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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. You got a question about your home improvement project? Need some help solving that do-it-yourself dilemma? Have you started a project? Maybe it didn’t go so well. Well, anything worth starting is worth starting over with us. (chuckling) So call us right now at 1-888-666-3974.
Now, maybe you’re looking forward to cranking up that air conditioning and sealing yourself inside that home. Well, before you do, this summer, keep this little statistic in mind. This’ll give you the skeeves. (laughing) You know, according to research, most home generate 40 pounds of dust for every 1,500 square feet of living space. That’s a lot of space to clean. One pound of dust can hold 40,000 dust mites. Ooh!
LESLIE: Ugh, that’s so disgusting.
TOM: So it’s not just if you want to keep your house clean. You also want to keep your family healthy.
LESLIE: Alright, folks. And the best way to get rid of irritants and allergens in your home is at the source. But if you have a really dusty house, you’re going to have to dust hourly and that’s crazy. Do you think, maybe, we could come up with a more practical solution? Well, there is one, actually. A whole house air cleaning system can reduce airborne contaminants including dust and pollen and bacteria – even viruses – year round. So it’s very important to add this into your air cleaning regimen. And in a few minutes, we’re going to talk to an indoor air quality expert to discuss a great air cleaning option for your home.
TOM: Also this hour, we’re going to choose one caller to win a set of three bionic wrenches from Loggerhead Tools. They combine a wrench and a pair of pliers. They’re worth about 100 bucks. So if you want to get in on this prize drawing, call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: You know, another statistic which I found – which is equally disgusting – is that if you keep your mattress for ten years, when you bring your mattress in your house at the beginning of those ten years, when you remove it ten years later, it will weigh twice as much because of the dust mites.
TOM: Ew! (laughing) That is absolutely disgusting.
LESLIE: Isn’t that gross?
LESLIE: So, every time you turn your mattress or you’re making the bed, think about that. Ew. It’s like I want to get a new mattress every day.
Nancy in North Carolina listens to The Money Pit on WSTP and you’ve got a foundation question. What can we do for you?
NANCY: Yes. I have a 75-year-old brick home with a full basement. And the problem is that when we have a saturating rain, the water comes through the wall in one part of the … of the basement. And I had come up with a solution but it then occurred to me that maybe I should check and make sure if there’s any reason I shouldn’t do it.
LESLIE: What was your solution?
NANCY: Well, it’s … the basement is partially exposed. The windows are actually above ground. And I thought I might get some topsoil or some kind of soil brought in and bank it away from the house. And I have a problem with ivy, also, and I was thinking that if I … if I bank the soil away from the house to help facilitate drainage away from the house but then put pavers – cement stepping stones, really, only they’re a foot-and-a-half long by eight inches wide –
NANCY: – and line the entire foundation with that, on the angle, that would help me, perhaps, be able to keep the ivy under control as well as provide a little bit of a runoff area and maybe keep that area right next to the house dryer.
Does it … does that make any sense at all? (laughing) Or is there any reason that I should not do it.
TOM: It actually makes a lot of sense, Nancy. You’re definitely on the right track. Generally, wet basements are caused by poor grading; so the slope of the soil around the house is too flat. But even more commonly, it’s caused by problems with the gutter system; either it being clogged, the downspouts not being extended far enough away from the basement, or perhaps the gutter system even being undersize. So that was to be the first thing that I would check; is that your gutter system is properly designed and installed and that water is discharging four to six feet away from the foundation. Generally, at the corner areas, most gutters just turn out six inches or a foot; maybe there’s a splash block, then the water ponds there and it works its way back in.
Now, as for that soil, a couple of things. First of all, sloping is the right idea. Topsoil is not the right material, though. Topsoil is very organic so it holds a lot of water against the foundation. Once you pull that ivy out, you want to add clean fill dirt to build up the pitch. And that is sort of … it looks like pitcher’s mound soil, almost. It’s sort of a … of a lighter brown color and it packs really well. And once you get the pitch established, then you can put a little bit of topsoil on top if you wanted to grow stuff. Now, in your case, you don’t want so then maybe what you can do is put some mulch or some stone or pavers or whatever you want to control erosion. But don’t use topsoil; use clean fill dirt. And before you do any of that, check the gutters first.
NANCY: OK. Well, I do have new gutters so I’m assuming that they put in the right kind. However, you hit the nail on the head when you talked about if the drainage area on the ground does not extend far enough away from the house.
TOM: Yeah, never … it’s never extended enough. You’ve got to run the downspouts out a couple of feet then maybe put a two or three-foot splash block out to start. And if you have a severe problem, what you want to do is pipe that downspout water underground; out to the street, if you can. OK?
NANCY: Well, I thank you very much. I really appreciate that and I’m glad to know that there’s no reason not to do it. (laughing)
TOM: You’re on the right track, Nancy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: We have smart callers here at The Money Pit. I like it.
TOM: That’s right. We do. So if your question is a smart one – or even if it’s not – we don’t judge. Call us right now. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Terry in Delaware has a foundation question. What’s going on?
TERRY: Well, I have a home; an old farmhouse that I live in. We’ve dated it back to about 1896. And we have determined that there were at least four chimneys in this house at one time. Two of them still remain in the walls, with no support. I believe it’s actually causing my foundation to actually sag because that’s where our sag is occurring. And my question is if I remove the weight, stop the foundation from sagging any further and basically just shore it up by putting in a new foundation, is it going to be OK for me to go ahead and then just sister my joists so that I can relevel the rooms that have sagged? And, basically, I’m hoping that it will stop the problem without me having to completely relift the house and relevel everything.
TOM: Terry, this is sounding very complicated.
TERRY: (laughing) Yes, it is.
TOM: Couple of questions. First of all, you say that the chimneys have no support yet they … yet you feel they’re impacting your foundation. Why do you say that?
TERRY: Well, because they’re inside the walls in the upper floors …
TERRY: … and there is nothing in the lower floors that would be supporting them.
TOM: Yeah. Well, let me tell you something. That’s really not that unusual. My house was built in 1886 and there used to be a chimney over the kitchen. And the area underneath that chimney is where you had the stair to the basement. And every time you went down the stair to the basement, you’d look up and there was this big, fat like 3×12 – maybe two of them on the sides, so say it was 24 inches by three inches thick. It was like a platform and on top of that, guess what? The whole chimney was built. And it was sitting on these wood planks up through the roof. So shorter chimneys being supported by wood was not so unusual. If those chimneys are not being used anymore, they can be disassembled. It’s a bit of a messy job. Obviously, knowing what gravity does, start at the top and work down. (chuckling)
Now, in terms of your foundation, are you seeing buckling or anything in the foundation? Because that could have a different set of circumstances.
TERRY: Actually, what it is, is it seems like the mortar is turning into dust.
TOM: OK. That’s very common and that mortar … those brick joints have to be repointed. The mortar between those joints will dry out …
LESLIE: So it’s not they’re compressing from the weight of the bricks.
TOM: No. Not at all. That’s really, really common. Deteriorated mortar joints like that are very common in an older house and they have to be repointed from time to time. So that’s a special job for a mason.
Now, in terms of the sagging, again, with a new house … I mean, sorry, with an old house, very, very common to have saggy floors and saggy ceilings. Typically, you had long spans with joists that weren’t thick enough or wide enough to do that without sagging. Generally, you want to repair it from a cosmetic basis only. You don’t want to try to prop them back up because then you’re going to cause other incidental damage. You can cause ceilings to crack, walls to … walls to break, pipes to come apart, wires to stretch and break and so on. So you want to treat that as a cosmetic repair. If it’s a ceiling that’s sagging, then that can be firred out and then re-drywalled so that it’s nice and flat. If it’s a floor, there are options depending on what kind of floor you want. You can use a floor leveling compound to kind of level that out or it could be done with carpentry as well.
But I think these are all separate issues that need to be attacked separately. In the beginning of your question, it sounded, Terry, like you were tying it all into the foundation and I don’t think that’s the case here. I think this is just an old house that needs a little bit of work and each one of these things can be handled individually. Which means you don’t have to do them all at the same time.
TERRY: Well, I’ve got to tell you, I’m really happy to hear that because I had … redone one of the down … the downstairs bathroom; completed gutted it. And I sister joist (ph) and I ended up doing hangers to level out the ceiling with new studs. And I was hoping that I wasn’t going to have to just tear all that right back out again.
TOM: Not at all. Not at all. Sounds like you did that the right way. You just have to do that room by room.
TERRY: Great. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Terry. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Boy, Leslie, it sounded like he was ready to tear that whole house down.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s a big project on his hands, right there.
TOM: Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be as big as he initially thought. Those are all common old house woes, as you know …
TOM: … having an old house; as I know, having an old house. And they all have individual solutions. So, Terry, sometimes it’s not as bad as you think.
LESLIE: Well, did you know that every year, thousands of people are injured by falls in the bathroom? Find out how to design safety into your bath, after this.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Behr Premium Plus Interior Sateen Kitchen and Bath Enamel with advanced NanoGuard technology to help consumers protect these areas, keeping them looking new longer. For more information, visit Behr.com. That’s B-e-h-r.com.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
So Leslie, you know, every year, thousands of people are hurt in bathroom falls. Wet surfaces and too many fixtures …
LESLIE: (chuckling) Mm-hmm.
TOM: … in small spaces can spell trouble.
LESLIE: Yeah. So to reduce your injury risk factor, folks, choose flooring that won’t trip you up when it gets wet. Because when you’re in the bathroom, the flooring tends to get wet, everybody. Replace the bathtub with a low threshold shower and install strong handholds and grab bars, if you need them, for that extra support.
TOM: Oh and by the way, when you’re installing those grab bars, don’t put them in the sheetrock. Put them in a stud. Find a stud. Get a stud sensor. Because if you just put them in the drywall, they’re going …
LESLIE: They’re just going to pull right out.
TOM: … pull the whole thing out. Exactly. And definitely, at the least opportune time. So, if you want more safety tips, we have a solution for you. That is to go to MoneyPit.com and sign up for the Money Pit e-newsletter because, coming up this week, we’re going to have a list of recalled products you want to make sure you don’t have around the house. And you’d be surprised at all the products that are on this list. Every time I see this list come out, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, I see products that either I have or that I know members of my family have and really need to either get replaced or repaired as soon as possible.
LESLIE: Yeah, and it’s not something that they’re going to aggressively try to tell you about. You need to do a little bit of research yourself to find out which products may be of danger to you, right now, in your home.
Alright, folks, if you think you might have one of those or if you’ve got a home improvement question that’s just burning on your mind, you should give us a call right now – or anytime, for that matter – at 1-888-MONEY-PIT to ask us your home improvement or repair question. And if we answer your question on air, we’re going to pick one of you lucky answered-questions-on-air folks out of the Money Pit hardhat to win a great prize this hour. It’s a set of three bionic wrenches and it’s from Loggerhead Tools.
TOM: Yeah, they’re very cool because they combine the way a wrench works and the way pliers work. And they’re worth 100 bucks. Call us now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Bruce in Pennsylvania listens to The Money Pit on WAMO and you’ve got a fireplace question. How can we help?
BRUCE: I had some people come in, look at a fireplace that is needed to be relined. And (inaudible) with a camera. But one part that they said they had to is when they go to repair a fireplace, according to the code, that if your fireplace – say they’re coming in to bring it into working order – they have to bring everything up to today’s code. And the area that they’re talking about was the hearth. See, because below the hearth, there’s (inaudible) on there holding the hearth in place that was up to code when they built it but they said nowadays the hearth … the wood has to (inaudible) the hearth. And I was just wondering if they’re telling me the truth or …
TOM: Well, Bruce, when you say you had some people in that said you needed to reline your fireplace, immediately the hair on the back of my neck stands up and begs me to ask this question. Were these chimney sweeps?
BRUCE: Yes, yes.
TOM: Yeah. (chuckling) I must be psychic, Leslie.
BRUCE: And they showed me … they showed me with a camera. I can … I can clearly see the gaps between the flue.
TOM: OK. But you know what? Just about every chimney has gaps in the flues. Is this … how old is this chimney?
BRUCE: It’s 45 years old.
TOM: It’s not that old.
TOM: I tell you what. Before you spend any money on advice that’s delivered to you by a chimney sweep, I would hire an independent inspector to review it. Because I’m sure they’re talking about thousands of dollars here …
TOM: … and in almost every case that I know of that chimney sweeps have come in and said that chimneys had to be relined, they either A, did not have to be relined or weren’t nearly the fire hazard that the chimney sweep was making it out to be to get your business. There’s just too much of a conflict of interest there. And it’s a condition … it’s a scam that we’ve heard about over and over and over again. I cannot tell you how many calls we’ve gotten on this show with this exact situation. You know, there’s different spins on it. Sometimes they’ll do a free or low-cost inspection.
You know, in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector, before I got on the air, I often would get a call from somebody who’d ask me to back up an opinion from a chimney sweep. And usually, the situation went something like this: ‘You know, I hired a chimney sweep for a cleaning or inspection …’ – and it was usually something really cheap, like a $40 or $50 cleaning – ‘… and lo and behold, it turns out we needed …’
LESLIE: A $10,000 improvement.
TOM: Yeah, ‘… we need 2, 3, 4, 5, $10,000 in repair.’ And so I’d say to the client, why do you think that chimney sweep could drive from three counties away to do your $50 cleaning if he wasn’t selling a lot of these repairs? And many times, I didn’t find that the chimney needed that repair. It needed no repair; just a basic cleaning. So I just don’t think that chimney sweeps are the best people to give you independent advice.
What you might want to do is log onto the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – that is ASHI.org – A-S-H-I-.org. You drop in your zip code and they’ll give you a list of home inspectors in the area and contact the inspectors and ask about a partial inspection. That’s an inspection of just one item. These are guys that are pros; that don’t sell any repair services whatsoever. They’re just there to give you their honest, professional opinion about the condition of your home. And this way, you’ll know exactly whether or not you have a problem, Bruce, and if you do, you can deal with it. But if not, you might have just saved yourself several thousand dollars in repair work.
BRUCE: Oh, OK. Alrighty. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright, Bruce. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Catherine in Rhode Island finds The Money Pit on WPRO and you have a basement question. What’s going on down there?
CATHERINE: Well, I had a cement cellar floor. Now, the lime was coming through. So what I did, I had it painted and it still came through the paint. Now, what could I do to eliminate that?
TOM: Catherine, that’s happening because there’s too much water collecting around the foundation perimeter. So that water is leaking through the foundation wall, it’s evaporating and it’s leaving behind its mineral salt deposit. So to cut back on that … on that lime growth, as you’ve described it – which kind of looks like white crusty stuff, or gray crusty stuff – what you should be doing is looking at the drainage conditions outside your house.
Leslie, what are some of the things outside the house that we might want Catherine to tackle?
LESLIE: Well, some of the big culprits are, first of all, do you have gutters on the house?
LESLIE: You do? Always make sure that those gutters are as clean as possible. Make sure that you get to them as often as you can; keep them clean. Because when they’re full, water tends to back up into it and overflow and then land directly on your foundation, rather than going down the downspouts.
Now with the downspouts, you want to make sure that they’re not just depositing the water right at your foundation. Always make sure that that downspout extends about three to six feet away from your house so it’s not just going right back into the foundation. And then, any grading or dirt that you might have around the house, make sure it slopes away from the house. You want to do everything that you can to get that water to move away. This way, it won’t be drawn into your foundation.
TOM: And Catherine, once you have the grading and the drainage working right on the outside of the house, what you’re going to see is a lot less of that mineral salt actually coming through. The problem is that foundations are very hydroscopic. They really soak up water very, very quickly. And as that dries out to the inside, those salts stay behind. So once you get the water to stop coming through, you’re not going to have a problem. Even if you don’t have a leak, the fact that you’re getting that mineral salt deposit is evidence of too much moisture around those foundation walls. OK?
CATHERINE: Now, I know at one time, someone told me I should have had that sealed before I painted it.
TOM: Well, the fact that you painted it with a foundation paint – with a basement waterproofing type paint – is about all …
LESLIE: Acts as a sealer.
TOM: That’s all you can do, really. That acts as the sealer. So there’s nothing else that you can do. You really need to manage this problem by stopping the water from the outside. Catherine, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Did you know that the air inside your house can actually be dirtier than the air outside your house? There’s a scary thought. Every house that’s 1,500 square feet or more can generate 40 pounds of dust a year that are chock-a-block full of dust mites. Up next, we’re going to talk to an indoor air quality expert on how to clean the air inside your house, year round.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Pella Windows and Doors. The Pella Windows Your Way Sale is going on now. Visit us at www.pella.com. Or call 1-800-TBD-PELLA today for a free consultation. Pella. Viewed to be the best.
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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Hey, you got a question about your home improvement project? Need some help solving that do-it-yourself dilemma? Are you hacking and sneezing and wheezing because allergy season has arrived? Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey you know, speaking of allergies, you’ve heard the advice about washing your hands to keep germs from spreading colds, but recent reports are showing that irritants, not germs, may also be causing these chronic colds.
LESLIE: And most homes can generate dozens – dozens of pounds of dust each year with each …
TOM: That is so gross.
LESLIE: I know, this is the most disgusting thing I’m about to tell you – with each pound of dust containing tens of thousands of dust mites. Ew!
LESLIE: So, what can you do to clean the air in your home? Consider having a whole house air cleaner installed. That’s what you can do. So, joining us to talk about the benefits of that is Sean McCarthy from Aprilaire. Welcome.
SEAN: Great to be here.
TOM: So, Sean. There really is a problem, in this country, with indoor air quality. It’s one of the top ten topics that we’re asked about on this show. And I think that the solution for many people is simply to go out and purchase portable air cleaners. But the prices on those things are just really going through the roof. I did a little … a little calculating, myself, before the show today and I figured out that if you bought four of these things that usually they’ll cover about …
LESLIE: Well, because you would need four per room or something like that.
TOM: Well, you’d need four … let’s say you had a 2,000 … 2,500 square foot house. You would need four portables to do that if you possibly could get to all the air in the house. And that would cost you about 2,500 bucks. So that’s pretty expensive compared to the cost of a whole house air cleaner that’s usually under 1,000 bucks. Do you think that people are intimidated by the idea of putting one of those in?
SEAN: Well, most of the time, our research shows most people don’t realize that a whole house air cleaner exists. They think the only option they have is to go down to a retailer and buy a portable air cleaner to put in the corner of their room. And you’re right, if they want to … if they want to do more than one area, they’re going to have to buy multiple units and put them throughout their house. They don’t realize that they can put something down … installed in their ductwork by their furnace and it’ll clean all the air throughout their home. And do it much more effectively and efficiently than a portable unit will.
LESLIE: Well, because the portable units won’t work as effectively unless every bit of air is being circulated toward it; which isn’t ever going to happen. So it makes sense that if you have it in the air system where all the air goes, it’s going to do a better job.
SEAN: Exactly. Walls and doors that are closed all block air flow to get to that portable air cleaner. Most people have ductwork throughout their home that draws all the air through their home through their heating and cooling system four times every hour. And with a whole house air cleaner there, that means that air cleaner is cleaning all the air in their home four times every hour.
LESLIE: And what are some of the things you’re pulling out of the air with a whole house air cleaner?
SEAN: Well, there’s the dust that you so … mentioned earlier, that everybody has problems with. But most … what people don’t realize is most of the stuff that’s in the air is invisible. There’s actually 30 million contaminants in a cubic foot of air. Things like allergens, pollen spores, dust mites, tobacco smoke if there’s a smoker inside the house. Things that even … as small as airborne viruses and bacteria that an air cleaner can actually remove at 80 percent effectiveness to clean the air.
LESLIE: And what about maintenance for the whole house air cleaner? You know, with the smaller, portable units, you’ve got to wipe those filters down. Is there a filtration system that we need to think about taking care of?
SEAN: Well, that’s one of the real benefits of having a whole house air cleaner. Because it’s installed in the surface area, the media that actually cleans the air is significantly larger. You only have to maintain it once a year and it’s a very simple process; simply removing this media that’s thrown away and replaced with a clean media. But only has to be done every spring.
TOM: Wow. So once a year is all you have to do that and the square footage on that filter, unfolded, is over 70 feet.
TOM: So that’s a big filter. Yeah, compared to, say, the normal, you know, 12×12 or 12×18 filter that most people have inside their furnace, if you were to unfold one of these media filters, it’s like 70 square feet. It’s huge. That’s like bigger than two sheets of plywood. That’s how big that filter surface is.
Now, Sean, let’s talk a little bit about the technology with how an electronic air cleaner works. And I want to mention, to those that don’t know it, that Consumer Reports rated your particular model tops for the last three years; which is pretty impressive. I mean there’s a lot of competition out there. So this really is the best model that’s available. I think it’s interesting, though, that you actually use an electronic surface to sort of charge the dust particles. Why is that important?
SEAN: Well, the way our electronic air cleaner works is we all know that positives and negatives attract each other. And so, our electronic air cleaner has an electronic field that will charge the particles as they’re coming down through your ductwork into the air cleaner and give them a positive charge. The media that we talked about, that needs to be replaced, will have a negative charge. That positive/negative attract and what that does is dramatically increase the efficiency of the air cleaner cleaning the particles in the air. In fact, it’ll remove 94 percent of all airborne pollutants out of the air, first pass.
LESLIE: And since you’re cleaning the air that’s going through the duct work, does it make your air conditioning and heating system operate better?
SEAN: That’s the other real benefit. Not only do you breathe clean air inside your home, but dust and dirt are the number one reason why a furnace and an air conditioner will fail prematurely. And because the air that’s going through that air … that furnace and air conditioner now is virtually … it has no dust in it, all the components remain clean. So it’s much more energy efficient. If you buy a new furnace and you’re spending the money for a high efficiency furnace, if maintains that efficiency throughout the life of the equipment. And it runs as long as it’s designed to. It’s like a little insurance policy for your heating and cooling system.
TOM: Sean, what’s your take on duct cleaning? Because it seems that if you did a good job of taking all of the dust out of the air before it gets into the ducts, that you may be able to completely avoid duct cleaning.
SEAN: That certainly is possible. If you’re considering duct cleaning, you know, it really depends on what’s going on inside the home and inside the duct. There may be a reason to do duct cleaning. But if you do it, you absolutely must put an air cleaner in at the same time because, obviously, if you clean the ducts without putting an air cleaner in, you’re just going to be putting more dirt and dust back into those ducts …
TOM: You’re stirring it up.
SEAN: Exactly. And drawing that back out in the home. So an air cleaner is an absolute must and certainly could avoid the need for duct cleaning as well.
TOM: Sean McCarthy from Aprilaire. Thanks so much for being a part of The Money Pit. If you want more information on Sean’s products from Aprilaire, you can log onto their website at Aprilaire.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Are you getting ready to replace that old carpeting in your home? Think about all of the dust mites you’re going to get rid of when you do that. Blugha; it’s giving me skin crawlies.
Alright, well, don’t waste your money buying more than you need to when replacing that carpet. We’ll give you the surefire formula for measuring your room, right after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is sponsored by The Home Depot with a guaranteed low price and the know-how to make every dollar work harder. You can do it, we can help.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT is the website. You can log on there and sign up for our free podcast. So if you missed any part of the show, you can download it later and listen again.
So, are you updating old or worn carpeting? You know, it’s a great way to bring new life to an old room. And it’s usually priced and measured by the square yard. But how do you know how much you need? Well, there’s a simple little formula to help you figure that out.
LESLIE: Alright. And the formula is, to make sure you buy the right amount of carpeting, here’s what you need to do. Multiply the room’s length by it’s width in feet and then divide that number by eight. This will give you the amount of carpet you need in square yards with enough extra to be safe but not sorry.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now and you can get in on this great giveaway. We’ve got a set of three bionic wrenches to give away from Loggerhead Tools. They’re worth 100 bucks.
So Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Dennis in New Hampshire’s got a question about a septic system. How can we help?
DENNIS: Hi. I’ve got a question about it. What I have is an older house with just a tank and no leach field. And the septic seems to be draining off into a wet area of the yard … off the corner of the yard and draining into a brook area.
DENNIS: Are there any programs out there to help me pay to put a regular leach field in?
TOM: Geez, I don’t know if there’s any programs but that’s definitely a very unsanitary situation. And you’re definitely going to have to get that fixed because you basically are polluting the waterway, by doing it that way. You know, with old houses, you never know. Now, are you sure, in this case, that that part of the system that’s doing that is for the black water, as it’s known; the actual sewage waste? Or is it possible that you have two waste pipes coming out of the house? Because what you’re describing is … sounds more like a gray water discharge; where you have water that comes, say, from your laundry area or your sump pump, where it’s not actually contaminated with sewage. In that case, it’s not that unusual to see it drain over ground.
DENNIS: We do have two separate tanks but this … we had it inspected and they couldn’t find a leach field and showed us the area where it was coming out.
TOM: Did they do a dye test? Where they flush dye through the system and you saw it turn up in the brook?
TOM: Well, that would be the next thing to do. And if it’s definitely connected that way, it won’t take very long for you to see that. A septic dye can be introduced at the … at, say, the toilet inside the house. And you flush it and you run some water for maybe a half hour; say, through the tub or sink. And that water is going to turn green and you’ll be able to go out … outside within 20 minutes and see green water in the brook if it’s really doing that.
TOM: Now, once you identify the problem, then you’re going to have to get it fixed. If it is, in fact, leaching, you’re going to have to put a septic field in. You’re going to have that engineered for your particular township. I’m afraid that I don’t know of any programs that could help you pay for that but I can definitely tell you it has to get done.
DENNIS: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Colleen in Florida has some condensation around your windows. What’s going on?
COLLEEN: Well, I wake up some mornings and when I’m opening my blinds I’ll notice that there’s condensation around some of my windows. Some mornings it’s around all of my windows. Is that something I should worry about or is that just a simple change in temperature inside and outside? Or there is something (inaudible)?
LESLIE: Tell us about your windows if you can, Colleen. Are they single-pane, double-pane, vinyl, aluminum?
COLLEEN: They’re aluminum windows, double-pane.
TOM: Well, aluminum windows are not my favorite kind of windows, Colleen, because they do transfer the temperature between outside and inside pretty readily. They’re not the most efficient kind. So, for example, in the … in the summertime, if you have central air conditioning, you may get some condensation on those windows. And that’s, you know, usually not damaging but it is certainly annoying.
COLLEEN: Yes, it is. (laughing)
TOM: If you had a better insulated window – one that was Energy Star rated, that had a warm, wood frame or a vinyl frame or a fiberglass frame – I don’t think that would be happening. But it doesn’t surprise me that it is happening with an aluminum frame window because it really is just about the least efficient window you could have.
COLLEEN: Wow. OK. We just bought this home about nine months ago. We were told it was energy efficient.
TOM: I would have to disagree with that if it’s an aluminum window.
COLLEEN: OK. OK. So …
TOM: But there is good news, Colleen. This is a great time to think about replacing windows because there are energy tax credits available now. There may also be credits available from your utility company. But between now and I think it’s January of 2008, if you replace windows with …
LESLIE: You have to do the repair in ’06 or ’07.
TOM: Yeah, if you replace it with an Energy Star rated window, then you can get some energy tax credits on that as well.
COLLEEN: That’s great.
TOM: Alright, Colleen?
COLLEEN: Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: How old is your insulation? Do you know?
TOM: I don’t know. Is that bad? Like if it’s like a teenager (laughing) or like maybe an adult or a senior citizen.
LESLIE: Is it acting out?
TOM: Is it breaking out? (laughing)
LESLIE: Is it staying out later than you want it to?
TOM: Well, if you can figure out how old your insulation is, you might have an idea as to whether or not you need more. Up next, we’re going to tackle an email from a listener whose attic is more than 40 years old. He’s got a full grown adult insulation, I guess, at this point.
LESLIE: It’s having a midlife crisis, if you will. (laughing)
TOM: Yeah, I think this insulation is in a midlife crisis. We’re going to see if we can straighten that out, next.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit was 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: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. You can call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or log onto our website at MoneyPit.com. Lots of options await you there at MoneyPit.com. You can grab our free podcast. You can sign up for our free newsletter. Or you can click on Ask Tom and Leslie and shoot us an email question.
LESLIE: Man, that podcast is so futuristic. It’s just fantastic. And folks, if you don’t know about it, if you’ve got an iPod, you can listen to your Money Pit anytime and download it every week. It’s fantastic.
Alright. Email question is from Ben in Arlington, Virginia. And he hears The Money Pit on Free FM but – WJFK – but he writes to us this time: ‘I have a 1958 attic insulation which I believe is known as rock wool. The joists are five-and-a-half inches high and the insulation is two to three inches. What is your recommendation for maximizing insulation? Blown in to fill the joist to the top? If so, what type of insulation? Any vapor barrier to assist?
TOM: Interesting question, Ben. You have two problems. Number one, you don’t have enough insulation. And number two, the insulation that you do have may contain asbestos.
TOM: Rock wool insulation is an insulation that was used in the 50s. And it’s also known as mineral wool.
LESLIE: How does it look different from fiberglass?
TOM: It looks kind of like steel wool. Maybe a little bit like that. It’s sort of a darker, wooly fiber. Not the bright, yellow or orange kind of fiberglass looking stuff.
TOM: And actually, many times it says rock wool or mineral wool right on the paper of the insulation. So sometimes it’s not so hard to identify that.
Now, the best way for you to replace sagged insulation is to remove it. But considering the fact that this may contain asbestos, I would suggest that you take a small sample and send it to a lab and have it tested first to make sure it does not have any asbestos in it. If that’s the case, go ahead and remove it and start afresh. If it does or if you don’t want to go through the test, you don’t want to take a chance, you don’t want to mess with it, what I would suggest doing is putting new insulation on top of the old insulation and using unfaced fiberglass bats. I would use enough thickness of fiberglass bat to bring it up to the top of the floor joist in the first layer. And then, the second layer you would run perpendicular. So you’re actually going to have two layers of fiberglass criss-crossed.
Now remember, Ben, after you do this, you’re no longer going to be able to use that space for storage because you’re going to have insulation up higher than the floor joists yourself. And if that’s the case, Leslie, I think you could leave a little platform, say, in the middle.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s smart to put something over the joist in an opposite direction to create a little storage area. But make sure it’s small enough to maximize the insulation that you’re getting in the attic.
Tom, is it safe to put the insulation over the existing rock wool if it does contain asbestos?
TOM: I think so. As long as you use proper respiratory protection so you don’t expose yourself to a lot of fibers. You know, sometimes the danger in insulation happens – or any kind of asbestos issue –
LESLIE: When you move it.
TOM: – when you move it. Right. So that if you … if you don’t move it, if you try to keep the disturbance to a minimum, I think you’ll be good to go.
LESLIE: And if you take out the old one, if it’s not asbestos, make sure you contact your sanitation department to dispose of it properly.
TOM: Next up, it’s time for Leslie’s Last Word, which includes two words that are never used to describe you, my friend: simple and cheap.
LESLIE: (laughing) Thanks, Tom.
TOM: (laughing) Ah, she’s speechless.
LESLIE: (laughing) I am. Alright, folks. Well, here’s a tip that’s both simple and cheap, not like me. Alright, it’s a way to unclog your sluggish drains. You only need three things and you probably have them in your kitchen right now. So to free up those sluggish drains, you want to mix