When builders leave a mess behind; more on rewiring a mobile home

Q. How can I remove latex paint from a new brick chimney and a new slate floor? Why do builders act so carelessly? Audrey Simons South Dennis, Mass.

A conscientious builder, whether a sub or general contractor, should continually supervise jobs, insisting on good housekeeping. Unfortunately, this seems not to be the norm; many building tradespeople leave a mess, especially if unsupervised.

Part of virtually every contract in the building business is the requirement to provide cleanup after the job is done, but alas, how seldom it happens without supervisory demand or threat.

Before doing anything yourself about cleaning the paint on the brick and slate, call your builder or subcontractor to fulfill his contract by doing the cleaning. It's his responsibility, not yours. A responsible supervising architect would not allow payment to the careless contractor until the cleanup had been accomplished.

Clean latex paint from brick or slate by wire-brushing with a liquid detergent. If the paint is not latex, use a solvent paint remover on both surfaces.

On a large slate surface, a floor machine would be preferable to a hand-held wire brush - but don't you do it!

Q. Would you advise that we install a clock thermostat in our church? Our heating system is hot water passing through pipes imbedded in the slab floor. We use the church twice a week only; the rest of the time the building is heated but unoccupied. Would a clock thermostat reduce our heating bill and not trigger some other negative condition? Edward B. Miller Bedford, Ohio

Clock thermostats can be set to turn the heating system on and off at predetermined intervals. The temperature settings, both high and low, are also preprogrammed. If you install a clock thermostat, it should indeed develop some energy savings.

Experiment as to the lead time needed to raise the temperature to a comfortable point for the services. Avoid dropping the low thermostat setting unduly low. Remember, a concrete floor slab may be slow to reheat. Consult with a local heating contractor, preferably the one who installed the heating system, as to his suggested lead time for heating the church. Also ask about programming of the low thermostat reading when the system is down.

Investigate an indoor/outdoor anticipating thermometer to work in conjunction with the clock thermostat. The outdoor thermometer anticipates changes in temperature and sends a message to the boiler, thus increasing or decreasing its water temperature as required, even before the interior thermostat calls for more or less heat. To the real estate editor:

In a recent issue you had a letter from a mobile-home owner asking about an inexpensive and safe way to remedy aluminum wiring. I, too, have a 13-year-old coach which is wired with aluminum. Since 1972 or '73, copper has been required.

The older units can be helped by pigtailing the wall plugs (switches, too, but, according to an electrician, not necessary). It's a simple process of cutting off the aluminum wire approximately an inch from the plug, adding copper to the end of the aluminum, and hooking the copper to the wall plug screws.

According to a mobile-home magazine, the job should cost around $150 (California prices) for most coaches. It took a friend, a licensed electrician, most of a day to do the 30 plugs in my coach. I felt being relieved of the concern was well worth the cost. I didn't realize that insurance costs more for aluminum-wired coaches.

Not all electricians do pigtailing. It's tedious, time-consuming work, but a search would probably turn one up. Mrs. Elizabeth Mitchell Vista, Calif.

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