If you’d love to have a backyard pool but can’t afford it, don’t have the time to care for it or you’re just short of backyard space, we have two words for you: Spool Pool! Tom & Leslie share tips on how you can combine the benefits of a pool and spa in one very refreshing backyard feature. Plus…
- Decorative window shutters are an attractive addition to your home’s exterior, but they won’t do a thing to actually protect your windows. For that job, you’ll need STORM shutters. We’ll share the options.
- Paint offers one of the easiest and least expensive ways to transform a space. And it seems so easy, right? Well it is, unless you make one very common painting mistake. Get that secret to painting success just ahead.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about a fix for missing return air ducts, getting stains off composite decks, repairing plaster walls, benefits of an energy audit, rebuilding the “guts” of a toilet.…
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: So glad to be here with you on a beautiful summer day and hope that you are enjoying your space. If you are doing, perhaps, a staycation this summer, we kind of are, too.
I tried to book a campsite, Leslie, this week. I could not get even a campsite to go anywhere.
LESLIE: You can’t, right?
TOM: We were going to go up to the Delaware Water Gap. It’s all crazy sold-out or filled in. And the state parks that are open – and even the federal parks – they say that if you don’t get there by 9:00 the whole lots are full, which means the trails are full.
LESLIE: Oh, forget it.
TOM: And if you like to do hiking like we do – we’ve been hiking for our whole lives but there’s a lot of new hikers, which is great – you’re welcome. Just do you not all have to come at the same time? I mean really.
LESLIE: I will say, I took the kids to Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania. We had never been there and we wanted to go hiking, as well. Same thing. Masks required but the trails were surprisingly more packed than I had hoped. Great to be outside but still.
TOM: Yeah. Trails are literally wide enough for one stream of people, you know?
LESLIE: Yeah, sometimes.
TOM: You have to kind of step aside, so it’s hard to get around people. Anyway, so, for all those reasons and more, we know that you’re spending a lot of time around your house.
I know I’ve been doing a lot of projects, Leslie. You’ve been doing projects.
And you guys, whatever projects you’ve been doing that maybe didn’t go perfectly or maybe you’re thinking about something and you don’t know what to do first, second and so on, whether you should do it yourself, whether you do need to get a pro – if you are going to bring a pro into your house, how do you make sure that it’s done safely for you, for them, for everybody and you still get your project done right? We’d love to talk with you about what’s going on in your house. Give us a call. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
You can dial that number any time of the day or night. We are always open. We always have a team of screeners standing by to take your questions. If we’re not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are.
So, coming up on today’s show, if you’d love to have a backyard pool but maybe you just don’t have the space or you can’t afford it, we’ve got two words for you: spool pool. We’re going to share tips on how you can combine the benefits of a pool and a spa in one very refreshing backyard feature.
LESLIE: And also ahead, decorative window shutters are an attractive addition to your home’s exterior but they’re not going to do a thing to actually protect your windows. If you’re looking for actual window protection, we’re talking about storm shutters. So we’ll tell you about those, in a bit.
TOM: And painting offers one of the easiest and least expensive ways to transform a space. And it always seems so easy, right? It is unless you make one very common mistake. We’re going to share that secret to painting success, just ahead.
LESLIE: But first, we want to hear what you are working on. You’re running out of weeks for the summer, so maybe you’re really trying to finish that outdoor space or you’re thinking about gearing up the interior for the, I’m sure, much more amount of time we’ll be spending indoors in the fall. Whatever it is you are working on, we’re here to lend a hand. So give us a call.
TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Lauren in Florida is on the line with a lead-paint question. How can we help you today?
LAUREN: Hi. My husband and I are remodeling a 1907 home that’s been vacant for multiple years, so there’s lots of damage. A lot of the paint is chipping off the windows. There is – on the beadboard and wainscoting, a lot of the paint’s chipping off. And someone has gone in and put sheetrock mud to texture over the original plaster walls, so some of that’s chipping off. And we’ve got three young children, so we need to repaint this house and fix it but we’re really concerned about the lead-paint issue.
LESLIE: Yeah. Understandably so. And your house is in the timeframe where you do need to be concerned about lead paint.
Now, we had an issue when we put central air conditioning in the house when my son was six months old. When he was little, I didn’t think that – any concern. And they did a great job. They were very tidy; they contained all the dust. But something must have gotten on something and when we had gone for his next exam, he had elevated lead levels probably from some dust getting on a toy and then the toy going in his mouth, anything. Anyway, it turned out after we did the next blood work, his levels went back to normal, so we were really not concerned at that point. But it is a very scary issue.
Now, I’m not sure, nationwide, what the rules are – and maybe Tom can speak better on this – but in New York, when you are fairly certain that you’ve got lead paint or the timeframe sort of dates it that way, you have to work with a painter or a contractor who’s certified in sort of lead-paint containment, if you will. Because even if you have it on a window frame and you’re opening and closing that window, you’re creating little specks of lead dust that are getting into the air. And with small children, you do need to be concerned.
So you do need to make sure that, if you can, that this is done by a pro. There’s nothing that regulates when a homeowner does it themselves. But knowing that you probably have lead paint and with small children in the home, I would just have a pro do it. And you want to make sure that things are taped off and really sealed up and cleaned very thoroughly. There are specific rules, I know, in New York State that allow for a contractor to be certified. And that’s something you really want to look for.
TOM: Yeah. And especially because the paint is flaking in deteriorated condition right now, that’s the highest risk for this, Lauren. So you’re wise to proceed very cautiously and make sure that the contractor that you’re working with is certified as a lead professional.
LAUREN: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Lauren. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Michael in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MICHAEL: We have a hot-water heater in our garage, on an elevated plateau. And we noticed the other day, there was a slight leak underneath it but it looked like it might have been coming from a PVC-type tube coming from the top of our water heater. And it’s the length of the water heater. It’s a tube. And we’ve never seen water under that area before and we now notice some of that. So I wasn’t sure why – if it was a sweating situation or what – some type of relief valve, maybe or something like that. But I’m not sure why water would have been there.
TOM: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a temperature-and-pressure relief valve. It’s mounted on the side of the water heater. It’s designed to open up if the water heater develops too much pressure, as a safety mechanism.
However, they frequently wear and leak. So, I’m going to tell you what you can try to do but I’m also going to warn you. There’s a lever on the side of that and sometimes you get a little bit of a debris that’s stuck inside that temperature-and-pressure valve. When you pull the lever, it’ll shoot some water out that tube. You want to make sure you have a bucket under it. Just two or three times; it’ll kind of blast some hot water out of there.
However, the warning is that sometimes, once you do that, the valve never sits back properly and it ends up leaking worse. So it’s possible you could make it worse by doing this but that’s worth trying. If you just want to leave a bucket under it and monitor it for a little while – how old is this water heater?
MICHAEL: About 1990, 1998.
TOM: Oh. Oh, well, you know what? You’re due for a new one. So, 1998 – I wouldn’t wait too much longer before I replace that because let’s face it, it’s about, what, 15 years old now? And so, a water heater that gets past 10 is well on its way to needing – to the end of its useful life. So, I would – you could monitor it, stick a bucket under there, keep an eye on it. But I think it’s about time to think about replacing.
It’s not an emergency replacement, so you’ve got some time to shop around. One of the problems with water heaters is once they do leak, they usually have to be done immediately and people get taken advantage of because they need it today. But you’re not in that situation, Michael, so you could take some time and shop around and find the one – the contractor – that you want. But a 15-year-old water heater, you might want to think about replacing it.
MICHAEL: Alright, sir. I appreciate that very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Diane in Illinois who needs some extra storage space at her money pit. How can we help you today?
DIANE: Well, I have a deck off of our master bedroom. And it’s a 12×12 deck and I want to turn it into a walk-in closet. And I want to bring my washer and dryer from the basement upstairs and put it into that closet.
TOM: Well, this sounds like a good project, Diane, but I have to tell you that, generally, when people try to convert a deck into a finished room – I’ve seen it done many, many times, especially in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector – it just doesn’t work, for a lot of reasons.
And I can understand that you want it to flow nicely into the house and all of that but you’re really talking about an addition here. And if you’re going to build an addition, you typically were going to build it different than a deck. What I would recommend is that even though this is a small project, it’s a complicated project. Because not only do you want a closet, you also want laundry there.
I think this is a great opportunity for you to consult with an architect, because you have a lot to do to get this done correctly. And you also don’t want to make it look like it’s sort of slapped on the outside of your house because it’s going to detract from your home value.
But every single time I’ve seen somebody try to take a deck and convert it into living space, it’s never worked out too well. It might be that you can preserve some of the framing and maybe incorporate it in there but it’s going to now be living space. It’s going to have to be heated, it’s going to have to be cooled, it’s going to have to have wiring, it’s going to have to have plumbing. It’s an addition; it’s no longer going to be in a deck. So while that space might fit well for it, starting with the existing deck doesn’t always make the most sense, OK?
DIANE: OK. So what would – we would have to just tear that deck down and start over or …?
TOM: You may. But that’s why I say – let’s not speculate on this and let’s not make a wrong step. This is a type of project where you are well advised to hire an architect. It’s not going to be an expensive consulting fee, because it’s a small project. But it’s really smart to do that in this situation because you’ll find out what you can save and what you have to tear down. You won’t make a costly mistake.
DIANE: OK. I didn’t want anything falling off the house and tearing the roof apart. And I didn’t want to have to do all of that, so I appreciate your advice.
TOM: Thank you, Diane. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if a backyard pool is something that you would love to have but maybe you can’t afford it, you don’t have the time to care for it or you’re just short of backyard space, we have two words for you: spool pool. A spool pool is a small swimming pool and it’s designed in a way that’s perfect for so many applications. It’s a bit bigger than a spa or a hot tub but it’s a smaller footprint than a traditional in-ground swimming pool. And it does fit well within a limited outdoor space or even as an indoor pool.
LESLIE: Oh, I mean that’s kind of amazing if you’ve got the space for it.
Now, you don’t need much space because a spool can be anywhere from 10 to 16 feet long and 6 to 8 feet wide. So you have plenty of room to stretch out or even just cool off on a hot summer day.
Now, as a person who maybe has a spool in their backyard this summer, thank you to the coronavirus keeping everybody home.
TOM: Well, you have a blow-up spool.
LESLIE: Not exactly.
TOM: Yeah, OK.
LESLIE: It’s kind of awesome. And you know what? That size really is perfect for me and the kids and it’s been great for us.
TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.
LESLIE: You know, you also have – when you do a real spool, you’ve got the option to add some special features. You can do high-powered jets. You can get a luxurious spa feeling in a hot tub that you want but still have the flexibility of having a spool. You can also simply switch back to a cool soaking pool if it gets too hot on these summer days. It’s really easy to switch back and forth, too. And with less water, they do heat up and cool down rather quickly.
Now, the main reason that spools are becoming so popular is the fact that they really do work well in smaller spaces. That means if you’ve got a tiny backyard, you still might be able to have a pool, albeit using a small swimming-pool design. You’re not going to train for the Olympics in a pool this size, although my kids are trying to. They get one stroke in and then they’re out the other side. But you can still swim shorter laps, you can exercise. You can even get a fancier one that has jets built in for swimming against, so it’s sort of like a current that you’re always battling against. So you can really get a good exercise out of it. There’s so many options.
TOM: Yeah. One even has an underwater treadmill. That is the ultimate of luxurious exercise, right?
LESLIE: How cool is that?
TOM: Now, they are smaller than a regular swimming pool but you would think, well, they’re smaller, they must be a lot less expensive to install. Not so much. Yeah, they’re less expensive but you have to remember that you have a lot of the same work that goes into it. You’ve got to excavate, right? So that is sort of a day charge to get that done. You’ve still got the pumps and you’ve got all the electronics, all the plumbing, all that kind of stuff.
It all adds up, so it’s not going to be like – it’s a quarter of the size; it’s not going to be a quarter of the price. It might be two-thirds of the price. They’re not inexpensive but for all the reasons we mentioned, they’re really fun to have.
If you want more insights, we have a great post on this. Kind of lays it all out for you. Just search that word “spool” – s-p-o-o-l – on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Tony in Florida is dealing with some not-so-energy-efficient appliances. Tell us what’s going on.
TONY: Yes. I have a Trane 19-SEER, 3-ton unit. It has a dual-compressor on there. I also have a Pentair variable-speed pool pump and one of those heat pump – GE water heater.
TONY: And as far as I’m concerned, those are the two appliances that would be responsible for my big energy bill.
TONY: After installing those appliances, I am still looking at an energy bill ranging between 180 and 2.
TOM: Wow. That’s expensive.
TOM: So, let me ask you something about the heat – the Trane unit that you put in. When you put that in, did you just replace the compressor outside or did you also replace any of the internal parts?
TONY: The full unit was replaced and re-duct.
TOM: A couple of things that you can check. One of which is to have the HVAC contractor – or if you know how to do this, check the amperage draw for the compressor when it’s running. That can be done from the electrical panel with an amp probe. See if we’re pulling any excessive amperage. I’m wondering if anything is broken in the compressors or the fan system that’s causing it to pull more power than it should. So, you can check that against the manufacturer’s specification on both the heat pump, frankly. The heat pump, it’s a heat-pump water heater, correct?
TOM: So, check the draw.
Secondly, is there any other major consuming appliance in the house? How are you cooking? Are you cooking with electric heat – with electricity, I should say?
TONY: Yes. I’m cooking with a heat-induction stove.
TOM: Heat-induction stove, OK. So, you are using quite a bit of power for that. What I want is to get to the point where we’re breaking this down on a case-by-case basis, to try to figure this out.
Here’s what I want to tell you to do, OK? You’ve got a lot going on in that house. This would be a really good case for an energy audit. There are energy auditors that you could usually find through your local utility company or you can find them independently. And in many areas of the country, there are rebates for these or they’re even free.
Energy auditors can come in and look at every source of energy that’s being consumed in that house, as well as insulation, windows and doors, things like this. And the nice thing about an energy auditor is they’re not there to sell you stuff, you know? Sometimes, when you call a contractor and say, “I want an efficient heating system,” they sell you what they want to sell you. Energy auditors are kind of like home inspectors but they specialize in energy efficiency. And they can do an independent evaluation of all of the elements in the house and help you very accurately pin down where that energy is going.
Sometimes it’s free because it’s paid for by the utility companies. In fact, some utility companies, as a condition of licensing, are required to provide energy auditors or low-cost auditors. Find a good one. Research them carefully and get an energy audit done of your house. And I think that that will help you stop speculating on where the power – where the energy is being used and where it’s not and get some real, factual data that could help you make some intelligent decisions on how to cut those costs. Does that make sense?
TONY: Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
We want to make sure that you are a do-it-yourselfer and don’t become a do-it-to-yourselfer by making a misstep or two along the way. Very easy to do and trust us, we know it because we’ve made those missteps ourselves and we have learned from our mistakes. We will share those stories with you. Well, maybe not all of them, because there is a point where we don’t want to share. We would be over-sharing what happened at the time.
I was replacing the roof at my mom’s house because I wanted to be a good son and she needed a new roof. And I stepped through the roof, through the drywall and right into her kitchen ceiling. So, now I put a little sign on there where my foot came through. It said, “Tom was here,” so she knew I cared. Because I wanted Mom to know we were working on it.
888-666-3974 is the number here. Give us a call, right now, and we will help you get your project done hopefully without putting holes in the ceiling.
LESLIE: Erin in Ohio is on the line and needs some help with a playground. What can we do for you?
ERIN: I have a swing set/playset. It’s made out of treated wood and it’s about 10 years old. The flat surfaces, they’ve turned black and the wood is cracking. I’m wondering how I can best clean that up.
TOM: Well, the best thing to do is to use a wood cleaner. But let me ask you this: is it pressure-treated, this wooden playset?
ERIN: I believe so, yes.
TOM: Because pressure-treated lumber has sort of fallen out of favor as a playset, because of the chemicals that are in the pressure-treated lumber leaching out of the lumber, getting into the soil and so on. So, I’d just give you a bit of a warning on that.
But if you want to clean this, Flood makes a product called Flood Wood Cleaner that works really well. Basically, you wet the lumber down, you apply the wood cleaner, you let it set for 20 or 30 minutes. You don’t let it dry – you may have to remoisten it again – and then you kind of scrub it clean. You can use a pressure washer after that to scrub it clean. It does a pretty good job of brightening up the finish, taking away the dirt and the grime and lifting up any of that old, gray sort of oxidation that settles on the wood or the black oxidation that settles on the wood.
You can find that at most home centers and hardware stores. And again, it’s called Flood Wood Cleaner.
ERIN: OK. Once I have it clean then, am I better, do you think, to stain it or paint it?
TOM: No, you’re better to stain it. What you want to do is use solid-color stain, as opposed to semi-transparent stain, because it’ll last a lot longer. The solid-color tends to fade a little bit better and doesn’t peel like paint would.
ERIN: And the same – like we have a swing – a porch swing – that I’d like to put on there, as well. Same thing then with that to clean it up? It’s been outside for some time.
TOM: Yes. If it’s natural wood, that’s a good product to clean it up with. And the same advice applies to the porch swing.
Now, is that also made out of pressure-treated lumber or is that something different?
ERIN: It’s about the same age. I believe it is.
TOM: Alright. So, again, use the solid-color stain.
ERIN: OK. Very good. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Erin. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, window shutters look great and they do add curb appeal. But most of us have shutters on our homes that are purely aesthetic.
Now, if you have a real shutter, these are super functional. They are going to help you safeguard those windows in a storm and they’re also going to keep out the harsh elements, like sun in the summer, coldness in the winter. These are the things you need.
TOM: Yeah. But you’ve got to remember that shutters that we see today are modeled very loosely from the original wood shutters that had a more practical than decorative purpose. In fact, when these shutters were first being put on the house, I don’t think people were going up and down looking at the neighbor’s house saying, “Those are some fine-looking shutters,” you know? Because it was practical. It was what you did to protect your windows from flying debris and keeping the sun out and so on.
Now, the types of shutters that were original actually attached on the inside of the window trim. So, right now, we kind of mount them outside the window trim and they just sort of sit there. That’s actually kind of out of place. They would be mounted on the inside so they could open and close the same way like, say, a door would. Like a louvered door, right? When they’re open, the shutters are held in place with this big type of metal hook, which actually has a kind of funny name. It’s called a “shutter dog” and it’s sort of like a turnbuckle, right?
TOM: And when the shutters open, you twist it and it holds it in place.
Now, if you want real shutters, they are still available, right?
LESLIE: Yeah. But these are something that you have to have custom-made. And even stores like Home Depot will sell them online, even along with some of the hardware that you’re going to need. But they are not cheap but I mean I’ve seen them online for anywhere from 150 upwards to 800 a pair.
Now, if you can’t do the whole house at once, you can start with the front for appearance or do the south and east sides of the house, which are going to get the most sun. You have to think cost-effectively but also what’s going to do the most and give you the most benefit.
TOM: Yep. And definitely.
Now, if you want to go with real wood shutters, one more thing to think about is painting, because you’ve got to remember that if you want to protect the shutters against moisture and filtration and rot, there are actually six sides to be painted. That includes the top and bottom edges. Those are the edges where the moisture gets in, so you don’t want to forget that.
LESLIE: Now, if you live in an area that’s at risk for hurricanes or even tropical storms, there is another type of shutter that you can install and that’s called a “hurricane shutter.” And these are also going to help you reduce insurance premiums and the cost that’s associated with having hurricane damage to your house.
TOM: Yeah. And these are not wooden louvered panels. They’re motorized, they’re made of metal. They’re mounted at the top of the window. There’s a cylindrical – it kind of looks like a shade on the outside of your house but much bigger. And if a storm is coming or if you just want extra security, you hit a button – probably on your phone – and they lower automatically. They do a really good job of keeping flying debris from breaking through your windows and keeping unwanted visitors, like burglars, from getting through your windows, as well.
So, lots of options there in shutters other than the plastic kind that you probably grew up with. The real wood ones did serve a purpose and if you really want to keep the storms out, go with storm shutters.
LESLIE: Dave in New York is on the line and has a plumbing question. What are you working on?
DAVE: I had a couple electric, plumbing and heating contractors go ahead and come give me estimates and now I’m – PEX piping put in. And they discouraged me from it because they were told that it was made with soy oil so that they could put a green label on it. And they already had to replace, in some homes, the PEX piping because rodents had been chewing on the pipes.
TOM: Yeah, I guess I could see that. I can see rodents potentially chewing on plastic pipes. But I will tell you that I have not heard that as a long-term – as a widespread problem. PEX piping is really quite good and enables you to do things that you can’t do with metal piping – with copper piping. And it’s just a lot less expensive to install, as well.
So, I don’t think it’s a wide enough problem that I would stop using it. I would continue to use it.
DAVE: But you don’t know if they make it with soy oil or not.
TOM: No, I don’t. But I tell you what, rodents will chew anything. So it doesn’t surprise me that maybe they had some rodent issues with it. But I don’t think it’s a problem that would prevent me from using PEX.
DAVE: OK. I was just curious to know.
TOM: Alright, Dave. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, paint offers one of the easiest and least expensive ways that you can transform your spaces. And it seems like it’s such an easy project, right? You pick a color, you open the can, you dunk in your brush and you’re good to go. Well, this is why homeowners often make the very common but disastrous step of skipping the painting prep work.
TOM: Yeah. And unfortunately, if the surfaces are not clean, they’re not patched, they’re not sanded, they’re not primed beforehand, you are going to get very disappointed on the results. Painting is the easy part. Applying the finish, that’s the easy part. It’s the getting ready that takes the work.
For example, a primer coat. Primer is like glue. It’s the glue that makes the paint stick to the wall properly. And if you don’t do it, you’re going to have some separation. You hear about peel-y paint? It’s because it wasn’t primed properly or the surface wasn’t primed properly. And you’re going to go through a lot more work trying to get that finish off – that finished paint off. We have had those calls many times on this show where folks just didn’t get it and they didn’t prime. And now they’ve got a room full or a house full of peel-y paint and there’s no easy way to get that loose paint off.
LESLIE: No, you’re going to actually have to prep it all again, really, for the first time and it’s a lot more work.
TOM: It’s even worse. It’s even worse, yeah.
LESLIE: One more thing I think people forget: before you choose that color, you need to research the formulation of the paint and then the sheen, as well, because there’s certain sheens that work better for certain spaces. And then whatever your budget is for paint, go with the highest quality of paint that you can buy. A top-of-the-line finish does go on beautifully, will last longer and deliver the best return on investment over the long haul.
TOM: Yeah. And choosing the right sheen for the project is also important, because you’ve got semi-gloss, you’ve got eggshell, you’ve got flat. Semi, for example, looks good on trim but anything with even the least amount of sheen, you put that on a wall, guess what? You’re going to see every imperfection in that wall that you never saw before, because the light picks it up, especially if you’ve got like a ceiling fixture. Boy, if you turn that light on and you’ve got a sheen on your ceiling, you’re going to see every nail pop, crack, bad trowel mark from putting spackle on 20 years ago. It’ll show. So, you need to use the right sheen for the project.
Generally speaking, with trim and doors, you want to use something that you can clean. So that would be a semi-gloss. But for ceilings and walls, you want to use a flat. And you don’t have to use even an eggshell, which is one step up from a flat. What you need to do is get washable flat. The better paint you buy, the easier it will to keep it clean. So you don’t have to have a sheen for it to be cleanable; you just have to use good paint.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Carl in Maryland on the line. Welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?
CARL: My toilet is making a whistling sound. It’s a high-pitched monotone. Doesn’t do it all the time. It starts and stops intermittently. I’ve tracked it down to the – where the fill is, where the water comes into the toilet.
TOM: Yeah. What’s causing that, Carl, is the fill valve and it’s not an unusual condition. We see that a lot; we’ve heard about it many times. And the reason it happens intermittently is it’s somewhat indicative on the expansion and contraction of those parts. And it’s going to vary based on the water temperature. But it also is only going to happen when the toilet’s refilling.
So, what you should do is simply replace the fill and while you’re at it, the flush valve because they usually come in a set. They’re not very expensive; you can buy both for probably 15 bucks. And if you follow the instructions that come with these, it is a do-it-yourself project to be able to kind of pretty much rebuild your toilet.
CARL: OK. Sounds good.
Now, if I may point out something, it does it when the water is not running in the house at all, sometimes.
TOM: Right. And here’s why that’s happening, OK? Because you probably have a leaky flush valve. That’s one of the reasons I said to replace both fill and flush valves. Because if you have a leaky flush valve and you’ve got a very slow leak of water out of the bowl, the fill valve will respond to that and refill that bowl. So you’re probably wasting some water because of this condition, as well. So it’s a good thing you found it but again, it’s an easy, inexpensive fix and you can do it yourself.
CARL: OK. Very good, Tom. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, this is the time of year that the HVAC system is getting a big workout and Dave posted this question. He writes: “We purchased a home about 10 years ago and since, I’ve found several significant problems, including several rooms that do not have return-air ducts to the HVAC system. And some also have registers that don’t seem to be connected to the system at all. I’ve heard that there’s a way to run small 3-inch hoses through the walls to correct this problem. Is that a solution?”
TOM: Dave, it seems that – I think what you’re doing – you’re talking about a different type of system but let’s do this first. You have to understand that not all homes have return-air vents in every room. In fact, most forced-air heating-and-cooling systems use one or two centrally-located return-air vents. This is the vent that’s usually in the hallway if you have a ranch or the top of the staircase in a Colonial. And it essentially takes the air from all the rooms – the supplies go into the rooms – and it takes that air and it returns it back to the system from one central point, not in-room supplies and returns.
Now, you also mentioned that some rooms have registers that don’t appear to be connected. They may or may not be return-air vents. It’s kind of hard to tell because you don’t really feel the air going back. But I will give you an easy test from my years in the home inspection business. Just grab a tissue, hold it up in front of that register when, of course, the HVAC system is blowing and watch it. If there’s any return air there, it’s going to draw that tissue right up against the register really quick and it will be obvious to you that yeah, you are getting a return airflow right there.
Now, as for your question about the 3-inch ducts, I think what you’re talking about is a system that we call SpacePak. It is a small, ducted, high-velocity system. It’s really popular when you’re retrofitting an older house, because the ducts can be run inside those existing wall cavities, which means you get very little damage.
It’s not a solution for a home that just has an inadequate run of return ducts. If that’s the case, you’d be better off running a new central return-air duct somewhere central to the bedrooms that are missing them. The only thing you’ll need to do in addition to that is make sure you have about a 1-inch gap under the door, which is not a lot but an inch, inch-and-a-half under the door. Because when the doors are closed, that will serve as the point where the air can get from the room back into that return register and reheat or re-cool.
You have to remember that the way HVAC systems work is they don’t just take the air at once and chill it to the perfect temperature and send it out again; it has to kind of happen over and over and over again. The cycle has to continue for it to work right.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up we have a post from Debbie in North Andover, Massachusetts who writes: “What is the best way to get dark stains off of composite decking?”
TOM: Well, if the stains you’re reporting are algae or mold or moss or mildew, the first thing that you want to do is try to improve the environment around that deck so you get more sunlight. This is a long-term solution. So if you can trim back trees, get a little sun on that, that’s going to help.
To clean it off, initially, you can use any of a number of deck-cleaning products. Usually, the way it works is you have to apply the product, let it sit for a while and then scrub it off. I would not use a pressure washer for this unless it was on a very light-duty setting because even with composite, it’s going to scar that material.
And once you get the cleaning done the first time – and like I said, there’s a bunch of products you can use. Zinsser has one that works well. There’s oxygenated bleaches. But get that first blast of the stain off, open up that space to a little more sunlight and you won’t have to do it nearly as much going forward.
LESLIE: Alright, Debbie. I hope that helps. And you know what? Composite decking is really a great choice because it’s going to last over time. It’s not going to warp and rot and it is easy to clean. So once you find that right formulation, you’ll be good to go.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We are just about out of time but want to take a moment to thank you for spending part of your day with us. You know, all the data shows that more and more folks, now that we’re staying home, we are taking care of our homes, we are improving our homes. And we are making that space exactly what we want it to be, because we all know we’re going to be in this for a while and we want to enjoy the space around us. So, remember, as those projects come to mind, if you don’t know what to do, you don’t know where to start, you can always start right here with 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 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.)