TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to take your home improvement questions, so pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up this hour, if you’ve shipped your kids off to college and now you’re left with that extra room in your home, what should you do with it? I say quickly remodel it before they come back. But if that’s not your plan, we’re going to have some tips on empty-nest makeovers this hour.
LESLIE: Please. My son is four; I’m already fantasizing. I’m like, “If he moves down to the basement, can I put my office upstairs?”
LESLIE: I’m like, “What is going on?”
Alright, guys. Also ahead this hour, you know, it’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare: water where it should not be. Coming up, we’re going to have tips on how to clean up that water damage.
TOM: And is your kitchen looking a little dated but your budget can’t handle a complete makeover? If so, we’ve got a trick coming up that will shave years off your kitchen’s appearance.
LESLIE: And one caller this hour who makes it on the air with us is going to get a beautiful addition to their ceiling. That’s right, we’re giving away a ceiling fan from Kichler. Now, Kichler’s fans, they’re really beautiful, they’re very energy-efficient and they truly do come in a wide range of styles, so you’re going to find one that really suits your décor.
TOM: Well, absolutely, because the winner gets to pick their Kichler fan. You can choose any one up to a $500 value. So, if you’d like to win it, you’ve got to be in it. And that means you’ve got to pick up your phone right now and call us with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Laurie in California, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LAURIE: I am trying to put a freestanding deck in my backyard. And my backyard has blackberry bushes in it, so I have to get rid of the blackberry bushes first.
LAURIE: And I don’t want them to grow back up through the deck.
LAURIE: So how could I do that?
TOM: Well, they’re probably not going to grow through the deck, because the deck is going to block all sunlight to it. That said, as you prep the soil, what you’re going to want to do is – obviously, you have to build footings for this, right? So you build the footings and then you take off whatever the top surface is there, if there’s grass, whatever. And then you lay down weed block – which is sort of this black, burlap-y kind of fabric. And you lay that down underneath the deck and then you can go ahead and frame over that.
What you might end up doing is do the framing and then kind of lay the fabric down at the very last minute because, frankly, it’s kind of hard to walk on it while you’re framing this deck. So you might end up even putting the floor joists down, then lay the fabric under it, then finish it off. And that’ll help slow down anything that wants to come up right away.
But I think that once this deck is built, it’s going to be so dark under there that you’re not going to have problems with the blackberry bushes coming up through the deck. It certainly would come around it but not through it.
LAURIE: OK. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Laurie. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: William in North Carolina is dealing with some sticky doors. Tell us what’s going on.
WILLIAM: Well, I’ve got this problem going on now. It’s been, oh, many years since we moved into this house, in 1992.
WILLIAM: It seems like some doors stick and the others don’t. And then when the doors that were sticking don’t stick anymore, the ones that were not sticking stick. So I can’t figure it out. I’ve been wondering, is it the paint job that they put on the doors when they built the house or is it something doing with – dealing with the climate or what?
TOM: Well, it has to do with the climate, William, and it’s the fact that when it gets moist out, when it gets humid out, the doors will tend to swell more than when it – in the wintertime, when things are drier.
Now, you can fix this by adjusting the swings – the door installation. You may have to reset the hinges to make a little bit more room around it. One of the things that you might also want to check is you could take the door off the hinges and look at the edge grain; that’s the very top and the very bottom of the door. If that wasn’t sealed, then that kind of acts as sort of the open door for all the moisture to get into that door and cause it to swell.
So if you were to seal the top and the bottom of the door – I bet the sides are: the hinge side and the striker side. But the very top and the very bottom tend to be left untouched very often. And if you were to seal those with a clear finish, for example, or just to paint them – I don’t know if your doors are clear or not – then that will have an effect on stopping the doors from absorbing as much moisture.
So it’s really a carpentry problem. It’s nothing mysterious about it; it’s just the doors are swelling, getting stuck in the openings. And you can rehang the door to address that. You can also seal the top and the bottom to slow it down, OK?
WILLIAM: OK. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it’s official: the kiddies are back in school. So how are you spending your ample free time? Except Mom is having a glass of wine, I can imagine.
TOM: To celebrate, no doubt.
LESLIE: Seriously. Well, pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to fill your extra hours, that are now a little bit more free that the kids are back in school, with a home improvement project. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: And if you’ve just shipped off the big kids to college and are wondering how you can hijack that extra space that used to be their bedroom – notice I said, “Used to be their bedroom.” It might not be by the time they get back if you tackle this project. We’re going to give you some tips on empty-nest transformations, after this.
MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call. Even though the weather is getting cooler, we want you to be super-cool in your money pit. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, because one caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a really great and beautiful ceiling fan from Kichler Lighting.
They’ve got a huge selection of indoor and outdoor styles, so if you’ve got a porch or a three-season room or a veranda, you can actually put one out there. And they have more direct-current fans than anyone in the industry and DC really adds up to those energy savings. And you’ve got your pick of any fan worth up to 500 bucks, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Claire in Alaska on the line who’s dealing with a first-time basement. What can we do for you?
CLAIRE: Well, I have purchased a 1900 house and it has this basement that is getting moisture. It has this sticky, black paper on the outside but it is not functioning properly, apparently, because there’s a lot of moisture coming in.
CLAIRE: And it would require digging out on the outside to do the outside. Is there any way to address it from the inside?
TOM: Well, there’s another way to address it on the outside and that is to pay attention to the angle of the soil around the house. So when it does warm up and you have the opportunity to regrade the foundation perimeter and make sure that the angle of the soil, the angle of the grade slopes away from the building.
CLAIRE: I put French drains in all around the property and sloped it and put gravel.
TOM: So there’s – well, OK. Now, if he sloped it with gravel, then he didn’t really do you a favor, because the gravel is porous. So the water goes through the gravel, back to the dirt underneath and into your basement. So if you’re going to slope it – yeah, give him an A for effort but it’s not going to be successful. You have to grade it with clean fill dirt so that you can tamp it and the water will run away from it. Water is not going to run over gravel; it falls through it.
But there’s a second thing to check and that is: do you have gutters on the roof?
CLAIRE: No, because the snow pulled them off.
TOM: Right, OK. Well, look, if you can collect the water at the roof edge – and even if you have deep gutters or if you use the type of gutters that have the warming cables up on the roof, if you prevent water from running off the roof and against that foundation perimeter, you’ll prevent a wet basement, because most of the water collects at the outside.
Protect the perimeter; keep it as dry as possible. And a lot of wet basements are caused because gutters are missing or gutters are clogged and the water rolls off the roof right against the foundation. Soil is flat, so the water has got nowhere to go and it just sits there and leaks into the basement.
CLAIRE: OK. So I’ve got to work on that.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bill in Tennessee on the line who needs help with some sinkholes. Bill, tell us what’s going on.
BILL: I’ve got a patio in the backyard and at the end of my patio, I’ve got two huge sinkholes and then another sinkhole at the corner of my house. And this has been going on for about a year, year-and-a-half. They’re about 5 feet deep and, I don’t know, the circumference of about a manhole cover.
And just wanted to know what’s the cheapest and best way to take care of it where it doesn’t keep on happening. My patio is actually cracking where it’s sinking down a little bit.
TOM: So over the course of a year, these holes have revealed themselves?
BILL: For about the last year-and-a-half is when they started happening.
TOM: So very slowly but surely. And how old is this house?
BILL: About 15 years old.
TOM: Well, I mean it could be the result of loose fill that was put in these areas around the house when the home was finished – created, when it was done.
TOM: It could be the result of that. It could also be the result of some decaying material, like old trees or things like that that are in there.
Do you have any concern about it continuing to happen or do you think it’s pretty much done?
BILL: It’s pretty much done, it looks like, and …
TOM: So what I would do is I would fill those areas with clean fill dirt and that’s the most inexpensive dirt that you can buy. And then you want to tamp it down really well. So you put a little bit in, you tamp it, you put some more in, you tamp it. And then you finish it off with topsoil. And because it’s a sunken area, I would almost overfill it a little bit, because it’s going to settle down flat.
BILL: And what if it – like a year from now, it starts happening again?
TOM: Yeah, well, if that’s the case and it starts happening again, then at that point I would have to recommend that you got an engineer in to take a look at it, to see if we could figure out what was going on with the soils. You may need to do some borings around there to try to determine what’s in the ground and why it’s sinking.
BILL: OK. Well, that sounds great.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, it might be the day that you’ve dreamt about or maybe dreaded. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in 14 years when Henry goes off to college. I’m going to be like a sobbing mess.
But after your kids do go off to college or even out into the world, you’re really left with some empty space in your home. So what should you do with it? Even if you don’t have kids leaving the house, you may have some dead space in your home that really could use a makeover.
TOM: Well, that’s right. Now, a spare bedroom could make a great home office. It could make a craft room or that home gym that you’ve been putting off for all these years. All of these uses are easy to convert from a bedroom and you can still have the bed or pullout sofa in that space to accommodate a guest.
Whether we like it or not, more and more kids are returning home to stay with Mom and Dad after getting out of college. So, converting those rooms back, if you have to, is not that difficult, either.
LESLIE: Now, if you know they’re gone for good, I say go ahead and splurge. You know, why not turn that giant bedroom into the dressing room that you’ve always dreamed of or a home spa? Why not think high-end hotel style? You can start by replacing the carpet with tile, you can paint the walls a really soothing color and create a spa-like atmosphere where you can read or bring in a home masseuse or – I’m already imagining that I’ve won the lottery, in addition to my child leaving for college.
LESLIE: So there’s lots of things you can do to create that escape experience within your own house.
TOM: Or how about this, guys? What about the man cave you’ve always wanted? You can add a big-screen TV, a wet bar, a card table and you’ve got room for just the boys. Now that it’s no longer all about the kids, why not use all that extra space the way you’ve always wanted?
LESLIE: Why do I sense a Brady Bunch episode where you and I are dividing the room with a piece of blue tape down the middle and one side is my spa experience and the other side is your stinky, cigar-smoking card party?
TOM: Man cave.
888-666-3974. Let’s get back to the phones.
LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line and needs some help cleaning a bathtub. Tell us what’s going on.
LAURIE: We have had problems cleaning the surface – the bottom surface – of our bathtub since we moved in. All of our bathtubs have a rough surface. And I’ve tried every product I can think of and we cannot clean them.
LAURIE: So I need some help with that.
TOM: OK. So, is the surface still rough now or is it – just seems to be stained?
LAURIE: No, it’s rough.
TOM: It’s rough. Is it textured or do you think it’s like an adhesive kind of a roughness?
LAURIE: Well, it’s – I think it’s textured.
TOM: What you might be seeing here, Laurie, is a change in the color of the porcelain just from years of sort of wear and tear.
TOM: Sometimes, it will look like a stain but in reality, the surface is really just worn. And you can clean until the cows come home and it’s not going to get any brighter.
TOM: So what are your options? So, you could refinish the tub but when you try to refinish a tub in place, it’s kind of a temporary fix. It can look bright and clean for a while but the refinishing just doesn’t last as long as the original porcelain.
TOM: Or you can consider a process like BATH FITTER, where they come into your house and in one day, they sort of create a whole new tub for you by dropping a custom-formed insert into that tub.
TOM: It covers all of the surfaces kind of like a glove. They seal the walls. It’s all one piece. It looks great and it’s kind of easy to clean and you’re pretty much done with it after that.
LAURIE: OK. So there’s no cleaner that would actually clean it, you don’t think?
TOM: And the reason – because I don’t think it’s dirt. I think it’s most likely to be evidence of the finish itself wearing.
LAURIE: OK, OK. Well, I guess that I’ll have to go that route, then. And I certainly thank you for your help and I’ll see what I can do.
TOM: You’re welcome, Laurie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LAURIE: Thank you.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Richard in Washington on the line who’s doing an addition and needs a hand. What can we do for you today?
RICHARD: Actually, here’s what I’ve got. I’ve got a house built in 1938: a footprint – essentially, a shape like a cross.
RICHARD: The bottom portion of that cross used to be the garage. They turned it into living space and what they simply did with that bottom left quadrant, they poured about a 4-foot-high concrete wall.
What I’m wanting to do is try to gain as much ceiling height as possible. It’s currently framed with 2x10 for the ceiling joists. And I just didn’t know if some of the new engineered lumber would allow me to perhaps get away with something a little shallower while still retaining the strength. But need to go 16 on center – pardon me, 12 on center instead of 16. I’m willing to do that.
TOM: So, Richard, let me ask – let me stop you, OK, because you’ve got a complicated question. And my first question to you about this is: do you have an architect working with you on this project?
RICHARD: Not currently.
TOM: You need one, OK?
TOM: This is not a do-it-yourself, general-contracting kind of project. You’ve got a house that you started with that’s got problems. It sounds like – it definitely sounds like the guy before you didn’t have an architect; otherwise, he wouldn’t have designed all these drainage problems into it. And then the guy that came before that, that originally built the house, didn’t have an architect: at least one that knew what he was doing. You, my friend, need an architect.
An architect can look at this situation, address these questions in terms of the design, the elevation and spec out the lumber that you’re going to need to get you where you want to go. Yes, will TJIs or laminated beams help you get more span with less depth? Yes, they will. But it’s an engineering problem to figure out which ones you use and how you lay it all together.
So I would tell you, “Stop, right now.” Stop wasting time trying to figure this out on your own and focus on finding an architect to help you. You will be spending some money on this design. It will be well worth it. You will avoid a whole host of problems with the design later on. And secondly, you’re also going to have a set of specs that you can use to go to different contractors and get some prices. So that’s definitely your next step.
RICHARD: OK. I guess that covers it.
TOM: Richard, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Betty in South Carolina has got a concrete issue. Tell us what’s going on.
BETTY: We have a 5/8-inch crack between our concrete garage floor and the concrete turnaround outside: the apron outside the garage.
TOM: Right. OK.
BETTY: It has nothing to do with the garage door. Thirty-nine years ago, when the house was built, we think that they used a fiberboard of some type in this joint, because – for expansion and contraction. Now, that has deteriorated down – maybe down about an inch or so. And we would like to fill that crack. What do we fill that with?
TOM: OK. So it’s not really a crack; it’s really just a gap where you had a separation between the two different pieces.
BETTY: Yes, it was built that way.
TOM: Right, OK. So, you’re going to use a flowable crack filler. And QUIKRETE makes those – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E. Their website is QUIKRETE.com.
Basically, what you do is you clean out that space. You’re going to get it down an inch or two and then if it – then what you would probably do is put a backer rod in it, which is sort of this foam tube that will hold the filler exactly where you want it. And then you apply the filler on top and it flows to be nice and even across that gap. And then it dries in about 24 hours and that’s all there is to it. It’s really a pretty simple home improvement project.
BETTY: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Betty. 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, water where it’s not supposed to be is the one thing that homeowners dread. Now, whether it’s flood caused by nature or human nature, we’re going to have Kevin O’Connor from This Old House here with us this hour with some easy clean-up 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: Hey, have you been thinking about putting your house on the market now that things are heating up a bit? Well, staging could make all the difference. If you want some tips on how to do just that, head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “staging tips.” You’ll get some quick tricks of the trade to help you sell your home very quickly.
LESLIE: Tom in Arkansas is on the line looking for some information on a product called Restore. How can we help you today?
TOM IN ARKANSAS: Wondered if you ever heard anybody work – that worked with this stuff or worked with it. It seems like it’s a real good product. In fact, I bought some cans of it to do my deck, which is about 18 years old and hasn’t been taken care of very much by the previous owners of this house. So, I stained it about two, three years ago but it needs some more work on it and this stuff looked like it was great. So I was wondering if you heard anything about it.
TOM: So you’re talking about a product called Deck Restore, right, by Synta?
TOM IN ARKANSAS: Yes.
TOM: OK. So, I think – I’m not familiar with this particular product and I can’t comment positively or negatively on it. But I – Leslie, you mentioned that you’ve had some experience with this manufacturer that was positive.
LESLIE: Yeah, the manufacturer, Synta, they also do a couple of different lines in the crafting sector. One is a variety of paints called Anita’s. And I’ve used their craft paint, I’ve used their metallic craft paint, I’ve used their yard-and-garden paint. And I’ve always been very happy with the coverage, the quality, the cleanability. And then they have another line called Studio Essentials, which is more for not a professional artist but a painter, if you will. And I’ve used their gesso, I’ve used their brush cleaners. And I’ve been very happy with that line of product.
Now, in just doing a little research on the Deck Restore, it seems like a very good-quality, thick product that’s meant to sort of coat and cover and restore, if you will, the deck itself where it’ll put down splinters. But I’ve never used it. You know, if you search online, look and see what some of the reviews are. They all seem pretty positive and you’ve already got it, so I say go for it.
TOM IN ARKANSAS: Yeah. And while I was there, some guy came in and bought 20, big, 4-gallon cans of it and I asked him – I said, “Well, boy,” – I said, “What do you do?” He says, “I restore decks and I do concrete pool on the decks.” He said, “It works great.” I said, “Well, no kidding.” So, I bought three 4-gallon buckets and I figured I’d have it done by now but my power washer wouldn’t start.
TOM: Well, the guy with the 20 buckets, did he take some out the door, back into the back of the store and then they take them back and they just start the whole thing over?
LESLIE: He does it all the time.
TOM IN ARKANSAS: Oh, no, no, no. In fact, I went over to another store and they had about six gallon – six buckets there and they were all gone, too. He bought those, too.
TOM: Yeah, sure.
TOM IN ARKANSAS: So I was glad I bought the 3, big, 4-gallon buckets that I did when I did because they were out. He said, “We’re going to get some more in a couple weeks,” but …
TOM: Yeah. Well, you know what? I would tell you to – I think it sounds like a pretty good product. I’d be willing to give it a shot. I might not do the entire deck; I might do a small section and see how it goes or test it on some boards before I committed to the whole thing.
But since you’re talking about restoring a deck that’s got a lot of cracks and checks in it, I’m going to also take this opportunity to give you one of our favorite tricks of the trade. If you’ve got a board that’s really badly deteriorated or cracked, pry it up and flip it over. Because the …
TOM IN ARKANSAS: I can’t. They’re 45s. They’re running on a different angle.
TOM: Ah, you can’t because they’re on an angle.
LESLIE: Oh, what a bummer.
TOM: Oh, too bad.
TOM IN ARKANSAS: I can’t do it. I thought of that but I can’t flip them over so – but I …
LESLIE: Without re-mitering and adding some.
TOM: That’s right. The back side’s perfect but the miters are going to kill you on that. Thanks for giving us a call about it and let us know how you make out.
TOM IN ARKANSAS: OK, thanks.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve ever faced a major flood in your basement or any other area of your home, you’d know what a huge mess that soaking, sopping carpet can easily become.
TOM: And if that’s you, the next question is: can it be saved? Kevin O’Connor is the host of TV’s This Old House and joins us now with tips on how to clean up after the tide recedes.
KEVIN: Ah, great to be here, guys.
TOM: Now, we’ve told our listeners time and time again that carpets are a really bad idea for basements, for a whole host of reasons and this is just one. But if it does happen, what are the options?
KEVIN: Well, the options are, first off, fix the leak.
TOM: Yeah, good advice.
KEVIN: Right? Stop the water from coming in. I mean but we can’t help ourselves, right? Because sometimes, the kids want to play down there, we want to make a living space where you put carpet down.
So, if you’ve got carpet down and it gets wet, you’ve got to figure it out: are you going to throw it away or are you going to clean it? And here’s some things to think about in terms of throwing it away.
If the carpet’s been submerged, you’re probably going to get rid of it. If the carpet has been saturated for, say, more than 24 hours, you probably want to get rid of that one, too. Because that’s the amount of time when mold can start growing. If it’s been saturated or wet for less than that and you can dry it out, you might be able to save your carpet.
And then the last thing you have to think about is what type of water got on the carpet. Now, in a flooding situation, there’s lots of different kinds of water. The first one is black water and that’s sea water or from rivers and streams. And they can contain pathogens, so you want to throw away anything that’s been contaminated by black water.
Then there’s something called “gray water” and this is discharge from your washing machine or your dishwashers. And gray water can be cleaned but it has to be cleaned quickly because after 48 hours, gray water becomes black water and then you’re throwing your carpets away.
And then you have, well, the clean water. So this could be rainwater coming into the basement or a leak through the roof. Those things can be dried out and cleaned and you can then save that carpet.
TOM: And of course, you’ve got sewage water and that is instant removal.
KEVIN: Instant removal. If a pipe bursts, if there’s sewage backup, the carpet’s gone.
LESLIE: And I imagine, regardless of what type of water it is, if that carpet pad has gotten wet or submerged in any way, you’d better just chuck it.
KEVIN: Generally speaking, the carpet pads don’t fare very well, so those are the things that are going to be thrown away.
TOM: So let’s say it does get wet, best tool to use, wet/dry vac?
KEVIN: Best tool to use but actually the best thing you can do is take the carpet outside. So if you’ve got an area rug, that’s a great option. And sometimes, even the wall-to-wall carpets can be pulled up. They’re usually put down with a tack strip around the perimeter; you can peel that back. And if you can get the carpet outside to dry, you’re better off. If not, a wet/dry vac, some fans and some good circulation and a dehumidifier will be your friend.
TOM: Now, despite the fact that we think that wall-to-wall carpet is a bad idea for a basement, there are types of carpets that are good. You mentioned area rugs. What about carpet tile?
KEVIN: I just put carpet tiles down in my basement. It gives you that wall-to-wall look but it allows you to very easily pull up small sections. So I was concerned about leaking in my bulkhead. If I ever do take water in that area, I can pull up a couple of carpet tiles, they can be washed or replaced easily and you’re not talking about redoing the entire basement floor.
TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Thanks for having me.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings, step-by-step videos on many projects, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. More savings, more doing. That’s the power of The Home Depot.
Up next, is your kitchen in need of a pick-me-up but you don’t have the money for a full makeover? We’re going to give you a tip that adds new life, for just a little bit of cash, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Go to the phones right now, pick it up, call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Because one caller is going to get a $500 ceiling fan from Kichler Lighting. Kichler makes a huge variety of sizes and styles, including lots of Energy Star fans. If you want to win one, pick up the phone, call us with your home improvement question right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Barry in Tennessee on the line who is looking for some unbiased opinions on heating and cooling systems. Tell us what’s going on.
BARRY: Well, my wife and I are in the beginning planning stages of building our home and we are trying to figure out what might be the best option.
BARRY: I mean you’ve got everything from a wood stove to a heat pump; there’s all kinds of choices out there. What might be a good one?
TOM: And we know why you need a new home, because you’ve got some kids in the background to stuff into that new place, huh?
BARRY: I have a two-year-old, sorry.
TOM: That’s OK. That’s OK.
So, let’s talk about fuels first. Do you have natural gas in this location?
BARRY: We have natural gas. We have, of course, heating oil or something of that nature and we have electric.
TOM: Alright. So you have all the choice in the world. So I would suggest that natural gas would be the best way to go, the most cost-effective way to go.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.
TOM: In terms of the type of heating system, you have – forced air or hot water would be the two most common types. Forced air is less expensive to install because you have one set of ducts that does both heating and cooling. However, hot water is a more comfortable heat because the heat is moister …
LESLIE: It’s got a moisture to it.
TOM: And it’s also quieter, too. But if you put in a hot-water heat, then you’re also going to have to run a duct system for the air conditioning. So you’re kind of putting in sort of a system-and-a-half.
If you do run hot water, you may want to consider using radiant floors in some of those rooms. There’s a type of plumbing pipe called PEX – P-E-X; it stands for cross-linked polyethylene. And you can run that up under floors so that the entire floor gets warm, which is really pleasant. You know, when you come home – come down in the morning to a cold floor, no more. It’ll all be nice and warm all the time. So that’s a real nice way to heat your house.
And that’s some of the options. But I think you have the opportunity to build a well-insulated house. Use a gas system. I’d prefer to have hot water if it wasn’t too prohibitively expensive and then take advantage of some of the things that you can do with the PEX piping, which really allows you the flexibility to put heat exactly where you want it.
BARRY: OK, great. One more question that’s associated with that, if I may. The PEX piping, I know that that’s under concrete or some other type of solid floor. What if I’ve got a second floor? Is that still a good option?
TOM: Yeah, because up in the second floor, you could do the same thing with the flooring or you could use radiators. Some folks opt to put radiant floor in a bathroom so that’s nice and warm when you go in there with your bare feet but maybe use a hot-water baseboard elsewhere.
BARRY: OK. Alright. Very good. Thank you.
TOM: Well, in almost every home in America, the kitchen is the most expensive room. Yet, the kitchen is also the most expensive room to remodel. So, here’s a tip, presented by Elmer’s Wood Filler Max, to help you update your kitchen without a major makeover.
LESLIE: Yeah, one of the first things that you do see in a kitchen – and it’s probably the most expensive thing to remodel – has got to be the cabinets.
Now, you can easily update your cabinets simply by switching out the hardware on the cabinets themselves. Every single kitchen or major home improvement store is going to offer a huge variety of handles and pulls. Brushed nickel? That seems to be a really popular finish right now. But there are some really creative finishes and some beautiful styles, so you’re bound to find something that works with your décor but will change it enough to almost even make those cabinets seem brand new.
TOM: Well, that’s right. And even a true novice can do this project. It just takes a drill, some screws and a measuring tape to make sure you’re installing each of them in the right place.
Now, you’re also going to probably need some wood filler for the holes that the old handles have left. Elmer’s Wood Filler Max is a good solution for that. It’s very easy to use. You just pick out which color works for you, you apply it to the hole with a putty knife and wait for it to dry. Elmer’s is great because it can then be sanded or either stained or painted to match.
You can get more tips at Elmers.com.
LESLIE: Darlene in Iowa is on the line who’s got a leaky roof. Tell us what’s going on.
DARLENE: I have got a three-season room that was built onto the house that I purchased and it was attached to the original home. And I’ve been fighting with a leak in that area. And I used some BLACK JACK for a sealant where the shingles come over onto the three-season room area. It’s a flat roof.
TOM: So, I think that what’s happened here, Darlene, is that the junction between the three-season room and the roof was probably not correctly done. The BLACK JACK stuff you are talking about is, obviously, a temporary coal-tar patch type of a product. And that might give you a short-term solution but it definitely will not give you a long-term solution.
If you’re having this kind of a long-term problem, what I would do is I would take the roof apart at the intersection between the three-season room and the main roof and then I would reinstall it, making sure that I address whatever the imperfection is.
So, I suspect that since it might have been added after the fact, that it wasn’t flashed correctly. So, if you were to pull that off and use ice-and-water shield, which is like this rubberized material, under that junction between the three-season room and then the main roof and go up from there and make sure everything overlaps properly so that the water runs down and not back up, that will solve it.
But short of doing that, you’re only going to be making very small gains in terms of slowing down this leak. So I would encourage you to stop using the temporary patch material, to take the roof apart and then fix it right so that you won’t have to be bothered with it again. Because if you don’t, there could be long-term problems: it could cause rot to the roof sheathing, as well. Even though you don’t see the water below, it could be leaking very slowly into the roof sheathing. So that’s the way to fix it once, fix it right and not have to worry about it again.
Darlene, 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. Did you know that toxic substances could be hiding in your home and potentially making you sick? We’re going to tell you what to look for and how you can stay safe, 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: Hey, what home improvement projects do you have on your list for fall? We’d like you to log on to MoneyPit.com, go to the Community section and tell us about it. You can get advice from our panel of experts and other community members, as well. And there are no questions that are too simple or too tough. We’ve got a very talented bunch there, so head on over to MoneyPit.com, click on Community and try it for yourself.
LESLIE: Alright. And if you guys have any tips, the Segrete family is going in front of the Variance Board in the community where I live.
TOM: See? There you go.
LESLIE: Got any tips on charming a variance board? Because I’m nervous wreck. Post them. Let me know.
And while you’re in the Community section, post a question, as well, and we’ll answer them. And Aaron writes: “What exactly is that dreaded, toxic black mold that seems to be in the news a lot?”
TOM: Well, the toxic black mold that’s in the news a lot is technically known as Stachybotrys chartarum and …
LESLIE: Which sounds scary.
TOM: It sounds scary. It’s just all those molds have Latin names. And I only know very few of them but that’s one of them. And what it is is a mold that some people – not all people but some people – are susceptible to the adverse effects of it; it can affect their respiratory systems and such. And certainly, I wouldn’t want to live in a bunch of it but a little tiny bit of it is completely curable.
Now, it needs three things to survive: it needs moisture, it needs air and it needs a food source which, in your home, is really all about you, because it usually loves cellulose. Now, if it’s a basement area, for example, where do we find cellulose? Well, we find cellulose on drywall and we also find a lot of organic matter in carpets, which is one of the reasons we always tell you not to put …
LESLIE: Well, in cardboard boxes, too.
TOM: Cardboard boxes, right. But one of the reasons we always tell you not to put carpet in a basement is because of all the organic matter that it collects and that mold can feed on.
So, you know, it’s a problem. It has a solution. I don’t recommend that you panic over it. And as an example of how not to panic, we actually had a Money Pit community member who had a bit of mold in her basement and sent me photos and copies of estimates that I had requested from three different contractors that came in.
And I’ve got to tell you, by her description, her e-mails, I thought we were going to see nothing but black spots, Leslie. This mold was the tiniest, teeniest little speck of mold you’ve ever seen in your life. And these guys had her completely freaked out. And if we hadn’t stepped in, she would have spent tens of thousands of dollars on it. It turned out she needed a fairly minor cleanup project and it was all done.
So, especially if you have a contractor come in and start selling you a bunch of scare tactics about how bad your mold problem is, that should be like a red flag to walk away and certainly get some outside advice. I was so glad I was able to help Carol out with her advice on just that.
Aaron, as for your question, the toxic black mold is Stachybotrys and it’s a concern but it has a solution.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a question posted by Sandra in Alabama who writes: “How do I know if my house has a radon problem?” Well, you don’t until you buy a kit, right?
TOM: Yeah, you test for it.
Now, radon is pretty common in most parts of the country. It’s a good thing to test for. The winter is actually the best time to test because your house is naturally all sealed up.
And the way you test for it – the most common type of test is called a “charcoal adsorption canister” and it looks like a small can about the side of a tuna-fish can. You expose it into the lowest living space of your house, so that could be a basement or a first floor if you don’t have one. You leave it for usually about four, five, six, seven days. You seal it up, you send it back to the lab from which it came. They read it, they tell you what the radon level is.
If it’s 4 picocuries per liter of air or more, then you might take some action. And if it’s not, you’re good to go.
LESLIE: Alright. You know what? It really does make a lot of sense to do it, especially if you spend a lot of time in those below-grade rooms. And if your neighbor has got it and that’s what’s making you nervous, it’s completely random. It could be your house, not the neighbor’s. But it’s definitely good to get a test.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air, online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you a few ideas, a bit of inspiration to take on your next home improvement project and get it done safely and successfully.
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 2012 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.)