Cook Up a Green Kitchen with Earth Friendly Countertops #0409181
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And what project is on your to-do list for today? If it is, slide it over to our list and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. You know, it doesn’t matter when you are listening to this podcast. That line is always open, always staffed and always standing by to take your home improvement question. Because that’s what we do: we help you get projects done around your house, your apartment, your condo. Help yourself first, though, by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question to the Community page at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up this hour, with Earth Day just around the corner, it’s a good time to consider going green in your kitchen. And we’re not talking about green fruits and veggies, although not a bad idea. We’re talking about Earth-friendly countertops. We’ve got tips on materials that deliver durability and are Mother Nature’s best friends, coming up.
LESLIE: And adding shrubbery to the front of your house can be a great way to add curb appeal. Planting a shrub is also something most DIYers can handle without a professional. Landscaping contractor Roger Cook from This Old House is stopping by to tell us how.
TOM: And building a new deck or patio to create new space for recreation and relaxation is one of the most popular projects of spring. But how do you know what’s best: a wood deck or a brick patio? We’ll help you sort it out, just ahead.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’ve got a very fun tool to give away. It’s the iconic, American-made Arrow T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, along with a supply of staples, worth 50 bucks.
TOM: Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Let’s get going. Leslie, who’s first?
CAROLYN: OK. I have a septic system and we’ve had a lot of rain here. Oh, probably the last maybe three months or so it’s been a lot of rain. And I’m in the kind of the rice land of Arkansas. It’s very wet ground. OK.
So, anyway, I was having trouble. When I would flush the commode, it – now, it never ran over, which I’m very grateful for. But the water wasn’t going down, OK? And I mean it would go down eventually but maybe take 20 minutes or more.
TOM: OK. Does everything else in your house drain normally? Is it only the commode that you’re having a problem with?
CAROLYN: It’s, well, the commode and the sink in the bathroom.
TOM: But do we know that it’s the septic system? There could be an obstruction in the drain and that’s the first thing I’d look at.
CAROLYN: OK. I did have some fellows out and – a reputable company – and they did pump out 120 gallons.
TOM: Well, that’s – but you’re always going to have 120 gallons. The septic tank fills up with water, it overflows into the field. So, pumping out 120 gallons doesn’t really tell me anything. What I want you to do is to have the lines checked, because I suspect there’s nothing wrong with your septic, that you may have an obstruction.
Let me tell you a story about a guy who had a toilet that was having a slow drain problem. This guy was having a party and was doing this big cleanup for – before all the relatives showed up the next day. And so the toilet backed up and so he figured out that he thought it was a root problem.
And so he got up early the next morning and dug this huge hole in his ground to get down to this pipe and then snaked it one way, snaked it the other way, couldn’t find any roots in the way. Went back into the bathroom, decided that the obstruction had to be between the hole that he had dug in his ground and the bottom of the toilet. And so he took the toilet tank off of the floor and looked down into it and tried to snake that out and couldn’t find a problem. But in the process of taking the toilet off the floor, he happened to look into the bottom of the toilet and noticed that there was something blue there.
Now, there’s nothing that’s really supposed to be blue that’s in a toilet. It turns out that his darling son had dropped a toy phone down the toilet and that’s what was slowing the whole thing down. So, this guy had dug up his whole yard, took his toilet apart, all to try to find out what was causing this problem and hurried to get it done before all the relatives showed up. And it turned out to be a toy that was stuck in the toilet itself.
So, I’d say that guy was a real idiot and that guy was me.
CAROLYN: Oh, OK.
LESLIE: I’m like, “I’ve heard this story before.” I’m like, “Why do I think this was you, Tom?”
TOM: I was completely wrong on why I thought that – I figured I was smarter than the average homeowner and knew that it – thought it was the willow tree that had clogged the pipes. It had nothing to do with that.
TOM: It was just a simple toy that was stuck in the crux of the toilet that I couldn’t see and finally got that off, put the whole thing back together, threw the dirt back in the hole and then headed off to get ready for the party. So you never know why your toilet is clogging.
CAROLYN: Well, that’s true.
TOM: And I wouldn’t always think it’s the most expensive possible thing, which is your septic system. Have the lines checked.
TOM: Who knows? And maybe you’ll find something that got stuck in there.
CAROLYN: Alright. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
ART: About a month ago, we had a wind storm and it took off three sections of shingles off of the roof. And I was able to retrieve them. They were, ironically, in pretty good shape.
But I remember seeing a program on PBS where they were redoing homes down in Florida, in the section where they get a lot of storms down there. And I think there is a requirement for the way that shingles are to be installed down there and I’m thinking, if I remember it right – and I didn’t have a chance to see the whole program. But on mine, when I took mine off, there was only like three nails in each of these shingles there. And I think, if I remember correctly, that down there they were requiring that there be more nails than that used to install shingles.
TOM: Well, Art, your goal now is to replace the shingles that you lost. And did you save the shingles? Were they intact enough to use the actual shingle for the repair? Because this way, the color will match.
ART: Yes. Yes, they were; they were in very good shape, yes.
TOM: Alright. So then what I would do is I’d get back up there and – assuming you can do this safely – and you’ll nail the new shingles back in. You want to put nails – you can put them pretty much where the old nails were but of course, not in the same holes because they’re going to be broken-through now.
You can’t really put too many nails on them. If you want to put an extra nail or two, that’s fine. But the key is after you get done nailing all of these down again, what I want you to do is to get an asphalt cement. And you can get it in a caulking tube and put a little dab under the loose end of the shingles so that the tab presses down and reseals. Because when shingles are new, they have an adhesive on the back of the tab that seals it to the shingle below. But when they’re torn off, that adhesive is gone. So you put a little dab of asphalt cement in there and that will keep it in place and stop it from sort of lifting up the next time you get a strong wind that comes across. Does that make sense?
ART: OK. Well, I thank you very much. You’ve been very helpful.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit. What’s your how-to or décor question? Call in now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.
TOM: Just ahead, it touches almost all the food you prepare but is your countertop Earth-friendly? Find out when The Money Pit continues, after this.
Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we’d love to chat with you about whatever project is going on in your home. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. And 1-888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor.
LESLIE: And hey, here’s another great reason to reach out by phone or through the Community section: we are giving away a truly fantastic tool that I guarantee you will use all the time. You’ll find projects this will help you out with pretty much everywhere around your house. We’ve got up for grabs the iconic, American-made Arrow T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and a supply of staples.
Now, this is the most popular American-made staple gun ever. It’s all chrome-steel housing. It’s jam-resistant. It’s got a powerful spring coil. You can see how many staples you’ve got left. And there are so many things you can do. I mean I upholster everything. I staple things together all the time. I’m constantly using my Arrow T50.
And you can check it out. You want to see some projects? You can head on over to ArrowFastener.com, click on Projects. So many ideas there. I promise you, should you win – or if you’ve got one in your tool kit already, you know how awesome these are. You can check them out at ArrowFastener.com.
TOM: You know, I’m pretty sure I still have the Arrow T50 that was my dad’s. These tools are just indestructible and they keep on getting better.
We’re going to give one away to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
ANASTASIA: Well, I have a tub drain. Trying to get that out – the drain out because it’s – I can’t put a plug in it now. So, what I’ve tried is the drain-remover tool or it’s a plug wrench. And then I also tried that flaring tool to get it out and neither one of them works, because the little crosshairs in the bottom aren’t still in there, because it’s from 1960 tub.
TOM: Oh. So you have nothing to grab onto, is that what you’re saying?
ANASTASIA: Yeah. So, I’ve tried to get WD-40 in there, underneath the tray, but I can’t reach under there. And then I could crawl under the house but I don’t want to do that. So I was trying to think of a better way of getting it out.
TOM: If I understand it correctly, this normally would unscrew but what you’re driving – what you’re trying to grab onto is either stripped or completely gone.
TOM: I have only two suggestions for you. Number one is to hire a plumber, which is probably – you didn’t need me to tell you that. But I will say that the plumbers deal with this kind of thing all the time. And secondly, if I was a plumber and I was faced with this and there was absolutely no other way to get this off, I would probably drill it off and chisel it away, which you could do with a cold chisel.
And it’s not a pleasant process and it’s time-consuming and kind of a pain in the neck but when all else fails and you’ve just got nothing to grab onto, that’s a way to get it done.
ANASTASIA: Alright. That’s what I thought but I thought you might have a little trick up your sleeve.
TOM: But that’s a trick but it’s a lot of hard work. Anastasia, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
BILL: My house faces east and of course, you get the west – the sunset in the back of my house. But that sun really pounds down hard on my house and I’ve got wood windows and I’ve got a stained, wood front door. My question is: would I get any benefit to – I need to – I want to scrape the windows down and repaint them. Would I get any benefit to putting an exterior KILZ-type product on there before I paint it?
TOM: Yeah, you always get a benefit from priming the wood, which is what you’re talking about doing. So, sure, especially if you’ve got loose paint, you want to scrape it down, sand it down, get rid of everything that’s loose, then prime it. If you want to really do a terrific job, I would use an oil-based primer and that’s going to soak in and seal and make sure everything is nice and tight and attached to the wood fibers. Then you put your topcoat on top of that, of paint.
So priming is always a good idea and KILZ is a terrific product to do that with.
BILL: OK. Now, let me ask you about the stained wood door. What kind of product would you recommend to kind of seal that in?
TOM: So the door is stained right now? Does it have any kind of gloss finish on it?
BILL: No. It’s kind of a walnut-type color.
TOM: But it has no urethane-type finish on it? You think it was just stained?
BILL: Well, it’s about – the house was built in ‘06, so it’s a couple years old. It’s faded out a little bit. There may have been one there on there at one time but it’s …
TOM: Well, here’s why I ask. If the wood door has never had any stain – never had any finish on – a topcoat of finish on it, then you could just restain it. And so if you restain it – and again, if you sand it down, rough it up and then restain it, you should be able to get a very rich tone. But then what you do need to do is put a urethane on top of that. Use an exterior urethane because it has UV protection in it. And take the door off the hinges to do all the work, set it up on a couple sawhorses in your front yard or your garage and then work on it there.
If the door has already got a finish on it, then you may have to sand it down through that finish to get to the raw wood in order to restain it.
BILL: Great. Well, I appreciate it.
TOM: Well, you’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, as Earth-friendly technologies improve, there’s really no excuse not to consider the impact of the materials used in your kitchen on Mother Nature. And that starts with your kitchen countertop.
LESLIE: That’s right. You know, Earth-friendly countertops are also people-friendly countertops. They’re free of VOCs, which are those solvents that get released into the air and can cause a whole host of issues but mostly headaches, dizziness, allergy issues. They’re definitely not good to have in your home.
TOM: Right. So, how do you know if your counters are stacking up to that standard? Well, first off, stone countertops are beautiful and durable but mining of any kind does affect land and water quality. If you do go with stone, you want to stick to one that’s been locally mined. And the good news is is that stone can be recycled at the end of its life in your kitchen. So it really never goes out of style or out of use.
LESLIE: Now, solid surfacing is finally joining the green movement. Nowadays you can find solid countertops that are made from recycled plastics, which would have otherwise just been sitting in a landfill. Now, the end product – that countertop itself – however, isn’t always recyclable.
TOM: But now there’s new, more Earth-friendly laminate counters that are out and they’re made of recycled plastic. And that requires formaldehyde-free substrate and also non-toxic glue. So it’s all good stuff and it’s part of an improvement from laminates of the years past. But unfortunately, they’re still not recyclable. They’re better but they’re not quite there yet in terms of recyclability.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And one more option is ceramic-tile counters. Now, they’re made from natural but finite resources, so look for more Earth-friendly versions that incorporate recycled post-consumer content. I think that’s really an important place to start.
TOM: Yep. And just be careful, though, because some imported tiles might have lead-based glazes and that’s a bad thing when it comes to food.
You are tuned to The Money Pit. If you’ve got a home improvement question, maybe you are redoing your kitchen, we’d love to chat with you, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
JOE: Based on the high capital cost and the fact that natural-gas prices seem to be at an all-time low, what is the return on investment or payback period and does the federal government still offer tax credits? Second part of that question, is the annual maintenance contract that the installers offer really needed?
TOM: OK. Well, first of all, the tax credits are less and less today. I believe there are some still, some small tax credits.
I do like tankless water heaters for a number of reasons, though. First of all, they last a lot longer than a standard, tanked water heater. Secondly, they’re really energy-efficient and you never run out of hot water. Very important to me since I’ve got two teenagers in my house. If I’m the third one to get in the shower, forget it; it’s not going to happen. So I like the fact that they never run out of hot water.
And I think if you compare the cost of tankless against not a standard, inefficient, tanked water heater but a high-efficiency, tanked water heater, you will find that the difference is not that far apart.
The contractor’s service contract? Look, you need to have this thing serviced like anything else. I don’t think it needs a big, expensive contract. What it’s typically going to need is a yearly service. And so I would have to probably judge that against what this contract covered. If the contract covered all of my gas appliances in the house and I felt like it was reasonable, I might do that only for the reason that we know that these gas appliances need service, because they burn dirty and they eventually have to be cleaned. But I will say that these newer, more efficient ones need a lot less maintenance than the older, inefficient ones ever did.
JOE: OK. I guess what I’m hearing out there on the installers is these are stand-alone service (audio gap) and if you compare that to a traditional hot-water heater, you typically don’t see any service required. And I think the capital is maybe 10x difference. I mean it maybe $800 for a – maybe 900 for a hot-water heater and you’re looking, I think, upwards of $4,000, I should say.
TOM: Yeah, that sounds a little crazy. I’m not seeing that. What I’m seeing is if you bought a high-efficiency, tank water heater, it might be 1,500 bucks. And if you bought a tankless water heater, it might be two grand or something of that nature. I’m sure you’re going to run into contractors that are really driving the prices up and trying to charge you crazy money for service contracts and things like that. You just might not be talking to the right guys, Joe.
JOE: You endorse any particular manufacturer?
TOM: Yeah, there’s a bunch of good ones out there. Rinnai makes a good one. Rheem – R-h-e-e-m – makes a good one. I’d take a look at those. We’re talking about gas, right?
JOE: Yeah, natural gas.
TOM: Yeah, I would take a look at Rinnai and Rheem.
JOE: OK. Excellent.
TOM: Two good brands. OK, Joe?
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You know, adding shrubbery to the front of your house can be a great way to increase your home’s curb appeal. Planting a shrub is also something that most do-it-yourselfers can handle without the use of a pro. We’re going to get tips from landscaping contractor Roger Cook, who is the ultimate pro, from TV’s This Old House to help use do that, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question.
SUSAN: My daughter has a country home she just purchased and there’s a 900-foot-deep water well on it. And she wanted to know, does she need to use a water softener or a carbon filter for the drinking water? And also, how much electricity would that use, that water well?
TOM: Well, the first thing she needs to do is to have a comprehensive water test done. Was that done?
SUSAN: I believe so because they had inspectors come out. But I don’t remember what she said.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I wouldn’t believe anything unless I had a result back from a water-testing laboratory. That’s going to tell you what kind of treatment you need to do locally. So, the first thing she needs to do is to get a water test done – a thorough water test done – that’s going to check for all sorts of contaminates and pesticides and that sort of thing. And then based on that, you can determine what you want to do to treat the water. But you just don’t start treating it first. You start with the test and the test is what determines what needs to be treated. Make sense?
SUSAN: Yes. Lots of sense, yes.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Susan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, adding shrubbery to the front of your house can be a great way to add curb appeal.
TOM: And planting a shrub is something that most DIYers can handle themselves without a pro. Landscaping contractor Roger Cook, from TV’s This Old House, can tell us how.
Roger, this does seem to be the kind of thing that just about everybody can do. But it’s pretty easy to make a critical mistake when you plant shrubs and you’re only going to find out this problem several weeks later when they don’t start to grow.
ROGER: Several weeks later and several years later, when they grow too much and they’re all over your house.
TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s a good point. So, what’s the first step? Choosing the appropriate plant for the appropriate area?
ROGER: North, south, east, west. Sun, shade, wet, dry. All those factors that you need to look at before you even go to the nursery and think about what you’re going to put in the ground.
LESLIE: So it’s a good idea to walk in there with your list of criteria for that space, like, “OK, I’ve got this corner. It’s east-facing. We get a lot of sunlight, mid-afternoon shade.” And then your garden center can say, “These are good choices.”
ROGER: Right. You’ve got a lot of programs online that will help you with the appropriate plants once you plug in that information. But it’s great to go to a garden center and talk to someone who has real knowledge of your area and can help you out with a plant just right for that sunny corner.
TOM: But sometimes it’s difficult, though. For example, we have one line of bushes that go down the side of our house that are Manhattan Euonymus. They go from 5 feet down to about 18 inches under the tree, because once they hit the competition from the tree and the root system and stuff, no matter what we do, you’re never going to get anything that fills in in a spot like that.
ROGER: Well, that’s what I call “micro-factors” that you have to take in, like the root system underneath a big tree like that. You have to find a plant that’s aggressive enough to still grow under there. It may not be the Manhattan Euonymus; you may to first go to something real aggressive, like an ivy or something like that.
LESLIE: Now, I know when it comes time to actually plant whatever it is you’ve selected, I hate to say it but I tend to get lazy. Digging holes is not my most favorite chore around the yard. And as soon I’m like, “Meh, that looks deep enough” – how do you know what the proper depth, width should be for a hole for that plant?
ROGER: Well, what I find is people do a great job on the first hole, not so good on the second. And then the third hole, they’re jamming the plant in and stepping on it. Two-and-a-half to three times the size of the container or the ball. Do …
LESLIE: Deep, wide.
ROGER: Wide, wide. And depth is always 2 to 3 inches shallower than how that plant is in the container or the ball.
LESLIE: OK. So you want part of it to stick up, actually.
ROGER: Just be mounded up a little bit. Because in nature, when you look and see a tree growing, they’re never down in the ground; they never look like a telephone pole going in the ground. There’s always a mound on the edge called a “root flare.” And that’s supposed to be at the top of the ground. Too often, we find that the root flare on a shrub or a tree is buried.
ROGER: So one of the things you have to do is look at the top of that and maybe peel a little stuff back until you find the root flare. And that’s where you make your measurement, too.
LESLIE: If you do cover that, can that sort of invite root rot and cause some illnesses?
ROGER: It can do – yeah, it can do a lot of things. Number one, it won’t grow as well as it should. Number two, it won’t mature into the specimen it’s going to be. And then down the road, it’ll start to show disease, insects and problems like you were talking about.
TOM: Now, once you actually dig the hole and set the shrub in place and you’re conscious to make sure you have the root flare where you need it, what about the soil that you put back in? Should you condition the soil that you took out in any way? Mix it with fertilizer or anything like that?
ROGER: I always do. This is the one opportunity to give that plant some good soil to grow in.
ROGER: So I add compost and I add loam. And in some places, I’ll even add sand to the mix so that I get a good draining mixture that the roots can grow out into. And I’ll use some of the existing topsoil that’s good and mix it all together and then I backfill with that.
LESLIE: What if the shrub has one of those burlap-wrapped balls? Keep the burlap on?
ROGER: Take everything off, yep.
LESLIE: Take it all off. Because I’ve seen people plant them right in the ground with the wrap on them. I’m like, “That can’t be right.”
ROGER: No. I’ve seen professionals do that.
ROGER: And the new specifications that are coming out say take everything off you can. If you leave a little bit of wire or a little bit of burlap on the very bottom, that’s not critical. What we do now is we remove everything and then we go around the ball with a claw or a fork and we loosen up all the soil.
Those trees have been dug and put on trucks and hauled all over the place.
LESLIE: Possibly for months.
ROGER: Right. And they’re really compact. So you want to free the roots; let them grow out.
TOM: Loosen them up a bit.
ROGER: Exactly. And it also helps moisture to get down into where the roots are.
TOM: So, Roger, how much water do you actually really need to give that shrub to give it a good start?
ROGER: I like to see the shrub soaked and that means laying a hose down and letting it run for maybe a half-an-hour at a slow drip, two to three times a week on a new shrub for the first two or three weeks. After that, once a week for the first season.
Now, if you have a lot of rain, you don’t need to water. If you have real dry conditions, you should add in some extra waterings.
TOM: Speaking of soaking, what do you think about soaker hose?
ROGER: I love it. It’s a great product. You can bury it down in and make sure you get it all – put it right around the base of the plants, out a little bit where the roots are, not around the trunk. And then just leave it there. It can stay there for a year or two until the shrubs get established. Then you can take it up and use it on a new bed.
TOM: Great advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, with your help, I know that our shrubs will be surviving and thriving. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
ROGER: Thanks for having me.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and some step-by-step video on how you can plant a shrub and even other 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.
Just ahead, building a new deck or patio to create new space for recreation and relaxation is clearly one of the most popular projects of this spring home improvement season. But how do you know which is best: a wood deck or a brick-paver patio? We’ll have tips, just ahead, in today’s Building with Confidence Tips presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, after this.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, whether you’re planning a décor project, remodeling your kitchen or bath or fixing a leak or a squeak, we’re here for you every step of the way. Call in your question now to 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.
TOM: And not only do we want to give you the answer to your home improvement or décor question, we also want to give you some tools to take on projects around your house. And this hour, we’ve got the iconic T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun from Arrow going out to one caller drawn at random. It’s the most popular American-made staple gun ever. It’s made with all chrome-steel housing. It’s jam-resistant. It’s got a really cool coil spring that doesn’t break down. Very powerful. Staple-viewing window, steel working parts. Lots of things you can do with a tool like this.
In fact, if you go to ArrowFastener.com and then click on Projects, you’ll get a small sample of all the projects you can get done in your house with the Arrow T50. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you’d like to build your own wood deck or brick-paver patio this spring, all it takes is an evaluation of the space you have, a selection of the right materials and basic construction knowledge. But how do you know which is best to build: a wood deck or a paver-brick patio? They’re both pretty popular.
LESLIE: Yeah. I guess it depends on a couple of things but primarily, the height above the grade.
Now, if you plan to have your outdoor surface be more than a foot higher than grade, a deck really is best. Otherwise, it makes sense to go with a patio.
TOM: Now, if you do go with a patio, those brick-paver patios can include brick or natural stone or cement pavers. And they’re installed in sand.
Now, the natural stone is really the biggest challenge to work with because it’s kind of like assembling a puzzle, right? You have to put all those pieces in, have them line up just right. But once this project is done, they’re pretty much maintenance-free. You just want to be mindful of the most common paver-patio mistake and that comes from not properly prepping that base. When that happens, the bricks or the stones are loosened. And then the weeds will grow through just as quick and it does not look good.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to wood decks, let’s talk about the cost here. And that’s really a huge variable, just because there are so many materials that you can choose from, at a variety of price points.
Now, they’re the least expensive when you go with a simple, wooden deck but they can be troublesome to maintain. So, if your budget is healthy and tolerance for maintenance is low, you might like to consider composite decking. It’s gorgeous and it’s really easy to take care of. But whatever the decking surface and railing material you choose, pressure-treated lumber is generally the standard for the construction of the floor framing and all of that structure of support for that deck. So you’re still going to end up with pressure-treated lumber in the mix somewhere.
TOM: Now, here’s an important thing not to forget and that is don’t forget to get a building permit. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a wood deck or a patio, you want to get that permit. Because if you plan to sell your home in the future, your local zoning or code-enforcement inspector might be contacted for an inspection. And you want to make sure you’ve done everything properly. There’s no worse time to have that kind of thing pop up than when you’re trying to sell your home.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Building with Confidence Tip brought to you by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. It’s complete online, reduces annoying and time-consuming paperwork and gives you a real, accurate and personalized mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation, with no hidden fees or hassles.
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LESLIE: Alright. Now let’s welcome a husband-and-wife team: Bill and Jean from Missouri, tackling a garage project.
JEAN: We’re building a garage and we were curious about the concrete floor in this garage. Does it need to be 4 inches? Should it be more than 4 inches thick? And then, also, what kind of finish would you recommend that we put on the concrete?
TOM: Well, for a garage floor, especially if you’re going to have any heavier equipment in there, I would probably go with at least 6 inches. And I would make it a reinforced garage floor. In other words, I would pour it through a woven wire mesh or whatever reinforcement to really you choose. You want to make sure that the soil beneath the floor is thoroughly tamped, because that’s where most people go wrong. If they’re in a hurry to get the garage floor poured, they don’t take the time to really thoroughly pack down the soil underneath. And if you don’t, it’ll ultimately crack.
And in terms of the finish, I think probably the best concrete finishes today are the epoxy-based finishes. You mix up the epoxy. It’s two parts; there’s a hardener and the base product. You mix it together, you apply it, you have all sorts of different color and different finish options you could do with that. But it chemically cures. And once it does, it really locks in tight to the concrete so it’s not going to peel off. And it gives you really terrific protection.
JEAN: What about using a polisher to polish the concrete?
TOM: That’s an option, as well, but you still have to have something that’s ultimately going to seal in that surface. Because remember, concrete is extremely porous. And in a barn, who knows what’s going to be spilled on that?
JEAN: Right. OK.
BILL: Yeah, I did a little research on a concrete – or polishing and it’s quite an operation. I mean it’s not …
TOM: It’s not for the faint of heart, eh?
BILL: Yeah. No, I’m not going to do it myself. Oh, no.
TOM: No, you were going to have your wife do it.
BILL: Hey, you ain’t around. No, my concrete man said that 4 inches – all I’m going to put in this garage is a couple of old collector – old cars. Antique cars.
LESLIE: Yeah. Then you want that shiny floor so the cars look awesome.
BILL: That’s right. I want shiny.
TOM: Alright, Bill and Jean. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, are your ducts and vents making it impossible to find any peace and quiet at home? We’re going to tell you how to keep that noise in check, when The Money Pit continues.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And The Money Pit is presented by HomeAdvisor.com, where you can find top-rated home improvement pros you can trust. Call in your home improvement question, 24/7, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section, just like Michelle from New York did.
Now, Michelle writes: “We have a ranch house with forced-air heating and cooling. The master bedroom is across the hall from the nursery and the ductwork runs under the floors between the rooms. With both doors closed, we can hear the baby in his room through the vents. Is there a way to prevent the sound transmission, short of covering up the duct with blankets? Covering the ducts is going to make the vents ineffective for heating and cooling.”
TOM: Yeah, you think?
TOM: I guess there’s no on/off switch on that baby monitor.
LESLIE: Yeah, no.
TOM: It’s pretty much on all the time.
Listen, there is another option. And the best approach is to use an insulated heating duct. Insulated ducts are lined with fiberglass and they can reduce some but potentially not all of that sound transmission. So, to accomplish it, that whole duct would have to be removed and replaced.
So, you might be better off just thinking toward a future where the baby, perhaps, won’t be crying quite as much. Listen, we all go through it and we all get through it. So if you want to avoid that major repair, right now, and all the expense associated with it, just put up with it. Because, frankly, you’re going to need that money for a college education.
LESLIE: It’s only getting more expensive.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Juan in Texas who writes: “I off-set and reconstructed a retaining wall against my house recently, which exposed more of the basement’s exterior cinder-block wall. This previously underground cinder block has tar coating on it for waterproofing and I hate the way it looks. Any suggestions on what might look nicer? I was hoping something like a white tar coating exists, just so it looks nice.”
TOM: Yeah, actually, there is a product that’s white that is a foundation coating. I think it’s called Tanner Tuff, Leslie. T-a-n-n-e-r-Tuff.
TOM: I know it’s available in several colors and I think it’s sold at The Home Depot. So check out their website at HomeDepot.com.
But keep in mind, with all those coatings you need to make sure that the surface you’re applying to it is clean and dry. And most importantly, don’t remove that existing coating. It’s there for a reason. If you scrape it off, you are not going to have a good result.
Now, since that soil is all pulled away, as well, make sure that after you get the coating on and it dries, you want to regrade it to slope away from the foundation. Because if you let it settle and become flat, then a lot of water is going to sit against it and that’s going to encourage more water to weep through the foundation. And that is, in part, the purpose of that coating. But look, no matter how much of that coating you put on, the house isn’t going to float. The water will find its way in. And now is a real good time to do that.
And this past weekend, I was looking at a house for my cousin who was having a water problem. He lives on the water, so you think, “Well, of course you’re going to have a water problem because you live on the water.” But not necessarily. In this case, again, even though he had a very porous stone surface, his downspouts handling about half his roof are dropping right at the foundation. And because of that, water was coming up into a sump in the garage. And so, by extending that one spout and controlling that water, the problem went away.
LESLIE: Geez. I mean it really is sort of like a problem-solving technique. You’ve got to find out what’s going on, take those steps, try different things, see what’s working. And eventually, you’ll find out where this water is coming from and figure it out. And it’s usually all of the things Tom just said.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your day with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips and ideas and motivation to avoid the perspiration when you take on those projects around your house.
Want to give a shout-out to our website at MoneyPit.com. Over 10,000 helpful posts right there, covering pretty much every single aspect of the house and some even more than once. So take a look at MoneyPit.com. If you’ve got some questions, you’ll find the answers right there. But if not, you can also post your question, 24/7, to the Community page on that site.
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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