Q: My 1950s home was originally built with three bedrooms and one bathroom. Sixteen years ago I added another two bedrooms and two bathrooms. A couple of re-piping companies suggested I replace the drainage line in the old part of my home although they have not found any leakage. I am not sure if it is something I must do, or they just want to have the business. Please advise. –Sim Y.

A: The issue is one of capacity more than leaks. When you add two bathrooms, you are increasing the amount of water and waste flow that the old sewer pipes have to handle. It could be that the companies you talked to feel that the original pipes are too small for that extra load, or they could have become partially clogged over the years.

If you are showing any signs of slow-running drains or other problems associated with drainage from anywhere in the house, and you are able to determine that it is not an isolated problem such as a single clogged sink drain, then you would next want to check and see if the existing main lines are damage or clogged.

There are companies that can put a camera down the line to check for cracks, leaks and clogs. If there is any damage to the pipes or if simple cleaning doesn’t get the flow back up to normal, then new drain lines are probably the only answer.

Q: I have a bathroom with a textured ceiling, from which sparkly stuff has come down on the area over the shower. I need to scrape off the texture and install a vent fan.

I would like a smooth ceiling. How is the best way to accomplish? Pull down the whole thing? The area is not too large, maybe 8 feet by 12 feet square. –David R.

A: There are a couple of steps involved in accomplishing what you want to do, none of which are overly difficult. You just want to be sure you take your time with each step to be sure you get good results.

First, though, a word of caution. Asbestos was a commonly used ingredient in ceiling textures until it was banned in 1978. However, existing stocks were still allowed to be used up, so it appeared in homes that were being built well into the 1980s. If your home was built any time prior to around 1985, you need to have a certified lab test the ceiling material for the presence of asbestos prior to scraping. You can get more information about asbestos and testing procedures at the Environmental Protection Agency’s website: www.epa.gov/asbestos.

If the material doesn’t contain asbestos, scraping the old ceiling is step one. Drape the walls and floor with plastic sheeting to contain the mess (this is definitely a messy process). Wear protective clothing, including goggles and a dust mask. Use a spray bottle of water, and spray a small area of ceiling texture to get it fairly damp, but not saturated. Then, use a 6-inch drywall taping knife to scrape off the material. Hold the knife at a low angle relative to the ceiling so you don’t dig into the drywall.

Work your way across the ceiling, scraping everything off. You’ll quickly get a feel for how much water to use, how much pressure to apply, and how big an area you can work with at one time. Be sure you get all the old material scraped off.

Next, you’ll need to evaluate the condition of the drywall. Ceiling texture can cover a lot of flaws, so you’ll probably be facing some drywall work. Use premixed drywall compound and 6-inch and 12-inch taping knives as needed to smooth out any bad seams or other flaws. Take your time, especially if you’re not experienced with drywall work. Allow each application of joint compound to dry, sand it smooth, then add a little more as needed. Since you want a smooth ceiling, any flaws you leave behind in the drywall will show through the paint, so again, take your time with the application and the sanding.

Finally, apply a good coat of primer over the finished ceiling, then one or two coats of good-quality finish paint, ideally to the entire room. Use a satin or semi-gloss paint to best resist the bathroom’s moisture. Your home center or paint store can assist you with the best choices for paint and primer.

Q: My new tub is not level. On the vertical plane water drains well, but the surround is shimmed out 1.5 inches in order to get a good fit at the rim of the tub. I have mortar on the slab for extra support of the fiberglass hanging tub. Will I have any problems other than the tub and surround leaning out away from wall? –James P.

A: Yes, there is the potential for problems with an installation like that. I would recommend that first you remove the tub and surround from the opening. Next, either remove the framing in the tub alcove and redo it, or else shim it so that it’s both plumb and level. You may need to take two-by-two or two-by-four lumber and rip it on an angle to create the long shims necessary to get the faces of the studs plumb. Once everything is plumb, then you can reinstall the tub and surround, again using a mortar bed under the fiberglass tub for stability.

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