In this episode…
Tired of paying high heating bills? Get tips on the best ways to use insulation to lower heating costs, plus ways to brighten your home in these dark winter days, when to fix vs replace an appliance that breaks down.
- Insulation is the single most effective way to reduce home heating costs. But with so many insulation options to choose and so many places to add insulation, Tom & Leslie walk you through how to know makes the most sense for your unique home.
- Are you tired of feeling, well, tired? Winter blues can bring you down this time of years – but we’ve got easy DIY pick-me-ups for your home that will help raise your spirit and make you home look great, just ahead this!
- And it’s an age-old dilemma when your appliances break down, is it better to make the repair or throw them out and start over? Our cheat sheet will help you make the right choice every time.
- Learn how to stop snow and ice from freezing at the end of your roof, forming ice dams and collapsing gutters.
Plus answers to your home improvement questions about installing a support beam, getting rid of pet odors, how to compare wood stoves stopping a leaking toilet part , insulating a crawl space, and more.
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: What are you working on this week? If it’s your house, you are in exactly the right place because we are here to help you with projects that you are planning for today, tomorrow, next weekend, whatever is the time that you can break out to fix something up around your house. You know, we’ve even got projects that you can do in 30 minutes or less, which makes it a nice after-dinner activity, as well.
But whatever is on your to-do list, we need you to move it over to ours by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because that’s what we do. We’re here to give you some tips, some advice, to coach you, to talk to you about whether or not you should do it yourself or not. If you’ve got a fix-up, you’ve got an improvement you want to make, you’ve got a décor dilemma, you hate the colors, you’re stuck inside all winter long and you want to change it up, whatever is on that dream list of yours for your house, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, now that we are knee-deep in winter, adding more insulation is pretty much the single-most cost-effective way to cut heating costs and improve comfort. But there are so many options in insulation today. We’re going to help you identify the one that is perfect for your home.
LESLIE: And are you tired of feeling, well, tired? Winter blues can bring you down this time of year but we’ve got some easy, do-it-yourself pick-me-ups for your home that will help raise your spirit and make your home look great, in just a bit.
TOM: And it’s an age-old dilemma: when your appliances break down, do you fix them or do you replace them altogether? We’ve got a cheat sheet that we’ve put together to help you save money by telling you how to make the right choice.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you want to know. So give us a call, let us know what you are working on or maybe what you’re thinking about working on or planning for this new year in your home. So give us a call. We’re here to help at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Renee in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RENEE: Yes, mine is kind of like a double question. I have about a 30-year-old, connected-on-both-sides townhome, two levels.
TOM: OK. OK.
RENEE: And I heard a crack a couple months back. Well, it was one of the support beams and it just – like a big, strong branch just cracked.
TOM: Huh. Did you actually see the cracked beam somewhere?
RENEE: No, I didn’t see that but I have begun to have cracks along on that same side of the house, in the corners of the wall?
RENEE: Down the corners where it’s breaking apart. But at the same time, I’ve noticed that the house has become unlevel. And that’s a little part because it’s old and it’s connected on both sides but I’m in Texas and we have big droughts and it kind of shifts a little bit.
RENEE: My concern is when I get the support beam fixed and the foundation fixed, I’ve seen on the DIY shows that suddenly they go back and they look and the house or the chimney has just been trashed. What can I do to prevent that?
TOM: Why do you say it’s been trashed? Because it shifted?
RENEE: Right. When they did the – when they put in – when I’ve watched the DIY shows, they go and they fix the foundation and the foundation’s fine. And of course, they shift everything up and now there is …
TOM: Yeah. That’s why you have to be very, very careful when you do anything that changes the angle that the house has sort of settled into. Because if you don’t, once you bring a foundation up, everything else moves. Yeah, in a wood house, if you try to straighten a slopy floor, for example, all the wires and the plumbing get stretched and twisted and so on. So it’s not just foundations that are of concern.
I’m concerned, though, about this crack that you say that you’ve heard. But you’ve seen cracks in your walls but you’ve not physically seen the structural crack, correct?
TOM: Alright. Now, you said it’s a townhouse. Is there an association that …?
TOM: OK. So in an association form of ownership, typically you don’t own the structure. So the structure – if the structure was to fail, that’s typically the responsibility of the association to address. Is that your understanding?
RENEE: I can double-check on that.
TOM: But in a typical condominium form of ownership, what you own is inside wall to inside wall. In some cases, you own the …
LESLIE: And then what’s beyond that wall is not yours.
TOM: Right. In some cases, you own the drywall; in some cases, you don’t. So, for example, if there was a fire, God forbid, and the whole place burned down, you would be paying for the drywall, the kitchen cabinets, the appliances, stuff like that. And the association would be rebuilding everything else, including the related infrastructure.
So you need to figure out, if there’s a structural problem, who’s responsible for it. I suspect you’re going to find it’s the association that’s responsible for it, which is good news for you. And then I would bring that to their attention and ask them to address it.
Now, as far as the cracks in the corners of the wall are concerned, I have to tell you that that’s pretty typical and that by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a structural problem. The way to fix that, though, is important and that is that you want to sand down the drywall in that area. And then you want to add some additional tape and the type of drywall tape you use would be the perforated type. It looks like a netting; it’s like a sticky netting. You put that on and then you spackle through that three coats: one, two, three coats; each one thin but three coats. And that type …
LESLIE: And allowing each one to dry and be sanded in between.
TOM: Yeah. And that type of repair typically will last.
Now, after you do the spackle repair, you’ll have to prime the wall. You can’t just paint on top of it; you’ll have to prime it and then paint it.
TOM: So I would address the structure with the association, I would fix the cracks on your own and then see what happens.
RENEE: OK. So just one more question. Let’s say that if it’s not in the association, that I do have to go into it, not only am I concerned about my roof but how much of a problem will I have with my neighbors on both sides of me?
TOM: Depends on where the crack is, if it exists at all. If that’s the case, then I would suggest you hire a professional home inspector and have the inspector do what’s called a “partial inspection,” which is usually a single-item inspection, and investigate this crack and see what’s going on in the structure. And then we’ll know how far it’s gone and what needs to be done about it.
RENEE: Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you, guys. I appreciate your time.
LESLIE: Mark in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MARK: Well, I am going to be putting down an engineered-hardwood floor.
MARK: And I’ve got the manufacturer’s instructions and I’m going to tell you, the tolerances for the floor are really tight. They want the floor – so the plywood subfloor, off-grade house – they want the floor to be no more than 3/16-inch over 10 feet or an 1/8-inch over 6 feet deflection.
TOM: I haven’t seen a house yet that has that little deflection, right?
MARK: I know. Exactly. Yes.
Anyway, my question is – I’ve taken a 10-foot 2×8 and confirmed it was straight and put it on the floor.
MARK: And I’ve got a Sharpie and I’m kind of marking off what is within tolerance. And there are some sections that are and ones not in tolerance. So my question to you is: how do you meet that specification that they call out for? For instance, some of the load-bearing walls, you can see where the subfloor has actually dipped down from the weight of the home. The house is about 23 years old. And I’m just wondering, how do you meet that? It’s extremely tight.
TOM: How close are you, Mark?
MARK: It depends. Some of the areas, we’re talking probably half – maybe a ½-inch in some of the bad places.
TOM: OK. So what you want to do in those areas is you’re going to fill in with a floor-leveling compound. You don’t have to do the entire floor but if you have the areas that are really down, you can fill those in.
The thing here is you want it to be reasonably flat. And the reason it wants to be reasonably flat is because with engineered-hardwood floor, the panels lock together. You know, I’ve got an 1886 house and I put in a laminate floor when it sort of first came on the market. And this is similar to the engineered-hardwood floor except that when laminate floor first came on, you had to glue it together; it didn’t lock together.
And so I was able to glue this together. It actually worked in my favor because by gluing it together, it had a lot more ability to stretch and bend and twist over my very roly-poly floors. But if you’re just going to rely on the joint of the hardwood floor to lock together, then you can’t really stress it that much. If you try to twist it, it could crack or pop up.
MARK: I see.
TOM: And so, what I would do is I would get floor-leveling compound. DAP makes one that works very well. It’s called Flexible Floor Patch and Leveler.
TOM: And so, if you go to the DAP website at DAP.com – D-A-P.com – just search for the Flexible Floor Patch. You’ll see a picture of it there; you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for. And then you can order that from, I’m sure, your home center or your hardware store or find it online. And that’s designed specifically to work on wood floors or under wood floors and level them out.
LESLIE: On subfloors, especially.
MARK: OK. Well, great. Thank you very much. I really enjoy your show and look forward to maybe meeting the two of you one day.
LESLIE: Oh, thanks.
Now we’ve got Carol on the line from Oregon. How can we help you today?
CAROL: Well, I’ve got a problem. I should know better but I have rented to people with – who brought in a puppy.
TOM: OK. Oh, that’s terrible.
CAROL: And now I’ve got to deal with lots of urine, fecal. It’s damage that’s probably been on there too long, too deep. Gone through the carpet to the pad, to the subfloor. So, my question is: can the stain ever be removed? I’m thinking I should just take everything up. My question would be what to put down new. Replace the subfloors? Solution? People have said something about KILZ and something like Zenix (ph) or something like that.
LESLIE: Well, I mean it really depends. If you even want to attempt salvaging the rug that’s there – generally, with a rental situation, you’re probably better off with a tile or a laminate floor, just because of cleanability. And then let the folks bring in their own area rugs. But if you want to attempt to sort of get the stain away, get the odor away, there’s a product that I used when I was training our dog, who was untrainable for the first year. And it’s on a website called JustRite and it’s R-i-t-e.com. And it’s called 1-2-3 Odor Free.
And it’s a series of different products. One’s a stain remover, one’s an odor remover and it sort of neutralizes through enzymes. And there’s an injector that you use to get through the carpet and into the padding and into the subfloor. And I kid you not, it works. Because there was a spot at the top of the steps that Daisy just loved and no problems to this day.
So, you might want to try that. However, if there is a lot of stuff to deal with, your best bet is probably to just pull everything off and you’re right about wanting to seal that subfloor. Because if you don’t put a primer – a good one – on top of it, whatever you put on top, get a humid day and you’re going to notice it.
TOM: Yeah, so that’s why, Carol, what you want to do is use an oil-based primer like a KILZ or a B-I-N. There are a number of different primers out there but I would use the oil-based ones for a problem like this, because they’re going to do a better job of sealing in odor.
CAROL: OK. And if I do decide to put down a rug – because this is a house I would like to sell future forward; it’s a nice house – is there a type of rug that can better be cleaned?
LESLIE: OK, yeah. It is from Mohawk and it’s a carpet that they call SmartStrand. And it’s got built-in stain-and-soil resistance that’s never, never, never going to wear off or wash off or clean off. And it feels soft. And it’s environmentally friendly because it’s made in part with a recycled plastic.
And I think it was last year at the Builders’ Show – Tom and I were at the event and they were just launching this SmartStrand product. And they had taken carpeting and carpeted the pen of an elephant at the zoo and left it in there for a year and then took it off, cleaned it and brought a patch in and had half under the cover of glass and half out. And there was a little door that you could open up to the dirty side and you opened that up and of course, I didn’t smell just because I always do strange things like that. And it like reeked horribly. And the side that was cleaned was beautiful, clean, soft, smelled fantastic.
So, I’m not really sure about the price point but it is an amazing product and available in a lot of different looks, different piles. So I would start with Mohawk, their SmartStrand.
CAROL: OK. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Well, the days are shorter and colder which, for a lot of people, brings on a touch of the winter blues. And there are reasons to smile, though, you guys, because studies show that a few easy changes that you can make to your living space can totally spruce up your home and lift your spirits.
TOM: Now, for starters, turn on the lights. It sounds simple but improved lighting can actually make you feel better, especially this time of year when darkness sets in so early.
This was a project I took on in my workshop, Leslie. I did not realize how dim the fluorescent lights were in my shop.
LESLIE: And that’s a place you need good lighting.
TOM: Oh, my gosh. Until I replaced them all with LEDs. Now, it is literally twice as bright, which means it looks twice as dirty. But that’s another challenge.
So, it’s a good time of year for stepping up the lighting that you do have or adding additional lighting, if you want to add some lamps or some sconces, or stepping up your bulbs. It can really make a big difference.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know what else works really nicely is think about planting an indoor garden. Now, colorful flowers or herbs, they really do go a long way – that spring is not that far off, guys. So you need to be reminded that spring is coming. You just want to make sure to choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight, since most of these veggies do need as much as six hours of direct sunlight each day to grow and thrive.
TOM: You can also add some pick-me-ups for your front door or your entranceway. I mean that creates a great first impression. It can definitely lift your spirits before you even step foot inside. You can polish the hardware, you can swap out doormats. These are kind of small changes that can go away. You could think about peening the door, adding a new door. It gives you a whole new sense of freshness for your space.
LESLIE: And don’t forget, guys, your sense of smell. It really does so much to invigorate your spirit when you smell something that smells delicious and wonderful. And citrus scents are the best. They can energize, rejuvenate. Even jasmine and grapefruit, those ease depression and ease sadness. Think about using oils, incense, candles. All of those can add aromas to your living space. So many people are using this aromatherapy with those oils and it really has a lot of benefits. So don’t shy away from your sense of smell; it can help change your attitude a lot.
TOM: That is so true. I never would have thought that there is a relaxing smell but some of those aroma oils, it does.
LESLIE: It’s true.
TOM: It does relax you. You definitely need to relax, especially if home improvement is stressing you out. But it doesn’t have to. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We are standing by to help.
LESLIE: Coreen in Alaska is on the line and has a question about real estate value. Tell us about it.
COREEN: I live in an older condo with a wood fireplace.
COREEN: Would a wood fireplace be more – have more resale value or would a freestanding stove?
TOM: I think a fireplace probably would have more value. It certainly might make the place more attractive to most buyers who make more emotional decisions than practical decisions.
LESLIE: And I think from a decorating standpoint, I know that freestanding wood stoves, to me – while, yes, they create a cozy, little seating area, sometimes they pose a ginormous decorating dilemma.
TOM: Well, true, because they just have to be out there in the middle of everything, so how do you work around that?
LESLIE: Right. And they’re usually a certain color. It’s not the easiest thing to paint or change the look of.
TOM: Yeah, so I would stay with the fireplace. Wood stoves are more efficient but I wouldn’t replace it if you’re getting ready to sell the house. I would keep the fireplace. I think if you did something to dress up the fireplace, if you needed it – with a new mantel, that kind of thing, cleaning up brick, whatever, just make it look good – I would just stop right there. I don’t think putting the wood stove in is going to be something that you’ll get a return on that investment from, Coreen.
COREEN: OK, great. Thank you.
LESLIE: Eric in Alaska is on the line with an insulation question. Tell us about it.
ERIC: I have a crawlspace and I’m trying to figure out what – the best way to keep the temperature a bit warmer than it is down there and to keep my floors in the home from getting so cold. I’ve got hardwood – ceramic-tile floors.
ERIC: And my – all of my plumbing is in the crawlspace. My pressure tank is down there, so I need to keep the temperature somewhat warm down there so I don’t freeze my pipes up.
TOM: OK. How much insulation do you have in the floor above the crawlspace area now?
TOM: Is it completely – oh, you have none? Well, see, now there would be a good place to start, Eric.
ERIC: Right, right.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s going to make a huge difference.
TOM: So, what you want to do there is if you have – let’s just say your floor joists are 2x10s, then you’re going to use 10 inches of insulation. You want to fill up that entire cavity with insulation. You can use unfaced fiberglass batts. The first place you insulate is the box joists – that’s around the outside perimeter – and then you work your way in to the floor joists.
TOM: You can use insulation hangers to hold it in place. And that’s going to make an enormous difference warming up that floor.
You may find that the crawlspace becomes a bit warmer as a result of that. Or you may find it becomes colder because now the heat from upstairs is not getting down there. Is there a concern of water pipes or anything like that freezing?
ERIC: Yeah, that’s what my concern is if I insulate the floor there. My pressure tank and all of my plumbing fixtures and drains are all down there.
TOM: You don’t have to worry about the drains freezing, OK? They’re never going to hold enough water to freeze and break. As far as the plumbing pipes are concerned, if you do have pipes that are below the insulation – if they’re in the insulation, you don’t have to worry about it. If they’re below the insulation, then you can insulate those themselves with insulation sleeves that just fit around them and get taped off.
So, insulate the pipes, insulate the floor joists and I think you’re going to find it’s a lot more comfortable as a result.
LESLIE: Well, did you know that adding insulation is the single-most effective way that you can cut your heating costs and improve your home’s comfort? Well, there are several different types of insulation that you’ve got to choose from. Each of them have their own benefits and their own applications. And it really depends on where you’re putting it, what type of home, the age of the home and what stage of construction your home is in.
So, you’ve got to think about a couple of things when you’re deciding that you want to add insulation. First of all, where are you putting it? Is it needed? How are you installing it? All of those things are really going to determine the best type of insulation that’s going to work for your project.
And then you’ve got to think about where you live in this country, because that’s going to determine what that recommended R-value is, which really means how much insulation you need to keep your home nice and cozy.
TOM: R stands for resistance to heat loss, which basically is a thick blanket, right? So the higher the R, the more insulation value you’re going to get.
So let’s look at the most common types. Fiberglass batts, of course, the most common. Great for unfinished walls, including foundations and floors and ceilings. It’s a do-it-yourself product. These batts are easily – these batts are suited for studs – these batts are basically cut to fit between studs and joists, so the spacing is easy to do. Very inexpensive. You can add it to existing insulation, as well.
LESLIE: Now, another option is cellulose or you can call it “loose-fill insulation.” And that’s really best for enclosed, existing wall cavities. Now, it gets blown into place. They use special equipment or sometimes it’s even poured in. But you’ve got to be really careful that it’s done by a pro, because you have to make sure that it’s put in equally, evenly, not too much pressure on certain parts of the wallboard in between the studs. Otherwise, it could be – you know, you could have some voids where it’s not quite in. It could put too much pressure and start to pull that wallboard away. So you’ve got to make sure that a pro does it well.
There are some people that do rent the tools for this but I always think this type of blown-in insulation is really best for the pros, right?
TOM: Yeah. You know why? Because when they do this type of insulation, they always scan your walls and your ceilings with an infrared camera. And that will tell them where the cold spots are. Because, sometimes, you can miss an area because the framing is such that it blocks the flow of that insulation. You may have to put in an extra hole but you wouldn’t know that without that type of equipment.
Now, aside from cellulose and fiberglass, another type that’s gaining a lot of popularity is called “stone wool.” It’s kind of an upgrade to the old rock-wool insulation but they left the asbestos out this time. That was one of the reasons we hated that stuff when it was put in in the earlier parts of the century.
Stone wool, though, is awesome. It’s very fire-resistant and it’s also a very good sound barrier. I did a video once – and I think it’s still on MoneyPit.com – where with the ROXUL insulation, people were – I was on a really noisy trade-show floor and they had basically created kind of like – it looked like a bit of a hallway, not even with doors or windows that were closing it off but kind of just an archway where this insulation was added.
And man, when you walked into it, Leslie, it sounded like we were walking into a studio. It got so quiet.
LESLIE: I mean that’s really – it really does make such a difference from a comfort level, from a sound level, from an energy-efficiency level. So it’s totally worth it to reinsulate or add insulation if you’re finding that you’ve got a void or your bills are too expensive. It does so much.
TOM: And finally, no discussion of insulation would be complete without mentioning spray-foam insulation, which is a product that I personally added to my 1886 house. We had occasion to do this because we were doing a roof at the same time and it just made sense. And I’ve got to tell you, it made a huge difference in our heating bills.
In fact, when I got – every quarter, the energy company sends me a report of how we compare with the neighborhood. And where we used to be average, all of a sudden we went down to using far less energy than a lot of the similar houses in our area. So, it a great option for open walls or unfinished attics, either in new construction or reconstruction. It also expands when it gets applied, so it seals out drafts, as well.
So, there are the basic types of insulation. And I’ll tell you, if you’ve been paying high energy bills this winter, you ought to be looking at at least one of these. Even if you just, say, double up the insulation in your attic by adding another layer of fiberglass, it really makes a big difference. And you will see a very quick result in the reduction of those heating costs and the increase in the comfort you feel in the house.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Patty in Illinois who’s got a toilet that is running constantly. Tell us what’s going on.
PATTY: Well, it doesn’t run constantly but it runs about five seconds, several times an hour. And it’s gone to the point that my water bill has gone up quite a bit and I’m needing to know if I need a new toilet or if I need new seals or a new handle pump or – what would you think?
LESLIE: It’s actually an easy fix and this tends to happen kind of regularly. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that there’s actually some level of toilet maintenance, because it’s just an appliance in your house that’s there and you use it and you expect it to work.
But inside the tank itself, there’s a fill and a flush valve. And those need to be replaced not that often but every couple of years or so. And of course, now that you’re dealing with this water-running issue – Tom, is it Fluidmaster?
TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is sort of a mainstay of replacement valve parts.
And they just wear out, Patty, over time, so this is a pretty easy fix.
LESLIE: And it’s probably 10 bucks to get both of them. But if you go to Fluidmaster’s website, the only reason I recommend that is because on their website, they’ve got a really great how-to video. So you can actually see what the fill valve is, what the flush valve, the flapper valves – you know exactly what you’re looking at and how to replace it. And it’s a really easy do-it-yourself project that you can do confidently and definitely decrease your water bill.
PATTY: Thank you. That sounds wonderful. I appreciate it and thank you so much for taking my call. Love your show.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Patty. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, not to be a glass-half-empty kind of guy but hey, do you ever look around your house and wonder which appliance will be the first to break down? Because they don’t last forever, Leslie.
LESLIE: That’s true. But that’s such a pessimistic way to be, Tom. “I hope this doesn’t break today.”
TOM: I try to be prepared. I try to be prepared. Because, listen, if anything breaks down in my house, you know who’s going to get the call.
LESLIE: That’s true. And also, if things break down in my house, I’m also going to call you.
LESLIE: Well, guys, most appliances do have an average life span of, say, 10 to 20 years, which I know is kind of big but it really varies per appliance. So, unless it’s covered by a warranty, at some point you are going to have to decide whether that appliance is worth fixing or if it’s time to just suck it up and buy a new one.
TOM: Well, we do have a way to help. There’s a formula we’ve developed that will allow you to tip the scales one way or the other. It takes the age of the appliance and its original cost and it weighs that against the cost of repairing it.
It’s a chart. It’s on MoneyPit.com. And here’s how you might use it. Say, for example, you have a three-year-old refrigerator. It breaks down. The cost of repairing it is, say, 2,000 bucks. Well, that’s probably not worthwhile because that repair cost is more than 40 percent of what you paid for it just three years ago. So, in that case, replacing it is a much better bet.
LESLIE: Now, the numbers are going to really vary by appliance type. Microwaves, they’re cheap so they quickly become candidates for just replacing rather than repairing. Dryers, on the other hand, they’re kind of expensive. So they’re worth spending maybe a few hundred dollars to fix, unless you’ve really got your eye on a super-cool new dryer. Then, I totally support buying a new dryer.
TOM: You can get the entire cheat sheet of when and whether to repair or replace your broken appliances on our website at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: James in Minnesota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JAMES: Bought a house about a year ago and I don’t know how old the water heater is because it was a foreclosure. And I had gone downstairs and took the cover off and turned up a little bit to try to get a little more hot water out of it temperature-wise. And I noticed on the inside that it seems wet, like the fiberglass insulation on the tank? So, I was wondering if that means the tank is going bad or do I need to start saving money to buy a new water heater?
TOM: The water heater is in your basement?
JAMES: Yeah, it’s in my basement. Correct.
TOM: Sometimes you get a little condensation inside of that. Does your water stay hot or do you – does it seem to run out quickly?
JAMES: No, it stays hot for a while. It’s just not as hot as I’d like it, so I just went down to dial it up a little and I saw it was wet inside. And I don’t see anything leaking from the bottom.
TOM: OK. Well, generally, when water heaters leak, everybody knows it, OK? It’s not subtle.
JAMES: Yeah, OK. Good.
TOM: Alright? So I doubt it’s leaking badly right now. You may have a bit of condensation in there. However, what you want to keep in mind with electric water heaters is, first of all, they’re very expensive to run and so it’s a good idea to have a timer on them. Secondly, with an electric water heater, there’s two coils, not just one. So, on the outside of your water heater, you should see two panels: one up high and one down low. And each one of those has its own thermostat. And so in order to adjust the temperature, you have to open both of them up and with a screwdriver – an insulated screwdriver – you turn it very carefully until it’s about 110 degrees on both of them.
TOM: And with a 40- or 50-gallon water heater – how many bedrooms – I mean how many bathrooms do you have in the house?
TOM: So, a 40-gallon would be smallish, maybe adequate; 50-gallon would definitely be good.
JAMES: That’s what it is.
TOM: If you’re wondering the age of it, on the label on the water heater, there’s generally a date that’s either written plainly on that or it’s coded into the serial number. So, if you look at the serial number, you look at the date, you may see a date on there and you can figure out how old this is.
JAMES: Oh, OK. Great. Thanks so much (inaudible).
TOM: You’re welcome, James. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You can call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we are not in the studio, we’ll call you back the next time we are. Or you can post your questions to our website at MoneyPit.com. Now, John from Pennsylvania did just that.
LESLIE: Yeah. John is writing: “Is there a way to keep snow from forming at the edge of my roof and collapsing the gutters?”
Now, it seems like collapsing the gutters could be the least of your problems in this situation, right?
TOM: Well, it does and here’s why. He may not even realize this, Leslie, but if you’re getting snow that forms at the edge of the roof, that’s not so much snow because as it builds up, it becomes what we call an “ice dam.”
And it’s literally a mound of ice. And the reason it’s a problem is because heat rises, right? So, the heat in your house is going to rise up through your ceiling, through the insulation – and even if you’ve got decent insulation – and it gets up and it heats up the upper parts of the underside of your attic, right? And then that makes that snow on the roof melt and then run down the roof towards the edge of the gutters.
Now, at that point, what does it hit? It hits the dam that’s been forming. And why does it form there? Because if you think about it, that overhang section, right, that’s not over an attic; that’s ambient temperature. So it’s always going to be colder there, giving it the opportunity to freeze and build up.
So, now in John’s case, it sounds like it’s busting up his gutters but the problem is that that water can then do a U-turn and start working its way back under the shingles. And I don’t care if you’ve got a 45-degree 12-on-12 roof, that water will go right back under the shingles and it’ll leak inside your house.
So, how do you stop that? Well, first of all, you make sure you have enough insulation. And if you don’t have 20 or 30 inches of at least fiberglass batts in that attic, add another layer or two, please. Unfaced fiberglass. It’s inexpensive. It’s easy to install. If you don’t want to do it yourself, call HomeAdvisor. Have them send a contractor over, you know, to get this job done.
Secondly, you want to make sure that your ventilation at that overhang is not blocked, because you want to make sure that that cold air can come up in the soffits and get up under the roof sheathing and exit at the ridge. Because the attic is not supposed to be warm; it’s supposed to be the same temperature as the outside. And that ventilation is going to help keep it dry. Because if the insulation gets damp, it also is not as effective.
Now, thirdly, you could consider, if it’s a really bad problem, putting heating cables at the roof edge, which you could control with a timer or just an on/off. The problem is those are really expensive to run. I’ve got to tell you, it’s like straight resistance heat. So if you want to go that route, it’s got to be a real temporary fix.
But the worst problem is that ice damming. And unfortunately, that’s also the hardest to fix. If you still get ice dams after you have the insulation and the ventilation fixed, what you’re going to need to do – and you’ll probably wait until the next time you replace your roof to do this – is you need to put a material called “ice-and-water shield,” which is like a 3-foot-wide rubbery sheet. And it goes from the edge of the roof, right up over the exterior wall and on up into the roof, because it protects that area at the roof line – the roof edge – from ice dams where the water is going to back up. It can’t get through that sheet even if it gets through the shingles.
So, even though – as you say, Leslie – he’s seeing icicles and ice in the gutters and he’s worried about them collapsing, you’re absolutely right: it is the least of your problems.
But having said that, if they’re weak gutters and what’s happening is the nails are pulling out, pull those gutter spikes out and replace them with gutter bolts. They’re like a long lag bolt and they’re much more effective and secure at holding those gutters in place than the spikes that were originally installed.
I did that at my mom’s house and I just noticed one day that they were all starting to sag. And I put – I was actually short on bolts, so I put every other one. Works perfectly.
LESLIE: I mean seriously, John, you called about an icicle and a gutter issue and now you’ve got a lot more on your plate. But it’s all good to know and definitely stuff worth taking care of. It’s going to save you from a lot of problems in the long run.
TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We so appreciate you spending part of your day with us. Remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The nice thing about our phone system is that your call will be answered by somebody on our team any time of the day or night. And if we are not in the studio, we promise we will call you back the next time we are.
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 2020 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.)