- The Spring real estate market is well underway and more urban dwellers than ever heading to the suburbs for space and tranquility. If you’re ready to sell your home, we’ll share 4 easy projects you can do in a weekend to boost curb appeal and land a buyer quicker than the competition.
- If you have ever had a major storm hit your house, you know that a home which is usually safe, sound, secure and dry can quickly turn into a leaking mess. That’s why when the storm passes, it’s important to give it a thorough inspection for storm damage. We walk you through.
- Rot happens, and when it does the longer you wait to repair it, the faster it gets worse. There’s really no need to put it off because products now exist that can restore the strength to weak rotted wood. We’ll share those details, just ahead.
- Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about replacing 1950’s wiring, fixing oven pilot lights, repairing drywall, cleaning concrete, getting rid of mold, painting tips for floors, painting a brick fireplace and refinishing kitchen cabinets.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And welcome to what we hope, for you, is another beautiful spring day and a great opportunity to take on projects around your home. Inside or out, whether you’re sprucing up your kitchen, your bath, your basement, whether you’re building out a deck or cleaning a patio, if you’ve got a project on your to-do list, we’d love to give you a hand with tips and ideas to help you get that job done once, done right so you can move on to the more relaxing parts of your spring day.
Coming up on today’s show, the spring real-estate market is well underway. And we’re seeing more and more urban dwellers heading to the suburbs to get some more space and maybe a little peace and quiet. And if you’re ready to sell your home in the suburbs, we’re going to share four easy projects you can do in a single weekend to boost curb appeal and land a buyer quicker than the competition.
LESLIE: And if you ever had a major storm hit your house, you know that a home – which is usually safe, sound, secure and dry – can quickly turn into a leaking mess. That’s why, when the storm passes, it’s important to give it a thorough check. We’re going to walk you through it.
TOM: And also ahead, rot happens and when it does, the longer you wait to repair it, well, the faster it gets worse. But there’s really no need to put it off, because products now exist that can restore the strength to weak, rotted wood. We’re going to share those details, in just a bit.
LESLIE: But first, we’re here to help you create your best home ever. So whether that’s a quick fix or a big project, we can help you save time, money and hassles.
TOM: So help yourself first by reaching out to us with your questions. Couple of ways to get in touch: you can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and we’ll call you back the next time we produce the show or you can post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
So let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: We’ve got Jay from Virginia on the line who’s got a wiring question. What’s going on?
JAY: Well, I just recently purchased the old family homeplace.
JAY: It was built in 1950. Actually built by my grandparents. When I say built it, I mean they built it other than the brick.
Looking to do some updating. The house is very good structurally. We’ve recently replaced the old oil furnace with, you know, a modern heat pump and everything. So, we’re good to go there but the main part of the house still has the original, non-grounded 1950s wiring in it.
JAY: There is an addition in the back that was added about 30 years ago. And at that time, 200-amp service was brought in and I guess, a modern circuit breaker. So everything just kind of is subset from that, into the house.
JAY: So, I had an electrical contractor come in last week, look around. And I was thinking all the wiring would just need to be replaced. And he said, “No.” He said, “If the wiring itself isn’t causing you problems,” – then he would advise to just simply put arc-fault circuits in the breaker and maybe split out a couple of circuits, if needed, and I should be OK.
TOM: Yep. Yep.
JAY: And I wanted your opinion on that.
TOM: Yeah. You’re dealing with a real professional there. That’s excellent advice.
Your wiring is grounded through the neutral – the 1950s wiring – but it doesn’t have a separate third ground wire. But what he’s suggesting is a very common application where, essentially, if you put the arc-fault breaker – which, for those that are unfamiliar, a ground-fault detects diversion of current to the ground source, which is what happens if you’re getting a shock. And an arc fault does that, plus it monitors the wiring for overheating and turns it off. So that’s a really smart thing to do. And by putting it at the panel, it can be wired in such a way that it covers the entire circuit.
So, that is a smart thing. That’s going to save you some money and make the house a lot safer.
JAY: Sounds great. So, once he does that work – if I get that done, then I can go to the outlets – and I have replaced them over the last few months with brand-new, two-prong outlets. But could I then replace those with three-prong and be safe?
TOM: No. No.
TOM: Because you don’t have three-prong outlets. You don’t have that third wire. So you’re always going to have the two-prong outlets.
JAY: Got it. Got it. Sounds great.
TOM: Good luck with that project.
JAY: Thanks so much.
LESLIE: Penny in Missouri is on the line with a question about a pilot light that just seems to need some fixing.
What’s going on, Penny?
PENNY: So I have a Magic Chef natural-gas stove and my oven won’t light. And I think it’s the pilot light. I wondered if they could be replaced.
TOM: Yes. Pilot lights can be replaced. In fact, I replaced one on my GE range not too long ago.
You have to make sure that you purchase the correct pilot light. And I found it very helpful that, in my case – for my particular model, because it was a little tricky – that I just did a little Googling online and I found, basically, a step-by-step on how to do that, that was submitted by one of the commenters on Amazon. And it saved me a lot of trouble, because there was a piece that I thought I had to kind of get through to get to the pilot. And it turned out I didn’t have to do that at all. So I learned something.
I see you guys think that I know it all; I certainly don’t. I’m very happy to take that advice.
So I will say that you can find pilot lights online. And a lot of the services that sell them, when you enter your model number, will make sure it fits.
Penny, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Scott in Iowa on the line who needs help with a painting project. Tell us what you’re working on.
SCOTT: I just recently bought a rental house and the plaster – it’s an older home and the plaster was falling off the house. Well, the guy I bought it from had repaired it but if you look at it, it’s falling out in some areas and bowing back in in some areas. And I was just wondering, would I have to re-drywall it or is there a cheaper and easier way to fix that?
TOM: How much of this exists? Is there a lot of this that’s where it’s – the plaster seems to be loose?
SCOTT: Throughout the whole house.
TOM: Yeah, OK. So it’s a problem because it’s going to be dangerous.
What happens is the plaster, when it’s applied, it’s applied over something called “wood lath,” which are like thin strips of wood. Kind of looks like those sticks we use to hold up garden plants and tomatoes and things like that. And the plaster expands to behind the lath and it sort of locks in place.
But over the years, with an old house, those “keyways,” we call them, loosen up and then the plaster is not attached to the wall anymore. So you are looking at a situation where the walls are going to get worse. It’s not going to get better. And if it’s the ceiling that’s loose, it could be dangerous. Because when that plaster falls, it’s really, really heavy. I’ve seen it dent floors and certainly could hurt somebody.
So now we have – the question is: what’s the best way to deal with this? “Should I tear the plaster out? Should I drywall over?” I’ve done it both ways and I’ve come to the conclusion, after trying it this way for many years, that the best thing to do is to put drywall on top of the plaster, not tear it out, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s less messy. Secondly, that even when you tear out the lath and the plaster, you’ll find that the studs from the old house behind it are not very even. So when you put drywall up, it tends to warp sometimes.
So what I would do is I would attach new drywall over the plaster. You can use 3/8-inch-thick drywall, too; you don’t even need to use ½-inch drywall. And then by attaching from the drywall, through the plaster into the studs, you’ll help secure that loose plaster so you won’t have any further movement in that room. That would be my recommendation.
SCOTT: That works out.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Pat in Louisiana is on the line and needs some help with a cleaning project. What can we do for you?
PAT: We had our carpet cleaned about a year ago. And in this bedroom, we have a heavy, clear, plastic mat that goes underneath the computer chair.
PAT: Well, recently, I moved it over a bit and I noticed that it was wet underneath it.
PAT: There’s no leak in the roof; water hasn’t come in the house. So only thing that could be is a year ago, the water from the carpet-cleaning service got underneath this mat and it’s been there all this time.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
PAT: So, we cut out a large circle, like a 5-foot circle, and got all the part out that was wet. So we’re going to have to replace the carpet and the pad. But on the concrete – the bare concrete – there are some spots of discoloration, so I don’t know if that’s mold or mildew. My question is: how do I clean that concrete before we have the new carpet installed?
TOM: The concrete spots, if anything, are mineral-salt deposits; it’s not mold.
TOM: And so, it’s really cosmetic at this point. If you can wash it down with a vinegar-and-water solution, it’ll melt the mineral-salt deposits away.
But the other thing that occurs to me is sometimes, concrete will draw moisture into a house. And so if anywhere near that area outside you’ve got water that’s ponding or collecting, it’s possible for the concrete to sort of draw that moisture up into the slab and across. And it may not have been able to evaporate where the pad was covering the concrete, which is why that area stayed damp, whereas the other area dried out. So there may be a different explanation as to why that stayed wet.
One of the things that you might want to do, since you have the carpet pulled all the way back, is to paint the concrete. Paint that area with an epoxy paint. That will seal in that concrete and stop some of the evaporation if the moisture is being drawn through it and up into the floor surface.
PAT: So, should I – we paint the whole room? We don’t have all of the carpet up yet; we just cut out the middle part.
TOM: Well, if you’re going to take all the carpet up, then paint the whole floor. If you’re only going to take part of it up, then just paint what you can get to. But I would definitely paint the floor.
TOM: That’ll do it. Pat, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ralph in Missouri who’s working on a ceiling project. Tell us what’s going on.
RALPH: There’s two rooms upstairs and the one side, I’ve changed into a bedroom, put a bathroom up there. The other one, I’d like to take the existing ceiling out and put a cathedral ceiling in. I just want to open the room up. The ceilings are kind of low now. Somebody has put suspended ceilings in there, which …
TOM: Made it even lower.
RALPH: Well, yeah. And it’s got the old tongue-and – or lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings and all that. So I guess they didn’t want to go with the mess, so what do you do? You just stick up a suspended ceiling.
But anyway, I’d like to take the existing ceiling joists out and maybe not use the rafters for the cathedral ceiling but add some new rafters to kind of follow the outline of the roof line. But I just want to make sure that if I pull these joists or ceiling joists out of here, that the house isn’t going to fall down, you know what I mean? The walls aren’t going to bow out and fall out on me.
TOM: Well, the house may not fall down but the roof might collapse. That’s not any better.
You see, look, if you’ve got a very high-pitched roof like that and that roof is resting on the top plate of the exterior wall and you take the ceiling joists away, those serve the purpose of tying those exterior walls into the rest of the house. Now, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it but you just can’t do it without somehow replacing that structural element.
I would recommend that you not do this yourself, that you get help from an architect to design this because it’s a little more complicated than what you might think. It’s easy to cut stuff away; it’s not so easy to put it back together in the right way. And when it comes to this kind of modification, it’s got to be done just right.
There’s other issues, too. Now, you’re going to have to make sure that this cathedral ceiling is properly ventilated and properly insulated. And that’s going to take some work. Otherwise, you’re going to add an energy-leaking hassle to your home that won’t bode well. And you might want to think about adding some additional lighting, like a skylight or something of that nature.
So, it’s a project that can be done but it’s a little more complicated than meets the eye. I would get some professional design help on this and not just get out the old Sawzall and cut – start cutting things out of the way.
RALPH: OK, OK. Yeah, well, that’s good advice.
TOM: Alright, Ralph. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, the spring real-estate market is well underway and more urban dwellers than ever are heading to the suburbs. They’re looking for space and tranquility. So, if you’re ready to sell your home, we’ve got four easy projects, from the experts at RiverbendHome.com, that you can do in a weekend to boost the curb appeal and land a buyer quicker than the competition.
First of all, start at your driveway. You want to make sure that your address stands out for potential buyers touring your street. Maybe get a new mailbox. RiverbendHome.com featured dozens of decorative mailbox-post designs with many ornate posts made from high-quality polyethylene, which isn’t going to rot and it will need very little maintenance. You can add some colorful flowers around the base to deliver an amazing first impression.
TOM: Now, speaking of color, you can also create color with window boxes and planters. These can really make your home pop and are easy to add and to maintain.
So, check out the line of Mayne’s planters at RiverbendHome.com. You’ll find window boxes and planters for porches or deck railings and a wide selection of low-maintenance containers for flowers and trees that can dress up your doorway with durable, low-maintenance style.
And next, if you want to make one simple improvement that can dress up your curb appeal and your safety at the same time, you can add a bold, beautiful set of house numbers. Not only does it make your home stand out, it assures emergency services could find your home fast if the need arises.
LESLIE: Lastly, step up your landscape lighting, adding low-voltage landscape lighting as a project that you can do yourself to create a warm, inviting first impression to your home. And you want to make sure that your walkway steps and porch are safely lit for visitors.
Now, you can complete your curb-appeal updates with a new porch swing or a rocker to create an inviting entryway. If you want some more tips to spruce up your curb appeal, unique finds for the inspired home and everything that you need to create your outdoor oasis, visit RiverbendHome.com.
And now through May 31st, you can save 15 percent on your order of $150 or more by using the code MONEYPIT15 at checkout. That’s MONEYPIT15.
Michelle in Alabama, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MICHELLE: OK. Well, we live in a home that was built in the early 70s. And in two of the bedrooms, we are having a mold issue and it’s just above the baseboards. And I’ve actually cut into the sheetrock, thinking that maybe it’s the moisture from the outside coming through but it’s not. There’s no mold inside; it’s just in the room. And I don’t know what’s causing it or how to even fix it.
LESLIE: And are you certain that it’s mold? Have you had it tested?
MICHELLE: Well, yeah, it’s like a – we had a piece of furniture there – a dresser there – and we moved it and we were totally shocked that there – like it was black and fuzzy. It was no – it was mold.
TOM: So if you had this furniture against the wall, you probably created sort of a chilly, damp area there. Moving the furniture out probably helps because you get a little more ventilation behind it. But what I would do is I would spray that mold down with a bleach-and-water solution so that would kill anything that’s there. Protect the carpet because, obviously, you don’t want to bleach out your carpet. But spray it down, let the bleach-and-water sit for a while – maybe 10, 15 minutes – and then clean it. And that will stop any further mold from growing.
And just try to keep that area dry. If it’s very damp and it’s – and if the furniture was pressed up against it, that might be why it’s happening.
What kind of furniture was against it?
MICHELLE: It was really like a child’s dresser.
TOM: OK. So it was wood. It wasn’t a couch or something like that?
MICHELLE: No, it was wood, yeah.
TOM: Yeah, so take a look at the back of that, too, and make sure if there’s any mold spores on that, that they’re cleaned, as well.
MICHELLE: Alright. Thanks for your help.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got David on the line. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DAVID: Well, my wife and I are in the process of building a new house. We’re six months into this project, so our – we’re ready to finish our basement floor. And we’re not sure whether we should use floor paint or if we should go with the epoxy paint.
TOM: Alright. Now what’s your wife’s name?
TOM: Sharon, are you listening into this?
SHARON: I am, sir.
TOM: Alright. Now what’s your take on this? Because we figure there’s a bet involved here.
SHARON: Well, originally, we were looking at polished concrete. But I went to look at some and I was told that you have to redo the polish every so often. And I would like something that I don’t have to do every so often.
TOM: Any time you put any kind of finish on concrete, you’re going to have to redo it from time to time. So, no matter which way we go, with polished concrete or with paint, you’re going to have to redo it.
But Leslie, I’m thinking that this is a situation where Sharon and David may want to try an acid staining.
DAVID: Well, we considered the acid stain and that was something that we kind of ruled out.
TOM: OK. Why was that?
DAVID: The reason being because of the smell.
TOM: Why do you want to paint it? Why don’t you do something like a laminate that can basically sit on top of the concrete, if it’s really finished space?
SHARON: It’s radiant-heat floor. And we were told that the best thing to do would not be to cover it with anything.
TOM: No, I think you could put laminate flooring on that. Since you – since it’s really finished living space – I mean when you say concrete floor, I’m thinking basement. But this is really finished space, so you want something that’s going to be warmer. So, I think laminate might be a good choice for you. Laminate basically locks together and sits on top of the concrete. And the radiant heat will transmit up through that laminate and still warm the floor.
I would take a look at laminate because it can look like pretty much anything. You can get laminate that looks like hardwood floor, any variety of hardwood floor, new floor, old floor, aged floor, bamboo floor, all kinds of crazy species of wood. You can also get all kinds of – all types of stone-floor looks or even something that looks like tile or looks like vinyl. It’s all available today in laminate. Super-durable stuff and easy to install. I think that’s your solution. Will that keep the marriage going?
DAVID: How did you know?
TOM: David and Sharon, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve ever had a major storm hit your house, you know that a home – which is generally safe and sound and secure, even dry – can quickly turn into a leaking mess.
TOM: That’s right. And it’s especially true when the wind gets behind all of that water and the rules of gravity no longer apply. Upside-down rain is not uncommon. When it hits your roof, bounces off, pushes up under the siding, it’s a real mess.
And that’s why after that storm passes, it’s really important to give the house a careful inspection.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, I think, Tom, obvious damage from a storm, like a broken window, that stuff is really easy to spot. But if you’re not looking closely, little problems could be missed and then those are the problems that develop into big repair bills later, right?
TOM: Absolutely. Wind and water can combine to do a lot of structural and mechanical damage to your house, as well as lead to stuff like mold-related problems. So, quick action is really key here. So here’s a few things to look for.
First of all, wind damage. High winds can rip through that outer skin of your house and cause damage. So during your inspection, you want to make sure you’re examining every side of your house from the ground up. You want to check for loose siding, loose metal trim, loose soffits, pieces that have blown off.
Now, if these areas are too hard for you to see, get a pair of binoculars and use those. Don’t go up on the roof. We don’t want you to do anything dangerous. But you can see a lot with a pair of binoculars or even a digital camera with a zoom lens. Look carefully at those surfaces to see if anything looks like it’s amiss.
Next, you want to take a look at the foundation. Because when you get a lot of water that accumulates around the house, the foundations can become weak. So, look very carefully for any new cracking, new bulging, new settling. And then make sure you check it again in a few weeks because, sometimes, soil takes that much time to settle and the damage can show up a little bit later.
Now, if you’ve had any flooding, especially anything that’s covering electrical components, like outlets or appliances or switches, that has to be replaced. Any wire that’s gotten wet has to be replaced, because contaminants in the water can cause some pretty serious damage to sensitive electrical components and lead to overheating.
Likewise, if your basement’s been flooded, that’s a concern but it’s not one that you should panic over. A lot of folks will panic because their basement flooded in a severe storm. No, that’s just the rain and the water accumulation around the foundation. So, you don’t have to hire a waterproofer; you’ve just got to clean your gutters and extend those downspouts and it’s not likely to happen again.
And when it comes to cleaning up that mess, make sure you use a disinfectant because you don’t know what was floating around. There’s plenty of environmentally-sensitive options out there. So make sure you disinfect everything that may have been affected by flood water.
LESLIE: Alright. That’s super smart.
Now, say you find some damage and you want to file an insurance claim. Do you have to wait until that insurance adjuster gets there to start cleaning up or are there steps you can take in advance of that person arriving?
TOM: Yeah, great question. You don’t have to wait for the adjuster to get there to start cleaning up. You don’t want to make permanent repairs or major repairs until you have an agreement in place with your insurance company. But certainly, any repairs that are necessary to prevent further damage should be done, like covering a broken window or covering a leaking roof that’s had the shingles torn off. Do all that. Take pictures before you get started. Take pictures after you’re done. Keep all your receipts. And then you can work that out with the insurance adjuster.
And speaking of which, when the insurance adjuster comes out, if you’re unhappy with the settlement that they offer you, you don’t have to take it. Don’t feel like you’re forced to. You have the option, always, to hire a private or what’s called a “public insurance adjuster.” These guys work for you and they work, usually, on a percentage of the claim.
And they’re basically trained to find every single thing that needs to be done to set your house whole again, down to the coats of paint. And they won’t miss it. They’ll write up those estimates and then your settlement will be based on that. And very often, the insurance adjusters that are public – and they work for you – can get you a better settlement than those that work for the insurance companies themselves.
LESLIE: Darlene in Arkansas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DARLENE: Well, we heat our house with wood and our fireplace bricks are real cream – light-cream colored and they’re very roughly textured. My question is – the soot – above the fireplace doors, soot gets in the brick and embedded in there. And I’ve tried to scrub it out with everything I can think of, other than muriatic acid. And I know I can’t use that in the house. Do you have any suggestions?
LESLIE: Have you tried TSP, which stands for trisodium phosphate? And it’s sort of like a cleaning prep step when you’ve got some really sticky stuff that won’t come off.
DARLENE: Yeah. I think I did some time back but maybe I should use a stronger solution instead of – it says not to use it the way it comes out of the bottle.
LESLIE: Well, what you can do with TSP is – it comes in a powder format and it’s available in the clean – well, in the painting aisle, generally, of the home stores. And I would just mix it up so that it’s more of a paste than a liquid and apply it that way. And let it sit there and give it some time to do its job.
DARLENE: Alright. That sounds great.
LESLIE: Randy in Illinois is on the line with a kitchen-cabinet question. How can we help you today?
RANDY: Yeah, I recently purchased a home and it had some all-wood cabinets in the kitchen. And they’re half bisque-colored and they’re half of a lighter color, depending on which part of the cabinet you look at. And I’m trying to figure out how – a way to get them back to either all one color or the lighter version.
TOM: What’s the material that your cabinets are made out of?
RANDY: I believe it’s oak but it could be pine.
TOM: Well, assuming that the oak is finished, one of the issues that you’re going to have is that you can’t really stain it and change the color. So you’d have to either paint it or you’d have to sand it down. Since most of those cabinets are covered with veneer, it makes it also difficult for you to be able to sand enough of that finish off to have it accept stain.
So, your resulting options would be to reface the cabinets, which is adding new veneer to it, or to paint the cabinets to get that consistent look.
RANDY: OK. OK. That sounds good. I’ll do that. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project.
Well, as we moved our furniture out to the front porch this weekend, I noticed that one of the columns looked a little caved in along the bottom. And sure enough, I grabbed it with my hand and pulled off a chunk of wet, rotted, disgusting wood.
Now, in the past, I had to fix this by removing all the rotted wood and sort of replacing that wood and rebuilding the whole thing. But instead, this time I used a set of products from Abatron that really helped me avoid that hassle.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, I’ve used Abatron’s Wood Restoration System, too, which really consists of two products: LiquidWood and WoodEpox.
Now, the LiquidWood is an epoxy-based wood hardener and it basically consolidates and pulls together all of that weak, deteriorated wood and then restores that wood’s strength. Now, if the rot is so bad that you’re actually missing sections of the wood, you can use WoodEpox, which is a lightweight epoxy wood filler. Then you can patch, fill and rebuild the sections of the wood that you’re missing.
TOM: Yeah. So, a big advantage here is that with both these products, you can make very cost-effective repairs to your windows or doors or columns and really, any other wood around your house without the expense of replacing it. They’re structural. They’re not going to shrink. They’re DIY-friendly. And they really do give you professional results.
You’ll find Abatron’s Wood Restoration System at Ace, True Value, Benjamin Moore Paint and other retailers. Or you can buy it online at Abatron.com. That’s A-b-a-t-r-o-n.com.
LESLIE: Bob in Tennessee, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
BOB: I have a friend who has a house with a metal roof on it. Their cell service is pretty severely impacted every time somebody tries to call him on his cell phone when he’s inside his house.
TOM: First off, your cell is probably always – very frequently, I should say – inside buildings that have metal roofs. Think about it: your church, your post office, your bank, restaurants. There’s a lot of metal roofs out there. And if he’s having a problem just in his own house, I would suspect that the signal is weak to begin with. And I think the solution is a little device called a “cell-phone booster.”
A booster can be basically plugged into the house – inside of the house – and it can double or triple the range of the phone. So if I was having that issue, I would just get a cell-phone booster, install it in my house – it’s not a very expensive piece of equipment – and solve my problem once and for all.
BOB: OK. Interesting. Well, I just wondered about that.
LESLIE: Alex wants to know the best way to determine and locate a pipe that’s leaking under the concrete-slab foundation of his home. Now, he says, “Over the past several months, our water bill has increased mid-100s for two months to over $400. I also can faintly hear the sound of water running when I’m in our guest bath. Is there a service that can detect and help locate such a leak?”
TOM: Yeah. Well, first of all, Alex, I am not convinced that a leak is occurring underneath the slab of your home. But I will kind of walk you through how you can prove this for yourself.
To do this, what you need to do is turn off all of the water fixtures and faucets inside the house. And especially, turn off the water-supply valves that are feeding the toilets. Don’t just not flush the toilets but turn the water valves off behind them. Because my guess is that your problem is a leaking flush valve and that’s probably what you’re hearing when you’re in that bathroom. A little, tiny bit of water leaks under that valve, 24/7, and that ends up being hundreds and hundreds of gallons of water that leaks. And it’s a common issue and it’s an easy fix.
But once you’ve got that all turned off, you want to find your water meter and note exactly what it says. And note the time you took that reading. So the digits are going to be on the meter. Write it down. Then, do something out of the house for a few hours or you can run the test overnight. But don’t use any water while it’s happening. You’ve got to leave it all off.
Now, after a few hours, go back and look at that meter again. See if it changed. If it changed and you weren’t running anything and you did everything I said and turned it all off then, yeah, maybe you’ve got a pipe leak somewhere. But I don’t think it will. I think what you’re going to find is that your leaks are probably in your toilets.
Now, to prove that, what you could do is you could take some food coloring, open up the toilet tank and drop some food coloring in that water. Close it back up, wait 15 minutes, 30 minutes and then look in the bowl. I bet you’re going to see that food coloring end up in the bowl. And the only way that’s happening, my friend, is if those flush valves are leaking.
So, check your toilets. You can go through that procedure to use the meter to see if you’ve got a leak. But I think you’re going to find that those toilets are the problem and that’s an easy fix. Very inexpensive job for a plumber to do.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Mark is having a drainage problem and he says, “Our house is roughly 30 years old and the area between our driveway and foundation has settled probably 4 to 6 inches. I’m concerned about water and pooling and putting constant stress on the foundation.”
TOM: Yeah, that’s a fair concern. And settlement around those areas is not unusual. Of course, if you have the opportunity to restore, add more grade there, you can’t just do it with gravel. You’ve got to get the gravel out and then add soil to slope it away. And you may be able to do that and that will solve the whole problem.
But if you can’t, I’ll tell you a way to put in a drain underneath that. There’s a product called EZ-Drain, which is kind of like a curtain drain. It’s a tube that’s about roughly 6 inches wide. It’s surrounded by what looks like a sort of Styrofoam aggregate, like a packing peanut, and then a filter cloth. And you lay that under the soil and then the water that collects there runs into the EZ-Drain and then run outs the other end.
So, one of two ways – either by regrading or by installing that curtain drain – you can solve this for good.
LESLIE: Alright. Good point. And then you can definitely relax about the state of your foundation.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We hope that we’ve been able to help you take on some projects, get some ideas, some inspiration for stuff you’d like to get done around your house. If you’ve got questions that we couldn’t get to, we apologize. You can shoot those to us at MoneyPit.com. Just post them to the website or call us anytime at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
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.
(Copyright 2021 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.)