I recently purchased a home and it was a veritable ivy-covered residence. I noticed that the ivy had spread into the basement, between the concrete foundation and the sill.
I elected to rip it all out. It was an arduous job. What is left now is a brown fibrous growth that tracks the outline of each of the multitudinous vines. The growth tenaciously adheres to the shingles and brick facing of my house. Can you advise me as to what may be done to remove these tentaclelike growths from the wooden and asbestos shingles as well as the brick? -- O.B.W.
The deposits you have left on the wall are the suckers that attach the vines. They should be left alone for two or three weeks, until they dry up and turn dark. They can then be removed with a stiff brush and some laundry detergent or a solution of trisodium phosphate. Chemicals or acids used on the suckers will do more damage to the wall than to the plant remnants. If the suckers are left alone too long, they will rot and oxidize, becoming very hard and nearly impossible to remove without damaging the masonry surface.
Although you have already removed most of the ivy, I recommend that other readers considering the removal of ivy begin by cutting the plant at the roots and letting the vines dry prior to any removal from the wall. This makes the ivy easier to remove and lessens the damage that can be done to the masonry when ivy is rooted into the brickwork. My basement tile floors all around the cement block wall have sweating, since it has been hot (90 degrees) and humid for the past two weeks. It wasn't like this when it rained constantly for about two weeks a month ago. Any suggestions? -- G.T. During the cooler months your furnace tends to keep excess humidity at bay -- though not, of course, actual water, which is a completely different story.
In warmer weather the dampness comes to stay. It enters through basement walls or, since moisture-laden air is heavier than dry air, drifts down from the upper floors. The dampness can cause a number of adverse conditions such as mildew, rust, sweating pipes, dry rot and musty odors.
There are a number of steps you can take to help alleviate the problems. The simplest solution is to ventilate the area. Two windows at opposite ends of the area can be screened and left open to provide natural cross ventilation. Two small fans can help ventilation if the natural air flow is inadequate. Place one at an open window to exhaust air and put the second one at a central location to circulate drier air entering through the other open window.
Porous basement walls, even though they may not leak, can be another major source of basement humidity. A coating of waterproof epoxy paint, intended for concrete or cinder-block basement walls, will prevent much of this moisture transfer and decrease the amount of humid air that must be removed.
If your walls are chalky or powdery on the surface, you will have to clean them first with a wire brush or a strong detergent; this will prevent the new paint from flaking off. If these measures fail, you might consider the purchase of an electric dehumidifier. Consult a dealer for the proper size for your basement area.
I have three bottles of very expensive perfumes on which the stoppers are permanently glued. The stopper on a bottle of Joy broke off. I have tried everything I can think of to loosen the stoppers. Is there some solvent that can open up these stoppers? -- M.W.
You might try a mild heat source to soften the glue, such as a hair dryer or running warm tap water over the bottle tops.
Or perhaps this suggestion from one of our readers will provide the solution:
"Not long ago I was given wine and vinegar bottles of crystal with one bottle stopper, made of glass, stuck tight in the neck of the bottle. I remembered instructions I received from a perfume sales girl in Paris for perfume bottles sealed with glass stoppers.
"Use a piece of string that is quite strong, similar to fishing cord of yesteryear. Recruit a friend to give you an assist. Loop the cord one time around the neck of the bottle. While one person holds the bottle, have the second person pull the cord very rapidly back and forth for at least three minutes.
"The neck of the bottle will heat up and swell. The glass stopper will not. If at first you don't succeed, try again. This method works every time for me, and you don't need to force the stopper." Send inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.