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Improving Backyard; Space Heaters; Preventing Fan Condensation - Recap

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Roger Cook visits a home to spruce up their backyard. First he removes the grass, enlisting the homeowners’ help and a couple of grub hoes – broad, flat bladed tools that cut the grass off where it emerges from the soil. That done, he shows Esther how to use a mini-tiller to loosen the soil so they can later level it with an iron-headed bow rake. To keep the various components of the new yard where they belong, Roger and Kris install several long, low boards (held in place with heavy stakes) to prevent migration. Landscaping fabric discourages weeds while permitting proper drainage. Bio-degradable stakes pin the fabric until the mulch and pea stone go on top; the weight of these materials will then do the job. When the homeowners finish, they’ll have a small patio of tan pea stone where they can sit and watch their children play on a soft, mulched area.

Rich starts his discussion of heaters by offering a disclaimer: nothing beats a properly sized and correctly installed heating system. But for rooms that are just a little bit cold, or for that workshop that’s just not heated, a little temporary help comes in handy. He explains portable gas-fired heaters that come in a variety of sizes. All of these consumer oxygen and emit carbon monoxide; consumers should look for an oxygen sensor that will shut the heater off if it detects low oxygen. Moving on to electric heaters, Rich explains the difference between convection and radiant heaters (radiant heaters tend to be much more directional than the convection sort). There’s no danger of carbon monoxide, so these heaters are safer – but should still be kept three feet from anything that might readily burn: drapes, rugs, bedspreads, and suchlike. Those with older units should consider replacement, since the modern varieties have tip over sensors that shut the heater off if it falls over; this safety feature decreases the chances of fire.

During “What Is It?” Kevin presents a blue plastic device with a magnet and a handle. Roger guess that it’s for carrying single bricks. Rich disagrees, saying the device extends the handyman’s reach so he can retrieve items from hard to reach places. Then Tom reveals the truth: the tool holds drawer slides in place inside cabinets while the cabinet maker or carpenter attaches them. Because of cramped working conditions, getting these slides correctly mounted is often challenging, but this tool simplifies the task.

Tom visits a home where the shower fan drips water on the homeowner during the winter. First, Tom climbs to the roof. There he learns that the vent cap is correctly installed with proper flashing. The problem isn’t caused by trapped rainwater. In the attic, Tom realizes what the problem is: warm, moist air passes into the cold duct and as it cools, it deposits some of the water onto the inside of the duct. That water then drips down into the bathroom. To solve this problem, Tom removes the old duct work (several radiator style clamps hold it in place) and replaces it with an insulated duct: plastic around a metal coil provides rigidity, and fiberglass insulation provides the thermal barrier. Foil backed duct tape (not the cloth variety) holds the insulating sleeve tight to the roof. To insulate the fan housing, Tom lays a few filler beams and then puts rigid foam insulation around the box.

Back in the loft, Tom continues, explaining that short vertical runs with insulation around the pipe provide proper insulation. He cautions against running this kind of ductwork perpendicular to the floor, as this traps condensation. The pipe sags, creating a lower spot for more water to accumulate, and eventually water blocks the pipe, or leaks and damages the floor below. He also warns that vents exiting from an outside wall must not exit near a soffit, or moist air drawn into the vent will produce condensation on the underside of the roof and create a rot hazard. The lessons include: insulate everything, and whenever possible keep the mechanicals (including ducts) inside the building.