Ask Mr. Brooks
Our resident know-it-all answers questions plaguing homeowners.
|Tip of the Month Now’s the perfect time to lay sod. First step: Choose your grass. Most area lawns are Bermuda or St. Augustine, but consider the native buffalo grass, which is very drought tolerant (perfect for our summers). Just be sure to pick a variety that fits your yard’s conditions, be it sunny or shady. Next: Clear the dirt of any growth and debris, and water it down well before the sod is delivered. Lay sod tightly together – don’t overlap – and go over it with a roller once finished. Water the sod down, and lightly water it daily until it becomes established. Instant lawn.|
Q: My front door keeps sticking. Am I having foundation trouble?
Beth Pittman, Dallas
Mr. Brooks: My front door was sticky once. It wasn’t my foundation; it was that crummy kid next door who thought it was funny to keep storing his gum on the knob. Chances are, you don’t have foundation trouble, either, but if you’re noticing other foundation symptoms (cracks in the wall or ceiling that appear to grow larger or leak water, windows that stick, etc.), it’s a good idea to have a specialist check your house.
More likely, your door is warped or just needs a little maintenance. Check your hinges to make sure they are fitting properly and that all the screws are tight. If you notice that the door sticks during certain times of the year, it’s probably expanding and contracting with the changing humidity conditions. You may be able to fix this by sanding or planing it, but this might also be a good excuse to find a striking new door. If you’re a slave to the latest design fads, and that’s led you to paint your door five to 20 times over the years, the paint buildup may have caused the door to stick. You can usually just sand the offending area. But if I were you, I’d keep an eye on little Billy next door.
Q: How do you get blood out of the carpet? I’ve got three adolescent boys.
Jennifer Myers, Plano
Mr. Brooks: After placing a quick call to my local FBI office to check for Jennifer Myers profiles, I got to thinking: It’s not so much the blood you have to worry about; it’s the chalk lines that can be hard to get out.
In any case, I had to bring in the big boys for this one, so I contacted Michael Tillman, CEO of Amdecon. His company specializes in suicide and murder site cleanups. Unfortunately for me, he went into graphic detail of how to remove blood. Fortunately for you, Jennifer, he has a trick or two up his sleeve.
“Most people make the mistake of using hot water and scrubbing the stain, which just sets it,” he says. Instead, “soak a towel in cold water – don’t soak it to the point of dripping, though – and gently blot the stain, allowing it to wick up the blood. If the stain on the carpet is large, chances are it’s soaked into the pad, which is why many people think they’ve removed a stain, only to see it reappear.”
If these tips don’t help you out, you may need to call Amdecon (and a lawyer); they have products that include protein-eating enzymes that can break the stain down and save your floor.
Q: I’m a fan of big, fluffy ferns, but every time I try to grow them in my garden, they just turn brown and die. What’s the secret?
Susan Bowers, Dallas
Mr. Brooks: I was ready to tackle this question head-on until I opened my copy of A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. I couldn’t find the “big, fluffy” variety of ferns anywhere, though there were literally hundreds of others to choose from. Fortunately, I have psychic powers (Okay. I placed a call to Susan. Big deal.), so I knew that she was talking about the ever popular Kimberly Queen variety.
Now Susan, many ferns don’t do well in the agonizing heat of a Dallas summer. The sun cooks them like little strips of bacon. So if your ferns are in a sunny spot, you can water them and baby them all you want – they’re going to go crispy in no time.
So, is it impossible to grow a Kimberly Queen outdoors in Dallas? Never say never, but I’d say never. If you’re dead set on the big, fluffy fern, I suggest you pot it. In the spring and summer, keep your fern in a cool, mostly shady spot in your garden. As the summer heats up, monitor it closely, and give it a good misting every day. It will require watering as well, of course, but I find the misting perks them up – reminds them of their Jurassic roots, maybe.
When it turns cooler, you’ve got to get that guy inside, which is where the real work starts. Ferns don’t like it inside because it’s not very warm and there’s little moisture. Consider putting it in your sunniest bathroom. If you don’t shower in there regularly, run a hot shower in there a few times a week to give the fern some warm, moist air. My bathroom looks like something out of a Tarzan movie come October, but then again, I’m built like him, so it helps set the mood. It’ll still be a struggle, but if you follow these tips, your fern should make it through to next spring.
Having a domestic dispute with your home or garden? Don’t know where to turn? Just ask Mr. Brooks – [email protected].