Q: I’m currently in contract to buy a townhouse. The broker and my attorney are encouraging us to have the seller purchase a home warranty (through Coldwell Banker). What is your opinion of these programs? There seems to be many complaints about them online.

A: First, I need to give you a couple of disclaimers: I have only limited experience with home warranties, and I don’t know anything about Coldwell Banker’s specific program. So this is only my general and limited opinion.

From what I have seen and heard, home warranties suffer from a "fine print" problem. Homes and their systems are very complex, and there are so many variables that affect them, from the weather to do-it-yourself repairs. For that reason, there are a number of things that are either not covered or have only limited coverage under a lot of the warranties.

Also, there can be a number of factors that determine the inclusion or exclusion of a listed repair, such as age, condition, who’s worked on it in the past, even its location in the house. Finally, depending on where you live, actually getting repair people out to your house in a timely manner may be an issue as well.

First of all, you need to carefully go over all the details and all the restrictions of the proposed policy. You obviously have an attorney involved, so he or she should be able to help you understand it. See what the deductibles are, and when they come into play. Find out what the exact procedures are for calling in a warranty claim, how long the processing takes, and how long it takes to get a service person out to the house.

If possible, ask for some local references of other buyers who have this service. Give a few of them a call, and see what their experiences have been.

Q: I recently bought a house built in 1927. It’s a two-story with a finished attic (total of three floors of living space). It appears to have no insulation whatsoever. The third floor has access to the tops of the exterior walls, all of the roof rafters, and the tops of the second-floor ceilings. What would you recommend for insulation? Should I blow cellulose insulation down the exterior walls from the attic space?

A: Unfortunately, you’re going to get a lot of conflicting opinions on whether blowing insulation into the exterior cavities of an older home is a good idea or not. …CONTINUED

With a home as old as yours, you have the possibility that the weight and pressure of the blown insulation can damage wiring in the walls, crack plaster, and even possibly damage old water pipes. Also, older homes tend to leak a lot of air through the walls. That means that moisture is being drawn into the walls as well, which can dampen the cellulose and cause all sorts of additional moisture problems to the structure.

The best thing I can suggest is that you have two experienced, licensed insulation contractors come out and inspect the house and make specific suggestions as to what you can do to insulate it. Compare their suggestions and their cost estimates, and see if there is a consensus of opinion on how best to proceed.

Another option is to contact your local utility company and see if they have a weatherization consultant available that can come out and check the house. This should be a free service from the utility, and in addition to making specific suggestions about how to insulate and weatherize the house, they may have grant money or low-interest loans available to help you with the work.

Q: Is it possible to install a towel rack on glass block shower tile? Would it work by using epoxy with a regular towel rack, or would it not be strong enough to hold a wet bath towel?

A: It’s difficult and even potentially dangerous to attach anything to glass block. I would be leery of even gluing something to the block, as the weight of a wet towel could eventually cause some structural problems if the blocks are not well installed. Above all, don’t drill into the block for any reason.

My suggestion would be to look for alternative places to mount the towel bar. If there are no convenient walls to mount it on, you might want to consider a freestanding towel rack instead, or attach a hook to the back of the door.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


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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