Monthly archive - December 2012

Looking for Leaks

Looking for Leaks

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Water is a tricky substance, which is why diagnosing a leak is often such a hassle. There is the all too familiar sound of a drip-drip, or the sight of warped wood, but the ugliest, most immediate sign of water damage is the sight of damp discoloration on the ceiling of the room below your bathroom. In most Westchester homes, this is a clear sign that there’s something wrong with your upstairs bathroom or kitchen’s plumbing but this is not 100% true. Water knows how to travel, and the water damage could just as well be from piping leading from your attic or roof or other second-story plumbing.

Lets look at showers and baths in any Westchester home as an example for pinpointing and differentiating between various leak sources. Leaks from baths and showers are as common as those from faucets or toilets, so its worth knowing how to zero in on the trouble spots. The most common origin spot is the grout around the tiles, which can shrink and allow water in behind the tiles.

Other popular spots are the tub’s filler, which may have a worn-out washer or an improperly sealed valve threads, and the tub itself, which might similarly suffer from improper sealing or cracks that are (usually) easily identifiable. Less likely but possible culprits include a problem with the overflow pipe (worn-out or shoddily installed overflow washer) or the drain (clogged outlet pipe).

For the drain, a simple way to test is to run a length of tubing (black rubber will do) from your vanity faucet fixture to your drain and send water down the drain for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. If the leak doesn’t show up, you know the drain and the attached plumbing is secure. And unless the leak is constant throughout the day, the hot and cold-water valves are not the culprits.

The next suspects are the tub and the tub filler. The latter is easy enough to check: Just fill your tub and look for a leak from the filler (the tub faucet). This usually denotes broken piping, usually on a copper elbow. As for the tub overflow, close your tub drain and fill the tub to the overflow and look for your leak; if this ends up being your trouble, it likely will require the replacing of the sealing or the washer on your overflow.

The most complex check for Westchester homeowners is the plumbing behind the showerhead. You’ll need to take off the showerhead and cap the stem with a threaded cap before running the water. After 10 to 15 minutes, check the leak area. If this turns out to be the problem, you will need a plumber to look at the rest of the stem and the piping behind and below the showerhead.

The very last check is the most common: The grout. The DIY check requires you to run water over each wall of your shower individually for ten minutes, either using the showerhead or a hose from another water source. A plumber will likely be needed, regardless, but the more information you have to give him makes the job quicker and the price, in most scenarios, at least minutely less expensive.


Set Your Sights to Siding Repair

Set Your Sights to Siding Repair

There’s no doubt about it: winter is the harshest season for your siding. Wind, rain, sleet, snow and hail all leave their mark, and can cause damage that ranges from minor to major. Vinyl siding repair should be done in the spring or summer to address the damage done by extreme winter weather. We’re just getting into the days of winter, but it’s never too early to prepare for repair.

Vinyl can be a great option for home siding. It is economical, costing less than other popular siding materials, such as wood, and doesn’t require the same level of maintenance. Because the pigment is mixed into the vinyl during manufacturing, the color will not chip or fade over time, as is the case with paint applied to the surface of wood or aluminum siding. The manufacturing process uses less energy than aluminum or wood, making it an environmentally friendly choice. Although it is easy to maintain for many Westchester homeowners, vinyl siding repair may still be necessary at some point.

Even though it offers many advantages – it is economical, versatile and environmentally friendly – vinyl siding has one major downfall: cold temperatures can cause it to become brittle, and more susceptible to damage. When temperatures drop in winter, vinyl siding loses much of its resilience, making it particularly vulnerable to damage from impact. Hail storms are the primary concern when it comes to vinyl siding, but any impact when it’s cold outside can do damage. Rocks, baseballs, and anything else that hits your Westchester house when the weather is cold can hurt your siding.

Vinyl siding repair should be performed in the spring or summer by Westchester homeowners, after the danger of frost is past. Once the weather warms up, there is much less chance of damage to your siding, meaning that the repairs should stand you in good stead until bad weather hits again.


Wiping Out Weak Water Pressure

Wiping Out Weak Water Pressure

A common yet often ignored problem, low water pressure in a kitchen faucet is caused by a myriad of issues. On occasion, low water pressure will need the experience of a professional, but even in those cases, identifying the problem will help greatly in getting the repair finished quickly.

There are several ways to determine why your kitchen faucet has low water pressure. First, if you have recently remodeled or done any construction that has included new water fixtures, the issue is likely low delivery and can be fixed by upgrading your main pipe. In the case of a single clogged spout, you can simply unscrew the spout on the troublesome faucet and check the aerator for build-up. On the other hand, if you’re having pressure issues throughout the house, consider adding a supplemental booster pump to the main line. These are all moderately easy fixes.

In the case that the low pressure is only occurring in the kitchen, the problem is equally easy to work on. You’ll likely find a screen at the end of the faucet spout where the water comes out. Unscrew the spout by hand and check for any build-up; this is much like dealing with a clog. Remove apparent blockage is a no-brainer but you might also find sediment, which takes a bit more time. You must first unscrew the aerator, take it apart, and soak all the individual parts in a mixture of warm water and vinegar. If the crud won’t budge, get thee to a hardware or department store and get a commercial calcium remover and soak the parts in that. In either case, after the build-up is removed, dry the spout, reassemble and reattach the aerator to the faucet before testing.

Here’s where things get interesting. Sometimes, the faucet’s cartridge, which allows water to pass through the spout, can malfunction and cause low pressure. If this is the case, you must remove the faucet head, find and unscrew the screw under the faucet spout, and lift off the faucet head. You should see the cartridge right there and it should be open. If not, remove the housing and clean everything of debris or calcium build-up. Replace the thin housing and faucet head before testing the solution.

The worst-case scenario is build-up in the faucet piping. With galvanized piping, the issue is likely build-up from age and sediment. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can diagnose this by unscrewing the riser from the basement and then back up the fitting in the basement to ensure the attached pipe or fitting does not break. Put a bucket below it and have a friend or family member turn the water on to check the flow and pressure of the removed pipe. If it’s not good, you’ll want to look into getting your entire home re-piped (sorry!), as this is an issue far beyond cleaners. If everything seems good, you likely just need one of the prior fixes. Thank your lucky stars.


A Little Luck for a Broken Lock

A Little Luck for a Broken Lock

Some things you just can’t prepare for. You drop your air conditioner while taking it out of the garage and crack a tile or damage hardwood floor; there’s no real way to expect that, other than asking the brawny neighbor to help you out. A rock hits your windshield on the way to work and you get a crack; what could you have possibly done to deter that? As Elvis Costello (and yeah, okay, a lot of more people before him) said, accidents will happen.

Having your key break-off in a lock is about as common as having your windshield cracked by some rebel pebble flicked off the pavement, and it is, by every measure, something that can be handled without professional care. You’ll need WD-40, or a similar spray lubricant; even spray olive oil could work in this situation. Besides that, you will need utensils for removing the key, chiefly any sort of thin saw blade and something to pick the protruding key piece out of the lock. Tweezers or pliers are your best bet and are easy to find around the house usually.

Begin by spraying the lock with the spray lubricant, to give you some help when it comes to dislodging the key piece from the lock. Thin saw blades are best for this situation, as the blades can easily hook into the grooves of the key. On one side of any key (take a look at one right now), the indent of the grove is more uneven, less smoth, and has a greater indentation. That’s the side you’re going to want to insert the saw blade into the lock. Once its in as far as possible, twist it a bit and try dragging out the key with the saw blade; you really only need a little bit but get as much as possible.

Once you get a little bit out, you should be able to grab the lodged key piece with the tweezers or pliers and presto! Now, in some cases, the key piece just will not budge from its place. This is likely because your lock isn’t in neutral position. Twist the saw blade a bit and it should solve the issue.  If it still won’t budge, only then should you consult a licensed and insured locksmith to help you out, as the locking mechanism likely has a bigger issue. And, as always, it’s easier to prevent this issue with preparation: check your keys every few months to see if there are any cracks or major bending that would signal a possible break. Sure, its an easy enough issue to solve, but wouldn’t you rather be able to crash on the couch instead of performing surgery on a doorknob?