Q. We have a Cape-style house with an old brick patio. The bricks are spaced very far apart with stone chips all over the bricks. The chips hurt your feet and get tracked into the house. What’s the best way to fix this mess?
A. The fix is as much work as a new patio, but it’s the only thing that will work. Pick up all the bricks and place them aside. Then prepare the bed, 2 inches of well-tamped sand. Be sure to put pressure-treated timbers or big concrete blocks on the border to keep the bricks from “walking.” Replace the brick in a pattern that you like, so they touch each other. Sprinkle sand between the bricks.
Q. I (perhaps unwisely) filled a fireplace with gas-burning logs. The convenience is good, but I don’t like the appearance and cost of propane. The fireplace and hearth are brick, and the efficiency of the heat is not great. My cat who lies on the mantel, seems to get the most benefit. I was wondering if tiling over the brick with soapstone, or creating a surround with a thick soapstone would hold the heat and make it last longer. I also have an old Vermont Castings stove I wanted to put the gas logs inside, so there would be a big hunk of hot cast iron, and a limited view of the fake logs, but that didn’t fly with the installer. What do you think?
A. I agree with the installer. Gas logs belong only where they were intended, and any alteration is dangerous and probably illegal. Here is the only thing that can help: Line the sides, back, and bottom with soapstone or granite, maybe 2 inches thick, which the flame will warm up.
It will take a long time to heat, but it will take an equally long time to cool. You can install a cast-iron fireback in place of the soapstone for an authentic look. One final thing: I think Vermont Castings makes a stove unit with gas log inserts. Maybe you can buy the shell .
Q. Do you know of a way to eliminate a musty odor in an attic crawl space off a bedroom? It’s OK in colder months, but once the weather warms up and especially in humid weather, the smell is very strong. There is insulation between the rafters and flattened cardboard on the floor. There must be ventilation because when the wind blows the doors leading to the crawl space blow open. Ideas?
A. First, take off that cardboard on the floor; it is interfering with the space’s ventilation. The doors open because the air pressure is high in the crawl space and low in the bedroom; result: Pow!
To correct this, you need extra ventilation in the crawl space. Install soffit vents, on the under part of the roof overhang. If you don’t have gable vents, put them in. Gable vents are louvered vents at the very peak of the A-shaped ends of the roof. This should do it. If it doesn’t, put in more ventilation; for instance, small mushroom-shaped vents on the roof just down-roof from the knee wall, where the doors keep popping.
The plan is to release all that water vapor, which causes the mustiness. Also try insulating the floor of the crawl space.
Q. When is the best time to put in a new driveway?
A. Any time the ground is not frozen. December, January, and February, and maybe March are the usual taboo months. New driveways require excavating deeply enough to install 6 inches of crushed stone (for drainage), plus 4 inches of asphalt flush with the ground. This is especially true of driveways made of Portland cement-based concrete.
Q. My son wants to know if a disposal can be used with a septic tank.
A. I think so. Years ago, there was some question about using a disposal with a septic tank (or cesspool). Today, I think all disposals can be used with a septic tank. Call your dealer to confirm this.
Q. My 50-year-old wood, overhead manual garage doors are rather dingy and damaged looking outside. The inside is pristine. Can I reverse the door?
A. I think it can be done. All you have to do is turn the door inside out, and transfer hinges to the other side. Check with your overhead dealer. If he says, huh, ignore him an get him to help you.
Only one problem may stand in your way. The trim holding the outside panels in place may be a flat, sloped piece to allow water to dip way from the panels. The inside may have a stepped slanted trim, more decorative and less weatherproof. If you caulk this part carefully and paint it well, it can stand up to weather.