Home fix-up

Q I want to paint a knotty-pine wall which was stained about 40 years ago. What base coat should be used to avoid bleeding of the knots through the final paint coat? Will the paint cover the filler which is used to cover the nail holes? Dana MacDonald Belmont, Mass. I suggest you first fill any unwanted cracks or holes with a vinyl filler and then sand. Also, lightly sand the entire surface to get rid of any loose or oxidized material. Next, paint with an oil-base alkyd primer or undercoat. This will raise the grain slightly if it hasn't been sealed, but another light sanding and primer coat will smooth it out.

After the surface is thoroughly dry, cover with any low- or high-glass enamel or vinyl-based paint you wish. I suggest a flat paint as the small irregularities in the wood won't be nearly as noticeable. Q The walls of the basement of our 31-year-old house were recently paneled, and the workmen didn't see any cracks in the walls. Now, however, I find that water seeps in through the floor. I've had a variety of advice from neighbors with similar problems, but what do you say? Lula Campana Riverdale, Ill.

If the water is coming up through the floor, sealing the walls will not help.

I've solved a similar problem to yours by boring a hole 5 to 10 feet deep through the basement floor and installing a perforated concrete liner (well casing) for the water to seep through. Then install a sump pump which will pump the water outside the house when the water reaches a predetermined level.

A more ambitious solution is to trench around the house to a depth which is greater than the basement, backfilling the trench with crushed rock to within a foot of the top. Lay down a layer of plastic and cover the last foot with soil.

In the bottom of the trench place a 4-inch-diameter perforated pipe to drain the water into a catch basin which is similar to that described for the inside of the house. The bottom of the trench and pipe should be sloped toward the catch basin.

If there are a number of houses around you that are affected by a ground-water problem, it might be wise for you to all get together and pay for some advice from a local geologist or soil engineer.

A de-watering trench placed upstream in the conducting layer of earth can divert the flow of water away from a specific area. The cost is often more reasonable than working around an individual house since larger, more efficient trenching equipment can be used -- assuming there is the open space in which to do it. Q In a recent column you discussed insulation for floors over a crawl space. You said to place the vapor barrier toward the ground. I was not sure about the second vapor barrier and would like some clarification. Also, my insulation is held in place by chicken wire in one area and crisscrossed wire in another. Is this the proper method? Henry F. Rohlkemper Napa, Calif.

In the column you mention, the vapor barrier was used on the outside wall against the earth where a water problem existed.

Your insulation is properly installed. The kraft-paper vapor barrier is always installed toward the living area, whether on the floors, walls, or attic, with the other face allowed to breathe.

Q A woodpecker is piercing the wall of our cottage. How can we stop the intruder? Georges L. Nogrady Montreal

Order a couple of plastic or ceramic owls from a farm- or boat-supply catalog and place them beneath the eaves of your home. I think you'll find that the noisy critters will go someplace else for their drilling.

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.

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