Home Improvement Tips & Advice
Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
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 your home improvement projects just got easier. Pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Before you pick up the hammer, before you pick up the saw pick up the phone right now and ask us your home improvement question because we’ll help you get the job done right; we’ll help you save some money with your home improvement projects; we’ll help you avoid some embarrassing mistakes that you’ll have to explain to your friends and it just gets ugly. (Leslie chuckles) We can help you through all of that if you call us first at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
Coming up, just because you have a brand, spanking new just-built house doesn’t mean that it’s problem free. Some new homes are built wrong from the start. We’re going to tell you how to avoid those horror stories in just a bit.
LESLIE: Yeah, you know, if you moved into a brand new house even just a few years ago, you might be noticing some of those problems popping up now and unfortunately we’re noticing some of these common mistakes made by builders all across the country. Coming up, we’re going to tell you what you need to know about the top ten building blunders.
TOM: Also ahead, what you can do to make your electrical outlets more accessible and less enticing for your little ones.
LESLIE: And we’ll tell you why water can be a hardwood floor’s worst enemy. We’re going to teach you how to clean floors the right way, just ahead this hour.
TOM: And as always, one caller is going to win a great prize. We’re giving away a new product from Energizer called the Light On Demand. It’s a line of lighting that comes with backup batteries so you never have to worry about a power failure leaving you in the dark. The prize is worth 90 bucks. You want to win it, you’ve got to have a home improvement question and be willing to come on the air and ask us. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jimmy in Texas has a patio project. What can we do for you?
JIMMY: Hi. Yes, I was wondering – I want to enclose my patio and make it a family room. But I want to know if the concrete slab is thick enough. It’s only about six inches thick.
TOM: It’s not.
JIMMY: I want to know if – no?
TOM: It’s not thick enough, no. And it’s good that you’re calling now, Jimmy, because too many times, in the years I spent as a home inspector and in the many years I spent on the radio, I’ve heard about the results of enclosing a patio or creating an enclosed space – like it’s an addition to your house – on top of what was never intended to be the slab foundation for the room. And so right now it seems pretty easy to just add a door, add a window, add some walls. But what happens is you’re going to see a lot of movement in that soil and you’re going to get a lot of gaps. And so it’s definitely not OK to just wall over a patio and put a door on and call that an extension to your room. If you want to do it you have to tear out the patio that’s there and pour a proper foundation for one, then a new slab …
LESLIE: What would be the recommended thickness?
TOM: Well, you’d have to have a foundation with a footing. You’d have to have a footing that goes down about three feet …
JIMMY: (overlapping voices) Oh, I see.
TOM: … and then you could pour a slab on top of that. You can’t just use that patio slab – like you say, it’s six inches thick –
JIMMY: Right, so …
TOM: – and make that the base of the walls.
JIMMY: OK, I wouldn’t be able to pour another slab over that then?
JIMMY: (overlapping voices) No? OK. OK.
TOM: No, you would have to put a foundation around it. I’m sorry, Jimmy, it’s not that easy and I’m glad you’re calling though because a lot of times we hear about this, you know, many, many years later when, you know, one guy puts up some walls and another owner comes in and puts in some windows and somebody else puts in some doors and then somebody finally adds heat and then the whole thing starts to fall apart and you wonder why.
JIMMY: Right. OK. Well, I wish it was that easy, but I guess not. OK.
TOM: Alright, Jimmy? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. And just enjoy that patio outside. It’s lovely weather (Leslie chuckles) in Dallas, Texas.
LESLIE: But you know, it could be a good do-it-yourself project if you get somebody to do the foundation and the footing and you go ahead and finish the space. I mean you’d keep cost down that way.
TOM: I agree. A lot of times it’s good to have a pro just tackle those elements of the project you don’t want to do yourself and then you can do the rest.
LESLIE: Well, most homes are stick built but you could find yourself with a manufactured home which is then a great opportunity for a great home.
PAM: Well, my husband and I are going to start a construction project on a new home sometime in the next year and we’ve been considering the manufactured housing. And the local company that we have near us that we’ve been looking into, when they put the drywall up they used glue instead of nails. And I want to know about the long-term, I guess, durability of something like that; how well that glue works, if you know something about that.
TOM: If you’re going to glue your drywall it has to be nailed in place or screwed in place while the glue is drying. It’s a good construction technique but it can’t be done one without the other.
PAM: They tell us that’s all they do.
TOM: I find that hard to believe.
TOM: Never saw drywall hung that way, yeah.
TOM: It would be impossible. How you going to hang a heavy sheet of drywall upside down …
LESLIE: Especially on the ceiling.
TOM: … on the ceiling, yeah.
PAM: Well, now …
TOM: Unless they’ve developed a special brand of drywall contact cement …
TOM: … I can’t imagine that that would work.
PAM: Well, they tell us it’s pretty strong but, you know, it just sounds a little unusual. I guess we were also concerned about the safety issues like toxicity and things like that; I mean as far as the long-term effects of the …
TOM: Well, you know, it’s always a good idea to try to use low-VOC products when they’re available.
LESLIE and PAM: Mm-hmm.
TOM: But when you’re building a house it’s very well ventilated. It’s going to off-gas, you know, plenty probably before you get it all closed in. So I would be more concerned about the quality construction right now. So if you’re going to install drywall and glue it, that’s great; but also, you want to make sure it’s screwed in place. Screws are the best way to keep the drywall boards on. You’ll never have nail pops and it’ll be real rock solid.
LESLIE: And you know what? If …
PAM: So even with manufactured housing you haven’t really heard of just gluing on drywall.
TOM: Unless there’s a way to do it at the factory where the boards are glued and then it’s pressed on, you know, in a factory setting so it dries. I could see that.
LESLIE: You know, you might to, Pam, question the manufacturer about the brand of the glue and then call that glue manufacturer themselves and find out what the proper technique is because maybe …
TOM: Yeah, but when it comes to manufactured homes, I think that those are just fine. I mean they, in some respects, are better built than stick homes.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. When you’re not dealing with any weather conditions.
PAM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, we toured the factory. It was very impressive touring the factory; to watch.
TOM: Yeah, they really are good homes.
PAM: Yeah. OK, I heard you talking about them a couple of weeks ago on the radio and …
PAM: … that’s the reason I was kind of curious about that. OK. So, I will do that. I will find out what kind of glue it is and maybe call the company; pursue it a little bit more.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Alright, Pam.
PAM: Thanks for taking my call.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show and spring is springing and we can help you get all of those home improvement chores done on your honey-do list, so call us with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Now Leslie, you are about to become a parent.
TOM: And when you become a parent you notice that many things that can cause children harm seem to be at the perfect height for a child.
LESLIE: Oh, are you kidding? Whenever I get invited to a baby shower I am the safety gift giver. Everybody else buys cute little outfits. I hand them a ton of like safety monitors, outlet plugs. I’m like, ‘Here, all of these things,’ because no one things to buy that stuff.
TOM: Well, one of those things is the outlet so up next we’re going to have some tips on how to not keep outlets within easy reach of children.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: If you’re thinking about tackling some major spring cleaning around your house, remember, it takes a real man or woman to order a dumpster. Got to admit. (Leslie chuckles) You know, I’ve got a lot of stuff. Time to clean it out. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Call us right now if you need some organizational assistance at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one caller we talk to this hour is going to win a pair of Energizer Light On Demand wall sconces. These are pretty cool. They’re in a brushed nickel finish. They can be wall mounted like regular sconces but they double as emergency lights because they also run on battery power. You’ll never be left in the dark again during a power outage. The Light On Demand products are very cool and they’re a lot safer than candles. The prize is worth 90 bucks so call us right now if you’d like to win it at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: And it’s pretty cool because something about your power going out and these lights coming back on on their own is very Star Trek Enterprise to me, so I like this prize.
TOM: Well, I actually never had that problem because I have my trusty Generac backup standby generator standing by and I love this thing because every Thursday morning, if I’m ever wondering what day of the week it is I always know it’s Thursday because it always kicks on and automatically does a test cycle.
LESLIE: It’s like, ‘OK, I’m still working. I’m ready to go,’ which is awesome because you always get the power outages.
TOM: I know. We had one last week and my power was out for like 15 seconds (Leslie chuckles), then the generator came on. I’m like, ‘I’m all set.’
LESLIE: And everybody else is sitting in the dark wondering, ‘Why is the Kraeutler house all lit up ablazing?’
TOM: Yep. (chuckles)
LESLIE: Alright, well speaking of power, do you ever wonder why the electrical outlets are so darn close to the floor where you’ve got to bend down, sometimes kind of strenuously to, you know, even reach them. And they’re only convenient for children to reach and you certainly don’t want them to have easy access to them at all. Well why not consider calling in an electrician and have that pro move some of your outlets 27 inches off the floor at least? This is going to make it a lot easier for stretching and straining and you might even consider putting some of those as high as 40 inches.
TOM: And while you’re at it, think about adding even more outlets to your home. You should not have to run an electrical cord more than about six feet to reach an outlet and you don’t want to have all those extra cords around as fall hazards. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to do this and it’s going to make sure that your family is safe in your home for years to come.
Hey, do you have an electrical question? Do you have a plumbing question? Do you have a cooling question? Now is the perfect time to get your cooling system checked out; get it serviced so it’s ready to rock and roll before it really gets warm out. We can help you. Pick up the phone right now and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Karen in Tennessee wants to talk fencing. What can we help you with?
KAREN: Hi, I had termites on my wood fence. I had a local pest control company eliminate the problem but my question is how do I eliminate the evidence of the termites on my fence?
LESLIE: Where do you see the damage? Is it on a picket? Is it on the post? Is it on a rail?
KAREN: It’s on the rail.
TOM: And is the rail actually damaged or is it just covered with mud tunnels?
KAREN: Covered with mud tunnels.
TOM: OK, so you can just brush those off. What happens is the termites use like, I guess we could call it saliva and they mix sand with it …
TOM: … and it has a bleaching effect on the wood. And so it will make it somewhat discolored but you can scrape those off and then if you don’t like the look you could simply stain the fence.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. There might have been a little damage on one part of it.
TOM: If there’s just a – if there’s so little damage that you’re not sure, Karen, don’t worry about it. Termites are Mother Nature’s way of getting rid of dead wood. It’s very common to have them on fencing and if you treated the area around the house – was the fence near your house?
KAREN: Yes, uh-huh.
TOM: Well, then it’s a good thing that you had the house treated. But I wouldn’t worry about it. I would simply brush off the mud tunnels and move on. If it’s not substantially damaged then just ignore it.
KAREN: And then you said otherwise I can stain it.
TOM: Yeah, you could stain it.
TOM: Yep, mm-hmm. Absolutely.
KAREN: One other thing. What about – what is it? The power …?
TOM: Power washing?
TOM: Well, I mean you can certainly do that when you’re prepping for staining but, really, all you have to do is brush off the mud tubes that were on there. See, termites live in the soil. They come up into the wood to feed and because they can’t be exposed to sunlight they build these tubes; these sort of quarter-inch tubes – they’re called shelter tunnels – and then they crawl inside of that. So when you see all that dirt on the outside of the fencepost, those are the shelter tunnels and sometimes they’ll bury through the wood, too, but if it’s not substantially damaged I would just ignore it. Treat it like as if you had some rotted wood. If it’s a little bit of area there just fill it with a wood filler and then either stain it or paint it and move on.
KAREN: Oh, great. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Karen. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: James in Tennessee has got a situation where the heating unit is vibrating his kitchen cabinets. What’s happening?
JAMES: Well, we bought this house I guess a little over a year ago and every time the unit comes on upstairs, the cabinet – dishes in the cabinet downstairs rattle.
TOM: Hmm. (James chuckles) And how old is the furnace we’re talking about here?
JAMES: I think it’s probably about 14 years old.
TOM: Mm-hmm. It sounds to me like it’s out of balance.
JAMES: Uh-huh. I’m not real sure about how to balance one. How would you go about that?
TOM: Well, there’s a mount called an anti-shock mount that could be installed in between the blower unit and the actual housing of the furnace itself. I’m assuming that you have a horizontal furnace there …
TOM: … in the attic space.
TOM: And that can help. The other thing that you can do is, if this is resting on top of the floor joists, the whole unit could be supported from the roof rafters and taken up off of the floor joists so, in effect, it’s now hung in the attic as opposed to sitting on top of the floor joist. I’ve seen that done as well and that will stop the vibration from kind of transmitting through the ceiling, which is what’s happening here.
JAMES: Yeah. I kind of figured it probably had something to do with that but I wasn’t quite sure what could be done about it.
TOM: Yeah. Well those are a couple ideas that I think will work. James, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ray in North Carolina’s dealing with a moldy situation. Tell us about the problem.
RAY: Yeah, I keep getting mold in my garage. It’s an unfinished garage and my dog stays out there a lot. And I keep getting mold around the door frames and on the floor. How can I clean it and keep it from coming …
TOM: On the floor?
RAY: Yeah, on the floor. It’s a concrete floor.
TOM: (overlapping voices) On a concrete …
TOM: That would be very unusual because mold doesn’t grow in organic places like floors.
LESLIE: But it does grow on dust and dirt.
TOM: Well, that’s true. Well, what you need to do is you need to wash everything down with a mildicide. I would use a bleach and water solution or I would use a commercially available mildicide. And the common mistake is that people sort of scrub this stuff away but they don’t leave the mildicide product on the surface long enough for it to really do its job. You just spray it on and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes so it really goes to town and kills all of the fungal spores that are left behind and then you can clean it off.
TOM: And the other thing that I would do after that is I would use a bathroom-type paint that has a mildicide in it. I would prime the surface and then I would use a mildicide-based paint on top of that and that will help slow this down.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And what about an epoxy coating for the floor?
TOM: Yeah, that as well. That’s a good idea because it makes it easier to clean.
RAY: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Well, thank you so very much. What was the – what’s the ratio of the …
TOM: Bleach to water?
RAY: … the bleach to water?
TOM: I would probably go about 20 percent bleach.
RAY: Twenty percent?
RAY: Thank you so very much. I appreciate it.
LESLIE: Alright, if you’re having some paint issues you’re just like Marion in North Carolina. How can we help you?
MARION: Well, I have an older house that the baseboards, the trim around the doors and the doors were originally varnished or stained and some kind of clear finish on it and before I bought the house someone had gone through and modernized it and painted everything with a nice, bright, white enamel paint.
MARION: The problem is …
TOM: It’s no longer nice, white and bright, huh? (Leslie chuckles)
MARION: Well, they didn’t sand it down and primer it underneath and so, it doesn’t take much to scrape or scratch off the paint.
TOM: Right, mm-hmm.
MARION: And …
LESLIE: So they put the gloss right over the varnish?
TOM: Sounds that way.
TOM: Yeah, and you’re going to have to sort of start from scratch on this because there’s no quick fix. You’re going to need to pull those doors off; sand them down; at least get down to the original varnish where you have a nice, smooth, solid, raw surface …
TOM: … then you can prime it and then you can paint it.
LESLIE: Yeah, and if you can, Marion, I’d say even pull all the trim off; label where it goes because you’ll have a much better time working with it on a flat surface. You know, set up a bunch of sawhorses outside; lay everything flat.
A good stripper that I like to work with when I’ve taken the stain off of kitchen cabinets and smaller projects or dealing with stain or paint is Rock Miracle and I like it because it’s a little bit thicker in texture. It goes on easily. It sort of changes its color as its working so you can really see how it’s working and it does a good job of cutting through even on the first go-round. But you know, you might have to do it twice.
LESLIE: And you’re probably going to need a lot of it. (chuckles)
MARION: (chuckles) Yes, I’m afraid I will.
LESLIE: You know, another option, if the time and effort and energy involved in stripping everything and refinishing is, you know, pick up some new baseboard and some new trim molding and then really focus on the doors.
TOM: You know, I have an 1886 house and that’s exactly what I did. There were just so many layers of paint on the existing trim I found it easier to replace everything than to spend the hours upon hours it would take to have stripped it.
MARION: That’s what I was afraid you were going to say (Tom and Leslie laugh) but I was (inaudible) an easier answer.
TOM: You saw the result of taking the easy way out and it isn’t pretty. So, you can try it again the same way or you could take the time now to really do it once, do it right and not have to worry about doing it again.
Marion, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
Coming up, some more great home improvement advice including the top ten building blunders that new homes are plagued with. So stick around.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Rheem water heaters. For dependable, energy-efficient tank and tankless water heaters you can trust Rheem. Learn more at SmarterHotWater.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better and you call us up right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT we’ll help you do just that. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and we’re so glad that you’re joining us, all of you home improvement fans and do-it-yourselfers who just love to get to work in your homes and maybe you’ve just bought a brand, spanking new home or you’re building the home of your dreams, but it doesn’t mean just because it’s brand new that you’re going to find your home to be problem free for the next few years or so because, I hate to tell you this folks, some homes are just built plain wrong from the start.
TOM: And Fine Homebuilding’s editor, Kevin Ireton, knows just that. He’s here with the top ten building blunders that plague new houses.
KEVIN: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie.
KEVIN: Well, let’s talk about water, water, everywhere; not a drop to drink except if you happen to be in your basement. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)
LESLIE: Where there’s a lot.
TOM: You have some advice here on vapor barriers in basements. You say they can actually rot out the walls. People are interested in making their homes more energy efficient. They’re putting up a lot of insulation right now. What goes wrong?
KEVIN: Basically, you don’t want to, you know, build a stud wall next to your foundation, insulate it with fiberglass and put a plastic vapor barrier behind the drywall. If you do that, moisture is going to come through the concrete wall, condense on that plastic and create mold.
TOM: So you’re better off using polystyrene that is not going to trap the moisture?
KEVIN: Exactly. Directly against the concrete with an air space, using firring strips between that and the drywall. Much better.
LESLIE: Now here – here’s one that I think is really interesting. You’re saying that venting crawlspaces isn’t always the best thing to do.
TOM: Isn’t that required by code?
KEVIN: It is required by code in a lot of places; although it’s changing. The problem is simply this – especially in the summer or depending on where you live, warm, moist air is entering through those crawlspace vents; it’s reaching the joists underneath your floor and it’s condensing there because it’s finding a cooler surface and that’s going to lead to rot and mold.
TOM: You know, up in Canada, they seem to be doing a lot of sealed crawlspaces where every inch of the area is sealed. Is that sort of the new technology? Because those guys always seem to be ahead of us on that.
KEVIN: Absolutely. It’s better to insulate the walls of the crawlspace and actually treat that as a conditioned space so there’s a little bit of heat in there and it stays warm and no problem.
TOM: Speaking of conditioned space – places that we actually heat or cool – you’ve got a lot of advice in this article about duct systems and it sounds to me like there’s an awful lot of leaking duct systems out there; either because they’re going into the wrong area of your house or they’re built improperly. Is that sort of a theme?
KEVIN: It sure is. Ducts are going to leak. Even if you seal them as best you can you’re going to get some leakage. So the main thing is to try to keep your ducts and your air handlers inside the conditioned space of your house. You want them …
TOM: I was worried you were going to say in a row. (Leslie chuckles)
KEVIN: No. Keep your ducts in row. Always a good idea. No, you basically – if they’re up in the attic then you want the insulation up in the roof above the air handlers.
TOM: In the old houses where you have the metal ducts that are really crafted sort of half metal, half wood because the contractors used the stud bay – the actual wood 2x4s or 4×4 studs in the real old houses and they create ducts around those – can’t that cause a rotting problem and a leaking problem as well?
KEVIN: It can. It seemed like a good idea; nailing sheet metal on the joists or on the studs. Unfortunately, what happens is you end up sucking fiberglass particles – because they leak –
KEVIN – so you end up sucking fiberglass particles into your heating system or cooling system or, you know, combustion gases from appliances or exhaust fumes from your garage. All sorts of bad things get into your air system that way.
LESLIE: And there’s also one more thought on heating and cooling as far as return duct placement. That seems to be a major mistaken placement or a far under estimate of how many return ducts you actually need.
KEVIN: The system needs to be balanced and a lot of systems get short-changed on the return air. A couple of ways to deal with that are sometimes you need vents from room to room to allow air to return. Other times just having a good gap at the bottom of the door so that if doors are closed the room doesn’t get starved for air.
TOM: We’re talking to Kevin Ireton – he is the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine – about the top ten building blunders of all time.
And Kevin, number ten – the most dangerous thing that you can do in your house is …
KEVIN: To install an unvented gas space heater or fireplace.
TOM: Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more. You know, it’s interesting that we were talking about Canada earlier. As I recall, the entire country of Canada you’re not allowed to put in an unvented fireplace or gas heater but here they’re sold everywhere.
KEVIN: Last I knew there were five states in this country that had outlawed them and they’re outlawed in some other cities in other states. The problem is, you know, when they’re working perfectly you’re probably safe.
KEVIN: Because they do have a system that if – you know, if they’re not burning as cleanly as they’re supposed to they’re supposed to sense that and shut off. But what if that mechanism fails?
KEVIN: As one person told me, you wouldn’t run your car inside your car with the garage door closed.
TOM: Yeah, and the manufacturers would say that they have oxygen depletion sensors and this and that but, you know what? It’s not that hard to put in a vented fireplace today. You don’t need a chimney for it. They can be direct vented right through the wall. So I just don’t think it’s worth the risk.
KEVIN: Yeah, you’re exactly right.
TOM: Kevin Ireton, editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great article, on newsstands now. Fine Homebuilding. Pick it up or go to their website at FineHomebuilding.com.
LESLIE: Alright, Kevin. Thanks so much for keeping everybody on their toes with those new homes.
Well, coming up after the break, do you have hardwood floors? We’re going to tell you why cleaning them with just water isn’t really the best thing to do. We’ll teach you what to do and how, so stick around.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: If you own an old home just so you’ll have something to do on the weekends, you are in the right place because this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Old, new; we can help you fix it up. 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright, if you give us a call at that number – 1-888-MONEY-PIT – one caller who asks their question on the air this hour is going to win a pair of Energizer Light On Demand wall sconces. These are brand, spanking new; beautiful sconces. They’re in brushed nickel. You mount them anywhere in your house and the coolest part is that if your power goes out a rechargeable battery is going to keep them running. So it’s really great. Everybody will be super envious sitting in the dark as your house is all brilliantly lit up on the inside so you can play your board games with your family. They’re worth 90 bucks and you’ve got to be in it to win it, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s talk about cleaning floors. It’s the number one topic that we get asked about on the show; how to fix floors; how to clean floors; how to stop floor squeaks. Well, here’s a simple solution for cleaning hardwood floors. You want to use warm water and a five percent vinegar solution. The vinegar is really the hot ticket. You want to wring out the sponge or the mop twice to avoid puddles and for prefinished hardwood floors clean and wax with products that are offered or recommended by the manufacturer so you don’t void any warranties. Either way, never overwater those floors. Don’t slosh a lot of water in those floors. Just damp mop them with a vinegar and water solution. That’s all you need. Comes out great and your whole house smells like a salad.
LESLIE: (chuckling) No, it doesn’t.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Justin in West Virginia, who podcasts The Money Pit – alright, technology – has a question about water. What’s going on, Justin?
JUSTIN: Yes, in my basement I’ve had water coming through. I moved here about two years ago and I have an underground spring, I guess, because water runs, basically, all year round.
JUSTIN: And the way – I had B-Dry come in and price how much it would cost to fix and they gave me an estimate of about $6,000 to $7,000.
JUSTIN: And I really don’t have the money to do that but I got online and I was looking at – it’s called Beaver Basement Baseboard Water Control and I was just wondering if you know if that was worth the money.
TOM: Is that one of the baseboard products that like glues against the foundation wall and creates a channel?
JUSTIN: Yes, sir.
TOM: Maybe, maybe not. Let me ask you about the pattern of water and filtration here. Does it seem to be consistent with heavy rainfall when you have the biggest problems?
JUSTIN: No, not necessarily.
JUSTIN: It’s pretty much year around. Now, when there is rainfall I do have water coming around in other parts, but it’s not flooding or anything. It’s just a trickle where it’s actually the – the basement is kind of sheered off a little bit. It’s not moving anymore. It had sheered off a long time ago and I get some water coming in right there.
TOM: How do you see the water during the periods of when it’s not raining? Does it come up?
JUSTIN: It just – basically it’s just filtering down through the ground and then it’s just seeping in around the very bottom of the basement floor and coming in.
TOM: But it’s filtering around through the ground?
TOM: So it’s coming in and sort of falling down?
JUSTIN: Yes. I’ve actually …
TOM: I suspect that – if it’s coming in the way you describe – and even if you do have a high water table in this area, Justin – I would suspect that a large contributor to this problem, if not the entire contributor, is not rising water but falling water; water that is saturating the foundation perimeter and finding its way against the foundation walls – being very, very hydroscopic, they soak up a lot of water – and then showing up on the inside. So before you do anything with a waterproofing company or install any type of water evacuation system, the very first thing you have to do is make sure that the drainage conditions on the outside of your house, Justin, are just perfect.
TOM: If you have a home that’s susceptible to flooding and leakage you have to go the extra mile and make sure everything is letter perfect. So here are the things that you need to do.
First of all, look at the grading; the angle of the soil around the house. First of all, the type of soil is important. It can’t be …
LESLIE: Can’t just do it with topsoil.
TOM: Can’t be topsoil. It’s too organic. You have to use clean fill dirt and you have to tamp it down well and you have to slope it so it drops six inches over four feet. The next thing to look at is the gutter system.
LESLIE: Yeah, you want to make sure, number one, that your gutters are clean all the time – you know, you really need to stay on top of it – and that the downspouts are free-flowing. And then you want to look at the location of the downspouts. You want to make sure that they don’t just end right next to the foundation itself. You need them to sort of carry the water away three feet, six feet; get it out of there. Even if you want it to go further to an area where the grading is even more pronounced you can bury it underground so that you’re not looking at this enormous drain pipe. But this way you at least move that water.
JUSTIN: I’ve actually done that. I actually have a drain that it empties out clear into the road that goes by my house. So there’s no drain spouts that actually – and I have just replaced them all and I still have this water problem. So I know it’s not the downspouts.
TOM: Do you know – the piping that you used to run this out underground; what kind of piping was that, Justin?
JUSTIN: It was PVC.
TOM: Solid PVC pipe?
JUSTIN: It was not the (inaudible). Yes.
TOM: And it wasn’t – was it perforated or was it solid?
JUSTIN: It was solid.
TOM: OK. Well then it sounds like you’ve done that right. Well, OK. If you absolutely are sure that the grading and the gutters are OK, then I would recommend a sub-slab drainage system. I would not recommend the gutter system that we were talking about; the baseboard system.
TOM: Because that’s only going to catch water that comes down the wall and you need to catch it closer to the footing level. So in this case, I would recommend jack hammering out the basement floor and I almost never say this; but if you’ve done everything else and it’s absolutely perfect, then you’ll have to put in a subsurface drainage system and the only time we recommend this is when everything else is perfect and you’re absolutely positive it’s a high water table that’s contributing to it. All other times – and I’ve got to tell you, you are in the like the three percent group …
TOM: … that might need this solution. Almost everyone else …
JUSTIN: (overlapping voices) Yeah.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Because most of the times the other ones fix it.
TOM: … it will fix it all the time.
LESLIE: This is The Money Pit.
Coming up, advice on getting rid of that puddle of water that always collects in the same spot in front of your home. That’s next when we jump into our e-mail bag of questions, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is being brought to you by Guardian Home Standby Generators; America’s choice in power outage protection. Learn more at GuardianGenerators.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Making good homes better; that’s what we do. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
We know you listen to The Money Pit and we know that you love it, so let everybody know. We want you to wear your team colors proudly. We’ve got a great part of our site at Money Pit fanwear. It’s available online now. We’ve got shirts. We’ve got hats, mugs, tote bags. They’ve got cheeky little lines on them that are going to make you laugh and enjoy all of our fun home improvement sense of humor and there’s some great gifts on there for the handy person in your life. If you’re thinking of picking up a little something for that special handyman or woman in your life, go to MoneyPit.com and click on Store.
TOM: While you’re there click on Ask Tom and Leslie and shoot us an e-mail question just like Ward did from Shelton, Washington.
LESLIE: Alright, Ward writes: ‘Last section of concrete walk leading to the front step poured incorrectly and collects water/ice. Is there a product/technique I can use to correct the slope or must I break up the concrete and start from scratch?’
TOM: Depends on how much of a pitch you need there. You could use an epoxy patching compound and build it up to restore a slight slope to it but if we’re talking about a slab here that’s dropped a couple of inches you may need to either break it up or, if it’s a section by itself, you actually can dig it up and then reset it sloping it down.
LESLIE: Oh, interesting. Sort of set other sand or other aggregate underneath …
TOM: (overlapping voices) Underneath it. Exactly.
LESLIE: … to sort of create that slope.
TOM: Yeah, it’s super-heavy but you can do it and I’ve done it myself. In fact, we had to sort of surgically slice open a section of concrete to repair a water pipe once and we were able to put it back and it looks just as good as new.
LESLIE: Alright, fantastic. I hope that helps you, Ward.
We’ve got another one here from Lori in North Kingstown, Rhode Island who writes: ‘We want to fix up our home for sale. It’s a 29-year-old Cape Cod and except for cosmetic things inside and paint outside has never been majorly redone. What do you suggest are the most important things to look at and possibly work on?’
TOM: Kitchen and bathroom.
LESLIE: Yeah, absolutely. They offer, continually, the best return on investment and I would say, other than sort of neutralizing and making things, you know, really neutral in how they appear, don’t go too crazy because you don’t want to hinder someone’s buying because they don’t like your aesthetic.
TOM: Yeah, Lori, on our website there’s an article called Cheap Tricks for Cool Kitchens. Look that up at MoneyPit.com. Click on Repair and Improve and search for that.
LESLIE: Alright, we’ve got one here from Doug in New Hampshire who writes: ‘Are there electric or oil instant hot water heaters? If yes, what are the advantages and disadvantages of both?’
TOM: Well, there are electric instant water heaters or electric tankless water heaters but the problem is that they are just not as efficient as gas water heaters so I don’t recommend them and the folks that have them, I’ve gotten a lot of complaint e-mails; people telling me stories that they’re just not performing well. So I wouldn’t recommend a tankless electric. I would, however, recommend a tankless gas water heater all day long. I’m not aware that there are tankless oil heaters.
Now, for information on tankless gas-fired water heaters, go to SmarterHotWater.com. That’s the website for the Rheem company. They are a sponsor of this show. They make great products and you can learn all about them there at SmarterHotWater.com.
LESLIE: And Doug, with all of those energy-saving tax refunds it might make sense to switch from electric or oil to gas heating because it’ll save you a bunch of dough.
TOM: Well, speaking of water heaters, yours might need some routine maintenance for optimum performance. Leslie’s got the step-by-step in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah and it’s not a big project. It’s very simple to do. Your water heater – you might not be aware of it but it can build up some sediment on the boot that makes them run less efficiently. So if you want to keep yours running at peak efficiency – which I’m sure you do; it’s going to help you save some money – you want to use the tank’s drain valve to carefully let out a few gallons of water out of the tank every six months. Drain some out; you’re good to go and it’s going to run efficiently and save you some dough and continue to get you those nice, hot showers quickly.
TOM: 888-666-3974. The show continues online at MoneyPit.com. That’s all the time we have. 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.
END HOUR 2 TEXT
(Copyright 2008 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.)