Your questions, Our Answers

SearchAsk
See Answer
bathroom,

Bathroom Makeover with Wainscoting: Moisture-Resistant Panels Add Style and Interest

We have a very small bathroom that has no character at all. How do we give the room the decorative makeover it needs?

Our Answer

Try an easy bathroom makeover with wainscoting. Bathrooms can be challenging spaces to work in but by adding wainscoting, you can really make the room stand out no matter how big or small the space is. Traditionally, wainscoting is about three feet tall and mounted along the bottom of the wall. The easiest way to add wainscoting is to buy bead board. Bead board gives the illusion of having been made with many different small pieces of lumber, but is in reality a sheet that can be cut to fit any size space.
Glossy white bead board looks great in a bathroom and will stand up to the moisture that space can dole out. AZEK, a manufacturer of cellular PVC trim products, also makes bead board that won't rot and never needs painting. To create a finished edge along the top portion of the bead board, use a decorative trim molding or combine two or more moldings to create a narrow ledge. For the base of the wall, use a baseboard with a quarter-round molding for a finished look.
You can also enhance a bathtub with a combination of urethane window panels and molding. Because urethane does not absorb water, the panels and trim are ideal for upgrading a master bath. A huge selection of urethane moldings is available from Fypon, and the combinations offered create clever variations on a bathroom makeover with wainscoting.

See Answer

Carpet Padding

What is the difference between Memory foam padding and Frothed polyurethane padding?

Our Answer

There's a whole lot to know about carpet padding!  Short answer to you question is that frothed padding is pretty dense and durable, but memory foam is kind of squishy.  That squishy foam may feel good on a mattress but for carpet, it doesn't support it well and all that extra flexing will cause more wear and tear on the carpet.

See Answer

How to Remove Mold from the Driveway

Hello,

I'm David from Northampton, MA.  We have a driveway that is approximately 6 years old.  We have mold growing near our stairs, which is in the shade most of the day during the summer.

I have spray bleach on the spot but the mold will return within a month.  I have scrub with soap and water, but I think the mold just love this area.

See Answer

Choosing a Humidifier: Keep your home comfortable with the proper humidifier selection

Our home's heating system is extremely dry but I have had very bad luck with humidifiers (neither of the two previous humidifiers we had lasted more than a year). Can you provide some guidance for choosing a humidifier?
 

Our Answer

Humidifiers are important to keeping the inside of your home comfortable and are strongly recommended if your home is heated by forced hot air, which is the most common and driest type of heating system. Keeping the air moist with a humidifier not only makes you more comfortable, but will also help lower your heating bills because moist air retains heat better than dry air.
I'm not surprised to hear that you have had bad luck with humidifiers, though. In the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector, I frequently found them in all levels of disrepair. There are basically three types of humidifiers to choose from: flow-through, drum and spray. Drum humidifiers have rotating parts that frequently break down and since water collects in the pan under them, they can also breed mold.
Spray units aren't much better as they spray water directly into the air above the furnace, where it often drips down and causes rust damage to the furnace.  The best type is flow-through, in which water trickles over a coil and evaporates into the warm air. Better flow-through humidifiers, like those from Aprilaire, even include computerized controls that measure inside and outside temperatures and calculate just the right amount of humidity based on current weather conditions. For more information on choosing a flow-through humidifier, go to www.aprilaire.com.

See Answer

Sealing Leaks in Electrical Outlets or Switches: Install insulating gaskets to prevent drafts

I have a very odd problem. There is cold air leaking through the light switches and outlets on my outside wall. Is there any way to stop this?
 

Our Answer

Actually, outlet air leaks are a very common problem! The outside walls of most homes are chock-full of holes, just like Swiss cheese, and it is a constant battle to identify them and seal them up. In this case, we recommend that you install outlet or switch gaskets. These are very inexpensive pieces of foam insulation that fit under the cover plate and around the outlet or light switch. Once you install the gasket and replace the outlet cover plate, the gasket will be invisible and the outlet air leaks and drafts will be gone.

See Answer

Metal Roofing: New metal roofs provide great looks with energy savings

Our roof is about 15 years old and we have asphalt shingles. We are noticing deterioration on a lot of the shingles and it seems like it might be time to replace it. What are some new roofing options that we might not be aware of?  Should we consider a metal roof?
 

Our Answer

Since asphalt roofs generally last 15 to 20 years, it sounds like you are right on target for a new one! That being the case, we'd recommend you consider replacing your current asphalt roofing with one of the fabulous new options in metal roofing. Metal roofs are no longer just the corrugated sheets of steel you might have seen in the past. They have now gone high tech with a variety of energy efficient and affordable styles that resemble like slate, cedar shake, terracotta or just about any custom look imaginable. Metal roofs are also resistant to shrinking or cracking and are virtually maintenance-free. By adding a metal roof to your home you can also save up to 40 percent in annual energy costs and increase the value of your home by about $1.45 per square foot. Plus, metal roofs are made from 30-60% recycled materials, so you can sleep well under your new roof knowing that you have helped our very valuable environment.  For more information on metal roofing, visit the the Metal Roofing Alliance.

See Answer

Building an Energy Star Home: Enjoy many years of efficiency and savings with a qualifying home

We are thinking of building a new home and are hearing a lot about using individual Energy Star-rated products. Is it also possible to build an Energy Star-approved home?
 

Our Answer

Yes, and it's a wonderful idea, too. Energy Star-qualified homes are independently verified to be at least 30 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 1993 national Model Energy Code or 15 percent more efficient than state energy code, whichever is more rigorous. These savings are based on heating, cooling and hot water energy use. What we really like about the Energy Star home program is that it requires independent verification, including rigorous testing, after the home is built to qualify for the Energy Star approval. Not only will an Energy Star-rated home provide you with years of energy savings, it may also qualify for an Energy Star mortgage with an interest rate delivering even greater savings.

See Answer

Replacing Attic Insulation: Renew your home’s efficiency with modern insulation material

Our home was built in 1962 and the fiberglass insulation in the attic seems to have shrunk. Is it possible for insulation to wear out? Also, how much attic insulation do we really need and is it possible to put in too much?
 

Our Answer

Replacing the insulation will make your home more efficient. Over the years, it is common for insulation to settle and the shrunken insulation you described probably isn't doing the job you need it to do.
Attic insulation is most effective when it is fluffy and traps air between its fibers. So our advice is to remove and replace what you have with new material. We'd recommend two layers of insulation, with the first one being installed in the spaces between the ceiling joists, and a second layer laid perpendicular to the first layer on top of the ceiling joists. In most areas of the country you should have 19 total inches of insulation.
Having too much attic insulation is generally not a problem, so long as you make sure it is properly installed and that the attic is ventilated. In the best-case scenario, we recommend continuous ridge and soffit venting. These vents are installed on the top ridge of the home as well as the underside of the soffit. They work together to circulate air up from the soffit to under the roof sheathing and out the ridge, flushing lots of moisture along the way. This is important since damp insulation can lose as much as one-third of its ability to insulate. Ridge and soffit vents also help keep the attic cooler in the summer, improving air conditioning efficiency and adding to the benefits provided by replacing the attic insulation.
 

See Answer

Installing Replacement Windows: Add to your home’s energy efficiency by upgrading existing windows

Last winter our energy bills really hurt so this year we are thinking about installing new replacement windows. Any tips or advice?
 

Our Answer

Installing replacement windows is a great way to create a more energy-efficient environment inside your home. Faulty, inefficient windows, whether due to installation or simple old age, can account for a huge energy loss and higher energy bills. This is also a year-round problem because while cold drafts are obvious in the colder months, warm drafts also drain energy bills in the summer.
If the framing around your windows seems to be in good shape, then installing replacement windows your best option. Replacement windows allow you to remove just the operable parts of the old window (like the sashes that slide up and down) but keep the original wood window frame.  The replacement window simply slips inside of the old window and with a little bit of trim and caulk, you're done. A big advantage of replacement windows is that you can install them quickly and with no disturbance to the siding. The newest model windows offer low-e as well as double or triple-pane glass, both excellent options for energy efficiency.
This is also a great time to make this energy saving improvement as the government is offering tax credits for energy efficient improvements made through 2010. For more information on current tax credit offers, visit the Alliance to Save Energy, and to plan your purchase of efficient replacement windows, check out the Energy Star website.
 

See Answer

Using Decorative Molding to Feature Artwork: Add interest to bare walls as you showcase art and photos

We have a beautiful dining room but the walls are boring and our artwork and photos look pretty lonely. Is there any way to give the room some extra pizzazz without doing a paint treatment or wall covering?

Our Answer

Accenting artwork displays with decorative molding is an easy and effective solution. A wall is an amazing blank canvas on which your inner designer can create a showcase for the decorative items you already have in your home, and while wallpaper and painting treatments are great options, you can use molding to create an equally interesting effect.
One idea is to showcase your art and photos on your walls by creating a sectioned area of molding detail within which to hang these treasures.  To start, deciding which of your artwork or photographs would look nice showcased together. Once you have gathered these items, lay them out on the floor to determine an arrangement that'll look good on the wall. Using the floor as your temporary canvas, arrange low-profile moldings to frame these groups together. For example, a series of rectangles that are two feet wide by four feet tall, starting at about two-and-a-half feet up from the floor, can make a great focal feature in your room and allows for plenty of space to highlight your décor.
Once you have nailed down your design, paint the molding detail the same color as the trim in your room for a traditional look or be adventurous and choose a color that complements your wall color or brings out the color of your eyes. This molding magic will make a perfect accent for your artwork display.

See Answer

Kitchen Window Coverings: Dress your windows with decorative molding instead of drapes to maximize natural light

My kitchen isn't that big and my one window is a precious source of natural light. Can you suggest any window coverings that provide style but don't block out the light?
 

Our Answer

Actually, no. Because in your case, we'd recommend you go naked. Well, not you, exactly, but your kitchen window! A naked window is one of the newest decorating trends and refers to the concept of using either no or minimal window covering (like a valance at the top). Finish off the project by trimming out the windows with plinth blocks at the upper corners and decorative trim. By leaving the window coverings off, you'll deliver maximum light to the kitchen space and the naked window will act as a visual gateway to the outdoors.
 

See Answer

Using Decorative Columns: Traditional detail can be added to a contemporary home

I grew up in a home in Southern Georgia with beautiful columns on the front porch. Somehow I can't get those out of my head and was wondering if you had any ideas abou how I could use decorative columns in my much more modern metro bi-level.
 

Our Answer

Absolutely. If you're interested in using decorative columns in your current space, technology comes to the rescue once again, with many manufacturers offering a huge selection of both columns and vertical pilasters in both urethane and cellular PVC. There are multiple installation options as well. On a bi-level you can use pilasters on opposite sides of the doorway to give height, warmth and a bit of southern elegance to your entryway. Inside, you can also use half-columns or pilasters to frame in an archway, or add a pediment to the top of the opening.

See Answer

Attic Mold: How to Determine the Source of the Black Mold

There's black mold in the attic of my three-year-old house. How can I tell if the builder used contaminated lumber?

Our Answer

Mold is common in attics. If you look at the black mold, you should be able to tell whether it was on the wood to begin with or grew after the house was built. If the rafters have black colonies on them, the wood was most likely contaminated to begin with.
According to The Money Pit's indoor air quality expert, Jeff May, in cold climates, if the sheathing is darkest on the north- or east-facing gable (worse near the outer, lower part of the sheathing), or if the attic mold appears only at the top of the rafters, the attic mold may be growing due to excess moisture, most often caused by improperly vented bathroom exhausts and leaky attic accesses that allow warm, moist house air into the attic.
But if you see oval- or other-shaped colonies that appear to be covered and bisected by rafters, the sheathing may have been moldy when installed.
For more tips on black mold and mold proofing your home, see our Mold Resource Guide.

See Answer

Mold and Basement Leaks: Remove materials that harbor moisture and mold

We have a family room in our basement, and just discovered that the air conditioning unit there has been leaking into the carpet. I've been dehumidifying the space, but it still smells musty. What do you recommend?

Our Answer

First of all, if anyone in your family has allergies or asthma, we recommend that you avoid living in a house with a finished basement, which is particularly prone to mold growth. If you want to keep this finished basement family room, it is best to hire a professional to remove the carpeting (under mold containment conditions) and then having a ceramic, laminate or a resilient tile floor installed, with area rugs on top if you want to have a softer floor covering.
According to The Money Pit's indoor air quality expert, Jeff May, all carpet, as well as anything fleecy or cushioned (and that includes upholstered furniture) that has remained damp for more than 24-48 hours should, be discarded as it likely contains mold.

See Answer

Mold and Humidifiers

We just added a humidifier to our hot-air heating system because the air in the house was so dry. Now I am noticing mold in the attic for the first time. Could the humidifier be causing mold to grow?

Our Answer

Mold can grow inside of humidifers that are not properly cleaned.  However, this may or may not be the cuase of the mold you are seeing in your attic area.  Mold on the underside of attic sheathing is more likely being cause by a lack of proper attic ventitaltion.
If there are any supply ducts in the attic, check to see if they're leaking, which can lead to condensation and mold growth. According to The Money Pit's indoor air quality expert, Jeff May, you also should be sure that there is adequate ventilation in the attic space, and that there are no openings through which house air can leak into the attic. However, the mold may have already been growing there, due to excess moisture from other sources: a bathroom venting up into the attic, or moist airflows entering the attic around recessed light fixtures in the ceilings below.
If you already have ridge and soffit vents, do all you can to reduce or eliminate the sources of house airflows into the attic. As for the mold growth itself, small areas can be HEPA vacuumed (a HEPA vacuum cleaner has filtration that prevents the release of particulates in the exhaust and should, in my opinion, always be used for even everyday cleaning) and spray-painted to contain allergenic and irritating dust. Always wear at least a NIOSH-rated N95 mask or respirator when cleaning mold. For more information, see www.health.state.ny.us/environmental.