- There’s no shortage of ways to make your home energy efficient – but what if there was a way to build a home that was already efficient? Tom and Leslie explain the very successful “Energy Star Homes” program plus answer your home improvement questions.
- They call it “fall” for a reason… and if raking leaves is the last thing you want to do with your weekend, we’ve got tips, techniques and tools that make leaf collection much easier.
- Halloween is right around the corner! Find out how to make sure your sidewalks, walkways and driveway are safe for your littlest Halloween Trick or Treaters.
- And with the holiday baking season ahead, there’s no worse time to have your oven break down. We share how to troubleshoot your oven, before stomachs start grumbling.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Susan from Texas’ curb is starting to crack and needs a solution.
- Jack in Michigan has a strange noise coming from his pipes after using the washer and sump pump.
- Tony from Montana wants advice on how to hook up a generator to his home.
- Linda in Alabama is asking what to use to stain her concrete porch.
- Holly from Ohio has cracks in her basement and changes color after heavy rains.
- Jim from Arizona wants to know if it’s possible to insulate a sink?
- Christine in Alaska wants to know how to insulate the floor above her unheated crawlspace.
- Georgia from Pennsylvania has a problem with humidity in her stone house.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are so thrilled to be with you today on this beautiful fall weekend. We hope that you are getting stuff done around your house and enjoying the weather. Maybe if you’re taking on a project or two and you need some help, well, that’s where we come in. You can reach out to us by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll call you back the next time we are in the studio. Or you can post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
These days, there is no shortage of noise about how to make your home energy efficient, right? I mean every window or door or insulation advertisement you hear promises to help you cut heating costs, be more comfortable. But what if there was a way to build a home that was already efficient? Well, there is and they’re called ENERGY STAR homes. We’ll explain what that entails, just ahead.
LESLIE: And also ahead, they call it fall for a reason. And if raking leaves is the last thing you want to do this weekend, we have got tips, techniques and tools that make leaf collection easier.
TOM: And with the holiday season ahead, cooking up holiday memories usually means cooking up lots of food in your oven, which is why now is a great time to troubleshoot that appliance before the turkey is inside and the stomachs start to grumble. We’ll tell you how to give your oven a quick checkup, just ahead.
LESLIE: And The Money Pit is about you. So whether you live in a house or an apartment, whether you’re dealing with a repair or you’re dreaming about a renovation, we’re here to help you tackle your to-dos with confidence and have a little fun along the way. Hopefully, it’s a lot of fun and a successful project.
TOM: So, give us a call right now – the number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT – or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Susan in Texas has some concrete that’s cracking up. Tell us what’s going on.
SUSAN: Yes, I have a curb out front of a 1955-year-old home.
SUSAN: And the curb is cracking in spots and going down in a slant. And I didn’t know – what do I need to do to repair that?
TOM: And this is your responsibility and not the township’s?
SUSAN: Yes. I’ve called several times and everyone says it’s my responsibility to fix it. I just – they say when you sell your home – the curb appeal? And I have a curb that’s messed up.
TOM: Yeah. The curb appeal has got to start at the curb and you keep calling and getting the same answer. So I guess you’re kind of stuck with it.
TOM: Well, listen, there’s a couple of things that come to mind. First of all, when you say it’s slanted and sloped, if it’s settling then it’s going to have to be torn out. If it’s just cracked, there’s a lot of ways to fix the cracks. QUIKRETE has a number of good products that are designed exactly for that. There is a crack seal, there’s a crack-repair product that’s kind of like caulk. There’s also a resurfacing product. So if it’s spalled or deteriorated, you can resurface it and it will stick to the old concrete and come out looking quite nice. So there certainly are products to make what you have look better and work better.
But if the whole curb is structurally sinking because sometimes water gets under it and that kind of stuff, then that’s the case where you’d have to tear it out and have a mason build you a new one.
SUSAN: OK, OK. But that QUIKRETE is pretty easy to do?
TOM: Absolutely, yes. Take a look at QUIKRETE.com. They have lots of great videos there. They’ll walk you through exactly what you need to do. Just search for “crack repair.” You’ll see there’s many options, depending on the thickness of the crack and what you need to achieve, OK?
SUSAN: That is wonderful. Thank you so much.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jack from Michigan is on the line with some gurgling sounds coming from the toilet and the sink. What is going on?
JACK: We have a sump pump downstairs in the basement. And when we run the washing machine or when the water softener regenerates and runs the sump pump, I have a gurgling noise that comes up and comes up through the kitchen sink and then usually the bathroom – the upstairs bathroom – toilet.
TOM: I bet you want to know what’s causing that.
JACK: I would love to.
TOM: It’s a lack of venting – a lack of proper venting.
TOM: So, when the washer is discharging or the sump pump is discharging and all of that water is draining out of those pipes, it’s basically causing a pressure that wants to pull the rest of the water out of the trap, which is – there’s a trap in the toilet, there’s a trap in the kitchen sink.
JACK: OK. Yep.
TOM: And as it does that, that’s when you get that kind of gulp-gulp-gulp sound, because it’s just gasping for air as that happens.
TOM: Now, if you drive down the average neighborhood and you see pipes that come up through the roof – plumbing pipes – those are vent pipes.
JACK: Yes, we have one of those.
TOM: And they let air into the plumbing system. OK. So you have one of those but for some reason it’s not hooked up correctly, because you’re not getting enough air into the bathroom or the kitchen.
JACK: Yes. OK. OK.
TOM: Now, let’s – leaving the bathroom aside for now, in terms of the kitchen, there is an under-cabinet vent that you could put in that would supplement the house venting, that will only let air in and not let sewage gas out.
TOM: So there’s one possible repair there.
For the bathroom, you really need to figure out why it’s not venting properly. It could be that that vent is obstructed. And that has happened and it could be something as simple as a nest that got in there. But for some reason, those vents are obstructed or they’re not hooked up right and that’s why you’re getting that plumbing system gasping for air.
JACK: So would I have to have maybe a plumber come over and drop maybe a camera down the vent tube, just to check it?
TOM: Yeah. Or just a bright – I mean just a really bright flashlight, you know? Like a MAGLITE or a Streamlight.
TOM: And you could look right down there. And sometimes, you can see the obstruction but you’ve got to kind of track it down and figure out what’s going on.
JACK: I also have issues that when we flush the toilet, it doesn’t seem – the back of the tank, the bowl fills up with water but there doesn’t seem to be a good water level in the toilet itself. Is that all part of the problem?
TOM: Potentially, yes. Potentially, that could – it could be causing that issue, as well.
JACK: OK. So that could be related to the vent?
TOM: Yep. Exactly. Yep, it’s definitely a venting issue. You’ve just got to get to the bottom of it, Jack.
JACK: So, just got to determine where the problem is in the vent.
TOM: Where and how and – right, get it addressed. Get some more air in there. Yep.
JACK: And in one vent – one outside vent is usually enough if it’s operating properly?
TOM: Yeah. Well, sure, one main vent is typically what you would have. How many bathrooms you have in this house?
JACK: Just the one.
TOM: Yeah, well, that’s all you’re going to have is one vent. Yeah.
JACK: OK. I think that narrows it down, then.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck, Jack. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
JACK: Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Tony in Missouri is on the line and he’s got a question about getting some extra power, maybe a generator, maybe an extension cord through a window. Let’s find out what’s going on.
TONY: We live way out in the country. And my wife and I have purchased a 2000-watt peak generator. And of course, you don’t want to run that in the house. What I’m thinking about doing is running a male-outside-to-female-inside socket, if I can, through an outside wall so that we can then plug in a short extension cord and run small appliances – light bulbs, whatever – inside the house when we – if have a power outage this winter, which we are somewhat prone to do out here.
TOM: Alright. Well, you’re on the right track but this is not a DIY kind of hack-it-together thing. There actually is a product called a “transfer switch” that’s designed for exactly this purpose. They have transfer switches that are designed for big generators, like 20,000 watts. Then they have ones that are designed for very small generators, like 2,000 watts, and it kind of works just like you said.
There’s an outlet that is inside the house. It could have a series of even maybe three or four different circuits that could be on this. Or it could just be an outlet that’s there. And then there’s a cord outside that would actually be plugged into the generator to bring that power in.
You make a very good point by saying you can’t run it inside the house. I want to expand upon that and say you can’t even run it in the garage. I mean anywhere aside from, you know, 10 feet or more away from your house, you really shouldn’t be using the generator in a space like that because those carbon-monoxide fumes can definitely get back into the building.
So, I think you’re on the right track but what you want to do is go out and pick up a transfer switch. You can find them online. It’s designed for a portable generator. And everything that you’ve envisioned will be there for you. You won’t have to build it yourself. And it’ll be a lot safer, too.
TONY: OK, sir. Thank you.
LESLIE: Well, ENERGY STAR is something that you’re probably used to hearing when you think about buying an appliance. It’s all over their stickers, labels. You hear about it all the time. But did you know the same EPA program also applies for new homes?
Now, to earn an ENERGY STAR designation, a house has got to meet very strict program requirements for energy efficiency that have been developed by ENERGY STAR’s residential new-construction program.
TOM: Now, to qualify for the ENERGY STAR certification, homes must be at least 10 percent more efficient than homes that are built to code. But most ENERGY STAR homes achieve a 20-percent improvement on average. And to get there, builders need to construct homes that really focus on four areas.
The first one is a complete thermal-enclosure system. Now, we’re talking about comprehensive air sealing, properly-installed insulation, high-performance windows, basically everything that keeps the weather out. If you do this, you’re going to reduce maintenance costs and lower those monthly utility bills.
And next, a high-efficiency complete heating-and-cooling system: high-efficiency systems that are engineered to deliver more comfort, better moisture control, improved air quality and quieter operation. We put one of those high-efficiency systems in this year and it’s so fun now to open our gas bill. I never thought opening the gas bill would be fun. With my gas company, they show two little pictures of a house, like an icon. And they have average house and your house. And I’m always the tiny, little your house. Really small number compared to the average house. I’m like, “Yes.”
LESLIE: That’s pretty awesome.
Next up, guys, an ENERGY STAR home is going to require a complete water-management system. Now, that’s a comprehensive package of best building practices and materials that are going to protect your roofs, your walls and foundations from water damage.
Also, you want to think about installing energy-efficient lighting and appliances. Those will be installed throughout the house to help reduce your monthly utility bills and also provide high-quality performance. So it’s totally a full package.
TOM: Now, here’s the best part of this, I think. And that is that to get the designation, the program requires a third-party verification by an energy-rating company. And this is a company who just does the measurement, so they have nothing to do with the builder. Completely separate.
So it’s not like the builder is saying, “Yeah, I did all that. You’re good to go.” No, the builder has to prove that he did all that and you’re good to go. So the energy raters will do an onsite diagnostic testing and inspection. And they’ll document that the house is eligible to earn that ENERGY STAR label.
So, a really great program. If you’re going to build a new house, definitely consider going with an ENERGY STAR certification.
LESLIE: Heading over to Alabama where we’ve got Linda on the line. How can we help you today?
LINDA: A couple years ago, we stained our porch with some – well, it was a dark stain. We had etched it before and then we put a polyurethane on top. Now, part of this porch is not under cover but the majority of it is. Well, the stuff is peeling off, looks terrible. So what we want to do is get this mess off and maybe use some cement paint. Just paint it with cement paint.
TOM: So I’ve got some other suggestions for you that would be much more attractive than paint. There’s a manufacturer that makes products for covering concrete that look like stone because they actually have stone built into them.
LINDA: Oh, OK.
TOM: And they’re absolutely built beautiful. They have a terrazzo version of it, they have a product called RollerRock, they have a product called SpreadRock.
I would take a look at DaichCoatings.com. It’s D-a-i-c-h-C-o-a-t-i-n-g-s – DaichCoatings.com. These products work really, really well. We’re getting great feedback on them, especially this terrazzo product, which is just gorgeous. You could apply this terrazzo product literally in an afternoon and be ready to walk on it the next day. And it’s going to look a heck of a lot better than paint and it really stands up.
LINDA: OK. Now, what do you do to prepare for that?
TOM: There’s going to be instructions with all of these products. But basically, you have to get off the loose paint that’s there, whatever the material is you put before. If it’s binding, if it’s stuck in there and not coming off, then it’s fine. But if it’s loose and flaky, all the loose stuff has to come off. And there’s also some products that they offer that you can use to clean those surfaces and etch the surfaces before you actually apply the product. So follow the instructions.
Again, go to DaichCoatings.com. Check them out. We’ve worked with these guys for many years. They’re really, really good at this stuff. And I think you’ll be surprised with all the options you have.
LINDA: OK. Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project.
LINDA: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Holly in Ohio on the line who’s got a question about a cracked floor. What’s going on?
HOLLY: Yes. Our basement has some cracks in it. And when we get a heavy rain, the floor seems to change color. Now, we have a dehumidifier down there and we – if we leave it running, it’ll go away eventually. But wondering does that mean that there’s moisture coming up from the ground? Is there any way we can stop that?
TOM: So, if your floor is changing color, it’s getting damp. And concrete is very hydroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture very, very easily. And if this – the fact that this is happening, though, after heavy rains is good news because that means it’s an easy fix. The moisture, even though it may appear to be sort of coming up from the ground, as you say, is really not coming up as much as it is collecting at the foundation perimeter and then pressing down and under that slab and through the wall.
So the solution here is to keep moisture away from the outside walls that make up the basement. And the way you do that is twofold. Number one, the easiest and clearly the most effective way to stop water infiltration is to make sure you have a properly-installed gutter system. And that means the gutters have to be there – A – they have to be clean – B – and C) the downspouts must be extended at least 4 to 6 feet away from the house if you have a condition like this.
Because most of the time, when installers put in downspouts, they turn them out a few inches at the bottom, put in a concrete block and call it a day. And all that water that shoots off the roof – and even if the gutters are clean – it’s going to collect in that corner and then it’ll just soak in along the foundation. So you need to manage the exterior water and make sure it’s moved away from your house.
And the second thing is if the gutter system is clean and perfect, as I’ve just described, then what you can do is you can regrade the foundation perimeter to make sure that the soil around it slopes away. You want to avoid any type of border that holds water against the house. And if you manage the outside water in that way, you will find a dramatic reduction or complete elimination of the stains that you’re seeing now on that floor.
HOLLY: Oh, great. Now, how would we know how far the gutter goes out? Do you have to dig it to find that?
TOM: Well, no, it should be visible. The downspout should come down and you should see it turn out in an elbow at the bottom. And usually, it’s put on something called a “splash block.” But that only goes out a couple feet.
LESLIE: I mean sometimes they are buried in the ground, right next to the foundation. You’ll see the downspout sort of disappear into the dirt. And then usually, there’s a place where it exits.
TOM: Yeah. Or not, which is trouble either way. So, yeah, I like to see that water coming out. And I’ll tell you what, if you just kind of want to prove – like sort of prove the concept, what you could do is just go to a home center, buy a bunch of 6- or 8-foot pieces of leader material, attach it to the end of those downspouts.
Let it lay on your grass. Throw a stone over the end of it so it doesn’t move around and watch it. And if you find that, all of a sudden, you’ve got a dry basement, well, you’ve just figured out what’s going on. Now you can think about ways to make it look a little bit more attractive, you know what I mean? But you can just try it by attaching those downspouts to the end of that elbow and moving that water completely away from the foundation and seeing what the result is. It’s a really simple and effective experiment that I’m confident will show you what’s going on with this moisture problem.
HOLLY: Alright. Great. That sounds good.
LESLIE: Alright. Heading out to Arizona. We’ve got Jim on the line. What’s going on at your money pit?
JIM: It is a pretty simple product (inaudible).
JIM: It’s a typical house with a kitchen sink. And two bowls in a kitchen sink: small one and a large one.
TOM: OK. Yep.
JIM: In the smaller one, we typically will put soap and warm water in in the morning to wash the morning dishes. And then, by an hour, that water is cold, soapy water.
JIM: And I got to thinking there’s got to be some kind of an insulating blanket that you could buy or manufacture or somehow create to keep that water warm and not waste water warming it up again.
TOM: That’s an interesting idea. I don’t think there’s a commercial product for that. I’ve never seen it. But if you happen to have a very cold under-cabinet area, I could see where that could potentially be annoying. So your challenge will be just simply to insulate this as much as possible.
Now, along the back wall, where the back of the cabinet is on an exterior wall, if you could add a piece of foam insulation – which is available in all sorts of thicknesses, so it depends on what you have and how you can get it back in there. You’re probably going to have to cut it in pieces. That will help a little bit.
On the bowl itself, one idea that I would have is that you may be able to spray this with foam insulation, like a Great Stuff. Now, there’s two different types of Great Stuff. One is designed to expand and one is designed not to expand. And if you use the one that doesn’t expand, it’s not going to stretch your cabinet frame or anything like that.
It’s the kind that’s designed for windows and doors, because what would happen is people would use the expandable foam insulation in a window or door cavity and then it would swell so much, it would expand so much that the window gets stuck shut where it was. So, if you use the kind that’s designed for windows and doors, you may be able to get – that’s pretty sticky stuff. It may be able to adhere to the underside of that sink.
And so I think this is going to be an experiment to see if you can figure out something that works. So I understand the question but it doesn’t have a straightforward this-is-the-product-designed-for-that, because it’s just not something that I think you’re going to find available. So you’ve got to get creative, which means you’ve got to form your own insulation.
And lastly, you could just take a piece of fiberglass blanket – maybe one that’s encapsulated on both sides; there’s different types of encapsulated insulation – and create your own blanket around there and maybe with a series of zip ties hold it in place.
So I think you’re going to have to design your own, sir, OK? Because I don’t think it’s available commercially.
JIM: So maybe I just get some blue board and glue and …?
TOM: And go for it, yep.
Alright. Good luck with that project, sir. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re thinking of skipping that dreaded chore of leaf raking, forget it. There are good reasons that you need to rake up fallen leaves. For example, guys, leaves that are left on the lawn are going to deprive your grass of crucial sunlight during those fall months where the light is already short enough. Now, the leaves, they can also accumulate, then they’re going to get wet. And that can lead to mold growth and then attracting pests, like termites, all the things you don’t want in your house.
Now, what do you do with all those fallen leaves? You should check with your town because some ask for your leaves to be bagged, others allow raking into curbside piles that are then collected by a municipal vacuum. So every town is going to vary, so find out what your town likes and then do it that way. Now, you can also rake leaves into piles around your shrubs and you can sort of use it as a natural mulch, almost like a compost for specific areas.
So it’s definitely – there’s a lot of different ways you can tackle these leaves.
TOM: Now, here’s a trick that will make the job go a lot quicker. You want to pick up a small, blue tarp – no more than about 8×10 – and then rake the leaves onto the tarp and then drag that around the lawn as the job progresses. Now, leaves are lightweight, right? So, you can get a lot more leaves on that tarp that you could in a wheelbarrow. And you can move them off quicker and in bigger piles. You can even pull it to the street and dump the leaves curbside if your town picks up that way.
It’s just a lot easier to move leaves using the tarp than it is to pick them up and bag them or even use a wheelbarrow to move them from here to there. Because whenever you use a wheelbarrow, they all fall out along the way anyway. The only thing that I thought the wheelbarrows were great for was when the kids wanted rides with the wheelbarrow full of leaves.
LESLIE: I was going to say. I was like, “For taking the kids around the yard with the leaves?”
TOM: You definitely don’t want to drag your kids around on a tarp full of leaves. A wheelbarrow is much more fun.
LESLIE: No, you might.
Christine in Alaska is on the line with a question about insulation.
What’s going on at your money pit, Christina?
CHRISTINE: Actually, my question is: how do I keep my floors above the unheated crawlspace warm? And I was wondering if we could insulate the floor underneath without – but would that cause the pipes that are down there to freeze?
TOM: No, it wouldn’t cause them to freeze. The crawlspace is designed to be an unheated space. But since you’re going to be down there anyway, what I would tell you to do, Christine, would be to insulate those pipes. So, you can do that with pipe insulation that basically is designed to be wrapped around the pipe. And when it comes to the corners, that’s where sometimes people get a little lazy. Make sure you insulate the corners real well by cutting the joints perfectly. They’re made of foam rubber, so you can easily snip them. But I would insulate all the pipes and then I would definitely insulate the floor.
In fact, I’m surprised it’s not insulated now. You want to choose an insulation that is as thick as the floor is deep. So if it’s 2x10s that are your floor beams, make sure you use 10-inch-deep, unfaced fiberglass insulation. Get it up there in between those floor joists and then that can be supported with wire hangers. They’re kind of like thin wires that are a little bit wider than the floor joists are apart. And they sort of stick into the wood on both sides and support that insulation in place. And I think you will see an amazing difference in the warmth of those floors once you do that.
CHRISTINE: That sounds great.
TOM: Well, it’s one of the hardest working appliances in the house all year long. But kitchen ovens are really put to the test over the holiday season when you’re cooking up all those memories, because that always means cooking up tasty meals.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, the truth is that ovens need occasional repair or maintenance, especially if you want to avoid them breaking down before or during a party which, by the way, is the worst time.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Like when you run the cleaning cycle before the party? Bad idea because that really stresses the oven out.
LESLIE: Don’t do that.
TOM: And if it’s going to break, it’ll break then.
But let’s start with some basics. If you want to check the accuracy of your oven’s temperature, it really is a smart thing to do. Set a thermometer into a preheated oven and then compare the reading to make sure it actually matches the set temperature. We used to do this all the time in the home inspection business and it’s surprising how many times we were way off.
LESLIE: It’s really interesting. You don’t think to check that.
Now, a glass-bulb thermometer – not an oven thermometer – are really recommended for the most accurate results. And if it comes back a little high or low, don’t worry. A reading of 25 degrees Fahrenheit above or below that set temperature is perfectly acceptable. It seems like a lot but it’s not when you’re thinking of it in a cooking capacity.
TOM: Now, over the year, you get a lot of crud – that’s a technical term – that builds up on the oven’s control panel. So, you want to use a non-abrasive cleaner or a glass cleaner. Don’t use one of these cream cleanser, polishing kinds of things because they actually have a little abrasion to them and they can scratch it up. And this way, you can remove the grease and any remnants of food that are left behind.
LESLIE: Now, your oven door, you may have noticed that when you open it, you see a gasket around the inside and that’s meant to keep the heat in. So you want to inspect that gasket and make sure it’s not warped or cracked. And if you need to, replace them.
TOM: And remember, if you plan to use your oven’s self-cleaning feature, don’t do it at the last minute. Because self-cleaning cycles are stressful on an appliance, as we said, and it can cause it to break down. So, do it a week or two before so you have plenty of time for a repair if it’s necessary.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Georgia calling from Pennsylvania.
What’s going on, Georgia? How can we help you?
GEORGIA: Well, hi, Leslie. I have a problem. We have a stone home that actually my dad had built in the 50s.
GEORGIA: Solid stone. And we have a window in a bedroom that they’ve – the bedroom is actually over a crawlspace. And the window had been leaking water around it and I don’t know for how long. But we just had it wrapped last year thinking that would take care of the musty smell that we have but it hasn’t. And we can’t – we don’t know if we have to rip out the walls or the hardwood floors, if there’s mold in there. Any suggestions that – so we don’t have to go through all that.
TOM: Is the home occupied all the time or is it a vacation home?
GEORGIA: No, it’s our home.
TOM: It’s your home. OK.
LESLIE: And is the smell just coming from the basement or is it coming from the room where you had the leak? Or the crawlspace rather?
GEORGIA: Maybe a combination of both; I don’t know. We haven’t actually crawled into the crawlspace to see but it smells like it’s coming from the walls.
TOM: Is the crawlspace accessible, Georgia? Is there room to get in there?
TOM: OK. When you go in the crawlspace, is it just a sand floor, like a dirt floor?
GEORGIA: Yeah. Dirt.
TOM: Do you have any kind of vapor barrier in there? Do you have any kind of plastic down over the floor?
GEORGIA: We do not.
GEORGIA: That’s something we were going to do but we haven’t gotten around to it yet.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Well, a couple things come to mind.
First of all, this may be obvious but I want to make sure that there’s no animal that got in there that died and is now that source of the smell in the crawlspace.
Secondly, I do think you need to get in that crawlspace and you need to lay down very heavy Visqueen or plastic sheeting, with as few seams as possible. If you’re going to overlap it, overlap 4 feet of it so you really trap the moisture under that floor. Because right now, all the humidity in the soil is just evaporating right up into the house. And if you put a vapor barrier down, you’re going to change that a lot.
The third thing that you could do is you could have, in the crawlspace vents – which I’m hoping it has – you could have a fan installed into those vents, that works on a humidistat, so that whenever it gets very damp and humid in the crawlspace, when the percent humidity is sort of reached that fan will kick on and draw some drier air from the outside through that space.
Those steps will help reduce the volume of moisture that’s in that crawlspace. And coupled with that would be just some basic maintenance to your outside grading and drainage: making sure you have gutters that are clean and free-flowing and downspouts that are extended. And also make sure that the soil, where possible, slopes away from the wall.
You have to take steps to reduce the humidity. And just doing those few things will have a major impact on it.
GEORGIA: So you don’t think that we have to worry about the mold in the walls or anything like that that we have to deal with?
TOM: I don’t know. But I want you to do all these basic things first. These are basic, easy, inexpensive things that almost always lead to very significant moisture problems inside a house.
So, let’s take care of the simple things first before we start tearing walls open.
GEORGIA: Well, it works for me.
TOM: Alright, Georgia? Alright.
LESLIE: You can post your question at MoneyPit.com, just like Lee did.
Now, Lee says, “We had our roof totally replaced with metal roofing, along with new 6-inch gutters. We do want to add some type of gutter guard but the contracting company said that the guards don’t work well with a metal roof, because the water runs off the metal roof faster than a shingled roof. Is this actually true? And if not, what is your recommendation?”
TOM: You know, I thought this was a really interesting question and I – even though I haven’t heard this advice before, it makes perfect sense. Because I know that some of those gutter guards – especially the type that are what’s called “reverse curve,” where it’s like a flat total top to the gutter and then a rounded edge that the water sort of follows and drips in – when the water comes down the roof really fast and really hard, it jumps right over that reverse-curve gutter guard and it lands in the yard. So, in this case, I think the gutter company is right.
But here’s the thing: you may not need guards, because you’ve put in 6-inch gutters. Those are much deeper than regular gutters and they don’t clog nearly as frequently. So I would just go with it this fall with no gutter guards and see how it goes. You may find that you’re saving yourself a boatload of money and it works perfectly fine. I mean the downspouts are bigger, the gutters are bigger. At my house, my 6-inch gutters just almost never fail.
LESLIE: Alright. And good luck with those new gutters. That’s definitely the best way to keep your basement dry.
TOM: Well, Halloween is right around the corner and with that, there’ll be lots of foot traffic to your front door. That’s why now is a great time to make sure your sidewalks and your walkways and your driveways are safe for those little visitors. Learn how, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
Leslie? I know this is your favorite holiday of the year, so you must go through a lot to get that house ready.
LESLIE: Oh, I’m super excited. And I start the decorating just before October 1st. So, come the second week of October, we are fully decked out inside and out. And you know I like to take those orange lights outside and sort of remove the spooky elements of it and sort of continue it right to Thanksgiving. I’m always thinking about how to keep these decorations up for as long as possible.
But Halloween is really special because, first of all, you want to decorate everything. You want to make it look spooky and fun and welcoming at the same time for the little guys. But you’ve got a lot of people of all ages walking up the steps, walking on the pathway, climbing across the grass. Whatever it is, they’re scrambling to get to your front door, so you want to make sure that everything around your property is safe for all of the people that are going to come and visit.
So you’ve got to make sure that your sidewalks and steps are in good repair. Make sure they’re clean, clear, safe. You don’t want anything obstructing that pathway. And you’ve got to also check the railings. Are they steady? Are they easy to grip? You also want to make sure that there’s plenty of open space around the front door itself. You want to make sure there’s no candles or anything that could catch a costume on fire. So I know a lot of people still use natural candles in those pumpkins but definitely go ahead and get the battery-operated ones. Just be safe when it comes to that.
Now, Halloween lighting effects. Super fun but they should be secondary to the path lighting and a welcoming porch light, because you want to make sure everybody can get clearly to the front door. So if you want to do some spooky lighting and fog, leave it to the lawn, away from the front door.
Another fun thing is a Halloween sound effect. And a repeatedly ringing doorbell and costumed guests, you may love them but your pets may not. I know Sherman – who I’m sure, occasionally, you guys hear on the radio show because he’s very chatty. But Sherman does not like all the doorbell ringing and all the people knocking at the door. So you want to make sure that you keep your pet sort of in a safe room in the house, where they can’t run or run out of the door or scare one of the kids and force the kid to maybe back up off the steps. You’ve got to be careful. Think about – I know. Sherman’s saying, “Hey.”
TOM: There he is.
LESLIE: You’ve got to make sure that everybody is well-accounted for. And when you’re done for the night, turn those lights off. That is the universal signal of – “We are done trick-or-treating. Go somewhere else.”
TOM: Come back next year.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time in the program, painting a room is the most economical way to change your décor. But while most people spend a lot of time picking out the perfect color for their rooms, choosing the perfect paint sheen is often an afterthought. We’ll share tips on how to choose the best paint sheen to make your project shine, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2021 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.)