The Gurus of How-To

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Alvin and Larry Ubell, the Gurus of How-To, answer your questions about home repair. Call 212-433-9692 with your questions, or leave a comment below. The Ubells' Accurate Building Inspectors Website.

Comments [30]

isa kocher from istanbul turkey

it's a clerestory. originating in romanesque architecture i believe [don't think it was classical or hellenic]

Dec. 09 2009 02:04 PM
MIke from New York

truncated arch

Dec. 09 2009 01:58 PM
craig from brooklyn

does it matter how long a thermocouple is?

Dec. 09 2009 01:56 PM
Dan Rice from brooklyn

It's our first winter in our 1877 brownstone and the piano that came with our beloved home is 2 feet away from a large radiator. Without moving the piano what can we do to protect it from the heat?


Dan & Jan

Dec. 09 2009 01:53 PM
tom moore from park slope

the answer to your question - that special vault is called a GROINED VAULT...

art history 101 fact

Dec. 09 2009 01:51 PM
Sterling from Manhattan

I'm guessing Romanesque for the arch question.

Dec. 09 2009 01:48 PM

Ribbed arch?

Dec. 09 2009 01:47 PM
Ed from Larchmont, NY

What should the pressure be on a home furnace? We're on the second floor and the radiators aren't going on enough, we think it's the pressure. Thanks.

Dec. 09 2009 01:46 PM
Greg from Highland Park, NJ

My apartment management said to keep the thermostat no lower than 65 for best results. I understand there could be a problem with pipes freezing and refrigerator efficiency, but would like to save - how low can we go?

Dec. 09 2009 01:45 PM
Allison from Greenpoint

How can I increase the amount of water that fills into my toilet bowl? Right now it is FAR below the level of any toilet I've ever used. it seems to have standard inner workings in the tank. I'm on the first floor of my apt., if that is relevant.


Dec. 09 2009 01:44 PM
Sandra from Warwick, NY

A Masonry Arch?

Dec. 09 2009 01:44 PM
nina from nyc from upper west side

What is the best way to insulate the windows in my old walk-up? The windows are low-quality double-pane, about 30" W x 60" H, and each has an air conditioner unit in it. My daughter's room is absolutely freezing. I heard they can be insulated with large bubble wrap? In the past, we've wrapped the AC units with small bubble wrap and that helps. Please help! THANKS!

Dec. 09 2009 01:43 PM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

I had new windows put in about 5 years ago, and the one in the bathroom is in the tub/shower. The installer put an aluminum cover over the window sill, but didn’t tilt it towards the tub. We don’t always wipe it down after a shower, so the calking gets moldy. Is there any way to tilt the aluminum the right way without taking it off? It seems to be held on with two nails.

Dec. 09 2009 01:43 PM
Sandra from Warwick, NY

A Roman Arch

Dec. 09 2009 01:43 PM
Sandra from Warwick, NY

Roman Arch

Dec. 09 2009 01:43 PM
oskar from Brooklyn

We live in an old loft building, it's all bricks and wood, and the noise from the many 20 years old hipsters it's turning into a real torture... what's the best way to sound proof a wood ceiling and cheap super-thin sheetrock walls? pleeeeeeease help

Dec. 09 2009 01:42 PM
Carlos from Montclair

Flying buttress?

Dec. 09 2009 01:41 PM
Andy from Brooklyn

Why is it in these new "condo" buildings that they don't ventilate the washer/dryer units OR the range hoods over the stove? I was in units in down town Brooklyn, units in Williamsburgh, and my unit that I finally moved in to in Bushwick. The bathroom is the only space that has a vent (and not even a fan in that) What's going on with this? I can't cook anything in this brand new place without smelling up the entire place, and when I do laundry, the walls SWEAT (of course I leave the door open to the closet!) I think these new places are TOO airtight, or put together by idiots. The fan in my range hood had it's output terminated by the wall - just vented to a piece of drywall, as in NOT vented, not even directed to blow back in the room.. Why don't these places vent stuff outdoors? I saw this in at least 6 different buildings!

(by the way, thermocouples are an electrical device that operate on the peltier principal)

Dec. 09 2009 01:40 PM
sheila from Manhattan

My electric bill is high despite the fact that I rarely put on the heat or the air conditioning. I don't have a thermostate. I've been told the reason is because of the things that are plugged in but not in use all the time like the computer, refrigerator, radios etc. I can't unplug the computer, the tv, the cable, the radio, the refrigerator everytime I leave the house or go on vacation. Is there any other way to lower my cost?

Dec. 09 2009 01:37 PM
Marti from Westport, CT

In an oil powered, forced air, heating system, how often should the ducts be cleaned?

Thank you,

Dec. 09 2009 01:36 PM
Michael from Staten Island

I recently refinished my living room and dining room wood floors (sanded, stained and polyurethaned) The two rooms are contiguous but the work had to be done in separate stages. As a consequence the dining room is lighter than the living room. The floors had to be stained dark to cover bad stains and the lighter stain used in the dining room fails to accomplish this. Can the dining room floor be redone? Are there time considerations? And how will it affect the longevity of my floor? Originally the contractor said I had two more sandings left in my floors. I am one down. Short of a carpet are there any less extreme options than resanding? Thanks

Dec. 09 2009 01:36 PM

how do you properly insulate patio doors?

Dec. 09 2009 01:35 PM
bk from nyc

I live & work in a loft. I keep the heat at 70 during the day (for health reasons) but at night I turn it down to 65. I always wonder how much energy it takes to heat the place up to 70 the next day. can I put it lower than 65 at night? (I have a warm quilt!)

Dec. 09 2009 01:35 PM
Don Pond from New York

Does insulation get too old? The insulation in my attic is at least 30 years old - should I replace it? How would I know if its should be replaced?


Dec. 09 2009 01:34 PM
david from Spuyten Duyvil

Last time you identified how I was causing mold to form on my living room blower unit - I have a raised floor and it wasn't getting proper circulation. I am trying to take care of that.
But now I realize that I have a serious problem, which is causing me respiratory problems: I think that I have mold/mildew throughout the blower - not just on the surface. I know how to clean the surface, but how do I clean inside the blower unit - fan, filter, etc.?

Dec. 09 2009 01:32 PM
Art from Union City, NJ

I'm renovating a house with beautiful pocket doors, but they have dried paint (30-40 years old!) on the textured glass windows.

Do you have any suggestions for removing the paint?

Thanks! Art

Dec. 09 2009 01:30 PM
Max Z.

I have a question. I am moving to a new apartment with a wall AC/Heating unit. Is there a rule of thumb of how far I should place furniture, such as a couch, from the unit? Basically, is blocking the unit detrimental to efficiency? The internet is not of much help on this.

Thank you!

Dec. 09 2009 01:30 PM
Frankie from Maplewood

I recently coverted from oil to gas heat.
I have an Oil boiler and a converter gas burner. The gas line (original)comes from the meter to the water heater and is 1/2 inch pipe. The gas line runs from there to the converter also 1/2 pipe.

Is it necessary to replace the pipe with 1 inch?

Is it necessary to go to the coverter independently or first?

Basically, I do not want to incur more cost if I don't HAVE to --so what is a must and what is suggested.

I have been getting conflicting advise!! HELP

Dec. 09 2009 01:20 PM
Jonathan from Brooklyn Heights


I have a question for Al and Larry. Earlier this year, my old plaster ceiling was torn out, and replaced with drywall. I had the contractor put up Homasote before putting in the drywall (although there's no insulation), but now the sound coming through from the upstairs apartment is just horrible--I can often hear my neighbor even when he's having a normal conversation, and when he's playing music or walking around the apartment, it's especially loud.

From what I gather, the sound is probably being conducted through the rafters or framing and right through the homasote and drywall, and the only real solution would involve removing the new ceiling, and adding some kind of furring channel and insulation. I hate the idea of replacing the ceiling all over again, but it seems like the only real option. Am I missing another solution?


Brooklyn Heights

Dec. 09 2009 12:31 PM
Rochelle from Jersey Shore

Black gunk, I assume mold, is on the aerator screen of both my kitchen (including that spray thing) and bathroom sinks. I clean it off, almost weekly, but it keeps coming back! Have you heard of mold in a supply line like that? There is no leak or drip that I can detect. How can I stop it? or What is the best way to clean?


Dec. 09 2009 12:31 PM

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