Each year thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in their chimneys to getting rid of tree roots in their sewer systems. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. Here are questions about home maintenance and improvement from the Tucson area.
Q: When I was a child growing up in Phoenix, my parents bought a new home with concrete floors. It was a smooth, shiny surface that was colored red, and I just loved it. Now I wonder about my home in Green Valley: Can I take out all the carpet and do the same thing? Do I actually have concrete under all that carpeting?
A: Those floors you’re talking about go back to the housing boom years that we had just after World War II when homes were built with concrete floors dyed in a color that people called FHA red. That was because everyone back then seemed to be getting a Federal Housing Administration mortgage.
Yes, as with most homes in Arizona — even those built more recently — you can tear out your carpeting, and you’ll probably find a concrete slab underneath that you can polish and refinish. That’s actually getting to be a trend.
But a lot will depend for you on what that slab looks like. It may have divots along the edges that have to be filled. You might have to remove some glue on the cement, and there may be impurities in the slab due to spills and marks left during construction. But some people actually like that rustic look. You can also paint or recoat the concrete slab which can make it much easier to clean.
Q: I’m interested in bamboo flooring, partly because it’s a renewable resource. But if it’s so easy to regrow after harvesting, it should be less expensive than it seems to be. Why doesn’t the price come down? And what about using bamboo in a dry desert climate?
A: Yes, bamboo is technically a grass and grows very quickly. It does come in many colors and styles. But the cost is not due to the growing of bamboo, it’s because of the harvesting and milling process. Bamboo is made into hardwood flooring and that is generally at the top of the flooring price range.
In Arizona, it’s very important with hardwoods — and particularly with bamboo — that the wood used is allowed to acclimate inside your house before being laid. Bamboo has a higher moisture content than most hardwoods and must sit in your house for a week or maybe two weeks to properly acclimate.
Another possible inconvenience with bamboo as with all hardwood flooring is that you really cannot leave your home for long periods of time and turn off the air conditioning while you’re gone as some seasonal residents like to do. You have to continue to cool your home or there could be unfavorable movement in the material in your flooring.
Q: What water treatment system can get rid of the scale that builds up on my faucets and appliances?
A: As you probably know, there are minerals in Arizona’s hard water that cause scale to build up on plumbing and appliances. This scale can even shorten the useful life of your dishwasher, faucets and pipes. The main way to reduce hardness in water is by installing an ion-exchange system, better known as a water softener. It will remove hardness — the scale-forming calcium and magnesium — by replacing them with sodium chloride or potassium chloride.
There are other systems on the market that claim they can use alternative treatments like magnetic, catalytic, and electro-dialysis equipment to soften water. Some of these treatments can decrease scale slightly in appliances, but some will hardly affect scale at all. Tests done on those systems have not met the standards of the Water Quality Association, an international nonprofit that represents the residential, commercial and industrial water treatment industry.