Q: My house is on a hill and the driveway is built of cement on a wood framing. When I moved in 15 years ago, the inspector suggested I get the contractor to seal the cement to keep water from seeping down and causing the wood to deteriorate.
Now, I think it may be time to reseal, but I don’t remember what product the workers used. Also, would I need to remove what is on there now and could that be done with a pressure washer?
My 60-year-old stucco house has brick stairs that rise over the garage from a cement landing, and turn left. In winter, water seeps through the stairs to the garage. The brick stairs are supported by wood. What is the best way to stop the leaking to the garage? Is a waterproof sealant all right?
A: The rainy season is upon us once again. It’s time to think about stopping, or at least limiting, the infiltration of one of a house’s worst enemies: water.
We applaud Judith’s sense of prevention in wondering if it might be time to reseal her driveway. Our answer is a resounding yes.
We believe it’s unlikely that water will saturate the slab, seeping through to the wooden framing, it is quite possible, and even likely, that small cracks have developed over the years. Application of a good concrete sealer will fill these voids and prevent water penetration. Check out www.quickcrete.com for useful products and suggestions. Application of an acrylic concrete sealer is a relatively easy two-step process. First, prepare the surface by removing all grease, dirt and dust. Using a pressure washer is the ideal way to clean the driveway but a stiff-bristle broom, a garden hose with sprayer and some elbow grease will do the job, too.
Next, apply the sealer according to manufacturer’s instructions with a brush, broom or paint roller. Allow the first coat to dry a minimum of two hours or the length of time the manufacturer directs. Then re-coat. Allow the sealer to cure for 24 to 48 hours before you drive on it. Then you’re good to go.
Heidi’s porch issue is more problematic. Since her porch is brick, and thus has many joints, we believe the source of her water infiltration is most likely cracks in the mortar joints. This problem is not insurmountable but it’s just going to require more work to stop the leak.
Carefully inspect the mortar joints for any cracks (even hairline cracks can let a surprising amount of water in) and re-point those with cracks.
To do this, remove approximately ½ inch to 1 inch of the mortar from the joint. Clean out all debris with a brush. Wet the joint and then apply new mortar into the joint with a small masonry trowel or putty knife. Allow the mortar to set up for about 20 minutes then tool the joint to match the joints in the rest of the brick.
When all the faulty joints have been retooled, apply a sealer according to manufacturer’s instructions. Be warned, though, that the sealer more than likely will change the color of the brick. To make sure you can live with the color change, apply a little sealer to an inconspicuous area. If the color is acceptable, apply two coats of the sealer to the porch and stairs, allowing a minimum of two hours drying time between coats. If the color isn’t acceptable, we’d suggest you seal just the joints using a foam paintbrush to apply the material. Finally, pay particular attention to the joints where the porch meets the house and where the stair risers meet the runners. These 90-degree angles are the joints most likely to fail.
Pressure washer followup: In response to our column on pressure washers, Justin Kielty of San Francisco writes: “I just purchased a power washer with 1,650 psi at Home Depot for a little over $169. It runs on electricity. It has a chemical dispensing reservoir, which can only be used on the lower pressure setting. The higher pressure nozzle requires judicious use as it can remove paint and grout that is not secure.”
For those of you interested in purchasing rather than renting, this might be worth checking out.
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