Does she need a French drain?

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / August 12, 2010

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Q. I had water in my basement this spring, just as everyone did, so I decided to install some kind of unit that would stop the water. One waterproofing company said that I need a French drain, an inside perimeter underground pipe that would guide the water to a sump and pump. Another said I might need only the sump and the pump. What should I choose?


A. The French drain (with sump and pump) will cost about $10,000, and the sump (a hole in the floor) and pump will cost $2,000. Choose the sump and pump. If they work and handle the water, you have saved up to $8,000. If they don’t work, you can go for the French drain.

Q. I am replacing my ceramic tile bathroom floor on a concrete slab. The mason said he can put new tiles over the old. Can this be done without compromising anything?

LISA BRYANT, Lexington

A. Sure can. The only thing to be sure to do is lift the toilet, then lay the tiles, and finally put the toilet back on. Be careful, though, the new floor is thicker, so a larger wax ring or an extension might have to be put on the toilet bottom to prevent leaks.

Q. I am having a new roof installed. One roofer recommended asphalt shingles, another recommended fiberglass shingles. Which should I choose?


A. You can’t, because all roof shingles except slate, wood, and the new composite slate are asphalt; that is, covered with asphalt, then a tiny stone to give color and strength. The only thing that makes them different from each other is the core; for fiberglass, the core is fiberglass; for asphalt, more properly called organic, the core is saturated felt. Buy either. I personally prefer organics.

Q. I am replacing my wall shingles with white cedar shingles, and in Hyannis, where I live, they will weather to a nice silver color. The only problem is the corner boards, or the lack of them, because I do not have any, and in the corners the shingles are woven, the courses (rows) overlapping each other. The shinglers don’t like the weaving, telling me that when the shingles shrink, the weaving gets “untied.’’ Should I have corner boards put on?


A. By all means. Corner boards are a feature of Cape and Colonial styles, and the weathering of shingles is very common not only on the capes (Cod and Ann), and all along the oceanfront. While you are at it, you can find solid vinyl boards (from AZEK) that will remain white. I remember when I had woven corners in my 1768 house, I took them off and discovered clapboards that had corner boards. They were too far gone to save, so I took everything off and put up the white cedar shingles and new corner boards. That was 40 years ago, and most of the shingles are intact. Three rows of shingles did rot out, mainly because too much shrubbery and greenery grew too high and too close to the house. So I cleaned it out, allowing in more light and air. I replaced three rows with new shingles and re-used two rows that I was able to save. They look good, and will outlast me by decades.

Q. I own a home in Dennis in which the previous owners had throw rugs on the hardwood floor hallway. They used double sided tape to hold the rugs in place. We have since removed the rugs (as they came undone over the years) but now the tape marks remain. I’m hesitant to use an abrasive or solvent on the wood for obvious reasons. How can I get rid of the stains?

MIKE, by e-mail

A. Try one of these: denatured alcohol (rubbing alcohol also may work); paint thinner; apply any kind of oil, let it sit for several minutes, then scrape. Also any kind of citrus-based cleaner such as Citrus Clean. None of these will hurt the floor, although the citrus-based cleaners may soften it temporarily.

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 ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to