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: And we are here to help you take on your next home improvement project. What’s on your to-do list? Slide it over to ours with a call to us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post it to the Community section at MoneyPit.com.
We’ve got a great show coming up for you this hour. First up, painting is a popular winter project. And it’s one that can be made a lot easier if you know just a few tricks of the trade that the pros use every day. And we’re going to break the code of professionals and share those trade secrets, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also ahead, since the new president seems to really enjoy decorating with gold, I mean it’ll be interesting to see what the White House is looking like in the next coming months. We could be getting some crazy, gold furniture. But listen, guys, gold is great in limited quantities and in the right places. So we’re going to help you bring in that gold décor, in the right way, on a dime.
TOM: Plus, we’ve got some organization tips for closets. And we’ll be taking your calls to 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Cathy in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CATHY: We’ve got a modular home and we have a crawlspace. And we have settling around it. And I was wondering about our pipes and if there’s going to be a problem with – it’s not getting dirt around it this year?
TOM: So, alright. First of all, you have a crawlspace and you have settling of the soil around the foundation perimeter. But you’re worried about your pipes, what, in terms of freezing and that sort of thing?
TOM: Have you ever had frozen pipes before in that space?
CATHY: No. We’ve only been in here since the fall of 2014. And last year was really a very mild winter. So was the winter before.
TOM: Well, first of all, if the pipes are exposed in the crawlspace, they should have insulation on them. So if the insulation covers them or if not, you could have additional insulation. There’s a type of insulation called “pipe insulation,” which is a tube that sort of snaps around the pipe. Very easy to add. So that’s something you could do.
To the settling issue, yeah, it’s very common for newer homes to have soil that settles over the first few years. And I would probably put this off until the spring. But what you’re going to want to do is add clean fill dirt, which is not very organic. It will pack very well and you can get the grade built up so you have a slope that drops off about 6 inches over 4 feet. And then, once you have the grade established with the additional dirt, then you can put soil on it or some sod or however you want to plant around that foundation perimeter.
But most important, this is something you can do right now. So make sure your gutters are clean and make sure the downspouts are extended at least 4 feet from the house. The reason that’s important is because the soil is so settled that if the water collects around the foundation perimeter, it could end up right back in that crawlspace and that’s not a good thing. So, take care of the gutters now. And in terms of the pipe insulation, you can certainly add some more if you find exposed pipes, OK?
CATHY: That makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Jeff in Michigan is on the line with a roof leak. What is going on?
JEFF: Well, a couple months ago, we had a brand-new roof put on our house. They completely stripped off the old shingles, re-tar papered everything and now we have water coming in our drywall in our bedroom.
TOM: So, I presume you’ve called the roofer back. What’s the roofer’s position been on trying to get to the bottom of this leak?
JEFF: Well, they’re supposed to come back out on Wednesday and strip it off around the dormer. That’s where it seems like the water’s coming in. But as we all know, water can travel before it finally finds a seam to come in.
TOM: So, does it look like the leak is showing up underneath where the dormer intersects with the roof?
JEFF: I’m thinking so.
TOM: Well, look, they may not have put the flashing assembly back together currently. They obviously had to disturb all that flashing – the old flashing. And unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of times when roofers today just don’t do a terrific job on the flashing, on those details. It’s really, really important that they get them just right. And if these guys didn’t do that, then that might very well be what the cause of this leak is. Because not only do you have to protect against just regular rainfall kind of falling with gravity, you also have to protect against wind-driven rain, which is particularly troubling around a dormer.
So, I think it’s their responsibility. I don’t think they get to blame it on the siding or anything else. They broke it, they bought it, you know? They took it apart, they need to get it back together so it doesn’t leak. And if that means they have to pull off some of that siding and flash up under it, then that’s on them, not on you, OK?
JEFF: Right. OK. Perfect. That’s what I’ll do then.
TOM: Alright, Jeff. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jim in Ohio is on the line with a question about insulation. What are you working on?
JIM: I’m looking at remodeling my basement and I’m looking for something with – that’s going to help insulate it plus dampen some of the sound from the basement.
TOM: So, a couple of things. First of all, do you want to insulate the foundation walls or do you just want to insulate the basement ceiling?
JIM: Actually, both.
TOM: So there’s a foil-encapsulated fiberglass-batt insulation that’s designed specifically for basement walls. The foil has a water resistance to it, so it stands up to the moist, damp areas. So that’s something that you could do there.
JIM: OK. Great.
TOM: In terms of the insulation, you could use standard fiberglass insulation. But contrary to popular belief, fiberglass insulation by itself is not a material that’s going to block a lot of sound. If you want to block sound, you probably should use a sound-resistant drywall. There are different types of drywall products. I think one’s called QuietRock.
There are others that once you apply it to the ceiling – you apply it like normal drywall but it’s a lot heavier and it has sort of a sound-resistant batten structure to it. It’s also much more expensive. But you can special-order it at a home center and use that on the ceiling and that will make it quieter.
But the devil is in the details when it comes to quiet construction. And wherever you have a ceiling fixture or light fixtures or any kinds of perforations in that ceiling, they have to packed, also, with a soundproofing material, which kind of looks like a clay that sort of fits behind it. But if you just want to try to do the best you can without going to that level of detail, then maybe just apply the sound-resistant drywall and it’ll be probably the quietest basement on the block.
JIM: Great. Thank you. That works.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
It’s a new year, guys. We’ve got a new president. What are you working on to make your money pit in tip-top shape for this new year? Give us a call. We’d love to give you a hand, 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, perhaps you noticed that our new president seems to have a penchant for decorating with gold. Truth be told, all that glitters, though, is not gold. We’ve got some tips for getting just the right amount of gold décor into your home without that gold price. That’s all coming up, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And what are you working on this chilly January weekend? We’d love to help you get that project done around your home. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Let’s head out to Arkansas where Ann has got a question about a hot-water tank.
What’s going on, Ann?
ANN: I have an unoccupied house and the hot-water heater is on a screened-in porch. It is partially protected on two sides. And the temperature is going to be down in the low teens for a couple of nights. And for 48 hours or so, the temperature will not be above freezing.
TOM: How long is the house going to be unoccupied, Ann?
ANN: Oh, I don’t know.
TOM: I mean is this the kind of thing where it could be this way for months?
TOM: Well, if it’s going to be that way for months, I would drain the water. I would drain the water heater, I would drain the plumbing system. And I would leave the heat on a low setting because we don’t want the building to swell, we don’t want the doors to swell and that sort of thing. So I’d leave the heat on like around 55, 60 degrees.
But I would definitely drain the plumbing system because there’s really no point in leaving it on. And if you do, you could get a pipe freeze and a break. Does that make sense?
ANN: OK. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome, Ann. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Justin in Missouri is on the line with a bathroom odor. Let me tell you, Justin, I have had this sulfur smell in my bathroom before and we can help. What’s going on?
JUSTIN: I can’t really find the source of the smell. I just smell it sometimes. And it’s not all the time but I’ve noticed sometimes whenever it’s warmer weather outside and it cools off. I know it sounds funny but I get this smell. I can’t find it. There wasn’t a P-trap in the bathtub and I put one under there. I thought maybe that’s where it was coming from and that didn’t do anything. And the house was built in 2007, so it’s just almost 10 years old. I don’t know. It’s clean.
TOM: That’s unusual for a 2007 house to not even have a trap under the tub. It makes me question how the rest of the plumbing was put together. But there’s probably two sources that you should explore.
Number one is just a decay of bio material in the drain. Sometimes you get what’s called “biogas” from all the organic material that gets trapped in the drain and in the threads and the overflow on a bathroom sink. That all gets trapped in there and that can really be quite smelly.
So, a couple of things you can do there is, first of all, close the drain on the sink, fill it up until it starts to overflow. And then put some bleach in the water and let it slowly sort of trickle down the overflow for a while. That will kill any material that’s in the overflow. And then slowly let the water back out into the drain. That will hopefully kill the rest of it.
The other thing is if it turns out that it’s just the hot water, it could be a problem with the water heater. Water heaters have something called a “sacrificial anode.” And that anode, if it’s worn, you can end up having a sulfur smell as a result of that. The anode is designed to stop the water heater from corroding or rusting but if it is deteriorated or worn out, you could also get that sort of rotten-egg sort of sulfur smell.
So I would take a look at the drains first because that’s the easiest thing to do. And see if you can clean them really good with a bleach solution as I’ve described. And if it continues, try to figure out if it’s coming from the water itself. Because if that’s the case, then I think that anode is most likely the culprit, OK?
JUSTIN: OK. Thank you, sir.
TOM: Well, we’ve seen a lot of interviews with our new president now over the last couple of months. And whenever he seems to be in a residential space, I noticed that it was always decorated with gold, at least if it was one of his spaces. And I’ve got to say – look, you know, you and I are on opposite sides of the political spectrum but I have never seen one of these rooms that he’s in that looks anything but comfortable. It always look awkward and there’s just way too much gold.
LESLIE: Come on, you know he probably has a room on the side with overstuffed furniture and everything’s like …
TOM: Like a man cave? Yeah. Well, maybe.
LESLIE: No. You know there’s like an actual family room somewhere, you hope, that they can actually sit and be comfy.
TOM: Somewhere, right?
LESLIE: Because everything is marble and gold and columns. It’s ridiculous.
TOM: Yeah. But you know what? All that gold is probably not gold, as you and I both know, so we thought it might be fun to give you guys some tips on how you can add just a little bit of gold to your décor without spending gold on it.
So let’s start with something as simple as a glass vase, right? Sometimes it’s kind of cool to have just a plain glass vase but with something a little sparkly inside. Here’s a tip for putting gold nuggets in that vase. You pick up a pound or so of kidney beans, right? Dried kidney beans? And you spray them with gold spray paint. You’ve got to kind of turn them over a few times but when it’s all dry, they look like gold nuggets. You drop them in the glass vase, use it as an accent piece. Looks fantastic. Costs you all of about three bucks.
LESLIE: Yeah. The other thing I like to do is when you see groupings of picture frames – almost like a library style or gallery style, I should say – you can take some of those frames and spray-paint them gold or even gold-leaf them just so they get that more foiled-gold look. The other thing I like is – and don’t do all the frames. Maybe just do one or two in the group or maybe just do the four corners, sort of on a diagonal.
The other thing I like is, in addition to doing a couple of the frames, take the matting of one or two of the other frames that you’re keeping with the natural wood or whatever the painted finish is and paint those mattings in that gold or the gold leafing. Because that really looks good, as well, and that gives you sort of that rich look without too much [look of gold] (ph).
TOM: Now, wouldn’t it nice if you had sort of a pirate’s chest full of gold coins, right? I mean that’ll be cool to have. Well, here’s how you can have it, if you don’t eat the product in the process: get some Oreos and spray-paint the Oreos gold.
LESLIE: It’s got to be edible gold, Tom.
TOM: They look like big, fat gold coins when they’re all stacked up in that pirate’s chest box. And you can prop it on a desk or dresser in your man cave. Just don’t eat them.
LESLIE: That’s true. The other thing I like is gold side pieces of furnishings. Even if it’s just a gold frame with sort of a gray or white marble top or a glass top. Just bringing it in in very small, small elements, I think, is the right way to use gold. Because we all know gold is in, just not in a Trump style. That’s way too much, guys.
TOM: Like an old throw pillow, something like that. If you wanted to have some other types of vases, you could take old-fashioned milk bottles, spray paint them gold or even silver. These paints that are available today are fantastic.
And by the way, if you had something like a plastic tray, plastic storage drawer, anything like that, you can spray-paint plastic today. The spray paints are so fantastic that they can adhere very well to plastic. So you could do little accent pieces with those, as well.
LESLIE: Yeah. I actually saw a plastic storage drawer – you know, it’s like that plastic frame with the plastic drawers that pull out. You can paint the frames – not the drawers; keep that part clear – but the part that would be white or black, depending on what color you bought, spray-paint that with a gold plastic spray paint. It looks so rich and suddenly, something that you had hidden in a closet, you can actually put out in your office or in your family room or in your kitchen, wherever you might need it.
There’s really good ways that you can bring in gold in small amounts – in the right amount, in the right places – that’ll work and it’ll have you feeling rich and lush in no time.
TOM: 888-666-3974. If you want to talk décor or home improvement, home repair, pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Kathy in South Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
KATHY: I have a problem with the squirrels chewing into my roof.
KATHY: And I was wondering, how can I – what can I repair this with and what can I put in there to keep them out?
TOM: Now, where are they chewing? Are they chewing through the trim or the soffits trying to get into the attic space? What’s the story?
KATHY: Well, they have gotten into the attic space.
TOM: The holes. Are you repairing those holes or what are you doing?
KATHY: No. I was calling you to see how you could help me, because I listen to your show all the time and you give such good advice.
TOM: Well, if they get into your attic, you can trap them and release them. You can use something called a Havahart trap. And this is a trap that is a wire cage with a trap door. And the way to bait it is to take an apple and put it in the far end of the cage and wire the apple to the cage; don’t just put it in there. But usually, I’ll take a hanger or a piece of picture-frame wire or something like that and I’ll thread it through the apple and wire it off so that it can’t bounce around.
And if they’re in the attic, they’ll come looking for that food. They’ll get trapped in there. Then you can pick the whole cage up and take it far away from your house and then release them. And believe me, as soon as you lift the door up, they’re like out like a light.
LESLIE: They’re gone.
TOM: They just fly right out there and they’ll take off. They want nothing to do with you, so it’s completely safe.
Now, in terms of those holes, you have to repair them. Now, you can put – if it’s a small hole, you can put steel wool in it or something like that. But if it’s a bigger hole, you really should simply rebuild it or repair it, whatever it takes. So if it’s wood or if it’s vinyl or if it’s metal soffit material, you really just need to completely rebuild that.
And then, the other thing I’ll mention that seems to have been pretty effective over the years – and that is if you were to put moth balls down in your attic, that does seem to have a deterring effect on the squirrels, as well. So if you spread them …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It will, though – that odor does seep into the house, so don’t go crazy with it.
TOM: Yeah, right. You sprinkle them in there, yeah. Especially along the eaves.
KATHY: But is there anything else I can put up there to keep more from coming in?
TOM: Well, we want to identify the holes and get those fixed. It’s really an entry issue. You’ve got to basically close the door on them here. And so, if we can identify those holes and those entry points and seal them up, then you shouldn’t have a problem with squirrels. They don’t naturally live in the attic but they’re obviously finding a way into your house.
If you’re not quite sure where they’re getting in, you obviously can’t get in there – up there – to kind of look that closely, then work from the street level, walking around the outside of the house and looking up. Try to get a pair of binoculars or borrow one and see if you can spot the holes where they’re getting in. But that’s what has to be closed up.
KATHY: OK. Thank you so much. I’m so grateful.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Hey, is there an inside painting project on your to-do list this winter? Well, Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House is stopping by with some pro tricks of the trade to make that project easier, after this.
JOE: This is Joe Namath. Now, when I’m not throwing a football around, I’m listening to Tom and Leslie.
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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.
Well, now that we are knee-deep into winter, have you ever wondered if there was a more efficient way to build a home that would cost less to heat and cool? Well, it turns out that one of the most efficient ways to build at least the exterior walls of your home is hundreds of years old. We’re talking about log cabins.
TOM: Yep. Homes that are made from logs, they actually score very big in R-value. That’s a factor used in calculating energy efficiency. And the reason is because the walls made from logs, they actually contain millions of tiny air pockets. And those store cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter. So it’s a pretty classic construction and it can definitely be very energy-efficient.
LESLIE: Pete in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
PETE: Well, I’ve got lime deposits in my toilets and I’ve got probably five toilets in my house that I’d like to get them out of it. They’re around the upper part of the rim, where the water comes out, and then down in the bowl.
PETE: And I’ve tried LIME-A-WAY and I tried a vinegar soak. Maybe I just didn’t do it long enough but I’d like to find a way to get those lime deposits out of there and get my toilets looking nice.
TOM: Have you tried CLR?
PETE: Yes, I have.
TOM: You have tried CLR and CLR didn’t do it either?
PETE: Didn’t do it, no.
TOM: Well, Pete, if the commercial cleaners like CLR and LIME-A-WAY are not working, there’s a couple other things that you can try but you have to be very careful. One of them is to use something that’s abrasive, like pumice or a rubbing compound. And you can try to abrade away the deposit.
Theoretically, these abrasives are softer than the porcelain but you have to do it very carefully. You don’t want to rough the surface of the porcelain because if you do, it’ll get dirtier that much quicker the next time around.
Some folks also use muriatic acid. I don’t like to recommend that because it’s pretty harsh stuff and you’ve got to be super, super careful when you use it.
TOM: But it is a possibility, as well.
And then, you know, the other thing that you can try is you did use vinegar but I don’t know if you mixed it with baking soda.
LESLIE: Yeah. Because that helps.
TOM: And that helps, as well. You kind of make it into a paste and let it stand for a while and then you rinse it.
TOM: So, there’s a couple of additional things that you can try.
I also found a great article online. Whenever you find an article from a university or an extension service, it’s usually pretty well-researched. And if you just Google “removing mineral deposits and North Carolina Cooperative,” you’ll find it. And it’s an extensive article that’s a little old but has a lot of great suggestions in it. And specifically, it has solutions for the different types of deposits that you get on these fixtures, whether it’s rust, iron, copper, what kinds of stain it is and so on.
PETE: That sounds great. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, a gorgeous banister and a dramatic newel post can add a stylish look to your stairs. But years of manhandling – and if you’ve got kids constantly swinging on those banisters – can lead to shaky stairs and loose railings.
TOM: Well, the fix for many of these problems is fairly easy, I guess, if you’re Tom Silva, the general contractor for TV’s This Old House. He’s going to join us now with some tips so that we can do it ourselves.
TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: Now, the stairs and the rails take a lot of punishment, so loose posts are pretty normal wear and tear, right?
TOM SILVA: They sure are. Kids coming down the stairs, swinging on that newel post to get to the kitchen in a hurry, they always loosen it.
LESLIE: It’s like you’ve got to hit that landing, got to swing around the post and you’ve got to go down everything, every spindle on your way.
TOM SILVA: Yep. Alright. Absolutely. It’s a good way to do it. I like that.
TOM: So let’s start with securing those loose posts. Where do we begin?
TOM SILVA: Well, you’ve got to assess the situation, see how it’s put in there. And lots of times, you can actually drill a hole right through the side of the posts and into the stringer or into the edge of the riser or even the tread.
TOM: OK. So, basically, you want to try to improve the connection point between that post and portions of the stairs: a stringer being the side of the stair or the riser, the part that your foot sort of bumps into when you step on the stair, the vertical piece; or the tread which is, of course, the horizontal piece you step on. Any of those solid wood connections with the right kind of hardware can tighten up that post?
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. The stringer is the structure to the whole stair system. It’s that saw-tooth cut that makes everything support and rest on. And if you can get into that with a good, solid fastener, you can usually tighten up that newel post.
TOM: Now, I guess that gets harder when you don’t a newel post. If you have, say, a balustrade or what’s it called, a French …
LESLIE: That fancy curl at the bottom?
TOM: Bull-nose thing at the bottom? Yeah.
TOM SILVA: Oh, the …
TOM SILVA: The flute?
TOM: The volute.
TOM SILVA: The volute.
TOM: I knew it was French.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
LESLIE: I think you guys just made that up. I’m going to call it the “fancy turnout.”
TOM SILVA: No, no. No, it’s true. I like it.
TOM: The bottom, right? You know. I mean it looks like a birdcage, right?
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
TOM: So that’s got to be tougher because there’s a lot of connection points there.
TOM SILVA: There’s a lot of connection points there. And I’ve done those where – lots of times where you go into an old – years ago, what they would do is they’d take the newel post and they would put it down through the floor. And they would kind of – they would extend it down through the floor framing, about 4 or 5 inches. And they’d have a hole in it where they would drive a wedge into that hole and it’d pull it down to the floor.
Well, what I’ve done in some situations where I can get down below it, I’ve actually gone under the floor, figured out where the newel post is, drilled a hole through the subfloor and into the underside of the newel post, then fastened that down with a long lag bolt.
TOM: So work from the bottom up if you can’t work from the top down?
TOM SILVA: Exactly. Yeah. Sometimes that’s the way you have to do it.
LESLIE: Now, what if the treads themselves start to become loose or creaky? What can you do to get to those?
TOM SILVA: Well, you can nail them back in or you can actually put a screw into the stringer, the structural part of the stairway. And to find that stringer, you can look on the stair tread itself and you’ll see where the old nail holes are. And you can put a finish screw in there. There’s actually a screw that you can use that will drive down through the tread and the head will snap off just below the top surface of the wood. And you can just fill it with a little putty.
TOM: Now, what about loose spindles? As you guys were talking about, kids come down the stairs. They love to run their fingers across those spindles. They can get loose. Spindles don’t really contribute that much to the structural integrity but they can be kind of annoying. How would you tighten them up?
TOM SILVA: Well, it depends on how they’re fastened. Some are square on top, square on the bottom. You can toe-nail them into the railing and toe-nail them into the tread. If they’re round on the top, then they may be in a dowel hole. And the tread – and let’s say the baluster is coming off or loose, sometimes you can pick it up, get it out and then put some glue in the holes, push it back into place.
The other way is around – I’ve actually taken nails and put them on an angle from the underside of the outside of the stair tread, if it’s an open riser, obviously. You can get a nail into that bottom side of the baluster.
TOM: And the trick I’ve always used with that is to actually make the finish nail be the drill bit.
TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
TOM: And just kind of carve a path through that baluster so it doesn’t split.
TOM SILVA: The finish nail is a great drill bit. People don’t realize it but you’re drilling the exact right-size hole.
TOM: Now, what about attaching handrails? They take as much punishment as the rails that are on the open side of the step. But the rail that’s on the closed side of the step, attached to the wall, very often you can’t get a good attachment point for some of those brackets. I’ve seen brackets that are wider than the stud, for example, so you can only get maybe two out of three holes into something that’s meaty behind it. Any tricks of the trade for securing those up?
TOM SILVA: Well, you’re right. They can get loose at the wall if there’s nothing behind there for that. And it’s a good part of a builder to always make sure that there’s good nailing behind the wall for those particular reasons. But they have these finish blocks that you can actually cut off the railing, say, about ¾-inch to allow for the thickness of this square, oval or round bracket that you would put that’s wider and higher than the railing itself. It’ll allow you to get screws into some structure and then screws into the railing.
TOM: So attach the block solidly, then attach the railing block.
TOM SILVA: Exactly.
TOM: Makes sense. Great advice. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: Always a pleasure, guys. Thanks.
LESLIE: Alright. 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 The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.
Up next, could you use some more closet space? Well, reorganizing could be the solution. We’ll be back with tips, after this.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And hey, if you’re feeling the squeeze on closet space, organizing is a really good wintertime project. And it all starts with a plan, figuring out what you want to keep in the closet and what might well be stored somewhere else.
Now, whenever I tackle this kind of project, my first step is always to empty the entire closet and give it a good cleaning. It really serves two purposes. Yes, we can clean it that way but more importantly, I get to see everything that I’ve stuffed in there over the years. And it makes it easier to make some decisions on what needs to go back.
LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s when the sorting starts. You know, you really want to figure out what you want to donate, toss or sell, because it’s going to be a lot easier to reorganize that space when it’s empty. So, figure out which items you’re going to use the most and make them the easiest to access.
Now, that’s really a free DIY project that can make you feel great when it’s done.
TOM: And we’re here to help you get your home improvement projects done at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Cathy in Massachusetts is on the line with a crumbling basement wall. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
CATHY: Our house was sold about 1802. That’s the earliest records that we have. And the chimneys are literally turning to dust in the basement. The bricks themselves. They’re not just crumbling; they are – they have become dust. And I need to know, is there anything we can do to salvage them? Or if we take them down, does it compromise the stability of the whole building?
TOM: Well, it definitely would not compromise the stability of the building because chimneys are not part of the structure. They just hold themselves up. Now, are these active chimneys or inactive chimneys? Are they being used for a fireplace or for the heating system?
CATHY: No. We are afraid to use them for fireplaces.
TOM: OK. No, that’s wise. Well, how is your heating system being vented, Cathy, if it’s not through the chimney?
CATHY: There’s two fireplaces in the building that extend up to the second floor, to the roof. And we have a gas boiler that is vented through one of them but we can actually vent it to the outside.
TOM: Is the chimney that’s deteriorating the one that the gas boiler is in?
CATHY: Both of them are. One of them was a cooking oven back in the 1800s. They used it for a school for young girls and taught them the fine arts of cooking. And it – that’s the large, walk-in fireplace and it’s just totally crumbled. The bricks are falling out and a lot of it is just dust. The other one is a little better shape but it’s still turning to dust.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, it would be highly unlikely that either of them are safe to use, because they’re not lined.
Now, the process of lining – there’s a number of ways to do that but one process of lining is where they drop a tube down the middle of the chimney itself and they pour a concrete kind of slurry mix around the outside of the tube and then deflate the tube and pull it out. That process can actually make the chimney stronger. If that’s something you’re interested in, you could explore that. It’s probably costly.
If you want to just get rid of the chimneys and the fireplaces, then that’s totally fine. And what you’ll do is essentially disassemble them from the top down and then roof over the openings. As long as you’re not going to use them and you have no plans for it, I see no reason to keep them.
CATHY: Alright. Sounds like a good plan for us.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jim in Tennessee is on the line with a concrete cracking-up issue. Tell us what’s going on.
JIM: Yes. I have a concrete driveway that every winter it seems to – the crack seems to separate.
TOM: OK. Yep.
JIM: I’ve used several different things, like cement. But the cement crumbles.
TOM: Of course it does, Jim. Because cement is not a good patching material.
JIM: Oh, OK.
TOM: It doesn’t expand and contract, it doesn’t stick properly. What you need is an epoxy patching compound. Epoxy compounds are designed specifically to stick to the concrete floor that you have and to not crack and re-crack. Anytime you try to use regular cement and fill something in, there’s just not enough base there, so to speak, and it will continue to open and close and expand and contract and turn into little chunks of concrete that will fall out.
JIM: Oh, great. I had no idea.
LESLIE: And it’s an easy fix.
TOM: Take a look at the QUIKRETE website. There’s a number of products out there designed specifically for this. But make sure it’s a patching compound and it’ll do a much better job.
JIM: Hey, we love your show. I tell you, we get a lot of good tips on it.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Up next, if you think maintaining your money pit is a hassle, just consider what it takes to keep The People’s House running. We’re going to share a few fun White House facts, next.
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: Well, now that we have a new first family in the White House, have you ever wondered what it takes to actually take care of that house? Well, when it comes to home improvement, painting alone takes – ready for this? – 570 gallons just to cover those outside walls. Almost 600 gallons of paint. And that’s just one of the many tasks that’s taken care of by an exhaustive team of plumbers, carpenters, electricians and even 33 handymen. That would be a great retirement job for me. I’m a handyman at the White House.
LESLIE: Alright, guys. Well, if you need some help around your white house or your brick house or your money pit, whatever you want to call it, we’re here to give you a hand. You can post a question online. I’ve got one here from John in Pennsylvania who writes: “Is there a way to keep snow from forming at the edge of my roof and collapsing the gutters?”
TOM: Yes. Actually, there is. So, John, what you’re talking about is technically an ice dam. And the reason an ice dam happens is because – if you think about it, your roof extends beyond the exterior walls of your house, right? And the insulation that’s right above the ceiling of your home is supposed to stop the heat from the house of getting up into that roof. But it doesn’t always do a good job, especially if you don’t have enough insulation or if you don’t have enough ventilation in the attic space.
So the heat from the house goes up through that insulation and it starts to melt the snow that’s directly over the heated area of the house. That melted water will work its way down until it gets to that overhanging roof edge which, remember now, is very cold, right, because there’s no heat under it? And that’s when it starts to build up. That’s when it freezes and it can cause ice dams, which means water backs up behind it, ending up in your house. It can definitely freeze and expand and push those gutters right off.
So, secret is a couple of things, First of all, get up in that attic, make sure you’ve got 15-20 inches of insulation. And number two, make sure you’ve got good ventilation. You want to have ventilation at the soffit so the air gets under that roof soffit, goes up underneath the roof sheathing and exits at the ridge. If you’ve got good insulation and good ventilation, you really won’t have to worry about those buildups at the roof edge. Those icicles are pretty but they’re also very dangerous to your house and to you.
LESLIE: You can always use them as an excuse, like in A Christmas Story, which I’m sure we all watched, when he shoots his eye out and – “Ugh, the icicle. I got the icicle in my eye.” But truly, if you see them, you need some work on your roof.
Next up, we’ve got a post here from Ben in New Hampshire who writes: “I paid a lot of money for copper guttering. It performs perfectly but it’s turned a dirty-green color. Is there any way to remedy this?”
Ho ho, that’s called “patina.”
TOM: Yeah. And you paid extra for that, too, so you’d better learn to love that hue, buddy. You know, that’s what happens to copper: it turns that beautiful, green-patina color. And so, seriously, you need to learn to appreciate that. If you want to stop that from happening, yes, you could lacquer those copper gutters. But man, you’re going to be doing that every season. So, just deal with it. It’s a beautiful, beautiful material. As you know, it’s very expensive and that green patina is absolutely gorgeous. So just learn to love it.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I mean it really does look gorgeous. And if you have a brick home, that sort of verdigris, that green-copper look, it really goes really nicely with that brick finish. So just learn to enjoy it. It might take some time but it’s really going to be gorgeous.
TOM: Aside from the expense, the only other downside of copper is that it’s soft, so sometimes you get a little erosion in the leaders. But other than that, it’s great stuff. So, it’s fantastic that you’ve got it. You’ve just got to learn to love it, Ben.
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s really nice. So do love it.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. That’s all the time we have for this hour of the show. Thank you so much for spending this beautiful January weekend with us. If you’ve got questions and could not get through to the show, remember, our lines are open 24/7. So please call us anytime you can with that question and we’ll get back to you the next time we’re in the studio.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2017 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)