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Ask the Builder: Getting help with flood-damaged floors and other home-improvement headaches

Hardwood floor being ripped up as part of the hurricane cleanup in Houston. (Tim Carter)
Hardwood floor being ripped up as part of the hurricane cleanup in Houston. (Tim Carter)

Many things that happen in your life each day are connected in some fashion. It’s the same with me, and the other day was a very strange day. I’m convinced that you’ll appreciate the story I’m about to tell and no doubt it’s going to benefit you in one way or the other.

My day started before sunrise. I love getting up early and I’ve been devoting about 90 minutes each day revising and updating the thousands of pages of content at my AsktheBuilder.com website.

I’ve made a conscious effort over the past 25 years to create as much evergreen content as possible. Many of my past columns are as relevant today as they were the day they were written. An example might be how to install metal flashing around a chimney or how to install a thin concrete overlay. But some columns need to be freshened up.

Each day, through the “Ask Tim” page at my website, I get questions from readers like you and folks that find me on the Internet. Today I saw a question come in from Roger, who lives in Houston. He was a flooding victim from the horrible recent hurricane that transformed much of his city into a small sea.

When a visitor submits a question to me through my website, they get an automatic response from me letting him or her know that I got the question and how soon I might get back with an answer. I also tell them about an emergency service I offer where I can call you on the phone for a small fee. The calls can happen the same day in many cases.

Roger decided to do that. He needed an answer fast. I saw his order come in, I asked him to send photos to me and we jumped on the call. It turns out that a few months before the storm, he had completely remodeled the house. It was up for sale when the hurricane hit. His new hardwood floors were ruined by 10 inches of water.

He and his wife decided they wanted to make the house trouble free for the next owner and wanted to put down a thin concrete overlay. I told Roger I had quite a few columns about the topic and then walked him through his options about the best way to install the 2 inches of concrete he had to put over the existing floor.

We discussed finished flooring, and he was unaware of realistic wood-look solid vinyl flooring. When I showed him photos of how it comes in narrow strips like real wood and is waterproof, he was dumbfounded. I thought he had died and gone to Heaven he was so happy!

One thing led to another in the conversation, and he discovered I’m about to debut my new podcast. Not too long ago, I used to do a two-hour call-in home improvement radio show. It was fun answering live questions and helping homeowners each weekend. But podcasts are the new thing and they give listening control to you.

I mentioned to Roger that the next time he needed help and advice, I’d be able to call him and we record the call for the podcast. There would be no cost for this service. He was happy to hear that!

The same is true for you. Each week, I’m going to do a minimum of two calls to a homeowner, contractor, builder or remodeler to try to help solve a problem. My only requirement is that you need to supply at least two high-resolution photos of the problem. Photos allow me to zero in on the best solution to the problem. You can go here to sign up to be on the podcast: https://www.askthebuilder.com/podcast/

At the end of the call, Roger asked me a very unusual question. He was thinking of starting to dive into the remodeling and contracting business and wanted to know what the best resources were where he could bone up on tips and techniques. Roger also expressed that he was terrified of getting taken to the cleaners by contractors and subcontractors that didn’t know how to do jobs the right way.

Oh my, that’s a loaded question if I ever heard one! My advice was somewhat simple. Roger and I both agreed that the Internet right now is like the Wild West. In other words, there’s lots of danger out there and vast amounts of misinformation.

The first thing I did was mention to Roger the existence of countless associations in the building products industry such as the Portland Cement Association, the Brick Industry Association, the California Redwood Association and others.

Many of these groups have curated thousands of pages of excellent written white papers filled with professional illustrations or photos about the proper way to install their products. I’ve relied on this information for more than four decades myself. You simply can’t believe how much great information can be found using these resources.

I then gave him the tip of the day by telling him what to do when he landed on a home improvement website. Instead of looking at the content and photos, I suggested he immediately find the “About Us” page. Go there and determine who created the content at the website and how many years of experience they have working in the homes of paying customers.

It turns out that many websites out there are created by hobby bloggers who’ve never worked a day in a paying customer’s home. You need to be very leery of information you find at websites like that.

Need an answer? All of Carter’s past columns are archived for free at www.AsktheBuilder.com. You can also watch hundreds of videos, download Quick Start Guides and more, all for free.


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