Big Tips for Small Baths

  • Small bathroom
    View from the top of small bathroom with brown tiles
  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I am Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Welcome to what would be, officially, the second weekend of fall. Which means, for us, it’s the second weekend of the season we call Goldilocks, because it’s not too hot, not too cold, right? Perfect?

    LESLIE: And it’s pumpkin season.

    TOM: Pumpkin season. Perfect to get those projects done inside your house, outside your house, whether you’re stepping up the outdoor-living space for some enjoyable fall evenings, maybe adding a fire pit. Maybe you are working on the inside because you know it’s going to get chilly soon. And before we lock ourselves in for the winter, we want to spruce up the décor. Whatever is on your to-do list, though, we are here to help. So give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s show, if you’ve spotted a roof leak, you may be wondering if your roof can be repaired or needs a complete replacement. We’re going to tell you how to know.

    LESLIE: Plus, from single sinks to limited square footage, smaller bathrooms often leave much to be desired. But you don’t have to make a bathroom bigger to make it better. We’re going to give you some tips, in just a bit.

    TOM: And with the chilly weather setting in, do you have an area of your house that just never seems to get warm? Well, infrared space heaters may be a solution. We’re going to tell you how to shop for a heater that can supplement your whole-home heat and reduce your overall utility expense at the same time.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to give you a hand with whatever it is you are working on. For me, I’m getting pumpkins this weekend. I know it’s early. My whole plan is to beat the squirrels. Not physically beat them but not let them eat the pumpkins. I’m going to work on a couple of ideas of deterrents and I’ll tell you how that works. Last year, I did hair spray. Not so great. This year, I think I’m going TABASCO Sauce.

    But whatever it is you guys are doing this fall weekend, let us know. We want to give you a hand.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

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

    BOB: I have a question on my heating-and-cooling system. The filters don’t get dirty. I can leave them on there for two, three months and find very little dust or foreign material in the filter itself. But the house gets real dusty.

    I’ve tried several different things. I had a company come in and clean the ductwork out. You know, they found a little but probably normal amount of dust. I’ve even tried to go with a double filter, which I’m sure would make a difference. I’ve tried to tape the filters in, thinking that maybe it’s bypassing the filter. But nothing seems to help. Would you have any answer for a situation like that?

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s kind of what I was thinking, that I don’t know if the gap – if there’s a gap around the filter. But it could be bypassing somewhere else, like in the ductwork itself. So, you want to make sure that all the air is passing through wherever that filter is inserted.

    Now tell me, is this filter inserted inside the blower compartment or is it in line with the ducts? Or is it a return vent where the filter is located?

    BOB: It is inside the ductwork, leading right up to the blower itself.

    TOM: Right. OK. And what type of filters are you using?

    BOB: I have purchased a very good-quality filter, probably in that $10 range. Started out – I had the less expensive ones in there. And I moved to the better filter and it didn’t seem to make any difference. Even the new filter didn’t have any dust in it to speak of when I changed it.

    TOM: One of the numbers you want to pay attention to in the filters is what’s called the MERV rating – M-E-R-V. And the higher the number, the more filtering it’s going to do. So, if you have a filter that has a low MERV rating, like an 8 MERV or something like that, that’s not going to filter nearly as much as one that had, say, a 13 or a 14 or 15 or 16 MERV rating. So you want to make sure – that’s how you know how good the filter is itself.

    Now, the dust that you’re seeing around the house, is there any other source for that, I wonder? Do you have carpets, for example?

    BOB: Oh, yeah. We do have probably – the main rooms probably would be carpeted other than the hallway and kitchen, dining area. Bedrooms are pretty much tile. Otherwise, we do have carpeting on the stairs and the living room and the bedrooms.

    TOM: Are you using a HEPA vacuum cleaner? Are you using a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner?

    BOB: Yes. We do have central vacuum but we found out that by using this better vacuum cleaner, we were getting a lot more of the dust out of the carpeting.

    TOM: Yeah, I was kind of thinking that this may not be – this is probably sourcing just in the house air itself and coming up through the carpet. And it’s just not much of it is getting back into the HVAC system. So I think your solution is going to be better vacuuming.

    And when you mentioned that you have a central vac, those are notoriously leaky and not a high-efficiency particulate system by itself. But if you’re using a different vacuum that is a HEPA – and it’s got to say HEPA – H-E-P-A. High-efficiency particulate is what that stands for. If it is not a HEPA filter in that vacuum cleaner, you could be – you could basically be recirculating a lot of that dust through the house.

    The other thing that you could try with your HVAC system is to put in a whole-house air cleaner and stop using the filters. Whole-house air cleaners are going to be worlds apart from a standard, sort of slip-in-that-slot kind of an air cleaner or the static air cleaner. Whole-house air cleaners are appliances. They can take out dust particles as small as viruses.

    A couple of different brands that I like. One is Aprilaire and the other one is Trane. They both make very, very good whole-house air cleaners. It’s an investment and it’s something that you’re going to have to have a pro install. But you’ll find that it is absolutely the most efficient type of air-cleaning possible.

    BOB: OK. Probably what you’re talking about then is something that would take the real fine particles out that maybe the filter isn’t going to get.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Yep. It’s very, very efficient. And it’s cut into the return duct. They’re usually about 4 or 5 inches or 6 inches wide. And they’re an appliance. It’s not a static filter anymore. It’s an appliance that basically its job is to trap all of those dust particles and everything that’s smaller than it, too.

    BOB: OK. Yeah. We’ll look at that and see what we can do. Possibly this would be something – I think that what we are seeing is the real fine dust that maybe is getting through the filter.

    TOM: Yeah. So, higher MERV ratings or a whole-house air cleaner. I think that’s your best bet. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    BOB: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Brunie (sp) in Alaska who’s looking for some planting help in Alaska. Some cold plants, I guess. Fake ones.

    Welcome, Brunie (sp). How can we help you?

    BRUNIE (sp): We have a very narrow swath of grass, which is actually just moss and tall weeds. Can’t quite tell what kind of weed it is and there’s no grass growing; it’s just moss and it’s damp. It’s on the north side of the building and it’s just at the edge of the deck.

    TOM: OK.

    BRUNIE (sp): So it virtually gets no sun ever. I think it’s – crabweed, I think it’s called or some kind of a ferocious weed that grows uncontrollably.

    TOM: OK.

    BRUNIE (sp): So I was wondering if you could make any suggestions what else I could grow there.

    TOM: Well, the key here is to understand what hardiness zone that your area of the country is in. And anybody that lives in Alaska is pretty hardy, by my book.

    BRUNIE (sp): Yeah.

    TOM: But there are actually hardiness zones there.

    And taking a look at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s site, Leslie, what zone does it look like she’s in?

    LESLIE: It looks like Anchorage is placed in the 3b/3a zone, which would put you in the -40 to -30 degree temperature zone. So that kind of gives you an idea of what hardiness of plant or grass that you would need to sustain those temperature swings.

    TOM: And if you go to the Almanac.com, which is the website for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, they actually have a guide there that has all these plants listed by hardiness zone. So there are actually quite a few plants that will survive, believe it or not, in that hardiness zone. And they’re all listed there in a directory on The Old Farmer’s Almanac. So I think that would be a good source for you. Gives you lots of options on what you can do with that space, based on that hardiness zone and of course, the amount of light. And hopefully, we can get something growing there pretty soon.

    BRUNIE (sp): Thank you so much. That would – that’s very nice. I appreciate that.

    TOM: 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 Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online for free.

    TOM: Coming up next, spotted a roof leak and wondered if it’s a fast fix or needs a major replacement? We’ll tell you how to figure it out, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by for your calls, your questions 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: Now, Hugh is on the line from Texas and needs some help with brick repairs. How can we help you with the project?

    HUGH: Got a house down in Houston and every – I’ve forgotten how many bricks but every so often, it’s got a vertical slot between the ends of the brick, as if it’s – I guess it’s a slot for air to be able to ventilate going up. And then up in the attic, it’s – the air can come up there. And I was wanting to find out, would we be better off to seal that up to keep the scorpions and such out? Or do you – does the house need that?

    TOM: The answer is no, because you do need that air for ventilation. I’m going to presume that this is a brick façade, so it’s probably over a wood-framed wall. And those weep holes in the brick help the brick to breathe; otherwise, you can trap moisture behind the brick and that could cause the exterior wood surfaces in the structure beneath them to rot.

    So it’s there for a reason, Hugh. You really should use it and find some other way to keep those scorpions away.

    HUGH: OK. Now, what about insulation? Now, I don’t know that this house had any insulation in the walls. It was built back in the early 70s or something and we bought it secondhand. But would that be where you’d normally put insulation? In between the brick …?

    TOM: No, it would not be, so – and here’s why: because you don’t want to, again, insulate that space because that’s there for ventilation. If you were to insulate it, it would be in the wall frame itself and even though 1970s sounds like a very old house, I can assure you they were definitely using fiberglass insulation – insulated batts – in walls that were constructed at that time. So you may very well have it.

    And in addition to that, if you’re going to add insulation to a house anywhere, the best place to add it is to the attic because that’s where you have the most heat loss, not the walls, not the floors. So the order of priority, in my mind, would be attic first, followed by floors, followed by walls.

    HUGH: OK. Well, we’ll leave them open then. I sure do appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, Hugh. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if a big storm passed through and left a leak stain in its path, you might be wondering what kind of repair is needed. Well, roofs that leak have to be fixed fast and sometimes, contractors looking for a bigger job than is necessary can use this fact to talk you into a new roof that you might not need. Well, not just yet anyway.

    TOM: That’s right. Well, here’s a few tips that can help you decide.

    First, let’s talk about what actually makes up a roof shingle. Roof shingles are generally cotton or glass fiber covered with an asphalt coating. Now, the asphalt layer is what makes the roof water-repellant. As that sun heats the roof, though, the asphalt dries out.

    So, to check your roof for signs of wear and tear, what you want to look for are cracked, curled or broken shingles. If the worn section is limited to a smaller area, it can be repaired. But if the entire roof looks this way, replacement may be the best bet.

    Shingles that are allowed to deteriorate can start to leak and that can lead to mold and rot and even more expensive repairs as time goes on.

    LESLIE: Now, if you do need a roof replacement, you can usually add one additional layer of shingles for a total of two layers. After this, local building inspectors might make you tear off the existing layers first.

    Now, doing a tear-off really isn’t such a bad idea, even if you only have one layer. Those second roof layers don’t cool as well in the summer, due to that increased mass. And as a result, these roofs are going to wear out more quickly than a single-layer roof would.

    For example, if your single-layer roof lasted 22 years, a second layer is typically only going to last 15 or about one-third less. So that’s something to consider.

    TOM: And that’s right. So you can do some math, actually, to figure out if it’s worth the added expense of removing that old layer. And that is to think about how long you’re going to live in the house. If you’re going to be there for most of the life of that roof, you may want to remove the existing layer since you’re going to be the one that benefits from the increased longevity of the new roof.

    But if you know you’re going to be out of that roof in a couple of years, well, then you might just go ahead and put that second layer on because you’re not going to get any benefit out of those years – you know, 18, 19, 20 and 21 and 22 – because you’re going to be long gone by the time that roof gets to be that old.

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to North Carolina where Reba is dealing with a spider problem. Blah. What’s going on?

    REBA: I have moved into a brand-new set of apartments and there are just spiders everywhere. But they have a lot of mulch around our apartments and – where they’ve planted new flowers and such. But there are some tiny spiders that are little black spiders and then there’s brown spiders that are as big as quarters. They’re the fastest spiders I’ve ever seen in my life.

    TOM: Oh, boy. And the brown spiders that are as big as quarters, they sound like brown recluse spiders, which can bite. So those we don’t like at all.

    REBA: Right. But I have tried – I have bought stuff from Lowe’s. I’ve sprayed all kinds of stuff all inside my house and all around the outside but they’re impossible to get rid of.

    TOM: So, I hate to say this but have you considered hiring a professional? I know you’re probably saving some money. But whenever I hear somebody is buying lots and lots of pesticide and spraying it inside the house and spraying it outside the house, I’m kind of of the opinion that by the time you do all that, you’ve exposed yourself to so much excess pesticide that you would have been better off just having a pro come in, because they can buy stuff that you can’t buy.

    Plus, they’re specifically trained on where to put the insecticide, how much to put. And also, the insecticides today are very specific and they remove only the insects that they’re supposed to remove. And they don’t remove the beneficial insects that you want to leave behind.

    So if you’re having that much of an infestation, I would stop shopping for my own pesticide and call a pro and have them treat the house. And once you get the populations down to where they’re manageable, kind of more normal, then you could try to use some of those other products just on a maintenance basis. Does that make sense?

    REBA: It sure does. But here’s the only question: when everybody else is having the same problem and the mulch is all around the whole entire neighborhood, is just me spraying going to help? Is it going to stop it?

    TOM: Well, yeah, it’ll create sort of a barrier around your place. But let me ask you, is this an apartment you rent or is this a townhouse? What’s the form?

    REBA: This is like – they just built this whole neighborhood of new apartments. There’s like 43 apartments.

    TOM: So they’re rental apartments?

    REBA: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So, if you get the exterminator out there and they tell you that you’ve got something like a brown recluse spider there and you bring that to the attention of the rental agent, I think you’d give them plenty of reason to treat the whole apartment complex and not ignore them to the point where people and kids start getting bitten.

    REBA: OK. I thank you for your information.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Matt in Wisconsin who’s dealing with a splashy toilet. That is the worst: constantly cleaning a toilet seat. Tell us what’s going on.

    MATT: Well, when we flush the toilet, a good portion of air comes up through the trap, forcefully enough to cause the water to splash up onto the seat or the inside of the lid if it’s closed.

    TOM: Well, what really causes that, Matt, is a venting problem. Is this a new problem or has it always been this way?

    MATT: No, it’s just within the last couple of months.

    TOM: OK. So then what I suspect is that you’ve got a blockage somewhere. If your vent for that toilet is partially blocked, then the drain line is being starved with air. And if it’s starved with air, it’s going to try to gulp that air from somewhere else and that’s what’s causing the bubbles.

    MATT: OK.

    TOM: So, what you need to do is try to figure out where that obstruction is. And it’s going to be somewhere in the vent that is connected to the waste line under the toilet, if that helps you narrow it down a bit.

    MATT: Yes, it does. Thanks.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Hey, if your bathroom is feeling a little snug, remodeling is always an option but it can be expensive. Instead, we’re going to have some space-saving tips that can save a bundle, when The Money Pit returns.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Need new flooring in your kitchen or bath? HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for the job for free.

    LESLIE: Betsy in Georgia needs some help tackling a ceiling project. What’s going on?

    BETSY: My question is how to remove popcorn ceiling. We have a bonus room above our garage that the popcorn ceiling was falling down in spots.

    TOM: OK.

    BETSY: And we scraped and scraped and we weren’t getting very far with it and we damaged the drywall with gouges from being scraped. So my husband put stippling on the ceiling to cover up the gouges and I don’t think it looks good at all.

    TOM: OK.

    BETSY: It looks dumb.

    TOM: So he kind of put more texture back on where he had the old texture?

    BETSY: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah. So now do you have to remove the stippling, which was probably done with the spackle, correct?

    BETSY: Yes.

    TOM: Ugh. Boy, I tell you what, you made it – it went from bad to worse. You know what I would do if I wanted a really clean ceiling and that was the situation? I would knock down as much of that as was physically possible, so it’s nice and flat, make sure as much of the popcorn is gone as possible and then I would put a second layer of drywall over the whole thing. Tape it, prime it, paint it and be done with it. You’ll have a brand-new ceiling.

    LESLIE: Bury it. Hide it.

    TOM: I’m like, “Bury it.” Because that drywall is probably so damaged now from the scraping off of the old popcorn to the adding of the stipple. And then you’re going to have to sand and get rid of that. I just don’t think that – all the work that’s going to be worth you putting into that is just not worth it. You’re just not going to get a really clean look. So why don’t you just put a second layer of drywall over it? It’s really clean, easy to do and it will look much, much better in the long run.

    BETSY: Right. And then we – our other ceilings have popcorn but we haven’t tackled that. So is there an easier way to get it off?

    TOM: Well, here’s the right way to do it – is that you would dampen it and then you would scrape it.

    LESLIE: So you use a paint sprayer or a garden pump sprayer and then you just lightly spray that on the ceiling. You know, get it wet. You’re going to have to cover everything; it is a messy job. And then you just scrape it away with a spackle knife.

    TOM: And by the way, though, if you want to buy yourself some time and maybe – what happens with the popcorn, it gets dirty and grungy-looking. You can actually paint that. There’s a special type of roller that’s a very thick roller that’s got sort of slits in it and presses the paint up inside the sort of the pieces of popcorn. And you can get a nice bright, clean look to it. So, it is possible to paint that and have it look a lot nicer and a lot cleaner.

    BETSY: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

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

    Well, there are a few things all old-house lovers, like me, are familiar with: drafty windows, less-than-perfect plumbing, squeaky floors and small bathrooms.

    LESLIE: True. But while new-home baths have nearly doubled in size over the past 30 years, most older-home bathrooms average about 5 foot by 8 foot. So, just short of ripping out walls to increase your space, you might think you’ve got few options. But there are ways that you can use the space to its fullest potential and here’s what you’ve got to do to do that.

    Now, have you ever thought about a corner sink? They come in a couple of different styles. You can get something that’s pedestal-style or wall-mounted. That corner sink is going to give you some charm but it actually frees up a ton of floor space in that bathroom. And that can set up some space-saving storage elsewhere in the room, meaning you don’t need a traditional cabinet vanity. And a smaller bowl is still going to provide you with the space that you need to get the job done in the bathroom.

    TOM: Now, speaking of corners, you can also use a corner shower unit. They’re called “quadrant shower units.” And they help to sort of preserve that precious bathroom real estate by including a comfortable shower enclosure in your bath remodel with two straight sides mounted right into that corner. And then the door side of it is a curvy entry that saves at least a full square foot of space when you compare it with regular shower units.

    Some other ideas are to include toilets that have the flat tops on them. That gives you another storage area where you can put organizers or put some shelving above it. Or look for the smaller, deeper tubs. These offer a great soak with deep-set seating. The small clawfoot tubs are one option that are also super attractive and popular these days.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Even think about your faucets and your fixtures. You can go for ones with lower profiles on them. That’s going to give you a lot of choice for styles and allow you to beautifully accessorize a small bathroom. Plus, big sinks don’t have to be big to get the job done. Keep things smaller scale, cabinet-mounted vessel sinks. Those are all options that will free up a lot of space on a much smaller piece of furnishing. And that can still give you a little bit of storage but it makes the bathroom feel that much bigger.

    And also think about converting some furnishings. Refurbish standalone storage cabinets, small tables that are converted into carts. Some other vintage finds could add some personality to the remodeled bathroom space while offering the storage that you need for linens, towels, toiletries, you name it.

    TOM: And speaking of storage, towel storage is always a challenge in bathrooms if you don’t have a linen closet or a big cabinet space. What you could do is use open-wire shelving on the walls. I like to put it up sort of along the ceiling, maybe about 2 feet down so you can still sort of reach it. And then roll the towels and set them up there, you know, just like they might be in a hotel. You can actually get quite a few towels in there. It’s really easy to access and it’s a beautiful, open-space design.

    So, just because you don’t have a lot of square footage for that bathroom doesn’t mean you can’t do a few of these things, to sort of free up some of that visual space and make it a lot more fun and more comfortable to use.

    LESLIE: Nancy in Pennsylvania is on the line and having a hot-water issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    NANCY: Well, my hot water takes so long to – or my water takes so long to get hot when I turn on the spigot. And washing the dishes by hand makes that – I waste a lot of water that way.

    LESLIE: Nancy, is this a new problem or has this always been the situation?

    NANCY: No, it’s an old problem.

    TOM: Yeah. And it has to do with the physical distance between the faucet and the water heater. The farther they are apart, the longer you have to wait for the water to heat up.

    Now, newer water heaters today, and especially the tankless water heaters, are very small. And so the way a lot of builders are addressing this is they’re putting in multiple water heaters closer to the bathing or the washing areas of the house. So, typically, you’d have one for the kitchen and maybe the laundry area and you’d have another one for bathrooms. Because these water heaters are so small and so efficient, they can literally squeeze into anything that’s smaller than a closet.

    In your case, though, it’s just a matter of the distance that the water has to travel. Unfortunately, in a house like this, though, I would say that it’s unlikely you will save enough money in water costs to make the installation of an additional water heater worthwhile, Nancy.

    NANCY: But is there anything else I can do? Like I have been told, different times, that insulating the pipes wouldn’t help or some people say it would.

    TOM: Well, the only thing that insulating the pipes will do is it’ll keep the water that’s in the pipes, once it gets there, warmer longer. But again, it’s a distance thing. You turn the faucet on, the water starts to move from the water heater, where it’s hot, to the faucet. And it has to purge all of that cold water along the way. Once it purges, it’ll stay hot but it just takes a certain amount of time for that amount of water – that amount of volume of water – to move through the pipes.

    Does that make sense, Nancy?

    NANCY: Yeah, it does. And so there’s basically nothing I can do except different water …

    TOM: Well, except moving a water heater closer to the – to you. I mean there are recirculators that sort of take water and recirculate it back all the time. But again, that costs energy, too, and that costs plumbing expense, too. And I just don’t think you’re going to save enough to make it worthwhile.

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

    LESLIE: Remember, you can reach us anytime, 24/7, with your home repair or your home improvement question right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, I love the fall season. And you know what that means: the chilly weather is starting to set in. But do you maybe have an area in your house that just never seems to be warm enough? Well, maybe infrared space heating could be a solution for you. We’re going to tell you how to shop for a heater that can supplement your whole-home heat and reduce your overall utility expenses, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on this beautiful fall weekend? If it’s your home, you’re in exactly the right place because we are here to help, soup to nuts, floorboards to shingles. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for similar projects. That’s all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Randy from Maryland on the line with a decking question. How can we help you today?

    RANDY: I just put a brand-new deck on the back of my house. The house was actually built in 1988, so it’s good and settled. I just wondered how soon I could treat it. I’ve heard two months, three months. I’ve heard a whole season. I don’t want to wait too long but I don’t want to do it too early.

    TOM: Randy, what’s the material the deck is made out of? Is it pressure-treated lumber or cedar or redwood? What?

    RANDY: Yeah. It’s pressure-treated lumber.

    TOM: OK. So what I would do at this point is I would wait until next spring. Let it be exposed to the environment for a while. It is true that the lumber, when it first goes in, is very moist. And by waiting maybe six months in your case, you’re going to find that it’s going to dry out a bit. And it’ll be ready to sort of take a stain better than taking it right now. So I would certainly let it sit for a while and then stain it before next summer when it gets sort of cool and dry out.

    And then in terms of the stain itself, I would recommend that you choose a solid-color stain. It will still show the grain through but it’ll have more pigment in it and it’ll last longer. Does that help you out?

    RANDY: I think so. So basically, say, wait a full season then?

    TOM: Yeah. I would wait a full season and then I would stain it after that.

    RANDY: OK.

    TOM: Thanks, Randy. I hope that helps you out. We appreciate you calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you haven’t done so already, pretty soon you’re going to be turning up that thermostat to get warm. But did you know that every 2 degrees you lower your thermostat in the winter could save you 10 percent off of your energy bills? So to supplement heat in the room you use most often, consider a portable heater.

    TOM: Now, we have one in our kitchen. I’m totally loving it because it’s the one room in the house that’s always cold and it could definitely benefit. I’m using an electronic infrared zone heater and it supplements our whole-home heat. But it uses infrared heating to warm any area of the house, so we could move it around if we wanted to. And as a result, we’re no longer turning up the furnace excessively to get that one cold room to warm up. We basically use it to supplement it and we can save money across the entire energy bill that way.

    LESLIE: Yeah. If you’re thinking of picking one of these up, you need to understand how these infrared heaters work. So, basically, an infrared heater heats the objects in a defined space and not the air, like central-heating systems do. It’s like the difference between being directly in sunlight versus sitting in the shade. We feel the warm in the sun because the light that hits our clothes and our skin keeps us warm.

    TOM: Right. So with that in mind, you want to make sure you’re buying the best model size that’s suited for you. Portable infrared heaters range in sizes that can heat anywhere from 300 square feet up to maybe 1,000 square feet. And some models have a programmable thermostat that will start at the heater, say, just before you get home and maybe plop down in that favorite chair and be nice and warm and ready for you. So, buy one that’s just big enough but not too big or you’ll be wasting energy.

    888-666-3974. We don’t want you to waste any energy with your home improvement or décor project, so give us a call right now. We’re here to help at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Sandy in Florida is dealing with a squeaky door. Tell us what’s going on.

    SANDY: Well, we’ve had this squeaky door now for three years. We’ve tried putting oil on it, we tried using WD-40 and then we went out and bought three new hinges and put on it. And it still is a squeaky door.

    TOM: Are these hinges sort of standard hinges?

    SANDY: Yes. It’s just three standard hinges.

    TOM: So what you might want to do is go out and buy some ball-bearing hinges. There are some upgraded hinges. They’re often used on heavier doors but they rely on ball bearings to open and close instead of just the metal sitting on top of the metal. There’s actually bearings there that the different sides of the door will ride on. And those will be absolutely quiet and they’ll last forever.

    SANDY: Wow. Where would they carry those?

    TOM: Well, I would expect that you would find them – you may need to go to a home center and order them. Go to the millworks section of a home center, bring an old hinge along and try to order a ball-bearing hinge to match it. Or your hardware store. Or you can probably find them online, as well.

    SANDY: Yeah, that’s what we’ll try. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, you might be done with your deck for the season, which is why now is a great time for a few repairs that will make sure it’s good to go when the spring arrives once again. We’re going to share those tips, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Remember, you can always reach Tom and I anytime at 888-MONEY-PIT. But don’t forget about the Interwebs, you guys. Post your question to The Money Pit’s Community section, go on Facebook’s Money Pit page, post there. Wherever you want, you can reach us online.

    Now, Maureen did that and she posted about a fix for deck boards. She writes: “If I want to replace the wood boards on my deck, will there be a problem installing new ones because of the existing screw holes? We’d like to put composite boards in place of the old boards but we only want to do the top layer, not all of the wood framings.”

    TOM: You know, it’s a great project to take on whenever that top layer of deck boards have become cracked or rotted, Maureen, or otherwise just generally deteriorated. Sometimes they get really splintery and they’re kind of uncomfortable.

    But you’re right: you don’t have to actually replace the framing, only that top decking. You can remove all of those old wood deck boards and replace that decking with composite.

    Now, you asked if you had to be worried about lining up the previous screw holes or nail holes. The answer is no, absolutely not. You don’t have to worry about it. Those composites can be directly attached to the original floor joists. They can have new holes, they can use the old holes. There are a number of ways to do that.

    I would look for one of the systems that has hidden fasteners, because it makes it really attractive. You don’t see any of that hardware through the deck boards, which can kind of be unsightly.

    Plus, with the clips, you can also adjust the height of the board. Because sometimes with the old framing, it gets a little warp-y. And the composites are very flexible compared to the wood boards, so it tends to transmit whatever that inconsistency of that floor joist below. If it’s a little saggy or if it’s crowned, it’s going to show as a sag or a bump in the deck when it’s done. So the clip system makes it a little bit easier to kind of smooth all of that out.

    Now, you might also want to think about replacing the wood railing and also covering the exterior box beam. That’s sort of the part of the floor structure that you see from the outside perimeter. This way, when you look at the deck, it will all be composite and it will need virtually no maintenance from there on out.

    You would, though – before you do all this work, you would need to inspect it structurally. This is an important step that too many people will skip. I don’t want to see you tear off all of that wood decking and start to remodel this whole thing if it turns out that the deck is not structurally safe.

    So, we need to look at the wood joists. We need to look at the girders, the posts. Need to make sure that the deck is solidly attached to your house with bolts, not nails, to make sure that it really is in good structural condition. Because we always design these decks not for the occasional family dinner, where you get four or five people, but we think about the Labor Day weekends and the Memorial Days and the Fourth of July days where you have 40, 50 people standing on that deck in your house. It really has to be very, very sturdy. So, I would definitely want you to inspect that thoroughly. Have a pro come in and do it if you don’t know how to do the inspection, to make sure it can stand up.

    But I think composite today is absolutely gorgeous. Leslie, these products seem to get better and better, right?

    LESLIE: They really do. I mean they’re gorgeous. They look like the real deal. They look like exotics lumber, as well, so that you can really find something that has a lot of character, that works with the style and design of the deck itself, that sort of coordinates with the style and the design of your home. And they just – they clean up well, they wear well. They just get better and better. And you can use them in a covered porch, a screened-in porch, outside, inside. They really do a great job for a deck surface.

    So it’s totally worth it and you’re doing the exact right thing by putting it where you have it. And you’ll be enjoying the beauty and the style with the ease of maintenance for a long, long time.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your fall weekend with us. It’s a great time to be working inside or outside your house. Our favorite time of the year, in addition to the beautiful foliage. We can get just tons of projects done around the house.

    If you are smack-dab in the middle of a project this weekend and don’t know where to turn, you can always turn to us by calling, 24/7, 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    But for now, that’s all the time we have. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2019 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.)

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

More tips, ideas and inspiration to fuel your next home improvement, remodeling or décor project!