- Hiring a Contractor: Should you DIY or hire a pro for your home project? Learn how to decide whether doing it yourself is a good idea.
- House Insulation: Adding insulation is the best way to save on home heating and cooling costs. Find out new options to make it an easier DIY project.
- Home Maintenance: Do all those home maintenance projects seem like they never end? Here’s how much time most homeowners spend doing them each year.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Mold and Mildew: There’s a musty odor in Gail’s house after it rains and she’s not sure how to detect mold. We’ll tell her how to prevent moisture with better ventilation, dehumidification, and drainage.
- Windows: Can old casement windows be replaced with double-hung windows? Russ finds out the challenges of what’s involved.
- Driveway: What are the best options for fixing a driveway with cracks? We’ve got advice for Karen on what to use to repair most of her driveway and how to replace the sagging apron.
- Water Heater: A tankless water heater and a hot water recirculation system can be just what Charlie needs for his large home that is sometimes vacant. Find out the advantages of replacing his two existing water heaters.
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: What are you working on this beautiful September day? If it’s your house, you’re in the right place because, well, we are, too. Always lots of projects going on here with our money pits. But we’re here today to help you with your money pit. So, if you’ve got a roof to fix, you’ve got a leak, you’ve got a squeak, you’ve got a big project in mind – or even a little one – and you just don’t know how to get started, well, reach out to us because we’ve been there, we’ve done that. We’re here to help you.
I got a shirt this week; son of a friend of mine sent it to me. It says, “I fix stuff and I know things. That’s who I am.”
LESLIE: That’s a little twist on Game of Thrones but you know …
Well, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach out at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Just call us. Or you can go to MoneyPit.com and click the blue microphone button and record your question right there.
Coming up on today’s show, here is a dilemma that many folks face: is it DIY or is it get a guy or get a gal? If you want to tackle a project yourself, we will be the first ones to kind of cheer you on. But how do you know when hiring a pro is the best way to go? We’re going to tell you how to think through it all before you pick up the hammer and the saw.
LESLIE: And now that the weather has started to cool off, it’s the perfect time of year to improve your home’s insulation. And that’s so important because adding insulation is the single best way to reduce both your heating and cooling bills all year long. We’re going to talk with Nick Bramwell whose job it is to make sure that the Home Depots across the nation are well-stocked with insulation to keep us all warm and cozy.
TOM: And any do-it-yourselfer will tell you that it takes a lot of time to keep up with home maintenance. But just how much time does it take every year? Well, a recent survey broke it down.
LESLIE: Plus, we’ve got some great tools to give away from Arrow Fastener, including a cordless staple gun and the WireMate Staple Gun, which is super handy for all of your holiday decorating.
TOM: But first, we want to know what you want to know. So call us, right now, with your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Gail in Massachusetts is on the line and suspects that there could be mold afoot at The Money Pit. What’s going on?
GAIL: My den has a moldy kind of smell to it but mostly after it rains. And I don’t know if there’s a device that can be used to put it up against – the device against the wall to see if there’s any moisture or mold or anything like that.
TOM: So your den smells damp after it rains. OK. How is your den constructed? Is it on a concrete slab or is it on a crawlspace or a basement?
GAIL: It’s right above my garage.
TOM: Well, you’re probably getting a lot of humidity from that garage that’s working its way up into that space. So it’s not totally surprising.
TOM: I don’t think, necessarily, what you’re smelling is mold. It could be some mold in there but I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. It might just be the dampness and the humidity, as it passes through the building materials, getting up into that space and just leaving some odors behind. I think ventilation is a solution for you here and probably better air conditioning and perhaps even some dehumidification.
You have a central air-conditioning system?
GAIL: I do.
TOM: So, there’s a whole-home dehumidifier that can be added to that that will speed up the amount of moisture that it will take out. Because air conditioners will take out moisture but what happens is they tend to not take out enough. And sometimes, it can still feel kind of clammy. But a whole-house dehumidifier does it all and it’ll take out – I mean most whole-house dehumidifiers can take out 100 quarts of water a day. And that can be built right into the system.
LESLIE: And you know what? The other ones rely on the owner to empty them, make sure it’s set to the right humidistat. It’s much better to have the whole-house one.
GAIL: Yeah, yeah. Because I have one in my basement right now that I keep emptying.
TOM: Yeah, that’s way too much work. You don’t have to do that.
And by the way, the fact that you have moisture in the basement and you have this up above the garage, you may want to look at just, generally speaking, all of the drainage sources around the outside of your house. Because if your gutters are clogged, if your downspouts aren’t extended away, if the soil around the house is too flat, you’re basically holding a lot of water against that foundation perimeter. And that could be a problem because that’s going to lead to dampness, humidity and potentially even flooding.
GAIL: Oh, OK. So, we don’t really have a water problem in our basement but I’m wondering if the – so if I just make sure the gutters are cleared out …
TOM: Well, let me just stop you right there. The fact that you have to use a dehumidifier that collects enough water that has to be dumped, that is a water problem, OK? You’re just not seeing it yet, OK? So you do have a water problem; you just don’t know it.
GAIL: Yeah, yeah. And also, the washer and dryer are in the closet of the den. And I didn’t know whether – it was just recently installed. And so I didn’t know whether that was kind of a problem, because it almost smells like kind of a bathroom.
TOM: Yeah. I think you’ve got to stop chasing these smells down and start dealing with the core issue, which is the high humidity and the moisture. I think that’s going to solve it all.
TOM: Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Russ in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
RUSS: I have some casement windows. The old crank-style ones?
TOM: OK. Yep.
RUSS: And I want – we need to replace windows but can those be replaced with double-hung windows easily or is it going to be major work?
TOM: Well, if it’s a casement window, you don’t have an existing sort of window jamb that would stay behind. If it was an old double-hung and you took out the sashes, you could slip a replacement window in between that and use the old sort of frame but just replace the sashes. Because it’s a casement window, you physically have to take the entire window out. So it’s more like doing a new-construction window installation where you have to, you know, kind of mess with the siding to get the whole window out and then put a new window in.
In terms of the shape of it, too, if it’s sort of shaped for a double-hung, double-hungs are more tall than they are wide. Casements can be kind of squatty in terms of their style. So you want to make sure it’s going to look good.
But listen, if you’re going to take the casement out and it’s not going to fit a double-hung well, why not put in a new casement but just put in a good-quality casement, like an Andersen, for example? And that can fit alongside double-hungs quite well. In fact, I’ve got both casements and double-hungs in my home and they look quite natural together.
RUSS: OK. I’ve just had – every house we’ve had has had casements and they’ve all rotted and had problems.
TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
RUSS: So, I was looking – something different. But OK, that answers my question.
TOM: What kind of siding do you have?
TOM: Yeah. So you’re going to have to peel back the vinyl to do this. There’s no way around that. Because you have to basically set the new double-hung against the sheathing and then put the J-channel in and fill the vinyl in around it.
Now, if these new vinyl, double-hung windows are bigger than the casement, you’re not going to have any issues with needing to try to replace siding. Just make sure it’s a little bit bigger and then be careful about the siding that you remove.
The siding does come down pretty easily. And what I would tell you to do is number each piece with a piece of tape and a number on it so you make sure you get it back in the right order. And you can basically cut it to fit. So, it’s more work but it can look fantastic when you’re done.
RUSS: OK. OK. Alright. Thanks, guys.
TOM: Well, if you’ve got a project to tackle on this fine weekend, we’ve got some tools to give away to one lucky listener. From Arrow Fastener, we’ve got the Get Ready for Fall Prize Pack.
And this includes some tools that I think I see you carrying around, one on each hip, to tackle all the decorating projects around your house.
LESLIE: You’re not wrong, Tom.
TOM: I know. I know you well.
LESLIE: You are not wrong.
Now, this Fall Prize Pack from Arrow Fastener includes the E21 Cordless Electric Light-Duty Staple Gun. The battery is going to last 3 hours, so plenty of holiday decorating can be accomplished. And it really is the perfect tool for smaller general repairs, maybe a nice upholstery project, some decorating, some crafting. All things you’re going to find yourself doing over the next couple of months around the house.
Plus, the T25X WireMate Staple Gun. Now, this is really great for low-voltage wires, like holiday lights. So if you’re trying to do something interesting with the lights outside or maybe put them around a window trim, this is the perfect gun for that. Plus, you’re going to get a supply of staples from Arrow Fastener. And the whole prize pack is worth $75.
TOM: That’s going out to one listener drawn at random, so make that you. You can reach out to us with your home improvement question by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That’s 888-666-3974. Or you can just click the blue microphone button at MoneyPit.com and leave us your message, leave us your question right there.
LESLIE: Karen in Texas is on the line with a driveway that is just cracking up. What’s going on?
KAREN: My home was built in the late 1970s. And that’s what’s going on – is my driveway has just gotten full of cracks and everything. So, when I was looking into replacing – tearing it out and replacing the concrete – I had someone suggest to me that there’s some newer products on the market that you can overlay over top of the concrete.
TOM: Yeah. So, this is a concrete surface, right? We’re not talking about asphalt. It’s definitely concrete?
KAREN: Definitely concrete.
TOM: Alright. Now, the cracks that you’re seeing, is the driveway sagging or is it – just have these sort of fissures in it? I’m asking you this question because I want to know if it’s structurally unstable. Because no matter what you put over it, if it’s got a weak base, it’s just going to continue to move and crack. It’ll look better but it’ll still do that.
KAREN: I wouldn’t say it’s unstable. There are quite a few that run. They’re not small, short ones. I mean they’ve gotten pretty big. There is one area at the bottom of the driveway, by the street, that seems to have had a little bit of a collapse.
TOM: Shift? Yeah.
KAREN: Nothing you can’t – yeah. Nothing that can’t be dealt with.
TOM: Alright. So, here’s what I would do. There’s a new product out just this year from QUIKRETE. It’s called Re-Cap. And it’s a really interesting product because they’ve designed a product that will absolutely bind to old concrete and not separate.
And it’s fairly simple to apply. You put it on. You wet the – you clean the concrete, you put it on. And when the concrete’s wet – and you work it, smooth it out. You trowel it out. You can use a squeegee. You can use a broom to give it a bit of a broom finish. And then the whole thing dries in just a few hours. I think that would be a great addition.
In terms of the end of the driveway, where it reaches the street, that’s the part we call the “apron.” What I would recommend you do there is to go ahead and tear that out. You can pick up a few bags of QUIKRETE and mix it up in a wheelbarrow and repour that. And this way, you can make sure it’s nice and thick and structurally stable. And then even sort of extend the Re-Cap color onto that so it’ll all look like one piece when it’s all done.
But I think that that’s probably the best. Because if the concrete continues to move – and by that I mean sort of shift a little bit, expand and contract, freeze/thaw cycle, whatever – those cracks will show back up. But most of them will be filled in by the Re-Cap product and I think you’ll like how it works.
KAREN: Awesome. That was what I was hoping to hear, because it’s got to be a whole lot less expensive than having it torn out and completely repoured.
TOM: Well, absolutely. And by the way, there’s one other option, too. If you’d love to have a paver driveway, there’s a new paver out from Pavestone. It’s called Milano. And what’s cool about these Milano pavers is they’re half the thickness of a normal paver. And they’re designed specifically to go over old concrete patio and driveway surfaces.
So, you could look into those, as well. Probably a little more expensive – ah, probably a lot more expensive – than the Re-Cap product. But it looks absolutely gorgeous when it’s done and you really can’t tell that it’s not a full-thickness paver when you see it.
So there’s two options for you.
KAREN: OK. Awesome. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, doing home projects and improvements yourself may seem more cost effective than ever. But how do you know when to tackle home improvement projects yourself or when hiring a pro contractor is best?
So, step one, you’ve got to really keep your eyes on the prize. Before you start stocking up on your tools and choosing paint colors, your first do-it-yourself project is really here, guys: think about the exact end result that you are trying to achieve. And then work your way back through all of that knowledge, the techniques, the elbow grease, everything that’s involved to accomplish that. Do whatever research you need to do to fill in all of those blanks because this is really the beginning point.
TOM: Now, the next part is hard, especially for guys. I will admit it. You must assess your abilities honestly.
LESLIE: I could do that.
TOM: Yes, you must assess honestly to decide whether or not you’re the best person for the job. Considering this, think about the fact that every project requires a certain amount of preparation and on a sliding scale of time to accomplish. So, neither of which always is obvious in the many popular home improvement shows that edit days, weeks and months of hard work down to a few minutes of home improvement bliss.
LESLIE: Why do I feel like you’re blaming me for this?
TOM: Sounds familiar, huh? You made it look way too easy, Leslie. Way too easy.
So, really, think about how much time you realistically have available to get the job done. And remember that mistakes add hours and expense and they can easily wipe out any DIY savings.
Alright. Next, you’ve got to build a budget. This is the time to think about that. So, before you actually begin the hiring search for the contractor, you want to compile the best possible estimate of potential costs. Now, this is going to take a little research but you do need to do it so that you’re well acquainted with what’s involved. And then you can determine your financial limitations before those bids start rolling in.
You also want to include a reserve of about 20 percent. Because you need that to cover the inevitable project surprises and additions and line up all of your financing if you need to do so.
TOM: And lastly, get some help because you can’t do it yourself all the time. Whether you’re looking for a handyman or remodeling contractor to hire or taking some personal recommendations from family members and friends, these are all critical to finding the right match.
So, think about all of these things that stand between you and getting the project done. Because it’s not just a very simple decision whether you should do it yourself or hire a pro. There are many ways that, if you’re not skilled as a DIYer, things can go bad and sometimes horribly bad. So, if you’re not up for the job, hire a pro. That is really the best way to proceed.
LESLIE: Charlie in Illinois is on the line with some questions about water heating. What’s going on?
CHARLIE: Well, we have a situation where we have a large spa tub in the master bedroom, which is on one end of the house. And we have two large standard tank water heaters completely on the other end of the house. Two so that we’ll get enough hot water to fill up the spa tub. And I’m – we also are people that go to Florida for 3 or 4 months during the winter.
CHARLIE: So I’m wondering what the combination of those things – if we would be better off going to a tankless hot-water heater and if that may save us some money.
TOM: Well, I think that a tankless water heater has a lot of benefits. Cost savings may or may not be one of them, depending on how much you’re spending for those two water heaters that you have, plus all of the downtime when they are actually heating water that you don’t need it. It can be sized so that it can certainly supply enough hot water for everything that you have described. And of course, the nice thing about a tankless water heater is it works on demand.
Now, some of the more modern tankless water heaters also have the capability to kind of basically plug into a recirculating loop so that – you mentioned that one bath is at the far end of the house. It can be set up so there always is some hot water basically circulating to that bath in advance of when you need it. And what that means is when you hop in the shower first thing in the morning, you have hot water pretty quickly rather than waiting for that water to make the long journey from the water-heater location to the bathroom. And that can all be set up on timers so that the water is being heated only, essentially, when you need it. So I do think that if you’re ready to make that upgrade, a tankless water heater is definitely the best way to go.
It’s also possible to put another water heater in closer to them but I just don’t think it’s worth it, given everything you’ve described. I would suggest that when you’re ready, replace both of those tank water heaters with one single, properly-designed tankless water heater. And I think you’ll be very happy with the result.
CHARLIE: That sounds great.
TOM: Well, guys, now that the weather has started to cool off, it is the perfect time of year to improve your home’s insulation. Now, let me tell you after spending 20 years as a professional home inspector, I can tell you that most homes do not have nearly enough.
LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s so important because adding insulation is the single best way that you can reduce both your heating and your cooling bills all year long.
TOM: And that’s why we are so pleased to welcome our next guest. Nick Bramwell is the merchant for insulation at The Home Depot. And he’s responsible to make sure their stores are stocked up and ready to go for the fall season ahead.
NICK: Hey, thank you, guys. Thanks for having me on.
TOM: Hey, you know, having enough insulation is really key to a comfortable home. But in all the years I spent walking through attics as an inspector, it’s really surprising how many just don’t measure up. I mean not only have insulation standards changed – so we’re requiring more today – but a lot of old insulation will settle and sag. And it just doesn’t do a very good job insulating anymore. I don’t think it’s a product that people think of as something that wears out, like a roof. But the truth of the matter is it does. And it needs to be updated from time to time, right?
NICK: That’s right. I think the stat is 90 percent of homes in the country are under-insulated. And if you think about it, as a homeowner doing DIY or remodel projects, you may only do this once or twice in your life. So, not something that’s top of mind but should be top of mind. Because ultimately, it actually affects your comfort level every single day because it helps maintain the temperature to be comfortable in your home.
LESLIE: Yeah. And it also really affects your wallet. So if you’re not paying attention to what these costs are and how you can fix them, it can really do some damage. But you guys are definitely helping here.
So now, you’ve partnered with Owens Corning for batt and loose-fill insulation. And there’s a number of innovative new products that are available now for both DIYers and pros, that really make adding this insulation easier than ever.
So, let’s first talk about the PINK Next Gen Fiberglas Insulation.
NICK: Sure. It’s a great product.
LESLIE: Well, I think so many people are just fearful. When they start to think about – “Oh, an insulation project. I better get on a hazmat suit and worry about itching for the rest of my life,” and, “How do I do it? What do I do?” I think people just don’t always think of this as a DIY project.
So, what are you doing with the PINK Next Gen to make it so?
NICK: Oh, that’s a great question. So, you’re right. There was a time when insulation was thought to be itchy and just hard to work with. Something you would avoid with a 10-foot pole, right? Next Gen from Owens Corning, it’s a new product technology that’s come out in this last year. It actually does a couple of things.
The first thing for the homeowner or the DIYer is it’s softer than ever before. In fact, when I demo this in my stores for associates, I’m rubbing it on my face. Now, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not going to be something you want to get in your eyeballs, obviously. But hey, this stuff is softer than ever before. And the way they manufacture it, they’ve changed it over the years and gotten so much better with it. And it’s easier to handle.
But beyond that, because it’s stiffer than in years past with this new formula in Next Gen, it actually helps you cut more precisely. And then when you install it in the cavities of the wall, it’s going to have a higher friction against those studs. So what that means for the installer, it’s going to save about 20 to 25 percent of time, usually, that you would use to install to get it just right.
So, ultimately, what this means for us as DIY home improvement remodelers, you might say, is it’s going to save you time and it’s going to be easier than ever before. So it doesn’t happen very often that a category like this gets innovation but when it does, it means a lot. So, saving time and money, we’re all about that.
TOM: It’s really amazing.
Now, aside from PINK Next Gen, you are also featuring Thermafiber Fire & Sound Guard Plus. Now, this is insulation that I actually am using right now, Nick. I have an old house. It was built in 1886, so it’s like 136 years old. And I used this product for my entire first floor. I did it for a couple of reasons. I loved the fact that it was fire resistant. I loved the fact that it gave me some sound insulation. And frankly, it was really easy to work with in an older house. Because it was stiff, I was able to cut in between the old pipes and the wires and all that sort of thing. And man, what a huge difference putting this in made to our comfort level.
And that’s the thing about insulation: you don’t have to wait to feel a result. You feel it the next day.
NICK: Oh, yeah, for sure. On average, you can save 15 percent of your energy bill because it just improves the efficiency of your heating and cooling in a home. And it’s not that hard to do. The mineral wool is pretty cool. It’s a different original commodity.
So while fiberglass comes from sand and the different commodities for glass, mineral wool is typically a rock or steel-slag offshoot. So it’s produced the same way but you called out the acoustic insulation which, it’s true: it has superior acoustic insulation. You also called out the heat resistance. My favorite value and benefit of the mineral wool versus the fiberglass is actually the moisture- and mold-resistance. And here’s why that’s important.
So, anyone that’s ever flooded their basement, they know how much of a hassle it is to rip up your carpet. And if it’s above your baseboards, you’re going through and cutting out all that drywall and ripping up all that fiberglass insulation in the wall and replacing that, as well.
What’s great about mineral wool is it’s more resistant to moisture and water than fiberglass is. In fact, unless it’s a drastic flood, you can typically let this stuff dry out and it will retain its shape, which means you actually don’t have to replace it. So, people who are concerned about that, it’s an added value and benefit for going the mineral-wool route.
TOM: That’s a great point.
LESLIE: Yeah, Nick. I think it’s so important to think about how we’re all using our homes so differently in the past almost 3 years – which, I can’t even believe I said almost 3 years. But it’s bananas because our homes have become so multipurpose. And you really have to think about finding areas of quiet. And so this is extremely helpful in how we’re all now living at home.
NICK: That’s right. So, for customers or remodelers who are trying to improve their space – you know, for example, I myself am putting in a home office in my house because the dynamic of work from home has changed, right? So many people are doing the same thing, whether it’s their garage or a converted attic space or maybe it’s in the basement. But guess what? We’ve got busy families, too. I’ve got kids running around, dogs barking in the background. So how do you make sure that space is a little more comfortable and insulated from the surrounding noise? This Thermafiber product from Owens Corning, it really does help to improve the acoustic insulation.
So, around the house, where you might think about using Thermafiber or a mineral-wool product would be typically in a home office, a nursery. You could use it in areas where there’s a thermal-resistance factor, as well. So, for example, around a new fireplace. You’re putting in that new electric fireplace or gas-flue fireplace. That would be a great application behind that or even behind the range hood behind an oven.
So, there’s specific points in the home where this makes a lot of sense and drives a lot of value for the consumer.
TOM: We’re talking to Nick Bramwell. He is the merchant for insulation at The Home Depot.
And Nick, it always amazes me that we think so much about insulating our homes as it gets colder out. But truth be told, insulation is important year-round and actually will save us an awful lot on our cooling bills. We’re just coming off a very hot summer. We had a couple of pretty major heat waves here. And if it weren’t for the good insulation that I had in my home, I know my cooling bills would’ve been a lot higher.
NICK: Yeah. This is actually the number-one cost-versus-value item you can do in a new home. In fact, you’ll recoup about 117 percent of the cost of doing this project based on your energy bills, right? So, if you save 15 percent of your energy bill every month, you can see how you immediately would pay that back. And here’s how easy it can be.
So, if you go to Home Depot, you can go and get AttiCat or this loose-filled fiberglass insulation. If you buy 10 bags or more, you’re going to be able to get the machine rental to blow that into your attic for free. And what that’s going to allow you to do is top off your current insulation or you can add new insulation if your home doesn’t happen to have any.
You’ll immediately save money from your energy and cooling bills. It’s a matter of Day One, as soon as you’re done with the project. It’s really a no-brainer. The value there is just easy to understand for homeowners when you think about the energy savings.
TOM: It’s amazing. We’re going into the fall season now. And when it starts to turn cold and especially when our first heating bills show up, right, people start to think, “Insulation, insulation, insulation.” But it’s really important year-round.
NICK: That’s right. We often think about this in the winter months when it starts getting cold and drafty. On average, every home has about a ¼-mile of gaps or cracks or drafty spaces in their home. And all that is letting air in or out. So not only in the cold months but also in the warm months, too.
I often say, when we’re doing loose fill or batt fill, any type of insulation around the house with fiberglass, it’s not a bad idea to grab a couple of cans of spray foam. We carry brands like Great Stuff from DuPont or Loctite Spray Foam. It’s a couple of bucks a can. You seal up some of those gaps and cracks around the spaces that you’re working on and really limit that air that comes in and out.
When you’re talking about loose fill, for example, you want to make sure you keep that ventilation open in the attic. So you can’t forget about those baffles, too. So, installing the baffles near your soffits and eaves and making sure that air can move upwards along your roofline is really important, as well.
But all in, this is a year-round project that really will keep your home comfortable. And again, it hits your wallet every single day because it will save money on the energy bill up to 15 percent.
TOM: It definitely is the best return on your remodeling dollar.
Nick Bramwell from Home Depot. Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit, Nick. Thanks for helping us transform our houses into warm and cozy spaces for the chilly days ahead.
NICK: Hey, I appreciate it. We love what we do, we love working on the homes. Thanks for having me, guys.
TOM: That’s Nick Bramwell from Home Depot.
If you’d like to learn more about all the great insulation and weatherization products offered, head on over to HomeDepot.com. It’s a great time to get your house updated and insulated for the chilly weather ahead.
LESLIE: Post your questions at MoneyPit.com. Reach out any way you like. Because boy, do we have a great reason for you to do so. Of course, you’re getting help on your project, which is the best reason. But here’s some bribery. This is what we love to do.
Our friends over at Arrow Fastener have put together a Fall Prize Pack. Now, it includes the E21 Cordless Electric Light-Duty Staple Gun with a batter that’s lasting about 3 hours on full charge. So, plenty of projects can be done with that. But also, the T25X WireMate Staple Gun. And before it gets too cold, you can go out there and use that to put up your holiday lights. Come on, guys. Let’s think ahead. And if you get the ones that change color, you can go from Halloween to Thanksgiving to the winter holidays.
TOM: That’s what’s different about decorating today, right? Because you have the kinds of lights that change colors. We’ve got those for our front of our house. And you can dial up any season you want.
LESLIE: It’s fantastic.
Well, and the T25X WireMate Staple Gun is perfect to do that. So this really is a fantastic seasonal prize pack from our friends at Arrow Fasteners. And it’s worth 75 bucks. So give us a call, let us know what you’re working on for your chance to win.
TOM: That Get Ready for Fall Prize Pack from Arrow Fastener is going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us with your home improvement questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or click the blue microphone button on MoneyPit.com and record your question right there.
Well, guys, we all know taking care of a house is a ton of work. But a recent survey of 1,000 homeowners asked how many hours they actually spend each year to keep up their homes. Now, it turns out the average homeowner spends about 19 hours a month taking care of the house. And that adds up to nearly 230 hours a year.
LESLIE: Yeah. I would bet that. I would feel like that’s a minimum, because there’s always something to do.
LESLIE: Now, 42 percent of those who responded say they spent about 30 hours or more each more on house tasks. Now, that’s a huge jump from a similar study just done about 2 years ago when only 3 percent of homeowners that many home repair hours, probably because of the pandemic. It really made everybody concentrate more on improving their current homes, rather than trying to get out and find another one.
Now, 25 percent of the people surveyed reported devoting between 11and 20 hours monthly on home upkeep. And at the low end of the spectrum, 11 percent said they only spend 0 to 4 hours each month working on their house. Who’s that? That’s ridiculous. Who’s doing that?
TOM: That’s the millennials. They’re just getting going. They just don’t know what’s going to happen.
LESLIE: That’s awesome.
TOM: Well, you know what’s also interesting is that even when people did manage to find a new home in this tough market, a lot of buyers were willing to make compromises and even waive home inspections. That is very dangerous, because that ultimately means you’re probably going to miss things. You’ll spend even more time making those repairs and sometimes you can miss stuff that’s really serious and really expensive. So, just a bad idea to skip that home inspection.
LESLIE: It’s amazing. It’s a negotiating tool that’s being pushed. I can’t tell you how many times in the past 2 years did I love a house and people are like, “Well, we’ll consider yours more if you waive the inspection.” And I was like, “Nope.”
TOM: Yep, exactly. And at the same time, they want you to take it as-is, right? So you can’t come back at them.
I used to find people like that that would lie about the condition of the house. And it was like I was on my own personal mission to find out as much as I could and I very often did.
Bill reached out from Boston. He’s got a disappearing-stair situation.
LESLIE: That’s right. Bill writes in saying, “I have a disappearing attic stairway that sags, so there’s air coming in our house from the attic and vice versa. What can I do to fix or minimize this? It’s doing a number on my heating bills.”
TOM: I bet it is. Because all that heat rises and it’s going to shoot right up into the attic.
So, here’s what you need to do, Bill. First of all, you need to add weather-stripping to that bottom of that door all the way around. That’s really, really critical. If the stair is old and sagging, you might want to consider replacing it.
I put in a very unique stair some years ago; it’s called a “rainbow attic stair.” And what I found was that basically when I used the rainbow attic stair, when I fold the stair up, it has a really strong closure – almost like a storm-door closure – that basically holds the bottom really tight. Plus, it’s a metal stair so it’s super strong. And I really like this thing because it’s been durable throughout all of these years and I no longer have any issues with warm air getting up inside that space.
And if you ever wonder how much, Leslie, all you’ve got to do is go up in your attic. When the stairs open, you’ll be hit by a breeze of hot air like you can’t believe.
LESLIE: Yeah. Then you go up there and you see how freezing it is because it’s definitely the same as it is outside. So this can definitely change your heat experience and your wallet.
TOM: Well, there’s one thing that you can do right now to save a bundle when it comes time to heat your home. It’s a fairly inexpensive project and it’s good for DIYers to tackle. Leslie has tips on how to install a smart thermostat, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. A smart, programmable thermostat will ensure that you’re not playing with that temperature setting all day long. And if you don’t do that, you’re definitely going to save some money.
Now, you can keep it at a steady, comfortable temperature for when you’re at home. And then you can set it to about 55 degrees at night or when nobody’s home, somewhere in that range. Don’t go lower because you’re going to run into a ton of problems. But I always found 60, 62, that kind of works when nobody’s around. Tom likes it cold at 55. He’s crazy. We give him lots of extra blankets.
But anyway, the point with the programmable thermostat is that you can say, “Alright, I’m out all day, so keep it at this temperature. But I’m coming home at this time.” So now that thermostat, because of your programming, is going to automatically start to bring that temperature up about an hour before you wake up so you’re not freezing for that morning shower, about an hour before you get home from work.
So think about it: it’s getting the house ready for you to wake up, to return home, whatever it is so that when you’re there, you’re comfortable. And when you’re not there, you’re saving energy. So it really is fantastic.
And you can also move that temperature to a vacation setting when nobody’s around, all kinds of things that really are convenient. You’re going to find yourself saving so much money and energy. I mean it really is a project that you’re going to wonder why you didn’t do sooner once you see all the benefits. And it definitely is a do-it-yourself project, so tackle it.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the show, paint is a really remarkable material. It’s cheap, anybody can use it and it completely transforms whatever it’s applied to unless it doesn’t stick. We’re going to teach you how to handle hard-to-paint surfaces, on the very 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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