- Social Front Yard: Want to expand your outdoor living space? Try designing an inviting social front yard where you can relax and entertain.
- Deck Makeover: If your deck is ready to be replaced or updated, you’ll want to check out a great composite deck kit that makes it an easy DIY project.
- Tree Stump Removal: Taking down trees means dealing with the stumps that are left behind. Find out your options for removing tree stumps.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Removing a Wall: Can tearing down a wall between two rooms be a DIY project or do you need a contractor? Tom gives Sharon some advice on what to consider and how much of the work she can do herself.
- Staining a Deck: When prepping a deck to be stained, should it only be cleaned or should you sand it, too? Howard finds out what to do to make his deck stain last longer.
- HVAC Problems: Rose is having trouble heating and cooling a room addition, but learns about a ductless HVAC system that offers the perfect solution to keep things comfortable.
- Mold Issues: Why is mold taking over Dan’s pole building? We explain what is causing the mold to grow, how to properly treat it, and ways to prevent it.
- Home Humidity: A new heat pump isn’t removing the humidity in Pat’s home, but what she really needs is a dehumidifier. We’ve got tips on the types of home dehumidifiers she can consider.
- Damp Basement: After replacing an outside downspout with a cement splash block, Kevin’s having problems with moisture in his basement. Tom advises him on how to move the water away by extending the downspout or using underground piping.
- Garage Flooring: Are there good flooring products that can be used in a garage and will stay in place? Dan learns about some great floating tile systems that are designed for garage floors.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you take on the projects you want to get done or plan for projects you want to tackle in the weeks and months ahead, because we are quickly approaching the end of the summer here. We’ve got a couple of weeks left, I think, technically speaking. When does summer end? Isn’t it like …?
LESLIE: It’s September 21st – is the first day of fall.
TOM: I was going to say the 15th. Is that what it is, 21st? OK.
So we’ve got, yeah, a couple of weeks, maybe 3 weeks left, depending on when you’re hearing this show. And that’s a great time to start thinking about what you’re going to do after the summer. Because it’s going to get cold eventually. You’re going to want to zip up your house, keep the energy inside of it. You might want to maybe spruce up some more spaces so when you move your outdoor office – I always call my porch my outdoor office – back inside when it gets too cold, you might want to make that space nicer. Maybe it’s a project you want to do yourself. Maybe it’s one you want to get some help, hire a pro.
Whatever is on your to-do list, you can slide it right over to ours when you reach out to us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT – that’s our phone number, 888-666-3974 – or you could also post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, do you love your outdoor spaces? Well, if those spaces are limited to the backyard, the Department of Energy says you may be missing a big opportunity in other spaces. It’s called a “social front yard.” We’re going to explain this new growing trend and how to take advantage of the other side of your property, in just a bit.
LESLIE: Alright. And also coming up, do you have a deck that needs a makeover? Well, between the splinters and the staining, a wood deck can take a lot of fun out of your summer weekends. But now, there’s a better option available at Lowe’s called a Trex Deck Kit, which makes updating or even replacing your deck with beautiful, new composite decking a breeze. We’ll explain, just ahead.
TOM: And with all the recent summer storms, did you have a tree or two taken down? Or maybe it came down on its own? Well, what about the stump that was left behind? We’re going to share four easy options to make that disappear.
LESLIE: Plus, do you have any big projects you want to take on? We’ve got a big giveaway that can help. We’re giving away a Wagner Control Pro 170 High-Efficiency Airless Paint Sprayer. And that we have ready to send out to one lucky listener.
TOM: I love my Control Pro. It makes it easy for DIYers to tackle paint projects, like decks or fences or even an entire house.
This giveaway is worth 379 bucks, so it is a good one. If you want to win it, you must reach out to us with your home improvement questions. Now, the Wagner Control Pro line is available exclusively at Lowe’s but we do have this one to give away to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Reach out to us now with those questions, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Sharon in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
SHARON: Hi. I’m interested in tearing down a wall that’s between two rooms. And I’m wondering if I can do that by myself – I don’t have any experience at all – or if I – it’s something that I would need to have an expert do.
TOM: Maybe, maybe not.
LESLIE: It depends. What’s in the wall? Is it load-bearing?
SHARON: Yeah. How do you tell that?
TOM: Well, where is this wall? First of all, what kind of house do you have? What shape is your house? Is it Colonial? Ranch?
SHARON: I have a – what do you call that – the bi-level, where there’s an upstairs part and a downstairs part?
TOM: Bi-level? OK. Alright. And where is the wall?
SHARON: The wall – it’s two bedrooms and the wall is right between the two bedrooms.
TOM: So is it parallel with the front wall of the house and the back wall of the house or is it perpendicular?
SHARON: It is perpendicular.
TOM: It’s most likely not a bearing wall; that is my sight-unseen assessment. I could be wrong but it’s most likely not. Because usually in a bi-level, the only bearing wall is the center wall that goes down the middle, parallel with the front and the back wall of the house.
But even that said, what you can do, as a do-it-yourselfer, is you can tear out the drywall and get to that. But remember, once you do that, Sharon, you’re going to be having – you’re going to be looking at plumbing, you’re going to be looking at heating ducts, you’re going to be looking at wiring, not to mention the fact that you’re going to have to patch all that drywall. So, there’s a lot to it.
SHARON: Oh, really? I thought I could be a do-it-yourselfer; I really wanted to do the project myself. It just seems (inaudible).
TOM: Well, look, you can do it yourself. We don’t want you to become a do-it-to-yourselfer, alright?
SHARON: Oh, right.
TOM: So you really should not be doing the electrical work yourself. What you could do …
SHARON: I am concerned about that part.
TOM: Yeah, what you could do is take apart all the drywall. That’s easy to do. But again, if …
LESLIE: Yeah, take out the trim, take down the drywall.
TOM: Yeah. Maybe if you get it all ready, you can have a carpenter just come pull the wall out and an electrician rerun the outlet and you’ll be done.
SHARON: Alright. Well, I just wanted some expert advice about that.
SHARON: I’m glad you told me before I got in the middle of it.
TOM: Exactly. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Howard in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
HOWARD: I built a cedar deck about 10 years ago and I cleaned it and stained it about 4 or 5 years ago. And it needs to be stained again. And I’m just wondering – when I stained it the first time, I washed it. I didn’t sand it; I just washed it really good with deck cleaner and stained it.
Now, I’m wondering if I should wash it and sand it and stain it again or if I should use a darker stain.
LESLIE: Well, you got 4 years out of it, correct?
LESLIE: And that’s generally – you know, with a good-quality stain on a horizontal surface, you’re going to get 3 to 5 years as a duration.
LESLIE: So at this point – and was it a solid-color stain or a sheer or semi-transparent? I’m sorry.
HOWARD: Yeah, I used a semi-transparent stain the first time.
LESLIE: OK. So at this point, I don’t think you need to sand it down. I would do the same thing. I would do a good deck cleaning, get off whatever is loose. If there are some areas that are troublesome or it seems as if the stain is doing something tricky, you could strip it but I don’t think you really need to.
And once you’ve prepped it properly, I would go with a solid-color stain at this point because you’re getting more graying, because you’ve done a semi-transparent before. And a solid-color stain is going to give you a heavier pigmentation but still allow you to see the graining through, to let the natural beauty of the wood show. But it’s going to last you a little bit longer; you’re looking at a 5- to 7-year duration if everything is prepped properly.
HOWARD: OK. That’s what I want.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Howard. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, guys, if you have a big project to take on over the upcoming Labor Day weekend, we have got a big giveaway that just might help. Because we have the Wagner Control Pro 170 High-Efficiency Airless Paint Sprayer to give away to one very lucky, very fortunate DIY listener.
Now, Wagner’s Control Pro 170, this paint sprayer allows homeowners to take on big projects themselves instead of hiring a contractor. It’s going to save you some money. And the paint sprayer features up to 55-percent less overspray than traditional airless sprayers and it goes on 3 times faster than a roller. So it’s going to get done quickly, it’s going to use less paint. It’s available both in-store and online at Lowe’s Home Improvement.
But we’ve got one to give away to one lucky listener, so make that you. You’ve got to reach out to us with your question. We will draw one name out of The Money Pit hard hat and send off that Wagner Control Pro to you. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Rose in Pennsylvania is on the line who has a problem – and I’m sorry to say in this horrific, hot summer – cooling her home.
Tell us what’s going on.
ROSE: Well, actually, it’s just one room. The house is air-conditioned but we have a room addition that was put on over a concrete porch and below that, a basement. And I was told that we couldn’t get a duct or an outlet into this room. And I heard Richard Trethewey from This Old House talking. He was going to talk about heating and air-conditioning a room without ducts. And unfortunately, I couldn’t stay to listen to it and I wondered if you could tell me about that.
TOM: Yeah. What Richard was talking about is something that we call “mini-split ductless.”
Now, in a situation like this, a mini-split ductless system would be perfect. Because, like the name, you don’t have any ducts, so you don’t have to have a traditional air handler and then ducts that extend into the space.
A mini-split ductless consists of a compressor that’s outside and then the air handler, which hangs on the wall inside your addition. And there’s a refrigerant tube and electrical wires that go from one to the next. And when the thermostat tells it to come on, the mini-split ductless system will come on. It will cool your house and it will also – could potentially warm it, as well, because you can get a mini-split ductless system that’s set up as a heat pump, as well as just an air conditioner. So you could have additional heat in that space, as well as cooling.
They’re made by a wide variety of manufacturers. You could take a look at, for example, Mitsubishi.
TOM: Mr. Slim makes one. Fujitsu makes one.
And I have one in my office – actually, in my studio. And I have one in the studio because it’s so quiet, we can be on the radio even with the mini-split ductless running.
ROSE: Well, that’s great. And the – if it had heating, obviously, that would be an electrical heating, right?
TOM: Well, it’s a heat pump.
ROSE: Oh, OK. Because we have oil heat for the house and air conditioning but just this one room …
TOM: Yeah, it’s electrical, yeah. But it’s a heat-pump system. Basically, the difference between heating and cooling, when you’re using this, is a heat pump reverses the refrigeration cycle so that you get warm air inside, as opposed to cold air.
ROSE: Oh, OK. And are there any estimates, like just starting out, what price might be? I know it depends on, I imagine, the – how large a room is. But I just wondered, into the thousands, of course?
TOM: Yeah, it will be into the thousands. I’m going to say probably a couple of thousand dollars.
ROSE: For the unit plus installation?
TOM: Right, exactly. Yeah. It’s not inexpensive but it’s a real problem-solver.
TOM: And once you have it, you’ll be so much more comfortable. And you’ll get the use out of that room, you know? Right now, you can’t use the room too much, so you’ll get the use out of it.
ROSE: Well, we have the door open and the air and the cool – heat comes in somewhat but you need a fan. In the winter, you need a little heater to add to it.
TOM: Yeah, this is a perfect solution for you, Rose. Take a look at the mini-split ductless systems. They have to be professionally installed but it’s going to make you much more comfortable in that space.
ROSE: OK. Well, thanks a lot and I do enjoy listening to you every week.
TOM: Thanks, Rose.
LESLIE: Well, outdoor spaces at home have come a long way in recent years, growing from a wish-list item to an essential design element that expands the livable space of your home. But while outdoor living has traditionally been focused on your backyard, the Department of Energy reports that creating what they call “social front yards” is gaining in popularity.
TOM: Yeah. A social front yard is basically a front yard that’s designed not just for aesthetics but also for sort of a natural area for friends and neighbors to interact. Now, according to the DOE, there are a few key elements to creating a social, friendly front yard.
First of all, outdoor rooms, right? The social front yard typically has to support functions like playing and resting and entertaining. If the area is not used, it’s not a success. So you want to make sure your design makes social and functional spaces feel like an integral part of the entire front yard, rather than sort of a disconnected fragment or section.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, let’s talk about variable seating. Now, just like your backyard, it’s smart to create various seating areas within that larger space. And this can take the form of a seating area, like a fire pit, a bistro table if you’re thinking about casual eating, maybe a porch swing or just even general lounging/hangout areas.
And you also want to think about fencing to keep your kids and your pets safe. You know, it’s nice for kids to be able to play in your front yard but it also poses the risk of the street. And depending on where you live, it could be a very busy street. So, fencing could be needed to keep your kids safe.
You also want to think about sight lines from the street to the yard. Now, possibly, this is the most important thing to consider. And you want to make sure that your home doesn’t feel closed off or imposing. So, paths should appear welcoming so that landscaping should allow views from the street. And that’s going to create an inviting feel. You don’t want to kind of trap yourself with landscaping or fencing and change that whole kind of welcoming feel of the front of the house just to give you that functionality. But it definitely is awesome to use that front lawn.
TOM: And of course, we used to have all this covered when porches were more popular. But if you don’t have one, these are a great way to create a welcoming space to hang out and enjoy family and friends. I am one of the few fortunate homeowners that actually still has a porch. And we do enjoy it, spend time on it. But I guess even if you have a porch, you could have sort of a second tier, right, where it kind of goes out into your front yard and creates some of those other sort of really comfortable spaces.
LESLIE: Yeah. Porches are the best. But if you don’t have one, front yards work, too.
TOM: It kind of redefines curb appeal, too. Doesn’t it? It’s like we always think of curb appeal as the presentation of the house and the trim and the lawn’s all trimmed and painted neatly. But now it’s going to look like a total chill-out space, no matter what side of the house you’re looking at.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to Nebraska where Dan is on the line with a mold situation.
What’s going on?
DAN: So I put up a pole building 3 years ago and it’s a 48×36 and 10-foot sidewall. And I finished off about 700 square feet on the inside and sheetrocked it, put R30 in the ceiling, R19 on the walls. And it’s got a 4-inch slab concrete base to it.
And this spring, I went out there and I had mold all over everything. And I don’t know what’s causing that. The first 2 years I never had a bit of problem.
TOM: Well, it’s been a very wet year. Now, you have no heat in this building, I presume?
DAN: I heat the bathroom, which is about 8×10, during the winter here in Nebraska. And the rest I don’t heat.
TOM: Well, look, mold needs three things to survive: it needs moisture, it needs air and it needs food. And all those things are available in that pole building. Your walls are made of drywall, I presume?
DAN: Yes, sir. Sheetrock. Mm-hmm.
TOM: Yeah, right. Drywall, yeah. So the paper facing, that is terrific mold food. And you have moisture there and you have plenty of air and you’re not heating it, so the humidity is always pretty high. And that’s why you’re growing mold. So, you need to at least ventilate that building, if you’re not going to heat it, to keep moving the air through it so it doesn’t – the humidity doesn’t become quite as high. But at this point, if you’ve got all that mold, that has to be treated.
DAN: Yeah. And I’ve done that. I’ve gotten that all out of there, right now, but I – and I put a dehumidifier in there just to …
TOM: OK. Well, that will help.
DAN: And it took me like 2½ days and I got it down to 30 percent, so it came right down. Do I need to seal the floor – the concrete floor – in there?
TOM: I don’t think that that’s necessarily the cause of the problem. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to seal the floor but I think that this is just a condition of the fact that you’ve got a damp building there with no central-heating system, with plenty of drywall, plenty of moisture and plenty of air. So, just because of the conditions, the mold is going to grow.
Now, there were other ways that you could have constructed these walls. For example, there’s a product called DensArmor, which is a fiberglass-faced drywall that’s specifically designed not to grow mold, because it’s not organic. But with paper-face, in an un-heating building like that, I’m not surprised that it grew. Well, I am surprised it took 2 years but it might just be that it was just so moist this last year that it really took off.
DAN: How do I go ahead and vent that, though?
TOM: Well, what I would do is I would probably have a fan in there that was based on the humidistats so when the humidity got really high, that it would kick on and draw air out of that building. Kind of like having an attic fan but on a humidistat instead of a thermostat, right? That plus the dehumidifier should help you keep the moisture to a minimum.
But keep an eye out for mold because once it gets started, then it really can take off quickly and it sounds like that’s happened in this case. So if you catch it sooner than later, you’re going to be much better off.
DAN: Yes. I want to try to eliminate it completely, so I’ll try that.
TOM: Alright. And when you do find the mold, when it gets there, you make sure you treat it properly so that you kill the mold spores. Don’t just try to scrub it off, because it’ll come right back. You’ve got to treat it to kill the mold spores, then clean off the rest.
LESLIE: Pat in Arkansas is dealing with a humid house.
What’s going on there?
PAT: Well, I have a new heat pump and it’s not taking out the humidity. Of course, I live in a humid area but I just wondered. It’s supposed to take out the humidity, as I understood.
TOM: Well, not really. I mean air conditioners, in general – central air conditioners, which is essentially what a heat pump is, are not designed to be dehumidifiers. They do dehumidify by virtue of the fact that they’re cooling the air but they’re not as effective as other forms of dehumidifiers.
There’s a couple of other ones that you could consider, one of which is called a “whole-home dehumidifier.” And that’s built into the HVAC system. It would be built into the duct system. And that can take out about 90 pints of water a day.
There’s another type of stand-alone dehumidifier. In fact, I just put one of these in my own house and I thought it was absolutely terrific. It’s by Santa Fe and it’s a small dehumidifier that installs – in my case, I put it in my basement. And it actually is suspended from the ceiling, in an unfinished part of the basement. And it’s only 12x12x22.
And it takes out 70 pints of water a day. And it’s really neat. Once I had it up for an hour or so, I went down there and you can just see this pretty strong stream of water dripping out of it. And all that water used to be in the air and now it’s no longer there.
So, you need to do some dehumidification and I think that you’ll find that that will do the trick, Pat.
PAT: OK. What is the average humidity supposed to be in a house?
LESLIE: Thirty to fifty percent?
TOM: Well, yeah, I was going to say around 40. So we’re in the same neighbor.
TOM: And if you put a good dehumidifier in, that will be set up to a humidistat so that you’ll always know what the humidity is.
LESLIE: And it’ll come on as it’s needed.
TOM: Right, exactly.
PAT: OK. Alrighty. Well, I thank you so much.
TOM: Good luck, Pat. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, a beautiful, new deck can be the centerpiece of your backyard outdoor-living experience. But if your deck is ready for an update or even a complete replacement, there’s a new option that makes this process so much easier and it’s rolling out exclusively at Lowes.com.
Now, it’s called the Trex Transcend Deck Kit and it includes all of the Trex materials that are required to build a 12-foot by 16-foot deck, including Trex’s top of the line Transcend Decking, the Trex Fascia and the Trex Hideaway Hidden Fasteners.
TOM: Yeah. They’ve made it super easy. Because pretty much, with just one click on Lowes.com, you can purchase everything you need and have it ready for pickup at your local Lowe’s store. Or it can be shipped directly to your project site.
Now, Trex Transcend is a beautiful product. It’s got a high-definition grain pattern. The Trex Transcend Deck Kit at Lowe’s features the brand’s very popular Island Mist color. And that’s got a weathered look. It kind of looks like driftwood but with none of the maintenance hassles that real wood needs to keep it maintained.
Now, you can use the Trex Transcend to create a brand-new deck. Or you could use it to makeover one that’s basically structurally sound but needs a big facelift. And that’s a project I’m doing right now at our house. And I’ve got to tell you, the transformation is spectacular. In our case, we had a wood deck that was solid but it was old and it was really in need of some dressing up. So what we decided to do is to remove the old wood decking and replace it with the Trex Transcend Decking and then also add the Transcend Railing Kits. And we’ve got now a beautiful new, 12×16-plus deck. And it looks fantastic. And we were able to rely on a lot of the old structure in doing this.
LESLIE: Well, that’s going to look great. And it really is going to be a lot easier to take care of. You’re never going to need to worry about sanding or staining or painting. Just an occasional soap-and-water clean and it’s going to keep it looking like brand-spanking new. I’ve had our Trex deck – which is not even this new product – for, what is it, 15, 16 years at my house? And it looks fantastic. And truly, every so often, I just kind of give it a quick clean just to get the dirt that blows around in the winter season off of it. And it looks fantastic. So, think about that, guys. Such a time-saver. And you’re really going to get to enjoy it.
You can check out the new Trex Transcend Deck Kit, available exclusively through Lowe’s. Learn more at Lowes.Trex.com. That’s Lowes.Trex.com.
TOM: I love that I was able to order everything online at Lowe’s. Just one click and everything was in my shopping cart. I was able to buy it, ship it right to the house and we were good to go.
LESLIE: Kevin in Rhode Island has a question about keeping a basement dry.
What can we do for you?
KEVIN: I removed the downspout extension that took the water away, maybe, 3 feet from the foundation.
KEVIN: And I replaced it, because someone said it didn’t look good. I replaced it with a cement kind of water carry-away, which is 2 feet. And I noticed I have some water in the basement. So, it’s very damp. It’s damp is what it is.
KEVIN: So I put a little crushed rock at the end of the extension, hoping that that would maybe help out on the water dispersing down or something.
TOM: Yeah, that’s not going to do anything except prevent erosion. If you want to make your basement drier, you’ve got to move the moisture away from it. You were on the right track with the downspout extension.
Now, if you don’t want to see that, you might want to explore the possibility of running your leader into a solid PVC pipe and running that underground. But it has to be pitched and then discharged somewhere. So it depends on kind of the shape of your property as to whether or not you could make that happen.
But I would rather see those downspouts extended away from the foundation wall than deal with the water that can accumulate in the basement as a result.
KEVIN: Good idea.
TOM: Alright, Kevin. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, guys, if you’ve got a big project to take on over the upcoming Labor Day weekend, we’ve got a big giveaway that can help.
LESLIE: We sure do. We’ve got the Wagner Control Pro 170 High-Efficiency Airless Paint Sprayer. Do you guys have an exterior painting project? This is awesome. I mean painting a fence with a brush or a roller, it takes forever. There’s so many nooks and crannies. But with the Wagner Efficiency Airless Paint Sprayer – zip, zip, zip – you have painted like a pro in all of those hard-to-get-to areas super easily. You’re going to use 50-percent less overspray paint. You’re not going to make a gigantic mess. It’s going to go on three times faster than a roller. It’s like you hired a pro but you did it yourself.
So, this really is a fantastic prize to get a ton of painting projects done, in the upcoming fall season, that’s going to make your house look exceptional. It’s a great prize, so make sure you check it out both in-store and online at Lowe’s Home Improvement.
TOM: That Wagner Control Pro 170 High-Efficiency Airless Paint Sprayer is going to go out to one listener. Make that you. Whether you listen by radio, by podcast, on the website, we would love to include you in this giveaway. So call us with your questions, because that’s how you qualify, or post them at MoneyPit.com. Our number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Dan in South Carolina needs some help with a garage project.
How can we help you today?
DAN: I just wanted to know, is there any product – linoleum, tile – I could put on my garage floor? It’s been painted already with a stain. And they tell me I have to sand it up and everything. Is there anything I can put on that that would stay when I drive the car in and out?
TOM: Yeah. You know, there are garage-floor systems – tile systems – designed specifically for garage floors and to stay in good condition when you drive the car over it. These are usually tile systems that lock together. They’re very attractive.
You could take a look at RaceDeck, for example, RaceDeck.com. You’ll see some drop-dead gorgeous floors there. And there are others, as well. And they’re – once they’re installed, they look good, they clean easy and they’re not going to peel up.
DAN: And there’s no glue involved? They lock together?
TOM: No, they lock together and they snap together and they’re basically floating floors. But they’re great.
DAN: Oh, great. Thank you very much.
TOM: Your place is going to look like Jay Leno’s garage if you put this in.
DAN: OK. That’s what I want, without the cars.
TOM: Alright. Take care. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, a tree in your landscape can be a thing of beauty. But after it’s gone, that stump left behind is not so cute. It’s a tripping hazard. It can damage your lawn mowers if you try to mow around it. It’s going to attract insects. And let’s face it, guys: sawn-off trunks really don’t look that great. So stump removal is truly your only option.
And sad to say, guys, there’s nothing easy about stump removal. But if you’re willing to trade off waiting time for expense, there are a number of ways that you can eliminate the stump for very little cost. Here are a few of those different methods that you can choose from.
TOM: Yeah. Now, the most common method of stump removal is grinding. But that job is about as far away from DIY as you can get. You’d have to hire a tree service who uses a very specialized stump grinder: a machine, by the way, that resembles a torture machine from the scariest horror movie. The tool features a spinning, circular grinding blade that is plunged into the ground again and again to chew up the stump and reduce it to sawdust. And it works really well but it’s super expensive. It will cost you hundreds to have a stump removed that way.
But if you are a hardy do-it-yourselfer, you could also dig out the stump. And that’s fine, if it’s a medium to small-sized stump. That can be done in a single afternoon. You basically have to dig around the stump with a pointed shovel to expose the roots and then cut through those exposed roots. The idea here is to get this kind of cut down below the grade line and then you let Mother Nature do the rest.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, another option is to use liquid stump-removal products. They generally contain potassium nitrate and that’s going to speed up the microbial process of decomposition. Could be in liquid form, it could be in a powder form that you mix with some water. And this method works if you cut the stump as close to the ground as possible. Then what you do is you drill multiple 1-inch holes, that are 10 inches deep in the top of the stump, and then you pour that chemical into the top of the holes. I mean you really follow the directions. But what you’re trying to do is get that product into the inside of the stump so it can decompose it from the inside.
TOM: Yeah. You have to wait several months for the chemical to really work and then you chop out the softened wood with an axe and you fill the hole with soil.
Now, I did this myself to a tree that was maybe 12 inches in diameter, maybe 15 inches in diameter. And it did work. But I burned out my drill in the process.
LESLIE: Oh, geez.
TOM: Well, because I probably – I chose a drill that probably wasn’t designed for drilling 10-inch-deep holes in oak. And it just fried. I smelled it, it burned up and that was that. I had to throw it away. But the good news is I got the stump out.
LESLIE: And you got a new drill.
TOM: That’s right. Not like I need an excuse to buy a new tool, mind you.
LESLIE: Yeah, right.
TOM: But it’s always helpful when I have one.
LESLIE: David reached out. And David wants to know: “How can I improve the airflow in rooms where the doors are kept closed?” He says, “We’ve got a cat and we need to keep the bedroom door closed to keep him out of the room but the A/C and the heat is never right. It gets uncomfortably warm in the summer and cool in the winter.”
He’s saying he doesn’t want to enlarge the gap at the bottom of the door, since the air – since the cat hair, sorry, and the dander can still then get in. He’s been thinking of installing transfer grills above the door and is wondering if that’s going to help.
TOM: Well, yeah. First of all, you are correct: you do need a larger way – a larger gap. And typically, it’s under the door to let the air get back to the system to re-cool.
LESLIE: It’s got to get back to the return duct.
TOM: Well, right. Because people think that the air comes out and it’s cold and it cools your room and that’s it. That’s not the way it works. It recirculates over and over and over again. And that’s why your house gets cooler. Now, if you stop the recirculation, it’s not going to work. So you’ve got to find a way for it to get back.
Now, if you don’t want to enlarge the gap under the door – that’s the easiest thing to do and I would make a good inch-and-a-half gap there, if this was my house. But if you’re worried about that because of the dust and the hair, yes, any other hole in your wall between that room and the rest of the house is going to work. And if the right place to put that is above the door and you want to do something fancy-shmancy with a transom, great. Go ahead and do that.
But the other thing that you can do – and I’ve seen it and it’s a very easy and effective and very inexpensive way to do it – is if you simply cut a hole in the wall the size of a return vent, right? Now, a return vent basically just covers that hole and it’s wide open. And you block out the bottom of the open wall cavity and the top. Now you have sort of a square-framed hole in your wall. Put a return vent on one side, a return vent on the other and now you’ve got another way that air inside the room can get drawn back to the rest of the house.
So no matter how you do it, you’ve got to recirculate that air if you want to be cool and comfortable in the summer and if you want to be warm in the winter. And those are a couple of ways to do just that.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Ronnie wrote in saying, “I’ve got an annoying plumbing problem. I have a small, ranch-style home built in 1967. When taking a shower and the water is used in another part of the house, the hot or cold water decreases in the shower. Can this problem be remedied?”
TOM: Yeah. It’s happening because there’s not enough incoming water pressure, Ronnie. And as a result, the pressure’s going to drop for either the hot or the cold when the water is used elsewhere. And because of that, you get less pressure in your shower. Plus, you often get big changes in water temperature in that shower and that can cause a very surprisingly cold- or hot-water blast of water that is pretty uncomfortable.
But there is a solution. It’s called, simply, a “pressure-balance valve” and that’s exactly what it does. It’s not going to stop the pressure from fluctuating but it will keep the balance between the amount of hot water and cold water flowing into that shower consistent. So that will stop those unpleasant temperature changes.
And the other thing that you might want to do is reach out to your water company or have your plumber check the water pressure at the main. Now, if it’s less than 50 pounds, there may be a number of ways to increase this and therefore reduce or eliminate the problem. A lot of times, if you have low water pressure, it becomes increasingly more difficult. But 50, 60, 70, that would be in the normal range and that’s what you’re looking for.
LESLIE: Alright. Hope that gives you a hand, Ronnie. And then you can take a nice, hot shower without anybody disturbing the water temp and pressure and all those things. And then your kids will just have to dump a pitcher of cold water over your head to get the same effect.
TOM: The old-fashioned way.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thanks for spending this little part of your day with us. We hope you’re enjoying these final weeks of summer. If you’ve got some questions about projects you’re planning for the weeks ahead, we’d love to hear from you. Just reach out anytime this week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions online at MoneyPit.com.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2022 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)