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: Standing by to help you with your home improvement projects. So help yourself first: pick up the phone, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Hey, with winter temperatures at record lows across the country, a heated garage might sound pretty darn good to you, especially if you’re using that space for something other than a place to park your car, like maybe a hobby space or a workshop. That’s why, this hour, we’re going to have some tips on how you can add heating to a garage to make it that space that you can actually work in year-round.
LESLIE: And if space is an issue for you, we’ve got a solution for that, too. You can take one big room and make it into two with a partition wall. The step-by-step on that, from This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, in just a few minutes.
TOM: And also ahead, energy-saving projects don’t have to cost a bundle. We’re going to have a handful of projects that cost less than $50 to do and they’ll save you big bucks on those energy bills.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a very cool prize: the Milwaukee Tools M18 Jobsite Radio and Charger. You can listen to your favorite tunes with Bluetooth technology and charge your favorite Milwaukee power tool.
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 pick up the phone, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Jean in Iowa has a question about her heating-and-cooling system. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
JEAN: I have a five-year-old, high-efficiency furnace with the PVC pipe that comes out for the intake and the exhaust? And at the first joint – it’s about a 45-degree angle. And we noticed that that joint wasn’t totally sealed. But our question is – we noticed that there was condensation dripping out of that joint. So if we seal it, will that condensation go into our furnace and cause damage? We’re not sure what we should do with it.
TOM: How old is this furnace?
JEAN: Five years.
TOM: What’s the efficiency of the furnace?
JEAN: In the 90s.
TOM: I ask you this because some furnaces are designed to trap the condensation and pump it out. And so if you have a condensing furnace, then that might not be as much of an issue.
Because what happens with those high-efficiency systems is they put the exhaust gases out at such a low temperature, that they quickly turn from gas back to water. And then the moisture drains back through the vent pipe, gets caught by a condensate system and then pumped out.
So have you had it serviced this winter yet?
JEAN: Not this winter.
TOM: Yeah, you really need to do it every year because the fact that the gas burns, it burns dirty and then you get combustion deposits on the burners. And then they can become inefficient. They’re wasting money and potentially be dangerous. So, I would address this with the service contractor when he comes out to do your service, which you’re going to call for tomorrow, OK? You want to make sure you get that done because it’s important, every winter, to have a heating system serviced.
JEAN: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jeff in Pennsylvania is on the line and has a question about the order of things when it comes to a roofing project. What can we do for you?
JEFF: Wanted to check with a neutral third party to see if they have any recommendations or if you’d have any recommendations on putting a heavy, architectural shingle over top of an existing three-tab that’s very thin, very flat.
TOM: Well, first of all, we generally don’t like to put – recommend you put a second layer of roofing shingles on it but it comes down to economics. Yeah, we’ll say this: if you put a second layer on, the second layer doesn’t usually last as long as the first layer. Because the first layer holds a lot of heat and that can, over the long haul, wear out the second layer because that heat is the enemy of the asphalt shingle. It forces more oil to evaporate out of it and more of the materials that make it pliable and watertight. And so, second layers generally don’t last as long as the first layers.
The other thing to consider is how long you’re going to be in the house, because you’ll probably have a shortened roof life. If it’s a short-term house for you, maybe you don’t care or you’re trying to save some cash, then maybe you want to go ahead and put a second layer on.
But the best way to roof a house is to tear off the old layers and put on a second layer. Weight is not an issue, if that’s what you’re concerned about. Can it handle it? Yeah, it certainly can handle a second layer. But it’s just not good building practice.
JEFF: OK. I thank you much.
TOM: Good luck, Jeff. 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.
Well, we are having the mid-winter blues. So if a nice home improvement project will get you to the other side of that dreariness, 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.
Up next, are you looking for a warm place to work on a big project? Why not add heat to your garage? We’ll have tips, after this.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Picking up the phone and calling us with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll get you the answer to that question, plus an opportunity to win the M18 Jobsite Radio/Charger from Milwaukee Tools.
LESLIE: With it, you can stream rich, full sound wirelessly from over 100 feet away. Plus, it serves as a quick and convenient charging station for Milwaukee M18 batteries and your portable electronic devices.
TOM: It’s a prize worth $229. Going out to one caller drawn at random, so give us call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Julie in Missouri, which is probably freezing, just like everybody else in the United States of America has been this winter.
JULIE: Yeah, like way below freezing. So, that’s part of my question. We have a couple of huge hot-water heaters: an 85-gallon and a couple of 50s. We have a bed-and-breakfast and the hot-water heaters are in the basement. And it seems like it’s always the people on the third floor that get up first. And so there’s a lot of water going down the drain of all that hot water. Plus, over the past couple of years, we’ve had frozen pipes and not the outside walls; it’s been in the middle of the room. Because the house was built in the 1800s, so there’s pretty drafty walls.
So, I remember somebody telling me once about some recirculating hot water so the pipes always have hot water in them. Maybe those hot-water pipes wouldn’t freeze.
TOM: Well, first of all, hot water is only half of the equation here. You know, you’re going to be running cold water up to those rooms, as well, correct? Like for a bathroom?
JULIE: Well, I guess. That’s why I’m calling you, because you’re the man.
TOM: Yeah. So I mean I would think recirculating hot water is not the solution here.
Look, if you’ve got frozen pipes or pipes that are – that tend to freeze, there’s really only a couple of things that you can do about this. And the most sensible thing is to insulate them.
Now, if it’s in an interior wall space and you know where that wall is, one thing that you could think about doing is adding blown-in insulation to the interior wall. Now, normally, you wouldn’t do this, right? Because why insulate an interior wall? But that would be a lot easier than tearing a wall open. You’ve got to get insulation on these pipes if they’re prone to freezing. And nothing else short of that is going to solve this.
I have, in my house, a kitchen sink that had a pipe that ran up the exterior wall. And invariably, in the coldest winters, it would freeze. The only solution there is to insulate the pipe. And when we couldn’t get to that pipe to insulate it, what we ended up doing was actually moving the lines to a different location so they would be less likely to freeze.
So there’s always a solution. It’s not always easy but you’ve got to insulate those, as a start. And if it’s an interior wall, I would simply blow insulation into that wall. That’s the fastest way to get some warmth around those pipes and stop them from freezing.
In terms of recirculating hot water, yes, there are ways to do that. But it tends to be very wasteful and I don’t think it would be cost-effective when you consider all of the electricity it takes to run that water 24-7. Plus, when you’re running that water back to the water heater, remember, your water heater is going to run more frequently, too, because it’s actually going to be heating a lot more water: not only the water that’s in the water heater but all that extra water that’s running through the pipes. So I don’t think, from a cost-effective perspective – even though it seems like you’re wasting resources and wasting money and wasting water, I don’t think you’re wasting so much that it would be anywhere near a break-even for you to put in the equipment it would take to recirculate it.
JULIE: OK. Alright. Well, thanks. I appreciate it.
TOM: Julie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, today’s garage is much more than a space for storage or even for parking your car. So, you may be using your garage as a laundry room, a workshop, a playroom or even a haven for your beloved pets.
TOM: But while the garage has become an extension of the family’s living space, cold temperatures and a drafty structure often make it less than comfortable during those winter months.
LESLIE: Now, this problem can be easily fixed with a simple garage heater. There are several different types out there. You’ve got forced-air garage heaters, which will deliver instant heat like a conventional furnace, infrared garage heaters will radiate heat rather than using a conventional blower fan and portable electric heaters that require very little maintenance.
TOM: Finally, if you’re planning on adding heat to your garage, you also need to think about insulating the walls, too. Here’s why: the exterior walls that separate the living space from the garage, those are insulated; but the other exterior walls that separate the garage from the outside, those are not insulated. And if you do insulate them with some inexpensive fiberglass batts, you’ll actually need less heat to get that garage nice and toasty warm for your projects.
If you want more tips on how to insulate a garage, search “garage insulation” at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Trent in Florida on the line who’s dealing with a falling-apart popcorn ceiling. How can we help you?
TRENT: Well, my popcorn ceiling is actually in my bathroom. I guess, on one night or something, my son had gotten it wet and when it dried, it started flaking off the ceiling. And now it’s just continuing to do it.
LESLIE: Well, it’s funny because when you get a popcorn ceiling wet, that’s actually the way to remove it. You would spray it with some sort of garden sprayer and then scrape it off. So if you want it gone, he’s got you on the correct path.
TOM: Now is the time, right.
But if you don’t want it gone, what I would do is this: I would take maybe a stiff-bristle brush and gently brush away – maybe like a dry paintbrush and just brush away all the loose stuff. And then you’re going to pick up some popcorn-ceiling patching material. There’s a number of different manufacturers of this. I know that Zinsser makes one, Homax makes one. It comes both in a trowel-on finish and also in a spray-on finish.
LESLIE: It looks like cheese in a can when it comes out.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It looks like Cheez Whiz. And you can spray that on and recreate the popcorn effect that way. And then, lastly, you’re probably going to have to paint that ceiling and paint the entire ceiling to blend it in.
But you’ve got to get rid of the loose stuff, add the patching material and then repaint the ceiling and you’ll be good to go.
TRENT: OK. Well, great. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Now you’ve got options. You’re very welcome.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, this problem is something we probably have all dealt with: your water is taking way too long to heat up. Monty in Alabama, tell us about it.
MONTY: We’ve got a – our water heater – we moved into a house a few months ago and it’s taking about 90 to 120 seconds for the – in the kitchen – for the hot water to heat up. And it was just this tremendous waste of water.
And it’s an electric water heater and it’s located on the other side of the house, upstairs, so it’s having to travel so far, I’m sure. Is there any reasonable solution to that?
TOM: Yeah, well, you hit the nail on the head. The reason it takes that long for the water to get hot is because that’s how long it takes for the water to travel that long run down the pipe and to get over to the kitchen from the other side of the house.
What I might suggest that you consider is adding a second water heater. Now, you could pick up a tankless water heater and they do actually have some reasonably energy-efficient, electric tankless water heaters right now. I never used to say that but I recently saw some new ones. The technology is getting a little bit better. They actually have heat-pump water heaters that are pretty efficient. But if you were to split the run to get the water heater a little closer to the kitchen, that would make a difference.
Now, is the kitchen the only place you’re having this? Is it – is the hot water reasonably quick, in terms of where the bathrooms are located?
TOM: Yes, since the bathrooms are more important than the kitchen, in terms of the speed with which the hot water arrives, especially if it’s you standing on a cold floor waiting for the water to get warm before you hop in the shower, I would probably tolerate it, if it was me. I would tolerate it and deal with it.
Now, the other thing that you could do is you could put a point-of-use water heater, right under the kitchen cabinet, to supply additional hot water. But again, it’s kind of an expensive project and I don’t know if you would ever make that up in terms of the savings on water cost and that sort of thing.
MONTY: Mm-hmm. Yeah. If it’s not something that we can make up, it’s not really worth doing because …
TOM: I don’t think it’s worth doing then, Monty, because it’s not really inconvenient because it’s not near the bathroom. It’s just you have to be patient a little bit waiting for that warm water to arrive. And I imagine after it arrives, it stays warm in the pipes a little bit longer.
One thing you could think about doing is insulating that hot-water pipe so that once the warm water gets in it, it stays warm a bit longer. And that would …
MONTY: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s a good thought and that would be inexpensive.
TOM: Inexpensive, right. And make it a little bit more convenient. OK?
MONTY: OK, Tom. Thank you so much. Enjoy your show.
TOM: Thanks so much, Monty. Good luck with that project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Gwen in Wyoming, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
GWEN: Well, we’re working on a kitchen remodel and I’m looking at sinks. Right now, we have a stainless-steel sink that has three compartments in it. And it just doesn’t seem to hold the water hot for very long. And I was wondering, are different things more insulated or how could we insulate a sink?
TOM: Well, sinks are generally not insulated.
TOM: What should be insulated is the wall behind the sink. And if the wall behind the sink is not insulated, then the cabinet gets that much colder and then, of course, the water doesn’t stay warm in the sink very long. It’s an interesting question, though, Gwen, and I’m thinking about how could you possibly insulate a sink.
I mean one idea comes to mind is to spray the whole thing with expandable foam insulation, because it would be under the cabinet. And once you got it done – it would be kind of a messy job but once it was done, you’d be finished. Except that you would want to make sure you keep it away from all the plumbing connections because, eventually, you’re going to want to replace the faucet and you don’t want to have to cut through all that mess. Or you could just wrap it with some other type of insulation: one that’s perhaps encapsulated, like a batt insulation.
But I’ve never actually had anyone ask me how to try to keep a sink warmer but I see why it’s important to you, because it would make sense, as you’re doing the dishes, to try to keep that water as warm as possible. But I would first want you to concentrate in making sure the wall underneath there is properly insulated.
GWEN: That makes sense. So when we pull it all out and – we’ll double-check to make sure that wall has good insulation.
TOM: Yeah, that might be part of your problem. And if you get it warmed up – insulated and warmed up – you may not have to deal with trying to insulate a sink.
GWEN: OK. Well, great. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Gwen. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Kenneth on the line to The Money Pit who’s got a flooring question. How can we help you today?
KENNETH: Hi. Well, I was going to ask you about – how do you fix squeaky floors on a second floor of a house that has rugs, without ripping up the rugs?
TOM: There’s a couple of things that you can do. First of all, you need to understand what causes the squeak. And generally, it’s movement between the subfloor and the floor joist underneath.
TOM: So, to try to reduce the squeak or eliminate it – you know, you mentioned that you’ve got rugs and you don’t want to take them up. I just want to tell you that, of course, the surefire way to stop these squeaks is to pull the rugs up and then to screw the subfloor to the floor joist using long, hardened-steel screws, which you drive in with a drill. You don’t want to do that, so I’m going to tell you a little trick of the trade on how you can fix some of the worst ones without doing that. And that is to locate the floor joist underneath the carpet.
Now, you need to do that kind of by trial and error. You can do that by tapping on the floor, you can do that with a stud finder. There’s a whole new line of Stanley stud sensors that work really well and they’ll penetrate through the carpet. You need to find that beam.
Once you find the beam, then what you do is you get yourself some 12-penny, galvanized finish nails. And I say “galvanized” and hot-dipped galvanized is the best. Those are the ones that are really sort of crusty on the outside. And you find that spot and you drive the nail straight through the carpet. Don’t let your wife see you do this, OK? Because she’ll get upset with you.
Straight through the carpet and then with the nail set, you punch that head right through the carpet. When you finish driving with the hammer, it’ll look like the carpet is dimpled. But if you take a nail set, you punch it through the surface of the carpet and sort of pull the carpet back up and rub it with your hands a couple of times and it’ll disappear; that divot will disappear.
What you’re doing is you’re securing that floor right above – right through the carpet without pulling the carpet up. Now, I wouldn’t want you to do this to the whole house but I’ve fixed this in lots of houses using two or three strategically driven nails. And I find if you drive it at a slight angle, it works better because the nail holds better.
KENNETH: OK. Well, I noticed they had on the old – This Old House the other day on TV, they showed you how to do it with the rugs, before I called you. And they use this O’Berry Enterprising kit, which is a drill bit that’s only got three threads on it that you drill down until you find your stud. Then they have 50 screws with little socket heads on them and you drill those down into the beam and then you have a little tool that breaks the head off. And it’s ingenious. The only thing is is that I can’t find the beams.
TOM: Yeah, you need a stud sensor. So that would be a worthwhile investment of a few dollars. I mean those stud sensors are $10 to $20, $25 for a real good one.
KENNETH: I will and I thank you so much.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still to come, we’ve got a project that will help you make one big room into two. It’s a perfect solution to adding another bedroom without a big addition. That’s coming up when 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.
TOM: And with all the chilly weather that we’ve had, you probably have seen a lot of ice and icicles. And they may be pretty to look at but they can be very damaging to your home. Check out our article at MoneyPit.com called “Ice Damage Prevention Tips” to learn how to safely deal with ice and snow on and around your home.
LESLIE: Cindy in Delaware is on the line with some plumbing odors.
Tell us what is going on, Cindy.
CINDY: I have dual sinks in the master bathroom.
CINDY: And every once in a while, I get a strong sewer smell.
CINDY: I don’t know what’s causing it. It doesn’t matter if I run the water or flush the toilet but the left bowl connects the – underneath the pipe connects to the right one and it goes down into the – under the house.
TOM: OK. Well, assuming that they were plumbed correctly – and that you, in fact, have a plumbing trap there, which I’m going to presume you are – the odor is probably the result of something called biogas, which is – basically happens when you get a lot of debris over the years. And it lines the inside of the pipe and it lines the inside of the connections, the drain and so on. And then that material will start to produce a pretty strong odor.
So what you need to do is take the drain apart and use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of it. You can’t just run something down there. You physically have to scrub it – those pipes – out. And that usually will eliminate that material and therefore the odor.
CINDY: OK. OK. Because I had used – tried vinegar and baking soda.
TOM: Yeah, that’s all good stuff but if it’s really building up like that, you’re going to have to remove the scum, so to speak, that’s containing all that bacteria that’s producing the odor.
CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: With an economy really dictating that more people improve than move, homeowners are getting creative with ways to get the most out of their homes.
TOM: And one idea is to turn one big room into two smaller rooms by building a partition wall, a fairly basic DIY project that you can do with just a few steps. Here to walk us through is Tom Silva, the general contractor for TV’s This Old House.
TOM SILVA: Well, thanks, guys. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: You know, we’re basically talking about a room divider, right? I mean what do we need to know?
TOM SILVA: Well, room dividers – how do you want to divide the room up? Do you want to make it two sizes the same space? You’ve got to think about how you’re going to get in and out of that room. You’ve got to think about whether or not you want to put a closet in one and not the other. So you’ve got to think about all kinds of little things.
TOM: There’s a lot more than just putting this wall up, because you’re really changing the flow for the people that live in there. You can’t walk by one bedroom to get into the next bedroom.
TOM SILVA: No.
TOM: They’ve got to have their own, for example, separate point of access.
TOM SILVA: Right. Years ago, they didn’t care about that. Bedrooms. You walked through one bedroom to get to the other on the second floor. I know. I lived in a house like that.
But yeah, today, you’ve got to think about what ramifications are you going to cause by putting a partition up into a room.
LESLIE: Tommy, I feel like there’s so many rules and regulations when it comes to building. Is there anything we should consider code-wise before we just divvy up a space?
TOM SILVA: Well, depending on what that space is going to be divvied up for. If you’re going to divvy up a space in your basement, there’s not a problem. But if you’re going to divvy up a space in a room and make a bedroom out of it, you have to make sure that that bedroom has a second means of egress: in other words, a window that is fire-rated for access so that you can get in or out of that bedroom. Usually, the fireman has to get in.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you have to get out.
TOM SILVA: That’s true.
LESLIE: And it has to be quick.
TOM: And that’s the idea.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
TOM: Now, the process of putting the partition wall up, that’s pretty straightforward? Just framing a wall?
TOM SILVA: Pretty straightforward. You need a shoe on the floor and a plate on the ceiling and basically some studs in between.
TOM: We’re just going to de-term this a little bit. The shoe on the floor is the wood stud that lays on the floor or 2x4 on the floor.
TOM SILVA: Right.
TOM: The plate is the 2x4 that’s up against the ceiling.
TOM SILVA: Correct.
TOM: Studs, of course, in between.
TOM SILVA: Sixteen on center.
TOM: Now, what about the mechanical end of this? Because when you have a basic bedroom, let’s just say – let’s assume that it was properly wired. You’re going to have an outlet over so many feet, you’re going to have light switches that are wired into, perhaps, ceiling lights or outlets. You’ve really got to think about what the impact is of dividing that off, because the original intent of the wiring design is going to change now.
TOM SILVA: Well, think about it: if you’re in one room and that light switch is in that room, you’re going to turn the light switch on – you’re going to be turning the light on in the other bedroom? So …
TOM: It depends on whether or not you liked your brother or sister that was living over there.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. So you’ve got to think about that. You’ve got to think about whether or not an electrician has to get involved to change some wiring around.
The other thing you have to have to think about is what type of heat you have. If it’s a radiator in one room and you’re building a partition against the outside wall, you may not have any heat in that other room. So you’ve got to think about that. Also, ductwork. You have to think about whether or not there’s a supply or a return in one of those rooms.
LESLIE: And what does this really do for resale value? Is there ever a downside to adding an extra bedroom to a home?
TOM SILVA: The downside is the way you do it and is – the room is really small. In some cases, bigger space is more helpful than a real small – two small rooms can be a hurt unless you have little kids. And then, eventually, they’re going to grow bigger and they’re going to move out and then you can open the room back up. But it really becomes a personal taste. You’re building the house or you’re modifying that house for the way you live.
TOM: And that’s a good point, as you both made.
Leslie, a lot of times, real estate values depended on whether it’s a two-bedroom house or a three-bedroom house. But if it’s really a two-bedroom house where you divided one of those rooms into half, you’re not instantly going to get more value.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
TOM: Because there’s going to be one family that looks at that and says, “Great. There’s an extra bedroom. I don’t care that there’s two that are small.” And there’s another family that says, “This house is weird because it’s different than everything else in the neighborhood.”
TOM SILVA: Yeah, exactly. It can hurt or it can help.
TOM: Yeah, that’s absolutely right.
Now, Tom, is – does it make sense because of that – let’s say you need to have that extra bedroom, maybe – to kind of build this in a way where you could just as easily take it apart?
TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I remember doing a story years ago where I actually showed how to make a temporary partition between two walls without doing any damage to the floor or to the ceiling. And that partition was for two young kids. They wanted their own space because, obviously, they didn’t sleep together well. Kept the mother and father up a lot at night with arguing. So, we built a temporary partition between that room but it could come right out easy.
TOM: And Leslie, we’ve gotten those questions on the show, too. And there’s actually some décor solutions that perhaps you could do, as well, right?
LESLIE: It depends on what the room situation is going to be. But there’s some beautiful divider screens. There’s some interesting panels that slide on a tracking system so they can open and close, as you desire, to divvy up that space.
TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah.
LESLIE: Of course, then, it’s a sound issue. How much privacy does that space need?
TOM SILVA: Right. Right.
LESLIE: But I think there’s a lot of temporary and permanent solutions that you can explore, depending on what your needs are.
TOM SILVA: Right. And I like to think of it – if you’re going to build that wall and you’re going to drywall and everything, don’t cut open the ceiling and don’t cut it into the floor so that if it has to come down later on, when the wall comes down the floor doesn’t need to be patched and the ceilings are already there. So when you paint it, you can just skim it over a little bit with drywall and then you’ll never know.
TOM: Right. So make it just as easy to take apart as it was to put together.
TOM SILVA: Right, exactly.
TOM: Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice on how to create a partition wall to divide up rooms when it’s needed.
TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. Nice to be here.
LESLIE: You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos on many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.
Still ahead, 50 bucks and a little DIY know-how is all it takes to make a real difference in your energy bills. We’ve got several inexpensive projects you could do today that will start saving you money tomorrow.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is 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. And it comes with an AM/FM tuner, electronics charger and even a bottle opener. Now, I don’t recommend the bottle opener being used on a job site but tailgating? Totally acceptable.
TOM: Maybe. And it’s powered by Milwaukee’s revolutionary M18 REDLITHIUM Battery, which makes it compatible with the entire M18 system. So you can even charge your Milwaukee power tools at the same time.
It’s worth $229. And that radio is going out to one caller drawn at random from those who reach us for today’s show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joe in Pennsylvania is on the line with a plumbing question.
JOE: When the kids are taking a shower, what happens is you pull the tub up – you know, the drain thing? You pull it up and then what happens is when you pull that up, then they – you can take a bath and it shuts it off. Well, then when you get – they get done or whatever, to let the water out, you’ve got to push it down. Well, it doesn’t stay down and then it pops back up. And so with – sometimes, we wet a washcloth and we’ll put it on the end of the little knob to push the thing down. And sometimes, that’ll hold it but sometimes it just pops up and then you’re stuck waiting on it for it to drain unless you sit there and hold it down with your hand.
TOM: Joe, in that type of situation, what you need to do is to disassemble the assembly of the stopper. And that usually starts by loosening the screws which hold the overflow assembly in place. Is there a metal plate on the back of the tub?
TOM: So that metal plate, usually you take that apart and you pull the assembly out and then clean it. And sometimes, you’ve got to scrub it with a toothbrush to get everything working properly again. Because it’s getting hung up and that’s why it won’t open again and drain the tub out without you holding that thing down.
You’ll often get like a calcium deposit on there from the water stains or sediment or soap scum. There’s a lot of gunk that gets in there. But if you take that apart – remember how you took it apart because you’re going to put it back together the same way – and clean it, that should solve it.
JOE: Alright. Thank you.
LESLIE: Hey, you’ve got 50 bucks? Well, that and just a little DIY know-how – alright, Tom has got a lot – is all it takes to see some real return in energy investments in your home.
For example, most homes in America do not have enough insulation. But for about $30 a roll, you can add another 8 inches of toasty cushion in your attic.
TOM: Also, consider that caulk is only a couple of bucks, foam sealant about five and weatherstripping can set you back just one lousy dollar. And those can fix all sorts of construction ills that cause air leakage, like plugging leaky windows, doors and outlets for immediate savings and increased comfort.
LESLIE: Lastly, here’s a great project that can chop 10 percent off your yearly heating-and-cooling bills: add a smart clock setback thermostat. That runs about 50 bucks and it’ll turn your heat down when it’s not needed and pay for itself in no time at all.
TOM: And if you’ve already got a setback thermostat, use it. Most homes have these thermostats but too few actually use them. You can save 5 to 15 percent a year on your heating bill by simply setting your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours at a time. That’s not much to deliver big savings.
If you’d like some more tips on energy-saving improvements you can make for 50 bucks or less, search that topic, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Michelle in Alabama, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MICHELLE: OK. Well, we live in a home that was built in the early 70s. And in two of the bedrooms, we are having a mold issue and it’s just above the baseboards. And I’ve actually cut into the sheetrock, thinking that maybe it’s the moisture from the outside coming through but it’s not. There’s no mold inside; it’s just in the room. And I don’t know what’s causing it or how to even fix it.
LESLIE: And are you certain that it’s mold? Have you had it tested?
MICHELLE: Well, yeah, it’s like a – we had a piece of furniture there – a dresser there – and we moved it and we were totally shocked that there – like it was black and fuzzy. It was no – it was mold.
TOM: So if you had this furniture against the wall, you probably created sort of a chilly, damp area there. Moving the furniture out probably helps because you get a little more ventilation behind it. But what I would do is I would spray that mold down with a bleach-and-water solution so that would kill anything that’s there. Protect the carpet because, obviously, you don’t want to bleach out your carpet. But spray it down, let the bleach-and-water sit for a while – maybe 10,15 minutes – and then clean it. And that will stop any further mold from growing.
And just try to keep that area dry. If it’s very damp and it’s – and if the furniture was pressed up against it, that might be why it’s happening.
What kind of furniture was against it?
MICHELLE: It was really like a child’s dresser.
TOM: OK. So it was wood. It wasn’t a couch or something like that?
MICHELLE: No, it was wood, yeah.
TOM: Yeah, so take a look at the back of that, too, and make sure if there’s any mold spores on that, that they’re cleaned, as well.
MICHELLE: Alright. Thanks for your help.
TOM: 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.
Coming up, it’s one of the most common homeowner do-overs. We’re talking about caulk. It’s a seemingly simple project that’s very easy to mess up. Learn the steps to do your caulking project right, the first time, when 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.
Hey, are you hanging curtain rods? Well, if you are, it’s a great do-it-yourself project for even the most novice of those weekend warriors out there. But if you’d rather not mark up your walls, you can check out our article, “Curtain Rods: Hang Without Drilling Holes,” right now on MoneyPit.com.
TOM: And while you’re there, you can post your home improvement question. And that is exactly what Sarah in New York did. She wants to talk about caulking. She says, “What should I be using to caulk around the tub where the porcelain meets the tile: silicone or latex caulk? I heard that the two don’t mix and if I already have one type, I should not apply a different type. Is that true?”
Well, it’s a great question, Sarah, and it’s actually a very fun project and one that’s important to protect those tile walls from rotting out. It doesn’t much matter what’s there now because the first step is to remove that old caulk.
Now, you can try to scrape it out and if it doesn’t come out easily, certainly without damaging the tub or tile, I want you to pick up a product called “caulk softener.” It’s kind of like a paint remover but it’s designed for caulk. And if you apply it to the caulk, it will turn it into sort of a gelatin and make it very easy to scrape it off. And for scrapers, use a plastic putty knife. Those usually work really well and don’t scratch tile or tub.
Now, once the caulk is removed, I’m going to give you a couple of tricks of the trade here on how to apply new caulk and make sure it doesn’t fall out. The first one is this: fill the tub with water. Now, why would you want to fill the tub with water? Well, water is very heavy; it weighs 8 pounds per gallon. And when you fill a tub with water, it settles, it pushes down, it sinks downward. And by leaving the tub in that position, then caulking, letting the caulk dry and letting the water out, the tub comes back up, it compresses the caulk. And this way, it doesn’t work loose as often or as frequently when you go in and out of the tub.
Now, the next thing is this: you want to make sure that you not only caulk the lip around the tub but make sure you go up the vertical corners, as well, because that’s another place where water can work in. If you do it right – you want to use a latex product. Use one with an antimicrobial additive. It’s going to last a really long time and you won’t be caulking again anytime soon.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a posting from Marge in Florida who writes: “I have electronic air filters and I’m wondering how to clean them. One dealer says vacuum because washing could cause corrosion and malfunction. Another dealer says wash with water.”
I think she’s talking about those silver-plate ones that sort of you have to clean rather than there being some sort of, you know, media on top of it, right?
TOM: Well, Marge, it doesn’t much matter what the dealers say. What really matters is what the manufacturer says. So what you need to do is figure out who made your electronic air cleaner and search their website for maintenance advice. I will say that, generally, it’s been my experience that electronic air cleaners can be cleaned in a dishwasher. You simply take them out, stick them in the dishwasher, run them through a cycle. Sometimes, you can only fit one in at a time. But if you do that, that will clean them and that will not damage them.
That said, though, I don’t want you to do anything until you check the manufacturer’s website. The information is right there. It’s a wonderful thing about the web today: there’s information there for all sorts of products. No matter how old they are, you are going to find it online.
LESLIE: Yeah. And if you don’t happen to have an electronic air filter like Marge does, remember that now is a great time of year to just simply change the filter in your furnace. And if you upgrade from one of the less expensive ones to something a little bit more high-quality, you’ll end up with some great air filtration. And it’ll do the appliances some good service.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips, some ideas, some inspiration to get out the tools and get to work on the project that you need to turn your home from money pit to castle.
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.)