Q: We’re having some serious problems with the windows in our new house. They sweat, let dust blow in, freeze up, and are drafty — even the picture windows. In cold weather, water is running down the windows, and they won’t open. Our heating bill went from $30 dollars in December to $295 in January. The contractor has been out a couple of times, and I also had a representative from the window company come out. They are trying to tell me that this is “normal new-home moisture” and that the house needs a few more months to dry out. We paid for upgraded windows, and we’re also worried because the one-year warranty on the house is about to expire. Now the contractor won’t return my calls. What else can I do? –Stan Y., via e-mail

A: First of all, given the extent of the moisture problems your house is having, I would find it very hard to believe that it’s because the house has not “dried out,” especially after a year.

You have done the right thing by getting the window reps out there, but I doubt you will get much satisfaction on that end. If you are also satisfied that you have done all you can to contact the contractor and that he is ducking your calls at this point, the next thing to do is the one thing I am always reluctant to advise — contact an attorney that deals with construction defects. Have the attorney start by sending the contractor a registered letter. In the letter, explain briefly but clearly what the problems are and how long they have been going on. Give him a specific deadline for remedying the situation, and tell him specifically what your next steps will be. Those steps would typically be to initiate an action against him with the state contractor’s board, and then from there possibly some type of civil litigation.

The letter serves several purposes. It will put him on notice that you are deadly serious about the problem and about your resolve to take further action. More importantly, it will help establish a paper trail that clearly shows these problems started well before the end of your 1-year warranty problem, so your claim for damages and repairs should survive the warranty’s ending.

Please understand that I am not an attorney, and I cannot give you any legal advice. Your attorney can assist you with the specific wording and content of the letter, as well as with any further actions you should consider.

Q: I need to repair the siding on my home, and my contractor gave me two options — repair my existing T 1-11 or replace the siding with new material. He suggested HardiPlank, which I like because of the warranty. However, my neighbor said that the nails on that material will rust, and it’s not a good idea to use it. What is your recommendation? –Lucy B., via e-mail

A: Virtually any nail can rust under the right circumstances. However, I have never heard of rusted nails being a problem specifically related to HardiPlank, and I would have to question where your neighbor got that information. If rusting is a particular concern in your area due to high moisture levels, you might want to talk with your contractor about using stainless-steel nails instead of the standard galvanized ones. Other than that, I have always found HardiPlank to be an excellent product, and I would have no problems recommending it.

Q: I live in a condo complex that was converted in 1979 from an apartment building built in 1968. In the last couple of years, a number of plumbing changes have been made to the building, including adding a sprinkler system and installing washers in many of the units. Now the sound of water in the pipes is getting progressively louder, and I am concerned that perhaps the old pipes are not adequate for the increased load. What would you suggest? –Peggy A., via e-mail

A: The type of noise you describe could be coming from a couple of different things, including an increase in water pressure from the city or the changes in water flow that you mention resulted from the recent remodeling. Increasing the volume or the pressure of the water flow through a pipe that is too small to handle it or that is inadequately supported can definitely cause additional noise.

You mention that this is a condo, so I would start with the condo association. Ask for more details about the remodeling, and ask to speak with the plumbing contractor doing the work so you can share your concerns. Next, since the addition of a sprinkler system and laundry areas requires a plumbing permit, I would also contact your local building department for more details about exactly what is being done to the units and how the water is being distributed. Finally, you could check with your water utility office at the city and see if they have increased the water pressure to your building recently.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@hughes.net.

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