Carbon monoxide concerns
Q. I moved to a new house just three years ago. It has no chimney, so the water heater and house heater (warm air) are equipped with power vents, exhausting the gas fumes outdoors via a double-walled pipe. I changed the water heater recently, then after a heavy snowstorm, we had no power for a week, the house heater stopped working, the water heater kept burning gas, but the exhaust fan did not, so I was getting carbon monoxide in the house. I shut it off and called the water heater company and the house heater company to try to fix it or prevent it from pumping carbon monoxide into the house. They were not much help except to tell me to shut off all units until the power came back on. When I called one contractor, he was too busy to help.
What in the world is the matter, and why won’t anyone help me?
A. I assume everything is OK now that the power is on, but if nothing was done about that water heater, it could happen again, a very dangerous condition. It would be relatively easy for a specialist to make sure the unit does not spew carbon monoxide into the house, but getting him to do it is the problem. You could call a different dealer, but he might be reluctant to work on another’s project. I know that some gas-fired units can operate without power. My gas furnace in Connecticut worked without power during an ice storm, but I had a regular chimney.
You could get unpleasant with the dealer or contractor, or report him to the Better Business Bureau. Or, bypass the whole situation and install a 40- or 50-gallon electric water heater.
Q. I put up a Saran-type plastic wrap around some of my trees to try to keep winter moths from laying eggs, as per your recent column. Now algae and lichen are growing under the wrap. Will that hurt the tree, and when can I take off that wrap?
A. The growths will not hurt the tree and you can take off the wrap on New Year’s Day.
Q. I replaced some of my natural cedar shingles with new white cedar shingles. How long will it take for them to weather to their neighbors’ silver gray weathered look? Can I apply paint or stain to hasten the old look?
A. About two years, longer if you are as far inland as Bedford. No paint nor stain will match that old look. You could try Cabot’s bleaching oil; very lightly sprayed might work. Waiting will be much better, as I did for two years to end up without a match, but not a big contrast either. If all goes well, I think another year or two will even the color out nicely.
Q. I inherited a dresser that has a pretty strong smell, almost musty. How can I get rid of it?
A. Try this first. Make a mix of 1 part household bleach and 3 parts water, and paint it on all interior bare wood surfaces. If that doesn’t work, paint the bare wood surfaces with an oil-based polyurethane varnish.
Q. I have a huge picture window 12 feet long and 5 feet high with many real divided lights that leak wind seriously. How practical would an inside storm be?
ROBERT FOX, Marblehead
A. Buy acrylic sheets, maybe 1/8-inch thick and cut them into three pieces 50 inches wide and 62 inches high. Apply a half-inch foam border on the inside edges and tack or screw each piece to the frame. Where they butt against each other (there will be two seams among the three pieces) cover them with 2-inch-wide duct tape or other strong colored tape.
Another way is to have acrylic sheets cut to size and bordered by aluminum. There are several aluminum fabricators in South Boston that can do this. Look in the Yellow Pages for aluminum windows and similar clad items.
Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate Section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to Boston.com. Hotton’s e-mail is email@example.com.