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posted: 12/3/2017 6:00 AM

Shower faucet handle no longer turns easily

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Q. My shower handle is the single type that turns from cold to hot. Recently it has tightened up, which may be why I'm having this problem. At the highest setting the shower water comes out lukewarm. Is there any easy way to reset this or do I need to call a plumber?

A. The cartridge may need lubrication. A plumbing contractor can easily take care of it.

Q. I recently had cement poured in my crawl space. There are four vents to the outside. There is also heating and air conditioning pipes there. After your recent column, I now am confused as to whether I am supposed to keep the vents permanently closed or if I should open them again when the warm weather comes.

A. As I mentioned in the column you are referring to, if the crawl space soil moisture is thoroughly controlled, be it by covering the soil with plastic or an effective concrete slab, there is no need for any ventilation as long as the crawl space air smells "sweet," and it does not smell damp or musty.

To determine if your new concrete slab is effective at controlling the soil's moisture, tape all sides of a 2-square-foot piece of plastic onto the slab. If no moisture collects under the plastic, it should be safe to close the vents all year around. But I suggest you wait a full year before making the test, as new concrete will take time to cure and stop generating its own moisture in such a confined space.

The effectiveness of the concrete at controlling the soil's moisture also depends on how it was poured. If poured directly on the soil, concrete, being porous, may not thoroughly control it. But if it was poured over XPS rigid insulation or a stone bed covered with plastic, it should be fine.

Meanwhile, keep the vents open to help dissipate the moisture emanating from the concrete.

Q. As a single woman who has moved into many houses, I need all the practical advice I can get. So thank you for your column.

I have a seasonal cottage in Southern Maine. There is no basement. The cottage sits on concrete pilings. I would like to put a tile backsplash behind my stove and counter. The heat is off for 6 months over the winter season. What adhesive should I use to make sure the tile stays on?

Also, the big box stores have larger 12-square-inch sheets of tile I could use. What adhesive would you recommend for either?

A. Try contact cement, carefully following the instructions on the container.

Q. The concrete expansion joint material has deteriorated on my patio. How and what should I replace it with?

A. If you can dig out enough of the disintegrating material, you can fill the joints with sand.

If you prefer a more substantial fix, and the depth of the cleared joints is at least equal to their width or deeper, you can carefully insert a backer rod of the proper size as long as you leave a one-quarter-inch deep clear space for caulking.

Carefully apply polyurethane caulking compound in the crack and tool it with a wet, gloved finger so that it will adhere firmly to both sides of the crack.

If the depth of the cleared space is such that the right size of backer rod would "float," either insert another backer rod or use any material, such as sand, to give the backer rod a solid backing. If the depth of the crack is too shallow to use a backer rod, use a bond-breaker tape instead.

You can buy backer rods, bond breaker tapes and polyurethane caulking in building-supply stores specializing in masonry products or on Amazon.

Q. We have a problem with the taste of our ice cubes. Our home is on a slab, and our water is from a drilled well. We had a professional plumber install an ice-maker kit six weeks ago. The ice maker is connected to the cold water supply via about 25 feet of one-quarter inch polyethylene tubing. It is connected to the softened water side of the cold water line.

To date, our ice still has a strange taste when it melts, even though we have dumped it repeatedly. Prior to the installation, we were using water from our faucet to make ice in cube trays. Because we made our own ice cubes previously with no problem, we don't see where the water might be the cause. The taste is of a chemical nature, as best we can describe, and has subsided considerably since installation.

A. I think you have found the source of the chemical taste of your ice cubes. It sounds as if it is coming from the polyethylene tubing, and it is diminishing as water running through it is leaching out the harmful chemicals.

Consider dumping the ice cubes daily and making new ones until the chemical taste is all gone or ask your plumber to replace the tubing with another material, such as copper.

Q. After reading your recent column about a mysterious leak in a tub that only occurred when a certain family member showered, I thought I would offer another possibility. When our three children were all teenagers and used to take multiple showers, we had a similar leak that seemingly only happened after the third child was in the shower.

Water would drip into the family room below only when the third child was in the shower. It never occurred when the tub was used for a bath or if only a single shower took place.

We too changed the tile in the bathroom, including new extra thick wallboard. The problem still continued. After everyone was perplexed, a plumber suggested we start the shower water running and he would be at our house in 45 minutes. He had to cut a hole in the linen closet wall to access the back of the faucet, but he found the culprit. It was the mixing valve on the faucet that would leak after long periods of use and it needed replacement.

The problem was finally solved and we had the family room ceiling repaired. I hope this is helpful to someone.

A. Thank you for sharing your experience. It sounds as if the mixing valve was leaking very slowly and the water stain did not show up until enough water leaked out. The location of where a leak shows up is always an important clue when searching for the source.

• Henri de Marne, a former remodeling contractor turned columnist and consultant, is the author of "About the House with Henri de Marne" (Upper Access Publishing). He continues to take questions from readers for this column and his website, Email questions to