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HOUSE WORKS: Tankless water heaters for well water?; how to fix your countertop


Gas-fired tankless water heaters like this one can heat water regardless of how cold the supply is. Proper sizing of the unit is key to reliable performance. - Robert Maxwell
Gas-fired tankless water heaters like this one can heat water regardless of how cold the supply is. Proper sizing of the unit is key to reliable performance. - Robert Maxwell

Q and A

Tankless heater with well?

Q: Is it true that tankless water heaters aren’t suitable for well water? I’ve heard this water is too cold and tankless models can’t keep up.

A: I’ve heard this claim too, but I know for certain that it’s untrue because of my personal experience. Well water may be somewhat colder than water that comes from municipal supplies, but the right size of tankless heater will work just fine. I have a tankless heater on a well here at a second house on my property and it works perfectly. In fact, during winter the water coming into the heater is actually colder than typical well water because of the situation. Water travels through a pipe in shallow soil from the well and is just barely kept from freezing by a heating cable on a thermostat. The water is only 3ºC or 4ºC, but the heating performance is perfect.

The only issue with well water on a tankless heater is the need to clean the heat exchanger more often if the water is hard. You’ll need some kind of a pump to force vinegar through the heat exchanger to dissolve the mineral buildup every six months or so, but this kind of thing is a necessary maintenance step no matter where a tankless heater is used. All this said, some people do have problems with tankless heaters that are too small for the job. When too much hot water is demanded from a tankless, you’ll get warm water, not hot. As long as a tankless is big enough for the application, it’ll be able to heat water properly from any source.

Deck finish postponed

Q: Will my new mahogany deck be ruined by going through the winter without a finish? We’ve just had new floorboards installed on our wrap-around front porch, but cold weather set in before we could get a finish applied. I’ve been told that mahogany should not be sanded because it closes wood pores and the finish can’t get a grip. Is this true?

A: The good news is that your wood won’t suffer any permanent damage during winter. When things do warm up, I’d pressure wash with water, then sand with a 60-grit abrasive in a six-inch random orbit sander. Australian timber oil would be a good choice for finishing, but you will have to reapply about every year. The good news is that there’s no peeling when using an oil. Just clean the surface and reapply. Sanding with fine abrasives will close the pores of any wood, and that’s not good for finish durability. But sanding with a 60- or 80-grit abrasive opens the pores and boost finish life. Don’t finish your deck without sanding.

Delaminated countertop fix

This plastic laminate countertop had a delamination problem that was solved with heat and pressure applied to reactivate the glue and secure the laminate. - Steve Maxwell
This plastic laminate countertop had a delamination problem that was solved with heat and pressure applied to reactivate the glue and secure the laminate. - Steve Maxwell

Q: What can I do about an area of laminate countertop that’s delaminating from the wood underneath? We had this countertop made by a local handyman, and a one-and-a-half-inch-long area of laminate is loose along an angled corner seam.

A: I’ve had good luck with an approach you should try. It involves heat. Get a clothes iron and set it to a moderately high temperature, then warm the area of the delamination. Laminates like yours are held down with contact cement, and sometimes it’s possible to reactivate the cement with heat. Don’t scorch the laminate, of course, but get it as hot as you can under the protection of the cloth. Have a piece of wood handy to place over the heated section, then lots of weight on top of the wood. Some rocks or exercise weights would we good. Leave the whole thing to cool completely, then a few hours more after that. This method has worked for me a few times.

Steve Maxwell is a syndicated home improvement and woodworking columnist who has shared his DIY tips, how-to videos and product reviews since 1988.

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