I know many of you have followed my recommendation to run your downspouts into that black, flex pipe — and then buried it to get it out of the way. But sometimes the terminations of those extension pipes get lost or forgotten, so here’s a reminder to expose them to make sure they stay wide open, and so are readily available to handle those sudden rushes of monsoon water we get around here.
If you can’t locate the extension pipe ends, then stick a hose into the gutter, turn it on and look for a damp spot to appear on the lawn’s surface. After they are exposed, cut them off at a shallow enough angle so they can be mowed over, and add a layer of plastic and small rocks under the ends about as big as a dinner plate. That will discourage grass from growing into the pipes, but as to the kids sticking rocks and toys inside, you’re on your own!
Window wells are another drainage element that can change over time. As your landscaping flattens out, the wells of course, stay put. So they can become actual water gatherers if they are the lowest spot around. One answer is to dig them out and raise them — a back-breaking prospect at best. A better approach is to create a phony dam at the top edge. Use some plastic or steel flexible landscape edging jammed on edge into the soil at the top of the well, which effectively makes the well taller. You can then add dirt up to the new level and slope it away just like it used to.
Dear Ken: Our driveway has developed more cracks this past winter. What’s the best way to fill them? — Phil
Answer: Fill up the really deep ones almost to the top with some fine sand or backer rod (the tubular foam insulation we use to fill in gaps around windows and doors). Then you can pour in some self-leveling liquid crack filler or squirt in some of the thicker, epoxy-based crack stuff with a caulking gun.
Dear Ken: I’ve heard that swamp coolers put too much moisture into the house. Is this an OK way to cool in spite of that? — Lisa
Answer: They do, indeed, raise the relative humidity inside your house, as the cool, moist air blows through each room. Some folks find that a desirable trait in our dry part of the world. However, if anyone in your household is allergic to mold spores or simply does better in drier conditions, you may want to stick to traditional air conditioning, which acts oppositely; it actually lowers the moisture content of the air in your house. And since the introduction of outside air is minimized in an air conditioned home, allergen sensitive family members are more isolated from outside irritants.
A side note: Real estate professionals and appraisers usually agree that a central A/C system will add real, quantifiable value to a home, while evaporative coolers usually do not.
Dear Ken: My basement wall appears to be crumbling. It’s been painted before, but the paint and part of the concrete surface is coming away. Can it be patched or sealed? — Mike
Answer: These problems are almost always water- related. Moisture behind the wall leaches salts from the soil into the concrete. Alkaline-based salts can indeed deteriorate the concrete (we now add chemicals to concrete mixes to combat this). So attack this problem from the outside: arrange downspouts, soil slopes, hose faucets and any other drainage elements to protect the foundation. Interior concrete sealer paints are, generally, not very effective. It also helps to keep the basement well-ventilated.
Dear Ken: We have an old flat roof on an addition that leaks almost every year, requiring us to call in a roofer. Is there a permanent fix for this? — Steven
Answer: When you say “addition,” I picture a flat roof connected to a sloped one. These can be problematic, especially at that transition. There are a couple of alternatives. The newer membrane roofs — a thick rubberized glue-down system — work great, are pretty much leak-proof and require much less attention than older styles. But many owners give up and order a set of gently sloping trusses to build an overlay roof to cover up the whole mess — roofing and all.
That way, you end up with a more traditional valley transition from the new roof to the old.
Dear readers: An item came up in my home inspection travels recently that I think you should know about — exposed insulation.
One homeowner had installed bare (no paper) Fiberglas batts under the living room and kitchen to provide a sound barrier between floors. The vibration from tromping around upstairs was releasing particles into the air.
Now, Fiberglas is a great insulator, but it wasn’t meant to be breathed! So cover it up wherever it appears in a living space with heavy-duty plastic sheeting.
Finally, one of my radio listeners swears by this shower tip (let me know how it works). To revitalize older, scummy ceramic tile in a shower or bath, polish it with very fine (0000) steel wool and WD-40, the spray lubricant. She claims it’s only a once-a-year chore. One precaution, though. Don’t let any of the spray get on the shower floor, as it can be very slippery.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 4 pm Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com