- If you have an electric water heater, you probably know all too well it’s also the most expensive way to get hot water. Smart home technology has now arrived providing options for water heaters that not only cost less to operate but include built-in leak protection to stop floods.
- If your roof starts to leak when the snow starts to melt, – you might have a common problem known as an ice dam, we’ll have tips to melt this problem away – and an important tip on how to get your insurance company to pay for the fix.
- Plus, we’ve got 3 handy hacks to help deal with snow and ice this winter, including a recipe for a homemade deicer you can mix-up whenever it’s needed in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
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 Happy New Year. It is 2021 and time to talk about the future, time to put 2020 in the past and plan projects for the year ahead. If you’ve got a project you’d like to get done, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we are here to help. Or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, if you have an electric water heater, you probably know all too well that it is, unfortunately, the most expensive way to get hot water. Well, smart-home technology has now arrived and it provides options for water heaters that not only cost less to operate but include built-in leak protection to stop floods. We’ll highlight those details, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also ahead, if your roof starts to leak when the snow starts to melt, you might have a common problem known as an ice dam. We’re going to have tips to melt this problem away and an important tip on how to get your insurance company to pay for the fix.
TOM: Plus, we’ve got three handy hacks to help deal with snow and ice this winter, including a cool recipe for a homemade deicer you can mix up whenever it’s needed, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
LESLIE: And we’ve got an excellent prize to give away this hour. We’ve got the Blue by ADT Wireless Outdoor Camera and it’s worth $199. Now, ADT just launched a DIY smart-home system this year called Blue by ADT and it’s going to help protect and connect people with the things they love the most. It’s an expandable system. You can customize your smart home however your home has security needs, for ADT has a solution for you.
It’s a great prize pack worth $199 and you can check it out at BlueByADT.com.
TOM: Give us a call right now. We’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat and send out that ADT Wireless Outdoor Camera to you.
LESLIE: Heading out to Ocala, Florida. We’ve got Colleen on the line.
Colleen, what’s going on at your money pit?
COLLEEN: Hi. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. We are in a home that’s fairly large and has two of the regular, conventional water heaters: one on one side of the house and one on the other.
COLLEEN: And the other one is smaller. It’s actually in the ceiling, above the bedroom.
COLLEEN: So it’s a little unnerving. And the other one is in the garage, so that one’s not as bad. But we’ve done a little bit of repair work on that one in the garage. They’re both fairly old. The previous owners – we’ve only been in the house for about a year. Previous owners said that they’re over 20 years old, so it’s probably time to get into a new system before something really bad happens, so …
TOM: OK. Yeah, it sounds wise.
COLLEEN: But we’ve been looking at conventional systems still. And we were thinking about getting a tankless water system but we’ve had some – or a plumber – just one that we’ve gotten a quote from. And they recommended the conventional style over the tankless, saying that they’re not as energy-efficient for the tankless. Wanted to get your opinion on that.
TOM: Sure. Happy to help you with that.
So, first of all, what type of water heater do you have? What type of fuel are you using? Is it an electric water heater or is it gas?
COLLEEN: Yeah, it’s electric.
TOM: OK. So, yeah – so your plumber is correct. When it comes to tankless water heaters, there is no such thing as an electric tankless water heater that is efficient. There are what’s called “heat-pump water heaters,” which are very efficient. But they are a full-size water heater, like a tank – like a regular, any other type of tanked water heater – but they’re also more expensive.
Now, there’s another option that is just out now, that you might want to look at and especially since you have – one of these is going to be right over your bedroom. It is called the Rheem Gladiator Hot-Water Heater. And the Rheem Gladiator Water Heater is unique in a number of ways. First of all, it has a technology built into it that helps it run at peak efficiency. And also, it monitors the system and alerts you on your phone if anything’s going wrong. It can even tell you how much hot water you have left if you want to take a shower.
Now, the other thing that’s really cool is that it’s the first water heater I’ve ever seen that has a built-in leak-protection system. So it has a valve that feeds the water heater. And if there’s any leakage detected at the base of the water heater, this valve automatically shuts off. And when it shuts off, because there’s no incoming water there’s no incoming water pressure. You will get a very minute amount of water that will leak out of that water heater before it’s discovered and can be replaced.
Now, the other challenge you have is you had two locations of water heaters. You have to put back two water heaters; you can’t do this with one. But you mentioned one was near your bedroom. That’s probably the reason that you don’t have to wait so long for water to be hot in the morning. If you just had one water heater and a long run to get to your bedroom, by the time you step in that shower and turn the water on, you’re going to have to wait 15, 20 seconds for that water to turn hot. But the closer that bathroom is to the water heater, the quicker it does actually turn hot, so it’s a little more efficient.
So I think if I were you, I’d definitely agree you should replace them. It’s well – they’re well past their prime. I would take a look at the Rheem Gladiator unit. Just go to Rheem.com/Gladiator. They’ve got a great page there that kind of explains the benefit for that. And that’s R-h-e-e-m – R-h-e-e-m – Rheem.com/Gladiator and you can learn about that. And I think that’s probably giving you the best of all worlds. You’re going to get the same – very similar efficiency, though a heat-pump water heater will cost less. And it’ll certainly be more energy-efficient than what you could do with electric tankless water heaters.
And again, if it was gas I’d say go with a tankless water heater but that’s because it’s a lot less expensive to run.
COLLEEN: Do I need somebody to put that in for us – install it – or is that something we can do?
TOM: You do, yes.
COLLEEN: We do. OK.
TOM: Yeah. It depends. I mean if you’re – if you and your husband are advanced do-it-yourselfers, maybe you could do that. But for the most part, I think that that is good job for a professional. Because not only do you have to plumb it, you have to wire it properly and I wouldn’t want to see you make any errors on that.
TOM: So I would have a pro do that. But you may know more about the most advanced water heaters on the market now than the pro does. So, you can certainly specify what you want.
TOM: And I know those water heaters are sold at Home Depot, because I bought one there. And you guys should go there and take a look at them, as well.
COLLEEN: OK. That’s great. Oh, I’m so glad I called. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Colleen. Good luck with that project. Let us know how you make out, OK?
COLLEEN: Alright. Will do. Thank you.
LESLIE: Well, with all this chilly weather, nobody likes chilly tootsies. John in Wisconsin is dealing with some cold feet on a cold floor. What’s going on?
JOHN: Hi. I have a little room off the front of my home, which is just over some cinder-block wall area, where – in a crawlspace, I guess, would be properly to describe it.
JOHN: And there’s no heat to it. And then I have no way to insulate the floor, I guess. What is my option to get away from the cold floor?
TOM: So, do you have access to the crawlspace?
JOHN: I’m afraid I do not.
TOM: OK. That is a bit of a challenge. And did you say that this room is not heated now?
JOHN: It is. It is just connecting off of my living room. It’s kind of the entranceway to my living room, to the front door.
TOM: Mm-hmm. OK.
JOHN: And then there’s a little closet area there. So there’s no heat except what – the air transfer.
TOM: OK. Like a foyer, yeah. OK.
TOM: So, I’ll give you two options.
First of all, you really should have access to this crawlspace area. If there’s a way that you can provide it by breaking through that block wall and putting in an access space, I can see a lot of reasons to have that. But in this case, you’d be able to insulate that space fully from below.
JOHN: That makes sense.
TOM: Now, if you can’t do that, another thing that you could think about doing is you could put an additional layer of insulation above that floor. There is a type of subfloor that is designed for basements and it helps make cold basement slabs warm and comfortable. It’s called DRICORE Subfloor and then they have a version called Subfloor +.
TOM: The thing that’s unique about this product is they have an air-gap technology that keeps the subfloor part of it up off the floor underneath. Now, in your case, you’re not going on top of concrete, although I’m thinking this could work, as well, because the Subfloor + has a layer of insulation under it. So, this would help put not only some air space but also a layer of insulation between the present floor and your too-cold feet, as you’re feeling it right now.
It’s not exactly how it’s designed to be used but I think it may work. As I said earlier, it’s typically used on a basement floor that’s very cold and you want to finish it. And it makes it nice and warm and cozy and it stays up off the concrete surface, so you don’t get any dampness or moisture.
JOHN: That’s great advice. I actually have – my back door is that exact similar situation. It is on a concrete slab and it’s cold, also. But I will make access to that front crawlspace and it is a great idea. And I am a contractor and I tell you what, I love your show. I get a lot of good tips from you guys. Keep up the good work.
TOM: Well, thanks very much, John, and good luck with that project. Let us know how you make out.
JOHN: Thank you very much. Bye now.
TOM: Well, we get lots of cool stuff to highlight on The Money Pit and occasionally, we get some fun stuff to give away, as well. And that is the case today because we’ve got the Blue by ADT Wireless Outdoor Camera worth 199 bucks. It’s going to go out to one listener drawn at random, so you can call in your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT or you can post it to MoneyPit.com or Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
It’s a pretty cool camera. This Blue by ADT line is a new smart-home system that they just launched to help protect and connect people. And this outdoor camera lets you see and talk to visitors no matter where you are. It even features night vision, which is pretty cool, and facial recognition. And it’s compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
It’s worth 199 bucks. We’re going to make it compatible with you if you pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question or post it at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Well, if you have an electric water heater, you probably know all too well that it’s, unfortunately, the most expensive way to get hot water. Well, smart-home technology has now arrived, providing options for water heaters that not only cost less to operate but include built-in leak protection to stop those floods.
TOM: Well, that’s right. Rheem has recently launched the Gladiator Electric Water Heater and it’s full of built-in smart features to help prevent cold showers, help you be alerted of any issues before there’s no hot water and protect your home from potential damage.
For example, it has this built-in EcoNet technology. It does quite a lot. It gives you complete control of the water heater, everything from adjusting water temp and tracking energy use to setting vacation mode, all from your phone. It even has a hot-water availability indicator, which is really cool. So you’ll know if you have enough hot water before you jump in the shower as opposed to running out mid-shower, which can be an unpleasant way to finish your bathing experience. And it can track your energy use with a vacation mode. So you can save on water-heating costs while you’re away and still return home to a tank full of perfectly hot water.
LESLIE: Yeah. But you know what? The other nice thing about this water heater is that it features a leak-prevention system. And that’s going to include an auto-shutoff valve. So, if you ever have a leak, the system limits the leak to no more than 20 ounces of water. Now, that’s really helpful because by shutting off the flow of water, Gladiator can help you avoid an average of $4,000 in water-leak damage.
TOM: You can learn more at Rheem.com/Gladiator.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Eve in Massachusetts on the line who’s dealing with a big headache going on over at her money pit. What happened?
EVE: We had a roofing job done, which was great. And the same party did a gutter job and it doesn’t – you had mentioned 6-inch gutters. That was in our contract.
EVE: And the gutter job is inadequate. The water shoots over the gutter and the gutter doesn’t go to the full end. So I was wondering, do you have any hints about negotiating with a contractor?
TOM: Yeah. Has the contractor already been paid?
EVE: A down payment, yes.
TOM: You gave him a down payment. He did the installation. And so he’s done the work but the work’s not done well. So you’re actually in a pretty good position. Usually, we get these calls and the contractor’s already been paid and long gone, so …
EVE: Oh, OK. No, I waited on that because I was in doubt.
TOM: The question is, you know: was the job installed correctly? And I can’t tell you without seeing this but you mentioned that water shoots over the top of the gutters. Are there gutter guards on top of these gutters?
EVE: There’s a screen. Would keep the leaves out but not the water.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
EVE: We had the – because there’s a peak. It’s a ranch house and the roof is straight except for the peak.
EVE: And those two valleys are where a lot of water comes off, especially lately.
EVE: We’ve had 1-inch-in-an-hour rainstorms.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, this is all fixable. And what you’re going to have to do is – first of all, have you talked to the gutter company and the roofing company about the problems that you’re having? Have they made any suggestions?
EVE: They actually did the original job and then came back and did the reinstall. And the reinstall is really no better than the original job.
EVE: And at the one end, the gutter doesn’t go past the end of the roof, so there’s a drip and it puddles on the ground because the gutter is 2 inches short.
TOM: Well, yeah, the gutter doesn’t always go past the end of the building that far. That may or may not be the problem.
But I can tell you about the valley situation. So where you have a valley and you get a lot of water that collects there and it comes down fast and furious, there is a way that you can install what’s called a “diverter,” which is like an L-shaped piece of flashing. And what that can do is take some of the water that’s running down the valley and move it further out on the roof, so it comes to the roof edge in a different spot. It doesn’t all collect in that center spot. And if you do it with the same color material that’s on the roof, it’s not terribly noticeable either. It’s just an old trick of the trade that I know. To kind of reduce the amount of water that’s coming in one particular place is to use a diverter like that.
Now, if you’ve tried twice with this contractor and it’s still not done right, then what I would maybe do is get an estimate from a different contractor – one that’s completely disconnected from the one that you used – and tell them what the problems are that you’re having. You don’t even have to tell them who did the work. You could just say, “Look, I had these gutters done some time ago and they’re not performing well for these reasons X, Y and Z. Could you give me an estimate on what it will take to correct it? What would your recommendation be and what will it take to correct it?”
And I would get at least two independent estimates like that and see if it starts to align and make sense to you. And then now you know both what might be the options here and secondly, what it will cost. And if you don’t want to then deal further with your existing contractor, then you just write them a letter and say, “Listen, this job was inferior. I got some estimates to correct it. The estimates are X and I’m going to deduct that from what I owe you.”
EVE: I see. They did say that they were willing to cancel the contract, refund our money. [Though I might have] (ph) – I did contact another better company. And their jobs would be 8 weeks out, so I need the gutters to be there in the meantime. Can I negotiate with the original?
TOM: If this contractor has offered to refund you all your money and walk away – and are they – they’re not going to take the gutters off, are they? They’re just going to leave it? Because there’s no value to them of taking those off.
EVE: Oh, there isn’t. OK. They had said something about taking it down and refunding the money.
TOM: Well, there’s no value to – I mean they’re not going to reuse those gutters. All those gutters are custom-made. So if they’re willing to give you most of your money back, if not all, and leave the gutter job in place, at least you have something there for the winter. And then I would try again in the spring.
EVE: I see.
TOM: It’s a tough time now to get a contractor to do that kind of work. It’s really out of season.
EVE: Yes, especially in the Northeast.
TOM: Alright. So I think we’ve fleshed out some options for you, Eve. Thanks so much for calling us and good luck with the project. I’m sorry that happened to you.
EVE: Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Well, if your roof starts to leak when the snow starts to melt, you might have a common problem known as an ice dam. Now, it usually happens when we have snow and then it’s followed by some warmer days. Now, that melted snow is going to form ice at your roof edge. And that’s going to build up to become a dam, which is going to hold back any other water that’s trying to come down the roofline as the snow is melting. And it could leak right through the roof.
TOM: Yeah. And since roofs usually leak when it rains and not when it snows, it’s a problem that actually is a surprise to a lot of folks.
LESLIE: So, how do we make sure that all of that meltdown doesn’t end up melting away the walls and ceilings inside our house?
TOM: Yeah. So, good question. You know, stopping the ice dams is pretty simple in principle. You want to keep the entire roof the same temperature as the eaves or the overhangs. And you can do that by increasing ventilation and adding insulation and essentially sealing off every possible air leak that might warm that underside of the roof. So, we’re talking about, for example, adding insulation to the floor of the attic so it keeps the heat kind of tamped down where it belongs, which is in the space below the floor of the attic, which is your – usually your second-floor ceiling. And then to make sure the insulation doesn’t get damp, you want to add more ventilation to that attic space, as well.
And the other thing you want to do is make sure you’re weather-stripping the attic hatch. That’s that door, that panel, between usually the second floor and your attic or the first floor and your attic, depending on how many stories you’ve got. Because if you leave the hatch unsealed, the warm air is going to leak up around that opening. And that’s going to warm the attic, that’s going to melt the snow and let that water run down where it’ll freeze and cause that ice-dam situation all over again.
LESLIE: Now, if we do end up with a roof leak that’s been a result of an ice dam, is this something that could potentially be covered by homeowners insurance?
TOM: Yeah. It might very well be and that’s a great question. Because while you need to check with your insurance company to be sure, I have seen many times insurance companies, because it’s storm damage, pay for the claim. And not only pay for the claim, they pay for the fix which in the case of an ice dam, involves removing the entire roof and applying a product called “ice-and-water shield” that goes right from the edge of the gutter, up under the what will be the shingles. And then you put the shingles on top of that.
So, if you do have an ice-dam claim, make sure you get a public adjuster to work for you, not the insurance company, to file it because you very well may get a brand-new roof out of the whole thing.
LESLIE: Heading over to North Carolina. Bob is on the line and looking to install some grab bars in the bathroom. Tell us about your project.
BOB: Well, I’ve got a bath/shower surround that I’d like to put some grab bars in. I’m getting a little older and that would be real helpful.
TOM: OK. Aren’t we all? Yeah.
BOB: Any rate, it’s composed – the surround is composed of small-gauge ceramic tile, like maybe an inch-and-a-half squares.
BOB: So I have several questions.
BOB: One is would my home level stud sensor be able to pick up studs in there? Or is there some kind of potential grate – metal grating behind there? I’ve drilled through many things in my life and – but ceramic tile is not one of them. And I’m concerned about running a crack.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Sure. So, a couple of things.
First of all, how old is your house first? Is it – I’m trying to determine if it’s the era where you would have seen a metal lath behind it. How old is it?
TOM: Yeah, definitely not. OK. So I sense that that is probably – if it’s a really good tile installation, it’s going to be on a mud wall, which means it’ll be a – if the tile is really thick at the edge, then it’s on mud. And if not, it may very well be on green board, which is a water-resistant drywall. In either event, to your original question, yeah, a stud finder will pick up studs through ceramic tile. A good one will. Not all of them. But a good one from Stanley or something like that can actually see quite deep into the wall and help you figure out where those studs are.
And it’s smart that you’re doing that because, obviously, you want to catch one of those when you install the grab bar.
BOB: Of course. Right.
TOM: But in terms of drilling through ceramic tile, it’s a little scary. But what you need is a special type of drill bit. And if you have it, a drill. The drill would have a masonry tip on it and the drill itself is a hammer drill. So the difference between a regular drill and a hammer drill is the hammer drill sort of taps forward very, very quickly. It doesn’t bang-bang-bang like a hammer would but it sort of vibrates and drives forward. And when you have the right bit in a hammer drill, you will cut through that ceramic tile like it’s butter. It will go through it just like wood and it’ll put that hole where you want it.
So, that’s …
BOB: Is that something I could rent?
TOM: You may very well be able to rent it, sure.
LESLIE: A hammer drill? I guess.
TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.
BOB: I mean it’s a one-time situation, you know?
TOM: Yeah. Yep. Now, you don’t have to have the hammer drill. A brand-new drill could work, as well, but it’s very helpful.
The other thing that you could look into is what’s called a “Tapcon fastener.” A Tapcon fastener is designed to bind concrete surfaces. And the reason I say is because even though you’re not really going to bind into that ceramic tile, if you catch that stud behind it it’s like a lag bolt on the other side. And it comes with a masonry bit in the box for that very purpose.
So, there are two options for you right there.
BOB: OK. Well, let me ask you this. I don’t know where the studs are going to be but would it be desirable to drill through the grout lining or through the tile itself?
TOM: I would think either would work. But if it was me, I would try to go through the tile itself. Because if you go through the grout, then you’re kind of disturbing two tiles and you’re potentially shaking two tiles.
BOB: Ah, good point. Good point, yeah.
TOM: I would just go clean through one of the square tiles. I’d try to keep the hole in the middle, if I had a choice. But you’re not always going to have a choice. You’ll have a choice of one out of two but wherever the bottom one hits, you’re going to have to go with that.
BOB: Right. OK. Well, that sounds pretty good.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
BOB: OK. Well, thanks so much for your help.
TOM: Well, now that we have just passed the winter solstice, which means we’ve got the shortest days and the darkest days of the year, maybe you might be thinking about updating your home security. We’re going to help one listener do that on today’s show, because we’ve got the Blue by ADT Wireless Outdoor Camera to give away. And it’s worth 199 bucks.
Now, ADT just launched a DIY smart-home system this year, which is called Blue by ADT. And it’s an expandable system that allows you to customize a smart security system with no long-term contract. The outdoor camera is part of that system. It lets you see and talk to your visitors no matter where you are. It includes night vision and facial recognition and it’s compatible with the Google Assistant and the Amazon Alexa.
Learn more at BlueByADT.com or give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question because, hey, you could just win it. That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can also post your question at MoneyPit.com or Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
Well, winter storms can pop up very quickly. And when that happens, sometimes it’s hard to find what you need to stay safe and to clean up that mess. So to help, we’ve got three hacks, in today’s Smart Spending Tips presented by Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card.
Now, first up, one of the most difficult situations to get out of is a stuck car in the snow, because the tires just spin endlessly. But with no traction, you’re not going anywhere. So, quick trick: keep a bag of kitty litter or birdseed handy. Just toss it in the trunk, throw it in your garage. And spreading that under the tires can help you improve traction and get you out of your driveway or really, get you anywhere out of that jam.
LESLIE: Now, deicers are also a good thing to keep on hand, especially for your car’s windshield. Now, you can make your own deicer from a teaspoon of grease-fighting dish detergent, like Dawn, and a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol and then mix those both into a ½-gallon of warm water. Now, you can even go ahead and mix up a bigger batch of this to use on your driveway, the walkways, windshields, whatever. You’ve got to prevent those wet surfaces from freezing over and this can do the trick.
Now, you can also use before the storm to keep the ice from bonding to hard surfaces, so that’s a huge help.
TOM: Yep, definitely.
Now, if you’ve got sort of a so-so shovel that maybe is a little bit rough and doesn’t work so well, here’s a hack that can stop that snow from sticking to it. Just spray the snow shovel with cooking spray or better yet, a lubricant like WD-40. Yes, you can add that to the 1,001 – now 1,002 – uses for that stuff. The snow is going to slide right off and that makes the shoveling a heck of a lot easier for you.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card. We’re all shopping for essentials online these days. Get rewarded for it with the 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: Heading to Minnesota where Deb is having some issues with an unlevel floor. What’s going on?
DEB: We’re in a house that the main part of the house was built in the 1930s. And that’s our problem right now, although the rest of the house has got issues, too. It’s over – a little over 3,000 square feet and we tried to sell it. Can’t sell it, so we’re staying but we don’t – there’s only two people living in this big of a house.
So we want to block off the upstairs and just live on the main floor. We were going to change the stairs and enclose them. Right now, they’re open stairways. But when we started doing that, the floor behind it is probably real close to an inch-and-a-half dip.
TOM: And why is it important to you that you try to take this dip out of the floor? Because, generally, when dips form over many, many years, everything gets – kind of gets settled in that space and it’s not always a good idea. In fact, it’s rarely a good idea to try to pick it back up unless it’s an active structural problem, which I doubt this is.
DEB: We want to replace the steps going upstairs. And we can’t do that because the steps that are there right now are actually twisting from the dip.
TOM: Well, that’s not a problem. It’s easier to build a set of steps that fits the existing floor structure then it is to try to fix the floor structure. You can easily make a set of steps that has a stringer that’s longer on one side than the other. Very often, when stairs are made sometimes, especially custom stairs, they leave the stringers running long and the carpenters cut them on site so they fit perfectly in the home. But I don’t think it’s necessary to try to rebuild your floor just to fix the stairs.
OK, Deb? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Post your questions online if you want to reach us that way, just like Andrew in Buffalo did.
Now, Andrew writes: “My house has developed dark areas where the sheetrock was screwed to the trusses, where the ceiling meets the wall. What is causing this and should I seal those spots and then paint them?”
TOM: Yeah. You know, this is actually a condition, Andrew, that’s called “ghosting.” And it’s caused when warm, moist air rises to the ceiling and then it’s cooled near the outer edge of the wall. And then that air sort of falls downward, because the cold air is going to be heavier than the warm air.
Now, what causes the actual staining is, essentially, household dirt. The dirt and dust that collects in the air, even the tiny particles that you don’t see, over months and years they’re going to collect on that coldest spot of the wall and sort of deposit layer upon layer of that dirt. And that’s what results in that dark sort of shadowy stain that you’re seeing.
It’s an opportunity for you to evaluate the insulation because if you have an area that’s not insulated well, then what’s going to happen is it will always be cold, it will always be subject to more of that staining than other areas that are insulated well, because they don’t have the temperature differential that causes that convective loop to basically wash that wall with the dirty air.
Now, if you want to try to make it go away, just at least temporarily, I would recommend that you prime it first. Always put a primer on because sometimes, if you just paint over it, the stains will come through the paint and you’ll continue to see them. And usually, the first time you see them is about when you put away the last drop cloth or whatever painting cure you had out and you go, “Oh, I can still see them,” and you’ve got to do it all over again. So don’t do that. Go ahead and prime the whole ceiling area and then paint it with a good-quality paint and you will be good to go.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a question here from Tyler in Oregon and he writes: “I have a very large tree between my house and my detached garage. Cutting it down doesn’t seem like an option without damaging one of the structures. What is the best way to safely remove this tree?”
TOM: Well, it’s certainly not a do-it-yourself project, Tyler, because the way to remove a tree that’s dangerously close to one or more structures is to essentially disassemble it from the top. And that can only really be done by a tree service with the appropriate equipment, which includes a very long crane.
Usually, these tree services, they have cranes that are built into their trucks. And what they’ll do is they’ll support, say, the upper section of the tree or take off one big limb at a time. They’ll have a guy up in the tree that will cut it and then the crane basically lifts it up and then moves it away from the house and then drops it down where it can be cut into smaller pieces and taken away.
And really, it’s sort of like a tree-surgery project one chunk at a time.
LESLIE: I mean it’s super fascinating to watch, too.
TOM: It really is. We had a large maple tree near our house some years back and I was just amazed watching these pros take the tree apart, lifting it not only away from the house but above a set of power lines.
LESLIE: It’s amazing and terribly precarious. When I was watching, we had this massive tree in the front lawn that was sort of dead and on its way out anyway. And branches were falling off. And I watched these guys basically suspend themselves from other branches with chainsaws. I was like, “This is not going to end well,” but they were pros and it was done well. It’s such a weird, amazing thing. So, Tyler, make sure you’re home when the tree comes down because you’re going to want to watch this.
TOM: Thank you so much for spending this first weekend of 2021 with us. We hope that we’ve given you some tips and advice in this show to help you plan your projects for the exciting year ahead.
And remember, we are going to be here for you every step of the way. If you get stuck, if you’re in a jam, if you don’t know if you should hire a pro or do it yourself, you can always reach out to us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post those questions at MoneyPit.com.
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.)