The high-quality paint on this brick house is peeling because there’s no vapor barrier on the inside of the brick walls. Whitewash will solve the problem forever. (Tim Carter)

Q: Over the years I have spent thousands of dollars trying to keep my brick home painted. I have bought the best paint and hired professional painters, only to have the paint peel after just a few years. — Sandy

A: I spoke with Sandy, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area. It was a delightful call because she was so happy to discover she’d never have to paint her peeling brick home again. Water vapor inside her older brick home is causing the problem. When her house was built, plastic vapor barriers for walls had yet to be invented.

As I’ve mentioned in past columns, an excellent solution is to use whitewash — not paint — to coat the brick. (You can search my column archive at for those past columns, including one that contains my secret whitewash recipe.) I worked with traditional whitewash on one of my custom jobs over 20 years ago and it was a huge success.

A key point to remember is whitewash doesn’t peel if you apply it correctly. It chemically and mechanically bonds to brick, stone and even wood. In essence, you’re putting on a thin layer of rock on your home. You can even add color to the whitewash making it any color you want!

Some months ago I had a phone call with another reader who wanted to put the whitewash on a dated brick fireplace in her living room. That project was also a huge success.

Q: I have a concrete patio in my back yard, and one side of it had tilted so it’s somewhat uneven. I don’t want to spend the thousands of dollars to jackhammer out the half of the slab that has sunk. What do I do? — Vic

A: I was taught many years ago by a master concrete mason how to solve the problem. Vic could invest just $100, or less, and get the same result as if he had poured a new slab.

Believe it or not, Vic can add a new thin layer of concrete on the sloping part of his patio. This new concrete overlay can be as thick as three inches and taper down to 1/8 inch if need be.

It’s important to realize you need to use a smaller pea gravel in the new concrete mix, and you also need to spread a layer of cement paint on the old concrete just before you pour the new concrete on top of the old. The cement paint ensures the two layers stick to one another.

Q: My wife and I are going to build a new home and I’m wondering if I could save 10 or 20 percent by acting as my own general contractor. My job situation is such that I have two or three days off in a row, allowing me to supervise the job. — TJ

A: TJ contacted me via my Ask Tim page at my website, and during the call he gave me two pieces of information that changed what I was going to tell him.

Almost always I tell wishful homeowners who want to be their own builders that they’ll be lucky if their new house costs 15 to 20 percent more than it would have if a builder does it for them. The reasons are many, but the few that stand out most are: project delays, change orders and latent defects discovered months after you move in. Almost all of these issues are caused by not having great plans and simple written specifications.

TJ, fortunately, has a home builder as a friend, and he’s the person who told him to act as his own general contractor. The builder even offered to give TJ advice over the phone when he needed it, and TJ could even tap into his builder’s subcontractor network. Those two key facts allowed me to give TJ the green light to try it himself.

I’ve created a free downloadable document for you at my website. This document has more tips about how to mix cement paint and how to get pro results with concrete overlays, sources for all you need to do whitewash along with more helpful tips and links to great plans and specifications that will allow you to minimize cost overruns on your new home.

Just go to: to get the free PDF document.

Tim Carter can call you on the phone at no cost to solve your problem. Go to his website and fill out the form on this page: