Home / News / Beware of “how-not” videos on YouTube – Chicago Tribune

Beware of “how-not” videos on YouTube – Chicago Tribune


You may think that YouTube is an oasis of helpful home decor videos. After all, anyone with a smartphone can upload videos in seconds. I search YouTube every week for videos that I think can help you save time and money. With each passing day I become more convinced that YouTube is a cesspool of bad advice. For every decent video with good information, I see 20 or 30 videos created by idiots.

Let me share a few examples. There are a disturbing number of videos showing the easy way to create concrete walkways, sidewalks, and doorways. The clueless people in the video purchase bags of dry concrete mix from a local hardware store, lumberyard or big box store.

They pour this dry concrete mixture into molds and drag a board over the molds to smooth the top surface. They make fancy prints or designs on dry powder. They are then lightly misted onto the surface of the powder to initiate the chemical hydration reaction. This reaction causes microscopic crystals to form that act like Velcro. These crystals act as the glue that holds the aggregate in the concrete when allowed to completely cover each piece of sand and stone.

After about an hour, the clueless video hosts begin filling the upper surface with water. It begins to be absorbed into the dry dust just below the surface. I’m guessing the video hosts never took a geology class. Heavy water captures the ultrafine cement powder and begins to transfer it into the mixture.

Have you ever seen what happens when a rainstorm falls on dry dusty ground? Heavy rainwater captures the ultra-fine silt and begins moving it downward through the soil. For this reason, the stream water becomes muddy immediately after the storm. Go to the creek a few hours after the storm; the water is magically clear.

Think about this. How do you know if you’ve added enough water to the concrete mix? How do you know if you’re adding too much? How strong is the concrete just below the surface, where most or all of the cement dust has been carried away by water?

I’m currently working with the Portland Cement Association and scientists to prove that this method of pouring concrete is perhaps the worst way to do it. Mixing concrete with the appropriate amount of water in the traditional method coats the sand and stone with cement paste. This is the best way to pour concrete, hands down.

Perhaps the worst videos are the ones that explain how to create thicker wood-framed walls when building a home or room addition. Lots of pooh-pooh 2×6 walls and encourages you to build two separate 2×4 walls spaced about an inch apart. These super-insulated walls are supposed to save you a lot of money on your heating bills. None of the videos I watched went to the trouble of doing the calculations for you.

If you follow the advice in these videos without doing any math, you’ll be in for a big surprise. It’s all about payback. When you spend money on something that claims to lower your electric bills, you must determine how many months or years it will take to recoup the extra cost you spent on the upgrade upfront in fuel cost savings. Only after you get all that money back do you finally start saving money.

I decided to do the mathematics of this double-wall construction method. My dream two-story home was 50 feet wide and 26 feet deep. Both floors had standard 8-foot ceilings.

My calculations showed that you would need 228 extra 2×4 nails for the top and bottom plates for the extra walls, 40 2x4x16 nails, clear pine for the window and door extension moldings, and 50 rolls of 6-inch fiberglass. The total cost of these materials in New Hampshire in 2024, without sales tax, was $6,125.

It’s safe to say that the extra labor, overhead, and profit required to set all this up could be around $10,000. The total cost for super insulated exterior walls will be approximately $16,000.00.

Look online and you’ll see that the 2023 average heating cost for homeowners in the U.S. is: $931 for natural gas, $2,354 for heating oil, and $1,359 for electricity.

Heat loss through windows, doors, attic and floor will be the same. You will only reduce your heat loss through the walls. A savings projection of 20% would be generous. This means you can save $186 per year if you heat with natural gas, $420 if you heat with oil, and $271 if you heat with electricity. You can save an extra $150 per year if you use air conditioning.

It’s your turn to do the rest of the math. Tell me, how many years will it take you to break even? If you heat with natural gas, it will only take you 86 years! Breakeven calculation is much more complicated because of the interest and investment income you could have earned if you had not spent the money. Bottom line: BE CAREFUL about what you see on YouTube.

Subscribe to Tim’s FREE newsletter at: AsktheBuilder.com. If you get stuck during a DIY job, Tim offers phone coaching sessions. Go here: go.askthebuilder.com/coaching


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