Q: The metal rods that operate the covers on my foundation vents no longer work, and I want to replace them. Can you recommend a replacement, or a way to make my own? Also, do you feel that closing the foundation vents is even necessary? –Steve B.
A: First of all, I do recommend that the crawl space be sealed off during the coldest part of the winter season in order to prevent frozen pipes. Depending on your average winter temperatures, you can cover the vents during the coldest months and leave them open the rest of the year to allow any accumulated moisture to dissipate from under the house.
The easiest solution would be to simply replace your existing vent covers with new ones of the same style, with a metal rod that operates a metal or plastic flap. As long as there is nothing interfering with the action of the flap cover as it opens and closes, they should work fine for several seasons. I would suggest a little WD-40 or similar lubricant on the hinges each season.
If your vents are not in the concrete foundation and you would like to build something, your best bet would be as follows: First, purchase some of the white, rigid foam foundation vent blocks from your local home center. Using 1-by-4 or 1-by-6 cedar, construct a box that’s of the proper size to fit two of the foam blocks side by side. Cover one open side of the box with 1/8-inch hardware cloth, then cut an appropriate size opening in your siding and install the boxes. The foam blocks will then work to seal the vents during the winter, and are easy and inexpensive to replace if they become damaged.
Q: We recently had a deck built with a composite product called EWood. When we walk across it and touch anything metal, we get a slight shock! I called the manufacturer who said if we keep the deck wet we wouldn’t have that problem, but that’s not an acceptable solution to me. My builder has never heard of the problem. Can you help? –Paula M.
A: To be honest, I had never heard of this either, but I was able to track down the people at CPI Plastics — a Canadian company that manufactures the plastics used in the decking — to get an answer. By the way, the product is now sold under the brand name EON.
Your static electricity problem is apparently not very common, but it’s not unheard of either. If the substructure of the deck is not in direct contact with the house or is isolated from the ground via concrete or other structures, a small amount of static electricity from electrical storms can build up on the surface of the deck. When a circuit is completed — in your case, a person standing on the deck and touching something metal — the electricity discharges, causing the small shock you’ve been feeling. The solution requires that the deck substructure be grounded by running a wire from an inconspicuous spot on the deck to a ground source, allowing the electricity to safely discharge. CPI assures me that the fix will take 15 minutes or less, and anyone having this problem should contact their customer support line at 866 DIAL EON for full details on the procedure.
Q: My home is 4 1/2 years old, and I have quite a bit of green, crystallized material around the joints in the copper water pipes in my basement. Is there anything I can do to stop this? –Stephen S.
A: To assemble a joint in copper plumbing, the pipe and fitting are first cleaned, then coated with a paste flux.
The joint is then heated, and solder is applied. The capillary action of the heat and the flux sucks the solder into the joint, and some of the flux is expelled at the same time. If not cleaned off at the time the joint is still hot, the flux will dry there and cause the green discoloration you’re seeing. This is very common, and since the dried flux is not corrosive enough to affect the joint, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about and you shouldn’t see it expanding in any way.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.