Categories in Fix & Improve It

Explore these fix-up topics and let your home improvement adventure begin!

your questions in Fix & Improve It

See Answer

Help! House Flooded Right Before Closing

I am buying a 3 story, built in 2012 detached house in California. Just got a phone call from my agent today (4 days before closing) that the house was flooded!  The seller’s mover uninstalled the washer and accidentally turned on the water so the whole second floor is flooded and into the garage on the first floor. My agent said that seller’s insurance company will take care all that and will repair everything.  He assured me that the flooring and drywall will be repaired and everything will be dry. Would you say think after the repair, everything can be 100% back to normal? Or are there things that just will not be repaired completely? Or could this is all be a good thing and I will be better off after  the repair? Thank you very much in advance for your response. I got hooked on listening to your show and hoped you could help!

Our Answer

Wow, that's one heck of a story!  And, its not the first time I've heard of this same scenario.  I spent years as a profesional home inspector and was asked once to recheck a house before closing. Well, it was winter, and the water was left ON and the heat was left OFF so you can guess what happened next. This was a bi-level home that had 6 feet of water in the lower level, and the high humidity had also caused doors, floors and walls to swell all the way up to the 2nd floor.

As a first step, I'd immediately consult an attorney and put the closing on-hold, because you will need a lot more than the assurances of your commission-hungry real estate agent to move this deal forward.  This much water in a house is a huge issue. At the least, the lower level will need to be completely gutted, dried out, treated with mildewcides and then rebuilt including insulation, wiring, heating or other mechanical systems and appliances, doors, maybe even windows.   Mold is a serious possibility as well, especially if there is any delay in getting those walls torn open so the drying process can begin.

You'll also need to have a licensed structural engineer examine the home and its foundation. All that flooding can disturb the soil under the home and cause shifts in the foundation that can potentially lead to cracks and instability.

Realistically, you are looking at month's worth of work here, which means you can't enjoy the home in peace and quiet.  Issues could also show up months or even years later that are not apparent now but could be the result of this damage.

If you do go forward, I'd recommend you hire your own licensed structural engineer to supervise the repair and remodeling every step of the way.  I'd make the seller reimburse you for that cost, and make it super clear that the engineer works for you, and NOT the seller. He or she will be your trained eyes and ears to make sure this home is put back together better than what it was when you found it.



See Answer
humidifier, deumidifier, humidity

HVAC Ducts Sweat in Summer

Hey, I live in southern Kentucky. During the summer months I have condensation dripping off the HVAC in the crawl space. What can I do about that? The crawl space is concrete block with vents on all sides of house and has black plastic on the ground.

Our Answer

The condensation is the result of warm moist air in the crawlspace striking the cold air conditioning duct.  As the air is chilled, it releases moisture resulting in the dripping you are reporting.  It's like what happens when you bring an ice cold glass outside in the summer, the outside gets wet because the warm moist summer air is being chilled, releasing that moisture.

Two things can help:

 It sound's like you already have a crawl space vapor barrier, which is good. You can further reduce the amount of moisture in the crawlspace by improving the grading and drainage at the foundation perimeter, as explained in this article about preventing a wet basement.  The approach is exactly the same when you need to reduce the moisture levels in a crawl space.  

Second, you can insulate the ducts.  Once insulated, the warm air will no longer be able to contact the cold duct surface.  No contact, no sweating!

See Answer

Missing Return Vents in Home for Heating and AC

I love your show! I live in "the house that Jack built" - it's colonial and the entire upstairs has no return vents for Heating and Cooling. What's the most economical way to rectify this?

Our Answer

Thanks for listening to the show, glad you're enjoying it! It sounds like your heating system is very uncomfortable because there are no return vents installed. This is a real issue because the way a forced-air heating system works is that the air is heated or cooled at the furnace or air conditioner, and then supplied to the rooms. But, that same air must be returned to be heated and cooled over and over again for that to be efficient. If no return duct was ever installed, I imagine you're very uncomfortable in this place. (And probably wasting a lot of energy, too!)

There are a couple of ways to fix this, one of which is to install returns directly to the room itself. This is the most common, but also the most expensive and hardest to do as a retrofit. A better way is to install one large central return near the upstairs bedrooms and then undercut each bedroom door so the air has a way to get out. By undercut, I mean you would actually physically cut the bottom of the door so there's an inch to an inch-and-a-half of space when the door is closed. This way, air will be drawn from under the door back into the heating system to be reconditioned, then sent back to the rooms. Those are really the only two options that come to mind. I would suggest finding a good-quality heating and cooling contractor to visit the home and give you an additional opinion. The best way to do that is by searching on!

product reviews in Fix & Improve It

The latest products in home improvement, decor and more with reviews by the Money Pit's band of serial home improvers.