The Return of Porch Life, Best Mosquito Trap and Tips to Make Window Air Conditioners More Efficient
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: Pick up the phone and give us a call right now. We’d love to hear about your home improvement project. We’ll help solve your do-it-yourself dilemma. We’ll tell you if you’re getting in too deep or if you need to hire a pro to get the project done. We’ll have some advice on how to do just that, 888-666-3974.
We have a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, with all the frenzy of modern life, are you longing for the days of past when homeowners sat outside, chatted with neighbors and enjoyed a nice, cold lemonade in a rocker? Well, porches are where that all happens and they’re making a huge comeback. We’re going to have some details, just ahead.
LESLIE: Plus, now that we are in the heart of summer, we’re also in the heart of mosquito season. There’s a new trap on the market that fools mosquitoes into thinking it’s human and can clear an entire acre of your property for about $2 a month. We’re going to have a review, just ahead.
TOM: And also ahead, we’ve got tips on how to make your window air conditioner work much more efficiently to keep you cool and comfortable through those hot days.
LESLIE: And if you call in your home improvement question, you just might win a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit, Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.
TOM: We’ve got five copies to give away. So give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Nils in Delaware is on the line with a fly problem at a new house. What’s going on?
NILS: Girlfriend purchased a historical home that was located in our county seat, where all the court buildings are. It was built in 1806 and they moved it out of town. And so now we’re redoing it a room at a time but we’re trying to keep it in period, because it’s in the register. So, I guess we’ve got to be careful what we do.
But when we opened up the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom, there was a humongous snake that had died in the ceiling.
TOM: Oh, no.
NILS: And all that was left was the skin and she was done when she saw that.
TOM: Wow. That’s freaky.
NILS: But we’ve got all these different types of frogs in the yard. We’ve got a million ticks and now we’ve got these – everybody’s calling them “furnace flies” that sees them. But we don’t have a furnace. We’ve got a boiler but that’s out in what’s called a “potting shed” and it’s a detached building from the home. So I don’t know where these flies are coming from.
TOM: Well, listen, Nils, we can give you some advice on how to tackle the flies. But between the flies and the ticks and everything else that’s going on in this house, I really think you should just, you know, cut the pain and pick up the phone and call a pest-control operator – a licensed pest-control professional. Because they have the tools and the techniques and the products that can effectively and safely make this house a lot less insect-infested.
Now, with the flies, you can make your own fly traps out of apple-cider vinegar. All you do is you take a cup or a jar, you put a couple inches of vinegar – apple-cider vinegar – in it, you cover the top of that jar with plastic, punch some holes in it that are big enough for the flies to get in and they’ll find their way in there and they won’t be able to get out. So I mean we can give you some sort of home remedies like that. But if you’ve got this level of insect infestation in this old house and even the surrounding yards …
NILS: Oh, no, no, no. There is no infestation in the house. It’s just we’ve got flies that go around the kitchen and her family room. Most of the floor is like 18-inch planks, 18 inches wide. And we just don’t know where the flies are coming from and how to get rid of them. And I have to be careful, because our neighbor was killed in a car accident and we’ve inherited all five of her cats because they had nowhere to go, I guess.
TOM: Well, I still think that you could have the house professionally treated, safely, even with the animals inside of it. And it’s going to be a lot more effective than chasing them down with any other type of remedy. There are pyrethrin sprays that you can buy over the counter but I just don’t think you should use them.
A professional is going to come in and sometimes people think, “Well, if the professionals come in, they’re using the really strong stuff.” Well, I always put it this way: they’re using the right stuff and they’re using the right amount of it to do the job at hand. Pesticides today are heavily regulated and they have to be applied very specifically and consistent with the label directions. And they do a pretty good job, because the guys are trained to know how to do it. And so, considering the level of issue you’ve got going on here, that’s exactly what I would do here. OK, Nils?
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Sandy in Nebraska, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
SANDY: Well, we have ceramic floors and they’re ceramic tile. And they’re probably 20 years old. And they just don’t come clean anymore and they’re real porous. And we’ve scrubbed them with a scrub brush and they will come sort of clean but that’s a whole lot of work. And we’ve tried different cleaners – vinegar and water and Soft Scrub and Clorox and water and soda and water – and they just don’t come clean. And short of turning them up, what could we possibly do for …?
TOM: Yeah, it sounds like the glaze has worn off the ceramic tile and as a result …
SANDY: Well, I don’t even know if it ever had a glaze.
TOM: So most tile have a glaze unless it’s like a natural Mexican tile or something like that. I would be very surprised to find any tile out there that didn’t have a glaze finish to it.
The surface will wear down after a really long, long time. It depends on the quality of the tile. So I don’t have a really good solution for you. It’s a fairly unusual problem. You can clean the grout, you can replace the grout, you can seal the grout but the tile surface itself, it’s not really possible to add an additional sort of glaze coat to that. So you might want to think about some other floor options.
A really inexpensive one, by the way, would be laminate floor. It works really well in the bathroom because it’s very moisture-resistant. It kind of snaps together and it floats on top of the original floor. So, really, all you have to do is install it, put in a new saddle where the door comes across, maybe some shoe molding between that and the baseboard, cut it around the toilet and you’re good to go. So there are other floor choices.
Or if you want to just maintain that ceramic tile, you could also put a second layer of tile over the top one – over the first one – without removing that original layer. As long as that original layer is solid – there’s no decay or softness or structural deficiency there – you could put a second layer of tile on top of the first tile – top of the first layer of tile – and still be good to go. Alright, Sandy?
SANDY: Yes. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Still ahead, porches are making a big comeback right now as more and more Americans take the time to enjoy the great outdoors. The nice thing is that the materials available to build them have never been easier to maintain. We’ll have tips on that project, just ahead.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Hey, call us now at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’re going to get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away five copies of our book, My Home, My Money Pit, Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. It is filled with all kinds of great tips and advice that you hear on the radio every week.
TOM: Yep. Except it’s got pictures. Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jeremy in Pennsylvania is dealing with a leaky basement. What can we do for you?
JEREMY: I have a finished basement that has block foundation. And I have a small leak that – it’s not pulling up water or anything like that; it just kind of causes me some moisture problems.
JEREMY: And it just smells kind of musty and damp and things like that.
TOM: Where is the leak?
JEREMY: The leak is in that – whenever I – before I finished it, it was at the corner of the slab and the block wall.
JEREMY: And it seemed like it was coming up from underneath. I sealed it, I think, inadvertently with DRYLOK and I don’t think that that necessarily did the trick. And I didn’t know if there was another thing that I could do without gutting the basement completely, because I have laminate floor down and drywall up, if there is anything I can do from the outside.
TOM: Jeremy, when – does it get worse after a heavy rain?
JEREMY: It has before. It hasn’t gotten much worse, no.
TOM: But it seems somewhat consistent with how much rainfall you get outside?
TOM: Yeah, OK. So, listen, the good news is there’s nothing you need to do inside to fix this. The problem is outside.
I would suspect, because this is in a corner, you may even have a downspout near that area of the house. But generally, if you have a leak against a foundation wall like that, it’s caused more by drainage than it is by anything like a rising water table.
So if you look outside the foundation in that area, you’re going to probably see that you’ve got a blocked gutter or you have a gutter that doesn’t have enough downspouts or you’ve got downspouts that are discharging too close to the house. When you have a moisture problem, you want to – really want to move those spouts out 4 to 6 feet. Or perhaps you could have some grading that’s too flat and not sort of allowing water to run away.
That first 4 to 6 feet around the house foundation perimeter is really the most critical. And if the water is allowed to sit and collect that close to the house, what’s going to happen is you’re going to get that moisture come right back down into the basement. So the solution is to fix the drainage outside and the inside will fix itself.
JEREMY: Yeah, I think it’s probably a combination of the two. I have a gutter right there in that corner and then I think my grading is – I think it actually comes towards the house, as opposed to running away from the house.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s a double whammy.
TOM: Yeah, that’s a recipe for a flood right there.
TOM: Yeah, start by getting the downspout out. Just put an extension on that leader and you may see an instant result.
JEREMY: OK. Terrific. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Jeremy. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Pat in Arkansas is dealing with a humid house. What’s going on there?
PAT: Well, I have a new heat pump and it’s not taking out the humidity. Of course, I live in a humid area but I just wondered. It’s supposed to take out the humidity, as I understood.
TOM: Well, not really. I mean air conditioners, in general – central air conditioners, which is essentially what a heat pump is – are not designed to be dehumidifiers. They do dehumidify by virtue of the fact that they’re cooling the air but they’re not as effective as other forms of dehumidifiers.
There’s a couple of other ones that you could consider, one of which is called a whole-home dehumidifier. And that’s built into the HVAC system. It would be built into the duct system. And that can take out about 90 pints of water a day.
There’s another type of stand-alone dehumidifier. In fact, I just put one of these in my own house and I thought it was absolutely terrific. It’s by Santa Fe and it’s a small dehumidifier that installs – in my case, I put it in my basement. And it actually is suspended from the ceiling, in an unfinished part of the basement. And it’s only 12x12x22.
And it takes out 70 pints of water a day. And it’s really neat. Once I had it up for an hour or so, I went down there and you can just see this pretty strong stream of water dripping out of it. And all that water used to be in the air and now it’s no longer there.
So, you need to do some dehumidification and I think that you’ll find that that will do the trick, Pat.
PAT: OK. What is the average humidity supposed to be in a house?
LESLIE: Thirty to fifty percent?
TOM: Well, yeah, I was going to say around 40. So we’re in the same neighborhood.
TOM: And if you put a good dehumidifier in, that will be set up to a humidistat so that you’ll always know what the humidity is.
LESLIE: And it’ll come on as it’s needed.
TOM: Right, exactly.
PAT: OK. Alrighty. Well, I thank you so much.
TOM: Good luck, Pat. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, are you looking for a few extra square feet for storage, for relaxation or maybe even for an entertainment center or a guest bed? Well, the surprise solution might already be under your nose and in fact, under your roof. It’s a porch.
LESLIE: Yeah. Porches are making a huge comeback. They’re showing up in a growing number of new constructions. And if they only make you think of the old days, think again. New porches are being equipped with radiant-heat panels in the flooring, glare-proof mesh instead of traditional screens and other features that not only make them comfortable but fit for year-round use.
TOM: Now, if you’re not building a new home anytime soon but you still want to get in on the trend, you can think about screening-in an existing deck. It’s a great way to get that much needed extra space. And once you do, consider a variety of weatherproofing features that allow for televisions and couches and other unexpected touches to your porch.
LESLIE: Yeah. And extra seating might be called for it, too. Porches are good for introducing you to the neighbors that you might not have otherwise met. But before you invite anybody up, you want to make sure that your porch is structurally sound, weatherproofed and ready for its revival.
TOM: We’ve got tips on repairing everything, from porch doors to floors to railings, at MoneyPit.com. Just search “porch repair.”
888-666-3974. If you’ve got an outdoor or an indoor project on your to-do-list, slide it on over to ours by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Amy from Iowa is on the line with a roofing project gone awry. What’s going on?
AMY: We do. We do have a troublesome roof. About five years ago, we got a new roof installed on our house. We were having a leaking problem, some ice dams in the winter. And we got the whole roof replaced and since then, we continue to have a leak. The problem never got solved and we are stuck with this issue once again. So, we’re kind of stuck, at this point, wondering if we go back to the original contractor and try to get him to replace or fix the problem or if we go elsewhere and have somebody completely replace and redo the entire roof.
TOM: Well, first of all, when it comes to the contractor, has the contractor come back since the roof installation to address this yet?
AMY: Yes. In the past couple of years, we actually have contacted him and told him about the issue and that it never was fixed. He did send out his roofing guy – a subcontractor – and nothing ever got solved. They said, “Oh, it looks fine. We don’t think it’s really going to be an issue.” And then we have water pouring in our living room and buckets on the carpet, so …
TOM: So they never did anything?
TOM: Alright. Now, tell me about the roof configuration over the area where the leak is showing.
AMY: Right. We have been told, after having all of these other professionals come out, that we have a very tricky roof. The design of the house, I guess, is not the greatest. Basically, a lot of dead valleys is what they told us. So we have dead valleys that – holding the water and creating these problems where the water is sitting and coming in, which is causing our leak inside of the house.
TOM: So you say “dead valleys.” It means the water is being trapped in the valley?
AMY: Yes. So, basically, the roofline is coming to a point where it runs right into the siding.
TOM: Oh, OK. So, basically, the roof drains towards the siding?
AMY: Yes, that’s correct.
TOM: Yeah. That’s a really tough spot. Hmm. OK. So, if that’s the case and it’s just not fixed, it’s just not working, I think most likely you have to not only take the roof off but probably some of the siding. Because what you have to have there is a special type of flexible flashing that will essentially seal the siding to the roof.
You probably also would want to cover that entire area of the roof with ice-and-water shield, which is sort of a bit tacky and will give you that waterproof capability and also stop ice dams from coming up under the shingles. But Grace makes both ice-and-water-shield and some very flexible flashings. Grace is a terrific building-products manufacturer, so you could look up some of those.
But I do think you’re probably going to have to redo that, especially if you have an area where water is running into it. That’s a really common place for a leak and frankly, this roofer that came out and looked it and said everything’s fine, he doesn’t know because he didn’t take anything apart. And if you’ve gotten leaks underneath that, it’s not so fine. So you certainly could take another run at the contractor but I suspect it’s going to have to be taken apart and rebuilt properly. That didn’t happen the first time.
AMY: Right. So do you suggest going back to the original contractor?
TOM: At least once.
AMY: Yeah. If he’s willing to do any repairs, I mean honestly, I am hesitant to have any of his crew come out. He did tell us that the people that worked on our roof no longer work for him. But I still am very hesitant to have the same contractor come out and try to make repairs when we’ve had other reputable roofing companies come out and say it’s the worst installation job they’ve ever seen. So that makes me really nervous as a homeowner.
TOM: Well, maybe in that situation, if you’re just not – if you’ve just completely lost confidence in the contractor, then maybe you should just accept the inevitable and have a more professional roofer come out and fix it right.
AMY: OK. OK. Yeah, it’s – that’s a tough one.
TOM: The problem is when you have that kind of a hidden leak like that, it’s really hard to do any kind of repair from the surface of the roof. It really is a matter where you have to take things apart and reassemble them, because making that roof waterproof starts underneath the shingles.
AMY: Sure, sure. OK. Well, that makes sense. Yeah, it just wasn’t done right the first time. So, we’re stuck in the same spot, unfortunately.
TOM: Alright, Amy. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You know, there’s a wide range of skills that roofers have. And the majority of the roofs that are replaced today don’t need a really, really skilled roofer to do. It’s kind of hard to screw it up.
Your standard sort of two-story Colonial or a Cape, those are pretty easy roofs to install. When you get an older house that’s got a lot of angles to a roof, that requires somebody who has a real good technician, a real master roofer that can configure the flashing underneath the roof shingles and use the latest products to keep that leak-free. And when you get your average quality roofer that looks at a place like that, they think they can do it and clearly, they cannot do it. That’s like trying to install a flat roof. You’ve got to make sure it can hold water against gravity.
LESLIE: Up next, are you being bugged by bugs this summer, including the biting kind? Well, we’re going to have info on a new, chemical-free way to guard your yard from mosquitoes and other nuisance flying insects, after this.
ANNOUNCER: Today’s Money Pit is presented by Haier, the world’s number-one appliance brand. Stay cool this summer with a Haier Serenity Series Air Conditioner. Quieter than the average window air conditioners, yet cool your home effectively and efficiently. Learn more at HaierAmerica.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: Well, over the last few summers, Americans have become more and more concerned about the risk posed by mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illnesses, which is why summer is prime time to take steps to reduce mosquito populations around your home.
LESLIE: Well, Julia Wallace is an expert in this space. She’s with Dynatrap and joins us to talk about the new technology her company has developed to keep mosquitoes at bay.
JULIA: Thank you so much.
TOM: So, let’s start by talking about kind of the size of the problem. I mean West Nile and now Zika have been in the news a lot over the last couple of years. How concerned should we really be?
JULIA: Well, I think people should be concerned and be prepared to deal with mosquitoes in their yard. We are seeing some evidence of cases in the United States already that are transmitted by people returning to the United States from travel. And we anticipate that this could potentially grow in the summertime as more mosquitoes hatch and they are more active throughout the country.
TOM: Now, there are literally dozens of ways to protect your home and your family from mosquitoes, including mosquito traps.
Now, one thing about those traps is that they usually rely on a consumer having to add a chemical attractant for it to work. What’s unique about Dynatrap is that you have developed one that requires no chemical attractant, making it truly chemical-free. So, how does that work and do the job of capturing those pesky mosquitoes?
JULIA: Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, which is what you exhale when you breathe. And they’re also attracted to heat and light. The Dynatrap is unique in that it uses heat, light and carbon dioxide to attract mosquitoes. And they can detect that from very far away. So once they’re attracted to the trap, the vacuum fan will suck them down into the retaining cage, where they dehydrate and die. But there are absolutely no chemicals required. So you can use your Dynatrap both outdoors and indoors.
LESLIE: That’s really interesting because in reading how the Dynatrap works, the technology is amazing because it’s really making the Dynatrap mimic human breath with a UV light on a titanium dioxide-coated plate. And that creates carbon dioxide, which is what is in human breath, and that seems to attract the mosquitoes. And then they’re stuck in the trap.
JULIA: Well, you can protect up to a full acre with the Dynatrap. We have multiple models for outdoor use that can protect either up to half an acre or up to a full acre. And most people have yards that are maybe a quarter-acre, up to half an acre. They may want to place the Dynatrap in the backyard and then they might want to place another Dynatrap in the front yard. That’s what I do at my home because, in the morning, I like to enjoy the morning sunshine and read the paper on the back porch. And then in the evening, I like to have a cocktail on the front porch. So I have a Dynatrap in both areas of my yard.
TOM: Cocktails on the back porch? I want to come to your house. That sounds pretty good.
We’re talking to Julia Wallace – she is with Dynatrap – about her product that delivers some really interesting technology to help you keep mosquitoes away from your home in a very chemical-free way.
Is it expensive to operate? You have the light bulb, you have the fans. What does it cost to operate a device like this?
JULIA: You know what? It’s not expensive to operate at all. And we recommend that the Dynatrap be operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even with that, it draws very little electricity. So you’re looking at anywhere from $2 a month for an acre or a half-acre of protection and up to maybe $3 a month for a trap that protects up to a full acre. So it’s very efficient.
LESLIE: Well, now that’s fantastic because it’s both affordable and green at the same time.
Now, beside the Dynatrap, what other steps should we be taking to avoid mosquitoes?
JULIA: We recommend actually taking a couple of steps. It’s very important to, first, eliminate standing water. That’s where mosquitoes lay their eggs. And there’s many thing around the yard – the trays underneath your pots are gathering water.
TOM: Clogged gutters, kids’ toys, things like that, as well. Yeah. And those mosquitoes can breed in as little as about seven days, if I remember correctly.
JULIA: Yes. That is correct. And they have multiple hatchings throughout the summer. So anyplace you have standing water, try to eliminate that. Of course, have screens on all of your windows. You can also protect yourself with any type of insect repellants that contain DEET or picaridin. And then we also, of course, recommend using the Dynatrap to collect any of the mosquitoes that are in your yard.
TOM: Certainly, it’s a good strategy. You’re creating, essentially, layers of protection.
The product is called Dynatrap. If you’d like to learn more, they’ve got a great website: Dynatrap.com – D-y-n-a-t-r-a-p.com.
Julia Wallace, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
JULIA: Thank you so much. Have a great summer. Good trapping.
LESLIE: Well, with the sweltering summer upon us, you might be looking for every possible way to stay cool. We’ve got some surprisingly simple tips to improve your window air conditioners, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Pick up the phone and give us a call, now, at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’re going to get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away five copies of our book, My Home, My Money Pit, Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. It is filled to the brim with the same kind of tips that you love every week right here at The Money Pit, every week on your radio.
TOM: And some bonuses. Like we’ve got a home improvement playlist for every project in your house in that book. So you can set up a playlist for your bathroom project, your kitchen project, your deck project. You know, whatever it is, we’ve got a song selection for you. It’s all in the book, at My Home, My Money Pit, Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. Going out to five lucky callers that reach us for today’s show. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Terry in Arkansas is on the line with a mold question. What’s going on at your money pit?
TERRY: I had a leak in my roof. Anyway, it got all of my deck – got my insulation wet and my sheetrock wet. I tore that out. But it’s still mold on my underside of my plywood. I’ve since put a metal roof on and I need to get rid of the mold – the black mold.
TOM: So this is on top of your roof?
TERRY: It’s underneath. It’s in the attic.
TOM: OK. So there’s a product that you could apply here that will dissipate the mold. It’s called Spray & Forget. Just like the name implies, all you do is spray it on the surface and then pretty much walk away. And it will work to halt the growth of mold, mildew, moss and algae. It really doesn’t get any easier than that to use.
Of course, because it’s an attic, it’s going to be a little tricky to kind of get in that space and lean on down there. But you should be able to do it just fine.
TERRY: OK. The product, again, is what?
TOM: It’s called Spray & Forget. Their website is SprayAndForget.com.
Well, it’s time now for another cool tip for a hot summer, presented by Haier, the world’s number-one appliance brand and your expert in air-quality solutions.
If you are using a window air conditioner to make your home more comfortable this summer, installing that A/C just right can definitely make it more efficient and help cool your house faster. Here’s what you need to know to get that done.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you need to pick the right size for the room you need to cool. So, using a sizing calculator, like the one at HaierAmerica.com, is going to be hugely helpful.
Next, if you can, install the window air conditioner in a window on the shady side of your house. Now, the cooler the area that the A/C is located on, the less work it has to do to cool the warm air in your home.
TOM: Good point. Now, you also need to be sure to close your storm windows on the remaining windows. These can actually keep warm drafts from adding to the heat load on the house, the same way they keep the rooms warmer by blocking out cold air in the summer. Whether it’s a warm breeze or a cold breeze, those storm windows can do a really good job of keeping the heat on the outside of your house and not letting it get through to the room where it has to be cooled again by the air conditioner.
LESLIE: And lastly, you don’t want to forget to fill the gap between the lower and the upper window with a foam gasket. That’s going to help keep the cool air inside your house. It’s also going to help keep those bugs from making their way into your home from the outside.
TOM: From air conditioners and dehumidifiers to space heaters and kitchen ventilation, Haier has just the thing to keep every room in your house comfortable this summer and year-round. Learn more at HaierAmerica.com. That’s HaierAmerica – H-a-i-e-r – America.com.
LESLIE: Eric in Arkansas is on the line and has a problem with smoke damage at his money pit. Tell us what’s going on.
ERIC: Yes, I recently bought a foreclosure that’s got some smoke and fire damage. And I was curious. Is there a product or a special way that the walls need to be treated? Some kind of special primer to cover up the smoke damage to get rid of the smell? Or do I have to gut the whole thing?
TOM: You know, one of the best primers for this particular purpose is made by Zinsser and it’s called B-I-N – B-I-N. And essentially, it’s a synthetic shellac. And what it does is completely seals in the odor that’s kind of soaked into that wall. So if you do a really good job applying this type of a primer, I think that the odor will go away and you’ll have a terrific base upon which to apply your sort of topcoat of color.
ERIC: OK. Now, Zinsser? Is that what it was called?
TOM: Zinsser is the manufacturer. Their product is called B-I-N – B-I-N.
ERIC: OK. Well, thank you very much.
LESLIE: Alright. We’re heading out to Delaware where Mary has got a question about a roof. What’s going on at your money pit?
MARY: I have a two-story house with three-tab shingles that are 25 years old. And I’m about to replace them with architectural. I have an attic fan currently. It’s about 30 years old and I don’t really have to keep that. But my question is regarding a replacement attic fan versus the ridge vent.
TOM: So, we would definitely recommend a ridge vent over a replacement attic fan, for a lot of reasons.
Here’s why. In the summer, many times folks will install attic fans to try to cool their atticthinking that it will lower their cooling cost. But what generally happens is when an attic fan kicks on, it will depressurize your attic. And then it needs to replace that negative pressure. So what will happen is it will reach down into your house and actually pull some of that air-conditioned air up into the attic.
Now, how that happens is interesting. It’ll pull it out from gaps around, say, where your attic door is or it’ll pull it through the walls, through gaps around plumbing pipes or electrical wires or outlets that go through. There’s usually some sort of thermal connection between the inside and the outside. And by using an attic fan, you’re going to potentially drive the cooling costs up, not down.
A better option is a ridge vent – a continuous ridge vent – that goes down the peak of the entire roof. And that will exhaust attic air. But the ridge vent should always be matched with soffit vents at the overhang of the roof so that the air will enter down low in the roof, roll up underneath the roof sheathing and then exit at the ridge. And that sort of convective loop will do a much better job of keeping your attic cool than an attic fan. It will not – and it will not drive up your cooling costs.
MARY: And you’d close off the current attic fan?
TOM: That’s right. I would actually – if you were going to be replacing your roof, I would simply take that whole fan out, tap off the wires and disconnect it. You don’t need it.
MARY: OK. The other question is I also have a whole-house fan, which I rarely use. Can you still use a whole-house fan with the ridge vent?
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Now, let’s talk about the difference between a whole-house fan and an attic fan. An attic fan is just that: it draws air out of the attic. A whole-house fan is mounted, generally, on the ceiling of the upper floor of the house. And it’s going to draw air from your house itself, push it up into the attic where it will be exhausted.
Now, the key with a whole-house fan is you have to have enough exhaust ventilation up in the attic. If you end up having a continuous ridge vent and continuous soffit vents, I think you probably will have plenty of exhaust ventilation up there in the attic.
I would suggest, if you don’t have it already, to put that whole-house fan on a timer. Because it’s really effective, especially at night, when you can set it for an hour or so when you’re going to sleep, to kind of keep that air moving through the house. And then it’ll just go off by the time you fall asleep and the air gets cooler.
MARY: Vents in the eaves in the house, which were built in the house, are they closed off when you get the ridge vent?
TOM: Generally, yes. Those small vents that are on the ends of the gable walls, you do want to close those off and make sure you have continuous soffit and ridge vents. Because you’ll get some turbulence between the ridge vent and that end gable vent that can impact the flow of the air.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got David on the line who’s got a question about a patio.
DAVID: I am putting a patio right at the foot of the steps.
DAVID: And is it all that important that I connect it to the house or not?
TOM: The patio?
DAVID: Yeah. It’s a concrete patio.
TOM: No. The patio doesn’t get physically connected to the house. You want to make sure that the base that you prep for that patio is solidly tamped so you don’t get settlement. But it’s not going to physically connect to the house. I mean a deck would obviously connect to a house but a patio wouldn’t.
DAVID: But the house was built in the 80s. So, the house has pretty much already settled. But there’s no need to put the rebar in? It’ll stay connected to it?
TOM: It will stay against the house as long as A) the soil underneath is tamped and properly prepped before you pour that patio and B) you don’t have any kind of drainage problem that causes erosion. Sometimes, I’ll find downspouts shooting on top of patios or underneath patios so that the soil washes away. That’s how you get movement of those entire slabs or cracking. So as long as it’s stable, you shouldn’t have to worry about attaching it to the house. Does that make sense?
DAVID: Alright. Yes, it does. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Don’t go anywhere. After these words, we’ll return to help answer your questions at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll be right back.
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: Standing by to answer your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or online at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. And hey, guys, don’t forget: post your questions on MoneyPit.com. And we’re going to jump into those now. Jill from Rhode Island writes: “I installed an energy blanket in the attic about three years ago. Can I add insulation on top of the blanket?”
I’m not familiar with an energy blanket, Tom. Is this like a form of insulation?
TOM: Yeah. I’m not really sure what they mean by energy blanket. I wonder if they mean a radiant barrier, which is that sort of reflective-like material.
But look, the answer is the same. Presume we’re talking about a fiberglass-batt insulation here, Jill. And what I would recommend is that you want to make sure that you have no vapor barrier in all of those layers. So you want – if you have this energy blanket and it has some sort of a foil face, it’s a bad idea to cover that. Generally, what I would do is tell people to slice that they can’t take it out so you have some ventilation in there. But essentially, you want to have that entire rafter bay-plus filled with fiberglass insulation.
So let’s say it’s a 2×8. You could put 8 inches of insulation in that rafter bay or in that ceiling joist. And then perpendicular to that, across that ceiling, you could put an additional 8-inch batt of insulation. So now you’ve got 16 inches of insulation or even more. You want that all to be unfaced fiberglass insulation so that the moisture from the house can move through it and up to the ridge area of the house where you – the ridge area of that attic, where you absolutely must have ridge ventilation as well as soffit ventilation. So this way you’ll take the heat, you let it out at the ridge vent. You’ll take the moisture, it’ll wick out at the ridge vent.
If you start layering this up and you have a vapor barrier in between all that, you’re going to trap moisture underneath it. And that’s going to make the insulation very ineffective because it will be damp. And insulation does not work when it’s damp. So, pull out that vapor barrier, pull out that energy barrier and put the additional insulation right on top of the original insulation.
And by the way, if that original insulation is compressed or sagged, take that out and start from scratch. You’ll be better off.
LESLIE: Alright. Rashonda (sp) in Maryland writes: “What, if any maintenance, does a refrigerator need? Mine is only a few years old and I noticed the back feels a little warm than I think it should.”
TOM: It actually doesn’t need much maintenance unless you have a water line; then you have a filter to change. But that warmth on the back of the refrigerator, that’s normal. Refrigerators are going to expel heat and that’s what helps them keep it cool inside.
LESLIE: Also, check the seal on your front door. If you can put a dollar bill in and close the fridge door and then slip it out, it’s time to either clean that seal or get a new one.
TOM: Would you like a one-of-a-kind kitchen on a small budget? Leslie has tips, on today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, one of my design mantras has always been “make it your own.” So when it comes to your kitchen, if you want to just spruce it up without spending a ton of money, there are some really great ways that you can do it affordably.
First of all, let’s talk about lighting. Kitchens are always full of high hats. So if you’re looking for something different, you can find a conversion kit. You can find it on a bunch of different online retailers. I think I’ve even seen it at some of the big-box stores. And it basically replaces your light bulb. But what it is – it’s almost like a ceiling canopy that covers over your high hat. And this piece screws into where your bulb would go and then a cord hangs down. And you put any sort of decorative shade or any of those glass bell jars over it and you suddenly have a pendant light. So this could be great if you’ve got a high hat in a key area, like over your sink or maybe a couple over a kitchen island. Suddenly, you have a brand-new look for less than 100 bucks apiece. It really can be that affordable.
Another great way is to simply add hardware to your cabinets. Doesn’t have to cost a ton. You can mix and match. You can do pulls on your drawers or your lower items and do some knobs on the uppers. It’s a great way to add some bling for a really affordable price.
The other thing is your countertops. Everybody loves a natural-stone countertop. It can be pricey but think about it creatively. If you have some small counter spaces, you might be able to get some remnant pieces. And people are mixing and matching granites or those natural-stone surfaces a lot in kitchens. So if you have an island and then a separate counter area, you can do two different stone surfaces at each of those areas. It’s a great way to save some money and remnants are key to doing that.
Have fun in your kitchen. And make it your own.
TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up on the next edition of the program, electrical repairs are a project that you really shouldn’t start unless you have some training. But there are some tools available that can make those projects a lot safer. We’ll have those details, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2016 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)