Dryer vents can create winter drafts

The Associated Press
Friday December 01, 2000

Q: We are trying to tighten up our home for the winter and are tracking down and eliminating sources of drafts. The doors and windows were no problem, but we noticed a bad draft coming from our clothes dryer vent. What’s the best way to handle this situation? 

A: An open dryer vent leading to the outside of the house can be a significant source of drafts in winter and windy weather.  

If yours is an electric dryer, check with a heating expert about the possibility of connecting the dryer vent to the furnace return duct, thus saving the heat generated by the dryer which is otherwise wasted out the vent.  

Do not vent the dryer directly into the laundry area, as dryer air is damp and you risk an indoor condensation problem. Gas dryers should remain vented to the outdoors. 

To seal off the dryer vent permanently or for occasional use, merely disconnect the flexible dryer exhaust pipe from the wall opening and pack the opening with fiberglass insulation.  

Enclose the insulation in a small muslin sack if it is to be removed often. Remove the insulation and reconnect the pipe each time you use the dryer. 

Q: We had to trim the bottom of our hollow-core door so that it would clear new carpeting we had installed. We tried not to damage the veneer on the door as we first scored the cut line with a sharp utility knife guided by a straightedge.  

In spite of this, we did break away some of the surface. What’s the best way to fix this? 

A: To fix the splintered area of the veneer, you’ll need to first lift the broken wood away from the door with a putty knife, and then apply glue to resecure the veneer. Use a small tube of white carpenter’s glue, or buy a glue injector with a needle applicator at a wallcovering store.  

The needle applicator will let you reach well under the veneer without damaging any delicate slivers of wood. After applying the glue, clamp the area until the glue dries.  

Use a strip of wood as a clamping pad to distribute the pressure evenly, and cover the veneer with a piece of scrap plastic sheeting to prevent the wood strip from becoming glued to the door. 

When the glue has dried, remove the clamp and apply a coat of latex wood patcher. The latex patcher shrinks a bit when it dries so you may need to repeat this process once or twice to achieve a level surface.  

Avoid spreading the patcher beyond the repaired area. When the latex patcher is dry, sand with fine sandpaper. Use a sanding block to ensure that the surface stays flat. Check the job for smoothness by gently sliding your hand across the surface. 

If the door was originally stained and varnished, buy a stain that matches the original color. if you have a scrap piece of the veneer, bring it to the store to help make an accurate color match. Apply the stain and wipe it with a soft cloth to blend it with the existing finish. After the stain has dried, apply a finish coat of varnish to the area. 

To submit a question, write to Popular Mechanics, Reader Service Bureau, 224 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The most interesting questions will be answered in a future column.