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Don't omit a properly installed roof cricket
By Henri DeMarne | United Feature Syndicate
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Published: 8/29/2010 12:04 AM

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Q. As you advised last year, I proceeded to get my roof replaced (removing the old roof and adding new decking where needed) to deal with a leakage problem. Getting a contractor was quite a job in itself. The job was done and looks pretty good, although I had to have them back a few times to deal with some spots I thought were questionable and since it seemed there was still leakage. We haven't had any rain lately, so I'm not sure if all is well yet.

One issue still concerns me: When the roof was replaced, it looks like the crew removed and did not replace a cricket that seems to have been there on one side of the wood siding-encased chimney. When I questioned the contractor, he said he would come and replace it, but when he did the work, he cut out some of the siding and allegedly some shingles, installed a pan flashing then replaced the wood and shingles. He said the cricket had been an add-on and was unnecessary. He said the cricket would just separate from the siding and leak over time. Is this right or was he just taking a shortcut?

A. The photos you sent show the attempted repair and some other errors that are not all the responsibility of the roofer. The original siding is much too close to the roof; it should have been kept a minimum of 1 inch above to prevent it from absorbing water running down the roof via capillary attraction. The roofer followed the same pattern, and this is also wrong. One of the photos shows where he removed and patched the siding after installing the pan flashing. Depending on how he did it (it's not visible), it may be all right, but the bottom of the siding repair is likely to get wet and start deteriorating over time.

Not having seen the original cricket, I can't comment on its adequacy, but a cricket should have been installed when the roof was replaced. If done properly, its advantages are that it would deflect the water away from the wall and around the chimney and keep melting snow from wetting the bottom of the siding.

Granted, there isn't much of a roof above the chimney, but that does not mean that it was OK to omit the cricket. I would insist on a proper cricket being installed. But whether or not you will be able to get it done right and whether the roofer would willingly do the work is another question.

My husband (deceased) and I built our home in 1964 using recycled materials and the available knowledge at the time. We constructed a nice home, but the recurring problem of large icicles forming at the eaves in the winter tells me that heat is escaping. The house is well-insulated and has gable end vents, and also vents along the eaves. The attic consists of a crawl space of maybe 3 feet. How do I rectify this? Would attic fans be of any use in so limited an area? If so, how would they be installed? What would be an effective size and kind? No access is available from inside the house.

Also, my cherry stairs have been covered with carpet, and since removing it, I find that the stairs are in very good condition and would like to oil them instead of using urethane, as the oil would allow the natural beauty of the wood to emerge. Is this doable? Would Danish oil be the oil of choice?

A. Large icicles are indicative of heat loss that causes snow to melt from the roof. The excessive heat in the attic in the summer may also be due to the same condition, and possibly inadequate ventilation. Heat loss can occur from inadequate insulation or from convective losses through a variety of cracks and openings. These can occur through recessed light fixtures, non-weatherstripped attic access panels or doors, drywall tape peeling off the surfaces, electrical wires and plumbing pipes, etc. It may also be that there is no effective air space for proper ventilation between the soffit and gable vents or that the overall size of the vents is inadequate. Gable vents are not as effective as externally baffled ridge vents in conjunction with full-length soffit vents.

You mention that there is no access to the crawl space, which I assume is behind knee walls on the front and/or back of your house. Access to it (or them) is important if you want to add insulation to the floor(s).

The next concern is that if you have sloping ceilings in finished rooms in the main attic space, the spaces between the rafters may either be full of insulation that blocks most of the air flow or there is not enough insulation to prevent major heat loss through the roof. In either case, this may be corrected by installing rigid insulation over the current finish and putting new drywall over it. A partial fix is unlikely to solve your heat loss. Attic fans would be of little use, except to circulate air if anyone is using that space.

Oiling your cherry stairs will require letting the oil dry each time you apply it, which may need to be done frequently, depending on use, while applying urethane would be a one-time process. If the cherry has received a coat of finish before the carpeting was laid, the oil may not be absorbed and you will have a sticky mess for a while, until it dries -if it will - or you wipe it off.

What is the best method to remove or kill moss that is growing on the shady side of a dark asphalt roof?

A. Try a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar. Give it time to work. A permanent solution is to install zinc strips on the top row of shingles just below the ridge cap shingles. You can get Stainhandler Roof Protector Zinc Strips at www.stainhandler.com.

Q I have a 104-year-old house with a wraparound porch. The porch was fully replaced about 20 years ago and is in very good shape. It was painted with a shiny deck-and-porch paint that held up well. It has a very flat surface, and every footprint, leaf print, walnut stain, etc., shows up and stays. There is a blackish path to the mailbox from the postman's trips up and down. I want to repaint it with something more resistant to foot traffic and stains.

At the paint store, they said anything glossy gets slippery when wet. Since this is mostly under a porch ceiling, that's not a huge issue, and I understand there is a sandlike additive I could add to make it less slippery. What would be the best paint to use? House paint? Oil-based paint?

A. An alkyd, glossy deck paint with some sand additive may solve your problem, since it has worked in the past. You will have to sand the existing paint to break the surface finish and make sure that you will get better adhesion.

After reading your column for years, I finally need to make a flooring decision for our basement. It's below ground, large and concrete (probably 4 inches thick). One wall is shared with the garage. We do not have central air and have a dehumidifier in the basement with air-conditioning units built into brick walls in other areas of the house. I am concerned with mold since the area is below ground. I don't want to use ceramic tile, as spaces under it might hold moisture, or a floating-floor system for the same reason. Would a good choice be indoor-outdoor carpeting or carpet squares? Maybe Nature Stone or an epoxy stone floor?

A. Synthetic pad and carpet are one option, but they are more likely to develop mold than ceramic or porcelain tiles. The adhesive that will be spread on the basement floor should seal the spaces between the nubs of the tiles quite well. I think that it is a better choice. Nature Stone epoxy floor covering is porous, as shown on their website (www.naturestonefloors.com). So any water it may absorb from whatever source will have to evaporate instead of being wiped off. The decision depends on what water problems you expect.

Helpful suggestion: I am a longtime reader and follower of much of your maintenance advice. As a professional locksmith, I find a recurring problem that unnecessarily alarms many homeowners: locks that seem to be in the process of seizing up. Locks outdoors are constantly exposed to blowing dust and dirt, and since they have several small moving parts they can easily become clogged by debris and seem like they are nearing the end of their useful lives. I have found that an annual flushing of the lock cylinder (the keyhole) with WD-40 or other similar product solves the problem instantly. I recommend that my customers flush out their locks as often as they change smoke-detector batteries.

• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via e-mail at henridemarne@gmavt.net.

© 2010, United Feature Syndicate Inc.