Dear Ken: Our backyard is mainly made up of earth and cockerels. Plus, we have big dogs, and they’re affected by all the mess. We are thinking of concreting most of it. What do you think? – Candice
Reply: I think it will be very expensive. The guys will have to haul the concrete over there in wheelbarrows, which will dramatically increase the costs. Additionally, concrete is pretty much permanent and might not be a future buyer’s choice. Why not consider one of the other two options – you can spread a generous layer of fine gravel over the entire area of concern. Or, take a look at the artificial turf. It’s not the ugly stuff you might remember from the ’80s anymore. Today’s material is made of soft plastic fibers that not only look real, but almost look like natural grass. . There’s even a style with drainage holes to let your dogs “do their job.”
Either way, at a later time, another owner can easily remove these improvements and revert to a regular yard.
Dear Ken: I smell a funny smell in the laundry room, like maybe sewer gas is rising. How can we get rid of it? – Laurie
Reply: This is usually a floor drain. Whether the laundry room is located in the basement or on the second floor, there is almost always a floor drain nearby to drain away any leaks that develop. You may have to get on all fours with a flashlight to peek under the washer and dryer until you find it. You should pour a pitcher of water into it every week to keep the trap sealed, preventing sewer gas from entering. Or better yet, pour a bottle of mineral oil down the drain. It will stay there and will not evaporate, but if the water is to come down, it will repel the lighter oil.
Dear Ken: How do I get rid of latex paint in a jar that is too full to evaporate? – Mitch
Reply: Usually the rules allow you to throw away the cans of latex (water-based) paint if there is no liquid in them and you leave the lid open for them to inspect. Most counties have some sort of hazardous waste drop-off facility that you can use, but you usually need to make an appointment first.
You can try impregnating it with kitty litter, sawdust, diatomaceous earth, or cellulose soil absorbent, as they use in schools and repair garages. If it dries up when combined with one of these absorbers, you can probably seal it in a plastic bag and throw it away.
But it’s a good idea to have this done by the waste handling company before you go to the trouble of dealing with the paint.
Dear Ken: Lately we’ve been feeling the humidity around our gas dryer. The vent is approximately 18 feet long with three 90 degree elbows. Is it too much and should I be worried? Dwight
Reply: You are fine, but hardly. There is (thankfully) a small fire hazard if the vent to the outside has too much resistance to moving airflow, allowing excess lint to build up along the way. Typically, you are allowed 35 feet of outward stroke with your dryer vent, but you should subtract 5 feet for each right angle turn. There is one exception: if the manufacturer allows you to get away with more footage than that, the city will defer to those limits.
Either way, in your house, with 18 feet plus three 90 degree turns, you have the equivalent of 33 feet – just below the limit. But remember that you have a connector between the dryer and the wall outlet; keep it as short as possible. And make sure it’s aluminum, definitely not fabric or plastic!
However, it is a good idea to clean the system once a year. Remove the exterior vent cover, attach an electric leaf blower to the interior opening, and blow air through the pipe. You will be surprised at the amount of crud that comes out the other side.
Finally, remember that gas dryers – unlike their electric cousins - need a source of combustion air. So if you have a laundry room with a door, you need a transfer vent opening to let the fresh air inside. You can drill a hole in the plasterboard on both sides of the wall and install a grill, like we would use for a return air inlet from a heating system; make sure it is at least 100 square inches.
Dear Ken: Some stallions in my basement are starting to bow out a bit. Should I be worried? -Alex
Reply: May be. This may indicate that the concrete floor is moving upward, applying pressure to the wall. You will need to cut or notch the studs to relieve stress. Do this before the pressure affects the floor. If you are allowed to continue, you may soon notice cracks in the drywall and sticky windows and doors in the upper levels.
Consult a structural engineer for a drawing of the “floating wall” system for basements. It’s a simple and neat way to accommodate that movement and keep it down.
Dear Ken: My daughters are throwing their towels in a pile in a corner. They start to smell and make mold. How can I make them feel softer (the towels, not the girls)? – David
Reply: Towel only one and a half cups of white vinegar on the hottest water setting. Then wash again with your usual detergent. Maybe you can show the girls how it’s done. Of course, there is no substitute for hanging towels on the bar after use.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak area. His radio telephone show airs at 4 pm Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com.