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How to Prevent Below Grade Leaks, Tips to Lower Kitchen Energy Costs, Windows that Get the EPA’s Highest Efficiency Honor, 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: And what are you doing on this fine fall weekend? If it involves a home improvement project, pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT and let us help. That’s what we are here to do, because this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. And we consider our homes money pits and perhaps you do, as well. But to us, it is a term of endearment, because we love our homes but they do need tender, loving care and yes, sometimes a bit of money.

    LESLIE: And a lot of money.

    TOM: A lot of money, exactly. So, let us help you take care of your home. Help yourself first; pick up the phone and call us with your project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    And speaking of money, your kitchen can be a real drain on your energy usage and that drives up costs. I mean between refrigeration, cooking and dishwashing, these appliances can actually add up to about 13 percent of your total electric bill. Cutting costs, though, is easy; it takes just a few steps. And we will tell you exactly what to do.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, have you ever had water in your home? And you’re thinking, “Yeah,” but I’m talking about in places where it does not belong. We’re going to tell you how if you incorporate a simple, rubber membrane when you’re building your home or you’re renovating or adding on, how that can easily keep that water away.

    TOM: And if leftovers have ever left your kitchen smelling like something died in there, we’ve got a way to help sweeten it up when baking soda just isn’t enough.

    LESLIE: And if you give us a call with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, you’re going to get the answer to your question, of course, but you’re also going to get a chance to win – oh, this is a product I love the name of – the Falcon Dust-Off Ultimate Screen Care Kit. I feel like you need to put an echo effect on my voice when I say that.

    It’s worth 25 bucks and it’s a great way to keep all of your electronics clean.

    TOM: So give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Jerry in Washington is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you today?

    JERRY: I need to find out if I can insulate my attic crawlspace or not.

    TOM: OK.

    JERRY: What I have – it’s a house built in 1960 and it’s a very low-pitch roof. The center of the roof has only got about 18 inches of space above the ceiling joist, to the peak of the roof. And right now, it’s got the under-eave vents. And I want to find out, can I blow in insulation, basically covering all those under-eave vents up and then add more vents over the top of the insulation to compensate?

    TOM: Well, if you’ve only got 18 inches in the high point of that ceiling – is that what you’re telling me?

    JERRY: Correct.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, you can only – you don’t want to cover the vents. Are the vents at the overhang, at the soffits?

    JERRY: Right.

    TOM: Yeah. You need both sets of vents: you need vents at the soffit and vent at the ridge. Because what happens is air will enter in at the soffit, Jerry, go up under the roof sheathing and exit at the ridge, so you can’t block it.

    JERRY: Right.

    TOM: So all you should really do is to get as much insulation into those floor joists as possible without blocking the soffit vents. And then you might want to add a ridge vent down the peak of the roof, which you can easily do from the outside, to provide that exhaust venting.

    Unfortunately, when you have a really low-sloped roof like that, it’s very difficult to get as much insulation there as you might want to get.

    JERRY: Yeah. That’s what I was afraid of. I was hoping to be able to go all the way to the edge of the side of the house.

    TOM: Well, the thing is if you put all that insulation in there, it’s going to be so damp and moist it’s just not going to insulate. You’ve got to have the ventilation to dry it out, to keep it working properly.

    JERRY: Well, you answered my question.

    TOM: Alright.

    JERRY: It wasn’t exactly what I hoped for an answer but …

    TOM: Not the answer you wanted but it is the right answer. So, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dorothy from Alaska on the line who’s got a sticky drawer. Tell us what’s going on.

    DOROTHY: Well, I have a kitchen drawer that’s the top drawer, which holds the silverware. The most used drawer in the whole house, I think, going in and out.

    TOM: OK.

    DOROTHY: For years, it was giving me trouble just by not catching right and I have to push down on it a little bit to put it in, to close it. Well, it’s closed and it won’t open and I can’t get it open. I don’t know what my alternatives are.

    TOM: OK.

    DOROTHY: Nobody is strong enough to pull it open. Even if they did, I think they would break it.

    TOM: OK. So, how old are these cabinets?

    DOROTHY: Oh, they’re old. They’re 35 years old.

    TOM: OK. Do you have any other drawers in the kitchen that are the same size as the kitchen drawer?

    DOROTHY: Oh, I think so.

    TOM: What you might want to think about doing is if you have other drawers in the kitchen that are the same size as the kitchen drawer, you might want to think about replacing the kitchen drawer with one of those less-used drawers. Because it sounds to me like some of the hardware is worn out.

    Now, to get it unstuck, the easy way to do that is to go at the drawer from underneath the cabinet below it. I presume it’s on a standard cabinet with doors that are open? And what you would do is go underneath and lift – put your arm in there and push up on the drawer and unstick it and get it moving out. So, somebody should be able to help you with that; just get that drawer moving again.

    But you might want to think about replacing it with another drawer of the same size somewhere in the kitchen and just rotate them that way. If it’s the silverware drawer, obviously that’s probably the most used drawer in the whole house.

    DOROTHY: Yes, it is.

    TOM: And by replacing it with one that’s less used, you’ll be able to have some fresh hardware there for a while. Does that make sense?

    DOROTHY: It makes sense.

    TOM: Alright, Dorothy. 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. Now, you can be part of the home improvement fun. And we hope you will join us by calling in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, at some point in your adventure as a homeowner, you will no doubt end up with water where it doesn’t belong. Tips to stop the soaking are next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron Sensors. Tired of reminding your family to turn off the lights? Install a Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor and you’ll never have to remind them again. It works with all bulb types and takes only about 15 minutes to install. For easy upgrades with big impact, choose Lutron. Visit ChooseLutron.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: Give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you will get the answer to your home improvement question and an opportunity to win the Falcon Dust-Off Ultimate Screen Care Kit worth $25, which is today’s giveaway. The kit has everything you need to clean all of your electronics, including a cleaning solution, which will easily remove smudges and fingerprints. Visit FalconSafety.com to learn more. But you want to call us right now for your chance to win, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Carol on the line from Oregon. How can we help you today?

    CAROL: Well, I’ve got a problem. I should know better but I have rented to people with – who brought in a puppy.

    TOM: OK. Oh, that’s terrible.

    CAROL: And now I’ve got to deal with lots of urine, fecal. It’s damage that’s probably been on there too long, too deep. Gone through the carpet to the pad to the subfloor. So, my question is: can the stain ever be removed? I’m thinking I should just take everything up. My question would be what to put down new. Replace the subfloors? Solution? People have said something about KILZ and something like Zenix (ph) or something like that.

    LESLIE: Well, I mean it really depends. If you even want to attempt salvaging the rug that’s there – generally, with a rental situation, you’re probably better off with a tile or a laminate floor just because of cleanability. And then let the folks bring in their own area rugs. But if you want to attempt to sort of get the stain away, get the odor away, there’s a product that I used when I was training our dog, who was untrainable for the first year. And it’s on a website called JustRite and it’s R-i-t-e.com. And it’s called 1-2-3 Odor Free.

    And it’s like a series of different products. One’s a stain remover, one’s an odor remover and it sort of neutralizes through enzymes. And there’s an injector that you use to get through the carpet and into the padding and into the subfloor. And I kid you not, it works. Because there was a spot at the top of the steps that Daisy just loved and no problems to this day.

    So, you might want to try that. However, if there is a lot of stuff to deal with, your best bet is probably to just pull everything off and you’re right about wanting to seal that subfloor. Because if you don’t put a primer – a good one – on top of it, whatever you put on top, get a humid day and you’re going to notice it.

    CAROL: Right.

    TOM: Yeah, so that’s why, Carol, what you want to do is use an oil-based primer like a KILZ or a B-I-N. There are a number of different primers out there but I would use the oil-based ones for a problem like this, because they’re going to do a better job of sealing in odor.

    CAROL: OK. And if I do decide to put down a rug – because this is a house I would like to sell future forward; it’s a nice house – is there a type of rug that can better be cleaned?

    LESLIE: OK, yeah. It is from Mohawk and it’s a carpet that they call SmartStrand. And it’s got built-in stain- and soil- resistance that’s never, never, never going to wear off or wash off or clean off. And it feels soft. And it’s environmentally friendly because it’s made in part with a recycled plastic.

    And I think it was last year at the Builders’ Show – Tom and I were at the event – and they were just launching this SmartStrand product. And they had taken carpeting and carpeted the pen of an elephant at the zoo and left it in there for a year and then took it off, cleaned it and brought a patch in and had half under the cover of glass and half out. And there was a little door that you could open up to the dirty side and you opened that up and of course, I didn’t smell just because I always do strange things like that. And it like reeked horribly. And the side that was cleaned was beautiful, clean, soft, smelled fantastic.

    So, I’m not really sure about the price point but it is an amazing product and available in a lot of different looks, different piles. So I would start with Mohawk, their SmartStrand.

    CAROL: OK. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Well, you know that water is one of the biggest enemies that a home has. And it’s very important to make sure you keep water where it belongs, which is on the outside. You can do just that by making sure your home is sealed properly. Ames Research Laboratories has a way to do just that. They’re a new sponsor of The Money Pit and they advise that you stop the problem before it starts, which is usually by starting it below ground.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. Let’s talking about building brand-spanking new. It’s really important that you make sure that your new home has really good grading. But before that even happens, the foundation should be sealed with a product called Blue Max Liquid Rubber.

    Now, this stuff can be brushed directly onto your foundation, your basement walls and even basement floors. And what happens is is it forms a super-strong, waterproof rubber barrier. And you can tell your builders that you want it applied or you can even just do it yourself. It rolls on just like paint and Blue Max does the rest.

    TOM: And Blue Max is so strong, it will actually strengthen a wall when you put it on. If you’d like to learn more about Blue Max and how it works, go to AmesResearch.com. That’s Ames – A-m-e-s – Research.com.

    LESLIE: Kevin in Texas is dealing with a dangerous situation. You’ve got water leaking through a light in your kitchen?

    KEVIN: I actually live in an apartment but nevertheless, my concerns are obviously valid for my health and so forth. All of a sudden, water started coming through the light fixture in the kitchen. And I threw down buckets and went up and knocked on the gentleman upstairs’ door and it turned out his washing machine had gone crazy and had put a bunch of water in my ceiling that – most of which came right through the light fixture, point of least resistance.

    LESLIE: Oh, wow.

    KEVIN: However, I can tell that it got into the rest of the ceiling. There’s a place where this living room is bowed in with the stain, so I know that it got wet up inside there. And furthermore, the guy, when he was made aware of it, apparently thought that it wouldn’t act up anymore and actually turned on his washing machine again and went and stepped into the shower. And so it just leaked profusely until we could finally get his attention, between me and Maintenance.

    TOM: Oh, my God.

    KEVIN: Yeah. I mean we’re sitting there with shop vac, buckets and mops and just shaking our heads.

    TOM: Wow.

    KEVIN: So it was a one-time event, so it wasn’t an ongoing leak. And I was wondering what my risks are of black mold. Is there a test? Is there a preventative? What’s the story with that?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a good question. But here’s the good news: a single leak like that that happened and then dried out is not going to become an ongoing mold problem. If it stays wet for a long, long time and especially if it’s in an unheated place, it’s more likely to become a mold problem. But a single leak like that is not.

    And also, one more point and that is you mentioned that your ceiling bowed. If – and I hope it doesn’t – but if that ever happens to you again, what you want to do is somewhat counterintuitive but that is to poke a hole in the ceiling wherever you see that water starting to form.

    KEVIN: Right.

    TOM: Because it’s easier to fix a hole than it is to replace the entire ceiling, which is probably what’ll end up having to be done. But when you see water coming through like that, what you should do is grab a screwdriver and just poke a couple of holes until you find the spot where the water just starts dripping out.

    KEVIN: Right.

    TOM: The quicker you can empty that ceiling of water, the better off you’re going to be.

    And we had a problem like that not too long ago because of a piece of flashing that blew off our roof. And the first thing I did was took a Phillips screwdriver and poked three or four holes until I found the right spot. All that water drained right out and all I had to do was fix those holes. And it didn’t even have a stain on the ceiling when we were done.

    KEVIN: Wow, yeah. That’s good advice there. I guess I should have thought of that but when you’re renting, you’re a little bit (inaudible at 0:15:09) do that.

    TOM: Yeah, you don’t know. And that’s why I always take the opportunity to mention it, because it’s – first of all, you don’t have the experience because, thankfully, people don’t get these kinds of leaks. But secondly, it’s very counterintuitive because you don’t want to damage your ceiling. Well, it’s already damaged once that water is behind it and it’s going to get a lot worse really fast unless you poke a hole in it.

    KEVIN: Good point, though. Good point. Alright. Thank you, guys.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Renee in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    RENEE: Yes, mine is kind of like a double question. I have about a 30-year-old, connected-on-both-sides townhome, two levels.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    RENEE: And I heard a crack a couple months back. Well, it was one of the support beams had just – like a big, strong branch just cracked.

    TOM: Huh. Did you actually see the cracked beam somewhere?

    RENEE: No, I didn’t see that but I have begun to have cracks along on that same side of the house, in the corners of the wall?


    TOM: OK.

    RENEE: Down the corners where it’s breaking apart. But at the same time, I’ve noticed that the house has become unlevel. And that’s a little part because it’s old and it’s connected on both sides but I’m in Texas and we have big droughts and it kind of shifts a little bit.

    TOM: OK.

    RENEE: My concern is when I get the support beam fixed and the foundation fixed, I’ve seen on the DIY shows that suddenly they go back and they look and the house or the chimney has just been trashed. What can I do to prevent that?

    TOM: Why do you say it’s been trashed? Because it shifted?

    RENEE: Right. When they did the – when they put in – when I’ve watched the DIY shows, they go and they fix the foundation and the foundation’s fine. And of course, they shift everything up and now there is …

    TOM: Yeah. That’s why you have to be very, very careful when you do anything that changes the angle that the house has sort of settled into. Because if you don’t, once you bring a foundation up, everything else moves. In a wood house, if you try to straighten a slopy floor, for example, all the wires and the plumbing can get stretched and twisted and so on. So it’s not just foundations that are of concern.

    I’m concerned, though, about this crack that you say that you’ve heard. But you’ve seen cracks in your walls but you’ve not physically seen this structural crack, correct?

    RENEE: Correct.

    TOM: Alright. Now, you said it’s a townhouse. Is there an association that …?

    RENEE: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So in an association form of ownership, typically you don’t own the structure. So the structure – if the structure was to fail, that’s typically the responsibility of the association to address. Is that your understanding?

    RENEE: I can double-check on that.

    TOM: But in a typical condominium form of ownership, what you own is inside wall to inside wall. In some cases, you own the …

    LESLIE: And then what’s beyond that wall is not yours.

    TOM: Right. In some cases, you own the drywall; in some cases, you don’t. So, for example, if there was a fire, God forbid, and the whole place burned down, you would be paying for the drywall, the kitchen cabinets, the appliances, stuff like that. And the association would be rebuilding everything else, including the related infrastructure.

    So you need to figure out if there’s a structural problem, who’s responsible for it. I suspect you’re going to find that it’s the association that’s responsible for it, which is good news for you. And then I would bring that to their attention and ask them to address it.

    Now, as far as the cracks in the corners of the wall are concerned, I have to tell you that that’s pretty typical and that by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a structural problem. The way to fix that, though, is important and that is that you want to sand down the drywall in that area. And then you want to add some additional tape and the type of drywall tape you use would be the perforated type. It looks like a netting; it’s like a sticky netting. You put that on and then you spackle through that three coats: one, two, three coats; each one thin but three coats. And that type …

    LESLIE: And allowing each one to dry and be sanded in between.

    TOM: Yeah and that type of repair typically will last.

    Now, after you do the spackle repair, you’ll have to prime the wall. You can’t just paint on top of it; you’ll have to prime it and then paint it.

    RENEE: OK.

    TOM: So I would address the structure with the association, I would fix the cracks on your own and then see what happens.

    RENEE: OK. So just one more question. Let’s say that if it’s not in the association, that I do have to go into it, not only am I concerned about my roof but how much of a problem will I have with my neighbors on both sides of me?

    TOM: Depends on where the crack is, if it exists at all. If that’s the case, then I would suggest you hire a professional home inspector and have the inspector do what’s called a partial inspection, which is usually a single-item inspection, and investigate this crack and see what’s going on in the structure. And then we’ll know how far it’s gone and what needs to be done about it.

    RENEE: Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you, guys. I appreciate your time.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up ahead, considering all the Energy Star products that you’ve probably already got in your money pit, you’ve got to wonder if they’re still considered energy-efficient. We’re going to tell you about a product that remains at the top of the EPA’s efficiency list, year after year.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now with your fall fix-up project, perhaps your pre-holiday project. Maybe you need to tackle a decorating project to get your home ready for the hordes of relatives that will begin to show up in just a couple of weeks now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Travis in Des Moines, Iowa is on the line with a garbage-disposal situation. What’s going on?

    TRAVIS: Well, I’ve got a GE garbage disposal. We just had it installed when we remodeled our kitchen. And we do our dishes out of our sink and so we fill the sink base up and then when we drain the water out, we kick the garbage disposal on just to eat up all the stuff going down.

    TOM: Right.

    TRAVIS: But once it gets about halfway down, this garbage disposal just shakes like crazy and it’ll shake the whole entire sink and …

    TOM: Wow. If it’s shaking, it’s out of balance. And so why could it be out of balance? You said it’s a new unit?

    TRAVIS: Yep. It’s brand new. The thing is is when we turn it on, it runs just fine.

    TOM: Right.

    TRAVIS: And then about halfway down, it starts to shake and then it stops. And then it goes back to just a clean operation.

    TOM: Hmm. I suspect – now inside the unit itself, there are these sort of paddles that swing around and help mash up the garbage.

    TRAVIS: Yep. Yep.

    TOM: I suspect that something is wrong there and they’re getting stuck in a position opposite than the other two. Because if that happens – it’s just like balancing a tire: if you don’t have the weights in the right place, you start to get a vibration.

    So I suspect that either something is wrong with one of those paddles or this just has a bad bearing. And a bad bearing can actually work really well and then when the weight distribution gets a little bit different because all the water’s going through there, it can kind of like catch an edge, so to speak, and work really poorly. But I think you need to replace that.

    TRAVIS: Mm-hmm. OK.

    TOM: I’m assuming that the bracket was installed properly and it’s secure to the bottom of your sink. But it really should not be shaking like that. The only time I’ve ever seen them shake is when one of those little paddles got stuck; sometimes it gets rusted shut. But if it’s brand new like that, that can’t be the case.

    TRAVIS: Yeah, that’s kind of what I was thinking. But I figured you guys would know.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a balance issue and if it’s not working, I would replace it while it’s under warranty. It probably has a year warranty on it.

    TRAVIS: Yeah, well, we just put it in a few weeks ago, so …

    TOM: Yep.

    TRAVIS: Excellent. Well, thank you very much.

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

    Well, now it’s time for your Picture Perfect Tip, presented by Andersen Windows and Doors, available at The Home Depot.

    You know, the Energy Star program is a government program that sets industry standards for energy efficiency in products that range from appliances to windows to insulation. And what’s cool about this is that as the standards evolve, manufacturers actually compete to meet them and this means they’re going to deliver the most energy-efficient products to the market.

    But if your home is even just 10 years old, some of those early Energy Star-rated products in your home are likely to have even better, more energy-efficient versions today.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Evidence of this is the EPA’s Energy Star Sustained Excellence Award. Now, this distinction is reserved for Energy Star partners that demonstrate outstanding leadership year after year. And this year, the Andersen Corporation was given the honor for its family of brands, which really is a huge achievement.

    And the Andersen brands include Andersen Windows and American Craftsman Window and Door Company. And we are so proud to be sponsored by such an industry leader.

    TOM: Now, one of the main reasons I think Andersen was honored, Leslie, is the company’s commitment to education. I mean they’re always educating consumers about the Energy Star program. Plus, not only does Andersen make very energy-efficient products, it also uses state-of-the-art manufacturing to limit the impact on the environment. So, it’s a good product all the way around and it’s a great company for the good work that they do for Energy Star and to take care of the environment at the same time.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I also think it’s important to remember that Andersen has been part of the Energy Star program since the Energy Star program started back in 1998. And it was the first window manufacturer that was awarded the Energy Star National Window Partner of the Year the following year.

    TOM: Good point.

    So when you’re looking for replacement windows for your home, you really need to consider Andersen and its full line of brands, including American Craftsman, which is available at The Home Depot.

    And here’s another great reason to buy: right now, American Craftsman special-order windows and patio doors are 15-percent off through November 21st. So, a good opportunity right now to take a look at the windows and doors in your home and consider whether they could be even more efficient by installing American Craftsman special-order windows and patio doors that are now 15 percent through November 21st. I would suggest they probably could be.

    For more information, you can visit AmericanCraftsmanWindows.com or stop by your local Home Depot.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, your kitchen uses about 13 percent of your total energy cost. We’re going to have some tips to slice and dice that number away, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and to find the perfect holiday gift, visit StanleyTools.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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller that we talk to this hour, on the air, is going to win the Falcon Dust-Off Ultimate Screen Care Kit. I love that name. It’s worth $25.

    Now, the kit has got everything that you need to clean all of your electronics, including a cleaning solution that’s designed especially for smudges and fingerprints. I feel like I could use the entire package of this, because my son and his little, dirty fingers all over the iPad, I feel like I can never get those fingerprints off.

    It also comes with a Shammy cloth and a plasma-screen cloth and more. And of course, if you’ve got a husband or if you are into electronics in any way, shape or form, you know you can’t just use any regular cleaning product or special type of rag. Got to use the right stuff on your electronics, so this really is a great prize.

    You want to visit FalconSafety.com. And give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Beverly in Nebraska is on the line and is looking to do a flooring, I guess, tiling project. Tell us what’s going on.

    BEVERLY: Well, I have a brick fireplace that I would like to reface with ceramic tile.

    LESLIE: Oh, great. It’s a fireplace question.

    BEVERLY: Yes. I want to know if what – if I need to do any special steps to prep the brick. I’ve heard yes and I’ve heard no, so thought I might call somebody that might have a real answer.

    TOM: As long as the brick is not dirty or doesn’t have loose paint on it or anything of that nature, I don’t think there’s a lot of prep involved there. What’s going to be really important is that you get a good coat of adhesive underneath it. And you can use a tile mastic on top of that brick to attach the tile to.

    LESLIE: And what size are the tiles that you’re looking at, Bev, to put over this?

    BEVERLY: Twelve by twelve, probably.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Tom, are there any concerns with the difference between the brick and the mortar line for unevenness? Or because the tile is so large, it’s going to …

    TOM: No, because you know what? Think about it. When you put tile down, you use a notched trowel, right? So you never have a complete 100-percent contact of the tile with the substrate. So the fact that there’s recessed mortar on this brick fireplace is not of a concern to me. It’s just more of a concern that we get a good, solid coat of adhesive there and that they dry well, they’re nice and stable.

    And really, you want to make sure that you plan this out carefully, Bev. I mean frankly, it’s really small spaces to get that to fit right, to look right, to make sure the corners are done properly. If it’s sloppy, you’re going to be kicking yourself because it’ll be obvious to anybody that looks at this that it wasn’t done by a pro. So just make sure it’s done really well so that it looks like it was almost intended to be that way the first time the fireplace and the hearth was envisioned, OK?

    BEVERLY: OK. One thing that I’d heard about, the brick mortar line sucks up the moisture out of the mastic quicker. Is that something I need to worry about or just …?

    TOM: Nah. Nope. Wouldn’t worry about it at all. That makes no sense to me. Look, people put concrete – put tile down on concrete and will tell you the same issue. Just plan it correctly, Bev, so that you have all the corners line up right, you have the right pieces, the right – the types of tile that you’re choosing are the ones that, for example, have closed corners where they wrap around the outside.

    And make sure it’s going to work. You may find that 12-inch is too wide for that; it might be easier if you use a smaller tile because you’d have a little more flexibility.

    BEVERLY: Like maybe a six or eight?

    TOM: Like a six, yeah, or an eight. Yep, exactly.

    Depending on the shape, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. It really depends on what look you’re going for. And with a ceramic tile, think about the finish on them. You know, a glazed tile is going to clean better when you get dirt and debris from the smoke in the fireplace itself. But an unglazed one might have a more hearth-y, traditional look. So think about the overall look you’re trying to get.

    And you can also – a 12-by is kind of large so if you’re looking to put a decorative tile, say, as cornerstones around your mantle or something, think about adding in little detail pieces and then you can size your tiles accordingly.

    TOM: So does that help you out?

    BEVERLY: Yeah. We’re just trying to make it look a little more modern.

    TOM: Yeah, I think that’s definitely a good idea. I think it will look more modern; I think it’ll be very attractive. Just take your time, do it once, do it right and you won’t have to do it again.

    BEVERLY: Thank you very much.

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

    Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away and for most, that means your kitchen and energy bill are about to go into hyperdrive. But there are some easy practices that you can put in place that will lower those costs.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, when you’re using your gas appliances, watch the flame. If it’s yellow, it means that the burner is dirty and you’re wasting gas. Another place to look to is your faucet. You might want to consider replacing your faucet with one that’s WaterSense-certified. That really means that it’s going to use about 30-percent less water than a traditional water-wasting faucet would.

    TOM: And also, don’t be tempted to run your dishwasher unless it’s full; that’s just a waste of water and energy. Keep in mind that newer dishwashers have very powerful cleaning action and that means that you don’t need to pre-rinse or wash your dishes and that saves some water there. Just scrape off the food before you put them in the dishwasher.

    And that’s today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron. Easy upgrades, big impact. Choose Lutron. Learn more at ChooseLutron.com.

    LESLIE: Andrea in Pennsylvania is on the line with a bathroom-flooring question. How can we help you?

    ANDREA: I have a half-bath. It is about 3×3 and to the back of the wall, where the toilet and the sink are, there is a gap that starts about an 1/8-of-an-inch and it goes to about an inch-and-a-quarter. And below it, in the basement, there is a hole that – a cinder-block hole – that you can see. I crawled in there, then – yeah. And it was disgusting, let me just tell you.

    TOM: I bet.

    LESLIE: I’m sure.

    ANDREA: But there was some sort of water damage.

    TOM: Hmm. So …

    ANDREA: But when you go to the bathroom in the wintertime, it’s a little chilly.

    TOM: Yeah. So, do you think that the floor dropped?

    ANDREA: I don’t know if the floor dropped or if it’s from some sort of – connected to it used to be a refrigerator that had an ice maker.

    TOM: That’s a big gap.

    ANDREA: And it was connected to the toilet tank.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Wow.

    ANDREA: Yeah.

    TOM: A refrigerator/ice maker connected to the toilet tank.

    ANDREA: Yes.

    TOM: That’s some house you’ve got there, Andrea.

    LESLIE: That sounds weird.

    ANDREA: Oh, my house was built in the 1930s.

    TOM: They probably just tapped into the water line near the toilet tank and that’s how they fed the ice maker. Well, let’s hope that’s how they did it.

    ANDREA: Yeah.

    TOM: Let’s hope they weren’t making ice out of the toilet water. That would be pretty gross.

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness.

    ANDREA: I hope not. That would have been pretty bad.

    TOM: Now, in terms of this sloping floor – sagging floor – the crack that you see, when you say it’s a crack, you’re talking about between the wall and the floor, correct?

    ANDREA: Correct, correct.

    TOM: Alright. So it clearly looks like the – either the wall levitated or the floor dropped.


    TOM: And the floor dropped – when the floor dropped, it dropped with the toilet in it, so it must have been slow over time. Otherwise, you’d have leaks all over the place. I suspect that something’s going on with the floor here.

    So the question is, first, do we have a structural problem?


    TOM: My answer is I don’t know, because I didn’t see that crawlspace. But if you go down there and take a bunch of photographs and post them in the Community section on MoneyPit.com, I will take a look at it for you.

    ANDREA: OK. Oh, I’d appreciate that.

    TOM: Or you could have a carpenter or an engineer, a home inspector take a look at that.

    If the floor has just settled that way because it’s an older house and it’s just kind of worked its way into that position but doesn’t seem to be structurally damaged, then we have to deal with just the cosmetics of it. And the way to do that might simply be to install baseboard molding or adjust the baseboard molding that’s there. Is there molding there at all now? Is there a baseboard?

    ANDREA: No. Not at all.

    TOM: Yeah, so …

    ANDREA: Right now I have it stuffed with some Styrofoam.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, I would certainly fill the gap. I would insulate under that crawlspace floor, too, so that it’s warmer in there for you in the wintertime. But then I would just put a piece of baseboard molding. I’d let the molding ride down on the floor so the molding will be crooked with the floor.


    TOM: And I think that that’s OK. And if you paint it the same color as the wall, it would not be noticeable.

    ANDREA: Oh, that would be excellent. That seems simple enough for me.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, it is almost time to season those slippery sidewalks. But if you do it with the wrong type of salt, it might just eat that concrete away. We’ll tell you the right way to prevent that slipping and sliding, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit has been brought to you by Andersen Windows. Replacing windows or patio doors is always a big decision. Lowering energy bills? Well, that’s easy. And Andersen Windows, the number-one brand of windows in America, makes replacing your old, drafty windows easy with the new 400 Series Tilt-Wash Double-Hung Replacement Window. Available at The Home Depot.

    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.

    You know, one of the fastest ways to stay in touch with us here at The Money Pit and get up-to-the-minute home improvement news is to follow us on Twitter. Our handle is @MoneyPit. Now, you can find out about our giveaways or you can just tweet us a comment. Remember, it’s @MoneyPit.

    And while you’re online, you can post a question in the Community section, just like Mel in New Jersey did. And he writes: “I bought a big bag of salt to melt ice last year and it worked wonders but my neighbor told me that it’s bad for my sidewalk and my lawn. Is that true?”

    TOM: Well, yes, it absolutely could be true, Mel. Now, here’s the thing: if you purchased potassium chloride or rock salt, that can be bad; that can definitely erode away the surface of your sidewalks, as well as it gets on your shoes and on your pet’s feet. It’s just not a good thing.

    So what you’re looking for is potassium chloride. One of the major brands is called Safe-T-Salt. And it works just as well as an ice melt but it’s not harmful to the concrete surfaces, especially. So you’re not going to get sort of those little sort of digs and pockmarks in your concrete that rock salt will create.

    Our advice is to mix some potassium chloride with a bit of sand, put it in a small bucket and keep it near your door. Stick one of those handheld gardening shovels – little, small gardening shovels – in that mix and this way, it’s easy to grab and spread out on your sidewalks, on your steps when we do get some frosty weather. But just avoid the sodium chloride, avoid the rock salt, because that’s going to do nothing but melt away not only the ice but your sidewalk below.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got one from Blake in Connecticut who writes: “I’m redoing my master bath. The ceramic-tile floor is in OK condition. I just don’t like it. Can I tile over it or do I have to rip up the existing?”

    TOM: There’s no reason that you have to rip up the existing. You’re going to have to adjust the height of the toilet and the plumbing flange that – to meet the top of the floor. But you can tile right over it. I’d just make sure that the floor below is not rotted or warped in any way. Check the areas, especially, against the bathtub and around the toilet because if it’s going to be rotted, it will happen right in that area.

    LESLIE: And you know what? Since you’re taking the time to retile your bathroom floor, as soon as you’re done with the project, seal your grout. You’ll be so thankful you did; it’ll be a lot less cleaning down the road.

    TOM: Well, the holiday season is fast approaching and that means your fridge is going to be busier than ever. You can get a jump on keeping it fresh by visiting the spice aisle of your grocery store. Leslie explains, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, when it comes to your refrigerator’s freshness, I’m sure everybody has heard about using a box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb all of those odors. While it works, there’s actually another natural solution. I’m talking about vanilla extract. It really works great at removing those musty or even strong smells that you’ve got in your fridge and of course, vanilla smells so wonderful.

    So if you’re looking for a fresh start, empty out your refrigerator, clean all your surfaces with a solution of water and baking soda and then dry it really well. Then go ahead and soak a paper towel with the vanilla extract and leave it in the fridge overnight. When the morning comes, open up that fridge and pull out that paper towel. Your entire refrigerator is just going to smell clean and vanillalicious (ph). You may want a milkshake or something after that; I’m not sure. But it really will smell so lovely and it’s a great way to freshen up the fridge for the holidays.

    TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, not every bathroom is constructed to be a big, spacious spa but that doesn’t mean it has to feel cramped. We’ve got big design ideas for small bathrooms, 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.


    (Copyright 2012 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.)

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