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ridge vent

Rotating Roof Vent vs. Ridge Vent: Which is Best?

I am looking for some feedback on (1) the use of rotating vents versus standard flat low lying vents (2)the placement of these if used together -- things to avoid, (3) best locations for placement on roof of a normal roof on a bungalow

Our Answer

The most effective attic ventilation happens with continuous soffit and ridge vents. Air will enter the attic at the ridge, run up under the roof sheathing where it carts heat away in summer and moisture away in winter, and exit at the ridge. This 24/7 attic ventilation solution is far more effective than any other type of mechanical or passive ventilation solution.

Make sure that both the ridge and soffit vents are wide open and not blocked. For soffits, perforated soffit material is best. Just make sure no insulation is blocking the air flow from the insiode. For ridge vents, look at those sold by Air Vent, Inc. See: They have a baffle design that speeds up depressurization.

Important: once this system is installed, block all other vents including gable vents as that will prevent turbulence that interferes with the air flow pattern you will have created.

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stucco cracking

How to Stucco a Shed

I live in a neighborhood of Mediterranean-style homes. According to our homeowners association, all buildings on lots must be of this style. I have a new  storage shed that I need to alter to meet these HOA standards. I plan to use WonderBoard to frame it out and stucco as the finish with paint to match the house. It will be on a concrete base against a 6' rock wall on the back side. I'm looking for suggestions as to how to attach the Wonderboard to the shed, and problems to anticipate. Thanks.

Our Answer

The foremost thing to keep in mind: If you're going to cover your shed with stucco, the shed needs to be dimensionally stable.  You can’t have movement in the walls, because the stucco will crack and fall off.  Preventing this starts at the foundation – you need a good stone base and concrete footings so when the job's complete, the shed is rock solid. 

Second, I’d recommend against using the WonderBoard for the same reason. This product is not designed to to be used as sheathing. For the best results, use plywood, cover the surface with tar paper and wire mesh, and then stucco it.  If those walls are not solid, the stucco will crack, which will make you, your HOA and your neighbors unhappy Good luck and please post photos to Money Pit's Facebook page!

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paint, prep, paint brush, choosing the right paint brush

Removing Mold and Mildew From Siding

There's growth on my painted wood siding.  I'm pretty sure it's either mold or mildew.  What is the best way to remove this? I heard there is a product i can spray on the siding and thats all I have to do, but I have a hard time believing it could be that easy!

Our Answer

Rest easy: Mold and mildew on siding are common, and nothing to be terribly concerned about.  But it does need to be managed.  What you want to use is a mildewcide.  There are a great numbers of commercial  and DIY options available, from mixing bleach and water to using professional products but we like Spray and Forget the best simply apply and let them sit, and they prevent further mold.  The other treatments can have a detrimental effect or grass, plants, and other growth.  Now, you mentioned your siding is painted.  If you're ever getting ready to repaint it, it's really important you thoroughly remove that mold and mildew first. 

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Best Exterior Stucco for Outdoor Kitchen Project

I am building a large outdoor grill island (84L x3 6H x 29w) for my patio. I have the frame built from galvanized stud type material and I have attached 1/2 inch cement board. I plan to tile the top surface and use some form of stucco material on all of the sides. Problem: I have never used any stucco before and the local home centers claim to not have stucco. The only product I have found is surface bonding cement by Quikrete. I believe that I can use the liquid coloring to tint the cement for my purpose and there is a fortifier that they carry as well that supposedly helps adhesion.

Question 1: Is the surface bonding cement combination that I described good for this project? Vertical adhesion, weathering, etc. Or is there a better product that I should use instead?

Question 2: What is the best technique to apply? I assume a trowel because I have poured/ finished concrete before, but please describe the "how to".

Thanks for your time.

Our Answer

You are correct that the product to use for this is surface bonding cement. For the details, we went right to the experts a QUIKRETE for this answer.  

The QUIKRETE team says QUIKWALL Surface Bonding Cement from  is ideal for this project. It contains fibers and other additives that make the surface strong and protect it from potential harm. QUIKWALL is also rated as a waterproofing material, which is a great for outdoor projects like a grill island.  They do recommend also using QUIKRETE Acrylic Fortifier to increase bond strength and yes, you can absolutely use QUIKRETE Liquid Color for a little more decorative flare!

Much like stucco, QUIKWALL is a sanded product designed to be applied vertically with a trowel. In fact, the primary use of QUIKWALL is for building block walls without mortar (known as dry-stacking).

Rather than explain the step-by-step process for applying QUIKWALL, check out this how-to video.  It covers all the bases. Good luck with the project and please share your finished work!

I've had a persistent leak for two years and can't find the source. It comes in where the wall meets the ceiling. I've caulked all around, had the flashing around all the penetrations inspected, and recently had siding and gutters replaced, during which we inspected the flashing and added a better drip edge, all to no avail. My contractor tells me the roof pitch may just be too shallow for shingles to work well. He estimates it at 2/12.

I had the roof replaced in 2003 because it leaking then, which at the time I attributed to skylights that I had removed. I just found the original contract for the earlier roof replacement, and it records the pitch as 3/12 (actually it says 3/5 in 12 but I assume that is referring to a steeper part of the roof that was also involved in that project.) That contractor never told me that shingles might not be the best choice.

My questions are:

Does it sound likely to you that replacing the shingles with a material more suitable for a low-pitch roof could resolve the leak?

Do I have any case for asking the original contractor to do the work or cover the cost of another company doing it? (It has caused considerable interior damage as well.)

Our Answer

Michael, Asphalt shingles can be installed when the roof pitch is 3/12 or greater so you are definitely at that border line area. To help prevent leaks though, I typically recommend that Ice & Water Shield be installed across the entire roof (not just the roof edge) when the slope is so shallow. In fact in areas that are subject to extreme weather like the hurricane coast, for example, we recommend the same thing.

So in answer to your first question, replacing the roof may help but only if you add an additional layer of Ice and Water Shield under the asphalt shingles.

Going after the original contractor will be difficult. Assuming the contractor won’t accept responsibility and you need to sue, you may need to hire and expert witness to testify that the job was done wrong (assuming it was) as well as an attorney. This costs may exceed the cost of the roof replacement.

The best thing might be to do some testing to try and narrow down the exact source of the leak. One way to do this might be to use a garden hose to run water down the roof right over the leak area to see if you can pinpoint the spot that leaks. You might also consider hiring a professional home inspector to help you diagnose the cause of the roof leak. For a relatively small fee, these folks can give you an expert opinion and may help you save time by getting to the root of the problem quickly.

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USDA Rural Development Loan Failed to Identify Shoddy Contractor’s Work

Hi, I live in Athens, TN. My brother is a stroke victim. he had 3 strokes and double brain surgery. He cannot walk, or use his left arm. He is on SSD. About 1 year and a half ago, my disabled brother had a leak in his roof, that completely collapsed his bathroom ceiling. It was above the bathtub, and black mold was everywhere. He ended up getting in touch with the USDA, and took out a loan to fix the roof, and remodel that bathroom, making it a handicap friendly bathroom. The case worker for the USDA in Chattanooga told him to get 3 estimates. She gave him a list of contractors, and he called 2 of them, and she said the estimate was too high. The other contractors on the list wouldn't come out because we live to far from them. So, he got a referral from a man who does charity work for poor people. He knew a man who was the head honcho at the Mormon Church here, and this mans son worked on houses. we got the sons phone number. He came out and gave my brother an estimate, and his case manager approved it. The guy had his 2 young workers put the roof on, while he did the bathroom. He did electrical work and plumbing in the bath, and electrical in other areas of the house. When he was done, they set up and appt. for the case manager to come out and look over the work and approve it. If she approves it, and my brother approves it, than the contractor gets paid. They both approved it, but nobody went on the roof. I feel the case worker should have gone on the roof or had the City Bldg. Inspector come out and inspect it. She didn't. He got a 1 year warranty on the work, and the contractor was paid and on his way. There was 2 things he was supposed to come back and finish. A new faucet in the kitchen, and his workers left a gap in his wall between the molding around the front door and the wall. The cased worker took pictures. He never came back to finish it. My brother tried calling him many times, but his phone was disconnected. A year later, his roof starts leaking into the bathroom. the case worker says it is between the homeowner, my brother, and the contractor and washed her hands of the mess. I called everyone I could and found out that the contractor was supposed to be licensed to do any plumbing or electric, no matter how small the cost. In Tennessee you do not have to be licensed to put a roof on unless it is over 25K. We thought he was licensed, but the USDA knew he wasn't. My brother borrowed 14K to have this work done. Since we couldn't call this contractor, I went to his house, with tape recorder in hand. he said he would come out and fix everything. He took down our phone numbers and said he would call the next day. he didn't. A month went buy, the ceiling in the bathroom is sagging and has black mold on it, and we had to do something. I went to Angie's List and hired a top knotch licensed roofer to fix the leak. He was shocked at the shoddy roof job the last contractors workers had done. he said it is the worst he has seen in 40 years of roofing. he took pics of all the problems, gave us an estimate to fix the leak, and we hired him. He came to work 2 days ago, and while working on the roof, came across so many problems, that he could not believe the USDA signed off on it. My brother has mental problems and was just going by what his case worker said. I thought she was checking all this stuff out, but she wasn't. It cost $475.00 to fix the leak, but the roof needs to be replaced. In the meantime, my brother, who's SSD income is $790.00 a month, has to pay the USDA $45.00 a month for the loan. he pays for half, the USDA pays the other half. Now, the USDA got ripped off by this guy too, in my eyes. My concern is for my brother. How can he get part of the loan forgiven, so he can hire the new roofer to put a new roof on correctly and how can we get our $475.00 back from the con artist. Even though it was a 1 year warranty, the warranty SHOULD be for a roof that was installed properly. Since it wasn't, wouldn't that make the warranty null and void. What do we do???? Can the original roofer be arrested? Small claims court would be OK, if he shows up. I don't know what to do, and my brother is in tears. Please help me. Thankyou

Our Answer


Juliana, I'm so sorry to hear of your troubles with contractors.  Suffice to say, I have heard this all before.  I'm afraid that anything I told you to do right now would be too little too late. It does seem that the loan officer should bear some responsibility for missing the defects. At the bear minimum, they should have insisted that a building permit be taken out so that proper inspectors would have been made.

I think you are on the right track using a contractor from Angie's List.  Keep in mind that even though the roof may have not been properly installed, many times a roof can be repaired an maintained leak free without a complete replacement.

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In Salty Air, Is a Synthetic Porch Railing Better Than Wood?

I have an oceanfront home. My porch rail is made from wood that isn't holding up well. Should I replace it with wood, or a railing made of another material? The floor is concrete.

Our Answer

Considering the humidity and moisture, I recommend a synthetic material for your next railing.  There are a lot of synthetic choices out there. Look at Azek, Timber Tech, Fiberon, and Fypon. Wood is organic and its enemy is moisture.  It's absorbent and soaks that moisture in, which then gets under the paint and finish and lifts it off.  A synthetic railing makes much more sense.  Good luck!

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How to Paint Over Concrete

         I just recently purchased a home, and unfortunately the previous homeowners were Michigan State fans. There is all sorts of green and white reminders of that throughout the house. Including the landscaping, white rocks in the landscaping beds, and worse of all the concrete foundation, garage floor and walkways are painted green. I am interested in knowing what the best ways to remove the old green paint from the concrete, but also a safe method for the soil surrounding landscaping beds to not damage the existing & future plants. And also, What are some of the best options for once the paint is removed? For the foundation, garage floor and the walkways as well.

Thank you for your time & I love listening to your podcast while in working in the factory. Keep up the great work.


Our Answer

Go Spartans?  Or more accurately, Go Away Spartans!  So you find yourself in a sea of green?  The best approach isn't to necessarily strip the old paint as this is an almost impossible job when it comes to masonry.  Better yet, you should paint over it.  Here are the steps:

1.  Remove the loose paint.  Use a wire brush to remove as much of the old paint as comes off.  You can't put good paint over bad paint or it will peel.  Now, if you REALLY want to remove the old paint, the best approach is sandblasting but that can damage the masonry if it's not done carefully.

2. Next, apply a masonry primer.  I'd use an oil-based primer from a well known manufacturer like Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams.

3.  The apply two coats of exterior masonry paint over the primer.

The problem with paint is that after you paint you have to eventually repaint.  But following this procedure will give you a finish that will keep that Michegan green from peaking out last as long as possible!

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How Do I Fix Crumbling Mortar in Brick Columns?

My house was built in 1900.  The porch deck and the portion of the house above it are supported by a column of bricks.  My problem is, the cement between the bricks is crumbling. The bricks are still in place, but I'm nervous that the columns aren't structurally sound.  Can I perhaps put a form around the columns, then fill a 2-inch or so space around the brick with new concrete?  Or should I support the structure, remove the bricks, dig below the frost line and do a Sonotube column?  Thanks for any advice.  I like your radio show. 

Our Answer

The construction you describe sounds typical for a turn-of-the-century house, and you'll probably be relieved to hear that the solution is to simply maintain the existing brick work.  In most cases, this simply requires repointing the mortar between the bricks.  Repointing is the act of using a small triowel to push new mortar into those spaces to maintain the architectural integrity.  It's a run-of-the-mill masonry job, and if it's done right, you can go on enjoying your house for another 100 years!
Repointing is frequently required on brick foundation walls and such, and will secure your columns - so no more worrying about integrity. That said, if those columns are crumbling to the point where they're sagging or collapsing - in other words, are structurally unstable - you might need to support the roof with temporary supports, which is done by running beams from the ground up to the underside of the roof beams. A structural engineer can help you determine whether this is necessary. 

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Removing and Replacing an Iron Railing to Install a New Door: A DIY Job?

What is the best DIY way to remove an iron railing from cement and reinstall it?   if I cut the rail I'll need to patch it and use brackets to reinstall it. If I drill out next to the post in the cement and reinstall the railing, I'll need new cement.

Our Answer

You have two options, but neither, unfortunately, is DIY-friendly.  They both require professional skill and expertise to accomplish, and accomplish well.
The best way to remove and replace the railing is to do so in the way it was initially installed.  Generally, railings are not welded in place.  If the post is in concrete, you can drill with masonry drill around the post to clear out some of the setting material.  This will loosen the rail and you can pull out - but then, yes, the masonry needs to be repaired by a pro.
If that's not possible and you need to cut the railing itself, it could be cut strategically and re-welded.  Again, a job for a pro. 

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Roof Deck Leaking Into Garage Underneath

We have a flat 12x12 deck off our master bedroom.  It sits on top of our garage.  We love it and want to keep it, but it continuously leaks water into the garage below.  We've tried everything we can think of, from rebuilding the deck with outdoor tile to adding more drains (when snow melts, the gutters can't seem to support all of the water.  We make sure they're always free of leaves, but they still overflow).  We're getting to the point where we might just give up.  We don't have a large budget for repair, but we're thinking about enclosing the deck completely, or covering it in glass and turning it into a sunroom just to put this leak problem behind us.  What are your thoughts? Would this affect the value of our home?

Our Answer

A master bedroom deck adds significant value to a home, and, if well maintained, is also an attractive selling point. That said, decking is one of the most difficult surfaces to make watertight.
I suggest taking all reasonable strides toward fixing this problem, and I think your best option is to install a fiberglass deck.  Fiberglass decks are installed by forming fiberglass on top of the old roof surface once those garage roof leaks are repaired.  The fiberglass goes up under the siding and becomes an impervious surface - that is, no water can get beneath it. 
Before installing it, contractors will make your roof as flat and smooth as possible, and will also add a little bit of pitch.  Then, they make the fiberglass, lay it, cover it with resin, add more fiberglass, more resin and so on -  similar to how you'd make a boat hull.  The upper layers have an abrasive sand in the epoxy, giving you some surface resistance.  The whole thing is formed in one continuous piece.  This is your best bet for maintaining your deck while also bringing an end to those troubling garage leaks.

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How to Repair Sun Damage on Front Door


I'm a novice when it comes to home improvement DIY work, and I'm interested in repairing some sun damage I see on my front door. 

On multiple websites (including yours), it's recommended to sand the door down then apply marine varnish.

Can you give me more information on how to "sand and prep the door like usual"?

(1) Do I have to take the door down and off its hinges? I'm petite and I'm hoping I don't have to take the door down. I'm hoping I can just sand and varnish with the door upright.

(2) Can I hand sand the door, or do I need to go out and buy a sander? 

(3) Can I just sand the old varnish off or do I need to sand away the paint on the door too?

(4) I understand it's recommended to put at least two coats of varnish on the door and allow each coat to thoroughly dry before adding the next layer. Can this entire project be completed within a day? If I need to take my front door off the hinges ideally I would like to have it back on when night falls.

Thanks in advance for you help!

Our Answer

Refinishing a front door is a great project for a warm weekend, because that's the time you need to allow all coats to properly dry.   Time the project so the door is dry at the end of the day, can be reinstalled overnight, and taken off again the next morning to finish the job. 
You can certainly work on this door upright, but the job is far easier - and possibly more effective -  if you take it off its hinges and work on it horizontally, on saw horses.  Not only will this let you do a better job sanding (and will be easier on your back), you won't have to worry about the finish dripping.  Removing the door might not be as difficult as you fear.  Once you pull out the hingepins, it comes off easily.  All you'll need is a friend to help you lift it onto a saw horse.

You asked about sanding.  You can sand by hand, though it's certainly a lot easier to work with a vibrating sander.  If you do opt for hand sanding and your door features detail such as raised panels, I recommend 3M's sanding sponges.  They can help you sand those spots that are hard to effectively reach with stiff sandpaper. 

Regarding your question about varnish, it's hard to tell from your question what type of door you have. If it's a wood door you're staining, you may have to touch up  the stain after sanding it - especially if you sand it down to raw wood. The reason I recommend marine varnish is because it has a high degree of UV protection, which slows sun damage to door.  If it's painted, you don't need to varnish it, and can simply prime, and then paint it with exterior grade enamel paint.

In terms of how long you should let varnish or paint dry, simply follow the label instructions, and when it doubt, wait it out!  You never want to put a coat on prematurely, and if the previous coat is still tacky at all, hold off.

If all of this this feels like too much of an undertaking and you're ready to simply replace the door, fiberglass doors are the way to go, and can look almost like wood. 

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How Do I Replace Missing Craftsman Exterior Trim?

I recently purchased a 1934 home in Baltimore that features Craftsman details, including the trim that runs along the entire perimeter of the exterior of the house. It starts about four inches off the ground and wraps all the way around. The trim is a wide, flat piece of wood with another piece above it to create a lip on the top. That lip is 2 inches deep and 3/4 inch tall. The wide flat piece below that is about 9 inches in height.  I don't really know how deep either piece is as they attach to the house's stucco exterior.

The problem I have is that there's one side of the house where the lip is missing. There is just a single flat piece of trim.  The weird thing is that nowhere else on the house does it look like the lip on the top is attached to the flat piece.  So maybe both pieces were removed and replaced with one taller flat piece without a lip?

Here are my questions:
Does this style of trim have a name?
How does it normally attach to the exterior wall?
Should I remove this flat piece to reinstall the lip?
What type of wood is used for this trim?


Our Answer

Thanks for the photos - they help me understand your situation better. 
First, let's ID all these elements.  I would refer to this trim as band board, and the lip as a sill.  Both are normally secured to a foundation by nails or screws, and a waterproof seal should exist between the trim and the stucco.  In layman terms, the water has to run down the stucco, strike the sill, and run OFF rather than behind the band board - similar to any type of flashing connection that stops absorption and leaks. 
I wouldn't, then, recommend adding the missing sill, because at this point it'll be difficult to restore any waterproofing integrity.  Instead, I'd monitor the band board for signs of decay and rot.  Trim is a common area for rot.  Make sure to stay on top of painting and caulking it.  And if you find yourself in a situation where you have to replace it because of rot or decay, use a pressure-treated lumber.  This existing band board may have originally been a decay-resistant lumber like cedar, but you see how its integrity can be tainted when there's no waterproofing or flashing.  For that reason, then, go with pressure-treated lumber moving forward. 

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How Do I Install Exterior Door and Window Surrounds?

My 1984 Colonial home has no exterior door or window surrounds -  just the white vinyl window frame.  I would like to add surrounds to both.  Must some of the clapboards be removed to install surrounds, or are there products available to avoid this step?

Our Answer

A company called Fypon offers exactly what you're after -  a wide variety of polyurethane and PVC exterior surrounds.  The advantage of polyurethane is that you never risk the rot or warp that's almost inevitable with wood.  
To answer your question, you shouldn't have to remove your home's clapboard to install the surrounds.  These products attach to existing siding, preventing any water intrusion that could occur from dismantling.
We'd love to see before and after photos of your door and windows!  Feel free to post them to Money Pit's Facebook page.  

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Preventing Erosion at House Foundation

We live in the South.  Is it enough to slope the dirt away from the house, to avoid termites?  But with no gutters, what do we do to keep the dirt from splashing up onto the bricks when it rains?  And what should be planted or put there to deter weeds  and also look good, instead of the just dirt against the house-look?

Our Answer

The best appraoch would be to install gutters and extend downspouts away from the foundation. However, if your soil drains really, really well and you only want to prevent erosion, consider installing Rainhandler, a system which will disperse roof drainage without causing erosion.  Good luck with your project!