In this episode…
Do you have a list of projects to get done but concerned you won’t be able to handle any surprises that come up once walls and floors are all torn up? We teach you how to manage a home improvement project budget that plans for all the possibilities. Plus:
- Whether your roof leaks, heat goes out or fridge is on the fritz, unexpected repairs are a part of owning a home. We share tips for setting a realistic household budget help you handle the surprises and the expense of emergency repairs.
- Stone countertops are both popular AND expensive. But we’ve got a DIY trick of the trade to share on how to get a granite counter makeover WITHOUT spending a lot.
- As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover – and that applies to old furniture too! We share DIY tips on furniture refinishing and upholstery that can create statement pieces out of furniture that’s old and weathered, or that once faded into the background.
- Plus, answers to your questions about best layout for a kitchen, bath remodeling, fixing garage doors, dealing with chilly rooms 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: And we are here to help you with your home. Whatever project you’re taking on – do you have some high energy bills this time of year? Are you paying a lot for gas, for oil, for electricity? We can help you find ways to cut those down. Are your windows super drafty? You thinking about replacing them? You want a less expensive option? Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That’s a project we can help with, as well.
Or if you’re just kind of tired of the décor inside your house because, let’s face it, you’re spending a lot more time, now that it’s chilly out, inside those four walls that make up your home, well, we can help you with that, as well. But give us a call. Help yourself first by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to MoneyPit.com.
Hey, coming up on today’s show, do you have a list of projects to get done but maybe concerned you won’t be able to handle any surprises that come up once the walls and floors are all torn up? Well, we’re going to teach you how to manage a home improvement project budget that plans for the uncertainties just like that.
LESLIE: And also ahead, if you own a home, nobody likes surprises like when things break down unexpectedly. But by setting a realistic household budget for home maintenance, you can reduce those surprises and the expense of those emergency repairs. We’re going to have a rule of thumb to help you do just that, coming up.
TOM: Plus, stone countertops are both popular and expensive but we’re going to share a trick of the trade on how you can get a granite-counter makeover without spending a lot of bucks.
But first, we want to know what you want to know. So call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Tom in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: We have a house. It’s about – it was built in 2007. It’s about 2,700 square feet and we have two air conditioner/heat pump – you know, electric air conditioning/heat-pump units in it. And we’ve just been having headache after headache with trying to cool the house and heat the house with them.
We have a vaulted – kind of a vaulted ceiling, which looked great when we bought the house, and the registers are on the floor. But we’re constantly – the air conditioning and the heat units, they’re just running and running and running and running and running and never really cooling down the house or heating down the house. The insulation is excellent at the house. I’m trying to figure out any alternatives – we do have a gas fireplace which, basically, just really doesn’t heat the house much but …
TOM: First of all, you’re saying that it doesn’t work in the cooling mode or the heating mode. Is that correct?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: No, the cooling mode, it does work but – it cools the house down but it seems like the units run a lot. And I actually – to be quite honest with you, we did – we put some tinting stuff on some of the windows where they’re getting direct sunlight. But the heating side of it is just terrible. My kids are freezing on the second floor. We have a bonus room over the garage, which is pretty much insulated. We keep that door closed; it stays cool in there. And it just runs cold all the time.
And when I bring guys – people – out to look at it, they say, “The units run fine but you might want to put ductwork here, ductwork there, ductwork here.”
TOM: Well, there may be some truth to that.
First of all, the fact of the matter is you need to understand that heating – heat-pump systems work different than a fossil-fueled system. A fossil-fuel system is going to warm air up and it’ll come out of the register at 125, 135 degrees.
A heat pump works different. A heat pump is going to throw air out at maybe 90 degrees. And so, very often, with a heat pump, you hear complaints of that, well, it blows cold air. Well, it doesn’t really blow cold air but the fact is that if you have a little moisture on your skin, you put your hand in front of it, that moisture evaporates and that makes it feel very chilly. And that’s one of the reasons it’s uncomfortable.
Then, of course, if it can’t keep up with demand, then it switches to its backup system, which is electric resistance heat. And of course, that’s really expensive to run. The heat-pump thermostat is designed to maintain a 2-degree temperature differential between what it is in the house and what you set it at. So if you set it at 72 degrees and it falls to 70 in the house, the heat pump will come on. If it falls to 69 or 68, the electric-resistance heat will come on. Now, the air coming out of the ducts is going to be much warmer but you just more than doubled your expense.
Now, if the system is not doing its job, there’s a couple of things I would look at before I thought about replacing it, one of which is the duct design. Because if you’re not getting enough return air back to those units, then that could definitely be a contributing factor. You said that you’ve addressed the insulation part of it.
In terms of your thermostat, are you on a clock setback thermostat?
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Yeah. And we have it – I mean it’s at 66 degrees in the wintertime. That’s what we have – it’s 66 and 67. We don’t have …
TOM: Maybe your kids are cold just because you haven’t turned the thermostat up.
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Oh, we’re from up north, so we can deal with that. But what happens is when it starts running and running and running and running and running. It’s just like that’s all I keep hearing every two seconds: click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click.
But we have the option of propane. And being from up north, I lived with wood-burning stoves. And I grew up in Vermont and we had oil heat and electric backup for emergencies and stuff like that. But I’m just wondering if there’s anything on the propane side that might be more efficient.
TOM: Well, certainly, if you went to any kind of a fossil-fueled system, it’s going to put out warmer air. But I would want to make sure that the duct system was properly designed and installed before I do that.
Because if you change out your furnace and it turns out that the duct system isn’t installed properly or designed properly – if I was going to make a change, I would not want to just kind of get a seat-of-the-pants opinion by an HVAC technician. I would want somebody who designs these systems for a living giving you a good, reasoned explanation as to what’s wrong with the system and why it needs to be fixed. I want you to guard against the handy-guy that comes out that maybe does most of the furnace service going, “Well, you could throw a duct in here, throw a duct in there.” That’s not what you want.
There’s a science behind this. It’s not a guess. You can figure out how many BTUs you need to heat a house, how many BTUs you need to cool a house. It’s called a heat-loss analysis or heat-loss calculation. And somebody that does this professionally can handle that.
So, I would take a look at the duct system first, see if it really is designed correctly. Because, frankly, many times it’s not. And then, based on that, decide if you want to change to a different type of heating system or perhaps even add supplemental heat on your own.
For example, you might decide that in that bonus room, where it’s cold all the time, that maybe some electric baseboard radiators in there would be a very inexpensive way to pick up just a little bit of heat – extra heat – when you need it, assuming it doesn’t need to be on all the time. It could be a low installation cost. Certainly a lot less than replacing your furnace and you could just have it when you want it.
But take a look at the duct design first. Nine out of ten times, that’s the source of this kind of issue as you’ve described it.
TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Thanks, guys.
TOM: You’re welcome, Tom. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Cheryl in Texas on the line who’s looking to redo a bathroom and make it more modern with just a shower. How can we help you?
CHERYL: Well, I am the mother of four sons and as they get bigger, they no longer like to get in the bathtub.
CHERYL: And we find that they are always in my room, in my shower. We’re wanting to take out the tub that’s in their bathroom and turn it into a shower. My issue is I don’t have a lot of space. It’s a Hollywood bath and then the tub and toilet are in a separate little room that you can close off. And the door facing – of that little room sits right next to the tub itself.
So, my question is – when I pull that tub out, the plan was to put a shower pan down and tile the area and then put a glass door – either a sliding door (audio gap) door on there. Will that be a wide-enough space if it’s only the width of a standard tub?
TOM: Cheryl, I think you definitely can find a shower pan that can fit the width of that tub, sort of elbow to elbow if you’re standing in it. Think about it: if you’re in the tub, you’re taking a shower, right? You’ve got room on – to the right and to the left of you. So we want a shower pan, essentially, that’s the same size.
Now, when it comes to residential, prefabricated shower pans, they start at around 24×24, so that’s 2-foot-square. That would be probably the smallest that you would need but you might be able to go up even bigger.
But a little trick of the trade: if you were to find, for example, that for whatever reason – the way this room is configured – a 24×24 would not work, then you should shop for a smaller shower pan, which you will find, sold for RVs – recreational vehicles. Because they have tiny showers in them, right? And there’s a whole host of RV shower pans that are smaller than 24×24. I don’t think you’re going to need it. I think you’ll be fine starting there, maybe even going up.
But the size of the shower pan is what you want to figure out first. Then you can basically build around that, OK? Does that make sense?
CHERYL: Sure, sure. That’s what I want to do. OK.
TOM: Alright, Cheryl. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Kathy in Indiana is on the line and is dealing with a bald spot on her roof when it’s snowy out. And we’ve been getting a lot of snow this winter, so your house must look like it’s in need of a toupée.
What’s going on, Kathy?
KATHY: Hi. Yes, we just moved down here from Wisconsin, down to Indiana. We bought this house and we’ve been doing a lot of work on it. And when we got our first snow, I noticed, on the back part, there is a – like a foot-and-a-half-inch diameter bald spot every time we get a snowfall. And we had a friend – a contractor – come down. He went up in the attic and he’s like, “There is nothing going on here.” So the only thing we thought, well, maybe is going on is we have a heat pump and we also have our dryer vent in that same area back there.
And so now I had two different suggestions. He said to put a soffit venting on that whole area to get more air going up through there and possibly maybe it’s coming from the heat pump. But then I went to The Home Depot and I was talking to the guy there that seemed to know quite a bit. And he said – and what he would do is take it and remove all the vented area – vented soffit in that area. And so if there is heat coming up – he said, “But this shouldn’t happen.” He said, “This is what people do. They put their heat pumps outside.” And he’d never heard of anything like this before.
So we ended up doing that and so we don’t know yet if that actually helped it or not but …
TOM: Yeah, it’s not hurting the roof not having snow on that one spot. If you want to know why it’s happening, it’s because that spot is warmer than the other spots around it. Now, why is it warmer? Well, you mentioned there is a dryer-exhaust duct near there. If the dryer-exhaust duct is not completely sealed, if it’s dumping warm air in there, that’s going to heat up that spot over the roof and then any snow that hits there is going to melt and roll down. If the insulation has some gap in it of some sort in there where more room air can get up and heat that area right above it, that could cause it, as well.
But I would not tell you to start messing with your venting and everything else just because you’ve got a foot-and-a-half spot that doesn’t – where snow doesn’t stick. It’s curious but it’s not a major problem and I wouldn’t recommend major work for it.
KATHY: OK. So it’s – we don’t have to be concerned that there is heat getting up there and it’s going to cause mold and issues going on?
TOM: Well, I mean I would try – I would determine if there’s an obvious source of warmth that’s getting into that spot. But actually adding heat to that area is not necessarily going to cause mold. You’ll get more mold in the less heated spaces, frankly. Because when you warm moist – when you warm air, it uses more moisture, essentially. That’s why the warm air holds more moisture, so that’s not really a concern. It’s just kind of a curious thing.
And if you’ve got a dryer vent that’s right near there, I’d start with that because that would make perfect sense. If the dryer vent is losing some of its air right in that space, that’s not a good idea, either, because you don’t want to be dumping any lint into the attic. That could be dangerous, OK?
KATHY: OK. Well, very good. Thank you.
TOM: Alright, Kathy. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, are you guys sitting on a laundry list of home improvement projects that you’d love to get done? Home renovations of any sort can add major value to your home. But if you don’t plan them properly, they can also very easily, just as easily, maybe even likely to break the budget.
LESLIE: That’s right. In fact, recent studies show that almost 20 percent of homeowners who invested in a home renovation were forced to spend beyond their set budget.
Now, to avoid overspending on your project, it’s critical that you do your research and consider your options. Here are some ways that you can be financially prepared to take on a home improvement project without losing control of your money and of course, control of your mind.
TOM: Now, the first thing is to evaluate the potential return on investment. Sometimes, people make the mistake of diving into a renovation or project that they won’t end up benefitting from in the long run. It’s really important that any updates add to the value of your home and maximize that ROI.
LESLIE: Now, it’s also important to consider your options. So, when you’re planning a project, you can be forced to balance cost against both quality and preference, which can then compel you to make some sacrifices. However, sacrifices are expected and necessary when you have to stick to that specific budget. So, maybe choose cheaper brands when possible and spend more cash on things that are really more important to you.
TOM: You also need to establish a budget and a payment plan. So, once you’ve done your due diligence, you’ve decided on materials and gotten hard quotes on cost, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to pay.
There are lots of options for financing an expensive home improvement project. For example, you could do a cash-out refinancing, which uses your current home equity and then converts it into cash which you can use towards those renovations. Or you could use a home equity loan, which serves as a completely separate loan, essentially deeming it kind of as a second mortgage. There are also credit-card options for lower-costs projects. But of course, you need to make sure you understand all the terms, because some of the interest rates can be really high.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And lastly, guys, you’ve got to build up your savings account.
Now, if you’re planning a project, you know, you’re probably planning it out well in advance. So, in the months or even the years leading up to this anticipated renovation date, you should be giving your savings a boost in any way, even if it’s a small way. Start building up a nest egg as early as possible.
Managing a budget for a home renovation, it can be difficult no matter how big or small that venture is. But to be sure that your investment is both smart and profitable in the long run, it’s really critical that you’re well informed so you can acquire your dream home without harming your financial well-being.
TOM: And if you don’t know where to start, start here. Give us a call. We’d love to talk you through that project, 1-888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Nancy in Massachusetts is dealing with a garage that’s got other plans than closing. What’s going on there?
NANCY: I have a dilemma about what to do about the door. It’s just not closing properly and sometimes, it doesn’t even want to go up and down, never mind when it comes down it wiggles left to right, left to right until it gets to the bottom.
TOM: This is on a garage-door opener?
NANCY: Oh, oh, yes, yes.
TOM: So when it goes up and down, it shimmies in the opening?
NANCY: Yes. And the closing.
TOM: So, generally, the rollers on the side of the garage door are failing when that occurs. They’re ball-bearing rollers and when they get stuck, then they get sort of hung up on the way down and that’s what makes the door sort of vibrate and puts a lot of resistance on it, too. And that may be the reason it’s not closing all the way or closing evenly.
It sounds like the door is pretty old. And your options are to replace all the hardware and try to realign the door to get it working right or just replace the door and the door opener. If it’s that old and that sort of rickety, I might lean towards just a replacement. The new doors today are actually a lot lighter than the old doors and they work really smoothly.
I just put two on in the garage, I guess, about 8, 9 months ago now and I’m really happy with them. And I used to have really heavy, hardboard doors on this garage and now I have nice, factory-painted steel doors that look really good, really sharp and just close flawlessly every single time.
NANCY: Well, this is one of those metal doors.
TOM: It is? OK. But it’s an older metal door?
NANCY: Yeah. And I put Boeshield on the tracks to try to get it to roll down properly.
TOM: Yeah. But if the hardware has failed – even if you’re lubricating the tracks, if the hardware has failed, it’s not going to work right.
NANCY: So what would you recommend? A new door or just get somebody over to do the hardware?
TOM: I’d get a new door and a new opener.
NANCY: Yeah, OK. I don’t want to put good money after bad.
TOM: Exactly. I think – who knows if you could find the old hardware to match and everything? I’d just get a new door and a new opener. I think it’d be worth it.
NANCY: OK. Very good advice. I appreciate it very much.
TOM: Thank you, Nancy. Good luck with that project.
Hey, do you know the year your home was built? It can be important to know that date because the year house was built can factor into the care it needs today. You want to stay on top of your home’s needs if you want to save big in the long run.
Check out our post, “Home Repair Tips by Age of House.” It’s online at MoneyPit.com. We walk you through the most common types of repairs based on the age, the decade that your home was built. You’ll be surprised as you read through this post. And I bet you’re going to spot some items that you have in your house, right now, that you didn’t know may be coming up for a repair or replacement.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to Georgia where J.W. has a question about heating. What can we do for you?
J.W.: I paid some people to come out and clean my chimney. And they asked me what did I want to do. I said, “Well, put a wood-burning stove there.” But I have a coal-burning chimney and they said I couldn’t do it. And I want to know, can I put a wood burner where my old burner is set and use the same chimney?
TOM: It might be that the chimney is too small for wood burning.
TOM: So it may be a physical space issue with the size of the chimney itself, J.W. Not so much that you can’t physically do it but the venting may not be correct if the chimney isn’t – is too small. Or the chimney may not be lined. I don’t know how old your house is but it sounds to me like there’s a safety issue.
J.W.: Ah, so I’d be better off just to do as they suggested: to cut a hole in the roof to get that special insulated – what is it, aluminum?
TOM: I rarely agree with chimney sweeps because they give people bad advice a lot. But in this case, I tend to agree with them. If you were to start clean and just put in a regular, wood-burning stove, you’re going to be able to get, first of all, a wood-burning stove that’s very, very efficient, as opposed to a fireplace insert, which would be less efficient. And you’ll have complete control over the venting and you’ll be able to do it in a very, very safe and reliable way.
J.W.: OK. Now, is there a special place where I should put a wood-burning stove? It’s a six-room house.
TOM: You could pretty much put it anywhere you want as long as you do it safely. There are standards that are established for how to install a wood stove in a safe location. It has to do with clearance to combustibles and that sort of thing.
Look, J.W., it’s not a do-it-yourself job. If you’re asking those kinds of questions, it’s definitely not the kind of project you want to do on your own. I would get a pro to help you with.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, it’s always a good idea to start a rainy-day fund for your house so if it rains and the roof leaks, you’re going to have some money set aside for those repairs. But how much do you need? Well, here’s a good rule of thumb: try to set aside about 1 percent of your home’s value to cover a year’s worth of repairs and maintenance.
So, if your home is worth $300,000, you should plan on spending about $3,000 on it over the course of the year. Now, that doesn’t include big expenses that you should anticipate every once in a while, like a new furnace, air conditioning, roof, water heater, et cetera. If those components are aging from the start, it’s a good idea to set aside even more because those obviously cost more.
TOM: Now, when it comes to appliances, it’s often less expensive to replace them than to repair them. If you want a quick reference on when one makes sense over the other, check out our article on appliance repair or replace on MoneyPit.com. We put together an easy reference chart to help you decide if it’s even worth making the repair. It may be cheaper to fix it than it is to toss it or vice versa and we walk you through that decision process.
LESLIE: Cynthia in New York is on the line and there seems to be a whole host of problems going on with this tile floor. I was going to start itemizing but why don’t you just tell us what’s going on?
CYNTHIA: My house was built in 1948. It’s oak hardwood floors throughout. I bought 12-inch-square ceramic tile from Lowe’s in order to put in an area coming in from the front door, going through the foyer area. And last year, I installed – had it installed. And it was during a heavy rainstorm, so the repair people cut the tiles right inside my house and created tremendous – there was a cement dust throughout.
And when the installers left, they told me that the grout should be sealed, which I did using a special spray can. And they said that they would return to finish on the edges to prevent tripping, et cetera, because it was raised slightly higher than the rest of the floors.
After a few weeks, I noticed movement of the tiles and then a couple cracked. And now, all of the tiles move and the grout in the heaviest traveling areas has turned brown when I wet-mop it. The rest remains white.
TOM: OK. So, Cynthia, let me just summarize this. Essentially, you’ve had this tile down for less than a year and the tiles are getting loose?
TOM: Alright. So, the installation was not done correctly. The grout – the porosity of the grout – whether it’s getting brown, red, yellow or blue I really don’t care so much about, because that’s all meaningless when the tile is not adhered well.
So the problem here is that the installation sounds like it was done incorrectly. I don’t know how they adhered the tiles, I don’t know how they prepared the floor but there is no way that tile should be loosening up inside of a year and having all of these problems associated with them. So, this is a situation where it really is the installer’s responsibility. And if you can get that installer back, I think they owe you a new floor.
CYNTHIA: Yeah. I can’t stick one here and stick one there or that sort of thing.
TOM: You’re fighting a losing battle, OK? Because you had – you saw it right away; they started to loosen up right away. Now it’s just getting worse. And the reason the tiles crack is because they’re not supported evenly underneath.
So this all comes down to installation. If the floor was put down correctly, those tiles would be rock-solid. Insofar as the grout is concerned, yeah, you do seal the grout. It is a maintenance issue to maintain it. I’m not so concerned about that. It certainly wouldn’t crumble if the tiles were secure. But that really is the issue. The tiles have to be removed at this point. The adhesive has to be pulled out. You may need another layer of underlayment. I’m not quite sure, again, how it was attached. And if it’s done correctly, though, it literally can last indefinitely.
Cynthia, thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and good luck with that project.
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.
Well, do you love the look of stone countertops? Granite, in particular, is a very popular countertop material but it’s expensive. Fortunately, there’s a way to get these tops in your kitchen for a lot less and that is to basically create a granite top using smaller sections of stone, which are sold in square pieces. The squares can be placed side by side and then joints can be filled with grout. Now, these smaller stone pieces are a lot cheaper and easier to install. And they give you an equally attractive look at a fraction of the price of doing a solid-stone top altogether.
LESLIE: Now, there are a couple of other options for a granite look. You know, you can find great designs in a laminate counter that looks like granite. I mean today’s laminates come in thousands of color options and many can look just like granite or other solid-surface counters at a fraction of the cost.
TOM: And for an even less expensive solution, there is even a paint that simulates granite. The way it works is you put it on in several steps and it gives you that veined look of granite for the cost of the paint.
So, lots of options to get that natural-stone look for those that want to spend a lot and even more options for those that want to spend a little.
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: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project, Joan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Got a post here that writes: “My attic is my only real storage space. But the fact that it’s not climate-controlled worries me. Is there anything I should not store in there?”
TOM: Hey, that’s a great question. Certainly, any space that has extreme hot or extreme cold can be a problem for some types of storage. But more importantly, I think that you need to focus on how you’re storing over that insulation. You can’t compress the insulation because while, yeah, you’re worried about the stuff that’s up there, if you squish the insulation with a lot of storage, it’s just not going to insulate.
So you need to create a platform that is above the insulation. Maybe, say, part of the attic can have less insulation than the others or you can add a platform. This way, you’re not crushing that insulation and pretty much wiping out any chance of it insulating your home and keeping your heating bills and cooling bills in check at the same time.
Well, have you been doing a bit of reorganizing and maybe you’re about to throw out an old chair or a dresser? Well, not so fast. Leslie has got some tips for bringing new life to old furniture, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
Leslie? This sounds like upcycling.
LESLIE: It really is such a great project. You know, they always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, you shouldn’t do that with furniture, either.
Now, furniture refinishing and upholstery definitely are DIY projects. They can create really fantastic statement pieces out of furniture that’s currently old, weathered or maybe faded into the background in your home. Why not put that piece front and center again by just giving it a little bit of attention?
And sometimes, that little bit of attention can be tackling a new process that maybe you’ve never done before. But I’m telling you, with a little bit of research and a lot of confidence and willingness to try, you can definitely take that piece from something that you’re not even caring about to something that’s really going to be a showstopper in your home and a piece that you love.
So, first of all, just assess that piece of furniture that you want to refinish. Because different materials are going to require different treatments. Now, the better the original material, the better the ultimate results. Unless you’ve got a piece of furniture that’s chipped or loaded with layers of old paint, a simple sanding should do the trick. You might find that you’ve got a dresser or a chair or something that’s very spindle-y, that needs a lot of work to get it to the step or that place where you can repaint it, restain it, refinish it.
And sometimes, you’re going to have to use a stripping agent. Those are chemical products you can buy in the paint aisle at a home center. A lot of them have different levels of success and a lot of them are a little bit more difficult to work with than others. But read the bottles, take a look at them. Some of them sort of apply like a paste and then you peel away. Some of them you paint on. I mean it really varies.
If the piece does seem like it’s a little bit more complicated or maybe you’re a little bit of a – afraid to work with those chemicals, you can hire a pro to come in and strip that piece or drop it off somewhere. There’s always great ways to find somebody. If you go to HomeAdvisor.com, you can find a furniture refinisher or a furniture stripper in your area that will do the project for you at a great price. So don’t be afraid to outsource certain parts of it. Once you’ve got that piece again, a new coat of paint, a beautiful finish on top to help protect it.
Fabrics. Don’t be afraid. Upholstering a seat cushion is super easy. Headboards, you can bring new life into by upholstering a new back panel for. Don’t be afraid. If you’ve got specifics on a certain piece that you’re looking at, send us a picture. I am happy to talk you through the steps, the process, give you ideas. We are here to lend a hand, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your day with us. We hope we’ve given you some good tips and ideas on how to step-up the spaces inside your home.
Coming up next time on the program, saving energy and going green are big goals for most homeowners. We’re going to explain why one type of heating system can help you do both, 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 2020 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.)