

I also have a question. A hole appeared in the ceiling above my front door (in a structure that looks like a beam). Pieces of a bee hive have started to fall into the house. My husband sprayed some kind of building foam into the hole and filled it up.

My question is how can we patch up the hole? He made a mess of it already.


Love the show!

Jan. 14 2009 01:42 PM
bob wilson from Brooklyn

I am going to have my house re-pointed and some work done on the roof. What is the best time of year to have this work done? Thanks.

Jan. 14 2009 01:42 PM
Phyllis Wrynn from Brooklyn

We hope you can help!

If the water coming out of a pressure balanced shower body is only lukewarm, even at the hottest setting, but the hot water in the sink in the same bathroom is more than adequately hot, can the shower body be adjusted or is it defective.........?

Jan. 14 2009 01:39 PM
Andy from Suffolk

Can lightning strike a TV antenna in the attic of a 2 story house? Should it be grounded? Thx

Jan. 14 2009 01:38 PM
Isabelle from Queens, New York

My roof was repaired, poorly, and water has been seeping into the house for years. Not just leaks but apparently into the walls and messing with the foundation of the house.

I've talked to people about waterproofing the outside of the house, in addition to getting the roof fixed.

Is it nec.? Also, how much is a good price for a small one floor, and basement home?

Jan. 14 2009 01:38 PM
che from brooklyn

to the gentleman writer who called in earlier
you could go to and they provide various display boards that use velcro to adhere things to there display boards. they even make displays with homasote.

Jan. 14 2009 01:37 PM
Tyler Crockett from manhattan

Is the answer 'erosion'? Now, can the gurus talk about mold? I think I have mold in my apartment. How can I determine if I do? Tests? Inspectors?

Jan. 14 2009 01:37 PM
Jeanne Markel from Katonah NY

For an extra nice surface on the homasote "bulletin" board, lightly sand the entire surface. It becomes suede like.

Jan. 14 2009 01:36 PM
Regina Shafir from Brooklyn N.Y.

We purchased a new construction condo in Brooklyn. The building is 2 years old. We started to notice small cracks running along the walls especially around where the counters the walls and baseboards meet the walls. As well as cracks in the hardwood floors. My questions is. Is this the building settling or is this shotty construction, and what should we do about it?

Jan. 14 2009 01:35 PM
Tyler from manhattan

Is the answer 'erosion'?

Now my question: I think I have mold in my apt. Can the gurus talk about how to determine whether I actually do? Are there tests I can perform? Inspectors?

Jan. 14 2009 01:35 PM
B Marx from Downtown

Cascade. .

Jan. 14 2009 01:34 PM
tate from birmingham, alabama

I have a small bathroom in which the former owner painted over wallpaper. It appears it might have painted over twice. It is obviously begining to peel and looks terrible. How do I remove this painted/wallpaper?

Jan. 14 2009 01:29 PM
dan from east village

Is it acceptable practice for me to turn off my radiator from time to time (i.e when it gets too hot) by turning the valve 180 degrees so that it points downward? A plumber told me about this trick.

Jan. 14 2009 01:29 PM
Aaron Solomon from Passaic, NJ 07055

My wife and I just moved into a new home which is approximately 80 years old and the windows are the originals.

We are considering replacing some of the windows to help bring energy costs down.

However, we don't really know if the windows are the real problem or not. How do we determine if in fact we are losing tons of energy (and money) through the windows and whether or not it makes sense to replace the windows?

Also, if windows are so expensive, how do we figure how many years it will take to recoup (in energy savings) the cost of replacing the windows?



Jan. 14 2009 01:27 PM
Renee from Connecticut

We have a walk out basement with a playroom that we use for a few hours each day. We keep the thermostate at 60 and pump it up to 66 an hour before we plan to go downstairs. We keep the upstairs living area at 67, sometimes we go to 69. Is it more economical for us to keep the downstairs at a constant temp? Would that help to keep the upstairs warmer too?

Jan. 14 2009 01:12 PM
Dr. Ilan Israeli from Jericho, New York 11753

We have some sort of a hot-cold water crossover in our upstairs 2 showers: When we open the hot water in the showers (or in the sink faucets or in the tub faucet) all is well, but after a while the water becomes cold. We have learned to use "tricks" to try and cope, i.e., close the water and start it again, or leave a hot water faucet in a sink or a tub running while we take a shower, etc. -- sometimes those work and sometimes they don't... We also replaced both our boiler and hot water tank hoping to resolve the problem -- but it stubbornly persists. Sometimes when we flush the toilet in one of the bathrooms -- hot water comes out... The water in that toilet tank are hot. We have single handle faucets in both showers and in the tub, and double handle faucets in the sinks. Our plumber tried unsuccessfully to identify the cause but could not. We truly need expert advice to make taking a shower the pleasure it used to be... Please, help...

Jan. 14 2009 01:03 PM
stuart from manhattan

Hi Guys

I live in an older rental building with steam radiatiors that give a lot of heat. Unfortunately, one of them is also leaking water, even if it's turned on a little. I'm not sure where it's coming from, since sometimes the puddle is on the left, and other times it's on the right (and it's sometimes in the middle too). Please list the steps to repair this problem.


Jan. 14 2009 12:23 PM
Tony from San Jose, CA


I have what my landlord calls a "bamboo floor." I thought bamboo was supposed to be very durable, but nicks are very easy to make. I would like to fix them.

It seems that there is a 1/8'' layer of clear coating. I have two questions:

1) Does my observation seem reasonable to you? I.e. is there a clear coating?

2) How do I fix it? I plan to sand paper around the nicks, put some new coating, and sandpaper again to even out.


Jan. 14 2009 12:04 PM
Robert Cohen from Boston & NYC

Do Al & Larry have any suggestions or advice regarding:

How to store papers, in file cabinets or -- if they so suggest -- in other storage units *in an unheated garage or unfinished basement*, so that they won't get mildewed, acquire odors, etc.?

Thank you! -- I've asked around and gotten nowhere!

Jan. 14 2009 11:39 AM
jane from connecticut

I have acid well water that takes copper out of the pipes and turns things green. I use a filter for drinking water that removes the copper, however, am using a neutralizer for the whole house that works but leaves a mineral deposit on faucets, counters, etc. Do you know of a neutralizer that does not leave excess mineral after neutralizing the water?

Jan. 14 2009 08:21 AM

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