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: Hey, what are you working on this beautiful weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in the right place. We are here to help.
Coming up on today’s program, it’s almost time to send those kids off to college. So, if you’re shopping for your college student’s home-away-from-home, we’re going to have some tips this hour on some dorm essentials that will offer up function, flair and free up some extra space.
LESLIE: And older windows have their charms but they come with their challenges, too. We’re going to explain how to free those windows when they get stuck and keep them free without damaging the panes or shattering the glass.
TOM: Plus, storms that pop up in late summer and early fall can be the most severe and cause the most damage. We’ll have tips to stay storm-ready, in just a bit.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you are working on. Give us a call this summer weekend. We want to give you a hand with whatever it is you’ve got going on at your money pit. We’re standing by to help you out.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
And on a very warm weekend, folks are lining up to chat. What’s going on, Leslie? Who’s first?
LESLIE: Andrew in Iowa, what can we do for you today?
ANDREW: I have a roof that was redone with [vent ridge] (ph). And I’m getting snow in my attic and I want to make the attic a livable space. I’ve been kind of redoing with drywall and I don’t know if I should kind of redo the [vent ridge] (ph) or if I can do spray-foam insulation before I do it or kind of what my next step would be.
TOM: And you’re asking a couple of different questions, so let me kind of break them down.
First of all, to stop the snow from coming into your attic, that’s a common thing that happens with ridge vents. There’s a type of vent called a “filter vent.” It’s made by CertainTeed. Their brand is called Air Vent. That’s their website: AirVent.com. And the filter vent has this mesh inside that lets air pass in and out but stops the snow and the rain from doing the same. So, that’s just the factor of having the right type of vent product.
Now, in terms of making that a livable space, I will say, as someone who owns a home where we had the attic completely sprayed with spray foam, I was very, very impressed with the results. The attic is really quite pleasant now. And we only use it for storage. I did it for insulation, not for finishing. But the attic is very pleasant in the summer. It’s not hot in the winter. It’s not cold. It’s always ambient temperature up there.
And if you do use spray-foam insulation, then you would actually block off all of your vents. You would take them out. You don’t need to vent a roof if you’re going to spray the underside of it with spray foam. It’s a ventless system by its design.
So, that’s an option that you can choose. Or you could just put the filter vent in and finish it as it is. But I will say that the spray foam will give you better insulation up there in that space than you could get by using a fiberglass batt, simply because the rafters aren’t very deep in most cases and you can’t get enough inches of insulation in there.
ANDREW: Alright. Well, perfect. Thank you. I have a lower and upper attic, so it’s a lot of space. So I just wanted to make sure I had the right plan before I went. So, it sounds like the spray-foam insulation is, so thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Catherine in Michigan is on the line with a basement-window question. How can we help you with this project?
CATHERINE: Yeah. I’m just wondering if block windows are the best option for a basement window, as far as security and energy efficiency.
TOM: Well, block windows are – they may be secure, because they’re block windows, but they’re certainly not energy-efficient. And most importantly, they’re not ventable; they don’t open.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Nor are they an egress. You know, you need to have a window that you can escape out of from a basement.
TOM: Well, if you have living space down there, you need a window that you have to escape out of. But if it’s a traditional basement window that’s a small window, it’s never going to be an egress window but it sure is nice to have one that you can open to – and you can get some ventilation when you have to, so …
CATHERINE: But we would get the vents that they put in the middle of the block window.
TOM: Yeah, still not very big. I don’t know. I’m not crazy about block as an option for windows. I would recommend a traditional basement window. You can get a thermal-pane basement window. Very energy-efficient. If you need security, then you can install window bars. But just make sure they have an escape mechanism that you can activate from inside so that you can get out through that window if you had to.
So that’s our two cents. If you like the block windows and you think you’re going to get enough ventilation out of it, then go ahead. But for me, I would never put a block window in a basement. I’d always use a traditional window. I think that’s what people expect in homes. I think doing something different like that could adversely affect my home value. I think I’m going to get the best overall results by doing just that.
I hope that helps you out. Catherine, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Eric in Hawaii on the line who needs help with a roofing question and Tom and I to come there and help in person.
ERIC: How are you guys doing?
TOM: We’re doing great. How can we help you with your cedar roof?
ERIC: Well, it is past its life, so I will need to replace it. It’s very expensive out here so I’m wondering, is there any other new products that I can put over – I’ve got skip-sheeted base.
TOM: Right. You have space sheathing.
ERIC: Yes, yes. So, is there any other product, besides the cedar shake, that I can go with that style? Or would I have to sheet it or – I’m looking for affordability.
TOM: Alright. Maybe is my answer. Is that definite enough for you? I’m thinking about a product that’s a composite roofing shingle that’s called DaVinci Roofscapes.
Now, these look more like a stone roof, like a slate roof, than they do a cedar roof. But they’re a tile product. So because they’re a tile-like product, I don’t know if you need to put a solid-plywood sheathing underneath. I suspect that you will not have to. So you may be able to put them on in much the same way that you have with your spaced sheathing on the cedar.
How old is that cedar roof, by the way?
ERIC: Unbelievably, 30 years old.
TOM: It’s not unbelievable to me and here’s why. The fact that you have it on spaced sheathing means that it was able to dry out from the top and the bottom. Cedar is not waterproof so you wonder, “Well, why does it actually keep the water out of my house?” Well, because it absorbs that water and allows the – most of it to run off. But the way it lasts as long as it does is it has to be able to dry very easily. And so many people that put cedar roofs on today nail them against tar paper on top of plywood sheathing and you really can’t get any air underneath it, so that’s why those roofs last a very short timeframe.
So, I think your options are either to consider a composite roof, like the DaVinci product – you can look online, find them at DaVinciRoofscapes.com – or you consider replacing the cedar or you could go with plywood and a new asphalt-shingle roof that looks like cedar. I would price it out all three ways, do a little more homework and then make the best choice for you.
The nice thing about your roof is that it rarely is an emergency. I think you’re starting to identify the fact that it’s worn. I don’t know if you’ve had any kind of major damage. But generally, you can nurse a roof along for a year or two if you absolutely have to. But now is definitely the time to start looking into the options.
ERIC: Alright. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Eric. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to HomeAdvisor.com.
TOM: And still ahead, do you have a college student heading off to a dorm very soon? We’ve got some fun and functional organizational ideas that can help, just ahead.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We’d love to hear what you are working on or what you’re thinking about working on. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online, all for free.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rosie in Iowa who’s got a window question.
Hey, Rosie. What’s going on? How can we help you?
ROSIE: We have Andersen Windows, which we just love the low-E glass on the first level. We want to put some – keep the hot sun and the cold out in the – we want to put new windows on the third level, in the bedroom, the guest rooms.
TOM: Right. Mm-hmm. Yep.
ROSIE: Can you suggest what type of window? We’d have to do a replacement window.
TOM: Yeah. Andersen has a replacement window called the 400 Series. It’s a tilt-wash window, so like a double-hung that tilts down for cleaning. And it’s specifically a replacement window.
So, you order the window to fit the size of your existing windows there that you’re going to replace. And you can order it at The Home Depot. And I think the average cost is about $300 across the country, more or less, depending on size and features. But that’s a good window. It’s got high-performance glass in it; it’s got low-E4 glass in it.
ROSIE: Oh, we just love the ones we put in the basement. You can leave it – the window – open. You know, I’ve got plants down there and it doesn’t even feel warm, the sun.
TOM: Yeah. Take a look at the Andersen 400 Series Window at The Home Depot, OK?
ROSIE: Well, we were thinking about a cheaper one, like Window World or somewhere like that.
TOM: Why do that? You’ve had great experience with Andersen and the price is pretty fair. The average price is about 300 bucks.
ROSIE: Thank you so much. And that was Series 400?
TOM: Series 400. 400 Series. That’s correct.
ROSIE: Four hundred. Well, now you want to come and put them in for me? You’re so good at it and I know you love extra money.
TOM: I can’t do that, Della, but I’m sure the pros at The Home Depot could help. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: William in North Carolina is on the line with a mold question. What can we do for you today?
WILLIAM: Mold and mildew. How do you eradicate it? And I’ve got it on the walls, on the ceiling, which I’m going to pull that out. But I’ve been told different things. I mean can you simply try to bleach it off of walls or …?
TOM: Alright. Hey, William, let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about this mold that you’re seeing. Tell me what kind of house you have, how old your house is, where you’re finding the mold, how long it’s been going on and that sort thing, OK? Talk to us.
WILLIAM: Sure. It’s a cabin out in the woods. And it is in the shade. It was built in 1960. And it is a wooden structure. The walls on the inside are both wood – knotty pine – and it’s beautiful. And then the bathroom is where the real concentration is. That is a stucco-type wall.
TOM: Alright. So you have a cabin. Does the cabin have heating?
WILLIAM: It does, yes.
TOM: Yeah, OK. But it’s not used year-round?
WILLIAM: It’s not. And unfortunately, I let someone stay here for the past year. And I don’t think they maintained it.
TOM: Well, typically, when you have cabins such as the one that you described, it will grow mold more quickly than a place that has a more typical HVAC system that’s properly maintained. And usually, what you have to do is go in and thoroughly clean it.
Now, there are lots of different products to do that but it definitely has to be done. And you have to also be very careful because as you’re doing this, you could risk releasing those mold spores and also breathing them, which could make you sick. So you need proper cleaning materials and you need proper ventilation materials so that you are not breathing that back in.
WILLIAM: A mask, yeah, certainly.
TOM: A mask and ventilation techniques like, for example, depressurizing the cabin while you’re doing the work because, otherwise, the mold spores get released to the air.
TOM: Honestly, it’s not a do-it-yourself job although I know a lot of folks that have hunting cabins and that sort of thing will do it themselves. But you’ve got to be really careful the way you go about this, because you could make it worse.
WILLIAM: OK. So, what are the materials that are typically used? Is it a bleach type?
TOM: Yeah. Usually, there’s a bleach-type material. It’s an oxygenated bleach type of a product or it’s a diluted bleach. There are a number of commercial products that are like that that are out there. 30 SECONDS Cleaner is one of them. And you have to apply it and you have to let it sit, because it will kill the mold spores, and then you rinse it off.
But it’s a process and there’s a lot of elbow grease involved. And then you have to maintain it. But if you do it once and do it right, some of these products will also have an inhibitor as part of them so that it won’t grow mold as quickly in the future.
WILLIAM: OK. Yeah, the situation I have is because it is so deep in the woods that it really does not get any sunlight during the day.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. I get that. Mm-hmm.
WILLIAM: Yeah. So, yeah. And the way it has been raining here in North Carolina, I think that’s just exasperated the situation.
TOM: Yeah, no doubt. Well, you’ve just got to – you’re just going to have to do a little more maintenance to try to keep that at bay. But like I say, that those – the new products have inhibitors in them so that hopefully that will slow it down.
WILLIAM: OK. What was the one you just said? Thirty minute …?
TOM: Yeah, 30 SECONDS Cleaner is a good product. JOMAX is another one that’s been around for a long time. It’s made by Zinsser. Just follow the label directions and I think that you’ll be very happy with the result, OK?
TOM: Well, back-to-school time is just about here. And for college-bound kids, that means shopping for dorm-room essentials. To make sure your scholar has furniture that is functional, here’s a few things to think about.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you want to think about tower shelving. Now, it doesn’t have to take up much floor space but it does allow plenty of storage high up. You also want to look for things like storage ottomans. Now, these cubes are perfect for use as extra seating, maybe a side table. And it secretly gives your student a place to stow their stuff.
TOM: And you can make the most use of every inch of dorm room with under-bed storage bins and over-the-top door hanging racks. And if you add in a collapsible laundry bin for their basket, your college-bound kid will be all set.
For more tips to help get your kids ready for school, visit MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Rose in Pennsylvania is on the line who has a problem – and I’m sorry to say in this horrific, hot summer – cooling her home. Tell us what’s going on.
ROSE: Well, actually, it’s just one room. The house is air-conditioned but we have a room addition that was put on over a concrete porch and below that, a basement. And I was told that we couldn’t get a duct or an outlet into this room. And I heard Richard Trethewey from This Old House talking. He was going to talk about heating and air-conditioning a room without ducts. And unfortunately, I couldn’t stay to listen to it and I wondered if you could tell me about that.
TOM: Yeah. What Richard was talking about is something that we call “mini-split ductless.”
Now, in a situation like this, a mini-split ductless system would be perfect. Because, like the name, you don’t have any ducts, so you don’t have to have a traditional air handler and then ducts that extend into the space.
A mini-split ductless consists of a compressor that’s outside and then the air handler, which hangs on the wall inside your addition. And there’s a refrigerant tube and electrical wires that go from one to the next. And when the thermostat tells it to come on, the mini-split ductless system will come on. It will cool your house and it will also – could potentially warm it, as well, because you can get a mini-split ductless system that’s set up as a heat pump, as well as just an air conditioner. So you could have additional heat in that space, as well as cooling.
They’re made by a wide variety of manufacturers. You could take a look at, for example, Mitsubishi.
TOM: Mr. Slim makes one. Fujitsu makes one.
And I have one in my office – actually, in my studio. And I have one in the studio because it’s so quiet, we can be on the radio even with the mini-split ductless running.
ROSE: Well, that’s great. And the – if it had heating, obviously, that would be an electrical heating, right?
TOM: Well, it’s a heat pump.
ROSE: Oh, OK. Because we have oil heat for the house and air conditioning but just this one room …
TOM: Yeah, it’s electrical, yeah. But it’s a heat-pump system. Basically, the difference between heating and cooling, when you’re using this, is a heat pump reverses the refrigeration cycle so that you get warm air inside, as opposed to cold air.
ROSE: Oh, OK. And are there any estimates, like just starting out, what price might be? I know it depends on, I imagine, the – how large a room is. But I just wondered, into the thousands, of course?
TOM: Yeah, it will be into the thousands. I’m going to say probably a couple of thousand dollars.
ROSE: For the unit plus installation?
TOM: Right, exactly. Yeah. It’s not inexpensive but it’s a real problem-solver.
TOM: And once you have it, you’ll be so much more comfortable. And you’ll get the use out of that room, you know? Right now, you can’t use the room too much, so you’ll get the use out of it.
ROSE: Well, we have the door open and the air and the cool – heat comes in somewhat but you need a fan. In the winter, you need a little heater to add to it.
TOM: Yeah, this is a perfect solution for you, Rose. Take a look at the mini-split ductless systems. They have to be professionally installed but it’s going to make you much more comfortable in that space.
ROSE: OK. Well, thanks a lot and I do enjoy listening to you every week.
TOM: Thanks, Rose.
LESLIE: Don’t forget you can reach us here with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, older windows are more challenging than charming when they get stuck shut or worse, stuck open. Sound familiar? We’ve got some tips for working those stuck windows free without causing more damage, when The Money Pit continues.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And The Money Pit is presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. That’s all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Howard from North Carolina on the line with a water-softening question. What can we do for you today?
HOWARD: Well, my question, really, has to do with the EasyWater Water Conditioner. And I’m making a distinction here between water softening and conditioning, because I understand that products that don’t use salt really are not softeners but they are conditioners. And I think that’s really what my need is.
I have no problem with the relative softness of the water, if you will, for cleaning purposes. However, it is a lime- and scale-producing water. It’s municipal water but it comes from an artesian-well system.
So my question, really, is: is this the product on the market? Are there other ones that do much the same thing? How proven is it? Is it something that I can reliably install or is it still relatively an unproven item? It seems to be a name that’s in the market but I’m not – I’m just looking for some endorsement of it, I guess.
TOM: Alright. So, several years ago, EasyWater was a sponsor of the show. They haven’t been for many years. And when that happened, they sent me one of their units and we don’t have well water but I had a friend of mine that did have it. And he installed the EasyWater system on his main water line, as directed, and had really miraculous results. And it really got me interested in the technology.
And the way it essentially works is if you can think of a way a magnet works, where positive sides repel each other, that’s kind of the way EasyWater works. It forces the particles that go through – the hard-water particles – to not stick. That leads to less scale and other types of buildups that stick to pipes and stick to faucets and so on. So that’s basically the way it works.
I will say that I do know they have a really good warranty on it and I think it’s like a 90-day, money-back guarantee. It’s pretty long, from what I recall. So I see no reason to tell you not to try it. I’ve had good experiences with it through the test unit – the dummy – that they sent us. They have a pretty good warranty on it. I’d give it a shot.
HOWARD: Alright. Thank you, Tom.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Old windows have their charm but they also have their maintenance headaches.
TOM: Well, that’s right. And one of which is how to get them moving again if they get stuck. So we’re going to walk you through how to do just that, step by step.
LESLIE: Now, it’s hard to paint a window without getting it stuck shut. And the adhesive quality of paint is really something to behold.
TOM: Oh, my gosh, it so is. And you have to be really careful how you free up those stuck windows. Because if you don’t do it right, you will damage the windows or break the glass.
So, there’s two ways to break those windows free without breaking the windows in the process. The first thing you want to do is use a wood block. And then you want to tap the inside sash down.
Now, the sash is the part that slides up and down, right? So you put this wood block right above sort of that vertical part of the sash, the right and the left sides. And you tap them down. Well, you’re thinking, “Well, it’s already closed. Why am I making it tighter?” Well, you’re not really because you’re going to sort of flex that window just enough that the paint seam that’s glued shut will break free. I’ve done this hundreds of times and it works almost every single time. And I haven’t broken a window yet trying it. But as long as you put that wood block on in and give her a good tap, that will work.
And then if that doesn’t work, you can also use a 5-in-1 painter’s tool, right? I mean I think this is probably a little more work but people may feel more comfortable doing it, Leslie.
LESLIE: Yeah. But you really have to work your way all the way around the sash.
So, first of all, you want to cut through the paint seal along both of those vertical sides of the sash and then along the stool at the bottom of the sash and at the meeting rail where the two window sashes meet. Then you’ve got to gently tap that painter’s tool with a hammer between the window sash and the window jamb.
Here you go, guys, though: as you tap that painter’s tool, you want to make sure you have an assistant hold the vacuum hose directly below, because there’s going to be a lot of paint dust and chips. So, better to sort of contain it all before you make a huge mess.
TOM: Yeah. And then you can move outside and repeat the process. Just cut that paint seal around the entire sash.
Then what you do is slip a flat pry bar underneath the sash, directly in line with the window’s vertical stile, then gently push it up until the sash breaks free. And from the inside after that, raise and lower that sash a few times just to make sure that it smoothly slides up and down. You can actually add a bit of talcum powder to the sides of those windows to help it go a little more quickly.
LESLIE: James in Ohio has something going on with a driveway. What are you working on?
JAMES: I’m looking at a driveway. It’s about 35 feet long and it’s concrete. And it’s probably 30 years old. And it’s got cracks in it but not real severe. And they have separated a little bit, about ½-inch in some of the big slabs.
What I wanted to do is fill the cracks full of tar and then after a couple of dressings of that, put some asphalt paving on top of it, just out of the buckets. You know, the dressing? And I wondered if that would work to preserve the cement that’s already there rather than replace the whole driveway.
TOM: What part of the country are we from again?
TOM: So you have winter.
TOM: You’re talking about taking concrete, sealing the cracks and then covering it with asphalt sealer?
TOM: That doesn’t make any sense.
TOM: You don’t want to do that at all. No. No, it’s going to be a mess. You’re going to trap a lot of water in between the two surfaces. It’s going to look like heck, too. Asphalt sealer is designed for asphalt driveways, not concrete driveways.
TOM: Now, let me give you some other ideas.
So with a concrete driveway, you can repair the cracks. There’s products that companies like QUIKRETE make that can seal those cracks. There’s also a resurfacing product that QUIKRETE makes that’s called Re-Cap. And it’s one that you can mix up and you can apply to the entire driveway. And it’s specifically designed to stick to the old concrete and it sticks like crazy. You can have it be a smooth finish. You can have it be a broom finish so you have a little coarseness of it so it’s not as easy to slip when it gets cold and icy. But you definitely don’t want to cover concrete with asphalt sealer. It wouldn’t work.
JAMES: Well, I tried patching some of the cracks with some of that repair stuff. It lasted about a year and then it just flaked off. It just made it – it cracked and everything else but …
TOM: You’ve got to use the right stuff and follow the manufacturer’s procedures for it. But this Re-Cap stuff is pretty amazing. I’ve seen how – some of the tests done live on how well it sticks to old concrete. And it sticks so well that when they try to pull it off, it usually actually yanks out chunks of the old concrete with it.
TOM: Stone and all, OK?
JAMES: That sounds good.
JAMES: Sounds good, yeah.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: We want to hear what you are working on, so give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, have you noticed a big increase in summer lightning storms? We’re going to have tips on how to protect your home’s electrical panels from lightning-surge damage, after this.
Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
LESLIE: You can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.
And you’ve got a couple of pros standing by, right now, to take your questions. So pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Gloria in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
GLORIA: Yeah. Oh, hi. I’m calling about the product SUNDEK. It’s also called Kool Deck. And I really just find – it’s that product that keeps your feet very cool? I had a pool put in and so when you get out of the water, it’s nice and cool on the feet; you don’t have the hot cement.
But I find it very hard to keep clean. It looks kind of unsightly and when it rains, it just seems to attract dirt. Prior to the SUNDEK, I had cement and I found that it dried very quickly. I could take the hose and it was all very fresh. And this product just tends to hold water. I believe it’s an acrylic base. I just wondered, you know – I don’t know if I could even have it removed somehow, kind of with some solution or if there’s some suggestion about how to take care of it.
TOM: Gloria, I don’t think you have to remove or strip the Kool Deck paint to get it to clean it. Kool Deck is actually made by a company called Mortex – M-o-r-t-e-x. Their website is Mortex.com. And they make not only the Kool Deck but they make a cleaner that can be used on top of that; it’s a commercial-quality cleaner.
So I would go to their website and look up the Kool Deck product, look up the cleaners. There is a website – there’s a – sorry, a link and a telephone number there where you can call and purchase the product. I don’t think you’ll find it in a home center or a hardware store; you may have to go direct. But we have the technology. No need to repair or replace what you have. You can keep it clean.
GLORIA: Well, thank you so much. That’s going to be wonderful. I really appreciate your help.
LESLIE: Well, each year the cost of lightning storms adds up to millions of dollars of damage to electrical systems in homes throughout the country. To prevent this from happening to you, it’s a good idea to install a surge arrester.
TOM: Well, that’s right. And this is really the initial step for whole-house protection. Because what it will do is safeguard any hardwired equipment, like an air-conditioning system or appliance that can’t be protected by those plug-in surge devices.
Now, you’re going to need an electrician to help you get the job done. That’s going to be probably a couple hundred dollars service charge on the part but it could save you a lot of money.
And I had a neighbor experience this during a storm. I had surge protection; she did not. And it wasn’t obvious right away, because she was away. But over the first couple of weeks after she got back, we figured out that she had last two garage-door openers and she had lost her phone system – her modem and her phone system – and she had lost – what was the other thing? Oh yes, her computer. So all of that happened because of a lightning strike.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s the worst.
TOM: And I don’t even know it was a lightning strike. It was just a surge that blew it all out.
LESLIE: Carl in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CARL: We’re leasing a house and we’ve been in the house now for almost three years and getting to the point of trying to decide should this be the house we buy or should we be looking elsewhere. And the owner has indicated that he’d be interested in selling. But one of the nice things about leasing a house is you find out about all of its good things and all of its not-so-good things.
TOM: Yeah, you get to kick the tires.
CARL: Yeah. And the house was built in the mid-90s and so it’s got a few of the things that a house that age would have. But one of the things that concerned us is that we noticed that in the master bath, it’s got tile on the floor. And when you start walking on the floor, you can almost hear the tile crunching underneath your feet.
CARL: The tile doesn’t actually move but you also feel a rise, sort of, at certain spots.
TOM: Yeah. Sounds loose? Well, look, I don’t think that’s unusual with vinyl tile. It’s vinyl tile. Is that what you said?
CARL: It’s ceramic tile.
TOM: Oh, it’s ceramic tile. Well, OK, first of all, I don’t feel it’s all that unusual with ceramic tile. It may not have been put down properly. I don’t think it necessarily means that the house is moving; it probably points more accurately to a defect in the installation itself.
But what you should absolutely do, before you consider going further on this house, is have a professional home inspector look at it. Because a home inspection, that’s done consistent with the standards of practice at the American Society of Home Inspectors, is going to look at those structural issues, look at the mechanical issues and trust me, find things that, even living in that house, that you are completely unaware of.
TOM: And that’s the best way to kind of know what you’re getting into and be able to negotiate from a position of strength and knowledge.
CARL: Sure, sure. Alright. Thank you. We’ll find one; we happen to know a few in town here and we’ll give the guy a call.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Still ahead, do you ever wish that your house could dust itself? Ah, the old magical cleaning dreams where you never have to lift a finger again. Well, we’re going to tell you how you can cut down on dust and improve your home’s air quality, too, when The Money Pit continues after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And what are you working on this hot summer weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in the right place because we are here to help. You can call us at 888-MONEY-PIT with your question or you can post it online at The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com. And that is what Maggie did and she’s facing a dusty situation.
LESLIE: That’s right. Now, Maggie writes: “When I dust my house in the evening, everything is covered again by the next morning. Could the problem be stemming from the heat-pump system? We’ve had the unit thoroughly cleaned, inside and out, to no avail.”
TOM: So, yeah, it certainly could be caused by the HVAC system. And the reason that it probably is redepositing dust around is because you don’t have a good filtration system as part of that. So, upgrading your filters can make a big difference.
Now, you can buy very inexpensive filters for a dollar or two but they don’t stop very much. If you want good filtration, you’ve got to spend a little bit more. Not a lot more. You can buy a good-quality filter for probably $5 or $10 or $15 that will do a much better job of holding that dust back. Or you could have an electronic air filter installed. And that can stop virus-sized dust particles. I mean it really works very, very well.
So, a couple of options right there and I think that’ll have – definitely have an impact, not only on the air quality but on how much time you’re spending with the housekeeping.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. That would be amazing, Maggie. Good luck with that. It’s a super-simple fix.
Next up, we’ve got a post here from Brian. Now, Brian writes: “I recently lost power to two rooms in my house. A friend had me test a few things and he said there’s a bad wire somewhere in the wiring. I would hire an electrician but we’re trying to save money right now, so I’m going to have to do this job myself. Is there a device I can use to test the wiring in the house to find the bad wire? And how should I go about doing this?”
TOM: Hmm. You should not go about doing this.
LESLIE: Yeah, that makes me super nervous.
TOM: You know, there’s a reason electricians work for several years before they get licensed, because it’s dangerous. It’s hazardous, especially in a situation like yours where you’re kind of trying to find a needle in a haystack, Brian.
So, while I clearly understand your desire to save a few bucks on this, it’s really not a DIY project. It’s not the kind of undertaking that you would want to take on on your own.
One simple thing that you could do before calling a pro, though, is to pick up an outlet tester. Outlet testers are inexpensive. They just plug in like any other appliance. And there are three lights on it. And depending on which lights come on, it will tell you at least if your outlets are wired correctly, if they’re grounded, if the polarity is correct.
But as for determining where the disconnect is, it’s definitely going to take some detective work and the skills of a professional electrician. So don’t do it yourself.
LESLIE: My goodness. Doing it yourself could cause such damage to you. It’s such a dangerous project. So really take your time, hire a pro. Look around the house. If there are other things that are acting up that you can bring the electrician in to sort of group together into one project, so at least you’re only paying one service call and utilizing that hourly fee or whatever it is that they’re charging you, you’re really then getting the biggest bang for your buck.
But it’s such a danger, if you’re not familiar with the process, to even think about doing it yourself.
TOM: And you know what else, too? What you’re seeing is a symptom, right? You lost power to a couple of rooms. It’s very possible that that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You could have a wire that’s shorting out somewhere. You could have a fire that could be getting ready to start. So, it’s not always just solving the problem that it shows itself; there could be a deeper problem. And that’s why you just don’t want to do that kind of job yourself.
LESLIE: Alright, Brian. I hope that helps you out and I hope you don’t spend too much money on it. But I promise you the savings in the end could be your life. So, definitely money well spent.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this summer weekend with us. If you’ve got questions about projects that you’re taking on in your money pit, you want to go from money pit to palace, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Or any time of the day or night, we are always here to take those calls. If we’re not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are.
But for now, that is all the time we have. 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 2019 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.)