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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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