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How to Find and Shut Off Utilities in an Emergency, How to Repair Cracked Tile, Making Your Garage Door a Focal Point of Your Home’s Façade and more

  • Transcript

    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: Standing by to help you with your home improvement projects. Let us help solve the do-it-yourself dilemma. What’s going on in your money pit? We are happy to help. 888-666-3974 is the only number you need to know to take that all-important first step.

    Hey, we’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, severe weather is notorious for cutting off power. But did you know there are times when it’s actually safer to beat it to the punch? We’re going to have tips on making sure every member of your household knows when, where and how to shut off utilities in the case of a weather emergency.

    LESLIE: And they say that one bad apple ruins the bunch. Well, one cracked tile can ruin pretty much the entire look of your floor or your backsplash, walkway or your entire bathroom. We’re going to share some DIY advice for replacing and fixing those eyesores.

    TOM: Plus, are you looking to add some value to your home? Well, one of the best investments can’t be found behind any door, because it is your door. Your garage door, that is. Find out how a new garage door can increase your home’s value, as well as its curb appeal.

    LESLIE: And one caller that we talk to on the air this hour wins a very cool, new prize. It’s the Karcher WV Series PowerSqueegee. And it’s going to leave any surface squeaky clean with no drips or streaks and it’s valued at 69.99.

    TOM: So, let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That Karcher PowerSqueegee is going out to one caller drawn at random from those who reach us for today’s show, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Judy in Virginia, you’ve got a painting question. How can we help you with that project?

    JUDY: We are trying to put an epoxy on our basement floor, like we did on our garage floor. And we are having a very serious problem with this basement-floor project, because we went through all the process of putting down the pretreatment that would get rid of any oils or solutions on the floor. That bubbled up the way it was supposed to. Then we went in and we put down the epoxy as we were supposed to and it came right back up. It turned to a brown powder and then just came up.

    And so, we got all that off and then we went back in and put down a sealer and then came back with the epoxy again. And it’s doing the same exact thing. We had no problem with our garage floor and it’s a garage floor that was put down several years after the basement was done. And we were told that – from some people who know the history of the house – that the basement – or that the house was built in the winter months, back in the mid-80s, and that they likely used calcium chloride to help the cement set up. And that it could be having an effect on this epoxy.

    We’re using a very good-quality – a name brand. It’s not a box-store quality; it’s a quality, quality product that we’re using.

    TOM: OK. Have you turned to the manufacturer to ask the question as to what might be going on?

    JUDY: Well, we have asked and the calcium chloride did come up as a possibility. But they don’t really know what to do about that.

    TOM: So, you did talk directly to the manufacturer, not the retailer, about this.

    JUDY: The retailer actually talked with the manufacturer about it.

    TOM: I would go right to the manufacturer and speak with them directly about this. I don’t like going through the middle man because – not that I don’t trust the retailer to do this. You can never be sure if they’re actually talking to the right guy. And they could be talking to – you see, they could be talking to a field rep who thinks he knows the answer and maybe he doesn’t.

    I mean obviously something – the first thing that came to mind was moisture. Did the floor – was the floor thoroughly dried before you started this whole process?

    JUDY: Yes, it was. We made certain it was very dry in there and used big box fans after we had scrubbed the floor real thoroughly. The big box fans were used and the doors were opened to let the air circulate through. And it was very dry.

    TOM: Both times, the paint that you put down, was it from the same batch?

    JUDY: No, different batches.

    TOM: I’ve never heard of an epoxy floor not adhering, so this is an unusual situation. And it’s one that I would turn to the technical experts at the manufacturer. As you mentioned, it’s a major brand. They have folks – chemists – that basically are standing by to take questions like this; most of them do.

    If you have difficulty identifying the right people to talk to, if you e-mail us to show@moneypit.com with the details, perhaps some photographs and the name of the manufacturer, I am certain that we could quickly get through to the right person for you. There’s a chemical reaction going on here that’s causing this issue and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it.

    JUDY: Will do. Alright. Thank you.

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

    That’s an unusual situation and there’s got to be a reaction going on between that floor …

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, I’ve heard of instances where a previous homeowner maybe put a water-based sealant or a water sealant on a concrete and …

    TOM: Or a silicone.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you don’t see it.

    TOM: I was thinking about a silicone sealer, yeah. Yeah. If they put a silicone sealer down on the concrete, that could impact it, as well.

    LESLIE: Right. And then you might not know it’s there.

    TOM: But that’s what the pretreatment is supposed to deal with: the idea of using the acid-etch products that all the epoxy floors come with. The epoxy, they come with an acid etch and it sounds like that’s what Judy did, so let’s hope she can get to the bottom of it.

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

    Well, I’m going to call this the first official weekend of autumn. So, are you freezing yet? What are you doing? Are the leaves falling down all over you? Well, we are here to help you keep your money pit in tip-top shape, whatever the season may be, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, you may think you’ve dodged a bullet when a home survives a storm without major damage. But the aftereffects of severe weather can sometimes even be worse. Up next, we’re going to teach you how to locate and turn off your home’s utilities to prevent further damage after the storm has passed.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number to call is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one caller who asks us their question on the air this hour has a chance to win a Karcher WV Series PowerSqueegee. It’s a cordless wet vac with a rechargeable battery.

    TOM: The PowerSqueegee’s 11-inch blades can leave everything, from windows to countertops to mirrors, squeaky clean with no drips or streaks. Spray on your favorite cleaning solution, turn the vacuum on and run the neoprene blades along the surface. It’s that easy.

    And it’s a prize valued at 69.99. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT. So let’s get to it, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Jim in Pennsylvania is on the line with moisture. What’s going on over at your money pit?

    JIM: OK. I live in an old home that has a wrap-around porch. The only wall that’s exposed is – that goes out to the end of the porch is our backyard. My backyard slopes very gently downhill. It’s been landscaped with several swales and I never have standing water in my yard. I have no drainage that goes out the back or anything.

    As a matter of fact, I’ve lived here for 30, 40 years and I’ve never had water in my basement until 5 years ago when we had a tropical storm come up the coast, come inland and dump almost 20 inches of rain right on us. But two years ago, I had the same thing happen. This one dumped about 10 inches of rain.

    OK. Water both times that I had to get out of there – out of my basement, which is finished. But anyhow, my walls – even during those storms, my exposed walls and other walls are completely dry and the water is coming up through, it looks like, the back side starting towards the middle of the back wall, through the floor. It must – I’m thinking it’s groundwater.

    TOM: It’s not. It’s clearly not. And I know that with absolute certainty because it’s tied in with the precipitation. Whenever you have heavy rain and you get any type of leakage, it’s always drainage. It starts from the top, works its way down. It just happens to be showing up under the floor.

    That can very easily happen because water can accumulate outside the foundation wall. Sometimes it goes into the walls and leaks through the walls. Sometimes it goes around the walls and pushes up through the floor. I’ve seen geysers show up in the middle of basement floors because somebody had a blocked gutter on the other side of the house. Water does strange things. But this is a drainage problem; that’s all it is. So you need to look at your drainage very, very carefully.

    Now, you mentioned that you had a swale and I hope that swale is still working for you. If that swale is not working just by the swale itself, you may have to install what’s called a “curtain drain” at the bottom of that swale, to collect the excess water and run it around your house and then dump it out to a place that’s lower on the lot.

    The other basic things that you could look at – and the very easiest thing is to look at – is your gutters. You need to have at least 1 downspout for every 400 to 600 square feet of roof surface. And those downspouts need to be extended 4 to 6 feet from the house, minimum. Minimum. Not just out a foot into a splash block but 4 to 6 feet away. I say that because whenever you have a water problem, we’ve got to move that water away from that first 4 foot or so of soil that’s around the foundation perimeter.

    So, gutters are really important, downspout discharge is really important and then, finally, the slope of the soil at the foundation perimeter is important. But if you manage and maintain and improve the drainage conditions around the foundation perimeter, you won’t have enough water to push up around those walls and into the floor.

    JIM: OK, OK. So a sump pump wouldn’t work.

    TOM: No. I mean a sump pump will take the water out once it gets there but it doesn’t deal with stopping it from getting there in the first place.

    JIM: The initial problem.

    TOM: Right. And by the way, putting a sump pump in doesn’t do anything to improve the structural integrity of the foundation because, again, that water has to go around that foundation to get to where the pump is.

    So, deal with the drainage, keep that soil as dry as possible and you’ll make the whole thing go away.

    JIM: OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Well, extreme weather can set off a domino effect of hazards in your home, from frozen pipes to fires caused by gas leaks. So when the forecast calls for severe weather, it’s important to make sure that you’re ready for the storm.

    Here’s a tip to help you do just that, presented by KOHLER Generators.

    TOM: First, knowing how, when and whether you should turn off utilities is a key to emergency preparation. To start, you want to make sure that every member of your household knows how to shut off water at the main water valve. This can help trap water in your hot-water heater and your toilet tanks if clean water is in short supply. Label the valve so it can be found easily, especially in those high-stress situations.

    LESLIE: Now, in the event of a gas leak, you want to make sure that you turn off electricity to prevent a fire. You just have to be sure to shut off individual circuits before turning off the main valve.

    And speaking of gas, gas shutoff, it can be tricky and dangerous. So you want to talk to your local gas company about how and when to turn off yours properly. Remember that gas should never be shut off until emergency strikes, so no practicing. And also that the smell of gas means you should evacuate immediately.

    TOM: That’s so important. And remember that turning gas back on should be left to the pros, as it actually requires a number of steps to be done right, including relighting all the pilots in your house and checking for leaks.

    This Severe Weather Tip is presented by KOHLER Generators. Running on clean propane or natural gas, a KOHLER standby generator is permanently installed outside your home. And it comes on automatically within seconds of a power outage. To learn more, visit KOHLERGenerators.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Lisa in Tennessee on the line who’s dealing with a home she bought without having an inspection first. Let’s hear what’s going on.

    LISA: Hi. Well, first of all, let me just clarify that my husband is the one who bought the home and he bought it before we were married, so I just kind of inherited it whenever I (inaudible at 0:13:17) and married him. So …

    TOM: See, now, if you were married, you never would have let him do that without a good home inspection.

    LISA: Exactly. OK. We have some spots – we have carpet in a few of our rooms and each of the rooms, there are some sunken spots. Like you can walk across and it stinks, kind of gives with you. And then the rest of the time, it’s OK. There are other places that are just fine.

    And I’ve had somebody go underneath and check for structural damage, water damage or termites. Can’t find anything; they say it’s OK. So, beyond ripping up the carpet and just seeing what it is, do you have a suggestion on what that could be?

    TOM: Well, just define the sunken spot. When you step on it, is it soft or something like that?

    LISA: Yes, it’s kind of spongy, almost, like it just sinks; it gives with you.

    TOM: And you can get underneath and you can look up and you don’t see any decay or anything of that nature?

    LISA: Well, as far as I know. Now, I’ve not been under. My husband – we’re not either one able to get underneath, just due to health conditions. And so we’ve had others go under and look and they’ve all said structurally, it looks sound, didn’t see any termite damage. We don’t have any water damage underneath. So, don’t really know what it is that’s causing it.

    TOM: And how many areas across the floor do you see these sunken spots?

    LISA: Well, you can’t actually see them. It’s just when you walk across them. But I would say …

    TOM: You feel them?

    LISA: You feel them, exactly.

    TOM: Yeah. I wonder if the – I wonder if it’s something as simple as the padding breaking down under the carpet. Maybe it’s not a structural problem.

    Well, listen, the only way you’re going to know is – we can’t really guess. You’re going to have to pull that carpet back. It’s not a terrible project to pull that – pull wall-to-wall carpet up and then have it, you know, re-tacked down. If you’re really concerned about it, that’s what I would do.

    LISA: Right. I’ve been looking to get new carpet anyway, so that might be a good excuse.

    TOM: Well, there you go. Now you’ve got a great excuse.

    LISA: OK.

    TOM: And let me tell you something, when you pull that carpet up, Lisa, if you evaluate that floor – how old is this house?

    LISA: Oh, gosh. See, I’m not even sure. Probably back in the 80s?

    TOM: OK. So it probably has a plywood floor and it was nailed down, if it was done in the 80s. What you want to do is you want to have the installer – or you could even do this yourself – take some drywall screws – those are those long, black, case-hardened drywall screws. You drive them in with a drill driver, so you do it automatically, and you screw that plywood to the floor while the carpet’s up. And that will quiet the floor and prevent any future squeaks that could occur.

    LISA: OK. Sounds great.

    TOM: Because the nails will loosen up over the last 30-plus years and once you have that carpet up, that’s a golden opportunity to do that.

    LISA: Alright. Well, these are some things to definitely look at. Yes, sir. Thank you so much.

    TOM: OK. Thank you, Lisa.

    LESLIE: Gary in Pennsylvania unfortunately had a flood and needs some help picking up the pieces. What can we do for you?

    GARY: We had a flood here, a flash food. Rain came down in 8 hours, about 7 to 10 inches. It flooded our basement with about a foot of water. And I’m interested in finding out from you folks how we can get back to normal as far as the basement is concerned. It smells. We did manage to get the sump pump going and get the water out of the basement. But it was – like I said, it was a foot around the furniture and everything. And how can I manage to get things back to where they were before the flood?

    TOM: Alright. So, when you have a flood situation like that, of course it’s human nature that you want everything back just the way it was, as soon as possible. But from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t always work that way. Here at the Jersey Shore, we faced one of the worst hurricanes in history, last October, with Hurricane Sandy. And that was the natural reaction: everyone wanted to get back. And we always say, “No, you can’t get back that quickly, because you’re going to make some mistakes along the way.”

    So what you want to do first is you want – as you’ve already done, you got rid of the water. Secondly, you want to prevent further damage by removing all of the wet materials. So, wet carpet has to be tossed out. If the basement is finished, does it have drywall down there? Those drywall sections have to be cut out to above the flood line. If there’s insulation in the walls, that has to be pulled out. If you have furniture that’s water-damaged, you may have an option of saving some of that if you can get it upstairs and start to dry it out and kind of make a decision as you go. But frankly, a lot of that should be covered by insurance, so I wouldn’t maybe try too hard to save it. But get all of that material out of there.

    Now, you said it was a flash flood and it flooded the basement quickly. Any time you have water infiltration that’s consistent with rainfall, it can always be reduced, if not eliminated, by making sure that your drainage conditions outside are proper and that you have gutters, they’re clean, they’re extended from the house 4 to 6 feet – not just a few inches like normal gutters are – and that the soil slopes away. So those sorts of things can prevent further water infiltration.

    And then after it’s all torn out, then you’re going to want to spray those – that basement floor and the walls down with a solution of bleach and water, about 10 to 20 percent bleach with water. That will kill any mold spores that are left behind. Then get some fans down there; dry that all out. And then once it’s dry, then you can think about putting it back together.

    And next time, I would not put carpet on a basement floor, because that’s a breeding factory for mold and mildew and dust mites, as well. OK?

    GARY: Sounds like a winner to me. I certainly appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come this hour, is that one cracked tile completely marring the entire look of your bathroom? Well, after the break, we’re going to get some tips on how you can find a match to the existing tile, replace it and have a seamless repair. Sounds pretty easy. Well, of course it is if you’re This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. So we’re going to get some tips from home, so stick around.

    ADAM: Hey, this is Adam Carolla. And when I’m not swinging a hammer, I’m catching up on The Money Pit with Tom and Leslie.

    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: Hey, do you love your neighborhood? Do you love your home but you need one more bedroom to justify staying put? Well, why not think about converting your garage into a bedroom? It could be the ideal solution if it’s done right. We’ve got tips on MoneyPit.com to help with everything from cost-benefit calculations to wiring and HVAC considerations. It’s all on the home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Mary in Virginia, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    MARY: I’m looking to purchase a home that has a slab foundation. And when I went in, I kind of smelled a musty, mildew-y odor. And I’m just wondering, how would you know that water is coming up from the ground and saturating that slab? And how do you protect a home that has just – that’s built just on a slab. They’re nothing under for water to drain under or anything.

    TOM: Was this a home that was vacant or did it have a family living in it?

    MARY: It has been vacant for a while.

    TOM: And that makes sense. Because when you don’t run the HVAC system as frequently as you would if it was occupied, sometimes you’re going to get high humidity inside the homes. But because it’s a slab doesn’t make it any more or less susceptible to water infiltration. But of course, because it’s above grade, you don’t get floods. What you do get is the power of the concrete basically drawing water up from the ground – it’s called “capillarity” – and then letting it evaporate into the air.

    The correction for that is the same thing you would do even if you did have a basement, which is to improve your drainage on the outside: extend the downspouts, the gutters; improve the soil slope so that water is sort of shunted away from the foundation perimeter. But I think that once you move into the house and use the HVAC system, you’re going to find that that moisture is not nearly as detectable as it is right now. And if it does become more detectable, you could always add a dehumidifier.

    MARY: OK. So it’s the – that smell I’m getting is not coming from the carpeting that’s on top of the – laying on top of the slab?

    TOM: Ooh. Carpet on top of slab? That’s a bad thing.

    MARY: Well, I mean I don’t know what’s under the carpet and I’m assuming that there’s some kind of subfloor there. But yeah, it’s wall-to-wall carpeting and I know underneath it is basically a …

    TOM: Yeah. We don’t like carpet on concrete, for a whole bunch of reasons. So I would be recommending that you find another type of flooring for that. Because when you put carpet, which is largely an organic material, against those damp, moist, concrete slabs, bad things happen. You get mold and mildew growth, you get allergens that form, you’re going to get dust mites, things like that. So, we really don’t like carpet on concrete slabs. If you can choose a different type of flooring, if you’re going to do some remodeling, that would really help out a lot.

    MARY: OK. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Ceramic and clay tiles are beautiful and decorative and they allow you to be as personal and creative as you choose, on both wall and floor applications.

    TOM: Yes. But even just one cracked tile can be an eyesore and throw off the look that you put so much thought into. Here to tell us how to restore the integrity of your tiled wall or floor is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tom.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. Nice to be here.

    TOM: So, why do tiles actually crack? If they’re put down right to begin with, shouldn’t a crack be pretty rare?

    TOM SILVA: Well, there’s the key word right there: if they’re put down right.

    LESLIE: If they’re put down right?

    TOM: Right?

    TOM SILVA: Well, that’s …

    TOM: See, Tom’s tiles never, ever crack.

    TOM SILVA: Well, I wouldn’t say that. Sometimes, there’s not enough adhesive underneath the tile. There may be an (inaudible at 0:22:59) under there. Maybe they’re applied over the wrong kind of substrate. Maybe there’s a screw in the back of the tile that may be popping out, pushing it out. There’s a lot of different reasons why it may crack.

    TOM: Tiles don’t bend very well.

    TOM SILVA: No, there’s not a lot of flexibility in that hard product.

    TOM: Alright. So, if we’ve got a cracked tile, we want to take out just that one tile. We want to do it in such a way that we’re not really disrupting the surrounding tile, which could be perfectly fine. How do we do that?

    TOM SILVA: It can be tricky and it depends on the kind of tile that you have. But I like to start with, sometimes, a nail set and even a utility knife that it can scrape the grout out around the perimeter first, because you want to make room for this tile that you’re going to break out to move to. So, sometimes, a nail set or even a sharp punch that you can just break the center of the tile out in little pieces at a time and work your way around until you get to the outside perimeter.

    TOM: What about – what’s that tool that saws stuff?

    LESLIE: A grout saw?

    TOM: No, the RotoZip.

    TOM SILVA: The RotoZip?

    TOM: Or it sort of routs it out.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, RotoZip or even – there’s another saw: it’s an oscillating saw.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: There’s a couple of different manufacturers of fine – and PORTER-CABLE makes those. And there’s a little, fine blade that’s carbide that you can get into that grout line. It actually vibrates it out. But sometimes, you don’t need to really use that.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: I find that a utility knife really works great. You do less damage to the surrounding tile.

    TOM: Alright. So we’re taking the grout out. Now, we have a little bit of room around that.

    TOM SILVA: Yep.

    TOM: I’m sure that helps when you break it and sort of separate it, right?

    TOM SILVA: So you break it out with that. And a putty knife or a dull chisel gets underneath the tile and it’ll allow you to scrape it clean and really scrape the area clean.

    And then once it’s clean, if you can find a tile to replace it – and sometimes that can be difficult. So if you have an old tile that you just can’t find at the store, you look around under your refrigerator, you look somewhere in a corner or a closet. Maybe you can steal a tile from the floor. The trick to that is getting that tile out so that it doesn’t break.

    LESLIE: In one piece.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Very hard.

    LESLIE: Now, when you’ve got your area free of the tile, do you have to take out all the old adhesive that’s underneath so that you’re back down to whatever that subfloor initially is?

    TOM SILVA: Yep. You want to scrape it down so that you have a nice, flat surface for it to go on.

    Now, let’s say that the surface that you’re going to go on is really dry. So you want a thick – I like to use a thinset. So if I’m going to use a thinset, I’ll mix up the thinset and I’ll apply it to the substrate. I’ll lay it on there for a few seconds and then I’ll scrape it off. And then I’ll reapply it with the proper notched trowel. And by doing that, I’ve dampened the surface a little bit so that when the tile gets ready to set onto the thinset, the substrate below doesn’t take all the moisture out of the adhesive. So you want it to stick better and it will adhere better if the substrate is a little bit damp.

    LESLIE: Do you do any investigative work, at that point, before you’re installing the new tile, to see if there’s movement or a screw or something that caused the initial crack?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. Once you’ve got that surface clean, you’ll be able to see if the – maybe there was a joint in the plywood or if the substrate had a joint – and maybe you’ll have to apply a couple of screws on each side to fasten it back down. Or maybe there just wasn’t enough adhesive put under it.

    TOM: I always used to note that the tiles that crack most frequently are the bigger ones. So the bigger the tile, the better the base, right?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, exactly.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: A lot of people don’t realize that – sometimes you put the adhesive on the floor.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: In some cases, you have to actually butter up the back side of the tile, too, to form a nice cushion for the tile. It’s got to sit flat.

    TOM: We’re talking to Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, about how to repair a cracked tile.

    So, Tom, once we tear that tile out – we talked about maybe finding another tile, if you happen to have an extra. Guess you could run to a tile store, see if you could find something that matches. If not, opportunity for maybe some decorative tiles?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Because if you can’t get a tile, what do you do? You know, you can have one made. There are manufacturers that can make them. It’s not cheap.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: There’s a minimum order that you have to get. And if they can match the glazing, you’re in business. But if they can’t match the color or the glazing, you’ve got to get into a custom tile and that’s even more.

    TOM: So maybe you put a few decorative tiles in there and you look at it like it was always supposed to look that way, right?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. So you go around, you get good at breaking out tile. But you have to break it out. But yeah, that’s the best way to do it.

    TOM: Great advice. Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great advice.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks. It’s nice to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is proudly brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating. Mitsubishi, live better.

    Still ahead, a garage door can sometimes take up a big portion of your home’s front façade. Why stick with a door that’s purely functional and just plain boring? We’ve got tips on taking your garage door’s look to a whole new level, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by for your call, your question. Let us solve your do-it-yourself dilemma at 888-MONEY-PIT. We are here to help you get the job done.

    And we’re also here to help you win a cordless, battery-operated Karcher WV Series PowerSqueegee.

    LESLIE: Yeah, this is pretty cool. It works on everything from your windows to your bathroom tile. You’re going to have no drips or streaking. No more wasting paper towels. You’ve got to love that. Think of ways to save trees here.

    All you do is spray on your favorite cleaning solution and then you use the PowerSqueegee for a sparkling finish.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth 69.99. It’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random from those we talk to on today’s show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, you probably never think twice about your garage door, right? You know, it’s there, it works. What’s to think about, right? Well, actually, quite a bit. According to our newest sponsor, Overhead Door, a garage door often takes up more than half of your home’s front façade. And it’s even more of a focal point if you’ve got two doors. So why should it be an afterthought?

    TOM: Yep, that’s right. The 2014 Remodeling Magazine Cost Versus Value Study, which we feature a lot on this program because it’s really well done …

    LESLIE: It’s super-informative.

    TOM: It is. And it actually rates garage-door replacement among the top home improvements for return on investment. And I mean think about it: better yet, it’s also one of the least expensive improvements on the list.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Garage doors, they don’t have to be drab or purely functional. Because they have such a commanding presence on your home, upgrading to a garage door that maybe has a vibrant color or an engaging design can dramatically improve the way that your home looks.

    TOM: Overhead Door also won the prestigious Woman’s Choice Award for garage doors. By visiting OverheadDoor.com, you can see how a new garage door can instantly update your home. Just use the DoorView visualization tool or find an Overhead Door distributor near you.

    LESLIE: Jeanette in Colorado is on the line and needs some help with a radiant-heating question. What can we do for you?

    JEANETTE: I would like to know if it would be good to do the radiant floor ourselves or to have someone else do it. Is it going to increase my electric bill quite a bit and if it is something I could do, what materials would be best to do?

    TOM: Wow. Lots of questions.

    LESLIE: Yeah. We only said “one question,” lady.

    TOM: Alright. So, the bathroom is the only room in the house that you want to have a warm floor?

    JEANETTE: Well, for starters. We would like to do it in the kitchen, also. But we thought we’d start with the small project as the bathroom.

    TOM: And what kind of a house do you have? Is it a ranch? Colonial? What are we talking about?

    JEANETTE: No, it’s more of a ranch. It has a – the bottom is not sitting completely on the ground because it’s lots of rocks and stuff in the mountains there. So it does have crawlspaces underneath.

    TOM: It does.

    JEANETTE: Yes, it does have crawlspaces where you – we have sump pumps in there to help anything that might cause that. So you can crawl under the house but it’s not very much room.

    TOM: OK. And how is it heated? Is it hot water or a hot-air system?

    JEANETTE: Hot air but we mostly use pellet stoves.

    TOM: So, it sounds to me like you’re going to be limited to an electric radiant-heating system. There are different types of heating underlayments, so to speak, that you would put on a bathroom floor and you would tile on top of.

    Now, is it expensive? Yes. It’s electric heat. It’s expensive to purchase and install, it’s expensive to run. It’s not a way to save money on your heating bill. There’s nothing cost-effective about electric heat. It’s very pleasant and nice to have that warm floor but it is an expensive project and it’s expensive to run. That said, if you put it on its own timer so it’s only on, say, in the morning or in the evenings for a limited period of time, you could manage that expense.

    Is it a do-it-yourself project? Yes, if you’re pretty experienced. Because the tile mats usually have to be ordered custom-made. And you have to make sure that they’re installed properly because if you get that floor down and it doesn’t work, you’ve got a big problem. You end up having to tear it up.

    Frankly, my advice would be to not do it yourself, because I would rather have a contractor do it that’s worked with it time and time again. I’d hate to see the whole thing get together and you’ve got a problem with it and you’ve got to tear it all up and start again. So, the amount of additional expense for labor, I think, would have sort of an insurance quality to it to make sure it comes out right.

    JEANETTE: Well, thank you all for your advice and I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, we all love the look of natural stone, like marble and granite. They’re beautiful to look at but you’ve got to maintain them so they stay that way. We’re going to share some easy care-and-cleaning tips for natural-stone surfaces, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.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.

    TOM: Well, the pool’s closed, the grill is covered and that means it’s time to move on to those fall maintenance projects by prepping for cooler weather. It doesn’t mean, though, that you need to miss out on the fall weekend fun. We’ve got 10 tasks that can be completed in a half hour or less, on our home page right now. Check it out at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And of course, post your question in the Community section, just like Cherri did who writes: “The floor of our marble-tile shower is discolored. I believe this is due to hard water pooling there. Is there any product that I can use to clean this or at least make it look better?”

    TOM: Well, for hard water, it’s really just a matter of getting that stain off the surface. And you do that not with a cleaning compound of any sort. You actually do that with steel wool.

    So what you want to do is buff that and dry it with what’s called “quadruple-aught steel wool.”

    LESLIE: Is that like super-fine?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s super-fine. You have steel wool that comes in sort of a number grade. And four-zero steel wool – so it goes zero, zero, zero, zero; that’s the grade you’re looking for – is really, really soft.

    In fact, I used to use quadruple-aught or triple-aught steel wool to apply wax when I was done, say, putting varnish on a piece of furniture, because it would take out all that sort of fine dust that got in and sort of rub the wax into the piece. It looked great. So something very, very fine like that is what you want to use to buff those stains out. You don’t want to put more water on it, because that’s only going to make it worse.

    LESLIE: Now, Tom, are you supposed to use it in a circular motion, mimicking buffing? Or even though it’s so fine …

    TOM: I would use a circular motion, mimicking the buffing. And what might happen is it might get, actually, cleaner and smoother than the area around it. So you may have to sort of fade it out a little bit so it’s not quite so obvious.

    LESLIE: Or just do the entire shower floor.

    TOM: You might like it. Yeah, you might just get going on it and not stop.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Bob O. who writes: “My house is about four years old. The floor is 1¼-inch-thick tongue-and-groove, knotty, Ponderosa pine from a nearby sawmill. The wood was not completely dry when installed and consequently, it has shrunk. So now I have 1/32- to 1/8-inch cracks between many of the boards. Not concerned about the appearance but what I’m concerned about is the dust and dirt that winds up in the cracks. Can I use something to fill the cracks to keep the debris from collecting in them?”

    TOM: Yes. You can use jute – a jute rope. That’s sort of natural twine. And it’s available in different dimensions – different diameters, I should say. And what you want to do is press that into the seam between the boards and then refinish the floor. It’ll just sort of sit there, it’ll blend in with the floor and it’ll expand and contract. And you won’t get those gaps that show up again.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And a good trick, Bob, is that if you buy super-thick jute roping, you can sort of unwind some of it so that you can make the diameter of the rope, itself, smaller so that it’ll fit. Because some areas, you might have thicker, some areas you might have smaller. So you might have to adjust it as you go through a gap across two planks.

    The other thing that’s interesting is that if you have some of the stain that you used to finish the floor the first time, you can actually dip the jute rope in the stain, sort of wring it out until you get it to match the color and then place it in there. And that sort of saves a step and that’ll keep the rope looking a little less obvious.

    TOM: Yeah. And when it comes to refinishing that floor, you don’t have to sand it all the way down to the natural wood. You can use a sanding screen on a floor buffer. Just do a little bit of sanding on top and then refinish it and that’ll come out just looking terrific.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with that new floor.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show does continue online at MoneyPit.com, where you’ll find a healthy supply of tips and advice for all your home improvement projects.

    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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