Q: I own a 40-plus-year-old house that has been remodeled from time to time and looks modern and is well-kept. Presently, I need to remove the “cottage cheese” ceiling from one large room. Is it in my best interest to remove this from all the rooms in the house? –Lorna K.
A: First of all, I need to make you aware of the fact that many older acoustic ceiling treatments — commonly called “popcorn” or “cottage cheese” ceilings — contained a small amount of asbestos fiber. Asbestos was common in many acoustic and drywall products until the 1970s and sometimes later, so a home that is 40-plus years old could fall into that category.
Removal of asbestos is governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and under their guidelines you have some options for professional or do-it-yourself removal. For more information on asbestos and how to have it tested and removed, visit the EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov.
There are pros and cons to removing all the acoustic material at one time. On the plus side, you have the mess only once, and if you are hiring out the work, you’ll save money by doing all the ceilings at one time. You also eliminate the asbestos risk, however minor. From a resale standpoint, buyers almost universally seem to dislike acoustic popcorn ceilings, so you will also improve the overall value of your home.
On the downside, scraping, retexturing and repainting all the ceilings in the house at the same time can be disruptive, time-consuming, and, if you’re having the redecorating work professionally done, can be costly. Also, if the ceiling material contains asbestos and you are having it professionally removed, it can be a very expensive undertaking.
That said, if you have the option either way, my advice would be to get it all done at once.
Q: I have some type of blown-in insulation in my attic. I assume there is nothing wrong with moving some of the blown-in insulation to those areas that need it and putting new fiberglass bats in the area that now has no insulation. Note that my house has ceilings of various heights, and the original insulation installation could have been done more carefully. –David G.
A: Nothing wrong with that at all — just try and get uniform coverage over everything so that you don’t have any cold spots, and keep the insulation clear of anything that’s heat producing. You could also have an insulation contractor come out and give you an estimate on re-blowing the entire attic up to at least R-38.
Q: I have a Kohler brand shower valve in my home, which is dripping. The plumbing advisor at Ace Hardware told me that it is difficult to fix the Kohler brand showers, and I should get a plumber who is familiar with Kohler brand. Is it really that difficult? Any tips if I try it myself? I am an OK, but not a great, handyman. Do I have to change the whole cartridge or maybe a washer? I got the cartridge changed about three years ago and it started leaking again. I changed only the seat and the washer in the faucet. –Paul T.
A: I am not familiar with any reason why a Kohler faucet is any more prone to drips than any other, or why you would need a plumber with specific experience. If you would like to try the repairs yourself, get a Kohler repair kit that is made for your specific faucet, and follow the instructions included. Be sure you utilize a Kohler kit, not anything else, and also be sure that you use all of the new parts that come with the kit.
If you have any doubts about doing this yourself, I would recommend that you contact a plumbing company that deals with service and repair work. It shouldn’t be a very expensive service call, and you’ll have the peace of mind that the repairs have been done correctly, and that you have a guarantee.
Q: How do I locate a seller of a dual flush water saver handle for a commode? –Richard J.
A: I would check out The Controllable Flush at www.athenacfc.com.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.