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Lay Pavers for a Unique Look, Collect Rainwater for Lawn Watering, House Buying Tips for Summer, 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 we are here to help you with your home improvement project. You’ve got to have a summer project going on. We can give you the tips, the advice, the expertise that you need to make it go smoothly.

    Are you stuck in the middle of a project? Don’t know which way to go? Are you thinking about a project or are you just so hot that you can’t really do anything right now but you want to plan something for the fall? Well, it’s just ahead. Think cool if you’re uncomfortable on this warm July day. It’ll be here before we know it. Maybe we can talk to you about an energy-saving improvement that could save you energy all year long. Whatever is on your mind, we’re here to help you get the job done. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour on the program, if the view of your house from the street maybe looks a little ho-hum, one way to sort of spruce that up is by adding concrete pavers. We’re going to have some tips on how you can install those yourself, including a way to come up with a very customized and attractive look.

    LESLIE: And if you think you’re sweating this summer, your lawn is really feeling the heat of these hot summer months. Roger Cook, the landscaping expert from This Old House can help. He’s going to be here with tips on water-saving irrigation for your yard during these hot, summer dry spells.

    TOM: And summer is also the time the housing market slows down but that can mean a good deal for you house hunters. We’re going to have some advice if you’re planning to look for a new money pit in the months ahead.

    LESLIE: Also, one caller who makes it on the air with us today is going to get an amazing new vacuum. It’s the AirRam by Gtech. Now, it’s cordless and it charges like your cell phone and it weighs just a little more than 7 pounds.

    TOM: What a cool product. It’s actually worth $350. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s program. So, pick up the phone, give us a call. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Leslie in Tennessee – I feel like I’m talking to myself – welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    LESLIE IN TENNESSEE: Yes. I’m an avid listener of your show. We really love it.

    We have a question. After several years of having an outdoor pool and enjoying it but not being able to use it because of the full four seasons here in East Tennessee, we were wanting to add an addition on the house. And we’d love to put a small indoor pool, just like a little lap pool, only about probably half the size of our outdoor pool. And we were wondering what would be the best type of construction.

    Our house is a frame house with brick but you have moisture problems, I know, with an indoor pool. So, for an addition, I want to see if you all had any recommendations for certain materials or a certain type of system to reduce the moisture in the home or how – what would you do?

    TOM: Well, there are dehumidifiers that are designed for pool rooms. I mean they’re similar to whole-house dehumidifiers, where they take out a lot of water from the air. I would definitely isolate the area where the pool is, from the rest of the house, so that the moisture is contained into one space. And that makes it easier for you to manage that level of moisture. You know, it could maybe just be a sliding glass door or something like that that separates it.

    But in terms of the material, you have to be very careful with the venting. For example, in the roof above, you have to choose materials that are mold-resistant in terms of the surface. For example, instead of using paper-faced drywall, you might use fiberglass-faced drywall. That doesn’t grow mold because it’s not organic. So with a few things like that and the right mechanical system – and the pool manufacturers that you’re talking to, the installers, they’ll be very familiar with this because these pools are being put into inside spaces. You’ve got to deal with the evaporation.

    LESLIE IN TENNESSEE: Alright. Well, that’s helpful there. And so, just – so more or less probably a pool manufacturer or a pool place around here would have that recommendation then.

    TOM: Well, they would. And generally going to probably talk about mechanical dehumidification. And then in terms of the construction of the space, just be mindful to choose materials that are not easily going to grow mold and certainly one that’s – materials that are cleanable, OK?

    LESLIE IN TENNESSEE: That’s great. Well, thank you very much and I appreciate you all being on our radio here in Northeast Tennessee.

    TOM: Alright, Leslie. Thank you so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Dixie in Illinois has a question regarding a crack in the basement and the possibility of it caving in.

    Dixie, are you calling us from a pile of rubble or are you just concerned?

    DIXIE: I am actually concerned because it started out with just hairline cracks following along the concrete blocks. And there are cracks in each corner of the foundation above ground, as well as these cracks in the walls below, in the basement. But the cracks are getting bigger and bigger. There are some of them that are gaping, I want to even say, an inch-and-a-half, 2 inches of …

    TOM: You have an inch-and-a-half crack? You mean width? It’s open an inch-and-a-half?

    DIXIE: Well, they are – well, you can’t see through the crack but the walls are bending in. We’ve even put reinforcements.

    TOM: Alright. So, horizontally – like the cracks are horizontal and they’re bending in, Dixie?

    DIXIE: Most of the ones that are bending in are horizontal, yes. But the cracks do go up and down, as well.

    TOM: Alright. So you need to immediately contact a structural engineer and have the foundation inspected. This sounds serious. I can tell you that, typically, horizontal cracks are caused by frost heave, where the drainage conditions are poor at the outside of the house, water collects there, soil freezes and pushes in.

    But you have that many cracks and those cracks are that significant, you need – not a contractor. I want you to find a structural engineer. You’re just hiring this guy to inspect the home and prepare a report discussing the condition of the foundation. And if repairs are needed, the engineer should specify those repairs. Then you can bring a contractor in to follow the engineer’s specification and make the repairs.

    And then finally, make sure you bring the structural engineer back to inspect and certify that they were done correctly. Because at this point, unless you follow those steps just like that, you’re going to have a serious deficit to the home value. So that’s why if you have it inspected by a structural engineer, repaired by a contractor per the engineer’s specs and certified by the engineer as OK, you have kind of a pedigree for that repair you can pass on to future home buyers, OK? Does that make sense?

    DIXIE: OK. But how do you find a structural engineer?

    TOM: So, there’ll be local engineering companies. You could also check the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org. Now, those guys will not necessarily be a structural engineer but there may be an engineer among them that’s also a home inspector.

    Alright? Thank you very much, Dixie. I hope that helps you out.

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

    Well, it’s hard to believe that the summer is just about halfway over. So, if you’re thinking of some big projects that you want to get done before the summer season is over, let us give you a hand. Or maybe you’re thinking ahead to the fall and starting to plan some projects for that time of year. Whatever you’re working on, we’re here to lend you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Now, one popular summer project is to put in a walkway. And if you do it right, it can really set your house apart from all the rest in the neighborhood. We’re going to teach you how to lay a concrete-paver walkway yourself, after this.

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

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by PORTER-CABLE professional-grade nailers and staplers. With over 100 years of experience producing quality, performance-driven tools, PORTER-CABLE continues to be a leading manufacturer and marketer of professional-grade, pneumatic fastening tools and compressors. Available at The Home Depot and independent retailers. To learn more, visit PORTERCABLE.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: Taking your calls right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. In fact, one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win an AirRam vacuum from Gtech. Now, this is a pretty cool Money Pit giveaway because it’s a cordless, lightweight vacuum that runs off a detachable, rechargeable battery. It takes all the dirt and it compacts it into a neat little brick that you just empty straight into the trash. So no more dust storms. Just run the filter under water to clean it.

    Check it out at GreyTechnology.com. That’s Grey, spelled G-r-e-y. It’s worth 350 bucks. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s program. So call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Jack in New York needs some help with a crawlspace. What can we do for you?

    JACK: Well, I have an area that is – was a crawlspace and we dug it out. And so it’s – we have about a 7-foot ceiling now. And I put some gravel in it and I wasn’t going to do anything but now I want to expand my shop. And I don’t really have access to where I can put concrete in it. And I was wondering if you would have any ideas.

    TOM: Well, first of all, Jack, since you dug it out down to 7 feet, how did you support the soil under the foundation wall?

    JACK: We left a step. This dirt that was in there was so compact that it was almost impossible to dig it out, so we weren’t too worried. But we did leave a step around the foundation, the footer.

    TOM: OK. Right.

    JACK: There’s about 2½ foot – we went about 2½ foot below the footer.

    TOM: That’s what we call, in our part of the country, a “Yankee basement” where it’s dug out. It’s not a joke; that’s actually what they call it. They call it a “Yankee basement” or, well, sometimes a “root cellar,” where basically you take the interior perimeter of the foundation wall, move in about 2½, 3 feet and then dig down there. So you leave this sort of berm of soil to support the foundation that’s under the footing.

    So, options for cleaning – for finishing that floor. Why can’t you get concrete into the floor? Because most times, there would be a situation where they’d set up a chute that goes right through a window and pour some concrete into that floor. That’s clearly the easiest way and fastest way to create a floor in a basement.

    JACK: Yeah, I agree with you but I really – the time to – the expense of the concrete and having – you know, doing a whole project would be pretty pricey.

    TOM: How big is the floor area?

    JACK: Well, it’s about 25×15 and then with an 8×8 jut to – on one end of it. So it’s L-shaped, basically.

    TOM: Well, I don’t have any quick ideas on how to create a hard-surface flooring when you don’t want to put concrete down there. You could frame something but I mean it would be very temporary. I would really prefer that you put concrete. And you don’t have to do – it doesn’t have to be 6 inches thick. I can be 4 inches thick and pour it in sections. But I really think you should just budget for and use concrete down there because anything else you do is going to be very substandard. It’s not going to contribute to the value of your house.

    JACK: I hear you. Yeah, it sounds like a foot (ph) I was afraid I was going to hear.

    TOM: Yeah, OK. Well, look, you got all the hard work done digging it out. I would just budget for and save up for some concrete. Get a mason to help you or get somebody that’s used to finishing concrete. And get it all poured and it’ll be done in a day.

    JACK: Oh, yeah, sure.

    TOM: It has to be done in a day because the concrete’s going to cure.

    Alright, Jack? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, if you’re looking for a unique and durable driveway or a walkway that’s got some style, concrete paving stones can really help. These add curb appeal and they raise the value of your home.

    And I think the best news, Leslie, is that you can lay them yourself. And we’re going to have some tips on how to do that, right now, presented by our friends at QUIKRETE.

    So, what’s first?

    LESLIE: Well, first you want to come up with a plan. You need exact measurements of the area that you’re going to pave and you have to know what size pavers you want. Then you go ahead and sketch out your plan of where each of those pavers will go.

    Now, simple designs look great but you can come up with any design you want, like a herringbone or a mosaic pattern, circular patterns. There’s a lot of options because there are many styles of pavers.

    TOM: As the saying goes, plan your work and work your plan. So the next step there is to drive stakes into the ground and use string to lay out, very accurately, the area that you’re going to pave. And I might add that if it’s going to be a square or a rectangle, make sure you check the corners. If you measure diagonally from corner to corner, you can be assured that that square is actually square. Because I can guarantee you this: the pavers are square and if you don’t get it just right, well, you’re going to have a problem.

    So, once you get the layout done, you want to dig down. Now, how far do you need to go? Well, it depends on whether it’s a driveway or a walkway. Obviously, driveways need a firmer base than walkways. So if you check the recommendations of the paving-stone manufacturer, they will give you specific depths that you need to create.

    LESLIE: Alright. Then it’s time for your foundation. Now, you want to lay a layer of rock and then a layer of coarse sand over that. And then you can start laying the pavers.

    Now, here’s a pro tip for this: don’t step on the sand; lay a paver and stand on that paver to lay the next one.

    TOM: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

    And finally, if you want to seal your pavers or really any decorative stained or exposed concrete, check out the QUIKRETE Concrete & Masonry High Gloss Sealer. Now, this is a great product because it gives your project a real sort of finished look. And it’s going to protect them, especially if they’re new pavers, from oil leaks or gasoline or deicers and a lot more.

    You can check out QUIKRETE’s High Gloss Sealer, and many other products, at QUIKRETE.com. That’s Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com.

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

    PAM: Off of my master bedroom, it has a small deck out there. Apparently, the seal has broken. It’s two pieces of glass that has some sort of, I don’t know, some sort of thing inside of it. And it’s now looking really milky. I’m wondering if I can replace it by getting another glass door or can I replace the glass alone?

    TOM: OK. So what’s happening is you have insulated glass and that seal between the panes of glass is called “swiggle.” And when the swiggle fails, then moisture gets in there between the panes of glass and then you get condensation, which is that white, milky, yucky appearance to the glass.

    Now, it impacts the energy efficiency in some way but other than that, it’s pretty much just cosmetic. And I say that because it’s not an easy fix. You have to replace the sliding glass door or replace the glass. And it’s probably less expensive to simply replace the door itself. You get a good-quality Pella or Andersen sliding-glass door there and you’re not going to have to worry about glass that fails for a very, very, very long time. And I think that that is probably the best way to attack that problem. Either live with it and accept the fact that it’s going to be yucky looking or replace it with a new, good-quality slider.

    PAM: OK. Sounds good. Well, thank you for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Jason in Iowa is dealing with some asbestos removal, a topic I’m very familiar with these days.

    Jason, what’s going on at your money pit?

    JASON: Well, we bought a house. And in the basement, the ductwork has crumbling asbestos tape around all the seams. And I didn’t know it was asbestos at first. A gentleman – a friend of mine kind of told me that it was, which was good to know because I would have just started tearing it off there.

    But I know that it can be dangerous. And I’ve been told to put on a good HEPA-filter mask and wet the filters and such and you can take it off and wear gloves and be careful. But is that really the case? I mean do I have to legally hire a professional to come in and remove something like that?

    TOM: It’s definitely the smart thing to do, Jason. Because the problem with asbestos is it’s very, very fine. It’s finer than smoke. If you were to release asbestos particles and assuming there was no wind, it would take eight hours for them to hit the floor; that’s how fine they are.

    So what you are seeing is only part of the problem. What you’re physically seeing, those chunks, is only part of it. This is a situation where you really can’t do it yourself.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And the other part of the equation is the disposal. It’s like you can’t just take it and put it in a trash bag and stick it outside.

    JASON: Right.

    LESLIE: I’m in the process of having asbestos shingles removed from my home, on the exterior. And they have to be not only properly taken down and packed up in a certain manner but they have to be completely driven off to another state and certified that they’ve been disposed of in a proper manner. Now, I’m sure with just the tape wrapping the piping, that’s not going to be the extreme case there but you do have to make sure that it’s disposed of properly. You don’t want to get in any trouble.

    TOM: And by the way, Jason, you can’t visually identify asbestos. So the very first thing you should do is to have some – a sample of the material tested to confirm that it is, in fact, asbestos.

    JASON: And who would do that?

    TOM: An asbestos lab.

    Leslie, you just had asbestos testing done. Who did you use for that? Was it a local lab?

    LESLIE: It was a local company that also does the removal. But there are several companies. I would just look locally at asbestos removal. And it was fairly simple and the test took about two days. And it gives you a percentage of asbestos found in the item and it’s interesting.

    JASON: Well, thanks so much for your time and hopefully it won’t be too costly that I have to call it a “money pit.”

    TOM: OK, Jason. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    Well, if your lawn is turning into a field of brown straw already in the middle of summer, we’ve got tips on saving water to keep it green and lush all summer, even during those dry spells. So stay with us for a green lawn.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, do you need to get away from it all this summer but maybe you can’t take a vacation? How about a staycation? It might take only a little reworking of your outdoor space. We’ve got tips, on MoneyPit.com. Just search “outdoor patio design” for some ideas on how to transform your backyard into your own personal and private retreat.

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

    GLORIA: Yeah. Oh, hi. I’m calling about the product, SUNDEK. It’s also called Kool Deck. And I really just find – it’s that product that keeps your feet very cool? I had a pool put in and so when you get out of the water, it’s nice and cool on the feet; you don’t have the hot cement.

    But I find it very hard to keep clean. It looks kind of unsightly and when it rains, it just seems to attract dirt. Prior to the SUNDEK, I had cement and I found that it dried very quickly. I could take the hose and it was all very fresh. And this product just tends to hold water. I believe it’s an acrylic base. I just wondered – I don’t know if I could even have it removed somehow, kind of with some solution or if there’s some suggestion about how to take care of it.

    TOM: Gloria, I don’t think you have to remove or strip the Kool Deck paint to get it to clean it. Kool Deck is actually made by a company called Mortex – M-o-r-t-e-x. Their website is Mortex.com. And they make not only the Kool Deck but they make a cleaner that can be used on top of that; it’s a commercial-quality cleaner. So I would go to their website and look up the Kool Deck product, look up the cleaners. There is a website – there’s a – sorry, a link and a telephone number there where you can call and purchase the product. I don’t think you’ll find it in a home center or a hardware store; you may have to go direct. But we have the technology. No need to repair or replace what you have. You can keep it clean.

    GLORIA: Well, thank you so much. That’s going to be wonderful. I really appreciate your help.

    LESLIE: Well, with the droughts that seem to happen on a fairly regular basis every summer, many of us have occasionally had to hand off any chance of having a lush, green lawn until the water levels are restored.

    TOM: Yes. But one way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to conserve water, something that’s possible to do even with your lawn. Here to give us some water-saving advice for lawn care is Roger Cook, the landscape contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thank you. Glad to be here.

    TOM: So, when it comes to lawn care, strategic watering, being careful about how much water you use and where that water is applied, is really more important than ever, correct?

    ROGER: Exactly. Between the lack of water and the amount we pay for the water, it’s really important that we look how we’re applying it to the lawns.

    LESLIE: Is there something that we can do to make the soil perhaps more absorbative (ph)? Is there an additive or aeration? What can we do to help the soil really keep that water?

    ROGER: Well, if the lawn has already been installed, then you’re stuck with the soil that’s there because you’re not going to rip it all up and start again. But there are ways to improve it. One of the things we do is we aerate the lawn. Then we’ll go by and top-dress with compost. And that allows that compost to get down in those 2- to 3-inch holes and really improve that soil level so that it holds moisture and makes a great medium for the roots to grow in.

    TOM: And let’s just clarify that aeration process. I’ve seen that’s pretty interesting. So, you kind of, essentially, are putting holes in the lawn. I guess you’re breaking up some of the root structure by doing that and giving, as you say, the compost a place to soak into, correct?

    ROGER: Right. It’s a machine that – much like a lawnmower, with a motor on front and these tines that turn and actually pull a plug out of the ground.

    LESLIE: And then it looks like a goose has been all over the lawn.

    ROGER: That’s right. But that breaks down and it’s good for the soil. And then you add the new stuff to those plugs. And it takes three to five years but all of a sudden, you’ll notice that your lawn doesn’t need as much water as it did before.

    LESLIE: What about the timing of when you water the lawn? I think it’s a mistake; I see neighbors watering in the evening and I feel like that’s wrong.

    ROGER: Well, we always think that if a plant goes to bed wet, it’s a good chance it can get a fungus disease because there’s moisture there. The other thing is think about the sun’s rays and it’s going to evaporate water during the day. So I like to water early in the morning – 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 a.m. – before everyone gets up to use the bathroom or a shower. That way, the lawn’ll dry out very quickly in the morning. You won’t lose any water to evaporation; it’ll just drain right down into the soil.

    TOM: Now, we talked before about the need for strategic watering. One way to do that is with a soaker hose, correct? You can get the water just exactly where you want it and nowhere else?

    ROGER: Right. In non-lawn areas, it’s the greatest way to put water on anything because you’re putting the water on the roots where it wants to be naturally. You don’t waste water and it’s out of sight and it works very well for plantings.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think it’s also important – you know, our irrigation system has a rain sensor. So if we’ve had a ton of rain, I’m not going to waste more water. Too many times you see the irrigation system going in the middle of a downpour.

    ROGER: Right. There is nothing more frustrating than driving down the road in the pouring rain with your wipers on and seeing an irrigation system run at the same time.

    LESLIE: Right.

    ROGER: It’s just a total waste of water. And that little investment in a rain-stat is a great thing because it’ll just shut the system down. And now, some states, it’s being required on every system that goes in.

    LESLIE: And it’s not expensive to add.

    ROGER: Not at all. It’s a very simple operation.

    TOM: We’re talking to Roger Cook. He’s the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Roger, another way to cut down on the need for lawn irrigation is really to choose a different grass. Aren’t there certain grasses that use less water than others?

    ROGER: They are developing more and more grasses that are drought-tolerant, I guess is the term, and getting away from some of the heavier grasses like bluegrass, which needs a lot of water, to some ryes and fescues.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: And I think there’s even one called “buffalo grass,” which is a native grass that they’re trying out, too.

    TOM: Good. So where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can have a beautiful, green lawn and you can save water at the same time.

    Roger Cook, the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: It’s my pleasure and I hope the lawn’s always green.

    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 proudly brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating. Live better. Go to MitsubishiComfort.com.

    Coming up next on The Money Pit, a slower, summer housing market might mean a good deal for home buyers. We’ve got steps you should take before making the plunge into buying a new house, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by PORTER-CABLE professional-grade nailers and staplers. With over 100 years of experience producing quality, performance-driven tools, PORTER-CABLE continues to be a leading manufacturer and marketer of professional-grade, pneumatic fastening tools and compressors. Available at The Home Depot and independent retailers. To learn more, visit PORTERCABLE.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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller is going to get the latest technology in vacuums. It’s an AirRam from Gtech. Now, it’s an upright cordless vacuum and it weighs a little over 7 pounds. I mean that’s super-lightweight for a vacuum. I hate lugging the vacuum up and down the stairs, so 7 pounds is awesome.

    Now, it uses no bags or clunky canisters. It just sucks up all the dirt into a little square that you just dump neatly into your trash. And the rechargeable battery runs for an hour between charges. Personally, I like that it goes from carpet to floor without the need for any manual adjustments. It just goes.

    TOM: Check it out at GreyTechnology.com. That’s Grey – spelled G-r-e-y – Technology.com. Worth 350 bucks. Going to one caller that reaches us with their question on today’s show. Maybe that will be you, so what are you waiting for? Call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Al in South Dakota on the line who needs some help with mold removal. What can we do for you?

    AL: My son has a house that has mold in his basement walls, say, like about 2 feet up from the floor up. And just wondering how to remove that.

    TOM: Is it – is this basement finished or unfinished?

    AL: Finished.

    TOM: And the mold is on what? Drywall?

    AL: No, it’s a poured basement and then there – I think it’s cemented over. It has a coating over it and then on the outside of that, there’s a – there’s mold that appears.

    TOM: OK. So it’s coming through the concrete wall?

    AL: Yes, correct. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Alright. So then it’s not finished. Does it look like grayish and white?

    AL: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s not mold. That’s most like efflorescence. Basically, water from the outside soaks into the concrete wall and then that moisture evaporates into the basement and it leaves its mineral salts behind. And you can prove it if you take some white vinegar and splash it on the salt; it’ll just melt away and wash right away. Highly unlikely that what you’re describing is mold.

    AL: Oh. So use some white vinegar, you say.

    TOM: Yeah. People confuse it with mold all the time but it’s not; it’s mineral salt.

    LESLIE: I guess just because the location, you know?

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: It seems like that’s what it should be.

    AL: Yeah, yeah. Great. Well, I thank you so much. Appreciate your help.

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

    Well, everything seems to slow down during the summer dog days, don’t you think? And this includes the housing market. But it also means it’s a really good time for buyers that are thinking about investing in a new money pit.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But before you do that, you need to know what you can afford and stick to that number. Don’t let anybody talk you into a mortgage that’s larger than your budget, which is pretty hard to do these days as it is. Now, mortgage rates, they’re still pretty low but we’re seeing a trend toward increased rates. So the sooner you lock in your rate with a lender, the better.

    Also, you want to choose a real estate agent that’s going to respect your timeline, budget and exactly what you want in your home. Now, interviewing at least three agents before you hire one is the general industry recommendation.

    TOM: And also, don’t rush. You need to take as much time as you need to research the possible purchase. Now, as part of that process, you want to make sure that an appraisal is done so you can be assured that the home has the value that you’re going to pay for it. And also, think about testing your commute, if it’s out of the area you live in now, so you’ll have an idea what it’s going to take to get back and forth to work every day. If you are armed with as much information as possible before making the bid, you will make the most successful purchase.

    For more tips, just search “home buying” at MoneyPit.com.

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

    SUSAN: I was calling because I have a large room that was converted from a garage into a living room but it’s got some dark, ugly paneling on it. And what’s the best way to remove it or how do you undo paneling?

    LESLIE: I mean it really depends on how much work you want to do and how that paneling that’s there was attached to the existing structure.

    Now, it was the garage previously?

    SUSAN: Yes. And it was ridiculous. It was paneled and – like it was a really elite garage when we moved in. It was crazy.

    LESLIE: Now, do you know, is the paneling just attached directly to the studs of the wall? Or is it attached by glue to drywall? Have you had any clue what’s behind it?

    SUSAN: I don’t.

    LESLIE: I wonder if there’s a place where you can lift up a piece of trim or remove a switch plate and see what’s sort of going on with that? Because it could be that it was a garage. It could just be that the paneling was put directly onto those studs and then you could pull that off and have a clean slate and just go ahead and put some drywall up. And while you’re at it, add some insulation. Because if it was a garage, there’s a good chance there wasn’t any there before.

    Now, if you do find that it was attached to some drywall, it’s probably glued on and everything behind it’s going to be a mess. So you’ve got two choices there. You can either just make that paneling look attractive by painting it. And you know what? When paneling is painted like a glossy white or a glossy neutral color, it actually doesn’t look so bad. It can kind of be that great, interesting base texture with sort of a modern country feel, if that makes sense.

    But if that’s something that you’re like, “Oh, God, no, I don’t even want to see it,” you can easily go over it with ¼-inch drywall. The only thing is where you’ve got switches or outlets or trimming, those things are going to have to bump out a little bit. So that requires a little bit of carpentry but it’s not the end of the world and it is a do-it-yourself project.

    SUSAN: OK. So it really depends on what it’s over.

    LESLIE: Depends on what it’s over, how it’s attached and how involved you want to get.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I guess the first thing I will need to do then is take a piece off or figure that out and go from there.

    LESLIE: Don’t sound so down; it’s not a difficult project.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I appreciate the advice.

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

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

    Well, it turns out that man’s best friend is not a floor’s best friend. We’re going to talk about one way to fix the damage dogs can do to a hardwood floor, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

    TOM: 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: Hey, if you’ve got a summer getaway planned, you want to make sure you leave your home safe for peace of mind while you’re away. So go to MoneyPit.com and search “home security in summer” for a checklist on pre-vacation security to-dos.

    And by the way, that includes both security in the sense of “let’s not get ripped off,” as well as security in the sense of “let’s not come home to a broken pipe and a flooded basement.” All that information, online, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been in the taxi, on the way to the airport, and I’m calling the neighbor to go in and make sure I’ve turned off the oven. Because you know I’m trying to feed the kids before we leave for the plane.

    TOM: Yeah, right, get it all done.

    LESLIE: And I’m like, “Dawn, did I leave the gas on? No? OK, great. Thank you so much.”

    TOM: That moment is always a moment of high anxiety. Because as you get into the car or the taxi and you’re going to the airport, you’re running this checklist through your mind. “Did I do this? Did I do that?”

    LESLIE: Oh, completely.

    TOM: “Did I stop the mail? Did I turn the lights off?” And so you’re absolutely right.

    So, if you have a checklist, you can, like an airplane pilot, check it off every time you leave the house and make sure that you’re totally good to go.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Top of that list: leave the key with your neighbor.

    Alright. And while you’re online, you can post a question in the Community section. And I’ve got one here from Patricia in Ohio who wrote: “I built my house six years ago. My hardwood floor looks bad thanks to my big dogs and their big claws. Is there anything I can do to make the floors look better, aside from the pain of sanding and refinishing them?”

    You know, you can put sanding pads on the bottom of your dogs’ feet and then let – just let them do the work.

    TOM: Listen, if the floor’s scratched, it’s scratched, so there’s no miracle cure for getting those scratches out. However, it doesn’t mean, though, that you have to do a major floor-refinishing project where you’re actually sanding the finish down to the raw wood. Another way to do this – and especially if it’s just scratches from the dogs – you can use something called a “floor buffer” with a sanding screen.

    Now, the floor buffer, of course, is that buffer that you see in office buildings and the mall and stuff where they polish the floors with them and wax it. Except instead of the buffing pad, there’s a screen that goes underneath it. And it’s like a piece of sandpaper but looks like a window screen but it’s rough like sandpaper. And it comes in different grits, from coarse to fine. And it’s a lot easier way to just sort of clean up a floor and get it ready for another coat of urethane, then sanding it down to the wood which has, of course, all the sawdust. So, yeah, you’ve got to move your furniture out, you’ve got to clean the floor.

    But then if you rent the floor buffer with the sanding screen and give it a buff and then damp-mop that, get all the dust up and then put urethane down on top of that, you can get a totally new, shiny floor with a lot less work than sanding it down to the raw wood.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you just have to sort of do this once and then do a good top coat that’ll keep it from the dogs scratching up. But you may want to think about manicuring the dogs’ nails once in a while.

    Next up, we’ve got one from Daniel in Pennsylvania who wrote: “How do I know the difference between a crack in my wall that’s just from the house settling and one that spells trouble with the foundation?”

    TOM: Well, first of all, almost all foundations will crack, especially those that are made of concrete block. The area of concern is when the cracks get wide. And I’m more concerned about horizontal cracks, which happen from poor drainage and the soil freezing outside and pushing on the wall and sort of potentially pushing the wall in, than I am about vertical cracks. But any crack that’s open more than, I say, an 1/8- to ¼-inch, I would have it assessed by an independent professional. Not a contractor who’s trying to sell you a repair but an independent professional like a home inspector or an engineer.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. This way, they can exactly tell you what’s going on and where and sort of give you an idea of what the steps are needed to take care of the problem.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We hope that we’ve given you some tips and some advice this hour to help you take the next step on getting those projects done that are on your to-do list, on your money pit. If you’ve got questions, 24-7, remember we are available at 888-MONEY-PIT and also online at MoneyPit.com. Just post your question in the Community section.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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