TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, 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.
TOM: Thank you so much for joining us for today’s show. Hey, if you’ve got a home improvement question, a décor dilemma, something you need to fix up around your house, don’t know where to begin, that’s what we’re here for. So pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online in the Community section at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, you know, today we all want to be a bit greener and cleaner in our homes. Well, you can do both and save some green in the process if you were to make your own non-toxic cleaners. We’re going to have some recipes on – you can do just that with ingredients I’m sure you have around the house right now.
LESLIE: Plus, if you like to tackle a plumbing project now and again, there are ways to fit those pipes together without the fear of burning down your entire house.
TOM: And that’s a good thing.
LESLIE: Yeah, generally, you want to avoid that at all means possible. So plumbing guru Richard Trethewey, from This Old House, is stopping by with tips on how we can all do just that.
TOM: Plus, with fall just around the corner, building a fire pit is a fun end-of-summer project, so we’re going to have tips on how you can get that project done in just a weekend.
So, let’s get to it. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Sherry in Oregon is on the line with a question about a cast-iron tub. What can we do for you today?
SHERRY: What you can do for me is get rid of my fears.
TOM and LESLIE: OK.
SHERRY: I have a cast-iron tub and soon after I get out of it and it starts to cool down, I hear this horrible, loud snap. And it may happen once, twice or even if I walk into the bathroom before the tub is totally cooled down.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Is it a metal-sounding snap?
TOM: I think that’s probably oil-canning. Basically, as the tub is expanding and contracting, it pops as the metal expands and contracts and that’s probably what you’re hearing. It’s unusual with a cast-iron tub, though, because those are usually pretty stiff. But that sounds like what you’re describing.
SHERRY: Very good. And it’s not – it won’t be something that’s problematic in the future?
TOM: I don’t think so. I mean it’s usually just an annoyance. But as long as it doesn’t sound like you’ve got lumber snapping or something like that, if it’s the metal that’s popping like that, yeah, that’s oil-canning.
SHERRY: No, it doesn’t like lumber.
TOM: You remember the old oil cans that you use – or the old soda cans that were very, very thick metal and if you sort of pressed your finger in the side, it would make a pinging sound?
SHERRY: Oh, sure.
TOM: That’s what that is; that’s what oil-canning is.
SHERRY: Mm-hmm. Well, fantastic, I’ve gotten rid of that fear. I really appreciate …
TOM: There you go. OK. Now we’ve cleaned the slate. Nothing to worry about. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Philip in Arkansas is on the line and needs some help cleaning stainless steel. How can we help you today?
PHILIP: I have got six stainless-steel sinks in the place where I usually work and my wife works. And they are really dirty. One of them, somebody’s put a lot of dry ice in it and it’s really corroded, white, whatever color. And in others – or just got a lot of spots. I’ve about done everything I can. I’ve used some of that bar stuff and SOS and everything thing I can but I don’t know how to clean them.
TOM: Well, it might be that you that these stains – these sinks – are not so much dirty but they’re just sort of discolored and you really can’t get back where you want to go. The product that I usually use is by Weiman – W-e-i-m-a-n. It’s a stainless-steel cleaner and a polish. It seems to work pretty well. But it sounds to me like you’ve already thrown everything you could find against these stainless-steel sinks and you’re not getting anywhere with it.
PHILIP: Yeah. Yes, sir.
TOM: Especially if you use that Bar Keepers Best Friend. That’s pretty good stuff.
LESLIE: Bar Keepers Friend is very good stuff.
PHILIP: Yes, I’ve used the Bar Keepers Friend and I’ve, you know, sort of pasted it up, put it on there. I’ve even used a drill.
TOM: Oh, boy. Yeah. I think it’s fair to say that these sinks are beyond cleaning, Leslie.
You’ve hooked up a drill and cleaning wheel with it. I don’t think you’re going to get them any better.
PHILIP: OK. Well, I guess then – I hope I don’t – guess they can say – they said I can get fired over it then.
TOM: Well, I don’t think you should get fired over it, no, because I think you’ve done the best you can. You’ve certainly made every effort and you’ve used some very good products. I think what’s happened here is that the metal itself is discolored, it’s changed. It’s a chemical reaction. It’s not something you’re going to be able to pull out of it.
PHILIP: OK. And what was that stuff that – what you said?
TOM: Yeah, it’s by Weiman – W-e-i-m-a-n. It’s a stainless-steel cleaner – W-e-i-m-a-n.
PHILIP: Stainless-steel cleaner. OK, well, I haven’t tried that stuff yet.
TOM: Alright. Well, give it a shot and good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. If they want to fire you, you make sure they call us first, OK? We’ll straighten them out.
PHILIP: OK. Thank you very much and God bless.
TOM: Alright. Take care.
LESLIE: Dennis in Michigan is on the line and needs some help working on a driveway. Now, tell us about it. You want to repair it but not replace it?
DENNIS: Well, I’ve got a driveway that’s approximately 27 years old and it’s still in fairly good shape. But I have two places, just in recent years, where it started to crack in two different slab sections. And the cracks are all the way down through the slab and it’s starting to raise up on one side and not the other.
DENNIS: And I know that if I don’t fill those cracks with something and get them so they’re waterproof, it’s going to get worse. One side or both going to shift toward it. There’s a higher side where you’re going to trip over it very easily, so …
TOM: Has the gap expanded where the crack is or is it still pretty tight?
DENNIS: It’s opening up now. It’s probably a ¼-inch on one and about an 1/8-inch on the other.
TOM: OK. So it’s still caulkable. Alright. So QUIKRETE makes a product that’s designed just for that: for filling cracks in concrete driveways. It’s waterproof, it’s flowable and you can basically sweep out that crack as best you can and apply this caulk-like product and seal those cracks. Because you’re right: the reason one side is lifting up is because water is getting in there. And in the winter, it’s probably freezing and lifting the slab or it’s making the soil somewhat unstable underneath. And just the action of driving over it with cars is causing one side to drop more than the other.
So, pretty simple, straightforward repair. Just get the right product, seal up those cracks and you should be good to go.
DENNIS: OK. And then the other question I had is – the surface, it’s still in pretty good shape. But as you know better than I do, over the years, with concrete – it’s made from cement and sand and water and sometimes other ingredients, depending on the mix. But when it gets to the point where you’re dealing with a slab that’s 27 to 30 years old, the cement in the mixture starts to wear away and you start to see the aggregate on the surface.
DENNIS: And I’m getting that now in recent years. Is there any thin coating of anything I can put on it just to get to the point where I’ll be able to replace it in the future when I have the money? But in the meantime …
TOM: Yeah, what you need for that is just simply called a “resurfacer” and again, QUIKRETE makes that same product.
TOM: And it’s designed for just that purpose. It goes on very thin. But the reason it’s a specialized product is because it adheres to that old surface and that’s the issue. When you try to use anything that’s not designed for that particular purpose, it doesn’t adhere. So if you use a resurfacer, it’s going to adhere to that old surface and be able to take the weather that’s going to follow, without flaking off.
DENNIS: OK. The only other question I have and I’ll let you go is: it’ll adhere and it’ll take the weather but will it take a vehicle driving over it without cracking and breaking away?
TOM: Yeah, exactly. That’s what it’s designed to do.
DENNIS: Glad you said that, because I would have got probably the wrong product.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We’d love to take your call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. These guys make it fast and easy to find top-rated home improvement pros that you can trust for any project. And if you’re a service pro looking to grow your business and connect with project-ready homeowners, HomeAdvisor.com is the perfect place for you to do just that.
TOM: Just ahead, many of today’s commercial cleaners have only been around for less than 50 years. Before that, most folks kept their homes clean and sanitized with a few simple mixes. We’ll share those recipes for you, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Well, before we had commercial products, we had to mix up our own cleaners. Now, here’s a few recipes for natural cleansers that still work really well today.
First of all, let’s talk about a glass cleaner. What you can do is fill a spray bottle with a quart of water and a tablespoon of white vinegar. You can use some type of ammonia product but for a larger job, like floor and tiles, you want to add a ¼-cup white vinegar to a gallon of hot water.
TOM: Now, for an oven cleaner, just mix up a paste of baking soda and water. It works pretty well. If you need to scrub some stains away, just use steel wool. But for tougher stains, add some salt to the mix except for self-cleaning ovens which, of course, you just let them kind of do their thing. Which, by the way, you never want to do before you need to do a big meal, like a big family event the next day, because it really puts a lot of stress on the machines. And if it’s going to break down, it will happen then.
LESLIE: Now, if you need some help in the bathroom, thinking about how you clean your sink and your toilets, you can mix a paste of either baking soda or Borax with water and then go ahead and add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. That really does the trick and it smells so lovely.
TOM: And if you want a simple recipe for polishing up some chrome, just use rubbing alcohol. If you put that or white flour on a dry rag, it will polish up very nicely.
Now, we’ve got a complete list of 10 easy recipes for natural cleaning products online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Kelly in Illinois is on the line with a foundation issue. Tell us what’s going on.
KELLY: It’s very complicated. I’ll try to keep this as simple as I can but we, having had our house for 22 years, suddenly water was coming in through one of the basement window wells. It’s not an egress-size window, just a small window in the basement. And so, we think it’s primarily because the grade is negative now and it’s all – you can see, even with your eyes, that it’s definitely sloping down towards that window well.
KELLY: So, we need to regrade everything and fix it all, you know, so it’s a positive grade. But the big issue that’s in my mind now is a lot of landscapers, if you get them to come over to regrade around the base of your house, they just seem to want to throw soil up on there and not worry about waterproofing or stuff like that.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Right.
KELLY: So I was researching on the internet and it seems to me like a lot of sites and even books say you should have a 4- to 6-inch clearance before that soil starts before – you don’t want soil touching the bottom of your siding or even the bottom of your brick. Our house happens to be brick, not façade. Real brick. But you don’t want that soil right up on there, so – but yet I’ll have people coming over all the time, so-called experts saying, “Oh, it’ll be fine. I’ve done it this way for years. It won’t matter.” And I don’t want the foundation of my house and the poured concrete walls of our basement to crack.
TOM: Yeah, that’s not going to be an issue, so let me put your mind at ease. First of all, yes, if you have typical wood framing – you don’t; you have a brick house – but if you had wood framing, you do not want to have the soil to cover the siding, because the wood’s right behind it and the concern is insect infestation and rot. But since you have a largely masonry house – a poured-concrete foundation and brick walls – you can go ahead and put the soil up as high as it needs to be. What you need to be careful of, though, is this: the landscapers like to work with topsoil because that’s what they work with every day.
What you need to do, if you’re trying to make a drainage improvement, is use clean fill dirt first. That’s what you build up the slope with is fill dirt. It doesn’t look like topsoil. It’s not organic. It packs really well. It looks a little bit like the sort of the golden-brown color of a pitcher’s mound.
And once you get that slope established, you can put topsoil over that or you can put mulch or you could put stone or whatever you want to put on it. But you’ve got build up that grade first. And you want it to drop about 6 inches over 4 feet, so I would focus on that. And then whatever top cover you want to put over it – and then also pay careful attention to your gutters and your downspouts. Make sure they’re extended out well away from the house and that the gutters are clean, because that’s even more important than the grade if you want to keep your basement dry.
KELLY: Yes, yeah, we were and – but I’m not sure what you mean by fill dirt. Are you saying that this dirt has some clay in it?
TOM: It could, yes. It could have some clay in it and that’s fine because, again, you’re just using this to fill in the area that’s settled and then you’ll put topsoil over it. Now, it’s called “clean fill dirt.”
Take a look at our website at MoneyPit.com. We’ve got an article there on how to fix a wet basement and it explains it very specifically.
KELLY: Oh, cool, OK. I didn’t know that. But also, the rubber-type membrane that you can paint or trowel on there or something like that …
TOM: You’re talking about on the walls?
KELLY: Well, on the very bottom layer of brick if I’m going to have soil go up against that brick. It still makes me nervous to have dirt touching that brick.
TOM: It’s not necessary. It’s not an organic surface. It’s not going to rot, it’s not going to decay and there’s no difference, really, between having it against the stone – having it against the poured-concrete foundation or having it against the brick. They’re both masonry products. I would not worry about it. You want to do anything to slow down moisture and do it, you could put a brick sealer on there, you could put a masonry seal on there. But I really don’t think it’s necessary to tar it.
KELLY: Well, not real tar, that rubber stuff.
TOM: Same idea, though. Same concept.
KELLY: Somebody told me today that concrete does wick, so it will absorb water and it will crack from water.
TOM: Almost every home in America is made out of concrete or concrete block and so it’s typical for the soil to be right against that. Yes, you could put a sealant on there if it’s below grade. And if that makes you feel better, you certainly could do that. But I think just to adjust the grade that you’re talking about, it’s really not going to be that big of a deal.
KELLY: OK, well …
TOM: Alright. I think I’m telling you what everybody else told you but I’m telling you this and I’m not the guy that’s going to sell you the work, OK? So, take it for what it is. It’s independent advice. I don’t think it’s an issue.
KELLY: Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck.
Well, if you’d like to step up your laundry gear, there’s a new sweepstakes that we’ve just launched with our friends at Speed Queen called LovinMyLaundry.com. Speed Queen has given us two sets of washers and dryers to give away, including delivery and hookup. And each one of those sets is worth over 2,000 bucks at LovinMyLaundry.com. And these are great machines, too.
LESLIE: Yeah, I mean they really are fantastic. Now, if you’re not thinking, “Heck, I’m not usually so lucky and I’m not going to win the $2,000 prize,” fear not. We’ve got 10 first-place prizes. That includes a laundry basket with a couple of laundry accessories, plus a $200 Amazon gift card and 40 runner-up prizes. Now, the runner-ups are going to get $50 in an Amazon gift card, so you can buy pretty much whatever laundry goodies you need. And you cannot beat the reliability and the professionalism of the Speed Queen brand. And really, they do such a wonderful job with their washers and dryers. Think about it: in 25 years, you could potentially do 10,000 loads of laundry in your house and you want a machine that’s going to last. And Speed Queen will because they’re not the average machine.
TOM: No, they’re actually commercially reliable. If you think about the Speed Queen brand, that’s what they’ve done for 100 years. They’ve built commercial machines. They have extreme factory testing. In fact, that 10,000 number of loads of laundry, that’s what they test to. They test to make sure the machine can do 10,000 loads of laundry. I don’t want to think about doing 10,000 loads of laundry but I’m glad that my machine potentially can do just that.
LESLIE: It could. If you want it to.
TOM: So enter today. LovinMyLaundry.com. LovinMyLaundry.com.
LESLIE: Hugh in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
HUGH: I have quite a few Japanese beetles that have really attacked my cherry tree and my plum tree and my raspberries and my rose bush. I’ve got rose bushes. I’ve talked to a national company that will help me but I have a couple dogs that are in the backyard some. And I’m wondering if – how important is it to avoid chemical sprays to take care of those Japanese beetles?
TOM: Everybody puts chemical sprays in a big, you know, sort of the big pile of being something bad. But you have to remember that pesticides and various products like that today, they’re relatively safe if they’re applied by people that understand what they’re applying and they’re applied properly, because they are so thoroughly tested. So I wouldn’t necessarily steer away.
LESLIE: And so focusly applied, as well.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It’s not like a one size fits all, so I wouldn’t get so worked up about not using a so-called chemical on my landscaping. Because frankly, it actually would be the right thing to do. There are so many people in this country, with insects especially, that will buy a way ridiculous amount of over-the-counter products and spray everything and make their homes more toxic than ever just so they don’t have to hire a pesticide pro to do it for them.
TOM: But the best pros know exactly what to do, what to apply, how much to apply and what insect they’re trying to get rid of.
TOM: Now, if you want to try this a natural way, one solution that I have heard of – but I can’t attest to how successful it is but I have read about it – is to make your own application – your own pesticide, so to speak – out of red cedar planks. You know how you use red cedar in closets because it keeps moths away from clothes?
LESLIE: Yeah, it keeps the moths away.
TOM: Same principle applies. You basically get yourself some red cedar and you soak it for a couple of days in water and let that cedar sort of leach into the water and then you apply that as your spray.
TOM: So that’s one thing that you can try. You can also buy red cedar chips online or you can find them at a pet store. Sometimes, they sell red cedar for the bottom of hamster cages and things like that. But you can saturate some water with that and apply that as your pesticide and see if it works for you. But again, I’m not concerned – I’m not so afraid to pick up the phone and call a pest-control operator or purchase the right product to get rid of the insect that I’m dealing with.
HUGH: OK, thank you. I’m really enjoying listening to your program every week.
LESLIE: Oh, thanks so much.
TOM: Well, good. Thanks so much for calling. So glad we could help you out.
HUGH: Thank you.
LESLIE: Hey, if you’d like to tackle a plumbing project every so often, there are actual ways that you can fit together those pipes without thinking, “Geez, I might actually burn my house down if I don’t do this correctly.” Well, plumbing guru Richard Trethewey from This Old House is stopping by to give us tips on how we can do just that, after this.
NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House. And when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And if you love a beautiful home but look around your house and yard and you just don’t know where to start to get your home to be that beautiful home you’re dreaming of, you can never go wrong with home improvement projects that add value. You can learn what to tackle that’s going to increase your home’s curb appeal and its market price, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
TOM: And you can also post your question to us, right now, in The Money Pit’s community at MoneyPit.com or call us at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Hey, are thinking about adding some brand-new flooring to your kitchen or bath? Well, HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for that job and many more, for free.
LESLIE: Well, even avid do-it-yourselfers often shy away from tackling plumbing work, mostly because to make any changes, you need to know how to handle flux, solder and a torch.
TOM: And that can be pretty dangerous. Well, DIY plumbers, though, can rejoice because there are ways to fit pipes together without the fear of burning your entire house down. Here to tell us about those options is This Old House plumbing guru Richard Trethewey.
Richard, welcome back to the Pit.
RICHARD: Hey, guys. Nice to be here.
TOM: And these new fittings make the process of joining pipes a whole lot easier. Tell us how they work.
RICHARD: Well, most people never have to think about connecting any plumbing pipe; they move into a house, everything’s fine. And the first time they might have to think about it is they buy a new refrigerator and in that refrigerator comes a little thing called a “saddle valve.” And that’s designed to send water to the ice maker.
RICHARD: Now, this is a valve that is going to clamp over a piece of copper piping. As you tighten it up and you screw it in, it’s now going to pierce a small hole into a copper pipe. It’s got a little rubber gasket between it. And in many states, it’s illegal and it should be.
TOM: And why is that?
RICHARD: Well, over time, it just isn’t going to last long enough. The clamp itself is made out of metal. If you have a high-condensation basement, it can rust the metal away and all of a sudden, you’ve got full city water pressure. So, in our state, you can’t do it at all but that’s the one thing that homeowners tend to do and it’s actually – it ends up being dangerous.
TOM: So as easy as they are to install, they may not last and they may be basically more trouble than they’re worth.
RICHARD: That’s right. There’s a little bit of a risk to them.
So, the most common thing we see people doing is these things called “compression fittings.” And that means you’re going to connect two pieces of copper pipe and it’s going to use a thing called a “ferrule.” It’s a little brass ring.
And so, imagine you’re going to make this connection to copper. You put the nut on to the pipe, then this little brass ring called a “ferrule.” Then you bring the fitting in. And now when you bring it all back together again and you tighten that nut, as you tighten the nut, it’s now compressing that brass ring so tightly down over the outside of that copper that it makes a beautiful, watertight seal.
TOM: So that’s pretty reliable if you get all those parts assembled in the right order?
RICHARD: Right. Right. That is the standard connection that everybody sees underneath, on the connections at their toilet and underneath of their faucets. So there’s plenty of those connections around.
LESLIE: Now, what about the SharkBite fitting? You hear so much about this at the home centers and they seem fairly simple for a do-it-yourselfer to tackle.
RICHARD: Yeah. These are a relatively new innovation. They’re code-approved fittings and they’re available in all these configurations that allow you to quickly connect a variety of sizes of pipe. You’ve got to just cut the pipe, clean up the rough edges, get rid of any burrs and then push it onto the SharkBite fitting. And it’s really just like what they call a “Dutch finger”: it goes in once and it locks in. And now you’ve made that connection without soldering, without any wrenches and things like that.
Now, it doesn’t hold the pipes as rigidly as the compression or a solder connection so that they can move. So you’ve got to really be sure you hang the pipes correctly, because it’s moving around a little bit more.
TOM: So if it moves, it could loosen up and break.
RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. Right.
TOM: Now, the SharkBite fittings, whenever I see them, they remind me of the finger puzzles, like the Chinese finger puzzle: the tube where you stick your fingers in either side and you can’t pull them out.
RICHARD: That’s right, that’s right. Don’t stick your fingers in there, please. Right, right.
But they’re actually pretty popular with homeowners. The fittings are much more money but you don’t have to do the additional work of the solder, the flux and the cleaning.
TOM: Right. That’s because they compare the cost against the plumber.
RICHARD: There you go. We’re affecting the market.
LESLIE: Is there ever a plumbing project that a homeowner might think, “Aha! I could do that.” But you’re just saying really leave it to the pros?
RICHARD: I think there’s more plumbing projects that scare people. I think the fear of flooding their house away, so that they’re going to do what they think their skill level is. And just doing a basic connection to an outside faucet or something like that, I think they can do it.
The key to – for anybody in plumbing – is to know where the main shutoff is in that house. It’s to know where all the important shutoffs are. They should be labeled.
LESLIE: And everyone should know where they are.
RICHARD: Right. I don’t think a house should be – change hands. I think it should be part of the process of buying a house is that all the important valves should be labeled so that you – so that in an emergency, you can control the damage.
TOM: Absolutely. That main water valve is the key. And in fact, I always tell folks there’s no reason not to turn it off when you go away.
RICHARD: That’s right.
TOM: Why leave yourself open to the risk?
RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah. My father, the super plumber, he made sure his water main was off every time he went away.
LESLIE: Now, if you do that, is there anything that you have to do to the fixtures in the house or it’s just a week, turn it off and you’re fine?
RICHARD: That’s right. You just want to take the pressure off or just make it see – if you had a leak, you wouldn’t have full city water pressure for the entire time you’re not there.
LESLIE: It’s a nice surprise to come home to.
TOM: Exactly. Well, if your water heater ruptures when you’re away, you’ll lose 40, 50 gallons. But if that main is open, they’re going to see it running out your front door before it’s done.
RICHARD: Yeah. Four thousand gallons. Yeah.
LESLIE: Oh, good Lord. And then the dolphin I always dreamed of having in my basement as a child is a real possibility.
TOM: Now, Richard, what about PEX? That’s the newest pipe out there. Is that a lot easier to connect than the metal piping?
RICHARD: Yes. The issue with PEX is there are a variety of connection methods and some of them have proprietary tools that can become expensive. But the basic crimp fitting has a relatively inexpensive tool. The tradeoff is that that crimp fitting isn’t the strongest connection. So it’s a – I like the ones that require the proprietary tools and if you have those tools, it’s easy.
TOM: Definitely more of a pro project, then.
RICHARD: Right. But PEX as a product, as a material for the pipe, it just – it lasts and lasts and lasts and it’s really here to stay.
TOM: And without the torch, it’s got to be a lot safer system to use.
TOM: Richard Trethewey from TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.
For more great tips just like that, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: And remember, you can watch Richard and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House, which is on your local PBS station.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Up next, with fall just around the corner, building a fire pit is a fun end-of-summer project. Well, we’ve got one and just used it last night. We love it. We’re going to have tips on how you can get that project done in just a weekend, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online, for free.
LESLIE: Verse (sp), you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
VERSE (sp): The house I’m in was built in ‘78. In the past year, year-and-a-half, during the winter I’m getting this white frost that’s coming off the bricks. And I didn’t know whether that’s something to worry about or not.
TOM: Well, what it means is you’re getting a lot of moisture into the brick. And the brick’s very hydroscopic, so it soaks up water like a sponge. And so, if there’s a lot of moisture along the outside of it, what’ll happen is that water will suck through and it’ll evaporate and then leaves behind its mineral salts.
What you might need to do is to seal the chimney. And you can do that with a masonry sealer that – you want to make sure you pick one that’s vapor-permeable, because it’ll breathe. And that will stop so much of the – a lot of the moisture from wicking into the brick and showing up on the inside of the house.
VERSE (sp): Gotcha. Is there a certain brand or certain type I should be looking at?
TOM: Yeah, most of them are silicone-based. And just make sure it says that it’s vapor-permeable, that it breathes.
VERSE (sp): OK, OK. Well, I’m going to hit the floor now then. I’m worried about it.
TOM: Alright, yeah. Good luck with that project. Let us know how you make out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, now that we’re a good part of the way through summer, it’s a good time to think about a project that you can build now, that you’re going to enjoy a whole heck of a lot come the fall season. And that’s a fire pit. You know, we all love our outdoor fires in the fall. It’s perfect for getting warm with a glass of wine or making s’mores for the kids or doing both at the same time, which I always strongly suggest.
TOM: Good advice.
LESLIE: I mean truly, we can all enjoy an outdoor fire pit. So, how do we do it? How do we make it easy? Well, Pavestone has a product out right now that makes it a super-easy project to do called SplitRock Retaining-Wall Blocks.
Now, these are modular and they do allow you to simply stack them to create your fire pit. They’re also really useful if you need to create a raised garden bed or even to build out a larger wall to help you with a sloping yard. They could not be more simple to use.
TOM: Really easy to do. You just mark the ground with spray paint where you want that fire pit to be, add some wood stakes to kind of mark out the edges. Maybe use a string to lay out the shape. Then, just dig a hole along that border that you created. You want to make it about a foot wide and then you can prepare the base. You’re going to add about an inch of sand, level it out, tamp it in really nice and then just stack the blocks. Start at one end, work your way around the circle. If you’ve got to cut a block, it’s pretty easy. You just score it and break it with a chisel and a mini-sledgehammer.
It’s really a pretty simple, straightforward project. They even have fire-pit kits that Pavestone makes where the metal inserts are included, as well, if you’d like to go that route. So you can learn more at Pavestone.com. And they really do make it easy to do this in just a weekend. And you’ll have a beautiful, natural-looking, split-face design that looks great in any yard.
LESLIE: Tom in Montana is on the line with a question about legality and landscaping. Tell us what happened to your money pit.
TOM IN MONTANA: Well, I had a little issue with doing some work around the house, landscaping. And they’ve got one of those little, like a Toro Dingo walk-behind loader deal. And they ran into the side of the house.
TOM: Oh, boy.
TOM IN MONTANA: So, my question is – we think that our siding is obsolete. We bought the house about five years ago. It’s a steel siding and we don’t think we can get the same pattern graining and maybe even coloring as what it has. So, what would their responsibility be on something like that?
TOM: Are you sure it’s not aluminum siding? It’s steel siding?
TOM IN MONTANA: It is steel siding, 100 percent.
TOM: Wow. Yeah, I know steel siding was used a lot after the war.
How old is your house?
TOM IN MONTANA: It was built in the late 40s, maybe early 50s.
TOM: Yeah. Yep, that was the era.
TOM IN MONTANA: But this siding, we figure, is – well, the siding is newer than that, though. It’s probably 15, maybe 20 years old. Because it’s got some foam insulation behind it, in two different styles, and then, of course, your wood behind it. Of course, it hit hard enough that it did a little damage to the wood, so they’ve got to get back to that.
TOM: Your landscaper actually is the one that hit this?
TOM IN MONTANA: Yeah.
TOM: Well, a couple things come to mind. First of all, what you might want to do is contact your homeowners insurance company, because this may be covered by your insurance. And then you can get out of it and have them deal with the landscaper. Because unfortunately, if this product is not replaceable, then you’re going to have to replace your siding.
TOM IN MONTANA: OK.
TOM: Now, how far you take this is going to be the discussion, whether or not you have to do the whole house or not.
TOM IN MONTANA: Right.
TOM: But I would turn to the homeowners insurance company first as – and let them know what happened. And then let them chase the landscaper because I think you’re going to get probably a quicker, more efficient repair, which is what you want to get done first. Your first priority is getting this repaired, if you deal with your insurance company, than if you try to deal with these poor landscapers who made the mistake.
TOM IN MONTANA: Right.
TOM: And frankly, what the landscaper should be doing is turning it over to their insurance company. So you may be able to get out of just dealing with the landscaper directly and have the insurance companies talk to each other.
TOM IN MONTANA: Right.
TOM: If the guy is insured, this is the kind of thing that if you’re in business you get insured against.
TOM IN MONTANA: But I didn’t know how far we could push it to take them on this with it – and it might be more of a legal question than in a home improvement, per se. But just kind of getting an idea on what direction I should go. Because I know it’s up to them to get it replaced because, of course, they’re 100-percent at fault in doing it.
TOM: Right. Mm-hmm. Yep.
TOM IN MONTANA: But I know if it was insurance that, say, you had hail damage and they can’t get the siding to match, they end up replacing the whole house.
TOM: Exactly. And that’s what might very well happen here. I mean if it ends up that there’s no insurance anywhere and you’ve got to deal with this yourself, the only other suggestion I would have is – would be to explore any part of the house where you could take off some of that steel siding and repurpose it to the side that’s damaged that, perhaps, is more visible. And you may be able to take off a bottom row or two and use a different siding there that – make it look almost like it was part of the design. So, there may be a way to kind of cheat your way through it that way.
But again, I would call your homeowners insurance company and start right there. I think that’s going to be your best first step, OK?
TOM IN MONTANA: OK. Alright.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Just ahead, one of the least popular, must-do home improvement projects out there? It’s removing wallpaper. So, is painting over that wallpaper a possibility? We’re going to share that tip, next.
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: Standing by for your calls at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated pros you can trust.
LESLIE: And for local pros who want to grow their businesses, HomeAdvisor is the easy way to get connected with project-ready homeowners, so look them up today.
And if you are looking for help with your question right now, you can post it in The Money Pit Community page, just like Tiffany did who writes: “I was so excited to discover The Money Pit right after I purchased my first home. Your program has been so helpful and I’m hoping your expertise can help me. I purchased a bank-owned property and the entire home is painted with a white primer, including rooms where there’s wallpaper under the paint. Can I paint over the primed walls as they are or will the paper eventually become a problem?”
TOM: Hmm. Wow. I think we can definitely sympathize with that plight. Banks tend to do that when they sell that property. They just kind of whitewash everything. But at some point in the future, that wallpaper is going to loosen and it’s going to bring your paint job down with it. So, it does sound like you get a lot of home improvement projects in your immediate future. And perhaps you’re just probably hoping for some decent-looking walls right now so you can get started and settle in. And that’s possible. You know, you can ahead and paint over the wallpaper at this moment but it’s going to last for a bit. But if you want to go long-term and really make those walls look fantastic – because let’s face it: you do see the paper seams through it. It looks a little cheesy, right?
LESLIE: I hate it. Yeah, I feel like you can see the paper. I can see the seams. It just never looks right and it never looks finished to me. And it’s going to be something that maybe not everybody is going to notice. But if you’re like me, Tiffany, or like anybody who just lives in a house, you’re going to see it. And I feel like it’s going to bother you.
TOM: And you know what? If you do need to get that wallpaper down, the easiest way to do that is to simply rent a wallpaper steamer. All these sort of other solutions that are sold or those that you can mix up don’t work nearly as well as simply renting a wallpaper steamer. It puts the heat and the steam right where it needs to be and that wallpaper will come off. I’m not going to say easily, because it is a lot of work, but it will certainly be the easiest way to do that job.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Brian who writes: “I recently lost power to two rooms in my house. A friend had me test a few things and he said there’s a bad wire somewhere in the wiring.” (inaudible at 0:36:34)
TOM: Probably right.
LESLIE: That sounds about right. Alright. Good job, friend.
“I would hire an electrician but we’re trying to save money right now, so I’m going to do this job myself. Is there a device I can use to test the wiring to find out where this bad wire is? And how should I go about doing this?”
This sounds dangerous. I’m going to go with danger.
TOM: It does and it’s not the kind of do-it-yourself project we’re going to explain to you. Because there’s a reason electricians work for a lot of years before earning their licenses. Electrical work …
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s called “death.”
TOM: Yeah, it’s hazardous. And especially in a situation like yours, you’re kind of trying to find a needle in a haystack. So, while we can sympathize with you, it’s not a good job to make this a do-it-yourself project.
There is one simple thing you can try on your own, though, and that is to pick up an outlet tester. Outlet testers are pretty handy and they’ll tell you if the outlet is wired properly or if it’s ungrounded or if the polarity is reversed, which is also unsafe. And that’s a simple thing that you can do.
But in terms of determining where that disconnect is, that’s going to take some detective work. I would say that maybe one thing you could think about is sort of grouping two or three of those sort of smaller electrical projects together and have an electrician in and kind of tackle it all at once. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to do your own electrical work.
Go on over to HomeAdvisor.com. Check out the reviews for electricians in your area. I’m sure you’ll find one that’s reasonable and get that done.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you’ll still be alive, Brian. Just saying. Just saying.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you for joining us on this beautiful summer weekend. We hope we’ve given you some tips and advice that can help you make your home more beautiful, fix it up, straighten it out, get it going, get it to be the place that you’ve always dreamed it could be but just need a little help to get started with. That’s what we try to do every single weekend. And if you didn’t get through, remember, you can call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 24/7. And you can always post your question online 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 2017 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.)