From our perch as the hosts of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show we hear about home improvement challenges, wish lists and how-to questions year round. And as individual as these questions are, the topics are very similar.
The truth is that most of our homes are built pretty much the same way and have been for more than a couple of centuries. Sure we’ve got fancier furnaces and drywall instead of plaster walls, but for the most part homes still show wear-and-tear and break down the same way they have for a very long time.
To help you avoid home improvement hassles of your own, here are the top ten topics we get the most common home improvement questions we get, and some solutions that will save you some time and money:
10. Indoor air quality and mold
Increased awareness of the health impact of indoor air quality sends many consumers to the phone or their computer in search of ways to make improvements in their home environment. Many queries are related to such HVAC issues as filtration, moisture and humidity, but avoiding construction materials that can become home to molds is also critical. In addition to just plain keeping your home well-ventilated, carpeting and paper-based drywall should stay out of potentially damp spaces. Georgia-Pacific has created an alternative for the latter with its DensArmor Plus paperless wallboard, composed of moisture-resistant glass-mat surfacing around a mold-resistant gypsum core.
9. Basements and crawl spaces
The underground spaces of a home are full of mysteries, and one of the biggest of these is how water can seep in so quickly and turn a previously dry basement or crawl space into one big puddle. The home improvement solution is usually simple, and all you have to do to find it is look up and around. Most flooding is caused by poor drainage conditions like clogged gutters or soil that slopes into a house. Fix these problems and you’ll have nice, dry subterranean spaces for accessing utilities or conversion to bonus living areas.
8. Bugs, pests and rodents
Plenty of varmints and vermin would like to make your home their own, and prevention usually leads back to issues of drainage, sealing and storage of pest-attracting substances. Termites, which cause around five billion dollars in damage a year, drive many of our listeners on home pest quests, and we’ve found that the best solution is a professionally administered product called Termidor. Applied directly to the soil by pest control pros, Termidor can’t be seen or smelled by hungry termites, who very happily and unwittingly take it back to the nest to pass on to the rest of their community. As a result, termites disappear from your property and don’t return.
7. Kitchen and bath
Updating a space is the lead interest among kitchen and bath callers, and we’re always glad to hear it, since it’s one of the best home improvement investments you can make (up to 75 percent of which can be recouped when you sell). The scope can range from a countertop replacement to a full-blown redo, but in the end, enhanced value and utility are common across the board. Mold and mildew resistance in the bathroom are also important to home improvers, and in addition to cleaning tips, we dispense advice regarding moisture-resistant finishes such as Kilz paint and DAP caulk, which contains mold-resistant Microban.
As soon as the weather starts to get rough, the roofing questions rain down thanks to the interior damage and other hints homeowners are receiving from above. Depending on the material and age of a roof, it may be time to budget for replacement (something many roofing callers to The Money Pit are trying to repair their way away from), or a repair job may put a cap on the trouble. In both cases, sufficient flashing is key?it’s the material that roofers use to bridge the gaps between intersections of roof and siding, as well as the areas around pipes and chimneys.
5. Walls and ceilings
Maintaining a smooth, clean, secure canvas for room decoration is the leading concern in the walls and ceilings category, with homeowners looking to address the nail pops, stains and occasional mold issues that can literally drive them up a wall. Then, it’s on to the fun part: selecting a finish. When it comes to paint sheens, we encourage purchase of the best-quality paint available, often in a flat finish that will hide the imperfections otherwise magnified by light-reflecting gloss finish.
4. Windows and siding
These portions of a home’s “envelope” lead to many questions about replacement, safe removal (asbestos is a concern with some older siding products), and maintenance, Consumers are also seeking out more design options in windows, and can now get energy savings right along with a great new look. Energy Star-rated windows abound, and the National Fenestration Rating Council also provides a standard by which you can make an apples-to-apples comparison when looking through window options. Watch for the NFRC label on products, which includes ratings for U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient, visible transmittance, air leakage and condensation resistance.
3. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
The most complicated systems in your home can cause the most puzzling dilemmas, as Money Pit listeners most certainly know. Homeowners aren’t sure how much to spend on efficiency, and right along with 2006 changes in energy standards, the typical equipment sales process tends to raise more questions than it answers. With a currently operable system, proper maintenance is the key to carefree heating and cooling. Pre-season cleaning and tuning also contribute to dollar-saving efficiency.
Running and clogging toilets, dripping faucets and drains that don’t seal drive many homeowners to distraction. Over half of the plumbing calls to The Money Pit have been of the 911 variety, and those looking to make replacement purchases or redesign a bathroom have future plumbing annoyance avoidance in mind. Efficiency is also a concern, and thankfully the EPA has begun designating products that fit the bill under its new WaterSense labeling program. Qualifying high-efficiency toilets are already on the market, and low-flow shower heads and under-sink flow restrictors will also be available soon.
This is a hot home improvement topic thanks to all of the materials choices out there, many of which are easier than ever for homeowners to install on their own. DIYers are also interested in new technologies, differences among materials, and what’s best in finishes and finishing. And of course, there are also repair concerns, with floor squeaks being the loudest on the list. If this is the case for you, here’s what to do: For a squeak coming from under a carpeted floor, use a stud finder to locate the floor joist, and in the area of the squeak, nail right through the carpet and into the joist with a galvanized finish nail. Then grab the carpet by the nap and pull it up so that the nail passes through, and the squeak will disappear right along with the head of the nail.