Q. I have a ranch home with a full basement in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. The home was built in the mid 1950s. Over the past several years, I have noticed, just below the siding, the foundation is crumbling. The width of the problem is about 4 feet. I don't see it happening anywhere else along the foundation. This area also happens to be where the outside faucet is located. I don't believe that it is leaking in any way, however. I'm not sure if it's coincidence or part of the problem. Please see the attached photos.
I have two questions. First, what do you think is happening and, second, who would I contact to help fix the problem?
A. Thank you for the photos, but I wish you had also sent a photo an area not affected by the scaling, as well as one showing the area where the outside faucet, known as a hose bibb, is.
It is possible the hose bibb is responsible if there is an undetected slow leak or there has been heavy condensation over many months, if the faucet was turned on for long periods of time to water the lawn, for example. The old 1950s concrete may have been saturated and its weak surface is scaling off. Winter frost may have also contributed to the scaling.
I also see there are concrete pavers tight against the foundation, forming a sort of walkway. Would there be a roof design in that area that causes roof water to back splash from these pavers onto the damaged foundation, saturating that area?
A masonry contractor would be the best person to call to fix the problem, but you should also make sure there is no leak from that faucet or the problem may recur over time. A licensed plumber can determine if there is one.
Q. I'm writing because I need advice on how to get an oil smell out of the basement. Our tank had a slow leak into the concrete floor. We've since had the tank removed and converted to natural gas. But the oil smell continues. We want to sell and think we had better get rid of the smell.
I bought a product called Nok Out. Have you heard of it? Do you recommend something different? Can I seal the concrete after using Nok Out?
A. I assume you have been successful in removing the oil stain on the floor because you do not ask how to do it.
Nok-Out is a very successful odor eliminator, but to accomplish this, it needs to come in contact with the source of the offending odor, which is the area of the oil spill. The oil has penetrated deeply into the concrete over time, as concrete is somewhat porous.
Since you already have Nok-Out, try spraying it copiously on that spot. It may take several applications.
Or, if this does not do it, you may want to try the process described below for Magic Zymes, another very effective odor eliminator.
Be aware that Nok-Out has a bleach-base, whereas Magic Zymes is environmentally safer, containing all-natural ingredients, which makes it safer to use everywhere, according to the manufacturer.
The best and most effective way to eliminate the oil odor from the concrete, if simply spraying has not been successful, is to buy modeling clay in an arts store, build a dam about 1-inch high around the area of the stain and pour Magic Zymes to a depth of about a one-quarter inch in the dammed area. Let it evaporate, which may take several weeks. This should do it, but if the odor is not completely gone, repeat the process.
Buy Magic Zymes online, www.magic-zymes.com, or call the toll-free number, (866) 478-2368. If you buy one gallon, which you will need, shipping is free.
Q. Thanks for all the advice I have gotten from reading your column. We are on a private well and septic. At times the water in the toilet tanks seems to get quite dirty, hence the toilet bowl gets dirty. I will clean both the tank and toilet and it will stay clean for a while, but gets dirty again. I use the Clorox tabs in the tank and they seem to help a little. Any suggestions?
A. If you do not have a rust and sediment filter on your main water line, consider having a licensed plumber install one. You will have to change the filter cartridges every so often, depending on the amount of sediment the well pump draws out.
You may also want to ask whoever installed the submersible pump or your plumber to check that the pump is not too close to the bottom of the well, stirring soil.
Q. During a kitchen remodel in 2015, I had a contractor install a few new appliances. Recently, a screw fell into my dishwasher (see attached picture). My wife pointed out a scratch area on the top of the dishwasher door. I traced the scratch to its logical origin and discovered a missing screw on the bracket that secures the dishwasher to the underside of my quartz countertop. It seems to have been working itself loose over time, scratching the top of the door and eventually falling off. The installation guide states that " when dealing with a stone countertop, anchor the dishwasher on the sides (it's a Bosch). The contractor who installed the appliance did not follow the instructions as stated. My issue is: "What now?" Should I epoxy the hole, redrill and remount the screw to the underside of the countertop, or remove the other screw, epoxy both holes and secure the dishwasher on its sides (which would require drilling holes in the cabinetry)? Is this a DIY activity?
A. Yes, it would be safer in the long run to follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.
The two screw holes are undoubtedly sealed by the door when it is closed, so no water can get into them. There should be no need to epoxy them, but there is nothing wrong about doing it.
The photo you have sent shows a screw that is one-half inch long, so it is short enough not to go through the side walls of the adjacent cabinetry, which is most likely five-eights to three-quarters of an inch thick, depending on the material used.
But if you don't feel competent to do the job yourself, consider calling the contractor who did the original installation and insist that he or she send someone to do it as instructed in the installation manual -- and at no cost to you!
• Henri de Marne, a former remodeling contractor turned columnist and consultant, is the author of "About the House with Henri de Marne" (Upper Access Publishing). He continues to take questions from readers for this column and his website, www.henridemarne.com. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.