Your Place: Neighbors might raise a stink over polyurethaning

Question: Having removed all the wall-to-wall carpeting throughout our home, we are not only trying to decide if we should replace with same or go with area rugs, but find ourselves with spruce floors that are badly in need of staining and urethane finishing.

Are there products that can be applied easily and that will dry in a short time? It would be helpful if we could have our workers do this while we are away for a week.

Also, is there a right or wrong answer regarding quarter-round molding along the baseboard? Should this molding be added to the baseboard before or after wall-to-wall carpeting is put down?

Answer: There are products on the market that require one coat and that dry to the touch in an hour if the conditions are proper. If the floors were refinished on a summer day of high humidity, it would take longer.

Some stains also seal, and you might wish to look into that, as well as at products with low or no volatile organic compounds that could reduce the quality of the indoor air.

Your address indicates you live in a part of the city where brick party walls separate your living spaces from your neighbors' on one or both sides. Any odor produced from staining and polyurethaning will probably seep through the gaps in the walls into your neighbors' houses.

The odor may be history by the time you return, but your neighbors might be waiting for you with something other than a welcome-home basket.

Choose wisely. Although I have never been able to detect a difference, some readers have told me that low-VOC polyurethane - typically, but not necessarily, water-based - doesn't afford the protection of the oil-based.

These are questions you'll need to ask the flooring contractor you employ.

The other question: You lay the carpet first.

Feedback.  We recently had a question from a reader about insulating a crawl space. The space between the joists is fully insulated with fiberglass, but the floor still gets cold. He wondered if he should add some kind of Styrofoam panels to the concrete walls and floor joists.

This response from Cherry Hill engineer/home inspector Harris Gross:

"The latest approach to crawl spaces is to seal the exterior vents and insulate the walls.

"The crawl is then conditioned, not to the extent of the interior, mainly by duct leakage and/or open to the basement so air circulates.

"The question is where to draw the thermal envelope to gain the most efficiency. By drawing it at the exterior walls, you prevent cold air from going beneath the floor, which will find pockets of uninsulated subfloor, and from contacting duct work - really knocks down the 100-degree to 120-degree air temperature - and plumbing."

Turn up the heat.  It may be too late for some of us, but Napoleon Fireplaces offers a couple of things to consider when shopping for a furnace:

One of the most important factors when buying a furnace is to have a professional installer examine the size of the house and then determine the size of the furnace necessary for the space. A furnace that is too large leaves gaps in temperature as it turns on until it overwhelms the thermostat. The house ends up cooling down until the next cycle, creating an inconsistent temperature. A furnace that is the right size for the space will be able to better regulate a constant temperature.

Always be sure to ask a professional installer, contractor, or reputable salesperson about annual operating costs for whatever furnaces you may be considering. While there are a variety of factors to weigh, price should not necessarily be number one. Efficiencies, however, can vary drastically depending on price, which means that if you pay more up front now, you'll still enjoy lower heating bills 10 or 15 years later.

Any reputable installer or manufacturer will be sure to not only include the purchase agreement and warranty information, but also explain exactly what you are getting. Don't be afraid to ask.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens

at or write him

at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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