TRANSCRIPT FOR JANUARY 11, 2010, HOUR 2
Repairing Laminate Counters, Space Heater Safety and Solid Concrete Repair Tips
Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
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: Standing by to answer your home improvement questions, to help solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Before you pick up a hammer, before you pick up a saw, pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or before you pick up a phone and call a contractor, call us; because we will tell you what you need to know, what questions you need to ask.
LESLIE: We’ll make you sound super-smart.
TOM: We will. Well, you are smart; we’re just going to make you – help you with sort of the industry-speak a little bit so that nobody tries to take advantage of you; that you get the best deal possible, you get the best job possible done when you want to improve your money pit. Because let’s face it, we’ve all had those money pit moments. You know, when the skylight springs a leak, creates the new water feature, we can make that all go away with one phone call to 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
As an example of how we can save you some money with your different makeover projects, we’re going to talk this hour about laminate countertops; probably the most common countertop in the country. We talk about Corian, we talk about quartz; but who can afford those these days? So many of us still have laminate countertops. They’re very durable but you think that you’re kind of stuck with it? Well, you’re not. There are actually some things that you can do to give that laminate top a whole new look and we’re going to talk about that this hour on the show.
LESLIE: And also ahead, this time of year a lot of people are using space heaters.
LESLIE: And they can actually help to lower your heating cost but they also increase your risk of fire if you’re not using them correctly; so we’re going to share some tips for you that will help you to use your space heaters properly.
TOM: And probably the one building component that takes the biggest beating this time of year is your concrete – your concrete sidewalks, the foundation – from all the freezing and the thawing; the concrete around your chimney, the mortar, the brick, that sort of thing. We’re going to have an expert coming on at the bottom of the hour that can tell us step by step how to fix these things. How many times have you seen cracks that you fill or areas that you patch that just fall right off? We’re going to tell you how to fix it once, fix it right and never have to deal with that again.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We have got a Fresh Home prize package. Now, you’re going to get a subscription to the magazine with that name, the Fresh Home Magazine; plus, a $25 TD Bank gift card. So you will inspired by the magazine and then run out to the store to buy some decorative accessories.
TOM: So, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Got Mike who needs some help with a flooring project. What’s going on at your money pit?
MIKE: I’ve got an older house; built in the 40s. It’s got original hardwood floors in it.
MIKE: The previous owner had put that laminate flooring on it and it had been damaged; and so we pulled that up. And underneath the hardwood floor, most of it is in pretty good shape but there are a few sections where there is some obvious termite damage and there’s one or two floorboards – not floorboards but pieces of hardwood that have been just taken out and they’ve filled in with some other kind of wood just to kind of cover the whole.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right. Sure.
MIKE: So I’m wondering if piece by piece if it can be kind of pulled out and replaced or if I need to take out a whole big section like that.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, absolutely. No, not at all. Not a problem. Pretty easy fix for a good carpenter. What you do is you take a circular saw and you set the depth at whatever the hardwood floor is – so let’s assume it’s 3/4″. You do a couple of plunge cuts into the boards you want to remove – you know, put a couple of slices in it parallel to the grain – and then you start breaking it apart; you know, a little bit of chisel work and basically extracting that piece of wood – sort of surgically extracting it from the floor.
And then you take the new hardwood and – it’s probably oak; is that correct?
MIKE: Yeah, it looks like oak I think.
TOM: Yeah, it’s typically oak. And when you put the floor back together, you may have to adjust the tongue and the groove. Sometimes you have to cut off the bottom part of the groove so you can overlap the old board, if you know what I mean, and lock it down there. You may have to use a couple of screws to face screw it right through the board into the floor, then cover that with a plug.
When you’re all said and done, if you do a nice, neat job, it’ll look good; it’ll be all well-adjusted and sitting together nicely. You’re going to have to, at that point, sand it probably to match the height of the other floor and refinish it. And even after you do all that, you probably will see a color differentiation between the new wood and the old wood; however, that will fade over the next year or two and then it will look very even.
MIKE: OK, so I’ll probably have to – I’m planning on refinishing the whole floor anyway; so when I sand that down, that’ll even it out.
TOM: Well, the sanding will even it out but just remember, there’s still going to be a color differentiation; unless you decide to stain the whole thing, which is – you know, it’s OK if you want to change the color. But if you don’t stain it, remember; you’ll have one that’s a little more red, one that’s a little more white. It’ll look almost stripy but eventually it will fade and match.
LESLIE: Alright, Mary in Texas is having an issue with a water heater and I think wants to replace it. How can we help?
MARY: I have an electric water heater right now that I want to replace and I would like to have a tankless electric hot water heater but someone told me that gas was better.
TOM: Yes, gas is much better. Now, is that a possibility for you? Do you have access to natural gas or propane?
MARY: I have gas just on the heating system.
TOM: Oh, well then you definitely want to use a gas tankless water heater. You ought to take a look at the water heaters by Rheem – R-h-e-e-m. They are excellent and you can find one that’s very, very efficient.
The reason you can’t have an electric tankless water heater is because it’s a whole different way of heating water and you’ll use way too much electricity to do that. Now …
LESLIE: It’ll be expensive.
TOM: Right. There is actually a system for people that only have electric.
LESLIE: But it’s like a heat pump system, correct?
TOM: Yeah, it’s the HP-50. Rheem has a unit called the HP-50; super-energy-efficient. It’s a heat pump/water heater combination unit that’s super-efficient. It meets all of the Energy Star guidelines and it’s eligible for federal tax credits as well if you buy one. So if you just have electric, you would go with something like the HP-50 but, if not, I would definitely use one of the gas-fired tankless units because I think you’re going to be very, very happy with it.
MARY: OK. This Rheem is not tankless, then.
LESLIE: No, Rheem is tankless.
TOM: No, they have (chuckles) – yeah. Mary, they have tankless water heaters and they have the heat pump water heaters.
TOM: They have all kinds of water heaters, so you take your pick.
MARY: OK. Alright, thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question whenever you are working on that project. Whether it is 7:00 a.m. or 3:00 in the morning, we’re here for you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, space heaters; they can be a great supplement to the heating of your house but only if they’re used safely. We’ll have some tips, after this.
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TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and you should give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to hear what you’re working on. And if you ask your question on the air, you’re going to get the answer to what you’re dealing with right now at your money pit but you’re also going to have the opportunity to get a great prize. We’re giving away a Fresh Home prize package which includes a Fresh Home Magazine subscription; a Whole Green Catalog which includes earth-friendly ideas for your home; and, get this, a $25 TD Bank gift card. It’s a prize package worth almost 65 bucks, so give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
Well, space heaters can be a great way to save money on your heating bills; but remember that space heaters should only be used to provide supplemental heat and you want to keep some basic safety tips in mind when using them.
First, don’t use a space heater to warm bedding, cook food, thaw pipes or dry clothing. Now, I know you’re saying, “Duh, that’s a no-brainer” (Leslie chuckles) but if it hadn’t happened somewhere, somehow …
TOM: … and with some frequency, we would not be warning you against it. In fact, see, a lot of people have to do something really dumb for it to become something that we warn you about; something that stories get written about. (Leslie chuckles) So remember, don’t use it for those purposes; use it only to heat the area in which you need to be heated.
And make sure you choose equipment that’s got the UL mark, the Underwriters Laboratory mark; because that means that their technical staff has tested out samples of the product for any foreseeable safety hazards.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And when you’re using a space heater, you want to remember that three-foot safety zone; which means keep all of the things that could potentially burn at least three feet away from your space heater.
Now, remember, if you’ve got kids and pets, make sure that you supervise them – I mean a lot – when you are using your space heater because a lot of them get really, really, really hot and if the slightest little touch by your little one or even the dog or cat – because believe it or not, your cat might enjoy sitting on top of it because it’s like, “Whoo, that’s a toasty spot.” Do not let them because those heating units themselves get so hot and if they get in contact with the heating coil or the element, they can get a very serious burn.
Now, when you’re buying a space heater, try to find a device that has an automatic shutoff feature and any type of guard that protects the heating elements. So it’s really important that you do a lot of research when buying your space heater.
Remember, there are other types of space heaters on the market that don’t have coils, that don’t have elements. There’s one called EdenPure with uses a quartz infrared technology and the casing on it itself does not get hot. So do your research, look into what you’re buying and make sure you use them safely and properly regardless of the type you choose because we want to keep you and your family safe, especially this time of year.
TOM: Good point. 888-666-3974. Perhaps you have a chilly room in your house that you’d like to warm up. Give us a call right now and we will figure out exactly how you need to do that.
LESLIE: Gary in Illinois is dealing with an issue with the washing machine. Tell us about what’s going on.
GARY: We had a valve got out of the washing machine and they said that I should put a tub underneath of it.
TOM: Yeah, an overflow pan.
GARY: And I was wondering about if you folks had a different idea of doing this because I’ve got quite a tight spot.
TOM: OK. Well, is this on a second floor, Gary?
GARY: Yes, it’s on the second floor.
GARY: The first time, it went down into my basement.
TOM: Right. OK, well an overflow pan is a fairly standard thing to add when your washing machine is on the second floor. It’s for that very reason; in case it overflows. Frankly, you know, even if it did overflow, most of the those pans aren’t big enough to really carry the entire flow but I think it would help a little bit. I mean the last time I had a washing machine delivered to the second floor, they broke the overflow pan trying to install it. (Leslie chuckles) So we had to end up replacing that.
The standard ones are plastic. They’re not very durable. They have a hole in the back where you attach a pipe and that has to go somewhere to a drain or it can go right outside the house. A better way to do this is you could have your HVAC contractor – your heating and cooling contractor – build you a stainless steel or a galvanized steel pan; hook up a drain to that because that’s exactly what they do for air conditioning systems sometimes. And that can be narrower, a little tighter to the washing machine. The plastic pans tend to be about an inch or two wider than the machine and it does impact the spacing. But you absolutely do have to have it because if you do get an overflow, it’s going to ruin things.
GARY: I understand. OK, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’re going to talk to Nora in New Hampshire who’s got a question about some unused paint. What can we do for you?
NORA: I have cans of latex paint purchased four years ago.
NORA: Some were opened and used with some remaining and then other cans of latex paint were not open. And my question has to do with how long can this paint be good for?
TOM: Was the paint kept like room temperature …?
NORA: Like a conditioned space or did it freeze.
TOM: Was it ever frozen?
NORA: No, I made sure to keep them in the house and actually in my living room and …
TOM: Wow, you’ve been looking at them for those four years. (laughs)
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) (chuckling) You’ve been looking at the …
TOM: The answer is that it’s probably fine. Now with the cans of paint that you opened I’ll just give you one cautionary note and that is you want to make sure that when you open those you don’t have any sort of rust in the lip of the paint can. Because if you do, that rust that falls in the paint will change the color of the paint and it will not be obvious until you put it on and then you’ll notice it’s just slightly darker than everything else. But if the paint is – you know, the paint cans are sealed and there’s no rust – and these are all the same colors?
NORA: One is – actually, some of it is ceiling paint and other cans have to do with the walls.
TOM: Well, what I would do is I would open up the two cans of ceiling paint; I would dump them together in a five-gallon; mix them up really, really well and work from that.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Or you can even take everything closed over to your home center and have them shake it up for you; just to give it a fresh mix. This way anything that settled has time to redistribute and then go ahead and combine things and work from there.
TOM: Alright, Nora. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Larry in Utah is on the line and he’s got a question about wiring. What can we do for you?
LARRY: I’ve got this 100-year-old house – at least half of it’s 100 years old and the other half is in the 50s – and it needs to be rewired.
LARRY: Some of the wiring is still the original wiring; it was put in about 1920. And the other half of the house it was put in about 1950 and it still has screw-in-type fuses.
TOM: OK, well first of all, why do you want to rewire it? Is it because you’re concerned about the fuses? Because if that’s the case, there is no concern. As long as the fuses are correctly installed they will protect the wiring. Or do you want the convenience of circuit breakers?
LARRY: Prefer to have the circuit breakers, but my insurance company tells me they’re not going to continue to insure it with the old wiring in it.
TOM: Because of the 1920s wiring? Do you have what’s called knob-and-tube wiring?
TOM: OK, well I understand that. Knob-and-tube wiring was sort of the very first form of house wiring and it basically looks like pieces of wire that is strung from beam to beam and wherever they go through the beams they go through a ceramic tube and wherever they go across the beams they sort of hang off like these ceramic sort of spacers and that’s why they call it knob-and-tube wiring.
The other problem with knob-and-tube wiring is that it’s not grounded; it’s not groundable; and, also, in a more modern house, we tend to insulate over those wires and that’s a problem because they were designed specifically to be air-cooled, so when you insulate them they become unsafe. So I certainly understand that concern.
If that’s the case, you have a couple of issues here. First of all, you need to rewire those circuits and, separate from that and only if you want to, you need to replace the panel. My point is about the fuses is that if they’re properly sized, they’re just as safe as circuit breakers; but if you’re doing all this work, probably not a bad time to install new circuit breakers at the same time.
As far as that 1950s wiring, that could be wired right into the panel. I don’t see any reason to replace that. That wiring should be grounded. If you need to add some additional circuits do that but the only wiring that you have to replace is the knob-and-tube. The 50s wiring, probably armor-clad cable; that’s probably OK.
LARRY: OK, thanks very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ben in Massachusetts has a question for Team Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
BEN: Yes, I’m in the process of covering a shed roof.
BEN: First of all, I had a little water in that. I have this blown-in insulation. Now is that mildew-resistant, first of all?
TOM: Why do you have insulation in a shed?
BEN: Well, they insulated the whole house and I guess …
TOM: Alright, must have had some extra and they insulated the whole thing. Alright, and it’s a blown-in insulation?
BEN: Yes it is.
TOM: Well, I don’t like it being wet but if you get it dry, it’ll probably be OK.
BEN: Well, it’s dry now.
BEN: Next question is we put that [tile roll] (ph) paper on it.
BEN: Whatever you call it. (inaudible at 0:17:25.8) and it’s kind of laminated to the roof.
BEN: Now, do I have to remove that before I …
TOM: No, go right on top of it.
BEN: OK. How about insulation board? They mentioned I have to put insulation board. Is that …?
TOM: Well, this shed is outside?
BEN: It’s outside, yes sir.
TOM: No need to insulate it. There’s no heat source in it, is there?
BEN: No. But I mean I have the insulation …
TOM: Then there’s no need to insulate it.
BEN: OK, you make it sound easy. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: OK, that’s what we do. Ben, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next, we’re going to talk about concrete repair; how to do it once, do it right and you won’t have to do it again. The winter is here and concrete is taking a beating. Have you thrown down some of the dreaded rock salt? Well, just wait to see how pitted your sidewalks are going to look in the spring. But not to worry. We’re going to tell you how to fix that and a whole lot more, next.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you know, we often think of concrete as an impenetrable, indestructible building material that doesn’t need much maintenance but if water gets between the joints or in the cracks or if your concrete sidewalk then freezes, it could become concrete’s worst enemy; as we’re heard here so many times on the show from people that have this problem.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And have you ever put down a harsh chemical rock salt on your driveway or on your sidewalks and ended up with little bits – you know, little pits and pocks in the surface of your concrete? It looks terrible. Well, you might think there’s nothing you can do about it but fortunately there are repairs for these exact problems. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about doing these repairs. We’ve got a great guest here to help us. We’ve got Richard Ahlstrom of Abatron.
RICHARD: Hi. Thanks for having me, Leslie.
LESLIE: Can you tell us what are some of the common problems that people face when they’re dealing with concrete, especially trying to repair it?
RICHARD: Well, as Tom mentioned, concrete is definitely not a permanent material. There are all kinds of problems that people run into. There are all kinds of pitting issues and flaking issues and cracking issues due to moisture, chemicals and settling of the concrete. It’s supposed to have been permanent; it does move and flex and – which causes cracking and pitting and things like that.
TOM: And we’ve all seen this with stoops and walks and things like that. The most common solution that people tend to do is to try to put more concrete over the bad concrete but that just doesn’t work, does it?
RICHARD: Right. Anytime you try to patch old concrete with new concrete, you’re going to run into more problems. Now, it might be a temporary solution; it might work for a year or so but almost every time you do that it’s going to end up pitting again or cracking off or chipping off or flaking off within about a year. That’s usually about the solution you’ll see when you use new concrete on old concrete.
TOM: So the real solution here is to use a product that adheres well and we have recommended epoxy products for years and, actually, specifically have recommended some of yours for some of these solutions. We’ve gotten great feedback from our listeners, which is why we wanted to have you on the show, Richard. So talk to us a little bit about some of these products.
You’ve got Abocrete, which is an epoxy that’s blended with sand. Now, is that more of a patching compound if you have to sort of re-stucco a surface?
RICHARD: Well, Abocrete is a very versatile material. It can be used for a number of different situations when you have damaged concrete. As you mentioned, it’s a two-part liquid epoxy and you blend it with sand and it can be blended to any consistency, which makes it real versatile; meaning you can patch real thin cracks and even surface cracks and make a pourable solution that can be used to fix that pitting and that shaling and that spawling that’s caused by the salt and chemicals. But it can almost be mixed to a very heavy consistency, a very dense material; more like a standard concrete mix to make large repairs as well.
LESLIE: I have to tell you, Richard; my entire basement – when we did some repair work and we had water damage, once we got down under the carpeting – the material that was in the basement – took that up; the concrete floor was such a disaster that I literally, when I’m in my basement, am standing on a wonderful repair job by the Abocrete. I mean that’s how I really found you guys. So it really did a wonderful job to give me a nice, smooth level base that I was then able to put a laminate on top of.
Now, a lot of people, when they’re dealing with unfinished basements and they have foundation walls that are exposed on the interior and on the exterior of the house, if there are cracks in the cinder block, do we go with the Abocrete or is there a better product there?
RICHARD: Any time you have vertical situations – when you have vertical cracking, a situation on walls or step risers or things like that – we do have a different product that we do like to recommend. We have a product called Aboweld 55-1 and what that product is it’s a two-part, non-slumping epoxy paste. So it’s a very thick material; it’s more like a putty; almost has a taffy-like consistency. It’s very thick and sticky but you can build it up to about 1/4″ thick without any sag or slumping. So it bonds very well. Again, it doesn’t have any solvents or any water in it; so it’s going to be shrink-free, it’s going to have a great bond with the concrete and it’s great for vertical applications without any sagging or slumping.
TOM: We’re talking to Richard Ahlstrom. He is the sales and marketing manager for Abatron. Abatron is a company that makes products that make all of your concrete repairs a heck of a lot easier and make sure that you do it once, you do it right, you don’t have to do it again. We’ve been fans of this company for a long time on this show and we’ve gotten a lot of good listener feedback.
And Richard, before we let you go, I want to ask you about another product that you guys have that’s called Liquid Wood and WoodEpox. In addition to repairing failed concrete, you guys have got some products that can help actually rebuild the cell structure of wood that’s rotted out.
RICHARD: Right. We have a two-step system for complete wood restoration. And I know that a lot of people experience rotted wood basically everywhere in the country; it’s over the place. Moisture, bug damage causes softening of the wood and you wind up with a real porous, soft, spongy, deteriorated wood surface; very common in windowsills and window sashes, door jambs, wooden columns, things like that. Our LiquidWood product is a two-part liquid epoxy compound that actually penetrates and hardens that rotted, soft, spongy material and turns it into a structural mass again.
RICHARD: So rather than having to rip that out and replace it, you can actually save what’s in place and create a solid, structural mass.
Well, Richard, I think it’s safe to say that if man or Mother Nature has caused some part of your house to deteriorate, you guys have got a product that can build it back up again. Thanks so much for filling us in on how to do just that.
Richard Ahlstrom, the sales and marketing manager from Abatron. If you’d like more information, you can go to their website at Abatron.com; that’s A-b-a-t-r-o-n.com.
RICHARD: Alright, thanks so much for having me, Tom and Leslie; appreciate it.
TOM: Our pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright, well that clears up a lot.
Hey, still ahead, we’re going to share with you easy fixes for making those laminate countertops look brand, spanking new again; so stick around.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: On air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. This our, we’re giving a Fresh Home Magazine prize package which includes a subscription to the magazine; a Whole Green Catalog, which includes earth-friendly ideas for your home; and 25 bucks in a gift card from TD Bank. Fresh Home Magazine has easy ideas for hands-on people. It’s a prize package that’s worth 65 bucks, so give us a call right now for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and you must have a home improvement question.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm; like, “How do I make my laminate countertops look nice again?”
LESLIE: Well, if you’re dealing with a situation where the house that you live in has a laminate countertop – maybe you’ve picked it; maybe it’s there from the previous owner; heck, maybe it’s been there since 1970. Who knows? But if your laminate countertop has got cracks or burns or knife scratches, you can fix them.
You want to head to the store and look for a plastic filler which is made for the purpose of repairing a laminate countertop and that will absolutely smooth things out. But before you begin the repair, you want to make sure that you prep the surface according to the manufacturer’s instructions. So read them; don’t just open up the tube and be like squirting it in and it’s done because you really have to pay attention because if you don’t sort of prep that cavity where the blade mark is or the burn or maybe there’s a bubble on it; perhaps you have to peel away some of that raised area – if you don’t prep it properly, this repair is not going to stick.
And once you’ve done all that, if you just do a little bit of light sanding and add the special topcoat that’s usually included with this repair kit, your countertop will look brand, spanking new again. So, fear not. If you’ve got a laminate countertop, it can look fantastic all over again.
TOM: 888-666-3974. If you have a kitchen renovation on your mind, call us right now. We can help you get the job done.
Leslie, let’s get back to those phones. Who’s next?
LESLIE: Let’s head on over to Ann in New Jersey who’s got a hole in the basement wall. What’s going on?
ANN: I was in my kitchen and I heard water running down in my basement. I go down my basement and there’s a hole. It’s like 34 inches – I measured it – from the corner and about 25 inches up from the floor and it’s coming in like a faucet.
ANN: Now about tens year ago I had my basement waterproofed. There’s a drain pipe on the corner and I’m wondering could that have broken or something.
TOM: Ann, let me ask you a question. What was the weather like when you found this? Had it rained recently?
ANN: It had started pouring.
TOM: Yeah. Well, this is an easy fix, Ann. The good news is that the reason that the wall leaked is because you have poor drainage conditions right outside the wall. And by that I mean that the gutters are blocked or the downspout is not directed far enough against the foundation or the soil is flat and holding water against that.
Now the solution is two-fold. First of all, we want you to fix up the drainage conditions outside and if you go to MoneyPit.com and search “wet basement” you’ll find everything you need to know to do just that. Secondly, in terms of that hole, that’s just a simple repair. Go to a home center, pick up an epoxy patching compound and fill that hole in. It’s kind of like you’d spackle a wall; it’s just a little bit stiffer material. And those two things will stop that from leaking.
Ann, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: David in Tennessee needs some help with a tiling project. Tell us what’s going on.
DAVID: Yeah, we had new tile put in both bathrooms and the tile is not level.
DAVID: And so when we put the toilets back down, they rock a little bit.
DAVID: I went to my home store and they had me put these little plastic wedges in there and that’s not a good answer to the problem.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yes, mm-hmm.
DAVID: They come out and they – and I really don’t know what to do. I’ve thought about putting two wax seals in there but I don’t really know what else to do.
TOM: Well, that’s probably not going to work either because the wax seal is going to settle down and you’re eventually going to have that movement and, if you do, it’ll break the wax seal. I think you’re on the right track here with those little plastic wedges but what you want to do is actually cut them off and have them slip just under the edge of the toilet and then I want you to caulk them in place by running a bead of silicone caulk all around the outside. In fact, you can put a little bit of caulk underneath it and over it because it tends to – think of it as sort of gluing them in place, David, and that will hold them there and you’ll be allowed to have a little bit of movement and they won’t come out.
DAVID: OK. Good deal, I appreciate it.
TOM: Well, you’re welcome, David. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Lauren in Massachusetts needs some help with an exterior staircase. What’s going on?
LAUREN: Hi, I’m calling about my cast iron railing that came out of the cement stairs.
TOM: OK. OK.
LAUREN: They rusted out and I don’t know whether to – I really don’t know what to do to fix them, so I was hoping you could help us out.
TOM: Are all the posts rusted off or just one or two?
LAUREN: Just the top ones on each side.
TOM: Mm-hmm, OK. Well …
LAUREN: Alright? So there are three posts altogether, so just the top two.
TOM: OK, well what you could do is disassemble the railing and you’re going to have to sort of drill out the rusted area and open up that hole.
LAUREN: (overlapping voices) Yep.
TOM: You may have to do a lot of chisel work and hand work to get it sort of opened up again. And what you can do is you can use, essentially, what will be sort of a metal strap. You can get some metal bar that’s like 1″ wide by about 1/8″ thick or angle iron. And that part of it would be dropped into the hole and sealed in place with an epoxy cement and then the upper part would be mechanically attached to the railing.
LAUREN: OK. Oh, I see what you’re saying. So you would just cement …
TOM: Sort of like a splint, right; like a splint. You’re kind of adding onto the end of it that way. And you know what? When it’s all put together and bolted together and painted flat black, it’ll all blend in; you won’t notice it.
LAUREN: That’s excellent because I didn’t want to have to get brand new ones or build a wooden …
TOM: Yeah, that’s real common. The water just collects in those holes and they just rust them away, so that’s a way to fix it. You know, it’s a good half-day job; it’ll come out nice.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, to vent or not to vent; that is the question that John has on his mind. He is building a finished attic; wants to know how to handle that part of the project. We’re going to solve that mystery, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Say, if you have specific questions about rooms of your house, we have them organized that way on our website at MoneyPit.com. Simply click on “Home Spaces” then select the room that you’d like to work on and you will find lots of tips and advice to help you tackle just about any improvement project that you’d like to do. It’s all free and online at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what else is free – Tom’s and my advice and we are available to you via the internet as well; so e-mail us your questions. Now, we’re going to jump in.
I’ve got one here from John who writes: “I have a brick home with attic space over the garage that is not connected to my conventional attic. This is a conditioned space I use for storage that is accessed through a bedroom. Part of the wood frame is cut to the exposed brick wall. The outside of the house has a gable in this location. I would like to insulate and cover up this opening. I fully understand that the gable is needed for attic ventilation; however, in this case, the space in question is not really an attic. What do you think?”
TOM: Well, it sounds a lot like it is an attic.
TOM: And John, you’re sort of – you can either have a conditioned space or an unconditioned space. You can’t have a conditioned space that’s got a hole in it, which is basically what you have right now. If this is a storage area that you’ve created or built that has heating and cooling and regular ventilation in it, then it in fact needs a heating and cooling system that feeds it. If you’re just going to cut a hole in a wall, that’s not really a conditioned space.
I, frankly, would still continue to treat this as an attic and I would put a door, which is an insulated door, between this area and the rest of the house so that the insulated space of the house stays at such; this area of the attic remains unconditioned. And what does that mean? Well, you can still store clothes and all kinds of other stuff in there; you just can’t put anything in there that you might be worried about freezing.
If you want to make it a conditioned space, then you’ve got to close it in, you’ve got to insulate and you’ve got to heat it. So those are your choices.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Whatever you do store in there, John – whether it’s conditioned or not conditioned – I would make sure that I store it in plastic containers – no cardboard, nothing like mold food in there; you just want to make sure you keep things in plastic, clear containers and label everything so you can see it right when you poke your head in that new door. Hope that helps.
TOM: Well, now that it’s pretty chilly out, your fireplace can add some great atmosphere; keeping your home warm on those cold, winter evenings and keeping the screen clean will also give you a great and a safe view. Leslie’s got the step-by-step guide on how to do just that in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah, I bet a lot of you out there right now are like, “Clean the fireplace screen? Huh? I’ve got to do that?” (chuckles)
TOM: (overlapping voices) “I have to do that?” (chuckles)
LESLIE: Yeah, you do and you should maybe once or twice a season; depending on how much you use it. To do so – now to clean your fireplace screen you want to use a cleaning solution of about an 1/8-cup liquid dishwashing detergent per quart of water and that’ll help you remove that caked-on dirt. If you’ve got a removable screen, take it outside if you can, if it’s not too chilly, or into the garage or basement work area where you can really get a good scrub on it. If yours is attached into, say, an enclosure then just work on it right there but try to keep the amount of water to a minimum.
And you want to gently scrub the screen with a soft, bristle brush and then follow up by wiping with a lint-free cloth because that’s going to help you avoid rusting. Also, if your screen isn’t one of those smoother ones and it is more where the screen itself is a little bit rough and sort of edged or raised, if you will, if you use a cloth that’s not lint-free it’s going to get all caked in all those openings and you’re going to start a whole different problem for yourself.
Now, if you’ve got a brass section on your screen, you want to polish it with a brass cleaner and, again, a lint-free cloth. Now, the entire screen, once you’re done with this, it’s going to glow just like your fire and it’s going to be open and nice and airy to help that heat come right to you.
TOM: Now that’s one type of fire that you want to see but there’s another type that you really don’t want to see and that’s the one that’s underneath your water heater. If you’re wondering how to make sure that that appliance is safe and energy-efficient, we’re going to tell you next week on the program with tips on how to maintain your water-heating efficiency.
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.
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(Copyright 2009 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.)