My bathroom wall is all wet again and I just fixed it. There is a window in the shower is that a problem?

Shower walls can be very frustrating and hard to keep dry. One problem I see most often is having a window in the shower stall. It is not impossible to keep the water out of the wall but is very difficult. When you consider that amount of moisture around the window it is not surprising. Here are some things I have tried in the past. The easiest thing to do is to put a large vinyl shower curtain over the window. Even this is not enough but it might surprise you how many people don’t even do this. Another thing I have done is to run a thin coat of silicon all over the window ledge and trim where water may leak in. If you are careful and use clear silicon it is not noticeable. Changing the type of shower head to a straight down water fall type may spare the window some as well.

The stairs to my basement are dangerous. Several people who have come to visit have stumbled on the stairs. What might be wrong?

As smart as we think we are there is one thing that can fool us all. A poorly constructed set of stairs will trip up the best of us. The problem with stairs is the brain quickly sets a pattern of the rise and run and moves our legs up and down to match the stairs. When the pattern changes our brain doesn’t always get the message and the end result is a trip and fall. It is for this reason that the building code stipulates strict rules about how different the rise and run of the stairs is allowed to be. A small difference of less than an inch is often enough to create a disaster. If your stairs are not properly built I suggest you replace them if possible before someone gets hurt again. 

The linoleum near my patio doors is curling. I have tried to caulk it back down but it just happens again. How do I fix this?

Many patio doors are installed with a slanted threshold to move the water out away from the door. The problem is when there is a wind some of that moisture is driven in under the threshold where it comes into contact with the edge of the lino. When the linoleum gets damp it tends to curl. Even a well-sealed joint between the linoleum and the threshold will curl in time if moisture is recurring. I often find dampness in this area even when no damage is evident. It is best to use a high quality flexible silicon caulking. If there is any access on the outside under the threshold I recommend caulking there as well. Preventing the moisture from getting in under the door is the key.

I am seeing some discoloring of my flooring in the living room. What are some things that could be causing this?

From my experience I see a lot of discolored flooring due to direct sunlight exposure. Generally linoleum and hardwood floors are affected the most by the sun. My guess is that the damage is in a living or dining room with a set of patio doors or floor to ceiling windows with south facing exposure. The sun is very powerful so if you have large windows where the sun can pour in on the floor I suggest you take precautions to prevent sun bleaching. In some products such as linoleum I have seen the sun turn the light colored product a dark read. If the floor is a stained hardwood product it could make the floor lighter. In particular if there is an area carpet on the hardwood it will show a distinctive line where the carpet is. The long and short of it is to be sure to block the direct sunlight from hitting the floor.

I have a couple doors in my home that swing open on their own. What causes this and can you suggest a way to fix it.

Most of the doors we install inside our homes today are very light duty. We call them hollow core doors. The frames on these doors are also light and it is easy to twist them when installing them. By simply over tightening a screw in the frame you can pull the entire door out of level. When this happens you can have several results. Your door may be sticky or may swing open or closed on its own. Many times the doors will warp and require extra force to make them latch. In most cases the frames are nicely trimmed and it is not worth tearing out the frame to stop the annoying issues. You can also try to loosen the hinges and place shims in various places under the hinge to try to straighten things up. If you can’t put up with the way the door works it may be necessary to reinstall the door and frame from scratch. Several swinging doors can also indicate a structural problem but this is not common. Always check the hinges as well, if they are loose you will want to add longer/bigger screws to pull the hinge tight again. 

The linoleum around my toilet is turning dark, I am afraid the wax seal is leaking. Can you explain how to change a wax seal?

Yes you are likely right about the wax seal. I have also seen sweating toiler tanks and leaking tank bolts cause wet floors so have a close look there before removing the toilet. To change the seal start by turning off and disconnect the water supply, hopefully there is a shut off valve. Then flush the toilet and hold the flush handle down until no more water is moving. Next get a plastic disposable pail to bail out the remaining water in the bowl. You can also use a plunger to try to force the water out of the toilet. Now loosen the floor bolts and remove the nuts. Remove the tank lid so it does not fall and break. Get a piece of cardboard to lay the toilet on. Using a friends help gently lift the toilet straight up and place on the cardboard. Finally clean the wax seal in the toilet and flange. Finally put in the new seal and once again gently replace the toilet straight back into position careful not to move the toilet too much in the process. Reassemble.

I want to install ceramic tile. Someone said the preparation and base material are critical to a successful job. Can you explain?

Tile is a great product and when installed properly will last a very long time. It costs a bit more to install but the initial investment will likely out last other softer products many times over. As you suggested, the base is critical to installing tile. I am not an expert but I believe the adhesive or cement product that holds the tile down must have a proper surface to grip to. If you have an OSB subfloor the moisture in the cement can be drawn out of the adhesive into the substrate causing it to fail. Plywood on the other hand is better as it does not absorb as much of the water in the cement. A second factor is the thickness of the subfloor. As you know the tile will not flex so if the floor below the tile is flexible you will soon have loose and cracked tiles. I believe it is recommended that the floor be 1” thick. Contact a flooring contractor for more tips before starting you will be glad you did.

There are gaps in my hardwood flooring, should I be concerned?

First of all, hardwood flooring is real wood and as such it is not going to be as stable as some other products such as laminate. I always say if it’s natural expect it to have flaws. Some people want perfection in their flooring to which I say buy a fake glued up material that looks great and will not react as much to its environment.  Most likely your hardwood has gaps because it is drying out. Dry wood shrinks and gaps appear. Some homeowners add humidifiers to their furnace to try to maintain certain conditions but I feel it is part of what makes hardwood unique and it is totally fine. The gaps will shrink again in the spring when the humidity comes up in the outside air.