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Thursday, June 22, 2006 11:56 pm

Solving a noise problem

Get sound-control windows, build an earth berm, or move

Dear Gene: My home is close to a busy highway, and there is a lot of road noise. Are there special windows I can install to solve the noise problem? — M.M. Some windows are superior at screening out noise, according to their makers. An example is Milgard’s Quiet Line. For more information, check the Web site www.milgard.com; click on “Products” on the home page, then on “Sound Control Windows.”
Check with window dealers in your area for windows with a high STC — sound-transmission class — rating; a high rating indicates good sound control. If your home doesn’t already have double-glazed thermal windows (two panes of glass), you should be able to screen out some of the noise by installing any high-quality thermal windows. You will also improve the energy efficiency of your home. If you already have double-glazed windows, it might help a little to add a third layer of glass or plastic in the form of inside or outside storm windows. No window will help much for sound control unless it is tightly sealed and free of gaps in or around the window. However, your best bet is an earth berm between the house and the highway. An earth berm is simply a long, narrow mound of earth, usually about 3 feet high, running parallel to the road. The mound of earth absorbs some of the road noise, especially tire noises. The berm should be as close as possible to the highway. Many homeowners landscape berms attractively with grass, shrubs, and small trees.
Dear Gene: I’m thinking of covering my treated wood deck with outdoor carpet. Would it ruin the deck by causing rot and so forth? — C.G. I doubt that it would cause rot, but it doesn’t seem like a good treatment. Outdoor carpet has some good applications, but it also wears and fades and can be extremely difficult to remove. If the wood decking is dirty or unsightly, why not try a good cleaning (with a deck cleaner or by pressure washing), followed by finishing with a semitransparent stain? An even better option, if you can afford it, would be to remove the old wood decking and replace it with a precolored low-maintenance composite material.
Dear Gene: I want to paint the concrete deck around my swimming pool. I have selected special concrete-deck paint. What else do I need to do? — C.G. Preparation of the surface is important for any good paint job, but is especially so for outdoor concrete. Don’t skip or fudge on any of the steps listed in the directions for the paint. You will need to clean the surface thoroughly, possibly by pressure washing. If the concrete is very smooth, you might need to apply an acid wash to make it slightly porous so it grips the paint better. Applying the paint, usually with a roller, is often the easiest part of the job.
Dear Gene: A few years ago we reshingled the entire exterior of our house with cedar shingles and coated them with a spray stain. I have recently noticed black mildew on many of the shingles. Is there a way to remove the mildew? — K.C. You should be able to clean up the shingles with a mildew remover and cleaner such as Mildew Check or Jomax. Both these products are sold at many home centers and building-supply outlets. In general, a mildew cleaner is applied with a garden-type sprayer, allowed to work for a specified time, then rinsed off with a garden hose. Read the directions for the cleaner you choose carefully — it is usually necessary to add chlorine bleach.
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