Overseeding a Lawn; Preparing a Home For Sale; Fixing a Leaky Bathroom - Recap

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Roger and Kevin visit a home where the yard needs serious attention. Dead patches, a consequence of the family dog, dot the turf. There are thin spots where the canopy of a silver maple and a crabapple deny the grass adequate light. And a few spots show evidence of a fungal disease, probably because the lawn got long and wet between cuttings – the ideal environment for fungal growth. It needs reseeding – the right way. That starts with exposing the soil. In a small yard, or small patch in a large yard, a de-thatching rake removes dead grass and at the same time loosens the soil. One solution is the power rake that Roger has used in the past. It's spinning tines dig out thatch, but that thatch must be raked, seed planted and the seed raked in. A time-consuing job even with the rake. Fortunately, Roger has a new power device.

Underneath it, Roger's new machine has an array of knives that cut grooves in the soil. Up above, a hopper holds seed and a mechanism like a disc harrow drops the seed and pushes it into the groove. It does the whole job in a single pass and requires no raking afterward. Roger shows Kevin how to operate the device. Like a lawnmower, one must overlap each pass slightly. The worst part of using this machine is its size and weight – it takes effort to turn the machine. A chart inside the seed hopper shows the proper seed rate setting based on the rate of application, which Roger read from the bag of grass seed. Because they're making two passes, he divides the gauge setting by two. The second set of passes will be perpendicular to the first set, ensuring complete coverage. With the seed down, Kevin adds some special fertilizer that prevents crabgrass but does not inhibit the new seed. With proper watering, new seed appears in about ten days.

A viewer named John offers a Viewer Tip. He turned a carriage bolt and a piece of supply line into a nail driver. Putting a nail inside one end of the tubing and the bolt into the other end, he can drive the nail into all sorts of hard to reach places. Tom shows how to use the device to install gutters quickly and easily, without the hazard of damage from the hammer.

Numerous viewers have written to ask how to quickly and easily prepare their home for sale. Ask This Old House invited real estate specialist Robert Schwartz to share his knowledge with viewers. Rob's idea is to spend a few thousand dollars on sprucing up the home, not tens of thousands. His first tip focuses on making the house more inviting. Using the Boston Project from a few years back, he explains that the hedge tended to turn away visitors, while a nice white fence looks far better. Ivy on the walls had to go and a new paint job made the house look more cheerful. Sod corrected the dismal appearance of the lawn and new plantings made the home look better cared for. All of this creates curb appeal.

Kitchens sell a house. Rob explains how he used a little paint and some new fittings to make his cabinets look much brighter, and improve his kitchen's appeal. He also recommends modernizing lights and faucets to create an updated feel.

Bring in a home inspector for tips ahead of time. This allows plenty of time and opportunity to address the kinds of issues a buyer's inspector will point out. Waiting for the buyer's inspector means a short turnaround and perhaps higher costs that go with that.

Rich responds to a homeowner with a “mysterious stain” in the ceiling. Above that is the bathroom, so that's where Rich starts. Possible culprits include the tub drain, which has two gaskets that might be leaking. The toilet's wax seal could be leaking if the unit rocks. And water could escape the tub, either through the tile or through the door, then to and through the floor. To see, Rich recommends opening the ceiling below.

Rich finds where the drywall attaches to the support members, snaps a line and cuts along it with a reciprocating saw so that he can remove the entire panel and locate the problem. He discovers the drywall attached to lathe, which complicates the problem. And on the other side is mold! There are no stains from the toilet or the bathtub drain, so Rich moves them lower on his list of suspects. But above the stains, the lathe and drywall is soaking wet. With a measuring tape, he figures out that water is somehow escaping the tub and settling on the floor, then draining to the ceiling below.

First, Rich checks the tub with a level. That's not the problem. Using the hand shower, he checks the seals around the shower door. Soon enough, he has discovered that water hitting the corner of the shower door has a path through. It runs down the tub and through the ceiling, causing the problem. To solve this problem, Rich adds a flange (which he obtains from a shower door company) to the edge of the door. It creates a nice seal with the door frame to keep water from escaping around the edge of the door. Then, he has the homeowner remove the caulk between the tub and the floor and vacuum out the dust and pieces. With a small tip on a tube of bathroom caulk, he shows her how to lay a nice bead of caulk along the joint between the bathtub and the floor. A little finger pressure forces the caulk into the seam for a tight seal. Finally, he recommends a bathmat to soak up water that drops from the bather and keep it from flowing through the floor.

With the tube sealed, Rich uses the old piece of drywall as a template to cut a new piece. He and the homeowner attach the drywall with screws and then taped and joined it, leaving the homeowner to paint it.

Back in the loft, Tom and Rich show what a tub looks like: a flange runs behind the substrate and tile, so there's little chance of water escaping from the three tiled sides of the enclosure. But water can easily escape if the bather fails to close the shower curtain or door, or the door leaks. That water can get through the floor to the ceiling. Rich recommends a bathmat (again) and also the simple fix of mopping up and pools of water before they penetrate the ceiling.