Todays Homeowner Radio Show Podcast | July 9, 2022

In Hour 1 of the Today’s Homeowner Radio Podcast, we’re giving warning signs of a home improvement scam. Plus, we’re tackling some common home projects, solving a garage door mystery and more!

Listen to Hour 2 to learn how to install tile without mortar, clean soot from a fireplace and more.

Hour 1

BOLO for These Home Improvement Scams

scam alert contractor
Home improvement scammers are active during the summer season. (Graphic using photos by welcomia and Gwengoat, Getty Images Signature)

According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 6,100 home improvement scams are reported on average every year and cost homeowners a whopping $14 million.

That number is far lower than the actual number of scams that happen every year. Many more go unreported because some people are too embarrassed to report them or they feel like doing so won’t do any good.

Home improvement scammers are usually out during the summer. Many people are outside and already working on their homes, so it’s an opportunity for them to approach you.

Here are a few red flags to look out for:

  • Door-to-door sales: Don’t be trusting of someone who knocks on your door to offer you a service. Check their credentials and be sure they work for a reputable company.
  • The contractor wants the project paid up front: If you pay all at once at the beginning, the contractor could drag out the project, or worse, take the money and run.
  • “Special deals” with an expiration date that rapidly approaching: Thoroughly research the person and company offering you this deal and make sure they’re legitimate. Trust your instinct: if something doesn’t feel right, walk away. If you ask to take time to think about it, you’ll probably never see that person again.
  • Driveway sealing scam: A scammer will approach you about sealing your asphalt driveway on the spot. Often coating it down with a watered-down sealant or, even worse, motor oil! The next time it rains, the sealing with wash away. 

Advice on Common Projects

Decks and bathrooms top the list of popular home improvement projects. (Photos by Ann Peterson)

Ann Peterson, of Poland, Ohio, is seeking advice on these common home improvement projects:

  • Refinishing a tub: There are three options — install a shell over the existing tub, have a professional refinish it or refinish it yourself — here’s how
  • Repairing bathroom tile: If the tile is coming loose, laying new tile over it won’t solve the problem. Because it’s such a small room, go ahead and take out the tile.
  • The issue could be with the subflooring. Often, water seeps through and damages it, so you need to replace it before installing new tile. 
  • Adding tile on top of the old tile, even if it’s a sound surface, will create height problems.
  • Repainting a deck: We don’t recommend painting decks, but since this deck is already painted, here’s what you need to do: Use a chemical stripper or a citrus-based stripper to remove the existing paint. Scrape it off with a putty knife, then lightly sand the deck. Instead of adding another coat of paint, seal it with a tinted stain. To save time, hire a professional painter to do this. 

Garage Door Mystery Solved

garage door sensor
If the light beam on your garage door’s safety device is broken, the door reverses. (BanksPhotos, Getty Images Signature)

Garages don’t just shelter vehicles from storms; they also keep them — along with other possessions — secure, behind a locked door.

A garage also keeps the home’s exterior appearance neat, with cars hidden from view. These are just some reasons why homeowners may choose a garage instead of a carport.

But garage doors — like anything else — can malfunction, and that’s just what happened to Craig Walker from Illinois.

“Our two garage doors face the east,” he says. “In the past year or so, they have become very touchy and won’t go down if it’s sunny or bright outside.”

So, Craig has to take matters into his own hands — literally.

“We have to get out of the car and manually release the doors and then go out another door,” he says. “If we come into the house, we can get them to close by holding down the door opener button located on the wall.”

Craig is not alone. In fact, this is a common problem for homeowners with garages.

Here’s why it happens: Garage door sensors use infrared light. This safety device beams light across the opening, and if the light is broken, the door reverses.

Sunlight has a certain amount of infrared light. If the garage sensor is exposed to a lot of it, it can break the beam. 

Various manufacturers make a device called a sun shield that covers part of the sensor but doesn’t block the electric eye. 

You can also use a paper towel or toilet paper roll to block the sunlight from striking the sensor.

Just cut it down to two to four inches so the roll doesn’t block the electric eye. 

Hour 2

In Hour 2 of the Today’s Homeowner Radio Podcast, learn how to install tile without mortar, clean soot from a fireplace and more.

Installing Tile Without Mortar

You CAN install a tile backsplash without using mortar. (Maria Konosky, Getty Images)

A listener wants to know: Instead of mortar, can you use glue to install tile around the edge of a countertop?

If you’re not using mortar, you need a strong construction adhesive like Titebond. 

Anything installed on a vertical surface has a tendency to slide down, so to keep the tile in place, position a strip of wood at the bottom and insert wood spacers in between each tile. Use painter’s tape to keep them in position while the adhesive dries.

For an extra-strong hold, try a technique I call “burp the glue.” Here’s how to do it:

  • Apply the adhesive to the back of the tile
  • Place the tile on the wall. 
  • After a few seconds, pull it away to expose more of the adhesive to the air. 
  • Finally, simply push it back into place. 

Burping the glue exposes more of it to the air, so it dries more evenly for a stronger bond.

Cleaning Soot From a Fireplace

Easily remove unsightly soot with some TSP and water. (Juan Pablo Arenas, Pexels)

Last year, Drew Lipinski converted his old wood-burning fireplace to gas. 

He says it kept him warm all winter — and he didn’t even have to chop a single stick of wood! 

The downside, though, is he noticed that the white bricks above the fireplace were stained with black soot.

Now, he asks, “How can I clean off the sooty stains?

If the gas fireplace is not adjusted to the right mixture of air, you’ll end up with a soot situation.

Here are the options for cleaning: 

  • Make a paste from TSP and water and scrub the stain with a sponge. Watch “How to Clean Soot from a Brick Fireplace Surround” to see how to do it. 
  • Use a storebought cleaner like Sentinel Smoke and Soot Cleaner
  • If you don’t want to use harsh chemicals, mix equal parts water and baking soda to make a paste. Smear it on the bricks, and let it sit for a few minutes. Spray it with water to keep it moist. Finally, scrub off the paste.

Best New Products

Touchless faucets are nothing new, but now Kohler is bringing that technology to your home bathroom. Learn more >>

Simple Solutions

Use a speed square to get straight cuts while using an oscillating tool. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Perfectly Straight Cuts with an Oscillating Multi-Tool — An oscillating tool is a compact, portable power tool that accepts a wide range of interchangeable blades.

It can sand, cut, scrape, grind and polish a wide variety of building materials.

It’s called an oscillating tool because the blade oscillates back and forth. 

While this tool cuts great and is very versatile, the high-speed oscillating vibrations make it a little hard to control.

To make perfectly straight cuts, get a little assistance from your speed square. 

  • Securely hold the speed square in place right on the cut line.
  • Then, simply guide the multi-tool’s blade along the edge of the square, producing a perfectly straight, smooth cut.

This technique works great when trimming baseboard or chair rail moldings, cutting house siding, notching deck boards, or anywhere else you need straight accurate cuts. 

Watch: How to Easily Cut Baseboard Trim Using an Oscillating Tool

(John Niklasson, Getty Images)

Tree-Trunk Protector — The bark of a tree is the tree’s first line of defense against bacterial diseases and boring insects.

To protect the trees in your yard, paint the trunk white to help prevent something called, sunscald. This happens in winter when extreme temperature fluctuations cause tree bark to crack.

Then, when summer rolls around, the tree is susceptible to harmful infections and bugs.

  • Mix equal parts water and white latex paint.
  • Brush the diluted paint onto the lower three to four feet of the trunk.

The light paint color keeps the wood from overheating and prevents future splits and cracks. Repeat once a year.

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