Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call 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.
Q: We live in a 4,000 square-foot subdivision house where the backyard inclines toward the patio. The incline is not too steep, but it’s enough so that when the monsoon comes along, floods develop on the patio. So what should we do? Should we tear it all out and start over?
A: Since you have a fairly large roof, you might install gutters on your roof if you don’t already have them. Make sure your downspouts take some of the water in another direction — perhaps to the front of the house. You can also build a trench drain in the low spot and line it with stones. It could then direct the water elsewhere. You can also try some light grading around the hardscape to deflect the water to where it’s supposed to go.
Contact a good landscape contractor with grading and drainage experience to look at your yard and give you some recommendations.
As for a major renovation, it might be somewhat tough at this point. You would be better off trying some less invasive solutions before you go to that extreme.
Q: The grout on my travertine tile floor is really dirty. Can I clean it myself? It’s sanded grout with grout lines that are about ⅛th of an inch wide. If it’s sanded, does that make any difference?
A: Whether it’s sanded or not, you need to use a neutral pH cleaner on the grout to avoid damaging the grout and stone. Follow the directions on the cleaner carefully. You probably should call a professional cleaning company for the grout if the stains are really deep. Professionals can sometimes stain the grout to its original color; they will also seal the grout once they’re done with the job to help prevent future discoloration.
Homeowners should keep in mind that sanded grout has fine sand added to it to keep grout from shrinking too much while it cures. It’s often used for tile installations. But if you have a polished stone, like travertine, sanded grout is not always a good choice because the sand in the grout can scratch the stone during the grouting process. Unsanded or epoxy may be a better choice.
Q: I can never keep our bedroom cold enough in summer to please my wife, but I don’t want the whole house to be freezing cold. Is there any way to cool off that bedroom separately?
A: Yes, you can go to a big hardware store and buy a single-room air conditioner for about $300 to install in the outside wall of your bedroom. It should work just fine and last at least three to four years. Another more permanent solution would be to have an air conditioning contractor install what is called a mini-split system that would keep the bedroom cooler.
Q: We have a regular problem with an odor that comes up in the afternoon in the middle bathroom of our manufactured home. We have treated it with enzymes, Liquid Plumber, bleach and nothing does any good. We have had plumbers out, but they haven’t been able to solve the problem. We are on a septic tank, of course. What should we do?
A: It’s possible that you have a problem with the vent on your roof that is supposed to carry away methane gas. The prevailing winds can sometimes blow the gas back down the vent. You need to hire someone to extend the height of the vent by a couple of feet. If that doesn’t solve the problem you may have to install a charcoal filter in the vent.
On the other hand, in your particular case, you might not even have a roof vent for your plumbing system. In that situation, you can try installing a duct-free ventilation fan with a charcoal filter in the bathroom itself.