Q: We are planning to have a vapor barrier installed in our crawl space. When the estimator was here, he said he saw what might be mold and recommended that we have a mold inspection, and if necessary, cleanup, done first.

I just had the mold inspector out, and fortunately, he says there was no mold, but he did say we had a lot of efflorescence built up on our piers and that for $2,500 they could come in, clean it up and disinfect the crawl space.

He said that there was no evidence of damage to the wood supports but that over time there could be problems as efflorescence is building up around the wood. Is that true? Our home is already nearly 50 years old and it obviously hasn’t damaged it yet. It seems a bit like overkill (and expensive).

A: So let’s shoot the flea with the elephant gun. Save your $2,500 and spend less than $20 on a wire brush, a small throwaway paint brush and a small can of fungicide. Fixing the situation will require a bit of crawling and an hour or so of your time, but you’ll have saved more than $2,400.

Efflorescence is a by-product of moisture leaching minerals out of the concrete in the piers. It won’t hurt the wood, but moisture will if it’s present for a long period of time. Since you’ve got 50 years on the piers and no wood damage, we believe that a little preventive maintenance is all you need. The most we’d do is crawl under the house and brush the efflorescence off with a wire brush and treat the wood with a good coat of wood preservative with a fungicide.

We do caution you to make sure there is adequate ventilation in the crawl space when you have the plastic vapor barrier put in place. Measure the foundation vents on the outside of the home. At minimum, you should have 1 square foot of vent for each 150 square feet of crawl space. If you are short, add enough additional foundation vents to meet this formula.

Toilet flange revisited

A recent column about fixing a toilet flange that was installed too high brought a couple of comments from contractors. One took us to task for an oversight on our part, and the other didn’t think this was a project for a "simple homeowner" and provided an alternative solution to lowering the flange. …CONTINUED

One contractor wrote: "I was appalled that you instructed the reader to install the flange against the subfloor. This is not correct. The correct location of the flange is on top of the finished surface. Fortunately, they sell kits for this very purpose."

"Appalled" is a bit strong, but we stand corrected nonetheless. In last week’s column we wrote: "The pipe and toilet flange should drop the 1/2 inch and rest on the subfloor." We misspoke. We should have said "drop the 1/2 inch and rest on the tile that the handyman installed adjacent to the ‘too high’ flange."

Another contractor offered: "This week’s article put a lot of responsibility on a simple homeowner to cut and re-band cast-iron pipe, when he used a handyman to do the job in the first place. Use grinders and two men, please. I have used Corian cut into the shape of the toilet base in a similar situation. It matched the toilet, and we did a decorative router edge to fancy it up. Simple and within the reach of a homeowner to have it done."

Cutting and re-banding no-hub cast iron is not beyond "a simple homeowner" simply because he hired somebody to remodel his bathroom in the first place. Both of us hire out work now because we’re getting a little long in the tooth and we just don’t want to do it.

This job isn’t brain surgery. Given the inclination, proper information and the right tools, a "simple homeowner" can and should do it himself.

We talked about the two ways to cut cast iron: a snap cutter and a grinder with a cutting wheel. We also suggested that he take his helpful uncle under the house with him. It’s a two-man job to loosen the bands and remove and reconnect the new shorter pipe. A grinder is the way to go for cutting because of the short length.

We know that a project of this scope is well within the capabilities of the "simple homeowner" because we’ve done it. As for the Corian "booster seat" you suggest, that might be OK if the waste pipe were inaccessible, but for this homeowner’s situation, our way is better.


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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