Question: I have an exhaust fan installed in my bathroom ceiling. It is connected to a metal exhaust duct that goes up through the attic and then up though the roof to the outside.

I notice that whenever I use the shower during cold weather moist air seems to condense inside the duct or vent; then it drips down onto the bathroom floor. Any idea how I can prevent this buildup of condensation inside the duct?

Answer: If your attic is unheated the metal exhaust duct probably gets cold enough during cold weather to cause the moist air from the bathroom to form condensation inside the duct.

To prevent this you should wrap the outside of the metal duct with insulation, using the kind that has a vapor barrier on the outside of the insulation.

This will help prevent condensation from forming inside the duct even when the metal duct gets chilled.

Question: Even though I have a contractor clear out the sewer line leading to my septic tank every year or two I still have a problem with the line getting clogged regularly with tree roots obstructing the line.

Can I prevent this by periodically pouring a gallon of sulfuric acid down the drain and then flushing this out with plenty of water?

Answer: I would not advise this because the acid is not only dangerous to work with, it would also be illegal in most communities since it can be harmful to the environment. In addition, the acid could also damage the pipes and fittings.

Instead, I advise calling in a tree expert to see what can be done about the tree roots that are causing the problem.

Also, have someone dig down to the sewer line so it can be inspected for a possible break in the line, or a possible collapsed or clogged section of sewer line that needs repair.

Question: I have a mildew problem in my 40-year-old cinder-block house.

There is no insulation in the walls because there is only a half-inch of space between the block and the wallboard on the inside. However, the attic is insulated and is vented. The mildew occurs along the upper part of the walls on one side of the house, especially in the corners, and also inside the closets on that wall.

Can you suggest a solution?

Answer: Sounds like there is a moisture condition in that wall. It could be condensation or an actual leak from outside.

Another possibility is that there may be defective or missing caulking and/or flashing around the window frames or siding.

The outside will have to be carefully inspected to check for such faults.

It's also possible that vents in the attic may not be adequate to prevent condensation in the attic during cold weather.

It would help to add ventilation to the closets by installing louvered doors, or by leaving doors open most of the time when the heat is on in that room.

Question: The house I recently bought has a suspended ceiling in one room.

The only light there is comes from a few lamps and I want to install some overhead ceiling lights so I can use this room as a studio. Fluorescent lighting would be most suitable for my purposes.

Can I install such lighting without a major alteration?

Answer: No alteration should be necessary other than having an electrician install the necessary wiring.

Buy modular shaped fluorescent lighting fixtures that are made to fit into the aluminum grid of such ceilings in place of the acoustical ceiling panels.

After you lift the panel out where you want the lights to be located you simply then drop the boxlike lighting fixture in from above. It will rest on the same metal channels that the panel originally rested on.

2004 Bernard Gladstone

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