HON Real Questions and Answers

Question: We have an older boiler system with radiator heat and the gas was turned off to the house - should the inspector light the pilot light and fire up the system to inspect it?


Answer: Most inspectors will not light pilots and fire up the system. National published association and most state codified standards of practice specifically state the inspector is not required to activate any system that is shut down. Mainly because it is unknown why the system is shut down and it may be malfunctioning. However, some inspectors go beyond the standard of practice if they are comfortable, and will light pilots. It is certainly not required.


Question: What can I use to help my lawn to grow healthier for springtime?


Answer: The answer depends on your location, what type of grass you have, and the condition of the grass. Possibilities range from fertilization in the spring to aeration and thatching. A local lawn care company can give you the best advice for your individual lawn. Here are a couple websites to look at for some basic information.

www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-aerate-a-lawn

www.thisoldhouse.com


Question: I have several outlets in one of my rooms that are older "non grounded" outlets. Is this something I can replace or is this a grander project for an electrician?


Answer: Replacing two slot receptacles with three slot receptacles without running a grounding wire is allowed if the receptacle is replaced with a GFCI receptacle and the cover plate is labeled "No Equipment Ground." This is an easy project if done very carefully. If you want to do it yourself, I suggest you get a book about home electrical projects to give you step-by-step instructions.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: There is one step coming down the stairs that is a larger step than the rest of the steps... It measures 8.5 inches versus the others being 6 inches. What is code for VA?


Answer: Codes vary depending on when the home was built and the specific jurisdiction where the home is located. I cannot, therefore, tell you what is or is not code in your situation.
I can tell you the the International Residential Code (IRC) currently limits the difference in height between any two steps (risers) in a flight of stairs to not more than 3/8 inch. The IRC is the code upon which most local codes are based. This limit has not changed in many years.
You are correct to be concerned. Such a large difference is a trip and fall hazard. I recommend having it repaired. Unfortunately, such a repair is rarely inexpensive or easy.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: The wall unit in my bedroom in my condo smells mildewy. Should I replace it? I know it is a very old unit. How do I get it out? Should I have a professional come look at it first?


Answer: I'm assuming you are referring to a permanently installed, through the wall heating/cooling appliance.
It's possible that the filter and the tray that catches water from the air conditioning process are dirty. If this is true, cleaning and filter replacement may be all that's needed. A qualified heating/cooling contractor should be able to tell you what's wrong and how much it will cost to fix. Cleaning and filter replacement usually costs between $150 and $300 depending on what's required and where you live.


Question: I have a leaky faucet in the shower. Can I fix it by changing the knob? Or will I have to break open the wall and close off the pipe?


Answer: In most cases, a leaky valve can be repaired without damaging the surrounding materials. The leak is probably a worn or damaged washer in the valve. This is a relatively easy repair for most valves.
The repair involves shutting off water to the valve. In most showers this means shutting off water to the entire house. You then take apart the valve and replace the washer with an identical new one. Reassemble the valve and test for leaks. The exact steps depend on the manufacturer and model of the valve. If you're going to try to do this yourself, I suggest you get a good book about home plumbing repair. The Black & Decker series is a good one and there are others.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: Install washer and dryer


Answer: The most important step in installing any appliance is to read and follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.
Installing a clothes washing machine involves connecting the machine to a hot and cold water supply. Use braided metallic hoses, ususally purchased separately from the washing machine. Be sure to firmly tighten the connections at both the machine and the water supply. Insert the drain hose in the drain opening or pipe provided for the washing machine.
Installing a clothes dryer depends on whether it's a gas or electric dryer. If gas, we recommend that you have a qualified technician make the gas connection. If electric, we recommend that you have a qualified technician make the electrical connection at the dryer. Be sure to get the correct electric cord for your electric dryer. Some wall receptacles have three slots and some have four.
Connect the dryer exhaust to the exhaust duct in the wall. Use a flexible metallic transition duct, purchased separately, and use metal clamps to secure the duct at the dryer and at the wall. Run the duct as straight as possible and cut the duct if necessary to make it run straight. Depending on how your laundry area is configured, you may need an exhaust fitting sometimes called a "banjo" to make a 90 degree turn in the exhaust duct.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: HE washer won't sense load anymore after failure to add detergent to a load. Is this a simple fix or will I have to get it serviced or replaced?


Answer: Is there a reset on your high efficiency washer? If not try unplugging it, wait one minute and plug back in. If that does not do the trick then I would check the operator manual or search the problem, including brand name, online for a solution. You might need to get it serviced by an appliance professional if no luck with the previous.


Question: Our shed in the back has several outlets, which I have been using for tools. But when the tools start up, it makes the lights in the house flicker and it changes the noise from the microwave. My guess would be a bad ground. How do I troubleshoot this?


Answer: It sounds more like there is too much load on the circuit, the shed might be included in the kitchen circuit, which would be improper. We recommend that you have an electrician check the circuit load, and separate if necessary. The problem could also be in the tool(s) being used at the shed, or the conductor feeding the shed is too small.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: Is it possible to heat a two story 1,275sq. ft. house (old farmhouse used as weekend home) with propane direct vent heaters? At present, electric base boards heat the upstairs bedrooms and 2 ground floor bathrooms. There is already one Rinnnai direct vent heater on the ground floor for the open plan kitchen, dining and living rooms. I want to get rid of electric heaters and replace with one or two more direct vent propane heaters. Is it a good idea? There is a Modine propane heater to heat basement. Thank you.


Answer: If your source of propane is reliable then yes. You might leave the electric as backup. The bathrooms might prove difficult so possibly continuing use of the electric in those rooms might be best. As far as the bedrooms, I would recommend consulting an HVAC contractor to perform a heat loss calculation and help select direct vent propane units that are approved for use in bedrooms and check with the local building department to be sure they are allowed prior to purchase and application for permit.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: When the air conditioning runs and goes through the duct work in the utility room (I have a slab home) the duct work quickly gets a heavy amount of condensation on it. Then it drips all over causes a mess. I am the third owner of the home and it looks like the second owner just dealt with it. I would like to fix it, but don't know the proper protocol.


Answer: The cool air inside the ductwork causes moisture in the surrounding air in the utility room to condense. The ductwork needs to be insulated to help prevent this problem. The insulation should have a vapor retarder outer wrap. I would recommend you have a HVAC contractor perform this task unless you feel comfortable doing it yourself. The entire ducts will need to be wrapped when dry to be effective.


Question: Can you extend a gas furnace flue up a chimney?


Answer: Yes, there are ways to run a gas furnace vent up a chimney. The best way depends on several factors that are too complicated to address in this context. I suggest you hire a qualified gas furnace contractor. Extending a vent up a chimney will require a permit in most places. I strongly recommend that part of any work with gas venting include a permit with inspections. If done improperly, carbon monoxide poisoning is possible.
Let us know if there's anything else we can do for you. Thank you and good luck.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: I have a 5 year old re-conditioned refrigerator that leaks water from underneath. It's been going on now for over a year and usually stops after one episode. This time is different and it leaks about a cup of water each night for the past 3 nights. Is this an expensive fix?


Answer: You may be able to fix it yourself. There's probably a tray under the refrigerator that captures the water produced by the defrost cycle. That tray may be dirty, out of position, or the defrost tube is not properly positioned above the tray. Carefully remove the grate under the refrigerator. How to do this depends on the refrigerator. Use a flashlight to find the source of the leak the next time the leak occurs. If the tray or defrost tube is the problem, reposition them so that the tray captures the water. You should probably clean the coils while you're under there. You can buy a coil cleaning brush at most home centers.
If this doesn't work, you'll need to call a refrigerator technician. Count on spending $75 to $150 for a service call plus any parts that may be necessary.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: How do you test garage overhead door operators?


Answer: The generally accepted method is to place a 1 1/2 inch piece of wood on the floor near the center of the door and let the door close on the wood. The door should reverse when it hits the wood. Always follow the manufacturer's instruction for your model opener.
Be aware that this testing method can damage the door or opener if either are far out of adjustment. You might want to disconnect the vehicle door from the opener first and test the spring. If the door is hard to open without the opener or if the door doesn't remain open at half or full open, you may wish to have the door adjusted by a qualified garage door technician. Don't try to adjust the spring yourself. Serious injury can result.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: I have an old house with no insulation in the 2x4 walls. Currently just wood lap siding and wood paneling which I am going to replace with drywall. There is no sheeting or vapor barrier. What is the best insulation to use? I am worried about the wind coming through the siding. What would you recommend?


Answer: The type of insulation and installation method depends on your location and on the condition of the exterior wall coverings. Evaluation and installation by a well-qualified insulation contractor is essential. Improper installation can set up conditions for moisture intrusion/collection inside the walls that can create significant problems.


Question: In order to install/anchor a new toilet flange correctly I plan to pour hydraulic cement to fill in the space between the drain and the existing concrete. The bathroom is on a concrete slab. The sewer pipe has about an inch gap all around it, and the gap goes down about 6 inches underground all around the pipe. Is this acceptable? will hydraulic cement harm the cast iron, or break the pipe as the concrete may expand while setting? thank you


Answer: Hydraulic cement is usually for attempting waterproofing, but should work for this application and it sets fast. I don't see any problem using it around cast iron, I've used it in the past around cast iron pipes in foundation walls with no problem. You might stuff some backer down the annular space gap so minimal cement is needed. Foam works well, or insulation. Most concrete shrinks as it cures so I don't see any problem with expansion.


Question: I own a condo on the eleventh floor of a twelve-story building. The unit features a wood-burning fireplace. The wall above the fireplace also seems like the best place for my TV, and the demo furniture showed a TV hanging in that space, but I want to make sure it's safe and won't interfere with the uptake of smoke from the fireplace. My TV is small (19 inches). Is it okay to hang it on the wall above the fireplace?


Answer: A building of that height I would doubt has a masonry fireplace. Most likely the wood burning fireplace is a factory built model, with a 12-inch diameter steel pipe in the wall above the fireplace. Most likely the wall enclosing this chimney pipe is framed with steel or possibly wood. Hanging the television over the fireplace takes a little investigation to determine the location of framing members to attach the TV hanging bracket. Instructions are usually included in the bracket box. Also, it will be important to not damage the chimney pipe or any other systems that might be behind the wall surface. Once the framing members are found attaching the TV bracket should not be a big deal. I'd recommend you have a handyperson or media installation specialist install the bracket and TV as the location you mention could be a bit tricky. Even trickier if the wall is concrete, which might be a remote possibility.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: Reliance 606. This is a water heater correct?


Answer: That's a "tabletop" electric model. Install instructions are at the below link. I am not sure what you mean is it correct; all I can see in the photo is the heater in a laundry area, which is okay.

http://www.reliancewaterheaters.com/lit/om/manuals/185761-000.pdf


Question: My GFCI does not reset.


Answer: Sounds like you have a defective GFCI device, needing replacement, or there is something faulting to ground causing the unit to not reset. If a newer model recently installed it could be the device is mis-wired, in which case the device will not reset. In any case I'd recommend a licensed electrician troubleshoot and repair.


Question: I had a compression toilet flange (PVC)installed on my soil drain pipe (cast iron). My plumber said the flange doesn't need to be screwed into the floor (concrete slab). He just put a wax ring on and installed the toilet. Is it true the flange doesn't need to be secured, since it's secured onto the drain pipe? The prior flange broke at the closet bolts for whatever reason, maybe because the closet bolts were tightened down too much, or because the toilet wobbled (it did wobble slightly before). The same plumber installed the prior flange before it broke, in the same way, two weeks before he came back to reinstall the new flange. The toilet now doesn't wobble, thanks to shims and silicone caulking along the toilet base. Do I need to take the toilet off and screw down the flange? FYI, the flange sits on the finished floor.


Answer: A closet (toilet) flange should be firmly attached to structurally firm base. The International Residential Code (2012) reference is P3003.19. The toilet could move over time without a firm closet flange connection and result in problems like those you have experienced. It sounds like you may need a new plumber.
I don't recommend that you attempt to secure the flange to concrete unless you are a very experienced handyperson and have the correct tools. Check the closet flange manufacturer's installation instructions for more information.


Question: Can a bath exhaust fan be installed over shower if GFCI protected ?


Answer: Yes, assuming that the ventilation fan is listed for installation in a wet or damp area. GFCI protection on the circuit is a good safety precaution, but is probably not required. The fan's installation instructions will tell you where it may be installed and if a GFCI protected circuit is recommended.


Question: Whirlpool cooktop model GJC3034RB01. Burner control for all 4 burners has little control. Burner temp is either very low or very high. No middle ground.


Answer: Sounds like the infinite switch might be bad or the entire element switch. This cooktop can be troublesome to diagnose. I would recommend contacting an appliance repair person to inspect and repair.


Question: Can this type of drain be fixed?


Answer: That's an old drum trap. Easiest fix will be to remove the trap and related steel pipe and replace with plastic and a P-trap. Messing with that thing is just not worth the time and trouble. Be sure to be ready for a mess when you remove the old trap and pipe. If you need a referral to a plumber let us know. This job can be a bit involved without the proper tools.


Question: Garbage disposal just buzzes when switch is flipped.


Answer: It's probably jammed. Under the disposal, usually in the center, there's a small opening where you insert the hex wrench that comes with the disposal. Any hex wrench that's the right size will do. Insert the wrench and turn it both directions. This should release whatever is jamming the disposal. Remove the wrench, start the cold water running, and turn on the disposal. Repeat the process a couple times. If this doesn't work, then there's another problem. You'll need to call a plumber to replace the disposal.
If you can't find or don't have a hex wrench, you can try to release what's jamming the disposal by putting your hand inside and feeling for whatever's jamming it. I strongly recommend turning power to the disposal off at the circuit breaker before doing this and being very careful. This is a risky procedure with the chance of serious injury if the disposal comes on while your hand is inside. Don't use this procedure if you're the least bit uncomfortable. Get a plumber to look at the disposal instead.


Question: What type of outlet is this?


Answer: That's a simplex receptacle designed generally for a 30-AMP dedicated receptacle for an AC unit or maybe a heater. Obviously it accepts a specialty male cord end. Once in a while I have seen them wired in 240 volts so you might check with a voltmeter to be sure.


Question: Hello, we just changed hinges for our double bedroom doors and noticed that that top of the doors are not closing properly. There is less space so they rub at the top. How should I fix that? Should I chisel out some wood behind the top hinge? Thx


Answer: Adjusting double hung doors is tricky. If you change the reveal (the gap between the door and the frame) on one door, you risk changing the reveal between the doors. You need to maintain an equal reveal on all sides of both doors.
The first thing to check is the current reveal on all sides of both doors. If the reveal is equal on all sides except at the top, then the fix is to plane off some of the material from the top of each door. Don't forget to paint the all sides of the doors to reduce swelling.
If the reveal is unequal, then you need to decide how to make it equal. For example, if the doors are rubbing at the top and the reveal is larger along the jamb at the bottom, you can back cut (chisel out) wood behind the bottom hinges. Back cutting the bottom hinges equally will pull the top of the doors down and reduce the reveal at the bottoms along the jambs.
As you can see, there are several possible ways to deal with this situation. The best way depends on the nature of the problem. If you don't have the right tools or are not comfortable dealing with this, you may want to get a good handyperson.


Question: I've had an issue with water coming through the pipe shown in the photos which fills about a 1/4 of the green bucket in about 2-3 days. I think this might be a valve issue but I wanted to see what the experts think could be causing this.


Answer: My experience from working on lots of boilers in the past is the problem is most likely pressure rise due to a water logged or defective expansion tank with this symptom. When the boiler fires does the pressure move upwards towards 25-30 psi? If so the expansion tank is the problem most of the time. If the pressure stays 12-20 psi then the pressure relief valve (the one in the photos that leaks) might be bad as this safety valve usually does not start to weep water until about 27 PSI or so. Either way it might be prudent to have a professional diagnose and repair as boilers can be finicky.


Question: What would cause this stain? The stain is much colder to the touch than the surrounding area.


Answer: That looks like a classic moisture stain. A roof leak is the typical cause, although there are other possibilities. Diagnosing the source of moisture stains is an art. The actual problem can be a long distance from the stain. I recommend that you have a qualified roofing contractor evaluate the situation and recommend appropriate repairs.


Question: How do you demolish a 4ft high non-load bearing separation wall that has a few outlets?


Answer: Because you're changing electrical components, this project may need a permit. I recommend that you check with your local building department about their requirements.
If you're not experienced or comfortable with electricity, I also recommend that you have an electrician disconnect and cap the receptacles. How to do this depends on the circuit. It's possible that the circuit could feed power to other receptacles, lights, and switches so this may be more complicated than it first appears.
After you have dealt with the electrical components, demolishing the wall is a simple matter of pulling out the drywall (assuming that's the finish material) and removing the studs and plates. Then you'll need to repair the damage to any intersecting wall and deal with the new gap in the floor covering.


Question: I could not find an exact category, but I want to know the best way to fix the gap between the tiles and tub in the bathroom (see picture). There is a gap (not consistent) around certain parts of the tub (just where the tiles meet the tub). Do I need to remove the caulking that is present? Thank you!


Answer: Good for you! Many people would let this important task go until there is water damage behind the tiles.
The gap is normal and can be inconsistent due to normal tile installation and due to settling of the tub.
First, you must remove all the old caulk. Then you must clean the area where you will apply the new caulk. Soap and water will do. Preparation is important to a good job.
Then apply a high quality caulk at the joint. Don't try to save a few dollars on the caulk. Apply the caulk at the joint between the tile and the tub and up the wall at the corners. If you don't have a caulk gun, be sure to buy one when you buy the caulk.
Here's a trick for a good installation. Fill the tub with water before you apply the caulk. Doing so will help reduce movement and cracking that is caused by the weight of the water and occupant in the tub.
As with all projects, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions on the caulk tube.


Question: I'm on a well system and the water pressure is weak, how do I increase it?


Answer: Most water well pump switches are set to pump on at 30 psi pump off at 50 psi. So there will be a range of pressure differential up to 20 psi during use. A few others are set to 20 psi on 40 psi off. Inside the pressure switch there is a large spring with a nut at the top. Turning that nut clockwise 5 full turns will increase pressure off by 10 psi (careful there is usually 240 volts inside). You could try that, as long as the pump is capable of making that pressure. If it keeps running that means it can't and you'll have to return it to original position. I see you have a filter. If the filter medium is clogged that might restrict flow to the house.
We value your safety and that of your home. You should not attempt projects that are beyond your skill and comfort level. We recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of local professionals for such projects.


Question: Hello - I have a driveway that can fit 3 to 4 cars that needs to be repaired. Currently, there are cracks, water/ice on it when it rains or snows, and has some repair done with cold patch until the spring/summer. Please advise if I should consider paving the entire driveway - or simply sealing it. What is the life of the repair for each option - and costs? thank you


Answer: The level of repair needed really depends upon if the base (material under the asphalt) has failed, and how well the driveway is drained to help prevent water from getting under the asphalt or ponding on top, and your budget. The determination of the level of repair and options available really takes a site inspection by a licensed paving contractor.


Question: I've been using Drano for shower and tub drains because they are slow (girls with long hair). Will that harm my pipes?


Answer: Chemical drain cleaners are very caustic and can harm metal drainage pipes such as cast iron and galvanized steel. They shouldn't harm plastic pipes. They may, however, damage the seals around where the pipes connect to the tub or shower. This damage could result in leaks if you use the cleaners frequently.
I suggest you use a plumber's snake to unblock the traps. You can get a snake at any home center. Over time, this will be less expensive and far more environmentally sound than using chemicals.


Question: We have fuel in our well water. Not from our property, who pays for clean up? We have a DEC case number and there is an investigation.


Answer: Yours is a legal question, thus it is not one we are able to answer. Who pays is usually a function of who is responsible for the contamination. Proving this can be a challenge. I suggest you contact an attorney with experience in environmental law cases.


Question: I've got a situation where there was a small leak under a cabinet and mold has started to grow. Leak fixed. Have heard black mold can be toxic to deal with. Any idea if mold in attached picture is ok to kill with bleach or some other chemical? What is best chemical to deal with it? Thanks!


Answer: As a rule, if there is less than 10 square feet of affected area and the material is not damaged, you can clean the mold. I suggest that you use the following link to the EPA website and follow their recommendations for dealing with your mold issue. http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html


Question: We were turning off circuits in the electrical box to install a new light. After we were finished, we turned all circuits back on. But now the water tank has no pressure and the well pump does not seem to be working.


Answer: If the check valve in the pump is bad could have been that, or there is a low pressure cutout on the pump switch. Possibly no power to the pump, too. There are quite a few items that could be checked so I'd recommend contacting a professional.


Question: Need to know the estimate cost to upgrade the new electrical Panel.


Answer: The cost really depends upon capacity needed, location and access plus if a new service entrance from the utility is needed. Could be 1,000 to possibly 5000. I would recommend contacting a licensed electrician to have a look and provide an estimate.


Question: When the furnace kicks on, I small gas from the exterior exhaust vent. I've had the gas company check & there is no gas issue within the house & nothing combustible near the exterior exhaust. What does this tell about the potential repair/replacement of my furnace?


Answer: The gas company's job is to determine if there is a gas leak in the gas pipes, which they say there is not. They are not responsible for determining if your furnace is working properly. That's a furnace repair company's job.
I suppose there could be a small gas leak from the gas valve inside the furnace that's flowing into one or more of the burners. This gas could be forced up the vent during the ignition cycle and that's what you smell. I'd have a furnace repair company evaluate the furnace, just to be safe. If you haven't had the furnace checked in more than a year, it's due for a checkup anyway.


Question: Purchased a new home and this is installed on the ceiling of our garage. What is this?


Answer: Your picture shows a low voltage transformer. It's most likely for your doorbell. Just leave it alone and everything should work fine.


Question: My pool heater (electric) seems not to be working or at least working very slow.


Answer: If by electric you mean a heat pump, then I'm not surprised. It's been unusually cold in much of the country recently. Heat pumps aren't very effective much below 40 degrees outside air temperature. You may get a water temperature increase of roughly 30-40 degrees, a little more if you're lucky and when it's warmer. When the water is cold, a heat pump just can't cope.
The only cure I know of is to purchase an insulated cover for your pool. These covers are now required for heated pools in some parts of the country. A cover will help keep the water warmer so that the heat pump can increase the temperature more. The cover will pay for itself in the long run by allowing the heat pump to run less and still maintain the same or hotter water.

Homeowner Response: I am in SW Florida. The heater is working for the spa, even with this recent cold. In fact we heated up the spa when it got quite chilly here (45 +/-) and had no problem. But for some reason the heater will not kick on when I ask the system to heat the pool. Yet, it will do so when I ask to heat the spa.

Answer:Since I'm not there to see it, I can only speculate about the problem. I'd check the valve settings. It could be that a valve is set such that there is insufficient water flow through the heater when you are trying to heat the pool. It could be a faulty heater flow sensor that might not be seeing enough water to start the heater when the flow drops because of the increased demand on the pump. It could be something else. I'd get a pool heater specialist to evaluate the situation.
By the way, I'd still get a pool cover or at least one for the spa if you heat that more often.