Q. Our garage floor is in need of some attention. It was poured in 1993 on a cold, damp day. It took a long time to dry, and the guys (unfortunately, carpenters -- not real concrete guys) kept troweling it over and over. It is solid but very rough and very porous.
Shortly after it was done, I had a regular concrete guy look at it. His analysis was that they "overworked" it because they became impatient when it didn't set up quickly enough. He commented that I needed to seal or otherwise do something with the floor. He is long retired, so this is no attempt on his part to get work.
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At the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show, I saw a variety of epoxy-based products for this purpose. I know that you do not endorse any particular company, but I'd like to know which of these products in general you prefer. We seemed to like the look of the ones that are composed of small river gravel stone.
Last night I found a product online called SpreadStone. The video simply showed it being troweled on from the can. Others like NatureStone had the small pebbles. I use a concrete sealer on the driveway every couple of years, but this would do nothing to enhance the appearance of the garage floor. I don't mind some extra cost for longevity.
A. I have not seen any jobs done with either of the products you mention so, although they look good, I can't tell you whether they will stand up to the traffic of cars, as well as salt from vehicles in winter.
There are also other brands you may want to look at, such as Elite Crete Systems, among others.
Q. My son has a 38-year-old split-level home. The part over the kitchen, living and dining rooms has a cathedral ceiling.
In August 2010, he had a new roof put on, and the roofer installed a continuous roof vent over the cathedral ceiling. I do not think this is right. Before he did the job, I told him not to do that. He said "OK" but did it anyway.
Is this wrong? Should it be corrected to put a roof cap on? The garage and other parts of the house have a cap.
A. The answers to your questions depend on several things: the depth of the cathedral ceiling rafters; the type and thickness of the insulation between the rafters; whether there is an unobstructed airspace between the insulation and the roof sheathing so air can flow between the soffit vents (assuming there are soffit vents) and the new ridge vent; the type of ceiling finish; and whether a plastic vapor retarder was stapled to the bottom of the rafters.
If there are no soffit vents, the ridge vent is useless.
Q. We seem to find silverfish in almost every room in our house. Is there a product that keeps them away?
A. Silverfish are found indoors and out, including basements, crawl spaces and attics. They like warm temperature and moisture and are active at night. They feed on a variety of carbohydrates and protein, including paper and natural fibers.
Residual sprays or dust in cracks and crevices, along baseboards and in furniture may be helpful. Check for an appropriate product listed for silverfish and firebrats in hardware stores.
The better approach is to contact a local, family-owned pest control firm, whose owners will know what works best in your climate and where to apply sprays or dust.
Q. What bathroom ceiling fans do you use to eliminate moisture problems in a small bathroom? My house is old (built in 1947). The bathroom is about 6-by-8 feet, and the fan sits centrally in the ceiling, just outside the shower. I've put in three different fans over the years, and the ceiling continues to blister and peel even after my very exceptional painter has repaired it. In fact, a new ceiling was placed about seven years ago.
I can manage it alone (one fast shower with the door ajar), but when family is home visiting, the problem is unbelievable, with a 1-foot-square area blistering here and there, moisture visible on the ceiling and running down the walls. Once it all dries out, the ceiling settles flat again. Any suggestions?
A. The problem may not be with the fan, but with its ducting and termination. If the duct has sharp bends and/or a lower section between the fan and its exhaust, it may be full of condensation and not able to draw moisture from the bathroom.
The exhaust jack, if on an outside wall, may be stuck, or an animal (bird, squirrel, mouse, etc.) may have built a nest in the duct.
You should have the duct and its exhaust checked. If all is found to be functioning properly, you may want to have an electrician check the cfm (cubic feet per minute) of the fan. It may be too low, and a new, higher-power fan may need to be installed.
As for the peeling paint, it sounds as if there has been inadequate surface preparation between coats. If this is the case, all weak coats will have to be removed to repaint with a solid surface. It would also be best to use a high-gloss paint.
Since you had a new ceiling put it, we can rule out calcimine paint, which may have been the problem before the new ceiling was done.
Q. We had 20-inch porcelain tile installed throughout our foyer, front hallway, kitchen and laundry room about two years ago. The installer has since moved to Canada. Most of the tile looks great, but in some places the grout just will not stay in. I have had someone from a grout company come out several times, and he has tried his best (he has even used some silicone in the grout), but invariably the grout falls out again in less than a month.
I understand that the installation may not have been correct and that there may be some movement, which cracks the grout. However, short of removing the tiles and starting all over, is there anything else we can do?
A. It sounds as if there is movement of the substrate onto which the tiles were laid. Masonry is not very forgiving, and floor tiles must be installed on a very solid base.
Consider having an experienced contractor check the floors and suggest a remedy. If there is access from below, a floor can be reinforced without damaging the tiles, but if there isn't, the contractor may be able to see another way to strengthen the floor. Otherwise, the tiles may need to be removed to correct any weakness.
Q. My husband and I are considering the purchase of a 1926 "New Englander" style home with asbestos siding. We think this could be a beautiful house with wood siding. Do you have any idea what it would cost to remove asbestos siding from a house and then re-side with wood?
A. The asbestos siding must be removed by people trained in its removal and disposal. It is likely to be quite expensive.
A 1926 house is likely to be poorly insulated, so once the asbestos is removed, you may want to consider having the walls checked for the type and thickness of any insulation within their cavities. If there is none or if the insulation is very minimal, cellulose can be blown in. Then consider having 1-inch-thick rigid insulation added to the sheathing, followed by one of the products available to provide a rain screen, before installing wood siding. Be sure the wood siding is primed on all sides before installation.
To get prices on these phases of the work, contact an environmental firm for the asbestos and an experienced contractor for the rest. There is no way I can tell you what it would cost to get this done in your area.
Q. I have Wilson Pergo flooring in my bedroom. The floor has been holding up well, but it is so dull, and I would like to get a shine to it. I am 88 years old and have some small rugs on the floor with rubber backing that have been working very well, as my house is on a crawl space. Getting up at night the floor is cold, so I like having the runners on the floor.
I have been thinking of having my cleaning lady wash the floor well and apply a thin coat of anti-slip floor wax. I am hesitant about any wax, as many of my friends have fallen in their homes. I researched waxes on the Internet, and the only anti-slip I can find is Lundmark.
A. If you are sure your laminate floor is a Wilsonart product, it is not a Pergo floor. Pergo is one of several other manufacturers of laminate flooring.
All laminate floors are manufactured pretty much the same. Their inner core layer is a composition of fiberboard materials and melamine resin. A photographic layer is appliquéd on that, then topped by a clear protective layer. Laminate flooring can simulate wood or other finishes such as stone.
Although their protective layer is quite tough and durable, all laminate floors must be kept clean to prevent scratching or other damage to the surface. Water and other liquids must be mopped up right away because they can cause the floor planks to curl. Never use a wet mop when cleaning.
The use of most commercial cleaners is not recommended, and soaps, wax and detergents are definitely not, as they may leave a film that dulls the floor. This may be your problem. Additionally, laminate floors must never be polished, sanded or refinished.
If you are sure your laminate floor is by Wilsonart, the company's recommended cleaning method is a terry-cloth mop and 2 ounces of Wilsonart Flooring Cleaner per gallon of warm water. Follow the directions on the container.
A safe way to clean any laminate floor is to mix 1 gallon of water as hot as you can stand without burning your hands with 1 cup vinegar or one-half cup ammonia. Apply it with a well-wrung mop or a well-squeezed sponge. Then buff the floor immediately with a dry towel, which you can do by shuffling your feet in a little dance.
• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012, United Feature Syndicate Inc.