The Gurus of How-To

Wednesday, June 09, 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.

Comments [22]

erna laves

I had my bathtub painted to overcome the
deleterious effects of mineral deposits I was very
satisfied. Prior to this, I had overcome the mold
that attached itself to the grout between the tiles
that surround my tub/shower enclosure by
spraying with Tilex. The no-nos on the Tilex
container include not using on a painted surface.

Can you tell me that using Tilex, or some other similar product, is safe Can I protect the painted
surface with toweling (or something else?) when
I spray?

Other than spraying, what can I do? Hand hold
a brush loaded with Tilex over each grouted
line between the tiles??

Help! Erna Laves

Jun. 09 2010 07:39 PM

was it pipe tongs or barrier tongs? i'm curious now.

Jun. 09 2010 02:03 PM
Arch from Norwalk, CT

There IS a difference between window AC units and sleeve AC units. Sleeve units have no ventilation around the perimeter, it's all at the end.

Jun. 09 2010 01:58 PM
John from Manhattan


Jun. 09 2010 01:58 PM

I recently saw a water saving toilet in Japan... the water for refilling the tank falls from a faucet into a small sink which drains into the tank, so you can wash your hands without having to waste any water from the regular sink. Much better than the plain old dual flush one.

Jun. 09 2010 01:58 PM
Mark from West New York, NJ

We are having window treatments installed with a cornice that is mounted to a concrete ceiling. The ceiling is not plumb so there will be slight rolling gaps between cornice and ceiling. We are wondering if we can address this by having a contractor apply a skim coat that only covers this area and then blends into the ceiling.

Jun. 09 2010 01:49 PM
Zach Schlossberg from Brooklyn

I speculate the kitchen cabinets keep falling because the anchors are only so far as the plaster and not actually reaching the brick. When done correctly, brick is not a bad anchor at all. Hilti makes anchors several inches long, each rated at well over 150 lbs for this purpose specifically. Tearing plaster off the wall and redoing it seems excessive and costly.

Jun. 09 2010 01:44 PM
nina Dinoff from brooklyn

i was just on the show. can i get more info from them on what to tell my landlord about what to do to secure the cabinets safely?


The Lopate Show responds:

Nina, you can email Larry directly. His email is

Jun. 09 2010 01:44 PM
stephanie from Jersey Shore

The estimates I've been getting for central AC in a 1930s cape and have been shocking $12K-$14K. I've looked into traditional ductwork, high velocity and mini-split systems. Currently, I have radiators/no duct work. The 2 upstairs bedrooms are ovens in the summer, and currently I use 4 window units throughout the house. I would love not to have the windows blocked all summer, so I could take advantage of having windows open on cooler days. Am considering the old-fashioned wall-through option; installing AC units under or near windows but directly through the wall. Is this a feasible solution? Are the estimates I'm getting too high? Are there any other options I'm overlooking? Would really appreciate your opinion and ideas.

Jun. 09 2010 01:38 PM
Darrell from Astoria

Hi guys,

One big question: rooftop gardening. I live on the first floor of a four-story walk-up in Astoria, and I just discovered a few months ago that our building has a big, beautiful roof that, as far as I can tell, no one ever uses for anything. I've been longing for an opportunity to garden in the city and this seems to be the best one yet, though I can also imagine there are a lot of potential liabilities... I don't care to do anything elaborate, just a few nice vegetable and herb plants in a corner of the roof would be fine for me. Is this a practical idea? Is my landlord likely to take issue? Can it be done easily without creating problems for the building or my neighbors? What do you recommend?

Jun. 09 2010 01:36 PM
tom from astoria

Puzzler for the How To guys:
Under what circumstances would a wall be DARKER shade of white behind a picture that has hung in the same spot for a long time -- an area which daylight has not been able to get to. not because the wall paint has faded. hint: An old school artist might know the answer

answer: thgilyad morf yawa tpek fi swolley tniap dael laer

Jun. 09 2010 01:33 PM
Nina from brooklyn

I live in a brownstone in brooklyn. Last year my landlord installed a new kitchen and 3 weeks later the cabinets came crashing to the ground destroying all my dishes. Two days ago, and a year later, they just fell again... this time nearly on my head. The wall is a structural wall, plaster over brick. I am trying to understand what needs to be done to make sure this is fixed safely and if I have any recourse as to my losses and well frankly.. suffering. It was a pretty traumatic event.

Jun. 09 2010 01:33 PM

My WWI era apartment was recently renovated. It has a few small altars cut into the walls that prior to the renovation were illuminated from below. Since the wires were wrapped in cloth, the electrician involved in the renovation disconnected them. Is it very hard to run modern wires myself? Can I just tie them to the end of the cloth wrapped wires and then pull the cloth wires at the other ends? Are cloth wires really so dangerous?

Jun. 09 2010 01:32 PM
david in middletown, nj from middletown, nj

i have window on first floor that is new but doesn't have stopper to allow me to open just a few inches (so people can't break in)....hardware store showed me stick-um thingees but definitely not secure. can you recommend anything else?? window is avg size.

Jun. 09 2010 01:29 PM
Frank Lotz from FORT LEE, NJ

I want to install a microwave over my stove
in a 55 year old apt. The walls are lathe and plaster. The appliance people tell me that it can only be installed from a cabinet above (I don't have) How can I install one?
Always a great show and segment.

Jun. 09 2010 01:28 PM
Howard from Bronx

Since water taxes have gone up, what do they think of Dual flush toilets and the retrofit kits?

Jun. 09 2010 01:28 PM
Cesar from Manhattan

How would the gurus fix the oil leak in the Gulf?

Jun. 09 2010 01:27 PM
Kathy from Brooklyn

Issue: low cold water pressure in kitchen in pre-war apt. building with galvanized pipes. Kitchen is on opposite side of bathroom from riser, connecting pipe runs under bathroom floor.
Question: we have two options for repair: (1) go in under kitchen sink and try to clean out or replace narrowed pipe section.
(2) tear up the bathroom floor and replace the pipe and perhaps other piping.
Option 1 is risky but clearly less disruptive, problem may recur.
Option 2 could turn out to be a major and expensive fix for what at the moment appears to be a small problem.
Any suggestions?

Jun. 09 2010 01:16 PM
Hambone from gowanus brooklyn

What are the rules for building a shed behind my house?

Do they change if I call it a play house? It would serve both purposes.

Jun. 09 2010 01:04 PM
Joe Adams from Bergen County, New Jersey

We occasionally are bitten by local spiders and the bites can be very painful. You have told us how to discourage infestation by rats, mice, cockroaches, bedbugs but never spiders. When we see a web, should we knock it down with a broom, spray it, ignore it?

Jun. 09 2010 12:51 PM
Mitch from Park Slope


We renovated a bathroom in a brownstone. The tub was not the original claw foot tub but a tub with one rounded corner which was meant for a larger space. The curved corner didn't make any sense because the tub is fitted into a rectangular space.

We assumed we would replace the tub with a new rectangular tub, but when we did our extensive research, we discovered that there were no tubs available that had the depth and capacity of the old tub, particularly in the models of the cast iron enameled tub which we were used to.

When we took the old tub out, we discovered it was cast in 1928. How it got in this 1885-built building will remain a mystery.

We decided to reinstall it and build an "apron" in front on the tub and have the new tile from the floor continue up the face of the "apron".

Then we had a stone "tub surround" crafted to fit on top to square of the the old rounded side. The stone people did a wonderful job, but the plaster under the stone, where it joins the tub, constantly discolors, with black streaking.

One of the things we did was put in a good new exhaust system and moisture doesn't remain for long on the shower curtain or anyplace else in the bathroom, so it is odd that we have this problem only on this surface.

The problem is that it is unsightly and very visible in an otherwise remodeled space. Can you tell me what I could do?..................Mitch

Jun. 09 2010 11:36 AM
mike from yonkers

i hope i can call in today,
a co-op that has used the same management company since conversion in 1983, they were the rental buildings owner at conversion. bldg is in Yonkers is a 60 unit, 6 story, 1959, brick , elevator, flat roof with full size door to roof. We were accessed an extra maintenance charge for encapsulation of the parapet with a membrane . or what ever the membrane goes over.
Question: in the over 25 years they were the managing company , shouldn't they have inspected the roof at least yearly and discovered the failing of the waterproofing and informed the board that standard maintenance was necessary, before a full encapsulation was necessary.

Jun. 09 2010 11:19 AM

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