Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing chimney fires to getting rid of tree roots in their sewer systems. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. Here are questions about home maintenance and improvement from the Tucson area.
QUESTION: We want to remodel our home, and we’re planning to put down laminated wood flooring. My husband is hoping that we can put the laminate on top of some very flat ceramic tile that we have in our house. Can we do that?
ANSWER: Putting laminate over an existing tile floor may sound a lot easier than ripping out the tile first, because you wouldn’t have as big a mess in your home. But any good, licensed flooring contractor would discourage you from doing that. In fact, if someone tells you that you can do it, I would avoid that contractor. Among the problems you will have is that the doors in and out of the kitchen will not open properly because you’re changing the thickness of the floor. You also can have problems with appliance clearances. This overlaying technique can mean trouble, trouble, trouble. And that’s not to mention that there will be no warranty on the material by the manufacturer due to the unorthodox installation technique.
Q: I have a manufactured home that has very severe calcium buildup in the hot and cold water lines. It’s a city-supplied water system, and my neighbors don’t seem to have the same problem. The calcium really plugs up our plumbing fixtures as well. Sometimes I need to take the fittings off and blow air through the system. What can I do about this?
A: It does seem odd that only your home has this calcium buildup while the neighbors do not. You really need an on-site analysis done by a water-treatment expert, like a water softener company, in order to diagnose your problem.
Q: I read an article that said that laurel trees produce bay leaves. Is that true, and can I plant one of those trees?
A: Yes, the bay laurel is a true laurel tree that will produce bay leaves that you can use in cooking. It’s a tree that does well in Tucson.
Q: I have interlocking concrete pavers on my driveway, and some of them are sinking down. How can we repair all that?
A: There are several things that could be undermining your pavers — which by the way should have been laid on top of an aggregate base, often called ABC, plus a layer of sand. You could have a small fissure or crevice under the pavers or a water leak, for example. The nice feature about pavers is that you can pick them up in the area you want to repair; see what the issue is; and then put the pavers back.
However, you can avoid many problems if you hire a firm to install a driveway or patio that has workers certified to install interlocking concrete pavers. Many inexperienced installers put down too much sand. You need a good 4 inches of the aggregate base and then just an inch of sand with more sand put between the joints.
If the pavers are installed properly, pavers will last longer than any other possible type of driveway. For example, if you have a concrete driveway and run into a problem under the concrete, you have to jackhammer some and remove concrete to get to the area you want to fix. Then you have to cut the concrete back to the expansion joints and later reinstall the concrete. You won’t have that kind of big problem with pavers. But when you install your pavers initially, be sure to buy enough extra material so that if you do have to change some out later they will match the old bricks. The new pavers obviously won’t be as faded as the old ones, but eventually the sun will take care of that.
Q: I have heard you say that you should never put plastic coverings over plants to shelter them from the frost. I have thought about putting stakes in the ground around my bushes and then covering them with plastic. Why won’t that work?
A: When you put plastic over plants, it can actually hold the cold in on top of your plants so that the damage gets worse. If the sun should come out, the plants can also heat up too much under the plastic.