Ask the Remodeler: A bathroom floor option to cushion falls

Ask the Expert Home Improvement
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Q. My wife has syncope (a temporary loss of consciousness caused by a fall in blood pressure). As a result, I’m thinking of subbing out the ceramic tile in the bathroom for a softer floor. What are your thoughts on using 3/8-inch foam rubber tiles? Grab bars won’t help; she faints too fast. Any other ideas would be appreciated.


A. I can understand the need to cushion the floor, but you shouldn’t remove the ceramic tile. You need it to keep water from the tub/shower from getting to the subfloor. Instead, I would consider rubber mats that can be removed, cleaned, and dried out. There are quite a few products on the market for home use, including interlocking rubber floor pads that would give good traction/cushioning and are also easy to remove and clean.


Q. In one of your columns, you recommend never using metal to reline a flue in a wood-burning fireplace (“Ask the Remodeler: How to level off a garage to convert it into an office,’’ Aug. 8). I have an unlined chimney that’s about 90 years old and leaks into the firebox of our wood-burning fireplace. One mason installed a chain-operated flap, which didn’t help. Another mason “waterproofed’’ the chimney, but it still leaks. I know I should have the chimney lined, and several masons have recommended a metal one. I’ve also had proposals to repoint the chimney (I can see where the mortar has failed), but I want to stop the leaks, which no one will guarantee. What is the problem with a metal liner in a wood-burning fireplace? Corrosion? What is the relining system where cement is used? What do you recommend?

J.B., Jamaica Plain

A. While we would never have installed a metal liner for a wood-burning fireplace, there are some schools of thought within the industry that say it is OK if you use stainless steel and install it properly. However, they are expensive and do nothing to strengthen a chimney like a cast-in-place cement system will. The leak could be coming in from the chimney crown or top, failed mortar around the sides, or at the flashing where it connects to the roof or side of the house.

My recommendations: Have a mason inspect and, if necessary, repair and seal the crown. Next, have the mason grind out and repoint as necessary, using a lime-based mortar if the bricks are old water-struck ones. Next, if the mason is not up to it, have a roofer reflash the chimney where it connects to the house using an ice and water shield, new step flashing, and new lead flashing. The chimney flashing is where we see a lot of leaks. Taking care of those three things should stop any leaking. Again, our recommendation is a cast-in-place liner to truly strengthen the chimney, but you can consider a sprayed one or a properly installed stainless-steel liner.

Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at Follow us on FacebookLinkedInInstagram, and Twitter @globehomes.