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Basement with a wet floor

Basement Waterproofing Rip-offs: Beware of Waterproofing Contractors and Their Expensive Solutions

My question is about basement waterproofers. I have a problem with my basement flooding, and a waterproofing company charged me $14,219 to correct it. Two of that firm's inspectors insisted that underground water was being forced up into the cellar via hydrostatic pressure and only a French drain would correct it. So the basement waterproofers installed a long, deep ditch running alongside the interior of the home's foundation walls. In turn, that graded ditch was supposed to gravity-feed rising water into two underground electric pumps (at opposite ends of the basement) and eventually pump incoming water into the city sewer system.

On the other hand, I felt the water was coming from the surrounding earth through a rather thin foundation wall, and slowly running down into the cellar doorway. Now it seems that I was correct. The basement waterproofing company is stalling, wanting to take photos and "brainstorm" their next move. Do you have any suggestions about how to deal with these basement waterproofers?

Our Answer

This scam is common to so-called basement waterproofers, and unfortunately, it sounds like you've been taken in. These snake-oil salesmen use high-pressure sales tactics and scary words like hydrostatic pressure to push consumers into hiring them for expensive and almost always unnecessary repairs.

Let's examine the claim that forms the basis for the frightening prospect these basement waterproofers pose, which is that your home will collapse from the pressure of the water against its basement walls. In order for any water on the outside of your foundation to get to the drains they carve into your basement floor, the water has to run against the foundation walls and then leak either through the walls or under the footing below the walls. Hence, your foundation walls are subjected to the very same hydrostatic pressure either with or without the basement waterproofers' fourteen-thousand-dollar solution.

Had these basement waterproofers been more honest and impartial with the diagnosis of your basement leakage problem, they would have examined your exterior drainage conditions. As you correctly point out, basement waterproofing has more to do with the condition of the surrounding soil and, more importantly, the functionality of the gutter system on your roof  than any subsurface drainage system does. The type of system they installed is needed only when the problem can be traced to a rising underground water table. This is rarely the case and is easy to spot. If your basement leaks are consistent with rainfall or snow melt, the problem is not a water table but a drainage issue that can easily be corrected without spending a pile of cash.

My advice is to speak to an attorney.  You may be able to sue the waterproofing contractor for not correcting the problem and for fraud, which makes you eligible for treble damages. Only through actions like these will mostly disreputable basement waterproofers stop taking advantage of countless victims like yourself.

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Pin Hole Leaks in Copper Pipes

Hi.  I have already fixed two pinhole leaks in my copper pipe, a year ago.  I now have another one.  Before I dig up the slab and my wooden floors again, is there another option?  I was reading about epoxy lining but have yet to see anything on cost.  Last year my plumber said we should sell the house after getting it fixed because it would happen again.

What are the causes of these pinhole leaks?  I've read about chlorine being the culprit.  I am suspicioius about what the current the gas company is putting out there to keep their pipes from rusting.  I wonder if the copper in my slab is working as their cathode?

Are there any suggestions other than digging up my slab to fix the problem, and is there anything I can do to prevent more pin hole leaks?  Thank you!

Our Answer

Check out our step-by-step guide to repairing pinhole leaks in copper pipes.  It presents you with fixes to individual leaks as well as suggestions for more comprehensive solutions.

The cause of these leaks is indeed up for debate, but is widely believed to be the result of a chemical reaction between water and copper - and probably not anything on behalf of your water company.  Good luck!

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My Garage Door Keeps Getting Stuck

Once temperatures outside dip below 45 degrees, my garage door gets stuck.  It raises about six inches then stops.  If I manually help it past that six inch point it eventually goes up, but obviously this isn't ideal.  It has been greased. What else can I try?

Our Answer

It sounds like your garage door is binding inside the tracks.  There are a number of reasons why this might be happening: There could be a bad bearing on one of rollers, or there's a chance the track has become dented or twisted.  To figure out the problem, disconnect it from the garage door opener.  Then manually slide the door up and down, paying particular attention to where it seems to bind.  Look closely and figure out why it's jamming - again, my guess is a problem with a roller or the track.  Garage door rollers are easily replacable.  If the track is twisted, it's probably because hardware holding the track to its wood frame has loosened.  You might be able to straighten it out by simply tightening those screws, or you can hire someone who installs and fixes garage doors professionally. 

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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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Contractor Theft? File Criminal Complaint

In august of 2013 I paid a contractor in New Jersey a check for $1700 to purchase materials and a down payment for a kitchen remodel. The contractor cashed the check but he never performed the services or purchased the materials. I filed a civil suit and won but of course he did not show up. Can I file a criminal complaint against him for theft 1 and a half years later and if so how do I begin?

Our Answer

I'm so sorry that happened to you. While I'm not an attorney I would think you could file a criminal complaint for theft. The first stop is your local police department. It sounds like a pretty clear case of theft by deception and the fact that a year has gone by should not matter. In fact, you gave the contractor more than enough time to make this right and the fact that he has not could be viewed as further proof of his ill intent. In my experience, contractors like this are less likely to ignore a criminal complaint than they are a civil complaint. In addition, the contractor is very likely in violation of the NJ Consumer Fraud Act. You could log an additional complaint with the NJ Attorney General's Office here: http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/Pages/File-a-Complaint.aspx

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Uneven Heating and Cooling Throughout House – What’s the Cause?

I have a brick three-bedroom rancher built in 1974. We blew insulation into the attic when we moved in, and last year installed brand new windows throughout the entire house. Yet when I close the doors to two bedrooms they get warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. A lot of air that comes from the registers. There are also 31-inch air returns on the walls in both rooms. Is it possible that these are too big for the rooms and causing this problem?  Or could it be something else?

Our Answer

If registers are letting air into rooms from unconditioned spaces, like an unfinished basement or crawlspace, it could be the cause - or at least a contributing factor.  Hire a HVAC contractor who can measure airflow through those registers.  If the registers are damanged or perhaps not even fully open, it could account for differences.

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Water on Garage Floor – Damage Blocks

I recently moved into a home with a water problem in the garage. The garage is heated by a furnace - when snow melts off the vehicles, the water pools in the front corner of the garage and does not dry. Over time, this water has soaked in to the block making up the exterior wall. It then freezes, which is busting up the block, causing it to slowly flake apart (at least this is my theory of why the block is deteriorating in an isolated area). There is a drain in the floor of the garage, but the water seems to go everywhere except towards the drain. I can squeegee the water to the drain, but this is a pain, and most of the corner is impossible to get to because of a large, heavy built-in cabinets. I have a two-part question. 1) What is the best way to address the damaged block? 2) How do I fix the floor, so that the water runs properly towards the drain? Thank you in advance.

Our Answer

Lets tackle the easy part first, deteriorated concrete can be easily repaired with an epoxy patching compound, such as one made by Quikrete.  As for re-sloping floor, that's much more difficult, because you would need to repour the floor.  This isn't something you can really repair.  I would suggest painting the floor and the block walls with an epoxy garage paint.  That will greatly reduce the absorption of water and would inhibit frost damage which is what this sounds like.
You might also consider adding flooring in the form of garage tiles.  It will give you at least half an inch of space above the floor and would be far less expensive than repouring.  Look for self-draining tiles.  Water would run down and sit under tiles. 
 

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Name Brands of Windows, Siding and Roofing

We're overhauling our house.  I want name brand stuff.  My wife thinks lesser-known brands are worth the savings.  What do you think? Who makes best replacement windows, vinyl siding, and architectural shingles?

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Removing Glue Adhesive from Hardwood Floors

What is the safest, easiest way to remove a thick layer of adhesive glue that remained on my hardwood floors after I peeled of the linoleum? I already tried sanding it. That did get most of it, but I'm concerned about the effects of too much sanding. Currently I am thinking vinegar - will this eat away at the glue?

Our Answer

Glue adhesive can be really hard to remove from wood - and most surfaces, for that matter.  There's no chance vinegar is gonna cut it.  You need an adhesive remover.  Citrus-based removers and strippers can be effective, but in this case you might not be able to avoid sanding those floors, too.  I recommend having a pro handle the sanding for you. Done well, sanding them will cause the least amount of wear and tear, and will get rid of the glue.  Done incorrectly, though, it can severely damage your floors.  Good luck!  Post before and after photos to Money Pit's Facebook page.  

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Why Do You Only Recommend ASHI Home Inspectors?

Why do you only mention ASHI? There are several other home inspector societies out there that are the same as ASHI and quite frankly, some are even better. IE: they require stricter standards for the inspectors! There is nothing wrong with ASHI, but having always believed this is a nuetral based information site, I am surprised there is no mention of others, or at least a mention that there are others? Locally, several of the "good old boy" home inspectors are ASHI members, they don't comply with hardly any of thier standards, these guys are in and out of a 2500 sq/ft home in minutes, no attics, crawl, or any other detailed areas are inspected. More of a "need this just to satisfy the bank" kind of inspections. There is no one at ASHI or any of the other societies for that matter that are following inspectors around to assure they are doing a thorought job. I recommend to people to get online and look for ratings, such as Homeadvisor or Angies list provide. Also, ask for references from past clients, etc.. Caveat Emptor!

Our Answer

Let's just say it sounds like you have a dog in this hunt, as the saying goes. 
I spent 20+ years as a member the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).  I believe they are the best means of assuring that a perspective homebuyer is finding someone qualified and confident in home inspections.  In my view, ASHI's standards are among the strictest in the nation, test among the most comprehensive in nation, and that the formation of other organizations is likely a response to the fact that many home inspectors don't want to put out the time and trouble needed to meet ASHI's requirements. 

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We Need a Smaller Home. Can We Remove Our Second Floor?

Does it ever make sense to make a 2-story house into a 1-story home? We like our location but do not need the room anymore. We need a new roof, so this feels like the right time to make this big change if we're going to do it.

Our Answer

There's no structural reason you can't do this, barring an architect or engineer saying otherwise!  It's more of an economic question.  If you reduce the size of your home, you reduce its value accordingly.  To get a sense of the economic impact, check out the values of single story vs two story homes in your area.  Find homes sold recently that are the size of what your remodeled would be, and determine whether the reduced resale value, combined with the cost of the remodel, makes this project worth it. 
Generally speaking, though, it's unusual to do things that reduce a home's value.  You might be able to come up with some better, financially wiser solutions with the help of Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS).    Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists can connect you with designers, builders, and other pros who remodel homes to make them more accessible for aging residents.
If the challenge here is to simply make sections of your house more accessible as you age, there are far less drastic ways to do that.  You can make these changes to your home in ways that actually add value, rather than detract from it.  Consider all options before taking such a drastic step that could result in a major profit hit. 

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How Much Should I Spend on Spray Foam Insulation?

What's the average cost for having spray foam insulation used in my home? It needs to be sprayed under the entire roof of my Cape Cod, in the upstairs walls, and in about half of the first floor walls. 

Our Answer

I'm very partial to Icynene.  I had an excellent experience with the product, and can't imagine recommending another manufacturer.  This was the first winter since I used it in my home, and my utility company tells me my home was among most efficient in the area this winter - which is saying a lot for a house that's more than 100 years old!
There are significant qualitative differences between home manufacturers and foam installers, and done incorrectly, this process could have a very detrimental effect on your home.  If I were you, I'd contact Icynene dealers in my area and let them compete for the job.  Generally speaking, when you get a price from a dealer that's dramatically less than everyone else's, something is being left out, and it's foolish to go with the lowest bid.  So get a sense of the average cost and ask questions of dealers from there.  Good luck!

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Is My Roofer Responsible for My Lanai Roof Leak?

I purchased a manufactured home built in 1998 for my daughter.  The inspection revealed that I needed a new roof.  The inspector saw a small leak in the lanai and interviewed a few roofers who said the leak resulted from the attachment to the regular roof.

So I had the roof replaced last week, but now the lanai is leaking worse than before.  The roofer and I inspected the lanai and it appears to be leaking along the seams.  He claims this was not part of our contract - but the sole reason I replaced the roof so soon as becaue of this leak.  What can be done to repair it? I have not paid him in full yet. During the recent storms the whole Florida room was drenched.

Our Answer

How ridiculous!  Sorry, Mr. Roofer, you do not get to weasel out of this by claiming that it simply wasn't your job to assure that an attached structure wasn't properly flashed! 
My advice: DON'T pay the roofer until he comes back, removes that section of the roof and replaces it, being careful to overlap, flash and seal the junction between the two roofs.  Then when they say they are done, go up there with a garden hose and let it flood the roof for an hour or so to make sure it's fixed.

Proper flashing is where the rubber meets the road, and separates skilled roofers from the other guys.  The irony is that flashing isn't even difficult - products today are far more user-friendly than ones in years past, which required bending metal or copper to make seams. 
In sum, if this is a standard attachment, the roofer needs to overlap a good foot or two.  It's also a great idea to put ice or water shield, designed specifically to seal out leaks in both hot and cold climates, underneath.  These ice and water dams come in strips, and should be covered in shingles after they're installed.

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Shopping For An AC Install – What Do I Buy?

I'm about to purchase a mini-split ductless air conditioner.  The site where I'm going to buy it lists the accessories as well as the air conditioner. My question is, what exactly do I need for installation?  I'm having a licensed contractor put it in, but I have to purchase it first, including everything needed for the install. Thank you.

Our Answer

First, you are very wise to hire a contractor to put this together, because installing a ductless air conditioner is not a DIY project!
Have the contractor specify exactly what parts are necessary to complete this project in your home. There are many accessories and options.  I don't have enough information to determine which are advisable, and you don't have expertise - so have the contractor give you a shopping list, or - even better - have him do the shopping for you so he's responsible for the entire job.  The added hourly rate or charge you'll spend to have the contractor handle this for you is worth

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How to Verify Contractor Insurance and Licenses?

Before I hire him, I want to make sure my prospective contractor carries proper insurance and licenses.  Should he have a card that states he's licensed, and has liability and workmans compensation? I assume the license would be obvious, with the state's information on it, but the insurance aspect makes me wonder.

Our Answer

These are key questions to ask a contractor before letting them - and their team -  onto your property and into your home. 
License requirements vary by state and county, and sometimes even by municipality.  Call your local building department and ask which licences contractors working in your town are required to have - and, more importantly, which ones they're required to verify.  In many cases they will carry a card that documents their license, much like a drivers license. 
In terms of insurance, request the declarations page from your contractor's insurance policy.  Make sure any contractor carries both liability insurance and workman's comp, both of which should be stated on that declarations page.  If you want to feel really confident about your contractor, call the insurance agency listed on the declarations page and confirm the insurance is still in effect.  I have heard of instances where a contractor purchased insurance, then promptly cancelled it once they'd received that declaration page.