Get advice on creating a home theater on a budget and in time for the big game. Learn how to light the room and create the best audio experience. Don’t waste money on remodels that don’t pay off. Discover what changes bring the most value. Your kitchen design might be making your cooking experience more tiring. Find out how to make small changes that can help ease your workload. Plus get answers to your home improvement questions about, noisy pipes, repairing door frames, Energy Saving heat, green cleaning products, mold, insulation, building a deck, repairing a driveway, baseboard heating.
TRANSCRIPT FOR DECEMBER 31, 2012, HOUR 1
Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist's understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. 'Ph' in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 1 TEXT:
[audio timestamp: 0:00:25]
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 New Year, everybody. It’s time to get to work. The partying is done; holidays have officially passed and the home improvement season for 2013 is about to begin. And we are here to help you do just that, so pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement project. There’s got to be a project that’s on your to-do list for this brand-new year. Let us help you move it to the done list by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, you know, this is really the best time of year for NFL fans but if you’ve got an older TV, you could be missing out on part of the experience. So we put together some tips on how you can build a killer home theater on a budget so you won’t miss a thing.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, are you a serial renovator? Do you just not know when to stop improving your house? Well, here’s a hint: if you have over-improved it to the point that you’ve got more in your house than you are ever going to get out of it. Well, to keep that from happening to you, we’ve got a list of the top-five renovations that pay off the most.
TOM: And also ahead, has holiday cooking left you somewhat exhausted? Well, your kitchen’s design might be working against you, so we’ve got easy and inexpensive kitchen updates that will help you cook up a stress-free kitchen for the new year.
LESLIE: And also this hour, one random caller that we talk to on the air has got a chance to win a prize package from Snow Joe and it includes a snow broom and an electric snow thrower worth 119 bucks. And that’s really sure to save you from an aching back this winter.
TOM: So, give us a call right now; the number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Pam in Missouri is dealing with some mysterious water noises. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
PAM: When I run water down the kitchen sink and after I stop running the water, that kitchen sink gurgles.
TOM: Well, your problem is very simple: you have to stop running water and flushing toilets.
PAM: Can’t do that.
LESLIE: Stop using the plumbing.
TOM: Alright, look, what’s going on here is your plumbing system is starved for air; you don’t have enough ventilation. And you know when you look at a house from the outside and you see the plumbing pipes sticking up through the roof?
TOM: Those are vent pipes. And what they do is they let air into the system so that when the water runs out, it’s replaced by air without gurgling. When your plumbing can’t get enough air, it gurgles like that.
And the solution here is going to be figuring out what’s wrong with the existing plumbing-ventilation system. You may have a blockage somewhere that’s causing this. There are ways to add additional vents if necessary but you’ve got to get to the bottom of it, first, and figure out why it’s blocked.
How old is your house?
PAM: It’s 14 years old.
TOM: Has it always been this way?
PAM: I don’t think it has always been that way. It seems like the more that we use – when I’m home on a weekend and use it a lot, it gurgles more.
TOM: I think you have to have a plumber take a look at that, because you don’t have enough air getting into the system.
TOM: Something is wrong with the venting and you may need to open that drainway’s vent pipe up somewhere else to get some more air in there.
Pam, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Peter in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
PETER: We built our house in ’06, so it’s a brand-new house; we had it built. My wife was in a wheelchair, so we made the doors wider, like instead of 28, 30.
PETER: And we’re still bumping up against the door frames, you know? And they’re not too bad but they’re – when we’re backing up and stuff, we’re hitting the walls and the door frames. And we were just wondering if there was anything that you might be able to – maybe to cover up the dents in the wood.
TOM: So do you want to repair the wood or do you want to – like do you want some advice on how you can put a guard on those door frames?
PETER: I think maybe just to try and repair them or cover up the dents.
TOM: Well, that becomes a pretty easy repair. I mean basically, what you want to do is sand out the paint there and sand out any rough spot around that. And then you want to fill it. There’s a wide variety of products you could choose from. Elmer’s has got a great line of wood fillers that are easy to sand. And then you touch up with some primer and then you paint it again and that will cover it up.
And you also might want to think about taking a look at some of the clear corner guards that are available that can protect that. They kind of blend into the material so you don’t really see them. But it’ll help you protect from gouging it any further.
LESLIE: Oddly enough, at the home centers, Peter, they are found in the painting aisle. And I know this because the steps going down to our basement, my four-year-old likes to run down and grab onto that corner and he peels off the wallpaper every time he goes down and it’s been driving me nuts.
PETER: OK, great. Hey, thank you very much for your help. Yeah, we love listening to your show. We have a new house, so we don’t have all the problems like people have with dirt cellars and all that, so …
TOM: Oh, that’s alright. We’re glad we can help you out with the small repairs, as well as the big one. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Happy New Year, everybody. Are you taking this weekend to work on some New Year’s resolutions for your house? Well, if you are, pick up the phone and give us a call; we’d love to give you a hand. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up, we’ve got budget-friendly tips on how you can build your very own home theater, just in time for the big game, next.
[audio timestamp: 0:06:00]
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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: Give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and a chance to win a great prize, because we are giving away, to one lucky caller this hour, a snow-removal package from Snow Joe. It includes a snow broom. It’s got a big, huge, non-abrasive foam head, so you can push that snow off your car instead of pulling it right on top of you. And you’re also going to get a snow thrower to get rid of all the snow on your walkways.
The package is worth $119. You can check them out at SnowJoe.com or call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sampat in North Carolina who needs help with a heating question. What can we do for you?
SAMPAT: I have a 2,600 split-foyer house and we have natural gas and electricity for heating purposes.
SAMPAT: Mostly, we use natural gas.
SAMPAT: Would a quartz infrared heater save us any money?
TOM: I don’t think so. If you’ve got natural-gas heat already, that’s going to be the least expensive per BTU. So if you wanted to save money, what I would suggest you do, Sampat, is to take a look at your energy efficiency in your home and see what could be improved there. For example, take a look up in the attic and tell me if you’ve got 15 to 20 inches of fiberglass insulation. If you don’t, now is a good time to add to that.
SAMPAT: Yeah, we do have good insulation. Very good insulation. But there’s still – the heating bill is running around close to $200 a month in the wintertime.
TOM: Mm-hmm. So, another thing to take a look at is the outlets on the exterior walls – the lights and the outlets and the switches on the exterior walls – and make sure that those have insulation gaskets behind them, because there’s a lot of drafts that get in there.
TOM: And look to all of the areas where you can tighten up the house. That’s going to give you a better return on investment than adding quartz infrared heat, which is very, very expensive to run. Now, the only time that that makes sense is if all the rest of the rooms in the house are turned off, so to speak, and maybe you’ve just got one area that’s a little chilly and you just want to run it for a little bit of time strategically, like in the evening when you’re all gathered around.
But I would never suggest that you use that in lieu of your natural gas-fired, central heating system, because it just wouldn’t make sense.
SAMPAT: OK. Alright, Tom. Very good. Thank you so much.
TOM: Good luck, sir. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Julia calling in from Brigantine, New Jersey looking for a green product for mold. How can we help you today?
JULIA: Yes. I would like to know what you have – anything of a green product for mold and mildew?
TOM: Yeah, where are you trying to get rid of the mold and mildew? Are we talking about inside the house or outside the house?
JULIA: Inside the house. Inside the garage area.
TOM: You said it’s in an open garage?
JULIA: Yes, it’s a double-car garage and in between both garages, we have two walk-in closets.
JULIA: And the walls there, they don’t have insulation between them but they’re a hollow wall. But I wanted a green – something that’s environmentally friendly.
TOM: OK. So those walls are developing mold? Is that what your concern is?
JULIA: I’m concerned they’re going to develop mold, because we were in the flood – Sandy, Hurricane Sandy.
TOM: So, the best thing for you to apply there is a diluted bleach solution. Now, if you don’t want to do that, you could purchase a different type of mildicide and there are some green mildicides that are available.
JULIA: What are the names of them? I’ve already done the bleach.
TOM: You did bleach? Well, then, why do you need to do anything else?
JULIA: Well, I don’t want any mold to come back or anything and I just figure I need some …
TOM: Well, listen, here’s the thing. Mold is going to grow if you’ve got moisture above 25 percent, you’ve got air and you’ve got a food source. That’s what makes mold grow.
So, in these closets, if they’ve been dried out as much as possible and they’ve been treated with a bleach solution, you’ve really accomplished your task. Should you monitor them over time? Yes, you absolutely should. And if you start to see any additional mold form, you can spray them again. I don’t think you need to do anything beyond that.
JULIA: Well, can you give me the name of some products in case I do need it? Because we’ve done that.
TOM: Well, one product that you want to look into is a product called Wet & Forget. It’s a moss, mold, mildew and algae remover. There’s distributors all across the country. If you go to WetAndForget.com, you can find a retailer right near you. There’s a store locator right at the top of the page.
JULIA: Oh, alright. That’s great.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Are you guys ready for some football? Well, if you’ve got a small TV and a lot of guests coming over to watch the playoffs, the answer is absolutely no. But you don’t have to spend a ton of money to create a great viewing experience for everyone.
TOM: Now, your biggest purchase will, of course, be the television, right? But you want to make sure that you get a size and a format that’s going to work well within the space that you’re working with. A screen that’s too big and one that’s too close for comfort will actually inhibit your viewing experience. The ideal viewing experience is usually about two to two-and-a-half times the width of the screen, so keep that in mind before you head out to the store to pick up a brand-new set.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to choosing an audio system, it’s usually best to buy all of the components from the same manufacturer. Audio components, they’re designed to work together and buying them in a set assures that’s going to happen and everything’s going to sound great as a result.
TOM: Now, finally, lighting can really seal the deal on a good home theater, so you want to plan for dimmable light that’s behind the large flat-screen, because this will create an attractive backlighting situation and it can leave your eyes stress-free.
Now, don’t add lights where they’ll cause a glare and make sure that your windows have blinds or shades that are capable of blocking the natural light when needed.
For more ideas, including tips on how to find the best buys in home-theater systems, just search "home theaters" at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Anna in Oregon is on the line and she’s got a question about sheds and critters. What’s going on?
ANNA: Well, I have a question. I was thinking of getting one of those sheds that you build yourself, like from Home Depot, and you put it in your backyard. And a neighbor of mine did that and another friend that I know did that and then they said they got rats underneath. And I’m wondering, is there any way to prevent that problem from happening?
TOM: Well, if you build this in such a way where it’s supported up in the air so you basically have created, for lack of a better term, sort of a kind of crawlspace underneath the shed, then you could get animals that are going to nest down there. But a better way to do this might be to put it on a simple foundation.
And so to do that, essentially what you’re going to want to do is dig down into the area where the foundation – where the shed perimeter is going to be and set blocks into that area. Now, you would put them on a simple footing and set blocks into that area, compact the soil, set bricks or blocks in that area and then position the shed on top of that block foundation. And this way, it’ll be kind of a sealed bottom, as opposed to an open bottom. So if you put it on a small foundation – or the other thing you could do is you could pour a slab and then you don’t have to have a wood floor; you could just have an open floor.
ANNA: I see. Well, OK, I appreciate that suggestion.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ken on the line who’s dealing with a very moist situation in the attic. Tell us what’s going on.
KEN: OK, yeah. Say, we live – Dorothy and I – about three blocks from the Pacific Ocean, next to the Columbia River. I purchased a house here with a flat roof. Basically, it has about a 3/12 pitch. It had a torch-down system on it and I opted to go – an IB Teflon system.
KEN: And it was about a $10,000 system. Well, after they put it in, about a year later I noticed mold on the underside of the roof. And they put three vents – about 8-inch-diameter vents – in the ridge. And when I saw the mold, well, they said, "Well, you’re not getting adequate ventilation in the (inaudible at 0:14:28)." Well, anyway, they put six more vents in there and they had messed up and left about a half-a-dozen little holes where they had bad leaks. And so I had water in between the IB system and the torch-down and my plywood.
KEN: So I put the fan in there and my question now is – and putting those additional six vents on the bottom.
TOM: Are you talking about – when you say "the bottom," are you talking about the underside of the overhang, at the soffit level?
KEN: Well, no. I don’t have any overhang.
TOM: You don’t have any of the – OK.
KEN: It’s a flat roof and it just comes to the walls. And so, after they put the six – three on the – or four on the top ridge about – I had mentioned to them we should put some vents down low and they said, "No, you don’t need vents up here with that little" – but probably wouldn’t have had to have but they were incompetent.
KEN: And they did because they left about a half-a-dozen holes and leaks in that Teflon.
TOM: Alright. So here’s the situation. So you had a minimal amount of vent. You spotted some mold, you added additional vents and now you’re – are you still seeing mold in the attic or not?
KEN: No, I think – they came in and they wiped it down with whatever.
TOM: So you’re not seeing the mold anymore in the attic. And the question is do – is it possible to have too much ventilation? The answer is no. In fact, a perfectly ventilated attic space is going to be at ambient temperature all the time.
Now, because it’s a flat roof, it’s much more difficult to vent. If this was a pitched roof with an overhang, you would have soffit vents down across the soffit, ridge vents across the peak. It would essentially be wide open all the time, constantly circulating air. And what that does is in the wintertime, it takes out moisture, which can condense and lead to mold. In the summer, it takes out heat which, of course, drives up your cooling costs. So I don’t think it’s possible to have too much attic ventilation.
Did you also mention that you put a fan in there?
KEN: Well, I put a fan in there to dry out the moisture first and that’s what my concern was. Maybe I shouldn’t have put the fan, because I’m spreading those mold spores around by doing that.
TOM: Well, if the mold was treated, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. But here’s the thing about fans. Now, the fans – the attic fans – are only going to work on a heat-sensitive switch unless you wired them somehow differently. And so those fans – those attic fans – typically only work in the summertime; they don’t work in the wintertime.
KEN: It was in the fall, so it was relatively cool.
TOM: Right. But there’s – but those attic fans work on a thermostat, which is generally, if it’s installed correctly, set at around 100 degrees. So it would have to be an awfully warm, fall day for that to kick on. I would say that if you’re not spotting the mold any further and the attic doesn’t seem to be leaking, you addressed all those issues, that you’re just good the way it is and I would just stop right there and enjoy it.
KEN: Right, right. Well, this is about the eighth house – we retired in the last four years. It’s kind of like watching gold rush here; you’re always going to find something in an old house. So, we enjoy it but it’s a lot of work.
TOM: Alright, Ken. Well, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Carol in California is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you today?
CAROL: I have an old house. It sits high off the ground and it’s one of the houses that when they dismantled the camps, they took houses out and people bought them and set them up. And it’s all open underneath and it is freezing cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. Is there something that I can do underneath the house?
TOM: So there’s no insulation?
CAROL: I don’t think so. Very little, if any.
TOM: Yeah. Are there – is it like a sort of open floor joist? Like do you see the floor joists when you look under and up?
CAROL: You know what? I haven’t been under the house.
TOM: Yeah. Well, look, you’ve got to get somebody under there, Carol, to see what the structure is. But we have the technology, OK?
TOM: You know, if it’s a standard floor-joist construction, you can add insulation in between the floor joists and then under that, you could use 2-inch insulating foam board and then nail that to the bottom of the floor. And that would seal up the floor from the cold air that’s getting up in there.
And I would also take a look at the attic to make sure that that’s insulated. And you just may have a house that needs a few very basic, energy-saving improvements to it.
CAROL: Alright. Well, I appreciate that information. Thank you.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Did you know that some remodeling projects can actually lower the value of your home? That’s right, I said, "Lower." We’re going to tell you the top remodels that pay off, after this.
[audio timestamp: 0:18:55]
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 everything for your tool box, 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: Happy New Year, everybody. Hey, pick up the phone, give us a call and start your New Year’s off right with a home improvement project. We can help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
And if you made a resolution to save more money this year, one way to do that might be to simply search "saving energy" at MoneyPit.com. Because if you cut down on the energy bills, you’ll have that money that you’ve been trying to save right there in your pocket.
LESLIE: Laurie in California, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LAURIE: I am trying to put a freestanding deck in my backyard. And my backyard has blackberry bushes in it, so I have to get rid of the blackberry bushes first.
LAURIE: And I don’t want them to grow back up through the deck.
LAURIE: So how could I do that?
TOM: Well, they’re probably not going to grow through the deck, because the deck is going to block all sunlight to it. That said, as you prep the soil, what you’re going to want to do is – obviously, you have to build footings for this, right? So you build the footings and then you take off whatever the top surface is there, if there’s grass, whatever. And then you lay down weed block – which is sort of this black, burlap-y kind of fabric. And you lay that down underneath the deck and then you can go ahead and frame over that.
What you might end up doing is do the framing and then kind of lay the fabric down at the very last minute because, frankly, it’s kind of hard to walk on it while you’re framing this deck. So you might end up even putting the floor joists down, then lay the fabric under it, then finish it off. And that’ll help slow down anything that wants to come up right away.
But I think that once this deck is built, it’s going to be so dark under there that you’re not going to have problems with the blackberry bushes coming up through the deck. It certainly would come around it but not through it.
LAURIE: OK. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Laurie. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, are you planning big remodeling projects for your home this year? Since we’re pretty sure that none of them involve planting a money tree, you really want to make sure that every dollar counts.
TOM: And the best way to do just that is to plan remodels that pay off for you in the future. And This Old House host Kevin O’Connor has the lowdown on the top-five projects that do just that.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. It’s great to be here.
TOM: It’s an absolute must to make sure that your projects will really pay off. Not only do you want a great finished product but it has to make dollars and sense. So, what do you recommend are the best improvements to make to achieve that?
KEVIN: Well, I think without question, you should start thinking about the kitchen, OK? So the kitchen is the heart of the home and it’s the first room a prospective buyer looks at when they come into your house. And think about it: if they buy the house, they don’t want to take on a major renovation the first thing they do when they move in. And that’s what you’d have to do if you want to attack the kitchen. So, that’s a great place to start.
And the good news is it can be a huge job but it doesn’t have to be; you don’t have to go the full gut, redo the entire room. There’s lots of changes within a wide range of budgets. I mean you can just paint the cabinets; that would make a huge upgrade.
TOM: Yeah, people tend to think that the kitchen always is a tens-of-thousands-of-dollars makeover but there are lots of …
LESLIE: And a huge inconvenience, I think.
TOM: Yeah, there’s lots of steps along the way, lots of little things that you can do: like you say, cabinets, countertop, lighting, flooring. Pick one part of it, right?
KEVIN: Pick one part of it this year, pick another part next year. Do it in small increments. Change out the appliances. Put some nice appliances in there or just one nice appliance. It’s going to make a big difference.
The second room that I think that you have to look at are bathrooms, OK? (inaudible at 0:23:14) another space that’s really closely examined by the home buyers.
Now, bathroom styles can be a very personal choice, so if you know that you’re going to be selling in the future and you’re doing a bathroom project, just keep your choices fairly neutral; that’s where you’re going to get your biggest payoff. And again, even some modest changes here can make a big difference: changing out the fixtures or the hardware, maybe putting in some tile flooring, even the décor can make a big difference. And you can do a lot of those things on a tight budget.
LESLIE: Now, Kevin, if you’ve got the opportunity to expand or do an addition, are there rooms that make more sense to add onto the home’s structure over others?
KEVIN: Yeah, I think so. Where do we spend all of our time? We spend it in the family room, right? We’re either in the kitchen or it seems we’re in the family room.
So if you’re going to add on, I think choosing a room that gets a lot of use, like a family room, is a great place to start in terms of an addition. Lots of people these days also like home offices and those things appeal to a wide range of buyers. And I think when you’re doing a home office, you can be thinking about it, in some cases, as a guest bedroom, as well. So it’s one of those rooms that can really change uses.
TOM: Or do double-duty, yeah.
KEVIN: Do double-duty, right.
TOM: Now, one room that’s changed a lot over the last 20 or 30 years is the master bedroom. It used to be, simply, the largest bedroom in the house. But today, buyers seem to want to have an entire suite, correct?
KEVIN: Yeah. I think the "suite" is the right word and so that means that we’re now asking it to do a lot more than just be a bedroom. We’re looking for things like a roomy closet, maybe even a his-and-her closet. And we want a master bath attached.
And so if you’re going to be doing a renovation and you’re thinking about the bedrooms, a master suite is a great place to start.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think a good time to think about that is if you’ve already got something going on and you’re expanding that first floor and you have the opportunity to go over it with a second story, that really works.
KEVIN: Yeah. The foundation is a big expense and typically, the master suite is going to be up on the second floor. So it is – you really – if you can do it while you’re doing something else downstairs and pop this up on top, you’re going to be in a good place.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I think it’s also so important to consider outdoor spaces. And I think if you don’t have one, adding a deck to your home could really be huge for resale value but also huge for usable space.
KEVIN: Yeah, it’s a big project that we get a lot of questions about this on the show. We’ve even built some on the show to show people. A lot of people can do these things themselves but to your point, Leslie, it’s additional space and it’s outdoor space. Those are two prime motivators for people.
TOM: We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor – he’s the host of TV’s This Old House – about the top five remodels that pay off.
So, Kevin, we covered kitchens, baths, family-room additions, master-bedroom suites and decks. What about an improvement that maybe doesn’t pay off? Any thoughts on that?
KEVIN: Yeah, well, here’s something that actually surprised me: a pool, right? And do you think, "Well, geez, everyone wants a pool"? Well, it turns out that’s not necessarily the case. Now, certainly …
LESLIE: Oh, safety issues, maintenance, insurance costs.
KEVIN: Right? And there are some places where you’re going to get a lot of use out of a pool, like in Florida, so it might make sense down there. But in other geographical locations, where you don’t get that much use out of it, a home buyer is probably just as likely to say they don’t want a pool as they do want a pool. So you’re not always going to get a big bang for your buck by putting a pool.
TOM: I can definitely concur with that because in all the years I spent as a home inspector, I used to get that question all the time: "How do I fill that pool in? How do I make it go away? I just don’t want it."
TOM: Always surprising.
KEVIN: It is.
TOM: But it really is a very personal decision.
KEVIN: It is.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, great advice on how to make sure we get the best return on investment from our remodeling projects. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Thank you, guys.
LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.
Up next, has a busy holiday-entertaining season left you sick of your kitchen? We’ve got ideas to make your kitchen a chef’s dream, 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, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, one of my least favorite things about winter – and this winter, everybody tells us we’re going to get a ton of snow, so I’m really going to have a lot of what I just dislike greatly, which is getting snow off of my car, especially when I’m in a hurry. You know, I end up covered in snow. It goes down my sleeves, I end up freezing.
So, one lucky caller this hour can actually avoid that problem. Well, I feel like if you’re not me, you’re going to avoid that problem anyway. We’ve got a great prize package from Snow Joe and it includes the Snow Broom, which is going to let you push the snow off your car, away from you. It’s got a big foam head that won’t freeze up like the bristles of a brush do and you’re not going to scratch up your car, either.
TOM: You’re going to get the Snow Joe plus Electric Snow Thrower, so you can get that snow off your driveway and walkways. The prize is worth $119. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Carl, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CARL: I have been considering running some plumbing from the fireplace to an adjacent room with a radiator and possibly using that heated water to occasionally supplement the water heater, if that’s feasible. And from the few people I’ve talked with in the kitchen and plumbing and bath and fireplace businesses, so far they haven’t done that. And I’m just wondering if you know of – if that’s feasible or if it’s being done on a fairly commonplace scale and have some tips.
TOM: Probably a good indication that they haven’t done that, Carl. Fireplaces make lousy boilers and that’s what you’re talking about doing. It’s not the kind of thing where you can put – simply put – a plumbing system into and have it transmit that water into another room without having all the other associated gear that goes with a boiler like – for example, once you heat water, it expands. What do you do with the extra pressure? Things like that. That’s not such a good idea.
CARL: OK. So inefficient, unsafe and all that other stuff. Just impractical.
TOM: Yes. All good reasons to stay away.
TOM: Carl, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Put down the monkey wrench and step away from the plumbing project, Carl.
LESLIE: Well, entertaining during the holiday season may have highlighted the things that work and don’t work in your kitchen. And a few simple improvements can help a lot.
First of all, if you’re carrying heavy pots of water from the sink to the stove and it’s really just wearing you out, why not ask your plumber to put an extra-long spray hose? This way, you can actually fill your pot on or at least closer to the stove.
Now, if you happen to be remodeling the kitchen, go ahead and splurge on a pot-filler faucet, which is actually installed in the backsplash, behind the stovetop itself.
TOM: Also, if you don’t have a garbage disposal, what are you waiting for? Disposers are inexpensive and relatively simple to install.
And lighting is also an improvement that’s often overlooked. In kitchens, you really need to think about planning for three types of lighting: direct lighting, which is important because that casts the light down directly on the work surface; area lighting, which illuminates the room; and then also accent lighting. That’s the fun lighting, because that’s the lighting that you adjust when you want to create that perfect party space. And these three types of lighting can work together to really provide you exactly what you need for an effective, efficient kitchen.
So with a few changes, you could really spruce that place up, keep up its value and keep you safe at the same time.
LESLIE: Betty in South Carolina has got a concrete issue. Tell us what’s going on.
BETTY: We have a 5/8-inch crack between our concrete garage floor and the concrete turnaround outside: the apron outside the garage.
TOM: Right. OK.
BETTY: It has nothing to do with the garage door. Thirty-nine years ago, when the house was built, we think that they used a fiberboard of some type in this joint, because – for expansion and contraction. Now, that has deteriorated down, maybe down about an inch or so, and we would like to fill that crack. What do we fill that with?
TOM: OK. So it’s not really a crack; it’s really just a gap where you had a separation between the two different pieces.
BETTY: Yes, it was built that way.
TOM: Right, OK. So, you’re going to use a flowable crack filler. And QUIKRETE makes those – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E. Their website is QUIKRETE.com.
Basically, what you do is you clean out that space. You’re going to get it down an inch or two and then if it – then what you would probably do is put a backer rod in it, which is sort of this foam tube that will hold the filler exactly where you want it. And then you apply the filler on top and it flows to be nice and even across that gap. And then it dries in about 24 hours and that’s all there is to it. It’s really a pretty simple home improvement project.
TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, older homes come with lots of charm, including all those wood details, like crown molding and wainscoting. But keeping that wood looking good decades later, well, that can be a challenge, so we’ve got some advice on how to do that project, after this.
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TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, by now your holiday guests have probably left but you’re faced with a brand-new challenge: cleaning up after them. Well, we can help you do that naturally and inexpensively. Just head on over to MoneyPit.com and search "recipes for natural cleaning products," and you’re going to get some great tips for getting your house super-sparkly clean without harming the environment.
TOM: And while you’re on MoneyPit.com, you can post your home improvement question, just like Theo in New Hampshire did, who says, "I’ve got an old chair-rail molding in my dining room that’s been painted over so many times you can’t see any of the detail. I’m trying to weigh whether it’s worth to strip the paint off so that I can really report original molding when I sell my house, or should I just rip it off and put up new molding?"
Theo, that’s a very common question, because you wonder, "Is it really worth all the work that it’s going to take to strip that molding?" And my first question would be: "What’s the molding made of?"
For example, I was talking with a contractor that’s local to me about a big home that he was renovating. And he found that as they tried – as they took, actually, a door apart, they discovered that all the molding in the house was made of black walnut. It was a very unusual house but it turned out that that was just something that really added a lot of value to the home. And so in that case, it was worth it to go ahead and strip the paint off and bring it back to its original sort of grandeur. But remember, it’s a lot of work to do that, so you’ve really got to wonder whether it’s going to make such a difference to the house that it will improve its value.
I’d say that it’s 50-50. If it’s molding that you can’t possibly replace today and you really want to get it back to where it has some nice detail, then sure, go ahead and do it. But if not, in some cases it’s easier to remove the molding than it is to restore it and especially when that involves pulling a lot of paint off.
Plus, you’ve also got the issue of lead paint, right, Leslie, in those old homes? You start stripping off all that paint, you’ve got to be really careful about who you’re going to expose that lead paint to.
LESLIE: Right. And how you dispose of it and what the process is. There’s no policing of work that’s done by a homeowner themselves. Definitely, in the industry, a pro has got to be very careful about how they work with it. But if you’ve got small kids in the house, you’ve got to be really careful, because the dust from just sanding alone gets into everything. And if the child touches it and puts their hand in the mouth, you could really end up with some issues.
So, there’s a lot to consider there. Plus, it is just a whole heck of a lot of work to get the paint off, so really consider all of your options. As Tom mentioned, is it worth it? Is it valuable? What’s it made of? How much detail is on that molding itself, to really see how much elbow grease, to say the least, is going to be involved?
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Pauline in Alabama who wrote: "I have baseboard heaters. A few weeks ago, I noticed the sheetrock wall above one of the heaters was dark and hot to the touch. I replaced the heaters but the walls are still pretty hot. Any idea what’s causing this?"
TOM: Yes, the heater.
TOM: You know, the wall is right above the heater; obviously, they’re going to get warm but they’re not going to get so hot that they’re going to be unsafe. And the reason that they’re dark is – I hate to tell you this – it’s because of the dirt that’s in the air of the house.
So, it may not mean that you’re a bad housekeeper; it just is pretty normal. Because when you have space above the heater, you get the convective loop of air going underneath the heater and up through it and then it washing against the wall. And so that air is dirty and it just deposits all of that dirt right above the heater itself. So, sometimes, that area gets dirtier – noticeably dirtier – than the wall above it. So, it’s something that really requires some cleaning from time to time. But what you’re describing is not an unusual situation.
LESLIE: Alright, Pauline. Cleaning that up, that can be your first home improvement New Year’s resolution. It’s really not that big of a deal; it’s just a cleaning project, alright? Add that to your list and get started today.
TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on this first broadcast of the brand-new year. We hope we’ve given you some ideas and inspiration for projects that you can take on to make your money pit just the place you want it to be in the coming weeks and months ahead.
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 2013 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.)