Question: Every time our area gets a deluge of a storm (Floyd, Irene, and Lee) where we get four or more inches of rain in a short period of time, we have a 10-foot section of basement cinder block wall that leaks. The leak is where the block meets the concrete floor, which I know is caused by hydrostatic pressure.
I've graded, put on gutter extensions and used waterproofing paint to no avail.
I've seen commercials for a spray product called Flex-Seal. Would this solve my problem or would you recommend something else?
I ask as all the waterproofing companies I've talked to say the job is too small for them.
Answer: If you aren't going to pay them thousands of dollars, the job is too small. Some day I should compile a list of reliable contractors who still do small, reasonably priced jobs.
I think I've seen the cable television commercials for the product you mention, and I tend to avoid things that, if I buy today, I'll get two for the price of one if I pay separate shipping and handling - where I think there is money to be made.
The reason waterproofing paint didn't work is that it tends to just block moisture, not solve the problem. Water finds its lowest point, and if there is something blocking one entry point, it is likely to find another way in.
Even the directions on the can, if I recall, explain that it will work on moisture issues but not stop floods.
Grading and gutter extensions were a good start, but a home-inspection expert I heard several years back at a real estate conference suggested digging around the foundation where you think the water might be entering and seeing if there is a crack opening.
If the crack is wide enough - and I've seen this in a lot of damp basements - water in heavy rainstorms on already saturated ground will go deeper and deeper to find its way into any opening to relieve the pressure, and that is usually a basement.
In South Jersey, where the water table is high, I've found the best way of handling moisture is to install a system of perimeter and french drains that carry it to the sump, where it is pumped away from the house.
New construction seems to have solved this problem with a membrane coating installed around each foundation before the area around it is backfilled and graded. A lot of new houses now come with perimeter drains, french drains, and pumps.
Perhaps, if there is a crack in the foundation, you can find some version of this membrane on the Internet. People often use a combination of tarpaper and troweled asphalt to seal the area, especially if it is not going to be visible to your neighbors.
Q: I have begun to experience a problem with field mice entering my 35-year-old home, which I have owned for eight years.
Soon after I purchased my home, I saw signs that the previous owner may have also experienced this problem.
Over the last seven years, I have trapped perhaps six mice. However, during the last year alone, I have trapped slightly more than that number.
My area has endured back-to-back winters of severe weather and record-breaking snow.
I have surveyed the base of my home from the outside and have caulked and re-cemented every crack and opening that I found, to no avail.
Obviously, I've missed something. I've thought of hiring a professional contractor who could survey my home's foundation to identify any vulnerable areas.
A: Have you thought about a pest-control professional to locate the source of the problem and take care of it before it reaches your basement?
Mice can get into hairline cracks if they want to, and other than making sure the perimeter around the foundation is free of nesting materials, pest control is the best advice I can offer.
The winters have been hard on mice as well, but that doesn't mean you should share your house with them.
This week on Al's Place: Wrapping up and storing outside extension cords. www.philly.com/yourplace
Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at firstname.lastname@example.org or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing)