When I’m deciding what to do with a house, I look at the family who live there and ask myself a few questions. Some of them are: ‘How long are people going to live there? Are they going to stay forever? Do they plan to sell in the near future? If they plan to stick around, the sky’s the limit. At this point, the investment is in the quality of life and how you enjoy the house itself. So there are no bad investments.
Hi, Bryan, we are among your oldest fans—literally! My husband and I are in our “active-80’s”. We’ve been in our house for just about 50 years. We love the house and the neighbourhood and do not want to move. But we would love to give the place a kind-and-gentle update: no blowing out walls or digging up the basement. We don’t know where to begin and can’t think of anyone more capable and entertaining than you to tell us where to start. Can you? - Marlene and Jim W., Burlington, Ont.
Hi, Marlene and Jim. Holy mackerel! Fifty years! You don’t hear that very much anymore.
If you don’t want to tear out walls and just need to give the place an update, paint is a great way to start. You could look at flooring as well and there are some floors that can go right over top of what you already have.
For bigger impact, you could possibly pull out some of the countertops and replace them, redo the backsplashes or do some trim work and adding some wainscoting. Those are a few options to change the look of the house without getting in too deep.
Think about how you use the house; what rooms do you spend the most time in? Make a list of the top five or 10 things you don’t like, start there and work your way through the list, then generate a priority list from there.
For me, it usually starts with things that are interior-health related. Is there mould, asbestos being disturbed, structural issues or electrical issues? Then I go to the efficiency side. Is it insulated well? Are the appliances updated and efficient? From there, we get into what the best return on investment is if you’re selling. And if you’re staying, what’s the best return as far as your lifestyle and how you enjoy the house?
Hi, Bryan. We would like to redo our main upstairs bathroom. It has some mould on the ceiling and bit on the walls, and is about 5 x 12 x 8-feet high, or 450 cubic feet. The fan needs to be replaced but how big should it be? Do you recommend getting rid of the drywall with mould on it? Scraping the mould off? Or washing the walls/ceiling, putting a sealer on them and painting? Thanks for your help. - Eric H., Pickering, Ont.
Alright, Eric. First, you want to get rid of that mould. It doesn’t sound like you have a ton of it. Generally, if there’s nine square feet or less of surface mould, you can remove that yourself with a bleach and water mixture or just straight soap and water. You want to make sure you wear gloves and a particulate mask. Also make sure you spray the area down, clean it properly and let it dry.
You didn’t tell me how old the house is. Typically, in older homes, bathrooms tend to have oil-based paint. Some mould will accumulate on that from moisture. In that case, you can clean it off so it’s all shiny and hasn’t necessarily penetrated into the drywall or plaster.
You mention drywall so I’m going to assume it’s a younger home. If it’s just surface drywall on top of the paint, and it’s still structurally sound and hasn’t gone flakey from being wet, then cleaning it off, applying something like Kilz primer and repainting the room should be sufficient. If the drywall actually has damage and has absorbed too much moisture, then the option is there to cut it out and remove it. But generally, mould only grows when there’s a sustained contact with moisture. Getting rid of that moisture will usually kill it.
As far as your ceiling fan, it’s not necessarily about the power or size of it. It’s how long that fan runs to exchange the air in the room. I’d recommend changing the light switch for a timer so when you leave the bathroom, the fan will run for a bit longer to get that moisture out of the air and stop your that mould problem.
Hi, Bryan. Love your show and so do my kids — I hope they are learning early. We recently renovated our master bathroom and the grout has cracked in a few places, making our really nice tiles look awful. The tiler was called back in, and chipped away at some parts and regrouted in some areas. It is still cracking and the grout is darker in the repaired areas — and looks awful. Now the contractor says it needs to be fixed properly. What can be done with this grout? I love the tiles and they go under the new built-in cabinets. What do you suggest? - Minda G., Thornhill, Ont.
I hope your kids are learning, too! We need more people working with their hands. Now, typically if you’re going to re-grout only a portion of the grout, you’ll want to use the exact same bag of grout that was used previously. If you’re grouting an area bigger than one bag will service, mix those bags together there can be slight colour variations. If you want to re-grout and clean it all up, you’ll have to pick up a grout saw, which is a small tool with a carbide blade, and you’ll have to sand that grout and scrape it down so you can get new grout into the joints between the tiles.
If the grout was cracking shortly after it was applied, that could mean several things. There could be some deflection and bounce in the floor, which is causing the grout to crack. Or, the tiler mixed the grout a little too wet, which means there’s more water and less grout in that joint — when the water evaporates, the grout shrinks and cracks. That’s a common problem we’ve seen over the years.
The other thing you could try is getting the grout saw, removing some of that grout and replacing it with Mapei’s premixed grout, which is perfectly mixed every time. Of course, yet another option is to have the contractor agree to have another tiler to come in and fix it.
We watch your show all the time. We have ceramic tiles in our main bathroom and the grout job is awful — they always look dirty. Are we able to put stick-on tiles or linoleum on top? We are not really good at grouting. Thanks. - Linda and Ed B., Dundalk, Ont.
Well, Linda and Ed, if there’s grout on the face of the tiles and it looks dirty, my guess is the grout wasn’t cleaned off the face of the tiles soon enough after doing the job, then it dried up and is now hard to remove. If that’s the problem, you could head to the tile section at Lowe’s where there’s cleaner you can get to help remove grout. See if that helps. If you do try to clean it, you’d then have to let it dry and apply a sealant so dirt doesn’t get in there.
You’re asking if you can put stick-on tiles or linoleum on top. The answer is yes. Ceramic tiles are typically a little nicer looking, but if that’s easier for you, then it certainly can be done, as long as the tiles aren’t popping off.
Hi, Bryan. We enjoy your show and what we learn from it. We built our home 25 years ago in a rural area where there is a lot of iron in the water. We have a water softener and purification system. However, there are times when the salt is low and the iron has affected the sinks, tub and ceramic tiles. The stains seem permanent — we’ve tried many products and the stains don’t completely go away. For the damaged tub, should we get it re-enamelled or relayered or replaced? For the white ceramic tiles that are turning dingy, is there a product we can use that will lift the iron stains? - Margaret A., Guelph-Eramosa Twp., Ont.
Well Margaret, that’s a tough one. I’ve seen a few properties on well water with a high iron content and things do get stained. If you’ve run low on salt, you might want to put a secondary filtration in. To remove the stains that are there, you might want to try a CLR — a calcium, lime and rust remover — and soak it in there. But if you’ve tried that and the stains still aren’t going away, you could definitely get the tub re-enameled. There are also paints available for the tub. For the white ceramic tiles turning dingy, again, try the CLR. If that doesn’t work, try TSP — trisodium phosphate. The best way to fix those stains, obviously, is to prevent them from happening by not letting your water softener and filters get empty.