Soil around home can't keep up with sump pump discharge
Q. I own a split-level home built in 1964. It had a gravel crawl space, which was very damp, so I had it cement-encapsulated with drain tiles and a sump pump installed that ejects into the front lawn.
This did resolve the dampness but has created a problem for the front lawn. The sump pump's 1½-inch PVC pipe from the house is routed through a 4-inch corrugated drain tile underground to eject through a pop-up in the lawn. The amount of water that ejects into the lawn is so much that I cannot mow the lawn in spots at times because it is so wet.
My landscaper installed an 18-square-inch gravel pit where the water ejects through the pop-up to disperse it for better absorption into the lawn. Apparently, the gravel pit has become so saturated that when the sump pump ejects, it comes back toward the house. Prior to the gravel pit, the water never traveled back toward the house. I am very concerned that a deluge of rain will cause the water to come back into the house.
My landscaper has suggested building a gravel trench to help disperse the water farther throughout the lawn. As the gravel pit does not seem to have worked as planned, I'm not sure if this is going to work either and I am seeking your advice.
A. I assume your land is flat and does not allow for daylight drainage. It also appears as if the soil may not be absorbing all of the sump pump's discharge fast enough; the soil is either not coarse enough, or the discharge flow is such that it overwhelms the lawn's capacity to absorb it.
You may need to consider a grander project than what your landscaper offers. Since the need is for greater storage capacity of the water, ask your landscaper to install one or more of the Infiltrator Systems Inc.'s Quick4 Standard chambers.
You may need several chambers installed in tandem, depending on the soil's ability to absorb the water. Don't skimp on the length of the installation; it would be expensive to add more sections later.
These units are 4 feet long and 3 feet wide, made of plastic, and are very lightweight and easy to handle.
A 3-foot-wide trench is excavated at the appropriate depth to allow for gravity feed, and the chambers are placed in it and backfilled. This setup creates a very big empty cavity, and the water has a very large floor area to percolate into the soil.
I have used these Quick4 Standard units on a large condominium project to capture roof water from the units' gutters. The land was very flat and there was no way to keep the lawn from flooding and the water from freezing, causing hazards to the occupants and cracking sidewalks. The chamber project was highly successful.
To increase the soil's absorptive surface, we cut a few holes on the lower sides of the sections and backfilled with gravel to within a foot of the grade.
Infiltrator Systems' website is www.infiltratorwater.com. Your landscaper can probably find a local dealer.
Q. I enjoy reading your column in the Daily Herald. Can you tell me the best way to remove rust stains from a concrete walkway?
A. Removing rust from concrete may require several steps, depending on how deep the rust has penetrated and how long it has stained the concrete. And it may not be entirely successful.
First, try applying a solution of equal parts bleach and water to the rust stains. You may find the treated areas will be lighter than the rest of the walk, in which case, clean the entire walk with TSP-PF and see if this helps.
If the results are not satisfactory, you may need to wash the entire walk with a less potent solution of bleach and water, such as one part bleach to three parts water.
If you are still not satisfied with the results, try Zud, which you should be able to buy in the cleaning products aisle in supermarkets and hardware stores. Follow the directions on the container.
As a last resort, buy oxalic crystals (you should not need much) from a paint store and make a saturated solution in hot water. Use a plastic or glass container -- never use metal tools or containers with oxalic acid, which is a very corrosive chemical.
Handle the crystals and the mixed solution with great care. Wear heavy rubber gloves, skin and eye protection, and old clothes. Apply the solution with a paintbrush, which you will need to wash thoroughly when you are finished with the application. Once the solution has dried, rinse to remove any residue. Be aware that all these solutions are injurious to vegetation.
Q. I would like your advice on a reliable coating to refinish our deck.
We built a large deck on the south side of our house in the fall of 2013. I did extensive research on decking materials and settled on Eastman Chemical's Perennial Wood. I liked the aesthetics of the real wood and the science behind the acetylation process to improve its ability to withstand the elements. Our contractors enjoyed working with the materials, and the deck looked fantastic.
Two and a half years later, the decking is performing as advertised -- it's not cupping, cracking, bowing or warping. What isn't performing is whatever coating the company used to color treat the wood (we chose the mahogany finish). I was concerned that by choosing real wood over one of the synthetic decking products, we would condemn ourselves to regular refinishing. So I quizzed the technical rep for the company.
He said that their tests showed that customers would probably want to refinish every five to seven years. The finish would abrade with use and the lighter-colored substrate would show through. No sanding was required; we should just clean and recoat. While that didn't sound great, the aesthetics of the real wood and the sustainability aspects of the product won out, and we were willing to live with it.
I've included photos from the fall of 2013 shortly after the deck was finished, spring 2015 and spring 2016. After two and a half years, the coating has peeled off and the deck looks terrible. We do not shovel the deck in the winter and with only two of us using the space, I can't see how we have contributed to the wear. It, of course, came with a two-year warranty on the factory finish against peeling and blistering (there's a 25-year warranty on the deck boards). So not only are we beyond the finish warranty (and all the company would have done was send us more of the poorly performing coating), but the company discontinued the product in January 2014 (due to the slowness of the construction market, not the performance/quality of the product).
Now we need to refinish and I don't know what to use. Since the wood was modified to withstand moisture, will a stain penetrate enough to last? Should we power-wash the surface before treatment? Do you have any recommendations for product and methodology?
A. I have the same concern you have about using any finish that has not been tested or approved for this type of acetylated wood.
The manufacturer offered the decking as unfinished or with several choices of finish. At this point, why not use a pressure washer to remove the failing coating and leave the decking unfinished?
Q. I do not have the ability to download an app on my phone. I would like some information on the white noise machine to drown out train whistles outside. I would appreciate whatever information you can supply.
A. Here is a repeat of information sent recently by an Illinois reader:
"The ones sold by Hammacher Schlemmer are made by Marpac (marpac.com) and come in a variety of styles, including a smaller version for travel. Brookstone sells its own brand. Many others are available through sources such as Amazon or Bed, Bath and Beyond."
Q. Our house has an attic stair system in one of our bedrooms, and I want to make sure we are not losing money on cooling/heating because of poor insulation. The house is about 5 years old, so it is pretty up to date with energy-efficient appliances and insulation in the attic. But I look at the stairs and realize we must be losing heat or AC to the attic without these spaces being insulated. I have found numerous products online with a wide range in price and I've seen many DIY videos that range from simply caulking and building a foam tent to constructing a fully insulated wooded box with hinge door.
I'm curious about your thoughts on this issue, any available products or some of the DIY videos. We live in New Jersey near Philadelphia, so our winters can be pretty cold at times and our summers are always hot and humid.
A. There are several foam-type attic stairway covers available in big box and hardware stores.
• The Battic Door Stairs Insulator Cover offers better insulation than others, but it still does not have insulation on its vertical sides.
• The Owens-Corning Attic Stairway Insulator looks easy to install and to handle, and offers full insulation. It is also considerably less expensive than the Battic Door. Home Depot stocks it.
• 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.