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Don't Take Up Floor Unless It's Necessary


QUESTION: I want to install a new vinyl floor in my bath. My question: When is it advisable to take up the existing flooring? Can I just lay the new floor on top of it?

ANSWER: You'll want to first take up your existing flooring if there's an obvious problem, such as water damage, dry rot or uneven floor.

Keep in mind, though, that laying underlayment is a big job. Not only will you have to scribe all the sheets to fit, you may also need to cut off the bottoms of any doors to allow clearance above the now-thicker floor. The cracks between the underlayment panels must be filled and the depressions caused by the numerous nails required to install the panels must also be filled.

If these problems don't exist, there's no reason why you can't lay your new vinyl directly on top of the old. In fact, there are several good reasons why you might.

Many resilient types of flooring and flooring adhesives installed before the early 1980s contained asbestos. It is perfectly safe when left in place, but tearing it up will send some of it airborne, unless precise EPA abatement procedures are followed. One note of caution in installing vinyl over vinyl: You'll need to do some pretty exacting surface prep to make the job last.

Modify Wall Framing to Cut Noise Level

Q: We are adding a new wing to our home, and the walls will be gypsum wallboard. What can we do to reduce sound transmission between rooms?

A: The conventional system of framing and finishing--2-by-4 framing and half-inch wallboard--affords relatively low resistance to sound transmission. Filling stud cavities with batt insulation and using thicker wallboard, even doubling the layers of wallboard, will improve the situation.

One of the most effective approaches to the problem, however, is to modify the wall framing method by using lumber for the top and toe plates that is wider than that used for the studs. Studs are then fastened in place on 8-inch centers, with edges alternately aligned with opposite edges of the plates.

This reduces the amount of sound-induced vibration that is transmitted from one side of the wall to the other. The sound transmission rating for a wall that uses 2-by-4 studs set on 2-by-6 plates and is finished with double layers of five-eighths-inch wallboard is about 50 to 54, nearly equal to that of a 7-inch-thick brick cavity wall.

Window Balances Need Occasional Servicing

Q: Our windows are fitted with spiral balances that seem to have lost some of their tension. Also, the windows do not operate as smoothly as they once did. What can I do to remedy these problems?

A: In time, the springs of spiral balances may weaken. Re-tension them by unhooking the spiral rods from the mounting plates, then turning the rods counterclockwise once or twice. The mechanism can be serviced by releasing the tension and unwinding the rods from the tubes. Wipe them clean and apply a little thin oil, then rewind the rods back into the tubes and tension them as described above.

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