Dear James: We have done some landscaping near the house over the years and now quite a lot of the block foundation is exposed. It looks bad. What can I apply over it to make it look nicer? — Darnel N.
Dear Darnel: People don't often think about how a foundation looks, but in situations such as yours or on sloping lots, the exposed blocks of poured concrete is not particularly attractive. Covering it will help protect it from rain and leaks and should also enhance the appearance of the nearby landscaping.
You have two basic options, siding or stucco, both of which you can apply yourself. I prefer applying stucco to the foundation because it also seals the foundation. Attaching synthetic siding is the easiest option. Some types are specifically designed to be used over foundations.
The best type of siding to use on a foundation is made of tough plastic, which is extremely durable. The style of siding you select will depend on the type of house construction. Simulated brick siding may provide pleasant contrast for a house with clapboard (wood, aluminum or vinyl). It is available in large, panels which you can easily cut to fit the foundation.
Simulated stone siding over the foundation is particularly attractive on a brick or stucco house. There are many patterns from which to select, but using a standard rectangular pattern is probably best. It simulates how a true stone foundation looks.
Your other option, applying stucco, may take a little practice to get the right surface texture and finish. It will still be an effective protective foundation covering even if it does not result in the appearance you desire. You might want to practice on a piece of cement board, which you can buy at any home center, or start on the foundation in the back of your house.
You should be able to purchase all the materials you need for less than $100. Stucco is a mixture of cement, clean sand and lime. It is very similar to mortar used to hold bricks together. Once it is applied, it should last as long as the house stands.
A typical stucco mixture is one part of cement to three parts of sand and one-half part of lime. Selecting various types of sand will impact the finished color of the stucco when it cures on the foundation wall. Stucco, similar to concrete, can be colored by adding pigments to the mixture.
Use a pressure washer to clean off the existing foundation wall. A garden hose will not have enough force. Scrubbing it with cleaner and a brush is also effective, and a reasonable method if you do not have too much foundation area to cover.
Wait until no rain is forecast for several days. Select the time of day and the side to start on so the fresh stucco is not exposed to the full sun. This will not harm the stucco, but may set up a little too fast for an inexperienced person to get the desired surface texture.
Mix in enough water to create a stucco consistency similar to dough. Also make up a small amount of very wet (much water) stucco mixture to paint on the foundation immediately before applying the stucco. Spread on the stucco with a trowel and be creative with the texture.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.