Every year, thousands of Arizona residents email Rosie Romero's website or call his radio show with questions about everything from how to prevent fires in their chimneys to what to do about the tree roots invading their sewer systems. One of his goals is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. In this column, he focuses on questions about home maintenance and improvement in the Tucson area.
QUESTION: We have a strange sound coming out of our water pipes about once every four days. There is a rumbling noise and then a big bang from the pipes. What could it be?
ANSWER: That sound is being caused by some device in your home that's on a time clock, something programmed to cycle the water on and off. Probably it's either a soft-water regeneration system or it's your irrigation system.
What is happening is that when the clock turns off the water in that system, all the water running through the pipes has to stop instantly. If your water pressure is above 65 psi (pounds per square inch), when that water stops that quickly, there will be a boomerang or kickback effect, as if someone with a hammer were hitting your pipes. This so-called air hammer can be very hard on your plumbing system and pipes.
To correct the problem, you have to make sure that the water pressure in your pipes is less than 65 psi. Go to the hardware store and buy a water pressure meter; it will probably cost less than $15. Follow directions for screwing it on the hose bib. If the reading says your pressure is more than 65 psi, call a plumber to have a pressure regulator installed.
Q: A painting company recently gave me a bid to do the exterior stucco finish of my home with a paint that is a ceramic-elastomeric coating. Is it a good investment and what are the pros and cons?
A: This type of paint contains tiny ceramic spheres. When it is applied, it will lay a layer of paint on your home that will be about the thickness of a credit card. This combination of paint and ceramic can work well to reflect sunlight so heat doesn't pass through into the home.
If you use this type of paint, however, it will probably cost you three times more than repainting with a regular, good-quality, 100 percent acrylic paint. In addition, it can be costly to repair later, because you can't patch this type of paint as you can when you have a problem with regular paint. Instead, you may need to recoat the entire wall. And if there is ever the need to remove the product, it is nearly impossible.
Some painters also say that ceramic paint works like a raincoat, making it hard for water to penetrate in or to escape the surface of your house if it does get in. That can trap moisture that could eventually cause mold problems.
You shouldn't rely on paint to insulate your home anyway. Blown-in attic and wall insulation will keep your house cooler.
Q: I've been having problems with my flat roof. The house is about 25 years old, and about four years ago I recoated it myself. Now it has problems again, and I called a roofing company to give me an estimate on recoating it again. They told me not to waste money on recoating again because I need a completely new roof. Can that be true?
A: Yes, your roof may be too old to fix by recoating it again. Twenty-five years is generally about all you can get out of a flat roof. But, of course, you probably should get a second opinion from another company to see if there can be any more years in that roof if you just recoat.
Q: Do you think that the newest vinyl sliding doors on the market have improved over past versions, or are they still not good enough for the Tucson sun? We need to do 10 windows and two sliders, four of which are on the west side of the house in full sun.
A: We have always taken a pretty firm stand against vinyl windows and doors. Not only do they deteriorate quickly in Arizona, but they also attract a fairly good amount of heat - a big no-no in this state. Our No. 1 choice is aluminum-clad wood frames. They are more durable and less heat-attractive than vinyl and are almost 100 percent maintenance free. Aluminum-clad wood frames are the more expensive product on the market, but they are certainly worth the investment. Another lower cost alternative would be a fiberglass frame. If you're going to skimp on anything, though, you don't want to skimp on windows or insulation.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning "Rosie on the House" radio program, heard locally from 8-11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) and -FM (97.1) in Tucson and KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 1-888-767-4348.