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What to Do for Slowly Sinking Brick Patio

January 25, 1998

QUESTION: The brick patio around my in-ground pool is sinking. I want to rebuild the patio, which is made of brick pavers set in sand spread over dirt, but I've received conflicting advice from several contractors.

Brian A. Trimble, senior engineer at the Reston, Va.-based Brick Institute of America, responds:

ANSWER: The patio is sinking because sand alone can't support the brick pavers. The solution involves rebuilding the patio with a 4-inch base of crushed stone.

Your first option is a flexible brick pavement, which consists of the base of crushed stone topped with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of sand. Because there's no concrete to pour, this method is easiest. The bricks are set right on the sand and then are butted tightly together.

The second approach is a mortared brick pavement, which provides a flatter, more stable surface. Here, the crushed-stone base is topped with a 4-inch layer of concrete. Once the concrete cures, the bricks are pressed into a half-inch mortar bed and the joints are filled with mortar.

With either method, be sure both the soil and crushed-stone layer are thoroughly compacted to keep the new patio from settling (gas-powered plate compactors rent for about $50 a day). Also remember to slope the patio away from the pool one-quarter-inch per foot so water will drain off. The Brick Institute of America has many publications that deal with brick masonry, including brick paving. For a free catalog, call (703) 620-0010, or visit the Web site: http://www.bia.org.

Paneling Grooves Can Be Hidden With Liner

Q: My den walls are covered with dark wood paneling that has shallow vertical grooves cut every half-foot or so. I'd like to paint the paneling a lighter color. How do I hide the grooves?

Tom Philbin, a former painting contractor in Centerport, N.Y., and author of three books on painting, says:

A: The best way to conceal the grooves in the paneling is to cover the entire wall with liner paper. Similar to wallpaper, liner is made of polyester, fiberglass or canvas. It typically is sold in 20 1/2-inch-wide rolls and is adhered to the paneling with wallpaper glue.

Not all liner papers are suitable for painting, however; some are designed for use underneath wallpaper. In your case, you should use a paintable liner that's thick enough to bridge the grooves. And be sure the paneling that you're refinishing is completely dust- and wax-free before you hang the liner.

How to Make Slippery Concrete Floor Safer

Q: Our front porch has a poured concrete floor, which is slippery when wet. How can we make the concrete less treacherous?

Henry Spies, of Spies Home Inspection Services in Champaign, Ill., replies:

A: One solution is to mix one pound of abrasive additive into one gallon of concrete paint. Then brush or roll the paint onto the porch floor. Be sure to stir the paint every five minutes or so to keep the abrasive particles suspended. Or, buy concrete paint with abrasive already added. One product is Skid-Resistant Coating ($22 per gallon), from Valspar, 1191 Wheeling Road, Wheeling, IL 60090; (800) 845-9061.

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Looking for an answer to a remodeling or repair and maintenance question? Mail it to Questions & Answers, Today's Homeowner, 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016. Send queries by fax to (212) 725-3281. Please include your name, address and phone number. Questions selected for publication will be answered by experts.

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