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Mr. Fix-It Paul MacGregor


Vapor barrier stops mold, mildew in the crawl space

Question: We are in the process of rebuilding and restoring our home after a fire. What can you tell me about the moisture protection barrier for the crawl space? Different builders have given me different stories and conflicting costs for the project.

Answer: The recommended vapor barrier is heavy plastic, usually about 6-mil thickness. Rolls of the plastic are available at most home centers and hardware stores. The plastic is rolled out over the soil in the crawl space and lapped up the walls of the foundation. Roll out layers of the plastic to cover the soil but make sure each run overlaps the other layers by about 50 percent. Weight the plastic down with bricks or heavy stones.

The plastic stops the movement of moisture in the soil. Even soil that looks and feels dry has moisture moving through it. Without the barrier, moisture migrates into the living space of the house and often carries with it mold and mildew spores.

Question: My daughter has a problem with condensation on her windows. In winter the moisture collects on the inside of the windows and freezes, then melts and drips on her inside window ledge. Someone once told them that their house is too air-tight. Is that possible? They did try a dehumidifier and that did not seem to help. They now have a new addition on their home and still have the same problem. I think all their windows are double-paned.

Answer: The humidity inside your daughterís home may be a little high, but the real problem is the windows. They are not efficient and are too cold. They may be double-paned but have probably lost their seal and dead air space over the years. I would start shopping for some new, efficient windows. That includes glass with a low-E coating. You can find out more by visiting your local window dealers.

Meanwhile, a dehumidifier will help, as well as air movement from a box or ceiling fan. Remember to keep the fans set on low speed.

Question: I would like a recommendation regarding clear deck sealer for my homeís redwood deck. Iím not a big fan of Thompson products.

Answer: Redwood shouldnít be sealed in the strict sense of the word. It should be allowed to breathe. Thatís why most architects recommend a semi-transparent oil stain.

Here are some of the recommendations of product: Penofin, Superdeck, Wolman and Cabot. All make stains that contain trans-oxide pigments. These are iron oxide pigments that are finely ground so they penetrate deep into the wood fiber. These pigments retard the impact of UV radiation at this altitude.

Thompson products donít seem to work well on decks in our altitude and climate.

Question: We want to replace the ceramic tile in our entry way and around our fireplace with new ceramic tile. How can we remove the existing tile?

Answer: I recommend an air compressor with an air (impact) chisel. The air chisel will make quick work of the tile removal. Check with your neighborhood rental store for the tools and instructions on how to use them. Wear safety glasses and gloves.

If the tile is set in thin set cement, the chisel will get most of that material up as well. If itís set in mastic (glue), use hot soapy water to soften up the old mastic after the tile has been removed. Allow the hot water to stand for about 15 minutes, then use a putty knife to scrape off the old glue. Allow the floor to dry completely before installing the new tile.

Mr. Fix-It can now be heard Saturdays from 8 to 10 a.m. on 16Kicks (KCKK 1600) and AM 1570 in Loveland and Fort Collins. E-mail questions to Paul MacGregor at

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