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Moldy Wall Could Be Fault of Plaster


Q. We had several rooms in our house wallpapered two years ago, and on one wall that separates the kitchen and garage, the wall underneath the paper has become grainy and moldy.

I don't believe there are any pipes behind that wall; the drywall feels dry and solid; a check of the attic has shown no leaks, and the affected area is in the middle of the wall, so I doubt water is moving up from the floor. Any other ideas on what could be the cause?


Dana Point

A. That sounds like something that occurs in plastered walls, not drywall, says Pete Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster.

First, try to confirm that there are no water pipes behind there. In homes with copper piping that's getting old, it's not uncommon for the line to develop a tiny pinhole through which a small amount of water is escaping and getting on the inside of the wall.

Your walls may be plaster; that graininess is a symptom of a deteriorating plaster wall. If you've confirmed that there's no moisture getting into the wall, it could be caused by an incorrect plaster mixture that was used when the wall was put up. If too much lime gets into the plaster, it can cause deterioration later.


Q. We have a redwood deck and have used some brand-name water sealers on it, but the result has been a dark finish that gets on our shoes. We stripped the deck down to the bare wood and love the look of the light color. Is there a waterproofing sealer that can maintain this light color?


Laguna Niguel

A. Clear sealers need to be applied frequently, says Gene Teramura of Dutch Boy Home Decorating Center in Santa Ana.

Clear stains and sealers tend to wear down more quickly and don't give the wood much protection from the sun. Most clear sealers need to be applied every year or two. Make sure that the product you're getting is specifically designed for decks, because it has to hold up under a lot of wear. And check to see that the deck has been properly prepared before the new stain is applied so that it won't come off after it's dried.


Q. We have a faucet over our laundry tub in the garage that hasn't been used in several years. The knobs are stuck and won't turn in either direction. I've tried taking a wrench to them, but they almost broke off. Penetrating oils won't work. Any other ideas?


Yorba Linda

A. The faucets are probably frozen due to water deposits that have collected inside the stems over the years, says Ron Albright of Albright Plumbing & Heating Supply in Los Alamitos. After turning off the water supply to the faucet, remove the handles, then use a wrench to take out the stems.

Soak them in vinegar and clean them off with a wire brush before reinstalling them. If they still won't move, go to a plumbing supply store for replacements. Remember to take the bad ones to get the correct replacements.

If you have a question about your home or garden, A Helping Hand will help you find the answer. Send questions to: John Morell, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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