POPULAR MECHANICS’ SENIOR HOME EDITOR SOLVES YOUR MOST PRESSING PROBLEMS.
Q The French drain around my house is clogged. Can something be done to open it up?
A A French drain is the term for any gravel-and-tile or gravel-and-pipe-based system. It takes its name from Henry Flagg French, who chronicled its use in agriculture in the mid-19th century. When it’s around the house, as you describe, it’s actually a footing drain or a foundation drain. It’s meant to drain excess water away from the foundation by gravity, directing it to a point on the lawn.
It’s not unusual for foundation drains to become clogged by tree roots, shrub roots and dirt. Old foundation drains can also simply collapse. If the drain is otherwise in good shape and is relatively new, a drain-cleaning company might be able to clear the obstruction using a water-jet drain-cleaning machine. Some operations even employ a digital drain camera on the end of a gigantic reel of fibre-optic cable. These things can inspect a hundred and more metres of drain.
Repairing and unclogging the drain is the optimal solution. The less desirable and far more expensive solution is to replace the footing drain with a new gravel-and-pipe system. That can cost thousands and leave disturbed landscaping in its wake. If it comes to that, the good news is that you’ll have a dry basement and the work will improve your home’s resale value.
Q How do I keep my wood deck from looking splintery after pressure washing?
A The important thing is to go easy. Those splinters typically result from poor deck care, which allows the wood to deteriorate, followed by overly aggressive pressure washing.
Begin by using a cleaner formulated for use in a pressure washer on a wood deck. Apply the cleaner with the black soap-dispensing nozzle. For additional cleaning, scrub with a synthetic deck brush, then go over it with the soap again. Leave the soap on the surface for the time recommended by the manufacturer. Rinse the area with a 40-degree nozzle (white). For more aggressive cleaning, switch to a 25-degree nozzle (green). Hold the wand about half a metre above the deck and move in the direction of the grain using overlapping passes. The longer you pause on any area, the more likely you are to etch the surface and cause splintering.
Washing in the morning or in late afternoon is better than washing in the heat of the day, because rapid drying can contribute to splintering. Also, avoid over-washing an area. And keep a consistent distance between the nozzle and the deck. After that, let the deck dry without any furniture on it to reduce the chances of light and dark areas that are created by uneven drying. If you do end up with a few splinters, gently sand them away with a hand-sanding block and 100-grit sandpaper.
Q What’s the best way to clean drill bits?
A Twist bits are easy to clean with a small brass wire brush. If you notice build-up, simply scrub the flutes clean. I go one step further: every time I use my drill, when I’m done I brush the bit clean and lubricate it with some 3-In-one Dry Lube. Drip some dry lube on the bit as you turn it slowly. It goes on as a liquid and dries in seconds. Use a paper towel to catch the excess, then turn the bit through the paper towel using your thumbnail to press the towel into the flutes. When you’re done, allow the lubricant on the towel to evaporate,porate then burn the towel or soak it in water before throwing it away. Never put oily paper towels into the garbage. PM