Friday, April 29, 2011

Exterior Plaster Blistering

Exterior Plaster Problems

Florine says:
Help, the exterior plaster on my walls is blistering and falling off. What is wrong?
Many older homes were not equipped with weep screed which is a sheet metal flashing found at the transition of the bottom plate of your walls (usually 2x4 mudsill) and the top of the foundation (slab or footing). The weep screed serves four purposes:
  1. A plaster ground which helps to gauge the thickness of the plaster as it is applied.
  2. A waterproof flashing covering the gap between the foundation and the bottom plate of the wall.
  3. A means to allow the plaster to release moisture that has been absorbed, hence the term “weep” screed.
  4. Separation between the top of the foundation and finish grade (soil) or finish surface (hardscape).
Homes without weep screed are generally suffering from a saturation problem. The waterproof  barrier (felt paper) and wire were usually applied to the wall in shingle fashion starting about 2” below the bottom plate / foundation transition. This method usually served it’s purpose as a moisture barrier but would allow the plaster to come into contact with finish grade (soil). Because the plaster acts like a sponge and is in constant contact with the soil, it can never release the moisture and becomes saturated. The moisture pressures it’s way through the plaster creating blisters and finally the plaster falls off. Other noticeable problems are mold and mildew, not to mention rusting wire which breaks and causes the plaster to lose it’s support.
The solution is separation between the plaster and finish grade. The existing plaster will need to be chipped off the foundation to a level of about  4” above the foundation / wall transition. This can be accomplished with a small chipping gun available at your favorite tool supply store but be careful not to damage the felt paper moisture barrier. Of course if you are not ready to tackle this as a do it yoursel project, always hire a qualified contractor. After the plaster is removed, pull the nails securing the stucco wire to the wall and gently pull the felt paper loose. Now slide the weep screed under the paper so that the top is even with the top of  the base plate. Secure the weep screed with galvanized nails (1 ¼” roofing nails work well for this) and re-nail the stucco wire with firring nails. Using an approved sealant (Topps 900) be sure to seal any holes that were made in the felt paper before proceeding with the plaster patching operation.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Noisey Toilet

Do you have a toilet that keeps you awake all hours of the night?
Does it gurgle, run and even flush by itself? The fix can be very simple with no need to even purchase new parts. Just turn off the water supplied by the valve that is located just behind and usually to the lower left of the toilet. Flush the toilet to drain the tank and remove pressure from the waterline. Now remove the tank lid and look inside to find the flush valve. With the water still off, remove the top of the valve either by removing 3 screws or by turning counter clockwise to unlock the tabs. There is a small rubber washer that seals the center waterway. That is normally the source of the problem. If the washer does not completely seal the hole, air and water will escape causing all kinds of annoying sounds. What keeps the washer from a complete seal is usually a little bit of sand or grit that is stuck in the valves water line. To remove it, simply place a cup over the hole in the valve. This will help to keep water from spilling all over the bathroom. Holding the cup in one hand, turn the water back on for a second. The sand or grit should blow out of the line and your problem is solved. Shut the water off, clean the rubber washer, and reinstall the parts that were removed. When everything is back together, test the toilet several times. If there is still a problem, check the flapper at the bottom of the tank. Water may be escaping here. This too can sometimes be fixed easily with no need for new parts. Just lift the flapper and clean the bottom of it as well as the outlet that it closes on. Many times the cause of seepage is just scum that has built up and is preventing a proper seal.
Of course there are those times when you will need to replace parts that are defective and just can’t be fixed. These parts, much like the toilet itself, are available in different levels of quality and price ranges. If you don’t intend on having to replace the toilet any time soon, buy a quality part Save on ALL of your Plumbing needs at Home-Improvement-SuperStore!! Even though it may cost twice as much as the inexpensive one on the same shelf, it will be well worth the peace of mind.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Vinyl Floor Installation Made Easy

Easy Vinyl Floors

If you are a do it yourselfer and would like to install your own New Luxury Vinyl Tiles,there is an easy way especially if the sub-floor is plywood underneath the existing flooring. First, remove the trim attached to the baseboard at the old flooring and remove the toilet. Then instead of removing the old flooring, simply install ¼” plywood as an overlay right over the top. The overlay can be attached easily with screws. This will save countless hours of prep work involved with removing the existing flooring and then cleaning the surface to accept the new flooring. Of course, the sub-floor must be solid and in good condition. Make sure the screw heads are at least flush with the plywood surface but not countersunk so as to break the top laminate. The fitting of the new vinyl is the hardest part but to make it simple use a kraft paper which can be cut to a pattern and then taped together to form a template for the real thing. Once you are happy with the way the kraft paper fits, set it on the vinyl, copy the outline and make your cuts.  Now you are ready to spread the glue. Set the vinyl down on the floor before you start. Now roll it back about half way and spread the glue with a notched trowel (usually 1/16”). Roll the vinyl back into place and then complete the other half the same way. Use your hands to smooth the top the best that you can. Don’t worry if some bubbles appear. These are just caused by gas escaping from the chemical reaction in the glue and should disappear in 24 hrs.
Now reset your toilet and install the trim. Job well done.
One other bit of advice – Vinyl flooring comes in 6 ft. and 12 ft. widths. If your dimensions are over 6ft., seriously consider purchasing vinyl that is 12 ft. wide. You will pay a premium but there are advantages:
·        No precise matching and cutting of the two pieces being joined.
·        No chance of possible voids at the seam that could allow the penetration of moisture
·        Finally, seams sometimes have the tendency to turn yellow with age even after using a proper seam sealer.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Fireplace Problems

So a customer asked why his cement fireplace logs were turning black and soot was building up at the top of the decorative stone fireplace face. After all this was a natural gas, direct vent fireplace that had been converted to propane. “Note” – Always use a conversion kit that has been approved by the manufacturer. Although this type of fireplace can generate some heat, it is intended more for the ambience than for heating purposes. It should be clean burning unlike a standard wood-burning fireplace which creates alot of smoke and soot. Well the problem was that the entire kit of vermiculite, rock wool and lava rock was mixed together and placed into the burner pan which instantly contaminated the clean burning fuel. This fireplace never had a chance. A classic case of not following the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember these fireplaces have been tested many times before final approval and the manufacturer knows what is best. The lava rock should have been placed around the burner pan and not in it.
The solution in this case is to clean out the burner pan and discard the vermiculite, rock wool and lava rock. These items can then be purchased as a kit or separately from many manufacturers. Place the vermiculite in the burner pan slightly covering the burner tubes. Tear the rock wool into pieces about the size of a quarter and place them on top of the vermiculite. Because the rock wool/vermiculite is intended to simulate burning embers, the pattern is personal preference. Next place the lava rock around the bottom of the fireplace being careful not to spill too much into the burner pan. The fireplace log-sets can be expensive, so to avoid the replacement costs the soot should be cleaned off with
an approved product. In fact, depending on how much use your fireplace gets, a yearly maintenance schedule should be adopted to include the cleaning of the log set and the replacement of vermiculite, rock wool and lava rock as needed. This will help to keep the fireplace box and surrounding areas clean of soot. Other contributing factors to the soot problem could be low gas pressure caused by the propane tank needing a refill or improper placement of the fireplace logs. Again, always read the literature that is included with your new appliance and then follow the instructions. It will save you a lot of frustration and ultimately a lot of money.

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