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Thu, Oct. 17

Ask the Contractor: Keep granite countertops looking new

Question: How do I care for my granite countertops and how often should I seal my granite? - Connie in Prescott

Answer (by Dee Spitler, owner, The Granite Shop): We suggest you clean stone surfaces with a few drops of PH-neutral stone cleaner (available at local granite shops), or you can use a mild dishwashing detergent and warm water, using a soft cloth for best results. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks. Rinse the surface thoroughly after washing with a soap solution. Do not use scouring powders or creams; these products contain abrasives that may scratch the surface.

Granite is a very durable surface. In fact, it is the hardest of the polished stones commercially available. However, granite is porous, which makes it susceptible to stains. Granite must be sealed so that it can repel liquids and retain its beauty for years to come. Once sealed, granite is relatively stain-resistant.

To keep your sealed granite looking new, remember these simple tips:

• Oil is especially hard on granite. Anytime you fry foods on your stove, put down kitchen towels on the surrounding granite to protect it from spattered oil.

• Annual cleaning and resealing is recommended.

• Wipe down your countertops after use. Dust and grit act as sandpaper and wear down the finish. Only use a product that is specifically formulated for granite to clean your countertops.

• Be careful of foods and drinks that contain acids; these may dull the surface.

• Remember to use trivets or mats under hot dishes and placemats under china, ceramics, silver or other objects.

Most granite shops apply a quality penetrating sealing at the time of installation.

Question: I want a room addition that will include windows, flooring, HVAC, insulation, electrical, paint and drywall. What type of contractor do I need? -Neil in Prescott Valley

Answer (by State of Arizona Registrar of Contractors): The State of Arizona Registrar of Contractors grants a license to an individual or company based on several conditions. One of the conditions is "Classification of license; Contracting business." The purpose of this license classification allows these individuals to perform work on structures and make improvements based on their classification and scope of work. All classifications require special skills that involve the use of specialized construction trades or crafts. You need to hire a contractor who has a B or B-3 license classification, which gives the contractor the right to perform construction of all or any part of a residential structure except for electrical, plumbing, mechanical, boilers, swimming pools or spas and roofing, which must be subcontracted to an appropriately licensed contractor. The work you are asking for requires a General Contractor classification. The "Rules and Workmanship Standards for Licensed Contractors" guidelines are on the ROC website.

Question: How do I open a double-hung window that's painted shut? - Rich in Prescott Valley

Answer (by Rob, owner, Discount Home Service): Cut through the paint film where the window stop meets the sash. Spray a lubricant into the track between the sash and the stops on each side of the window, and then push up on the sash to raise it. If this does not work, go to the outside and insert a flat pry bar between the windowsill and sash on one side and pry upward. Once the window is open, spray additional lubricant in the track on both sides to maintain smooth sliding. This should open your window to enjoy our nice evenings we are having at this time of the year.

Question: How much does orientation of PV (photovoltaic) solar cells affect their efficiency? - Gary in Prescott Valley

Answer (by Rich Luke of American Solar): Even north-facing solar cells catch a decent amount of solar. And putting panels on east or west roof pitches is a pretty good option. To make up for the lower efficiency, you just add a couple more panels. Housing and the environment connect 100 percent of maximum annual collection with a south face, 94 percent at a southeast face, 77 percent at an east face, 54 percent at a northeast face and 42 percent at a north face. Installation of tracking devices to follow the sun is probably not worth the extra money. You might possibly be gaining about 2 percent at best.

Question: What is the best color shingle to use for energy savings? - Pat in Prescott Valley

Answer (by Roger Barton of Badger Roofing): It is a well-documented fact that lighter-colored roofing shingles can reduce cooling loads by as much as 30 percent. But we know that the obstacle is often consumer resistance: Homeowners simply do not like white roofs. There are new reflective shingles on the market that help jump this psychological hurdle. These dark shingles are made with special granules that reflect sunlight and radiate heat, reducing heat gain by as much as 20 percent.

Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities, and can be reached at 778-0040 or www.ycca.org. Submit your questions and concerns to ycca@cableone.net.

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