- Greenhouses: Learn how to extend your gardening season by building a DIY greenhouse in your yard.
- Hardwood Floors: Refinishing hardwood floors can be a time-consuming project with great results. Find out how to restore the beauty of old wood floors.
- Home Improvement Costs: You may be overlooking a few items when you budget for that home improvement project. We’ll tell you about some hidden costs.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Carpenter Ants: When you take down a tree that’s infested with carpenter ants, where will they head next? Tom calms Anna’s worries about the pests going into her house.
- Outdoor Steps: The railroad ties on Matt’s long flight of landscaping stairs are rotted out. We’ve got advice on an affordable alternative for rebuilding the steps that’s durable and easy to shovel.
- Mold in Attic: Will adding blown-in insulation prevent mold in the attic? Tom explains why Kathy needs more ventilation, not more insulation, in her Cape Cod-style home.
- Electrical: If you’ve changed your electrical wiring plans in your basement, what’s the best way to patch up the holes and start over? Katherine learns about disconnecting wires at the electrical panel and ways to cover the outlet holes.
- Moisture Barriers: Moisture under Jonathan’s hardwood floor is causing it to swell and buckle. We’ve got suggestions about vapor barriers, drainage, and dehumidifiers.
- Home Warranties: Diane wants to keep up with the maintenance on her newly built home. Tom tells her about a useful home maintenance checklist and the importance of her homebuyer warranty coverage.
- Metal Roofing: The screened-in porch at Dan’s house gets way too hot because of the metal roof. He can deflect the sun’s UV rays and reduce the heat by applying a radiant coating to the roof.
- Soundproofing: What’s the best way to block out the sounds of noisy neighbors next door? Adding a second layer of drywall and a green glue noise-proofing sealant may quiet things down a bit for Donna’s son.
- Cracked Ceramic Tile: Should ceramic tile flooring with hairline cracks be repaired or replaced? Valerie’s best option is to remove the cracked pieces and replace them with tiles that are the same or something complementary.
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 we are here to help you take on the projects you want to get done around your house. So, if you’ve got something on your to-do list, why don’t you give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions to MoneyPit.com and we will help you do just that? If you’re stuck in the middle of a project or you don’t know how to get started or whether you can do it yourself or whether you should hire a pro, hey, reach out to us and we will help you get started on the right foot so you get it done once, you get it done right and you can get back to enjoying that space.
Coming up on today’s show, it’s getting colder outside, so it’s soon going to be time to wrap up your gardening for the year. But if you had a greenhouse, well, you could extend that gardening well into the fall and start back up earlier next spring. So we’re going to share some options that can hook you up with a four-season crop of veggies, just ahead.
LESLIE: And one of the biggest happy surprises in home improvement is pulling up a carpet to reveal beautiful hardwood floors. Well, floors under all that carpeting are usually in pretty good shape and just need to be refinished. So we’re going to share some tips to help you do just that.
TOM: And if you’re planning a home improvement project, you know you have to budget for materials and the cost of a contractor to get it done. But did you also know you need to budget for the hidden cost of home improvements, as well? We’re going to share some of those sneaky and expensive surprises and tell you how to avoid them.
LESLIE: But first, what are you guys working on? What are you tackling this late – well, early – fall weekend? I was going to say late summer but my goodness, we are into the fall. What are you guys working on? How are you getting ready for the winter season? What’s happening at your money pit? Let us give you a hand.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or go to MoneyPit.com/Ask. That’s MoneyPit.com/Ask.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: We’ve got Anna in South Dakota on the line with a question about ants.
What is going on?
ANNA: Took down a huge, huge tree. And the contractor that took it down said, “Good thing you took it down because in 2 years, it probably would have fell.”
ANNA: Because it’s all hollow and he said it had a huge carpenter-ant nest in it.
ANNA: So, my house is 10 feet away. Do I need to worry about that?
TOM: No. Carpenter ants are Mother Nature’s way of getting rid of dead wood. Sure, they could infest your house but they’re not necessarily going to be motivated to go there over anything else that’s lying about. You’ll find ant nests like that, you know, once in a while and they’ll usually just go down on the ground, walk to another location. But they’re not like, “Hey, let’s go over to Anna’s house, because I think I heard it’s tasty.” No, they’re not usually going to go in your house. That said, you ought to keep your eye out for all sorts of pests – carpenter ants and termites, in particular – but you’re not at any increased risk of finding ants.
I’ll tell you, I had a surprise myself with ants a couple of weeks back. I have a bay window. It’s filled with plants. And I was doing some cleaning and I didn’t notice we were getting some persistent ants in this area. And I figured they were coming in from the outside, being the knowledgeable home improvement expert that I am.
Well, imagine my surprise when I lifted up a big, clay pot that had a flowering plant in it and found that the ant infestation was, in fact, in the plant. So, we were helping this ant infestation survive by dutifully watering our plant. And once I got the plant outside, those ants had to find a new place to live and we haven’t seen a single one since.
So, they’re not necessarily looking to go to your house. I think that you’re going to be fine.
ANNA: OK. That was my only concern. The house is from – was built in 1908 and it’s like it’s, you know …
TOM: Yep. And it’s going to be fine for another hundred years. You don’t worry about that, OK?
ANNA: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck.
LESLIE: Alright. Heading to Minnesota. We’ve got Matt on the line who needs to work on a flight of stairs.
What’s going on?
MATT: I have a question regarding what you guys think I should do for some landscaping stairs. I’m looking for a cheap way to do it myself. It was railroad ties and it’s about 3 feet wide. And it goes up just over 30 feet to the top of my – around the side of my house, up to the top. The railroad ties had rotted out. It was not properly rocked underneath; it was straight down to the dirt. And so the ants just dug on up in there and the bugs.
I’m wondering what the cheapest way is that’s also going to allow me to continue to shovel it in the wintertime. Because in Minnesota, most of our season is shovel season. So, something that’s not going to be hard to shovel.
TOM: Yeah, I hear you on that. Shovel season. We have that here but it’s much shorter than it is in Minnesota, Matt.
So, OK. So, first of all, big project, right? I mean 3 feet wide, 30-footer – 30 steps up. That’s a lot of work. So, there’s two directions.
Number one, you could use concrete masonry units, which are kind of like concrete blocks but they have a sculpted face to them. So when you look at them dead-on, they look attractive. If you did it with concrete units, you basically would probably set one or two of those below grade. Then you’d have a solid concrete step – a pre-cast step – that’s on top of that and work your way up. So the advantage there is that if it’s done and done well and all that soil underneath the steps is properly compacted, it’s not going to move. It’s going to last indefinitely and it’ll be easy to shovel.
Now, the other option, which could be easier to handle, would be to build them out of wood but not railroad ties. Pressure-treated wood. And the pressure-treated ties should be rated ground contact. A lot of folks don’t realize that there are a number of different levels for pressure treatment. If you find the one that’s labeled “ground contact,” that’s going to give you the most number of years in the ground. Typically, that’s recommended for pressure-treated that is in contact with the ground or within 6 inches. Now, if you do that, you could build them out of the pressure-treated.
Now, I don’t know if you have a retaining-wall aspect of this or it’s just sort of not a concern with any of that hill that you’re climbing coming forward. But if you have a retaining-wall aspect of this, the way you would build this with pressure-treated is you would make sure that those beams, so to speak, will extend back into the hill. Because the weight of the soil on top is what keeps it all together, keeps it from shifting forward.
So, hope that gives you a couple of ideas that you could kick around. And both of them will result in a good-looking set of steps that will last you a long time.
LESLIE: Cathy in New Hampshire is on the line with some questions about condensation.
What is happening at your money pit?
CATHY: We have a Cape, 35-year old house Cape that – a lot of the homes here in New England get trapped moisture. We’ve had two roofs put on but in the meantime, we have some mold – it’s not toxic – up in the attic that we would like to take care of ourselves and then either add more insulation but possibly have it blown-in. Just wondering what your thoughts are on the blown-in insulation, cost-wise, compared to the old insulation on rolls.
TOM: Couple of things.
First of all, your problem is not that you need more insulation; it’s that you need more ventilation. Because attics in the winter get very damp. And when they get damp, you get a lot of condensation. And that condensation is what leads to mold growth, especially on the inside of the sheathing. The way to battle that is with ventilation.
That said, a Cape Cod is probably one of the most difficult home styles to ventilate, because the center section of it usually is occupied by a ceiling up – that goes up to the bottom of the roof rafters. And then the sort of knee wall is open. Has a very limited amount of storage space but doesn’t really give you the opportunity to put much ventilation in there. Because then that knee wall has got to be insulated because that basically becomes the exterior wall of the house.
What I would do, if it was my house, is I would use spray-foam insulation because spray-foam insulation does not have to be ventilated. Now, I don’t know how much reconstruction this is going to require you to do to open up especially the top half of that roof section. But you can essentially spray the underside all the way across that surface. You can spray the knee walls. You’ll seal it in very well because it will expand and lock in against any drafts.
You’ll also have an improved amount of insulation because spray foam is very—you’ll also increase the insulation because spray foam is very efficient. So you need less of that to basically give you a higher R-value.
And don’t get me wrong, blown-in is a great option. It’s just that in a Cape Cod, it’s just very hard to ventilate to keep that moisture from building up.
LESLIE: Well, now that it’s getting colder outside, it’s soon going to be time to wrap up those gardens for the season. But if you have a backyard greenhouse, you can extend that growing season significantly.
Now, if you think building a greenhouse is a big deal, it really doesn’t have to be. If you’ve got some limited space, a mini-greenhouse is probably going to be your best bet. They’re small, they’re portable, they can fit in a narrow space.
Low-tunnel greenhouses, those are another type. And because of their size, they can be used when necessary and then you can easily remove them.
TOM: Now, the other option is to go with a pre-fab greenhouse. It’s kind of a nice step up. We love these greenhouse kits. They’ve got a door, they’ve got shelves. They take up only about 30 or 40 square feet of space. And we’ve highlighted three favorites in our most recent post about backyard greenhouses, on MoneyPit.com.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to have a larger piece of land, adding a traditional greenhouse is always fun. This is the kind of structure that’s got walls and a roof made from glass or plastic or acrylic. And the glass is important because it traps the heat in the structure while protecting the inside from the elements.
And I’ve got an interesting story about this, Leslie. I was replacing a sliding-glass door last month. And when I took out the door, I had the two sliding panels, which are 3 feet by 6 feet each, right? So, it was bulk-trash day the following Monday. I put them out over the weekend and – knock, knock, knock – somebody came to my door and said, “Hey, can I take your glass doors?” We’re like, “Sure.” And they explain they were building a greenhouse. And it was absolutely the perfect thing for them because they wanted to have a glass roof. So they were going to take the doors and create a roof with it. How about that?
LESLIE: Yeah, I love it. That’s so great. And you know what’s awesome is that greenhouses, they’re typically fitted with tables or shelves that you can use to grow plants, do your gardening. And some greenhouse tables are actually manually heated, which is great if you live in a cooler climate.
If you want some more details, check out our post “Backyard Greenhouse” on MoneyPit.com.
Katherine, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?
KATHERINE: I have lighting in the basement and it is something we started initially and we changed our mind. And so there are outlets or holes that are intended for light fixtures and then also a ceiling fan. And we’re changing how we’re going to do things down there. Is there some way that we can patch it up and start all over? Or do we need to have an electrician in and resurface everything and do everything all over again?
TOM: OK. So, your main concern is that you have the holes that you’re not using anymore, so you want to know if you can patch those?
TOM: Yeah. Sure you can.
KATHERINE: Yes. And then the wires are already there.
TOM: Oh, the wires are there? Well, if the wires are there, if they’re live, if they’re connected on the other end, if they’re energized to a panel, then they have to be disconnected for sure.
TOM: You could just put wire nuts on the end of it and cover the box. And there’s different types of ceiling plates that could cover that. But frankly, if you’re never going to use that wiring, I wouldn’t have extra energized wiring through the ceiling. I would just disconnect it at the panel or wherever it was given power.
If it’s a matter of there’s no wiring behind it or you’ve totally disconnected it and now you’ve got these big, old holes, you can do it one of two ways.
TOM: You can either put a decorative plate – let’s say it’s a round fixture, a round electrical box. There are electrical plates, that are designed to fit over ceilings, that can cover that. You can paint it white; it’s not that noticeable.
Or if you wanted to completely repair the ceiling as if it never happened at all, then what I would do is I would probably – if I was repairing that, I would square off the hole first so – because it’s a lot easier to patch a square hole than it is a round hole. And then what you do is you take another piece of drywall and you basically measure out a piece that’s – well, let’s say it’s about 2 inches wider on all sides. So if it was 4×4 of the hole, I would look – cut a piece that was 8×8 or so.
TOM: Because what you’re going to do – and this is a little tricky. You’re going to turn that piece of drywall upside down and you’re going to sort of score where that 4-inch piece would be in the middle. Then you’re going to peel off all of the plaster that’s on the drywall, except for the paper on the outside edge. Because that’s going to actually act as the drywall tape. And then if you put spackle and you put that little piece back up there – and you may have to tack it in place with a screw or something while it’s holding, while it’s drying – you can spackle that and it will magically disappear.
But when it’s time to paint, make sure you prime it and then always use a flat paint. Because otherwise, all the spackle you put up there, even if you do a good job, is going to be really obvious. OK?
KATHERINE: OK. Excellent. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now I’ve got Jonathan from Tennessee on the line who’s dealing with moisture in a crawlspace, I guess.
What’s going on?
JONATHAN: I have a new house. It was built about 5 years ago. Underneath, evidently, there is some moisture that’s causing the hardwood to bow. And I’m wondering, what is the best way to make sure that that moisture is removed?
TOM: Yeah, Jonathan. If you have a lot of humidity and moisture in that space underneath your floor, it definitely can wick up and cause that hardwood to swell. And once it swells, it’s not going to go back. So you really want to hop on this and get it dealt with now before it gets any worse. So I’m going to give you some basic advice on how to do that.
First of all, make sure that you have a vapor barrier across that crawlspace floor. Good, thick polyethylene will work for that. Secondly, outside your house, make sure your gutters are clean, the downspouts are moving out about 4 feet from the house so we’re not discharging any water near the foundation and soil is sloping away. I also want you to make sure, if you have crawlspace vents, that they are open.
And if it’s still humid in there, then you can add a dehumidifier. There are dehumidifiers that are designed for crawlspaces. We’re not talking about the kinds that you have to empty all the time; they’re actually sort of horizontal boxes. They hang from the underside of the floor and they work 24/7, automatically, to cart moisture out of a space just like that. If you dry it up, then I think your flooring will be stabilized.
LESLIE: Alright. Let’s welcome Diane to The Money Pit who just got a new house. What’s going on at your new Money Pit?
DIANE: I have a new build that I want to keep up on maintenance. So I’m wondering where to find a good checklist or schedule of maintenance. Things to look at, at different intervals, to be sure everything is working correctly before things start breaking.
TOM: Well, first, congratulations on the new home purchase. That’s very exciting. And even though it’s new, of course, it’s going to need maintenance.
Now, I know on MoneyPit.com we have a checklist for new homeowners that walks you through a lot of those basics, so that’s a good source. The other thing I want to point out to you, though, that’s related to this is that, as a new home purchaser, you probably were given a home buyer’s warranty. Now, home buyers’ warranties, I have some issues and some concerns with those. Because they sound like they’re going to cover everything that ever is, was or ever wrong with your house but they don’t. And the specifications, in terms of what’s considered a defect, are pretty generous to the builder.
That said, the reason I bring this up is because there’s a time limit on coverage. Now, the workmanship-related things are generally covered for a year and then coverage drops off significantly after that. So, before that first year is up, make sure that you are very familiar with the terms of that warranty, what’s covered and what’s not and that you’re inspecting your home for anything that might be impacted by that.
And when you – if you do find something, it’s also critical that you notify both the builder and the warranty company. Because if you just notify the builder, the warranty does not take effect. So you need to notify both builder and warranty.
So, hope that helps. And good luck with that new home.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dan on the line who’s looking to get a metal roof and has some questions about the current one.
What’s going on?
DAN: I have a screen porch on the back of my house. It has a tin roof. And it gets extremely hot in the summer; so hot that it just radiates heat down. I was wondering, is there something I can put on that tin roof to deflect the heat that comes from the sun?
TOM: Yeah, of course, there is. And first of all, I certainly understand that. That’s pretty typical.
But there are finishes that you could put on top of that roof. They’re called “radiant coatings.” And basically, what they do is just that: they radiate heat back off the roof, back up into the atmosphere. They reflect the UV of the sun and that greatly reduces the temperature of that roof and hence, the amount of heat that’s coming through it.
Now, it’s not going to make it cool but it will certainly cut it a substantial amount and perhaps make it more palatable for you. And maybe you’ll get the opportunity to sit out there, perhaps in the early morning or the later afternoon and even when the sun’s not so intense, instead of just avoiding that area completely.
They’re made by lots of manufacturers. And I would recommend that you stick with a name brand. I would research it to make sure that it is able to stick to metal as opposed to asphalt, because they have those types of products, as well. And then I would do it. I’d apply it and see how it goes. I think you’re going to find that it works well.
Make sure you also follow all the prep instructions so that it adheres properly. Some may require a primer and some may not. But just follow the instructions of the manufacturer and you’ll be good to go.
Well, if you are lucky enough to have beautiful hardwood floors, refinishing them on your own is a definite DIY project possibility. You know, the materials are readily available, the tools are inexpensive or they can be easily rented and the results are totally worth the effort.
LESLIE: Yeah. And there’s really just four steps.
So, first of all, you’ve got to get the room ready. Now, refinishing is going to take a room out of service for some time and quite possibly for longer than you’ve originally planned. So, you want to use this opportunity to remove, store, even toss anything that you don’t need on your way to creating that blank canvas of a floor for you to work on.
TOM: And next, you’ve got to start with a clean floor. Now, you might be thinking, “Why does the floor have to be clean if I’m going to sand it?” Well, because if you have a lot of dirt and grime on it, it can grind into the floor. It can further stain that floor. So I like to vacuum the floors thoroughly and then run a damp mop – slightly damp – across them to make sure I’m picking up as much of the dust and dirt as I possibly can.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re at the sanding phase. So, this really is an important step. If it isn’t too badly damaged, a light sanding is going to do your floor justice. But if it’s damaged or you’re changing the color of the wood and you’ve got to remove all of the old stain, then a heavier sanding’s got to be done. Now, for light sanding, you can rent a floor buffer with a sanding screen or you can use a machine called a U-Sand – like the letter U, Sand.
However, if the floor is not in good condition, badly damaged, you’re going to need a floor belt sander. And it’s kind of a difficult tool to use because if you kind of lean more heavily on one side or push down on one side harder than the other, you can create a divot in the floor. And that really isn’t very fixable. So, you want to make sure that if you do have to do that much sanding, let a pro do it because they just know how to use the tools better.
TOM: Now, next – and the last step – is to apply the finish. So, the way to do this is I like to start with an angled brush, like a trim brush or cut-in brush, and then I will cut in that new finish along the walls, along the baseboard. And then, once that’s done, I will use a lambswool applicator. Now, this looks like a sponge mop. You’ll find it in most home improvement centers but it actually has a piece of lambswool wrapped around the end. And that’s actually what you dip in the polyurethane and then sort of very slowly but surely mop it on in long, continuous coats and work your way out of the room.
And by the way, you’re going to need two or three thin coats. Allow plenty of drying time in between which is always, I say, twice what it says on the can. And although water-based polyurethane is available, don’t use it. We do not recommend it for floors because it simply doesn’t wear nearly as well. And with all the work it takes to get that floor ready and sand it and refinish it, you do not want to repeat this project anytime soon. So make sure you’re using only oil-based or solvent-based urethanes.
And lastly, when you’re all done, I’d wait a few days before moving the furniture back in or protect the floor. Because sometimes, it takes a while for the urethane to really, really harden.
LESLIE: Yeah. I say wait a few days and then wait a few days more.
TOM: Yeah, if you possibly can. Pick up some of those floor protectors from the home center, slip them under the couch legs. Just really be careful with that floor. Because it takes a while but it does harden. I’ve noticed that when I do this project, maybe a week or two later it’s kind of a different floor surface.
LESLIE: Donna in Arkansas is on the line and has a noise issue.
How noisy is that place?
DONNA: Well, I don’t know. My son and his roommate live in a duplex. And the common wall between their living rooms, they can hear the neighbors and so I’m sure the neighbors can hear them. They were just wondering what they could do on that wall to block some of the noise.
TOM: What they would need to do requires a pretty significant addition to the existing wall. What they would do is they would have to put a second layer of drywall over the existing layer.
And there’s two options here. You can use a noise-resistant drywall; there’s a couple of different brands of this out there. And basically, it has some sound-deadening built into it. Or you can use a product called Green Glue, which is sort of like a gelatin-like adhesive. And you would apply that to the old wall and then you would put new drywall over that. And that creates a noise barrier.
And you also have to be very careful around the outlets and any openings in the wall. And they have to be sealed properly. And even after you do all of that, you will still probably get some sound through that wall.
Unfortunately, soundproofing is not – is harder to do after the fact than it is to do when you’re building it from scratch. So, not always the answer, exactly, that you want to hear but that’s really what it takes to try to soundproof the rooms in this situation.
DONNA: Alright. Well, we sure appreciate you taking our call and thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you’re planning a home improvement project, you already know you’ve got to budget for materials and for the cost of the labor to help get it done. But did you also know you need to budget for a few hidden costs, as well?
LESLIE: Yeah. I think people forget about this. I mean they realize they have to eat, so if you’re doing your kitchen, meals are going to be a huge cost because your house is down for the count. So, you’re going to be eating out a lot. Pizza places. You’re going to know that phone number by heart. You’re going to need to run out, get out of the mess, dine out. That food budget is just going to go way up, not to mention your waistline. So maybe make sure there’s a spot that you can still work out in at home, as long as you’re not eating. But whatever.
Likewise, you want to make sure you ask your contractor if any of these improvements that are planning are going to require for you to leave the house and for how long. Aside from the inconvenience of being out of your house, the hotel, more meals eaten out, all of that is going to add up quickly. And sometimes, things just happen and you can’t stay in the house during the work. So you’ve got to think about that.
Now, the next thing is not checking with your insurance. Before you start your project, it’s important to make sure that anybody working on your property carries workman’s compensation insurance to cover any injuries they may sustain while in your home. You might also want to call your homeowner’s insurance, find out if there’s anything you need to say, add, do. But definitely make sure all of your workers, whoever is there, is insured.
TOM: Alright. Now, here are a couple of areas that can really run up the cost: skipping the building permit. While you might not think permits are the responsibility of the contractor, that’s not always the case. And skipping the permit can cost you big in construction mistakes that don’t get caught or even problems when it comes time to sell your home. They’re going to look at the records of the house and if you had work done that wasn’t permitted, that can be a problem.
And lastly, let’s talk about changes, because I think a lot of people get surprised by this. If you make a change during the construction project because you decided you didn’t like a color, the window’s in the wrong place, the cabinet really wasn’t what you expected – if you make changes during that project, that can get pretty costly.
So what you want to do is make sure your contractor provides you with a document called a “change order.” Very simple agreement which states basically the difference between what you contracted for and the new price for what the change is. Now, it could be an addition, it could be a credit. But these change orders, you want to do one every time there’s a change. And this way, at the end of the job, there won’t be surprises.
Too often, contractors will say, “Well, you owe me X. And then you also owe me another few thousand for Y.” And you’re like, “What’s that?” “Well, remember when you didn’t like where we put that wall? Well, that’s what that’s for.” And it just really surprises people. It’s totally avoidable, so just make sure. Because good communication around change orders makes sure that you get this job done on a price that you agree to pay and a price that you can certainly agree to handle.
LESLIE: Valerie in Arkansas is on the line with a flooring question.
What can we do for you today?
VALERIE: I have some ceramic tiles on the floor that have cracked. And it’s just a hairline crack but I was wondering if there was a way to repair those or if they have to be completely replaced.
TOM: You cannot repair a cracked ceramic tile. Once cracked, it will always be cracked. The question is: can you pop the cracked tile out and replace it? Are additional tiles of the same make available? That could require some research.
But if you can’t find the exact same tiles, you may have some other options. You could try to replace it with a complimentary tile: one that may actually be a décor piece and kind of stand out on purpose. Or you could look for an area where you have tile that maybe went into a closet or something like that and try to remove that and use that to replace the cracked tile. That’s kind of an extreme example of it.
But at the least, the least you need to do is to figure out why it cracked, though. And usually, that has to do with the floor system in that perhaps it wasn’t properly installed to begin with. Does that make sense?
VALERIE: It does, it does. I was afraid you were going to answer it that way, though.
TOM: Leslie, where are some places that Valerie might look for if she was thinking about finding matching tile for an older floor?
LESLIE: It’s challenging to find a tile once, especially, it’s been discontinued and also, if you are new to the house and it’s an old tile and you just don’t know where it is.
So, say you’ve got a box. If you’re lucky enough to have a box that has something with the manufacturer on it, you could at least reach out to the manufacturer and see. Or maybe you’ve got one or two new tiles kicking around. There are a few manufacturers across the United States that you can actually send that tile to and they’ll actually make it for you, if they have that glaze in their stock. A couple of them that do that are North Prairie Tileworks. They’re in Minneapolis. But that’s going to be a bit on the pricier side. It’s going to run around $30 per square foot. So it really depends on how important it is to actually have this tile and to match it.
It’s tricky. If you can try a couple of architectural salvage yards, maybe you can find something that works. But I do like the idea of popping out a couple of things here and there, to sort of make a purposeful pattern and add a detail in that wasn’t there before. I think it’s a cost-effective way to sort of keep the integrity of the tile you love but make it new without spending a ton of bucks.
VALERIE: OK. Alright. I’ll try that then.
LESLIE: Andrew has reached out to Team Money Pit asking, “We recently had a water heater installed. Ever since then, whenever you turn off the water, it sounds like thunder from the copper pipes vibrating in the basement.”
Well, geez, that’s not a good thing.
TOM: Not a good sound.
You know, water heaters have some distinctive sounds to them. One is the thundering sound when you turn the water off. And that’s caused by water hammer.
And the other is sort of a gurgling sound. And that’s caused by mineral deposits that build up along the bottom of the water heater. And when that happens, it means you have hard water. And that’s an easy fix; you just need to remember to flush your water heater every month or so. Turn the burner off and open up the bottom drain valve, hook up a hose to it, of course, flush a little hot water out and that will take the salts out with it.
But what I think’s going on here, especially because it’s a brand-new water heater, Leslie, is water hammer, right? The water’s sailing through those pipes and then you close a valve or shut off a faucet, it just keeps going and it shakes the pipe. So I suspect that if it didn’t happen before, that the installer didn’t properly strap in those pipes. That would make sense.
LESLIE: It could just be a new section of pipe that they put in. And maybe you’ve never had this issue before but now that it’s a different-size pipe or a new run or a new location or it’s not against the same thing, you’re going to get these weird noises. And I mean it is a simple fix.
TOM: I bet that if you’re down there at the water heater and kind of looking at the new piping and you have somebody run water and turn it off, run the water and turn it off, you might even see them shaking.
So what I think you need to do is just get some brackets – they sell pipe brackets that are designed to attach copper piping to framing and they have a little cushion around them so they don’t damage the pipe – and then resecure those pipes. I bet you that’ll do that. If it’s a really severe problem, there is a plumbing device called a “water-hammer arrestor” that can be installed. It’s kind of like a shock absorber. But I don’t think it’s necessary. I think you’ve just got some loose pipes there, Andrew, and that ought to take care of it.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Margo has a painting problem and she says, “I used a paint with primer but it just peels right off the wall in strips. The wallboard has a chalky, dusty feel to the touch. What is the best paint method to have paint that sticks?”
TOM: Yeah. So, I always feel terrible when I read these types of questions, because people want to blame the paint. It’s not the paint, right? When you tell me you have a chalky surface underneath that paint, that’s the problem. You don’t have a surface that paint can adhere to.
And by the way, I’m not crazy about the paint-and-primer products that are built-in. I’m really not. I think primer is a stand-alone product that ought to be applied separately. Because the paint-and-primer products, I find they don’t flow well. They’re not certainly binding as well as the regular primer does.
But aside from that, I think the problem here is the surface underneath. So, you need to remove the paint that you put on there, which apparently sounds like it’s not too difficult. And then you need to remove as much of that loose paint, that dusty paint as you can. Only if you do that and get down to a solid surface that you could use a good-quality primer on – and I would recommend a solvent-based – an oil-based primer on top of that. Only then will you be able to get to a point where the paint’s not going to peel off. But if you’ve got a dusty finish, it is not going to stick.
LESLIE: Alright, Margo. I hope that helps. I know it’s probably not the answer you were looking for and it’s a little bit more work for you. But definitely, it’s going to give you the results that will stay and that’s what you want.
TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thanks for spending a bit of this beautiful, early fall day with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips and ideas for projects to get done around your house. If you’ve got a question on something you’d like to tackle – whether it’s home improvement, maintenance, décor, remodeling, renovation – you can always reach us at MoneyPit.com/Ask. That’s MoneyPit.com/Ask.
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.)
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