DEAR BARRY: The forced-air vents in our floor fill with water whenever it rains. This has caused the metal ducts to rust out and expose the dirt. I have no idea who I should call or what kind of business does this type of repair work. Someone said I should seal the floor vents and install new vents in the ceiling, but that sounds very expensive and I would prefer to keep my floor vents. What is the most practical way of solving this problem?
DEAR VICKI: Many homes that were built in the 1950s and ’60s had forced-air heating ducts in the ground below the slab floor. This was a poorly conceived method of construction because ground moisture caused rust damage and allowed flooding of the air ducts. Over time, the ducts can literally disintegrate, leaving earth tunnels for heating your home. The exposed soil also provides an avenue for uninvited creatures to enter the home.
Unfortunately, there is no simple or inexpensive repair for this problem. The solution is two-fold. First you must fill the ducts and the open vents with concrete. Then you will need a new system of ducts to distribute air through your home. Hopefully your house has an attic. If not, a heating contractor can determine an alternate location where ducts can be installed.
DEAR BARRY: We live in a downstairs condo, and there is a wet stain on our kitchen ceiling. We've talked to our upstairs neighbors about this and have tried to help them find the leak, but no wetness is apparent in their unit. Therefore, the leak must be somewhere between our ceiling and their floor. We reported this to the homeowners association (HOA), expecting that they would have it fixed. but they say the leak is the responsibility of our upstairs neighbor. Is this true?
DEAR PAT: The rules for condo maintenance vary. The general understanding is that the condo owners are responsible for everything within the living space itself, while the HOA takes care of exterior defects. The problem in this situation is that the leak is not happening inside either living space, nor is it happening outside. Instead, it is occurring between the living units, which calls for interpretation of the property documents. Someone may have to compromise. Hopefully this questions can be answered without having to hire an attorney.
If you cut a small hole in your kitchen ceiling, the source of the leak will probably be revealed. If the HOA refuses to pay for the repair, you can pay a plumber to fix the leak and then test the question of responsibility in small-claims court.
To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com.
Action Coast Publishing