Real Estate News

Ask the Remodeler: Keeping mice out of a fieldstone basement

Mark Philben tackles a reader's questions about fieldstone basements and pest control and removing a stain on a wood floor. .

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Q. Is it possible to have a fieldstone basement that does not allow mice to get in? Also, is there any way to repair a water stain on a wood floor?

M.Z., Falmouth

A. I can give you advice on maintaining a fieldstone foundation, but I will never claim to make a home mouse-proof. They have been outsmarting us all for millennia. That said, the most important piece of maintenance is having the inside of your basement properly pointed. The old lime-based mortars deteriorate over time, often turning to dust in the joints between stones. All the loose mortar needs to be thoroughly cleaned out, and the joints repointed as needed. While this is a very laborious process, it’s also very effective. Brickwork needs mortar, but stone can be pointed with Type 2 Portland cement. This is harder and more durable.


One important part of maintaining this type of foundation is the management of exterior groundwater. You’ll need to be sure that water is not pooling against the foundation and working its way in. Place downspouts to carry water away from your foundation, and be sure that your window wells are both well maintained and above ground. Regrade any adjacent groundcover that is shallow or hollow. An important thing to remember is that the outside of your foundation was never pointed; it is just the jagged ends of the stones with the earth backfilled against it. Water that makes its way down against the foundation will quickly work its way through the gaps in the stone and start working away at your newly pointed interior. Water management is key, or new methods for mice entry will soon emerge, following the path of the water.

Regarding the water stain on your wood floor: Water stains need to be sanded out, but beware, once you have sanded that area, the newly sanded/refinished area will probably not match the patina of the rest of the aged floor, so it will stand out more than the original water stain. Sometimes you let sleeping dogs lie. In this case, maybe wait until you are going to refinish the whole floor.


Q. The grout on the floor next to my tub in the bathroom has pulled away, creating a long 1-to-2 millimeter gap. A similar thing has happened on the tile backsplash in my kitchen on an exterior wall. How should these be repaired?

M.L., Shrewsbury

A. I would consider using a grout caulking instead of just grout. In areas where a tile meets another material, such as around a tub or at the floor, we often find cracking. That is because the materials move at different rates seasonally or possibly due to steam from showering. The grout has no elasticity and will crack. Grout caulking has some elasticity and holds up better. It comes in a variety of shades like grout. Depending on the situation and the color of your tile, you could even use silicone caulking to finish where the tile meets another material. The silicone will outlast anything and resists mold.

Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at Follow us on FacebookLinkedInInstagram, and Twitter @globehomes.


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