Holding your nose when you open the spigot? If your water smells like sulfur, it could be a problem with the water heater or with a well.


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.

QUESTION: We recently bought a house constructed by a builder who was foreclosed on by the bank. So we have no architectural plans available to refer to. Now we find we have several electrical switches that don't seem connected to any outlets, and we don't know what these switches can turn on and off. We also have a junction box on the ceiling for a light or fan but don't know where to turn it on and off. With some outlets in the walls only half the outlet is hot. Could I find where the wires end up in the walls by using a stud-finder that also has an electrical wire finder that helps you put in nails without electrocuting yourself?

ANSWER: You probably need an electrician to trace the wiring with a sounding device. At any rate, using a stud-finder wouldn't help you find electrical problems. You can buy your own sounding device for about $100. These tools generate a sound to tell you where the wires in your walls end up. But using a device like this requires a considerable amount of experience in order to ascertain what the signals sent back by the device actually mean.

Q: A year ago, I bought a new water heater for my vacation home in the mountains. When I leave that house periodically, I am usually away about four or five months, so I turn off the water heater. But when I return and restart the water heater, the hot water that comes out smells just awful. It keeps on smelling for a few days; after that the smell dissipates. The house uses well water. What is going on and how can I prevent this from happening?

A: Sometimes that smell can be caused by chemical reactions in water heaters. It's also possible that your well has sulfur bacteria in it, and that is producing hydrogen sulfide gas. A water treatment company can usually resolve a problem with your well. In general, the rotten egg smell does not mean something is unhealthy with the water, but sometimes the sulfur gas may be the result of contamination by sewage or other pollution. So it is a good idea to have the well tested and fixed. If hydrogen sulfide gas is being emitted from the well, it can be hazardous as well. You may need to remove the gas permanently from the water or vent the gas somehow.

Q: I recently bought a 60-year-old brick house with a plaster wall interior. Now there is cracking in the interior walls of the house with cracks that are about as wide as a pencil. There is also evidence of cracks on the outside. I've been filling the cracks, but I can't find anything that will work successfully. Can you recommend some product?

A: Before you finish filling those cracks, you'd better investigate whether your house is "settling" due to movement in the footings of the house or whether your slab is "heaving" due to excessive moisture in the soil that it stands on. A foundation company can do tests to investigate what is going on and then repair the situation. You probably should stop doing cosmetic repairs like filling cracks until you have fixed the bigger issue. After that, when you begin to fill cracks, it's best to use flexible acrylic products to fill the cracks in walls rather than a more rigid agent.

Q: Most drains in our 30-year-old house run very slowly. Our low-flush toilet is actually a flush-twice toilet; our kitchen garbage disposal at times has a foul odor. We have even had scorpions climb up out of our drains. So recently, we contacted a plumbing company for a camera inspection of our sewers. We have three-inch sewer lines that show a tremendous amount of calcium build-up. Surprisingly, there are no breaks in the lines. The plumbing company recommended whole-house hydro-power jetting and scrubbing for our sewer lines. What is your opinion of this service?

A: Hydro-jetting is a very common plumbing solution. It is a bit like cleaning out your computer keyboard with cans of compressed air. I know you mentioned that your home is 30 years old, but we can't be sure of the condition of your plumbing. So ensure that the plumbing company you select has the ability to quickly repair any piping that may be damaged in the hydro-jetting process.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com An Arizona home building 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 from8 to 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 Rosie on the House at 1-888-767-4348.