In this episode…
If you’ve got a deck, warmer weather means BBQ’s and parties may be just ahead. But before the crowd arrives, Tom & Leslie share FIVE SIGNS to watch for that could signal your deck may be ready to collapse! Plus:
- Now that it is Spring, it’s like the Goldilocks season – not too hot and not too cold to tackle just about any project inside or out. We’re going to start you off with some easy updates to save money on heating, cooling and lighting just ahead.
- Spring rains combined with power outages can lead to basement floods! We’ll share tips on a new system that provides complete protection, even when the power goes out.
- When does a crack go from being a minor problem, to a major hassle? We’ll share tips on how to know what to do when you spot cracks in your walls or ceilings.
Do you have a home improvement or decor question? Call the show 24/7 at 888-MONEY-PIT (888-666-3974) or post your question here.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And what are you working on this beautiful weekend? If you’re planning a project around your house – some painting, some tile, some carpet – maybe you’re trying to decide if you can do the job yourself or you need to hire a pro. Maybe you want to design that space and have somebody else do it. Whatever is on that to-do list can be slid right over to ours if you pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question on MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, warmer weather means you’re soon going to be using that deck, if you’re lucky enough to have one, often to entertain and to barbecue. But before you plan a crowd for the big party, it’s really important to make sure your deck can handle all of those people. We’ve got five signs to check for to make sure your deck is safe because every summer, somewhere around the country – sometimes more than once – we hear about deck collapses. And we want to make absolutely certain that doesn’t happen to you.
LESLIE: And now that it’s spring, it’s like the Goldilocks season: you know, it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold. It’s kind of perfect for you to tackle just about any project, whether it’s inside the house or out. We’re going to start you off with some easy updates to save money on your heating, cooling and lighting, in just a bit.
TOM: Plus, spring rains combined with power outages can lead to basement floods. We’ll share tips on a new system that provides complete protection against those floods, even when the power goes out.
LESLIE: But first, we want to help you get started on your spring cleaning in a big way, because we’re giving away an amazing tool from Greenworks.
TOM: Yep. It’s the brand-new Greenworks Pro 2700 PSI Electric Pressure Washer, which is the world’s largest pressure washer. Yep, it’s true. It’s the biggest pressure washer in the world.
It’s going out to one caller drawn at random. Now, make that you by picking up the phone and calling us with your question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can also go to The Money Pit’s website and post your question. We’ll toss all of those names into The Money Pit hard hat. And if we select yours, you will win that brand-new Greenworks Pro 2700 PSI Electric Pressure Washer, which will help you with all your outside spring-cleaning projects.
So let’s get to it. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Dottie in Nebraska is on the line and needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you today?
DOTTIE: I’m replacing – will be replacing a vinyl floor in the kitchen. And I’ve never had a wood floor. I love the look of wood but I’m confused as to whether to go with wood or with laminate, because I want easy care.
LESLIE: OK. And this is strictly for your kitchen or does it …?
DOTTIE: We will be going into the dining room, too, we’ve decided. We’ll be taking up carpet in there to extend into the dining room.
LESLIE: OK. So it’s – is it an open plan or is there a threshold or is there a division between these two spaces?
DOTTIE: There is a counter between the two.
LESLIE: OK. Now, for kitchens, hardwood floors are beautiful but generally, even if they have a commercial type of coating on them, they’re not really meant to stand up to the wear and tear and perhaps the moisture that could occur in a kitchen environment. I think a laminate is probably a better choice for you, just because of the way they are made. And the finishes on top of them make them more easy to clean, easier to deal with any spills that might occur and certainly more durable and of course, can look like anything.
I actually just put a laminate, in a home I redid in California, that was a 6-inch-wide plank that had a hand-scraped finish on it. So it certainly had that warmth and look and a quality of a traditional hardwood that you’re probably looking for. And depending on the quality of laminate, you could get kind of close to a hardwood price but I think you can still keep it in your price range.
LESLIE: But you can find, certainly, beautiful options in the laminate. I think that’s probably the way you want to go for a kitchen.
DOTTIE: OK. And see if you agree with this: I’ve been told that we have oak cabinets that are OK and not to try to match those. Is that right to go lighter or darker?
LESLIE: Absolutely. What color is the oak? Is it sort of natural? Has it been stained a different tone?
DOTTIE: It’s pretty typical, warm oak: kind of a golden – kind of a medium brown.
LESLIE: I like the idea of a darker floor in a kitchen. I feel like it’s more forgiving. I feel like it makes the cabinets sort of jump off and create a more put-together look for a kitchen space. I think with a lighter floor, you’re always going to be trying to clean it and care for it, cover it up.
DOTTIE: OK. And as far – I have a friend who put – I think she said hers is cherry but I love the look. It’s kind of a – the planks are a different shade; they’re not all the same color. Is that something you think that I could find or would that look nice with the oak?
LESLIE: Now when you say different shades, is it strikingly different? Does it look sort of patchwork-y or is it more tonal?
DOTTIE: No. No. More subtle than that.
LESLIE: More subtle. I mean I think it could be a very good look if you’ve got the right look for your kitchen. That tends to be a more – not a hippie-dippie but Bohemian, free-spirited sort of eclectic look that’s very popular right now. So if you’ve got that look going in your lighting fixtures and in your tile work and in your countertops, then it could really tie it all in together.
DOTTIE: OK. And one last question. That floor that I like is laid on the diagonal. Do you do that much and do you recommend that?
LESLIE: Depends on the size of the space. Because if it’s a tighter or a narrow kitchen, it could look very busy. But if you’ve got a good expanse and the kitchen is fairly wide, then it could play very nicely.
DOTTIE: Well, that’s wonderful. That’s what I wanted to know. I thought probably the laminate was better. I want it to look beautiful; I don’t want it to look fake.
TOM: I’ll tell you, Dottie, I have laminate in my kitchen and I’ve had it for about 10 years now.
TOM: It looks like a stone floor and it’s beautiful.
DOTTIE: Wonderful. OK. And no particular brand tips or anything like that? Maybe you can’t do that. I’m really a novice here.
TOM: Well, I’ll tell you, you might just want to – a good place just to kind of shop for it is LumberLiquidators.com, only because they have good prices and they have a whole bunch of manufacturers there on their website.
TOM: So that might be a good place to start.
DOTTIE: OK. I will do it. Thank you so much.
TOM: Alright, Dottie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Robert in Oregon is on the line and is having an issue with some plaster walls at his home. How can we help you?
ROBERT: Well, I was finishing a room in my bedroom and after applying the plaster, some of the plaster was coming off after I painted it. But originally, I did the living room, which was my first job, and I mixed it – a bunch of the plaster – Imperial plaster. And of course, I mixed too much and it got hard, you know? So I learned not to mix so much, because it only – you can only use so much during a certain time before it sets up.
So, anyway, in the next room, I drywalled it, finished it and then I used a product called Plaster-Weld, which is supposed to be a primer for the plaster.
TOM: Right. Plaster-Weld is a bonding agent.
TOM: And you used this on top of drywall? Is that correct?
TOM: Was it new drywall?
ROBERT: Yeah, new drywall.
ROBERT: But I’d primed the walls first and then put the Plaster-Weld over that.
TOM: OK. Hmm. OK.
ROBERT: And then mixed up my plaster – it was Imperial plaster – and applied it and finished it all up and troweled it to the texture I wanted. And then we went back – my wife and I – and touched up a few spots and then let it dry overnight. Then we put a primer on it and while putting the primer on it, some of the plaster was coming off.
TOM: First of all, I would not have primed the drywall. I don’t really see a reason to do that. You prime the drywall to control adhesion and to stop the absorption, I should say, of the new paint – the top coat of paint – and to get an even sheen. But you weren’t really concerned about sheen because you intended to do a plaster coat.
You were basically building what’s called “plaster lath.” This is the way homes were done in the 50s, where you have a drywall base and then you put a plaster coat on top of that. The bonding agent was the right thing to do but that should have gone directly onto the drywall. Now you put the drywall on, then you put a primer over that and then you put the bonding agent on top of that. So now you have to get the bonding agent to stick to the primer and that’s a little more difficult than getting it to stick to the raw drywall.
So I think you’ve got a situation now where you’re going to have this problem potentially repeating itself. So I hate to tell you this but what I might do is put another layer of drywall over this – a real thin layer – and start again. You don’t have to use ½-inch; you can use ¼-inch just to skim it. And then put the plaster over that.
ROBERT: Alright. Thanks.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
We’re ready to help you get started with your spring cleaning now in a very big way, because for today’s episode we have got a phenomenal giveaway for one very, very lucky listener. Our friends at Greenworks have given us the Pro 2700 PSI Electric Pressure Washer to give away.
It is the world’s most powerful electric power washer. It delivers 2,700 maximum pounds per square inch of pressure at 1.2 gallons and 2.3-gallon flow at 100 PSI. So, basically, you get all the pressure, all the water you need to get the job done.
It can reach heights of over 20 feet, so you can get rid of dirt and grime maybe up on those gutters. It’s got three different tips, plus a turbo nozzle. And it features JettFLow Technology that recognizes the nozzle you’re using and automatically adjusts to provide the maximum amount of consistent water flow.
If you want to win it, you’ve got to pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. It’s available at Lowe’s, exclusively, for 399 bucks but we’re giving one away to one lucky listener. Call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Post your questions at MoneyPit.com and we will draw one name and send out that pressure washer, perhaps, to you.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Lorraine in Arizona who needs some help with a paneling decorating project.
LORRAINE: We have an older home that has two walls that has paneling on. And I was told that if we took the paneling off, it would probably damage the drywall. So I was considering maybe trying to put something over top of the paneling to give it a different look and wanted some suggestions.
LESLIE: Well, it depends. It depends on how it’s attached to whatever is behind it. There may not be any drywall behind it; it might just be the paneling attached directly to the studs, in which case you would have to put drywall up. It could be that the paneling was glued to the drywall. Then you would never get it off without completely destroying the drywall. Or it could be that it was just nailed on. You’re not really going to know until you sort of peer at a corner or an area where you can take off a little bit of trim work and see what exactly is going on before you make a decision. So that’s probably best step number one.
Now, if you find out that there’s really no removing it and your choices are to deal with the paneling and make it look better or cover over it with ¼-inch drywall, you can do that. It depends on how much work you want to do.
Painting paneling certainly is an excellent option. It creates a totally different look when you paint paneling a crisp, glossy white or an off-white or something that really just poses a good, neutral backdrop and just sort of go with it.
LORRAINE: OK. This is very light paneling anyway.
LESLIE: And are you at a point where you just want to see it be darker, different or gone?
LESLIE: Painting it really does look nice. It doesn’t have to be something that, in the end, you’re going to think, “Ooh, that doesn’t look good.” You just have to make sure that you clean it, you prime it well and then you give it a good topcoat.
Now, I would really start by just taking off a piece of trimming and door frame and seeing how it’s attached. And if you want to truly start with just a fresh look, you can absolutely cover over the entire space with ¼-inch drywall without losing too much space. You’re just going to have to sort of bump-out your electrical boxes, your switches, your trim work, et cetera which, for a handy person, isn’t that big of a deal. So it could be a project you could do on your own. Or to hire somebody wouldn’t be that expensive.
LORRAINE: OK. Sounds good.
LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with that.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, now that we’ve moved into spring, winter heating bills are a distant memory, thankfully. But with summer ahead, now is also the perfect time to take on a few projects to save energy all year round. So we’re going to walk you through a few of our favorites.
First, let’s talk about lighting. Dimmers and sensors. They can help make sure you’re not using more electricity than you need to. Dimmers will save energy by reducing the amount of lighting you’re using. And sensors, most importantly, can turn lights off automatically so you don’t forget to or more importantly, your kids don’t forget to, which is really common in Leslie’s house, as well as mine.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. I feel like they go into a room just to turn on the lights for no other reason.
Now, another area that you guys can save is with your water heater. So, think about turning down your water heater’s temperature setting to about 120 degrees. If you have an electric water heater, cut the cost of running it in half by installing a timer. That’s going to allow the water to be heated only when you need it, like during your morning showers.
When it comes to heating and cooling, it’s really important to keep your HVAC system maintained. So if you don’t have one, sign up for that annual service plan from a reliable HVAC contractor or your local utility company. We don’t usually recommend purchasing those service contracts but when it comes to the HVAC system, this is really one of the areas where you have to make that exception. It’s going to help you stay on top of the critical maintenance checks and then cover you for any surprise service calls.
TOM: Next, you also want to reduce your monthly heating and cooling bills by investing in the right insulation for your home. There are a lot of choices available. For my home, we found that spray foam was the best choice because it both seals and insulates, which keeps the warm air in and the cold air out in the winter and the exact opposite in the summer. And it improves your comfort year round.
But if you were to go up in your attic and say you see that you’ve only got maybe 8 inches of fiberglass insulation, double it. Add another 8 inches of fiberglass on top of that. Just use unfaced fiberglass batts. You will feel a very, very immediate difference in the comfort of that home, especially when you’re in the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter. And it’s just not that expensive to do.
So, a few quick projects – inexpensive projects – that can really give you a lot of bang for your buck.
LESLIE: Steve in Arizona, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
STEVE: Yeah, we’ve got a square fire pit out in the backyard. It’s really nice. We bought it about a year ago. It’s got nice, Southern tile on top. And in the middle of it, it’s got a round Lazy Susan. And you take off the Lazy Susan and it’s a fire pit with a stainless-steel fire ring. And we’ve got a bunch of fire glass in there. It’s really nice.
And the – one of the things that we’re disappointed in somewhat is that the flame isn’t really very high on the thing. It’s really a nice kind of romantic, low fire but we’d like to figure out if we could find some way to make that a little more robust. And I’m thinking about just drilling out the holes in the fire ring to – and I’m wondering if that might solve the problem or if I’d be creating more problems than solving.
TOM: Generally, you don’t want to modify a gas burner like that. Was this a manufactured unit that you purchased and installed?
STEVE: Yes. Yeah, it was – it all just came – all we really had to do was just pretty much plunk the thing down and hook up the gas.
TOM: Well, you certainly don’t want to mess with the manufacturer’s design, because that was very specifically designed to do a certain job. And if you start drilling bigger holes in it, you could create something that’s very dangerous.
But let me just ask you this: is this natural gas or propane?
STEVE: It’s natural gas. Yeah, when we landscaped the yard, we had a natural-gas line run out to the area of the yard. Then we poured a really nice, big, oh, 18-circular-foot pad out there. And then the – and then stubbed it right in the middle, so that’s where the fire pit is.
TOM: Alright. Have you checked the gas pressure to make sure that it’s where you expect it to be?
STEVE: No. I’m not really sure, no.
TOM: I would have a plumber check the gas pressure to make sure that the gas pressure is correct. If you have low gas pressure, that could account for the low flame.
The other thing I would do is contact the manufacturer to find out what flame level that’s designed for, because it might be doing exactly what it’s intended to do. And if you add more – if you try to modify that, it could be, certainly, dangerous. So we’d not encourage you to drill out the burner or anything of that nature. I would encourage you to check the gas level – the gas-pressure level – as well as the valves that service it, because something is partially closed or you just don’t have enough pressure coming through that line, for whatever reason. That could also be the solution, as well.
Steve, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Diane in Minnesota has got a steamy bathroom. Tell us what’s going on.
DIANE: Yes. The exhaust fan, it just does not seem to take the steam out of the bathroom at all. It just doesn’t work for some reason.
TOM: Well, where is the exhaust fan mounted? It’s on the ceiling and goes into an attic? Is that correct?
DIANE: Yeah, it’s in the ceiling. I just live in an apartment, so I’m not exactly sure where it goes but …
TOM: OK. Well, see, that would be a good place to start. Because you want to make sure when you turn on an exhaust fan that you can see it actually exhaust somewhere. And generally, it’s going to be a vent outside the building somewhere. And you can turn on the exhaust fan and see that vent open. So you need to figure out – or if it’s an apartment, you need to have a super figure out where it’s exhausting. Because it could be obstructed, it could be crushed, it could be blocked, it could be terminated. There could be a lot of things wrong with it.
And the other thing that you might want to think about – and you may or may not want to do this, because it’s an apartment and not a condominium that you own, but there’s a different type of exhaust fan that’s out now. Broan and NuTone make it. Same company. It’s called ULTRA. And what’s cool about it is it has a moisture-sensing switch built into it – a humidistat – so it runs whenever the room gets moist. So, you can kind of set it and forget it. And you take a shower, it’ll just stay on until all the moisture is evacuated out of the room and then go off again.
DIANE: OK. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: Alright, Diane. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, as we move to the warmer weather months, it’ll be time soon to get out on your deck and start enjoying those outdoor spaces again. But before you do that, it is super important that you inspect your deck for signs of wear and tear because, unfortunately, deck collapses are not all that uncommon, especially when you’re having a party with large groups of people.
TOM: Right. Now, there are five signs to look for or really, five areas to examine when trying to determine the potential for a deck to collapse.
First, look for loose connections if you notice, for example, that a railing is not secure, if it’s wobbly. Look for missing connections. If you inspect your deck and you see that it is not secured to the house, that’s a really big problem and one that almost always leads to the seriousness of a deck collapse. It can pull away if it was just nailed to the house. It’s got to be bolted to the house or screwed to the house. Otherwise, it could be very dangerous.
Corrosion, also an issue. If you see rusty fasteners or the joist brackets that are holding the joists in place have rusted out, those need to be replaced. And look for rot. If you’ve got components of your deck that are not pressure-treated, look for rot. You can do that very easily with, say, a long flat-head screwdriver. Just sort of poke at those floor joists. And you may be really shocked to find that sometimes the screwdriver goes right through the beam, because the rot is not always obvious to someone that’s not trained to look for it.
But a screwdriver is a really simple tool. Just tap on it. You’ll actually hear a difference in sound. It’ll be a very, very crisp sound if it’s OK. But if it’s soft, it’ll get very sort of thuddy (ph) sounding and you’ll know right away that it’s a problem.
And finally, look for cracks in all the lumber that’s visible. If you see that the floor joists are split – the joists themselves. The deck boards, that’s just kind of an inconvenience. A cracked deck board, you can take it out and flip it over. You’ll find that the underside, which hasn’t been exposed to the sun, will be just as good as the day it was put down. So you can resecure it and touch-up the stain or the paint. But if you see cracks in the lumber, that means that – the floor joist itself. That means that it is time for a repair.
LESLIE: So, now you’re going around, you’re looking for things. Say you find something, which is likely. What do you do now, Tom?
TOM: Well, most of these things can be easily repaired. I mean if you find that your deck is not properly secured to the house, you can have a pro run through bolts from the floor – from the box beam, which is that flat part that connects to the house, all the way through to the other side of the house, especially if you’re on a basement. It’s easy to work there. As we said, if we had cracked floor joists, what I would do with those is I would sister it; I’d put another one next to it. You bolt those together. You would repair loose railings.
They’re all repairable but the thing is that people lose track of this. They think it’s OK; they just use it year after year. And invariably, what happens is it’s Memorial Day and it’s Labor Day, it’s Fourth of July, some holiday, a big birthday, whatever and you’ve got 50, 60 of your closest friends on that deck. And you have now dramatically increased the amount of weight that it’s holding and that’s when bad things happen. So we want to make sure that it is absolutely safe.
LESLIE: Rick in North Dakota is on the line with a driveway-repair question. How can we help you today?
RICK: I have a concrete driveway that, over the years, it’s started getting little pits in it in some of the areas. It almost looks like it’s where rocks have popped out of the concrete from over time and there’s other areas that little – small, little scales or sheets of concrete have come loose. And I’m just wondering what type of a product I can use to repair those pits. I know I’ve seen, different times, where people have put regular concrete in there and it doesn’t tend to stay very well.
TOM: So, what you want to do is use a concrete-patching product. And it’s not just regular concrete or regular cement, because that won’t stick. It usually is epoxy-based. And I know QUIKRETE has a product designed specifically for this and you can go to their website at QUIKRETE.com. That’s spelled Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com. The epoxy-based products will stick to the old, original concrete material and not fall out the first time the surface freezes.
Now, I just want to also point out that being in North Dakota, I’m sure you get a lot of road salt on that driveway and that probably contributes to this. But if you’re doing any salting on your own, make sure you’re using potassium chloride, not calcium chloride. Because potassium chloride is much less corrosive to the concrete surface and will not cause that destruction that you’re witnessing now.
Alright. Does that help you out?
RICK: Yep. That does. Thank you very much for your assistance.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, now that it’s spring, we’ve got an opportunity to help you get started with your spring cleaning in a very big way.
Because Leslie, we’ve got a fantastic pressure washer to give away, which is the biggest in the world, right? The most powerful in the world.
LESLIE: It sure is. We’ve got the Greenworks Pro 2700 PSI Electric Pressure Washer up for grabs. And it’s got a max 2,700 pounds per square inch of water pressure there. It’s really fantastic. And I always feel like whoever has the pressure washer, the neighbors all benefit, as well. Because it’s such a fun project to do around the house that once you start cleaning things on the exterior, you sort of move up the block and continue on the sidewalk and maybe help a neighbor with the siding. So this is a prize that benefits all.
The Greenworks Pro 2700 PSI Electric Pressure Washer can reach heights over 20 feet, which will help you get rid of all of that winter dirt and grime. Three different tips, plus a turbo nozzle will help you complete jobs of all different types and different applications. It even features JettFlow Technology, which is going to recognize the nozzle that you select and then automatically adjust to provide the maximum amount of consistent water flow for that tip.
It’s really fantastic. It’s got a hassle-free, 25-foot, kink-resistant hose. It is a prize worth $399. It’s available exclusively at Lowe’s. Make sure you check out the Greenworks 2700 PSI Pressure Washer. But we’ve got one up for grabs now, so give us a call with your question.
TOM: That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can also post your question at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Delaware to chat with Ruth, who’s having an issue with water heating. Tell us what’s going on.
RUTH: Our water heater is – I’m guessing it’s around 12 years old. And whenever I use the hot water, it doesn’t seem to last very long. And so a couple months ago, maybe 6 months ago, my husband and his friend – and his friend, I guess that’s what he does for a living. They emptied the water heater and they put two new elements in. But in my opinion, it’s still doing the same thing, like it didn’t – to me, it didn’t change the length how long the hot water lasted.
TOM: And this is an electric water heater?
RUTH: It’s not gas; it’s electric, yes.
TOM: And so, when they replaced the elements, they tested both elements to make sure they actually work?
RUTH: I’m not sure if they did that. I don’t know. He said they put new elements in. I’m assuming they – I guess I could ask them later if they did that.
TOM: Because here’s the thing. When you have a water heater that’s electric and it runs out of hot water quickly, it’s usually because one or the other of the two elements burn out or the control circuit breaks down so that they don’t actually come on. So, what you do, as a technician, is you run a continuity tester on these coils. And it’s a way of determining whether or not they’re working or not.
Electric coils for a water heater is just like a light bulb: it either works or doesn’t work; there’s no in between. And so, the first thing I would do is check the continuity on both of these coils to make sure they’re both physically working. Because what you’re describing, to me, sounds like one is not and that could be the whole source of the problem, OK?
TOM: Ruth, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, now that it’s spring we can expect a lot more rain and unfortunately, a lot more power failures. And if you’ve got a basement and are counting on your sump pump, those two things together can combine to cause a lot of heartache in the form of an expensive flood. In fact, it can cost an average homeowner as much as $25,000 to $50,000 to fix a finished basement after a flood.
LESLIE: Well, there’s a new sump-pump system out there that’s designed to eliminate these risks. It’s called Basement Guardian and it’s a complete, smart basement system that includes two ultra-quiet pumps: a primary AC pump and a battery-backup DC pump.
Now, they all collect via a mobile app, so you don’t even have to go into the basement to check on things, even when that power does go out.
TOM: Yeah. And the system is really well designed. It can pump up to 109 gallons of water a minute. And if the power goes out, it can actually keep going because of that battery and remove 11,000 gallons of water on a single battery charge. That’s enough to fill an above-ground pool.
LESLIE: Now, sump pumps, they really don’t last forever either, guys. So if you can’t even think about the last time that you replaced your sump pump, then it’s probably time to replace your sump pump, guys. Check out Basement Guardian at Basement-Guardian.com.
TOM: Yeah. And right now, Money Pit listeners can save 250 bucks by going to Basement-Guardian.com/MoneyPit. And be sure to use the promo code MONEYPIT at checkout. That’s Basement-Guardian.com/MoneyPit. And never worry about your basement again.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Terry in Nebraska on the line who’s dealing with some woodpeckers. Tell us what’s going on.
TERRY: We have a small woodpecker; it’s about the size of a sparrow. It’s dark gray or black with white speckles on its chest. And it actually pecks holes in the corners of my chimney, on the 1x4s. And then the guy next door actually redid his chimney with stuff that’s similar to Sto stucco-type stuff. And they actually peck holes in that stuff.
TERRY: And he fills them and they peck more holes.
TOM: Well, look, there’s a couple of things that you can do. One real easy thing to do is to try to dissuade them from landing on your chimney. You can – temporarily, by the way, on this is what I might suggest, just only temporarily – hang tin pie plates on the chimney. Because the silvery pie plates kind of drifting in the wind totally freak out woodpeckers.
Another thing that you can do is you could take a Hefty bag and if you were to cut a Hefty bag – like a black Hefty bag? – and cut strips of plastic for the same thing – in other words, have them sort of flopping in the breeze around the top of the chimney, that also is very intimidating to woodpeckers and they will leave it alone.
TERRY: Oh, OK.
TOM: And if you do this maybe for a month or so, they might just forget about your house and go attack somebody else’s.
TERRY: Fantastic. Alright. Thanks a lot.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Remember, you can call into The Money Pit or post your question online, just like this person, Old House DIYR, did. Now …
TOM: I like that name. I like that name.
LESLIE: That’s a good one. Old House DIYR writes: “Twelve years ago, we bought a 100-year-old home. We gutted the second floor about eight years ago and one of the walls on the second floor developed a crack, then a second, now a third. My concern is not how to repair but wondering if I may have a structural issue.”
TOM: Well, old houses – and new houses, for that matter – have quite a bit of movement in them as they expand and contract. So, the question with these cracks is whether or not they’re sort of the normal movement. Or do they indicate, say, a deeper structural problem?
Now, if it’s drywall – I’m presuming it is because you took down all of the old wall. She probably took down a bunch of plaster when you put that drywall on. It’s indeed possible that the cracks are nothing to worry about. It really depends on if they’re progressing.
But I think to be absolutely sure, I would probably have this looked at not by a contractor – that’s very important, because they have motivations to sell you a repair whether you need it or not – but perhaps by an independent home inspector who’s not in the repair business or an engineer, if you have access to one or you want to hire one.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then when it does come time to doing these repairs, a lot of people just make mistakes when they’re trying to repair wall cracks and they just sort of spackle over it. And then it looks good for a minute but then, of course, that crack is going to open up again – I mean sometimes even within just a few weeks – when what you really want to do is put drywall tape over that crack.
Now, I like to use the perforated tape. It’s kind of like a fiberglass mesh. It’s really easy to work with. And then you use spackle over that. That’s going to bridge the gap of the crack and keep it from opening up again as those walls do expand and contract over time.
Now, if it does turn out that you do have a structural problem, you obviously have to have that fixed. And I would, at that point, engage an engineer to recommend and specify exactly what that repair is and what it is that needs to be done. Then you bring in the contractor, have them work off of those engineer’s plans to make that specified repair.
TOM: Yeah. And there’s one more important step to that flow. When you bring the engineer back, you want to have them certify that it was properly fixed. And this way, you kind of have a pedigree. So if it ever comes up maybe in a home inspector later, when you’re trying to sell the house, that this crack existed and it was repaired, you can prove it was done correctly and not have any issues with the sale.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Nick who writes: “How do I kill the weeds growing in the gravel driveway? I’ve used vinegar and Roundup. Can I try anything else? I’m spraying the driveway about once a month.”
TOM: Yeah, you shouldn’t be doing that. Bonide makes a product called Weed Beater Ultra. It comes as a concentrate, Nick. And you mix it up, follow the label directions and then spray it on the weeds.
Now, in case this – you mentioned this is for the driveway. But if you were spraying the lawn, this Bonide product, Weed Beater Ultra, has another feature. You can reseed that same spot in just two weeks, which is a very short period of time. So you’re not going to be without that lawn in that particular area. You won’t have those brown spots to look at all summer long. And that’s just great.
LESLIE: And you know what, Nick? A lot of times these weed killers are very effective. So you want to make sure that you’re not over-spraying, especially if you’ve got a weed growing up next to a little garden of some sort. You can take a milk jug, like one of those plastic ones, or a soda battle, like a 2-liter bottle, and cut the bottom off and then put that over the weed that you want to spray effectively. And then you can spray right in the mouth of the top of that bottle. So you’re only spraying that exact targeted area and not over-spraying things you don’t want to get rid of.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thanks for spending this part of your day with us. We hope you are enjoying the newness of spring now and perhaps getting outside and enjoying the weather and tackling a few things outside your house.
Remember, as these questions come up, you can reach into your pocket, grab that phone and call us anytime at 888-MONEY-PIT. If we are not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are. And you can also post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 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.)