Monday, February 24, 2020

Eagle Butte
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Home Improvement and Garden Tips


Floyd Braun

Greetings everyone, I hope all is well with your families and homes. This week I will answer some questions I have received, and will share some garden information. January is an important month for  garden preparation.

The question I received was about venting systems for houses. Your home has vents built into it for various purposes and all are very important to your home’s longevity.

Sewer gas vents

These are the round pipes that stick out of your roof and allow for excess sewer gas to escape. These pipes are important because they help your drains and toilets to function by drawing your waste to the main line in the street or into your septic system. These pipes also allow for air to come into the drain system so it continues to work. Depending on the size of your home, number of toilets and their locations in the home, you may have one or two vent pipes coming out your roof. Your vent pipe will be at least 1 1/4 inches in diameter and should extend at least 6 inches above the roof where it comes out.

In winter, these vents can freeze over with ice. You can tell if this has happened by looking at it from the ground. If it looks like it has snow coming out of it, it is most likely frozen. You roof may be icy, and I advise to please call a professional who will know how to get on the roof and do so safely. They are also bonded and insured in case of an accident or damage to your roof. Always get a written receipt for service stating the day, time, and weather conditions that day. This way you have proof of work if come spring, you have a roof leak from damaged shingles or plywood.

Venting for appliances

In the last 10 years, tankless hot water systems have become popular, as well as propane fire places that provide a secondary heat source. These, along with dryers and fans, need venting. All may vent from the roof of an exterior wall.

Tankless water heaters will have either one large 4-inch vent or two 2-inch pipes side-by-side. These are for fresh air intake and exhaust. If either or both become clogged with ice, the appliances will not run. This is the same for a gas fireplace and dryer. In my own experience, I have found that roof venting can be a big headache for people because of the extreme cold here. As sewer gas is released, they are warmer than the air outside and freeze instantly to the pipe. These appliances can also be vented through an exterior wall so you can reach them easier. Check with your owner’s manual and homeowner’s insurance before making a change to the vents. Also, some insurance companies will not cover mobile homes with tankless hot water systems unless they meet certain standards. Policies will vary from insurance carrier to carrier.

Attic vents

These vents in the roof allow hot air to escape and not become trapped, therefore preventing moisture from forming. They also help maintain desired home temperatures. Some roofs will have vents that turn with the wind which helps move air out. A shingle roof will have several vents, while a steel roof will have a single ridge vent per roof section. To maintain even air flow, your home will also have soffit vents to keep air moving.

Crawl space vents

Crawl space vents maintain airflow under your home’s sub-floor in the space created by your foundation. These vents have several jobs: they prevent water from building up from condensation, they prevent mold, and they remove sewer and radon gas. Radon is a radioactive gas found in almost every home at some level and is rarely an issue because of your venting system. Radon comes from the ground and is naturally occurring. It’s important that your crawl space vents remain open in the winter and at least 50% is free of snow.

(Side note: A radon gas test should be part of every home inspection prior to purchase. If you are having health issues that your doctor suspects could be radon, the test is easy to do and requires no cutting into walls or other surfaces.)

Routine spring maintenance of vents

Make sure your roof vents are secured to the roof and are clear of debris, and that the wire mesh is intact. Replace it if it is not. The wire keeps birds and rodents out of your attic spaces.

Ensure your appliance vents are secured and free of holes or creases from winter snow and ice loads.

Check your crawl space vents and make sure the screens are intact to keep animals out.

Cats are increasingly causing damage to mobile home insulation and ductwork, which can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Please don’t let your animals run wild- be a good steward and a good neighbor.

Garden planning

This is the time of year to start planning your seed purchase from online catalogs. While many companies still send out paper catalogs, remember that the catalogs are available online for free and reduce your household waste. I prefer the following seed companies:

seedsavers.org – they specialize in heirloom and non-GMO seeds. Ordering is convenient and only requires filling out a form. The company also offers free seed to non-profit groups and community gardens.

burpee.com – They have been a reliable seed provider for 140 years and are a great choice for seed.

Seed Exchanges:

• SDSU Master Gardener program offers seed trading events annually.

dakotarural.org offers free seed trading events as well as links to farmers markets all over South Dakota.