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The star of Holmes on Homes answers your questions in this blog

"If you're going to do something, do it right the first time." These are the words that renovations expert and new Globe columnist Mike Holmes lives by, and have helped him develop his skills in his chosen craft during his 20-plus years of experience.

Fresh off writing his first column for the Globe and Mail's Real Estate section, Mr. Holmes answered reader questions on all sorts of renovation topics, with advice to help readers steer clear of some of the pitfalls the uninitiated are all too likely to fall foul of when moving into the unknown.

Now in this new blog, Mr. Holmes will provide answers to anyone with renovation or construction questions, concerns or worries. Just post your questions , and Mr. Holmes will answer them here.

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Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Rick McGregor from Moncton, N.B. Canada writes: Hi Mike...my PVR's bursting with every one of your shows! I had windows replaced with new vinyl 4 years ago. This year, I decided to replace the trim, and upon removing the old trim noticed that the window installers had not insulated around the windows when replaced. Other than simply stuffing insulation or spray foam in the cavities, is there anything else I should be doing? I notice that around this time of year the bathroom window sweats quite a bit and water collects on the bottom sill. Any thoughts?

Mike Holmes: Hi Rick. I see a lot of this-laziness, bad workmanship. Those windows should have been insulated, and yes, that airflow is probably contributing to your condensation and moisture problems. It's better to use a low-expansion spray foam than to stuff insulation in, but if you aren't experienced with it you may want to call in a pro. If you use too much foam you could create pressure on the window frame-not good.

Posted December 7, 2006, 2:25 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


tony giovinazzo from Waterloo Canada writes: Mike I am preparing to finish my basement and have read in this blog that you recommend rigid insulation with duct tape and NO vapour barrier. Can you please describe more specifically the details of the insulation you recommend and does this fasten to the foundation wall? As well, I thought that the insulation is placed betweent he studs with a vapour barrier (poly) over top - is this correct. I would really like the details on how the studs and insulation is used. Your show is great and my young daughters and try to catch it when we can. High praises to you for your support in education and ethics advocacy in skilled trades.

Mike Holmes: Hi Tony. NO, not 'duct tape'--TUCK tape. It's a totally different thing!! What I recommend to create a thermal break in basements is rigid foam insulation, with TUCK tape and no vapour barrier. The foam goes directly against the foundation walls and floor, and you stud in front of it, and lay your plywood on top of it on the floor. (1" thick foam on the floor and 2" thick foam on the walls.) Make SURE you use the correct type of adhesive-one designed for use on foam-since many adhesives will melt foam. And, use 'shiplap' foam insulation, so the edges overlap, and use adhesive on the overlap. Tuck tape all seams AND, be sure to use a spray foam in all the corners. You don't need vapour barrier, and you won't need to insulate between the studs.

Posted December 12, 2006, 3:53 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.

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Michele Dodd from Sooke Canada writes: Hi Mike,I finally needed to replace a broken vanity light fixture in the main bath. I got everything ready to install, yes i turned off breaker. i only purchased my home in sept. 2004 and did have a property inspection done. much to my surprise today there is no electrical box behind the existing fixture to attach the new one to. the original is held on with drywall plugs and screws. the wiring just comes out of a hole in the wall. is this legally correct ??please advise if i should possibly contact the builder and have this corrected as it is still under new home warranty ?? michele

Mike Holmes: Hi Michelle. Am I hearing what you're saying correctly-there's no octagon-shaped box behind the drywall that your light fixture is attached to? None at all? That's totally against code and illegal and yes, you ABSOLUTELY need to get in touch with the builder and get it fixed asap. And, while you're at it, make sure the outlets around your vanity are GFCI-from the way your light is wired, I wouldn't be surprised if they were also wrong.

Posted December 7, 2006, 3:44 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Emma Nephin from Atikokan, ON Canada writes: Hi Mike,Love your show and have learned alot from it. I have a 2 story brick house and I don't care for the colour of the brick. What is the proper way to paint brick?

Mike Holmes: Emma, since you've asked for my opinion-don't paint your brick house. IF you absolutely must because the colour is so ugly, then make sure you use a latex paint so the brick can breathe. DO not use an oil-based paint because it will trap the air. Prime it first, with a latex primer designed for brick.

Posted December 6, 2006, 10:13 a.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.

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Lloyd Armstrog from Nepean Canada writes: Hi Mike, I am in the process of renovating the basement of my 30 year old split level bungalow. I have seen you use foamboard on the wall and then frame in front of it and insulate with Roxul batt insulation between the studs. Do you install vapour barrier over the roxul or is the foamboard (tuck taped joints) a sufficient vapour barrier. I can't get a concensus from the contractors and building suppliers I've spoken to. Can you please give me the definitive answer I've been looking for? Thanks in advance, Lloyd

Mike Holmes:Hi Lloyd. If you use the rigid foam insulation and tuck tape it, then that is your vapour barrier. You then frame your walls in front of that, insulate with batt insulation and put your drywall over that. NO additional vapour barrier-if you did, then you would be sealing the insulation in and restricting the air flow and trap moisture which will lead to problems.

Posted December 4, 2006, 3:27 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Jane McDonald from Ottawa Canada writes: I'd really appreciate your expertise, Mike. I don't know what kind of contractor to get or where to start. In my home the garage shares a wall with the front hall. The garage and hall are on the same level. When I park in the garage in the winter, snow melts off my car and seeps into the concrete floor of the garage and somehow gets under the shared wall and up into the saltillo tiles of the hall as well as up into the drywall of an adjacent utility room. The tiles next to the wall are wrecked - crystallized and white. Can I just replace the tiles with non-porous tiles? Do I need a subfloor? Or should I start with the garage and how water is pooling there? Do I need a foundation specialist? Wish you did your show in Ottawa! Thank you very much! Jne

Mike Holmes:HI Jane. Your question really got me thinking. Is your house on a slab foundation? If your house has a basement, there's no way the water in your front hall can be coming from your garage. Your garage should be on a lower level than your house's first floor. Your house should be above grade. If you have a basement, I think you need to research where this water is coming from-is it definitely from your garage, or could it be from another source-a roof or some leaking flashing?

Posted November 29, 2006, 9:50 a.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Andy P from Mississuaga Canada writes: Hi Mike. Love your show! I have a quick plumbing question on 'cheater vents' (aka. AAV - air admittance valve, or check valve). We're planning on roughing in a new 3-piece washroom in the basement and one of the quotes we got from a reputable plumber suggests we use cheater vents instead of connecting to the toilet vent stack that's 30 feet away. (I would have thought this was preferable using 2' ABS). What's your take? I though cheater vents aren't covered in the code, but I've heard that inspectors let these pass even in newer built homes? The only other vent stack that was closer to the new rough-in was the original 1.25' stack for the basement laundry tub/washer/dryer (and the kitchen above), which would definitely not supported the venting requirements for a new sink, shower and toilet. As an aside, I found out that our 1960's house actually has two separate drains: one for effluent/grey-water and another for draining rainwater (we're near the lake). The first quote would have connected our rough in to the rainwater drain, which would have been a BIG OOPS given that that sewer drains directly into Lake Ontario without any filtering! Glad the second plumber caught this by seeing the two manholes on the street :-) cheers, andy p.

Mike Holmes: Chuckle, chuckle-I have to laugh Andy. First and foremost-cheaters are not in the code, and are not allowed (*unless they are used in a very specific situations in an accessible cabinet). I highly recommend you do not use them, period. There's a reason they're called 'cheater vents'--they're CHEATS. A good licensed plumber won't let you use them.

I don't see why your plumber doesn't just cut into the drain that runs under the basement floor and run a new 3" vent stack. Sure, it's some work to run it up through your roof and would involve drywall and repair work, but at least you'll know water will go down your drains!

As far as a plumber being willing to connect a sanitary drain to your storm sewer-yeah, that's a 'big oops' (and worse). Are you sure this guy knows what he's doing? Doesn't sound like it.

Posted November 28, 2006, 11:35 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Nancy Banting from Aurora Canada writes: Hi Mike, love your show and the work you do is really important I bought my first home, a new townhouse in Nov 2001. When checking my house before they closed the house to my access, I advised the builders site office that one stud in the master bedroom wall was sticking out and the wall would not be flush. They assured me it would be fixed before drywalling. Needless to say on taking possession, which happened the same day as my walk through, I found they had not fixed the stud and just drywalled over it. A 3 foot panel of the main wall in the master bedroom sticks out farther then the rest of the wall. I noted it on my defect list and they refused to fix the problem saying it was cosmetic and this was not a custom home and I should live with it. I also noted it on a list that ending up going to the warranty people but they said it was minor and wouldn't be involved in that small an issue. I want to install hardwood, crown mouldings and paint my room and called several handymen, building centres etc and asked how it could be fixed. They all suggest tearing out that portion of the wall, removing the offending stud and putting a new one in and re drywalling the area. I asked them how they were going to address the gaps of about 1/4-1/2 inch or more that the removal would cause along the floor, ceiling and corner of the wall, and they said it would have to be filled in with additional smaller pieces of drywall or taped over. Is there not a better way of fixing this problem? Is there such a thing as really thin drywall which could be installed over the present drywall on the larger portion of the wall to flush it out even. That way there would not be any gaps or holes to filled and the only the joins would have to be taped and mudded before base painting. I would appreciate your ideas on fixing this irritating problem the least expensive fastest way possible. Thanks for your help.

Mike Holmes: Hi Nancy. There's only one right way to fix that wavy wall - take out that section of the wall, re-stud it and repair the drywall. A good contractor won't have any problem fixing any 'gaps'. It's way more work to try and camouflage the curve with layers of thinner drywall, don't even bother. Unfortunately, there's nothing in the code that suggests that all vertical studs have the crowns the same way (it's in there for floors, not for walls). It's up to the contractor and the builder/framer to eye each piece and make sure they have the crowns running the same way. BUT, most houses are built with speed, not with care and wavy walls like you've got are common.

Posted November 27, 2006, 11:03 a.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Steve Gilbey from Canada writes: Hi Mike. Our house was built around 1982, and we had the roof reshingled about 3 years ago. We did as you have suggested and had the old shingles removed and new put on. It looked great, when viewed from the ground a nice smooth surface. We have since noticed that the roof appears a bit wavy, and when we called the contractor to take a look, he said it was due to the building code at that time allowing the roof trusses to be further apart, so the underlying plywood will sag more over time. We are not having any leaks or problems, but I am curious about whether this is correct, and if there is anything we need to do. By the way, one of our neighbours was on your show doing interlocking stonework so we had him do a front porch for us and he did a great job, you are right about hiring quality contractors, it is well worth it. Cheers, Steve

Mike Holmes: Hi Steve. Unfortunately, your contractor is correct. Minimum code is often inadequate and it just goes to show you the importance of using better quality products-that's the difference between 3/8" OSB and 1/2" plywood. One is stronger and better able to span wider trusses. It's better to use 5/8" plywood, but it costs more and builders don't want to spend the money-remember, they're not building the house for themselves!

Posted November 23, 2006, 2:29 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Valerie Parker from Ottawa Canada writes: Hi Mike, I saw your show from last week re soundproofing common walls. I have the same problem. In the show you used a special type of drywall that acted like it was actually 8 sheets of drywall. Where can I get this product? Does Home Depot sell it? I've never seen it there or in their advertisements. Can I just attach to an existing wall - from what I recall, they just glued it on the drywall that was already there. Thanks, Val

Mike Holmes: It's called Quiet Rock, by Sound Divide. You can get the contact information on my website: www.holmesonhomes.com.

Stacey Stein from Toronto Canada writes: Mike, We have a piece of wall that divides two sides of a closet in our master bedroom (on the second floor of our two-storey home, a foot and a half from the exterior wall). We'd like to knock this piece out in order to enlarge the closet opening which would allow us to have three large closet doors, rather than two pairs, but we don't know how to go about finding out if this piece of wall is supporting our home in any way. Any suggestions? Appreciate your help. Stacey Stein, Toronto

Mike Holmes: Hi Stacey. I'm so glad you had the sense to ask the questions before taking down a wall. Smart. In all likelihood, this wall that divides your two closets isn't loadbearing. HOWEVER as a good safe practice, whenever you take down any wall in your house you should have a professional take a look at it to make sure you aren't making a mistake. But, even if it's not load-bearing, the wall might be hiding ductwork or a plumbing vent stack, or it could have electrical conduit running through it. So be careful-- It's not a simple as you might think.

Posted November 22, 2006, 2:25 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Carrie Hunter from Toronto Canada writes: Hi Mike; Since buying our first house (it's about 90 years old) in November 2005, my husband and I have become instant fans of you and your show. We're hoping you might have some insight into our situation. Our basement is finished, but we've noticed an odd smell (almost like rotten eggs) coming from the basement sewer when we run the taps in the sink or shower of our downstairs bathroom. Do you have any thoughts on what this could be?

Mike Holmes: Hi Carrie. It sounds like a drainage problem. Have you had a look at the waste drains? Is it smelly after it rains as well? I'd call in someone who can scope your drains with a video camera. That will tell you if you have a blockage. It could also be a problem with your venting. Were the vent stacks moved/removed during any previous renovations? If so, there might not be enough air behind the water to give you good flow in your drains. You need to have a professional in to assess your problem.

Posted November 21, 2006, 10:58 a.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Paul Savage from Brooklin Canada writes: Hi Mike, I have a basement question and have seen many of your shows dealing with various basement issues. I moved into a brand new home a little more a year ago and to date there are thankfully no signs of any moisture issues in the basement. I would like to soon start to do some refinishing work down there and I know that you always talk about creating a thermal barrier to prevent moisture related issues such as mold. I'd like to take the same approach you describe in your shows using rigid insulation, however the builder has already parially insulated the top four feet of the poured concrete walls (I assume to the frost line) with a fibreglass batting and moisture barrier which is nailed directly to the walls. The bottom four feet remaining bare. How do I incorporate the existing insulation into my plans of creating that thermal barrier on the walls. If possible I'd like to use the insulation that's there and 'tie-in' some rigid foam on the bottom. Is there an acceptable way of doing that while still achieving that barrier that you discuss, or is there a better option. I know I could always pull down the existing fibreglass insulation ('It's all coming down') and complete the entire job with rigid insulation, but if I could, I'd prefer to work with the existing insulation that's there. Any thoughts? Thanks Mike. Paul

Mike Holmes: Sorry Paul, you've really got to take it all down. Remove the pink insulation blanket and use rigid foam and tuck tape, no vapour barrier to create a 100% thermal break. You can't do it half-way-it won't work. Period. You may not see it, but there is trapped moisture in that batt insulation-I see it all the time. That insulation hangs to just below the frost line-it all about Minimum code requirement, which isn't enough.

Posted November 20, 2006, 2:48 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Gardiner Westbound from Canada writes: I replaced my roof shingles about 10 years ago and as you recommend, stripped off the original shingles (25 yr asphalt) and installed what i thought would be the same quality (25 yr asphalt) on a 4/12 roof. I am now noticing that the shingles on the west side of the house are showwing serious signs of wear while the shingles on the east side seem to be OK. Are todays shingle inferior in quality to the ones that I originally installed 34 years ago?

Mike Holmes: I'd say that the reason your shingles don't seem to be holding up so well has more to do with the low slope of your roof than the shingles themselves. On a low pitch roof, the snow sits on it longer and moisture drains away more slowly. And, most of our weather (wind, rain and snow) comes from the west, which helps explain why that side wears more quickly. It's hard to say whether the '25 year' shingles are as good in quality now as they were 34 years ago. We have more pollution now, and higher UV ratings which can damage shingles. In my opinion, your best bet is a metal roof. They typically have a 50 year guarantee, and are fire rated. I highly recommend them.

Posted November 16, 2006, 11:22 a.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Jen Martens from Canada Canada writes: Hi Mike: My husband and I bought a backsplit last year, built in 1972. Overall the house is very sound (unlike the 2002-built house that we left!) but the uppermost level appears to have a structural defect. One of the walls dividing the bedrooms in the middle of the floor is well, sinking (the floor slopes on either side down to the wall) and there is significant squeaking in the floor over one joist. It must slope 2-3 inches. I suspect that a structural wall underneath was removed at some point but when we ripped up the carpet down there, I couldn't see any trace of a jackpost being there. Is there any other way that we could tell if that wall is structural and would therefore need to be reinforced from underneath? If it isn't structure, what would be the reason for this floor warping? All joists are 2x10s in single pieces (no laminating etc). Thanks so much! jen

Mike Holmes: Hi Jen This sounds like a real problem-2-3" is a lot of slope. It sounds to me like there might have been a sold wall under there at one point, which was removed to "open up the space". (It wouldn't have likely been a jackpost.) Get a highly qualified contractor or structural engineer in soon to investigate. It's a problem that can be fixed, and the walls and floor re-supported properly, but it's probably not something you can do yourself.

Posted November 13, 2006, 9:50 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Mike B from Mississauga Canada writes: Hi Mike, Been debating whether to finish my basement reno myself (just the bathrrom left to do) or have a contractor do it. Have spoken to a couple about it and get completely different perspectives on wallboard. One is saying that we need to go with the older 'green' drywall and another says that is an old solution and that there is a coating that is sprayed over plain drywall. A little scared of that suggestion being BS to keep from having to spend additional money on materials. Love your input on the wall board issue.

Mike Holmes: Hi Mike First of all, I've never heard of anything you spray on drywall, unless you mean paint. We use BASF sprayfoam insulation behind drywall, as insulation, and that's a great product. With your basement, first of all make sure you are smart about how you stud and insulate the wall. Use rigid foam insulation and create a thermal break before you properly stud your wall. I highly recommend you do. (I also recommend you hire a contractor to do the job right the first time.) As far as drywall goes, the best product to use is the new mold-resistant drywall from Georgia Pacific. It's great, and far superior to standard drywall, which gives the perfect environment for mold growth.

Posted November 9, 2006, 9:50 p.m. To submit a question to Mike Holmes click here.


Jane McDonald from Ottawa Canada writes: Hello Mike - In the (poorly built) house I purchased there is a problem with my garage and front hall which are side by side and I'm not sure what kind of contractor to get or how to approach the problem. In the winter snow melts off the car on to the concrete floor of the garage and somehow seeps under the wall shared with the front hall. This moisture gets up into the saltillo tiles of the hall, and destroys them with crystallization. It also affects the wall in a nearby utility room. Can I just put in a subfloor and non-porous tiles? Or is there a bigger structural problem to tackle with the garage floor? I just don't know where to start. Thank you, Jane

Mike Holmes: Hi Jane Definitely sounds like a drainage problem from your garage. You don't want water to be penetrating your house from the garage-putting a new floor in, (covering the problem up) and still letting it seep in is asking for trouble. A drain. Do you need to take out the floor in your garage and re-grade it so it slopes out, or add a drain?

Kathy Thompson from Newmarket Canada writes: Hi Mike.. love your show. Last year I purchased a house with asbestos cement shingles as the exterior siding. I've just had some major landscaping done, and am now looking at doing something to update the exterior surface of my house. I know the stuff doesn't hold paint well, but I'm wondering if there is some way to improve on the paint job, or if it's possible to do new siding over top of the old. I'm willing to look at all the options, but I want to end up with something that looks as nice as the rest of the property does now. The one person I had out to give me an estimate on painting it, told me it wasn't worth painting and instead gave me an estimate on pulling off the old siding and installing new. Any advice you could share would be very much appreciated.

Mike Holmes: Hi Kathy

One important question: why have you only had one person out to quote on the job? That's not nearly enough--you need many more quotes than that! I never recommend covering anything up, so I like the sound of pulling off the old siding and installing something new. Since you're talking about asbestos, it's not something you should do yourself by the way. Removal and disposal of that siding needs to be done correctly.

Rob Mehler from Oakville, ON writes: Hi Mike - I have cracking grout in the foyer of my house so I plan to replace the whole tiled section. I have a plywood floorboard over 2x8 joists in excellent condition. What's the best method to prep the floor for new tiles? Concrete boards and Ditra? Thanks!

Mike Holmes: Hi Rob

I like concrete board, because you can screw it down to the subfloor, and you've seen me use Ditra on the show. It gives a great base for laying tile because it allows some 'give' to keep your grout from cracking. Read the package instructions-it tells you that you need a specific substrate under the Ditra. And, most importantly, watch your transitions. You will find the floor between your foyer and the hall aren't at the same height when you're done. Get a transition reducer to avoid a trip hazard.

Joanna Mendoza from Toronto Canada writes: Hello Mike, I not only love watching your show but also will now be reading your weekly column in the Globe and Mail. It is great to learn from you. Your team of trade¹s people is knowledgeable and dedicated to their work. I am happy to say I recently purchased my first home and want to be more informed before I make any concrete decisions. It is a detached 2 1/2-storey home built in 1907. The dimensions of the house are 34 feet long and 13 feet wide. The floor joists are 10x2. I would like open concept on the main floor. How do I determine if the interior partition wall between the kitchen, dining room and hallway are load bearing or point loads? I have made holes in the wall and looked at the basement but cannot figure it out.

Thank you, Kind Regards, Joanna Mendoza

Mike Holmes: Hi Joanna Please stop making holes in you wall and call a professional. You aren't qualified to decide what walls to take down, and I sure won't advise you without seeing it--no-one should. You are talking about making a major structural change to your home and will need a building permit to do the work you describe. Have you called a structural engineer or a good contractor? Do it, even if just for an hour consultation before you start planning your renovation.

loyan A. from Burlington Canada writes: Hello Mike, I enjoy your show and it is great. I have a kitchen with a backsplash. I would like to replace the backsplash tiles without casuing any damage to the wall. What is the best way I can replace the tiles. Thank you Loyan

Mike Holmes: Hi Loyan

It's hard to remove tiles without damaging the drywall or backing. It does depend on the quality of the previous job and the method of initial installation. If they used a good thinset and the tiles have adhered properly, you'll probably wreck the drywall, no question. If it was a bad job and the tiles come off easily, you'll still have to sand the wall to lay the new tile properly.

You've seen my show, so you know I always like to take it down and start over. That's the best way, because when the wall is open you can check for problems rather than just putting a new layer of cover-up over the problem.

glynne turner from Sidney, BC Canada writes: Hi Mike, Love your show! Three part question: 1)How does stucco compare to hardy plank for the exterior of a house? 2)Can stucco be repainted years later? 3)If so, what kind of paint do you recommend? Thanks, Glynne Turner

Mike Holmes: Hi Glynne. Hardy plank and stucco are both great exterior finishes for your house--which is 'better', depends on the style and design of your house. You can buy stucco that has a pigment in it already, so you won't have to paint it, but if you do one day want to change the colour make sure you use a product that is designed for use on exterior stucco, and make sure it's latex so it can breathe.

Fraser Dougall from Canada writes: We are particularly interested in your method of installing a new floor on top of the existing basement floor simply by laying the ridgid foam insulation flat on the concrete. Obviously the concrete must be levelled first. What is your chosen levelling compound (one contractor suggested just using fine sand on top of the concrete). Did you seal the concrete at all. Where is a poly vapour barrier installed in this system, against the concrete or above the insulation. Thx.

Mike Holmes: Hi Fraser. Rigid foam insulation is it's own vapour barrier in this application, so you don't need to use the poly. Just make sure you tuck tape all the joints. Most floors aren't perfectly level, and a slight difference won't be visible to the naked eye. But, if for some reason your floor is way out of level, you can use a levelling compound with a bonding agent in it. No need to seal the floor.

Allan Seid from Richmond Hill Canada writes: Good Morning Mike, I'm a fan of your show. Keep up the good work. I have a question about attic insulation. My home is approx. 5 years old. The loose-fill insulation has settled to a depth of about 4.5 inches. Can I add fibreglass batt insulation on top the existing insulation or is it better to use the same type of product? If I do use loose-fill, can this be spread by hand or must I rent (if available) a mechanical separator/blower? Thank you for taking my question. Allan

Mike Holmes: Hi Allan. Yes, you can go right over your existing blown in insulation with batt insulation, just make sure you butt the batts up tight against one another so there are no gaps. It's probably easier to just top up your loose-fill insulation, ideally so it's 12" deep. Just make sure you don't block off your attic airflow--don't close off any vents. I'd suggest you call in a professional to blow more in, rather than do it yourself.

Brad Gouthro from Halifax Canada writes: I want to replace the living room carpet with hardwood in my condo. The dining and living room are connected. Currently there is hardwood in the dining room. So I want to match the current dining room hardwood with new hardwood for the living room. If I can find similar hardwood of the same width can I just combine the two rather than rip up and replace the existing hardwood? Do I then just need to re-stain the entire hardwood floor one colour? I'll also need to lay a new subfloor in the living room. The subfloor will have to raise to the same height as the dining room. Any suggestions for a good subfloor underneath hardwood? Keep up the good writing Mike. Thanks.

Mike Holmes: Hi Brad. Without seeing your place, it's tough to say what makes sense for your living/dining room. It's really up to you whether you need the hardwood in both rooms to 'match'. Who says every room has to be the same? It depends on your design sense, your decorating, your furniture.

If you leave the existing hardwood in the dining room, odds are you aren't going to be able to match the new wood in the living room. It will always look different. Different woods, different stains, how the stain takes to the wood, the age of the wood-all of this can affect how the floor will look. Whether that bothers you enough to go to the extra trouble and expense of tearing it up and laying it so it matches, that's your decision.

As with any kind of flooring-tile, broadloom or hardwood--you need to check the manufacturer's specifications for your application to find the correct subfloor. A transition joint is easily used to separate the two different floors. Since you're in a condo, it's likely to be a concrete floor. When you tear up the old hardwood, have a look at the existing subfloor under the living room and try to match it.

m mcdonald from Toronto Canada writes: Hi Mike, Thanks very much for the information you provide and answering all our questions! I live in an old house (1924) with a basement foundation of likely rubble/cement? The previous owners covered the interior walls with something and then painted it. Some of it has flaked off where moisture was a problem (outside problem has since been addressed - the usual - drainage and eavestroughs). I'd like to try and patch the 'holes' now. I've heard the product on my walls referred to as stucco, parging, portland cement, etc. so I don't know what it is and what I should use for patching. Do you have any ideas or recommendations? Can this 'parging' create further moisture problems for an old foundation? Thank you very much!

Mike Holmes: Without seeing your basement wall, I can't tell you what the material is that's been used to patch it. "Parging" is a technique that's used to spread a product on a vertical surface-it's not a product itself-so the stuff that's been used could be almost anything.

The 'parging' isn't going to create further moisture problems for your foundation-but it sure won't fix them either. Are you sure the outside problem has been addressed? If so, you can buy a premixed bucket of stucco-odds are you will need to stucco the whole wall because repairs on stucco walls never match. Afterwards, paint only with latex paint-oil based paints seal like a plastic and you want to make sure your wall can breathe.

Jennifer F from Toronto Canada writes: Hi Mike, My husband and I live in a 90-ish year old house with a sometimes leaky unfinished basement. It hasn't leaked since we re-routed our eave downspouts into the garden and away from the foundation last Fall, and we've had some torrential downpours. My question is this. Knowing that there has been a problem with leakage in the past, would it be wise to go ahead and 'waterproof' the interior basement walls, insulate and drywall the space without doing an excavation and waterproofing membrane around the exterior of the house? We really don't want to go to the considerable expense and trouble to do all that if it's not necessary now. How effective are those 'waterproofing' paints that are recommended for use on concrete walls? Are they only a temporary fix? Again, we haven't had any seepage or leaking since re-routing the downspouts. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. We can't get a solid answer out of any of the staff at the home-repair stores...surprise, surprise! Mucho thanks!

Mike Holmes: The first question that I ask myself is whether you are 100% positive you've solved the leaking basement problem. I'm sure that moving the downspouts helped, but it's likely the foundation isn't waterproof and water can still get in. So, is it "wise" to spend tens of thousands of dollars to finish a basement that might still leak-I'd say no, it's not. 'Waterproofing paints' won't keep water out if you've got a foundation problem. Never try to water proof your basement from the inside-always/only waterproof from the exterior. If you excavate around the exterior of your house, and have professionals apply the best waterproofing systems that are available-- Aqua-Bloc (an elastometric asphalt emulsion membrane designed for waterproofing foundation walls and other structures)., then you have at least the secure knowledge that the walls won't leak. Sounds like money well spent.

It's really tough to say whether it's 'necessary'. You decide: if moisture leaks in behind your newly finished walls and mold grows behind the drywall and you eventually have to tear it all out and start again, have you saved any trouble or expense?

Andrea Cormack-Akeson from Richmond Canada writes: Hi Mike, love your show...I've learned alot. We are putting in ductwork in a home that is already built(currently heated by baseboards and wood stoves). Several contractors have left shaking their heads. The home has 5 separate crawlspaces, 2 being 3 foot thick fieldstone. It seems almost impossible to come up from underneath without doing some damage. Many have just flatly refused to do the job because of the difficulty. To make matters worse, the builder used 2x6 instead of 2x10 between the floor of one wing(addition put on in '83). The original wing('72) seems to have 2x4 between the floors. The upstairs can be accesed through the attic or the 'knee walls' which run the entire length of the house. A couple contractors suggested 2 furnaces(home is only 2000 sq. feet). One guy suggested we use exposed ductwork(spiral) like you see in bars. The house is beautiful with exposed fieldstone and log and beam construction throughout. Would the spiral take away from the look? We've had estimates varying greatly in price, and with'I don't know how to price this...it would have to be by the hour' Do you know of any heating guys inthe Ottawa area that wont rip us off? Better yet would you like to take on the challenge on your cross Canada tour? Thanks for taking the time to make it right! Andrea

Mike Holmes: Hi Andrea. You sound as though you're doing the right thing-getting lots of quotes from good HVAC companies, and specialists in this area of contracting. Ask a lot of questions, do your research. It also sounds like your house is going to be a challenge for you to get a forced air supply to, no matter what, given the different additions to it.

I've seen situations where two furnaces had to be used, it's not unheard of and might work fine, but with 2,000 square feet, it's not necessary. There's a new high velocity forced air system on the market-it's duct lines are only 2" in diameter. This sounds like a perfect system for your home. It is easily run through walls and floors with minor repairs. Too bad your HVAC guys haven't told you about this system-try and hire professionals who are up to date with new technology in the building industry.

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