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Washington Post Home Staff
The Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, June 26, 2003; 11:00 AM

Every other week, the Washington Post Home staff talks about various ways to improve your home. Find out easy tips to fix up your home, what the new home trends are, upcoming antique shows and how to re-upholster your furniture.

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Ask the Washington Post Home staff -- about these and anything and everything related to home and garden.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Arlington, Va.: Thanks for today's article about wet basements. I am a new homeowner in a house in Arlington. On the rainiest days we've gotten just a bit of water on the basement floor and part of one wall (we have plaster walls) seems to have gotten a bit wet and the plaster got all crumbly. The water is just maybe one small puddle that almost seems to be coming from nowhere... except that the old tile floor in places almost seems "squishy." The side of the room that gets the water has cabinets, so it's hard to tell exactly where the water is coming from.

However, we are at the TOP of a hill, we have drainage systems in place, and the backyard is a flagstone patio. Water appears to flow parallel to the house and down the driveway when we get the heavy rain. Gutters are not drooling down the side of the house. So there are no obvious culprits or things we can do.

My questions: first, do I need to worry about the crumbly plaster? Second, is it worth calling a basement waterproofer for this? We sure don't have 4-feet of water in the basement, but I am worried about mold and such.

Washington Post Home Staff: Hi everyone. Isn't it great to see the sun again, even though it's beastly hot. We have lots of questions thismorning, so let's get started.
For Arlington, Annie Groer, author of the wet basement article you liked is here beside me and suggests that you contact a home inspector. It's not clear where exactly the water is coming from and because water seeks its level at all manner of peculiar, difficult to trace places, you really do need a pro to eyeball the situation. You may need to move your cabinets since the walls sound like they need help. The American Society of Home Inspectors at www.ashi.com has area listings. Lots of luck.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, and thanks for the great forum. I would like to paint my eating area orange, and am looking for color suggestions to test on the walls. Not something too bright, or pastelly, but a nice rich orange that will brighten what can be a rather dark room. Many thanks!

Washington Post Home Staff: Hi D.C. We've checked our fan decks and have come up with a few oranges for you. "Rejuvenate" from Sherwin Williams s-w 6620; Benjamin Moore's slightly lighter (but not too) Peach Sorbet, 2015-40; or Martha Stewart's Everyday Colors, a-08, which oddly enough, is called Nasturtium Pink.


Washington, D.C.: Hi guys,

I own several Oriental rugs -- not super high-end, but not cheap, either. The problem: I also own a cat. Over the past two years that I've been in my apartment, the rugs have become somthing of a catch-all for cat fur and other dirt/dust combos. I'm wondering, do you guys know of any cleaners out there that specialize in cleaning these types of rugs? Also, what kind of price range would we be looking at?

Love the chats!

Washington Post Home Staff: Hi to you D.C. A venerable Chevy Chase firm for cleaning Oriental carpets is Mark Keshishian and Sons, at 4507 Stanford Street in Chevy Chase, Md. We just spoke them today and they informed us they charge $2 per square foot including pick up and delivery, if the rug is rolled and ready. They give a 10 percent discount if you bring it in yourself. If the rug is silk, it's $3 a square foot. We've heard from many of our neighbors that they do a wonderful job. The phone number is 301--654-4044. Thanks for logging on.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Home Staff! We moved into a home that has many sliding glass doors (one of which we use consistently, the other two not so much). They have pretty atrocious vertical blinds covering them now, or covering somewhat since they are sort of falling apart. Any ideas for other coverings besides the traditional verticals? And if not, what's a nice type of vertical blind (hate those vinyl ones) that would update the look? Windows/house is very modern with beautiful wood frames throughout.

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear D.C. This is one of the most burning questions for lots of our readers. We share your pain but at the recent Window Covering Expo in Baltimore that Patsy attended, there were a few alternatives to the hideous verticals we all love to hate. (Even if some of them were made of the same material, they've improved on the tacky quotient.)
One company called Excel Window Treatments from Lodi, N.J. has a vertical called Shapella which uses fine (translate expensive) European fabric, much of it from Belgium, says the owner. Instead of those straight slats, his are wavy. They also come in beautiful colors and prints...that burned out velvet ....think white on white roses. On some levels, the opaque solids almost look mid-century Scandinavian. Very sleek and clean. And unfortunately, expensive. They can be ordered locally through All Blinds at 7828-d Eastern Ave. NW, Washington, D.c. 202-722-7671. Owner Gene Mirman is ready to help but warns that every element including the track and the slats are custom made, hence pricey.
On a less expensive but no less attractive note, good old Hunter Douglas has added soft sheer fabric to connect the slats so the finished product - Luminette Privacy Sheers - look more like a finished window treatment. You can even get them with motorized remote controls that move the shees and rotates the vanes. Who knew?


re: Oriental Rug Cleaning: We are in the same situation as Washington, D.C. However, we live in Arlington. Is it necessary to drive to MoCo?

Washington Post Home Staff: No...you can have them picked up..but the company is just over the D.C. line.


Bethesda, Md.: Where is a good place to look for a sleeper sofa? I've looked at Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and Ikea but just want to check all my options before I make a decision. I'm looking for something that is raised off the floor (a traditional sleeper sofa) and not just a foam mattress that folds out from the couch. Thanks!

Washington Post Home Staff: Hi Bethesda; We've looked into this and we think you should check out the Web site www.mitchellgold.com. His sofas are found at two of the stores you mentioned, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel but many of his designs are available as sleep sofas. We have tested them and found that there is extra padding in the matress (comfortable for your head) and the sidebars don't rise above the mattress. There you can find several styles that come as a sleeper. Sweet dreams.


Alexandria, Va.: My 1940s townhouse has air conditioning units in the walls. They work very well, but unfortunately, they are very loud and unattractive. Do you know where I could find high-end or more modern units? I know I've seen them (in a hotel in Mexico!). The units I'm picturing contain occilating vents, work by remote control, and look much more attractive than my ugly old units.

By the way, I'm not sure central air is an option-- very thin plaster walls-- no place for ducts!

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear Alexandria: Check out www.lowes.com for some very good tips on choosing an air conditioner. Then go to www.ge.com where you can view some of the sleeker units currently in their line. We like model #ASM24DC, which is the GE deluxe 230 volt air conditioner that is energy star certified and easy-mount for installation. Get going. We have a code red today!


Silver Spring, Md.: Please help!! I have an older home -about 60 years] with white metal kitchen cabinets. Over the years the cabinets have become dingy and NOTHING seems to work to brighten them. Replacing is not an option at this time. WHAT can i use to clean the cabinets -inside and out] of the yucky film that covers them.

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear Silver Spring:
Aside from Mr. Clean, we don't know a cleaning product that can solve your dingy dilemma. But another inexpensive and more obvious solution might be white enamel spray paint. We've done this with an ugly brown finish and it worked wonders.


Fairlington, Va.: I just painted my bathroom the very fun Rockwood
Jade from Behr. What would be some good
accents to go with it in my VERY TINY bathroom?
I have a glass door shower, unfortunately, so no
shower curtain, but I'm looking for maybe a skirt
around the sink or some wall hangings. What
colors/fabrics/ideas would you suggest?

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear Fairlington: We are very familiar with your tiny bathrooms there, but wonders can be worked! Rockwood Jade is a beautiful green that we should add immediately to our list of favorites. Shell pink would be a fun accent for towels and how about a little shag rug? Pink and green teethbrushes would be cute (not to mention very Palm Beach).. We'd go for a zippy Caribbean or Lily Pulitzer -like sink cotton skirt in green, white and hot pinks. You'll feel like you've gone on holiday!


Alexandria, Va: Alternative to vertical blinds - I owned a condo that had two balconies and two sliding doors (one in each room). On one door, I had the hideous vertical blinds, which I was always fighting with and getting tangle in, and which I hated. But I used a lovely single drape on the other door. It did block some of the light when the drape was fully pulled back, but it was so beautiful when it was closed. It gave the room a nice cozy look. (Now I'm in a little row house in Old Town - lucky me!;)

Washington Post Home Staff: Thanks Alexandria.


Rockville, Md.: I am about to have an appraisal (on Monday) to verify the value of my house before I can refinance-cash out (so my husband can start a home business, not to redecorate). We moved in a few months ago and are in the process of redoing the entire house. Two rooms are completed and four more are empty or in the process of being updated (only half the wallpaper is stripped). We have bought some very nice appliances for the kitchen but haven?t installed them yet (they are in the empty living room). Any suggestions for what I should fix this weekend to make the best impression? We were told in our last appraisal that the house is worth more than we paid for it (no exact number given) but we?d like that ?more? to be as high as possible. Thanks!

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear Rockville: Annie says she's having a reappraisal as we speak. What they look for are: structural improvements such as a new roof, paint job or renovated rooms. New appliances are a big plus. The appraiser Annie is using told her on the phone that the house-even if nothing had been done since last May- appreciated 10 percent just by sitting there. Paint a room or two in fresh neutral tones and finish stripping that wallpaper.(Be sure to mow the lawn so the property looks well-maintained). We'll keep our fingers crossed.


Arlington, Va.: We recently moved into a small 50's rambler. There is physically not enough wall space to hang all of our pictures. My question: although I am from the traditional one-picture-per-vertical school, is it possible to hang pictures up-and-down from each other, as well as horizontally distributed? Not as cluttered as early art galleries or salons, but unless we "think outside the box," a lot of our pictures will go into storage.


Washington Post Home Staff: Sure you can. This is a favorite decorator trick, even when there's room to spare. The fab New York designer Mario Buatta masses old English paintings of dogs above a sofa; Stephanie Hoppen, a British designer who loves botanical prints does the same along staircases. And lots of designers group similar pictures vertically and horizontally in so-called "galleries." Personally, we love the look. It never goes out of style.


Washington, D.C.: Hi,

My girlfriend & I recently bought a small condo in Kalorama. It's a great place and we'd like to add some built in shelves to one of the walls. Is this something you just head to a Home Depot or Lowes for?

Thanks much

Washington Post Home Staff: Hi D.C. It certainly is. And Ikea is also a great source for wall shelves. Check out the new one in Beltsville, the largest of the three in our area. There is also a Home Depot nearby, just off Route 1. Container Store is also another possible source. Target is another possibility. Don't laugh. The kids' department is particularly good. A paperback from Taunton Press, the "Taunton's Home Storage Idea" by Joanne Kellar Bouknightis almost 200 pages of storage for everything from wine bottles to nuts and bolts.


Columbia, Md.: Do you know of any good local sources for decorative railings?

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear Columbia. Are you in luck! Bethesda Iron Works has been making all kinds of decorative railings since 1957. They have them in bronze, brass, stainless steel and aluminum. They can make them to suit your needs. Call 301-762-9100 and their address is 650 Loftstrand Lane in Rockville.


Washington, D.C.: I'm looking for an area rug for my basement and don't know what colors to focus on. The walls are latte from restoration hardware, white trim and cherry laminate floors. The upholstered furniture is a mossy green and the throw pillows are a deep red. I know I need some sort of pattern and color, but don't know where to start.


Washington Post Home Staff: Dear D.C. We think a Kilim or Navaho style rug would be beautiful (but be sure to put a pad underneath so you won't slip). Ikea has a very good selection of all kinds of rugs. Check out also www.capelrugs.com for a vast selection of flat weaves and other wovens. P.S. They have an outlet store in Richmond. We've also bought rugs from the Sundance catalogue which does not a lot of Native American motifs. www.sundancecatalog.com.


Clifton, Va.: Arlington before you call a home inspector check the area outisde opposite this wall.
Does the ground slope away from the wall?
Are there divits or holes where water can collect? Do the downspouts empty into this area? If the downspouts do you can attach hoses so that the water is deposited away from th foundation. If these ideas dont take care of the problem seek a professional help.

Washington Post Home Staff: Thank you Clifton. We are delighted to find such voices of experience logged onto our chat.


Washington DC: Any suggestions on how to find a good affordable contractor for home improvements? Thinking about renovating basement, kitchen, and master bath.

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear Washington: There are three Web based resources where you should start. You'll have to do the research about prices but they will give you local contractors who you can contact yourself (be sure to ask for local references!! and check with the Better Business Bureau to avert problems).

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry Web site is www.nari.org. ServiceMagic which is www.servicemagic.com, boasts of having 30,000 pre-screened contractors nationwide for home improvement and mov-related needs; you can also try www.improvenet.com. But, we always recommend asking friends who have survived the process and love the result. That's always our first choice.


Washington, D.C.: Regarding an appraisal of my home, how much does the next door neighbor's unkempt lawn, porch, etc. affect my home's appraisal?? I'm always working to keep good curb appeal but on both sides the neighbors don't care as much as I do. Thanks.

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear D.C.

Maybe you could volunteer to mow their lawn. (One of us, who shall go un-named, frankly, has been paying to trim our neighbor's hedge adjacent to our fence for years. We hate the feeling that we live in Dogpatch. And the husband of another of us has been rearranging the supercans of all their neighbors after trash pick up! We think the appearance of the whole neighborhood can be brought down by lack of maintenance and that one crummy yard can affect values. If it's really out of control, call the D.C. Department of Public Works and drop the dime. hesenenecauseforjadthcu lawcowe ddea


Clifton, Va.: Area rugs: Bloomingadles is having a tent sale for oriental rugs and such this weekend.

Washington Post Home Staff: Great. We'll be standing in line!


Charlotte Hall, Md.: I have a bathtub/shower stall combination and there is a split in the bottom of the tub about 6 inches long. Can I patch this with something like fiberglass and where do I find the patch materials?

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear Charlotte Hall: we found the perfect place for you. Applied Coatings Technology ATC has been in business for almost a decade. They specialize in repairs such as yours. By the way, did you drop your bowling ball in that tub? Anyway, they said they'd charge $275 to repair this tub and guarantee it for two years. They will visit anybody in the Delaware, Md. or Va. It doesn't sound like a diy job with all that water. They can be reached at 800-515-8827.


Yard Sales: Slightly different topic, but I was wondering in what neighborhoods have people found the best stuff at yard sales.

Are there cetain neighborhoods in your flight path when you are out trolling for nice home furnishings?

Washington Post Home Staff: Dear Yard Sales: We hate to sound like snobs but follow the money. That means McLean, Potomac, Old Town, Chevy Chase, Spring Valley and Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Happy Hunting!!


Washington Post Home Staff: Okay guys. We've run out of time but if any of you have handyman questions, stay tuned on line and shoot them over to our home repair guru, Mike McClintock who is pushing us out of our chairs as we speak. See you in two weeks and thanks for your questions...sorry we couldn't get to them all. We are inundated!


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