- If your roof is more than 10 or 15 years old, we share a new product that can add 5 years of life to your roof with a single treatment.
- Are you planning a project to improve your outdoor living but want to be sure the project makes your home more valuable? We’ll share the details on a project that can deliver years of enjoyment along with great ROI when it comes time to sell.
- If you’ve lost heat this past winter and thinking about installing a backup system, we’ve got recommendations for the best backup heat options – especially when the power goes out.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Dave in Kansas needs a recommendation on a good kitchen floor.
- Marie needs design advice about slab kitchen cabinet doors.
- Scott in Iowa wants to know what he needs to do before painting over loose plaster.
- Anne has a crack on her front porch she needs help fixing.
- Robert from Washington has rust spots forming on his stainless steel appliances.
- Teddie in Oregon is dealing with a wet crawlspace and foundation.
- Jeff in Iowa needs a solution for a toilet that empties bowls in two bathrooms when flushed.
- Deb from Wyoming has one patch of grass that doesn’t grow properly like the rest of her lawn.
- Bill and Gene from Missouri wants to know how thick to make a new concrete floor and what the best finish is.
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 summer is just on the horizon out there. Man, it’s less than a month away, officially, right? Well, no. Actually, Memorial Day is less than a month away. Summer is, what, June 20th or so? But hey, after Memorial Day, it’s definitely summer season where I live; probably is where you are. Which means you guys have got about, what, 2, 3 weeks now to finish up your outdoor projects so you can enjoy that beautiful weather that is just about here.
If you’ve got questions on how to get those projects done, hey, that’s what we’re here for. Reach out to us with your questions, your comments, your points of confusion, your improvements, your dreams, what project you want to get done but just don’t know where to start, don’t know if you can do it yourself, don’t know if you should hire a pro. Hey, we are a great sounding board for all that and we promise to help you create your best home ever, because that’s what we do. We answer questions. We’ve been doing this a long time. In fact, this is Episode 2202. So, over 2,000 episodes of The Money Pit. Through each, we get to answer your questions. So, if you’ve got one, reach out to us.
Couple of ways to do that. First, go to MoneyPit.com/Ask. That’s MoneyPit.com/Ask. Download The Money Pit app and post your question via the app. You just hit a button, you speak into it. You record your question, it comes right to us. It gets answered first. Or you can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up on today’s show, if your roof is more than 10 or 15 years old, you might be thinking that it’s going to be time to replace it pretty soon. Well, maybe not. We’re going to share a new product that can add 5 years of life to your roof with a single treatment.
LESLIE: Plus, are you planning a project to improve your outdoor living but need to be confident that the project is a good investment? We’re going to share the details on a project that can deliver years of enjoyment and a great return on investment when it comes time to sell.
TOM: And if you’ve lost heat a time or two this past winter and you’ve been thinking about installing a backup system, we’ve got recommendations for the best backup-heat options, especially when the power goes out.
LESLIE: But first, we’re here to help you tackle your to-dos with confidence. What are you working on this May weekend? How can we help you get your money pit in tip-top shape so maybe you can have a really fun Memorial Day gathering at your house or just have everything ready for a wonderful summer of being at home with friends and family?
Give us a call. Let us help you out. We’d love to help you get your project started and maybe even give you some tools to help.
TOM: Yeah, we’ve got a really cool product to give away today from Arrow Fastener. It’s the GT30LI. It’s a cordless glue gun. Yes, I said cordless. That’s pretty impressive. It’s available at Lowe’s but it’s going to go out to one listener drawn at random. So, reach out to us, right now, with your questions at MoneyPit.com/Ask.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. We’re going to talk flooring with David in Kansas.
What’s going on?
DAVID: Well, hey, it’s good to talk to you two. I’ve got some linoleum down on it here about 7 or 8 years ago and it’s cracking and breaking up and everything.
DAVID: And what you recommend for a good kitchen floor?
TOM: Well, you’ve got more choices than ever today.
I mean, Leslie, I’m thinking about all of the different vinyl-plank products. You know, you have the luxury vinyl planks, which look like wood or look like a tile pattern. They’re floating floors, so you don’t glue them down. They basically interconnect. They lock together.
And then there’s that new hybrid product out from LL Flooring called Duravana. And I really like this stuff. It’s really tough stuff and again, it’s a floating floor. But when they sent me some of it, I tested it by banging on it with a hammer and trying to cut it with a knife and I couldn’t get through the surface. It was really, really durable.
LESLIE: And again, you can get so many different looks out of that same durable flooring. So if you want something that looks more like a tile, if you want something that looks more like a wood, there’s a lot of choices. And it’s definitely the right material for that location.
DAVID: Hey, well, I appreciate your help.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Marie calling in to The Money Pit with a cabinet question.
How can we help you today?
MARIE: I’m in a dilemma over kitchen cabinets. I really like this fairly contemporary look but it’s a slab. We’re at – we’re on the salt water and I’ve been told to maybe stay away from a slab cabinet door because of the way it expands and shrinks. What’s your opinion on that or your advice?
LESLIE: When you say slab, are you talking about a full overlay?
MARIE: No, it’s an actual slab. I don’t think it’s an overlay or veneer at all.
TOM: I think you mean a solid-wood door, one-piece wood door as opposed to one that’s made up of panels, like a raised-panel door?
MARIE: Yes, it’s not a raised panel but you can actually see the pieces of wood – well, I guess they’re glued together. But there’s no raised panels or anything on it.
TOM: Yeah, it’s a solid piece of wood. It’s a laminated door, basically. Solid pieces of wood glued together.
I don’t know. If the door is made right and the wood is dried when it was built and it’s sealed properly, I don’t think it’s more or less likely to swell than a raised-panel door would be.
MARIE: That makes total sense the way you put it that way. Why wouldn’t they dry it out first and then seal it properly?
MARIE: Huh. I never even thought about it in that context.
LESLIE: The boxes themselves that the cabinets are – the cabinet box is going to be constructed out of a wood-laminated ply so – or something that’s more structurally stable. And I don’t think you have to be concerned about the door.
MARIE: Hmm, I think, looking at it from that point of view, maybe I won’t be. I’ve had people tell me that they’re just going to get all warped and – but why would they? If they’re – if it is, like you said, a reliable cabinet maker – I guess that would be the question.
TOM: Right. Exactly. A good-quality cabinet should be dimensionally stable.
MARIE: I agree with you. Ah, I found a beautiful door and I think I might go for it then. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Scott in Iowa on the line who needs help with a painting project.
Tell us what you’re working on.
SCOTT: I just recently bought a rental house and the plaster – it’s an older home and the plaster was falling off the house. Well, the guy I bought it from had repaired it but if you look at it, it’s falling out in some areas and bowing back in in some areas. And I was just wondering, would I have to re-drywall it or is there a cheaper and easier way to fix that?
TOM: How much of this exists? Is there a lot of this that’s where it’s – the plaster seems to be loose?
SCOTT: Throughout the whole house.
TOM: Yeah, OK. So it’s a problem because it’s going to be dangerous.
What happens is the plaster, when it’s applied, it’s applied over something called “wood lath,” which are like thin strips of wood. Kind of looks like those sticks we use to hold up garden plants and tomatoes and things like that. And the plaster expands to behind the lath and it sort of locks in place.
But over the years, with an old house, those “keyways,” we call them, loosen up and then the plaster is not attached to the wall anymore. So you are looking at a situation where the walls are going to get worse. It’s not going to get better. And if it’s the ceiling that’s loose, it could be dangerous. Because when that plaster falls, it’s really, really heavy. I’ve seen it dent floors and certainly could hurt somebody.
So now we have – the question is: what’s the best way to deal with this? “Should I tear the plaster out? Should I drywall over?” I’ve done it both ways and I’ve come to the conclusion, after trying it this way for many years, that the best thing to do is to put drywall on top of the plaster, not tear it out, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s less messy. Secondly, that even when you tear out the lath and the plaster, you’ll find that the studs from the old house behind it are not very even. So when you put drywall up, it tends to warp sometimes.
So what I would do is I would attach new drywall over the plaster. You can use 3/8-inch-thick drywall, too; you don’t even need to use ½-inch drywall. And then by attaching from the drywall, through the plaster into the studs, you’ll help secure that loose plaster so you won’t have any further movement in that room. That would be my recommendation.
SCOTT: That works out.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: You guys, if you’re wondering what my favorite tool is, you might be surprised to know that it’s actually a glue gun. I really do enjoy using them and there are so many, many projects that you can tackle with a glue gun.
So we’ve got a really great one up for grabs this hour. It’s from Arrow Fastener. It’s the GT30LI Cordless Glue Gun. It’s available at Lowe’s and it’s Arrow’s first fully cordless glue gun. It heats up – get this – in a minute and you can use it for 30 minutes. I mean that’s a lot of time to get a lot of stuff done. It will auto-shutdown after 10 minutes of use, so don’t worry if you walk away. It’s going to turn itself off and then you’ll be ready to still go for the remainder of the time.
We use one of these at work, which is super convenient because I’m always running around our prop-staging area. And it helps me get to all the places I need to and it’s just the right amount of time.
It’s available for 29.98 at Lowe’s and Lowes.com. And it really is a great glue gun. I love using it, so you will, too. So get in on the deal here, guys.
TOM: This Arrow Cordless Glue Gun is going out to one listener drawn at random. Now, how can that be you? Well, all you’ve got to do is call us with your home improvement question or post it using The Money Pit app. You can reach us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions at MoneyPit.com/Ask. Just download the app, hit the Record button and your question will be delivered directly to the studio.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ann on The Money Pit who’s got a question about a porch.
How can we help you today?
ANN: Our front porch, I guess, has settled. And there’s a huge crack and it goes completely through the whole slab of concrete. How would we go about economically fixing that or is it possible without having to repour the whole thing? And it’s like a slab on top of bricks, so there is a hollow spot underneath the slab.
TOM: OK. So it’s broken in two? And can you see through the crack into the sort of the void below?
ANN: You can’t exactly see through but it is a wide crack. It’s wide enough to see. Not all the way through, though.
TOM: What you would do is if it’s wide enough where it’s not going to hold a patching material, you would put something in there first called “backer rod,” which is like a foam road. And it comes in different diameters. And that would sit just below the surface of the crack, maybe a ¼- to ½-inch below the surface of the crack. And then you would repair that crack with a flowable caulk, like a flowable urethane? Or I know that QUIKRETE has some patching materials that will also work.
And that backer rod keeps that seal up towards the surface – does that make sense? – and doesn’t fall down in. So it’s not like you’ve got to put coat after coat after coat. And that flowable urethane will expand and contract with the concrete slab. So you don’t have to tear it out and replace it; you just have to fix it correctly.
ANN: Alright. Thanks for your help.
TOM: Good luck with that project, Ann. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Washington where Robert has got a stainless-steel question.
Tell us what’s going on.
ROBERT: I got these stainless-steel appliances and I have started to develop small, little rust spots on them. And I’m not sure what’s causing that.
TOM: Well, it’s because not all stainless is the same. There’s actually over 100 grades of stainless steel. And some are more prone to corrosion than others. So the fact that you have some rust on your stainless-steel appliance doesn’t surprise me.
What you’re going to have to do with that is two things. First of all, you’re going to have to remove the rust, which you can do with steel wool or a Brillo pad, something like that. You really don’t want to use a lot of abrasion, so as little abrasion as possible. And then you have to coat it with a stainless-steel polish.
And the polish will help seal in the surface and prevent the rust from coming back as frequently. But there is some degree of maintenance associated with stainless steel. And the stainless steel that’s of poorer quality will rust more frequently. I think a lot of folks think that stainless is stainless is stainless but it’s not. There’s a lot of different grades and some are better than others.
ROBERT: Alright. Well, that makes sense because it’s all the same brand but it’s only happened on my stove and on the range there.
TOM: Right, right.
ROBERT: And it hasn’t happened to the dishwasher or the refrigerator.
TOM: Yep, that’s right.
ROBERT: So that does make sense. OK. Well, hey, thanks a lot.
TOM: You’re welcome, Robert. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if your roof is more than 10 or 15 years old, you might be thinking that it’s going to be time to replace it soon and you might be right. You know, as your roof ages, the shingles are going to dry out and lose their water-resistance. And this is especially true today because most shingles have less asphalt in them than ever before, which does mean that they’re going to dry out all the more faster. And when that happens, those shingles do need to be replaced, which can be pretty expensive.
TOM: Now, however, there’s another way to extend the life of your roof. It’s called Roof Maxx and it’s a roof rejuvenation treatment that restores the flexibility and waterproofing protection of aging asphalt-shingle roofs. This can actually save you 80 percent over the cost of a traditional roof replacement.
LESLIE: Now, Roof Maxx’s new technology uses natural, plant-based bio oil for a full asphalt-shingle restoration. And this is going to give shingles flexibility and instantly add 5 years of life to a roof.
TOM: Yeah. It’s kind of like when you treat an older deck or a driveway to add life to their investment. Roof Maxx does something very similar for asphalt roofs, only they use a revolutionary, new technology that soaks old, brittle shingles with millions of microbeads of an all-natural bio oil. And that restores their flexibility and prepares them to better protect your home.
LESLIE: Now, each Roof Maxx treatment comes with a 5-year flexibility guarantee. With 3 treatments possible once every 5 years, Roof Maxx adds up to 15 years of additional life to your asphalt roof.
TOM: To learn more, set up an appointment with your local Roof Maxx dealer at RoofMaxx.com. Now, they can do a free assessment and decide if your roof is a good candidate for roof rejuvenation. That’s Roof – M-a-x-x – .com, RoofMaxx.com.
LESLIE: Teddy in Oregon is dealing with a wet foundation.
Tell us what’s going on.
TEDDY: Well, I am blessed with rain and clay soil here in Western Oregon. And I have a crawlspace that is wet. I lift up the plastic and there is mold and salamanders and slugs under there.
And so I did discover a crack in the foundation, which explains a lot of this moisture.
TOM: Well, yes and no. Concrete foundations and brick foundations are very porous. The fact that you have a crack doesn’t mean that that’s the only way water is getting through. What this does mean is that you have way too much water collecting on the outside of your house.
So what you need to do is to very carefully improve the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter so that soil slopes away from the house. And even more important than that is to clean your gutter system and extend those downspouts away from the house. That’s really critical. If you do that, you will find that it makes a big difference on the amount of water that’s getting into that space and it will dry up quite nicely and frankly, quite quickly.
TEDDY: Oh, OK. I believe that the gutter system is all – has pipes out to the street.
TOM: Yep. You need to be sure about that and you need to be sure that they’re not disconnected or clogged.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Especially if you’ve got something underground that you can’t monitor or see if it’s, in fact, free-flowing. You’ve got to make sure that it’s actually going somewhere, it’s connected. Because the smallest amount of a clog can produce a huge amount of water, in comparison to the amount of a clog, inside your house.
TEDDY: Oh, OK. OK. So, I’ll work on that and grade the soil away from the house.
Now, right now, I have – I was all set to buy a dehumidifier and then someone told me, “No, that won’t do you any good.” So, I put a fan on either end – one blowing in and one blowing out – so it could go out the vents.
TOM: But look, the solution here is not to try to get rid of the moisture that’s there; it’s to stop it from going there in the first place. So you need to follow our advice on this, which is specifically to improve the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. There’s advice on how to do this, online, at MoneyPit.com. It’s one of the most common questions we get asked and the solution is really quite simple, OK?
TEDDY: OK. Yeah.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jeff in Iowa on the line who is working on a bathroom-plumbing problem.
What’s going on?
JEFF: Our house was built in 1978. Still had the same toilets in it as the day it was built, so we decided to upgrade to new, high-efficient toilets. We bought 1.28-per-gallon-flush toilets with a 10-flush rating. And we – our toilets sit back-to-back, basically. The master bedroom has a toilet that sits just behind the toilet in the main bathroom. When you flush the toilet in the main bathroom, it sucks all the water out of the master-bedroom toilet. But it doesn’t do it the other way.
TOM: Here’s the problem. You’ve got a venting issue and there’s not enough air getting into the waste line that’s probably feeding both toilets. And so, as a result, when you flush one, you cause a draw on the other that pulls the water out. A lot easier to do when you have only 1¼ gallons of water as opposed to maybe 3 or 4 gallons that it used to have with the older toilet.
So, you need to get a plumber in to look at this and figure out where the venting has gone wrong. There could be venting that also became obstructed. You could get rodents or animals that nest inside vents. But there’s not enough intake air getting into the plumbing system and that’s why you’re getting this sort of suction problem. Whenever you have this condition or if you get – sometimes you get a gurgling when you flush or when you run sinks and water goes down, it’s because there’s not enough air getting into the plumbing system. And that’s going to be what will solve this for you, OK, Jeff?
JEFF: Alright. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Well, as you enjoy the warmer weather, are you one of the millions of homeowners thinking about ways to further improve those outdoor spaces? If you are, it’s smart to mind to the ROI, because not all home improvements deliver a return on investment that you can count on. But one does and that is building a deck. But that deck’s not only got to be well-designed to be attractive, it has to also be well-designed to be safe. That’s why this is a project best left to a pro to get done.
TOM: Yep. So, first off, let’s talk about costs. Now, according to HomeAdvisor’s most recent True Cost Report, the national average cost for building a deck is just over $7,700. But those costs can vary widely based on the size of the deck, the number of levels the deck has and the material.
So, for example, if the deck’s made of pressure-treated lumber, that’s going to start at around $2,500 while those built using composite lumber might begin over at about 8,000 bucks.
LESLIE: Yeah. But regardless, decks do deliver one of the best returns on your remodeling investment when it comes time to sell.
Now, building a deck also helps your home stand out in the marketplace, making it a much more desirable home to buy. This is going to increase buyer competition for your home and result in a sale at the highest possible price.
TOM: Now, before you hire a pro, we recommend finalizing a design first and then get estimates from at least two to three contractors before you choose one to help you with the project. Make sure you read reviews from others who have had similar projects done by the same contractor.
LESLIE: Yeah. By finalizing that design first, you can be sure that all of the contractors are giving you a price on the exact same work. And don’t be shy about talking with your pro about ways to save money on the project. Sometimes, small design changes made early on can have a big impact on the final cost of the job.
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, 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: Well, we love our tools around The Money Pit. And one that we are particularly fond of is the glue gun, because it just comes in handy for so many darn projects. And we’re giving one away today. It is from Arrow Fastener. It is the GT30LI Cordless Glue Gun. Yes, I said cordless. I guess that kind of almost makes it a smart product, right? It’s a cordless glue gun.
I love this because it’s – first of all, it’s Arrow’s first fully cordless glue gun – because it heats up in just a minute. So, that’s fast. You get 30 minutes of run time per charge which, if you think about it, it’s probably plenty of time to do most of your projects. I mean usually, I’m plugging mine in for 10, 15 minutes, just using it for a squirt or two and then unplugging it. But I love the fact that this heats up in just a single minute, so I can do what I’ve got to do and then basically put it away.
It automatically shuts down after 10 minutes. It’s going to help save you battery life. It’s worth 29.98 at Lowe’s and Lowe’s.com. We’re giving one away to a listener this hour. If you’d like that to be you, we’d love for you to reach out to us with your home improvement question. We will toss your name into The Money Pit hard hat. And if we draw you at end of today’s show, you might just win the Arrow Cordless Glue Gun, that is Model GT30LI, available exclusively at Lowe’s.
The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now let’s welcome a husband-and-wife team: Bill and Jean from Missouri, tackling a garage project.
JEAN: We’re building a garage and we were curious about the concrete floor in this garage. Does it need to be 4 inches? Should it be more than 4 inches thick? And then, also, what kind of finish would you recommend that we put on the concrete?
TOM: Well, for a garage floor, especially if you’re going to have any heavier equipment in there, I would probably go with at least 6 inches. And I would make it a reinforced garage floor. In other words, I would pour it through a woven wire mesh or whatever reinforcement to really you choose. You want to make sure that the soil beneath the floor is thoroughly tamped, because that’s where most people go wrong. If they’re in a hurry to get the garage floor poured, they don’t take the time to really thoroughly pack down the soil underneath. And if you don’t, it’ll ultimately crack.
And in terms of the finish, I think probably the best concrete finishes today are the epoxy-based finishes. You mix up the epoxy. It’s two parts; there’s a hardener and the base product. You mix it together, you apply it, you have all sorts of different color and different finish options you could do with that. But it chemically cures. And once it does, it really locks in tight to the concrete so it’s not going to peel off. And it gives you really terrific protection.
JEAN: What about using a polisher to polish the concrete?
TOM: That’s an option, as well, but you still have to have something that’s ultimately going to seal in that surface. Because remember, concrete is extremely porous. And in a barn, who knows what’s going to be spilled on that?
JEAN: Right. OK.
BILL: Yeah, I did a little research on a concrete – or polishing and it’s quite an operation. It’s not …
TOM: It’s not for the faint of heart, eh?
BILL: Yeah. No, I’m not going to do it myself. Oh, no.
TOM: No, you were going to have your wife do it.
BILL: Hey, you ain’t around. No, my concrete man said that 4 inches – all I’m going to put in this garage is a couple of old collector – old cars. Antique cars.
LESLIE: Yeah. Then you want that shiny floor so the cars look awesome.
BILL: That’s right. I want shiny.
TOM: Alright, Bill and Jean. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, recently, a connection of mine on LinkedIn asked me a question about the best emergency backup heat for winter. She says, “What would you recommend as the best backup heat source for winter?” Now, I saw that she was from Maine, so I’m thinking I know what kind of wicked winter she was up against and probably ready to do something drastic here to make sure she’s never left without heat again.
But whenever I’m asked questions like this – like the best ways to heat, the best type of heating system and that sort of thing – my first thought is that, hands down, the absolute number-one best backup heating system in your house is insulation.
LESLIE: It really is true. You know, kidding aside, we often hear from consumers who are focused on the wrong end of the heating efficiency and effectiveness question, while giving almost no thought as to how they’ll not waste the heat that they already have. I mean you really want to try to keep what you’ve got.
TOM: Yeah, it’s not really a question of how you create the backup heat; it’s really a question of how much heat you can keep. Insulation is inexpensive, it’s highly effective and in most cases, it can be greatly improved over the course of a weekend DIY project.
LESLIE: Now, frankly, most homes have far less insulation than what they should have. Heat rises, so the first step is to head up to your attic and check out how many inches of insulation you’ve already got up there. Now, most homes are going to have fiberglass-batt insulation. And if you have less than 15 to 20 inches of fiberglass, you want to start there before you get into building a whole new backup-heat system.
TOM: Now, as for the original backup-heat question, my recommendation would be to buy a new, efficient wood stove. Not a used wood stove, an old model, because the new ones are much more efficient. They deliver much more heat. They burn more cleanly. There is a certification program for them, as well.
Now, if you’ve already got a fireplace, you could also install an efficient wood-stove fireplace insert. Newer, properly-installed wood stoves really do a pretty good job of delivering reliable, comfortable backup heat. So that’s the kind of system that I would add to my house.
LESLIE: Yeah. And firewood is generally readily available and it can be stored for years if you need to. You just want to make sure that you burn hardwoods like oak or cherry, ash or maple. These woods deliver more BTUs than softwood and are less likely to gum up the inside of your chimney or vent pipe.
TOM: Yeah. Now, by the way, as for fireplaces, while I love warming myself in front of a fireplace as much as anyone else, a fireplace by itself is a terrible heating solution because it sends most of the heated air up the chimney. It sends, in fact, more heated air up the chimney than I think it creates. So, if you’ve got a regular fireplace, put a wood-stove insert in it that will give you the efficiency and a lot more heat in your house.
LESLIE: We’re helping Brandon make his home better. He says, “We just added a combustion-air intake into the boiler because we want to close off the room and use the other half as a bathroom. While inspecting the work, I noticed the boiler vent-pipe/chimney have some holes in them and at the joints. Should I be worried about this?”
TOM: So, this takes a little bit of an explanation of what he’s talking about here, Leslie, for most of our audience is not going to recognize this. But I can tell you from reading this that Brandon has an oil-fired heating system. And he has it inside of a room that he actually is closing off. So if you have a little closet off in your basement or maybe your boiler was in an open area – your furnace was in an open area – now you kind of make a closet out of it, you have to make sure you have enough vents in the walls of that closet space to bring in fresh air for the heating system to burn. That’s what we call “combustion air” and those vents are called a “combustion-air intake.”
So, he closes off the room, he puts in the right vents. All good stuff. But he notices holes in the vent pipes and he’s confused about that.
So, I can tell you, Brandon, that those holes are exactly where they’re supposed to be, where they need to be. So with an oil system, first of all, you’re going to have a hole that’s about maybe a ¼-inch, maybe 3/8-inch in diameter usually pretty close to where it goes into the chimney. That’s for two purposes. Number one, it’s to take the temperature of the stack using a very large thermometer. This tells us a lot about the efficiency. And secondly, it’s to check the draft, to make sure that the gases are going up quickly into the chimney. And those are two tools that we stick in those holes to do that with.
Now, if you have other little gaps around the vent pipe, yeah, they should be sealed but those are always depressurized in the sense that air from the basement is going into that vent; it’s not coming out of it. It’s not like a plumbing pipe that pressurizes water and it’s coming out at the joints. A seam like that is very often just going to have more air kind of flowing into it. So, yeah, you should fix the gaps around the seams but the hole in there is a testing port, essentially, and it’s perfectly normal.
So, it sounds like you did everything right. Good luck with the project.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Sharon who’s selling her house and wants to know if it’s the owner’s responsibility to clean out the septic tank and have it inspected before the sale of the home. “Also, what other kinds of inspections do I need?”
TOM: Well, I’ll say this. You know, I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector. And generally, it’s the seller’s responsibility to repair any failure to the septic tank or the septic system. The buyer usually pays for the inspection and here’s why: because you want the inspector to be working for the buyer, because otherwise there’s a conflict of interest, right? Because you, as the buyer, don’t know anything about the inspector that was selected by the seller. And if he turns out or she turns out to be a lousy inspector, you’re going to bear the brunt of that.
So, you do want to hire, as a buyer, your own inspector. But certain things, kind of hands down, the sellers almost always fix and one of them is a failed septic field or a problem with the septic tank. That’s almost always something that they’re going to do. Another one might be if there’s a termite infestation, that sort of thing.
And depending on how your contract is written, if there are certain defects that would prevent the house from becoming – from getting a certificate of occupancy – like very often, if you don’t have ground-fault outlets in the bathrooms and the kitchens, those are the kinds of things that sellers are typically responsible for. It’s all negotiable, of course, but you really, as the buyer, want to do the inspections to pay for them. And generally, you want the seller to fix or credit you for anything that needs to be repaired.
LESLIE: Alright. But Sharon, be prepared. Sometimes, you’ve got to kind of fight to get these things handled. I mean you never know what you’re going to get into going into this contracting phase with the inspections. So stick up for what’s right and have everything helped out that you can.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you, thank you, thank you for spending this part of your day with us, listening to Episode 2202. If you’ve got questions that came to mind as you listened to us but you couldn’t get to a phone or to your computer or to your tablet to shoot us a question, remember, you can reach out, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or by downloading The Money Pit app at MoneyPit.com/Ask.
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 2022 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.)