In this episode…
Outdoor living spaces have never been more popular — and that includes outdoor kitchens. But cooking and dining outside require special recipes of their own. Tom and Leslie have tips for designing an amazing outdoor kitchen. Plus…
- Spring cleaning isn’t just for indoor rooms. Now is also the time to spruce up a favorite outdoor room—your deck, we’ll have some deck cleaning tips later on in the show.
- Between bad weather, and more deliberate forms of vandalism, mailboxes can take a real beating! We’ll have tips on how to how to build a mailbox that can stand the test of time.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about, eliminating odors from wood floors, painting a bathroom, cleaning rust stains from a toilet, creating a decorative wall, gutter guards are they worth it? exterior brick options.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here for you. As we spend all this time at home these days, we are here to help you get the projects done around your house, to make it the best it can possibly be. If you have a DIY dilemma, if you’d like to take on a painting and décor project, a storage and organization project, if you’d like to improve one space in your house to make it more comfortable, you can call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we are your home improvement coaches. We are hoping to inspire you, to give you ideas on things that you can do from the comfort of your home. And if you’ve got a project in mind, we’d love to hear about it.
Coming up on today’s show, outdoor-living spaces have never been more popular. And that includes outdoor kitchens. We’re going to have tips for designing an amazing space to enjoy all summer long.
LESLIE: And spring cleaning isn’t just for your indoor rooms. Now is also a great time to spruce up your favorite outdoor room: your deck. We’re going to share some cleaning tips later on in the show.
TOM: And between bad weather and more deliberate forms of vandalism, mailboxes can take a real beating. So we’re going to have some tips on how you can build a mailbox that can stand the test of time.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you want to know. What projects are you guys tackling this weekend, weekday, whatever day it is? Doesn’t really matter. In quarantine time, it all kind of blends. So pick a project for any day and we will lend you a hand. We’re here to help.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Marilyn in Louisiana, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MARILYN: Hello. I have moved into an old home that has unfinished and some finished wooden floors that were carpeted. Unfortunately, in taking that carpet up, former pets that were here have left their mark all over the floors.
TOM: Oh, no.
MARILYN: There are stains and there is a dreadful, dreadful odor throughout the house. The dogs that I have brought in have continued that process and now have to live outside. My question is: what do I do? What can I do to get the odor out of these wooden floors?
TOM: What I would do, Marilyn, is I would sand the floors. This is the one time where I think it makes a lot of sense to do a thorough sanding of these floors.
LESLIE: Yeah. You’ve got to completely refinish.
TOM: Yeah, especially if you’re saying that some of the floors were unfinished to begin with. So I would sand all the floors to take off some material, vacuum up that sawdust and then I would add three coats of polyurethane.
Now, I’m sorry, let me back up. Before you polyurethane, if they’re still stained, then I would add some wood stain to the floor to darken the color a little bit and hide any of those remaining marks. Because if you try to go totally natural, the stains will obviously show up. But if you add – you know, it’s like a slight tinting to – a tinted stain. Like, say, one of the colors that I use a lot is called Early American, which is like a very light-brown color. That looks really nice and does hide some of those stains that could be in the wood. And then add the three coats of urethane.
LESLIE: A big trend is dark gray, almost even like an ebonized wood floor. Dark wood floors, even if it’s a super-dark chocolate or almost on the black/gray scale, really are impactful and beautiful and that could hide a lot, as well.
TOM: Yeah. And well, that’s a good point. I mean you could – you don’t have to go dark is what I’m trying to say. You could just go just very fairly lightly. But from there, I think you’ll be good to go. I think once you put the urethane coating on it, you’ll no longer have the odor issues.
MARILYN: Love your show. Thank you so much.
TOM: Thank you, Marilyn. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Edward in Louisiana is on the line and needs some tips about painting a bathroom. How can we help?
EDWARD: I’m doing my bathroom and I’ve got a newborn in the house.
EDWARD: And I’m worried about – I have some mold there and I need to prime over it and I have two options and KILZ primer. It has to both be oil-based. It’s from what I’m told. I was wondering if there’s some kind of alternative that I could use – maybe a latex or something – that would do the same effect, because I’m kind of concerned about my son breathing that in.
TOM: Sure. Well, first of all, since you mentioned that you had some mold or mildew in there, I want you to clean that first before you paint over it. You can mix up a bleach solution with, say, maybe about 20 percent or so bleach with water. Spray it on those areas. Make sure you ventilate in the room real well when you do this.
Do you have a window to the outside in this bathroom?
EDWARD: No. No, sir, I do not.
TOM: OK. Do it on a day when you can have some fresh air in the house. Let it sit for 10, 15 minutes and then use another damp cloth to just kind of wipe it down. This will make sure we kill any mold that’s there.
I will tell you that even the solvent-based and the water-based products are a lot safer today than they’ve ever been in the past. The solvent-based or what you’re calling “oil-based,” most products today have a far lower VOC count in them than they ever used to. So I don’t necessarily think it’s unsafe to use that. And I think the odor only is going to stick around for a few hours. So that if you could maybe get the family out of the house while you do this painting – and the bathroom is a fairly small room – I do think that those solvent-based finishes are going to do a much better job on the priming.
You don’t necessarily have to use it on the finish coat but you could use it just on the base coat and the prime coat. And if you use a paint-plus-primer product that’s rated for bathrooms, you can actually skip the priming step.
EDWARD: Yeah, I think that would be the best solution. You’re always a great help (inaudible).
TOM: You’re very welcome, Edward. Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
EDWARD: You got it. Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Carol in Oregon is on the line with some rusty water at her house. What’s going on?
CAROL: My house is about 25 years old. I’ve lived in it for about six. My problem is well water corroding both of my toilets.
CAROL: And I don’t know – I’ve tried using Clorox. That doesn’t seem to work. I’m wondering if there’s something – some kind of a chemical or something – that I can put inside the tank to keep it from turning black.
TOM: So, have you tried CLR?
CAROL: No. What is that?
TOM: OK. So I would look – take a look at CLR. It’s a product that’s been around for many, many years. A great company and it stands for Calcium, Lime and Rust. It’s specifically designed to clean rust stains from bathroom fixtures.
CAROL: OK. Could you spell that for me?
TOM: Yeah. C-L-R.
CAROL: OK. Got it.
TOM: Stands for Calcium, Lime and Rust. See? I was never a good speller but I got that one, huh?
CAROL: Yeah. You did.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Dennis in Wisconsin on the line who’s got a question about a chimney. What’s going on?
DENNIS: It’s been leaking into the attic and over an extended period of time, which is some period of years. And now it’s leaking into the house itself.
TOM: Yeah. So, it sounds like this leak is not from the chimney or the vent pipe itself. It sounds like it’s around the vent pipe, in the flashing or the seal between the chimney and the roof. Does that sound right?
DENNIS: Right, right. Where the …
TOM: Alright. So, listen, here’s what happens. Over years, you have different sealants sometimes that are part of that assembly – that waterproof assembly – between the metal chimney and the roof structure. And then the roof dries out and the shingles crack and sealants dry out. And then water, given certain conditions – in your case, it happens to be when the snow starts to melt – will work its way in. And since it’s been going on for years, there is nothing I’m going to tell you to do now except for take those shingles off and reshingle that whole area.
And now, if it’s time to do the roof, you can do it all at once. But you need to start from scratch here, because I suspect that what you’re going to find is when you get those roof shingles off, if the water’s been there and leaking for as long as you think, you’re going to have some rotted roof sheathing, which is nothing to panic over. It’s just going to be an additional repair. But you would have to take all the shingles down to the wood.
And then, once it’s there, then you can properly reflash that metal chimney. Of course, I would evaluate the metal vent pipe – the metal chimney – at the same time to make sure that it is still structurally in good condition. If it is, you’re just going to need to reassemble that so that it’s flashed properly, because that’s what’s going on here. The flashing has basically broken down and that’s why the water is getting in.
And while you could, you know, put some sort of sealant on top of it, it’s just not going to work at this point. It’s not going to last. This is a condition where you’ve just got to kind of start from scratch and build it up again. Sometimes, it’s better to do it than just keep chasing that leak. Does that make sense?
DENNIS: Yeah. But the contractor recommends moving the chimney over about a foot-and-a-half.
TOM: Yeah. I mean a lot of times, those chimney’s vent pipes could be put in the wrong place. There’s a rule that’s called the “2-10 rule of chimney construction.” So, this is how you know if it’s tall enough. It has more to do with draft than – it had nothing to do with leaks but the drafts. But here’s what you want to make sure: that if you measure 2 feet down from the top of that chimney, there is nothing within a 10-foot radius. No part of the building is within a 10-foot radius. So if it’s not meeting that standard, than it’s also not tall enough.
So if you’re going to move it, you might want to think about that. And if you are going to move it, you really ought to evaluate whether or not you want to put some new parts in that chimney structure. If it’s a metal pipe, it wouldn’t be terribly expensive to put a triple-walled pipe in there and be a lot safer as a result.
DENNIS: It makes sense to me to do what he said, so …
TOM: I think we’ve got this figured out, Dennis. If you’re going to move it, you’re just going to basically repair the roof and reflash it. And I think that’ll make the problem go away.
Hey, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, outdoor-living spaces have never been more popular. And that includes outdoor kitchens. But cooking and dining outside require special recipes of their own. Designing an outdoor kitchen is different than designing your indoor cooking and prep space. They’re totally unique.
TOM: Yep. There are key differences between the two, especially if you want to go all in as opposed to, say, just building out an extra countertop space for your grilling. If you’re going to have a full outdoor kitchen, that could mean adding power, it could mean adding plumbing. Things like that have to be thought through to make sure, for example, that the power is protected against shocks and the plumbing can be drained. Are you going to add a refrigerator? So you really need to think this through before you pick up the first brick.
LESLIE: Yeah. So the first step, really, is to figure out where you want to put this thing. Now, existing patios are great foundations for an outdoor kitchen. You can add counters and a grill without making structural modifications. Decks, on the other hand, are going to require some additional support.
Now, you want to choose a location that’s not too far from the house. So, you want to keep their back-and-forth runs at a minimum. Keep things close to that door. Now, the side of the house could really be an ideal spot. There’s no need to excavate trenches for gas and electricity lines, because everything should be right there, especially if you’re close to the kitchen.
And outdoor kitchens are almost always the best social spaces. So you want to make sure your grill’s smoke won’t blow in the direction of your family and friends. So you’ve got to think about a lot of that stuff.
TOM: Yeah. Now, let’s get more into the electricity and plumbing aspects of this, even if it’s just for task lighting or appliances. Electricity is a nice-to-have thing but you’re going to need an experienced electrician to do that. So this is a project you might want to plan for, say, the summer when things calm down.
One of the things you want to think about is to make sure that everything is ground-fault protected. Now, when you ground-fault protect your electrical circuits, that means if anyone’s getting a shock, it goes off. There’s two kinds of GFCI breakers: one’s built into an outlet and one’s built into the circuit breaker itself.
Because this is an outdoor kitchen, I say add an additional circuit and build it into the circuit breaker. Here’s why. Because if it trips, you don’t want to be digging around for that outlet to find the little reset button, especially if it’s raining out or something like that. Just go to the circuit-breaker panel and reset it there. It’s just a lot easier to manage.
Now, when it comes to plumbing, if you’re going to do a sink, we recommend stainless steel. That seems to stand up very well to the outdoors. You’re only going to need cold water, unless you’re planning on washing, say, dishes or vegetables. So you don’t need a hot-water supply line out there. But be sure to install a shutoff valve inside the house so you can drain that line in the winter. And if you do add the hot water, make sure that the line is insulated for the entire length of it.
LESLIE: Now, next, you’ve got to think about your grill, because most outdoor kitchens will include a gas or a charcoal grill. And with gas grills, you’ll also need a place to run gas lines or maybe plan for that portable tank or maybe a more permanent propane tank. All of that stuff is great. If you want a built-in grill, you’ve got to think about a surround. If you want a charcoal grill, you’ve got to find something that’s more stylish. There’s so many things to consider when you think about this cooking source.
And I think a lot of it also depends on what and how you like to cook, because that will also really tell you what kind of grill is going to work for you.
TOM: So, lots of planning, as you can see, needs to be done. And that’s a great thing to be doing right now: planning projects like this, the bigger projects that you want to take on when the time is right. There’s a lot of research you can do about appliances. There’s a lot of materials that you can review online.
If you want to plan the space, one of the tricks of the trade that I like to do is I’ll use a rope and outline, on the ground, the space where I want my outdoor kitchen or my deck or my patio. Because when you see it actually with the rope, it’s sort of like you can visibly see that perimeter and you really get a good feel as to how big this thing is going to be and how it’s going to work for you.
So those are the sorts of things that you can do right now. And the good news is that if you go through with this project, outdoor kitchens can have a very positive effect on a home’s value, as well as deliver lots of great family time and tasty meals.
LESLIE: James in Delaware, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JAMES: The other day, I was sitting in my living room when all of a sudden, this real loud whistle sound came out of my water-heater heater room. I opened it up. I’d just never heard this before and it did this for a few minutes. And then it just stopped.
TOM: You didn’t see any water come out of the overflow, did you?
JAMES: No. No. That’s what I can’t figure out.
TOM: How old is the water heater, James?
JAMES: About four or five years ago, I put in all electric – that was gas before – but all electric. I put a Trane heater in and there was another brand that they put in with the water heater. And it seems like now – I haven’t heard that since. Now, when I use the water – the faucet – in the kitchen, right after I turn it off, a couple minutes later I hear this noise that’s like a clicking noise or something in the water heater.
TOM: So, that clicking noise is probably the pipes expanding and contracting as they heat up and cool down. It tends to amplify itself because of the nature of the copper pipes. But everything that you’re telling me doesn’t signal that I’m thinking you’re having any kind of problem. Just sometimes, as the water expands and contracts, it will make some odd noises to it.
JAMES: Do I have to drain the heater at all or …?
TOM: Do you have hard water there?
JAMES: Oh, yeah.
TOM: So if you have hard water, sometimes you get mineral deposits along the bottom of the water heater. But that wouldn’t really impact an electric water heater, because the coils are up in the middle of the water. They’re immersed right into the middle of the tank, so it’s not going to make them less efficient. So you could but I don’t think it’ll have any effect.
If you have a gas water heater, the heating element’s at the bottom. And sometimes, if you get mineral deposits that sit over the bottom of the water tank, it’s kind of like an insulator and it makes it harder to heat the water. But in the case of electric water heater, the heating elements are embedded up in the water heater, usually a foot from the bottom and a foot down from the top. So that wouldn’t affect it.
JAMES: Well, I thought there’s – isn’t there one at the top and the bottom?
TOM: Yes. But it’s immersed in the middle of the tank. It sticks through the tank, kind of at a right angle. And there’s one about a foot down from the top and one that’s about a foot up from the bottom. So you’re not going to have any settling of mineral-salt deposits on it.
JAMES: What’s the life expectancy of one of these things?
TOM: About 10 years – 10 to 12 years.
JAMES: Ten years and that’s it. And when can I guess the elements go, usually?
TOM: Well, if the elements go, they can be replaced. But the tanks tend to leak after 10-plus years.
JAMES: Wow. And where should I keep an eye – where does it – they leak in the bottom? They just leak water all over the place?
TOM: The best thing to do is if you’re going away, right, you should always turn off your main water valve. And also, turn off the water heater, because it won’t waste a lot of electricity by heating up water in the house that you’re not using.
JAMES: Listen, let me tell you something, I love you guys. You guys have a really very wholesome – a great show. Because there’s a lot of talk shows on and different things but you guys help a lot of people.
TOM: We try. Thank you so much, James. We really appreciate that. Good luck with the project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, is your wood deck looking a little winter-worn? Powdered laundry detergent could be your friend. It can be used for a lot more than just cleaning your clothes because when you mix it with hot water, it makes a pretty darn good deck cleaner.
LESLIE: Yeah. Here’s the recipe, though. You want to start with a 5-gallon bucket. Mix 3 quarts of water, 1 quart of bleach and a ½-cup of detergent. Now, you’ve got to make sure that that detergent does not contain ammonia. Because if you mix ammonia and bleach, it can make a really dangerous gas and you guys can get hurt, OK? So make sure no ammonia.
TOM: Now, mix up the solution in the bucket and then apply it to the deck using a really stiff floor brush. Now, you want to let that mixture sit for a few minutes and then rinse it off. Now, just be sure to cover any nearby vegetation before you use this soap and wash it all off, because the bleach part of it can be detrimental.
LESLIE: Now, if you want some extra cleaning power, it’s OK to use a pressure washer for extra cleaning but you have to be careful. You’ve got to monitor the amount of pressure that you use. Too much and you can damage the soft wood surfaces. And if your pressure washer offers multiple settings, you should use the selection for washing a car. That’s usually pretty gentle and it won’t carve into the wood.
TOM: Now, when you’re planning your deck-cleaning project, try and work in the cooler conditions of the early morning or the late afternoon. Because if you do this on a hot deck, it’s much more difficult because the mixture tends to dry before it has time to work.
All in all, though, this is a project you can get done in just a couple of hours with materials you have at home right now.
LESLIE: Janet in South Carolina is working on a kitchen makeover. How can we help you?
JANET: I have a kitchen. It’s not a very large kitchen but the walls have been painted numerous times and not the best paint jobs. So, I have decided to possibly add some type of wood to kind of give it a rustic feel, because I really like that, on the entire walls of the kitchen. And I was wondering, could you suggest to me something I could use? I’ve had people suggest beadboard, the wainscot-type board. Could you suggest to me something to use on my walls to give it that rustic look?
LESLIE: Let’s talk about your style of rustic, because there’s so many different ways to interpret that. And beadboard’s a great way to do a really classic, more country look, especially if you paint it a white gloss. That just tends to be really clean. But if you’re looking for more something – you know, something more natural or an age-y piece of wood, there’s ways to do that, too.
JANET: That’s it. I want to go with a light, natural-looking wood. Not too light because my cabinets are the lighter color of wood.
LESLIE: Well, what you can do is you can actually get – and this would have a nice finish to it. You can look at flooring – wood-plank flooring. And you can get one that has sort of a white, rustic, beachy wash to it. And you can even go with a vinyl flooring, because that’s going to be super easy to install. And you can install the planks directly to your wall. And you can do that with an adhesive, you can do that with a double-sided tape. There’s so many different ways you can attach it to the wall, depending on the weight of the product itself. And that – if you put that on with the planks running vertically or horizontally, that can give a different kind of rustic look in comparison to the beadboard.
Now, it seems to me like you want to go floor to ceiling with this. Is this correct?
JANET: That’s right. I do. Now, I do have cabinets that do not go all the way up to the ceiling.
LESLIE: Well, I think that’s OK, because you’re generally dealing with maybe a foot to 18 inches of space up there. And that’s really not terrible. You can keep that as a painted surface and just decorate up there with some very clean baskets or something just to give you a little bit of extra storage, plus to mask that space a little bit. But I think the beadboard is an excellent idea and that’s a very easy do-it-yourself project.
Using a wood-flooring product, whether it’s vinyl or actual wood, there’s a company – Tom, is it Timberchic, I think, is the name?
TOM: Yes. Mm-hmm. That’s right.
LESLIE: And they do actual pieces of reclaimed lumber, almost like a veneer. And that you can attach to the walls. But I’ve done it with that VCR: that vinyl tile that looks like a wood plank. I’ve done that for an HGTV show in a variety of different finishes, horizontally on the wall. And that gives a great, rustic look. So it depends on what your interpretation of rustic is.
JANET: OK, OK. Would you suggest now – would you suggest to put it over the cabinets, also? Or you stated to possibly leave it just painted? Or could I cover that, also?
LESLIE: You can. If you feel confident – if you’re using a wood-flooring planking product, you’re probably going to get two or three pieces in there without having to do any cuts. If you’re doing a beadboard, that’s something you’re going to have to cut down to that exact height and put up there. It depends on how much of it you see from the floor and what you feel comfortable with. I think if you’re going to do it, do it full out. But if you’re not confident in your abilities or it’s too high or you don’t really see it, then I think there’s other ways to mask it with some decorative accessories.
JANET: OK. I understand. OK, great. Well, thank you for your ideas.
TOM: You’re welcome, Janet. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Tom, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
TOM (CALLER): Going to have new gutters put up on the house. And I’m thinking about putting gutter guards on. Now, the neighbor has gutter guards similar to the one that I’ve decided on. But he’s got about the same pitch roof as I have – a 4/12-pitch roof – and the gutters are the same. They slope. And he’s had real good luck with that. I’ve seen it for 20 years and there’s no problem at all with leaves and stuff collecting.
Now, the salesman says you don’t need a slope. He said his kind are flat. And I just wonder if that’s true. Do you need a slope or not?
TOM: So, the gutter cover that your neighbor has is sloped or tilted. And the one that the salesman is selling you for your house is flat and not tilted. Is that correct?
TOM (CALLER): That’s right. I’m going to get a 6-inch size so that the back side would be 2 inches higher than the front side.
TOM: The only problem I’ve seen with gutter covers is when you have a really strong rainstorm and the rain runs down the roof very quickly. And then it hits the gutter cover and bounces off and just keeps going. I think that whether you have a slight pitch to that gutter cover or if it’s flat probably won’t make a big difference but I do think you need some pitch. I think if it’s totally flat, it can run backwards and towards the house, maybe perhaps even get into the fascia. So I think you definitely need some pitch. I wouldn’t draw a big distinction in making sure you have to have a lot of pitch.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, the roadside mailbox at your driveway edge may be the first impression your house makes to visitors. So, replacing or updating the one that you have can be a good weekend project, starting with some planning, though.
Did you know that the federal government, Leslie, actually has a height regulation for a mailbox?
TOM: They do. It has to be between 41 and 45 inches and 8 inches back from the street.
LESLIE: I guess that’s for trucks that are driving up – the mail trucks – that put the mail in from the mail truck.
TOM: Yeah. If you make it too high, you’re just not going to get your mail.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then if you put it at the wrong height, then the kids with the baseball bats have a really hard time.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, next, you’ve got to decide what kind of material you want to work with. There’s everything from plastic, wood, wrought iron. And when you go to set your mailbox post, that’s really the first part: digging that hole. Concrete, no concrete, stone.
I mean what do you think, Tom? What’s going to make sure that this is really sturdy?
TOM: Well, if it’s vulnerable to snow and a plow, I’d say put concrete around it. And there’s a really easy way to do that. So you dig the hole with a post-hole digger, you drop your post in and then you spill into that hole some dry concrete mix.
So the QUIKRETE in the red bag is a fast-setting product that works well. Put it in there dry. Get the post nice and level. And when you’re totally satisfied with it, then you just put water around the hole. You kind of grab a bucket and dump the water around the hole. And it will set solid within – I don’t know – an hour or two. It’ll be completely done and solid. You don’t actually have to mix the concrete out of the hole. You can mix it in the hole that way.
And another tip is to let that post be longer than you need and then cut it when it’s solid. This way, you don’t have to be exact in terms of the depth of the hole. Because sometimes, you can’t really control where that ends up, right? And if it’s an inch or two too low or too high, whatever – you’re pulling the dirt out, then you put the post in. It knocks some dirt loose; now it’s not right. Just let it go high. And after it’s all solid, you can trim it off to exactly where you want it to be.
LESLIE: Super smart. But I think a lot of people also like the look of, say, a PVC post for a mailbox. But is that more of a surround for the wood post or can you use that on its own? Is it not sturdy enough?
TOM: I don’t think it’s sturdy enough but you can use it as a surround. They do sell a PVC wrap, so to speak, so that you would put in the 4×4 post or even a 6×6 because – if you really want to go with a big one. And then once it’s at the right height, then you drop this sort of hollow PVC square post over the top of it – so it’s kind of like a wrap, almost like a siding for the post – and put the rest together. This way, you have the strength with the wood and the concrete but you have sort of the weather-resistance of the plastic surface.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Alice in Wisconsin on the line who has a question about imitation bricks.
What can we do for you?
ALICE: Well, I just want your opinion on some of the advantages or disadvantages or the types of installation, whether it’s better one way than another. And just your opinion on it.
TOM: Where are you putting these imitation bricks?
ALICE: On the front of the house, from top to bottom, but just this section.
TOM: OK. Well, like all projects, Alice, it can be done well or done poorly. But the idea of using synthetic brick and synthetic stone is one that is a solid process. And not to coin a phrase but it’s a good idea. You can get a lot of beauty out of those bricks and out of that sort of synthetic stone, at a lot less weight than you would have to deal with if they were real masonry materials. You might want to take a look at the company called Boral – B-o-r-a-l – Boral Brick. They make brick and stone synthetic products that are – adheres to the outside of homes and look absolutely terrific.
ALICE: And then there’s different ways. I’ve got the information on three or four different styles. Some are nailed, some have clips and some have no mortar.
TOM: OK. Well, the ones that are nailed or clipped, that’s a type of siding. That’s not like a stucco process where it’s adhered to the outside of the house. That’s basically a siding that looks like brick.
And I don’t know about you, Leslie, but I haven’t seen any of those siding products that really look like brick.
LESLIE: No. I really would go with a faux product. Tom’s recommendation is a good one. Kodiak is another one that makes an exterior faux stone. And those will all be applied like a tile would be, with mortar with – to really stand the test of time. And they’ll look amazing and they’ll look more realistic.
And basically, when you’re dealing with a faux stone, it’s made from – is it poured concrete, Tom? They pour it into the forms and colorize it to give it all of that natural depth and beauty.
TOM: Right. It’s a slurry mix but it basically is made in a factory and can take on any shape or color or form that you wish. I would look into Zodiac or Boral as the manufacturers of those synthetic brick products. I think you’ll be very happy with either one. OK?
ALICE: OK. And are they fine in a northern climate?
LESLIE: Robert in Mechanicsville, Virginia posted a question online and he writes: “I recently found water damage in my basement. After tearing down the walls, I noticed a gap between the wall and the slab. What is this gap for? Why is it located inside the house? Is it a radon hazard? Should I seal it off?”
First of all, I mean I hope that there was enough water damage that made you tear down the walls and not like, “The water! Get the walls out of here!”
TOM: I know. I was thinking – yeah, I was thinking the same thing. That was rather extreme.
TOM: So, I hope it was not done in vain. But I can answer the rest of your question, Robert.
So, first of all, before we even get to that, understand that the leading cause of water in basements is poor drainage outside. So, fix your gutters, clean them, extend the downspouts, fix the grade. We’ve got step-by-step on how to do that on MoneyPit.com. Just search “wet basement.” You can’t miss it.
Now, in terms of the construction – so, when the home was built – if it’s a concrete-block home and you have a slab in the basement floor, there’s always a gap between the wall and the floor. And theoretically, if a wall were to leak, the water would collect in that gap and eventually work its way over to a sump pump. I, frankly, have never seen it work that way but that is just the way things are built. And so I would ignore it. It’s not going to hurt you.
Now, to your radon question, if you do live in the area – an area where there are high radon problems, yes, that is a space that needs to be sealed up. But I wouldn’t do it unless you had a high radon problem, because it does actually provide a good way to sort of vent some of the moisture out that may be congregating at the slab, even though we want you to stop from coming in the first place. I just don’t think it’s worth sealing it up.
If you’re concerned about radon, before you do anything, though, I would just have a radon test. You can order – there’s a type of test that you can order online. It’s called a “charcoal adsorption” – not ab, ad – a-d – sorption canister. And you basically put this test in your basement. You open it up, you let it sit, usually, for three to seven days. Seal it back up again. Stick it back in the envelope and send it off to the lab that comes with it. And they’ll tell you what the number is.
Now, radon is measured in a scale called “picocuries.” And if it’s 4.0 picocuries per liter of air or more, then you might want to talk to a radon mitigator. And part of that job might involve sealing off that gap. But for the most part, you can just leave it alone. But let’s get the water under control first and then take it from there.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a post on Facebook from Tamera who writes: “I’m flipping a house. How important is it to change the closet doors in the bedroom if they’re in good shape but not exactly pretty? Would this net more of a profit?”
Now, I don’t think you’re going to see profit from changing a closet door. But I do say if you paint it or if they’re really in bad shape, change into a different style of door and paint it really attractively, you’ll probably get more offers and people more excited about the property. I just think that anything that looks a little, you know, drab or out of shape, unless the entire house is more of a fixer-upper, then that’s another story.
But I think if things are in pretty much good shape and these closet doors are a bit of an eyesore, paint or changing out the door is definitely going to up the traffic and up the offers.
TOM: Yeah, paint really does wonders and I totally agree. It makes your house look like it’s well cared for. So, definitely paint the doors.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your day with us. If you’ve got projects that you’d like to get done, we want to remind you that we are here for you, 24/7, literally at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we are not in the studio when that need for info happens to inspire you to pick up the phone and call us, we’ll call you back the next time we are. You can also reach out to us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
And if you take on a home improvement project while you’re stuck at home, make sure you tag it #tmpprojects. Tag us at The Money Pit because we are giving away cool tools and gift cards and all kinds of great stuff every single week.
But for now, that’s all the time we have. 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.)