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Handyman on Call

How can he stop the leaks?

Q. I live in a brownstone southeast of Boston and we have chased water leaks for the 15 years that I’ve been here. We have repointed the brick exterior, put on a new roof, completely rebuilt our wood bay. We have hired about a half-dozen contractors over the years and spent close to $100,000 but the leaks continue especially with wind-driven rain.

I know you probably can’t address specifics with this information, but my question is: what’s the next step short of continuing to redo all we’ve done? Are there “leak experts,” or should an architect schooled in brownstone construction be found (where?) and how does one trace the origin of wind-driven leaks? Replacing our water-damaged interior walls every year is really getting old.

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WAYNE STRATTMAN

A. Hooboy, that’s a big order, but one clue gives me hope: You refer to wind-driven rain as an especial cause. Although a brownstone has a flat roof, check all flashing, which can be a serious cause for leaks around chimneys, vent pipes, and other areas penetrating the roof. Pointing the old bricks is a good idea, but old bricks might still leak, so consider a sealer on the bricks called Chimney Saver, which lets the bricks breathe, as weird as that sounds. Chimney Saver is usually installed by a chimney sweep. Check all gutters to ensure they are correctly installed. Check chimneys, and put on stainless steel caps. Also, check the inside of the walls for moisture. Very often water vapor will force itself through the inner walls and into the cavity, where it condenses into water, undiscovered until it soaks the inside walls.

These are the things that a “leak expert” should look for. As for who is a leak expert, hire a renovation or restoration architect to see if he can find the culprit(s).

Q. We had our basement waterproofed last January by a reputable company. They put in drains around the inside of the basement and a new sump and pump with cover, and so far it’s working great. Not a drop of water. We also put in a back-up battery. We got a call from the company last week that wanted to schedule a “cleaning” of our sump pump. They wanted $315 which would extend the manufacturer’s warranty on the pump for another year. We have never had to clean our sump and pump in 27 years, and it seemed like a lot of money. It sounds like a scam to me and anyone I’ve asked has said they never cleaned their pump.

Is this something that a homeowner should be doing? It really sounds like they are just finding a way to get money out of us. Our thoughts are that if we paid $315 a year, after a couple of years we could have someone come in and replace the whole pump for less than the $630 we would have spent and certainly a new pump shouldn’t have issues in a year or so.

ROSALYN SEALE, Milford

A. Your thinking is spot on. Sumps and pumps are relatively inexpensive, and rarely break down, so you can take your chances. We all get these offers, usually on big appliances and cars, but most of us just put them in the trash. You should too.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (photton@globe.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com
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