TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement, or maybe more appropriately this month, your home décor projects. But help yourself first: pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, it would seem that a lot of folks are trying to get last-minute décor jobs done right around this time of year. Is it always such a crush?
LESLIE: Oh, yes. I mean I think everybody wants the house to look great, because this is when you have a lot of people coming over.
TOM: Yeah. And not only do they want it to look great, they want it to be clean. So, coming up this hour, with all the cleaning on, we thought we would give you some help by tackling one of the harder surfaces to get clean and that’s tile floors. You know, it never looks as good as the day it gets put down, right? And it becomes instantly disgusting grout color after that, so we’re going to give you some quick cleaning tips to help you get that tile bright and clean in no time at all.
LESLIE: And imagine a leak so bad, it can collapse the ceiling of the floors below and pretty much ruin all the furnishings. It happens a lot but it can be avoided with a $20 part. We’ll tell you what that, is in just a bit.
TOM: And another common danger this time of year: fire. Between the extension cords for light displays and all the candles and the decorations, there’s a lot to keep track of. We’re going to help you stay safe with some simple tips. So give us a call, right now, because it all starts with you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Jennifer in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
JENNIFER: I have a rental house that is a basement home and it has a concrete patio that is rather large, probably around 12-feet long by 8-foot wide. The house has been built several years ago and over the course of time, the concrete patio has gotten pitted, it looks like, from the use of rock salt to melt the ice and snow off of it. And I didn’t know – just because of the size of the patio, I’m guessing it’s going to be pretty costly to replace it. I didn’t know if I had any other options?
TOM: Yeah, you do. And this is a perfect scenario for this. QUIKRETE makes a product called Concrete Resurfacer. And it’s specifically designed for scenarios like this. You can apply this resurfacer to the entire slab and it’s designed to stick to it and fill in those pockmarks and those little gaps. And it will give it a whole new look. It’ll look like a brand-new slab but it will resurface it completely.
JENNIFER: Wow. That’s great. What is it called?
TOM: It’s made by QUIKRETE and it’s called a Concrete Resurfacer. It’s basically a blend of poured-in cement and sand and polymers. And the polymers and the other additives basically set it up so it can stick to the original concrete.
There is a preparation. You have to pressure-wash it first to get it nice and clean. But once you apply this, you can basically squeegee it or trowel it on and you can use a brush finish so it gets that nice, sort of slip-resistant finish when you’re all done.
JENNIFER: Well, that’s great news. I didn’t realize there was anything like that. So, thank you.
TOM: Specifically designed for this project.
Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jesse in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JESSE: I just had a question about the laundry-pump setup that’s in my basement right now. The current setup has our washing machine draining into a laundry tub. And then the laundry tub drains into a sump pump that sits inside a bucket that sits just on top of the basement floor. And the sump pump pumps it up into the main drainline that exits out of the house. I’ve got me either a new gray-water pump so – that I’d like to replace the sump pump with. And the gray-water pump has a vent location that says it has to be connected to a vent system for the pump to operate correctly.
And so I’m wondering if that vent system – do I have to somehow connect that to the main vent stack in the house or can I just hook it up to some sort of new vent system in the basement? I’m a little unclear on what to do with that aspect of it.
TOM: OK. So, first of all, the entire assembly that you just described to us is not done correctly. Yeah, you’re not supposed to be draining laundries into sumps in any way, shape or form. Your idea of putting in a gray-water pump, however, is the right way to go. And then, of course, you would discharge the washing machine into that gray-water pump, it would be float-actuated and it would lift the water up high enough to drop it into the main waste system for the house.
And yes, it is supposed to be vented, as well. And the vent would, in most cases, connect with the stack vent for the house. Although there is a type of ball vent that could be used and not connect, where it would just let air in but not gases out. So there are two ways to do that.
JESSE: OK. The main vent stack in the house just seems to be pretty much inaccessible. There is no opening that I seem to be able to tap into it. So, can you tell me, again, what the other type of valve was that I can look for?
TOM: It’s technically known as an “air-admittance valve.” And basically, it lets air in but it doesn’t let gases out.
JESSE: OK. And so I can simply just have that exist in the basement space and that will allow the pump to function properly?
JESSE: Gotcha. OK. Thank you so much for your help. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Tristan in Iowa is on the line with a flooring question. What can we do for you today?
TRISTAN: It’s going to be laying down a laminate flooring. What is the most easiest way of doing it?
TOM: The easiest way to do this – laminate floor is a good place to start because laminate floor doesn’t – it’s not a floor that needs to be glued together. It usually locks together. The joints on the boards usually snap together. So, what you want to do – is this is a fairly square room that you’re working in or is it an oddly-shaped room?
TRISTAN: Well, I’ve got to cut and measure but for the most part, it is square.
TOM: So what you want to do is just be conscious of where the seams on the flooring are going to end up. Because if you find the middle of the room, you’ll start from there and you’ll work out. But what you want to avoid is to have the boards that are up against the wall to be really narrow, like 1-inch strips or 2- or 3-inch strips. So you want to decide whether you’re going to start these seams right in the middle of the room or overlap with the first piece so that when you get to the edges of the wall, they’re kind of even.
And then the next thing is since they all kind of lock together, you want to leave a little bit of a gap, like maybe a ¼-inch in between the edge of the laminate floor and the wall or baseboard molding itself. And then you’re going to use a second piece of molding on top of that, like a quarter round or a shoe molding, to cover that seam. This allows the floor to expand and contract.
And depending on the type of floor you purchase, some of them have an underlayment built into the panel itself. And in other cases, you put down an underlayment first, which could be like a very, very thin layer of foam. It helps to give the floor a little bit of give and comfort.
TRISTAN: Well, that’s good to know. Thank you so much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com or call us at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They really have the best local pros for any home service.
TOM: That’s right. It doesn’t matter what the project is, they make it fast and easy to find top-rated pros. There’s also no membership fees; it’s 100-percent free to use. Find out yourself at HomeAdvisor.com.
Up next, lots of cleaning going on this month with all the holiday visits happening. And one of the tougher surfaces to get clean is a tile floor. We’re going to have some quick cleaning tips to help, after this.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor or post your question to The Money Pit’s community. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question.
LESLIE: And hey, if you reach out now by phone or the Community section, you may just win everything you need to get a head start on building a patio or walkway next spring, because from QUIKRETE we’re giving away the Walk Maker Building Form Prize Pack worth 80 bucks. I mean think about this as a baking project for your backyard, am I right?
LESLIE: You get a mold, you fill it up with the concrete mix, you add all the color in and float it out, let it cure, pop it out and you have an amazing sort of cobblestone walkway piece. And you just keep building them all winter long and making all your little cakes, if you will. And at the end of the time, when you’ve got spring season right in your hands, you just put them all out and make a huge patio. Think of how many you could make in this winter season.
TOM: You make it sound so attractive and a fun winter project, as well.
LESLIE: It’s a good way to stay indoors.
TOM: Absolutely. Now, those QUIKRETE products are going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Jeffrey in Louisiana is on the line. What can we do for you?
JEFFREY: Being I live in Louisiana, you know, a lot of moisture content in the air.
TOM: We’ve heard that.
JEFFREY: Yeah. And after saying that, in the west side of my house, inside I’ve noticed that my tape and float, along with my sheetrock, is just basically coming off the walls. I’ve had a moisture-content test done on my sheetrock and there is none. It’s only on one side of my house and I can’t figure out why. I’m a construction worker and have been for 35 years. And I can’t figure out why my sheetrock is turning (ph).
TOM: So, did you say paint was coming off the sheetrock?
JEFFREY: What’s happening is when the tape and float comes up, it brings the paint with it, of course.
TOM: Oh, OK. Alright. So the tape is separating. Oh, yeah. Well, geez. I wonder if the guys that did that tape work just did a bad job or used some bad spackle or something like that. That shouldn’t be happening.
JEFFREY: Well, maybe that’s so. I thought that, too, but once I got it all remodeled and everything, it did it again. Just on that side of the house. I even deemed it one time as being settling in the house . And I even had some of my guys come out and measure and it only settled an inch and within the last two years, so that can’t be the problem.
TOM: Let’s assume that there’s something wrong with that – with the adhesion issue there. And one thought that I might have, especially since the old wall is in such bad shape, why don’t you do this? How much work would it be for you to skin those walls with a second layer of drywall? But not ½-inch; I would use ¼-inch drywall. So very thin drywall.
And you can overlap the joints. I would glue it and screw it to the walls. So now you have a clean, brand-new fresh set of drywall upon which you can tape the seams properly, prime it and paint it. And that surely would be a one-time fix that wouldn’t have to be repeated.
JEFFREY: Yep. OK. I’ll do that.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Joan in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?
JOAN: I have a small 8 x 10 out-building and I’d like to use it for a craft shop – a craft studio. But I need to heat it to make sure the paint doesn’t freeze in the winter. Also, I need it to be a functional temperature. So I’m not really sure how to go about that.
TOM: OK. So, first of all, can you get gas lines to this particular building so that you can use a gas heater?
JOAN: That would be doable.
TOM: That would be doable. The other option is propane.
JOAN: Propane. Yeah, we’re not allowed to have propane where I live in town.
TOM: OK. So, if you can get natural-gas lines run to that particular building, then what I would use is a gas furnace and I would heat it the same way I would heat a house.
Now, if it’s one – is it one open space?
JOAN: Yeah, it’s just a little – tiny, little building.
TOM: So if it’s one open space, you can probably put a small wall heater – gas-fired wall heater – in there and insulate it as best you can. And I think that will be enough to keep it warm.
JOAN: OK. Well, I’ll give it a shot. Thanks a lot.
TOM: Well, lots of cleaning going on this month with all the holiday visits that are happening. And one of the tougher surfaces to get clean is a tile floor. Have you ever noticed that the tile floors almost never look as good as the day you put them down?
LESLIE: True. So we rounded up some tips on how to remove the top six most stubborn stains from ceramic tile. First of all, gum, wax, random sticky substances – I feel like we’re in my home as we’re writing this and we’re talking about it. So, this is what you have to do, because who knows what the heck that gunk is? But here’s the way to get rid of it.
Place ice cubes in a resealable plastic bag and then lay that ice pack on top of whatever that sticky stain is and leave it there until that sticky residue is solidified, then carefully chip it away using a popsicle stick or something truly that just will not scratch the tile. And that does the trick.
Now, next up is blood. I’m not going to ask how it got there but whatever it is, for whatever reason, let’s talk about how to get rid of it. Bleach really is the key here. You want to mix up, though, a diluted solution and that’s going to lift the stain but you do have to make sure you rinse that bleach away from the tile very thoroughly.
Now, here’s another one that happens all the time: coffee, tea, juices. Make sure you wash that stain first, otherwise you end up with that sticky substance. But wash that stain first with detergent and soap and then use some of that same diluted bleach to lift the stain by blotting or dabbing. I mean that’s really the best way to get rid of that.
TOM: Now, if you’ve got a stain that’s caused by grease or fat, that you have to treat a little differently. You want to mix up a non-abrasive floor cleaner like, say, Soft Scrub. Mix it with club soda or carbonated water and work it into the stain and then rinse.
Now, if you’re unlucky enough to have to remove ink or clothing dye, diluted bleach will help here, too, but you can step up the strength by soaking a cloth in that bleach solution and then place it right on top of the ink stain. And leave it in place until the stain is dissolved and then you want to rinse it really well.
Then, finally, nail polish. If you happen to spill some nail polish, you want to use a little nail-polish remover to lift the nail polish off. But if the stain remains on the tile, that diluted bleach solution could come in handy, too. Just dab it until the color lifts.
Now we’ve got a complete list of all these tips online, right now, at MoneyPit.com. Just check out our post, “Tips for Spotless Tile Floors.”
LESLIE: Carol in Ohio is on the line with a ventilation question. What can we do for you?
CAROL: I’ve had a plumber in just about a month ago and the pipe that goes – the ventilation pipe that goes from your sewer line all the way to the roof – and he says that it’s leaking. Now, the house is about 52 years old, something of that nature. And now it’s not leaking like now but he said – I don’t understand how he got the idea that it was leaking.
TOM: When you say leaking, does he mean leaking water as in a plumbing leak or leaking as in a roof leak?
CAROL: I’m not sure about that because – but the roof is probably about 10 years old that’s been on there.
TOM: Have you seen any stains underneath the ceiling, right where that pipe goes over the bathroom? Do you see stains at the bathroom ceiling?
CAROL: No. There’s none inside the house but he was looking at the pipe in the basement. The leak that he repaired there was from another pipe that – and he repaired that. And he said that he thought maybe that that had been leaking. But there’s no sign of water from the ceiling or any on the floor, you know, above the pipe there or anything.
TOM: Well, look, if you’ve got no evidence of a leak, he’s got to be more specific. I can tell you that those vent pipes typically do leak at the roof, because there’s a rubber gasket that is part of the flashing system. And over time, especially over 10 years, it’s going to crack and break and separate from the pipe. And sometimes, you get water that sort of leaks in there. They almost never leak from a plumbing problem, like a break in the joint, because from the bathroom, they go straight up to the roof.
So, there’s really not a good place for them to leak. Maybe an elbow but – I mean you would see that. You would see some staining or something. There’d be some evidence of it. So, I would ask the plumber to be a little more specific about what exactly is leaking before you turn over your checkbook, you know what I mean?
CAROL: Yes. In other words, maybe I should have someone to check the roof to see if the seal around that is broken or something.
TOM: Well, but yeah – but if you’re not seeing – you would see leak stains in the ceiling of the bathroom. I’ve seen this more than a hundred times and I can tell you if that seal is split, the water is going to go right down that pipe, hug that pipe and probably drip off into the ceiling. So, sure, it’s a good idea to always inspect your roof. But I’m just not – you’re not telling me anything that makes me think, “Oh, absolutely, you’ve got a leak there.”
CAROL: Oh, OK. Well, that’s really good news to me because I was concerned. Because he said if that pipe had to be replaced, it would have to be replaced from the basement, all the way to the top of the house.
TOM: Do you trust this plumber?
CAROL: He was – the plumber is – the company is an old company here in Canton and they seem to be very good. And I know of other people that have had them but I don’t know what his problem was that day that he saw that.
TOM: Yeah, that’s not sounding right to me. It’s very rare to have any reason to replace a vent pipe. Because a vent pipe carries air; it doesn’t carry water.
CAROL: Right, right.
TOM: It carries water down, from the toilet down. But it carries air, basically, from the toilet up.
CAROL: OK. And then that’s what I told him. I said, “There’s no water that comes down through that.” I said – but he says, “Well, there could be when rain or something of that nature.” But I thought, “Well, that …”
TOM: Now, it’s sounding even more like the guy’s looking for a job.
CAROL: OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Carol.
CAROL: Thank you.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Look, Leslie, if the guy’s got a – if she’s got a problem, then it’s got to be fixed but I’ve never heard of a pipe like that leaking in that way and certainly not when rain comes into the pipe. Certainly, rain could get around the pipe but not into it.
You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.
LESLIE: Up next, imagine a leak so bad, it can collapse the ceiling of the floor below and pretty much ruin all the furnishings. It happens a lot but it can be avoided with a $20 part. We’ll tell what it is, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hope you’re having a great holiday. We’d love to chat with you about projects you’re planning for your home, perhaps for the year ahead. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Joe in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
JOE: Yes, I have a stone fireplace. It’s a natural stone over a block frame or whatever you call it. And some of the mortar is coming out. I’m getting some water into my basement, I think, from where the mortar is cracked. And I had an individual, a mason, come out and look at it and he gave me a price of about $8,000 to correct this. And I can’t – I wondered if there was something that, possibly, we could do ourselves.
TOM: What is he proposing to do for eight grand?
JOE: Take it all off and start – put it all back up.
TOM: So, he’s going to basically take the whole wall apart and put it back together again? It sounds to me, from what you’re saying, that it’s just that the mortar is deteriorating between the stone. And when that happens, usually the cure is to repoint it, not to rebuild it completely. Is he seeing something that’s so bad it has to be completely rebuilt?
JOE: Well, I don’t think so. I think it’s just – he just acts like it all needs to come off to go back anew.
TOM: Maybe he just needs to sell you a project of that size and scope.
JOE: Yeah. Maybe.
TOM: Maybe it doesn’t need to come off.
So, listen, what you normally would do if you had deteriorated mortar between brick or stone or block is you chip out the old mortar – just the loose stuff – and then you repoint it. Pointing mix is sort of a thicker type of mortar mix that has good adhesion. And then a mason would repoint those surfaces.
The last thing, once you get that all done, that you could do is you could put a masonry sealer on it. And the type of masonry sealer you want is one that’s silicone-based and vapor-permeable. And the reason you say vapor-permeable is because it needs to breathe. This way, moisture won’t get trapped underneath the surface and then freeze and then chip off that surface of that stone.
But I don’t – I can’t imagine why you would want to tear the whole thing down unless there’s something that I don’t know based on what he saw. And if there was, he should’ve been very clear with explaining to you why he’s prescribing this very expensive repair for your house.
JOE: So, two things. What about – how do you get it – the mortar – to stay in between and not fall back in the void behind the stone?
TOM: Masons do that when they repoint and there’s trowels that are specifically designed for this that are basically the size of a mortar joint. So, just pack it in. It’s detail work but it can be done.
JOE: OK. And on the sealer, do you seal everything or you just try to seal the mortar?
TOM: No, you seal everything.
JOE: OK. So you just spray it over with a pump-up sprayer or something then?
TOM: Well, you would – yeah, you could use a pump-up sprayer. That’s true. You could do that. Or you can use a paint sprayer. One or the other.
JOE: That sounds like it’s very doable.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Imagine a leak so bad that it collapses the ceiling of the floor below and then ruins all of your furnishings. It happens a lot but it can be avoided with a $20 part. Wondering what that part is? It’s the hose that feeds the water to your washing machine.
TOM: Yep, that’s right. It’s a problem that has caused homeowners countless heartaches for many years, for one reason. You know, manufacturers have always shipped those new machines with rubber washing-machine hoses.
The problem is that the rubber wears out, the hoses crack, they form blisters and eventually, they break. And when that happens, they dump thousands of gallons of water onto the floor below and below that and below that and you get the idea. It’s a big, stinking mess.
LESLIE: Oh, my gosh, and so much damage. I mean so much more dollars than a $20 part, so the best way to prevent this is to remove the washer’s rubber hoses and replace them with the braided stainless-steel hoses. Now, that cost is about 20 bucks but they almost never break. So, shut off the washer-supply valves and remove and replace those old, rubber hoses with stainless. It really is such an easy DIY project.
TOM: Now, if you want to take it one step further, you can think about adding a single-lever shut-off valve to the washer supply. This makes it really easy to turn the water on and off.
And I’ve got to tell you, Leslie, I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector and if I’ve ever inspected a house that they had one of those valves, the homeowner or the homeowner before that always had a problem with a broken hose and they put that in as part of the solution.
Universally, if you’ve had a broken hose, you always put in a washer-supply valve and turn it off between loads. So, don’t wait for that to happen. Learn from past mistakes. Get the braided hoses, put in the washer-supply valve. It’s easy to turn on and turn off between loads and you’ll never have to worry about coming home to water pouring out your front door.
LESLIE: Just ahead, fires are a pretty common danger this time of year. Between all the extension cords for those lighting displays and candles as decorations, there really is a lot to keep track of. We’re going to help you stay safe with some simple tips, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement or home repair question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Whether you’re buying a house, selling a house or just enjoying the house you have, we’re here for you every step of the way presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.
And speaking of small repairs or small updates, we’ve got a great set of prizes we’re giving away this hour from our friends at QUIKRETE.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. We’ve got the Walk Maker Building Form Prize Pack worth 80 bucks. Now, the Walk Maker, it’s a reusable plastic mold in a cobblestone pattern, so you can make a patio or a pathway. Pretty much you’re limited to only your imagination and how many of these forms you want to make. It’s really fun and easy to do.
You just lay the mold down, fill with a single bag of QUIKRETE Crack-Resistant Concrete Mix, trowel the finish, remove the mold, use it over and over and over again. You can build that walkway in no time flat. And you can customize it with QUIKRETE Liquid Cement Colors.
Now, the form itself retails for 20 bucks but we’re throwing in a whole bunch of QUIKRETE repair products to make it a prize pack worth $80. It’s a great project.
TOM: Those QUIKRETE products are going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Henry in Tennessee, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
HENRY: Last year in December, I bought a 1940s house built on – single story built on a brick foundation. And it previously had heating vents in the floor that were sealed off and a heat pump was put in the attic. The initial heating bill was terrible when I had the insulation updated in the attic and later on in the year, I put a 21-mil vapor barrier under the crawlspace.
My question is: do I still need to have fiberglass insulation that’s put in the floor spaces or is a vapor barrier enough?
TOM: Absolutely you do. Vapor barriers, they’re designed to do two different things. So, the vapor barrier does just that: it keeps the moisture down low. And the insulation keeps the heat in the house. So, while floor heat – floor insulation is not as important as attic insulation, it is important. And so if you don’t have an insulated floor, I would definitely do that.
You’re going to want to use unfaced fiberglass batts. I would try to make them as thick as the floor joist. So if it’s a 2×10, get 10 inches of fiberglass. You’re going to press them up in between the floor joists. And there’s a kind of wire – sort of a wire hanger – that you can use to support these batts. It’s like a piece of steel rod that’s flexible, that’s exactly as wide as the spaces between those joists. And you press it up and it just kind of holds itself right in place there and keeps the fiberglass batts up where they belong.
Now, you mentioned something important and that was that you have a heat pump. And you also mentioned that your heating bills were extremely expensive. I want to make sure you understand how a heat pump works, because there is an operator error that you could make that could make that about twice as costly to operate and that’s this: a heat pump is only designed to maintain heat at a certain level.
If your thermostat is set to 65 and it falls to 64 or 63 in the house, the heat pump will come on and it will supply heat. If it falls to 62 or 61, the heat pump says to itself, “I can’t keep up with this. I need help.” And it brings up a backup system that’s built into the heat pump that’s straight electric-resistant heat and it costs more than twice as much to run as the heat pump.
So, if you have severe cold temperatures, your heat pump may not be able to keep up, the electric heat will come on. But what often happens is people will move their thermostat up and down and up and down, because we’re accustomed to using clock thermostats, right? But if you do that when you have a heat pump and you don’t have a heat-pump thermostat which moves very slowly, you’ll be triggering the electric heat on a regular basis and driving up your heating costs. Does that make sense?
HENRY: OK. I appreciate your help.
TOM: Alright, Henry. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, this is the time of year where home fires increase and candles are definitely one of the reasons, so you want to make sure you use them safely.
You don’t want to leave candles burning in a room that’s not attended to or overnight. If you’re going to choose a menorah, you want to do so with a really sturdy candle holder that’s not going to tip or burn. And make sure it’s large enough to collect that dripping wax.
Also, be very careful to keep candle away from clothing, books and magazines or curtains and especially pets. So many house fires are caused by pets that knock over candles by accident and then up goes the entire house.
LESLIE: Please, everything that I think is safe on the dining table – I’ll put a bouquet of flowers, I come back in a few hours, the dog has been on the table eating them. So I’ve decided no poinsettias this year, no candles this year, until we get the dog …
TOM: Wise. Wise choice.
LESLIE: Now, it’s also smart to trim candle wicks to ¼-inch before each use. And don’t use pillar or taper candles once they’re within 2 inches of the holder they’re in. And finally, just consider electric candles. There are bulbs out there that flicker. They kind of look even, you know, almost exactly like an actual flame but you get the peace of mind of not worrying about burning the house down.
TOM: And that’s a nice peace of mind to have.
LESLIE: Oh, yes.
TOM: 888-666-3974. We can put your mind to rest if you’ve got a home improvement or a décor question or project on your mind. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Cary in Alaska is dealing with a heating problem. It’s cold there. What’s going on?
CARY: I live off-grid with a battery bank and inverter with a solar and generator backup to recharge batteries. Consequently, I’d – and I have a full electric house with propane direct-vented furnace. My question is: will installing a drop ceiling improve my heating efficiency and lower my propane bill? Because my ceilings are vaulted at 17 feet. And a lot of the heat goes up, so I’m just wondering – basically a 12x 24-foot area.
TOM: So, Cary, what you need to do is to not only put in that drop ceiling but to put insulation batts above the drop ceiling. If you just put the drop ceiling in, you will not have enough R-value in that drop ceiling to do the job you need it to do. So I would build the drop ceiling and then I would put probably at least 12-inch-thick unfaced fiberglass batts on top of it. It should be plenty strong enough to support that. Just stacked end to end right above that ceiling.
You’re going to have to kind of put the frame in, put a couple of ceiling panels in, drop some insulation in and sort of work your way across. But if you were to put that much insulation above the drop ceiling, it will have a huge difference in your heating bill. Because right now, you’re spending most of that money to heat that ceiling cavity and you’ve just got to keep the heat lower than that.
CARY: OK. Well, that’s good to hear. I appreciate the help there.
TOM: You’re welcome, Cary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Up next, butcher-block countertops can be beautiful but they can also be a germ factory if they’re not properly cared for. We’ll tell you what you need to know, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Where we have a very active Community section at MoneyPit.com. Lots of folks stopping by to post their home improvement questions and maybe chime in with an answer for someone else. Julie in Illinois has a question about her countertop, Leslie.
LESLIE: That’s right. Julie writes: “One of our countertops has a built-in, butcher-block cutting board about 2 feet wide. We put in new countertops, sanded down the butcher block to fresh wood. Should I apply anything to that? Someone suggested mineral oil.”
TOM: Well, butcher block is beautiful, right? I mean it really is a nice addition to any kitchen design but you have to keep in mind that it used to be a tree. And as a tree, it used to suck up a lot of moisture. And so, as a dead tree now, it’s going to be constantly sucking up all of the oils and the fats in the food and the juices that get onto that top. So, you do have to be very careful to keep it clean so it doesn’t become a breeding ground for E. coli.
So, you’ve got two options. First of all, you could apply a clear finish. They do make food-safe finishes for these surfaces. If you do that, it’s a lot less maintenance than Option B, which is to apply a food-safe oil. The oils – you are correct: mineral oil is a good choice. But you’ve got to make sure that it’s labeled food-safe.
Now, most of us would go to a home center to find these products. But for that mineral oil, go to a pharmacy because it’s something that folks still take for various conditions. You may find it right on your pharmacy shelf faster than you’d find it in the home-center aisle.
The oil will be easier to work with but it’s got to be applied frequently. So, a good rule of thumb on this to maintain butcher block is with this wood that’s now sort of fresh and new, you want to oil it once a day for the first week and then once a week for the first month and then pretty much once a month minimum for the life of the butcher block thereafter.
LESLIE: Yeah, Julie. And going forward, keep this cutting board for things just like breads or veggies. Don’t put any raw meats on there. Otherwise, you’re going to have to get into a whole disinfecting phase with it. All these little steps will just keep you and your family healthy and enjoying that cutting board for years to come.
TOM: Well, are leftovers taking over your fridge? Now is a good time to clean out and freshen up this very hard-working appliance.
Leslie, I’m betting you’ve seen your share of leftovers left too long, with those boys in the house, and you’ve got some great tips to help freshen the fridge, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Oh, please. My house is not the problem, it’s my office in the city at the studios, where people just leave who-knows-what in those refrigerators.
But truly, guys, if you don’t tend to your fridge every now and then, you’re going to be sorry. That insulating material in your fridge is made of foam. And once that starts to absorb those foul odors, there is no way to get rid of them. Now, we’ve seen refrigerators that worked perfectly well just getting tossed to the curb because of those forgotten leftovers that really just stink up the insides.
So, here’s the deal. Get in the habit of cleaning up your refrigerator spills immediately. Toss leftovers once a week or so. Check the old condiments. They are dated for a reason. If you’re not using them, you don’t like them, get rid of them.
For a fresh-smelling refrigerator, there’s really one easy trick: empty the fridge, clean all the surfaces with a solution of water and baking soda, then soak a paper towel with vanilla extract and leave it in the fridge overnight. Come morning, you will be greeted with a fresh, delicious scent. You might be baking things a lot more because that vanilla smell makes you think of cookies and muffins and all those tasty things. But at least the fridge is clean.
TOM: Yeah, good point.
Coming up next time on the program, if you’d like to build a new walkway or a patio with paver bricks, well, it might seem like a pretty simple DIY project. And frankly, it is. But it’s also pretty easy to skip the most important steps needed to make sure it can stand up and not sink or settle or let the weeds grow through. We’re going to have those step-by-step tips, in the next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2017 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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