First Aid for the Ailing House

Q: I used a product from Scotts called Scotts Green MAX Lawn Food. It has left rust stains all over my daughter's 1-year-old concrete sidewalks. I tried a product recommended by Scotts to remove the stains, but they did not even lighten. Do you have a recommendation to remove these stains? Since it was a new house, the concrete had not been sealed. I would appreciate any help. -- via email

A: Scotts Green MAX Lawn Food contains iron, which is what caused the rust stains.

Try brushing the affected areas with a solution of equal parts water and fresh bleach. If that does not completely clear the rust spots, increase the proportion of bleach to water.

When satisfied with the results, rinse the walks.

Q: We live in a two-story house with a full basement that was built in 1982. The roof is 2-by-6-inch trusses on 2-foot centers. It was originally built with 20-year fiberglass shingles on a 4/12 plywood roof (5/8-inch) with

gable vents, and soffit vents at every third panel. Through the years, the shingles bubbled parallel to the joists in about three sections, but never leaked. In 2010, I reshingled with the 30-year heavier shingles.

I also added a ridge vent that was not there before. Before doing so I went into the attic and installed 2-by-4-inch bracing between the joists, up against the plywood in these areas and some others that felt spongy. Approximately a year ago, the shingles bubbled in one of the exact same places. What is wrong? -- via email

A: I assume that by "bubbling," you mean that the shingles curled. This is an indication that the shingles have been subjected to excessive moisture from the attic.

For 5/8-inch plywood to become spongy and sag between the trusses' support corroborates the problem of excessive moisture in the attic, combined with inadequate ventilation.

Gable vents in combination with inadequate soffit venting have done little to help. Air entering one gable vent sinks to the floor and travels across the attic before rising again to exit the opposite gable vent where it is drawn out by negative pressure. No venting of the roof sheathing takes place.

Adding a ridge vent without closing the gable vents and increasing the soffit venting has not been effective. Low roof venting, in the form of soffit vents, needs to equal or exceed the net free ventilation area (NFVA) of the ridge vent. Gable vents short-circuit the airflow.

When you replaced the shingles, all soft plywood sheathing should have also been replaced.

You need to reduce as much as possible the convection of warm, moist conditioned air into the attic. An energy audit is the surest way to find out where the problems are.

ONE IMPORTANT CORRECTION AND ONE GREAT TIP FROM READERS: I have been advised by Amteco that TWP cannot be purchased directly from www.amteco.com. Amteco is the manufacturer and TWP goes to several distributors. The retailer locator on Amteco's website is the best source for finding TWP, or you can call Amteco at 800-969-4811 and the staff will try to help you locate it.

And in response to my answer to a reader about how to add grilles (grids) to their windows to be in compliance with their homeowners association, a reader with 25-plus years of working in the window business advises me that there are suppliers, found online, where leaded (or gold color) adhesive tape can be purchased. He says: "Individuals use this to give their windows the appearance of stained glass. This would be the cheapest (and best-looking) solution!"

Dear readers, this is my farewell.

Newspapers have had financial woes for many years, and it is not getting any better. The digital age is taking over. So my column has become financially unsustainable and the powers-that-be have come to the conclusion that they can no longer keep it going.

Coincidentally, this decision comes at a good time for me, as independently I have realized that 43 years of writing this column, nearly 37 of which under national syndication, is a good run and that I am ready to retire to pursue other interests.

However, if you have any questions you would like me to try to help you with, please send them to me on my blog: www.henridemarne.com. I'll do my best to respond as promptly as I can.

I have enjoyed very much reading your questions and trying to answer them as best I could, and I will certainly miss the wonderful feeling it gave me to read your follow-ups letting me know that I helped solve your problems.

But time marches on and things change, and we need to adjust. Thank you for a wealth of homeowner problems that have allowed me to turn this into a remarkable career.

So farewell to all of you, and my very best wishes.

More like First Aid for the Ailing House