The Gurus of How-To

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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 [32]

Laurence Dankel from Brooklyn

I also thought the answer to the Quiz as accepted with the usual fanfare was "bogus" (to quote another pair of relations on public radio), since "voussoir", only qualifies in its sounding French. Yes, "Relieving arch" is closer, but since that usually is embedded in the wall over an opening, not behind it as part of the same dual structure (and besides is not a French term), the true solution must be "arriere voussure"--Google it and you will see an illustration which should convince--I believe the windows of Heidelberg Castle were put forth as an example by either Al or Larry, and that fits the description. I too could not get through thanks to a busy signal, but someone should set the record straight, otherwise the terrorists win--or something.

Feb. 11 2010 05:30 PM
Roseann Milano from NJ

Please post the answer to the gurus call in quiz!

I've been listening for 3 months to hear the answer and couldn't understand Madame's French accent.........

Feb. 10 2010 03:46 PM
Frankie from NYC

I am waiting for the podcast to appear so I may review the question, because I believe the answer was incorrect. Perhaps the question was simply poorly phrased.

A voussoir is a wedge shaped stone which creates a segment (building unit) of an arch. Many are used to create an arch with the center unit being a keystone.

I thought you were referring to a compound arch - hence the "poorly phrased" consideration - not because I'm never wrong, but because our answers are so different; component vs arch type.

Feb. 10 2010 02:31 PM
Chris Kellogg from Madison, NJ

I believe the answer to your question on today's quiz was not correct.

If I heard it right the answer given was "voussoir."

In Wikipedia this is defined as a stone within the arch.

Not the arch itself.

The correct term, I believe is "relieving arch."

I tried to call in but the line was too busy.

Feb. 10 2010 02:09 PM
Brian from Fairfield, CT

We had a problem with our shower diverter a few weeks ago when the water stopped coming out of the shower head. We had a plumber in who took the shower head apart and "fixed" it, although he couldn't figure out why the water stopped coming out in the first place. While he was here, he also tightened and re-packed the water valve in the basement that turns on the hot water because when we turned the water off so he could work, it started dripping. Since he was here, the water in the shower doesn't stay hot for the full length of the shower. It wasn't like this before, but on a second visit, the plumber couldn't figure out why this would be happening other than that the hot water tank is too small (it is 36 gallons). He suggested getting a mixing valve installed on the hot water heater, but if that was the problem why wouldn't it have been happening before now? Thanks!!

Feb. 10 2010 01:57 PM
Margaret from Fort Greene

Hey there ~

I'm so glad to be stuck inside and listening to you all. Here's my question: I am in a rental. There are air leaks around the window casings. It isn't just the windows themselves, which would make plastic over the windows a solution. This goes beyond the window edges and actually includes the frame edges. Any easy solutions I can do on my own with a visit to the hardware store? It gets awfully chilly in here when the wind blows.

Thank you so much!!

Feb. 10 2010 01:57 PM
Kendra Hadlock from Brooklyn


Feb. 10 2010 01:56 PM
Badria from New Jersey

Hi, is the arch you looking for a sauvegarde?

Feb. 10 2010 01:55 PM
Mark Herzberg from West New York, NJ

Dear Mr. Lopate and Udell Family,

I am encouraged by my God-children, ages 6 and 8 to inform you that Santa solved the chimney-cover problem early in the last century. The Gandy Company manufactured a special tool called a "fortakazatem bar" that efficiently removes the cover without damage to masonry or other structures. I understand that one was found buried in the ice next to a large sauna near Turku, Finland that Santa had apparently mistaken for a small cottage. Evidently the tool slipped from his perspiring hand after he emerged from the sauna.

This reminded me that my maternal grandfather was, at various times in his career, a "Gandy-dancer". I challenge the Udells to explain what specialized tool my grandfather used and why he was described with this colorful name.

Yours truly,

Mark Herzberg

Feb. 10 2010 01:53 PM
Peggy from L.I.

Is it a tympanum?

Strong draft on days like today comes thru the exhaust fan over stove, should I put fan on low?

Feb. 10 2010 01:53 PM
Ana from North Arlington NJ

Is it a Pier?

Feb. 10 2010 01:53 PM
Frank Campi from Rockaway, NJ

Is the structural element the Apse

Feb. 10 2010 01:52 PM
Ruth from Queens

House built in 1923.
Neighbor across the street had sewer backup into her basement sink... ending up getting sewer connection "lined."
It was all very pricey.
Since I'm directly across the street:
is there something I can/should do,
or just expect a disaster???

Feb. 10 2010 01:51 PM
Christine from brooklyn

How do we successfully get rid of a family of starling birds that live in the crawlspace of our 100 year old house?
We can't find where they are entering (from the outside) and are reluctant to go into the space as its filled with old insulation, covering up the rafters.


Feb. 10 2010 01:49 PM
Stephanie from Chapel Hill North Carolina

Flying buttress? -- Or do they not fall into the arch category.

Thank you.

Feb. 10 2010 01:47 PM
Jed from Grnwch Village

i recently purchased a tv equipped to receive digital tv over the air. i would like to try this (getting rid of cable would save $) do they have any advice on antennas? i am in an apartment building - so would have to be indoor antenna. also, i have heard you need to have direct line-of-sight view of empire state building to receive digital channels - if so, it could be a problem as my widows face west and do not have view of ESB. THANKS! and keep up the good work!

Feb. 10 2010 01:45 PM
Dennis Moyes from Rutherford, NJ

I think it's called a rib vault.

Feb. 10 2010 01:44 PM
Lori from Montclair, NJ


I have a 90 year old house (bought it last year) and seem to have a mold issue. Wherever there is standing water or residue, I get brown/black slime and I'm guessing it's mold. It shows up on the water line on toilets that are not used often (like the basement or guest room), on the bottom of the shampoo bottles, in the detergent tray of my washer, etc. I suspect there is something in the water (in the delivery system somewhere?). It is evident in rooms with high and low humidity.

Help! Not sure how to address this.


Feb. 10 2010 01:43 PM
Tony Jannetti from Downtown

Is the answer a double barrel vault or a groin vault?

Feb. 10 2010 01:43 PM
Dan Grossberg from St. George, Staten Island


Feb. 10 2010 01:43 PM
dianna from nyc

recently we redid the roof and parapits. we are a 6 story 100 year old coop in the east village. consequently, we are having terrible problems with cooking smells entering each others apartments. this was never a problem before the roof was repaired. i am wondering if the new roof and parapit is somehow too tight and airproof and we maybe need to vent it somehow, to get the smells moving through the walls and up out the roo .

please help, it is such a difficult situation to understand and resolve.

Feb. 10 2010 01:42 PM
phil from Brooklyn

What is the backyard codes for commercial-to-residential conversions? I've read where a 30ft setback is required (new construction?), but I've also read where a 15ft setback is required (i.e. conversions to lofts). Can you comment?

Feb. 10 2010 01:41 PM

Is it impost?

Feb. 10 2010 01:40 PM
Laura from Jersey City

I believe the answer "groin vault"

Feb. 10 2010 01:38 PM
james from Brooklyn

archivolt is that answer?

Feb. 10 2010 01:38 PM
Jose Mangasha from Jersey City, New Jersey

Leo, this is great radio and show. I love you guys for the variety of issues and impartiality.
I am just curious to know why some home inspectors are so arrogant and though guys. I understand homeowner safety's and code enforcement are a priority and it should be. But some of these guys take their badges way too high. Very unfriendly and they try to give a hard time to the Contractors in many ways. I am intersting in knowing what kind of education and training do they go through? How to become a home inspector?


Residential Contractor in NJ

Feb. 10 2010 01:38 PM
beth from Manhattan

Petrossian building is Alwyn Court

Feb. 10 2010 01:38 PM
Frank Campi from Rockaway, NJ

Does the term Buttress fit your vault description?

Feb. 10 2010 01:37 PM
Steve from Brooklyn

Is it a spandrels?

Feb. 10 2010 01:37 PM
Zandra from New York

I've heard that used coffee grinds can be used instead of salt. Does it work? What problems can it cause?

Feb. 10 2010 01:36 PM
denise torv from westport ct

How can I successfully heat a large, second floor master bedroom with high cathedral ceilings. The house is 16 years old and has a good central air system but does not push up enough hot air to heat the room. The other rooms on the floor are nice and toasty.

Feb. 10 2010 01:33 PM
Laurie Spiegel from Tribeca

The city's dogs thank you for bringing up this stuff in your show.

That "salt" stuff is not only bad for dogs' paws as you said but is awful for wildlife and pollutes local water and soil.

Avoid using if possible (such as sidewalks that can be shovelled) or use the absolute minimum that can be gotten away with. Use sand or other non-toxic stuff to create traction on ice.

Feb. 10 2010 01:32 PM

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