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Home fix-up

Q We recently built a small house and wanted two rooms soundproofed. The contractor used the same material (rolled fiber-glass insulation) which he used on the outside walls and ceilings, but it has done little to deaden the sound. Do you think the contractor used the proper material? Also, do you think rolled fiberglass insulation without foil is as good as it is with foil? Ralph Ward Aguanga, Calif. Thermal insulation will not provide much sound insulation. Batt sound insulation is made of a denser rock-wool material than fiberglass.

To reduce sound transmission properly the dry wall should have been mounted on resilient furring channels or applied over a half-inch layer of soundboard, a dense Celotex type of material. The more layers of such material you use, the more the sound transmission is cut. One layer on each side of the studs is generally the norm.

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The foil facing on thermal insulation acts as a vapor barrier only. Its most appropriate use would be on the underside of a house in an area of extreme dampness or cold or on the floor of an attic. The unfaced material is fine for your location.

Q My wife and I bought a soft-water system for our home. We hope to have better-tasting water, eliminate the buildup in the water pipes, and pay for the system through savings in detergents and soap. Are these expectations realistic? Buddy Greisch Page, Ariz.

A water softener will suspend the solids in the water, but the water may not taste better if gases are responsible for the flavoring. A charcoal filter will do that job. Old buildup will not be eliminated, however, but further accumulation certainly will be.

Not knowing what your system costs, its operating cost, life cycle, or how much detergent and soap saving you are experiencing, make it difficult to judge whether your expectations are realistic. I'm sure there will be some saving.

I have one caution: Don't water the plants with soft water as the salt buildup will kill them.

Q We have a five-year-old urethane roof on our building. Now we are told we need to have it repaired and treated at a very substantial price. Is there any way to put a different roof over this one? Maurine Spence San Bernardino, Calif.

My experience with urethane roofs has been similar to yours. I've been told, however, that resurfacing can be done by anyone with a paint roller after the surface has been cleaned. But as it turns out, much of the old foam develops blisters and has to be redone anyway.

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I recommend that you get in touch with the manufacturer of the product and ask for his advice on resurfacing.

Other than that, you can thoroughly scrape off the old material and install an appropriate asphalt or shingle roof.

If you have a question about designing, improving, or maintaining your home, send it to the real estate editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Richard A. Kent is a practicing architect and general contractor in southern California.

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