Ask an Architect
Q I live in a ``Carmel cottage,'' and I am sure the previous owner was a pipe smoker. On damp days the odor is strong throughout the house. Although the house was fumigated, according to law, before I moved in, the odor remains. Any suggestions? Mrs. H. Wagstaff
The purpose of fumigating is to get rid of insects, not eliminate odors. The gas used in the process could actually be contributing to the odors to a small degree. Cleaning fabrics, such as carpets and draperies, would be especially helpful as they trap smoke residue the most.
Washing and/or repainting the walls and ceilings, as well as changing any forced-air furnace filters, should then completely eliminate the odors.
Should you wish to be less industrious, the passage of time and plenty of good ventilation will eventually do the trick. You could even bake a batch of cookies on those damp days. Q I have an old (1850) home with 18-inch-thick walls of rammed earth and covered with a stucco-like skin. About five years ago I had extensive repair work done to fix the many wide cracks and remove loose material. I am seeing cracks again. Is this going to be a recurring problem? I have also had ``thermo-barrier'' windows installed, which greatly cut down heat loss, but they have condensation forming between the glass panes. How can I get rid of it?
Mrs. Enid Thackery
Rammed earth is not the construction type one runs into every day. I would only guess at the problem being likened to that of a granite rock structure which is decomposing.
This happens as moisture penetrates into the walls. Then freezing and expanding cause the once monolithic structure to break down. This, in turn, allows varying degrees of settling along the length of the wall which is evidenced by the cracks.
You may have an ongoing problem which should be looked at by a couple of knowledgeable contractors or structural engineers.
Keep the cracks sealed to prevent more moisture penetration. Use an elastomeric caulking material which will stretch somewhat with the cracks and that will accept touch-up paint.
The condensation in the windows should be easier to fix. It will most likely involve unplugging clogged breathing holes in the sash and window frame. These commonly get painted over and don't allow moisture to escape.
Get in touch with the local manufacturer's representative or supplier if you need help locating the holes.
If you have a question about designing, improving, or maintaining your home, send it to the Real Estate Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Richard A. Kent is a practicing architect and general contractor in southern California.