Water Quality How-To’s, Natural Pools and Keeping Wildlife out of Gardens

  • thermometer in the sky, the heat
  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’re here to help you with your home improvement projects. If you’ve got a do-it-yourself dilemma or a project you’d like to get done around your house, inside or out, we’re here to help. The first step, though, is to help yourself by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Well, coming up on today’s show, the warmer it gets, the more water we drink. And if you’re concerned about water quality and taste, we’re going to highlight a couple of easy steps you can take to protect the water in your home. And we’re going to tell you one critical mistake that many people that have water filters are making.

    LESLIE: And speaking of water, if you’d love to have a backyard swimming spot and this is the year you’re going to do something about it, we’re going to share a cool option over traditional chlorine pools. We’ve got the scoop on natural, inground pools that are pond-like, gorgeous and Earth-friendly.

    TOM: Plus, now that our gardens and landscapes are growing like crazy, have you noticed that the local wildlife may be as much an admirer of your landscape as you are? Are they out there chewing away at your lovely garden and plants and flowers? We’re going to have a natural solution that can help you with that problem.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you want to know. Give us a call. Let us help you get your backyard, your home, your deck, your patio, whatever it is you are working on in tip-top shape for this almost-summer season.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Let’s get to those phones. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Debbie in Arkansas is on the line and has a question to help her daughter’s house. What can we do for you guys?

    DEBBIE: Hi. My daughter recently bought a house. It’s an older house. It’s been remodeled. And she was going to renovate around her fireplace since she discovered that the large wall behind the fireplace, which is about a 20-foot-wide wall, has got – it had brick behind the plaster. And so, she took all the plaster down but it had been put up with Liquid Nails. So there’s Liquid Nails all over this brick – all over it – and it’s made a terrible mess.

    TOM: Oh, boy.

    DEBBIE: And she’s called in a couple of people to get bids and it was thousands of dollars to either re-brick over it or chisel it down. And they said it would probably ruin the brick if they did. And so I was just curious if you had any ideas. We looked up on the internet and there was one about a heat gun possibly but I thought maybe you might have a cheaper or easier way of doing it.

    TOM: Wow. It’s quite a mess. Yeah, I mean certainly, you can use a heat gun but a heat gun is very hot and it’s going to cause all kinds of fumes. And the problem with the fact that you had this type of adhesive, it’s going to soak into the pores of the brick. So, at best, even after doing all that, you’re going to end up painting the brick, which we hate to tell anybody to do, because it’s going to – otherwise, it’s just going to look terrible. You’re never going to have that natural brick. That decision was made for you by whoever decided it was a good idea to glue the plaster right to the brick without putting up any kind of a furring strip or something of that nature.

    There are, you know, various types of adhesive softeners out there but I fear that even if you went through all that trouble, you’re still going to have a very undesirable-looking surface. So, I think if – I’m sorry it’s all torn up now but I think if it was me, I would probably fur over that, attach wood strips to that brick surface and I would probably put new drywall or some other surface over it, at this point, and give up on the idea of having an exposed-brick wall unless, of course, you want to re-brick the whole thing which is a big mess and a big job.

    DEBBIE: And a big expense, too.

    TOM: And a big expense, yeah. Of course. Yep. Absolutely.

    DEBBIE: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ken from North Dakota on the line with a question about roofing. What can we do for you today?

    KEN: So I have a 20-year-old house that I reshingled recently and took out the power vent and put in – well, when we finished the roof, of course, then I put in the continuous ridge vent.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yep.

    KEN: And when the power vent was in there, the soffits were all full up with insulation and then there was just – every fifth rafter, they had the 4-foot baffle to allow air in.

    TOM: Yes.

    KEN: So, now, my question is: with the continuous ridge vent, do I need to open up the soffits so that there’s more ventilation in there?

    TOM: Yeah. Well, first of all, replacing – removing that power vent was a really smart thing. I’m not sure if you realize this but removing it basically is going to make your whole home more efficient. Because those power attic ventilators, what happens is in the summertime when they kick on, they’re so powerful that they take air not only out of the attic but they’ll reach down into the house, through all the nooks and crannies and spaces around wiring and plumbing and such, and it will pull out all the air-conditioned air or some portion of it, which means you have to replace it and it costs you more to cool. So that part was good. Ridge vent was good.

    To your question about the soffits, yes, you would be better off having those soffits be completely opened as opposed to every few feet. When you had the power ventilator, you were able to get away with it but a continuous ridge and soffit vents are the best way to go. They work together to flush out warm air in the summer and cool, moist air in the winter, which can make your insulation inefficient.

    KEN: Correct. Alright. Well, thank you so much. Appreciate the help.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joan in Missouri on the line who needs some help building a habitat for some furry friends. What’s going on?

    JOAN: I’d like to put an enclosed space on the back of my house for my cat. Not with a solid roof but with a wire roof.

    TOM: OK.

    JOAN: But the issue is that it’s going to be 24×22.

    TOM: Wow.

    JOAN: And I don’t know – I’ve built small things but I’m not sure how to span something that wide, because I don’t want the uprights in the middle.

    TOM: Hmm. You must have a really important cat. You’re making over 400 square feet of space for that cat. Is that right?

    JOAN: Well, the idea is it’s going to just enclose the patio and then it – I haven’t poured the patio yet.

    TOM: I see. OK. I see. Well, look, anything that big is – qualifies as an addition. It’s not just a pen or a patio. This is a pretty significant addition, so my first question is whether or not you’re impacting any zoning laws in your town that would limit what you can do.

    Now, if you’re going to …

    JOAN: No, we have very low limits here.

    TOM: Alright. You have very low limits? OK. But at the same time, you want to make sure that whatever you put, in terms of the patio, can support this structure.

    So you say you want to enclose it and I presume, since it’s an open roof, you don’t want – ever want to heat it. Is that right?

    JOAN: Right.

    TOM: You said it would be open but you’re not going to have any rain protection over it?

    JOAN: No.

    TOM: Well, what kind of roof structure are you thinking about?

    JOAN: I’m thinking hardware cloth? I just want something that will keep birds, obviously, out and wildlife, stray cats, that sort of thing.

    TOM: I don’t know. It seems to me if you’re going to build something that’s 22×24, that’s a pretty big construction project. I’d put a roof on it at the same time because who knows? Maybe somebody who buys your house in the future would love to have an enclosed patio. And it would be particularly important that it have a roof at the same time.

    JOAN: I guess that’s possible.

    TOM: Because anything that you put on there, in terms of cloth, are temporary. It’s just not going to last very long. And frankly, it won’t be tough enough to keep birds and insects from nesting it.

    JOAN: Oh, no. Hardware cloth is like large, square screen wire.

    TOM: Yeah. No, I know what you’re talking about I’m just thinking that you’re going to have to put – to have something that that’s span, if it’s going to be, say, 22 foot off your house, you have to have some sort of a structure to support that.

    JOAN: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: You can’t – the hardware cloth or whatever you use it not just going to sit by itself; it’s going to have to have kind of a roof structure – a roof-rafter structure. So that’s …

    JOAN: Right. That’s what I’m – I don’t know how to do.

    TOM: Yeah. And it’s a good question because it’s actually a lot of work to do that.

    First of all, what – is this a one-story house or is it a two-story house? What would this …?

    JOAN: Yes. Yeah, one story.

    TOM: One story. So that those beams – those rafters – to have any kind of slope to them would have to start up way high on the roof. And this means you have to intersect them with your existing roof.

    This is a big project and it’s not something I think you should take on lightly. But anything of that size is an awful lot of work and I think you would be …

    JOAN: I wasn’t going to do it myself. I was going to have my sons do it. But I would have to be the one to design it and tell them what – you know, how to do it.

    TOM: But you don’t have the skill set to do that.

    JOAN: No.

    TOM: So, I think you would be wise to get some professional help, at least on the layout and the specs for this, because there’s a lot of changes – a lot of decisions – that have to be made. And most of the time, if you tackle something like this – I can just tell you, I’ve seen it time and time again. If you tackle something like this and it’s not done well, it is going to devalue your house. It is going to be an eyesore, it’s going to be a maintenance headache and people are going to be really turned off by it if you ever want to sell.

    JOAN: I see.

    TOM: So, I would put the time and the effort into it to design a nice, solid-roof patio space. You can have it furnished if you want. You can let the cats in there. You keep the water out. You could even think about heating it at some point in the future or cooling it. But I would not do it …

    JOAN: So this is pretty much a professional project.

    TOM: It really is a professional project. Of that size? Yeah, that’s a professional project.

    JOAN: Alright. Well, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’re going to have some tips for clean, safe drinking water in your home, when The Money Pit continues.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And The Money Pit is presented by HomeAdvisor.com. You’ll never have to worry about overpaying for a job. Just use their True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project and then get matched with top-rated pros, read reviews, get quotes and book appointments online, all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: John in Virginia is on the line with a roofing question. Tell us what you’re working on.

    JOHN: My house is a 70-year-old house with a rolled metal roof that’s showing some signs of rust. So I’m wondering if I should think about replacing it. Or is there some kind of painting that I could put on there that would help?

    TOM: You said rolled metal roof?

    JOHN: They rolled the seams and it’s treated with a reflective paint.

    TOM: OK. You mean – has it got a slope to it?

    JOHN: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: I think what you’re talking about is what we call a “standing-seam metal roof,” where the seams are folded together. Now, you say it’s starting to add some rust – get some rust. Generally, the mistake with metal roofs is that when they start to rust out again – rust out – people will use a sealant, like tar or roof cement. And that actually starts the clock on further deterioration, because water will still get under that but now it has nowhere to go or dry out, so it rusts it out even further.

    A proper metal-roof repair is going to involve metal. And you essentially are going to solder a piece of metal on top of that old roof. And if you do that and maintain it properly, that roof could literally last indefinitely.

    It sounds to me like you’ve got some reflective paint on there and such, so that helps to preserve it, too. But you’re going to have to pull all that off to make this repair. So it really comes down to how much rust is there. And the quicker you can repair that, the better off you’re going to be.

    JOHN: So, sandblast? Sand it? How do you prepare the surface?

    TOM: I wouldn’t sandblast. I think you could sand it and scrape and sand it and get it off that way. But you’re going to have to get a clean surface so that you could adhere that new metal.

    And you know what? You could also – if you can’t solder it in place or brace it in place, you could cut a piece of metal and with a silicone sealant underneath, put a layer of metal over the old one and then screw it down. Make it a mechanical sort of patch.

    Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, across the nation, reports of water-quality issues are becoming more and more common. We’ve got tips to help you maintain the quality of the water in your home.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. And according to the Water Quality Association, a lot of this comes down to cleanliness, maintenance and common sense.

    First, if you have a filter to remove contaminants, you need to maintain it according to the manufacturer’s specification. Filters that are overdue for cleaning or replacing may not only no longer remove those contaminants, they can become contaminated themselves. I’ve seen that time and time again in the many years I spent as a professional home inspector. Those filters were installed once and never, ever changed. And they could even be providing worse water than if they never existed at all.

    Now, the same also goes for water softeners. Salt-based systems need to be maintained according to the manufacturer’s specs. And those salt levels need to be checked at least once a month.

    LESLIE: Now, you can have the best water treatment in the world but if you put that clean water into a dirty container, it might not be safe to drink anymore. It’s really important that you clean those water containers regularly. So, to do that, you’ve just got to mix a few drops of dish detergent into clean water and then pour it into the storage container. Make sure you agitate that liquid and scrub the inside with a non-abrasive scrub brush or a clean dish rag. Then be sure you rinse that container thoroughly. You’ve got to get all that soap out.

    TOM: Now, everyone in your house is going to enjoy fresh, great-tasting water with every glass if you follow these suggestions. So, remember, maintenance is key. If you don’t replace filters, if you don’t check salt levels, if you don’t do that sort of thing when you’re supposed to, you’re going to end up with water that’s worse than when you started.

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

    JOHN: Being that I’m trying to be more conscious of the energy that we use and most times that we don’t use, as far as wasting – so one thing that I’m contemplating whether or not to do is putting on a timer for my water heater in my home.

    TOM: OK.

    JOHN: Being the fact that we only really need the hot water in the early morning, taking a shower, or in the evening times when we come home, is it doable? Is it worth investing and putting a timer in your system for that? And is that something that the average homeowner can do or is that something that you have to get a licensed contractor for?

    TOM: Well, first of all, it is a good project to do because you’re right: you don’t need your water heater heating water to 110 degrees 24/7. You only need it when you are home, when you’re showering, when you’re bathing, things like that. And it will stay warm for the rest of the time, so setting the water to heat only for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening makes sense.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: That said, unless you’re very experienced with electricity, it’s definitely not a do-it-yourself project because it is or could be quite dangerous. You have to turn off the power at the breaker panel and then you have to install an electrical box between the water heater and the panel.

    And there’s a type of timer made by Intermatic called – the Little Grey Box is what it usually says on it. It’s the Little Grey Box.

    JOHN: OK. Well, that’s great. Well, thank you. Hey, it’s a great show. I enjoy listening. Getting a lot of ideas.

    TOM: Appreciate the call. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Carol in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a driveway repair. What’s going on?

    CAROL: We have a single-car, asphalt driveway that goes out of the farm market road, past the front of the house to the back of the house. And it goes between the house deck – I mean the deck on the house – and the storage with a carport. And it’s a single-car, asphalt drive. Goes around a tree and then comes back out. Makes a circle and comes back out and it’s very important to this property. And it’s on a slope. And we want to redo it but we don’t exactly want to dig up the whole thing and start over.

    TOM: OK. What’s the condition of the driveway right now, Carol?

    CAROL: Well, I wouldn’t call it very good; I wouldn’t call it the worst I’ve ever seen.

    TOM: Well, here are your options when it comes to restoring an asphalt driveway. If the driveway is in structurally good shape, it is proper maintenance to repair the cracks, patch any holes and then reseal the entire surface. However, if the driveway structurally is in poor condition – if it’s got really broken-out sections, washed-out sections, if it’s sunken – then all of the sealing and patching in the world is not going to change that.

    So it might be that there’s a combination of things that you’re going to do here but you can do the sealing and the patching yourself. If you want to replace it then, of course, that’s a job for a pro.

    And there’s sort of an in-between step, too, and we’d have to have a pro look at this to determine if this is possible. But sometimes, you can add an additional layer of asphalt to it and leave what you have in place but put another layer on top of it that’s maybe an inch to 2 inches thick, that could be less expensive than tearing the whole thing out. Does that make sense?

    CAROL: Right. Well, more than anything, we just want it to look better than what it does because we plan on putting our house on the market this summer. Because we’re 69 and 71 and so what we’re going to do is downsize, because the farm is a lot of work.

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

    LESLIE: You know, you can keep that natural look and feel and still get your swimming spot. We’re going to have the scoop on natural swimming pools, from This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.

    TOM: And This Old House on The Money Pit is presented by the Sense Home Energy Monitor, the best way I’ve found to reduce electricity costs. Sense helps you understand what your home appliances, lights and devices have to say. See what’s up and know what’s on. See Sense in action at GetSense.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for similar projects, all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a new trend in alternative swimming pools and it’s not the saltwater pool, either. It’s called the “natural swimming pool” and it’s a kind of high-end pond in your backyard.

    TOM: Yep. Rather than chlorine, these pools use a living ecosystem to actually clean the water and keep it healthy for swimming. It’s sustainable and eco-friendly and it’s very popular in Europe where it originated about 30 years ago. Here to tell us more is This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.

    So Roger, how exactly do these pools work?

    ROGER: They work naturally. That’s the whole key to these pools is you’re actually using plants and water to clean the water for the main pool.

    TOM: So kind of the way nature cleans its water, you’re basically creating that same sort of functionality in your pool.

    ROGER: Exactly. Think about it as having a water feature. When a water feature or water pond is perfectly balanced, there’s no algae, there’s no smell, there’s no nothing. It’s all natural. Now we’re using that principle to clean the water in a swimming pool.

    LESLIE: So if you have to have some sort of filtration system, if you will – so maybe it’s like a waterfall that comes down a couple of natural rock steps with the plants and everything to sort of help clean that, you still need to put a recirculating pump in it to get it back up to your filtration system.

    ROGER: Right. You’re going to complete a loop so that the water goes from the swimming pool into the natural area where it’s cleaned and then pump back up to the pool again.

    TOM: So there’s really two zones here. There’s sort of a regeneration zone, which is sort of the shallow water garden where the cleaning happens, and then there’s the swimming pool itself, right?

    ROGER: Right, exactly. And what we’re doing is we’re eliminating the chlorine. We’re using the natural biotics of this pond to clean the water and pump it back up again.

    LESLIE: So you don’t have to worry about too much rainfall or snowfall or anything sort of throwing things off balance?

    ROGER: No. You have to monitor the water level. There’ll be evaporation, especially if you have a waterfall, so you have to have what’s called an “auto-fill” in place, which keeps the water level at the perfect amount.

    But no. This is a natural area that, as long as there’s enough water in it, it should be fine. It should be cleaning itself and your pool.

    TOM: That’s a really cool idea. So, what’s the construction and sort of maintenance cost of this? It’s got to be more expensive than a traditional pool. Is it?

    ROGER: Well, the construction end is you need two ponds, ideally: one to swim in and one to clean the water with.

    TOM: Clean it, yeah.

    ROGER: So you’re going to have about the same or a little more initial cost. But when it comes to the maintenance, all that pumping and chlorine is all eliminated. And if this is balanced properly, it shouldn’t cost you anything.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: What do you do for the winter months? Do you cover it?

    ROGER: You cover it, you keep it clean like you would any water feature. You want to put a net over it to keep the leaves from getting in it. You want to cut back vegetation and just set it, get it all cleaned out so that in the spring you’re ready to go. And the same thing with the swimming area itself: you want to vacuum that out and get any debris out of that before you go into winter.

    TOM: We’re talking to Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, about building a natural swimming pool. So, if this really is like nature, aren’t we going to have insects, like dragonflies or mosquitoes or things like that, to contend with?

    LESLIE: Frogs.

    TOM: Frogs.

    ROGER: That’s so cool, though, you know?

    LESLIE: I think so.

    ROGER: I love when you hear croaking on there in the middle of the night and a big bullfrog in the pond. It makes it feel natural. But again, think that all the mosquitoes that are coming in and stuff will be eaten up by the dragonflies and by the frogs you have in the pond.

    TOM: The dragonflies eat the mosquitoes and the frogs eat the dragonflies.

    LESLIE: Now, I think we skipped over this, because I’m so fascinated by the idea of it being like a pond-like scenario. In the swimming side, are we lining it? Is it like gunite? What is the …?

    ROGER: It can be anything you want it to be.

    LESLIE: Interesting.

    ROGER: It’s a regular pool. It’s a regular pool. It could be lined, it could be cement. But even the same thing with your water feature: it could be lined or cement, depending on which way you want to go.

    LESLIE: True. This sounds lovely.

    TOM: So it’s really the filtration system that the natural part sort of replaces. Instead of having the pumps and the filters and the chlorine, you have sort of a second pool where it all happens naturally.

    ROGER: Yeah. Right. So it’s a cycle. We’re taking water that we deem is dirty – which isn’t really that dirty, anyway – and running it through this natural filter and then pumping it back up to the pool again.

    LESLIE: You know what? I think to better clarify this, Roger Cook, you’re going to have to come to my house and build one so that I can really understand how it works and speak more clearly to it.

    ROGER: And build one? Yeah, that’s a …

    TOM: There you go.

    ROGER: And you are not the first one to suggest that.

    TOM: Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit and filling us in on natural pools. And you don’t have to stop by Leslie’s house. It’s OK.

    LESLIE: You can go to Tom’s.

    ROGER: I can go to Tom’s instead?

    LESLIE: Alright, guys. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

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

    Just ahead, now that our gardens and landscapes are growing like crazy, have you noticed that the local wildlife is as much an admirer as you are? We’ll have a natural solution that can help, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free.

    TOM: A new survey out from Home Depot. They surveyed 1,000 Americans about their projects and it turns out that almost a third postponed outdoor projects because they don’t know where to start. They’re seeking inspiration. They need ideas.

    And if you don’t know where to start with your project, start right here. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Barry in Missouri is on the line with some foundation issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    BARRY: Well, I’ve got a house that we inherited. It’s kind of like a little mother-in-law house. The concrete slab sits pretty much flat on the ground. It’s not really a build-up but there’s a separate pour on the back side, where the washer/dryer and they have the water heater sits. And it’s probably about a 7-foot expansion joint added to the concrete. And I get water seepage after all the rain that we’ve had here for the last couple weeks. I just had – you can’t stick a knife down between the cracks. It’s like they just poured the concrete up next to the other concrete. And I’m trying to figure out how to seal it.

    TOM: Well, first of all, if you take steps to reduce the amount of water against those exterior walls, then that’s going to help a lot.

    BARRY: I have done that. It actually does not hold water around the outside at all. I mean it’s – I’ve got it diverted to where it’s actually going towards the ditch or out towards the backyard. But it’s just that when the ground gets saturated, it’s – the house is – if you walked in the front door, you’ve got about an inch between dirt level versus the concrete.

    TOM: So, you’re saying that the house is very low on the lot and you don’t really have much of a foundation where you could grade – regrade – soil and slope it away. Is that right?

    BARRY: Well, I’ve diverted water where it actually does not come in the front door anymore and it’s not standing anywhere around the outside of the house at all. It’s just, I guess, saturation after you get a week’s worth of rain, like we’ve had.

    The house is at one level but the add-on is about 3 to 4 inches taller, so it’s up above. So I’m presuming the water is pocketing up under that slab.

    TOM: Well, there is a product that QUIKRETE makes and it’s called an Advanced Polymer. It’s a concrete crack sealant, so it’s specifically made for sealing cracks. And that is the type of product that you’re going to want to use when you’re dealing with water.

    You have really two challenges: you have water getting in between these two dissimilar areas of concrete and the second thing is that concrete itself is very hydroscopic. In other words, if the water is under it, it’s going to soak it up and it can pull it up tall into the slab.

    But I think you need a very – you need a sealant that’s designed specifically for concrete and QUIKRETE are the experts in that space. They have a lot of different ones but I think the one you’re looking for is the Advanced Polymer Crack Sealant. It comes in a caulking tube, among other configurations, as well as a tub. So, you should be able to get it in the shape that you need to do this job.

    BARRY: OK. Well, I will check with the concrete people down here at Lowe’s and see what I can come up with.

    TOM: Give it a shot. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    BARRY: Alright. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Well, now that our gardens and landscapes are growing like crazy, have you noticed that the local wildlife is as much of an admirer of it as you are?

    Well, Tom, I know you’ve had to deal with deer and groundhogs in your garden this season. What’s going on?

    TOM: Absolutely. But the solution was pretty easy. We used Repels-All. It’s a product by Bonide. It’s an all-natural repellant that repels wildlife by sense of touch, by taste and smell.

    Now, it can protect plants and structures for up to two months per application. And it’s safe for people and pets if, of course, you use it as directed.

    LESLIE: Now, Repels-All comes as a liquid that’s ready to use or ready to spray, as well as a concentrate that you can mix yourself. Plus, it’s available in a granule. It’s not going to hurt animals; it just irritates their nasal passage and paws just enough that they’ll go looking elsewhere for their next meal.

    TOM: Repels-All by Bonide. Bonide products have been family-made in the U.S.A. for over 90 years. Learn more at Bonide.com.

    LESLIE: Erin in Louisiana is on the line. How can we help you today?

    ERIN: Hi. I have a slab house that’s about 35 years old and it’s showing signs of needing to be leveled. But I thought I heard on a previous show of yours that you do not recommend leveling a house; just fix the issues that come up as it needs it. And I didn’t know if I heard correctly or not, so I thought I would call and ask about that.

    LESLIE: Well, tell me, how much of a slope are you noticing, throughout the property, on the interior of the home?

    ERIN: No, we’re seeing cracks in the walls, cracks in the ceiling, cracks in the floors.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, if you put a marble on the floor in some of these rooms that you’re seeing these cracks, does it roll all around wildly? If it does roll, how fast?

    ERIN: I actually have not done anything like that.

    LESLIE: Ah, the marble test. It’s very fun. That will tell you if the ground itself is level.

    Now, if you’re seeing cracks in the walls and in the ceiling, are they sort of near a doorway or a window or are they just square in the middle of stuff?

    ERIN: Well, there’s a crack in the floor that’s square in the middle of the floor and it extends out into a – we have a sliding-glass door and the brick above the sliding-glass door is separated.

    And then, we also see it – I also see it in rooms next to the wall, where it’s like – the house is shaped like a T. And where one part of the top of the T goes into the long part of the T, I can see it separating there against the – in the ceiling.

    LESLIE: You know, generally, if you see cracks and they’re by a doorframe or a window, that’s just general movement because of the opening in the envelope of the home, being in a window opening or a doorway in an interior wall. Now, if you’re seeing it like in the middle of the floor and above a doorframe in brick, you might be concerned that there could be some structural issues going on. However, you might want to bring in a structural engineer.

    You bring in an engineer or even a home inspector and for a couple of hundred bucks, they’ll come in and look at these areas and diagnose, specifically, what’s going on there. Because it could be something structural that could need to be fixed in a way that you can’t just do by repairing the crack. Or it could just simply be natural settlement of the home over the duration of the home’s lifespan and that’s easily fixable.

    But because you have a crack forming in the middle of a floor and that continues to a doorway, I would definitely bring in somebody who’s a structural engineer and they can write up a report on it. And the benefit of doing that is that when you do fix this, whatever the problem may be, you are going to have a full, written pedigree of what you’ve done to the problem in the home, how you’ve fixed it and what everything was done correctly. This way, if you go to sell the home and somebody says, “Oh, I saw a crack,” or whatever the situation might be, you can say, “Actually, this happened. We did this repair and it’s all square.”

    ERIN: OK.

    TOM: Erin, some cracks are really typical wear and tear, so to speak. But this one definitely sounds like you need a pro to check it out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, are you looking for a durable, baby-friendly floor? Well, we’ve got some suggestions, when The Money Pit continues.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to take your questions, your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And while you’re online, be sure to post your question at The Money Pit Community section, just like Amanda in California did.

    Now, Amanda writes: “I’m expecting a baby and looking for flooring for the nursery. I want something that handles stains well but also something soft. Do you have any suggestions?”

    I can tell you what not to do, Amanda. Don’t get the white carpet because you’re like, “It’s going to be so cute and it’s so great.” Baby formula stains horribly. It never seems to come up, so that’s what I’m telling you not to do.

    TOM: And I think that’s a great point. You want to choose a flooring that’s, first, durable because you hope that it’s going to last well into the childhood years, right? You don’t want to have to replace it when the kid starts walking.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: And therefore, you also want to choose something that’s neutral enough where when you get rid of the pink butterflies or the blue elephants or whatever you have painted on the walls and you can try to make it a big-boy room or a big-girl room, the flooring is still going to work and still going to stand up.

    You’ve got a lot of options today, though. Maybe more than ever before. I kind of tend to say maybe you should stay away from carpet in lieu of area rugs for that soft feel.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. No.

    TOM: But I’m thinking laminate, I’m thinking EVP – engineered vinyl plank. Those products look absolutely gorgeous today and they can look like pretty much anything, right?

    LESLIE: And you know what, Amanda? The interesting thing is if you go with a floor like that, any of those options, even if you go with a hardwood or a laminate that looks good or an engineered flooring, you can do that. It will look absolutely beautiful.

    And then you have the option of doing an area rug. You can do an area rug that’s substantial enough in size where it could feel like a wall-to-wall carpet. You could even do floor carpet tiles on top of the new floor that you put down. That will give you that wall-to-wall feel while the baby is crawling and doing tummy time and all of the things on their belly and on the floor that you want to give them the softness of. But you have the durability with one of those carpet tiles. Because if something gets stained, you can just pick it up and toss it or clean it or replace it, whatever needs be.

    So, I would say invest in a floor that’s going to be the long haul through the house, through the lifetime of your family and that property. But go ahead and put coatings on top that will be removable, washable, durable.

    Because I’m sort of stuck. I mean my kids are older now but there’s so much furniture in this tiny room and I live in such a small house that I’m like, “I can’t get that furniture out to deal with that wall-to-wall carpeting.” So until we move or change all the furniture, that dirty, white carpet has been with me now almost 11 years. So, there you go.

    TOM: Alright. Well, Dan is writing in with a question. He says, “Our home is overrun with houseflies. There’s no apparent cause, like open trash or food being left out. I kill up to 25 to 30 flies per day. No kidding. Worst part is the next day, there are that many right back. Can you guys suggest a fix or a possible cause? It’s driving me nuts.”

    And it sounds like cluster flies. They live outside. They feed entirely on earthworms but they’ll come inside in big numbers like that, this time of year, to hibernate. The good news is they don’t feed or lay eggs in human food and they don’t indicate the presence of something dead, like other flies. But the bad news is they can be hard to get rid of.

    There’s a non-toxic trap that I like, called Cluster Buster, that can work pretty well. But when you see those insects, you want to kind of hop on it. You don’t want to wait because if you do, they just get worse before they get better, right?

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. It’s so horrible when you find flies in the house because you can hear them buzzing so loudly. And they’re really tricky to get. Not that I’m swinging towels around the house trying to get them whenever they’re in the house. But I know what you’re dealing with, Dan. Good luck.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend. We hope that you’ve been enjoying doing whatever you want to do because it’s a holiday. But if that project, if your to-do involved home improvement, we were happy to lend a hand.

    If you’ve got questions about a project you’re thinking about or one that you’re stuck in the middle of, remember that you can reach us, 24/7, by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. If we are not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are. Or you can post your questions online 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.


    (Copyright 2019 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)


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