Q. Our concrete front porch has indoor-outdoor carpet glued to it. We want to remove the carpet and glue. Can you help?
A. Getting the carpet off usually isn’t too difficult, but removing the adhesive cleanly can be a real hassle.
One of the best tools you can have for both carpet and adhesive removal is a shovel with a flat blade and a short, grip-type handle. If you don’t have one, they are sold in garden-supply stores.
Before starting, sharpen the blade with a file. Use a sharp utility knife to cut through the carpet to form strips a couple of feet wide, then loosen each strip by whacking at the edges with the shovel-scraper.
When you get enough carpet loose to get a good grip on it, you can usually pull it off. When all the carpet is off, you will still have the adhesive and probably some carpet backing to remove.
There are several approaches to removing the residue. One is to use an adhesive remover, a solvent that works much like paint remover. It is best to use a solvent on a cloudy day to help reduce evaporation.
Work on a small section at a time, following directions on the solvent container. You will still have to scrape off softened adhesive, so the shovel can be used again.
Another way to soften adhesive is with a heat gun; you can rent one at a tool-rental agency or buy one at a home center. Again, work on a small section and scrape up the softened residue.
A third method is to simply whack at the adhesive with the sharpened shovel; there will probably still be some residue, so you can use adhesive remover or a heat gun for the final cleaning.
It is unlikely that the cleaned concrete will be very attractive. It was probably carpeted in the first place because it had cracks or other defects. Consider the possibility of ending with an ugly porch before you start this project.
Q. My blacktop driveway was resurfaced three years ago and has never been sealed. I want to seal it this summer, so what is the best sealer to use and how often should it be sealed in the future? My neighbor seals his driveway every year and says I should do the same.
A. Most experts recommend sealing a blacktop (asphalt) driveway no more than every two or three years; annual sealing can sometimes do more harm than good.
However, the picture on what sealer to use and how often to seal is changing as new products appear. Coal-tar emulsion used to be the favorite choice of sealers; it is not necessarily best now.
For example, Lowe’s sells a sealer called Black Jack Drive-Maxx that is supposed to last up to seven years. It costs about $27 for a 4.75-gallon container, which covers about 350 square feet (10 feet by 35 feet).
It also fills hairline cracks and doesn’t have to be stirred. (Laborious stirring was one of the disadvantages of old coal-tar emulsions, although newer versions are easier to use.)
Drive-Maxx is made by Gardner-Gibson (www.gardner-gibson.com), which also offers a 10-year sealer called Ultra-Maxx.
Before using any sealer, patch any cracks more than about 1/16-inch wide. Fillers in sealers are just sand and will seal only very fine cracks.
Also make sure the driveway is clean, and remove any oil stains with a product such as Oil Eater.
Wear the oldest shoes you own when sealing, or tie plastic bags over your shoes. Wear old clothes.
Finally, carefully read and follow the directions and cautions on the container.
Q. The cold-water pipes in my basement have been dripping water for weeks. It forms puddles on the floor and I worry about mold. What is the best way to stop this?
A. I recommend a dehumidifier, which will not only keep the water pipes from dripping but will curb condensation on other cold surfaces, such as basement walls and floors.
It will also reduce the amount of water vapor in the basement air, which often fosters growth of mold and causes a musty odor.
Some people prefer to insulate the cold-water pipes, which is OK but won’t solve the other moisture problems.
You can buy foam pipe insulation at any home center. If you use it, be sure and insulate fittings such as valves and elbows as well as straight lengths of pipe.