Answers to Home-Care Questions |

Answers to Home-Care Questions

Question: Once in 2002, and again in 2006, I have had the wall-to-wall carpeting in my co-op professionally cleaned. Now the management at the co-op is telling me I have to have the carpet replaced because of a terrible odor. (By the way, I don’t smell anything.) The manager of the co-op claims the carpet was laid over a concrete slab and that’s the problem. He says the carpet has retained moisture and is moldy. So I am wondering, if they put in new carpeting, won’t the problem – moisture being retained in the carpeting – just resurface in a few years? What else can be done? Answer: Without examining or testing your concrete for moisture content I can’t be sure, but I’d bet a dime to a dollar your concrete floor is emitting moisture. There are two popular tests to detect concrete moisture: One involves taping a plastic sheet to the concrete, then measuring the humidity in the covered space after 24 hours. The other involves using calcium chloride, and the dryness of the chemical is checked several times over 72 hours. Basically, both tests will tell you the same thing: the amount of water, in number of pounds, being emitted per 1,000 square feet of floor in a 24-hour period. Generally, the acceptable level is 4.5 pounds or less. Some wood-floor installers have moisture meters, but these devices usually are not good for detecting moisture content in concrete. They are not considered totally accurate because they measure slabs only in terms of an overall percentage or give readings only at the surface. I think you have a legitimate concern, and I would advise against installing new carpeting in your co-op. You are right, in my opinion, in that the carpeting is going to become moldy and musty smelling again. Now, what are your options? Well, let’s assume your building is older and that the concrete has been in place for some time. If that’s the case, then the high moisture content is not because the concrete is curing. I would suggest installing a tile floor, which will allow some moisture from the slab to rise through into the living space. To deal with the moisture from the slab, use one or two dehumidifiers. To keep the tile floor a little warmer and cozier, use area rugs, which can be cleaned commercially or replaced when necessary. If it were me, I’d fight having wall-to-wall carpeting installed a second time. Q.: I’ve lived in my home for 48 years. Seven years ago, I had a blacktop driveway installed. Since then, I’ve had several people tell me I need to have the driveway sealed. Some people tell me it needs to be done annually. What’s the truth? A.: Dennis Kellerman, a co-owner of Pioneer Asphalt in Kings Park, N.Y., told me one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is sealing asphalt driveways every year. “That’s too much,” he said. “The best way to tell if your blacktop needs a sealant is to look for the white stones in the asphalt. When you can see the white stones, then it’s time.” Generally, Kellerman said, it’s about every four or five years, not every year or two. Hope that helps. Q. I have a problem with clover. How can I get rid of it? Also what’s the best way, organically, to deal with ants on a patio? A.: Clover comes up in the middle of the summer, usually, and has a high nitrogen content, so many organic lawn care specialists think it makes lawns more attractive. I tend to have a lot of clover in the back yard, but I find it’s really soft on the feet and, well, I guess I kind of like it, too. That said, the best way – organically – to keep it from coming back is using a slow-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer in the spring. This will enable the lawn to overtake the clover naturally, because the lawn greens up and comes out of its dormancy before the clover. I’m told by organic experts that, depending on the amount of clover, the lawn should be dominant after a season or two. As for ants, pyrethrum powders are made from dried pyrethrum flowers, such as Chrysanthemums, and they’re a low-toxic alternative to a man-made chemical called permethrin. Ants don’t like certain plants, including tansy and pennyroyal, and the dried powders of these plants do a good job of chasing ants away. Sprinkle the powder over mounds on the patio or in between cracks of concrete and asphalt. You’ll likely have to repeat the procedure a couple of times each spring and again during the summer. Pyrethrum powders also are excellent in repelling ticks, silverfish, flies and spiders. I’m told it can be dusted on animals to kill fleas, lice and ticks, but I’d certainly check with your vet before applying to any household pets.

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