Q. Our house is built on a concrete slab and has mostly carpeted and tile floors. I would like to have real wood floors throughout. How would wood be installed and is this something a homeowner can do?
A. Solid wood floors are difficult to install on concrete, and it is best to leave this type of installation to experts.
However, there is a type of wood flooring that has been installed by many do-it-yourselfers, and it has a number of advantages over solid wood. This product is called engineered wood flooring, and it consists of a thin layer of pre-finished hardwood on top of more thin layers of wood.
The plywood sandwich of engineered wood flooring is more stable than solid wood, more resistant to moisture and, since it is pre-finished, is ready for immediate use.
What’s more, some thicker grades of engineered wood can be installed as “floating” floors on top of foam underlayment. These wood strips have locking joints – no nails or glue are needed.
A disadvantage of engineered wood is that it has limited ability to withstand sanding and refinishing. Thicker, more-expensive grades of engineered wood can be sanded two and sometimes three times, but thin grades might have a limit of one careful sanding.
There is a great deal of information about engineered wood flooring, including installation tips and sources, on the Internet. Use a search engine and the words Engineered Wood Flooring to learn all about this useful product.
Q. When I flush my first-floor toilet, it sends a loud clanging noise throughout my townhouse. What causes this and what can I do about it?
A. There is a good possibility the toilet tank has a faulty refill valve. The pressure of water attempting to refill the tank after a flush causes water pipes to make banging or clanging noises.
You can buy a new refill valve for less than $10 at most home centers and hardware stores. Look for the Fluidmaster brand, which comes with instructions and is rather simple to install.
It is also possible that the toilet might need a water-hammer arrestor to stop the noise. These devices, which usually sell for $15 to $25, provide an air space in the pipes that acts as a shock absorber for water under pressure.
Q. We are told to add insulation, weather stripping, windows and so forth to make our houses tighter and tighter, but doesn’t this affect combustion of gas and oil heating systems? Where does the combustion air come from?
A. In most houses, enough fresh-air sources remain even after weatherizing that combustion of flame-type heating systems is safe as long as they are properly vented. In very tight houses, it is sometimes necessary to run a special outside-air pipe to the heating system to supply fresh air for combustion.
Proper venting is extremely important to prevent combustion products such as carbon-monoxide from getting into the house. Flame-type central heating systems should be inspected, cleaned and adjusted every year to help insure safety.
It is also important to have at least one working carbon-monoxide detector in a house with any flame-type heating.
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