Dear Ken: I love my new deck, and I want to keep that pretty redwood color. Can I use a clear stain? — Brad
Answer: The reddish-blond color of new redwood is gorgeous. The color components in most tinted deck stains help to reflect UV light from the sun, but in your case, you’ll want the clear version to let the natural redwood tones show through. That’s OK for water and mildew protection, but it will deteriorate faster than its pigmented cousins. So plan on recoating every year.
By the way, deck stain application can be tricky. This is one instance where more is not necessarily better. If you initially apply it in too thick a layer or try to add a second coat, you might end up with a sticky mess that won’t cure properly. So use a low-nap roller cover to apply one thin uniform coat.
Dear Ken: Our driveway is older. There is a big gap between it and the inside garage floor. Didn’t you suggest a wood strip for that? — Jeannette
Answer: There are two fixes here. These gaps are usually too wide to caulk with a driveway sealant. You can indeed cut a redwood strip on the table saw the long way to the right width. Once it’s jammed into the crack, its edges can then be caulked for a watertight fit.
You also can inject some of that expanding polyurethane insulating foam to fill the void. This stuff should not be exposed to sunlight, so when you get within a half-inch of the top of the driveway, stop; let it cure overnight, then cut off the excess. Top it off with a layer of liquid, self-leveling driveway sealant. This material will semi-harden as it protects the foam underneath and creates a waterproof — but flexible — connection between the concrete masses.
Dear Ken: I have overflow issues. Do they make gutters any bigger? Mine are always causing trouble. — Rick
Answer: You must have an older house with a 4-inch deep (from front to back) gutter system. The standard now is at least 5 inches. My favorite is the site-extruded aluminum style that comes with a factory-bonded color finish. You can choose from about 20 earth tone hues to match the exterior décor. Coordinate them with the roof color since it almost never gets changed.
Dear Ken: We have a wet basement. The concrete is damp, but there is no standing water. What can I do to prevent or cure this? — Jonathan
Answer: You need to start from the outside and work your way in. Check all the usual suspects for water intrusion: downspouts and sprinkler heads too close, soil sloped the wrong way, leaking sprinkler zone valves and spigots, water-demanding plants too close to the house and leaking planter boxes. Once that’s done, you can dry out the basement with extra ventilation.
Older homes with those tiny basement windows can trap high humidity conditions, which in turn can lead to damp floors. Buy a cheap bath fan, install it on the ceiling down there and run the duct through a window. You can plug it into an ordinary light timer so it runs a few hours twice a day. Crack the stairway door a little to allow dry replacement air to flow through the basement and out the fan duct.
Dear Ken: Cracks in the grout in my tub area have let water leak into the wall behind the tile. The insurance company won’t cover it and a mitigation company is too expensive. Can I do this myself? — Jerry
Answer: Probably — or, at worst, you could hire a handyman service company. You might have mold inside that wall space. Please don’t notify anyone if that is indeed the case — since your house might end up on some kind of database containing the dreaded “M” word. It’s your business; as long as it gets repaired properly, who cares?
Remove the old tile and sheetrock, seal them in plastic bags and discard. Check for rotting wood by inserting a pocket knife into each stud. If the wood yields easily, then replacement is warranted. You might see dark staining on the inside of the wall cavity, which could indicate mold. Scrub the area with some Clorox and water, and then spray on a couple of coats of KILZ or Bullseye primer. That will permanently seal the area away from the indoor air environment. Apply a new layer of waterproof sheetrock or cement board as underlayment for the new tile.
Dear Ken: Do you think I can paint my gas meter? It’s gray-blue, rusting and looks hideous. — Drew
Answer: I don’t see why not. I’ve often wondered why that battleship gray was the choice of utility companies. Why not a pleasant earth tone tan? When you apply your spray enamel, you’ll need to stay away from the dials, the serial number plate and the screened opening on the bottom of the regulator — that’s the disk-shaped doohickey on the incoming pipe. You might want to check with your gas supplier to see if they have any objections, although I doubt they will.
There’s one other concern with gas meters. In new construction, the dirt around the house can settle during the first couple of years. Sometimes that can drag the pipe and, hence, the meter down with it. You’ll know it when you see it, because the meter body will be twisted sideways and will no longer be level. That can ultimately create a gas leak. So if the twist is severe, call the utility company’s customer service department.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His call-in radio show airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com.