- A wood stove is a fantastic way to stay warm in winter. But not all wood delivers the same heat. Learn how to supercharge your wood stove for max heat and which fuels can actually be unsafe to burn or can damage your stove.
- Natural stone countertops are a popular choice for kitchen renos – but they need a lot more care than most people know. We’ll reveal what type of stone countertop is hardest to maintain and reveal an alternative that delivers the same beauty with almost none of the daily maintenance.
- Hundreds of children are injured every year from furniture, TV’s or appliances that that tip over, especially when kids climb them. We share how to anchor large furniture to the wall and avoid a preventable problem
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Sue from Ohio needs help cleaning a carpet that has some mold on it.
- Jim in Delaware wants to know his options for replacing his shower stall.
- Melina in Texas is asking if she should be worried if new electrical wiring is too close to her wood stove.
- Julian from Illinois is noticing that his brick chimney is crumbling and wants to know how he can be proactive about it.
- Sandra in South Dakota is concerned about slippery floors and wants to know what type of floor tile is best for a bathroom.
- John from Missouri has a cracked garage floor and wants to know if “mud jacking” can help stop it from further deterioration.
- Jean in Iowa has water dripping in her furnace from condensation and wants to know how to stop it.
- Todd from Illinois is needs to know what type of repair product would be best to seal cracks in a driveway.
- Julie in Missouri needs a fix to prevent plumbing pipes from freezing inside her walls.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And a very, very Happy New Year to you. If you are planning some projects for the new year, we would love to be on your team. We’d love to help you get them done, help you plan them, help you steer around some of the unknowns, some of the terrifying parts of taking on home improvement projects, you know, the scary parts that happen when you open a wall up and you go, “Oh, man, I’ve got termites, I’ve got rot, I’ve got wires in the way.” Whatever kind of job you want to do, we have the experience and the know-how to help you get it done easier, quicker, faster so you won’t have to do it again. You can get back to enjoying your house.
If you’d like to participate in the program, you can do so by calling us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we’ll call you back when we are. Or you can post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, a wood stove is a fantastic thing to have this time of year. But not all wood is created equal when it comes to fueling that stove. And if you use the wrong kind of wood, you could cause costly damage to that stove or it could even, perhaps, send some not-so-pleasant fumes where they shouldn’t be, like in your house. So we’re going to give you some tips on the best way to use those stoves and the right kind of wood that’s going to give you the most heat.
LESLIE: And natural-stone countertops are a popular choice for kitchen renovations but they need a lot of care to keep them looking as great as they did that first day they were installed. We’re going to reveal what stone needs the most care and the one that needs the least day-to-day care, just ahead.
TOM: Yeah. This is that sort of desperation moment where you’ve finally gotten through yet another holiday and you cursed your kitchen the entire time, so you’re like – you’re ready. You’re ready to reno it. And so it’s a project a lot of folks take on this time of year.
Also ahead, if you happen to pick up a new flatscreen TV or some furniture as a holiday gift, keep this in mind: hundreds of children are injured every year from furniture that tips over. So we’re going to share some ways that you can anchor those large appliances and furniture to the wall and avoid a very preventable problem.
LESLIE: But first, The Money Pit is about you. So whether you live in a house or apartment, you’re dealing with a repair or you’re dreaming about a renovation, we’re going to help you tackle your to-dos with confidence and have a little fun along the way.
TOM: Yeah. Speaking of which, we may also be able to give you some tools to get some projects done. Because on today’s program, we’ve got, from our friends at Green Machine, a 62-volt, 25-inch hedge trimmer to give away. So, if you’d like to win it, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question.
That product’s worth $169 and going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. You’ve got to have a question and you’ve got to post your question, you’ve got to leave a question with us. And if we select your name at the end of the program, we will send that Green Machine Hedge Trimmer out to you.
So, with all of that said, let’s get going. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Sue in Ohio needs some help cleaning a carpet. Tell us what’s going on.
SUE: I have a concrete sun-porch slab that has – had been covered with black carpeting. And it’s – we had a very muggy summer this year and green mold started to grow on it. And though I tried washing it off and rinsing it off – and it just won’t take care of it. And I know that you had helped other people with mold problems, with 10-percent bleach. But I wouldn’t dare put bleach on that black carpet and I wondered if there’s something else that will kill that mold.
TOM: Well, how do we know it’s mold? It sounds like algae.
SUE: Could it be?
TOM: It could be, yeah. What I would do is I would simply – if the carpet’s that dirty, I would simply go out and rent a steam cleaner – rent a carpet cleaner. Those carpet cleaners are pretty darn effective. I rented one myself at The Home Depot just a few weeks ago for a couple of rooms in an apartment that we own that was getting a new tenant. And I’m always astounded with what a phenomenal job those steam cleaners do on what looks like carpet that has to be torn out.
But when you steam-clean it with the right materials, use the chemicals that come with the machine, it does a really good job. You’ve just got to take your time. Usually have to go over it a couple of times and it takes a little bit of work but it really does a great job. So I wouldn’t try to do this any other way.
The way the steam cleaners work is water is injected into the carpet and then almost at the same time, a very strong vacuum pulls that water back out with the dirt and debris attached to it.
SUE: Oh. So the steam kills the algae.
TOM: Yes. It’ll clean it. And then if you dry it really well after that, it should stop it from coming back.
SUE: OK. OK. Well, that’ll help me, yeah.
TOM: Alright? And that won’t damage the color.
SUE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us.
LESLIE: Heading out to Delaware where Jim’s got a question about renovating a bathroom. What’s going on, Jim?
JIM: Trying to find the best way to replace my shower. The floor is really dirty. I’ve got the white – I need to replace – I need to know what you recommend as far as material. I’m in debates about acrylic versus fiberglass, et cetera. But you mentioned a thing – trying to figure out the best way and the cheapest way for me to do it.
LESLIE: Jim, I think it really depends on the level of involvement you’d like in this project and the amount of money you’d like to spend.
Because if you’re looking – I mean truly, right, Tom? When you get to a project like this in a bathroom, it can be inexpensive or it can be very expensive. I think if you’re looking for something simple and affordable and doable in a short amount of time, you’re looking at a liner or something like a Bath Fitter-type thing.
And it doesn’t have to be done by that company. There’s all different kinds of liners or inserts. There are fiberglass ones, there’s waterproof-material ones. There’s even Corian ones that kind of just surround your existing situation and cover it up and it’s like new. Or if you’re going for a complete gut reno, you’re going to be looking at systems to help keep things watertight.
It’s Schluter, right, Tom? They have a good product.
TOM: Yep. Schluter. It’s S-c-h-l-u-t-e-r. Schluter makes a shower kit that is called KERDI – K-E-R-D-I. The nice thing about these kits is what this is is this is an underlayment system so that when you – you would have to remove all of the old tile and all the floor and all of that but now you’re rebuilding from scratch.
The KERDI Kit is basically a system that’s designed to make this whole thing 100-percent waterproof. It takes a lot of the frustration out of doing a shower and having to maintain it, have it be waterproof. This is sort of like a membrane that goes behind the whole thing.
Take a look at the Schluter Systems’ website for the KERDI Shower Kits. You’ll see how all the pieces work together, whether it’s a straight, plain, square shower, whether it’s got curves, whether it has a seat. They’ve got parts for everything. You assemble the parts, you buy the parts that you want and the whole thing lies underneath the tile or whatever your top finish is. And it makes it 100-percent waterproof.
So those are kind of your options. You can do a liner. You can do a panelized system. That’s pretty easy. It’s not going to help you with the shower pan, by the way, because it doesn’t cover that but it’ll cover the walls and make it look a lot nicer.
LESLIE: Fresh and new.
TOM: Yeah. If you want to tear the whole thing out and start from scratch, I’d take a look at the Schluter-KERDI Shower Systems.
LESLIE: Heading to Texas, we’ve got Marlena on the line who’s working on a wood stove. Tell us about it.
MARLENA: We just had electrical installed – all new electrical in the home that we’re flipping. And we’re getting installed a wood stove.
MARLENA: Would that wood stove harm the electrical behind the wall?
TOM: Well, not if it’s installed properly. You have to have a heat shield behind the wood stove. Depending on how close it is to the wall, that determines, you know, how much of a heat shield you need.
Now, if you have no heat shield at all, that wood stove has to be 3 feet away from the wall in most areas. There is, however, a heat-shield assembly that’s available, which is kind of like – it’s sort of like a piece of metal that is mounted on the wall but has spacers behind it so that air moves behind this piece of metal that provides the shielding of the wall. Because aside from harming electrical wires, you’ve got to remember that you’ve got wood framing there and it’s a fire hazard.
So, safety is really, really important when you install a wood stove. So you either have to have the minimum-required distance between the stove and the wall or you have to have heat shields or both. So just make sure that whoever is doing the installation is familiar with this principle, Marlena, and it’ll be safe and your wires will be fine.
MARLENA: OK. And I was thinking about making a wood frame and then laying a metal – a sheet metal on the back. Would that be safe? Would that …?
TOM: Well, here’s the thing: it sounds to me like you’re trying to invent a heat shield and I don’t think you should do that. It’s not sort of a thing that you hack together to – I mean I’ve seen it done this way but it’s not recommended.
Here’s where you start. The manufacturer of your wood stove is going to have a specification for heat shields and I would start with that. So if you don’t happen to have the manual anymore, all of those manuals are online somewhere on the internet. Just Google it and look at their recommendations for installation, in particular, when it comes to the heat shield. As long as you follow that manufacturer’s spec, then I’m comfortable that the job will be done right. OK?
MARLENA: OK. Sounds good. Thank you so much.
TOM: Hey, if you’ve got a home improvement question, now would be a great time to reach out to us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post it at MoneyPit.com, because one listener is going to win a fantastic product this hour. It’s the Green Machine 62-Volt 25-Inch Hedge Trimmer.
LESLIE: That’s right. It’s got dual 25-inch cutting blades with 1-inch cut compacity. It’s got a rotating handle that will help you easily tackle all of the trimming jobs. Plus, that battery is going to run for up to 2 hours, which will help you tackle a lot.
It’s a great prize worth $169, so check it out.
TOM: That Green Machine Hedge Trimmer is going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us now with your questions at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Heading out to Illinois where we’ve got Julian on the line.
What’s going on at your money pit, sir?
JULIAN: I’ve got a 60-year-old brick house in northeast Tennessee. I don’t think any maintenance has really been done on him but I notice how only the bricks that make up the chimney – and of course, on the outside, I notice how some of the outside of the brick has been flaking off. And I don’t know if there could possibly be an insect or animal at work. I’ve noticed some tiny holes on the outside of the brick but it’s only in the chimney area. And of course, I only have one fireplace. I didn’t know if there was anything that I could do or if I could hire somebody to do something in a proactive way.
TOM: Alright. Well, we can solve this for you. So this is not uncommon. What you’re describing it what we call “spalling” and it happens because water soaks into the brick. And then that water freezes and expands and then breaks or pushes off little pieces of the brick. Now, it may be that it’s only happening to the chimney, because that might be a different brick than what the house was built with or a different lot. And sometimes those bricks can be more or less absorbent.
So, if the brick is not seriously deteriorated but it’s just the surface, what I would recommend is that you use a silicone-based sealer. Make sure it’s silicone. And when you pick up the sealer, one of the things you want to do is read the specifications. It should say vapor-permeable, which means that even if moisture gets beyond the silicone, it can still drain out or evaporate out of the brick. Some sealers try to block it all; you’ll never do that. Use silicone sealer, designed for masonry, that’s vapor-permeable and that will reduce, to a tremendous extent, the amount of moisture that is getting soaked into those bricks. And if it does that, then there’s going to be nothing to expand and freeze and break the brick off, break those little pieces off, form those little holes when the weather turns super cold.
Well, guys, if you have a wood stove, that is a fantastic thing to enjoy this time of year. But not all wood is equal when it comes to fueling that stove. And the wrong fuel can possibly damage it, as well.
LESLIE: Yeah, guys. You’d never want to burn trash, driftwood, any treated woods. You always want to look for seasoned wood. That’s going to be the best for heat release and minimal creosote buildup. And that’s really going to help you prevent the chances of having a chimney fire.
TOM: Yeah. And if you’re wondering, “What the heck is seasoned wood?” Well, freshly-cut wood contains about 45-percent water, whereas seasoned wood – which is wood that’s sat out for a while, it’s kind of aged – is only going to contain about 20- to 25-percent water. So, of course, it burns a lot better.
LESLIE: Now, if you cut your own wood, you want to make sure that it’s chopped 6 months to a year before you use it. It’s not like, “Woo-hoo, let’s go chop down a tree and then start a fire.” It doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to let the time and the sun and the wind and all of the things reduce that moisture from that tree so that it will burn correctly.
Now, splitting that wood helps, as well. The more surface area means more evaporation, so it’ll be ready to use perhaps more quickly but also just be a better piece of lumber to burn.
TOM: You have to age it like a fine wine, you know?
LESLIE: True. Like a steak.
TOM: Yeah. Now, if you buy wood for your stove, you want to look for logs that have darkened ends and cracks and splits. This means that that wood is fairly dry. It all should be lightweight, making sort of an obvious clunking noise when it hits another piece. So grab a couple of logs and bang them together and see if it feels like they’re light and they’re clunky. And they should just be perfect for your wood stove.
LESLIE: Sandra in South Dakota has a question about tile flooring. How can we help you with your project?
SANDRA: We bought a house that was built in ‘78 and I don’t think it’s been updated since then.
SANDRA: And I want to start my redo with my bathroom.
SANDRA: And I’ve been wondering – I don’t know whether I should go porcelain or ceramic or – I’m stuck on what type of tile I should use.
TOM: OK. So, I see here that you told our screener that you want a tile that can hold up to cats, dogs and kids.
TOM: Either porcelain or ceramic will work but porcelain will be very expensive for you. And ceramic tile, there’s so many options in it. As long as you get a glazed tile and that you use an epoxy grout, that combination will be very easy to clean.
SANDRA: OK, great. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got John in Missouri on the line with a garage question. Tell us what’s going on.
JOHN: This drainage has caused the one part of the garage slab to drop.
JOHN: And we knew it when we bought the house. It’s gotten a little worse every year. And I guess my big question is: what are my options as far as repairing it? And then, what I’ve – kind of looked into – I haven’t gotten anybody out to look at it and give me estimates yet. Is mudjacking and curing (ph) it as opposed to just not doing anything – and then when it gets too bad, just ripping out the concrete and repouring another slab. So I guess that’s the question that I have.
TOM: The fact that you had all these contractors come out and look at the slab and look at the house and give you a whole wide range of solutions is typical. When you call somebody that’s in the concrete-repair business, they’re going to come out and recommend a concrete repair. So you were very smart to call in the independent, professional home inspector and therein got the correct advice – was simply fix the drainage and everything else will take care of itself.
JOHN: The best 500 bucks I ever spent in my life.
TOM: Exactly. So now that you fixed the drainage, you’ve got this slab that’s settled down and you’re wondering, “What do I do with it?” I would not recommend, with a garage slab, doing anything as expensive as mudjacking or anything of that nature. The cost of that procedure is not worth just trying to save the slab. That slab will break up very, very easily – surprisingly easily – with a jackhammer or even a sledgehammer, frankly.
And you would tear that out, relevel the floor, compress it, pack it properly and pour a new slab. So that’s the most cost-effective and permanent, long-term solution. Everything else would – I think would be a waste of money and very speculative.
JOHN: Thank you. I appreciate that. Like I said, I haven’t had anybody come out and really look at it yet. It’s kind of one of those ankle-biter kind of things that …
TOM: Well, here’s what’s going to happen, John. If you have somebody that’s in the mudjacking business come out there, they’re going to say, “Hey, you need mudjacking,” OK? If you have a mason come out there and he tells you to tear it out and put a new one in, I’d agree with that. I think that’s the best thing to do.
John, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jean in Iowa has a question about her heating-and-cooling system. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
JEAN: I have a 5-year-old, high-efficiency furnace with the PVC pipe that comes out for the intake and the exhaust. And at the first joint – it’s about a 45-degree angle. And we noticed that that joint wasn’t totally sealed. But our question is – we noticed that there was condensation dripping out of that joint. So if we seal it, will that condensation go into our furnace and cause damage? We’re not sure what we should do with it.
TOM: How old is this furnace?
JEAN: Five years.
TOM: What’s the efficiency of the furnace?
JEAN: In the 90s.
TOM: I ask you this because some furnaces are designed to trap the condensation and pump it out. And so if you have a condensing furnace, then that might not be as much of an issue.
Because what happens with those high-efficiency systems is they put the exhaust gases out at such a low temperature, that they quickly turn from gas back to water. And then the moisture drains back through the vent pipe, gets caught by a condensate system and then pumped out.
So have you had it serviced this winter yet?
JEAN: Not this winter.
TOM: Yeah, you really need to do it every year because the fact that the gas burns, it burns dirty and then you get combustion deposits on the burners. And then they can become inefficient. They’re wasting money and potentially be dangerous. So, I would address this with the service contractor when he comes out to do your service, which you’re going to call for tomorrow, OK? You want to make sure you get that done because it’s important, every winter, to have a heating system serviced.
JEAN: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Well, natural-stone surfaces for kitchen and bathroom counters and even the floors have truly been a popular choice for several years. They’re super durable, they are gorgeous to look at. So, both of those really make it a great choice.
TOM: Yeah. But they’re also high on the list of must-have items for home buyers, so they’re a good investment, as well. The problem is, though, to keep them looking great, especially as great as the day they were first installed, they need a lot of care to stay clean. Now, the level of maintenance is going to vary depending on the material.
But for example, if you have new granite or limestone or marble – all super popular – you need to seal it. Now, that could be a DIY project and the best sealers are silicone-based. They kind of soak into the stone and they harden under the surface. But while even the best sealers are going to make the surface stain-resistant, they’re only going to really buy you time to clean up stains before they set into the stone itself. But it’s not a one-time thing. You need to treat limestone and marble four times a year and granite about twice per year.
LESLIE: Now, staining. If stains do occur, you want to try to remove them pretty quickly with a limestone poultice. Now, you’re going to have to spread a thick layer of the poultice over that stain using a plastic putty knife. Then you have to wait about 48 to 72 hours because that poultice needs to absorb the stain. Then you can go ahead and wipe that area clean.
If you do use a poultice on the stone, though, you’re going to notice that that sealant is gone – I mean it’s doing what it’s supposed to do – so you’re going to have to reseal it.
Now, Tom, when you do that, do you have to reseal the entire counter or can you sort of spot-seal?
TOM: Well, you can spot-seal it but you might find that that particular spot now looks better than the rest of the counter.
LESLIE: That’s true.
TOM: So it wouldn’t be that much more work just to do the entire counter again, because I don’t really think you can seal it too much. We know that these seals don’t last forever, so I would take the opportunity, if you’re that deep into it, to just go ahead and reseal the whole thing.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think it’s also important to note that when you’re cleaning, even in your day-to-day cleaning, some chemicals can discolor the stone or dull the stone or even shorten its lifespan. So you want to make sure you steer clear of acidic fluids like lemon juice, vinegar and any cleaning products that are going to contain an acid or an ammonia, because that’s not going to be your counter’s friend.
TOM: Now, if we’ve pretty much talked you out of stone countertops, that wasn’t the intent.
LESLIE: But they’re so pretty.
TOM: Yeah, very pretty. But here’s an option. Engineered stone is an option that does not need to be sealed. So take a look at the quartz countertops that are out there. A number of different manufacturers make these. And these are as durable as all the other types of countertops you may have grown up with. And they certainly do not need to be sealed. So quartz, engineered stone, that is definitely the hot ticket for your new kitchen countertop.
Well, it may be pretty chilly out right now but we are thinking ahead to the green that’s going to arrive in just a couple of months and thinking, “Hey, you guys might like to have a fantastic tool from our friends at Green Machine to use on your lawns, on your gardens and especially on your hedges.” Because we have got a 62-volt, 25-inch hedge trimmer to give away to one listener drawn at random.
LESLIE: Yeah. This is a pretty awesome prize. I don’t want you to cut my ski season short, though, Tom. So we can dream and wish and perhaps a listener from our warmer states will enjoy this sooner.
But listen, guys, this is a great prize: the Green Machine 62-Volt 25-Inch Hedge Trimmer. It has dual 25-inch cutting blades with about a 1-inch cut capacity and will run for 2 hours on a fully-charged battery. So think about all of that beautiful yardwork you can accomplish in that time.
Great project for a spring weekend. Not quite right now. But think about the awesome, warmer weather that’s coming and how you could use this Green Machine.
TOM: That Green Machine 62-Volt 25-Inch Hedge Trimmer is going out to one listener drawn at random that reaches us with a home improvement question, so make that you. Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Todd in Illinois is on the line and has a question about a driveway. How can we help you?
TOM: I had a question about driveway-type resurfacing and if there was any kind of product that is thicker than your seal coating, that would be able to fill in cracks better but better than just crack seal going around.
LESLIE: Now, Tom, he didn’t mention whether this was asphalt or concrete, so is there a way to refinish them that kind of works for both?
TOM: Not really. They’re really completely different ways to approach this. Of course, if it’s a concrete driveway, you could use a product like Re-Cap, which is made by The QUIKRETE Company. And it’s a concrete resurfacer, so this one would be designed specifically to fill in any minor cracks and adhere to the surface of the old concrete. If it’s asphalt, I would use an asphalt crack filler first on any of the big cracks and then a sealer on top of that.
Now, he asked, specifically: is there a thicker way to do this? And yes, there is. You can put a second layer of asphalt on top of an old one but only if that old asphalt driveway is dimensionally stable, structurally stable. If it’s got a lot of ruts in it, that would indicate it doesn’t have a strong base. You don’t want to put new asphalt on top of that.
But if it’s pretty straight and flat and it’s just worn and cracked, it might be a good candidate for a top layer of asphalt. Certainly a way to do that and it’s pretty much done the same way a new driveway is done. They have to drop the asphalt and then trucks have to come in, they’ve got to spread it, they’ve got to roll it down under pressure. But it’s basically a brand-new driveway when you’re done and it’s a little less expensive than tearing the old one out.
Well, if you guys picked up any new furniture or TVs over the holiday season, the CPSC reminds you that each one can lead to a dangerous tip-over accident, which can cause an injury or even a fatality. In fact, most often, these are involved in kids under six. Seventy-nine percent of the injuries and deaths are kids under six because they love to climb. So, there are a few simple things, though, that you can do to prevent those tip-over hazards.
LESLIE: Yeah. You really need to do a bunch of things. So, you want to verify that whatever furniture you’ve got is pretty stable on its own. For some added security, you want to anchor all of those entertainment units, the TV stands, the bookcases, shelving, bureaus, all of that to the floor, to the wall. You need to use appropriate hardware. There’s brackets, there’s screws, there’s toggles. Generally, when you buy a piece of furniture, you’re going to get the pieces of hardware with it to secure that to the wall safely.
It’s interesting. I bought a dresser at IKEA a few months back.
TOM: They’ve had them for years. They were way ahead of it in terms of having that secure strap, right?
LESLIE: I had to scan a QR code saying that I’m acknowledging that there’s a danger, sign off on all of it, acknowledge that I’ve received the hardware and then sort of release them of any liability should I not use it and something happens. It was very straightforward like, “This is dangerous, guys. Make sure you’re doing the right thing.”
Also, with TVs, you want to make sure that they’re on a sturdy piece of furniture that’s appropriate for the size of that TV or keep it on a low-rise base. And if you do have a TV on a surface like that, you need to push it back as far as you can from that front edge. You really just want to make it so that it’s not appealing to kids to climb up on and grab things. Because if there’s a way to climb on something, they’ll find it. And if it’s not secured, it will tip.
TOM: That BILLY bookcase says ladders to kids. The IKEA BILLY bookcase.
LESLIE: It says ladders to me, are you kidding? And I’m an old lady.
Julie in Missouri, which is probably freezing, just like everybody else in the United States of America has been this winter.
JULIE: Yeah, like way below freezing. So, that’s part of my question. We have a couple of huge hot-water heaters: an 85-gallon and a couple of 50s. We have a bed-and-breakfast and the hot-water heaters are in the basement. And it seems like it’s always the people on the third floor that get up first. And so there’s a lot of water going down the drain of all that hot water. Plus, over the past couple of years, we’ve had frozen pipes and not the outside walls; it’s been in the middle of the room. Because the house was built in the 1800s, so they’re pretty drafty walls.
So, I remember somebody telling me once about some recirculating hot water so the pipes always have hot water in them. Maybe those hot-water pipes wouldn’t freeze.
TOM: Well, first of all, hot water is only half of the equation here. You know, you’re going to be running cold water up to those rooms, as well, correct? Like for a bathroom?
JULIE: Well, I guess. That’s why I’m calling you, because you’re the man.
TOM: Yeah. So I mean I would think recirculating hot water is not the solution here.
Look, if you’ve got frozen pipes or pipes that are – that tend to freeze, there’s really only a couple of things that you can do about this. And the most sensible thing is to insulate them.
Now, if it’s in an interior wall space and you know where that wall is, one thing that you could think about doing is adding blown-in insulation to the interior wall. Now, normally, you wouldn’t do this, right? Because why insulate an interior wall? But that would be a lot easier than tearing a wall open. You’ve got to get insulation on these pipes if they’re prone to freezing. And nothing else short of that is going to solve this.
I have, in my house, a kitchen sink that had a pipe that ran up the exterior wall. And invariably, in the coldest winters, it would freeze. The only solution there is to insulate the pipe. And when we couldn’t get to that pipe to insulate it, what we ended up doing was actually moving the lines to a different location so they would be less likely to freeze.
So there’s always a solution. It’s not always easy but you’ve got to insulate those, as a start. And if it’s an interior wall, I would simply blow insulation into that wall. That’s the fastest way to get some warmth around those pipes and stop them from freezing.
In terms of recirculating hot water, yes, there are ways to do that. But it tends to be very wasteful and I don’t think it would be cost-effective when you consider all of the electricity it takes to run that water 24-7. Plus, when you’re running that water back to the water heater, remember, your water heater is going to run more frequently, too, because it’s actually going to be heating a lot more water: not only the water that’s in the water heater but all that extra water that’s running through the pipes.
So I don’t think, from a cost-effective perspective – even though it seems like you’re wasting resources and wasting money and wasting water, I don’t think you’re wasting so much that it would be anywhere near a break-even for you to put in the equipment it would take to recirculate it.
JULIE: OK. Alright. Well, thanks. I appreciate it.
LESLIE: Travis writes in saying, “I’ve got a 16-foot by 20-foot shed that I use as a workshop.” That’s a pretty smart use of that space.
LESLIE: Now, he goes on to say, “The walls and the ceiling are already insulated but I’d like to insulate the floor. The shed sits on cinder blocks and ranges from almost touching the ground to a couple of feet high off of the ground. I could probably get insulation under half of the thing but the rest is too tight to fit. Should I raise the floor with framing and then insulate?”
TOM: Well, first of all, keep in mind that insulating the floor of a structure would probably be the last thing that I would do. You’ve got the walls and the ceiling insulated; that ought to be plenty to keep it warm. I presume you’re using some sort of a heater in there. I know I have a garage that’s slightly bigger than that and I insulated the walls when I built it.
I added – over the pandemic, I added some foam insulation to the underside – this is a second story, a second floor – and I added foam insulation in between the ceiling joists. So I have the silver, 1-inch-thick insulated foam between those joists. I also closed off the attic hatchway, which was up to the second floor where we had a lot of storage. And in a building that’s 20×30, one kerosene heater does a bang-up job of keeping it warm enough to work in. And I don’t have any particularly insulated doors or anything like that, so it works pretty well.
So, I’m telling you this because insulating the floor may not be that critical a thing to do. That said, if you’ve got some room to get underneath at least half of it, not a bad idea. I would recommend, though, you use mineral wool or stone wool or rock wool. It’s a certain type of insulation that’s not as impacted by moisture as fiberglass is. If you put fiberglass down there, it’s going to get really damp and humid. It’s just not going to insulate at all, so I would use mineral wool in the areas you can get to.
And if you really, really, really want to insulate that floor, I guess the easiest way, if you have the ceiling height, would be – not to tear up the floor but to put in a second layer. And for that, again, I would use that foam insulation first, then I would put another ½-inch plywood subfloor on top of it.
Assuming your equipment is not super heavy, I don’t think you need to put furring strips down to sort of raise up the height of the floor joists to give you more structure. I think you’re OK just laying the foam down and putting plywood over it. Then you can screw right through the plywood, right through the foam into the original subfloor below. Remember, you’re going to have to adjust the saddle at the door, because then you can have an extra inch-and-a-half to step up to.
LESLIE: Alright. Hope that helps.
Now, Lisa says, “I have a 27-year-old home in Massachusetts and discovered water leaking in a finished room in the basement. Devastating, red-y, slimy, underground water constantly is coming in.” This sounds gross. “I called contractors but I’m not happy with their solutions.”
TOM: I don’t blame you because when you call wet-basement contractors, they try to sell you really expensive systems that are almost always not needed.
Here’s the question, Lisa. If your basement is leaking worse when you get a heavy rain, worse when you get a snow melt, your problem is simply drainage. Fix those gutters, get the downspouts extended away. I bet the red, slimy stuff will disappear quickly.
LESLIE: I love it. Slimy stuff, no more. Bye-bye.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thank you so much for spending part of your day with us. We hope you’ve been enjoying the holiday season. If you’ve been dreaming about some improvements to your home in the days, months and weeks ahead, we will be here to help you every step of the way.
So, Happy New Year, once again. We hope you all have a great day.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2021 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.)