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Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2006 02:32 pm

Venting a range hood

Using your attic is a very bad idea

Dear Gene: I plan to vent my range hood into the attic. Is this a good idea, or is there a better way?

It is definitely not a good idea. Ideally the range hood should be vented to the outside, usually through the roof. This requires the installation of some ductwork but is worth the extra work and expense. The purpose of the hood is to collect moisture, grease, and odors from cooking and expel them to the outside, where they are basically harmless. If dumped into the attic, the moisture and other vapors can cause a great deal of mischief. For example, if water vapor from cooking condenses in a cold attic, it can ruin insulation and foster rot and mold on wood framing and other surfaces.

If for some reason it is impossible to vent the hood to the outside, you can use a hood that contains a filter. After filtering the cooking vapors, the air that enters the hood is recirculated back into the kitchen. Range-hood dealers can give you more information on these devices, and there is an excellent article on hoods at the Web site Type “installing a range hood” in the search box.

Dear Gene: A slimy black substance accumulates in the drain of my bathroom sink and eventually clogs it. What is it, and how do I keep the sink open?

I’m not sure of the exact composition of the black substance that accumulates in many sink and tub drains, but my guess is that it is a combination of dirt, soap, bits of hair, and mold. If your sink has a pop-up stopper, remove it periodically and clean it with soap and water and an old toothbrush (put the stopper in the fully open position and gently twist the stopper to loosen it; reverse the procedure to replace it).

If the sink clogs, try using a plunger to open it first (remove the stopper and seal the sink’s overflow holes with duct tape before using the plunger). If that doesn’t work, some people have had good results in opening clogged sinks with water-pressure and air-pressure devices, sold at some home centers. Another option is gel-type Liquid-Plumr (be sure to buy the gel, because regular Liquid-Plumr will not remove a stubborn clog).

Dear Gene: My back yard slopes toward the rear of my house, and we sometimes get water in the basement along this wall. We do have a sump pump but no in-floor drain system. I have heard about a “beaver system” for basement drainage. Is this an acceptable approach, and can a do-it-yourselfer install it?

There are several companies making variations of this system, which basically is a hollow plastic baseboard that is cemented over the wall-floor joint in the basement. The baseboard is designed to carry water that enters at the base of the walls to a sump pump or drain.

Beaver Basement Water Control Systems ( claims to have patented a system in 1965. This company has contractor/dealers in some areas (mostly in the East) and recommends professional installation where available. However, it will sell to do-it-yourselfers in areas where there is no contractor/dealer. Another company that uses the Beaver name but calls its system Border Patrol ( deals directly with do-it-yourselfers.

These systems are rather simple to install, and a reasonably skilled do-it-yourselfer should be able to do the work. The systems appear to be useful if correctly installed. However, if there is a severe basement-water problem involving a large volume of water, I think that a more conventional system, such as an interior or exterior French drain (underground drainage pipes), would be more appropriate.

Quick tip: Reader Robert Gerard had a problem with pine trees’ dripping sap onto his deck and leaving ugly spots. After trying various cleaners without success, Gerard devised his own method of removing the sap stains.

Gerard used a heat gun to soften the sap spots, then used fine steel wool dipped in turpentine to remove them.

“If you have a large deck covered with pine-sap droppings, this would indeed be a lot of work, but it’s easy and it goes quickly,” Gerard said.

Another solvent that should work is Goo Gone, a tough-stain cleaner sold at some supermarkets and home centers.

Test any solvent or cleaning method first on a small, inconspicuous area.

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

Copyright © 2006 Gene Austin