Question: Our 20-year-old home has aluminum sliding windows that rattle when the front door is closed, when we walk into a room and when it's windy. They're also difficult to slide open and shut. We plan to stay here another 10 years. Is replacing them with double-paned windows or the kind that pull up and out a good investment?
Answer: "You can never go wrong replacing your old windows with some of the newer, more energy-efficient models out there," Florence Ownes of La Mirada Glass says. "Changing over to a dual-glazed, double-paned window would probably decrease your heating and cooling costs and cut out some of the outside noise. However, you're talking about an expensive changeover.
"They're probably rattling because the putty or vinyl insulation around them has worn out. It may not be necessary to scrap your old windows. They may be able to be fixed so that they're quiet and energy efficient. However, we often find that in old sliding windows, the rollers need to be replaced, which is difficult because they're usually not sold anymore. A professional can look at them and tell you whether the sliding problem is in the rollers or the track."
Q: With the concern over water conservation, I've been trying to use one of those plastic bags you fill up with water and put in the toilet tank. The problem I'm having is that the bag keeps moving from its place and interfering with the float ball. Is there a better way to secure it, or should I just get a brick?
A: "You may not be securing it properly," says Mike Delaney of Fullerton Hardware. "Or maybe you should try a plastic bottle instead of a bag. Tie a short length of cord around it and connect it with a hook suspended from the tank rim away from the float hardware. I don't think a brick would work any better; it can shift inside the tank, as well."
Q: I've heard that to save water you can use laundry and bathtub water for your lawn and garden. However, I would be concerned that the soap would affect the plants. Is that the case?
A: "There are a number of things to consider before using what's called 'gray water,' " says landscape architect Brian Cochrane from Rancho Santa Margarita. "If you have a water softening system, that's going to put a lot of salt in your water that isn't good for plants. An if you're using strong soaps that aren't biodegradable, you could damage flowers with sensitive root systems such as azaleas or camellias. Overall, I would think that bathwater would be fine, but laundry water could be a problem."
Q: Is there any kind of product I can use to remove an acoustic ceiling?
A: "There's no easy way out of this one," says Jack Bowdle of U-Paint in Orange. "You've just got to get a paint scraper and scrape it off. Most ceilings are sprayed on, and they're only about an eighth of an inch thick. But in a large room, that's a lot of material. Make sure you've got the floor well covered with a tarp, because it's a messy job."
Q: I've heard of these bathtub drains that you open and close with your foot. Are they easy to install?
A: "They're really handy and relatively easy to put in," says Rod Albright of Albright Plumbing & Heating in Los Alamitos. "There are a number of manufacturers making them now. What you need to do is remove the spud or the stopper by unscrewing it and take it to a plumbing supply store. Then you match the threads of the one you have with one from the store, because manufacturers don't make a standardized thread fitting. Take it home and screw the new one back in."