Join us as we explore the importance of roof inspection, reveal the most stressful home improvement projects, and decide whether to repair or replace that aging appliance. Tune in for expert insights and practical tips for these and other home improvement questions!
- Home Improvement Projects: A new survey reveals the most and least stressful home improvement projects.
- Roof Inspection: After withstanding winter weather, it’s time to give your roof a checkup.
- Appliance Repair: Get a cheat to help decide whether to repair or replace appliances.
Top Questions & Answers
- Surge Protectors: Can Rick save money by connecting appliances and electronics to surge protectors? Not much, and they’re really meant to guard against power surges.
- Toilet Condensation: Ilene has condensation on the outside of her toilets. A plumber can run a line to mix in warmer water and she should reduce the humidity in her home.
- Spray Foam Insulation: Should Kevin use open- or closed-cell spray foam insulation? They’re both very effective and it depends on the moisture level of the area.
- Radon System: Jane has a radon mitigation system but the radon levels upstairs are still high. She should have the system checked to make sure it’s venting properly.
- Basement Walls: Ross wants to paint over stains on his concrete block walls. We have tips on cleaning them with a vinegar solution before priming and using masonry paint.
- Replacing a Mailbox: Lynn’s mailbox rusted and broke inside a brick enclosure. She gets advice on how to detach and remove it and how to find the right replacement.
- Roof Installation: What is the best kind of roof for a cold climate? Phillip learns about installing an ice and water shield, roof shingle options, and warranty information.
- Door Adjustment: What is the best way to cut the bottom of a door? Carol gets step-by-step advice on using tape and a circular saw to avoid chipping and splitting the wood.
- Bathroom Subfloor: Large bathroom floor tiles are starting to crack. George needs to tear them out and install a solid new subfloor that’s perfectly level before tiling again.
- Energy Savings: Devron can’t figure out why the energy bills are so high. We suggest contacting the utility company to do an energy audit and to see if the attic needs more insulation.
Ask Your Home Improvement Question
|TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is the Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
|LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
|TOM: And we are here to help you take on the projects you want to get done this new year. We hope your new year is getting off on the right foot. If you’ve got a project in mind to make your space feel more comfortable, more energy efficient, or you want to plan some relaxation spaces, maybe some outdoor living spaces for the springtime, which is not that far ahead. I’m thinking, you know, two, three months we’re going to be wanting to get out there, so now’s a good time to plan that. Those are all great topics for us to chat with you about, because that’s what we do. We talk home improvement. We talk remodeling, decor, repair. We try to educate, inspire, build confidence, guide you, coach you, whatever you need to get that project done, short of us showing up. But we have been known to do that once in a while, too. Reach out to us with your questions. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or for the quickest possible response, just go to moneypit.com/ask and click the blue Microphone button. Coming up on today’s show, you know, with all the snow, ice, and wind, roofs are taking a beating this time of year, which is exactly why now is a good time to plan roof work for the spring. So we’re going to share a few tips for a do-it-yourself roof check, and we’re going to tell you how to know if your roof needs to be repaired or if it has to be replaced.
|LESLIE: And when it comes to doing home improvement projects, does it just totally stress you out? Well, Angie did a survey to find out which projects ping the highest on the anxiety scale, and which are just totally chill. So we’re going to dish it in just a bit.
|TOM: And it’s kind of an age-old dilemma. When your appliances break down, do you fix them or do you replace them altogether? Well, we’ve developed a cheat sheet that will help you save money by telling you how to make the right choice. It’s based on age, it’s based on price, and it’s based on condition. And it will walk you through exactly what you need to know.
|LESLIE: But first, guys, we want to help you create your best home ever. So whether you’re doing a job yourself or you’re hiring a pro, we are ready to help you get that job done right the first time. What are you guys working on? We are still fresh into the new year. So have you started a project? Are you thinking about starting a project? Maybe you’re just kind of gearing up for the spring when the weather’s a little bit nicer to tackle something bigger. Whatever it is, we are here to lend a hand help you plan so everything goes great when you get to work.
|TOM: About now, we usually hear from folks that started a project based on a very good and well-intentioned New Year’s resolution and then stopped. we’ll help you. Get going. Get going again. So help yourself first, though, by reaching out to us again at 1-888-MONEYPIT. That’s 888-666-3974 or go to moneypit.com/ask. So let’s get going. Leslie, who’s first?
|LESLIE: Heading out to Illinois, we’ve got Rick on the line who’s got a question about surge protectors.
|CALLER: What can we do for you, sir? Can I save money on my electricity bill by putting in surge protectors and connecting my microwave, my coffee maker, my toaster, my blender, my treadmill, and turning all those things off with the surge protector and just turning when I want to walk on my treadmill to turn the surge protector on, walk on my treadmill, and when I’m finished, shut it off? Will I be saving electricity by doing that?
|TOM: Maybe, but not much. So first of all, let’s just clarify what the purposes of these different things are. Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure. So the surge protector, that’s designed to protect all of those things you mentioned, your appliances, your electronics, should your power system be hit by lightning and you’ve got a surge of electricity, that can burn out a lot of stuff. It can ruin things. I remember a neighbor friend of mine who got hit with lightning at somewhere nearby the house, but it wasn’t the house itself. It was like the pole or something, and there was a surge, and they lost like the microwave, the television. They lost their cable, you know, boxes, a whole bunch of stuff because of the surge. Because of the surge. And the surge protectors or surge arrestors will stop that from happening. So that’s the purpose of the surge protectors. What you’re talking about is basically a power strip, and sometimes they have surge capabilities built into them. But if you have any kind of appliance that uses a transformer block, so that might be your treadmill or it could be your cell phone, if you have a transformer block, those types of appliances will use a little bit of power even when they’re off. It’s called vampire power because it’s like leaking power. And in that case, if you had them plugged into a power strip, with an on-off button, and you left the button off until you needed it, you would basically stop any of that leaking power from the transformer block itself. Does that make sense? It’s not really protecting you from surges in that case, but it’s really just stopping any power leak that’s caused by that small transformer.
|CALLER: Okay. Well, thank you very much.
|TOM: Good luck with that project. Thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEYPIT.
|LESLIE: We’ve got Eileen on the line who’s talking about a toilet that’s got a lot of condensation issues. What’s happening?
|CALLER: I have Kohler toilet. That is wet. There’s water that condenses on the outside surface of the toilet, and then it drips on the floor. So I’m not sure whether it’s the toilet or whether it’s cold water. That’s part of the issue.
|TOM: Well, Eileen, that actually is a problem that we hear about once in a blue moon, and it usually happens because the water is really, really cold. You must have like super cold groundwater coming up into that plumbing system. And then you also have… A warm, moist, humid house. And the two of those combined together is going to cause a lot of condensation. Now, a couple of things you can do. Some toilets, they do have insulating kits for the inside of the toilet walls. Although there is some concern that the insulation breaks down after a while and kind of get into the valves. Toilets are typically filled with cold water, right? But when you have this kind of problem, sometimes a plumber can put in a hot water line that doesn’t give you all the hot water for filling the toilet, but it spills into the cold water. And mixes it a little bit so that the water temperature is a lot warmer than it was. It’s not quite as cold as it was. And then you don’t have the condensation problem. So there are two ways to address that. And finally, do the things that you can do around the outside of your house to reduce moisture from getting in. Grading, drainage, gutters, all the things that we talk about to fix crawl spaces that leak or basements that leak. All of that reduces the amount of moisture, natural moisture that gets into the house. And if the house is drier, there’s going to be less condensation that can happen.
|LESLIE: Hey, you want to support our podcast and help us grow? Well, go ahead and leave us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts and we’ll be forever grateful. Plus, you’ll be helping other homeowners discover our show. Just go to moneypit.com/review. All right, now we’re going to talk to Kevin about spray foam insulation. Tell us about your project.
|CALLER: Which type of spray foam, open cell or closed cell, you should be using on new construction for the inside ceiling, ceiling and the inside slash outside walls.
|TOM: So first of all, spray foam is a great choice, Kevin. You know, the fact of the matter is that not only does it seal, it insulates, it expands and it seals all those gaps. But when it comes to open cell versus closed cell, the main difference is the ability of moisture to get in there. You know, in my area of the country, along the ocean where we build a lot of houses, the builders tend to use a lot of closed cell spray foam insulation because it completely locks out any moisture. But open cell insulation is just as effective in certain areas. Now, when I did my attic in my house, I used open cell. I didn’t really have a need to use closed cell. But if I was doing like a crawl space that was over soil and it was exposed to a lot of moisture, then I think I would use closed. So I think it really comes down to the moisture question. Both products are going to do a good job sealing and insulating. And both products are going to have comparable R values depending on the thickness that they apply. But if you have a really damp area, I would probably go with closed cell over open cell. I hope that helps you out.
|LESLIE: Jane in Iowa needs some help. With a radon problem, what’s going on?
|CALLER: I have a radon mitigation in my basement, which is working just fine. I had my little monitor upstairs to change the batteries. And I noticed that the radon in my upstairs is more than the downstairs, probably because I don’t get much circulation other than from the basement. I set it closer to where I have the air coming in from outside. But I know Iowa has an awful lot of radon. So I was wondering what’s the best thing to do or if that’s all right to have it if it’s at 3.0. So if you have an idea, I’d be happy to listen.
|TOM: Hey, Jane, you know, if you have a higher radon on the second floor than the first floor, something definitely sounds off because radon levels are going to be highest in the lower parts of the house where they’re nearest to the soil because that’s where it comes in. You could be getting some draft that’s giving you an odd reading, because you’re exchanging too much fresh air. But what I would do at this point is I would have a licensed radon mitigator just check the system to make sure that it’s operating properly and that it’s basically taking the radon gas out from under the house and venting it outside. But the fact that you’ve got a higher radon upstairs than downstairs is very unusual and leads me to believe that something is wrong with that system. Well, winter is certainly rough on roofs. I mean, if you think about snow, the ice, the winds, the roofs take a lot of punishment this time of year. We’re always seeing, shingles that have gone flying and actually shingles that have cracked. That’s why now is a good time to plan for any roof work that might be needed to get done, especially come spring. But what’s the smartest way to go? Can you repair the roof or do you have to replace it?
|LESLIE: Yeah, I think the first step though is you really have to look at the wear and tear. Now, older roof shingles are generally made from a cotton or a fiberglass base that’s covered then with an asphalt coating. And those shingles are exposed to the sun and then that asphalt dries. And then the shingles will start to crack. Now, the easiest and safest way that you can spot any cracked or missing shingles is to just take pictures of your roof from the ground level and then you can go ahead and zoom in on those photos at any areas that seem suspect. This way you get a closer look without actually having to get a real closer look.
|TOM: Absolutely. Now, if you’ve got a worn section and maybe it’s just limited to a small area, like a few shingles, or maybe sometimes I see this where you have an area where a one-story roof intersects with a second floor wall, like where say a porch roof comes off and the top part of it hits the wall. Well, in a section like that, what will happen is the sunlight will strike the shingles directly, but it also will bounce off that upper wall. So it tends to wear out faster than other areas. Now, if it’s just that small area, you could easily replace just those shingles. But if it’s bigger, then you have to start thinking about replacing. Now, if a roof replacement’s in order, it’s important to determine how many roof layers makes sense. You can usually add one additional layer of shingles and that will give you a total of two layers. But that said, if you do a tear off, it’s not such a bad idea, even if you only have one layer down because those additional layers, they don’t cool well in the summer. And as we said just before, that sun, when it gets to those shingles, it dries them out and they crack. So if you’ve got multiple layers down there, you’re going to have a shorter roof life.
|LESLIE: Now, if the roof is actually leaking, you’ve got to check the flashing. Flashing can become loose, it can be deteriorated, and that’s probably responsible for most of those roof leaks. And that itself is an easy repair. Finally, if you do find yourself needing a new roof, you want to make sure that you improve your roof ventilation at the same time because a cool attic is going to help keep the roof cooler and then cool roofs are going to last a lot longer.
|TOM: Yeah, and the best type of vents, by the way, guys, are passive vents. That means those that don’t use any energy. They’re really better than the active vents like attic fans, for example. What I like is a type of vent called a continuous ridge and soffit vent where you have a ridge vent that goes down the peak and then you have the overhangs where you have the soffit vents. And this way, you get nice fresh air in those soffits and it cleans. All the air out of the entire attic space goes up under the roof sheathing and exits at the ridge. And that works by itself 24/7 every day of the year. That’s the best type of ventilation to have. And you really need to do that because you want to take out the heat in the summer and take out the moisture in the winter.
|LESLIE: All right, now we’ve got Ross in New York on the line who wants to help painting his basement. Tell us about the project.
|CALLER: I have a home that was built in 1950, concrete block cellar walls that at one time had a moisture leaking problem. Of which has been completely solved and the basement has been dry for about 20 years. But there are still some residue stains, black water stains sporadically throughout the concrete block. And I’d like to resurface those, but they obviously need to be cleaned before I can paint them. Just wondering what the best solution is to paint them. To be able to prep this for any paint that I want to put on.
|TOM: Hey Ross, well, super glad that you were able to get that basement dry and not have any moisture for all of those years. The stains that you’re seeing may be old from the moisture that happened years ago or, and I hate to tell you this, there may be still some minor leakage because it sounds like they’re mineral salt deposits and they form when basically water leaks into the wall and then evaporates and leaves its minerals kind of in place. And those can be like black, or gray, or sort of a dark white powdery type substance. Now, if you do want to paint this, you’re going to have to get that off of there, but it’s pretty easy to do. Just use a vinegar and water solution because it will melt the salts. And then you’re going to need to prime those walls. And I would use a good quality primer, even an oil-based primer on that, and then a top coat, a masonry top coat over that. And with those steps in place, you should be good to go. But I would, however, take one more look outside those walls to make sure your gutters are clean, the downspouts are extended, so that none of that stain that you’re seeing is the result of something that maybe just kind of got disconnected or somehow stopped working as well as it should have. But if you can make sure that those leaks are under control, you can clean those stains and paint it up and you have a bright new space. Good luck with that project.
|LESLIE: Heading over to Illinois, where Lynn’s on the line, who’s having a bit of trouble getting her mail these days. What’s going on?
|CALLER: I have a mailbox that’s enclosed in a brick enclosure, an ornamental brick enclosure. And now… The mailbox has rusted and the door eventually fell off and I couldn’t reattach it. So I’m just wondering, it’s a pretty small mailbox inside that enclosure, so I can’t slip another one in inside it. But I was just wondering if there’s any suggestions of what I could do about that.
|TOM: Wow, yeah, that’s definitely a hassle. And sure, that metal box that was surrounded by bricks is definitely going to have a life expectancy, which you’re apparently at the end of, right now, Lynn. So let me make you a couple of suggestions. First of all, that mailbox had to have been installed into that brick with some sort of mechanical fastener. So the mason would have made the brick surround it, but he also would have had to have attached it in some way. I suspect that if you look, perhaps you need a bright flashlight for this, but if you look deep into that metal mailbox, you’re probably going to see the heads of some bolts or nuts or screws. That are sticking through the sides of that mailbox. I’m going to tell you how I would do it. You may not have the tools for this or the patience for it, but what I would do is I would cut the head of that screw off from the inside of the mailbox. I mean, this is something that I would do with a sawzall. You could probably also do it, frankly, with just a hacksaw blade if you’re patient enough. You’d slide it flush with the metal mailbox and basically saw back and forth. It’s a little rough to handle, so just use some tape on the raw part of the blade that you’re holding on. And be careful. Don’t let it slip because you could cut yourself doing this. But you’re going to cut those screw heads off. That should loosen this box enough for you to get it out. And you may have to pry it a little bit. Eventually, try to get it out with as least damage as possible, but just yank it out of that hole. Now you’ve got this clean hole to work with. And at this point, I would just get online and start searching for mailbox upon mailbox upon mailbox and see if I could find one that has a dimension that feels like it would work. You know, Amazon Prime is perfect for this if you have it. Because they usually have free returns and you could order three or four of them until you find one that fits and send the rest back. And I also might suggest that nowadays, a lot of those mailboxes are made of a very sturdy plastic, which is simply not going to corrode like the metal one did. I bet when this was first installed, there was no such thing as a plastic mailbox that was sturdy. These new mailboxes are made out of a really sort of industrial-stainful plastic. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I’ve seen them and played with them, and they’re pretty tough. I would suggest you slip one of those into that brick opening because it’d certainly be worth the extra effort so that you don’t have to disassemble that brick portion of the mailbox holder, so to speak, to get this project completed.
|LESLIE: We’ve got Phillip in Massachusetts on the line who’s dealing with a roofing issue. So tell us what’s going on at your place.
|CALLER: I was going to replace the roof on the backside of the house. It’s a Cape Cod. I was wondering about what type of roof would be the best for this application. And finally, I was going to replace it with a roof. I should use ice guard. I’ve had a problem with backup under the shingles in the frozen 30-degree weather.
|TOM: Yeah, definitely in the Massachusetts area, you’re going to want to have ice and water shield because you get a lot of snow that kind of cake up on the gutter. It forms to ice. Then as the snow melts higher up on the roof, it runs down, hits that sort of blockage, and backs up into the house. So, well, what you’re going to want to do is take existing layers of shingles off because you can’t put ice and water shield on top of an old roof. So you go right through the roof, right down to the roof sheathing. And then you’re going to use ice and water shield. The biggest name in that is Grace, G-R-A-C-E. Grace Ice and Water Shield is a good product. It’s about three feet wide, and it goes along that bottom lip, that bottom edge of the roof right above the gutter. You don’t have to go beyond that because the ice dams don’t form up higher on the roof. You just put it along the bottom edge, front and back. In terms of the shingle quality, you have a lot of choices in shingles today. The first one’s going to be cosmetic, whether you want sort of a standard shingle or you want that end-to-end shingle. It emulates wood. So dimensional shingles are the ones that can look like a wood shake roof, even though they’re made out of asphalt. And generally speaking, you’re going to probably want something that’s in the basic 20, 25-year range. I would not get bamboozled by manufacturers that have 50-year warranties because when it comes to roofing shingle warranties, it only covers the roofing shingle. It doesn’t cover the labor. It only covers it on a prorated basis. So let’s just say you were dutiful enough to keep all your paperwork and your 50-year warrantied shingles only last 25 and you had all that documentation. They go, yep, it definitely failed. Here’s half the cost of new shingles. You’re on your own for the rest. And that’s the way that works. So I think, you know, 20, 25-year average life for a roof shingle is reasonable. And your only decision is whether or not you want one that’s dimensional, that has that sort of pattern to it, or just sort of a plain shingle. Well, have you ever wondered whether to take on a home improvement project and when that kind of project is best left to a pro? Well, there’s a new survey out which shows which DIY projects are the most and the least likely to end you in total frustration and even tears. That sounds bad. Yeah.
|LESLIE: Well, according to a survey by Angie of projects that are the most and the least stressful, anything that’s mucky, stinky, or drippy, I like those adjectives, mucky, stinky, or drippy, ranks among the projects that most would prefer to avoid. And these include fixing leaky pipes, unclogging a toilet, repairing a dishwasher, or cleaning gutters. And these are also the kind of tasks that go unnoticed until something goes wrong and then there’s a big mess to handle. On the other hand, projects that add cosmetic features, storage solutions, or perhaps a bit of luxury tend to be the least stressful. And these include hanging a shelf, building a deck or patio, tiling the bathroom, I guess those are the more glamorous DIY home improvements, right?
|TOM: Absolutely. Now, even the most accomplished DIYers can get stressed out with tough projects. So to help make sure your project goes smoothly, here are four things to keep in mind. First, plan ahead. You need to research how to complete the job and then break it into small, manageable tasks. Next, get ready. You want to prepare by cleaning out the area. Make sure you clear enough room to work and lay out all the tools and materials you need. Make sure you buy what you need and it works. You don’t want to run short on something with paint or glue or tile halfway through something. If you need help, ask for help. Get help from a friend. Get help from a pro if you need it. Teamwork makes the dream work. And finally, if you really get frustrated, you’re really feeling the anxiety meter, hit the high notes, walk away. Nothing gives perspective like tea and a cookie. Just take a little break and you will be good to go.
|LESLIE: Yeah, or coffee or seltzer, whatever it is, just get away from it for a few minutes. It definitely does change the whole approach to just take a breather. Now, when you’re all done, you want to share your success to build confidence for the next task and inspire others. Send us your pics, post them online, tell your buddies all about the awesome projects that you did. It does feel good to boast a little bit, right? Absolutely. Heading over to Ohio where we’ve got Carol on the line who needs some help making a door fit.
|CALLER: I just wondered what’s the correct type of blade and saw to use. I need to saw off the bottom of a hollow door to fit the door. It’s in my house because it has narrowed doors more than what other houses have.
|TOM: Hey, Carol, so that’s a pretty basic project and I’m glad you called because I’ve got actually a couple of tricks of the trade that would help you for this. First of all, you want to take the door off the hinges. That’s super important, off the hinges, and then lay it down on a couple of sawhorses. Next, you want to take some tape, like I would use the blue painter’s tape, and you want to put that along the bottom of the door where you’re going to cut. Now, a little tip on this. When you have that door flat on the sawhorses, it becomes harder to tell what the top of the door is and what the bottom of the door is. So don’t cut the wrong side of the door. But you put the tape across the bottom of that door and you can draw your line where you want to cut it on the tape. Put the tape on the front and the back, and here’s why. Because as you start to saw this, what will happen is the wood will start to chip out along that edge. And it will get rough. And depending on what kind of door this is, whether it’s made of like a plywood or whether it’s solid, you could get some chips and some splits. And by putting the tape there protects it and minimizes that. In terms of the type of saw, if it was me, I would use a circular saw. If you don’t have a circular saw, you can use a fine-bladed cross-cut saw, hand saw. But again, just go very slowly and make sure you stay to that line. Don’t rush it. Or you’ll get a really, really rough cut. Now, one more thing. I don’t know how much of this door, how much shorter you want to make this door. But because it’s a hollow core door, there’s going to be, I’d say, I don’t know. What do you think, Leslie? Three inches of solid wood in the bottom of that door. And after that, it’s going to be hollow.
|LESLIE: Yeah, I was going to say, what do you have to fill in? Like, do you need to put in a piece of something?
|TOM: Yeah, if she cuts too much, you’re going to find that it’s going to actually be hollow. So here’s what I would do. If I cut through it and it was hollow, you’re going to have to fill that back in. And the best way to do that is to take that chunk of wood that you just cut off and remove the facing of the door from both sides. And what will be left will be the filler. And just fit that in the space that you pulled it from. And then you’re going to have to glue it and clamp it or just nicely tack it in place with a couple of brads while you glue it. And then when it’s all done, sand it. And then make sure you paint it and seal it because that’s an open, now exposed edge. You want to seal that. Otherwise, you’ll get kind of weird. Maybe some weird warping of that door. So you want to make sure you finish that bottom edge as well. All right. So good luck with that project.
|CALLER: George in Utah is on the line with some sort of subfloor issue over at their money pit. What is going on?
|CALLER: Yeah, I got a bathroom floor that’s starting to crack in places. Made of tile. So the flooring underneath it is crumbling. And I’m just not sure what to fix it with.
|TOM: Are they big tiles? Are they wide tiles, like 12-inch wide tiles or what?
|CALLER: They’re about, yeah. They’re your standard 12-by.
|TOM: Yeah, I figured that. You know, when you have those big tiles, the floors have to be that much stronger because, you know, there’s no flex in those big tiles. I mean, if you have, you know, if you have mosaic tiles and they’re only an inch by an inch, all those grout lines give you a little bit of flex. But those big tiles, it’s got to be rock solid. So there’s no easy fix for this. You’re looking at having to tear out that floor and properly rebuild it. If you want the big, wide tiles, you’re going to have to take out everything that’s there, down to the subfloor, put in new plywood subfloor, probably pretty thick subfloor too, so it’s really strong. Or maybe even go with a mesh mud floor, where basically you put mesh down, then you put a mix of concrete over that floor, a slurry mix, and then level it out and then glue the tile on top of that so that it’s absolutely rock hard and perfectly flat. Otherwise, what’s going to happen is you get any deviation in that space, you’re going to break that tile. Well, not to be a glass-half-empty kind of guy, do you guys ever look around your house and wonder which appliance will be the first to break down or break down again?
|LESLIE: I feel like I do that all the time. I’m like, well, that’s like 10-plus years old. How much more time am I going to It’s true, though. They don’t last forever. Now, most appliances, and I say most, have an average lifespan of 10 to 20 years. So unless it’s covered by a warranty, at some point I’m going to have to decide whether an appliance is worth fixing, or if it’s time to just suck it up and buy a new one.
|TOM: Now, there is a helpful formula that we developed that will help tip the scales one way or the other. It weighs the age of the appliance and its original cost against the cost of repairing it. So, for example, let’s say your 3-year-old refrigerator breaks down and the cost of repair is $1,000. According to our calculations, it’s not worthwhile because that repair cost is more than 40% of what you paid for it just 3 years back. So replacing it is a wiser bet.
|LESLIE: Yeah, and the numbers are going to vary. They vary by the appliance type. Microwaves are cheap, so they quickly become candidates for replacing rather than repairing. Dryers, on the other hand, they’re often worth spending a few hundred dollars to fix because some of them are over $1,000.
|TOM: That’s right. You can get our entire cheat sheet of when to repair or replace your broken appliances on MoneyPit.com. Just search repair or replace appliances on MoneyPit.com.
|LESLIE: Debra in Missouri has a question about energy. What can we do for you?
|CALLER: I have a 1,450-square-foot home. I have a split level, and our energy bills are like $350 a month trying to figure out basically where the hole is and how to patch it up.
|TOM: Is that consistent across the year, or is that a winter high or a summer high, or what?
|CALLER: It seems to be a winter high. Well, definitely a summer high. We just got through the summer. We’re pretty consistent throughout those 3 months. In the winter, usually, most years, it’s been around $250 to $300.
|TOM: You know, your question is, well, how much energy do you need to repair your home? Well, that’s a good one because a lot of people try to figure out where their home is using the most energy. So I have a couple of suggestions for you, one of which is to contact your local utility company and find out if they have the ability to do an energy audit of your home. Some utility companies, as part of their licensing requirements, will offer services like this for a small fee or sometimes free where they’ll have an energy auditor come to your home. And look at all of the ways your home is using energy and give you some advice on where you should be concentrating on your improvements. Short of that, we can always only talk sort of generically, but the number one place that you should be trying to make more efficient would be your attic because most homes don’t have enough insulation. And if you popped your head up in your attic, what we would want you to see is 15 to 20 inches of fluffy insulation. If you don’t see that, then that’s the first place where you’re wasting a lot of energy.
|CALLER: Yeah, that sounds great. Thanks for the resources.
|LESLIE: Jeff wrote in to Team Money Pit asking, what is the best way to go about smoothing out a painted popcorn ceiling? He says that scraping it is just too hard, so I guess maybe a skim coat over it is the way to go. But what is the best material to use for that skim coat?
|TOM: You know, it’s funny, Leslie, because you’ve got to wonder why popcorn ceilings were ever popular in the first place because we get so many calls from folks that want, you know, to take them out, make them go away. And I don’t blame you because they get kind of nasty. They’re impossible to clean. But here’s your options, Jeff. There’s really three ways to remove popcorn ceilings. The first is called the wet scrape. And as the word implies, you basically wet that material down. And I like to use like a garden spray with that, like a two-gallon garden sprayer. You can stand at the top of the ladder and wet the surface down. And then you can scrape it off. And there are really wide scrapers, like 12-inch wide scrapers that work really well for this. And you can get pretty much most of it off. The other option is a dry scrape, which is doable, but it’s a lot messier. If you’re going to do the dry scrape and not wet it down, you’re going to want to figure out a way to kind of connect the vacuum to that scraper. You know, just maybe tape it off to the pole so you have some ability to capture some of that dust and material that’s going to come off of that. Or, as you suggested, Leslie, you could potentially smooth it over. And you could do that with maybe textured paint. Or you could relayer it by putting a second layer of drywall on top of it. And usually, in a case like that, we use thin drywall, drywall that’s like a quarter or three-eighths of an inch thick. But no matter how you look at it, it’s a pretty big job. Now, if you want to skip all that and try to just live with it, but maybe it looks nasty, there’s a special kind of roller for popcorn ceilings. It’s very, very thick. And it has cuts in it, like slits in it. Now, it also uses a lot of paint. So be ready for this. But with this roller, you want to use an oversized roller pan. And you can dip it in the paint. I would use ceiling paint. Because it drips less. And then you can roll over that popcorn surface. And it will look pretty darn nice when it’s done. It’s probably the least amount of work. But again, you’re not getting rid of that popcorn. And finally, we should mention that if your home is very old, like before 1970, it is possible that that popcorn material contains asbestos. So in that case, you should definitely have it sampled first to make sure that you’re not messing with asbestos before you start scraping that stuff.
|LESLIE: All right. It’s still a project. But if you really hate that popcorn ceiling, you will be much happier with that, regardless of the work. Now, we’ve got Gary in Georgia who says, I have wood trim on the outside of my house. Is there any advantage to painting it with Rust-Oleum? It’s really stood up for my metal railings and benches. And I wondered if it would do the same for wood.
|TOM: Yeah, good question, Gary. But no, Rust-Oleum is made for metal. And it brings up the point that all paints have certain characteristics, right? So a paint that’s made for metal is going to have very, very good stickiness, smoothiness, adhesion qualities. So it’s going to go on very smoothly. And it’s also fairly thick. But paint that’s made for wood is going to behave a little bit different. It’s going to breathe, right? So that the wood can absorb moisture. And then that moisture can dry out without chipping the paint away or splitting the paint off the surface. So I would stick with exterior quality paint, exterior rated paint. I would also make sure that you scrape the surfaces very carefully. Make sure you have any loose paint removed. And then add a primer coat. Especially any paint that you have. Any areas where you had loose paint, you want to prime that first. And then put the exterior paint on top of that. Going through Rust-Oleum is great for metal. But certainly, I don’t think it’s going to give you the same longevity on wood. In fact, I think it’s more likely to peel off because it doesn’t breathe. This is the Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, guys. Thanks so much for spending a little bit of your day with us. We hope you’ve picked up a tip or two that helps you with a project around your house. If you’ve got questions and couldn’t get through to us today, remember, we’re available 24-7. Well, I’m not. But I make Leslie pick up. All you’ve got to do is call us at 1-888-MONEYPIT or just go to moneypit.com/ask and click the blue microphone button. Until next time, 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.
|(Note: The above referenced transcript is AI-Generated, Unedited and Unproofed and as such may not accurately reflect the recorded audio. Copyright 2024 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.)