TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement and décor projects. Pick up the phone and help yourself, first, by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’d love to know what’s going on in your money pit.
Coming up on today’s show, now that you may have your windows open more often, are you also noticing that they’re not easy to get open and closed? Well, it could be a sign that they weren’t installed right. We’re going to help you figure out if that’s the case and how to fix it, in just a few minutes.
LESLIE: And also ahead, have you ever noticed that many similar types of older buildings are always painted the same color, like red for barns or white for houses? Well, it turns out there’s more to those choices than just décor. We’ll share those practical tips, coming up.
TOM: Plus, I have a project I’m tackling this spring, which is to replace my fence. Now, I have not had to do this project for about 20 years because when I did it last time, I set the post so they would last, literally, two decades. And I’m going to share some tips so you can do the same for your house.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour we’re giving away a Grill Accessories Bundle from The Home Depot, including a Himalayan Salt Plate, Nexgrill Cedar Planks and Non-Stick Triple-Fish Basket. Wow, you can prepare some really amazing meals with that stuff. And these are just three of the many accessories being featured in The Home Depot’s Thrill of the Grill event, which is going on for the month of May at The Home Depot.
This grill accessory set is worth $52.88 but it’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random.
TOM: So call us right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jim on the line from Ohio who’s dealing with a high water table.
JIM: Hi. Our sump pump runs like crazy and we’ve tried to, you know, make sure that the drainage is a little – far away from the foundation. We even went so far as to get the basement sealed and waterproofed, all that stuff, which I think we wasted our money on. But nonetheless, sump pump runs like crazy. All these things have been addressed. It’s just – and everybody says around here it is a hugely high water table, if that makes sense.
TOM: So, does your basement leak more after a hard rain?
TOM: So the rainfall is consistent?
TOM: So this could be the unique situation where you really truly do have a high water table. If you get basement leakage and precipitation that is worse after a snow melt or a rainfall, then it’s almost always gutter problems or problems with drainage, angle of the grade, that sort of thing.
JIM: Right, right. As a matter of fact, we took your advice from past shows and had all that stuff addressed, because it is such a common issue. But this is the oddball. Leave it to us to have the oddball.
TOM: If you truly do have a high water table and you have a subsurface drainage systemin below the floor of the basement, then that’s pretty much all that you really can or should be doing right now. Is the water evidencing itself in some way? Is it coming up beyond the floor?
JIM: No, no, no. It stays in the sump pump. I know my pump’s not going to last forever. We go through – we’ve gone through 7 or 8 of them in 12 years.
TOM: Take a look at the pumps that are made by Wayne – the Wayne Pump Company. They make really good pumps that – in fact, they have pumps that are auto-reversing so that if they do get clogged, that they will reverse themselves to kind of spit out the clog and then come back on again.
JIM: Oh, OK. Awesome. Thanks, you guys.
TOM: That’s the solution. Thanks so much for calling us at888-MONEY-PIT.
JIM: You guys rock.
LESLIE: Cherylyn (sp) in Delaware is on the line with a leaky pipe in a pool. What’s going on?
CHERYLYN (sp): Yes. We have a steel pool built right after World War II. They had a lot of excess steel and they found a lot of pools to build. And we have – it’s somewhere in the pipes we have a leak. And we’re not sure exactly what the material of the pipe is. It’s that we think it might be black.
TOM: This is the pipe that does what? This is the pipe that fills the pool? This is a drain line? What kind of pipe are we talking about?
CHERYLYN (sp): A pipe that either goes to the pool from the pump and returns back to the pool from the pump or it’s the pump pool to the – go to the pump.
TOM: I don’t have a good solution for you for repairing an active pipe like that, short of replacing it. Generally speaking, when you have underground lines like that that rupture, it’s not a matter of repairing it, it’s a matter of replacing it. And it may be that you can leave the other pipe in place and just basically disable it and then install a new line to do the same thing that the old line was doing. But repairing it is not an option.
CHERYLYN (sp): Right, right.
TOM: Unless you get access to it by basically digging down and exposing it. But it’s usually easier to run a new line.
CHERYLYN (sp): Alrighty. Well, thank you. That’s what we thought we’d probably end up having to do, so …
TOM: Alright, Cherylyn (sp). Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call, let us know what you are working on this middle of May. We’re getting super close to Memorial Day and then just behind that is summer. Going to be a great one, you guys, so let’s get your houses in tip-top shape. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, we’re going to talk windows. Is yours hard to open or close? Or maybe they’re easy to open and they don’t stay that way when you want them to. We’ll share simple tips to help tame your windows, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question.
Plus, this hour, we’re giving away the Grill Accessories Bundle, including the Himalayan Salt Plate, Nexgrill Cedar Planks and Non-Stick Triple-Fish Basket, all from The Home Depot. Which is great because if you’re cooking fish, different people like different flavors. And two of the most common methods are on cedar planks or baskets, both of which are great options to have in your arsenal. These are just some of the many items that are being featured during the Thrill of the Grill event this May at your local Home Depot store or online at HomeDepot.com.
This prize package is worth $52.88. Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Wes in Utah is on the line and has a question about a very common form of cooling over there: a swamp cooler. What’s going on?
WES: Yes. I’m wondering if a cooler – the old-fashioned swamp cooler, evaporative cooler – works better in the sunlight or in the shade?
TOM: Well, it certainly would work better in the shade. You’re going to get better cooling action without having the added evaporation of all of that direct sunlight on the water. So, it’s a good idea to shade those units when it’s physically possible to do that.
And you’re right: it’s known both as a swamp cooler and an evaporative cooler. And that’s, essentially, what happens: as the water evaporates, it lowers the temperature of the air and that’s why it becomes more comfortable. And in particularly dry climates, like Utah, swamp coolers are very, very common and very popular and have been for many years.
WES: OK. So it works better in the shade.
TOM: Better in the shade. If the opportunity presents itself to shade it, do it, Wes, OK?
WES: Thank you.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now, remember, we did a lot of episodes of While You Were Out in Utah. And that was really my first sort of introduction to a swamp cooler. I’d never seen them and they are very popular in the Salt Lake City area.
TOM: Yeah. Well, you know how if you have the state bird? Well, they have the state air-conditioning units: the swamp cooler.
LESLIE: The state cooling device.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to the phones. Who is next on The Money Pit?
LESLIE: Jo in California is on the line and needs some help with some bar-stool restoration. Tell us what they look like.
JO: Well, they have wooden arms and they’re padded, they’re cloth. And then down at the bottom, where the feet are at, they’ve got little wooden rails on them. And I need to redo them. I’ve got them cleaned and brushed down and everything. And somebody said I should use spar varnish on them and I need to know what to get to put on them – on the wood.
LESLIE: Is there any metal at all? It’s all wood?
JO: No. Everything else is padded.
LESLIE: So everything else is fabric.
JO: The arms are wood. It’s got one, two, three, four little metal legs on it, at the bottom, and halfway up. And they’re wood. And I’ve got them ready to paint but I don’t know what to put on it.
TOM: So you want to refinish the wood in a clear – the clear finish or a painted finish? A clear finish?
JO: Clear finish.
TOM: OK. So, yeah, I mean you can use spar varnish on it; that’s a fine product. What you’re going to have to do, though, is lightly sand all those wood surfaces.
JO: They’re ready. They have already done that.
TOM: You’ve done that. OK. Well, then, you’ve done the hard part if you’ve done all the sanding. But what I would tell you to do is to be very careful to get the varnish only on the wood and not on any of the padded areas or the metal areas.
LESLIE: Yeah. This is going to be about creative masking and taping things off and covering things with plastic and tape and …
TOM: Yeah. Because if you get it on there, you’re going to have a problem. So you want to mask it very carefully to keep it away from the areas where you don’t want the spar varnish to get.
JO: Yeah, OK. And you think that’s the best to get? Because somebody else said, “No, you don’t want to use that. You want to use clear acrylic.”
TOM: Well, look, it’s a personal preference. The varnish is – I believe spar varnish is oil-based, which is fine. And it’s actually – you’ll find that the oil-based finishes are a little more durable in terms of abrasion resistance.
LESLIE: And I think they give a better sheen, as well.
TOM: Yeah, it’s a good point. Mm-hmm. They take a little longer to dry but they are a tougher finish.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. With the acrylic – you know, “clear coats,” as they call it – it’s even available in a spray I’ve seen. I guess that really kind of depends on how raw the wood is, how much coverage you want. Again, masking is going to be the key here. And you really need to consider how much of a sheen you want. Think about that, as well, when you’re making your selection. Because if you want something that’s super shiny and almost has that wet look, really, that oil-based varnish is the way to go.
TOM: So, do your windows open and close easily? If your windows are hard to open or close or if they don’t stay open or won’t lock, it could be a sign that the windows have not been properly installed or that they’re just worn and need replacement.
LESLIE: Yeah. Another symptom could be excessive air leakage. Now, try this: have somebody stand outside your window. With a small flashlight, stand inside and travel around the window’s perimeter with the flashlight. If the person outside can see that light coming through, this is an indication that the unit possibly has not been properly installed, caulked or sealed. And it’s probably contributing to your energy loss.
TOM: So if that’s the case, you have definitely got some decisions to make.
Now, weather-stripping is easy to add and can solve the problem for now. However, it also might be a good time to consider replacement windows. Now, they’re different than new construction windows. Essentially, with replacement windows, the old window’s sash – that’s the part that slides up and down – is removed. And the new replacement window fits inside that same opening. So you don’t have to trim it again from the inside or even the outside. It’s a less expensive way to replace your windows.
And if cost is a consideration, think about doing one side of your house every year. If you’d like to be warmer, start on the north side. That’s where the wind gets in. And replace those windows first and then work your way around the rest of the house.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Chris from Tennessee on the line who just put in a new septic tank and needs some help with the yard work. What can we do for you?
CHRIS: Yes. We had some people to come and put our septic tank in about five years ago. And the yard looked great when they got done with it. Now we’ve got a bunch of sinkholes and a bunch of hills in the backyard and I just want to know the best way to fix that without messing up the septic tank and messing up the water lines and stuff.
TOM: So, is the distribution field in the area where all these sinkholes are in this depression?
CHRIS: Yes, sir.
TOM: So you’ve got to be really careful because you don’t want to put any heavy equipment over that, because you can crush those pipes. So you can add topsoil on top of that but I wouldn’t go over it with anything heavier than a wheelbarrow full of dirt.
TOM: And so I would fill them in by hand and I would rake that out and I would reseed it. The good news is that it will probably grow quite nicely being over the septic field. But I would be careful not to put anything heavy, equipment-wise, into that area because you can crush the pipes and then you’re going to have a bigger problem.
CHRIS: Alright. Well, thank you all for your question and I listen to you all every day. And you all were great.
TOM: Alright. Thanks, Chris. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Fonda (sp) in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
FONDA (sp): We are demolishing our old deck that leads to an old patio at the ground level. And the old patio has two substrates. You lead down to a plank patio and it’s like wood – 2x6s, I think – which is in awful shape. It’s probably 30 feet by 30 feet. And then it butts up to a pretty substantial cement pad that’s 20 feet by 20 feet.
And we know we’re going to demo the wood pad but it’s – the question is: what do we put in? Do we have to chop up the old cement pad, which is in great shape, because it’s so substantial? Or can we put in another cement pad next to it for the new patio? Can you go over the old cement with something and stamp it or make it just – and then the other problem is is it’s square. And I would like the new patio at the ground level to be rounder and curvier.
TOM: One idea that I have straight off is to go over the old patio with brick pavers. And if the patio is flat and strong and solid, there’s no reason you can’t put pavers on top of that. And so you could basically create a – do almost a patio makeover by preserving the concrete and putting brick pavers right over the concrete. They’re all going to assemble together. You won’t see them when they’re done.
Now, you mentioned changing the shape. That, of course, is a little more complicated because you’re going to have to build up to the edges. Part of the patio would be over concrete and part of the patio would be over traditional, built-up stone, if that’s possible. But if you want to avoid changing the shape, then it becomes a very easy project to do it with brick pavers. And of course, you have lots and lots and lots of choices on shapes and colors and all of that that you could go with.
FONDA (sp): And on the side that’s not cement, what’s under the brick pavers?
TOM: On the side that’s not cement, what’s under the brick pavers is this. First of all, you dig out, obviously, all the grass and that sort of thing. Then you put down about 4 to 6 inches of gray gravel. You tamp that down really, really, really well. Then on top of that, you lay some sand. Get that nice and flat. On top of that, you put the brick pavers and then you put additional sand in between.
But tamping and properly preparing that ground and tamping that stone really well is critical. Because if you don’t, it gets all roly-poly over the years and weeds start to grow up through it.
FONDA (sp): Alright. Well, thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Fonda. Good luck with that project. Just in time for summer.
LESLIE: John in Maryland is on the line with a water-heater question. How can we help you?
JOHN: Have a gas hot-water heater right now that vents up through – it’s not really a chimney stack but it’s the sheet-metal pipe. And that takes up a lot of space in a bathroom I have and I’d like to kind of eliminate that. And I was wondering if there are any side-venting gas water heaters, similar to how they have some high-efficiency furnaces that sort of vent out of the side of the house. I was wondering what you guys’ opinion on are – of gas water heaters that might do the same. And that would allow me to get rid of that unusable space in my bathroom, for renovation.
TOM: Yeah, you’re correct. There are what – it’s called a “direct-vent appliance.” And there are direct-vent water heaters. And if you are going to replace your water heater, I would consider a tankless water heater. You mentioned space. Tankless water heaters are about a quarter of the size of the traditional tanked water heater. And yes, they are available as a direct-vent type of installation.
In fact, that’s one of the things that makes them so cool is that they’re so small and they’re so easily vented that you can pretty much put them anywhere. So, I think your solution is a directly-vented tankless water heater.
JOHN: OK. And there’s no issue there with any problem with the – you’re always worried about getting flue gas and all that stuff. That side vent – those are safe to vent out and there’s no issue, right?
TOM: Well, there’s rules about where you put them. Like, for example, there has to be so many feet away from a potentially open window and that kind of thing. And it has to be so far off the ground so it doesn’t get covered with snow – the vent doesn’t get covered with snow. So there are some basic rules about where you put in a direct vent. But as long as you follow those then no, there’s no issue about them getting blocked.
JOHN: Great. Alright, guys. Thanks a lot for your help. Love your show.
TOM: Oh, thank you very much.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Laurel from Louisiana on the line with help with a tiling project. How can we help you today?
LAUREL: My husband and I are building a new house right now and we’re putting ceramic tile in the living room and the kitchen. And it’s not going to be sealed, so we were wondering what was the best kind of sealant to put on that ceramic tile?
TOM: What kind of tile are you using that’s not sealed? Are you trying to say that it’s not glazed?
LAUREL: No, it was glazed but I was told that you need to put a sealant over it to make the tile last longer?
TOM: No, not true. The glazing is plenty tough enough to protect the tile. What you – the sealant usually refers to the grout. And if you seal the grout, it can help keep it cleaner and repel water. And the grout sealants are silicone-based.
So, as long as you use a good grout sealant – and the time to do this is before you move in, you know? Because once you move in and you start grinding some dirt in that tile, it becomes a lot harder to maintain. But if you seal the grout right after the tile is installed, that’s the best time to do it.
LAUREL: What would be the best kind to use?
TOM: A silicone one. A silicone-based grout sealant is what you’re looking for.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you want to look for one that applies in a manner that you are comfortable with. Like if you’re doing a smaller grout line, you would look for one that almost looks like a nail-polish brush or a rolling foam wheel. With a floor tile, you could be looking at a ¼-inch to a ½-inch grout line, so that’s easier to apply. But you want to make sure you have something that you feel comfortable applying strictly to the grouted areas.
LAUREL: OK. Alright. Well, thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Well, you might be wondering sometimes, “Why is the sky blue?” But does the question, “Why are barns red?” ever cross your mind? Well, we’re going to share some tips that will tell you how those color choices were possibly about available materials and not just the fact that red barns are super stylish. So stick around.
MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit, my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Well, deer and rabbits are a very welcome sign of spring except when they’re eating all of your landscaping. If you’d like some tips on how to keep these lovely, yet somewhat annoying, animals away from your hard work, head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “local wildlife.”
LESLIE: Marty from Mississippi is on the line and he’s got a brick-house question. How can we help you today?
MARTY: Yes, I’ve recently – about five years ago, there’s a house I bought that has red brick with a real light, white-colored grout or mortar. And in the last five years, I’ve got a stress crack on each side of the house that goes between the mortar and the brick. And is there a product you can recommend – or multiple products – that could seal that crack up and not lose the look of the brick? I’ve seen people do it with just one solid piece of white-colored caulking. It just looks terrible, the big, white line. Is there something that’s multi-colored that would match up with the brick and the grout to make it look good?
TOM: Marty, if the crack is that big, then you’re definitely not going to use caulk; you’re going to want to use mortar. So, the key here, as you say, though, is to find a mortar that will color-match.
There is a company called Davis Colors that specializes in just this. And they have dozens of different dyes that are mixed into mortars to come up with exactly the match that you need. And they have pretty good distribution across the country. So I would take a look at DavisColors.com. DavisColors.com.
MARTY: Great. I just add those colors to the existing mortar I would mix up here?
TOM: Yes, exactly. Or you buy the appropriate mortar from them already mixed.
MARTY: OK. OK, cool. OK, I knew there had to be something out there. I just wasn’t able to find it, so I appreciate the help.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Glad that you called. Thanks so much for reaching us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: As a child, you probably asked, “Why is the sky blue?” But have you ever thought about why barns are red?
TOM: Good question. The red barn is about as American as apple pie and baseball. But the reasons for traditional paint colors are not well known. Here to fill us in is This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: Hi, guys.
TOM: So, long before we had color wheels to help us choose a paint palette, there were much more practical reasons for the colors that we picked for our homes. And I think that the story behind the choice of red paint for barns is a good place to begin. It wasn’t just that farmers decided it looked best, was it?
KEVIN: No. It really wasn’t. I mean it ended up being a pretty good choice because, right, we do all like that red barn?
KEVIN: But they weren’t painting them red because they wanted them to look good. They were basically painting them red because it was the cheapest option available.
TOM: They’re practical folks, those farmers.
KEVIN: They are practical folks. And it’s sort of use what you had.
KEVIN: Historically, red paint was made with a tinting of ferrous oxide. It’s basically rust. You know what that looks like. And it turns out it’s very plentiful and it’s very cheap. And so they would mix it into the paint to give it a little bit of color and that was the cheapest way to actually get the barn painted.
And in fact, a lot of farmers, they weren’t even painting their barns at all; they were just putting the wood up. They were very utilitarian. They did realize that a coat or two of paint actually helped protect the wood from the elements and extend the life. And being practical people, we started painting our barns. And red paint was what we had.
TOM: And they had a very interesting recipe for paint. They mixed the ferrous oxide with skimmed milk, linseed oil and lime. You can’t make this stuff up.
KEVIN: We talk about using what you have, right?
KEVIN: A little bit of extra skim milk floating around the farm and next thing you know, you’re painting your barn using …
TOM: It turned out it worked.
KEVIN: It worked and we’re still painting our barns red. And thank goodness because it’s a great-looking barn.
LESLIE: That really looks great.
Now, it’s funny that barns became red but homes, traditionally, were white. So how did that come about?
KEVIN: Well, so, white paints, back in the day, were made with lead or zinc oxide. And that was a little bit more expensive than the red barn paint. And it actually – I would take issue with something you said, Leslie. It wasn’t traditional. It did come about eventually but going way back, white paint was hard to get. To make a paint that actually was crisp and white was difficult. And when they were able to figure out that formula, white became sort of identified and associated with cleanliness. So now, all of a sudden, it was like a premium thing that you get: a beautiful, spanking-white house.
We’ve talked to paint experts on the show who tell us that they will attach it back to the Greek Revival when we’re trying to make these beautiful houses, kind of get the image of the Greek Parthenon out there.
KEVIN: So white was something that people really desired. And it’s – certainly, Victorians picked it up the inside the house because they really wanted to associate it with things that were clean, things that were almost sterile.
TOM: Well, we talked about the red, we talked about the white. Now let’s talk about the blue. Have you ever noticed how porch ceilings are often painted blue? There’s a reason for that.
KEVIN: There is a reason for that. I’ve heard a whole bunch of crazy reasons.
LESLIE: And that’s really a Southern thing, too, right?
KEVIN: I would say it is a Southern thing although I did it on my New England porch when I redid mine a couple years back. I think it’s sort of spread around. I had an old-timer tell me that they used to do it to keep the flies away.
KEVIN: I don’t know how that works. A brighter color. But I think, probably, you could put your finger on one thing with a bit of certainty: that bluish-green is an old tradition, as you say, form the South. And it was for protection from haints. These were restless spirits; I suppose they had returned from the dead. And the blue paint was supposed to prevent the haints from entering your home. And in fact, that greenish-blue mix used for painting Southern porches is often referred to as “haint blue.”
TOM: Who knew that the ghost didn’t like blue paint?
KEVIN: Who knew?
TOM: As simple as that.
Now, let’s talk about lead. That was a really common additive in paint for many, many years until we figured out that it was poison, that is. But there’s actually a color history there, as well.
KEVIN: Well, so the lead compounds were added to the paint, back in the day, as a pigment. And it created a specific color, depending on whichever compound you used. So, for example, one type of lead would make the paint a white or a cream color. And if you used a different type of red, it could make it a bright red paint.
TOM: But it also added durability to the paints. You know, I spent 20 years as a home inspector and as I went through many old houses, you’d find a lot of old artifacts. And I remembered one time finding some old cans of paint that were labeled in big, bold, block letters as it came off the store shelves: White Lead Paint or Red Lead Paint. Back then, manufacturers were actually bragging about the fact that their paint contained lead.
KEVIN: And contractors loved them.
KEVIN: And they made the switch. Now we know better. Now, lead is taken out of the paints because it’s not good for the kids and the damage it can cause. But the contractors who had to go through that transition – you listen to these guys and they miss the old lead-paint days because it was a very high-quality paint.
KEVIN: Spread well, dried well.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Dried fast.
KEVIN: Yeah. Had great adhesion. So they missed the lead. Fortunately, through better science today, we can do without the ill effects of lead and still get some of the great qualities from paints today.
TOM: Fantastic. Well, we can’t do without your great advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: It’s always my pleasure to be here.
LESLIE: And you can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.
Up next, good fences may make for good neighbors but a good fence won’t happen unless you know how to set a post that will last. We’ll tell you, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you with whatever it is you are working on at your money pit, plus give you some tips and advice, really whatever your need. But we’ve got a great prize up for grabs this hour, too, to one lucky caller who gets on the air with us.
We’re giving away a Grill Accessories Bundle, which includes a Himalayan Salt Plate, which you should not be licking. But once you put the food on there will actually flavor whatever it is that you place on there. Also, Nexgrill Cedar Planks and Non-Stick Triple-Fish Basket.
Now, when you’re cooking fish, a lot of people have different tastes when it comes to how they like their fish prepared. And two of the most common ways that people really do grill fish are on those cedar planks or in the basket. And that’s really a great thing to keep around your grilling set. So you’ll be so happy to add these to your arsenal. Lots of things you want to check out at the Thrill of the Grill event, which is happening this May at your local Home Depot store or online at TheHomeDepot.com. And the prize package this hour is worth $52.88.
TOM: Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jennifer in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a flooring project. Tell us about it.
JENNIFER: We are planning on laying hardwood in our home. We have a two-story home and I’m wanting to know if it is better to lay each plank the same direction, upstairs and downstairs, or can we switch it up?
TOM: Generally speaking, you want to go in the long direction of the room. So in other words, you want the boards to be parallel to the longest wall. I don’t – I would not switch that up because it’s going to look odd, don’t you think?
LESLIE: Yeah. It makes the room seem bigger.
JENNIFER: Oh, OK.
TOM: Now, what kind of hardwood floors are you putting down, Jennifer? Are they prefinished hardwood floors?
JENNIFER: Yeah, it’s the snap-and-lock.
TOM: OK. So it’s an engineered floor. So, make sure they’re parallel to the longest wall. And remember, nothing is square about a house.
TOM: So, measure the center of the room as determined by the center point between the walls. And figure it out so you don’t end up with a sliver of hardwood floor on the end.
JENNIFER: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Well, at my money pit this spring, I’m planning to replace a fence that’s actually been in, Leslie, for many, many years. Like 20 years. And the reason that it’s been in that long is because I was really careful to set the posts properly, which is a project that I think is done wrong more than it’s done right. There’s really just two keys to it: depth of the post and also the concrete that you use to secure it in place.
LESLIE: Yeah. So let’s talk, first, about digging that post.
Now, you want to use a post-hole digger or an auger. And you need to shoot for a minimum depth of at least 2 feet for a shorter fence or 3 feet if you’re going to go for a tall fence. And the hole should be half as deep as the post above ground height. So if you’ve got 4 to 5 feet sticking up above the ground, you want a 2- to 2½-foot deep hole. Does that make sense, guys?
Now, don’t try and dig the post with just a shovel because that hole’s going to get too wide. And then it makes it much harder to secure that post.
TOM: Now, speaking of securing the post, you’re going to want to add concrete to the hole. The easiest way to do this is to pick up a bag of QUIKRETE Fast-Setting Concrete. That’s the one in the red bag.
And the reason I like this is because you can add the mix dry to the post hole. So, basically, you’re dropping the post in, you’re putting the mix around it, you’re leveling the post, tamping it down as you go. And once the post is where you want it, then you add water to the hole. This is going to set up and deliver a really strong foundation for the post and it’s a lot easier than mixing the QUIKRETE in advance. Plus, this fast-setting product only needs 20 to 40 minutes to set completely. So it’s not going to slow your project down.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, this approach also works really well with any kind of post that you’re needing to set if it’s for a basketball pole or a fence post, a desk post, mailboxes, bird feeders, play sets and pretty much anything else.
TOM: And this project tip has been presented by QUIKRETE. For details and more project ideas, visit QUIKRETE.com. QUIKRETE is available in select home improvement retailers nationwide. QUIKRETE, what America is made of.
LESLIE: Rick in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RICK: When our house was built, in place of the usual wooden boards that are used to trim around the edges of the roofs and around the bottom of the house, they used a plastic composite-type material.
RICK: And it’s used in place of wood and it’s maintenance-free, lasts forever, that kind of stuff. With the exception that any place this wood is – this composite material is cut, it becomes kind of a haven for mold and mildew. And you get green growth there and it’s – you spend a lot of time and effort continually pressure-washing to clean it out. So, what I’m looking for is some means of sealing – is there some way of sealing this to prevent this mold growth on what is otherwise a maintenance-free material?
TOM: Well, if it’s composite, it may be a product called AZEK – A-Z-E-K. And that’s paintable. And so you could paint those areas and that might tend to seal it in a bit more. Because I think what you’re saying is that the cut areas are probably more absorbent than the surface areas and so you’re getting a little more moisture. Maybe it’s a trap. There’s a little rougher surface there that might be a trap for dirt that feeds mildew or algae and that sort of thing.
So, what comes to mind right away is that you simply could paint it. But of course, you know what comes after paint: repaint.
RICK: Exactly. It takes away the maintenance-free aspect of it.
RICK: But is there a type of paint that would be more conducive or last longer, like an epoxy-type paint or something like that?
TOM: Not for a surface like that. No, you would just use an exterior paint and you would probably prime it first.
RICK: So it wouldn’t be latex. It would be an enamel?
TOM: No, you would use a 100-percent acrylic latex paint. That’s what AZEK recommends be used. And you also might want to take a look at Sherwin-Williams for the paint manufacturers. I know that they have paints that are specifically made for vinyl or PVC products, which is what that product is. AZEK is simply an extruded cellular PVC.
LESLIE: Not everybody does this but some contractors tend to skip the step of filling holes when it comes to a composite trimming. You know, they’re like, “Eh, you can’t see it. It’s OK.” But this could give you the opportunity – if you’re going to paint the trim, as well – to go ahead and fill any nail holes. And that’ll really give it almost a more natural wood look, the brushstrokes. It could be a good thing.
RICK: OK. Thank you very much. That’s a great idea.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Up next, have you ever tried to remove old, rubber-backed carpet only to find that there’s a lot of black gunk left behind? Well, we’re going to have a tip to clean that mess, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we love when you pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. But also appreciate the posts that we get to our Facebook page and Twitter account. We’ve got quite a fewthis week and we’re going to jump into that, right now, starting with Theresa who posted to our Community page.
LESLIE: Alright. And Theresa writes: “I have indoor/outdoor carpet in a room that’s been down for 20 years or more. When trying to remove it, the top came up but the black, sticky bottom stayed on the floor. We are now having a really tough time getting it up. Any suggestions on how to make it easier?”
TOM: I really feel your pain on this. It’s such a nasty process. People just love that indoor/outdoor carpet, especially in the 70s and 80s. When it finally comes up here 30 years later, when people get around to it, it leaves all kinds of junk behind.
What you have to do is first scrape off as much of that as you can manually. You can use a floor scraper. You can use a spackle knife. It really is a labor-intensive project, on-your-hands-and-knees kind of thing.
Now, if you want to try to soften it up to make it a little bit easier, you can also spray it with either WD-40 – it’s one of the many, many things you can do with WD-40; it will start to break down that goo and make it easier to come up – or you could use a product called Goo Gone, which does the same thing. But it is labor-intensive. Now, remember, after you get the most of it up, certainly if you’ve used WD-40, you’ve got to wash that floor so it’s not slippery.
Now, if it’s on a finished floor – like oak or something like that, like hardwood – I would get up as much as I can. And then I would plan on having the floor professionally re-sanded. Don’t do it yourself because the machinery that they use is really hard to handle. And even though it’s easily rentable, if you don’t use it every day, you’ll probably damage the floor. Plus, you’ll be going through belt after belt after belt on that thing because of all the goo.
LESLIE: Oh, it just gunks it up. It’s terrible.
TOM: It gunks it up, yeah. And it starts to smell and it can burn the floor. So, you’ll have to have it professionally sanded. But that’s it. It’s not easy, Theresa, but it can be done.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Tom in New Jersey. See, even the host of this show writes some questions to me. Another Tom, obviously, in New Jersey. Alright. And this Tom writes: “I bought some new, durable, thick, plastic garbage cans this winter. Since then, either squirrels or raccoons have managed to chew several holes in the tops. Is there a product out there that can be used to deter the animals from attacking my garbage cans each day?”
Oh, maybe they’re going from your house to my house. That seems to be what’s happening.
TOM: No matter what you do to treat those garbage cans – look, there’s products that repel wildlife. We spray them on bushes, for example. There’s one called Deer Off that I use occasionally. But no matter what you put on those cans, you are not going to compete with all of the delectable odors that come from your garbage cans, especially in the warmer months, that those rodents and that wildlife are attracted by.
So, if you’ve got this situation, what I would recommend is forget the plastic garbage cans. Go back to old-fashioned, solid, galvanized-steel garbage cans with the kinds of tops that you can actually snap down, like they’ll lock in place. Or just get some bungee cords and strap them down. You’re just going to have to do something a little more aggressive and durable than plastic cans, because you’re right: they will chew right through them. It’s quite amazing. But that’s the best way to handle it.
LESLIE: Tom, you remember what happened to me a few winters ago with the blizzard.
LESLIE: I left the garbage in my screened-in porch because it was so snowy. I was like, “Oh I’ll just leave it in the screened-in porch and then tomorrow, I’ll go out in the snow and put it in the garbage can.” And they ate through the screen and had a garbage party in my screened-in porch. And when I woke up the next morning, they were hanging from the screens. So out my kitchen windows, it was like I pulled up the shade and there was a squirrel, like Superman-style, against my screen. And there was probably three or four of them just hanging out on the furniture, inside the screened-in porch, eating garbage, looking at me.
TOM: Well, they were stuffed. They were tired. They had a big meal.
LESLIE: They were having a good time. So you know what? They’re going to find a way in. But Tom’s right: the metal ones do a good job of keeping them out unless they knock them over. Then it’s loud and they get in.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We hope that you are having a beautiful spring weekend. And if you’re tackling projects around your house, remember, you can pick up the phone and call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are.
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.
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(Copyright 2016 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.)