Q: The panel siding on our house is defective, and we have received a settlement from the manufacturer. We want to re-side using HardiPlank, and wonder if the defective panel siding has to be removed first (there is no sheathing between the siding and the studs)? If the defective siding is left on, can the expanded areas be cut away so they don’t interfere with the new siding? Tom J.

A: I would strongly recommend that the old siding be removed prior to installation of the HardiPlank, for a number of reasons:

The panels that are attached to the studs – whether they are sheets of siding or sheathing panels – act as shear panels to keep the building from racking (leaning over or moving laterally). In single-wall construction such as yours, where a home is built using panels over the studs, there is typically no other bracing installed for lateral support, so if you start cutting out sections of the old panels – even if you patch them back in – the shear strength of the building will be affected.

Also, if the old siding failed due to moisture problems that caused separation within the siding sheets, you may be covering over a moisture or structural problem that may come back to haunt you later in the form of problems with the new siding – it would be a similar situation to covering over dryrot or insect damage. It would also almost certainly void your warranty.

Finally, James Hardie (makers of HardiPlank) recommends in the installation instructions that HardiPlank be installed over “plywood or OSB sheathing.” Again, to install it over anything else will probably void the warranty on the new siding.

Q: We have a recessed light fixture that shuts itself off after about 15 minutes, then comes back on a few minutes later. Our other recessed lights don’t do this. What is your recommendation? –Jody W.

A: Most recessed lights have a thermal cutout circuit in them as a safety feature to prevent overheating, and it sounds like that’s what’s going on here. Basically, if too much heat builds up in the fixture, the circuit senses that and shuts the electricity to the light until it has cooled back down to a preset level, at which point it turns the light back on again.

This is definitely something to be concerned about, as it could indicate either a potentially hazardous overheating problem or a problem with the internal wiring in the fixture. You need to contact a licensed electrician right away and have the light checked and replaced if necessary. In the meantime, I would strongly suggest not using the light until after it’s been checked.

Q: I have outdoor carpet glued down over my concrete front porch, but it’s very hard to keep clean. Can I remove the carpet and install non-skid tiles? Do you have any other recommendations? Madilyn M.

A: There are a couple of things you can do to improve the look of your patio, depending on your budget and the look you’re trying to achieve.

The least expensive would be to paint the concrete. You would first need to remove the carpeting, which is typically done with a wide-blade floor scraper. Most of the glue will come up with the carpeting as you scrape, and the rest needs to be removed using mineral spirits. Repair any cracks in the concrete with an elastic concrete sealant, and then make sure that the concrete is completely clean and dry. Finally, apply two coats of masonry porch and floor enamel – if desired, you can add granules to the wet paint to make it more slip-resistant. All of the materials, including the mineral spirits and non-slip additives, are available at local paint stores or home centers.

A more expensive but definitely more attractive solution is ceramic tile. First, remove the carpet and clean the concrete as described above. Then, as long as the concrete is solid and flat, ceramic tile can be applied directly over it using mastic or thin-set that’s formulated for use on concrete – all of the materials you need can be purchased wherever you get the tile, or they’ll be provided for you by the tile contractor if you hire the work out. For outdoor use, select an unglazed tile so that the surface isn’t slippery when it gets wet.

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