Vinyl windows need different care

August 7, 2013 

Q: My patio enclosure has vinyl windows instead of glass, and I’ve been told not to use harsh cleaners like ammonia or Windex on them or it could cause them to become yellow or brittle. I’m wondering if you could recommend a vinyl cleaner. I tried a brand that is recommended for boat vinyl, but it caused smearing.

A: It’s kind of funny, I guess, but the products recommended online for cleaning vinyl windows are for Jeeps. Two that seem to appear most often are Clear View Plastic & Glass Cleaner and Plexus Plastic Cleaner Protectant & Polish.

First, don’t use paper towels or household cleaners such as bleach or ammonia, as you have noted. Here’s what is recommended on most of these sites: Use a clean, soft terry cloth or cotton rag to wash your windows. Wipe the windows from left to right or right to left to clean them. Use a clean, soft terry towel or cotton rag to dry the entire surface after washing. Rinse thoroughly to completely remove whatever cleaning agent you’ve used. Apply a protectant.

Q: Our master bath has a 6-inch ceramic-tile floor that needs to be replaced as the result of a less-than-stellar renovation that left a large scar on the floor. A Jacuzzi-style step-in bathtub was removed and replaced with a 60-inch shower. The replacement floor tiles were not matched up correctly, more like a cut and patch, and the result is not acceptable. Home Depot claims 12-inch vinyl tile squares can be laid over the existing ceramic floor by a professional, which would save us the cost of having all the ceramic tiles removed first. I am a little hesitant to go cheap for a second time. What is your opinion?

A: First, when you decide down the road to sell the house, buyers will universally pan your decision to go cheap — that’s if the vinyl floor is intact. Obviously, the person who scarred the floor when the Jacuzzi was removed and the shower was installed is not willing to return to redo his or her shoddy work. Or, am I to understand the person who did the work was homegrown, as we say? I’d redo the ceramic tile (I’ve done it myself a couple of times over the years) because you want a bathroom that is long on quality and short on shortcuts. Hire a professional and ask what he or she recommends.

Removing the current tile floor to replace it with new would be difficult if the underlayment was wet-bed but not if it was exterior plywood or WonderBoard or Durock. Even if the tile person were to lay something on top of the existing tile, he or she would likely use thinset or some other compound to level it. If you add another layer of anything to an existing floor, you raise it, even slightly, meaning thresholds and trim need to be adjusted. I’d spend the money to have it done correctly. You’ll be able to enjoy something that looks good and add to the value of your house instead of detract from it.

Q: We have a 100-plus-year-old twin house. We recently got a new neighbor next door who has a treadmill which he has placed on the second floor. When in use, the house shakes slightly and items on shelves on the first floor rattle slightly. We do have wall mounted shelves with some expensive items on them. Our fear is that the vibration from the treadmill may not be good for the structure of an old house. We put our exercise equipment in the basement for that reason. Is it likely to do any damage?

A: Talk with the neighbor and explain the situation, then call a structural engineer to see if the problem goes beyond it.

Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or

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