Q: We have carpeting that’s musty and was marked by cats a decade ago. The baseboards are stained and smelly. We’re going to pull out the musty carpet and replace it with wood flooring, but how should we deal with the baseboards so the odor doesn’t persist? Will paint or polyurethane “put a lid” on this?
A: Getting animal odors out of a room rarely works without replacing all of the smelly stuff. Ditch the carpet, but you also need to treat the subfloor and anything else that got wet. Yes, the baseboards can be saved. Ventilate the room and wash the baseboards and subfloor thoroughly with one part bleach to three parts water. Let them dry. Put a latex interior primer on the baseboard, and then add two coats of a latex interior finish. Deodorizers do not work if any source of the odor is present.
Kicking out skunks
Q: We need to tear down a shed in our backyard, but a family of skunks lives under it. Do you have suggestions on how to lure them away?
A: Skunks are mostly active at night, so in the daytime they will be dangerous if disturbed. Hire a professional to relocate them.
Bricks need sealer
Q: I just had two sets of steps built with brick risers and sides. The treads and platform are granite. Does the brick or granite need to be sealed? If so, what is a good product to use? Thanks.
A: You can seal the granite, but it won’t do much good. Definitely cover all brick surfaces with a masonry sealer.
Cracks in concrete
Q: I have a few cracks in a 35-year-old concrete perimeter foundation. Is there a product that can be squeezed into these cracks to strengthen the foundation and avoid problems when the next earthquake comes along?
A: If the cracks are not excessively leaking water into the basement, leave them alone. If they are wide enough to take mortar, you can fill them as part of an autumn project. It’s hard work. If some floors are sloping a bit, then keep an eye on the foundation to make sure the concrete stays put. Earthquake? Any tremor strong enough to get your attention can do a job on a concrete foundation, whether it’s cracked or not.
Using a dehumidifier
Q: We just moved into a house built in the 1860s that has a stone foundation. About 10 years ago, a concrete-slab floor was added and a sump pump was installed, but the basement still feels damp. Will a dehumidifier help? Most people seem to think they’re a good way to reduce moisture in damp basements, but a few say they worsen the situation by making the walls wick up even more water or even contributing to the deterioration of the foundation by drawing more moisture through the stone. What’s your opinion?
A: Dehumidifiers work very well, but often too well, sucking water vapor up through the slab even after the basement air is nice and dry. That is what you read, and it is good information. Open all windows for cross ventilation and keep them open as long as they are forcing damp air outdoors. It’s too bad they didn’t put a polyethylene vapor barrier under the slab when they poured it. That would have helped a lot.
Marble floors get dirty
Q: I did not get to choose my bathroom floor; it was in the condo when I bought it. I loved it until it got spotty, and I was told it was because of the porous nature of marble tile. I do not put a lot of wear and tear on it. I even put down little rugs. I have tried to find a marble polish. One that does a nice job on granite hasn’t done much for these tiles even though it says it’s great for both. Can you suggest a product that will make it shine?
A: Marble is very absorbent and impossible to keep clean, especially when it’s used on floors, which get dirt scuffed into them day in and day out. Don’t even try to keep a marble floor clean. Do the best you can, and some day you can rip it out and put in old-faithful ceramic or porcelain tiles.