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red paint, concrete

Learn to Repair and Paint Concrete Foundation Walls

I just purchased a new home with a solid poured concrete wall foundation. I am not looking to "finish" the basement, but I would like to paint the concrete foundation walls to brighten up and make the basement look clean.  Is there a material that I can use that would also fill in all the little holes in the concrete and paint the walls at the same time?

Our Answer

Solid concrete foundation walls are about as good as it gets for a strong base for your home.  The concrete walls themselves are not really designed to be a finished surface, as the steel forms leave ridges when they are removed, and small voids where air has settled in the concrete results in pock marks.  These ridges and pock marks, as well as even minor shrinkage cracks on the concrete foundation should be considered minor and mostly cosmetic.

Basement wall paints tend to be fairly thick and  no matter what you do, the concrete walls will not be silky smooth.  If the concrete wall has any large areas that need repair, I'd recommend the products from Quikrete.  These patches and fillers do a good job on repairing holes and voids in concrete. After the repair, you can paint the solid concrete foundation walls using paint specially formulated for concrete.

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outdoor cleaning

Spray & Forget vs Wet & Forget

I'm trying to determine the difference between Spray & Forget and Wet & Forget. I've heard experts from both products on your show over the years. It sounds like they do pretty much the same thing. So why choose Wet & Forget or Spray & Forget over the other?

Our Answer

That's a great question and you're right, both claim to do the same thing, which is to remove mold, mildew and algae growth.  But there are some significant differences.  

Spray & Forget has been out since 2002, and therefore has had the longest history of effectiveness.  Its also 3x more concentrated right out of the bottle, which delivers about 40% more product overall.  Spray & Forget lasts longer too, and it performs better on tough stains.  Finally of the two products, only Spray & Forget is made here in the USA.

Spray & Forget has been a consistent innovator in the no-rinse cleaning category, with more application options than other manufacturers.  They also continue to enhance and add to their formulations to increase performance and address new needs that homeowners want.

Check out the interview we did with Scott Dudjak, the President of Spray & Forget, below.

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Hanging a Flat Screen TV

Like many people this season we are buy a new flat screen TV and were planning to mount it over our fireplace. I was wondering if there were any special precautions that we need to take because of the fireplace being behind the wall that we are mounting. Is it going to affect or damage the bricks or the functionality of the fireplace if we have to drill into the wall? What would be the best way to do this?

Love your show,

Jenna Ostrowski

Buffalo, NY

Our Answer

Jenna, assuming that this is a traditional brick wall of a real fireplace (as opposed to a fake brick wall on a manufactured fireplace!) there's no reason you can not attach the flat screen TV mounting bracket directly to the brick and have it provide a solid connection. 

The best fastener to use for this is a "Tapcon" concrete screw.  Tapcon screws are designed to grab into brick and concrete and come with a drill bit preciously sized for the screw you need to install.  Just follow the instructions carefully and you should be good to go.  The other option is to use a traditional lead shield and lag bolt combo to attach the mounting bracket.  However, in my experience, the Tapcon will be strong enough.  To be sure, check with the manufacturer of the TV mounting bracket and follow their recommendations before proceeding with the project.

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Dust in House: How to Reduce or Remove

I have noticed an excessive amount of dust in my home; especially in the master bathroom.  It seems like I can't keep the furniture dusted enough.  When I rinse the tub there is a coating of lint type dust that isn't visible until I rinse the tub by pouring water on the sides of the tub before filling it.

I am wondering if there is a leak in our attic and perhaps the vent fan in the bathroom is allowing air flow from the attic to enter my home.  I haven't had the attic inspected but the house was built in 2003 so didn't think I would have a problem.  It is frustrating to try and keep up with the dusting!  Have you heard of anything like this? What can I do to solve this problem?

Our Answer

While it’s possible that you’re getting some dust from the attic, it’s unlikely. If there are gaps around your ceiling fans, air is probably moving from the house into the attic, not the other way around, due to something called the stack effect. I suggest that you look at a couple of other possible sources of dust first.

When’s the last time you had your clothes dryer vent cleaned? If that vent is obstructed, you could be getting a lot of dryer lint blowing back into the house. Turn on your dryer, then go outside to find the vent opening. You should have a nice, strong flow of warm air coming out of that opening. If you don’t, then have the vent cleaned to remove any build up of lint. It might solve your problem and make your dryer work better at the same time.

Do you have a fireplace or wood stove? If you do, and the inside of your house were to become depressurized, air could move backwards through these flues and carry ash into the house. If this is the case, you’ll need to find out why the house is becoming depressurized. Leaky ductwork in your heating system is often the culprit here.

One other thing to consider is that your heating system’s filter is missing. It’s important for you to clean or change your air filter regularly.

Editor’s Note: Jim Katen is a professional home inspector with Benchmark Inspection Service in Gaston, OR. Jim volunteers as a guest expert in The Money Pit Community. Learn more about Jim’s work through the American Society of Home Inspectors.

 

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Wet Concrete Floor

I am having a problem with the concrete floor in one of the rooms of the house we moved in to. Every time it rains the floor is wet. I don't know if there is any kind of sealant on it or not. The rest of the house has linoleum. But this room is just concrete. What can I do to fix this problem? Will the new flex seal work? or do I need to try something else?

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Wallpaper Removal

Good Morning

My son has just purchased a new home and will need to remove multiple rooms of wallpaper.  We were wondering what would be the best method to use since we want to do it ourselves.  It looks like vinyl coated paper not solid vinyl or flocked. Is it easier to use a chemical such as Piranha or would using a small steamer work better.  Maybe a combination of the two?  He had heard using hot water with fabric softener and a scrapet worked well. Please advise

thank you in advance

Jan Mancini

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Do we Need a Bathroom Fan?

We have a home that was built in 1920. We want to take an upstairs bedroom and turn it in to our master bathroom.  There is a set of windows about 45 X 58. Our contractor says we do not need a fan in the room because of the windows. I told my husband we should do it anyway and vent it out the side of the house. We live in a four season area.  So the question is, should we have the fan installed? I'm not one for opening the window in winter and the tub will be installed beneath the window.  Thank you.          

Our Answer

Great question.  While it is correct that a bathroom with a window that allows for ventilation does not require fan, it's also correct that you probably won't want that window open in the winter.  So yes, we would recommend a fan.  However, it is absolutely crucial that the fan exhausts to the outside of the house.  You can run a duct through the attic and then outside.  You can also run the duct up through the roof or down through the soffit.  Any duct must end outside  Never allow the duct to exhaust into the attic, crawlspace or other enclosed area. This will only lead to moisture build up which will mak for perfect conditions for mold growth.  Good luck with your project!

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Major Complete Home Remodel

We own a 1920's era tract home with floor structure issues in both the bath and kitchen.  House is in need of a complete, and major, remodel with new kitchen and bath.  What are best steps to take to ensure we plan for the right work to be done the right way?  Thanks.

Our Answer

Sounds like a great project!  You are correct to be concerned about this starting and ending the right way.  My best advice to you, would be to enlist the help of an architect.  Residential architects are a terrific resouce to help with laying out the specs of a project.  This way, when it comes to hiring a contractor, you already know exactly what the project will entail and are in a better position to negotiate labor costs, scope of project, time frame, budget and other details.

An architect can also help with planning for tricky spaces as well as specific rooms like kitchens and baths.  And have good advice on proceeding with any work that requires structural consideration, including a check by an engineer.  A good place to start would be with professional organizations like the American Institute of Architects, which offers specific certifications in many areas to its members.

Best of luck with this project and please be sure to share the finished product.

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Water Damage in Flooring

We recently discovered our refrigerator water line had been leaking for some time. We have gotten the leak fixed and are now dealing with the damage. We discovered the leak after water began coming up from between the planks of bamboo flooring in the living room, which is on the other side of the wall that the fridge sits on. We have been in touch with our homeowners' insurance company and are working with restoration specialists they recommended. The large fans/dehumidifiers are drying things out, but we have learned there is water under the tile in our kitchen, too, and it may extend into the other tiled areas of the house.

My biggest concern is that we believe the previous owners laid the kitchen tile and the wood flooring on top of an original layer of tile. We have seen grout underneath the wood flooring when we replaced some trim a while back, and the seam between the tile and cabinets in the kitchen makes it clear that the cabinets do not sit on top of the top layer of tile. I am concerned that a lot of water may be trapped in the original layer of flooring and will not be dried up with the fans/dehumidifiers.

Our restoration specialist says the water can stay in the tile and it shouldn't cause damage other than grout discoloration over time. I'm not so sure. This seems like a big risk to me. Should we fight to have the top layer of flooring and the original tile both removed to ensure the water is all gone? I don't want to have problems later on or have mold start to grow.

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How to Insulate an Attic That Has No Soffit?

What is the best way to insulate the floor of an attic if the house does not have soffit vents - or any soffits at all?  There is a ridge vent and two gable vents for ventilation.  Do I need to install special soffit-less vents, or can I insulate right into the corners of the attic, right up to the roofing boards?    I live in New England and am concerned with ice dams.

Our Answer

There's a type of vent called an edge vent, specifically designed for this purpose.  Edge vents basically extend the roof edge by a few inches so you can pick up space for soffit insulation.  A ridge vent is good, but is only half the equation. 
Unfortunately for your situation, edge vents are best installed as part of a larger roofing project.  The roof basically starts at the edge of an edge vent, so it's difficult to add them after the fact. 

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Best Paint for Paneling

I own a few older rental homes with wall paneling in their interiors. My tenants constantly ask if they can paint the paneling to brighten up the rooms. I would love to to say yes - or even paint it myself - but is that a bad idea?  If I can paint it, what kind of paint should I use?

Our Answer

Paneling's not too hard or expensive to paint - and, to your tenants' point, can make a world of difference in a space.  Just make sure to prep the paneling beforehand using a quality oil-based primer. 

Sheen is personal preference,but the sheen you choose can also make a huge difference in the final product. Resullts will probably turn out best using a flat paint or semigloss - but definitely not gloss.  Gloss will reflect every ridge and imperfection.

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Laminate Flooring Is Loose and Won’t Stay Locked

I have high quality 8mm laminate floor throughout my living room and kitchen.  I've installed it twice, yet it won't stay locked.  I had it inspected by the manufacturer and was told the problem's due to the room being to cold (I keep the temperature in the high 60's) and too humid (I live on the coast, so yes, it is humid here - 50 to 60 percent).  They told me there's nothing they can do.  What's my next step?

Our Answer

I find the response you got from the manufacturer troubling.  A room in 60s is hardly "cold."  It seems more likely that this product isn't performing as intended.  If you did put it down twice in efforts to fix it, you may have worn out or loosened up the locking seams.  Try reinstalling it one more time, but this time instead of simply locking it, put some glue into the seams.  When laminate is being installed in damp areas, glue is often recommended.  Use a yellow carpenters glue, insert it into the locking groove, lock the flooring together and let it dry.  You want to apply enough glue that a little bit squeezes out when you lock the plank.  Wipe it away with damp cloth when it's still wet.  If you have trouble getting the boards together - if there's a gap between them - use a strap clamp.  Strap clamps are similar to what you see on backpacks, with a racheting mechanism.  Put it around the flooring and pull those pieces together as needed.  

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Humidistat Fan or Dehumidifier for Damp Crawlspace?

I live in Nashville, where it's quite humid.  I moved into my first house last August and we have a stand-up crawlspace.  Around the exterior of the crawlspace, the builder put in four vents.  About a month after moving in, we started to see what looked like mildew and/or mold growing on the walls of the crawlspace.  I had a "mold guy"  come in and he recommended a dehumidifier.  I had a friend of mine who knows quite a bit about DIY stuff come to my house and he recommended getting a humidistat fan instead.  Before I rush out and buy one and put one in, what do I need to know about using humidistat fans?  Are there certain factors that make them uneffective that I need to be aware of?

Our Answer

Either approach - a dehumidifier or a humidistat fan - is a good approach. 
If you go with a humidistat, first make sure you have a vapor barrier across your entire crawlspace floor.  You also need to ensure that the vents on the opposite sides of the crawlspace open, so that once the fan kicks on, it pulls air from the crawlspace outward. 
If you opt for a dehumidifier, I personally just installed one from the Santa Fe Compact line and am very happy with it.  The version I selected is designed specifically for crawlspaces.  It's small - only 12 x 12 x 22 inches, yet hangs from the floor joists and takes out an impressive 70 pints of water each day.

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Removing Calcium Deposits From My Water Heater

I have extremely hard water, so every year or two I take time to remove the bottom element on my water heater and suck out the calcium deposits. The first challenge s that I have to rig up a piece of copper pipe on my shop vac and tape it to the heater to accomplish this.  Is there a better tool out there to complete this task?

Secondly, is there something on the market that will liquefy the calcium so that I can just rinse it out? If so, how long does that process take? And my last question: Is there a water heater on the market that provides access to clean out the calcium? Meaning, one that provides more room to get into the water heater with a hand and a vacuum? I appreciate any advice you can offer and I love your show.

Our Answer

I think you're working too hard!  The internal drain valve should be more than sufficient for removing the calcium deposits from your water heater.  By the way, the only thing you gain by removing calcium is a bit more efficiency.  Calcium can act as an insulator between the flame and the water, but it has no effect on corrosion. 

The valve in your water heater has threads on it for a garden hose.  Simply hook up that hose, run it somewhere where the water can run off,  and open the valve. 

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Do I Need to Pull Up My Attic Floor to Insulate?

I want to add insulation beneath my attic floor, but I'd have to pull the attic floor up to do it.  How will this effect my second floor ceiling? I am worried that the ceiling beneath it is protected by the attic floor.

Our Answer

Certainly your attic floor protects people from stepping through the ceiling beneath it, since that ceiling is not designed to hold weight much heavier than the weight of insulation.  But you probably don't need to remove your attic floor to insulate the space.  You could simply lay insulation above the attic floor - unfaced fiberglass batts, specifically, laid over the floor in the areas you wish to insulate.  If you use your attic for storage, consider consolidating those stored items and keeping them in one area of the floor that you leave exposed.  

Now, if you presently have no insulation whatsoever between the attic floor and the second floor ceiling, take that floor up and insulate it - and restrict the workzone to responsible adults who know where they can and can't place weight.  But if you simply need more insulation in your attic, the easiest bet is to put it over the attic floor.