Q: We've been in our house only for 13 months. I just noticed that there are cracks developing between the bricks on the outside of the house. It's only seven years old, and I'm wondering what's causing it and what can be done about it.
A: This problem must have started before you noticed it.During the heating season building materials tend to dry and shrink. Then, in the summer, when it's hot and humid, building materials absorb moisture and swell.
As you know, houses also settle, which puts a strain on walls, foundations and ceilings. Therefore cracks develop. But this can be overcome by filling those cracks with what is known as caulking. Caulking is a soft material with the consistency of putty. Properly applied, a good caulking material will remain elastic for an indefinite period. It will keep out heat, cold, moisture, dirt and dust.
Q: My brother-in-law and I invested in three brownstones which have six apartments each. We renovated, put in new kitchens and are getting good rentals.
Naturally, we took our insurance from our broker. He is trying to talk us also into taking what he calls "business interruption insurance." My brother-in-law and I never heard of such a thing. We're wondering if he's trying to "take" us.
Have you ever heard of it, and if so, is it necessary?
A: Yes, I have heard of it. It covers indirect losses to property. Most people are obviously aware of the need for insurance against direct loss, but do not understand the seriousness of indirect losses.
These losses are those that occur from interruption of business due to damage to the property, loss of income from rents or rental value, contingent losses from business interruption, added expense incurred in order to conduct business or maintain a home, or loss of leasehold or excess rental value because of cancellation of a lease after destruction of the leased property.
Policies written to cover these are not merely business interruption insurance, but each provides coverage against every risk. Therefore, they areusually called contigent business interruption insurance, rents and rental value insurance, leasehold interest insurance, extra expense insurance, as well as business interruption insurance.
Q: We bought a 10-year-old house in good condition. Even though we just moved in, my husband wants to have the exterior painted. He claims that it's easy to maintain a house in good condition if it is painted often.
To me, it looks beautiful. How can you tell, other than if it really looks terrible, how often a house should be repainted on the outside.
A: Your husband is right. It is easier to maintain a house in good condition if it painted regularly. However, you shouldn't paint it when it doesn't need it. If the old paint is cracked, blistered or peeled, it should have been done sooner.
If you paint over a surface that is in good condition, the job can probably be done one coat of paint. If you wait too long, most likely you will need two coats. Naturally, this cost more and is more work.
It also depends on which part of the country you reside. Houses exposed to extremes in weather usually require painting more often than those in sheltered areas. However, if you have a well-maintained house in an area where there are no weather extremes you might not require repainting several years.
Bernard C. Meltzer's address is Suite 900, 112 S. 16th St., Philadelphia 19102.