Q: My toilet has taken leave of its senses and is flushing all by itself, during the day and at night. What’s going on? It’s weird and scary. Can I fix it?
A: Ah, the phantom flusher strikes again. And indeed, you probably can fix it. That’s good, because untreated, it is costing you hundreds of gallons of water. How it occurs: When the toilet is flushed, the ball or flap cover over the drain outlet in the tank lifts, letting water into the bowl in a great flush. Then it drops back on the outlet, stopping everything and allowing the tank to fill up for the next flush. But if it does not seat properly over the drain, it leaks a bit; the longer it leaks, the closer you get to the phantom flush.
To fix it, lift the tank lid and adjust the ball properly so that it doesn’t leak. Modern toilets have a cylinder instead of a ball or flapper and are less likely to do a phantom flush. If yours does and you can’t adjust it, call your favorite plumber.
Q: I am redoing my fancy front porch, which is not too much work except for the spindles on the railing: Several need replacing. They can’t be put on a lathe, so they are more complicated to recreate. Trouble is, who would do that? A carpenter, but what kind?
A: Those spindles are balusters, and together, connecting the top and bottom rails, they form a balustrade. You need a finish carpenter or a woodworker. Take one baluster with you so the carpenter can make copies.
Q: My hip-roofed ranch is 120 feet long and 34 feet wide, including the garage. The ridge vent is 80 to 85 feet long, and I replaced it with an improved one. The soffit vents are 16 3/4 inches wide and are perforated plastic (vinyl) with nothing between the outside and inside the soffit. A man installed two roof vents about 3 feet below the ridge along with a humidistat and thermostat. There are 4 inches of fiberglass insulation on the attic floor. I am still getting ice dams. Now what?
A: If there are no leaks in the attic or into the house, you probably do not have ice dams, so there is little you have to do. The 4-inch-thick fiberglass insulation on the attic floor is sparse. You can add up to 40 inches of fiberglass batts, each layer set at right angles to the other, but do not block the soffit vents.