A building permit is needed to convert deck into sunroom

I have an elevated deck that opens off the living room at the back of my house. One side of the deck is attached to the house and the other two corners are supported on posts sitting on concrete pads. I am thinking of enclosing the deck to make an insulated sunroom suitable for year-round use. Can you tell me how to do this?

The first thing I have to tell you is that you need a building permit to convert your deck into an enclosed sunroom attached to the house, and to get this you will have to submit plans and specifications of the work to be done. I cannot provide that, and recommend that you call in several contractors for suggestions and prices.

If you decide to do the work yourself without a building permit, and a neighbor objects to the addition, you will very likely be required to dismantle it entirely. I have known this to happen. Check with your local building department before you start anything.

Are wood posts safe?

The wood posts supporting our cedar deck have developed some large vertical cracks. Should these be filled or must they be replaced?

There is no need to do anything to the posts. Vertical splits do not weaken them significantly; there is still just as much wood there to support the weight.

Chalking paint

Our 21-year-old split level house is faced with white brick and white aluminum siding. The windows have black aluminum shutters, and the color is washing off these and staining the brick and siding below them. What can we do to correct this?

All exterior paints chalk as they age, and the chalked paint carries the color pigment with it as it is washed off by the rain. I suggest you scrub the chalked paint off the shutters, brick and siding with a stiff brush and a solution of one rounded tablespoon (15 mL) of dishwasher detergent to a litre of water. Then repaint the shutters in a lighter color, using a semigloss or satin latex paint, which does not chalk as much as an alkyd or oil-based paint.

Painting vinyl

I would like to paint my white, vinyl-clad patio doors to match our yellow siding. I have been told this cannot be done. Is that true?

This question does not have a clearcut, Yes or No answer; it is more of a “maybe” or “sometimes” answer. It is true that vinyl doesn’t accept paint too well, but neither does glazed ceramic tile, and I have seen many tiled bathrooms that were painted without a problem.

If you take the following steps, I don’t think you will have any problems. 1) Wipe the vinyl first with a cloth moistened with isopropyl alcohol. 2) Apply one of the special primers made for hard-to-paint surfaces . . . such as Easy Surface Prep (Flood Company), Prime-It, (Swing Paints), and XIM Primer/Sealer (XIM Products). 3) Apply two coats of a top-quality (the highest price in any brand) satin or semi-gloss exterior alkyd enamel. I can’t offer any guarantee, but this is what I would do if I wanted to paint a vinyl door.

Ghost lines on ceiling

When we moved into our 30-year-old, one-storey house about a year-and-a-half ago, there were dark, shadow-like marks on the smooth, flat ceiling underneath all the ceiling joists. I repainted the ceiling to cover these marks, but now they are forming again on the white ceiling. I checked the attic and found that there is six inches of fibreglass insulation between the 2×6 joists. What causes the marks and how can we prevent them?

The ghost lines on the ceiling are caused by differences in the temperature of the ceiling surface. More dust particles will land on cold surfaces than on warmer ones. (If you want more information about this, look up Brownian Movement in a high school physics book or a science encyclopedia.) And because heat escapes through six inches (150mm) of wood faster than it does through six inches of fibreglass, the ceiling directly under the joists will be a little cooler than the ceiling under the insulation, so shadow marks will form on the ceiling under each joist.

The only way to stop this happening is to lay batt insulation over the top of the ceiling joists. This will eliminate the cool areas that have been attracting dust particles under the ceiling joists. The same phenomenon often causes a ghost pattern of wall studs to appear on painted or papered frame walls.

Shower problem

The shower diverter valve on our bathtub spout is not working properly. When I lift it to divert water from the spout to the showerhead some of the water still comes out of the spout. Is there any way I can fix this?

There may be a lime deposit on the diverter plug inside the tub spout, preventing it from sealing properly. The only way to get this off the diverter plug is to unscrew the spout, put it in a pot and cover it with straight vinegar or other lime remover. Leave it there for a couple of hours, then rinse, dry, put a joint sealing compound on the threads and screw the spout back in place.

To remove the spout without damaging the chrome plating, put a metal bar up inside it and use this as a lever to unscrew the spout, counterclockwise. A large screwdriver or the handle of an 8″ or 10″ adjustable crescent wrench or “monkey wrench” should do it. If soaking the spout in vinegar does not correct the problem, install a new diverter spout.

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