Note to readers: 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: I have a Southwestern-style home decorated with vigas that stick out of the exterior stucco walls. How can I treat and repair these exposed wood surfaces that are already weathered and possibly have some dry rot as well? -J.S.
Answer: In most cases, these vigas or wooden logs are only short decorative pieces and not complete logs. Since they are directly exposed to sun and sometimes rain, they need to be protected. If you already have some moderate damage and would like the color of the vigas to be more consistent, you will need to sand down the wood. Sanding will lighten the original color, but will give it a more complimentary and even look. After sanding, you will need to treat the wood. Stay away from anything that is a sealer or any material that will result in a film developing on the exposed wood. Instead, use linseed oil or penetrating water repellent for wood surfaces. When natural wood is fully exposed to the sun, you will need to re-treat it once a year. If there really is dry rot and the vigas are crumbling, you may need to replace these wooden pieces. If you have someone install new ones, you can also have protective copper caps placed on top of them. As the copper weathers and develops a patina, it will have an antique look.
Q: I am new to Tucson. I need to know whether I insert that flat metal sheet into my cooler/furnace in winter or in summer? - F.P.
A: From your question, I think you have an evaporative cooler that is part of your furnace. Winter is the time to retire the evaporative system, service it and protect it until spring and that includes inserting that metal sheet into your cooler. That sheet of metal will isolate the cooler from your duct system so that heated air doesn't leak out through the evaporative system.
Q: I first noticed grout cracking among the tiles in the interior front hall. Then I was having trouble locking my front door, bedroom door and the patio door at the end of the house. Then we noticed cracks running up the drywall and ceiling with cracks about 1 1/2 feet long and 1/8 inch wide. What do I do? - V.B.
A: Before you get any of these individual items fixed, you have to have an expert determine whether your house is settling and why. All houses settle slightly when they're new. Major settlement can happen when part of the foundation drops below the level of the rest of the foundation. Often this happens if a house is built on sandy, silty soil that gets wet and then suddenly dries out. You will want to get the integrity of your foundation checked out. Repairing a damaged foundation is in no way, shape or form a job for a do-it-yourselfer, but it can be done by a contractor who specializes in this type of repair. You may see tiny cracks in floor tiles or Sheetrock. That's normal and no cause for alarm.
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 radio program, "Rosie on the House," 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.