How To Protect Your Home from Storm Damage, Tips on Trouble Free Plants and How to Contract with Your Contractor
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: We are so happy to be here today to help you with your home improvement projects. So help yourself first: give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Hey, we’ve got a great show planned for you this hour. First up, we’re going to talk about spring storms. You know, they can turn everyday objects into projectiles that can do pretty serious damage to your house. So we’ve got some do-it-yourself inspection tips that can help you spot those small repairs before they grow into super-big problems.
LESLIE: And also ahead, it’s no fun dealing with high-maintenance plants that require constant pruning or suffer from pest problems. Well, we’ve got tips on how to select a reliable, trouble-free shrub.
TOM: And are you planning to hire a pro to help you with a project this spring? If so, we’ve got important tips on what needs to be spelled out in your contract to make sure the job gets done right.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a fun bundle of grill accessories, including a stainless marinade injector, a digital remote thermometer and an LED grill light. The whole pack is worth over 60 bucks.
TOM: Those products are available at The Home Depot but going out to one lucky caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. So let’s get to it. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Michelle in Alabama, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MICHELLE: OK. Well, we live in a home that was built in the early 70s. And in two of the bedrooms, we are having a mold issue and it’s just above the baseboards. And I’ve actually cut into the sheetrock, thinking that maybe it’s the moisture from the outside coming through but it’s not. There’s no mold inside; it’s just in the room. And I don’t know what’s causing it or how to even fix it.
LESLIE: And are you certain that it’s mold? Have you had it tested?
MICHELLE: Well, yeah, it’s like a – we had a piece of furniture there – a dresser there – and we moved it and we were totally shocked that there – like it was black and fuzzy. It was no – it was mold.
TOM: So if you had this furniture against the wall, you probably created sort of a chilly, damp area there. Moving the furniture out probably helps because you get a little more ventilation behind it. But what I would do is I would spray that mold down with a bleach-and-water solution so that would kill anything that’s there. Protect the carpet because, obviously, you don’t want to bleach out your carpet. But spray it down, let the bleach-and-water sit for a while – maybe 10, 15 minutes – and then clean it. And that will stop any further mold from growing.
And just try to keep that area dry. If it’s very damp and it’s – and if the furniture was pressed up against it, that might be why it’s happening.
What kind of furniture was against it?
MICHELLE: It was really like a child’s dresser.
TOM: OK. So it was wood. It wasn’t a couch or something like that?
MICHELLE: No, it was wood, yeah.
TOM: Yeah, so take a look at the back of that, too, and make sure if there’s any mold spores on that, that they’re cleaned, as well.
MICHELLE: Alright. Thanks for your help.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Washington where Robert has got a stainless-steel question. Tell us what’s going on.
ROBERT: I got these stainless-steel appliances and I have started to develop small, little rust spots on them. And I’m not sure what’s causing that.
TOM: Well, it’s because not all stainless is the same. There’s actually over 100 grades of stainless steel. And some are more prone to corrosion than others. So the fact that you have some rust on your stainless-steel appliance doesn’t surprise me.
What you’re going to have to do with that is two things. First of all, you’re going to have to remove the rust, which you can do with steel wool or a Brillo pad, something like that. You really don’t want to use a lot of abrasion, so as little abrasion as possible. And then you have to coat it with a stainless-steel polish.
And the polish will help seal in the surface and prevent the rust from coming back as frequently. But there is some degree of maintenance associated with stainless steel. And the stainless steel that’s of poorer quality will rust more frequently. I think a lot of folks think that stainless is stainless is stainless but it’s not. There’s a lot of different grades and some are better than others.
ROBERT: Alright. Well, that makes sense because it’s all the same brand but it’s only happened on my stove and on the range there.
TOM: Right, right.
ROBERT: And it hasn’t happened to the dishwasher or the refrigerator.
TOM: Yep, that’s right.
ROBERT: So that does make sense. OK. Well, hey, thanks a lot.
TOM: You’re welcome, Robert. 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.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend, everybody. Hopefully you’re taking a little break but maybe relaxing around your money pit is kind of showing you the things that you might need to be working on. And that’s where we come in. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let us give you a hand.
Up next, it’s the spring season for baseball. Do you have a lot of kids outside tossing balls around your street? You worried about one flying through your window? What about a branch being blown through by a storm? It could all happen. That’s why we thought now is a great time to feature easy window-repair tips. We’ll have that, next.
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: Give us a call with your home improvement or décor question at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer, plus an opportunity to win a great prize.
This hour we’re giving away from The Home Depot a grill-accessories bundle. It includes the Stainless Marinade Injector, the Digital Remote Thermometer and an LED Grill Light, all to improve your barbecue experience. They’re available at The Home Depot. The package is worth $63.91 but going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Why not make that you? Pick up the phone, right now, and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Heather in Tennessee who’s dealing with a flooring situation. What happened?
HEATHER: Well, my husband and I were – we have a water feature on our countertop. And we overfilled it one day and it leaked out onto the hardwood and while we were at work. And it’s left a 6×8-inch-diameter area of bulking of our hardwood floors. I can’t really see it but you can feel it when you’re walking over it with socks on; it kind of snags. So I didn’t know if there’s anything that you could do because – a DIY project? Or do you have to have the whole floor resanded, restained? I really don’t want to go through all of that mess.
TOM: Well, if the floor is swollen, it’s kind of a one-way street and you’re not going to be able to kind of get the toothpaste back in the tube. At this point, if you want to try to make it flat and smooth again, you do have to sand it out.
Now, it might not be as terrible as a project as you think. You may not have to do the entire floor; you might just be able to do a repair of that particular area. Do you happen to have the stain and the finish that was used on that floor?
HEATHER: I don’t, I don’t. And I actually – another reason I’m kind of leery of it is because we got the same man that did our hardwood floors to begin with come back and put hardwood in our bedroom. And they don’t match whatsoever. So I’m kind of really worried.
TOM: Let me ask you another question. Do you have any extra pieces of that floor anywhere?
HEATHER: I don’t.
TOM: Do you have any area of the floor that’s less noticeable, like in a closet or a pantry?
TOM: OK. Here’s a solution for you. A good carpenter can do this. You can basically cut out some of the floor that’s in the lesser-visible area. Cut out enough of it to be able to use to repair the area in your kitchen. Then you could cut out the bad boards, throw those away and then insert the boards that you salvaged from the closet area. And then go ahead and repair that closet area with whatever is handy or whatever new you can purchase and stain it to get as close as you can.
And because it’s inside the closet, no one will probably ever know – be the wiser for it. Yet you’ll have some boards that match exactly the damaged boards in the kitchen, in order to repair that spot. How about that?
HEATHER: That sounds a whole lot better than resanding everything, so …
TOM: Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jeff in Iowa on the line who is working on a bathroom-plumbing problem. What’s going on?
JEFF: Our house was built in 1978. Still had the same toilets in it as the day it was built, so we decided to upgrade to new, high-efficient toilets. We bought 1.28-per-gallon-flush toilets with a 10 flush rating. And we – our toilets sit back-to-back, basically. The master bedroom has a toilet that sits just behind the toilet in the main bathroom. When you flush the toilet in the main bathroom, it sucks all the water out of the master-bedroom toilet. But it doesn’t do it the other way.
TOM: Here’s the problem. You’ve got a venting issue and there’s not enough air getting into the waste line that’s probably feeding both toilets. And so, as a result, when you flush one, you cause a draw on the other that pulls the water out. A lot easier to do when you have only 1¼ gallons of water as opposed to maybe 3 or 4 gallons that it used to have with the older toilet.
So, you need to get a plumber in to look at this and figure out where the venting has gone wrong. There could be venting that also became obstructed. You could get rodents or animals that nest inside vents. But there’s not enough intake air getting into the plumbing system and that’s why you’re getting this sort of suction problem. Whenever you have this condition or if you get – sometimes you get a gurgling when you flush or when you run sinks and water goes down, it’s because there’s not enough air getting into the plumbing system. And that’s going to be what will solve this for you, OK, Jeff?
JEFF: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, spring storms, including high wind, can damage your home. Now, if a branch or an airborne object, like a baseball, breaks a window, it’s important to clean up safely.
First of all, you don’t want to try to knock out the remaining glass that’s in the frame. Make sure you’re using safety gloves to remove the loose pieces and of course, the pieces that have fallen out. Now, to clean up small particles of glass, you want to use several thicknesses of wet paper towels. I mean really pile them up and get them damp. And then throw them away. You’ll just sort of – make sure you don’t drag it because you could scratch your floor. But kind of sit it on top and scoop it up.
Now, cloth towels, sponges, mops, they shouldn’t be used for cleanup because they can actually hold on to tiny, little, glass particles. And then you might hurt yourself going forward or scratch a surface. You just have to be real careful.
TOM: Now, it’s generally a good idea to not try to replace the glass yourself. Some windows even have insulating glass units that contain a harmless argon gas that helps in the window’s energy efficiency. A replacement unit should be ordered and installed by a professional that matches perfectly the original window.
For more tips on window repair, visit MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Mark in South Carolina is on the line and needs some help defining different types of insulation. Tell us what’s going on.
MARK: I put some Icynene in my house and then I heard someone say that closed-cell was better. And then I’ve heard that open-cell was better. Can you explain to me the advantages and disadvantages of, for my home now, choosing either closed-cell or open-cell insulation?
TOM: What type of Icynene did you put in? Is it open-cell insulation?
MARK: Yes, it was open-cell.
TOM: You know, there’s a lot of debate as to which one is better and I think that both have good qualities. Open-cell has a good insulating value. It’s more susceptible to moisture than closed-cell but it still gives you the benefit of being not only an insulator but an air barrier. So it protects you against drafts that are going to try to get into the house. The other advantage of open-cell is it has better sound-absorption qualities. So it’s a little bit of a quieter house and it tends to be more economical to apply.
So, I don’t think you made a bad choice and Icynene is a good product.
MARK: OK. What would be a reason I would choose closed-cell?
TOM: That’s a good question. I would say that if you were in a very high-moisture area, like seaside, then you may want to consider closed-cell.
MARK: Alright. Well, you guys have a great show and thank you for your time and your help.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Darlene in Arkansas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DARLENE: Well, we heat our house with wood and our fireplace bricks are real cream – light-cream colored and they’re very roughly textured. My question is the soot – above the fireplace doors, soot gets in the brick and embedded in there. And I’ve tried to scrub it out with everything I can think of, other than muriatic acid. And I know I can’t use that in the house. Do you have any suggestions?
LESLIE: Have you tried TSP, which stands for trisodium phosphate? And it’s sort of like a cleaning prep step when you’ve got some really sticky stuff that won’t come off.
DARLENE: I think I did some time back but maybe I should use a stronger solution instead of – it says not to use it the way it comes out of the bottle.
LESLIE: Well, what you can do with TSP is it comes in a powder format and it’s available in the clean – well, in the painting aisle, generally, of the home stores. And I would just mix it up so that it’s more of a paste than a liquid and apply it that way. And let it sit there and give it some time to do its job.
DARLENE: Alright. That sounds great.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Charlie in Tennessee is on the line and looking to do some renovating at his money pit. How can we help you today?
CHARLIE: I have a small kitchen that – I’m trying to knock out the walls to increase space, to make my kitchen and my dining room one big room. My dilemma is the fact that I don’t know whether the wall that I’m knocking down is a load-bearing wall or not.
LESLIE: Well, step away from the project and don’t knock it down just yet.
TOM: OK. Well, first of all, what kind of house do you have, Charlie? Is it a ranch? Is it a Colonial? Describe it to us.
CHARLIE: It’s a wood-frame home.
TOM: OK. One story or two?
CHARLIE: One story.
TOM: And the roof peaks in the middle? Goes up from the front, goes up from the back, peaks in the middle?
CHARLIE: Kind of. It’s L-shaped.
CHARLIE: And where the wall would be would be pretty much right where the two meet.
TOM: Yeah. So you’re in the middle there; you’re not quite sure. And the dining room and the kitchen are side by side? Is it aligned front to back on the house or is it aligned end to end, so to speak?
CHARLIE: It would be – that wall would be parallel for the front to back.
TOM: So, it’s aligned front to back. OK. I would say that in most cases, that is a bearing wall. That doesn’t mean you’re dead in the water; it just means it’s a little more complicated for you to open this up. Because if it’s a bearing wall, you have to support the structure while it’s disassembled and then you have to put a new beam in to carry that load in the new, open-plan design.
It’s not something that you would do yourself. It’s not like – I don’t want to you like, “Hey, I’ve never done home improvement but today, I’m thinking about tearing down a bearing wall.” Bad idea, OK?
TOM: So you need to know what you’re doing or get some people to help you to know what you’re doing or hire a pro. And get a building permit.
And basically, the way it works is temporary walls are built on either side of the bearing wall and this holds up the structure that they’re supposed to be holding. Then the bearing wall is taken apart. The bearing wall is reconstructed but now you would use a girder. And it could be a wood girder, it could be a metal girder, it could be a combination wood/metal girder that goes the whole span. It could be a girder that sits below the ceiling or it could be a girder that’s actually flush with the ceiling so when it’s all done, it’s invisible.
But one way or the other, you’ll need this beam to carry the load above that. And then once it’s all put back together, you know, you’re really not going to know that it’s there. But you’ve got just to do it right so that you don’t damage your house in the process, OK?
CHARLIE: Yes, sir. Thank you. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome, Charlie. Good luck with that project. Now, put the saw down, OK?
CHARLIE: No problem. Thank you. I appreciate you.
LESLIE: Heather in Texas is dealing with a mold situation. Tell us what’s going on.
HEATHER: Well, I have black spots in my restroom and I’m not sure if that’s mold. And I would like to know: how can he fix it?
TOM: Without seeing it, I can’t tell you but if they’re black spots, it probably is mold. And where are these spots? Is it on the wall, shower curtain, tile? Where? A ceiling?
HEATHER: In the wall.
TOM: On the wall? Do you have wallpaper on the wall?
TOM: What you might want to do is mix up a bleach-and-water solution, about 10- to 15-percent bleach and the rest water. Spray it on those spots, let it sit for a bit of time and then wipe it down with fresh water. So if there is mold there, that will kill it.
The reason we usually get mold in bathrooms is because they’re wet and damp all the time. A couple of things that you can do there is – do you have a bath exhaust fan in this room?
TOM: Well, you should have one. And this is one of the reasons you should have one, because it will draw air out of that room when it gets damp, especially if you hook it up to a humidistat so it’s only running when there’s moisture in the room. If you don’t have that, then the only thing that you could do is just get into the practice of wiping down walls or using a squeegee to wipe most of the water off the bath, the shower walls, that sort of thing every single time and leaving the door open. But if you don’t have a bath exhaust fan, you’re always going to be fighting this.
When you do repaint next time, make sure you use a paint that has a mildicide built into it because that can also further reduce the chance of developing mold. OK, Heather?
HEATHER: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Just ahead, you might not think of shrubs as the most glamorous plants around but the fact is shrubs are the backbone of your landscape design. Roger Cook from This Old House is here with tips on how to select the best shrubs for your yard, so stick around.
ADAM: I’m Adam Carolla. I’ve built hundreds of houses and I can tell you how to avoid falling into that money pit: listen to Money Pit Radio with Tom and Leslie.
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: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement or décor questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Norma from Delaware on the line who wants to know what size pipes you need to get good pressure in the bathroom.
Norma, that sounds like a personal question. What’s going on at your money pit?
NORMA: OK. I’m going to install a shower panel.
NORMA: And in order to get, you know, good – the right pressure, how big do the pipes need to be?
TOM: Right. You said you wanted to install a shower panel? So is this one of these units where it comes in and then fans out to multiple spray heads?
NORMA: Yeah, the jets, right.
TOM: How is your water pressure right now?
NORMA: Pretty good. Well, my house is about eight years old.
TOM: Oh, if it’s only eight years old and you have pretty good water pressure, you should be OK with this. I will say, though, that the water pressure coming out of multiple showerheads is not going to be as invigorating as coming out of a single showerhead. So, it’s going to give you good coverage but it may not be as strong. And I don’t think there’s much that you can do about that. If you’ve got normal street pressure, that’s how those shower-panel units are designed to work. But just be mindful that it’s not likely to be as strong when it’s going to come out of multiple heads because you basically just need more water to do that.
NORMA: Oh, OK. Well, I inquired with the builder and he told me that from the basement to the shower floor, I have three-quarter pipes. And then from the floor to the showerhead, ½-inch.
TOM: And that’s typical. That’s typical. So, that doesn’t change anything.
NORMA: Oh, OK. Alright. Thank you so much for your help.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, when you think of shrubs, you might not think of them as the most glamorous plants around. But the fact is that shrubs are the backbone of your landscape design.
TOM: Yep. But although there are hundreds of shrubs available, you need to make the right choice so they thrive in your local environment. Here to talk us through some great options is This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook.
ROGER: Hey. How are you doing?
TOM: So, it’s no fun dealing with high-maintenance plants that require constant pruning or suffer from pest problems. So how do you select sort of a reliable, trouble-free shrub?
ROGER: Well, we’re always preaching, “Get the right plant for the right space.” Sometimes, our maintenance problems are caused by us putting the plant too close to the house or a plant that gets too big. I can’t tell you how many houses I’ve seen with hemlocks, which want to get 60 feet tall, planted next to the front door.
TOM: So it really is – just like real estate – location, location, location.
ROGER: Mm-hmm. That’s true. If you’ve got a smaller area, buy a dwarf plant. If you’ve got something that’s high and skinny, get something that’s going to grow up conical so you’re not fighting it all the time.
LESLIE: And it’s probably most important to also – that make sure that you’re buying a plant that’s right for your climate and your zone. I feel like I always want to put a hibiscus right in front of my house but I live in New York. That’s probably not the best idea.
ROGER: Yeah. And Leslie, you have a greenhouse for the winter. You’re going to have trouble.
LESLIE: I do not.
ROGER: No. It’s an investment. Your plants are an investment, so you want to invest in the right one. You don’t want to put in, like you said, a hibiscus and have it die or have to dig it up and move it to a greenhouse and then bring it back. It comes back to my right plant, right place. If you put the right plant in there, it’ll do well.
TOM: Now, Leslie, you mentioned your zone. There’s something called the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Is that going to be the key here? Is that going to be the treasure map that points us in the right direction?
ROGER: That’s what we all start with so that I know I can’t plant something here in Florida and expect it to thrive. I can’t take a plant from here and go to Alaska and expect it to survive. So, if you go to your local garden center, every plant should have what zone it is on the tag of the plant.
TOM: Now, you said something to me interesting – very interesting – a couple of years back when you and I were doing some coverage of the Sandy disaster in New Jersey. We were out on one of the islands and you noticed that all the plants that were natural to the island stayed behind and took that torrent of water. But all of the plants that were transplanted died.
ROGER: It’s living proof of what we’re talking about. Yes, they may have been dinged up and covered with sand but they all came back.
LESLIE: Now, what about soil type? I feel like soil plays such a big role in how well everything is going to thrive. And even before – I have terrible success in the garden. And so I would plant things by just digging a hole, putting something in, end of story. Once I learned to cultivate the soil and add things in and make sure that the soil was properly prepped, things started to thrive. So, if you’re like me, how do you know where to start to make the soil ready?
ROGER: The first thing I would do is test the soil. And that starts off by sending a sample out to your local extension service. Now, they’ll not only tell you the pH of the soil but they’ll tell you a lot of different things, like how much organic matter, pH, nitrogen and all those things. So now you can add something – which they will tell you exactly how much to add – to the soil and turn it in. And now you have a great medium for the plants to grow in.
TOM: That’s, essentially, going to give you the recipe to get that soil just right so that when you put your shrub in, you can be assured that it’s going to grow as expected.
ROGER: And it’s an investment. You want it to grow well.
TOM: Now, if you do have that perfect shrub in your garden and it’s growing well, what’s the most important thing to know about maintaining it?
ROGER: Hopefully, you’ll have to do a minimum of maintaining once they’re acclimated to the site. And so, to get them acclimated over a year or two, you need to keep watering them. Not every day, not every other day but once or twice a week a good soaking. Don’t keep them wet all the time. Let the water drain out and then water them again.
LESLIE: Roger, I think this is where people get really confused as to prune or not to prune and how much and when. I mean I certainly don’t know how to do it.
ROGER: Well, the answer to the question is there is no one time to prune everything. They all flower at different times. And you don’t want to be cutting off the flowers that are coming for the next year. So I tell people the best time to prune is a day after the flowers turn brown. And that way there, you’ll be able to prune the shrub and you’ll still have flowers the following year.
TOM: Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.
ROGER: Always happy to be here and talk about shrubs.
LESLIE: Alright. You can 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 brought to you on PBS by Gorilla Glue, for the toughest jobs on Planet Earth.
Still to come, when dealing with contractors this spring, you need to make sure you get everything in writing. Find out exactly what needs to be spelled out, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.
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.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. It’s Memorial Day Weekend. You’re probably barbecuing, right now, as we speak. So, boy, do we have a great prize up for grabs this hour.
We’ve got the Home Depot Spring Promo Grill-Accessories Bundle. Now, in this bundle, you’re going to find a stainless-steel marinade injector – because who doesn’t want to inject marinade into whatever it is you’re barbecuing, for that extra-special tastiness? – a digital remote thermometer and an LED grill light. So, no more barbecuing by the light of your smartphone or poorly lit backyard.
We’ve got a great prize up for grabs. It’s again from The Home Depot. It’s valued at $63.91 but it’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random this hour. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. I could really use that stainless marinade injector. You’re right. Who couldn’t improve their steak with that?
LESLIE: I mean you could – please, chicken breast? All kinds of wonderful things. It really does get the flavor to the parts that you never get it to. So forget about having dry chicken breasts. It’s going to be awesome.
TOM: Alright. Enough of that. I’m getting hungry.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Todd in Mississippi on the line who’s got a wood floor that was installed after Katrina. So, what is that, like seven years ago? And it’s starting to buckle.
Welcome, Todd. How can we help you?
TODD: Hey. Yes, that’s exactly right. I had a hardwood floor installed in my home after Katrina. My home was flooded by Katrina, so we had – it was completely gutted. And my home is on a concrete slab and we actually had professionals come in and install the hardwood floors after Katrina, probably – it was probably about – actually, it’s probably close to a year after Katrina had hit.
And so – but anyway, we had moved into the house after the – well, after the flooring had been installed. Probably November of ’06 we had moved in and started living in the house. And about a year into it, after moving back into the house, the floors just started buckling in several different places. And I was unsure of why it was doing that.
TOM: So this is solid hardwood that was installed on top of a concrete slab?
TODD: It’s engineered hardwood. It’s over a concrete slab. And of course, before they installed it over the slab, they had put down – they had used Bostik’s Best Adhesive and put all of that down. And it’s supposed to have the moisture barrier and what-have-you built into the adhesive.
But after a year of probably living in the house, we noticed in different areas it started buckling. Actually, some were worse than others and it’s just only gotten worse.
TOM: Do we know that this is swelling and not any movement of the floor that’s causing this?
TODD: I think it’s just swelling. I don’t think there’s any moving of the floor. In most areas, it seems pretty intact and tight. And a friend of mine had said, “Well, maybe they didn’t leave enough space in between the walls.” And we checked that and of course, there’s enough gap in between the walls for natural expansion and what-have-you with the levels of humidity. But it’s just actually buckling in quite a few places. In some areas, you almost trip over it, it’s buckled so bad.
TOM: Yeah, I’m surprised to hear that because engineered hardwood is supposed to be dimensionally stable. It’s not supposed to do what it’s doing. Did you, by any chance, reach out to the manufacturer for any suggestions as to why this might be happening?
TODD: No, I have not. Actually, I have not done that. And I didn’t know if I should reach out to them or also, I didn’t know, as far as on the Bostik’s Best because it was supposed to have the built-in moisture barrier, as well. And so I didn’t really know who to reach out to but …
TOM: I would start with the floor manufacturer. Look, the answer I’m going to give you is the answer you don’t want to hear and that is it’s not repairable. This is a situation where you’re going to have to cut the floor out and start again.
TODD: OK. Well, that’s not necessarily the news I wanted to hear but I can start there and I can – like I said, I can get with the manufacturer and check on that.
TOM: Well, if you’re getting ready to hire a contractor, make sure you get job details in writing. When you make an oral contract, you risk disputes later. So, when you do make the contract, you want to consider the following: the work that has to be done – make sure you spell it out – payment schedules, you need to get prove of the contractor’s insurance and license and a project guarantee.
LESLIE: Yeah. And also, you want to make sure you know which materials are warranted and what subcontractors are going to be working on your home. And you also want to make provisions in your deal for change orders. Now, sometimes when the project is underway, you’re going to realize that you’d like a window added or a different appliance installed. Just remember that before you sign on the bottom line, you want to run through your checklist.
TOM: Yeah. And you can over-emphasize the importance of those change orders, because it’s so easy to agree to a change in the midst of all the chaos that can be a remodeling project. But you want to get it in writing and you need it to spell out whether it’s going to result in an additional charge or a credit to your original contractor.
Get all that information in writing and you will have a much happier result. If you’d like more information, head on over to our website and search “money pit contract essentials.”
LESLIE: Roger in Alabama, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ROGER: I have a problem with a door. It’s a storm door. And when I originally installed it, everything looked perfect on it. And now, there is a large gap at the bottom and a small gap at the top and the latch doesn’t really want to hold anymore. And I put levels on it and everything looks like it’s supposed to be but it’s not. And I’m at a standstill trying to figure out how to fix it outside of knocking my post out of align.
TOM: OK. So it sounds like the door is out of alignment and it’s not square. Got a situation where the jamb probably has to go up or down. So, for example, if you were to take the jamb and move it down, then the outside edge of the door will move up. If you were to take the jamb and move it up, the outside edge of the door would move down. So it sounds like something is not in alignment.
Storm doors can be tricky because every side of the jamb is applied separately. But what I might do is I might leave the jamb side attached, then try to reset the other two pieces of the door.
In terms of the gap at the bottom, if you can’t close that, just add weather-strip to the outside of the door. You know, you can pick up a door sweep that has sort of a metal flange with a broom-like bristle edge at the bottom that works very well. We use it on exterior doors all the time. And that will stop drafts from coming through it.
But it sounds like the door is out of alignment. What you’ve described with uneven gaps and a latch doesn’t work means that the door is simply not square in the opening.
ROGER: OK. I think I’ve got an idea of what I can do with it now.
TOM: Alright. Great. Roger, hope that helps. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Up next, we’re going to head over to North Carolina where somebody’s got a stinky laundry room. We’re going to help her hunt down that foul odor, next.
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: Love to hear your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT but also receive them on Facebook. That’s Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit or @MoneyPit on Twitter. And that’s how Pat in Macon, North Carolina, reached us.
And she has quite a smelly problem, Leslie.
LESLIE: Yep. Pat writes: “I have a rotten-egg smell in my laundry room. You smell it when the water is running into the washing machine or into the laundry-room sink. Any idea what is going on?”
TOM: Well, typically that is a sulfur odor that most people associate with that rotten-egg smell. And it often happens when the anode rod in the water heater itself becomes deteriorated. And as a result, it should be replaced.
Now, sometimes replacing that anode rod is easy and sometimes, it’s almost impossible. If you look at a water heater, you’ll notice that the top, in addition to the supply and return pipe, you’ll see what looks like a big nut that’s sort of flush with the top of the water heater. That is how you access the rod. And you basically put a big wrench on that and try to unscrew that nut.
Problem is that sometimes it gets locked into the machine. So if it’s an older water heater, you’re almost always better off replacing it because, look, if I had a – I don’t know – an 8- or a 10-year-old water heater or older, I’m not going to spend the money on an anode rod. I’d just go ahead and replace it because chances are I’d replace the rod and what, a year or two, three years later, the thing would leak no doubt. So, I would definitely just replace the water heater at that point. But if it’s a younger water heater, you should be able to replace that anode rod. And that will most likely deal with that sulfur odor.
The other thing to check is – because you mentioned this is a laundry room and also in a basement area, you might want to make sure that the drain has a trap in it. Because you may be getting some sewage gas that backs up into that space. And sometimes, when those laundry rooms are added sort of after the fact, folks will leave the trap off or not put a proper trap in.
So, two things to check, either of which I think could be causing your odor, Pat.
LESLIE: Yeah. I mean definitely, both do cause a stinky situation. So both good places to investigate. And Tom’s right about replacing the water heater. Generally, they’re only going to give you about a 10-year lifespan. So if you’re near there, as Tom mentioned, think about the efficiency benefits that you’re going to get, as well. Definitely an option.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Debbie in North Andover, Massachusetts who writes: “What is the best way to get dark stains off composite decking?”
TOM: That’s a very common problem with composite, especially on shady sides of your house. Now, the most natural algaecide or mildicide is sunlight. So, anything that you can do to bring in additional sunlight into that – under that side of the house – will reduce the amount of algae or moss that grows.
In terms of sort of cleaning it, if you’ve really got a stain on it and therefore it’s not an active buildup, it’s just a stain, what I would do is I would use some oxygenated bleach. That has a really good cleaning power. You mix that up, apply it to the deck, let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Keep it wet; don’t let it dry. Scrub it in with a scrub brush and see if that sort of releases that stain.
Now, if you’ve got algae or mildew or moss that form on an ongoing basis, you might want to try a product called Spray & Forget. Very effective. You apply it to the deck and basically, it reacts with sunlight to start to attack the moss and the algae that’s forming on that deck and does a great job of keeping it clean for the long haul.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? Those decks really do last a long time: the composite decking. So you want to make sure that you take good care of it, give it a good cleaning every season. But that’s really all you’re going to have to do.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend. We so hope that you guys are having a great weekend in your part of the country. And we give you our permission to take this weekend off of home improvement projects. But remember, next weekend, it’s back to the tools. We hope we’ve given you some tips, some advice, some guidance to make those projects easy and affordable around your home. Remember, we are available on Facebook and also on Twitter to help you, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2016 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.)