Q. Our house has back-to-back bathrooms, one of which adjoins our bedroom. When guests use this bathroom the sound of running water and toilet flushing is so loud it can wake us from sleep. How can we deaden this noise?
A. The good news is that there is something that can be done to cut down on the noise. The bad news is that anything you do short of remodeling may provide only modest relief.
The most cost-effective way to deal with noisy plumbing pipes is to insulate them. Water pipes that are accessible should be wrapped with the appropriate-size neoprene rigid insulation. Accessible soil pipes should be wrapped with a minimum of 1-inch-thick fiberglass insulation.
In either case the insulation should be secured with duct tape. Wall cavities that contain plumbing pipes that are not accessible should be filled with blown-in insulation.
These measures may improve the condition only slightly, but that may be just enough to get you through the night.
Q. I got carried away cleaning a brass antique with lemon and salt, and now it's rusty. How can I clean off the rust?
A. First, your antique is not solid brass -- it is brass-plated. Solid brass doesn't rust.
What is rusting is the iron or steel below your brass plating. The rust can be eliminated with most rust removers. Just about anything that contains phosphoric acid will do the trick, even some concrete cleaners.
After you have thoroughly removed the rust, be sure to coat the item with a coat of light machine oil. Sewing machine oil is great for this purpose.
Q. The poured concrete walls of my basement are beginning to bow. Will installing anchors be a good way to repair this?
A. The reason most basement walls begin to bow (curve inward at the center) is because of hydrostatic (water) pressure from the surrounding soil. Clips, bolts and connectors will normally not solve this problem.
Basically, your basement walls are telling you that the surrounding earth is stronger than they are. Chances are you will have to strengthen the bowed walls with new, stronger ones constructed along the inside.
This is truly a structural problem that needs to be addressed by a geotechnical (soils) engineer, who will conduct an inspection and be able to make suggestions as to the best course of action. Keep in mind that your basement is only part of the problem. Your entire home rests on those bowed walls.
Don't take this one lightly.
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