Battling the Winter Water Pipe Blues


Taking a few precautions to prevent frozen pipes this winter will save you a lot of aggravation in the long run.Disconnect and drain the outdoor hoses. Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas. Install “heat tape” or “heat cable” on exposed pipes. Seal off access doors, air vents and cracks. Locate and mark the master shutoff valve. Check with your water company for winter tips.What if it's too late? If you suspect that your pipes are frozen you can try to thaw the area out yourself. DO NOT attempt to use a torch with an open flame. The house could catch on fire or you could overheat a single spot and cause the pipe to burst. The best tool for a homeowner to use is a hair dryer on a low setting. Wave the warm air back … [Read more...]


Woodpeckers peck at homes to either get at insects, attract a mate or to excavate for a new nesting place. Q. A woodpecker attacked my house on the north side. I had the hole repaired and painted. Now he’s back and has made three more! Any ideas to drive it away or prevent recurrence? A. It’s an old problem with old solutions: The woodpecker is looking for bugs. Wait for cold weather and it will be gone. To keep it away, hang silvery Mylar party streamers from the eaves. They will flash in the sun and startle the birds. Or set up wind chimes. A second solution is to remove the wood trim in that area and replace with PVC trim or cement board. Wood peckers will not peck through this material. … [Read more...]


It's a tough job but somebody needs to do it! Q. My husband and I live in a 100-year old Victorian. About five years ago, we had someone hang wallpaper in the large foyer, along the hall and in the second-floor hallway. About one year later (perhaps a bit longer), the wallpaper started coming apart at the seams. A. Too bad, but fixable. The hanger forgot to put glue sizing on the walls before pasting the paper. It’s always needed, even with so-called self-sizing paste. The paper is probably strippable, so pull it off the wall carefully for re-use. Wash all the paste off the walls, then apply glue sizing on them before putting up the old (or new) paper with vinyl paste. … [Read more...]

New England Weather in the Gutter


The Old Farmers Almanac predicts a long cold winter and the storm this past weekend was a gentle reminder that the old man is at our doorstep. This means that it's time to clean your gutters. Gutters clogged with leaves and debris can create a multiple of problems:Water damage: A clear gutter will direct water away from your home but a clogged gutter with allow water to collect and seep into the foundation and your basement. Loosened gutters: The weight of weight twigs and leaves can cause gutters to detach from your home. Ice dams: We live in an area where homes are susceptible to ice dams. An ice dams forms when water spills over the edge of a clogged gutter and freezes forcing an flowing water to redirect into your home rather … [Read more...]

Basement Moisture

Leaching of lime from concreteQ. Q. I noticed white powder on my concrete basement floor along the full length of one side of the foundation. What is it and do I need to take action? I’ve never had water in the basement. A. A. It’s efflorescence, the leaching of lime from the concrete by water. The water is moisture, but enough of it is there to do the leaching. It’s harmless. You can open the basement windows to pull out the moisture. It’s less expensive than a dehumidifier which would also do the trick. You also might consider sealing the concrete or masonry to prevent the water from entering the masonry altogether and put an end to the efflorescence. … [Read more...]

Tips to Keep the Mice Away


How to stop the mice from snacking on your wires.Q. Help! Mice/squirrels are chewing the wires on my car. Is there a way to keep them away? A. I had this question some time ago and was also stumped, until a reader suggested putting dryer sheets in the engine compartment. Just take them out when you drive. … [Read more...]

Hip Roof Leak & Roof Venting


Properly venting a hip roof.Q. I have a fairly new hip roof (four years) that has been water-sealed from top to bottom. It has soffit vents, a short ridge vent (as long as possible for the roof configuration), and two square (shoe box) vents, one on each side. In a windy rainstorm recently, I had water dripping from a ceiling upstairs. It appears that the rain entered one of the shoe box vents. The vents, flashing, and etc., all appear to be undamaged, properly installed and sealed. I’d have the box vents removed entirely, but then I wouldn’t have enough air circulation in the attic. Any suggestions? A. I know the ridge vent is short, but consider removing those box-like roof vents and let the ridge vent do the work. Also, make sure … [Read more...]

Preventing Ice Dams


A gutter adjustment may do the trick Q. After years of dealing with ice dams, I put a new roof on three years ago, with 6 feet of ice and water shield wrapped over the joint where the roof meets the fascia. In each of the past two winters, I still get the ice dams. I know I have poor insulation in the attic. However, water appears to be getting into the soffit – I get icicles from the soffit vents and it runs down the side of my house. My roofer claims he has no idea what’s happening and blames condensation.A. I don’t think you have ice dams, unless they are just above the shield designed to protect the roof under the shield. I think your problem is the gutters, which sound as if they are overflowing. All gutters overflow when … [Read more...]

Rocky Situation: Repairing Squirrel Damage


Q A squirrel or several squirrels ate a hole in my lead flashing, and now it leaks badly when it rains. Water from the roof runs down into the hole. The top of the flashing is cemented into the chimney between the bricks. The job appears to be well done and has lasted many years. The hole is about the size of a squirrel’s head. How can I repair it?A The squirrel is doing what it has to do to shorten and sharpen its teeth: gnawing. The lead is just right for him: soft but able to keep wearing down the teeth. Buy a heavy-duty piece of sheet aluminum or galvanized steel big enough to cover the hole and surrounding area. Lead flashing around chimneys is usually not glued to the roof, so lift it carefully, slather the roof and patch with … [Read more...]