February 13, 2017
Dear Ken: I am installing a set of pulldown stairs in my garage. I heard you talking about the fire protection required in a garage. Can I do both? Jack
In virtually every house built in the last 60 years, the house and garage have been required to have a layer of special, thicker-than-normal sheet rock to add additional protection between the two spaces. This rule recognizes that there is a little more fire danger from the garage space—especially because of the presence of gasoline, paint and other flammables. So, the "firewall" as it's called, slows down the spread of the flames for a few extra minutes until the fire department gets there. Any holes in these surfaces--like your pull down stairs--compromise this protection. In your case, you can ameliorate that breach by adding that sheet rock layer (it's usually 5/ 8 inch thick) or some galvanized metal on the plywood underside of the stairs. Then add a "picture frame" of 2 x 4's around the edges of your new opening to protect the trusses.
If your home is old enough, you may have a heat vent opening or two into the garage from the furnace. This not only violates the fire protection we've been discussing, but also represents a safety hazard which can allow fumes--like carbon monoxide--to get sucked into the heating system. So, these openings should be permanently sealed!
Dear Ken: I have a shower caddy mounted on some adhesive strips in my shower. My question is--how do I remove it without damaging my shower tile? John
Applying some gentle heat--a hair dryer set on low speed, for instance--on to the surface will usually allow you to ease the strips off the tile. Be careful, though: too much heat may actually crack the tile you're working on. Once the caddy is gone, you can use some Goo-Gone solvent to remove the last of the residue.
Dear Ken: The carpet in our bath is pretty bad. Is it easy to rip it up and install tile yourself? What about those sticky back peel and seal tiles? Bill
If the carpet is simply stretched over some pad, it's pretty easy to get rid of it. Unhook it in a corner with some pliers, and then simple "unzip" it from the rest of the tack strip. After you remove the pad and tack strip, spray on some KILZ primer/sealer over any stained spots.
The self-sticking tiles are easy to do yourself, but they don't hold nearly as well as a system that is glued with troweled-on mastic. I would avoid them and use some 12" x 12" regular ceramic tiles. If the floor is simply a layer of plywood or chip board, your job will end up looking better with a layer of cement board underlayment, like Durock or Hardee board; that will create a smooth and unyielding layer for your new tile.
Dear Ken: I would like to have skylights installed in our great room, but I'm worried that this would be a major, and expensive, project. PS, I'm not crazy about the tube versions. Suzie
Skylights installed after the fact are a little tricky. Depending on your style of roof, they can be difficult to flash into place and integrate with the existing shingles. Whoever does this work for you should be a licensed contractor--not simply a handyman service--because there are some structural implications. You're right, this will be a relatively expensive and messy project, since it involves several disciplines: framing, roofing, insulators, dry walling, interior trim and painting.
You might want to rethink your prejudice against the tubular style. They are a "one stop" install--very quick and, because of their built-in flashing collar, a little easier to leak-proof.