TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: How’s your day going? Are you thinking about taking on a home repair or a home improvement project? You are in the right place because that’s what we do: we help you get those jobs done. Now, we wish we can come over and lend a hand and do it for you but we can’t. But we will give you some tips and advice that we guarantee will save you some money, save you some time and make the project easier and quicker to get done yourself. So, help yourself first: call us with that question at 888-MONEY-PIT or go to the Community section and post your question at MoneyPit.com.
Hey, coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk about garages. You know, those are the spaces where most of us store everything pretty much but a car.
LESLIE: It’s true.
TOM: But the other thing about garages is it’s also where you have toys and toxins often stored side by side. I mean think about it, right? You’ve got the bikes and you’ve got the gasoline and the oil and the spray cleaners for the car and all kinds of stuff. It’s all side by side. So we’re going to have some tips to help you get this space cleaned up, organized and make sure it’s safe, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And it’s also a great time to think about ways to save water around the house. So we’re going to share five easy projects that can help you do just that. Because before you know it, we’re going to be watering the lawn, then it’s going to be summer drought. So let’s just get ahead of it.
TOM: Yep. And ladder falls send hundreds of folks to emergency rooms every year. So before you step on one for your spring projects, we’re going to share some simple safety tips to keep you safe.
LESLIE: But first, we want to talk to you. So give us a call with your home improvement, décor, design, whatever-it-is-that-you-are-working-on question. We want to give you a hand.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
JACKIE: Here’s my thing. It’s a Whirlpool dishwasher. It’s only four years old. And all of a sudden, just one day a few weeks ago, it just – I noticed all the dishes just stopped drying. And so I did some looking up and just sort of troubleshooting. It could be this, it could be that. And now, they seem to be washing but just not drying. But now there’s mold building up in it, as well.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
JACKIE: And I’ve even noticed – like it’s still hot if I pull it right after the cycle’s done (inaudible). You could still feel the warmness of it but …
TOM: But you’ve got to – but you have to hand-dry them, in other words.
TOM: Well, usually, if the dishwasher is not drying, the problem is in the heating element. The fact that they’re warm is probably just the hot water that you’re using to wash it with, because dishwashers are hooked up to the hot-water side. But the heating element is that electric coil that’s in the bottom of the dishwasher and it may have failed. But you’ve got a decision to make because you just mentioned you have a four-year-old dishwasher. And having somebody come out and diagnose it and repair it is probably going to cost you 200 or 250 bucks.
TOM: So, what you’ve got to figure out is whether or not you want to risk that or just go ahead and scrap it and go – and order yourself a new one.
TOM: When it gets to be middle-aged like that, it doesn’t always make sense to repair it.
JACKIE: Right. And here’s the thing. I’ve tried to even look up online to see if I could buy the heating element myself and then replace it myself but …
TOM: Yep. Well, you certainly could do that.
JACKIE: But the part number doesn’t come up. I can’t find a matching part to it. And so then I talked to Whirlpool and of course, they want to send someone out and …
TOM: Did you try Sears? Because I think Sears has Whirlpool parts. And they’re really good about stocking a lot of parts and also taking them back if they don’t fit.
JACKIE: Do I have to pull it out of the cabinet to get to the screw to unhook it? Or does it pull right …?
TOM: I wouldn’t know without looking at it. And that’s the other thing: you’re going to be diving into something that you’re unfamiliar with and it might just be that, again, it just doesn’t work.
TOM: So I’m sure that somebody out here has had that problem before and has a YouTube video waiting for you to look at, to kind of figure out.
LESLIE: There’s a YouTube video for everything.
TOM: Yep, exactly.
JACKIE: Right. You can do everything on YouTube.
No. And that’s actually – what I’ve looked into is YouTube, as well. That’s how I figure out how to fix anything and everything these days is YouTube.
TOM: Well, good for you. That’s great.
JACKIE: But I didn’t know if there was a simple way. I cleaned it well. I scrubbed everything down thinking maybe that was the problem, because you know how dirty they get and clogged up.
JACKIE: So, I don’t know.
TOM: But like I said, I don’t think it’s a clog situation. Because if you told me your dishes weren’t coming out clean, then we’d be having a different conversation. But it sounds like they’re just not drying and that’s most likely going to be that coil.
JACKIE: OK. Alright. Well, thank you. I think you just made the – my final decision.
TOM: Alright. Well, we’re glad we could help you out. That’s what we do. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ray in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RAY: I’ve got an asphalt driveway, blacktop.
RAY: What I want to do – I’m going to take – I’m taking the asphalt out and I’m going to put a concrete drive in.
TOM: OK. OK.
RAY: My question is – the area by the road is pretty solid. And another thing is I want to raise the drive up for some – about a little over 4 inches.
RAY: So what I want to do is leave the end by the road and just pour the concrete on top of the blacktop.
TOM: Yeah, I think that would probably be a mistake. I don’t think the blacktop is a good thing for you to go on top of. I would encourage you to excavate it and to build it up properly with properly-tamped fill dirt and stone and compress it very, very well with tampers. And then go ahead and put the concrete on top of that.
I think if you put it over the asphalt, you’re really asking for trouble. I really don’t advise that. I would definitely take it up and do it from scratch, even if you have to add some fill there to bring it up to where you want it to be. You then put the driveway down. And you may want to reinforce the concrete since it’s such a long driveway.
RAY: You figure the asphalt wouldn’t hold it. Wouldn’t be strong enough, huh?
TOM: No, I don’t like it. I don’t like it. No, I don’t – I can’t ever imagine – I would never do that myself and I just don’t think it’s a good combination.
I mean look, the asphalt fell apart at the top of the driveway. It’s eventually going to do that at the bottom.
RAY: Oh, I got you. I see what you mean.
TOM: Alright, Ray. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit. Whether you’re planning a décor project, remodeling your kitchen or bath or fixing a leak or a squeak, we are here for you every step of the way. Call in your question now to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.
TOM: And still to come, are you ready for spring cleaning but you’re not sure where to start? We’re going to have some advice on getting started with a space that’s probably one of the most cluttered and potentially unsafe spaces in your house. We’ll tell you where it is, after this.
Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, what’s your how-to or décor question? Call it in, right now, to us at 888-MONEY-PIT. We would love to help you out. And 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.
So, Leslie, what’s on your spring to-do list?
LESLIE: I have to tell you, it’s sort of been a dream on my to-do list: I want to cover my front entry. I would love to be able to stand out there to get the kids on and off the bus or with the groceries and not be rained on or snowed on.
LESLIE: Plus, I also really would like to put up cornstalks for the fall season. Just something that would be secondary.
TOM: You’ve got no place to put them on now. So you’re going to build an entry just so you can hang some cornstalks on it. That’s great.
LESLIE: Kind of. No, I really do want it. I’ve sort of started the footwork. Essentially, because it is space that is the air above the steps, I still need to go for a variance because it’s occupying new space on the property, which I can’t understand.
TOM: Oh, boy. Yeah.
LESLIE: And I have to make sure that it’s within the setback and all of those things. So I’m starting the process now, which really means I’m going to meet with an architect, I’m going to meet with the village, I’m going to see what paperwork I need to fill out.
LESLIE: It could end up being a completely moot point. I’ve been in the house 15 years. Do I need to be covered when I’m standing by the front door?
LESLIE: But I really do want it.
TOM: Yeah. Well, you know why? Because people start with the roof, right? And they go, “Ah, it’s just a roof.” And then it becomes a carport, right? And then it becomes a sunroom and then it becomes a living room. And then we get the calls when people want to know, “Hey, how can we heat that out there?” And sooner or later, it’s living space.
So once you put that roof up, it’s kind of like an avalanche. Things can keep coming and keep coming. Pretty soon, it’s living space, so I understand why they require all those rules.
LESLIE: I know but this is a 3-foot by 3-foot space on my front step.
TOM: Yeah, I know but it’s not you. It’s not you. It’s all the other neighbors you’re being protected against that do this in …
LESLIE: I don’t know. Troublemakers.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. And they would just not do it – not do the nice thing for the neighborhood.
Well, good luck with it and can’t wait to see how it comes out.
LESLIE: Thanks. I’ll let you know.
DEBBIE: We’re getting ready to put a new roof on our home. And we’re going back and forth between a regular roof and a metal roof. And I’m finding the price is double for a metal roof. In the long run, am I going to recoup my money out of that if I go to sell?
TOM: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, how long do you see yourself living in this house?
DEBBIE: Probably minimum of 10 years.
TOM: OK. So, from a longevity perspective, you know, the metal roof is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a roof. If it’s done right, you’ll never have to reroof it again. But then again, if you’re going to only be in that house for 10 years, your roof is going to be just fine, even if you were to use asphalt shingles.
Does it add value to the house? I think it definitely makes your house easier to sell compared to one that doesn’t have a metal roof, because it is a much more durable roof. So it’s kind of a nice feature. But whether you’ll get a dollar-for-dollar replacement for that is highly unlikely. So, what you get out of it is a more durable roof. It will protect the house more.
But I don’t think you’re going to get 100 percent of that money back when it comes time to sell. And if you’re only going to be there for 10 years, which is about half the life of an asphalt-shingle roof, it may not make economic sense for you to spend the extra money on the metal roof.
DEBBIE: OK. Does it make much of a difference on energy consumption?
TOM: Possibly. The new metal roofs have a low-E paint finish on them. So what happens is they’ll reflect some of the heat, which is important down in Louisiana, off of that roof and it’ll make it a little bit less expensive for you to cool the house. But then again, lighter roof shingles can do some of the same thing.
DEBBIE: We’re talking a difference between $8,000 and $16,000.
TOM: Yeah. No, it doesn’t surprise me. I think it’s probably worth every penny. It’s just it may not be worth it to you because you’re not going to be there more than 10 or so.
DEBBIE: I do appreciate it very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Debbie. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
DEBBIE: Thank you.
TOM: Well, if you’re like most of us, garages are spaces where we store everything but a car. For some reason, we can never seem to find room for the car.
LESLIE: I don’t even think my car would fit in my garage.
TOM: Well, you have a small-ish garage, so I could understand that.
LESLIE: I have the smallest garage ever. And I don’t think it’s made for any sort of modern car. At some point, the garage was built, I think, in the 40s.
TOM: But that’s why you have to be especially careful with all the other storage. Because if you think about it, it’s also a place where we frequently put toys and toxins side by side, right, like the gas for the mower, the oil for the car, the cleaning fluids, the paints right next to the balls and the bats and the bicycles. So, you’ve got to be organized in that space to keep it safe.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s true. I mean this really is the space that gets super cluttered in my house. I have boys. They have a lot of things, a lot of bicycles, a lot of scooters. And I generally stack those on top of paint cans.
TOM: Of course. Because you’re a great mom.
LESLIE: I’m kidding but it ends up being that way. Because you cannot constantly control how people are going in and out of that space, especially during the winter months. You’ve got your winter gear, you’ve got your sleds, you’ve got your antifreeze, deicers. All of that stuff all right in the same area. And it just gets cluttered.
TOM: Now, if you want to get started cleaning this up, I think the best place to start with is to get rid of those empty containers of chemicals that you may have used over the winter. So if you’ve got gasoline containers for lawn equipment or a generator, they need to be emptied because you can’t store gas that long unless it’s pretreated.
So, get rid of the empty containers first. Surprisingly, there’s always a lot of those that are standing around.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you’re also going to want to sweep up whatever salt or sand that’s just been tracked in throughout the season. And you might want to start to move those sleds and shovels and scrapers to the back of the garage once we know we’re out of the woods with all that stuff. And then you can bring the sports and the lawn equipment right up to the front. I think it makes a lot of sense to just sort of keep that in a rotation.
I also find this is a really good time to just take everything out of the garage and sort of sort through and see what you need and what you don’t and what you want. And just go through everything.
TOM: Yeah. You’ll end up throwing out a lot of stuff.
And the other thing to think about is to use the space that’s up high. So, if you get a ladder or a bicycle hanging from hooks on the ceiling or on the wall, then you’re not going to trip on it when it’s across the floor of the garage. So, look at the wall space, look at the ceiling space. There’s so many racks and options out there for using that vertical space, as well.
But it’s a good place to start with your spring cleaning. You get to work outside, you get to freshen the place up. And once you get that done, you’ll feel so much better. You still won’t be able to fit your car in, by the way, but you’ll feel better.
MURRAY: Well, my issue is I have a house full of females and myself and we are having an issue with keeping up with hot water.
MURRAY: I presently have a 40-gallon, natural-gas water heater and I was wondering if I could get you guys’ opinion. The bathroom they shower in is upstairs and we also have a washing machine up there.
And I was wondering what you guys thought of the instantaneous water heaters. I’ve seen some small ones that it said would put out 3.3 gallons per minute and I had no idea what an actual shower takes. And I just wondered what you guys thought about that supplement, maybe, to the hot-water heater.
TOM: OK. So, first of all, we are fans of tankless water-heating technology. And so, we do believe that if your water heater was failing, then that would be an appropriate thing to replace it with.
In your case, you’re talking about supplementing, which is a bit different because you really have to have your water-heating needs zoned into two separate loops if you want to supplement. Because then you have half on the tank water heater and half on the tankless.
The issue of your water heater being located a distance from the plumbing fixtures that you want to use most frequently is not going to be solved, regardless of what kind of water heater you have, because the water still has to travel the same distance. But if you’re concerned about running out of hot water, that’s not going to happen with a tankless; it just won’t. And you buy the tankless based on how many bathrooms you have in your house and there’ll be plenty of hot water to keep everybody in those bathrooms showered for as long as they want to stay in there.
MURRAY: So you’re saying just – it’s best just to replace the natural-gas one I have and get a whole-house tankless?
TOM: Yeah, exactly. How old is that one you have now?
MURRAY: It’s probably, I’m guessing, five or six years, maybe.
TOM: Yeah. So it’s still pretty new. They usually last about 10. So you’ve got a decision to make, you know? If you’re running out of hot water, then maybe it’s worth doing.
MURRAY: OK. I appreciate your help.
LINDA: Hey, I have a home with – it’s about three years old. And it was built on a cement slab, on a gravel base. A lot of bad weather up in Vermont. Right now, there’s 20 inches of snow. People walk in and out. They have gravel and snow and mud on the floors, so I have area rugs.
LINDA: I want to put a laminate flooring down but a lot of them scratch and wear out really fast. I was looking at a bamboo. I don’t know if that would be a good choice.
TOM: Well, you want a floor that’s durable. You want one that’s also waterproof or at least water-resistant. So I would look at products like the engineered vinyl-plank products, the EVP. Or if you want something really beautiful and incredibly durable, look at the wood-look porcelain tile. It’s a very durable product and it looks great. It looks just like hardwood but you just can’t kill that stuff. It’s so durable you can use it inside the house or outside the house. I don’t think laminate is probably the best choice given the scenario that you’ve just described.
What do you think, Leslie?
LESLIE: I think it’s an interesting choice but when it comes to flooring, you have to think about what’s durable and what’s correct for the situation and then think about the style. And that’ll help you pick.
LINDA: I’ve seen the laminate – the porcelain – in the different stores. I love it. But someone told me if you drop something, it’ll crack. Is that true?
TOM: No, it’s very, very dense stuff. Very dense. Yeah, that’s not going to happen.
LESLIE: Well, Tom, would it have cracked in previous installations if the subfloor was not correct? Is that something or is it truly due to the thickness of the tile?
TOM: Yeah, if that’s true – no, that is true. If the subfloor wasn’t right, it could crack. But as long as it’s properly installed – and in your case, you’re on a slab. So as long as the installation is done well, you don’t have to worry about cracking. It’s really tough stuff.
Take a look at the porcelain wood-look tile at LumberLiquidators.com. You’ll get a sense as to the wide variety of styles that are there. And that would be a good place for you to pick that up.
Alright? Good luck with that project, Linda, and thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Just ahead, ladder falls send hundreds of people to the emergency room every single year. Before you step up for one of your spring projects, Tom Silva from This Old House is joining us with some simple safety tips to help keep you safe on ladders.
TOM: And today’s episode of This Old House on The Money Pit is presented by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.
We’ll be back with that tip and more, after this.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your how-to question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
GARY: The cracks are along the one outside wall – or the one wall on the short side, on a 26-foot side. And they’re both on either side of the bathroom, which is between two bedrooms.
TOM: So what you’re describing is a pretty normal scenario. We typically get movement in walls of homes and where you have seams between walls and ceilings, one wall and another wall or above a window or above a door. That’s where the movement tends to evidence itself.
Now, the solution here is going to require that you redo the seam between the cracked areas. What you’ll do is you’ll pull off the old drywall tape, if it’s loose. If it’s not loose, you could probably leave it in place. But if it’s loose or if it’s wrinkled or anything like that, I would pull it out. And I would replace that with fiberglass drywall tape.
Fiberglass drywall tape kind of looks like a netting and it’s sticky, it’s easier to handle. And so you press it into the seam. And then once it’s pressed in place, then you’re going to add three layers of spackle on top of that, making each one as thin as possible. So you start with the first one, try to keep it pretty narrow and just cover the tape. And then the subsequent two, you go a little wider and a little wider and try to feather out the edges. And that actually will bridge that gap between the two surfaces and the crack will not form again.
If you try to spackle over a crack without doing that, it’s just going to show up. I mean you could spackle it and paint it but it’s going to come out every winter or every summer, depending on whether it’s swelling or shrinking that’s causing the crack. It’s going to pop open again.
GARY: Good. Thank you very much. Good show, too.
TOM: You’re welcome, Gary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re heading outside for home repairs up high, a sturdy ladder is a must. But besides having a ladder, you actually need to understand how to use it properly, to make sure that gravity doesn’t get the best of you.
TOM: Well, that’s right. Ladder falls send hundreds of people to emergency rooms every year and some falls can even be fatal. Joining us now with both the ups and the downs of ladder safety is Tom Silva, the general contractor from TV’s This Old House.
And Tom, I’ve got to tell you, as the once victim of a ladder that left its imprint on me from head to toe, I’m sure you may have known a few from your own experience.
LESLIE: Oh, no.
TOM: It doesn’t take much for a ladder to turn against you, does it?
TOM SILVA: Definitely does not take much for a ladder to turn against you. I had one break on me once.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah.
TOM: So, I think the most common mistake folks make with ladders is setting them up improperly. They’re too vertical, they’re not vertical enough.
LESLIE: They’re not actually ladders.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, I want to step back and say one thing. I think the biggest mistake people make when buying a ladder is they buy the cheapest one they can find.
TOM: Right. And that is a critical mistake.
TOM SILVA: And that’s a big mistake.
But yeah, knowing how to set up a ladder is very, very important. You want to make sure that it extends correctly. You want to make sure that it’s the right angle: not too steep, not too shallow, should I say?
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yep.
TOM SILVA: So the idea of it is number one, to also make sure it’s not inside-out. Some ladders could be set up different than others and if you have a good-quality ladder, you’ll notice that the round rung – there is a flat side.
TOM SILVA: The flat side, you should be standing on; it’s easier on your feet.
The other thing is you want to make sure that when you set the ladder up at the correct angle, on some of the ladders there’s actually a square on the side of the ladder that you …
TOM: Like a triangle.
TOM SILVA: That’s right. You line that up, almost like a small framing square.
TOM SILVA: And you set that framing square up at the right angle so it’s plumb and level on the bottom. And that tells you that. If you don’t have one, if you stand with your feet against the ladder bottom and you run your hand out shoulder-height, the palm of your hand should sit flat on the ladder rung.
TOM: That’s a good sort of rule of thumb.
Now, where that ladder sits on the ground is important.
TOM SILVA: Right.
TOM: Now, if it’s on the soil, a good idea to flip out those stakes, so to speak, at the bottom of the ladder so it really presses down into the ground?
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Yeah, if you look on a ladder, you’ll see that these are flappers or the feet. A lot of people leave them down on the ground flat. You basically want to flip them up so that the teeth will dig into the ground.
It’s also important that you try to level the ground. So if you have a – I always carry a claw hammer with me; that’s just who I am.
TOM SILVA: I actually have one with me right now, though.
But I basically take a claw hammer and I dig out a section of the ground, just big enough to get the leg of the ladder in it, and make sure that the ladder is running up the building plumb.
LESLIE: Now, what about when you’re leaning your ladder against your home? I mean a lot of times, you’re encountering gutters and they’re not really the most sturdiest of structures to be leaning against.
TOM SILVA: No. If they’re an aluminum gutter and it’s – basically, the type of brackets on that aluminum gutter can make a big difference. If you have a spike-and-ferrule gutter …
TOM: Now, that’s the type of – when you say “ferrules,” those are sort of the little tubes that the long nails go through, correct?
TOM SILVA: Yeah. And those spikes and ferrules actually don’t allow the gutter to get compressed if you lean a ladder against it. But if you can’t see those nail heads – the little circles on the face of the gutter – you don’t have spikes and ferrules and by leaning the ladder against an aluminum gutter, you can actually pop the gutter out of those fasteners and compress the gutter.
So you want to take something up the ladder with you. Again, you have to be careful when you walk up, because you don’t want to pop it. Slide a 2×4 in there against the inside edge and the fascia board and that will stop the ladder from compressing the gutter.
TOM: A couple other things to look out for: overhead wires, of course. You always need to look up. Every once in a while, we hear about someone who’s been electrocuted because they didn’t do that.
TOM SILVA: Right. You don’t see an electrician with an aluminum ladder, by the way. You see …
LESLIE: No way.
TOM: For good reason.
TOM SILVA: That’s right, fiberglass. Because he knows. If you hit a wire, you’re going to get electrocuted. And also, tree limbs.
Another thing that’s handy is you want to make sure – you could also use these stand-offs that actually hold the ladder away from you. So if you’re painting a window, the stand-offs go on each side of the window and you can paint right in there. Because you don’t want to be too low; the ladder should always be higher than you need it to be and you work through the rung of the ladder. So if you’re going up to a roof, the ladder should go up past the roof 3 or 4 feet.
TOM: And those stand-offs are very handy, because they do allow you to sort of work around the ladder. Invariably, if you’re on a ladder and you’re trying to do something – this happens every year when I’m hanging holiday lights.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
TOM: You get to that point where it’s just almost too close to work behind it.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah. You get up to the top, you’re right on – you’ve got to stand back and that’s not smart.
TOM: No, not a good idea.
TOM SILVA: The stand-offs are actually – I actually love a stand-off; I think they’re great.
LESLIE: Now, what about step ladders? I think people really just get complacent about it because, you know, it’s a couple steps off the ground. “How dangerous could it be?”
TOM SILVA: It’s a big, wide step, yeah.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, it can be very dangerous.
TOM: It’s a dare, too, when it says, “Don’t step above this step.”
TOM SILVA: Yeah, they tell you right there. It’s always in big – right, big letters. What are people doing?
TOM: Right. Big, red letters, right?
LESLIE: Which means: “Stand right here.”
TOM SILVA: Yeah. And that’s what people think; they stand there.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
TOM SILVA: I don’t even like to see people standing on the top or the second one down. You should be down a third and lower, because you don’t have any balance, you don’t have anything to hold onto. You could be hanging a light fixture and think about it: you’re in the air on the top of the ladder?
TOM: My favorite step ladder is one that’s a two-sided step ladder. I have a fiberglass two-sided. It’s great for father-son projects.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, absolutely.
TOM: And it’s very stable.
TOM SILVA: And they’re stable on both sides. There’s lots of times when you want to get on the other side of that ladder.
TOM SILVA: Those steps are really great. I agree with you.
TOM: So a ladder is a great tool but you’ve got to be really careful to make sure gravity always remains your friend.
TOM SILVA: And buy a good one.
TOM: And buy a good-quality one. Great advice. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: As always, it’s my pleasure.
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 is brought to you on PBS by American Standard.
Coming up, as we move closer to spring, it’s a great time to think about how to manage the water use to keep utility costs down. We’ve got five easy projects that you can take on to do just that, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, next.
Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Call in your home repair or home improvement question, right now, 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
JIM: I have a question about cleaning a driveway. It’s probably sitting there for 20 years. House is about 20 years old. I don’t know that it’s ever been cleaned, so the dirt has just ground in. I have pressure-washed one section of it, about 12×14 section. It took me almost two hours to get it clean. My question is: is there any kind of pretreatment that I can put on that driveway that will make the pressure-washing more efficient?
TOM: Yeah, there are products that are designed specifically for cleaning concrete. For example, QUIKRETE has a product called Cleaner, Etcher & Degreaser. And it’s available in 1-gallon and 5-gallon jugs. I think it covers about 200 square feet per gallon.
And you apply that onto the concrete. You brush it in. You let it sit and it will start to really loosen up all of that deep grime. And then you could pressure-wash after that and it will, hopefully, make it a lot easier project.
If you just Google “QUIKRETE cleaner,” you’ll probably find it.
JIM: Good deal, good deal. Thank you very much. That helps a bunch.
TOM: Well, now that spring is pretty close, it’s a good time to think about ways to start saving water around the house. So we’re going to help you out with five easy projects that can do just that, starting with finding and fixing toilet leaks.
While the toilets themselves never wear out, the moving parts do. And what happens is they’ll leak. And as they leak, they can waste as much as 78,000 gallons of water in a single year. Which by the way, we measured it. It’s enough to fill a backyard pool. You believe that?
LESLIE: That’s a tremendous amount of water.
TOM: It really is. So, do a simple leak test by opening the tank, putting in a little food coloring inside. After 20 minutes, take a look at the bowl. If the dye shows up in the bowl, you probably need a new flush valve. It’s a part that costs about 10 bucks and it’s pretty easy to install yourself.
LESLIE: Yeah. I mean it really is. You can find videos online if you’re confused at all about how to install any of these parts. But just make sure you turn off the water to the toilet first.
I think next, you want to think about upgrading to a toilet that uses less water. And if you’ve got a toilet that dates before 1994, you want to replace it with one of the WaterSense-labeled high-efficiency toilets or HETs, as you can see at the store. And those are now widely available and they use just about 1.28 gallons per flush versus the 3.5 gallons per flush of older, inefficient models.
TOM: And you can also start using less water at the sink if you add high-efficiency faucets that are WaterSense-certified. Now, these will actually cut your water flow by about 30 percent. But you won’t notice it because they’re designed so you have the same performance in the faucet but you use a lot less water. And that really adds up.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think we also need to start thinking about how we shower. About 17 percent of your home’s water use goes towards showering. But the new and improved technologies behind today’s smarter showerheads give you a pretty strong shower with far less water. I think it’s a combination of how much air they put into the water that really makes you feel like you’re getting that same pressure you love.
TOM: And you want to also reduce outdoor irrigation. If you’re starting a garden now, think about this topic because some simple changes in your outdoor planting and your watering can actually save you a lot of wasted water. You might want to update the landscape to use turf and more native plants because they use less water. And you can also switch to a timer-operated drip-irrigation system. Now, there’s timers that are available even for garden hoses. So it’s – the technology is out there.
And finally, if you’ve got sprinklers, adjust those heads so you’re not sending water everywhere but where you really need it. I see this happening all the time and the only thing that grows when you water your sidewalk is the water bill, right? So, make sure you adjust those water heads so it’s working properly.
LESLIE: And today’s Building with Confidence Tip has been brought to you by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. It’s completely online, reduces annoying and time-consuming paperwork and gives you a real accurate and personalized mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation, with no hidden fees or hassles.
TOM: Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Apply simply, understand fully, mortgage confidently.
LESLIE: Hey, have you ever called a contractor for an estimate on how to fix a problem only to find that everyone you talk to has a different opinion and a much different price for that same fix? We’ll tell you how to find the best way to get to the bottom of the fix you actually need, just ahead.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And The Money Pit is presented by HomeAdvisor.com, where you can find top-rated home pros you can trust. Call in your home improvement question, 24/7, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Tom and I are standing by to answer your emails or your posted questions. And right now, I’ve got one here from Chris who wrote: “I have a new washing machine that’s connected to a 1½-inch drain on my second floor. When the washer starts pumping the water out, the 1½-inch drain cannot keep up with the speed of water being drained. What are my options?”
This sounds like a lot of water on the second floor, with lots of places to go to.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely, gravity being what it is. And you know what? I bet you his old washer had a pump that wasn’t quite as strong as the new one. These new washers, the pumps are a lot stronger. They’re moving a lot more water in and out more quickly. And it’s a situation where you really need a 2-inch pipe.
Now, 2-inch really is a standard and has been for many years. I don’t know why your pipe is only 1½ inches. But I think that you really should be contacting a plumber and finding out the least painful way of getting that water drained. Perhaps if the washer – if the laundry room is up against a bathroom, you may be able to go through a wall and grab the drainpipe there. But you’re definitely going to need a bigger drainpipe. There’s just no way this is going to be able to function any other way, Chris. So, the issue is really that. The line is just too small for the amount of water that you’re trying to put in it.
LESLIE: Yeah. And maybe stop doing the wash until you get this fixed, because that water is going to cause a whole bunch of other problems.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Samantha who writes: “I have a 100-year-old house in the Midwest. My foundation walls are really old, terracotta block and are bowing in about an inch or an inch-and-a-half.”
LESLIE: “I’ve had a few foundation contractors look at it and give me their opinions, which vary quite a bit. Contractor A says the bowing is not significant enough to worry about and gives me a price just to brace with I-beams. Contractor B says that terracotta foundations are not worth fixing and quotes me options for a partial or full foundation replacement. And every contractor always seems to ask one question about the subject: ‘How much money do you want to spend?’ What do I do?”
TOM: You know, that last question should really tell you an awful lot. Because what they want to do is provide you an estimate that fills your entire repair budget, right? Otherwise, why are you asking that question? You ought to be asking, “How much do I have to spend to fix it right?”
And your first mistake is that you’re calling contractors for a structural repair that they have no business in specifying a design for, because you need a structural engineer for that. And as you’ve learned, they’re only trying to sell you whatever fix they happen to prefer or specialize in or think they can get you to pay for.
So, the best way to address this is to contact an engineer and have a structural engineer or an architect look at that wall, analyze the problem and prepare a detailed report advising on exactly how to fix it. And that report will include the specifications for how that job needs to be done. Now, that’s what you show to the contractor. You don’t say, “How will you fix it?” You say, “This is how I want it fixed because this is how my engineer designed it to be fixed.” Don’t make the mistake of expecting the contractor to provide that expert advice. They’re just not qualified to do that.
And once the job is complete, make the engineer come back and reinspect it and give you a letter saying that all is well. Because if you go to sell that house and you’ve got some evidence of a repair, folks are going to want to know what the history is. And if you can show that the engineer signed off on it, you will be good to go.
LESLIE: Yeah. That’s always helpful. People love to see that you took care of your home the right way.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, thanks so much for spending this hour with us. We hope you’ve picked up a few tips and ideas to make fixing up your money pit a positive and successful experience. We would love for you to visit us online at MoneyPit.com. Take a look at the Community page and post your home improvement question there. We get lots of those all week long. And if you do, we may just throw your name in The Money Pit hard hat for lots of cool tools that we give away most weeks on the show.
So, thanks so much for joining us and we hope all your home improvements are happy ones.
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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