- How’s that Spring cleaning going? A cluttered home can definitely leave you feeling stressed. But clearing the deck of clutter is not something that has to take a huge commitment of time. We’ve got 5 clutter busting tips that can help
- Are you green with envy over your neighbor’s lush lawn? We’ll help you catch up with Spring lawn care tips to get started on a healthy green lawn.
- Got Rot? Or is that Termites! Damaged wood can detract from your home’s value. But to make the fix, you first have to know the cause. Learn how to tell what’s been eating your home and make it go away for good.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Peter from Maryland needs a solution for cracks in hardwood floors.
- Pam in Missouri has recessed lighting and wants to know if it’s smart to stock up on lightbulbs needed for these fixers, or just replace them.
- John from Wisconsin is move a washer and dryer in his spare bedroom and wants to know install the venting.
- Lynne in Colorado wants to know how to repair a leaking shower.
- Tim from Virginia how to fix painted windows that stick.
- Joyce in Rhode Island needs to know how remove a smoke odor from her apartment.
- Mark from West Virginia is wondering if he can install a metal roof over asphalt shingles or does he need to remove the old roof first.
- Amy in Iowa wants to know if she should test for radon before installing a basement floor.
- Scott from Michigan has a garage door that keeps freezing to the ground.
- Ellie in Florida wants to know if it’s worth it to keep her water softener.
- Jim from Ohio has a high water table even though he has a subsurface draining system.
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 your solution for home improvement, home décor, home repair, home maintenance. If you’ve got a question about how to get something done around your house, you are in exactly the right place because that’s what we do. And we’ve been doing this for over 20 years. So I guess some people are finding some benefit in what we have to say, as we sort of yawn on about things all weekend long. If you’ve got something you’d like to get done, reach out, let us know. We’d love to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. But you can get your answer quicker if you post it to The Money Pit app by going to MoneyPit.com/Ask.
Hey, coming up on today’s program, how’s that spring cleaning going? What? It’s not? That’s probably most of us. But we thought we’d start the show off with five easy clutter-buster tips, which I thought were pretty unique, pretty original and definitely could help you out.
LESLIE: And while it still might feel like winter outside, spring is going to come eventually. And that means all of that busy spring lawn-and-garden work is going to need to be done, whether you are ready or not. And now is the perfect time to get a head start on those projects. We’re going to share what comes first.
TOM: And with all the spring rain, we tend to get a lot of damaged wood and that can really detract from your home’s value. But to make the fix, you’ve first got to know what caused it. For example, was it caused by rot or termites? What exactly is rot? And what other kinds of bugs can eat wood? Well, we’re going to sort out all the differences, coming up, so you know how to make the fix.
LESLIE: But first, do you guys need some help with a renovation, repair or décor project? Well, we’re here to help you create your best home ever and tackle your to-dos with confidence. So what are you working on? Give us a call, let us know so we can help you out.
TOM: Reach out to us by going to MoneyPit.com/Ask or post your question on the app or calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Peter in Maryland, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
PETER: When we had first moved in, everything was cosmetically perfect. And now, all of a sudden, we’ve got cracks everywhere in our hardwood flooring and our crown molding. Now, certainly, we could live with a little cosmetic shifting but it’s so drastic, I’m wondering if there is a greater, underlying problem here.
TOM: So the cracks in the molding, where are you seeing those cracks? Corners? Is the top and the bottom of the molding separating from the wall? What are you seeing?
PETER: All in the bottom of the molding.
PETER: However, it could be anywhere: corners, middle, anywhere.
TOM: OK. And so you have cracks up at the crown molding, which is between the ceiling and the wall but you also mentioned you had cracks at the floor. What are we seeing at the floor?
PETER: Yeah, it’s more drastic. On the first floor is all hardwood flooring.
PETER: And like I said, it was seamless when we had moved in. Now, over the past 2 months, I’d say every third board has a gap in it. And the gap may be very slight but some are as large as an 1/8-inch now.
TOM: OK. So you’ve got some shrinkage in the floor and you’ve got some gaps in the wall. The entire house could be shrinking. What kind of heating system do you have, Peter?
PETER: It’s electric heat.
TOM: OK. Electric heat. Forced air or radiators? What do you have?
PETER: Oh, it’s forced air.
TOM: It’s a very dry heating system.
Well, I will say this: gaps around molding and gaps around floor and gaps in the crown molding, especially along the walls, that’s generally not the kind of crack that indicates structural movement. When you see walls – that looks like – that sounds like shrinkage. When you see walls that are cracking at the corners or cracking above doorways, physically cracking inside the drywall itself, that’s usually more of a concern. What you’re describing to me sounds a lot more like shrinkage.
That said, I would keep an eye on it. We’re coming off of cold months. If you had the heating system on, you’re going to get a lot of shrinkage then and you’ll get more swelling in the summer as it gets more moist and humid out.
So, you can either keep an eye on it, see what happens or if you want to get a structural opinion, what I would do is I would suggest that you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. That’s ASHI – A-S-H-I –.o-r-g. And look for a certified professional home inspector – an ASHI-certified inspector – in your area. These guys don’t work on houses, so they’d have nothing to gain by finding things that need to be fixed. They’re just there to diagnose. And I would say an ASHI-certified inspector, because they are clearly the best.
In fact, my nephew was buying a house last week and he’s in the Air Force in Florida. And I helped him find an ASHI-certified inspector there and I saw the report and I’ve got to tell you, I said to him – I said, “You know what the name of my show is?” He goes, “Money Pit?” I said, “You’ve got one,” because there was so much wrong with it.
PETER: Mm-hmm. Right.
TOM: So, I would definitely suggest monitoring it. And if you wanted to get an opinion on the structural aspects, bring in a professional home inspector and see what they have to say, OK?
PETER: Alright. Great. I appreciate your time, Tom and Leslie. Enjoy the show all the time.
TOM: Thanks very much, Peter. Have a great day.
LESLIE: Pam in Missouri is on the line with a lighting question.
How can we help you today?
PAM: I have fluorescent lights in my kitchen and two other rooms and they are recessed into the ceiling. They’re the kind like you would put maybe into a shop: those 3- or 4-foot-long tubes, T8 bulbs that I hear are going away?
TOM: Yep. Yes. Uh-huh.
PAM: What can I do?
TOM: So, are you having trouble finding the bulbs? Is that what you’re concerned about?
PAM: I am not now but I’m – hear that they will be not used anymore.
TOM: Yeah. But they last so darn long. Why don’t you just go shop online and buy a case of them and call it a day? I mean really. Yeah, they’ll be harder to find but they’re going to be available, because a lot – there’s a lot of industrial folks that use those in offices and that sort of thing. So I wouldn’t fret too much about that.
Listen, if you want to change your lights at some point, then you can plan that project. But I wouldn’t tell you to rip out and remove all your lighting fixtures now just because you’re worried about a supply problem. I’d just go pick up a case of these things. They last forever. And then put the project off until you’re ready to do some real remodeling.
PAM: I’d rather do that because, otherwise, I’d have a big hole in the ceiling that would have to be patched.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It’s a bigger project for you because they’re built-in. So you’re going to have to take them out, you’re going to have to drywall over the holes. It’s a big job, so – no, I would just pick up a case of the bulbs and live with it for a while, OK?
PAM: Great. That’s easy for me, thanks.
TOM: Yeah. They’re not too expensive.
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: John in Wisconsin is on the line with a washer/dryer question.
Tell us what you’re thinking about there.
JOHN: We were thinking of putting a washer and dryer in our spare bedroom. And where we want to is next to an inner wall. And I was wondering, if we vented it up through into the attic, through the insulation so it’d come out on top, would that be damaging to the – it’d be too much moisture in there or not?
LESLIE: Now, would this still remain a guest room or would this become a new, snazzy laundry room?
JOHN: Yeah, it’d be a laundry room, yeah.
LESLIE: Generally, when you talk about resale value, the amount that you could possibly resell your house for directly correlates to the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms that you have. So, you may want to start by talking with a local realtor who’s familiar with home values in your neighborhood, as to what the effect might be to removing a bedroom.
Now, if you have no intention to sell and you’ve got this dream to have just a kick-butt, gigantic laundry room with perhaps a sewing area and enough ironing space, then this could be awesome for you guys.
TOM: Now, in terms of your technical questions, obviously, you’re going to have to get hot and cold water there and you’re going to have to get electricity there for your washer and your dryer and 240-volt if it’s electric dryer. Venting was the one question you had and can you go up through the wall into the attic? Yes. But you can’t stop there. You have to continue with that vent, John, until it gets outside. You cannot dump the warm, moist, lint-ladened dryer exhaust up into the attic; you’ve got to take it outside.
So, what you should do is only use solid-metal piping, not flex ducting. Get it up in the attic and turn it 90 degrees and then run it across the floor, so to speak, above the joists and then out the side wall of the house, with a proper dryer-vent termination on the outside of it. And the test is when you turn the dryer on, you look outside, you should see the flap open up. You really don’t want to have any restriction. It’s very important you get that lint out, because there’s a lot of dryer fires that happen because people collect too much lint inside those pipes.
JOHN: Oh, I see. Mm-hmm.
JOHN: Yeah. Very good.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Lynn in Colorado who’s got a tricky, leaky shower. Let’s see if we can help her find it.
LYNN: I had a plumber come out once and he said that the pipe and the bottom, where it comes out of the shower, doesn’t always hook up right. So he siliconed it and it didn’t leak but now, once in a while, it’s leaking again. Of course, it’s upstairs so I see it on a ceiling. And I’m wondering, is there some kind of a liner you can put down the pipe, like they do for sewage lines that go out?
TOM: You talking about the supply pipes or you talking about the shower stall?
LYNN: I’m talking about the stall – the drain pipe.
TOM: Do you have – is it a tile shower pan or is it like a plastic shower?
LYNN: Yeah, it’s one of the insert ones.
TOM: Those pans can develop cracks in them and you have to figure out where that crack is. One way to try to figure out at least how high on the pan the crack is is if you block the drain of the pan and fill it up with water and see if it leaks. If it doesn’t leak, then the pan’s fine. Then the next thing you have to do is move up with your sort of analysis and now you’re going to get into the seams of it.
If you’ve got existing caulk, what I would recommend, as a first step, is to remove that caulk using caulk softener. And that’ll allow you to strip out everything that’s there and start clean with some new, good-quality bathroom caulk that’s got a mildicide built into it. And I would just caulk, very carefully, every single seam and also around all the pipes and the faucets and the fixtures, where they come through. Because, sometimes, you get direct leaks where water fills up in the pan and leaks. And a lot of times, though, with showers, you’ll get leaks when the water bounces off your body, hits one of those seams, works its way in behind the wall and down.
So, I would take out the existing caulk, recaulk it and check the shower pan for leaks. And somewhere in that analysis, you’ll probably figure out what’s going on.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, a cluttered home can definitely leave you feeling stressed out. But clearing the deck of clutter is not something that has to have a huge commitment of your time. We’ve got five clutter-busting tips that can help you take on these projects a little bit at a time, courtesy of the experts at HouseLogic.com.
Now, first of all, let’s commit to the rule of five. Every time you get up from your desk or walk
through a room, put away five things. Simple as that. Or each hour, devote 5 minutes to
decluttering. And by the end of the day, you’re going to have cleaned for an hour. That’s pretty
Next, be ruthless about your kitchen sink. You want to pledge to clear and clean that sink every
day. It just takes a couple of seconds or more to place a dish in the dishwasher than dump it in the sink. And a clean sink will instantly raise your spirits and decrease your anxiety.
LESLIE: Alright. Here’s another one: put your photos away. Return to yesteryear when only photos of ancestors or weddings earned a spot. You want to put snapshots in a family album, which immediately declutters a lot of surfaces. I do that. I constantly swap out photos that are framed. And sometimes I have five on one counter and then sometimes I only make it one. So, you know, got to change things up.
TOM: Next, unburden your refrigerator door. They’re just not designed to hold a hundred photographs or magnets or menus or whatever else you’ve got sort of buckled to it. Unburden that door. Researchers found correlations between the number of items stuck to a fridge door and the amount of clutter throughout the house. So I guess if you’ve got a cluttered house, you probably have a cluttered fridge door, so you ought to be able to clear that slate, as well.
LESLIE: And here’s one that I use on the kids all the time: test whether or not you’re going to miss it. So, take the things that you want to get rid of and hide them away. Put them in a box, put them in a bag, whatever, and stash it away for 6 months, a year. If you don’t go looking for it or if the kids don’t ask where whatever is, they don’t need it. You can get rid of it. It’s definitely a good rule of thumb.
TOM: Yeah. And there’s another sort of half step for that that I read about. You could label another box for things that you want to keep but not just look at. You can call that “hide” and put that away. At least you know you’re not going to throw it out but at least it’s out of sight and maybe out of mind and make things look a lot neater inside your house.
LESLIE: Tim in Virginia is dealing with some stuck windows.
Tell us what’s going on.
TIM: Hi. Run into an issue a lot of times, with some of the older homes that I have, with the windows. For some reason, they are painted shut or nailed shut. But I’d like to know how I can resolve that, as well as some of these windows being dual-pane windows with condensation already in them. Next to replacing them, what can I do to resolve that problem?
TOM: Alright. Two separate issues. First of all, I presume we’re talking about old, wood windows being painted shut? Is that correct?
TIM: That is correct.
TOM: You’re going to need three things. You’re going to need a putty knife, a wood block and a hammer.
Here’s what you do. First of all, you take the putty knife and you run it in between the wood window sash and the frame, all the way around, as many places as you can. Wherever you can get that in there, wiggle it in there, that will free it up.
And you take the block of wood and from the inside, you put it on top of the sash and you take the hammer and you take a – make a quick rap. We’re actually driving the window down, as if you’re trying to close it more. Do that on both sides, on both ends. And what that quick rap does is it tends to break the paint seam that’s sticking it to the sides. So if you run the putty knife around and you take the block of wood, give it a quick rap downward, that should free up the bottom sash.
A lot of people try to get their hands under the window and push up. That tends to pull the wood frame of the window apart. But if you give it a shot down, which is somewhat counterintuitive, that works very well.
Now, as far as the windows that you’re dealing with that are thermal-pane and the seals are failed, can’t do anything about that. When they’re failed, they’re failed. And those windows would have to be replaced if you want them to be clear again.
TIM: OK, OK. Alright. I will certainly put that to use, probably within the next week or so, with
the new unit that I just purchased. Thank you so very much.
LESLIE: Joyce in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JOYCE: Have an in-law apartment and someone who was living there for a while was smoking. And we wanted to do whatever we could to get the smell of the smoke out of the apartment.
TOM: Do you have wall-to-wall carpet in there?
JOYCE: There is.
TOM: Yeah, that’s going to be a bit of a problem because I’m sure the odor is into that carpet.
So, a couple things you could do. First of all, if you’re going to paint the apartment, you’re going to want to prime all the walls first. Well, first of all, wash them down, then prime them with a good-quality primer, then paint them. That will help seal in what’s gotten into the walls.
As far as the carpet, a good, thorough, deep steam-cleaning of that. You may have to go over it a number of times to try to get as much dirt and debris and odor out of that carpet as possible. The best thing – if we have situations where this is a real problem, the carpet’s kind of worn, we’ll tell people to take it up and prime the subfloor underneath, believe it or not, to make sure we really seal out any of those odors that have soaked into the wood. But if you prime and paint the walls and if you steam-clean the carpet, that’s probably the best you can do.
What about furniture? Is this place furnished? Do you still have the old furniture in there that the smoker lived with?
JOYCE: The only furniture that’s really in there is a leather living-room set.
TOM: Leslie, what do you think about that? Will the smoke odor get into the – go through the leather and get into the cushions?
LESLIE: Leather is such a natural surface that it is porous in its own right and it depends on what the cushioning is on the inside. You really have to be careful and of course, you can’t really thoroughly clean leather because of its inherent natural qualities. You don’t want it to stain. You might want to see what those cushions are like on the inside. Take out the inserts. If you can replace those, that could be a huge help.
JOYCE: OK, great. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
LESLIE: Mark in West Virginia is on the line with a roofing question.
How can we help you today?
MARK: I was just wondering if I could put a metal roof over top a shingle roof without removing the shingled roof.
TOM: Well, you can but why do you want to do that, Mark? It’s kind of sloppy.
MARK: I just – I’ve never worked with metal and I didn’t know if you could do it that way. Because you can shingle over an old asphalt shingle; you can put another – a layer over top of it. Just getting rid of them – the hassle of getting rid of them in a landfill.
TOM: Technically, you can but I just think it’s going to be a neater, cleaner, more professional job if you take off the asphalt shingles. And they’re not that hard to remove.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you don’t know how many layers are underneath your existing roof. Plus, I don’t know, really, but I’m imagining that a metal roof is going to have some weight to it. And why put that extra stress on the structure? And it’s a lifetime roof; you know, you’re looking at 50 years on a metal roof, so …
MARK: How about cutting it? Any special tools? You have any idea?
TOM: Yeah, it’s all done with shears.
TOM: And you can use hand shears and you can use power shears. But when you work with that stuff all the time, you have the tools that you need to do that. But that’s what you’re going to have to cut it with.
MARK: Well, hey – well, thanks – thank you for being so – and I appreciate it.
LESLIE: Amy in Iowa is on the line with a question about a dirt basement.
Tell us what’s going on.
AMY: Hi. I recently have purchased an old farmhouse and in the basement, it has a dirt floor. And I was wondering if I should lay concrete on it or if I can lay that thick plastic and put gravel on top to help with the radon and try to keep some of the heat in there.
TOM: Do you know that you have a radon problem?
AMY: Well, I don’t. They talk about it in Iowa being an issue. And with it being a dirt floor, I didn’t know if that was something I should have tested first or go ahead and just leave the plastic and the rock and be …
TOM: I would definitely test because you don’t know what you’re dealing with. You may have to put stone down and then put a concrete floor and then do a ventilation system where you draw the gas up off from underneath the concrete. So, the first thing you have to do is test.
So, do it yourself or hire somebody. And do it right. The testing has to be done under closed building conditions with all the windows and doors closed, except for normal exit and entry. And find out what you’re dealing with and then you can take the appropriate steps after that. But don’t just put it down thinking that if you have a radon problem, it’s going to solve it. Because frankly, it may not.
AMY: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much for your help.
TOM: Well, as the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm and that holds true for spring landscaping projects, too. We’re going to help you get ready, right now, in today’s Home Solution Tip presented by Angi.
LESLIE: That’s right. If you wait until the warm weather is here, you’re not going to be able to achieve all of your dream goals for your outdoor spaces. Starting now, by picking your materials and your team, will set you on that road to success.
TOM: Now, first up, remember that researching and planning has to be done first and early spring is the best time to do just that. So start looking into plants you’re interested in and think about trouble spots in your yard that you’d like to improve.
LESLIE: Alright. Second, you’ve got to build your team. Don’t wait until the busy season to start talking with a contractor; they get busy in the spring, as well. So get them while they’ve got the time to work with you and book your project early.
TOM: And third, once you’ve done your early planning, it’s smart to line up all the landscaping products you need. So head on out to your local garden store or nursery early for the best selections. And order materials early so they have time to be delivered.
LESLIE: You’re going to find these and other great tips, to make your spring landscaping project a success, in the Solution Center at Angi.com.
TOM: And that’s today’s Home Solution Tip presented by Angi. When it comes to home projects, they know you want to nail it every time. And Angi does that heavy lifting for you with top pros who get the job done right. Download the Angi app today.
LESLIE: Scott in Michigan is on the line with a garage door that just loves to stay frozen shut.
Tell us what’s going on.
SCOTT: We have – half of our basement is our garage. So on three sides, there’s – two sides are dirt, one side is the house and above is the house. Park two cars in there in the winter. Snow melts off the cars, ends up freezing the doors to the ground. So we end up salting and getting the ice gone and then we shovel it back out.
TOM: What kind of a seal do you have on the bottom of the garage doors?
SCOTT: They are old-school wood doors, so they just have a rubber seal on the bottom. Nothing fancy. But since there’s no center drain. It’s sloped for the water to drain out the front of the doors.
TOM: Have you thought about replacing those rubber gaskets?
SCOTT: Yeah. And we’re – actually, that’s where we’re kind of – the thing where we need to replace the doors because they’re getting in worse shape every year. But we don’t want to put the money into the doors if we’re just going to put new seals on it. We’re just going to hold the water inside then.
TOM: Well, I mean rubber gaskets are designed not to stick to ice, so that might solve part of the problem here. And if you’re thinking about new doors, just replacing the gaskets, if you want to buy yourself a year or so, is not going to add to a big expense. You know, we’re talking about probably $20, $30 in gasket material here and you can do the job yourself.
SCOTT: But do you think that would just hold the water inside and then it would just be an ice-dam inside and freeze?
TOM: No, it’s not that much of a gasket. It’ll let the water run wherever the water wants to run. It just – I don’t think the doors will stick to it as well.
SCOTT: So how is the water, I guess – how is it going to get outside?
TOM: If the water is just sitting there, you’re going – there’s going to be no way for you to drain it and have it run outside. One thing that you could do is you could add garage tiles to the floor. Garage tiles are a floor made specifically for garages that sit up about a ½-inch or so off of the floor or ¾-inch off of the floor. And those are good because the water will drain through the tiles and kind of sit below them until it evaporates away.
There’s a lot of different styles and colors online and they can actually be quite attractive and look kind of cool, as well.
SCOTT: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Ellie in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ELLIE: Yes. I just recently moved to Florida and the house I bought, the water softener is broken because – I believe it’s because they had it outside the home. Every other house in my community has them in the garage. And mine, they – for some reason, the water line is on the opposite side of the house, in the garage. So, it would be a – I believe it would be a major thing to have the water line brought from one side of the house to the other so I could have it inside.
And Sears tells me that I can have it put outside but you have to have some kind of protective covering. Lowe’s tells me that they don’t sell any that go outdoors. And a private plumbing company is telling me that they have one that – to put outside, specifically. And other people are saying you don’t even need one, to go – don’t even bother the expense. So, I don’t know what to do.
TOM: So, first of all, the question is: do you need a water softener or not?
ELLIE: Right. I’ve looked online and I see the pros and cons.
TOM: Right. Well, if you – if you’re accustomed to a water softener and you eliminate it, you may find that you don’t like that experience. You certainly could bypass the water softener just to see if you like the water.
Is the water city water?
ELLIE: Well, it’s not well water. So does that mean it is city water? I don’t know.
TOM: Yeah, it’s city water. If it’s city water, you probably do not need a water softener.
ELLIE: Well, I was – I think no. I don’t think it is city water because people in Ocala, I think they told me that they don’t need it; they have city water. I could be wrong; I’m not sure. But everybody in this development says you need it.
TOM: Ellie, the first thing you want to do is figure out if you’ve got city water. If you do, it’s going to be treated. If you’ve got well water, then you do need, probably, a water conditioner, as well as to have the water tested to make sure that it’s safe. And that’s something that should be done on an occasional basis.
Now, in terms of the enclosures, given the fact that you’re in Florida and we’re not concerned about freezing pipes, I wouldn’t be too concerned about putting it outside. I would want to have it enclosed. Now, how do you do that? Well, you either use one that’s rated to be outside – and perhaps your – the water-treatment company – the plumbing company has one that has such a certification, that’s designed for interior or exterior use and that’s fine. And if not, you’re going to have to construct something or have something constructed or perhaps pick up a small shed or something of that nature where the equipment could be protected from the weather.
But I think the first thing you need to do is determine whether or not you need it and determine what kind of water supply you have. If it’s well water, get it tested. You can even have the hardness tested. You’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with. And if it’s city water, then I think you can try bypassing the system you have right now and see if you like it.
I hope that helps you out. Ellie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, after a long, cold, wet winter, spring is the perfect time to check your home’s exterior for damage. But how do you tell the difference between wood that’s rotted and wood that’s been damaged by insects? Either way, the wood’s got to be repaired but if insects are the attacker of that wood, you’re also going to need to call in a pest professional to make sure that they don’t come back.
TOM: Now, if the wood is rotted, it’s going to look spongy, almost like cork. But if the wood’s been attacked by wood-destroying insects, that damage is going to have a definite pattern to it.
So, think about the rings of a tree, right? You have the thin rings and those are the hard, slow, winter growth. And then you get the thick rings, which are the soft, fast, summer growth. Now, both carpenter ants and termites will eat that soft summer growth and then leave that thin winter growth alone. So it’ll be definitely a very distinct pattern in the type of damage. Plus, termites will also leave some mud or sand behind, because they use that sand to build tunnels that help keep them protected while they go about munching away. It helps keep them moist and protected from the sun.
LESLIE: Oh, isn’t that lovely? Thank you so much, termites.
TOM: It’s their outside coat.
LESLIE: Here’s one more tip when it comes to wood-rot damage. Many people refer to this as dry rot but that’s really a misnomer. Dry rot is nothing more than rotted wood that has dried out. So, rot needs moisture to develop and besides the repair, you’re going to need to protect that wood with a proper finish to keep it from happening again and well, again and again.
Alright. Now, we’ve got Jim on the line from Ohio who’s dealing with a high water table.
JIM: Hi. Our sump pump runs like crazy and we’ve tried to make sure that the drainage is a little – far away from the foundation. We even went so far as to get the basement sealed and waterproofed, all that stuff, which I think we wasted our money on. But nonetheless, sump pump runs like crazy. All these things have been addressed. It’s just – and everybody says around here it is a hugely high water table, if that makes sense.
TOM: So, does your basement leak more after a hard rain?
TOM: So the rainfall is consistent?
TOM: So this could be the unique situation where you really truly do have a high water table. If you get basement leakage and precipitation that is worse after a snow melt or a rainfall, then it’s almost always gutter problems or problems with drainage, angle of the grade, that sort of thing.
JIM: Right, right. As a matter of fact, we took your advice from past shows and had all that stuff addressed, because it is such a common issue. But this is the oddball. Leave it to us to have the oddball.
TOM: If you truly do have a high water table and you have a subsurface drainage system in below the floor of the basement, then that’s pretty much all that you really can or should be doing right now. Is the water evidencing itself in some way? Is it coming up beyond the floor?
JIM: No, no. It stays in the sump pump. I know my pump’s not going to last forever. We go through – we’ve gone through 7 or 8 of them in 12 years.
TOM: Take a look at the pumps that are made by Wayne – the Wayne Pump Company. They make really good pumps that – in fact, they have pumps that are auto-reversing so that if they do get clogged, that they will reverse themselves to kind of spit out the clog and then come back on again.
JIM: Oh, OK. Awesome. You guys rock.
LESLIE: Miriam is posting a question this week that says, “I need to know how to stain new cedar white or maybe even a light gray. Can you help?”
Now, with new cedar – I mean generally, with any sort of unfinished wood you’ve got to give it time to cure. But I imagine, with a siding, it kind of goes up ready to be finished.
TOM: Well, if you buy it that way from the factory.
LESLIE: Oh, interesting.
TOM: Actually, you could probably order it primed, which would be really smart. Because if I was putting up wood siding, I would definitely want to make sure that it was primed on all sides before I put it up, because that’s really going to help preserve it, you know.
TOM: Because you’re never going to be able to get to that back side again. And I have seen projects where folks have not primed back sides and you can see where the paint failed there first.
LESLIE: Ah. And it’s so important to get to the back side of it and you just can’t once it’s on the house. Because if that starts to rot out or decompose or anything on the back side – which, eventually it will – it’s just going to happen there first.
So now, say your siding’s ready to go. With a stain, if you’re going for a white or a light gray, that seems to me like you’re looking for a pretty solid color. So you’re going to want to go with a solid stain, which just means it’s super pigmented. So when you put it on, it sort of permeates into the wood and really covers it and really gives it a deep pigmentation.
And Tom, actually – you always recommend a primer, which I always think is interesting. Because when I think of primer, I strictly think of for paint usage. I’ve never thought about it for a staining.
TOM: Nope, I think it’s smart to prime it because cedar, especially, has sort of a tannin in it, which is like an oil. And if you prime it, it seals it in, which is good and you’ll get better adhesion.
TOM: And frankly, the stain will last a lot longer if you prime it first. If you’re not doing white or light color like that, you can actually tint the primer to match the color of the stain, which will make the coverage even greater.
LESLIE: Alright, Miriam. Good luck with what seems like brand-new siding on your awesome house.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Robbie who writes: “I don’t think the attic fan has stopped running since I bought my house last year. I adjusted the temperature to 110. It was at 60. But this fan also has a humidistat and it just still keeps running.”
TOM: Huh. That’s kind of odd. I can’t imagine why the fan has a humidity control, because it’s not like you can effectively pull the humidity out of the house that way.
LESLIE: Which is probably why it keeps running.
TOM: Yeah. It could also be dangerous because if that fan came on during the heating season – which it could because think of a cold, damp day; it would still be humid – it could actually depressurize the house and then draw a combustion gas from the furnace into the house instead of letting it go up the chimney, which could be super dangerous.
So, my advice would be to disconnect it and here’s why: because attic fans are seldom the most efficient way to vent an attic. They will pull air, not only from the attic but also from your house where they’re going to steal air conditioning or in your case, heated air. So, it’s going to be expensive to run. I would recommend that you replace it with a continuous ridge-and-soffit ventilation system. That’s something, when properly installed, it pretty much runs 24/7. It’s going to take heat and moisture out in the summer and of course, also take out that humidity and that cold damp in the winter. So you’re much better off without it.
LESLIE: Alright, Robbie. I hope that helps you out. Because something running constantly like that, first of all, it’s going to cost you a ton of money but is absolutely unnecessary. So, good luck with your new house.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hope that you guys are enjoying the spring day where you are in the country. If you’ve got questions on spring home improvement projects you’d like to get done inside or out, remember, you can reach us 24/7. Best way to do that is by going to MoneyPit.com/Ask and downloading The Money Pit app. That’s the fastest way to get the questions to us and we will get you the answers just as quickly.
Until then, 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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