Q. We have double-hung windows with tilt-in sashes for easy cleaning. Some of the sashes won’t stay closed, but pop open on their own. Can this be fixed?
A. The broken sash latches can probably be replaced. There are several types of latches, but in most cases it’s possible to restore the latching action by installing simple surface-mounted latches (your windows might already have this type). The latches are located at the top corners of each sash, one latch on each side. Typical surface-mounted latches are made of plastic and have housings about 3 inches long and an inch wide; the pointed latch itself, which extends when you close the sash to hold it in place, juts out of the end of the latch housing and has a spring action. If the latch mechanism fails, the latch won’t work, of course. Each latch is attached with two screws.
Take a good look at the latches on top of your windows sashes, and then visit www.allaboutdoors.com to see what replacement latches are available. At All About Doors, click on Articles, then on Windows and Their Hardware, then go to Page 2 of the list and click on Replacing Tilt Latches. You’ll find illustrations of the various types and instructions and prices for ordering them if you want to try a do-it-yourself repair.
If in doubt about any step of the repair, the best bet is to contact the contractor who installed the windows. Next best is to check with the manufacturer. Beyond that, almost any good window technician should be able to make the repair.
Q. The small wood squares in our 40-year-old parquet floor are buckling. We suspect the cause is moisture from wet weather but aren’t sure. Do you have any suggestions for making the flooring lay flat?
A. Moisture could well be the cause, since it causes wood to swell. Moisture could also be affecting the adhesive that holds the wood squares to the underlayment, causing them to come loose.
After 40 years, it might be time to consider replacing this flooring with a type that is more able to withstand high moisture problems.
You don’t give any details about the construction of your house or at what level (basement, first floor) the floor is located, but a good choice if you want wood would be engineered wood flooring. This flooring, which is laminated from several thin layers, is more resistant to moisture than most other wood flooring and can be installed at any grade level if a moisture barrier is used.
If you don’t want a new floor, you might be able to pry up the loose and buckled parquet, let the floor dry out thoroughly, then re-glue the parquet. The best bet would be to have an experienced flooring contractor check the floor and advise you on all the options.
Q. I’m interested in knowing more about gasoline stabilizer, which you have written about several times. My lawnmower doesn’t sit for more than a couple of weeks before it is used, so do I need stabilizer and what is it?
A. Gasoline stabilizer, also called fuel stabilizer, is a solvent that helps prevent the deterioration of gasoline and the formation of substances that could gum up the carburetor or fuel lines of small gasoline engines.
Untreated gasoline often gets “stale” in three to six months, which can cause hard starting and other engine problems. There is some controversy about whether fuel stabilizer really helps as much as is sometimes claimed, but many people, including me, use it routinely in gasoline powered lawn and garden tools, generators and other devices.
If you use your lawnmower every couple of weeks, you probably don’t need fuel stabilizer during the mowing season, but when it’s time to store the machine for the off-season you should play it safe either by adding a fuel stabilizer to the gasoline or run the mower out of gas.
I prefer the run-out-of-gas method when it is possible, because it effectively clears the carburetor and fuel lines, but it is sometimes inconvenient or difficult to run some tools out of gas.
Whether to use fuel stabilizer is a personal choice, of course, but I consider stabilizer as valuable insurance against hard starts.