Your Place: Advice on repairing a crack in a concrete patio

A reader said there was a 20-foot crack running across her 15-year-old concrete patio that had been repaired with caulking. She asked if she should have the patio repoured.

Another reader, who has been in residential construction and building supplies for 45 years, wrote that any 200-square-foot patio that has lasted 15 years with only one crack means the patio was built right in the first place, but with one exception.

"The crack tells me the original builder did not put in the correct expansion joints. Thus, the crack is the concrete's need to make its own expansion joint.

"Rather than dig up a concrete pad that is still very serviceable, consider painting the concrete with a high quality concrete paint. That will cover the caulk line and make it all blend together.

"If the caulk line has failed, clean out the caulk and replace it with a high quality silicone or other sealant made specifically for concrete.

"You can make it blend in with a coat of paint that will also extend the life of the concrete pad. With minor maintenance, this concrete should be good for another 15 years."

Question: I wallpapered one bathroom 20 years ago when our house was first built. I put wallpaper directly over unfinished wallboard.

This was "removable" wallpaper, though my experience with that in other places is that it isn't very removable.

This bathroom does not have a shower and there has been little steam in the room. I would like to get rid of the wallpaper, but I'm concerned about what kind of mess I'm going to find.

Answer: Probably a lot of mess.

I received a few comments in response to a reader's concern about paying a remodeling contractor in cash.

"You had brought up some nefarious reasons for this but it may be something far simpler," wrote one reader. "I had a similar situation this past spring with a plumbing contractor who was doing an upgrade of my master bath.

"Like the contractor in your column, he came highly recommended. He told me he didn't accept credit cards because of the extra bookkeeping involved and the credit card company fee. I was initially taken aback by his cash/check-only business, but then I found the perfect workaround (for me).

"One of the credit-card companies I use issues checks which can be used as cash or as a regular check.

"So I wrote the check to myself for the total amount of the work, deposited it into my bank account, then wrote the down payment and final checks to him from my checking account.

"I could just have easily issued one of the checks directly to him, but some have an expiration date, and if he didn't cash it within the time limit, it would have caused a problem.

"The beauty of this is twofold. One, you can pay in 'cash' and still use credit. And, if you pay the contractor with one of the checks and there is a problem, you would be protected by the terms of your agreement with the issuing company."

The contractor in the original letter wanted cash, not a check. I personally would never use a credit card to pay for renovations. Maybe I would to purchase some materials that the contractor would install, but that's it.

Q: My family room is ground level, behind a garage. The heating vents run under the concrete pad. Depending on the amount of water and the direction of heavy rainstorms, we get water in these pipes.

I have considered cutting a hole in the garage floor and installing a sump pump, but I am not sure this will solve the problem. If it will, where do I place the pump?

The downspouts are in good shape and direct the water away. The pad is ground level and about 4 inches.

Is blocking these vents an option?

A: I have never faced such a situation. One would think that the contractor wouldn't have run the vents under the concrete pad, but you never know.

Have any of you had a similar problem? Feel free to comment and offer solutions.

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.