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: Hey, Halloween is just, what, about a week away now or so? And if you are decorating your house for that important holiday – you know, that’s the second biggest holiday to Christmas and Hanukkah. I mean it’s really huge the amount of money people spend on décor. And so if you’re working on that project, we’d love to hear from you.
If you’re working on a project that’s going to make your home more energy-efficient for the chilly days ahead, great topic for us to talk about. And if you’re thinking about doing a big project like, say, replace your roof before the harsh weather sets in, we can help with that, too. Pretty much whatever’s going on in your home, we are here to help you with some advice on how to get it done faster, easier, less expensive to make sure it comes out correct every single time. So give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk about the filters in your heating-and-cooling system. Not only do they help keep the air you breathe free of dust and other particles but they can also protect your equipment. But the thing is all filters are not created equal. There are some good ones and there are some really bad ones. And we’ll have some tips on how to pick the best filter for your situation, coming up.
LESLIE: Plus, how many times have you heard a story about a contractor that didn’t complete a project or did only to find out that the work was terrible and the homeowner was left holding the bag? Well, thanks to a new ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, the contractor’s insurance company may now have to foot the bill for the faulty work. We’re going to talk to one of the attorneys who won that case, as well as learn about how this may help homeowners across the nation.
TOM: And you can’t see it or smell it but according to the EPA, hundreds of people die accidentally each year from carbon-monoxide poisoning caused by heating systems. We’ll have a way to keep you safe.
LESLIE: And one of the best ways to bring quality style and value to your home is to get new flooring. We’re giving away a $500 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators to help you do just that.
TOM: Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you and call us now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mike in Ohio is on the line and needs some suggestions with heating a home in the event of a power outage.
MIKE: Yes, yes, we do, indeed, because of the terrible winter weather, especially December. January to February is bad. So it’s three months and – yeah, emergency sources of – and safe, especially safe sources of indoor heating inside the home in case the furnace goes out.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, do you have a fireplace?
MIKE: No, I do not.
TOM: Alright. So, let me just suggest, then, that the safest indoor heating source is your furnace, which can be made operable through the installation of a standby generator.
Do you run on gas?
MIKE: Yes. Natural gas, forced hot air.
TOM: So, what we would recommend is that you invest in a standby generator. Leslie just put one of these in. I’m actually putting in – in fact, I met with the KOHLER Generator representative today to size one for my home. I had a smaller one that actually got me through Hurricane Sandy – speaking of natural disasters – and now I’m ready to upgrade to a bigger one.
And I’ve got to tell you, the prices have come down on them. They’re very efficient and in some cases, depending on the size, they will repower your entire house. Because if you lose power, you’re going to be able to restore some heat, maybe, if you had something like a kerosene space heater. But I’m not going to tell you that’s safe; it’s not. There’s thousands of fires that happen all the time, every year, because of things like that.
So, I would recommend that you think about investing in a standby generator. Now, you can either get one that covers the entire house or KOHLER also recently had a line that came out that is as small as an 8k, a 10k or a 12k generator. So they have a smaller generator line and a larger generator line, all permanently installed standbys. So, basically, they come on automatically when the power goes out. That is definitely the safest way to repower your house, reheat your house in an emergency.
MIKE: What would we do in the case that the furnace actually broke and say they couldn’t get a part through expedited mail for a day or two and worst case scenario, we’re looking at 10 to 15 degrees below zero?
TOM: You’re in trouble, Mike. Because there is no space heater that is going to be able to heat that entire house. You could have portable electric heaters, you can have some kerosene heaters but you’re never going to get the same level and same comfort that you’re going to get in that house. And frankly, I doubt that that would ever happen. You’d have to have a really oddball furnace, because most furnaces have pretty standardized parts and it doesn’t take days or weeks to get them fixed.
MIKE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Mike, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jenise (sp) in Kansas on the line who’s got a question about grout. What can we do for you today?
JENISE (sp): I had installed a porcelain tile. It’s a heavy-duty tile. So I used epoxy grout on the floor and all throughout the shower, the floors, the ceiling, the walls. And what I’m wondering is, do I need to seal it? If I need to seal it, what kind of sealer should I use on an epoxy grout?
TOM: I don’t think you need to seal epoxy grout, because the epoxy is going to prevent things from soaking into it. It’s really the sand grouts that we want to seal.
JENISE (sp): Well, I’ve already noticed some discoloration and it was white grout and it’s already sort of a brownish tint.
TOM: Oh, is that right? That’s probably water stains.
JENISE (sp): Oh, OK.
TOM: Yeah, that – usually, that’s mineral salts that dry out. So, try to wipe down those water stains with a white-vinegar solution – white vinegar and water. That might clear it up.
JENISE (sp): Was that a good choice to use epoxy, do you think or …?
TOM: I think so, yeah. Absolutely. For a bathroom? Perfect location for that.
JENISE (sp): Thank you so much. I appreciate it. You have a good day now.
TOM: You’re very welcome. 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. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, before the cold weather really sets in, there’s one improvement that you can make that’ll let you breathe easier all winter long. We’ll tell you what it is, next.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: One of the most frequent topics we’re asked about on the show is floors: how to replace them, how to clean them and how to make them stop squeaking. If you have a floor you’d like to replace, now would be a very good time to pick up the phone and call us with that question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Because one caller is going to win a $500 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators.
LESLIE: Now, you can redeem that gift certificate at LumberLiquidators.com or one of the 375 Lumber Liquidator stores nationwide. Give them a call at 800-HARDWOOD. Check out what they’ve got online. Give them a call for information. And again, that $500 gift certificate is going out to one lucky caller drawn at random.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Floyd in Iowa on the line who needs some help with a crawlspace. Tell us about it.
FLOYD: OK. I just recently purchased a home. And in part of the basement, I have a crawlspace. And when the inspector came in to do the inspection on the house, he recommended that I put plastic down and to close the vent. When I was listening to you guys’ show the other day, I noticed that you guys said something about keeping the vents open so nothing ventilates into the house. So I was just kind of trying to find out which direction should I go? What kind of plastic should I use? And does it sound like a good idea?
TOM: OK. So, let me clarify for you. First of all, putting a plastic vapor barrier down across the floor of a crawlspace is always a good idea. You use the plastic Visqueen – the big, wide sheets – overlap them about 3 feet. Try to get as much of that surface covered. What you’re doing is preventing some of the evaporation of soil – of moisture up through the soil – so that’s a good thing.
In terms of the vents, the vents should be opened throughout most of the year except, perhaps, just the coldest months of the winter. So if you close it, say, November and December and maybe January, that’d be OK. But for the rest of the year, those vents should be open because it helps take the moisture out.
FLOYD: Now, I also have insulation up in the rafters of the floor joists. Is it a good idea to put – or to seal that with any kind of plastic at all or should I leave those exposed?
TOM: Nope. No, you can leave it exposed just like that. It needs to ventilate.
FLOYD: OK. Good deal.
TOM: Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Dina in Iowa is on the line with a painting question. How can we help you today?
DINA: I have this brown paneling and it goes all the way from the floor to the ceiling in every room. And I wondered if I can paint over this or wallpaper – or what is your suggestion?
TOM: Wow. That’s a – what’s that, 1970s?
DINA: Yeah. Yep.
TOM: Yeah. You know, I kind of remember that growing up. We had those – that era in my house. And it’s always better to remove it but you can paint it.
What you want to do, Dina, is you want to prime it. So, the first thing you would do is you would clean it, you would lightly sand it. And because there’s so much of it, I would – when I go the paint store, I would get a sanding extension. It’s on a pole. It’s like a pole with an indexing head at the bottom – at the end of it, I should say. And you can run this pole over the surface and sand it, rough it up a little bit.
And then you’re going to want to prime it. And I would use a good-quality, oil-based primer. It’ll go on nice and thick. It’ll give you a good, solid surface on which to add the wall paint. And then you can use latex wall paint on top of that. And I think it’ll come out nice and it’ll go on easy if you do those steps in that order. Because once you prime it, you get a very nice, even surface. It fills in any of the imperfections in the surface and it will make sure that that topcoat can be accepted properly.
DINA: What about those grooves?
TOM: You’re always going to have those grooves. You can’t do anything about it unless you want to take the paneling down which, by the way, could be an option. Because sometimes, when they put the paneling up, they just nailed it with these types of small, very thin ring nails. You could experiment with the possibility of taking that paneling off the walls. And you may find that underneath it is drywall.
Now, generally, you have to do a lot of spackling, sometimes retaping and that kind of thing. But it is possible that underneath that paneling are some decent, typical, drywall-covered walls.
DINA: OK. It sounds like a Saturday job.
TOM: Yeah. Well, at least, if you’ve got that much paneling. It might be a couple of Saturdays’ jobs. A lot of Saturdays.
TOM: Alright, Dina. Good luck with that project. Thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you’d like to focus on one simple repair that can help you breathe easier all winter long, think about replacing the filter in your heating-and-cooling system. Now, it’s located near the furnace or in a wall or ceiling return duct. And replacing it takes only a few minutes.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to what you replace it with, there are a few choices and some do a better job than others of keeping that air clean. Basic options: there’s some cheap, blue spun-fiber filters that you find. If you can see through it, forget about it.
TOM: Yeah. That’s right. We used to call those “pebble stoppers” because if it’s not as big as a pebble, it’s not going to stop it.
LESLIE: Right. That’s all they’re doing.
TOM: Yeah. So sort of the good option would be a pleated filter. Now, the pleated filters are not expensive and they give you a lot more surface area of filter material. And they do a much better job of filtering the air than certainly those blue spun-fiber filters. And the best type of pleated filter is one called an “electrostatic pleated filter.” And these use a bit of technology to basically make the dust particles stick to those pleats.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, there’s an even better – if you will call it, the best option out there. That’s an electronic system and that’s going to be permanently installed. And they really do the best job of cleaning the air, providing that you keep them clean. And that’s really the perfect solution if you’ve got asthma or allergies. You’re going to see a huge difference.
TOM: Yeah. It’s really an important thing for you guys to consider, because a lot of folks don’t pay attention to those filters until maybe the serviceman comes once a year to tune up your furnace. But if you change it on a regular basis, you’ll do less housekeeping because the dust won’t be all over the place. And you’ll actually breathe a lot easier, especially important as we sort of seal ourselves in for the cold weather ahead.
888-666-3974 is our phone number. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. We’re here to help.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Hawaii, the most beautiful place in the world, with Ross. What can we do for you today?
ROSS: Thank you for saying this. And I had a question for you guys about countertops. What can you recommend that does not require treatment every six months or year like granite or – I know Silestone is supposed to be good. But what can you recommend in the natural-stone arena?
TOM: Well, Silestone is quartz. And quartz is not as absorbent as granite and that’s why it needs a little bit less care. Concrete tops are gaining in popularity. But again, all of those stone-based products do need more maintenance and more care than something like a basic, solid-surfacing material that is designed to look like stone.
So, if you want to us the natural products, you’re going to have to buy into some of that maintenance. And I think if you are definitely committed to natural, I would look at quartz over granite.
ROSS: And that would include Silestone?
TOM: Yeah, that’s a type of quartz.
ROSS: Does that require maintenance?
TOM: Yep. They all require maintenance, so you’re not going to get something that’s completely maintenance-free. But I think it requires less maintenance than granite because it’s not quite as absorbent. A little more forgiving to those tomato sauce and coffee stains.
ROSS: OK, great. Well, I appreciate that very much.
TOM: Alright, Ross. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Alright. Heading out to Kansas where Mike is on the line. What can we do for you today?
MIKE: Hi. My girlfriend and I purchased a house about three years ago. And when we did, we had it inspected, naturally. And the inspectors told us that our roof was in pretty good condition. It only had one layer. And the previous homeowner said that it was about seven years old.
This year, we’ve been having some leaking issues. And our – we had our insurance inspector come out and inspect it and he said that, really, there was not a whole lot we could do, that it was just a minor leak. And he put some caulk on it and that it would be OK. That was about three, maybe four months ago. And then a couple weeks ago, we’ve been getting all this rain and there – the leak is happening again.
So I went up there and kind of looked around and I found what I believe is the source of the leak.
MIKE: And I noticed (audio gap) kind of odd. Where the water is pooling up at, there’s a bunch of little, green granules. I’m imagining that’s from the previous set of shingles, because the shingles we have on there now are gray. So I’m not sure if our inspector was wrong and we’ve actually got more than one layer up there or what the reason for those granules being there would be and if that’s something that we could actually bring to our insurance adjuster and say, “Hey, there is something seriously wrong here.”
TOM: Well, the insurance adjuster is not going to help you with a defect in the construction of the house. If you have a leak that’s caused by a storm, that’s something the insurance adjuster can help you with, because that’s covered by your homeowners insurance.
You have a pitched roof with asphalt shingles?
TOM: And the area where it leaks, are you near any intersections of anything with that roof? By intersection, I mean does the chimney come through there? Does a pipe come through there? Do two roofs sort of intersect together at opposing angles? Is there a space where the roof matched – meets up with the exterior wall of the house? Anything like that?
MIKE: Yeah. Actually, at the back of the house, toward the kitchen. And I’m not sure if the correct term is “valley,” where the roof kind of comes together and it all drains down (audio gap) gutter is at.
TOM: And is that valley where the contractor applied the caulk that you’re calling it?
MIKE: I’m not sure exactly where he applied it. He just said that they did.
TOM: Well, look, if – and how old is the roof?
MIKE: The previous homeowner said it was about seven years and that was two years ago. So now it’s about 9, 10 years old.
TOM: And he said there was one layer?
MIKE: According to the inspectors and the previous homeowner, there is one layer.
TOM: So that means that the old layer was removed and the new layer was put on. It was a fiberglass shingle. And fiberglass shingles that are about 10 years old, some of them have this issue with cracking or checking. And essentially, they develop fractures in them where leaks can occur.
The only way to really see it is to literally be on the roof, looking straight down at it. And if you see it, it’ll be obvious to you. It kind of looks like a fissuring kind of pattern. But clearly, you’ve got a roof leak. Caulking is not the solution, ever. If it’s in the valley, the valley would need to be taken apart and reroofed.
And one way to kind of narrow down where it is – and you may not be the person to do this but a good contractor or a roofer could do this – is to take a garden hose and start wetting the roof down but starting it down low and working your way up.
So, for example, if I thought the valley was leaking, I might let a hose run there for an hour or two and see if I can spot a leak underneath it. But I’d be careful not to put the water up higher than the valley so that if it did leak, I knew exactly where it was happening. Does that make sense?
MIKE: OK. Awesome. Thank you.
LESLIE: Thomas in Tennessee is on the line with a wallpaper question. How can we help you today?
THOMAS: I have two layers of wallpaper in a small half-bath that I’m trying to take off. And I was wondering what you guys’ best solution is. One is a lighter wallpaper, like you would find in the rest of the house, but the other one is a very thick, waterproof-type that’s mostly used in bathrooms.
TOM: Yeah. Well, removal is pretty much the same regardless of that type. Essentially, what you have to do is you’ve got to run a tool across the paper called a “paper tiger.” And it’s a tool that puts small, prickly-sized holes in the paper. And then once you have those holes in there, you’re going to apply a water – a wallpaper-paste remover to it which will soak into the paper, get behind it and start to loosen it up.
Now, it’s a lot of work but considering it’s just a bathroom, perhaps it won’t be that difficult for you. If you really, really, really have a hard time getting that paper off, you could always rent a wallpaper steamer and that will make the job a little bit easier.
THOMAS: Oh, OK. Well, do you have any home remedies for this where you don’t have to buy a whole lot of tools? Because I’m kind of on a budget.
TOM: Well, the paper tiger is not very expensive. It’s a little hand tool. It’s probably $7 or $8, something like that. So that plus a few dollars for the wallpaper-paste remover. That’s really all you’re going to need.
THOMAS: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: Alright, Thomas. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Just ahead, if you’ve ever used a contractor but found out after the fact that the work you paid for wasn’t done correctly, a new ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court may pave the way for homeowners across the nation to be compensated by the contractor’s insurance company. We’re going to learn more from one of the attorneys that won that case, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Well, it’s a story we’ve heard more times than we can count: a contractor hired for a project fails miserably, leaving unsuspecting homeowners on the hook.
LESLIE: Well, in New Jersey at least, a groundbreaking decision by the state supreme court found that a failure of a contractor’s work may now actually be covered under their general comprehensive liability insurance policies. And that’s opening the door for homeowners, who have been the victim of shoddy work, to file a claim for coverage.
TOM: With us to talk about the impact of this decision is Mark Wiechnik. He’s the attorney who argued and ultimately won the case.
MARK: Hi, guys. How are you?
TOM: We’re great. Congratulations. This decision, it seems, can potentially help protect millions of consumers who have been the victims of shoddy workmanship by both general contractors and their subcontractors. Tell us how it all began.
MARK: We began representing the Cypress Point Condominium about five years ago in relation to leaks they were having. Cypress Point is a 53-unit condominium in Hoboken and they complained of leaks, shoddy workmanship, things about leaking windows, leaking roofs and mostly related to the installation of the stucco facade.
TOM: And as part of this process, where did you come up with the idea to try to go against the insurance company of the contractor? Because it seems that that was always an area that was somewhat untouchable. Didn’t they sort of divide a line, put sort of a barrier there that would stop folks from trying to do this, saying they weren’t really going to cover the workmanship side of it? It was more of if somebody tripped over a ladder, that’s what the insurance was for?
MARK: Correct. That’s the position that the insurance companies typically took. And to step back a second, most of the companies build – that are general contractors in New Jersey, anyway – and in most states are fully unfunded. They have no assets, they don’t have any ability to attach anything if you were to obtain a judgment. So the only way you generally recover from these types of things is by insurance policies.
So, the insurance carrier – the developer – sponsor/developer/general contractor – in this case, Adria Towers and Metro Homes – were essentially the same people. They never responded to the lawsuit. They were defaulted. They didn’t appoint a lawyer. The insurance companies ignored us for a long period of time. And ultimately, when we sued the insurance companies directly, we lost in the trial court. The trial court essentially said we could get no coverage because under the CGL policies, this was not an accident, it was not an occurrence. And the “your work” exclusion excluded everything when you’re the general contractor, because in the trial court’s opinion, your work was everything.
TOM: And that’s one of the reasons these guys are so ready to just kind of walk away from these things, because they have no assets and there’s really nobody taking them to task. But now, because of this decision, do you think this might change things moving forward? Do you think that – I mean this was with a condominium association but do you see this having application, at least as case law, to homeowners that are harmed by contractors in the future?
MARK: I do. It was the same application to regular homeowners. We represent single-family homeowners oftentimes in a class-action type case – in a group case where they’re all plaintiffs - or just a single-family home. So it will help them.
And it’ll also help insure that developers and builders are better at their jobs because now the insurance companies, knowing that they’re on the hook for these damages, will take greater care in issuing insurance policies. They won’t just issue them to anyone who asks or anyone who can pay the initial bill. They may do a little more investigation as to who they’re giving the insurance policies to. It’s similar to a bad driver. Insurance companies are unlikely or charge higher premiums to a bad driver. Hopefully, this will have that desired effect, economically, where bad builders will be priced out of the market.
LESLIE: And that’s interesting. That really opens the doors to a lot of, you know, interpretation of what constitutes a bad builder. And how do you make those judgments? I think it’s interesting, though, with New Jersey on board for this. How does that translate to other states? Will everybody sort of follow suit?
MARK: Well, there’s 31 states that have now gone this way and 5 others that overrode their own supreme court – their state supreme courts to pass legislation, essentially saying the same thing that our court did. So this is a continuing wave of supreme – state supreme courts deciding that this is practically exactly what these policies said. There should be coverage under these sort of things. And if there are other exclusions – for example, if the builder knowingly does something wrong, they have other options – other exclusions – in these policies. But I think the vast majority of the states are already on board with this decision and the rest should follow suit.
TOM: We’re talking to Mark Wiechnik. He’s an attorney that just was successful in a case before the New Jersey Supreme Court, which found that a contractor’s insurance company can be held liable for that contractor’s bad work.
So, Mark, do you think this is going to drive costs up for construction across the country or do you think the insurance companies are going to continue to seek ways to avoid liability for this kind of work? Generally, when there’s a big claim like this or a big change in the law, they try to write their way around it with new policy language, don’t they?
MARK: Yeah. I don’t think they’re going to back a dump truck full of cash to every plaintiff’s lawyer, their office or every plaintiff at this point. They’re still going to argue that there are various exclusions: things like water-intrusion exclusions, which may gut this entire thing. So I hope that the desired effect is that subcontractors and contractors will be more cognizant of what is in their policies and what they actually cover. And these exclusions – if you – for example, I’ve seen contractors who only do stucco work somehow end up with a stucco exclusion in their insurance policies. Hopefully, the contractor will be more cognizant of those issues going forward.
And back to the question of whether or not it is likely to increase costs, these costs were already built into the insurance policies to begin with. So it’s unlikely that it’s going to raise any costs. Hopefully, it’ll raise costs for the – like we talked about, the not-so-great developer or general contractors and they will be priced out of the market. But your regular (inaudible at 0:26:34), they were actually on our side in this case because they paid premiums – hundreds of thousands of dollars in premiums – and essentially got nothing for it out of their contractors or out of their insurance companies. So, they’re all in favor of this decision.
TOM: Well, well done, sir. Well done. I think this is going to help a lot of homeowners not become victims of bad contractors in the future.
Mark Wiechnik, an attorney with Ansell Grimm & Aaron with offices in Ocean, New Jersey. You can learn more about their work at AnsellGrimm.com. That’s A-n-s-e-l-l-G-r-i-m-m.com. Or you can reach Mark by phone at 609-751-5551.
Mark, congratulations again and thanks for joining us on the show.
MARK: Thank you very much. Thanks for the time.
LESLIE: Alright. Game changer for sure.
Just ahead, carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that results from combustion of fuels, like your natural gas, oil, kerosene, even charcoal. We’re going to tell you how to make sure your heating system is safe, after this.
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.
Well, one of the best ways to bring quality style and value to your home is to get new floors. We’re giving away a $500 gift certificate for Lumber Liquidators to help you do just that. You can redeem that gift card for your installation, too. So if you don’t know what you’re doing in the flooring department, you’ve got help with that. Check them out at LumberLiquidators.com or one of Lumber Liquidators’ 375 stores nationwide.
TOM: You can learn more at 1-800-HARDWOOD. That $500 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators is going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. So why not pick up the phone? We know you’ve got a home improvement or a home décor question on your mind. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: John in Connecticut is on the line and has a question about flooring. What are you working on?
JOHN: Well, I have a house that has concrete floor and it has no basement. And it sits on, you know, on a concrete floor. And I’m wondering what type of flooring I should out on it.
TOM: So you have a lot of options. One thing that I would try to avoid would be carpet because carpet on concrete tends to potentially cause an unsafe situation. Because you can get a lot of dust that can grow mold in a space like that, you can get a lot of allergens that will trap in a space like that. So I would look at hard-surface flooring and use throw rugs if you wanted to have something soft underfoot.
If you want an inexpensive option, you could use laminate flooring. Laminate flooring is very durable, very attractive today. It can look like hardwood flooring, it can look like stone, it can look like tile. They’ve got the technology down to the point where they can sort of print, into the laminate pieces itself, the impressions of the stone and the impressions of the grain. So I think it’s a very attractive option for concrete slabs.
Another one is engineered lumber, right, Leslie?
LESLIE: Now, a great option is an engineered hardwood. Now, what’s so great about that is the top layer is actually the hardwood. So if you’ve got that real, natural look in mind, this is the way to get it. But what’s underneath that top layer is sort of a compressed structure, almost like a plywood. And those are done at varying grains across from each other. That makes it structurally stable. So if you’re in a moister or high-moisture environment, that’s really going to be the best choice if you’re looking for an actual hardwood.
JOHN: Oh, wow, OK. That sounds good. I’ll look into that and I appreciate the information.
TOM: Alright, John. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that results from combustion of fuel, like natural gas or oil or kerosene. And it can make you sick or cause death. And I’ve got to tell you, in the many years I spent inspecting homes before getting out of the crawlspace and into the radio studio, I found carbon monoxide leaks with a surprisingly high frequency.
LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s why you absolutely must have your heating system tuned-up every year.
Now, Tom, we always say that but what exactly would a technician be looking for that could lead to a toxic situation?
TOM: Yeah. Good question because all inspections, all tune-ups are not the same. And I have personally witnessed some bad ones in my house, which – when somebody comes to work on my house, Leslie, I don’t like to say, “Hey, do you know what I do for a living?” No, I just kind of let them do their thing. But if they don’t do the job right, you can bet they’re going to hear from me. And you’ve got to do a good job.
So, the first thing they’re going to do is clean the burners. Because if the burners are dirty, they’re not going to fully combust the fuel. And if they don’t fully combust the fuel, the fuel can actually have higher levels of carbon monoxide coming off it. I have seen burners that were dirty and produced – the fuel produced sort of a very sweet, acrid odor. That’s a really bad sign. If it’s not a clear-blue flame and you’re getting sort of that orange-y flame and you’re getting that sweet smell, that’s really bad.
The second most important thing to check is called the “heat exchanger.” Now, the heat exchanger is sort of the main body of the furnace. And the way to kind of envision what it does is to picture in your mind a hot-water radiator. So if you have a hot-water radiator in an old house, the water circulates inside the radiator and air sort of wafts over the outside, right? And that’s how the air in the house gets heated.
Well, a heat exchanger is sort of like the internal radiator for a furnace. And what it does is it keeps the combustion gas – the natural gas that it’s burning and on its way out to the chimney – on one side and it lets the air from the house blow through on the other side. And that’s how the air gets heated. Problem is that over time, they will crack. And if they crack, you can leak combustion gas into the house air. And that could cause an unsafe situation. So those are two really important things they’ll check.
In addition, they’re going to want to look at the venting to make sure there’s no obstructions in the chimneys. I have found different types of rodent nests and bird nests and all kinds of stuff in chimneys that people thought were perfectly fine, because I looked for it. So this is what technicians should be doing. All of these things are important to make sure your system’s not only running efficiently but most important, safely. And they should be included in that yearly inspection.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think we should talk about some things that are outside of the inspection but are also sources of carbon monoxide that are totally hazardous. Never run a car, use a barbecue, run a generator or even a lawn mower in an open garage. The fumes can rise and fill your house.
TOM: Yeah, they really can. And even if everything is operating properly, it’s always a really good idea to have carbon-monoxide detectors. In fact, they’re actually mandatory in many jurisdictions with newer or remodeled homes. So, good idea to kind of have a 360-degree protection for you and your family against CO poisoning, because it’s not a year that goes by where we don’t hear about tragic deaths from this that are completely preventable. So get those detectors, get the systems tuned up and be safe.
LESLIE: Rosemary in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ROSEMARY: Yes, hi. I’m having a problem with the light bulb for the garage door. The light bulb keeps going out and I understand there’s a special one to use but I haven’t had time to check it out. Have you heard of such a thing?
TOM: Well, sometimes with all the vibrations associated with that operation of that garage-door opener, you can get a lot of vibration. Sometimes, that will ruin a standard incandescent bulb. There’s a type of bulb called a “rough-duty bulb.” You may have a hard time finding that in a normal hardware store or home center. I think a better idea is just to get yourself an LED light bulb. I think the LED bulbs are much more durable than incandescents, in addition to being much more cost-effective. And I think that will solve it.
ROSEMARY: Oh, OK. Thank you so much. I’ll try that.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Well, it might not be as tough as quitting but getting cigarette stains and odors out of your house can be quite a challenge. We’re going to have tips for preparing those stained and smelly walls for a fresh coat of paint, after this.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: So many projects, so little time left before those frigid temperatures hit. If you’re on the fence about what to tackle, consider cleaning your home’s exterior. It’s a good way to feel good about its appearance all winter long and there’s no easier way to clean your house and your walkways than with a pressure washer, which is particularly fun to do. If you head on over to MoneyPit.com, we have tips there on which pressure washer is best for your home and advice from the pros on how to use it.
LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, post your question just like Casey did who writes: “My siblings and I are planning to paint the interior of our parents’ home before selling it. The problem is both of our parents smoked in the house for many years, so the walls are stained by smoke throughout. Is there any way the walls should be treated to eliminate the smoke stains and odors before we begin painting?”
You know, Casey, this tends to be a common problem among homes of older people, just because they tend to be the smokers. So there are some steps you can take. First, you want to clean the walls. And I don’t mean with soap and water. You want to get a painting prep product like trisodium phosphate. It’s called TSP. You can find it in the painting aisles of the home centers. You mix that up. You can scrub the walls with that. Once that dries, I would say prime the walls with a super good-quality primer, even an oil-based primer. And what that will do is that will seal the odors into the wall surfaces and make the walls have good adhesion before you start to paint.
But I would take it another step further. You’ve got to think about any soft goods – draperies, carpeting – because it gets into the carpeting, the smoke smells. And even further than just the carpeting, it gets into the padding and even the subfloor. So you’ve got to think about all these different layers if you really want to tackle this odor.
TOM: So many people think that getting rid of smoke odors is a matter of cleaning it away but you just can’t. Somebody has got to pull out all those soft materials that soak up the odor and then prime everything else and call it a day from there.
LESLIE: Yeah. I mean that really is what’s going to make the difference. We had some neighbors who moved into a very smoke-filled house and that was ultimately what did the trick.
TOM: Well, busy schedules mean that most of us have to fight hard to put down the smartphone, shut the laptop and go to bed. And once we finally get there, we need the best sleep we can get. And Leslie tells us how, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. Well, luxury bedding goes a long way towards a good night’s sleep. But wading through all those thread counts and fabrics is enough to make you need a nap. So before dropping dollars on those upscale linens, know exactly what each offers and their drawbacks.
First of all, let’s talk about bamboo sheets. They aren’t just soft. In fact, they’re sometimes compared to cashmere and they get softer the longer you keep them. But if they’re from China – and most bamboo sheets are – there’s a chance they came from an uncertified factory. So skip bamboo sheets if all this uncertainty about where they came from will keep you awake at night.
Now, organic Egyptian cotton sheets, those are also super sought after and with good reason. They’re soft, durable and breathable, good for anyone who gets warm in the middle of the night. But if you love the sight of a crisp bed, pass on the Egyptian cotton. It’s going to wrinkle really easily and it kind of always looks like your bed is unkempt.
Now, as luxury sheets go, cultivated-silk sheets, they are the ultimate in softness. But even if you can afford to splurge on this expensive bedding, the long-term costs might be more than you bargained for. Silk sheets, they’re easily damaged by your jagged toenails or fingernails or even just rough skin on your heels and elbows. And believe me, rough skin on your heels will snag those sheets. And forget about using your washer and dryer to clean them. They need to be hand-washed or even dry-cleaned and then air-dried. So, is it really worth the hassle?
You can find some good sheets out there with a good-quality thread count that will make you super comfy.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, creating a gravel path can help you channel foot traffic in a way that’s friendly to your garden and your pocketbook. But if you want it to last, it’s not just a matter of dumping a few wheelbarrows full of stone and calling it a day. We’ll have Roger Cook from This Old House join us with the step-by-step solution to build your very own.
And that just about wraps up this edition of The Money Pit. Remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or anytime, online, at MoneyPit.com.
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.)
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