- Are you getting ready to take a vacation this summer? From burglars to break downs, we’ve got tips to help take care of your house while your away!
- If your lawn is full of weeds, don’t just pull them before you pay attention to what’s causing the problem. We’ll share how to “read” your weeds just ahead.
- As we move into the “dog days” of summer, we’ve got tips to help keep your AC chugging along through the hottest days of summer.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Helen in Arizona is having an issue with bubbling paint on her wall.
- Mike from Arkansas has a leaky upstairs window when it rains and thinks it’s due to the soffit.
- Debbie in Ontario needs to know how to fill cracks on a cement patio.
- Randy from Texas has a deck that has wood that is starting to shrink due to moisture.
- Susan in California wants to know if she has to resurface her driveway or just replace it entirely.
- Ken from Texas want to know if he should add a ductless air conditioning system to his home.
- Sharon in Ohio has a furnace that is pulling sewer gas from her sump pump.
- Pat from Nebraska has a 5 year old dishwasher that won’t work anymore.
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 home improvement is what we do. Well, more specifically, we help you with your home improvements, your remodeling projects, your décor projects. If you’re doing it yourself or you’re getting a pro to help, we can help answer questions to help you get started on the right foot. If you don’t know where to start, you can start right here by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question on MoneyPit.com. Just click the blue microphone button and we will talk about your project and hopefully save you some money, save you some time, save you some aggravation so you can get to enjoying that new space ASAP.
Coming up on today’s show, are you getting ready to take a vacation this summer? Well, if you are, it’d be a great idea to set your house up to save some money while you’re away. So we’re going to share some tips on how you can do that.
LESLIE: And if your lawn is full of weeds, don’t just pull them before you pay attention to what’s causing that problem. We’re going to share how to read your weeds, just ahead.
TOM: And we’ve got some tips to help you keep your A/C chugging along through the hottest days of the summer.
LESLIE: And we’ve got a great prize to give away this hour. We’ve got some super-useful tools that will last a lifetime. We’ve got the Arrow Stapler and an amazing temp-control glue gun coming up for one lucky winner.
TOM: So, give us a call right now. We’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat. And if you are drawn out at the end of today’s show, we’ll be sending you the GT300 Professional High-Temp Glue Gun from Arrow Fastener, along with the TacMate Staple Gun, so you can get started on some projects. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Helen in Arizona is on the line with a question about some bubbling paint.
What is going on?
HELEN: I had my – the exterior of my home painted last summer. And the painter had power-washed it. Came back in a couple of days – a day or two – and actually did the painting. And it was about 2 months after that, I happened to notice little bubbles appearing under the paint. And I presume that’s because there’s water under that paint.
TOM: Not necessarily. What you have is an adhesion issue. So the paint’s not sticking to the wood siding or the substrate, whatever it is. This is a wood-sided house?
HELEN: Yeah, it’s a manufactured home, yes.
TOM: OK. Do you know if your painter applied a primer? Or did he just put the topcoat paint on?
HELEN: I’m trying to think if my paint did have primer in it.
TOM: Well, it wouldn’t have it in it; it would be a second coat. See, the right procedure would have been to scrape or pressure-wash – as he did, in this case – to get rid of the loose paint, algae or mildew and so on, let it dry and then prime it.
TOM: Because primer is what makes the paint stick. Now, if he didn’t prime it and the paint’s separating after 2 months, that’s a big problem. And it’s a problem for your painter because he did something wrong. There’s no way that paint should be failing after 2 months.
HELEN: I had it painted the fall prior and the person did a terrible job. And so, I decided to change colors and have it done again.
TOM: The new painter – the guy who does it accepts the condition of the house. So, if the first guy made any mistakes, then the second guy’s job is to correct those mistakes so that his work looks good.
HELEN: But there was no bubbling after the first paint job.
TOM: OK. I heard you on that. But OK, no matter what was there before, you need to make sure that the house was not only cleaned and loose paint removed but primed. Because at some point, you’re going to – you can’t keep putting layers upon layers of paint and expect every one to stick to the one before it.
Primer is the glue that makes the paint stick. And if he did not prime – and I think that’s probably a good reason that this paint is failing. Two days in warm weather should probably have been enough to deal with any moisture from the pressure-washing. Heck, it’s not much more than just a heavy rainfall. So, I think what you need to do is to contact that painter and have them back and have a discussion as to why your paint’s failing after a short period of time. It absolutely should not be happening.
LESLIE: Mike in Alaska, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
MIKE: I have an upstairs window that leaks when it rains. I noticed the soffits are dripping on the outside of the window sill and I’m wondering if the reason for the window leaking is because of the soffits. Or could it be the roof that’s leaking or even the window that’s leaking? I don’t know who to call first.
TOM: For soffits at the overhang, where a roof overhangs the exterior wall – so are you saying that that’s where you’re seeing the water come out?
MIKE: Yeah, I’m seeing drips coming from the soffit.
TOM: Do you have gutters?
TOM: Alright. And sometimes, gutters get backed up and then the water will overflow the back of the gutter and drip out through the soffit. Do you think that might be what you’re seeing?
MIKE: That’s possible, too. I’m just wondering why I see drips coming from the soffits.
TOM: Right. Because, as I said, the water will get behind the gutters and then it will work its way into the soffit area. And once it does that, it’s just going to run out the path of least resistance, which could very well be what you’re seeing with the drips.
Is the soffit above the window?
TOM: OK. So the window’s a first-floor window?
MIKE: Second floor.
TOM: And there’s a soffit above it. And you think the window’s leaking. Why do you think the window’s leaking when the water is coming out the soffit?
MIKE: Because it drips and I have to put a towel around the window because – dripping when it rains.
TOM: So, there could be two issues here. It might be flashing around the window or it could be an issue with the gutter. But here’s one way that you can diagnose this. What you could do is take a garden hose and get it up on that roof and let it run down the roof, right around where that – where the window is under it, you know what I mean? Not blast it but just saturate it for a good 10, 15 minutes and see if you can make it leak. If you can make it leak, you probably have a leaky gutter or a leaky roof.
Now, if it doesn’t leak, then that’s good. So the next thing you do is you take that water and now you start holding it around the sides of the window. Of course, the window has to be closed, right? But you hold the – between the siding and the window, not right up against it. But just try to sort of flood that area with water and again, see if it leaks. If it leaks then, then it’s very likely the flashing around the window. And to fix that, you’ll have to remove, most likely, the siding in that area and then have a pro reseal that window. It’s not usually a matter where you can caulk it; usually, you have to reflash it because there’s a breakdown somewhere that’s letting that water in.
But those two very simple checks can tell you which part of the area assembly is leaking. It’s kind of hard, as you’ve discovered, to track this down. So you have to be a bit of a detective and that’s one way to do it. If you can make it leak, you’re going to know where that area is.
Just do one side at a time so that if it leaks on the right side, for example and the water is on the right, then you know kind of where to look for the failure that’s causing it. If you just blast the whole side of the house with water, you’re not going to know anything except it leaks. But you knew that when you started. So you’ve got to be kind of smart and strategic about it.
Well, on The Money Pit, we give you answers to your home improvement questions. And sometimes, we give you the tools to get them done. And that’s what we’re going to do, right now, because we have got, from Arrow Fastener, a Summer Fun Pack which includes the GT300 Professional High-Temp Glue Gun and the TacMate Staple Gun to give away to one lucky listener.
You’ve got to call us with your question. We’ll toss your name in the hard hat and if we draw your name, we’ll send that set out to you. It’s worth 65 bucks. So if you want to win it, you’ve got to be in it. Make that you. Pick up the phone and give us a call now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Debbie in Ontario is on the line and has a question about concrete.
What’s going on?
DEBBIE: My question is to do with concrete – is that we had a cement porch and patio attached to the back of the house.
DEBBIE: We had to have a large portion of that – the porch, for sure and a large portion of the patio – removed because we had around our foundation dug. New cement was poured. The porch first and then the patio was replaced. What happened is within about 4 days or so, it – they did the cuts the next day after the pour. But a few more days after that, we noticed two cracks came in the two cement pads that butt up against the porch. And left and right side, the crack goes diagonally across the pad.
We’re kind of wondering – the contractor saw what happened and he’s sick about it. And we were just wondering if there’s anything that can be done without having to remove those two large pads of cement, that attach to the house, and go through all that jackhammering and all that again.
TOM: So these pads, is this like a stoop that – you say they lead up to the porch? Are these parts of sort of the sidewalk?
DEBBIE: The patio – and then the porch is the only thing that’s higher than the patio. So the patio is level with the cement driveway.
TOM: OK. Mm-hmm.
DEBBIE: And then the porch is up from that. So it’s on the patio itself.
TOM: And that’s where the crack is? Through the patio?
DEBBIE: Yeah, the patio. So the two cement slabs that are on either side of the porch. And the cuts that were made in the cement come up to the corner – the outside corner – of the porch on either side. But then, you know, how they can’t cut right up to …?
TOM: Right. But these are – OK. So you’re talking about a patio and you’re talking about two cement slabs that are opposite ends of the porch. So, I’m having a real hard time – as I’m sure others listening are, too – trying to figure out what this is all about. But it sounds to me like you’ve got slab-on-grade sections, right, and you’re calling that a “patio” or a “pad.”
DEBBIE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Correct. Correct.
TOM: Then you have the porch section. The porch seems to be fine. Is that correct?
TOM: OK. So, I would think that the soil underneath the patio areas would need to be especially well compacted before those slabs were poured. Because considering the amount of demolition that had to have happened, I suspect that that soil outside the porch area would not have been compacted. And that would have been really key to make sure that those slabs don’t crack. The reason that they’re cracking is probably because there is some compaction that happened, based on the weight of the concrete and the drying and such. And that’s why they’re cracking now.
Now, can you do anything about it? Well, whatever you do about it is going to be cosmetic, not structural. Also, if that concrete was not reinforced, that’s another reason that it would crack. There’s ways to put concrete in that’s just plain concrete and then there’s other ways that you could do it where it’s reinforced. So if it wasn’t reinforced correctly, that could be another issue.
But there’s nothing that you can do to repair it, structurally, at this point. You’re always going to have a crack. So, what you could do is seal that crack with a special caulk-like – it’s not caulk but it’s a caulk-like product that’s designed to seal concrete. But you’re always going to be looking at that crack unless you resurface the whole patio section. And again, there are products that are designed specifically for that, that will stick to the old concrete slab – which is actually pretty new, in your case – and perhaps cover the crack.
But that crack’s always going to be sort of a place where the patio decides to expand and contract with the seasons. So I do suspect you’ll always see some part of it. So, you either live with it and repair it cosmetically or just have it torn out and repoured. I mean a slab itself is not that big of a deal to get out, even though it seems like a big deal. But frankly, they break up pretty quickly.
And then, again, key is making sure that that base is properly compacted and properly tamped and that the slab is properly reinforced. If that’s done right, with the right concrete mix, this should not have happened.
DEBBIE: OK. Would it be alright, even, just to replace – like cut out maybe 2 feet along that slab and make – just take out the corner square of it?
TOM: You’re going to have that be separate slabs now. Depends on whether or not you want to see that. It’s always going to be a cut. So, no, probably not unless you want to make it an expansion joint and have it be completely separate pieces of concrete.
DEBBIE: OK. Very good.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Sorry that happened to you and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
DEBBIE: Thank you.
LESLIE: Well, it’s vacation season. But before you leave town for a well-earned summer getaway, it’s smart to take some small steps to save money and energy at home and help pay for that vacation.
Well, the Department of Energy recommends a few steps. First, water heating can account for money than 25 percent of the energy consumed in the home, so turn down your water-heater temperature to vacation mode.
TOM: Next, as long as there are no pets in the home, set the programmable thermostat at a higher temperature than usual. There’s no sense cooling an empty house.
Now, Americans can also waste up to one month’s electricity bill each year on vampire energy. That’s electronic appliances that use a tiny amount of electricity, even when they’re off. So you’re going to want to go around and unplug things, like a coffee maker, a phone charger, laptop, computers, TVs, cable box, printers. Anything with a transformer block – that kind of big, square block that’s in the end of the line or on the plug itself – keep them unplugged while you’re away.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, keep your window shades closed. That’s going to help keep the house cool with all that afternoon sun pouring in. And then make sure all of your lights are turned off. But remember, for security reasons, get a timer, put those lights on a timer, kind of randomize it so it looks like there’s actual activity going on in the house. And to save money there, use some LED bulbs. The nice thing about all of this is that you’re going to return home to a lower utility bill.
TOM: Yeah. And you can use that extra cash to pay off the vacation. You know, when the charge cards come in, when the bills come in from the vacation, that’s when the vacation is officially over.
LESLIE: Oh, for sure.
Randy in Texas needs some help with some yard work.
Tell us what’s going on.
RANDY: Yes, ma’am. What I’ve got, I’ve got a 30-foot by 15-foot pressure-treated deck on the back of my house. And where the wood has shrank or shrunk and given me gaps between the 2×6 boards, I’ve had leaves fall in there and I can’t get – I have no way to get them out without taking the deck up, which I don’t want to do. Is there some way that I can put some kind of organic matter or something in there to break down the leaves so I don’t have sprouts coming up?
TOM: So you’re saying that you have organic matter that’s stuck between the 2×6 floorboards of the deck and they’re starting to grow?
RANDY: The deck itself is sitting on a concrete patio. And then I’ve got 2x4s laid on edge and that’s what I built the deck on.
TOM: Oh, so it’s basically a wood platform, like a pallet on top of a patio.
RANDY: There you go.
TOM: Yeah. No wonder it’s so moist. Well, listen, I mean that’s a real unusual assembly and there’s good reason for doing it – not doing it that way, because of what you’re seeing. You’ve got a lot of moisture issues here.
I don’t have a good solution for you, because it’s just a non-traditional way to assemble a deck.
RANDY: Without having – it had to be that way, otherwise it wouldn’t match up with the floor. I’d be elevated above my floor, my elevation of the house itself.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Right.
RANDY: I’ve heard putting dry molasses. Would that help?
TOM: I have no idea.
LESLIE: I don’t know. I feel like that might attract some critters of some sort.
TOM: Yeah, some ants. Definitely ants and stuff.
You have a wood-framed deck that’s basically built flat on top of a concrete surface. The concrete is going to stay really moist and damp, which is one of the reasons that it’s such – so it’s perfect, almost greenhouse-like conditions for you to grow plants through there.
One of the things that you could do is you could use a product like Roundup, which is an herbicide that will – you know, once you spray it, it will stop – it will kill things and stop it from coming back.
LESLIE: Kills a lot of things.
And you also might want to try Spray & Forget.
TOM: So Spray & Forget also has the ability to stop mold and mildew and lichen and algae. And it may be just enough to stop the growth of whatever is happening between those boards. But you can find that at home centers nationwide. It’s a great product and it has sort of a residual effect.
Now, it’s not an instant-gratification kind of deal. You spray it on there and you let the sun and the wind and the rain get to it. And very slowly, over time, it breaks down all of those materials and stops it from coming back. So, you’re going to have to do something like that to try to maintain this.
TOM: But in terms of stopping the material from getting in between the cracks, that I don’t have a solution for you on, OK?
RANDY: OK. Alright, sir.
TOM: Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for that call. Appreciate your question and good luck with the project.
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TOM: That’s right. All you have to do is post a picture with the #LLFloofProof on Instagram. That’s LLFloofProof. Or enter direct at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes. You can enter once a day and you can even earn bonus entries by sharing the sweeps with friends. That’s LLFloofProof on Instagram or at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes.
LESLIE: Susan in California is on the line and needs some help with a driveway makeover.
What’s going on at your money pit?
SUSAN: I’m so glad you said the money pit, because that’s exactly what it is. And now it’s the driveway, about 1,200 square feet. And it’s been – it’s about 38 years old and it needs something else done. And I really don’t want to resurface it with blacktop. What are my options?
TOM: So it’s an asphalt driveway now? That’s what you’re starting with?
SUSAN: Yes, yes.
TOM: Yeah. Listen, I’ve got news for you, Susan: a 38-year-old roadway needs to be replaced. And that’s exactly what you have. Whether it’s a road that goes down the street or a road that’s a highway, nothing lasts 38 years. And if you’ve gotten 38 years out of that driveway, it’s time for a new one. And sure, you can keep slapping sealer on it and patching the cracks and all of that but at that age, it’s got to go.
SUSAN: What’s the best way? Do they just remove the whole thing and then start from scratch? Or what’s the best way to go?
TOM: I think that’s the best way. In most cases, that’s the best way. You can resurface it. But if you want to make sure that the base is really solid, you would take off the old. They would put a new base down, they would compact it with machines so it’s really, really solid and then they would apply new asphalt on top of that.
I would make sure I got a specification as to exactly how many inches of this material they’re going to put down so that you can compare apples to apples when you’re looking at different contractors. But I think that’s going to be your best solution.
SUSAN: OK. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Susan. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, for sure, weeds are the scourge of those trying to maintain a pristine lawn. But before you try and wipe them out, stop and take a look. They’re probably telling you something.
Now, weeds contain clues for their own demise and that’s information you need if you want to address the root problem and keep them from coming back, once and for all.
TOM: So, if weeds could talk, what exactly are they telling us about our lawns?
Well, consider that weeds pop up in response to certain types of growing conditions that are good for them but actually bad for your lawn’s health. For example, if you see crabgrass, that is a problem that’s usually caused by scalped turf. So, if you stop scalping your turf, you’re not going to have any more crabgrass problems. So raise the height of your mower blades because it shouldn’t be that low anyway.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, if you’re seeing something that’s known as common plantain, that means you’ve got wet or slow-draining soil. So to get rid of that, you need to reduce your watering and regrade that soil for better drainage. Or you can replace that entire area of lawn with a rain garden and that should do the trick there.
Now, white clover – I mean I’m guilty of this; I see it on my front lawn at the sort of beginning of the summer season – that means you’ve got low soil fertility. You can run a soil test and apply organic fertilizer as recommended.
TOM: Now, if you see Creeping Charlie – and no, we’re not talking about your son, Leslie – it’s a weed.
LESLIE: I was about to say, “Leave him alone.”
TOM: Creeping Charlie. If you see that, that actually means you have too much shade. So what you want to do is oversee that area with a shade-tolerant grass variety and that will sort of prevent Creeping Charlie from creeping up in that spot.
Now, on the other hand, if you see knotweed, that is caused by compacted or heavy soil. And so you want to aerate the areas that are prone to heavy foot traffic and do that yearly.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, what happens when you don’t exactly know what type of weed you’re seeing in the lawn? How can you tell, Tom, exactly what’s happening so you can treat it correctly?
TOM: Well, you can check the Weed Library. And yes, it actually exists. It’s at Garden.org/WeedLibrary.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps you guys out.
Ken in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?
KEN: We had a contractor rebuild a little cottage. The upstairs is 790 foot and then the bottom is a garage. And we might make up with it in another bedroom. But we were debating on whether to put in the ductless mini-split system or they mentioned this high-velocity, little 3-inch vent system. But I think I’m pretty much going to go with the ductless mini-split.
TOM: Yeah. The high-velocity systems are good for – especially for older houses where it’s hard to run ductwork. But I found that they’re pretty expensive, especially in a small project like that. I think a ductless mini-split will work fine and you can get one that both heats and cools.
Now, how many rooms are in this 700-square-foot cottage?
KEN: Well, it’s like 795 upstairs. But what I was figuring on is going with the 48,000 BTU and then go – or 4,800, excuse me. And then do two 18 where we’re going to live at, 18 upstairs and one 12,000 downstairs. Does that sound right?
TOM: Well, there’s a heat-loss calculation that you can do and your HVAC contractor should do for you. But my – the reason I asked you about how many rooms is you just want to make sure that the A/C can get to all the rooms, because split-ductless means it’s one point.
KEN: It’s one great, big room upstairs: you know, one open room upstairs. And I was going to put one on each end.
LESLIE: I think you’re best to consult with an HVAC pro. You have to also keep in mind that each of the split systems – the one piece that’s on the inside goes to its own individual condensing unit on the exterior. Now, there are commercial-grade split systems that I’ve used on episodes of Hotel Impossible that contain multiple interior units that go to one condensing unit. So, speaking with a pro, they might be able to give you a better idea of which options would work well to minimize the amount of units on the exterior and maximize the amount of cooling.
TOM: Ken, good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Give us a call, shoot us an email, let us know what you are working on because we’ve got great prizes up for grabs. And right now, we have the Summer Fun Pack from Arrow, which includes two amazing, awesome tools. It’s the GT300 Professional High-Temp Glue Gun, which is my personal fave, and the TacMate Staple Gun. Both are super easy to use, they’re durable, they’re really powerful.
It’s a great prize pack. You will find a ton of projects that you can tackle around your money pit. It’s a prize pack worth 65 bucks but going out for free to one lucky listener.
TOM: That’s right. So make that you. Call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post it on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Sharon in Ohio is on the line with a sump-pump question.
How can we help you?
SHARON: We have an issue with our furnace. It seems to be pulling sewer gas from our sump pump, because that’s where it drains into. And we can’t figure out how to solve the issue. Temporary solution is to pour water in the sump pump. But then about 3 or 4 days later, we turn the furnace on and it draws the sewage-gas/air again.
TOM: Well, let’s talk about this. So, first of all, what water from the furnace is being drained into the sump pump? Are you talking about the condensate line from the air-conditioning system?
SHARON: Yes, sir.
TOM: Is there a return duct in the basement area where this is or in the room where this is? Or do you think it’s coming in through the drainpipe?
SHARON: We think it’s coming in from the sump pump. And it’s a wintertime issue, because it happens when we turn the furnace on.
TOM: Well, if you think it’s because it’s reversing – it’s pulling whatever soil gas is causing this unpleasant odor – if you think it’s coming in because of the drain line, there’s a really simple solution: put a trap in it. So, if the drain line has a P-trap, kind of the same kind of that sort of U-shape pipe that’s underneath a bathroom sink, then that pipe will stay filled with water and will not allow any gases, any air to back up through it and get into the furnace.
SHARON: That’s not built into the furnace already?
TOM: Not always. It depends on the workmanship of the installer. But no, you would see it on the outside. If you don’t see a P-trap, it doesn’t have one.
The other thing that could be causing this – and sometimes this happens – is occasionally – and I don’t want to freak you out but occasionally, you’ll get a rodent that will die inside of a return duct. And if that happens, yeah, the stink can go on for quite a while. But I would take a look at that drain line and if it doesn’t have a trap in it, do that. And make sure it’s filled with water when you start, if it’s the winter, because it won’t be. And I think you won’t find any more air gets through that pipe.
LESLIE: Well, now that we are in the hottest part of the summer, having your air conditioner break down would make your life pretty miserable for a bit. Now, replacing your A/C filter can actually help make sure that your system keeps working. But how frequently does that really have to happen?
The answer, guys, is: it depends. The cheapest filters last about a month but don’t do a great job. The electronic air filters can last longer but they cost thousands to install. That’s why a better option is to try out the Castle Filter.
TOM: Yeah. Castle makes a really unique filter. It’s unique because it holds 10 times more dust than traditional, pleated filters. And it lasts for a full year and doesn’t obstruct airflow. It actually uses a proprietary filtering-media technology that performs a lot better than regular pleated filters.
LESLIE: And the cost of a Castle Filter, yeah, it’s initially higher than a pleated filter but you’re installing just one per year. With those pleated filters, you need between five and eight filters to last that same amount of time for the year.
Castle filters help protect your home, your wallet and your environment. They’re made in the U.S.A. and they’re guaranteed. You’re going to get improved air quality all year long and your heating-and-cooling system will be protected from breakdowns that result in costly repair bills.
TOM: Check them out and learn more at CastleFilters.com. CastleFilters.com.
LESLIE: Pat in Nebraska is on the line with a dishwasher that has decided to take the day off.
What’s going on?
PAT: Hi. Yes. Our dishwasher is on the blink, literally. It doesn’t seem to work anymore. And as I look at it, on the menu screen across the top, it’s blinking but doesn’t work when I hit the start button or cancel or open the door or shut it. Can’t get it to work anymore.
TOM: How old is the dishwasher, Pat?
PAT: I’d say about 5 years old.
TOM: That’s a shame.
LESLIE: It’s not that old.
PAT: Yes. We’ve gone through 4 of them since we’ve owned this house, in about 20 years.
TOM: Yeah. Wow.
PAT: Really amazed.
TOM: Yeah. And I’m sure a little annoyed, too.
PAT: My husband shut the power off and turned it back on and it still doesn’t seem to work. So, we opened and shut the door, everything. So we think it’s – I went online and there’s something about some kind of a board that can – like a motherboard or something.
TOM: Yeah. So that’s what I was thinking. It’s a failure of the control circuit and there’s a lot of electronic products in these newer appliances. And the question, of course, is: repair or replace? And at 5 years old, you’re kind of right at that sort of balance point. You might be able to repair it. The question is: is it going to be worth a couple hundred bucks to you to do that or would you rather take the 200 bucks and put it towards a new unit?
PAT: That’s what we weren’t sure. So that’s why we thought we’d give you a call.
TOM: I think if it was me, I’d probably not repair it only because what do you hope to get out of that? Eight years? Nine years? Having somebody come out to your house and fix anything these days is a couple hundred bucks minimum. So it would end up being a third of the cost of a new unit. You could find a decent dishwasher for 500 or 600 bucks. And you could find a basic one for even less.
PAT: So how much do you think the part would cost if …
TOM: We don’t know that that’s the part, you know? You have to have a service person diagnose it. But if you just wanted to satisfy your curiosity, there’s lots of websites online that sell appliance parts. And I’m sure you could find it. But the issue is that it’s a call to the service man to come out and diagnose it and that costs some money. And then a call – and then he has to come back after the part comes in. It’s not the kind of thing where they can keep these parts on the truck anymore, you know what I mean?
PAT: Uh-huh. So, well, we were wanting your expert opinion. We kind of were leaning that way, anyway.
TOM: I tell you what, if it was older, it would be a lot easier decision. I do agree that it’s still middle-aged. But I still don’t think it’s probably worth you putting the money into it.
PAT: Yes. Alright. Well, I guess we’ll go shopping for a new dishwasher.
LESLIE: Darren wrote in saying, “I just drained my electric water heater out to clean the hardwater buildup. There was so much that I was running out of hot water. It was so full that it had completely buried the bottom heating element. What can I do to avoid this?”
Now, Tom, if you’ve not done this sort of maintenance throughout the lifetime of the water heater …
LESLIE: Is it smart to suddenly just do it?
TOM: This is what can happen.
LESLIE: I always feel like it’s kind of you’ve ridden it out at this point. Do you start and open up a whole can of worms or just kind of go with it until it dies?
TOM: I don’t think that you’re really opening up a whole can of worms. The valves – the drain valves in water heaters are pretty reliable. They don’t usually get gummed up the way, say, a pressure-release valve might.
But I would say that the way you avoid this is to do it more frequently. It must’ve taken many years for you to build up that much hardwater deposits. It’s usually calcium deposits, minerals that are in the water that just settle to the bottom of the tank. And the fact that it got so thick that it covered the heating element, that’s why you kind of ran out of hot water. Because that element probably wasn’t working as a result. In fact, if you went through all the trouble of draining this whole thing, I’d probably replace the element at the same time. Just good, smart practice so you don’t have to drain it all out again.
But what you want to do is flush it out. Run a few gallons of water at least every month or so. Just hook up a hose – a garden hose – to that, stick it in a sink and let it run a bit and flush it out. And this way, it won’t build up any more than that. It’ll just really sit lightly on the bottom of the tank.
And by the way, when you do let it build up like that, even if you have a gas water heater, where the flame is sort of underneath the tank – I mean with electric, the elements are stuck in the side of the tank but with gas it’s underneath. That hardwater buildup acts as an insulator. So it makes it a lot harder for you to heat the water. The burners have to run longer to do the same thing, which means you’re wasting energy.
So, that’s a solution. Just flush it out a little more frequently, Darren, and you should be good to go.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, Joyce wrote in saying, “The air in our laundry room gets humid in the summer and we found moisture damage in the bottom of a sink cabinet. Can this be caused by the humidity or could this be a leak?”
TOM: Well, it could be both. If you have a leak, though, you should be able to see it. So, what I usually do if I’m looking for a leaky sink is I will close the drain of the sink, I will fill the sink up to the overflow, let it run down the overflow a bit. And then I will open up the drain all at once and take a look down there with a good flashlight and see if I can kind of make it leak. Because that’s kind of like a heavy duty test, right, when you run all that water through.
If it’s not leaking, then it might just be the condensation. You’ve got water pipes down there that get chilly. You have no air circulation. Then you have warm, moist air from the outside that gets into that space. It condenses, it releases its water vapor or its water droplets and then that sort of ends up as a little puddle in the bottom of the cabinet. And if your cabinet is particle board, like most of them are, it’s going to swell and look bad.
So, the solution, in that case, is maybe to put a vent into that cabinet so that you don’t have a difference so much in temperature between one side or the other. The fact that the cabinet’s cold, probably from the pipes, is what’s causing this. Or you could also insulate that cold-water line, because I bet you that there’s some water dripping off of that. It’s the same way you’d have water that collects on the outside of, say, an iced-tea glass in the summer when you’re outside. It can collect on the outside of that pipe.
LESLIE: Alright. That makes a lot of sense.
Good luck, Joyce.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on a beautiful summer weekend. We hope that you’re enjoying it. If this is the holiday weekend for you and maybe depending on where you are in the country, we hope that you’re taking some time off to celebrate Independence Day. We’ll even give you some independence from your home improvements, if that’s the case.
But after that, it’s time to get back to work. And if you need help on a project, remember, you can reach out to us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or click the blue microphone button on MoneyPit.com.
For now, though, that’s all the time we have. 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 2022 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.)