Tip of the Week
Sanding drywall: When sanding drywall seams, it's good to follow the seam instead of going against it. It's better to go in circles, this way everything is blended and faded instead of getting that "path" from over sanding. Use a scrap piece of lumber or something hard and flat to put under your sand paper, this will keep things uniform. Using your hand can result in high and low spots which ultimately leads to more work. Also if you need the seams to dry quickly, try mixing your own "mud" instead of using the premix. The powedered mix comes in drying times of 20 minute, 45 minute, and 90 minute. The work times aren't very long with these so keep moving!
Recently I have been doing some work with various types of cement, mortar, portland, and grout (yes grout is a "cement"). This made me wonder "I wonder if the average home owner knows what type of cement to use where?" We all have seen the leaky basement that someone has tried to patch with something, but with the way it seems to have run down the wall or been thrown against it, chances are good it wasn't the right stuff. Not all concretes are created equal. If you have a leaky basement or foundation, you will need a hydraulic cement. No, not the cement they put in the back of pickup trucks to make them low riders (that is how they do it right?) Hydraulic cement is actually a cement that forms a waterproof seal, unlike the normal ready mix in a bag. Portland cement is an example of this, very sticky, but very strong. Also, it is better to patch a leak from the outside versus the inside, for obvious reasons.
Now, it seems every house has a retaining wall that has been standing for a hundred years. You know the one, it's leaning over and there is grass growing between the stones. Believe it or not these walls do serve a purpose and if you live on a hill you know exactly what it is. These walls keep your yard yours and not some city or county road clearing project. However, they wall can't it's job if the mortar joints are loose or missing. Every freeze thaw cycle kills a weak joint and undermines the strength of the wall. Filling in the gaps or replacing loose joints is called tuck pointing. There are ready mixes available for this and (wait for it) to make "special blends" portland cement can be added. Adding portland will give mortar more strength, more sticking power, and add some water proofing characteristics.
What about sidewalks and driveways? Your typical ready mix is alright to use as sidewalk material, but there are better versions of the same stuff. There are ready mixes that are more waterproof and others that are more impact resistant. Most sidewalks are about four inches thick and most are just poured right on the soil. I like to dig a little deeper and add a base to pour the cement on. Soft limestone is good for this, put an inch or two down and compact it. This gives something for the cement to grab a hold of and also forms a good strong base that should prevent cracking. If your budget doesn't allow for the extra step then pour your sidewalk at 6 inches with a quality product for a long lasting pathway. If you are resurfacing or adding a cap to old concrete, a step that is often skipped is etching. Concrete must be etched for any new cement to adhere to it. If you skip this step, after a few winters you'll be doing it again.
I know someone out there was laughing when I said the grout was a cement. It is, Google it. Most homeowners have done some tile work before and have therefore grouted. Here's a question, sanded or unsanded? Oh, you didn't get that far in the store? I'll let it slide this time. Sanded grout is for joints over 1/8" and unsanded is for anything smaller. There may be some exceptions to this such as glass tile, but this is the general rule.
Always read the health hazards when dealing with cement, it can cause skin burns, eye and lung irritation and lung cancer. Wet cement is caustic so where gloves and wash off cement that comes in contact with your skin.
Don't forget to leave comments or ask questions, we like that kind of stuff.
Craig Jones, owner of Property Serv LLC. My goal is to better educate the homeowner and to make Richmond a better place to live.