- Stop Waiting for Hot Water: Tired of wasting time and gallons of cold water waiting for it to get hot? Here’s how to get hot water faster and with less waste.
- Solar Energy: Is solar energy right for your home? Learn 5 reasons why it’s worth going solar.
- Sealing Drafts: Are you still feeling a draft, no matter how much weatherstripping and insulation you’ve used? There’s a spot you probably missed.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Flooring: Ann wants to install ceramic tile flooring that looks like wood. It’s a popular choice with lots of good options for style, color, and texture.
- Structural Issues: In his rush to buy a home, Jason overlooked a hump in the main beam that’s making the floor sag. He needs a structural engineer to examine the problem and determine the right way to fix it.
- Drywall Cracks: A random earthquake caused a long crack across the wall and ceiling. Nicole gets tips on using perforated drywall tape and spackle to repair it.
- Chimney: What is the best way to seal a chimney to prevent drafts? It can be done, but we suggest that Jim install a removable damper on top of the chimney liner.
- Squeaky Floors: Can you fix a squeaky floor without removing the carpeting? We tell Kenneth how to find the floor joists and use galvanized nails to stop the squeak.
- Sink Odors: What’s that stinky odor coming from the bathroom sink? Cindy should use a bottle brush to scrub scummy buildup inside the pipes.
- Driveway Repairs: How should you repair pitted areas of a concrete driveway? We recommend an epoxy-based concrete patching product that Rich can use.
- Granite Countertops: Pauline is seeing white mineral deposits on her granite countertops. We’ve got a recipe for a homemade granite cleaner to use before having them resealed.
- Shower Mold: John has tried everything he can think of to prevent mold around the shower door. We give him a few more steps to take to keep mildew away.
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 I don’t know about you, Leslie, but in my neighborhood spring is in the air. It’s a little crazy because it goes from 70 degrees one day to 30 degrees the next but that’s OK. I’ll take the 70 whenever Mother Nature wants to dish it out.
LESLIE: And I’ll take the 30.
TOM: Yeah, well, you’re counting down the ski days you’ve got left. I know that.
LESLIE: I know. I tell you, we’ve had such weird weather that it feels strange on a Friday afternoon when I’m putting skis on a car and it’s 65 degrees on Long Island.
LESLIE: And I’m like, “This is weird.”
TOM: Yeah, it’s a little bit crazy. But you know what’s not crazy? Home improvement projects. Now is the time to jump into them, get the house ready for those spring fix-ups. If you have questions, we are here to help you. All you need to do is go to MoneyPit.com/Ask. That’s MoneyPit.com/Ask. Click the blue microphone button. You can record your question and send us a voicemail and we’ll call you back the next time we are in the studio.
Hey, coming up on today’s show, there are nearly four million households generating their own power right now with solar energy. But here’s the question: is solar right for your house? We’re going to walk you through the top five reasons the Department of Energy says you should consider when thinking about solar, just ahead.
LESLIE: And also ahead, when you head in for that morning’s hot shower to get your blood flowing and get the day started, sometimes you have to wait and sometimes you have to wait and wait and wait for that water to get hot. So we’re going to share the easy way that you can have instant hot water, in just a bit.
TOM: And did you know one of the leakiest spots that drafts get into a house might only be inches away? We’re going to share this way too common space that often gets missed by weather-stripping.
LESLIE: But first, you guys, if you can dream it, you can for sure build it and we can help. No matter what size that project is, big or small, whether you’re prepping for the summer or looking for some spring cleanup tips for outside, we are standing by to lend a hand.
TOM: So, click the blue microphone button at MoneyPit.com/Ask or call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Ann in Florida needs some help with a flooring project.
What can we do for you today?
ANN: I’m going to rip up my carpet. I have concrete underneath and I want to put down the ceramic tile that looks like hardwood. And are you familiar with the product?
LESLIE: I am, very much so. I’ve actually used it on several projects.
ANN: Oh. And my question was, also: should I wait and not do it right away? That they’re going to even have better-looking – the wood look? I was told that it’s supposed to get even better.
LESLIE: I imagine that with all things, when you wait things get better. But wood-grain tile has actually been quite popular for probably 4 or 5 years now, so I’ve seen it greatly improve. Depending on how much you want to spend on it – and I’m not sure what manufacturers you’ve looked at but a good price point is a manufacturer called Daltile: D-a-l – tile. And they’re sold through tile stores, so it’s – you can call Daltile and take a look.
And they have one line called Yacht Club, which is fairly new for them. And it’s like a 6-inch by 24-inch wood plank but it’s a ceramic tile. It comes in a couple of different colors. I think it lays really nicely. It has a good texture of wood and it comes in some color palettes that I think are very realistic. And the way it fits together, it looks as if it were a real wood …
TOM: A lot like wood, yeah.
LESLIE: Yeah, like a wood floor. It doesn’t have a big grout line. They have another one in their line called Timber Glen and that’s a really big plank. But the way it pieces together, you see a lot of a grout line, so that kind of looks weird. Not as realistic wood, as you might expect.
So if you do go with a wood-look tile that does have a predominant grout line, I would choose a grout that’s similar in color to the tile.
ANN: Uh-huh. I’ve seen the tile where the tile is like wood planks.
TOM: Yeah. And that’s exactly what this looks like; it looks like wood planks. And I will caution you, though, that you’re talking about – any tile that’s 24 inches long in one direction like this is going to need an extraordinary amount of support underneath it.
So you have to be very careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to prepping the floor before the tile is laid. If there’s any flex or bend or unevenness in that floor, eventually this tile is going to crack. You don’t want that to happen, so you want to make sure that the floor is properly supported to take a bigger – big tile.
When we used to have mosaics years ago, it didn’t really matter if the floors were flexible, so to speak or not, because there was a joint every 1 inch in a mosaic tile. But a 24-inch-long tile, that’s not going to bend; it’s going to break. So you want to make sure the floor is really strong before you do that installation, OK?
ANN: Yes. OK. Great.
TOM: Alright, Ann. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Jason on the line who’s dealing with potentially a major structural issue going on at their newly-purchased home.
What’s going on?
JASON: I bought my house 4 years ago. And we kind of overlooked some problems because we had been looking for so long. But basically, I have – the beam that holds up the main part of my house is rounded. The whole length of my house – there’s a hump in my floor from end to end. The floor sags on both sides of the main beam. And I think part of the problem is the actual upper parts – the walls and stuff – don’t actually go over the beam; they go on either side. Is it even worth trying to fix or should I get out of the house?
LESLIE: This is definitely something because you kind of rushed the whole process. I mean had you had a home inspection, this definitely would’ve been seen.
TOM: I think so, for sure, based on the amount of sag that you’re reporting. I don’t think the fact that the interior bearing walls, which is what it sounds like you’re talking about, are offset from the beam – is the cause of this. That’s actually not an uncommon thing to do, within reason. It could be offset a little bit and still provide plenty of support. But the fact that this beam moved is definitely a major concern and we need to figure out why that is.
My one question would be: do you think it’s active or has it always been this way? Because if it’s active, then it’s even more serious of a problem. I think, in this case, what I would do is I would hire a structural engineer to evaluate this problem and determine what has to be done to stabilize it. And the engineer should specify what repair is needed. And then with that specification, you could find a contractor to make the repair.
I am confident you don’t have to run away from this house; these things are fixable. It’s just that this is a significant issue that requires that level of attention. And you want to work through the engineer, not just a contractor who thinks – contractors are always famous for going, “Oh, I know how to fix that.” Well, maybe, maybe not. More likely not.
And this way, if you use an engineer, you have sort of a pedigree, so to speak, in terms of a file that you’ll be building that, if you go to sell this house and this repair is evident or if the sag is evident, you can say, “Hey, I had an engineer check it out and it is a problem – or it’s not a problem. And if it was a problem, I fixed it according to his specs.”
And then the engineer should come back and certify that the repair was done correctly. That’s the way to make sure that you sort of reset the clock here and reset the value of the house by proving that it was done correctly. Make sure you get building permits and follow it through. And that’s the best way to solve it at this point in time.
But Leslie, like you said, even though it’s a tough market and even though you’re pressed to find the perfect house and you think you may have, it never makes sense to skip the home inspection and to rush into these things. Because these problems can get really expensive if they’re overlooked.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah. And I feel like now that you’ve already bought the house, you’re on your own with these costs. Beforehand, you could’ve at least negotiated something or made the choice to not purchase.
TOM: Yeah. And not only that, you’re basically at – you would basically need to disclose now that the house has a problem. So it’s got to be solved and this is the best way to do it.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Nicole in Illinois on the line who needs to fix a crack in a wall.
And you’re saying it’s from an earthquake? When did you have an earthquake in Illinois?
NICOLE: Well, it was just a really small earthquake. We get them just randomly, about one or two a year.
NICOLE: Because we’re right on – there’s some fault that’s down south of us.
TOM: And now that fault has worked its way up into your wall. So what does it look like? How big of a crack is this that we need to fix?
NICOLE: It’s about an 18-inch crack and then that’s going down from the ceiling. And then it goes like – it goes diagonally up the wall and then hits the ceiling and then just moves horizontally on the ceiling for a couple of inches.
TOM: So it’s 18 inches long altogether?
TOM: How old is the house?
NICOLE: It’s not very old, like ‘99.
TOM: OK. So it’s a drywall crack then.
TOM: Many people will simply spackle that but the problem is that if you spackle that crack, the wall is now always going to move – and walls always do move but now that the wall has a crack, the two sides of that are going to move at different rates. And so that crack will reform. The way you stop that from happening is by taping over that crack with drywall tape and then spackling it.
Now, taping with paper drywall tape can be a bit tricky, so there’s a product out that’s a perforated drywall tape that looks like a netting. It’s like a sticky-backed netting. And that type of perforated tape is the best one to use because you put the tape on first and then you spackle over it. You want to do two or three coats, starting with smaller coats and then working wider as you go.
And remember, the thinner the coat the better; I’d rather you put on more coats than put on too much spackle, which too many people tend to do. Then it kind of gets all gooped up and piled up on your wall and you’ll see it forever. So, thin coats – two or three thin coats – and that should do it.
NICOLE: OK. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Nicole. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, across the country, solar energy is definitely a hot topic with the usage popping up lots of places across the country. In fact, the amount of solar connected homes to the electric grid has grown. And get this: there’s nearly four million American households that are generating their own power with solar energy. That’s huge.
TOM: Well, according to the Department of Energy’s ENERGY SAVER, there are five good reasons for this.
First up, residential solar is actually more affordable than ever before, especially now with the extension of the Federal Residential Solar Tax Credit. This is a really valuable credit. Taxpayers can claim a 30-percent tax credit on the cost of solar systems off of their income taxes.
LESLIE: Now, you can save a lot of money if you do go solar. With your utility bills definitely going higher, solar is likely to remain a good money-saving option for years to come. And in fact, the amount you save is going to depend on how much electricity that you consume, the size of your solar-energy system and how much power you’re able to generate with it. So you’ve got to shop carefully but the savings potential over traditional energy costs is definitely significant.
TOM: Now, here’s another big advantage: solar can actually help keep the lights on when there’s a disruption in power. When it’s paired with battery storage, which is pretty common these days, solar systems can provide power, regardless of the weather or the time of day, without having to rely on backup power from the grid. So you’re always going to have electricity when you need it.
LESLIE: Yeah. And solar definitely is going to increase the value of your home. Now, a study by Berkeley National Laboratory found that solar-photovoltaic panels are viewed as upgrades, just like your renovated kitchen or that finished basement. And home buyers across the country have been willing to pay a premium for a home that has an average-sized solar system.
TOM: And finally, solar panels only need one thing to generate electricity: sunshine. So they’re going to work in a very wide variety of climates. Even in the winter when there are fewer hours of daylight, there’s still a sufficient amount to power the average American home. And that makes solar viable even in Alaska – with longer, colder winters – and everywhere else in between.
LESLIE: Jim in Arkansas is on the line with a chimney question.
How can we help you today?
JIM: Well, the reason I called is because I have an issue with my fireplace. It’s just a regular wood-burner. It doesn’t have an insert in it. And I want to seal the chimney for health and energy-loss reasons. You know, I was thinking about putting a steel plate on the top. Because here in the Ozarks, whenever we get bad weather and that wind is howling, it sounds like a freight train coming through my fireplace and I have quite a bit of a draft. And the damper just does not hold securely enough so I don’t get that air through there.
I was wondering, can you give me some advice as to who to contact if it’s feasible to do something like this? Is safety a concern?
TOM: It’s certainly feasible to do this project. It’s sort of the kind of project that you’ve got to be a bit creative with, because what you’re going to want to do is try to form some sort of weather-tight shield across the top of the flue. I would tell you that whatever you do to this, make it removable because chances are if you sell this house at some point in the future, somebody might find it really attractive to have a fireplace there in the Ozarks and want to reactivate this chimney, so to speak.
So, however you seal it across the top, you’ve got find out – find an easy way to do that. One thing that comes to mind is that there’s a damper that fits in the top of a chimney liner. And it’s sort of like a weighted, heavy, metal door. And the way it’s activated is that there’s a stainless-steel cable that goes down through the middle of the chimney and it’s hooked onto the side of the fireplace. And when you release the cable, the door flops open. So that would be a way to put a device up there that’s really designed for a flue and will serve the dual purpose of sealing off the draft from the top.
JIM: OK. Well, I thank you very much for giving me the time. And I love your show. Listen to it 2 hours every Sunday morning.
TOM: Alright. Well, thank you very much, Jim. It’s nice to hear. We appreciate it.
LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Kenneth on the line to The Money Pit who’s got a flooring question. How can we help you today?
KENNETH: Hi. Well, I was going to ask you about – how do you fix squeaky floors on a second floor of a house that has rugs, without ripping up the rugs?
TOM: There’s a couple of things that you can do. First of all, you need to understand what causes the squeak. And generally, it’s movement between the subfloor and the floor joist underneath.
TOM: So, to try to reduce the squeak or eliminate it – you mentioned that you’ve got rugs and you don’t want to take them up. I just want to tell you that, of course, the surefire way to stop these squeaks is to pull the rugs up and then to screw the subfloor to the floor joist using long, hardened-steel screws, which you drive in with a drill. You don’t want to do that, so I’m going to tell you a little trick of the trade on how you can fix some of the worst ones without doing that. And that is to locate the floor joist underneath the carpet.
Now, you need to do that kind of by trial and error. You can do that by tapping on the floor, you can do that with a stud finder. There’s a whole new line of Stanley stud sensors that work really well and they’ll penetrate through the carpet. You need to find that beam.
Once you find the beam, then what you do is you get yourself some 12-penny, galvanized finish nails. And I say galvanized and hot-dipped galvanized is the best. Those are the ones that are really sort of crusty on the outside. And you find that spot and you drive the nail straight through the carpet. Don’t let your wife see you do this, OK? Because she’ll get upset with you.
Straight through the carpet and then with the nail set, you punch that head right through the carpet. When you finish driving with the hammer, it’ll look like the carpet is dimpled. But if you take a nail set, you punch it through the surface of the carpet and sort of pull the carpet back up and rub it with your hands a couple of times and it’ll disappear; that divot will disappear.
What you’re doing is you’re securing that floor right above – right through the carpet without pulling the carpet up. Now, I wouldn’t want you to do this to the whole house but I’ve fixed this in lots of houses using two or three strategically-driven nails. And I find if you drive it at a slight angle, it works better because the nail holds better.
KENNETH: OK. Well, I noticed they had on the old This Old House the other day on TV, they showed you how to do it with the rugs, before I called you. And they use this O’Berry Enterprising kit, which is a drill bit that’s only got three threads on it that you drill down until you find your stud. Then they have 50 screws with little socket heads on them and you drill those down into the beam and then you have a little tool that breaks the head off. And it’s ingenious. The only thing is is that I can’t find the beams.
TOM: Yeah, you need a stud sensor. So that would be a worthwhile investment of a few dollars. Those stud sensors are $10 to $20, $25 for a real good one.
KENNETH: I will and I thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Cindy in Delaware is on the line with some plumbing odors.
Tell us what is going on, Cindy.
CINDY: I have dual sinks in the master bathroom.
CINDY: And every once in a while, I get a strong sewer smell.
CINDY: I don’t know what’s causing it. It doesn’t matter if I run the water or flush the toilet but the left bowl connects the – underneath, the pipe connects to the right one and it goes down into the – you know, under the house.
TOM: OK. Well, assuming that they were plumbed correctly – and that you, in fact, have a plumbing trap there, which I’m going to presume you are – the odor is probably the result of something called “biogas,” which is – basically happens when you get a lot of debris over the years. And it lines the inside of the pipe and it lines the inside of the connections, the drain and so on. And then that material will start to produce a pretty strong odor.
So what you need to do is take the drain apart and use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of it. You can’t just run something down there. You physically have to scrub it – those pipes – out. And that usually will eliminate that material and therefore, the odor.
CINDY: OK. OK. Because I had used – tried vinegar and baking soda.
TOM: Yeah, that’s all good stuff but if it’s really building up like that, you’re going to have to remove the scum, so to speak, that’s containing all that bacteria that’s producing the odor.
CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: Well, when most of us get up in the morning and head into that hot shower to get the blood flowing, we often have to wait and sometimes wait a really long time for that water coming through the pipes to actually finally get hot.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s true. And besides definitely testing your patience, having to run all of that cold water through the pipes just to get to the hot water is not a very environmentally-friendly thing to do. Now, we get asked this question a lot on the show. And most people think that a new water heater is going to solve the problem.
TOM: Yeah. But that’s not the case. Installing a bigger water heater doesn’t get the hot water any closer to the faucet or shower. A better solution is to install what’s called a “hot-water recirculation system.”
Now, hot-water recirculation systems, Leslie, they deliver hot water to the fixtures quickly and without waiting for that water to get hot. And the key element here is the recirculation pump. It basically rapidly pulls hot water from the water heater while simultaneously sending cold water from that hot-water line back into the water heater to be reheated. So it recirculates it. And in addition to having the convenience of hot water on demand, the system is going to conserve water and save energy.
LESLIE: Yeah. And this clearly saves water usage for sure. But is it really energy-efficient? I mean wouldn’t we be heating water all the time, whether we’re using it or not?
TOM: Ah, it’s a very common question. And the answer is that hot-water recirculation systems can be operated by a thermostat or a timer and automatically turn the pump on whenever the water temperature drops below a set point or when the timer reaches a setting. So, for example, if you get up at 6:00 in the morning, why not have it come on at 5:30? So when you step into that shower, it’ll be nice and hot. And it can go off after that because it doesn’t need to do that all day long. Just for that golden hour of morning showers when you want to get a really nice, warm, invigorating shower so you can get the blood pumping and have a great day ahead.
LESLIE: Rick in North Dakota is on the line with a driveway-repair question.
How can we help you today?
RICK: I have a concrete driveway that, over the years, it’s started getting little pits in it in some of the areas. It almost looks like it’s where rocks have popped out of the concrete from over time and there’s other areas that little – small, little scales or sheets of concrete have come loose. And I’m just wondering what type of a product I can use to repair those pits. I know I’ve seen, different times, where people have put regular concrete in there and it doesn’t tend to stay very well.
TOM: So, what you want to do is use a concrete-patching product. And it’s not just regular concrete or regular cement, because that won’t stick. It usually is epoxy-based. And I know QUIKRETE has a product designed specifically for this and you can go to their website at QUIKRETE.com. That’s spelled Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com. The epoxy-based products will stick to the old original concrete material and not fall out the first time the surface freezes.
Now, I just want to also point out that being in North Dakota, I’m sure you get a lot of road salt on that driveway and that probably contributes to this. But if you’re doing any salting on your own, make sure you’re using potassium chloride, not calcium chloride. Because potassium chloride is much less corrosive to the concrete surface and will not cause that destruction that you’re witnessing now.
Alright. Does that help you out?
RICK: Yep. That does. Thank you very much for your assistance.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’re talking to Pauline in New Jersey who needs some help with a countertop.
How can we help you today?
PAULINE: I have a lot of counters in both bathrooms and the kitchen. And from the – I have backsplashes, as well. And where the backsplash and the counter meet, it’s coming up white and it looks like dry paste. And also, what’s happened over the last few years – at first, I took a little bit off here with my nail but now it’s getting really bad. And it’s – there were splash marks, as though when they put the counter in, they didn’t clean off the – so whatever they used. And it looks like you splashed something on that dried up.
And I don’t want to use anything that isn’t right for the granite and ruin it. So I was wondering if you had a suggestion that might be easy for me to use and get rid of this stuff.
TOM: How long have you had these countertops? When were they first installed?
PAULINE: Seven years ago.
TOM: And they’ve never been sealed since?
PAULINE: No, no.
TOM: Well, granite tops do take quite a bit of maintenance. People think that they’re fairly maintenance-free because they’re somewhat indestructive (ph). But they really do need a lot of care and they need to be resealed from time to time.
And it sounds to me like the white stuff that you’re describing is most likely mineral salt. And what happens is the countertops, when they lose their seal, they absorb more moisture. Then the moisture evaporates off and it leaves behind the mineral-salt deposits that’s in the water. And that forms that white sort of crust; it’s like a grayish-white crust.
Now, what are you using to clean them on a daily basis?
PAULINE: Generally, just water and a little – they told me to use the Windex.
TOM: Yeah, you can make a homemade granite cleaner with rubbing alcohol – standard rubbing alcohol – mixed with maybe a half-a-dozen drops of dishwasher detergent.
PAULINE: Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, one of the leakiest spots drafts get in may only be inches away. We’re talking about your attic hatch. And it’s one space that too often gets missed by weather-stripping.
LESLIE: Yeah. I think a lot of people just forget that that kind of goes up to an unconditioned space. So, you’ve got to check to see if that attic-door hatch is insulated and sealed. You want to open it up, examine the edges of the hatch, see if there’s weather-stripping, if it’s been there, if it’s still intact. You want to make sure that it’s been applied where the door makes contact with that door frame.
TOM: Now, if your attic door has an attached, pull-down stair, typically insulation is going to take the form of a foam box that sort of fits over that opening and has to be moved to enter the attic. If there are no pull-down stairs, then the attic door is typically insulated with foam or batt insulation attached directly to that door or that hatch.
LESLIE: Now, an unsealed and uninsulated attic door is basically a big hole in the ceiling of your house. The attic probably has plenty of insulation. But if that door isn’t sealed and insulated, well, you’re going to let all of that heat escape up into the cold attic where it’s just getting wasted.
TOM: Yeah. And it’s a really cheap project to do. You can do it yourself in a weekend. And adding that weather-stripping and insulation to the attic door is simple enough. It’s usually going to cost you probably less than maybe 20 or 30 bucks. So it’s definitely a DIY project. Get it done.
It’s the kind of thing that you don’t think about but I can tell you from doing a lot of attic inspections over the years, when it was wintertime and I opened that hatch and went up into those attics, it was just – the force of hot air that came up through that hatch was amazing. And I can only imagine how much was leaking in constantly. So it’ll definitely end up saving you some bucks.
LESLIE: John is on the line and he’s dealing with a mold situation.
Tell us what’s going on.
JOHN: I have a mold problem around my shower door. I bought the house 2 years ago. I stripped all the caulking out when I had the mold problem. I’ve put caulking in with a nationally-known brand. I even used a Saran Wrap-type thing on my finger to eliminate any contamination. Before I did that, I cleaned it, I stripped it out with a plastic scraper. I also used mineral spirits to clean it out. I put it in and I still have problems with it.
God, I’m just at my wits’ end here. I run the humidity in my basement between 40 and 50 percent. I leave the shower door open. I even shut the furnace vent off in there to try and keep it so it doesn’t have a breeding of bacteria or anything or mold in that.
You’ve got to tell me what I need to do. I don’t know if I have an off-spec caulking that I used, which is nationally known, or if I have an off-spec aluminum frame and door that causes the mold. I have no idea.
TOM: Well, look, you’re going to get mold when you have moisture and organic material. And in a shower, that organic material can be soap and dirt and that sort of thing. So you’re doing the right thing but let’s just back it up and try it again here.
You want to remove the old caulk. You mentioned mineral spirits. I usually recommend a bleach-and-water solution because this kills – this is a mildicide that kills anything that’s stuck behind. After you get that all dried out and cleaned out really, really well, then you can apply a caulk with mildicide. I would use a caulk that has Microban in it. DAP caulks are available with Microban and it’s a good antimicrobial additive that will not grow mold.
Now, the other thing I would do is I would also make sure that you have – obviously, have a bath exhaust fan and that you have an exhaust fan that’s hooked up to a humidistat, which takes sort of you and anyone else that’s using that bathroom out of the equation. If it’s on the humidistat, it’s automatically going to kick on when the humidity gets high enough to cause mold problems. And it will stay on for some number of minutes when that humidity goes down, to make sure that the room is thoroughly vented out.
That’s the best way to handle that. And I think if you do those steps, you will find success.
JOHN: Hey, thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Dealing with some shower issues? Well, Janie is and she wrote in saying, “I have a fiberglass walk-in shower that flexes when I’m in it. The house is only 6 months old and the builder wants to drill small holes and then fill it with some kind of mortar or foam to harden and secure. I’m worried that after time, this may peel or turn yellow. Is there another way to fix this?”
TOM: You know, Janie, I think that sounds like a hack that probably won’t work unless that builder can prove that this is exactly how the pan manufacturer specifies fixing the problem – in writing, by the way, from that manufacturer. I’d not let him do this.
The problem is that what he should’ve done is poured a loose mix of mortar on the subfloor before setting the pan, which means you just press that pan into that loose, wet mortar. And the idea is that once the mortar hardens, it provides that continuous support for what you’re experiencing now to be a very flexible pan. I mean really, as it sits right now, it’s only a matter of time before that shower pan develops stress cracks and totally leaks.
So, I think you need to get him back, right now, and get it done. And keep in mind that, like most homes, you probably have a 12-month warranty on this and you’re 6 months in. So you’ve got to notify him and the warranty company. Do both in writing, because it’s a construction defect and it’s got to be fixed. And if you notify them both, you’re more likely to get some action on this.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, we’ve got Tina who wrote in saying, “That the trim around my roof and gutters is rotted. The insurance company is not going to cover it, so what do I have to do to fix it?”
Do you think she’s talking about the fascia?
TOM: Yeah, I think so. And she’s absolutely right: that is not something that would be covered by homeowners insurance. That’s normal maintenance. That’s the responsibility of the homeowner.
Now, the reason that typically that area gets rotted is – it often happens when the roof is not extended far enough into the gutter or the gutters are really blocked for a long time. And the water backs up sort of over the backside of it and continually saturates that wood-fascia trim.
So what you have to do here is actually take the gutters off, then remove the wood trim, replace it with probably – I would use something like AZEK, which is a PVC – extruded PVC – that’s a wood-like product but it doesn’t rot. And then replace the gutters.
So it is a bit of a job but you do it once, you do it right, you won’t have to do it again. And next time, make sure those gutters stay clean, make sure those downspouts get extended away. And if the roof is a little short into the gutter, you can add some flashing over the roof edge. So that will sort of extend where the water actually drops into the gutter.
LESLIE: You know, Tom, the AZEK really is such an amazing product. We put it on the house and I know you put it on the house but for a very different reason.
TOM: Yeah. I had a little battle with carpenter bees going on with my garage fascia. And they just kept hitting it over and over again, no matter how I treated it. They just came back year after year. So I decided I would sort of take the gutter off, pull off the wood trim and put it up with AZEK.
And the funny thing is that the next summer, when they’re normally around, they were still trying to figure out how to eat that AZEK. They were like, “Looks like wood. Doesn’t taste like wood. I don’t think I can build a nest in this.” They would come back again and again and again. And I swear, it took the whole season for them to figure out it was not available for them to chew. So, it’s a good product and it works really, really well. And because it’s a PVC product, it doesn’t even really need paint.
LESLIE: No. We’ve had ours on the house for 10 years and it still looks fantastic. Occasionally, I wipe it down or something. But it looks awesome.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thank you so much for stopping by and spending a little bit of time with us today on this beautiful, almost-spring weekend. If you’ve got some projects planned for the days, the weeks and the months ahead and need some advice, remember, you can reach us, 24/7, by going to MoneyPit.com/Ask and clicking 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 2023 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.)
Leave a Reply