Handyman on Call
Walkways need to be built the right way
Q. A mason built a beautiful brick walk for me, carefully mortared, and set on asphalt pavement. He used Pinehall brand New England antique bricks, and they failed after six years, breaking up and crumbling, including the mortar. I am going to have another mason redo the walk, but what went wrong in the first place?
ELAINE, from Danvers
A. Everything went wrong. The bricks were true antiques, very soft, and therefore failed. Second disaster: Mortaring bricks on a walkway. That is taboo, because mortared pavement does not last very long. It was on a good, firm level base (asphalt) but that is not enough. The old base is still good, but everything else has to go, including that mason. Have the new mason use City Hall Pavers, one of the hardest bricks around; they will last for eons.
Miss Elaine asked if the pavers were actually not bricks, and why some bricks are called pavers. Good questions. Pavers is a misused word, often referring to stone, molded concrete, and bricks. Yes, pavers are all types, so let’s stick to bricks. City Hall Pavers are bricks, and should be put in sand, and close together, and sand or stone dust swept between the bricks. The walk also needs a border, so the bricks will not move. Vertical bricks, called soldier bricks, make a good border. So do 2-inch-thick concrete blocks, and pressure-treated timbers.
Q. I have an 18-year-old cedar roof that has moss on it. There were two ads in the Globe for Shingle Magic and Roof-Brite claiming to clean black streaks, lichen, and moss. Are these companies appropriate for cedar roofs?
CAROL GROEBEL, by e-mail
A. Call the companies to see what they will do with your cedar roof. It might not be good to power wash cedar, but they can lower the pressure and/or treat the cedar with chemicals to get rid of the moss, lichen, and black streaks, without harming the cedar.
Q. My oil-fired boiler is five years old, and I have a yearly service contract. When I had my chimney swept, the oil dealer said that with oil as fuel, the chimney does not have to be swept. The sweep said it should be done once a year. Who’s right?
VICKY, from Natick
A. The yearly service contract covers the boiler and the burner. With oil as fuel, the chimney needs sweeping every five years. The sweep knows better; he just wants the work.
Q. I had a central air conditioning system installed in my 1920s house, plus all-new air ducts. I normally run a dehumidifier in the basement. My washer empties into a regular drain in the house. Now, when the a/c is on, I get a smell of mold in every vent. How did that happen, and is there anything I can do about it?
A. There is nothing you should attempt to do. I have heard of people spraying a bit of bleach in the filter of their a/c air handler and running the fan. They said it worked, but it is a dangerous undertaking. Call the installers of the system to take the proper and safe action.
Globe Handyman on Call also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (firstname.lastname@example.org) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com.