How to Stop Ice Dam Damage Cold

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’re here to help you with your New Year’s home improvement project. You’ve got a project that you’d like to plan for these chilly months, right now, or the spring months ahead? They’ll be here before you know it. We’re here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or if you are dealing with a repair, something that’s just really been bugging you and you want to get it fixed, we can help with that, too. Or if you’re just sick and tired of the way the place looks, we’ve got some décor ideas and tips that can help you spruce it up. But help yourself first: pick up the phone, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Hey, coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk a bit about icicles. You know, they look very pretty hanging from the edge of your roof this time of year. But they do signal a potential problem with your roof that you’ll definitely want to address. We’re going to have tips on how to prevent ice dams and the major leaks they can cause.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, a serious stove can definitely boost your cooking powers and not to mention your home’s resale value. But installing a commercial range requires some special planning. We’re going to tell you what you need to know.

    TOM: And termite problems are easily spotted over the spring and summer. But would you know if you had termites during the cold months? They may. They’re still there. They’re still working, munching away. We’re going to teach you what to look for, right now, when the destructive bugs are harder to spot.

    LESLIE: That’s right. We’re here to give you a hand. But first, we want to talk to you. So let us know what you are working on. I know we’re two weeks into the new year. Have you already started planning 2019’s project? Give us a call. We’d love to help.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to work.

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

    RENEE: Yes, mine is kind of like a double question. I have about a 30-year-old, connected-on-both-sides townhome, two levels.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    RENEE: And I heard a crack a couple months back. Well, it was one of the support beams and it just – like a big, strong branch just cracked.

    TOM: Huh. Did you actually see the cracked beam somewhere?

    RENEE: No, I didn’t see that but I have begun to have cracks along on that same side of the house, in the corners of the wall?

    LESLIE: OK.

    TOM: OK.

    RENEE: Down the corners where it’s breaking apart. But at the same time, I’ve noticed that the house has become unlevel. And that’s a little part because it’s old and it’s connected on both sides but I’m in Texas and we have big droughts and it kind of shifts a little bit.

    TOM: OK.

    RENEE: My concern is when I get the support beam fixed and the foundation fixed, I’ve seen on the DIY shows that suddenly they go back and they look and the house or the chimney has just been trashed. What can I do to prevent that?

    TOM: Why do you say it’s been trashed? Because it shifted?

    RENEE: Right. When they did the – when they put in – when I’ve watched the DIY shows, they go and they fix the foundation and the foundation’s fine. And of course, they shift everything up and now there is …

    TOM: Yeah. That’s why you have to be very, very careful when you do anything that changes the angle that the house has sort of settled into. Because if you don’t, once you bring a foundation up, everything else moves. Yeah, in a wood house, if you try to straighten a slopy floor, for example, all the wires and the plumbing get stretched and twisted and so on. So it’s not just foundations that are of concern.

    I’m concerned, though, about this crack that you say that you’ve heard. But you’ve seen cracks in your walls but you’ve not physically seen the structural crack, correct?

    RENEE: Correct.

    TOM: Alright. Now, you said it’s a townhouse. Is there an association that …?

    RENEE: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So in an association form of ownership, typically you don’t own the structure. So the structure – if the structure was to fail, that’s typically the responsibility of the association to address. Is that your understanding?

    RENEE: I can double-check on that.

    TOM: But in a typical condominium form of ownership, what you own is inside wall to inside wall. In some cases, you own the …

    LESLIE: And then what’s beyond that wall is not yours.

    TOM: Right. In some cases, you own the drywall; in some cases, you don’t. So, for example, if there was a fire, God forbid, and the whole place burned down, you would be paying for the drywall, the kitchen cabinets, the appliances, stuff like that. And the association would be rebuilding everything else, including the related infrastructure.

    So you need to figure out, if there’s a structural problem, who’s responsible for it. I suspect you’re going to find it’s the association that’s responsible for it, which is good news for you. And then I would bring that to their attention and ask them to address it.

    Now, as far as the cracks in the corners of the wall are concerned, I have to tell you that that’s pretty typical and that by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a structural problem. The way to fix that, though, is important and that is that you want to sand down the drywall in that area. And then you want to add some additional tape and the type of drywall tape you use would be the perforated type. It looks like a netting; it’s like a sticky netting. You put that on and then you spackle through that three coats: one, two, three coats; each one thin but three coats. And that type …

    LESLIE: And allowing each one to dry and be sanded in between.

    TOM: Yeah. And that type of repair typically will last.

    Now, after you do the spackle repair, you’ll have to prime the wall. You can’t just paint on top of it; you’ll have to prime it and then paint it.

    RENEE: OK.

    TOM: So I would address the structure with the association, I would fix the cracks on your own and then see what happens.

    RENEE: OK. So just one more question. Let’s say that if it’s not in the association, that I do have to go into it, not only am I concerned about my roof but how much of a problem will I have with my neighbors on both sides of me?

    TOM: Depends on where the crack is, if it exists at all. If that’s the case, then I would suggest you hire a professional home inspector and have the inspector do what’s called a “partial inspection,” which is usually a single-item inspection, and investigate this crack and see what’s going on in the structure. And then we’ll know how far it’s gone and what needs to be done about it.

    RENEE: Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you, guys. I appreciate your time.

    LESLIE: Neil in North Carolina is on the line with a roofing question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    NEIL: I bought this old farmhouse and the people before me had a wood burner in the living room and they also had a wood burner in the kitchen that they cooked on. Now, they took them with them but before they left, they got an oil furnace installed – a Monitor – and capped off the living-room chimney. So when I came in, I brought a wood burner with me and I hooked it up to the chimney. I had somebody up on the roof that checked down through the chimney, said it was all nice and clear. Well, when I fired it up, creosote in the chimney started dripping down through the piping, into the living-room floor.

    TOM: Wow.

    NEIL: And I suffered – suffocated – the fire and went outside. And it had run out of the chimney, down the shingles.

    TOM: Oh, man. What a mess.

    NEIL: Yes, very much so. And it looked terrible. Now, these are asphalt shingles and it’s just about a 6-inch-wide river running down from the chimney and over the side. And I have not been able to find anybody that could tell me how to get rid of it other than replace the whole roofing shingles.

    TOM: I don’t think it’s the kind of thing you can clean. I think there’s going to be so much carbon deposit in that gooey creosote liquid, that’s probably a combination of water and tar and carbon, you won’t be able to really clean those shingles. You really are going to have to replace the shingles that are damaged.

    You know, you can remove just those damaged shingles without replacing the entire roof. There’s a little roofer’s trick of the trade that works well for that. You slip a flat bar up underneath the shingles and find the point where the nail comes through. And the flat bar has a little V in the end of it. You get it in that spot and kind of wiggle it back and forth and the nail will pop right up. The first one might be a little bit harder to get up but once you get going, it’s pretty easy. And then kind of reverse that when you put the newer – the replacement – shingles back down. The last one is going to be harder to nail in place but you put a little extra asphalt-sealing adhesive on that and you’ll be good to go.

    But I don’t think you can clean it.

    NEIL: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been told. Nobody had come up with any way to clean it. A fella said he’d bring down his pressure washer and I said, “Nah, nah. That’ll blow the shingles clean off.”

    TOM: Well, it’ll certainly wear off the asphalt-granule surface. I don’t think that’s the way to go. But I mean the more important question is: what are you doing about that wood stove? Because that doesn’t sound like that was a very safe install.

    NEIL: The install was OK. But I should have had that chimney scrubbed or something on the inside, to get rid of that creosote that lined it. When this fella looked down it, he was looking for obstructions and things like that.

    TOM: Yeah, well, you definitely need to have it cleaned. You might want to think about having the chimney lined: dropping a stainless-steel liner down there. Yeah, safety first, my friend. OK? Be careful with that.

    NEIL: Right.

    TOM: Sorry we couldn’t give you a cleaning tip but at least you now have yet another opinion on what exactly you guys have to do, which is to actually replace those shingles.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. You can post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com or give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews and book appointments online.

    TOM: Still to come, icicles on trees are pretty. Icicles on your roof, well, they might cause some leaks. We’ll tell you how to prevent those ice dams, 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, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right home pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    LESLIE: Hey, thinking of a not – I don’t think it’s such a major remodel and I want to get your opinion on this, Tom.

    We’ve been spending time, during the holiday season, visiting friends. And while I love my wood-burning fireplace, I’m always fascinated at the ease and warmth of people who have gas inserts. And some of them really look fantastic, just like a realistic log fire. What are your thoughts? I’ve already called a plumber. I’m waiting to see if I can run the line and how much that’s going to cost. But good idea? Bad idea?

    TOM: After-market gas inserts are – can be pretty expensive to run from a gas-bill perspective. They’re not very efficient. Plus, you’ve got to make sure your chimney is properly lined for it. Very unforgiving because the temperature of those gases, as it goes up they’re not going to warm the chimney as quickly. So you get a lot of condensation.

    LESLIE: OK.

    TOM: The condensation is very acidic. It can chew away at the mortar joints and such, so you’ve got to have the right chimney. And if you’re going to have to get in and put in a chimney liner and the insert, it’s just not worth it. Plus, there’s nothing better than a wood fire, even though they’re a lot of work.

    LESLIE: It looks so easy and so pretty.

    TOM: You know, it’s just – and yeah. Save it for the next house. I mean when you’re buying one that’s designed for gas from the get-go and it’s a manufactured unit, just pops in the wall, that’s a totally different scene. When you try to convert a wood-burning fireplace to a gas fireplace, I’ve seen that done many times. And usually, it results in a lot of money in gas, because those burners are huge. They can be 100,000 BTU burners, which is more than – more gas than you need to heat your house, Leslie. So, we’re talking really …

    LESLIE: Seriously?

    TOM: Oh, yeah. Really expensive.

    LESLIE: Because I’ve seen some pretty nice, big, burning gas fires lately.

    TOM: Yeah, really – right. Really expensive.

    LESLIE: And I’m like, “Ooh, that’s really lovely.”

    TOM: Plus, you have the carbon-monoxide issue, so you have to make sure the flue is pretty much chained in the open position. So, yeah, for all those reasons I really don’t like it. Don’t like it. Sorry. I’m sure you can find another project.

    LESLIE: I’m still going to look into it, because it seems really nice.

    TOM: Alright. Alright.

    LESLIE: But man, talk about the downer for 2019.

    TOM: OK. I know. Hey, man. Listen, I love wood fireplaces but – and gas fireplaces are OK but only if they’re the manufactured kind.

    Anyway, what is your home improvement question? We’ve heard Leslie’s. We want to hear yours. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mike in Illinois is on the line. How can we help you today?

    MIKE: I have a – the drywall through the center of my house is separating at the seams.

    TOM: OK.

    MIKE: And it’s straight through the center of the house, down the hallway through the center of the house. And I’m not sure if it’s due to moisture in the attic, drying out and expanding or if it’s the floor in the house moving.

    TOM: Mike, how old is your house?

    MIKE: I’d say 20 years old.

    TOM: OK. And is this relatively new or has it been around for a while?

    MIKE: It’s been there shortly after I moved in.

    TOM: Oh, so it’s been there like 20 years.

    MIKE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, I think it’s probably shrinkage. When a house is first built, the lumber is very wet and over the first couple of heating seasons, it tends to shrink a lot and you’ll get a lot of movement. Now, over the years, you may have tried to patch it and then you just find that it opens up again. That’s very typical.

    MIKE: Right.

    TOM: What you want to do to patch it is you need to sand it down where it’s cracking. You need to use new drywall tape on top of that. You can use the perforated tape. It’s easier to work with, in terms of the spackle, because you don’t have to worry about air bubbles behind the paper tape. Use the perforated tape, put about three layers of spackle on there, sand in between, prime, paint. You should be good to go.

    MIKE: OK. If I have bathroom vents that are venting out into the attic, would that cause it or would that cure it if I …?

    TOM: No, I don’t think – well, first of all, I don’t think it’s caused that but that in and of itself is a problem. You shouldn’t be ducting bathroom exhaust fans into an attic; they should continue through the attic to the exterior.

    And the reason for that – you’re in the Chicago area, correct? Pretty cold there. And if you get that insulation damp, it’s not going to be very effective.

    MIKE: OK. So, with it venting in there, that’s decreasing my R-value of my insulation, too.

    LESLIE: Absolutely.

    TOM: It is. R-value is rated at 0-percent moisture. So when you add moisture to it, it goes down dramatically. So, the more moisture in the attic, the less effective the insulation becomes.

    MIKE: OK. To fix that, would it be alright to add insulation on top of that after I fix that problem?

    TOM: Yeah, you can add more insulation but you have to duct from the exhaust fan out of the attic. So, you can do that by going like sort of through the gable wall or up through a roof vent with a proper termination on the end of it so no water gets in there. And just get that warm, moist air out. Don’t leave it in the attic.

    MIKE: OK. And I’ve done some research on the internet. I’ve got two bathroom fans. To run them into one, they said to find a wire or a vent that’ll flip one side to the other so it doesn’t backdraft into the other bathroom. I cannot find that.

    TOM: Well, I don’t think you really need that because, for example, if you run it to the gable wall and you have a typical bath-duct terminating type of a hood on it, that’s got a spring on it that stays shut. So it’s only going to open when the air is blowing out.

    There’s another way to do this and that is to have a remote bath fan where they actually have the motor part that’s up in the attic space and the ducts just connect to the ceiling of the bathrooms. But that’s a nice system – it’s a quiet system – but it’s much more expensive to do. You see that a lot in hotels.

    MIKE: OK. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, it’s officially winter. And while snow on your roof and those pretty icicles on the eaves certainly look lovely and wintery and very festive, both could actually mean that you have a problem. Now, heavy snowfalls followed by warmer days, that often allows ice to dam up at the roof edge, where it’s going to block melting snow. And that can lead to some serious leaks inside your home.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s much more common in warmer attics because those are not property ventilated. So, to prevent this, you need to make sure that your attic is adequately ventilated with good soffit and ridge ventilation.

    And if you plan to replace your roof, be sure to have a contractor install ice-and-water shield. Now, that’s a roof product that will be installed along the roof edge and it goes up under the first, say, about 3 feet of roof from the edge. And it basically provides an extra layer of protection against those ice dams, because that’s where they form. And if one did form and try to back up there, it can’t get under the roof shingles because the ice-and-water shield will stop it.

    LESLIE: Now, if you live in a southern climate, ice-and-water-shield underlayment can actually protect your house from leaks from heavy, wind-driven rain: you know, the type you might get in a hurricane. In that installation, it would cover the entire roof and then you go and install the shingles right on top of it.

    TOM: Yeah. And the idea is that when the shingles get blown off in a strong storm, that ice-and-water shield basically is still attached. Because it’s very sticky, in a way; it adheres right to the plywood sheathing. And therefore, it’s going to protect your home until you can get back to fixing it.

    And that’s just one of the many tricks of the trade we try to share with you every week on The Money Pit. If you’ve got a question about a problem or issue at your money pit, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, a serious stove can boost your cooking powers, not to mention your home’s resale value. So what do you need to know if you’re looking at one of these brawny beauties in your kitchen? Stick around. We’ll help you sort it out.

    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 and give us a call right now. We’d love to talk with you about your next home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    Hey, do you need new flooring, a new kitchen or bath? Or do you need a new roof or are you ready to get a deck you’ve been dreaming of? HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

    LESLIE: Mary in North Carolina is on the line with a mossy roof. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    MARY: Well, we have a 10-year-old roof – asphalt shingles, I believe they are – and the sections between shingles are beginning to be filled up with moss.

    LESLIE: It’s like a mossy grout line.

    MARY: Yeah, that’s right. I’d like to know how to get it safely clean and keep it from growing back again. It isn’t the entire roof. We are in an A-frame house, so it’s very sharp, very steep roof. And it’s just about the 8 or 10 feet closest to the edge.

    LESLIE: OK. Do you see it all the way around or do you just see it on, say, the north-facing side or in the area …?

    MARY: It’s just on this north-facing part.

    LESLIE: OK. So that’s the area that gets the least amount of sunlight.

    MARY: Right.

    LESLIE: Do you have a large tree that’s adding more shade to this area?

    MARY: We have a lot of trees, yeah.

    LESLIE: A lot of trees.

    TOM: Yeah, therein lies the problem.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, I mean the best solution here is – can you trim out or thin out those trees in any way to get more sunlight onto that portion of the roof? Because if you can do that, sunlight really is your best weapon in getting rid of this moss and keeping it away. Now, you’ll have to do some work to get it to be gone in the first place but if you can add more sunlight, you’re going to help it stay away.

    MARY: Alright. Very good. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, few things define an upscale kitchen like a commercial range. With those heavy, cast-iron grates, beefy knobs and high-BTU burners, the pro-style range has become the modern-day hearth: a focal point in the home’s main gathering place.

    TOM: Of course, a serious stove can boost your cooking powers, too, not to mention your home’s resale value. So what do you need to know if you’re looking for one of these brawny beauties in your kitchen? Well, This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey is here to tell us.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: So we’re seeing more and more of these. They’re really popular and they’re not just their cooking power. Homeowners just love the way they look.

    RICHARD: They really do add a very dramatic look to their – to your kitchen. Everybody wants to think they’re Wolfgang Puck and this is really the chance. But an actual commercial range, a true commercial range, is not designed for a residential kitchen. You really have to get a pro-style range because it’s got additional insulation. The commercial ones don’t have enough insulation. They worry about the standby loss from catching kitchen cabinets on fire.

    LESLIE: Oh, wow.

    TOM: Right. Because it’s just so hot, it doesn’t stop that heat in a cabinet body like it does in a conventional range.

    RICHARD: Right. That’s right.

    TOM: It goes right through.

    RICHARD: That’s right. In a kitchen, you want to keep – in a commercial kitchen, you don’t care because there’s plenty of ventilation.

    LESLIE: And everything’s metal.

    RICHARD: That’s right. A pro-style range is scaled to fit the standard depth of counters. That’s the difference. They can fit in a regular, 24-inch-deep counter but they have beefed-up insulation. But they also have burners that are crazy powerful. They can blast out 18,000 to 25,000 BTUs, where a basic stove range might have 12,000 BTUs as their biggest burner.

    TOM: You can burn your dinner that much quicker.

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

    LESLIE: Well, I think it’s interesting, too, because when you’re looking at a pro-style range or oven, they’re so much larger. So you really have to consider that you’ve got the space for this. I’ve seen them as wide as 5 feet – 60 inches.

    RICHARD: Right. The standard range in America is a 30-inch range. And so these pro-styles come in 30, 36, 48 and 60. That’s a 5-footer.

    TOM: Wow.

    RICHARD: That is a lot of burner and it really looks kind of imposing if all you want to do is cook a pot of tea on that big burner.

    LESLIE: Right.

    RICHARD: So it means you have a lot of burners, you’ve got a lot of cooktop options. They’ve got unbelievable choices, with griddles and side grills and boiling pots and stuff like that. A lot of cool stuff on it, though.

    TOM: You also have a choice of fuel ranges on this, right? It could be gas or electric or combinations, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah. Most of them are gas and many of the great chefs will tell you they want to cook on the cooktop with gas and use electric for their precision in the ovens. But most of them are going to be gas and they’re going to be either natural gas or propane. Some of them are dual-fueled, where you’re going to have gas and electric.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I’ve got that at home. I’ve got a gas cooktop and the electric convection, because it really does help give you a more uniform cooking temperature throughout.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    LESLIE: So it really helps to cook things more evenly on their proper cook temperatures. But I think it’s so important that – we’ve discussed this as far as ventilation. You’ve really got to make sure that you’re balancing the air that’s coming out and the air that’s going in.

    RICHARD: My goodness. That is the biggest part of this story. Now, imagine you’ve got a nice, tight house. You’ve insulated the house beautifully. And you’ve got bath fans in each bathroom and each one of those bath fans will pull 50 cubic feet per minute.

    We just did a scene the other day on This Old House where I took a cardboard box and showed to the American public what a cubic foot looked like: 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches. And you go, “Look, every time this bathroom fan – 40 of these have to leave the building, which means 40 equivalent CFM have to come back in the building somewhere.” And we talked about how important it is to have balanced ventilation.

    Now, on the project we’re doing right now, we had a big commercial – a pro-style range. It needed 900 CFM – 900 of these little boxes that I showed – every minute.

    TOM: That’s a lot of boxes.

    LESLIE: That’s crazy. Per minute.

    RICHARD: Not every hour, not every day. Every minute. And so we really had to talk about that. When that fan is on, when that stove is on, we have to install a fan to push 900 CFM of ice-cold air in the winter or super-hot air in the summer, into the building.

    LESLIE: Back into the house.

    RICHARD: Crazy. I think you’ve got to realize that you do it with some penalty when you go to one of these big, big commercial ranges. Because if you don’t do it – if you don’t do any makeup air – think about what happens. Now, we turn on the stove, we put on the hood, 900 CFM are now leaving the building. Where’s that air going to come from? Well, it’s going to come down every chimney, it’s going to come in through every bathroom fan, it’s going to pull on every window, it’s going to make the whole building under negative pressure.

    So the biggest sort of troublemaker in the whole ventilation system in this building is this monstrous, commercial, pro-style range.

    TOM: Wow. So there’s a big cost to these ranges, not only in buying them. But the operational cost, if you don’t get it just right, can really be extraordinary. But they’re really interesting and they’re definitely fun to have.

    RICHARD: It reminds me of – we always saw people that come into a showroom – a plumbing showroom – and say, “I want to have that big whirlpool tub.”

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    RICHARD: You know that big 5-foot by 5-foot whirlpool tub? And they would forget that they also now have to put in a water heater that’s big enough.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RICHARD: This is the same thing with commercial stove. They come as a pair; you have to have ventilation to go with that commercial stove.

    TOM: Good advice.

    LESLIE: And you know what? You also have to make sure it’s going to fit into your house, through the door.

    RICHARD: That’s right. But we have saws, we have Sawzalls. We can cut the cabinets.

    TOM: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Thanks. Great to be here.

    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 is brought to you on PBS by Marvin Windows.

    Up next, are you confident that your home is termite-free? The bugs can be hard to spot in winter but we’re going to teach you where to look for them before that damage kicks in, after this.

    Where home solutions live, 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, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. 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: Now we’re going to Missouri where Tammy is having issues with her new furnace. What’s going on? Let’s talk you through this.

    TAMMY: Oh, I replaced the furnace in my home here before the beginning of winter. And since then, I’ve had a buzzing noise in my breaker box every time it kicks on. I would like to say that the furnace that I replaced was about up to my knees. And the newer furnace is about chest high. Would that have something to do with the pulling of the amps or …?

    TOM: Well, the size of the – physical size of the unit may or may not be related to this. It’s more like how much power is it pulling and how is it wired into the breaker box? But if you’re getting a vibration in the breaker box itself, that’s not a good sign. The breaker could be deteriorating internally and what you’re hearing are the early stages of that or perhaps the advanced stages of that. I don’t know.

    I would tell you that if you’ve got that kind of a signal, I would definitely have it checked out by an electrician. Open that panel up, have him pull out those breakers, look behind them. Make sure they’re – it’s sized properly. Make sure nothing is over-fused, for example, where the wrong size fuse is being used on a wire and therefore not protecting it from overheating.

    It’s definitely not a good sign and shouldn’t be happening. And you need to get it checked out further, OK, Tammy?

    TAMMY: Alright. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, termites can certainly wreak havoc on your home and turning buying and selling into a nightmare. Now, the key here is to avoid the costly headache by identifying termites as soon as possible.

    Now, depending on the season, it could be easier to do or certainly more difficult. Because in the summer, you have a lot more evidence; in the winter, not so much.

    TOM: Yeah, true. But there are a few things you might spot in the winter that can help identify the wood munchers before they do too much damage.

    The first thing you want to look for are mud tubes on your foundation walls. Now, these could be inside foundation walls or even outside foundation walls or the underside of the wood floors. Like if you were in your basement and looking up, you might see them. Now, the tubes are about a ½-inch wide and they’re made by termites to keep them in a dark and moist space while they work. They’re chewing on your house, pretty much. They’ll build them from the ground, basically, to the wood they’re working on and sort of travel back and forth. It’s like a super highway for insects. It’s crazy.

    Now, if you don’t have a basement or a crawlspace, they can be even harder to spot but I’ll give you a trick of the trade. With drywall, if you hold a really strong flashlight sort of parallel to the wall, sometimes you can see that just under the surface of the paint, it looks like grooves in the wall. Those could be the termite mud tunnels right through the paper face on that piece of drywall or sheetrock. And they are just getting ready to go to town and chomp on that wood wall.

    So, you can find them if you know what to look for.

    LESLIE: Now, here’s a couple of things that you can do, especially in these winter months, to keep those termites away.

    You want to keep any firewood that you’ve got stacked up totally away from your home’s foundation. And you should be having your home inspected yearly to check for any form of termite infestation. It’s preferable to do this in the spring or summer, just because there’ll be more evidence and easier to spot and you’ll be able to do something about it. This way, if a termite has already made their way in, you can treat the problem before serious damage is done.

    TOM: Wise to be on the lookout for these bugs 12 months out of the year.

    888-666-3974 is our phone number. We’d love to chat with you about what’s going on in your home. Maybe you want to update it for the year ahead. Maybe you want to do a décor project or repair project. Maybe you’re doing an addition. Want to cut those energy bills? Give us a call. All great topics for us to chat about. And hey, everyone listening is going to learn about the project, as well, and get some ideas for their own house. It all works, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to North Carolina where Chris has a question on flooring. What can we help you with today?

    CHRIS: I had a leaking toilet that rotted my wood subfloor. I ripped it all up and I put the new pieces of wood back down.

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: Well, my cuts weren’t exactly perfect and there’s some spacing in between, like maybe three-sixteenths.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s pretty good.

    CHRIS: OK. It’s just in some sections. And I’m going to put down the ¼-inch cement board to put tile down here.

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: And I just wanted to know: what type of mortar do I use to put the cement board down onto this wood subfloor? And then once the cement board is down and it’s screwed in, do I have to put some type of mesh tape to put the boards together and then mortar the tape?

    TOM: No. So, first of all, if you’re going to put down DUROCK, which is sort of that cement board that you’re describing, generally, that’s screwed down. So you would screw that down to the floor. And then on top of that, you would apply the adhesive for the tile. And you’d glue the tile right to the board.

    CHRIS: OK.

    TOM: You know, having those gaps in the plywood repair is no big deal because that’s all going to be covered over. Just make sure that when you put the cement board down that you don’t align the seams of the board with any of the old seams of the plywood below it.

    CHRIS: Right.

    TOM: Everything should overlap.

    CHRIS: Do I still have to put the mesh tape, though, for the boards – the cement boards – or no?

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t think so.

    CHRIS: OK.

    TOM: I think you can go right on top of that. As long as you have good adhesion of those boards down, they’re secured well in place, they shouldn’t move.

    CHRIS: OK, great.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, easy ideas to help make your bathroom more accessible for families of any age, without giving up style, so stick around.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question or post it on The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com. You can also reach us on social media. You can post to us at Twitter.com/MoneyPit or Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. We’d love to connect with you. Maybe you could post some pictures of your project. We can get back to you with some ideas to help get you going on the right foot.

    But right now, we’re going to jump into The Money Pit’s Community section because there are some folks waiting there for some answers, starting with Julie in Chicago.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Julie from Chicago writes: “The sliding-glass doors on my tub enclosure were looking disgusting so I removed them, including the frames’ strips. Can I replace the doors myself or should I hire someone? Is there anything tricky about this project?”

    TOM: Well, I don’t think there’s anything tricky about it. It’s a pretty easy project. But one thing that could be tricky is if you have tile walls, because that frame for the sliding-glass door – that door-frame channel – would have been attached through the tile to the wall below it – bolt behind it, I should say.

    Now, if you’re going to have to drill through a ceramic tile, first of all you want to get it right because you don’t want to put too many holes in your ceramic tile. And it’s got to be done properly. And secondly, you need a special drill bit for that which, of course, is a masonry bit. It’s got a different type of tip on it. There’s also a special type of drill that works better and that is a hammer drill, because it vibrates the drill, basically, in and out as it spins it. And it helps cut through tile – I mean like butter – if you do it right.

    So, as long as you can figure out how to drill through the tile – if you do, in fact, have to do that, Julie – I think it is a project that you can do yourself. You want to make sure that you use good-quality silicone caulk on those channels. You want to put a good bead of it behind it and then on the edges, too. And the reason I say silicone is because it’s less likely to grow mold and mildew and look disgusting, which is the reason you pulled the old one off.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: So, I think that’s a good place to start.

    And I don’t know, Leslie. I personally do prefer those doors more than shower curtains, because we’ve got shower curtains in my house. And I’ll tell you, it seems like they last about two to three weeks before they start growing mold and we’ve got to take them down and wash them again. They just get moldy so quick.

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s interesting. See, I don’t find that problem with shower curtains. And having two boys in my family and one full bath, I definitely prefer the shower curtain. Because those kids just walk in and out of the bathroom as often as possible, of course, when you’re trying to just take a shower. So, curtains for me but I do love the look of a glass enclosure in a shower. It’s just so lovely and so clean.

    Alright. Corinne in Pennsylvania writes: “The black, flexible spacers between the three big concrete slabs that make up my driveway are brittle and coming out. How do I replace them? With what? And can I do it myself?”

    TOM: Definitely. So, go ahead and pull the rest of those out and then dig into those slabs so that you clear about the whole, say, 4-inch depth out. What you next want to do is install what’s called a “backer rod,” which is like a foam bead that gets stuck in there. It kind of looks like a miniature pool noodle. You know those things kids play with in the summer? You stick it down there so it’s about an inch below the surface and then you pour on top a flowable urethane sealant, which will ride across it, not fall down deep in the crack because it’s protected by the backer rod. And it will seal that nicely and it won’t dry out and look all disgusting like those black spacers look right now.

    Definitely a do-it-yourself project. Should be able to do it in a weekend. No problem.

    LESLIE: Seriously. Two email questions tonight about things looking gross. What’s going on in the new year, you guys?

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We’re here for you, 24/7. If you’ve got a home improvement question that pops to mind, pick up the phone, call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll call you back the next time we’re in the studio.

    You can also post your question on any of our social-media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like – or in The Money Pit’s Community section at MoneyPit.com. And I hope we’ve given you a few good ideas today to help you get started on your next project.

    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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