Learn about the different types of snow blowers and find out which is right for you. Learn why radiant floor heating may be worth the expense of installation. Whole-house water filters can save a bundle by eliminating the cost of bottled water. Plus, get answers to your home improvement questions about, repairing a bathroom floor, buying a house, hiring an engineer, pipes banging, cleaning dryer vents, rain water reserve, insulation, avoiding mold on walls.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And Happy Holiday Prep, folks. You working on your house today? You getting ready for – to entertain some visitors? Are you busily about shopping now that we are right smack dab in the middle of the holiday season? Or perhaps are you taking on one or two final home improvement projects to get done before all of the visitors arrive? We would love to talk with you about your plans for your house, whether it’s stuff you’re doing right now or stuff that you’re planning to do next year. Give us a call right now and we can help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Well, the official start of winter is just around the corner, Leslie.
LESLIE: I know. I can’t believe it. And they’re saying it’s going to be a bad one, right?
TOM: Absolutely. And that’s why I was thinking that this hour we probably should talk a bit about the problem of all that snow building up and how you can alleviate it by buying a snow blower. It’s something that we all think about this time of year. Are you going to do it? Are you not? You going to take a chance? Look, if you didn’t buy one last year, you probably made the right bet. But if you didn’t buy one for the year before, you made the wrong bet.
LESLIE: Yeah. But you know what? I bet a lot of people bought them last year based on the season before and now they have a snow blower they’ve never used. What do they do? How do they get it ready?
TOM: Yeah, we’re going to cover that this hour, in just a few minutes. And especially if you’ve never bought one, we’ll give you some tips on how you can choose the one that’s just perfect for your situation.
LESLIE: And also ahead, if you love drinking healthy, clean, bottled water but the cost of it all just makes you feel a little bit ill, there is a way to make sure the water coming from your tap is clean and healthy. It’s called a whole-house water filter and we’re going to tell you what you need to know to install one in your house and start saving some green, coming up.
TOM: And here’s something that’s pretty dreadful for this time of year: that’s the chill of cold floors on a winter morning. Good time to talk about radiant floor heating.
Now, radiant floor heating can be installed even if your home is already built. A lot of folks think that this has to be done at the time of construction. Not true. There are ways to install radiant flooring today, which will deliver a warm, fuzzy feeling to your tootsies on those cold winter mornings. And we’re going to cover that, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, we’re giving away a great prize package from Stanley Tools. It’s worth more than $220 and it’s a collection of hand tools that will help you accomplish pretty much any do-it-yourself project, including the popular FatMax 25-Foot Tape Rule. It’s really wide, it’s super-readable, it’s got a 13-foot standout. And all of these packages, I mean really, you could divvy it up and make some amazing gifts for the do-it-yourself people on your holiday list.
TOM: And the FatMax Tape Rule is just one of the many gift ideas that we presented in our Holiday Gift Guide, online right now at MoneyPit.com, which is brought to you by Stanley Tools. It’s got great suggestions for those difficult-to-buy people on your list. Just head on over to MoneyPit.com and check it out today.
And pick up the phone and give us a call with your home improvement question. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to those phones.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Andrea in Pennsylvania is on the line with a bathroom-flooring question. How can we help you?
ANDREA: I have a half-bath. It is about 3x3 and to the back of the wall, where the toilet and the sink are, there is a gap that starts about an 1/8-inch and it goes to about an inch-and-a-quarter. And below it, in the basement, there is a hole that – a cinder-block hole – that you can see. I crawled in there, then – yeah and it was disgusting, let me just tell you.
TOM: I bet.
LESLIE: I’m sure.
ANDREA: But there was some sort of water damage.
TOM: Hmm. So …
ANDREA: But when you go to the bathroom in the wintertime, it’s a little chilly.
TOM: Yeah. So, do you think that the floor dropped?
ANDREA: I don’t know if the floor dropped or if it’s from some sort of – connected to it used to be a refrigerator that had an ice maker.
TOM: That’s a big gap.
ANDREA: And it was connected to the toilet tank.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Wow.
TOM: A refrigerator/ice maker connected to the toilet tank.
TOM: That’s some house you’ve got there, Andrea.
LESLIE: That sounds weird.
ANDREA: Oh, my house was built in the 1930s.
TOM: They probably just tapped into the water line near the toilet tank and that’s how they fed the ice maker. Let’s hope that’s how they did it.
TOM: Let’s hope they weren’t making ice out of the toilet water. That would be pretty gross.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness.
ANDREA: I hope not. That would have been pretty bad.
TOM: Now, in terms of this sloping floor – sagging floor – the crack that you see, when you say it’s a crack, you’re talking about between the wall and the floor, correct?
ANDREA: Correct, correct.
TOM: Alright. So it clearly looks like the – either the wall levitated or the floor dropped.
TOM: And the floor dropped – when the floor dropped, it dropped with the toilet in it, so it must have been slow over time. Otherwise, you’d have leaks all over the place. I suspect that something’s going on with the floor here.
So the question is, first, do we have a structural problem?
TOM: My answer is I don’t know, because I didn’t see that crawlspace. But if you go down there and take a bunch of photographs and post them in the Community section on MoneyPit.com, I will take a look at it for you.
ANDREA: OK. Oh, I’d appreciate that.
TOM: Or you could have a carpenter or an engineer, a home inspector take a look at that.
If the floor has just settled that way because it’s an older house and it’s just kind of worked its way into that position but doesn’t seem to be structurally damaged, then we have to deal with just the cosmetics of it. And the way to do that might simply be to install baseboard molding or adjust the baseboard molding that’s there. Is there molding there at all now? Is there a baseboard?
ANDREA: No. Not at all.
TOM: Yeah, so …
ANDREA: Right now I have it stuffed with some Styrofoam.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I would certainly fill the gap. I would insulate under that crawlspace floor, too, so that it’s warmer in there for you in the wintertime. But then I would just put a piece of baseboard molding. I’d let the molding ride down on the floor so the molding will be crooked with the floor.
TOM: And I think that that’s OK. And if you paint it the same color as the wall, it would not be noticeable.
ANDREA: Oh, that would be excellent. That seems simple enough for me.
TOM: Alright, Andrea. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Corey in Kentucky, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
COREY: Yeah, I had a question about the house that I was looking at buying.
COREY: And it’s got a major problem with the second floor. It sags probably about 6 to 8 inches; it looks literally like a bowl on the second floor.
TOM: Wow. OK.
COREY: And yeah, it’s pretty bad; it’s really noticeable. And the house was built during the Civil War, so it’s an extremely old house. And it’s an old farmhouse.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
COREY: And just wondering how extensive a repair would that be. The structural engineer said it’s fine but …
TOM: Yeah. It’s somewhere between nothing and tearing the house down. Does that sum it up for you? It’s really hard to tell …
LESLIE: Does that make you feel better?
TOM: Yeah, until you really get into it.
TOM: A couple of things that you could do. First of all, Corey, have you had a professional home inspector or an engineer look at the house?
COREY: Yeah. I’m actually in the military and I had a – the Veterans Affairs actually had an inspector go out and look at it. And the structural engineer that inspected it said that it’s structurally sound because it was built with green wood but it shrank.
COREY: And he said it’s sound but if I ever wanted to resell the house, I’d have to make it better in order to be able to get what I paid for out of it, because …
TOM: With all due respect to the military and the Veterans Affairs and the guy they sent out, I sincerely doubt he was a structural engineer. You may have – you may be calling him that but it would be unlikely that they would send out such a professional. They probably sent out a housing inspector who inspects everything from homes that people are buying and need loans on to rentals.
I would strongly – underline strongly – recommend that you at least have a professional home inspector look at this. These are guys that look at homes every day and they really know how to sort the wheat from the chaff and figure out whether it’s a major problem or a minor problem. And if you’re really seriously interested about this place, the step above that is to consult with a structural engineer.
Now, with a problem like this, if you’re going to fix it and it sounds like you are, it’s very important that you do it the right way and that is that you work with an architect or an engineer to inspect the property, actually spec out the exact repair that needs to be done and then reinspect it after it’s completed and give you a letter to that effect so then now you sort of have a pedigree or proof that the problem was identified, evaluated and correctly repaired and you have the word of a professional – a licensed professional – that’s certifying that.
This takes you out of the responsibility loop. You understand what I mean? If you just had a slopy floor and you say, “Well, I fixed it,” that doesn’t really mean as much as whether or not you had pros look at it, explain exactly how it should be fixed and then certify that it was done correctly. So, if you’re real serious about this, I would get another expert to look at it and look at the specific problem. It’ll be well worth the investment.
COREY: OK. Yeah, because the house is pretty cheap and I could definitely resell it for a higher value. So I was really looking into – it’s five acres of land and everything like that, so I was really wanting to get the house but I didn’t know if it was going to cost me way more to fix the house than it was to buy the house.
TOM: Yeah. And it’s definitely a cost-benefit analysis that has to be done. I would definitely recommend that you spend $350 or whatever it costs to get an inspection done.
If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, it’s ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org. There’s a zip-code locator. You will find ASHI-certified members in your area. I would use that as the first list to call. And then work through that list and have a conversation with the inspectors until you find one that you really feel knows what he or she is doing and you’re comfortable. And then hire that person to evaluate the house.
COREY: OK. That sounds great.
TOM: Alright, Corey. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
COREY: Alright. Thank you.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it is the ho-ho-home improvement time of year, folks. We’re so excited about the holiday season. We want to help you get your money pit in tip-top shape before the end of the year. So give us a call. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, don’t let last year’s mild winter lull you into thinking you don’t need to get ready for the next heavy snow. Forecasters are predicting a very active snow season, so we’re going to talk about how to pick the right snow blower for your needs, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellent and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
We really have a great prize up for grabs this hour. We’re giving away a combo pack of really cool hand tools from our friends over at Stanley Tools.
Now, in this amazing prize pack, you’re going to find the Stanley Stud Sensor. And it’s got a feature on it that will help you detect live wires that are buried in your walls, which is something really important to know if you plan on hanging something or going into the wall or doing some work or cutting into something. It’s good to know where those live wires are.
Now, you can get the stud sensor and many other handy tools from Stanley worth 220 bucks if you are our lucky caller this hour, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: If you pick up the phone and give us a call at that number, we will toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat and you might just win that $220 package of super hand tools from our friends at Stanley.
And for more handy home improvement gift ideas, check out The Money Pit’s Holiday Gift Guide, presented by Stanley Tools, on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Barry in Florida is dealing with a plumbing situation. Tell us what’s going on.
BARRY: Well, I replaced the sprayer in my kitchen sink. And I did – at the same time, I did a dishwasher and the dishwasher is working fine, no problem. And the sprayer, though, it’s been there 22 years. It just wasn’t spraying. I figured it was all clogged up so I replaced it and when I did, the new one – when I turn on the water – not the sprayer but the water – I get a bang-bang-bang like air in the pipes. But it’s been doing that for about a month now, waking everybody in the house up.
So, I thought maybe I’d call you guys and see if you could help me figure out – I’m fairly handy – what I need to do. Either replace the whole thing again – and I replaced it with a brand new one I bought at the hardware store.
LESLIE: Barry, when you said that the sound is waking everybody up, is it happening on its own or only when you’re using that sink?
BARRY: No, no. Only when you’re using the water. My wife told me that when I get up in the morning to make coffee, I wake her up by turning on the water. Only when you use the main water handle.
TOM: Now, does it happen when you turn the water on or when you turn it off?
BARRY: On. When you turn it on.
BARRY: The whole time the water’s on it does that.
TOM: Hmm. That’s interesting.
BARRY: If I left it on for 20 minutes, it would do it constantly for 20 minutes. That’s why I don’t think it’s air.
TOM: And the whole time it’s on. Yeah, so, I think you’ve got a bad washer in there somewhere.
Now, if it happened when you were spraying and then you released it to turn the water off and you got banging then, that I would say is water hammer, because the water has a forward momentum in the pipes. And when you stop spraying the water, it keeps moving and bangs the pipes. That’s water hammer.
BARRY: Ah, yeah.
TOM: That has one solution. But if it’s happening just because you turn the sprayer on, then I think that the valve in the sprayer is bad and it’s probably vibrating somewhere in there. This happens sometimes with kitchen sinks. If you lift up the lever to turn the sink on, sometimes you get a kachunka-chunka-chunka-chunk kind of a sound.
TOM: And that’s when you have a bad valve. And so I suspect that if you replaced just – you don’t have to replace the whole line but just the handle part of it. Try replacing that and see if it still does it. I think you’ve got a bad one there, buddy.
BARRY: You’re talking about the handle in the hand-held sprayer.
TOM: Correct. Yeah. And those are replaceable.
BARRY: OK. OK, sure, yeah. Absolutely. OK.
TOM: Alright, Barry. Give it a shot.
BARRY: Well, I’ll try that. I didn’t think – that’ll be an easy fix if that’s the fix.
TOM: Well, if you are bracing for the coldest months of the year in your part of the country and if that includes snow, you might want to think about having a snow blower to ease the pain of shoveling. But before you think about buying one, you do need to do a little bit of homework to make sure you’re choosing the one that’s just right for you. And the first thing to consider is actually the amount of area that you need to clear and what kind of space it actually is.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now first of all, there’s the electric snow blower. It’s great if you’ve got small areas where, really, a gas-powered machine is going to be way too big for what you have to do.
Now, these machines, they’re maintenance-free and all you need to do is have a flexible, outdoor extension cord and an outlet and you’re good to go.
Now, if you do have a larger surface that needs to be cleared, you probably want to step up to a gas-powered snow blower. And there are two types: you’ve got a single-stage and a dual-stage. Now, the single-stage blower throws the snow once. That means that gas engine spins an auger that scoops up the snow and then throws it out the chute. And you cannot use these blowers if you’ve got gravel, unless you really want to start pelting your neighbors or your cars or your windows with rocks. And that could be a disaster area.
TOM: That would be a bad thing. And they also – they can’t handle very large snowfalls. So if you frequently get a lot of snow, what you probably want to do is go with what’s called a two-stage snow thrower. These machines throw the snow twice; a metal auger actually picks it up and then a high-speed impeller throws it out through a discharge chute which, of course, you can aim in a safe direction.
Hey, for a checklist of exactly what you need to consider when buying a snow blower, simply go to MoneyPit.com and search “snow blowers.”
LESLIE: Clara in Minneapolis, Kansas is on the line with a dryer-venting question. How can we help you?
CLARA: Our dryer is in the basement, is the beginning part of the problem. So when we hook it up to the vent, the vent goes straight up.
TOM: How far up does it go?
CLARA: Well, it’s probably 8 foot.
CLARA: And then it goes vertical – I mean horizontal – probably about 25 feet to the back side of the house.
TOM: Wow. OK.
CLARA: And then that’s where the exhaust comes out of the house. And we can get part of it cleaned.
TOM: Is it a metal exhaust duct or a plastic exhaust duct?
CLARA: It’s a metal.
TOM: OK, good. Perfect. We’ve got a solution for you. It’s called a Gardus LintEater. And it’s a special brush that fits inside the dryer exhaust ducts and it’s on fiberglass rods. And as you …
LESLIE: So it’s flexible.
TOM: It’s flexible. And so what you do is you start with like 3 foot or 6 foot of the fiberglass rod, you hook it up to a drill and the drill is what spins it. You run it into the duct, pull it out a couple of times. Then you add another length of fiberglass and another length of fiberglass rod and so on.
LESLIE: And it’s the coolest thing, because you will be amazed – both, I should say, amazed and disgusted – at the amount of lint that is going to come out of your vent the first time you do it.
TOM: Yeah, it’s fun.
CLARA: I imagine.
TOM: Just Google it – LintEater, Lint-E-a-t-e-r – and you’ll find it.
TOM: It’s a really handy tool to have. Once you have one, you can use it a lot. You can do it from the outside. They’ve got other attachments that help you get in closer to the dryer and so on but it’s a great product, OK?
CLARA: OK. OK.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? If you don’t do it, you really need to be careful because all of that lint is sort of just building up in there and it could be a fire hazard. So you really do have to get on this.
CLARA: Yeah. That’s what we were concerned about.
TOM: And that’s actually their website, too: it’s LintEater.com. So check it out.
CLARA: OK. That sounds great.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You know, that’s such an important thing to do, Leslie, because there’s a lot of fires that happen in homes because of dirty dryer exhaust ducts. So, a good idea to keep it clean.
LESLIE: It’s funny, I was just noticing the lint buildup in my driveway again and I was like, “Ah, it’s time. Time to get out there.”
TOM: It’s time again. Yep.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, if you prefer the taste of bottled water but not the price, the answer could be a whole-house water filter. We’re going to give you all the details, after this.
NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and to find the perfect holiday gift, visit StanleyTools.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we want to take a minute to welcome our newest affiliate to The Money Pit family. A shout-out goes to all of you hearing us on Global 99.5 FM in the Bahamas.
And Leslie, as we look out the window on this very gray winter day …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And dream about being in the Bahamas?
TOM: Yeah, make a blanket offer. Anybody wants to fly us down there, we’re happy to pitch in by picking up a hammer and saw for a few hours in return.
It’s a beautiful area of the country. We’re so pleased to have you as part of The Money Pit family. And so a special shout-out to Global 99.5 FM in the Bahamas.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Gary in Georgia on the line who wants to save the rainwater. What can we do for you?
GARY: Yes, I do. My wife and I have a lot of grass to water during the summertime. And in Georgia, it gets like drought weather all the time. And we’ve noticed that during this – these months – we actually have a lot of water running off the house and we wanted to know if there’s a way that we could create a water reservoir to save that water that’s coming off of our house.
TOM: Yeah, you definitely can collect that rainwater. What you want is simply a rainwater harvesting collection system. And there are a lot of modern ones that are available. In fact, we wrote a story about this on MoneyPit.com. If you go to MoneyPit.com and just type in the search box “rainwater collection system,” you’ll see an article.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you install it but again, there’s a wide variety of collectors that are out there. There are some that look they’re traditional barrels; there’s even one that looks like a half-barrel that’s got a hose spigot on the end, on the bottom of it. So it collects water off the spouts and then you feed it from the hose.
So, it’s definitely a good system, a good idea. And there’s a lot of options out there and we encourage you to do that.
GARY: And is this an easy project that I could do probably over the weekend?
TOM: Yeah, clearly. You definitely just need to position this. Yeah, you’re going to have to – may have to rework your spouts a little bit to feed it but it’s definitely a very simple installation.
GARY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And that article, again, is called “Rainwater Harvesting Collection System” and it’s online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re tired of that plastic water bottle going out with your recycling – or worse, in the trash every week – a whole-house water filter might be a better option for you.
TOM: That’s right. A whole-house unit filters the water at the main just as it comes into the house, bringing you crisp, clean water from every tap in your home. To learn more, we turn now to This Old House plumbing and heating expert, Richard Trethewey.
RICHARD: Hey there.
TOM: Now, Americans sure have an aversion to tap water but filtering it has to be better and less expensive than buying bottles. Are they difficult to install, these filters?
RICHARD: Well, it really depends. I mean you have to think about attacking water filtration in steps. If it’s a whole house, you need a large unit that’s going to handle all the water that’s coming through and in that case, you’re going to be going after the really visible impurities: dirt and rust.
RICHARD: When you think about the level of water you’re going to consume, you have to think locally. You have to think about a filter that’s going to sit underneath the kitchen sink to give you clean, beautiful water for both cooking and for your ice maker.
TOM: Well, that’s true. Because if you put it at the main, not only are you filtering your drinking water but you’re also …
LESLIE: Your bathing water.
RICHARD: And toilet water.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. So it’s – you really have to do it in steps. There’s a whole industry. It’s an industry that’s growing, because people are more and more worried about the quality of the water. “What happens if the bad guys touch the water?” They want to have some level of security in their house.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. So how do you go about choosing one and then getting it installed?
RICHARD: Well, I think it’s – a dirt-and-rust filter is what you think about at the least case, at the water main coming in. And I think that’s going to be a function of local water quality. In so many parts in this country, the water is beautiful. We take it for granted in this country that the water is as good as it is. So, you may not need that.
But if you had an old, rusty main that’s in your old town or you had a galvanized water main coming in that was going to give you a lot of rust, you’re not – and you can’t change that new main to a new main, you might want to have a dirt-and-rust filter.
TOM: Now, what about a filter that goes actually at the tap? I’ve seen a wide variety of these types of filters. Sometimes you see the ones that screw on to where the aerator would go; other times, you see them to be large and fit inside the cabinet.
TOM: What’s the best way to approach that?
RICHARD: Well, I think there are two. All the ones that you spoke about – you know, the ones that go onto the end of a kitchen spout – they will usually include something called GAC – Granulated Activated Carbon. And water goes through this carbon and it cleans it up as it comes through. And so that’s at the least case, what you would put underneath the kitchen sink: either the little ones you see above the sink or the – these could be the ones that sit down in a canister, underneath, on your cold-water feed.
The other thing that people will put in is a thing called an RO – Reverse Osmosis. Now, that is a unit which will bring water through a membrane and with high pressure, it’ll push through this membrane so only the clean water gets through the membrane and the rest of the water. It’ll push through this membrane – the clean water – and the rest of the water will discharge to a drain, so it’s a lot more elaborate to install in that you not only have a supply but you have a drain. And people will complain that they’re wasting some water.
RICHARD: But the water level is clean and pure; it’s almost distilled.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to changing the filters, does the amount of time between filter changes really vary to the type of cleaning system you have and where it’s located?
RICHARD: Well, it’s a function of water quality, again. Years ago, we had this filter that was so good it would clog up all the time and people hated it. But the water was perfectly clean, because it was taking every bit out of it. So it’s this balance point between taking out the important stuff but not having it be that you have to change it every month or every two weeks, you know?
TOM: But it is important to change it when it needs to be changed, because I remember in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector, I’d seen filters that folks put in with great intentions and then never touched it again for two years. And in fact, if you do that, I guess it could become unsafe.
RICHARD: I think it also becomes almost something you put on the list of when you’re going to change the batteries on smoke detectors.
RICHARD: It’s an annual thing. It should be the change of a season, we’re doing everything we’re going to do. As we hunker down for the winter, let’s get our smoke detectors in and let’s change the water filter.
TOM: Good advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
RICHARD: Glad to be here.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and a step-by-step video on choosing a whole-house water filter and other projects, you can visit This Old House.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing. That’s the power of The Home Depot.
Coming up next on The Money Pit, have you ever jumped out of bed and had your tootsies hit those cold floors on a winter morning, only to want to jump right back in? Well, the solution is radiant floor heating. We’ll have some tips on how you can get that in your house, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ve got a really great prize up for grabs, which you could keep for yourself or you could regift. I think this is the one time it’s allowed to regift and turn this into a pretty awesome holiday present for the do-it-yourselfer in your life.
TOM: Like you could do all your shopping for all your do-it-yourselfers if you won this gift, because it’s got so many things in it.
LESLIE: Seriously. There are so many things in it. It’s a Stanley tool set worth $220. It includes a 210-piece mechanics tool set – gift on its own – and that’s got three quick-release ratchets, six-point, regular and deep sockets and more. And all of it is packaged in a pretty amazing, rugged case. Now, this would be the perfect gift if you’ve got a mechanically inclined person on your list.
But I know, Tom, you use your mechanics tool set pretty much for everything else other than mechanics.
TOM: Yeah. You know what? It’s kind of my go-to set because it’s always there. So if I have to run down to my mom’s house to fix something or something like that, I just grab it and throw it in the car and I know I’ve got it covered.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It really is great. And you know what? Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT if you want your home improvement question answered and your chance to win. But if you’re really sort of stymied on what to get that home improver in your life, we’ve got great gift ideas on our Holiday Gift Guide, which is presented by our friends at Stanley Tools. Check it out today. Make your list at MoneyPit.com.
TOM: That’s MoneyPit.com.
Well, when the temperature drops, it always seems that the very last area of your home to heat up is your floor. And that’s especially true on a chilly winter morning. The solution may be radiant floor heating. It can save you a bundle on your bills and also keep your home very, very comfortable.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It really is something fantastic that doesn’t have to be a luxury anymore. And there are two types of radiant floor heating. First off, you’ve got hydronic, which really is just a fancy word for water, or electric, which is easier to install if your home isn’t undergoing a major renovation at the moment.
Now, radiant heat can be installed below the subfloor or you can sandwich it between your subfloor and the finished floor. And either way, you’re going to get really nice, warm, moist heat.
Now, electric radiant, it’s great for smaller spaces or a home in, say, a warmer climate that does get a little bit chilly in the morning or the evening hours. For example, if you want to chase the chill off a tiled bathroom floor, electric radiant heat is perfect for that application.
TOM: Now, if you’ve shied away from radiant floor heating in the past due to the expense of installing it, you might want to think about this: there’s really no better or more efficient way to heat up your home, because it heats up the place that is the coldest – your floor – and it doesn’t really waste heat by warming the top of the room, making it a very smart choice. And you can also choose, especially with the electric radiant heat, to just do small sections at a time.
So, for example, if you just want to tackle your bathroom floor, you could do just that. And then you can add onto the system as your needs expand and your budget allows.
LESLIE: Mike in Iowa is on the line with a venting question. How can we help you?
MIKE: Yeah. I was listening to one of your shows earlier and you were talking about how the bathroom vents are vented into the attic?
TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
MIKE: And I have that problem regarding that. I mean it’s right into my insulation; it’s not vented out by any means.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. A very common problem.
MIKE: I was wondering the best way – yeah, what’s the best way to fix that problem?
TOM: OK. So what you want to do is you want to install a duct – a vent duct – and you can use flex duct for this. That will take it from the bath exhaust fan to a discharge point.
Now, where the discharge point is is going to be up to you. A lot of options. Typically, you can take that out to the nearest side wall, like a gable wall, and bring it right through the wall. And you would use a termination point – a discharge point. It’s like a piece of flashing that has a hood on it and lets the air get out and then snaps shut and it keeps it from getting wet.
You could also take it and you could drop it into a soffit but you have to actually bring it through the soffit again into a grid so that it’s not obstructed. So you can take the vent and drop it down so it points towards the vented soffit right out. Or you can take it up further and point it right at an existing roof vent. Now, I don’t like that as much, because I think that the higher you try to lift that air, the less effective it’s going to be. But that is an option. You can bring it straight up and point it at an existing roof vent and let it exhaust there.
MIKE: Well, my house is about six years old and I’m wondering – I’m paying pretty high energy bills regarding the heat.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because what happens is when the insulation gets moist from all that moisture that’s being dumped into the attic, it completely cuts down on the R-value of the insulation. So you do need to get that vented outside, whether it’s through the siding with one of those trap doors that sort of opens out every time you’ve got it on or through the soffit. But you want to keep it the shortest run so that you can effectively move that air.
Now, if you’re evaluating what’s going on with the insulation up in the attic, you really need to look at how much compression is there, what is the condition.
Are you talking about pink fiberglass batts?
MIKE: It’s got a white fiberglass.
LESLIE: It looks like it’s blown in?
LESLIE: Yeah. You can add more blown-in, because you want it to fill up to the floor joists when you’re looking up in your attic floor. You want it to sort of reach the height of that bay and you can do that with more blown-in or what you can do is just take rolls of fiberglass and go perpendicular to your floor joists, just to sort of make up and add some oomph to the R-value. And that will really enhance your insulative value. But you do have to vent that outside.
MIKE: OK. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, insulation can save energy and money but adding it isn’t always easy. We’re going to have tips on how you can add insulation even when you don’t have an attic to work in, after this.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Hey, is your home ready for whatever this winter may bring? You know, they’re saying it’s going to be a really super-bad one across the country and that could mean a lot of power outages. Well, if you’re not ready, we want to help you get prepared. Head on over to MoneyPit.com, search “power outages.” We’re going to talk you through a lot of steps on what you need to do to get your home ready in the event of a power outage, whether it’s short or lengthy. We want to give you a hand with that.
And while you’re online, you can head on over to the Community section and post your question, just like Sam in Maryland did who writes: “I have a cathedral ceiling in my living room. I want to add more insulation but don’t have an attic above that space. Is there any way to do it?”
TOM: Yes, you can insulate that space.
Now, it’s a lot more complicated than if you had a traditional attic structure, obviously, but let’s take a look at how that would normally be insulated. Assuming that your roof rafter was maybe a 2x10, what you would normally have is about 8 inches of insulation and maybe 2 inches of air space for ventilation above that. So, let’s hope that that was done and now we want to add to that.
The time to add to that is when you’re reroofing, because what you can do is you could put another 2 inches of solid foam insulation on top of the roof, making what we call a “sandwich” and then having your shingles be on top of that. With those type of roof structures, a lot of times you will put the insulation on top of the roof sheathing, not underneath the roof sheathing, to add to that.
And of course, the other thing that you think – should think about doing is making sure, if you have a cathedral ceiling, that you have an efficient ceiling fan that’s generally pushing that warm air down. It doesn’t have to run fast but it will push that warm air down to where, kind of, all of the folks are in the room, where all the furniture is placed and that sort of thing, to keep that area a little bit warmer and more comfortable.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That really does make a lot of sense and will make a huge difference.
Alright, next up, we’ve got Kate in Georgia who posted: “I’m going to repaint my home’s exterior. I tend to get mold on one south-facing wall. I wonder if you have any suggestions on how to keep it from coming back.”
TOM: Well, generally, if you’re going to get mold and algae and mildew all on one wall, it’s because that wall is on a cold, damp side of the house. What’s surprising is that it’s on a south side of the house.
LESLIE: Because that’s usually the sunniest.
TOM: Yeah, it’s normally on the north side of the house. So, I would first take a look at the environment that’s surrounding that wall and if we’ve got a lot of shade there, then you could do something about – like trimming trees back, getting more sunlight on it. Sunlight is the most natural mildicide available and it will do a good job of keeping the wall drier and have less mold, mildew and algae growth.
If you can’t get that done, then what you want to do is treat that. You can use a mildicide like Wet & Forget and then you can prime it and make sure that the primer and the paint finish that you use have mildicides added to them. And that can help slow the growth, as well.
And then the key is don’t let it get too out of control. If it starts to get a little algae-covered, then treat it again with a product like Wet & Forget and maintain it like that. But again, if you can get sunlight on there, that’s the easiest way to stop it from coming back.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps and good luck with your painting project.
TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We hope that you are having a very happy and safe ho-ho-home improvement season, as we like to think about it, as you get your house ready for the days ahead. And if you have a question as you’re doing that, remember that you can reach out to Leslie and I 24-7 by posting that question on the Community section at MoneyPit.com or picking up the phone and calling us, any time of the day or night, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. I might be asleep but Leslie always answers.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself ...
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2012 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)