Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in their chimneys to getting rid of tree roots invading their sewer systems. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. Here are questions about home maintenance and improvement from the Tucson area.
QUESTION: I have a bathroom shower that is lined with travertine tiles. There seems to be leaking taking place around the grout lines on the tiles, and the drywall seems to be wet after someone takes a shower. In addition, I think there might be a crack around the drain hole in the bottom of the floor. Can I seal the travertine to fix this?
ANSWER: It sounds as if you have multiple problems going on in your shower. Just sealing the surface of the travertine probably won’t fix things, though it might save the current walls for a while if you apply several coats of sealer. In general, travertine is not a good choice for showers because it is softer than marble, for example, and more porous. Constant exposure to water and moisture can make the naturally occurring pits in travertine grow larger; then the travertine will begin to deteriorate.
If the floor is having problems, you may also have a torn membrane under the tiles on the bottom of the shower as well. Eventually, you may to have to retile the shower completely. We favor the use of porcelain tile in showers; it’s more durable than natural stone and is often manufactured to resemble many different stone products.
Q: I have a pond on my property that covers about a quarter of an acre; it was probably built in 1960. I recently made it somewhat deeper and built the walls higher, so that it’s now 8 feet deep. My problem is that since I did this work, the pond won’t hold water anymore. When you fill it, the water seems to flush right out.
A: The easiest way to control water loss in a pond is by applying a pond sealer to the dirt surface of the walls and the bottom of the bond. These sealers contain sodium bentonite, a chemically unaltered clay that contains no additives but puffs up to many times its dry size when it gets wet. But first, of course, you will have to drain the pond in order to apply the sealer.
Q: I have a desert sage bush that is about 13 years old. Someone told me I could whack it down to about a foot high in March, and it would come back beautifully in three or four weeks and bear more blossoms. Is that true?
A: That’s right; cut it back hard in the spring and it will rebound in a short time once the weather gets warmer. The worst thing you can do for these bushes is to try to keep them at about half their size by shearing off the new growth all the time. You see landscapers do that quite often, and what you end up with is a bunch of bushes that are shaped like soup cans.
Q: I think I may need to replace the electric panel on my house, which I have owned for about a year. When a home inspection was done just before I bought the house, the inspector said the panel should be looked at. Do I need a permit from the city to fix the panel? And do I have to hire a licensed electrician?
A: It may be that all that is needed in your panel is to replace some of the breakers. Some homeowners are able to do that safely. But if you need to upgrade the panel for some reason, you will need a permit and a licensed, insured electrician to do the work.