Q: What can I use to block rodents from entering my house at the area of the bottom row of shingles and the foundation? As you well know, steel wool rusts.
… And disintegrates, and any rodent can tear it apart. For one thing, copper or stainless steel “wool” will work, but it has to be very tight lest the critter pulls it right out.
Sometimes the space between wall and wood sill, or between sill and foundation can be quite large; besides, a rodent can get through a very small space.
I think working from inside will be easier. You can fill voids with mortar or tightly with a rope caulk or rolled-up aluminum screening very tightly inserted.
If you try caulking, most compounds will not stay in place, but an adhesive caulk will. Phenoseal and Polyseamseal are two good ones, and will really seal the joint.
Q: I need to pour a small concrete pad (16 by 31 inches) for a ductless AC compressor. I was told to put crushed rock down first. Do I pour the slab on top of the rock or onto the bare soil that is underneath, then fill around the crushed rock?
The slab goes on top of the crushed rock. Dig a hole at least 12 inches deep and fill it with 6 inches of crushed stone. This will allow drainage.
Then set your frames and pour the slab 12 inches thick. This will allow the slab to be fairly stable in winter, able to resist the pressure of frozen earth, and incidentally allow the slab to stick 6 inches above the ground.
Q: I had a new gas boiler installed in my 39-year-old house. I have always had gas as a fuel, so this is not a change, only a new unit. The installer did not put a stainless steel liner in my chimney. Why not? You often mention when a gas burner is installed in a house, a stainless steel liner is required.
At first I thought this was strange, but then I realized your new unit was the same gas burner as the old and that you did not change the fuel. Therefore it might be grandfathered and not subject to rules requiring a new liner. Check with your local building inspector.
Q: My dad and I own a rather large old building with offices and other companies, and in summer the heat is horrible. What are inexpensive ways to keep the building cool?
The only inexpensive cooling system is moving air with fans, which doesn’t work well when the heat persists through the night and all day.
Air conditioning is expensive, and I don’t think you should attempt that until you have a plan for insulating the building – walls, attic floor, basement ceiling, and sometimes the interior walls as well, which will allow better distribution of cool air and promote sound control as well.
Consult an insulation company, which will analyze your needs and make a proposal. Also, consider storm windows on all those single-glazed windows. Or consult a window specialist.
Q. I want to pull up old carpet on wood stairs and I have no idea what’s underneath. How should I prepare other than a power sander and some stain?
If the house is older than 50 years or so, you may find a finished stairway with oak or hard pine treads and pine risers. Stair-runner carpets are usually put on finished stairs in old houses. If that is so, sand the treads lightly and apply three coats of an oil-based polyurethane varnish. Paint the risers white.