DEAR SAM: Undoubtedly, you receive hundreds of questions regarding basement water problems. During the last week of January we had about two inches of water all over the basement, our first flooding there. Since it had snowed the night before and then rained, we thought the water had flowed under the rear garage door into the basement. But during a rainstorm four days laster, water came in through the foundation in the front of the house.
There is a crack in the front foundation and last summer, our dog dug a hole next to the foundation that now fills up. The land is higher at one side of our house and slopes to grade level at the other, level with a driveway. Is it true that once you get water, you will always get it?
ANSWER: You need not worry that your water problem will be perennial. The surface water after the snow storm must have penetrated along the foundation footing once the ground was completely saturated.
You should take care of the obvious points of leakage: (1) The foundation crack should be repaired with masonry cement containing the waterproofing ingredient, Medusa. (2) Your dog's dugout must be filled with solid fill. (3) Land on both sides of the house should be graded so water will flow toward the street.
Finally, check your front gutters for blockages of leaves.
DEAR SAM: Whenever it rains, the concrete block storage shed adjoining my house leaks at the floor, four feet below ground level. None of the outside walls of the shed is accessible, since they are surrounded by a concrete driveway, sidewalk, workshop and the house. Hydrostatic pressure appears to build up under the floor as well as above the sides, causing water to pour into my workshop. I have installed a sump pump in one corner of the shed, using shallow surface ditches on the floor that help some. Would a French drain work or must I dig up the concrete driveway or the abutting walk?
ANSWER: The high-water table on your property is being raised by surface water and the concrete block walls of the shed cannot be considered water tight. They should be improved with at least one inch of masonry. This could be two course of waterproof cement-plaster, using the waterproof aggregate of Nedusa and Portland cement in a ratio of 1 to 5, respectively, plus double that amount of clean sand.
Since the cement may not adhere to the old cement block, you should use Weld-O-Bond on the blocks prior to plastering the first 1/2-inch coat. The second coat may be applied within a few days for good bonding. Wait for moderate temperatures to do this work.
Although you have a sump pump, it is not being used adequately. The outside perimeter of the shed should have a French drain, with a 12-to 18-inch trench and four-inch perforated (Orangeburg) pipe imbedded in crushed stone and pitched 1/4-inch to the floor. This should lead from two directions to the low point of the sump pump installation, about 18 inches below the floor level. The ejecting hose of the sump pump should deliver the water far enough that it doesn't flow back to the shed.
DEAR SAM: We have a problem with squeaky floors and they are becoming progressively worse. Our split-level house is about five years old. It has five rooms and two baths on the upper level and a family room, utility room, bedrooms and bath on the lower level.When you walk along the upper-level hall, it sounds like the sound effects from that old radio program, "The Inner Sanctum." The area is over an unfinished room, the ceiling of which is unplastered.
ANSWER: There are several reasons for squeaky floors: shrinkage of the subfloor, inadequate nailing of the subfloor and hardwood, and loosened bridging of the floor joists.
The cure is the elimination of the fricitional action between the subfloor and the finish floor, which have somehow become detached. Where the subfloor is exposed it is fairly easy to treat. Check the locations of the squeaks and mark them on a sketch.
Insert the thin edge of a cedar shingle (grade No. 3 is satisfactory) between the subfloor and the floor joist near the trouble spot. This tightens the floor to the joist. Sometimes you may discover floor nails exposed where they did not enter the joists. The floors at these points should have been renailed during construction before the finish floors were laid.
Where the subfloor is not exposed, the job is more complicated. You will have to locate the floor joist nearest. the squeaky spot.Joists are usually spaced 16 inches on centers, so if you locate the first joist, which is perpendicular to the girder, other joists are parallel at multiples of 16 inches.
Tightly nail 8-penny, hard steel screw nails through the hardwood finish floor and the subfloor into the joists. The nail heads should be recessed about 1/8th of an inch and the holes should be puttied to match the hardwood or the linoleum.
DEAR SAM: Our house is 14 years old and within the last year we have noticed several small cracks in the concrete basement floor. Could these have been caused by the roots of two oak trees that are about six feet from the house? The trees were there when the house was built but have grown considerably: some of the branches now extend over part of the roof at this side. Should the trees be removed?
ANSWER: Your trees may have grown, but the roots, if previously under the floor area, probably turned downward in the soil for moisture. They would not be strong enough to crack standard concrete.
Check the opposite side of the basement. If similar cracks have developed, you can be be assured that the trees aren't causing your problem. Be aware that the over-hanging braches at the roof may clutter the gutters with falling leaves, cause over-spilling rainfall at the foundation grade and seepage under the foundation and basement floor. Such seepage could also result in ground settling, which would eventually weaken the bearing power of the concrete -- as evidenced by the small cracks.
As long as your foundation shows no settling cracks, you need not be too concerned. You need not remove the trees. You could seal the existing cracks with Phenoseal Caulking, leveling it with a putty knife.Later, use an acrylic latex exterior paint for complete concealment.
DEAR SAM: In our house, which just three years old, we have a problem with sap running out of the framework of the front entrace. I cannot understand how that would happen with esasoned millwork. It has been painted but big blobs of sap have disfigured one side and the header of the frame.
I've given up on the builder and would like to know how to clean it up and repaint it.
ANSWER: The millwork was defective. It may have been seasoned, but the wood (usually soft pine) probably. didn't have a high enough rating.
If the frame was made at a reliable mill, the builder should be willing to advise you where it was purchased. It is my opinion that the mill would replace it. It surprises me that the builder did not exchange it before making the installation.
The problem sections of the frame could be cut out and new "inlays" glued in place. This workmanship requires some skill with an adjustable bit to fit the diameter of a dowel of the same size -- one inch or larger. The dowel would would be cut about 3/4-inch thick or exactly the thickness of the frame, allowing for some sanding. Spread the dowel with Elmer's Glue-All and insert into cavitu; allow the glue to dry before sanding surface. Otherwise, you may scrape the troublesome areas, fill with Woody Putty, snad and apply two coats of shellac; finally, sand the entire door and apply a new coat of finish paint.
DEAR SAM: I am going to build a one-room addition to my house that will be over earth. I have heard that insulating the foundation below the frost line will help keep the room dry and warm. Another opinion is that insulation between the sills and the foundation is desirable. Will you summarize the approved practices in building such an addition?
ANSWER: Undoubtedly, you will have an architect draw the plan of the new addition, which must be submitted to the building department of your municipality. It will be checked to determine whether it meets the zoning requirements distance from the side lines of your lot.
Since you will be building with a crawl space (no basement), the architect will determine the necessary grades for the height of the foundation, the depth of the frost line and the preparatory requirements of the lot. If the addition is to be built where there is an embankment, the ground may need to be leveled. If any peat or organic growth is in the addition area, it should be removed. Several level inches of clean bank gravel should be spread over the entire area for drainage.
Insulation between the sills and foundation is desirable to protect the area of the flooring at the perimeter of the walls. If the foundation is not going to be below the frost line, it needs the protection of insulation, at least two-inch-thick Styrofoam, U-shaped under footing and sides about two feet upward before backfilling with clean gravel.
The frame structure's insulation should include the following:
1) Flooring: Before laying the subfloor, install 4-inch batts or blanket fiber glass with the vapor barrier stapled to the top of joists.
2) Exterior walls: Studs at corners should include diagonal 1x8-inch recessed bracing boards so that one-inch thick StyrofoamTG panels (2x8 feet) can be applied tightly on the outside and 3 1/2-inch Fiberglas blanket or batts applied between the studs, with vapor barrier facing the interior. Finish the walls inside with 1/2-inch gypsum board or similar non-combustible material. Finish teh outside walls with clapboards for nailing directly into studding. (Exterior paneling or equal may be used which allows nailing into studs without additional furring strips.)
3) Ceilings: Eight-inch batts with vapor barrier facing downward should be stapled to the ceiling joists. Be sure that the batts extend above the walls to the very ends so that no heat loss will take place at the eaves.
4) Other protective insulation will include storm windows or dual glazing. Most important, however, is the window exposure omitting all windows on the north and maximizing them on the south.
5) Roof-flashing (copper, zinc or aluminum) where roof abuts the existing house wall. The roof should also utilize StyrofoamTG over plywood if air-conditioning is planned. The asphalt shingles (full two-ply, without notches) should utilize Jet(R) manufactured by. Bird & Son, Inc. They are self-sealing, faster to install, offer a modern choice of colors and aren't that much more expensive.
6) Suitable louvres for ventilating the attic, at least two for cross ventilation. Also install louvres in the crawl space to provide cross ventilation and access, when necessary. Any piping or ducts therein shall include insulating jackets.
DEAR SAM: A year ago I had my metal casement windows removed because of the drafts and excessive condensation and installed vinyl dualglass, thermal, double-hung shah. My condensation problem still exists, but only during the morning hours.
I set my furnace thermostat fan switch on when the kitchen is in use so there is constant air circulation then. Do you have any syggestions?
ANSWER: Probably the fault is not with the insulated windows, but with the operation of your venting fan, which may circulate any existing humidity from the kitchen throughout the house.
A kitchen exhaust fan is more appropriate for the purpose of direct removal of humidity; similarly, exhaust fans for bathrooms after showers will eliminate humidity at the source. A humidity range of 30 to 40 percent during the winter season is average; hence, it is unnecessary to buy a dehumidifier.
You could, however, check the operation of your hot air furance, which may have an automatic operating humidifier. This control permits the adjustment of satisfactory humidity to enter the system and prevents any excessive dryness.
The short period of window condensation is of little consequence.
Samuel Fishlyn's address is Box 62, Newton Centre, Mass. 02159.