- Window Shades that Stop Drafts: The right window treatments can save you money on energy bills while adding style to your home. Find out the best options.
- Fireplace Safety: Fireplaces are a common cause of home heating fires. Learn how to maintain your fireplace to stay safe and warm.
- Sprinkler Systems: Winterizing your sprinkler system now can prevent big repairs when spring arrives. We’ll discuss three ways to winterize your system.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Insulation: Dan converted his back porch and wants to insulate the floor but has limited access to the tight space underneath. His only options may be having someone spray foam insulation or digging out a crawlspace.
- Painting: A contractor did a poor job spray painting Anna’s doors with the wrong kind of paint. She’ll need to start over by using a citrus-based product to remove the paint, then using an oil-based primer and good-quality paint to do it right.
- Wood Paneling: What’s the best way to cover up dark wood paneling in a 1970s-era home? David can either try to remove the paneling without damaging the drywall or paint the paneling with a matte finish to brighten it up.
- Glue Removal: The carpet in Sylvia’s old kitchen is glued to the subfloor and she wants to replace it with hardwood flooring. A citrus adhesive remover will soften the glue so she can even it out and then she can add a new layer of subfloor.
- Bathroom Floor: Alfred would like to install a commercial-style floor covering that rises up a few inches of his bathroom walls. It may be costly, but he would need to have a shower pan built for the entire bathroom and then cover it with tile.
- Windows: The tall, narrow windows in Marlise’s house aren’t supposed to open, but they’ve slid down into the frame and left big gaps at the top. She’ll have to find a way to slide the windows back up and secure them in place.
- Columns: The porch columns in front of an old house are starting to rot again after being replaced once before. We tell Carol how to protect the columns from water damage and what to know about reinforcing the support.
- Water Pressure: It’s not that funny when Brad’s son flushes the toilet and the water in the shower gets cold. He’ll want to install a pressure balance valve in the shower to regulate the water temperature.
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: Hey, what are you guys doing? Are you getting ready for the holidays? Geez, Thanksgiving is almost here. Man, I can’t believe it. And then holiday season: Christmas, Hanukkah, you know, you name it. It’s just such a busy time of the year for us, personally, let alone trying to get our house ready for maybe any guests that are going to be stopping by.
But if you’ve got a project that you absolutely, positively have to get done – you’re kind of stuck on or need some tips to move it along – that’s a great a topic for us today. So give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT – or really any project you want to do now, you want to plan for next year. We’d be happy to help because that’s what we do. We’ve been answering questions from folks just like you for – ugh, I hate to admit it but for over 20 years.
LESLIE: It’s been a long time.
TOM: Because this is Episode 2258 – 2,258 – and gosh, I just am so happy to have this job, Leslie, because otherwise I’d have to do a real job. I just don’t want to do that. I just want to hang out and talk and fix stuff and – I was just talking to Jim, our editor. He was like, “How’s it going?” I’m like, “Eh, I just moved 8 yards of topsoil in a wheelbarrow. Aww, it sucked.” The older I get, the heavier stuff gets and it’s just kind of what we do. We live this stuff, right? And so we love talking about it.
LESLIE: I mean it’s awesomely fun.
TOM: And it is awesomely fun. So, hey, let us help you with your projects, because we’ve got some experience in this space.
Anyway, coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk about fireplaces. Here’s a really surprising stat: fireplaces account for almost half of all home heating fires. It’s a big number, especially considering on how little they’re used compared to, say, your heating system, right? So we’re going to share some tips on how to make sure your fireplace is both toasty and safe.
LESLIE: And if you’re looking for ways to save money on your energy bills, try looking for the right window treatments to reduce your heat loss. We’re going to share three excellent options.
TOM: And if you’re lucky enough to have a sprinkler system for your lawn, now is definitely the time that that system needs to be winterized. If it’s not done yet, you’ve got to get it done. You don’t want to see what happens when it’s not. Trust me, it’s not pretty. It’s happened to me once and it’s a real mess. We’ll explain what needs to happen to avoid that frozen mess, just ahead.
LESLIE: But first, you’ve got home improvement questions and you don’t know where to turn for answers? Well, you turn to us. We can help you save some money, save time and avoid some home improvement hassles that will just slow you down on the road to your dream house. So, don’t forget you’ve got to reach out to us. We can’t call you.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. I’ll tell you, the easy way to get in touch with us is just to go to our website, click on the blue microphone button – it’s on every page – and record your question. This way, we can get back to you the next time we’re in the studio.
So let’s get started. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Dan in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DAN: I have a back porch that I turned into a salon and – for my wife. And it was never insulated out there. And I’ve insulated the walls and ceiling and I need a way to insulate the floors. And what it is – it’s just about a foot off the ground, at the front of it, and maybe a foot-and-a-half at the back of it. And there’s not really a good way to crawl under there and try to insulate. I was wondering the best way to try to insulate that to keep the pipes from freezing.
TOM: Yeah, that’s going to be difficult because you have no access to that space. In a perfect world, you’d be able to get under there and push some fiberglass batts underneath the floor but you can’t do that.
Now, what kind of flooring is down from the top side? Is there any way you can remove that floor and insulate and then reinstall it?
DAN: No, not without great difficulty. It’s got old, 2×6 flooring with sheeting on top of that and then I’ve got a laminate-type flooring on top of that.
TOM: Mm-hmm. So the flooring is finished, too, correct?
DAN: Yes, yes.
TOM: I don’t have a good solution for you, because you have no access to that space.
DAN: Very, very little access around the edges. I can get to the edges and insulate around the outside but I wouldn’t even know …
TOM: If you could get creative and get those insulation batts up and pressed up under that floor, that’s going to help. But it’s very difficult.
One thing you could also consider doing is spray-foam insulation. A spray-foam pro might – might – be able to get the tools back down into the nooks and crannies of that floor space to be able to foam it and sort of work their work out. Spray foam, you spray it and it expands. There’s a very significant expansion ratio of maybe 100 to 1 or so. So if they put a thin coating on the inside of the floor, it will fill up to 8 inches or 10 inches thick. So that’s a possibility but again, it’s tricky.
DAN: And I got – I ran plumbing and water, so I need to somehow …
TOM: Well, if you ran the plumbing and the water, why didn’t you insulate the pipes at the same time?
DAN: Well, I was planning on – I thought there’d be a way to insulate around the outside of it or insulate – I ran everything through a window, through the basement, to get out there. So I’ve got airflow through my basement, so if I could somehow insulate around the edges, I think it would – might keep it enough to …
TOM: Right. You might want to dig out some of that crawlspace, create kind of a Yankee basement there. Not enough to do anything more than crawl in there but you may need to lower some of it to get access to that space and do all – everything that you need to do. That’s a problem when you convert spaces like that. They were never intended to be a living space when they were first constructed, so they’re very challenging to work around, just like you’re experiencing.
DAN: Yeah, I’m finding that out. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Anna on the line who needs some help with some door improvement.
Tell us what you’re working on.
ANNA: Hi. Yes, I have one metal door and three fiberglass doors that – I got a guy to paint it. And not knowing – when I got home, he actually painted with a spray-can paint. So when the heat hits the door, I can’t open the door because it’s sticking to the door jamb.
TOM: Oh, boy. What a mess. What a mess.
ANNA: How do I repair that?
TOM: Well, even though he painted it with spray paint, it should still work. I mean it should dry. The fact that it’s spray paint is not making it any more or less tacky than perhaps if you use paint out of a gallon. But the fact that it’s sticking might mean that the door needs a bit of adjustment inside the opening. Are all the doors sticking?
ANNA: All the doors stick right on the rubber of the door jamb. It’s like a – I think that it’s a shoo-shoo (ph) can paint, not – I’m like, “Well, you sprayed what to the door?”
TOM: What kind of paint did he use?
ANNA: I call it a “shoo-shoo (ph).” Regular can paint. He went to the hardware store, got a spray-can paint and sprayed it.
TOM: Well, look, what you should do now, if you’ve had a bad paint job, is you really have to pull that old paint off. So I would take the doors off of the hinges, lay them down horizontally, use a paint remover to pull off the paint that’s there.
Once you get it back down to where it was when you started, then I would prime the doors first. And I would use an oil-based primer, because that’s going to give you good adhesion to both the metal and the fiberglass doors. And then I would put a good, top-quality finish coat on that using a semi-gloss paint. Then let them dry really well and then reinstall them.
ANNA: So is it possible then to – this is on metal and fiberglass – to get a paint remover for this thing?
TOM: Yes. There’s paint removers – the citrus-based removers are the most effective. So use the citrus-based paint removers, pull off the old paint, prime the doors and then repaint them. You should be good to go. OK, Anna?
ANNA: Thank you so very much again.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got David joining us here at Team Money Pit. He’s got some brown paneling and needs a lot of help.
What’s going on?
DAVID: We inherited a house that was built back in the 70s and I was wondering what to do with the original wood and the dark-brown paneling that’s on the living room to kitchen/dining-room areas.
TOM: We get a lot of calls just like this – don’t we, Leslie? – from folks that have paneling – kind of stuck in the 70s paneling. And in this case, generally your options are to either remove it if you can, assuming it’s not glued to the walls, or paint it. What do you think?
LESLIE: Those really are your only two options. So, it kind of depends on how much work you want to get into. Definitely don’t try to fill any of those gaps and crevices that make it the paneling, because it’s not going to stay. They’re like, “Ooh, I’ll make it look like a smooth wall.” Uh-uh.
TOM: No. You can’t.
LESLIE: No, no. That’s not going to work. And it’s just going to fall out and be more frustrating.
Painting the paneling looks fine, in my opinion. It’s definitely that sort of clapboard look that you kind of get but vertical instead of horizontal.
TOM: Yeah. I think it comes down to budget, because everybody can paint and you’ve definitely got to prime it and put a couple of coats of finish on it. I would use something with a matte finish. I wouldn’t use anything with a sheen. And that’s sort of the budget way to get rid of this and lighten the space up.
In best scenario, you’re going to want to remove it. And sometimes that’s easiest, sometimes it’s not. If it’s glued to the wall, then you end up having to do a lot of drywall repair or putting another layer of drywall on, which really drives up the cost. So, maybe you could do a little exploratory surgery and see how hard it is to take that off. You know, find an area where maybe you can pry it off a little bit at the seam and see if there’s any glue under there. If there’s no glue, then you can probably take it off. You’ll have to fill the nail holes but that’s not such a bad deal.
But if not, what you could do is paint it and just live with it for a little while. And then maybe in the future you can go ahead and tear it off, when you have a bigger budget to take care of making sure those walls are properly restored.
LESLIE: Yeah. Either way, figure out what you’re going to do. You’re definitely going to transform the space. Even if it’s just with paint, it’s going to feel a lot brighter. It’s not the lighting, it’s the dark paneling. I promise you it’s going to feel a lot brighter once you do that.
Well, fireplaces are definitely great for ambiance but they can also be great for cutting your home heating bills. And you know what, guys? If you’re not taking care of them, they can do more harm than good.
Now, according to the National Fire Protection Association, fireplaces account for almost half of all home heating fires. And that’s a huge number considering how little that you use them compared to your heating system that you use every day.
TOM: Yeah. And because of that, this is one area of the house that really needs careful and consistent maintenance so it operates safely.
Now, the first step is to hire a chimney sweep. A chimney sweep’s cleaning inspection is really critical to making sure the fireplace is safe. It ought to be done once a year. At least once for every cord of wood that you burn. And generally, right before the winter is a good time to do that.
Besides sweeping the chimney, a good sweep is also going to make sure the structure’s intact but you can do this, too. From the ground up and very carefully from the roof, you can glance around your chimney for cracks, for loose bricks or missing mortar. Even one storm can cause damage, so just keep an eye on that structure and make sure it looks good.
But for all the value a good chimney sweep brings, I have to say, Leslie, proceed with caution, right? Chimney-sweeping is an area – it’s an industry that’s really ripe with, how should we say, questionable sales practices?
LESLIE: It’s true.
TOM: “You’ve got a problem and I’m just the guy to fix it for you” kind of people? So make sure the pro you hire is certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. And listen, if the chimney sweep says you’ve got some terrible, horrible, panic-peddling kind of explanation of what’s wrong, get a second opinion even if it costs you a few bucks. Because sometimes these sweeps will try to turn small problems into really big moneymakers for themselves.
LESLIE: Yeah. Big price-tag problems.
TOM: And I hate to have to say that but it’s just – yeah, it’s an industry that just has that reputation. Just proceed carefully. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it done; it just means be aware.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? I think it’s super important – when you go to the store and you pick up some firewood or perhaps you’re harvesting wood around your property, it’s super important what type of wood you use in your fireplace. The type you burn makes a difference, so you want to only burn seasoned wood. Now, that means it should be dried out for at least 6 months before you use it in the fireplace. And that’s long enough and dry enough to produce a hollow sound when you toss it against another piece of wood. You know that sound when you’re piling up all the firewood at a campsite or throwing something in the fireplace? It makes that definite like …
TOM: It’s hollow. Like when I bump my head hollow. Yeah, that one.
LESLIE: But it definitely makes a distinct sound.
Now, if you use wood that has not been seasoned, what can happen is it can have a buildup of creosote and creosote is very, very combustible. And you’ll see the creosote is sort of a blackish-brown kind of tar-like substance and it sticks to the inside of the flue. And what happens is too much of it starts to build up. It’s super flammable. It can cause a fire. And a fire in a chimney is so dangerous, so you really have to make sure that the chimney is kept very, very clean.
TOM: Now, one last thing. We talked a lot about the maintenance of wood-burning fireplaces here but wood stoves or even gas fireplaces, maintenance rules apply. You need to service them annually to make sure they’re operating safely. So don’t skip that step, because we want you guys to be safe. Cozy but safe at the same time.
LESLIE: Sylvia in Ohio is on the line and clearly spilled some glue somewhere.
What’s going on?
SYLVIA: No, I didn’t spill glue. We have – our carpet in our kitchen is glued down like 20 years ago.
LESLIE: Did you say carpeting in your kitchen?
SYLVIA: Yes, they used glue to put the carpet down. So my question is: how do we get it off the floor without tearing the whole floor out?
TOM: What kind of flooring was it glued over? Is it hardwood?
SYLVIA: No, just …
SYLVIA: Yes, uh-huh.
TOM: Some sort of subfloor? So, really, you don’t have to get it completely off; you just have to kind of get it smooth so you can put whatever kind of flooring down you want to do over that.
What kind of flooring do you want to end up with, Sylvia?
SYLVIA: We want to put hardwood over it or on it.
TOM: So, what you should do is get a citrus adhesive remover. There’s a number of different citrus-based adhesive removers. They’re not as caustic as some of the other adhesive removers. And what it will do is soften that adhesive. And your goal here is just to get any of the sort of the thicker, chunkier areas removed so that what you could do is put down another layer of plywood – an underlayment of plywood – say, like a ¼-inch luan or something like that. Then on top of that, you could install your hardwood floor.
There’s lots of options with the hardwood floor. You can use engineered hardwood, which is thinner but very, very beautiful. And it’s more dimensionally stable and it would be probably a better choice for a kitchen. Because if you put regular hardwood down and you ever had a big leak, spilled a pot of anything, it will swell up and become damaged. But if you use engineered, it’s much more stable and resistant to any type of swelling when it gets damp or wet.
SYLVIA: Oh, that’s great. Thank you.
TOM: Oh, you’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alfred, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
ALFRED: I’ve got a duplex. And I got this idea from truck-stop restrooms – from the truck-stop showers? I drive a truck. Anyways, my question is – in the showers that I’ve seen or the bathrooms I’ve seen, the floor covering goes up on the sides of the – up to the wall, say, about 3 or 4 inches. So I guess when you spill water or something like that, it doesn’t go down in the floor or whatever. Because the problem I had in my duplex is that someone would run the bathtub over or something will leak and it goes down to my kitchen down below.
And I’m redoing that bathroom and I’ve seen this thing in the commercial bathrooms. And I was wondering, is there something that I can do similar? Is it like a liquid epoxy?
TOM: Yeah. So what they’re doing in that situation is they’re essentially taking the entire floor and turning it into a shower pan. You know how if you have a shower where you have a tile pan and the pan has the drain in it and you step in the shower and the water falls in the floor and then it runs in the drain. So think about that but for the same size, the basically full width of the shower – of the bathroom itself.
I’ve seen bathrooms in Europe that are done that way. I’ve seen some in the United States but it’s not too common. So, sure, it’s entirely possible to do that but it dramatically raises the cost of the bathroom build-out, which could be weighed against the occasional leak getting through. It’s not a common occurrence for leaks to come through bathrooms, so much so that I would recommend that everyone do that. But if you want to kind of go the extra mile and don’t mind the expense and work, you certainly could build a shower pan that’s the entire width of your bathroom.
ALFRED: Oh, I gotcha. Do you have an idea what I could – what product I can use that does that? How would I actually do that?
TOM: So, shower pans can be made of lead or they can be made of fiberglass. They essentially have to be sort of molded in place and then they’re covered with tile.
ALFRED: OK. That’s how it’s done. I gotcha, I gotcha.
TOM: It’s like a pool. Think about if you were trying to build a pool, you know? It has to – the base itself has to be absolutely waterproof and then the tile covers it.
ALFRED: Oh, OK. I gotcha, I gotcha. Awesome, awesome. Well, that’s great. Well, I definitely appreciate your time to answer my question. Thank you very much.
TOM: Our pleasure, Alfred. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
He brings up a very good point that you can get ideas and inspiration no matter where you are. Here he is, a long-haul trucker and sees this kind of a shower setup in one of the establishments that he stopped in and was thinking about whether he could do it at home. Makes sense.
Has the holiday decorating begun, Leslie, at your house? It sounds like it should about now, right?
LESLIE: No, I can’t do Christmas until Thanksgiving. But I promise you the day after Thanksgiving you will have Christmas.
TOM: There you go. Don’t be between Leslie and a row of Christmas lights, because you’re going to get run over.
LESLIE: It’s my favorite. What can I do?
TOM: Hey, how would you guys like to win a whole workshop full of tools to take on your fall fix-up projects and more? You can when you enter The Money Pit’s Fantastic Fall Fix-Up Sweepstakes, presented by Arrow.
LESLIE: Yeah. This is amazing. Now, one grand-prize winner is going to receive $750 worth of Arrow tools, including the Pneumatic Brad Nailer, the T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun. I mean so many awesome tools and staples. This is a great prize pack.
TOM: We’ve also got five runner-up winners who will receive the Arrow Holiday Light Helper Prize Pack. That’s worth a hundred bucks. So, we’ve got lots of stuff going out to folks for the holiday season, from Arrow, if you enter the sweepstakes. You can do that once a day at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes, where you can also earn bonus entries for additional chances to win. That’s MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes.
LESLIE: Marlese (sp) is on the line with a slippery-window question.
What’s going on at your money pit?
MARLESE (sp): My windows – I have two and it’s an add-on where you walk in. And they’re probably about 7 feet long and 15 inches wide. They slid down and the top has a 2-inch gap where – so air is just coming in. They’re not the type you open. I heard you could put a suction cup and try to pull them up or something.
TOM: So these windows – you say these windows slide but they’re not the kind that open? Well, that doesn’t make sense to me.
MARLESE (sp): No, they’re not meant to slide.
MARLESE (sp): They’re just in the wood frame. And they slid down like 2-inch gap, where the air is coming in.
TOM: I’m trying to imagine what this looks like. The window is not meant to slide. Is this window meant to open at all?
MARLESE (sp): No.
TOM: So it’s a permanent, solid pane that fits into a frame and somehow it slipped out of the frame?
MARLESE (sp): Yeah, they both slid down, I’m guessing, in the wall somehow or down the frame.
TOM: Is this a situation where the home is settling, do you think? Or is it just that this window sash has moved out of the frame that was holding it?
MARLESE (sp): It just slid down in the frame that was holding it.
TOM: This is a good time for you to take a photo of this window and post it to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit so we can look at it and comment on it.
However, if it’s a static window that was held into a wood frame and it’s absolutely not intended to move or open ever, then I don’t see why you couldn’t slide it back up from whence it came and secure it in place mechanically with screws or nails or other types of fasteners. Or brace it in place or use a silicone caulk around the outside edge, which would have the same effect of holding it in place. As long as it’s not designed to move whatsoever, then it’s just a mechanical matter of getting it back in place and securing it there in a more permanent way.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, guys. Did you know the right window treatments can reduce heat loss by as much as 64 percent? That means adding style to your windows can keep your home comfortable and save you a lot of money on top of your energy bills, too. Here’s a few options to consider if this is a project you would like to tackle.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, cellular shades, guys, these are the most insulating. They’ve got a unique honeycomb shape, so it’s sort of two outer edges and open air pockets in the middle. And that traps the air to keep those outside temperatures outside. It kind of is a buffer between the cold window and the warm house.
Now, you want to make sure you use the ones that are made with fabric, because that resists crushing the most, rather than those paper shades. And the shades come in different cell sizes that are going to provide different levels of insulation, so this way you can really choose what’s best for your needs.
And you’re not limited to horizontal shades, here, because you can actually find the sort of honeycomb style in vertical shades, too. So there’s really an option for everybody. And some of them really look great and they’ll work with all of your décor. So definitely take a look.
TOM: We’ve got cellular shades on all of the windows downstairs in our house and I absolutely love them. They really do work very, very well.
Now, another option is solar shades. They have a more modern look. They’re great for managing heat and daylight and glare. Now, solar shades use technology that blocks the sun’s rays from the outside while still allowing you to have views from the inside. There are sort of different levels of openness and that’s going to determine how much of the shade you can actually see through. Sort of the view-through capability.
Now, a blackout option will prevent all light from transferring through the fabric. Semi-opaque allows minimal light and sheer lets daylight filter right on through.
LESLIE: Yeah. And because solar fabrics are engineered to save energy, they reduce heating costs. But they also maximize natural light, which means that you use less electricity for your interior lighting. And colors do matter, because a darker color is going to absorb more solar radiation to save energy during the colder months. And lighter colors, on the other hand, reflect more solar radiation in the winter and make the most of natural light by allowing the daylight to kind of filter through the fabric. So, it’s really a personal choice there to kind of figure out what’s going to work best for you.
And of course, drapery? That’s a really simple third option to help you increase your insulation. This is just an added layer that’s going to give you more insulation to reduce heat loss. They can be super sophisticated or very stylized, whatever works great with your room. I mean of course, you’re closing them to help you insulate that window space better but it’s definitely a boost in décor and a boost in insulation.
Carol in Rhode Island is on the line and needs some help with the exterior of her home.
How can we help you?
CAROL: I have a 115-year-old Queen Anne Victorian. Twelve years ago, I replaced all the columns on the porch and they’re rotting out again. And they’re finger-jointed columns and I was told they were installed incorrectly, so I’d like to know the correct way to install them.
TOM: Why were you told that they were installed incorrectly?
CAROL: I was told that because the top was not sealed with some kind of flashing, that there was snow and rain getting in the top of the column and it was rotting the column from the inside out.
TOM: Well, that may or may not be the case. Certainly, you need to pay attention to water control when you do a project like that. It’s hard for me to imagine – usually, columns sit underneath an overhang. But if there was some aspect of it that was exposed, then maybe that could be the case.
Another area to make sure you keep it off the ground is at the bottom of the column. We usually advise columns be put on something called a “post dock (ph),” which is like a plate that keeps it up a ½-inch or an inch off of the floor or the slab, depending on how this is built, so that you have some room for the column to dry out and not collect water. But generally, any time you have water that collects in an area, you are going to have rot.
Now, replacing these columns is not a do-it-yourself project, so you need to proceed very carefully with this, because those columns hold a lot of weight and that weight has to be transferred while the repair is being made.
CAROL: So let me ask you this. I’m thinking now of replacing them with the new fiberglass or composite columns, whatever they’re made out of. And I was told by a friend of mine that I should still have some kind of a steel pole inserted in the middle to hold the weight of the porch.
TOM: Yeah, it depends on the column. There are those types of composite columns where there’s, essentially, a metal column, like a Lally column, that does all the work – the structural work. And then the decorative column kind of snaps around that.
CAROL: Oh, I didn’t realize that.
TOM: Because the composite itself may not be load-bearing. In fact, it will be unlikely for it to hold – to handle – almost any weight whatsoever.
CAROL: Thank you for the information. It’s confirming what my friend told me. He’s not a carpenter, so I was questioning him.
TOM: You tell him he’s very smart. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Brad in Tennessee is on the line with a home that probably has the best practical joke already built into it: you flush the toilet, the shower gets cold.
Why do you want to change that?
BRAD: Well, because my 4-year-old son seems to think it’s more of a joke than it’s a real thing.
TOM: Than his parents?
BRAD: Yes. That is the problem.
TOM: Alright. So the shower valve itself, right? There’s an easy solution to this, first of all, Brad. It requires you to change the shower valve into something called a “pressure-balanced valve.” Now, I know you don’t have a pressure-balanced valve because your water temperature is changing when you draw off water, in this case, by flushing the toilet. It would probably also happen if you ran other fixtures in the house. But it’s because you have a differential in the pressure or the mix, as you say, between the hot and the cold.
What a pressure-balanced valve does is it keeps that mix the same and regardless of what happens to either the cold-water supply or the hot-water supply. So you can have more or less of either temperature of water but the ratio of the mix together doesn’t change. You may get less pressure when you flush that toilet, after this valve’s installed, but it won’t be a shock, OK? It won’t change the temperature dramatically. That’s what a pressure-balanced valve does and it sounds like you don’t have one and that would be the solution.
BRAD: Excellent, excellent. Well, I will run out and get one.
TOM: Alright. It’s a bit of a project. You may not be able to install it yourself. It’s pretty much you have to re-plumb the shower valve there. You may need a plumber to help you but it definitely will solve this.
BRAD: OK. Well, excellent. We found out where to start now and where the joke ends.
TOM: Alright, Brad. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and we are confident that your 4-year-old will find something else equally amusing to bother his parents with.
BRAD: I’m sure he will. Thank you so much, guys.
LESLIE: Well, sprinkler systems are a luxury that afford you a nice, green lawn and garden all spring and summer. But if you live in a climate where you need to winterize that system, it’s a job that you have to get done correctly or you could be facing a big repair bill come springtime.
Now, there’s really three ways to winterize a sprinkler system. You’ve got manual, automatic and blowout. And the first step in all cases, though, is turning off that water supply.
TOM: Now, the manual is located usually at the low end of the low points of the sprinkler lines. To do this, you want to basically open the manual drain valves and allow the water to drain. And sometimes that water’s still under a lot of pressure and it will come out quickly at first, so be ready for that so you don’t get a big splash in your face.
To drain out automatics? Well, automatic systems have drain valves located at the end and low points of the irrigation piping. They’re going to automatically open and drain water if the pressure in the piping is less than 10 PSI. So, to activate these, you basically just shut the irrigation water supply and it kind of does it by itself.
And then finally, one that you have to pay a pro for is simply called a “blowout.” And even though I have a little bit of both here, I like doing this every year because my pro comes in with a giant air compressor and forces all the air out of the lines to make sure they’re removed. Because sprinkler lines actually can move over time, especially with frost heave, and sometimes you get these pockets that hold water. But if they hold water and the soil freezes, which it’s going to, they’re going to expand and break and crack and you’ve got a big mess. So, I like knowing that all the water’s totally blown out, so that’s why I have mine blown out by a pro. And since we started doing that, we’ve never had an issue with water being left behind causing a break in the line.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I always feel like if they come to do the blowout, they also have to check that backflow valve and file a special permit for that, at least in my village. So that’s why I always go with a pro for the blowout. So, definitely important to do.
And guys, if it’s not done right, I mean while it could be pretty, you might find yourself in your own version of the Frozen movies. So, let’s kind of avoid that.
TOM: Yeah. And by the way, the other important thing about having a pro do this is if springtime comes and it turns out you did a freeze break, well, usually they’re going to repair that for free. Because that means some water did get left behind somehow. And so it’s just another reason to have a pro open your system and close it every year.
LESLIE: Ann in Florida has reached out to Team Money Pit. Now, Ann says, “I live in a second-floor condo of a three-story building. The neighbor next to me just discovered that she has black mold growing on several of her walls. I have walls that are adjacent to some of hers. Should I be worried?”
TOM: Yes. I hate to say this but mold does not respect any dividing walls between apartments or property lines, that’s for sure. And if you live in a multi-family building and your neighbor has mold that’s showing up on the inside of her apartment, chances are there may be some mold inside the walls.
So, look, I wouldn’t panic but you definitely need to take some action. I would report this to the building super. I would report it in writing to make sure that you are covered and I would find out what they’re going to do about it. And generally, when you have mold that’s growing, it has to be treated – professionally, by the way, especially if it’s in a multi-family building like that – and have a company come in a treat the mold so that they can kill it.
And they’ll also – can do some investigation to see kind of how far it went. There’s ways to inspect the insides of walls without destroying the walls. There are tools like – there’s one called a “borescope” where, basically, you drill a hole in the wall and you can put a little camera in there and look around all sides to see if you’ve got mold.
But you need to get to the bottom of this. Somewhere there’s probably a moisture source; it could be a leak that started all this. But if you just kind of let it go, it’s not going to get any better. It’s only going to get worse and it could definitely make you sick. So, I would take some action on this, Ann. Make sure you report it to your building super, to your management company. Do it in writing and find out what they’re going to do about it.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps you out, Ann. I can remember when they built this sort of development in our town. There was an issue with the siding and it got all wet behind it and caused all kinds of black mold. So you definitely have to be on top of this, Ann, to make sure that you’re safe and that you live a nice, long, healthy life at this place.
Alright. Now, Dave from Houston wrote in saying, “We’re having engineered-wood flooring installed into our second-floor bedrooms. What are the benefits and drawbacks of having it glued down or floating. And how about having something between the plywood and the floor? Anything else we should consider before the install?”
TOM: Well, first of all, when you buy the engineered-wood flooring, it’s going to be designed for one or the other type of installation: either floating or glue-down. Personally, I love the floating floors. I find them really easy to work with. I’ve never had to worry about a floor that kind of released and got loose in any way.
If you’re wondering what we’re talking about – so, flooring today, a lot of it simply – the planks lock together and then they float or rest on the floor. And you leave a little bit of a gap at the perimeter of the wall – usually around a ¼- to a ½-inch – and you cover that with molding. So if there’s any expansion and contraction, it’s taken up by that gap. And I found that it works really, really well.
The only time I’ve ever actually glued the planks together is – I haven’t glued them to the floor but if I had a spot, Leslie, where it might be a really small piece of flooring and it was kind of like – I was doing a laundry room once and I had to kind of work around some machines and I had very small pieces of flooring. In that case, I made sure not only did I use the self-click function but I put just a little bit of glue in there and made sure it would secure it real well. But I’ve never had to actually glue it down.
Now, the old days, you used to glue this stuff down all the time but I really don’t see the reason to having that continuous bond. And in terms of anything underneath it, if the product’s designed to be used with an underlayment, it might give you a little more cushion, perhaps a little more sound-resistance. But I would only add another layer to it if I was working with the manufacturer’s recommended products.
LESLIE: Alright, Dave. And there’s so many great floors to choose from, so I know you’re going to find something awesome for your house.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thanks for spending a good part of your day with us. We are here to help you take on home improvement projects whenever you need to get them done. Remember, you can reach out to us by clicking the blue microphone button anytime 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 2022 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.)