Q. My neighborhood is getting loud and noisy at night. Are there ways to soundproof a house? Are there experts available?
A. Neighborhood noise — barbecue parties, late-night dances, low-fi music, revving cars, sports games, undisciplined dogs, unfixed cats, happy kids, and unhappy babies — all contribute to summertime noise. Winter noises are not as loud because windows and doors are shut. Soundproofing a house is impossible if you open windows in the summer. Air conditioning is the answer to that. An air-conditioning system will cost $5,000 to install if you have hot air heat, $10,000 for the unit and duct work if you have hot water heat. There are two types of air conditioning: with a compressor or heat pump.
If your house is pretty well insulated, the house is soundproof, except for the windows. Make your windows tight and well weather-stripped, and have a minimum of two layers of glass. Three layers are best. Double-glazed windows and a good storm are a good way to get three layers of glass.
Q. I have bamboo floors in my basement office. I chose bamboo so that the room would be nice and bright. Two years ago, we had a flood and water got under the floor and into the joists but the top of the floor stayed dry. The floor seemed fine after a few months of drying and making loud pops. There were plastic floor covers to protect the bamboo from chair-wheel marks in a small area. When I recently pulled up the covers, I found black marks on the bamboo that are raised and bumpy, probably mold. What can I do to clean this up?
A. The black marks on the bamboo floor under the plastic covers occurred when water vapor condensed under the cover, and there was enough moisture to make the floor bubbly and moldy. Treat the black marks with a solution of 1 part bleach and 3 parts water, rinse and let dry. Sand the bubbly areas lightly with sandpaper to see if they can be smoothed out. If the bubbling is severe, it may have to be refinished.
For a chair pad, try something like a thin but sturdy carpet that will allow easy rolling of the chair but will not allow water vapor to collect under it.
Q. I recently had my heating ducts cleaned, and they came out very well, but the duct cleaner said one of the ducts was badly rusted. He said this was due to the whole house humidifier on my furnace. I do need the humidity, so what can I do?
A. Humidity can mess up ducts, including causing mold, but there is hope for you or anyone in the house who needs the humidity. Using duct insulation can help solve that problem, and will also conserve heating fuel. Or, insulate the ducts and shut off the humidifier and install, where necessary, console humidifiers, one for each floor, which will provide humidity where needed, give you better control of the amount, and keep it out of the ducts. It won’t hurt to replace that rusty duct.