TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects, décor dilemmas, remodeling jobs you want to plan to get done. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a pro, start with us first by calling 888-666-3974. We’ll help you get it done once, get it done right and not have to do it again. You can also post your questions to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up this hour, if you love a lush lawn but you hate high water bills, we’re going to have some tips to help you water more efficiently for a healthy lawn and a very green wallet at the same time.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, one of the most durable building products of all time has got to be concrete. You use it pretty much for everything that makes things strong and sturdy: foundations, you can even use it to do patios, even make furniture. You know, there really is no limit to what you can build with concrete. So we’re going to have some tips on fun projects that you can build that you might not have even thought of.
TOM: And also ahead, a serious topic: the number-one danger for young children every summer is drowning. We’re going to have tips on a system that you can put in place to help make sure that tragedy never strikes close to your home.
LESLIE: My goodness. And if I weren’t already scared enough, have you heard about this dry drowning? Takes place three days after the children have even been in water.
TOM: Afterwards, right? Yeah, it’s terrible.
LESLIE: My gosh, it’s so crazy.
Well, not to scare everybody. Let’s get back to the subject of home improvement, which is not scary. So give us a call anytime. We want to hear from you.
LESLIE: Alex in West Virginia is on the line with a question about grading. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
ALEX: I bought my house last year. It’s a 1926 American Foursquare home. The lot that the home was built on is 140 feet deep by 30 feet wide. But the problem is the drop from the very back of the lot to the very front of the lot is pretty significant. It’s about 10 feet. So the house is on a hill and I’m wondering what I can do to level out the front yard so it’s easier to mow and so it looks nicer, if I could build some sort of retaining wall.
And then I want to do something in the backyard the same way because playing on it, for our dog and kids, is kind of hard. I was wondering what you thought about maybe trying to level that out somehow.
TOM: Well, right now it sounds like the house is kind of cut into the hillside. Does it – so it slopes down towards a street in the front or it slopes away from the house?
ALEX: That’s correct. It slopes down. If you stand on the very front of the yard, you can’t – you’re not even above the lawn in the back.
TOM: So, I mean a retaining wall is the best way to achieve that. But of course, building a retaining wall, especially if you’re talking about several feet like that, is no small task. It’s a pretty big project and it’s got to be done well because if it’s not engineered properly, it’s going to fail. Fortunately, today there are a lot of good masonry products – precast masonry products – that work extremely well for retaining walls.
It used to be that your best option was something that looked like railroad ties that were stacked up and you had these railroad ties that would go back into the hillside. They were called “deadmen” because they would just lay there and hold the wall in.
LESLIE: That’s a terrible name.
TOM: But eventually, it – that’s what it was called. It was called the “deadman” and it was the piece that was perpendicular to the wall and was basically covered with soil, because that would be sort of the tie that would hold it in place.
But today, you could use precast retaining-wall blocks. They’re made by a number of great manufacturers. And you can stack those up, once you prepare the base properly, and then just sort of backfill as you go. And remember to provide for proper drainage because that really is the key. Whatever you do, you want to make sure that you’re handling the water that’s running down that hillside properly.
And if you are building into a slope like that, it’s really more important than ever to have what’s called a “swale,” where the water sort of divides before it gets to the back of your house, then it goes around the left and the right sides and then runs down to the street.
But certainly, that’s an option but it’s a big project. And it’s one that I would recommend you get professional help with because of the size and the scope of it. Well worth having a landscape architect or a designer kind of spec that out for you because if you’re going to do it yourself, you’ll know exactly what you have to do.
And if you’re not going to do it yourself, you can use that spec to get bids from qualified contractors and you’ll know that they’re all going to be sort of bidding apples to apples. The problem is if you just call a contractor and say, “Build me a retaining wall,” everyone’s going to build it slightly differently. And it’s going to be hard for you to figure out what’s the best choice, because the guy that’s the cheapest may not be doing the best job or using the best materials. You follow me?
ALEX: Mm-hmm. Oh, yeah, yeah.
TOM: That’s the way I’d approach it.
ALEX: I appreciate your answer. I listen to your podcast every week.
TOM: Well, thank you so much for doing that and we’re so glad you called.
ALEX: Alright. Thank you.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Martin on the line who wants to talk about fascia boards. That is an excellent design detail on the exterior. What can we do for you?
MARTIN: The fascia boarding that connects the ceiling of my porch roof to the overhang has separated from the ceiling. And I want to know if I need to – do I need to rip that out and replace it? Or can I just seal it and maybe put a larger molding over it?
TOM: Well, if the fascia board is loosening up, then I would tell you to re-secure it. And that’s actually not an unusual thing to happen, because the nails that hold that are usually going into the ends of the rafters behind it. They tend to expand and contract a lot.
But what I would do is I would tell you to re-secure it but do it with screws, not with nails. If you use long screws – like 2½-inch, case-hardened drywall screws or wood-trim screws – that will pull that fascia board back in tight and it’ll be impossible for it to loosen up again.
So don’t think of it in terms of something covering it. Just put it back where it was but use screws instead of nails and it won’t come out again, OK?
MARTIN: And do I do that by going under the molding?
TOM: Well, you want to try to get that fascia board re-secured in, so if that is going to require you to take off a piece of molding to get to it, then that’s what you do. But you want to get to the original fascia and tighten it up.
MARTIN: OK. I can do that, then. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright, Martin. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find top-rated home service pros, compare prices and book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: Just ahead, if you love a beautiful, lush lawn but hate high water bills, we’re going to have some tips to help you water more efficiently, that’ll give you a healthy lawn and a green wallet at the same time.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call. We’d love to hear what you are working on. We are standing by to chat and help you out at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews, compare prices and book appointments, all online.
TOM: Hey, I got a great project done this weekend.
LESLIE: You did?
TOM: I painted my fence. And the last time I painted the fence, I did it with a brush, like most people. But this time, I decided I was going to rent a professional paint sprayer and I did that …
LESLIE: Is it not the best thing ever?
TOM: Oh, my God. I did that at Home Depot and in about 5 or 6 hours, I went through 10 gallons of paint and I painted, let’s see, maybe 25 sections of fence? It was so easy. And to make sure I didn’t get it in the neighbor’s yard, I just hung a tarp behind the fence section that I was painting and just kept moving it down the line. It worked really well, really smooth and it looks fantastic. So, I would highly recommend that.
LESLIE: This is the perfect type of tool for you, Tom, because your children now have all grown and are out of the house.
TOM: Exactly. Exactly. It’s time for a little luxury.
LESLIE: So you can’t Mr. Miyagi them and make them paint your fence.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of the home improvement version of using the valet. “I’m not going to park it myself. I’ll use the valet. Yeah, I’m a busy guy.”
LESLIE: The kids are out of the house. Now I’ve got to rent the tool for it.
TOM: Yeah, I’ve got no slave labor anymore to do it for me.
LESLIE: But it’s so funny. The paint sprayer is kind of like – it’s the opposite of a power washer but it’s equally as satisfying.
TOM: Right. Exactly.
LESLIE: It’s like that same sort of satisfaction you get. So it’s definitely – if you’re renting a tool, that’s the one.
TOM: Miraculous transformation, one paint spray at a time. So, highly recommend it. It was really fun.
888-666-3974. Yeah, we do try to make home improvement projects fun. And if that’s a project that’s on your to-do list, give us a call right now.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Cody in Texas who’s got a safety question: the dryer vent has become disconnected.
Yes, Cody, this is dangerous.
CODY: Say, so I was up in the attic the other day and I saw some of the insulation blowing. The dryer was running at the time. And I walked over there and I could feel the air from the dryer blowing in from between the walls, you know? And that kind of concerned me.
It seems to me like it’s not connected within the wall and it’s just blowing out. I’m wondering, is that a big deal? Do I need to go in the wall and replace that? Or is it going to be fine the way it is?
TOM: No, it’s not fine at all the way it is, for two reasons. Number one, it’s a fire hazard because all that dust is being trapped inside that wall cavity; that’s a major fire hazard. And secondly, all that moisture from your wet clothes is being blown up into the attic in that insulation. And once it makes the insulation damp, the insulation does not work. If you even add a minor amount of moisture to insulation, it loses about a third of its R-value.
So, you want to figure out what went wrong and get it fixed. It can vent up into the attic but it has to continue through the attic and out to an exterior wall or out to the roof or out to a soffit. So you need to figure out why it disconnected, what happened and get it fixed in the easiest way possible. But get that dryer vent pointed outside as quickly as you can.
CODY: OK. I’ll do that. There’s some cabinets hanging above the dryer, so I guess I need to pull those off and cut into the sheetrock to try to see where the disconnect is.
TOM: Well, maybe. Why don’t you just pull the dryer out to begin with, stick a light in that duct and see if it tells you anything and then go from there? Try to minimize the exploratory surgery, Cody. OK?
CODY: Yeah, OK. I’ll do that. I appreciate it.
TOM: The more you cut open, the more you’ve got to fix, man.
LESLIE: Going out to Wisconsin, right now, where Beth is dealing with a stinky refrigerator.
Beth, you’ve tried everything. What’s going on?
BETH: I’ve had a stinkiness for about a month now. I keep washing it down and the stink still stays. I put baking soda in it. Nothing’s getting rid of it. I was wondering if mold could grow in the walls of the refrigerator or if there’s some sort of filter in there or …
TOM: Well, bacteria can certainly grow. And sometimes when – especially if you’ve had a power failure or if a refrigerator sits outside and it kind of gets damp and moist, you get bacteria that will grow in the foam that’s in the wall or the insulation that’s in the wall. If the insulation got damp, that could be causing it.
The one suggestion that I might have for you, if you want to try this one more time, is to take everything out and clean the whole thing down with oxygenated bleach. So not just a simple kitchen spray but true, oxygenated bleach because that has the best chance of killing any bacteria. But the problem, again, is if the bacteria is in the insulation, you’re not going to get to that. So, I would give it a good cleaning with oxygenated bleach and see if that will solve the issue.
BETH: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Beth. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you love looking at a beautiful lawn but think that watering your lawn is sort of a wasteful act, it doesn’t have to be. When, where and how much water you decide to use on that lawn can really mean the difference between having a beautiful lawn or just an empty wallet, right?
LESLIE: That’s true. So, here’s what you need to remember. You want to water your lawn early in the day so that it prevents evaporation. If you water at night and leave that lawn wet, your grass could develop a fungus disease. So you’ve got to find that sort of right time when it’s not dark and cool out and it’s not the bright sun of the day.
Also, you want to make sure you adjust sprinklers to avoid wasting water by having it directed away from your driveways and sidewalks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people watering their driveway which – you’re not growing new concrete or asphalt. I don’t know what you’re doing.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
Now, the other thing you want to do is use timers on your sprinklers. And this is going to limit water usage to only what’s needed. And don’t water every day. Two or three times a week is better than watering every day. And a good rule of thumb is to make sure your lawn gets about 1 inch of water a week, depending on where you live and what type of grass you have.
LESLIE: Yeah. And rain sensors, people.
TOM: Right. On the sprinkler systems, definitely need to have rain sensors that automatically work with the weather to not come on when there’s a rainstorm. That’s just as bad as watering your driveway.
LESLIE: It’s amazing. How often do you see that?
Lauren in Florida is on the line with a lead-paint question. How can we help you today?
LAUREN: Hi. My husband and I are remodeling a 1907 home that’s been vacant for multiple years, so there’s lots of damage. A lot of the paint is chipping off the windows. There is – on the beadboard and wainscoting, a lot of the paint’s chipping off. And someone has gone in and put sheetrock mud to texture over the original plaster walls, so some of that’s chipping off. And we’ve got three young children, so we need to repaint this house and fix it but we’re really concerned about the lead-paint issue.
LESLIE: Yeah. Understandably so. And I mean your house is in the timeframe where you do need to be concerned about lead paint.
Now, we had an issue when we put central air conditioning in the house when my son was six months old – you know, when he was little, I didn’t think that – any concern. And they did a great job. They were very tidy; they contained all the dust. But something must have gotten on something and when we had gone for his next exam, he had elevated lead levels probably from some dust getting on a toy and then the toy going in his mouth, anything. Anyway, it turned out after we did the next blood work, his levels went back to normal, so we were really not concerned at that point. But it is a very scary issue.
Now, I’m not sure, nationwide, what the rules are – and maybe Tom can speak better on this – but in New York, when you are fairly certain that you’ve got lead paint or the timeframe sort of dates it that way, you have to work with a painter or a contractor who’s certified in sort of lead-paint containment, if you will. Because even if you have it on a window frame and you’re opening and closing that window, you’re creating little specks of lead dust that are getting into the air. And with small children, you do need to be concerned.
So you do need to make sure that, if you can, that this is done by a pro. There’s nothing that regulates when a homeowner does it themselves but knowing that you probably have lead paint and with small children in the home, I would just have a pro do it. And you want to make sure that things are taped off and really sealed up and cleaned very thoroughly. There are specific rules, I know, in New York State that allow for a contractor to be certified. And that’s something you really want to look for.
TOM: Yeah. And especially because the paint is flaking in deteriorated condition right now, that’s the highest risk for this, Lauren. So you’re wise to proceed very cautiously and make sure that the contractor that you’re working with is certified as a lead professional.
LAUREN: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Lauren. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Olen in North Carolina on the line who needs some help with a radiant floor-system project. Tell us what you’re working on. Are you doing this yourself?
OLEN: Yeah, I am a do-it-yourselfer kind of guy and I’m going to just do the rough end of the tubing myself. I’m going to leave the pumps and whatnot to the professionals. But it’s sort of smart to let the – to have somebody to do the hard stuff for you. But I figure I can do the tubing myself.
And my question regards the choice between PEX and Onix tubing and about cost-effectiveness.
OLEN: And which one is more appropriate for my region? I’m in North Carolina.
LESLIE: Well, what type of subfloor are you working with?
OLEN: I’m going to be working on my existing, open floor joists and 16-inch centers, so I’ve got plenty of space under there to staple up either the aluminum plates or to put up the rubberized Onix material.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And what’s going to be your flooring?
OLEN: Above it, I will have a hardwood floor and in some areas, I’m going to be putting down the cement board and tile on top.
LESLIE: OK. Now, when you’re dealing with radiant flooring with hardwood, you have to make sure that the certain type of hardwood you buy is appropriate for radiant. And it depends on the way the graining is cut. And I forget exactly what it’s called but you have to make sure you buy the correct type of grain, the way the piece of flooring for the wood itself is cut. Otherwise, you’re going to get a lot of shifting and movement just due to the nature of the heating.
OLEN: Right. I hear that the PEX tends to cause a little bit more expansion and contraction in the tubing itself. And my floor is actually existing pine floor; it’s only a certain area where I’ll be putting in the cement board and the tile.
TOM: Well, look, I think that either product, as long as it’s installed consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions, is going to be fine. PEX is really the more common, known product for this and we’ve seen it in many, many houses. PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene. Onix is cross-linked EPDM, so it’s another formulation for a radiant-tubing product.
Personally, I would use PEX only because it seems to have the history. I know that Onix was used a lot on outdoor applications for snow melting and that sort of thing. But because it’s inside the house and because it’s got such a great reputation, I would use PEX. And I have seen PEX become very, very indestructible when it comes to its ability to work with all sorts of conditions inside the house.
In fact, I saw a demonstration once. One thing that’s cool about PEX is the memory that it has. You can heat this stuff and stretch it to twice its length and let it go and it goes back to its original shape. So it retains its original shape.
So it’s a pretty impressive product and I think it’s got the history. And that’s what I think I would trust if I was going to go radiant in my house.
LESLIE: Much for calling The Money Pit. Well, one of the most durable building products of all time has got to be concrete. From foundations to patios to even furniture – ask Frank Lloyd Wright; he’s made some beautiful furnishings out of that concrete – there is no limit to what you can build. We’re going to have some tips on fun projects that you can get done in a weekend, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, one of the most durable building products of all time has got to be concrete. From foundations to patios to even furnishings, there’s no limit to what you can build with concrete.
TOM: True. But if you’re thinking you need a truck to deliver it, you don’t because there are an amazing number of household projects you can accomplish with products made by QUIKRETE. With us to talk about that is Mike Major, an industry expert with QUIKRETE.
MIKE: Good to talk with you, Tom and Leslie. How are you today?
TOM: We are excellent.
And Mike, you guys have been developing some of the most advanced concrete products available for years. And I want to ask you about one that I’ve been using a lot lately and that’s the QUIKRETE Fast-Setting Concrete Mix. Because the technology behind these mixes makes them very easy for DIYers to use for projects, that used to be a lot harder to do, like setting maybe a fencepost, right?
MIKE: It sure does, Tom. And we refer to that as, you know, QUIKRETE in the red bag. You’ll see that as you go into your home improvement stores and hardware stores. And one of the great things about this product is it makes your project a lot easier to do because you’re not having to gather a lot of things to do it. In a lot of situations with concrete work, you’re having to gather your wheelbarrow and your hoe and the hose and everything else that you need. With this product, you can pour it dry into a hole for setting a post and just add water to the top of it. And I’ll energize itself and mix and provide a strong concrete pour.
LESLIE: Now, how quickly is this post setting? I mean a lot of times you have to hold things or rig things to keep things square and level. How long are we waiting here?
MIKE: Yeah, that’s a great question, Leslie. About 20 minutes. We don’t have to worry about the leveling anymore. And after four hours, we can go ahead and put a load on it. So if you’ve got a kid that’s wanting to play basketball tonight on their new basketball post, we can set that post and they can be shooting this evening.
TOM: That’s really cool.
Now, aside from posts, does the technology behind this product make it ideal for, say, repairing a step and be pouring a new step or a small concrete slab or projects of that size, Mike?
MIKE: Right. Yeah, for concrete slabs it’s a great product. And what you can do with this – the guys who are putting down these air-conditioning units, they’re needing a fast slab. They can mix this up, finish off the surface. And again, in four hours, they can put weight on it.
LESLIE: Now, Mike, I feel like people, when they think about a concrete surface, whether it’s a driveway or a patio or even the sidewalk, they immediately start thinking about cracks and then trying to fix those cracks. So what can we do to kind of get ahead of that and maybe even prevent them?
MIKE: Well, one thing that we do know about concrete is concrete does get hard and it does crack. So we know that that’s going to happen. What we need to figure out how to do is to keep water from penetrating into these cracks and causing more damage as we go through freeze-thaw cycles.
So what QUIKRETE has come up with is a full line of advanced polymer sealants that will do that job. We’ve got different types of sealants for different applications. We’ve got some that are crack seals. We’ve got some that are designed for a brick wall, a mortar application so we can heal the cracks in mortar joints. We also have some that are self-leveling. We’ve got some that are construction adhesives. So all of these are advanced-formula polymers. They’re very environmentally friendly.
One of the things that we have found – and I’m sure you guys see it a lot on construction sites – any time you’re having to use any polyurethane, it stays sticky for a long time. And you end up basically just having a mess, all the way through the job site. So what these advanced polymers do is they get a skin to them in about 20 to 30 minutes. So we’re going to have a skin across that, so we’re not going to have a mess going all the way through a construction site or even a renovation.
TOM: Mike Major, an industry expert with QUIKRETE.
Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit, Mike, and filling us in on the QUIKRETE Fast-Setting Concrete Mix in the red bag and the new line of advanced polymer sealants. You guys are making it easier every single day for us to do our masonry projects around the house or around the job site. Thanks, Mike.
MIKE: Thank you.
TOM: And if you’d like to learn more about these products and more, visit QUIKRETE.com. That’s Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com.
LESLIE: Mike Major from QUIKRETE, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
Up next, the number-one danger for young children every summer is drowning. We’re going to have some tips on a system that you can put in place to help make sure that tragedy never strikes close to home, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Hey, do you need some new flooring in maybe your kitchen or your bathroom? Well, HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for that job, for free.
TOM: 888-666-3974. You can also post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Diane in Illinois who needs some extra storage space at her money pit. How can we help you today?
DIANE: Well, I have a deck off of our master bedroom. And it’s a 12×12 deck and I want to turn it into a walk-in closet. And I want to bring my washer and dryer from the basement upstairs and put it into that closet.
TOM: Well, this sounds like a good project, Diane, but I have to tell you that, generally, when people try to convert a deck into a finished room – I’ve seen it done many, many times, especially in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector – it just doesn’t work, for a lot of reasons.
And I can understand that you want it to flow nicely into the house and all of that but you’re really talking about an addition here. And if you’re going to build an addition, you typically were going to build it different than a deck. What I would recommend is that even though this is a small project, it’s a complicated project. Because not only do you want a closet, you also want laundry there.
I think this is a great opportunity for you to consult with an architect, because you have a lot to do to get this done correctly. And you also don’t want to make it look like it’s sort of slapped on the outside of your house because it’s going to detract from your home value.
But every single time I’ve seen somebody try to take a deck and convert it into living space, it’s never worked out too well. It might be that you can preserve some of the framing and maybe incorporate it in there but it’s going to now be living space. It’s going to have to be heated, it’s going to have to be cooled, it’s going to have to have wiring, it’s going to have to have plumbing. It’s an addition; it’s no longer going to be in a deck. So while that space might fit well for it, starting with the existing deck doesn’t always make the most sense, OK?
DIANE: OK. So what would – we would have to just tear that deck down and start over or …?
TOM: You may. But that’s why I say – let’s not speculate on this and let’s not make a wrong step. This is a type of project where you are well advised to hire an architect. It’s not going to be an expensive consulting fee because it’s a small project. But it’s really smart to do that in this situation because you’ll find out what you can save and what you have to tear down. You won’t make a costly mistake.
DIANE: OK. I didn’t want anything falling off the house and tearing the roof apart. And I didn’t want to have to do all of that, so I appreciate your advice.
TOM: Thank you, Diane. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, did you know that drowning is the number-one cause of death for young kids? You know, summertime means lots of time spent in and around swimming pools, which can be dangerous if you don’t have properly-designed pool fencing.
TOM: That’s right. Pool fences are actually quite different than non-pool fences. A pool fence needs to be at least 4 feet high and it has to be designed to be non-climbable. Now, what that means is, for example, with a chain-link fence, the mesh opening needs to be an inch-and-a-quarter, which is a lot less than a normal chain-link fence. And the reason is so that it’s too small for a toddler to get a hold on.
Now, with metal fencing, the spacing between the vertical bars can be no more than about 4 inches. And those horizontal supports have to be mounted facing the pool and spaced greater than 45 inches apart, again, so they can’t be used to get a leg up and over the fence.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, here’s what I think quite a lot of people forget is once you’ve got the fence all made, the weakest link in all of that pool fencing is the gate. You have to make sure that the gate is self-closing and self-latching so that they slam shut if they’re inadvertently left open.
Now, gate latches should be mounted at least 54 inches off the ground and have childproof release mechanisms.
TOM: Yeah. And another thing to remember is that gates need a lot of maintenance. That’s the one area of the fence that takes a lot of wear and tear. And especially with a pool gate that has a spring closure on it, if it falls out of alignment make sure you fix it very, very quickly.
Now, another type of fencing that’s good to know about is called “baby fencing.” Sometimes, you can have a pool fence that surrounds the yard. And while that meets, typically, the requirements of code, it doesn’t necessarily protect the pool itself from a baby that could be crawling into it. So there’s a type of fencing called “baby fencing,” which goes right around the pool edge. It’s an option where fences enclose the yard but not the pool. But keep in mind that baby fencing is only going to keep babies out, not toddlers. Toddlers can still climb right over it. So make sure you have the right type of fencing for your situation.
And also, if you don’t have a pool, remember that your friends and neighbors could have a pool. And once you step into any property with a pool, you really need to make sure that they’re doing the job that’s necessary to keep those kids safe, in addition to your parental supervision.
LESLIE: Yeah, seriously. And remember, nothing substitutes for parental supervision. Watch your kids. It happens so quickly and so quietly, so just pay attention anytime you’re near water.
Annette in Arizona is on the line and needs some help with a patio project. Tell us about it.
ANNETTE: The problem that I’m having is I’ve been wanting a patio cover put on my house for the last 20 years.
ANNETTE: Well, now that my kids have grown up, I’m able to do that now. So, the problem is everyone is telling me that I have a very low roof and my ceilings in my house are only 7½-feet ceilings.
ANNETTE: So, I don’t have much of a clearance. So, of course, everything else seems to be lower in the backyard.
I’ve called probably eight or nine different builders now to see how much it would cost, this patio cover. And it’s straight across, so it’s 56 feet long, the whole length of the house.
ANNETTE: And I think probably six of them never called me back.
TOM: That’s pretty typical.
ANNETTE: And so the two that have, one of them is a very good friend of mine and I really do trust him in building this top patio cover. But he says I need to cut 6 feet into my roof in order to get the pitch that I need for at the very end. So I really wanted a 56-feet-wide by 10-feet-out patio cover.
TOM: Right. So what he’s saying is that if he adds a roof that starts at the edge of your roof and then kind of comes out from that, you’re not going to have much pitch, is that correct? Because you’re starting so low.
TOM: So I think your builder friend is probably correct, from your description. That said, the problem that you have with different builders giving you different advice can be completely avoided if you get a design professional to go in there first.
So if you’re able to find, for example, an architect in your area that wanted to take on a small project, have them design this patio cover for you and then you’ll have a set of specifications. You can work through all the angles with the architect or the designer. Then you’ll have a set of specifications. You can call those contractors back and say, “This is exactly what I want. Now, just give me a price to build it.”
Otherwise, you have no way of comparing apples to apples, because every builder is going to have their own solution. And you’re going to get different prices and you’re really not going to know how to compare them, because who knows what one guy is doing versus another? Does that make sense to you?
ANNETTE: Yeah, I understand. And the problem is I wouldn’t mind him doing it but I am so afraid that wherever he cuts into it to build out – I’m so worried that I’m going to start having problems leaking.
TOM: I really wouldn’t worry about it, OK? Because builders know how to build roofs and they know how to build roofs that don’t leak. And somebody built that roof that’s over your house right now and there’s no reason to think that your builder can’t attach another roof to it and then reroof that area properly so that you don’t get leaks. I think he’s giving you the right advice, because you can’t – if you start low and then go out, you’re going to end up with almost a flat roof and that’s going to leak like a sieve.
So if you have a good pitch, that’s going to be the surest way to avoid leaks. I would not worry at all about a contractor that has to dig into an existing roof; that’s done all the time. It’s not a big deal. If somebody knows what they’re doing, they can roof it properly, flash it properly and you will have no leaking issues – new leaking issues – as a result.
ANNETTE: Alright. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate your answer because my worry was it’s going to start leaking. And then I’m going to have major problems because it’s going to be leaking over the family room, the dining room, the kitchen and the bedroom and the – I said – that’s another problem that I don’t want to get into.
TOM: Yeah, well, now that the kids are gone, I think it’s time for you to get that project done and enjoy it, right?
ANNETTE: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Annette. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, you might already recycle but just ahead, we’re going to tell you how to upcycle, for the next level of green living. So stick around.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show where we do our best to make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: You can reach out with your how-to or décor question to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Are you ready to get that deck that you’ve been dreaming of? HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.
LESLIE: Alright. And speaking of pros, we are standing by to jump into The Money Pit Community section where you post your questions, just like Jim did. Now, Jim in Maine writes: “It’s time for me to get new windows. Everyone I’ve spoken to suggests vinyl. Is there a downside to vinyl I should know about before I take the plunge?”
TOM: No, I don’t think so. I mean I think vinyl replacement windows are fantastic. What you need to do, Jim, is to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when it comes time to choosing those windows. You want to make sure the windows you select are ENERGY STAR-rated and you also want to check the NFRC rating. That stands for the National Fenestration Rating Council.
Now, you know how on appliances you have the EnergyGuide, those yellow tags? Well, the NFRC tag is on windows and it’s kind of the same thing. It gives you a set of specifications that you can compare across different windows, to make sure that the windows that you choose are as efficient as possible.
So, couple of things to think about but I think vinyl is a fine choice for windows. Fiberglass windows are also pretty good. I, today, would stay away from metal windows. It’s pretty much the only kind I wouldn’t go for. And wood windows are a bit dated. But if you use a wood window, which is wood on the inside and vinyl on the outside, then that’s perfect, as well.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Trey in Texas who writes: “We bought a home a few months ago and doing the prep for painting. Our problem is that the paint is flaking off the plywood over the porch. Sanding this seems like a good option but using the belt sander is awkward. Any other ideas?”
TOM: Well, I wouldn’t be using a belt sander on plywood anyway. You would pretty much destroy it.
Listen, all you’ve got to do is scrape off the loose paint. So, if it’s up high, you can use a pole scraper to get off that loose paint, then prime it. Priming is the one step you do not want to skip. And then put a topcoat on top of that. Plywood or not, that’ll work just perfectly and it’ll be a lot easier on your arms, right?
LESLIE: Yeah. And Trey, since you’re working overhead and you’re using a pole scraper, wear eye protection, please. Don’t get paint chips in your eyeballs.
TOM: Yeah, that could be bad.
Well, you may be a pro at household recycling but have you ever tried upcycling? If you’re not sure exactly what that is, Leslie has tips, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s not about taking your recycling bin and putting it up on a shelf or anything like that, you guys. Don’t be silly. Upcycling takes recycling to the next level by repurposing an unused item into something better.
Now, it reduces waste, it saves money and it can also inspire creative summer projects. So, while you’re cleaning out the garage or your basement or your storage shed, keep your eyes peeled for items that can be transformed into unique home accents and accessories.
Now, a forgotten piece of furniture can be upcycled into a posh bath accessory. An attractive, old window can be converted into a table, mirror, message board. So many things you can do with pieces that you find around your house.
Now, if you need new storage for tools and other gear, you can scan online for some idea boards for inspiration. And you may have already all the things at home you need to create smart organizers and displays.
Now, items that are large or small can become way better with a little creativity. You can work upcycling into your summer projects to create totally unique, personalized results. And let me tell you, upcycling is great for the entire family. It works with a total variety of things that you can find around your house. So keep your eyes open, do some online research. If you find something cool at home and maybe you don’t know what to do with it, reach out to Tom and I. We’ve got tons of ideas. We’re happy to help.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, if you have a tree around your home that is an obstacle instead of a beautiful piece of landscaping, you may very well be able to transplant it. You don’t necessarily have to chop it down. We’ll tell you how, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
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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