- Driveway Stains: Tired of coming home to a worn-out driveway? Get ways to clean and seal driveway surfaces.
- Space Heaters: Chilly rooms are an age-old problem, but space-age space heaters offer the perfect solution.
- Garbage Disposals: Has your garbage disposal gotten its fill of holiday leftovers? We’ve got DIY tips on how to clear the jam safely and get it running again.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Repairing Stone and Brick: Mindy has multiple areas in her porch, steps, and brick that need repair. We have recommendations on what to use to restore the surfaces.
- Wood Siding: Can faded Western Red Cedar siding be restored or should it be replaced with pine siding? Mike will need to use solid stain either way, but unless it’s deteriorated, keeping the cedar siding is the more durable option.
- Tile Grout: The grout around the ceramic tiles looks dull and chalky. We give Joyce DIY tips on how to easily carve out the top layer of the old grout, then apply and seal new grout in its place.
- Weather Stripping: Jim is trying to get his doors to fit more tightly against the weather stripping. The easiest solution may be to adjust the lock strike plate to press the door in more firmly.
- Drainage Systems: The builder of Jill’s new home recommends installing a double set of drainage systems, but is it overkill? We agree it’s the right thing to do, and offer tips on grading, downspouts, and gutters.
- Painting: What is the proper order to paint the walls and baseboards in a room? Using masking tape to protect the edges, Jake should paint the trim first and then the walls.
- Insulation: Why is it always hotter or colder upstairs than in the rest of the house? Linda should add some blown-in insulation and cover her whole house fan in winter.
- Crawl Space: Why should you install a plastic vapor barrier and close the vents in a basement crawl space? Floyd learns how they help in preventing basement moisture.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: What project would you like to get done? If it’s a house project, we can help because that’s what we do. You’ve got a problem? You’ve got a do-it-yourself dilemma? You’ve got a décor situation that’s not working out right? You want to get some work done but you don’t know how to price it out? Well, if you’ve got some questions about projects you want to get done around your house, reach out to us because we can help. We want to help. And we can be your coach, your helper and even your home improvement therapist. So give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with those questions. Or post them at MoneyPit.com.
Hey, coming up on today’s show, is your driveway looking cracked or worn or suffering some nasty oil stains? We’ve got a surefire solution to clean up the stains for good and restore that surface, just ahead.
LESLIE: And space heaters, they can help warm up cold, chilly spaces but only if they circulate the heat. We’re going to share a new design in infrared heaters that delivers both infrared and convective heating, just ahead.
TOM: And the garbage disposer is one of the greatest kitchen appliances ever invented. But when it gets jammed, it can really slow down all that holiday meal prep. So we’re going to give you a few DIY steps to help get it running again.
LESLIE: But first, do you love your house but sometimes you feel like it’s an endless pit that you’re throwing your money into for home improvements and repairs and decorating projects? Well, we get it and we can help. So reach out to The Money Pit and we will help you get all of those projects done. We might even dream up a couple new ones for you.
TOM: Best way to do that is to go to MoneyPit.com and click the blue microphone button. You can record your question right there and we’ll get back to you the next time we produce the show. Just pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Mindy needs some help fixing a stone porch.
Tell us what’s going on.
MINDY: We have a question about fixing a front stone porch. We want to fix the joints. Do you want me to use QUIKRETE with the red stripe that says corner and edges? Or do you want me to use Type S mortar mix?
Also, on the steps, at the back I see a crack. Do you want me to use the concrete and mortar acrylic sealant, that comes in the tube and you stick in a caulk gun, for that? And another question is – at the back of the house, there – at the bottom of the red brick, where it meets a large concrete patio, there used to be concrete there and it broke off. And at that place, to seal that up, do you want me to use the concrete and mortar acrylic sealant that comes in the tube and you stick in a caulk gun?
TOM: So, Mindy, a couple of things.
First of all, if you have cracks that you’re trying to fill, QUIKRETE does make a product that is specifically for that. It’s called the Concrete Crack Sealant. And it is good for cracks that are up to ½-inch wide. And I like it because it’s pourable, so it sort of flows into those cracks and then it’s self-leveling, so you don’t have to worry about troweling on.
Now, if you’ve found areas of that porch where the concrete has broken away and you have some deteriorated surface, sometimes surface gets worn from maybe using too much salt on it in the winter, there’s another product that is fairly new. It’s maybe 3 or 4 years old but it’s really terrific and it’s called Re-Cap – R-e-C-a-p. And it’s a concrete re-surfacer.
So this can do two things for you. If you had – you mentioned some areas where there were some missing chunks. If you mix it up to sort of a trowel-like consistency, you can patch those areas and smooth it out. And then you can put another layer of the Re-Cap across the whole surface and it’ll look like a brand-new concrete surface when it’s all done.
The nice thing about the Re-Cap is it’s designed specifically to stick to old concrete. So if you’re trying to fix a sidewalk, a pool deck, a concrete floor or driveway, it works for all of those surfaces. And it doesn’t chip and fall off. It’s a really super product – super-strong product – because they’ve designed that bond into it so it just doesn’t separate from the old surfaces underneath.
LESLIE: Mike in Arizona is on the line with some worn-out siding.
What’s going on at your money pit?
MIKE: I’ve got a house that has Western redcedar siding. And it’s about 20 years old and is really getting into bad shape. I’m wondering, can I use pine siding – the tongue-and-groove type – and treat it? If so, what would I treat that with?
TOM: So, Mike, you say the siding is in bad shape. If it’s just faded, then you can restain the whole house, using a solid-color stain, and it’ll look terrific. If it’s really badly cracked and checked and sort of structurally deteriorated, then you want to replace it.
Sure, you could use a pine siding on that. You could use the tongue-and-groove type. It wouldn’t be as durable as a cedar siding. But again, you’re going to have to stain that. And what I would do is I would stain it before you install it because, this way, it’s a lot easier to get into all the nooks and crannies. And also, you’ll be staining, basically, the inside of it, sort of back-priming it, which makes the whole board last a lot longer.
And then after you install it, you’re going to have cut lines and touch-ups to do with the stain. But it’s a lot easier to get the stain where you want it to be before it’s put together.
So, two options there for you. But again, if that Western redcedar is just faded, it does not have to be replaced; it can simply be restained. I’ve got Western redcedar shingles on my house and they’ve been on there probably, oh, going on at least 40 years now. And they really haven’t deteriorated. Except one side did, actually, once because it was facing south and they started to get dried and thinned out a little bit. But that was just a fairly minor repair. For the most part, we haven’t had to do much but stain them over the years.
LESLIE: Joyce in Missouri is on the line with a grout question.
What can we do for you?
JOYCE: Hi. I have ceramic tile that I have had down for a few years. And I have – the grout is a charcoal color with a black-and-green tile. And the charcoal has dulled over the years and looking almost chalky. What can I do? Do I have to pull all that grout out and regrout it? Do I need to paint it or what can I do to give it new look of life?
TOM: Well, the grout is pretty easy to replace. There are special tools called “grout saws” that you can use to carve out the grout and then put new grout over sort of where the old grout was. You don’t have to get it all out but you’ve got to go down at least an 1/8-inch or so. And so, if your real concern is the grout and the condition of the grout, I think that’s the easiest way to deal with that.
JOYCE: OK. So that’d be – the best way to make it look fresh and new again is just take the top layer off at least an 1/8-inch and just regrout it?
TOM: Yeah. Make it look fresh and new by putting in fresh and new grout.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then make sure you seal it.
TOM: Right. Yeah, that’s key. You want to seal it first.
LESLIE: Otherwise, it’s not going to look fresh and new for so long.
JOYCE: Seal it after I put new grout in and let it dry? Then seal it and then we’re good to go?
TOM: Right, exactly.
JOYCE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jim in Washington is on the line and is having a door issue.
What’s going on at your money pit?
JIM: Well, I have, actually, two doors with a similar problem. Gradually, it’s grown worse over the last several years. The door does not fit tightly up against the weather-stripping. And I’ve finally resulted (ph) to putting in small wedges. And this is a front door and a door to the garage. To keep it pressed up against there, I have replaced with new weather-stripping twice but it still doesn’t get up there tight. What can I do to correct that, outside of replacing the door?
TOM: So, if you close the door and you push it tighter closed, does that make the seal?
JIM: Yes. And that’s why I’ve resorted to …
TOM: So then why didn’t you just replace the – why didn’t you just adjust the lock?
JIM: I don’t know how to do that. I didn’t know you can do that.
TOM: OK. So, basically, what you need to do is – where the lock strike is – OK, that’s the metal plate in the jamb?
TOM: You need to move that closer to the weather-stripping so that the door has to actually shut more before it latches. Because you need that weather-stripping to compress a little bit before it latches.
Now, does this have a deadbolt on it?
JIM: Yes, it does.
TOM: Well, you could probably just do it with a deadbolt. Sometimes the deadbolt – if you just push in the door a little bit, put some pressure on it, then turn the bolt so you kind of create that seal, that would make a lot more sense than trying to wedge it against that. Because that’s exactly what the lock does: it holds it – holds the door tightly closed. So I would adjust the lock and forget about the weather-stripping for the moment.
Are these wood jambs with the weather-stripping sort of inserted into a groove?
JIM: Yes. Yes, they are.
TOM: So those pieces of trim with the weather-stripping inserted into it, those usually will come off the door. So another thing to do here is you could take that weather-stripping – those pieces – off and actually move that. It’s, essentially, a piece of trim. Move that closer to the door and reattach it, as well.
So, either way, you need to basically get the door closer to the weather-stripping. The easiest way to do it is just to adjust the lock, though. So you’re adjusting the striker, not the lockset. You’re adjusting the strike: that metal plate that’s in the door jamb.
JIM: OK. And because, naturally, that’s screwed into there, do I just fill the old screw hole with …?
TOM: No. What you do here is you unscrew it. You pull it out, right? And then you move the plate closer by a ¼-inch or whatever gap you have to close, OK? You’ll probably have to notch out the door jamb to fit the new one. Then look at how the holes line up. You may be moved over far enough where you actually will have a shot at making a brand-new hole and you can ignore the old one.
If you can’t, what you want to do is take a small piece of wood. I usually use pieces of cedar shingles. I put a little glue on them, I shove them in the old screw hole, break them off flush to kind of create a wood plug and then you can drive a new screw next to it.
JIM: Fantastic. Alright. I think I will try that first. And if that doesn’t work, then I’ll try moving the trim.
TOM: OK. Good luck, Jim. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if your driveway is stained from oil leaks, it’s cracked or even it’s worn, now is a great time to clean it and seal it. I mean beyond stain removal, the type of driveway maintenance you do is going to depend on whether you have a concrete, asphalt or paver-brick driveway.
TOM: First, let’s talk about those oil stains. You could mix up a solution of trisodium phosphate into a paste. You’ll find this in the paint aisle of any hardware store. Now, apply the TSP paste wet to the stain and then let it sit for an hour or more, then rinse. Now, the sooner you can get to the stain, the better. But even old stains can be successfully removed with this approach, as long as you fix the car first.
LESLIE: That’s true, Tom. But if you guys have an asphalt driveway that also needs to be resealed, you can use an asphalt-compatible product. You’ve got to fill those gaps, any cracks, holes. And then use a disposable squeegee and apply an airport-grade latex sealer over the entire surface. You want to make sure that the forecast is clear for the applying and drying times, since any rain is going to cause that sealer to run onto the sidewalks and into the street. And it will leave a very dark, unremovable stain that truly will not come out, no matter how much you pressure-wash it. So definitely look for the forecast.
Then you want to go ahead had follow with a generous drying period: couple of days. So, again, watch out for the rain. And you’re going to have a beautiful, attractive, automotive entrance. It really does make the surface look so fresh and black and new. It’s really great.
TOM: Now, if you’ve got a concrete driveway with a worn surface, it’s best to apply a concrete-resurfacing product to the entire driveway. Concrete re-surfacers are specially formulated to stick to old concrete and they’re going to leave your driveway looking almost brand new.
If you want some more tips, check out our post “Driveway Sealing and Maintenance” on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Jill in Washington is on the line with a question about a foundation.
What’s going on at your money pit?
JILL: We’re having a small house built up here in the great, beautiful state of Washington. And the builder is recommending a double set of – how do I say it? For drainage. He wants to really be sure that the drainage all is tightlined. One system will be tightlined that joins with the downspouts from the roof. And then the other is kind of like a perforated, long, 200-foot piece of hose with a sleeve over it. Do you recommend both of those? Is that overkill or how would you do it?
TOM: So we’re talking about surface drainage here or are we talking about gutter drainage or both? These sound like, from your description, that these are all running away from the house. Is that right?
JILL: Yes. He wants it around the – they’ve simply just finished the foundation and are about to do the backfill. Before they do the backfill, they want two drainage systems put in place. One is a hard – I’m not sure of the correct terminology. It’s a 4-inch pipe …
TOM: Yeah, one’s for the downspouts and one’s for the foundation. Is that correct?
JILL: Correct. Exactly.
TOM: Alright. No, I mean I think he’s doing it right. And those steps will help. The one really important thing is that when he’s done with this – is not only do those downspouts have to be extended away from the house but you want to make sure that that finished grade also has a pitch that drops at least about 6 inches over the first 4 feet. Because with new construction, you’ll get a lot of settlement and you’ve got to have good pitch. But if you have downspouts that are extended out away from the house and you have good pitch, you’ll never have to worry about a water-infiltration problem.
And I also don’t suspect that those additional foundation drains will really come into use much, if at all. But since it’s all fully open right now, there’s no real – there’s no harm in doing that.
JILL: OK. So, it’s just bite the bullet and just put both systems in.
TOM: Yeah. Now, have they put the gutters in yet?
JILL: Oh, no, no. The house isn’t even built yet. No, just the …
TOM: OK. So, here’s a good tip. Most builders are going to put in what’s called a “4-inch case-style gutter.” That’s a standard gutter. Opt for the next size up – it’s a 6-inch gutter – for two reasons. Number one, it holds more runoff from your roof; it doesn’t get overwhelmed. And number two, it doesn’t clog as easily because the downspouts are much bigger.
JILL: I see. What a great tip.
TOM: OK. And they’re not that much more expensive, either.
JILL: Great. Well, you know what? When we get to that point, I’m going to call the show back and – because it always rains up here. And I will let you know that we took your grand advice and how it all came out.
TOM: Alright. Can’t wait. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Good luck with that brand-new home.
JILL: Thank you so much.
TOM: Building a new money pit.
LESLIE: Building something new that will become a money pit at some point.
TOM: That’s right. That’s right. As beautiful and luxurious as these homes are, we know that everybody’s house becomes a money pit sooner or later. And so that’s why we’re in the money-pit prevention business.
LESLIE: Jake is calling in from Ontario, Canada with a painting question.
How can we help you today?
JAKE: Just calling because I’m doing some home renovations, obviously. And I’m starting to paint a room and I’m wondering what my best option is with regards to which order I should do things. So, I have baseboards on the walls. Just wondering if it’s a good idea to take the baseboards off before painting or should I paint with the baseboards on? And what order? Walls first? Baseboards first? Stuff like that.
TOM: There’s an amazing invention called “masking tape,” Jake. And it does the trick with protecting those baseboards.
So, obviously, you need to prep and prep is really the hardest part of painting. So getting the drop cloths down and getting everything masked off so you can separate the colors.
Now, are the baseboards painted now?
JAKE: They are, yeah. I just don’t like the color.
TOM: So what I would do is I would paint the baseboards first. I would paint all the trim first, because you can be a little sloppy about that. You don’t have to mask them off. Because if it gets on the wall, you’re going to paint the wall anyway. So I would go ahead and paint the baseboards first and the trim. And then, after it dries for a couple of days, then I would mask it off very, very carefully so that you can paint the wall colors whatever color you want.
Then, of course, the first step with wall painting is to do the – what we call the “cut-in,” where you paint along that masking-tape line and establish that edge around that border, around the walls and around the floor where the baseboard is. And then you can fill the rest in with a roller.
JAKE: So with the masking tape, is it a good idea to remove the masking tape right away? Or should I let the paint dry and then remove it?
TOM: Yeah, let it dry first.
TOM: And if it takes – if it starts to peel a little bit of the paint off – sometimes that happens – just take a razor blade and just slice the sort of the paint that went between the masking tape and the wall.
And there’s also different types of masking tape that have absorbents built into it that’s designed to specifically stop that from happening. One is FrogTape. A little bit more expensive but it has an absorbent built into it so it sort of gives you a much cleaner edge without that sort of rip-py kind of masking-tape edge that can happen sometimes.
JAKE: OK. Perfect. Thanks very much.
TOM: Well, we’ve all got chilly spaces in our homes where the home’s heating system has trouble keeping up the warmth. And space heaters can be a solution but they can only handle a very small area.
LESLIE: Well, EdenPURE has just released the GEN40 Heater, which works by combining infrared heating and convective heating to warm a room from ceiling to floor. So, joining us to explain exactly how it works is Tyson Wehn with EdenPURE.
TYSON: Hi, Tom and Leslie. Thanks for having me on.
TOM: Hey, it’s our pleasure.
So, look, heat’s going to be more expensive than ever this particular winter. And everybody’s got a room in their house or two that – it gets chilly and gets uncomfortable. And typically, what you do when that happens is you reach for the thermostat, right? And you crank up the heat. But that’s a really expensive way to fix that problem. I think the EdenPURE GEN40 Heater is a much better option. You guys have really designed a very nice unit here. We had a chance to play with it and it’s pretty impressive.
TYSON: Well, thanks, Tom. Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. We all heard it in the news: inflation is surging and prices are going up on everything. And that includes your heating bills. In fact, they’re actually expected to skyrocket this winter. And it doesn’t matter what you use to heat your house – whether it’s natural gas, electric, heating oil – they’re all going up this year and it’s going to end up costing you more to heat your home this winter.
But with the EdenPURE GEN40, as soon as you turn it on you’re going to end up saving money. It’s just a more efficient way to heat your home. In fact, we’re getting so many comments from GEN40 owners, where they’re reporting just massive savings on their heating bills. And this combination of word-of-mouth and give – expected higher heating bills this winter is leading to a huge demand on the GEN40. And we’re actually having a hard time keeping them in stock this winter.
TOM: You know, I was looking at the reviews on your website and you had, I think, almost 900 5-star reviews. That was really impressive.
TYSON: Mm-hmm. Yep. People really love the GEN40.
LESLIE: So, tell us how these technologies have sort of combined. You’re using an infrared-heating technology but also convective heat that I think people usually associate with cooking. So, what is this combination?
TYSON: That’s right, Leslie. So, how the GEN40 works is we’ve actually combined two different heating technologies: infrared and convective heat. So, infrared heat, it works by heating objects directly. So, say for example, we’re warming your body. It’s actually getting directly warmed. So that’s why you’re going to experience bone-soothing warmth with infrared heat.
And then we also have the convective heat, which works by heating the air all around you. So it’s actually going to end up surrounding you in a blanket of heated air. So by using these two forms of heating technology, the GEN40 is actually going to make you feel warmer while reducing your heating bills.
TOM: It makes a lot of sense. Very often, folks will say, “Hey, I’ve got a room or two in the house that I am not using but I’m still heating it. Can I just turn that off?” Well, you can but you’re still trying to heat the rest of the house with now what is probably an oversized and very wasteful unit. So if you were to turn down your main heat and use the GEN40 in the areas that you’re occupying – your kitchen, your living room, your dining room and so on – you’re going to end up with a significantly-reduced heating cost by kind of just taking those simple steps.
TYSON: You’re absolutely right, Tom. By using that, what we call “zone heating,” by turning off – turning down that thermostat and only heating the rooms that you’re actually in with the GEN40, that’s what’s also going to really lead to that huge savings on your heating bills.
LESLIE: Now, it’s always interesting when you think you want to add in this sort of assisted heating to really just help with the heating of the space. But you’ve got kids, you’ve got pets. So you always kind of worry about mixing the two. How does the GEN40 sort of play along when you have a more active household?
TYSON: I’m glad you brought up safety, Leslie. So, you always hear it in the news every winter season. Those other heaters on the market, they’re just huge safety hazards and end up causing fires. What happens is there’s no safety shutoffs on these units. And a lot of them, they actually have exposed heating elements. So, curious children, pets running around, they actually end up getting burned on these heaters. But with the GEN40, it has multiple safety features. At EdenPURE, we really pride ourselves with safety on our heaters.
One of them is we actually have a tip-over shutoff on the GEN40. So what that means is, say a child or a pet is running around, playing near the GEN40 and knocks it over, the GEN40 is actually going to sense that and shut itself off.
And then we also have an overheat shutoff on the GEN40. So say, for example, something blocks the GEN40 or covers it up – for example, your window curtains happen to drape over it or something – the GEN40 will start to overheat because of that blockage, sense this overheating and shut itself off before something bad happens.
TOM: That’s fantastic.
TYSON: And that’s why with all these safety features – yeah, all these safety features on the GEN40, that’s what makes it so safe to be around children and pets.
TOM: I tell you, you guys have done a great job on the design of the GEN40, as well. It’s really unique. It doesn’t look like any other space heater that I’ve ever seen. The fan kind of oscillates back and forth and up and down, so it really is very efficient in the way it distributes the warm air around you and around the rest of the room. So, good job on that. It’s nice to have a device like that: an appliance that actually looks great in your house at the same time.
TYSON: Thanks, Tom. We really wanted this heater, the GEN40, to look like a nice piece of – almost like a piece of art inside your home.
LESLIE: It is super stylish. I was truly surprised when we opened the packaging. I was like, “This is gorgeous.” I’m like, “This really is something you want to have out and it works fantastically well.” I’m always cold, so this makes me so, so, so happy.
TOM: And right now, if you’re a Money Pit listener, you can actually get an additional $50 off – not the retail price but actually the lowest sale price – by using our discount code MONEYPIT50. Here’s where you go: go to EdenPUREDeals.com, enter discount code MONEYPIT50.
Now, the GEN40 retails for $447. But it’s on sale now for $247. And since you’re a Money Pit listener, you get $50 off the sale price. So you’re going to get the $447 GEN40 Infrared Heater from EdenPURE for only 197. That’s a heck of a deal for a really good-looking, effective and beautifully-made product: the GEN40 from EdenPURE.
So again, go to EdenPUREDeals.com. E-d-e-n-P-U-R-E-Deals.com. And use the discount code MONEYPIT50.
Tyson, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit. Way to go on this product. Looks great, performs fantastic and I know that our listeners are going to love it.
TYSON: Thanks so much for having me on, you guys. I really appreciate it.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Linda in Pennsylvania on the line with an insulation question.
LINDA: We have a two-story house built in the late 1980s. In the winter, it’s colder upstairs than downstairs and especially in the summer, it’s just really hot upstairs. We also – we have a whole-house fan and it’s – I don’t want to get rid of that. The one person that came and talked to us about insulation said we should get rid of that. I don’t know – rather the fan has blown some of the insulation over that blocks the soffit vents that we’re not getting enough circulation. So I guess I just don’t really know what to do about adding more insulation.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, a 1980s house probably has a minimal amount of insulation. What you really want is 15 or 20 inches of insulation.
Do you have decent space in the attic? Can you walk around up there?
TOM: OK. So how is it constructed? Is it made of trusses, where it’s hard to get around?
LINDA: Yes. And it’s not real high in the center. I mean you can get around but no, it’s not very high up there.
TOM: I would have blown-in insulation installed, because you can easily – a professional can get that where it has to go. Professionals are also good at making sure that the baffles are in place, which keeps it out of the soffits.
And then when it comes to the whole-house fan, you should have a cover for that for the wintertime, just to kind of seal it up a little bit. Perhaps cover it with some sort of an insulation blanket and then you can pull that off in the summertime. It will be a source of energy loss, so you have to kind of take that additional step. But I agree: it’s a great thing to have. But I will say it must have good exit venting, though, too.
Do you have big gable vents on the side walls of the house? Because when you turn that fan on, you don’t want to pressurize the attic. You want to make that air go out.
LINDA: No, we have the ridge vent. And when they replaced the roof a couple years ago, they did put in – they said there is a slightly larger-size ridge vent and that’s what they put in.
TOM: Alright. Well, then, that’s probably big enough to handle the exhaust venting.
So that’s what I would do. I would use blown-in insulation. Now, around the fan itself, what the installer will do is put sort of a wall around that made of sort of like a stiff cardboard or some type of material like that, so that they can pile the insulation up higher against that opening and keep it away from the operation of the fan.
TOM: It’s done all the time, Linda, and it’ll definitely make a big difference in how comfortable you feel in that house, OK?
LINDA: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, one of the busiest appliances in your kitchen this time of year has got to be the garbage disposer. And nothing puts the brakes on kitchen cleanup like a jammed one. So, clearing it out, it’s not hard but you have to know what to do.
So, first of all, you really have to think about what you’re feeding that disposer. Because some foods are just prone to clogging that disposer right up, like a shrimp shell, pumpkin pulp or really anything that’s super stringy and fibrous.
Now, if it does happen to get jammed, you want to turn it off and fish out the debris with something other than your hands, please. If your disposer still doesn’t come on, you need to check the reset button, which is located at the bottom of the unit. Now, one touch of this reset button could save you a very unnecessary repair bill.
TOM: Now, if you’ve tried that and it still doesn’t seem to be working right, then there might be something that’s actually stopping the blades from running. Now, in that case, you want to look for the small socket on the bottom of the unit, which is for an Allen wrench. That usually does come with the disposer. Now, with the power off – and I say again, with the power off – you can go ahead and wiggle that key back and forth to move the blades manually. And that’s going to free up anything that’s stuck in there.
I actually walked my son through doing this because he had cleaned his fishbowl and some of the gravel got in there and it jammed up the disposer. So we found the wrench and he worked it back and forth until it freed up. And I’ll tell you what, when we flipped that switch again, hearing that disposer spin was a very sweet sound. I think I actually impressed the kid, which is hard to do.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Floyd in Iowa on the line who needs some help with a crawlspace.
Tell us about it.
FLOYD: OK. I just recently purchased a home. And in part of the basement, I have a crawlspace. And when the inspector came in to do the inspection on the house, he recommended that I put plastic down and to close the vent. When I was listening to you guys’ show the other day, I noticed that you guys said something about keeping the vents open so nothing ventilates into the house. So I was just kind of trying to find out which direction should I go? What kind of plastic should I use? And does it sound like a good idea?
TOM: OK. So, let me clarify for you. First of all, putting a plastic vapor barrier down across the floor of a crawlspace is always a good idea. You use the plastic Visqueen – the big, wide sheets – overlap them about 3 feet. Yeah, try to get as much of that surface covered. What you’re doing is preventing some of the evaporation of soil – of moisture up through the soil – so that’s a good thing.
In terms of the vents, the vents should be opened throughout most of the year except, perhaps, just the coldest months of the winter. So if you close it, say, November and December and maybe January, that’d be OK. But for the rest of the year, those vents should be open because it helps take the moisture out.
FLOYD: Now, I also have insulation up in the rafters of the floor joists. Is it a good idea to put – or to seal that with any kind of plastic at all or should I leave those exposed?
TOM: Nope. No, you can leave it exposed just like that. It needs to ventilate.
FLOYD: OK. Good deal.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Bill wrote in and he says, “We’re looking to purchase a home built in the mid-1990s. What are the biggest changes in construction and building codes from the 1990s to today? Are there any drawbacks to houses built around that time?”
I mean the music is way better from then. (inaudible)
TOM: I think so, yeah.
I remember homes being built very quickly back then and not having some of the most durable materials. It was after the period of time when you had some really good structure with the older Douglas fir that homes were built in. Like in the 50s in the 60s was much better than what you had by the time you got to the 90s. The floor coverings were not as great. I think, basically, I would say that the 1990s-era home probably suffers more wear and tear for its years than a home that’s even older than that.
So, what I would tell you is that your systems are going to be fine – your heating and cooling – but they may be old. It’s a really good age for you to make sure you get a really good home inspection on. Because a home inspector can see through a lot of that and give you an idea as to how well it’s all put together and whether or not you have any immediate repairs or potential future repairs. Sometimes they can spot those, as well.
Code-wise, codes have always gotten better. You know, I think there’s probably more ground-fault codes today. Certainly, adding carbon-monoxide detectors is a code change for today. I’m not thinking that there’s a lot more than that that would be relevant to a home that would make a difference to you.
Your windows are probably ready for replacement if they’ve not been done yet. You can get 30 years or so out of a window but these are probably getting close to that age and will probably need to be replaced soon if they’re not done already. The good news about that is if you go with replacement windows, they’re really well made today. And so you can actually get a pretty good efficiency at a halfway decent price.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got David who says, “I have a leak in my kitchen skylight that’s been fixed. However, the track lighting has stopped working, that was underneath the skylight, a few days after the leak. I bought a new power-source supply and installed it but it’s still not working. What should I do and can I do it myself?”
TOM: No, you can’t. I think you should take out the track lighting and replace it. Once water gets into the circuitry, it can cause all kinds of hassles and can be potentially unsafe. The water is the one thing that you really have to be careful of with electricity. Once those circuits get wet, it’s definitely a problem. So I would stop DIYing this, David, and I would call a pro and have an electrician remove and replace that water-damaged fixture or faucet.
LESLIE: Alright, David. I hope that helps you out and enjoy some new lighting. There are some really nice fixtures out there, so you’re going to find something that’s going to make that space really shine.
TOM: Well, if you guys would like to enjoy the warm glow of a fireplace this winter, you’d better make sure the screens are clean to start. Leslie has the details, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. I love a good fire in the fireplace. But if you really want to enjoy it, you’ve got to clean that fireplace screen once or twice a season. Now, to get the job done right, you have to use a cleaning solution.
Now, you’re going to use about an 1/8-cup liquid dishwashing detergent per quart of water. And that’s going to do a great job on getting rid of all that caked-on dirt. So you gently scrub the screen with a soft-bristle brush. And then you follow up by wiping with a lint-free cloth, because that’s going to help you avoid rusting on the screen. Then if there’s any brass sections, you want to polish that with a brass cleaner and a lint-free cloth. And I’m telling you, that screen is going to glow just like your fire and create the most perfect mood for a cozy winter holiday season. So get to it and enjoy those fires.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, it’s not a very glamorous job but sooner or later, everyone has to unclog a toilet. Now, clearing a toilet doesn’t have to be an ordeal. We’re going to share tips to get it done the easy way, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
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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