Downsizing for Empty Nesters

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: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, because we are here to help you with your home improvement projects, your remodeling challenges, your DIY dilemma. If you don’t know what color paint to choose for your project, you don’t know where to start on building that beautiful deck you’ve been thinking about for your backyard, you’re thinking about redoing your kitchen or redoing the bath, all great topics for us to chat about. But help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-666-3974.

Coming up on today’s show, a beautiful, spacious home might be what you’re aspiring to own as those kiddies start to grow up. But for empty-nesters, trading in all that space for a very cozy, low-budget, tiny home may be the way to go. We’ll highlight the options and the benefits of this new trend, just ahead.

LESLIE: And are you looking to spruce up your yard without dropping too much cash? Well, you can start by fixing your sagging gate. Roger Cook, the landscape pro from TV’s This Old House, is here to help you get that job done just in time for spring.

TOM: And also ahead, April showers are on their way which means termites are, too. We’ve got some natural solutions for keeping them and their costly damage away from your home.

LESLIE: But first, we want to talk to you. What are you guys working on? Come on. Spring is here. It’s time to get outside and start figuring out what this house is going to look like for the amazing summer season that is just around the corner. So give us a call and let us give you a hand. We’re standing by.

TOM: That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Bob in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

BOB: I have a brick stoop and a decorative – the decorative piece on the end, it’s a corner piece. It appears like it just fell off. So, it fell off and the concrete mix is attached to it; the “mortar,” I guess you call it.

TOM: Yep.

BOB: And my question was: is there a way of kind of – I hate to say gluing it back on but is there some type of material or something I can purchase, where I can just put it on and it kind of put it in place and put something underneath to hold it in place so it won’t fall off again?

TOM: So what broke off was a chunk of the concrete?

BOB: Not a chunk, actually. A real piece.


BOB: But it’s like a decorative corner piece.

TOM: If I told you what material to use, could you recreate the corner piece?

BOB: No.

TOM: So then what you’re going to need to do is you’re going to need to use a concrete adhesive. And QUIKRETE makes one. If you go to their website at, you can find that type of product that would be able to essentially – it is, essentially, an adhesive and it’ll glue it back on.

And I will tell you this: after you get it glued on, if you wanted to cover the crack, there is a new product out from QUIKRETE called Re-Cap that’s basically designed to go on top of old concrete. And you wet it down and you clean it real good and then you could, basically, re-stucco this whole area. And with this Re-Cap product, it’ll stick to the old concrete really, really well and it’ll look like brand new.

BOB: Doesn’t sound hard. Great.

TOM: Nope. It’s made to be pretty easy.

BOB: Oh, listen, I appreciate you taking my call. Thank you very much. I’ll give it a try.

TOM: You’re very welcome.

BOB: Bye-bye.

LESLIE: Jeannie, you’ve got The Money Pit. What are you working on?

JEANNIE: We moved into a house that had a big deck around the house. And so we ended up taking all the boards off because the old boards had never been treated with anything. So we put the boards and everything on and then we go – we went to Lowe’s, Home Depot and all that to find a stain that we could put – or a liquid that we could put on there that we wouldn’t have to do it every year. It was an oil-based stain.


JEANNIE: We put it on there and they said, “Well, you shouldn’t have to do it every year, you know. You should be able to go three or four years.” And every year, we’ve had to redo it because our deck has been in the sun all the time.

TOM: Yeah. Is that right? Hmm.


TOM: I’m not sure what product you’re using but there’s a wide variety, when it comes to stains, that you can choose from. And what we generally recommend is solid-color stain. And what most people get is semi-transparent stain.

So, what I would tell you to do is the next time, make sure you prep that deck really well, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. But I would apply a solid-color, solvent-based stain, not water-base. Solvent-based stain. That has a lot of pigment in it. And what that will do is you will still see the grain but it will actually last a lot longer, in terms of how it stands up to that surface. Solid color, not semi-transparent. And I think you’ll see a significantly different result.

JEANNIE: OK. Well, I listened to you on Saturday morning and I was – thought, “Well, I’ll ask them.”

TOM: Alright. Well, we’re certainly glad you did and we hope that works out. Perfect time now to do that to the deck, get it ready for spring.

Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Mike in Missouri is on the line with a roofing question. What is going on at your house?

MIKE: OK. My problem is I have a stain on my ceiling, in my second-floor hallway, which is directly underneath my A/C unit. I went up in the attic, I look on the roof and I was thinking maybe it was blowing in the ridge vent. I looked all around the beams. I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t see any water but I noticed the A/C unit itself, it kind of seemed like there was condensation on it. And there were little rust spots on the corner.

TOM: Right.

MIKE: The house is only about eight years old.

TOM: What I think is going on is one of two possibilities. If it is condensation, it can happen in the winter but it has nothing to do with the A/C system.

MIKE: Right.

TOM: When you go up in the attic, here’s a home inspector’s trick of the trade. I learned something in 20 years doing this.


TOM: When you look up on the underside of the roof sheathing, you’re going to see the nails that come through it from the shingles.

MIKE: Right.

TOM: If the tips of those nails are rusty, then you have got a lot of vapor pressure, a lot of condensation and humidity that’s building up in the attic, forming that condensation and dripping down. That’s one way you can get water drips on the ceiling.

I think, however, it’s more likely, given its position, that this was either condensation or a condensate link that happened during the air-conditioning season. It may not even be active anymore. I’ve had condensation problems that I’ve seen happen because you had a particularly humid month and you’ve got a lot of moisture forming on ducts that actually leaked through the ceilings below. But when the conditions change, it goes away.

What I would tell you to do is to prime over that section of stain with something like KILZ. Because if you just paint over it, the stain will continue to come through. You’ve got to seal it. So I would prime it and paint over it now and see if it comes back. It might just have been a one-time thing. And I suspect it’s more likely it has to do with the A/C but you can eliminate the possibility of the roof sheathing by looking for those rusty nail tips. I would go with that theory before I started to explore any other far less likely causes for this.

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 Give us a call 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 and book appointments all online.

TOM: Up next, are you bouncing around a formerly busy house? Downsizing may be the way to go. We’ll help sort out the options, after this.

Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. Whatever challenge you’re getting ready to do around your home, we’re here to help. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

LESLIE: Alright. Now, we’re going to talk with Teresa in South Carolina who’s dealing with a wet basement.

Teresa, what’s going on at your money pit?

TERESA: Well, we’ve just recently bought this house and we’ve been here a little over a year. And we were told that the basement floods but we weren’t really aware of how bad it did flood. So, every time we get a heavy rain, it fills up a front landscaping area and it flows in through the bricks, I guess. I’m not sure how it comes in but it comes into the basement.

We’ve talked to several companies and they want to do things inside but I don’t understand why they don’t want to do something on the outside.

TOM: Well, you are absolutely correct because the solution to this problem is not inside. So, what happens in situations like this is, typically, a homeowner will contact a so-called basement-waterproofing company. I think that those titles are inaccurate because these contractors don’t really waterproof anything.

What they really do is just put in a water-evacuation system that allows the water to saturate the foundation perimeter, soak through the walls and fill up your basement. And then before it shows itself, kind of above the floor, they pump it out. But you have to know that that allows a lot of damage to happen, even before that water collects to the level where they can pump it. You have increased pressure against the foundation, you have mold growth, all sorts of things.

So, you are absolutely correct in that you need to stop this on the outside. And the good news is is it’s really not that hard, nor that expensive to do. So there’s two areas you need to focus on: one is grading and the other is roof drainage. So we’ll start with the biggest culprit and that’s roof drainage.

You need to look at all of the gutters that are on your house. You need to make sure that, first of all, you have gutters. Secondly, that you have an adequate number of downspouts on those gutters. And you want to kind of stand back sort of from the street level, look up at your roof, try to do a little sort of rough, back-of-the-hand math. Because you want 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface draining into each downspout. So if you have one downspout and you have a bunch of roof surfaces going into it, it might be that that gets overwhelmed and therefore, the gutter will overflow even if it’s not clogged. Of course, to that point, they have to be clog-free.

And most importantly of anything else is this: you must, must, must extend the discharge from that leader at least 4 to 6 feet from the house. Because we need to move this away from what’s called the “backfill zone.” That’s the area of soil that’s dug out when you build the foundation. You need to get the water beyond that 4- to 6-foot perimeter.

Now, you can do this simply by putting in an additional piece of leader material on there. And of course, it’s not very attractive; it’s somewhat unsightly. But I would at least do that for starters so that you can prove to yourself that this works. And then later on, if you want to try to make it neater, you could always sink some underground, solid PVC pipe and drain through that and perhaps discharge it into the street or some other lower area on your property.

Now, once that’s set, then you could look at the grading at that foundation perimeter, starting on the area where you see water collecting. And you want to make sure that the soil slopes away about 6 inches over 4 feet. And that soil has to be well-tamped fill dirt, not topsoil. Topsoil is very organic. Sometimes when folks have drainage issues, they put more topsoil on it. That’s kind of like throwing sponges around your house. You want to create that slope with clean fill dirt. It’s more of a kind of clay-like, compactable-type soil that can be sloped to drop that 6 inches over about 4 feet. Over that, you can put a little topsoil to sustain growth or plantings or whatever but you need to get that slope established first.

So this way, you have direct rainfall, hits that grade, runs off and all of the water that collects on the roof hits those downspouts and gets discharged well away from the house. Those two things will stop this wet basement. And I know that for certain because when you said that your basement floods after heavy rain, all of that always sources on the outside. It’s not a rising water table and that’s the only time you’d ever need to put in below-grade drains, such as what these waterproofing companies are suggesting.

TERESA: OK. Great. I really appreciate your help.

TOM: Well, you’re welcome. And I’m so glad we could get to you before you spent the money on waterproofers, because I can’t tell you how many times we get this same call after someone has spent $10,000 or $20,000 on a waterproofer only to find out that they still have the same problem.

TERESA: Thank you very much.

LESLIE: Norm from Wisconsin, you’ve got The Money Pit. Tell us about this insulation issue.

NORM: Second story of our house has a suspended ceiling with 12 inches of insulation on top of that ceiling – on top of the suspended ceiling. Should there be a vapor barrier in between? Because there’s no vapor barrier.

TOM: No. Not really necessary. So you have 12 inches on top of the drop ceiling, essentially?

NORM: Yes.

TOM: Yeah, I don’t think so. Not in that particular case. You’re good to go.

NORM: Old homes had high ceilings and so we dropped it down a bit to match the paneling and …

TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Is that drop ceiling still standing up OK?

NORM: Yes, yes.

TOM: Alright. Good. No, I think you’re OK the way it is. There’s no need to change that. And if it’s an old home, it’s plenty drafty as it is anyway.

NORM: OK. Thank you.

TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

Well, if you and your spouse are empty-nesters and you’re bouncing around a house that used to be very full, downsizing might be the way to go. But the extreme end of that is moving into a tiny home and it’s something a surprising number of folks are looking to do.

LESLIE: Yeah. You know, moving into a smaller home is going to force you to get rid of a lot of things that you don’t really need. And it usually helps put into perspective how little you do actually need to live comfortably.

Now, money is as much a motivating factor, as is fewer responsibilities. You could own a tiny home for as little as, say, $10,000 to $20,000 depending on customizations.

TOM: Yeah. And a large home not only requires a lot of maintenance but that actually ends up to be pretty expensive, as well. If you consider that as we age, most of us tend to stick to just a few essential areas of the house, downsizing and moving into a tiny home definitely seems like a potentially prudent thing to do, I would say, as long as you get along really well with your spouse. Because you can’t put any rooms between you.

LESLIE: Heading to Minnesota where Beth is doing some work in the bathroom. And you want some toilet help. What’s going on?

BETH: Toilet kept running. The water kept running into it, so I decided to install a new fill valve and flapper. And I measured everything and I followed the instructions and I did solve the original problem. But now I developed a new one. When I flush it, the water goes into the bowl OK, except now anything in the bowl goes to the top of the bowl, almost to the rim. And then when the tank itself is filled, then the bowl goes down slowly and it flushes but then it only leaves a little water in the bowl.

So I called the manufacturer and talked to them. He said, “Well, try plunging it because it might be a clog.” So I did that. I tried hot water and bleach to see if I could get that if it is a clog. And nothing has worked. And I don’t know what to do. I give up.

LESLIE: I mean that’s what happens, typically, in a clog is it’ll fill to the top and then the tank will fill and then it’ll – the suction force will just bring everything down.

TOM: Yeah. And the one’s with the trickiest to diagnose is when you have a partial clog where you have some water that’s getting past but not a lot. So I wonder if something is lodged in either the trap of the toilet or the line beyond that. And really, the next step is to have a plumber come out and do a drain-cleaning on that.

I’ll tell you a funny story about how this happened when my kids were younger. We had a toilet that was clogged in a downstairs bathroom and I – outside this bathroom, we had a willow tree. And I knew that the willow-tree roots used to get into the plumbing line, so I immediately assumed that was what it was. And I went outside and dug up my yard and found the pipe cleanout, which was a couple of feet below the surface. And I snaked one way and snaked the other way and I couldn’t find any clog.

So, I thought, “Well, maybe it’s between the pipe break and the toilet.” So I decided to pull the toilet off. And don’t you know that when I did that, I turned it over and noticed something blue in the bottom of the toilet. And of course, you’re not supposed to have anything blue in a ceramic toilet. It turned out to be a little toy telephone that one of my kids had dropped down there that was letting just enough water through to trick us.

And so you never know what’s going to be in there. And if you have a partial obstruction like that, that could explain for what’s happening.

BETH: OK. Well, the only thing I can do then is to get a plumber?

TOM: Yep. You don’t want a carpenter, that’s for sure.

Beth, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Doug in Illinois is dealing with some water under a deck. Tell us what you’re working on.

DOUG: Well, I’m interested in a roof or a water-drainage system up underneath my deck. I have a 16×40 deck and I saw somewhere on TV that they have some sort of a system that goes up in between the joists. I was wondering if you knew anything about that.

TOM: Yeah. Is this like a second-floor deck and you guys sit under it or something?

DOUG: Yeah. There’s this – there’s a full lower level under the deck, yes.

TOM: Well, those are called “deck drainage systems” and there’s lots and lots and lots of different manufacturers of it. There’s DEK Drain, there’s DrySnap.

LESLIE: Yeah, there’s something called UnderDeck that seems to be a Depot product.

TOM: Trex has one that’s called RainEscape.

So, these are all deck-drainage systems. I don’t know enough about them to give you a recommendation of one over the other but that’s what you want is a deck-drainage system. They basically – as you say, they fit in between the joists, so they fit under the deck. They’re designed to collect the water and then run it to some sort of a traditional gutter and get it away from the house, so that you could have some living space underneath that deck and not have the rain falling on your head.

DOUG: Absolutely. That’s what I’m looking for. Did you say something about Home Depot?

LESLIE: Yeah, Depot has a product called UnderDeck, which is basically like – I guess you could call it an “under-joist gutter system.” And it sort of pieces together; it’s modular.

DOUG: Oh, OK. Wonderful. Well, I sure will check there.

TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Doug. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Hey, do you have a failing fence that could use a few fix-ups before spring sets in? Well, Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House is stopping by with tips for that project, next.

TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They really have the best local pros for any home service.

LESLIE: That’s right. Doesn’t matter what that project is, they make it fast and easy to find those top-rated pros.

TOM: And there are no membership fees. It’s 100-percent free to use.

LESLIE: Now moving on to Bean (sp) in Kansas with a flooring question. What can we do for you today?

BEAN (sp): We’re purchasing a home – my wife and I are purchasing a home – and it has marble flooring on the staircase going down into the basement, as well as throughout the entire basement.

TOM: That’s pretty nice.

BEAN (sp): I like it but my wife doesn’t. And so we’re trying to figure out what to do. And I’ve thought about – you know, I’ve tried to get her convinced on throw rugs and everything else. But just trying to get my backup plan in place. If we were to resurface that somehow, what are my options as far as putting a product on top of that marble flooring or actually tearing it out? And what would that – go into that home project?

TOM: Well, first of all, Bean (sp), let us say – and I think I speak for Leslie – that this would be a darn shame for you to cover up that marble flooring. That’s very expensive flooring. And if your wife doesn’t like the look of it, the color of it, I would say to decorate around it. And I’m sure there are lots of ways to do that with complementary colors that could make that blend very, very nicely.

I would tell you to clean it, polish it, maintain it and enjoy it. Because it’s never going to wear out and it’s definitely going to add to the value of your house. And it would be terrible for you to go ahead and cover it with carpet or laminate flooring or even engineered hardwood, which would be some of the options to cover that over.

In terms of the staircase, I don’t know exactly what you’d be able to put on that except for something that was, perhaps, glued down, which again would just be a sin. So we’d hate to see you change it.

LESLIE: Here’s an idea, though. I mean I love the look of marble and I think it works in the right spot. However, I agree: it can feel cold and it doesn’t feel very comfy, at times. And if you want a space to have more of that feel, I wouldn’t go about permanently getting rid of it.

Have you looked at FLOR carpet tiles – F-L-O-R?

BEAN (sp): No, I have not.

LESLIE: Now, they’re a carpet tile – exactly what they are – and they’re – I think they’re like 20 inches square. And they’re available in a variety of piles and loops and Berbers and colors and patterns. It’s really fun, all of the options that they have. So you can be a little wild or you can be totally traditional or you can mix. And you can place that right on top of the marble flooring. In the basement, you can go wall to wall. You can build it as a very large area rug.

Their prices vary, depending on the type of carpet that you’re selecting for the tile. But that’s a great idea, because you’re not exactly then adhering anything to the marble or damaging that marble in any way.

You can’t use them on the stairs because you’ll be slipping and sliding. But at least it gives you an option to cover up the large space that is your basement floor.

BEAN (sp): Sure. Thank you very much. If we were actually to remove that flooring, are we not digging into the – are we going to have to resurface concrete and everything else?

TOM: Yeah, it’s going to be difficult to get that flooring up. I would not take it up. I would leave it in place and cover it. Because who knows? The next person – especially if you use something like what Leslie is suggesting, you’re really preserving it. Because the next folks that buy your house might decide that you were nuts to cover it and they want to take all that flooring – that carpet tile – up and enjoy the marble again. So, why deny them that opportunity and why chance on your home’s value being reduced accordingly?

BEAN (sp): Absolutely. I appreciate it. Thank you.

TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Well, given enough time, it seems that most fences will begin to sag and even drag. While a sagging fence-scape might not seem like the biggest issue, the problem can get worse if ignored.

TOM: Well, luckily, repairing the root cause of a sagging gate is a pretty simple do-it-yourself task. Here to tell us more is Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor for This Old House.

Welcome, Roger.

ROGER: Pretty simple, huh?

TOM: Well, when you do it, it’s pretty simple. Perhaps you’re going to tell us how to make it pretty simple. It seems like the first problem with a saggy gate is usually not the gate as much as it’s the post that holds the gate, right?

ROGER: It all starts with the post. That’s where you look first. Obviously, if the post is rotten, you’ve got to replace it.

TOM: Right.

ROGER: Start from square one. Take the hinges off, put in a new post, put some concrete in it to hold it in place properly, reinstall the hinges and then hope the gate works.

TOM: Now, you just mentioned using concrete to hold the post. In all the years I’ve been doing fence projects around my house, I really don’t use concrete. I prefer to put stone in and pack it around the post. It seems to hold it really, really well. Is concrete more important because it’s being used for a gate?

ROGER: I totally agree with you except when it comes to the gatepost, the one that the gate’s hanging off of. That needs the extra reinforcement of concrete to support all that weight that’s hanging off it.

LESLIE: Well, all that weight and all that movement – consistent movement – too.

ROGER: Yeah. Nothing like a little extra weight and a little extra movement to make you get out of line.

LESLIE: Right.

TOM: Now, when you put your post in, you let it run tall and cut it off later? So this way you don’t have to be too accurate about the height?

ROGER: Yeah. Because if you’re trying to adjust the height to be perfect and the hinges and everything else, it’s a lot easier to just put the post in at the right spacing, rehang everything and then cut the top off.

TOM: OK. So if the hardware is good, now we’re looking at the gate itself. Sometimes the gate is the only part that’s sagged, that’s sort of – I guess the term is “racked.” It’s not square anymore, it’s almost diagonal. How do you address that?

ROGER: Well, the easiest way to address that is they make kits with a cable and a turnbuckle. You anchor them on the gate and then you tighten the turnbuckle and it’ll pull them back so they’re at – they’re back in the position they originally belong.

LESLIE: Do you keep that there permanently or is that just until you retighten attachments?

ROGER: No. That’s a permanent thing, because you can go out every year and turn that turnbuckle a little more and help keep it square.

LESLIE: That’s smart.

TOM: So what you’re saying is it’s simple.

ROGER: Simple.

TOM: See?

ROGER: Keep it simple, right?

TOM: And that’s where we started. It’s a very simple project now that you’ve explained it.

Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

ROGER: Ah, thanks for having me.

LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by American Standard.

Still ahead, spring is just a couple of weeks away. And with April showers, you get termites. I know. You thought I was going to say flowers, right? Well, we’re going to have some tips to keep those termites away from your home, when The Money Pit continues after this.

Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

LESLIE: Kelly in South Dakota is on the line and wants some help removing wallpaper. What can we do for you?

KELLY: I have a – some wallpaper that I want to remove. And I believe we primed the walls. This has been about 10 years ago. And when I pulled back on the edges of the wallpaper, it seems as though it’s taking a bit of the drywall with it.

TOM: So, what you want to do is you want to get a tool called a “paper tiger,” which puts small holes in the surface of the paper. And it helps the wallpaper remover get behind it and loosen up the adhesive.

Now, in terms of wallpaper remover, you can use fabric softener, which works well or you could use a commercially available product, like DIF – D-I-F. But putting those holes in there is important because, otherwise, it doesn’t saturate the paper.

Now, if you do that and it still doesn’t loosen up and pull off, then what you need to do is go out and rent a wallpaper steamer. And that will use warm, moist air to separate the paper from the wall.

No matter how you do it, it is a lot of work. And once that wallpaper is off, you’re going to need to reprime that wall with a good-quality primer so you have a nice surface upon which to put your final color of wall paint.

KELLY: OK. Do you need to sand that once you get it all done?

TOM: Well, if it’s a little rough, just lightly sand it. You don’t want to sand it too much, especially because you don’t want to cut into the paper that’s part of the drywall. But a little bit of light abrasion is not a bad thing.

But the most important thing is a good-quality priming paint applied to that wall surface, because you’re going to have old sizing material and who-knows-what-else stuck to that. And if you put the primer on, it’ll give you a good surface upon which to apply the paint. The paint will flow nicely and it’ll look better when it dries.

KELLY: Well, thank you very much.

TOM: Well, in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector, I usually told my clients, Leslie, there were three kinds of houses: those that had termites, those that have a termite problem and those that will get a termite problem.

LESLIE: Basically, you’re going to get termites at some point.

TOM: Exactly. You know, they were here first, a lot longer than we have, and they’re not going to go away. But I mean the good news is if you take the right steps, you can keep those termites away now and there’s a good chance that you can keep your home off their menu.

LESLIE: You know what? This really is the time of year to do that. Termites are going to nest in the soil all winter long. But come springtime, this time of year they are busting out and they are searching for new food. And your home’s walls are – guess what, guys? – their favorite meal.

TOM: Now, you can keep termites from chowing down on your house in a few ways. For starters, moisture and wood are termites’ favorites. So, keep the stacks of firewood or mulch away from your exterior walls.

LESLIE: Yeah. You also want to keep your gutters clear. Termites love gutters. And keep them pointed away from your home so that the runoff washes the bugs further away from the foundation and not right into the ground and then into your house.

TOM: Yep. And if your porch or crawlspace is dirt-filled, keep an eye out for signs of the bugs. If you see discarded wings, cracked or bubbling paint or mud tunnels – these sand tubes the termites build to crawl through. If you see those on the outside of your home’s foundation walls or inside – if you’re under the porch, sometimes you’ll see them coming up on those foundation blocks there – it is definitely time to call a pest pro.

This is not a do-it-yourself project. If you call the professionals, they have access to the right materials. They can do it once, do it right and you will not be bothered by termites anymore.

LESLIE: Wayne in Iowa is on the line with a septic issue. Tell us what’s going on.

WAYNE: Well, when I take a bath, I have odor when I drain the tub. If I take a shower, I have no odor when I take – when I take a shower, obviously, I don’t plug the drain. But everything runs through down to one pipe, which goes out to a septic tank. I do know the line is good from the house to the septic tank, because I had to dig that up before I ever did any of the plumbing in the house. I did not replumb the drain on the tub but otherwise, the house has new plumbing throughout.

TOM: So we don’t think that it’s in the drain line. For example, when you talk about sewer odors, the first thing you think of is a missing trap. But if the plumbing has been redone, it’s not likely that that’s the case, correct?

WAYNE: No, it has a trap. And it doesn’t leak into the basement but I – whenever I take a shower, it works fine. But if I take a tub bath and pull the plug on the drain, I get a sewer odor in the hallway outside the bathroom.

TOM: Because the other cause of those odors is something called “biogas” – is when you get a lot of bacteria that can form in a drain. And it may not even be the drain of the tub; it could be the drain of the sink. I presume there’s a sink in that same bathroom. And sometimes, even in the overflow channel of the sink, you get this bacterial buildup that can have just an awful odor to it.

And the solution there is to thoroughly clean it with an oxygenated bleach so that you kill that bacteria, flushing out the overflow channel, scrubbing the drain with almost like a bottle brush to make sure that all of that bacteria is eliminated.

Biogas can be very pungent and unpleasant to live with but relatively simple to get rid of once you get to the spot where it exists. Will you give that a shot?

WAYNE: Yes, sir. I most certainly shall.

TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

LESLIE: Still ahead, nothing keeps your home looking updated better than a current kitchen. If you’re thinking about switching out old countertops for granite, we’ve got some design tips to help, after this.

TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post that question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

We’ve got one here and we are ready to jump in. Sarah is asking us about a granite countertop, Leslie.

LESLIE: That’s right. She writes: “I’m ready to install my granite countertop. Should I do the 4-inch backsplash of granite or should the granite go flush to the wall and then use a tile backsplash? Some say the granite backsplash is outdated.”

TOM: I kind of feel like if you’re going to have granite, you don’t want to have a stone backsplash; you want to use tile. What do you think?

LESLIE: First of all, in a kitchen, that 4-inch backsplash, to me, does nothing.

TOM: Right. It collects a lot of grease.

LESLIE: I just – I don’t think, stylistically, it looks good.

TOM: Yeah.

LESLIE: I think it doesn’t protect the wall from anything.

TOM: Yeah.

LESLIE: I think you’re just going to make a mess that’s going to need to be painted. Better have something there that’s wipeable and fully wipeable.

Now, depending on the area we’re talking about, some people will do a full – I guess they call it a “waterfall” at these places. You know, a waterfall is really when the counter sort of then turns and goes down and sort of creates a waterfall, of your granite or your marble, of whatever that is. But some people will do a full backsplash, maybe behind the cooktop, of all in that same granite or same marble or whatever you’re using as your countertop.

TOM: Right.

LESLIE: And that is gorgeous. Truly, I love tile. I think there’s a lot of great ways that you can mix up tiles, mix up shapes, mix up sizes without spending a ton of money and creating a look that’s truly yours, depending on whatever that style is. Subway tile is still very big and modern and clean. And I think that’s a look that’s not going to go away. Herringbone. I’m finding that things that are more linear and more tonal tend to be what’s in right now.

TOM: Right.

LESLIE: But you’ve got to pick something that you like, because these are projects that you do once and you really don’t do them again for a very long time. So, pick something that you like and that you’re going to enjoy and that’s not going to break your budget.

TOM: Alright. We’ve got a question here on a heating system. Barry writes: “I am questioning getting a heat pump installed in a house that I’m in the process of buying. It’s located in Western Pennsylvania. Currently, it has a gas furnace and no cooling. The idea of taking most of the heavy lifting of the gas furnace and gain cooling in the summer seems good. However, I’d like some other opinions.”

Look, if you have natural gas, I would not give that up to get a heat pump, because a heat pump is going to end up being at least as expensive, if not more. Plus, there’s potentially more maintenance associated with it. So, I don’t think I would give up my gas furnace. If you want to go with air conditioning, fine. Add the central air conditioner. You’ve already got the duct system. Perhaps it can be updated or modernized or it may just be fine the way it is for A/C. But I don’t think that giving up natural gas to go with a heat pump is a good idea.

If you were fueling by propane that’s pretty expensive or oil­, that’s expensive, a lot of maintenance. But I would definitely not give up natural gas. That is probably my go-to type of fuel for heating because it is clean, it is efficient and I think it’s a much more cost-effective way to heat your home.

LESLIE: Oh, 100 percent. And when things go wrong with oil, it’s a messy, lengthy, expensive, smelly fix. I don’t know. I’m just used to gas and that’s what I know for the house. And even when I look to sell the house and move, anything with an oil furnace I get very nervous about, for some bizarre reason.

TOM: Yeah, I don’t blame you. I mean you’ve got the whole tank issue, too. Even if it’s above ground, it’s still a mess to get rid of. And I had to abandon an underground tank. It was a big job. We had to dig down, cut it open, clean it out. And we filled it with an expandable foam that made it kind of rock solid. But if they start to leak, boy, that’s a real expensive problem right there.

LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. And then once you sort of – they call it “abating” the tank, correct? Once you do that, there’s a ton of paperwork that goes with it. But doing it, if you have oil, is a fantastic thing that’s cost-effective and wonderful. And I say do it. I’m all for natural gas.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. You’ve got questions? We’ve got some tips and advice to help you, 24/7, at And remember, you can always pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-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.


(Copyright 2019 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.)

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