- Refreshing your home with new décor for the season is fun – but sometimes the costs add up! If you’re not sure if your budget is ready to handle the hit, we’ve got 5 hacks to help save lots of money decorating your home sweet home.
- Backyard fire pits are a popular project for Spring – and build one is a project you can do yourself! We walk you through, step-by-step and block-by-block!
- Adding a backyard deck is one sure-fire way to increase your home’s living space. But is building a deck a DIY project or one you should hire out? We sort out the pros and cons and help you make the best choice.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- John wants to know if Spray Foam insulation is the right choice for his Florida home.
- Ruth in Delaware wants to know why her electric water heater that doesn’t last even after replacing the elements.
- Woodpeckers are attacking Bruce’s home in Arizona! We share an amazingly simple hack that will keep woodpeckers away for good!
- Bobbie in Ohio cut down a tree and wants to know how to install a sidewalk over the roots.
- Mike has a home with two fireplaces that are not drafting out properly.
- Freida has a microwave under light that keeps burning out regularly and wants to know the cause.
- Jim from Illinois has drafty original windows in his 100-year-old home and wants to stop drafts without replacing the windows.
- Marleen in Montana wants to restore her faded garage doors.
- Louise from Delaware has a deck on her backdoor that is under attack by carpenter bees.
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: Welcome to Episode 2194. We’ve got a great show planned for you today. First up, getting ready to refresh your home with some new décor is something that can be pretty darn expensive. We’re going to share five ways you can save lots of money decorating your home, just ahead.
LESLIE: And backyard fire pits are a popular project for spring and it’s the perfect time to get out there and enjoy them. And it’s definitely a project that you can do yourself. So we’re going to walk you through this fun one.
TOM: Yeah. Step one: don’t build it too close to the house. Can’t tell you how many cases of melted siding I’ve seen over the years by people that did that.
Well, in addition, adding a backyard deck is a great way to increase your home’s living space. But is building a deck a DIY project or one you should hire out? We are going to sort through the options to help you make the best choice.
LESLIE: And spring is officially here. I know we’ve been in it for a week or two but I’m just – now that it’s April, I’m so thrilled that it really is springy and it’s happening and we’re on our way to summer.
We’ve got some great tools to give away this hour. From Arrow Fastener, we’ve got America’s best-selling staple gun, the T50, and its sidekick, the T50X, to give away. Worth 65 bucks.
TOM: So let’s get to it. To get in touch with us, you can go to MoneyPit.com/Ask. That’s MoneyPit.com/Ask. Or pick up the phone and call 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: John in Florida is on the line and is dealing with some issues with some siding.
What’s going on over there?
JOHN: Just was going to remodel the interior of my house. I had a bunch of wallpaper and the stuff on the ceiling with the little bubbles. And I just want to get rid of it all and I thought …
TOM: Textured ceiling.
JOHN: Yeah. Textured ceiling. So I figured the easiest way – because I wanted to do the wiring anyway, because it was aluminum wiring – that just take out the drywall and start from scratch.
So, all of the studs are there but I just took everything else out throughout the whole house. And a friend of mine said, “Geez, you should cocoon the house with the spray-foam insulation.”
JOHN: And I said, “Geez, the house won’t breathe or anything. Is that OK?” And he goes, “I think so.” So, I was just curious of what you guys thought of the spray foam and doing the whole thing.
TOM: Well, I am an owner of a home that has spray-foam insulation. And I’ve got to tell you, I love it. I was just telling a friend of mine the other day – he was asking me about how efficient my heating system is. I said, “Well, since I replaced the heating system and did the spray foam, you know, I get these alerts from the utility company where they compare my house against a house that’s ‘energy-efficient.’ I’m always at 50 percent of the energy-efficient homes. So, I’m saving more money than even efficient homes that are in my area by having the spray-foam insulation.”
The nice thing about it is it expands as it’s applied, so it gets into all the nooks and crannies. In terms of breathability, you would have to have an exceptionally tight house to have any kind of breathability issues. And if you did, you would use an air-to-air heat exchanger, which is a device that works with your HVAC system that basically pulls in fresh air from the outside, either heats it or cools it, depending on the season, and then circulates it into the house.
But with an existing house, it would be very unusual for you to need that. A really super energy-efficient house that’s built that way from scratch, maybe you would have something like that. But I don’t think it’s going to be an issue for a house like yours.
JOHN: OK. Yeah, the doors are a little older and I have a fireplace, so I figure something would get in, at least.
TOM: Yeah, you’d be surprised how much air gets around windows and doors.
JOHN: Right. So they were talking about spraying – so they would spray the walls and then just go right up into the rafters.
JOHN: And then they said you have to have – your HVAC has to have a vent inside that conditioned space upstairs. So, you think that’s a good idea, then?
TOM: I’m not quite sure what he means by a vent inside the conditioned space upstairs.
JOHN: Inside the ductwork, up in the attic, they said you’d need to have at least one vent in there to – because it’s going to condition that whole space above your head.
LESLIE: Oh, like a ridge vent or a soffit vent?
JOHN: No, just inside the ductwork. The trunk of the ductwork they said to …
TOM: OK, I hear what you’re saying. I don’t know why they would advise that. That doesn’t make sense to me because you would essentially encapsulate the attic space in the walls. What I find in my house is that my attic is usually the same temperature as the rest of the house, no matter what time of year it is. So, it never gets super cold in the winter, doesn’t get super hot in the summer. It just stays pretty neutral most of the time. I really am confused as to why they want to open up a HVAC duct in there.
JOHN: Yeah. I think they were talking about airflow up there, to move air a little bit because I’m down in Florida. I’m four – maybe a ½-mile from the Gulf.
TOM: Well, it might be a local thing. They might be trying to just bring in some additional air to reduce humidity. I really don’t know. I’d need more information about that. But I can just tell you, generally speaking, I’m really a fan – I’m a big fan of spray-foam insulation. I think it works and it works very well. And it’s always a good idea to do it. And in your case, since you’ve got all the drywall off, I think this is the perfect opportunity.
But man, between the popcorn ceiling and the aluminum wiring, you really hit the jackpot.
JOHN: Yeah. And all the old wallpaper. I’m hitting a home run so yeah, you’re right.
TOM: Alright, John. Good luck with that project.
JOHN: Yeah, that makes me feel a lot better knowing that you think it’s a good idea. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Delaware to chat with Ruth who’s having an issue with water heating.
Tell us what’s going on.
RUTH: Our water heater is – I’m guessing it’s around 12 years old. And whenever I use the hot water, it doesn’t seem to last very long. And so a couple months ago, maybe 6 months ago, my husband and his friend – and his friend, I guess that’s what he does for a living. They emptied the water heater and they put two new elements in. But in my opinion, it’s still doing the same thing, like it didn’t – to me, it didn’t change the length how long the hot water lasted.
TOM: And this is an electric water heater?
RUTH: It’s not gas; it’s electric, yes.
TOM: And so, when they replaced the elements, they tested both elements to make sure they actually work?
RUTH: I’m not sure if they did that. I don’t know. He said they put new elements in. I’m assuming they – I guess I could ask them later if they did that.
TOM: Because here’s the thing. When you have a water heater that’s electric and it runs out of hot water quickly, it’s usually because one or the other of the two elements burn out or the control circuit breaks down so that they don’t actually come on. So, what you do, as a technician, is you run a continuity tester on these coils. And it’s a way of determining whether or not they’re working or not.
Electric coils for a water heater is just like a light bulb: it either works or doesn’t work; there’s no in between. And so, the first thing I would do is check the continuity on both of these coils to make sure they’re both physically working. Because what you’re describing, to me, sounds like one is not and that could be the whole source of the problem, OK?
TOM: Well, spring is the season of home improvement. A lot of renewal, rejuvenation, new projects being done. We like to celebrate spring, though, by giving away tools.
We’ve got two handy tools today to give to one lucky listener from Arrow Fastener. We’ve got the T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and the T50X TacMate Staple Gun. The T50 is America’s best-selling staple gun. These are both well-built, durable tools that will definitely stand up to dozens of DIY and pro projects.
That set of Arrow T50s, along with a supply of staples, is worth 65 bucks but we’re going to give one away to a listener drawn at random. If you want it to be you, you’ve got to reach out to us with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or at MoneyPit.com/Ask. MoneyPit.com/Ask. Just download the app, use it to record your question. It’ll go right to the studio and you will be first in line to get those questions answered.
LESLIE: Heading out to Arkansas where Bruce is having a woodpecker problem. I’m sure it’s not Woody Woodpecker.
What’s going on over there?
BRUCE: I would like to know how is the best way to repair Dryvit on the outside of my home that has holes in it made by woodpeckers.
TOM: Well, Bruce, I definitely understand what’s going on here. Those woodpeckers are looking for food and for some reason, they think that your home is a nice big, tasty treat, even though they’re trying to get through the siding that you have right now.
I’ve got a great solution for you that I’ve used myself. It works perfectly. In fact, I’ve got an article about this on MoneyPit.com. And it’s this. What you want to do is get some – take a black Hefty garbage bag, right? Like the big Hefty trash bags. And cut it into streamers. Cut it into streamers so they’re 1½-inch or so wide. And then find a way to tack those in the area where the woodpeckers are infesting. Because what happens is when it flutters in the breeze, it totally scares the woodpeckers and they will not come back.
I was dealing with a woodpecker that I kept chasing away and kept repairing siding and chasing away and repairing siding. And when I put up those Hefty pieces of plastic off the Hefty bag, they went away permanently. I have not seen them since. In fact, I left the streamers up because in my case, they were kind of on the side of my house, between the tree and the siding, and they weren’t that obvious. But man, does it work great. So, plastic streamers is the way to go. Very safe for the woodpecker and keeps them off of your house.
Well, one of the most exciting things about owning a new home is decorating it. But rushing into decorating and buying furniture can mean making choices that you might later regret. So instead, think ahead and come up with a plan. Leslie has five tips to help, in today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
LESLIE: Yeah. We’ve got some ways here to help you stick to a reasonable budget and help you save some money.
So, first of all, as tempting as it is to go to that furniture store and buy every large-ticket item out there – the bed, the couch, all the big things – spread them out, guys. Prioritize. Make a list of what you need most. Can you get by with the couch that you currently have for a little bit but maybe you want that new bed? Whatever it is, sort of take that list and decide when to make those purchases. That’s definitely going to help.
Secondly, you want to avoid trendy design choices that are probably going to go out of style more quickly than something traditionally-designed. So don’t plunk your money down on a crazy, patterned sofa. Instead, use that same – get a neutral sofa or something that works with your design, that’s going to last the décor seasons. But then get that fabric of that first couch that you liked in the crazy pattern and put some throw pillows on it. This way, you’re sure to like that couch 5 years from now.
Next, you want to splurge on the essentials. Now, classic pieces, those definitely are worth investing in. You could always cover the trends with those inexpensive home accents. Whether it’s a color and you’re bringing in some throw pillows, blankets, decorative items, vases, dishes, whatever to bring that color in, stick to the neutrals. Stick to pieces that are going to last for the long haul. And really do invest in that nice rug or that nice sofa, because that’s what’s going to last.
Next, you want to decorate around a statement piece and that could be anything. Maybe it’s a piece of artwork that you love. Make that the focal point and then work around that. Perhaps it’s a rug, perhaps it’s a piece of furniture. But use something as sort of your launch pad to what that décor is going to look like.
And lastly, you want to repurpose what you already have when you can. I mean you may have things like leftover paint from a previous project or an old chair that maybe just needs a new cushion and some new fabric. You definitely can do a lot of these projects yourself. Upcycling certainly is an excellent approach to saving your decorating dollars to use for those big-ticket items. So look around, see what you’ve got.
TOM: You know, all those tips work really if it’s brand new or if it’s a home that you already own. But what I found as a home inspector is, with these brand-new homes – brand new to you, not necessarily brand-newly constructed. With those types of home situations, what happens is homeowners get into them and they immediately want to change dozens of things at once. Because they’re just – they don’t have any wallpaper or they need a new doorway here or whatever it is. They want to do it all at once.
I say you can save a ton of money by waiting and here’s why. Because one of two things are going to happen: either the desire to make that improvement is going to grow and you’ll do it, right; or you might start to say, “Hey, it’s not so bad. I’m used to it,” and you save yourself a lot of money. So, just don’t jump on it immediately when you’re in a new space. Give yourself time to adjust.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Earn three-percent cash back on online shopping. Apply at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading on over to Ohio with Bobbie, who cut down a tree but is now wondering what’s going on with the dirt settling and sidewalk.
This sounds like it’s got an interesting story, Bobbie. What happened to the tree?
BOBBIE: Well, it got a disease in it. And they recommended that I cut it down before it falls on my house. So, I had it cut down and they ground out the stump. And now, I was wondering how long do I have to wait for the dirt to settle or if I even have to wait to extend my sidewalk.
TOM: Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to build a sidewalk on top of all of the ground-out sawdust, because that clearly is going to decay away. I think the best thing to do is to try to add some stone to that stumped area. Maybe rake out all of the sawdust and pack it with stone and then make sure the new sidewalk is poured over that stone or even embed some of the stone into the concrete. Because otherwise, you’re going to build a sidewalk on top of an unstable piece of soil and that could crack.
Another option there is to have the mason add some reinforcement to the sidewalk. And make sure the reinforcement straddles the weak area of the soil so that, again, if you do get some additional compression, the sidewalk won’t crack and sink in that area.
You’re wise to raise this question. You do need to work around it and I think a good-quality mason can help you do that.
BOBBIE: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Bobbie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Mike in Illinois on the line with a fireplace question.
How can we help you today?
MIKE: OK. We’re getting ready to move into a home that has two fireplaces: one on the first floor and one in the basement. The first floor is a stove insert and there’s two separate chimneys that terminate next to each other. And the previous owner is telling us that when they’re burning a fire in the stove, sometimes you get smoke out of the basement fireplace, even with the damper closed. Sometimes a little smoke, sometimes a lot of smoke. So just wondering what’s going on there and how to solve that.
TOM: Well, the reason it happens is because the chimney is cold. Generally, when a chimney is cold, you get condensation of the smoke inside the chimney. And that makes it heavy and it could push it down. So if a chimney does not have good draft, then you’re not going to evacuate the smoke from the chimney through the outside.
So the question is: how do you make that chimney improve the draft? And there’s a number of ways that that’s done. Sometimes the chimney is raised, so we make it taller. Sometimes, on the fireplace itself, you build in what’s called a “smoke shield,” which is usually a piece of metal that’s across the front of the fireplace, that’s maybe 6 or 8 inches deep so that it improves the draft right at the front of the fireplace. And that can speed it up. But it’s the kind of project that you really need to have a chimney expert look at.
And I would not go to a mason for this; I would go to a shop that sells wood stoves and fireplaces because they’re going to have the expertise that you need here. But the reason it’s happening is because the chimney is not drafting properly.
And you can minimize it, by the way, by always building a very small fire and then building it up from there. You don’t want to kind of go with a big fire right off because the chimney doesn’t have a chance to warm up. And you’ll get more smoke that way. But when you do build a fire, if you start small and then let the chimney warm up and then before you go a little bigger, that can minimize it. But I really think you need to have an expert look at it because that can be quite a nasty problem, especially if somebody else builds the fire besides you and fills the house with smoke.
MIKE: OK. Thanks a lot.
LESLIE: Frieda from Ohio is on the line with The Money Pit.
How can we help you today?
FRIEDA: Hi. My Amana Radarange microwave, it’s mounted above my stove. And on the bottom, the down light that shines down onto the stove, the light bulbs in that keep burning out. And I have to replace them about once a month and they’re getting expensive.
TOM: What kind of light bulb are you using? Just a regular incandescent?
FRIEDA: It’s like the R11, the little appliance bulbs? Forty watt?
TOM: And is this a fairly new problem, this once-a-month burnout, or has it been going on for a long, long time?
FRIEDA: It’s getting worse. We’ve had the microwave in here – it’s probably about 16 years old or – give or take.
TOM: Yeah, that doesn’t really owe you any money. That’s pretty old for a microwave appliance. You’ve pretty much reached the end of a normal life cycle. In fact, I’m kind of surprised it lasted that long, because it’s been my experience that the microwave ovens that are mounted above ranges don’t last nearly as long as a countertop microwave. Because the additional heat from all that cooking has the effect of sort of wearing on those components.
Typically, when you get a bulb that burns out quickly, it’s either because you have a loose connection, you have a loose ground or you have a problem with the voltage that’s going in there.
Sometimes, depending on what’s happening with the power company, you could be getting, say, more than 120 volts. You might be getting 125 or 130 volts, sometimes, because there could be something that is bad down the line with the power supply – the quality of the power supply. So if you have extra volts going into those lights, that is one of the first things that tends to show it. It’s kind of like the canary in the coal mine, you know. When the lights start to go – burn out frequently – like that, it could be an issue with the voltage.
So, have you been thinking about a new microwave?
FRIEDA: Not really.
TOM: What I would suggest is at this point, you really need to have the voltage tested. So I would call the utility company and ask them to meter the voltage going into your house and see if it’s – let’s eliminate that as a possibility.
If that is OK, I would – the second thing I would check is the plug that it’s actually plugged into. I’d check the outlet to make sure it’s properly grounded. And if it’s properly grounded, then I think you’ve exhausted the two things that are the easiest to fix and at that point, you might want to think about replacing the microwave.
FRIEDA: Alright. That sounds good.
LESLIE: Well, backyard fire pits are really hot right now. Literally, you guys. No seriously, though.
TOM: I got it. Yeah, I got it.
LESLIE: See what I did there?
TOM: I did.
LESLIE: But truly, in the spring season on a cool night, it is so lovely to sit by a fire pit, melt some marshmallows. I love having that sort of campfire feeling right in my own backyard. Well, with just a little bit of planning and a trip or two to your local building-supply store, you can build yourself a really fantastic fire pit.
TOM: Yeah. The first step is to pick your spot. It’s got to be far from overhanging trees, far from your house or other flammable structures.
Now, the fire pit itself must be low to the ground. You don’t want it to rise more than about a foot above the soil, for stability. And bury that base below the ground and line it with gravel for drainage.
Now, there are options on materials. If you don’t want to haul heavy, real stones, you can also use RumbleStone blocks. These are made from cast concrete and they’re molded to look like real stone. You’ll find them at any home center.
LESLIE: Now, you’re also going to need to line the fire pit with a thick, steel ring like the ones you see at a park for their campfires. And that’s going to protect the concrete in the blocks from the heat, which then can cause it to kind of dry out prematurely and break down.
The construction part is actually really easy. You’re going to begin with a trench wide enough to support those blocks. That gets filled with stone and tamped down and that’s going to give you your firm base.
TOM: Yep. And next, you want to stack the blocks on the stone. You want to use a zigzag bead of masonry adhesive across two adjacent blocks to hold additional layers. Now, make sure that any interlocking parts on the blocks fit together well. And just keep going until the second course is finished and you’re pretty much done.
But again, make sure when you plan this you are far enough away from any structures when you build it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen melted siding on a house where the fire pit was too close. Especially vinyl siding just tends to melt because it gets – the radiant heat just gets to it. And it melts quick and it looks terrible. And if it was any closer, it’d probably burn off and then could possibly burn your house down. So be very careful when you choose that location.
LESLIE: Same goes for barbecues.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It has sort of this arch-style halo pattern. It’s very distinctive when you see it in the house.
LESLIE: Jim in Illinois is on the line with some drafty windows.
Tell us about your money pit.
JIM: Well, I have an historic, old home. It’s over 100 years old.
JIM: And it has all of the original windows and glass in it.
JIM: And they are, needless to say, very drafty. So I was trying to figure out a way that was fairly cost-effective closing up those drafts.
TOM: So if you want to keep the original windows, then you essentially have to work with what you have. So, adding weather-stripping is really the limit of what you can do with those.
I will say that if you’ve got one that’s really drafty, in a room that maybe you don’t need to open the window, there is a product that’s called “temporary caulk” or “weather-stripping caulk.” It’s basically a caulk that’s designed to go on clear and then in the spring, you can peel it off. It comes off sort of in a rubbery strip. So, that’s also an effective way to seal a window that you’re not going to open. But remember, you’re kind of sealing it shut, so you’ve got to be careful not to do that in a bedroom or a place where you need to have emergency egress.
Now, if you want to replace the window, you could look at different manufacturers that make very historic windows. Marvin, for example, is very good at this. Andersen is good at it, as well. They make windows that fit well into a historic building. Then, of course, you’ve got all the modern conveniences that are associated with that.
I think that you would find, obviously, huge energy differences, not only in the drafts but also in the solar heat gain in the summer. Because I’m sure there’s nothing stopping all of that heat of the sun from getting into those windows. And if you have new glass that’s got a low-E coating, it’s going to reflect that heat back out.
So, weather-stripping – liquid weather-stripping or temporary caulk – or window replacement. Those would be your options.
JIM: OK. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Well, we’re ready to celebrate spring here by giving away a set of two handy tools to one lucky listener. We’ve got, up for grabs this hour, Arrow’s T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and the T50X TacMate Staple Gun. I mean this really is America’s best-selling staple gun. The both of them are well-built, they’re durable. They are going to stand up to dozens of DIY and even pro projects, not just this spring season but basically for every spring season that you’ve got left in your life, as well. These tools last and last.
Now, that set of Arrow T50s, along with a supply of staples, is worth 65 bucks and it’s going out to one listener who’s drawn at random.
TOM: So, make that you. Reach out to us by posting your questions at MoneyPit.com/Ask.
LESLIE: Marlene in Minnesota is on the line.
How can we help you today?
MARLENE: We have two aluminum-clad, factory-finished garage doors, dark brown in color or at least they were.
MARLENE: And they’re beginning to fade due to oxidation and sun exposure. Is there anything we can do to restore that finish?
TOM: Well, not short of painting them. Because if you – when you say restore them, that would presume that there’s a way to kind of bring back the luster of the original paint finish. But after years of exposure to sun and especially those darker colors, you do get oxidation where the paint surface is broken down. And you’re not going to bring that surface back.
The good news is that because they’re metal doors, they’re fairly straightforward to paint. You want to make sure that you lightly sand the door. And then I would use a metal primer – so a good-quality, metal priming paint – and then whatever your topcoat of paint is going to be beyond that.
And if you do that right – because it’s metal and it’s not organic, so it’s not subjected as much to expansion and contraction and certainly not moisture absorption – a good paint job on a metal door like that could easily last 10 years.
MARLENE: OK. Well, thank you for your help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Marlene. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, adding a backyard deck is one surefire way to gain some living space at your home. But is building that deck a do-it-yourself project or is it one that you should be hiring out? I mean there are pros and cons to each approach.
So let’s start with DIY. If you do do it yourself, you stand to save just by the virtue of labor costs. However, building your deck could eat up a number of weekends, depending on how quickly you work. Also, the DIY option may be perfect if you’re planning on a fairly simple shape or something square or rectangular. But things start to get dicey if you choose a more complicated shape or a multi-level deck design. So you have to design carefully if for sure you want to do it on your own.
TOM: Now, hiring a pro is obviously going to result in a pricier deck because, of course, you’re paying for their labor and their expertise. On the plus side, a professional contractor, at least one who’s reliable, is likely to finish the project faster than you will. And a pro will also take care of the permitting process and will already know what really is up to code and what isn’t. This will make sure that your new deck is safe and OK with your city inspector.
And also, properly attaching it to the house is a big part of that. I can’t tell you how many times we hear about decks that collapse because whoever built it missed that key step and didn’t attach it properly. So, lots of advantages to working with a pro.
For more tips, check out our website. We’ve got a post there called “How to Plan an Amazing Deck” on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Louise in Delaware is on the line with some carpenter bees visiting her home.
Tell us what’s going on.
LOUISE: I have a deck in my – at my back door and I have a roof. It doesn’t extend all the way out to the end of the deck. Just about halfway. And I’ve been having, for several years, a major problem with carpenter bees. They actually make perfectly round holes in the roof of the deck.
And I had an exterminator a couple of years ago and he said he would spray it but no guarantees. And he sprayed it and maybe for about 5 days I didn’t see them but they came right back. But someone told me, “Get steel wool and put steel wool in the holes because they can’t get out.”
TOM: There’s the do-it-yourself methods and there’s the professional methods. I’m troubled by the fact that you hired an exterminator – it sounds like it was some time ago – and he wouldn’t guarantee a result. That’s not acceptable. Most professional exterminators have the tools, the knowledge and the pesticides to effectively eliminate carpenter bees with a reasonable guarantee of success.
So, if you have such a serious problem as this, I would definitely suggest that you go find yourself a new exterminator, maybe from a national-brand company like Orkin. You’d have better success with that.
Now, if you want to do this yourself, the reason that the bees form those holes is because they’re nesting. And so the way they’re treated is you spray a pesticide inside those holes. You can also spray something that’s petroleum-based inside the holes, because they don’t like that.
There’s lots of ways that you could try this yourself. But given the severity of the problem, I would suggest you find a good exterminator that can treat it with the right type of pesticide and you not have to worry about it.
LESLIE: Emily in Wisconsin has written in to The Money Pit and she says, “I have a gas fireplace that’s surrounded by 1-foot by 1-foot flat ceramic tiles. I’m wondering if there’s a way to adhere new tiles on top of that existing one to avoid having to remove the existing tiles.”
That seems like a weird-shaped tile for a fireplace. That’s kind of big.
TOM: Yeah. It does because it doesn’t give you any flexibility. I wonder if this fireplace was designed so that you could use a 1-foot tile around it. Because if it was 11 inches or 13 inches, it wouldn’t line up right.
I’m thinking there’s no reason you can’t, Emily, There’s a couple of ways you could do that. There is a double-sided tile mat that’s designed to adhere tiles and that certainly is an option. Given that it’s a fireplace, I’m not quite sure how much heat this is getting. I’m going to guess that it’s probably a zero-clearance insulated fireplace. In that case, you won’t be getting much. But given it’s a fireplace, you want to have as much glue as possible. So the other way to do that is simply to use tile mastic. You can glue tiles together and put a second layer on using a tile mastic.
So, I think it’s definitely doable. You don’t have to take the old ones off. Because you know, trying to get old tile off – I think you’ve probably tried that, Leslie. What a mess that is, right?
LESLIE: It’s a big mess. And then you’re dealing with chipping things away to make sure you have a level surface. So if you can go on top, that’s definitely the way to go.
Alright. Next up, Scott has a potentially big plumbing problem and asks, “What is the best way to deal with polybutylene pipes? Just replace? Can I run new pipe inside the polybutylene? I have not had a pipe burst yet but I fear it’s coming.”
TOM: Yeah. So for those that are not aware, polybutylene was a type of pipe that was used for many years and turned out it was quite a big problem. They would break down at the connections and leak. And so those that have polybutylene pipes have to replace them. It’s kind of like when you have a house that’s got old steel pipes and they just rust to the point where you’ve got to replace them. Unfortunately, I mean there were class-action lawsuits and all of that kind of stuff but I think that that’s been over a long time now.
So, what would I do? I would treat it, Scott, a lot like I would if I had a house that had old steel pipes. What I generally say is whenever you have something exposed, like if you have pipes running through a crawlspace or a basement that you can see, replace those now. Don’t wait for a leak. And then, whenever you have walls that are open, replace them at that time.
One thing to keep in mind, though, that there is a better plastic that we’re using today called PEX, right? Cross-linked polyethylene. This actually makes the polybutylene replacement a lot less expensive, because that PEX is flexible enough that you can run it through walls without necessarily having to tear everything open or at least not as much. It’s certainly a lot easier to install PEX than it is to use copper plumbing.
So, I would just treat it like that. And whenever you have exposure to it, whenever you see those pipes, I would replace them. I would not cover them back up. And if you see them going through your crawlspace or basement and you have the budget, go ahead and replace those now.
LESLIE: Alright, Scott. I hope that helps you out and avoids some costly leaks down the road. Good luck with your projects.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, guys, thank you so much for taking a little bit of your day to listen to us. We hope we’ve been helpful, gave you some ideas on maybe projects you want to get done around your house or perhaps some ways to handle some fix-ups.
If you’ve got questions, remember, you can reach out to us, 24/7. The best way is by downloading The Money Pit VoxPop app at MoneyPit.com/Ask. Because if you record your question on the app, it goes right to the studio and you’re at the top of the line when it comes to getting those questions answered.
Hope you have a good day. 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 2022 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.)