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Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006 02:33 pm

Water, water everywhere

When the regulator valve fails, it’s time to adjust the pressure

Dear Gene: A few years ago the pressure-regulator valve on our main water line failed and some water pipes in our home burst, causing considerable damage. We have a new valve, but I worry that it will fail as well. How will I know if it fails, and is there anything else I can do about this problem?

The water pressure coming into your house must be extremely high to cause a regulator valve to fail and pipes to burst. The usual symptoms of high water pressure are surging water from faucets and shower heads, leaking faucets, banging pipes, premature wear in faucets, and malfunctions in some water-using appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers. Make sure you have high-pressure metal hoses on your washing machine; rubber hoses are highly vulnerable to high pressure.

The new valve should reduce the pressure in your pipes and fixtures to 50 to 60 pounds per square inch and should give you protection for many years, but if you see symptoms such as those described above, have the pressure checked immediately. I think you should also contact your water company about the problem; it is possible that adjustments can be made to reduce the pressure coming into your house. You might also check with neighbors to see whether they are having similar problems. A series of complaints to the water company is more likely to produce some action.

Dear Gene: We recently had a water leak in our attic. The water leaked through the attic floor and into the room below. The leak has been fixed, but we can’t figure out how to dry out the closed area between the attic floor and the ceiling below. We worry that mold will form. Can you help?

Set up a fan or portable heater in the attic so that the air stream or heat is directed at the affected area. If you use a heater, keep it on a low setting. This should dry out the area in a few days, although there is no guarantee that some mold won’t form.

If there are water stains on the ceiling below the attic, let them dry out thoroughly and then prime with a stain-killer such as B-I-N or Kilz before painting. These primers are sold at most home centers and paint stores.

Dear Gene: I have a damp wall in my basement. It isn’t leaking but is getting progressively worse. I have noticed water pooling outside that wall during heavy rains. If I build up the area around the outside of the wall with dirt, will that solve the problem? I run a dehumidifier in the basement year-round.

Sloping the ground around the wall so that water drains away from the foundation should definitely help, but I would try a couple of simpler approaches first.

Make sure your rain gutters are functioning properly and that the downspouts are kept open. Use long leaders or downspout extensions to carry rainwater well away from the foundation.

Your use of a dehumidifier would appear to rule out condensation as a cause of the damp wall. It is more likely seepage from the outside, which can often be stopped by a couple of coats of waterproofing paint such as UGL’s Drylok (www.ugl.com).

Dear Gene: I spilled some latex paint on my brick patio. How can I remove the stains?

Try a paste-type paint remover such as Strypeeze, sold at many home centers and paint stores. Follow the directions on the container. Because bricks are porous and the paint probably penetrated, you may have to apply several coats and use a brush to work the remover into the pores.

Quick tip: Moving a ladder numerous times and setting it firmly in place are the most difficult parts of cleaning open rain gutters or gutters with screen covers. Extending your reach with a long-handled scraper or brush can greatly ease and speed up the work by cutting down on the number of times the ladder must be moved. I use a long-handled scraper and brush made of plastic, designed for cleaning snow and ice from automobile windshields. I screwed an 18-inch-long wood handle to the existing plastic handle to increase the reach. Almost any plastic ice scraper can be attached to a long wood handle for this use. Just reach out with the scraper and pull leaves and debris into a pile, then scoop them up with a gloved hand for disposal.

Send questions and comments to Gene Austin at doit861@aol.com or 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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