Q. Our house is built in an area with a high water table and water sometimes comes up through the basement floor. I tried to paint the floor, which has some cracks, but the Drylok won’t stick. We do have a sump pump, but in bad times there is still water on the floor. What next?
A. Basement flooding caused by a high water table, or high level of underground water, is often difficult to solve because the water comes into the basement with very high pressure.
Drylok, a waterproofing paint for wall seepage, is not recommended for floors and shouldn’t be used in this situation. Leaking floor cracks are also difficult to fix but it is worth a try.
A time-honored method of repairing concrete floor cracks is to chisel or otherwise cut them into an inverted V shape, then pack them with hydraulic cement, which expands as it dries and locks into properly prepared cracks.
The purpose of the inverted V shape is to hold patches in place under pressure. Hydraulic cement is sold at home centers and hardware stores.
A sump pump is probably the most practical solution, and your pump might not be taking all the water out for a several reasons.
The pump might not be powerful enough to handle the volume of water that comes into your basement, it might not be working properly, or it might not be carrying the water far enough away from the foundation. In the latter case, water will simply flow right back into the basement.
Make sure the sump is clean and also clean the pump’s intake screen. Check the float switch to make sure it is working properly (pour water into the sump periodically to make sure the pump starts).
If the pump continues to prove inadequate, consider getting a more powerful pump that will remove water at a faster rate.
Your rain-gutter downspouts should also have extensions or leaders so that rain water is carried at least eight feet away from the foundation and flows downhill, away from the house.
It is often recommended that grading around a house be improved so that water flows away from the foundation, but this isn’t always practical or cost-effective.
Finally, consider getting a backup sump pump that will kick in if the main pump stops working because of a power failure or mechanical breakdown. Many backup pumps are powered by 12-volt marine batteries.
If you are on a municipal water system, you might also be able to have a main sump pump operated by water pressure, in which case you shouldn’t need a backup pump.
Q. We had the mortar repaired between some of the bricks in the front steps of our older house. The new mortar wasn’t colored by the contractor and doesn’t match the old. It looks terrible. Is there anything we can do to color the new mortar?
A. It is unlikely that you will be able to get a close match no matter what approach you take. Mortar colorants are available, for use when the mortar is mixed, but it is very tricky to duplicate an existing color.
However, re-coloring is still the best approach and one possible solution is to chip out the new mortar to a depth of about one-quarter inch, color the replacement mortar as closely as you can to the old, and fill in the recesses.
Quikrete makes a line of concrete colorants, sold at some home centers, that can also be used with mortar and stucco. These liquid colors are available in red, brown, buff, charcoal and terra cotta.
For more information, visit www.quikrete.com, click on Products, then on Alphabetical Listing, then on Cement Colors.
You could try staining or painting the new mortar to match the old, but finding a concrete stain or paint of the correct tint might be difficult.
The best option would be to learn to live with the contrasting colors. Aging might make the new mortar less conspicuous.