- In floor heating is one of the best and most comfortable ways to heat a house. We walk you through 3 options to add radiant heating in both new and existing homes.
- If you rent a house or apartment, there’s an insurance loophole that can cost tenants big if your home was damaged by a flood or fire. We share a simple solution to keep you protected.
- We get a lot of questions about how to clean tile grout – which always seem to look great the day it’s put in and then quickly turns to dirty and drab! We’ll share a solution that can restore the new-grout brightness.
- Termites are easy to spot in the spring and summer, but these same house hungry insects get a lot hard to spot when weather turns cold. We’ll share a home inspectors’ trick-of-the-trade for finding termites before they eat you out of house and home, even in winter.
- If mice have found a home in YOUR home this winter, we share 3 ways to keep mice out year-round
- Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about, adding insulation to an addition, choosing air filters, cleaning rusty grout in a bathroom, venting for a new water heater.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you take on projects you’d like to get done. Soup to nuts, floorboards to shingles, if you’ve got a project in mind for this late winter, the early spring, the summer ahead, we’d like to help you take the first step towards getting that done with some planning of that project. If you are in a point where you are stuck and don’t know which way to go, we can help you with that. If you’re taking on a décor project because you just can’t stand the look of those four walls anymore, we get it. I’m sure my friend, Leslie, could come up with some excellent suggestions. Fortunately for you, I will not but Leslie will, because she has the design eye.
LESLIE: Hey, we each have our own skill set.
TOM: If you’ve got termites, I’m your guy.
The number here is 888-666-3974. That happens to spell 888-MONEY-PIT. You can call that number and get in touch with us to ask your question.
But first, we’re going to talk about something that should be very important to renters, especially if you’re trying to save money. Do you know that if you rent a house or apartment, there is an insurance loophole that can cost you big if your home is damaged by a flood or a fire or a break-in? We’re going to talk about a simple solution to keep you protected from that situation.
LESLIE: And also ahead, we get a lot of questions about how to clean tile grout, which really does seem to look great that first day you put it in and maybe for a few days after. But then it gets really gross really quickly. I mean just dirty and blah. So we’re going to share a solution that can restore that new-grout brightness.
TOM: And speaking of termites, a termite problem is one that’s easily spotted over the summer. But the same infestation gets a lot harder to spot when weather turns cold. We’re going to share a home inspector’s trick of the trade that we use for finding termites, before they eat you out of house and home even in the winter.
LESLIE: But most importantly, we want to know how we can help you create your best home ever. From bathrooms to basements and demolition to décor, we’re here to share non-biased expertise and help you tackle your to-dos with confidence.
TOM: So, reach out, right now, or really anytime a DIY dilemma comes to mind. You can reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading to Tennessee where Rick is on the line with a question about insulation. What’s going on at your money pit?
RICK: We are currently adding an addition onto the back of our house. It’s a covered porch. The porch has been there for several years. The cover – the roof – is a shingled roof and it’s been there – it’s actually got a finished ceiling. It’s been there for probably 6 or 8 years but we decided to close it in to make an addition to our kitchen. It’s about 12×24.
RICK: And when the – it was up on 6x6s to support the porch but we – the builder went back in and dug footers. And we blocked that whole under-space up and put up two vents that are temperature-regulated and one window for some light and to open to get some ventilation in one door.
TOM: Perfect. OK.
RICK: But with the dirt down there, the humidity – I guess just enough heat from the downstairs of the house brought the humidity up to – gosh, it was up like 92 percent. I didn’t know – it was 45 degrees. I didn’t know it could get that high. And my water was running down the window. Water was – we were starting to get mold on the floor joists. The builder wanted to put fiberglass insulation up underneath there and I just thought that was a disaster waiting to happen, to put fiberglass in all that moisture.
TOM: Yeah. So, first of all, let me just clarify a couple of things. The window, the door, all that sort of stuff, that’s above the foundation, right? So you’re talking about the addition.
RICK: No, that’s actually in the foundation.
TOM: That’s in the foundation. So, you actually are extending – you’re extending sort of – is the house on a basement?
RICK: Yeah, yeah.
TOM: You extended that basement or at least created a separate, accessible basement-like space from the outside.
RICK: Yeah, kind of like a crawlspace, only about 5 feet deep.
TOM: So it’s a crawlspace but it’s a tall crawlspace. And you put a door in there so you can get in there.
Now, what’s the floor there? Is it dirt right now?
RICK: Dirt and it’s – you know, I think I’ve got some drainage problems anyway. The house – back of the – backyard is kind of flat.
RICK: And so, whenever it rains and snows, it just kind of sits there. The drainage isn’t pretty good.
TOM: Yeah. So here’s what’s happening, I think. Is it still under construction right now?
RICK: Yeah. The wall …
TOM: So you don’t have heating in that space yet, right?
RICK: No, no.
TOM: OK. So, here’s what I think’s happening. You have a combination of two things.
First of all, you’ve got an excessively damp space. As you mentioned, you have drainage problems. You may or may not have gutters that are working properly along the back of that house. They could be undersized. Downspouts need to be extended out at least 4 to 6 feet away from the foundation in a situation like this. You’ve got to try to keep that soil around the foundation as dry as possible.
If you get the gutters cleaned, if you get the gutters extended, that’s all working right, you can add some soil to improve that slope right away from the foundation, especially if you’ve got that much foundation wall. There’s no reason you can’t create a slope there. And that will keep moisture to a minimum from saturating into that foundation, where being concrete blocks it’s very absorbative, it’s very hydroscopic. So it’ll just pull up a lot of water and then that will evaporate. And that’s what adds to the humidity.
The second thing is you don’t have any heating in there yet. And once you have heating, then you’re going to have a different set of temperature differentials there. And since warm air holds more moisture than cold air, you’re not going to have as much of – or any, really, of this condensation you’re seeing.
And lastly, by the way, you should also add a vapor barrier to the floor of that crawlspace area, because that will stop or reduce any moisture that’s evaporating off of the floor. But a combination of all of those things will reduce the amount of humidity that you’re spotting.
In terms of insulation, you’re certainly going to need insulation in that floor. And you could use fiberglass once you get this moisture problem under control. Or maybe what you might want to do is, for this one area, use rock-wool or stone-wool insulation. There’s a company called ROXUL. And that kind of insulation is not subjected to any kind of moisture damage. It’s pretty much moisture-proof. It won’t decay, you won’t get any mold that grows on it. It’s pretty durable stuff. So, you might want to use that in this case.
And in the attic space, by the way – which you mentioned you had a finished attic. You’re probably going to have to open that up for insulation and also ventilation because, otherwise, your heat’s going to escape. And secondly, if you do get moisture up there, you’ve got to let it vent, OK?
RICK: Yeah. There’s fiberglass above that, I’m pretty sure. That’s already been done (inaudible). Actually, I don’t know. I’ve not been up there. Yeah, that’s a good idea.
TOM: Yeah, you’d better check that. Because remember, heat rises. So that’s going to be important.
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
RICK: OK. I appreciate it.
LESLIE: Now we’re going to talk garages with Kathy from Georgia. It’s a G thing.
What’s going on, Kathy? How can we help you?
KATHY: We have a garage addition – a double garage – that we stopped using a few years ago and just used it for what people would use a basement or something.
TOM: OK. OK.
KATHY: In the south, we don’t have basements, that kind of thing. And we only have a crawl attic.
So, what we were looking at, simply, is we – the garage doors were taken out some years ago and we have a little entry door there and the exit door. And on the outside, it was replaced with the wood that was probably medium-grade. But we wanted to update it to something a little more attractive, to add to our house.
We have Savannah Gray brick on our house.
KATHY: And we have some cedar on the bedroom side of our – the house, which is like an L-shaped home. So the cedarwood is on the far side of the house. So, we were just trying to decide whether we should keep the house with consistency, with something on the order of the cedarwood or something viable that will last many, many years.
TOM: If I was driving by your house or I was parked in front of it and looking at the old garage, would I be able to see the outline of the old garage doors?
KATHY: No, you cannot. It’s replaced by, like I said, a medium-grade type of wood.
TOM: OK. So you basically completely obliterated the appearance of those garage doors. Because a lot of times, what I see when people do this project is they fill in the garage opening but it doesn’t look the same as the rest of the wall. You can tell. It’s like a patch.
KATHY: That’s what I’ve seen in areas. And where I live, we do have some of the L-shaped older homes. My home was built in the early 50s, so the L-shaped concept was, I guess you would say, maybe popular then. And so, the bedroom end of the house exceeds out a little bit, so that’s where you get that L-shaped idea. And then as you move towards where the garage would be, it’s just straight from there down. So we were trying to think of something attractive that would look good with the brick.
TOM: Your question is really one of what’s the best siding material that’s going to match what you have now yet be very durable. And you have brick, which is as durable as it gets. You have cedar, which is more durable than pine or fir, but does – but it’s a lot of upkeep. So, my suggestion would be to use HardiePlank.
And HardiePlank is a cementitious siding product that looks like wood siding. So I, for example, have a very old house and on my garage, which is not a very old garage, I have a product called HardieShingle. Yeah, when I painted the garage shingles and the house shingles the same color, it’s pretty hard to tell them apart from the street. It looks like it’s the old wood all the way around, even though one is made of an incredibly durable, non-organic product that doesn’t decay and doesn’t rot and holds up to hail damage and that sort of thing.
Color-wise, though, Leslie, if she’s got a – you said you had a gray brick? What areas of color do you think she might want to explore?
LESLIE: I mean I think I would go as close to in color of that gray brick as possible. Either go a shade darker, as long as it’s going to be everything but the façade. And then that’ll sort of create its own – it’ll set up the front to be more defined but then give you a uniform look around the rest. So I’d go either a very similar shade or a shade darker.
KATHY: Right. OK. I appreciate the help and the advice, certainly.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
KATHY: Thank you.
LESLIE: Sandra in North Carolina is on the line. How can we help you today?
SANDRA: We’re trying to decide which quality of filter to use for our furnace filter – switch out? Should we use the ones that are cheaper, like the 4-for-$2 or should we use the HEPA-filter quality ones that are like $20 for your furnace filters, when you change them out?
LESLIE: Well, with filters, you’re definitely getting what you pay for. And it really depends on what the situations are with everybody in your house.
Now, the less expensive a filter, the thinner that membrane is going to be and of course, the wider that webbing is, if you will, so it’s really not going to stop very much. You know, Tom and I always joke that they’re called “pebble stoppers,” because that’s really the only thing that’s not getting through there.
LESLIE: So it really depends. The less money you spend, the less things that are getting trapped. If you’ve got somebody with allergens in the house, you want to spend a little bit more money, because you’re definitely going to get what you pay for.
SANDRA: OK. So I need to go to a quality filter, because I have a lot of allergies. And the people that built the house say to go with a cheaper filter so you can let air circulate.
TOM: Yeah, well, look, a good-quality filter does not block the air, whether it’s one that’s designed for better filtration or one that’s designed for lesser filtration. None of these things block the air. So if you have allergy issues, you have asthma issues, you definitely want to use a good-quality filter.
And if you want the ultimate in filtration, what you might want to think about doing at some point is installing an electronic air cleaner. This is a device that’s built into the HVAC system right near the furnace, generally. And these are incredibly efficient at taking out 95-percent plus of the contaminants that are in the air. These electronic air cleaners today can take out microscopic-size particles.
SANDRA: OK. Well, I really appreciate your information. You’ve been very helpful.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Sandra. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you’re a renter, there’s a good chance you do it to save some money or the hassles of being an owner. But because of a loophole in most leases, renters are vulnerable to one very potentially serious expense and that is the cost of replacing your personal belongings that are ruined by a fire, a flood or other weather-related damage.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, on rare occasions, you’re going to find some landlords do include clauses in their leases that’ll guarantee that they cover a renter’s damage. But those clauses are kind of uncommon, which means that most renters are vulnerable.
TOM: And especially vulnerable during cold-weather months, when most home fires take place and pipes freeze and break. And without content insurance, furniture, clothes, electronics, other belongings that are damaged by smoke or flames or water from hoses are not covered by the landlord’s insurance. And that’s why you need a product called “renters insurance.”
LESLIE: Yeah. There really is a simple and inexpensive solution. And you purchase your own policy.
Now, renters insurance typically run about $10 to $15 a month and they’re going to cover everything from fire, wind, hail, even lightning damage and if you happen to have a robbery, any items that are lost due to a burglary or a break-in.
TOM: Very affordable and very smart to have. And this type of content insurance also covers against damage from plumbing issues or electrical currents, which renters are especially susceptible to in older homes and older buildings.
It’s basically a smart and inexpensive way to make sure your personal property is covered, because we amass personal property one small purchase at a time. And when you think about it all added together, you’ve got a lot of money in all of that stuff, right? All your clothes, all your shoes, all your electronics. So, it’s really smart to have this kind of insurance policy to protect you.
LESLIE: Bill in Texas has a question about rusty grout in a bathroom project. What’s going on?
BILL: Yes, ma’am. A couple of years ago, I put in a tile shower. I’d removed a fiberglass shower and I put in a tile shower. And the problem is – you know how you put the rubber barrier up like 42 or 48 inches? I put that up but I’m guessing that I should have used stainless-steel screws. Because in two spots, you can kind of detect a rust color kind of seeping through the grout? And I’m wondering if I should remove the grout and maybe try – they have that epoxy-based grout, if I should do that or if there’s – when I remove the grout, if there’s a product I should apply to kind of neutralize the rust.
Basically, that’s what’s going on. I’ve just – I’m decently handy, so I know I can remove the grout and everything but I’m just wondering what steps I should take to prevent the rust from coming back.
TOM: Well, the sand-based grout certainly is going to allow any rust stains to kind of permeate right through. Epoxy grout probably would not. That might be the simplest solution if it’s just minor surface rust. It’s a little bit late now to pull tile off and start changing fasteners, so I think that probably makes the most sense, Bill – would be just to remove the old grout with a grout saw and then regrout it with epoxy-based grout which, by the way, is a little harder to work with. So make sure you take your time, maybe practice off those bathroom walls before you apply it to it. But I think that’s probably the best solution in the short term.
BILL: Now, the – for automotive, they have POR-15 and different products to neutralize the rust. Is there anything like that that you – would it be worthwhile to even try to attempt that or is it not worth my time?
TOM: I’m not familiar with those products but my concern would be that if you got one, it’ll probably open up somewhere else along the way, so it’s kind of like you’re chasing a ghost after a while.
BILL: OK. So maybe try the epoxy grout and cross my fingers?
TOM: I would say so. I think there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to work out, Bill, OK?
BILL: OK. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Well, tile grout is a pretty durable material for sealing the space that you have between tiles. But while it always look clean and bright when it’s first put in, it definitely climbs the gross scale pretty quickly thereafter. Now, the good news is that cleaning is totally a do-it-yourself project and it can brighten the entire bathroom.
So, let’s think about what’s happening to that grout. It gets pretty dirty from mold, mildew, even soap scum. So the first step to clean it is picking the right type of grout cleaner that you’ve got at home and it’s dependent on the type of grout and type of tile.
Now, there’s two types: acidic and non-acidic. But choosing the right one doesn’t depend on how dirty the grout is; it really is based on that type of tile. So you have to make sure you pick the right one.
TOM: Yep. So, for glazed tile, which is the most common type of tile, the acid-based cleaners are OK. So you want to opt for a good-quality commercial tile cleaner. You want to apply that with a bristle brush or a non-metallic scouring pad. And be sure to wear safety glasses to keep that cleaner away from your eyes as you scrub.
Now, if you’ve got unglazed tile, these are attractive but they are definitely the hardest to keep clean. These call for a natural cleanser. So, in this case, I would recommend a paste of baking soda and water. It works well when applied with a softer sort of medium-bristle brush.
But if you have natural stone, do not – do not – use acid-based cleaners, because they’ll damage the surfaces of marble or granite or travertine or limestone or terrazzo and any other natural material just like that. You can use a non-acid-based cleaner or the natural paste above that we talked about for the unglazed tile.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, with any of these options, here’s a tip: pick up a grout brush. You know, for a few bucks, it’s really going to save you a ton of time. It’s a stiff-bristle brush and it’s shaped to get just into the crevice that holds the grout. And it’s got a comfortable handle, so you’re not going to get tired out before that dirt is gone from the grout.
You’re also going to need to follow the directions on the grout cleaner itself. But it’s usually best to work from the top down, cleaning then rinsing a small area of tile at a time.
TOM: How many times have we read online blog posts where they say, “Oh, use a toothbrush to clean your grout”? No, I don’t think so. Definitely not sturdy enough for that. A grout brush is the way to go.
And once your tile is bright again, why don’t we keep it that way? What do you say? We want to apply a grout sealer to do just that. Silicone-based sealers are the best. I would suggest, though, waiting a day or two for the grout to thoroughly dry out from the cleaning process and then you can apply the sealer.
And by the way, it’s also a really good time to take a look at your bathroom vent fan and here’s why: because new ones are automatically operated by a humidistat. So, after you shower, they stay on long enough to vent out all the excess moisture before it settles on the tile and leads to quicker mold or mildew growth.
LESLIE: John from Ohio, you have got The Money Pit. Now, I understand, in this instance, you’re calling because you want us to sort of settle a debate between you and your wife?
LESLIE: OK. I hope we can help.
JOHN: Yeah. So we have an old home that was built in 1935. And the home has two main chimneys. Think of if you divide the house in half – if you look at the front of the house and divide it in half – one chimney stack on the left side services the three fireplaces right in the middle of the house – the half the house. The other chimney stack is in the middle of the right side and it was used originally as an incinerator and also for the original heating system for coal-firing, the coal chute and all that good stuff.
The chimney over on that side, it just runs all the way from the basement, all the way through the first, second, third floor and it’s just right in the middle. And it’s just very not conducive for an easy flow. And so, I’ve been kind of looking into – and trying to tell my wife we should get this thing taken out. And she thinks it’s going to be a massive ordeal to have this taken out.
And that’s my question. How common is it to remove these chimneys? How difficult is it? What would you recommend? That’s where I’m at.
TOM: Well, first of all, if that was the chimney that was used for the heating system, how is the heating system being vented now?
JOHN: Good question. We have forced air now and we now have ductwork and that – there’s a vent off the furnace that goes out one of the windows in the basement. It’s used for nothing.
TOM: So, do you have a high-efficiency system now where your vent is, essentially, a PVC pipe that goes out the side wall?
JOHN: Exactly. Yeah, there’s a PVC pipe that goes out. It’s a high-efficiency, 100,000-BTU Trane that was purchased probably 6 years ago?
TOM: Right. OK. So this chimney is absolutely abandoned and not being used at all.
JOHN: Correctly. And I’ve even looked to see if I can see if anything has been run up there, even cable lines or anything and nothing.
TOM: Right. Right. Yeah.
JOHN: Not even the forced-air vents are even going through it.
TOM: Mm-hmm. OK. So, then, if that’s the case, I mean you certainly can remove it. And gravity is important here. So, you’re going to stop at – start at the top, on the top of the roof and essentially disassemble this thing one brick at a time. It’s a brick chimney?
TOM: Yeah. It is going to be a big mess. Your wife’s right about that. It’s going to be a lot of dirt and dust and that’s going to impact every floor of the house when you get there.
Is the chimney walled in in any areas or is it fully exposed?
JOHN: So, I can only see from the basement up. And then there is an old access panel on the second-floor bathroom that I can – I have one of those little cameras that you can stick in and your phone is the screen.
TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
JOHN: And it looks like nothing is affixed to it and it’s just kind of floating inside of framing.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah, basically, that’s the way it would have been built.
TOM: But listen, if it’s closed in by walls, you’re going to have to open those walls up to continue this process.
TOM: Because you’re going to take that brick apart with a hammer and chisel. And you’re going to be banging them loose, banging them and then pulling them out and handing them – throwing them in the bucket and then walking the bucket downstairs and dumping them.
TOM: And it’s just going to take a long time to do this.
TOM: So, your wife is correct in that it’s a big project. I understand the benefits of it but it’s not for the faint of heart.
TOM: This is going to be – take some time. If it was me and I was – let’s say, for example, I had to redo my roof. I’d knock it down to below the roof level and put sheathing over it and then roof over it, so I didn’t have an extra protrusion of a chimney through a roof.
TOM: But it’s pretty much just wasted space right now. So it’s really kind of a cost benefit/ROI kind of analysis you have to do. If you’re really going to pick up some space by doing this, it’s going to allow you to reconfigure some other things in the house, then why not do it? Again, as long as it’s definitely not being used by a water heater or a furnace.
You said you have forced air. How you are getting hot water now?
JOHN: Ah, we have a – so, when we bought the house, I put in a Rinnai on demand.
TOM: Yeah. But is it – and so that – is that also – it’s a high-efficiency tankless water heater?
JOHN: Yeah, it’s a tankless. Rinnai tankless, I’m sorry. Yeah. And so, that’s funny you asked. Because the original water heater, when we bought the house, did use that as an escape vent.
TOM: Yes. Yep. Mm-hmm.
JOHN: And then when I put the Rinnai in, I said, “No, don’t do that. Put it escaping like the furnace, out one of the windows in the basement.”
TOM: Right. Yeah. Yeah. I’m actually about to take out a very old gas boiler and an inverted water heater that is fueling my house right now. And one of the things I’m considering is using my old chimney just as a chase, just as a space to run the vent pipe for the new combi boiler up and get it up and out of the house.
Don’t have to do that. I could bring it out a side wall. But I’m concerned that if I come out near the side wall, I’m going to be in the area close enough to where our patio is. And we like to sit out there and have dinners in the summer. I don’t want to have any of the off-gassing from the boiler impacting us. Because since it is also the water heater, we would have some of that no matter what time of the year we were out there.
JOHN: Thanks. You take care.
LESLIE: Well, termites can wreak havoc on your home and result in some pretty expensive damage. And the key to avoiding that costly headache is to identify termites as soon as you possibly can which, depending on the season, can be surprisingly hard to do.
TOM: Yeah. It’s not like they announce their presence. But termite activity slows down when it’s cold but the hungry bugs don’t stop. So, while these infestations in the winter are harder to see, even for experienced pros it is just as important to catch them year-round.
LESLIE: Now, here are a few things that you should be looking for, even in the winter months.
First of all, you want to look for mud tubes on your foundation walls and wood framing. Now, these are termite super highways and sometimes, I’ve heard them called even “mud tunnels.” And they look just like that: sort of a raised pathway of dirt but it almost looks like it’s hard, sort of crawling across your walls. And this is how those termites are traveling between the ground, where they live, and into your house, where they are eating.
TOM: Exactly. Now, working from the basement or crawlspace, you can also inspect floor framing and beams by tapping on them with a termite-tapping tool.
Did you know that there was such a thing as a termite-tapping tool, Leslie?
LESLIE: Well, yes and no.
TOM: It’s the biggest screwdriver you can find. I used to go – when I was a home inspector, I would go into Sears, into the Craftsman department because they had a screwdriver there for diesel mechanics.
LESLIE: Right. It’s gigantic.
TOM: It’s about 18 inches long, yeah. And I would use that thing until I wore the tip on it round to – when I was in crawlspaces and basements – to tap on the beams. And I’d find the termite damage all the time.
And you also want to use – if you don’t have a basement or a crawlspace, the other thing to do is to just use a really high-powered flashlight. Get one of these new LED flashlights that’s really bright. And let’s say you live in a house that’s got a slab foundation. So you want to hold that light parallel to the wall. Sort of put it about halfway up the wall, point it down towards the floor and then run that beam along the wall. And here’s what you’re looking for. You will see in that wall, right under the surface of the paint, the appearance of these mud tubes. They’ll look sort of like tree branches or vines but they’ll be right under the paint. The paint will be sort of sunken in just a tad.
I had a relative who passed away this past year and her kids were selling her house and said, “Hey, can you come just take a look?” And I said, “Sure.” So I went over there and I went through the whole house. Looked great. And I got to the garage and I was like, “Holy cow.” I held my light against the wall and sure enough, the wall was completely invested with termites. Ended up being a problem that they needed to fix before they put it on the market.
So, you can definitely find it with that little flashlight trick.
LESLIE: Yeah. That really is a good trick of the trade.
So, if you do happen to find an infestation, the treatments available today are really the best that they’ve ever been. But they do have to be applied by a pro and they are a type that termites simply cannot detect. And as a result, the termite is going to carry the treatment back to their nest and it’s really there that it’s most effective at stopping that termite activity.
TOM: Yeah. You know, as a home inspector, I used to find termite infestations in about one out of every three or four homes. Now, they weren’t all active but I saw evidence of them in about 75 percent of the homes that I inspected. So, they’re pretty common. And that’s why it is smart to have a yearly termite inspection performed.
Now, if you’ve got a contract with a pest-control firm, like a service contract, they’re going to include that inspection as part of that service. And this way, if the termites have recently made their way in, you can treat the problem before any serious damage is done.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, we’ve got Lauren from Nebraska on the line. What can we do for you today?
LAUREN: I live in an area where it’s all – a lot of clay in the soil. And we have a basement underneath of our house. And the walls have moved in a little bit from the pressure of the earth. And I notice in the summertime, when it’s very dry, the earth pulls away from the house. And sometimes, it’s an almost 2-inch gap of air space that – and I’m just wondering, should a guy put something in there when that pulls away or should he just leave it alone?
TOM: I don’t like to see those big gaps in there. I would be of the mind to tell you to backfill it and add additional soil and tamp it down so that you don’t have those big gaps.
LAUREN: So that wouldn’t add more pressure when it gets – the soil gets earth – or the earth gets wet and it pushes back in?
TOM: No. Because I think it’s going to expand equally in all directions. If it’s not pressing on the walls, as it is now, I don’t think it’s going to do that later.
LAUREN: OK. Well, you’ve answered my question. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Post your questions at MoneyPit.com, just like Ronnie did.
Now, Ronnie writes: “I have a tile floor in my kitchen that gets pretty cold. Are there options for in-floor heating that can be installed from below the floor?”
TOM: Yes. So, if you’ve got a hot-water heating system, Ronnie, in the rest of the house, you can certainly add a zone using PEX tubing. PEX is the cross-linked polyethylene tubing and it could be mounted underneath the subfloor. Now, if not, you probably should consider one of the many electric radiant-heat systems that are mounted from the kitchen side. However, those would require a new floor to be installed at the same time to get the maximum benefit.
But another option, in the electric-heater category, is a baseboard heater, which is also called a “kickboard heater.” You know the area below the base cabinets, where sort of your toe, if you’re standing up against the countertops, can kind of go in a little bit deeper? So there’s a heater designed to fit in that recessed area. It’s pretty compact, obviously, and you could put one or two in and run them on a thermostat so you only use them when necessary to add a little bit of heat.
And I’ll tell you, if you ever are standing in front of the counter and doing a lot of vegetable-chopping or something like that, it’s really nice. It kind of bathes your feet in heat, right? It’s just like a little bit of a spa experience in your kitchen.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a post here from Trevor. He actually reached out on Facebook. And Trevor writes: “Ever since it turned cold, mice have been coming into my home. I thought I had fixed the problem 8 years ago by fixing a small hole in the foundation but they’re back.”
TOM: Guess they found another home, Mike.
LESLIE: I mean it’s been 8 years.
TOM: Yeah. Eight years? Yeah, good job. But you know what? If you ever thought you could mouse-proof your house permanently by sealing up those small gaps, think again because a mouse can squeeze through a space about as small as a nickel and then find its way into your home. So, what you want to do are a couple of things to prevent or deter nesting and then to exterminate them if they get in.
So, first of all, avoid creating a nesting site. Now, what is a nesting site? Stacks of newspaper, stacks of cardboard, boxes, firewood, lumber, other type of storage.
LESLIE: Pet food. They love everything.
TOM: Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely.
And speaking of pet food, any kind of food like that you’ve got to have up off the floor. You can’t just have it in the pet-food bag or …
LESLIE: Let me tell you. We have a hamster in addition to a dog and other animals in the house, meaning two boy children. But no, we have a hamster. And I had the hamster food in its bag behind the hamster cage, up on the counter that it’s on. And I’m 100-percent certain the hamster does not escape its cage. But something ate through that bag. And I was like, “It’s off the floor. It’s by the other – it’s by the cage.” I couldn’t even believe that the mice would be so brazen but they are.
TOM: Oh, yeah.
LESLIE: So if there’s a place for the food or something that they like, they will find it and get there.
TOM: And last, use a rodenticide. You know, these poisons are designed to eliminate mice. They’re very effective. They’re very safe if they’re used in accordance with the label instructions. If you have pets or small children, you can use lockable bait stations to contain the poison. The mice can get in but the kids and the pets cannot.
LESLIE: Alright. Hopefully, that helps. And 8 years is a pretty good run. So, good job.
TOM: It’s your time.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. You can download The Money Pit podcast at MoneyPit.com/Podcast. And remember, if you have a question about your home, we are accessible pretty much 24/7. We’re not going to get back to you in the middle of the night but …
LESLIE: But we’re thinking about home improvement at that time. So, it’s like we’re on the same wavelength.
TOM: We’re thinking about it, that’s right. We’re dreaming about it.
So, if you’ve got questions, we’ve got the answers and we will reach out to you the next time we produce the show.
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.)