- Winter Car Care: Learn how to keep your car from getting snowbound when winter weather sets in.
- Humidifiers: If the dry air in your home has you waking up parched, here’s how to choose the best whole-house humidifier to keep things comfortable.
- Power Outages: What should you do when the lights unexpectedly go out? We’ve got tips on surviving a power outage.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Replacing a Driveway: You can’t put an asphalt driveway over a concrete driveway, so Donna will need to either remove the old driveway and add layers of new blacktop asphalt or use a product to resurface the existing concrete driveway.
- House Settling: Wall cracks, sticking doors, and popping nails are common, but it could be an issue if they’re happening all at once. AJ should have a home inspector or structural engineer check to see if it’s an active problem.
- Stuck Window: The wood window over the kitchen sink is getting harder to open and close. There are ways to repair the window but it would be a lot easier for Marcia to install a replacement window instead.
- Heating a Garage: Henry says it’s expensive to heat the garage with a natural gas heater, but an electric heater would be less efficient and cost even more. We suggest improving the insulation and using a kerosene heater when he needs it.
- Countertops: What’s that loud banging noise coming from Nadine’s kitchen countertop? The expansion and contraction of the walls and plumbing may be the cause if the countertop was installed too tightly.
- Insulation: Should you use open-cell or closed-cell spray foam insulation? They’re both equally effective, but Kevin should use closed-cell insulation in areas exposed to moisture.
- Drainage: Downspouts and drainage pipes in Shawnee’s yard are working fine, except for one small spot that stays wet. We don’t think it’s enough of a problem to be worth doing major repairs.
- Driveway Seams: The expansion joint is separating between sections of Ed’s concrete driveway. We’ve got a simple solution to fill and seal the gap.
- Shower Installation: With four sons, Cheryl wants to convert the bathtub into a shower. If standard prefabricated shower pans are too big for the small space, she could try shopping for the compact shower pans sold for RVs.
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 welcome to 2023. This is our first show of the new year. We are looking forward to the days and weeks ahead and helping you take on the projects you want to get done around your house. If you’ve got questions, if you’ve got plans for the new year, if you’re going to do a reno, you’re going to pick up a décor project, maybe you’re going to finally fix something that’s not working right inside your house, we would love to help. Reach out and help yourself first by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your questions online at MoneyPit.com by clicking the blue microphone button.
Coming up today, we’ve got snowstorm-survival tips to help when it comes time to digging out of the white stuff.
LESLIE: And if you wake up in the morning with a dry, parched throat, a humidifier can help make you a lot more comfortable. We’re going to highlight options to help you choose the best one for your home.
TOM: And power outages happen a lot in the winter, especially with all of those winter winds and the ice storms. Don’t get caught in the dark without a plan. We’re going to give you a blackout-survival tip list, just ahead.
LESLIE: But first, what’s your home reno plan for 2023? You’ve got a project or two maybe in mind? Well, we want to help you create your best home ever. So whether you live in a house, a condo or an apartment, we can help you with answers to questions about remodeling, renovation, décor. Whatever it is, we’d love to help.
TOM: So let’s get to it. That number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading over to Mississippi where we’ve got Donna on the line dealing with a worn-out driveway.
What are you looking to do?
DONNA: My driveway is partly crumbled, partly scored, partly rusted on. Can you put a blacktop surface on top of a concrete surface and have it hold up?
TOM: Hey, Donna. So, I can definitely see how that might make – seem to make some sense putting blacktop over concrete but it really is not going to work. Because the way you build either a driveway made of concrete or a driveway made of blacktop is entirely different. So you can’t mix the two.
So you’re going to have to – if you want to go blacktop, you have to take out the driveway that’s there and then you have to put in the right layers. Because blacktop driveways are made up over layers. And they’re usually at least 5 or 6 inches thick when the time you’re done. But they put in different layers. They start with a stone base, then they roll that stone base with a tool that packs it down really, really tightly. It’s almost as tight as – as hard as a road when the stone base is down.
LESLIE: Wait, you forgot the part where they wait 4 weeks because they want it to settle. And then you drive on it.
TOM: Well, yeah. But I’ve never had that. When I’ve done driveways, we’ve always rolled them and then put the blacktop on all in one time and …
LESLIE: Oh, my gosh. Our contractor made us wait 4 weeks minimum so that it settles and gets rain. You drive on it.
TOM: I have to say that anybody that makes you wait all that time is not doing a really good job on the base. Because if you put the base in right, you shouldn’t have any of that happening.
LESLIE: I mean it was super firm but that was their thing.
TOM: Well, maybe that’s their thing. But that’s not what I did and I don’t think you necessarily have to do that as a matter of course.
The driveway – the asphalt itself, I was starting to say, there’s different grades of it. So you want to get one that’s about a medium grade. Because if you try to get one that’s too smooth, it’s not very strong. And the medium grade has bigger pebbles in it and it locks together very, very nicely and lasts a long time. So, you can’t put it on top of the concrete; you have to take the old concrete off or out and start again from scratch.
LESLIE: And I will say, switching from concrete to the blacktop, it’s gorgeous. What a big difference it made. It just made the house look sharp. I love it.
TOM: Yeah. And I should also mention that if the concrete is not in horrible shape, it could be resurfaced. There’s a product called Re-Cap, that QUIKRETE makes, that is designed specifically for that. You could add a layer of this Re-Cap product on top of the old concrete and give it a fresh, new surface. So that’s another option for you, as well.
LESLIE: We’ve got A.J. on the line who’s dealing with a newish house, about 9 years old. And it seems to be getting a lot of movement and some cracks are forming.
What’s going on?
A.J.: There are now some cracks starting to show up in a few places. And the front door is jammed. It does not open. And various places of the large screws and nails are starting to show up on the wall. I have a feeling that the house is shifting. I don’t know why, because it’s only 9 years old. And I was wondering if you have seen or heard anything like that and what you might be able to recommend to me.
TOM: Well, A.J., the fact that you’ve been there for 9 years – I presume it’s you that have been in the house for 9 years – and are seeing this now means there may be something new happening that’s causing this kind of movement.
Certainly, a door that sticks, a door that needs to be adjusted from season to season, not unusual. But if it’s all happening at the same time, then I think it warrants deeper investigation. The fact that you’ve got walls that have nail pops, very, very common. Even some cracks around openings, around where there’s intersections of walls and ceilings and that sort of stuff, also very common.
But again, since it’s happening all at the same time, I think the best way to get into this and find out if there’s something to be concerned of is for you to hire a professional home inspector to do an inspection of the house – of these areas – and give an opinion as to whether or not this is an active problem or not. Or hire a structural engineer to do the same thing. That’s the first question: is it active or is it just normal expansion and contraction?
The other thing I would say to look out for is whether or not there’s been some change, especially with respect to drainage around the house. Sometimes when you get a lot of water that accumulates around a foundation perimeter, even from something as simple as a perennially blocked gutter, that water gets under the foundation and allows some shifting to occur because the wet soil gives way and lets the building move more than it would if it was dry. That could be a contributing cause.
But if it’s nothing obvious like that, I would definitely call a professional and get it evaluated so that you’ll know what to do. I can’t really speculate today beyond that. But those are the typical reasons that these problems develop.
LESLIE: Marcia in Illinois needs some help getting a window unstuck.
Tell us about it.
MARCIA: I have a window over my sink in my kitchen, so I have to lean over the sink to raise this window. And it’s always been extremely hard to get up or down and I just don’t know what to do with it. I think I’ve tried WD-40.
TOM: Is this a wood window, Marcia?
MARCIA: Yes, it’s a wood window.
TOM: So, probably over the years, it’s gotten bigger, swollen in its place. And it’s gotten tighter in the jambs. And I’ll presume with paint, too, over the years that that didn’t make it any better. So, why don’t you think about a replacement window? Look, we can talk to you about taking this whole window apart and sanding down the jambs and sanding down the sashes and making it easier to use and replacing the cords and the balance and all that work. But I think this would be a good time to treat yourself to a replacement window.
You don’t have to do all the windows in the house. Yeah, you can buy a double-hung replacement window at a home center today for a couple hundred bucks and it’s a pretty good-quality window. So, you may want to think about replacing just this one window. Or in the alternative, you can pull the trim off, you can take the sashes apart and you could sand them and sand them well. And that will make them a little bit smaller all the way around and make them easier to operate. And of course, also make sure that the balances are working.
Now, if it’s an old, wood window, you may have cords or chains that go up and you want to make sure that they’re still attached, because that gives you a little bit of assistance as you open and close the window.
MARCIA: OK. Well, I appreciate your advice. I guess I’ll have to invest in a new window.
TOM: I think it’s going to be easier than all the work it would take to get the old window working. And I’m all for easy and that’s why I suggest that. OK, Marcia? Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And look, if you’ve got these old windows, you can work on them and put 8, 10 hours into a window and sure, it’ll be just as good as new. But why, you know? It’s still going to be an old, drafty, wood window when you can go buy a double-pane, vinyl-clad window – a replacement window – that slips inside the existing opening and just have better energy efficiency and a window that really works, tilts in to clean, the works. Just doesn’t make any sense.
LESLIE: You’re still going to have to reach over that sink. It’s just going to be easier to work.
LESLIE: So, you live in a place where snow is pretty common this time of year but you don’t have a garage. Yeah, it’s a pain, I know, to clear the snow and ice off of the car but it’s got to be done. In fact, some states, it’s illegal to drive around with a car that is not cleared off. I mean quite frankly, it’s dangerous to drive that way.
TOM: Yeah. I hate that. And I hate being behind somebody who leaves the snow piled up on the roof, only to come flying off and hitting my windshield.
LESLIE: And at that time, it’s like sheets of ice.
So look, here’s some advice. First, if you’ve got a long driveway, get ready before the storm hits by parking at the end of it. I’m amazed how many people forget this and they end of having to shovel the entire driveway to get the car out. No, we go bumper to bumper right up at the end of the driveway to make sure we could get out. And this is going to make that distance you need to shovel a lot less.
Now, the same goes for a parking space in a condo or an apartment complex. Grab a spot near the complex exit if you can. You’ll be the first one to get back on the road.
LESLIE: Yeah. Here’s another trick. Put your windshield wipers up, sticking up off of the car, so they don’t freeze to the car window. Also, use a long-handled broom to get that snow off of the top of your car before you open the door. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a heap of wet snow falling right onto the seat.
TOM: I actually had my rear windshield on my SUV crack because I put up the front windshield wipers but I forgot to do the back one. Or the wind blew it down or something like that. And it did crack. It froze to the windshield and then it caused it to crack. So, that is definitely an important tip.
Also, don’t forget to clear snow around your headlights and your taillights. If your driver door is frozen shut, try all the doors. There may be ones facing the sun, where the ice has already started to melt. And you can always use a lock deicer for a frozen lock or even WD-40.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, what should you be keeping in your car in the event you get stuck in the snow or a storm comes in unexpectedly? Well, you want to make sure that you have a snow kit ready to go and that should include a scraper, a small shovel or broom, mittens or gloves and maybe even an extra pair of boots. So you want to make sure you’ve got the ability to dig out your car and clean off the car but also be warm.
TOM: And remember, in just a few months you’ll be complaining about how hot your car’s interior is. So, enjoy the chilly weather while we have it. It is pretty. It’s uncomfortable but it is pretty.
LESLIE: It’s the best. Also, no one’s ever happy.
Alright. We’ve got Henry on the line who wants to talk about something going on in the garage.
Why don’t you tell us about it?
HENRY: Currently, I have an overhead natural-gas heater. It’s quite expensive to operate on a regular basis. My garage has approximately 12 inches of fiberglass insulation overhead. The walls are insulated. I didn’t know whether to keep what I currently have. Or would it be perhaps wise to go to an electric heater that would provide sufficient heat?
TOM: So I think you’re going to find that the cost of operating the electric heater is going to be even more than operating the gas heater. How big is your garage?
HENRY: Approximately 800 square feet.
TOM: Oh, it’s a pretty big garage. Yeah.
HENRY: Yes. But it holds a three-car garage.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. So I’ve got a 20×30 garage myself. And what I did to heat that is I have one kerosene heater. Now, it’s not just a kerosene heater. To explain, I put insulation in the ceiling like you did and I put foam – actually used foam boards in between the floor joists, like the thermal insulation that’s like foil-face foam. I also closed off the opening to the attic storage space above it so I wouldn’t have all the heat rush up there. And I improved the weather-stripping around the doors and around the windows, the same I would if I was doing something for the regular part of the house.
And I found that this particular heater that I used, it was rated for that size space and it did a really good job of, first of all, taking that cold edge off. And if I leave it running long enough, it warms the whole place up. So I found that to be a more affordable way than – and actually a smaller, more convenient way to heat the garage. Because I’m not heating it all the time. I might go out there on a weekend and do some projects. So I just wanted something I could turn on and turn off.
Those big space heaters – the big, gas-fired, forced-air space heaters that hang from the ceiling – there is nothing efficient about that. Nothing at all. They just – some of those use as much gas as the heating system that heats your entire house.
The only other alternative I would suggest would be kerosene. But if you try to go electric, those electric heaters are going to be just as expensive to operate.
HENRY: OK. Well, thank you very much for the suggestion. I am certainly going to check it out.
LESLIE: Nadine in Iowa has an interesting question.
Your countertop has gotten noisy? Tell us what’s going on.
NADINE: Yes, it does. We had it installed, I would say, between 3 and 5 years ago. And right after we had this Corian counter installed, we started getting very sharp, loud bangs occasionally. And I mean like somebody-just-shot-up-the-house bangs. And it has been going on since we had it installed, to varying degrees. Louder sometimes than others.
But they’ve been out to check and can’t figure it out and I don’t – the only unusual thing that happened when they put it in was that one corner didn’t want to go down, so the guy had to put his full weight on it to push it down and finally make it go down. And my feeling is – or something must be bound in there that every once in a while builds up enough energy to really snap.
TOM: Well, that’s certainly an unusual situation, because countertops aren’t known for their noise, you know.
TOM: We get squeaky-floor questions, we get banging-pipe questions.
I don’t think we’ve ever gotten any loud-countertop questions, huh, Leslie?
NADINE: Well, I doubt that it’s the countertop. My feeling is something might be bound in there, having been caused by having the countertop put on.
TOM: Well, you might be correct and what could be happening is that you could have expansion and contraction going on, either with the walls or even with the plumbing. Especially with the water being right there, when a pipe heats up it tends to expand. And if it’s attached to the framing very, very tightly, it will rub across that framing and it can make a creaking sound or a banging sound.
TOM: And I’ve heard that before in bathrooms and also in kitchens.
TOM: The other thought is that if the countertop is bound, as you say, against part of the frame of the house and you’re getting expansion and contraction, that could be the source of the sound. Although, I tend to think that, even though it’s annoying, it probably isn’t really very damaging if it’s one of the other of those things.
NADINE: No, I don’t think it is damaging at all. It’s just that when you have guests and their eyes get wide and they start to go for the floor, you think maybe – I mean it is quite loud when it does it. So you think it could possibly be plumbing?
TOM: It could very well be, because plumbing really carries the sound. And especially if you’re running a dishwasher and the hot water comes on, that could cause a noise.
NADINE: However, we’ve kind of checked that out – what’s on, what’s running and all of that – and that doesn’t seem to come into play. What would your suggestion be as to sleuthing this problem out?
TOM: Well, I guess I would have to be sitting there staring at it, thinking about it for a long time. But reinstalling the countertop would probably be the best solution, although it’s a boatload of work and you can potentially damage the countertop in the process. If they had to really squeeze it in, I suspect that something is a little bit too tight in its intention and it’s really not designed to be pulled out.
NADINE: Yeah. Alright. Thanks so much.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to talk to Kevin about spray-foam insulation.
Tell us about your project.
KEVIN: Which type of spray foam – open cell or closed cell – you should be using on new construction for the inside sealing and the inside/outside walls?
TOM: So, first of all, spray foam is a great choice, Kevin. The fact of the matter is that not only does it seal, it insulates. It expands and it seals all those gaps. But when it comes to open cell versus closed cell, the main difference is the ability of moisture to get in there.
In my area of the country, along the ocean where we build a lot of houses, the builders tend to use a lot of closed-cell spray-foam insulation because it completely locks out any moisture. But open-cell insulation is just as effective in certain areas.
Now, when I did my attic in my house, I used open cell. I didn’t really have a need to use closed cell. But if I was doing a crawlspace that was over soil and it was exposed to a lot of moisture, then I think I would use closed.
So I think it really comes down to the moisture question. Both products are going to do a good job sealing and insulating and both products are going to have comparable R-values, depending on the thickness that they apply. But if you have a really damp area, I would probably go with closed cell over open cell.
Hope that helps you out.
LESLIE: Shawnie (sp) in North Carolina needs some help with a backyard problem. What’s going on at your money pit?
SHAWNIE (sp): And on my roof, I knew it would rain. All the water would drain toward the back, since it’s on a downslope.
SHAWNIE (sp): And then I had some – a contractor come in and connect all of my downspouts and all to this black pipe. And they connected all of it and ran it out to one source toward that little creek. And in doing so – everything was fine; it worked fine. And they thought where I was having such water problems, they sort of made a horseshoe out of the black pipe, with the Styrofoam peanuts and all of that in it.
But what they did, when they dug around the horseshoe area, they found that that was dry. Because they figured if it was wet, it would drain and take care of the problem. But when they put that horseshoe in, wherever they put it, it was completely dry and it was further down that they realized that I had an underground spring.
So, all of my drainpipes, everything is draining perfectly but it’s one little problem I had with that underground spring.
TOM: But is that underground spring rising up to the point where the yard is flooding? And how much flooding are we talking about here?
SHAWNIE (sp): It’s not necessarily flooding but it stays so wet I can’t mow it.
TOM: It’s just wet?
SHAWNIE (sp): And there’s a place about – I’m going to say 12-inches square-ish, maybe, that is – has puddled.
TOM: I don’t think this is a problem worth solving. I think it’s a fairly small area of the yard. And areas of the yard that get soft like that, yeah, the grass can be hard to cut sometimes; sometimes, you have to cut it by hand instead of using a power mower on it. But I don’t think it’s worth you doing anything about it. You would have to do some major, major work to try to take the water that’s collecting there, run it downstream and have it sit somewhere else. So, I don’t think it’s necessarily a big issue.
Shawnie (sp), thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, when you wake up in the morning, do you feel like you’ve got a dry, parched throat? If that’s the case, a built-in, whole-house humidifier could make you a lot more comfortable. But there’s several types of humidifiers available. So, how do you know which one is the best for your situation?
TOM: Well, when it comes to being comfortable, I think a lot of people think it comes down to the temperature in your home. But that’s only part of the issue. Humidity is a really important element for comfort. That’s why – you know how hot-water systems, they can be a lot more comfortable? If you have hot-water radiators or you have steam radiators, that heat is a lot more comfortable than forced air because the hot-water systems don’t dry out the air but the forced-air systems do.
LESLIE: Alright. So if you’re finding that your entire house feels a little on the dry side and you maybe want to add more moisture to the entire house, you’re going to need a whole-house humidifier. Or you could do it with portable, room-type humidifiers, right?
TOM: Well, you could. But there would be an awful lot of them. Plus, they’re just not nearly as efficient. So a whole-house humidifier is the way to go. The whole-house systems are going to be mounted on the return side of – and typically, we’re talking about forced-air systems here, right? So, if you have a hot-water system, as I said before, you’re not going to need this. But if you’ve got forced air, then you would. And this would be mounted in the duct on the return side, so where the air is going back to be reheated.
And there’s really a couple of different types. There’s a flow-through type and then there’s a drum type. Now, with flow-through, the water drips out of the top of the humidifier and then it – and it drips and flows through a pad that kind of is a vertical pad that’s inside this square box. And as that water drips through, the air blows over it, it releases moisture into the air and it’s humidified.
The drum type is similar to that except you have sort of another shape of the humidifier, that’s round on the bottom, that’s filled with water. And you have a drum that rolls around like a regular drum would. And it picks up moisture and then the air blows across it.
Typically, I like the flow-through type best. The drum-type humidifiers tend to wear out more quickly. They seem like they get a lot more gummed up by the mineral salts that get stuck in there and they’re just not nearly as easy to take care of. So I think flow-through is definitely the way to go.
LESLIE: So, we already know that the drum-type ones can be challenging to care and clean for. But how do you care for any other type of humidifier? Is there regular maintenance we should be doing?
TOM: Yeah, definitely. For both types of humidifiers, you’re definitely going to have to do some maintenance. So you’re going to shut it down and you’re going to empty any water. And then you’re going to clean out all of those salts. And a little trick for that is to use white vinegar and water. That will melt away any salts that are – you know, you’re having a hard time getting out. You can even vacuum away a lot of the salts. And then you need to question whether you need to actually replace the media or not.
Now, with a drum-type humidifier, it’s like a pad. Almost like a sponge-y pad. And that gets replaced pretty frequently. Maybe twice a season. The flow-through type, that is a lot more durable and that’s going to last you probably at least 2 or 3 years, I would think. And if that was the case, I would take that out and I would soak it in a vinegar-and-water solution to loosen up all those mineral deposits. Put it back together and you’ll be good to go. It might smell a little bit like vinegar when you first turn on the system but that won’t last for very long.
LESLIE: Heading out to Michigan where we’ve got Ed on the line who’s dealing with a driveway that’s cracking up a little bit.
ED: The concrete driveway is – has a slight slope to it. And at the expansion joint where two sections meet, it’s beginning to separate a little bit. I was wondering if there was something that I could do perhaps. I didn’t know whether some foam would fit in there and put caulking over it. Or do you have some other suggestion?
TOM: Sure, Ed. So, the space that is – you say it’s cracking. It’s really just separating. It’s an expansion joint. Does that have a tar – a piece of tar backer in it right now? Usually, it’s a tar piece that’s about ½-inch wide and 4 or 5 inches tall. Has it got anything like that in there now?
ED: No. It’s basically – seems, so to speak, that they put in there to avoid cracking someplace else.
TOM: OK. Right. But there’s no other material in there. So it’s just two slabs separating. Is that correct?
TOM: OK. So, very simple solution here. And that is – what you’re going to do is you’re going to first clean that out. There’s going to be dirt and grime, sometimes moss in there. Go ahead and clean that space out. Then you’re going to insert what’s called a “backer rod.” It’s like a foam tube.
And they come in different diameters. You want to buy one that’s bigger than the gap so it has some side pressure to hold it in place. And you insert that into that space there and you want to insert it down so it’s about maybe about ¾-inch or an inch below the surface.
Then on top of that, you are going to apply a flowable urethane caulk or sealant. And that’s going to flow across that backer rod and then sort of lock to both sides of the concrete. And this way, when you’re done and it’s nice and dry, that concrete driveway will expand and contract along that expansion joint and not pull apart anymore.
Now, the reason you’re putting the backer rod in there – because if you don’t, you’re going to waste a heck of a lot of sealant. It’s just going to fall into the bottom of the hole.
TOM: So you put the backer rod in first and then you’re only filling the area above it. Does that make sense?
ED: Yes, it does. Very good. I certainly appreciate it.
TOM: Well, we’ve all seen the news stories about entire towns without power for days at a time. But if a powerful winter storm were to leave you without power, what should you do?
LESLIE: Well, number one, don’t go in using candles. You want to invest in some good flashlights. You want to keep them handy. Always have them in the same spot and remember to check and change the batteries often.
TOM: Yep. And during an outage, remember, power down appliances and don’t restart them until the electricity has been restored for at least a ½-hour or so. This way, the utility company can stabilize the power grid and avoid another blackout. That’s why sometimes when the power comes on, it goes off again. Then it comes on, then it goes off again. Because everybody is running to turn back on appliances and – whether it be ovens or air conditioners or dishwashers or whatever. And the power company hasn’t been able to stabilize that grid yet. So give them a break, wait about a ½-hour, then repower the house.
LESLIE: Alright. Next, you want to open your refrigerator all the time under regular circumstances. You’ve got to see what’s inside. Perhaps it’s different from the time you looked at it 2 seconds ago.
But when there’s no power, don’t open that fridge. You want to eat food from the refrigerator first and the freezer later. I mean every time you open it, think about it: that cool air gets out. It’s going to get warmer. So just keep it closed. Your frozen items can last several days. So keep those in there and use the fridge stuff first.
Now, avoid becoming a victim of carbon-monoxide poisoning. Never, ever run a gas-powered generator indoors or even in your open garage or super close to an open window. You’ve got to be careful about the location you choose.
TOM: Yeah. And also important, you want to avoid cooking with charcoal or propane in any enclosed area. We’ve heard about folks that do that, even in an open garage and end up filling the entire house.
LESLIE: Yeah. Why do people think they can bring the grill inside all of a sudden?
TOM: I don’t know. They just consider it outside but it’s not. It goes into the house and it can fill the entire house with carbon monoxide and make you sick or worse.
So, if you plan on heading over to a relative’s home to wait it out, remember that the streetlights and traffic lights are also going to be on the blink. And approach those intersections with caution.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Cheryl in Texas on the line who’s looking to redo a bathroom and make it more modern with just a shower.
How can we help you?
CHERYL: Well, I am the mother of four sons and as they get bigger, they no longer like to get in the bathtub.
CHERYL: And we find that they are always in my room, in my shower. We’re wanting to take out the tub that’s in their bathroom and turn it into a shower. My issue is I don’t have a lot of space. It’s a Hollywood bath and then the tub and toilet are in a separate little room that you can close off. And the door facing – of that little room sits right next to the tub itself.
So, my question is – when I pull that tub out, the plan was to put a shower pan down and tile the area and then put a glass door – either a sliding door (audio gap) door on there. Will that be a wide-enough space if it’s only the width of a standard tub?
TOM: Cheryl, I think you definitely can find a shower pan that can fit the width of that tub, sort of elbow to elbow if you’re standing in it. Think about it: if you’re in the tub, you’re taking a shower, right? You’ve got room on – to the right and to the left of you. So we want a shower pan, essentially, that’s the same size.
Now, when it comes to residential, prefabricated shower pans, they start at around 24×24, so that’s 2-foot-square. That would be probably the smallest that you would need but you might be able to go up even bigger.
But a little trick of the trade: if you were to find, for example, that for whatever reason – the way this room is configured – a 24×24 would not work, then you should shop for a smaller shower pan, which you will find, sold for RVs – recreational vehicles. Because they have tiny showers in them, right? And there’s a whole host of RV shower pans that are smaller than 24×24. I don’t think you’re going to need it. I think you’ll be fine starting there, maybe even going up.
But the size of the shower pan is what you want to figure out first. Then you can basically build around that, OK? Does that make sense?
CHERYL: Sure, sure. That’s what I want to do. OK.
TOM: Alright, Cheryl. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Gina in Buffalo has reached out to Team Money Pit. Now, here’s what she writes: “In the last few years, my 12-year-old house has developed dark areas where the sheetrock was screwed to the trusses. This is only at the outer edges where the ceiling meets the wall. I assume it has something to do with the cold winters. Should I be worried? Should I seal the spots? Should I paint? Help.”
TOM: You know, we’ve heard of this over the years. And a lot of times, people think it’s mold that’s growing. The dreaded mold. But really, what this is is simply condensation. And here’s what’s going on.
So, you have warm air inside your house – and it’s especially bad if you like to burn candles, because that lets a lot of carbon into the air. And that warm air is going to go up, right? It’s going to rise. And as it rises, it sort of hits the ceiling and then it condenses and releases some of the moisture. And that moisture can be tainted with either just regular dust and dirt or, in the case of somebody who burns a lot of candles, a lot of soot.
And the area where the truss is or the edge of the board is, is not as warm as the areas to the left and the right of it. Because you think about how a ceiling is framed, right? You have a truss, then you have about 14 or 15 inches of insulation, then you have another truss and so on. And so those edges are sort of like a direct thermal connection to the exterior, to an unheated space. So they’re always going to be colder. And that’s why you get the stripes and not just a big, whole, blotchy, black type of ceiling. You’re just going to get it where those beams are.
So that’s basically what’s going on here. We call it “ghosting.” And there’s really nothing to be done about it. If you want to cover that, I would prime it first. I would definitely use a primer. And then I would paint over it.
And if you also want to reduce it, you could put more insulation in the attic and make sure you’re using insulation that covers the top of those trusses. You could use unfaced batts and just lay them right down across the existing insulation.
LESLIE: Alright. Hope that helps you out there, Gina.
Now, we’ve got one from Erica in Oregon. And she writes: “I have a very large tree between my house and my detached garage. So large that cutting it down does not seem like an option without damaging one of the structures. What’s the best way to safely remove this tree?”
Have you ever seen those tree-removal guys, how they climb up the tree with chainsaws and all kinds of dangerous things while they’re just hanging from a branch?
TOM: Yeah. Yes.
LESLIE: We took down a huge tree from the front lawn that had been sick and then was falling apart and we worried about it falling onto the house. And truly, I remember the day they came to take that down. I was like, “I want to watch this. But I am also terribly afraid to watch it.”
TOM: I had a tree that was about 20 feet from the side of our house. It was a beautiful maple tree. And I’ve got to tell you, I loved that tree. I really did. And over the years, it started to get sick and then it was sort of rotting out internally. And then I noticed that some of the branches were breaking off and they were right over the power lines. I’m like, “Ugh.” Broke my heart but it had to go.
Had the same concerns but I knew how it would be dealt with. And that was because when you hire a pro – this is definitely, definitely not a DIY project. When you hire a pro, a tree-removal company comes out with one of their standard pieces of equipment: a truck with a crane, right? And that crane basically goes up and they tie off the upper branches. And then they cut them and they lift them up. They don’t drop them down; they lift them up. They can lift them over houses, over wires and then gently lift them down the street where they can be cut up. And they just basically disassemble the tree from the top down.
This is not like a lumberjack comes and cuts the bottom and it falls over and you hope that it misses the house. No, they disassemble it from the top down. It’s a very smooth, professional process and that’s absolutely the way to handle a tree that’s growing between your house and your garage.
LESLIE: Yeah. And Erica, you know what? Just be smart. Hire a pro. They’ll get the job done safely.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show wishing you each and all a very happy new year filled with lots of luck and lots of love and lots of exciting home improvement projects, for which we will be there to help.
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.
Happy New Year, everybody.
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