Time is an important factor when considering home repairs
Q. I enjoy your column each week and have learned a lot from it. I am a single senior citizen who owns her own home. When I need work performed, I will get at least two quotes. I am retired and do not have a lot of money for repairs.
I have resealed both my asphalt driveway and sidewalk every two years to keep them from cracking. I have been told multiple ways to fix my driveway problem, so I am requesting an opinion from you.
The sidewalk and driveway were completely dug up with the sidewalk given a 3-inch rock base. This was done in 1997 at a cost of $2,000. I can't even imagine the price today.
The sidewalk is worse than the driveway. The two options I have been given are:
• Reseal again in the springtime.
• Dig up and reinstall the sidewalk as in 1997.
I need to do the easiest solution for me as I only plan on being able to continue living here for another five to 10 years before I will have to sell and move closer to my family. It even may be sooner.
The house is in excellent condition, as everything was updated, including a new roof, before I retired.
A. The two photos you have sent appear to show what is called alligator cracking.
There are several causes of alligator cracking, and it is not possible for me to determine the causes by looking at the photos. It would have been helpful to have a full view of the entire driveway and walk, as the layout of the cracks can help identify the cause.
Alligator cracking may be caused by a poor base (what was the base for the driveway?), separation of the top asphalt coat from the base, weather and loads placed upon the asphalt, etc. To get an independent opinion, you would need to have a professional engineer experienced in asphalt driveways check yours out.
However, the cracks showing on your photos appear to be minor, and may have been caused by the sealer being applied in too thick coats or too often. A sealer should not be reapplied until signs of wear are visible.
At this point, and considering that you are planning to be in your house for only a few years, I would opt for resealing the driveway with a coal tar or acrylic polymer sealer -- the latter being more costly, but better environmentally.
Be aware that sealers must be applied in very thin layers and in hot weather. If needed, apply a second coat after the first one has thoroughly cured, but no more than two.
Q. I own a house that has an attached 12-foot-by-24-foot garage with a concrete slab roof. The slab roof is also used as an uncovered deck that we use quite a bit.
The slab is in relatively good condition and is supported below by a steel beam across the garage at the halfway point. However, there are a few cracks in the slab and along the side of the house, and when it rains, some water leaks into the garage below. It is not a lot of water, but more of a nuisance, causing lime water spots on my car and some garden equipment that I store there.
We have attempted to patch the largest crack, but the patch just chips off. I have talked to a few local paint suppliers and DIY stores, and nobody seems to be able to recommend a paint or coating product that can help solve my problem. One guy I talked to recommended putting on a rubber roof, with outdoor carpet over it. I'd rather paint the deck with some sort of coating.
Whatever coating I would use would have to be durable enough for footwear and sliding chairs, etc. Would epoxy work? Do you have any ideas?
A. Probably your best option, if there is enough clearance under the threshold of the door to the concrete deck, is to cover the deck with a rubber roof membrane and to cover that with a wood deck.
You would need a minimum of 3 inches between the door threshold and the concrete deck. The rubber membrane will need to be applied over a soft cushion to prevent chafing.
Once the rubber membrane is installed, 2-inch-by-4-inch pressure-treated sleepers are placed flat, 24 inches on center in line with the drainage slope of the deck, if there is such a slope. The sleepers should not be fastened to the concrete with anything that would puncture the membrane.
Finally, regular pressure-treated deck boards (5/4-inch by 6-inch) are screwed to the sleepers with special deck screws that are resistant to the chemicals in the wood. Be sure that the screws do not go through the sleepers and puncture the membrane.
If there isn't enough clearance, you may have to remove the chipping patch, caulk all the cracks with polyurethane caulking and paint the deck with an epoxy paint.
Q. Last winter my wife and I were staying in a first-floor rental condo in southwest Florida. A sprinkler company employee opened a valve on the exterior water system without turning off the water to the building. The result was that water at 200 psi shot up into the soffit of the second-floor condo, causing its ceilings to collapse and water to run down the interior walls to the first-floor condo that we were occupying.
Water damage to the first floor was extensive, including the need to replace the electrical box. With the exception of the bathroom ceiling, which collapsed, most of the water to the other rooms came through the side walls.
The insurance company representing the water sprinkler company brought in a fire/flood restoration company. That company brought in fans and dehumidifiers, which ran constantly. We relocated to a hotel and later to an extended-stay facility arranged by the insurance company adjuster.
The adjuster decided along with the restoration company on a date that the condo could be reoccupied after having dried out and been painted. I had an opportunity to see the daily activity involved with the restoration.
None of the side walls were removed. The drying out process included the fans and dehumidifiers only. The insulation, if present in the exterior walls as well as the wood framing, was not replaced or inspected beyond what was done with a handheld infrared device. In short, we had no idea what was behind the wallboard, which was not in any way removed to inspect what lay behind.
We refused to return to the condo at the specified date on the basis that we believed there was a potential for mold that would not be detected by the handheld infrared devices, which I believe did nothing more than identify dampness. The insurance adjuster tried to bully us to return to the condo on the basis that the restoration company said it was safe to occupy. We refused to return for health reasons on the basis that my wife had previously suffered from an autoimmune disease and was in remission. We did not want to jeopardize her health.
Was this situation adequately inspected for mold and accurately identified as safe to occupy after the extensive water damage with superficial repairs?
A. It seems as if more investigation was advisable. You mention that the water came down the interior walls, which are unlikely to be insulated. But if the spaces inside these walls are not thoroughly dried within 48 hours, mold can develop, and it is unlikely that these spaces can dry if not opened up.
Infrared scanning is only helpful to determine if insulated walls have lost a lot of their R-factor, and is only effective if there is sufficient difference between the indoor and outdoor air.
If you do not own the condo, and were only renters, the condo owners should be made aware of what happened and how it was dealt with. They can decide whether to pursue this further. Considering your wife's condition, did the rental office put you up in a different unit, as they should have done?
Q. I have a problem with trying to remove all of the carpet padding over hardwood floors in my living room. I have tried using Goof Off, but it made the padding stick to the floor even more. Do you have any suggestions?
We would like to refinish the floors if we can get all the padding off. Any ideas will be helpful. We estimate the padding to be around 40 years old.
A. Remove as much padding as you can. Then try to soften the remaining adhesive with a hair dryer. Use a broad blade putty knife to gently pry off the loosened pad.
Interesting comment from a reader: "In response to your column on sewage backup, I had a similar problem in our 40-year-old house. We remodeled the bathroom, and then the problems started.
"Our sewer overflowed in the basement. I got a snake and cleaned it out (not once but 40 or 50 times). Then on the Internet I found my solution.
"We have a Kohler toilet (low-flow, of course) and on one of the Q&A troubleshooting sites, I found a suggestion to hold down the flush handle until the bowl was filled with extra water. I had no more clogs, and the extra water was enough to clear the drain.
"I hope this will work for others."
• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. His book, "About the House," is available at www.upperaccess.com. His website is www.henridemarne.com. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail First Aid for the Ailing House, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
© 2016, United Feature Syndicate Inc.