January 23, 2017
Dear Ken: I’m having trouble hearing my doorbell in certain parts of the house. Any recommendations? Mildred.
Why not go wireless? It would be impractical to add another ringer to your existing system. You would have to string wires through the walls and maybe add a bigger transformer. A self-contained wireless door bell system, on the other hand, can go anywhere. I found a package on line with two plug-in receivers (the chimes) and a battery powered button for about $25. A similar bundle with two buttons and three receivers is less than $40.
To install, you simply unhook the old bell transformer, remove the old door button and place the new self-adhesive one over the hole where the wires used to come out. Then insert the receivers into an outlet in whichever rooms you want to hear the chime. Incidentally, the receivers are programmable with dozens of melodies for your listening pleasure.
Dear Ken: What do I look for in a whole house fan? Does the fan bother the loose insulation? What about the size of the vents? Diana
Look for a belt driven fan and motor combination. These units tend to be a little quieter than the direct drive models, where the motor sits right on top of the fan blades. To keep the blown insulation at bay, we usually build some sort of a framed, box-like barricade around the fan with plywood, sheet rock or even stiff cardboard. It not only protects the insulation, but it also makes a good base on which to set some Styrofoam sheets during the winter.
You'll probably need some more attic vents. Most new homes have minimal ventilation, and many times those soffit vents behind the gutters--which are half the system--are blocked with insulation. Plan on installing a couple of turbine (rotating) vents and/or a gable vent or two if you don't already have them. The installation instructions for the fan you're considering will have a net free vent opening number (expressed in square feet) they recommend to handle the enormous air flow from the unit.
These fans are fairly complicated to install. They may involve framing modifications to the rafters, drywall patching, an electrical line and those extra vents. Some heating contractors will do this work, and there are also small companies you can find on Google which specialize in nothing but whole house fan installation.
Dear Ken: I have to replace my dishwasher. Unfortunately, it's trapped in the hole because of a ceramic tile floor added after the house was built. Is there any magic way to get it out? Deb
Maybe. Loosen the two screws which secure the dishwasher to the countertop, then pry up on the metal frame a little to take the weight off the four adjustable legs. Have a helper screw these "feet" upwards until they stop. That will probably buy you most of an inch of extra play. Then you can ease the dishwasher out of the hole by first tilting it backwards into the opening. If you need a smidgen more play, you can pry the metal frame which holds the feet inward a bit to partially collapse it. Reverse this process to install the new dishwasher. You can even remove the adjustable feet entirely to gain about 3/8" more leeway.
Dear Ken: I'm putting aspen planking on my ceiling. Should I start at the peak or the walls first? Ron
Your knotty pine boards should be installed from the peak downward. That way, at the end, when you're apt to have a misalignment or need to cut a special taper in a board, you'll be at the low side next to the wall where you can handle the odd fit more conveniently and safely. Moreover, if you were to start at the walls and work to the peak, chances are the boards on either side would not align with each other. That would be a much more noticeable glitch than minor variations near the walls.