Cleaning hydro massage bathrubs, and fixin a leaky sprinkler system

Originally published by The Pueblo Chieftain

by Ken Moon

Dear Ken: We have a hydro massage type bathtub. Often the jets spew out black particles of scum. How do we prevent his? Danielle

A: These tubs aren't as popular as they once were — precisely for the reason you mention. When you drain it, water is left behind in the hidden hoses and the pump. The combination of body oils and soap scum develops into that disgusting material you describe. The answer here is to use the tub often — at least three times a week. That minimizes the festering time that dirty water has to develop those impurities.

Manufacturers of these tubs have their own brands of cleaners you can circulate through the system. You can also use dishwashing powder to "scrub" the insides of the tub. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons to a tub of warm water and run the pump for 15 minutes. Then drain and rinse with a tub of warm, plain water.

Dear Ken: I think my sprinkler system may be leaking, but I'm not sure. Is there an easy way to tell? Michael

A: There are several steps to this. First make sure that none of your toilets is leaking. Sometimes they run so gradually, that it's not obvious. Lift off the tank cover on each and check that the water level is below that overflow tube. That almost always means that the toilet is working properly. Then look at the city water meter. Most of them have a tiny dial that moves with even the most minimal leak. If it's rotating at all, then your sprinkler system is probably dribbling some place.

The next step is to isolate the leak acoustically. Hold the blunt end of your biggest screwdriver against your ear and touch the business end to the various zone valve pipes in the sprinkler box, listening for a faint hissing sound. Or you can buy a cheap medical stethoscope on line for about $25. Either way, you should be able to isolate the leak down to a specific part of the yard or a particular zone valve.

Dear Ken: Recently I've noticed a very musty smell in the house when the furnace runs. I think it may be coming from the crawl space. Any suggestions about whom to call and what to do. Marge

A: I'd start with a heating contractor. The furnace might be sucking crawl space air into the duct work. The technician can seal any cracks or gaps with tape or a liquid sealing compound (my preference).

Also, if there is minimal ventilation in your crawl space, you may need to add an exterior vent or two. Cross ventilation is a must. Keep all the grills open in moderate weather; in the dead of winter, close down all but one or two.

Exposed crawl space dirt can also contribute big time to that stale odor. It should be covered with 6 mil black plastic sheeting. First, though, dry out any wet spots. A little cool dampness in the soil is OK, but never cover wet or saturated dirt. Once the soil is covered, your house, crawl space and heating system should all smell a lot sweeter.

Dear Ken: I fertilized my lawn with an iron product and now have rust stains on the sidewalks. How do I get them off? Sam

A: Try oxalic acid crystals. You may be able to get hold of some at a paint store (it's used to bleach wood). ZUD and Bar Keepers Friend cleansers also contain this chemical. Sprinkle either product on the spots, wet it down, let it sit for a few minutes, scrub and then rinse (protect vegetation from the runoff).

You can also try CLR bathroom cleaner or plain white vinegar. Remember though, that concrete isn't nearly as resilient as it seems. Don't let any of these products sit too long on the surface, or you risk etching and staining it. Finally, if you can't remove every bit of the rust stain residue, don't despair; our strong UV sunlight will gradually fade them away.

Dear Ken: We want to sell our house. Part of the roof is flat, with a tar and gravel covering. It leaks and we've been unable to isolate them. Should we put more of the same on? Kate

A: I'd replace it. Once the tar and gravel system has worn out, it's fairly hard to repair leaks. The water may be running sideways and so you won’t be able to find the right spot to patch. Plus, once water gets beneath the tarred layers, it deteriorates the roofing and the sheathing rapidly from the underside. It would be best to strip it all off and replace it with a rubberized membrane sheet.

Ken Moon is a home inspector and former builder in the Springs and Pueblo. His radio show airs at 9 a.m. Saturdays on on AM 590, KCSJ. Reach him at aroundthehouse.com.

Date : 10/14/2018

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