TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. So pick up the phone and help yourself first. Call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online at MoneyPit.com. We would love to talk about what’s going on in your home. And if you’ve got a home improvement project planned for now or maybe next year, this is a great chance for you to reach us and talk about it. Let’s talk through the project from start to finish. Let’s get you started on the right foot so it comes out just the way you expect, 888-666-3974.
We’ve got a great show planned. Coming up this hour, the chilly weather might leave your home looking a bit dark and dreary but not if you spruce up your front porch for the colors of the seasons. We’re going to have tips on how you can add rich colors to your doorway and your porch, with accessories and simple hardware that you can do yourself and make it look great.
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s always so important to bring the color and the feel of the season in. And you can do it temporarily for very little money. So we’re going to share some of that with you later.
Plus, now is the season for lots of things: you know, gifts and fun and family. But also ice dams.
TOM: Yeah. That’s what I think about when I think of gifts, fun, family and ice dams.
LESLIE: Ice dams. It’s the ice-dam time of year, you guys. And they can actually be very damaging to your home and cost thousands to fix if you end up with an ice dam. So we’re going to explain what these are and how you can avoid them.
TOM: You’ll never think icicles are pretty after this. Trust me. And …
LESLIE: But they are so pretty. They’re so bad.
TOM: They are pretty. But boy, if they form a dam, you’re going to get a big leak that’s going to cause a lot of damage. We’ll show you how to avoid that.
And as the end of the year approaches, we’ve also got tips on which home improvement projects can pay off and pay back at tax time, along with answers to your calls. So pick up the phone and give us a call right now. We are here to help you out at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joan in South Carolina is on the line with a countertop question. How can we help you today?
JOAN: I’ve always gotten granite countertops because of the durability factor. And this time, I was thinking of getting marble. I like the looks of a white marble with a gray vein going through it.
LESLIE: Oh, the Carrara marble that every person loves right now, right?
JOAN: Yeah. I was told that it scratches really easily, though. So I was wondering if that’s true and if it is true, can it be sealed like granite can be?
LESLIE: Well, Joan, you’re right. Carrara marble – I mean generally, when you think of kitchen, even a bathroom, granite seems to be the number-one choice. It’s much more hard, I should say. It’s harder than marble and it’s sealed. Marble can also be sealed. But let’s talk about the differences here.
Carrara marble, first of all, has seen a huge resurgence. It’s very popular in a lot of spaces. It’s gorgeous. You’re right: it’s white with the gray veining. And you can pick your slabs to have more veining or less veining, so it really can be a very, very beautiful piece.
Now, in kitchens, because the marble is softer than granite. Even though, yes, it’s a hard surface, it has just a more innate softness to it so that it can scratch more easily. But I think more importantly is it can stain more easily. And in a kitchen, you’re prone to a lot more things that could potentially stain the marble surface.
Olive oil. A lot people don’t think that oils would stain something but because the marble is softer and therefore more porous, even with the sealer, it can suck in that oil and then leave a stain or a discoloration within the marble itself. Tomato sauce, lemon. Lemon will also stain the surface.
So I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m just saying you have to be very careful with it. Because I too love Carrara marble in a kitchen and I’m actually considering doing it myself. Well, not putting it in myself but putting it in my own kitchen. But you can seal it. Anytime you go with anything that’s a lighter color, like the Carrara, it has to be sealed more often. Some places are going to recommend once a year. You would want to have it professionally sealed and at the same time, if you did encounter any staining or scratching, they can sort of resurface it a little bit to create a fresher look and then seal it again. So it’s going to take a lot more maintenance.
And I’m going to tell you, Carrara marble is expensive. I just did a Carrara slab for my fireplace and it’s funny. I thought I bought a Carrara tile and a Carrara slab for the fireplace surround and the fireplace for the hearth. And I thought they charged me for both and I ended up paying 400 bucks for all the tile. And I thought it also included the slab and I was like, “Wow! I got such a great deal.” And then I got a phone call that said, “And here is your bill for the slab. We had to wait until they cut your piece. It’s $1,200.” And I was like, “Ugh.”
So, Joan, I know that you’re thinking, “Don’t go with the Carrara.” But if it’s because of the price and it’s because of the maintenance, look at some of the quartz products. There’s Zodiac, Cosentino. There’s a whole bunch of different brands out there and I forget which one but one of them – and if you go to Home Depot, they actually have it – has a quartz product that looks just like Carrara and it’s half the maintenance. It’s actually zero maintenance.
JOAN: Oh, wow. That’s good to know. Well, maybe I’ll look into that again. I think you’ve talked me back into it again.
TOM: Alright, Joan. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Randy in Wisconsin is dealing with a lot of snow and the aftermath thereof. What can we help you with?
RANDY: We have a garage on our house and when we bring our vehicles in – here in Wisconsin, we have a lot of snow and of course, it gets stuck underneath your vehicles and whatever. We try to scrape off some of the snow but it melts and it goes all over the garage to the floors. Pretty much level. It ponds here and there but it pools over to my work area and stuff. And I’m wondering if there’s a good solution to containing that water or – I don’t think I need to put in a drain or what to do.
TOM: Well, I mean obviously, it’s the floor – the floor angle is the issue. Most garage floors are pitched to the doors so that water will run out. If that’s not happening with you, what you might want to think about is putting in a garage-flooring system. They have tiles available, from a number of manufacturers, that sit on top of the garage floor but they’re perforated. So if there’s a bit of water, it’ll settle sort of below the tile surface. So even though the wet is still there, you’ll only be stepping in puddles. Now, do you have the floor painted?
RANDY: No, it’s not painted. No.
TOM: So, another thing that you might want to do is epoxy-paint that floor. That’s something you can do yourself with a garage-floor epoxy-paint kit. Basically, you mix up the epoxy and the hardener – the paint and the hardener. You apply the paint. You can put a decorative chip in there; it will help hide dirt. Then you can even put a lacquer finish on it.
And when you have a smooth, shiny finish like that, what you can do is pick up a squeegee. And that makes it really quick and really easy to take those puddles and basically squeegee them right off the floor when the car – when the snow melts and leaves those puddles behind.
RANDY: OK. I’ll check into that.
TOM: Good luck, Randy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Alright, guys. Admit it. I know you’ve got your comfy pants on. It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving and we’re all feeling very full still from the Thanksgiving meals that we’ve all enjoyed or perhaps more than one. So as long as you’ve got your comfy pants on, why don’t you do some work around your money pit? Let us give you a hand with everything you are working on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, before you decorate your home for the holidays, we’re going to have tips on how you can decorate your front entry with color that can last the entire winter.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by CliqStudios.com, the smarter way to get a designer kitchen. Visit CliqStudios.com/Free and get a free copy of their Kitchen Cabinets Buyer’s Guide, produced in partnership with This Old House.That’s C-l-i-q-Studios.com/Free.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
And this is a good weekend to relax and kind of dream about things that you might want to work on at your money pit. And I think it’s important when you’re thinking about these projects, you’ve got to think about the right way to do it. And sometimes, that requires a visit to the building department.
And they can go good or not so great, right, Tom?
TOM: Well, look, I am always an advocate of getting building permits when you’re supposed to have them but I’ve got to tell you, I recently had to go get a certificate of occupancy for a condo that we own – have had for many years. And I’ve always rented it out. And the people that you have to deal with on this could not be more unpleasant.
And here you are trying to do the right thing and they just are hard, hard, hard to work with. Not helpful. Doing nothing behind their desks. Three people in an empty office taking forever to get to you. It’s just like you’re an inconvenience in their lives and I understand why people don’t want to get permits when the building departments act so badly towards their customers. We’re your customers.
LESLIE: I know but you have to go in there.
TOM: But you have to go do that. And so, yeah, we did that. And of course, I’m going to get the CO, I’m going to get the smoke-detector inspection, I’m going to get the chimney inspection, I’m going to get the heating-system inspection. Everything we have to do, we do. But they make it so unpleasant an experience, I really understand why people are hesitant to get building permits.
LESLIE: If you don’t get it in the beginning at the correct time in the process, later down the road when you go to sell the house and there’s open COs or certain projects that weren’t permitted and they find out about it, you can be in a world of hurt if it wasn’t done in the correct way.
TOM: No, I tell you, it’s a great system but I just – they don’t have to be so unpleasant about it, you know? It’s really – it’s just an opportunity for customer service that they’re lacking. And I think if they were to make that whole process a little simpler, that more people would cooperate with that. And so there’s my – that’s my soapbox story for today on building departments, right?
LESLIE: So now, Tom, you can never go to your building department again.
TOM: Yeah. And of course, if they hear this, they’re not going to give me the CO either.
LESLIE: Of course not. There’s going to be a picture of you up when you walk in there and they’re like, “Don’t give anything to this guy.”
TOM: That’s right. “Watch out for this guy. This guy here.”
LESLIE: You’re going to have to send your wife in for all of them.
TOM: I will. I will do that.
LESLIE: Now I’ve got Marcia in Missouri who’s got a moisture question.
Geez, Marcia. I hope you’re going to speak with a letter other than M. How are you doing?
MARCIA: That’s right. Yes. What the problem is – oh, a couple of years ago we – we have 80 acres in the country around Curryville, Missouri. And it’s basically an oversized, two-car garage that we made into a cabin. Concrete floor, OBS walls, painted ceiling, OBS material painted with a little vent. But it’s still – the furniture sometimes gets this white, little, powdery, moldy substance on it and gets a moldy smell. And sometimes, the concrete floor sweats and we were trying to figure out what can we put on that to eliminate that problem.
TOM: Do you have a heating system in this cabin?
MARCIA: No, no. There’s no electric, no water.
TOM: Well, you chose very organic materials, of course, that are going to be attractive to mold when it’s moist and damp like that.
What can you put on it? Well, let’s see. You could probably put mold control on it – Concrobium Mold Control. And that’s a product that’s available from Concrobium. And it basically absorbs into the wood and into those building materials and it will prevent mold from growing.
But what you should also do is to try to take steps to minimize the moisture that’s collecting around the outside of this slab, because it’s probably drawing into the slab that way. So if you could do something as simple as add gutters to this cabin and keeping the water away from that perimeter as much as you can, so it doesn’t just dump there, that will slow down the draw of moisture into the slab and reduce some of that humidity.
MARCIA: Is there any type of, oh, concrete paint we could put on it?
TOM: Well, you can still – you could put a – certainly, you could paint the concrete and that will stop some of the evaporation. But when you have an unheated building like this and you have all of those, like you said, OSB materials that you used in it, you’re going to get some mold.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think it’s important, Marcia, if you’re storing items in there, you don’t want anything in cardboard boxes sitting directly on the floor. You want to put them in plastic bins or you want to have metal shelving that you can sort of pick things up off of the floor.
Same thing with your furniture. Even if you have a piece of wood furniture or a chair that has wooden legs, those are going to absorb up the moisture and then you’ll see mold and you’ll see cracking and splitting. So you want to get the stuff up off the floor.
MARCIA: OK. Well, thank you so much for your time. I love your program. I listen to it every Saturday when we’re up there at the country and I’ll be up there Saturday.
TOM: Alright. Thank you so much, Marcia. We appreciate you calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, as the days become dark and dreary, I tend to say that homes will fade away into that sort of cloud. Which is why now is a good time to think about some simple things you can do to kind of spruce up that exterior. I think a good place to start is lighting. Most homes are under-lighted – or under-lit as this would be; my English teacher would correct me on that – under-lit on the exterior. And it’s a good opportunity to think about ways that you can add some additional lighting to that space, perhaps on the steps, perhaps just casting light on the front door or on the entire front of the house to kind of spruce it up and make it pop.
It’s not a terribly complicated project that you can do. And in fact, there’s also an awful lot of great lights that are out there today that are even battery-powered, believe it or not. These LEDs make it possible to throw a lot of light without a lot of power. So there’s ways you can spruce that up and really add some drama to the exterior and help it sort of stand out from the darkness behind it.
LESLIE: Yeah. I think it’s also important that light fixtures can be very special for the exterior of your home. If you’ve got a covered front entry, you can do a really beautiful light fixture out there, something that’s special that will work with the architecture of your home and really make your entryway stand out. So don’t feel like you have to go for that very simple contractor piece that ends up on most exteriors. You can do something really interesting.
And I think it’s also important to add color and texture. You know, this is the time of year that you’re really allowed to make everything look super rich, because of the holidays and because of the ongoing season. You go from Halloween into Thanksgiving and now we’re rolling into the other holidays. So you can really start to make things feel much more rich and warm and welcoming. So you can use your planters that are already out there and fill those up with seasonal colors or even silk arrangements.
Always as I transition from Thanksgiving into Christmas holiday at my house, I use a lot of extra wintergreen branches, some berries, things that are seasonal but not holiday specific so much, so that it’s not something that’s one way or the other but it’s really seasonal and fresh. And I think you can do that. And you can even do that with clippings and things you might find around your own yard. And you want to really layer the greenery together and stagger the heights and use more than one planter, because that gives it a very interesting, detailed look without really going crazy.
TOM: Yeah. And it’s important to know that you can do that year-round. I think that people tend to too much think of greenery as only something that you can do in the spring. But you can definitely do it year-round.
And I wanted to offer one additional tip on the exterior. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine. And that’s house numbers. A lot of times, the house numbers are really hard to find on somebody’s houses. They have these …
LESLIE: Or people don’t have them.
TOM: Or they don’t have them at all. And there’s an opportunity to make the house look better there with, say, some nice 3-inch brass letters. They’re not really that expensive. But just as important, if you don’t have visible house numbers, responders can’t find your home in an emergency.
So, important to have those on the house and very visible. And there’s another opportunity there for a little décor, fix-me-up, simple piece of hardware that can make it look good. So, take a look at the outside of your house next time you’re coming home and it’s 5:00 or 6:00 at night and it’s nice and dark out. And see if you think maybe you could use a little bit of spruce-up. It’s not that hard to do.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Daniel in Washington on the line.
Daniel, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
DANIEL: Well, you can help me figure out why my wife takes a cold shower and I take a hot shower.
TOM: I bet she’s not too happy about that, either.
DANIEL: She’s very unhappy and she seems to think it’s my fault.
TOM: So, who goes in the shower first? She goes in first?
DANIEL: She does.
TOM: And then what? It takes a long time for the water to get hot?
DANIEL: Well, she turns it on. Our bathroom shower is about, I guess, when I added up all the pipes, maybe 30 feet from the water heater. So it’s not very far. We’ve lived in the house for 12 years, so we can usually count on hot water coming about 4 seconds after we turn on the water. And it’s not happening this time. She’ll leave it on for a minute or so, it’s still cold. And she says, “What the heck, I need to get going.” So she takes a shower and then she screams and yells at me.
LESLIE: And then it’s all your fault.
DANIEL: Twenty minutes later, after she clears out of there, I get in there and the shower is nice and warm.
TOM: Well, that’s an odd problem because certainly, it’s not the distance; that’s very, very short.
Now, as far as you know, is your water heater working normally? So if you go to your kitchen sink, does it deliver hot water pretty quickly?
DANIEL: When we turn it to the left, it’s hot and when we turn it to the right, it’s cold.
TOM: Right. So the kitchen sink is fine.
DANIEL: And the kids’ bathroom is fine.
TOM: OK. So, it’s not the water heater, it’s not the pipes. What’s left here? The shower valve. You’ve got a bad shower valve.
DANIEL: You came to the conclusion pretty quickly that it’s not the hot-water heater. Somebody suggested that it’s some deely-bobber inside the hot-water heater that has to kick over.
TOM: By virtue of the fact that your water heater delivers hot water to your kitchen sink and delivers hot water to your kids’ sink – it’s only not delivering hot water to your master-bath sink or shower, right?
DANIEL: It does deliver hot water to the master bathroom and the master-bathroom shower but it takes, I don’t know, 10 minutes or so after my wife goes in there. So, one theory is that we’re – by her taking a cold shower but having the nozzle turned to the right – to the left – where it would give hot water, it activates something.
TOM: OK. So, let me ask you one more question. In your master bathroom, you have a sink, correct?
TOM: And does that sink get hot quickly?
DANIEL: Sure. But maybe not first thing in the morning.
TOM: Well, does it take as long as the shower to get hot?
DANIEL: I haven’t tested that.
TOM: Alright. So test that. If the sink gets hot quickly and the only plumbing fixture in the house that’s not getting hot quickly is that shower, then you’ve got a problem with the shower valve. And that could happen. Something could break down inside the shower valve. And it might be that it takes so long to run before it finally lets some of that hot water in, because maybe you’re waiting for one of the pipes to – one of the valve parts to expand and just something to jam shut and it’s just not letting the hot water out.
So, I suspect if you’ve eliminated – everything else is normal; it’s just that shower that’s not. I’d replace the water valve. It’ll probably save your marriage. Think about it.
DANIEL: Well, at least my hearing.
TOM: There you go. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Up next, when the weather gets rough, ice dams can form on your roof and that can lead to serious and expensive leaks. We’re going to have solutions, just ahead, because this is where home solutions live.
ANNOUNCER: Today’s Money Pit is presented by Mr. Beams. Lighting solutions that can be installed in five minutes. No wires, no electrician, no kidding. Find Mr. Beams lights at major retailers and learn more at MrBeams.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Well, according to the always accurate and very highly scientific predictions of the Farmers’ Almanac, it’s going to be a rough winter. And that means your home may have to handle some pretty harsh conditions that will drive up heating costs, increase drafts and potentially cause costly ice dams to form. And that’s why we’re turning now to the real scientist behind Icynene, an insulating spray foam that can help your home weather those conditions and more, in a way that’s both effective and environmentally friendly. Paul Duffy is Icynene’s Vice President of Engineering and he joins me now with more.
PAUL: Thank you, Tom. Good to hear from you.
TOM: We love the Farmers’ Almanac. I’m not sure how any of those guys figured that out but according to those experts, it’s going to be a rough winter. So we’re really going to need some good insulation. Hey, let’s start by talking about ice dams. I mentioned it in the intro. Can you explain for those that are not familiar with that condition? I know you see a lot of it up in Canada and certainly we do here in the Northern United States. But just talk about what that is and how it happens and why it’s a bad thing.
PAUL: Well, an ice dam, basically, is a mound of ice that forms at the perimeter of your roof basically where water runs – melted water from snow runs off the roof into the eave area. And the eave area is actually colder than the area immediately above the house. So the water that has unfrozen in the main area of the roof refreezes at the perimeter of the roof and runs backwards under the shingles and can cause significant damage.
TOM: So that’s the dam, so to speak, because the overhang, that “eave area” as you call it is colder than the area right above the roof. You get this snow melt and it runs down and starts piling up at that roof edge. And then you get this dam and the water hits it and does a U-turn right back under the shingles and into your house.
Now, is there a way to insulate against that so that can’t happen?
PAUL: Well, there absolutely is. I think the thing you’ve got to realize is that this phenomenon happens as a result of heat loss. And heat loss occurs A) because of a lack of insulation but it also occurs as a result of air leakage. And that’s where the spray-foam products that we make really excel. Spray foam is both a barrier to heat loss and a barrier to air leakage. And by combining those features, we minimize the heat loss through the roof area. And in so doing, we allow the roof to stay more or less at freezing temperatures throughout and minimize the incidents of ice damming.
TOM: And that’s right. Because in a perfect world, you want the outside of the roof to stay cold and the inside to stay warm and keep those two separated so that you can’t get this condition of ice damming, as well as a host of other features.
Now, you mentioned the leakage, the draftiness, the air infiltration. So with the spray foam, once you apply that, it expands to fill every cavity and that’s why you get that protection against those types of drafts?
PAUL: That’s it. It’s both an insulation and it’s an air-impermeable material. And the fact that it’s air-impermeable means that air doesn’t move through it. The fact that it is sprayed onto surfaces means that it actually adheres and becomes continuous with those surfaces. And so, as a result, you can have a continuous barrier to air leakage, as well as a continuously insulated roof assembly.
TOM: And of course, what that means to us on the other side of that insulation is comfort.
Now, I know that you guys have recently come up with a new formula for spray foam that has very, very low VOCs. For those that are not familiar with volatile organic compounds, for many years now we’ve just tried to take these out of building products and a host of other products. And it sounds like you’ve had a significant amount of success with this latest formula. Tell me about it.
PAUL: Yeah. One of the things that people don’t realize is volatile organic chemicals are in a lot of building products. And so, it’s been a movement throughout our industry to reduce volatile organic chemicals. The way we’ve done it with our formulations is we’ve actually made the chemicals that produce spray foam bond into the material itself and not get released. So, basically, it becomes a part of the foam. You get more spray foam for your money. In other words, when you’re spraying our product, you actually have all of the chemicals that are there that become part of the spray-foam matrix, if you will.
TOM: We’re talking to Paul Duffy. He’s the vice president of engineering with Icynene.
So, Paul, with these new formulations, I know that in the past, when you add a spray foam application, you had to get out of your house for, I guess, about 24 hours. With these new formulations, with a significant reduction in the amount of off-gassing of these compounds, can you – do you still have to get out of the house? Is it for a shorter period of time?
PAUL: Well, that’s one of the big breakthroughs we’re realizing, that we can actually get people back into their house much, much sooner. Probably the evening after the spray foam is applied. Just, basically, it takes a couple of hours for the particulates and other things that would be in the air to be ventilated out and thereafter. Because the spray foam is not emitting any sizable quantities of VOCs, it’s safe to go in and reoccupy the building much, much sooner: as little as two hours.
TOM: That’s a big advantage.
What kind of savings can a consumer expect from an application of spray foam if they – let’s say they had a bad insulation before that.
PAUL: Well, it really comes down to your starting point. I think in many, many cases, we’re finding that houses any – houses that are older than, say, 20 years old not only have a lack of insulation but they’re very porous at the roof-deck level. Think about it: there’s lots of things that are up in people’s attics. In many cases, there’s lots of plumbing and there might be exhaust fans and other ductwork. More and more people have had air-conditioning systems put in their attics and that equipment is all up there, as well.
So by insulating and air-sealing around those cracks and gaps and leaking pieces of equipment, essentially, what you do is you bring those items back into within the conditioned space or the heated and cooled space. And that makes them that much more efficient. So, we’re seeing savings, from the air-sealing component of things, maybe in the range of 25, 30 percent and perhaps adding in some other savings from the ductwork and other features that might be in the attic space, as well. So, it can be quite significant.
TOM: That’s a pretty big number. That’s fantastic. Paul Duffy, the vice president of engineering from Icynene, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit, filling us in on this new formulation and the benefits of spray-foam insulation and how we can stay warm, stay comfortable and avoid ice dams this coming winter.
Paul, thanks again.
PAUL: Thanks, Tom.
TOM: If you’d like more information, you can go to the Icynene website at Icynene – I-c-y-n-e-n-e – .com.
LESLIE: Alright. Coming up, as the year comes to a close, it’s a good time to tally up all the money you’ve spent on home improvements, because some of those dollars could pay off at tax time. We’re going to share those details, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And Leslie, this is the weekend when many people start to decorate their holiday trees. It’s also the weekend when people buy lots of holiday lights because the ones they ran last year mysteriously have stopped working as they sat in the attic.
LESLIE: Or fell over in the garage and your children stomped on them and all the glass bulbs are broken, so …
TOM: Yeah, I can’t help you with that. You’re on your own.
LESLIE: Buy a new one.
TOM: But if you do find yourself replacing your lights, buy LED lights because they’re more durable and they don’t break down near as much. And if you have the mini lights that you want to try to save them, what you want to do is check each light bulb, make sure it’s pressed tightly into its socket. Because if just one socket is loose, they all will not work.
You know, they always advertise on those lights – stays lit if one goes out but they never burn out. They just get loose and then if one gets loose, then none of them work. So check each one. And if it’s tight, it will come on again. So, very often I’ll find one socket that’s loose, I press the bulb in and voilà, you have lights on, so …
LESLIE: You know the reason why I go through so many strands of lights every year is because I like to use …
TOM: Because your kids stomp on the lights?
LESLIE: Well, I like to use their – I think they’re called the C7s, like the old, 1950s looking like big – like Christmas Story kind of bulbs?
TOM: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yep. Yeah. No, they’re cool-looking. Yep.
LESLIE: Yeah. And they break very, very easily. And it’s almost cheaper to buy the new strand than to buy all the replacement bulbs.
TOM: Yeah. We’ve used this on the outside of the house and you have to be really careful how you handle them, because if you lay them down on the roof or even drop a strand, they’ll break on the way down. But they’re beautiful and you can see them and they’re much brighter than the LEDs on the outside of your house.
888-666-3974. We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects. Give us a call right now.
LESLIE: Joyce in Missouri is on the line with a grout question. What can we do for you?
JOYCE: Hi. I have ceramic tile that I have had down for a few years. And I have – the grout is a charcoal color with a black-and-green tile. And the charcoal has dulled over the years and looking almost chalky. What can I do? Do I have to pull all that grout out and regrout it? Do I need to paint it or what can I do to give it new look of life?
TOM: Well, the grout is pretty easy to replace. There are special tools called “grout saws” that you can use to carve out the grout and then put new grout over sort of where the old grout was. You don’t have to get it all out but you’ve got to go down at least an 1/8-inch or so. And so, if your real concern is the grout and the condition of the grout, I think that’s the easiest way to deal with that.
JOYCE: OK. So that’d be – the best way to make it look fresh and new again is just take the top layer off at least an 1/8-inch and just regrout it?
TOM: Yeah. Make it look fresh and new by putting in fresh and new grout.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then make sure you seal it.
TOM: Right. Yeah, that’s key. You want to seal it first.
LESLIE: Otherwise, it’s not going to look fresh and new for so long.
JOYCE: Seal it after I put new grout in and let it dry? Then seal it and then we’re good to go?
TOM: Right, exactly.
JOYCE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, now that the end of the year is near, it’s a good time for kind of a refresher, Leslie, on which home improvements might be deductible. Because while they’re not all deductible, there are some very common tax-saving improvements that are typically overlooked.
LESLIE: Yeah. So let’s go over some of the deductions that homeowners typically tend to forget. First of all, basically, anything that’s going to save energy, that could be a deduction: for example, a new high-efficiency heating or cooling system, new windows, insulation, solar panels and so forth. You can get specifics at ENERGYSTAR.gov. And that will kind of spell everything out there for you.
Also, home offices. If you’ve got one in your house, that can give you more deductions. For example, if your home office takes up, say, 10 percent of the space in your house, that’s the percentage of expense that you can deduct from your gas, your oil, your electric bills, all of those things that sort of keep your home up and running, because they’re also keeping your business up and running.
TOM: Now, as far as sort of the rest of the expenditures, home improvement in Uncle Sam’s definition is basically any expenditure that increases the value of your home or extends its life. But here’s the rub: you can’t write them off the year you make the improvement. Instead, you’ve got to kind of keep a list because they go under a big category called “capital improvements” that have increased the value of your home over time. And they’re deductible when you sell the home. So yeah, you’ll get some credit for that but you’ve got to wait until you sell.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think, you know, along the lines of moving, buying, selling, all that stuff, a lot of people get really surprised when they hear this but moving expenses. If you’re moving 50 miles away or more and if you’re moving for a new job, you can also write off those costs of the move.
TOM: Yeah. That’s a good point. So, it’s really important to keep track of these things. Go ahead and keep improving but if you keep track of those expenses, you’ll be able to claim them come tax time. And this way, you’ll have even more money to put into those fix-ups in the year ahead.
888-666-3974. If you’ve got a fix-up plan for right now or the year ahead, we’d love to hear about it at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Nelda in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
NELDA: I’m having a problem with the glass on my gas fireplace. There’s a white film on it and I just cannot get it off. I went to the place where I bought it and they gave me some glass cleaner. But that doesn’t work, either.
TOM: Well, if it’s carbon-based, it can be difficult to get off. So, there’s sort of a mechanical way to do it and then there’s another chemical way that you could try. So, mechanically, you could simply get a straight-edge razor blade and try to scrape it off like you would clean, say, paint off glass. So you can try that.
But the other way to try it is with oven cleaner. Because if it’s a carbon buildup, the oven cleaner will melt that carbon and make it possible to clean the glass, just like it melts the carbon on the inside of, say, the glass on your oven door.
NELDA: Oh, OK. Sure. I never thought about that.
TOM: But regular window cleaning is probably not going to do the trick, because that’s really just for dirt and grease. But if it’s built-up carbon, then it’s a lot harder to get off.
NELDA: I’ll try the oven cleaner. That sounds like a good idea.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Up next, you can almost never go wrong with a painting project unless that project involves painting brick. We’re going to tell you why, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question on The Money Pit Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. We’d love to hear about what you are working on.
That’s what Linda from Tennessee did. And she’s got a question, Leslie, that we do tackle from time to time about painting. But in this case, she wants to paint brick. And man, that can go either way, right? Good or bad.
LESLIE: If you could see the face I’m making, everybody listening to The Money Pit, bleh. Alright. So let’s first – Linda’s writing: “I’m considering painting the brick mantel and fireplace in my living room. Could this affect my home’s value? And is it possible to remove the paint and restore the brick look once this look goes out of style or when I list my house for sale in a few years?”
TOM: So, when paint goes on, it can come off. But when paint goes on brick, it’s permanent. So the answer is probably not. In this case, I’d highly recommend that you avoid painting brick because the paint just gets drawn into that brick. It’s always going to be there, so it’s not like you can put it on and take it off. You mentioned taking it off when you sell the house. Not going to happen, trust me. And it’s a big, stinking mess to get it off of brick.
Whether it’s outside or inside, I really don’t want to suggest at all that you paint that brick. I would rather suggest you decorate around it if you don’t like the color. There’s lots of things that you could do to change the tone of that space without actually painting the brick.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think it’s important that unless you’re dealing with a very hideous color of brick – which there are some out there and do lend themselves to be painted. But for the most part, I think brick is really a charming and a cozy detail for a design element. And Tom’s right: look at what complimentary colors are to that tone of brick. And really work within that color wheel to find color elements that will balance that, reduce the brassiness, make it less red, make it feel more warm. Whatever it might be, look at the color wheel, look at your brick and then you’ll be able to find something that’ll work for you without painting.
TOM: Well, now that it’s really chilly outside, is there anything better than a roaring fire in the fireplace? Well, that’s only if you can actually see through the fire with one of those fireplace screens that gets really dirty and grimy very quickly, which is why Leslie has a great solution to keep it tidy, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. I don’t think people realize that you need to keep your fireplace screen clean. I mean in addition to getting fireplace soot and grime on it just from the fire itself, they gather every piece of dust and things and lint that can form in your living area. And then that all sticks to the screen and that could potentially be a fire hazard. And at the end of the day, it just looks all grimy and gross and dusty and dirty. And then you’re not looking at the fire.
So let’s remember that at least once or twice a year, you should be doing this to your fireplace screen. I even, when I’m vacuuming, I put the little upholstery brush on the fireplace screen, which I then have to remember not to use on the upholstery without cleaning the brush first. But I’ll vacuum my fireplace screen, as well, in addition to cleaning this. So, if you really want to enjoy it, plan on once or twice a year.
And if you want to get the job done right, you want to use a cleaning solution of 1/8-cup liquid dishwashing detergent per quart of water. And that’s really going to do wonders for all of that caked-on dirt. Then you can go ahead and gently scrub the screen. You want to use a soft-bristle brush. And then follow up by wiping with a lint-free cloth. That’s going to avoid rusting but it’s also going to avoid any of the lint from the cloth that you’re using getting stuck in those super tiny, little holes on the fireplace screen.
If there’s any brass on the screen, you want to use a brass cleaner and again, a lint-free cloth. And then the next time you light a fire, you’re going to see the fire, first of all. But you’ll see that your fireplace screen is just glistening and then you’ll really want to keep it looking that way. So vacuum in between and then twice a year do a good, soapy cleaning. And you’re going to end up with a beautiful beauty in your living space all year long.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, hey, speaking of fireplaces, getting your chimney cleaned is a job that’s both necessary and one that comes way too frequently with getting chimney contractors offering fraudulent advice in the hopes of getting even more money out of your wallet. We’re going to help sort out the facts from all that smoke, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2016 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.)