Better heating vent placement: floor or ceiling?

One state is mandating a 'counterintuitive' option for new homes

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Q: My 36-year-old home has a gas furnace and floor vents. Unfortunately, several of these vents are rusting underground. My furnace guy tells me that here in Oklahoma floor vents are no longer allowed in new homes; they all use ceiling vents. He suggests that instead of repairing the current vents, when I replace the furnace I should have ceiling vents put in. (The furnace is about 19 years old.) He also says that if I were to sell my home I would need to put in ceiling vents or repair the floor vents.

Ceiling vents seem counterintuitive. Why would I want the heat to come in overhead when heat rises? What do you recommend? –Pat H.

A: I’m assuming by the fact that you say that your existing ducts are rusting that you must have a concrete slab floor, and the ducts are in the slab.

I agree with you that it’s counterintuitive to have heating vents in the ceiling, and it’s not my favorite place to put them. But it’s prohibitively expensive to rip up the slab and install new ducting, so it sounds like you don’t really have an alternative. Just be sure that both the ductwork and the ceiling are very well insulated to minimize heat loss.

You might also want to consider some paddle fans or other circulating fans on the ceiling to push the heat back down into the rooms. The higher the ceilings in your home, the more important these types of fans become.

Q: My son recently purchased a condo. Left behind was a complete shower-door assembly, which looks brand-new. Upon inspection in an attempt to install it, it appears that the wall jambs and bottom and top tracks are too short. I assume someone may have cut them to the wrong size and gave up on the assembly.

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Can these parts be purchased and if so where? Does it pay to get them or just dump the whole thing? Are there any markings that would show the manufacturer? I couldn’t locate any on my inspection of the doors and parts. –Tom M.

A: Shower-door assemblies range from very inexpensive to quite costly. Assuming you and your son like the look of the door, before you give up on the project I think it would be worth a little more detective work.

One option is to try a Web search. Simply enter "shower door parts" and you’ll find a number of companies that sell replacement channels and tracks. As long as you can match the color and size, you should be able to order what you need.

The other option is to pack the whole thing up and take it to a local glass shop that sells shower doors. They can inspect it and see about ordering the necessary parts for you.

With the second option, you have the added hassle of hauling the door to a shop, but you have the assurance of an expert doing the ordering, for both size and color. Either way, you’ll come out money ahead when compared to a complete new shower door.

Q: I read your advice on venting and insulation to prevent ice dams. But we have a cathedral ceiling (no attic space) and our roof pitch is fairly steep, but then levels out onto a porch roof with considerably less pitch. We get ice dams in an area where these roofs meet. I am wondering if there may be a problem with ventilation where the two roof pitches meet. It is a continuous roof (standing seam metal) that goes from one pitch to another. Do you think this could be the problem? If so, what is the solution?

We have considered using a heated cable that they sell at the hardware store, but it says it is not to be used on a metal roof. Is there another solution to beat these dams? –Cindy L.

A: From what you describe, you have one of the worst scenarios for ice damming. You have a low-slope roof meeting a high-slope roof, which allows snow to accumulate in that area. Then you combine that with the vaulted ceiling, which means not only limited ventilation, but most likely very limited insulation in the area where the two roofs meet.

There’s no easy fix. In my experience, I’ve seen only a couple of things done. You can remove the metal roofing in the problem area, and then install a continuous membrane roofing over the joint where the roofs meet, then reinstall the metal. The other possibility is to reframe that portion of the roof to get more slope, and at the same time add a layer of rigid insulation under the roofing to help minimize heat loss.

Your best bet at this point is to talk with a roofer who specializes in metal roofing. After he sees it in person, he may have some additional flashing suggestions for that joint, or a way of diverting and breaking up the snow so it doesn’t settle there.

Q: I recently had a dog-eared cedar fence installed, with treated 4-inch-by-4-inch posts and 2-inch-by-4-inch treated rails. I know cedar is known for its durability, but do the cedar pickets need to be treated with a wood preservative? If so, do you have a favorite? –Tom L.

The cedar is fine the way it is, unless you want to preserve its natural yellowish color. If you do, you can apply an oil-based, UV-resistant fence and deck stain that will help keep the cedar from fading and changing color. If you choose to do that, you’ll have to do it every couple of years to keep the color looking fresh.

Without any kind of stain or sealer on it, the cedar will slowly fade to a grayish color. This is normal, and won’t affect the cedar’s durability.

Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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