June 28, 2009 in Features

Rotted windows can be repaired

Gene Austin McClatchy-Tribune

Quick tip

 Plumber Paul Holland offers another possible cause of mysterious water running in toilets, which was discussed in a recent column.

 “If the toilet’s refill tube is below the tank’s water line, it will continually siphon water from the tank, causing the tank to keep wanting to fill itself,” Holland says.

 The refill tube is the small tube that empties into the tank’s overflow pipe, a vertical pipe located near the middle of the tank. The tank’s usual water line can be checked by removing the lid and watching while the tank refills after a flush.

 If the water goes above the tank’s overflow pipe and refill tube (the small tube that empties into the overflow pipe), adjustments need to be made to the refill-valve mechanism to keep the tank from overfilling. In general, the tank’s filled water level should be about three quarters of an inch below the top of the overflow pipe.

 There are several types of refill valves, and there isn’t space to discuss adjusting them all.

 In older toilets with a float at the end of a metal rod, the water level in the tank can be lowered by very carefully bending the rod downward slightly.

 In newer toilets, the refill level is often controlled by a float that rides up and down on a vertical column; the float can be raised or lowered by pinching a spring clip.

Q. Several of my old wood window sills have rotted areas. Is it possible to repair them and avoid the cost of new windows?

A. It is always better to replace rotted wood, but it can be repaired.

Several repair products are available. The best ones are two-part epoxies that form a new surface that is much like wood; it can be chiseled, sanded and painted.

The repair process is also basically the same for different products: Remove as much of the rotted material as possible with wood cutting tools, then harden remaining soft wood fibers with a liquid hardener. Finally, fill the holes with the epoxy mixture.

Some of these products have very strong vapors during mixing and application. Avoid using indoors or provide plenty of ventilation, including a fan to carry vapors outside. Wear a respirator mask if possible and follow other cautions on the label.

For smaller projects, you can find repair products made by Minwax at many home centers and hardware stores. Wood Hardener is used to consolidate soft wood and High Performance Wood Filler is used to fill the holes. For more information on these products, visit www.minwax.com.

For larger projects, consider Abatron LiquidWood and WoodEpox ( www.abatron.com).

Again, it is always better to replace rotted wood, which is obviously weakened structurally. Wood window sills are not easy to replace, but a skilled carpenter should be able to do it for much less than the cost of new windows.

Q. Several years ago we had our interior wood trim repainted with a semi-gloss paint. The paint peels off if the trim is bumped. Someone told us that flat paint originally on the trim is causing poor adhesion. Can we repair this without repainting all the trim?

A. I doubt if flat paint is the cause of the problem; it is glossy paint that can cause poor adhesion of top coats. Also, the paint you named is a good-quality product, so cheap paint can’t be blamed.

It’s possible that the original trim paint was not well cleaned before repainting; if there are greasy or oily areas, the new paint wouldn’t stick well.

You should be able to touch up the peeled areas with the same semi-gloss paint.

Scrape off loose paint and wash those areas with water containing a little dishwashing detergent. Rinse, let dry and sand lightly to feather the edges of the remaining paint. Apply a primer such as Bulls-Eye 1-2-3 or Kilz, then two coats of the semi-gloss paint.

Q. I want to patch some narrow cracks in my asphalt driveway. What is the best patching material?

A. I have had best results with 100 percent silicone asphalt-patching material, sold in caulking-gun cartridges that make it easy to apply.

Sweep dust and loose material out of the cracks, then apply the caulk and press it into the crack with a putty knife. Keep traffic off the patches until they have dried thoroughly.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at doit861@aol.com. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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