Exterior Upgrades In Progress

Just popping in to give you a hint at what’s coming next week:

What you’re seeing here is a pile of damaged and rotting siding. Which means that I FINALLY scraped up the cash and found the right guys to tackle some of the biggest pain points of the house’s exterior!

This project has been on the to-do list for five years. And even though I’ve made my own attempts to address some of the easier-to-reach problem areas on my own (like the garage), I always knew there were some areas that could be better handled by a pro, like the band around the chimney. Little did I know the horror that was lurking underneath!

It’s true that in DIY, things often look worse before they start to get better again. And I am happy that I can finally pull up into my driveway without half-painted windows. I can finally look forward to fewer issues with woodpeckers and pine straw. It’s always easier to look back and wonder why I hadn’t done these things sooner, but the answer is almost always the same (and also true for most homeowners): I have way, way more time than money.

I need to do some additional landscaping before I can take “after” shots of the progress completed (just because I think my overgrown hedges will ruin the oohs and aahs), but I thought it would at least be fun to go ahead and show you some of the scarier snaps I took of the whole (super rainy) process.

Happy hour weekend, folks. I hope you have a productive one!

The post Exterior Upgrades In Progress appeared first on The Ugly Duckling House.

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Patio Slopes Toward House

Sandra Schumacher lives up in the land of billions of barrels of oil better known as Bismarck, North Dakota.

She’s got a problem with here patio because it slopes towards her house.

Allow her to explain.

“We have a 10 x 12 concrete patio that has sloped toward the house causing leakage during rainstorms.

Could we pour a new concrete patio over the top with the proper slope (and enlarging to 14 x 12) or is it best to tear out the existing patio and start fresh?”

Here’s my answer:

Sandra, you can do an overlay and not take out the existing patio.

If you go this route here’s what I’d make sure of:

  • the surface of the patio next to the house must be at least 6 inches down from the bottom of the first row of siding or whatever is the exterior covering of the house
  • the new patio concrete must be a minimum of 4 inches thick and contain 1/2-inch steel reinforcing bars set on 2-foot centers going both directions – failure to do this will produce a crack where the larger patio extends over the existing one

Be sure to READ all of my past concrete installation columns so you don’t have a premature failure of the product. CLICK HERE to read them.


Build a Rolling Lumber Rack to Fit Full Sheets of Plywood Plus Cut Offs

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As your passion for woodworking grows, so will your supply of plywood and lumber cut-offs. This rolling lumber rack should accommodate most avid DIY woodworkers and fit nicely into the corner of their workshop.

This rack is built using three 2x12s cut at an angle, 2x4s, and a sheet of plywood. Heavy duty casters are added to the base for maneuverability. A table saw with a dado blade helps to cut half lap joints to attach the 2x12s to the base and a cordless drill/driver is used to drive all of the deck screws to hold the piece together. A jigsaw is also useful to trim the cutouts needed in the plywood.

This rack can be built for roughly $120 in materials and custom designed to fit your space. A rolling lumber rack is convenient for floor cleaning purposes as well as those times when you need to re-arrange your shop to accommodate new tools.

Timothy Dahl

Brick Wall Leaking

DEAR TIM: My wife and I moved into a new condominium building in March 2009. When it rains and there’s heavy wind, we get water leaking through the brick. A gentle rain shower with the rain falling straight down causes no problems. What is causing the problem? There are many older brick buildings on the street that are well over 100 years old and none of them leak. Is there anything that can be done that will stop the leaks or do the exterior walls have to be completely rebuilt? Stanley P., Brooklyn, NY

DEAR STANLEY: What a darn shame you’re experiencing this common problem. Not too many years ago, I used to do quite a bit of expert witness work in construction-defect cases. I was the lead witness in a huge case in the Midwest against a very large builder. He built many brick-veneer homes and every one of them had leakage similar to what you describe. My testimony about what was going on and how to fix it carried the day for the homeowners.

Here’s a fact that’s been known for hundreds of years: Brick walls leak. The leaks happen in the contact zone between the mortar and the brick. To the naked eye that may seem like a waterproof joint, but it’s not. Often there are hairline cracks at these contact zones.

The vertical, or head, joints between two brick are the primary entry points for the water because modern bricklayers don’t always completely fill this space with mortar. Even if they did, the first layer of brick you see on the outside of your condo would leak.

Two or three hundred years ago, this leakage issue was known. The builders who experienced leakage solved the problem by modifying how they built solid masonry buildings. They used different brick and they used a lime mortar different from today’s high-strength mortars. The lime mortar has a unique self-healing property where it can grow new crystals when a hairline crack develops. It’s too bad most masons don’t use this lime mortar in modern construction.

This new mid-rise condo building experiences leaks through the brick walls during rainstorms. The cause is poor workmanship. Photo Credit: Stanley Pikovsky

This new mid-rise condo building experiences leaks through the brick walls during rainstorms. The cause is poor workmanship. Photo Credit: Stanley Pikovsky

Your new condominium building and the older solid masonry buildings in your neighborhood may look the same on the outside, but that’s where it stops. The older brick buildings on your street have exterior walls that contain a minimum of two layers of brick. Some buildings have exterior walls that have three layers of brick.

The builders of old discovered that the brick you see on the outside needs to be a hard brick that resists weathering. These brick are fired in the kilns for a longer time and at a hotter temperature. Some brick like this are so hard they can resist Mother Nature’s punishment for hundreds of years.

But the brick masons discovered they needed a softer brick that soaks up water. This was the brick they placed behind the one you see on the outside of the old buildings. These softer brick sucked up the rain water and then allowed it to evaporate back to the exterior of the building just after the rainstorm ended.

The dynamic of the rain water leakage is simple. Think about hammering a nail into wood. You tap the nail with the hammer and each hammer blow drives the nail deeper into the wood.

When a violent rainstorm hits your building, the first drop of water crashes against the brick and some water enters. The next droplet of rain along with the force of the wind pushes the first water droplet deeper into the wall. As the rainstorm continues along with the wind, soon you have a minor waterfall happening on the backside of the first layer of brick. This is the water that’s leaking into your condo.

This leakage has been well documented by many building scientists for decades. The Brick Institute of America (BIA) has technical notes and bulletins that talk about this leakage and how to prevent it when building. Your building architect and builder should have followed the advice given by the BIA. These technical bulletins have been available for free for decades and can now be accessed easily from the BIA website.

A small company in Indiana has been working on solutions to this poor workmanship problem for decades. I met and know the owner of this company. He’s written several industry white papers about brick veneer leakage. The name of the company is Saver Systems.

Your condo association can purchase two products from this company that may solve the problem. They require expert workmanship when applying them to get the best results.

The first product is a silane-siloxane clear water repellent. This product is sprayed on the entire exterior wall. It’s very important that a second worker operates a powerful leaf blower to drive the water repellent deep into the wall. This blower acts like the wind during a rainstorm and drives the water repellent deep into the wall.

The second product that’s needed is a clear crack and joint sealant. This is carefully brushed onto the mortar joints and it must cover the entire mortar joint but not carry over too much onto the brick. If this sealant gets on the brick, a white haze can develop over time. An experienced applicator can carefully apply the sealant so it just touches up against the brick sealing the invisible hairline cracks between the mortar and the brick.

Realize that this fix is not guaranteed because the workmanship, materials used in your condominium building and/or the actual design may be so bad that these two products can’t overcome the deficiencies. I’d do a test on one part of your building and see what happens. If it’s successful, then treat all the brick walls.

Column 1105


August 16, 2015 AsktheBuilder Newsletter

Are you a new subscriber?

Welcome! See that link just to the right, this one? CLICK IT.

Each week that’s a secret link to a past column that may make your wildest dreams come true.

What a summer it’s been so far. I’m in a state of shock that it’s already the middle of August. Labor Day is just around the corner.

I’ve been working on the train for three days a week this season. It’s been loads of fun. This is a dream once-in-a-lifetime part-time job. It’s my second season.

Two days I’m the train conductor. The other day each week I’m a fireman.

On our train a fireman is the ground man doing all the switching of cars. I love doing this and we do it six times each day. It’s thrilling to be next to the throbbing locomotive as I bring it in for a hitch.

But the real excitement happens when I jump down in between the car and the locomotive to lace up the air lines.

Yes, don’t worry all you engineers out there, I’ve got three-step protection when I go in between to lace them up.

When we travel north on our tracks, the fireman becomes an extra set of eyes on the left side of the train for the engineer.

The long snout of the locomotive blocks the engineer’s vision on one side of the train, so I’m watching for people on the tracks and vehicles at crossings.

Just last week we almost plowed into a pickup truck. The driver slammed on his brakes at the last moment.

I was just about to reach behind me for the dump air valve to put the train into an emergency stop, but the truck driver decided he’d screech to a halt just three feet from the passing locomotive.

I’m sharing this story for a reason.



Our tiny train of just a switching locomotive and five cars weighs in at about 400 tons.

Even though we’re only traveling at 12 mph on average, 400 tons against the 2-3 tons of your car is no match.

Please, please, please always STOP, LOOK and LISTEN at railroad crossings. The listen part is for the 19-B required horn blast trains must do at public roads.

It’s the Morse code letter Q. Two long blasts, a short blast then a long blast.

I’ll finish with this. This past Wednesday I had to deliver a can of gasoline to our track crew on a nearby side street.

A young couple who were renting a nearby house for a week was out for a walk, saw my uniform and said, “Do trains really come on this track?”

“You bet they do,” I said.

I went on to tell them that at any time day or night a train or locomotive could be on this placid train line along the gorgeous Lake Waukewan.

Speaking of which, here’s a photo I snapped last weekend of a sunset near the railroad tracks looking across Lake Waukewan.

How lucky I was to witness this magnificent gift.

Garage Design – Same Mistakes Day after Day

A new house is being built at the end of my road.

The rough carpenters finished framing the roof this past week and the two-car garage faces the street.

As Kathy and I went to church today I mumbled to her, “I wonder if those homeowners realize they’ll not be able to open up their car doors inside the garage.”

When I saw the foundation for the garage being poured two weeks ago I spotted the common problem.

The distance from the outside corner of the foundation to where the garage door opening started was only 2 feet.

The catatonic builder and architect who drew the plans for the house I live in made the same mistake. I see it happen 99 percent of the time in garages all across the land.

Why does this mistake keep happening? It’s insane.

I wrote a column years ago about the Dream Garage.

CLICK HERE to read what your garage should be like when you go to build again or perhaps build a detached garage.

Gas Detector – Pay Attention

I’ve got a wand-type gas detector that I need to test, but the roof job is putting everything like that in the back seat.

However, this is important enough that you need to know about this NOW.

I’m talking about the Brasscraft Gas Detection Wand.

This detector works on all sorts of gases, not just natural gas. CLICK HERE to read about what it can do.

I read the reviews about it at Amazon.com. Some are good and some are bad.

That’s pretty normal as I know it’s impossible to satisfy everyone.

But here’s what you need to know about gases and some of the reviews.

Some gases are HEAVIER than the air we breathe.

Propane happens to be one.

If you’re trying to detect a propane leak, holding the wand ABOVE the pipe or fitting may not produce a hit!

Realize when you’re using a gas wand detector like this go above, under and along the sides of joints as you test them.

It’s possible the bad reviews were a result of operator error and not the fault of the tool.

New Q & As for You!

I’ve been busy….. I had a few hot days and it was just impossible to get up on my roof.

Barb and Grouting her Sunroom Floor – Too Much?

Putting a Deck on a Patio in Plantation – Not So Fast James!!!

Caulking Secret for Stair Trim

&%^$#*@ Shed Door Not Square!

Rouge Grout on Cabinets – How to Remove SECRET!

Brick Mortar Clean-Up – BE CAREFUL!!

That’s enough for this hot and HUMID day here in NH!

Tim Carter
Founder – http://www.AsktheBuilder.com

Do It Right, Not Over!


How Much to Grout at One Time

Barb Havens and her husband are building a house in Eldora, Iowa.

He’s just finished installing the tile in a cozy sunroom and Barb wants to know how much to grout at one time.

Can the entire floor be done the same day?

Here’s what she sent to me. Look at the photo below too.

“How much can be grouted at once?

This sunroom is 13’x8′.

My husband has grouted smaller porcelain tile areas, but I am concerned it’s too large of an area to do all at once, even if I’m cleaning the tile while my husband is grouting.

Is it okay to grout this in sections? Since it’s a sunroom, we’re waiting until it’s cooler to grout it.

Should the tile be really clean before we grout? I am still seeing some areas of the thinset on the sides of the tile and a slight haze from the thinset when I try cleaning it on the tile surfaces. Won’t that thinset haze mix with the grout we use?

Thanks so much for your help Tim. My husband has been working on this house for ten years. Your videos are so well done.”

You can see Barb's husband laying the last tile. He should be using knee pads! This is a small space and one person could grout this in three hours or less. Photo credit: Barb Havens

You can see Barb’s husband laying the last tile. He should be using knee pads! This is a small space and one person could grout this in three hours or less. Photo credit: Barb Havens

Here’s my answer for Barb and her hard-working husband.

Barb, that’s a pretty small room. One person who’s got grouting experience could do that entire job in about three hours or less. With a helper changing out rinse water, I estimate I could do the floor in ninety minutes.

You can do the job in stages, but when you do this, there’s always the chance that you could have very subtle differences in the color of the grout.

You MUST get off any excess thinset from the edges of the tile. This should really be done as you lay tile and the thinset is wet. 

Now that it’s hard, it’s going to be a chore.

If there is a thinset haze on the tile, it needs to be completely cleaned off before you grout. Use a diluted solution of muriatic acid to do this, but TEST IT FIRST on some tile scraps to make sure the acid does not harm the tile.

Mix ten parts water to one part acid for this cleaning solution. Open the sunroom door as the acid fumes are toxic.