Question: Two years after apartment renovations, there are cracks in the taping where the drywall meets the existing wall and ceiling, and where two pieces of drywall were joined horizontally to reach the ceiling or vertically to the next piece of drywall. Can this be fixed?

Answer: Woodbury contractor Jay Cipriani says poor installation is a likely cause. The drywall compound, or "mud," into which the paper tape was embedded wasn't wet enough to bond the paper to the drywall.

In new construction, studs used to frame walls and ceilings often are left outdoors and may be wet when used. As the studs dry, the movement might loosen the tape, just as it "pops" drywall nails and screws. This is not new construction, however, so the drywaller's technique is probably at fault.

The solution, sadly, is to remove the tape and redo the joints, he says. If you simply taped over the joints, the loose material underneath would remain and the cracks would likely reappear.

"Usually, the loose tape will come right off when you pull it," he says. Unlike wallpaper, paper tape doesn't have an adhesive, so there is little danger of damaging the drywall underneath.

Signs of the season. With all the talk of H1N1, the manufacturer of FirstAlert detectors emphasizes that carbon-monoxide poisoning can cause symptoms closely resembling the flu, such as nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Besides installing detectors, precautions should include annual inspections and servicing of furnaces, central heating units, and water heaters by professionals. There are others, of course. Check out, the Web site for the Centers for Disease Control.

More signs. The holiday decorating frenzy began just after the last trick-or-treaters departed for the year, but there's still plenty of time to deck those halls safely.

The not-for-profit CSA International, which tests and certifies products, recommends inspecting light strings each year and discarding any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders, or loose connections. In addition, never tack or staple lighting strings or extension cords to any surface; never run electrical cords through doorways or under carpets and rugs, and always turn off holiday lights when you leave the house unattended or when going to bed.


Saving energy. Tom Kraeutler, host of The Money Pit syndicated radio show, recommends plugging power-draining computers and electronic equipment into a power strip with a switch, so they can all be easily turned off when not in use. Another tip: Add a sweater and lower the thermostat. For every degree you lower your thermostat, you may be able to save 5 percent on heating costs.


Going solar. If you have been considering harnessing the sun's rays, San Francisco-based SunRun suggests first checking to see if there are good rebates available to you. Every homeowner who goes solar gets a tax credit from the federal government, but some states and utilities provide more rebates than others. To find out whether your state and utility provide rebates, you can call your utility or visit its Web site for more information on solar.


When is enough ... enough? If you are planning to paint indoors in coming weeks, you'll need to figure out much of it you'll need to buy in advance of the job.

Paint manufacturer Dunn-Edwards Corp. of Los Angeles has a design center on its Web site that will help you figure it out.

More: Click on "Paint Center."