Fixing a fieldstone foundation

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / May 14, 2009
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Q. I recently noticed a big rock had fallen out of the fieldstone foundation under the porch of my 100-year-old house. Inspection from the inside of the basement shows nothing, so I am assuming a double wall type of construction. Do I try to put the rock back with regular or hydraulic cement? Do I need a mason or engineer to inspect? DAVID LEVY, Sharon

A. You can do all this alone, if you can heft that rock back in place. Buy Mortar Mix, Sakrete's ready-mixed mortar, at a hardware store. Dampen the cavity and insert mortar at the back and bottom of the cavity. Then roll in the rock and set mortar in the side and top joints, and add any to the bottom joint as well. Make sure the mortar is well compacted.

If the rock is too heavy for you, bring a husky friend or two to help. Or, work it up to the opening by prying each end up and inserting support stones until you reach the opening. Still no luck? Break the stone in half or get two stones to fit, with the proper mortar. Or, two or more concrete blocks. They might look kind of funny in a stone wall, but who will see it? That wall can last 100 years without the big rock, but I would fill the cavity.

Q. I hope you have a suggestion for me as I have tried everything including a paste of whiting to remove what looks like rust from around the faucets (brushed nickel) of a marble vanity.


A. Mix 4 oz. oxalic acid (sold in paint stores) in a quart of very hot water, and pour or paint this solution on the stains. Mask off the faucets to avoid getting it on the brushed nickel.

Q. I bought new windows, I guess they have two layers of glass, but last winter I had a lot of water on the inside of the windows, where I had to wipe it off to keep it from spilling on the sill and floor. When it was very, very cold, sheets of ice formed on the inside of the windows. Is there anything wrong? My humidifier in that room shows 30, which is not very high in winter.


A. Nothing is wrong; you are simply keeping too much moisture in the house, and the new windows are tight enough to prevent leaking of that humid air to the outdoors.

Shut down the humidifier, if only to control moisture on the glass. A 30 rating is humid enough to cause problems, and is close to the maximum humidity that you can get in winter. You might be able to fix part of the problem by installing Harvey's True Channel storms.

Globe Handyman on Call also appears in the Sunday Homes section. He's available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions of house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to

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