- The laundry room might seem safe enough, but anywhere there’s extreme heat and lots of water, there’s potential for trouble. We’ll walk you through the most common laundry room trouble spots and tell you how to prevent leaks, fires and breakdowns.
- If you are ready to shop for new appliances, there are two price tags you need to consider. The first is the price you pay and the second is the cost to operate that appliance. We’ll share tips on how the easy way to determine both and avoid surprise expenses.
- Winter weather can take a toll your home’s siding. We share simple siding repairs to restore missing, loose pieces plus how to get rid a season of dirt and grime for a fresh start come Spring.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Alvin has a home with serious structural settlement and wants to know if repair is a DIY project, and how to should be done.
- Darlene in Arizona is wants to know how to repair loose vinyl floor tiles in a laundry room.
- Greg from Tennessee want to know if you can put a metal roof on top of a shingle roof.
- Christine in Arkansas is asking if she can paint over some unfortunately colored tile in her bathroom.
- Mike in Vermont wants to know the best heated flooring he can install.
- Cumi from Wisconsin needs to remove black mold in her rental.
- Judy in Arkansas has a laminate floor that is bubbling up and doesn’t want to replace it, how can she repair it.
- Terry from Washington has an ice dam and is wondering how he can alleviate it.
- Kathy from Arkansas is curious about if Radon is a concern on a slab floor.
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: Here to help you take on the project you’d like to get done around your house. We’ve been at this for over 20 years and we love home improvement. And we love teaching home improvement even more. So if you’ve got questions about home improvement, home repair, reno, fixup, maintenance, décor, this is your one-stop shop to get the info you need to pick up the hammer, pick up the tape measure, pick up the paintbrush and get to work.
Couple of ways to get in touch with us: the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, the laundry room might seem like a safe enough space but anywhere there’s extreme heat and lots of water, there is definitely the potential for trouble. We’re going to walk you through the most common hotspots and tell you how to prevent leaks, fires and breakdowns, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
LESLIE: And if you’re ready to shop for new appliances, did you know that there’s actually two price tags that you really need to be considering? The first is the price that you’re paying and the second is how much it costs to operate that appliance. We’re going to share tips on the easy way to determine what that second cost is going to add up to be.
TOM: And has the winter weather been taking its toll on your home’s siding? You know, this is the time of year, with all of that winter wind, where we start to notice that pieces have blown off or disappeared completely. We’re going to share a fast and easy way to make those repairs.
LESLIE: But first, give us a call, let us know what you are working on. We’re so happy to help out with everything. I, too, find a random roof shingle every now and again. I’m like, “Where is this even coming from and why?” So there’s always something that we’re working on and we’re happy to help you with whatever it is you are tackling.
TOM: You can get in touch with us by picking up the phone and calling 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we promise to call you back the next time we are. And you can also post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
But let’s get started. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Alvin on the line who’s dealing with a structural issue over at the money pit that they live in.
What’s going on?
ALVIN: Well, I’ve got a brick ranch. It’s about 100 feet long. No basement, 3-foot crawlspace.
ALVIN: And what’s happened is the center of the house spine has broken and the floor has dropped down. And of course, some of the walls are splitting and I got out of the house and looked. And what’s happened is the builders, when they built the house, most of the cinder blocks were filled to make them solid. But the two right in the center of the house were left open and what’s happened is the weight of the house, over time – and I had a heavy bookcase above there – has just crushed the floor and those cinder blocks just crumbled.
TOM: Oh, man. What a mess.
ALVIN: And I’ve tried to jack it back up and the ground is good and solid out of there. But everywhere that the hydraulic jack presses into the 2x10s – there’s 3 of them nailed together – it just presses into the wood and it’s not lifting the house.
TOM: Well, alright. You’ve got quite an issue there. I don’t know that I would do this myself; you really need to have an experienced pro behind this. Also, you have to realize that when you start lifting this house back up, you’re going to move everything that basically fell to begin with, so you’ll end up with additional repairs. You could also stress out electrical connections or plumbing connections and those could be – require repair or potentially be unsafe.
To get the house jacked back up, you probably just don’t have the right equipment. Because typically, on a situation like that, it would be a pretty heavy-duty jack. You say you’ve got good, solid soil underneath but you essentially are going to distribute out that weight. You’re not just going to have that jack contact with those three wood beams. You’ll probably have an I-beam that goes between the jack and those beams you’re trying to lift so that you could spread out the lift into a much wider footprint. And that would distribute the weight and stop this problem of the jack actually pressing into the wood.
And then, of course, once you get it up there, you have to rebuild the column properly. Footing is probably still OK but you probably have to tear out that block and rebuild it or put a new column in there and then let it back down. So it seems, as I describe it, a fairly straightforward process but there’s a lot that could go wrong. I think you’re onto something with trying to repair this, though, in that fashion because you can’t let it get any worse. And it does sound like it’s an active problem.
So, the other thing to consider is if you want to get the help of a structural engineer, this could come up if you ever sold the house. And it’s always helpful when you say that you consulted a design professional like that and they basically designed the repair. I told you exactly what to do, then you have a contractor do it per that engineer’s specification. And then the engineer reinspected it to confirm that it’s done correctly. It’s kind of like having a pedigree or a seal of approval on that work. And you can assure yourself it’ll have no impact on the value of your home by following that process.
So, it sounds like you’ve got a project in front of you, my friend. Sorry to hear that but that’s the way to handle it.
LESLIE: Darlene in Arizona, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DARLENE: Remodeling a bathroom into a laundry room, because there was no laundry room there and three bathrooms. So, I put the stick-on linoleum squares on the floor, which was probably a mistake but it’s all down. And now I notice, on the edges, it’s starting to pull up just a bit. It’s fine in the middle but around the edges – and so I was wondering, should I use a silicone around – kind of pull them up a little bit, put silicone around there or a water-based sealant of some kind? I just didn’t know quite what to do if we put the washing machine in there and there was a leak. And then I was afraid the whole floor would come up or something.
TOM: So do you think if you kept pulling the tiles, they would all come up completely?
DARLENE: I think the reason why the sides are – maybe the floor isn’t quite even on the edges or something. I’m just thinking that maybe it wasn’t quite even. And it’s not every side but just part of it. Right where the washer is going to be, as a matter of fact.
TOM: Well, look, if you were able to lift up those edges and add a tile adhesive underneath that – a regular floor-tile adhesive: the kind of tile adhesive that you would use if you were laying down these vinyl tiles from scratch – and then you weighted it while it dried, that would probably be the best chance you’ve got of preventing it from coming back up again. But I’ve got to tell you that it’s been my experience that once these seams start to go, you fix one and two more pop up. So this might be something you’re chasing.
And if it’s only a small area, what you could also consider is basically replacing the vinyl floor with laminate floor. Just a small amount of laminate flooring won’t be that expensive and it can be laid down right on top of that vinyl floor. Laminate floors will float; they don’t need to be attached. They sort of lock together and they will lay down on top of that. Then you put a saddle in where you – like at the doorways and that kind of stuff. But that would give you a really durable floor and you wouldn’t have to worry about it.
DARLENE: Well, that’d be better than pulling it all up. That’s a good idea. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Greg in Tennessee on the line who’s thinking about a metal roof.
How can we help you with this project?
GREG: I was thinking about going to a metal roof and I’ve had some different opinions. Some had said that I could just strip the roof and put insulation under it and leave the shingles on and put the metal on top of it. And the other said I needed to take the shingles off. I was just wondering what would your advice be on that.
TOM: So, generally speaking, there’s a lot of folks and a lot of roofers that would say, “Oh, you can go on top of an old shingle roof.” It’s not a good idea for a couple of reasons. If you were doing – even if you were doing an asphalt-shingle roof, I would tell you to strip it down to the roof sheathing, because that first layer holds a lot of heat and that can make the house hotter in the summer. And also, with the metal roof, it can make it look lumpy or uneven and maybe not be as attractive as you would like it to be.
If you’re going to invest in a metal roof, which is a lifetime roof, I would not stop short of pulling off that old roof right down to the roof sheathing, put new tar paper or ice-and-water shield in or whatever type of weatherproofing you’re going to use and then put the metal roof right on top of that. I think that is definitely the best way to go.
GREG: Oh, OK. OK. Well, I was just wanting your opinion. I knew that you would know better than most anybody else, so …
TOM: Well, thank you very much, sir.
GREG: We enjoy your program. Thank you.
LESLIE: Well, whether you’re thinking of remodeling your laundry room or maybe you just want the most trouble-free laundry room possible, there are a few simple things that you can do to greatly reduce the chances of floods or even a fire.
So, first of all, let’s start with the basics. I’m talking about those water-supply hoses. Now, most washers use those rubber-based water-supply lines. And there’s a problem because those hoses are eventually going to swell and then they’re going to break. And when that happens, they can release an unlimited – and I mean it – a ton of water, which can cause a lot of damage.
Now, the solution really is simple. If you replace those rubber water lines with the braided-steel water lines, they’re made to withstand pretty much all of those daily stresses. And they’re virtually leakproof.
TOM: Yeah. We had a line break once in a house that we own and it was ugly, mostly for the neighbor underneath us because that water went right down to the apartment below. But replacing them with the braided kind really does stop that from happening.
Now, the next thing to think about doing is upgrading your water-supply valves. There are a couple of options here. If you’ve got separate hot-and-cold-water valves, you can take this opportunity to upgrade to a single-lever turnoff valve, which basically turns off both hot and cold at the same time. Now, if turning the valve off is made easy, then the idea is that you turn that valve off between uses and you never have to worry about a leak. Because if the water is not on, it can’t leak out.
But an even better option is to install an automatic-shutoff valve for your water line. Now, these valves are actually smart. They detect ordinary water flow. But if it becomes an extraordinary water flow, it can tell that and turn them off before that waterfall starts cascading through your light fixtures and into the rooms below.
LESLIE: Now, let’s talk about your dryer next. It’s the most common source of laundry-room fires because there’s a dryer vent there. And it gets clogged with all of that lint and potentially an occasional sock. But you’ve got to be careful because those exhaust ducts, they are responsible for multiple deaths and nearly 15,000 dryer fires every year. Solution? Really simple, guys: always empty that lint trap and every 6 months, you want to clean out the dryer-exhaust duct.
Now, there’s a handy tool called the LintEater and it does that very easily. It’s a rotating brush that’s mounted on a flexible rod that you attach to a drill. And then you just run it in and out of the dryer exhaust and it pulls out so much lint. I can’t even tell you how much accumulates in 6 months. And if this is a project you’ve never done before, be prepared to see – I can’t even explain it. You can make sweaters and pants and jackets and insulation.
TOM: You can knit.
Alright. Lastly, make sure your exhaust duct is made from metal and not plastic. There are still some plastic ducts that are out there. It’s what we call the “old-style dryer duct.” It’s not safe. It’s very hard to clean that because they’re just not that durable. And you want to use the metal ducts because it makes sure your system not only is safer, they’re a lot easier to clean because you can run those LintEater brushes and that sort of thing straight through around the bends and so on.
And if you are going to be re-running ducts, try to keep as few turns as possible in mind. Because every time you turn an angle with that metal ducting or really any kind of ducting, it adds a lot of resistance and it takes that much longer to make your clothes dry. And that actually costs you a lot more in energy bills, too.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Chris in Arkansas is on the line with a painting question.
How can we help you today?
CHRIS: Well, I bought a house and it has two bathrooms. And the tile – sink and tubs are baby pink and baby blue.
TOM: What’s wrong with that?
CHRIS: Well, it’s not exactly what I had in mind. But I was wondering if you can successfully – until I get to redo the bathrooms, if you can successively paint over them without it looking terrible.
LESLIE: Yes and no. I mean you can. There’s quite an extensive process to it to make sure that you get proper adhesion and it sticks very well. However, whenever you’re dealing with a painted surface and water is involved and areas that you have to clean, as well, you’re going to get some wear and tear. So I don’t think it’s the best idea.
There are kits that you can buy online. Basically, if you want to do it without a kit – and of course, then you don’t want to paint the grout. But a lot of people do paint the grout and then that looks weird, also. So you’ve got to think about all these things. But you’re going to want to use a very, very durable oil-based primer. And of course, you’ve got to clean those tiles very, very well before you even think about putting a drop of primer on them.
TOM: And I think Sherwin-Williams actually makes a primer that is super, super adhesive. And the reason I know about this is because the way they demo’d it was by painting it on tile and then putting a second layer of paint on it. But even though it’s a really adhesive paint, I agree with you completely that eventually – in a very short period of time, especially if you’re cleaning the surface – you’re going to start wearing through it.
CHRIS: OK. And like I said, not knowing if I could or not, I just was thinking if I could buy myself some time and just paint it until I can redo – or maybe it’s sounding like I should just wait until I can redo.
TOM: Well, you know, the bad news about those old tile bathrooms is that they have these very traditional, 1960s-like colors. The good news is that the tile quality is usually really good and the way it’s installed is really solid. And that’s why, if at all possible, maybe you could think about decorating around this tile.
So you said that you had – is it pink and blue?
LESLIE: With the pink, I think we’re seeing such a big trend in pink really making a comeback in bathroom spaces. You could go overload on the pink, you can add in florals, you can add in different tones of pink. So you can sort of tone in down with neutral beiges and grays and hints of gold and sort of make it glamorous and more girly. There are ways you can do that.
Blue tile, I feel like, is just a poor choice. Blue tile is blue tile.
CHRIS: I totally agree with you.
LESLIE: Maybe everything else goes super clean. But I just feel like if you attempt to paint the tile, you’re going to be sad in the long run. And it’s going to – it will perhaps motivate you to do the permanent work more quickly.
CHRIS: OK. Well, exactly that and that’s why I called. I just wasn’t sure if there was some miracle cure that I – “Hey, this works great” or not. And I am trying my best at decorating around but the pink, yes, has worked better than the blue.
TOM: At least we solved half the problem, Christine.
CHRIS: I appreciate it. I appreciate it so much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Alex from Illinois on the line with a plumbing question.
What can we do for you?
ALEX: I’ve got a septic issue. From the house to the tank, I think the line may be cracked in the middle of it. But the problem is my house is on a slab. And as far as I know, the pipes are in the slab.
TOM: What I would do is two things. First of all, you need to have a drain-camera inspection done to confirm what you’re dealing with. So, there is a drain camera that looks kind of like a snake. And it can go 50, 100, 200 feet in the line and can actually give you a pretty decent picture of what’s going on there.
And so, let’s assume that you confirm that somewhere under that slab, there’s a crack in the pipe. There’s a way to insert a liner into that pipe. It’s kind of like a fiberglass sock, if that makes sense, that gets inserted into the pipe and then filled up with water to kind of press it against the side and the water is released. And it basically kind of creates a pipe inside of a pipe and uses the old pipe as sort of the structure. But it will stop things from kind of permanently getting in there. Sometimes when you have a crack in a pipe, you get roots that form in there that will clog things up and that kind of stuff. Or you get a rough edge where waste gets trapped. So with this sort of fiberglass sock in there, that solves that.
So that’s the way you repair a pipe that goes under something critical, like your house or your driveway or around your pool or something of that nature. But those are the two things you need.
Now, you’re going to have to do some work here to figure out where – what the company is best to work with on that. But I know that some of the big plumbing companies that do drain-cleaning will have this technology. But the first thing is figure out what you’re dealing with, determine if you’ve got a crack or not or maybe it’s something simpler to fix, OK?
ALEX: I appreciate it very much.
LESLIE: Heading out to Vermont where Mike’s got cold tootsies. But I bet he’s skiing pretty nicely. What’s going on at your money pit?
MIKE: I’m just inquiring on some questions on cold floors in the winter. About 6 months out of the year, northern Vermont stays pretty cold and I have cold floors and I have a couple of questions about how to fix that and how to make that at least a little bit better. I do have an unfinished basement and fiberglass insulation underneath my first-floor floors.
TOM: Well, I’m not quite sure what kind of heat you have right now, Mike. But the number-one most desirable type of heating in a situation like yours is called “radiant heating,” which is a system where the heat is actually in the floor itself. You mentioned that you’ve insulated the floor from below and that’s a good thing. But this is an imbalance where you simply don’t have enough heat on the first floor to warm that floor, so you might want to supplement that. Now, radiant heating can be done with PEX tubing – crosslinked polyethylene – if you have a hot-water heating system.
But if not, you also could do an electric radiant system, which are basically interconnected mats that would go down on top of that subfloor. And then you’d put a finished floor over that, which could be carpet or it could be luxury vinyl plank or a product like that. And in that case, you would be warming just those limited areas.
Now, the downside of electric radiant is it’s expensive. But you know what? Using it in a bathroom, for example, is a nice thing to do, perhaps in a kitchen. So maybe you can come up with a combination of things that work.
But if you happen to be on hot water right now, I would tell you to strongly look into the PEX radiant-floor systems. Basically, you’d put down a subfloor that’s already slotted out for the tubing. The tubing is very flexible and easy to connect. It lays in those slots in the subfloor and then you cover it with your finished floor and you’re good to go. And you’ll never have to worry about cold tootsies again, my friend.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Wisconsin where Kimmy has a question about mold.
What can we do for you today?
KIMMY: It’s on the walls and it started at the bottom of the wall. It’s just like black mold and in some areas, it’s somewhat green but most of it is black. And I was trying to get the basement refurnished. And when the guy came and started it, he had to stop because the mold is coming through the panel and you can still see it at the bottom.
TOM: Yeah. Now, this is a home that you own, Kimmy?
KIMMY: No. I’m renting.
TOM: You’re renting it. OK. So, this is the landlord’s problem; this isn’t your problem. And it’s a potentially serious problem, depending on how much of it is there. That type of mold that you describe is what’s known as Stachybotrys: that sort of blackish, greenish mold. And in some cases, it can be – cause an allergic-like effect on people. Could make you not feel very well. And people that are really sensitive to molds can get super sick around it.
Removing it is possible but there’s a process to it. It’s not just a matter of tearing out the old walls or scrubbing it away. Because if you do it incorrectly, you can release those mold spores and they float around the air. And it can get up into the parts of the house that don’t have mold and kind of contaminate it.
So, I would take some pictures of it. I would send a letter to the landlord and let him know what’s going on. And he’s got to address it, because this is a potentially very serious problem. You can’t let it continue.
KIMMY: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I noticed that since I moved here – asthma runs in my family but I never had asthma. And now I have asthma, I have bronchitis.
TOM: You may be living in a sick house. Your dog seems quite happy, though.
KIMMY: You know, they tried – I even – they even said that it could be dog hair.
TOM: No, no. If you’ve got that kind of mold, you’ve got a serious problem. You need to put him on notice that they’ve got to fix it.
Kimmy, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re ready to shop for some new appliances – which is super exciting, congratulations – did you know that there’s actually two price tags that you need to be considering? The first one, that’s the purchase price. Very obvious. You’re like, “Alright, I can do that. I can handle it.” But the second price tag is actually how much it’s going to cost you to operate that appliance during its lifetime.
Now, the more efficient that appliance is, the quicker the appliance is going to pay for itself. So to keep that payback period as short as possible, it’s important to pay attention to two labels.
TOM: Yeah. The first is the ENERGY STAR label. You’ll find it on appliances, as well as electronics and windows and water heaters and other energy-consuming items. And that label basically tells you that the appliance meets or exceeds standards for energy efficiency.
But the next one, which I don’t think folks are as aware of, is the EnergyGuide label. Now, it’s sort of a bright yellow-and-black label and that is designed to help you figure out whether an appliance is energy-efficient by showing you the annual energy consumption and operating cost. The number is actually there and that means that you can compare and contrast those labels when you’re buying the appliance, to make sure you are getting one that is truly a great deal.
LESLIE: Yeah. So the next time you’re out shopping for an appliance, you want to be sure to review both that ENERGY STAR and that EnergyGuide label. And that’s going to help you understand the efficiency and the real cost of owning and operating that appliance. And then be so excited that your new stove is coming.
TOM: But you can’t just stop there. You get a new stove, you might as well go for the fridge and the dishwasher. You know how it goes.
LESLIE: Judy in Arkansas is on the line with a floor that’s coming apart.
Tell us what’s happening.
JUDY: Well, it’s been down about 13 years. It’s like a $5,000 floor is what it cost us. A thousand-square-foot room. It’s Pergo. We have some seams that have kind of bubbled up a little bit. Is there any way to fix this? I don’t intend to replace it, OK?
TOM: So, you say the seams have bubbled up on laminate floor? So, they’re pressing together and sort of pushing up?
JUDY: Yeah, just a little bit. I have some extra boxes out there but not enough to fix all of this.
TOM: Yeah. If that’s happening, though – if that’s happening on a wide-scale basis, then I suspect something was done incorrectly in the installation.
A couple of things to remember about laminate floor. First of all, the floor that it goes down on top of has to be pretty flat. It’s got a very low tolerance to floors that are even the least bit out of level, that have any kind of bumps or rolls in it.
Secondly, if it’s put on too tight so that it doesn’t have enough room to expand and contract, then you can see that floors will buckle up. They’ll press in because they’re expanding and they’ll push up and have those seams come apart. So those are the things that you really need to look into with this.
I would get your contractor back and have them address this, because that definitely should not have happened once that floor was put down.
JUDY: Even 13 or 14 years out?
TOM: It definitely shouldn’t have happened.
JUDY: Do you think it could be moisture?
TOM: It could be. It could be moisture-related. Have you had an excessive amount of moisture recently when this started to happen?
JUDY: No. Uh-uh. Not at all.
LESLIE: Yeah. But it could just be consistent moisture from the hydroscopic nature of the concrete over time.
TOM: Yeah. It could be.
JUDY: And the house is about 30 years old.
TOM: How long ago did it start to come up?
JUDY: It’s been going on. We’ve been noticing spots off and on for a while.
TOM: Well, Leslie’s correct. It could very well be moisture-related if it’s going to – if it’s that frequent and it laid down flat for all the other years up to that.
JUDY: OK. There’s nothing else I can do?
TOM: No. You can’t fix something like that, Judy. Unfortunately, you have to replace it. Well, what I would do if I replaced it, I would be very careful about measuring the moisture in the concrete to make sure it’s not wetter than what the manufacturers allow.
And secondly, I’ll give you a trick of the trade, which is that even though the laminate floors today are lock together-type pieces, you can add glue to those seams, as well. And that gives you a more permanent protection against this happening again.
JUDY: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Judy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, we’ve got Terry on the line who’s actually listening to The Money Pit right now in Washington. What’s going on at your house?
TERRY: We’ve had all of seven days of snow and it’s warming up a little bit. But it’s dripping in the house and we’ve had 30 inches of snow in the last 7 days. And I know I’ve got icicles hanging down all over off the house. But I was wondering why on earth is that ice buildup – something is dripping in around the edges of the house, dripping inside.
TOM: So, Terry, you are explaining a classic ice dam. An ice dam happens when you have heavy snow, such as you’ve described, and then that snow starts to melt. It starts to melt and run down your roof. But when it gets to the overhang of the roof, it freezes again and it sort of builds up like a dam. And then that water, having nowhere else to go, backs up under the roof shingles and can show up inside your house as a leak.
Now, the good news is ice dams are generally covered as storm damage and paid for by homeowners insurance. So what I would do is I would call a public adjuster and have them visit your house. Public adjusters work for you, not the insurance company. They’ll prepare an estimate of what it will cost to essentially replace your roof and install something called “ice-and-water shield,” which is a special type of roofing that goes around the 3-foot perimeter of your roof edge. And that will catch any water in the future that tries to back up under the shingles and leak into your house.
So that, plus making sure you have good insulation and ventilation, will stop it from happening. But what you’ve described now is an ice dam. It is a potentially costly problem because it almost always requires you to replace your roof to fix it. But the good news here, again, is it should be covered by your homeowners insurance.
Well, more than any other exterior element, siding makes a really big visual impact for your house. And vinyl siding is very popular in the U.S. because it’s durable, it’s inexpensive and it requires very little maintenance.
LESLIE: Yeah. But even though it’s not often, vinyl siding does occasionally need some fixing. Now, pieces can become loose if there’s a storm and then they can start to peel back. And it’s not hard to fix but there’s actually a tool that you need to pick up for the job and it’s called a “zipper.” Not from your pants; it’s a real tool.
TOM: Yeah. And this tool actually works by locking the pieces back together as you slide the tool along, just like a zipper. It makes it pretty easy to snap a piece of siding back into place and that’s going to save you some time and money: two things that homeowners love doing.
And it will prevent any further deterioration to your house. Because once that first piece of siding pops off, the wind gets under the rest of the siding and starts to work at it, as well. So if you see one that pops off, you see one that gets loose, pick up that zipper tool and zip it back up and you’ll be good to go.
LESLIE: Kathy is on the line and has a question about potentially having radon in the home. Tell us what’s going on and why you might think this.
KATHY: I built a house about 2 years ago, on the slab. And I always hear a lot about radon lately, for some reason. Is that a potential hazard on a slab home or is that only where you have crawlspaces? I just – I don’t know how that works.
TOM: So, it’s technically possible that you could have radon in a house that’s slab-on-grade. Radon is a gas that’s in the soil. And if it builds up to a point where it’s over 4 picocuries per liter of air – that’s the measure of radon – then you would take some action to reduce it in your house.
Typically, if your house is on a basement or a crawlspace – well, if your house is on a basement, it’s probably at the highest risk because it can come directly through the walls and get into that space and up into the house. Crawlspaces not so much because it’s very well ventilated. Slab-on-grade homes can have a radon level if the radon is very, very high in the soil.
Now, the only way to know is with a radon test. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to do. You pick up a radon-testing canister. You can buy one at a home center or you certainly could order one online. You would place this canister in your home for a period of around 2 to 6 days. Then, after that exposure period, you would seal it back up, ship it off to the lab. They would read it and tell you what your radon levels are. And based on that information, you could either do further testing or talk to a radon mitigator about getting it resolved.
So, that’s the – that’s basically the long and the short of it. Slab-on-grade houses don’t have as high a risk as a basement house but it is technically possible for them to have elevated levels.
KATHY: Wow. I just wondered how it could get through the cement from the dirt.
TOM: Yeah, it finds a way.
KATHY: Wow. OK.
TOM: Alright? Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
KATHY: Thank you.
LESLIE: Now, Joe posted a question and he says, “My old aluminum storm windows need to be replaced. I need some guidelines on buying and having pros install the new storm windows. Any suggestions on what to look for?”
TOM: Yeah, a couple of things. First of all, you can get low-E storm windows today, which are great because that reflects the heat of the sun back out and keeps it from getting into your house. And secondly, Joe, you ought to consider whether you want to install exterior, which is the standard type of storm window. Or now, they also have interior storm windows which you can slip in during the winter and then pull out during the spring.
Well, here’s a situation: have you ever taken on a fix-up protect only to notice, a short time later, that it actually has to be done again and again and again? Well, Leslie has tips for turning those nagging problems into one-and-done jobs, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
Leslie? So how do we prevent Groundhog Day: the Home Improvement Edition?
LESLIE: I mean it is true. Fixing that same problem over and over again can be a real drag. It always seems to happen with the same projects and some of them more often than others. So to bring an end to all of these vicious cycles, the solution to change the way you take on that project and we’re going to get you to the root of the issue.
So, peeling paint. This is an excellent example of a project that you think you fixed but it keeps coming back. So, the next time you see some peeling paint, don’t just slap another coat right on top of it. Instead, you’ve got to get rid of the old paint that’s kind of yucky and not sticking. You need to use a paint scraper or a chemical and get rid of it.
And then once you’re down to a nice surface, here’s the key: you want to apply a primer before you apply the topcoat of paint. Because the primer is what makes that paint stick and it’s going to make that paint stick for good.
Now, if your basement seems to spring a leak every time you fix the last one, there’s really a good chance here that the issue you’re dealing with is actually poor drainage. You want to make sure that you grade the soil away from your home’s foundation. And then make sure those gutters are releasing the water at those downspouts at least 4, 6 feet away from those exterior walls. And that’s going to help you create a much drier space.
In the event of my home, make sure your kids haven’t gotten any tennis balls in the downspouts. It’s generally another reason you end up with some water in the basement. But that’s neither here nor there but definitely another place to check.
Now, when it comes to caulking, put away that caulk gun once and for all. If you are caulking between your shower tiles and you keep seeing that it’s breaking or cracking that place where the tiles meets the tub or the shower pan, if that’s just not sticking and it’s just not working out for you, here’s what you have to do. Fill your bathtub with water before you fill that caulk in one more time. Now, the weight of that water is going to expand, so that gap that you need to fill is going to be larger. So start off with that larger gap. That’s why we always say, “Fill the tub first.”
Once the tub is full, that gap is the biggest it’s going to be. Fill it with the caulk, let it dry – or cure, whatever you want to say – and then drain the tub. And then it’ll see – it’ll sort of shrink back to its normal size. But next time the tub is filled with water, it’s going to stretch to a real size that’s made to stick.
So definitely keep these tips in mind and I promise you won’t be doing these same three projects over and over again.
TOM: There you go. One and done.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, your home’s electrical panel is made up of circuits that give you electricity, right? You probably never think about it until a circuit trips and then you have to think about it. But if that’s happening more often than not, it might be a sign you need to upgrade your electrical panel for good. We’ll share tips on how to do just that, on the very next edition of The 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.
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