This is a complete manual for homeowners. When things go wrong, or when you are ready to remodel, you need expert advice. Henri de Marne is one of America’s best-known and most trusted experts, who has answered just about every question a homeowner can face. For example:
§ What is the green stuff growing on my roof?
§ Why does my basement stay damp?
§ How can I get rid of carpenter bees?
§ Can I paint my basement floor?
§ What can I do about the rust stains on my driveway?
§ Which heating and cooling systems are most efficient?
§ How can I scrub the little black spots off of my vinyl siding?
§ Does the asbestos on my pipes put my family in danger?
§ Why do my plumbing pipes make a banging sound?
§ Why do cracks appear between my walls and ceiling every winter?
Those are just a few of the thousands of questions Henri de Marne has addressed in his syndicated newspaper column, First Aid for the Ailing House. With this book, you can find the answers whenever you need them. De Marne has updated all the answers for this book, to reflect the latest in research, materials, methods, concerns, and tastes. The result is a comprehensive manual for today’s homeowners, a ready reference to consult whenever things go wrong or improvements are planned.
“A house does not heal itself. Which is perhaps why I’m so fond of About the House with Henri de Marne. It’s a question-and-answer book you can browse randomly, flitting from topic to topic until you come across a problem you have in your own home and then find an immediate solution to it.”—The Los Angeles Times - Kathy Price-Robinson
“I read a lot of books on real estate, and most are only marginally useful. Many are by experienced writers who don’t truly understand the topic but get published anyway. Others are by knowledgeable authors, but their lack of writing skills makes their books hard to use or difficult to read. “This week I’m happy to report on the new book, About the House with Henri de Marne: How to Maintain, Repair, Upgrade and Enjoy Your Home. De Marne’s book would make a good gift, especially for a first-time home buyer. It’s a manual that covers any array of household tasks and gives a great overview of the physical elements of a house.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Henri de Marne has compiled over 32 years of savvy construction expertise in this very practical book on just about everything that can happen—or go wrong—with a house. A real treasure-trove of common sense advice.”—Journal of Light Construction Update
“Henri de Marne, known for his newspaper column ‘First Aid for the Ailing House,’ answers more than 1,000 frequently asked questions from homeowners in About the House with Henri de Marne: How to Maintain, Repair, Upgrade and Enjoy Your Home” —Publishers Weekly
“Complete with photographs, diagrams, and drawings, Mr. de Marne leaves no stone unturned and eliminates those pesky multiple trips to the hardware store. . . . A perfect addition to every home, About the House should be a standard fixture next to your medical, cooking, and other reference books. A great gift for existing homeowners or new ones, and I’m not ignoring renters. If you live in a building you should have this book.—Reviewer’s Bookwatch
“An excellent resource of tips, tricks, and techniques for keeping one’s home in top condition.”—Midwest Book Review
“This book may become my top reference for household repair and maintenance. About the House is immediately accessible with clear headings. . . . . The scope of the book runs the gamut from Astroturf (how to remove it from a veranda with boiling water) to zinc roofing strips (to prevent growth of mold and algae).”—Acreage Life
“Henri de Marne puts years of experience as a home inspector to good use in his new book About the House. The entire book is made up of Q&As, explaining and solving homeowners’ frustrations—from hot-water pipes that bang and filling scratches in laminate countertops to deterring woodpeckers and mildew.—Tucson Home Magazine
Henri de Marne is perhaps America’s most trusted expert on residential housing, with a nationally syndicated column that has been running for over 40 years in newspapers throughout the US and Canada.
He began his construction career in the mid-’50s, concentrating on all aspects of residential construction, repair, and remodeling. As a skilled researcher with an avid curiosity, he accumulated a vast store of knowledge in order to solve the myriad problems besetting the average homeowner.
In addition to his column and this blog site, de Marne has served as a consultant for homeowners, architects, engineers, builders, and condominium associations. As a member of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), he has inspected hundreds of homes for prospective buyers. He has taught courses on home inspection to the real-estate industry, lectured construction-industry groups on building techniques, written numerous articles for builders as a contributing editor of the Journal of Light Construction, arbitrated construction disputes, and served as an expert witness in construction cases.
He contributed the first chapter of the Consumer Reports book Preventive Home Maintenance, and was senior consulting editor for an edition of the Readers Digest book New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual.
His newspaper column, “About the House,” began in early 1974 with the now-defunct Washington Star, which was at that time a large-circulation afternoon daily in Washington, DC. The column was syndicated nationally by United Features Syndicate (now Universal Uclick), and has appeared ever since in newspapers throughout the US and Canada, under the title “First Aid for the Ailing House.”
In that time, he has provided thoughtful answers to countless thousands of questions posed by his readers. It is hard to imagine a single question about houses that wouldn’t have been raised and responded to. In his book, About the House with Henri de Marne, he has sorted through the archives in an attempt to cover every major issue, along with many minor (but interesting) ones. An expanded version of that book is now available in all major eBook formats.
Table of contents
1. Foundations, Basements, Crawlspaces
Foundations for New Houses and Additions
Water and Moisture Problems in Foundations
Mold, Mildew, and Musty Smells
Cellars with Dirt Floors
2. Roofs and Siding
Asphalt and Fiberglass Shingles
Cedar Shingles and Shakes
Flat Roof Coverings
Miscellaneous Roof Problems
Miscellaneous Types of Siding
3. Windows and Doors
New and Replacement Windows and Doors
Comfort and Energy Efficiency
Overheating and UV Damage
Cleaning and Polishing Window Components
Repairing Damaged Windows and Doors
Paint, Varnish, and Other Finish Work
4. Plumbing, Electricity, HVAC
Water Color and Quality
Faucets, Sinks, Tubs
Water Supply, Pipes, Connections
Exhaust VentsElectrical Systems
Miscellaneous Electrical QuestionsHeating and Cooling
Health and Safety
Noisy Heating Systems
Problems Caused by Modern Upgrades
Keeping Temperatures Even Throughout the House
Options for Upgrading Heating Systems
Heating and AC-Related Repairs
Closing Down a House for the Winter
5. Kitchens and Baths
Tubs, Showers, and Surrounds
Mold and Mildew
Protection from water damage
Grout and Caulk
6. Interior Surfaces: Floors, Ceilings, and Walls
Miscellaneous Kitchen & Bathroom Issues
Wood Floors, Maintenance and Repair
Vinyl Flooring, Maintenance and Repair
Carpets and Rugs
Ceramic and Quarry Tile
Brick, Stone, and Related Materials
Basement Floors and WallsWalls: Plaster, Drywall, Wood, and Related Materials
Ceilings: Cracks, Sags, Dirt and Streaks
Paint and Other Finishes
Insulating the Foundation
Foundation Insulation and Vapor Retarders
Insulating a Finished Basement
Other Ways to Improve Foundation Insulation
Insulation and Ceilings
Improving Insulation in Existing Homes
Unintended Effects of Improved Insulation
8. Critters, Pests and other Nuisances
Ants and Termites
Wasps and Bees
Moths and Carpet Beetles
Squirrels and Chipmunks
Flies of Various Types
Health and Safety Issues
9. Outside the House
Garages, Carports, and Sheds
Fences, Walls, and Railings
Outdoor Stoops and Stairs
Outdoor Furniture and Equipment
Septic and Drainage
Pools and Ponds
About the Author
Introduction or preface
This book is the result of 32 years of conversations with readers throughout the U.S. and Canada in more than 4,500 newspaper columns. Some of the readers are competent do-it-yourselfers, while many others seek to generally understand a problem in order to hire the best contractor to fix it—or to determine whether it’s even worth fixing.
Some of the questions are extremely serious and come up again and again—covering important issues such as damage caused by improper grading around a foundation, inadequate vapor barriers, incorrect venting, or termites and other pests. Some readers have asked for general advice, such as the best choicesfor heating and cooling or the longest-lasting siding materials. Others have specific questions, such as how to remove mirror tiles that are glued to a wall or how to get rid of moss or mold on the north side of a roof.
It sometimes seems like every possible issue involving houses has been covered from every angle, yet readers continue to provide me with fresh material to write about every week. Houses are complex systems, so there are always new issues and new angles to discuss. That’s what makes my job as a columnist enjoyable and challenging.
But a book has one significant advantage over a newspaper column—it can combine a lot of information that is readily available at the time it’s needed. When your plaster ceiling suddenly starts sagging, or your radiator mysteriously stops heating up, or you find specks all over your aluminum siding that you can’t wash off, you may not remember the information from the last time you read about it in the newspaper. Now, you can easily look up the answers whenever you need them.
Regardless of whether you have been a regaular reader of my column, I hope you’ll enjoy browsing through the book to learn more about the house you live in, and that you’ll keep it handy as a reference for repairs, maintenance, and improvement,