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Archive for August, 2015|Monthly archive page

Musty Crawlspaces / Weeping Weep Holes / Gutter Guards

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2015 at 10:08 am

Q:

I have crawl spaces with dirt floors that are open to my basement. The crawl spaces smell musty and are humid. I was considering a company to seal or put a concrete slab over the dirt in the crawlspace.

A:

Before you spend a lot of money, do the inexpensive and most effective corrective measures first.

I would still make sure the grade around the exterior is sloped away from the foundation walls.

Install a 6-mil visqueen over the entire crawl space floor. Overlap the vapor retarder and tape them together. Run the visqueen to the three exterior walls and up the walls at least 6 to 12 inches, secure them with mastic or wood strips. If you have heat ducts in the crawl spaces close and seal any exterior vents and thoroughly insulate the perimeter walls with R-19 insulation. Install openings in the ductwork on opposite ends of the crawl the size of floor vents in both the heat supply as well as the return ductwork. Your problem should be solved.

Q:

My weep holes are weeping! Our new house has had an issue with leakage in the chase from our direct vent fireplace resulting in tearing out the beautiful built-in library. The builder had new flashing installed and some of the lower weep holes removed from the exterior brickwork. Once again it leaked, and on my newly installed drywall (thankfully they hadn’t started the woodwork). The contractor who did the repair said the joints from the removal of the weep holes (which the stone mason did) were too large and allowed moisture to seep in from the mortar joints. They did put a sealer around the chase, which turns out to be a temporary fix (6 months to a year sealing effect). There are still some weep holes on the brick and now we hear that removing all the weep holes might even increase the problem of leaking. Our new library is beautiful and I don’t want to have this problem continue. Our builder has the mason coming out later this month and I need some guidance about weep holes. He does plan to have the entire chase re-sealed with an appropriate brick sealer that lasts longer than 6 months. He also placed a plastic tarp in the attic surrounding the chase just in case it did leak before the repairs. Sorry for the long explanation but I’m terrified of having the library wall and shelves ruined again. Any advice you can give me would be very appreciated. I am a faithful reader and have clipped many of your articles.

A:

I don’t necessarily believe the weep holes are the entire problem. I think the house wrap behind the bricks, as well as the flashing behind the weep holes are the cause of the leaking damage.

The weep holes are there to provide drainage of moisture that penetrates the brick and mortar if done properly, they should not leak.

Q:

A few years ago we had a plastic mesh covering installed in our gutters to help keep leaves out. Now I notice that snow tends to sit on top of the mesh obstructing making water flow over and not into the gutter. My husband thinks this is not a problem but I do.

A:

I am a big fan of leaf guards on gutters. I tested numerous types on my house to see which worked effectively. My lot is heavily treed and in the fall I would have to clean my gutters every week just to keep up with the maintenance.

What I discovered during the test surprised me. The screening and mesh that I thought would work did not. They all seemed to get snagged and obstructed with stems, twigs and pine needles, which in turn caused leaves to accumulate and the gutters to become almost ineffective.

The leaf guards that I originally thought could never work because they didn’t appear to have enough openings or slots to allow the rain to get into the gutters, worked great. They work through capillary action and for the most part, the leaves do indeed flow across them and onto the ground. Rarely do I need to hose them out to clean them.

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Cleaning Graffiti / Matching Mortar Color When Re-pointing Brick / Should Asphalt Driveways Be Sealed?

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2015 at 11:52 am

Q:

In our neighborhood, we have had a problem with kids who spray paint on brick buildings and our garages. We’ve tried paint remover but it didn’t work. Any recommendations?

A:

Don’t you just love those cute little kids that spray graffiti all over town? It is definitely not amusing when it comes to having to try and clean up after the mess they made.

There are removers on the market to get rid of graffiti. There are also removers for those kids too, but that’s illegal. A few products you can try are Zip Strip from Star-Bronze Company. You brush it on, let it sit for about 15-minutes and scrub off using a stiff brush.

But wait! If you can still “read the handwriting on the wall” try Zinsser Graffiti Remover and Stripper. It is an environmentally friendly remover that removes spray paint, magic marker, ink, crayon and other common household “graffiti” from surfaces. You can use it on painted surfaces, ceramic tile, porcelain, glass, laminates, enamels, metals, vinyl siding, concrete and brick, it quickly and completely removes paint, ink, tar, grease, adhesive residue and even labels. It is fast acting and works in three to ten minutes.

It’s also a great spot cleaner, which gently removes paint splatters, stains, smudges and scuffmarks without stripping down to the surface. The low odor, fast-acting, drip-free formula clings to the surface.

Check out your local paint and hardware stores for these products.

Q:

How do you match the color of the mortar when re-pointing old brick walls?

A:

You know why the three little pigs were safe from the big bad wolf? Good, clean brick work.

If you’re planning on re-pointing an old brick wall, don’t go colorblind. I’ve been asked numerous times if it’s possible to dye the new mortar to match the older mortar in a brick wall. Well, for all intents and purposes, I guess the bottom line is it’s not likely or even possible.

Those old house, left outdoors in the heat, humidity, cold, environmental debris as well as acids, have weathered your mortar that cannot be matched outside a laboratory.

Even if the older mortar were matched exactly in composition, the new mortar would look radically different if only because it’s clean. Here, the only answer is patience. Letting the toll of time and nature to blend the old and new. If you insist, you can resort to some temporary form of surface tinting. At all costs, avoid using color within the mortar itself. A colored mortar will provide a match, but only for a moment. The aging process will soon emphasize the inherent color differences that exist between the old and new. Instead of matching colors, you have actually placed side-by-side two substances of inherently different color characteristics, which with age, will only emphasize.

Q:

Should asphalt driveways be sealed?

A:

Asphalt driveways do require maintenance. Generally, the blacktop sealer should be applied every other year if the driveway is in good shape, but I recommend annual sealing if there are numerous cracks and damaged areas.

New asphalt should be sealed the first year. Sealing t prolongs the asphalt’s life by filling in cracks and coating the surface. Blacktop sealer generally costs anywhere from 20 to 30 dollars for approximately 5 gallons…. Like most home projects, the preparation is crucial to the success of the job. You should edge your driveway by cutting back the grass and weeds. Then scrape off all dirt, grease, oil, etc., and sweep it clean. It’s a good idea to wash the driveway when using some brands of sealers. The asphalt should be left damp, but without puddles.

You’re ready to apply the sealer now. Most products will require a thorough stirring. Pour it from one can into another, back and forth, for the best mixing. Then pour some sealer onto your driveway, using a push broom/squeegee combination (available also where you bought the sealer). Apply the sealer evenly in a thin coating. Most sealers should cover about 300 square feet.

If your driveway has a lot of minor cracks, use a sealer that contains filler. If it has just a few cracks, but a gallon of crack filler for about ten dollars and fill the cracks before sealing. And if you’re not all you’re cracked up to be, sorry, I can’t help you with that.

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