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Home&Real Estate OPEN HOME GUIDE 54 Also online at Home Front TIME TO TIDY UP ... Palo Alto will hold a Household Hazardous Waste Day on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Water Quality Control Plant, 2501 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto. Residents may drop off up to 125 pounds or 15 gallons of old paint, paint thinner, gasoline, pool chemicals, bleach — or asbestos, propane tanks or household injection needles. Not accepted: ammo, controlled substances, motor oil and antifreeze, car batteries or cooking oil and grease. Information (and complete list of what’s acceptable and what’s not): www. UPKEEP FOR EICHLERS FAST AND COMFY ... Yannette Fichou Edwards, owner of Culinary Events catering, will teach a class on preparing “Healthy, Fast Comfort Food!” on Tuesday, Nov. 8, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Palo Alto High School, Room 103, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto. The class, through demonstration, participation and sampling, focuses on healthier versions of favorite comfort foods, including Sinless Scalloped Potatoes, Warm Cabbage Salad and Chicken Saltimboca. Cost is $50; bring containers for leftovers. Information: 650-3293752 or FREE FABRIC ... The next FabMo free fabric distribution event is Thursday, Nov. 10, 4:30 to 8 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 11, 8:30 a.m. to 6 (continued on page 44) Send notices of news and events related to real estate, interior design, home improvement and gardening to Home Front, Palo Alto Weekly, P.O. Box 1610, Palo Alto, CA 94302, or e-mail cblitzer@paweekly. com. Deadline is Thursday at 5 p.m. BY K A RL A K A NE INSULATION DIVIDING PLANTS ... UC Master Gardeners Kathy Ormison and Sheri Bakun will give a free talk on “Plants for Free: Dividing Ornamental Perennials and Grasses” on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 to 11 a.m. The talk takes place in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, 851 Center Drive, Palo Alto, where they will demonstrate dividing and replanting, harvesting cool-season vegetables, planting shallots, and pruning and cutting back the garden. Information: Master Gardeners at 408282-3105, between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday or RAINWATER HARVESTING ... A free “Rainwater Harvesting Workshop” will be offered in partnership with Acterra, GreenTown Los altos and the Los Altos History Museum on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Redwood Grove, 482 University Ave., Los Altos. The workshop will deal with how to design and construct a rainwater collection system and how to harvest the rain for watering in the garden. Information: Register at AS EICHLER HOMES AGE, SPECIALIZED MAINTENANCE MAY BE REQUIRED FLAT ROOFS SINGLE-PANED WINDOWS Eichler wear and tear RADIANT HEATING Veronica Weber GAS PIPES UNDER SLAB FOUNDATIONS Typical weak spots for mid-century Eichlers include failures in non-copper piping in radiant heating, replacing (or covering) single-paned windows and doors, adding insulation and dealing with flat roofs. E ichler homes — those mid-century marvels with huge windows, open floor plans and clean lines — are prevalent in Palo Alto, especially in the Greenmeadow, Palo Verde and Fairmeadow neighborhoods, and surrounding communities. Eichler fans can be very passionate about their houses and West Coast aesthetic but do the homes, known for their plentiful natural light, have a dark side as they age? Lisa Knox, a Realtor with Midtown Realty, is an Eichler expert. “I speak Eichler,” she said. She and her family have lived in their Palo Alto Eichler for five years and are currently undergoing a major remodel. The majority of homes Knox sells are Eichlers, too, so she’s familiar with the benefits and potential pitfalls. Eichler homes were cutting-edge when they were designed in the 1950s and ’60s but half a century later they can suffer wear and tear like any older buildings, she said. One of the most noteworthy features of an Eichler design is its radiant heating — a system of pipes that circulate hot water from within the concrete slab floors, warming the house from the ground up. It’s a “luxurious” and efficient way to heat, Knox said, but it can be a hassle if the system goes awry. While houses built years before and after the Korean War had heating systems made with copper pipes, those built during the war period were done with galvanized-steel pipes instead. Steel, Knox said, corrodes, causing the system to fail. Completely replacing the radiant heating can be quite pricey, she said, estimating costs of more than $30,000 for the heating system alone, not including the expense of jackhammering through, then replacing, the home’s floors. Some Eichler purists find the replacement worth it. Other, less invasive options do exist, however. Knox’s own home, built in 1954, was done with steel pipes, which did corrode and fail. The previous owners chose to install a valance heating system, with pipes running overhead, instead. Another choice is to install heating pipes in the baseboards. Installing a furnace (for central heating) or an air-conditioning unit to an Eichler, she said, is awkward, as there’s no designated space for them. The Eichlers built with copper pipes have heating systems more likely to stand the test of time. Copper pipes don’t corrode so they could “almost go indefinitely,” she said, though homeowners may have to be willing to have a contractor go through part of the floor to check the system for leaks or perform maintenance periodically. Companies specializing in radiant heating are available to perform such maintenance and repair on copper-pipe systems. Coldwell Banker, Los Altos, Realtor Elena Talis has remodeled her own Eichler three times (twice to expand to fit her growing family and once because of flood damage), and assists clients in readying Eichlers for sale. She’s a radiant-heat fan, calling it much healthier than forced-air heat- ing because of the reduction in dust and allergens, and the original system in her home is still going strong. However, she said original blueprints exist for Greenmeadow homes, which allow William Lipp of Lipp Hydronics to fix leaks with relative ease and limited intrusion. “When it works right it’s great but it’s always more expensive to repair than a forced-air system,” said Dan Salzberg of Salzberg’s Radiant Heating Service. He estimated repairs at between $500 and $1,500. To replace a system, “you probably would spend a minimum $20,000 to $40,000 or more,” he said, while a valance or baseboard system could cost a bit less. Eichlers also come with slab foundations (rather than crawl spaces or basements), which make it more difficult to access underground gas pipes. In 2010, an Eichler home on Maureen Avenue in Palo Alto literally exploded due to a gas leak under the slab, prompting the city to put out a “Gas Safety Information for Homes with Slab Foundations” memo (available at “Gas pipes running under homes with slab foundations ... can be exposed to surrounding soil which may increase their potential for corrosion, leading to a gas leak,” Palo Alto Utilities representative Debra Katz wrote in an email. But she emphasized that corrosion is only one potential cause of gas leaks and that such situations are rare. “There is no reason for the owner of a slab (continued on page 43) *>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞÊUÊ œÛi“LiÀÊ{]ÊÓ䣣ÊU Page 41

Palo Alto Weekly 11.04.2011 - Section 2

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