Master Plumber Ed Del Grande answers readers' questions:
Q: Hey Ed, you are my go to contractor when things get tough and right now things are very tough! I recently gutted my upstairs master bath and ran into a road block. The main reason I wanted to remodel it was because the floor was elevated about eight inches higher than the rest of the second floor level.
I always thought that was a stupid thing to do and I wanted to lower the bathroom floor. But, then I ripped everything apart and found that all the plumbing (water and large drains) ran under that elevated floor!
Since I'm stuck on a budget, what are my options? Alan -- Chicago
A: Oh boy, Alan. If you use the existing plumbing, you'll spend all your budget money and still end up with a higher floor. If you decide to alter the plumbing, you'll definitely go out of budget and may not have the money to get your bathroom back to working order any time soon.
I feel very sorry when I see a homeowner get into this position. Over the years I have been called to several jobs where homeowners have completely gutted the bathroom without knowing what they were getting into. There is an old saying that a lawyer "won't ask a question of a witness unless the lawyer already knows what the answer will be." This is the attitude homeowners need before they do any major demolition work.
Take you time, consult experts, check with previous owners and do whatever it takes to gets an idea of what can go wrong, and how you might pay for cost overruns.
This is a lesson we all can learn from, and unfortunately Alan you're learning this first hand! At this point I would consult a licensed contractor before you call in a plumber.
For a reasonable consulting fee a qualified contractor can check out the structure of the bathroom and the second floor supports to see if it's possible to remove the elevated floor and alter the plumbing. There is a chance that the elevated floor was installed because there were no other options to get the plumbing lines up there.
I have a feeling this was an "add-on" bathroom after the house was built. If this is the case and you're stuck with the elevated floor, you will need to accept it and move on.
However, if the contractor feels that with today's remodeling techniques the floor and plumbing can be altered, get a price for installing just the "rough" carpentry and plumbing. If all the rough work is within your budget, I would have the contractor rough it in for you. Then step by step (as you can put more money into the job), you can do the finish work yourself and eventually end up with a nice bathroom that's "on the level."
Q: Ed, I'm a professional painter and I have a job coming up in a basement. The homeowner wants to paint the concrete with foundation sealing paint. I'm a good painter and know how to prep wood and/or sheetrock walls, but what's the best way to prep a concrete wall before painting? Stacy -- Alabama.
A: Stacy, I can tell that you are a very good painter because only a good contractor would know that proper preparation of the surface is the key to any quality paint job. And, you asked around before you started the job to get the correct information.
With today's concrete paints and coatings, the specialized instructions for the type of paint you are using should be right on the can, so check the manufacturer's recommendations first.
But basically, you need to locate any chalky white areas on the foundation walls called efflorescence. These spots are caused by dampness escaping through the concrete. Scrape and wash the efflorescence away with a wire brush and a recommended interior concrete cleaner. Also, any cracks or holes need to be filled in with special cement called "hydraulic cement." Once the walls are cleaned and repaired, apply the paint with a short, wide, stiff plastic bristle brush so you can really work the paint into the foundation walls.
Paint it in small sections at a time, because this is a very physical job. Unlike concrete, this job is a lot harder than you might expect!
Master Contractor/Plumber Ed Del Grande is known nationally as the author of the book "Ed Del Grande's House Call" and for hosting TV shows on Scripps Networks and HGTVPro.com.