Occasionally we get questions that have answers that don’t require lots of explanation. When they begin to pile up, we like to clean out our e-mail box. Here are short answers to four unrelated questions.

Q: I have a single-story home in Castro Valley, Calif., with a garage and family room wall facing southeast. The prevailing winds during rainstorms come from that direction and soak the wall. The garage wall is not drywalled. Rainwater leaks through and is getting the studs wet. I assume the same is happening on the family room walls. It has been going on for quite some time. I had the home painted two years ago and I’ve even rolled on extra layers of paint, to no avail. Help!

A: We used to live in San Leandro, just a town away from you, so we understand the behavior of the stormy southeast winds in that part of the East Bay. Since you’ve repainted several times, the problem is probably not with the siding. We’re assuming, of course, the proper preparation, including caulking, was done before painting.

The next place to look is the roof. Water can penetrate a small void in the roof covering, land on the top plate of the stud wall and make it appear that the entire wall is a sieve. If the attic is accessible, take a look at the rafters for evidence of water. It may be that the roof covering is the cause of your wet walls.

When the rainy season is mostly behind us, we think you would be wise to take care of this problem once and for all. Remember, wood and water don’t mix.

Q: I am improving my garage with a workbench, peg board, paint, etc. Before I put the peg board up on the interior of an outside wall, I put up 15-pound building paper and then R-13 fiberglass insulation, with a vapor barrier. I installed the insulation with the paper facing the inside of the garage so that the fiberglass is next to the asphalt paper. Both the asphalt paper and the insulation are in between the studs.

I’m concerned that I have created a situation that may result in condensation between the asphalt paper and the vapor barrier side of the insulation. I live close to the ocean and I would like to cut down on moisture in the garage.

A: We don’t believe you have anything to worry about. Even though you’ve installed what amounts to two vapor retarders (the asphalt felt and the paper face on the insulation), the multiple holes in the peg board allow plenty of air movement in and around the insulation. Moisture buildup shouldn’t be a problem.

Q: My home was built in 1968. It is a single-story, flat-roofed, 2,054-square-foot, U-shaped building just north of San Rafael, Calif. The roof, which is 3 years old, is a granular, APP modified bitumen membrane, Class A material (so I’m told).

There is no ceiling insulation, but there is a crawl space of about 1 1/2 feet between the inside ceilings and the roof itself. There are ventilation holes about every 16 inches around the whole house at the level of the crawl space, I assume between the cross beams that extend across each section of the U shape.

I have been told that it would be possible to insulate the ceiling with cellulose by shooting it into the ventilation holes and then sealing the holes. I’m concerned about possible mildew and other dampness problems with cellulose. Are there alternatives that could be sprayed in through the ventilation holes, such as synthetic fibers?

A: An alternative material might be expanding foam, but we would not necessarily recommend it. It is a job better left to the pros — as to both scope and performance. To solve this problem, if there is in fact a solution, we’d engage the services of an engineer.

Q: The house I bought has tile in the entry — a raised white wreath design on mustard with brown grout. It is very well done — good-quality tile, good installation, but it isn’t compatible with the natural cork floors in the living room and dining room, which I used to replace wall-to-wall carpeting.

I think the entry, which is 10 by 12 feet, needs a harder surface. Is it possible to coat the tile rather than tear it out? Can you think of anything my contractor son and I could do short of breaking out good-quality tile that’s just the wrong color and design?

A: Sure, why not cover it with another layer of tile or stone surface of your choice? Granted, another layer of flooring will add another quarter-inch to the floor, but that should be no big deal. Or if you like the tile look but hate the color (as seems to be the case), bullnose tiles will give you a nice finished edge to the new entryway.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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