Your Place: Evaluating moisture in a new Shore house

Posted: January 20, 2012

Question: At 73, I decided to buy a Shore home for summer fun. The home is second from the bay - about 200 yards. There is a house on the bay, and a paved lane between my home and the bay. The elevation is about five feet, as determined for flood insurance.

The home is single level with a cement block foundation and a 30-inch crawl space the floor of which is sand.

A sump pump is in place and works as per the home inspector, who also noted that the insulation was damp. This was at the time of the hurricane in August. The vapor barrier is said to be against the floor as was the code.

We closed Oct. 14. In freshening the place it was noted that the two-year-old solid oak floors showed some curl indicating dampness.

How does one begin to evaluate this? Are there experts? Are there potential solutions? This cannot be an uncommon problem at the Shore. The water table must be five feet.

I asked the builder doing the refreshing to examine the underside of the floor, the insulation, and the joists. Any advice other than to hope for good weather?

Answer: It's the nature of life at the beach, and builders try to keep moisture problems at bay, so to speak, by using construction methods designed for it.

The vapor barrier against the floor, code or no, doesn't guarantee that the moisture won't seep up into the internal perimeter wall, and that's where moisture penetration usually occurs (the insulation was damp, as the inspector pointed out).

The moisture intruding through the seams of the vapor barrier and the walls would cause the oak to curl over time (the hurricane may be just the event that can be pointed to).

You really shouldn't keep damp insulation in the walls, and I hope the builder is replacing it. You might have insulation and flooring contractors look at the situation to determine whether it is chronic or not.

Solutions? I'd ask around the neighborhood to see if others have experienced similar problems and found solutions, or at least qualified experts who were able to troubleshoot them.

Q: I just read one of your tips in which the reader wanted to know about using red paint.

You said, "You will probably need two coats, but you might get a chalk-like mark if you brush up against it, as I did with the same color in our bedroom. Think about another color."

What's the best way to get rid of those chalk-like marks without making it worse?

A: My solution was to touch up the spot using a foam brush and very little paint and blend it into the wall very lightly.

I had two different shades of reddish paint on two different walls, and the technique worked on both. Remember to press very lightly.

Q: Your reference to a sump pump backup "that operates on water pressure" is new to me. After being deluged with nine inches of water in a finished basement last August, I'm interested in learning more.

The water volume overwhelmed the pump, burst the pipes and shorted out the connections. Discarding everything and removing the mold and mildew was an undertaking I don't want to repeat.

A: The backup pumps to which I refer are made by Zoeller, Wayne, and other manufacturers and details are available from their websites.

These pumps use home water pressure to activate the assembly and pump water from the sump basin, but they are recommended for houses that use city water supplies, the manufacturers say.

The other solution, of course, is a battery backup, and there is consistent improvement on these devices that maintain the charge longer.

Q: My husband sprayed WD-40 on squeaky kitchen cabinet hinges. Now, of course, they no longer squeak but they swing freely and bang into the adjoining cabinet.

Can you think of any way to rectify his well-intentioned blunder?

A: Sounds like something I'd do. Try to wipe off the excess, I would guess, and remember to open the cabinet doors carefully.

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).