- According to a new survey by Travelers, 75% of Americans have been taking on home improvement projects since the quarantine began – and I’d venture a guess that this is more activity than the home improvement industry has seen in decades. We’re going to take a look at the top 5 projects folks are taking on in just a bit.
- Are outside noises disturbing your sleep or work? You can minimize those sounds. Whether it’s traffic noise, the train, noisy neighbors or loud plumbing, we’ll have tips to help you get back your peace and quiet.
- The colder it gets the more expensive it is to pick up fresh herbs and veggies. But you can have fresh, healthy foods year-round by growing your own with veggie container gardens! We’ll tell you the plants that grow best in cold weather and more just ahead.
- Home fires peak in the winter. We’ll highlight a new type of “smart” fire and carbon monoxide detector that’s wireless and interconnected to keep your home safe, even when you are not home.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about, eliminating mice, repairing loose floor tile, cleaning a fireplace hearth, resetting 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: And welcome to the weekend of the holidays. It is that time of year when we’re all hopefully safe and sound at home – in our tiny, little bubbles – enjoying each other’s company the same way we have for the last, what, 10 months? Maybe a little bit too much of that.
But I’ll tell you what one of the effects of the quarantine has been and that is home improvement is going nuts right now. I mean folks are continuing to build out their homes and improve their spaces more than ever before. In fact, according to a new survey by Travelers, 75 percent of Americans have been taking on projects.
And I would venture a guess, Leslie, that’s probably more activity than the home improvement industry has probably seen in decades.
LESLIE: I think you’re probably right.
TOM: Decades. So, we’re going to take a look at some of the top projects that people are getting done during quarantine, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And are outside noises disturbing your sleep or even your workday? Well, you can minimize those sounds. Now, whether it’s a traffic noise, the train, noisy neighbors, loud plumbing, whatever it is we’re going to have some tips to help you get back your peace and quiet.
TOM: And you know what? The colder it gets, the more expensive it is to pick up some fresh herbs or veggies. But you can actually have fresh, healthy foods year-round by growing your own with a vegetable container garden. And some people are sort of intimidated by that but the truth of the matter is if you can keep a houseplant, you can keep a plant that just is growing basil, you know, right there on your windowsill and enjoy it during the cold months.
LESLIE: Plus, home fires peak in the winter, so we’ve got a great giveaway to help keep you safe, going out to one lucky winner. It’s a set of 3 First Alert Connected Safety 2-in-1 Smoke and Carbon-Monoxide Alarms worth $149.
TOM: I love the fact that these are interconnected. So if one goes off, they all go off, keeping you nice and safe.
But first, we want to know what you want to know. Are you thinking about some projects to take on in the new year? Maybe you’ve got a room you’d like to do a makeover. Maybe you’re thinking ahead to spring, like so many of us are because we’re tired of the cold already. If that’s a project you want to get done and you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. So pick up the phone and call us.
You can reach us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can leave us a message. We’ll call you back the next time you’re in the studio. Or you can post your question at MoneyPit.com.
But first, let’s get to some of those calls. Leslie, who’s up?
LESLIE: Alright. Heading to Connecticut where Elizabeth is dealing with some unwanted visitors. What’s going on?
ELIZABETH: Yeah. My husband and I recently bought a small home up in Connecticut and it’s very country around where we are.
ELIZABETH: And so we’ve killed at least probably 13 mice, I think, in a short period of time. And I think that they’re living in the fiberglass insulation in the basement ceiling.
TOM: So your reputation hasn’t gotten out yet with the other mice is what you’re telling me.
ELIZABETH: Oh, yes. I guess – yeah, people like it. The mice like it.
TOM: They haven’t heard that this house is trouble and just moved out, based on your record of mass murder.
ELIZABETH: I know, I know. Not yet, not yet, not yet.
ELIZABETH: I’m always surprised. One night, we were like, “Oh, I didn’t catch any tonight. That’s surprising.”
ELIZABETH: But so we had people come out – pest control come out – and they were suggesting what we could do. It’s a small house, so we were – they were thinking that we could do – it’s kind of like metal flashing, like an L – lower exclusion where they just kind of put a metal barrier into the – where the cinder block meets the house, I guess, just to prevent all the mice from coming in from the ground.
And I just wanted to get your thoughts on that. We’ll definitely do all the things like – we don’t have pets. We don’t – we’ll put steel wool. We have the foam insulation but – and I also was wondering, too, if we should – if it’s worth removing the fiberglass insulation from our basement ceiling, if that’s going to affect …
TOM: No. No, definitely not. Definitely not.
TOM: So, this – first of all, I have seen this issue before. I’ve had mice in my own house that have helped themselves to the fiberglass to make a bed. It’s just natural this time of year, too, when it starts to get really cold the problem seems to get a lot worse.
So, let’s cover the basics. I know you said that you were going to do that but the basics, in my mind, are making sure that you’re not providing an easy source of food for them. So, the less obvious stuff might be like pet-food bags. I have pet-food and birdseed bags that weight 40, 50 pounds and of course they’re on the floor, right? So, if – I had noticed not in my house but in another relative’s house where the mice actually chewed through the outside of those bags. So, be aware of the fact that food sources, even those that are less obvious, that are not contained – that are not stored in metal containers can provide a regular source of food for the mice. And once they get a sense that it’s there, they just keep coming back. They tell all their friends and you’re having Thanksgiving every day of the year at your house.
Now, in term …
ELIZABETH: Well, we don’t have any pets, though. So that’s one thing we will cross off the list.
TOM: OK. Well, that was an example. That was my example but you get the idea. OK.
Now, in terms of their – them finding entry points, I don’t think you have to put a flashing around that. If you’ve got a gap under the siding and you’re sure that there are spaces there where mice are getting in, what you could do there is simply put some steel wool in that. You can buy steel wool. It’s really inexpensive the kind that they use for finishing. It comes in very fine grades and very course grades. It usually has a zero rating to it or they use the term “aught,” right?
So 4-0, they call it call it “4-aught.” That’s super fine. And 1-0 is rougher. But you can buy some of that steel wool and do a little inspection. You can even use – if you don’t – if you can’t get down on the ground and look up, you could use a makeup mirror.
I’ll give you a little home inspector trick. We used to use an auto-mechanic’s mirrors that were on an extended arm to see under things. You could hold a makeup mirror down under that siding, walk around. Use a flashlight, too. Bounce it off the mirror. You’ll see – right up under the siding, you’ll see if there’s any gaps there. Wherever you find gaps, you can shove some of that steel wool in there and that’s enough to keep them from getting in any gaps that might be between the siding and the house.
You could also use expandable spray-foam insulation. Except if you do that, make sure you use the kind that’s rated for windows and doors. And the reason for that is because the window-and-door stuff stays squishy. If you use the other type of expandable, polyurethane spray-foam insulation, it just keeps expanding and it can pop the siding off the house. But the window/door stuff doesn’t have that kind of strength to it. It just – it’s nice, like a sponge when you’re all done. So that’s kind of fun.
And if you get a little too aggressive with it and it’s kind of coming out where you don’t want it, just let it dry. Don’t try to wipe it away. Let it dry where it is and you can cut it with a utility knife, away from the areas that you don’t want it to be at. You’ll never be able to wipe it off. You’re better off just letting it dry and you can cut it off a lot easier.
And the other thing is what about baits? Has your pest-control company set any baits out in this area?
ELIZABETH: No. We were kind of trying to avoid doing poison baits but it might be worth …
TOM: I know. You’re killing them with traps, you know. Baits are effective.
TOM: And do you have – you said you don’t have pets, so you don’t have to worry about pets getting into the baits. But for those that are listening that have pets, you can use bait stations, which are these boxes that are large enough for the mice to get in but not for a kid or a dog or anything – a cat to get into it.
But I’ve used bait stations very successfully in my crawlspace and in my basement. I usually put them on the ledge of the block wall, right where those 2x4s sit on top of the block wall, because that’s the rodent super highway up there. They walk back and forth in that area.
ELIZABETH: At the top of the foundation, basically?
TOM: Yeah, right, right. That’s right. For the inside. So if you’re – are you on a basement or crawlspace?
TOM: OK, so in the basement – is it unfinished basement?
ELIZABETH: It is, yeah.
TOM: So in the basement, right, if you go to an exterior wall and you go right to the top of the cinder block or the concrete, there’s going to be a little bit of a ledge there and then the wall framing starts. And that’s where the insulation starts. So that ledge is where you’ll find a lot of mice that go back and forth.
And the other thing is that outside the house, make sure you’re not doing anything to kind of hold moisture against the house. The most common thing I see a lot is firewood stacks that are pressed right up against the house, that sort of thing. Make sure you have some space around the house in that sense, so the air can get in there.
Alright? So that’s kind of the way I would approach it. I’ve never heard of a pest-control company selling a metal barrier. You can’t really put a complete gate – a complete fence – around your house. And I understand what they’re trying to accomplish with that sort of thin flashing but I don’t think you need to do that and stare at that. I think you could just do the same thing with steel wool and it would be completely hidden. That’s usually what we do if there’s a little gap around trim or something of that nature.
ELIZABETH: I was just wondering, do you think we should leave the – I mean they’ve made nests in the insulation. Is it worth replacing all of that?
TOM: I don’t think you have to replace the insulation. I think we’ll just get rid of the mice. If they’ve damaged it, you can pull it out and replace it if it’s torn.
ELIZABETH: OK. But it’s fine to leave up there.
TOM: But the insulation is important in that space. I think you’re talking about what we call the “box-joist insulation.” That helps. That’s actually part of the exterior wall. It’s where the frame is for the floor but it’s kind of part of the wall and you really do want that to be insulated.
ELIZABETH: Alright then. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at The Money Pit.
LESLIE: Well, with winter upon us, we’ve got a great giveaway to help you stay safe this fire season. We’ve got, up for grabs, a set of 3 First Alert Connected Safety 2-in-1 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms worth $149.
Now, the detector is also smart. It’s compatible with Ring and Z-Wave systems. The First Alert Connected Safety 2-in-1 Smoke and Carbon-Monoxide Alarm is a battery-operated alarm that’s designed to provide early warning of a fire or CO emergency.
TOM: Plus, not only does it detect both carbon monoxide and smoke, these alarms are actually wirelessly interconnected. So, if one goes off, they all go off, which is especially helpful if you live in an older house. Because in that case, you typically had to wire all those detectors together. With this, no wiring. Totally wireless. It’s a well-designed product.
All in all, this is a well-designed product that delivers great home protection to keep your loved ones safe. We’ve got 3 First Alert Connected Safety 2-in-1 Smoke and Carbon-Monoxide Alarms to go out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and learn more about the products at FirstAlert.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tony in Texas on the line who’s got a question about a modular home. How can we help?
TONY: I purchased this home about 5 years ago and it has tile – about the 16-inch-square tile – in the bathroom. But over time, it has gotten to where it is loose and a lot of the grout is coming off and creating kind of a bad habit when you step out of the tub on some of these little rocks.
TOM: Yeah, OK.
TONY: But my question is: can we replace this or go back to something else, as opposed to tile? What should be our best bet?
TOM: Hey, that’s a great question, Tony.
So, certainly, the tile is not the problem. The way the tile was installed is the problem. Now, especially when you have wider tile – like you said these are 16-inch squares – the bigger the tile, the more solid that floor structure has to be. So if you’re going to replace this, we would say take out the toilet, take out the vanity, try to get as much room as possible in that space. And perhaps start by putting down a double layer of plywood so it’s really, really stiff. If you can use a glue-down installation, you could do a double layer of plywood. If you’re going to use a floating floor, like a mud floor, then you could put the mesh down on what you probably have and go from there.
But you’ve got to have a really solid floor surface because, as you probably have noticed, tile doesn’t bend. And unless it’s really solid like that …
TONY: Apparently, it does not flex.
TOM: Right, yes.
TONY: So what size plywood are we talking about? Quarter-inch? Three-eighths?
TOM: I would probably put at least two layers of five-eighths down.
TONY: Oh, wow. OK. That sounds good.
TOM: Yep. You’ve got to have a really stiff subfloor there for it to stand up to wide tile. You know, if you’re going to use something that’s a little smaller, if you’re going to use a 4×4 or – by the way, you don’t even have to use tile anymore these days. There are so many great options of flooring products that are 100-percent waterproof, that look phenomenal.
You ought to look at the engineered-vinyl plank, for example. That stuff’s just gorgeous. It can look like wood, it can look like tile, it can look like stone. And it’s 100-percent waterproof. I put it in a couple of rooms myself. I was really, really happy with it. Just see if you can get over to an LL Flooring store or a place like that. Take a look at it. And that might be an option for you. A lot less expensive and you wouldn’t have to worry about rebuilding that floor as much. As long as you’ve got a clean, stiff floor, I might even put down a ¼-inch piece of plywood at that point in time, just to give you something clean to start with. You can lay it right on top of that. It all locks together. It’s essentially a floating floor when you’re done and it looks great.
And the stuff is only maybe $3 a foot or something like that, maybe more. It’s not much – it’s not very expensive.
TONY: Well, that’s the option that the wife had asked. And of course, I’m used to the old-style rolled linoleum. But I am not a floor man and there are options. She even wanted to decide if there was something besides tile we can go with that would look just as good.
TOM: Your wife is a wise woman. There are a lot of options. Like I say, I would get to a home center or a Lumber Liquidators/LL Flooring store and look at the engineered-vinyl plank. It really is pretty amazing stuff. And you don’t have to be a floor man. It’s a very simple tongue-and-groove, lock-together kind of a product and very simple to install.
TONY: Well, I think we have one here in our area, so I will look that up because that sounds like the best option to me. Tile just does not – I’m just – I’m not happy with it. I don’t know how to work with it. I’d much rather work with something that’s tongue-and-groove, as you said. That’d be a little bit better option. I know the wife would be much happier with it.
TOM: Alright, Tony. Well, we’re happy to help you out. And thanks so much for calling us at The Money Pit.
TONY: Thank you for taking the time.
TOM: Well, according to the results of a new survey from Travelers, 75 percent of those responding are making improvements to their current home, which I think is more activity than the home improvement industry has seen in many, many decades.
LESLIE: I mean I think you’re absolutely right, Tom. Everybody has been home a lot, so they’re really looking at things and saying, “Oh, maybe I can change this,” or “That’s not the way I want it,” or “Boy, this is in need of repair.” So, a lot of stuff is going on. And of the projects that homeowners are taking on, how many of these have you guys done, right? Let’s think about this.
Painting rooms: 44 percent. I painted pretty much every room in my house.
TOM: I painted this weekend.
LESLIE: It’s amazing and I’m still painting. I want to paint my son’s room coming up next. There’s just painting projects all the time.
Started a garden: 41 percent of people have. Updated flooring: 31 percent. Painting an exterior of the home: 27 percent. Building an outdoor play area is at 19 percent. This is a lot of projects.
I would say I’ve definitely painted the rooms, just like you. I didn’t start a garden but I definitely worked on the yard. Flooring? Didn’t even deal with. Painting? Yes. Outdoor play area? Yes. We all know the saga of the pool I had all summer. The COVID pool. Thank God no fines. Still keeping it secret.
TOM: Let’s see. I did two floors during the quarantine – one for my mom, one for my sister – with EVP. We used some LL Flooring for that. That was great. I did not, like you, start a garden but we did actually increase our garden. And it was a pretty darn good garden this year, I have to say.
LESLIE: You did a big garden project, too.
TOM: I was pretty happy with that. We had a lot of Jersey tomatoes growing. No outdoor play area because we are too big to play in outdoor play areas right now. And no painting of the exterior. So I think we definitely checked a number of these boxes.
I think the findings also revealed that consumers are definitely focusing on optimizing their home’s function, right? So, they’re doing a lot of storage and organization projects. And more than a quarter – 26 percent – are incorporating smart-home technology, so that’s getting a boost. And 22 percent are updating home security systems. So, a lot of work going on in those money pits. We are happy to see it.
And if you’ve got a project, don’t know where to start, start right here by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We will do what we can to help you out.
LESLIE: Well, it’s the perfect time of year for the fireplace, so Sharon in Ohio is on the line with a question about cleaning the hearth. What’s going on?
SHARON: I was calling to find out what’s the best way to clean a fireplace hearth that’s a concrete – all one concrete block.
TOM: OK. Got kind of smoky, did it?
SHARON: Not smoky so much. It looks like – I’ve only been there less than year but it looks like they set their drinks there?
TOM: Oh, yeah. Mm-hmm. Right. OK. So, what kind of floor do you have around this hearth? Is it hardwood or carpet or what?
SHARON: It’s carpet.
TOM: OK. So here’s what I would do. First of all, you’re going to need to get a tarp, like one of those blue vinyl tarps, and put it around – put it over that carpet up against that, because it’s just going to get a little drippy.
SHARON: Yeah. OK.
TOM: But I would use TSP. It stands for trisodium phosphate. It’s a powdered cleaner. And it works really well on concrete surfaces.
So you mix this up. Follow the label directions. And then you’re going to apply it to the concrete. And I would use a scrub brush for that and you want to make sure you protect your eyes, because you don’t want this stuff flinging off into your eyes.
TOM: And then, you let it sit for a little while and then you kind of have – in your case, you’re going to have to sort of blot it to rinse it and wring out the rag and blot it some more. But you’ll find that it will lighten the whole thing up. And hopefully, it will take out those stains.
TOM: If it doesn’t take them out completely to your satisfaction, the other thing that you could consider doing is using a concrete stain. It’s like a wood stain but it’s designed for concrete. They have all different sorts of colors and patterns with that. And I don’t think that that would be affected by the heat, being the fireplace is right nearby. But I think you could probably get it into a whole different color. If you like gray, you could probably use a gray stain, for example.
SHARON: Oh, that sounds like a better idea. Less work.
TOM: Well, try cleaning it first. It may not be that big of a deal and might come right up. But TSP, you’ll find it in the paint department at home centers and hardware stores, OK?
SHARON: Yeah, OK. TSP. And then what’s the concrete paint called? Is there a …?
TOM: It’s just a – it’s a concrete stain. It’s a stain, not a paint. It’s a stain.
SHARON: Alright. Gotcha.
TOM: It soaks in. OK?
SHARON: I thank you so much.
TOM: Well, I hope that helps you out, Sharon.
SHARON: Yeah. Me, too.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with the project.
SHARON: Great. Thank you.
LESLIE: So, are you working from home a lot these days and maybe you’re finally realizing that outside noises are happening and they’re making it hard for you to focus during the day? Or you’ve noticed them before and now you’re having a hard time sleeping at night? Well, whatever it is – daytime, nighttime – if it’s traffic noise, train, noisy neighbors, loud plumbing, whatever it is we’ve got some ideas to help you get back your peace and quiet.
Now, your solution is going to vary depending on whether you live in a house, a townhouse, an apartment. And then, certainly, the options for new homes may be easier to plan as part of your construction process. But there are lots of options out there for existing homes and even renters.
TOM: Yeah, definitely. So, let’s talk through a few.
First of all, for new homes, there’s a type of insulation called “rock wool.” And rock wool is a mineral-wool insulation. It’s actually made of stone that is melted and then sort of spun to get that wool-like appearance to it. And it has a lot of nice qualities, one of which is it’s completely fire-resistant or fireproof, I should say. It doesn’t burn. It also doesn’t grow mold. And most importantly, it’s a very quiet insulation, so it’s great for soundproofing.
Now, if you’ve got an existing home, you might want to try blown-in insulation, because that can help. Some other things that you can do are doubling the drywall. If you’ve just got a room or two that you want to be particularly quiet, you can add a second layer of drywall on top of the drywall that’s there now. But you want to separate it by something called “green glue.” It’s basically a sound-deadening adhesive that goes between the layers of the drywall.
And then, speaking of drywall, there’s also a type of drywall that’s called “sound-reducing drywall.” It has sound-deadening features built right into the panels and so they’re very often used in commercial applications, like offices that have to be quiet or recording studios. But they’re available at home centers and you can use them, as well.
And acoustic ceilings are also a great choice. Many are designed specifically to reduce sound. There’s actually a couple of ratings to be aware of. There’s the noise-reduction coefficient and the ceiling-attenuation class. And basically, the first one tells you how much sound the ceiling panels can absorb and the second one rates how much sound gets through to other rooms. But you can use those numbers to compare products and find the best ceiling panel for your needs.
LESLIE: Now, here’s some ideas for renters that really just don’t want to take on a construction project or just truly can’t because of the rental contract. There are a lot less disruptive things that you can do to reduce the levels of noise, both inside and out.
Now, first of all, the more stuff you’ve got in your room, the better it is for sound absorption. So think about drapes on your windows – they can be some heavy, velvet drapes – or adding some things like curtains and fabric to the walls, sort of as a decorative look. That can be helpful in absorbing sound from your neighbors. And it really does give it a really nice, rich look to the space.
The more stuff you add to – say, if you’ve got a leather sofa, that is just going to reflect sound everywhere. Everybody loves it but it is noisy. I mean it’s super noisy. So if you’ve got one in a media room or in your family’s living room, whatever it is put a throw blanket on it, add some pillows, whatever it is to help absorb those soundwaves rather than just sort of refracting it back to the entire room. Think about adding in those things: rugs on the floor, area rugs, whatever it is. Soft things that will help deaden that sound is really what you need and that’ll keep things more quiet.
TOM: So there really are things you guys can do to be – have your area be a lot quieter. And they don’t all have to be large construction projects. So think about some of those tips and enjoy the newfound peace you will find.
888-666-3974 is one way to get in touch with us. You can also post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
Well, it is the season but it’s not just the season for holidays. It’s actually the season for home fires. So, this hour, we’ve got for you guys a great giveaway. We’re giving away a set of 3, brand-spanking new, just on the market First Alert Connected Safety 2-in-1 Smoke and Carbon-Monoxide Alarms. And that set’s worth 149 bucks.
Now, one of the reasons I like what they’ve done here is because these detectors are compatible with Ring and Z-Wave systems, which means they work with your smart-home systems. They detect both smoke and carbon monoxide and they’re wirelessly interconnected. So if one goes off, they all go off, which is super helpful with old houses because they usually had to be wired for that interconnectivity.
If you’d like to learn more, go to FirstAlert.com. But we’ve got 3 First Alert Connected Safety 2-in-1 Smoke and Carbon-Monoxide Alarms going out to one listener. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 or post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: We’ve got Lisa in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with a bathroom that’s just not holding up.
What’s going on, Lisa?
LISA: We have a rocking toilet.
LISA: I don’t know how much longer it’s going to be before it falls through if we don’t do something with it.
TOM: OK. Yeah, that’s actually a pretty common problem.
Now, do you know if the floor is soft underneath this toilet?
LISA: Yes. And there is also part of the support structure under it missing because of the way someone else, before we got into the house, jerry-rigged it.
TOM: OK. Is it leaking at all, Lisa?
LISA: I’m not sure. It probably needs now caryoseals (ph), at the very least. But my guess would be it’s leaking somewhere.
LISA: Someone told us, when they went under the house to check something else and replace a busted water pipe under a nearby structure, that there was water in the crawlspace.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Right. OK. Well, that may or may not be from the plumbing. That could just be water in your crawlspace from bad drainage.
Let’s talk about this. The flooring itself that’s in the bathroom now, what kind of floor is it?
LISA: It has tile on it, so I don’t know exactly.
LISA: But the subfloor is wood and then it’s got the floor joists.
TOM: OK. So I’m guessing you would like to avoid tearing this entire bathroom floor out, wouldn’t you, Lisa?
LISA: Well, that’d be the cheaper way to go.
TOM: No, I don’t think so. I think I can get you – this done even less expensive, because you already told me you can get access to the crawlspace underneath.
What I would do if it was my house is I would take the toilet up. And that’s usually an easy thing to do. Usually just a couple of bolts. Flush it. Turn the water off, obviously. Get as much of that water out of it as possible. I would take that up and I would examine that floor just to see how damaged it is, first, I should mention.
And I’ll tell you what I used to do in the years I was a home inspector. A little trick of the trade. If you stand next to the toilet bowl and you kind of straddle it with your legs, you can take the inside of your foot and press it right up against the toilet, where it connects to the floor, and gently push down and see if that floor is soft in either area.
Now, let’s assume that it is and the floor has got some damage there. What I would suggest you do is from the bottom side – from the crawlspace side – a contractor might need to disconnect the drainpipe temporarily and move it out of the way. But there’s no reason that that floor structure can’t be beefed up from the underside. As long as the top layer of plywood isn’t completely rotted away and just down to fibers, you can beef up that floor from the underside to make it stronger.
And the key here is that when it’s put back together, the flange has to be level with the finished floor of the bathroom. And that sometimes takes a little adjustment, takes a little finesse. Sometimes it takes a skilled plumber to do that. But you can beef up the weak wood structure. You can adjust the flange so it’s level with the top of the bathroom floor and then you put a new wax seal and reset that toilet. And that should be it.
And that’s a lot easier than tearing a floor out of a bathroom, which is a heck of a messy, big job. It’s going to have you without that bathroom for several days. This is the kind of project that could be done in a day.
LISA: OK. And if we wanted to tear it out and redo the whole bathroom while we’re doing it …
TOM: That’s a completely separate project. In my mind, that’s a bathroom remodel. Bathroom remodels can be very expensive because even though they’re small rooms, there’s a lot of steps and there’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of trades involved. You’re talking about tile contractors and plumbers and electricians and painting and drywall. You may find a small general contractor that can do it all but that’s a big, big project that I’m saying I don’t want – sometimes, people look at a small project and go, “Well, while we’re at it, while I’m busy fixing this hole, how about if I just gut-renovate the entire bathroom?” It’s not that kind of a thing.
If you want to renovate that bathroom, Lisa, you go ahead and do that. But you don’t have to renovate that bathroom to fix this problem. This is a common problem that can be fixed from the underside with the right skills and experience.
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you miss having fresh vegetables around during these cold winter months, container gardening is a solution for growing your very own produce right now. So, if you already have houseplants and they’re doing well, you’re actually already doing a form of container gardening. But with the right light, the soil and the pot, you can actually grow herbs and even some veggies all year long, right in your house.
Now, you want some really good results, so you’ve got to have the best location with the right type of lighting. And sometimes, you need as much as 6 hours of direct sunlight a day for those certain vegetables.
Now, you’re also going to need room for containers that are much bigger than those of your typical houseplant. They’re going to need to be about 18 inches in diameter and at least 18 inches deep. And then, of course, you have to have a plan for watering and you can’t forget to water, because these guys are dependent on you, not Mother Nature.
TOM: Now, if you’re trying to figure out what you can plant, there are actually a lot of options for vegetables that will thrive in container gardens. Burpee, the seed company, has a section of their website that breaks out all the veggies that actually grow well in that space. So head on over to Burpee.com and search on “vegetable container gardens.” You’ll get a lot of great suggestions.
LESLIE: Well, Mark writes us: “I have painted kitchen and bath cabinets with traditional paints but I’m now hearing about chalk paints and their benefits. I would like to hear a comparison of traditional to chalk paints, especially as their – to their prep, adherence, longevity in high-use areas.”
But wait, is he talking about paint that’s made with chalk or chalkboard paint that makes it so you can write on it?
TOM: Yeah, I’m kind of wondering because chalkboard paint, we’ve got the worst possible paint for a kitchen cabinet.
LESLIE: It’s terrible.
TOM: I used that for the first time. We made a Murphy desk and it was kind of cool because, you know, when it was flipped up against the wall, it was a chalkboard on one side. And when you flipped it down, the legs swung out and it was a desk. It was for my nephew’s apartment but it was the first time I ever used the chalk paint. And it was OK but I could see that it’s a pretty soft surface. It didn’t even seem to clean well when we wrote on it with chalk. So, definitely not that.
But I think what you’re referring to is a different type of chalk. That’s really the color, right?
LESLIE: I don’t know. He’s saying chalk paints, which makes me think that maybe Mark thinks that the paint is made from chalk?
LESLIE: The only thing I’ve ever heard of is either it’s a color that you refer to as chalk or chalkboard paint. And either way, I don’t know that a chalkboard paint is good for all of your cabinets or anything. I would use the chalkboard paint maybe on one door or the side of a cabinet so you can have a little writing station.
But I think, Mark, the best thing for kitchen and bath cabinets is to make sure that the surface is properly prepped so that you have excellent adherence of the latex paint that you choose. So use an excellent, super-durable primer. Let that dry well and then paint the cabinets with a latex paint of your choice. And I would go satin, semi-gloss. I would go with something with a sheen on it so it’s easier to clean and more durable for all the hand traffic that those doors are going to get.
Make sure you take the drawer fronts and the doors off. Label where they came from so that you know where they go back, so you don’t have to re-drill everything. Keep the hinges on either the box or the door so that it’s all together.
But other than that, pick a great color, pick a durable paint and go for it.
TOM: And Mark, one other thing to point out is that the type of primer you use on kitchen cabinets, it has to be what’s called a “high-bond primer.” Basically, it means it’s super sticky and it helps bridge the surface between the shiny cabinet surface and the new paint, making sure it sticks really well.
So, great advice, though, Leslie. Thanks so much for answering that for Mark.
And Martin is next. He says, “I’m thinking about projects for 2021. Wondering if I need a new roof, because mine is 20 years old. How do I know when it’s got to go?”
Well, just because it’s 20 years old doesn’t mean it’s failed, Martin, even though that may be the end of the warranty on it. Unless it’s showing a lot of wear and tear, unless you’ve got leaks, deterioration – if your house is properly built and well-ventilated, a roof can easily last a good 25 years. So I say it’s time to keep an eye on it but definitely don’t have to replace it just yet.
LESLIE: Alright, Martin. Good luck with your roofing projects.
TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show and we are so grateful that you are. We want to take a minute to thank you for allowing us to be on your home improvement team. We hope that through this past year, despite all the challenges that have been put upon us by COVID – we did see a lot of new folks taking on home improvement projects and got a lot of new listeners to this program. We hope that we’ve been able to address all the questions that you guys had and give you some good tips and ideas along the way. And that’s going to continue now for quite a while.
So, remember, you can always reach out to us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Have a blessed and happy and healthy holiday. 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.)
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