Detergent, Bleach Fight Mildew in Bathroom

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Question: I have a mildew problem on the ceiling above my shower in a windowless bathroom. I want to paint, but am worried it might just be covering a problem instead of repairing it.

I use bleach about every two weeks to clean the ceiling and walls, which does make the appearance of the mildew go away for a few days. What would be the best thing for me to do?

Answer: Mildew in your home is easy to remove. Just mix 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent (less if concentrated) and 1 quart of liquid chlorine bleach with 3 quarts of warm water. Add the bleach to the water first and then the detergent.

Scrub with a bristle brush, and in minutes the mildew will disappear. Rinse the area thoroughly and towel dry. Although this reasonably mild solution can be used for most painted surfaces, you'll want rubber gloves, eye protection and plenty of ventilation.

But why spend time removing mildew when you can prevent it? Mildew can't grow without a food source, and the food source that mildew thrives on is moisture. Mildew spores are in the air everywhere; they look for moist places to settle, feed and grow.

How do you prevent mildew from growing? Reduce or eliminate the food source by cutting down on the amount of moisture, usually condensation, which settles on walls, floors and ceilings. This might not be as simple for someone who lives in Florida as for a family in west Texas, but, given varying degrees of attention, eradication is possible even in relatively humid climates.

The fact that you don't have a window in your bathroom means that ventilation might be poor. Moreover, the lack of natural light provides optimal conditions for mildew growth.

According to the building code, a bathroom without a window must have an exhaust fan to remove moisture and odors. Unfortunately, bath fans are often undersized, broken or not used.

If you have an exhaust fan, make sure that it is cleaned periodically, that the duct is properly connected and in good shape and that it is always used during showering and allowed to run for 10 to 15 minutes after the shower is over.

Also, check the CFM rating on your fan housing (that's the amount of air that the fan moves expressed as cubic feet per minute); anything less than 80 cfms usually is too small for most American bathrooms. Consider upgrading to a larger model, if such is the case.

50-Cent Toilet Repair Silences Water Line

Q: I have a humming noise in my water lines, caused by a vibration that results when the tank float valve in my toilet nears shutoff. Is there a way to fix it other than by replacing the float and shut-off valve assembly?

A: Your question contains the answer. Almost. No, you don't have to replace the entire valve. All you need to do is to replace the gasket within it, truly a 50-cent repair.

Turn off the water to the toilet and flush it. That will empty the tank.

Next, remove the shut-off valve cover. How you do this will depend on the brand. However, most have four screws on top.

Carefully remove the screws and then the top, find and remove the gasket and use disassembly as a guide for replacement and reassembly. By the way, it is almost always easier to replace the entire unit.

The humming? That's the ball cock assembly telling you it has a gasket that is almost completely worn out.

Careful Cutting Solves Crown Molding Problems

Q: In putting up crown molding, I understand there is a more attractive way to do corners than mitering. What is it? How do you do it?

A: Mitering is the quickest and easiest way to cut and join moldings at corners where it is important for the moldings to appear as though they have joined without a seam. With mitering, the ends to be joined on each of the two pieces of wood are cut at an angle equal to half that of the corner angle. For example: miter cuts at a 90-degree corner would each be at 45 degrees. Coping is the other technique that some say is better than mitering. However, coping only can be used for inside corners. Here, a coping saw is used to cut the shape of one molding into the one joining it--an end-to-face connection.

A coped cut is best made with a slight bevel to ensure a tight joint at the face of the molding. Coping cannot be used for outside corners. Here a miter must be used. Properly cut, a miter is every bit as good as, if not better than, a coped joint, especially when the molding is large and has an intricate pattern. We usually miter. Prefabbed corners are available with some crown moldings that eliminate the need for a miter cut and simplify installation. However, most crown moldings are stand-alone items and must be installed with a miter-and/or a cope cut.

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For more home improvement tips and advice, visit the Careys' Web site at http://www.onthehouse.com.

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