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Using Xylene to remove tint from windows

Your Home Improvements

Posted: August 1, 2008 6:40 p.m.
Updated: October 3, 2008 5:03 a.m.
Hello Robert,
This is strange. Every time I flush my toilet, there is black mold that fills the bowl and sticks to the sides inside the toilet. As far as I know, the water that fills the toilet is the same water goes to all of the other faucets in our house. I don't think this water is safe to drink, to say the least. Would this be a city water problem? Who should I call?
Mike W.

Hi Mike,
Black mold? No, I know what this is. There is no need to contact the city and the water is safe coming into your home.

Go to your toilet and lift off the tank cover. Look down inside and you'll see a flapper. Touch that. It's probably going to feel slimy and make your hands black. If you have the old ball cock assembly, the big ball, will probably feel slimy as well. Just change those out.

What's happening is those old rubber parts are starting to disintegrate and putting a black film in the water. Replace those two components and everything will be fine.

Hi Robert,
Thirty-plus years ago we had a company pour a sun screening material on several windows. Some have begun to show signs of aging and cracking. It does not easily scrape off. Do you know if anything is made for making this hardened material easier to remove?
Bud R.

Hi Bud,
Without knowing what type of material they applied, I would start by trying some lacquer thinner. Read and follow whatever safety instructions are on the thinner. Wipe that on with a rag and let it set for about ten minutes. Then come back with a razor scraper and see if it that will take it off. If not, try xylene.

Xylene is a very strong solvent and if you use it, you need to be extremely careful. Before getting started, it is recommended you use chemical protective gloves, coveralls and clothing; chemical goggles and a chemical cartridge respirator with an organic vapor cartridge. Some even suggest wearing a full face mask and then set up of an eye-wash station, so be careful. In other words, dress up like an astronaut and don't let it get on your skin or eyes, and don't breathe it into your lungs. If it's a wood sash window, make sure you mask that off so you don't damage the paint and the wood. Now, if xylene doesn't take that sunscreen off, then maybe it's time for some new windows. Once you get all of that scraped off, use Zep to give it a good cleaning.

Since this was put on 30 years ago, they're not dual pane windows. If you want to re-tint, you could choose any tint you want. I would go with a reflective tint so it bounces the sun away from the house. Take a spray bottle and fill with water. Pros like to use distilled water. Mix in about one half teaspoon of Dawne soap.

Spray the window and apply the tint. The soap will allow you to slide the tint around before it sticks. Trim the excess with an x-acto knife.

Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
I've always wondered, what's the easiest way to figure out if you have a left-hand door or a right-hand door?
Monte S.

Hello Monte,
I've heard a lot of explanations of how to determine that over the years. The easiest way by far is to put your back against the hinges. If the door opens to the left, it is a left-hand door; or to the right, a right- hand door. Very simple.

Dear Mr. Lamoureux,
I am adding a new room to my home and have decided to be the general for this project. I have never done this before, but figure with the money I can save, I might as well give it a try. My question is how do I go about getting the permits and acquisitions?
Angie D.

Hello Angie,
For the permits, you first need drawings of the proposed work. Most of the time these are drawn by architects. You can draw them yourself, but with today's earthquake standards, especially if there are structural's involved, an engineer always gets involved. A good structural engineer can make or break your day financially. There are ways of following the standards, or they can go crazy and cost you tons of money. Usually the engineer works with the architect to provide the drawings.

After the drawings are finalized, go to plan check. Depending on how busy they are, it can take anywhere from two weeks to 12 weeks. There have been many times I've gone down into Orange County to get through plan check faster.

Once you're cleared through plan check, you go to the building and safety department. They may send you over to the fire department to make sure they authorize your plans. Then return to building and safety. They will issue the permit card to you.

The rule of thumb is, depending on what city you are in, the fees are 1 to 1 1/2 percent of the total job cost.

If you are going to be the general, you have to be on top of your game. Some of these contractors will come in and mow you over. Be very careful about the money. If they want 50 percent down, you say, "Fine,
I'll give you the 50 percent when the materials arrive on site." Then do progress payments at each phase.

You need to understand what you are doing as far as phasing out a job.

Also, as the general, it's up to you to contact the inspector. For example, you need to call the inspector before you pour the foundation. He'll want to see that the foundation is dug properly and all of the rebar is in. On a big job, they may require you to have a concrete deputy on hand. Then you need to call the inspector after you frame. Call him again after the rough electrical, after the rough plumbing, then there's a nailing inspection after the drywall, etc. A homeowner can face a lot of problems and fines if they don't follow the rules very closely.

A general usually charges about 25 percent for the job. Ten percent goes for insurance and overhead, with a 15 percent profit margin.

So, if you want to be the general, do your homework. Sometimes it will cost you more money than what you think you're saving because of the mistakes you make along the road.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years' experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Send your questions to


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