Answers to Home-Improvement Questions
Question: I have a basement window that leaks. Every year, when the ground is frozen and we have a heavy rain, my basement gets a couple of inches of water from a certain window. I think the general slope of the property causes the basement window well to fill with water. When the water level covers the window, it cascades into the basement. Answer: Eliminating a basement leak is not an easy task. But the problem apparently is your window well, which is acting like a drain next to the foundation wall. If incorrectly designed, the well directs water toward the foundation instead of away from it. Try digging out the soil and aggregate in the well, usually made of corrugated steel. If you remove enough soil in the well, you might find the builder left a large piece of concrete or even a pile of debris in or around the well area; this blockage could be inhibiting drainage. If that’s the case, when you refill the well interior, use coarse, loose aggregate (3/8 inch or 3/4 inch in size) on a bed of sand. If you don’t find a huge object, consider building a drain tile extension that runs the length of the foundation wall and around the window well. To create this drainage extension, you’ll need several pieces of 4-inch perforated pipe – also called irrigation pipe – a couple of connectors and perhaps a drain box for inside the window well. Dig a trench the length of the foundation wall and around the outside of the window well to about a foot to 18 inches deeper than the well. Also, remove the soil inside the well, again to about 12 to 18 inches deeper than the metal shell. Line the trench with about 3 inches of pea gravel, then lay in the pipe. Inside the well, install a drain box and run another piece of pipe under the shell and to the connector. You want a drainage channel that will divert water away from the foundation and inside the window well. When you’ve made all the connections, cover the pipe, the pipe ends and the drain cover with landscape mesh, another layer of pea gravel, and then backfill the trench. If you think it’s necessary, design this channel with a second trench, one that is perpendicular to the first. The second trench should run from the outside body of the well toward the middle of the yard. At the end of this trench, let the pipe empty into a bed of buried pea gravel, perhaps a 3-foot square that’s a good 10 or 12 inches deep. If you add the second trench, design the channel system so the drain in the well is slightly higher than the three lines of pipe. The channel that runs perpendicular to the well should be slightly deeper than the other two. Another way to move water from the wall and well is to create a plastic drainage plane about a foot below the topsoil that runs along the foundation wall. Remove the top layer of grass (or sod) and soil to a depth of about 12 inches and lay a sheet of 4-millimeter polyethylene sheeting over the exposed soil. Run one edge of the plastic sheeting up the foundation wall and around the outer wall of the window well. When the plastic is covered, the edge should be a few inches above the new soil line. You can run the plastic higher and then cut it at the end of the project with a utility knife. Next, cover the plastic with an even layer of pea gravel and a layer of sand. Make sure to add the gravel and sand so it slopes away from the wall. Finally, cover the sand layer with the topsoil and replace the grass. At the foundation wall, use a roofing caulk to seal the plastic edge against the foundation. Be sure this plastic edge is only an inch or two above the grass line. During a heavy rain or when snow melts, water will seep through the soil and gravel. When it reaches the plastic layer, it will drain toward the middle of the yard. Q.: My sister-in-law and her husband recently had a huge problem because of a delivery of heating oil. Apparently, the delivery technician did not properly tighten a connecting line, and it leaked fuel oil. They were not home, and when they returned the house reeked of fuel oil. Everything smelled, including clothing, carpeting and woodwork. The delivery company was called, but the technician said he didn’t smell anything. The company’s insurance does not cover cleaning. We called the health department and were told the spill did not qualify as a health issue. Anyway, how can we remove the smell? A.: I don’t have good news. Carol Gordon of Advanced Restoration in West Babylon, N.Y., says that removing oil stains and odor is a huge, huge task. If the spill is in a basement or a utility room with drywall and wood framing, Gordon says, it’s likely the building materials will have to be removed and discarded. For a concrete floor or walls in a basement, a professional restoration company can scrub the stain with a degreasing agent or encapsulate it with an epoxy paint. To remove airborne odors, an ozone machine is used. “Oil spills are tough,” Gordon says. “Any fabric, carpet or furniture likely has to be tossed in the garbage. That goes for building materials, too.” Gordon says that ozone treatment – running a type of commercial air purifier – costs about $125 a day. Usually, removing airborne odors takes three or four days. Encapsulation with an epoxy paint, normally two coats, is $3 to $4 a square foot.
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