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Volume 7 Issue 10“Building Confidence”October 2009



Welcome to our newsletter discussing questions and answers for the month of October.

What's New

Here is a reminder from our website:

Seasonal 2: Winter Proof Your Home

Before Winter sets in with all its fury, check out the following list to keep your home warm, cozy and secure.

  • Remove all hoses from their hose bibs. Even the frost free hose bibs need to have the garden hose removed so that any water remaining in the valve stem can drain out.
  • Close all vents to the crawl space. The crawl space should be insulated to prevent pipes from freezing. A small baseboard heater or inline heater, along the pipes, is recommended during this time of year, if temperatures in your area drop below freezing. Secure the heater well to prevent problems.
  • Basements should be insulated. I recommend constructing a 2x4 wall in front of the concrete foundation wall, floor to ceiling, installing insulation and vapor barrier. Strap and insulate short concrete walls.
  • Your furnace filters should be changed by now. Cleaning the air ducts is also recommended.
  • In older homes, check out ways to insulate. Foam pads are available under face plates for plugs and switches. Clear film is made for covering single pane windows. Use caulking to fill gaps around windows, doors and siding.
  • Check to see if you have fresh air coming into your home in a regulated fashion. Check out the dehumidifier switches for bathroom fans. Forced air furnaces should have fresh air introduced to their cold air return. Talk to local experts who can advise you on this subject. Usually local government departments have free brochures and advice.
  • Roofs and gutters should be cleaned of moss and debris.

Another thing that I should add is to clean your dryer vents. I did this recently and was amazed to find so much lint in the ducts themselves. The plastic corrugated dryer hoses from the dryer to the duct are now unsafe. Replace them with the expandable metal hoses or better still solid 4" galvanized steel duct. Don't let a fire hazard remain in your home.

Your smoke detectors should have been checked in the Fall, if not this is another safety tip that must be done to protect your family.

Ask Away!

These are some of the questions from our members and my answers. Hope they are useful to you:

dave. just completed my electrical rough in inspection.
I need to fill in the gaps (holes from running the wire) for a fire
inspection. is there a special product or is any of the expanding spray
foams okay thanks, dave

There is usually only one place where wires entering a wall is of concern and that is through the exterior concrete foundation wall or the exterior framed wall. With, through the foundation wall, the concern is water and insects, so we fill around the hole or blockout with a sand/cement mix before backfilling. For the wood frame wall, we are concerned with water on the outside and vapor on the inside. Wires are usually brought through the outside of a wood frame wall with conduit which is easily kept dry. Wires usually don't penetrate the inside of a wall, they end in a box. The box is vapor proofed or a gasket of poly is installed with the metal switch, receptacle or octagon (light) box. When installing pot lights in a insulated ceiling, the pot lights must be designed with this in mind with vapor barrier and heat dissipating protection.

When wires come through an insulated ceiling, without ending in a box, as for a fluorescent fixture, the wires are taped to the vapor barrier with red Tuck tape. This goes for plumbing pipes as well.

Once the wiring enters the panel it is distributed through the walls and ceilings in framed cavities and enters a box or approved fixture attached to the finish over the framing. The framing is then protected, usually, with drywall which is rated for fireproofing. There are firestops in wall framing, but as far as I know, in single family residential buildings there is no worry about fireproofing wires if the correct procedures, according to the code, are followed.


Hi Dave,

Our toilet is leaking around the base of the toilet. Not much, but it's wet
and gets wet right after we clean it up.

Do you think it's the wax seal? If so, how do I change the wax seal of a toilet?


Hi Dan,

Usually, the wax seal doesn't give a problem. I've never had to replace our seals since I built the house in 1992. That said, just the other day, we had to go to a client and replace their wax seal which was leaking. The only way to fix this problem is to lift the toilet. Purchase a toilet wax seal with flange. Don't buy the cheaper wax seal, only, or the wax seal with bolts combo, unless the original bolts were rusted or damaged, just the wax seal with flange built into it. This forces the toilet to drain directly into the floor drain.

Turn off the water supply to the tank, usually by the line stop on the left side of the toilet about 6" off the floor. Flush the toilet and remove the tank lid. Put it down somewhere out of the way where it won't get bumped or broken. Use a wet/dry vac, with paper filters removed, and suck the tank and bowl dry. Otherwise, use towels or rags to get the tank and bowl dry. Make sure no water is coming into the tank. If it is, the shut off is faulty and the main water shut off must be closed. (Replace the line stop, if it leaks, while the main water is turned off.) Remove the two brass nuts and washers and the plastic washers for attachment of the covers. Loosen the large plastic nut tight to the underside of the tank at the end of the supply tube. The nut may slide down the tube a bit. It should only be finger tight.

Grab the toilet under the rim and pull it off its mounts. Bring it forward, out of the way of the drain pipe and area where the toilet originally sat. You will need room to clean this area. Lay the toilet down, resting on the back of the tank and the toilet, so that the underside of the toilet is exposed. The next part is nasty, so get those disposable gloves on and have a plastic grocery bag handy. With a 1" putty knife or wooden paint stir stick, clean out all remains of the old wax seal around the lip of the toilet, as well as on top of the floor flange over the drain. If the seal had a flange built into it, remove this, as well. Put this nasty stuff into the plastic bag. Use comet and bleach or equivalent cleaner and wash the floor under where the toilet sat. If the seal was leaking for awhile, this area will be obvious. Also clean the outside rim of the underside of the toilet. Notice if there are any cracks under the bowl or wet spots indicating cracks.

Install the new wax seal under the toilet with the flange facing out. Push it in place hard enough for it to stay there, but don't mash it or change its shape. Remove the gloves and throw them in the plastic bag for disposal. Pick up the toilet, as before, and carefully place it over the 2 bolts. Make sure you can see the bolts coming through the slots of the toilet base. Also, make sure the supply tube and nut are lined up with the threads coming out of the bottom of the tank. Now put your hands on the top of the toilet rim, the cover and seat are in the raised position. Apply your body weight over the toilet forcing the wax seal to mash into place. Rock the toilet, slightly, back and forth until the toilet is down on the floor and no more vertical movement is felt. Line the tank up parallel to the wall and tighten up the large plastic nut to the tank, finger tight and replace the washers, on the base, as before. Usually the large plastic washer goes down first. Notice the printing embedded in the plastic, "this side up", or something similar. Over the plastic washer goes the oblong brass washer, then the nut. Tighten the nut finger tight, at first. Rock the toilet back and forth continually tightening the brass nuts on each side of the toilet base using a small wrench. Don't tighten these nuts too much for danger of breaking or cracking the porcelain base.

When the toilet doesn't have any rocking sensation stop the tightening. Maybe sit on it and see if there is any movement. These bolts are not there to crank the toilet hard to the floor, but just to prevent any movement. Now turn the stop on, opening it to the max so it won't leak through the shaft. The toilet should be filling with water, so watch for leaks from the supply tube, either end nuts. When the tank is full and the ballcock has shut off the water, check to make sure the water level is about 1" below the top of the overflow tube. Adjust the ball rod by bending it up or down slightly or adjusting the ballcock, itself, depending on the type. Flush the toilet, check the floor for leaks. If the toilet still leaks on the floor, your problem maybe a cracked bowl. This is rather rare, but it has happened to me before with a new toilet installation. You need to pull the toilet again and look under it to see if there are any leaks or wet spots showing. If all is well, check the water height inside the tank and replace the tank cover. Replace the bolt covers by snapping the covers on to the washers, pat yourself on the back and go have a shower.


Hi Dave,
I was wondering how to do replacement windows. I have a brick house
with double hung sash windows. When you measure the opening for the new
window, do you leave some space, and where do you measure from? Any
other suggestions? Thanks, Bob

If you are installing reno windows, without the flange, everything is removed except the window jamb. Allow 1/4" clearance all around and install the new window to the existing jamb. Trim is added to cover the gap between old and new.

You can request a salesman to come out and give you a free estimate on your replacement windows. He will measure your jambs or allow for their removal, if you want new ones.

With a brick facing it is hard to install new windows with the flange on. You are maybe better to order custom replacement windows to fit your existing space. The only downfall to this, rather than complete replacement, is that between the jambs and framing or brick may not be insulated. Removing the casing on the inside will reveal the insulation, if any.


I have a dirt floor basement.
Can I put down plastic and some other cover on top of that to slow down
the moisture build up?

Hi Ron,

Yes, usually, in a crawlspace 6 mil vapor barrier is place down over the ground. To protect it a light coat of concrete, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, is poured over the poly. Also allowed is rocks to hold it down. If you intend to pour a slab down there, definitely lay the poly down first.


How do you apply Wilsonart Decorative Edges?


Hi Don,

Here is a brochure on Wilsonart edges:

Notice the upper page is for the laminate edges and the lower is for solid wood - oak and maple edges.

The laminate edges either have a tongue or not. The one with the tongue is installed in a groove in the "rough" countertop edge with glue. The one without the tongue would be contacted to the rough edge. This tongue could be formed by using a 1/4" slotted router bit.

Both these edges would cover the top thickness of laminate so the line would be very thin, instead of the brown laminate trim line showing.



We are installing 3/4 red oak flooring over 3/4 plywood subflooring.
the house is located in Bothell Washington, there are a lot of old
growth fir, hemlock, and cedar trees close to the house. It is a two
story split entry built in 1978 It has a cedar shake roof that is 8
years old. We discovered that the moisture content of the subfloor
around the fireplace on the second floor was high 13-18% The hardwood
flooring moisture content is at 6-8% after being stored in the house
for about a month.
Anyway I have had several roofers, and two different chimney guys look
things over at a cost of approximately $600.00 all of them did a repair
or two here and there and I still have the same problem. Now all that
is happening is that the contractors are blaming each other, claiming
that it is a roofing problem or a chimney problem. None of them seem to
know how to fix the problem. Do you have any suggestions or can you
steer me to some one that would know how to trouble shoot this and repair
it. Many thanks


Hi John,

It sounds to me that the roof or chimney is not your problem, with all the work done on it recently.

I would go under the roof, into your attic space and make sure you can see daylight from the roof vents and the soffit vents, both. You may see a black mold growing on the underside of the roof sheeting and also smell a musty odor. Your problem maybe lack of ventilation. I have experienced this myself. The owner of the house was experiencing wet windows and walls on the inside. I found that their soffit vents were covered up. So check this out, first, then let me know what you find before I advise further.


Dave what's your opinion on a finish for a Dining Room table, Oil or


Hi Rick,

I would go with the polyurethane finish. It is a good hard finish and easy to apply in warm temperatures.


Well, that's it for another time. Hope this discussion has been helpful.


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