In this episode…
Tired of having to walk to dog at all hours of the winter day? Tom & Leslie walk though the best options in doggy doors, plus dish out the best recipe to make sidewalk ice disappear with destroying concrete and share a $20 improvement that will provide more hot water.
- Adding a doggy door lets your pooch walk him or herself! Learn how to pick the right door (there’s at least 4 types!), get it properly installed and teach your pet to use. Learn the best way to burglar proof your pet door so skinny burglars don’t try and slip inside!
- Wondering why your walks look worn and pitted after every winter? Traditional rock salt works, but it’s extremely corrosive to surfaces and leaves concrete pitted and worn. Tom & Leslie share a recipe for a non-corrosive deicer that won’t harm your sidewalks or your indoor floors when it’s tracked into the house. It’s also a lot safer for pets!
- Find out why your water heater has to work harder in cold temperatures and how a $20 DIY project can make your hot water last a lot longer.
Plus, answers to questions about countertop refinishing, sealing drafty windows, heating a garage, leaky roofs and finishing a basement and more.
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: Pick up the phone, give us a call. We want to talk about your next home improvement project, especially if you’ve got something planned for 2019. Do you have a New Year’s resolution that has something to do with maybe building a deck, adding a patio, painting a room, replacing a kitchen? Those are all great topics for us to chat about. But give us a call, right now, and we’ll help you get that job done at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up on today’s show, we’re all wearing more layers these days as the temperatures continue to drop. But your pets need that protection, too, so we’re going to have some tips on how to safeguard your dog against the frigid temperatures, including ideas for a heated doghouse.
LESLIE: And also ahead, with all the time that kids are spending inside during the winter, it’s a good time to give your home an electrical checkup to make sure you have the best shock- and tamper-resistant electrical outlets and switches in place. We’re going to share a simple checklist to follow, in just a bit.
TOM: Plus, have you ever needed to travel with maybe tools to get a project done, perhaps a vacation home or something of that nature? It’s actually not very easy, especially if it’s by plane. We’re going to share some tips to make that process go smoothly and share some of the surprising things that folks thought they could travel with.
LESLIE: And in just a couple of months, we’re going to start getting those calls from those of you who used rock salt or other caustic ice-melt products and now you need to know how to fix all those holes that left on the surface of your sidewalks. Well, this hour, we’re giving away a product that can clear the ice without those hassles. It’s a supply of the new liquid Entry, which is a chloride-free ice melt, and a 1-gallon sprayer.
TOM: Yep. It’s also much safer for pets. And that package is worth 45 bucks, going out to one listener who reaches us with their home improvement question. You can also post your question to the Community page at MoneyPit.com or on The Money Pit’s social media. The number is 1-888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line with a mold question.
LAURIE: My husband and I think that there possibly might be some mold in our drywall or insulation in our home and we wondered the best way to check for that. We don’t have any airflow in our home, though.
TOM: What makes you think you have mold? Do you physically see it?
LAURIE: Well, we have an underground – part of our home is underground and there is a lot of moisture, it seems like, in the air. We’ve seen some mold on some items in our home. And we have some cold-like symptoms from time to time that we think might be caused from it.
LESLIE: It’s like allergies, you’re saying.
TOM: So it’s more of the effects of it that you’re concerned about.
TOM: And this is in the basement.
LAURIE: Yes. It’s in the part of the home that’s underground and I had read online that some of those mold test kits are unreliable that you buy in the store or mold inspections can be very costly. I just didn’t know the best choice there.
TOM: Well, the truth is that mold pretty much exists in every home and so we can always find mold. The question is whether or not this is causing a problem in your house.
What kind of floor do you have in that basement, Laurie?
LAURIE: It’s cement and then there’s carpet over that.
LESLIE: That’s a huge mold trap right there. If you were to get rid of that, you would notice. Even if there’s moisture management in a basement, we never recommend putting a carpet down on a concrete slab in a basement area, just because concrete’s hydroscopic. It pulls the moisture from the ground. That then gets into the carpet pad, the carpet itself. And then the dust gets in there and you’ve got a breeding ground for mold.
So if you were to get rid of that, put down laminate or tile, use some area rugs, you’re instantly going to notice a better respiratory situation, I think.
TOM: Well, exactly. Plus, carpet is a filter material, so that carpet can trap dust, dust mites and all sorts of other allergens. So there could be other things, Laurie, here that are causing the breathing issues.
So let’s just give you some general clean-air advice. First of all, as Leslie said, the carpet’s not a good idea. Secondly, you want to make sure that your basement remains as dry as possible. And the way you do that is by making sure the gutter system is clean, free-flowing and the downspout is discharging well away from the house itself.
Secondly, we may want to add some sort of a filtration system. Now, do you have forced air into that basement space?
LAURIE: We do not. We do have a dehumidifier that we run and we have some ceiling fans but not in every room or not in every area.
TOM: So, is it a hot-water heated house?
LAURIE: No, it’s electric.
TOM: It’s all electric?
TOM: OK. So what we would really like to see is some sort of a filtration system in there – a good-quality, portable air filter, electronic air cleaner perhaps – that will pull the dust and dust mites and anything else that is of allergen basis out of that basement space. So a portable air cleaner could be a good addition.
But I suspect, from everything that you’ve told us, reducing dampness and removing the carpet will make that space a lot more comfortable.
LAURIE: Excellent. Thank you so much. That gives me some great ideas.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project, Laurie, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LAURIE: Thank you.
LESLIE: Joe in Pennsylvania is on the line, dealing with some heating issues. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
JOE: We have a furnace; it’s a propane furnace. It’s about five or six years old. It’s pretty good for heating the house but it seems like some of the rooms are hotter than an oven and some of the rooms seem to be cooler. And what happens is there’s no consistency, so I have a hard time with getting everything fluctuated so that everything stays even. And I don’t know how to adjust that so that it would heat the house evenly.
TOM: OK. So your furnace is kind of dumb in the sense that either it’s on or off, right? So that takes care of the furnace part of it. The problem here is with the duct system; it’s the distribution throughout the house.
This is a forced-air system, Joe?
TOM: So, the duct system is what has to be tweaked here to get the balance just right. Now, the way you adjust a duct system is first by designing it properly, which may be the issue here. And that’s kind of hard to fix without adding additional ductwork to it or rerouting things that you have.
The second way you adjust it is by controlling the dampers – the duct dampers. Now, duct dampers are going to be mounted usually somewhere close to the furnace or at least at the very beginning of a duct line.
TOM: And it’s evidenced by a small handle on the side of the duct. And if you look at the nut and bolt that the handle is attached to, there’s going to be sort of a flat slot to it. If the flat is perpendicular to the duct system, it’s off. If it’s going with the duct system, it’s on. And you can adjust the flow with those duct dampers. And the third way you can control this is with the actual registers inside the room, whether they’re opened or closed.
Now, if those adjustments don’t change anything, the other thing to look at is the return air: where the return is pulling from. The best HVAC-system design has returns in every room. If you don’t have both the supply and return in the same room, you’re going to have a central return: usually a bigger register in the hallway near a bunch of rooms. And if you improve the airflow back to the return, that can improve the balance, as well. How much you do that? Well, it could be something as simple as undercutting doors.
But this is a balance issue; it has nothing to do with the fact that you have a furnace that’s a propane furnace. It’s going to supply heat as it’s designed to do but the distribution is the issue. And it’s possible, also, that there could be fan adjustments to the fan speed that could impact this. But I think it’s over and above what you can do when we get into the fan work and the multi speeds and that sort of thing. That’s really a job for a service professional. But you could take a look for those duct dampers and see if they exist and see if you can tweak the airflow to make it a bit more comfortable.
JOE: Alright. I would be happy to do that.
TOM: Alright, Joe. Good luck with that project. 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 right here. We’re standing by at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, you pull out all the stops to keep your house and family warm through the winter but how is your pet doing? We’ve got some tips on ways you can keep pets safe from those frigid temperatures, after this.
Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your how-to question, your DIY dilemma at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you’ve got a project you’re planning to get done and you don’t know how to start or want some tips on which is the best way to go – you know, do you do it yourself? Do you get some help? Do you use wood lumber? Do you use composite lumber? Are you going to do something with pavers? You want to redo your kitchen? We’ve got ideas that can help you get through those jobs, because we’ve done those projects. We’ve screwed up plenty of them but we’ve learned from our mistakes and we’ll share them – some of those tips – with you. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
And hey, if you’ve already seen your share of slippery sidewalks and driveways, you’re going to love this hour’s giveaway, because we’ve got a supply of the new liquid Entry Ice Melt and a 1-gallon sprayer going out to one listener drawn at random. This is a clear, liquid, chloride-free formula so it doesn’t track the mess inside. It’s better for pets, for surfaces and the planet. And a little goes a long way.
The deicing bundle is going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joan in California needs some help with a kitchen remodel. How’s it going?
JOAN: Yes, well, we haven’t started yet and I just need some advice on how to get started. Do you start with an architect or what do you do?
TOM: That’s a good question. So, planning makes perfect. You want to start with a plan. Now, are you essentially going to replace the kitchen in sort of the same layout that you have right now, Joan? Or are you thinking about really changing things up a lot?
JOAN: Well, it’s a very small kitchen and I just want to know how to maximize everything.
TOM: Alright. So if it’s a small kitchen, you can probably do this inexpensively by perhaps starting with a home center. A lot of the home centers have designers that work on the – work on designing kitchens for the cabinetry that they sell. And for a very small fee, they can help you lay that out and take advantage of all of the latest options.
If you want to do more than that, what you’re going to do is hire a certified kitchen-and-bath designer. But this is sort of like hiring an interior decorator that works just on kitchens and baths. And that’s going to cost you a few bucks.
But if you want to just do this an easy way, I would start with a home center, in the kitchen department, and see if they’ll lay out some options for you using the type of cabinets that they sell. Those cabinets are usually pretty affordable at that level and they’ll be able to give you some ideas on things, perhaps, you haven’t thought about.
LESLIE: You know what, Joan? I think it’s really smart to keep a notepad in the kitchen. And everybody and anybody, yourself and your family who use the space, as you walk through and notice little areas where you’re tripping over one another or things that just don’t make sense or you wish that X was here and not there, sort of jot all of those down. So when you do go sit down with – whether it’s a certified kitchen-and-bath designer or someone in the home center, you sort of have all of these issues that could be addressed or might be able to be addressed.
JOAN: One thing I really want is more electrical outlets, so that’ll have to definitely be in the plan.
TOM: Well, it’s definitely in the plan and you’ll do these things in order. The first thing you’ll do is rip out the old cabinets and the next thing you’ll do would be to rough-in new wiring and new plumbing to have it exactly where you want it. And then, of course, you’ll start the installation of the new cabinetry as almost the last step.
It’s also a good time to think about universal design in the kitchen, maybe having countertops of different height. So as you get older, you could sit down and work at the kitchen counter as opposed to just standing up. So, think of the sort of accessibility issues when you design this kitchen, as well.
JOAN: How much time should I allow for something like this?
TOM: Well, it depends on whether you have sort of all your ducks in a row. Sometimes it takes a while to get all the cabinets delivered. But if everything is accessible and on site, you can tear out this kitchen and rebuild it inside of a week.
JOAN: Oh, wow.
TOM: If you have everybody lined up and everybody is there when they need to be there and the plumber shows up on time, the electrician shows up on time and so on, sure, I don’t see any reason you can’t get it done in a week.
JOAN: Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Well, we’re all wearing more layers these days as the temperatures continue to drop. And your pets need that protection, too. Even dogs that love being outside can definitely suffer the effects of winter’s frigid temps. So, here are three things that you can do to make sure your pets are comfortable.
LESLIE: Yep. First of all, you want to give dogs an extra layer of warmth with a dog coat. Now, they’re especially crucial for dogs who spend most of their time inside and might not have had the opportunity to naturally develop a thicker coat of fur.
TOM: Now, once your dog comes inside and that extra coat comes off, you can keep her warm with a heated dog bed. There are lots of affordable options out there, including heating pads that kind of slip under a dog’s existing bed, so you don’t have to go through the drama of switching out the pet’s bed because maybe they don’t want to sleep on a new one. You can also find beds that heat up only when your dog lounges on them, so they’re not going to be on all day.
LESLIE: And lastly, if your dog does spend most of his time outdoors, consider outfitting the doghouse with its own heater. Not just any heater, though; there are options that exist, for less than a hundred bucks, that are designed specifically for a pet’s space and safety. So make sure you check those out.
William is on the line with a gutter question. What’s going on at your money pit?
WILLIAM: Hi. We recently purchased a home that – it’s surrounded by a lot of pine trees. So I’m getting a lot of pine needles on my roof and in my gutters. And it’s only been a few weeks and already I’m tired of climbing up there to clean them. Do you have any suggestions for keeping them off the roof and keeping the gutters flowing?
TOM: Well, we can’t fight gravity, so you’re going to always have them on your roof.
I will give you a couple suggestions. First of all, as you probably know, there’s a wide range of gutter covers out there. And the type that are sort of screen-like are the type that are most likely to clog, because the pine needles will lay across the top, they’ll get stuck in there and you’ll just be very miserable. What I think the best type – is the ones that are continuous gutter covers that go all across the top of the gutter, where the pine needles have a chance to actually wash over the top and let the water fall in through the principles of surface tension.
Now, the bad news is that those are expensive. They’re so expensive that you may find that removing your traditional 4-inch gutters and replacing them with 6-inch gutters – which will not clog with pine needles because everything is much bigger, the throats for the downspouts are bigger, the gutters are bigger, they can take more water, more flow – might be the best way to go. So that’s kind of your option. I would either use a gutter cover that covers the entire top of the gutter or I would take out the 4-inch gutters and I would put in 6-inch gutters, which is what I did at my house and just never looked back.
WILLIAM: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Barbara from Massachusetts is on the line and has a sink situation. What’s going on with your house?
BARBARA: Well, on a previous program, you mentioned a product that really works on clogged drains. I have a set tub in the basement. The water doesn’t go down. And I didn’t get the name of the product that you mentioned really works.
TOM: Well, Barbara, there’s a number of ways to do that. I’m going to presume you’ve tried a plunger?
BARBARA: Yes. But you mentioned that the product really works. And of course, when I went to the box store, they said, “Well, they all say they work. Try to find out the name.”
TOM: Well, I’m not quite sure exactly what product you’re referring to but I will tell you this: probably the most effective way to clear those clogs is with something called a “hand auger,” which is basically kind of a snake-like device that gets inserted into the drain and will clear whatever is blocking it.
Now, if this is a sink that’s backed up, the other thing that you can do is to simply disassemble the trap. That’s the U-shape pipe that’s underneath. Because a lot of times, that trap itself gets blocked and that’s very easy to clean out by hand. If that doesn’t work, then you insert the auger into the rest of the pipe and just sort of feed it down as far as it will go.
And the hand augers usually come with a crank-like mechanism so you can sort of spin it as you go and try to find the source of that clog. If you put the entire auger in, though, and you don’t find the source of it, then it might be time to call a plumber. I know in my own house, for example, the last time I had a clog I put an auger down it that was 25 feet long and it just wasn’t long enough. And so I ended up calling a friend of mine, who’s in the plumbing business, that had a 100-foot auger and we were able to find it and clear it and move on from there.
But an auger is the right tool to clear that drain, OK?
BARBARA: Oh, very good. Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Still ahead, with all the time kids are spending inside during the winter months, it’s a good time now to give your home an electrical checkup. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the best shock- and tamper-resistant electrical outlets and switches all around. We’re going to share a simple checklist to follow, just ahead.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question, your DIY dilemma. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Deb in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DEB: My husband and I are in the process of either building a home or looking into having a modular put up. And I would like to know if you have any pros or cons of a modular, opposed to building a home – a new home.
TOM: Sure. Well, I’ve actually built both and I can tell you that the modular homes go up quicker, generally. And they can be more accurate because everything is fabricated inside of a factory. And so you’ll find tighter corners and squarer walls and that sort of thing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either approach; they both work. But if you go modular, it will probably go together a little bit more quickly. And I guess the con of that is that you may not have as much flexibility in design with that. Again, depends on the factory you’re working with and the builder you’re working with.
I will say this: you want to make sure you choose a builder that’s very experienced with modular homes and not one who just thinks he can put together anything. Because there are some peculiarities to them in the way they’re built.
DEB: Alright. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, with all the time that kids are spending inside during winter, I always think that now is a good time to give your home an electrical checkup to make sure that you’ve got the best shock- and tamper-resistant electrical outlets and switches in place. Codes and requirements do change over time and there’s no reason that you can’t have some simple updates done to keep everybody safe.
TOM: Now, the first thing I would check is for the presence of GFCIs. That stands for ground-fault circuit-interrupted outlets. These outlets will prevent shocks and they’re crucial in the kitchen and the bathrooms of your house, as well as outside and in the garage. I mean basically, wherever there’s dampness is where you need a GFCI outlet.
And the way it works is it detects when the current is flowing along an unintended path, like you, for example. And if that happens, it automatically shuts off the power. So, they’re a super-safe and important element to have in your house.
LESLIE: Now, if you’ve got young kids like I do, you also want to consider installing tamper-resistant receptacles – and those can be called TRRs – to your electrical outlet. And these are a step above those plastic plug-ins that you would see to block kids from reaching their hands into the outlet or poking something into the outlet. These are spring-loaded shutters that close off the contact openings completely.
And the slots for the plug goes – you can’t get to them. When you do need to use them, you just slide the shutters out of the way and you do that as you’re plugging in whatever you’re plugging in. You sort of start to insert it, slide it over and then go totally in. This way, there’s no chance of forgetting to replace those plastic, little covers because they’re small, you lose them, you take them out to vacuum or do something and then you’ve misplaced them all. So this is a better way to make sure that you’re always keeping everybody safe.
TOM: You know, it’s also a good idea to make sure your electronic appliances, like computers and routers and TVs, are all plugged into a surge protector. That’s going to prevent damage in an electrical surge.
And finally, there are two relatively new electrical devices on the market you might want to know about. First there’s outlets now that have USB ports that are built in. And that’s kind of handy because it lets you charge those devices without holding the outlet hostage, so to speak.
And then there’s also a new type of an outlet called an “arc-fault circuit interrupter.” We talked, just a moment ago, about GFCIs. These are AFCIs. And they’re similar except what these do is they shut off power in circuits when arcing is detected. Guess what arcing is? It’s like a spark, like a little lightning bolt. And that’s how most electrical fires start. So these outlets are so smart, they can determine that arcing, kind of monitor for it all the time. And they turn the power off if it happens.
So, there’s some pretty cool updates out there available. You don’t have to replace your whole electrical system but adding a few of these things can really make your house a whole lot safer.
888-666-3974. That’s our number here. We’d love to chat with you about the next project you’re tackling in your money pit.
LESLIE: Right. Mark in Maine is on the line with an electrical question. How can we help you today?
MARK: Yes, I have a couple of rooms. Our house is from around the 1930s and some of the rooms, the three-way wiring isn’t quite right. Like to turn on the light, as you enter the room, you turn on one switch. You can’t go to the other side of the room where the other switch is and turn the light off; you have to go back to the original switch, turn the light off. Then you can …
TOM: Oh, OK. So do you know that it was originally designed to be a three-way switch?
MARK: I do not know that.
TOM: Listen, you’re going to have to have an electrician open up the wiring and test it, trace it out and figure out what’s going on. It’s either that a switch has gone bad or more likely, it’s just not hooked up correctly.
MARK: OK. OK. Now, I had been told that there are switches that are specific to three-way and that is probably the problem but I’m – to be honest, I don’t know.
TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s entirely possible but it’s got to be opened up and take a look at what switch device is in there and then also determine if it’s wired correctly. Because it sounds like, most likely, it was incorrectly wired. It might have been that somebody replaced one of those switches at one time and just hooked it up wrong.
TOM: I’ve done that myself, just inadvertently. When I was painting, I recall, I took a switch apart to replace it from a toggle switch to a décor switch that’s the kind of flat-panel kind.
TOM: And I swore that I had gone wire for wire and got it right but I didn’t; I got it wrong. And it did exactly that, so I had to reverse some wires to get it working back again.
MARK: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’ve got some research to do.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project, Mark. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, do you ever travel with tools? Well, apparently many people do. I actually have. I was on a project in Indiana for so many months and I was sending stuff back and forth. And that’s not just me; the TSA is saying a lot of folks out there do. We’re going to tell you about the unique tools TSA agents have confiscated from travelers. And get tips for traveling with your own tools, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Standing by for your calls, your questions, your DIY dilemmas, your décor projects, your New Year’s resolutions. There is still time to save it, yes, to make sure it doesn’t fall into the New Year’s resolution trash heap. If it has to do with your house, it’s actually a lot easier to keep. I mean think about it: if you want to lose weight in your house, all you’ve got to do is declutter. See? It’s all the way you put it all together.
Give us a call right now. We’ll help you with all those projects at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Give us a call. Let us know what you are working on. We want to lend a hand, because this time of year we’re slipping, we’re sliding. There’s snow, there’s ice. It’s not so great, especially if you’re not that good with your footing. But for anybody out there, it’s very easy to fall down. That is why we’re giving you a hand this hour. We’ve got, up for grabs, a great, new product that’s a new liquid ice melt called Entry. And we’re giving with it a 1-gallon sprayer going out to one listener drawn at random.
Now, it’s called Entry and it melts ice and snow fast and it prevents the refreeze to temperatures well below zero. So I love that you don’t have to do the work multiple times. It’s a clear liquid. It’s chloride-free. You’re not going to get the mess inside. It’s safer for pets and the surfaces aren’t going to get all pocked up. Safer for the planet, as well. Plus, a little of it goes a very long way. One ½-gallon covers as much surface area as 50 pounds of rock salt.
You can learn more about Entry at ChlorideFree.com. You can find it on Amazon or even at Ace Hardware. It’s a great, new product. Give it a try.
TOM: And that ice-melt bundle is going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bob from Rhode Island on the line. What can we help you with today at your money pit?
BOB: Well, my money pit is a house, actually. And usually is everybody’s money pit, I guess. I’ve got a – the family’s homestead – it’s been in the family since 1948. And I’m in the process – I’ve gutted it all out. I’m down to the studs, so I took all the studs and the – I mean I’m sorry, I took all the plaster and the laths off the walls and the ceilings. And I’m looking at these two chimneys in the house. It’s a two-and-a-half decker house. And I’m trying to decide if I want to eliminate the chimneys.
You know, the new boilers today, they’re all direct-vented and I’ve got to do the roof anyway. So I’m saying, is this the time to remove the chimneys? What do you think?
TOM: Well, I think it might be. If you want to get rid of the chimneys, it could be the time to do it. Do you feel like the chimneys contribute to the aesthetics of the house?
BOB: Well, that’s a thought, too. That’s part of the reason why I’m calling is because I’m – they kind of do, in some way. And I’m looking at – when I tear the – when I tore the walls out, I exposed the chimney. I do like the brick but then again, I can change the layout of the kitchen without one of the chimneys. The one in the kitchen is quite large, so …
TOM: Do these come up through the middle of the house or they come up the outside wall?
BOB: No, they’re in the middle. Not in the middle but they’re inside. They’re all in …
TOM: OK. So that’s not so bad, yeah.
BOB: Yeah, they’re not like a newer house where they were outside – on the outside of the house, no.
TOM: And your furnace, your water heater, they’re all direct-vent today, so they’re completely disconnected from the chimneys themselves?
BOB: Well, they’re not now. I’m going to replace them. I’m going to put a Navien system in and …
TOM: OK. Alright. So you’re going to use a PVC, probably, vent pipe to take that up and out.
BOB: Correct. Yes.
TOM: Alright. Well, listen, if you – it does make sense to remove the chimneys. They are, obviously, a maintenance headache and a source of many leaks. Since you’re doing the roof, now is the right time to do that.
Removing the chimney is not as difficult as you might expect, because it’s basically like taking apart the building blocks. You start at the top and knock those bricks loose and take them down one at a time until you get below the top of the chimney. Probably go right down to the attic floor, I would imagine, so that it’s not in the middle of the attic. And then go ahead and resheathe that roof, fill the hole in. And once they roof over, it’ll be a distant memory.
BOB: And the funny thing is, as you said, that’s the proper way. But years ago, I had a friend of mine helping me doing another house and my – and it was a three-decker. And I told him, “I want to remove the chimney.” And all of a sudden, I hear this ridiculously loud noise. Sounded like a locomotive. He went down to the basement and knocked out the chimney and it’s a wonder he didn’t get killed. The entire chimney came all the way down to the basement.
TOM: The whole thing came down?
BOB: Yeah. He was entirely covered in soot. It’s a wonder he didn’t get killed. The entire basement was full of brick.
TOM: Yeah, well, let’s hope he learned his lesson.
BOB: Yeah. Well, good. Well, thanks for the advice. And I love your show. I listen to it every weekend on WPRO-AM in Rhode Island.
TOM: You are very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you find the occasion to travel to take on projects, the TSA has some friendly advice based on recent confiscations at airports across the country. Apparently, hammers, hatchets, boat anchors, Drano and wasp spray are among the items not welcome by airlines. Who knew?
LESLIE: And all of these items were taken from carry-ons.
Now, I’m going to tell you, Tom, I kind of relate to the anchor. Mine was a decorative piece that I bought at a Home Goods near me, that I brought to Canada for an episode of Hotel Impossible. And I remember putting it into my carry-on suitcase and sliding it through the thing and watching all of the TSA agents just stare at me as the suitcase went though. And I was like, “Yes?” And they were like, “An anchor?” I’m like, “It’s wall décor. It’s not real.” And they were – they opened my suitcase to find all sorts of crazy stuff that time.
TOM: Oh, I did something even worse than that. Now, I will tell you this was before 9/11. But I had traveled to Germany and in Germany, they’re known for some of the finest cutting tools in the world. And I found a beautiful, new set of brand-spanking new German-steel chisels, right? I was so proud of this set because I couldn’t buy it in the States. So that was my one souvenir for the trip.
So, of course, I didn’t want to take any chances on it getting lost, so I put it in my carry-on, not even thinking that that would be a problem. But apparently, it was. So, I actually had to go get my suitcase out of hock to put it in there and check it.
But yeah, you’ve got to really think about this stuff. You know, stuff like staple guns, radial-saw blades, wrenches, these are also prohibited. And apparently, there’s no home improvement going on at 30,000 feet so I guess you don’t need them.
Now, for kids that are aspiring to become the do-it-yourselfers, toy tools are also banned. There were, I think, toy chainsaws that were nabbed by agents recently. So, now that I’m older and more experienced, I’ve had to travel with tools. I’ve made a few changes to my routine to accommodate it. Because you know that even if you put tools in your checked bags, that those bags are going to get an extra hard look by the TSA. So, if that’s the case, don’t plan your travel time so you absolutely, positively have to have that bag as soon as you land, because you might not get it.
I remember once traveling around the country doing a demonstration on some TV shows about how to make roofs that could never, ever leak. And I had this demo board that was roof shingles and ice-and-water shield. And it was all held in kind of a wood case and it just looked weird to TSA. So, I’ve got to tell you, at least half the time that I was flying, that case did not make it. It got on the next plane that was going to that same airport but it didn’t make it because it was weird. So, if you’re going to put stuff like that in your bag, just plan some extra time because you may have to wait for the next plane to go out for it to get through TSA.
LESLIE: And then there might be a note in it saying, “What the heck is this?”
TOM: Yeah. What are you thinking? Or in our case, maybe a home improvement question from a TSA agent.
LESLIE: “What do I do with the green tiles in the bathroom?”
TOM: It won’t be the first time something like that’s happened.
Hey, are you thinking about installing surround sound in your very own home theater? We have some installation tips for creating a room all your neighbors will want to visit, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Standing by to take your home improvement questions by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT or you can post them in The Money Pit’s Community page, like Pamela did in Tennessee who has a fireplace question.
It looks like she’s worried about using the one she has, Leslie. What’s going on?
LESLIE: Alright. Pamela writes: “I live in a house that has a fireplace insert. One of the concrete panels is cracked. I would love to burn a fire but I’m too afraid that I’m going to burn down the house. Any suggestions?”
TOM: Well, a healthy dose of fear is good when it comes to fireplaces and chimneys.
LESLIE: Oh, for sure.
TOM: But I will tell you that cracks in those fireplace panels are not unusual, as long as they’re minor cracks. So I’m not too concerned about the hairline cracks. But to make sure you’re covering your bases, you want to make sure you have the insert inspected by a licensed and certified chimney sweep. But choose the chimney sweeps carefully, because many are not qualified and they exist solely to find extensive and expensive repairs that are totally unnecessary. So make sure you choose one that is well reviewed and experienced and get it checked out. And this way, you can enjoy that fire for the rest of the winter.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Jose. Now, he writes: “I’m thinking of buying a new home and the builder is offering a geothermal system. How do geothermal heating systems work and are they really efficient?”
TOM: Well, my opinion, Jose, is that if natural gas is not available and your only other option is electric heat, then a geothermal system can make sense. They can be effective and they can be efficient and they can heat your home. And the way they do that is they use the natural warmth of the Earth for that power and comfort.
The constant temperature of the top 10 feet of the Earth’s surface is the perfect zone for the refrigerant-filled piping that powers a geothermal heat pump. They’re similar to an air-sourced heat pump, which you would just normally call a “heat pump” these days. But it does it all cleanly and quietly and a lot more efficiently than an air-source heat pump.
Now, if you choose an ENERGY STAR-qualified model, you can also perhaps get a tax credit that’s available now through the end of 2019. And you’ll also use about 30-percent less energy than you would if you had an air-source heat pump as the other alternative.
LESLIE: Yeah. That’s money well spent.
TOM: Well, if you enjoy watching a good movie at home, Leslie has details on an awesome idea for a home theater design element that’s got a practical purpose, too, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: That’s right. If you’re really going all out with a home theater, upholstered wall panels are a great fit for the space. You know, from a design standpoint, the wall panels are glamorous and just plain gorgeous to look at. But from a practical point of view, those fabric panels help to soundproof the space for optimal audio quality when you’re watching a sporting event or a movie right at home.
Now, you can do this in a traditional way, the same way you would do an upholstered headboard with batting or foam over plywood or luan. Or you could go with a wall-mounted fabric panel specifically made for that purpose. There’s actually companies that you can find online that make these for real movies and live theaters. And sometimes, they are surprisingly affordable. I find that a lot of times it’s the size, it’s the fabric selection that tends to up the price game.
Also, there’s a couple of different products out there that’s basically a channel system that you attach one part to the wall, put in your acoustical foam and then snap a cover over it with the fabric so you’re creating those panels, as well. It’s really about how much DIY you want to do, what your budget is and really, the effect that you want to have for that space.
So if you’re looking to add a tricked-out home theater, don’t forget those details like these walls. They look gorgeous, they absorb sound. You’re going to end up with a great home movie-watching experience. And then make sure you send the invite to Tom and I. We both pop amazing popcorn.
TOM: We do, we do. We don’t bring our own.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, coming up next time on the program, we’re going to talk about serious cooking stoves. They can boost your cooking powers, not to mention your home’s resale value. But installing one of those commercial ranges, well, that requires some very special planning to make sure it goes right. We’re going to tell you what you need to know, 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.
(Copyright 2019 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.)