Attic Insulation Basics, How to Protect the Outside of Your Home Against Severe Weather, How to Avoid Energy Vampires, Repair Cracks in Your Walls and more
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement questions. Let’s talk about energy efficiency. Let’s talk about ways to make your home weathertight for the season. Let’s talk about whatever project is on your to-do list. Let’s move it to the done list. Help yourself first by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up this hour, we’re going to focus on ways that you can save money and energy on your utility bills this fall. And one critical way is to simply add insulation and immediately cut heating costs. We’ve got some tips on insulation options that can help.
LESLIE: And it’s the time of year to talk about vampires and not just those in costumes. We’re talking about energy vampires. These are the things that suck energy, even when you’re not using them. We’re going to share some tips on how to avoid those energy suckers and save some money.
TOM: And also ahead, when a severe storm is forecasted for your area, it can be frightening and a bit chaotic. So we’re going to teach you how to plan ahead so you’ll be ready and safe before the storms arrive.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away three $50 Home Depot gift cards, courtesy of the LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive.
TOM: Lots of projects you can tackle with LIQUID NAILS. Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will toss your name into The Money Pit hard hat and we’ll be choosing 3 callers at random to hand out those $50 Home Depot gift cards, courtesy of our friends at LIQUID NAILS. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Theresa in Oregon, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
THERESA: I have a problem with my lawn; it’s a mess. And we are trying to decide – oh, it’s full of tall grass and moss and crabgrass and has poor drainage. And so, one of the things my husband said that happened was is that when we put the lawn in years ago – it’s been about 15 years – we got a lot of potting soil donated from a commercial garden/landscape place. And so we think that might have had part – been part of the problem: it’s potting soil rather than solid dirt.
So we’re trying to figure out whether we should rototill the whole thing out and start over or we should just reseed and keep weed-and-feeding or something.
TOM: What about doing a Roundup restoration to it?
LESLIE: I like that: a Roundup restoration.
TOM: That’s actually a process that is pretty common. You apply Roundup to the entire lawn and pretty much zap the whole thing, so you kill everything that’s there.
THERESA: OK. OK.
TOM: And as the existing grass and the crabgrass and all the stuff that’s mixed there dies away, you can seed in – right into that with fresh seed. And that seed will take. The old, dead grass will help hold it in place.
And if you do it now, you’ve actually got a couple of months of decent weather for the grass to start to take hold. And this way, it’ll grow now, it’ll grow in the very early spring and hopefully develop thick-enough roots to be able to sustain the first, warm summer that it encounters. But that’s why now is a good time to do it. And when you’ve got some lawn that’s in that bad a shape, a Roundup restoration is a good way to go.
I did that for my entire backyard. And it looked a little scary for a while but it turned green pretty fast after that and ended up being a great lawn for us.
THERESA: Wow. OK. So just kill the whole thing off and start over with seed.
TOM: Kill it off and start again.
THERESA: OK. And any particular recommendation on seed?
TOM: I don’t have a particular recommendation on seed. Any name brand, I think, will do.
THERESA: Any name brand. OK. Very good. Well, that helps a lot.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jeff in Delaware is dealing with a mysterious sulfur odor from a well. Tell us what’s going on.
JEFF: Well, we have a well and I have a water softener on it, a filter and – cartridge filter – and we still have a lot of iron in our water and it has a real strong sulfur smell. And I don’t know anything else to do and it – sometimes, if it sits for – if we go out of town and come back a day or two later, the smell is just horrendous. And I was just wondering if you guys could give me any tips.
TOM: You know, Jeff, that sulfur smell may not be coming from the well; it could be coming from the water heater. Have you considered that?
JEFF: No, sir.
TOM: Because if the anode in the water heater is wearing away, that can result in a very strong sulfur odor. Have you noticed if the sulfur odor is more prevalent in the hot water or the cold?
JEFF: Hot. Yes, sir. It is.
TOM: Yeah. I don’t think it’s the well at all; I think it’s your water heater.
JEFF: Oh, wow. Well, that would be great. OK. What’s the solution?
TOM: Now, you can replace the anode in the water heater.
TOM: It basically unbolts from the top of the water heater. If you look at the top of the water heater, you’ll see what looks like a big hex nut. And you can unscrew that, pull out the old rod and put in a new one.
JEFF: Oh, OK.
TOM: So I think you might be looking at the wrong place for the source. I think the problem is the water heater and not the well.
JEFF: Well, I will sure try that. That’ll be a simple fix for me.
TOM: It certainly will be. It’s called a “sacrificial anode” for that reason. You sacrifice a little bit every time, for all the time that it’s in there. And at some point, sometimes it develops the point where it has a sulfur smell.
If you add a replacement anode to there, that should help alleviate the sulfur smell. Because, essentially, what’s happening is the anode contributes to the production of hydrogen-sulfide gas and that’s what has that nasty, rotten-egg odor to it. OK?
JEFF: Well, I really do appreciate that. Man, I appreciate you taking my call. I sure do.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Elizabeth in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with a brick situation. Tell us what’s going on.
ELIZABETH: I have a crack in my brick wall. It is about a ¼-inch wide and it goes from a window sill down to the sidewalk.
TOM: Yeah. And that’s pretty typical. Around windows or around doors, that’s the weakest part of the wall. So if it’s ¼-inch wide, what I would do is I would seal it with caulk because you want to stop the water from getting in there.
Now, one of the options that you might want to think about is a new product from DAP called DAP 3.0. They have a clear caulk, so it’ll blend nicely with the brick. And it’s not like silicone that looks kind of gray and mucky; it looks really crystal-clear. And it’s easy to use because it dries in 30 minutes. So I would use a product like that. I would caulk it to keep the water out because if you don’t, what happens is the water gets in there. In the winter, it will freeze and expand and start to widen that and break down the brick.
So caulk it and just accept it as normal wear and tear.
ELIZABETH: OK. And that was DAP?
TOM: DAP 3.0 it’s called, yep. DAP 3.0.
ELIZABETH: Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. It is fall fix-up season and we’re here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Still ahead, are phantom energy drains bumping up your electric bill without you ever realizing it? We’re going to teach you how to find these sneaky sources of energy drains and stop those bills from shocking you, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Arrow Sheds, the leader in steel storage sheds and buildings. Steel sheds are durable, secure and a great value. Arrow Storage Products, available at national home centers, hardware stores and online. See a complete line of products at Sheds.com.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, 3 lucky callers who get on the air with us this hour are going to get a $50 gift card to The Home Depot, courtesy of LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive. LIQUID NAILS is a go-to for do-it-yourselfers, for so many reasons.
TOM: It delivers extraordinary strength and durability. Works both indoors and out and bonds a wide range of construction materials.
Visit LIQUIDNAILS.com to learn more and give us a call right now for your shot at that $50 Home Depot gift card. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ron in Tennessee, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RON: Yeah, I have a home with a crawlspace and I have had some moisture under there. And the builder, when he built it, he ran the runoff from the roof down into the French drains. I diverted that and it’s helped a lot but it’s still moist. And I’m asking if these encapsulated systems, where they trench the perimeter of the inside of the crawlspace and seal off the systems with a dehumidifier and a sump pump – how they work and if that’s a solution to these kinds of problems.
TOM: Alright. So first of all, the roof drains were going where before you capped them off?
RON: Down in the French drain.
TOM: Yeah, that’s not too smart, huh?
RON: No, it wasn’t. I diverted that and it helped a lot but it’s still moist under there.
TOM: Alright. So, now that you’ve got the roof drains disconnected from the French drain, are those drains extending out away from the foundation perimeter?
RON: For sure.
TOM: How far out do they go?
RON: Oh, 20 feet?
TOM: Oh, OK. Well, that’s a good thing.
Alright. So the second thing that you could do, easily, is make sure that the soil that surrounds the foundation perimeter is sloped away. Most of the time, that soil settles after the house is built and becomes flatter or even inverted. So you want to make sure you have a pitch where the soil is running away from the foundation, dropping about 6 inches over 4 feet. You can plant something on that grass or mulch or stone after but make sure you have good, solid drainage.
Now, let’s talk about the vents in the crawlspace. You need to have enough vents, so probably one or two on each wall. You need to make sure that the crawlspace floor has a vapor barrier on it.
What’s the crawlspace floor now?
RON: It’s vapor barrier only.
TOM: It’s vapor barrier? So it’s completely covered in plastic?
TOM: OK. And then, the other thing that you could do is you could add vent fans to the walls and have them wired onto a humidistat.
TOM: So that when the moisture builds up inside the crawlspace because the humidity is high, the fans will come on and draw the drier air in from the outside.
TOM: So those are things that you could do now, without spending a whole lot of money, to try to dry that space out.
TOM: Now, the idea of encapsulating the crawlspace is not a bad approach and many homes are starting to be built that way today. But that literally means sealing everything off 110 percent.
TOM: So since you’re kind of closer to being able to improve the grading, improve the drainage, double-check that vapor barrier to make sure it’s really solid and it’s thick and covering every aspect of that crawlspace floor. Make sure if it overlaps, it overlaps about 10 feet. Make sure it’s up against the foundation walls and then get good ventilation – cross-ventilation – in there using some vent fans wired to humidistats. You may find that that gives you the rest of the moisture reduction that you – that was left over after you rerouted those drains.
RON: Alright. Sounds good. Thank you.
TOM: Well, it’s time now for today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron, makers of the Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch.
LESLIE: Now, we’ve come to depend on our mobile devices, like laptops and cell phones. They help us save time but they could end up costing you electricity when you’re charging them.
TOM: Yeah. And here’s how to avoid that. After you’ve charged your device, don’t just unplug it from the charger; unplug the charger from the wall socket, too. Because as long as it’s plugged in, a small amount of electricity will be flowing and that small amount is known as the “drain.”
LESLIE: Now, if you’ve got a tendency to just completely forget to unplug everything, try using a power strip. This way, you can actually just manually shut the whole strip off at once. And some of them even come with a sensor circuit, which is going to monitor the level of current flowing through the socket. And it’ll shut off when it reaches below 30 watts, which is the drain level.
TOM: And that’s today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron. Easy upgrades, big impact. Choose Lutron. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Leslie in Nebraska on the line who’s dealing with an oversized oak door. What happened? Did it grow?
LESLIE IN NEBRASKA: What I did was – I live in a 100-year-old, German bungalow-style house.
LESLIE IN NEBRASKA: And I changed the doors. It had been remodeled and it just had the flat, hollow-core doors in it. I changed them out for solid – for oak doors. And in one room, the door now – the hinges are in the very corner, as it were. But at the bottom, it meets and at the top, there’s about a ½-inch gap where we put wedges. So I’m wondering how to trim that out appropriately.
The original doors had 1-by trim with the flat board on top so they butt against the board on the top. And I’m wondering what I can do to make this work.
TOM: So, if I understand this correctly, you purchased a prehung door, you installed it into the old opening. In order to make it fit, you had to shim it in quite a bit. And as a result, now you have large gaps between the prehung and the old door opening. Is that correct?
LESLIE IN NEBRASKA: Correct.
TOM: Alright. So, you need a wider trim, obviously; that’s where you’re going to have to start with this.
Now, the most traditional trim is clamshell – which is, I think, quite boring – 2½-inch or 2¼-inch wide, surrounds the door. A more interesting way to do this might be to trim it off with a two-piece trim. So what you could use is you could use a piece of baseboard molding as the first layer of trim. So this would give you a wide molding all around the door.
And you could make this as wide as you have to. Baseboard molding is usually either 2½ inches or 3½ inches wide. So you treat – use that as casing, if that makes sense. And then on top of the outside edge of the baseboard, you can put corner molding. And so it becomes sort of – it’s outside corner mold, so it becomes stepped. So, the fluted part of the baseboard is against the hinge and then it steps up at the end with the outside corner molding. And this gives you sort of a two-tiered casement arrangement all around the entire door.
This can be very, very attractive. I once did an entire house like this and it looked really good. Gives you a lot of dimension and it kind of brings you back to the day when all the moldings around doors were done in a really fancy way like this and gives that particular door a lot of personality.
LESLIE IN NEBRASKA: Thank you so much for your help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Leslie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Terri in Missouri is on the line with a ceiling issue that’s just cracking up. Tell us what’s going on.
TERRI: I have a wall in my living room/kitchen area that has a vaulted ceiling that, at the 8-foot level, it has a horizontal crack and it keeps reappearing after it gets repaired. It’s happened three times and it cracks again after about two or three weeks; it doesn’t last very long. So I was wondering how we could fix that permanently.
TOM: Well, that’s an area where you have a lot of movement, a lot of expansion and contraction. And if you just try to spackle it, it’s not going to work. So I think what you really need to do is to use a perforated drywall tape.
TERRI: Perforated drywall tape.
LESLIE: It looks like a mesh.
TOM: A mesh, that’s right. And it’s sticky. And after you kind of lightly sand the surface around the crack, you lay the tape in there and then you spackle over that tape until you don’t see the tape anymore. And that creates a stronger bond between the two sides that are moving and the crack won’t open up again as the house goes through a normal expansion and contraction.
TERRI: Sounds good. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joseph in Kentucky on the line who’s got a question about stainless steel. How can we help you?
JOSEPH: Three-and-a-half years ago, I was using these rubber PZV water-supply lines in the bathroom, under the commode and the sink.
JOSEPH: And one of them had busted at the time and it flooded the floor in the bathroom and the hallway with water. So I went over to the hardware store and I got these braided stainless steel and put on there.
TOM: Right. Uh-huh.
JOSEPH: I was told at the time that these here were not supposed to break or leak. But the – one of them under the sink has started leaking up under the sleeve, next to the coupling nut.
JOSEPH: And I tried tightening it down a little bit but that didn’t do any good, so I finally went back over to the store and got two new ones and put on the sink. Is there some kind of a time-replacement period on these things or did just I get a bad hose?
TOM: I think you did because it’s very unusual for those flexible lines to leak – to break down and leak. They are clearly the most convenient way, when you’re replacing a faucet in a situation like that, because you don’t have to get the length just right. You know, if you’re a plumber, you cut everything to fit nice and neat and tight. But for a consumer, they’re the way to go.
I’ve put on dozens of those over the years for sinks and toilets and other fixtures and I’ve never had a problem with them. So I suspect that you got a bad one or perhaps when you attached it, maybe you cross-threaded it, maybe there was a bit of debris in it that caused the leak. And now that you’ve replaced it the second time, does it seem to be holding?
TOM: Yeah, I suspect that there was either a problem with the installation or the product the first time around. You just got a bad one.
JOSEPH: Is there any kind of a time-replacement period on that thing? Say, 10 years or 15 years or …?
TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what, all those products have their own warranty. And I’ll give you a little aside story. I told this on the show several months ago but my mom, we had bought a sink for her 17 years ago from Home Depot, through American Standard.
TOM: And it chipped. And I was getting ready to replace it and I mentioned it to one of the guys in the store. He said, “I think there’s a warranty on that.” And he was right. They no longer carried them in the store but I contacted American Standard. They sent me a new sink 17 years later and only because I had the warranty and I had the receipt, because my mom is great about saving stuff like that. She saves everything.
So, if you happen to have the receipt and there is a warranty, maybe you can get the few dollars back that you spent on that. But otherwise, I would just chalk it up to bad luck and move on.
JOSEPH: Well, OK then.
LESLIE: Still ahead, a severe weather forecast can be frightening. And although you can’t do anything about the storm, you can prepare your home to weather it as best as possible. We’re going to tell you exactly what to do, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Well, if a major storm is forecasted for your area, it can definitely be a very scary experience. But while you can’t stop Mother Nature, you can prepare yourself and your home to weather the storm as best as possible.
LESLIE: That’s right. And here with some tips on how we can all exactly do just that is Ed Del Grande. He’s a master plumber and home improvement expert for KOHLER Generators.
ED: Hi, Leslie and Tom. It’s a pleasure to be back.
TOM: So, Ed, if a storm is forecast and let’s presume we’re not told to evacuate but we do have to get our homes ready, what’s the first step?
ED: Yeah, if you don’t have to leave, it’s always a good idea to have plans ahead of time so you can help ride out the storm.
The first thing I like to do – and I have it in my own home – is I have a storm bucket. And this is an actual 5-gallon bucket just packed with all goodies to help me get through the storm. It’s got things in it like batteries, candles, matches, flashlights, an AM radio – the one with the crank where you can make your own power with it – a little bit of water and even some extra cash, which is important to have during a storm.
ED: But don’t tell your family where you hide the cash, especially if you have teenagers, because chances are it’ll be gone when the storm comes around.
TOM: Exactly. So that’s a pretty good idea, though, to kind of get a storm kit together in advance so it’s all in one place. And if you do pick up one of those 5-gallon buckets, you can get a lid for it and it’s watertight, to boot.
ED: Yeah. And I’ll tell you the reason why I keep it in the bucket. Because I’m also on a well and if I lose water, I need to flush my toilets with some water that I might store in the bathtub. And that bucket is perfect for scooping the water out of the tub and flushing the toilet. So even the container for that storm kit helps me out in a jam.
LESLIE: Now, if you live in a storm-prone area, should you sort of have a standby list ready to go that says things like, “Get cash, fill the car with gas”? Like all those important things so that should you hear that a storm is forecast, you can just grab it and prepare?
ED: Yeah. And right in the bucket, you can keep a to-do list and that’s done ahead of time, as well. Sit down with your family and think of things like you need, like prescriptions drugs, filling your propane tanks, going to the bank, filling the car with gas beforehand. So go right down that checklist that’s in the bucket so if you do need something else that you don’t have on hand, you’ll still have a little time to run out and get it. And then you won’t forget it before it’s too late.
TOM: Now, during a storm, power is never very reliable and that means we’re going to ruin food. Any tips for dealing with your refrigerator or freezer to keep the food cold as long as possible?
ED: Get your food, as quickly as possible, into a cooler. So if your chances are that you’re going to lose power, get stuff in there – like your milk, cold cuts and leftovers – and put them in the cooler right away. Then actually close the freezer door and the refrigerator door and duct-tape them so people won’t open them up. So that way the food will stay as cold as it can get. Then when you run out of your cooler food, you could go into the refrigerator or freezer and hopefully that stuff will still be as fresh, as well.
But the biggest mistake is to keep opening and closing that door, trying to get at things like milk, because you’ll just spoil all your food; it’ll warm right up.
TOM: Now, Ed, you’re a plumber. If you have a well system, you’re going to lose water. Most of us that are on municipal never lose water, even if the power goes out. But if you’re on a well system, chances are you’re not going to have water flow. Any tips to get around that?
ED: Yeah. You’ve got to store plenty of water. And this is, again, before the storm, even if it’s a little iffy if you’re going to lose your power or not. Always be on the safe side. Fill up that bathtub and any other containers you can with water.
The water in the tub is usually used for flushing your toilets, like I mentioned before. You can get a bucket and just scoop some water to flush your toilet. And if you need some extra water – suppose the power outage is a little longer – if you’re on a well, you have the well-pump tank, which has a reservoir of water in it. And it has a little draw-off valve at the bottom and you can open that up and get a little bit more water than you stored because the tank itself will store water. Just make sure you shut off all the breakers and switches. And when you’re ready to start it again, have your plumber or well guy come down and start up that pump for you.
LESLIE: Now, I think a lot of people get so nervous when they think about the heavy rains that are associated with some of these storm systems and worry, truly, about their basements flooding, especially if you’ve got a sump pump and of course, you have the potential to lose power.
ED: Yeah. Now, can you imagine that? You lose power if you’re on a well system and you’re worried about getting enough water. But then if you lose power, as well, if you’re on a well system or not, you need power to keep that pump going so you can get rid of all that extra water that may be building up in your basement. So it’s really a tough path to go down when you lose power. That’s why I always recommend standby generators.
And remember, if you do lose a sump pump, you will have your basement filling up with water. And on top of all the storm damage, you can have a flood down in your basement, as well.
TOM: Yeah, good point, so let’s talk about automatic standby generators. How do you know what size generator to pick up for your house?
ED: Well, the good news is the standby generators – having them installed is not a do-it-yourself project. So, you could go to a website like KOHLERGenerators.com. And the KOHLER people will set you up with a dealer in your area who will come down, size up the generator you need so you’re not oversizing or undersizing the unit, safely install it per your local codes and then test everything so you know it’s going to be running and ready for a storm. And the standby generator is the best bet to go because it’s your own, private power system in case of an emergency.
TOM: Good advice. Ed Del Grande, Master Plumber and Home Improvement Expert for KOHLER Generators, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
ED: My pleasure.
TOM: And if you’d like more information on automatic standby generators, we would encourage you to visit the website for KOHLER Generators at KOHLERGenerators.com. And KOHLER is spelled K-O-H-L-E-R-Generators.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Still to come, we’ve got the low-down on a couple of eco-friendly insulating products that will help you go green in more ways than one, so stick around.
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TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: On air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Hey, 3 callers who get on the air with us this hour are going to win a $50 gift card to The Home Depot, courtesy of LIQUID NAILS Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive. LIQUID NAILS is a go-to product for DIYers for so many reasons. It delivers extraordinary strength and durability. Works both indoors and out and bonds with a wide range of construction materials.
Visit LIQUIDNAILS.com to learn more and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bob in Florida who’s dealing with a very noisy air conditioner. What’s going on?
BOB: Oh, it’s when it’s – it’s a new air conditioner. When it comes on, it just sounds like the wind is blowing through the house, like a real hard wind.
LESLIE: Now, is the whole system new or just the condensing unit?
BOB: Well, not the ducts up in the attic. They’re not new.
TOM: So you were used to a quieter system than before this was replaced. Is that correct?
BOB: Oh, yeah, way quieter. Uh-huh.
TOM: You might want to check and find out if the fan speed is adjustable.
TOM: Because it sounds to me like they’re pushing so much air through there. That’s what’s giving you that whistling noise. This is all workmanship, OK? This is a – you need to call that contractor back and explain that you’ve been living with this system for a long time and it never sounded like this until they replaced all the equipment. And they may have not have it set up correctly. If the fan is going too strongly, if it’s too high of a speed, it could be pressurizing those ducts. It can’t get enough air out and as a result, you’re getting all of that noise and all that whistling sound. This should not be a difficult thing to resolve.
BOB: Alright. I appreciate it very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Bob. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Attic insulation is a key component of reducing your home’s heating and cooling costs, all bills we’re always keeping our eyes on. And Owens Corning is highlighting two products this fall that will help.
First up, they’ve got the AttiCat Insulation System, which really is the first time insulation has become – well, blown-in insulation has become a do-it-yourself project. It’s fast, it’s easy. You can insulate an average-size attic in less than four hours and get a rate of R-30, which is amazing. I mean you really want that. It’s going to make a huge difference.
The system itself is designed with reliability and safety in mind. It’s self-feeding, so it’s going to put the insulation exactly where you want it. Plus, it’s no mess, low dust. It really makes it easy to work and then easier to clean up. And you can rent it at your local Home Depot.
TOM: Yeah. Now, another product to consider is called EcoTouch Insulation. And I like this product because it’s soft to the touch, it’s low dust and it contains no formaldehyde, so it’s really easy to work with. It’s also made of 99-percent natural materials and more than half of it is actually made from recycled product.
If you’d like to learn exactly how much insulation that you need for your home and your area, take a look at the attic-insulation calculator at HomeDepot.OwensCorning.com. Or call them directly at 800-GET-PINK if you’ve got questions about specific projects or products.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sacari (sp) on the line who’s dealing with some mold issues. Tell us what’s going on.
SACARI (sp): I have a half-basement – half dirt and the rest is cement – and there’s a crack in the brickwork but it doesn’t go all the way through. But it must be enough so you can – it seeps through. We’ve measured it and it hasn’t moved – the crack – but water, every once in a while when it rains, we hear it come through the wall and you can see it’s all wet. But upstairs, what it’s doing is causing the vents to get rusted. And my towel bars are wooden, so I’m constantly, every few months, spraying it with bleach or Tilex to get the mold off and then painting it over with KILZ that I thought would stop the mold from coming through but it doesn’t.
TOM: So you’ve got a major moisture problem going on in this house, right?
SACARI (sp): Right. It seems that way, too. And so I was worried about the mold, so I brought that test kit from Lowe’s that tells you. I sent it in and they analyzed it and said that we weren’t in danger of any mold but I’m always seeing mold on the shower curtain, the dish drains and everything, so …
TOM: Yeah, well, there’s different kinds of mold and the kind of mold that you have on shower curtains and dish drains is something called Cladosporium, which is a really common household mold. And unless you’re super-sensitive to it, it generally doesn’t cause a threat.
But let’s talk about the moisture issue because this is a situation, Sacari (sp), where you need to learn how to better manage the moisture that’s in your house. Now, I think that the moisture is starting in the basement because, obviously, you’re getting water in that crack when it rains heavily. And the fact that the water is consistent with the rainfall is actually good news because that means that this is a relatively simple problem to fix.
You have too much water collecting in the area immediately adjacent to your foundation: that foundation perimeter zone. And so what you need to do is really two things. Number one, I want you to look at your gutters. Do you have gutters on your roof?
SACARI (sp): Yeah, we have gutters and we keep those pretty cleaned out. We actually even put the leaf protector so that they wouldn’t overflow. And it’s fairly new, the gutters. Well, I guess they might be like 10 years old but they’re in really good shape.
TOM: They need to be extended.
SACARI (sp): Well, that’s supposed to be like a hose thing under the ground that goes out from the house, so …
TOM: Well, the fact that you said “supposedly” means you’re not really sure and that’s mission critical. You need to be absolutely certain that that water is not leaking out anywhere near that foundation perimeter. If it is, that roof is collecting water and shooting it into your foundation.
It’s crystal clear to me that you have too much water around your house. How that’s happening, I’m not sure. But the number-one culprit is usually downspouts. And so if that water is not discharged away from the house – and I’ll tell you an easy way that you could check this. That is disconnect the downspouts from the underground pipes and just go add – buy three or four pieces of leader material from your local home center. Let it run out over the grass so that the water is away from the house. It won’t look good for a few weeks but at least you’ll be able to know when it rains, the water is absolutely not getting around the foundation perimeter.
And if you discharge that water and you’re certain it’s not near the foundation and it doesn’t show up in the basement, well, now you know the solution to your problem: somehow, in those underground drains, it’s being – it’s leaking out and redirecting into that foundation area.
The second part of that is looking at the grading and making sure that the soil slopes away from the wall. You want it to drop about 6 inches over 4 feet. And if it’s too flat or if it’s too mulch-y or there’s any kind of landscaping that’s retaining water against the house, that’s a problem. But I say that in most cases, 80 percent of this is gutters and downspouts and 20 percent of it is grading, unless you just happen to be at the bottom of a hill.
If this was sourced by a rising water table, it would not be consistent with rainfall. But the fact that it rains heavy and you get water in the basement, it’s got to be associated with water collecting around the foundation. You just need to figure out where and how it’s getting there.
SACARI (sp): Alright then. Maybe because we have a lot of trees, maybe some roots did grow and puncture those – that downspout that’s underneath the ground. So, you’re saying buy some leader and let that run out and see when it rains hard. I gotcha, I …
TOM: Right out of the top, just to test it – just to test the theory and see what happens.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still ahead, when the heat kicks on, walls shrink and crack. Learn how to fix them for good, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain MyQ Garage. When you forget, it alerts your smartphone so you can close your garage door from anywhere, on most garage-door openers. Coming soon. For more information, go to Chamberlain.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement projects on air and online at MoneyPit.com and 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: And head on over to the MoneyPit.com and you can post a question in our Community section if you don’t feel like calling in to the show live. And what we can do is answer your question, like we do at every point from our board.
Now, we’ve got one from Mark in Rhode Island who posted: “I have a flagstone walkway and the mortar between the stones is breaking apart. Can I clean it out and repoint it like you can do with bricks?”
Now, I always find with slate or flagstone, grout is the worst enemy, you know? Especially in New England. It’s like you’re dealing with the freeze/thaw, everything moves around and that grout is the first to go.
TOM: Yeah. And the thing is that the base – what’s underneath those stones – makes all the difference. So if you have a solidly-tamped, well-draining base where the water can’t get underneath the grout and freeze and lift it, then it’s more likely to last longer. But I mean conceptually, it’s kind of a weak structure – the flagstone with the mortar in between – because the water is going to sit there, it’s going to freeze, it’s going to get to it.
So I think if you’re going to clean it out, clean it all the way out. If you take the stones out as part of this, take a moment to tamp down that walkway really well, maybe add another layer of gravel – mixed gravel – in there and tamp that down really solidly and then put the stones down and grout on top of that. Or if you decide that’s just too much work and you don’t want to deal with it, then think about going with pavers.
LESLIE: Yeah. Mark, pavers are really a good option because they’re going to drain very well. They’re not going to store any water, so you’re not going to get a lot of freezing and thawing underneath that are going to cause some movement. They really do sort of sit together very, very nicely, so you don’t need anything in between.
There are sands available. They’re made from a polymer that you sort of sweep in between and then run a hose over that kind of locks all of the pavers in place. And it’s good that – it’s good to use that because you’ll end up not getting any plants growing up in between, no bugs really moving around. And that’s a great option. Plus, the pavers are available in so many different styles and colors that you can create, truly, a walkway that’s gorgeous.
TOM: Well, at this point, the cold weather has kept us indoors long enough to probably start noticing some cracks in the walls around the house. If that’s happened to you, Leslie has a solution on how to make those cracks go away for good, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: First, you’ve got to set your mind at ease. Most cracks that you find along the walls and the ceilings are normal and do not pose any structural problems. Alright, guys? So don’t freak out when you start to see them.
Now, cracks where your walls meet ceilings, those are fine. And so are the cracks in seams and the joints of your walls. Now, to fix these, you want to try and remove that old piece of drywall tape because that’s what’s happening: the drywall tape is drying out and cracking. That’s what you’re seeing. Nothing is falling apart, guys.
So once you’ve got that tape out of there, next you can apply a continuous piece of the fiberglass drywall tape over that joint. And that’s the mesh-y kind, which is kind of self-adhesive, as well. Then you go ahead and apply thin layers of joint compound on top. You want to allow each layer to fully dry before you apply the next one. And once your tape is fully covered, you sand the area using a fine grit to smooth and then you repaint it.
Now, if you see cracks along your crown molding, that can easily be fixed with a latex paintable caulk. All you have to do is smooth that bead of caulk with your finger, let it dry and then paint it to match the trim. And that will really do the job of covering that up.
And you’ve got to think about this as kind of wall maintenance. It’s going to happen over time. If you do it correctly, it’ll last a little bit longer in between the times you have to do it. But nothing structural is happening here; it’s simply something that’s not so great to look at. So take the time, make it look fantastic. In a couple of years, you’ll have to do it again.
TOM: On air, online at MoneyPit.com, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, our series on Sandy recovery continues as we follow the team at This Old House help three Jersey Shore homeowners get back on their feet. And in our next episode, we’re going to learn about the making of a modular home. Are they as good as homes built on site and can they stand up to the storms? Find out, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2013 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.)