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 system. 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.
My saltillo tile on the patio is cracking and fading after I had it professionally cleaned and sealed a year ago. At the time, the workers also removed some patches that looked like chimney soot that had developed after the rains. But now the “soot” has returned; I called in a different company, and their workers now want to clean and seal the tiles all over again. But as a newbie to Arizona, I wonder whether that will work. Am I wasting money on this type of tile?
A: From what you describe, it sounds as if you are dealing with efflorescence. It’s due to a process that creates fuzzy white powdery patches on the tile; it’s a natural leaching of the minerals, primarily calcium, out of the tile material. Saltillo is essentially baked clay, and the calcium in that clay has a tendency to escape from the clay matrix, especially when it gets wet.
There is nothing you can do to stop that escape of minerals from taking place, and no amount of sealer will prevent it. The efflorescence can just be washed off when and where it occurs. You might also try to eliminate the water source causing the problem by adjusting your sprinkler system, for example.
Generally, we don’t recommend sealing saltillo tiles that are installed outside in direct sunlight with no shade cover. But if your tile is covered by a patio roof or heavy foliage, applying a sealer can improve the appearance of your tile. Remember as well that a sealer will make the surface very slick when it gets wet, thus causing a safety issue.
If your tile is cracking seriously, it might be time to replace the patio flooring. You might try concrete pavers.
A couple of months ago, we had a company out to clean our heating and air conditioning ducts. After that was done, the fan on our HVAC system started making funny sounds and the ducts started blowing sand and dirt into the house. What went wrong?
A: It’s probably because the cleaning service didn’t clean out the air handling cabinet itself as well as the coil and fan. It’s also possible that one of the ducts may have broken loose when the cleaning was done. A job like this really needs to be done by an air conditioning company rather than by workers who just vacuum ducts. Only a qualified HVAC company can clean all parts of your system. Have someone in to do a complete job, and your system will be good for the next seven or eight years or so, depending on how old your system is.
We have a water feature with a waterfall inside our home. But the water seems to be evaporating more quickly all the time. Some of the tiles in the bottom of the pond area are cracked. Could that be the problem or am I imagining things?
A: You might want to try what I call a bucket test. Fill a bucket with water and set it in the middle of the pond. Make sure the water in the bucket is at the same level as the pond water. Then leave the bucket there overnight.
If your water loss is simply due to evaporation, both the water in the pond and the bucket will have dropped the same amount. But if the pond is losing more water, it’s probably due to a leak of some kind. It could involve the cracked tiles, but the cement seal under the tiles could also be deteriorating.