Flaking in basement: get an inspection

Q. We have a partly finished basement in our mid-19th-century house. Now the mortar and brick are flaking and crumbling. This conditions exists both inside and out. Can we safety ignore the slow but continuous crumbling?

* Also, two basement rooms have large square finished stone floors with fine open cracks as joints. We would like to have a sealed floor, such as linoleum, which is easy to clean. Elsewhere, I have pulled up an old carpet and linoleum laid over such a floor and found it had moisture, dirt, and insects under it. How would you suggest we prepare this stone floor for a finish such as linoleum? We do not have enough headroom to build up the floor 4 to 6 inches. David Ness Honeoye Falls, N.Y.

A. If it were my house, I'd ask for an inspection on the flaking basement walls, inside and out, by a competent engineer or other qualified person. The extent of the flaking, thickness and loads on the wall, and such are germane to determine whether or not to ignore the problem.

Simply ask the inspector for his recommended remedy.

If the structural integrity of the masonry is thus estabished, two coats of Sealwall's sosium silicate treatment, or equal, would react with the cement to "tighten" it.

This is possible if the masonry is as dry as you indicate it is.

Sealwall is located at 36300 Lakeland Boulevard, Esatlake, Ohio 44094. Another product to consider is one made by Hartline Products Company, 2186 Noble Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44112. There are probably others as well.

If the masonry walls can be "tightened up" and are sound, and still they have a poor appearance, they could be plastered or paneled over furring strips.

Now about preparing the stone floors for a resilient flooring:

If the stonework is already reasonably level, broom on a slurry, such as Sealwall's (or Hartline's product equivalent). If the stones are quite unlevel, trowel on the same material into the deeper areas. Follow with a coating of concrete sealant. Then apply the resilient flooring to a leveled surface.

First, however, check with a resilient- flooring dealer about the propriety of using its product below grade on a stone substrate on the ground.

As an alternative -- and if you have a couple of inches of potential head room -- you can lay redwood or treated 2-by-4 "sleepers" flat on the waterproofed stone floor. Level them as required. Then lay exterior-grade plywood to the floor.

The resilient flooring material can then be applied to this level by plywood surface.

You should probably fumigate the stonefloor space before applying the plywood , using an approved residual i nsecticide.

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