QUESTION: I need some advice about installing new shut-off valves for the water lines in my laundry room, bathrooms and kitchen.
ANSWER: If you currently have gate valves — those ¼-turn valves that look like a wheel and have to be twisted to turn off the water — replace them with ballcock valves that operate with a lever. You also want to invest in braided stainless steel lines that will carry the water from the supply pipes to the toilets or sinks or appliances. Also, make sure that the little nuts on the ends of the lines are metal as well, not plastic. Old gate valves and plastic lines have a very short lifespan and can cause a lot of trouble. Metal lines will last much longer.
Q: I have moved into a new home that has a number of very large mesquite trees. The bark on these trees is very rough and shaggy and I wondered if something is wrong with them?
A: If these are older trees, the bark can get very rough. It’s a kind of protection for the trees. Younger wood is generally smoother. It also depends on the species of the tree. A Chilean mesquite tends to have rougher bark.
Q: I am having a house built and some of the drywall was left exposed on the site when we had some rain. I contend that the dry wall was ruined and should be pulled out of the house. The builder says that it’s OK and he’s not putting in new drywall.
A: Drywall should be kept dry as it should come from the supplier. Most sheets that are under the top sheet that got the most exposure from rain are probably OK, but we can’t say for sure. If the stack was laid directly on the slab, the bottom sheets probably took on water, too. So they may be suspect. As to whether you can trust that the hangers will discard damaged sheets of drywall, we can’t say. That depends on the integrity of the contractor doing the work. If the material is only slightly damp, it will most likely dry out so your risk of mold infestation is limited. That’s because mold requires a constant moisture content to propagate. The material should have been stocked and placed so there was no ground contact. It should have been covered properly to prevent moisture intrusion. It’s hard to give a definitive answer to what you should do now.
Q: I have a nectarine tree that never seems to produce fruit and a peach tree that produces fruit but sometimes the peaches are very small. What can I do for these trees?
A: With the nectarine, it might be a problem with the area where you live. Some varieties of stone fruit trees won’t bear much fruit if they are in an area where there are not enough chill hours per year. In other words, you aren’t in a climate zone with a sufficient number of hours where the temperature drops below 40 degrees, for example. As far as the peach tree is concerned, it may be that you have to remove some of the peaches or prune some of the branches with blossoms in order to get bigger fruit.