Ask the Gardeners

Q We bought 24-inch-wide rolled fiber-glass insulation and 48-inch-wide chicken wire for installation under the floor of our house. The crawl space is 18 inches high and the joists are set at 48 inches on center. I am in a quandary as to the best installation method to use. Would you advise? Bob Higham

Santa Rosa, Calif.

When installing insulation the kraft paper or foil side is always placed on the warm face of the building. In this case it would go up against the floor sheathing.

I suggest that you abandon the chicken wire and instead use a light bailing wire which will run diagonally or perpendicular to the joists every 12 to 18 inches. The insulation should be tightly butted at the joints. No tape is required as the insulation value is achieved by creating pockets of dead air space.

Wear goggles and gloves and cover any exposed skin as much as possible to avoid itching caused by the fine strands of fiber-glass. Q We are having problems with the ceramic-tile floor in our new custom-designed home. The light-gray-colored grout is blotchy and porous while the tile itself is cracking. I have been given many hints on how to clean, stain, seal, and maintain a ceramic-tile floor, but I feel I am getting some bad advice. Can you help?

Patricia Sagenkan

Newcastle, Calif.

First, blotchy and porous grout is probably the result of too much water and inadequate working in and floating of the joints. One product which is available to restain grout is called Aqua Mix Grout Colorant. The manufacturer is located at 1336 Fern Pine Circle, Cerritos, Calif. 90701. Write to the company and ask for the name of its distributor in your area.

Second, there are several good grout and tile sealers sold by tile distributors. Only unglazed tile needs to be sealed. Once sealed with a clear, hard sealer, you need only to damp mop the floor with warm water. The sealer should last about a year before needing a reapplication.

Third, the cracking tile is the result of either an uneven thin-set concrete application or a flexing subfloor or both. As the tile is very brittle, it needs to be evenly and rigidly supported to prevent cracking when walked on. When moving heavy furniture over a tile floor, I usually put down a board or plywood runner to distribute the point loads.

To evaluate your problem, the Ceramic Tile Institute, located in Los Angeles, will have a local member inspect your floor for a nominal fee. If the inspector feels it is the contractor's responsibility to repair it, and if he is a union tilesetter, the institute will have him make the job right.

If you feel that it is the contractor's fault and you are receiving no cooperation, write to your state contractors licensing board, which has procedures for filing complaints.

Properly installed ceramic-tile floors should provide lasting beauty with very little upkeep.

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