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: We are very excited to be here to help you with your home improvement projects. So whatever you’re working on, let’s pitch in and get it done together. You can help yourself first, though, by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up this hour, we’re going to talk about bold, new paint colors for your front door. Yes, in fact, there are color trends that apply just to your doorway. We’re going to tell you what you can do to add some drama to that space.
LESLIE: And also ahead, if you’re working to pay off your mortgage, you might be surprised to learn that being free from mortgage payments is a myth. We’ll tell you why and learn more about mortgage options, from financial expert Ric Edelman, a little later this hour.
TOM: Plus, learn how to design a brand-new kids’ room that’s healthy for children and the environment.
LESLIE: And this hour, one caller we talk to on the air is going to get a signed copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. And believe me, you get this book, we’re going to keep you busy for the entire year.
TOM: So let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Jan in Kansas is on the line with a home that seems to be cracking up. Tell us what’s going on.
JAN: Well, I’ve got a lot of problems. It’s an old house; it’s over 50 years old.
TOM: You have a lot of opportunities, Jan, not a lot of problems.
JAN: Yeah. I’ve got some cracks in the wall.
JAN: And I have one crack that is going from the dining room to the kitchen and I believe it’s cracking on both sides of the wall. Same crack.
TOM: OK. You said it’s 50 years old. Do you know if it’s plaster lath?
JAN: It’s sheetrock.
TOM: It’s drywall? OK. So, fixing that is not a big deal. The thing is that most people usually fix it incorrectly. What they’ll do is they’ll try to spackle it. And by spackling it, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that it’s going to re-crack. What you have to do is sand down the area so you get rid of any glaze from the paint or dirt or anything like that. And then you’re going to cover it with drywall tape. And you want to use the mesh type of tape that’s sticky.
So you put a strip of tape across the crack and then you spackle right over that tape. And you’ll use three layers of spackle and the easiest way to apply this is if you buy the plastic spackling knives. You can buy one that starts at around 4 inches, then you go to 6, then you go to 8. And they’re pretty inexpensive and you use that to apply the spackle and you sand in between each coat. And then you prime and paint and you’re done. So those are the proper steps.
Where most people go wrong is they just try to do a quick-and-dirty spackling job and they wonder why it cracks again and again and again. Because that’s basically an expansion joint right now and unless you spread the repair across both sides of it with new drywall tape, it will continue to show up.
LESLIE: Tom in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: We have a house. It’s about – it was built in 2007. It’s about 2,700 square feet and we have two air conditioner/heat pump – you know, electric air conditioning/heat-pump units in it. And we’ve just been having headache after headache with trying to cool the house and heat the house with them.
We have a vaulted – kind of a vaulted ceiling, which looked great when we bought the house, and the registers are on the floor. But we’re constantly – the air conditioning and the heat units, they’re just running and running and running and running and running. They’re never really cooling down the house or heating down the house. The insulation is excellent at the house. I’m trying to figure out any alternatives – we do have a gas fireplace which, basically, just really doesn’t heat the house much but …
TOM: First of all, you’re saying that it doesn’t work in the cooling mode or the heating mode. Is that correct?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: No, the cooling mode, it does work but – it cools the house down but it seems like the units run a lot. And I actually – to be quite honest with you, we did – we put some tinting stuff on some of the windows where they’re getting direct sunlight. But the heating side of it is just terrible. My kids are freezing on the second floor. We have a bonus room over the garage, which is pretty much insulated. We keep that door closed; it stays cool in there. And it just runs cold all the time.
And when I bring guys – people – out to look at it, they say, “The units run fine but you might want to put ductwork here, ductwork there, ductwork here.”
TOM: Well, I mean there may be some truth to that.
First of all, the fact of the matter is you need to understand that heating – heat-pump systems work different than a fossil-fuel system. A fossil-fuel system is going to warm air up and it’ll come out of the register at 125, 135 degrees.
A heat pump works different. A heat pump is going to throw air out at maybe 90 degrees. And so, very often, with a heat pump, you hear complaints of that, well, it blows cold air. Well, it doesn’t really blow cold air but the fact is that if you have a little moisture on your skin, you put your hand in front of it, that moisture evaporates and that makes it feel very chilly. And that’s one of the reasons it’s uncomfortable.
Then, of course, if it can’t keep up with demand, then it switches to its backup system, which is electric resistance heat. And of course, that’s really expensive to run. The heat-pump thermostat is designed to maintain a 2-degree temperature differential between what it is in the house and what you set it at. So if you set it at 72 degrees and it falls to 70 in the house, the heat pump will come on. If it falls to 69 or 68, the electric resistance heat will come on. Now, the air coming out of the ducts is going to be much warmer but you just more than doubled your expense.
Now, if the system is not doing its job, there’s a couple of things I would look at before I thought about replacing it, one of which is the duct design. Because if you’re not getting enough return air back to those units, then that could definitely be a contributing factor. You said that you’ve addressed the insulation part of it.
In terms of your thermostat, are you on a clock setback thermostat?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Yeah. And we have it – I mean it’s at 66 degrees in the wintertime. That’s what we have – it’s 66 and 67. We don’t have …
TOM: Maybe your kids are cold just because you haven’t turned the thermostat up.
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Oh, we’re from up north, so we can deal with that. But what happens is when it starts running and running and running and running and running. It’s just like that’s all I keep hearing every 2 seconds: click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click.
But we have the option of propane. And being from up north, I lived with wood-burning stoves. And I grew up in Vermont and we had oil heat and electric backup for emergencies and stuff like that. But I’m just wondering if there’s anything on the propane side that might be more efficient.
TOM: Well, certainly, if you went to any kind of a fossil-fueled system, it’s going to put out warmer air. But I would want to make sure that the duct system was properly designed and installed before I do that.
Because if you change out your furnace and it turns out that the duct system isn’t installed properly or designed properly – if I was going to make a change, I would not want to just kind of get a seat-of-the-pants opinion by an HVAC technician. I would want somebody who designs these systems for a living giving you a good, reasoned explanation as to what’s wrong with the system and why it needs to be fixed. I want you to guard against the handy-guy that comes out that maybe does most of the furnace service going, “Well, you could throw a duct in here, throw a duct in there.” That’s not what you want.
There’s a science behind this. It’s not a guess. You can figure out how many BTUs you need to heat a house, how many BTUs you need to cool a house. It’s called a heat-loss analysis or heat-loss calculation. And somebody that does this professionally can handle that.
So, I would take a look at the duct system first, see if it really is designed correctly. Because, frankly, many times it’s not. And then, based on that, decide if you want to change to a different type of heating system or perhaps even add supplemental heat on your own.
For example, you might decide that in that bonus room, where it’s cold all the time, that maybe some electric baseboard radiators in there would be a very inexpensive way to pick up just a little bit of heat – extra heat – when you need it, assuming it doesn’t need to be on all the time. It could be a low installation cost. Certainly a lot less than replacing your furnace and you could just have it when you want it.
But take a look at the duct design first. Nine out of ten times, that’s the source of this kind of issue as you’ve described it.
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Thanks, guys.
TOM: You’re welcome, Tom. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, we’ve got tips on eye-popping colors that will add interest and drama to your front door. Find out what’s hot for 2014 and get your paintbrush ready and step up your curb appeal. We’ll tell you how, next.
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TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, we will send you a fantastic prize if we draw your name out of The Money Pit hard hat. It is, in fact, a graffiti-strewn copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.
And if you’d prefer that we not sign it so that you can resell it on eBay for 25 cents, we can do that, too. So just give us a call, right now, for the answer to your question, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Charles in Iowa is on the line with a plumbing question. What’s going on, Charles? You’ve got a noisy toilet?
CHARLES: Yeah, I do. You know, my wife and I bought this house about four years ago. The house is about seven years old. And right above our – the room that we have a fireplace in, so it’s a nice room to sit in and talk and socialize, we have our – a restroom above that, on the second floor. And any time that toilet is used, whether it’s flushed or whether somebody is literally using it, you can hear the water being displaced.
And it’s kind of right above one of the can lights for our fireplace and so I’m not sure if that’s the reason why it’s really loud. But I’ve never heard water being displaced before, dripping down the pipe. And I know that I don’t have any leaks. I’m just wanting to know 1) was it plumbed right, 2) if so, what can I do about it?
TOM: Kind of ruining the ambiance of that fire, isn’t it?
CHARLES: Yeah, it is. Yeah, the fireplace doesn’t carry the peaceful setting that it’s supposed to, when that happens.
TOM: I’ve got to tell you that – well, first of all, is it plumbed right? It probably is. Is it plumbed in a way that makes a lot of sense? Probably not. Because we find, often, that upstairs bathrooms are run through inappropriate areas, like dining rooms where you have to listen to it while you’re sitting and having dinner or in your case, your sitting room. Plumbers should take better care to make sure that those pipes don’t go into areas where they’re going to disturb people.
What can you do about it? Well, I mean there are different ways that you can soundproof walls and ceilings, with varying levels of effectiveness. A very easy way to do the ceiling – and this would require, since you mentioned you have high hats, some reconfiguring of those lights, though – would be to put a layer of Homasote on the ceiling as an isolation barrier and then another layer of drywall over that. And that will make that ceiling much quieter.
I wonder, though, if this is a situation where it’s really just a situation where you have to get used to it.
CHARLES: Well, I appreciate you guys’ help and I enjoy your show. So, thanks a lot.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: OK. It’s time to tell you about the latest color trends for, get this, your front door. Yes, even your front door has got to follow the latest in color trends. So, no longer can you say you’re a slave to fashion; you can say that you are a slave to front-door color trends.
So, according to color expert, and president of Sensational Color, Kate Smith, there are 10 new colors that are sure to show up on a door near you. First, bold colors, they’re going to convey energy and exuberance. Those are going to be very popular. Hues that speak to those emotions include Dynamo Raspberry, Raucous Orange and Quixotic Plum. I’m not sure what Quixotic Plum is but it sounds exuberant.
Now, another trend is using classic colors, maybe like a rich, saturated hue. Colors like Classic French Gray and Polished Mahogany are in that category. Oh, my gosh. I have a Polished Mahogany door, so I am a trendsetter.
TOM: Blue is also becoming very popular for doors and that includes Capri Blue, Gulfstream Blue and Georgian Bay, a slighter brighter version of navy. These also made the Top 10 list, as well. And two final colors to round it out: they are Relic Bronze and a Show Stopper, a bright red that really pops. So, for 2014, the advice is to go bold with your door and you can welcome family and friends to an entry that really pops.
LESLIE: Karen in Kansas is taking on a tiling project. How can we help you with that?
KAREN: Yes, we were wondering the difference between the SnapStone – what’s the pros and cons of that and the traditional?
TOM: Well, I mean the SnapStone is an easy installation. It’s really aimed at DIYers and it makes it a lot easier to put it together. You don’t have to align them because you’ll get sort of perfect ¼-inch or so …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. They’re like gridded out already.
TOM: Yeah. You get perfect grout lines with it. You can actually physically take them apart and reuse them if you want. But it’s just a lot easier for a DIYer to install them.
Are you going to do this yourself?
KAREN: Yes, that’s – we were going to try, starting in our bathroom, and see how it looked and …
KAREN: If it worked – if we could do it right, then we were going to continue on into the kitchen and dining room.
TOM: Well, what you’re probably going to need to do is rent a wet saw, because cutting the tile is what separates the pros from the DIYers.
TOM: If you don’t have the right – if you have the right tools, it’s really easy; if you don’t, it’s just not. And tiling is very unforgiving. But if it’s a small area, a small project and you’ve never done tile before, I think going with the SnapStone is probably a good first attempt. It’ll be probably more forgiving than if you did it with regular tile.
KAREN: Cost-wise, how long would it last compared to the other, do you think?
TOM: I think it should last the same time, which is pretty much indefinitely.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. The only downside I can see is that you’ve only got 11 tile choices, so you’ve got to like what they’ve got. Whereas if you’re installing tile in a traditional sense, sky’s the limit as far as tile choice, layout, pattern, design, everything. So if you’re OK with something in their color palette, which seems like a good run, it looks like there could be something for your job. Then I say do it.
KAREN: OK. Well, thank you so very much.
LESLIE: How do you know it’s winter? Well, Ken in Wisconsin is dealing with ice and snow in the gutters.
Ken, sorry you are dealing with this weather. How can we help you today?
KEN: Well, what I’ve got is I’ve got a ranch-style home. I put an addition on and since I put the addition on, now, when I get snow – we had this snow – I got about 8 inches on the roof but now I’ve got an ice buildup in the gutters and it’s now backed up a little bit. And I’ve got icicles probably 4 or 5 foot long and I’m afraid it’s going to back up into the house. How do I stop that or is there a way to get it melted and get rid of it?
TOM: OK. So, this is an addition and it’s only happening on the addition and it’s not happening on the main house?
KEN: No, it’s happening on the main house and the addition.
TOM: Both. OK. So, this is what is known as ice damming. And the reason ice dams happen is because warm air gets up into your attic space around sort of the middle of your house, because you don’t have enough insulation. And then it heats the roof right above the heated space of the house and that lets the snow melt. And then the snow washes down the roof edge until it gets to that line of about – right above the exterior wall. That’s when it starts to get a lot colder and starts to form ice. And then more snow melts, more ice forms, more snow melts, more ice forms. So, that’s what’s happening; that’s the reason this is happening.
How can we stop this? Well, a few things. First of all, it’s a good idea to take a look at your level of insulation. And in your part of the country, you really should have 15 to 20 inches of insulation if not a bit more. Adding insulation will stop the ice dams from forming, because you won’t have as much water running down your roof all at once and freezing at the roof edge.
The second thing that you can do is take a look at the ventilation. If you have good ventilation that goes in the soffit, up under the roof sheathing and out like, for example, at a ridge vent, again, that ventilation stops the difference in temperature across that particular area.
Remember, we’re holding the heat at the ceiling of the house. Above the insulation, in a perfect world, we want that to actually be the same temperature as the outside. Because if it is, you’re not going to have this disproportional melting of snow up higher on the roof and that water running down and freezing at the roof edge.
KEN: I’m guessing we have – nothing was a problem until I put the addition on. I wonder if they didn’t put enough insulation in the addition and that’s where I’m having an issue.
TOM: It may very well have been – that’s why I was trying to figure out if it happens all the way around or just the addition, because I was kind of thinking the same thing myself.
Now, the other thing that you can do is – and of course, you can’t do it now when your roof is full of ice. But there are heating coils that are designed to go at a roof edge but it’s not the solution. It’s a temporary solution, if anything. And of course, it’s expensive to run and it’s expensive to buy and install. But sometimes in commercial buildings or restaurants, hotels where they want to be sure that none of the ice is going to fall and hurt somebody, you’ll see these electric coils right above those areas for this purpose: to kind of melt the ice and turn it back to water and be done with it. So, that’s an opportunity for you.
But again, I would rather see you put the insulation in because besides stopping the ice from forming, you’re going to lower your heating costs, which are going to be astronomical if you don’t have enough insulation. So take a look at the insulation, take a look at the ventilation. I think your solution lies right there.
KEN: I will do that. I appreciate the advice.
TOM: Good luck, Ken. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Still to come, owning a house that’s mortgage-free, that’s the American dream, right? Well, one expert says that it’s not what it is cracked up to be and may not even exist. We’ll tell you why, after this.
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: Well, for homeowners, your monthly mortgage payment is a check you just have to write. Kind of like death and taxes, there’s no avoiding it. You might be working to pay it off as soon as possible but the idea that paying off your mortgage quickly to avoid that monthly payment is a myth.
LESLIE: That’s right. In fact, our next guest says that carrying a big mortgage for a long time is actually a great idea. Here to explain why is Ric Edelman, host of the The Ric Edelman Show on radio and founder of Ric Edelman Financial Services.
Welcome to the program, again, Ric. How are you doing?
RIC: Leslie, terrific. Thank you very much. Hi, Tom.
TOM: Hey, Ric. So, first question, you say a mortgage is cheap money. I couldn’t agree with you more. Let’s talk about that, especially in light of the rates we’ve all been enjoying.
RIC: Yeah, these are historically low interest rates. We’ll probably never see rates this low again for the rest of our lifetimes. And to not take advantage of that fact is a huge wasted opportunity.
We all know that debt is part of our lives; there’s really no way around it. We buy cars with debt, college with debt, homes with debt. So you might as well borrow while the cost is extraordinarily low.
TOM: Now, one of the things that we all wrestle with when we get a mortgage is, “Gosh, can we afford it?” But you say that mortgage payments get easier over time. Why is that?
RIC: It’s counterintuitive but it’s really true. I remember my father teasing me that he kept looking at his monthly mortgage payment, compared to mine, and his was a couple hundred dollars a month. And the reason was he’d had his mortgage for over 20 years. When he bought his house many, many years ago, his income grew over time but his mortgage payment was fixed. And we’ll enjoy the very same thing that my dad enjoyed – is that when you get a mortgage today – a 30-year-loan – that’s a fixed monthly payment for 30 years. But you’re going to enjoy increases in your salary so that as time goes on, the payment gets easier and easier.
LESLIE: Now, Ric, do you think there’s any sort of negative impact on your – I guess your equity if you refinance or if you’re in the process of looking for a better mortgage rate or deal?
RIC: No, there’s no downside. This is the really neat part about the whole thing. A lot of people say, “Should I refinance now? Because I think if I wait, rates will get even better.” But here’s the good news. Go ahead and refinance right now. There’s no downside to your credit record or your credit rating. Go ahead and try to refinance. If you can get a lower payment, go ahead and do it. And if rates get even better, you just refinance again.
In the old days, your parents and your grandparents, your great-grandparents, they would have one house and one mortgage their whole lives. Not us today. Today, people tend to move, from time to time, into two, three, four different homes over the course of their careers. And we get different mortgages. People over the last 5, 10 years have refinanced half a dozen times. No downside to it. It’s smart financial planning.
TOM: We’re talking to Ric Edelman – he’s the host of The Ric Edelman Show on radio and founder of Edelman Financial Services – about why it makes good sense to carry a big, long mortgage.
Ric, most people think the opposite: they think that mortgages lock you in, they prevent you from doing things. You say that mortgages give you greater liquidity and flexibility. What do you mean by that?
RIC: What people forget is that the only way to get rid of the mortgage is to pay it off. Either give a big down payment upfront or to make big contributions beyond the monthly requirement on an ongoing basis.
Well, every time you write a check to the mortgage company, that’s money you’re giving away. It’s money you’ll never see again. When you have a big mortgage, it means you’ve kept your cash. And by you keeping your cash, you have the money available to you to finance other aspects of your life: college savings, retirement savings, bill paying, healthcare costs, whatever it might happen to be. Having a mortgage means you didn’t give your cash away when you bought the house.
TOM: And finally, Ric, you say to never get rid of your monthly payment no matter how hard you try. Why is that? Isn’t it the goal of most of us to try to have a “mortgage-free” house?
RIC: Yes. Take it a step further. Everybody loves the idea of owning their home outright.
RIC: That’s the American dream. Own your home outright. Get rid of the mortgage and you can own your home free and clear. That’s nonsense. There’s no such thing as owning your home outright, if only because of repairs and maintenance, insurance and taxes. You’re always going to have costs associated with the home. The thought that you will own the home free and clear is a pipe dream. It’s fantasy; it doesn’t exist.
TOM: And that’s why this program is called The Money Pit. Ric Edelman, host of The Ric Edelman Show on radio, founder of Edelman Financial Services, thank you so much for sharing your advice with us.
If you’d like to learn more about Ric, you can go to his website, which is RicEdelman.com, which is spelled [Rice Delman] (ph) – R-i-c-E-d-e-l-m-a-n.com.
Thanks again, Ric.
RIC: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
LESLIE: Alright. Still to come, designing a kids’ room, it’s a really fun project for all of you involved, both you and your kids. But making sure that the design you guys come up with is safe and healthy, that’s even more important. We’re going to tell you how to avoid the most common hazards, next.
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TOM: Making good homes better, this is 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.
One of you lucky callers that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.
TOM: Plus, if you request, we will even sign it for you. Or if you prefer to have one that’s graffiti-free, we can give you a clean copy, too. 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.
LESLIE: Gayla in California is having an issue with a countertop. Tell us what’s going on.
GAYLA: I am. About four-and-a-half years ago, I remodeled my kitchen and installed Corian countertops. And I used the pattern called Savannah; it’s one of the light ones. So I’m getting ready now to sell my home and looking at the countertops, they’re really – there’s tons, like thousands of hairline scratches. And I’m wondering, how can I bring back their luster? They never were shiny but they were lustrous.
LESLIE: Yeah, they do have a satin finish that looks very rich and nice but obviously, over time, just from normal wear and tear, they are going to dull and not look so great.
There’s a good website that generally specializes in granite and marble care – it’s called StoneCare.com – but they do have some products for Corian. And there’s actually a spray. It’s made to reduce a residue on the surface. I’m not sure it’s going to help you with the scratches but it could be a good starting point. It’s called their Deep Cleaner for Corian. And that might be a good place to start, at least.
GAYLA: OK. Yeah, I don’t know that they’re that dirty. I do keep them quite clean but it’s just a question – it’s just those hairline scratches. And when the sun comes through the window, you really see them.
TOM: What that product does is it will also pull out any residue from all the cleaning that you have been doing so religiously, which is a good thing. The other nice thing, though, about Corian is the scratches can be repaired. And if you – the Corian can be repolished, basically lightly sanded, so to speak, and …
GAYLA: Oh, I was wondering about that.
TOM: Right. To actually pull those scratches right out. So that’s not something that I would recommend that you do the first time out.
GAYLA: No, I don’t think so.
TOM: But if you contact a kitchen-cabinet company, for example, they might have an installer and for a reasonably small fee, they might come out and repolish those tops for you. They’re going to have all the tools and the equipment, as well. And probably they can pull many of those scratches right out.
GAYLA: Well, thank you. That sounds like the way to go for me.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project and good luck selling your house.
GAYLA: Well, thank you and best to you both.
LESLIE: Well, designing and decorating a kids’ room is a lot of fun, especially when you get your kids involved in the planning. But what makes it even better is knowing that the materials and the products that you are choosing are safe for your growing, little munchkins.
Now, paints and carpeting and even some furniture, they’re known to release harmful VOCs, which are volatile organic compounds. So instead, you want to make sure that you choose products that have certified, low-emitting paint and fabrics that aren’t treated with any chemicals.
TOM: Now, if you want to be super-cautious, it’s also a good idea to plan time to let any newly remodeled areas sort of air out. So, how do you do that? Well, you paint well ahead of time, maybe a couple of weeks before anyone moves in. You give some time for that room to air out. If folks are already in the house, maybe seal it off and open the windows.
Same goes for rugs and upholstered furniture. You might even want to put those into the garage. Let them air out in that space before you move them into the house.
LESLIE: Also, you want to look for two labels to ensure that you’re getting safe products. One of them is the GREENGUARD label, which means that it’s been tested for low chemical emissions by an independent company. And this label is especially important when it comes to your mattress.
TOM: Last, check out the UL mark. You need to look for that, especially on any electrical items, because it’s the way that you will know that those products are safe.
888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Tony in Iowa is having a hot-and-cold water situation. What’s going on?
TONY: Well, I’ve got an electric water heater. And the main feed that comes in from the city, that goes into my electric water heater, it’s a cold line. But yeah, I get cold water to come out of my faucets and everything but that cold water line, up around through the water heater there, it’s hot, the line, when I touch it. And I’m just curious what’s going on with that.
TOM: So, you have an electric water heater and that’s going to be fed by a cold-water line and it’s going to go through the water heater and come out as a hot-water line.
TONY: That’s correct.
TOM: OK. And so what’s the problem? So far, it’s normal.
TONY: The water line that goes into the water heater – the cold water?
TOM: Yes. Yep.
TONY: That line is hot.
TOM: Well, some of the heat from the water heater can be working its way back up the pipe. So you may be feeling some conductive heat that comes from – the hot water in the water heater itself could be making that pipe warm. But if you go farther down the line, you’re going to feel that it’s cold again.
It goes in cold and comes out hot but the fitting right around the top might feel like it’s a bit warm. But that’s only because of the conductive heat of the water in the water heater coming back up the metal pipe.
TONY: OK. That alleviates my concerns then.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Maria in Delaware on the line who needs help with a paneling/painting project.
So you’ve got a new house and it’s got a lot of it, huh, Maria?
MARIA: It sure does. You know, about 25 years ago, the paneling was probably very popular but I’m really tired of looking at it. We tried painting one room and we sanded it a little bit, primed it and painted it. I’m OK with that but my husband is not because you can still see the grooves through the paint. So we were wondering if there was a way to take care of those grooves – maybe spackling it or whatever – but we didn’t want the spackling to later flake out or chip off and cause more problems than we already have. So, hopefully, you know of some way that we can do this without just taking all the paneling down.
LESLIE: Yeah. Anything that you’re going to fill in is just going to come out, just like you think. So, really, the best thing is to either sheathe over it with a ½-inch drywall or take the paneling off and put drywall on.
MARIA: OK. A ½-inch drywall. So, how would that affect the molding that we have. I mean all of that would have to be replaced, as well, like around windows, everything?
TOM: Yeah, you’d have to pull that off.
The thing is, what you might want to try first, though, is just removing the paneling and seeing what’s underneath it. Because there might be a halfway decent wall underneath and if you’re lucky enough to find out that the paneling was not glued to those walls, then maybe you can just repair the wall, spackle the nail holes, fix any tear – torn areas – or any other damage and then just paint the walls again. Because that paneling was often nailed on with a very thin ring nail.
MARIA: Yes, it was nailed on. I can see the nails in that.
TOM: Yeah, it usually pulls off pretty easily. So I would – first thing I would do is pull that paneling off. Nothing you put over that paneling, in terms of – there’s no way to really fill it in, because I know what you’re asking us to do. But there’s no way to do that, because it’s going to crack and fall out and it’s going to look worse than it does now.
So if you don’t like the painted look and you want to go back to just a clean wall, I would take the paneling down. Do it one wall at a time, one area at a time, until you get the hang of it. And this way, you can almost not do any molding work whatsoever because, generally, that stuff is cut around the molding or you can cut the paneling really tight to the molding and leave it there.
MARIA: OK. Thank you both so much for your help.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, it’s nice to have a dry home during the winter months but how dry is too dry? And how should you be taking care of your humidifier? We’ll share all of that with you when we come back.
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TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show making good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call with your home improvement project or better yet, head on over to our website at MoneyPit.com, post your question on the Community section – or in the Community section, I should say – just like Susan did who says she has a ranch house on a cement slab; heating ducts are under the house. “We closed them off with cement, installed electric baseboard heat but the ducts leaked water. The question is: should drainage be added to the house or does it matter now that the ducts are sealed off?”
The situation here, Susan, is that you have bad drainage outside your house. I would not panic because you have a bit of water that got into the sub-slab ducts. It’s not that unusual. But you don’t want it to be an ongoing problem because that moisture can mix with debris that’s in the water or dirt that gets down there. And it can grow mold and that’s just not a good thing to have growing under your house.
So what we would tell you to do is to look at the drainage conditions outside your home. Take a look at the gutter system; make sure that it’s clean, free-flowing and extended away from the house; make sure that the grading slopes away. You want to keep that first 4 to 5 or 6 feet of soil around the house sloping away. That’s the kind of thing that will stop that water from showing up in the ducts, so that’s what I would focus on.
LESLIE: Alright. Our next post comes from C. Nichols who writes: “I live in a 130-year-old house with heart-of-pine flooring throughout. I want to refinish it. Do you have any tips?”
TOM: You know, I think our tips, Leslie, would be work carefully, right? I mean heart-of-pine flooring is gorgeous but it’s also soft wood. And so, that means you have to be very, very careful about how you sand it and finish it.
If it’s really flat – reliably flat, not uneven but reliably flat – you could use a machine called a U-Sand machine, which is an orbital-disc sanding machine that very slowly takes off just the top surface of the wood. If it needs more sanding than that, you’re probably going to have to do it by hand. I would not put a belt sander on this floor because it’s going to cut right through. You’ll have to do it by hand with a vibrating sander or something of that nature.
When it comes to finish, you can use a low-gloss urethane. I would not put anything with a high gloss on it. It won’t look right on a pine floor. So use a low-gloss urethane. Apply it with a lambswool applicator – at least three coats – and you’ll be good to go.
LESLIE: Yeah. Just make sure you let it dry – absolutely dry – in between coats. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a sticky mess.
TOM: Well, dry winter heat can really irritate your skin and dry out your nasal passages and just give you a scratchy throat. But a whole-house humidifier can help.
Now, if you can’t afford one, you may consider a room humidifier. But that can only work if you keep it running properly. Leslie has tips on how to do just that, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: That’s right. If they’re not maintained, humidifiers, they can get clogged and stop working. Or worst-case scenario, they can actually distribute mold and bacteria through your house. So you need to clean your humidifier as recommended by the manufacturer.
Now, one trick of the trade is to soak the evaporator pad in a white vinegar-and-water solution. Your humidifier, it often gets clogged by the mineral salts that are left behind as the water is evaporating and moisturizing the air in the room. And the vinegar is actually going to melt that salt away and really is the only thing that’s going to clean it off.
You want to make sure that you rinse it very, very well, though. Otherwise, you’ll notice that in certain areas of your house where you’re using this humidifier, you might really start craving salad with maybe Italian dressing or a vinaigrette.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Remember, white vinegar, not red vinegar.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Coming up next time on the program, if you have a new home, chances are pretty high that you have a forced-air heating system. I mean it’s the most popular kind. But if you’ve got the option, is a forced-air system really your best bet? We’re going to talk about that, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
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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