- Kitchen Updates: Kitchen renovations can be costly, but we’ve got ideas on budget-friendly ways to update your kitchen.
- Water Heaters: Is it time to replace your water heater? Find out about four options to fit your lifestyle, budget, and energy efficiency needs.
- Hands-Free Faucets: When your hands are full, hands-free faucets are really convenient and have other advantages to offer, too.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Woodpeckers: That woodpecker tapping outside the house is damaging the siding. Denise learns some ways to discourage the woodpeckers from returning, plus options to replace her siding.
- Restoring Concrete: Gary’s concrete porch is flaking, but we can suggest a DIY product to easily repair the concrete surface.
- Glue Removal: There’s glue residue on the linoleum floor that Charlotte just had installed. There are products she can use to remove the glue, but she’ll need to be careful to avoid damaging the floor.
- Metal Roofing: John’s been getting different opinions on what to put under his metal roof. We think plywood will be stronger, quieter, and easier to insulate than using lathe.
- Flowerbeds: A flowerbed can look lovely, but how far from the house should it be? We give Michelle some advice on how to avoid drainage problems by grading it properly and not using edging that will retain water.
- Plumbing Noises: Why is the sump pump in the basement making gurgling noises? Jack needs to check the venting in the pipes to make sure there’s enough airflow.
- Rusty Siding: Galvanized nails are causing rust stains on Laura’s siding, but covering them with polyurethane won’t help. If they can’t be replaced with stainless steel nails, she can try using paint or solid stain to cover them up.
- Roof Vents: Should Eric install more roof soffit vents? Replacing them with ventilated soffit material is a better option for keeping the house well-insulated.
- Mold and Mildew: Is there an easier way to clean mold and mildew from exterior brick without damaging the mortar? There are a number of mildewcide products that Judy can use along with a gentle pressure washer.
- Posts: Lorna doesn’t know where the fruit flies invading her kitchen are coming from. We’ve got a simple idea to clean and cover the garbage disposal drain to trap and eliminate the pests.
- Solar Water Heater: Mark’s considering installing a solar water system. We agree it’s a good cost-effective choice for saving energy and discuss some options and resources.
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 in our favorite time of the year, in fall, looking to help you guys fix up your homes. So if you’ve got a project – whether it’s painting or plumbing or doing a kitchen or building a deck or working in your garage, adding some storage, maybe adding some floors – whatever’s on your to-do list, we can help you get started on that with some tips and advice to help you get it done right the first time so you can get on to enjoying your space.
Now, to help yourself, you’ve got to reach out to us with those questions. Two ways to do that: you can go to MoneyPit.com/Ask, click on the blue microphone button and record your question or you can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and do the same.
Coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk about kitchen renos. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “They’re really expensive and they are super popular.” But did you know that there are five updates – and we’re talking about significant updates – that you can get done for under a thousand bucks? We’ve got those just ahead.
LESLIE: And when your water heater goes, there’s rarely time to consider all the options when it comes to replacement. So we’re going to walk you through the pros and cons of four popular types so that at least you know what you’re going to be looking for should this happen to you.
TOM: And are you hoping to avoid the flu in the coming months? We certainly are, so we’re going to look at hands-free, motion-activated faucets. They are a good tool for cutting down the spread of germs in public restrooms but they’re also a very healthy fit for your home. And they’re easier than ever to install.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you want to know. Whether you’re dealing with a repair or dreaming about a renovation, consider us your coach, your helper, your home improvement therapist for all things remodeling, décor and fix-up.
TOM: Give us a call with those questions, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions to MoneyPit.com/Ask.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Denise on the line.
What’s going on? You’ve got Woody Woodpeckers pecking away at your house?
DENISE: Sure do.
TOM: Alright. So what kind of damage is this little guy causing?
DENISE: Well, I don’t live in there – that home; I’m in another state. My son’s there. And he’s hit two or three sides of the house.
DENISE: So, my son has put little pieces of wood up there. It’s a manufactured home, so don’t ask me what the siding is. I don’t know. I’m sure you do. But they just make new holes.
TOM: Right. Yeah.
DENISE: So he was thinking he – we’ve investigated products and the manufacturer actually says, “No, it won’t work.” And so, we’ve come down to some kind of a stone facing. And I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know …
TOM: Well, first of all, if we’re talking about replacing siding, then you’re probably talking about a product like HardiePlank, which is a great product. And it’s basically a cementitious board that can look like wood, frankly – I’ve got it on my garage; it looks great – but you can’t get birds, like woodpeckers, or bugs that can destroy it.
But before we go there, let me give you some real simple things to try, which I’ve had very good success with over the years. So, you want to dissuade this woodpecker or pack of woodpeckers from working on that side of your house. It’s just a matter of habit. You know, the reason they peck the wood is because they’re looking for worms and they have no idea that there’s no worms inside the wood that’s being used to side your house.
If you were to cut strips of black plastic – let’s say you had a Hefty bag and you cut it into 2-inch strips – and you were to attach some of the strips in that area, the fluttering of those strips will dissuade the woodpeckers from coming back. And if you leave it up there for a couple months and then take it down, the problem might go away.
The other thing that works is shiny discs, like tin pie plates. When those sort of twist in the breeze, they also can dissuade woodpeckers. But I like the black plastic strips because they’re not quite as obvious and they’re really easy to do.
TOM: So, if you were to go up there with that and tack them in place in that area, I think you may find that the woodpeckers are confused by that and might just go and take on somebody else’s house down the street. But at least they’ll leave yours alone.
DENISE: Mm-hmm. We have tried aluminum foil strips and that didn’t work.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I don’t know about the strips. I’ve always used pie plates – pie tins.
TOM: But I would try the black plastic strips. I think you’ll have success with that.
DENISE: So, can you – if it’s not, what kind of siding can he put up to dissuade these little buggers?
TOM: Well, if you want a siding that they’re not going to be able to get through, then I would suggest HardiePlank – H-a-r-d-i-e-P-l-a-n-k.
TOM: They have clapboard, they have shingles. It’s really nice stuff. Take a look at the HardiePlank website and you’ll be able to see lots of photos of homes that have been covered with it.
DENISE: Does it come in sections, like 4 feet wide or …?
TOM: It comes in different types of siding profiles, so the clapboard or the shingle, for example. They have many different types but you can take a look at their – maybe you’ll find one that’s close to what you have. And you can use it for a repair product, too.
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Gary in Michigan on the line who’s dealing with some concrete issues.
What’s going on?
GARY: So I have a concrete porch that was installed about 10 years ago and the top is flaking pretty quickly, it seems like. And I just need to know what is the best solution to take care of this problem.
LESLIE: Yeah, Gary, it’s hard when the concrete starts to flake. Generally, it’s because there’s a crack, water gets underneath it, it freezes, it starts to kind of lift up and fall apart. If you try to just put regular concrete on top of it, nothing’s going to stick. So you really need to look for a product that’s made for repair, resurfacing, that’s formulated to really stick to those areas. QUIKRETE has a product called Re-Cap which does just that.
Tom, does it come in color choices or is it just one sort of grayish concrete tone?
TOM: No, it’s one gray concrete tone and you mix it up. And it’s interesting because it kind of feels a little bit like an epoxy mix when you mix it.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s like rubbery, almost.
TOM: Yeah, maybe rubbery. It definitely is some work to mix it. I used a paddle mixer when I did my basement floor with this stuff. And that really saved me a lot of time and a lot of muscle of basically stirring that stuff up.
But you mix it, you pour it out. You can sort of trowel it out or you can use a broom to push it around and use a broom to finish it so you get sort of that – because you’re outside, you want to have something that’s got a little grit in it. So you can use a broom finish that will help make sure you don’t slip when it gets icy outside. But it’s designed to stick and it sticks like crazy to that old concrete surface and really gives you a whole new concrete look when you’re done. So I think that is definitely the best way for you to proceed with this situation.
LESLIE: Charlotte in Georgia needs some help making some glue go away.
CHARLOTTE: Hey, I had a new linoleum laid and the glue that they used to glue the floor down with?
CHARLOTTE: A lot of it got on my floor.
TOM: Oh, boy.
CHARLOTTE: And I’ve been using a knife to scrape it off but I didn’t really want to hurt my linoleum. And I was just wondering if there’s any kind of product that I can use to get that glue up.
TOM: Wow, that’s tricky because I would be concerned. I mean there are flooring-adhesive removers specifically designed for that type of adhesive. But I would be concerned about its impact on the floor. So I would tell you to search for a flooring-adhesive remover and then I would tell you to use it very carefully and watch for any color changes in the flooring. Perhaps even if you have an extra scrap piece of that vinyl, that would be perfect; you can try it out on that. But we want to make sure that it doesn’t damage the vinyl in any way, shape or form.
CHARLOTTE: Alright. Sounds good.
TOM: Alright, Charlotte. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. I love a family project. We’ve got John from Texas who’s helping his daughter build a house.
What’s the project?
JOHN: I’m building a little 16×36, 2 bedroom. Small place.
JOHN: And I’m at the roof.
JOHN: And I’ve had different opinions from different people telling me what to do. I’ve got the rafters up. And I’ve been told, since I’m going with a metal roof, just lath it right now and put the metal down to the lathing and roof. But I’m kind of – I’ve built houses with my grandfather and we always decked the house.
JOHN: And my brother’s telling me, “Oh, you’ve got to deck it and then put your lathing on top of that and then your metal.”
JOHN: So, I just – I was listening to you all over the weekend, right before I was starting on this roof deal, and I thought I’d see what your thoughts on it were.
TOM: So, when you say deck it – just for those that are not familiar – what basically you’re referring to is to use plywood sheathing on top of the rafters.
Now, a couple of things to think about here. So, first of all, if you do put sheathing on the roof, it’s going to be structurally stronger than if you just put lath, which is sort of like a 1×3 strip that goes all the way down. Now, in the old days, that is how we used to build roofs. I mean in my house itself, built in the 1800s, it had a lath on it and then it had cedar shingles nailed right to that. So there’s nothing really wrong with doing it that way.
I do think that the plywood approach is going to be a little stronger. And also, I think it will also be quieter. Because remember, when it does rain, it’s really loud on the other side of that metal roof. So I think you’ll find that it’ll be quieter if you were to put a roof sheathing in between it. And then, also, you could insulate up under it by insulating the back of the roof sheathing. So, for all those reasons, I think that I probably would use solid decking on that project.
JOHN: That was my thought for the strength, mainly, that I knew would be there. It ties everything together.
TOM: Absolutely. You know, the only other suggestion I have would be for you to check with the manufacturer of the metal roofing and see what their installation recommendations are. But generally speaking, I think that’s the right approach: to go ahead and put a roof deck on those rafters and go from there.
TOM: John, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
JOHN: Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Well, kitchens are one of the most popular home improvement projects for fall, especially with everyone trying to get one done before the holidays. Now, while a major kitchen renovation is wonderful, it can be expensive and surely very time-consuming.
TOM: Yep. But you don’t have to spend a bundle to give your kitchen a whole new look. So there are five updates you can do, for under a grand, that can do just that.
First, let’s talk about countertops. Sure, if you go with granite or quartz, you’re going to pay as much as you would for a used car but there are budget-friendly materials, like laminate and tile, that can give you a fresh look. And if you wanted to use granite, if you love that granite look, I just did a countertop with a product called LuxROCK. It’s a granite coating, which is a heck of a lot less expensive, and delivered an amazingly lifelike, granite-finished look to my project.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, let’s talk about those kitchen cabinets. Now, maybe you want to keep the kitchen cabinets you have because cabinet replacement is expensive. But if your cabinets are in good shape but you’re not thrilled with their finish, you’ve got many options to change their appearance.
Now, first, you can strip off the old finish and stain them any way you like or just paint them and then replace that hardware. Now, small changes like new door handles and drawer pulls can make a huge difference in the overall look of your kitchen, as well.
TOM: That’s right. Now, let’s talk appliances. The dated look of kitchens is often traced to those old appliances. But just like cars, appliances are always going to reflect the style of the day. So changing or painting them can make a kitchen look a lot younger, especially if you repaint the walls to match the new colors.
Now, if you’re going to get new appliances, remember, always go for an ENERGY STAR-rated appliance. This designation is going to mean that the appliance exceeds the Department of Energy guidelines for efficiency by at least 10 percent. And that’s going to save you a bunch.
LESLIE: Now, let’s not forget about lighting, which is just as important in your kitchen as in any other room of the house. Again, there’s lots of options. You can add pendant lighting, which is super popular or take advantage of the many smart-home lighting systems by adding dimmers or bulbs that run on apps and keep you on a schedule. Lots of great ways to add lighting to that space.
TOM: Yeah. And last but not least, replace the kitchen floors. New flooring alone can really change the look of a kitchen and it can be installed with very little impact on family life.
LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s also very durable against wear, scratches and stains. And the designs look really authentic. Now, there’s dozens of tough, durable and completely waterproof floors that are now available for DIY installation.
In fact, Tom, you just picked up some flooring some week for a kitchen renovation. Which one did you end up going with?
TOM: Yep. So, I went with LL Flooring’s Duravana. That’s their hybrid-stone flooring product. It’s 100-percent waterproof, super-tough stuff. I used Spire Oak, which is kind of like a driftwood-y look oak, because I have white kitchen cabinets and a black granite countertop and I figured I would pull it all together. And I’m looking forward to putting it in. I’ve actually installed this product before. It goes together really quickly, so I’m pretty psyched about it.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, that sounds great. I hope it looks beautiful.
Now I’ve got Michelle on the line.
What can we do for you today?
MICHELLE: I had this huge flower bed right by my house and it’s about as big as a one-car garage. Anyway, I know that it’s to be sloped away from the house but I was wondering, if I have a raised flower bed, how far that raised flower bed should be from the house.
TOM: That’s a great question. Sometimes people put it right against the house, Michelle, and then it’s great for the flowers but it also holds all this water against your foundation. And it can cause flooding in lower levels, like crawlspaces and basements, or it can even damage your foundation.
So, the flower bed is fine but you need to make sure – you essentially need to build it on a hill in a sense that what you want to do is establish the grade that slopes away from the house first. And then once that grade is established, then you could plant flowers or shrubs or whatever else you want to do.
What you don’t want to do is kind of have an edging around the outside of the bed so that – a lot of times, you’ll see that people will use railroad ties or scalloped bricks or block or something like that. And think of it as a trough that they build around their house. And that’s what happens: it holds water. So just don’t impede drainage, a good flow of water away from the exterior wall and you’ll be fine.
MICHELLE: OK. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Michelle. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jack from Michigan is on the line with some gurgling sounds coming from the toilet and the sink.
What is going on?
JACK: We have a sump pump downstairs in the basement. And when we run the washing machine or when the water softener regenerates and runs the sump pump, I have a gurgling noise that comes up and comes up through the kitchen sink and then usually the bathroom – the upstairs bathroom – toilet.
TOM: I bet you want to know what’s causing that.
JACK: I would love to.
TOM: It’s a lack of venting – a lack of proper venting.
TOM: So, when the washer is discharging or the sump pump is discharging and all of that water is draining out of those pipes, it’s basically causing a pressure that wants to pull the rest of the water out of the trap, which is – there’s a trap in the toilet, there’s a trap in the kitchen sink.
JACK: OK. Yep.
TOM: And as it does that, that’s when you get that kind of gulp-gulp-gulp sound, because it’s just gasping for air as that happens.
TOM: Now, if you drive down the average neighborhood and you see pipes that come up through the roof – plumbing pipes – those are vent pipes.
JACK: Yes, we have one of those.
TOM: And they let air into the plumbing system. OK. So you have one of those but for some reason it’s not hooked up correctly, because you’re not getting enough air into the bathroom or the kitchen.
JACK: Yes. OK. OK.
TOM: Now, let’s – leaving the bathroom aside for now, in terms of the kitchen, there is an under-cabinet vent that you could put in that would supplement the house venting, that will only let air in and not let sewage gas out.
TOM: So there’s one possible repair there.
For the bathroom, you really need to figure out why it’s not venting properly. It could be that that vent is obstructed. And that has happened and it could be something as simple as a nest that got in there. But for some reason, those vents are obstructed or they’re not hooked up right and that’s why you’re getting that plumbing system gasping for air.
JACK: So would I have to have maybe a plumber come over and drop maybe a camera down the vent tube, just to check it?
TOM: Yeah. Or just a bright – I mean just a really bright flashlight, you know? Like a Maglite or a Streamlight.
TOM: And you could look right down there. And sometimes, you can see the obstruction but you’ve got to kind of track it down and figure out what’s going on.
JACK: I also have issues that when we flush the toilet, it doesn’t seem – the back of the tank, the bowl fills up with water but there doesn’t seem to be a good water level in the toilet itself. Is that all part of the problem?
TOM: Potentially, yes. Potentially, that could – it could be causing that issue, as well.
JACK: OK. So that could be related to the vent?
TOM: Yep. Exactly. Yep, it’s definitely a venting issue. You’ve just got to get to the bottom of it, Jack.
JACK: So, just got to determine where the problem is in the vent.
TOM: Where and how and – right, get it addressed. Get some more air in there. Yep.
JACK: And in one vent – one outside vent is usually enough if it’s operating properly?
TOM: Yeah. Well, sure, one main vent is typically what you would have. How many bathrooms you have in this house?
JACK: Just the one.
TOM: Yeah, well, that’s all you’re going to have is one vent. Yeah.
JACK: OK. I think that narrows it down, then.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck, Jack. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
JACK: Thank you very much.
TOM: Hey, I was working in that kitchen we were talking about earlier this week and I was installing – well, I had already installed the microwave and I was plugging it in, because I put the cabinet doors back on. And I couldn’t get the plug to go in the outlet and I was confused for a minute. Then I saw that it was basically labeled TP on the outside, which means tamper-proof. I was like, “Oh, OK. These are the new tamper-proof outlets.”
So, if you ever run into those, the way you basically have to plug things in is it has to be 100-percent sort of square and even with the outlet itself. So, if you try to plug it in at a slight angle, it locks it closed. So, it’s a really good way to protect outlets against kids that stick things in them. And once you sort of hold the plug square or straight on, it goes in and it kind of clicks in place. So, I was pretty impressed by that. I hadn’t asked the electrician to do that but apparently it’s the code, so when he put the new outlet in, it was already tamper-proof and I learned something new.
LESLIE: That’s awesome.
Laura in Connecticut is on the line and needs some help with a project.
What are you working on?
LAURA: I was listening to your program on Saturday, OK, and you were referring to galvanized nails rusting with siding.
TOM: Yes. Mm-hmm.
LAURA: I have a similar problem. If I polyurethane the nail and paint over it, would that work or would it chip?
TOM: It will still rust through if you don’t have the right kinds of nails.
TOM: See, if you’re talking about cedar siding, what you should have used – or the carpenter should have used – was a stainless-steel nail. Those nails, obviously, won’t rust. If they’re standard galvanized nails, you do tend to get sort of a bleed through it.
Now, if you refinish the siding and you stain it or paint it, then – and you prime it first, by the way – then you probably will do a pretty good job of stopping most of that from coming through. But the problem generally happens when you want to stain it, as you want to enjoy the grain of the wood, then it’s really hard to cover it up.
LAURA: Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Unless, of course, you go with rust-colored stain.
LESLIE: You could do that.
LAURA: Oh, OK. That sounds good.
TOM: If you can’t beat them, join them.
LAURA: Exactly, exactly.
TOM: Good luck, Laura. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, water heating is the second largest expense in the average home, costing upwards of $600 per year. So if you’re ready for a new unit, you’re going to want to choose a water heater that fits your family’s needs but also one that is as energy-efficient as possible, to save you some money in the long run.
TOM: Now, four of the most popular options are storage water heaters, tankless water heaters, solar water-heating systems and heat-pump water heaters. Now, they all last from 10 to 20 years but they each have pros and cons.
So, let’s start by talking about a storage water heater. This costs less to buy and is the most commonly used type. It gives you simultaneous multiple uses of hot water by holding a reservoir of hot water that’s released when you turn on the faucet. And then the tank refills with cold water so the cycle repeats again. Now, the downside is that some energy can be wasted through the hot water on standby because even when it’s not being used, it still has to heat the water.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, tankless units are more expensive to buy but they’ve got lower operating costs and they’re a lot more efficient than storage water heaters. Now, you’re going to save an average of about $100 per year. They provide hot water only as you need it, which is going to reduce heat loss, but the output is limited to a few gallons per minute. So if your household does use a lot of hot water, you might need multiple units.
Now, if you’re thinking of going solar, there’s a higher initial cost for the installation. But a solar system is 50-percent more efficient than gas or electric water heaters, because the sunshine is free and of course, it’s renewable. Now, they can actually be used in any climate but you might need a backup system to get you through those cloudy weather times and when you really need to use a lot more water. So, definitely there’s a backup system involved with a solar option.
TOM: And finally, there are heat-pump water heaters. Now, these are more efficient than conventional heaters. They’ll save you up about 300 bucks annually on electric bills. But they can be only used where it’s between 40 to 90 degrees all year long and need at least 1,000 cubic feet of open-air space around the unit. They can also increase the load on your heating-and-cooling appliances.
But whatever type of water heater you get, the key to making sure it works well, works efficiently and lasts as long as possible is maintenance. So make sure you get the maintenance done early and often. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on that and this way, you will keep yourself in hot water for as long as possible.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to Illinois where Eric’s got a roofing question.
Tell us about it.
ERIC: I have a roofing question about soffit vents. I recently just bought a house built in 1991 that has a new roof with a ridge vent. And there are only 30-ish soffit vents, spaced about 6 feet apart, throughout the entire surround. I’m wondering if I need to install more.
TOM: So, Eric, you mentioned that your soffit vents are about 6 feet apart; that’s actually pretty typical in an older house. A good option here is to remove those soffits that you have where, in this case, you have individual soffits that have vents cut into them. I would take the bottom of that soffit apart – it’s usually plywood – and I would replace that whole soffit area with ventilated soffit material.
It comes in different lengths. You basically cut it to fit. It snaps together. It’s held in place with usually a piece of aluminum trim on the outside and a J channel on the inside. And this way, the entire soffit itself becomes the vent, because it’s really important to vent an attic this way.
Because this way, when air blows against the side of the building, it goes in the soffit, it runs up under the roof sheathing and escapes at the ridge. And when air hits the ridge vent at the top, it sort of depressurizes that space and sort of helps this whole process along so that when you’re done, you basically have ventilation that’s happening 24/7, 365, keeping that attic nice and dry in the winter – when humidity can form up there and condense in the insulation and make it ineffective – and keeps it cooler in the summer. Because it’s always moving that hot air out of the attic space and replacing it with the cooler, fresher outdoor air.
LESLIE: Judy in Louisiana, you’ve got The Money Pit. What are you working on?
JUDY: Hi. I was asking about mildew and mold on brick. How do I get it off the easiest way? It’s outside. How do I get it off the easiest way without damaging the mortar?
TOM: So, there’s a variety of products out there that can do that. And these cleaners, essentially, saturate the mold or the moss or the mildew and then they break down the fibers. And then rain, essentially, washes it away.
They’re slow working. It’s not like you’re going to do it once and it’ll be done. But it will get clean. So, there’s products like Spray & Forget or Wet & Forget and there’s Concrobium. Zinsser has one. And all of those products are basically a mildicide that is designed to kill that material.
I used them on a roof of a shed last year that was literally totally covered with moss. And I just happened to notice this past weekend, because we were out doing some work on the yard, that I could see all the shingles again as if it never existed. So it just basically melted it all away.
So that’s the way to do that. You can pressure-wash some of that off but if you do it, you just have to use a gentle pressure washer so that you don’t destroy the surfaces underneath.
Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, hands-free faucets, they’ve been around in commercial use for decades but are they practical for use in your home?
LESLIE: Well, for one, you don’t need to worry about your hands being dirty or soapy or full. And they’re great for keeping the germ count down. You know, less hands touching less surfaces. And that’s something that can come in really handy with a full household of kids and pets and sometimes elderly relatives visiting, especially this time of year.
TOM: Now, there a lot of other advantages to using a hands-free faucet. One of which is you save a lot of water, because you’re not running water while you’re sort of soaping up your hands. You’re not running water while you’re brushing your teeth; it automatically comes on and comes off. And it’s also great for people that have limited hand mobility.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, some other advantages are that it’s really great if you are the chef of the household. I mean you’re not going to be reaching for that faucet when you’ve just touched some raw chicken, so you don’t have to worry about that food contamination to those surfaces. And it’s also great for kids who just can’t reach. They’d just be able to hold out their hand or wave in front of the faucet to get that water to come on. So it really is super helpful.
TOM: Now, they’re installed just like a regular faucet, with one additional element: they have a battery pack in them. And the battery pack basically is powering that sort of sensor, which doesn’t use very much power at all. So, we’re talking about a battery pack that could last a year or more before you have to change it.
And by the way, if the battery pack goes off, you could still use it, in a lot of cases, manually because a lot of these hands-free faucets also have a dual valve. So you can basically operate it the way a standard faucet would or you could operate it in the hands-free mode. So, lots of options. Definitely worth looking for, especially now as we go into the cold-and-flu season. You can’t be too careful trying to keep those germs from spreading.
LESLIE: Lorna in Rhode Island is dealing with some flies at home.
Tell us what’s going on.
LORNA: Fruit flies. They seem to be invading the kitchen and I’m thinking they’re heading for the garbage-disposal area but I’m not really sure.
LESLIE: Are they coming up out of the garbage disposal?
LORNA: No, they don’t seem to be.
LESLIE: Generally, if you think they’re coming to the sink or from the sink, sometimes people will actually put some tape over that drain and just seal that off to see if they are coming from there. This way, if they’re getting stuck on the underside, you know they’re coming up from the drain and then that would be a different approach.
LORNA: Oh, OK.
TOM: Yeah, you could do that during the day, say, when you go out for the day. Just cover the drain temporarily with the tape and keep an eye on it.
LORNA: Great …
TOM: And the other thing that you could do is you could – if that’s the case, then you could put some bleach down that drain or maybe some OxiClean or something like that and then cover the top of it. That tends to really sort of gas any that are sort of laying in there.
LORNA: Oh, OK. So straight bleach or mixed with water or …?
TOM: No, you could just put some straight bleach down there. Or you could use OxiClean, the powdered bleach.
LORNA: OK. Alright. Yeah. Great. Well, thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Let’s welcome Mark, who’s looking for some water-heater options.
What are you looking at?
MARK: I’m trying to look at how I can add a solar boiler to our current water-heater system and not have it look too gaudy, Tom. So, I was just kind of reaching out to you guys to see what you think, if there’s some kits or things out there that are attractive and affordable.
TOM: Well, solar boilers, they’re really called “solar water heaters” or “solar domestic hot-water systems.” They definitely can be a cost-effective way for you to get hot water to your home. They can be used pretty much in any climate and the fuel that they use is, of course, free. It’s sunshine, right?
There’s a great resource about solar water heaters on the Energy.gov website, the Energy Saver, specifically, website. So, that’s Energy.gov/EnergySaver. But basically, the way they work is the heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. And there are really two types: one’s active and one’s passive. The difference being the active one has a recirculating – and they’re kind of just a standalone system. They mount up on the roof. The tank keeps that water warm when it’s not being used.
I think in some climates – if you have a really, really rough climate, a very cold climate – it might not be a great choice. But I know that a lot of the Boy Scout camps that I’ve been to over the years use these and they keep them all well supplied with hot water. So, I think it’s a good choice.
LESLIE: Well, Tracy says, “I have an old house with old walls and old, ugly wallpaper. Can I take the wallpaper off the plaster walls or should I just sheetrock over everything?”
TOM: Well, that’s a good question. I think, Leslie, it probably depends on the condition of the plaster walls. If they’re in good condition – in other words, they’re not excessively cracked and sort of falling apart – then you probably could steam that wallpaper off of the plaster walls, prime them with a good-quality primer and then paint them again.
But if the plaster wall is in bad shape, then I think the best option is to go on top of it with another layer of drywall. I’ve done this project both ways in homes that I’ve owned. I’ve torn off the plaster walls, which is a big, big job and a very dirty, dusty job. And I’ve also decided – and the next time I did a room, I left the plaster in place and put drywall on top of it. And I was a much happier camper doing it that way.
So, I think that’s a really good option for you but it really depends on the condition of the plaster. You may or may not be able to get that wallpaper off. You’re just going to have to try it and see how it goes.
LESLIE: Alright. It could definitely turn into a project that’s a bigger project than you thought. I mean it’s always that way when you’re dealing with old walls and wallpaper. But either way, you’re going to end up with a beautiful surface. It just depends on what that journey is to get you there. And I hope it’s not tremendously difficult. But maybe you end up with some new drywall or heck, even better, maybe you end up with some more beautiful wallpaper.
LESLIE: Yes! Wallpaper’s the best!
TOM: Otherwise, we have to have this conversation with somebody, I don’t know, 10 years from now.
Well, now that we are sealing up the doors and windows and spending more time inside of our homes, taking a few steps to make sure the air you’re breathing is kept clean? Well, that’s super important. Leslie has got some tips on how to choose the best air filters to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah, if you’d like to focus on one simple repair that’s going to help you breathe easier all winter long, you might want to think about replacing the filter in your HVAC system.
Now, it’s located near the furnace or in a wall or ceiling return duct. And replacing it only takes a few minutes. Now, when it comes to what you should replace it with, there are a few choices and some do a better job than the others at helping keep that air pretty clean.
Now, there’s basic ones. I’m talking about those cheap, blue, spun-fiber filters. If you can see through it, though, guys, forget about it. Now, a good option is a pleated filter. Those are better than the others. The deeper the filter, the more surface area you’re going to get and a better job of filtering the air. If you want an even better option, we’re talking about electrostatic pleated filters. Those are going to do an even better job. But the best option for filters out there are electronic systems that are permanently installed. And they do the best job of cleaning the air, providing that you keep them clean. So you do have to do your part here but this is really excellent for anybody who’s got asthma or allergies.
All of these filters, whether you’re getting the worst one or the absolute best one, they really are doing a small part or a huge part of filtering the air at home. So, think about how much you need to filter out. They really are an important part of your heating-and-cooling systems and they protect you and your equipment.
So, choose and make sure that you go ahead and replace them as often as you need to or clean them as needed, because that’s what really keeps things working. So definitely not a major project to undertake but a super-important one.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, when summer turns to fall you may feel like your green thumb needs to take a rest. But you don’t have to stop gardening. You just have to bring that green inside with container gardening. We’ll tell you how to get started, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2022 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.)
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