- Tenant Rules: Do you know the 9 rules that tenants are most likely to break? Here’s what both landlords and renters need to know.
- Water Heaters: When that old water heater starts to leak, it could lead to expensive emergency repairs. Know when it’s time for a new water heater.
- Smart Thermostats: Keeping warm, saving energy, and reducing heating bills is made easy by installing a smart thermostat.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Water Pressure: The hot water pressure in Sam’s old house is fine everywhere except in the bathtub. Those old steel pipes could be clogged with rust or he may just need a new faucet or valve.
- Energy-Efficient Windows: Drafty windows are driving up the utility bills in Linda’s rental home. We’ll tell her how to use shrink film and weatherstripping caulk to make the windows more energy-efficient.
- Toilet Water: Darren is installing a 265-gallon rain barrel for his toilet water and has questions about filtering and water pressure. We’ve got some helpful answers.
- Wood Flooring: How can you level a subfloor to install hardwood flooring over it? We give Diane some info on carpentry solutions and applying a liquid floor leveling compound.
- Roofing Tools: After working on a number of roofs, Mark has some interesting ideas for innovative tools that can make it easier to remove roofing shingles.
- Concrete Repair: A concrete keeps cracking on Leah’s entryway and porch. There are plenty of products that will adhere and repair the concrete.
- Stone Walls: Dennis needs to know what kind of mortar to use for old stone walls that are two feet thick. We’ll tell him about the right mortar mix for stonework.
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: Happy holidays, everybody. Hope you’re enjoying this very special time of year. If you’re taking on some little projects to spruce up your house and get it ready for some guests that have yet to arrive, we’d love to help you with that. If you’d like to take on a project in the year ahead, want to do some serious planning, we’d be happy to talk you through those projects and everything in between because that’s what we do. We love it. We love helping you with all those projects. We love helping you save some money and feel a sense of accomplishment when everything comes out perfectly and beautifully in your home.
If you’ve got a home improvement question and want to reach us, there’s a couple of ways to do just that. First, you can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. But even easier is to go to MoneyPit.com, click the blue microphone button and record your question right there. We’ll get back to you when we produce the very next show and we can’t wait to help you out.
Coming up on today’s show, if you’re a landlord, Realtor Magazine says there are nine rules that tenants are most likely to break. So, whether you’re a tenant, you can actually ask yourself if you’ve ever broken these rules or if you’re a landlord, I think you might find this pretty interesting.
LESLIE: Alright. And also ahead, for most homeowners your water heater is out of sight, out of mind until it leaks and then you’re faced with a potentially expensive emergency repair. So we’re going to share some signs that a replacement might be needed sooner than you have planned.
TOM: And setting a thermostat seems like a pretty easy task. But if that’s the case, why is it so many people still struggle with a house that’s too hot or too cold? We’re going to share smart tips to stay comfortable and cut heating costs, just ahead.
LESLIE: But first, we want to help you create your best home ever, especially for the holiday season. If you’re working on a bathroom or a basement project, maybe even you’re thinking of a demolition project – just not right now because the holidays, it’s hard to get people to work. Whatever it is, big or small, we are here to be your coach, your counselor, your cheerleader. So reach out anytime to 888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: Or you can post your questions online at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Sam in Tennessee is on the line with a water-pressure question.
How can we help you today?
SAM: Yes, I have just purchased a home that is about 75 years old. And we’re refurbishing it and we’re trying to keep everything as original as we can. I have great water pressure in every room that has water but my bathtub.
TOM: Sam, does your 75-year-old home have steel water pipes?
SAM: It has the old – we’re eventually going to replace all the water system. But we’re having to live in part of the home now and redoing the other half while we live here.
TOM: If you have the original steel water pipes in a 75-year-old home, they are absolutely going to suffer from interior rusting. What happens with steel is it rusts and it expands inward, so it kind of clogs like an artery, so to speak. And the older it is, the more that can occur. It’s possible that that – you may have a bad pipe on the way to that tub and that’s why you have such a slow fill out of that. The other possible issue is the valve itself that’s feeding water.
In that same bathroom, I presume you have a sink and a toilet. Do you notice any water pressure problems with those appliances?
SAM: No, sir. We have, like I said, great pressure everywhere except for that one spigot. And it’s the hot and cold runs into one.
TOM: The other thing it could be is a bad – it also could be a bad faucet on that tub. But if the pressure is pretty good everywhere else, it’s not likely to be rusted just at the bathroom – at the one fixture itself. So, I would suggest that maybe you want to replace that tub – that set of tub valves, because it’s probably obstructing there.
SAM: Right. Well, actually, it’s got the old-timey butterfly controls on it and we were really wanting to keep it but …
TOM: You can find those valves today. There’s a lot of sources of antique plumbing. And some of the new fixtures and faucets are designed to basically go – you’d be using a retrofit situation like that. So you can find modern versions that look old.
SAM: Yes, sir. Thank you.
TOM: Sam, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Have a great day.
LESLIE: Heading over to Ohio. Linda is on the line with a window question.
What can we do for you?
LINDA: I’m in an apartment that’s supposed to be energy-efficient. But my heating bills and my air-conditioning bills are really high. I don’t think I can climb up there and put the plastic on the windows anymore. Is there any other way to make it more efficient?
TOM: It’s a real challenge when you’re a renter because you’re right: there’s only limited things that you can do but there are things that you can do.
Now, you mentioned putting the plastic on there. I’m not quite sure what you’re doing in terms of the plastic but the shrink-film plastic works the best where, essentially, it covers the whole interior of the window space. And then you use a hair dryer once you apply it and it gets really taut and clear. That’s one thing that you can do.
The second thing is that there is a sort of a liquid weather-stripping. It’s like a weather-stripping caulk. And it looks like silicone caulk, right? So what you do with this stuff is you essentially caulk your windows shut. You put it in all the places there’s gaps. And the nice thing is that in the spring, it remains rubbery and you can kind of grab the edge of it and peel it right away.
Now, the only bad thing is this: whatever window you caulk, you won’t be able to open all winter long. So, if it’s a bedroom window, you can’t do it there because you need egress in the event of an emergency. But it works great, especially with really old windows, because it does seal them up and it’s easy to do and it doesn’t damage the windows. It peels right off.
LINDA: Do you have a name or are you not allowed to say it on the air?
TOM: There’s a number of different brands of it. I know that Red Devil makes one, I think DAP makes one and I think there’s also a generic one. And you ought to be able to find it at The Home Depot. And if it’s not on the shelf, I would ask the service desk and describe the product to them. The weather-stripping caulk is what you’re looking for. And perhaps they’ll be able to order it for you. But I have seen it on the store shelves.
LINDA: I’m writing this down.
TOM: Alright. Well, listen, good luck. I hope that helps you out, Linda. I appreciate you calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Darren in Virginia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DARREN: Yes. I’m trying to convert my toilet from regular water in the house to a rain – 265-gallon rain barrel outside. So, piping it in underneath my house I had the CPVC, the smaller stuff. So what I was wondering is: do I have to filter that water? And if I pump it in there, what is the max PSI that I should use?
TOM: Are you putting a pump on it?
DARREN: I’m going to have a solar pump on it.
TOM: Alright. So, first of all, no, you don’t have to filter toilet water because it’s wastewater. It’s gray water. So it can go straight in.
Secondly, how much pressure do you need? Well, I guess that’s really going to depend on the toilet but I would think most water pressure in a house is going to be anywhere between 50 and 70 pounds. So that’s probably what your toilet’s used to working with.
And thirdly, you want to make sure – I know it’s – I mean it’s a great thing you’re doing trying to use rainwater for all this but let’s not forget the obvious: make sure your toilet itself is efficient. You know, toilets today can use as little as about 1.3 gallons of water per flush. So if you’d have an older toilet, you might want to upgrade it so you’d need even less water for the flushing mechanism.
DARREN: Alright. Well, that’s something to think about, also.
TOM: What other green upgrades are you making to the house?
DARREN: This actually all started with – I put in a drinking system for my pigs.
TOM: OK. Oh, you’ve got a farm there?
DARREN: I have a farm. I have a small farm in Damascus, Virginia and we piped, in the stalls, drinking nipples for the pigs because they kept spilling all their water. So now, they are totally self-sufficient. They have a solar-powered pump at 40 PSI going to these nipples and it’s coming off of their roof into a rain barrel that feeds it.
TOM: Wow. So this is a natural extension of that? And if it’s good enough for the pigs, I guess it’s going to be good enough for your home plumbing system, as well.
DARREN: Yeah, yeah. I definitely want to try to do as much as I can with Mother Nature before I have to depend on somebody else.
TOM: Alright. Well, it makes a lot of sense.
Darren, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Diane in South Dakota is on the line with a flooring question.
What can we do for you today?
DIANE: Yes. We had a problem with trying to put some wood flooring down on our floor.
DIANE: And when they delivered the wood and they went to lay it down, they said that our floor was not flat. We had some ridges or bumps on it and that they could not put the flooring on because it would pop up and wouldn’t hold.
TOM: Yep. OK.
DIANE: And I’m just wondering if there’s any way to rectify that.
TOM: So, what type of subfloor do you have that they were trying to put this new flooring on top of? Is it plywood?
DIANE: It’s plywood, yes.
TOM: Yeah, sure, a good flooring installer would know this, so I’m surprised they didn’t tell you what had to happen. But there’s a couple of things you can do. There’s a carpentry solution. And a carpentry solution may involve – it depends on how far out of whack it is. They’re right: these new flooring products, they have a certain range that they’re designed to work within. And if your floor is out of level above that range then, certainly, you could have adhesion problems.
So, the carpentry solution might involve working on the floor joist to actually get them to lay down. Sometimes, you get a joist that is crowned and sort of rises up. There is actually a way to go into the basement, cut that beam in half, put a new solid beam next to it and bring it down. And that will help it lay down and eliminate that bump. So that’s a carpentry solution.
Then the other solution you can use is to apply what’s called a “floor-leveling compound.” Now, this is a liquid, very thick compound that gets poured onto the floor and then it’s self-leveling. It’ll level and it’ll keep everything nice and flat. And that takes up the dips and the rises in that floor and gives you a very flat surface to work on. Probably not a do-it-yourself project, something I would have somebody do that has some experience with it, because it’s got to be done right. And once that dries, the new floor can be laid right on top of it.
So there’s a carpentry solution and then there’s the floor-leveling compound, which is designed exactly for situations like this.
DIANE: OK. I actually think that we probably have to go the carpenter route, because I asked them about that product. I said, “Isn’t there some kind of a leveling product that you could pour on the floor?” And they said it won’t – wouldn’t work in this situation.
TOM: OK. Well, I’m not sure why. They probably should be giving you more information on that. And sometimes, when a contractor says it won’t work, what they mean to say – that’s what comes out of their mouth. But what they’re saying is, “I really don’t want to do it.”
DIANE: OK, OK.
TOM: OK? Maybe they didn’t want to do it. Don’t take that to heart. It may be that it can, in fact, be done; you just don’t have the right person involved yet, OK?
DIANE: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your calling me back.
LESLIE: Well, if you own a rental home, brace yourselves, guys. Realtor Magazine warns that there are none rules that your tenants are most likely to break. I wonder how many of you have had tenants break your rules or perhaps you were the tenant and maybe did a little rule-breaking yourself.
TOM: Well, fortunately, the most common offenses center around decorating and aren’t too serious. So here’s the list.
The number one offense: making holes in the walls. So, this happens for a lot of reasons. It could be very innocent reasons, like hanging a picture or it could be maybe you got mad at somebody and opened the door and the door handle ended up embedded in the wall. But 25 percent of tenants will break this rule.
Now, Leslie, as for the next rule to be broken, I think that you may disagree that redecorating is a rule-breaking offense, especially for you, my dear.
LESLIE: Well, I think it depends. Say you’re renting a house that’s wallpapered or painted and/or furnished and you go in and rearrange everything and paint a cabinet then yeah, I totally get it. But if you’re just adding your personal flair and going to repaint the walls a neutral color and this is all agreed upon with your landlord, then awesome. But guys, just don’t go crazy because landlords just don’t like that.
LESLIE: Now, here’s another thing: secretly replacing damaged furnishings, fixtures and fittings. That’s done by about 13 percent of people. I feel like they probably they’re doing a good thing by replacing it but …
TOM: Well, either that or they’re trying to make sure that they don’t get dinged in their security deposit when they move out, right?
LESLIE: That is true.
TOM: Because if stuff disappears, then the landlord’s definitely going to try to get reimbursed for that.
After that comes keeping a pet on the property. When you rent, a lot of places have very specific and understandably strict rules when it comes to pets. But if you move into a place and say you don’t have a pet and it turns out that you do have a pet, well that’s a broken rule. So about 12 percent of people do that.
And of course, making a late rent payment. I’m actually encouraged by this; only 10 percent of people will pay their rent late. So, not so bad, really, as a landlord.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s not so bad.
Another one – and this is a biggie – smoking indoors. Seven percent of people do that or have a guest over that does that.
Changing the locks, that’s a huge one. That is huge. That’s making you a squatter like, “I changed the locks. I’m going to stick here.” So, six percent of people are doing that.
TOM: Yeah. And subletting a room or the whole property when you’re not allowed to. There’s rules about whether or not you can rent a room in a house you already rent. And about five percent of people take that.
And the last one – which I think is probably the most disturbing and potentially, the most dangerous – four percent of people remove or disable a fire or carbon-monoxide alarm. Really, really dumb thing to do. So I’d like to see that be zero. But what’s the Tom Hanks saying? Stupid is as stupid does?
LESLIE: Life is like a box of chocolates?
TOM: You know what I’m saying. It’s just really a dumb thing to do.
LESLIE: I know, you were right. Stupid is as stupid does.
Mark in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MARK: Well, I’ve done a lot of different construction worksites, job-wise and everything and here lately I’ve been messing kind of with roofing. Of course, you know, you’ve got the shovels and all the good stuff like that. But there seems to me like there’s a lot of nail-pulling or nail-pounding this and that. And I was wondering who – I’ve got sort of an idea on – a “shingle stripper” is what I’ve named it. I don’t know, picture a concrete power trowel, slower rotation but with maybe some little, I don’t know, little, tight piece on it or something that turns at a slow – something that you could – not quite as long as that. Maybe 8 foot long that you could mount and it slowly turns down the roof.
TOM: Oh, you want something that is – automatically can pull the shingles off the roof? That’s an interesting idea. He wants a Roomba vacuum for the roof that’ll strip the shingles off.
MARK: Yeah. Exactly. I mean …
TOM: There is a roof-shingle stripping tool that a lot of major manufacturers have and that’s generally what I see the roofing crews use. And frankly, with that tool, you can strip a roof pretty quickly. I’ve seen four guys on a roof strip it in less than an hour and right down to the plywood, it’s ready to go. And I don’t think there’ll be – find a market for a product like that, which is why I don’t believe that one exists. I think the handheld roof-stripping tool is the one you need.
MARK: Of course, we use the shovels – the usual shingle shovels – and all that good stuff but it gets to be a task when you run into a nail or you – stuff like that or – and it seems like, I don’t know, even maybe like a wood-floor, sander-type apparatus to where it would – you know what I’m – kind of just get it up underneath the lip. You wouldn’t – the paper, you wouldn’t really – you could deal with. But just to where it would cut back on the nail-pounding and the …
TOM: Are you actually using a roofing tool? There’s different types of – you call them “shovels” but there’s a product called a D-handle roofing tool that is available at The Home Depot that I’ve seen. And it’s kind of like a scraper on a shovel handle. And it works very, very quickly to pull off shingles.
MARK: Would it? We’re using – yeah. We’re using a shingle – I call them “shingle shovel” but they work good. But I was looking – I’m just – I come up with ideas and I’m – to be honest with you, maybe one of these days I’ll come up with one to where I can retire but – instead of being a roof …
TOM: I certainly hope you do but I will tell you that the roofing tools that are out there – the Razor-Back one I remember seeing at an event some time ago. And I liked it because it has sort of a fulcrum design where it can get under the shingle and the nails. And then you sort of push the handle down and it pops them right up. So it might be that you’re not using the right tool yet and you might want to experiment more with some of those more modern roofing tools that strip the shingles off.
I don’t believe there’ll be a market for that particular product but listen, stay at it. Don’t let us talk you out of it. There could be other things that you’ll come up with that will sell. But I’ve seen these roofing tools be so effective that I don’t believe that there’d be a power version of it, OK? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, for many homeowners, their water heater is kind of out of sight and out of mind. They don’t think about it very much until they absolutely have to. And then they’re faced with a potentially expensive emergency repair.
LESLIE: Yeah. But there are steps that you can take to prolong the life of your water heater, as well as signs that replacement may be needed sooner than you’re kind of planning for.
Spencer Pope is the technical trainer at Bradford White Water Heaters and is joining us with tips to help you avoid an unplanned water-heater replacement.
SPENCER: Hey, thank you for having me. Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie.
TOM: So, water-heater replacement. If your water heater leaks, it’s always an inconvenient time and it becomes this emergency to get it replaced. You don’t have time to think much about the project. You’re really focused on getting a plumber and getting any water heater in there to restore the warm water, obviously address any of the leaking damage that is caused. So, it’s just not convenient and it’s never going to be convenient. It’s the same thing with having a heater fail in winter or an air conditioner fail in the summer.
So what are some things that you can do to maybe get some heads-up that maybe a water-heater replacement is in your near future? Are there signs of trouble that you could monitor for?
SPENCER: Unfortunately, sometimes it is hard to tell. There’s no real crystal-ball method for determining outright if the water heater needs to be replaced.
Now, there are some things you could watch for. Big examples might be if you notice water around the bottom of the heater or maybe water – some water connections above it. Those would at least be good signs that a contractor – a licensed contractor – should take a look and help us dig a little bit deeper. Do we have connection issues? Is there something going on with the tank?
Considering the age of the heater becomes important if we look at how long it’s been installed or in service. The national average for modern heaters is somewhere around 9 to13 years.
TOM: Yeah, I was going to ask you that. How long would a water heater typically last? So, 9 to 13 years. That sounds about right. I spent 20 years as a home inspector and certainly, we found water heaters that failed at 8 but just as many that lasted a shockingly long period of time – like 20, 25 years – which is probably three times what was the life expectancy of them. But I guess the advice there is when they start to get beyond that normal range, you’re really better off proactively replacing it than waiting for an emergency to happen, right?
SPENCER: That’s correct. Yep.
LESLIE: Hey, Spencer. You know, we actually have a question from Diane in Las Vegas who has had some water heaters that have only lasted a few years, which is totally unusual. You mind if we take her call?
SPENCER: Sounds good.
DIANE: I have two rental properties in Las Vegas. And Vegas has very hard water. I’ve had to replace the hot-water heaters, I think, three different times in the last 12 years, which seems like an awful lot to me. I was advised by one plumber to have them flushed twice a year to eliminate the particulates that settle at the bottom of the hot-water heater so it doesn’t rust. And yet other plumbers have said, “Oh, no, that’s not a good thing.”
They were recommending to put in anode rods to, I guess, settle the ions within the water tank. But yet, they’re saying that you should be replacing those anode rods every 2 years for a cost of at least $200. So it gets to be a pricy endeavor. And because there’s so much conflicting information, I’m hoping that you can answer what is the best way to go to try to get the longevity out of these hot-water heaters.
SPENCER: Yeah. I agree with what you said. That lifespan does not sound typical. So thanks, Diane, for the questions. Lots of things to unpack there. But I think the big takeaways would be certainly it’s always good practice to drain the heater, flush any sediment out. That is always good. Does not hurt the heaters.
The anodes are also important. They extend the life of the heaters. It is important to check the anode after the first couple of years but again, the national average for modern heaters is about 9 to 13 years. So it sounds like we have some water-quality issues there. It may be good to talk to a water-quality expert and have them look at other forms of treatment for the water. Maybe we can prevent some of those total-dissolve solids, like calcium or lime, and bring up that water quality just a bit.
And then anodes, of course, are good to do. Flushing the heater’s good. But yeah, I think we’ve got a little bit more something going on. One other example might be stray voltage in the plumbing we could look at using a bonding wire between the hot and the cold pipe, run that to a good ground source. But yeah, certainly something – I’d say pursue a water-quality expert and get to the bottom of that.
TOM: That’s great advice. I didn’t think about the bonding wire but that does make sense. Because you do get those currents sometimes that seem to come out of nowhere and can definitely speed up the corrosion process, right?
TOM: And so having that bonding wire, of course, makes sense and it’s so easy to do. And the fact that manufacturers, like Bradford White, now have garden-hose connections at the bottom of the tank and valves so that any homeowner could do the flushing themselves, you don’t need to call a plumber into that. You don’t have to empty the entire water heater, either. If you spill water out once a month, a few gallons, you’re going to avoid the possibility of any of that buildup.
So, a great course of action, Diane. I hope that helps you out.
We’re talking to Spencer Pope. He’s a technical trainer at Bradford White Water Heaters.
Spencer, before we let you go, what’s new with Bradford White? Got any new models coming out that we ought to be aware of, want to take a look at?
TOM: Yeah. Something we’re really excited about is our new tankless offering. And of course, we are always moving in the heat-pump space, as well. Those are bigger and bigger the more we see the green push throughout the country and sometimes even some legislative changes throughout the country. So I think those are – the most exciting products right now would be our tankless offerings, our heat-pump offerings. And of course, we have lots of training options available on our products at our website, BradfordWhite.com. And we have an entire For the Pro portal, as well, for our contractors in the audience. So, yeah, lots of exciting things going on here.
TOM: And that website, again, is BradfordWhite.com.
And speaking of websites, Spencer was generous enough to do a post – a guest post – for MoneyPit.com, listing all the ways that you can detect early failure of your water heater, as well as the maintenance steps that you could take to make sure it lasts as long as possible. You’ll find that on our home page at MoneyPit.com.
Spencer Pope, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great advice about how to take care of our water heaters and avoid those emergency repairs, right? Because we’d hate for that to happen.
SPENCER: That’s right. Hey, thank you very much for having me.
TOM: Well, if you guys love to entertain family and friends over the holidays, don’t miss out on The Money Pit’s Holiday Entertaining Sweepstakes. We have over $1,000 in prizes up for grabs.
LESLIE: Yeah. We’re giving away a gorgeous, new refrigerator from LG with contoured doors, hidden hinges and a whole host of amazing interior features. It’s a 7-cubic-foot unit and it’s the perfect backup fridge size, so you’re always going to have room for all of that extra holiday food.
TOM: And it’s ENERGY STAR-rated. Plus, we’ve also got a bunch of $100 gift cards to Omaha Steaks to give away, which make great gifts, as well as a very delicious way to stock your own freezer for the holidays.
LESLIE: Plus, everyone who enters is going to receive a special Money Pit promo code for Omaha Steaks, worth 30 bucks plus free shipping.
TOM: Enter once a day at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes. That’s MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes.
LESLIE: Lee in Kansas is on the line with a concrete question.
Tell us what you are working on.
LEE: I’m in an old house that I got in a survivorship and it’s got an old – probably was built in the 60s. I’m in the prairie of Kansas. It has an entryway concrete porch that just keeps cracking and cracking due to earthquakes. We had a pretty good one a week or so ago and now it’s really unlevel. Some of the cracks are small enough that I could fill and aren’t unlevel. And I was just wondering – because I don’t live near a Lowe’s or a Home Depot or anything like that. I think it’s like an hour-and-a-half drive away. There’s a local hardware store about 10 miles.
Can you fill small cracks with QUIKRETE or do you need concrete or Sakrete? I don’t know what the differences are.
TOM: OK. So, first of all, the type of repair material you use is different than the type of material you would use if you were, say, pouring a new concrete slab. And you mentioned QUIKRETE. That’s a great brand and they have a wide variety of repair products. You have the option to repair the cracks. You could also resurface that concrete. There’s a product for that. And in all cases, the difference between that type of a product – a repair product and the original sort of concrete product – is that the repair products are designed to adhere to the original concrete base. If anything is loose, of course, you have to pop that out and restore it.
But short of that, there are plenty of concrete-repair products that are out there and you’re going to obviously have to get yourself to a hardware store or lumberyard to find it. You could do some research online at their website. But you want to make sure you choose a repair product, because it is designed specifically to adhere to those surfaces.
LEE: OK. Thank you so much. Alright.
TOM: Good luck. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Well, as the weather turns colder, many people are committing to turning the thermostat down more than is necessary, 24/7, for the entire winter. But that leads to a lot of chills, drafts, discomfort and I’ve got to say, a lot of fights at home. I’m just saying.
TOM: Well, that’s why one of the easiest ways to manage that thermostat is with a smart thermostat. Now, these thermostats will keep the temperature at home in check and they’ll optimize the temperature settings based on your routine. So you never have to think about that thermostat again.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, the smart thermostats have built-in occupancy sensors, so they know to turn the heat up when someone’s home and turn it down when the house is vacant. Some of them also have a geofencing capability and they actually can turn the heat on when they detect that you’re within whatever set number of miles from the home. So it could be like, “Oh, you’re 10 minutes way. Let’s crank up the heat.” It’s kind of awesome.
TOM: I also love that these thermostats produce reports every month that show you how much energy you saved compared to other homes in your area. So all in one, really one of the smartest energy-saving investments you can make.
LESLIE: Alright. We’re headed over to South Carolina now. We’ve got Dennis on the line.
Hey, Dennis. What are you working on?
DENNIS: I bought a house in Illinois, a house that was built in 1845.
DENNIS: It’s got 2-foot-thick, you know, walls and it’s layered stone.
TOM: OK. OK.
DENNIS: My question to you is: what would you – what type of mortar would you recommend to put in that, in this old stone home? So that – because over the years, people have tried to put some mortar in some of it – some of the mortar that’s fallen out and it cracked.
TOM: Right. Right.
DENNIS: But it’s all different colors. It looks goofy. I want to – I’d really like to make it uniform.
DENNIS: And what mix of sand and mortar would you recommend?
TOM: Well, usually for exterior and above-grade walls, you’d use a type of mortar called an N – N as in Nancy – an “N mortar mix.” It has a medium sort of compressive strength and it’s made of one part of Portland cement, one part lime and six parts of sand. It’s pretty easy to work with.
And you can also buy premade mortar mix from QUIKRETE. For example, they sell a type N mortar mix and they sell it in different colors. I think gray is the base color. So, you might want to take a look at that.
TOM: But I think what you’re looking for is type N mortar for stone walls.
Good luck with that project. That sounds really fun and I’m sure it’s a beautiful home. We appreciate you calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Nora is working on a kitchen this holiday season, which is really great because we do spend a lot of time in the kitchen at home; it is the heart of the house. Now, she’s asking, “Which type of kitchen-countertop material is better for heat-resistance, durability and easiest to keep clean?” She’s wondering, “Quartz or quartzite? Do both materials require semiannual-maintenance cleaners?”
That’s a good question.
TOM: It is. But I think what you’re asking about is the difference between engineered quartz and quartzite.
Now, quartzite is actually the natural quartz right out of the mountain. It’s all mineral. There are no additives in it. And because of that, it tends to be more absorbent. Well, definitely more absorbent than engineered quartz, which is made in a form that includes sealers and stabilizers and colorants.
The engineered quartz is therefore a lot more durable and needs less cleaning and no sealing. Quartzite is a little more similar to granite; it’s going to need regular sealing. You’d be lucky if you did it every 6 months but I think you’re going to have to do it more frequently than that. But it is a better choice for outside kitchens where you can’t use engineered quartz. So if that’s not the case, I think I would definitely go with the engineered product.
LESLIE: Yeah, Nora, especially if you’re going with a lighter color. Think about it: tomato sauce, red wine obviously are things that can stain that surface but also lemon juice. So there’s a lot of weird things that can cause discoloration. So if you actually use your kitchen and use your countertops, you might want to go with something that’s much, much more durable.
TOM: Well, as you guys do your gift-shopping, have you noticed how many retailers offer the opportunity to purchase an extended warranty? It gets kind of crazy. They’re available on everything from a toaster to a television, heck, even a pack of gum.
LESLIE: It does seem that way.
TOM: Yeah. It just blows me away. No matter what you’re buying – “Do you want an extended warranty with that?” No, I don’t think so. But I guess the question is: do they ever really make sense?
So, Les? What’s your take?
LESLIE: Well, if an appliance is on your holiday-shopping list, more than likely not you’re going to be asked, “Would you like the extended warranty with that product?” You’re wondering if it makes sense.
The Federal Trade Commission says millions of consumers pay for protection that they don’t actually need or really use. And so to keep you from wasting money, you’ve got to do your homework.
So, first, compare the coverage. Know what the basic warranty that comes with the appliance covers to see if that extended warranty is truly going to provide you with enough additional coverage. Also, know the appliance. Check its repair reputation online. See how likely it is that it’s going to break down and then check for any hidden cost, because extended warranties often have a deductible, service fees, cancellation charges. I mean a whole bunch of extra, additional bills that you are not counting on.
And aside from extended warranties on appliances, you’re also going to see toys, sporting goods, electronics, all of these places offering you these product-protection plans right at the register or even right online, whatever it is. And this is the worst place for you to make any decision. Because, as we’ve shown you, you need to do your homework. And you’re sort of put on the spot and you’re like, “OK,” or, “I don’t know.”
So, go in there armed with the knowledge and ready to know what you need to say for that question so that you’re ready to go.
TOM: Good advice.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, if you ever feel like your kitchen cabinets are dated, drab and dull, costly new cabinets are not the only option. We’re going to share ideas for refacing or refinishing your cabinets without breaking the bank, 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.
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