Q: I have downspouts on the north side of my house. After a few sunny days some snow melts but the spouting isn’t melted and the water overflows and drips directly over the door, which is about 10 feet from the downspout. Even if the attic were properly vented and insulated to prevent ice damming, could there still be a problem when the heat from the sun warms the roof to melt the snow but the spouting is still frozen enough to not allow the flow of water to the downspout?

There is no access to any crawl space, so what would be the best alternatives to checking the situation out?

Also, there are no visible signs of vents anyplace on the building. This is a three-unit townhouse, built in 1977, and the only place it drips is the end unit nearest the downspout, as all the water flows in that direction. There doesn’t appear to be any problem with water backing up into the unit. –Sandra R.

A: If you have snow on the roof and ice in the gutter and downspout, then when the sun melts the snow the resulting water runoff would hit the ice and potentially have nowhere else to go except to the drip over the edge of the gutter. This is not a true "ice dam," which occurs from snow melting from the bottom side of the snow pack on the roof, not the top side. This could be why you’re not seeing any damage inside the house.

As to the attic access, are you sure there isn’t one? You mentioned that this is a three-unit building — are you sure that the access isn’t located in one of the other units? If you don’t have access to the attic, there’s no easy way to check to see what’s going on up there, or if there’s any damage occurring to the insulation or roof sheathing.

However, this sounds like a situation that needs to be examined more closely, so you may want to create an access. This can possibly be done by cutting a hole in the ceiling of one of the closets to create an access, then adding a door over the new access hole.

With backed-up gutters and no attic ventilation, you have the potential for some real problems. I would suggest that you talk with a licensed general contractor or a roofing contractor, and have them come out and examine the situation. They can help you with inspecting the roof and the vents, and with the creation of an attic access.

You might also talk to them about the possibility of some heat tape inside the gutters and downspouts, at least on the north side, to keep them clear so the roof runoff has somewhere to go.

Q: My house was built in the 1940s. We replaced an old toilet with a new water-saver toilet. But the space behind the toilet to the wall is from 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 inches. I have filled (braced) the toilet tank to the wall with Styrofoam packaging (from purchased products) to prevent the tank being pushed back and breaking loose or off. With some use of toilet, the Styrofoam "squeaks" (rubbing on wall) from slight use. Is there some other solution for this problem to keep the tank safe and secure, short of calling in a plumber? –Rene P.

A: The problem is that you have the wrong toilet for the existing rough-in. The rough-in is the distance from the face of the finished wall behind the toilet to the center of the toilet’s drain flange. Most of today’s toilets are made for a rough-in of 12 inches. Many older toilets were roughed in at 14 inches or even more, which is what it sounds like is the case in your home.

You have a couple of possible solutions. Many toilet manufacturers still make toilets for 14-inch rough-ins, so swapping out the existing toilet for a new one of the correct dimensions is one option.

The other option is to cut the waste line going to the flange and move it back to 12 inches. That’s obviously a lot more involved, and I’d recommend that only if the current rough-in is more than 14 inches and you can’t find a toilet that will fit.

I would definitely not recommend trying to brace the toilet tank against the wall. No matter how you do it, you’re going to create stress on the tank and on the seals between the tank and the bowl, and that’s eventually going to lead to problems.

Q: I live in a 6-year-old ranch-style house with a walkout basement in Littleton, Colo. A few months ago, I started noticing that when I walked into the den on the main floor, I would hear a cracking or snapping sound (that’s the best way I can describe it) coming from the interior wall and/or the floor in the den. As I’d continue to walk around in the den, I wouldn’t notice any more sounds, but if I came back into the den an hour or so later I’d hear those sounds all over again. Any ideas as to what could be causing these sounds?

Do you think that I should just "live with it," or do you think that it may be a serious enough problem to warrant some remedial action? If so, do you know of a company that can deal with this type of problem? –John C.

A: Since you say you’re hearing this in one specific room, and it seems to be coming from the floor and wall area, my guess is that you have some movement between the floor and the wall plate. That sometime happens in newer homes as they begin to dry out after the construction and the lumber shrinks and moves a little. The noise comes from movement between two pieces of lumber, or between the lumber and the nails that hold it in place.

Try walking as close to the wall as possible in the area where you’re hearing the noise, and see if you can isolate it to one or two specific areas. To fix it, drive a wooden shim under the wall in the area where you’ve isolated the noise. You shouldn’t need to remove flooring or trim — just work the point of the shim under the wall plate from above, tap it in as far as it will go, then snap off the excess.

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