Question: All my basement windows have window wells, which usually work well, but when it rains and the ground is frozen, they fill up. I have covers, so I know the water is not coming in from above. How can I keep the water out or at least drain it away when it does come in? — Frank Lorenz, Peterborough, N.H.
Answer: When it rains heavily when the ground is frozen, water does amazing things, mostly bad for the homeowner. In your case, it is running across the surface and down the edge of the window well foundation, and coming up into the window well. Ground water may be temporarily high, and it, too, is coming up into the well. If the water is not getting into the window, wait a while and the water will go down.
If water is getting into the window, however, try this: Install a PVC drain pipe as low in the well wall as possible and going away from the well at least 10 feet. Bury that pipe in the ground. With luck, the pipe will be deep enough not to freeze and will drain the water away as it collects in the well.
Question: I am finishing off my basement walls with plasterboard on a stud frame. I put fiberglass tape in the valleys where the panels butt, and I applied three coats of joint compound, sanding between coats as instructed. Is it OK to cover the fasteners with only two coats of joint compound? — Robert Scott, Boston
Answer: Sure it's OK, if you can tolerate seeing dimples on the walls; they will ghost through paint or paper. Three coats on fasteners and joints are for good purpose. It is not much of a chore to do it. You will be glad you did.
A good example of the folly of just two coats is one of the Handyman's walls. It was a different kind of wall, grooved plywood, but when the Handyman put on two coats, he could see that the job was perfect, both to the eye and the hand. Fat chance. When he put wallpaper on the plywood, sure enough, the joints ghosted through. Not long after, the wall came down during a redo, but it was frustrating to see that the mess could have been avoided.
Try this test to see if you or I am right: In a dark room, run a floodlight right across the face of the wall; the two-coat dimples will cast a shadow.
Question: When I had 4-by-10-inch vents installed on my soffits (the underpart of the roof overhang) every 16 inches, I thought I had pretty good ventilation into the attic, as required when a house is built or insulated. Well, a contractor was checking around and discovered the vents were vent covers, and there were no holes cut in the soffit. Can you imagine? Needless to say, real vents were installed. — Janice, From out there
Answer: Yes, I can imagine because I have seen it before. Weird, but true. I know of a house in Mashpee, a nicely built Cape style, stained, not painted, with a ridge vent with no openings in the roof. I guess they thought, mistakenly, they could prevent roof leaks.
Question: How can I remove mineral deposits on my sinks? — Ruth Shuttle, Acton, Mass.
Answer: Try Zud, or Lime-Away, sold in hardware stores and supermarkets. Or, soak a cloth in vinegar and leave it on the deposit overnight. Then scrub.