Easy Ways to Stop Tub & Shower Leaks, and More

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  • Transcript

    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: And we are here for you to help you with your home improvement projects, to inspire you to take on projects that you’d like to get done around your house. Are you thinking about the chilly months ahead? Maybe you want to work inside your house or maybe you’re going to peel off one or two more decent weekends to get something done outside your house.

    If you don’t know where to begin, begin with us by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com, because that’s what we do. We’re here to help you get those projects done around the house. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself project, one that you want to get somebody to help you do or maybe you just want to avoid doing it to yourself by kind of messing the whole thing up. Hey, we’re here to help with all those things but call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour, leaking tubs and showers, that problem can be a real mess to deal with. You get leaks in the floor, you get rot, you get leaks in the ceiling. I’ve seen ceiling sags. You get water stains. It’s a real mess. But you know what? Surprisingly, they can be very easy to fix. So we’re going to tell you the one shocking place that tubs and showers consistently leak. And you will be surprised how easy it is to fix it. We’ll share that detail, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And you might not realize it but one of the most common home accidents is a fall. You know, with the holidays ahead and lots of visits from your family and friends, we’re going to have some tips to help you and them avoid the slips.

    TOM: And a sump pump is one of those handy household appliances that you don’t need very often. But when you do, it’s got to work and work very well or you could be looking at some pretty serious below-floor flooding. We’ll have tips to help you make sure this appliance is always at the ready.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a very cool, new product that both protects your home and entertains you at the same time.

    TOM: What?

    LESLIE: I know. It’s like two amazing combinations, because you want to be safe and you also like to have a good time.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: We’ve got up for grabs the Onelink Safe & Sound by First Alert. Now, it’s a detector that’s going to notify you, on your cell phone, in the event of a smoke or carbon-monoxide emergency. Plus, it’s got a premium speaker and can play music or even answer voice commands with its built-in Alexa.

    TOM: That Onelink Safe & Sound by First Alert is worth $249.99. It’s going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. You’re going to love this product. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

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

    JULIANNE: For the past several years, have used silicone caulking to fill in a ½-inch gap between the bottom of the back-door sill and the concrete walkway that comes up to it, to keep water and critters from coming through.

    TOM: OK.

    JULIANNE: It breaks down very easily, so it needs to be replaced. And it’s such a big gap it really doesn’t hold up well.

    TOM: Right.

    JULIANNE: So, I was thinking of using the expandable foam but I was told that is not waterproof.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JULIANNE: And someone else recommended using hydraulic cement to fill in that gap and make a lip there to keep the elements out, so I …

    TOM: The sill is the bottom sill of the door? It’s not the – is it the kind of sill that could be removed off of the concrete?

    JULIANNE: No.

    TOM: OK.

    JULIANNE: It’s already off of the concrete but it’s that gap that’s there.

    TOM: Right. OK.

    JULIANNE: I’m trying to find out how to fill that in.

    TOM: Is it – does it have some give when you step on it, because there’s a gap underneath it? Does it bend and twist at all?

    JULIANNE: Not at all. It’s very sturdy.

    TOM: So here’s what I would do. I would get some cement – epoxy patching – epoxy repair cement. It’s very adhesive, OK? And it’ll stick to the old concrete surface. Clean out as much as you can of what you’ve put in there before. And then I would very carefully, with a very small trowel – or you may even be able to do this with a putty knife – I would start to pack the underside of that sill with that epoxy patching cement and – until the point where it just starts to squeeze out ever so slightly from the bottom of that sill.

    JULIANNE: OK.

    TOM: And then I would just let it harden right in place.

    So, two things will happen. You’ll seal the gap and also, you’ll reinforce that open space. Because one of the reasons that the caulk falls out is because caulk is rubbery and it’s just going to bend and flex and tear away. But if you use a solid cement to fill that gap, you’re not going to have this problem anymore.

    JULIANNE: Good idea. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Len in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    LEN: Well, I have a crawlspace. Now, we’ve got a couple of real bad storms. A lot of rain. It hasn’t flooded over the years that I’ve had the house but with all this rain concentrated in a couple of days, it has collected water. And I’m wondering, what’s the best method to waterproof a crawlspace?

    TOM: Well, I have fantastic news for you. This is a really easy project because you’ve told me all I need to know in mentioning that you generally have never had a wet crawlspace before. But with all the heavy rain, you did develop one. Because this points clearly not to a rising water table, which could be complicated to fix, but it points directly to an issue with the gutters around your house and the grading.

    There’s too much water landing right around the foundation perimeter. That can happen if your gutters are blocked, if they’re too small or if the downspouts aren’t extended away from the house enough. They need to be, in your case, 4 to 6 feet away to make sure that that water is not doing a U-turn back into that crawlspace.

    On top of that, you should take a look at the grade. And if the soil is flat, if it’s sloped into the house, that’s another issue. You need to add clean fill dirt – which is good news, inexpensive – and you could slope it to drop about 4 inches – 4, 5, 6 inches – over 4 feet. It’s just about a 10-degree slope. Tamp it down real well but you have that nice slope maintained. And then on top of that, you could plant grass, you could put stone, whatever you want. But you’ve got to have that base soil sloped properly.

    And those two things will make this problem go away. It might take a while because it’s in the crawlspace but it will go away.

    LEN: The house sits down from the road about – if you look from the elevation of the sidewalk, it sits off from the road about 8 foot. But as I said, I don’t have this problem generally. It’s pretty dry. I have it inspected every year for termites. And I asked the guys if it’s dry and they said, “Yes, it’s dry.” It’s only been a problem – you know, in Raleigh, we had the hurricane and then we had a lot of rain.

    TOM: Right.

    LEN: So, I’m just trying to make sure that – I think the furnace sits on a cinder block – couple of cinder blocks up. It hasn’t – the water hasn’t reached the furnace, so it’s not like it’s a major problem.

    TOM: Right. No. And I know that when this happens, people tend to want to speculate and calculate and like you’re saying, “Well, the road’s here and the house is there.” It’s really simple. If you get water in a basement or crawlspace after a heavy rain, it’s always the grading and the gutters. Always. There are no exceptions to that, OK?

    LEN: OK.

    TOM: So the solution is just to figure out what part of that is not working in your house, OK?

    LEN: You think I should replace gutters with the …?

    TOM: No. I think you should clean your gutters and I think you should extend the downspouts 4 to 6 feet away from the house so you don’t have any water coming off that roof that’s not drained those several feet from the house.

    LESLIE: Going away from your property.

    LEN: I got it. I got it.

    TOM: OK?

    LEN: OK. Yep. Thanks a lot.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck.

    LEN: Appreciate it.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Another example of people always thinking that an expensive problem has an expensive solution. Not when it comes to keeping water out of the below-grade spaces around your house. Very inexpensive solution.

    LESLIE: No. And a lot of it is all preventative. If you just get ahead of the problem, there will be no problem.

    TOM: Remember you had that wet basement years ago, Leslie? What was it? Was it a tennis ball or a toy or something? Was it one of the downspouts or something …?

    LESLIE: No, it was – we had a buried downspout, so I couldn’t see where it deposited.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And at some point, it had disconnected. So, it was going down the downspout but it was going nowhere underground.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And so it was literally just going right against my foundation wall. And it was – the water in the basement wasn’t even anywhere near that wall. I was convinced it was a sprinkler or something. It had to be anything but. Because in the thick of it, you’re just thinking it’s something bigger and it doesn’t always have to be.

    TOM: I told you the same thing that we told Len: it’s always the drainage.

    LESLIE: I remember immediately taking a mat knife and started cutting out that carpet in the basement. We had just gotten the house and I remember walking downstairs and being like, “Carpet in the basement. That’s a terrible idea.” And the people were like, “It’s cozy.” So, it even happens to us.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call with your home repair or home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are standing by because you are about to get super busy at home with the holidays and the heating season and the family and all the things that could potentially lead to a lot of things going on around your house. So give us a call. We’re here to lend a hand at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Just ahead, leaking towers and showers? They can be a real mess to deal with but many happen because the tub or shower was never caulked or grouted right to begin with. We’re going to tell you how to stop the leaks for good, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. That’s all coming up, 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: And what are you working on today? We’d love to talk with you about your home improvement project, your DIY dilemma, your décor, your remodel. Whatever is going on, give us a call right now. That number is 888-MONEY-PIT and that’s 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: Eleanor in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    ELEANOR: My son has a house in South Carolina that has a floating dock on a pond in the backyard.

    TOM: Yep.

    ELEANOR: And the geese love to do their business on that deck that …

    TOM: I’ll bet they do.

    ELEANOR: And we wondered what he could do to let them go somewhere else.

    TOM: Well, look, there’s three different sort of categories of repellant. There’s chemical and I honestly don’t know a lot about that. There’s also sound, which can annoy the heck out of your neighbors. There’s different types of motion-activated alarms, so to speak. Some of them sound like gunshots, some of them are like a horn. And when the geese land or fly in the path of the motion detection, it goes off.

    And then the third one, I would call them sort of “ornaments.” And we often recommend – for example, with woodpeckers, hanging on the house shiny pie plates and things like that that spin in the breeze. Well, they actually have different types of ornaments. You can find them, for example, on Amazon.com. And you could find the ones that have the best ratings. And essentially, what they are are sort of discs that spin around and they’re shiny and they kind of annoy the birds. And then they kind of stay away from it.

    But that’s kind of really the three categories that folks use to try to minimize the amount of geese. They can be a real problem, so I don’t envy what you guys are going through. But that’s kind of what you’ve got to do to try to deal with them. You can either use a sound device, you can use a chemical repellant or you could use one of these ornaments that basically deter them from landing. OK?

    ELEANOR: We got pie plates.

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

    ELEANOR: Thank you. I love your show.

    TOM: Thank you very much.

    Well, the holidays are ahead. Do you want to make sure your house is both safe and ready for entertaining? We’ve got a great product to give away that does both. It’s the Onelink Safe & Sound by First Alert worth 249 bucks.

    This is pretty cool because it’s a detector – a smoke-and-carbon-monoxide detector – that also has a premium speaker built right in and built-in Alexa. So, think about it: you can play music, you’ve got that natural sort of acoustic backdrop from the ceiling or you could use hand-free commands and ask Alexa all kinds of questions. You could tell Alexa to play The Money Pit. And it’s also got voice and location technology to alert users to the type of danger and its location in the home.

    It’s available for 249 bucks. You can learn more at Onelink.FirstAlert.com. But you can get one just by picking up the phone and calling us. You’ve got to have a home improvement question. We will toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat and we might be drawing it out today to send you that great product from First Alert, the Onelink Safe & Sound. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tom in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a driveway-cleaning project. What’s going on?

    TOM IN TEXAS: Well, I have a couple of old, large oil stains on my driveway and wanted to know what you thought about getting it removed.

    TOM: What kind of driveway do you have? What’s it made out of?

    TOM IN TEXAS: Just concrete.

    TOM: It’s a concrete driveway, OK. And they’re really old oil stains?

    TOM IN TEXAS: Yes. About a year, maybe.

    TOM: One thing you can try to do is you can mix up a paste of trisodium phosphate – TSP. You can pick that up in a home center or a hardware store. It’s usually in the paint department.

    And mix it up into a paste, so not a whole lot of water. Just a real sort of soppy paste, kind of like wet concrete. And then spread it onto that stained area and let it sit, let it dry in place. You may find that that draws out some of that stain and lightens it up enough where it’s not quite as obvious as the rest of the surface.

    If that doesn’t work, then I think you’re going to have to chalk it up to charm, because it’s pretty difficult to get oil out of something that’s as absorbent as concrete.

    TOM IN TEXAS: OK. TSP then.

    TOM: TSP.

    TOM IN TEXAS: Alright.

    TOM: Now, here’s a more important question: have you fixed the oil leak in the car?

    TOM IN TEXAS: Yeah. I finally got that done, yes.

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

    Well, if you’ve ever had a tub or shower leak, you might know they can be kind of tricky to diagnose. And the reason is that they’re inconsistent, right? I mean sometimes they leak and sometimes they don’t leak. And the reason for this, though, is very consistent. Tubs and showers will leak because of very small gaps that will frequently develop in the grout of the tile walls or in the caulked seam around the lip of the tub. Just those two areas.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, for the walls, what happens there is that as the water is hitting your body, it then splashes off of you and back against the walls. And it can land in those little gaps between the tile, where that grout may have already fallen out. So, to fix this, all you need to do is regrout the walls, which really is a pretty simple DIY project.

    TOM: Yep. Now, for the tub, caulk is going to separate either from the top ledge of the tub or the bottom edge of the tile. And that lets water get behind that seam. The solution here is to take out all the old caulk. Now, by the way, there’s a product that is like a paint remover but it’s designed for caulk. And it softens the old caulk and it allows you to pull it out.

    Then once it’s completely out, you fill up the tub with water. That kind of weighs it down, much in the same way it might get pulled down when you step in it. And then once it’s filled with water, just recaulk the tub and let it dry. And after it’s dry, then you can drain the water. What’ll happen is the tub sort of comes back up, it compresses the caulk and it seals out any future leaks.

    LESLIE: It really is the best tip ever. It’s such a good thing to know.

    And that’s today’s Building with Confidence Tip brought to you by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. It’s completely 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.

    TOM: Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loan. Apply simply, understand fully, mortgage confidently.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Antoinette in Ohio on the line looking to put a bathroom in the basement. How can we help you with that project?

    ANTOINETTE: Is there possible – a shower? I think it – when you were on earlier – that you don’t have to go through the – if it’s in the basement, you don’t have to go through the cement to put a flow of the water that comes out of the shower to the drain?

    TOM: So, Antoinette, am I hearing that you’d like to add a shower to your basement?

    ANTOINETTE: Yeah.

    TOM: And you’d like to do that without the use of a jackhammer, correct?

    ANTOINETTE: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So, you can do that. There is a way to add a shower and have that shower drain to a reservoir, which then pumps the water up high enough to drop it into your regular drain-waste vent line that takes all of the waste out of the house.

    ANTOINETTE: Oh, that way – because I’ve got drains down in the basement, see. And that’s where – my washer goes to that drain. That’s why I wanted a shower, so that when the water – the dirty water – comes through the shower part, that it’ll go right into the same drain.

    TOM: And where is that draining eventually?

    ANTOINETTE: Well, it goes through – well, just where all the water of the – your bathtub and your kitchen water, they all go the same place.

    TOM: If the drain is low enough where you can do that with a basement shower, then that’s how you would do it.

    ANTOINETTE: Yeah. But do they have bases on the shower – you know, your base of your shower that has it that you can do that?

    TOM: You build up the shower so it’s not flush on the floor of the basement. It would be on – stepped-up a few inches to a foot or so, so you could get the plumbing in there. And then you would make sure that you drain that, if possible, to a lower point where the house drain can pick it up. But if not possible, you drop in what’s called a “lift pump.” The lift pump lifts the water up and then drops it into the main drain line for the house and carries it out and away.

    ANTOINETTE: OK. Well, that’s a good idea. OK. Thank you for the information.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Annette. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Well, a sump pump is one of those handy household appliances that, thankfully, you don’t need very often. But when you do, it’s got to work and it’s got to work very well or you just might be looking at some serious below-grade flooding. Richard Trethewey from This Old House is joining us next with tips on how to pick the best kind for your home, when The Money Pit continues.

    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 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: Julie in Colorado is on the line and has a heating question.

    JULIE: My question is regarding heat pumps and how energy-efficient they might be, because we’re an all-electric house. Our electric bill is very high.

    TOM: And how is your house heated right now, Julie?

    JULIE: It’s heated with baseboard. And actually, we don’t even really heat our house. We’ll heat one room because it’s so expensive.

    TOM: Right now, you’re heating with electric-resistance heat which, as you accurately stated, is the most expensive type of heat. Now, a heat-pump system would be far less expensive but it would require a duct system to be installed throughout the house. So, you would have that upfront cost of running the heating ducts.

    If you had that system installed – the way a heat pump works is it’s kind of like an air-conditioning system that runs all winter except that in the wintertime, the refrigeration system is reversed. Now, if you’ve ever walked, say, by a window air conditioner in the summer, you know it blows hot air out the back of it, out to the outside. If you sort of took that window air conditioner out and flipped it around and stuck it inside, you’d have a heat pump; it’d be blowing the hot air in the house. That’s essentially what happens: it reverses the refrigeration cycle in the wintertime.

    Now, generally speaking, heat pumps are not always recommended for very, very cold climates, because heat pumps only maintain the heat when there’s a 2-degree differentiation between what the temperature is set at – what the temperature is and what the temperature is set at, I should say. So if you set your temperature at 70, it falls to 69, the heat goes on. If it falls inside to 68, the heat pump stays on. If it falls to 67, the heat pump says to its electric-resistance backup system, which is always part of a heat pump, “Hey, I can’t keep up with this. I need some help. Turn on the heating coils.” And then you’re not saving any money.

    So, will it save – will it be less expensive than baseboard electric? Yes. But it has a significant upfront cost in terms of the installation because you’d need a duct system, as well as the heat-pump equipment. Does that make sense?

    JULIE: OK. Sounds good. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, a sump pump is one of those handy household appliances that you don’t need very often but when you do, it’s got to work and it has to work very well or you just might be looking at some serious below-grade flooding.

    TOM: That’s right. But there are many to choose from and a variety of considerations come into play before deciding which one is best for you. With us to help sort that out is Richard Trethewey, the plumping and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House.

    And Richard, this can be your best friend when the water starts to leak in but there are a lot to choose from. What are some of the options?

    RICHARD: Well, the two main pumps that you’re going to see are called “submersible” and “pedestal.”

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: They both work the same way. The only difference is the submersible sits down in the pit and the motor and the pump will sit underwater.

    TOM: Right. So it actually is submersed under the water.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    LESLIE: And it’s probably a lot quieter.

    RICHARD: Right. And then the pedestal leaves the motor up above the water. And it has a long shaft with a float on it that sits down in the pit to bring the pump on when that water level rises.

    TOM: I would imagine, with that long shaft and the motor above the water, that’s got to be, as Leslie said, a lot noisier.

    RICHARD: Yeah, a little more noisy but you don’t really care about the noise if it’s going to make the pump go …

    LESLIE: If it’s going to get the water out.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: Well, that’s true.

    Now, what about this sort of the real inexpensive pumps that – usually, these are the only ones left on the store shelves if you wait too long after a big storm.

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

    TOM: And they’re called “floor suckers.”

    RICHARD: Where it’s just a canister pump that has an integral sensor at the bottom, so it doesn’t have an external float. And as its name suggests, you can put it right down on the floor and it can bring that water down to within an 1/8-inch or a ¼-inch. I wouldn’t use this as my first line of defense, though; it’s a great utility pump.

    TOM: Kind of good to have around but definitely doesn’t take the place of a good submersible or a pedestal pump.

    RICHARD: That’s right. The other pump is pretty cool, because people definitely worry about – “My gosh, the rain is coming in. The water is coming in.” And the electricity goes out.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: And this – they have a water-powered sump pump, which is very intriguing. We showed it on This Old House a couple times. And that is that if the float comes on, water pressure will actually discharge through the pump and that water pressure will carry with it the water from the pit, so it actually works without a motor.

    TOM: Oh, interesting. Right.

    RICHARD: So it works without power.

    TOM: So the water removes the water.

    RICHARD: That’s right. So, it’s not your ideal, because you’re going to waste a little bit of water but it’s going to give you – as long as you have a water-supply system that’s not running off electricity. If you have a well pump, this won’t work.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: But if you have city water supply, it will do a nice job.

    LESLIE: Now, what about choice of materials when it comes to construction of the sump pump? Is there any benefit over ones that are made out of plastic or ones that are made out of cast iron?

    RICHARD: You know, commercial pumps will almost always be cast iron; plastic pumps are cheaper but they’re not always as durable. Most pumps are going to last 5 to 10 years and cast iron might last even longer.

    TOM: Now, another consideration is, really, cord length: you want to make sure that the cord is long enough to reach the power. Because very often, you don’t have power right where you need it: where that sump hole is, for example.

    RICHARD: And you don’t want that extension cord sitting in a puddle in your basement, so you want to keep it in a safe place and hopefully have a grounded plug for that cord, as well.

    TOM: Now, having a sump pump, obviously very important. But it’s only going to work if we have power. How do you cover yourself if the power goes out?

    RICHARD: Well, they actually make a unit that has a battery backup. We did it this year on Ask This Old House and it’s really cool. The main pump plugs into a 110-volt and works just like any other submersible pump. The backup pump has a float that’s slightly higher, so if the first pump didn’t come on, that float would activate this battery-powered pump.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: Now, the battery is actually a deep-cycle marine battery and it’ll give you four hours of full run or if it’s run intermittently, as most pumps do, it’ll give you almost a whole day of pump.

    TOM: Terrific. That’s really going to cover you, no matter what happens with the storm.

    RICHARD: You hope that power comes back on within a day.

    TOM: Absolutely. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Glad to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and several step-by-step videos on sump pumps, you can head on over to ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by American Standard.

    And just ahead, now that holiday entertaining is just weeks away, it’s a great time to make sure your home is safe for both you and your visitors. We’ll have tips to help, 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: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement-project question, your remodeling challenge, your DIY dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Now we are heading over to Tennessee and Randall is dealing with some mold in the garage. Tell us what’s going on.

    RANDALL: Yeah. There’s some black mold in a house that I’m renting, actually. I can do any work here, so there’s no problem. Apparently, there was a water heater that went out and so it’s up about – it goes from everywhere from about a foot up to about maybe 3 feet and around the back of the water heater and down the wall.

    TOM: Alright. So your question is: what should you do about that? Correct?

    RANDALL: Well, yeah, yeah. I wanted to know whether I can clean it or I need to rip out all of the drywall and just start over again.

    TOM: Well, the general rule of thumb is that if it’s less than 10 square feet, you can do the removal yourself or you can clean it yourself. And the simple thing to do is to mix up a bleach-and-water solution and spray it down. Let the bleach sit for 15, 20 minutes on the wall and then clean that dead – what will now be dead mold off of the wall.

    RANDALL: How would you clean that?

    TOM: You could use that bleach-and-water solution and a bucket and a sponge and wipe it down. You just want to not – you want to be careful not to breathe any mold spores, so you wear a dust mask and that sort of thing.

    RANDALL: Is it just the dust mask or do I have to buy something more extensive, like one of those filter masks?

    TOM: Well, here’s the thing, Randall. Some people are super-sensitive to mold and some people are not. And a lot of people can go ahead and clean that with virtually no protection and never have any ill effects and other people that can – will try to do that and be super-allergic and be generally miserable as a result of the experience.

    So, the answer is: it depends. But if you go to the website for the Centers for Disease Control, they’ve got a great section on mold and how to get rid of it, there. And you will find some step-by-step advice, too, on how to clean it up.

    RANDALL: OK. So some bleach solution, water. About half and half?

    TOM: No. You only need about 10-percent bleach – 10- or 15-percent bleach is plenty.

    RANDALL: Hey, I appreciate it.

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

    Well, now that holiday entertaining is just weeks away, it’s a good time to make sure your home is safe for both you and your visitors. And you might not even realize it but there are probably trip-and-fall hazards throughout your home. How do I know this? Because falls are one of the most common accidents that send Americans to the emergency room every single year.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Did you know that a third of all home accidents can be prevented? Now, there are simple things that you can do right now to decrease the chances of you or a family member taking a tumble.

    For example, get rid of those throw rugs. If you have area rugs, you need to make sure that they’re held down with double-sided tape or use some skid-resistant padding underneath them. And make sure you rearrange your furniture for clear, wide passageways. Especially somebody who doesn’t come there all the time, they don’t know the movements and the pathways around your house. It’s going to seem unfamiliar to them, so you want to make it as easy to navigate as possible.

    TOM: Now, you can also remove cords that are running under furniture and rugs and run them along the wall instead. Make sure you install night-lights and use the highest-wattage bulb approved for lamps and light fixtures, making sure your home is therefore trip-and-fall hazard-free. It’s going to keep you and your family safe. Now is a great time to do it before all those relatives show up. Unless, of course, you don’t like your relatives and then I guess you could leave it just like it is.

    LESLIE: That’s terrible. Everybody wants their family to come over.

    TOM: For a little while.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jan in South Dakota on the line who needs some help with leveling a basement floor. Not a terribly difficult project but a big one. How can we help you?

    JAN: We’re planning to remodel the lower level of a townhouse. And what we’d like to do is retile the traffic areas, which is the hallway, and also a bathroom and utility room. But there’s a bedroom with a closet on an outside wall and a utility room in the – in sort of the center of the rooms that has an unlevel floor.

    So my question is: is there a way to relevel the concrete floor before we resurface it?

    TOM: Yeah. I mean there’s a product called a “leveling compound” – a “floor-leveling compound” – that, essentially, you can mix up and pour on the floor and trowel out and use it to level floors. And so that’s really your only option. But how out of level is this floor? Is it really visually bothersome? Because I would suspect that it’s a big project for you to level it and it might be easier just to sort of adjust things around it.

    JAN: OK. Like relevel the appliances and …?

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. It’s just a – it’s kind of a pain in the neck to level the entire floor.

    JAN: Is it expensive?

    TOM: To have it professionally done, I would say yes. To do it yourself, no. but then again, it’s not the kind of thing that you could just pick up and do. It does require some skills to get it done right.

    JAN: You would just get a long board to use as a trowel?

    TOM: There are products that are self-leveling products and they’re usually good for more minor leveling jobs, say, up to being 1 inch out of level. So if you choose a floor-leveling compound that’s designed for self-leveling, essentially, what you do is you mix it up, say, like in a 5-gallon bucket and then you pour it out and it will seek its own level. But you have to keep going back, mixing more, pouring it, mixing more, pouring it. And then you can kind of trowel it out as it starts to level out. And then, at one point, it will meet, you know, the original floor.

    So, that’s an option for you is to use a self-leveling compound.

    JAN: That sounds great.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, that fuzzy, white growth on walls and chimneys? Is it mold or isn’t it? We’re going to tell you the DIY trick for finding out, when The Money Pit continues after this.

    TOM: 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, or post your question online to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT and that’s 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: Alright. Jump online, right now, and head on over to MoneyPit.com, where you can post a question in the Community section. You can even brag about whatever project you’re working on or ask us a question or give us a video tour of your home and something awesome you did. We’re happy to help and we love to see what you guys are doing.

    But first up, we’re going to answer a question here from Emily who writes: “There’s a fuzzy, white growth on my basement walls. Is that mold?”

    TOM: Hmm. Probably not. Usually, when you have the fuzzy, white growth on concrete block and concrete walls, it’s called “efflorescence.” And what it is is just mineral deposits that are in the groundwater. And as those walls, which are apparently damp – as that water sort of dries out and evaporates in the inside of your house, it leaves behind that grayish, white, crusty stuff on block. That is not mold. That’s just efflorescence.

    That said, it is indicative of a moisture problem. So, you do need to make sure that you’re doing all the things that we always talk about on the show to try to control that dampness, by improving the grading around your foundation and also extending those downspouts. But I don’t think you have any mold issues to worry about, not with that condition you described in particular. That’s just efflorescence, nothing but mineral salts.

    And by the way, you could prove it to yourself by taking some white vinegar and wiping down the wall. You’ll see it’ll melt right away because when you put vinegar against salt, it just pretty much dissolves instantly.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I mean it really is a good, good, good tip because sometimes, I even get just those mineral deposits around my faucet in the kitchen if you don’t wipe up water fast enough. But that’s a great way to clean that, as well.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Frank. Now, Frank writes: “Do you know of any options in accessible patio doors? My daughter’s in a wheelchair and I need to replace the sliding-glass door from the house to the patio. I’ve looked all around and the patio doors I’ve found have a 1-inch area at the bottom with rail slots. I need an accessible patio door that’s relatively smooth at the bottom so that my daughter can use it without the trauma of rolling over the sill.”

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a great question, Frank. And there are doors for those but I think you’re looking kind of in the wrong category. The types of doors for universal design or accessible design are called “low threshold.” And they’re designed just for this purpose.

    Now, instead of the traditional, sliding patio door, the way these work is they are actually hinged. They’re hinged patio doors. So, the door actually hinges out of the way when you need to get in and out.

    Now, I know at least one manufacturer that makes these on a regular basis. It’s called Therma-Tru. And I actually have some Therma-Tru doors in my house. Really happy with their quality. And they have an option on their doors called a “public-access sill.” So, a little bit of a mouthful there. You’re looking for the public-access sill option.

    So I would go to ThermaTru.com. Take a look at that type of a sill so you kind of know what you’re shopping for. And then you can look around. I’m sure there are other manufacturers, as well. But good luck with that project and I hope that is exactly what you need.

    LESLIE: And you know what else is really great about the Therma-Tru doors is that they’re all fiberglass. They look like wood, they’re gorgeous, they’re going to last for ages and ages. So, be sure to check them out.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope that we’ve given you a few tips and ideas and inspire you to take on projects around your house. We are here to help, seriously, 24/7. And we love when folks get in touch with us when we’re off the air. You can do that by posting your question to the Community page at MoneyPit.com or at any of our social-media sites. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest. You name it, we are there.

    But for today, that’s all the time we have but the show will continue online.

    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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