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Device can stop annoying water hammer in pipes

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Question: I don't have the new turbo toilets, but every time we flush or turn water off in sinks and bathtubs we hear a clunk. It is very annoying. Do you have an answer for this? I've had the plumber in, but it has not yet been fixed. E. Whitley, North Carolina

Answer: A. The handyman has an answer for everything, right or wrong. For your clunk, there is an answer, and there may be a fix. The clunk is water hammer, not only annoying but it can break the pipe at a joint. The noise is caused by kinetic energy from the sudden stoppage of water, especially where it turns a corner in the pipe. A possible cure, if you have very high pressure, is to put a pressure-reducing valve on the main water entry.

Another possible cure is to put a water-hammer arrester on the lines leading to the toilet and to the sinks in question. You can buy water-hammer arresters at plumbing supply shops. They are small devices, a little like a ball of air, that are soldered onto the pipe; when the water stops quickly in the pipes, it will fill that air ball, which acts as a cushion in the water line. One is required for each pipe feeding a faucet, at least feeding the faucets that are causing the clunk.

The old-fashioned water-hammer arrester was a 2-foot vertical pipe attached to a horizontal pipe. It contained air, which acted as the cushion, and was effective but difficult to install because of the length. Modern arresters have the advantage of being compact.

Question: I took off the wallpaper in my Victorian house and painted the plaster. Why did it peel and crack after four years? Christine Holderness, Boston

Answer: Beats the heck out of the handyman, because there could be several reasons, to wit: 1. The paint was applied too thickly. 2. Not all the paste was removed. 3. The wall surface was dirty. 4. The surface was too smooth. 5. It just gave up the ghost after four years, although interior paint should last much, much longer. If you can stand the color, it could last the life of the house.

So, for a cure, you have to scrape off all the loose paint you can, sand to roughen the finish, and feather the edges of the remaining paint. Those edges between paint and no paint can be quite severe, and they will show through new paint every time, unless they too are heavily sanded. And, wash any bare plaster spots to remove any remaining sizing and paste.

Question: I bought a large ceiling fan for a room 16 by 14 feet. It is 52 inches in diameter, but it doesn't seem to be cooling. Is it working properly? C.B., Newton, Mass.

Answer: It is working properly. Fans are not designed to cool the air but to circulate it. Make sure the fan is on its summer setting, blowing downward. Ceiling fans are supposed to blow downward in summer (to waft over your overheated body), and upward in winter, spreading warm air more evenly around the room. Fifty-two inches is the largest you can get, which is more than adequate in that room.

Question: I have a large air conditioner in a living-room window. It is big, heavy, and awkward to move, so I'd like to keep it there all winter. How can I make it weatherproof, as well as insulating on the inside against loss of heat? Rita Nevulis, Braintree, Mass.

Answer: One good thing about storing an a/c in the window is that it is as good a storage space as any. To make it weatherproof, buy a plastic cover that you can put on the outside. To insulate on the inside, I suggest a large open box that you can set up against the window, covering the a/c with its edges butting against the window casing (frame). Weatherstrip the edges of the box with foam weatherstripping tape.

You have to make the box deep enough so it will clear the a/c while it sets against the casing. The box could be made of 1 x 2s, 1 x 3s, or 1 x4s, depending on how far out the a/c sticks into the room. Cover one side of the box with thin plywood or hardboard, and paint or stain to match the woodwork. Fill the box with as much insulation as will fit.

You will have to pay attention to where the bottom sash of the window has been raised, because it is not weathertight at all. You could fill that space with insulation and cover it with anything decorative. The insulation to use is High R Sheathing or Thermax, which has the highest R factor per inch.