Learn how to decorate your vinyl windows for the holidays without damaging the window or invalidating the warranty. Find out how to build your own backyard fire pit to enjoy a roaring fire in your outside space this winter. You can weatherproof your windows yourself this winter. Find out how to seal the cold air out. Plus get answers to your home improvement questions about, leaky chimney, unwanted foliage, eliminating woodpeckers, restoring a terrazzo tile floor, increasing water pressure, drainage issues, foundation paint.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And Happy Holidays, everybody.
TOM: ‘Tis the season. Are you out there decorating about? Are you shopping? You’ve got to have some holiday fix-up project on your to-do list. If you do, pick up the phone and let us give you our gift of the season by telling you what you need to do and how to get it done simply, easily, effectively and as inexpensively as possible. Pick up the phone and help yourself first. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Well, it’s just about time to deck those halls but before you do, are you planning on decking the windows, as well? It’s a little harder today because unlike the wood windows of the past, you can’t necessarily nail and staple and screw into the vinyl windows. Because if you do, what can happen is you’ll damage them. In fact, you could void the warranty. So we’ll have some tips on how you can get around that and decorate those windows, in just a bit.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? This really is the perfect time of year to have a big, roaring fire. Well, if you like those, how would you like to be able to actually enjoy that fire in your backyard or even on your patio? Well, you can if you know how to build a fire pit. We’re going to tell you how you can enjoy your outdoor space in these colder months, coming up.
TOM: And if you want to enjoy your indoor spaces more this season, you need to make sure your windows are sealed. Do you know that windows and other drafts can be responsible for 25 percent of your home’s heat loss? That’s what infiltration does to you after you let all those drafts get into the house. So we’re going to tell you an easy way to weatherize those windows against those drafts.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got a Stanley FatMax Tool Box worth 30 bucks. It’s air- and water-tight, so it’s going to keep your tools safe and sound.
TOM: So give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Dan in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DAN: Hi there. I have a question for you. I have recently purchased a 1920s home.
TOM: Thank you for personally pulling us out of the recession, Dan.
DAN: Do what I can.
TOM: So what’s going on with this beautiful 1920s home?
DAN: Well, we’re in the process of making it beautiful but I have an upstairs ceiling that has a wet spot and it kind of scuttle-holed it up there, to see what’s going on up there, and the chimney is dripping.
DAN: And so I got up on the roof and the flashing appears to be fine. And the chimney was – the way they laid the bricks up, they kind of stuffed them and I’m wondering if the mortar is compromised and maybe that brick is leaking.
TOM: Well, if you’ve already been up on the roof, what I would do is I would – and you think the flashing is fine – I would take a hose and run it around the flashing itself, because I suspect the flashing is not fine. A lot of times the roofers will cut corners with chimney flashing.
The proper way to do this is to have two pieces: a base flashing and a counter flashing. The base flashing goes under the shingles and lays up against the side of the chimney; the counter flashing gets notched into the mortar joint and then folds over the base flashing. So that kind of works together. And the reason you have two pieces like that is because you’re going to get a lot of movement – expansion and contraction – and it doesn’t pull the flashing away.
Another thing to check is up on top of the chimney: the concrete cap that’s going to be between the flue liner and the end of the brick. Make sure that that’s solid. Very often it will crack and you’ll need to caulk it or fill gaps in around there.
And the third thing that you could do is you could use a masonry sealer on that brick and that will slow down the absorption of it. You want to make sure you choose one that’s vapor-permeable so that the moisture can get in and get out of the brick. And this will prevent the possibility of it freezing and spalling or breaking up in the wintertime.
DAN: OK. Vapor-permeable.
TOM: Vapor-permeable, yep. Most of them are today. Just double-check.
DAN: Alright. Very good. I appreciate that.
TOM: Good luck, Dan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Jessica in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JESSICA: Hello. Well, I have two problems. And my first one is that I have a back deck like probably a lot of people do. And it’s just maybe 5 or 6 feet wide and then it goes the length of the house. And it’s got a roof over it and it’s just real standard and it’s probably a couple steps down to the ground.
Well, underneath, every year, for some reason trees start growing underneath the deck: small saplings.
TOM: OK. OK.
JESSICA: So my husband has to crawl under there with a Sawzall and cut them down. And there’s plants and ferns and these insane climbing vines that come out of it. And I don’t know where they’re coming from, first of all, like how are they growing in the dark? But second, how can I stop them?
TOM: Well, here’s what you want to do. Very simple. There’s a product called Roundup. Are you familiar with this?
JESSICA: Yes but it’s super-bad for the environment and I have dogs and …
TOM: Oh, come on. It’s not that terrible.
TOM: It’s not that terrible. If you’ve just got one thing that’s coming up, like one little section of fern or something like that, you can take a funnel and you can cover the plant with the funnel and then squirt the Roundup down through the top of that – the narrow end of the funnel – and you kind of create a little way that sort of keeps that chemical just on that plant.
But if you spray them down with the Roundup, then it’s going to go down to the roots. It’s going to kill them at the roots and they won’t come back. So that’s going to be a lot easier than having your poor husband go down there every year to chop down your mini-forest.
JESSICA: Agree. OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it is officially the holiday season and we are here to give you a hand with all of your home improvement questions, even your holiday home improvement ideas and gift ideas, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, the joy of the holidays can turn sour if you damage your energy-efficient vinyl windows while decorating. We’re going to teach you how you can be festive but keep your warranty valid and your windows intact, next.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, one caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to get a really great prize and possibly a great holiday gift for the home improver on your shopping list. We’ve got up for grabs this hour the Stanley FatMax Foam Tool Box worth 30 bucks. It’s air- and water-tight, so it’s going to keep your tools safe and sound no matter what’s going on outdoors. And it’s got rustproof latches, which really will extend the life of this tool box. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with whatever you are working on and your chance to win this great prize.
Well, holiday decorating, it is the season but you need to be very careful because you can accidentally damage your vinyl windows.
You know, when windows were wood, we didn’t have this problem, Leslie. We had wood filler and other ways to fix push pins and other hardware holes. But now you need to be really careful, because you have to balance being festive while also being smart.
So here’s a couple of things to keep in mind. First of all, never put nails, screws, staples, glue; keep it away from the vinyl-window frames. Not only will it damage the window and decrease energy efficiency, it could also invalidate the warranty. A better option are those 3M Command Hooks. They have a whole line of those 3M adhesives under the Command brand. And they work great, because you can put them on and peel them off and they do not damage the walls. They won’t damage the windows and they won’t invalidate the warranty.
Another thing to keep in mind is don’t decorate with anything that will keep you or prevent you from opening that window. That’s very important because some windows have an emergency egress purpose and you don’t want to seal the window shut.
LESLIE: And you know what? If you’ve really got it set in your mind that you want something on the glass itself, run out and get a suction cup with a hook, because those also work really well if you want to put a small wreath on the operable part on the sash itself. This way, you can keep things festive but you don’t have to worry about damaging anything.
And another thing that I always keep in my bag of tricks when I’m decorating a client’s home is monofilament or fishing line. Depends on what you want to call it but you can get that at a sporting goods store or a hardware store. And you can use that to tie up garlands or wreaths inside and out, so it really is a great thing just to have in your decorating arsenal.
Because you want to make sure that you keep everything in your home working efficiently, especially when it comes to your vinyl windows. And you want them to be as energy-efficient as possible and you want to keep that window warranty intact. And if you do that, then you’ll really have reason to celebrate.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your just-in-time holiday home improvement question. We’re here to help.
LESLIE: Ron in Virginia is on the line and he is dealing with some woodpeckers who are eating the house. They do like to do that and they do bore those perfectly gigundo (ph) holes in a matter of seconds. So tell us what’s going on, Ron.
RON: Well, we’ve been living in the house about 15 years and never had the problem before. But there are a lot of other houses with cedar siding that have had the problem. And when I’ve talked to folks, they’ve tried things like hanging aluminum foil strips around and sometimes the birds would even take it and put it in their nest. And it didn’t scare them away.
TOM: “So there.”
RON: They tried the plastic owls. It seems like they last on the house for a little while and they just disappear. And it started about two weeks ago and I’ll patch up a hole, come home the next day from work and I’ve got another hole or two in the house. And I keep patching every day and I don’t know what else to do with them. I called an exterminator, just to see if they could trap them, and they said, “Oh, no. Not in the U.S. There’s a $500 penalty for doing that.”
LESLIE: Oh, yes.
RON: So what do I do?
TOM: Well, what we’ve heard and what has worked for our listeners in the past is a combination of a couple of things that you’ve just mentioned. First of all, not so much the aluminum strips but more like tin pie plates. Hanging them in the air …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because they’re super-shiny.
TOM: That are super-shiny and they kind of fly around and freak them out. Plus, if they get really close to them, they can see themselves and that kind of freaks them out, too. So tin pie plates and then, also, long strips of black plastic. So think of a long hefty bag.
LESLIE: All things that make your home look really attractive.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
RON: Yeah, great. And I’ve got it on the market now trying to sell it, so …
TOM: Oh, well, this will close the deal right there, you know? But those kinds of things – maybe you could put it on the non-visible sides of the house from the street and try it. But those two things, we have gotten feedback from our listeners that they’ve worked very successfully. And then, of course, when they stop coming to your house and get comfortable going to some poor neighbor’s house down the street, you can remove the décor. Or if you leave it up long enough, maybe you could work it in with some holiday décor.
RON: Start a new style.
TOM: There you go.
RON: Is there any kind of – nothing’s in stone but is there any time limit? Will it bother them after a week or two, a day or two, months?
TOM: Not totally sure but I don’t think we’re talking about indefinitely here. My sense is it’s a week or two.
LESLIE: Yeah, we had – I remember when my son was little and I was like the nap commando. And whenever he was sleeping and anybody made a ruckus, I’d go outside and be like, “Shhh! Quiet!”
And I heard this horrendous racket outside as soon as my son was down for a nap. And I run outside and I’m looking around trying to find out which kid I can yell at on the block and I’m all excited about it. And all of a sudden, there on the side of my house is this gigundo (ph) woodpecker just having a field day. And I could do nothing to scare him away but I did put up a tin pie plate. I actually used it to cover the hole that he had made. And it didn’t come back and I kept it up for probably two weeks. Never saw it again, never heard it pecking on anything. Who knows? Maybe it was just satisfied or maybe I trapped it in the attic. Who knows?
RON: Great ideas. So I’ve got to go find some tin plates now.
TOM: Alright, Ron. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Brenda in Florida is on the line and needs help with restoring a terrazzo floor. How can we help you?
BRENDA: Bought an older home and removed all the carpet and padding. And underneath, to our surprise, was this beautiful – or at one time was beautiful, perhaps – terrazzo flooring.
BRENDA: The only problem is it’s got these – like glue – little balls of kind of mushy stuff and it’s all over the flooring. And it’s dull and there are also cracks around – mostly around the sliding-glass doors leading to the exterior of the home, where it’s kind of crumbly in that area. But the rest of the floor – and it’s a large area, probably about, oh, 2,400 square feet of flooring throughout the home.
So my question is: how do I bring it back to its grandeur?
TOM: Hmm. Yeah, well, I will tell you this: it’s a lot of work. Getting glue off terrazzo is not a pleasant project. What you need to do is to use an adhesive remover and you need to try to find one that works. There are a lot of citrus-based products today that are pretty effective but – so you may want to go to a good-quality hardware store and select two or three different ones and – buy small amounts and then try it to see what works the best.
But you’re going to use this remover and you’re going to use a floor scraper. And you’re going to very carefully soften the glue and then try to scrape it off. And when you find the right combination, that’s going to be what you’re going to buy more of and complete the project.
After that, once the glue is removed, I would have a professional come in and restore the terrazzo, because it’s going to have to be abraded to buff it down to get to the point where …
LESLIE: To repolish it.
TOM: To repolish it, yeah. You’re going to – definitely going to do that.
BRENDA: That’s what I was wondering, if the polish is still there in the stone itself or is there a project that I put over it and do it yourself?
LESLIE: It probably will not be there because of the glue being on top of it for so long and what you have to do to get the glue off of it, which may possibly abrade the surface some. So I really do think that’s best left to a pro.
Then what they do is – terrazzo is generally cement and marble. And there’s going to be a polish that they’ll put on there that will possibly need to be redone every however many years. But it’s a maintenance issue. But I would definitely leave that to the pros, because they’re going to have a more durable product than you can get your hands on.
TOM: And you’re going to need some really heavy-duty tools to polish that terrazzo if it’s been ignored all those years.
TOM: So I think your job – your part of this is to get the glue off. Once you’ve got it as clean as you can, then you call in the pro, let them bring in the tools to polish that, what is – which essentially grinds it down to its original form. And then they’ll bring it back up again.
BRENDA: Oh, my. OK. Well, great. Wonderful. Thank you so much. It sounds like a lot of work but I’m ready to tackle it, because I think it’ll be beautiful.
TOM: I think it will. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Aaron in Iowa is having a hard time getting a hot bath. Tell us what’s going on.
AARON: Well, we’ve got the sink up in our master bath on the second floor of our house that takes a good couple minutes in order to get some hot water to. Just thinking of options. I guess maybe an under-sink instant hot water might be an option. And just trying to figure out the easiest way to get that accomplished.
TOM: Yeah, well, of course it’s a function of distance, Aaron. It has to do with how far your master bedroom/bathroom is from the water heater and that’s why you have to wait that long a time.
Now, the option is to add another heater in that space. You could do that with an electric tankless heater or you could do that with a gas tankless heater. Because it’s just that one bathroom, I think an electric would probably be OK. They even had some that run on 110 volts that can handle those small projects like that.
But if it’s going to be a heavy use, then what you might want to do is add a tankless water heater. But keep in mind, by doing this you basically are splitting your hot water into two circuits. Because right now it’s one circuit that feeds from wherever the water heater is; you’re going to split it into two.
And you also really have to think about the cost-effectiveness of doing this. Sure, we hate to waste all that water but I just wonder if …
AARON: Now I’ve got the electricity side of things to deal with.
TOM: Well, you’ve got the electricity, you’ve got the cost of the equipment. And it’s instant but I’m sure that it’ll be more expensive than just the little bit of water that you waste every time waiting for it to heat up.
AARON: OK. Yeah, that was the biggest question as far as the …
TOM: Yeah, it’s kind of an annoyance; it’s a design issue. But you really have to think about whether it’s worth putting in that second water heater.
AARON: Yeah, I didn’t know how small those instant water heaters came with what size …
TOM: They’re pretty small; they can fit inside a bathroom cabinet. But there’s going to be an expense to it. So price it out; you make your decision based on that.
Aaron, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, when the weather is chilly and your hands are feeling a little icy, do you dream about warming them up over a roaring fire, say, in your backyard? Well, coming up, This Old House landscaping expert, Roger Cook, is joining us with tips on how to build your very own fire pit – and it’s not that hard – after this.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you in part by Arrow Fastener Company, the leader in professional fastening products since 1929. The makers of the iconic T50 Staple Gun, the world’s bestselling staple gun, Arrow Fastener has the right tool for every application. Explore Arrow’s latest product innovations at ArrowFastener.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Standing by, on air and online, at MoneyPit.com. Are you working on a holiday fix-up project and you’ve only got a couple of weeks left now to get her done before the guests start to arrive? You need some advice on setting up a guest room? Have a couple of easy home improvement projects you’d like to get done just in time? We can help you if you pick up the phone and call us at 888-666-3974. Call us for the instructions you need to take on your next home improvement project.
LESLIE: Well, backyard fire pits are really hot right now, literally. On cool nights, who doesn’t want to melt marshmallows and have that great smell of a campfire right in your own backyard?
TOM: And with just a bit of planning and a trip to your local building-supply store, you too can build a fire pit yourself. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House is here to tell us how.
So, Roger, I guess the first decision is where the heck are you going to put this thing?
ROGER: No. Actually, the first decision is can you have one?
LESLIE: Oh, true.
TOM: Oh, good point. Because some towns frown on this, then, huh?
ROGER: Right. And you look at a lot of places that have fire problems. The worst thing that can happen is an open fire. So the first place you’re going to go is probably the fire department and check with them and see if your town will allow you to burn, period, before you spend any money or time on anything else.
TOM: That makes good sense, because a lot of folks don’t have good sense when it comes to locating anything with heat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that halo pattern in vinyl siding when a grill got too close.
LESLIE: Got it from a barbecue.
ROGER: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s the thing is you want to locate it centrally so it’s away from fences, away from buildings. But also look up; you really don’t want to burn your favorite tree or catch a tree on fire. And that can happen if you put it right underneath it.
LESLIE: Is there an appropriate distance? Because I know sometimes with branch overhang at 10, 12 feet in the air – but you might get an ember just shoot straight up.
ROGER: Right. I’m looking for a 10-foot to 15-foot clear space around whatever you’re putting in.
LESLIE: Like a dome, you know.
TOM: Now, once we’ve identified the space, we’ve got the clearance, it’s OK with our town to build one, how do we actually get started?
ROGER: Well, you want to pick out the material you want to make the basin with. Now, what you want to do is dig a hole down because you want that fire down in the ground, like a foot below grade. That will make it safer to be around. We’ve been using a lot of kits lately that have been made out of the segmental concrete blocks in the …
TOM: Oh, is that like what they use for retaining walls, where they lock together?
ROGER: Exactly. Except these ones are shaped in a radius and give you a perfect circle. So you compact the gravel, you lay your first base down and then you build it up. And I like to see it about a foot above grade and that makes it safe that no one is going to step into that fire.
LESLIE: So that first row really gets inset into that hole that you’ve dug?
LESLIE: Do you need any sort of steel ring, like you might see at a park?
ROGER: Concrete needs to be protected from the heat. And they make a steel ring that goes with this kit. In fact, it even has a grill that flips over on the top so you can grill away.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s great.
TOM: Now, if you’re going to construct this and you’re using the segmented stones, you have your steel ring, once you get it above grade, are you actually attaching those bricks together? Are you using any kind of sealant to sort of hold them in place or is it all just sort of gravity?
ROGER: No, we use the regular glue we use on the walls. And that just binds everything together so that it really becomes a one-piece structure.
TOM: So there’s really no mortar involved.
ROGER: No mortar at all; no, it’s all dry.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. So no masonry adhesive at all?
ROGER: No. Yes, that’s what you use to hold the block together.
LESLIE: Yeah, so the masonry adhesive. Just no mortar.
ROGER: No mortar.
TOM: Wow, that sounds really super-easy.
Now, if that’s still a little bit too much of a project for the average DIYer, what about the premanufactured kits that are available or the kind that you sort of roll out: the chimineas and that sort of thing?
ROGER: Well, I think they’re great. I think they all have a place. The chimineas are great because you can put different flavored wood, so to speak, in it and get different scents coming out of it. They also make shallow basins. Some of them are copper, some of them are steel where if – you put in a few logs and have a real small fire that way.
TOM: And it doesn’t matter what kind you use; the smores taste the same, don’t they?
LESLIE: Since those are so accessible and you can just pick them up at a home center, do you still need to follow those same rules: check with your fire department and make sure that you can have one or those kind of just go under the radar?
ROGER: An open fire is an open fire. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big one or a little one.
TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
ROGER: You’re welcome.
LESLIE: You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and a step-by-step video on how to build a fire pit and other projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Up next, are cold drafts sending chills up your spine? Well, a drafty house can definitely increase your energy bills. We’ll have tips to help you seal drafts and stay warm, next.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. And now you can easily cut through the most difficult projects with ease, with a Power Cutter from Skil. With powerful, lithium-ion technology and an auto-sharp blade system, Skil’s lightweight Power Cutter will soon become your favorite tool, too. The Skil Power Cutter. It cuts just about anything.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete. And hey, why don’t you be part of The Money Pit fun? Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One person this hour is going to walk away with a Stanley FatMax Structural Foam Tool Box and that’s worth 30 bucks.
These tool boxes, they’re tough and durable. They’ve got rust-resistant latches and an air- and water-tight seal. It makes a great holiday gift for the handy person in your life. If you want to check it out, head on over to StanleyTools.com. You can learn more there or check it out online in our gift guide at MoneyPit.com. Call now, though, for your chance to win and your home improvement advice. The number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if a drafty home is sending chills up your spine and sending your heating bill through the roof, it’s time to take on some serious weatherproofing. The job becomes simple with the right tools, like a good caulk gun and a light-duty staple gun, like those from Arrow Fastener, who present this segment.
LESLIE: That’s right. You know, Arrow has got a wide range of staple guns. But for this draft-proofing project, you really want to go with a light-duty staple gun, like the JT21. And it’s perfect for this type of project because it’s got a light-wire staple.
And the reason you want to go for a fastener like that is because it can be easily removed when you don’t want that weatherproofing material present. So you really have to be careful, because you don’t want to damage your window or your door frames. And that’s what makes it such a perfect product for the job.
Now, it’s great for attaching weatherstripping, as well as those sheets of heavy-duty plastic. And the plastic, you want to stretch it across the windows in your room, even in the ones that you don’t use that often. But you just want to be careful not to seal off your windows entirely, even if it’s just temporarily, because your window is also a means of emergency exit. Just in case in the event of a fire, you don’t want to have to scramble to pull anything down.
Now, another way to seal those gaps and cracks is by using caulk. Now, when you apply it, you want to use it on the outside and the inside and you want to run a caulk bead between the molding and the wall. Now, you can also add weatherstripping to the underside of the window sash.
Another option is to use temporary caulk and now that can be removed when you need to remove it and it’s a really great product, especially for renters. My mom is in love with it with her city apartment.
TOM: If you’d like the step-by-step on this and lots of other weatherproofing ideas for your home, you can download the new bonus chapter from our book, My Home, My Money Pit. We are calling it “A Fix for Every Season.” It’s got over a dozen easy fix-up projects, including the step-by-step on how to weatherproof your house. And it’s presented by our friends at the Arrow Fastener Company.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Patrick calling in who’s a firefighter from Chicago who’s just dealing with a disastrous firehouse in need of help. And we found him in a post on Hometalk.
Welcome, Firefighter Patrick. How are you today?
PATRICK: Very good.
TOM: Patrick, what’s going on with the firehouse in Chicago?
PATRICK: We are located in Garden Homes, right next to Chicago.
PATRICK: And our firehouse has been around since 1940. The problem with our firehouse is the placement where it’s at, at a bottom of a hill. When it rains, it floods eventually down here and that’s where the water collects up. The water was up to about a foot to 2 feet in some sections.
TOM: Well, was it that high in the streets?
TOM: OK. So no matter what you did, short of raising that building 6 or 8 feet, you were going to flood.
PATRICK: Yeah. We don’t have the money to raise the building. This has happened time and time again and this …
TOM: Alright. So is there sort of a hillside that slopes into the firehouse, Patrick?
PATRICK: Well, yeah. On our north side of the building.
TOM: OK. Now, one of the ways – now, we – first of all, I can’t help you when, obviously, the entire community floods. We’re good; we’re not that good.
But what we can suggest is this: whenever you have runoff and water that’s sort of coming down from a higher elevation to a lower elevation, what you want to try to do is intercept that water. The long-term plan is to install what’s called a curtain drain. Have you ever heard of that?
TOM: OK. So what a curtain drain is – if you were to dig at the soil level around the firehouse, you put in a drain. You dig a trench that’s about 12 inches wide and about 12 inches deep. In the bottom of this trench, you have a couple of inches of stone, then you have perforated pipe – solid PVC, by the way, not the flexible kind – and that perforated pipe has to be connected to a point where it can discharge. So you go from the highest point to the lowest point, so the water drains out.
And then you cover it with stone, you put a piece of filter cloth and then you finish the top with dirt. You can put sod, you can put mulch; it can basically be invisible and flush to the yard if that’s the kind of installation.
And the way a curtain drain works is the water comes down, it hits the trench, it falls into the trench, it comes up into the pipe and then goes through the pipe – the exit point. And that’s – you intercept runoff water that’s coming from the higher point to the lower point. Installing something that intercepts the water and stops it getting to the firehouse walls where it’s leaking through is kind of the idea here.
And the other thing that we want to suggest is make sure you’re not adding to the problem by taking any roof water that’s coming off the firehouse roof and dumping it too close to your exterior walls.
Does your firehouse have gutters on it?
TOM: OK. So that’s something that’s important. So what happens to the water? It just rolls off the roof, along the sides of the building?
PATRICK: Yes. It just – it follows the natural flow to the front of our firehouse.
TOM: OK. So what you …
LESLIE: Well and that’s not really helping the situation there.
TOM: Right. What you want to do is manage that roof water. So you want to collect it in downspouts, in gutters and you want to discharge it several feet from the firehouse. But you cannot let the water collect in the roof and then drop right down around the areas where it’s leaking into the walls, because it will.
So if you manage the water around the house so we don’t contribute to it, if we install curtain drains to intercept water that’s coming down – now, what’s your financial situation? Do you guys have fundraisers to pay for stuff like this?
PATRICK: We have fundraisers but we run on a very low budget from our town.
PATRICK: Run at $65,000 a year.
TOM: Wow. Well, that’s not a lot.
LESLIE: But I mean fundraising, you can reach out to everyone in your community, because they support their safety and so it’s in their best interest to make their donations to the fire department. Because, hopefully, they never need you but they might. And there are a variety of ways to do it and you seem like a really resourceful guy.
And you can reach out even to media relations or press relations for certain companies and manufacturers that might make a product or building material that you could benefit from in pursuing these renovations or remodels or repairs and sort of tell them your story. And you never know; you could get a media person there who really sympathizes with you and relates to the company – your needs – and next thing you know, you’ve got a pile of materials arriving at your doorstep as a donation.
So I wouldn’t be afraid to ask. You certainly are a worthy cause and what you do is really beneficial to so many people. So don’t be afraid to ask. Be creative. Have interesting fundraisers, have local fundraisers and ask for the money. And you’d be surprised; people will give.
TOM: Does that make sense, Patrick?
PATRICK: Yes. And this curtain drain sounds very good. Alright. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. And thanks so much for reaching us out to us, again, on Hometalk.com. It’s a great site. A lot of good people are available to help folks, just like you and so many more homeowners, with problems and issues that come up in the process of home ownership.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Still ahead this hour, are you tired of coming home to a cold house in the evenings? We’re going to tell you how to get a cold house warmed up just in time for your walk through that door, after this.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Hometalk.com. Join Tom and Leslie on Hometalk.com and log on to become part of the community of folks who love taking care of their homes, at Hometalk.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete. And hey, don’t you guys think for just one second that because we’re on our way into really cold time of year – you know, December, January – that you should just go ahead and put off all of those home improvement projects that you’re thinking about until the spring. “Eh, why not? Let’s wait until it’s warmer.” Uh-uh. Head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “weekend home improvements for the holidays” and you are going to find a list of things that you can do to keep busy and keep your home in tip-top shape throughout the winter.
TOM: And while you’re online, you can also head on over to our Community section and post your home improvement question there. Rick did that. He says, “I heard on your show that there is a thermostat for heat pumps that will gradually increase the heat setting. This is helpful when coming home to a cold house that needs to come up many degrees without kicking on the all-expensive backup heating element. Can you tell me what to look for in finding the proper thermostat for my heat pump?”
OK. So good question, Rick, and I think you’re on the right track.
Now, for those of you that are unfamiliar with how heat pumps work, they’re really two heating systems in one. One is the heat pump, which is kind of like an air conditioner that runs backwards, so it delivers hot air instead of cold. And the second is an electric resistance heater. And the key is that you want to move the thermostat very slowly up and down because if you ask for more than two degrees over what it’s set for, the backup heat comes on because it thinks it’s getting really cold outside and all of a sudden makes your electric meter spin at a million miles an hour and drives up your cost.
So, you need a special thermostat – a special clock-set thermostat. What you simply want to do is search for one that says it’s ready for a heat pump, because these move the temperature very, very slowly. You can look online. There are dozens of them for sale. I just did a quick Google search for a heat pump thermostat and there are, again, dozens of different manufacturers that sell these things. You could find one for as little as about 50 bucks.
For those of you that are not on a heat pump, you can use any kind of setback thermostat. And just using a setback thermostat, by itself, has been shown to cut energy costs by about 10 percent. So it’s a great project, easy project to install. A couple of low-voltage wires to reconnect. So kind of a no-brainer and really makes a lot of sense for cutting energy costs.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, I’ve got a question here from Robert in Pennsylvania who posted: “I would like to paint my basement but my cement blocks show moisture at different locations. There’s no running water on the floor anywhere. I know that you need to use waterproof masonry paint. I used this procedure on another home and the bottom of block, after a bit, peeled the paint. How could I solve this problem? I want to make sure that the blocks stay dry and nothing comes through.”
Well, Robert, first step is to work outside before you even think about painting those basement walls.
TOM: Yeah, it’s a drainage problem on the outside that’s followed him through two houses.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, well, you know what? It’s a common problem and if you don’t know the proper steps and you immediately think, “Oh, I’ve got to slap something on my basement walls to stop it there,” yeah, that’s something but that’s not the first thing you want to do.
TOM: Yeah, it is.
LESLIE: You want to think about the areas where you get a lot of water buildup around the property of your home and the perimeter outside. And that’s going to be the perimeter against your foundation wall, it’s going to be your gutters and downspouts and it’s going to be the grading. You want to get that water away from the house and the sooner that you do that, the drier your basement is going to be.
TOM: Yeah. And the reason that you saw moisture coming – showing up at the bottom row of concrete blocks is this: when you build a block foundation wall, the bottom row of blocks is filled solid with mortar. So the rest of it’s hollow, the water gets inside the blocks and it falls and hits the bottom block and sort of spreads out.
But the key here, as Leslie said, to improve the grading and the drainage outside. The reason you see the water marks at different levels of the wall is because block is also very hydroscopic; it’ll suck up moisture. So that moisture gets drawn up through the block and then just finds its path of least resistance out and then dries. And you get this sort of mineral-salt deposit that leaves kind of this water mark on the outside. It looks kind of blotchy but it’s all being drawn up from areas below.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Robert? If you want to get rid of that blotchy look, a little bit of white vinegar and water will do the trick and get rid of those mineral deposits for good.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Happy Holidays, everybody, and Happy Home Improvements. If you’re tackling a project that you need to get done just in time for the holidays, we are here to help you 24-7, 365 at 888-MONEY-PIT and online at MoneyPit.com.
I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself ...
LESLIE: But you don't have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2011 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)