View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Radon, C02 meters unneeded in most homes

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 10, 2008 8:18 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Hello Robert,
We have family in Texas so we have been following the aftermath of Hurricane Ike very closely. There have been several carbon monoxide-related problems there. I considered buying a carbon monoxide meter and a radon meter over the years, but had forgotten about it until this recent news. Do you think they are necessary?
Jill T.

Hello Jill,
Since they were without power, the problems in Texas probably resulted from the use of generators. Those residents might have brought the generators inside their home or garage and left them running, or they could have been cooking on barbecue or gas powered grills inside their houses. These can all be fatal. 

Carbon monoxide results from fuels like wood, oil, kerosene, natural gas, charcoal and gasoline that have not completely burned and are measured in parts per million, meaning how many CO molecules are in a million molecules of air. Most people will not experience any symptoms with levels between 1 and 70 ppm. Levels above 150 to 200 can result in unconsciousness and death.

A very simple rule of thumb is never use any gasoline engines, charcoal or gas grills or camp stoves inside any enclosed space; and you want to keep them away from vents when operating outside. Also, never let your automobile idle inside your garage. Realize that the exhaust is poison. Be prepared to exit the garage as soon as the car is started and when returning, pull inside and turn the car off immediately. 

Other sources of carbon monoxide can be everyday gas appliances like cooking stoves and heaters, a bad heat exchanger on furnaces and water heaters, wood burning stoves or an obstructed chimney. Even though these are designed for indoor use, they can be dangerous if not installed or vented correctly or properly maintained.  

Always make sure that any combustion type appliances are UL listed for indoor use and that they are vented and operating properly with no damaged or broken parts. If you’re not sure of the UL listing, do not use them until you verify safety from the manufacturer. Also, if you notice any unusual sounds or smells, turn the appliance off and have it checked by a qualified inspector.     
Radon is a natural radioactive gas caused by radium in the soil and rocks which is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is measured in picocuries per liter, pCi/L. One picocurie is one trillionth of a Curie which is used to measure radioactive decay.  The EPA has determined that 4 pCi/L is the “action” level, or when you should take measures to contact a state approved radon contractor who can seal cracks in floors and walls or install pipes and fans to pull radon from your home.

It is estimated that about 7 percent of all homes in the United States have radon levels exceeding the 4 pCi/L EPA limit. Based on California testing in Ventura and northwest Los Angeles County, it was determined that anywhere from one percent to 14 percent of all homes had radon exposure above the EPA action level. 

There are many different types of detectors available for both radon and carbon monoxide. Entry level kits for each start at about $20.

Robert Lamoureux,
I’ve got some vinyl siding on the house that is starting to look bad. I just painted it about 2 years ago, and the paint is cracking and peeling. This paint was $30 a gallon and the guy told me it should last about 15 years. It’s only been 2. Is there some process I’m supposed to do to the vinyl before painting?
Jimmy S.

Hello Jimmy,
The most important thing is to use the right paint. You can’t just use any type of exterior house paint for vinyl. For this, I’d recommend Sherwin-Williams. They have mastered the market with vinyl paints and can mix up whatever color you want. 

It’s the pigments inside the paint you use that determine if the vinyl can breathe or not and it sounds like your siding has emphysema.

What you have to do now is remove all of the bad paint off of the siding. Usually a pressure washer will do the job. Sand it and feather it out as necessary. Then apply a vinyl approved primer and paint. I’d go with Resilience by Sherwin-Williams. It is especially formulated for vinyl, there’s no warping or buckling, has low VOC’s, and it comes with a lifetime warranty when you apply two coats.

Hello Robert,
I’m a regular reader of your column  I looked through past issues and I didn’t see anything about this. I’ve got what they call lath and plaster in my house with two old layers of wallpaper that I just took off. I want to repaint that room, and decided to remove the wallpaper first. I used a steamer and a “paper tiger scoring tool.” Then I used adhesive remover that soaked in through the holes from the scoring tool. So, I got all of the paper off, but now I have this brown stuff all over the walls that I can’t get off.  Would you please tell me how to remove it or can I paint over it?  
Henry C.

Hello Henry,
You sound like an old pro to me. 

I agree it’s best to remove the paper before painting. The wallpaper usually has textures and seams that will show through the paint. Also, if that old paper ever starts to peel, your paint will peel with it. There are ways to get around those problems, but it’s best to take it off and do it right.

What you’re looking at is just the old adhesive. You can’t primer over it because after a few months, it will bleed right through your primer and paint. It has to come off.

The best thing to do is use mesh which is a drywall sandpaper. Just start working at it and get it all off of there.  Once you are sure it is completely clean and smooth you’re ready for the prime and paint. 

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. Opinions expressed are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send questions to


Most Popular Articles

There are no articles at this time.
Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...