Learn how to avoid a dry heat and dry throats when from This Old House plumbing expert Richard Trethewey, find out how to read your water meter to detect leaks, get advice on how to avoid freezing pipes, discover the best ways to clean mold yourself, find out how to get rid of a fireplace draft. Plus answers to your home improvement questions about removing plumbing fixtures, sweating windows, eliminating noise from heating system, fixing cracked walls, copper pipe leaks, cleaning tile grout, hot water heaters, sealing a fireplace and removing mold.
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist's understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. 'Ph' in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 1 TEXT:
[audio timestamp: 0:00:25.0]
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Pick up the phone. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects. We know you’ve got a few on your to-do list this weekend. Why not give us a call and let us help you out? The number again is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Maybe you want to save some energy dollars; maybe you want to stop a leak or fix a squeak. Give us a call. We are here to get that job done with you; standing by your side with tools in hand.
This hour, we’re also going to talk about plumbing problems. Well, maybe not so much the problems but definitely how to avoid them. Plus, it’s definitely the dry season when it comes to heat; and so, we’re going to have some tips to help you put the moisture back in the forced-air heating systems in your house that are probably leaving you dry and parched and all feeling yucky when you wake up in the morning.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Definitely sounding hoarse first thing in the morning without one.
Also ahead, we’re going to teach you how to read your water meter. And you’re probably thinking, “Do I have to?”
TOM: (overlapping voices) Is this a skill I need to have, Leslie?
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s kind of an important one. (Tom chuckles) This way, if you know how to actually read your water meter, you can see how much water that you’re really using and where you might be able to save some water.
TOM: And it’s also a really – I’m going to give you a really good tip later about how you can figure out if you’ve got leaks in your house that you don’t even know about by reading that water meter.
And this hour, we’re also going to talk about freezing pipes, which can be very damaging and costly when the plumbing freezes and bursts. But we’ve got a simple solution to help you prevent that.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour we’re giving away a prize package from d-CON. It’s worth $100 and it’s got the bestselling pest-control products for every single room in your house; and then you definitely won’t have any more pests.
TOM: And it’s shaping up to be a very high-risk rodent year so call us right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. Becky in Texas needs some help changing out a bath fixture. What can we do for you?
BECKY: Yes. I need to find out – I’ve got a marble Jacuzzi and my sinks are marble and I was trying to find out how to remove the brass. I wanted to update it but someone told me that you couldn’t remove it. I was just wondering about how to do it and if it could be done.
TOM: I don’t see why you couldn’t remove the brass faucet. Why do you think it’s going to be a problem?
BECKY: Oh, not the brass faucet; you know, the stuff that’s in the marble; like in the bottom of the tub and stuff.
LESLIE: Oh, like the drain and the stopper fixture?
BECKY: (overlapping voices) Yeah, the drain and …
TOM: Oh, the rest of the plumbing?
TOM: Yeah. I don’t see why you can’t remove those either. They went in; they have to come out.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I mean, as long as you can access every part like maybe in your tub, if you don’t have an access panel. But you can definitely change out all of the drain stopper and the fixture itself. If you’re changing from brass, you’re going to have to change out everything from the faucet to the stopping fixture in your sink, so it’s not like you’re going to get one piece instead of another; you’re going to do the whole thing.
TOM: And Becky, it’s not an easy project to do so it’s probably something you’re going to need a plumber’s help with, because you’re going to find that the new parts don’t fit as well and they’re going to need to be sealed in place. Because you want to make sure you do it right so you don’t get leaks.
BECKY: OK. Alright. OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Becky. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Aaron is calling in with windows that are sweating. Tell us about it.
AARON: Yes. In our house, we have regular aluminum windows. I imagine they’re low-end …
TOM: Aaron, it sounds like you’re having a party there.
AARON: Oh, yeah, we’re at a restaurant. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)
TOM: Alright, see? Home improvement questions can happen at any time, so tell us about your aluminum windows.
AARON: OK. They’re probably low-grade or low-end and moisture accumulates on the metal part of the windows and it runs down and puddles up on the stupid window. We have to mop it up. Is there anything I could do to keep that from happening?
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right. Yep. Well, the problem here is really physics. You have a certain level of humidity inside the house and that humidity is condensing against the cold, exterior window surface. And as the air is cooled, it releases moisture and washes it down to the sill where you have to mop it up.
So, there are only two ways to fix this. The first way is to reduce the humidity in the house. That may be somewhat doable; more so than you think. If you look to improve your drainage on the outside of the house – your gutters; your grading; make sure soil slopes away; add a whole-house dehumidifier; make sure you use bath fans when you take baths and kitchen exhaust fans when you cook – you can actually try to slow down the amount of moisture that’s in the house. That’ll reduce the condensation or you can also add a dehumidifier.
And the other thing to do is to replace the windows and old aluminum windows like that are probably not very energy-efficient. And if you do decide to replace the windows, now is an excellent time because you can qualify for a $1,500 federal energy tax credit thanks to the TARP program.
And if you want more information on how to do that, there is a window replacement guide online, for free, at MoneyPit.com that’s about 10 or 15 pages that walks you through step-by-step. It’s actually a free download of the chapter of our book, My Home, My Money Pit, that will give you all the tips that you need to know on how to replace those windows.
So, hope that helps you out, Aaron, and thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Up next, we’re going to give you a lesson in reading your water meter. “Why,” you say, “Tom, do I need to know how to read my water meter?” Because if you do, you may be able to find a leak in your house that you never knew existed and get it fixed before it causes any damage. We’ll tell you why, after this.
[audio timestamp: 0:06:28.8]
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru Doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
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.
TOM: Give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
This hour, we’re giving away a prize package from d-CON to help you eradicate your home of unwelcome houseguests this winter. It is peak rodent season and according to the experts at d-CON, it’s apparently going to be a bad year for mice and rats; so we want to make sure that you’re protected. This package includes a full selection of d-CON’s bestsellers to protect each room in your home. It’s worth a hundred bucks so call us right now for your chance to win; the number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: It’s so funny. Well, you need some sort of houseguest for the month of January. (Tom chuckles) You know, it’s like all your holiday guests are gone; now it’s time for these other little guests that you would never expect to be in your own home.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Really.
LESLIE: Well, just one of the joys of being a homeowner. As I’m sure all of you who are homeowners out there have discovered, there are probably a few things that you’ve learned new as a homeowner and you’re thinking, “Hmm, what do I need to know how to do?” Well, you need to know how to caulk your tub and you need to know how to change your furnace filter.
Well, there’s one more thing that you should add to your list of things that you know how to do in your own home and that’s read your water meter. Because your water meter – it’s truly the best way to see how much water that you’re using and you can also use it to detect leaks.
First of all, locate your water meter. Where is it? And if you can’t find it, call your local water company; they will help you and they might even send somebody out to your house to show you where it is, if you ask.
Now, when you’re reading a water meter, think of your car’s odometer. There should be five numbers that count cubic feet and you want to read the three to the left and ignore the rest of them.
TOM: Now, to calculate the water you use, you want to subtract your previous meter reading from your current meter reading and here’s a little tidbit for you: 100 cubic feet of water equals 748 gallons. And you might want to take two meter readings, about a week apart, and figure out how much water your normally use. And then you can go into the water conservation measures that will save you water and not have you waste so much the next time.
And by the way, if you’re ever wondering if you’ve got a leak in the house, what you do is turn off all the plumbing in the house, go take the meter reading and write it down and then go wait for an hour. Come back; if that meter moved, you’ve got a leak and you’ve got to figure out where that leak is before that leak finds you and floods you out or causes mold or rot or some other type of dastardly damage to your home.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Well, you’ll eventually find it when you step in a foot of water in the basement. (chuckles)
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yes, you’ll find it. Eventually, you’ll find it. We want to help you find it sooner rather than later. 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Nicky in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
NICKY: Hi. I have a question about banging/clanging in my walls when the heat is on. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: Is it a poltergeist? Do you have ghosts?
NICKY: (chuckling) Hey, I hope not. (Tom chuckles)
TOM: So, does it happen when your heat first comes on or goes off?
NICKY: You know, the heating system is not on any kind of heating schedule.
NICKY: It’s just these, you know, units and we control them so they’re never touched, actually. They’re maintained at a certain degree and that’s it but at night, it seems to happen. So it’s not like …
TOM: Mm-hmm. Well, is it a hot-air heating system, Nicky? Forced air?
TOM: OK. So …
NICKY: It’s the baseboard, yep.
TOM: Well, no, no. Now, if it’s a baseboard, it’s not forced-air. If it’s baseboard, it’s probably hot water.
NICKY: (overlapping voices) Oh. Right, OK. Sorry.
TOM: Hot water.
NICKY: Yeah, that’s right.
TOM: Well, it’s important because if it’s a forced-air system, the banging can be caused by one thing and if it’s hot water it’s different. If it’s forced air – for those that have forced air that are listening to this call – very often you get something called oil canning where the heating system goes on and fills up the duct system like a balloon and then the ducts expand and pop and make a noise. And you can reinforce the ducts with strips of metal on the outside to stop that from happening.
With a hot water system, you either have – let’s see, baseboards; so it’s probably not steam. What’s probably happening here is you’ve got some pipes that are inserted through the walls to get to the radiators and what happens is when the heat comes on, the pipes expand and they rub against the studded wall; they rub against the wall where it comes through. And as a result of that, you get this really loud, creaking sound that resonates throughout all of the pipes and amplifies itself.
So, the solution there is to try to trace the hot water lines where they’re coming through the walls. And there’s like a plastic bushing that can go around the pipe and sort of acts like a lubricant in a way that when the pipe heats up and expands, it doesn’t drag across the dry wood and make that horrible banging sound.
NICKY: OK. Sounds like a solution. Thank you.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
I don’t think Nicky was that confident in my solution but it’ll work. Try it.
LESLIE: I think she wanted there to be a poltergeist. (Tom chuckles)
David in Maine, you've got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
DAVID: Well, I've got a problem with some wallboard. A crack in my drywall is pretty much from the top to the bottom; pretty much in a straight line, vertically.
TOM: OK. Is that over a seam, David?
DAVID: That's what I found out. Yes, it was over a seam (Leslie chuckles) and it was over a 2x4.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Alright, yes. How about that?
DAVID: And unfortunately, when I took a utility knife and started carving it up to make a V-shaped profile I found out that one side of the – it was over a 2x4 and one of the wallboards – one piece of the wallboard was basically floating.
TOM: (laughs) OK.
DAVID: But my question is: is there some easy or cost-effective way, other than just replacing the whole 4x8 sheet of wallboard, to fix that or to secure it so that it doesn't float?
TOM: Hmm. Well, here's the trick. I mean there are ways to repair that but, essentially, you have to cut a hole in the wall to do that.
TOM: Hmm. I'm wondering if it's easier to fix one or two. I'm thinking, Leslie, the easiest thing to do here would be for David to essentially go to the stud to the left and to the right of the disconnected drywall, cut out both sides of it so now you're going to take out a piece – let's assume that the studs are 16 inches on center. So you take one to the right – so you're 16 inches to the right; 16 inches to the left – and now you've pulled out a piece that's 32 inches wide. Replace that with a new piece of drywall that's 32 inches wide. You'll have two seams to tape instead of one.
TOM: But frankly, it's not going to be that much more work. Because that one side of drywall is now floating and moving, even if we tell you how to fix that crack ...
LESLIE: It's always going to show up.
TOM: ... it's going to come back fast.
DAVID: (overlapping voices) Always going to crack – come back, yeah.
TOM: So if you're going to cut the wall out, I mean, we could tell you how to cut it out right near that and slip in some wood blocking and then attach it but, frankly, by the time you do all that the cleanest way to do this is probably to take that whole piece out by going to the left and the right; sort of surgically excise that one piece of drywall, bang in a new piece, tape it, spackle it, be done.
You want to make sure you use perforated drywall tape because it's a little more forgiving if you don't quite get the spackling there just right. Two, three coats. Feather it out, prime it, paint it and you're good to go.
DAVID: That's the only way?
TOM: That's the way to do it.
DAVID: (chuckling) OK, good enough. Thanks for your advice.
TOM: You're welcome, David. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
I think David was looking for the magic potion (Leslie chuckles) that would mysteriously make a stud appear where once there was none.
LESLIE: And I like how he was like doing surgical work on it, too. (chuckling)
TOM: Yeah. (chuckles) Exactly. He was digging it out. Well, you know, it was probably stuck together by the piece of tape that was there and once he cut that, all of a sudden it became ...
LESLIE: Uh-huh. It started moving.
TOM: It became a floater.
LESLIE: Calling from Illinois, we've got Sue whose home is cracking up. What can we do to help?
SUE: (chuckling) Hi, yes. Well, I've done – I have a 200-year-old house and as you might guess, I've got a lot of plaster walls. I applied skim coat to most of the cracks about seven years ago and they're back and I want to know what else I can do. One, specifically, upstairs in the hallway, goes vertically from essentially just the roof line all the way down to the baseboard. And that one actually has a little bit of a bow to it, so that scares me more than anything else.
TOM: Sue, if there's a bow to it, what's happening is the plaster is separating from the lath behind it. And there's not going to be an easy correction for that. That is the plaster deteriorating and the option is really to skim that wall with another layer of drywall or to break off the loose plaster and then replaster.
Now, the solution for the cracks is different. When you just do a skim coat on top of that, that plaster that you put on top is not elastic so it's not going to expand and contract with the old crack. What you need to do is use a piece of fiberglass drywall tape that looks sort of like netting; it's perforated. And you apply that to the crack first and then you spackle on top of that – or plaster on top of that – two or three layers. And that is going to adhere enough where the wall can expand and contract without the cracks showing through.
But just to put more plaster on top of the cracked plaster is not going to solve it. The same way it's difficult to solve with a cracked sidewalk. Anything that moves like that has to have something in it that's elastic and very sticky and if you use the tape, that'll solve it.
SUE: Actually, I did use the tape.
TOM: You did use the tape? Well...
SUE: I did.
TOM: OK. Now did you use paper tape or fiberglass tape?
SUE: The fiberglass.
TOM: Well, let's just review how you did it. Did you sand the wall to get rid of all of the old paint first?
SUE: Hmm. (Leslie chuckles) Probably not. (laughing)
TOM: Because that could be like a layer of grease in between the tape and the wall.
LESLIE: And could cause that tape to slip right off as soon as there's any movement.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Exactly.
TOM: So that's probably what happened. That is the solution and if it's sanded, remove the old paint – there's nothing loose underneath it – and then put the tape back on there. You're going to have to pull the old repair out now, by the way. But you do a good job sanding that and that should cover it.
Now, if the bulge is not too bad, you may want to try to spackle over that. And on a wall we're not as concerned as when you have a bulge in the ceiling because that plaster could actually fall; it's pretty darn heavy. Don't ask me why I know; I just do. (Leslie and Sue chuckle) And it can hurt you, OK? (chuckles)
SUE: Yes. (chuckling) OK, very good. Thank you.
TOM: Alright, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Chris in New York needs some help with a plumbing project. Tell us what's going on at your money pit.
CHRIS: I have a second home in Florida and there seem to be problems with the copper piping down there.
TOM: OK, what's going on with the pipes?
CHRIS: They're springing a small leak. I haven't had a major problem with – I had one small leak and they gave me a plastic pipe to fit it over...
CHRIS: ... on the cold side. But then I went and asked some contractors, you know, about replacing all the pipes in the house. And I just wondered if this hot water side – I know...
TOM: Chris, are you talking about pinhole leaks that form inside the pipe?
CHRIS: Yes, that's it. Pinhole leaks. Right, exactly.
TOM: OK, well, that happens when certain types of water that's fairly acidic reacts with the copper and causes these pinhole leaks. If it's just happened once with one hole, I mean I wouldn't go crazy and replace all the pipes in the house. If it starts to happen more and more often, then maybe you want to go there but for right now, if you've just got one or two pinhole leaks, I wouldn't panic.
CHRIS: OK, thank...
TOM: There are probably better places to put those home improvement dollars.
CHRIS: Yeah, windows. (chuckles)
TOM: Yeah, well there you go. That's right.
CHRIS: Oh, thanks again. Thanks a lot for the advice.
TOM: That's what we do. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You know, in the summer when it is really, really hot outside, Leslie, the standing joke is: “But it’s a dry heat.” (Leslie chuckles)
LESLIE: It’s still hot.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, truth be told, dry heat is what you get every winter when you flip on the furnace. But there is a solution to moisten the air and your throat. We’re going to have that tip, next.