- Freezer Storage: Find the foods you want and stop food waste with these freezer organizing tips.
- Snow Removal: Tired of shoveling snow off your driveway? Find out the pros and cons of heated driveways.
- Stairs and Railings: Squeaky stairs and rickety railings are easy to fix with these DIY steps.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Water Heater Repairs: Joe’s tankless water heater is still under warranty but he’s having trouble getting it repaired. He should contact the manufacturer directly to find a contractor in his area.
- Wall Cracks: Leslie thinks her home is settling after a wall was torn down from an adjacent house. We have info about making sure the surrounding soil is solid and how to repair common wall cracks.
- Roof Leaks: David can’t find the leak that’s coming from under the old solar water heating system on his roof. We’ve got tips on locating the path of the roof leak and suggest installing a new tankless heater.
- Circuit Breakers: A newly installed dehumidifier stops working and floods the basement after tripping the circuit breaker. Kayla can easily install an additional circuit to boost her 100-amp service.
- Installing a Fence: What is the best way to pour a cement foundation for a fence when there’s water in the ground? We explain to Vincent how far down he should dig and how to displace the groundwater with cement.
- Drain Odors: There’s a strange odor coming from the drains in Barbara’s kitchen and bathroom. It’s probably biogases from decaying debris, but a bleach solution can make things fresh again.
- Soundproofing: Ian wants to build a recording studio and needs soundproofing suggestions. The easiest and cheapest option is to add a layer of sound-resistant drywall all around the room.
- Floor Tiles: Ellen says her bathroom floor tiles are moving and the grout is falling apart. That means the tiles were not adhered properly and she’ll either need to remove and replace them or install a layer of laminate flooring over them.
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 so glad you are here with us today, because we do have a great show in store.
Coming up on today’s show, don’t you hate digging through your freezer to find all the food you want? Have you ever bought something only to find that you already had it? But you were so disorganized, you didn’t know you had it? That happens in that scenario, too.
TOM: So we’re going to share some tips for organizing that freezer so you can find those frozen items more easily and reduce food waste.
LESLIE: And would you do anything to avoid shoveling snow again? Well, we’ve got a serious solution for anyone who’s had enough shoveling for their lifetime.
TOM: Yeah. And serious and solution are both spelled with a dollar sign.
LESLIE: Yes. And by serious solution, we mean expensive.
TOM: Plus, a gorgeous banister and a dramatic newel post can add a stylish look to your stairs. But if you’ve got years of manhandling and all the kids running up and down the stairs and all that kind of thing, they get shaky, they get loose, they start to crack. But the fixes are actually pretty easy. We’re going to walk you through those.
LESLIE: But first, what are you guys working on? You need some help? Maybe you’re planning a renovation or you’re working on a repair or thinking about redecorating. Whatever it is, we are here to help you create your best home ever and tackle your to-dos with confidence.
TOM: So let’s get to it. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or click the blue microphone button on MoneyPit.com and record your question, send us a voicemail and we will get back to you the next time we produce the program.
So let’s get going. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Joe in Rhode Island, what’s going on at your money pit?
JOE: I’ve got a Quietside boiler – tankless water tank and boiler – where you heat hot water? Recently, we’ve been having some issues. It’s throwing some codes. And we’ve called a few different plumbers and everyone seems to be reluctant to work on it, because they’ve got – company got bought out by Samsung. And it takes anywhere from 1 day to 30 days to get a part for it. So, all these plumbers that we’re having – we’ve been calling bigger companies, local contractors. And they – like I said, they’re all reluctant to work on it.
We’re in the idea of purchasing a new one but we want to stay within the same type of unit. But we’re also afraid of buying another unit like that and then have the company bought out or sold and we’re kind of stuck in the same position that we are now. The unit is about 4 years old. It’s got another year for warranty.
TOM: Well, I mean with this warranty, what do you do if you have to file a warranty claim? Is there a customer-service number for it or something of that nature?
JOE: Yes. There is a recall on it, too. I guess there are a couple of fuses that have to be replaced on it. This is all stuff – these are all things that have been brought to my attention within the past 2 weeks.
TOM: Well, have you taken it upon yourself to try to contact the company directly and see how they might process a warranty claim if it’s not working well?
JOE: Correct. I did and I’m waiting for a call back from them. They’re in California and we’re in little Rhode-y, so time differences and things like that. I did leave them a couple of voicemails.
TOM: Well, I would start with that. They may, in fact, have contractors in the area that are willing to do this sort of work. I don’t think this is indicative of a problem with the – with all of the appliances – all of the tankless water-heater appliances. They’ve been around now – very popular – for over 10 years and they work very, very well.
There’s a couple of things that commonly go wrong with them. And the first one is usually the plumber that installs them, because they need a bigger gas line. And often, they don’t put the right-size gas line in and that causes the water heater to underperform. And then if you have hard water – because sort of the intestines of this thing have a long, circuitous route that the water has to follow. If it’s a – if you have a hard-water problem, those can get clogged up.
But other than that, they’ve been pretty darn reliable. So I would put some effort into seeing if you can make a claim under this warranty, Joe. And if you can’t and you decide to go with a new one, I think if you went with a Rinnai or a Rheem or another name brand like that, I don’t think you’re going to have this problem again.
Alright. Well, I think you have a plan now, Joe, so good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got another Leslie on the line. I love it when a Leslie joins us.
What’s going on?
LESLIE (CALLER): I live in a hundred-year-old row home. It’s a habitat home – completely refurbished. And it’s a row home. And they tore down the terrible, dilapidated home attached to mine. But now I’m noticing a lot of settling on the side where the other home was.
LESLIE (CALLER): And I’m concerned about the settling because I’m getting some serious-looking cracks in a corner on the side where the home was torn down.
TOM: So, when you say you see settling, are you talking about the soil? The grading is sagging outside that wall?
LESLIE (CALLER): It’s inside where I’m seeing the cracks.
TOM: You see cracks, you’re calling that “settling.” Is that right?
LESLIE (CALLER): Yeah, yes. That’s what I mean.
TOM: OK. I just wanted to make sure I understand what we’re talking about.
- So first of all, yes, when they tear down a house, you’ve got to make sure that the soil that remains is compressed, it’s packed. And very often, that doesn’t happen. Because the earth-moving machine just pushed dirt back in there. And yeah, they may run over it a time or two but it’s just not that same.
And so I would definitely, just as a basic step, take a look at that outside edge of the house. And make sure – in a best case scenario, Leslie, your soil, we want it to slope away from that exterior wall so that we’re not allowing water to collect up near your house. Because when the water collects too close to that house, it can disturb the footings, it can make the foundations a little less stable. And that can potentially lead to some cracking and shifting.
Now, that said, the fact that you’ve got cracks in walls and corners doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a terrible problem going on, because that’s typical to any house. If your walls – are your walls made of plaster or are they made of drywall? Were all the walls replaced?
LESLIE (CALLER): All the walls were replaced.
TOM: OK. So we’re talking about cracks in drywall, not cracks in plaster.
So, if you have cracks in drywall, the mistake that people make is they use the wrong type of drywall tape. You want to not use paper type but use fiberglass tape, which has sort of a mesh pattern to it, little 1/8-inch squares. And it’s a little sticky. So you put that across the crack first, then you spackle over that two or three layers. And that does a much better job of staying in place and stopping that crack from forming again.
LESLIE (CALLER): I’ve learned a lot. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with your projects. Thanks so much for calling us.
LESLIE (CALLER): Uh-huh. Bye.
LESLIE: David in Tennessee is on the line with a roofing question.
How can we help you?
DAVID: Well, I have a 1965 house with about a 1975 solar water-heater heating system that has – that quit working quite a while ago. And I have a leak somewhere underneath it, I think, but finding that leak has – I’ve been fighting that for a few years now. And of course, the fact is that where it drips from – where the water drips from – and stains my ceiling doesn’t seem to have much to do with the location of the actual leak.
TOM: So, first of all, this water heater – this solar water heater – is 40 years old? Is that what you’re saying?
DAVID: Yeah. Well, yeah. TBA had a program back in those days. We’ve been in this house for almost 45 years, so it really has been a while.
TOM: Yeah, it sounds that way. I’m pretty sure that water heater doesn’t really owe you anything but let’s see if we can help you figure out, at least, where it’s leaking.
Now, if it’s not leaking directly underneath where the water heater is, one of the things that you could do is you could try to run a hose across that roof and strategically move it from one end to the next or across the area where it’s most susceptible. And see if you can figure out what causes it to leak. If that doesn’t do it, then it’s most likely being caused by wind-driven rain and that becomes a lot more difficult for you to pinpoint. Does that make sense?
DAVID: Yeah. I think it’s probably not that because it – we do get windy rain here in Memphis but it will happen when we’re just getting a – just kind of a slow drizzle. And it’s not a great deal of water but – I mean it always drops but – it’s enough drops but it’s going to do damage.
TOM: You know, the other thing that you could use that might help us pinpoint where this is happening, David, is an infrared scanning device. So, infrared devices are often used by roofers to find leaks, because the temperature of the roofing where it’s wet is different than the temperature where it’s not wet. So, by using an infrared device, you can sometimes identify the full sort of path of the flow, from point of entry to where it shows up on your ceiling.
DAVID: Now, we’re not talking about these little devices with the temperature indication and the laser pointer? We’re talking about an infrared camera?
TOM: No, no. We’re talking about an actual – yeah, an actual infrared camera. And the thing is that they’ve become a lot less expensive. They used to be thousands of dollars but now you can buy one that snaps into the end of your iPhone and turns the phone into an infrared camera. So, they’re pretty affordable. Or if you’re dealing with a roofer, a roofer would have some more industrial equipment. But I think those are the kinds of things you ought to do to try to narrow down the possibilities. But you know what? After 40 years, it might be time to think about replacement.
DAVID: Well, I think I’ll just get rid of it. I’m thinking about putting in the tankless.
TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s true and that’s a much better investment. And you know what? There’s still some rebates on those, so you might pick up a tax credit by doing just that.
David, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, guys. Don’t you just hate digging through your freezer to find the food that you want? Well, stocking up your freezer is truly a great way to take advantage of grocery sales, preserve seasonal foods and keep your leftovers handy. But it can be a headache to search for exactly what you need, when you need it. And that freezer space is often super limited.
Well, avoiding freezer burn is a lot easier. And here are some tips that can help you get organized.
So, first of all, you want to start off by taking inventory and then figuring out what you use most often, to make those items more accessible. Now, each time you add or remove food items, you want to update the lists so you don’t run out of what you need or buy things you already have.
TOM: You also want to use freezer-safe containers, dividers, baskets and bins to hold things and take full advantage of all that space. You should sort and store your food items vertically – kind of like books on a shelf – rather than stacking them. And that helps to prevent avalanches, which is what happens when you need to pull something out from the bottom of the pile. Or sometimes just opening the freezer door can force it all to come tumbling out.
LESLIE: Stop spying on my freezer, Tom.
You want to be sure to label every item with a marker so you can identify what it is and when it was packaged. This way, you can check freshness dates and serving sizes later. And keep items that expire sooner in a more visible spot to help reduce waste and avoid freezer burn.
LESLIE: Now, think about also the types of refrigerators and freezers. There’s so many different types and styles and that’s going to determine how you actually store things. So, in a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, for instance, the door is the warmest area. So you can use that space for things like breads, nuts, flour, herbs, ice packs and narrow containers.
Now, in a bottom refrigerator/freezer, you’re going to want to stack similar items so that no mystery items are buried at the bottom of the freezer. So, for instance, you want to make vertical stacks of vegetables, poultry, meats, pizzas, whatever it is so that you can work your way down a category.
And chest freezers, those have a tremendous amount of depth. So you can keep those items you use most towards the top and store less needed items further down. And storage containers or milk crates, that can provide extra layers to build upon in those large chest freezers. So you can kind of move stuff around in larger units rather than piece by piece.
Now, in a top freezer/refrigerator combo or even an upright freezer, you can create drawers out of bins, dividers out of plastic magazine holders and plastic shelves to create organized zones. I mean you’ve just got to create spaces and then fill them accordingly.
TOM: I tell you what, if you organize your freezer now, it takes a little bit of thinking about how to kind of get that done. But man, does it make a huge difference in being able to find everything you’re looking for and when you need it, avoiding food that stays in there too long to the point where you have to throw it out and worse, buying something you already have. So it’s worth spending a couple of hours emptying that freezer, cleaning it while you’re at it and then reorganize it following some of these tips.
LESLIE: Kayla in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
KAYLA: Just got married and moved into a new home. And it already had a Honeywell whole-home humidifier installed in it. And it seems like a dream come true. I thought it was going to be amazing.
But we have 100-amp service and every now and then, our breaker will trip and I – you don’t even know downstairs unless you’re down there. And I have gone down a couple times and it was – the basement is flooded. And it floods over into the other room, into the – where I eventually want to lay carpet and have a family room.
TOM: Is that because the dehumidifier condensate pump stops working?
KAYLA: I’m not sure what it is. There’s an overfill thing for it and I’m assuming it’s supposed to lead to a drain. But the drain is in the laundry room, which is in the opposite direction.
TOM: OK. So when everything is working correctly, this dehumidifier is going to take moisture out of the air, drop it into a reservoir, which you either have to empty or it will pump out somewhere.
Usually, if it’s got a condensate pump associated with it, it could pump up sort of against gravity and there’s a clear, plastic tube that goes out and leads to a drain somewhere or even outside the house. If you have a power failure, you know, it’s not going to work and it might actually start to leak maybe back into that room where you are. Of course, the dehumidifier is not working at that time, so it’s not going to leak for long. But I could see how it could create a bit of a puddle. So your problem is not so much with the dehumidifier but why you’re having a problem popping these breakers.
Now, 100-amp service is actually a pretty darn good service and it frequently doesn’t get the respect it deserves. When these breakers pop, it’s not usually because you’re pulling more than 100 amps. It’s because that whatever circuit you have this particular dehumidifier on is – needs to be improved, perhaps, by adding an additional circuit. But the service for the house should be fine.
KAYLA: OK. It does have a clear hose that leads outside.
TOM: That’s what’s going on. When your power goes out, the pump stops working and that’s why it’s leaking, OK? So focus on getting this plugged into a circuit that is a little bit bigger than what you have right now. An electrician could help you sort this out but it’s not a big deal to add an additional circuit just for that device.
KAYLA: Alright. Sounds good.
TOM: Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Vincent in Texas is putting up a fence and needs some help with the project.
What can we do for you?
VINCENT: Yeah. I’m putting up a chain-link in front of my house. Where my house is, it’s in the dip of the street. But the street goes up on each end.
VINCENT: And I’m about four blocks from the lake. And we had a lot of rain and that water levels up. And when I’m about 14 inches down, I’m hitting water.
VINCENT: Is there a special cement or how should I do that when setting the post?
TOM: OK. So what you want to do is – because it’s chain-link, you’re going to want to dig down about 3 feet. And try to do that with a post-hole digger even if you hit water. And then the way you deal with this is you mix up concrete, like a QUIKRETE product.
It’s a basic masic (ph) concrete mix. Mix it up in a wheelbarrow to the right consistency and then shovel it into the hole and let it displace the water that’s in the hole. Does that make sense? So as you put the concrete in, the water will kind of work its way right out. And what will be left will be the concrete. It will dry nice and rock-solid and you’ll be good to go.
VINCENT: OK. Thank you. You saved me a lot of worry.
TOM: Alright. Don’t worry about it. That’s the way to handle that. Mix it out of the hole and then drop it in the hole and the water will displace.
LESLIE: Barbara in South Dakota is on the line with a cigarette-smoking house.
What’s going on?
BARBARA: Just have a strange odor coming from the drain in the kitchen sink and also a slight drain in the bathroom. Not sure where it’s coming from or how to correct it, so I thought I’d give you a call.
TOM: OK. But you describe it as a smoke-like odor?
BARBARA: A smoke, like someone’s been smoking in the house. I know it’s the strangest thing. We don’t have smokers.
TOM: And you have it in the bathroom and where else did you say?
BARBARA: Well, mainly in the kitchen sink. Sometimes, when you just come into the kitchen, you can smell it and sometimes it’s real strong. Other times, it’s a lighter smell.
TOM: What it might be – especially because you have it in both wet locations – it might be biogas. So biogas happens when you get debris in the kitchen sink that just sits there for the longest time and it starts to decay and leaves off an awful odor.
So, what you might need to do is to really scrub those drains in both of those sinks. And I would use a bleach solution to do that, like OxiClean or something of that nature. It’s like an oxygenated bleach. And I would try to sort of cover all of that in that solution and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes so it really kills any of the bacteria that’s laying in there.
But you can get some pretty odiferous bacteria that can cause that type of odor and have it emanate from the drains and sinks and bathrooms. We’ve seen it many times.
BARBARA: But where does the debris come from? Because we’re all using the garbage disposal.
TOM: Bacteria. You’re not going to see this level of debris.
LESLIE: Yeah. And it just sort of sticks to the side, just naturally.
TOM: It grows in there. Yeah. Mm-hmm.
BARBARA: OK. But you mean fill the sink with bleach – kind of bleach water? How would you keep it?
TOM: Yeah. With like an OxiClean. Not so much the sink but more importantly, that drain. You want to get that drain really coated in that bleach solution.
BARBARA: OK. So just let it sit there so it goes through the elbow, right?
TOM: Yep. Exactly.
BARBARA: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Give it a shot. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you swore you’d do anything to avoid shoveling out your driveway again, here’s the real test: are you willing to invest in a heated driveway? They’re not cheap but they can handle the job while you stay warm inside.
TOM: And here’s how they work. A boiler essentially pushes antifreeze through pipes that run underneath the driveway’s surface. And this keeps it warm enough so the snow never even collects in the first place.
LESLIE: Now, unfortunately, this system isn’t something that you can retrofit into your existing driveway and it can’t work with existing pipes, either. So the upfront cost includes a new driveway. And since your current one will need to be dug up, that’s what you’re going to have to do.
TOM: So, look, no doubt it’s an expensive thing to install. So start by comparing the price to the cost of a long-term snow-removal contract, right? Because that’s what you’re really saving. It might be more cost-effective to just hire a plow to haul away snow every winter. But if you live in an area that’s super snowy or a luxury upgrade is what you’re after, a heated driveway is definitely one your neighbors will notice and prospective buyers will not forget.
LESLIE: Ian in North Carolina is on the line and wants to build a recording studio. We might be able to help with that.
IAN: Well, I am – it’s kind of a bucket-list project. I was given my grandmother’s old house and they built on an extension to the house and I’m trying to convert it into just that: a semi-professional recording studio. And I’ve done a little research on this acoustic-foam stuff but it’s ridiculously expensive. And I’m trying to figure out a different method to basically achieve the same effect.
TOM: First of all, if you want to soundproof a room in a residential home, you have to use materials that are specifically designed to do that. Probably the least expensive way to do it is with a material called “soundproof drywall” or “sound-resistant drywall.” There’s a couple of different brands that sell this product. But essentially, what you would do is you would put a second layer of drywall over the existing layer. And this new drywall has sound-resistant capabilities to it or qualities to it so it absorbs the sound and keeps it nice and quiet.
Where the rubber meets the road with this is at the penetrations to the wall. So if there’s a light, an outlet or a switch, there are some very specific steps you have to take in those areas to soundproof them. And there’s a putty that has to be installed around it. It’s quite involved. But that’s the least expensive way to probably – to do this.
You know, generally, when you have sound-resistant construction, you have kind of a wall inside of a wall so that the two walls are not touching each other.
IAN: Like floating?
TOM: Yeah, kind of like floating. Like a non-bearing wall.
IAN: Right, right. OK.
TOM: But you could do that to the walls and the ceilings but then, what do you do about the floor?
IAN: Right. OK.
TOM: So, take a look at soundproof drywall and see if that kind of gets you closer to where you want to go on this, OK?
IAN: That sounds great. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Well, a gorgeous banister and a dramatic newel post can definitely make your staircase look super stylish. But if you’ve got kids who run up and down the stairs and grab it and slide down the banister and all kinds of nonsense shenanigans, it can definitely cause those shaky stairs and loose railings that definitely need some fixing.
But Tom, the fix for many of these problems is fairly easy, right?
TOM: Well, yes, it definitely can be. Stairs and railings take a lot of punishment, so the posts are pretty much normal wear and tear, especially if they were nailed in place as opposed to bolted or screwed in place.
LESLIE: And a step is going to loosen just like a floorboard. And they can creak and make a racket, too.
Now, Tom, I know that one of your many jobs as a younger home improver was actually building stairs and railings. So, what’s the fix here?
TOM: Well, that’s right. And the good news is they can often make the repair with a single screw. And this is going to strengthen that attachment.
Now, the best way to do that is to go all the way through that post and into the adjacent stair tread. So you’ve got to kind of make sure everything lines up right. What I would typically do is countersink the fastener and hide the heads with plugs. Now, if it was a long screw, it could be a ½-inch plug. But if it was a lag bolt, which I often would use for this job, I would basically plug it with a 1-inch diameter dowel. You can use a spade bit to cut a hole that’s ¼-inch deep or maybe even a little bit more, with a 1-inch spade. But then you could use a 1-inch dowel to plug it if you can’t find 1-inch plugs.
But you basically want to make sure that you use a really good piece of hardware to get into not the riser, which is the part underneath the tread, but the tread itself. Because that’s the strongest part of the wood to hold it in place.
Now, if the post has come completely loose or it’s just easier to remove it and kind of start over, there’s another very handy way to reattach it, especially if the steps are going to be carpeted. And that is that you can pick up what’s called a “post plate.”
Now, it’s basically a steel plate that’s about ¼-and-½-inch wider than the post. And there are four holes in that for screws that hold the plate to the post and another four that hold the plate to the step or the floor. This can be a really super-strong and easy-to-install way to attach a post. Just make sure that when you attach it to the floor, you’re hitting a beam and not a thing like a plywood subfloor, which is just pretty thin. It would not hold those screws.
LESLIE: Yeah. But what about those shaky, loose stair treads and maybe the squeaks and the creaks?
TOM: So, for that, what I would use is – for the treads, I would use something called a “trim screw.” It’s kind of like a drywall screw that you see in stores but it has a really thin head and it countersinks itself. So you can basically attach the screws to the risers by screwing through them into the risers which is, again, the sides and the front of the step. And you can essentially attach the risers into the stringers. So, wherever you have a loose area, you can tighten it up. And instead of nailing it, you want to use a trim screw for a place like that.
And if you’ve got a loose baluster, which happens a lot – the balusters where they go up into the bottom of the rail – a really, really, really easy way to do that is to take a toothpick, dip it in some wood glue and stick it up in that hole so it acts as a wedge. And then snap it off in place. And once that dries, the baluster won’t wiggle anymore.
LESLIE: Now, what about this? I had an issue in my old plaster walls from the boys just constantly running up the step and grabbing those banisters that are attached to the walls. How do you make that rock-solid?
TOM: Yeah. So that’s a challenge. If you can’t find the stud or if you’re in the space where there’s just a void behind it, it’s always better to put those brackets over a stud, so that’s number one. If you can’t, there’s a whole wide variety of toggle-type bolts today that work very, very well. This wasn’t for a stair but over in my mom’s house, we needed to attach a grab bar in her bathroom just to make it a little bit safer for her. And I had to attach it into ceramic tile. And I really didn’t have the option to be able to make sure it precisely aligned with the stud.
So, I used a toggle bolt. I slipped it in there behind the bracket and it release behind the wall. I tightened it up. And I’ll tell you, it is just as strong as if it was in a stud. So there is hardware to make this possible. You just can’t leave a screw in drywall because that’s just going to fall right out.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. I moved that railing around so much until I finally decided I just didn’t need it.
TOM: Yeah, right? Being less important as time went on.
LESLIE: Helen in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you with your tiling project?
HELEN: I just basically have a question about what I should do with tile. The grout is actually falling apart and I’ve been told that it was – actually, the wrong materials were used by the contractor. And so, now I have a floor that I need – basically need to redo it.
TOM: OK. So the grout does have to come off and there’s a number of ways to do that. If it’s a lot of floor, you’re probably going to want to have a contractor do this. They can grind out that grout. There’s a variety of tools that can do that job. And then once it’s ground out, basically, you can just reapply it. Pretty straightforward project.
Are the tiles solid? Are the tiles moving at all or is it really just the grout that’s falling out?
HELEN: No. The tiles are moving. And I think that’s part of the problem.
TOM: Oh, wait. The tiles are moving?
TOM: If the tiles are moving, your problem is not the grout; your problem is the tile. So, the grout might just be evidence that the tiles are moving. But if the tiles were not adhered well and they’re shifting, that’s going to break off little pieces of grout as a matter of that action – of that movement.
So in that case, yes, you may need to pull the whole floor out. If it’s just not installed well, you really can’t do anything about that if you want tile. If you want to do something besides tile, you could install laminate flooring – which, by the way, is beautiful these days and it can actually look a lot like tile – on top of the old tile, if that’s something that interests you. But generally speaking, if the tile is not adhered well and it’s coming up and getting loose, that’s more and more likely what’s causing the grout to fall out.
HELEN: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Helen. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Sometimes what you see is not the actual problem; it’s evidence of the problem. It’s kind of what you’re not seeing that could be causing it. You know what I mean, Leslie?
TOM: So in this case, if the grout is loose, she’s thinking, “Well, I’ve got bad grout.” Well, not really. Apparently you’ve got bad tile.
LESLIE: Jerry reached out to Team Money Pit and he says, “I have a 12-year-old house that’s all electric. Every year, my electric bill has gone up and I’m wondering if it would be cost-effective to replace the water heater. If so, should I go with a tanked or tankless option? It’s just me and my dogs, so I don’t use a lot of hot water.”
TOM: I love that.
Well, listen, if you’ve got electric water heaters, you don’t have a tankless option because it really is going to be super expensive to run a tankless electric water heater. I’d be giving you different advice is it was a gas water heater.
But what I would tell you very simply is this: I would not replace the 12-year-old water heater just yet. Because even through it’s beyond the warranty, they do last longer. When you’re ready to do that, I would install one with a 240-volt timer as an additional element. And only set that water heater to run about 8 of 24 hours. You have it run before you get up in the morning, have it go off after breakfast or maybe when you go to work, bring it on for a few hours around dinner and shower time and then you leave it off the rest of the way. Because the tank’s insulated, you will have warm water throughout the day and you won’t be running it, 24/7, to keep that water hot.
LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Deanna in Charlotte, North Carolina who says, “My home is 21 years old and I’m not having any electrical trouble. But my air-conditioning company and another electrician said I should replace the electrical panel because it’s older. Circuits aren’t tripping, it’s not hot to the touch, there isn’t rust. The only thing they said was when they scanned it, it was reading slightly hot. Is this something that usually gets done or am I being taken advantage of?”
TOM: I have no idea what they’re talking about, scanning something that’s hot. Because that’s not something a normal tradesman would do.
I would say that, no, you don’t replace an electrical panel. It doesn’t wear out. You replace it if you need bigger size. So, for example, if you’re putting in a new air-conditioning system and you don’t have the circuits for that, then maybe you replace it at that point. But generally speaking, if it’s installed right, it does not wear out. It is not something you have to replace on any kind of a regular basis. It’s not like replacing a roof or replacing another appliance. It pretty much is static unless you need to increase its size.
LESLIE: Alright. Hope that helps you out, Deanna.
TOM: Well, the long, dark days of winter do tend to give project-loving homeowners the blues. But you don’t have to wait for spring to add some cheer. A few dollar-wise home improvement projects can spruce up your home and your spirits. And Leslie has got some tips to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: I’m not joking around here. The first tip is really, really obvious: turn on some lights. There’s probably just not enough light in your space and the grayness outside with the darkness inside is just kind of making you feel down. So this is a good time. You can add some lamps or sconces or at least increase the brightness of the bulbs you’ve already got in the fixtures in your home. And just that immediately is going to boost your mood.
Another way is to plant an indoor garden. Bring in some colorful flowers or something edible, things that remind you of spring. And then you can transfer those plants outdoors when spring does arrive.
Another way is to spruce up your front door. I mean the front door is a great welcome for you when you’ve been out in the dreariness. If you’ve not going to paint or get a new door, just polish up that hardware. Or you can also get a new, inexpensive doormat or boost your lighting on the front porch to maximum wattage that that fixture allows. And all of that is instantly going to boost the cheer right outside of your house.
Now, spring really isn’t that far off. But a few fix-ups now should make you feel a little cozier as you hibernate in your home through the rest of the winter. Also, get outside, enjoy it. The winter’s not so bad, guys.
TOM: Coming up on the next edition of The Money Pit, if you have an older home, you might know that cast-iron or steam radiators provide a level of comfort you just don’t get with forced hot air. But those radiators can be very hard to incorporate into your décor. We’re going to have tips on how to refinish cast-iron radiators to make it all match and modern, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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