In this episode…
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and that’s certainly true when it comes to the choices Americans make in home décor. Tom & Leslie share results of a new survey where Americans voted on the worst home décor choices in the last 50 years – and yes, we have a winner! All that plus,
- If building a new deck is a project for your Spring to-do list, learn the ups and downs of building deck steps, which are often built to be unsafe! You’ll learn how to how to make sure they’re solid and safe.
- If you’re ready for new flooring, now’s a great time, with many manufacturers holding early Spring sales. But with dozens of choices in both real and look alike hardwood, how do you know what floor will perform best for your home? We’ll share the options, money saving tips and more to help you figure it all out.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about, kitchen lighting options, deck sealers, required GFI outlets in kitchen, skylight options, installing a whole house air filter, fixing nail pops, replacing a bathroom fan.
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 improvement projects. Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer, a direct-it-yourselfer or somebody that just doesn’t know where they fit in but wants to get something done around their house, hey, give us a call. We’ll walk you through it.
We’ll help you figure out whether it is a job you can do yourself or you need to hire a pro. We’ll give you some tips, some ideas on how to get it done right the first time. We’ll help you save some money, save some energy and just get comfortable in your home. But your first job is to help yourself by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, as the saying goes, Leslie, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. And that is certainly true when it comes to the choices Americans are making in home décor.
TOM: In fact, a recent survey of 1,500 folks voted on the worst home décor choices in the last 50 years. And we have a winner. And that’s all coming up, just ahead.
LESLIE: Oh, this is going to be good.
Plus, if building a new deck is a project for your spring to-do list, we’re going to talk you through the ups and downs of deck steps. You know, they’re often built incorrectly, so we’re going to share some ideas on how to make sure they’re solid and safe.
TOM: And if you’re thinking about adding new floors to your home, there are a lot of sales happening now and dozens of choices in both real and lookalike hardwoods. We’ll share the options and help you figure out what’s best for your situation.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you want to know. Give us a call so we can help you out with whatever it is you are working on. We’re right here at 888-MONEY-PIT, standing by to help you with all your projects, your home improvement dreams, maybe your home improvement dilemmas. Whatever is going on, we won’t judge. Give us a call.
TOM: You’ll get not only the answer to your home improvement question, plus we’ve got a great set of tools we’re giving away from Arrow. We’ve got the T50 Electric Staple Gun and Nailer plus the Arrow Dual-Temperature Glue Gun, along with a supply of staples and glue sticks, worth 95 bucks. So give us a call right now. That package from our friends at Arrow is going out to one caller drawn at random. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?
DON: Now, we’re going to redo our kitchen ceiling this year and we have these 6-inch pot lights up in the ceiling.
TOM: OK. Yeah, the can lights?
DON: And we were wondering if we would take them out, if we put the LED lights under the cabinets, if it would give us as much light.
TOM: No, I wouldn’t take them out. I would keep them in.
Now, one is for area lighting; one is for task lighting. So the LED lights that could go under the edge of the cabinet could give you task-specific lighting for food prep. And they also look darn cool when you dim them in a party or something like that.
TOM: But I would keep the lights in the ceiling.
But by the way, you have a lot of options in the type of bulb that you can put in those ceiling lights. You could actually put in LED bulbs into those ceiling lights, too. And you may find the quality of light is better than what you have with the incandescents.
DON: I mean take them out and put maybe like 4-inch ones in smaller ones or just leave the 6 ones in there?
TOM: I would leave them. I think that – I think you could use the 6-inch ones that you have. I don’t think that’s part of the project that’s going to give you a good return on investment. But if you change the bulbs out, I think you’ll find that that will make a difference.
Take a look at those Philips bulbs. I’ve got several of those now in my house, including in the kitchen, as can lights. They’re LEDs and we matched them up with Lutron dimmers where you can adjust the dimming range. And they’re super bright and they cost a heck of a lot less to run than the incandescents. And they last a lot longer. We used to replace those incandescents all the time and these have been – I’ve never had to replace them. And I think they say they last over 20 years.
DON: Where would you find the (inaudible) on that?
TOM: You can get them at Home Depot.
TOM: I know that I’ve gone there. They’re really interesting looking, Jack. They’re the ones that look – they look like yellow. They kind of look – I always think they look like bug lights.
TOM: But you’ll be amazed when the thing comes on how bright it is.
LESLIE: And they’re super efficient.
DON: Well, that’s what we’re looking for.
TOM: Alright, Don. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Paula from Arkansas on the line. How can we help you?
PAULA: Well, I was looking for a sealer for my deck but I also wanted it stained. I don’t want it looking like the wood – the original wood. I think it’s pine. And I’d like to have it – something to match the trim of our home.
PAULA: I’d like a stain and a sealer all in one, if that’s possible.
TOM: Yeah. Well, first of all, you don’t have to buy these things separate, because exterior stains are just that: they are sealers and stains in one. What you need to know about it, Paula, is that you’re going to have different choices on the transparency or the translucence of the stain itself. Because you can buy clear stain, which is just that – it doesn’t have any color – or you can buy semi-transparent, which is sort of a medium amount. Or you can buy solid color, which is completely opaque. Although the grain will show through, you won’t have any differentiation in grade. Semi-transparent will give you some differentiation.
So you want to buy a good-quality exterior stain. I would recommend solid color because it lasts a lot longer. And in terms of which color you choose, there’s lots of options. You can get a cedar, you can get a redwood, you can get sort of a nice sort of charcoal gray. All the major manufacturers have a good selection of colors with that product.
Most importantly, you need to do a good job on the prep. You’ll follow the manufacturer’s instructions. But generally, you’re going to want to pressure-wash the deck and wait a few days of sunny weather so it dries out really nicely. And then you can apply the solid-color stain after that, OK?
PAULA: OK. So this is a stain and a sealer?
TOM: It’s a stain. It’s an exterior stain. Don’t get confused by looking for two products, OK? It’s one product: exterior deck stain. It seals and stains together, OK?
PAULA: OK. I was trying to confuse you but I guess I can’t.
TOM: Nope. Nope. Try harder.
PAULA: I don’t want to.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
And if you do call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or if you post your question to MoneyPit.com, we have a great set of tools we’re giving away to one listener. And that is from our friends at Arrow. We’ve got the Arrow T50 Electric Staple Gun and Nailer plus the Arrow Dual-Temperature Glue gun, along with a supply of staples and glue sticks worth, in total, about 95 bucks.
So, this is a great set of tools for lots of things around the house. The Electric Stapler is designed for pro-grade performance and the Dual-Temp Glue Gun heats up fast. It’s got a drip-resistant, precision glue tip and that makes doing those projects a lot easier.
They’re two tools that can be super useful for a lot of things. And if you want some ideas and inspiration for projects that you can build, just go to ArrowFastener.com. There are dozens of project plans on their website.
That’s going out to one listener drawn at random. If you want to make it you, call us or post your question right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading up to our neighbors in the North where Pat in Ontario has got a question about electricity. What’s going on?
PAT: So, we have – in our kitchen, I understand that according to building codes, at least in Canada, you’re supposed to have GFCIs on your kitchen counter. We do not and we’ve been planning to change those out for a while. But we actually had an electrician in to inspect our breaker box for an unrelated issue. As it happens, our house was hit by lightning.
TOM: Oh, OK.
PAT: Thankfully, nothing seriously damaged.
TOM: That’s good.
PAT: But an interesting experience to see how that affects things. But thankfully, like I said, everything in the breaker box is all fine. But while the electrician was here, I mentioned our kitchen outlets and he said that it wouldn’t matter if we upgraded them to GFCI, because the circuitry in our house is not configured for it. Something to do with the breaker box needing to be changed. Something needed to be, I don’t know, adjusted. But my understanding of GFCIs was that they just sort of operate independently, regardless of what type of circuitry they’re connected to.
TOM: That’s a great question and the answer is yes and no.
So, how old is your house?
PAT: About 30 years.
TOM: You know, I can’t imagine what he’s referring to with the box. It might be that he was – was he saying that he can’t put a ground-fault breaker in the main panel? Because you can certainly put it in the outlets. I mean there’s two types of ground faults: one is built into a circuit breaker and the other is built into the outlet itself.
PAT: Right. OK.
TOM: So, he may have been referring to the panel itself.
But as far as the outlet’s concerned, the reason I said yes and no is because, usually, the one area where people can’t put them in or have difficulty is when you have a really old house, like one that was built in the 1930s that doesn’t have a ground wire.
PAT: Right. No, that’s definitely not the case here.
TOM: But the way – and actually, you can. Even in a two-wire system, you can do it. But basically, what you’re doing is – the electricians that know how to do this, they’ll essentially wire the ground fault so that any diversion of current to the ground side of the outlet will essentially turn it off. So it’s kind of like a faux ground. It’s not a real ground but it serves the same purpose of shutting the breaker off. But I think they’re really important in those wet locations, not only in the kitchen – also in the bathroom and at the outside.
And for those that are not familiar with GFCI, that stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter. And it essentially detects any diversion of current to a ground source, would be you if you were, say, plugging in an appliance that had a short or something of that nature. And if it detects 2/1,000 of a volt, it will shut it down instantly and prevent harm.
There’s actually a more sophisticated version of that now called an “arc fault,” which is great because an arc fault protects your house from fire. If it detects any arc, it will shut down the entire circuit.
But I think you should go ahead, when you’re ready to do those improvements, and add the ground fault in the kitchen. You may – depending on how that circuit is designed, you may be able to put it in one location and it will cover all of the outlets that follow. You may not necessarily have to put in separate ones at each outlet position.
One thing, though, that you want to be careful not to do is to put it on the refrigerator outlet or even on the refrigerator circuit because refrigerators, when they go on and off, they have a big power draw from that compressor as it starts to operate. And that will sort of trick the ground fault into thinking that you have a diversion of current and it will shut off the refrigerator and ruin your food.
TOM: So, you don’t want to put it on refrigerators or freezers. But all those other outlets should be good to go.
PAT: And because you’re not going to be handling the refrigerator plug all that much, it’s not a big safety concern anyway, right?
TOM: Well, that’s part of it, yes. But certainly, the chance that your refrigerator could go off and all your food can go bad is a bigger concern, OK?
PAT: Right, yeah. OK. Alright. So you would – basically, you’re saying that regardless of how our configured – or how our electrical circuitry is configured, it’s a good idea to put GFCIs in those outlets.
TOM: It absolutely is.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah.
PAT: OK. Alright. Thanks very much.
TOM: Oh, you’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, Leslie, in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector, sometimes I go into homes and look at some of these old décor choices that people make and think, “What were you thinking?” There was a moment in the history of that house where husband and wife were in the carpet store saying, “That is the loveliest shag carpet I’ve ever seen, especially that really bright orange. It’s going to fit perfectly.”
LESLIE: “And we’re never going to get tired of it.”
TOM: “Oh, never, ever, ever.”
LESLIE: “Oh, no. It’s going to go with everything.”
TOM: Empire Today was hip to that fact. They did a survey of 1,500 folks. They asked them to vote on the worst home décor choices by decade.
So let’s start in 1970s. Of course, right there at the top of the list is one of our perennial favorites: popcorn ceilings. Seemed like a good idea at the time. And now, since the 1970s, for the last 50 years people have been trying to figure out how to get it off their ceilings. That’s followed by wood paneling and there it is: shag carpets.
LESLIE: Alright. This is a good one: the 80s. I remember these very, very vividly: ruffly, floral patterns; vertical blinds; and mirrored walls.
Do you watch that show, The Goldbergs, Tom, which basically is an homage to the 80s?
LESLIE: And every time, I’m like, “We had that bedspread.” It was so bad. It was floral, it was frilly. But you know what? It’s probably making a comeback.
TOM: Well, in the 1990s, we had our first shot of sort of the faux-painting phase. We had sponge-painted walls but we also had beanbag chairs and glow-in-the-dark stars. I cannot tell you how many of those bedrooms I walked into, as a home inspector, where there was the remnants of the glow-in-the-dark stars glued all over the ceilings and the floors. And yeah, it was just awful stuff.
LESLIE: All that sticky foam tape.
Alright. Now we get to the 2000s. You think we’re going to make better choices? Not so much.
TOM: Not so much.
LESLIE: We’re just more vocal about it because we’re putting up signs that say, “Keep calm and carry on.” You know, all of those things: keep calm, carry on and drink wine. Whatever that print was, you bought it, you framed it and you put it up. Also, granite countertops and Tuscan kitchens. And I mean overly Tuscan kitchens.
TOM: Like way over the top.
And then in the 2010s, we had more of those motivational signs, like you were just talking about. Not the Keep Calm but the other ones: Baby On Board and all that kind of stuff. I tell you what, that was a big lower because 54 percent of the people surveyed said that was a huge design error. And then we also had chalkboard point and neutral color schemes.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. Well, when you combine all of these home décor trends of the last 50 years and break them down by category, which truly are the worst of the worst?
Now, for each room there seems to be a mortal interior-design sin and it turns out that the worst thing you can do is put in tile countertops. Thirty percent of the people said that. Thirty-six percent said, “Use a ruffled bed skirt.” They’re horrible, guys. If you’re going to use a bed skirt, get those nice box-pleated ones or just don’t use one at all.
And lastly, have a fuzzy toilet-seat cover or have an inspirational quote or phrase poster in your living room. These are the ones everybody hates the most.
TOM: Fuzzy toilet-seat covers. When I first saw them, I thought they were gag gifts. And then I started to see them in all sorts of houses in all those years I was inspecting. But thankfully, they had a very short shelf life and they were as to take off as they were to put on.
LESLIE: My goodness.
TOM: Not so much with those popcorn ceilings, though.
LESLIE: So bad. So bad.
TOM: We’re still suffering through that.
If you are suffering with one of those home décor choices from the last 50 years and need to get rid of it, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
You know what I was surprised about? Nobody mentioned avocado appliances. Who thought that was a good idea?
LESLIE: Green is kind of cool.
TOM: It’s not going to come back, Leslie. It just ain’t happening.
LESLIE: No. No. Maybe.
Britt in California is on the line and needs some help with a skylight. What can we do for you?
BRITT: My husband and I are considering putting in the skylights in our home.
BRITT: OK. Are we better off to put a round skylight? A square skylight? Are we better off to put it toward the middle of the roof line or at where it opens up on the deck?
TOM: OK. So you have a couple of options with skylights.
First of all, you can use a physical skylight, which is a hole in your roof with a glass skylight inserted into it. There’s another type of skylight kind of thing; it’s called a “sun tunnel.” It’s a lot easier to install. And basically, you put in this tube that goes into the roof and opens up the roof. And then you connect a flex duct from it down to the ceiling of the room that you want to light. And that actually brings a lot of natural light into the room. It’s called a “sun tunnel.” So you have skylight or sun tunnel.
A sun tunnel is going to be a lot less expensive than a skylight. If you’re going to go with the skylight, you probably want to – you have to position it in the room where it’s going to look the best, so that would probably be in the middle. But the expense is creating the light shaft; that’s what you create, you construct, from the point of the roof down to the ceiling level. And that’s kind of the more expensive, complicated part about putting the skylight in. Cutting it through the roof is really pretty easy.
What I would recommend is that you use a good-quality skylight. I like Andersen skylights, Pella skylights, VELUX – V-E-L-U-X. All good-quality skylights because they’re curbed: they sit up off the roof and they have flashing that makes the seal between the skylight and the roof itself.
And I’ve had, for example, a VELUX – a V-E-L-U-X – skylight that’s been in my house for 20-plus years. Never had a problem with leaking through many a storm. So it’s definitely worth putting in a good-quality skylight but those are your options. I hope that helps you out.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Brenda in Illinois who’s got an HVAC question. What’s going on?
BRENDA: I have an excessive amount of dust and lint that comes out of my vents when the furnace is running?
TOM: OK. Yep.
BRENDA: It’s the heat pump that we have. The heat pump is two years old. So, I’d like to know, is there anything that you would suggest that we might need to look into?
TOM: Yeah, I think the reason that this is happening is because you don’t have an adequate filtration system on your heating-and-cooling system. What kinds of filters do you have on this, Brenda? Do you know?
BRENDA: The name of it is Air Bear Supreme Media. We change these about every four to six months.
TOM: What’s happening here is the dust and the dirt that’s circulating in your house is forming in your house. And what happens is it’s not getting collected by the filter. The filters could be improperly installed, there could be gaps where the air is getting around them.
What you really should think about doing is installing an electronic air cleaner. This is an appliance that fits into the return-duct side of the HVAC system. It’s an appliance; it’s not just a fiber filter or a mesh filter. It’s an actual appliance and it is very effective at taking out 99 percent-plus of the airborne contaminants. I mean these things are so good today, they can come out – they can take out virus-size particles.
You could take a look at two brands that we can recommend. One is Aprilaire.
TOM: That’s April – a-i-r-e. And the other one is Trane. It’s called the Trane CleanEffects. Those are two highly rated, very efficient electronic air cleaners that I think will make a world of difference for you in cutting down on the dust that you’re seeing. I just don’t think your filtration system is working properly.
Brenda, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if building a deck is a project for your spring to-do list, we’re going to talk you through the ups and downs of those deck steps.
Now, lots of times they’re built incorrectly, so we’re going to share some ideas on how you can make sure that yours are solid and safe.
TOM: Well, first off, you have to understand the terms. You have the stringer, which is actually that sort of side piece to the staircase. And that supports the treads and the risers. Then you’ve got the rise or the riser. That’s the vertical distance between the treads – the height of the treads. Then you have the tread run. Now, that’s important because that’s where you step. It’s got to be deep enough for that. And you’ve got the nose. Or we call it the “bull nose.” It’s that overhang of one step to the next.
And the relationship between those components is really important. They can’t be too tall, they can’t be too deep and they can’t be too short. They have to have sort of a perspective to them. Because what I have found over the years – that, invariably, if you go up and down a set of steps and you trip, it’s not you, it’s the steps. Something about it is not standardized and that’s what makes them unsafe.
And it’s very, very typical with deck steps for that to happen, especially if you use the prefabricated stringers that they’re fond of selling in home improvement stores. You know, those – unless you happen to have – the height of the platform is exactly what that stringer is designed for, you’re going to end up with a short step or a tall step and it’s just not going to work well.
The idea here is that you want to have steps that – with a height that is really between about 7 and 8 inches. That 8 inches is really the maximum height. And you want to have a depth to the tread of around 9 inches. And to that, you’re going to add about an inch-and-a-half of overhang, so that makes the tread itself about a 10-inch piece of wood , 10½ piece of wood. And that’s important because that means you can get most of your foot on it and it makes it a lot sturdier.
So, if a deck is something that you’re building and you’re not really confident with the steps, it is kind of advanced carpentry. Get some help with that part. Because if you build it wrong, it’s going to be unsafe and your family or your friends or you will definitely trip going up and down.
LESLIE: Ann in Georgia, you are on the line with The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ANN: Well, my house was built back in the 60s and I know now when they put up drywall, they use drywall screws.
ANN: But back then, they used a hammer.
TOM: Yep. And nails, mm-hmm.
ANN: And I’ve got these dings on the walls and the ceiling. And I’ve tried to put spackle over the top of them and scrape it off and sand it and then paint it and there they are; they come right back again. Is there anything I can do to sort of cover it or do I have to take down all the drywall?
LESLIE: No, no. Are you sure it’s a hammer ding and not a nail pop? Does it seem like it’s raised or does it seem like it’s recessed?
ANN: They’re recessed.
TOM: They’re recessed. OK.
So, the solution here is spackling but it’s not just a one-shot thing. What you want to do is put multiple coats of spackle on, Ann. So you start – and you can go out to a home center or a hardware store and you can buy plastic spackle knives that are basically disposable.
So you start out with one that’s about 2 inches, then you go to one that’s about 4 or 5 inches, then you go with one that’s like 6- or 8-inches wide. And if you put on three layers like that, you’ll fill it in, it’ll be absolutely flat.
But you can’t just stop there. If you’re going to start doing this around the house, you’re going to have to repaint all of those surfaces and you should prime them first. Because if not, you’re going to get different absorption between the areas that were newly spackled and the old ones. And that will result in sort of like a weird kind of glazing or sort of shade difference with the way the paint kind of takes.
ANN: Oh, OK.
TOM: Alright? Now, if you have one that looks like it’s cracked – what Leslie was talking about are called “nail pops” – and frankly, that’s much more likely than the dents you’re describing, unless you just happen to have a really over-aggressive guy with a hammer that put that thing together back in the 60s.
LESLIE: Those dents are haunting you 50 years later.
ANN: I know.
TOM: Yeah. The nail pops, you could put another nail next to the one that’s sort of stuck out and drive it in. And that – the second nail will hold in the first nail. But remember, it’s really key that you sand, prime and paint to make this all go away.
And lastly, the type of paint you use is critical. Make sure you use flat paint; do not use anything with a sheen. Because when you put something with a sheen on a wall, any defect in the wall becomes magnified when the light hits it.
ANN: Well, that’s great advice.
TOM: Alright, Ann. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Give us a call this hour. We’d love to hear what you are working on. Plus, we want to put some awesome tools into your hand. If we draw your name this hour, you could be the winner of the Arrow T50 Electric Staple Gun and Nailer plus the Arrow Dual-Temp Glue Gun, along with a supply of staples and glue sticks, worth 95 bucks.
These are two great tools that are going to be super useful for so many things around the house, from crafts to repairs, whatever it is you are working on. Check out ArrowFastener.com. They’ve got ideas and inspiration right there. And there are dozens of project plans on their website. Check it out, right now, at ArrowFastener.com.
TOM: Going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us now with your home repair question at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Darryl on the line who’s got a question about a heater. What can we do for you?
DARRYL: Hey. Yes, we have a bathroom heater and vent. And the heater part went out to the – or the – I guess the fan part, I should say, went out.
DARRYL: Flipped the switch and you can smell it burning. The heater is working but the fan doesn’t blow. And I was wondering if there’s a way to fix that or if I just have to replace the whole thing.
TOM: Yeah, it sounds unsafe. Because if the fan is not blowing, the heater could actually – the heater part, which is usually a light bulb, can overheat. So I would recommend you replace that entire fixture.
The new ones are so much more sophisticated today. You can get one with a built-in humidistat, for example, so that when you’re done with the shower and you leave the bathroom, it’ll stay on just long enough to dry out all the moisture and keep the mold from growing. So, I think it would be a really good opportunity for you to replace it.
DARRYL: Now, would something like that be vented out through the roof or just into the attic?
TOM: No, it absolutely needs to be vented all the way out. And it could be vented in the attic – I certainly have seen that – but no, the idea is it would go through the ceiling and then up across the attic towards the roof or through the side or to the side gable wall. And there’s different types of terminations that will basically – are waterproof on the outside but then the duct can clip to it from the inside.
DARRYL: I’ve got you.
DARRYL: OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Darryl. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Well, it’s a great time to update your floors. And if that’s a project on your to-do list, laminate floors or engineered hardwood are both great choices. But what’s the difference and which one makes the most sense for your home? We’ve got the answer in today’s Pro Project, presented by HomeAdvisor.com.
TOM: Well, laminate and engineered hardwood are both great flooring choices. They’re both durable, affordable and beautiful but there are some differences to be aware of.
Laminate floor is a product that is made by laminating, essentially, a photograph of an image of a finished hardwood floor on top of different types of substrate. And it cannot be refinished. So what you see is what you get. However, it’s very durable. I’ve had laminate floor down in my kitchen for over 20 years and I’ll tell you it looks just as good as the day it was put down. So it’s a good choice for high-traffic areas.
It’s also easy to install and can be floated over a pad without the need for acclimation. So you don’t have to let it sit in the house for a few days before you install it. You can pretty much come home from the store and put it right together or get the pro in immediately to assemble it for you.
LESLIE: Now, engineered flooring, that’s another great choice. And depending on the style, engineered can be floated over a pad, nailed to a subfloor or glued directly to the cement.
Now, it’s made by adhering real hardwood to layers of plywood, MDF or a lumber core. And engineered flooring can be sanded and refinished if that top layer of veneer is thick enough. It’s also an excellent choice if you’re installing radiant heat and for below-grade installations.
TOM: And that’s today’s Pro Project, presented by HomeAdvisor.com. With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area and book appointments online, all for free.
LESLIE: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.
John in Texas is dealing with some mystery plumbing noises. What can we do for you today?
JOHN: I have a problem with my water heater, I think. When we flush the toilet, the hot-water line starts banging. My hot-water heater is in the attic.
TOM: The question would be: what does the hot water have to do with the toilet? Probably nothing, because we don’t use hot water in the toilets. But what is happening is that when you flush the toilet and the toilet has to refill – so the cold-water line is coming on and refilling that. And that cold-water line is the same cold-water line that’s probably running into the water heater above it.
So it sounds to me like what you have is called “water hammer,” which is caused by usually some loose pipes. And when the valve in the toilet opens to fill and then closes when it’s done, there’s some movement there. And the pipe will shake because of – the weight of the water in the pipe has a lot of inertia. And as that water stops, as the valve opens and closes, it will shake, rattle and roll the pipe.
The other thing that will happen is sometimes, as you run cold water through the pipe – and especially with the toilet, because it’s not flushed over and over and over and over again – that temperature change in the pipe could also make the pipe expand or contract. And as that rubs against the wood, it will make some noise, too.
So I don’t think you have a serious problem here, John. I think you probably have a water-hammer issue. The first thing I would do is try to secure as many of the pipes as we can so that they’re tight and they don’t rattle. And then if it does become a problem beyond that, there’s a device called a “water-hammer arrestor,” which is kind of like a shock absorber for your plumbing system, that you can have a plumber install.
JOHN: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, John. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Jack in California wrote in. He says, “We have a house on a property that’s 105 years old. Nobody’s living there right now. We still have electricity and plumbing on. What would be the best way to put this house in a vacant or storage mode to minimize damage while it’s empty?”
So, you know, Leslie, I think a lot of people think that as long as nobody’s living there, you can essentially turn the heat off and turn the water off, of course, drain the pipes and nothing bad can happen. But that is just not the case.
If that home is not heated, you’re going to see a lot of weird things happen. First of all, if you’ve got any wallpaper, that’s going to start to peel off. And if you’ve got paint that’s going to – could start to separate from the walls. The doors will swell. The wood floors will swell. So you really do need to leave the heat on, Jack.
So what I would do is everything that you think you probably have to do to leave a vacant house, in terms of turning the water off, making sure the pipes are all drained. And then I would leave the heat on probably at around 60, maybe 55 but not much cooler than that. Because if you don’t do that, like I said, that house is just going to swell and stick and you’re not going to be happy when you come back. You’re going to end up having to do a lot of repairs to that damage.
And then, of course, you also want to make sure you have power on so that you’re powering your smoke detectors and fire detectors and that sort of thing, so you have some idea what’s going on in the house while you’re away. And heck, today, there’s so many smart-home products out there that can alert you if they do go off. So I would even look into some of that so that you can basically keep an eye on this place even when you’re not there.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Jessica in New Jersey writes: “I’m restoring the wood floors throughout my house. Most of them look great but one large stain, in particular, seems to go quite deep. So it just won’t sand out. Is there something that I can treat the wood with or maybe stain everything darker? Make it less noticeable?”
TOM: You have sort of the right idea here. If you apply a darker stain over the unwanted stain, hopefully it can blend in. But you’ve got to do it carefully; it’s kind of hit or miss. And it includes the risk of you ending up with a color that’s even darker than what you have or that you don’t like.
So I would definitely try to experiment very carefully with a really tiny paintbrush – for example, the kind you’d use for color-by-numbers – until you get that shade just right. You might even want to try to stain a piece of raw wood and sort of just put it side by side at the beginning of the project. Because once it’s dry, you’ll have a good idea of what it should look like.
And if possible, use – if it’s a hardwood floor, I would try to find a piece of oak that you can stain, because that’s also going to be closer to what the finished surface is going to look like. If you try to do it with pine, the pine will be much darker because it’s just much more porous than a hardwood like oak.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what, Jessica? You can’t just start by applying the stain. If there’s some sort of finish currently on your floor, you might want to consider sanding that off, because it’s sort of better to get a uniform playing field. Make sure everybody’s got an even level of finish or lack thereof before you apply that stain. That’s actually going to help, especially since you’re going for a darker-stain look. You want to apply evenly. And that should also help make that problem spot far less noticeable.
I’m not lying, though. Staining a floor is a big undertaking but it’s totally fantastic. And if you do it right, you’re going to love it. And if you do it right, you’re not going to need an area rug.
TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show and we’re so glad you did. Thanks for spending this part of your day with us. You can get The Money Pit podcast, 24/7, on iTunes and all the major podcast platforms, as well as MoneyPit.com where we have got hundreds more home improvement tips, videos, advice and ideas.
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.)