LESLIE: Nancy in Virginia, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you with?
NANCY: My walk – it’s a walk-down basement. It’s in an area way.
NANCY: And it’s outside and the outside wall of it is cracking. It’s like the concrete that’s over a cinder block wall.
NANCY: And we’ve had somebody come by that says that it just needs reparging, which I’m not sure what that is.
TOM: Parging is the stucco mix that goes on the outside of the concrete block.
NANCY: Alright. And then we had another person come by and say it has to completely come down.
TOM: He needed a bigger job than the first guy. You see, apparently his mortgage payment was coming due and he needed … (Leslie chuckles)
NANCY: Well, that’s what I’m thinking. (Tom laughs) Yes, indeed.
NANCY: But he wanted to completely take it down, shore up the wall and, you know, put it back up. So…
TOM: Are we only talking about the parging on the outside that’s cracking?
NANCY: Yeah, the parging on the outside. It’s a 50-year-old home…
NANCY: … so it’s an old home.
NANCY: And the bricking on top is kind of – you know, not that great. And it has an iron railing on top that needs to be replaced as well.
TOM: Mm-hmm. OK.
NANCY: So what I was hoping to do is just replace the railing and then reparge it.
TOM: The only reason to do any dismantling is if it’s structurally cracked and it’s really falling apart. Parging frequently cracks. Just like stucco it cracks and it can be repaired either by sealing those cracks or by putting another layer of parging on top of that. There’s no reason you can’t do that. Unless the block itself is, you know, really cracking, deteriorated and sagging and structurally a mess there’s absolutely no reason to tear it out.
NANCY: Well, how do you find that out? How do find out if it’s bad?
TOM: It’s pretty visible.
NANCY: Do you just take off the …
TOM: I mean if it looks intact but just cosmetically cracked …
TOM: … it’s probably fine. I mean if you don’t see any shifting of it or anything like that then it’s probably OK.
NANCY: And how do you know if it’s shifting? It just looks crooked or something or …
TOM: You would – yeah, I mean if it’s so hard for you to figure out, I’m telling you that my guess would be it’s probably fine.
NANCY: Just reparging?
TOM: Just reparge it. Exactly. Save the money. Reparge. It’ll look great. Probably last you another 20 years.
NANCY: Now what if we wanted a contractor to do that? What types of contractors do that sort of thing?
TOM: It’s sort of a handyman job and it would be nice – I mean masons can do it as well. When you reparge you want to use a fairly sticky mortar mix so that you get good adhesion. But if it’s done correctly it could last a long time. Frankly, it’s something that you do have to do from time to time; usually maybe every, I don’t know, 20, 25 years you end up having to do a complete reparging of a foundation.
NANCY: Oh OK, great.
TOM: Not unusual.
NANCY: OK, well that’s good to know. Very reassuring as the other guy was going to charge us over $10,000.
NANCY: So I think you’re right.
NANCY: He was looking for (chuckling) – looking for a job.
TOM: He was going to get a lot of mortgage payments out of you then, wasn’t he?
LESLIE: Or a vacation. (chuckling)
NANCY: I think he was.
TOM: (chuckling) Nancy …
NANCY: Yes, exactly. (chuckling)
TOM: … thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.