- Have you made energy saving improvements to your home that upped its “green” factor? Those improvements may help you sell your home more quickly than the competition. Tom & Leslie share improvements with the best ROI along with tips on how to present these when it comes time to sell.
- When the weather outside turns frightful, a fire might be delightful – but not if it drives up your heating costs! We have tips on simple steps to make your fireplace energy-efficient.
- You are probably inside more often than not this time of year… so how healthy is the air you’re breathing? Maybe not as healthy as you think! Find out how to cut down on dust, allergens and even germs with a whole house air cleaner.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Brian from Kentucky wants to know the pros and cons of various types of stucco.
- Gail in Georgia wants to know how to clean stains from her driveway that are caused by acorns.
- Pete from Ohio needs to know more about how a how tankless water heaters work.
- Donna in Texas wants to know if it’s time for her to replace her 25-year-old windows.
- John from Arkansas is calling to know if he needs to hire a chimney cleaning service annually or can he get away with skipping a couple years?
- Cynthia in South Dakota wants to know how the walls in her old home are constructed and if she’d do damage by removing them.
- Kurt from North Carolina needs to reinforce his floor and wants to know how to sister a floor joist.
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: Here to take on the projects you’d like to get done around your house. We are here to help you with those projects if you need some tips, some advice. If you’re thinking about giving yourself a gift this holiday season in terms of some new flooring, a new kitchen, some interior decorating or maybe planning a project for the spring, you can count us to be on your team. You’ve got to reach out and help yourself first, though, by calling us with those questions at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting them to MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, if you think back over the years, have you made energy-saving improvements to your home that upped its green factor? Well, those home improvements might just help you sell your home more quickly than the competition. We’re going to tell you why, just ahead, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
LESLIE: And when the weather outside turns frightful, a fire might be delightful but not if it drives up your heating costs. We’re going to have tips on simple steps to make your fireplace energy-efficient.
TOM: And you’re probably inside more often than not this time of year, so how healthy is the air you’re breathing? Possibly not as healthy as you think. We’re going to teach you how to cut down on dust, allergens and even germs with a whole-house air cleaner, a little later.
LESLIE: First, what projects are you planning for the new year? What are you guys working on? I mean we’re just getting to the end of the year, holiday is happening, everything is going on. I know you’re starting to see that maybe your house isn’t working the exact way you’d like it to. So, maybe a big renovation is on deck for 2022. What is it going to be? Let us give you a hand.
TOM: Plus, we’ve got a great product we’re giving away today from our friends at Green Machine. It’s the 655 Cubic Foot per Minute Cordless Axial Blower worth 289 bucks.
This is a very powerful cordless tool. And I’ve got one and I continue to find uses for this. My favorite use – right now, this time of year, we think about getting rid of the leaves that may still be remaining. Hopefully not in your part of the woods but in ours, there’s still a few leaves hanging out.
But you know what I use it for is clearing out my garage because every time I open the garage door, all kinds of crap from the outside blows in. And even blowing out the car once in a while when it gets really dirty and dusty. Certainly, if you’ve got a truck bed or something like that with a pickup, you could use it for that. We continue to find uses for this because it’s a no-hassle product, right? You don’t have to put gas in it and all that kind of thing; you just pick it up and you go.
So we’ve got one to give away to one caller drawn at random. If you’d like to be entered for a chance to win that Green Machine blower, you’ve got to call us or post your question, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or at MoneyPit.com.
So let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Brian in Kentucky is on the line and working on a Tudor, which is my favorite kind of home. What can we help you with?
BRIAN: I have bought an old, 1979 English Tudor home. It’s about 2,700 square feet. And it’s down in Seymour, Tennessee. And it has got brick on the first floor and the upper floor has the English Tudor style but it’s been made out of plywood. And it looks like it’s textured plywood with raised 1×2-inch strips on it.
The house has never been touched and it’s a good money pit. I’m going to be taking the stripping off of it and I’m going to be probably caulking between the joints of the plywood and replacing whatever existing plywood is rotted with OVC marine board and then siliconing everything.
I’m going to – I want to put stucco or Dryvit over top of that existing plywood. And I’m leaning towards the Dryvit because of the Styrofoam, which will be an insulation factor. But I don’t know the pros and cons of original stucco or the Dryvit and the cost factor.
TOM: Alright. First of all, I’m very familiar with the design house you have and yes, it’s attractive. Unfortunately, it’s really bad in terms of weather-resistance because, usually, they use – well, what they’ll use for the what you’re calling the “plywood siding” is a composite type of material that looks a little bit like – supposed to look a little bit like concrete or look like stucco but it’s not.
TOM: And it’s a composite siding that really does not stand up very well. And if it’s not been touched since 1979, then it probably all needs to be replaced.
TOM: If you’re trying to decide between using real stucco – or it’s actually called Dryvit and it’s a brand name for EIFS, which is exterior insulated foam siding – E-I-F-S. I would tell you that you should stay away – stay away – from the foam siding. All you need to do is Google-search that stuff and you’re going to find huge problems. There’s been a lot of complaints over the years and as a friend of mine once said to me, who’s a structural engineer – he said, “That product was leaking on the drawing board and it hasn’t stopped since.”
TOM: Now, they made a lot of changes to it and some people said they’re happy with it. If you live in a wet climate, I wouldn’t use it. If you live – I think it’s good on commercial buildings and masonry buildings because they don’t have the decay factors. But I would absolutely stay away from the exterior insulated foam siding for a residential home.
I think you’re going to end up, Brian, taking all of that plywood off and then you’re going to have to decide what you want to replace it with. If you’re going to go with real masonry siding – real masonry stucco – I think that’s a wise choice. I think that’s a choice that will last a lifetime and give your house a proper English Tudor.
English Tudors last forever because they’re built to last forever. But when we make the fake English Tudors with the composite siding and the furring strips, you’re lucky that it lasted the 30-plus years that it has.
BRIAN: Yeah. Would you go with the marine board, like I was talking about, and then put the Tyvek around that or the tar paper or …?
TOM: Well, what you’re going to end up doing is you’re going to have a plywood sheathing. So you’re going to take everything off, examine the interior, make sure there’s no rot in the studs. You’re going to add a plywood sheathing, you’re going to add building paper, you’re going to add metal – woven metal wire – and you’re going to put the stucco right on top of that.
Of course, really, your mason is going to do this but that’s, essentially, the process.
BRIAN: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
TOM: You’re welcome, Brian. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Gail in St. Simons Island, Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today? Something about acorns?
GAIL: We’ve just moved into a new house and we have a lovely concrete drive that is underneath a lot of live oak trees that are now dropping all their nuts. And the acorns are putting stains all over my concrete. I’m wondering if I should stain this concrete brown.
TOM: Well, listen, I think those beautiful oak trees are a part of the beauty of living on St. Simons Island, which is a gorgeous place.
Now, I can sympathize with your thought that – “Hey, why don’t I just restain the driveway to match the color of the acorn stains?” That is one way to do it for sure. But then again, that stain is going to fade over time. And then you’ll have stains and a driveway that has to be stained at the same time.
So, what I would suggest is that you just take on the maintenance that this is going to require. It’s not difficult. You just need some oxygenated bleach or you could mix up your own bleach. I would do about maybe a cup of bleach to about a gallon of water. Pretty strong bleach solution. And then when you put that down, you let it sit for a while and then you can scrub it off with a floor brush. You will find that those stains will come up if you stay on top of it that way.
I would be cautious about using a pressure washer; it’s always an option. But if you want to put down a solution first of the bleach and then pressure-wash it, you could do that but do not use too much pressure. Because concrete, as hard as we all think it is, it’s like butter to a pressure washer. The pressure washer will actually wear away the surface of it and you’ll see indentations from where you ran the pressure washer over it.
But it’s a pretty common problem. You’re just going to have to stay on top of it by using a cleaner. So, like I said, oxygenated bleach. There are driveway-cleaning products that are formulated for this. They are very similar to the deck and house-cleaning products that are simulated for these sorts of stains. And if you stay on top of it, it won’t be terribly bad.
Hey, we’ve got an awesome giveaway today from our friends at Green Machine. We’ve got the Green Machine 655-CFM Cordless Axial Blower. It’s got a turbo-button feature that delivers wind speeds of up to 123 miles per hour. It needs zero gas, so that means no fumes to deal with. And it’s got a powerful 62-volt lithium battery and a brushless motor, so you’ll always have plenty of power for longer run time.
It’s available for $289 but here, today on The Money Pit, we’re going to give one away. So give us a call with your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post them to MoneyPit.com. We will draw one listener at random out of The Money Pit hard hat and maybe that will be you. You’ll have a cool, new tool to start the year with.
The number here, again: 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Or post them to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Pete in Ohio is on the line and has a question about tankless water heaters. How can we help?
PETE: I am getting ready to replace the current water heater and was curious about your thoughts on a tankless water heater. Do you seem to be getting a lot of different opinions about whether they’re worth it, whether they’re reliable, if they’re mechanically sound, those kinds of things? So I was just curious as to – what your thoughts are on it and if you would recommend a particular type of tankless heater or brand or even things to look for. I do have gas heat.
TOM: Well, Pete, I would say that you have little to be concerned about, about the technology behind not only tankless water heaters but frankly tankless boilers, as well. In my home, about a year or so ago now, we replaced an old boiler, that used to provide our hot water and our heat for our old cast-iron radiators, with something called a “combi unit.”
Now, we used a Weil-McLain – W-e-i-l-McLain – unit. That was the manufacturer and that’s a brand that’s been around forever. I knew it very well from my years as a home inspector. And in my case, we get both domestic hot water and the water that heats our home through the radiators out of the same unit which, by the way, is about the size of a kitchen cabinet. I mean a small kitchen cabinet. It’s amazing how much technology has changed the size and the shape of these things.
So I think that if you are ready to replace your water heater now – if you have hot-air heat, of course, you don’t need the boiler side of it. You could just use a tankless water heater. You will find that that technology is very, very dependable right now. It is incredibly affordable in terms of what those costs used to be when they first came out. And the efficiency is really through the roof.
And in fact, in a lot of states, you may find that there are rebates available. So I would ask your heating companies about the available rebates. When we bought our boiler, there were actually two rebates and I think they totaled roughly around $1,500 altogether, which was about – roughly about 20, 25 percent of the cost of the whole project. So it was a pretty big discount that we were able to enjoy, as well.
And in fact, I just got my gas bill. Of course, it’s winter now and my gas bill for last month was $28. So I’m sure it was probably 128 or more than that before we did this system. So, really happy with the technology and I would definitely recommend it.
Well, if you’ve lived in your house for a number of years, you’ve probably made improvements to make it more energy-efficient or to cut back on maintenance. Or perhaps you selected some materials that were produced in a way that limits any negative impact to the environment. Well, improvements like these can add to your home’s greenness. And it turns out they’re a valuable consideration for a potential home buyer but only if they know about them.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, that’s why it’s really smart to create a green inventory of those elements. You want to list every improvement that reduced your home’s impact on Mother Earth. Now, that could be new appliances, faucets that use less water, LED light bulbs that use less energy. And don’t forget about building materials that last longer and need less maintenance, like a fiber-cement siding instead of having wood siding. All of those things definitely add up. And if you don’t call them out, people aren’t going to notice.
TOM: Yep. So what you want to do is to list every element in what we call a “green inventory” and have that available for review by potential home buyers. You can bet the neighboring homes you’ll compete against will not do this. And buyers will be impressed and you might just get that sale over competing homes in your area.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip, presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Donna in Tyler, Texas is on the line and has some questions about windows. Tell us what’s going on.
DONNA: We have double-pane windows that we replaced our old wooden windows with about 20, 25 years ago and now I have some that don’t close. And I have one that has – that I can’t open. The mechanism in the side of the window broke and I didn’t know if there was any hope for repairing them or fixing them or if I just need to get new windows.
TOM: Well, you really, Donna – 20 to 25 years?
Leslie, I feel like she got a lot out of those windows.
LESLIE: For sure.
TOM: That’s a pretty good life, right, for windows. And certainly, you may be able to repair some of the mechanism if you can locate the parts. But frankly, it might just be better to replace those windows, especially because windows today have become less expensive and they’ve become more efficient.
And if you go with replacement windows where you’re only really replacing the operable part of the sash – the part that slides up and slides down – and you leave the old sash in place, they’re really pretty affordable and easy to install, because you basically order them to fit inside that space.
And they can be installed in a really quick – I could do a window like that inside of an hour, easily. So they’re not that difficult to replace these days and especially if you have bad seals, because the seal – it would definitely not be worth at all taking out the window that has the bad seal and having the seals replaced. That would be much more expensive than getting a new window. So I think you ought to be happy with the 25 years you got out of that window and think about replacing them.
And you know what? If you want to approach this in a way that kind of keeps the costs in check, I would think about whether or not I was more concerned about my heating bills or my air-conditioning bills. If it was the air-conditioning bills, then I would do the south side of the house first, followed by the west. And if it was the heating bills, I would do the north side of the house first, followed by the east. You don’t have to do the whole house at once; you can do them one or two sides at a time.
LESLIE: John in Arkansas has got a question about fireplaces. What’s going on?
JOHN: It’s getting pretty cold around here and we have a fireplace. And we’ve had it serviced before where they come in and do the work they do to prepare it. And I’m wondering, is that something I really need to pay for every single year? Or are some of these products you see in the stores where you can burn something and it kind of cleans a little bit the crystallite? So just wanted to know if this is something I need to do every year or just once every couple of years or what that might be.
LESLIE: You know, John, I think an annual cleaning is beneficial but it really depends on how much you use the fireplace. Because it’s recommended, if you burn a cord of wood, then you should have it cleaned. So if you’re burning a cord of wood multiple times throughout the fire you season, you’re going to need to clean the chimney more often than the once a year. So you really have to base it on usage.
But a lot of people talk about these self-cleaning logs. Tom, I don’t know much about them. They don’t really work, right?
TOM: Well, I guess they probably work to some extent. But the problem is that in certain fireplaces and especially those that are the metal fireplaces that are the zero-clearance, the manufactured fireplaces, those so-called cleaning logs or cleaning sticks are incredibly corrosive. So they can damage the chimney flue just by virtue of the fact that you’re using them.
So I don’t think it’s a smart idea. I would stick to regular fireplace maintenance which, as you said, is once per cord of wood. Now, a cord of wood is a lot of wood. A cord of wood is a pile of wood that’s 4 feet tall, 4 feet deep and 8 feet wide. That’s a lot of wood.
LESLIE: That’s a lot of wood.
TOM: And so – and that just gives you a sense as to how frequently you should be doing that.
So I don’t think you need to do it every year. I think you need to do it based on use. And I would stay away from any of these DIY self-cleaning sticks, because I think that they’re probably more trouble than they’re worth.
LESLIE: Well, when the weather outside turns frightful, a fire might be delightful but not if it’s driving up your heating costs.
TOM: Yeah. Fireplaces need air to draft. And unless the fireplace pulls combustion air from an outside source, your fireplace can actually consume expensive, already-heated air from your home and send it right up the chimney.
LESLIE: Alright, Tom. Let’s start by explaining the basic principles. Now, I think homeowners fail to realize that a crackling fire might put off a lot of heat but it actually can consume heated air from elsewhere in your home at the same time, right?
TOM: Well, that’s right. So, since all fires need air to burn – you’ve heard the term draft?
TOM: Where the smoke goes up the chimney as opposed to going in your house? It doesn’t have a good draft. Well, it’s not just the heat from the fire that’s going up there directly – because that, in and of itself, is a waste – but it’s also the air that’s in the house which, of course, you’re already paying to warm. And that’s why it can get expensive sometimes.
And then I always put most fireplaces in that sort of luxury box. It’s like don’t kid yourself thinking they’re all going to be energy-efficient, because they’re just not.
LESLIE: Alright. I think we all know that you need air for a fire to actually burn successfully. But how can we make sure that maybe we’re giving the fire air from another place, rather than a heated part of your room, and sort of taking away that energy and spending more dollars?
TOM: Yeah. So that’s a good question. So, I mean one of the ways to do this – and in fact, the way it’s done in a lot of manufactured fireplaces is it pulls combustion air from the outside. So, in other words, the air that it needs to fuel that fire comes from unheated air, not heated air. Now, you would need probably a new fireplace insert, at the least, to do something like this because it has to be professionally installed and basically be hooked up to do that. And you can tell sometimes – if you look at the back of what is the chimney structure on a house, you’ll see vents there that are often used to pull combustion air into the house.
Now, in the off-season, by the way, you can still waste a lot of heat up that chimney. So in the off-season, when you’re not using the chimney – or if you just don’t like fires – you want to make sure that that flue is sealed off. There’s a number of ways to do that. If you’ve got fireplace doors, a good, well-fitting set of doors can prevent that heat from escaping. If not, you could use a product like – there’s a product called Draft Stopper. It’s kind of like a balloon that expands and fills the inside of the flue to stop that air from going out. I’ve also seen people just take a roll of insulation, stick it up there and then they take that out, of course, when it’s time to light a fire. You just can’t forget to do that or you’re going to fill your house with smoke.
LESLIE: Jeez. You really have to be careful about that.
Now, I know you don’t always agree with gas fireplaces. I put one in just because of the convenience of it. But is there any benefit of a gas fireplace as opposed to a wood-burning one? Is there one more energy-efficient than the other?
TOM: Yeah. So I don’t dislike all gas fireplaces. I just want you to be aware of a couple of things.
First of all, if you have a masonry fireplace and you want to convert it to a gas-burning log and you’re going to use the same flue and stuff, that’s fine. But just keep this in mind: that gas log in an old masonry fireplace uses as much, if not more gas than your heating system for your entire house. Those logs will burn 80,000; 100,000; 120,000 BTUs. That’s the amount of gas that an inefficient heating system uses in a house. So it’s a lot of gas. It’s going to be really, really expensive to run that on a regular basis.
Now, the other way to have a gas fireplace is if you have one that has combustion air from the outside. It pulls it in, runs it up the chimney and that’s perfectly fine. And those are efficient. They’re not terribly expensive. There’s not nearly as much maintenance as if it’s wood.
The one kind of gas fireplace I do not like is one that is non-venting. There are certain fireplaces that burn efficiently enough where the combustion gas gets dumped right back into your living space. And the manufacturers will tell you it’s safe, of course, if everything is working right. I just don’t like the idea of not only putting that combustion gas in the air. But also, when you burn gas – natural gas – it’s 80-percent water vapor. So you’re throwing a lot of moisture in the air at the same time.
So, that’s all the reasons that I really don’t like to use gas fireplaces. It’s only the unvented kind. If you’re going to use the vented kind, I would make sure it’s a more modern one that’s going to be more efficient and not use a replacement for a wood log with a gas log.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, that is all good to know, especially as we enter the very dark, long winter. We want to stay cozy, so hopefully this helps you guys all out with your beautiful fires at home.
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TOM: That Green Machine 655-CFM Cordless Axial Blower is going out to one listener drawn at random. If you want to make that you, you’ve got to contact us with your home improvement question by posting it at MoneyPit.com or calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Cynthia from South Dakota on the line who’s got a question about a firewall. Tell us what you’re working on.
CYNTHIA: I have an old house and I’ve been ripping out the plaster walls. And I found, along this one wall – see, the whole entire house is this pretty durable and tough plaster-board stuff. And I was wondering if that is a firewall, because that seems to be where all the cold-air returns and stuff are and if I should or should not rip it out. And if I do rip it out, is there a certain kind of drywall that I should use there?
TOM: Where is this wall located exactly?
CYNTHIA: It could have been on the outside of the house at one point but it’s under the furnace.
TOM: Well, first of all, the only place that you typically would have a firewall – in other words, a fire-rated wall with a certain rating – is between the garage and the house. All the other walls and ceilings inside the homes are – usually have traditional, ½-inch drywall. If it’s an exterior – an interior/exterior wall – an inside surface of an exterior wall, like a garage wall, then you would use a 5/8-inch-thick, fire-rated drywall. But all of the other places in the house, you’d have regular plaster board – I’m sorry, regular drywall.
CYNTHIA: OK. Have you ever seen this plaster board before?
TOM: Well, sure. Now, how old is the house?
CYNTHIA: I believe it was built in 1896?
TOM: See, there’s different stages of wall construction. In 1896, you would have had something called “wood lath,” so there would be wood strips on the wall and then plaster put on top of that.
CYNTHIA: Yep. That’s on most of the walls. But this one particular wall – which could have been an outside wall at one point; I’m not sure exactly – it’s like in 2-foot strips.
TOM: Yeah, OK. So that’s a later addition. And what they did with that is when they stopped using wood lath, they started using rock lath or – you would think of sheetrock in those 2-foot-wide strips? They put that on and then covered that with wet plaster. So that’s just a more modern version of the way walls were constructed. So it went from wood lath to rock lath to sheetrock. That’s, essentially, the progression of wall construction over, roughly, the last hundred years.
CYNTHIA: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: A little lesson on building history. Hope that clears it up for you.
CYNTHIA: Yeah. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: So does stuffy, stale, indoor air have you wondering how healthy every breath you’re taking is? Well, you can get rid of household contaminates – like dust, allergens and even germs – if you’ve got the right indoor-air cleaner.
TOM: Yeah, that’s right. So, to start, you need to understand that there are basically three types of air filters or air cleaners. First of all, there’s the good, old-fashioned fiberglass flat filter. They’re basic, they typically need changing on a monthly basis and while they capture dust, they don’t capture the kinds of contaminants that can make you miserable, like allergens.
Next, we have extended media filters. And these use a particle filter and a small electrostatic charge to clean the air. And they do a lot better job than the plain, flat filters. But for the best filtration, there are electronic filters. They use an electrical charge to capture particles, kind of like a magnet. They’re incredibly effective on small particles and they perform about 30 times better than flat filters. So think about those filters: those fiberglass filters you’re changing once a month. Electronic filters are going to do 30 times a better job than that. And if you’ve got respiratory issues in your house, that’s the kind of filtration system you need.
LESLIE: Yeah. But when it comes to installation, this really is a job that’s best left to a pro, because most of these filtration systems need to be built into your existing HVAC system on the return side of the system you have. This way, air is continually cleaned as it’s passing through the filter.
Now, prices are going to vary depending on the type of filter you go with and its size. But it’s well worth the investment, especially if anybody in your home suffers from allergies or any other type of respiratory illness. Not to mention you’re going to be doing a lot less dusting around the house, too, which is like a surprise benefit.
TOM: It’s one of those things that you don’t realize how much better it makes life inside the house, you know. People who live in homes are used to sniffling and sneezing; they think there’s nothing you can do about it. They improve their ventilation system, they improve their filtration system and instantly, everybody is feeling a lot better.
So, think about that. It’s a great improvement to make to your home.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Kurt in North Carolina on the line who’s working on a restoration. Tell us about the project.
KURT: So I’ve got 2×6 floor joists spanning 15 feet. And I’d like to know if I rip some ¾-inch plywood and sister it up against the 2x6s and glue and screw it, if that would be sufficient. My crawlspace has six vents under the floor and I want to seal them up. I read it doesn’t need cross-ventilation. It’s kind of old-school. And I put six-mil poly on the ground. Your thoughts, please.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, in terms of beefing up the floor joists, sistering the floor joists by doubling them – I don’t necessarily think I would use plywood on them; I would double them.
KURT: Would it be flimsy?
TOM: Well, it may not be flimsy but the thing is, if you want to sister a floor joist and help support it, you need to go from bearing point to bearing point. So if it’s going from a girder to an exterior wall, the sister beam has to go the same length.
TOM: Another thing that you could do, Kurt, is you could run another girder, at the midpoint of that 15 feet, from end to end. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be – has to be as strong as the main girder for the house, because you’re really just taking the flex out of it. So if you poured a small footing underneath it and just got something in there to kind of stiffen the floor, that would take the bounce out.
KURT: Right. Yeah, I thought about that on the main floor but my second story, I didn’t want to – if I put a glulam in, I only have 7 feet, 5 inches to ceiling height.
TOM: I understand. So, doubling them is a solution, as well as using a mid-span girder.
KURT: Alright, sir. I appreciate the information.
TOM: You’re welcome, Kurt. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Post your questions to the website. You can call, you can write us, whatever you choose.
Melanie did that today and she says, “I’m dealing with leaks to my basement. I plan to improve the grade around the outside but I wondered what type of soil to use.”
TOM: So that’s a great question because generally when we, as homeowners, add soil around our house, we’re doing it to improve our landscaping and we are exclusively using topsoil. But when you have a grade that is not sloping away from your foundation or if it’s flat and it’s sloping in, you don’t want to fill it in with topsoil because topsoil is really organic and it’s going to hold water.
So what you want to do is you want to add something called “clean fill dirt.” It’s kind of what you see when you dig down a foot or so into the earth. And it doesn’t have any organic matter in it. It compacts it really well. So you build up the grade with the fill dirt and on top of that, once you’ve established a slope away from the wall, then you can add some topsoil if you want to plant grass or you can add mulch or stone or whatever.
But I will say that before you do that, Melanie, you want to make sure that you do the easier stuff first and that is look at your gutter system. Because most of the time, when folks have problems with drainage, it really stems from some problem with the gutter system. So either it’s basic, like they’re clogged, or it could be that the gutters are designed in such a way that they don’t have enough downspouts.
Sometimes, especially when you see – I’ll see this all the time like, say, a two-story Colonial. You’ll have a gutter on the upper roof and then it’ll go through a downspout and dump to another gutter, like on the garage roof, which is at one story. So now you’ve got – the entire house ends up and whatever is coming off the garage roof. That gutter can be completely overflowed and in that case, it’s going to land right around the foundation in the front or the back and it’ll find its way into the basement. So make sure you take care of the gutters first and then improve the soil slope second.
LESLIE: Alright. Hopefully, that helps you out, Melanie.
Now we’ve got one here from Jamie. Now, Jamie says, “I have squeaks coming from my hardwood floors on the second floor. I can’t get to the beams on the first floor without going through the ceiling. What’s the best way to fix them?”
TOM: Yeah. Squeaky floors can be particularly annoying unless you’ve got teenagers, because it always tells you when they’re coming home, right?
TOM: So, here’s a couple of things you can do. First of all, the reason that squeaks happen is because there’s movement in the floorboards or in the subfloor. And so to stop that movement, you’ve got to secure better that subfloor or in your case, the hardwood floor to the beams. That’s why you say you can’t get to the beams on the first floor. You actually can. What you want to do is use a stud finder, because the stud finders today are inexpensive and they can actually see 2 or 3 inches into the floor structure. You’ll be able to figure out exactly where the floor joists are. And because it’s hardwood, you want to make sure you use something that’s easily concealable.
So I would use what’s called a “trim screw.” It’s like a case-hardened drywall screw, except it has a really tiny head about the size of a finish nail. And you set these to be just below the surface of the hardwood, use a little colored filler on top of it. And two or three of those in the area where squeaks are should solidify it and make it nice and quiet.
LESLIE: Alright, Jamie. I hope that helps you out and then when you have teenagers and you want the floor to squeak, we can tell you how to reverse it, as well.
TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on this, the very last week of the year, pretty much, as we roll into the new year. If there are projects that you are thinking about doing, you’re dreaming about doing them, you don’t know how to start or where to start or whether you can afford it, how you can save money getting it done, we will be here to help you every step of the way as we have for more than 20 years now. We wish you and your family a very happy holiday season.
And remember, you can reach out to us, 24/7, when those questions pop up or those dreams pop in your head. And we will be happy to get back to you the next time we’re in the studio.
Until then, 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 2021 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.)