Stop Winter Roof Leaks #1120171

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on? Well, it’s a holiday week so probably not much, aside from cooking and cleaning and getting ready for all the folks that are coming to visit. If that’s what you did or that’s what you’re doing, hey, we appreciate you taking some time to listen to us, as well. And perhaps through all of the activity of this past week, you’ve discovered an improvement that needs to be done in your house. That would be a great reason to pick up the phone and call us with that question, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, or hop right on to The Money Pit’s website at and post it in the Community page.

    Coming up on today’s show, as the weather worsens, you can bet that millions of Americans are going to learn about a new way your roof can leak: ice dams. Well, it’s not totally new but it’s something that most folks don’t see very frequently. We’re going to have the solutions, though, including a way to pay for the repairs you may never have thought of.

    LESLIE: And do you get stuck when it comes time to picking the perfect glue for your project? Well, with the variety of adhesives to choose from, it can be tough to know which one is going to work best for your particular project.

    TOM: And also ahead, as the days get shorter, it’s a good time to think about adding some security lighting to your home. So we’re going to share a tip on an easy way to do that without needing to run electrical wiring.

    LESLIE: And we’d love to hear what’s on your fall fix-up to-do list. So post your home décor or your home improvement question on The Money Pit’s Community page at Or give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Peter in California is dealing with a water-heating situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    PETER: We just recently moved into a new rental and they have really, really hard water. So, the tank sounds like it’s out there just boiling away.

    TOM: So it sounds like it’s boiling? Does it sound like it’s sort of rustling water?

    PETER: Yeah, it sounds like there’s explosions going on there.

    TOM: Yeah. That’s air in the tank and that’s actually not that uncommon. I wouldn’t get too freaked out about it as long as it’s properly installed, has the right-size pressure-relief valve on it. Usually, it’s sort of expansion and contraction of the tank that sometimes is made worse by a little bit of air that gets in there. I’ve heard that kind of sound before.

    How old is this water heater?

    PETER: I have no idea. We’ve only been here a month. And other people on – in our cul-de-sac have the same problem. They say it’s from the calcium, the sediment buildup in it.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s actually possible. So, one of the things you can do is you could drain some water off the bottom of it. You’d have to hook up a garden hose to it. You have to turn it off and wait an hour or two for it to cool off and then you could drain some water off the bottom. That tends, sometimes, to rinse out any of the mineral-salt deposits that are built up at the bottom.

    PETER: OK. Because I was going to give that a go. I just wondered if that was one step to go with.

    TOM: You could try it. You could try it. But it’s usually pretty harmless, OK?

    PETER: I appreciate that. Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Stephanie in Colorado on the line who’s installing some French doors. How can we help you?

    STEPHANIE: My husband and I have sliding doors in our bedroom that go outside. And we have French doors that we have – they’re all ready to put in; they’re framed. And I was just calling to see if you had any advice about putting them in.

    TOM: Well, let’s presume that the French doors and the sliding doors are going to fit in the same opening, to start with. Is that correct?

    STEPHANIE: The French doors are a little taller.

    TOM: Ah, that’s a problem.

    STEPHANIE: Just about an inch.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a tough inch to pick up, you know, when it’s in the height like that. The thing is, you’re going to have to figure out if you have enough room to get those French doors in, Stephanie, without having to cut or modify the header that’s going to be above the sliding door. Because the distance from the floor to the bottom of the header, that’s called the “rough opening.” That’s the rough, vertical opening. And that rough, vertical opening has got to be taller than the distance from the bottom of the French door to the top of the jamb of the French door. Because if it doesn’t, you’re not going to get that French door in that opening. It’s absolutely critical that the rough opening be sized properly.

    So, you could probably figure that out by just pulling the molding off from the side of the slider. And you’ll see enough of the framing there where you could get a pretty good measurement as to how much room. Sometimes, there is a fair amount of room above the sliding doors until you get to the header and maybe you’ll have that room.

    Now, if you’ve got the room, putting that French door in is – it’s not a basic, do-it-yourself project. I’m just going to tell you that right off. But the way I would approach it is – the first thing I would do, if it was me, is I would take the slider out one panel at a time. You want to try to make this as light and manageable as possible. So you remove one panel, then the other. Then you pull out the slider frame.

    And you put the French doors in the same way. You take the doors off of the hinges. And what you actually “hang” inside the opening is just the frame of the French doors without the physical doors in place. Just the outside jambs. Because that’s very easy and lightweight to handle and if that’s installed properly and square, then the doors will pop in right after that with minor adjustment. But that’s the way you approach it.

    Again, not a basic, do-it-yourself project. Putting a door in is one of the more tricky projects. So if that’s above your skill set, I would definitely hire a carpenter or a handyman to help.

    Alright, Stephanie? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, as the weather worsens, you can bet that millions of Americans are going to learn about a new way a roof can leak: ice dams. We’re going to have tips on that solution, coming up. Plus, for those in the South who think they’re off the hook, we’re going to share with you how the very same solution can prevent serious damage if your home was caught in a bad storm. That’s all coming up, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, you trying to fix up your money pit? Well, we are, too. Let us help. Call in your home improvement question, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And Leslie, you were working on a pilot recently for a new design show and came up with a really cool idea to make a light fixture for a kid’s room. Tell us about it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, I’m working on this new kid’s design-show pilot, which is going to be very exciting. And I think a lot of people are going to like it, so hopefully we go to series. But what’s interesting is I find that a lot of homes don’t have a receptacle in the ceiling, where you can put a light fixture without a ton of electrical work and bringing in a ton of pros to make that happen.

    So, you search online and you can find some really beautiful plug-in light fixtures. They already come with the plug on the end. You’re not rewiring anything or adding anything different. And I found some super cute, little crystal chandeliers that were maybe 15 inches tall. And they had a plug at the end to just plug into your basic wall outlet. And what my partner, Chris, on the show and I did was we built these cool, little cloud shapes out of wiggle board and some wood to create a 3-inch-deep tray.

    TOM: What’s wiggle board?

    LESLIE: So, wiggle board is a plywood that’s very thin – about ¼-inch – and it’s put with the grain going in all the same direction so that you can bend it.

    TOM: Ah, OK.

    LESLIE: So you get the majority of it with the grain in one direction and the top layer with the grain in the other direction. So it’s almost like an engineered hardwood but instead, it creates it so the whole sheet of ply goes (inaudible).

    TOM: I see. OK.

    LESLIE: And you can cut it and bend it around.

    TOM: Hence the wiggle-board name.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you can find it at a lot of home centers. And it’s not as expensive as you would think but it allows you to create cool shapes with things, that you couldn’t normally, out of wood.

    So we built these little, 3-inch-deep clouds that we ran all of the electrical cords through with one little power strip. And then we had one cord coming down and we plugged it into the wall. And we had these three beautiful crystal chandeliers in this little girl’s room that she could control and turn on and have all this beautiful lighting. So, all hope is not lost if you don’t have a ceiling fixture.

    TOM: That’s a really cool idea. I mean what kid’s room has three ceiling chandeliers in it now?

    LESLIE: Ah, this young lady.

    TOM: So that’s a really neat, neat, neat idea.

    So, that’s just an easy example of the kinds of creativity you have to tap into here on the show, folks. So if you’ve got a home improvement or a décor question, give us a call right now. We’d love to talk with you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ray in North Carolina is on the – on the floor, I was going to say.

    RAY: You sound like me today.

    LESLIE: Sorry, Ray. I’m reading what your question is about and I introduce you as “Ray is calling in from the floor.”

    No, we’ve got Ray from North Carolina on the phone who’s got a crack in the garage floor. Tell us what’s going on there.

    RAY: Unbelievable. We’ve got a very small – not unbelievable but had a very small crack since we moved in, which is back in 1996. And it never really moved. And we had a little earthquake here. I don’t know if you heard about it but it was a small, little earthquake that – the one that affected the Washington Monument and all that.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RAY: But it did drag down here. But anyway, I don’t know if it’s really related to that or not but there are no cars in the garage because I’ve had too much junk, unfortunately.

    LESLIE: Join the club.

    RAY: But now the crack is now about a ¼-inch to, in a couple of spots, almost a ½-inch wide. And it goes from one end to the other. We’re talking about 17 feet. I don’t know what to do.

    TOM: Well, first of all, the concrete floor is not structural in the sense that it’s not helping to hold up the building, in most cases.

    LESLIE: And essentially, it’s right over dirt.

    RAY: Right.

    TOM: Yeah. Think of it as a very stiff type of flooring because that’s basically what it is.

    RAY: OK.

    TOM: Now, to fix that crack – you’re never going to make it go away but what you can do is seal it. And when you seal it, you stop moisture from getting in there: water that runs off the car, for example, in the wintertime. That could freeze and cause it move more quickly.

    So, there’s a couple of products out there that will do this. I would take a look at a very basic and effective product called QUIKRETE Concrete Repair. Basically, it’s a crack sealer that’s in a tube, like a caulking tube.

    RAY: Right.

    TOM: And you cut the tip off, you try to keep it to about an 1/8-inch, if it’s a ¼-inch crack. You can fill that crack from one end to the other, let it dry. And then you could put a concrete floor paint on top of that. And so that will make it very difficult for you to see, especially if you paint the floor and you use one of the products that has sort of a color chip in it. Gives it a little bit of a pattern and makes it harder to see; it’s not quite as obvious.

    So, I would simply fill it, paint it and call it a day.

    RAY: Very good. Yeah, it actually is painted now. And let me ask you this. The only other problem I’ve had in the past, real quickly, is that when I have tried to fill it, if I wait too long, it’s too high. And obviously, it’s very hard to sand down flat or level. Is this a self-leveling product? Can I just grind it down with a grinder?

    TOM: Well, it’s not going to be stiff like concrete. It’s a sealer, OK? It’s a repair product, so it doesn’t – it’s not hard like concrete.

    RAY: OK. I’ve got you.

    TOM: But you basically want to put it in so it sits just below the surface.

    Now, a little trick of the trade is if you have a really deep crack, you can sort of stuff the crack first with a backer rod or some other type of product like that so that the repair material stays up towards the surface.

    RAY: Mm-hmm. OK.

    TOM: They have another product called a “self-leveling, polyurethane sealant.” And with that, it will definitely flow nice and even.

    RAY: Excellent. Well, I appreciate your help very much and I enjoy your show.

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

    LESLIE: Well, it’s not officially winter yet but I bet there’s snow somewhere out there today. And when it comes, it’s likely to bring along a new way for your roof to leak. Yay. Isn’t that amazing, all these winter adventures? We’re talking about ice dams. Well, it’s not really new but frequently, the first time folks learn about this is when it happens to them, so it’s new for them.

    TOM: Absolutely. And here’s how it happens. When we get a heavy snowfall, it sits up on your roof, right? And then you get some warm days and that allows that snow to melt. And the water runs down the roof, all the way down to the edge. Except when it gets over the exterior wall, that section of the roof that extends over the exterior wall, see there the roof is actually colder. So it freezes again and it actually forms a dam, except this dam is made of ice.

    And as that water continually freezes there, the dam gets bigger and bigger and it ends up blocking that water that’s trying to run off. And the water goes, “I know. I’ll just do a U-turn and I’ll kind of puddle up and climb under the shingles and then leak into the house.” And it really makes a really big mess. Your exterior wall and your ceilings can be completely destroyed by a bad case of ice dams.

    But I did promise some good news and that is this: that ice-dam repair can be covered by your homeowners insurance. And it’s considered storm damage. So if it happens to you, you should click your heels together because it could mean you’re going to get a new roof out of it.

    LESLIE: I mean that’s a pretty big deal, because a new roof could run tens of thousands of dollars, depending on where you live and how large your roof is. So to have that help because of a storm damage is huge for a lot of people.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. And for those that live in the South, that water part of the ice-and-water shield that you apply to correct this has another important use. If you add a layer of this when you’re replacing your roof, it can actually protect your home if a severe storm were to blow off your roof shingles. When it blows off the roof shingles, if you’ve just got tar paper underneath, it’s going to blow that off, too. But if you have ice-and-water shield, it actually is a membrane that sticks to the plywood and it doesn’t come off very easily. And so that actually can protect your home from major water damage until you can get a chance to actually put a new roof back on it.

    So, good reasons to use that product and a good thing to be aware of. Ice dams. If they happen to you, contact your insurance company.

    LESLIE: Pam in Vermont is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you today?

    PAM: I have an oak staircase. You walk in my front door and the slate – there’s a slate walk with an entryway and then there’s an oak staircase going upstairs. It’s really pretty but I’m scared to death kids are going to just slide right down the whole staircase and end up on the rock. I found some spray stuff. And it looks like they put sand in clear paint. And I’m wondering, if I put that on, am I going to ruin the staircase?

    TOM: There’s a line of products called SlipDoctor and they make products for wood, for vinyl, for stone. And with any of those products, what I would suggest you do – because you want to make sure that it’s going to clean well after it’s on, it’s not going to attract dirt. So, try it in an inconspicuous area, like maybe your neighbor’s house?

    PAM: I could do that.

    TOM: And see how it works. No, try it like, I don’t know, in a closet or even take – get a board, finish it with urethane and spray it on the board, see what it looks like. And really test it out before you commit your staircase to it.

    LESLIE: Yeah, my concern is that – how difficult would it be to clean? It’s like you’re taking, oh, a shiny, wood surface and now making it textured. Is dust and dirt going to stick in there? But it’s a staircase, so how much do you get there? You’ve really got to give it a test run.

    TOM: Yeah, I wouldn’t want it to be tacky all the time, you know? You wouldn’t be able to dust.

    PAM: No, I wouldn’t want it to be tacky but I also want to make sure that they – my kids are barefoot half the time, too, so I want to make sure they can still walk on it.

    TOM: Yeah. And the other thing that you can consider doing, though, is you could add a carpet runner right down the middle of the stairs. Have it professionally installed so that the center of the step has a carpet runner on it and the sides are still exposed. That’s kind of the way we did our staircase in an 1800s house and it takes that issue away. It’s not slippery. You walk up the carpet in the middle of the stairs and you can still see the finished railing on the edge of the step – the edge of the treads.

    PAM: Yeah. So I think maybe that would be a good solution if the other doesn’t work.

    TOM: Good luck with that project.

    PAM: Thank you so much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to Texas where Laurie had some sort of flooring incident and now the cabinets are all damaged. What the heck happened at your house?

    LAURIE: Well, we had – we bought an old house built in 1939. When we took the carpet up, we had some beautiful hardwood floors, so we had them refinished. But as they were refinishing them and replacing some of the bad spots, they banged up our cabinets. And we’ve had to try to touch them up with the paint that we had our cabinets painted with. And it’s just – it’s not working. It looks – the sheen is different, it’s streaky. I just don’t know how to make them look uniform without repainting the whole kitchen.

    TOM: So the cabinets were scratched and you’re trying to repaint them with household paint. And the problem is that they were probably sprayed, perhaps, with a lacquer or other type of finish and you’re just not able to match the exact sheen.

    LAURIE: And we had – we actually have the exact paint that they used. And my husband touched them up and it just isn’t working. So we didn’t know if there was a – if we needed to sand them again.

    TOM: Why is it not working?

    LAURIE: Well, the sheen, it’s shinier. It’s streaked. So I don’t know if it was the brush or what. The paint’s probably a year-and-a-half old.

    LESLIE: That’s the thing. When you’ve got paint sitting around for a while, you can’t just pick it up and use a stir stick and then go for it. You really should bring it back to the paint center and have them throw it in the tumbler.

    TOM: Yeah. And also, as you go ahead and refinish these damaged areas, you want to kind of fill it in from the inside out. Don’t try to paint over the whole thing. Be very strategic and use a small brush and just get it into the scratched areas. And don’t try to overpaint the areas that are not scratched.

    LAURIE: Alright. We’ll try that.

    TOM: It’s kind of like the same procedure as touching up a car, as a way – in the same way. You sort of fill in the scratch rather than overpaint the whole thing. Because if you do, it’s going to lay over the factory finish and look more like a patch than you want it to.

    LAURIE: Right. And I think that is kind of what’s happening. So, OK. We’ll try those things and see if that helps.

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

    Just ahead, if you’ve got a project to tackle that includes glue, it really can be tough to know which type will work best for the job at hand. We’re going to outline the options, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, did you know that a drafty attic could mean a warmer house during the winter? Well, drafty attics will flush out that moisture in the insulation, which is good. Because even a slightly damp insulation will lose as much as one-third of its ability to insulate when damp.

    TOM: Yep. That’s right. And that’s why well-ventilated attics are going to reduce that moisture. And that makes the insulation more effective, which leaves you with a warmer house.

    LESLIE: Well, a new tile backsplash can really wake up a tired kitchen. Or what about a tub surround that really just wows with every soak?

    Tiling projects are not that difficult and they really can deliver instant appeal in your home.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. But with the variety of adhesives to choose from, it can be tough to know which works best for your particular project. Here to tell us how to choose is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tommy. And the products that are available today are actually making this process a lot easier than it used to be, aren’t they?

    TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah, it’s a big difference today. They have all kinds of thinset mortar, they have mastic, they have all kinds of different things. And they have additives that go with them, too, to give them a lot more adhesive and a lot more flexibility, too.

    LESLIE: And I think there’s a lot of confusion as to the type of adhesives and when to use which one where. So how do you know where to start in selecting the adhesive for your project?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you’ve got to think about what you’re going to be doing. If you’re going to be doing a floor – let’s say you’re going to be using like an exterior tile, for example.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: Then you’d want to use a thinset mortar. There’s not a lot of flexibility in it, so it doesn’t move with the floor. So if you’re going over a floor that has some flex in it, like a wood floor – the subfloor isn’t strong enough, there is deflection between it – then you probably don’t want to be using a thinset mortar because what’s going to happen, the tile is going to break away from the adhesion over time.

    TOM: Now, we get calls on that all the time where folks are complaining about a couple of loose tiles. And the problem is that even if you pop those up and fix it, it’s just the beginning of what could be a long line of that happening over and over again.

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. But another mistake that people make when using a thinset mortar or any – almost any kind of adhesive is they put too much on, they wait too long before they cover it. So what happens is the air dries the surface. Although it still may feel soft, it’s skinned over. So that adhesive that you’re applying the tile to isn’t going to hold.

    TOM: It’s only sticking to one side at that point.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly.

    TOM: Now, when it comes to thinset, you can get the dry, powdered type, which is a fair amount of work to mix, or the stuff that’s already premixed itself. Do you have a preference on that?

    TOM SILVA: Well, I mainly use the dry powder because I have the tools to mix it. I have the buckets and the quantity, so I can mix up just what I need.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: The premixed thinset stuff, I must say it works pretty good; it works great. I mean if you need a little bit or a lot, you can get it that way. It is a little more money than the dry powder, though. I’m basically cheap; I’m a Yankee.

    LESLIE: Now, when it comes to mastic, that’s really the best application if you’re doing a wall-tiling project, correct?

    TOM SILVA: A wall tiling like a backsplash or something like that, it works great. Yep. It’s flexible, it goes on quick, it’s easy to clean up.

    TOM: When you put the tiles on, they’re going to stay stuck pretty much when you use the organic mastic?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. It dries quick so – and you can usually grout the same day, too, which is nice.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that saves a lot of time.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: Now, what about brick mortar? That’s a very, very coarse type of mortar compared to thinset. What do you use that for?

    TOM SILVA: Well, the sand is thicker or sometimes there’s even like a small pebble in there.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And that’s more or less for setting brick or a real thick tile, like if you’re going to do a slate floor and you need really some …

    TOM: Or like a Mexican tile or something like that, that is very thick and heavy? Mm-hmm.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Anything like that that needs like – we have set tile that we needed a 1×1. Most of the time, you see a 1/16 or a ¼ x ¼. Well, we’ve actually had to make a trowel where we set 1×1 and we’ve used a real thick thinset with that.

    TOM: Now, I think it’s interesting. We all spend so much time picking out the appropriate tile but we really need to make sure we pick out the appropriate mastic, too.

    TOM SILVA: Mastic and tool.

    LESLIE: And I think a lot of times, people just interchange the words: mastic, thinset. They sort of interchange them without realizing they’re two very distinct products for two very different projects.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. Or they call it the generic when it’s really not …

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: But they all better stick, that’s for sure.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

    LESLIE: Now, what about epoxy thinset? I think that’s sort of the last category when it comes to adhesives. Where is that best used?

    TOM SILVA: In areas where you want that sucker to really hold well. Can I say, “Sucker?”

    LESLIE: Yeah, of course.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    TOM SILVA: You want that sucker to really hold well and you want it to set up quick. Epoxies do work fine but you’ve got to work fast for it.

    TOM: Now, work is the theme throughout this entire discussion but there is actually a new product on the market that comes in a mat format that glues tiles. And we’ve actually used it on countertops ourselves and it’s called Bondera Tile MatSet. Have you seen this stuff?

    TOM SILVA: I have done and I have used it. And you can actually use it in wet areas, too.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, it’s pretty good. They actually – but you have to tape the seams. So you put the – you put this – basically, it’s a roll. It’s like two-faced tape.

    LESLIE: And it’s super-sticky.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Two-faced tape. You roll it out on the wall. Once it’s in place, you peel off the face and you put your tile right on it and you can grout it the same day.

    LESLIE: We were doing the backsplash and the counter and the countertop sort of face for a project with the AARP – Tom and I – and I was putting all of the Bondera on the backsplash of the counter and the facing and …

    TOM: And I had to go get Leslie off the backsplash.

    LESLIE: And I would peel it all off and then my belt would get stuck and I was stuck across the top and I was like, “Alright. This is awesomely sticky but I need to figure out a better process.” Because I was literally stuck in place.

    TOM SILVA: All this time, I thought you were coordinated.

    LESLIE: No, not that coordinated. But it’s funny. We found out later that I was actually pregnant on that project, so no wonder why I was such a doof.

    TOM: But the Bondera had nothing to do with …

    LESLIE: No, no, no. No, no, no.

    TOM: It’s good stuff, though. I mean it comes in a roll. You can – with the adhesive. You can peel off both sides, stick it to the wall and stick your tile. And again, it’s a situation where you can grout same day.

    LESLIE: Right away.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. We did an Ask project with it where I basically did a backsplash, in a town local from here, and it was great. Roll it on a wall, stick the tile.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it even has sort of a grid laid out on it, so it helps with cutting and laying out your tiles if you’re trying to do something a little bit more detailed and make sure everything’s square.

    TOM SILVA: We did an Ask This Old House project using that and it was great.

    TOM: So bottom line: take some time choosing that tile but even take just as much time choosing the adhesive, whatever it might be. You want to get it right; otherwise, you’re going to be trying to do that job again and again and again as time goes on.

    Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: 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 projects that you can tackle, visit

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm.

    Just ahead, as the days get shorter, it’s a good time to think about adding security lighting to your home. We’re going to share a tip on an easy way to do this without needing to run any electrical wiring, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: So glad you could be with us on this busy holiday week. If you’ve got a question about a project you’d like to tackle in your home, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And hey, you can also listen to this program by podcast. The podcast is available at iTunes and many, many other podcast providers. We would love for you to download the podcast and not miss a single episode. And the cool thing about doing that is, you know, we give away a lot of good stuff on the show. And it doesn’t matter when you hear the show, whether it is during the weekend or during the week, you always have an opportunity to qualify. Because we take everyone that called into the show over the week, throw them all into The Money Pit hard hat and draw some winners out of that entire group of listeners.

    So, download the podcast at or at your favorite podcast source.

    LESLIE: Mike in Iowa is on the line with an insulation question. What can we do for you today?

    MIKE: I’m looking to put some fiberglass insulation up in my attic. I have access to some 6-inch that’s faced on one side and it has foil on the other. Could I lay that down in my attic without having any problems?

    TOM: You already have existing insulation there, right, Mike?

    MIKE: Yeah, I’ve got 10 inches in my ceilings.

    TOM: The answer is no and here’s why: the foil face is a vapor barrier and if you put a vapor barrier in there, you’re going to trap moisture. Now, a very common scenario is people put that up in the attic, they leave the vapor barrier facing up but that’s actually wrong. The only place a vapor barrier belongs is against the heated space, which would be under the 10 inches of insulation you already have there.

    So, the foil face is not a good thing. Now, I will say that you – if you really want to be frugal about this, you could probably pull that foil off and lay the unfaced batt perpendicular to what you have right now. It’ll be a bit of a messy job, because it sounds like it’s older insulation, so you’re going to have to protect yourself with dust masks and safety glasses, long sleeves and all of that.

    MIKE: I don’t care to do that. But right now, in my attic, at one time I had a flat roof. And right now, I’ve got rolled tar – or not tar paper but rolled shingling up in my attic floor. That’s probably acting as a vapor barrier, I would guess, today.

    TOM: It probably is, yeah. Because it would stop humidity from getting through it. The problem is that it traps it in the insulation and when it does that, the insulation doesn’t work well. Insulation that’s damp does not insulate, so that humidity is working against you.

    MIKE: I have wood heat and it takes a lot of moisture out of the house. That’s probably in my favor, I would guess.

    TOM: I would think so. Now, you want to preserve that wood floor? You want to use all of that wood floor space?

    MIKE: I’d like to use as much as possible, yes.

    TOM: Well, why don’t you do this? Kind of a way to kind of have your cake and eat it, too, is to carve out an area in the center of the attic that you reserve, basically, just for storage. And then you add unfaced fiberglass batts on top of the wood floor to the other areas. Yeah, it’s not perfect having that whatever floor covering you have in between but I still think it’s going to add some insulation to that space and help cut some of your energy bills. And unfaced fiberglass batts are not that expensive and pretty easy to handle.

    MIKE: OK.

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

    LESLIE: Well, as the days get shorter, it’s a good time to think about adding security lighting to your home. But to do this, you usually need to hire an electrician who’s got to run wiring. Well, now there’s a new motion-activated spotlight on the market from Mr Beams that can deliver a super-bright light. And it runs off batteries that are going to last a full year.

    TOM: Yep. It’s called the MB3000 Spotlight and it provides much brighter light, a wider coverage area and a very cool design that’s going to increase your home’s security. This high-performance security light is battery-powered, too. It’s got a dual-head spotlight. It delivers about 500 lumens of light and that will increase the security around your home.

    The heads are easy to adjust. They allow you to customize your coverage area. You get to light very large areas around the corners, et cetera. A really nice design throws a lot of light around your yard without having to run any wiring.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that really has to be the coolest part, which is battery power. So, there’s really no need to hire an electrician because it’s totally wireless. And you can install this yourself in just a few minutes.

    Now, each set of alkaline batteries provides about a year of light when you use it, on average, about 8 to 10 activations per day.

    TOM: Yep. And because it’s wireless, you can install it not only on your home to cover porches or walks or driveways but even on a backyard shed for added security. Now, the MB3000 delivers surprisingly bright light anywhere and sells for just 49.99. You’ll find it at major retailers, like Home Depot, Lowes, as well as at

    Learn more at or call 877-298-9082.

    LESLIE: Sandra in South Dakota has a question about tile flooring. How can we help you with your project?

    SANDRA: We bought a house that was built in ‘78 and I don’t think it’s been updated since then.

    TOM: OK.

    SANDRA: And I want to start my redo with my bathroom.

    TOM: Alright.

    SANDRA: And I’ve been wondering – I don’t know whether I should go porcelain or ceramic or – I’m stuck on what type of tile I should use.

    TOM: OK. So, I see here that you told our screener that you want a tile that can hold up to cats, dogs and kids.

    SANDRA: Yes.

    TOM: Either porcelain or ceramic will work but porcelain will be very expensive for you. And ceramic tile, there’s so many options in it. As long as you get a glazed tile and that you use an epoxy grout, that combination will be very easy to clean.

    SANDRA: OK, great. Thank you very much.

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

    Hey, do you have an old house and maybe you’ve noticed your brick walls are starting to crumble? Don’t panic. I know you might be tempted to but just don’t. We’re going to tell you why, after this.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on this beautiful holiday weekend. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. Or post it to The Money Pit’s Community page at

    LESLIE: And that’s what Darren did in Rhode Island. Now, Darren writes: “My brick house is 40 years old and I’m noticing that some mortar between the bricks, on the south side of the building, are disintegrating. And some bricks are cracked or broken in half. What do I need to do to fix this problem?”

    Now, does this sound like a bigger problem that it actually is?

    TOM: Maybe, maybe not. Look, there’s not a brick house out there that doesn’t have some cracked bricks. And mortar on a 40-year-old house that’s disintegrating is also, you know, pretty much wear and tear.

    The first thing that I would do is I would – if I was looking at this house, say, through the eyes of a home inspector – is I would try to figure out why the south side is where this mortar is washing out. Very often, what I used to find, Leslie, is that first couple of feet of brickwork, from the grade on up, tends to lose more mortar that higher up on the walls. And the reason is because you get rain that splashes up from the ground, right? It hits the ground, it bounces up on the wall. So that area stays a lot wetter, typically, than the rest of the wall. And that can add to the deterioration of the mortar.

    So I would try to figure out why you’re losing mortar and where you’re losing mortar and see if there’s a reason for it. But in terms of restoring it, it’s pretty much a standard maintenance project, Darren, with brick mortar that deteriorates like that. What you want to do is you want to scrape out anything that’s old and loose. And then you want to repoint it. And that’s the process of troweling in new mortar.

    Now, if you have a lot to do, you’d have to mix up some mortar. But if you’ve just got a little bit to do, QUIKRETE actually makes a product that’s called Mortar Repair. And I like it because it comes in a caulk tube. It doesn’t get any easier to use than that. And it blends nicely. You just want to remove that loose mortar and apply the product. It’s sized perfectly for that mortar joint. So, it’s the kind of thing that if you don’t do repointing every day you can easily get pretty sloppy with it. But this QUIKRETE Mortar Repair product in the caulk tube makes it super easy to apply.

    LESLIE: Alright. That makes sense.

    TOM: Kind of makes a pro out of you.

    LESLIE: And you’re going to feel so much better knowing that that’s all taken care of.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Ronnie in Greenville, South Carolina who writes: “The electrical wall sockets in all three bathrooms have quit working. There’s no tripped circuit breakers in the circuit box. How can I identify this problem and how do we repair it?”

    TOM: Ah, you know the answer to this one, Leslie. It’s four letters.

    LESLIE: I mean there’s – yeah. GFCI.

    TOM: GFCI, that’s right.

    LESLIE: But the question is: where?

    TOM: Where? Yeah, OK. So, GFCI stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter. And these bathroom outlets are all going to be on the same GFCI circuit. But unlike a regular circuit that has one circuit breaker, the GFCI is a circuit breaker in and of itself and it can serve these multiple outlets.

    And I’ll tell you where the electricians love to hide it. And I don’t know why this is but I guess somebody did this once and everybody followed it. That bathroom ground fault, I bet you it’s in the garage. It’s usually on a wall of the garage, probably buried by stuff you’ve been storing there for years. And it looks like an outlet with a test and reset button. Find that ground fault, reset it. Your bathrooms will miraculously start to work once again. And if they don’t, if they trip again, then you’ve got to call an electrician to find out what’s wrong with the circuit. Because it telling you that there’s a short if that happens multiple times.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And so it’s, essentially, doing its job and it’s saving you a whole headache, which could be an electrical fire.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this busy holiday weekend with us. If all of the activity around your house has brought to mind some projects you’d like to tackle, we invite you to post your question to The Money Pit Community page at We’re always on that site and we’d love to be able to respond to your questions, take a look at your pictures and get you the info that you need.

    If you prefer, you can also call us anytime at 888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we promise we will call you back the next time we are.

    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.


    (Copyright 2017 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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