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: What are you working on this beautiful spring weekend? If it’s your house, your home, your yard, you’re in exactly the right place because that’s what we do. What a coincidence. Give us a call right now. We’d love to help you take on your next home improvement project at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up on today’s show, are you itching to get the garden growing but wondering what you should start to plant now? We’re going to have some tips on a few plants that are suited for early-summer planting and late-summer eating, just ahead.
LESLIE: And also ahead, warm weather brings out the bugs, including the kind that like to eat your house, like termites. You know, they can certainly do a lot of damage but we’re going to tell you how to spot them, hopefully, before that happens.
TOM: But first, we want to hear from you. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. If you do, we’re giving away an amazing prize that can help you maintain your home all summer long.
LESLIE: That’s right. We’ve got, new from RYOBI, the SMART TREK Self-Propelled Cordless Mower. Now, the RYOBI SMART TREK features gas-like power. It’s self-propelled technology that’s going to adapt to your pace, not you adapting to the mower’s pace. And it really does have gas-like power.
It’s available at The Home Depot and HomeDepot.com for 449 bucks. But we have one to give away today to a very lucky listener, right here at The Money Pit.
TOM: Very exciting. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Renee, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RENEE: My question is concerning my sump pump. Obviously, a sump pump in the basement. And for a long time – for several months, I had not heard the sump pump going on. A few weeks – a few months ago, when it was raining very hard, I went down to the basement to see why the sump pump wasn’t kicking on and it was the well was filled with water. So, I went ahead and I drained the water out by bucketing – taking buckets of this, pouring buckets of water out until I got down to see where the ball was. And it still wouldn’t come on. So I tapped the ball and eventually, when the water rose, it did kick on again.
But then now I’m hearing this gurgling sound in my kitchen-sink piping. And I want to know why.
TOM: Where is the sump pump discharging? Is it discharging into this basement sink?
RENEE: The sump pump discharges – it’s connected to the outside sewer line. And that’s – I guess that sewer – the line is connected to the basement – the kitchen sink.
TOM: OK. So first of all, it has to go through a trap. If it doesn’t go through a trap, you may get sewage gas that comes back into the basement. So that’s the first thing.
Secondly, the gurgling might just – because it doesn’t have enough water in the sump itself. You’re probably pulling a lot of air in there.
And thirdly, because your sump pump was filling up when you had heavy rain, the source of that water is easily within your ability to repair and stop. Generally, when your sump pump fills up after a heavy rain, it’s because your gutters are clogged or overflowing or your downspouts are not discharging away from the foundation. Or the soil around the house is not sloping away from the outside walls. That’s what causes problems with water filling up in basements and floods in a sort – because that outside surface drainage is just not set up right.
So I would focus on improving your exterior drainage. There’s a great article on MoneyPit.com about how to solve wet basements. A lot of that advice applies to this. And then you’ll find that the sump pump will have to run that much less.
RENEE: OK. That’s great news.
TOM: Renee, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Bill in Michigan is on the line. How can we help you today?
BILL: My wife and I built a house about 10 years ago and we have a 2-car attached garage. And the problem is is that the floor of our garage is not level. And so, when water drops off the car from rain or more particularly, ice and snow, it drops off onto the garage floor and starts to go in different low spots on the floor.
BILL: And a lot of it goes directly towards the wall of our house.
BILL: So I’m wondering if there’s anything we can do to correct that problem without having to remove the floor and replace it.
LESLIE: Can you use something like Abatron or Abocast – I forget which one is the leveling compound – but to build up more on one side? Or will that just automatically try to go flat?
TOM: I’m thinking, Leslie, it’s so much work to be able to deal with a surface this big, to try to get it level again.
I actually think, Bill, it’s frankly going to be easier to tear out the old floor. That might seem extreme but you may be surprised that with the right tool, like a jackhammer, you can have your entire floor torn out in a couple of hours. It breaks up really easily. And then you can properly level it, properly reinforce it and then repour it and be done.
BILL: I was afraid you were going to suggest that. Because the problem is is the floor is sitting on precast concrete beams, because we have a spare storage space underneath the garage. And so the water drips down there.
TOM: Ah. Oh, man.
BILL: So, I could do that, I guess, but I don’t know the likelihood of being able to take concrete off of those precast …
TOM: Yeah, that does – no, that dramatically – I was thinking it’d be over fill dirt like every other one.
TOM: But no, that does make it a lot harder. So I guess you are going to have to look into a floor-leveling compound for this. And there’s a variety of products out there that this can work with. But the key is is it’s not just more concrete; it’s a product that’s designed specifically to stick to the existing concrete floor.
TOM: Because you have the full temperature swing there in Michigan and if you don’t have good adhesion, you’re obviously going to have that second layer chip off. So, it can be done. It’s a bit of a pain in the neck but it definitely can be done.
BILL: Would you suggest a concrete contractor? Do you think they would be familiar with the options there?
TOM: You may be better off having a pro do it, because you really have to set some forms to get this leveled just right. And then you remove them as you go so that it drains (inaudible).
BILL: Oh, how much could you put on top of a floor that I described?
TOM: Oh, you could put 2 or 3 inches, easily.
BILL: OK. OK. I appreciate that.
TOM: You’re welcome, Bill. 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. But you can also reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT, which is presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to HomeAdvisor.com.
TOM: And just ahead, are you itching to get your garden growing but wondering what you should start to plant now? We’re going to have some tips on a few plants that are suited for early-summer planting and late-summer munching, just ahead.
Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
You are listening to The Money Pit, which is presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Just use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. It’s all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.
And remember, while you’re online, head on over to MoneyPit.com where you can post your questions in the Community section. You can also give us a call with whatever it is you are working on, right here, at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll give you a hand. And hey, however you ask your question with us on the air, you’ve got a chance to win a great prize. And this is really the perfect summer giveaway.
We’ve got up for grabs the RYOBI 40-Volt Lithium 20-Inch SMART TREK Self-Propelled Cordless Mower. That’s right. I said self-propelled. So, it’s going to adapt to how you walk along, with the SMART TREK technology. So if you’re walking slow, it’s going to walk at your pace. If you’re walking fast, same deal. It’s not going to drag you across your yard. And even though it is battery-powered, you get the full gas-power feel. It’s really a great choice.
It’s worth 449 bucks. If you want to check it out, you can see it at Home Depot and at HomeDepot.com.
TOM: We’ve got one going out to one lucky listener. Make that you. Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Steve in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
STEVE: Looked outside this year and we’ve got a building that was built in 1929. It’s got a porch above the patio down below. And on the exposed joists, those carpenter bees have put some holes in there. And it – we’re looking for a way to eliminate the carpenter bees and not necessarily poison everything in the neighborhood.
LESLIE: Well, part of what they’re doing is – you know, they really enjoy eating this natural wood. So they’re coming there because you’ve got something tasty to offer up. And it turns out that they love to bore these holes that are perfectly 3/8-inches round.
So, you can do a couple of things. You can have it treated by a pest professional and then seal up those holes and that should do the trick. But you’re right: chemicals are used and that might not be what you have in mind.
The other thing is you can cover that or replace that joist completely – or whatever the support is – with a synthetic wood or a composite that looks like wood but it’s not actually wood. It could be extruded PVC, it could be recycled plastics. This way, it looks like wood; it’s doing the same job that the wood piece was. However, carpenter bees, carpenter ants, termites, whatever pests like to eat a natural source as wood, they’re going to try it, they’re not going to get into it and they’re going to be really confused and fly away and find somewhere else to eat.
STEVE: Yeah, that sounds like an option. Yeah, I was wondering if there was something that – I assume that painting it would not make a difference. I didn’t know if there was something that could be topically applied to it that would be environmentally friendly and keep the bees out.
LESLIE: Unh-unh. I’ve had them eat through the painted wood that makes up my entire screened-in porch. And then what happens is they bore a hole but they won’t bore all the way through. They’ll bore into the wood, even if it’s just a 1×6 or whatever. They find a way to bore into it and then bore through the wood itself and lay their eggs in there.
STEVE: OK. And it – yeah, it’s amazing. It looks like somebody got out with a drill and drilled the hole in there.
LESLIE: It’s just bizarre. It’s perfect how they do it.
STEVE: So, essentially, the options, basically, are having someone come out and treat it or either covering or changing the material that’s there.
LESLIE: Yeah, changing material is usually the best bet because they won’t eat it. And then, as an added benefit, it doesn’t require any maintenance except the occasional cleaning. You’re not going to be painting it all the time. It really is a win-win situation.
STEVE: OK. Yeah, I’ll look into that. I’ve got a contractor that’s got to come out anyway, so I’ll look into both options. But it sounds like it – I’d prefer something that wouldn’t have to do with pesticides but …
TOM: Steve, I hope that takes care of those carpenter bees once and for all. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Deb in Wyoming, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DEB: Yeah, I’ve got some trouble with an area of grass right in the middle of my yard. It’s probably 20×20.
LESLIE: The yard? Or the problem area?
DEB: The problem area is probably 20×20.
LESLIE: OK. That’s a big problem.
DEB: Yeah. And the lawn is pretty big and it grows really good all the way around this area. And it only – it’ll grow maybe an inch or two and then it kind of heads out and never really gets green. We put extra water on it and we fertilize it and aerate it, just like the rest of the lawn, but it just doesn’t look good. And seems funny that this would be just in one area.
LESLIE: Well, it could be that that area, for whatever reason, has a different pH balance than the other parts of your lawn itself. And therefore that the seed that you’re using is reacting differently to the soil than the other areas.
So, you might want to take a couple of soil samples from the problem area and have those tested. Sometimes, the home centers sell little kits. Sometimes, you might have to contact your local building department to find out who you can do that with. But you can have a soil test done pretty easily and inexpensively.
And once you know exactly what’s going on with the soil in this area, I mean that could be enlightening to have this information. Because you could be using the wrong seed, you could be using the wrong fertilizer. That will tell you exactly what type of fertilizer, when, how to water it. That’s really the key here and that should clear up a lot of this problem.
DEB: OK. That sounds great. I’ll sure give it a try.
TOM: Deb, I hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, there are lots of early-summer veggies to choose from, like turnips and beets and radishes and carrots and onions, that are great for early-summer planting. If that’s on your to-do list, it’s best to start with the small seedlings for those with the shorter growing seasons. Now, some of these root crops need 90 days for maturity but others, like the winter varieties of radishes, they’re ready to begin harvesting in 22 days from seeding. So, you could be basically eating them in less than a month.
LESLIE: That’s really fast and kind of amazing.
Now that you’ve got a bunch of fresh veggies, well, what are you going to do with them? You can also add them to leafy salad grains that are also perfect for early-summer growing, like Swiss chard, arugula and leaf lettuce.
And hey, good news: if you like snow peas and you want to add them to a salad, go right ahead and grow them in your yard. They are perfect for growing in this type of weather. And even though we’re not hoping for any winter weather anytime soon, snow peas grow in the snow.
TOM: How about that? For more details, check out “Green Goodness: 12 Veggies You Can Plant Right Now” on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Tony in North Carolina is on the line with a water-heating question. What can we do for you today?
TONY: My wife and I are in the process of – I guess we’re trying to gather as much information as we can. About to build another home in the next few months and we very much are interested in some of the ENERGY STAR features that we are – have been seeing.
Just wondering, is it feasible for us – there’s only four of us in the home – to install the tankless water heater or would we be wasting money there?
TOM: A tankless water heater is an excellent option for a family of four or even more. You buy the tankless water heater based on the number of bathrooms in the house. And the advantage is that you’re only using it to heat the water as you need it. A tank water heater keeps all of that water hot, 24-7, whether you’re using it or not. A tankless water heater fires on demand and heats water as it passes across its heat exchanger, essentially. So I do think that a tankless water heater is a good technology for you to consider.
And how perfect that you’re building a home now and can plan it. One of the most common complaints we get – that you might want to consider, Tony – is people complain that it takes too long for their water to get hot in the morning. So, the reason that happens is because the water heater is very far away from the bathroom. That is a condition that would continue even with a tankless but the advantage is that since the tankless water heaters are very small and can also be direct-vented through the exterior siding, that you could actually have the water heater more centrally located to the bathrooms. So that when you do turn the water on in the morning, you’re not waiting very long for that water to actually get there.
TONY: OK. I thank you so much for it.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Washington State where Sabrina is dealing with some grout that’s cracking up. And it’s not laughing; it’s falling apart. Tell us what’s going on.
SABRINA: So I had some grout installed quite some time ago. And they’re about 18-inch tile pieces. And what I’m noticing now is there are several places – it’s kind of happening all over – where the grout is actually cracking. And I’m not sure what to do.
TOM: So, is it a fine crack or is it a big crack?
SABRINA: The grout is cracking and now some of the tile pieces are cracking.
TOM: Yeah, that’s a problem. It sounds to me like the tile was not put down on a base that was solid enough. When you use a big tile like that, you need to have a really strong base. So you have to have a mud base or you have to have a tile base. And you may even have to have an expansion material underneath that so that you don’t get this kind of cracking. If you don’t get good support across an 18-inch tile and you get a little bit of movement in the floor, it cracks very quickly.
So, I think this – at this point, it’s going to be something you’re going to have to manage. And if it gets really bad, you’re going to end up taking those tiles out and replacing them. It’s very hard to recover from this when the tile job was potentially not done right to begin with.
SABRINA: Yeah. And I was wondering if it has anything to do with – I’ve heard a couple of people tell me that the underlayment – and maybe you said that – the underlayment wasn’t secured down properly or whatnot.
TOM: It wasn’t strong enough, right. It wasn’t strong enough. You see, if there’s more – if there’s flex in the floor, the tile is not going to bend, it’s going to crack. And so that’s why the tile – what’s under that tile has to be really solid. With a – bigger the tile, the wider the tile, the less forgiving it is. If you put mosaic down, you know, it can move all day long and you’re never going to see those cracks. But when you put a big, 18-inch square tile down, it’s got nowhere to go.
SABRINA: It’s got nowhere to go.
SABRINA: And what is your recommendation for my – for correcting it?
TOM: Unfortunately, there’s no easy recommendation. If the tile project was done wrong to begin with, there’s nothing I can tell you to do that’s going to fix it at this point in time. It’s really going to be something that you’re going to have to tolerate and eventually, you’re going to end up replacing them. And this time, you’re going to do the proper job with putting the floor down.
How long have these tiles been down?
SABRINA: About five years.
TOM: I was going to say, whoever put them down didn’t really do the job right. You’re going to end up having to tear it out and do it again.
SABRINA: That’s OK. Well, thank you, guys. I just wanted to talk to some professionals. And I heard your show and I really appreciate you guys giving me the advice.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online.
Hey, if you’ve been enjoying a beautiful garden and landscape but you’re noticing that you’re not the only one, you could be dealing with wildlife that’s making a meal out of your yard. We’re going to have some tips on a natural solution to keep them away, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, if you’ve been enjoying a beautiful garden and landscape but you’ve noticed that you’re not the only one, you might be dealing with wildlife who’s making a meal out of your yard.
TOM: Well, whether it’s rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks or my personal nemesis, deer – yes, that’s right, I’m at war with Bambi – there’s a solution that can handle these and many more.
LESLIE: With us to talk about that is lawn-and-garden care expert Jim Wood from Bonide, a company that’s been helping homeowners keep wildlife at bay now for over 90 years.
JIM: Hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom. Thank you for having me.
TOM: This can be really annoying. You think you’ve done everything right and you’re growing a beautiful landscape or a beautiful garden, you wake up one morning or you come home one night from work and you find out that some of your beautiful harvest has been nipped at ground level by some of the local wildlife. You must get a lot of questions about that at Bonide.
JIM: Yes, we do. And we have a very large assortment of repellents that we have available for consumers. But Repels-All Animal Repellent is by far our best seller, as it controls over 15 different animal pests.
TOM: Interesting. So, this particular product naturally repels them? What is it about the product that makes these animals want to stay away?
JIM: Well, it’s made with all-natural ingredients. And what it does, Tom, is it creates a negative feeling with the animal. The animal gets a bad response to either the smell, the taste or the irritation.
JIM: That’s the way that product works. So it works on all three senses: smell, taste and irritation.
TOM: Then once they get sort of a sense of that and know they don’t want to go back to it, do they generally stay away or is it something that you have to do over and over again?
JIM: It will have to be reapplied about every two months. It’s rain-fast once dry and it’ll last up to two months. So they’ll need to make some reapplications.
And the other thing you need to realize – the consumers need to realize – is as plants grow – let’s say you sprayed the plant in late April. And as that plant grows through the month of May, understand the new growth doesn’t have any spray on it. So you have to come back and spray that new growth, as well.
LESLIE: Jim, do you think that the animals get used to that taste or that smell of a product and then maybe you shouldn’t be using the same product time and again, because they do develop that same taste for it? Or can you repeat the product?
JIM: Leslie, the ideal scenario is to change up the repellents that you use so animals don’t get accustomed to the one taste, one scent, one irritation. If homeowners continue to use the same product month in, month out, the animals will get used to it and they’ll just basically work right through it. So the ideal scenario is to change up the repellents that the homeowner uses.
They can use Repels-All – one application – followed up with Bonide’s Animal Repellent, which is a totally different active ingredient and then go back the next time, which would be the third application – you can make that with Repels-All. So, yes, it definitely is a benefit to switch up your animal-repellent products that you use.
LESLIE: So you really should be applying every month or so as the growing season is happening.
JIM: Yes, I would definitely agree with that. And I would also mention that if they get a heavy rainstorm, it would not be a bad idea to reapply after that, as well.
TOM: We’re talking to Jim Wood – he is a lawn-care expert with Bonide – about how to keep some wildlife at bay.
And Jim, what about the type of plant you’re trying to keep this wildlife away from? Does it matter if it’s a vegetable or say, a bush or your lawn? Does this product work equally well on all of those types of plants? Is there any concern about, say, putting it on vegetables that would be harvested?
JIM: I’m glad you brought that up because that is a critical point with Repels-All. Excellent item for use on shrubbery, trees, perennials, flowers, et cetera, et cetera. However, the homeowner should not apply Repels-All directly to an edible. So, vegetables and fruits, things like that, no.
However, you can use either the liquid or the granular version as a perimeter treatment around those plants that are being eaten by a targeted animal you want to control.
TOM: Or doing the outside of it and not on the plant – or the vegetable, in this case – itself.
Now, is this a concentrate? Do you have to mix it up? Or how is it applied?
JIM: Well, Repels-All comes in liquid and granular. In the liquid version, we have a hose-end, we also have a concentrate that makes 2 gallons of spray and then we have a ready-to-use quart container. Then we have three sizes of a granular version. So, the smallest size does up to about 1,000 square feet and then the 6-pound bag does 5,000 square feet.
TOM: And I’m looking at the list here of all the different types of animals that it repels and it includes deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, skunks, birds, armadillos and more. Can’t say that I’ve ever had a problem with an armadillo but those deer, they just love my bushes.
JIM: Oh, this’ll definitely help keep them away.
TOM: Alright. Jim Wood from Bonide, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
If you’d like to learn more about Repels-All, head on over to Bonide.com. That’s B-o-n-i-d-e.com.
JIM: Thank you, Tom and Leslie.
LESLIE: Still to come, can you spot rot? Well, maybe not. Now, if it’s termites that have taken up residence instead, you could be mistaken. We’re going to tell you the difference and what to do about both, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to help you with all the things you are working on around your money pit. And 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. You can get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: Give us a call right now. We’ll not only answer your home improvement question but we’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat because, this hour, we’re giving away the RYOBI 40-Volt Lithium SMART TREK Self-Propelled Cordless Mower.
This is a fantastic mower. It’s worth 449 bucks. Available at The Home Depot and HomeDepot.com. It’s got SMART TREK technology, which matches your pace. It’s got gas-like power, cordless convenience, no messy fumes and oil and gas and maintenance associated with a gas power. It gets the job done without any of that stuff. And I like the bagger design. It’s easy-lift. So, single motion. You lift it right up in between the handles, drop it right back down. Pretty simple.
The RYOBI SMART TREK Self-Propelled Cordless Mower is going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Alan in Idaho is on the line with a crack in a foundation. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
ALAN: You know, when I first bought the house, a contractor buddy of mine said it was no big deal and he gave me some epoxy. Said to drill some holes in it and squirt it in there until it mushed out all the way through and then just go ahead and smooth it off. Well, I didn’t seal it but it’s cracked right again beside it.
TOM: OK. So you have a crack in the foundation that you filled with epoxy and it’s continuing to crack. Is that the case?
TOM: How old is your house?
ALAN: Sixty-seven is when it was built.
TOM: Alright. So it’s concrete-block wall or cinderblock wall, correct?
ALAN: It’s concrete.
TOM: Now, do you have any drainage issues around the house?
ALAN: Not that I know of.
TOM: Have you had any moisture in the basement or signs of that?
ALAN: The only time I’ve ever had any moisture in the basement is a previous owner drilled a hole in the floor and ran the condensate drain through the air conditioner into the floor.
TOM: Alright. That’s not the kind of moisture we’re concerned about. The reason I asked that question is because it sounds like your wall is a little unstable and that it’s continuing to move. And the first thing to do when that happens – if it’s not a serious crack, not one where the wall is being displaced – is to make sure that your grading and your drainage conditions are absolutely letter-perfect. Because the more water that soaks around the outside of that house, the more water that comes off gutters and gets discharged against the wall, the weaker that foundation gets.
It’s kind of like this: when it’s rainy and you walk across a field, you sink into the mud because wet dirt is not as strong as dry dirt. So we want to try to keep the dirt around your house – and specifically, under your footing – as dry as possible. So drainage control is important.
Now, beyond that, if this is just sort of a hairline crack that’s forming – is that what we’re talking about here?
ALAN: Yeah, yeah, it is. Well, the original one was a pretty good-sized crack but …
TOM: Well, what I would do if it’s a hairline crack is I would fill it with silicone caulk, because it will expand and contract and won’t – epoxy is pretty stiff if it’s going to break and crack through it. So I would just fill it with silicone caulk; that will just keep out some moisture and drafts from coming through it.
ALAN: Alright. And now, if I dig down – I know it doesn’t go clear to the footing because I’ve been down that far. I dug down to see how far it went down. And so, dig down and suggest maybe tarring it up below grade?
TOM: I wouldn’t go through all that. I mean right now, it’s – I would just improve the drainage conditions and seal the crack from the inside where you can.
TOM: Alright? I don’t think it’s going to really add to it to tar up the whole foundation. You don’t seem to have any major moisture problem here, so we’re just trying to deal with the drafts and any potential leakage in the future.
Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you’ve noticed that some of the wood surfaces around your house look a bit, say, off and then maybe you touch them or you poke at them and you find that the wood pretty much is no longer there, how do you know if what you’re seeing is wood that’s rotted or wood that’s been damaged by insects or maybe even both?
LESLIE: Well, damaged wood can make your home’s exterior look old, worn and then it leads to deeper structural problems. Either way, the wood’s got to be repaired whether that damage is caused by insects or rot. But if it’s insects that are doing the attacking, you might also need to call in a pest professional to make sure that they are not going to come back and do it all over again.
TOM: Now, if the wood is rotted, it’s going to look spongy, kind of almost like cork. But if it’s been attacked by wood-destroying insects, that damage will have a distinctly different pattern to it. Think about the rings of a tree: you have the thin rings and then you have the thick rings. Now, the thin rings are of the hard, slow winter growth of the tree. And the thick rings are the soft, fast summer growth.
Now, both carpenter ants and termites will eat that softer summer growth and then they’ll leave that thin winter growth alone. So if you see a tree that looks like it’s kind of carved out based on those rings, you definitely are dealing with insects.
LESLIE: Yeah. Plus, termites are also going to leave mud or sand behind, which they use to build these tunnels that keep the insect themselves protected while they go out and about and do all that munching away on your house.
Often, though, people will refer to rot damage as dry rot but that’s really a misnomer, because dry rot is nothing more than rotted wood that’s dried out.
TOM: Yeah. And rot needs moisture to develop. So, besides the repair, you do need to protect the wood with a proper finish to keep it from happening again.
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.
TOM: You’re welcome, Laurel. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Coming up, if you see a crack, does it always spell structural troubles? We’re going to tell you how to sort the serious from the cosmetic, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free.
LESLIE: And don’t forget, head on over to MoneyPit.com where you can post your question in The Money Pit’s Community section.
And I’ve got one here from Vicky. Now, Vicky is in Hawaii and she writes: “We’re about to interview two different contractors who are willing to build our house. What are important questions that I should know when meeting with these contractors? We already know that they build the whole house and it comes with everything, from the floors to the roof, even appliances, kitchen, bath, electrical, plumbing, et cetera. I want to be able to compare the bids equally.”
TOM: That’s a great question, Vicky, and the only way you’ll be able to compare those bids equally is if you have a very firm, well-developed set of architectural specifications. Because all of those things that you just mentioned, from the floors to the roof to the appliances, they all need to be described in great detail in those specs. Because otherwise, how do you know what kind of insulation, for example, one builder is offering over another?
I had a cousin that was building a home that was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy and I had sent him the names of some insulation contractors. And I asked him how it went. He said, “Well, one gave me the prices and they were dramatically different.” I said, “Something’s not right.” And I looked at their estimates. He didn’t realize that one contractor was literally putting in half of the insulation of the other contractor, because he didn’t have the right spec there or in this case, I think that because it was a repair, maybe there was never one developed. But it’s just a good example of what can happen. So you need to have a really good set of specifications.
Also, you need to make sure you have an attorney look at the contract with the builder. You want to make sure it provides, for example, how many people are going to be on the site. Is he using subcontractors? Is he doing most of the work himself? Find out what that crew experience is going to be like and make sure you provide for change orders, because you’re always going to change your mind. And if you do that, you want to make sure there’s a mechanism for either adding or removing from the cost of the overall job so you have no surprises at the end.
LESLIE: And you know what, Vicky? Make sure you leave plenty of room for a guest room for Tom and I, so we can visit.
TOM: I’d love a good reason to go to Hawaii.
LESLIE: Who wouldn’t?
TOM: Well, if you spot a crack that’s happening in your wall or ceiling, does it spell deeper trouble? Not usually. And Leslie has the details on how you might know, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, if you do notice a crack in your wall or in the ceiling, don’t panic. Although you’re going to feel concerned about it, you’ve got to realize that usually it’s a function of age and then, of course, movement of the house rather than a sign of a real structural problem.
Now, as it ages, the house is going to settle. A plain patch or just spackle is going to fall out because it’s not filling into that hole and then holding onto the gap. It’s also going to fall out as things are moving. So, the best way for a homeowner to fix it is to use a strong, perforated drywall tape.
Now, this tape has large squares and it almost looks like a stiff netting. So, first, you want to apply this to bridge that gap in the crack. Then go ahead and smooth a generous amount of spackle or mud over it. And once that area is dry, you’ve got to sand it. You might have to do a couple of layers, sanding in between. You want to feather it out so it makes a nice, smooth transition from the new to the old. And then go ahead and repaint it.
And I hate to say it but you might have to repaint the whole wall because, sometimes, just painting a patch makes that patch a little more obvious. So, assess and see. Try the small spot first and then probably go paint that whole wall.
TOM: Yeah, that’s good advice. Now, if you do see that a crack seems to be moving or is brand new – in other words, it wasn’t there last year and now it’s there and maybe it’s getting worse – that might be a different reason that’s causing that. And when you see that, you might want to call in a pro, especially if it’s a foundation crack.
Look, all homes have cracks of some sort. But the ones that are really active are the ones we want to try to stop.
Coming up next time on The Money Pit, we’re going to talk about how to turn your patio or porch into a sizzling kitchen space. It’s not quite as expensive as you might think. Kevin O’Connor from This Old House is going to stop by with advice for making this amazing addition to your porch or yard.
But for now, that’s all the time we have. 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.
END HOUR 2 TEXT
(Copyright 2019 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.)