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Do It Yourself


A little heat will dry up basement condensation

By Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton has been the handyman expert for the Boston Globe for more than 30 years.

Q: We are the owners of a new house, built by a respected builder, who we feel did an excellent job.

We are having one issue with the finished basement, however. The basement is underground with an interior staircase. It is finished with hardwood floors, a bathroom and a laundry room, as well as a media area. The issue we are having is condensation on the walls and staircase walls.

What is odd is that (most) of the walls with the condensation are interior – including the staircase walls. From what I have read, this is mostly an exterior wall issue in basements. This is NOT water leaking from anywhere. We have glass framed pictures on the walls that condensation also builds up on.

We are concerned this will damage the walls as well as create mold. Is a dehumidifier our only option? The interwebs are confusing on this topic.

A: A closed-up basement and a buildup of moisture are the causes. Ventilate that space to release that water vapor, which builds up from breathing, cooking, washing, showers and bathing. When you heat the basement space, the condensation should disappear. Air conditioning in summer will work, too, because air conditioning is also a dehumidifier.

Q: Earlier this fall, I got 10 to 30 yellow jackets and wasps a day in the space between floors, coming in through the soffits. How can I get rid of them and keep new ones from coming in?

A: Wait until a heavy frost. A frost will kill them off. Then you should somehow take them away, because that many corpses will smell pretty bad. Then repair the soffits (the underparts of the roof overhang). Fill all cracks and holes, and make sure any vents are bug-proof.

Q: My cedar clapboard Cape-style house is primed and painted, and things are good except on the south side, which gets a lot of sun, and the horizontal boards are cupping, splitting, and warping. What’s wrong? All boards are applied the same way, using 3/4-inch nails.

A: The sun is the problem, and so are the nails that are too short, and their kind may also be at fault. Buy 11/2-inch-long siding nails, which are also hot zinc-dipped galvanized, which will hold better than bright (ungalvanized) nails. Exposure is also important; clapboards should be exposed 4 inches to the weather, no more, no less. Location of nails is also important; they should be at least 1/2 inch from the bottom, and be face-nailed with the nailheads exposed, about 2 inches from the ends. And nailing 12 inches apart won’t hurt. So you can reside, using these specs, and buying replacement clapboards when necessary.

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