Q&A: Chip Wade of HGTV on preparing your home and yard for hot weather

May 16, 2019

Home expert Chip Wade has helped many consumers transform their homes into spaces that fit their needs and wants. He is the host, designer and contractor on the HGTV series Elbow Room. His expertise is in renovation, landscaping, construction. and customizing spaces. The Atlanta-native has also appeared on Curb Appeal:The Block, Showdown and Design Star.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Chip Wade is an expert on customizing spaces and transforming houses. As host, designer and contractor on the HGTV series Elbow Room, Chip rehabs unfinished basements and reclaims garages. Let's chat with him about getting our homes and yards ready for hot weather. 

Hi! I am buying a home that does not have a deck or patio. Instead, I has an asphalt driveway that wraps around to the backyard. We don’t need to park in the area that wraps to the back and it’s the perfect spot for a deck. Can we build a deck over the asphalt, or do we need to rip that out and start from scratch? The asphalt is slightly sloped away from the house and looks to have some tree roots bulging up underneath. If it’s better to rip it all out, I may need to delay the project for a year.

Great question!  While there is no problem building a deck over the top of asphalt, the asphalt is not sufficient for the structural support of the columns that hold up the deck.  The asphalt might actually keep critters at bay and keep weeds from growing up...  You will just need to dig out enough of the asphalt where your post columns will sit and dig a proper footing and fill with concrete.

Hey All,

My name is Chip Wade, I have been in the design and building business for about 15 years and done almost 2000 renovations.  In addition to about 600 episodes of tv for HGTV and DIY, we have seen alot of things.  I am a huge DIY fan, and am passionate about homeowners doing things the right way

My husband and I are just finishing up a renovation of a DC row house. The back yard was not included in the scope of that renovation, so we're starting from scratch. Any advice on where to start? The space is long and narrow, and we'll need to park a car there but there is definitely space for an eating and/or lounging area too.

How you start a project may be the most important part.  When dealing with an interior or exterior space, it is best to start with a scaled drawing.  This doesn't have to be created from a fancy computer program, but it does need to be accurate.  Having correct dimensions first is the best place to figure out a starting point for the best layout.  From there, you can get more creative in the space itself.

·        It’s very important to stay on top of your home upkeep to avoid future headaches and spring is the perfect time to check some of those items off of your list! In fact, a survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance revealed 69 percent of consumers have procrastinated on home maintenance and repairs. Can you relate??

What are some changes I can make to my apartment to let me use less AC/no AC later into the summer? We have window units but they're loud and energy inefficient. It's a rental so I can't overhaul the insulation, I'm afraid, but I added weather stripping around the windows in the winter, things like that.

I feel your pain....   

Surprisingly, air flow - or air movement is the biggest enemy of keeping your apartment comfortable.  Even if your windows are single pane and you have low R value insulation, the biggest thing you can do is try to STOP moving air.  This can come in many forms like weather stripping, caulk, expanding foam filler.  Once quick and easy way to see if there is air movement is wait until dark and get a flashlight and a friend.  Shine the light around all your doors and windows, electrical outlets and attic rooflines.  If your friend can see any light from the outside, there is a leak...

Jura, Thanks for your great article about gallery walls. I'm disappointed I missed Tessa Wolf last week. I wanted to ask her about choosing frames when you haven't decided where to hang the art. I have several contemporary black and white photos and not sure whether to go light or dark. Grateful for your advice, thank you.

Glad you enjoyed the article. You all can read my article on gallery walls here. You're in luck! I just emailed Tessa and she answered your question. "If you frame art before you know where exactly you're going to hang it, go with a clean white or black gallery frame and a white mat. Modern framing like this is not only perfect for contemporary black & white photography, but it genuinely works with any decor and in any space. My default is usually white because it can easily disappear into a light-colored wall, letting the art shine."


Post Point Code

HF 1202

When I purge my closet, I separate the excellent condition items out from the others, and plan to donate those directly to a homeless shelter rather than a regular thrift store. However, I just found out that the entity that took over the shelter I had previously taken the excellent condition items too will now only accept brand new / new with tags items. Suggestions for other DC area homeless shelters that want and will distribute excellent condition women's items?

Can anyone advise this reader?

We are midway thru a master bath renovation, our first big project. Is it customary to tip anyone on the team at the end? Frankly we're already paying a lot for the labor! We're not generally home during the day so I don't know how many people have been working on the project. Is this one of those situations where a positive review and offer to be a reference is more valuable?

How gracious this question is!!!  Not one I typically get asked.  I would say that NO, it is not customary to tip trades for their work.  I professional trade should have adequate profit built in.  If you think the job was so above and beyond and you feel that the value was far skewed in your favor, than that can be to your discretion.  I would certainly say that providing a positive review and asking where you might be able to post it (to their website, google reviews, etc.) would be the biggest thank you... and of course referrals.


Are millennials killing ironing? Not really, they just use their irons less. But they have other ideas on how to get wrinkles out of clothing. Just in case you missed my story on ironing. Here it is.

We recently installed pull-down attic access in our 1939 home so that we could use a small portion of the attic to store seasonal items and old files. The attic is not finished and has blown insulation; we plan to put a few pieces of plywood down. There are gaps around the door frame that will let out the A/C. What is the best way to seal the entry? Thank you.

I typically use a rigid foam insulation on the backs of an attic door if there is room.  The best seal will come in the form of a vinyl or rubber seal (like weatherstripping) that is placed on the part of the attic door that hits the frame when it closes.  I suggest using the type of seal that nails on instead of the adhesive strip, as those typically let go in areas of frequent use. 

We purchased a home last July in North Carolina that has about 6 overgrown Leyland Cypress trees that screen along our neighbor's fence. During the hurricanes this winter, we lost 3 of them due to high winds and ground saturation. We would like to replace trees with something that is more durable and still will provide screening over time. Any suggestions of trees or shrubs that would work?

This is a very common problem.  The large varieties of arborvitae and cypress can become very fragile and also prone to disease when they get large.  The best thing to do is to take the rest down and start from scratch so you have a screen that matures evenly over time.  

I am a big fan of the larger cryptomeria varieties as well as some of the larger holly species.  I use variety called service berry quite often.  Very cost effective, mature height of about 15' and very robust. 

Two weeks ago, you answered my question about making a white/brass metal bed work with a heavier dresser in a guest room with balance of lamps, linens, rug, etc. Follow-up question - any recommendations for night stands? Maybe something distressed/white? Thanks

Yes, whitewashed or chalk painted small wooden tables would be nice. Check out your favorite flea markets or thrift shops and DIY them.

I need to replace my gutters. They are old and regularly fill with the detritus from my close by neighbor's pine trees. Am very confused by the options of gutter "guards." Do they really work? Have always cleaned my own gutters (good help to do this is hard to find), but am now of an age where doing this is not wise. Help!

Super common problem... and yes, gutter guards do work, but not all of them.  The less expensive screens are not effective for things like pine needles, as they just go right through, and the screens just hold them captive causing more of a dam.  Look for the more solid, full coverage gutter guards, those are worth it.  There is also a style that is a solid foam piece that completely fills the gutter... also a nice option  

The deer eat all my flowers. I have shrubs they don't touch. But are there any annuals or perennials that will add color to the front of my house that deer won't eat?

Alot of yards and gardens struggle from hungry deer.  Deer really like narrow leaved evergreens....  they do not, however, like plants with really strong fragrances or ones that have a toxicity.  Plants that have strong toxin are ones like foxgloves(beautiful btw), daffodils and poppies.  Strong fragrance plants like herbs and even larger varieties like rosemary are great choices. 

What temperature should you leave your house at in a hot climate if you are going to be away for two weeks? Should you leave your AC on?

I recommend leaving it on, but adjusting it down to save energy.  In hot climates, setting the temp to no more than 85 degrees will save you money, but wont allow anything to damage while you are gone.

Part of my house has vinyl siding. Power washing doesn't really get all the mold off. Any other ideas?

correct, you need to apply a cleaning agent first to the siding before trying to blast it off with a pressure washer.  The cleaning agent will help with the mold and mildew stains.  You can even use a mild, homemade, vinegar and water solution to do pretty much the same thing.


All the rain this spring has sprung a leak in my basement of my 100 year old house. Its just a little trickle when it really rains hard. Do I really need to get a sump pump?

A sump pump is never a bad idea, but it is treating the symptoms of the real issue.  I recommend finding the source of the leak and correcting it.  The best choice is keeping the water from ever coming in.

What color should gutters be?

This is totally a personal choice, but usually gutter color selection is the same as the house trim or the same color palate as the roofing material.  Any other deviation from those usually requires some specific design experience.

 In that same study from Liberty Mutual Insurance I saw that 48% of Americans have less than $1,000 saved for home maintenance issues or repairs and one in three have no money saved.  That seems crazy, but I can believe it.

I recommend budgeting one or two percent of your home’s purchase price to cover annual maintenance and repairs—or, setting aside $1 per square foot annually.



Our backyard is concrete and cracks have formed where moss is growing. How can I patch them without it looking bad?

The best solution for cracked concrete is a concrete resurfacer.  This is a thin (1/2" thick) layer of reinforced concrete that makes it look brand new.  This only works if the concrete is not displaced.  If the concrete cracks are not level with one another, there is no solution but demo and replacement. 

What's the best looking wood fencing and one that lasts a long time.

This is very much a personal choice, but I love the look of cedar post fencing.  There is also some new products out made of aluminum that last forever, are lightweight and look just like wood....  pretty cool

Any thoughts on this product? We need to redo the exterior of our home and want to give it a more mid-century vibe. (It's a 1951 but currently kind of bland.) Aesthetically, hardie board seems to give us more of the vibe we want than the vinyl options we've looked at but I'm not sure how I feel about committing to a product that would have to be painted now and then.

If you can afford it, i would no question go with cement siding (hardie) over vinyl.  When properly primed and painted it can last for 20+ years without the need of maintenance.  - and it looks substantially more high end

Is it safe to leave propane tanks in the back yard when you go on vacation?

Yes, just ensure they are fully shut off. 

How do you get ideas for your show and where do you get the people for the makeovers?

I am constantly on the hunt for creative ideas.  Doing so many projects, I find inspiration everywhere.... mostly through trying to think of good ways to solve normal problems.   We pick  people off the "get cast" tab on my website   www.wadeworkscreative.com   We also service people in real life aside from television.  We are a full service architecture and design firm.  Remodels and New Construction.... anywhere...

My pressure treated deck no longer repels water. I am planning on re-sealing it with a colored stain. How should I clean it beforehand so that the finish will last?

Best solution is to sand it down with a floor sander to raw wood.  Everything else is a bandaid.  Its not hard at all, just go rent one from the rental center.  Make sure all the nails and screws are down first.  

IMPORTANT:  when you reseal, do the top surface as well as the under side.  Wood is a natural material and performs way better when finished uniformly on all sides. 

i love the look of an outdoor carpet to anchor my seating arrangement, but i have drain hole smack center of the area. Options??

Use a more open weave polyester rug....  should allow it to drain right through!  

Whatever that green stuff is is growing on the concrete wall around the steps down into my basement entrance. The basement is only halfway underground so I'm tall enough to just take a brush to it, but what sort of cleaning solution would work? Vinegar and a little dishwashing soap?

exactly.. its just mildew/mold/moss.  The vinegar solution will clean it right up

How many times a year should gutters be cleaned out?

according to how much debris you have falling, but at least once per year.... ideally late fall once most of the leaves have fallen, then look in the spring to make sure you are still good to go.

How to repeal mosquitoes so that I can enjoy my outdoor space (patio and yard). Note that I have small kids and furry pets so some options may not be appropriate.

I have found that carrying one of the portable thermocells is my go to....  easy, portable and cost effective.

Which project will add the most value to my home?

This is not a one size fits all question.  The ONLY way for someone to give you a substantial answer is to dig deeper into your situation....  happy to help:  chip@wadeworkscreative.com

To the home owner who wrote in about Hardie siding- we had synthetic stucco and replaced it with James Hardie siding 7 years ago and it is still in beautiful condition. Best investment we made. Low maintenance and they have so many options of shingles/plank siding - you can really enhance the value of your home. Realtors list that as a feature in our Northern VA area. Good luck

nice job!  There are other products out there too... just look for the fiber cement category.

Do you have to leave the front door open on front loading HE machines? Is the mold issue still happening with new models?

yes... leaving the door slightly open is still a thing to let the rubber ring fully dry out (thats where the smell comes from)  They make cleaners for them too..  I am eagerly awaiting a solution for that too!

Tell me the pros and cons of doing an oyster shell driveway at our beach house?

If you are referring to a crushed loose shell driveway:

Pros: fast to put down, fun aesthetic

Cons: doesn't stay put, messy as it sticks in your shoes and everything else

Our deck needs to be power washed and stained. However, I'm not sure if any of the wood needs to be replaced. It's not in terrible condition, but how do I know if the wood is okay enough to just be cleaned and stained?

If the deck is not splintered, cracked or overly warped, its probably ok.  Just sand it down and if it looks like new wood you should be good to go.

Thank you all for all the questions!  If you have more questions about home maintenance this year or want some more fun inspiration, check out

·        LibertyMutual.com/MasterThis  as well as my personal site www.wadeworkscreative.com

Thanks Chip. We look forward to watching your next episodes! Next week join me for Laura Wilson of West Elm as we chat about setting up an outdoor living room. Until then, enjoy the spring weather.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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