In this episode…
Do you have champagne home makeover dreams on a beer budget? We’ve got tips on 7 home remodeling projects you can do with less than a thousand bucks, coming up.
- Plaster walls are common in older homes – but cracks are almost as common after decades of settling. We’ll share a trick of the trade to make repairing those plaster cracks easy and fast.
- And, just because you are a renter, doesn’t mean you can’t make changes to cut heating costs in your home or apartment. We’ve got solutions to solve your energy problems… including some that you can even take with you when it’s time to move on!
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about cutting a shelf to fit wall space, installing a vent duct, removing ugly wallpaper, repairing wall cracks, and getting rid of hot water heater noises, 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 what are you working on? If it’s your house, you’re in exactly the right place. If it’s your condo, your apartment or even your yurt, you’re welcome, as well. Because whatever place you call “home,” we’re here to help you make it better, make it safer, make it more comfortable, reduce your energy expense and take on whatever project you’d just like to get done. Help yourself first, though, by reaching out to us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 or post your questions on MoneyPit.com.
Coming up, do you have champagne home makeover dreams but a beer budget? Well, you do not have to give up those dreams. We’ve got tips on seven upgrades that you can do with less than a thousand bucks.
LESLIE: And plaster walls are common in older homes but cracks are almost as common after decades of settling. We’re going to share a trick of the trade to make repairing those cracks easy and fast.
TOM: And hey, just because you are a renter doesn’t mean you can’t make changes to your home or apartment to cut heating costs. We’ve got solutions to solve your energy issues, including some that you can even take with you when it’s time to move out.
LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. What are you working on now, next week or even in the weeks ahead? We’ve got 20-plus years of experience between us taking on home improvement, remodeling, décor projects. You name it, we’ve probably done it or at least one of us has done it and the other one’s researched it or helped. Whatever it is, we are a good team that can help you get the job done. So tell us what you are working on and let us give a hand.
TOM: I’d say it’s 20 years each but that makes us sound too old.
LESLIE: Shut up. I’m only 25, so I don’t know how that’s even possible.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it. Leslie, my young friend, who’s first?
LESLIE: Dana in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DANA: Well, I have a shelf that needs to be cut down so it’ll fit in the base of our A-frame cabin that we just bought in the Ozarks. And so it’s about 20 inches tall and it’s about 3 feet long and it kind of has those baskets that fit in it. And so, what I’d like to do is I’d like to cut it at an angle so that it fits back in there and it’s not just sticking out into the flooring space.
LESLIE: So, Dana, what you need to do is that – really, what you have to do is sort of resize this piece so that it will fit into that open-bay portion so that it’s not, as you say, sticking out into the room. And you really need to be creative with the angles to sort of figure out what needs to come out of where.
Can you tell me a little bit more about this A-frame and the size of the shelf?
DANA: Well, the A-frame is just a regular A-frame; it goes all the way from the top to the peak, all the way to the ground level. And so I was trying to figure out, how do you figure the angle so that I know what angle to cut this shelf on?
LESLIE: Well, there’s a tool that you’re going to want to get: T-bevel. And it’s like a plastic handle with this sort of a tic-tac, oval-shaped blade that’s got a slide set in the middle of it.
TOM: Blade. Mm-hmm.
LESLIE: And you’re going to open that up. You can get that at any tool area at the home center.
LESLIE: And you’re going to want to open it up and you put that right in the corner at the angle and then lock it in that position. And then you go ahead and put that at your T-square and that’s going to tell you exactly the angle that you need to cut at. Or you can then take that T-bevel and go right up to the bottom of your shelf, put it exactly where you’re going to want to put that cut and mark that line.
TOM: Yeah, it’s like an adjustable square and it’s called a “T-bevel.” And you should be able to find an inexpensive one, like Leslie said, at home center.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It really is going to save your day and make this the easiest project.
DANA: Ours …
TOM: I use that all the time for different types of fancy mitering cuts in, too, because there’s a couple of tricks of the trade where you can measure an angle and then divide it so that you can make a miter that ends up perfect on both sides.
And we also use it sometimes to set the angle on saw blades, so I think you’ll find that it’d be a very handy tool for this particular project. OK, Dana?
DANA: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Michael in North Carolina is on the line with a water heater that’s making some curious sounds. Tell us what’s going on.
MICHAEL: Recently, the last four to six weeks, I’ve been noticing – it sounds like a bubbling and a popping noise inside of the water heater. I’ve read several things on the internet but I can’t quite put my finger on it and I’m worried that either the vessel is getting ready to go or – I’m not sure, at this point.
TOM: How old is the water heater?
MICHAEL: It looks to be of considerable age. I’m guessing between six and eight years.
TOM: Well, I mean water heaters generally go about 10 to 12 years, so that’s not – that’s kind of middle-aged; it’s not too terrible. By the way, if you look at the data plate on that water heater, usually there’s a date stamp sort of buried into the serial number. Sometimes, it’ll actually say what the date of the manufacture is or at the least, it’s going to have a gas standard in terms of which code it was built to and it’ll give you a year there. So you can get an actual sense of what the age of the water heater is.
The noise is usually caused by a sediment buildup on the bottom of the tank. So, if you drain the tank occasionally, that will usually stop that. Have you ever drained your tank?
MICHAEL: In the eight months I’ve been there, no. But I’d read something somewhere along the lines that you have to be very careful with – it’s got a plastic drain valve on it. And when you have a water heater that’s a little bit older, I guess they get – become brittle. And I’m worried about breaking that and making things much worse immediately.
TOM: Well, you could very carefully try to drain the water heater. You simply hook up a garden hose to that spout; it’s designed to be drained. And let some of the water out of it and try to spill off some sediment with that. You get sediment on the bottom of the tank and that does tend to make it pretty noisy sometimes.
MICHAEL: OK. Is there any chance that I have the temperature turned up too high and it’s causing – well, I guess not at 125 degrees. It wouldn’t cause a boiling, would it?
TOM: No, it wouldn’t. And 125 degrees, though, is pretty hot. You really want it to be more like 110.
TOM: Just for safety’s sake, if nothing else.
LESLIE: Yeah, because you could easily get scalded.
MICHAEL: OK. Alright. I’ll give that a shot.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Cecily in Iowa is on the line with a wallpaper conundrum. What’s going on at your money pit?
CECILY: Well, I have a probably 24-year-old townhome that I think the paper has been on the wall since – for that long.
TOM: It was popular back then.
CECILY: Yeah, yeah. Back then.
I’m just wondering – person I had in here tried to, where the wallpaper butts up against the ceiling, there’s – it looks like a bad job and there’s some marks. And he thought he could wipe it down. And everywhere he wiped it down, there’s like a watermark all along where he – looks like icicles: an uneven line of watermark.
And I don’t know if it can – I’ve been told you can paint over it. We have vaulted ceilings; it’s a lot of paper. And I don’t know how you would – if what – they took it off. There’s actually some posts papered with it and I don’t know what’s underneath.
TOM: I think the answer is you can remove it. It’s a lot of work, like any type of wallpaper.
TOM: If you want to paint over it, it’s going to look like the wallpaper underneath.
LESLIE: Textured paint.
TOM: It’s going to look textured underneath. So, if you want to do like a really inexpensive, short-term fix, you could paint over it. I would recommend that you use a very thick roller on that because otherwise, it’s going to be very hard to get the paint in where it has to go. And maybe you might even need to use a slitted roller: the kind of roller that we use on textured ceilings where it has actually sort of slots in it. Because it really gets in and around and thick and will sort of fill out that whole surface with paint.
CECILY: Mm-hmm. Is it terribly difficult to remove?
LESLIE: It depends on how long it’s been there, what the prep process was to the wall below the paper. All of those can add up to an easy job or a tremendously difficult job. And it’s one of those things that you don’t know until you try. And there are ways to do it.
Now, with a textured wall covering like this, whether it’s grass cloth or the string cloth, you can try to use a store-bought wallpaper remover, you can use a steamer, you can do homemade concoctions. One is white vinegar and hot water; another is fabric softener and hot water. Both situations, you super-saturate the walls and just sort of let it sit there for a few minutes. I’ve even heard of clothing starch with hot water and making a paste onto the wallpaper.
And I’ve used the fabric softener and that does work. That was a traditional vinyl, which I had to score first. But I’ve also heard with grass cloths, that you can take a paint scraper and scrape the actual string cloth or the grass cloth off of the backing, so that might make it easier to remove. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of work and you never know what’s behind it. You could get everything off and the wall could be so textured and dinged up that you end up having to put a layer of drywall over it anyway.
CECILY: Ah, OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. That’s very helpful and I’m glad I called.
TOM: Well, no doubt some home improvements cost a bundle. But you’d be surprised to know how many can deliver a pretty big impact at a fraction of the cost, including seven affordable upgrades you can do with less than a thousand bucks. So we’re going to walk you through those.
LESLIE: Yeah. Let’s start in your kitchen.
Now, upgrading your kitchen work surfaces is an affordable home improvement because there are several sleek, budget-friendly materials out there to choose from, including green options like stainless steel, cast concrete and solid surfacing. Now, updating your cabinet hardware, add some new paint and your kitchen is going to look brand new.
TOM: And then there’s the bath, usually a very costly update for such a tiny room. But if you just kind of accessorize that bathroom, you can increase water savings, comfort and safety, especially if you plan on being in your home for a while. These could include easy-to-grab door and cabinet hardware, rocker switches, grab bars and even water-saving shower fixtures or a water-saving toilet.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And then, of course, there’s my secret décor weapon and it’s really no secret, guys. I’m talking about paint.
Paint is really underrated. It is the easiest, cheapest and most transformative home improvement product out there, so use it. Gallons of paint, you’re going to vary in price point from about $35 up to $165 a gallon, depending on the brand manufacturer that you choose. So, you can find a paint gallon that’s affordable for you and you can pick a color that will totally transform the space. And you can go big and bold or you can go tried and true. Whatever it is, it’s going to make a great difference.
TOM: And if you are painting a room, you get to empty it. And that’s a great opportunity to organize, which is our next tip. You should organize to create more space and less clutter. Improvements like shelving and safe storage zones are cheap and can convert a very crammed garage or a family room or a kid’s room into a place that you can actually get stuff done and easily access everything you need.
LESLIE: Yeah. Next, we’re going to talk about outside, because outdoor living is huge.
Now, building a small deck or even a patio of brick, natural stone or cement pavers can expand both your living space and your home’s value. And you can also update landscaping or upgrade your front entry door. And that’s going to boost your curb appeal.
TOM: And a great way to stretch your dollar is to make improvements that save money, like updating your home’s insulation. These are easy, cost-effective improvements that’ll bring you good bang for your buck for many years to come.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dave in Ohio who’s dealing with some seams in the drywall. Tell us what’s going on.
DAVE: Well, my garage – my attached garage – is finished but I’ve noticed that in the wintertime, the seams will pop and crack. And then over the summer, I retaped and respackled and repainted and that was in May. And then by December, they had popped again and it’s getting really frustrating. It’s also uninsulated. It’s unheated and uninsulated, so I’m trying to figure out what I can do to fix this permanently.
LESLIE: Well, the issue that you’re dealing with, primarily, is that you’ve got drywall in an unconditioned space. So you’re getting a lot of movement throughout the seasons, which is causing those seams to sort of open up and become visible for you.
Now, when you’re repairing them, are you using traditional drywall tape or are you using that mesh tape?
DAVE: I’ve been using – I used the mesh tape this last time.
LESLIE: OK. And still it popped open again?
DAVE: It still popped, yes.
TOM: Did you remove the old tape before you put the mesh tape down?
DAVE: Yes, yes.
TOM: How many layers of spackle did you put down?
DAVE: After the tape, I believe it was one.
LESLIE: OK. You’re supposed to do three.
You want to start with one that’s approximately the size of the tape, smooth it out, let it dry, sand it down. Put another layer, get a little bit wider, feather out, let it dry, sand it down and go with your widest, let that dry, sand it. And that really seals the tape in and allows for a smooth transition. You’re dealing with a finished garage but it’s still a garage space. You want it to look good but you’re putting an awful lot of work into it.
TOM: This is like Groundhog Day Home Improvement: every day you wake up, you’ve got to do it all over again.
The thing is that when builders construct these spaces, they’re not required to put more than one coat of spackle on because it’s just for fire resistance. So we end up getting stuck with these houses that have tape that fall off over the years because it just wasn’t finished/spackled. So, the key here is to remove the old, loose tape; sand the area so you have good adhesion. Not aggressively but just lightly sand. Use the perforated tape that’s like the sticky-backed perforated tape, kind of looks like netting. Three coats of spackle, prime, paint and that should be permanent.
DAVE: OK. That sounds great.
TOM: Alright, Dave. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mike in Iowa is on the line with a venting question. How can we help you?
MIKE: Yeah. I was listening to one of your shows earlier and you were talking about how the bathroom vents are vented into the attic?
TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
MIKE: And I have that problem regarding that. I mean it’s right into my insulation; it’s not vented out by any means.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. A very common problem.
MIKE: I was wondering the best – yeah, what’s the best way to fix that problem?
TOM: OK. So what you want to do is you want to install a duct – a vent duct – and you can use flex duct for this. That will take it from the bath exhaust fan to a discharge point.
Now, where the discharge point is is going to be up to you. A lot of options. Typically, you can take that out to the nearest side wall, like a gable wall, and bring it right through the wall. And you would use a termination point – a discharge point. It’s like a piece of flashing that has a hood on it and lets the air get out and then snaps shut and it keeps it from getting wet.
You could also take it and you could drop it into a soffit but you have to actually bring it through the soffit again, into a grid so that it’s not obstructed. So you can take the vent and drop it down so it points towards the vented soffit right out. Or you can take it up further and point it right at an existing roof vent. Now, I don’t like that as much because I think that the higher you try to lift that air, the less effective it’s going to be. But that is an option. You can bring it straight up and point it at an existing roof vent and let it exhaust there.
MIKE: Well, my house is about six years old and I’m wondering – I’m paying pretty high energy bills regarding the heat.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because what happens is when the insulation gets moist from all that moisture that’s being dumped into the attic, it completely cuts down on the R-value of the insulation. So you do need to get that vented outside, whether it’s through the siding with one of those trap doors that sort of opens out every time you’ve got it on or through the soffit. But you want to keep it the shortest run so that you can effectively move that air.
Now, if you’re evaluating what’s going on with the insulation up in the attic, you really need to look at how much compression is there, what is the condition.
Are you talking about pink fiberglass batts?
MIKE: It’s got a white fiberglass.
LESLIE: It looks like it’s blown in?
LESLIE: Yeah. You can add more blown-in, because you want it to fill up to the floor joists when you’re looking up in your attic floor. You want it to sort of reach the height of that bay and you can do that with more blown-in or what you can do is just take rolls of fiberglass and go perpendicular to your floor joists, just to sort of make up and add some oomph to the R-value. And that will really enhance your insulative value. But you do have to vent that outside.
MIKE: OK. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Mike. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ben in Illinois is on the line and is having some issues with a water heater. Tell us what’s going on.
BEN: Over a period of time, my hot-water stream would keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller. And finally, it got to the point where I’d turn the hot water on, it would just barely trickle. I disconnected the discharge pipe on the discharge side of the hot-water heater and found that the lime had built up so bad in the pipe, coming out of the top of the hot-water heater, that there was just a very tiny hole there.
BEN: At that point in time, I didn’t know what else to do. I just took a very large screwdriver and tapped that limestone out of there. Of course, that fell to the bottom of the hot-water heater. It’s been fine for about four-and-a-half years. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to do it again.
And I’ve talked to retired plumbers in that and they told me that what’s causing that is a reaction between the copper pipe and the metal that is on top of the hot-water heater. And I was told that there was like a nipple that you screw on top of the hot-water heater and then connect your copper pipe.
My question is: what type of metal is that that goes between the copper pipe and the metal coupling on top of the hot-water heater?
TOM: Yeah, Ben, all you want to do is head to a plumbing supply house and ask for plastic-lined nipples. That actually is going to create the sort of the bi-metal protection or insulation between those two pipes. And that will stop that corrosive effect that you’re seeing and of course, they’ll stop the pipe from clogging as a result of that.
BEN: Alright. Well, I sure thank you for your time and your advice.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, long before we had walls made of drywall, plaster was the material of choice for wall-and-ceiling construction. But often, older homes settle and that allows cracks to form in the plaster. And we all know that just painting over the cracks solves nothing. And tearing off all the plaster to redo it can be time-consuming and really not very economical. But there is a way to repair those plaster cracks.
TOM: Yeah. There really is only one correct way to make the repairs to plaster walls that’s going to really last and look good. But first, let’s start by talking about how plaster-and-lath walls are constructed, because it’s important that you know how they’re thrown together.
First, you have lath. That’s a wood strip, kind of like – I always think of it as the size of a tomato stake. You know the kind of stakes you put in the ground for your plants to climb onto as they’re growing in the summer?
LESLIE: That’s true. That’s a good comparison.
TOM: And that is laid over the framing. So it’s laid over the 2x4s which, in the case of an older house, you know, is really a full 2-inch by 4-inch vertical stud. So, really big beams.
And then, what happened after that the plasterer would actually push the plaster through that lath, because it’d have little gaps behind it, and force it out the back. And it would create sort of a hook to grab onto the lath. And that’s the finished wall. It’s multiple layers, of course, but essentially it’s the plaster pressed through that lath. And that’s what causes it to stay and look good for, I’d say, the first hundred years or so.
LESLIE: Now, what about the cracks? Because I feel like those form very easily and really, what’s the best way to repair them and keep them away?
TOM: Yeah. Well, what happens is those little plaster hooks or plaster fingers will loosen up over time. And then the plaster starts to move a little bit and it’ll start to crack. So, here’s how you fix that.
First thing you do is you take a masonry bit, which is a drill bit that’s designed to go into concrete. And it’s actually easier to use than drilling into concrete. But you want to drill holes along both sides of that crack, kind of right in the middle of that crack. I’d put one about every 6 inches. Then I want you to grab a vacuum cleaner to clean out all the loose dust from those places that you drilled and anything that’s in that crack.
And then what you’re going to do is to apply an adhesive, something like a construction adhesive, like perhaps a LIQUID NAILS. And squeeze a good drop of it into that hole until it kind of starts to come out. And then you can wipe off the excess. And that’s actually going to be the adhesive that sort of holds that back into place.
LESLIE: Now, how do you make sure – I mean now you’re doing so much work and it’s separating and things are going on in that wall formation itself. How do you ensure that that plaster is going to sit tight against that lath again?
TOM: Ah, so a little trick of the trade for that. It is called a “plaster washer” or a “plaster button.” If you know what a fender washer is, it’s like a really big washer with a really small hole in it. That’s kind of what this is. And essentially, what you do is you drive a screw right through the middle of that plaster washer or the plaster button and it – I would put it right into the crack, right in the middle of the crack. And it will pull both sides of it in nice and tight.
And then you leave it there while that adhesive that we just talked about is drying. And once it’s dry, you can remove those plaster buttons. And then you can lightly sand it, perhaps put a nice layer of spackle on top of it or maybe a thin layer of plaster and you will be good to go. So use those plaster washers to hold that plaster in place while the adhesive dries and then you are all set.
LESLIE: And remember, now would be the perfect time to choose a new paint color, so go ahead and be adventurous with your design.
TOM: Well, you know the three most expensive words in home improvement, Leslie?
LESLIE: While you’re at it?
TOM: Might as – well, that’s the four most. Might as well is what I was thinking but OK, yeah, while you’re at it or might as well, right? If you’re going to do all that work on your walls, hey, you might as well paint the room at the same time.
LESLIE: Might as well. And then that new chair would look really great or that new bedding.
TOM: Fantastic, yeah. There you go.
LESLIE: Oh, my God.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show where, as you can tell, we’re not shy about spending money when it comes to our own home improvement projects. But we’d like to help you get yours done, perhaps spend a little money the right way and make sure everything comes out exactly as you envision it.
Call us right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can call 24/7. Because if we are not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are.
LESLIE: Dreama in West Virginia is on the line and could be dealing with a structural issue. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
DREAMA: Yes. I purchased a house about 13 years ago and the house is approximately 30 years old. And all of a sudden, last year, in the load-bearing center wall, I started getting a crack. And now, within a year, that crack has gapped approximately a ½-inch wide and it’s also – I noticed another room has a crack now. So I had a local handyman look at it and he suggested that I put in three piers – columns – to support the center wall.
And I guess my question is – I haven’t had an official, large construction company look at it yet. I’m getting ready to do that but I wanted to educate myself a little bit more. What would you all suggest?
TOM: How long have you been in this house?
DREAMA: Thirteen years.
LESLIE: And this is new.
DREAMA: Just started about a year ago.
TOM: See, here’s the thing. If you call a contractor, you’re going to get a contractor’s solution, which is to hire them to do something. What I would suggest you do first is to get an independent expert opinion, not necessarily an opinion from a contractor. So your options on that are two: one is low cost; one, I would say, is moderate cost.
The low-cost option would be to find a local professional home inspector. You can go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. That’s at ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.org.
TOM: And you can put in your zip code. They’ll shoot back a list of certified professional home inspectors in your area. You can call from that list, find somebody that’s experienced and have them look at it. Because they’re just there to find out what’s going on and what caused it and what it’s going to take to fix it.
The second way to go, which is the moderate cost, is to actually hire a structural engineer. Now, why may you want to do that, Dreama? Well, you might want to do that – if this is a fairly obvious problem, you want to certainly preserve the value of your house.
TOM: And if you have a structural engineer look at it and write a report as to what’s going on and what it’s going to take to fix it and then you actually give that report to a contractor and say, “This is what I want you to do,” and then you have the engineer sort of recertify that it was done correctly. It’s kind of like having a pedigree that the repair is done correctly and then kind of sell with your house, so to speak.
Problem with contractors is that they’re not structural engineers; they’re just handy guys and they think that they have the expertise to fix stuff like this and they just don’t. They don’t have the schooling, they don’t have the education, they don’t have the training. And so, that’s not necessarily the best way to go about dealing with a situation like this.
I am a little concerned that it happened over this past year, because it sounds like it’s active and we want to get to the bottom of why it’s active and why it’s showing up all of a sudden.
DREAMA: Well, someone had mentioned that it’s a possibility – we’ve had a lot of dry – several dry summers and – because that could cause a settling in the foundation. Is that possible? I’ve never heard of that before.
TOM: No. I mean there are some expansive soils that behave differently when they dry out a lot but listen, there’s going to be a lot of opinions. Every neighbor you ask is going to have a different one. What we’re trying to do is move you towards an expert opinion so you really know what you’re dealing with.
So, as I said, contact a professional home inspector or a structural engineer. Get the assessment. It’s well worth it. Your home is a big investment. We want to make sure it’s protected, OK?
DREAMA: I hadn’t thought of a home inspector. Thank you very much.
TOM: Well, heating an apartment is the single biggest energy expenditure during the winter. But while homeowners can do things, like purchase a new energy-efficient heating system, renters don’t have the same options to improve the heat in a home they don’t own. Or do they?
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, even if you’re not responsible for your apartment’s heating bill, there are investments that can help you feel warm all winter long.
Now, if your apartment’s heating system and rental agreement permit, you can have a programmable thermostat installed.
TOM: Yep. And you can use that thermostat to reduce the heat overnight when you’re sleeping and then come up again in the morning before you awake. And then you can have it scoot down during the day when you’re away. This is going to allow you to set a comfortable heating routine and pocket about 150 bucks a year in energy savings.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you can also make sure that any heating registers that you’ve got in the apartment are unobstructed. You know, don’t put furniture or window coverings in front of them. You want to make sure that the warm air can flow freely into each of the rooms in the apartment.
Now, if your unit has radiators, you want to slide heat-resistant reflectors between them and the walls. And that’s going to send even more warmth directly into the room.
TOM: Now, don’t forget about all those places drafts get in. You want to seal all of those escape routes around windows and doors. And use a removable caulking product. You can add weather-stripping to doors, windows and if you’ve got one in your apartment, the attic hatchway, which is an often ignored exit for warm air. If you’ve got a hatch that goes up to the attic, make sure it has a weather strip all the way around it.
LESLIE: Now, you also want to turn off heating units in the rooms in the apartment that you’re not using. And shut the doors to keep that warm air moving exclusively into the areas that you occupy.
TOM: So, whether you own or not, there are things that you can do that are either free, inexpensive or small investments that you can take with you when you move. Whether you rent, whether you own, it’s all a possibility.
LESLIE: Give us a call anytime. But remember, you can always post your questions at The Money Pit’s Facebook page or anytime at The Money Pit’s website, MoneyPit.com.
Now, we’ve got a post here from Hal in North Charleston, South Carolina who writes: “I just put on a new shingle roof on our single-story duplex six months ago. We’ve got very large pine trees in the backyard and pine straw is piling up on the roof. How damaging is that straw to the roof and do I need to clear it off periodically?”
TOM: It’s only damaging emotionally. I mean you’ve got a new roof, you hate seeing it all dirtied up with the pine straw. But really, that is not going to cause any physical damage whatsoever.
Now, of course, you know, it could potentially clog your gutters. It’s pretty good at blocking gutters, even those that have some gutter covers on them. So, I would just keep an eye on the gutters, Hal, but I don’t think it’s going to damage the roof at all. It’s just a normal sort of condition for homes that are under those sorts of trees. So I think you’re good to go.
LESLIE: Alright. It’s still a lot of work but don’t worry about it being damaging to the house.
Next up, Gene in Summerville, South Carolina writes: “We have a fireplace and would like to put a pass-through, like the old milk ones, for the firewood. Is there anywhere we can get one of these or is there a way to make one leakproof and bug-proof?”
TOM: Sure. It depends on how inventive you are. But first of all, there are pass-throughs that are available commercially. They’re used for many different purposes or they’re used – a pass-through might be used, for example, in a room that’s a clean room where they’re actually working in, say, an area where they’re making something that has to be perfectly clean. A lot of electronics factories have pass-throughs. So I know they make them. I’ve also seen that they can be insulated and watertight.
In addition, what you could do, if you were handy, is you could basically build one the same way you would build an exterior door.
And finally, a lot of doggie doors really are following the same sorts of principles as you might have in a pass-through. So, that might be another option where you could actually find a doggie-door design that worked, as well.
So, there’s a number of ways to get those. I will say that in the best-case scenario, though, it is going to be source of potential energy leakage. Because no matter how good it is, it’s still going to probably be not as good as the wall would be solid. So, I know it looks great but if you really, really want to go there, go ahead. But I still think there’s going to be a cost to it, in terms of wasted energy.
LESLIE: Do you have to worry about security issues with something like that?
TOM: Well, yeah, that’s a good point, as well. And we’ve heard about cases where the skinny burglars can slip through the pet doors. So I don’t see why that couldn’t be another way that they typically will get in.
Chloe from New Jersey is writing that her daughter just turned 13 and has a new sense of independence and really wants to transform her bedroom from the princess room that we thought was fine and never wanted to grow out of, to a room that a young teen would be happy to spend her next few years in.
Leslie, how do we pick the color to get started?
LESLIE: Oh, geez. I think you’ve got to ask your kid what color they’re into. And you’ll be surprised. I bet they have a lot of opinions already about how they want this room to look.
So, definitely poll your teen, poll your child. Find out what colors they’re into. Obviously, if they’re getting too crazy or it’s something you’re worried about covering up in the future, talk them through with this.
Also, ask them to pull some research ideas and maybe something they like from a magazine or something they saw online. Everybody’s doing a Pinterest board. Have them do it and then sort of narrow it down. Remember, pick samples. Try it out on the wall first and have fun.
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 that we’ve given you some tips and advice that you can use to make your home more comfortable, more energy-efficient and heck, more fun. If you’ve got questions, remember, you can reach us any time of the day or night by calling 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question at MoneyPit.com. If we are not in the studio when that question comes in, we guarantee you we will try to call you back the next time we are.
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.)
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