Q. We recently moved into a home that has a circular asphalt driveway that is in poor condition. There are some potholes as well as numerous cracks and dirt-stained areas, which make it unattractive. Do you have any suggestions on how to clean and restore this surface?
A. I suggest that you apply a sealer. New blacktop as well as old requires sealing and this will waterproof the surface. It also seals out oil, gasoline and road salt.
Blacktop sealer, a water-based product, is sold at most lumberyards. A five-gallon can will cover 200 to 300 square feet, depending on the roughness and porosity of the surface.
To prepare the surface, sweep with a broom and wash oily areas with a strong detergent. Use a putty knife to remove any built-up grease.
Check the driveway for cracks or depressions that need filling. This would include cracks that are three-eighths of an inch or more wide. Smaller cracks and fissures will not require patching because the new top coating will fill these better than a patching compound.
Soft spots that appear as hollows in the surface and seem "wrinkled" will also require treatment prior to resurfacing. Usually when you tap a chisel into one of these soft spots, the surface will crumble.
With a chisel, clean the break in the surface. Remove all of the soft and crumbly asphalt, and cut back into the harder lower layer.
You probably will end up with an area somewhat larger than it started out. However, if you do not get all the old, loose material out, the new patch will not adhere properly. Clean out the chiseled areas with a stiff broom.
A special asphalt patching compound is sold at lumberyards. Deep holes should be filled with sand or gravel (or both) to about two inches from the surface. Then put the patching mix on top and tamp it down. For tamping, use something heavy.
Continue adding and tamping the mix to bring the patch surface level, or a little bit higher than the surrounding area. Patching compound works best in weather that is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer.
Don't skimp on the blacktop filler when filling cracks and potholes. Slightly overfill, mounding the mixture over the patched area so it is slightly higher than the normal level.
When holes are patched, place a scrap of hardboard or plywood over the patched areas and drive your car over it. The weight of the car will compress the patch into the cavity. Let the patches set about two weeks before applying the top coating.
Small cracks can be filled with sand and the sealer applied directly over the surface. Be sure to sweep the surface clean prior to applying the sealer.
To ensure a good bond, wet the drive with a hose. Sweep away any water that puddles.
Stir the sealer thoroughly and pour some on the damp driveway. Spread an even coat with a broom or squeegee. A rough surface may require a second coat.
Allow several days to dry before using. New sealer should be applied every two to three years.
Q. I have discovered some small areas of dry rot on several windowsills. The damage seems minor, and I would like to know if there is a method of correcting this problem myself. -- N.W.
A. The term dry rot is a misnomer because the fungus that gives this crumbly, dry appearance to the wood requires moisture to survive. Before you repair the damaged wood, find out where the moisture is coming from and see if you can eliminate the source.
Often doorjambs and windowsills get wet during damp weather, but they dry out thoroughly when the weather is better. When they don't, you have trouble.
This can be caused by constant moisture dripping from roof leaks, gutters and downspouts that are damaged or improperly installed, or by minor leaks in the plumbing.
There are two ways to deal with dry rot. One is to replace the wood. If the damage is major, particularly if there is structural damage, you should have a professional deal with the problem by replacing the wood. If the damage is minor, you can repair the rotten area. If done properly this can save you money. However, if done incorrectly this can promote further decay.
There is a two-step, liquid and paste system that can stop the rot (fungus growth in the wood). These products are available at home centers. The first part is a resin and hardener, a liquid consolidant that impregnates and reinforces the wood fibers. The second part is a putty that fills the decayed area. Once dried, it can be cut, planed or sanded to match the area surrounding the repair.
The first step in repair is to remove the loose pieces of rotten wood with a wood chisel. Not all of the affected wood needs to be removed, as the consolidant will strengthen and solidify the decayed wood.
The next step is to drill a honeycomb pattern of holes into the decayed wood using a 3/16-inch drill bit. These holes will allow the consolidant to penetrate into and past the decayed wood and bond with the remaining solid wood. The wood must be completely dry before applying the consolidant.
If the wood is damp, cover with plastic to prevent moisture from getting to the wood. It can take several weeks to dry completely. Apply the consolidant using a narrow-tip applicator bottle. The consolidant should fill the drilled holes, soaking into the wood. More than one application may be necessary to saturate the wood.
After the consolidant has set (this can take several hours), mix the paste according to the manufacturer's directions and apply to the damaged area.
Q. We have wall-to-wall carpeting throughout our home and in several rooms we have laid Oriental carpeting on top. The Oriental carpets continually creep and buckle in front of furniture. How can I stop this? -- J.S.M.
A. You need a pad between the carpeting and your Oriental rugs. This will prevent slippage and protect both the Oriental rugs and the carpet beneath from wear and tear.
A qualified carpet dealer should be able to recommend an effective padding for the type of wall-to-wall carpeting you have. Nonskid pads are also available at some housewares stores or through mail-order catalogues. These vary from foam rubber to vinyl mesh to plastic materials.
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.