3 Smart Heating Solutions

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    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project. We’re here to solve those do-it-yourself dilemmas, help you get your home fixed up, perhaps, for the holidays or for the chilly weather ahead. But help yourself first: give us a call, right now, at 888-666-3974.

    Hey, as the days get shorter and temperatures start to sink, most households find that their home heating bills, well, they start to run out of control. And even worse, right about now it starts to feel like hour house just stays cold no matter how high you crank that heat. So, coming up, we’ve got three ways that you can cut those heating costs and get comfortable in just a weekend.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, would you like to have all the benefits of a fire without needing a chimney? Well, you can when you install a direct-vent gas fireplace. Richard Trethewey from This Old House is stopping by with the step-by-step.

    TOM: And is your driveway cracked or worn or suffering from those nasty oil stains? We’ve got a surefire solution to clean up the stains for good and restore the surface, just ahead. But first, we want to talk to you about what’s going on in your money pit. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-666-3974.

    Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Dana in Georgia is on the line with a mold question. How can we help you?

    DANA: I’m in Santa, Georgia, where it’s already hot and humid and we’re already fighting mold a lot of the time during the warmer months. Right after Hurricane Matthew, it just seems to go on turbo where I’m having to clean it off all the wood furniture and some of the walls. And it’s even coming out of – or was coming out of the vents from the A/C heating unit. So, I just replaced those vents rather than try to clean them. And my question really is – is there anything else I should be doing and should I be concerned about my kid’s health because of it coming out of the vents?

    TOM: Well, not even it coming out of the vents. The fact that you’ve got this growing on the walls and furniture is a pretty serious problem. You need – you have the scope of a problem where you need actual professional-remediation help because it’s so prevalent. The problem is that these – some types of molds that kids and adults can have allergic reactions to. They produce mycotoxins that can get out and make some people really sick.

    I’ve known folks over the years who had – in fact, I had someone very close to me that I diagnosed this for because she had kids that had a really bad year of illness. And we noticed that when they went on vacation – they went away for a month over the holidays and they felt great. And they came back and they felt lousy.

    So it all turned out to be mold that actually got into the attic of this house, that was finding its way back into the living space through holes around where the lights came through the ceiling. And so, in this case, all of the insulation actually had to be taken out of the attic and the whole thing had to be sprayed and cleaned and then put all back together again.

    So, if you’ve got that much mold in the house, you’ve got to get to the bottom of it. And I really think you need some professional help. But what you want is someone who does occupational safety and health as a living, as a profession. You don’t want the latest Johnny-come-lately mold-remediator guy that has no professional training. You want somebody who really has some skills and certifications, from a consultancy basis, to get to the bottom of this.

    I’m going to recommend a website and that website is MayIndoorAir.com – May, like the month – M-a-y-IndoorAir.com. You will find books on that website by Jeff May, who is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met about mold and indoor-air quality. He has an interesting backstory. He was very, very allergic to mold and it led him to a whole new course of study. He’s written three or four books on mold, including some written for the Johns Hopkins University Press.

    So I think that would be a good source of information for you. And he’s not from your area but he may be able to recommend to you some contractors in that particular area, some consultants in that area that he knows professionally. But that’s a good source for you to kind of get to the bottom of this, OK?

    DANA: Great. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Brad in Iowa is on the line with a siding question. What can we do for you today?

    BRAD: I’ve got an old caboose in my backyard. It’s a long story but it’s a wooden caboose. I got it in 1985 and I – shortly after I got it, or not too much longer after that, I had to put new siding on it. Because the place where I got it had sand-blasted it and it really did a job on the wood. Now, the siding was 1×4 V-groove – tongue-and-groove – all the way along it. Now, it’s about 25 foot long, 8 foot high and then where the cupola is, it worked about 12 foot high. But the siding I replaced it with was a pine car siding with a V-groove to keep it looking original. And I backed that, after I took the old siding off, with an exterior-grade plywood.

    And so it’s been quite a while but it’s deteriorated really bad due to the high moisture content we have up here in Iowa. And then we get the extreme hot and cold. And I have to replace it and I ran out of time this year, so come springtime I’ll have a big project. But I don’t want to make the same mistake over again and have it just rot out again. And I don’t know if I’m choosing the wrong type of lumber or if I’m not treating it – prepping it right or house wrap or if I need special ventilation or something. Because I keep it closed up most of the time.

    TOM: Well, I’ve got to say first off, Brad, this is the first caboose-repair question we’ve ever received, which is kind of cool. It sounds like you put that plywood – you put the plywood on the structure and then you put the siding right on top of the plywood. Did you have any building paper underneath that siding or did it go right on the plywood?

    BRAD: No. When I took the old siding off, there wasn’t anything on it. It had a peculiar kind of insulation and some of that stayed and some of it I took out. But it’s only got 4- or 6-inch lumber in it.

    TOM: But you said you sheathed it with a plywood. My question to you is did you put the siding right on top of that plywood or did you put a building paper or house wrap in between?

    BRAD: I put 30-pound felt paper on it.

    TOM: So, it’s wear and tear – the wear and tear is mostly not because you installed it incorrectly but it’s just because it’s – like you say, it’s a moist, humid environment there that probably causes a lot of decay.

    Would you consider putting something besides lumber back on that? Because I’ve got to tell you, there’s a lot of really beautiful, very authentic-looking composite materials that are out there today that look just like wood. In fact, I would dare to say they’re almost indistinguishable from wood. But they’re not organic, so they don’t rot. I mean you have materials like HardiePlank, you have materials like Novik, you have materials like AZEK. There’s a lot of good composites out there that can look a lot like wood but not rot and not decay.

    BRAD: I installed it vertically instead of horizontally and that was the problem with the car siding. And I thought maybe I didn’t give it enough time to adjust – to acclimate to our weather.

    TOM: I don’t think so. First of all, it’s hard to keep that kind of siding completely leak-free because it’s basically – the water’s going to get into those grooves. So I think you’ve got an authentic look to it but I think it’s probably done the best you can with that. So I would tell you you’re either just going to have to replace it the same way you did the first time. But I would strongly encourage you to investigate in the many, many composite materials that are out there today that could look just like that but will absolutely never decay.

    BRAD: Well, I appreciate that. Given that strong consideration, even if I had to do a little milling on my own, I’m pretty good at lumber work. But well, that’s a great tip. I just really don’t know anybody to ask and not too many people are into this. I suppose there’s been a few restored around the country. They don’t use them anymore, so …

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com or give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews and book appointments, all online.

    TOM: And up next, now that the temperatures are dropping, are you feeling the chill or perhaps the pain of high heating bills? We’re going to share three ways you can cut heating costs and get comfortable, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: So, Leslie, I went to a party on Saturday.

    LESLIE: Yeah?

    TOM: It was a painting party.

    LESLIE: OK. You went to paint somebody’s house?

    TOM: No, we got a bunch of the adults together and we went and we painted the Scout House. We’re very lucky that our Boy Scout troop here has a building that they’ve actually owned since the 1940s. It’s very unusual to have a troop that has its own building and we’re just really lucky that we do. But it’s an old concrete-block building and it needed a good coat of paint.

    So, you know, here we are painting the place and I was thinking, “Gosh, I’ve got to …” – it was chilly, right? But I didn’t want to mess up my jacket or anything like that. So, how do you kind of paint knowing you’re going to kind of get your clothes dirty but still stay warm?

    LESLIE: Very carefully.

    TOM: No, what I did was I took my long-sleeve shirt and I turned it inside-out. And everybody said, “Hey, that’s a great idea.” Yeah, because I figured I’m going to get paint on it but at least if I get it on the underside of the shirt – the inside of the shirt – maybe it won’t leak through to the front. And we went through about 10 gallons of paint. I never got any paint on the outside of my shirt.

    LESLIE: Really? That’s amazing.

    TOM: It worked great, so – yeah.

    LESLIE: Because my initial thoughts are that it would be itchy once it’s dried, even after you wash it and everything, and that it would bleed through to the front anyway.

    TOM: True. Well, I’m a pretty neat painter. I don’t really slop it on, so I didn’t have puddles of paint pouring down my shirt. But we were working up pretty high on ladders and stuff. So, yeah, it was a pretty good idea, I thought. At the time, it made sense to me. Threw the shirt on inside-out and away we went.

    LESLIE: Very clever, Tom.

    TOM: So think about that the next time you pick up a paintbrush and don’t want to mess up your clothes.

    But first, let’s help you fix some of those mess-ups around your house. If you’ve got a project maybe you’re stuck in the middle of, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Katherine in Wisconsin is on the line with a soundproofing issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    KATHERINE: I live in a condo with a basement and there’s an I-beam that runs through the basement. And when I’m in the basement, I can hear my neighbors from two houses down talking in their living room, because their voices travel down the I-beam.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: Crazy.

    KATHERINE: So I was – yeah. So I was interested in covering the I-beam somehow to reduce the noise but I wasn’t sure what the best way to do that would be.

    TOM: Well, there’s a couple things you can do. First of all, can you frame in the I-beam so that it’s – like has something that we can attach a drywall to?

    KATHERINE: Yeah, yeah, I could. I just wasn’t sure what to do that with or if that would help.

    TOM: OK. So once you – yeah, once you frame it in, there’s a product called QuietRock.

    KATHERINE: OK.

    TOM: And it’s a soundproofing drywall. It’s sold at Lowe’s. It’s pretty expensive. Regular drywall is 5 bucks a sheet; QuietRock is about 40 bucks a sheet. So it’s pretty expensive but you don’t need a lot.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But if she can hear them, they can hear her.

    TOM: Yeah. But you don’t need a lot. You don’t need a lot. So, if you can frame-in that beam and you’re sure that’s where it’s coming from, you may want to think about using QuietRocks to actually cover the I-beam and that should do the trick.

    KATHERINE: Oh, really? So I wouldn’t need to put additional insulation between the …

    TOM: No. Insulation is – insulation doesn’t really work as a soundproofing material.

    KATHERINE: OK, OK.

    TOM: It’s kind of a misnomer to think that insulation works on a wall. It’s cheap but it really doesn’t do much. The QuietRock absorbs the vibration of the sound and I think that’s what you need to do.

    KATHERINE: OK, great. And the QuietRock is just spelled like it sounds?

    TOM: Yep. Q-u-i-e-t – Rock. If you go to Lowes.com, you can find it right there. And I was able to find it; I needed it for a project. I was able to find it right in my local Lowe’s.

    KATHERINE: Thank you. Bye.

    LESLIE: Well, as the days get shorter and temperatures start to sink, most households find their home heating bills starting to run out of control. Even worse, sometimes it feels like your house just stays cold no matter how high you crank the heat.

    TOM: Now, if this sounds like your life, it’s time to take some action to lower those heating costs. And you can do that by addressing three common home heating mistakes.

    So, the first mistake is this: neglecting your HVAC-system maintenance. Now, whether you’ve got baseboard heat or old-school radiators or forced-air heating or even radiant heat, it’s really important to keep up with routine maintenance, especially with forced-air systems because they can lose a lot of efficiency when they’re not properly maintained. So get that heating system serviced now and change out those filters frequently. We’re talking once a month.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, mistake number two is ignoring those drafty windows and attics. So many older homes have outdated windows. And they can leak a surprising amount of heat, especially if they aren’t properly sealed. Now, even a small crack along the base or side of the window can have a huge impact when it’s really cold outside. And an imperfectly sealed window can be a major point of energy inefficiency, as well.

    Also, you’ve got to think about this, guys: you know, glass really isn’t a great insulator on its own. And an outdated, single-pane window, they really are to blame for a lot of heat leaks. So, you can think about adding heavy drapes or even insulating panels. And that will solve the problem.

    You should also even look at curtains that are heavy enough to block cold air, because they can also keep that hot sunshine out of the house. And that’s going to help you find a good temperature control for the entire year. So it’s not just a winter thing.

    TOM: Now, finally, the mistake number three is what I call “abusing the thermostat.” Now, there are lots of ways you can abuse your thermostat but if you use it wrong, you’re going to pay for that dearly.

    So, one mistake that families commonly make is just cranking up the heat for those that are cold, while shutting off heat registers in the bedrooms for those that don’t like it hot. Now, this actually is not a good idea because what it does is causes pressure inconsistencies within the HVAC system. And that’s going to ultimately lead the system to work harder and use a lot more energy.

    LESLIE: Now, you might also want to upgrade to a digital, programmable thermostat. And that’s going to allow for round-the-clock temperature control. You can set it to turn down the heat while you’re asleep or while you’re at work, for example. And that can help save you a lot of money when you don’t really need to have the house being toasty warm.

    TOM: Yeah. But don’t wait for that first really expensive heating bill to take on some of these simple fixes. And while you’re at it, be sure you take a look at your home’s insulation. Most homes don’t have enough insulation in the ceiling. That’s up in the attic looking down at what you would call the “attic floor.” If you’re not seeing 15 to 20 inches of insulation there for most areas of the country, you really ought to add some unfaced fiberglass batts. That will give you very quick comfort and a lot of return on investment, literally, within the first heating season. Because we’re only talking about spending, on average, maybe 300 bucks on that insulation. You could put it down yourself and you’re really going to save a lot of money and feel a lot more comfortable at the same time.

    So, hope that helps you out, helps you keep those heating bills in check. If you’ve got a question about that or any other topic of importance to you, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania has got a question about windows. What can we help you with?

    DON: These windows are mid-1700s. That’s before the Revolution. The ones I’m working on, there is – the building actually had a date on it: 1746.

    TOM: Wow. That’s impressive.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    DON: And the glass on these was like poured glass; it wasn’t manufactured the way they make them now. And I’m trying to save the glass and I’m trying not to damage the wood at all. But I’m scraping and painting and weatherizing these windows. And the reason I’m doing that is because a lot of the glaze is falling out and the paint is flaking away and everything. But some of that glaze that’s on there – and this hasn’t been done, I would say, for more than 30 years. Because we’ve lived here 30 years and have never done it to this window.

    And so that – some of the glaze is falling out but others, it’s really tenacious and stuck to that wood and that glass. And I don’t want to ruin the glass or ruin the wood, so what’s the best way to get that old glaze out of there?

    TOM: Are you using any heat to help you here?

    DON: Not yet.

    TOM: So, what you want to try to do is get a heat gun, which kind of looks like an industrial-size hair dryer.

    DON: Yeah, I have an electric heat gun and I’ve used that to help remove some of the paint. But I don’t know the temperature of that heat gun but …

    TOM: Well, you want to use it cautiously. I wouldn’t lean into it with the nozzle but I would try to warm that old putty. Generally, if you warm it, it loosens up.

    Now, some guys that do windows all the time will actually use steam to soften the putty. And I’ve seen guys create almost like steam chambers, where they kind of build a box, fill it with warm steam and then slide the sashes in there and then pull them out. And now they’re warm and they strip them off.

    One way that you could try to do this without sort of building that chamber might be to get a wallpaper steamer. And then use some of that steam – use it against the window, warm it. That warm, moist steam may also help to loosen it up.

    But if you’ve already got the heat gun, I would try trying to warm it up gently and see how the old glazing reacts to that.

    DON: Oh, OK. I will. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: How would you like to have all the benefits of a fire but not have to have a chimney? Well, it’s possible if you install a direct-vent gas fireplace. Just ahead, Richard Trethewey from This Old House is stopping by with the step-by-step.

    TOM: And today’s edition of This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by ADT. Introducing ADT Go, the new family mobile safety app and service. Go to ADT.com to learn more today.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Hey, do you need new flooring in your kitchen or bathroom? You thinking about planning a new deck for next spring? Whatever project you’ve been dreaming of, HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free. So give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, we’ve got Diane in Massachusetts on the line with a noise question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    DIANE: Sided the house 12 years ago and I had blown-in insulation put in 3 years. And the house is noisy. I can hear a humming. It’s annoying. It’s a buzzing. I don’t know why, after doing all of this surrounding the house and trying to keep it warm, I would hear a humming, a resonance in the house.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what: there’s got to be a reason for this and it’s going to take some real detective work to figure it out. I’ll give you an example from my own home. You know, we recently had mentioned earlier on this show – put in spray-foam insulation and sealed up the attic and it’s never been warmer in the house as a result of it. But in one part of the house, it still was technically a conditioned attic. So by code, we were required to leave some vents in that attic. Now, it ended up that it was so tight in that attic space, even with the vent, that whenever the wind blew, we’d get this really weird, almost like haunting sound.

    You know when you were a kid and you would – took an old bottle and you blew across the top of it and it made a big, deep sound with it?

    DIANE: Yeah.

    TOM: Like a big jug? Well, that’s what it sounds like when the air blows across this vent. And it makes a really weird sort of vibrating sound in that part of the house. Until I figured it out, I was really scratching my head.

    So there’s always a reason for this. In our case, it was a vent. In your case, it could be plumbing. Very often, we get noises in homes that are sourced from plumbing. Sometimes when you run hot or cold water, pipes will expand or contract and cause sort of like a creaking sound that will vibrate through the entire length of the pipe and amplify itself as a result. It could be electrical. If there’s outlets or panel boxes in those parts of the house, they definitely should be inspected to make sure that nothing is disintegrating inside that electrical area.

    There’s nothing about adding blown-in insulation that will cause a noise, so the source must be somewhere else that you’re going to have to dig into a bit more, Diane, before you’ll know what to do about it. But I would trust your instincts. If you’re hearing it, it definitely exists. Sometimes, people think they’re going nuts. But I’ve got to tell you, there’s a reason for that but it’s definitely going to take some detective work to get to the bottom of it.

    DIANE: OK. You coming over?

    TOM: Alright. Well, you put on the coffee and next time I’m up in Massachusetts, we’ll stop by. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, the warm glow of a fire is a welcome addition on a cold winter night. But a wood-burning fireplace isn’t the only way to get the heat and ambiance that a fire can bring.

    TOM: That’s right. You can have all the benefits of a fire, without a chimney, when you install a direct-vent gas fireplace. Here to tell us more is This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hello, guys. How are you?

    TOM: So, this is a great solution for people who want a fireplace without the work and expense of building one brick by brick. How does it work?

    RICHARD: Well, a gas direct-vent fireplace is pretty cool because you can put it anywhere. And it draws its air from outdoors to feed the flame. This is set up as really efficient, because you’re not losing valuable heated air up the chimney like you do with conventional gas fireplaces or conventional wood fireplaces.

    TOM: I imagine that’s a lot safer, as well.

    RICHARD: Yeah, there’s a bunch of advantages. One is safety. Since they eliminate the need for a flue through the roof, you don’t worry about backdrafting where your – the flue part is going the wrong direction. As another safety measure, the vent pipe can be installed directly through the wall. It’s really simple. You get the flue products completely out of the building quickly.

    It’s also efficient. Direct-vent appliances burn natural gas or propane, like traditional fireplaces. However, they convert most of their fuel to usable heat. They’re completely sealed off from the interior rooms by a glass door, which prevents that significant heat loss that always happens in a regular wood fireplace. You put that fire on, you get a lot of heat early on and then all of a sudden, there’s a net loss where more heat’s going up the chimney than is coming in see you, so …

    LESLIE: Up the chimney, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, in some cases, that’s all the heat that you paid for with your conventional heating system being taken right out of the house. The fact that you can squeeze almost every BTU out of the gas really is what improves efficiency.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. And you can control it so precisely, too. You turn it on, you turn it off, which is great.

    TOM: Now, I would imagine these are easier to install, in terms of the flexibility of where you can put them, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah. You don’t have to think about a masonry chimney. You don’t have to worry about the size of the masonry chimney. You don’t have to worry about the size of any chimney going up because the fan inside the unit will get the flue products out, so you can put them just about anywhere.

    TOM: Now, when we talk about gas fireplaces, I think some people might confuse what we’re discussing, in terms of direct-vent, with a traditional gas fireplace. But it’s really hugely different.

    RICHARD: Yeah. In the old days, what you might do would be put a thing called a “gas log” into the opening that used to be a wood-fireplace opening. And that had all the same issues that you had – many of the same issues that you had with a wood fireplace where you might turn it on, you’d have to open the damper to get exhaust going up. You’d turn on the gas log. And even though you felt some heat, you also could feel almost a draft pulling by you as the heat you just made – actually, the heat you made in that gas log actually increased the amount of air that was leaving through the building, through the uplift that goes into the chimney.

    So, those traditional ones have been pretty much replaced by these direct-vent. And those are always sealed units. And so, what’s happened is you get all of your air for combustion from outside. There’s a duct somewhere that comes into that combustion zone, so you’re not creating a negative in the building to pull that stuff up and out. And that’s really the way you want to do it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But so now we’re direct-venting through the wall, through whatever your exterior material is. This sounds like it could be a pretty difficult project for a novice do-it-yourselfer.

    RICHARD: Well, this is a gas appliance, so it should be done by a licensed gas professional. But it still doesn’t mean that it’s too prohibitive to do. I mean it’s just – it’s really the way to do it. The key point to understand is that you think you’re getting comfortable heat when you have a regular wood fireplace, when you have a regular gas log. And the net net when you stand back from it is you’re losing as much as you’re making. So you feel this temporary satisfaction but it’s – on the long haul, you’re putting a lot up into the atmosphere.

    TOM: Better remember that that’s coming out of your recreational budget when it (inaudible).

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: You’re not saving money by burning wood.

    LESLIE: Your trip fund.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right.

    TOM: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much. That’s a great piece of knowledge about direct-vent and I think I’m going to consider putting one of those in my house.

    RICHARD: Let’s keep everybody warm.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC Trucks and SUVs.

    Up next, is your driveway cracked or worn or suffering from some of those nasty oil stains? We’ve got a surefire solution to help you clean up the stains for good and restore the surface, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros, for free.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, we’ve got Debbie on the line. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    DEBBIE: We live in an old log house. It has a stone foundation. And the logs were rotted off some of the areas at the end, so we built another wall in front of it. But I’m about – there’s moisture coming up into my kitchen cupboards and it sounds – it smells – you know, the smell is really bad.

    And I was – we got a dehumidifier down there. We got a sump pump put in the basement. But I’m still – I still think I’m getting moisture in the cupboards.

    TOM: Dehumidifiers and sump pumps are all great but that really doesn’t slow down the amount of moisture that gets into a house. The only way to do that is to make sure that your gutters are clean and free-flowing and the downspouts are extended away from the house by at least 4 to 6 feet and then, also, that the soil around the house is sloping away from the building. Because otherwise, you’re collecting a lot of water in the foundation perimeter. And that will evaporate into the lower spaces and then wick its way up through the rest of the house. And so, your solution is going to start outside your house by addressing those issues.

    DEBBIE: OK. Sounds great. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Well, if your driveway is stained from oil leaks or cracked or worn, now is a great time to clean it and seal it.

    Now, beyond stain removal, the type of driveway maintenance that you have to do is going to depend on whether you have concrete, asphalt or a paver-brick driveway.

    TOM: First, let’s talk about those nasty oil stains. To get rid of those, you want to mix up a solution of trisodium phosphate into a paste. Now, you’ll find this in the paint aisle of any hardware store. You apply the TSP paste wet to the stain, then you let it sit for about an hour or more and rinse it. Now, the sooner you can get to that stain the better. But even old stains can be successfully removed with this approach. That is, of course, as long as you fix the car first, because you don’t want to keep dumping that oil on there.

    LESLIE: That’s very true. So many times, people are like, “The stain is still there.” I’m like, “Check for a leak.”

    Now, if you’ve got an asphalt driveway that needs to be resealed, you can use asphalt-compatible products to fill any cracks, gaps and holes that you might have. And use a disposable squeegee to apply an airport-grade latex sealer over that entire surface. You also want to make sure that the forecast is clear for the applying and drying time, since rain is going to cause that sealer to run onto the sidewalk and the street. And that can leave unremovable stains.

    You want to follow with a generous drying period. I mean that could be up to a couple of days, if you can allow for that. And then you’ll see you’ve got an attractive automotive entrance to your home.

    TOM: Now, if you’ve got a concrete driveway with a worn surface, it’s best to apply a concrete-resurfacing product the entire driveway. Now, concrete resurfacers, these are specially formulated to stick to old concrete. And they can leave you with a driveway that looks almost brand new.

    In fact, these products are really amazing. I saw one demonstrated that’s made by QUIKRETE. And these resurfacers are so strong, they’re actually stronger than the original concrete. And that’s how well they will bond.

    If you want more tips, check out our post on driveway sealing and maintenance. It’s online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

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

    JEFF: So what we’ve got – we just purchased a home recently and the inspection – we noticed that the tar paper that covers – or there is tar paper that covers the ridge vent. And of course, that should be removed under normal installation.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JEFF: But I’m wondering if I can utilize that throughout the winter, to build heat and preserve heat in the attic, to maybe help warm the living space and then remove that in the spring once the warm weather comes back.

    TOM: Depends on whether or not you want your insulation to work well or not, Jeff. Because the ridge vent is designed to help vent moisture out of that attic space and make the insulation more effective. So, it’s designed – in a perfectly insulated home, the insulation layer is at that ceiling level, right? And above that, it should be ambient. In other words, the attic should be the same temperature as the outside. So your attic is not designed to hold heat in. Not this type of installation. There’s another type that is. But this particular type is not.

    So, I would recommend that you grab a utility knife. And can you reach that – the underside of the ridge from the attic?

    JEFF: I can. It really wouldn’t be a big task at all to get it removed. It was actually when I was about to address that that I thought, “Wait a second, I might be able to utilize this heat over the winter.”

    TOM: Yeah. You have other vents in the roof, as well. You may have gable vents or soffit vents, so you’re not really changing the dynamic of the ventilation in the attic. But no, I would recommend that you cut that tar paper out.

    That’s actually, shockingly, not that uncommon. What happens is the roofers put tar paper across the entire roof, put the shingles up and then the guy – the last guy that puts that ridge vent on top of that ridge is supposed to cut out the tar paper. But if he was – if he didn’t go to ridge-vent class that day, he missed that step and he leaves the tar paper in place. And then, of course, it blocks the vent and then it just doesn’t work.

    So, the reason I said it impacts your insulation is because the insulation, if it gets damp, it’s not effective. So, fresh air should be pushing in the soffit vents underneath the roof sheathing and out the ridge. That keeps everything nice and dry. So go ahead and cut that out and that’s the way you should be all winter long and thereafter.

    JEFF: Perfect. I appreciate the help. I appreciate the advice.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck, Jeff. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Good questions from Jeff in Georgia.

    LESLIE: Hey, do you have carpeting that’s all stretched out and snagged? Well, we’re going to help a member of The Money Pit community, who posted a question about that problem, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project, your DIY dilemma at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Jump online and post your question in the Community section, just like John did.

    Now, John writes: “Can you offer any ideas on why all of our carpets are buckling in the center? It started happening about three to four years after they were installed. We were thinking it could be shoddy installation. Didn’t stretch them right in the first place, maybe? Do carpets have to be stretched these days? I know they used to need it. Any ideas that you may have would be appreciated. We did have a plumber check the crawlspace not too long ago, after we noticed the buckling in the first place, and he says it’s dry.”

    TOM: Well, the first question I have for John – he uses the term “buckling.” Do you think this means loose carpet, where it’s just kind of buckling up in the middle because the material’s loose?

    LESLIE: I feel like it seems like the carpet was probably heaving, like bubbling maybe?

    TOM: Oh, right. But not the floor. Not the floor.

    If the floor is buckling, that’s a whole different problem there, John.

    LESLIE: Right. But if the floor is buckling, then the carpet would be sticking up stiff. I feel like …

    TOM: Yeah. It would – right. It wouldn’t be loose material.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: I think that, basically, he’s got carpet that’s stretched out here and it doesn’t sound like they ever restretched it. And some carpets do need to be stretched more than the time that they’re originally installed. You know, could maybe they have done a better job when they first installed it? Perhaps. But the best way to do this is to have it done by a pro. And you’re going to have pull all that furniture out of the room.

    Now, if they try to stretch it with the furniture in the room – which they may try to do or suggest they can do – I don’t recommend it.

    LESLIE: You can’t do that. It’s holding it down.

    TOM: Right. Because it holds it down. It’s not going to stretch properly, OK? So you want all the furniture out of that room and that’s the hard part. The time it takes to restretch this is nothing but you want all that furniture out so that there’s no weight holding it down. Then it can be stretched. And the tackless along the edge of the wall, what’ll happen is you’ll end up with carpet that’s too long, so it’ll have to be cut back. He may cut an inch or two off of this carpet or more when it’s properly stretched out.

    I will also say, though, that this is a sign of the carpet wearing. So, you may want to start thinking about, say, replacing that carpet in the next, I don’t know, two, three, four years because it’s starting to really wear if it’s stretching that much. If it stretches again, I wouldn’t restretch it a second time; I would just replace it.

    Alright, John? Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: I tell you, that furniture moving is the most daunting part of any sort of flooring project.

    TOM: Really? Oh.

    LESLIE: I have needed to replace the carpeting in the boys’ room for, I don’t know, eight years. And just the thought of moving all that furniture is just the most terrible idea out there.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Audrey. Now, Audrey writes: “Hi. I’m getting sudden bursts of very hot water in the middle of a shower. I’ve got a gas water heater. The pilot light is on. Any ideas on why this is happening?”

    TOM: Yeah. I mean what’s happening here is you don’t have a pressure-balance valve in that shower. Now, what a pressure-balance valve does is it keeps the mix of hot and cold the same regardless of whether there’s less hot water or less cold water. It doesn’t change that mix. So, the fix here is to replace the shower valve with one called “pressure-balanced.” And that means you’re never going to get that shower shock where you get really cold water or the shower scald where it gets really hot.

    It also saves many domestic fights, too, because people always say, “I told you not to flush the toilet. Or don’t run the dishwasher or the washing machine while I’m taking a shower.” People really get mad at each other over that but it’s a pretty simple fix. You just need a pressure-balanced valve. We put one in our old house. It works great.

    LESLIE: It really makes a difference, although I still have told my children that they can’t flush the toilet while I’m in the shower. I just want them to stay out of the bathroom.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending part of your day with us. We hope we’ve given you some great tips and advice to help you fix up your homes, if you’re getting ready for the holiday or just ready to suffer the winter ahead and keep warm and dry and keep those energy bills down. If you’ve got some thoughts and questions, remember, you can reach us, 24/7, on that same phone number of 888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page 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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2018 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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