- Natural stone countertops are beautiful but also require a ton of maintenance to keep them looking as good. We sort out whether these attractive kitchen surfaces are worth the hassle, along with some equally attractive but easier to care for alternatives.
- If getting rid of old wallpaper stands between you and your dream room, we can help! Learn the right steps to remove wallpaper quickly and easily.
- If you’re a pet-lover and taking on new decor or remodeling projects, we’ve share tips for the best pet friendly floor and walls surfaces.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Dave from California needs a recommendation for the best solar batteries for his new home.
- Dana in Georgia wants to know if mold in her home is an issue and how she can remove it.
- Jeff from Massachusetts wants to know the best insulation for a basement.
- Sylvia in Pennsylvania is curious if he can heat his terrazzo floor.
- Sparky from Georgia is replacing coaxial cable and is looking for the best possible way to do it.
- Anne in North Dakota has a hair line crack that has been growing over time and needs to find out if its active or not, and how best to fix it.
- Dennis from Michigan wants to know how to get hot water to his bathroom more quickly.
- Kathleen in Texas needs to know how well epoxy garage flooring works.
- Sue from Ohio is looking for products to keep ice and snow off her wheelchair ramp without damaging it.
- George in Colorado wants to if it’s necessary to clear the snow off his roof?
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: Are you dug in for winter? Are you feeling a chill? You want to try to get warmer? Are you getting a little tired of staring at those same four walls? Do you want to do a fix-up now? Do you want to do one this spring or this summer? Whatever is on your home improvement to-do list, whatever project you’d like to do to make your house feel more like a home, you can give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and we will help you get the job done. Now, we’re not going to show up at your door but we will give you some tips, some advice, some guidance, some coaching to make sure you can get it done as quickly and easily and inexpensively as possible.
Coming up on today’s show, if you love the beauty and durability of natural-stone countertops – and who doesn’t? – you might not know that stone tops also require a ton of maintenance to keep them looking as good as the day they were installed. So, in today’s Smart Spending Tip, we’re going to sort out whether these attractive kitchen surfaces are worth the hassle. And if not, what are some really nice, inexpensive alternatives?
LESLIE: And if getting rid of old wallpaper stands between you and your dream room, we can help. With the right steps, removing wallpaper can be quicker and easier. We’re going to share how.
TOM: I’m glad you didn’t say quick and easy, because there’s nothing about wallpaper that …
LESLIE: There’s nothing about that that’s quick or easy. We can just make it go a little faster.
TOM: That’s right.
And hey, guys, if you’re a pet lover, you’re considering some new décor or a remodeling project, you probably already know that all home improvements don’t necessarily fit well with pets. So we’re going to have some tips on the best pet-friendly floors, just ahead.
LESLIE: But most importantly, we want to know what you want to know. How can we help you create your best home ever? Give us a call, let us know what you are working on. Chances are we’ve done that project, we’ve thought about it or we’ve been there. So we’re going to give you a hand and help you get those projects done.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. You can also post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
So, let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. Time to talk about alternative power. We’ve got Dave in California interested in a solar battery.
What’s going on?
DAVE: What I’m interested in is a solar battery. I’m moving into a house out of state, that has a large set of solar panels, but I would like to also add to that a solar battery. So I need some information on solar batteries. I live here in Northern California and we go through, every summer, long, rolling, blackouts because the electric utility is concerned about causing forest fires. And so, when I move to this new place in Arkansas, I wanted to have a backup system to the solar so that if the general grid goes out, I would have electricity still.
TOM: So, Dave, you know, the batteries are getting better and better over time. I mean it really has been quite amazing how rapidly these batteries have improved their capacity and reduced their sizes and so on. So I can’t give you a specific battery recommendation but I can give you some general guidelines.
And if you’re looking to power your home for an extended period of time, you want to basically look for batteries that have high-capacity ratings because that’s essentially what that does. If you’re looking to run a lot of electronics in your house, a lot of appliances, then you need to purchase batteries that have high continuous-power ratings. So it’s really kind of a balancing act.
And if you want to maximize how much money you’re saving with a solar battery, look for batteries that have high round-trip efficiency.
So those are sort of the bumpers that you’re going to look within and the answer is really going to depend on what kind of your use pattern is. If you don’t have a lot of room, there’s nickel-magnesium-cadmium batteries, which are smaller in size but still give you a lot of the same levels of power and performance.
So, it really is going to depend on your usage of these batteries and that’s going to dictate which set of batteries and which types of batteries that are going to be best for your situation.
LESLIE: Dana in Georgia is on the line with a mold question.
How can we help you?
DANA: I’m in Santa, Georgia, where it’s already hot and humid and we’re already fighting mold a lot of the time during the warmer months. Right after Hurricane Matthew, it just seems to go on turbo where I’m having to clean it off all the wood furniture and some of the walls. And it’s even coming out of – or was coming out of the vents from the A/C heating unit. So, I just replaced those vents rather than try to clean them. And my question really is: is there anything else I should be doing and should I be concerned about my kid’s health because of it coming out of the vents?
TOM: Well, not even it coming out of the vents. The fact that you’ve got this growing on the walls and furniture is a pretty serious problem. You need – you have the scope of a problem where you need actual professional-remediation help because it’s so prevalent. The problem is that these – some types of molds that kids and adults can have allergic reactions to. They produce mycotoxins that can get out and make some people really sick.
I’ve known folks over the years who had – in fact, I had someone very close to me that I diagnosed this for because she had kids that had a really bad year of illness. And we noticed that when they went on vacation – they went away for a month over the holidays and they felt great. And they came back and they felt lousy.
So it all turned out to be mold that actually got into the attic of this house, that was finding its way back into the living space through holes around where the lights came through the ceiling. And so, in this case, all of the insulation actually had to be taken out of the attic and the whole thing had to be sprayed and cleaned and then put all back together again.
So, if you’ve got that much mold in the house, you’ve got to get to the bottom of it. And I really think you need some professional help. But what you want is someone who does occupational safety and health as a living, as a profession. You don’t want the latest Johnny-come-lately mold-remediator guy that has no professional training. You want somebody who really has some skills and certifications, from a consultancy basis, to get to the bottom of this.
I’m going to recommend a website and that website is MayIndoorAir.com – May, like the month – M-a-y-IndoorAir.com. You will find books on that website by Jeff May, who is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met about mold and indoor-air quality. He has an interesting backstory. He was very, very allergic to mold and it led him to a whole new course of study. He’s written three or four books on mold, including some written for the Johns Hopkins University Press.
So I think that would be a good source of information for you. And he’s not from your area but he may be able to recommend to you some contractors in that particular area, some consultants in that area that he knows professionally. But that’s a good source for you to kind of get to the bottom of this, OK?
DANA: Great. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Heading over to Cambridge, Mass. We’ve got Jeff on the line.
What’s happening at your money pit?
JEFF: Down in the basement, I want to be able to insulate it so I can put storage down there.
JEFF: Cabinets and – but I want I want to do it the proper way. We jacked the house up and put a concrete foundation with a 10-inch wall. And I coated it with the DRYLOK paint and I just – and I was reading a magazine about the solid-foam insulation. And I want to – that’s on the outside of the foundation and I want to make sure that I’m not doing myself harm by putting it on the inside, also, to lock moisture in there that may come up in capillary action from the footing. So I just wanted to check with you the best way to go about that. I want to use that probably 2-inch or 1½-inch foam, depending upon how much room I have, to do that and then build stud walls.
TOM: OK. Yeah. So, perfectly acceptable. I’m glad you’re paying attention to moisture issues. Those are going to source, in your area of the country, not from rising water but basically from a problem with your drainage system: gutters that are undersized or not extended out away from the house far enough and that sort of thing. So just make sure you’re really careful about making – about having all of that water away from the house, that the grading slopes away and the downspouts are extended.
In terms of the insulation, so are you going to put stud walls up in the basement? Is that what you want to do?
JEFF: Yes. Yes.
TOM: So you have lots of options here. You can use a solid insulation board, such as what you have described, right on the foundation. You could also use a product like mineral-wool insulation inside the stud bays, which is a very moisture-resistant, stone-based insulation that is very, very effective. And I like it because it’s kind of stiff, so it’s easy to handle. I’m doing a big mineral-wool project myself now, putting that in floors right above a crawlspace foundation for the same reason.
Or you can go with spray foam if you really want to have a real tight space. That’s going to be a lot more expensive but I don’t see any issues with that. You could do any of those three methods and it will definitely make that space much more comfortable.
And then, of course, you’re going to want to add some heat into that basement space because you’re in a cold area of the country. And by adding a little heat, you keep the humidity actually in check, because that heat helps to make it drier in that space, as well.
JEFF: OK. I have a couple of boilers there, indirect with water heaters.
TOM: Yeah. Yep.
JEFF: And I could just add, probably, a couple of baseboard sections into that.
JEFF: Another question I have is – the outside of the foundation, from the ground up, can I paint that?
JEFF: Going back to the – I don’t want to lock moisture in there. Would it be OK to put some paint on the outside and make it look good?
TOM: Yeah. Just remember, what comes after paint? Repaint. More paint.
JEFF: I really enjoy your show. It’s really, really helpful. I learned a lot.
TOM: Wow, thank you so much, sir. Good luck with that project. Call us anytime.
JEFF: Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Well, natural-stone countertops have been a popular choice for kitchens but they’re also super-high maintenance. So, is the beauty and durability of those stone tops worth all the hassle? We’re going to highlight the pros and cons, in today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: OK. So, first up, stone countertops are definitely somewhat indestructible. Most can take a hot pan. They’re not going to dent, they’re not going to chip. Home buyers definitely love them, usually because they’ve never had them before and don’t know how much work they are to take care of. But given the popularity, you can definitely argue that they will add to your home’s value.
And of course, the stone is beautiful. It comes in many colors and patterns and the finish is almost always clear, so all that natural beauty shines through.
LESLIE: Yeah. They really are gorgeous.
But on the minus side, stone tops, they’re kind of expensive. And compared to solid surfaces and of course, laminates, they’re really expensive.
Now, the prices do vary based on the type of stone that you pick. With quartz and granite, usually they’re at the top end of that spending chart. Marble can sometimes be less but you have to remember that while marble is gorgeous, it’s softer and so it’s not going to wear as well as, say, the quartz or the granite. Plus, they’re going to darken with age. Generally, the lighter color you pick, it tends to darken over time.
Now, in terms of maintenance, granite tops demand the most. They’re sealed when they’re installed but frequently, we hear from our listeners who are dealing with stains from tomato sauce, coffee, vinegar, grape juice.
I mean I had a run-in – it was dumb. I was making red velvet cakes for Christmas, as I always do, and I’m usually super careful when I’m putting in the red food coloring. And this time, I don’t know, I threw caution to the wind and started pouring it in while the KitchenAid mixer was mixing. And the food coloring went everywhere. And now I have some lovely, little red spots on my granite countertop, no matter what I tried. But you’ve got to really be careful. So, sometimes the stains go in and they’re very difficult to get out.
TOM: I used to have to tell people that that red granite, that’s very expensive granite. Not anybody can just get that.
LESLIE: It has this one spot. Do you see this? This means it comes from a very valuable spot, wherever this came from.
TOM: That’s right. A very special mountain.
Well, listen, I don’t know where you fall on this, Leslie, but I think if we had to choose a stone top, we’d probably go with engineered quartz. You’ll find this in major brands, like Caesarstone and Silestone. Comes in lots of colors.
LESLIE: Yeah. And they look like the real thing.
TOM: Yeah, it does. And they’re called “engineered” because they’re made from a mix of natural quartz and dyes and polyester resin and that’s what makes it easy to care for. A few other chemicals tossed in but they have the advantage of being easy to maintain and definitely don’t require any sealers.
Those sealers – I tell you, those tops look great the day they’re put in but you’ve got to seal them every year or so. And if you spill something on it, like red coloring, good luck trying to get that out. Something you’re going to have to get used to.
LESLIE: I’ve got a kitchen renovation on my dream list and when that happens, you are so right that I’m going for a composite because I just want it to look great, I want it to last. It’s like I make mistakes, the kids make mistakes. You’ve got to be so careful. So choose wisely, my friends.
And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Sylvia in Pennsylvania on the line with a flooring question.
How can we help you today?
SYLVIA: I am moving from Pennsylvania, moving further south to get away from the snow. I don’t know if it’ll be South Carolina, Georgia or Florida but I am going to build myself a house and it’s going to be a small house. I’m wondering about in-floor heating but I would like to have a terrazzo floor. So can you put in-floor heating and cooling in a terrazzo floor?
TOM: So, first of all, congratulations on your plan. That sounds really exciting. Secondly, in terms of the floor – first of all, the floor can be heated. It can’t provide your cooling. You’re going to have to have a central air-conditioning system for that.
SYLVIA: I was wondering about that because I was wondering, too. Because cold settles and I’m thinking the floor would be cold but nothing else would be.
TOM: So, in terms of the heated floor, yes, there is a way to run PEX piping – which is a cross-linked polyethylene, hot-water piping – through underlayments that would go under tile. In fact, they make a specific type of plywood that’s actually channeled out for this very purpose, where the plumbing sort of lays inside tracks in the plywood. And then the mud floor or whatever you’re using underneath the terrazzo goes on top of that.
So, certainly, you can do that. It’s a pretty big project. But if you’re set on having this kind of floor, you can definitely do it. But it will be a more expensive heating system than other types.
SYLVIA: Well, I’m not really set on the terrazzo but I was thinking of it and – because it would be easy to clean. It would be just – from living in Florida, I am familiar with terrazzo floors. And I just thought that it was a possibility. I have not decided exactly yet. I’m just gathering information now.
TOM: Yeah. The answer is you could put hot-water heat through your floors pretty much with any type of material, including that. So, definitely an option for you, Sylvia. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sparky in Georgia on the line with, fittingly, an electrical question.
What can we do for you?
SPARKY: Hi. I’m in a prewired home that has RG59 coaxial cable coming into each room. I need to replace that now with RG6, which is a thicker coaxial cable. What is the best way of going through to replace all those?
TOM: Well, generally, whenever you want to rewire anything in a house, it doesn’t always make sense to remove what’s there. What you’ll generally do is cut it back. And you’ll just – essentially, you’re going to run the new cable as if you were putting it in for the first time. Of course, because the house is already up, it’s tricky to do this to run it through walls and stuff but you would use wire snakes to do this. And sometimes, if the cable is loose in the wall, you can actually attach the new cable to the old cable and pull it through at the same time.
Sometimes you can get away with that but it basically takes a lot of skill to run new wires in a house that’s already up. And that’s pretty much the way you do it. The answer is: any way you can. So, if your cable is loose and you can pull one end up and tie the other end to it so that you’re kind of pulling it all the way through, you do that. If you can’t do that because it’s nailed in place, then what you might do is just sort of snip off the ends, tuck it away in the wall and run a new cable next to it. But basically, it’s a bit of a tricky job and you try to get it done any way you can.
SPARKY: I gotcha. Very good. You’ve been helpful. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Ann in North Dakota, you’re on The Money Pit. How can we help you?
ANN: I am living in a house that is over 100 years old and it has an open staircase. The problem is is that there is a bedroom that is above the staircase and adjoins it at the top. And part of that bedroom is cantilevered partially and then totally over the open staircase. And I have a big crack that’s developing on an open area. And that area is cantilevered out about 6 feet from a load-supporting wall.
And I don’t know if I can just patch it or if I need to put a support beam or jack or something underneath it, because this area is getting pretty worrisome. I’ve got two cracks that are about 3/8-inch and pretty long.
TOM: So, Ann, are these new cracks or has it always been cracked?
ANN: It’s always been cracked but it’s been a hairline for many years.
TOM: Oh, boy.
ANN: And then we had a massive flood.
TOM: How long ago was the flood?
ANN: That was in ‘97. And then the ground has been shifting ever since.
TOM: In foundations and things like that, we always like to determine if they’re active or inactive because, frankly, all homes have cracks. If you tell me that over the last 20 or so years that this crack has opened from a hairline to 3/8-inch, it might be active. I’m not actually convinced of that yet but I am concerned enough to tell you that you probably should have it looked at by an expert.
What I’d like you to do is go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors; that’s ASHI – A-S-H-I – .com. And find a home inspector in your area – there’s a zip-code sorting tool there – that’s a member of ASHI. And talk to two or three of them and find one that specializes in structural issues like this and have them look at it. And see if we can determine, based on that inspection, whether or not this is an active, ongoing situation or just a crack in an old, plaster wall that needs to be fixed.
It’s not unusual for old homes to have lots of cracks in them and especially around a staircase, because just the way homes were framed back then is different than they would be today. And so, that’s not an uncommon area for cracks to develop. But I think we need to determine – for your own sort of sanity, if nothing else – whether or not this is active and ongoing or something that’s really just historical. Does that make sense?
ANN: It sure does.
TOM: Alright, Ann. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: So you’re thinking about doing some work in your house. You’ve got a room. It’s covered in wallpaper. Maybe that’s not your cup of tea but you want to make that room something really special. Well, we can help you get rid of that wallpaper, because it’s definitely a project that requires a lot of elbow grease. But we can help you make it go a little bit more quickly and a little bit more easier. And I’m talking about quicker and easier because it’s just a hard, time-consuming project. I mean nothing about removing wallpaper is quick and easy but what we can help you with is help you take out some steps.
TOM: That’s right. So, what are those steps? Well, here’s what you need to do. First of all, you need to score; that means lightly cut. Use a utility knife or a wallpaper scorer. There’s a tool called a “paper tiger” that’s got lots of little, tiny pin-pricky kind of holes in it. You rub it over the wallpaper and it puts all these little holes in it. And these little holes are important because whether you’re going to use a steamer or a wallpaper-remover solution, it lets it penetrate and get through behind that paper and sort of saturate that adhesive base.
And speaking of steamers, hands down, definitely the single easiest way to get rid of wallpaper is when you rent a steamer. It is so worth the cost because it literally melts that wallpaper off the wall. It’s a lot easier to use. You just work from the top down and you steam and you remove one section of wallpaper at a time.
Now, by the way, a little trick of the trade here. If it turns out that it comes off pretty easy, maybe you don’t want to do as much scoring. Because this way, you can pull it off in bigger sheets.
TOM: So if it comes off in small pieces, then maybe you have to do a lot of scoring but – because it’s harder to get off. But if it comes off in big sheets, give the steamer a chance and see what happens.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, if you’re finding that the wallpaper is just kind of resisting removal, you can make a mixture of hot water and fabric softener and just do equal parts of each. And you can pour that solution into a spray bottle and you apply it to those tough-to-remove spaces.
It really does work quickly. It’s amazing. I don’t understand how it works but this fabric-softener trick has been a thing that we’ve used for years. I’m sure there’s a lot of science behind it but for us, I’m like, “Wow, this is great.” And it makes the room smell really good while you’re working on it. But it does lose the effectiveness. So if you spray it on, work quick and work in small areas. Because after about 15 minutes, it’s just not going to fly.
TOM: Now, once the wallpaper is gone, it’s time to sort of prep it for whatever is coming next. If the wallpaper is removed, you want to use a mixture of distilled white vinegar and water to remove any remaining glue. And then wait until the surface is completely dry. Then I want you to apply a primer and paint. I like using the oil- or solvent-based primers. They just do a better job of sealing it all in. And then paint on top of that.
Or if you dare, new wallpaper. Just remember, you’re going to have to do this again 10 or 20 years in the future.
LESLIE: That is true. You know I love wallpaper, though.
TOM: I know.
LESLIE: I really do. I’ve taken to using the adhesive kind that’s sort of peel and remove later on.
TOM: Right. Peel-and-stick. Yeah.
LESLIE: Yeah. Especially in the kids’ rooms because I feel like their styles change so much. But that’s a good way, if you’re interested in having wallpaper without having to deal with the end result of it, which is removing the paper.
Whatever it is, you know, just know that this will help make your room look better and you can have the room of your dreams. Don’t let that wallpaper stand in your way. Just know you’ve got a weekend to work.
Dennis in Michigan is on the line with a water-heating issue.
Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
DENNIS: I am actually calling for a lady friend. She has a 1,500-square-foot home.
DENNIS: It’s on a well and septic. And the water heater is at one end of the house and the kitchen and the bathroom is at the other end of the house. And obviously, the hot water takes forever to get there. Is there something that can be done for that?
TOM: One of two things. So, what you could do is put in a second water heater and that would be a tankless water heater, closer to the point of consumption, which would be the bathrooms and the kitchen. And that will speed up that water.
And then Rinnai also has a type of water heater, that they’re just releasing on the market, that has like a recirculator built into it where it will actually pull a stream of water back and constantly keep it warm without driving up the utility cost too high. Does that make sense?
DENNIS: Well, OK. But the Rinnai, is that a tankless, also?
TOM: Yeah, Dennis. The Rinnai product is called the Ultra Series. And it basically is sort of a breakthrough in recirculation technology. So I would check out the Rinnai website. I believe it’s ForeverHotWater.com. And there you’ll be able to take a look at the Ultra Series of tankless water heaters and that might just solve this problem once and for all.
DENNIS: Yeah. So that would probably save energy, too.
TOM: Absolutely. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Cathleen in Texas is on the line and has some questions about a garage floor. What can we do for you?
CATHLEEN: I’ve been considering doing an epoxy covering on my floor with the paint flecks for quite some time. And I was told by someone who does flooring that he would not recommend that, because he said when your hot tires pull into the garage and sit on that flooring, that it breaks the seal. And then where those tires go, that is a constant wear factor. Is there anything better or newer on the market for that type of product or what would you suggest?
TOM: I don’t agree with that at all. In fact, epoxy floor coatings are designed specifically to stand up to hot tires and also icy and salt-covered cars that are dripping on them. If it’s done right, you’ll have proper adhesion. If it’s done wrong, you can get peel-up of the floor. But epoxy floors are designed for garages; they’re designed specifically to take that kind of punishment.
So, I just – I very much disagree with your painter. Maybe he had a bad experience. But if he did, all I can say that remember, it’s unusual to find bad paint but it’s fairly common to find bad painters. And if he skipped a step or didn’t prep the floor properly, that would cause that condition to occur.
CATHLEEN: OK. Well, this gentleman did the staining of concrete floors, so maybe he just didn’t like doing that type of work.
CATHLEEN: I don’t know but …
TOM: Maybe he doesn’t like to paint floors; he likes to stain them. But I’m just telling you I think it works well. Look at the products by QUIKRETE, for example. The epoxy floor products there are fantastic. They’re beautiful, they’re really durable and they go down pretty quickly.
CATHLEEN: Oh, well, that’s great. I really appreciate it.
TOM: Alright, Cathleen. Good luck with that project. Let us know how it comes out.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re a pet-lover and you’re considering a new décor or remodeling project, you probably already know that a lot of home improvements don’t necessarily fit well with your pets. Although that Persian rug may really look nice in your house, it’s probably not the best choice if you’ve got a puppy. You know what I’m saying? So you kind of have to think about what’s going in the house and what stage your animals are in. Durability is key, especially when it comes to flooring.
TOM: Yeah. But fortunately, there’s a lot of easy clean-up floors that are super durable. So we’re talking about laminate, engineered hardwood, engineered vinyl plank, the luxury vinyl plank, the wood-look porcelain tile or ceramic floor.
Or my latest favorite is this new hybrid-stone flooring. It’s called Duravana and LL Flooring just came out with it. And this stuff is so incredibly tough. They sent me a box of it and I was kind of checking it out. And I took my 16-ounce hammer and just slammed the surface of it to see if I could dent it. And it was so hard and the hammer just bounced off and it had no marks on it. I tried to scratch it; couldn’t do it.
So, lots of choices like that and not expensive, either. Actually a lot less expensive than carpet or any of the other floors that you may have had in the past. So those are all good options if you have floors, because they look great and they are pretty much pet-proof.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what a good benefit of hard flooring is, especially if you’ve got a super-fluffy or hairy dog or cat? Is that they like to lay on it because it keeps them cool in the summer months. So, that’s just an added bonus.
TOM: Yeah. That’s a great point.
If you’d like more tips on pet-friendly design and decorating tips, you can search “pet-friendly design” on MoneyPit.com. And we’ve got a nice guidebook there that will walk you through all of the options including, I’m sure, some you never thought of.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Sue from Ohio on the line.
Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
SUE: Yes. We had a wooden wheelchair ramp built for my father and it’s with the treated lumber. And wanted an idea or what product we could use to kind of keep the ice and the snow off of there without damaging the wood.
TOM: You know, there are different types of salts that can be effective as to prevent snow and ice. What you want to do, though, is make sure that you not use sodium chloride or a rock salt. You want to use calcium chloride. Calcium chloride is less corrosive. It has less of an impact on plants and on pets but does just as good a job of keeping the snow and the ice off.
What I would suggest is you take this calcium chloride and you mix it up with playground sand – the kind of sand that you might put in a sandbox – and create sort of a mixture that you can keep handy so that whenever you do get a little bit of ice and snow, you can spread the salt/sand mixture down and keep that ramp clear.
SUE: OK. Great. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Sue. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Whatever you are working on, we can lend a hand. Drop us a line, like George in Colorado did.
Now, George says, “It has been close to zero and snowing for much of the last several weeks. I have more than a foot of snow on my deck. When does it make sense to clear it? I’m afraid of things getting too heavy or even just damaging the wood by sitting on top of it for so long.”
TOM: Well, first of all, I wouldn’t be as concerned about your deck, maybe – well, I guess unless it’s a second-story deck – as much as I would be about your roof. So let’s start there because gravity stinks.
When you get that much snow on a surface like that and if it’s sitting up there, especially if it’s on the roof and let’s say it gets to be a foot or more thick, you have to really watch out for is when it starts to melt. Because what happens is the water will sort of soak into the snow, the snow kind of crusts over on top. And that whole surface holds it back and it gets very, very heavy because the wet snow is a lot heavier than just the snow that fell the first time. And the same thing definitely applies to your deck.
So if you get heavy snowfalls (inaudible) and you live in an area like Colorado – like you do, George – I would invest in a snow rake, which is a very lightweight type of rake that’s pretty wide and it’s telescoping. You put the sections together and with it, you can easily reach up and pull it towards you to pull down large portions of that snow that accumulates on your roof. And in terms of the deck, yeah, especially if it’s a second-story deck, I would definitely pull some of that snow off the deck, as well. I wouldn’t worry too much about the wood. I’m more concerned about the weight and especially the weight of wet snow.
I have a friend who’s a farmer and he’s a pretty good builder. And he had a barn that wasn’t in terribly bad shape that collapsed because of a melting-snow situation like that. And unfortunately, he lost some livestock as a result of that. So, it does happen and you can prevent it just by pulling that snow down. And the quicker you do it, by the way, the better; it gets heavier as time goes on. So the quicker you pull it down, the better it is for you and for your building.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Anthony writes us saying, “We purchased a condo built on a concrete slab in Ashburn, Virginia. Do we need to get a radon test done by the home inspector?”
TOM: Home inspectors may or may not offer radon tests. It’s not part of a standard home inspection but some home inspectors are separately certified for that. So, there’s that.
In terms of the area, Virginia is an interesting state. It’s a little bit like New Jersey in that we have areas of high, medium and low risk. The EPA has radon zones that are divided into tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3. And these radon zones will give you a sense as to what you might expect to find.
Now, the third thing to consider here is that this is a condo built on a concrete slab. Now, if you have a basement – and that’s going to be your lowest living space, because that’s where you test – that’s the place where it’s most likely to be the highest, right? But if you have a condo and it’s a slab, you’re really testing the first floor. Even if that particular area does have high radon, it may not be as much of a concern because it’s the first floor.
But given all that, all the ups and the downs and the ins and the outs, I would say yes, go ahead and test it. It’s only going to cost you 100 bucks or so to have your home inspector do it, maybe 150. And you’re going to know what it is and you’ll have some peace of mind as a result. So, I’d say go ahead and do it.
LESLIE: Well, Anthony, good luck with that radon test. And even more luck with your amazing, new condo. I hope you guys have a lot of wonderful memories made there.
TOM: You’re listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show and we are so glad you are. If you are tucked warm and cozy in your house and you’re thinking about some projects you’d like to get done to spruce that space up or you’re planning for projects for the year ahead, we are standing by to help you, 24/7. You can reach us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we promise to call you back the next time we are. Or you can post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
But for today, that’s all the time we have. The show does continue online. 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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