In this episode…
With all the humidity, it’s that time of year when doors swell and get stuck in their openings. We’ve got the easy fix for sticking doors. Plus.
- Before you can add the new you have to get rid of the old – and that can often be a costly part of any home renovation. We’ll share tips to help lighten the load and cut demolition costs
- And we’ll have the how to on a fun garden project – building a raised landscaping wall that useful for creating a ring around a tree or raised garden wall to dress up the front of your home.
- Ready to step up your home’s first impression? We walk you through how-to fix up your wood floors with a fresh coat of finish.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions, about building a firepit, replacing baseboard heating covers, cleaning jacuzzi jets, leveling floors, how prevent basement flooding by correcting surround of foundation.
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, to help you make your home its best self ever. If you’ve got a question about a project you’d like to do, a project you’re thinking about doing, a project you’re in the middle of or one that just has been totally frustrating to you, now is your chance to get some help. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We won’t judge, we will not make fun of you. Well, maybe a little bit. But we’ll definitely help you get your job done, so call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up on today’s show, here is a summer headache that’s popping its ugly head right now. And it’s sticking doors. You know, once all that humidity sits in, it is the time of year when doors swell and get stuck in their openings. But there is an easy fix and we’re going to tell you how to make sure that door works year-round, regardless of the weather, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And before you can add the new, you have to get rid of the old. And that can often be the costly part of any home renovation. We’re going to share some tips to help lighten the load and cut those demolition costs.
TOM: And we also have the how-to on a fun gardening project. And that is how to build a raised landscaping wall that is very useful for creating a little bit of a border or a ring around a tree or a border around your house or a raised garden wall to dress up the front of your house. We’ll walk you through that project. It’s as easy a stacking blocks.
LESLIE: But first, let’s talk about how we can help you make your home your absolute happy place this summer with a fix-up, a décor project. Whatever you are working on, we know you’re going to be spending more time at home. So let us help you make it the best place to be.
TOM: Post your questions at MoneyPit.com or call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: We’ve got Catherine in Delaware on the line who’s got a question about a fire pit. How can we help you today?
CATHERINE: Well, I’d love to have a homemade fire pit in my backyard and I don’t want to buy a metal one. That’ll only get rusty, right?
TOM: Yeah, they do but they last a heck of a long time. I did not want to put a built-in fire pit in my backyard because I didn’t want to have to deal with it in the off-seasons. It would be hard to shovel around and that sort of stuff when the snow hits. So I actually, personally, have been using a metal fire pit for many years. And I find that they last, gosh, 5 to 8 years before they start to show any wear and tear. So I’m not afraid to use a metal fire pit but I can tell you that if you want to do a brick fire pit or a paver-brick fire pit, there’s lots of options right out there.
One company that makes a kit for it is RumbleStone. It’s the Pavestone Company. And these RumbleStone pavers, they’ll sell you basically all the bricks that you need. The RumbleStone are sort of like a roughed, beautiful, colored stone that you assemble into a circle pattern. And then the way they design it, there’s a metal sort of liner that drops right into the stone and that’s where you build your fire.
So you can do it yourself but you could also purchase a fire pit. It depends on what look you are going for and how long you want it to last.
Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
CATHERINE: Thank you. I will. Bye-bye.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Steve from Massachusetts on the line. What’s going on at your money pit?
STEVE: Hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom. I was calling because I needed a little advice on baseboard-heating covers.
STEVE: And I didn’t know if I was getting in over my head with trying to remove the whole cover or whether I’d be better off just doing a replacement cover.
TOM: Well, you want to change the design or the color or something? Why do you want to update this, Steve? What’s going on?
STEVE: Some of these are falling apart. They’re original to the house and I’m trying to make it a little bit – the cleaner look.
TOM: I think it’s probably OK for you to remove these and restore them. I’m not that crazy about telling you to just take them all apart and go with something else because frankly, it’s difficult to get new covers in and have them work as well as probably the old covers do.
So, if you could take those apart and repair them – and they – everything but the back piece will come off. So the top will come off, the louver part will come off, the front panel will come off. You should be looking at just the hot-water pipe with the fins attached and a metal back plate when you’re done.
TOM: And if you take that all apart, you have the opportunity now to repair anything that needs to be repaired. There’s not much that goes wrong with it, so you can probably figure this out. And then you could do a light sanding, you could pick a nice spray paint, a good color and go ahead and paint them up and then put them back together. And I think that’s going to be the least expensive thing for you to do that will give you a good, clean look and get everything working the way it should.
Sometimes, when you go with those covers, they obstruct so much of the heat that you end up having to run the heat longer just to get the same amount of heat out of it. And that runs your heating-bill cost up because you’re using more fuel.
STEVE: Oh. Yeah. Which I want to avoid doing.
TOM: Yeah. So I’d stick with what you’ve got and just fix it up. It’s not a hard project to do.
STEVE: OK. Yeah, that sounds like an easy DIY or do-it-yourself project – DIY.
TOM: Yep. Yep, absolutely.
STEVE: Alright. Well, thanks so much for your calling me back and I appreciate your help and guidance. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Steve. Good luck with the project. Send us pictures when you’re done, OK?
STEVE: Alright. We will. Thanks so much. Have a good day.
LESLIE: Robin in Missouri is looking to relax but that’s not happening with mold in the Jacuzzi. What’s going on?
ROBIN: We have this large bathtub Jacuzzi and it has a marble stair and trim around it. And it’s a beautiful Jacuzzi but I noticed that the pipes there was like – I don’t know if it’s mold coming out of that or what. When we got the house it sat for a while. And then we filled it up and put Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid in it, you know, and tried to clean it out and so on.
TOM: I bet you it got very sudsy when you did that.
ROBIN: That’s what they said to do. And anyway, we also got it glazed or painted, as they usually say, and it kind of faded off. And we had the fixtures painted, too, and we thought the people that were doing it were really reputable. But now, the fixtures – you know where the jets are? The rings around the jets and so on?
ROBIN: The paint’s kind of fading and …
TOM: Alright. So it sounds to me like we’re talking about two issues here. Number one, you have some sort of growth that’s been inside the internal plumbing system of this jetted tub. And secondly, the finish has faded and you had it restored some time ago. And the finish is starting to fade and chip and so on.
So, let’s tackle the second one first. It’s very, very hard to refinish a plumbing fixture, I can tell you that right now. There is a way to do it. It’s extremely caustic. I don’t even know if you can do it to a jetted tub, which is usually a fiberglass-type material. It’s very hard to do when it’s cast-iron tubs and sinks that folks love to restore, which is a very, very caustic process. And then the products that they sell that you can sort of paint over them don’t have nearly the life expectancy that you would hope for.
In terms of whatever may be going on in the internal plumbing system, what I have often advised over the years is to use a bleach solution. So, if you were to fill that tub up and run – if you had a big tub and you run a ½-gallon or a gallon of bleach through those jets, that’s going to help to sanitize anything that’s growing in there.
So if it was my tub, I’d probably fill it up with hot water, throw in some bleach and let the thing run for a while. I wouldn’t put anything sudsy in there, because there’s a reason that dishwasher detergent, for example, doesn’t suds up. It’s designed not to do that. But if you dishwasher – if you put dish soap in there, it’s going to suds up like crazy. But I think all you really need is hot water and some bleach to sanitize it and that might do a pretty good job of cleaning it.
And I know that the jetted-tub industry has other special products that they sell for the very same reason. But I think it’s important to do that because you don’t want anything growing in the internal plumbing and then potentially making someone react of having an allergic reaction or making them sick or something. So I would definitely want to clean that out.
So, I know that’s not the answer you want to hear about the painted surface but it is certainly the way to sanitize the internal plumbing system of it.
ROBIN: OK. Yeah, that’s why I never use that tub. I just don’t use it.
TOM: You didn’t have a good feeling for the right reasons.
TOM: So, why don’t you give it a shot, though? And see if we can clean this thing out and let it – and we start to see that it’s really – it’s consistently shooting out some clean water. Maybe you’d feel better about dropping into it now and again, OK?
ROBIN: What about the jet fixtures on it and the tub itself? How do I get that glaze-type finish off of it?
TOM: Well, if you’re talking about the plumbing fixtures, like the faucet – like the spout and that sort of thing, those you would simply have to replace. If you’re talking about the body of the tub and you’ve already refinished it once, there’s not going to be much you can do about that. It’s just going to be the wear and tear of that particular appliance from now on out.
ROBIN: OK. So I’ll probably just replace it. (inaudible)
TOM: Yeah, well, that would solve everything, wouldn’t it?
ROBIN: Yeah, OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, summer is the season for many things. And one is sticking doors. Yep. If you’ve had a door in your house that sticks due to summer humidity, you don’t have to tolerate it anymore.
TOM: Yep, that’s true. First, to fix it you need to first find out where around the door the sticking begins. So to do that, just open and close the door slowly until you spot the exact area where it’s starting to stick.
Now, here is a trick of the trade to help you figure that spot out. And what you do is you take a piece of chalk – colored chalk is really best – and you color the outside edge of the door. Then, by opening and closing that door a couple of times, that chalk mark is going to transfer to the exact point on the jamb where the sticking is starting. So there’ll be no doubt which area you need to focus your attention on.
LESLIE: Now, once you find the spot, first try the easiest fix. And that’s – one of the most common reasons that the door is sticking is because they have loose hinges and that gets everything out of alignment. So, by tightening the hinges, the door might shift just enough to free up the area that’s sticking.
Now, sometimes, it’s also helpful to remove the standard hinge screws that are already in there. Take a drill, whatever you have, use a driver. Get that screw out and replace it with a longer one, which is going to go all the way into the jamb itself. You’d be surprised how much that door can move once it’s simply tightened up. And in fact, it might move too much. And then if it does, you just need to back out that screw until it provides just the right amount of clearance. So it’s kind of like a trial and error. See what’s working, what’s not working. You might see that.
Now, another option is to just sand the door where it’s sticking. And to do that, you want to take a rough piece of sandpaper and rub it firmly along the section of the door that’s been sticking. Now, your goal is to bring down the size of the door by just a fraction of an inch before you test it again. You can repeat this process until you’ve sanded down all of those sticking points and that door no longer sticks in the frame. But try not to overdo it. Once that door fits well, you can use progressively finer sandpaper to just smooth out those rougher edges and get everything prepped to repaint.
TOM: Now, once the door fits in the frame correctly, it’s time to seal it with either paint or a clear finish. Because if you seal the edge that you sanded, you will reduce the chance that moisture will get in there and cause the wood to swell once again.
888-666-3974. If you’ve got a sticky problem like that or anything else, call us, right now, with your home improvement question.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading to Illinois where Joey is on the line with a flooring issue. What’s going on?
JOEY: My house was built in 1910. And the third floor they – there’s just a lot of soft spots in the floor in different spots. I didn’t know what the best way to fix it. I mean it’s an old floor. You can’t match it up to anything today.
TOM: Right. So, are you seeing the floor or is the floor covered with carpet? Do you see the actually tongue-and-groove or whatever type of subfloor is there?
JOEY: Yeah, yeah. You see the tongue-and-groove, yeah.
JOEY: And underneath of it is just a plaster-and-lath underneath the next floor.
TOM: Right. So you’re on top of the floor joist, obviously, and you see the ceiling below.
Now, where you say it’s soft, is it your sense that there’s some deterioration of the wood there? Is there rot from a water leak or termites or anything of that nature? When you say soft, what do you mean?
JOEY: Somebody put a unit upstairs. And to get the vents for the downstairs – the air vents – they cut holes in the floor and they patched it back in.
TOM: Yep. OK.
JOEY: And they kind of didn’t really do it right. They just put …
TOM: Sounds like they didn’t support it right. OK. So, basically, you had some wood butchers there doing the flooring work.
JOEY: Yeah, yeah. So they – yeah, they kind of did that.
TOM: Alright. Yeah.
JOEY: And then there’s other spots that are just like you step on them and it’s just – it’s like it’s going to break or it’s going to fall through.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
JOEY: I’m just worried about my kids up there, you know. My kids, their rooms are up there so I don’t want them falling through.
TOM: Right, yeah. OK. So, where you have spots that were – if they just cut a hole in the floor to run a duct through and they didn’t support the edges – yeah, you can’t just have those flooring boards sort of be free-floating like that. There has to be some sort of a structural support underneath for them to rest on. And if they just cut holes and didn’t sort of beef it up for that purpose, then that’s a problem.
Now, unfortunately, the only way to really do that at this point is to take some of that flooring apart. But what I would tell you is if you are dealing with tongue-and-groove – and I’ve had to patch a lot of old tongue-and-groove floors in my day – is that you want to avoid the temptation of just cutting it square. If you think about the way tongue-and-groove flooring goes in, the ends are overlapping. So you don’t have everything sort of lined up in a single sort of line. You use different size boards and then the end of the boards sort of overlap the next row and so on.
So what you essentially have to do is you’ll have to physically cut one board out. And then once you get one board free, then you can disassemble the rest. And when you put the thing back together, you have to sort of figure out how to support those cut ends. So if they’re around a duct opening or something like that, you may have to kind of reach in there and beef it up with another piece of floor-beam material.
Now, you probably – let’s just say it’s – the floor’s beams are 24 inches on center or 16 on center. Yeah, you could probably use a hunk of 2×6 or something like that just between the floor joists, up tight to the underside of the flooring itself. You wouldn’t have to put another whole beam in there. But you basically need to support those loose ends like that. And the only way to so that is to sort of disassemble it, get that fix in there and then put it back together again.
In terms of the other spaces that are loose, you need to figure out why that’s happening. There is a lot of settling that happens in a house that’s over a hundred years old, so it might just be that. I’d say it’s pretty unlikely for somebody to step through a floor unless there’s some definite weakening caused by insect damage or moisture damage.
TOM: Other than that, it might just be some shifting. And when you get to the third floor of an old house, you see a lot more movement than you see on the first floor, because everything sort of is accumulative, you know what I mean? And when you get up to the top there, there’s a lot more windows and doors that are out of whack and floors that are sloping.
So I don’t think it’s unusual what you’re describing but you have to – you may have to do some – a little bit of floor surgery here to try to figure out what’s going on and why it’s happening. It’s one of the joys of owning an old house.
JOEY: Right, right.
TOM: Let us know how you make out, Joey. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
JOEY: Thank you.
TOM: Give us a call right now. Let’s talk about your home improvement projects, your summer fix-ups. I did a summer fix-up recently.
LESLIE: You did?
TOM: Our cushions on our wicker furniture for our front porch were looking mighty faded. But they were actually in good shape sort of structurally. They were still fluffy and everything but just the material had faded.
So, I picked up some spray paint that’s designed for upholstery. It’s usually used by those that do car restoration but I was able to find the perfect color.
TOM: It was sort of like a pinkish-plum color. And I was able to spray-paint all of the cushions, which saved me at about a thousand bucks I would have spent on ordering new cushions for two chairs and a couch.
LESLIE: I’ve never heard of this.
TOM: And it was great. Now, I will say it’s maybe a little stiffer than it was originally but it looks fantastic. And it was very inexpensive and just a cool way to go.
LESLIE: What a great project.
Mark in Illinois is on the line with a foundation question. What’s going on at your money pit?
MARK: I have a 10-year-old house that, as with a lot of houses, the ground around the foundation is settling. And I need to put some fill-in to keep the rain from – or to drain the rain away from the house.
MARK: And I was wondering if there is a particular type of mixture of soil to use to do that.
TOM: Yeah, it’s called “clean fill dirt.” Basically, it’s not rich, like topsoil, with a lot of organic material in it. It’s very compactable. I always think it looks kind of like the pitcher’s mound. It has that sort of medium-brown color to it and you can really pack it down well.
So, what you want to do is to sort of rig back some of the topsoil that’s there, add the clean fill dirt, establish slope with that. And if you want to prevent moisture problems, then I would slope it about 10 percent or about 6 inches over 4 feet – a 6-inch drop over 4 feet. Then on top of that, you can add topsoil and replant the grass or add mulch or whatever other groundcover. But clean fill dirt is all you need, Mark.
And I would be careful when buying this from the gravel yard, whoever is selling it, to make sure it doesn’t have glass in it. Ask about that. Make sure it’s really clean. Because sometimes, when you buy fill dirt, it has broken glass in it and you don’t want that to happen.
MARK: Alright. And how far out from the foundation should you fill?
TOM: Well, you want to have that first 4 to 6 feet be sloping away. And then after that, it can have a gentle slope after that.
TOM: And just as important, since we’re talking about drainage issues, is to make sure your gutters are clean and your downspouts are significantly extended away. A lot of times, these gutter installers like to just turn them out about 2 feet at the bottom. You want it to go out 4 to 6 feet.
MARK: Oh, OK. Alright, alright. Well, thank you. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, they say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. But try telling that to someone who has hundreds of pounds of junk on their hands after a home renovation project.
TOM: Yeah, well, the sad fact is that before you can add to the new, you’ve got to get rid of all the old. And that can be a pretty expensive part of any reno job. In fact, getting rid of debris for a full house project can cost upwards of about 10 grand.
But the good news is that there are some easy ways to save money and do the right thing for the environment, by selling or donating some of that junk for reuse and responsibly recycling a lot of what’s left.
LESLIE: Yeah, first of all, carpeting. You know, it’s heavy, it’s unwieldy and can be a real pain in the butt to deal with, quite frankly. But if your carpet is in good shape – no stains or worn patches – it can be donated.
Now, Habitat for Humanity operates nonprofit home improvement stores, called ReStores, where donated home improvement goods are sold for charity. You can visit their website, Habitat.org, to find a ReStore in your area. And if the donation is impossible, there might be a carpet-reclamation facility near you. And that can help recycle that carpeting.
Check out CarpetRecovery.org for facilities in your area. They’ll provide a map of the entire nation with carpet-recovery centers throughout.
TOM: Now, next, let’s talk about appliances. They can take up a lot of space in a dumpster, which is expensive to rent. But one person’s obsolete appliance might be someone else’s vintage antique. So you might be able to make some money by selling your appliances to an antique dealer or a restorer.
And if the appliance is of the nonfunctional variety, you can also try selling it for scrap. Metal salvagers will usually pay around 10 cents a pound for appliances and will sometimes even arrange for pickup. The salvages in your area can be found online, as well.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Recycling for wood, drywall or even asphalt shingles is also an option. If you have unused tongue-and-groove flooring, you can try taking it to a dealer or a charity resell store, like the ReStore. And wood-waste dealers might even be able to take your lumber scraps off of your hands.
And if you’re going to throw wood out, though, make sure it doesn’t include woodwork containing lead paint. There’s a risk for that in materials that were painted before 1978.
Now, when it comes to the roof, asphalt shingles can often be recycled. Check out ShingleRecycling.org. You get some more info there. And you can sometimes get rid of mixed debris for a nominal fee by taking it to a center where recyclable wood, metals, concrete and even gypsum are sorted and sold.
TOM: Now, if you can’t find somebody to take the junk off your hands and recycling is not an option, make sure you understand the local rules about what can and cannot be thrown out in your regular trash. There’s nothing worse than putting out a big pile of trash and not having it picked up, possibly getting a fine and then having to move it all back to your house while you figure out another option. So, know you options and you will be good to go.
888-666-3974. We’re here, we’re good to go to help you with your reno projects. Give us a call right now.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Marie from Ontario on the line who’s got a ceiling-fan question. What’s going on at your money pit?
MARIE: Well, actually, I’m in a one-floor ranch, OK? Three-bedroom ranch.
TOM: OK. Yep.
MARIE: No basement. Just a good concrete crawlspace that’s insulated. No problem down there. My furniture is down there. But I would like to know, please, is it financially better off to use ceiling fans and just have the fan on – my air-conditioner fan on – or run the air conditioner itself?
TOM: OK. I’m going to give you a different answer than that, because I wouldn’t say that – the ceiling fans are decorative, in my view, and they’re not necessarily an efficient way to move air through your house. But I’ll tell you what is and that’s called a “whole-house fan.”
So where you have a fan that’s basically mounted – you said you have a ranch, so it’d be mounted in the ceiling, probably of the hall. And it will take air from the house and it will pull it up into the attic and then you enlarge the vents in your attic to make sure it can exhaust that air. And whenever it gets a little bit thick outside, a little bit uncomfortable, what you do is you open a window, a couple of windows or doors at each end of the house and you run that whole-house fan. If you run it even at a low speed, it will pull a really nice breeze through the house. And what that does is it has the effect of delaying how much of your air conditioning you actually have to use.
I had one in a house that I owned when we first got married. And it was great because we would turn it on just a low speed in the evening and go to bed. And by the time we fell asleep, the fan went off and the evening had gotten much cooler and we were comfortable for the whole night. So, I think a whole-house fan, in terms of comfort, is a better option than celling fans.
And in terms of the air conditioner itself, I think if you were to limit the amount of time you used it, because you could trade off between the whole house and the ceiling fan, you’re going to save money on your A/C, too.
MARIE: I meant my furnace fan itself, not using the A/C. My furnace fan.
TOM: Oh, your furnace fan? Yeah, furnace fan definitely does not make sense to use. That’s a very expensive way to move air through your house.
MARIE: Oh, OK.
TOM: So, yep. Same answer. Different fan but same answer.
MARIE: So the best situation and the best solution would be to put the fan in the hall? Just let the air through that one?
TOM: Yep, a whole-house fan. And don’t confuse this with an attic fan. I’m not talking about the little, round silver duct. This is a whole-house fan and it’s a quite large footprint. It’s usually maybe about 2 foot in diameter, maybe a little bit more depending on the size you buy. And it has a set of baffles that are louvers that will lay flat. And when you turn them on, they gently open up and they pull a nice breeze through the house. It’s really marvelous.
MARIE: Oh, wow. Well, thank you so much. I didn’t mean to be ignorant but (inaudible). You did call back. So I just love it. I love it.
TOM: Oh, no, no. You can’t possibly be.
MARIE: And I do listen to you any chance I get. Any chance I get.
TOM: Alright. And I want to say that when we called you, you said, “You do call people back! How about that?” Yes, we do.
MARIE: And I greatly appreciate that. Thank you. So it’s called a “whole – house whole – whole-house fan?”
TOM: Whole house. A whole-house fan – w-h-o-l-e. A whole-house fan, yes.
MARIE: Whole house, like the whole thing. OK.
MARIE: Great. Well, God bless you. Thank you so much.
TOM: Alright, Marie. Good luck.
MARIE: Be safe. Bye-bye.
LESLIE: Well, if you’d like to build a raised garden wall to highlight your landscaping, probably the easiest way to do that is with retaining-wall blocks. Now, they’re modular and they’re going to allow you to simply stack them to create that retaining wall really easily. You can highlight a tree, create a raised garden bed or even build out a larger wall to help you level a sloping yard.
TOM: Yeah. There are really just about four steps to the project. First off, you’ve got to prepare the site. So you want to mark the ground. You can do that, say, with spray paint. There’s actually special spray paint that’s really inexpensive. You see it used to mark off streets but you can mark off sections of lawn with it, as well, to create a trench that’s about a foot wide. So mark it out.
Now, in terms of the depth, when you start to dig out start with the border. And if the stone’s going to be, say, 3 or 4 courses tall, then you’re going to want to go maybe a couple inches – 3, 4 inches – below grade in terms of the depth.
Now, next, you’ve got to prepare the base. So for a small wall, you want to put about an inch of sand, level it out. If it’s a larger one, you can use a paver mix. And then use a 2×4 to kind of grade it out and make it nice and flat and then check that with the level. All the work is in the getting ready.
The fun part is last. You just lay the stones. You start at the lowest point, level each one and then stagger the joints. If you need to cut the stones, you can use a mini-sledge hammer to chisel. Score that line first and keep hammering until it breaks. And by the way, buy extra stones because you’ll inevitably mess some up. I know I do all the time.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? This kind of project used to be a lot harder. But these retaining-wall blocks certainly are easy to work with and they’ve got a natural-looking, split-face design. And it can really look great in any yard.
Now, they’re designed to be modular and they come in six sizes, so they’re going to work well for straight or curved walls.
TOM: If you’ve got an outdoor-living project you want to take on, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright, Josh in Nevada posted: “I’m going to paint the wood floor on my screened-in porch. Do you have a recommendation for what type of finish I should use? Also, how many coats of paint should I apply? It has no paint on it now. Just old wood that I can sand if needed.”
TOM: Yes, I do, Josh. In fact, it’s very important that in that situation, when you are painting a floor outside or inside, that you do not use a latex paint.
And here’s why. While latex paints have amazing qualities for just about any other surface, if you have a surface that’s going to take a lot of abrasion, a lot of punishment, a lot of sliding of furniture around or footsteps, it just doesn’t stand up the way a solvent-based or oil-based product would.
Now, I would recommend in this case, since it’s never been painted before, that first you give it a very good cleaning and a very good sanding. Now, you can do that by hand, you can do it with a sander. But you want to make sure that you’re not leaving any loose wood behind. Because since it’s not had paint on it, I’m concerned that the upper sort of surface, the fibers of the wood would have broken down from UV exposure. And you want to make sure that you get rid of those so you have a nice clean, dry surface when you’re done.
Next, you’re going to want to prime it and again, you want to use an oil-based primer for that. And then I would put probably two coats of a topcoat floor finish on that. Again, oil-based. And if you do that right, I think you’re going to find that that floor-paint job will last you a good 10 to 15 years.
LESLIE: Alright. That’s a good project, too.
Next up, we’ve got a post from Jessie who writes, “What is the better way to check a Freon leak: a dye test or an electronic device? I’ve had about 5 pounds of Freon leak over the last 9 months. My home warranty plan refuses to send out another company to check for the leak using the dye test. They say, ‘Wait 60 days and see if the leak can be found.’ What do you suggest?”
TOM: Yeah. Because in 60 days, the summer will be over.
TOM: Ah, man, this is like – this is sort of poking the bear with me on a couple of really sore issues.
First off, you are not the best person to be searching for a refrigerant leak which, by the way, may or may not be Freon, depending on the age of your air-conditioning compressor.
Rather than check for actual leakage, I would check for performance. This is something that you can do, Jessie, and here’s how. You should be measuring the temperature of the air inside the house at two locations, when the air conditioning is on, of course. Measure the temperature of the air at the return duct and then measure it again at a supply duct. And choose one that’s near the air handler so it’s a nice, strong flow. We’re looking for the difference in temperature between those two points. It should be in the 12- to 20-degree range. If the differential is less than that, you are well within your right to demand a repair because your air conditioning is not cooling properly. And in fact, it’s running excessively, which is driving up your electrical costs and not doing the job. So I would check that.
Next, as far as that warranty company’s refusal to address the problem, it’s unfortunately very typical. And I can only suggest you be very, very persistent with them and always ask to discuss the matter with a supervisor. So good luck with that project. You know, they sell you these warranties but they really don’t want to pay out unto them. And you really sometimes have to be persistent to get what you deserve.
LESLIE: Alright, Jessie. Good luck with that and I hope you have a nice, cool summer ahead of you.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on a beautiful summer day. We hope it’s lovely where you are. If you are in the home improvement zone, we live there, 24/7, and we’re standing by to help you with those questions about those projects. Reach out at any time at MoneyPit.com or call your question in to 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are.
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.)