Housemaster Inspections Answers Your Homeownership Questions

Tips on tubular skylights, clues to dishwasher leakage, the downside to sealing attic vents, and water heater corrosion protection.

Q. My kitchen has only one window, leaving it pretty dark most of the time. We thought about a skylight but have been told there wouldn’t be much addition lighting from it because of the design of our roof and attic. Any suggestions?

Yes. There is a product on the market called a tubular skylight. This type skylight may be perfect for lighting your kitchen or just about any other dark area of your home. You can find a skylight like this on a website such as https://aiaindustries.com/ if you’re interested. It involves the installation of a flexible, aluminum tube that has a highly reflective inner surface to direct additional lighting to your living area. The sunlight is captured by a roof-mounted receptor and directed down through the tubing to a ceiling diffuser that casts the light throughout the room.

Q. When my dishwasher runs, I notice some water coming out from underneath it at times. I removed the base cover and there is no evidence of leakage from the pump or hose fittings. it is not coming from the seal around the doors. It seems to be coming out the sides of the dishwasher but there are no cracks on the inside liner. Any suggestions before I call in the serviceperson.

It’s possible that your problem is associated with a recirculation hose that runs up the side of the unit to the spray arm at the top of the dishwasher. This may have cracked or deteriorated. To check this it will be necessary to pull the unit out from under the cabinet. If that is the cause, if you are fairly handy you should be able to replace it yourself. A replacement hose can be purchased from the manufacturer or a parts supplier.

Q. My neighbor seals up all openings in his unfinished attic each year to keep the cold air out and to save on heating bills. I seem to recall reading that this is not a good idea. What is right?

What you read is correct. It is best to allow the cold air to circulate through an unfinished attic. Of course, you must adequately insulate the attic floor to keep the heat in the house from rising up and out of your attic. The attic hatch or door should also be insulated and weatherstripped.

Sealing off the attic from outside air, however, will effectively trap any rising warm air in the attic. This will create a greenhouse effect (high humidity) in the attic, which may ultimately cause damage to your roofing framing. Mold can also develop if conditions are right. So seal off the attic from the house, but let the attic breath. This also helps keep the underside of the roof cold, which helps reduce ice dam problems.

Whilst resolving these problems that concern your roof, it may also be the best time to give it a quick inspection so you know that it is still in good condition. If for any reason you notice any issues that need repairing or replacing, then you should think about having a look at the average repair and replacement cost in your area so you have a better idea about how much money you could be spending on these renovations. But something like this is important and it should be fixed as soon as possible.

Q. I was told that if I replace the anode in my water heater it would last longer. What is the anode and what does it do?

The anode is a rod that is generally installed inside the water heater tank, usually hanging from a fitting on the tank. It provides protection from corrosion that might otherwise occur due to the chemical make-up of the water. The anode is made of a material that is more reactive than the steel tank, and harmful elements in the water will be drawn to the anode, causing it to corrode rather than the tank. For this reason the anode is often referred to as the sacrificial anode.

Once the anode has deteriorated, however, the exposed steel of the tank is ripe for deterioration. If the tank is relatively old (8+ years ) the feasibility of adding a new anode may be questionable, and it may be worth having a look at buying a new water heater. Before you buy one, it’s definitely worth looking at a water heater reviews site first to ensure you find the best water heater for you. However, if you are in an area with hard water or water containing other elements that might contribute to the rapid deterioration of the anode, replacing it once or twice in ten years may enable the water heater to reach its full design life. Replacement is a relatively simple process, but often best left to a professional. Since each situation will be a little different, it would be wise to get a cost estimate first and then consider the unit’s expected future life and cost of a new heater before making a decision.

Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue. More home safety and maintenance information is available online at www.housemaster.com.