- Child-Proofing Your Home: Are you overlooking ways to child-proof your home? Remember these important DIY tips for keeping your kids safe in every room.
- Energy-Efficient Windows: If you’ve got drafty old windows, there are ways to make them more energy-efficient without replacing them. Find out the best options for restoring windows in an older home.
- Upgrading Your Front Door: Making a good first impression begins with having a great front door. Here’s what to consider when choosing a new front door that will add value and style to your home.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Musty Odors in a Vacant Home: Mary wants to know what could cause musty odors in a vacant home she’s purchasing that is built on a slab foundation. We’ve got ideas on how to clear the air once she moves in.
- Installing Flooring Over a Heated Concrete Slab: What kind of flooring should be used in a home with radiant heat? Tom gives some advice to Russ about radiant heat-compliant flooring products.
- Cleaning Brick Stains: Removing mortar stains on exterior brick requires careful cleaning. We have suggestions for Gail on how to clean brick surfaces without damaging them.
- Home Construction: What should you look out for when buying a home built in the 1960s? Tom talks with Phyllis about the quality of home construction in the ‘60s.
- Removing Smoke Odors: Beautiful exposed brick walls inside a home are holding onto the smell of smoke. We let Jeff know what to do when cleaning fails to solve the stinky problem.
- Replacing a Hot Water Heater: Eva is concerned about replacing the hot water heater that’s installed on an upper floor in her home. Tom has suggestions on how to affordably replace it with the best type of hot water heater.
- Caulking a Bathtub: Is there a trick to recaulking a bathtub? We confirm a great suggestion that Vernon remembers about the best way to apply bathroom caulk.
- Concrete Driveway and Pressure-Treated Deck: Bill wants to know if his new concrete driveway needs to be sealed and what to do about the sap coming out of his new pressure-treated wood deck. Tom offers tips on how to care for both.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you with the projects you want to get done around your house. If you’ve got a project and you don’t know where to turn, how to get started, you’re stuck in the middle – you want to do something to improve your house, make it more efficient, make it beautiful. You want to spruce up the outdoor? There’s still time to work on outdoor spaces now. We’re going to – the fall is just ahead. Maybe you want to think ahead to that. Whatever you want to take on, well, start taking it on right here. Reach out to us with your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because that’s what we do. We’ve been doing this for 20 years and we love helping homeowners and apartment dwellers and condo people and co-op folks fix up those places that you call home.
So, the number here to get in touch with us is 888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your questions at MoneyPit.com. Just look for the blue microphone button – it’s on every page – and you can record your own question for us.
Coming up on today’s show, have you overlooked anything when it comes to childproofing your home? Surprisingly, many people have. So we’re going to have some reminders about the most overlooked childproofing areas – those areas that you absolutely must make safer when kids are around – in just a bit.
LESLIE: And older homes with the drafty windows can be energy hogs. But replacing those windows isn’t the only option. We’re going to share some tips on how to restore older windows and reclaim at least some improvement in energy efficiency.
TOM: And a front door is more than just an entry; it’s a focal point for the first impression a visitor gets. And if it’s well done, it can very significantly add to the perceived value of your home. So we’re going to share some ideas on sprucing up or adding a new front door that delivers more than just protection from the elements.
LESLIE: We are standing by to help you tackle all of these August projects. You guys, the summer’s almost over. So what are you working on to get us through the summer, have a great time, make your house look amazing? Because before you know it, I’m going to be giving you holiday-decorating tips. So let’s enjoy the summer.
TOM: Oh, my gosh. It’s so hot right now, I can’t even think. My brain won’t go there but I get it.
LESLIE: Oh, no, no, no. I guess you didn’t celebrate Christmas in July like I did. I took out that faux tree and everything.
TOM: No, no. Oh, no.
Give us a call with your questions – the number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 – or post your questions at MoneyPit.com. Just click on the blue microphone button.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Mary in Virginia, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
MARY: I’m looking to purchase a home that has a slab foundation. And when I went in, I kind of smelled a musty, mildew-y odor. And I’m just wondering, how would you know that water is coming up from the ground and saturating that slab? And how do you protect a home that has just – that’s built just on a slab. There’s nothing under for water to drain under or anything.
TOM: Was this a home that was vacant or did it have a family living in it?
MARY: It has been vacant for a while.
TOM: And that makes sense. Because when you don’t run the HVAC system as frequently as you would if it was occupied, sometimes you’re going to get high humidity inside the homes. But because it’s a slab doesn’t make it any more or less susceptible to water infiltration. But of course, because it’s above grade, you don’t get floods. What you do get is the power of the – it’s the concrete basically drawing water up from the ground – it’s called “capillarity” – and then letting it evaporate into the air.
The correction for that is the same thing you would do even if you did have a basement, which is to improve your drainage on the outside: extend the downspouts, the gutters; improve the soil slope so that water is sort of shunted away from the foundation perimeter. But I think that once you move into the house and use the HVAC system, you’re going to find that that moisture is not nearly as detectable as it is right now. And if it does become more detectable, you could always add a dehumidifier.
MARY: OK. So it’s the – that smell I’m getting is not coming from the carpeting that’s on top of the – laying on top of the slab?
TOM: Ooh. Carpet on top of slab? That’s a bad thing.
MARY: Well, I mean I don’t know what’s under the carpet and I’m assuming that there’s some kind of subfloor there. But yeah, it’s wall-to-wall carpeting and I know underneath it is basically a slab.
TOM: Yeah. We don’t like carpet on concrete, for a whole bunch of reasons. So I would be recommending that you find another type of flooring for that. Because when you put carpet, which is largely an organic material, against those damp, moist, concrete slabs, bad things happen. You get mold and mildew growth, you get allergens that form, you’re going to get dust mites, things like that. So, we really don’t like carpet on concrete slabs. If you can choose a different type of flooring, if you’re going to do some remodeling, that would really help out a lot.
MARY: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Mary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Russ in Wisconsin is on the line and has a question about what kind of floor goes over heated concrete.
What’s going on? Tell us about your project.
RUSS: It’s new construction with a heated concrete slab. What flooring can I put on that? And thinking about just painting it for the short-term.
TOM: Russ, there are definitely floors that are designed for heated concrete surfaces, whether that’s sub-slab hydronic or whether it’s an electric layer of heating that’s on top of that. There are floor products that are designed for that. So you have to kind of check on a product-by-product basis to determine which one is going to be appropriate, because some have more tolerance for heat than others.
One that I know will work well is Duravana, which is a stone-hybrid product sold by LL Flooring. That can take, you know, any amount of floor heat. And it’s an easy installation; it lays down on top of the concrete. The boards are locked together and you’re pretty much totally a good to go.
But beyond that, whether it’s engineered hardwood or whether it’s a vinyl product, you’ve got to check that – the manufacturer’s specifications to determine whether or not it is rated for being radiant-heat compliant. That’s what you’re looking for – radiant-heat compliant – and that will be the answer to your questions.
LESLIE: Heading out to Idaho. Gail has got an issue with some stains on some brick.
What’s going on over there?
GAIL: I have a question about removing mortar/stains from exterior brick and whether I could damage it by using maybe a metal brush on a drill, so I don’t have to scrub so hard. Or with a regular brush?
TOM: Now, any time you get a stain on brick, it’s really difficult to get it off because brick is so absorbative. Now, with this mortar splash that’s gotten on there, I think what I would do first – because brick is also a bit soft. I would use a wire brush. You would pick one up at a home center or a hardware store. It’s got a stiff-wire bristle. And then I would try to use that wire brush to brush off and brush those areas where the stains are.
And you’ve got to be careful, because you don’t want to damage the brick too much. If you scratch it a little bit, that’s OK even if it looks a little lighter than the surrounding areas. Eventually, it’ll sort of fade together. But that’s probably the first step. And if you want to go deeper than that, you could pick up a wire-brush attachment for a drill. And just like a drill bit, it goes into the chuck and it spins around.
And you’ve got to – it’s a little bit wily to handle, right, Leslie? If you don’t have that on the right side, it think it’d bounce – it’ll handle – exactly.
LESLIE: It will handle you, for sure.
TOM: It’ll handle you. It’ll bounce right back in your face.
But you know what? Oh, the other important thing, though, that you should know is if you’re going to use a wire-brush attachment on a drill like that, please, please, please wear safety glasses. Because those wires can break off and fly off and we don’t want you to get hurt.
So, that’s the way I would approach this. It’s a matter of levels of aggression using a wire brush. You don’t want to go too heavy because you’ll damage it. But that’s probably the best way to get rid of that splash. And hopefully, it’s not too big of an area.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Phyllis from the Jersey Shore calling in.
What can we do for you today?
PHYLLIS: I am looking to purchase a home. And the problem is I’m looking at a very specific area because I don’t want to leave the current school district the children are in. All the homes around here were built in the 60s. So my first question is: what should I look for in that era of home construction that might be a red flag?
And also, the way the homes are all built, the bottom floor has radiant-floor heat and upstairs is hot-water baseboard. And I just – I can’t imagine that 50-year-old pipes are not going to go at some point. And I’m wondering, how do I make sure they’re OK or look for signs that they’re getting weak?
TOM: So you’re basically looking for the good, the bad and the ugly of 1960s construction.
TOM: And the story is that it’s actually a pretty good time for home construction. You had copper plumbing, you had decent wiring. Sometimes, the services were a little small but if the homes were mostly natural gas, you really don’t need more than about 100 amps to power pretty much everything, including central air conditioning. And you’ve got hardwood floors. Very frequently, you had hardwood floors in 1960 houses. And it’s interesting because they put the hardwood floors in and they very promptly covered them with wall-to-wall carpet.
LESLIE: With shag carpeting.
TOM: Or shag, yeah. That’s right. Which actually protects them very nicely and didn’t allow them to wear. So, it’s a pretty good year for home construction.
Now, because it’s a 50-year-old house, you’re obviously going to have – how old is the furnace? How old is the water heater? Stuff like that to consider. What’s the general maintenance been? But in terms of an era of home construction, I think it’s a really strong era.
Now, if you’d asked me about the 80s, I would tell you, eh, not so much. Those houses were put together pretty fast and not always in the best possible way. But the 60s is a pretty good year for construction.
PHYLLIS: Oh, good. Because I’m moving up. I live in an 80s house now.
TOM: Oh, there you go. So you’re going to get better.
In terms of that radiant heat, that’s probably one – the one weak link that that home has. But the thing is, you can’t really determine how far along it is and whether or not it’s going to break. It probably will eventually fail and when that happens, you’re going to be faced with a pretty costly repair. You’ll have to put in some sort of alternative heat system, because it’s virtually impossible to repair those pipes in the slab.
So the first floor of your house will either be running new baseboard pipes or you’ll be running electric radiant or you’ll be adding an air-to-water heat exchanger so that you can take hot water from the boiler, run it through a heat exchanger and blow air over it through your HVAC system, the same one you use to cool the house.
But I wouldn’t obsess about that. It’s probably going to happen eventually but it may not even happen in the time that you own this next house. So if you like the neighborhood, 1960s is a pretty good era for home construction.
PHYLLIS: Great. That’s great news. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, childproofing your home is an easy DIY project and you may have already done some of the more obvious things. Unfortunately, though, it’s easy to overlook other recommended safety measures that can prevent unexpected accidents. So we’ve got some reminders.
TOM: Now, according to SafeHome.org, the most overlooked safety device is the toilet-lid lock, possibly because they could be inconvenient for other family members. But while drowning in a toilet is rare, it does happen to curious toddlers.
Plus, a toilet safety lock will keep kids from playing in that germy water or backing up the toilet with items that can’t be flushed, which often leads to a whole other DIY project that I’ve personally experienced, I might add, when my darling, little, baby son dropped a little, blue telephone toy into the toilet. It was the perfect size to hide in the trap and it took me quite a while to figure out what was going on.
LESLIE: Amazing the things that these kids do. It’s really just crazy.
Alright. Now, other bathroom-safety items that are often neglected are non-skid strips on the bathroom floor to prevent slippery falls and anti-scald devices to regulate that bathroom-water temperature. Because babies’ and kids’ skin, I mean even older folks, like your grandparents who are visiting or any other elderly visitor, their skin is so much more thin and so much more sensitive. So they can burn much more easily, so you’ve got to regulate that temperature.
TOM: Now, in the kitchen, don’t forget to add stove-knob covers so those little hands can’t turn on the burners or oven. Don’t forget locks for dishwashers and also covers for garbage disposers. And avoid using tablecloths which toddlers may tug and then cause other items, like glassware and appliances and hot foot and liquid, to fall right on top of them.
LESLIE: And in any room, another easy fix that’s too often overlooked is installing window guards to prevent falls and then also replacing those traditional blinds with cordless window shades. Because those dangling cords, they’re really a known strangulation hazard for infants and small children.
And I’ll tell you, I’ve got a 14-year-old and a 9-year-old and I watch them swinging that cord on the blinds in the living room. And I still am like, “Please be careful. Don’t get tangled in it.” They’re basically adults but you still worry.
TOM: Absolutely. All of these child-safety measures are affordable, they’re easy to do and they will definitely give you a bit more peace of mind throughout the entire home. So, get to it. Go around your house, look for these hazards and take care of them before the kids get hurt.
LESLIE: We’ve got Jeff in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with a new money pit to him and sadly, it stinks of smoke.
Tell us about what you’ve got going on there. I imagine you have a lot of projects.
JEFF: Oh, boy oh boy oh boy. Well, I’ve washed the walls twice and the ceilings. And I think I’m near ready to paint but some of the interior has brick. And I’ve brought – washed and scrubbed them and I power-washed them as best I can.
JEFF: And yeah, they still smell and I just kind of think it will – is there a spray or something that I can put on them or can I skill (ph) it to, you know, to reduce the smell? What can I do?
TOM: Yeah, well, when you have brick, you have a surface there that’s very absorbative. And so, those – that smoke is not on the surface. You can’t reach that. I don’t care what you wash it with, you’re not going to reach any of that.
LESLIE: Or as much as you pressure-wash in your home.
TOM: Exactly. Right. Well, that’s got to be – yeah, that must have been interesting pressure-washing inside the house.
But where is the brick? Is it a fireplace or what are we talking about?
JEFF: No, it’s actually – it’s a mid-century modern house and it’s got brick inside. It’s got quite a bit of brick and fortunately, there’s some tile floors. So the pressure-washing isn’t too bad.
TOM: Too bad, yeah.
TOM: So these are brick walls then?
TOM: Brick walls, OK.
Well, here’s my – here’s what my thought is here, Leslie, and you tell me what you think. But I’m thinking he’s got to seal this here. We always tell folks that when you have smoke, you clean as much as you can. But then you have to prime everything.
So you mentioned walls and floors and I was talking with somebody not too long ago who got rid of the carpet and washed but it still smelled. I said, “Well, you’ve got to – what did you do to the floors?” They didn’t do anything. I said, “You’ve got plywood subfloors. You’ve got to prime those floors with oil-based primer to seal in those floors, because they soak up that odor.”
TOM: So you have to seal this brick surface.
Now, I’m not saying you have to paint the brick. You may want to try some clear sealants on this. I’m not even quite sure what product to tell you to use because, typically, when there’s a house fire, for example, they have the smoke – the special professionals that come in and they clean these surfaces. They basically spray everything down with what is essentially an industrial sealant. But on brick, if you want to preserve the look of the brick then, of course, it’s got to be something clear, right? If you don’t care about the look and you want to paint them – and then you could just prime it with a good, solid masonry primer and that’s going to help a lot. And then paint a new color over that.
But I think this is a matter of sealing it, not washing it out. You can’t wring the smoke odor out of that brick no matter what you do and how much water or chemicals you throw at it.
JEFF: Ah, OK. Alright. Well, OK. Then I’ll just have to try to find a nice, clear sealant because I like the texture. And the color of the brick is really nice.
TOM: Sure. Yeah, mm-hmm.
JEFF: And the walls extend to the out – to the exterior, so there’s some visually …
TOM: Synergy, yes.
TOM: Some synergy between the colors, yeah. Right, the blend of the exterior. Yeah, it sounds beautiful. So listen, you say you’ve got a money pit but for us, that’s a term of endearment. And there’s a lot to love about this house and so, hopefully, you’ll be able to get these odors under control and it’ll start to fade away and you can start to focus on the future.
JEFF: Got you. Alright. Well, I’d better go put my rubber gloves on and get back to work. How’s that?
TOM: Alright, Jeff. Hey, good luck, man.
JEFF: OK. Yeah. Thanks. Bye.
TOM: Take care. Bye-bye.
LESLIE: I mean if he hadn’t just told us about this big project, I’d be wondering, what’s this line of work?
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Eva in North Carolina on the line with a water-heating question.
How can we help you today?
EVA: Our home is about 11 years old. We have a hot-water heater on our third floor of our home. And I’m a little nervous about it being up on the third floor. And with it aging out, I’m concerned about it potentially bursting or leaking. So what we’d like to do is replace the hot-water heater in this house.
However, we’re not sure. We kind of have a disagreement. We’re broke right now, financially, but we would – for peace of mind’s sake, I would like to possibly look into a tankless. My husband thinks we should just replace the current one that we have upstairs on the third floor with the same darn thing because he’s like, “You know, if it’s new, it won’t leak and it won’t burst.” So what do you guys suggest?
TOM: How old is the water heater?
EVA: As old as the house, I presume. The house is about 11 or 12 years old.
TOM: Well, if it’s an 11-year-old house, it’s going to have an 11-year-old water heater. And while, yeah, that’s closer to the end of a normal life than not, believe it or not, it’s not horribly old. I’ve seen water heaters go 15, 20 years.
EVA: But because it’s on the third floor of the house, I’m nervous because water is going to – it’s not like it’s in the basement or the garage. So if there is a leak or something like that, I’m concerned about there being a lot of water damage to our home.
TOM: I understand. And you could – that would happen if a pipe broke, as well. So, if you want to replace it with a tankless, that is going to be more expensive than a tanked water heater. But it’s definitely worthwhile because they last a lot longer and they also give you on-demand hot water, so you never really ever run out of warm water.
If you’re concerned about your plumbing system’s reliability in general, just make it a practice that whenever you guys go away for a weekend or longer, you turn the main water valve off. You don’t need to leave water on when you’re not home for an extended period of time. So, that might also be something you might want to start doing on a regular basis.
EVA: So whenever you’re going to be gone for the weekend or more than a couple days, turn the main water valve off.
TOM: That’s right. Because you don’t need it on. And this way, if the water heater ever were to break, it would lose the 40 or 50 gallons that’s in it but it would not constantly run, run, run.
EVA: Gotcha. So, going back to my original question, what do you guys suggest we do? Because my husband thinks, well, let’s just get a new one, the same thing. And then he thinks it’s going to give me some peace of mind.
TOM: OK. Here’s what I would do. You said that money is tight. I don’t want you to throw good money at bad ideas and I think replacing it with the same thing is kind of a bad idea, especially since it’s 11 years old. What I would prefer to see you do is live with that for another year or two, save up some money and then put in a tankless.
EVA: OK. And do you recommend tanklesses (ph) go in the crawlspace or in the garage or outside?
TOM: Well, they can pretty much go wherever you want. If you put them outside, they get a little less efficient because, of course, the outside temperature is cold and that means they have to work a little bit harder.
TOM: And sometimes, they’re put in rooms that are insulated or outside closets and that sort of thing. But you have the flexibility because a tankless water heater is going to be about a quarter of the size of your tanked water heater.
EVA: OK. So it sounds like that’s what you recommend is a tankless but maybe just live with this one for another year or two.
TOM: I think that makes the most sense. OK, Eva?
EVA: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
I don’t feel like 11 years old is a terribly old water heater.
LESLIE: No. I mean given that a lifespan is 10, 12 years. And you’re right: before we moved in, the one in our house was 20 years old.
TOM: I used to see that all the time as a home inspector. And yeah, it’s old but not worth emergency replacing.
LESLIE: You can live with it. No. Just for peace of mind. There are other things that you can do.
TOM: There’s enough life left in that to risk not doing it now and saving up your money for a year or two and then going tankless. Because tankless is definitely the technology that is state of the art today and worth every penny of its cost.
LESLIE: Well, while we all know that older homes are built to last, they also can be energy hogs, especially when it comes to old, drafty windows. So what’s the best way to deal with them?
TOM: Well, first up, replacing windows may be, of course, the most tempting option. But it’s possible to restore them and reclaim at least some of the improvement in energy efficiency. I think there’s probably advantages and disadvantages to both. If you replace the window with replacement windows, these are sort of inserts. They’re windows that are installed in the existing jamb. You’ll get a more energy-efficient window that’s going to operate really well but they can be expensive. And it’s going to change the appearance of your window both inside and outside.
Now, on the other hand, if you want to restore old windows, that will maintain the architectural integrity of the house. But it’s definitely a time-consuming project. It can be difficult to find a contractor who specializes in that type of work, as well.
LESLIE: Yeah. And if you do decide to restore, there are three areas that you’ll need to work on. The first is repairing the sash cords, the second is adding weather-stripping and lastly, reglazing as you need it. Now, these plus adding a storm window can create reasonably efficient windows that still look like they match the charm of the home.
Bottom line, if you’re someone who values an original, traditional appearance of the house and your existing windows are in decent shape, then go ahead and restore those windows. If not, replace them with a quality insert.
TOM: Now, if you decide to go with replacement windows, there are a lot of important things to check. But it really comes down to this: the glass. You need to get the most energy-efficient glass possible. And if you do, these windows are going to save you money and increase your comfort for as long as you own your home.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Vernon in Colorado who’s fixing up the bath.
How can we help you?
VERNON: I had heard a while back on your show, if you’re going to recaulk your bathtub, to fill it up with water? But I do not remember if anything was said about removing the water immediately after it was caulked or letting the caulk set up first before you would let the water out. So I wanted to check on that before I started my project with some good kitchen-and-bath caulk.
LESLIE: Well, absolutely. The tip you heard about filling the tub with water is totally correct. And the reason why we do that is when you fill the tub with water, it sort of weighs down and sits down onto the base a little more.
So if you fill it with water and then go ahead and caulk, then you let the caulk dry and then you drain the bath. When it sort of empties out, it’s going to lift back up and compress that caulk. So the next time you actually go to take a bath or a shower and you’re standing in there and the tub presses down on the base, it’s going to stretch the caulk and it’s all going to stay in place.
So that’s really a good trick of the trade, because it keeps it in its place longer and it really lets it adhere to where it needs to be.
VERNON: Perfect. OK. That’s what I’ll do. Thank you so much.
TOM: Well, guys, a new front door is a really great way to add value and style to your home without spending a whole lot of money. And if that’s a project you’d like to consider, we’ve got tips that can help.
Now, first, you want to consider the material. The options are going to vary from simple, solid steel to fiberglass to the very ornate wooden doors. And each one can have transoms, which are beautiful. That’s the window on top of a door. And you can add coordinating sidelights and also have very intricate glasswork. And while it’s easy to save money by opting for, say, a lower-cost model, there are pros and cons associated with each type of door.
LESLIE: Yeah. First, let’s talk about fiberglass entry doors. Now, these are going to cost anywhere from $150 to $2,000. And extremely ornate models with, say, sidelights and a transom, that’s going to run you closer to 3,000, maybe even more. But fiberglass, however, it’s a very popular option that’s going to give you a wood-like look with increased durability and excellent insulation value.
TOM: Now, steel doors have been a standard for decades. They’re going to be the least expensive probably between, say, $200 and $500. And though some of them actually can go up to maybe a couple grand but if you add more sidelights and glasswork, that’s what really sort of ups the price. And steel is really the least-expensive option all in, although it’s less popular because of the harsher metallic look. And today, even if you want a plain steel look, fiberglass actually comes in those same styles and delivers a lot more benefit in reduced maintenance and energy efficiency, as well.
LESLIE: Now, let’s also talk about a wood entry door. If you love a traditional look and don’t mind the maintenance, wood doors might be the choice for you. Engineered wood doors cost only about $200 to $500 while solid wood is the most expensive option at 500 to 5,000, even more.
Now, wood is the most traditional. It’s a customizable option but it is one that requires active maintenance to prevent warping and rot. And I mean I have a solid, thick, mahogany front door and it is in the sunniest spot ever. So I am constantly working on this door. And it’s gorgeous – it suits the house – but you’ve got to be willing to put in that work.
TOM: Absolutely. You’ve got to use marine varnish on a door like that, that has some UV protection, because that sun really beats down and changes the color.
Now, besides the door, there are many options in both sidelights and transoms. And these can add hundreds to thousands in terms of cost but they definitely really increase that curb appeal which, actually, according to one major study, can add as much as 24,000 bucks to the perceived value of your home.
It was really interesting. A while ago, a door company did a study where they had a regular, plain door and then they basically did a visual transformation through graphic artistry and added in a new fiberglass door. And they asked folks what they thought the house was worth and it turned out the ones with the fiberglass doors were actually worth about 25 grand more. So, pretty amazing impact that just a door can make.
LESLIE: Bill in Missouri has a new driveway and needs some help with finishing it.
What can we do for you?
BILL: I had a new driveway – concrete driveway – put in.
BILL: And I’m wondering if I need to put some kind of a sealer on that or just leave it like it is. The finish they put on it looks like they used a real stiff broom or something on it and it’s got the lines cut all the way down it on both – all over it, you know.
TOM: Yeah. And that’s designed to give you some traction in the winter so that you don’t slip on it as easily.
I don’t think it’s necessary for you to seal it. If you were to seal it, you would need to make sure you’re using a vapor-permeable sealer. Because what happens with some sealers is the moisture gets trapped underneath of them and then it can’t evaporate out. And it will cause the concrete to spall or crack.
But concrete driveways are not – it’s not necessary to seal them on a regular basis.
TOM: Just be cautious with the type of salt that you use to deice. Don’t use anything that has rock salt in it.
BILL: I’ve got a real quick question for you. I had a new deck built in the back and they used pressure-treated yellowwood on it. And I had no idea that the yellow they were talking about was going to be the sap coming out of it.
BILL: And I was wondering, is there some kind of a sealer or something that I can do about that?
TOM: Well, when you have a new pressure-treated deck, we generally suggest that you wait about a year before doing this. And then you could apply a solid-color stain to it. If you put a solid-color stain to it, it will cover some of the sap, as well. And frankly, by then, some of it will have already evaporated. You could sand those areas to try to get rid of any big deposits but I would wait about a year and then I would treat it with a good, solid-color, exterior deck stain.
BILL: Oh, OK. Well, I sure appreciate your help.
LESLIE: Charlie wrote in to The Money Pit and says, “I have a home with cedar siding and have been using transparent, oil-based stain on it for about 20 years. The siding with the most sun has gotten darker. I’d like to switch to a solid-color, latex-based stain to cover the darkened portion of the siding and make all of it look alike. Can I apply the solid stain on the siding without any special prep?”
TOM: Well, you always have to prep before you put any new paint on your surface. But here’s what I would say.
First of all, you mentioned just wanting to do the darker sections and kind of blend it in. I wouldn’t do that. I would do the entire house, because you’re ultimately going to have to do that anyway. And part of the work here is the setup and the prep and all that, so I would just do it all.
In terms of prep, you’ve got to make sure that you don’t have any deteriorated, loose surface. Even on cedar, I know this from my experience: sometimes the cedar in the older homes can get thin just from erosion from the wind and the rain. And sort of the dirt that’s in the air will erode out the siding. So make sure that your siding surface is ready – is really ready – to be painted. If you’ve got any loose particles on it, it has to be kind of scraped down or brushed down.
But you can go ahead and put the solid stain right on top of that. In fact, we often say that if you want to control the color in cedar, that you use an oil-based primer first because it seals in the tannins inside the cedar and makes them so that they won’t leak through and change the color. But the fact that you’ve already got these years and years and years of the oil-based treatment, I don’t think that’s going to prevent you from going with a solid-color latex stain on top of that. And that really is going to be something that you’re never going to have to worry about fading again once you take that on. So, I think that’s a great way to go with this project.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a question here from Ed who says, “I want to know the best material to use to replace a flat residential roof. My home’s roof is flat in about 6,000 square feet. I’m looking for the best combination of cost, durability, ease of maintenance and repair.”
TOM: So, the first thing that comes to mind is this: you need to know that putting on a flat roof is a specialty project. It’s something that’s done regularly by commercial roofers but rarely by residential roofers. So I’m always cautious when a residential roofer wants to put on a flat roof and they don’t do it all the time. And they can make mistakes and I’ve seen a lot of mistakes that they can make.
In terms of the product that you select, I’ll give you two to consider. The first one is called EPDM. It’s basically a synthetic rubber membrane. It’s black and it’s commonly used in commercial buildings. It’s incredibly durable. It’s kind of like having a solid sheet of rubber tossed over your house. You’ll probably get at least 25 to 30 years out of it. But keep in mind this handy fact. Because it’s black, guess what? It’s going to absorb a lot of heat and it can drive up your cooling costs. So that’s definitely something that you want to consider.
Now, the other option in a lighter-color roof is called TPO. It’s thermoplastic polyolefin. It’s basically a single-ply white membrane. It’s used in both residential roofing and commercial roofing. But if you’ve got a flat roof or say, a low-sloped roof, it’s a good option because it will keep the room cooler. You’ll probably get 25 years out of a TPO membrane but keep in mind that even though it’s white, when it goes down it’ll get dirty. So if you’re looking down at this from a second-floor roof, it’s going to get dingy over time.
LESLIE: Yeah. But Ed, again, you really have to make sure that you’re hiring the right roofer for this project. Because a flat roof really does require a very special installation technique to be very carefully installed. So make sure you’re going with somebody who does have a lot of experience with those flat roofs. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself in a heap of a mess again.
TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show and we are so glad that you are. Thanks for spending this part of this beautiful summer weekend with us. We hope that we’ve been able to give you a few tips and ideas to improve your home. If you’ve got questions, we can be reached, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or always by clicking on the blue microphone button at MoneyPit.com.
But for now, that’s 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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