Q. We have several hairline cracks in our basement floor that let water seep in and make puddles after heavy rains. Several years ago we tried to patch them with a concrete mix, but it didn’t help. Is there any way to stop the annoying water seepage?
A. One step that might solve the problem is to check your rain gutters and make sure they are in good condition and carrying water well away from the foundation. Clogged, overflowing gutters are responsible for many basement water problems by letting water accumulate near the foundation.
Downspouts should carry rain water at least four feet from the foundation – farther if possible. Install downspout extensions if necessary to carry the water.
Ideally, the ground around the foundation should also slope away from the building so the water runs off instead of forming puddles. If gutters in good working condition don’t solve the problem, sealing the cracks properly is an alternative.
Unfortunately, this can be a difficult repair. Water coming through a basement floor is under high pressure, and ordinary patching cements won’t stop it for long.
The time-honored method of repairing basement-floor cracks is to widen them with a chisel or other tool and give them an inverted V shape; the purpose is to create a crack that will “lock in” the repair material.
In place of regular patching cement or concrete, a product called hydraulic cement is often used. Hydraulic cement expands as it cures, and forms a waterproof seal.
You can buy hydraulic cement at most home centers and hardware stores under such brand names as Fast Plug.
Several special products for sealing floor cracks are also available. One, CrackWeld, is simpler to use than hydraulic cement. It is an epoxy-like liquid that is injected into the cracks and is supposed to form a permanent, waterproof seal.
For more information, visit www.radonseal.com/ catalog.htm. A do-it-yourself kit that will repair about 50 feet of cracks 1/16-inch wide costs about $80.
Q. We have a fireplace surround with brass borders that we want to paint black. The brass has a sealer on it to prevent tarnishing. How do we paint it?
A. The coating is probably lacquer, which is often applied to brass to prevent tarnishing. Sand the surfaces you want to paint to remove the gloss, then wipe clean with alcohol.
If this is a working fireplacee, you should use a high-heat paint; this is available in black and is often used to refinish barbecue grills. You can use a lacquer-based spray paint to paint the cleaned surface, but you will need to mask carefully to keep paint off surfaces where you don’t want it.
If you want to use a brush-on plaint, apply an oil-based primer first. Use several coats of finish paint for good coverage.