Q: We are building a porch which will be screened-in five to six months out of the year. The other months it will be glassed in. Our problem is deciding on what type of flooring to use.
A: A good floor for a porch is concrete, installed over 6 inches of foam insulation. Such a floor needs a foundation going at least 4 feet into the ground to prevent heaving and cracking from frost. Another good floor is a wood floor on a 4-foot foundation, or on 4-by-4-inch pressure-treated posts, with 6-inch insulation between the joists.
Q: I will be in Florida for all of February, so I will need to protect the house for 30 days or so. How? Shut down the heat and water, or what? I heat by gas. My water heater has a "vacation" switch, so I can use that. And what else?
A: I think turning the heat to 55 or 50 will save enough fuel to make it worthwhile. But this is important: Hire or have a neighbor act as a house-sitter, checking everything in the house daily.
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Q: The vent above our bathroom vents out steam. I keep getting small black mold on the ceiling. At first I cleaned it with bleach and water. But it came back. Any suggestions as to how to fix the problem permanently? Is it a ventilation problem?
A: Yes. Use the exhaust fan during and after showers, up to half an hour afterward. The best material to put on the shower ceiling is a piece of shiny white Formica-brand plastic. Zinsser makes a white latex paint that is super hard and super white, which also can work.)