Your Place: Calling those who know of tomatoes and marble

Posted: October 05, 2012

All right, gardeners and marble experts. Here's a reader in need of advice (I'd try but I haven't gotten many tomatoes this year and my sills are wood).

Question: I have a tomato garden. I put the tomatoes on my marble windowsills in my kitchen. I went away for a few days and forgot about the tomatoes.

When I returned, the tomatoes were overripe and mushy. The acid from them etched marks in the marble. I have tried different things, but nothing is working. I stopped in a tile store and they told me I would have to get someone out who restores marble. God only knows what this would cost.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Q: I live in a brick rowhouse that's about 100 years old. When it rains especially hard, I get water in my basement. It seems to come in from the sides where the floor and wall meet.

What's more unusual is that there are a couple of spots in the middle of the basement where pools of water form, and there is no indication where this water has come from.

When I went down to the basement this morning, even though it didn't rain last night, there was a pool of water on the floor and dampness around some of the edges of the floor.

I don't even know what kind of contractor/expert to have look at this situation. I'd love to know what you suggest.

A: The water in the middle of the floor might be the rise and fall of the water table. If the middle is the lowest part of the basement, that is where it might be appearing.

Perhaps, too, the water seeping in where the floor meets the wall is only a small part of a bigger stream, which ponds in the middle of the floor.

It has been many years since I occupied a rowhouse, but as I recall, water finding its way into the corners at the front wall came from the area around the downspout or storm-drain backup.

Remember, water finds its own route and to the lowest point, so what you may be seeing might have an unlikely source and entry point.

If the water is appearing at the sides, something may be happening in the basements of the adjacent rowhouses. You share party walls; you also might be sharing leaks.

There are companies out there with hygrometers and infrared cameras that you can hire that will determine where the water is coming from.

Once you know that, you can move on from there.

Q: My home was built in the 1950s and has a brick front that has started to show cracks. The other sides are covered in what we believe to be cedar shingles.

A structural engineer has confirmed that the brick front is not pinned properly and needs to be repaired or replaced. We have decided to remove the brick.

We have contacted contractors, but have not gotten responses and we don't know how to find a reliable contractor. I'm wondering if you can tell me how difficult this will be if my husband and I choose to do this ourselves.

Also, if we choose to do this, can you tell me how hard it will be to put up more cedar shingles, and the steps to do this? And how late in the season can we paint the new cedar, or would it have to wait until spring?

A: There are some things you can do yourself - remove wallpaper, add wallpaper, paint interior and exterior - simply by reading a few pages of instructions and commiting them to memory.

Then there is what you are trying to do, which is to rebuild the front of your house by first taking out the entire brick facade without knowing what things look like behind that wall and then replacing it with cedar shingles.

The fact that you are asking me for instructions says to me that you need to continue to (a) get an exact idea of what is involved and what you want the house to look like when you are done and (b) spend a little more time finding the right contractor for the job.

I'm not trying to be rude, but this is the very situation that often results in a professional's coming to the rescue in the middle of a disaster and at a higher cost than it would have been had you gone that route first.

As long as the nights don't get below freezing, it is usually OK to paint.

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.

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