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: And what are you working on on this beautiful weekend? If it’s your house, you are in the right place because that’s what we do: we help you get those projects done. If it’s a job that you’ve been thinking about doing and you’d like to get it done before the holidays or if it’s a project you’d like to plan for the months ahead, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we are here to get you the info, the advice, the tips to get a job done right the first time so you won’t have to do it again.
Coming up on today’s show, are you hoping to avoid the flu in the coming months? Well, hands-free, motion-activated faucets are good for cutting down on the spread of germs in public restrooms. And they can work in your home, as well. We’re going to give you some tips to get that project done.
LESLIE: And here’s a question: what’s the difference between a garage and a home workshop or gym that you can use year-round? Well, often as little as 20 or 30 degrees. We’ve got tips to help heat your garage, to help you find a much more usable space.
TOM: And backyard fire pits are really hot right now – I mean literally – and you could totally build one yourself. We’ll have the tips you need to get started and to get roasting those s’mores in no time at all.
LESLIE: Plus, if you’re ready to tackle some tree-trimming this fall, you’ll especially want to call in with your home improvement question. We’re giving away a Greenworks 60-Volt Lithium-Ion 18-Inch Brushless Cordless Electric Chainsaw, battery included. This is a great prize worth 330 bucks.
TOM: That’s right. It’s available at Lowe’s and Lowes.com but we’ve got one to give away on today’s show. It’s going to go one to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Nancy in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
NANCY: I have a problem in an upstairs bedroom that is on an exterior wall. I have had the floor taken up from down to the subfloor and there’s all sorts of water stains under the window there. Now, I know it’s not from having had the window open.
TOM: Are the water stains active or are they just old stains?
NANCY: That’s what I don’t know. That’s why I’m – that’s my concern. I don’t know how to figure out whether they’re old or not. Five years ago, I had the outside siding replaced and the windows replaced.
TOM: Well, listen, if they’re wet right now, you would know it. You’d probably see …
NANCY: No, they aren’t wet. And I’ve been waiting for two weeks for it to rain to find out if …
NANCY: We haven’t had any rain. And that’s really the only way I know to figure it out – is to wait until it rains.
TOM: Yeah. I would say it’s most likely – they’re most likely old leaks. If they’re not – I think if they were wet now, you would know it. You would have other signs of this. You would have leaks below, stains below, that sort of thing. I don’t think this is active. This sounds to me like it happened maybe during the remodeling but maybe not. You can continue to wait for rain. You could also run a hose on the outside of the house, around the windows, and see if anything leaks.
But I suspect that these are old leaks and you can probably just cover it up again.
NANCY: OK. That sounds wonderful. I’m putting hardwood on it. So, will it – it feels fairly smooth so I shouldn’t have to replace the subfloor there.
TOM: Not unless it’s warped or twisted. But if it just has the stains on it, then it should be OK.
Are you using engineered hardwood or are you using solid hardwood?
NANCY: I’m using solid hardwood.
TOM: So, you’re going to – it’s going to be nailed down to that floor and then the floors are going to be finished. Is that correct?
TOM: OK. Yeah, I think you’re probably good to go.
NANCY: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: Well, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
NANCY: Thank you.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Mark in Iowa on the line who’s got an insulation question. How can we help you today?
MARK: Live here in the Midwest so, obviously, we do get the temperatures getting below zero. So I’ve been kind of doing some research on the spray foam. And the one question that I’m not for certain of is when it comes to the walls and then the sill plate.
MARK: The best thing I can determine is it looks like when it comes to the walls, it’s probably the closed cell. But then getting up into the sill plate, I can’t tell – I’ve seen it two ways: one says it’d be OK with the closed cell and others, eh, just fill the whole thing with open cell. Don’t know what’s the best way to go.
TOM: OK. Have you taken a look at the Icynene products?
MARK: Yes, I have.
TOM: Because we’ve had some very positive experiences with Icynene. And we also have been in homes where Icynene has been applied and in particular, they use them on a number of This Old House properties and had very good success. So I’m very comfortable with that product.
Now, in terms of open cell versus closed cell, don’t necessarily have a preference. But the key with the spray-foam insulations is to make sure that A) you have a good-quality product and B) that you have very trained installers. Because the installation can – you can really make it or break it when it comes to the installation quality. If you don’t have installers that are really experienced with the products, they can leave areas that are underinsulated. They can actually apply too much insulation and cause problems as a result of that.
So I would focus on the product and the installers that are going to put it together first.
MARK: OK. Alright. I guess my biggest concern is I haven’t seen any indication to worry about water/moisture issues. But it’s the wind barrier – the air barrier …
TOM: Well, there’s two benefits to using spray-foam insulation over a fiberglass insulation. The first is, of course, the insulating ability but the second is the air-barrier ability. Because spray-foam insulation both seals out drafts and insulates at the same time. So that’s the benefit of that product over, say, a batt product like fiberglass or frankly, even cellulose because you don’t get the air-sealing capabilities.
Now, is this a new home that you’re constructing? Where is the insulation going to be used?
MARK: Yeah, it was an unfinished basement when we moved in. Built in about 2005, 2006.
TOM: How’s the rest of the house insulated?
MARK: Up in the ceiling, it is kind of like, oh, the real fluffy type of cotton spray.
TOM: It sounds like blown-in fiberglass.
MARK: Yeah. It’s not rolled or anything. It is loose, so it could be raked around and everything but it doesn’t itch to the touch. For the most part, it’s well-insulated. It’s just the basement was poured concrete. It looks like the brick look and I’m finishing the basement. And if I’m going to spend a little money, I’d rather do it right and that’s why I’ve been trying to bypass the fiberglass and looking at the spray foam.
TOM: Yep. Well, also, you’re going to find that there’s a lot of drafts that get into that band-joist area and that’s going to make the first floor a lot warmer.
TOM: Finally, to kind of address your question about open versus closed, what we hear from the marketplace is that many people really prefer closed over open, because it reduces the chance of moisture getting into the product.
MARK: Yep. And that’s why the walls, I’ve kind of leaned more towards that but the sill-plate area, there’s some areas where it might be hard for them to spray in there. And that’s where one of the quotes I got back was recommending to going just straight open cell and just fill it.
TOM: It really depends on whether – what you need to do to get 100-percent coverage. And if the tools – and that may be the truth because the tools have to get up in there and they may not be flexible enough for some of those nooks and crannies in that particular scenario. So, yeah, if that’s what feedback – I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that.
OK. Well, 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 Show. Give us a call anytime at 888-MONEY-PIT.
888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. Get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online for free.
TOM: Coming up, you wash your hands to get rid of germs but you may be picking up even more of them when you touch the handle to turn off the water. We’re going to have some tips to undo that dirty irony with a hygienic home solution worth considering, especially as flu season is here. That’s all coming up, after this.
Making good homes better, 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, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.
And if you do give us a call with your home improvement question, we will toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat, because we’re going to pull one listener out at the end of the show and hand off a Greenworks 60-Volt Lithium-Ion 18-Inch Brushless Cordless Electric Chainsaw.
This tool amazes me, Leslie, because all the years that I struggled with gas-powered chainsaws and some where you had the two strokes where you had to mix up the oil and the gas, you know. Messy to use, expensive, always needs a tune-up, it seems, because it never wants to run the next year no matter how good a job you do cleaning it. That’s all behind us now because this chainsaw can make 180 cuts on a single battery charge. That’s pretty amazing, right?
LESLIE: That’s amazing.
TOM: So if you’d like to win it, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Now, the Greenworks Brushless Cordless 18-inch Chainsaw is available at Lowe’s and Lowes.com for 329 bucks. But it’s going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone, call us, right now, with your how-to question, your décor dilemma. That number, again: 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Debbie in Delaware, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DEBBIE: I have a home built in 2006. I have an unfinished basement. All the walls are cement. My air conditioning and heating unit is down there.
DEBBIE: I have a very fine, white – it’s not even a dust; it’s like a powder that’s getting through the whole house.
TOM: Through the whole house.
DEBBIE: It’s going through the whole house. It’s got to be coming through the heating and air-conditioning vent.
TOM: OK. Hmm.
DEBBIE: I don’t know if it’s something – it feels like the same powder that is on the cement walls. Like something was sprayed onto them?
TOM: So are – these are concrete-block walls?
DEBBIE: Solid concrete.
TOM: Solid concrete. Alright. And do you see any sort of white powder that’s sticking to the concrete – to the cement wall?
TOM: You do? OK.
DEBBIE: Yes, absolutely.
TOM: So …
DEBBIE: Like if I go to wipe my finger on and it’s in this chalkboard?
TOM: Yep, OK. So here’s what’s going on. Then they may be – it may not be connected, these two observations. But in so far as the walls are concerned, that’s a mineral-salt deposit. And what happens is the water that collects around the outside of your foundation will draw into the wall. The walls are very absorptive. And it will draw into the wall and it will evaporate – the moisture will evaporate – into your basement but it will leave behind the mineral-salt deposits that are in the soil and in the water.
TOM: And that’s that white powder. Sometimes it looks light gray. And you can prove it to yourself just by taking a little bit of vinegar and wiping down the wall. Usually, vinegar will melt salts and makes it disappear.
TOM: Now, it’s nothing harmful about it but it does indicate that you have too much moisture collecting around your foundation perimeter, Debbie, so I do want you to take a look out there and make sure that the soil is sloped to grade away from the walls. Also, make sure that your gutters are clean and free-flowing and that you’re not doing anything to really retain water at the foundation perimeter.
In the worst-case scenario, this kind of situation can develop into a wet basement. And so we don’t want it to get that far for you.
DEBBIE: No. Could that be getting into the air conditioning and the heating unit?
TOM: Doubtful. I think you’re seeing some other type of dust that’s getting into the HVAC system, so let’s talk about what to do with that.
Now, in most cases with homes that were built and – you said 2006. In that era, most of the heating systems are going to have a fiberglass filter in them. Now, do you know where your filter is for your air conditioner and heating …?
DEBBIE: I do.
TOM: OK. Is it in the blower compartment?
TOM: OK. So, typically, if you look in there, you’ve got a very thin, fiberglass filter. Those are not very effective filters; they just don’t do a great job.
DEBBIE: That’s the one that I change?
TOM: Yeah, the one that you change. Exactly.
TOM: Now, what you could do is you could get a better-quality filter for that same space.
DEBBIE: I change them like every month.
TOM: Yeah, I know. And the thing is, you shouldn’t have to. You have to change them every month because they are not very good filters.
TOM: And they clog up easily and they let a lot of stuff through. And we call them “rock stoppers,” because it’s pretty much all they stop.
So, what you might want to do is get a – first of all, you can get a better-quality filter for that blower compartment. And if you look for one that’s pleated, that’s a good start. 3M has a line of filters that are pretty efficient. They’re going to have a MERV rating on them – M-E-R-V.
Now, when you look at the MERV number, keep in mind that the higher the number, the better.
TOM: So, a MERV 8 is better than a MERV 5. And a MERV 12 is better than a MERV 8. And so the higher the MERV number, the more efficient the filter system.
Now, if you want to step it up from there and really put a much better-quality air-cleaning system onto the house, then you may look to an electronic air cleaner or an electrostatic air cleaner. And these would require a slight modification of your ducts. With the electronic air cleaner, it fits basically somewhere in the return side. And it’s about 3 inches wide and it uses a combination of static electricity and a filter to pull absolutely all the dust out. Now we’re talking about a filter that can take out minute-sized particles of dust and air and even virus-sized particles.
DEBBIE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Well, hands-free faucets have been around for commercial use for decades. But we’re now seeing more and more designed for the home and found that they do provide quite a number of advantages.
LESLIE: Well, for one, you don’t have to worry about your hands being dirty or soapy or full, quite frankly. They’re also great for keeping germ counts down around the house – you know, less hands touching less surfaces – and that’s something that can come in really handy, especially during the holiday season when you’ve got a full household of kids, pets, elderly relatives. It’s very easy to pass those germs around, so the less touching of surfaces the better.
TOM: Yeah. And they have other advantages, like you can save some water because there’s no running faucet while you’re soaping up your hands. They’re great for people with limited hand mobility, too.
LESLIE: Yeah. And what I really like is whenever I feel like I’m cooking and maybe I’m putting bacon into a pan or I’m cutting raw chicken and then I’m reaching for the faucet and I’m reaching for the soap and I’m just cross-contaminating everything – and this is great because when my hands are all filled with everything from the kitchen, I just run my hands under the faucet.
TOM: Yeah. And they’re good for kids who can’t reach, as well. They just need to be able to touch or wave the faucet.
I mean the way they work is, essentially, there is a battery pack that activates a valve so that when you break the beam, the battery gives the valve just enough juice to open. And then when you’re done, of course, take your hand away, it’s finished.
The batteries actually last for quite a long time. I’ve read some of them are rated to last a full year, so it’s pretty low-maintenance once you get this thing installed. I think it’s a cool idea. I think I’m definitely interested in trying it.
LESLIE: Jeff in Delaware is dealing with a mysterious sulfur odor from a well. Tell us what’s going on.
JEFF: Well, we have a well and I have a water softener on it, a filter and – cartridge filter – and we still have a lot of iron in our water and it has a real strong sulfur smell. And I don’t know anything else to do and it – sometimes, if it sits for – if we go out of town and come back a day or two later, the smell is just horrendous. And I was just wondering if you guys could give me any tips.
TOM: Jeff, that sulfur smell may not be coming from the well; it could be coming from the water heater. Have you considered that?
JEFF: No, sir.
TOM: Because if the anode in the water heater is wearing away, that can result in a very strong sulfur odor. Have you noticed if the sulfur odor is more prevalent in the hot water or the cold?
JEFF: Hot. Yes, sir. It is.
TOM: Yeah. I don’t think it’s the well at all; I think it’s your water heater.
JEFF: Oh, wow. Well, that would be great. OK. What’s the solution?
TOM: Now, you can replace the anode in the water heater.
TOM: It basically unbolts from the top of the water heater. If you look at the top of the water heater, you’ll see what looks like a big hex nut. And you can unscrew that, pull out the old rod and put in a new one.
JEFF: Oh, OK.
TOM: So I think you might be looking at the wrong place for the source. I think the problem is the water heater and not the well.
JEFF: Well, I will sure try that. That’ll be a simple fix for me.
TOM: It certainly will be. It’s called a “sacrificial anode” for that reason. You sacrifice a little bit every time, for all the time that it’s in there. And at some point, sometimes it develops the point where it has a sulfur smell.
If you add a replacement anode to there, that should help alleviate the sulfur smell. Because, essentially, what’s happening is the anode contributes to the production of hydrogen-sulfide gas and that’s what has that nasty, rotten-egg odor to it. OK?
JEFF: Well, I really do appreciate that. Man, I appreciate you taking my call. I sure do.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Remember, you can reach us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home repair or your home improvement question.
Coming up, do you want to pick up a bit more space this winter season? We’ll tell you how and where to look, when The Money Pit continues.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Call in your home improvement question, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
Hey, do you need some new flooring in your kitchen or your bath? HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Antoinette in Ohio on the line looking to put a bathroom in the basement. How can we help you with that project?
ANTOINETTE: Is there possible – a shower? I think it – when you were on earlier – that you don’t have to go through the – if it’s in the basement, you don’t have to go through the cement to put a flow of the water that comes out of the shower to the drain?
TOM: So, Antoinette, am I hearing that you’d like to add a shower to your basement?
TOM: And you’d like to do that without the use of a jackhammer, correct?
TOM: OK. So, you can do that. There is a way to add a shower and have that shower drain to a reservoir, which then pumps the water up high enough to drop it into your regular drain-waste vent line that takes all of the waste out of the house.
ANTOINETTE: Oh, that way – because I’ve got drains down in the basement, see. And that’s where – my washer goes to that drain. That’s why I wanted a shower, so that when the water – the dirty water – comes through the shower part, that it’ll go right into the same drain.
TOM: And where is that draining eventually?
ANTOINETTE: Well, it goes through – well, just where all the water of the – your bathtub and your kitchen water, they all go the same place.
TOM: If the drain is low enough where you can do that with a basement shower, then that’s how you would do it.
ANTOINETTE: Yeah. But do they have bases on the shower – you know, your base of your shower that has it that you can do that?
TOM: You build up the shower so it’s not flush on the floor of the basement. It would be on – stepped-up a few inches to a foot or so, so you could get the plumbing in there. And then you would make sure that you drain that, if possible, to a lower point where the house drain can pick it up. But if not possible, you drop in what’s called a “lift pump.” The lift pump lifts the water up and then drops it into the main drain line for the house and carries it out and away.
ANTOINETTE: OK. Well, that’s a good idea. OK.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re an avid DIYer and happen to have a garage, you can bet there are many projects that get worked on in that space. But in the wintertime, that gets a lot tougher as the garage is the one place under your roof that’s probably not heated.
Well, today, however, adding garage heating is a task that has become very common for homeowners, especially since so few of us use the space for actually parking a car.
TOM: That’s so true.
LESLIE: I mean I don’t know anybody who does that.
You know, today, garages are just as likely to serve as the laundry room, a workshop, a play area, even just a hang-out zone for your pets.
TOM: If it’s a project you’d like to explore, the most common option is a forced-air heater.
Now, the forced-air heaters give you instant heat, kind of like a conventional furnace. And they’re designed to solve pretty much any outdoor-heating need. They come in gas or electric, they’re pretty easy to use and install and they’re a great way to warm an entire garage. They do, however – if they’re gas need a gas line. And of course, you’re going to need an electrical outlet. And the size is also going to depend on how much space you need to heat and where you’re located in the country.
LESLIE: Right. But here’s a basic rule of thumb for forced-air garage heaters: you’re going to need 45,000 BTUs to heat a 2- to 2½-car garage and 60,000 BTUs for a 3-car garage. So, keep in mind that by comparison to your home heating system, that’s a lot of extra heating expense.
TOM: It really is. Most homes are going to have a 60,000- to 90,000-BTU system for the entire house. So this is a lot for just the garage.
Now, one way to keep that expense down is to insulate your garage. You’ve got to remember that usually, only the wall between the house and the garage is going to contain insulation, because that’s what’s required by building code. And for detached garages, they probably have no insulation. So you want to make sure that you have insulation around the exterior walls and also at the level of the garage ceiling to help keep that heat in. And then, of course, when it comes to the door, a bit of extra garage-door weather-stripping at the bottom, where the door meets the concrete slab, as well as around the perimeter is really going to be important.
But all in, I think heating the garage is an easy do-it-yourself project that can really give you an extra maybe three, four, even five months of use of that space, whereas otherwise you wouldn’t really ever dare set foot in it.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Frank in Texas on the line with a structural question. What’s going on at your money pit?
FRANK: Yes, I’ve got an older home, post-and-beam construction. I have about a 4×8 beam that’s cracked diagonally. And I’ve already poured a footer – a 2-foot by 2-foot by 6-inch footer – and I plan on bracing that. But what I’m wondering, once I jack it back into position, number one, is there an adhesive that might help hold it together? And on the sides, I want to marry in a support. Should I use OSB, plywood or a 2×8?
TOM: What you would do is you would put another beam next to it that has to go the same width. It has to go bearing point to bearing point as the split beam. And then you would glue it with a construction adhesive from the new beam to the split beam. And I would bolt them together. And if you do that on a beam-by-beam basis, then it should be an acceptable repair.
It’s just a little tricky because you’ve got to get that new beam next to the old beam and it’s going to not be straight. And you’re going to have to work around wires and plumbing and such to get it in there and nice and tight.
But take your time fitting that beam. If you get the new beam in right, then it could be quite strong.
LESLIE: Remember, you can reach us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with your home repair, home improvement, seasonal question. Whatever it is you are working on, we’re here to lend a hand at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, backyard fire pits are really hot right now, literally. And you can totally build one yourself, guys, so it’s a great project. We’ll have tips to help you get started, in today’s Better Get a Truck Tip presented by Hertz, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, do you have some tree-trimming planned for this fall? Well, if so, you definitely want to pick up the phone and call us, right now, because we’re giving away a Greenworks 18-Inch Brushless Cordless Electric Chainsaw, battery included. It’s going out to one caller drawn at random. It’s worth 329 bucks. Gives you all the power you need for up to 180 cuts on a single charge. It’s got a brushless motor that’s engineered to provide more power, torque, quiet operation and longer motor life. Plus, it’s easy to operate. There’s a convenient push-button start. No messy, smelly or loud gas engines.
It’s available at Lowe’s and Lowes.com for 329 bucks. But that Greenworks 18-Inch Brushless Cordless Electric Chainsaw is going out to one listener drawn at random. Want to make it you? Well, pick up the phone, call us, right now, with your home improvement question, your décor dilemma. That number is 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Christine in Alaska is on the line with a question about insulation.
What’s going on at your money pit, Christina?
CHRISTINE: Actually, my question is: how do I keep my floors above the unheated crawlspace warm? And I was wondering if we could insulate the floor underneath without – but would that cause the pipes that are down there to freeze?
TOM: No, it wouldn’t cause them to freeze. The crawlspace is designed to be an unheated space. But since you’re going to be down there anyway, what I would tell you to do, Christine, would be to insulate those pipes. So, you can do that with pipe insulation that basically is designed to be wrapped around the pipe. And when it comes to the corners, that’s where sometimes people get a little lazy. Make sure you insulate the corners real well by cutting the joints perfectly. They’re made of foam rubber, so you can easily snip them. But I would insulate all the pipes and then I would definitely insulate the floor.
In fact, I’m surprised it’s not insulated now. You want to choose an insulation that is as thick as the floor is deep. So if it’s 2x10s that are your floor beams, make sure you use 10-inch-deep, unfaced fiberglass insulation. Get it up there in between those floor joists and then that can be supported with wire hangers. They’re kind of like thin wires that are a little bit wider than the floor joists are apart. And they sort of stick into the wood on both sides and support that insulation in place. And I think you will see an amazing difference in the warmth of those floors once you do that.
CHRISTINE: That sounds great.
TOM: Alright. Well, it’s going to be a much warmer winter for you as a result.
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, backyard fire pits are really hot right now, literally. On cool nights, who doesn’t want to melt marshmallows and have the great smell of a campfire right in your backyard?
TOM: Yep. And with just a bit of planning and a trip to your local building-supply store, you can build a fire pit yourself. We’re going to have some tips to help you get that project done, in today’s Better Get a Truck Tip presented by Hertz.
Now, the first decision might be the most important and that is: where is the best place to build it? Many towns have what are known as open-burn laws, which dictate how close to your house or your neighbor’s house a fire pit can be located. So, you need to pick that spot carefully. I can’t tell you how many times, in the years I spent as a professional home inspector, that I found fire pits, grills or other heat-generating appliances too close to homes. And sometimes, I could actually see melted siding as a result.
LESLIE: Now, the fire pit itself, it’s got to be low to the ground. You don’t want it any higher than 1 foot and that’s simply for stability. So, bury the base below the ground and line it with gravel for drainage.
Now, when it comes to build it, you’ve got lots of options for materials. If you don’t want to haul heavy, real stones, you can use blocks that are made from cast concrete and molded to look like the real thing. In either case, you’re going to need to line up a truck or a van to get all of the materials back to your house. Hertz has a full line that can help.
You’re also going to need to pick up a thick, steel ring to line the fire pit, like the ones you see at park campfires. These protect the concrete in the blocks from the heat, which can cause them to dry out and then break down.
TOM: Now, building the pit is really the easy and the fun part. Construction begins with a trench that’s wide enough to support those blocks. That should get filled with stone and tamped down to create a firm, level base.
Next, you just set the blocks on the stone and use a zig-zag bead of masonry adhesive across the two adjacent blocks to hold more layers. Make sure any interlocking parts on the blocks fit together well. And continue until the second or third course is finished and you’re going to be roasting those s’mores in no time at all.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Better Get a Truck Tip presented by Hertz. For any home project, store pickup or move that needs more than your car can handle, remember HDTV: Hertz Does Trucks and Vans.
TOM: Book now at Hertz.com.
LESLIE: Adele in New Jersey is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you today?
ADELE: We just had new carpeting installed in our living room/dining room and we’re having the balance of the house done in about a week-and-a-half. We are now finding, when you walk through the living-room and dining-room area, we are getting a few squeaks in the floor in walking.
Now, whether that has anything to do with our subfloor – the house is approximately only 28 years old. We bought it new when it was built. Now, do you think it might be a problem with the subflooring? We do have a crawlspace.
TOM: So, underneath the carpet, what is the subfloor? Is it plywood?
TOM: OK. So, you have a good opportunity now, not for the rooms that you’ve already carpeted but for the ones you’re about to carpet. When you take up the old carpet, you need to go through and re-nail or screw the subfloor down to the floor joist. Because those boards loosen up and as you step on them, they’ll – they move back and forth and that’s the squeak.
So, what I would like to see your contractor do is pull the carpet up and then take some drywall screws – these case-hardened steel screws that are sold everywhere today – and physically screw the plywood down to the floor joist. You put a screw in – about four screws across the width of the plywood on every single floor joist. You just go from one end to the other. They’re driven in with a drill, so it’s a very easy job to do. And that will really tighten up that floor and reduce the movement dramatically and that will prevent, if not eliminate, squeaks under that carpet.
ADELE: Yes. Oh, that sounds terrific. Thank you so much for your help.
TOM: Alright, Adele. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. It’s all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.
LESLIE: Coming up, fall is a popular time for painting. But before you start, there is one thing that you absolutely must do if you want to make that project a success. We’ll have that solution, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Call us now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question to us on The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
And that’s what Susan did. What’s Susan working on, Leslie?
LESLIE: Alright. Well, Susan has written here. She says, “I’m trying to solve a problem with peeling paint. I paint in my son’s room, it just peels right off in long strips and it looks like rubber. I want to repaint the room but I have no idea how to handle the areas where that paint is peeling. What should I do?”
TOM: Well, there’s one cardinal rule for painting and you can’t put good paint on top of bad paint. It sounds like what is on that room right now, Susan, is in fact bad paint. So, what you have to do is basically remove all of that old paint. If that paint is peeling off, you’ve got to keep peeling it back until you get to a fairly solid surface.
Now, you might need to use some paint stripper to do that. And before you actually tackle that paint-stripping project, I want you to read the article on MoneyPit.com about how to choose a safe paint stripper. Because there have been something like 60 deaths from folks using paint strippers that have certain chemicals. And we lay that out for you in the post on MoneyPit.com. Just search for “safe paint strippers.” We’ll tell you what you should be looking for. There are a lot of good ones out there. And the laws are changing, the technology is changing, so there are fewer of those unsafe types out there. But to get back to your question, you’ve got to remove that old paint first.
Now, once it’s off, then the next thing you should do is prime that surface. Because, let’s face it, you had all kinds of stuff on there. We don’t know what you’re going to be going on top of. We want to make sure that that finish coat sticks. So you want to prime it. You want to use an oil-based or alkyd-based primer.
And then finally, you can put a ceiling paint over that. And I say ceiling paint because ceiling paints are formulated a bit differently. First of all, they’re always flat, so that’s important; it’s not going to show any defects in the ceiling. If you have anything that’s a drywall seam or a nail pop or any kind of deflection, it shows really badly when you use any kind of paint that has a sheen. So this way, you’ll have a flat surface there. And it’s also a little heavier, which means it doesn’t drip on your head when you’re painting. And that’s always very convenient.
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got one more question here and this one’s from Jack who writes: “How do I check to see if I have lead pipes? My home was built in 1922 and I’m concerned about the water quality.”
TOM: So, you know, it’s pretty easy to find out if you have lead pipes, Jack. What I would do is I would find the main water pipe when it comes into the house. Now, it’s going to look pretty disgusting and grimy but what you want to do is take a knife and you want to sort of scrape away – you can just rub the blade over it. It’ll scrape away whatever grime on the outside. And if you find that you have some really shiny, soft metal underneath, you have lead pipes.
Now, if you do have lead, you have to decide which part of this you’re going to replace. I mean while you’d like to do it all, the most likely part you would find lead is still in that main water line that goes from the street into the house. Now, if that’s the case, replacing that line is your responsibility; the water company will not replace it for you. They only bring it, generally, to the street. You’ve got to bring it down into your house and in.
It’s a pretty expensive project because of the digging that’s involved. You’ve got to make sure that you call the utilities before you do any digging, because you don’t want to hit anything else that’s underground at the same time. But I would look to install a PEX pipe – P-E-X – because that’s going to give you longevity, durability and get that lead out of your life forever.
LESLIE: Alright. Hope that helps, Jack. Good luck with the projects.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for listening to us this hour. We hope we’ve given you some good tips and advice to help with your fall fix-up or holiday projects. If you’ve got questions, remember 888-MONEY-PIT never closes. You can call us, 24/7. And by the way, if we’re not on the air when you do call, we will toss your name into that very same Money Pit hard hat to quality for next week’s prize.
So, keep those questions coming. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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