00:00/ 00:00

Creating a Warm and Dry Basement Living Space, Install a Tankless Water Heater for Energy Savings, a Survivor Story from Hurricane Sandy and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And what are you working on on this fine fall day? We are here to help you get those projects done that you would like to tackle around your house. How is that roof looking? Is it ready for the winter ahead? What about the gutters? Have you cleaned them lately? Maybe you should. What about inside the house? It’s going to be a long, chilly, dark winter. Maybe you want to take on a décor project. Give us a call. We are here to help you take that first step and get the project done with the right advice, the right tools, the right direction to make sure it comes out a success. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    And coming up this hour, we’re going to talk about finishing your basement. It’s a great place to create extra living space but it’s only good if it’s warm and dry. If you’ve got a damp space and you thought maybe you couldn’t do anything with it, we are going to tell you exactly how to take that space back so you can enjoy it all winter long.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, you’d be surprised at the amount of energy that goes into heating your water and then keeping it hot. Well, we’re going to tell you why a tankless water heater is a better way to go, because it only heats the water that you need and it never runs out.

    TOM: Plus, we continue our series of reports featuring PBS’s This Old House: The Jersey Shore Rebuilds, presented by Red Devil. And this week, we’re going to learn more about a homeowner named Carlos Santos, an interesting guy who rode out one of the biggest storms of the century from his seaside house and ended up having to kayak out of his second floor the next day.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a set of Stanley tools worth more than $250, including the new TwinTec Ratcheting Wrench.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Kimberly in Missouri is dealing with a noisy floor. Tell us what’s going on.

    KIMBERLY: I have a section in my tile floor. It’s the longer planks, wood-looking floor. It’s a high-traffic area and there’s various areas on it – when you walk over it, it makes a popping noise. And it’s not the same spot all the time. It’s probably within – they’re alternating so that they’re not all lined up together. So, it’s probably 8 to 10 different areas there that will pop from time to time.

    So, I don’t know – and it’s different times of the day; it’s not every time. But when you’re walking through an area, you don’t particularly pay right where you’re putting your foot every time you walk through, you know, so …

    TOM: Do you happen to know what the tile floor is on top of? In other words, what’s the underlayment under the tile floor? Is it a double-layer of plywood, by any chance?

    KIMBERLY: It is plywood underneath.

    TOM: Is it right on the plywood or is there an underlayment?

    KIMBERLY: There is a flooring underlayment underneath that, because we had parquet underneath that at one time, and that’s a solid plywood. And then they did put an underlayment board on top of that. But it’s like a ¼-inch or 3/8-inch or whatever that is.

    TOM: Part of that’s sandwiched. There’s probably space in there somewhere. And it’s the kind of problem that’s not really structural in nature. In other words, I don’t think this is indicative but it’s super-annoying.

    KIMBERLY: Yeah.

    TOM: One of the ways to solve this – and it’s a little bit of a pain in the neck – is by basically drilling out, from underneath a section of the floor, and then inserting a construction adhesive up into that to kind of close the gap.

    So, for example, if you had a hole saw and you set the drill bit on the hole saw to just barely be longer than the saw itself, you could, essentially, excise out a hole of the plywood – a circle of the plywood – whatever the diameter of the hole saw was. Let’s say it’s 2 inches. You can take that out up against the underlayment that’s against the tile and then you could squeeze into that space construction adhesive, like a LIQUID NAILS or something like that. And that can flow in there and take up the gap and help solidify the area.

    But it’s a very time-consuming, annoying process that’s not always successful. So unless it’s something that’s really, really, really bothering you, I would probably just accept it.

    KIMBERLY: OK, OK. Well, then we’ll just chalk it up as character then.

    TOM: Alright, Kimberly. Good luck with that project.

    KIMBERLY: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: James in Ohio is on the line with a heating question. What can we do for you today?

    JAMES: Yeah, hi. I was calling in – I have an older home built in 1968. And I was wondering if it’d be easier to install an electric furnace, instead of having the baseboard heat, or possibly getting an – one of the outdoor units that mount high on your wall.

    TOM: Do you have natural gas or propane or oil in your area?

    JAMES: Maybe natural gas?

    TOM: Yeah, that would be the way to go. I mean if you’re going through the trouble of putting a furnace in, I would definitely not put in an electric furnace because that is the most expensive way to provide heat to your house. I would suggest a high-efficiency, natural-gas furnace. The installation expense is going to be similar if you’re putting a new furnace in but the ongoing cost to run it will be a lot lower.

    JAMES: Will I incur more cost because – for the ductwork? Because I have plaster walls instead of drywall.

    TOM: Well, if you’re going to put an electric furnace in, you’re going to have to do the ductwork anyway. So, the ductwork is there whether or not you use an electric furnace or a gas furnace. And it really depends on how creative your HVAC contractor is but that’s a fixed cost. If you’re going through the trouble of ducting out your house, which is going to add to its value, I definitely would recommend gas.

    And typically, the gas companies don’t charge to bring gas up to your house, so they’ll bring the line up and put a meter in because now you’re going to be their customer forever and they’re very happy about that.

    JAMES: OK. Well, I thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, James. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, we are in November. Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is right around the corner and you know what comes right after that? Zoiks. The big holidays. Holy moly. Do you have a lot of guests coming? Is your house looking maybe like it’s not so ready for those guests? Well, let us give you a hand. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, basement finishing that will keep you warm and dry below grade. We’ll have the tips you need to take back that space, when The Money Pit continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Diamond Crystal Salt. The benefits are bigger than you expected. After all, you’re worth your salt. Diamond Crystal Salt. A brilliant choice since 1886.

    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 door from anywhere, on most garage-door openers. Available now. 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: And your call to 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question will get you the answer that you need and, potentially, a set of tools to get the job done. Because this hour, we’re giving away a set of Stanley hand tools worth more than 250 bucks.

    Among them will be a FatMax Auto-Locking Tape Rule. I love this product. I’ve had one for years. It works really well, especially when you only have one hand to do the job. Maybe you’re holding tools with the other, trying to get the work set so it won’t fall off the bench. The FatMax comes to the rescue. And we’ve also got the TwinTec Ratcheting Wrench, which is like getting a whole set of socket wrenches in just one tool.

    You can visit StanleyTools.com for more information. But call us right now for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win that great set of tools from Stanley, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Sandy in South Dakota is on the line with a funny smell coming from the basement. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    SANDY: Our basement is – got a real bad, musty smell to it. And we’ve had fans going down there all summer long, we’ve had a dehumidifier going year-round. And I can’t get rid of the musty smell. I don’t know what to do with it.

    TOM: Alright. Well, there’s a couple of things that you can do.

    First of all, the musty smell is because you have an excessive amount of moisture and humidity down there. So we want to do some things to try to reduce that amount of moisture. You’re going to start outside your house and examine your gutter system. You want to make sure that you have gutters, that the gutters are clean and free-flowing and that the downspouts are discharging 4 to 6 feet, minimum, away from the foundation.

    SANDY: They do.

    TOM: They do. Alright. And then after that water discharges, does it run away from the wall?

    SANDY: It runs away from the house, yes.

    TOM: So, I’d like you to take a look at those gutters in a heavier rainfall, just to make sure they’re not becoming overwhelmed. Because that usually is a source of many moisture problems.

    If the gutters are working well, then we need to look at the grading around the house. The soil should slope away and drop 6 inches on 4 feet. And that soil grade should be made up of clean fill dirt, not topsoil, not mulch or grass. You could have a little bit of topsoil and grass on top of it but you have to establish the slope first with fill dirt. And the reason you’re doing this is because you want rainfall that hits to run away from the house and not sit up against the house. That slope is really, really important.

    If that’s done, then going down to the basement area, we could make sure that the walls are properly sealed with a damp-proofing paint and then a dehumidifier on top of that. But the dehumidifier has to be properly sized for the basement space and it has to be drained – set up with a condensate pump so that it drains outside.

    And those steps together are usually going to take out as much moisture as you possibly can.

    SANDY: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright, Sandy. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ames from Colorado on the line who’s got a question about repairing stucco. How can we help you?

    AMES: We have a home that’s eight or nine years old. It has a stucco exterior and it has cracks – horizontal cracks.

    TOM: Is it a masonry-stucco house or is it a synthetic-stucco house?

    AMES: You know, I don’t know.

    TOM: So, is it like a concrete kind of a finish to it? Does it feel like concrete or does it feel soft? Like could you put your finger and push it and it would be spongy?

    AMES: It’s hard.

    TOM: It’s hard, OK. And so you’ve got cracks in horizontal stucco, eight-year-old house. You’re going to want to get those cracks sealed because what happens with stucco, if the water gets behind it, especially in a cold environment, it will tend to do two things: number one, it will freeze and as it does, it will push and loosen the stucco; and number two, there’s probably a metal mesh that was applied to the home first, that holds that stucco in place, and the moisture will rust that away.

    So, the best thing to do is to use an exterior caulk. You can get one that matches the color of the stucco or you could use a clear, silicone-like caulk and seal those cracks to try to minimize the chance for moisture to get through. And that’s going to be pretty much normal maintenance with a stucco surface.

    Does it appear like any chunks are coming off or is it just the crack that is forming?

    AMES: Yeah, it’s just a crack.

    TOM: Yeah, so stay on top of it, Ames, and you’ll really minimize it. And it’ll last for a long time.

    AMES: Alright. And then it also has rust stains, probably from that metal lath.

    TOM: Yeah. And so, after you get all of the cracks sealed, if you’re getting – when you – next time you repaint the house, I want you to prime it first. That will seal in the rust stains and prevent them from coming through quite so quickly.

    AMES: OK.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, a finished basement is a great bonus space that can be used as a kids’ playroom, a game room, an entertainment area or even a hobby space. If you’re finishing your basement, you need to keep it warm and dry. Owens Corning makes a couple of newer-generation products that can help with that.

    TOM: Now, one really cool product is called FOAMULAR Insulating Sheathing. It’s virtually impervious to moisture, which is key in the basement. And it’s a rigid foam insulation that’s really easy to work with and it installs quickly. You just score it and snap it. It’s kind of like what you do when you’re cutting drywall but a lot easier.

    LESLIE: Now, another insulation that can help is called EcoTouch. And this is so different from what you traditionally think of when you think of those rolls of fiberglass insulation. EcoTouch is going to be soft to the touch, it’s got less dust and it’s way easier to work with. It’s also eco-friendly because it’s made with at least 58-percent recycled content and 99-percent natural materials.

    TOM: Now, when you insulate a basement, it’s also important to include the walls and the floor because those are the surfaces that are between your heated space and the outside. But what about the ceiling? Well, you don’t really have to insulate the ceiling in a basement. If you do, it’ll cut down on the noise factor so the kids can go nuts while you enjoy peace and quiet upstairs.

    LESLIE: Well, both of these products are available at The Home Depot. You can visit HomeDepot.OwensCorning.com for some more information.

    TOM: Or give us a call right now if you’ve got a basement-refinishing project on your to-do list. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ed in Colorado is on the line with a basement-plumbing question. What can we help you with today?

    ED: Oh, I live in the area of Colorado that suffered from the floods. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of the persons that had a flood but some of my friends that did have had sewerage backup in their basements. And somebody mentioned that there was such a thing as a check valve that can be installed that still lets it act as a drain but will stop any backups. And I was wondering if you have a recommendation, if there’s any problem with them that you know of.

    TOM: Yeah, Ed, that’s called a “backflow preventer valve” and it’s a type of valve that is installed in the main waste line. And it does just what you explained. If the sewage flow reverses and there’s pressure onto the sewage pipe to kind of pump that sewage back into your house – which can get terrible because it can come up through every drain in the house – the backflow preventer valve will stop that from happening.

    But just keep in mind that it’s not to be confused with the sewer trap, which stops sewage gas from backing up. You actually need the sewer trap but you also need the backflow preventer valve, especially if you have an area that apparently is susceptible to this.

    So I think it would be a good thing to do. You’re going to need a plumber to install it. It’s a bit of a project because you’ve got to get access to the line to do it but it is a good idea to have it done.

    ED: Do I have access through the drain and the little screen that’s over the top of it?

    TOM: Well, the line has to be actually – this is a valve that has to be plumbed into it, so it depends on whether or not there’s enough room to kind of move the pipes around to get this backflow preventer valve in there.

    ED: Oh, we’d have to bust up some concrete in that case.

    TOM: Well, perhaps. Or certainly, you’d have to extend the line that’s there, OK?

    ED: Alright. Well, thank you very much for your time.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Robert in Alaska is on the line with a crawlspace situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROBERT: Basically, what I’ve got going on is we had a lot of rain this summer, so I had water kind of penetrate the foundation. And I was wondering if there is anything I could do from the inside to maybe stop some of that penetration from coming in and getting on the wood that’s holding up the, I guess, the floor.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Now, are you talking about concrete-block walls?

    ROBERT: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So a couple of things. First of all, we want to make sure that you are doing what you can to slow the collection of water from outside moving inside. So that means looking at your gutter system, making sure you have gutters and that they’re diverting water away from the house, not just a couple of feet from the foundation but well away. And make sure that the angle of the soil around the foundation slopes away and that will do a lot to move the water away from that backfill zone.

    Inside the crawlspace, you can add a vapor barrier to the soil and that will stop moisture from evaporating up. And on the blocks themselves, you can apply a product called Ames’ Blue Max, which is a rubber paint. It’s very stretchable and it adheres really well. And when you apply it to the block, it stops any moisture from coming through the block. Ames is spelled A-m-e-s and the product is called Blue Max. You can search for it online. Their website is AmesResearch.com.

    ROBERT: OK. Good deal. Yeah, I’ve got a company coming in to, I guess, dig the outside of the foundation and lay some drainage this spring – this coming spring – so …

    TOM: OK. Well, let me stop you right there, OK? Because that’s not likely going to help you and it’s not necessary.

    ROBERT: Oh, OK.

    TOM: If that moisture is consistent with rainfall – in other words, you get a lot of rain, like you mentioned, and then you get leakage – then putting all those drainage pipes and disturbing all that soil is really not the way to go. If you improve your gutter system and you improve the grading – the angle of the soil around the foundation perimeter – that stops the majority of that surface water from getting in.


    TOM: The only time we recommend drainage systems, like what you’re describing, is when you have a rising water table which, if you did, you wouldn’t be getting leakage that’s consistent with rainfall.

    ROBERT: Ah, OK. Well, good. That’s important to know then.

    TOM: Yep. So now there you go; saved you a bunch of money.

    ROBERT: Oh, yes, you did.

    TOM: You’ve got it, Robert. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Up next, when Hurricane Sandy hit, one homeowner thought he could ride out the storm at home and keep the water at bay. Not a chance with that superstorm. Up next, we’re going to learn how the thought of saving his home was replaced with sheer survival instinct, when our exclusive, behind-the-scenes coverage of This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds continues, presented by Red Devil.

    TOM: Red Devil’s ONETIME Patch & Prime is great for painting prep. There’s no sanding or priming required. It dries fast and it’s ready to paint in minutes.

    For special offers and the latest in Red Devil’s innovative products, visit SaveOnRedDevil.com. That’s SaveOnRedDevil.com.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Owens Corning and The Home Depot. Insulate right, from the start, for a lifetime of comfort and savings. What’s your insulation project? Learn more. Visit HomeDepot.OwensCorning.com today.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, when Hurricane Sandy made the Jersey Shore its direct target, the damage was devastating. Now, a year later, This Old House is documenting the renovation of three homes in three Jersey Shore towns.

    TOM: The Money Pit has been given exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to bring you the stories of these renovations and the victims behind them, presented by Red Devil. In this week’s episode, we’re going to hear from a homeowner who decided to ride out the storm at home, a decision he later regretted.

    LESLIE: You can watch both This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station, brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Here’s our report.

    TOM: It’s October 29, 2012 and Hurricane Sandy has her sights set squarely on the Jersey Shore. In Point Pleasant, New Jersey, Carlos Santos thinks he can outwit the storm. Armed with a few sump pumps, he sets up for the night in his home, located along one of the town’s man-made canals. The plan? Using sump pumps, Carlos hopes to stay one step ahead of the surging water and save his house from any major damage.

    And as he sends his wife, Maria, and two children to a nearby shelter, he begins what becomes the longest night of his life. And it’s a decision Carlos quickly realized was both completely pointless and extremely dangerous.

    CARLOS: It looked like a waterfall coming into the crawlspace and it was just – couldn’t keep up. As a matter of fact, I had that large pump, about a 3-inch hose and had two smaller sump pumps. So I had all three working at the same time and I wasn’t make a dent at all. And they got to one point – they were totally submerged and I just decided to power everything down, cut all the electricity to the house and I gave up at that point.

    TOM: And that was the least of his worries. As thoughts of saving his home soon turned to thoughts of saving his own life, Carlos started planning for every contingency. He tied a rope from his home to his boat docked just behind the house. He brought a kayak up to the second floor and he hunkered down for the long night ahead.

    Meanwhile, in the shelter, Carlos’ wife, Maria, had lost touch with him and became more panicked with every passing moment. And as the night went on, waves of rescued residents were brought to the shelter but Carlos was not among them.

    MARIA: It got worse and worse as the night progressed because I’d lost total contact with him. And as the night progressed and the early hours of the morning came in, the rescuers were bringing people into that shelter constantly. There were dozens and dozens of rescues that day, that night, and each story was somewhat worse than the other. There were people that came into the shelter with – saying that they had water up to their necks. They had to climb up to their attics. The dogs and children – I mean I saw couples coming in just with the children in their laps. It was very, very nerve-wracking, very bad.

    TOM: When rescuers finally did reach Carlos, he surprisingly refused to leave. The storm had passed and after a long wait, he had finally made contact with his insurance company. And thinking that filing his claim would be the first step to get his life back on track, Carlos was determined not to leave until that was done. Instead, he stayed behind and later kayaked out of his house to higher ground where he had parked the family car.

    CARLOS: I don’t think I had a sense of fear. It was more just a draining sense of trying to keep thinking of all the scenarios possible. So as I kayaked down the street, I was thinking, “Are there power lines in the water? Do I – my oars are metallic. Am I going to get electrocuted?” So, there were a lot of things going through my mind as to what to do and being very careful, looking at the telephone poles and making sure there were no lines down and things like that.

    So, it was more of a – I went into a survival mode, I think, at that point, more so than anything else. I wasn’t thinking about any kind of rebuilding at that point. I was just getting out and seeing my wife and kids and getting that claim in to start that recovery process eventually.

    TOM: It turns out that getting that claim in quickly wasn’t all that necessary because insurance covered very little of Carlos and Maria’s rebuild. They, like so many other victims that could, paid for much of the rebuilding themselves. But one positive that came from the need to rebuild was an opportunity to work with This Old House, the team of experts he’d watched build homes for as many years as he could remember.

    Like most of the other homes flooded by Sandy, Carlos and Maria needed to raise their home to meet the new FEMA guidelines. The plan? Construct a support system under the existing structure using helical piles. These piles could then be extended to lift the home in place. And thinking this approach might be of interest to This Old House, Carlos contacted the program.

    CARLOS: I’ve always been a huge fan. And one night, I was just sitting on the couch and I just – surfing the internet. And I just decided, “Hey, why not? Just send them an e-mail, tell them about what we’re doing.” It seemed kind of novel, to me, at least. I hadn’t heard of helical piles and this type of system going in. So I told them about it and it was a short e-mail and kind of briefly described what we wanted to do. Attached a very early draft of our plans from our architect and here we are. They’re here with us now.

    Working with This Old House is fantastic. Watching the show all those years, never imagined that I’d be on it. And it’s just been a fantastic experience for me. Almost a dream come true for us. And they’re just fantastic people to work with.

    TOM: So with that, the cast and the crew of This Old House got to call New Jersey home this past summer while documenting Carlos and Maria’s project, along with two other rebuilds at the Jersey Shore in an area that, previous to Sandy, was perhaps most well known as the scene of a wildly different MTV television program, a point well made by Roger Cook, the team’s landscaping contractor.

    ROGER: This isn’t the Jersey Shore I saw on TV. You know, this is far and away different from what was portrayed on TV. This is a beautiful community with beautiful beaches and just miles and miles of beaches and families and everyone enjoying them. This is a whole different area than we saw on MTV.

    TOM: To Roger’s experienced eye, seeing the shore’s landscape destroyed by saltwater told a story, as well. Trees and shrubs by the shore are used to the salt spray and survive quite well in the seaside environment. But being inundated with seawater down to the roots was a different story. And Roger observed how the native species survived, while those that were transplanted may never come back.

    ROGER: There are a lot of perennials that do pretty well. A lot of the grasses do really well with the saltwater that’s gone through. We found out that arborvitae and Leyland cypress do not. They were one of the mass casualties down here because people had long, long borders, greenings of arborvitae and Leyland cypress. And they’re just cooked; they’re done. They’ll never come back.

    So, some of the native junipers have done fine. Evergreens, American holly lost its leaves but they’ve fully leafed out, most of them, this year. So they’re a plant that you could plant again, too.

    TOM: And so, as the saying goes, you just can’t fool Mother Nature. And as the rebuilding continues, making sure the landscape stays truly natural means it’s likely to live on far beyond any future storms.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.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.

    Hey, do you want to win a set of Stanley hand tools worth more than 250 bucks? Sure you do. Pick up the phone, give us a call for your chance to win and help with your home improvement project. The number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, the Stanley prize pack is going to include the TwinTec Ratcheting Wrench, which is like getting a whole set of socket wrenches in one tool.

    TOM: You’ll also get the FatMax Auto-Locking Tape Rule and much more. You can visit StanleyTools.com for more information or call us right now for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Anna in Oregon is on the line and she’s got a question about sheds and critters. What’s going on?

    ANNA: Well, I have a question. I was thinking of getting one of those sheds that you build yourself, like from Home Depot, and you put it in your backyard. And a neighbor of mine did that and another friend that I know did that and then they said they got rats underneath. And I’m wondering, is there any way to prevent that problem from happening?

    TOM: Well, if you build this in such a way where it’s supported up in the air so you basically have created, for lack of a better term, sort of a kind of crawlspace underneath the shed, then you could get animals that are going to nest down there. But a better way to do this might be to put it on a simple foundation.

    And so to do that, essentially what you’re going to want to do is dig down into the area where the foundation – where the shed perimeter is going to be and set blocks into that area. Now, you would put them on a simple footing and set blocks into that area, compact the soil, set bricks or blocks in that area and then position the shed on top of that block foundation. And this way, it’ll be kind of a sealed bottom, as opposed to an open bottom. So if you put it on a small foundation – or the other thing you could do is you could pour a slab and then you don’t have to have a wood floor; you could just have an open floor.

    ANNA: I see. Well, OK, I appreciate that suggestion.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Hey, the rats need a place to live, too.

    Well, it’s time now for today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron, makers of the Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch.

    LESLIE: Alright, guys. Tell me that this hasn’t happened to you: you get out of bed on a super-chilly morning; you head on into the bathroom; you turn on the shower; you’re expecting a nice, warm, wake-up when, pshaw, cold water freezing in your face.

    Now, you can stop that from happening with the tankless water heater. These devices have a ton of advantages. They’re energy-efficient because they only heat the water as you need it.

    TOM: That’s right. Traditional water heaters heat their tank all day long, whether you need the water or not. Tankless water heaters just heat the water as it passes through on demand. They’re also small, so they can be installed just about anywhere, including right next to the bathroom where you take your morning shower. And that’s going to result in no wait time for warm water when you turn that hot-water faucet on in the morning.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

    TOM: That’s LutronSensors.com.

    LESLIE: Dot in Wisconsin needs some help with odor removal from a home. Tell us what’s going on.

    DOT: I’d like to know how to get rid of cigarette- and cigar-smoke odor?

    TOM: Well, it really depends on some of the other materials in the house. So, for example, if you’ve got carpets, it’s very hard to get the odor out because, Dot, you could do a great job cleaning every other square foot of that house but the odor will stay in the carpets.

    Generally, if we have a situation where, perhaps, you had a smoker in the house and there was a move-out situation, we tell people to, first off, get rid of the carpets, get rid of the padding, then clean everything very thoroughly using TSP – trisodium phosphate. So this is walls and floors. And then prime everything using a good-quality, oil-based primer like KILZ. Because the primer will seal in any odors that still remain in the building materials: for example, inside of a, say, a plywood subfloor. Once you do all that, then you can essentially redecorate – repaint, new flooring and so on – and you shouldn’t have a problem with the odor.

    DOT: Thank you. By chance, would you know if [farm and feed] (ph) stores would carry that?

    TOM: Yep, I think so. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, if you’re buying a home and you hire a home inspector to first check it out, which is the right thing to do, who is responsible if you miss a big problem? We’ll find out, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, celebrating their 170-year anniversary. At Stanley, making history is our future. To learn more, visit StanleyTools.com.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, if you “like” us on Facebook, you’re going to get a chance to win one of three great prizes in our Weekend Warrior Sweepstakes, including Black & Decker lawn-and-garden equipment. Plus, we’re giving away enough GutterClear 365 to protect an average-size home, which means no more clogged gutters and even better, no more gutter cleaning. Worst chore ever.

    Check it out at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit for your chance to be chore-free this autumn season.

    TOM: And when you’re online, you can head on over to our Community section and post your home improvement question, just like Carol in Utah did.

    LESLIE: Alright. Carol writes: “What should I do if I believe something was overlooked or just wrong in my new home’s report from the home inspector? I just discovered my front step needed a railing to be considered up to code. Shouldn’t I have been told that?”

    That seems like a big one.

    TOM: It would seem like a big one but see, there’s a lot of misunderstanding as to what a home inspector is designed to find and what standards they follow.

    First of all, every home built today should be up to code. However, tomorrow, it may not be up to code because codes are always changing. And home inspectors do not determine whether or not a house is up to code. They may be looking for basic safety stuff and you could argue that they should have mentioned that a railing is being – needs to be put there but not necessarily a code, because codes are always changing.

    For example, you know, homes that were built years ago don’t have ground-fault circuit interrupters in their kitchens and bathrooms. Homes built today do have that. So, when a home changes hands, it’s not required that the entire house be brought up to modern code.

    Now, if you want to know what a home inspector is supposed to do, head on over to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors at ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.org. ASHI is the leading professional society. They set the standards for home inspectors and what they do and what they don’t do. They are going to report on existing conditions that are visible and accessible at the day of the inspection.

    So, for example, if you had a handrail and it was loose and falling off, that certainly would have been picked up as a defect. But the fact that there was none there to begin with, a home inspector can’t require a home seller or even suggest that they add something or upgrade their home. That’s really up to the seller to decide to do. And if it’s something that is important to you, then you need to bring it up at that time.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Jack in South Carolina asked, “I have a 100-year-old home and the bathtub is the original plumbing fixtures. I’ve noticed that they’re getting a greenish-blue tint on them that won’t come off with a bleach-based cleanser. Any advice?”

    TOM: Yeah, it sounds like the plating is wearing off the plumbing fixtures.

    LESLIE: Yeah, which is going to happen over time. I mean think about it: it’s constantly bombarded by water, plus it’s 100-plus years old.

    So, here’s a couple of options for you, Jack. You can actually have the existing fixtures redipped, where they would remove them from the tub itself. You can look in – online and find somebody local in your area that’ll do this. And they dip them or replate them so they have a brand-spanking-new finish on that. I’m not sure where that falls price-wise.

    Or if you go online, there are several vendors that actually sell reproductions of antique plumbing fixtures. And a good site that I like – I just like it; it’s old-timey looking. It’s called Mac the Antique Plumber and the website is AntiquePlumber.com.

    It’s divided up very well. You can look at clawfoot-tub faucets, you can look at sink faucets. Everything is very historically accurate. You’ll find finishes that will work in that historical theme of what you’ve got going on in the bathroom. And that might be a better price point than the replating; it really just depends on how much you love the existing fixture.

    TOM: Alright. And lastly, Ellen from Pennsylvania says that she’d like to repaint her cement basement floor. There are hairline cracks in it. “Should I patch those first? And if so, with what?”

    You want to use a concrete caulk for that and then you want to paint with an epoxy-based paint. It’s two parts. You mix it together, there’s a chemical reaction that occurs. And it’s the most permanent type of basement-floor paint that’s available.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Just do not paint yourself into a corner, young lady.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, coming to you on a fine fall day. We hope that we’ve motivated you to get out, pick up the tools and get to work on your house. If you’ve got questions, 24-7, we can be reached at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, as well on MoneyPit.com. You can post your question in the Community section. We will get back to you as soon as we can.

    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 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.)

Leave a Reply


More tips, ideas and inspiration to fuel your next home improvement, remodeling or décor project!