Ask An Architect

Q Our church is constructed of brick. During occasional downpours and strong winds we get water seepage around the windowpanes and frames, even though they have been fully caulked. We think water may be coming in through the masonry as well. Do you know of a sealant that will stop it? R. E. Hodgerney

Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Masonry can most definitely conduct water inside a building through hairline cracks in the brick as well as mortar joints. I have helped to solve similar problems by applying ``Rain Guard HD,'' a product made by Rainguard Products Company, 821 West Hyde Park Boulevard, Inglewood, Calif. 90302, phone (213) 670-2953, or ``Chemstop,'' made by Tamms Industries, 1222 Ardmore, Itaska, Ill. 60143, phone (312)-773-2350. If you get in touch with the companies, they can tell you who their local distributors are.

These products, and others like them, are designed for use on vertical brick, block, concrete, or stucco surfaces. Other products will have to be used to stop water infiltration on horizontal surfaces, such as sills or the tops of parapets. Waterproofing contractors are generally aware of this requirement.

If you feel unsure of the information you're getting from a contractor, don't hesitate to enlist the help of a local architect who has had experience with masonry buildings.

Q For the last 30 years we have repainted our white-frame house every four or five years, using oil-base paint. Then two years ago the painters talked us into using a water-base paint, which peeled off within six months of its application. We would like to know if, after scraping the house thoroughly, we may return to an oil-base paint. I would also like your recommendations on preparation.

Hazard Pensock

Wilmette, Ill.

An old axiom in the painting business is that the new paint is no better than the surface upon which it is applied.

In painting, preparation is the most important step for a long-lasting job. The surface must be free of moisture, chalking, and any loose or oxidized material and gloss. This may mean a lot of scraping and sanding.

Your home could have 10 or more coats of paint built up on it over the years, so a good scraping, filling of cracks, sanding, and painting with a good primer (especially on raw wood) is essential before applying the finish coat.

The use of oil- or water-base paint is strictly a matter of personal preference, and they can be used interchangeably. Q A year ago we had the washers in our six-year-old sink faucets replaced. Recently, they began to leak again and we had another plumber replace both the washers and brass stems. This still did not stop the leaking problem. When we again called the plumber, he suggested we needed a completely new fixture. How come?

A reader

La Quinta, Calif.

The washers in your faucets sit in a brass cup. When the handle is turned off, the washers are pressed into a smooth brass seat. When the washers get old and flattened, however, they allow the brass cup to score the seat. A new washer won't last very long, because the rough surface of the seat causes the washer to get chewed up quickly.

Replacing a faucet seat is really quite simple, or you can grind it smooth with a special tool. You can replace the seat yourself, usually with an Allen wrench. After taking the faucet apart, remove the seat and install a new one from a hardware store.

A faucet is extremely simple to work on, but don't forget to turn off the water under the sink.

If you have a question about designing, improving, or maintaining your home, school, church, or place of business, 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.

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