Q: My condo has large glass windows that face south. The sun causes large increases in temperature. Some control is needed even during the...

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Q:

My condo has large glass windows that face south. The sun causes large increases in temperature. Some control is needed even during the winter months. Blinds are not adequate. Is there a screen that would block the sun’s heat and still allow one to see out? Window air conditioners are not allowed. A free-standing unit would probably require venting. Could the gas fireplace vent be used?


A:

Have you considered tinted windows? These can easily be added to existing glass and will cut out an astonishing amount of heat gain.

Contact a company that specializes in these installations because it is not a wise do-it-yourself project. Improper materials and/or installations can lead to the film peeling or glass failure (from overheating an insulated glass unit).

This solution is cheaper, quieter and easier than air conditioning, and it uses no utilities. And no, you can’t use a fireplace vent for an air conditioner. It is much too small.


Q:

Eight years ago we had a metal roof installed. On a 90-degree day, I was in the attic and it was 120 degrees. It seemed extreme, although at installation they had assured me they would leave a ridge vent opening. There are some perimeter soffit vents that are original construction (split-level-entry house built in 1962). When I’m in the attic, I see no sky when looking up. Do I have a valid concern?


A:

120 degrees in an attic on a 90-degree day doesn’t really sound out of the realm of normal, with or without a vented ridge cap.

Metal roofs do a fairly decent job of ventilating themselves without a formal vent. This is one advantage cedar, tile and metal have over composition and membrane roofing products. Most stock metal ridge caps will allow airflow simply due to the design.

If a vented cap is installed, it will obviously vent even better. Vented ridge caps from any roofing product are not “wide open” — you should not be able to see sky from the attic. They have mesh material or screening to keep snow and bugs from getting inside.

You could check to see if it is a truly vented cap by climbing on the roof and looking for the space above the roofing, beneath the cap. Then inside the attic you should see a space in the roof sheathing at the peak, allowing you to see the bottom of the cap. This will verify that you indeed have a vent, and a vent hole in the framing.


Q:

Should I use caulking or grout for the area for tile around the tub? I keep getting conflicting advice from the home-store chains!


Q:

Should the area beneath the lowest tile in my tub/shower be open or caulked? Everyone has a different answer.


A:

To the first question, the answer is definitely caulking. Grout is brittle and will crack, making it unattractive. A tub and tile will expand, contract and move at different rates. Caulking flexes, grout does not.

To the second question, the answer depends on the age of the tub and the tile.

Tubs built in the past 45 years or so have a lip around the three sides covered by tile. This lip prevents any moisture that gets into the crack between the tile and top of the tub from leaking into the wall behind.

Older tubs have no lip. Caulking them prevents water from leaking into the wall, so it serves a vital purpose.

Caulking gives a finished look to a tub of any age. But it really keeps only the bottom of the drywall dry on the newer units (which is pretty important, actually).

Now to really complicate matters: If your tile is newer than about 1990, it is set on cement board, not green drywall (greenboard), and the bottom of the cement board can’t really be damaged. So having caulking around the cement board actually increases the amount of water that is held in the wall because the caulking prevents the water from running down and out.

Makers of fiberglass shower pans have fairly recently added “weep holes” in their lips to allow water trapped in the wall to drain back into the shower, rather than into the wall outside the shower (if caulked). Caulking is used everywhere except in the weep hole itself.

But this entire discussion is moot if your grout is sealed. No moisture getting in requires no weep hole to get it out.

The bottom line that applies to every situation: Caulk the bottom of your shower and seal the grout with grout sealer.

Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. He answers reader questions. Call 206-464-8514 to record your question, or e-mail dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.