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’re here to help you with your home improvement projects, your décor dilemmas. Whatever is on your to-do list, give us a call right now. We’ll help you get that job done. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, this spring, millions of Americans will be putting their house on the market. But most of them are not even going to think about how they’ll move all their stuff until after their house sells, which actually is too late to make a smart decision. So we’re going to have some tips, this hour, to help you save time, hassle and cash.
LESLIE: And have you ever noticed a crack in a wall over your foundation and wondered if it’s something that you should be worrying about or not? Well, Tom Silva from This Old House is stopping by with tips on how to know if a crack is something that needs attention or just a normal part of your home that’s settling in.
TOM: And you might think that you’re done with all that spring cleaning but your home actually might be dirtier than you think. We’ll share the areas most often missed by even the most thorough cleaners, including some that can actually become health hazards.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you are working on this spring season. Everybody is gearing up towards Memorial Day and it’s still early in the spring time of year. So, what can we help you with? What are you working on? I know I’m about to do a big project in my yard. You can tell; all my allergies are kicking in, which is why I sound like this. This is what happens when you’re digging in your yard for a week at a time. You end up sounding like this from all the pollen.
So what can we do to help you? Give us a call. We want to lend you a hand.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Plus, if you do give us a call, we’ve got copies of our book, My Home, My Money Pit, going out to five listeners who call or post their question. To help you get a start on those spring projects, give us a call right now. That number, again: 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Charles in Ohio is on the line and is dealing with some dogs that like to just eat away at the yard. What’s going on?
CHARLES: I was wondering if there’s an economical way to fix my problem I’m having in my backyard. I have a fence that’s square-shaped in the back of my yard, if you count the back of the house. I have two dogs and they like to run from one side of the house to the other, leaving a mud path – hardened, baked path – from one side of the house to the other. And I’m looking for a way to fix that that would be easy on my pocketbook.
TOM: OK. So, can we control the dogs so that they won’t wear it out again if we restore the lawn?
CHARLES: No. The dogs, they – any time they see anything come across in front of our house, they like to run from one side to the other. So without chaining them up, which defeats the purpose of our fence, we like to let them run free.
TOM: You know what? A couple of things come to mind, one of which is that the kind of grass that you have there – I was thinking, Leslie, that something like a zoysia grass might be a little bit tougher.
LESLIE: It is very, very durable.
Now, the other thing I was thinking – is this directly in the front of your house or is it on the side of your house?
CHARLES: The fence is in the back of the house, so basically it’s a big smiley face from the left side of the house to the right side because they run around the – my deck.
LESLIE: I was going to say if there’s a way to make a slate pathway or some sort of stone that obviously would change the look of the yard itself but would give you an area that’s not going to be constantly scratched away at.
CHARLES: That sounds very feasible.
LESLIE: And that’s not difficult to do. You can completely create a pathway using some edger or you can get remnants of slate at any sort of stone yard. You can think about a ton of different ways to do it. Pavers. You can pick a price point and stick to it.
CHARLES: That sounds great. Will the dogs, because I put stone back there, stay off of that and create a new path or will that not affect the dogs at all?
TOM: I don’t think so. I think the dogs want to run against that fence, so they’ll probably try to get as close to it as possible.
CHARLES: That sounds great. I sure do appreciate it. I’ll look into some stone work then that – where I can make a smiley face going – back of my house.
TOM: Alright, Charles. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dawn in Florida who appears to be a texture junkie looking to retexture a ceiling.
Dawn, I think this a first. How can we help you?
DAWN: My house is about a year-and-a-half old and when they textured the ceiling, it’s a light orange peel, same thing they did on the walls. And they said it would be easier and more economical to do that than to try to do a slick coat on my ceiling. I don’t think that’s true. Instead now, a year-and-a-half later into it, then I noticed that you can still see the mud marks.
Well, I’ve been doing a lot of research on painting and they have all this Venetian plaster and all these different techniques. And I often got to wondering if I could do that on a ceiling – the same wall technique on a ceiling.
TOM: What does the ceiling look like right now? Like how deep is the texture that you have?
DAWN: Very light. It is a very light orange peel but you can still see the tape and the mudding. Late at night, I look up there and I’m like, “I can still see the lines where the drywall goes together.” So, you can definitely see it raised.
TOM: I’m concerned that even if you do put the Venetian plaster kind of paint on that, that it might not be thick enough. Because if you can see the tape and the mud, it means that the ceiling was never properly spackled. And if it wasn’t properly spackled, you’re likely to see that through no matter what you do.
DAWN: Well, what do you think I should do? You think I should hire somebody to come in and just redo my ceilings? It’s not a very big house. It’s actually an ICF-construction house. It’s got solid concrete walls with rebar. And so it’s very solidly built and I went through a lot of trouble to have it done so a hurricane couldn’t blow me away. But I want it to look good on the inside, as well.
TOM: ICF stands for insulated concrete forms, for those in our audience that have never heard that term used. And it’s a tremendous way to build a house because it is hurricane-proof. Literally, all the things that get thrown around in a hurricane will not pierce the outside of the house. You’d be surprised how quick a 2×4 could be jammed right through a building that’s made with wood siding or even vinyl siding. Could be even worse.
And the ceiling itself, if it wasn’t completely spackled, I’m concerned that if you put anything on top of that, it’s going to show through. So I would suggest then – what you might want to do is to sand – have somebody come in and sand those areas that are not properly spackled. Do a good job spackling them and then lightly sand the whole thing, put a good coat of primer over it and then – because this is a repair, it’s not going to be as smooth as if it wasn’t a repair. So then you could use a plaster paint – a Venetian plaster or a textured paint – as a final step. Does that make sense?
DAWN: OK. Well, I think we’re on the same page and I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call at 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.
TOM: And just ahead, are you thinking of selling your home this spring? Have you planned how you’ll move all your stuff? Smart homeowners think about selling and moving at the same time. We’re going to share tips on how to do just that, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com, next.
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? Give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Mental note, Leslie, if you’re going to do some concrete work around your house. This weekend, I decided that I was going to form – actually, say, a little bit last week – said I would form a curve alongside of a paver walkway because the edges were starting to sag a little bit. And I want something super solid, you know, so that wouldn’t happen. So I formed it up. I mean I used chalk lines and stakes and 2x4s and it – dug it out and put some gravel on the bottom of the curbed area and it looked perfect. Said, “OK. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to pour this sucker.” Well, then we got an inch-and-a-half of rain overnight.
LESLIE: Oh, no.
TOM: I had to do it – the whole thing all over again as soon as that rain stopped.
So, if you’ve had a project go awry, we feel your pain. Give us a call, right now, and we’ll help get you out of that jam. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Rich in Illinois needs some help with a painting project. Tell us what you’re working on.
RICH: I’m working on a house that I’ve been living in since 1988. And the bottom four sections of my steel siding keep peeling. It’s like a 30-foot-long piece. Each piece is 8 inches wide. And it has a wood-grain pattern on it; looks like it’s been stamped. And every two years, I approach this project. First time, I took a wire brush to it and knocked all the loose off and primed it. And two years later, I was doing it again.
And every year, I try a different method. I tried a wire wheel on a drill. Last year, I took an air compressor and a hose and a drill and a wire wheel and went down to the bare metal.
RICH: And went to the paint store and they gave me some primer and some paint. And seemed like everything I try – I wash it with paint thinner sometimes before I do it. Sometimes I just use soap and water. I always make sure it’s a nice, dry day – about 80 degrees – when I paint it. And it seems to always come back about every two to three years.
I know it should be replaced but I kind of like the siding. But it’s steel and it’s – the company is no longer in business now and so the warranty is up on it.
TOM: And there’s different qualities of steel. So even if it had a rust-resistant finish on it, it could have just worn off. And I wonder if whatever process they used is what’s causing the paint to not stick.
When you prime it, are you using an oil-based primer or are you using an alkyd primer?
RICH: Both. I’ve used both. I don’t know if it’s the primer that I use or if it’s – I’ve even went down to no paint at all and just the galvanized showing and – I don’t know. I don’t know what it – I don’t know if it’s the primer or what I’m using to wash the siding with that’s causing it or it’s the paint. I tried four or five different kinds of paint on this and primer.
TOM: What I would do – I mean if I was priming it – and you may have done this already. But what I would do is I would use same manufacturer’s primer and paint. So, for example, I don’t think you can go wrong with Rust-Oleum. That’s pretty much one of the best metal paints of all.
I would use the red Rust-Oleum primer – the oil-based primer – and I would let it thoroughly dry after you knock off all the loose paint and sand it and make sure the surface is ready to accept it. But I would use the oil-based Rust-Oleum primer which, by the way, takes forever to dry. Depends on the weather but three or four or five hours is not unusual. And then, I would use the Rust-Oleum topcoat. Again, oil-based. And I rarely recommend oil-based but in this situation, I think that’s what’s going to give you the best adhesion.
Now, Rich, there’s one other piece of advice that we could offer you on this and it comes from a process that’s very – that’s done very often when people work on cars. There’s a product called Prep-Sol – P-r-e-p-S-o-l. And it’s a solvent that’s designed to be applied to bare metal before the primer. You might want to look that up as – I don’t know what – you said you were using a solvent. I don’t know if you were using mineral salt – mineral spirits or something like that – but this is specifically made for it. Just Google it. It’s called Prep-Sol – P-r-e-p – S-o-l. And it’s a cleaning solvent.
RICH: OK. Do I apply it with a brush or a rag or …?
TOM: You apply it with a rag. Use a clean cloth and you apply it – you soak it in with the cloth.
RICH: Yeah, I’ll try that. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, millions of Americans are putting their house on the market this spring season but most of them won’t even think about how they’ll move all their stuff until after they sell their house, which kind of is too late to make a smart decision. So, to help, we’ve got a few tips to save time, hassle and cash.
TOM: Now, first, contrary to popular practice, the best time to start planning your move is as soon as you decide to sell your home. Some of the stuff you’ll do to prepare a home for sale can actually help with the moving process. Chores like sprucing up and cleaning out the closets and the basements or the attics provide plenty of time to purge and organize as you go, meaning there’s going to be a lot less to do once your home is under contract.
LESLIE: Now, there are a number of factors that can impact that plan to move and that’s including the distance to your new home.
Now, a local move could totally be a do-it-yourself job while a long-distance move definitely means screening and selecting a professional moving company to help you with that. So, you’ve got to be prepared to compare written estimates, ask for recent referrals and confirm their mover credentials.
Unfortunately, this is one area where bad contractors thrive and some will even threaten to hold your things hostage until the bill is paid. You hear about this more often than you don’t hear about it. And it’s kind of a scary thing because, truly, some person you just met is literally driving away with everything you own in one truck.
TOM: Yeah. With moving, any amount of stuff more than a few carloads is not a DIY project. So, you want to be sure to choose your pro very carefully, including reading real reviews from consumers who have used the movers in the past, in sites like HomeAdvisor.com, to make sure you and your stuff arrive on time, undamaged and on budget.
LESLIE: Joyce in Missouri is on the line with a floor-finishing question. How can we help you?
JOYCE: I do have a question about my hardwood. It’s the old, solid hardwood from – it was put down back in the 50s. I love it and I refinished it, oh, probably about 15 to 17 years ago. And with the time and traffic, the top is wearing now and I need to sand it down and resurface it. When I did it then, I used GYM-SEAL. But I want to know what would be the best product that would be long-term lasting and something that would be user-friendly for an individual.
TOM: OK. So, first of all, in terms of the sanding-it-down part, does the floor have any really severe wear or is it just the finish that’s worn?
JOYCE: Just the finish.
TOM: So you don’t have to sand it down all the way. What you can do is you can basically just lightly sand the surface. There is a machine called a U-Sand machine, which is like an abrasive disk sander that you can rent at a home center or a hardware store. It has four abrasive disks in it. It does have a vacuum system built in so it doesn’t leave dust all over the place.
But it won’t wear down the wood too much. It’ll just sort of take that top layer of finish off and get it ready to be refinished. Because with hardwood floors, you don’t want to sand them completely down if you don’t have to, because that takes many years off their life when you take all that finish off down to the raw wood. It’s really not necessary.
And then after you sand it, then you can apply an oil-based polyurethane. So not water-based but oil-based. Not acrylic-based but oil-based. And you’re going to apply that with what’s called a “lambswool applicator.” It’s kind of like a mop. And you dip it into a paint tray, you apply it in a very smooth, even coat. Start on one end, work your way out the door and then leave for a good four or five, six hours depending on the weather.
JOYCE: OK. With the windows open?
TOM: Yeah. Yeah. If it’s a nice, dry day and the windows are open, that’s the best thing. But just remember: whatever it says for drying time on the can, at least double it because it tends to be a bit sticky for a while.
JOYCE: OK. So an oil-based polyurethane and a lambswool applicator.
TOM: Yup. And then with a light sanding before you start the whole thing. OK?
JOYCE: Sounds wonderful. Thank you so very much and you all have a wonderful day.
TOM: Thanks, Joyce. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
You know, we get more questions on floors than any other topic on this program.
LESLIE: And they occupy a large portion of your home. And there’s always something to do with them.
TOM: They do. And they take a lot of abuse, so that’s probably why people need to fix them all the time.
LESLIE: They do.
Now we’ve got Doug in Virginia on the line with a siding question. How can we help you?
DOUG: Yes. I had – my son’s house has some vinyl siding on it. And the folks that owned it before he did were patching something with some of the spray-foam insulation – the crack-filler stuff – and it oozed out all over the siding. So I know I can go back and cut it loose, cut what’s extra stuff. But when I get down close to the vinyl, what can I clean the residue off with to make it clean without damaging the vinyl?
TOM: It’s very difficult because you get – those foams are usually polyurethane and they have real adhesive qualities to it. Real adhesive. So, what you can do is try to gently scrape it off with a putty knife. But make sure you use – an older one is better because it won’t be quite so sharp. And very carefully do that.
And then, I’ve stripped off some foam – errant foam – with WD-40 as the solvent. So you might want to try that with a ScotchPad because ScotchPad is not abrasive. But you could spray the siding with the WD-40 and then work the ScotchPad back and forth. You may find that you pull off some of that residue. It really depends on what kind of foam it is. But you’re right, once it’s dry, to cut as much of it off and then try to abrade the rest of it off. But do so with a mind not to damage the siding.
DOUG: OK. Well, I’ll give it a try. WD-40.
TOM: Yep. Try it. It’s one of the thousand uses for that stuff. They say you only need two things in your tool kit: WD-40 and duct tape. They’re pretty close.
DOUG: Then I can go over the whole back of the house with WD-40 to revitalize the vinyl, right?
TOM: Well, I wouldn’t – if it’s the whole back of the house, if you’re talking about spot-cleaning, OK. But if it’s the whole back of the house, then I think you’ve got a bigger problem. I think you’re looking at new siding.
DOUG: But would I get an oily spot when I use the WD-40 that will look different than the rest of it?
TOM: You will, you will. But soap and water will take it away.
DOUG: I guess that’ll fade, yeah.
LESLIE: That’s why it’s good for only like a little spot.
DOUG: Alright. Well, thanks a lot.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Cracks in your foundation might be nothing major to worry about or they could be a sign of a bigger problem. So, how do you know the difference? We’ll tell you, in just a bit.
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: We’d love to hear from you about what you’re working on this beautiful spring weekend. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Use HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide and see what others paid for similar projects, all for free, at HomeAdvisor.com.
And if you pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, we’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat because we’re giving away five copies of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.
LESLIE: Margaret in Arkansas is on the line with a tiling question. What can we do for you?
MARGARET: I’ve got a big imagination. I was hoping that there was a product out there that would equal it.
MARGARET: I’ve got an old floor that I was hoping that I could maybe fill the cracks and the little places it’s chipped out and then refinish the whole floor to where it looked like new.
TOM: Yeah, that’s – I would not pursue that. Because you know what? First of all, the reason it cracked is probably because the subfloor wasn’t properly installed or has weakened for some reason. Because tiles don’t bend. And if they’re cracking, that means that the floor is weak underneath.
So, except for the occasional odd repair when you’re just fixing like one or two broken tiles, it’s not the kind of thing that you want to invest any time in whatsoever.
MARGARET: So, the best thing is just to take it up or …?
TOM: You can either take it up or you could actually put a new floor on top of that if you don’t want it to be tile. You could, for example, install a laminate floor on top of that, which goes down in interlocking pieces. And then that sort of floats on top of the tile; it’s not physically attached. It just sort of stays in place by its own weight. It’s really beautiful and very durable stuff and not too expensive. Certainly a lot less expensive than redoing the tile floor.
MARGARET: OK. Laminate is what it’s called.
TOM: Laminate. It’s called “laminate floor.” Lots and lots of different types out there.
MARGARET: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: Alright, Margaret. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, something that you might not be aware of is that movement is all around you. It’s your house. Now, you might not realize this but your home is always expanding and contracting with temperature changes and settling.
TOM: And that movement can result in cracks to your foundation. But how do you know if a crack is serious or just the result of some normal house movement? For that, we turn to Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House.
TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. Nice to be here.
TOM: So, I’m sure just about every home has its share of cracks, right?
TOM SILVA: It sure does because the house is always moving, as Leslie says.
TOM: And there are a lot of reasons that that happens?
TOM SILVA: There are a lot of reasons that it happens. Wind, number one. But in the ground, it’s expansion and contraction from different times of the season. You get a cold area, you’re going to get expansion from the ice and in the winter it’s going to relax, so the pressure on the wall is going to push back.
TOM: And you get more structural issues, like poor drainage? You get a lot of water around the foundation?
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. That’s why you want to relieve that pressure so the ice doesn’t form and less chance of pushing against the wall.
TOM: So if we see these cracks, how do we determine if it’s a minor sort of insignificant crack or one that really requires some attention?
TOM SILVA: A small, hairline crack is pretty common and that can usually happen in the pouring of the wall. The setting with the sun is – too much sun, it could set up a little bit too quick and it’s really not an issue. But if you get a crack that’s wide or getting wider or you’re unsure, what I like to do is take a pencil or a Sharpie and draw a line across the crack and then go through a season and see if it has dropped, if the line has moved.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s really smart.
TOM SILVA: And that tells you that there’s been some settling underneath, that maybe some organic matter got underneath the backfill process and has rotted away.
TOM: Like a tree stump or something like that? Mm-hmm.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah. Or poor drainage or maybe water getting underneath, washing some silt away. And it’s going to cause it to settle.
Another type of foundation crack is a horizontal crack. And lot of times, you see that in a block foundation where there’s too much pressure against the wall.
TOM SILVA: And those are ones that would really concern me because the wall is actually bowing in to the base.
TOM: Hmm. It’s actually displaced.
TOM SILVA: Right, right.
LESLIE: So too much pressure may be from the backfill when the foundation was poured back in or from the weight of the structure above? What would cause that pressure?
TOM SILVA: Or also the freezing/thawing outside because of the poor drainage. So there’s a lot of issues there.
TOM: So you get a lot of water in that soil and that water is going to expand that soil and push on the wall and it sort of ratchets it over the years.
TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
TOM: It gets a little worse every year; doesn’t go back.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. No, no. It doesn’t go back. When it expands out and in the summertime when it dries, the soil falls back in, fills the little void from the vibrations of airplanes and trucks and wind and everything else. Then it freezes. Now you have a little more bite to push it out a little more. So it’s only going to get worse.
TOM: So when you get that level of sort of structural crack, that might be a good time to call in an expert, like a structural engineer, correct?
TOM SILVA: Structural engineer is the best way to go right there. He’s going to tell you how to fix and solve that problem.
LESLIE: And he doesn’t do the job himself, so that’s sort of like a good, non-biased opinion of what needs to be done.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah. You are going to pay this guy to tell you how to fix the problem and then you’re going to hire somebody that’s going to fix the problem.
TOM: And follow his advice.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. To the T.
TOM: I always think it’s a good idea to have the engineer come back later and kind of sign off on the project, because that sort of becomes a pedigree. Says it was done right.
TOM SILVA: If I have an engineer come on site to do anything in the house, if he said we have to do something, he then comes back and said, “Yeah, it’s OK,” you’ve done it right.
TOM: Right. Good advice. Now, if you have a minor crack and one that you do want to tackle yourself, how would you approach that?
TOM SILVA: First thing I would do is I would open that crack up. I’d take a ½-inch chisel and I would go down the crack and make it wider and I’d make sure that the sides are flat. You don’t want to have it V-shaped. That way, you can put your cement or your water in that joint and it will have something to go against. You can’t just take hydraulic cement and lay it on the crack.
TOM SILVA: It will only dry off and fall off. It needs to be between two walls to work correctly.
TOM: Now, that’s a good point. And it’s somewhat counterintuitive because people that see a crack don’t think the first thing they want to do is make it bigger.
LESLIE: Make it bigger.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. But that’s what you have to do. And you have to make it bigger and you have to make it flat on both sides.
TOM: So if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, what would you say is probably the best, most foolproof material to use?
TOM SILVA: If you’re going to do it yourself, you’re going to chisel a groove, you’re going to make sure you have flat surfaces and you can use a hydraulic cement if it has two surfaces to go against.
TOM: Now, good advice. And speaking of being a DIYer, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen homeowners make with foundation repairs?
TOM SILVA: Caulking.
TOM: Yeah. Thinking caulking solves it all, right?
TOM SILVA: Caulking will solve it all, yeah. Latex caulking. Now, silicone is the worst thing you can have because silicone doesn’t stick to a porous surface.
TOM: That’s great advice. Tom Silva, the contractor from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: Always a pleasure. Nice to be here, guys.
LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC Trucks and SUVs.
And just ahead, spring cleaning leaves your house looking great but just how clean is it really? We’ll have tips on where to find germs that are hiding in plain sight, 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 question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: Got the garden started this weekend, Leslie. You were talking about working outside. That’s what we did. We got the garden started.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. You can tell I’ve been working outside. I’m telling you, Tom, my allergies this season, I was not prepared for what just digging – I mean I’m doing a lot of work in my yard. And to try to save some money, I’m pulling out a lot of the shrubs and the landscaping myself.
TOM: A lot of stuff? Yeah.
LESLIE: It’s a downright mess and I cannot stop coughing and sneezing. And this is why I sound like, you know – I’m not even sure what I sound like.
TOM: You earned that.
Hey, have you been working outside? Taking on some home improvement projects, some yard projects like Leslie, who is digging her yard or me? I was planting a garden. Tried to get those Jersey tomatoes planted early so we have the big, juicy ones when the summer comes around.
LESLIE: Oh, for the – right in the middle of summer.
TOM: Oh, yeah. Exactly.
But whatever you’re working on, give us a call right now. We’d love to help you take on that project, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now, we’ve got Diane from Rhode Island on the line with a basement issue. What is going on at your money pit?
DIANE: Hi. I have a house; it was built in 1945. And in my basement, the cement walls – and it looks like once upon a time, they were painted white. And the bottom half of the walls, which are below the ground level, it crumbles and it leaves a lot of sediment. And I can see through the big things of pebbles in the wall.
TOM: So the reason that the bottom half of the wall is deteriorating is probably because of moisture. What are these walls made out of? Are they made out of concrete or concrete block or cinder block?
DIANE: Concrete. There’s no block.
TOM: There’s no block; it’s concrete. Alright. So I think what’s happening here is you’re getting water that’s leaking through the lower half of the walls. And you’re probably getting efflorescence. You could be getting some spalling, depending on the temperatures, that could be causing some of the wall to freeze and then basically chip off pieces of the concrete.
So, what I would do, in this case, is I would start by trying to reduce the amount of moisture that’s collecting in that wall by addressing the drainage conditions right outside of it. Generally speaking, this is caused by one of two things or more commonly, a combination of the angle of the soil at the foundation perimeter. If it’s too flat, if it’s sloped into the house, if there’s any kind of landscaping ties or brick edges or too much mulch, any of those conditions that are holding water around the foundation is a bad thing. And more importantly, the gutter system. Make sure you have gutters, that the gutters are extended at least 4 to 6 feet from the house. If you can keep that perimeter of your house drier, this problem will definitely stabilize.
DIANE: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, spring cleaning can make your house look great and it can actually lift your mood, too. But could your house still be dirtier than you think?
TOM: Well, it could be. There are several places that most homeowners don’t think to clean. And if you overlook some of these spots for too long, they can actually become health hazards.
For example, let’s talk about all those paddle fans that we’re probably starting to use right now, especially on those warm days. The top of the ceiling fan not only gets dirty, it sends dust and dirt and germs flying every time you flip it on. So you want to get up on a ladder and clean the top of those blades with every seasonal cleaning.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, another germ magnet – and this always grosses me out. Any time my kids are sick, I’m telling you I’ve got a good trick for this. I’m talking about stair banisters and doorknobs, as well as knobs on cabinets and drawers. Now, these things get dirty and super germy really fast.
And I’m telling you, when my kids are sick, I take those bleach wipes and I put one on each hand and I just walk up and down the stairs and I touch all the cabinets. I just keep switching them out and I just wipe every single surface, because those things truly get so dirty so fast. You want to avoid waiting until people are sick. Just give them a quick wipe every week or two with that cleaning spray or hot, soapy water.
And don’t forget about the top of your refrigerator. You know, kitchen grease, dirt, grime, it gathers up there. And that can lead to germs, even fungus. You can see mold and mildew grow up there. So keep the top of your fridge clean. It’s especially important if you’re storing food up there. I know I do, so you must be.
TOM: And here’s something you may not be thinking about. You know those reusable, cloth grocery bags? They’re great for the environment but they could be bad for your health if you don’t keep them clean. Think about it: they touch everything from shopping carts to raw fruit and meat and they do need a good wash after every use. So, toss them in the laundry. It’s very, very simple to keep them clean and keep them from spreading germs around your house.
LESLIE: Terry in Mississippi is on the line looking for some help to get rid of termites. Tell us what’s going on.
TERRY: Yes. I’d like to know, what kind of spray should I get for termites?
TOM: Well, termite treatment is not a do-it-yourself project. Because termites really need to be professionally treated because of where they live. They live deep in the soil, Terry. And so, to treat them effectively, a termiticide has to be applied to the soil and in a continuous bond all the way around your house.
And what happens with the modern termiticides is they’re undetectable, so the termites don’t know it’s in the soil. They pass through it, they get it on their bodies and then they go back to the nest and pass it to all their termite friends. And that wipes out the entire nest.
So, it’s not really a do-it-yourself project. I would talk to some exterminators and maybe ask specifically about a product called Termidor – T-e-r-m-i-d-o-r. Good product. It’s been around for a long time. I used it in my own house and it’s an undetectable termiticide that’s very effective and lasts for many years.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Hey, imagine you’ve got to repaint a room that was covered with the worst color combination possible. Well, we’re going to share the step-by-step to tackle that challenge, next.
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: Standing by for your calls, your questions about your home improvement projects, your remodeling projects, your décor challenges. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free.
LESLIE: Don’t forget, while you’re online be sure to post any questions that you’ve got to The Money Pit’s Community page. Now, Terry in California writes: “I want to repaint an interior room. The existing color is a vibrant purple and pink.”
TOM: Well, obviously, we know why she wants to repaint it.
LESLIE: You know what? Everything 80s is coming back, so maybe if she waits a couple of weeks, it’ll be back again and she’ll want those colors.
But let’s see here. She wants to know the best way to prep the walls for the least amount of coats to cover such bright colors.
TOM: Well, prep-wise, I mean you just want to make sure they’re clean. So I would use a TSP solution and wash everything down to get all the dirt and the grime and the grease and anything that’s on there off.
A little trick of the trade for that. You can use a floor mop – a new floor mop, by the way – and make sure you wring it out. Because sometimes, when you use them on the floor, they’re pretty watery. But you could just wring it out a lot and use that to kind of wash the walls instead of having to kind of use your arms to get that sponge over every square foot. A sponge mop is a lot easier way to do that.
Now, in terms of those colors, the secret is this: it’s in the primer, right? You’re going to want to prime those walls. And you want to make sure, if the finish is any color other than white, which is sort of the default color for primer, that you have the paint store tint the primer. So, if it’s yellow or fuchsia or – what’s the Pantone Color of the Year? That purple?
LESLIE: Wasn’t it like a blue denim?
TOM: Whatever color it is, tint the primer. Tint the primer because, see, that gives you both the priming purpose which, of course, is to sort of give you a good surface for the upper layers of paint to stick to. That covers that. But if you tint it, it also covers all those colors underneath. So, always remember, tint the primer when you have a challenge like that. It’ll have to be an alkyd-based or water-based primer, which is fine because they’re great today. Because most paint stores are not tinting oil-based products anymore.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Josh is wondering: “At what temperature should I set my attic power vent fan to keep my attic cool? I live in a hot, humid climate where temperatures are often in the 90s. And the roof gets full exposure to the sun throughout the day, so it’s got to be a gajillion degrees up there.”
TOM: I bet it is. But you know what? While those power vents, those attic fans that are motorized, seem like a good idea – they generally turn on between 90 to 110 degrees, by the way. It’s the setting. But they’re not the best choice for cooling attics.
Here’s why. If you have central air conditioning, when that fan kicks on, it tends to depressurize that attic space. So it pulls all the air – the hot air out of the attic – good but it doesn’t stop there. It’s going to reach down through all the cracks and crevices and the space around wires and pipes and between walls and it’s going to start sucking the air conditioning out of your house at the same time. So it can actually drive up your cooling costs, which is what you’re trying to avoid in the first place.
So a better option is what’s called a “continuous ridge and soffit vent.” It’s a vent that goes down the peak of the roof and at the undersides of the soffits so that when warm air blows over the house, it tends to draw out of the attic at the ridge and it’ll push in at the soffit and carry up all that heat and moisture and humidity out with it. So it’s a much better system for keeping a cool attic than that powered attic ventilator.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know, it’s good for use year-round because if you have insulation in your attic, which you should, and in the heating season it’ll keep the moisture outside of the insulation. And it’ll actually help keep your house warmer.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We hope we’ve given you some tips and ideas on how you could enjoy the season and take on the projects that you’d like to get done around your house. Remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we’ll call you back the next time we are. Or you can post your question to the Community page at MoneyPit.com.
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.
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(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.)