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Channels can seal drafty, loose windows

Sun., Nov. 22, 2009

Q. Our house is about 60 years old and has the original wood, double-hung windows. Several of the windows are drafty and loose, and rattle when the wind blows. A couple of these won’t stay open unless I prop them with a stick. I can’t afford new windows now and wonder if there is a less expensive way to fix them. Can you help?

A. You should be able to correct the problems you describe with replacement window channels.

These are aluminum channels that are installed along the sides of the frames to provide new, snug tracks for the window sashes to slide up and down. The channels tighten the windows to eliminate looseness and rattling, and the friction keeps windows open in any position.

They were once sold at some home centers, but the best bet now is to buy them directly from the manufacturer at www.windowrenu. com. Prices start at about $30 per window.

Replacement channels are installed from inside the house so there is no need to work from a ladder.

The sashes (the frames containing the glass) must be removed from the window and any cords or weights cut loose.

The sashes are then fitted into the new channels and the entire assembly is tilted into place.

The Web site contains illustrated directions, frequently asked questions, prices and contact information.

Q. Some candle wax was spilled on my brick and stone fireplace and created an ugly stain. How can I remove it?

A. Start by scraping off as much of the wax as possible, using a putty knife or dull knife that won’t scratch the masonry.

Make a pad of a large white handkerchief or T-shirt. Hold the fabric over the stain and apply a moderately hot laundry iron to melt the remaining wax. After a minute or so, remove the iron but hold the fabric in place until the wax cools and hardens.

Pull off the fabric and much of the residue should come with it. Repeat the process if necessary, using clean fabric, until the masonry is clean or no more wax will come off with the fabric.

Any remaining residue can usually be removed with a solvent such as Goof Off, a multi-purpose stain remover sold at many supermarkets and department stores. Spray some of the Goof Off on a clean cloth and blot the residue to soften and dissolve it. Repeat until the masonry is clean.

Q. Our finished basement has an odor that we can’t eliminate. We tried cleaning the carpet ourselves but that didn’t help. The basement has a lot of windows, so it is not all dark and dismal. Can you help? Should we have the carpet professionally cleaned?

A. Basement odors usually result when moisture causes mold to form. Finding the source of odor in a finished basement, where there is a carpet and probably wall coverings, can be a real challenge.

Cleaning the carpet with water injection – the usual method if rental cleaning equipment is used – can do more harm than good in a basement if the carpet takes a long time to dry out.

If you are not using a dehumidifier in the basement, you should definitely try one. Be sure to get a dehumidifier that will operate properly at lower temperatures; some are virtually useless at temperatures below about 70 degrees.

Since you have a lot of windows, you should also ventilate the basement well on fair days (with the dehumidifier turned off).

As an extra precaution, make sure your rain gutters are not clogged and are working properly to carry water well away from the foundation. Clogged or poorly functioning gutters can cause water to seep into basements through walls and floor.

If these measures don’t help, you might have to do some checking of hidden surfaces, starting with that carpet.

Detach and pull back part of the carpet and see if there is mold underneath. If there is, you should remove the carpet entirely, clean up with mold with a detergent solution, and let the basement dry out thoroughly.

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


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