Cold-Weather Device May Abate Noise

Question: We live in an apartment building that is very noisy, especially in the living room, where there'S a communal wall between our living room and the apartment next door. We hear their TV and stereo almost as well as we hear our own, and voices go right through the wall. There are no heat ducts on this wall, only light switches and electrical outlets. Do you think the noise can be coming through these openings?

Answer: Without getting into various means of reducing the transfer of noise, here's an offbeat idea that just might work.

Several years ago, Southern California Gas Co. distributed through the mail foam gaskets, rectangles that can be inserted under the wall plates of electrical outlets and light switches. They were introduced, and still are credited, as energy-conservation devices to block the flow of air, especially on outside walls. It's a well-known fact that much heat is lost through these wall openings.

But the fact is, if the gaskets will seal in (or out) the air, it will also help prevent the transfer of airborne noises, although to the best of our knowledge, no research has been done on this aspect of the product.

Tracking down a source for these switch and plug gaskets wasn't easy, but we've finally found a direct-mail address, and for $3, including postage and handling, you can receive a package of 12 plug and four light-switch gaskets from California House, P.O. Box 28088, Santa Ana, Calif. 92799-8088.

If they don't do the job, let us know and we'll discuss other noise-reduction means.

Q: I have experienced problems trying to patch the wood window frames on my 60-year-old house. It seems as if whatever I use cracks and falls out over time. I have been trying products like Spackel and Durham's Rock Hard. Would a silicone product last better or am I doing something wrong?

A: The problem could be in your preparation of the window frame. Clean out all of the dirt with a stiff brush and then vacuum over the holes and crevices to remove the dust. Be certain the area is dry. In the wet weather we've been having, you might use a hair dryer to shorten the drying time.

Apply a coat of linseed oil and wait a day before applying a second coat of linseed oil. (As old as your house is, you might want to apply even a third coat of linseed oil.) These applications should be made over the entire window frame. When the surface dries, fill the cracks, sand the surface and apply a coat of alkyd primer before painting.

Stephen Friedland was unhappy with the answer (Feb. 9) to the question of whether to repaint a tile roof. Our roofing and concrete-coloring experts said not to do it, and we'll stick with that as our on-record answer, because there is the risk that sandblasting could destroy the tiles and paint not last as long as the homeowner would expect.

But to hear another side of the story, here's what Friedland writes:

"Painted black Spanish tile roofs are ugly and destroy the character of the house and the neighborhood. Your recommendation to leave it 'as is' takes the easy way out.

"I just completed renovation of a Spanish Colonial Revival-style house in the South Carthay neighborhood. The gray-painted roof completely destroyed the looks of the house. After shopping, I found a sandblaster who tackled the job and then a roofer who replaced and repaired broken tiles and reset a portion of the roof. It was a great success--and not that costly."

Q: Our kitchen floor covering was put down years ago and was supposed not to require wax. Now after all these years, it really has lost most of its gloss, especially in the heavy traffic areas. Will it do damage to put wax on it? If so, what else do you suggest?

A: If your floor covering has served you well until this time, there would be no problem in applying a good wax. Nothing lasts forever. Even an old love can lose some of its luster.

Dale Baldwin will answer remodeling questions of general interest on this page. Send your questions to Home Improvement, Real Estate Department, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Baldwin cannot answer questions individually. Snapshots of successful do-it-yourself projects may be submitted but cannot be returned.

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