TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We are here to help you tackle your home improvement projects. We want to solve the do-it-yourself dilemmas. Whatever is going on in your home, we are here to help you take that all-important first step and get the job done. You’ve got to help yourself first, though, by calling us at 888-666-3974.
Got lots of projects to talk about today. First up, do you have some areas of your home that are just not lit very well? You know, lighting is too often the very last thing we worry about when we design rooms but it really is becoming center stage. So we’re going to have some tips, this hour, on how you can amp up your lighting so you can actually maybe see what you’re doing. What a concept, huh?
LESLIE: Plus, we’re not just talking about lighting design. Light bulbs? They have been in the news a lot lately because some are now banned from being manufactured. We’re going to tell you the latest on the new lighting laws when we welcome an expert from the EPA’s Energy Star Program.
TOM: And it’s a flash of light that the stars are used to seeing on the red carpet around this time of year. Why not have some of that yourself? You can get a bit of red-carpet glamour in your very own home, with a few well-placed, decorating accessories. Leslie is going to tell you how to do just that, in just a bit.
LESLIE: That’s right. You definitely want to hear that.
Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a very cool prize that you’re going to want to get your hands on. We’ve got, up for grabs, the Milwaukee Tools M18 Jobsite Radio and Charger. Now, you can listen to your favorite tunes with Bluetooth technology and charge your favorite Milwaukee power tools.
TOM: It’s a prize worth $229. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show, so let’s get to it. The number, again: 888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Jessica in Missouri is dealing with a floor that’s sinking in on itself. What is going on over there?
JESSICA: Hi. I live in a 128-year-old house and my kitchen floor has settled, maybe, in the middle. If everything is not strapped to my walls, it will go towards the middle of my floor.
JESSICA: Yeah. So I didn’t know if you guys had any thoughts about a repair on that, if you think maybe it’s like a joist underneath there or …
TOM: Yeah, does it sit on a basement or a crawlspace, Jessica?
JESSICA: No, it’s dirt.
TOM: It’s dirt. So you can’t really get under it?
JESSICA: I have a crawlspace that I can get underneath it but it’s in the opposite side of my house.
TOM: OK. So, can you get down there and physically examine the beams to see what’s going on?
JESSICA: Yes. But it would take the size of a small child to get underneath there.
JESSICA: So, there lies another problem – is how to see what’s going on, where the best place would be to go in at to try to get that …
TOM: Listen, I had to do a plumbing repair project on my own home, in a crawlspace that was about 6 inches taller than me flat on my back. So I know how tough it is to work in spaces like that. You’ve got to kind of shimmy in to get there.
But the thing is, I am concerned with this sagging, that somebody has a look at that – those beams – to make sure there’s nothing structural going on, like a termite infestation or something of that nature. If it’s just normal sagging, well, I mean there are some things that we can do from the top side to address that.
One of which comes to mind is that you could use a floor-leveling compound on this old floor. To do so, you are really talking about the entire kitchen floor, including the cabinets. Because to do it just in the middle might not be enough. You really have to go wall to wall on this room. And because it’s a kitchen, it becomes very, very complicated to do that.
But the first thing is to evaluate the structure to make sure that there’s nothing going on there. And then the second thing is to look for a solution above it. It’s generally not possible to raise up a floor that’s already sagged, especially in a really old house, because it took 120 years to get in that position and you’re just not going to bring it back up again. Sometimes you can reinforce it a little bit with some additional beaming and stiffen it up a bit. But generally, if you want to level it, you’ve got to do that from the top side and not from the underside in an old house, OK?
JESSICA: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you guys’ time.
TOM: You’re very welcome.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Washington where Robert has got a stainless-steel question. Tell us what’s going on.
ROBERT: I got these stainless-steel appliances and I have started to develop small, little rust spots on them. And I’m not sure what’s causing that.
TOM: Well, it’s because not all stainless is the same. There’s actually over 100 grades of stainless steel. And some are more prone to corrosion than others. So the fact that you have some rust on your stainless-steel appliance doesn’t surprise me.
What you’re going to have to do with that is two things. First of all, you’re going to have to remove the rust, which you can do with steel wool or a Brillo pad, something like that. You really don’t want to use a lot of abrasion, so as little abrasion as possible. And then you have to coat it with a stainless-steel polish.
And the polish will help seal in the surface and prevent the rust from coming back as frequently. But there is some degree of maintenance associated with stainless steel. And the stainless steel that’s of poorer quality will rust more frequently. I think a lot of folks think that stainless is stainless is stainless but it’s not. There’s a lot of different grades and some are better than others.
ROBERT: Alright. Well, that makes sense because it’s all the same brand but it’s only happened on my stove and on the range there.
TOM: Right, right.
ROBERT: And it hasn’t happened to the dishwasher or the refrigerator.
TOM: Yep, that’s right.
ROBERT: So that does make sense. OK. Well, hey, thanks a lot.
TOM: You’re welcome, Robert. Good luck with that project. 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. 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, if you’re cold, think about how your pets might feel. They can’t bundle up like you can, unless they’re lucky enough to have a climate-controlled dog house. We’re going to have tips, 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.
TOM: And if you pick up the phone, give us a call with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, not only will you get a chance to ask that question but you might just win the M18 Jobsite Radio/Charger from Milwaukee Tools. This way, you can listen to us on the job, as well.
It’s a prize worth $229. Give us a call. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Penny in Illinois is on the line and she’s dealing with some frost on a meter. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
PENNY: Well, we have a brand-new home and the outside is where the meter is and stuff like that. Well, cold air gets into that little pipe area and then comes into the basement and puts a patch of frost on the wall in the basement downstairs. And I was wondering if there was anything I can do to put something over that gas meter to protect it from getting so cold.
TOM: You don’t have to worry about the gas meter getting – being protected, because gas meters are meant to be outside in all sorts of weather. That said, though, if you’re getting that kind of cold air in your basement, that’s got to be causing you big energy losses. So I would try to seal those spaces where that cold air is getting in, to try to keep that space as warm as possible. Because that is going to add to your heating cost.
PENNY: OK. But I talked to the builder and he said you really can’t do anything inside because then you’re looking at a fire hazard. If you try to insulate inside, then there could be a fire hazard there.
TOM: What, in the basement? With basement-wall insulation?
PENNY: I was thinking by where the gas meter was. That’s where I kind of …
TOM: But again, you don’t have to worry about the gas meter. That said, you can insulate any – you can add insulation to exterior walls and you certainly can add insulation near a gas meter. It’s not like it’s a source of flame, OK? It’s a piece of equipment where – through which all the plumbing passes. But I mean it’s not like there’s a flame there.
So if your builder is telling you that, it sounds to me like he’s trying to get out of a project.
PENNY: Gotcha. OK. Thank you. I appreciate your help on that.
TOM: Alright, Penny? Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Tell that guy to get to work.
PENNY: I will.
TOM: Well, we’re still looking at another month or so until it’s officially spring. But winter weather can last well into March and sometimes even April. And you’re probably busy making sure that cold stays outside but you also need to pay attention to your pets’ needs, too.
Now, there are gadgets available that can keep your four-legged friend toasty, warm, happy and healthy. First off, if you’ve got a strictly outdoor dog and live in a colder climate, you might need to heat the dog house. Believe it or not, there are now portable, climate-controlled units designed specifically for dog houses and they can also dehumidify, which makes the dog more comfortable in the summer, too.
LESLIE: Now, if you’ve got a fancy pet that’s way too pampered to spend that much time outdoors, you might want to consider doggy boots and a warm coat for the necessary outdoor breaks.
I’ve got to tell you, I’ve tried the boots on Daisy. It is just hysterical. They don’t think they can put their feet down. It’s the funniest thing to watch.
TOM: Like walking on pillows.
LESLIE: It really is amazing. You know, you could try them on your dog. It’s definitely worth a laugh.
Next, you want to be careful with the type of chemical deicers that can hurt a dog’s sensitive paws, so look for ones that are meant to be pet-safe.
And finally, if you turn your thermostat down at night, you might want to consider a heated dog bed. You can even get cordless ones in case your best friend is a chewer.
TOM: For more ideas on how to keep Rover or Daisy or Spot safe, just search “dogs and winter safety” on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Jim in Arkansas is on the line with a chimney question. How can we help you today?
JIM: Well, the reason I called is because I have an issue with my fireplace. It’s just a regular wood-burner. It doesn’t have an insert in it. And I want to seal the chimney for health and energy-loss reasons. I was thinking about putting a steel plate on the top because here in the Ozarks, whenever we get bad weather and that wind is howling, it sounds like a freight train coming through my fireplace and I have quite a bit of a draft. And the damper just does not hold securely enough so I don’t get that air through there.
I was wondering, can you give me some advice as to who to contact if it’s feasible to do something like this? Is safety a concern?
TOM: It’s certainly feasible to do this project. It’s sort of the kind of project that you’ve got to be a bit creative with, because what you’re going to want to do is try to form some sort of weather-tight shield across the top of the flue. I would tell you that whatever you do to this, make it removable because chances are if you sell this house at some point in the future, somebody might find it really attractive to have a fireplace there in the Ozarks and want to reactivate this chimney, so to speak.
So, however you seal it across the top, you’ve got to find out – find an easy way to do that. One thing that comes to mind is that there’s a damper that fits in the top of a chimney liner. And it’s sort of like a weighted, heavy, metal door. And the way it’s activated is that there’s a stainless-steel cable that goes down through the middle of the chimney and it’s hooked onto the side of the fireplace. And when you release the cable, the door flops open. So that would be a way to put a device up there that’s really designed for a flue and will serve the dual purpose of sealing off the draft from the top.
JIM: OK. Well, I thank you very much for giving me the time. And I love your show. Listen to it two hours every Sunday morning.
TOM: Alright. Well, thank you very much, Jim. It’s nice to hear. We appreciate it.
LESLIE: Kathy in Indiana is on the line. Is dealing with a bald spot on her roof when it’s snowy out. And we’ve been getting a lot of snow this winter, so your house must look like it’s in need of a toupée. What’s going on, Kathy?
KATHY: Hi. Yes, we just moved down here from Wisconsin, down to Indiana. We bought this house and we’ve been doing a lot of work on it. And when we got our first snow, I noticed, on the back part, there is a – like a foot-and-a-half-inch diameter bald spot every time we get a snowfall. And we had a friend – a contractor – come down. He went up in the attic and he’s like, “There is nothing going on here.” So the only thing we thought, well, maybe is going on is we have a heat pump and we also have our dryer vent in that same area back there.
And so now I had two different suggestions. He said to put a soffit venting on that whole area to get more air going up through there and possibly maybe it’s coming from the heat pump. But then I went to The Home Depot and I was talking to the guy there that seemed to know quite a bit. And he said – and what he would do is take it and remove all the vented area – vented soffit in that area. And so if there is heat coming up – he said, “But this shouldn’t happen.” He said, “This is what people do. They put their heat pumps outside.” And he’d never heard of anything like this before.
So we ended up doing that and so we don’t know yet if that actually helped it or not but …
TOM: Yeah, it’s not hurting the roof not having snow on that one spot. If you want to know why it’s happening, it’s because that spot is warmer than the other spots around it. Now, why is it warmer? Well, you mentioned there is a dryer exhaust duct near there. If the dryer exhaust duct is not completely sealed, if it’s dumping warm air in there, that’s going to heat up that spot over the roof and then any snow that hits there is going to melt and roll down. If the insulation has some gap in it of some sort in there where more room air can get up and heat that area right above it, that could cause it, as well.
But I would not tell you to start messing with your venting and everything else just because you’ve got a foot-and-a-half spot that doesn’t – where snow doesn’t stick. It’s curious but it’s not a major problem and I wouldn’t recommend major work for it.
KATHY: OK. So it’s – we don’t have to be concerned that there is heat getting up there and it’s going to cause mold and issues going on?
TOM: Well, I mean I would try – I would determine if there’s an obvious source of warmth that’s getting into that spot. But actually adding heat to that area is not necessarily going to cause mold. You’ll get more mold in the less heated spaces, frankly. Because when you warm moist – when you warm air, it uses more moisture, essentially. That’s why the warm air holds more moisture, so that’s not really a concern. It’s just kind of a curious thing.
And if you’ve got a dryer vent that’s right near there, I’d start with that because that would make perfect sense. If the dryer vent is losing some of its air right in that space, that’s not a good idea, either, because you don’t want to be dumping any lint into the attic. That could be dangerous, OK?
KATHY: OK. Well, very good. Thank you.
TOM: Alright, Kathy. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Tony in Florida is dealing with some not-so-energy-efficient appliances. Tell us what’s going on.
TONY: Yes. I have a Trane 19-SEER 3-ton unit. It has a dual-compressor on there. I also have a Pentair variable-speed pool pump and one of those heat pump – GE water heater.
TONY: And as far as I’m concerned, those are the two appliances that would be responsible for my big energy bill.
TONY: After installing those appliances, I am still looking at an energy bill ranging between 180 and 2.
TOM: Wow. That’s expensive.
TOM: So, let me ask you something about the heat – the Trane unit that you put in. When you put that in, did you just replace the compressor outside or did you also replace any of the internal parts?
TONY: The full unit, as well as replace and re-duct.
TOM: A couple of things that you can check. One of which is to have the HVAC contractor – or if you know how to do this, check the amperage draw for the compressor when it’s running. That can be done from the electrical panel with an amp probe. See if we’re pulling any excessive amperage. I’m wondering if anything is broken in the compressors or the fan system that’s causing it to pull more power than it should. So, you can check that against the manufacturer’s specification on both the heat pump, frankly. The heat pump, it’s a heat-pump water heater, correct?
TOM: So, check the draw. Secondly, is there any other major consuming appliance in the house? How are you cooking? Are you cooking with electric heat – with electricity, I should say?
TONY: Yes. I’m cooking with a heat-induction stove.
TOM: Heat-induction stove, OK. So, you are using quite a bit of power for that. What I want is to get to the point where we’re breaking this down, on a case-by-case basis, to try to figure this out.
Here’s what I want to tell you to do, OK? You’ve got a lot going on in that house. This would be a really good case for an energy audit. There are energy auditors that you could usually find through your local utility company or you can find them independently. And in many areas of the country, there are rebates for these or they’re even free.
Energy auditors can come in and look at every source of energy that’s being consumed in that house, as well as insulation, windows and doors, things like this. And the nice thing about an energy auditor is they’re not there to sell you stuff, you know? Sometimes, when you call a contractor and say, “I want an efficient heating system,” they sell you what they want to sell you. Energy auditors are kind of like home inspectors but they specialize in energy efficiency. And they can do an independent evaluation of all of the elements in the house and help you very accurately pin down where that energy is going.
Sometimes it’s free because it’s paid for by the utility companies. In fact, some utility companies, as a condition of licensing, are required to provide energy auditors or low-cost auditors. Find a good one. Research them carefully and get an energy audit done of your house. And I think that that will help you stop speculating on where the power – where the energy is being used and where it’s not and get some real, factual data that could help you make some intelligent decisions on how to cut those costs. Does that make sense?
TONY: Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, an Energy Star expert is stopping by with tips on sorting out all of this hubbub over the new light-bulb rules. We’re going to find out which bulbs are no longer being made and which ones we should be buying, 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, does all the news about light bulbs have you scratching your head? There are a lot of changes going on right now and it’s hard to quite figure out what we’re supposed to be doing: what kinds of bulbs to buy, which ones won’t be around and why all the fuss?
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s pretty confusing. So, here to clear up all of that confusion, so you’re not just standing there scratching your head in the aisles, you’ll actually get a light bulb – bing! – right over it. We’ve got Brittney Gordon, the communication manager for the EPA’s Energy Star Program.
BRITTNEY: Hi, guys. Thanks so much for having me.
TOM: Well, it’s our pleasure. So, Brittney, this all spans from something called the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. So my first question is: how does banning light bulbs give us security and independence?
BRITTNEY: Well, the first thing that we would say over at EPA is, “No one is banning light bulbs.” The good news is is that there are lots of light bulbs out there for you to choose from. But what this act did was it’s really encouraging people to buy more energy-efficient lighting.
A lot of people may not know this but the standard incandescent bulb – that bulb that we’re all used to seeing and using since we were little kids – that bulb, that technology has not changed in over 100 years. So, it’s certainly not innovative. It is certainly not efficient. And so, this act really gives people a reason to look for energy-efficient lighting. And at Energy Star, that’s one of our main things that we try to do for people, to make it just very easy and simple for them to find a bulb that’s going to save them energy, save them money and protect the environment.
TOM: Now, one of the objections that folks have about energy-efficient bulbs is the cost. And I think that stems from the fact that before that 100 years, we’ve considered the light bulb a disposable product. But the bulbs today are far more durable. It’s almost like buying an appliance. In fact, it occurred to me that you’ll probably have that same light bulb when your fixture wears out, because the bulb will outlast the fixture. Has that been a challenge for you, communication-wise, to get people to think that way?
BRITTNEY: Yeah. I mean we try to tell people – we have these very simple facts about lighting that we think really make the point. Energy Star-certified lighting, whether it’s a CFL or an LED, it’s going to use 75-percent less energy and it’s going to last for 10 to 25 times longer than that incandescent bulb that you’re used to. So, a great illustration that I like to use is if you have a baby today and you put, let’s say, an Energy Star-certified LED in her room this weekend, that bulb will still be working when she’s in college. It’s amazing how long these bulbs can last. And they’re going to save you energy that entire time.
TOM: Now, if you had a boy, though, it wouldn’t last because the basketball would hit it or the football or the Frisbee.
BRITTNEY: Or with all kids, you’ve got to teach them, too, to turn off the lights when they go home – when they leave the room, so that those bulbs can last even longer.
TOM: Now, another challenge that the folks have when they’re trying to equate the old incandescents with the energy-efficient bulbs of today is because we have always traditionally determined brightness based on a wattage number. Now, we know that wattage is a measure of electricity. Most people don’t think of it that way; they think of it as a measure of brightness.
Now, when it comes to the Energy Star bulbs, we’re now measuring in lumens. That seems to be a little confusing to folks.
BRITTNEY: You are exactly right. This is one of the biggest questions we get. And you pretty much explained it but the way we tell people when – watts. That’s the standard of measurement that you’re used to seeing on your light-bulb box. But really, all it measures is power or the amount of electricity that that bulb needs to operate. But what you need to look for now is lumens because lumens actually measures the light output or the brightness of the bulb. And that’s what’s really important, you know? So, these days, if you look for lumens with less watts, you’re going to save money and you’re going to save energy.
Here’s a quick example. The old 100-watt bulb, that used to put out about 1,600 lumens. Well, an Energy Star-certified bulb can now do the same thing using only 25 watts. So that’s 100 watts compared to 25 watts for the same amount of light.
We know that it’s hard for people to kind of wrap their minds around this new way of thinking and that’s why one thing we tell people is, “If you can’t remember anything else, just look for the Energy Star.” Because when you see that blue label, you know that you’re getting an energy-efficient bulb that has been third-party certified by independent laboratories. It’s going to have a warranty and you’re going to be guaranteed to get the energy efficiency and the performance that you expect.
LESLIE: Now, when you’re in the aisle – I just recently was in The Home Depot purchasing light bulbs. And you’re standing there and there are just so many choices, with so many different tones of color in daylight and warm and cool. How do you even know where to start? And is it going to work in the fixture that you are trying to buy a new bulb for? So sort of take us through the shopping process.
BRITTNEY: Well, the good news – and what I think is the simplest thing to know is – Energy Star-certified CFL and LED bulbs are available in just about every variety of shape and size for every application. So we’re talking about recessed cans, track lighting, your table lamp, everything. You can find an Energy Star-certified light bulb for that application.
Now, as you said, there’s a lot of different options out there now. So, you may be looking for warm light. You may be looking for yellowish light, cooler light, et cetera. But all of that is now clearly indicated on the box. So when you look at the box, it’s almost now like a little nutrition label, like what we’re used to with our food, that breaks down all those different options and choices that we have.
So, it means that – maybe spending a little extra time in the aisle and really looking at the box and figuring out what you want. But the good news is that there are definitely energy-efficient, Energy Star-certified bulbs for any need that you have in your home.
TOM: Brittney Gordon, Communications Manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s EPA Energy Star Program. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and shedding some light on what we need to know about buying bulbs today.
If you’d like more information, you could check out EnergyStar.gov/Lighting.
BRITTNEY: Thanks, guys.
LESLIE: Well, thanks for sorting all of that out.
And still to come, we’re going to have tips to help keep your lighting design bright and safe. The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues, 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. And we are taking your calls at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, one caller that we talk to on the air today is going to win an M18 Jobsite Radio and Charger from Milwaukee Tools. It comes with an AM/FM tuner, electronics charger and even a bottle opener.
TOM: It’s powered by Milwaukee’s revolutionary M18 REDLITHIUM Battery and it’s worth $229. Do you want to win it? Pick up the phone, call us with your question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Dixie in Illinois has a question regarding a crack in the basement and the possibility of it caving in.
Dixie, are you calling us from a pile of rubble or are you just concerned?
DIXIE: I am actually concerned because it started out with just hairline cracks following along the concrete blocks. And there are cracks in each corner of the foundation above ground, as well as these cracks in the walls below, in the basement. But the cracks are getting bigger and bigger. There are some of them that are gaping, I want to even say, an inch-and-a-half, 2 inches of …
TOM: You have an inch-and-a-half crack? You mean width? It’s open an inch-and-a-half?
DIXIE: Well, they are – well, you can’t see through the crack but the walls are bending in. We’ve even put reinforcements.
TOM: Alright. So, horizontally – like the cracks are horizontal and they’re bending in, Dixie?
DIXIE: Most of the ones that are bending in are horizontal, yes. But the cracks do go up and down, as well.
TOM: Alright. So you need to immediately contact a structural engineer and have the foundation inspected. This sounds serious. I can tell you that, typically, horizontal cracks are caused by frost heave, where the drainage conditions are poor at the outside of the house, water collects there, soil freezes and pushes in.
But you have that many cracks and those cracks are that significant, you need – not a contractor. I want you to find a structural engineer. You’re just hiring this guy to inspect the home and prepare a report discussing the condition of the foundation. And if repairs are needed, the engineer should specify those repairs. Then you can bring a contractor in to follow the engineer’s specification and make the repairs.
And then finally, make sure you bring the structural engineer back to inspect and certify that they were done correctly. Because at this point, unless you follow those steps just like that, you’re going to have a serious deficit to the home value. So that’s why if you have it inspected by a structural engineer, repaired by a contractor per the engineer’s specs and certified by the engineer as OK, you have kind of a pedigree for that repair you can pass on to future home buyers, OK? Does that make sense?
DIXIE: OK. But how do you find a structural engineer?
TOM: So, there’ll be local engineering companies. You could also check the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org. Now, those guys will not necessarily be a structural engineer but there may be an engineer among them that’s also a home inspector.
Alright? Thank you very much, Dixie. I hope that helps you out.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re like most of us, there are probably some areas of your home that are just not lit very well. And good lighting is, needless to say, very important. Not only is it going to make your home look bigger but it can actually make your home much safer.
First, in living and reading areas, you obviously need plenty of floor lamps and table lamps. But here’s a common mistake that leads to injury: you want to make sure that your lamps are pointing toward the activity and not towards you.
TOM: Now, one area where direct lighting is super-important is the kitchen. If you’ve got one main overhead light source, consider adding additional pendant fixtures above the work surfaces and then even task lights mounted under the cabinets.
LESLIE: Now, if you have a room that’s tough to fill with natural light – maybe it only has one window, say – an easy fix is to place some mirrors in strategic places that’s going to help bounce light around the room. Heck, the Egyptians used it in the pyramids, so it’s a trick that we’ve been using a long time.
TOM: And if someone in your family has vision problems, you can also take advantage of high-contrast colors. Put a dark switch plate on a light wall and choose bright colors for furniture and accessories.
If you’d like more easy lighting tips, they’re online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re talking to Georgia in Texas who’s got a question about tile flooring. How can we help you with your project?
GEORGIA: Yes. I live in a house that my grandparents originally built back in 1950. The flooring in the kitchen is what I refer to as the old linoleum. A rubber-topped linoleum is what I thought. But it is crumbling and someone at a tile place told me it is probably asbestos, because of the age of it. So, I have been told, yes, I can it rip it up and it’s OK or no, don’t mess with it and put something over it, like cement board, and then retile.
TOM: So, this tile floor is located where?
GEORGIA: In the kitchen.
TOM: And how old is the tile floor?
GEORGIA: It was put in in 1950.
TOM: Well, if you want to determine whether there’s asbestos in it, you’d have to take a piece of tile and have it tested.
TOM: But if it’s the original floor and you want to put a different floor over it, there’s really no reason not to. I mean laminate floor, for example, would be a good choice for a kitchen. And there’s no reason you can’t lay that right over the existing tile.
GEORGIA: Well, no, it is literally cracking and crumbling. I trip over it every day and another new piece goes flying across the floor.
TOM: Again, what I would do is I would probably not – tell you not to tear it up. It’s most likely simply vinyl tile. But if you want to be safe, just leave it in place and go ahead and floor right over it.
GEORGIA: OK. Well, I wasn’t sure, you know? The flooring underneath it – the wood underneath it – is still good. So, I just wasn’t sure which way to go or how to go about it, if I should go to the expense to put down the cement boarding and then put the – on top of the floor, screw it down and then put tile over on that.
TOM: Well, why are you going to put the cement floor down? Are you going to put ceramic tile down?
GEORGIA: It’d be nice. I grew up calling it “Mexican tile” or tile that’s made in Mexico.
TOM: Oh, OK.
GEORGIA: And it’s heavy and you’ve got to putty it and you’ve got to work with it and stuff.
TOM: Well, certainly, if you’re going to do it that way, you could put the board underneath the tile, right on top of the floor. There’s no reason you couldn’t do that, as well, OK?
GEORGIA: OK. Thanks.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Are you looking to add some glitz and glamour to your home, just in time for Oscar season? We’ve got some red-carpet makeover ideas, after this.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com where you can also post your question in the Community section, just like George did from New Jersey.
LESLIE: That’s right. And George writes: “It’s been close to zero and snowing for much of the last several weeks.”
Yes. As in a fellow East Coaster, George, it’s been generally sucky and I think that’s terrible.
TOM: We feel your pain.
LESLIE: It’s been a terrible winter.
“I’ve got more than a foot of snow on my deck. When does it make sense to clear it? I’m afraid of it getting too heavy or even just damaging the wood by sitting on top of it for so long.”
TOM: Well, there’s not much difference between the snow and just rain getting to that wood. It’s going to stand up or not stand up equally well. So I wouldn’t be too concerned about the moisture. It’s an outside deck; it’s designed for that.
In terms of the weight, I’m also not terribly concerned with a foot or so of snow. I’m more concerned with snow that sits on roofs because, frankly, roofs aren’t designed as strongly as decks. Roofs are really just designed to keep the weather off your house and they’re not designed for foot traffic. Decks are designed for foot traffic, George, so they’re much stronger.
So unless there is some structural weakness in your deck that you’re not telling us about, I wouldn’t worry about a foot or two of snow on that deck. You should be just fine.
LESLIE: Alright. And hopefully we’ll get some better weather out east.
Now, Julie from Florida writes: “We are in the process of building a house and haven’t given much thought to the heating system as we have to the air conditioning. But with the recent dips in temperatures in Florida, I’m wondering what we should be doing about it.”
TOM: Well, the best heating system is going to be one that’s the most efficient for you. I would tell you that the least you should be doing would be an Energy Star-rated heat pump. Heat pumps are good for areas like Florida because it doesn’t get cold that often there. And even though it’s more expensive to heat with a heat pump than other, say, fossil-fueled heating systems, the fact is you don’t need it that often and you can heat and cool with one appliance.
Now, if you want to be super-efficient, you can look into a geothermal heat pump. The downside there is that they’re very expensive to initially install, so I probably wouldn’t do it if – unless you’re really in the house for the very long haul.
LESLIE: Good advice, Tom.
Julie, we hope you stay warm in this new, frigid Florida.
TOM: Well, it’s Oscar time once again and if the red-carpet looks of Hollywood A-listers have you looking for ways to incorporate glitz and glamour into your own home, Leslie has some great ideas, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: That’s right. If your décor lacks some sparkle and you’re craving it, especially at this time of year when we’re all excited about the Oscar buzz and loving to see the latest fashions saunter down the red carpet, really, we’ve got some great ideas to help your home feel like the Oscar buzz.
Now, if you’re looking for some light or some sparkle, mirrors are a great trick. You add them around the room. They’ll make your room look bigger and they’ll add a perfect amount of drama.
The other thing that’s very elegant and glamorous is cut glass and crystal. Now, you can bring that into your room in the form of light fixtures, candleholders, picture frames. All of that will bring some extra bling to your space.
And in terms of colors, take a cue from the red carpet. You want to look at rich, jewel-toned hues like plum and burgundy, even brown, in some luxurious fabrics, maybe some faux fur, maybe some shimmery velvets, even silk.
Now, if you do this, your home is going to feel super-glamorous in no time at all. Let’s just get those Oscar polls going and see who’s going to win what. My money is on Leonardo DiCaprio. That Wolf of Wall Street was amazing and he’s pretty good to look at.
TOM: Well, if you’re getting ready for your first major remodel, coming up next time on The Money Pit we’re going to have some tips to make sure it goes perfectly. Now, mind you, home improvement and perfect are two words that you don’t often hear in the same sentence. Well, we’re going to focus on the top five remodeling mistakes and help you avoid them, 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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(Copyright 2014 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.)