January 16, 2017
Dear Ken: I have two rooms over a crawl space which are very cold. What kind of insulation should I use? Also, I need radon mitigation down there. Should I do that first? Theresa
You can install insulation blankets (batts) directly under that floor--the “ceiling” of the crawl space. Ordinary batts have a layer of tar paper on one side which acts as a vapor barrier to keep moisture from migrating toward cold exterior walls. In your case we want just the opposite. It’s vital that water vapor be able to travel back and forth between the upstairs and the crawl space until equilibrium is reached. Otherwise moisture would be trapped between the floor and the paper—and that can lead to mold formation. So use 6-inch Fiberglass batts without a paper facing.
Over time the insulation can jar loose from all the foot traffic above this space, so it’s a good idea to string some fine wire perpendicular to the joists to act as sort of a “cradle”. Or if you prefer, the Simpson Company makes pre-cut, stiff wire insulation holders which simply snap in place.
The radon mitigation should come last. Why? If you do it first, then all the tromping around by the insulation installers may cut holes in the plastic membrane, which could let radon wend its way back into the space.
Dear Ken: We get sputtering out of our hot water faucets. Sometimes, it's accompanied by a burst of excess pressure. Mitch
You're a prime candidate for an expansion tank. The pressure regulator that sits on your incoming water line has a back flow preventer in it, which means that your home's water piping is a closed system. Trouble is, when water gets heated it, like everything else in nature, expands. Since it can't go anywhere, it sputters and dribbles, as you describe.
An expansion tank is a small container--plumbed into the cold water line--which has a rubber bladder inside with air on one side and water on the other. When your water heater kicks on, the expanding water volume presses against the bladder and achieves equilibrium with the air chamber.
Finally, the problems you complain of are exacerbated by water that's heated too hot. Set your water heater's thermostat to 120 degrees if there are little kids or infirm adults in your house; otherwise, no hotter than about 130 degrees.
Dear Ken: I have a small indoor fountain. It sits on a glass top table, and after a few hours the glass is covered with tiny white spots. Nothing I've tried will stop it. Any ideas? Lynn
Why not try some distilled water. You can find it in the grocery store in gallon containers. Distilled water is simply ordinary stuff that's been boiled into steam, then condensed on a cool surface, so all of the dissolved minerals—which are leaving that spotty residue behind—are removed.
Alternatively, you could install a reverse osmosis (RO) system under your kitchen sink. This will also remove all minerals and most other contaminates from the water stream. One caveat, though: this system will extract minerals like iron, manganese and fluoride which are necessary for good health. So you should get your drinking water elsewhere in the house.
Dear Ken: I'm looking for new windows. Do I need double or triple panes? What other options should I look for? Chelsea
Triple pane windows are a rather expensive add-on which aren't cost effective along the Front Range. One choice choice that I do recommend is low-e (emissivity) glass. This is a metallic coating on the inside of one the glass panes that helps reflect heat back into the house in the winter and helps repel glare and heat in the summer. It will add somewhere between 10 and 20 % to the cost of the windows (some dealers will "throw in" low-e as an incentive), but will pay for itself in a relatively short time.