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Post Home Inspection Steps for House Sale, Yard Drainage Solutions, How to Clean Window Screens 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. Need some help solving a do-it-yourself dilemma? Help yourself first: pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Got lots of great stuff to talk about this hour, including spring. It’s the hot season for buying and selling homes and that process should absolutely include a home inspection. But have you ever wondered what happens after the inspection is done, especially if problems are found? We’ll cover your options, coming up.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, spring showers and melting snow, well, that can leave your yard just a soggy mess. This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook is stopping by with tips on drying out your yard.

    TOM: Plus, springtime means taking on cleaning chores. And one that we get asked about very often is cleaning window screens. We’ll show you how to accomplish that task quickly and easily.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, you will not only get the answer to your home improvement question but this hour we’re giving away a $500 gift card to Lumber Liquidators. You can really pick out some beautiful flooring at Lumber Liquidators. And 500 bucks? You could do a pretty decent-size room with that.

    TOM: Absolutely. So give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Philip on the line who needs some help installing a bathroom. What are you working on?

    PHILIP: Well, we have an unusual house. It’s all concrete – poured concrete – back in the 80s. So all of the walls and the upper and lower are concrete. Now, we have one bathroom in this house. However, we want to install a small half-bath in the bedroom, right next to the bathroom that’s in the basement now. So, we have a concrete wall between the two. We have concrete floors where the toilet and the bathtub is installed. Now, between the bathtub and the other wall, the plumbing is in there. That’s not concrete; that is framed in.

    So that has – we have access to that in the room next door. But the question is – we want to install another bathroom – a half-bath – so we want a toilet and a sink. The sink is no problem as – because of what I just said about the plumbing being roughed-in there. But boy, how do – we really want to do this, so it’s going to take some, I assume, some demolition work to get down into that.

    TOM: So what room do you want the half-bath to be in? Is it going to be on the same level as the existing bathrooms?

    PHILIP: That is correct. It’s in the lower level. It’s basically the same as – you know, you could just say it’s a basement. The only difference is is that the wall between the bath that is there now and the bedroom right next door, which where we want the half-bath, is a concrete wall.

    TOM: OK. So you’re worried about getting through the wall that separates these two bath spaces. So you have concrete below, then you have a concrete dividing wall? What about the ceiling? Is that typical wood construction?

    PHILIP: It is.

    TOM: So, OK. Well, there’s two ways to do this. Number one, yes, you could dig out the floor and break that area out, try to find the intersection with the waste pipe on the other side of that wall. Or you could use what’s called a “lift pump.”

    So there are toilets out there that have pumps that are built into them that when you flush them – and you can spill the water waste from the sink into this, as well – it essentially activates a pump, it grinds the waste, it runs it up through a pipe and then it would go up into the ceiling and then cut across to the waste line and be dropped down from there. So that’d be less destructive. The mechanism is a little more complicated, perhaps a little louder than a typical toilet flush but they work very, very reliably. And they’re very often used in basement-bathroom situations where the toilet position is below the main waste line.

    PHILIP: Well, no. The main waste lines – since the only bath is in the lower level, right next to where I want the half-bath to be – so the waste line is in the floor and it runs out to the south through and right out. And it goes right down into the sewer line outside. So I don’t – there’s no – it’s the same level. So I would really like to hook up to the existing line that is right next to the half-bath that I want to put in.

    TOM: Yep. So I’ve got two words for you: jackhammer. You can break up that floor and connect with that line or like I said, you can go up over the wall and drop into the vent pipe, which will no doubt be in that same space. And then, of course, 8 feet below that connects with the waste line. So those are your options. I hope one of those works for you.

    Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to talk with Teresa in South Carolina who’s dealing with a wet basement.

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

    TERESA: Well, we’ve just recently bought this house and we’ve been here a little over a year. And we were told that the basement floods but we weren’t really aware of how bad it did flood. So, every time we get a heavy rain, it fills up a front landscaping area and it flows in through the bricks, I guess. I’m not sure how it comes in but it comes into the basement.

    We’ve talked to several companies and they want to do things inside but I don’t understand why they don’t want to do something on the outside.

    TOM: Well, you are absolutely correct because the solution to this problem is not inside. So, what happens in situations like this is typically a homeowner will contact a so-called basement-waterproofing company. I think that those titles are inaccurate because these contractors don’t really waterproof anything.

    What they really do is just put in a water-evacuation system that allows the water to saturate the foundation perimeters, soak through the walls and fill up your basement. And then before it shows itself, kind of above the floor, they pump it out. But you have to know that that allows a lot of damage to happen, even before that water collects to the level where they can pump it. You have increased pressure against the foundation, you have mold growth, all sorts of things.

    So, you are absolutely correct in that you need to stop this on the outside. And the good news is it’s really not that hard, nor that expensive to do. So there’s two areas you need to focus on: one is grading and the other is roof drainage. So we’ll start with the biggest culprit and that’s roof drainage.

    You need to look at all of the gutters that are on your house. You need to make sure that, first of all, you have gutters. Secondly, that you have an adequate number of downspouts on those gutters. And you want to kind of stand back sort of from the street level, look up at your roof, try to do a little sort of rough, back-of-the-hand math. Because you want 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface draining into each downspout. So if you have one downspout and you have a bunch of roof surfaces going into it, it might be that that gets overwhelmed and therefore, the gutter will overflow even if it’s not clogged. Of course, to that point, they have to be clog-free.

    And most importantly of anything else is this: you must, must, must extend the discharge from that leader at least 4 to 6 feet from the house. Because we need to move this away from what’s called the “backfill zone.” That’s the area of soil that’s dug out when you build the foundation. You need to get the water beyond that 4- to 6-foot perimeter.

    Now, you can do this simply by putting in an additional piece of leader material on there. And of course, it’s not very attractive; it’s somewhat unsightly. But I would at least do that for starters so that you can prove to yourself that this works. And then later on, if you want to try to make it neater, you could always sink some underground, solid PVC pipe and drain through that and perhaps discharge it into the street or some other lower area on your property.

    Now once that’s set, then you could look at the grading at that foundation perimeter, starting on the area where you see water collecting. And you want to make sure that the soil slopes away about 6 inches over 4 feet. And that soil has to be well-tamped fill dirt, not topsoil. Topsoil is very organic. Sometimes when folks have drainage issues, they put more topsoil on it. That’s kind of like throwing sponges around your house. You want to create that slope with clean fill dirt. It’s more of a kind of clay-like, compactable type soil that can be sloped to drop that 6 inches over about 4 feet. Over that, you can put a little topsoil to sustain the growth for plantings or whatever but you need to get that slope established first.

    So this way, you have direct rainfall, hits that grade, runs off and all of the water that collects on the roof hits those downspouts and gets discharged well away from the house. Those two things will stop this wet basement. And I know that for certain because when you said that your basement floods after heavy rain, all of that always sources on the outside. It’s not a rising water table and that’s the only time you’d ever need to put in below-grade drains, such as what these waterproofing companies are suggesting.

    TERESA: OK. Great. I really appreciate your help.

    TOM: Well, you’re welcome. And I’m so glad we could get to you before you spent the money on a waterproofer, because I can’t tell you how many times we get this same call after someone has spent $10,000 or $20,000 on a waterproofer only to find out that they still have the same problem.

    TERESA: Thank you very much.

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

    Alright. We’re already into spring – a week into spring, guys. What are you working on? Have you gotten projects all lined up? Are you outside? Are you just chomping at the bit to make your money pit beautiful again? Well, we are here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, a home inspection is critical to any real estate transaction. But what happens after the inspection is done, especially if problems are found? Find out, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. We’ll get you an answer and an opportunity to win this hour’s prize, because we’ve got a $500 Lumber Liquidators gift card. You can head on over to a Lumber Liquidator store or visit them at LumberLiquidators.com and pick your flooring from over 400 varieties of first-quality flooring, including prefinished hardwood, bamboo, laminate, vinyl, plank and wood-like tile, all at unheard-of low prices. So you can get a lot of flooring for 500 bucks.

    Check them out at LumberLiquidators.com or 1-800-HARDWOOD. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less. But call us, right now, and you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and a shot at winning that $500 gift card from Lumber Liquidators. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Brenda in Illinois who’s got an HVAC question. What’s going on?

    BRENDA: I have an excessive amount of dust and lint that comes out of my vents when the furnace is running?

    TOM: OK. Yep.

    BRENDA: It’s the heat pump that we have. The heat pump is two years old. So, I’d like to know, is there anything that you would suggest that we might need to look into?

    TOM: Yeah, I think the reason that this is happening is because you don’t have an adequate filtration system on your heating-and-cooling system. What kinds of filters do you have on this, Brenda? Do you know?

    BRENDA: The name of it is Air Bear Supreme Media. We change these about every four to six months.

    TOM: What’s happening here is the dust and the dirt that’s circulating in your house is forming in your house. And what happens is it’s not getting collected by the filter. The filters could be improperly installed, there could be gaps where the air is getting around them.

    What you really should think about doing is installing an electronic air cleaner. This is an appliance that fits into the return-duct side of the HVAC system. It’s an appliance; it’s not just a fiber filter or a mesh filter. It’s an actual appliance and it is very effective at taking out 99 percent-plus of the airborne contaminants. I mean these things are so good today, they can come out – they can take out virus-size particles.

    You could take a look at two brands that we can recommend. One is Aprilaire.


    TOM: That’s April – a-i-r-e. And the other one is Trane. It’s called the Trane CleanEffects. Those are two highly rated, very efficient electronic air cleaners that I think will make a world of difference for you in cutting down on the dust that you’re seeing. I just don’t think your filtration system is working properly.

    Brenda, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, spring is a popular time of year to buy or sell a home. And these days, that transaction almost always includes a home inspection. But what happens after the inspection is done?

    LESLIE: Well, once your home inspection is complete, the inspector will be reporting the results only to their client. Now, the client is the buyer, which is law in a lot of states. So, if you are the seller, you’re not going to know unless something’s wrong. Now, the discovery of any major issues may bring you back to the negotiation table because that’s really where the leverage starts to happen.

    TOM: Now, it depends on what the inspection turns up. Issues like termite damage or mold or lead paint are significant and do need to be addressed before the transaction is completed.

    LESLIE: Now, less significant issues – they can be useful negotiating tools for the buyers but the sellers aren’t necessarily required to address those issues. Now, remember that this transaction, it’s got a lot of emotional involvement. This is somebody’s home, so you have to tread carefully on any kind of request that you want to bring up.

    TOM: And that’s why for both sides, the advice is really this: try to take the emotion out of it. Look, I was a home inspector for 20 years and by the time we got to the house, you had sort of two sides. One thought they had just given away their creampuff and there isn’t a thing wrong with it. And then the buyer thinks they’re buying a real live money pit. Now, usually neither extreme is accurate but if you keep the emotion out of it, you can come to a reasonable agreement on what to handle.

    For example, Leslie, sometimes I’d go in and find out that the roof was at the end of its useful life and it really needed to be replaced. Well, I always thought it would be unreasonable for this buyer to ask for an entire new roof because they didn’t really think they were getting a brand-new roof, you know, when they purchased the house. They knew it was an older roof. So maybe the seller also wasn’t counting on replacing that roof.

    So in that case, maybe they split the cost of a new roof, making a combination like that so that everybody comes out a winner. And this way you’ll know exactly what the condition of the house is when you buy it and you’ll know what it needs and perhaps you can resolve any of those outstanding issues and move ahead.

    LESLIE: Tony in Iowa is having a hot-and-cold water situation. What’s going on?

    TONY: Well, I’ve got an electric water heater. And the main feed that comes in from the city, that goes into my electric water heater, it’s a cold line. But yeah, I get cold water to come out of my faucets and everything but that cold-water line, up around through the water heater there, it’s hot, the line, when I touch it. And I’m just curious what’s going on with that.

    TOM: So, you have an electric water heater and that’s going to be fed by a cold-water line and it’s going to go through the water heater and come out as a hot-water line.

    TONY: That’s correct.

    TOM: OK. And so what’s the problem? So far, it’s normal.

    TONY: The water line that goes into the water heater – the cold water?

    TOM: Yes. Yep.

    TONY: That line is hot.

    TOM: Well, some of the heat from the water heater can be working its way back up the pipe. So you may be feeling some conductive heat that comes from – the hot water in the water heater itself could be making that pipe warm. But if you go farther down the line, you’re going to feel that it’s cold again.

    It goes in cold and comes out hot but the fitting right around the top might feel like it’s a bit warm. But that’s only because of the conductive heat of the water in the water heater coming back up the metal pipe.

    TONY: OK. That alleviates my concerns then.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Maria in Delaware on the line who needs help with a paneling/painting project.

    So you’ve got a new house and it’s got a lot of it, huh, Maria?

    MARIA: It sure does. About 25 years ago, the paneling was probably very popular but I’m really tired of looking at it. We tried painting one room and we sanded it a little bit, primed it and painted it. I’m OK with that but my husband is not because you can still see the grooves through the paint. So we were wondering if there was a way to take care of those grooves – maybe spackling it or whatever – but we didn’t want the spackling to later flake out or chip off and cause more problems than we already have. So, hopefully, you know of some way that we can do this without just taking all the paneling down.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Anything that you’re going to fill in is just going to come out, just like you think. So, really, the best thing is to either sheathe over it with a ½-inch drywall or take the paneling off and put drywall on.

    MARIA: OK. A ½-inch drywall. So, how would that affect the molding that we have? All of that would have to be replaced, as well, like around windows, everything?

    TOM: Yeah, you’d have to pull that off.

    The thing is, what you might want to try first, though, is just removing the paneling and seeing what’s underneath it. Because there might be a halfway decent wall underneath it. And if you’re lucky enough to find out that the paneling was not glued to those walls, then maybe you can just repair the wall, spackle the nail holes, fix any tear – torn areas – or any other damage and then just paint the walls again. Because that paneling was often nailed on with a very thin ring nail.

    MARIA: Yes, it was nailed on. I can see the nails in that.

    TOM: Yeah, it usually pulls off pretty easily. So I would – first thing I would do is pull that paneling off. Nothing you put over that paneling, in terms of – there’s no way to really fill it in, because I know what you’re asking us to do. But there’s no way to do that, because it’s going to crack and fall out and it’s going to look worse than it does now.

    So if you don’t like the painted look and you want to go back to just a clean wall, I would take the paneling down. Do it one wall at a time, one area at a time, until you get the hang of it. And this way, you can almost not do any molding work whatsoever because, generally, that stuff is cut around the molding or you can cut the paneling really tight to the molding and leave it there.

    MARIA: OK. Thank you both so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Still ahead, with all of that melting snow and the spring rain, is your home suffering from a wet and soggy yard? Which really doesn’t look nice and it’s super yucky. We are going to get expert drainage advice from This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-like tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

    NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House. And when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

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    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM:And you can get great home improvement advice and do-it-yourself tips sent to your inbox every single week if you sign up for our free, weekly newsletter at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. Sign-up button is right there under our cover photo.

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

    HUGO: I’m redoing my kitchen and bathroom. And I’m wondering what you would recommend for flooring it. I’ve got carpet in it now and I sincerely dislike the carpet. And I want to put something else in and would you recommend a composite material or vinyl or linoleum or what?

    TOM: Well, I can’t think of two rooms that are worse for carpeting than kitchens and bathrooms.

    HUGO: I know. Tell me about it. I bought the house seven years ago and it had that in it, so …

    TOM: Yeah. Bad décor choice but I think you can do a lot better. I think one thing that you might want to take a look at is laminate flooring, because laminate flooring can come in a wide range of designs. I mean it can look like tile, it can look like stone or it could look like wood. And it’s really durable when it comes to moist/damp places.

    HUGO: What about – will a stove and refrigerator leave dents in it?

    TOM: I’ve had laminate flooring down in my kitchen for 10 years and we pull the refrigerator out whenever it’s necessary. I never worry about it.

    HUGO: Well, I appreciate the information. I thank you and I’ll look into it.

    TOM: Alright, Hugo. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, when spring comes around, a combination of snow melt and rain can spell disaster for your basement and your landscaping.

    TOM: Yep. And that water can no doubt cause a lot of damage if it goes where it shouldn’t. Here to help us tame that tide is This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, yard drainage is a topic that most folks only deal with when it causes a big problem, like a flood. But it can really impact the life of the landscaping, as well, right?

    ROGER: Well, it can affect the whole house. That’s the problem with too much water in the wrong space. And usually it starts with a gutter. All that water comes pouring into the gutter and if for some reason it’s clogged, it’s going to run right down the side of the house, end up going down the foundation and either in your house or flooding your plant beds.

    TOM: It’s amazing how many severe building problems can be avoided with just a good set of gutters. I saw a beautiful, historic building just yesterday and for some reason, the last time the roof was replaced they decided that they would sort of roof over the built-in gutter. And as a result, the entire foundation, all the mortar was washed out of the brick.

    ROGER: It’s amazing what it’ll do. It’ll rot wood quickly when you get too much water in there.

    TOM: Yeah. Yep.

    ROGER: But it’s not just getting it down. Once you get it down to the ground in a downspout, you have to figure out where you’re going to send it from the downspout. You need to pitch it away from the house, so either a splash block or a pipe or some physical thing that’ll get that water away from the house.

    LESLIE: If you can, is it better to bury that sort of away-spout, for lack of a better term? I’m sure there’s an actual name for it. But once you’ve got the finishing end of the downspout, does it make more sense to put it underground and get it as far away as possible? Or does it really depend on what your grading and your landscaping situation is?

    ROGER: Depends on a lot of things. Yes, it’s great if you can get it underground because it’s not visible, no one will trip over it, you don’t have to move it when you mow the lawn. But if it’s underground, it has to either exit to daylight or go to a dry well. Because there’s so much water coming off that roof that you have to make a way for it to come out the end of the pipe.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about drywells because I think that that’s something that a lot of folks build: essentially a hole in the ground, fill it with stone, drop the downspout extension into that. But it really takes an awfully large hole with a lot of stone to not get clogged up and back up again, right?

    ROGER: Yes. It’s unbelievable how many gallons of water come off a roof. And to build a big, huge dry well that will compensate that, sometimes we have to put in thousand-gallon dry wells to hold it. But most homeowners will dig a hole and use a plastic dry well. It holds about 50 gallons. You can tier one, two or three of them together. But the secret to the whole thing is, especially with those small dry wells, is having an overflow so that when the water does come in and fill up those smaller tanks, it’ll pop up and let the water out and it has a place to go away from your house.

    TOM: Otherwise, you’re just going to back up and pond.

    ROGER: It’ll come right out the end of the downspout.

    TOM: Let’s talk about more difficult yard-drainage problems to deal with. Let’s say you have a yard that slopes into your building. Perhaps it’s a bit flat when it gets near the foundation but you want to kind of intercept that runoff on the way. Can you construct a drain to do that?

    ROGER: You can. You can go all the way around the building and dig a trench. Usually, I dig the trench so that it’s in a V-shape. Now you either use plastic or soil separator, lay it in the trench. And then in the bottom of the trench, I put a perforated pipe and I put stone on top of that, all the way to the surface.

    TOM: You mentioned soil separator. What exactly is that? I’ve never heard that term.

    ROGER: It’s a landscape fabric. And what it does is keep all the fines (ph) from getting into the stone, which is your main grading-drainage interior.

    TOM: Keeps it all flowing.

    ROGER: Yes.

    LESLIE: So, Tom, you had mentioned the term “curtain drain.” But Roger, is there something similar called a French drain? Are they the same? Are they different?

    ROGER: I like to think of the curtain drain as being out in the yard intercepting water or taking water from a low point. I think of a French drain as something that’s either just outside or inside the basement of the house and takes the water out away from the house.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point. Very often, folks that are trying to solve wet-basement problems will put French drains in where they dig out the interior foundation perimeter of a basement, put in the pipes and the pumps and try to pull the water out. But I always advise that if you stop the water from getting that close to the house to begin with by extending those gutters and intercepting runoff, you really never need to take that step.

    ROGER: Well, the other thing with the pump system, the power usually goes out when it’s raining the hardest, right?

    TOM: Exactly.

    ROGER: So then our pump’s not going to pump out any water.

    LESLIE: You know, Roger, regardless of what you want to call it or where you put it, these seem like really involved projects. So are there any things that you might suggest as a trick of the trade, maybe a timesaver?

    ROGER: Well, there is one new thing that’s come on the market that I haven’t tried yet but I’m looking forward to. And it’s a piece of pipe with foam peanuts around it and then mesh. And it comes with a pipe internally and you just dig out and put them down and snap them together and the whole system’s in place. So it saves a lot of labor.

    TOM: Oh. So very cool. So it’s sort of an all-in-one way to create the drain. Instead of putting in the layers of different material, it’s all in one piece.

    ROGER: Exactly.

    TOM: Fantastic. Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: Alright. And 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 This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Still ahead, is there a winter’s worth of dirt and grime on your window screens? We’ve got step-by-step advice on how to get them cleaned, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We want to help you with what you are working on at your money pit. But also this hour, we’re giving away a really useful prize to one lucky caller. We’ve got up for grabs a $500 gift card to Lumber Liquidators.

    This is a really exciting prize because with $500 at Lumber Liquidators, you can pretty much get a lot of beautiful flooring for a decent-size room in your home, of course depending on what kind of flooring you pick. But you have so many choices, from hardwood and bamboo and laminate and vinyl and wood-look tile. So many great choices. Now, you can use your gift card at LumberLiquidators.com or at any one of the almost 400 Lumber Liquidator stores nationwide.

    So check it out today. Give us a call with what you’re working on. You can check out the Lumber Liquidators’ website or give them a call at 800-HARDWOOD for some more information. But give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT so we can help you with what you’re working on today.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Laurel in Pennsylvania is dealing with some stinky drains at home. Tell us what’s going on.

    LAUREL: My bathroom drain and the kitchen drain, they’re starting to smell like garbage. And nothing I put down there helps. Can you help me?

    TOM: What have you tried to do in terms of cleaning them?

    LAUREL: Like dishwashing liquid and real hot, sudsy water.

    TOM: Laurel, the odor that you’re describing is most likely what we call “biogas” or “biofilm.”


    TOM: Because of the moisture and the waste that gets into these lines, they form sort of a mass of biological material that sort of gels together and releases an awful odor, kind of like something that’s rotting. And there’s no way to kind of make it simpler than that but it’s really kind of a gross thing.

    So, what you need to do is – just sort of rinsing it out with hot, soapy water is not going to do this. You’ve got to take the drain cover off, you’ve got to get into the drain with a bottle brush or something like that and scrub the inside of the pipe. And that will start to break down the biofilm and that should help eliminate the odor problem. It’s not just a matter of rinsing it out, because that’s kind of just feeding it. You literally have to abrade this gross stuff away to make it clean once again. OK?

    LAUREL: Alright. And I really enjoy your program every week.

    TOM: Thanks so much, Laurel. Good luck with that project and call again.

    Well, spring cleaning is a sure sign warmer weather is on its way. To be able to throw open those windows, though, you need to clean the window screens. So here’s our step-by-step advice on how to get that project done the easy way.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you’ve got to remove those window screens from the window frames. Then you want to lay the screens on a flat surface, like your driveway. You don’t want to put them on the lawn because then they’re just going to get muddy, so maybe the driveway, sidewalk, wherever you’ve got a clean spot. Use a mild soap, water and soft-bristle brush. Now, the soft brush is going to remove any dirt and grime. Then you want to clean both sides of the window screen and around the inside and outside of the frame. Then rinse off with lukewarm water and you want to allow that screen to dry completely before you replace it in the window frame.

    TOM: Yep. Now, never use a pressure washer to clean window screens or windows, for that matter, because the force of the water can definitely do some damage to those units. You also want to use extreme care when cleaning aluminum mesh because it can be dented or creased if you put too much pressure on the screen while you’re working on it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And here’s another thing: a lot of homeowners will just simply leave the screens in the windows year-round. But if you’re a homeowner that likes to take them out and store the screens during the winter months, you’re going to find you have a lot less cleaning to do come springtime.

    TOM: Yep. Now if you choose to remove your window screens in the fall, you want to make sure that you store them properly. So the best thing to do is to keep them upright or in a flat position. You can cover them with plastic or a sheet and that’s going to keep them clean while in storage. But don’t put anything on top because remember, they’re easily damaged. And if you lean stuff against it or you stack them up too tall, you could bend the frames, bend the screens or actually put some holes in them and then you’re creating the very repair project you tried to avoid by taking them out.

    888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Iowa where Brian has a crack on the wall that keeps on coming back. Tell us what’s going on.

    BRIAN: Well, yeah, I built this home about six years ago and noticed it within the first year, really, that in just one of my bedrooms, I have a crack that comes up from my bedroom going into my bathroom door. And it kind of almost goes up probably close to 2½ feet, 3 feet. And it comes and goes, depending on the year. I’ve finished over it a couple of times on both sides of the wall, into the bathroom and here, and have tried to refinish over it and it keeps coming back. And my builder looked at it. Can’t quite figure it out and …

    TOM: This is what we call a Groundhog Day home improvement project, Brian, because it just keeps happening over and over again, right?

    BRIAN: Yeah, yeah. It just – you know, I just – originally, I just tried to cover it up and make it look better and …

    TOM: Alright. Well, here’s the thing. You’ve got a very normal crack in a wall there. Cracks often form over doors, like exactly what you’re describing there, because that’s a weaker part of the wall. And for whatever reason, you had some settlement in your house and it caused this crack to open up. The fact that you’re spackling it is not going to solve it. It solves it for a season but it won’t solve it permanently.

    What you need to do is you need to sand the area of the crack pretty well, because I want you to get out – get rid of all that extra spackle you’ve been putting on there. Then I want you to add a layer of fiberglass drywall tape, which is sort of like a netting. It’s a bit sticky-backed. And then I want you to spackle over the fiberglass netting – over the fiberglass tape – on both sides. Start with a narrow bead of spackle and then open it up wider and wider and wider. And that, on both sides of the wall, will make that wall strong enough to stand up to the movement that will happen the next time the wall expands or contracts.

    You can’t just spackle it, because you’re not really doing anything to bridge that gap. You bridge that gap with the tape, spackle over the tape, now you’ve got a permanent repair. Does that make sense?

    BRIAN: Yeah, that makes sense.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Brian. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, winter can leave behind all sorts of things, especially mold and mildew on your siding. We’re going to tell you how to get rid of it, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Glisten. Glisten makes it easy to clean, freshen and maintain your dishwasher, disposer, microwave and washing machine. So improve the performance of your appliances with cleaning solutions from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Visit GlistenCleaners.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: And if you’d like a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re up to when we’re not on the air, follow us @MoneyPit on Twitter or at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    LESLIE: Alright. And when you’re heading online, which we know you guys are always cruising around the internet, head on over to MoneyPit.com. And you can post your questions in the Community section and we’ll jump into those now. Got one here that writes: “There’s growth on my painted wood siding. I’m pretty sure it’s either mold or mildew. What’s the best way to remove this? I heard there’s a product I can spray on the siding and that’s all I have to do but I have a hard time believing it can be that easy.”

    TOM: Well, it actually could be.I mean mold and mildew are very common on siding, especially in shady – on shady sides of the home. It can be managed. What you want to do is use a mildicide. Now, there’s lots of choices out there. You can make your own sort of DIY solution by mixing bleach and water or you could use some professional products. There’s lots to choose from out there like – JOMAX is one that’s made by the Zinsser company. There’s some others that you sort of just spray on and walk away from, like Wet & Forget or Spray & Forget. 

    You want to basically apply it, get it clean. And then if you can do something to get more sunlight on that side by perhaps doing some tree-trimming as the spring rolls on or the summer rolls on, so you add a little more light. Not get rid of all your shade but just have a little more light in that space, you’ll find that the mold and mildew will be less likely to form.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here that says, “I’m restoring the wood floors throughout my house. There used to be carpet but we removed it and I don’t know what to do with the stains it’s left behind on the wood. Most of the floor looks great but one large stain in particular seems to go quite deep, so I just can’t sand it out. Is there something I can treat the wood with? Or maybe a dark stain will make the stain less noticeable? Any suggestions are welcome.”

    TOM: Two words: area rug.

    LESLIE: Yeah, seriously.

    TOM: Well, your hunch is kind of spot-on because if you apply a dark stain over the unwanted stain, it may blend it in. But be warned: the approach is kind of hit or miss and includes the risk of ending up kind of with a color that maybe you didn’t plan for. So try to experiment a bit before you totally commit, to make sure you’re getting the right shade. What I would first do is try to stain on a piece of raw wood and kind of hold it next to the floor to see if we’re getting close.

    And then if you start working on it, start staining in as much of an inconspicuous area. And even though it’s in the middle of the floor, inconspicuous could be like the space where you’re going to have a table on top of it, that sort of thing, so that you can see kind of how it works.

    And one more consideration, though, is that your floor probably has a finish that may need to be sanded off first. Because if you try to apply this stain on top of the finish, it might simply bubble up or really not soak in at all.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got one from Peggy who writes: “My garage door will not go up when thetemperature outside is 45 or below. Goes up about 6 inches and then it stops.”

    TOM: Well, obviously, it’s jamming and we need to figure out where in that system that’s doing just that. So here’s what I would do. First of all, I would disconnect it from the garage-door opener, alright? And then I would manually slide the door up and down and be very sensitive to any point where it appears to bind. 

    So why do these doors bind? Usually because a track is twisted or maybe one of the bearings on one of the rollers is shot. And you’re going to probably, by going up and down, figure out exactly at what point that’s sort of breaking down. There is an off-chance that this also could be related to the garage-door opener itself but I would definitely make sure that the door’s not binding before I thought about replacing that. And I think you’ll get to the bottom of it pretty quickly.

    LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps. Hopefully you’re not trying to get your car out of that garage. It’s not going to fit through those 6 inches.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Hope you have had a fantastic first week of spring. Perhaps you’re out there tackling those projects now that we’ve talked about on the show. But if you have more questions, do remember you can call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online at MoneyPit.com.

    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 2016 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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