Most Common Household Myths Debunked!

There's a lot of misinformation out there, from how to choose a contractor to how to save energy to how to plant a tree. And it's coming at you from all directions-friends, family, that creepy guy who hangs around the hardware store…which is why, we think, This Old House is so valuable. We have a team of built-in lie detectors right here, able to dispel the biggest crock of bull with a single chuckle. Our show experts and our editors may not do it with all the goofs and explosions of those other TV myth busters, but they do know a thing or two about setting the record straight. Using research, experience, and common sense, they've taken a closer look at the most popular myths out there to tell you why what you're hearing from everyone else isn't exactly right.-Jeanne Huber


Check out more busted household myths at thisoldhouse.com!

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Truth: You Need More Info to Assess a Bid.

The lowest bid is not necessarily the worst. And neither is the highest bid from the best contractor. "The low bid could be from someone who's not including things that need to be done," says TOH general contractor Tom Silva. "And the highest bid could be from someone who didn't want the job."

Tom recommends questioning bidders about the specifics. "Ask, 'Can you tell me what he's doing that you're not doing?' 'Is this included in your bid?' 'How are you going to deal with that problem?'" Once you pick a contractor, check that the company is licensed and insured before signing him on. "Not just liability insurance," Tom advises. "Workers' comp, too."

"The low bid could be from someone who's not including everything, and the highest from a contractor who didn't want the job."

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Truth: Some DIY Projects Require Permits.

"Remodel" can refer to a lot of projects, including some that bring up serious safety issues-which would require you to get a permit. "If you're just painting, staining, sanding floors, installing crown molding, or replacing cabinets, you don't need a permit," says Tom. "But if you're adding outlets or changing a stove from electric to gas, you might. If you're replacing windows, taking down a bearing wall, or moving a doorway, you probably need one." A call to your building department will help you find out which types of projects require permission in your town.

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Truth: Hand Tools are Perfect for Small Jobs

Though he's better known as a power-tool guy, TOH master carpenter Norm Abram often grabs something out of his toolbox for quick repairs, such as replacing a piece of decking or attaching cabinet hardware. In such cases, a handsaw or a screwdriver are both quicker than a circular saw or a drill/driver, when you consider the effort it takes to haul out the tool and find a plug or a charged battery.

Norm also cautions against thinking you can do any job if you just have the right power tools. "The tools don't do the work," he says. "They only make the job easier if you know how to use them." Whatever kind of tools you have, you still need skills, and you need to know the the right way to do your project.

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Truth: Water-Saving Models are Now More Efficient.

True, some first-generation 1.6-gallon models required so much extra flushing they weren't efficient at all. But these days many toilets are as good as or better than the old 7-gallon behemoths. Every few months, the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association updates its "Maximum Performance Testing of Popular Toilet Models." The study puts hundreds of toilets through rigorous flush tests and is a great source for checking out models before you buy. The most recent version is under "free publications" on the CWWA website.

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Truth: Spores Must Be Removed, Not Just Bleached.

Bleach does kill mold spores, but even after they're dead they can still cause an allergic reaction. You can wipe a surface clean, but if you're dealing with a porous material, like wood or grout, getting rid of all the deeply ingrained spores can be tricky. Worse yet, bleach strips the spores' color, making it difficult to see what's still there.

The real remedy is to remove mold completely-with a detergent and water, or a scrub brush and a HEPA-filter vacuum. Then, fix the root of the moisture problem so mold doesn't regrow.


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