Real estate


A sorrowful separation: Wall and floor are heading in different directions

The gap between the floor and a wall may be the result of a heavy door slamming shut.
The gap between the floor and a wall may be the result of a heavy door slamming shut.

Q. I read your column all the time and find I now have an issue in my home. It was built in 1950 and, as you can see from attached photos, the floor is separating from the wall. There is a good-sized gap, and air is coming through.

What kind of repair do I need to do?

NIKI WILSON, Wilmington


A. Thanks for reading. I’ve seen this before, and I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that was caused by a big, heavy door slamming shut -- a possible combination of not enough fasteners in the door jamb or weakened fasteners over time from slamming.

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I’ve fixed this by using a 2x4 block against the threshold to protect it and hitting the block with a sledgehammer to move the door jamb back in place. Be sure to vacuum out the crevice first. Once in place, you can remove the interior or exterior trim [pick one side] and add shims and more fasteners through the door jamb and into the framing to secure the door frame in place.

Q. Our Colonial-style house was sided with wood clapboards over Homasote when it was built in 1982; we bought it new. It has a red brick chimney on the side. A few years after it was built, we noticed that the Homasote sheathing on the chimney side, which was visible in the attic, was damp. In the attic, we tore off the sheathing to reveal the bricks and no water barrier. Doing some research, we found that bricks tend to absorb water after a few years, and we believe that water was conducted directly to the sheathing. Since then, we have been applying a water seal to the bricks every two to three years, and that has managed to stop further dampening in the visible attic area. We do not know the extent of damage, if any, behind the walls of the first and second floors.

Our questions: Should there have been a water barrier between the brick chimney and the house sheathing when it was built? If so, is it a code violation that will cause us problems when we try to sell the house? Is there any way to fix this permanently without tearing down the whole chimney and rebuilding it? Should we just continue to apply water seal as the best fix at this point?



A. The Homasote is your problem. Plywood would be unaffected by this issue. Replacing it with plywood and applying siding and trim would be the proper repair, along with addressing any flashing issues while there. Regarding your other questions, you haven’t given me enough information to tell you whether your chimney is in compliance or give you proper advice on what further action, if any, to take.

Q. Love your column and read it each week! I’m having a problem with several loose, large, flat stones on the stone wall built in front of my house two years ago. The mortar keeps crumbling around certain stones, and you can pick them up off the wall. I’ve secured these stones with a pre-mixed mortar. However, the stones keep coming loose. I don’t think the contractor will fix this problem. I am a “handy” girl but need some guidance. Is there a better type of mortar, maybe with some type of epoxy that would really secure these stones? Could I use Gorilla Glue on the bottom and then mortar around the edges? Help!


A. I don’t have a lot of faith in pre-mixed mortar. When I repair my wall (fieldstone caps), I use the following method.

Step 1: Clean the area you are bonding.


Thoroughly scrub and clean the top of the wall by mixing some soapy water with a little bleach. Using a brush, scrub the top of the wall, then rinse and let it dry before continuing.

Step 2: Apply concrete bond adhesive.

Although not absolutely necessary, using a good concrete bond adhesive on top of the retaining wall is an excellent idea. The adhesive will allow the mortar you add later to secure the capstones to better bond with the top of the wall.

Step 3: Use mortar mix.

Follow the directions on the mortar mix, and use real mortar mix.

Step 4: Lay capstones.

Dry-lay your stones first to see what fit looks best. Then spread a layer of mortar that is about 1/2 inch thick along the top of the wall. Press capstones into place and check with carpenter’s level. Scrape away excess mortar. As with tile, buttering the bottoms of the stone is helpful. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself; spread mortar in short runs. Position the capstones so they align with the wall face or plane. Wipe off excess mortar mix as you go.

Step 5: Clean around capstones.

Once the mortar dries, use a wire brush and scrub away any dried mortar mix. Muriatic acid works well, but read all safety precautions.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to or tweet them to @globeaddress or @robertrobillard.