- Super Power Your Vac: Is your vacuum just not doing the job, and just when you need it for spring cleaning? We’ve got tips for DIY vacuum repairs.
- Building a Fence: Good fences make good neighbors, but only if it’s done well. Find out how to put up a fence even the neighbors will love.
- Deck Safety: Is your deck safe for outdoor entertaining? Now is the time to look for signs of potential dangers.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Heating an Old Home: Beverly is freezing on the first floor of her historic home. With no easy way to access the crawlspace and poorly placed heating ducts, we suggest adding supplemental heat by adding electric baseboard heating.
- Smart Thermostats: Jeff’s bedroom gets a lot warmer than the other rooms in his condo, where the thermostat is located. Installing a smart thermostat with separate sensors should even things out.
- Sealing Drafts: What is the best way to stop drafts coming through windows, doors, and cabinets? We give Anne advice on how to seal and insulate the gaps.
- Driveway Replacement: Can you pour a concrete driveway on top of an existing asphalt driveway? It’s not a good idea, and Ray will have to excavate the old driveway and build up the surface before pouring concrete.
- Electrical and Plumbing: Karen has lots of questions on how she should be checking her circuit breakers and water meter. We agree it’s good to check them regularly and tell her how to do it.
- Vapor Barriers: Do you need to add a vapor barrier on the interior walls of a new garage? The vapor barrier Jessie has on the exterior is enough and extra layers may trap moisture inside the walls.
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: Here to help you take on the projects you want to get done. And I am so excited because next week – it’s official, Leslie. Next week is the first week of Spring 2023 and that means the gloves – I’m not saying the gloves are off. No, actually, the work gloves are on.
LESLIE: You’re swapping gloves. It’s just a glove swap.
TOM: They’re swapping gloves. That’s right. The winter gloves are off, the work gloves are on and we’re going to get going on our projects around the house, inside and out. If you’ve got one on your to-do list, we would love to hear all about it. You can reach out to us by going to MoneyPit.com/Ask. There is a blue microphone there. Just click it, record your question and it’ll come right to us. We’ll get a chance to answer it on the next show or you can post your question on the same page at MoneyPit.com/Ask.
Coming up on today’s show, if you want a quick way to start a neighborhood feud, just go ahead and put up an ugly fence on the wrong side of a property line.
LESLIE: That sounds like a terrible way to become a friend.
TOM: Yeah. Well, we’re going to share some tips on the right way to fence-in your yard.
LESLIE: Alright, guys. And as the weather is getting nicer, you’re going to be spending a lot more time outside and on your deck. So now, really, is the time to make sure that that deck is safe. We’re going to share some tips to help you spot signs of deck trouble before it becomes too dangerous.
TOM: And now that it’s officially spring-cleaning season, the number-one tool you need to work and work well is your vacuum. If yours just doesn’t have the sucking power it used to, we’re going to help you with some easy tips to make sure your number-one cleaning tool is good to go.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you want to know. Because if you guys can dream it, you can for sure build it or hire the right person to do so. It depends on what kind of mood you’re in and your skill level. But whatever it is you guys are working on or planning to do for the spring and summer season, reach out to Team Money Pit. We’re standing by to lend a hand.
TOM: And one listener to today’s show is going to win a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure, because we think home improvements are an adventure. Just like an adventure trip, it’s very exciting, it’s very exhilarating and it doesn’t always end up exactly like you planned, which speaks to so many home improvement projects. So give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or again, post your questions at MoneyPit.com/Ask.
LESLIE: We’ve got Beverly from Baltimore on the line who’s got a super-drafty home. I was trying to think of a way to say drafty with a B, also – Beverly in Baltimore. But she’s got a very old house and is looking for some help keeping it from being so drafty.
What’s going on?
BEVERLY: I live in historic Fells Point – for the Marylanders – and it’s an end-of-group row home that was built in 1880.
TOM: 1880. Wow. That’s even older than our house.
BEVERLY: Yeah, it’s old. But it was rehabbed and – or maybe a flip when we bought it in 2005. And we’ve done some things to the house since then but our ground floor is always freezing. And you know what? I thought it was just normal living in a house that was built it 1880.
LESLIE: “Well, I guess I’m just supposed to be cold. Oh, well.”
BEVERLY: But the more that I listen to your show, I’m thinking that’s not normal. So, I think that there’s a crawlspace under my house but I can’t figure out how it would be accessed to check out the insulation. Because I know you guys talk about how important insulation is. Well, if there’s any insulation at all. Everything is sealed up, except for this teeny, tiny, little, 5-inch-long by 3-inch-high grate on the alley side.
TOM: Yeah, a portal. Yeah.
BEVERLY: Yeah. And so, the thing is, when we had the house inspected before we bought it, the fact that you couldn’t even get into the crawlspace, it wasn’t raised as an issue. And now that we’re in this house for x-many years, we’re like, “Uh…”
BEVERLY: So, what can you – what would you suggest?
TOM: OK. So, first of all, yeah, I would like to know what the heck’s going on with that crawlspace.
Now, I’ve done a lot of inspections in the years as a professional home inspector and typically, if you don’t have a crawlspace access like that, I would do whatever I could to take a peek in there. I mean I’ve laid down in the alleyways between houses like that and pressed my face up against that grate. And the only other thing next to my eye socket was my flashlight, so I could try to see what was happening in there. Because if there’s going to be trouble, it’s going to be in an inaccessible crawlspace. And I would look to see if there’s insulation, if the lumber looked like it was structurally sound, if I saw any termite tunnels walking up the walls, you know?
There is some information that you can get by taking that close look. If there was a problem that we had to get in there then, of course, there are ways to open that up and create an access, or at least some access, to do what you’ve got to do.
But let me ask you this: how is your house heated?
BEVERLY: We have forced air, yeah. So, it’s gas and it’s central. Because it was a rehab. They made it all modern, right?
TOM: I bet you forced air wasn’t its first heating system. I bet you had a hot-water system or a steam system in there somewhere.
Are your ducts located in the ceiling or are they on the walls?
BEVERLY: Oh, goodness. They’re all over the place. They’re largely located in the ceiling.
TOM: Knew it. I knew it. So, you may have heard this before but heat rises. So, yeah, when you have heat distributed at the ceiling, it doesn’t want to go down too well.
You know what I would – I think I might consider in this case, because it’s just so darn hard to reconfigure it at this point. I might consider some supplemental heat. And I generally don’t recommend electric baseboards but in your case – and considering the fact that this is sort of the heating system that’s designed to, let’s say, take the edge off those really, really cold days – I might think about adding some supplemental baseboard electric heat, properly installed and properly wired.
You want to make sure your system can handle it – with a thermostat – so that you, on those cold days, could supplement the forced-air heat. Because all that forced-air heat that you’re distributing at the ceiling level is just never going to get down. And that may be coupled with the fact that you just don’t have enough insulation or any insulation in that floor. And we haven’t even talked about the walls yet.
So I think, in your case, I might consider some supplemental electric baseboard heat just for that taking-the-edge-off sort of reason and not become your primary heating system. Otherwise, you’re going to be spending $600 a month on electricity and we don’t want that to happen. But it’s inexpensive to put in, comparatively. You could also put in a split-ductless system but then you’re kind of doing the same thing and you would still have electric – high electric bills as a result of that. So I think I would do that.
And then I’d also see if I could get a view of that crawlspace, just so I kind of knew what was going on in that area.
BEVERLY: You might not be able to answer this but is it even legal to have a house that does not have access to a crawlspace?
TOM: They didn’t have building codes in 1880. You know, look, these houses sort of morph over time. I’ve seen a lot of houses like that in your part of the country and also in Washington D.C., where I did a lot of home inspections. And it’s not optimal but it happens and you buy those houses with some degree of risk as a result, which is why I always did everything I possibly could to have a look in there using whatever was accessible to me.
BEVERLY: Yeah. Well, speaking of risk – OK. So, I’ve owned this house – this wonderful delight of a surprise – since 2005 and we’ve done a lot of things to it to just keep it alive: replace the furnace, the air conditioner. But the question that I have to keeping the home healthy, right, is: do people ever hire a home inspector to do a thorough checkup of the property even if they’re not looking to sell it?
TOM: Right. Yeah. Mm-hmm.
BEVERLY: Just like you visit a primary-care physician.
BEVERLY: I know it seems like it might be like a crazy expenditure of money. But good Lord, I would love to be able to understand what’s the next thing I need to spend money on.
TOM: No, I think that’s a really good idea. In fact, when I was a home inspector, I did quite a few of those inspections. Just sort of like – let’s just look at this point in time and see what the condition of the building is.
Because a home inspector is – the reason it’s helpful to use a home inspector for this is because home inspectors, we’re generalists, right? We can cover the heating, the cooling, the plumbing, the electrical systems. We can cover the roof, we can cover the structure. And second to that, we’re not contractors.
TOM: So, we’re not going to say, “Beverly, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The bad news is you need a new roof. The good news is I’m free this weekend. I can do it for you. Sign here.” You’re not going to get that kind of thing from a home inspector. They’re basically sworn to be independent.
And so I think having an inspector go through that property and sizing up the whole place – and especially the areas that you’re worried about or observations that you’ve made, of issues of concern – I think would be a really smart thing for you to do.
BEVERLY: Oh, my goodness, yeah. Awesome. And you guys are awesome. Thank you so much for just doing what you do and – Tom and Leslie. Love you.
TOM: Alright. Well, thank you very much and good luck with that project. Sounds like you’re going to have quite a to-do list for a while.
BEVERLY: Well, we’ll work on it. Alright. Take care.
TOM: Well, if you’re planning your next home improvement adventure, now would be a great time to reach out to us at MoneyPit.com/Ask, because it just so happens we’re giving away an adventure guide to help you get through with those projects.
LESLIE: Yep. We’ve got a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. And that’s going out to one listener. It’s drawn at random, so make that you.
TOM: Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That’s 888-666-3974. Or better yet, post your question at MoneyPit.com/Ask. Just click the blue microphone button.
LESLIE: Heading out to Phoenix where we’ve got Jeff on the line.
What’s going on at your Money Pit?
JEFF: Well, my situation is I have a condo in Phoenix, Arizona and it’s all on one floor. It’s on the ground floor. However, the way the condo is constructed, the master bedroom adjoins an unheated garage. Consequently, especially in Phoenix in the summer, the master-bedroom area of the condo, it gets very warm. The thermostat is in the general living area – the living/dining-room area – and there is, of course, a wall separating the master bedroom from that area.
So, I’m trying to figure out, how can I make the master bedroom/master bath a more livable situation?
TOM: And because it’s a condominium, you probably can’t add a supplemental air conditioner, something like that. You’re pretty much stuck with what you have. Is that right?
JEFF: That’s my understanding. There’s HOAs and they govern all these things and from what I understand – I haven’t tested those waters yet.
TOM: How’s the airflow through the registers? Is it pretty strong or do you feel like maybe it’s obstructed?
JEFF: No, I don’t think they’re obstructed at all. In fact, I had a fellow look and he said it’s absolutely clear and it’s not an obstruction issue.
TOM: The problem here is the positioning of the thermostat. It’s only going to operate the heating-and-cooling system based on the temperature where it is. And that’s normal. But in your case, you’ve got such a differentiation between where the thermostat is and your master bedroom/bath area that’s it’s not doing the job.
So there is a solution here. Now, ecobee is a type of smart thermostat. And the reason I bring up that particular type of thermostat is because they also sell a sensor that works with the thermostat. And once you install this new ecobee thermostat, you have the opportunity to add sensors. And the sensor would be in your master bedroom. And then you go into the operation of this thermostat and you basically tell it what temperature to operate based on.
So you could say this thermostat, essentially, “If my bedroom gets to be over X, then bring on the system,” even though where the main thermostat is located, it hasn’t reached that temperature yet. So you have the opportunity to sort of balance your comfort across the home. And you can do that on a calendar basis or a clock basis so it’s not like that all the time. Maybe it’s just in the afternoon. You can just work with it after a while to kind of dial it in.
But the thing here is that you get a thermostat and some number of sensors – you might need one, you might need more – then you can adjust it accordingly. Does that make sense?
JEFF: It does. However, a bit concerned. Would that mean that the thermostat would kick on – if it reads that the temperature in the bedroom is 85, whereas the rest of the house is 72, is it going to kick on and therefore, the rest of the condo would go down to 60, even though the bedroom would now be a comfortable 72?
TOM: It may be but then you might have the opportunity to shut down some of the ducts or some of the vents in the rest of the place to get things balanced out where you want it. It’s going to be a learning experience for you and the thermostat to try to – I mean, look, because we’re trying to do something here where we don’t have the ability to add an additional unit.
In my house, I’ve got two rooms in my very old house that don’t keep up well with the air conditioner in the summer because of their exposure. One room, which is the kitchen, is an addition that was done in the early 1900s and of course, it’s got – the ceiling and three of the walls are exposed to the outside, so it needs more air conditioning than the rest. And then I have an office on the west side of the house, both of which are pretty far away from where the central air-conditioning system is located. And so for those, I use a split-ductless system to supplement it.
If you can’t add air conditioning because your condominium association does not allow that, we have to get more creative. And that’s why I suggested a thermostat system that includes sensors, where you have the chance to balance it out.
JEFF: Appreciate your help.
TOM: Well, putting up a fence can add style, security and value to your property but it can also be an eyesore, a maintenance headache and cause a battle with your neighbors. To avoid those pitfalls, you’ve got to plan very carefully.
LESLIE: Alright. First, guys, you need to check your property line. You want to make sure that you’re not building into your neighbor’s yard. And you also want to check with local officials to make sure that you don’t need a permit to build a fence, period.
Now, once you’re sure about all of those things, you can start thinking about what kind of fence you like.
TOM: And fencing is available in many materials, including natural and pressure-treated woods, vinyl and metal. And that natural wood can be beautiful but it’s going to require the most maintenance.
For us, we went with natural wood but I made sure to prime it on all sides, which includes the top and the bottom of the boards. It made a big difference and it’s lasted 10 years so far.
LESLIE: And also, guys, you have to remember that there are two sides to a fence and one side looks way better than the other. And guess what? You’ve got to put that good side to the outside.
I know. You want it to look really great on the inside and I promise you, the backside of that fence is going to look great in your yard. But that beautiful, finished outside of that fence has to go on the exterior. So, whether that’s your neighbor’s yard, the front of the house, yada-yada, it’s got to look good on the outside.
Now, I’ve even seen people double-up a fence so that they have good sides on both sides. If that’s in your budget, go for it.
TOM: Yeah, there’s a certain type of fence that has, basically, two good sides. And if that’s the case, you could do that. But if you’ve just got, say, a standard 6-foot stock 8 fence? Sorry, good side has to face out.
Hey, for a complete checklist of tips and more advice on the best fences, head on over to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Anne on the line who’s feeling the chill.
What’s going on with the insulation at your place?
ANNE: I was just wondering what the best way or best product to use for a very drafty house. Around the windows, underneath the floor, feeling like it’s coming through on the base of the cabinets in the kitchen. Drafty.
TOM: So, Anne, tackling drafts is – sounds like it’s a constant battle for you, so I’m going to give you a couple of tips.
First of all, with respect to the windows, you need to figure out where these drafts are coming in. If the weather-stripping is worn or missing and say, they’re old double-hung windows, then that needs to be replaced. I often find, though, that you’ll get drafts that’ll be around the outside of the molding, even on the inside of the house. That casing, that trim will sometimes allow air to draft in from the outside, especially on a windy day. So, for those areas, we just recommend that you caulk the outside perimeter. And for the windows themselves, you should be adding new weather-stripping to that.
Now, you also mentioned being very chilly towards the floor and the base cabinets, so that might be – to me, Leslie, it sounds like it could be the box beam. You know, the floor underneath that part of the house …
LESLIE: Is just open.
TOM: Yeah, it may not be insulated. That box beam, which is the – where the floor joists sort of intersect with the outside of the house. That area needs to be insulated. And in fact, if you have an unfinished crawlspace, the floor system itself needs to be insulated. So, I would start there with weather-stripping the windows and secondly, I would insulate the floor underneath that area and especially that box-beam area. And if you want to go the extra mile, you could also use a product like Great Stuff to seal any large gaps that are in there, where air might be coming in.
You can do your own kind of draft inspection if the wind’s blowing right, just by sort of holding the back of your hand against the window area. Not without touching – not touching the window but just right up against it, because I find that the back of my hand is much more sensitive than my palm. And I can really pinpoint drafts sometimes by doing that.
LESLIE: Well, we’ve all heard the horror stories of deck collapses. But a good, pre-season deck inspection is going to tell you if you’ve got anything to worry about. And doing your own deck inspection isn’t that hard to do. Or you can definitely hire a pro to do it for you.
TOM: Well, there are definitely some telltale signs of trouble that are pretty easy to see if you know where to look.
So, first, check for rot, check for decay. There are a few areas of the deck to look at to make sure the wood is still solid. That includes the ledger board. Now, that’s where the deck attaches to the house. It’s a very common source of deck failure. It’s got to be solid, no rot and have solid bolts all the way through into the other side of the house framing.
The support posts and the joists under the deck are important to check. The deck boards, the railings and the stairs. And pay special attention to any areas that tend to remain damp and are regularly exposed to water or in contact with fasteners. You can use a tool, like a screwdriver or an ice pick, to penetrate that wood surface.
When I did these inspections professionally, I had a long Craftsman screwdriver, like the kind that the mechanics use to work on engines. And I would buy two of them at the same time, because I’d actually wear out the tips from all the poking about I would do with those things. But man, when you find rot, it looks good from the outside but that screwdriver will go right through it. That’s why I like it. Plus, as you tap on a board that is rotted, it has a different sound than one that’s solid. You’ll get used to this as you start tapping around your house.
Inspect all that area. Inspect those wood surfaces, inspect those wood structural members to make sure that they are solid, because it’s a sure sign of a deck problem if they’re not.
LESLIE: Alright. Now you’ve also got to check the flashing. Now, the flashing is that metal or plastic guard that directs the water away and out from the sensitive areas of the structure. And it’s often installed where the deck and house come together. That’s going to keep moisture and debris from collecting between the house and the deck’s ledger board, so you have to be certain that the flashing is there, it’s sound and it’s firmly in place.
And then go ahead and check all the fasteners. You want to tighten up anything that you find loose and pound in any nails that are popping up. And if a fastener appears rusted or even corroded, just replace it. Now, a corroded fastener can cause deterioration in the wood that’s surrounding it.
And lastly, the deck and the stairs? That should appear even without sagging and you should now go on them if they sway or if they move when they’re tested. So, it’s like there’s a couple of things to look out for and a lot of it has to do with movement there.
TOM: Now, also, don’t forget to check the railings and the banisters. They need to be secure. You could push on them to make sure there’s no give and also to be sure they’re high enough. Most codes require a 36-inch-high railing and usually encourage 42-inch-high railings with the spindles no more than 4 inches apart. That’s measured from the inside of those spindles. It’s really important to keep small kids and pets from squeezing through, so keep that in mind. Especially important the higher your deck is off the ground, as well.
LESLIE: Alright. And finally, here’s a good trick of the trade. Besides the structure, when you’re checking everything out, if you find some badly cracked or even just splintered floorboards, there’s a really easy fix for it. You just pry them up, flip them over and reattach.
TOM: Yep. Because since that backside hasn’t been exposed to the sun, it’ll probably be in as good a shape as the day it was first put down.
LESLIE: Ray in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RAY: I’ve got an asphalt driveway, blacktop.
RAY: What I want to do – I’m going to take – I’m taking the asphalt out and I’m going to put a concrete drive in.
TOM: OK. OK.
RAY: My question is – the area by the road is pretty solid. And another thing is I want to raise the drive up for some – about a little over 4 inches.
RAY: So what I want to do is leave the end by the road and just pour the concrete on top of the blacktop.
TOM: Yeah, I think that would probably be a mistake. I don’t think the blacktop is a good thing for you to go on top of. I would encourage you to excavate it and to build it up properly with properly-tamped fill dirt and stone and compress it very, very well with tampers. And then go ahead and put the concrete on top of that.
I think if you put it over the asphalt, you’re really asking for trouble. I really don’t advise that. I would definitely take it up and do it from scratch, even if you have to add some fill there to bring it up to where you want it to be. You then put the driveway down. And you may want to reinforce the concrete since it’s such a long driveway.
RAY: You figure the asphalt wouldn’t hold it. Wouldn’t be strong enough, huh?
TOM: No, I don’t like it. I don’t like it. No, I don’t – I can’t ever imagine – I would never do that myself and I just don’t think it’s a good combination.
I mean look, the asphalt fell apart at the top of the driveway. It’s eventually going to do that at the bottom.
RAY: Oh, I got you. I see what you mean.
TOM: Alright, Ray. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Karen is on the line with a question about circuit breakers and whether or not we need to keep turning them on and off.
Welcome. How can we help you?
KAREN: You mentioned something earlier on your show about turning circuit breakers on and off and then doing something. I did not catch the whole thing. I had just started watching the show. And also, checking for water leaks. I’m wondering if you can repeat that information or if it could be on your website.
LESLIE: So many people talk about exercising the circuit breaker. You know, it’s like – I don’t know if there’s really anything to it other than making sure things don’t get jammed up and everything is capable of turning on and off in the event that you need to do so.
So, what do you recommend, Tom? Every 2 or 3 months do it or once a year?
TOM: I think you can turn them on or off every couple of months, just to keep things flexible. And then also, make sure you check your ground-fault circuit breakers. Those are the outlets, sometimes, with the test and reset buttons. Just to make sure they’re flexible and operating. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and it certainly won’t hurt. And it could definitely help.
LESLIE: It’s so funny, the outside ones with the circuit breakers, I only really use it during the holiday time. And anytime I need to reset it because it’s been rainy or whatnot, I always have to use one end of the plug, because it’s kind of stiff. Because I’m not, obviously, exercising that circuit.
TOM: Right, yeah. That’s right, yep.
LESLIE: What about your water? You should not have that water meter running at all ever. So is it worth it to go outside, check that meter if you’ve got all the faucets off, just to make sure you don’t have a leak you don’t know about?
TOM: Yeah, it’s a good idea. So, if all the faucets and fixtures are off, yet the water meter’s still running, then obviously you’re running water somewhere. And the most likely place that would be is a toilet. Typically, a flush valve at the bottom of the tank, if it leaks a little bit, it’s going to force the toilet to refill all the time. That’s a very common reason for the water meter to be running, even when everything else is off. So, it definitely tells you if something is going on.
LESLIE: Well, with all the spring cleaning we are about to be doing, have you tried your vacuum lately? Is it acting up? Well, the fix might be easier than you think.
First of all, you want to start by checking the suction. If it’s poor or not even happening, the issue there could be a clog in the hose, the bag or the filter. Or your canister might be full and need to be replaced or emptied.
TOM: Are you hearing a funny noise or a vibration? If it sounds like it’s coming from the motor area, it may very well be a broken fan blade. But if the noise is coming from the brush area, then it could be a defective brush roller bearing or the brush roller itself. If either is defective, it needs replacing, which is pretty much an easy do-it-yourself project.
LESLIE: Now, if your vacuum is hard to push or if you smell burning rubber, it could have a broken or a worn belt. So, to do that, you want to check the brush roller for obstructions and clear away any hair or carpet fibers. If the brush roller spins freely with the belt removed, you can reinstall the belt and test for proper operation again.
TOM: And if you find you need to replace your vacuum cleaner’s belt, here’s a trick that I use. I buy two and I tape the extra one to the vacuum handle, so it’s always there and handy the next time the belt breaks. And they’re pretty cheap. They’re worth always having an extra one on hand.
For more troubleshooting tips for getting those vacuums working properly, just visit MoneyPit.com and search “vacuum cleaners.”
LESLIE: Jesse in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
JESSE: I just built a new garage and I – 2x4s with OSB on the outside. I put Tyvek on the outside and vinyl siding. Now, I have unfaced insulation in the walls and I’ve got faced insulation on the ceiling. Now, I live in the Midwest, so it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. And I get mixed reviews about putting up a vapor barrier not on the walls and I don’t know which way to go.
TOM: Yeah. I don’t really think you need a vapor barrier on those walls. I think you could probably go without it. Your vapor barrier is outside with the Tyvek. That’s going to start – stop the wind from coming through and stop the excessive moisture. And it’ll also breathe. If you’re going to use fiberglass on the exterior walls, it’s got to breathe. So, I wouldn’t put a second vapor barrier on the inside.
JESSE: Oh, what about with the cars when they’re wet from the winter and stuff? Wouldn’t that moisture get trapped in the walls?
TOM: Well, certainly, there’s going to be some level of humidity in there but that’s normal. All fiberglass-insulated walls have that level of dampness. I’m just concerned that if you have vapor barriers on both sides, it might trap that moisture inside and make it harder to dry. And they can get some mold and mildew issues, which you really want to avoid.
JESSE: I’m going to put OSB up on the inside, too. Is that going to change anything?
TOM: OK. No, that won’t change anything.
JESSE: I guess that’s why – I didn’t know Tyvek was a moisture barrier or vapor barrier (inaudible).
TOM: Yeah, it is a vapor barrier. Mm-hmm. That’s exactly what it does. Yeah.
JESSE: Alrighty. That’s the only question I had for you.
TOM: Alright, Jesse. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: About to tackle our first question here from Jim in Athens, Georgia, who writes: “I’m looking for a way to keep the skylights clean. Now, my house is 29 years old and has a fairly steep-pitched roof with two skylights and they get very dirty. We’ve had them cleaned several different times by roofers but we’re wondering if there’s a solution to help keep them clean. Is there a new skylight that actually stays clean on its own?”
Could you imagine a self-cleaning, windshield-wipering …?
TOM: Wouldn’t that be fantastic? You know, I can only imagine how much a roofer charges to clean a skylight. What a job that is, huh? You come back every couple of weeks, that’s got to be pretty expensive.
I’m not aware, Jim, of any solutions that will keep them clean long-term – the existing skylights, long-term. I mean something like Rain-X, like we use on our car windshields would help but that’s only going to last a month, maybe, at best.
Another option is to replace them with an operable roof window. And that’s the type of skylight that sort of tilts inward. And that would allow you to access the outside of the skylight glass to clean it.
But there is a new type of skylight that’s out there. It’s actually a type of skylight glass that is designed to be – I won’t say dirt-free but it’s designed to not let dirt stick to it. It’s made by VELUX. It’s what they call Neat Glass and it combines energy efficiency and sort of a low-E, dual-paned, energy-efficient glass with a special coating that works with sunlight and rain to remove that debris.
It’s got, basically, two different types of coatings that fight off water and dirt. It’s got a silicon-dioxide coating that reduces the water spots from the rain by creating a super-smooth surface that sort of evenly disperses and evaporates the water. And then it has a titanium-dioxide coating that actually decomposes the organic material that’s left behind. So, that’s going to make the dirt and the dust and tree debris basically break down on the glass through a reaction with the UV light.
Of course, that will require you installing brand new skylights. But given the sensitivity you have to the issue, I presume, also, that there’s no way to kind of reduce the debris if you’ve got overhanging trees and that sort of stuff. Cutting those back will help, as well, in two ways. Actually, you get less droppings and you get more sunlight, which tends to sort of burn off a lot of that organic material by itself. But short of that, you might want to think about upgrading some new skylights with this Neat Glass.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got one from Pam who’s installing a new floor in her bedroom and she’s asking, “What corner should I start in in relation to the door if you’re laying plank flooring like laminate?”
I think, also, a lot of people are always confused about which direction that plank should go in.
TOM: Yeah. Well, whatever direction you decide, you don’t start in the corner. You start in the middle of the room. You draw a line down the middle of the room and then your planks are either going to go up against that line on both sides or directly over it.
And the way you make the determination is you measure where the planks are going to end up at the wall. You don’t want to have a little tiny strip of a plank end up at the wall. You want at least a half of a plank to end up at the wall. So depending on how that measurement works out, that’s how you decide what side of the line you actually start on: either right on the line or you put your first plank right down the middle of the line.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps you out, Pam, and good luck with that new floor. It’s always fantastic to add in a new floor into the bedroom. And you can always bring in an area rug if you want it to be more cozy.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on a beautiful, almost officially spring day. Spring starts next week but heck, we’ve started our spring projects weeks ago, so we’re kind of ahead of it. But if you’re just getting started on it, we would love to hear from you if you need some help to get going. If you don’t know how to start a project or if you’re already stuck in the middle of one, reach out to us anytime, 24/7. You can do so by going to MoneyPit.com/Ask or click the blue microphone button on every page of the site.
Until then, I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2023 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.)