- Insulation: Insulating an older home can be complicated, but we’ve got info on the best way to get it done.
- Indoor Gardening: When outdoor gardening season ends, you can keep things growing with an indoor container garden.
- Chimney Cleaning: Before you light a fire for those chilly nights, have your chimney properly cleaned by a professional to keep things safe and warm.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Split Ductless Systems: Is there a way to compare the costs and efficiency of a split ductless system vs. a central HVAC system? Dave should start with a heat loss analysis and consider a system with smaller ducts that’s easier to install.
- Carpeting: Sarah’s having a hard time scraping off old carpeting glue without damaging her subfloor. She’s better off pulling up the carpet and adding a new layer of plywood to create a smooth surface.
- Permits: How can Tyler know when a permit is needed for a home project? It’s usually required for a home improvement or replacement, but not for a repair.
- Asbestos: Nancy’s concerned that the ceiling tiles she wants to remove may have asbestos. It’s not likely, but there’s an easy way to get a tile sample tested for asbestos to be sure.
- Bathtub Repair: Oops! After the kids dropped a can in the bathtub, it caused a crack that’s leaking. We tell Chuck about a repair kit he can use to create a fiberglass patch.
- Screens: Florida winds keep blowing out sections of Pam’s screened porch. She’ll need to replace the soft vinyl screens with heavier metal screens that are sturdier and have more attachment points.
- Heating: James is thinking of replacing his baseboard heat with an electric furnace. Installing a high-efficiency natural gas furnace is a better option.
- Exterior Walls: An exterior retaining wall has a powdery white coating that’s spreading. Eunice learns that it’s efflorescence caused by absorbed moisture and is easy to clean off with a vinegar and water mixture.
- Flooring: When laminate flooring boards start to separate, they can’t be repaired. Rick will have to replace the floor instead, but has some affordable choices.
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 we are here to help you take on the projects you want to get done around your house. And right about now, we bet you’ve got a list of fall fix-up projects.
Leslie, did you clean your gutters yet?
LESLIE: You know, I have the gutter guards on them now. So it’s like I’ve minimized my gutter-cleaning.
TOM: Oh, are they working?
LESLIE: They really do work. It’s kind of exciting.
TOM: I took the opposite approach. I have oversized gutters, so they’re so big they don’t clog. So, we’re good.
But if you’re not and you need some tips and advice on how to get that project done and any others, reach out to us because we’re here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can post your questions by going to MoneyPit.com/Ask. Just click the blue microphone button.
Coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk insulation. Insulating your home is one of the best ways to save on heating-and-cooling bills. But when it comes to older homes, that job can get a lot more complicated. I’m going to share tips on how I approached insulating my very old house, including what products I used and why I use them.
LESLIE: And also ahead, fall may mark the end of the outdoor-gardening season but it could also mark the start of an indoor-container garden. We’re going to share some tips on how to create an indoor garden that can keep you in the green all winter long.
TOM: And it’s fireplace season. And if you’ve got one, getting your chimney clean is a job that is both necessary and one that comes too frequently, with a chimney contractor offering fraudulent advice in the hopes of getting even more money out of your wallet. So we’re going to sort out the facts from all that smoke.
LESLIE: And if you’re interested in transforming your kitchen with a granite countertop, we’re giving away a kit that can help you do that in just a weekend. It’s new from Daich Coatings and it’s called the LuxROCK Solid-Surface Granite Countertop Kit.
TOM: That’s worth 299 bucks and going out to one listener drawn at random, so make that you. Call us, right now, with your questions at 888-MONEY-PIT or click the blue microphone button on MoneyPit.com.
So let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. We’re heading out to Honolulu. We’re going to talk to Dave, whose daughter is a fan, which I love.
What’s going on?
DAVE: Yep. My 9-year-old daughter listens to the podcast with me and you and it’s the only podcast that she doesn’t complain that Daddy listens to. And she appreciates all the tips you have and she even reminds Dad what you guys said.
TOM: Oh, man, that’s high praise right there. Awesome.
Hey, so what’s going on in the little hamlet of Honolulu that we can help you with?
DAVE: Well, every once in a while, we get some pretty hot weather. And of course, there’s no use for any heating in Honolulu. Just some cooling.
DAVE: And most of the people around Honolulu and the Hawaiian Islands have been utilizing the split-system units.
TOM: Right. Split ductless.
DAVE: Yeah. And I’m familiar with them. And what I’m trying to figure out, though, is how can I determine what the cost of a day or the electrical use for a central system versus a split system is?
DAVE: Because the dilemma that I have is, eventually, I’m going to get photovoltaic. So, the split system – or the central or split might not matter because I’m going to be producing my own electricity.
DAVE: So I get it. There’s going to be a cost involved for either/or. And as much as we like the aesthetics of the central system, many of the contractors are indicating that the split system is going to be a lot more efficient.
But my question is: how much more efficient? Because if I install split system, I’m going to have to have five heads.
DAVE: Which means five heads that I’m maintaining every year.
TOM: Right. Yep.
DAVE: And if I don’t do that, with the central I only have one head. So it’s about a savings of $750 a year in just maintenance. So I was just trying to figure out if it’s basically worth it or not, electricity-wise, to do that.
TOM: Alright. There is a type of system that’s called SpacePak. And SpacePak is a very small duct but high-velocity. So, with the SpacePak systems, you don’t need the full-sized ducts; you use very small ducts that are kind of the size of a dryer-exhaust duct but different. And the air that blows through them is sort of pressurized. And they’re also hard to spot when they’re in a house because they just have a really tiny, almost like a plastic donut where it comes out into the house. And those are a lot easier to install in homes that are already built because you don’t have to cut open as many walls and such to get them.
But I think starting with a heat-loss analysis is going to tell you exactly how many BTUs of coolness you need to deliver. And then you can compare the systems.
Did they talk about, with the – you said you need five air handlers. Did they talk about how many compressors that would be matched against? Because you can have one larger compressor handle multiple distribution units.
DAVE: Yes. So, it would be two multi-zone compressors, 36,000 BTU units.
TOM: Well, I mean the other thing is you get pretty good control of the air conditioning in the house by having multiple units like that. Because if you have one room that you want a little bit of air conditioning and one room that you need a lot of air conditioning in, you can also adjust the air speed in a more customized way.
So that’s kind of the high and the low of it. The heat-loss analysis is only going to tell you what you need to start with. Then you can figure out the cost benefit from there.
DAVE: OK. That sounds like a great plan. I appreciate that. I knew you guys would have the answer.
TOM: Alright. You got it, man.
TOM: Thanks so much for listening to The Money Pit. And thanks to your daughter for being maybe our youngest fan.
DAVE: Well, I’m going to pick her up today from school and she’s going to be tickled pink.
TOM: What’s her name?
TOM: Keely? Alright. Tell Keely that Leslie and Tom said, “Hey,” and we appreciate her being our youngest fan.
DAVE: Thank you so much, Tom.
Thank you so much, Leslie.
TOM: Alright, take care. Right. Bye-bye.
LESLIE: Sarah in Iowa needs some help with a carpeting project.
Tell us what you’re working on.
SARAH: I have a house built in 1975. And when it was built, they installed this carpet in the breakfast kitchen and unfortunately, bathroom areas. And it’s glued down. It’s really low pile, almost like linoleum.
TOM: Is it on a wood floor or is it concrete?
SARAH: It’s on – just on the wood subfloor. And I did try to scrape it out of the little bathroom area that we had and it took hours and hours of hand-scraping. And I probably did some damage to the subfloor in doing it.
TOM: Well, the subfloor is not a finished floor, right? It’s a 1974 house. It’s probably plywood. Is that correct?
SARAH: Yes, it’s plywood.
TOM: So, can you pull up the carpet part itself, obviously leaving the glue behind? But will the carpet part peel off?
SARAH: If I pull up the carpet part itself, what gets left behind is this black, spongy gunk that I can kind of scrape off. And then the bottom part of the black is glued onto the floor.
TOM: What I want you to do is to pull the carpet up and then I want you to put a new piece of subfloor down on top of that using ¼-inch luan plywood. It’s very inexpensive and it’s the easiest way to get back to a surface that you can work with.
I would not try to remove the glue from the subfloor. It’s just not worth it; it’s a rather impossible job. So, I would just, you know, opt for a smooth surface by adding another layer of subfloor on top of that. And then whatever you want to put on top of that, you can, whether it’s more carpet or whether it’s laminate or tile or whatever.
But just pull up the carpet so – because you don’t want to sandwich carpet in between this. Pull the carpet up, then you’ll just be sandwiching the old glue and that’ll be fine, OK?
SARAH: OK. Fantastic.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: We’ve got a great prize to give away. It is a brand-new product from Daich Coatings and it’s going to give you a sparkling granite surface at a fraction of the cost of real granite. Now, here’s the deal: it’s called the LuxROCK Solid-Surface Granite Countertop Kit. And one kit covers 40 square feet of countertop, making it perfect for updating your kitchen or your bath.
Now, the LuxROCK spreads very easily over your old countertop and totally transforms them into a new, smooth stone surface that looks and performs just like real granite. It’s going to come in 5 different colors, and that whole transformation takes only 2 days. And it’s totally a DIY project.
Now, that kit is on sale now for 249 at Home Depot, Lowe’s and DaichCoatings.com. But we’ve got one to give away today.
TOM: That LuxROCK Solid-Surface Granite Countertop Kit is going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT to post your question. Or go to MoneyPit.com/Ask and click the blue microphone button.
LESLIE: Alright. Get this: heading to Tyler, Texas to talk to Tyler, who happens to be doing a project in his bathroom right now. Let’s see if we can interrupt him.
TYLER: Yeah, it’s funny. I’m under a sink while you guys are calling me. That’s awesome.
TOM: Oh, that’s perfect.
LESLIE: It’s awesome.
TYLER: So, yeah, my question was: in what scenario does a homeowner need to worry about pulling permits when doing work on their house? Or if they hire somebody, what do they need to check to make sure that the person they’re hiring is pulling permits for?
TOM: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, generally speaking, if you’re doing a repair, then you don’t need a permit. But if you’re doing a replacement, then you do need a permit. So, I – and in terms of a contractor, if a contractor is working on your house, I think the same rules apply. If it’s a repair – if a plumber comes in to fix a leak in the pipe, that’s a repair. If you’re making an improvement, like let’s say you’re replacing your water heater, that’s an improvement and that needs a permit. So it really comes down to something as simple as that.
But what you might do is give a call to the local building-department office. And I like to do this without giving them my address so I at least can figure out what the answer is going to be before I move on.
LESLIE: Sneaky, sneaky.
TOM: Well, they’re just as sneaky. They want to know where you are so they can watch your house. I learned that trick years ago when I was trying to replace a shed and I thought, “Well, it’s just a shed.” I didn’t know if somebody just drove by the house and said, “Oh, that’s like – you have to have a permit for that.” So I applied for it and it took months. It’s a shed, for Christ’s sake. It’s a shed. It shouldn’t take that long but it did. So, I’m just a little more careful about what I say when I talk to some of those guys.
But listen: it’s not to say that having a building permit’s a bad thing. When you have an inspector from the town look at these things, they’re really good at making sure that it was done right. We had a heating system done about a year ago and one of the pipes that was put in was wrong. And I didn’t know that but this guy knew the specs and he called it out. And my contractor had to fix it. So, I think there’s a benefit for that.
TYLER: Makes sense. Makes sense.
Well, yeah, thank you all for the phone call. I appreciate it.
TOM: I have to point out that your name is Tyler and you live in Tyler, Texas.
TOM: How’d you pull that off?
TYLER: Yeah, it wasn’t by design. It just happened.
TOM: Well done, sir. Well done.
TYLER: Yeah. Thank you.
TYLER: Well, I appreciate you all’s program. It’s always informative and very entertaining. So, thank you all for the phone call on top of it.
TOM: Take care, Tyler.
LESLIE: Well, properly insulating your home is one of the best ways to not only save on heating-and-cooling bills, it also makes sure that your home is draft-free and comfortable. But when it comes to older houses, that job can get a bit more complicated.
Now, older homes are hard to work around. They’re usually started with little to no insulation. And any that’s been added over the years has probably just been shoved between old wood framing, the wiring, the plumbing pipes and by now has settled greatly.
TOM: That is so true. Now, I’m finishing up tackling this project at my house, which is really old. Like over 130 years old. So, I was looking for a product that was easy to handle and easy to shape so I could fit it into all of those nooks and crannies. Plus, I wanted a product that was fire-resistant – because you can never be too careful, especially with old homes – as well as one that had sound resistance. And I went with a new product from Owens Corning called Thermafiber Fire & Sound Guard Plus. And I tell you, it made the job a lot easier and the house a lot more comfortable.
So, first, Thermafiber Fire & Sound Guard Plus is designed to provide excellent thermal insulation. But it’s also fire- and moisture-resistant and it controls noise. But it was really easy to install and I love that.
First, I just measured what I needed. I learned to use a serrated insulation knife, which is one tool, Leslie, I had not had. I know you find that hard to believe. But I actually invested in a new tool. It was all of 10 bucks, by the way, but so worth it because it allowed me to custom fit between my very sort of nonstandard-size floor joists, in around electrical boxes, around plumbing, around pipes, around wiring. I got it all trimmed up and nice.
And then all I had to do was squeeze the piece I was working on, insert it into the wall and then release it. And it naturally expanded and fit the space. It was nice and snug on its own. I didn’t need to do any kind of mechanical attachment or staples or anything. And even though I used the Therma Fire & Sound Guard Plus on an older home, I think this is a great product for really any home or commercial building, because it’s made by Owens Corning. So you know it’s a quality product.
LESLIE: Now, you can find Thermafiber Fire & Sound Guard Plus, and any of the Owens Corning insulation products, at Home Depot and Lowe’s stores or on HomeDepot.com or Lowes.com.
Nancy in Pennsylvania is on the line with a question about asbestos.
How can we help you today?
NANCY: I live in a home that was built in the mid-1950s. And on the ceiling, there are 1×1 square ceiling tiles. And I would like to take those off and just have a smooth ceiling put up. But I see on all these home improvement shows where they get into pulling things out of older houses and some of the things have asbestos in them. And I’m wondering how you tell that.
TOM: Asbestos can’t be visually identified; it has to be tested. And what you could potentially do is take a sample of one of those ceiling tiles and send it to an asbestos testing lab and have it identified.
NANCY: How do you find an asbestos testing lab?
LESLIE: You can buy kits at any sort of major home center. I know Home Depot carries one. I think that one of the main brands that you can find in stores is PRO-LAB. And then you send a piece of whatever you’re concerned about to this company and they run a test and get it back to you with whatever their findings are.
Now, the issue with asbestos is that it’s so lightweight that if it becomes particulate, if it breaks up and gets into the air, it takes almost a full day for it ever to reach to the ground. So that’s why there is such a concern when there is asbestos present. But most likely, your ceiling tiles are hopefully fine.
TOM: Yeah, they’re probably just a fiber tile, which we saw millions of these used in the 50s. But if you’re concerned, that would be the way to do it: to send a sample to an asbestos-testing lab. You can use one that’s available in retail or if you just Google “asbestos testing lab,” you’ll find these all over the country. Find a good one, slip a piece in a plastic bag, send it off and they’ll read it for you.
NANCY: OK, great. I didn’t know they existed.
TOM: Alright, Nancy. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Chuck in Delaware on the line whose kids dropped something in the bathtub, which caused a huge crack and now a leak.
What is going on?
CHUCK: Oh, they dropped a shave-cream can into the bottom of the tub. It put a semicircle crack in. And I’m wondering if there’s anything that I can use to stop this from – you know, when they step on it, it leaks.
TOM: Yeah. I mean look, you can repair it. It’s not going to be pretty but you can repair it. And you said it’s a fiberglass tub?
TOM: So, you could pick up a fiberglass repair kit. They’re available from a number of manufacturers. Two that you would know would be Bondo, which makes a lot of fiberglass products. They’re big in industry, they’re big in auto body. And then, of course, there’s Elmer’s. They have a tub-and-shower repair kit, as well. But I would probably get the Bondo kit and you could put a fiberglass patch on there.
But the color on it is – it’s always going to show; it means you’re going to see it. But you can repair it structurally so it won’t leak, because they need to be able to step on it without it bending and cracking. And if you repair it with Bondo, you’re going to basically apply the resin, you’re going to press fiberglass into it and then apply additional resin to make it strong.
CHUCK: Alright. Well, I appreciate your help.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us, Chuck, at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, guys. Happy fall, you all. Would you like to win a whole workshop full of tools to take on your fall fix-up projects and more? Well, you can when you enter the Money Pit’s Fantastic Fall Fix-up Sweepstakes presented by Arrow.
TOM: Definitely. One grand prize winner is going to receive 750 bucks worth of Arrow tools and that includes the TacMate Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, which is a super-durable and powerful tool for the demanding DIYer, and the 5-in-1 Manual Staple Gun, which drives 5 different types of fasteners.
LESLIE: There’s also going to be 5 runner-up winners who are going to receive the Arrow Holiday Light Helper Prize Pack worth 100 bucks. And that includes the Arrow T25X WireMate Staple Gun and Arrow T59 Wiring Tacker. Plus, all the winners are going to get plenty of staples and glue sticks to get those fall projects started and finished.
TOM: Enter once a day at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes, where you can also get bonus entries for additional chances to win. That’s MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes.
LESLIE: Pam in Florida has a porch question.
How can we help you today?
PAM: We live on the water and in Florida, there’s a lot of wind on the water. We’re close to the Gulf of Mexico. And we have a screened porch with aluminum railings and the wind keeps blowing the screen sections out. We’ve tried all different types of screens and double-screening them and all different types of splines. And I wondered if you had any better ideas for us.
TOM: Are we talking about on doors or windows?
PAM: We’re talking about screen sections on a screened porch.
TOM: Screened porch. OK. And so, how big are these sections?
PAM: Probably 4×6.
TOM: Pretty big. Are you using vinyl screening or are you using metal screening?
TOM: Yeah, I think that’s the issue. The vinyl screening is pretty soft and pretty flexible. Not very sturdy. I think you’re going to need to use a heavier-gauge screening in order to make this more permanent. And you’re also going to need to consider not only the attachment points – I’m not quite sure how you’re doing that – but it’s got to be super-secure. And you might want to add grilles to divide that up into a bit smaller space. It could be a thin grille but it could – but a grille would give it some additional strength.
So I think you’re going to need to use much heavier screening and not vinyl screening, OK? Because I think putting on a double layer of the vinyl is going to really not get you where you need to be. It really should be heavy-metal screening when it’s that – when it’s a 4×6-foot area.
PAM: Right. Do you know if metal screening comes in a fine enough mesh to keep no-see-ums out?
TOM: Oh, yeah. It comes in different mesh densities and different gauge metals. You’ve just got to find a good source or supply down there for it.
PAM: Thank you very much. Appreciate the help.
TOM: You’re very welcome.
LESLIE: Well, fall marks the end of the outdoor-gardening season. But it could also mark the start of an indoor container-gardening season. Now, if you follow a few common-sense steps and mix in some fun design, beautiful blooms and a bit of green and even a vegetable or two, it can keep you in the green all winter long.
TOM: Exactly. So here is where to begin your container-gardening adventure.
First, you need to choose the right space. Container gardens are great, really, for any space. But for the best results, you need to assess the spaces and the places where you want your container gardens to be. That means tracking typical patterns of sun and shade throughout the day and then match that with your selection of plants. When you buy plants, they always tell you how much sun or shade it needs or can tolerate. So make sure you match that up before you decide that, I don’t know, the living-room window or the dining room or the kitchen is the right place for all of those beautiful planters.
LESLIE: Now, you also want to look for some colorful, maybe even some stylish containers. Because those containers that you choose are obviously going to become part of that décor in your room at home. So look for styles that compliment something you’ve already gotten. Or maybe it’s the color of a throw pillow or a blanket or something in a drape or something that works in coordination with the paint color on the walls. Lots of different ways to find something that really will work with the space.
Now, you also want to plan your plantings. Container gardening really is a great way to experiment with garden design. And pretty much anything goes when it comes to mixing colors and textures. You just want to make sure that all of the plants you plan to place together have similar sun, shade and watering needs.
TOM: Now, finally, you need to start with the best dirt. Your new plantings are going to need the right mix of soil inside their container in order to thrive. So, go for a good-quality potting mix that’s going to help retain the moisture levels within the container garden. And you can even choose potting mixes that have fertilizer built in. And that’s a great choice if you’re looking to encourage those beautiful blooms and lush foliage.
And from there, make sure you maintain your container garden by watering thoroughly and keep tabs on the container’s moisture level. You want to give plants a generous drink before the soil has a chance to dry out.
LESLIE: James in Ohio is on the line with a heating question.
What can we do for you today?
JAMES: Yeah, hi. I was calling in – I have an older home. It’s built in 1968. And I was wondering if it’d be easier to install an electric furnace, instead of having the baseboard heat, or possibly getting a – one of the outdoor units that mount high on your wall.
TOM: Do you have natural gas or propane or oil in your area?
JAMES: Maybe natural gas?
TOM: Yeah, that would be the way to go. If you’re going through the trouble of putting a furnace in, I would definitely not put in an electric furnace because that is the most expensive way to provide heat to your house. I would suggest a high-efficiency, natural-gas furnace. The installation expense is going to be similar if you’re putting a new furnace in but the ongoing cost to run it will be a lot lower.
JAMES: Will I incur more cost because – for the ductwork? Because I have plaster walls instead of drywall.
TOM: Well, if you’re going to put an electric furnace in, you’re going to have to do the ductwork anyway. So, the ductwork is there whether or not you use an electric furnace or a gas furnace. And it really depends on how creative your HVAC contractor is but that’s a fixed cost. If you’re going through the trouble of ducting out your house, which is going to add to its value, I definitely would recommend gas.
And typically, the gas companies don’t charge to bring gas up to your house, so they’ll bring the line up and put a meter in because now you’re going to be their customer forever and they’re very happy about that.
JAMES: OK. Well, I thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, James. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Oh, yes, I love to do projects. And maybe your project this weekend – or you’re planning to do – is sort of updating the look of your kitchen and bath. But budgets are a little bit tight these days. Well, if you love that look of granite, have we got a great, brand-new product from Daich Coatings that we’re giving away to one lucky listener. So that will give you a sparkling granite surface at a fraction of the cost of real granite.
Now, it’s called the LuxROCK Solid-Surface Granite Countertop Kit. And one kit is going to cover 40 square feet of countertop, making it perfect for updating kitchens and baths.
Now, LuxROCK is going to spread very easily over your old countertop. And then it totally transforms them into a new, smooth stone surface that looks and performs just like real granite. It’s outstanding.
TOM: Yup. I just did this for my new kitchen apartment. And I tell you what, it definitely just took a weekend and it looks fantastic. People cannot believe that it’s real granite. In fact, I had a friend of mine come over. And she was like, “No way.” I finally had to pick up the part of the countertop I was working with and turn it upside down to show her that it started as plywood and now it looks like a beautiful slab of granite.
Now, that kit is on sale, right now, for 249 at Home Depot, Lowe’s and DaichCoatings.com but we’ve got one to give away. So make that you. Reach out to us with your questions. We’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat and maybe you will win a Granite Countertop Kit to transform your kitchen.
The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your question at MoneyPit.com/Ask.
LESLIE: Now we’re going over to Eunice in Arkansas who has a retaining wall that thinks it’s a chameleon. It’s changing colors.
What’s going on?
EUNICE: Part of it is – the part that’s turning white powdery-looking is the part that’s exposed to the weather. And it’s kind of spreading. It looks like it’s – you know, the whole thing will eventually turn white. I don’t know if it’s oxidizing or if moisture from the ground is making it change colors or what.
TOM: And that’s exactly what’s happening, Eunice. What you’re seeing is called “efflorescence.” And essentially, water from the ground pulls up because those concrete blocks are very hydroscopic. So it – water pulls up and then as the water evaporates, it leaves its mineral salts behind. And that’s what that whitish/grayish deposit is.
So it’s not harmful; it’s really just cosmetic. And there’s not going to be a lot you can do to stop it, though. If it’s an outside wall like that, if there’s going to be a lot of moisture collecting in that area, you’re going to get that sort of thing from happening.
EUNICE: Oh, OK. So power-washing it or using a chemical or anything wouldn’t make a difference?
TOM: Well, really, all you need – I’ll give you a little trick of the trade. If you use white vinegar – so if you were to mix up some white vinegar and mix it with water in a pump-up sprayer, that will melt the mineral salts right away.
EUNICE: OK. Very good.
LESLIE: Well, fireplaces are great for ambience and more efficient models can even help you cut some home heating bills. But they can also do more harm than good.
Now, fireplaces account for almost half of all home heating fires. That’s a huge number, considering how little they’re used compared to your heating system. So this really is one area of the house that needs careful and consistent maintenance to operate safely.
TOM: Now, the first step is to have your chimney professionally cleaned. You want to do this once a year or once for every cord of wood you burn. A good chimney sweep is also going to inspect the fireplace and the chimney structure to make sure it’s intact.
And checking for creosote is another part of what these guys do. Creosote is a very combustible byproduct that forms when fires are too big or when the airflow is restricted or if the wood is too wet to burn. It’s black or brown in appearance and it tends to stick to the inside of the flue. And too much of it can cause a really serious fire in your flue that’s hard to put out.
LESLIE: Yeah. And now, while all of these are definitely important reasons to hire a chimney sweep, you have to proceed with caution. Now, the chimney-sweep industry is ripe with questionable sales practices, so you want to make sure that the pro you hire is certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
TOM: And once that chimney is clean, be sure to only burn seasoned wood. That means it’s dried out for at least 6 months. Now, not only does this seasoned wood give off more heat, it’s also far less likely to deposit creosote in your chimney and make it unsafe.
LESLIE: Let’s welcome Rick in Florida who needs some help with a flooring project.
RICK: I have a laminate floor. And some of the boards are separated, so I get maybe a ½-inch gap on a couple of them. I was wondering if there’s companies that repair that.
LESLIE: I hate when the flooring sort of starts to come apart like that. Now, generally, if you’re seeing movement along the perimeter of the room, there’s some things you can take care of there. But if you start to see planks kind of separating that way, it’s really not repairable, right?
TOM: Yeah, I don’t think so. I think you’re going to basically have to take that flooring out and replace it. The good news is that there are a lot of inexpensive, super-durable flooring options today. There are vinyl-plank options that look like wood. There are stone-hybrid options that have a really tough surface. You can find this kind of product for anywhere between about $2 and $4 a square foot. So, not expensive and would definitely solve this problem for you. But unfortunately, once those old laminate floors come apart, you really can’t put them back together. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak.
LESLIE: If you could, we’d all be so much having more toothpaste. I know my kids do it all the time. Well, they try, anyway.
TOM: There you go.
LESLIE: Bradley reached out and he says, “I heard Tom talk about a process to re-line a cast-iron pipe. The plumbing in my house is PVC but the vertical stack is cast-iron. And in the 3 years we’ve lived here, we’ve needed a plumber to snake out that pipe 4 times due to the flushable wipes. We’ve tried to stop putting anything but toilet paper down the pipes but with two toddlers entering potty training, I would love to come up with another solution.”
TOM: Oh, man.
LESLIE: “Thanks for your help. I’m a young commercial architect and love the podcast. I’ve listened to every episode while drafting.”
Oh, I love that.
TOM: See that? The show is perfect to listen to while you’re drafting. Who knew?
LESLIE: I love it.
TOM: That’s awesome.
Hey, listen, Bradley. First of all, I laugh when I hear the word “flushable wipes.” It’s such a lie because they don’t really biodegrade fast enough to stop them from clogging. They still clog just as much as the non-flushable wipes. So, you’re right to be concerned about this.
And in terms of that pipe, yeah, so it is possible to line it. But generally, pipe-lining is reserved for where you have a pipe that goes underground, usually under a driveway, around a pool, places where it’d be really hard to dig it up. And then what the re-lining company does is they insert what is essentially sort of like a fiberglass sock inside that pipe and then they pressurize water in it. That holds it fully expanded and you end up with, essentially, kind of like the inside of a fiberglass pipe, which is much smoother than the cast-iron that you left.
But doing that in this case is kind of a really expensive process. And I don’t even know that it’s ever usually done for vertical stacks. So what I would do in this case is I would just disassemble the vertical stack and replace it with a PVC stack. That’s probably going to be less expensive, even though it’s going to involve some remodeling work to open walls and that sort of thing. You know, as an architect, that’s not as complicated as people think. And I think you could probably do it more successfully than – and for less money than it would cost you to try to line it.
And then, of course, the easiest way to do it is to try to teach those kids, as quickly as possible, how to use a regular potty.
LESLIE: I mean you can also throw away the wipes and not actually flush them. I know that’s gross. But in Europe, they don’t flush any of those things. So it’s like – just adapt to a European lifestyle, keep a lined trash bin. Think of it as the next stage of the Diaper Genie. It’s going to be done before you know it.
TOM: It’s like a diaper pail. You can put it in air freshener inside the diaper pail – one of those stick-on ones – and it works pretty darn well.
LESLIE: I know. They’re still gross but it’s temporary. It’s a temporary thing, as long as you are on top of emptying that diaper pail.
But trust me, Bradley, as the kids get older, there’s other gross things that happen in the bathroom that they will just rely on you to clean up anyway. So just get used to it.
Alright. Now we’re going to help Ronnie out. Ronnie in South Carolina says, “The electrical wall sockets in all three bathrooms have quit working. I’m confused because no tripped circuit breakers are in the circuit box.”
TOM: Ah. That’s an easy one. Because it’s the ground-fault outlets that have tripped. In a modern house, you have outlets that have test and reset buttons on the front. And when one trips, they’re connected in series, so all bathrooms are going to go off. So you’ve got to find that outlet in one of the bathrooms that’s got that test and reset button, reset it and miraculously, all bathrooms will be powered once again.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps you out, Ronnie.
And good luck, you guys. We love hearing from you. So whatever you’ve got going on, reach out, let us lend a hand. We’re happy to help.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you for spending this part of your fall weekend with us. We love this time of year because it’s so great to work on projects inside and outside of your house. And if you are taking on those projects, remember, if you have questions, if you don’t know how to start something or you’re stuck in the middle, reach out to us anytime. Best way to do that is to go to MoneyPit.com/Ask and click on the blue microphone button.
Until then, I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 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.)