How to Stop Mold from Taking Hold of Your House #0521181

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  • Cladosporium mold
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  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And thank you for joining us on this, the Memorial Day Weekend, which for us means an extra day to do home improvement projects around the house. If that’s …

    LESLIE: That’s true.

    TOM: If it’s the same for you, we’re in it with you. We’re in it together. Give us a call. Let’s talk about your project at 888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question online to our Community page at MoneyPit.com.

    Just ahead, if your siding and sidewalks and decks are looking pretty grimy, we’re going to give you a simple solution that can help make that mess disappear and prevent mildew, moss and more from growing right back.

    LESLIE: Plus, speaking of grimy things, if you’ve got mold, the best way to deal with it is to prevent it. We’re going to share tips to stop mold cold.

    TOM: And also speaking of grimy things, do you have kids that are making a mess in their room? Well, if you would like to clean up that room or perhaps redecorate it for a new arrival or update a space for kids who insist they’re not kids anymore, we’re going to have money-saving tips for easy updates, just ahead.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away exactly what you’ll need to have a weed-free lawn this summer. We’ve got a supply of Bonide BurnOut Weed and Grass Killer Pump and Spray. It really does magically work. Your lawn’s going to be gorgeous.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. We’re here to help you with your how-to projects. Let us solve your DIY dilemmas. Got a décor project? Got to repair, remodel? The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: Krista in Vermont is on the line and is dealing with some very low water pressure. Tell us what’s going on.

    KRISTA: I bought my house about a year ago and I’m on a shared well with my two other neighbors. And they both have great water pressure but we have really awful water pressure. It takes three hours for the washing machine to run. We cannot use our garden hose. And we’ve had some plumbers come take a look and they said that there must be some kind of restriction in the water pipes, since the other neighbors both have really great water pressure.

    TOM: This is not well water. You’re on street water?

    KRISTA: We’re on well water.

    TOM: You’re on well water. And the well serves all the neighbors?

    KRISTA: Yeah, it serves the two neighbors that live north of us.

    TOM: OK. Well, I mean they’re right that there could be a restriction. The restriction could be a valve that’s partially closed. It may look open but maybe it’s really closed. It could be, if you have old pipes – do you have old pipes there? How old is the house?

    KRISTA: Yeah, it’s from ‘54. Yeah, it is copper.

    TOM: Old for plumbing is like 20s, 30s, 40s when they had steel pipes.

    KRISTA: OK.

    TOM: So, ‘54 is going to be copper and decent-quality copper.

    So here’s what I would do. I would start testing that water pressure at different points. If you can test it close to where it comes into the house, that’d be the first place to check it.

    KRISTA: OK.

    TOM: You may have to put a tap in the pipe to do that, like an extra little valve to do that. But I would start checking it at different points and see if we can kind of narrow down where the restriction is.

    KRISTA: OK.

    TOM: You have to do a little detective work here. You’re going to find, at some point, it’s restricted. It could be the main water valve, if you’ve got one. Sometimes well systems don’t have those.

    KRISTA: Right. The valve in our house was just replaced but I don’t know about the valve at our neighbor’s house, where the well head is. And we were also told by one plumber that we could put a water-pressure tank in the house to fix it. And then another plumber told us that wouldn’t work at all.

    TOM: That’s not going to work. You need a – you could – there’s a booster that you could put in. But I would start trying to figure out if this is a problem at the point where the water comes into the house, because that’s going to change the discussion. It’s not your plumbing; it’s the well system. And I imagine you have some rights, since you’re sharing a common well here, to get the same pressure as everybody else.

    KRISTA: Yeah. OK.

    TOM: And that’s going to have to be a discussion you’ll have with the people that are involved, OK?

    KRISTA: Yeah.

    TOM: But you’ve got to figure out what you’ve got – you don’t know that yet – and that’s the way to do it. Does that make sense?

    KRISTA: Alright. Yes. Sounds good. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Dan in Virginia, you’ve got The Money Pit. What are you working on?

    DAN: I’m getting ready to build a steel building. And I was wondering how thick to make the concrete, though. I’ve had different people tell me different thicknesses and everything, so I was just wanting to get you all’s opinion on it.

    TOM: OK. So you’re building a steel building, like for a garage?

    DAN: It’s going to be part of a garage and part barn.

    TOM: OK.

    DAN: It’s 30×50 and it’s 15 feet high.

    TOM: And you’re going to put a concrete slab and then build the building above it?

    DAN: Yeah. On top of it, yes. And in one section of it, I want to put one of those vehicle lifts in it.

    TOM: So, you really need to have a foundation for that. Where do you live in the country?

    DAN: I live in southwest part of Virginia: Tazewell County, to be exact.

    TOM: Alright. So you do get some winter there, which means the ground is going to get frozen. And if the slab is not properly anchored with a footing underneath it, not to mention the weight of the roof and then the roof with snow and everything else, you’re going to get some – you could have some settling or some cracking.

    So, you can do this one of two ways: you can either build a standard foundation out of block or you could do what’s called a “monolithic pour,” which is the concrete basically goes across the floor and then down into sort of a trench around the outside of that building. And that forms, in one piece, the footing and the slab together. And this way, you’ll be in good shape.

    Now, in terms of that lift – that vehicle lift – you might even dig it out a little bit more in that area where the lift’s going to be and make that area – the slab a little bit thicker. Just make sure you have some extra support in the middle of the floor. Alright?

    I hope that helps you out. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit. Give us a call now to 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, compare prices and book appointments online.

    TOM: Just ahead, if your siding, sidewalks, decks or patios are looking a bit grimy, we’re going to give you a simple solution that can help make that mess disappear and prevent mildew, moss and more from growing back. We’ll be back with that and more of your calls, after this.

    Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’d love to hear from you at 888-MONEY-PIT so give us a call, right now, with your how-to question. 888-MONEY-PIT is 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.

    And we’ve got a great reason for you to reach out to us by phone or by posting your question to The Money Pit community, because we’re giving away the Bonide BurnOut Weed and Grass Killer Pump and Spray today. It features all-natural ingredients. It can be used for organic gardening. It’ll kill unwanted weeds and grasses in gardens, driveways, walkways, patios, around schools and in many other places.

    It acts fast. There’s no mixing necessary. It’s worth 39.99 but we’re sending it out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to head on over to Ohio where Norma is dealing with some roof leaks. What’s going on?

    NORMA: In the back of the house, near my glass sliding doors – was leaking.

    TOM: OK.

    NORMA: I could see the ceiling there was water coming in around the doors and leaking down into the track for – of the door. And that happened right after we had a really deep freeze here. And I believe the ice froze up, melted some and then froze back up again. And I looked it up and I think it’s called “ice jam” or something like that.

    TOM: Ice dam.

    NORMA: Ice dam. OK.

    TOM: Yep.

    NORMA: That was close.

    TOM: You were close, yep.

    NORMA: Uh-huh. And so I called a roofing company and actually, they came out. And they told me I need a whole new roof, which is going to cost me about $20,000 because I’ve got a lot of roof.

    TOM: Of course they did. How old is your roof?

    NORMA: We replaced it in 2010 – 8 or 10.

    TOM: Well, then that’s …

    LESLIE: That’s a new roof.

    TOM: Let me ask you something. You’ve got homeowners insurance?

    NORMA: Yeah.

    TOM: Well, ice damming is covered by homeowners insurance. You need to call your insurance company, maybe even a public adjuster, and tell them you had ice-dam damage and it needs to be fixed. Because to fix the ice-dam damage, they have to remove the roof. So guess what? You get a new roof paid for by them.

    NORMA: Oh. Even if it’s just in one spot?

    TOM: Yeah. Because you can’t just fix one spot. An ice dam’s an ice dam. If it’s covered, it’s covered.

    NORMA: Oh, OK. And see, the other thing they said – that the roofing around the vent thing that comes out the bathroom – you know what I mean?

    TOM: Uh-huh.

    NORMA: It’s a vent on top of your roof.

    TOM: Right.

    NORMA: And they said that the roofing was sort of – not all the way – it wasn’t laying flat around that. Because I had some …

    TOM: Well, look – listen, first of all, I don’t like this roofing company because I just think that they’re telling you a tale here to try to get to your wallet.

    LESLIE: To try to get more money.

    TOM: Yeah.

    NORMA: OK.

    TOM: I mean the roofs never lay perfectly flat around plumbing-vent flashings because the flashing is under the shingles. And it basically makes the seal between the vent and the roof. So, that’s kind of, you know, not true, alright?

    NORMA: OK.

    TOM: So I would – first of all, I would call my insurance company, report that you had an ice dam. And if they give you a hard time, find a public adjuster because public adjusters work for you and they get a percentage of the claim. And they usually find a lot more than the insurance-company adjuster does. So they kind of pay for themselves. Let them fight the battle.

    But to fix this, the roof comes off. There’s a type of roofing material called “ice-and-water shield.”

    NORMA: Yes. That’s what they said I didn’t have.

    TOM: It goes up about 3 feet from the edge of the roof, up into the roof, up over the sheathing. And then once that’s down, then shingles go back down on top of that.

    NORMA: Right.

    TOM: So, that’s what causes it and that’s the fix. And the good news is that homeowners covers it because it’s storm damage.

    NORMA: Yeah, it is storm damage. You’re right. OK. I never thought about it like that.

    TOM: Alright.

    NORMA: Thank you so much.

    TOM: Well, you’re very welcome.

    NORMA: So I could call my insurance and get that repaired. And the second thing you said was – that I was noting, that I’ve already forgotten. What was the other thing you said?

    TOM: What? About the vent – plumbing vent – or about the type of insurance adjuster to use?

    NORMA: Oh, yeah. Public adjuster. Is that what you called it?

    TOM: Public adjuster. Yep. Public adjuster. Correct.

    NORMA: Yeah, OK. Alright. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Glad we were able to help you out.

    We may have saved that young lady 20,000 bucks, Leslie.

    LESLIE: She was so excited. She didn’t even know.

    Well, if your siding, sidewalks, decks or patios are looking pretty grimy, we’ve got a simple solution that can help make that mess disappear and prevent mold, mildew, moss and more from growing back. It’s a product called Spray & Forget.

    TOM: And they have several different formulations. But the one that I’ve been using recently is the House and Deck Outdoor Cleaner. It cleans all types of siding, decks, fences, as well as pavers or brick or concrete patios. It’ll take care of pool surrounds and you can also use it on vinyl and plastic outdoor furniture, all the stuff that gets dingy and dirty and grimy about this time of year.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And the best part is that it’s pretty easy to use. There’s no scrubbing. I mean really, it’s very limited elbow grease here, you guys. As the name implies, you just spray it on and Mother Nature takes over the cleaning duties with the rain, the sun and the wind.

    TOM: And over time, it keeps all your exterior surfaces clean and it does that safely with no harsh chemicals. You’ll find it at Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Amazon, Do it Best and True Value. And it retails for 19.99. Learn more at SprayAndForget.com.

    LESLIE: Gary in Michigan, you have got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    GARY: We have a short circuit. Somewhere in our house, we have a wire that blows our fuse all the time.

    TOM: OK. Does it happen because you’re doing anything, like running an appliance or something of that nature?

    GARY: No, we just hit the circuit breaker and it goes off.

    TOM: What do you mean you hit the circuit breaker and it goes off? You mean you turn the circuit breaker on and it pops right off?

    GARY: Well, we pop – yes. Yeah, exactly.

    TOM: OK.

    GARY: We bought the house. We didn’t know about it and it’s there now.

    TOM: Oh, OK. Well, you’ve got to call an electrician because the circuit breaker is doing its job. If the circuit breaker is not letting you turn that circuit back on, then that circuit is either wired dangerously or it has a bad breaker or there is something wrong with the way it’s all pulling together. So, I think that this is not something you can track down on your own, because you can’t even get the power on. The electrician is going to have to do this with the power off and see if we can trace out that circuit, see what it’s serving.

    Do you know – have any idea where it’s going to?

    GARY: Yeah, kind of. Yep. There’s …

    TOM: Well, is there something not working? Is there lighting not working? Are there outlets not working? Where do you think it’s going? It’s not on, so …

    GARY: Yeah, a whole room. Yeah, whole room, yeah.

    TOM: So there’s one room. OK.

    So, then, what he’ll probably do is – and they’re going to have to open up the outlets and the switches and the lighting fixtures in that room and check out every connection point and see if there’s any evidence. There could be something burning in there. You don’t know. So, you definitely need to have an electrician check it out. I would go to HomeAdvisor.com and find an electrician through there. You can pick one that’s got great ratings and schedule an appointment and see what happens.

    But it’s definitely not something you should do yourself. If it was, I’d tell you but this is beyond the average homeowner’s skill set. It’s potentially dangerous and it’s important for your safety and to make sure your house doesn’t burn down. OK?

    GARY: OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Robin in Wisconsin has a question about flooring. How can we help you?

    ROBIN: Hi. We’re refinishing our finished basement. And the former owners glued down the carpet on the concrete and we’re scraping off what we can. Do we need to – I want to put in vinyl-plank flooring. Do we need to sand that down or should we put a leveler or is there an underlayment that we can put under? Or is it going to matter if there’s some glue on there?

    LESLIE: How much glue are we talking about? Are we talking about inches of it or just some areas of slight unevenness?

    ROBIN: No, no. Just little areas of unevenness. And we’ve been sanding it [the best way of] (ph) procedure.

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. And sanding it is only going to find – gunk up all your sandpaper and gunk up your hand sanders. It only sort of reactivates the glue. It’s kind of strange.

    ROBIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. OK.

    LESLIE: So, generally, with a vinyl-plank flooring, certain manufacturers might have an underlayment on the backside. Some might recommend something. Most of the times I’d say just follow the manufacturers’ recommendations, because they know what’s best for their product. But for the most part, with a vinyl plank, you’re not going to need any sort of underlayment. Those will either usually overlap and adhere to one another with a double-sided tape or they’ll click and lock. It really depends on which product you’re working with.

    But I would say if it’s a thinner vinyl plank and you just get a lot of flex to it, you might see areas of more thickness of the adhesive. But if it’s a bit more rigid vinyl plank, I think you’re going to be able to go right over that and not worry about it.

    ROBIN: Oh, perfect. Great. Thank you for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Bill in Michigan is on the line. How can we help you today?

    BILL: My wife and I built a house about 10 years ago and we have a 2-car attached garage. And the problem is is that the floor of our garage is not level. And so, when water drops off the car from rain or more particularly, ice and snow, it drops off onto the garage floor and starts to go in different low spots on the floor.

    TOM: OK.

    BILL: And a lot of it goes directly towards the wall of our house.

    TOM: OK.

    BILL: So I’m wondering if there’s anything we can do to correct that problem without having to remove the floor and replace it.

    LESLIE: Can you use something like Abatron or Abocast – I forget which one is the leveling compound – but to build up more on one side? Or will that just automatically try to go flat?

    TOM: You know, I’m thinking, Leslie, it’s so much work to be able to deal with a surface this big, to try to get it level again.

    I actually think, Bill, it’s frankly going to be easier to tear out the old floor. That might seem extreme but you may be surprised that with the right tool, like a jackhammer, you can have your entire floor torn out in a couple of hours. It breaks up really easily. And then you can properly level it, properly reinforce it and then repour it and be done.

    BILL: I was afraid you were going to suggest that. Because the problem is is the floor is sitting on precast concrete beams, because we have a spare storage space underneath the garage. And so the water drips down there.

    TOM: Ah. Oh, man.

    BILL: So, I could do that, I guess, but I don’t know the likelihood of being able to take concrete off of those precast …

    TOM: Yeah, that does – no, that dramatically – I was thinking it’d be over fill dirt like every other one.

    BILL: Yes.

    TOM: But no, that does make it a lot harder. So I guess you are going to have to look into a floor-leveling compound for this. And there’s a variety of products out there that this can work with. But the key is is it’s not just more concrete; it’s a product that’s designed specifically to stick to the existing concrete floor.

    BILL: OK.

    TOM: Because you have the full temperature swing there in Michigan and if you don’t have good adhesion, you’re obviously going to have that second layer chip off. So, it can be done. It’s a bit of a pain in the neck but it definitely can be done.

    BILL: Would you suggest a concrete contractor? Do you think they would be familiar with the options there?

    TOM: You may be better off having a pro do it, because you really have to set some forms to get this leveled just right. And then you remove them as you go so that it drains (inaudible).

    BILL: Oh, how much could you put on top of a floor that I described?

    TOM: Oh, you could put 2 or 3 inches, easily.

    BILL: OK. OK. I appreciate that.

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

    LESLIE: The best way to deal with mold is to prevent it. Kevin O’Connor from This Old House is just ahead with tips to stop mold cold.

    TOM: And today’s edition of This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by ADT. Introducing ADT Go, the new family mobile safety app and service. Go to ADT.com to learn more today.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And right now on MoneyPit.com, you can enter The Money Pit’s Power Your Summer Sweepstakes for a chance to win the quiet, clean and portable Cat INV2000 Inverter Generator.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s great for tailgating, camping, on your job site and more. This small but really powerful 1,800-watt generator, it retails for 749 bucks and 99 cents even. But you can win one free, right here, at MoneyPit.com. Enter now through June 10th and you’ll be able to power your entire summer with ease.

    TOM: Check out the Power Your Summer Sweepstakes, right now, at MoneyPit.com and enter for your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Well, moisture might be great for your skin and giving you a youthful appearance. Heck, it’s even good when you go grocery shopping for fruit and produce. But when it comes to your home, it is the last thing that you want on the inside.

    TOM: That’s right. Too much moisture can cause paint to peel and mold to grow but there are ways to prevent it. Here to tell us how is the plumbing-and-heating expert from TV’s This Old House, Richard Trethewey.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Nice to be here.

    TOM: Now, we often think of mold being a basement problem but mold is actually more common in the bathroom, isn’t it?

    RICHARD: Well, anywhere you combine moisture, air and some food source – drywall or a paper – you’re going to get a mold problem. And the bathroom is a perfect candidate for that.

    TOM: And one of the best ways to prevent that is to have good bath ventilation. What are some of the options to choose from?

    RICHARD: Well, I think there’s really three. The most common one that we all know is that bath fan. Sometimes, it has an integra (ph) light in it and it sits right in the center of the bathroom. And it turns it on and you exhaust it to outside.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: They also make a remote fan now, which you could put a – as the name suggests, you could put a fan up in an attic and it could be the fan for more than one bathroom. And that can be quieter and it can be energy-saving.

    TOM: So it’s ducted to the individual bathrooms then but really one motor can basically run everything.

    RICHARD: That’s right. And the motor’s efficient and quiet.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: And the other thing that you see more and more in these tighter houses is a thing called an “energy-recovery ventilator” or a “heat-recovery ventilator.”

    TOM: Alright. Now, how does that work?

    RICHARD: Well, just imagine that all the places where you could get air that was both highly humid and filled with odor – that would be bathrooms and kitchens – that leaves through an exhaust duct through this box.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: And as that air leaves, it will pass through this energy-recovery ventilator while at the same time, fresh air from outside will pass in the opposite direction across that stale, heated air.

    Now, the air doesn’t touch it directly but the heat is transferred to that new air that’s coming in.

    TOM: Ah, so we actually take some of that heat that we paid to create – in that smelly, damp, moist air – and we transfer it through this sort of heat-exchange mechanism to the fresh air coming in.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, we get the best of both worlds. We get preheated, fresh air into the building while we’re exhausting the stale air out. And with an energy-recovery ventilator, we also can transfer humidity, so we’re not going to be bringing in dry, dry air in the winter. We’ll get some of the humidity that was in the house to stay in the house.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about the switching mechanisms for these, because I think that one of the easiest ways to try to keep mold down in your bathroom and reduce that humidity is to make sure not only that you have the ventilator of your choice but that it runs long enough to do the job. Timers can play an important part there, couldn’t they?

    RICHARD: Right. You need enough fresh air in a building and as the building gets tighter, as fuel goes up, people are insulating more and doing all sorts of things to keep the heat and the air in. So putting a timer for 20 or 25 minutes of every hour, to just bring some fresh air in, is actually good to keep ahead of that mold issue.

    TOM: And probably the more that you can do this with occupancy sensors and things like that – where you don’t have to depend on your kid, for example, to set a timer when they step out of the shower – makes the most sense, because it’s more of a chance it’s going to actually get used.

    RICHARD: I think that’s part of the future, Tom, is this remote-proximity sensor. I think in a bathroom, it should bring on the fan to bring fresh air in, it should bring on a recirc line to bring hot water to the hot-water faucet. And then more and more of that’s being done now with some of these cool home-automation systems.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about venting. Once you take that humid air out of the bathroom, it’s real important that you don’t put it somewhere else where it can do damage, like the attic.

    RICHARD: We’ve seen on Ask This Old House all these years, so many times the attic is so filled with mold because the vent pipe has come off of the exhaust fan. You’ve just been dumping highly humid air into this wooden …

    TOM: Which is cold and condenses and it’s wet all the time.

    RICHARD: Perfect condition for mold, yeah.

    TOM: Not to mention the fact that that insulation getting wet really doesn’t do its job very well, either.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. We often see that flexible ducting that’s used on these bath fans also can – if it’s not supported, can provide sag points where moisture will sit in it and that really becomes a mold place.

    TOM: Interesting. So it becomes almost a trap, just a plumbing trap, but it’s collecting condensation.

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

    TOM: Now, what are some other things that you can do to reduce mold in the bathroom?

    Specifically, let’s talk about grout or caulk, for example. That’s that one dirty area of the house that you wish you’d get clean but sometimes you just can’t.

    RICHARD: Well, they have mildew-resistant caulking and that can do a good job. It’s not going to stop every bit of mildew if you’ve got high, high humidity levels. You can use paperless, mold-resistant drywall in the bathroom. You’ve got to really get rid of that food source, which is any paper or cellulose, where mold wants to grow.

    TOM: And always make sure you have a paint that has a mildew-resistant additive to it, as well?

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

    TOM: Yeah. So, essentially, if we want to stop mold growth in our bathroom, we need to attack it on all fronts: we need to make sure we keep the humidity down; we ventilate all that warm, moist air; and then any other opportunity we have to choose something that’s mold-resistant, then definitely take that step.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Water is the active ingredient that you’ve got to stay ahead of, most importantly, Tom.

    TOM: Unfortunately, we need a lot of that in the bathroom.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, great advice, as always. Thanks for stopping by.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and some great step-by-step videos on home improvement projects you can tackle this weekend, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC Trucks and SUVs.

    Just ahead, working on a child’s room can be a fun, creative adventure but it can also be an expensive adventure, too. We’ll help you save some money on your decorating, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    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: Hey, speaking of HomeAdvisor, it was a very bad week for water heaters in the Kraeutler family and the extended family, I should mention.

    LESLIE: What happened?

    TOM: Well, first, I get a call from mom and she’s in Florida, you know, many, many, many miles away from where I am.

    LESLIE: Right. You can’t just run over and fix something.

    TOM: No. I would if I could, Mom, but I can’t because I just can’t hop in the car for the next 24 hours and drive or find a plane.

    LESLIE: And imagine all the water that will be all over her house.

    TOM: Right. But it turned out her electric water heater stopped working. And I figured, it’s a 12-year-old water heater, it probably had a bad thermostat and/or a bad coil. So, we had had a problem some months ago, when she was up here and the house was vacant. And she got a letter from the water company saying, “You used 10,000 gallons of water.” I’m like, “That’s not good because you’re not there.”

    And it turned out it was a leaking valve that was actually leaking into the toilet, so it didn’t cause a problem. But I called – I went online to HomeAdvisor.com and I found a local plumber, a guy named Eric. He went there and he fixed it.

    So I found Eric’s number again. I called him. He says, “Is your mom tech-savvy?” I’m like, “Well, not a lot but I can walk her through it.” “Just take a picture of the data plate.” That’s what we did. Got the model number. He showed up the next day. He had the exact part that we needed, changed out the coil, the thermostat. Mom’s good to go. So, problem solved, right?

    LESLIE: That’s awesome.

    TOM: For one day, we have no problems. Next day, my sister calls. She’s got one of these alerts on her water heater that’s an ADT thing. And it goes off if there’s water under the water heater.

    LESLIE: OK.

    TOM: And she’s like, “I’m at work and this thing went off. I’m in a meeting for two hours. I can’t get there. What should I do?” I said, “Get out of the meeting.” I said, “In the best-case scenario, it’s a slow leak and nothing’s going to happen. But in the worst-case scenario, in 2 hours your house is going to have about 2 feet of water in it if it’s got a major rupture. So, you’ve got to go over there right away.”

    So it turned out her 75-gallon power-vent water heater – has one of those motors on top that sucks the exhaust out, because it’s real efficient – had leaked. Luckily, slowly. So I talked her through how to turn the water valve off, turn the gas valve off. Told her to go to HomeAdvisor. She did. And she hooked up with a company in Princeton called Abat and their plumbing team. And I thought this was funny. These are the four guys that showed up, fixed it: Frankie, Frank, Vinny and Joey. I’m pretty sure that we’re all Italian here in New Jersey.

    So it’s great. They were funny guys, super professional.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing.

    TOM: Gave her a great price. Got it done. So both of those guys were found – one in New Jersey and one in Florida – from HomeAdvisor. So, really positive experience. Loved these guys. Great service. And if you need a contractor, I would definitely recommend you checking out HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: That’s great.

    Andrea from Ontario, Canada is on the line with a mold question. How can we help you today?

    ANDREA: My question (inaudible) regarding black mold. And it’s behind my sink. Between the sink and the backsplash, there’s a little bit of space and this black mold settles in. There’s a lot of moisture, obviously. They’re running the water and it splashes, so – behind and around the sink, as well as around my tub.

    I tried bleach. I scrubbed it. We, at one point, took out the caulking and recaulked it but it came back. So I’m at a – kind of a loss what to do with this.

    TOM: Mold is going to grow any place that you have an organic material, which could be drywall. Or it could also be, believe it or not, soap scum. It can have organic matter in it and that can feed mold. And so, you have a condition there that’s going to be prevalent to mold regrowth. Even when you clean it, it’s going to come back. You’re not going to permanently prevent it unless you change the environment – the climate – that exists in that particular area.

    So, with respect to the tile area, let’s deal with that first. When you retiled – when you recaulked, I’m sorry – did you pull all the old caulk out?

    ANDREA: Pulled it all out. Took it all out. It was actually our contractor who said, “Keep it very dry.” “Bone dry,” he called it. And then once we had it all dried out, then he came back and put a layer of this white material. I’m not exactly sure what it was but he finished it all.

    TOM: OK. So you’re not quite sure what the product is.

    Here would be the steps. When you pull the old caulk out, you need to spray the joint between the tub and the tile with a bleach solution. That’s going to kill any mold spores that are left behind. Then, after that’s dry, one additional step: fill up the tub with water because it makes it heavy and it pulls it down. And then you caulk it.

    And when you caulk it, you want to use a product that has mildicide in it. Now, DAP, for example, has a caulk that has an additive called Microban. And Microban will not grow mold; it will prevent it from growing. And so, if you use the right product and you take the step of treating it with a bleach solution first, before you apply it, that helps it to last as long as possible. But again, if you don’t control humidity conditions, eventually it will come back.

    As for the sink, the same advice applies. You not only have to clean it, which takes away the visual, but you have to spray it with a mildicide. And so you could mix, say, a 10- to 20-percent bleach solution with water. And then let it dry and that will help prevent it from coming back.

    ANDREA: I’ll try that.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re working on a kid’s room – maybe there’s a new arrival or you want to update the space for kids who insist they’re not little anymore – this is a project that can quickly eat up a lot of cash.

    But here’s a couple of ways to keep those costs in line. First of all, set a budget for yourself. Pay the most for what you hope to use the longest: things like neutral shelving, bookcases, an upholstered chair or a well-functioning desk. This way, they’ll be able to do their homework in there, as well. Think about using pieces for the long run and invest in those. It’s really smart.

    TOM: And second, pick up a neutral paint. We’re all for repainting every few years but if you want to do that all the time, the cost is going to really add up, especially if you’re hiring it out. So if you choose a neutral color, it’s going to help reduce some of that. Plus, no matter what furniture the kids sort of morph to over the years, it’ll always look great.

    For more tips on ways to save money when you’re redecorating your kids’ rooms, check out “Create a Kids Room That Will Grow with Your Child.” It’s our newest post on MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Up next, something is rotten in North Carolina, specifically in a listener’s laundry room. It’s not Denmark; it’s North Carolina in this case. We’re going to help hunt down that foul odor, next. It’s probably a pair of socks that – behind the washing machine. And that tends to happen.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’re to help you with your how-to projects. Call it in, 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: Alright. We’re here to help you with all things, like finding the right pro or working with these two pros right here to answer some questions. Pat in Macon, North Carolina writes: “I have a rotten-egg smell in my laundry room. You smell it when the water is running into the washing machine or into the laundry-room sink. Any idea what may be going on?”

    TOM: Yeah. So, when you get a rotten smell or a sulfur smell with water and if it’s all over the house – so if it was in other sinks, then I would tell you that it’s in your water heater. And it’s because the sacrificial anode, which is a rod that goes into the water heater, has essentially worn out and should be replaced, which can be done. If you look at the top of the water heater, you’ll see a big hex nut. You unscrew that, you can pull the rod out, put a new one in.

    However, in this case, it’s only in her laundry room, which leads me to believe it’s probably in the drains. Because you can get biogas that forms in those drains, in those traps. And if that happens, it can be awfully smelly. So what you really have to do here is you have to mix up a pretty sturdy solution of oxygenated bleach and pour it down that drain. I would start with the laundry-room sink and let it soak, let it saturate in there. You know, pour it down, let it drain down, let it sit. Put a little more, a little more, a little more until it really does a good job of killing any bacteria that’s in that space. And see if that does it; see if that deals with the odor issue.

    The other thing that you might want to do is replace the rubber drain hose from the washing machine. Because if water is sitting in that, it could also grow some bacteria in that place, as well.

    Give that a try and see what happens.

    LESLIE: Alright. That should do the trick. I mean it’s always weird when you get those tricky odors. And also, check to make sure that there aren’t stinky socks behind the washing machine, stuck between the washer and dryer. It happens. I’ve got two boys. I find weird things all around that laundry room.

    Alright. Next up, Debbie writes – she’s from North Andover, Massachusetts and she writes: “What’s the best way to get dark stains off of composite decking?”

    TOM: Well, I guess it depends on what the stains are. If the stains are because you spilled a whole bunch of burger grease, that’s one thing. But if the stains are from mildew or algae, then you could use a product like Spray & Forget, where you apply it to the stain and pretty much walk away. Over the next week or two, as the sun starts to activate the Spray & Forget, it will kill that moss, that mold, that mildew, that algae, that lichen. All of those types – they’re all plant growths. And then it will lighten up and it’ll fade away and there’ll be a residual deposit of the Spray & Forget on the deck and it won’t come back.

    So, if it’s grease, then you’re probably going to have to mix up something like an oxygenated bleach to try to get that grease out of it, because that’s a whole ‘nother scene.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s interesting. Because it’s composite, you think that a stain is not going to sit.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: But something like a grease kind of works its way into that material itself, so it’s like you really have to try to back it up out of there and get that stain out. And that’s why that oxygenated bleach or even a TSP, those are good things to do. But make sure that it doesn’t affect the color or the finish of your composite decking. Because oxygenated bleach or TSP, all those things, you never know what it’s going to do.

    TOM: And listen, if that doesn’t work, you can always take the board out and flip it over because they’re good on both sides, right? And so if the …

    LESLIE: But that’s interesting. With composites, sometimes you have different grains on opposite sides.

    TOM: Yeah. But the color will be the same. So, yeah.

    LESLIE: Color will be the same but you might have a different look. So double-check that, too.

    TOM: Yep. Good point.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your Memorial Day weekend with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips, some ideas for a project you want to get done now or in the near future as we all roll into this beautiful summer ahead. Remember, we’re here for you, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT and online at MoneyPit.com. We’d love to hear from you, love to get a question or two. If you posted it to The Money Pit community or you called it in, we will get it.

    Remember, we are here for you, 24/7. Always available to help with your how-to dilemmas. The number again, 888-MONEY-PIT, or post your questions to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.

    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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