Q: A year or two ago we had a big tree taken down and had a pile of logs stacked 10 yards from the house. We didn't put the logs on anything or cover them. A neighbor has complained that termites might set up house in the logs and are thus a threat to their shed and house. We'd like to oblige the neighbor by putting the logs on something perhaps. What do you advise?
A: Your neighbor's right to be concerned about termites (and of course, you should be as well), and it's good that you want to do something about it. Here are my recommendations:
• Split the large logs into usable pieces, which will allow them to dry a lot faster. You can hire someone to do this for you, or you can rent a log splitter for an afternoon and handle the chore pretty quickly yourself.
• Pick a sunny, convenient spot to store the wood, but not right up against the house. Put down some concrete blocks as a base to store the wood on. These are inexpensive, moisture- and insect-resistant, and stable.
• Stack the split wood on the concrete blocks so that there's space for air to circulate, which again speeds the drying process and helps prevent rot. I once heard an Old Farmer's Almanac adage that I liked, something to the effect that the spaces should be large enough for a mouse to run through, but small enough that a cat can't follow.
• To keep the wood dry, cover it with a tarp. Ideally, the tarp shouldn't directly touch the wood. Again, it's all about air circulation — so add a couple of long logs on top to drape the tarp over.
Q: I am about to install some 4-by-8-foot plywood sheets over existing plywood flooring. Do I need a vapor barrier between the two layers? It looks like it was used in one finished room of the house, but I just want to be sure.
A: There shouldn't be any reason to have a vapor barrier between the two layers. Sometimes older homes had a layer of felt (tar paper) installed between flooring layers, which acted as a bit of an air barrier against cold basements, and that may be what you're seeing.
Q: I live in a two-story house with two air-conditioning units and two thermostats. I'm not sure in my current setup if they are connected somehow. How would I need to navigate this? I'd like to get one of the new-generation thermostats. Would it require two thermostats? Apologies if this is a headslappingly dumb question.
A: Not a dumb question at all! Since you currently have two thermostats, my assumption would be that the two units operate completely separate from one another. I suggest that you go to your electrical panel and see if there are circuit breakers that are separately labeled for the two air conditioners. Assuming that there are, shut off the breaker that controls one of them (either unit). Now check the thermostats.
One of the thermostats should still operate the “live” air conditioner, while the other thermostat won't do anything. Repeat the process with the other circuit breaker and the other thermostat. This will confirm that the two air conditioners are on completely separate circuits, and the two thermostats are not interconnected.
Assuming that to be the case, you'll need two new thermostats. If that isn't the case, or if you're unable to shut off the air conditioners at the electrical panel (or you're uncomfortable performing this test), contact a licensed heating and air-conditioning contractor to come out and check the situation for you and possibly switch the thermostats out for you.
Have a home repair or remodeling question for Paul? He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.