How to Hang a Flat Screen TV and Make Wires Mysteriously Disappear #0129181

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, welcome to this edition of The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, what are you working on right now? Because we’re here to help. If it’s a project that you’ve got to get done, whether it’s painting your apartment, whether it’s getting organized, whether it’s cleaning, maybe there’s a stain that just won’t go away, maybe you need some décor suggestions, we’d love for you to participate in our podcast. Pick up the phone and call us, because there’s two ways to do that. 888-MONEY-PIT. That’s our 24/7 call center and we’ve got screeners standing by. If we’re not in the studio, they’ll take your info. We’ll call you back next time we are. Or you can go, right now, to The Money Pit’s Community section at and post your question right there.

    Coming up on today’s program, the big game is upon us once, again, Leslie: Super Bowl LII.

    LESLIE: I know you know why I like the Super Bowl, right?

    TOM: Why? Because you get to have a party?

    LESLIE: I like the wings.

    TOM: You like the wings? Yeah.

    LESLIE: I like the wings and the food.

    TOM: Well, we like our Eagles because they’re nearby. And I’ve got to admit, my sister – luckily enough, through her company, to have some season tickets. So, occasionally, I get to kind of hog in on those and go to a game or two. So we’re going to be rooting for them this season.

    But you know what? It doesn’t matter whether you root for the Patriots or the Eagles. The Super Bowl is just the reason you might need to convince your spouse it’s time to get that big-screen TV, right? And if so, we are here to help.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Listen, you can remind your spouse, your partner, your friend, whatever it is that that TV is probably going to cost a lot less than Super Bowl tickets. And for me, tickets to Justin Timberlake. It’s like going to a concert.

    TOM: Yeah. Good point. So we’re going to lay out the options for mounting that TV safely and securely, just in time for the required Super Bowl party.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re going to also talk about older homes. Now, you know, a lot of them have plaster walls and ceilings. And they can be a real hassle to care for when they start to crack. So we’re going to have some tips for a fast fix that can last.

    TOM: Plus, if you’ve ever stepped into the shower, first thing in the morning, only to receive a blast of icy-cold water, you’ll love the new technology coming out now in water heaters. They’re being designed to circulate the water to bathrooms before you need it, which totally eliminates that cold shock in the morning. So we’ll have those details, just ahead.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. So give us a call, post your questions, whatever. Send us a line. We want to talk.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Brian in Tennessee is on the line with an issue with water. Tell us what’s going on.

    BRIAN: Bought a house out here in Kingsport, Tennessee. It’s been about six, seven months since we bought it but the house dates back to 60s. Got some foundation issues with the house when we bought it. It was a crawlspace that had been dug out and poured concrete. And it’s pretty nice but it had water damage showing on some of the wooden walls that were in it. We had it tested and everything came back that it had been a previous leak. But we had some water coming in on heavy rains, down in the small bathroom. And we couldn’t figure it out for nothing.

    But in the meantime, I’m doing free work because I can do it. But I took up a – it’s a 12 foot by 40 foot broken …

    TOM: OK.

    BRIAN: Well, I’ve got a – the water problem in the basement had stopped. But I started noticing that the flooring in the bath – in the kitchen, when they walk through, it’s kind of dipping. You can hear the laminate slap whenever you walk on it. And one of the doors – a window that’s there near that has cracked away and it’s getting hard to open. The crack running up the side of the wall.

    So I get out there looking and you can run a tape measure back in those cracks, up and under the poured concrete foundation of the house. Six, seven foot back through there with a tape measure.

    TOM: Alright. So, first of all, the fact that you had this cracked patio and all these broken stones and you saw grass growing up, it basically means the water at that side of the house was absolutely not being managed properly. So, I’m sure that when you got heavy rains, it probably sat there and started to work its way in and through the foundation. That can lead to some instability.

    And now that you have those patio stones removed, I presume you’re going to take up the patio, as well, because you need to regrade that so it slopes away from the wall. And you want it to drop – if it’s a solid-concrete patio, you’re going to have to have it drop a couple of inches over that 10 feet. And if it’s just soil, then you want to it to drop even more: about 6 inches over 4 feet. And you want to do that with clean fill dirt so it’s well tamped in there. And then you can put whatever you want on top of that. So that the idea is that when it rains, the water doesn’t sit at the foundation perimeter.

    As for those existing cracks, the least that you’re going to do is seal them up. If you’re wondering whether or not they’re active and ongoing, that’s a question not for a contractor. And I underline that: not for a contractor. It’s a question for an engineer. If you hire a contractor, they’re going to go, “Yup. And I’m just the guy to fix it for you. Aren’t you lucky?” And they’re going to sell you an expensive fix that you may or may not need.

    So if you’re concerned about future movement, then I would encourage you to retain the service of a structural or a civil engineer who could approach that with independence, expertise and authority and tell you what’s going on and get you – and get a repair designed, if that’s what it takes. But it might just be a matter of fixing your drainage and sealing up those gaps so you don’t get any more water in there.

    BRIAN: Right. Well, I had one company come out and look, like you said, and they had some kind of foam product that he said that they could drill through and fill it up with foam. And they’re supposed to straighten it back out and fix the cracks but I’m just – I don’t know if I’m believing all that (inaudible).

    TOM: Yeah. They just want to sell you – they’re selling you what they want to sell you but they’re not experts. I mean there’s a lot of guys like that out there. And that’s why I’m very careful to tell you not just hiring a contractor, unless they’ve got a structural engineer who’s going to write a report and seal it and say, “This is the issue and this is the fix.” You don’t get to play an amateur engineer, just because you’ve got tools and equipment to spray foam in a foundation. It doesn’t mean you get to be an engineer.

    BRIAN: Well, this is true. I had thought about an inspector and – but I had never thought about getting a structural engineer to …

    TOM: The least you should do is find a professional home inspector if you can’t find a good, local structural engineer. You want to find somebody that’s in the inspection-and-evaluation business, not somebody that’s in the “I can fix it for you” business, OK?

    BRIAN: That sounds good.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck, Brian. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Amanda in Texas is on the line and has a question about an insurance company that doesn’t actually want to provide insurance.

    TOM: Insurance.

    LESLIE: What’s going on?

    AMANDA: Well, I have a house that – it was built in the 40s. And in 2009, I put a brand-new roof on it. And I have had – and it was – and it kind of fell into disrepair. We had done quite a few repairs to it and now – and several insurance companies, every time that I find something that I would ask them to – I’ve been through a couple of insurance companies. Never had a problem before. But now, I asked about – we had some storms roll through. Ice storms. And on Friday, I got a letter saying that they had decided they were going to cancel my insurance after I had filed a claim with – some ice storms had messed up some shingles on my roof and I was going to get an estimate to just redo that part of the roof.

    And my problem is – can I file on insurance since I’m still, technically, covered until the end of next – until the end of February?

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t think your – I think as long as your insurance was in effect at the time of the incident – so at the time of the damage – I think you can. But if they’re already giving you a hard time about cancelling, then what I would do is I would call a public adjuster.

    Do you know what those guys do? They’re experts at basically working directly with your insurance company and getting you the maximum amount of payout that you would possibly qualify for. And they don’t miss a thing. You know, they don’t miss a thing. They don’t miss a nail, a shingle, a coat of paint, nothing. If you get a good public adjuster, they work on a percentage of the claim, so they try to get you as much as they possibly can. And if they’re just going to be ornery and cancel your insurance because you had the audacity to file a claim and actually use it …

    LESLIE: To actually use it.

    AMANDA: Right. Right.

    TOM: It’s not atypical. So it’s not like they’re picking on you. It’s what they do.

    I don’t get it. You would think that if you – if they file – if you filed a claim and you had repairs, you would be the least likely person that’ll do that again. But OK, that’s the way they want to play the game. Then you go ahead and find another homeowner company. That’s all you’ve got to do.

    But I would get a public adjuster, because they’re already showing that maybe they can’t be trusted, in my view, or they’re going to give you a hard time or they’re going to give you the runaround. So I’d get a public adjuster. I’d have them look at the claim and see what you can qualify for and then get it fixed.

    And it was ice damage, too. And if it was ice dams, you may have to strip the whole roof off and put in ice-and-water shield to fix it.

    AMANDA: Yeah. And that’s what I’m thinking that that’s going to be the issue.

    TOM: Yeah. Yep. Yeah, I’d get a public adjuster.

    Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit. What’s your how-to or your décor question? Call in now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.

    TOM: Just ahead, one way to score a victory on the Super Bowl is to watch it on a big, beautiful, brand-new, flat-screen TV. We’re going to have the options for mounting it safely and securely, just in time for the game, next.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    As I look around, the industry is booming right now. There is so much construction going on, whether it’s commercial or residential. I see the trucks, I see the guys working. I hear the saws in the morning. It’s really exciting. It’s going to be a really great year for home improvement.

    LESLIE: I mean it really is. You’re absolutely right. I walk to the train every morning when I’m heading into the city for work. And I’m surprised and really excited to see how much huge amounts of construction is happening. Homes are being purchased that haven’t been turned over for half-a-century. And they’re being expanded and built upon. And people that I know have been in houses are adding extensions. It’s amazing to see that – I don’t know. Is it the economy is supporting more construction? Is the construction industry just more affordable? It’s hard to say but it’s phenomenal.

    TOM: Well, if you’re in the middle of a project in your house, big or small, give us a call right now. Condo or apartment, we want to hear from you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Bill in Pennsylvania is on the line and needs some help with a storage unit. What’s going on?

    BILL: I’m looking at purchasing a shipping container – one of those cargo shipping containers – and turning it into a storage shed.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    BILL: But I’ve also read where the problem with that is they build up a lot of condensation when the weather and temperature changes.

    TOM: I bet they do.

    BILL: And I was wondering a way to remedy that. Would a dehumidifier or – I was thinking of putting a ventless gas heater in it. But I heard those also can create moisture.

    TOM: The ventless gas heaters are going to dump a lot of moisture into it because it’s not really ventless. All that combustion gas is 80-percent water vapor or 90-percent water vapor. It’s just going to make it worse inside of it.

    BILL: OK.

    TOM: Look, this is like trying to insulate a shed. If it’s an – it’s an unheated structure. It’s an unheated building and you’re going to seal it up like that, there’s going to be no ventilation in it. And so, yeah, it’s going to develop condensation. So it’s not like you can keep cardboard in there or paper goods or wooden furniture or mattresses. Things like that are going to develop mold just from being exposed to all of that moisture.

    That’s why storage places that – when they rent storage, they have temperature control. It’s not warm enough to live in but it’s warm enough to maintain the proper balance of humidity. If you just have a regular shipping container, it’s going to be damp.

    BILL: OK. Would a dehumidifier in there benefit it at all?

    TOM: Well, maybe. It might help a little bit.

    LESLIE: I think it’d just be constantly working.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s going to be going all the time.

    BILL: Yeah. OK.

    TOM: Yeah. Did you get a good deal on a shipping container?

    BILL: Actually, yes. Someone purchasing it to store some furniture and stuff in it on my property. And they were just going to leave it there when they were done.

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    BILL: But I didn’t want it to ruin their furniture.

    TOM: Yeah, so their problem became your problem, huh?

    BILL: Well, not yet. It hasn’t happened yet.

    TOM: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s the best idea.

    BILL: OK.

    TOM: Only if you want to store lawn furniture or something that’s really, you know, fairly moisture-proof would I use that space.

    BILL: Alright. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us.

    LESLIE: So with the Super Bowl just ahead, you finally decided to pick up that brand-new, flat-screen TV. Now, the challenge is to get it to the prime spot for viewing – up on the wall – safely and effectively.

    TOM: Yeah. Exactly. And permanently.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: So you basically get four options in brackets that are designed for this. And what they do – and the price kind of goes up. Starting with the basics, which is a low-profile type, it’s basically the easiest to install. It’s the least expensive and the mounting process for that mount is only a little bit more difficult than hanging a heavy picture. The downside is that you can’t adjust the TV. It just goes on in one place, just like a picture, and you don’t move it; it doesn’t tilt whatsoever.

    If you want it to tilt, you have to use the tilting wall mount and there’s two versions of that. A little bit more money than a low-profile but it gives you different tilting angles. So the basic tilt mount basically allows you to sort of tilt that screen down towards you or back up. I think that could be – possibly be effective if you have sun glare on your screen. You want to tilt the reflection so it kind of gets away from you.

    But if you want to tilt it beyond that – say if you want to swing it from left to right, kind of like a door would swing – and this is the type of thing you might have if the flat-screen TV maybe is over your bedroom – in your bedroom, so you kind of swing it out to watch at night or something like that. That’s the more expensive one because it tilts, basically, both ways.

    And if you really want to go crazy or maybe you have a small space, you can use a ceiling mount. There’s a bracket now that installs to the ceiling. But all these have to be done very carefully so that you’re mounting them into the wood ceiling joist or the wood studs. Or maybe you’ve got a brick wall, so you don’t want to go into the bricks, so you go up on the ceiling instead.

    So there’s really four different ways to mount that TV. Just make sure that when you do so, you’re always going into the structural member of your house frame, you’re not going into the drywall itself, for example.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, that’s the first part of the whole challenge of mounting your television. Because once you do have your TV mounted, the next thing, which is going to be a big concern and an eyesore if you’re any person with eyeballs, is all those dangling cords and wires. They look messy and personally, it drives me nuts. So here’s some ideas, guys.

    You can run component cables through a hollow wall. It’s clean, it’s effective but it’s not always practical if you don’t have a hollow-wall area behind that TV or if you’re in a rental. So you have to look at that situation there.

    Now, if you can’t put them through the wall, you can use a cord-management system. And that’s usually some sort of wire or cable cover that’s designed specifically for this purpose. And then you can paint that cord cover to blend right into the wall.

    Now, here’s another thing: you can use a door threshold. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. And some of them are specifically designed to hide cables that cross door openings. So, basically, it’s a threshold with that channel on the backside. But it’s wood and it’s a little more fancy than just that cord cover. Either way, you want to get those cables out of sight because it’s just yucky looking. And you spent all that time mounting the TV.

    TOM: Yeah. And you also want to remember, though, to never run those cables under rugs because, obviously, that can be very dangerous. And here’s a trick to kind of keep the wires organized: when you start putting this thing together, label both ends of the cords. It makes it a lot easier to remove if you know where they need to be plugged in, especially if you’ve got to temporarily disconnect them for painting or some other project.

    So, some things to think about but by all means, if the Super Bowl is your excuse to buy a flat-screen TV, go for it. And now you know exactly how to hang it.

    LESLIE: Mary in Florida is looking to make her kitchen bigger by taking away from her deck. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    MARY: Well, I have a fairly small kitchen/dining-room area and I was wanting to expand it. We have a patio deck that’s probably about 30×10 feet that’s directly attached to it. There’s glass sliding doors that’s attached to it. We were wanting to find some way that we could enclose that and make that more of an off-season-type area, as opposed to a couple weeks out of the year. We didn’t know if you had any suggestions, ideas?

    TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, Mary, you can’t take your deck and then sort of put four walls on it and a roof and call it an addition, because decks are not designed for that. They’re not really part of the foundation of the home. And I’ve seen a lot of folks do exactly that and ultimately, it catches up with you. Usually, if you try to sell the house or something of that nature, it doesn’t meet the code requirements. It’s just generally a bad idea.

    What you could do for that space, to make it more of a year-round use, might be to consider adding some heating or something of that nature. But it’s always going to be an outdoor space. You can’t take an outdoor deck and turn it into an indoor space. That’s an addition and you can’t just put a door and some walls and a roof and some screening or whatever you’re planning and call that now like an extension of your kitchen. Because it just doesn’t count, OK?

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Hey, if you’ve got an older home with plaster walls, you probably know that they can be a real hassle to care for when they start to crack, which eventually is going to happen. Tom Silva is stopping by with expert repair tips, next.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, whether you’re buying, selling or just enjoying your home, we’re here for you every step of the way. Call in your improvement or décor question now to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, in older homes with plaster, one thing that you’re probably going to see at some point is cracking.

    Now, plaster can last a good 200 years and that’s pretty much as long as it’s been around.

    TOM: Well, that’s correct. But to get to that ripe old age, it definitely needs some TLC from time to time. Joining us now is a guy with the knowledge to do just that: it’s our friend, Tom Silva, the general contractor from TV’s This Old House.

    And Tommy, there’s hardly an old house that doesn’t have cracks in the walls. This is something that’s pretty normal but how do we stop it from getting so bad where those cracks start to develop into chunks of plaster that could rain down on our heads?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you’re not going to stop the plaster from cracking. It’s an old house; they get a lot of movement. A windy night, the house is shifting around. You get temperature changes, expansion and contraction. It’s going to crack.

    But how do you fix a crack is a different situation. You can net it, go over it, glue it back to the lath.

    TOM: Lath, mm-hmm.

    TOM SILVA: Because the keyway behind that plaster wall will break from the vibration of the house, from the wind and the movement.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about that. You mentioned the keyway; I think that’s important to understand. Because old homes typically have wood lath, so that’s wood sticks and I think they look like tomato stakes. And they’re attached to the wall and then the plaster, when it’s first put on, it pushes through that lath and then spreads out and sort of locks behind it. So that, in effect, is the key.

    TOM SILVA: That makes the key, yeah.

    TOM: That’s the keyway. And those keys actually wear over time.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Because the house is shaking. Think of it: on a windy night, that house is moving. Or if your kids are playing and you’re bouncing on the floor, the house is moving; it’s shaking. I mean you can see it if you’re sitting in a room and knew someone who walked across the room or feel it, you can actually feel the – well, think of – wind will do the same thing on your side walls.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: So you’ve got to basically know now what you’re going to do, how bad is the crack and how do you fix it? You could simply, in some cases, just drag a little – if you had a little screwdriver or old beer-can openers with the V-notch, you can drag a little bit out and you could put some plaster or patch in the wall and then paint it; it’d be fine.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: But if it’s really bad, you may have to cut a piece of the old plaster out and insert a piece of wallboard into the plaster laths. In that case, you’re going to need a thinner piece, like 3/8-inch, because you don’t want to be too thick. And then you can feather it out around it with a piece of – with some joint compound. But I always like to take a piece of screening wire and cut it much bigger than my patch and blend it right into the wall and then hide it that way.

    TOM: So the screening wire is kind of like that perforated drywall tape that we have today, right? It’s sort of a …

    TOM SILVA: That’s right. You get – what I sometimes – what I’ll do is I’ll go to the hardware store and I’ll get a roll of plastic – what do you call – vinyl screening wire.

    TOM: Window screen.

    TOM SILVA: Window screen.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And I can have a big piece, so I can actually do a whole wall.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: So are you almost creating a netting in the event of delamination?

    TOM SILVA: Yep. Yep. Yeah. And that netting will bridge any gaps and that netting gets stuck onto wet drywall. So the easiest way to do it is – if the plaster is really loose, you put these plaster buttons in and you can fasten it back to the wall or you sometimes …

    TOM: So that’s kind of like a washer, almost, that pulls it back in.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, a perforated washer, right.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And you screw it down. You screw it in gently because you don’t want to break the big – you don’t want to break out a chunk of plaster so you defeat your purpose.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: There’s also a product that you can glue the plaster back to the lath by drilling a series of small holes next to the crack and inject it with a caulking gun.

    LESLIE: And sort of injecting it in?

    TOM SILVA: And that basically is an acrylic adhesive that you have to wait overnight. Use these big plastic rings and you screw the plaster gently back to the lath. And you’ll see the adhesive come out all the little holes that you drilled. You leave it for 24 hours, sand it lightly and then you wire it or tape it, go over it with joint compound.

    TOM: Now, let me ask you about the joint compound, because these are originally plaster walls. You can get plaster and mix that up, you can buy standard spackling and joint compound out of the bucket. Does one do a better job than the other when you’re going over old plaster?

    TOM SILVA: No. I’ve actually taken – joint compound is amazing stuff; it’ll stick to anything. I know; I’ve got it on my shoes.

    But no, it’ll stick to anything; it’s fantastic for that kind of stuff. So you don’t have to worry about doing too much scraping and sanding. It won’t stick to dry – I don’t – I wouldn’t go over wallpaper or anything like that, because the wallpaper will delaminate.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: But lots of times when I’m trying to patch an old plaster wall and I’m worrying about it sticking, I actually take plaster – dried, powdered plaster – and mix it with my joint compound. Now you’ve got two things that are going to basically dry up differently. The plaster is going to set up and harden.

    TOM: A lot quicker, yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, a lot quicker. So you want to make sure that you use a faster-setting joint compound or you can use the pre-mixed. A faster setting means that you can get a 20-minute, a 45-minute or a 90-minute. It comes in a powder; you mix it with water or you mix it into the water. And then you can mix your plaster into that.

    So you – now you’ve got great adhesion, you’ve got a material that will go on easy and your plaster will dry harder than the joint compound. So the problem is is you’ve got to make sure that you can sand it. So you may have to sand it smooth if you don’t trowel it off.

    TOM: What a great trick of the trade. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by and helping us keep those old plaster walls in great shape.

    TOM SILVA: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings, some great step-by-step videos on this project and others, visit

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC Trucks and SUVs.

    Just ahead, if you’ve ever stepped into the shower, first thing in the morning, and received that blast of icy-cold water, you are going to love the new technology coming out in water heaters. We’ll share the details, after this.

    Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: So you’re out and about, going through your day. Maybe you’re exercising, maybe you’re driving around hearing the podcast and you’ve got a project in mind, you can head on over to our website when you have a chance, at, and post that question in the Community page. And we may feature it right here on the program. Or of course, you can always call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to help you get your project done around your house, your apartment, your condo. Give us a call, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Heading out to Massachusetts where Bob needs some help putting a floor down in the attic. Tell us what you’re working on.

    BOB: It’s a very large attic and it’s – I’ve got uncovered floor rafters. And I’ve got 35 years of stuff accumulated in that attic that I want to get rid of, alright? The problem is that the rafters are open and I want to know what to do to cover the rafters.

    TOM: OK. So, first of all, if you’re – when you say “rafters,” I think you mean the floor joists. When you go up in the attic and you look down at the floor, is that what you’re talking about?

    BOB: That is absolutely right, yes.

    TOM: OK. So, those are the ceiling joists that are holding up your ceiling below and the floor joists if you are up in the attic and call it that, as well.

    Now, you have insulation in those joists right now, correct?

    BOB: That is correct.

    TOM: And it’s 35 years old, so it’s – and you’ve had a lot of storage, so it’s probably sagged and compressed and perhaps pressed down. Is that fair to say?

    BOB: That is also correct.

    LESLIE: He’s like, “Tom, are you in my attic?”

    TOM: We’re setting it up here, yeah.

    Here’s what I’d do. First of all, get rid of all the storage. Go ahead and do that big purge. And it’s a big project. I had to do this because we sprayed Icynene foam insulation in my house. And I’ve got to tell you, my attic – and I live in a family house. That attic, literally, hadn’t been emptied in generations. So, when we got that attic emptied, my first floor looked like an episode of Hoarders. We had stuff everywhere because those attics are big and they held a lot of stuff. But it was a good opportunity to purge it out and get rid of the stuff you don’t want.

    But now that you’ve done that, what I would do is if you want to go back with a fiberglass insulation, I would take out the old insulation. If it’s been in there that long, it’s probably compressed and not really doing its job. And I would fill in that floor joist, all the way to the top, with unfaced fiberglass insulation. Now, even if you do that, chances are, depending on the depth of those joists, you’re probably not going to get more than 8 or 10 inches which, honestly, is not enough insulation to really do a good job in a cold area like where you live.

    You really need 15 to 20 inches of insulation. So if you do a really good job with getting rid of all that storage that now you need less storage space, what I would tell you to do is to double up the insulation towards the outside walls and sort of carve out an area close to the opening where you could reserve that for insulation and put the flooring, only, there. So just put the flooring and have 8 inches or 10 inches of insulation underneath it. But then in the rest of the attic, you want to double up the insulation, putting insulation perpendicular to the floor joist and inside of the floor joist at the same time. And that would really build it up.

    And I’ve got to tell you, if you spend the amount of about one month’s cold-weather heating bill on insulation, you will see a dramatic savings for every month thereafter.

    BOB: Well, I think I’ve got it now to sound like an expert. Now let’s see if I can work like an expert.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Hey, if you’ve ever had to wait for the water to get hot when you’re ready for a shower, you’re going to love this: there’s a new water heater out by Rheem that has built-in circulation. Now, what that means is it’s going to deliver instant hot water for your entire house with no waiting. So you don’t have to wait for all of that cold water to become hot or waste all that water. The hot water comes out as soon as you turn the faucets on.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s a super-cool technology and it’s called the Performance High-Efficiency Tankless Gas Water Heater. It’s a lot to say but it’s super cool because it has built-in recirculation. And it’s just out now at The Home Depot.

    Now, with most water heaters, you’ve got to wait for that cold water in your pipes to travel to your shower. But with that built-in recirculation, there’s really no more waiting. Water is always pumped through your pipes before you need it. So when you do, it’s ready to go.

    TOM: Yeah. And not only does it stop that blast of cold water in your face, kind of first thing in the morning, it actually adds up to a lot of water savings. You save about 12,000 gallons of water a year because you’re not running that cold water waiting for it to get hot.

    LESLIE: And I mean – and that’s true. I always have to turn on my hot water and I don’t jump into the shower to get the cold water in the face. I wait until it feels good and then I jump in. But you’re right: it’s wasting so much water.

    Now, this really is a great option if you’re replacing your water heater. First of all, because it’s tankless, you’re never going to run out of hot water. And secondly, because it’s high-efficiency, it can be vented directly using PVC pipe. And because it’s smaller than a tanked water heater, you’ve got a lot more options when it comes to where you can install this.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons that we have tank water heaters in the basement or in the attic or in the far end of the house.

    LESLIE: Because they’re giant.

    TOM: Because they’re big, you know? And you can’t just put them anywhere. But these tankless water heaters are so much smaller and so much more efficient, you just have a ton of options.

    Now, this line of water heaters also includes water-leak detection and gas-leak detection technology. So that gives you lots of benefits right there. And again, it’s called the Rheem Performance High-Efficiency Tankless Gas Water Heater. Take a look at it right now. It’s available at

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Sue from Ohio on the line. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    SUE: Yes. We had a wooden wheelchair ramp built for my father and it’s with the treated lumber. And wanted an idea or what product we could use to kind of keep the ice and the snow off of there without damaging the wood.

    TOM: There are different types of salts that can be effective as to prevent snow and ice. What you want to do, though, is make sure that you not use sodium chloride or a rock salt. You want to use calcium chloride. Calcium chloride is less corrosive. It has less of an impact on plants and on pets but does just as good a job of keeping the snow and the ice off.

    What I would suggest is you take this calcium chloride and you mix it up with playground sand – the kind of sand that you might put in a sandbox – and create sort of a mixture that you can keep handy so that whenever you do get a little bit of ice and snow, you can spread the salt/sand mixture down and keep that ramp clear.

    SUE: OK. Great. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Sue. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Up next, while most homes are built sort of one 2×4 at a time, there are an increasing number of prefab builders popping up who assemble factory-made housing.

    TOM: Yeah, which has lots of folks asking the question as to whether prefab homes are built just as well.

    LESLIE: We’re going to share the details, next.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you planning today for your house, your condo, your apartment? Is there a décor project that needs to get done? Well, you can give us a call right now. We’ll talk about it at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your question to the Community page at

    Plus, on our website right now, we’ve got tons of great décor content. Did a nice article – feature article – about the purple possibilities provided by Pantone’s Color of the Year.

    LESLIE: Ultra Violet.

    TOM: Ultra Violet, yeah. It’s kind of cool. I never thought of myself as a purple person but the way they’re using it, it’s really pretty amazing. Nice accent color, so …

    LESLIE: And it’s such a pretty shade of purple and it kind of encompasses a few shades of purple, in my opinion. I know they’ve picked one specific but I feel like it has a little bit of range in – from flowers to frames to an accent chair to pillows.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: It’s really gorgeous.

    TOM: So I’ve got to tell you, it’s not my first experience with Ultra Violet. About four or five years ago, when my daughter was getting recruited for college athletics – she’s a pretty good field-hockey player – we went to see James Madison University. And I wasn’t so sure about the school at the time and we had seen a lot of schools. She was heavily recruited; she’s a pretty good player. And the coach said, “What do you think?” I said, “Oh, nice program. I like the school. I don’t know if I see myself wearing purple.” She goes, “Oh, you’ll be wearing purple.” I can’t tell you how many purple shirts I’ve got in my closet right now after four years of JMU.

    LESLIE: It’s a good color.

    TOM: And they’re that Ultra Violet kind of sheen. So it is a good color in clothing, for college sports, as well as for your house or apartment walls. So, check it out. That’s online, right now, at

    LESLIE: You’ve got two pros standing by here, right now, to help you out. And we’re answering some questions that were posted online.

    First off, we’ve got one from Kay who writes: “I’m considering buying a home in a neighborhood that has mainly prefab houses. Are there any drawbacks to owning modular?”

    TOM: No. Actually, there are not. You might be concerned because they go together so quickly but they go together quickly because they’re factory-built. The way a modular house works is the foundation is put in, the floor frame is put in and then the walls come, usually, as either panels – just one wall at a time – or they can come as sections, where several walls are put together. And then they’re dropped into place with a crane, so they go up really quickly.

    Now, the advantage of modular or prefabricated housing is not only the speed, also because these homes are being built in a factory, you can control the quality. You get more accuracy. You can even prewire and pre-plumb some of the walls. So I have no issues with modular housing. And in fact, some modular homes can be customized. So it’s not only – not that you have to take Plan A, B or C, you can actually do some customization of them.

    So if that’s something you’re considering, you should not have any fear that it’s not going to be just as durable and just as strong and just as sturdy as a house that’s stick-built right on site.

    LESLIE: I think it’s an interesting option. We have a few in our community and they look beautiful. You can’t tell the difference, so I feel like it’s a good, safe choice.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Laura who wrote: “Interesting problem. I can get hot water out of my bathtub faucet if taking a bath. But I have no hot water out of the showerhead. I have water pressure, just water is not that hot. Any ideas about the problem?”

    TOM: Yeah. I think you have a bad diverter valve. And that’s the valve that diverts the water from the tub faucet to the shower faucet. And for some reason, it’s not opening fully on the hot-water side.

    Now, it’s not the kind of thing that I would recommend you fix. You’re better off just replacing it. The valves today are a lot better. The technology is good. It’s solid. They have ceramic disks that never leak and they actually get better the older they are. So, I would simply replace that valve. I would not go ahead and try to fix it, because it’s really difficult to find parts.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a post here from Dave, just outside of Boston, who writes: “Mice and rats are coming into my home via the street sewer system. I thought I had fixed the problem eight years ago by cementing a certain area but there seems to be another opening somewhere. Do you have any suggestions?”

    Oh, my God, that sounds awful.

    TOM: Yeah. And you know what? If you’re trying to plug the holes to stop the rodents from coming in, good luck. Because as soon as you fill one, they’ll find another, right?

    So I think the best way to try to reduce – or eliminate, I should say – those rodents from getting into your house is really to look at all of the conditions that make it attractive to come in. So, for example, a lot of times in the years I spent as a home inspector, I would see that folks would take a habit of stacking firewood, for example, up against the outside of their house. I mean that’s a bad idea because that’s a great nesting spot, as is any other thing that you stack up there, whether it’s newspapers or anything of that nature. So avoid the nesting sites.

    Make sure that you secure any storage. If you’ve got food stored – or especially in a garage. We could be talking about dog food, for example. That’s a great source of food for rodents. Make sure you put it in a metal container. Even plastic they can chew straight through.

    Make sure you’re keeping your house as clean as possible and use rodenticides. You know, they have bait stations today. You may have seen them out and about. They’re small, plastic boxes. And what they’re designed to do is the bait is actually inside – the rodenticide is inside – so that means that pets can’t get there but the rodents can. So that’s the way …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they want to go in there.

    TOM: And they want to go in there, exactly. So those four things – avoiding the nest and securing the storage, keeping the house clean and using bait stations – is a good way to get rid of them once and for all.

    LESLIE: And lastly, put up a sign: rodents stay away. They can read, right?

    TOM: Go away.

    LESLIE: Go away.

    TOM: Not wanted. Yeah. No vacancy.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thank you so much for spending a little bit of time with us today. If you’ve got a project in mind, didn’t get a chance to call us, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your question online to the Community page at

    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 2017 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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