When it comes to maintaining your home, painting is a project that’s among the most basic of DIY projects, and one which most homeowners are happy to tackle themselves. But it’s also a project that can go terribly wrong if you don’t take just three steps before you start.
- One appliance that you may own and you’ll never want to be without again is your garbage disposer. But during the holidays, disposers get jammed more than any other time in the year. If that happens to you, there’s no need to pay a plumber double time and a half! We’ll tell you about a super easy way to get it back in action.
- With the holidays upon us, adding a festive touch to your windows is a great way to spread holiday cheer – but you need to make sure you know how to attach those decorations WITHOUT damaging window frames. We’ll share some non-destructive decorating secrets.
- Fall is the season when stink bugs start really showing up in your house. However, there’s one thing you should never do to get rid of them. We’ll share that tip
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about., installing a laminate floor over concrete, using recap to repair concrete, air filtration systems, paneling options, remove wallpaper, leveling a garage floor, drainage issues.
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 to help you take on those projects around your house, around your apartment, around your condo that you would like to get done but don’t know where to start, don’t know how to choose the right color, don’t know what repair parts you need, don’t know if you can do it yourself or not. We are your home improvement coaches. We are your home improvement pals. We are your home improvement therapists. If you need help getting those jobs done, don’t get frustrated. Get in touch with us and we will help you get through it.
And coming up on today’s show, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting is a project that is among the most basic of DIY jobs. And it’s one which most homeowners are happy to tackle themselves. And why not? But it’s also a project that we have found can go terribly wrong if you don’t take just three simple steps before you start. We’re going to share those steps, just ahead, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
LESLIE: And one appliance in your house that you’ve got, once you’ve got it you never want to be without it again. I’m talking about your garbage disposer. But during the holidays, those disposers can get jammed more than any other time of the year. Now, if that happens to you, there’s no need to pay a plumber double time-and-a-half. We’ll tell you about a super-easy way to get it back in action, just ahead.
TOM: And with the holiday season upon us, adding a festive touch to your windows is a great way to spread some of that holiday cheer. But you need to be careful because today’s modern windows can become easily damaged if you try to attach decorations to them. We’re going to share some non-destructive decorating secrets, just ahead.
LESLIE: Plus, if you’d like some tools under the tree this holiday season, we have the Holiday Home Décor Giveaway going on, right now, at MoneyPit.com. It’s presented by Arrow Fastener and they have hooked us up with a dozen sets of tools, worth over $125 each, to give away to a lucky dozen Money Pit listeners.
TOM: Check it put at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes.
And hey, have you got a home improvement question you would like to get an answer for? Well, there are a number of ways to get in touch with us. You can post your question at MoneyPit.com. You can also post it to our Facebook page. Lots of folks do that every single week. They’re always surprised when they get an answer from me at 10:00 or 11:00 at night, because that’s probably when I get to the Facebook page.
And that’s at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. Or you can simply call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And if we’re not in the studio, we’ll call you back the next time we are.
Lots of folks have called in for today’s show, so let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Ted in Texas is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you?
TED: I’ve got a concrete floor that’s been stained.
TED: It has in the – kind of in the living area, we put down a couple – a few times we put down, you know, wax. We waxed it and it’s pretty much worn off now. But it’s a dark – it’s a real dark red stain. It’s pretty dark and we’re really tired of that.
TED: So, we were thinking of putting down some flooring.
TED: And just wondered, do we need to strip the floor for – use the stripper on it first? Or can we just lay it down on top of it? What’s a good thing?
TOM: You don’t have to strip anything off that old concrete floor. With all the flooring products that are available today, you can lay it right on top of the concrete.
And you’ve got a lot of choices, Ted. You can use a laminate floor.
TOM: You can use an engineered vinyl plank. The EVP floors are absolutely gorgeous. You can use an engineered-hardwood floor. If you’d like to have real wood, you can use an engineered hardwood – not solid hardwood but engineered hardwood – because that is dimensionally stable and it’s not going to swell if exposed to any moisture that comes off the concrete.
Now, those floors would lock together and they would go right up sort of the baseboard/molding area. And then you would trim them with some quarter round or some shoe molding and you’d be good to go.
So that’s a pretty straightforward project right there. Just pay attention to the saddles and where it goes around doorways. If you’re in a kitchen area, make sure you don’t lock in your dishwasher, which has to be slid out if it has to be replaced. Things like that. Just be aware of that. But you can go right on top of that.
And it sounds like that old floor has really served you well, though. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of somebody that has sealed and waxed a concrete – a dyed concrete floor like that for all those years. It must have been pretty interesting.
TED: Yeah. And one other question, too. I’ve noticed, in probably over the last couple years, there’s been several cracks. They’re not wide cracks. I can stick my fingernail in it, in some places.
TOM: Yeah, I think that’s pretty typical of expansion and contraction of a floor like that. You don’t have to worry about that. You can just, again, put the new flooring right on top of the old.
TED: OK. Good, good. Good deal. OK. So, any of those is good? They all have …
TOM: All good choices.
TED: Some of them have glue-down and some of them are not. You don’t need to glue down …
TOM: None of the ones that I mentioned are glue-down products; those are all floating floors.
TOM: I don’t really think there’s a need to use a glue-down product.
TOM: Typically, if you’re using engineered hardwood on the slab, the only place you might glue down would be maybe at an intersection.
My sister just had some engineered hardwood put on a floor and the installers glued some trim pieces around where her fireplace kind of came into the room, just because there was no other way to really attach it. But for the most part, you don’t really need any adhesive. It’s designed to float on top and it’s not going to move. It’s rock solid when it’s done.
TED: It’s not going to click-click when you walk on it or anything.
TOM: No, no, no. Not at all.
TED: Got you. OK. Well, good. Well, thanks for the call back. I really appreciate and I enjoy your show.
TOM: Well, you’re welcome, Ted. Thanks so much for calling us at The Money Pit.
TED: Yes, sir. You bet.
LESLIE: Mary from Arkansas is on the line who’s having some issues locating a water line for a filter. What’s going on with this mystery?
MARY: I made a whole-house water filter but I live in a subdivision. And all of the lines are buried underground and I don’t know how to locate where it comes into my house. And I don’t know what to do about it.
TOM: Even though they’re underground, that’s very typical. You’re going to have to locate the main water valve and that is going to be inside your house somewhere. Now, I don’t know what kind of house you have. Is it on a slab? Is it on a crawlspace? Is it on a basement?
MARY: It’s on a slab and it is brick house.
TOM: It’s brick. OK.
So, generally, where that line comes into the house there is going to be a valve. It’s pretty much required that there is a valve. And that’s the area where the whole-house water filter would get attached. It basically is inserted after the valve – after the main water valve – and then they put another valve next to it, so it kind of isolates that section of pipe. But you need to identify where that’s coming in.
Now, all I could tell you is that, typically, water lines will feed from the street, so it’s going to be on that side of the house. And I have found – in many, many different places in my career as a home inspector, I have found them behind wall panels. I have found them inside sink cabinets, where it doesn’t really even look like a main water valve yet it’s there. I have found them in closets. I have found them in attics. It’s going to be there somewhere and that’s going to be the trick trying to identify where that is.
But I imagine this is not something you’re going to install yourself. And certainly, it will be part of what a plumber would do for you.
MARY: Alright. Then I just need to get a good plumber and start looking.
TOM: That’s right. That’s right. Kind of a scavenger hunt, Mary.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading to Delaware where John has got a question about patching concrete. How can we help you today?
JOHN: At the end of my driveway, I have a garage. Concrete around it.
JOHN: And where it goes into the garage, whoever did the concrete work before that made the seam right where the door comes down instead of having it out.
TOM: OK. OK, got it.
JOHN: Alright. Now I have two spots that’s around maybe 3 inches long and maybe 2 to 3 inches wide. I want to try to patch that. I listened to your show one time and you said that there was a certain concrete to use.
TOM: So, John, the product is called Re-Cap – R-e-C-a-p. It is made by the QUIKRETE Company. And it is designed, as you say, to adhere to old concrete. And that’s the key: it’s got to stick. You’ve got to use the right type of patching material and Re-Cap is designed specifically for that. In fact, it adheres so well it becomes stronger than the older – than the old concrete was.
So, you need to pick up a bag of that. It comes in all different sizes. Mix that up, clean out the old concrete. I think the instructions will tell you to wet it down before you apply the Re-Cap. And it dries pretty quickly and it’s real hard. And that will solve your problem once and for all.
John, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ann in Georgia on the line calling in with an air-conditioning question. How can we help you?
ANN: What happens is there is an excessive amount of dust in the house.
ANN: I mean it’s huge. So I just rake my finger across a table and you can see long particles, long hair-type – it’s not hair but it’s like long string. And it’s really, really thick. And when the pollen was really bad down here in the spring, when it was yellow pollen outside, you could – it was in the house.
TOM: Let me ask you some basic questions, Ann. First of all, you’re talking about a fan. What kind of heating system do you have in this house to begin with?
ANN: It’s a heating pump.
TOM: OK. It’s forced-air. It’s a forced-air system, right?
ANN: Yes, yes.
TOM: Alright. So, the best type of air-filtration system would be an electronic air cleaner. An electronic air cleaner would be installed on the return side of the air handler, so it would clean the air as it goes back to the air handler. And good-quality electronic air cleaners can take out all of that dust, all of that pollen, right down to virus-size particles.
Most of us rely on the fiberglass filters, which are very inexpensive; they cost maybe $1 apiece. But they don’t do very much, you know? We call them “pebble stoppers” because everything else goes right through them.
So, if you really want to clean up your house and reduce the amount of dust, you simply need a better filtration system on your HVAC system. And so, an electronic air cleaner would be that. You could take a look at models by Trane or by Aprilaire. And there are a number of others, as well.
But don’t be confused by electrostatic versus electronic. You want an electronic air cleaner because these work. And some of them charge the particles so that they have sort of magnetic attraction to the filter material. Some of them combine electronic cleaning with filtration cleaning. But either of those two brands – either Trane or Aprilaire – make very good-quality electronic air cleaners. And you’ll see a huge difference. But it’s the kind of thing that you have to have an HVAC technician professionally install. It’s not a do-it-yourself project.
ANN: OK. Sounds great. OK. Thanks so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting or even staining wood surfaces is important to keep your siding and trim in good shape. But while painting is a task that’s among the most basic of DIY projects, it’s also one where simple mistakes can lead to big heartache.
TOM: Yep. And the key comes down to preparation. Weathered surfaces need to be cleaned and loose paint has to be removed before you even think about opening a can of paint. If not, the new paint simply won’t stick and your efforts will be wasted.
LESLIE: Now, next, it’s always smart to apply a coat of primer first. Now, primer is formulated differently than paint that’s meant to be the finished coat. It’s got better adhesion, so it’s going to stick to those old surfaces and prevent new paint from peeling.
TOM: And third, for the best finished look, be sure to choose the right kind of paintbrush. Natural-bristle brushes are best for applying oil-based paints. But for latex, synthetic-bristle brushes deliver the best results and help maintain the value of your home.
LESLIE: And today’s Smart Spending Tip is presented by the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card. We’re all shopping for essentials online these days, so get rewarded for it with Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card. You can choose to earn three-percent cash back on online shopping.
TOM: Visit BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding to apply now.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Jim in Oregon with a paneling question. Tell us what you’re working on.
JIM: I’ve got a house that was built in the early 1950s and I moved into it in the 70s. And it didn’t have any insulation in the walls of the house, so I took the interior paneling off, which was – ¼-inch plywood was all it was. And then I put insulation behind that and of course, rewired it at the same time.
And then when I put the ¼-inch paneling back, after I put the insulation in, then I put – of course, it was in the 70s, the big paneling era. So I just put paneling over the top of that. Now I want to kind of upgrade it a little bit and I’m not too sure if my best route would be to clean the paneling really well and paint it or clean the paneling really well and have somebody come in and spray it, like you do sheetrock. Or maybe I should put ¼-inch sheetrock over the top of it and tape it off and then spray it. Or possibility of putting – on every stud, put a 2×2 on the stud and then put the insulation in that looks like Styrofoam with the tin foil on each side and then a panel over – or sheetrock over the top of that. So, I’m kind of looking at dollars and cents in which way to go.
TOM: Wow, you have a lot of choices. Do we want – we really want a cosmetic solution here?
TOM: That’s the case, there’s no reason you can’t paint this.
Painted paneling can look quite attractive if it’s done well. Right, Leslie? But I think priming is probably important.
LESLIE: Yeah. You’re right about wanting to clean it. Then you’re definitely needing to prime it with a very good-quality primer, because you want it to adhere very well to the paneling. And depending on if this is actual wood paneling or some sort of wood-like paneling, you just want it to stick well. And then I would go with whatever paint over it.
The issue here is whether or not you like the look of the vertical lines. If you like them, then you’re going to love it painted. Because somehow, white paneling looks fantastic, especially if you’ve got a décor and a home style that lends itself to that look. It can really work for you.
I really wouldn’t paint it any other color because then it’s like, “Oh, that’s painted paneling.” Where suddenly, in white, it’s like, “Oh, it’s got a country chic-ish charm to it.” But it’s really up to you whether that’s a look that you like and will enjoy. If you can work with it, then I definitely say go for the paint.
JIM: So if I painted white on it, my big-horn sheep hanging on the wall and the antelope and stuff would stand out really well then.
TOM: Yeah, I bet they would.
LESLIE: That’s a whole ‘nother conversation for another day.
JIM: Yeah, I can just understand. I used to own a sporting-goods store, so I understand that.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us, Jim, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Elsie in California on the line who’s dealing with a shower that goes from hot to cold and all over.
That doesn’t sound very pleasurable, Elsie. What’s going on?
ELSIE: Oh, it sure isn’t. It’s very shocking.
I live in a ranch-style house. The water heater is in the garage at one end of the house and the two bathrooms are at the other end of the house. And whenever someone flushes the toilet or turns on the tap or the sprinkling or drip system comes on, the water will go from hot to pure cold and I’ll have to readjust it.
TOM: And the reason that happens is because the pressures are imbalanced. In other words, you adjust the temperature in your shower and that’s based on the pressure of water that’s coming from the hot and coming from the cold. And once that’s locked in, the temperature stays where you want it. But when someone down the line, say, spills off some of the cold water because now they’re flushing a toilet or washing their hands, then the – there is going to be less cold water going into that same mix, which means the water temperature is going to get higher or hotter.
And so, the solution is a new valve for the shower and it’s called a “pressure-balanced valve.” And what a pressure-balance valve does is it maintains the mix in spite of the pressure differential. So, what could happen in that scenario is if you adjusted it and then someone flushed the toilet, you may get less pressure overall. So the shower may be not quite as strong but the temperature won’t change, the mix won’t change. The mix is locked in; it’s set right there, regardless of how much pressure variation you have on the hot water and the cold water coming into it.
So, common problem, straightforward solution. It’s called a “pressure-balance valve.”
ELSIE: OK. Well, thank you so much. I listen to your program every week. I have your book and I’ve learned so much from both of you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got John in Missouri on the line with a garage question. Tell us what’s going on.
JOHN: This drainage has caused the one part of the garage slab to drop.
JOHN: And we knew it when we bought the house. It’s gotten a little worse every year. And I guess my big question is: what are my options as far as repairing it? And then, what I’ve – kind of look into – I haven’t gotten anybody out to look at it and give me estimates yet. Is mudjacking and curing (ph) it as opposed to just not doing anything – and then when it gets too bad, just ripping out the concrete and repouring another slab. So I guess that’s the question that I have.
TOM: The fact that you had all these contractors come out and look at the slab and look at the house and give you a whole wide range of solutions is typical. When you call somebody that’s in the concrete-repair business, they’re going to come out and recommend a concrete repair. So you were very smart to call in the independent, professional home inspector and therein got the correct advice – was simply fix the drainage and everything else will take care of itself.
JOHN: The best 500 bucks I ever spent in my life.
TOM: Exactly. So now that you fixed the drainage, you’ve got this slab that’s settled down and you’re wondering, “What do I do with it?” I would not recommend, with a garage slab, doing anything as expensive as mudjacking or anything of that nature. The cost of that procedure is not worth just trying to save the slab. That slab will break up very, very easily – surprisingly easily – with a jackhammer or even a sledgehammer, frankly.
And you would tear that out, relevel the floor, compress it, pack it properly and pour a new slab. So that’s the most cost-effective and permanent, long-term solution. Everything else would – I think would be a waste of money and very speculative.
JOHN: Thank you. I appreciate that. Like I said, I haven’t had anybody come out and really look at it yet. It’s kind of one of those ankle-biter kind of things that …
TOM: Well, here’s what’s going to happen, John. If you have somebody that’s in the mudjacking business come out there, they’re going to say, “Hey, you need mudjacking,” OK? If you have a mason come out there and he tells you to tear it out and put a new one in, I’d agree with that. I think that’s the best thing to do.
John, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, an easy way to cut down on food waste at home is to install a garbage disposer. Now, you can send leftover fruit and potato peels, veggie stubs and all kinds of other waste right down that drain. And for most of us that have one, it really is one of those appliances that once you’ve got it, you don’t ever want to be without it again.
TOM: Well, that’s right. But with all the cooking that goes on over the holiday season, it turns out this is also the season for disposers to get clogged and stuck.
LESLIE: Yeah. The good news, though, is that there’s no reason to pay a plumber those holiday rates to fix it.
TOM: Yeah, it really is a pretty easy process.
What you first want to do is turn off the power to the disposer. And then, somewhere when that disposer was first installed, the plumber would have left or you would have gotten in the same box a very big Allen wrench that fits in the very bottom surface of the disposer. The hardest part of this is sort of cleaning out your sink cabinet and getting your head and your flashlight in there to see what this is.
But in the very bottom of the disposer, there is a place to insert this big Allen wrench. And if you can’t find the one that came with it, you can get one anywhere. It’s just particularly large. And when you stick this Allen wrench inside the disposer, it will move the disposer basket forward and backwards. And usually what happens is if you go backwards a little bit and forward a little bit, it’ll sort of knock loose whatever is jamming that thing up.
And once it’s flowing again – once it’s spinning again, I should say – there’s one more thing that you have to do. Also on the bottom of that disposer motor, you’re going to find a little reset switch that you have to push back in.
Once you do those two things, you can go turn the power back on and then activate the disposer. And you should find it flowing once again. It’s a very, very common thing, especially because those reset buttons are very, very sensitive.
In fact, I probably should mention that you might want to try the reset first, just to see if it just tripped a breaker. But if it doesn’t work, then you’re going to have to find the Allen wrench and rotate that thing back and forth until you free it up.
Happens a lot based on the kind of materials that you put in there, so you really want to be careful, right, Les?
LESLIE: Yeah, you really do have to think about what you’re putting down there, because some stuff like tougher foods – think bones, shrimp shells, hard rinds like a pumpkin or a watermelon, all of those things that are going to kind of jam it up, so – and really cause it to overwork and potentially stop that breaker again. So, don’t put everything down there. Think before you do.
And if you want to keep it smelling fresh, you can run some citrus peel through that disposer and it’s going to just be lovely.
Thomas in Tennessee is on the line with a wallpaper question. How can we help you today?
THOMAS: I have two layers of wallpaper in a small half-bath that I’m trying to take off. And I was wondering what you guys’ best solution is. One is a lighter wallpaper, like you would find in the rest of the house. But the other one is a very thick, waterproof-type that’s mostly used in bathrooms.
TOM: Yeah. Well, removal is pretty much the same regardless of that type. Essentially, what you have to do is you’ve got to run a tool across the paper called a “paper tiger.” And it’s a tool that puts small, prickly-sized holes in the paper. And then once you have those holes in there, you’re going to apply a water – a wallpaper-paste remover to it which will soak into the paper, get behind it and start to loosen it up.
Now, it’s a lot of work but considering it’s just a bathroom, perhaps it won’t be that difficult for you. If you really, really, really have a hard time getting that paper off, you could always rent a wallpaper steamer and that will make the job a little bit easier.
THOMAS: Oh, OK. Well, do you have any home remedies for this where you don’t have to buy a whole lot of tools? Because I’m kind of on a budget.
TOM: Well, the paper tiger is not very expensive. It’s a little hand tool. It’s probably $7 or $8, something like that. So that plus a few dollars for the wallpaper-paste remover is – that’s really all you’re going to need.
THOMAS: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: Alright, Thomas. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, it’s fun to decorate your windows for the holidays. I mean what’s a holiday card without a decorated window or two popping up in the background? The problem is, though, that modern, more energy-efficient windows are a lot easier to damage because, well, they’ve just got a lot more moving parts than the old-fashioned wood windows you may have grown up with.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, there are a few obvious things that you should never do to your windows, such as drilling into them or puncturing the frames or the sashes. You also want to steer clear of gluing, stapling or even taping lights to the window frame.
TOM: And you want to be careful with real pine branches or cones or the pine cones, because that fresh pine sap can leave some nasty stains after the holiday season is over. And while this might not invalidate your window warranty, it certainly is an inconvenient mess to deal with.
Realistically, artificial pine is usually available at craft stores and all around the holidays. And frankly, it’s kind of hard to tell the difference these days, because they just got so darn good at making that stuff.
LESLIE: Yeah. And also, it’s on your window. It’s like, “Who’s looking at it?”
LESLIE: Seriously. You can go with artificial. It’s going to be just as fine.
Now, another thing, guys, while it’s tempting, don’t spray that fake snow from aerosol cans on the window. Because that snow residue, it can be hard to remove after the holidays. And then that can hamper the operation of your window if it gets into the sash or the operating parts of the hardware. So it’s just not a good idea.
TOM: So, if you want to know how you can add some holiday cheer to the windows, suction cups are great for hanging glass ornaments and icicles and small wreaths, especially in homes with younger kids. Also, those peel-and-stick temporary decorations? They look awesome. They have some decorations today that pretty much take the entire shape of the window. And when you turn the lights on from the inside, you see Santa Claus peeking out and stuff like that. It looks pretty cool.
And if anything does have to be attached, make sure you attach it to the trim around the windows and simply not to the window itself, so you don’t damage any of the mechanisms that are running those window panes up and down.
LESLIE: Mary in Illinois is on the line with a basement-moisture situation. What’s going on over there?
MARY: My neighbor’s house sits a little higher than mine does. And they’ve also re-landscaped since they moved in about three or four years ago. They have an oversized downspout that’s pointed directly towards my house. And when it rains, the water pools from their downspout up against my house. And then, also, after it rains, for days later the downstairs basement brick wall can be moist.
About a year ago, I had a landscaping company come in because I thought I could address this on my own. And they put a French drain in and trenched it out through my backyard and it still doesn’t seem to be addressing the issue.
TOM: Well, have you spoken with your neighbors about potentially extending those downspouts in a different direction? Typically, you can just run them out farther so that they don’t end up on your property.
MARY: I haven’t spoken with them yet. I had another issue shortly after they moved in where they were – again, they are higher on ground and I – and they had their sump-pump line pumping out. And it ran downhill, flooding my backyard. So, when I tried to address that with them, although it did eventually get changed, it wasn’t an easy nor very negotiable process. So I was trying to not get into another situation where …
TOM: Yeah. You’re trying to be as nice as you can but – and they’re not being very cooperative. That’s not very neighborly of them, is it?
TOM: Well, there’s always legal recourse but what you might want to do is speak with them and say, “Look, I’m having this issue with water in my basement.” You can blame us. Say, “Hey, I called my friends at The Money Pit Radio Show, who diagnose this problem every single minute of the day sometimes.” And we get so many questions about this. And just explain to them that water that collects around foundations ends up as basement leaks and you’re trying to avoid costly repairs. And if they would simply extend their downspouts or allow you to extend the downspout so it doesn’t drain water right at the foundation corner, that will be very helpful.
Now, I do think that your landscaper was on the track – on the right track. You said that he put in a French drain. I’m going to guess what you’re talking about is a curtain drain, because curtain drains that are properly installed – and it may very well be that this was not properly installed. But a curtain drain that’s properly installed can intercept that water as it runs down and run it away from your house.
And if I was putting a curtain drain in, I would trench it down about a foot below the surface. I would put in 2 or 3 inches of gray gravel, on top of which I would put a perforated PVC pipe. Not the flexible, black drainpipe that so many landscapers use but a regular PVC pipe with holes in it. It’s a perforated pipe. That pipe has to have a pitch to it, so it has to drop maybe an 1/8-inch per foot or so, just so it has some pitch.
And the holes are on top. What happens, it fills up, the water flows into the holes and then it runs down the pipe, around the house and out. So, on top of the stone, you put the pipe, you put more stone to cover it completely. Then you put filter cloth, which is like a black, sort of burlap-y kind of landscape cloth. Then you could put dirt and sod on top of that.
But if it’s done correctly, it will successfully intercept the water – the runoff – and run it around the house and away from that foundation. You’ve got to start with the simple stuff here, Mary, which is talking to your neighbors and seeing if they’ll extend those downspouts so that they don’t dump into your house and flood your basement.
MARY: OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Phil posted a question online that said, “My house is infested with awful-smelling stink bugs. How can I get rid of them without using chemicals that could harm my dog?”
Alright, guys. Well, fall, you’re probably seeing them. They look like weird, prehistoric, little, flat monsters. They’re stink bugs, because this really is stink-bug season. And there are plenty of stink-bug solutions out there.
But first of all, here is what you should not be doing. Do not squish them. If you have squished or flattened one of those stink bugs, you have probably learned that they smell. And once you squish them, they smell a lot worse.
TOM: That’s right.
LESLIE: So, instead, guys – I mean it’s really gross, right? I think they smell sort of like fresh-cut grass, which I don’t particularly like the smell of, so I could understand why people think it’s stinky. But it’s a weird smell.
So, we’ve got some chemical-free tricks of the trade here that we’d recommend. Take an old stocking. Go ahead, insert it in the end of your vacuum hose and then use a rubber band to attach it. Then fold it over the outside of the hose and attach it to the vacuum. And then vacuum the bugs up. Now, they’re going to get stuck in that stocking but they’re not going to go into your vacuum bag and then stink up the appliance. Then you can go ahead and just simply pull out that stocking and throw it and the bugs away or relocate them to the yard, wherever you feel comfortable with. But this way, you’re not squishing them and they’re not stinking up everything.
TOM: And if you’re thinking, “I don’t have a stocking around my house, Tom and Leslie,” well, you can use maybe some cheesecloth or anything else that’s like that kind of material.
TOM: You know, some cloth screen material …
LESLIE: And it’s got to let the air go through.
TOM: Exactly. Now, if you want to get rid of them without using pesticides, there are some green solutions. One thing you could do is to make a garlic spray by mixing water with garlic powder. You could put it in spray bottles and douse plant leaves and window sills and other areas of your house where the bugs seem to collect. The stink bugs very much dislike the garlic’s odor, which means they’re definitely not Italian. And they generally stay away when it’s nearby.
I personally love garlic. It reminds me of home, being of the Italian descent. And you probably do, as well, Leslie.
LESLIE: I really do enjoy it.
TOM: But you can also mix some mint oil or ground mint with water and apply it in the same manner. Mint, like garlic, by the way, is a stink-bug repellant. So good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, I’ve got a post here from Tess who writes: “We’ve struggled with a wet basement and I’ve heard you talk about the importance of increasing the slope of soil around the foundation of your house to keep the water away. Now, you mentioned that we should be using filtered ground soil and not regular topsoil but I can’t find it.”
TOM: And I am not surprised.
Tess, I think you may have misheard me. The type of soil needed is clean fill dirt, not filtered dirt. It’s clean fill dirt. Any landscape-supply outfit is going to understand what clean fill is. It’s basically a great tool for keeping water out of your basement, because you add it to the foundation perimeter, you pack it down well. It’s free of debris. It’s clean. And you can get that grade sort of sloping about 6 inches over the first 4 feet and that will help move a lot of that moisture away.
And on top of that, you could put some topsoil and grass seed or any other kind of covering that’s more organic. But you don’t want to build it up with the topsoil, because it holds water. We want that water to run over it.
LESLIE: And you know what, Tess? As important as the grading is, here’s something that you should definitely make sure is happening. Make sure that your gutters are clean. They can’t be overflowing with leaves or whatever has fallen from the trees over there. And the downspouts, too. Check them out, make sure they’re connected, make sure they’re not clogged, because that water has got to get off the roof and get away from the house. That’s really the big key here.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, guys, thank you so much for spending this part of your day with us. That’s about all the time we have. But heck, if you’ve got some questions that we did not get to, we invite you to reach out to us, 24/7, by posting your questions at MoneyPit.com or on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
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.)