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Damon Bennett tackles home renovation questions

You asked, he answered. Celebrity contractor Damon Bennett tackles your home reno questions.

Q. I have a question about painting brick. Our house is a 14-year-old raised ranch, all brick front and half around the sides with siding on the rest. We plan on being here for the long haul, we just don't like the colour of the brick. Is painting it an option or do I have to take down the brick and do something else?

A. Painting is definitely an option. I would use an acrylic latex exterior paint. There are many products available on the market, including brick and concrete paints. Make sure you read the instructions and follow them re: primer and preparation methods. Make sure you clean the bricks and do any necessary maintenance such as sealing cracks, holes, and repairing mortar joints. Try and have at least a week of dry weather before you paint to make certain that the bricks are completely dry and not holding any moisture.

Q. Is there a product that can be applied with a caulking gun and be used to tuckpoint the bricks on a windowsill? (Just like the one in the picture of you in the last issue of HOSS magazine.)

A. Funny you should ask. All window sills that use brick rely on a mortar joint to keep water out. The problem with that is mortar wants to absorb water not repel it. What I do on window sills is use a flexible, all-weather, brick caulking that will insure no water penetration. If water gets in behind the brick, it could damage the inside of the house, which is why you sometimes see staining under the windows.

Q. Is there a way to speed up the process of puttying and sanding drywall?

A. This will depend on what you mean. In terms of plastering a house from tape to final coat of plaster, there is a product we use called SHEETROCK DURABOND 20, 45, or 90. These are fast-drying products. The 20, 45, and 90, refer to the length of time it takes for the product to dry. This can be dangerous if you are not fast enough to keep up to the drying time because it can be very difficult to sand, it becomes almost like a cement rather than a plaster. Now, if you are talking about a spackling compound for small holes, it will usually dry within 20 minutes of applying it, depending on the amount you use. So, if you are re-plastering a house from drywall to tape to finish, it will take time. But if you are just filling a few holes, it can be done pretty quickly.

Q. We have a small attic and it's difficult to access. I would like to put in some sort of drop-down ladder or staircase. Is this possible? What's the be st way to do this?

A. Putting a drop-down ladder or staircase is absolutely possible, and is one of the safest and nicest ways of accessing an attic. Placement is key, keep it at least four feet away from the edge of the house, so that your access is not limited by the pitch of the roof. In other words, so that you won't hit your head every time you enter the attic. The other thing to keep in mind is the surrounding structure must be sufficient to support the weight of the staircase or ladder and the people who will be using it. Always check the specifications of the ladder or staircase you are installing re: structure and maximum weight allowance. I do not recommend making your own ladder system, the ones you buy must adhere to strict safety guidelines. Make sure you check and double-check all of the specifications prior to installing.

Have a question for Damon? Email us at AskDamon@hossmagazine.com