Ask Roy


Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY ROY BERENDSOHN

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

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