Tiny Home Revolution Goes DIY, Stone Walls That Stand and Tips to Keep Your Home Water Tight Through Spring Storms

  • 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: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. We’re standing by to help at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 

    Coming up on today’s show, tiny homes. They have become all the rage. And while some may find the idea of living in such small quarters a bit crazy, many people are attracted to the concept of simplifying their lives. So much so that one major retailer is now offering tiny-home kits for do-it-yourselfers. We’re going to have details, coming up.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, stone walls are synonymous with strength. But a poorly built wall can crumble in no time at all. We’re going to share tips on building a stone wall that will stand the test of time, a little later.

    TOM: Plus, now that spring rains are upon us, is your house truly watertight? We’ve got tips on how to prevent all the sneaky ways water finds its way into your home.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’ve giving away the RYOBI 18-Volt Cordless String Trimmer and Edger. It’s available exclusively at The Home Depot, where you can get everything you need for your lawn and garden and for all things spring.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth almost $80 going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone, right now, and call us with your home improvement or home décor dilemma at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mary in Massachusetts is on the line with a ridge-vent question. How can we help you today?

    MARY: My house is 70 years old. In time, it needed to be re-shingled. So the roofer explained now they use ridge vent and they opened the center of the roof. And it (audio gap) great and I was happy with the shingles but I do not like that ridge vent. It’s like having an open window. Is there a way I can close that?

    TOM: No. That is doing exactly what it’s intended to do and exactly what it has to do, Mary. You know, we all grew up with homes that were grossly under-ventilated. But if your attic is ventilated perfectly, it should be the same temperature as the outside. It is not a conditioned space. It is unconditioned. So the heat is trapped at the floor level where you have insulation but the ridge vent is designed to let air out of the attic where it’s most likely to exit. 

    So, for example, if your house is ventilated perfectly, the wind is going to blow over the roof, it’s going to depressurize the ridge and pull air out of the attic from that space. It pulls out moisture in the wintertime, it pulls out heat in the summertime. 

    And the other half of that are soffit vents at the overhang. These work together to properly ventilate a roof. So you’ve just never experienced a properly ventilated attic but that is exactly what ridge vents are supposed to do. And I would not change them because if you do, you’re going to have a number of issues to crop up. 

    Number one, you’ll have moisture that will build up in the attic. And what that will do is make the insulation far less effective. If you add just 2-percent moisture to fiberglass insulation, it loses about a third of its resistance to heat loss. Secondly, in the summertime, you’ll have excessive heat, which will make cooling the house that much more expensive. So I wouldn’t do a thing.

    MARY: Hmm. OK. I was curious. I’m not thrilled with it but I guess I have to live with it.

    TOM: Yep. Get used to it. It’s doing its job, Mary, OK? 

    MARY: Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Frank on the line who’s having an issue with paint on his siding. 

    What’s going on, Frank?

    FRANK: It’s all – and first of all, it’s all coming off. It’s like no one ever primed it before or anything and I don’t know if they used paint or stain. And I’m not really sure what to go back with it, if you have prime it. I really – I don’t know. I’m lost.

    TOM: So we’re talking about siding shingles here, not roofing shingles, correct?

    FRANK: Right. Cedar shingles – white cedar shingles.

    TOM: So the paint’s coming off after you’re power-washed them, so you probably didn’t have good adhesion to begin with.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But paint is going to come off when you pressure-wash. That’s just how it goes.

    TOM: Well, that’s true and – well, depending on the ferocity of the pressure washer. But also, if paint wasn’t applied well, if it wasn’t primed properly, then it will come off even that much more quicker. So what I would recommend you do is to get rid of any loose paint that’s left behind. You’re probably going to have to abrade those shingles, probably brush them with a wire brush. Make sure you really get anything that’s loose off of that.

    Then you’re going to need to prime the entire shingle surface with an oil-based primer, because that’s going to give you maximum adhesion. The primer – one of the qualities of the primer is that it really sticks to the substrate. And then after it’s primed, then you can put a topcoat of paint over that. But that’s the process and there’s just no shortcutting it, especially if you’ve got adhesion problems with the paint that you’ve taken off. You can’t put good paint over bad paint. You’ve got to get rid of all the bad paint, prime it properly and then repaint it and you’ll be good to go, Frank.

    FRANK: OK. Because I’ve had some people telling me that you could use stain.

    TOM: Well, you could use stain, as well, but only if all of the old paint is off. Otherwise, it’s going to look pretty bad.

    Now, if you use stain, you still have to prime it. I’ve got cedar shingles on my home and I primed it first and then used a solid-color stain over that. And between the two of them – the last time I did it this way, it lasted about 15 or 17 years. But you’ve got to prime it. No matter what you do, you’ve got to prime it.

    FRANK: OK. And an oil-based primer. OK. Thanks a lot.

    TOM: You’ve got it, Frank. 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. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to help you get your home ready.

    Now that it is spring, we know we’re all getting outside more. We’re getting ready to gear up for Memorial Day Weekend which, believe me, is going to be here before you know it. So let us help you get your money pit in tip-top shape. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, a question: how big is your home or garden? And more importantly, could you make do with less? If so, there might be a tiny-home do-it-yourself kit in your future. We’ll have details, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement questions, your décor dilemmas. Pick up the phone and help yourself, first, by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We might also be able to help you with some of your spring yard cleanup because this hour, we’re giving away the RYOBI 18-Volt Cordless String Trimmer and Edger. If you haven’t already, it is time that you get out and start investing in cordless outdoor power tools. These are battery-operated tools. You will never have to worry about gas or cords again. Featuring an 18-volt lithium-ion battery, this lightweight spring trimmer from RYOBI delivers a 10-inch cut width and the shaft rotates for easy edging.

    You’ll find it at The Home Depot. The value is 79.97. Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Alice in Wisconsin on the line who has a question about imitation bricks.

    What can we do for you? 

    ALICE: Well, I just want your opinion on some of the advantages or disadvantages or the types of installation, whether it’s better one way than another. And just your opinion on it.

    TOM: Where are you putting these imitation bricks?

    ALICE: On the front of the house, from top to bottom, but just this section.

    TOM: OK. Well, like all projects, Alice, it can be done well or done poorly. But the idea of using synthetic brick and synthetic stone is one that is a solid process. And not to coin a phrase but I mean it’s a good idea. You can get a lot of beauty out of those bricks and out of that sort of synthetic stone, at a lot less weight than you would have to deal with if they were real masonry materials. You might want to take a look at the company called Boral – B-o-r-a-l – Boral Brick. They make brick and stone synthetic products that are – adheres to the outside of homes and look absolutely terrific.

    ALICE: And then there’s different ways. I’ve got the information on three or four different styles. Some are nailed, some have clips and some have no mortar.

    TOM: OK. Well, the ones that are nailed or clipped, that’s a type of siding. That’s not like a stucco process where it’s adhered to the outside of the house. That’s basically a siding that looks like brick. 

    And I don’t know about you, Leslie, but I haven’t seen any of those siding products that really look like brick.

    LESLIE: No. I really would go with a faux product. Tom’s recommendation is a good one. Kodiak is another one that makes an exterior faux stone. And those will all be applied like a tile would be, with mortar with – to really stand the test of time. And they’ll look amazing and they’ll look more realistic.

    And basically, when you’re dealing with a faux stone, it’s made from – is it poured concrete, Tom? They pour it into the forms and colorize it to give it all of that natural depth and beauty.

    TOM: Right. It’s a slurry mix but it basically is made in a factory and can take on any shape or color or form that you wish. I would look into Zodiac or Boral as the manufacturers of those synthetic brick products. I think you’ll be very happy with either one. OK?

    ALICE: OK. And are they fine in a northern climate?

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

    LESLIE: Tim in New York is having an issue with the tub. What’s going on in your bathroom?

    TIM: So my wife and I moved into our home two years ago and the previous homeowners recently redid the bathroom. It’s very nice but unfortunately, the bathtub has two cracks in it. So I recently had – to be real quick, I recently had a bathtub fitter come in and take a look at it. They can’t do it because they don’t have the molds for it and they would have to cover up the tile anyway. So my question is: is there an easy fix? And even if I had to replace a tub, do I have to take out tile to do so?

    TOM: Well, you have to take out probably the first couple of rows of tile. It depends on how difficult it is to get the tub in and out of that space. It’s a pretty big job. It might be that it’s just not worth trying to save the tile. This is the time where you might just want to think about whether or not you could just renovate the entire bathroom. Because frankly, by the time you get that tub out, you’re going to be taking so many other fixtures out of the way to kind of get the tub in and out, you might end up doing that anyway, Tim. You know, the bathtub is the first thing that goes into a bathroom and everything else works around it or fits around it. And I think the bath-fitter idea was a good one but if they can’t do it, they can’t do it.

    TIM: Yeah. I looked up online and they have these epoxies that fix cracks. I don’t think it’s going to work or be a permanent fix. Do you have any knowledge on that?

    TOM: That’s true. I would agree with that. It’s very difficult to repair a crack or a chip in a tub. Is it a fiberglass tub?

    TIM: It is. It’s a fiberglass tub.

    TOM: So look, they repair fiberglass boats, right? Or fiberglass cars? So you can use – right from an auto-body shop, you can use fiberglass repair compound to fix this. It’s not going to be pretty, right? I mean like a Bondo product or something like that. It’s going to be obvious but if you want to buy yourself some time and use the tub for a while, you could do that.

    I had a shower stall once where the fiberglass pan cracked. Then I repaired that with fiberglass and Bondo just by basically applying the fiberglass in a couple of layers and then putting the compound over top of that. And you could see it but it didn’t leak after I fixed it.

    TIM: OK. Well, maybe I’ll look into that. The bathroom is so new that I don’t want to rip out, well …

    TOM: I know. I hear you. It hurts. And it may be very well that the tub was put in incorrectly. Because when you put in fiberglass tubs, you’re supposed to put a solid fill under them. Usually, you’ll put a loose mix of mortar mix underneath it because it basically gives you something solid to step into, because the tub has some flex.

    TIM: Yeah. I don’t think they did that because you could actually feel the tub moving underneath my feet.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, it sounds like it wasn’t put in right.

    TIM: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. That was very helpful.

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

    Well, if you’ve ever thought about downsizing – that is, in a huge way – you may be following the tiny-home craze. Folks all over America are looking to shed their possessions to fit into a home that’s, well, the size of about a shed.

    LESLIE: It’s true, guys. Well, 84 Lumber is ready to help. They’ve introduced a new line of portable, tiny homes, which makes them the first-ever major retailer to offer custom-built houses no bigger than 200 square feet. Now, the line includes four models and three packages that range from fully DIY to move-in ready. Each model can be customized and all range in size from 150 to 200 square feet.

    TOM: Now, for the serious do-it-yourselfer, the Build Your Own package starts at 6,884 bucks. And it includes a tiny-home trailer outfitted with a subfloor and ready for walls. Plus, you get the architectural plans and a list of the needed materials which can all be purchased, conveniently, at your local 84 Lumber. The Semi-DIY package starts at 19,884 and includes a shelled-in tiny house on a trailer, equipped with the windows, doors and a shower, plus those architectural plans and materials list.

    LESLIE: And if you’d rather not do it yourself, well, the Move-In Ready package starts at $49,884 and is a completed tiny house fully outfitted, both inside and out. 

    TOM: You can learn more about 84 Lumber’s new line of tiny homes at 84TinyLiving.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Diane from Rhode Island on the line with a basement issue. What is going on at your money pit? 

    DIANE: Hi. I have a house that was built in 1945. And in my basement, the cement walls – and it looks like once upon a time, they were painted white. And the bottom half of the walls, which are below the ground level, it crumbles and it leaves a lot of sediment. And I can see through the big things of pebbles in the wall.

    TOM: So the reason that the bottom half of the wall is deteriorating is probably because of moisture. What are these walls made out of? Are they made out of concrete or concrete block or cinder block?

    DIANE: Concrete. There’s no block.

    TOM: There’s no block; it’s concrete. Alright. So I think what’s happening here is you’re getting water that’s leaking through the lower half of the walls. And you’re probably getting efflorescence. You could be getting some spalling, depending on the temperatures, that could be causing some of the wall to freeze and then basically chip off pieces of the concrete.

    So what I would do, in this case, is I would start by trying to reduce the amount of moisture that’s collecting in that wall by addressing the drainage conditions right outside of it. Generally speaking, this is caused by one of two things or more commonly, a combination of the angle of the soil at the foundation perimeter. If it’s too flat, if it’s sloped into the house, if there’s any kind of landscaping ties or brick edges or too much mulch, any of those conditions that are holding water around the foundation is a bad thing. And more importantly, the gutter system. Make sure you have gutters, that the gutters are extended at least 4 to 6 feet from the house. If you can keep that perimeter of your house drier, this problem will definitely stabilize.

     DIANE: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Dennis in Alaska is on the line and is having an issue with condensation.

    How can we help you?

    DENNIS: I have an 8-foot by 8-foot by 40-foot steel convex box that I want to insulate and turn into a gym. The problem I’m having – as the weather changes, they get condensation inside and it drips. So I’m not really sure how to go about insulating this thing, whether I should insulate on the outside, put another outer wall or insulate or the inside, drill some kind of breathing holes or …

    TOM: The type of insulation applications you’re talking about are ones that require ventilation. There’s another type of insulation application that doesn’t require ventilation and that’s spray foam. And considering how large this space is, I think spray foam is an excellent application. It’s done in very, very severe climates, just as severe as where you live. And it can be sprayed on the outside or it can be sprayed on the inside. And it’s a non-vented application. So you don’t have to worry about any additional ventilation. Once this is applied, those walls will be thoroughly insulated.

    And the nice thing about spray foam is it also seals out drafts, unlike fiberglass insulation. I think if you consider the modifications you’d have to do to use any kind of a batt insulation here and manage that moisture, spray foam would be an effective and affordable solution.

    DENNIS: OK. Excellent. Sounds a lot easier than what I had in mind.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah. Take a look at Icynene.com – I-c-y-n-e-n-e.com. And I would speak with an Icynene dealer near you. I use Icynene in my own home and I’m very, very thrilled with the result.

    DENNIS: Great. Excellent. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Randy in Illinois is on the line with a kitchen-cabinet question. How can we help you today?

    RANDY: Yeah, I recently purchased a home and it had some all-wood cabinets in the kitchen. And they’re half bisque-colored and they’re half of a whiter color, depending on which part of the cabinet you look at. And I’m trying to figure out how – a way to get them back to either all one color or the lighter version.

    TOM: What’s the material that your cabinets are made out of?

    RANDY: I believe it’s oak but it could be pine.

    TOM: Well, assuming that the oak is finished, one of the issues that you’re going to have is that you can’t really stain it and change the color. So you’d have to either paint it or you’d have to sand it down. Since most of those cabinets are covered with veneer, it makes it also difficult for you to be able to sand enough of that finish off to have it accept stain.

    So, your resulting options would be to reface the cabinets, which is adding new veneer to it, or to paint the cabinets to get that consistent look.

    RANDY: OK. OK. That sounds good. I’ll do that. Thank you very much.

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

    Still to come, a stone wall can add a stately look to your home. But if you build it wrong, it can crumble in no time. We’re going to share some tips on building a stone wall that’s going to last, from This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook, next.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-look tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

    KEVIN: I’m Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House. An old house means plenty of busy weekends maintaining it. Not sure where to start? Pick up the phone and call Tom and Leslie, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by for your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. How can we help you improve your money pit? Call us, right now, and let’s do just that.

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

    MARILYN: Hello. I have moved into an old home that has unfinished and some finished wooden floors that were carpeted. Unfortunately, in taking that carpet up, former pets that were here have left their mark all over the floors.

    TOM: Oh, no.

    MARILYN: There are stains and there is a dreadful, dreadful odor throughout the house. The dogs that I have brought in have continued that process and now have to live outside. My question is: what do I do? What can I do to get the odor out of these wooden floors?

    TOM: What I would do, Marilyn, is I would sand the floors. This is the one time where I think it makes a lot of sense to do a thorough sanding of these floors.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You’ve got to completely refinish.

    TOM: Yeah, especially if you’re saying that some of the floors were unfinished to begin with. So I would sand all the floors to take off some material, vacuum up that sawdust and then I would add three coats of polyurethane.

    Now, I’m sorry, let me back up. Before you polyurethane, if they’re still stained, then I would add some wood stain to the floor to darken the color a little bit and hide any of those remaining marks. Because if you try to go totally natural, the stains will obviously show up. But if you add – you know, it’s like a slight tinting to – a tinted stain. Like, say, one of the colors that I use a lot is called Early American, which is like a very light, brown color. That looks really nice and does hide some of those stains that could be in the wood. And then add the three coats of urethane.

    LESLIE: A big trend is dark gray, almost even like an ebonized wood floor. Dark wood floors, even if it’s a super-dark chocolate or almost on the black/gray scale, really are impactful and beautiful and that could hide a lot, as well.

    TOM: Yeah. And well, that’s a good point. I mean you could – you don’t have to go dark is what I’m trying to say. You could just go just very fairly lightly. But from there, I think you’ll be good to go. I think once you put the urethane coating on it, you’ll no longer have the odor issues.

    MARILYN: Love your show. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Thank you, Marilyn. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Well, stone walls are synonymous with strength and permanence but a poorly built wall can crumble in no time at all.

    TOM: Here with tips on how to build a stone wall solid enough to stand up to the future is This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Hey, guys. Thanks for having me. 

    TOM: Roger, I’m always amazed as I travel the country and see stone walls that go for mile upon mile, that seem to show absolutely no wear and tear. How is that possible?

    ROGER: Well, it really depends on what the wall is designed to do. If you need a wall to hold back, to really be strong and change the grade for you, then you need a mortared wall.

    TOM: So we’re talking about a retaining wall? It’s going to hold back the earth, say, where there’s an elevation change.

    ROGER: Tons and tons of earth. So to support that wall, you have to dig down 4 feet deep below the frost line, pour a footing and then build your wall on top of that. If you don’t, the mortar will fail and the wall will fall apart.

    TOM: So, Roger, we’re talking about digging down to 4 feet to get below that frost line. Now, for those that are not familiar with what a frost line is, it’s basically the point above which soil will freeze and expand and it can be disrupted through the wall. But that frost line is going to be different based on different parts of the country, right?

    ROGER: That’s right. Here in New England, we use 4 feet as our frost line. But it’s different in every part of the country, so you can check with your local building department. They should be able to tell you.

    TOM: Now, if you’re just building a stone wall to provide a border for your yard or keep the cattle in, do you have to go that deep?

    ROGER: No, you don’t. That’s what we call a “farmer’s wall.” And what we do is we literally scrape out 6 or 8 inches and take the biggest rocks and roll them in place. And we try to get them so that it’s wider at the bottom than it is in the top. So the wall’s really leaning on itself to give it support. And because it’s a dry wall, the water drains right out through it, you get very little movement and when you do, you just pick up the rock and put it back on the wall again.

    TOM: It’s actually better than if it had mortar in it because that would just freeze and crack and chip away.

    ROGER: Yeah. Without a footing 4 feet deep, absolutely.

    LESLIE: Well, that brings up a good point. What about a footing? If you’re dealing with a mortared wall versus a dry wall, what’s the prep work for the ground below it?

    ROGER: With a mortared wall, we’re going to start out with a big machine and we’re going to dig down 4 feet deep, probably a foot or 2 wider than the wall is going to be. We’re going to take and pour a concrete base and build a wall on top of that.

    LESLIE: And for the dry wall, you don’t have to do anything?

    ROGER: For the dry wall, I literally dig out 6 or 8 inches, put a little stone in there and set the rocks in place. Think about it: when the farmers were building these walls years ago, they put the rock – roll a big rock on a sled, use a horse or donkey and drag it over to the property line and push it off. And that’s why all the big ones are on the bottom. The little ones they’d lift up and put on the wall.

    TOM: Now, what if you have to cut a stone to maybe fit into an open space? Do you ever really do that or do you just keep looking for a stone that fits?

    ROGER: Yeah. You have good days and bad days. Some days, every stone you pick up fits in perfectly. Other days, you’ve got to cut. There’s a couple different ways to do it. You can use a chisel with a carbide blade on it. There’s a couple different shapes on the end of the blade so that you can really get – chip what you want to chip. But what we use a lot is a diamond-blade saw, anything from the 4-inch one to – we have a big, 16-inch one to cut the block. And once we cut the block, then we take a chisel and shape it with a hammer and chisel.

    LESLIE: I feel like there’s certain types of architecture in certain areas of this country that really make a stone wall look very charming and appropriate but no offense, it seems like a lot of work.

    ROGER: Well …

    TOM: That’s because it is.

    ROGER: It is.

    LESLIE: Is there – I’m always looking for a shortcut, apparently. Is there an easier way or a trick of the trade or a different product?

    ROGER: Well, to address your first question – is I love seeing all the different types of walls, because every mason does things a little bit better, a little tad – a little different pattern, a little bit of stone.

    LESLIE: Right.

    ROGER: And you can even recognize some of the people’s walls. Like I know who built that wall without a sign being there.

    TOM: Who built the wall. They’re artists.

    ROGER: Now, if you want to try something different from building a wall, there’s a concrete segmental wall block. That whole system that’s made out of concrete, where you dig a very shallow footing and you backfill it. And you can build a wall simply stacking them on top of each other. Doesn’t quite look like a stone wall but is less expensive and goes very quickly.

    TOM: Kind of the big-boy version of Lego blocks.

    ROGER: Exactly.

    TOM: Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Thanks.

    LESLIE: 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 Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by AZEK Deck, Trim and Pavers. AZEK, engineered to last beautifully.

    Up next, now that spring rains have arrived, it’s a good time to make sure your home is leak-proof. We’ve got tips to keep it dry, from roof to basement, after this.

    (theme song) 

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We want to help you get your house in the best springtime shape of its life. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a great prize to help you do just that. We’ve got up for grabs the RYOBI 18-Volt Cordless String Trimmer and Edger.

    Now, if you haven’t already, it’s really time that you started investing in cordless outdoor power tools. They’re super lightweight, plus they’re battery-operated so you don’t have to worry about gas or any cords again. It really makes life super easy when you’re tackling all of your outdoor chores. It features an 18-volt lithium ion battery, which makes it super lightweight. And the trimmer from RYOBI delivers a 10-inch cut width and the shaft rotates so you can have super easy edging when you’re making your yard look so pretty.

    You can get this at The Home Depot. It’s a prize worth $80 and it’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random this hour.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, now that the warm weather is ahead, it’s a good time to inspect the outside of your home for signs of wear and tear that could’ve been brought on by winter weather. Here’s how you do that. 

    Start with a roof check first. Grab some binoculars and look for shingles that are missing, broken, buckling or blistering.

    LESLIE: Next, you want to clean and inspect your home’s siding. Now, you can use a pressure washer to clear away dirt and algae. And you can check for developments, like buckling, warping and insect damage while you’re going around the property.

    TOM: Next, take a look at the angle of the grading at the perimeter of your home. You want to make sure it hasn’t settled so much that it no longer drains water away from your house. Because that’s a leading cause of flooded basements and crawlspaces.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And now is the time when we start to hear about all of those spring rainstorms, which cause leaks into basements and crawlspaces. So you want to make sure that you’re adding soil in all of those areas where you’ve had a lot of settling and maybe it’s sloping towards the house. So you want to add soil so that now everything slopes away from your house. 

    TOM: Yeah. And most importantly, you want to make sure that your gutters are clean and the spouts are extended. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to solve a wet-basement problem for a homeowner, in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector, simply by telling them to clean the gutters and extend the spouts and the problem goes away. 

    But we won’t go away. We’re here to help you with your home improvement questions. So call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Diane in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    DIANE: We live in New Jersey. And my dad had the Pennsylvania Dutch come all the way to New Jersey. And they put up a beautiful (inaudible at 0:30:11) pole barn, you know, with that nice shape to it.

    TOM: OK.

    DIANE: But I noticed there are little rafters along the edge. And even though they have little holes in them, every year the flies come in through there and I have hundreds, all dead, at the end of summer. And I don’t know what I could do to stop that problem.

    TOM: So you have – this is a barn that you have and it’s a fairly open barn? I mean you’re not going to keep the flies out of the barn. You can’t make it that tight because by the nature of the building, it’s pretty drafty, correct?

    DIANE: Well, actually, my dad – we never had any animals near stalls but he – it’s completely closed all the time. It’s got two electric doors at either end and a door, so it is contained. The only way they’re getting in is through – under the edges of the roof, there’s a – it looks like a – I don’t know. You know the gutters, sort of? It looks like gutters – gutter situation. And there’s an opening there and the sunlight and the air go through, which I guess you need for animals. But we’re not using it for animals.

    TOM: So at the room edge, the rafters, does it have a complete soffit? Is it constructed so that you have a flat, vented area underneath it? Or is it just wide open?

    DIANE: No. There is a vented area. They have looked at it closely. And it appears to have – and it’s got little holes in it big enough for flies.

    TOM: So they’re not getting in this soffit area where you’re suspecting.

    DIANE: I don’t know. I thought they were coming through those holes.

    TOM: Yeah but if they’re that small, they’re not coming in. Look, typically, soffit ventilation is too small for insects to get into. So they’re probably coming in a different way. Do you have a ridge vent at the peak?

    DIANE: Actually it’s just for looks because when I – there is a staircase that goes up to the top of the barn and there’s no openings in the roof.

    TOM: Diane, if you’re trying to keep these barn flies out of the barn, there’s really two ways to approach this. Mechanical, which is what we’re talking about in terms of making sure that you have screening wherever it’s necessary. This would include any vents, gable vents, cupola vents, soffit vents and the like. And of course, you mentioned that it has large doors that generally stay closed. I guess there’s not much you can do right there.

    But the second technique is chemical. And there are professional pesticides that are designed specifically to deal with these flies. There’s usually some formulation of pyrethrin that essentially is sprayed inside the barn to control these insect populations. And in fact, in some cases where you actually have livestock, there are formulations that can also be applied to the livestock without harming them.

    So I would do two things: I would make sure that I examine the barn very carefully for any additional openings where these flies can get in; and then I would consult a pest-management professional for an appropriate application of pesticide, because you have such a severe problem. I don’t think this is anything you’re going to be able to handle with, say, a more natural, smaller-scale approach like I might give you for your house. In this case, I think you need to choose the right product and have it applied properly. And when done, in accordance with all the label directions, I think it is a relatively safe thing to do.

    I hope that helps you out. Thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: With summer ahead, is your attic getting ridiculously hot during those warm months? Well, if so, an attic fan may help. We’ll tell you how to set one up to cool you down, next.

    (theme song) 

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: We’re here to help you with your projects at 888-MONEY-PIT and also online at MoneyPit.com, where Josh posted a question about keeping his attic cool.

    LESLIE: Alright. Josh writes: “At what temperature should I set my attic power-vent fans to keep my attic cool? I live in a hot and humid climate where temperatures are often in the 90s. The roof gets full exposure to the sun throughout the day.”

    TOM: Hmm. Well, listen, attic fans are OK but only in limited circumstances. I do not like attic fans in general, because what they tend to do is actually pull out some of that air-conditioned air from the house itself. They’re so powerful, they essentially will depressurize the attic. And then the air-conditioned air from inside the house will get drawn up into that attic, through all the nooks and crannies and channels, say, through the stud bays and around where wires go through the ceiling and pipes go through and that sort of thing. So, in general, I don’t like attic fans except in a very rare circumstance and that is when you have a hip roof that is very difficult to vent passively.

    Now, if you’ve got a traditional roof, the easiest way to vent that is through a combination of soffit vents – those are the vents that are underneath that overhang of the roof, right? – and ridge vents at the peak of the roof. They work together to take air into the soffit, run it up under the roof sheathing and taking out all that hot air with it and then venting it at the ridge vent. 

    So, in your case, Josh, I would suggest that you look into that passive ventilation, because it’s going to be a lot less expensive in the long run to run that and more effective. If you absolutely need to stick with the attic fan, you need to set it at about 110 degrees. And believe me, it’s going to run all the time.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It gets hot up there. My goodness.

    Alright. And next up, we have a post from Sarah who writes: “I have an old, enameled iron tub that’s chipped around the drain. It’s unsightly but it’s not leaking. What’s the best fix?”

    TOM: You know, repairing tub enamel is really difficult. The original finishes are baked on. And while you can touch up the enamel, it really never matches 100 percent. So at this point, it’s kind of a process of just making sure it doesn’t get any worse. I would still recommend that you do use a touch-up enamel. There’s a number of different products out there. One of the more popular ones in called Porc-a-Fix. You can find that at Amazon and I’m sure a bunch of retailers.

    LESLIE: Sometimes I even see them at the Depot.

    TOM: Yeah. And what you want to do is you want to follow the instructions to make sure that that area is clean or dry. If it’s the drain, you may even want to take off some of the interior trim so you can really get under that area that’s rusted. Clean it really well. Probably need to wire-brush it or sand it so you don’t have any loose rust there. And then apply the touch-up compound very, very slowly so you kind of build it up. Try to contain it to just the area where the rust exists. 

    And you’ll find that it won’t match completely but it’s better than leaving it rusted, because that rust will only get worse and look more terrible over time.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a post from Nick who writes: “I can’t get rid of the black spots on my shower grout. I’ve tried the shower cleaners and bleach. I’ve had someone regrout the shower. Is it possible to clean the grout or do I need to remove the tile and start over?”

    Oh, gosh. That’s a big project.

    TOM: That would be pretty dramatic. So, what I would suggest – and I don’t know, when you say you’ve had them regrout, where they took the old grout out. But there’s a tool called a “grout saw” and it enables you to saw away or grind away the old grout so you can get a significant amount of new grout material in there. And when you put the new grout in, you want to make sure you have one that has a mildicide additive to it, because that will stop that mold from regrowing. 

    And thirdly, take a look at the humidity conditions inside your bathroom. You absolutely must have a bath fan that vents out on a timer so that it will run for a while after you step out of the shower.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s really helpful. You want to reduce that moisture as much as you can. And opening a bathroom window simply just doesn’t cut it.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this beautiful spring weekend with us. We hope we’ve given you some ideas and inspiration to save you some perspiration when it comes to taking on your home improvement projects.

    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.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2016 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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