Q: I have older double-hung windows, and would like to be able to secure them with some type of lock like what you find on newer windows. I don’t want to end up gerryrigging something, and was wondering if you could point me in a more productive direction. –Sara S.
A: For retrofitting single- and double-hung windows, there is a small sliding metal pin lock that mounts on top of the lower sash. The lock has a bracket that screws to the top of the lower sash frame, and then one or more holes are drilled into the side frame of the window to allow the locking pin to slide into the hole to secure the window in place. Holes can be drilled at different intervals along the frame to allow you to lock the window in the open position at different heights, and also lets you use the pin lock in conjunction with the window’s original lock for additional security when the window is completely closed.
Your best bet for a sash lock like this is a well-equipped hardware store or home center. You could also talk to any glass stores in your area or retailers that sell windows. Sash locks for single- and double-hung windows are not a really common item, but any of these outlets should be able to find them in one of their catalogs and order them for you. Complete installation instructions will come with the lock, and the dealer should also be able to recommend a qualified person to do the installation if you don’t want to do it yourself.
Q: Can you tell me if any homeowners insurance companies still offer coverage for protection against city sewer-line backups. My current company used to offer it, but they recently eliminated the coverage. –Craig J.
A: The homeowners policies from virtually all insurance companies will cover most instances of sewage problems if they are caused on-site — for example, from a toilet that becomes clogged and overflows. If a sewage backup occurs off-site — as is the case when a municipal line clogs and backs up — most insurance companies have taken the position that that’s the city’s responsibly and not theirs, and as a result you will find that few, if any, policies will extend coverage for any resulting damages to your home.
More surprisingly, however, is that most cities do little to provide damage relief to affected homeowners. Coverage generally becomes one of liability as opposed to actual property damage, and the insurance policies carried by many municipalities typically will limit monetary payment for repairs to a small percentage of the actual cost of the loss.
Some insurance companies offer supplemental coverage for things such as flood or earthquake damage, so there may be supplemental coverage available for municipal sewer damage as well. Your best bet would be to ask your insurance agent what’s available and how much extra it would cost. Incidentally, it’s important to know that most insurance companies are now rewriting their policies to also exclude coverage for mold-related damage, so you might want to ask your agent about that as well.
Q: You had a great article about vapor barriers and it brought to mind something I have always wondered about. Tyvek and other wraps around the outside of a house would appear to create a "second" vapor barrier that can cause condensation in the stud space if there is any defect in the main vapor barrier. Would this also be your opinion? –Lew S.
A: Actually, Tyvek and similar house wraps are not considered to be a vapor barrier. To quote DuPont (the manufacturer of Tyvek): "Tyvek Housewrap is used as an air infiltration barrier and secondary weather-resistive membrane when applied in exterior walls. The unique properties of Tyvek allow it to be resistant to liquid water while allowing water vapor to evaporate out of the wall cavity."
You have a very valid concern about second vapor barriers trapping moisture in walls. This could occur when moisture generated inside the building passes through the primary vapor barrier (the vapor barrier is always on the warm, or inside, face of the wall insulation) and becomes trapped by a vapor-impermeable outer wall covering such as asphalt-impregnated felt — "tar paper" — that once saw common use under siding. With a vapor barrier on each side of the wall, the moisture would be unable to exit, and would stay in the wall where it could cause all sorts of problems.
House wraps, however, are specifically designed to stop outside air infiltration while still allowing water vapor a chance to escape, hence their tremendous popularity with builders.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.