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Do It Yourself


Insulation might fix vent leaks

By Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton has been the handyman expert for the Boston Globe for more than 30 years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally ran on June 22, 2008.

Q. I am getting a lot of condensation around two of the air conditioning vents coming out of my cathedral ceiling. No other vents in the house do this. It is enough to wet the plasterboard around the vent, causing it to decay. What is wrong and how can I fix it?

Air conditioners are not supposed to do that, because they are dehumidifiers as well as coolers. I think what is happening is that both the ducts coming out of the cathedral ceiling as well as the ceiling are not insulated, and the cool air coming out of the vents condenses just as it comes out of the ducts. Insulate the space between the ceiling and roof, being careful to ventilate the space above the insulation. And insulate the ducts or install pre-insulated ducts.

Q. How can I clean plastic lawn chairs of soil, especially bird waste?

A strong detergent-and-water solution, plus a cup of bleach, left for a minute or two on the chair, scrub, and rinse. Rub with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Q. Can gutters be adjusted up or down to make them drain better? I am getting a few shallow puddles in some sections of my gutters. If those puddles are allowed to remain, would they become a place for mosquitoes to breed?

The only way to adjust the gutters is to take them down and put them up again, something I would not encourage. The gutters are probably close to level, and a level gutter will indeed drain. The puddles are probably too shallow and will evaporate quickly enough to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. If you are that concerned, put Mosquito Dunks granules in the puddles to prevent breeding. The only other thing to do is to slope the gutters 1/16 inch per foot. But I don’t think it is necessary.

Q. I have sparrows in a third-floor bathroom vent that exhausts through a wall. It has been six weeks now, and I am sure the babies have gone, but the remaining birds are driving me nuts. How can I push them out and put in a proper closure for the vent?

Use a long-handled brush to push them out. A proper outside closure will prevent anything from coming in. Two brands of ducts and covers are Vent-Axia and NuTone.
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