Q: I have a small (12-foot-by-10-foot) wooden deck in my backyard, which was stained in redwood finish about three years ago. Some areas of the deck has weathered and faded. I am planning to restain the deck in the next week or so. Any advice on the preparation and staining techniques? –O.C.

A: If it’s been only three years, it sounds like the original material used to stain the deck might not been of the highest quality. I would suggest cleaning and prepping the deck using a product such as Wolman’s DeckStrip, which will remove the old stain and prep the wood to receive new material.

It’s pretty easy to use, just follow the package directions. Then apply a new, high-quality, UV-resistant stain that’s formulated for deck use. Depending on the weather conditions where you are, if you plan on reapplying the stain every two years you shouldn’t have any further weathering problems.

Q: I have a poured block foundation under my house that has developed a few thin vertical cracks. I was wondering how to go about fixing them. I had bad gutters and poor grading around the house. Both issues have been fixed and now I need to fix the cracks.

I’ve heard of a poly-type injection system that a homeowner can use as a do-it-yourself project, which consists of an epoxy paste that’s mixed and spread along the crack after adhering approximately eight to 10 ports along the crack. Then you let that dry and inject the poly substance into the ports, thus sealing the crack. I was wondering if that would work in my situation, and, if so, where can I purchase the product? –Deb D.

A: Unfortunately, when it comes to foundation cracks, I always want to err on the side of caution. There certainly are a number of good products for repairing cosmetic cracks, but the cracking can also be an indicator of deeper structural problems. As such, I would advise you to consult with a licensed concrete or masonry contractor or a structural engineer to first be sure that there are no structural or settling issues.

If there aren’t, then the contractor or engineer can also advise you on the proper epoxy crack filler for your particular situation.

Q: We have a ranch home with an attic fan on the east side of the house. We have a vent at the peak of roof and a fan approximately 14 to 16 inches in diameter with screening and a louvered cover on the outside.

We noticed that underneath the fan there is a board that appears to be rotted. There is no mold on the outside, but the wood seems porous and we also saw what looked like water streaks on the wood. Our bedroom below this area has a musty smell, and I am wondering if it is coming from the area under the fan.

Who would I contact to come over and determine if there is mold behind it and replace it? Do I have to call a mold specialist or someone like that? How about a home inspector? I am not sure if a regular carpenter would be able or want to deal with this issue. –Barb and Jerry

A: I would suggest a contractor who deals with insurance restoration work. This type of contractor will have moisture detection equipment that can read the extent of moisture and how far it’s traveled, which will help you determine how extensive the damage might be and perhaps track down the source. They’re typically very well educated in mold issues, and can help you to assess any remediation work that needs to be done, as well as any health issues that might be present.

For a good source of qualified, licensed insurance restoration contractors, I would ask your local homeowners insurance agent for recommendations.

Q: I have an existing deck and had the staircase removed due to a new pool that has been constructed in my backyard. We are to the point where the deck stairs needs to be replaced. Is it possible to construct deck stairs that make a 180-degree turn without right angles? I want a gradually sweeping turn to the ground as opposed to the traditional 90-degree turns from a landing.

My carpenter tells me it’s too costly to even consider. Your thoughts? –Bill W.

A: Sounds like your best option is a spiral staircase. A spiral staircase looks awesome, and can be designed and installed to suit a wide variety of heights and spaces.

And while I’d agree with your carpenter that site construction of one is pretty expensive, there are a lot of kits available that might not be cost-prohibitive, especially if you do the installation yourself. I’d start with an Internet search under "exterior spiral staircase kits," and go from there.

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