- The right combination of kitchen lighting can beautify your space while improving the functionality of work areas. We highlight the best kitchen lighting options for ambient, task, and accent lighting in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
- We hear a lot these days about ways to make sure the air inside our homes is clean – but unfortunately a lot of that advice is just plain wrong! We talk with expert Jeff May, author of My House is Killing Me, on what we’re doing right – and what we’re doing wrong to breathe easy inside our homes.
- We love home improvement hacks that that help us get stuff done and share 4 to save time while fixing up your space.
- If you’re hit with a big winter storm and don’t have your car tucked away in a garage… it’s always a pain to clear the snow and ice off your car. Get 4 quick tips to remove ice and snow.
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: What are you guys working on this weekend? Are you planning a home improvement project? You doing a little fix-up or décor? We’d love to help you get the job done but you’ve got to help yourself first: reach out and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your home improvement and décor questions at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on this episode, the right combination of kitchen lighting can beautify your space while improving the functionality of work areas. We’re going to highlight some of the best options for ambient, task and accent lighting, in today’s Smart Spending Tip, just ahead.
LESLIE: Plus, we hear a lot these days about ways to make sure that the air inside of our homes is clean. But unfortunately, a lot of that advice is just plain wrong. We’re going to talk with expert Jeff May, author of My Home Is Killing Me!, on what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong to breathe easy inside our homes.
TOM: Plus, we love home improvement hacks that help us get stuff done. We’ve picked out our four favorites to share, just ahead.
LESLIE: But first, what’s on your to-do list? Are you thinking about a project you’d like to get done in this new year? From bathrooms to basements, demolitions to décor and gardening to garages, we share non-biased expertise that’ll help you tackle your to-dos with confidence.
TOM: So let’s get going. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Tom in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: We have a house. It’s about – it was built in 2007. It’s about 2,700 square feet and we have two air conditioner/heat pump – you know, electric air conditioning/heat-pump units in it. And we’ve just been having headache after headache with trying to cool the house and heat the house with them.
We have a vaulted – kind of a vaulted ceiling, which looked great when we bought the house, and the registers are on the floor. But we’re constantly – the air conditioning and the heat units, they’re just running and running and running and running and running and never really cooling down the house or heating down the house. The insulation is excellent at the house. I’m trying to figure out any alternatives – we do have a gas fireplace which, basically, just really doesn’t heat the house much but …
TOM: First of all, you’re saying that it doesn’t work in the cooling mode or the heating mode. Is that correct?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: No, the cooling mode, it does work but – it cools the house down but it seems like the units run a lot. And I actually – to be quite honest with you, we did – we put some tinting stuff on some of the windows where they’re getting direct sunlight. But the heating side of it is just terrible. My kids are freezing on the second floor. We have a bonus room over the garage, which is pretty much insulated. We keep that door closed; it stays cool in there. And it just runs cold all the time.
And when I bring guys – people – out to look at it, they say, “The units run fine but you might want to put ductwork here, ductwork there, ductwork here.”
TOM: Well, there may be some truth to that.
First of all, the fact of the matter is you need to understand that heating – heat-pump systems work different than fossil-fueled systems. A fossil-fuel system is going to warm air up and it’ll come out of the register at 125, 135 degrees.
A heat pump works different. A heat pump is going to throw air out at maybe 90 degrees. And so, very often, with a heat pump, you hear complaints of that, well, it blows cold air. Well, it doesn’t really blow cold air but the fact is that if you have a little moisture on your skin, you put your hand in front of it, that moisture evaporates and that makes it feel very chilly. And that’s one of the reasons it’s uncomfortable.
Then, of course, if it can’t keep up with demand, then it switches to its backup system, which is electric resistance heat. And of course, that’s really expensive to run. The heat-pump thermostat is designed to maintain a 2-degree temperature differential between what it is in the house and what you set it at. So if you set it at 72 degrees and it falls to 70 in the house, the heat pump will come on. If it falls to 69 or 68, the electric-resistance heat will come on. Now, the air coming out of the ducts is going to be much warmer but you just more than doubled your expense.
Now, if the system is not doing its job, there’s a couple of things I would look at before I thought about replacing it, one of which is the duct design. Because if you’re not getting enough return air back to those units, then that could definitely be a contributing factor. You said that you’ve addressed the insulation part of it.
In terms of your thermostat, are you on a clock-setback thermostat?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Yeah. And we have it – I mean it’s at 66 degrees in the wintertime. That’s what we have – it’s 66 and 67. We don’t have …
TOM: Maybe your kids are cold just because you haven’t turned the thermostat up.
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Oh, we’re from up north, so we can deal with that. But what happens is when it starts running and running and running and running and running. It’s just like that’s all I keep hearing every 2 seconds: click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click.
But we have the option of propane. And being from up north, I lived with wood-burning stoves. And I grew up in Vermont and we had oil heat and electric backup for emergencies and stuff like that. But I’m just wondering if there’s anything on the propane side that might be more efficient.
TOM: Well, certainly, if you went to any kind of a fossil-fueled system, it’s going to put out warmer air. But I would want to make sure that the duct system was properly designed and installed before I do that.
Because if you change out your furnace and it turns out that the duct system isn’t installed properly or designed properly – if I was going to make a change, I would not want to just kind of get a seat-of-the-pants opinion by an HVAC technician. I would want somebody who designs these systems for a living giving you a good, reasoned explanation as to what’s wrong with the system and why it needs to be fixed. I want you to guard against the handy-guy that comes out that maybe does most of the furnace service going, “Well, you could throw a duct in here, throw a duct in there.” That’s not what you want.
There’s a science behind this. It’s not a guess. You can figure out how many BTUs you need to heat a house, how many BTUs you need to cool a house. It’s called a heat-loss analysis or heat-loss calculation. And somebody that does this professionally can handle that.
So, I would take a look at the duct system first, see if it really is designed correctly. Because, frankly, many times it’s not. And then, based on that, decide if you want to change to a different type of heating system or perhaps even add supplemental heat on your own.
For example, you might decide that in that bonus room, where it’s cold all the time, that maybe some electric baseboard radiators in there would be a very inexpensive way to pick up just a little bit of heat – extra heat – when you need it, assuming it doesn’t need to be on all the time. It could be a low installation cost. Certainly a lot less than replacing your furnace and you could just have it when you want it.
But take a look at the duct design first. Nine out of ten times, that’s the source of this kind of issue as you’ve described it.
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Thanks, guys.
TOM: You’re welcome, Tom. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Ann in Florida needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you today?
ANN: I’m going to rip up my carpet. I have concrete underneath and I want to put down the ceramic tile that looks like hardwood. And are you familiar with the product?
LESLIE: I am, very much so. I’ve actually used it on several projects.
ANN: Oh. And my question was, also: should I wait and not do it right away? That they’re going to even have better-looking – the wood look? I was told that it’s supposed to get even better.
LESLIE: I imagine that with all things, when you wait things get better. But wood-grain tile has actually been quite popular for probably four or five years now, so I’ve seen it greatly improve. Depending on how much you want to spend on it – and I’m not sure what manufacturers you’ve looked at but a good price point is a manufacturer called Daltile: D-a-l – tile. And they’re sold through tile stores, so it’s – you can call Daltile and take a look.
And they have one line called Yacht Club, which is fairly new for them. And it’s like a 6-inch by 24-inch wood plank but it’s a ceramic tile. It comes in a couple of different colors. I think it lays really nicely. It has a good texture of wood and it comes in some color palettes that I think are very realistic. And the way it fits together, it looks as if it were a real wood …
TOM: A lot like wood, yeah.
LESLIE: Yeah, like a wood floor. It doesn’t have a big grout line. They have another one in their line called Timber Glen and that’s a really big plank. But the way it pieces together, you see a lot of a grout line, so that kind of looks weird. Not as realistic wood, as you might expect.
So if you do go with a wood-look tile that does have a predominant grout line, I would choose a grout that’s similar in color to the tile.
ANN: Uh-huh. I’ve seen the tile where the tile is like wood planks.
TOM: Yeah. And that’s exactly what this looks like; it looks like wood planks. And I will caution you, though, that you’re talking about – any tile that’s 24 inches long in one direction like this is going to need an extraordinary amount of support underneath it.
So you have to be very careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to prepping the floor before the tile is laid. If there’s any flex or bend or unevenness in that floor, eventually this tile is going to crack. You don’t want that to happen, so you want to make sure that the floor is properly supported to take a bigger – big tile.
When we used to have mosaics years ago, it didn’t really matter if the floors were flexible, so to speak, or not because there was a joint every 1 inch in a mosaic tile. But a 24-inch-long tile, that’s not going to bend; it’s going to break. So you want to make sure the floor is really strong before you do that installation, OK?
ANN: Yes. OK. Great.
TOM: Alright, Ann. Good luck with that project.
Well, the right combination of kitchen lighting can beautify your space and improve your work areas and maybe even make you a better cook, because it’ll just be so much easier to see what you’re doing. We’re going to share tips to do just that, in today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card.
LESLIE: That’s right. Kitchens do require three types of lighting and they’re ambient, task and accent.
Now, for ambient lighting, this really is the overall light in your room. And that’s generally provided by larger fixtures and even natural light from your windows. Task lighting is going to be focused and calibrated to very specific work areas, like a spot on your counter or the island or even a kitchen-desk space. But it’s focused to a specific area so that you can actually do a task. And accent lighting does just that: it accents and highlights architectural details or objects within your redesign space, such as kitchen lighting that maybe points up from the top of your cabinets, something interesting that’s sort of an extra.
TOM: Now, when you design your light plan, you want to realize that more light in the kitchen is not necessarily better. Smart lighting is, so make sure you match the amount of light and the quality of light to the function for each area of the room.
Now, aside from electric lighting, think about how you’re using natural lighting. For example, kitchens are great places to skip window treatments, because windows can contribute to the ambient light in the room. If you leave those window coverings off, you can boost the brightness level very significantly.
LESLIE: Now, you can also pull in natural lighting by adding sun-tunnel skylights. Now, these are mirror-coated tubes and they run from the roof to an interior ceiling on any level in your house, so you can put them anywhere. They’re far easier and less expensive to install and they can bring in a lot of natural light without the expense of building a traditional skylight.
TOM: 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. Visit BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding to apply now.
LESLIE: Jim in North Carolina is on the line with an HVAC question. What can we do for you today?
JIM: Finishing my basement and looking for some pointers in framing out the HVAC vent runs. I have a vent that goes across the ceiling, perpendicular to the joists, comes to a T and the vents run parallel to the joists for a ways. And just trying to figure out how to frame that and box it in and especially with keeping in the fire-blocking pulls (ph) in mind. So didn’t know if you guys have any pointers on that or not.
TOM: So, you’re talking about return ducts here?
JIM: No, it’s not a return duct. It’s actually a feed duct, you know, a vent. It’s …
TOM: So the trunk line runs perpendicular to the floor joists and then what you’re asking is how do you turn those in between those floor joists, run them to the exterior wall and then up into the room itself?
JIM: Well, no. It’s more like these vents are already run. And I had an HVAC contractor actually come in and they ran flexible vents. I’m trying to frame it in so you can sheetrock it and everything.
TOM: Oh, OK. Well, that’s different.
TOM: So you just want to conceal these. You can build a frame around them. I’ve done that with 5/4×3 bridging material – it’s like a half size of a 2×4 – and constructed a wood frame, attached drywall to it and then spackled it and finished it traditionally. But I will say it’s an awful lot of work. And that’s why in basements, I much prefer drop ceilings these days, for two reasons. First of all, they go in quicker and they’re finished. And secondly, you’ll always have access to the pipes, the wires and the ducts if you need them, if it’s a dropped ceiling.
So, you could frame it in if you want and you would do that with a lighter building material, like five-quarter material. But it is a lot of work. That’s kind of your option.
JIM: OK. I’m finding out it’s a lot of work. I’m trying to do this.
TOM: Yeah. It is.
TOM: It’s like an endless amount of small pieces of drywall and then it’s just way more spackle than you need to make it look right. And so that’s why – I used to do it that way and then I got smarter in my old age and started using dropped ceilings. And I’m a lot happier as a result. And the dropped ceilings today, if you haven’t looked at them recently, they are beautiful. And they can look like tin ceilings and they can look like traditional wood ceilings. There’s lots of options.
So check them out and make the best decision for you, Jim, OK? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Linda, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LINDA: The house that we live in was built in ‘53. It’s ours and we’ve paid it off and trying to keep – upkeep it and keep it in good shape. But in between the dining room and the living room, apparently before we purchased it, there was a wall that had been removed. And the only sign is on the ceiling, where the wall was removed, there’s a double crack on each side of a 2×4, is what it looks like, about that width in the drywall.
And I’ve tried – it’s a textured ceiling they did. We actually had knockdown put on it. But it – we can’t fill the crack. We’ve tried to use drywall mud. It just returns. What can I do to fix this crack?
TOM: So this was opposite both sides of a wall that was torn out? So, they must have slipped in some drywall to patch it? Is that what you’re thinking?
LINDA: Maybe, maybe.
TOM: So that’s not the best way to fix that sort of thing. You can’t put a narrow strip in there and have it ever look like a normal ceiling. If you’ve got a hole like that where you pull the wall out, what you have to do is cut a bigger piece of drywall out, maybe about a foot or two on each side of it. And you do that right on the edge where the floor joists are – the ceiling joists are – in this case. Then you have a bigger seam to tape and spackle and secure. And if it’s done well, then you’re never going to see it again.
So you putting all of this spackle on it time and time again, over all of this period of time, has probably made more of a mess and it’s kind of hard to fix at this point. So what I would tell you to do is to cut out that whole repair, put a bigger piece of drywall in, tape it, spackle it, prime the whole ceiling and then repaint the whole ceiling. And that would be the one to do – the way to do this permanently. Otherwise, you’re always going to see that.
LINDA: OK. Thank you for telling me that.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, we hear a lot these days about ways to make sure that the air inside of our homes is clean. But unfortunately, a lot of that advice is just plain wrong.
TOM: And that’s why we’re pleased to welcome our friend, Jeff May, to the program. Jeff is an expert on indoor-air quality and the author of My House Is Killing Me!: A Complete Guide to a Healthier Indoor Environment, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, which has just come out as a second edition and is chock full of even more ways to keep our homes healthy and safe.
JEFF: Well, thanks, Tom.
TOM: So, Jeff, whenever there’s a crisis, there are a whole lot of so-called experts that show up touting one solution or another, usually because they’re going to make some money with it.
The first thing I wanted to talk with you about is when it comes to keeping the air clean. UV lights. Ultraviolet lights are being sold as the end-all solution to keep us safe. What’s your two cents on that?
JEFF: I’ll give you my dollar on it. They’re really – it’s another – I mean I would call it a scam. Ultraviolet light will really kill anything if it’s powerful enough but it doesn’t work unless you have a long residence time. So most people are installing these things in their furnaces and the air-conditioning and heating ductwork.
JEFF: And the radiation time isn’t long enough. You’ve got air flowing through there at, you know, 2 to 10 feet a second. And in order to irradiate something to kill it, you need a tube that’s 200 or 400 feet long.
JEFF: And so, these little lamps they put in are completely useless.
TOM: It sounds good but when you dig into it, it’s just not the case.
JEFF: And it’s a big waste of money. They’re charging people a lot of money for these things.
LESLIE: Well, I think another thing that tends to be problematic at home, when we’re sort of all closed in during these winter months, is that you see a lot of collection of dust around the house and you wonder where it’s coming from. And I think it has to do a lot with dust management. So, what should we be doing to handle that?
JEFF: Well, I always tell people dust is the devil. If people have allergies in the family, a lot of times they’ll go to the allergist and they’ll say, “Oh, you’re allergic to dust.” Well, house dust is full of all kinds of things that can give people symptoms. And so, the most important thing you can do is to vacuum and get rid of dust.
Really, dust is – most of the dust in the house is just human skin. I’ve had so many people call me and tell me they have all this weird dust on their TV or collected on the dresser. And they’re always worried and they send me samples and all it is is just – it’s their skin, because we lose about 30 grams of skin a month. And that skin is a great protein source of food for all the little microscopic bugs that kind of crawl around that we can’t see.
TOM: So, if we get rid of the dust, we’re getting rid of the food and that takes care of the dust mites and other things that are infesting that area.
JEFF: Well, dust mites tend to really – they can only live where there’s a lot of moisture. So, they’ll be eating the skin that’s in the mattress and the pillow or your favorite chair that you sit in 4 hours a day watching TV. So, it’s pretty hard to clean the dust out of those things and those things have to be – they can be treated with steam from a steam-vapor machine. We talk about that in the book. It’s a great, great tool. The steam kills everything. It destroys a lot of allergens.
But for all the other areas, you’ve just got to vacuum up, because there are all of these other microarthropods. They call them “small bugs” that eat things. There are carpet beetles and book lice and mold-eating mites. Those things eat everything and then they leave their little droppings. And those droppings cause allergies.
TOM: Now, you mentioned vacuuming all of this up but the quality of the vacuum is important here, right? We need to have a HEPA vacuum, one that’s designed to take out particulates. Otherwise, aren’t we just redistributing this throughout the house?
JEFF: Yeah, absolutely. A HEPA vacuum is essential. We’ve actually had people who were sickened by dust that leaked out of vacuum cleaners from their cleaning companies. One family was very allergic to cats and they had the cleaning people clean their house after they cleaned a neighbor who had cats. And I found cat dust – cat allergens – in their new carpets. They were horrified.
If you hire people to clean your house, they should use your vacuum and it should be a HEPA vacuum. Honestly, if someone comes into your home with a contaminated vacuum like that and they vacuum once, if you’re allergic to something in the dust you will have a problem for months afterwards.
LESLIE: We are talking to Jeff May and he’s the author of My House Is Killing Me!: A Complete Guide to a Healthier Indoor Environment, which is now on sale.
Jeff, first of all, the book is so full of wonderful information and I think people just really need to sort out what’s real, what’s fake, what they need to do. And you really help them do just that. Can you give us a general guideline of where this book takes the reader to best get their house fit for them?
JEFF: Well, I think what’s nice about the book is that it’s written for anybody. You don’t have to have a lot of sort of technical training. And it takes you kind of room by room through the house and even machine by machine almost, every type of heating equipment you could have, humidification, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, it’s very helpful as a guide to create a healthier environment. And it’s easy to follow.
TOM: Yeah, it’s really well done and easy to follow. And I’ll tell you, if you are concerned about the indoor-air environment inside your home and certainly, if you’re a professional in this space – if you’re in the HVAC business, you’re an inspector – it’s a must-read book, My House Is Killing Me!: A Complete Guide to a Healthier Indoor Environment.
Jeff, let me ask you a bit about some of these other topics that you cover in the book. You also talk about dehumidifiers and you say they’re a total waste of money. Why is that?
JEFF: Well, it’s only of a certain type. So, the only dehumidifier that really works is what I would call a “condensing dehumidifier.” It actually cools the air and condenses the water out of the air. There are at least three or four, maybe even five now so-called dehumidifiers. And really, all it is is a little exhaust fan that’s attached to a duct that goes outside. And it sucks air from the floor and blows it outside.
And that dehumidifier, it basically is a scam. The way they sell them is they tell you it uses very little power and it exchanges the air in the basement. And why spend a lot of money on a condensing dehumidifier?
JEFF: But in fact, the way these things work, if they do work, is that they put in a transfer grill to the upstairs and so they assume you have an air-conditioned house. And so you’re sucking air-conditioned air out of the house that has to be replaced by humid, hot air from outdoors. And so the air-conditioning system has to work harder. So you’re not paying for the dehumidifier directly; you’re paying for the drying of the air via the air-conditioning system.
So, actually, I have pictures and I have a picture in the book of one of those things with mold growing on the bottom of it. When you suck air out of the basement, a lot of homes they’re leaky enough so air just comes right straight in from outdoors. So, I mean the people that say it works say they have less odor in the basement. And it’s true that if you’ve got a stinky, moldy basement and you bring in some fresh air, it’s not going to smell as much but …
TOM: Yeah. But it’s not a solution.
JEFF: No, not at all.
JEFF: So in those things – the irony is that those things are as expensive as a really, really good dehumidifier.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. So we know – I know exactly what you’re referring to and they never made sense to me. Essentially, they’re just taking the air-conditioned air from upstairs, pulling it down to the basement. You feel like oh, it must be working because it’s nice and dry down here.
TOM: You don’t realize that you’re paying to recondition all of that air and it’s driving up all your utility costs in the process.
TOM: We’re talking to Jeff May, the author of My House Is Killing Me!.
Jeff, before we let you go, let’s tackle some mold questions here. What is the best way to keep mold at bay in some of those damp spaces, like around washing machines, in basements and stuff?
JEFF: Well, as far as basements go, yeah, you just have to dehumidify. And one of the mistakes people make is that they just rely on the indicator on the dehumidifier itself. And that’s a relative humidity at the machine. And what you really want to do is you want to keep relative humidity at no more than 50 percent in the remotest corner of the basement.
And so that always means purchasing an independent thermohygrometer. They’re not very expensive. You can get it a decent one for 20 or 30 bucks. And you stick it in the corner somewhere and that’s where you want to have the relative humidity at 50 percent. Because in an unfinished basement, the dampest places are always in the remote corners near the floor.
LESLIE: Now, Jeff, this is a weird one. I hear people say, “Ah, I think this laundry detergent is making me feel sick.” Is that a thing?
JEFF: Well, yeah, I mean there is a small percentage of people that are actually affected by it. But we’ve actually had clients who just switched laundry detergents and all of their allergy symptoms disappeared. I think the primary reason is that most detergents contain enzymes. And the enzymes are extremely allergenic.
When Procter & Gamble first started using enzymes in detergents, they had a 50-percent occupational sensitization in the factories because people were exposed to the dust. And one – I think one of the reasons all the detergents are liquid – they used to be powder – is that when you manufacture liquid detergents, you don’t have a lot of powdery dust in the factory. So, if you wash clothing on hot-water wash and then you put them in a hot dryer, most of the enzyme activity that’s in the detergent is destroyed. But if you use warm or cool wash and you hang things to dry, then the enzyme activity is still on the lint.
And enzymes are a class of chemicals that are extremely allergenic. And so they cause serious allergy problems in a limited number of people, so I always recommend – if there’s allergies in the family, that they only use a detergent that does not have enzyme in it. And a lot of detergents that claim to be so-called organic have several enzymes. So anything that ends in a-s-e is an enzyme and it should be avoided by any family with allergies.
TOM: Jeff, that’s great advice. You are a fountain of knowledge, sir. Thank you so much for sharing a few tips with us.
I think you guys get a sense as to how much information Jeff has contained in that wonderful brain of his. It’s all in the book, though, My House Is Killing Me!: A Complete Guide to a Healthier Indoor Environment.
If you’d like to learn more, you can go to Jeff’s website at MayIndoorAir.com, MayIndoorAir.com.
Thanks again, Jeff.
JEFF: Thanks, Tom and Leslie.
LESLIE: Jim in Washington, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
JIM: I’ve got a rear patio that’s an aggregate cement. And there’s a gap between the edge of that that goes under our rear sliding-glass door, under the threshold. It’s a gap of about 3 to 4 inches and about maybe a foot or 2 in length. What can I use to kind of fill that void so we don’t get like rain in there and insects or even rodents?
TOM: So, you have space between the patio and the actual patio door? Like it didn’t press up against the house kind of a thing?
TOM: You said it’s about 3 or 4 inches deep?
JIM: Yeah. The gap is, yes.
TOM: The gap is. And you said it was a foot-and-a-half wide. You threw me on that because it sounded like it’s not going along the entire length of the door?
JIM: Yeah, correct. It’s just about maybe a third of it.
TOM: So we need to figure out a way to kind of fill this in and perhaps make it blend in with the patio. What I probably would do here is – can you dig this out and make it a little bit deeper so we can get a bit more concrete in there?
JIM: I could do that. It’s aggregate, though, so I’m not sure how well it’s going to match.
TOM: Because I’m afraid if you put something in that’s not very thick, it may crack and break up very easily. But if you were to dig that out a little bit, put a little stone in the bottom of the pit and then use an epoxy patching compound and mix the concrete up with the epoxy products, then you’re going to have something that’s going to be less resistant to cracking and more likely to stick to the old patio.
Now, in terms of coloring it, you’re probably going to have to use some concrete dyes. And they come in different colors but you may be able to dye it to get somewhat close to what you have there now.
JIM: OK. It’s aggregate, so how do I deal with that?
TOM: So it has sort of a stone – has like a stone-like finish on top?
TOM: Well, could you add aggregate to the top of the concrete mix?
JIM: Yeah, I could try that.
TOM: So there’s another way to do it. This way, you’ll have the texture and the color, as well.
JIM: Yeah, OK. Sounds good.
TOM: Just do it all at once and let it set. But use the epoxy patching compound, which is kind of like a concrete mix except that it’s very sticky.
JIM: Mm-hmm. How much do I need to cut out? How much should I fill?
TOM: If the depth of that replacement section was 3 inches, that should be plenty.
JIM: OK. Sounds good. Well, thanks for your help.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Jim.
JIM: Will do. Thanks.
LESLIE: Well, we love life hacks: you know, shortcuts to get stuff done. Well, we picked out our four favorite home improvement hacks to help you around your house.
Now, I love this first one. Have you ever dropped a small object, like an earring or a fastener, and just can’t find it? Well, you can cut a pair of stockings and pull it over the end of your vacuum hose. This way, it’s not going to get sucked up into the vacuum but it can get sucked up from whenever it’s hiding. And then you can safely get it back.
TOM: Now, if you need to drive a nail and you want to avoid sore thumbs by missing it with the hammer, just stick the nail in a clothespin to get it started. And for smaller nails, you can hold that nail by first sticking it through a piece of cardboard. You’ll be able to get that nail started injury-free.
LESLIE: Now, if an extension cord that you’re using for tools keeps pulling and unplugging while you’re working on a project, tie the two ends in a loose knot before you plug them together. You can use bread clips to label cords hanging behind your workstation, so there’s no more guesswork to find out that this one goes to the printer, that one’s for the mouse, this is keyboard, whatever, whatever. All of these little shortcuts, definitely with cabling, are super helpful.
TOM: Last, here’s one of my favorite hacks to avoid paint drips. Just stretch a rubber band across the paint can and wipe the brush on it to prevent paint from collecting or dripping on the edges.
Hey, do you guys have any life hacks you’d like to share? You can post them on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. And if we like them, we will talk about them right here on The Money Pit Show.
LESLIE: Nancy in Massachusetts is dealing with a garage that’s got other plans than closing. What’s going on there?
NANCY: I have a dilemma about what to do about the door. It’s just not closing properly and sometimes, it doesn’t even want to go up and down, never mind when it comes down it wiggles left to right, left to right until it gets to the bottom.
TOM: This is on a garage-door opener?
NANCY: Oh, oh, yes, yes.
TOM: So when it goes up and down, it shimmies in the opening?
NANCY: Yes. And the closing.
TOM: So, generally, the rollers on the side of the garage door are failing when that occurs. They’re ball-bearing rollers and when they get stuck, then they get sort of hung up on the way down and that’s what makes the door sort of vibrate and puts a lot of resistance on it, too. And that may be the reason it’s not closing all the way or closing evenly.
It sounds like the door is pretty old. And your options are to replace all the hardware and try to realign the door to get it working right or just replace the door and the door opener. If it’s that old and that sort of rickety, I might lean towards just a replacement. The new doors today are actually a lot lighter than the old doors and they work really smoothly.
I just put two on in the garage, I guess, about 8, 9 months ago now and I’m really happy with them. And I used to have really heavy, hardboard doors on this garage and now I have nice, factory-painted steel doors that look really good, really sharp and just close flawlessly every single time.
NANCY: Well, this is one of those metal doors.
TOM: It is? OK. But it’s an older metal door?
NANCY: Yeah. And I put Boeshield on the tracks to try to get it to roll down properly.
TOM: Yeah. But if the hardware has failed – even if you’re lubricating the tracks, if the hardware has failed, it’s not going to work right.
NANCY: So what would you recommend? A new door or just get somebody over to do the hardware?
TOM: I’d get a new door and a new opener.
NANCY: Yeah, OK. I don’t want to put good money after bad.
TOM: Exactly. I think – who knows if you could find the old hardware to match and everything? I’d just get a new door and a new opener. I think it’d be worth it.
NANCY: OK. Very good advice. I appreciate it very much.
TOM: Thank you, Nancy. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: We’ve got a post here from Susan who writes: “I have a ranch house on a cement slab. The heating ducts are under the house. We closed them off with cement and installed electric baseboard heat instead but the ducts leaked water. So the question is: should drainage be added to the house or does it not matter now that the ducts are sealed off?”
TOM: Well, I mean it’s probably neither here nor there that you’re seeing some moisture in those old duct cavities. But the fact that you do – that you are seeing that water could mean that your structure is more at risk and more of a concern. So I would address it as follows, Susan.
First of all, I would make sure that we’re not collecting excessive amounts of water around the house foundation. To do that, you want to make sure your gutters are super clean, your downspouts are super clean and they are extending at least 4 to 6 feet away from the house before they discharge. Don’t let them drop right near the foundation, because concrete is very hydroscopic. It absorbs water like crazy. And if you put all that water against the house, the concrete is going to draw it right in and it could very well show up in that duct space, which is what you’re seeing now.
And then the second thing is add soil and slope it away from the foundation. Don’t let any area of that soil settle or sink because, again, that will retain the water and that’s not good. You want to make sure that that soil around the house stays as dry as possible. Because if it’s dry, it’s solid.
Just think about this. When you walk across your yard after a rain, you sink in. Why? Because the dirt can’t hold as much weight. Now, if it’s dry, that’s not going to happen. That’s what we want your foundation to be. We don’t want foundations to move. It’s not good when a foundation flexes. They’re not designed to do that.
LESLIE: You know, Tom, it’s really amazing how concrete, which is something so hard and permanent, can be such a great transmitter of water. It’s so crazy how you can get water from maybe a clogged downspout or something in one corner of the slab and then it magically finds its way through all of that concrete to the complete other side of the house. It’s like a mystery that’s magical.
TOM: It absolutely is. It will just draw right across and show up wherever it darn well pleases. That’s why it’s all got to be dry around the entire perimeter of that house.
So, if you’re hit with a big winter storm and you don’t have your car tucked away in a garage, it’s always a pain to clear the snow and ice off your car. Leslie has four quick tips to help, in this edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, guys, think about where you park your car, if you know a snowstorm is coming, and park that car strategically at the end of your driveway, closest to the street. This is going to make the distance that you actually need to shovel closer to the end point. So, it’s cutting down on how much you’re shoveling.
Now, it’s also smart to put up the windshield wipers so they don’t freeze to the car window.
Tom, you learned this the hard way. So, everybody else, don’t do that.
TOM: I did. I did. We had an ice storm and I was really surprised, because I had typically raised the wipers in the front windshield of the car. But this got me at the back. It was my SUV and the wiper blade stuck to the window. And by the time we were all said and done, the window had to be replaced because it cracked in place. Somehow, the tensions of the ice and the arm just worked against me and we had a busted window to deal with.
LESLIE: It’s always something. So, don’t do that.
Now, you also want to think about moving as much snow off of your car as you can. You can use a long-handled broom to get the snow off the top of the car before you open the door. Which is also going to help you avoid having all that wet snow falling right inside, which happens. And don’t forget to clear snow around the headlights and the taillights.
Now, if your driver’s side door is frozen shut, here’s a trick: you can use WD-40 to help free up that frozen lock. WD-40 certainly has a lot of uses and here it is helping you get out of a wintery jam.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, if you’d like to enjoy clear, clean water at every faucet in your home, a whole-house filter can do the trick. We’ll share how to pick the best one for your situation, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2021 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.)