MYTH DIY ventures go smoother without inspections.
Rizzo has seen a lot of unfinished projects and work gone wrong when owners do it themselves without permits. “The myth is it’s easier to do without inspections,” he says. “But in reality, town inspectors are there to make sure things get completed to professional standards.”
MYTH You can get away with inexpensive materials.
“Cheap is cheap,” says Todd Vendituoli, who was an independent contractor in New England for 28 years before moving to the Bahamas, where he blogs about home-related issues at thebuildingblox.com. “It will cost you more in the long run to replace something or through extra utility bills. It really holds true for everything. You’re better off just buying a quality piece the first time.”
MYTH Siding is watertight.
Wood and stucco siding expand and contract with the weather, and the various pieces of material covering your house may not breathe at the same rate. “Soft joints” of an adequate amount of caulking can provide a buffer that keeps cracks from forming and rainwater from getting in and rotting your house. Even vinyl siding is not immune: If it’s not installed properly, particularly around windows and doors, you can have problems down the road. If you see rotting windowsills or any apparent water damage on the drywall, leaky siding could be your culprit, according to Von Salmi, a construction forensics specialist in Westminster.
MYTH Basements get damp through the floor, and fixing that costs a fortune.
Most of the moisture that gets into your basement actually comes down, not up — from downspouts that aren’t angled away from the house or soil that is not graded properly. “Almost all water problems are caused by poor exterior drainage,” says Kraeutler. So you probably won’t need to dig up your foundation. “Before you do the hard stuff,” Kraeutler says, “do the easy stuff. You don’t need to spend $15-, $20-, or $25,000 on a basement waterproofer.”
MYTH The more insulation the better.
“More insulation is better,” says Stack, “but the house still has to breathe to avoid mold and mildew.” Before you make any major changes, especially around fans and air vents, have an expert come in to address health and safety issues. Most states have free energy-audit programs; in the Commonwealth, you can find a contractor who does them at masssave.com.
MYTH You should insulate the attic ceiling.
“People think they want the attic to be warm,” Rizzo says. “But you want it to be the same temperature as outside, so you put insulation on the attic floor.” Otherwise, moisture can build up and cause mold. Of course, plenty of people have finished attics, which do have insulated ceilings with drywall over them — but if you plan to do this, make sure the space is properly vented first by someone who knows what he or she is doing.
MYTH Electric heat guards keep your roof ice-free.
“Heat guards are like 8 inches off the gutter,” says Ron Eaton, owner of Express Roofing and Siding in Weymouth. “All that water melts down and drips inside your gutter and freezes. Then you get ice dams that back up into the shingles and drip into the house.” The units are also a fire hazard, Eaton says. “I’ve seen the coils really dried out and rotted.” The best thing to do, he says, is remove the roof 6 feet up and put an ice and water shield under the shingles. “It is expensive, but the alternative is to spend more money if you get an ice dam.”
MYTH It’s OK to leave the window screens on all winter.
Well, it is OK in that it won’t damage your house or the screens, says Vendituoli, but screens inhibit sunlight, and in winter, “any free heat you can get, might as well.”
MYTH If you have a bathroom window, you don’t need an exhaust fan.
Although most municipal codes don’t require fans in bathrooms that have windows, few people keep their bathroom windows open, especially on cold days. But not ventilating a bathroom can cause moisture to build up on walls and windows, allowing mold to grow and possibly even get into the studs, eventually causing rot.
MYTH Closing the vents in unused rooms can save you money.
Most heating or cooling systems work just as hard whether 10 vents or 12 are open. In fact, closing a vent can even throw off the system’s balance and allow pressure to build in the ductwork, causing leaks that can decrease efficiency and lead to higher utility bills. “You could harm your cooling system by icing up the cooling coil, and on the heating side, closing a vent doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll save energy or money,” says Bob Eckel, the New England vice president of Conservation Services Group, a Westborough-based nonprofit energy services company.Continued...