In this episode…
Creating a beautiful living space outdoors doesn’t require walls or a ceiling, just a beautiful floor. We’ve got tips on how to create the perfect patio. Plus…
- Now that we’re knee deep in the AC season, we’re also knee-deep in high electric bills! We’ve got 5 low-cost and no-cost improvements you can make to lower cooling costs with giving up comfort.
- Plus, do you know the easiest door to break into for any house? It’s usually the garage door! We’ll tell you why and share the surprisingly simple home securitysteps you can take to secure that entry.
- Can you ever have too much closet space? If it comes at the expense of a small bedroom – maybe! We work through the numbers and share tips to get the most closet space from tight quarters.
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 so glad to be here to help you with your home improvement projects today. What are you working on? What are you working on this weekend? What have you got planned for the days ahead? You’ve got a project you want to get done? Well, let’s start right now. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to walk you through what has to happen, give you some tips, some ideas, save some money, save some time and get it done right. This is Episode 2014 of The Money Pit and we’re so glad to be with you today.
Coming up on today’s program, you know, creating a beautiful living space outside doesn’t require a wall or a ceiling but it does require a beautiful floor. We’re talking about patios. We’ll have tips on how to create the perfect one for your space.
LESLIE: And now that we’re knee-deep into the air-conditioning season, we’re also knee-deep in high electric bills. We’ve got five low-cost and no-cost improvements that you can make to cut costs without giving up comfort.
TOM: That’s the key. Can we save money without giving up the cool?
Plus, do you know the easiest door to break into for any house? Well, it is usually the garage door. The biggest door, of course. We’re going to tell you why and share a surprisingly simple step that you can take to secure that entry.
LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. What are you working on? What are you thinking about working on? What have you started and maybe need some help with? Whatever it is, we’re here to lend a hand. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get started, Leslie. Who’s first?
LESLIE: Mary in Virginia, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
MARY: I’m looking to purchase a home that has a slab foundation. And when I went in, I kind of smelled a musty, mildew-y odor. And I’m just wondering, how would you know that water is coming up from the ground and saturating that slab? And how do you protect a home that has just – that’s built just on a slab. There’s nothing under for water to drain under or anything.
TOM: Was this a home that was vacant or did it have a family living in it?
MARY: It has been vacant for a while.
TOM: And that makes sense. Because when you don’t run the HVAC system as frequently as you would if it was occupied, sometimes you’re going to get high humidity inside the homes. But because it’s a slab doesn’t make it any more or less susceptible to water infiltration. But of course, because it’s above grade, you don’t get floods. What you do get is the power of the – it’s the concrete basically drawing water up from the ground – it’s called “capillarity” – and then letting it evaporate into the air.
The correction for that is the same thing you would do even if you did have a basement, which is to improve your drainage on the outside: extend the downspouts, the gutters; improve the soil slope so that water is sort of shunted away from the foundation perimeter. But I think that once you move into the house and use the HVAC system, you’re going to find that that moisture is not nearly as detectable as it is right now. And if it does become more detectable, you could always add a dehumidifier.
MARY: OK. So it’s the – that smell I’m getting is not coming from the carpeting that’s on top of the – laying on top of the slab?
TOM: Ooh. Carpet on top of slab? That’s a bad thing.
MARY: Well, I mean I don’t know what’s under the carpet and I’m assuming that there’s some kind of subfloor there. But yeah, it’s wall-to-wall carpeting and I know underneath it is basically a slab.
TOM: Yeah. We don’t like carpet on concrete, for a whole bunch of reasons. So I would be recommending that you find another type of flooring for that. Because when you put carpet, which is largely an organic material, against those damp, moist, concrete slabs, bad things happen. You get mold and mildew growth, you get allergens that form, you’re going to get dust mites, things like that. So, we really don’t like carpet on concrete slabs. If you can choose a different type of flooring, if you’re going to do some remodeling, that would really help out a lot.
MARY: OK. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Michigan where Roger has got a door problem. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
ROGER: Yeah, I have a mid-70s, ranch-style house. It has all maple doors on the interior. And we’re just putting paint on here for the first time. It’s been white all along and I’m putting color into it and these doors just don’t look right. And I wondered what kind of alternative I have to making them look different, besides swapping them out for six panels or whatever and exchanging it all out. But I don’t want to go to that expense.
TOM: OK. So the doors are wood doors. And have they ever been painted before or are they finished clear?
ROGER: No, they’re finished, though, with maple – they’re maple-pressed doors or whatever or – I don’t know what they called them back then but …
TOM: And so you say they don’t look right against the painted walls? Is that your concern?
ROGER: They might to somebody but I just – I’m doing the trim in bright white and it just doesn’t look right with the colors on the walls and everything.
TOM: Typically, you would not do the trim; the trim would be natural, as well.
ROGER: Well, it would have been, yeah, but that’s not how the house was originated. Yeah, that would be a way to do it is just change out the trim but that’s not …
TOM: Well, that’s a lot less work than changing out the doors. And you would have a lot of options if you were to change out the trim.
So, it may not look right to you because you have painted trim and you have a clear-finish door. But if the trim is really the missing perimeter to this that’s going to frame it all in there nicely, why don’t – you could do this. Why don’t you go pick up a couple of pieces of trim and lightly tack them around the door, without even taking off the old stuff. Just kind of stick it up there, step back, take a look at it and see if it starts to make more sense to you visually.
ROGER: That’s a good idea.
TOM: Alright? Take small steps that way.
And the other thing to keep in mind when you’re doing a project like this, Gene, is just remember once you paint, it’s going to look different. So that’s going to take a certain amount of getting used to.
ROGER: You’re right about that, also.
TOM: Alright? So, I would go out and pick up some trim, tack it up there, see how it looks. Maybe try a complimentary color? You know, you could do a two-tone, something like that. And see if that does the trick for you, OK?
ROGER: That’s a good idea.
TOM: And good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Johanna from Michigan who wants to get out and enjoy the deck. How can we help you with that project?
JOHANNA: Hey. We’re getting ready to put a deck on the back of our house. It’s going to be about 20×20. And we’re looking at the composite products and in doing some research, I have come across some hair-raising images of black mold, chipping, cracking, crumbling and so on. And I would just like to get your opinion on the composite decking and if it truly holds up the way it says it does or if there are things we need to look out for.
TOM: I think it absolutely does hold up. Originally, the very first composite products that were out there had wood fiber in them, as well as the plastics. And the wood fiber would tend to grow sometimes algae and things like that and people didn’t like that.
I think it’s a perception issue. If you think that there is zero maintenance – “I’m never going to have to do anything at all” – you’re not going to find any product like that. Because even though it’s composite, it’s going to get dirty. It may grow a bit of algae and need to be cleaned once in a while. But realistically, I think it’s going to stand up a lot better than pressure-treated.
Just give you an example. My son recently completed his Eagle Scout project about a year ago. And his project was to build a 30-foot bridge across a stream. And we chose, for that project, composite decking. This is going to be in a park, it’s going to get lots and lots and lots of foot traffic. That’s been up now for a year and it still looks as good as the day we put it down.
So, I think composite is a good choice. Stick with a name brand; stick with Trex, for example. Good product, good history. And I think it’s going to cut down on the maintenance overall and it’s going to look terrific at the same time. And you won’t have to paint it and stain it and all that.
Now, you realize that you do – the framing of this is all done through standard pressure-treated, right?
JOHANNA: Right, right. And we will have benches and stuff built in and we’re going to use, I think, cedar for that.
TOM: OK. Well, I mean you can use composite for the built-in benches, too. Anything that’s going to be exposed like that, there’s no reason not to use the composite.
JOHANNA: And it’s a very sunny area, so …
TOM: Yeah, if you have a lot of sun, you really won’t have a lot of problems with mildew and algae growth, because the sun is a very natural mildicide. It’s usually the real shady decks that have the issues.
JOHANNA: Yeah. Maybe there was a bad run at that time?
TOM: And you know what? Composite has changed in the last five years, too.
JOHANNA: OK. Well, good. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright, Johanna. Good luck with that project and let us know when the party is, OK?
JOHANNA: Hey, it’s next Friday.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, a concrete patio is perfectly functional but if it’s worn and dragging down your outdoor-living space design, you can give it a face-lift.
First of all, if that slab is in good shape, a great option is a wooden deck tile made of ipe. And that’s a Brazilian wood that’s very hard, so it’s really great for outdoor use. Plus, it looks really fantastic.
Now, you can get these tiles with a plastic grid system on the bottom. And that’s not only going to hold the plastic panels together but it raises up the actual wood off of the concrete, so that air and water can go right through it. And you’re not going to get any rot or mildew underneath.
Now, this kind of tile also has male and female attachments on it. So you just line them up, snap them into the right place. There’s even an edge piece that sort of finishes off the entire look. It’s easy to work with and it’s really stunning-looking.
TOM: Now, brick pavers are another great idea. You’ve got a lot of choices for shapes and colors when it comes to those pavers. And you can assemble them right on top of the patio. It’ll all fit together so you won’t see the concrete anymore.
A little trick of the trade, though, is to take the outside edge of those brick pavers, however you assemble the border. You can glue the border down using a construction adhesive to the old concrete. That’ll help hold everything in nice and tight, just like a puzzle. And you won’t have to also worry about any movement in the brick pavers, because you’ve got that solid hunk of concrete underneath.
LESLIE: Now, painting or staining is another way to give it a new look but it’s going to be more work and more time-intensive than the first two options.
Now, to paint concrete, you’ve got to wash all of the dirt and debris off. You have to fill any cracks if they’re there. You need to let that dry out really well, then prime the concrete and then paint the concrete. And you have to make sure you have the correct paint for the surface. You want to make sure it’s going to stand up and really do a good job of adhering so it’s the right product for the right application.
Now, you can also – if you want to get a little bit more creative, you can use some tape and create a tile pattern. You can paint a rug on the surface. There’s so much that you can do to give it a lot of personality. But it’s more elbow grease, lots of creativity. But for the right DIYer, it’s an excellent project.
TOM: Now, if you actually don’t mind your concrete patio so much and – but maybe it’s seen better days, there’s a product out, pretty new, from QUIKRETE that is incredible. It’s called Re-Cap. It’s a concrete resurfacer and I’ve used it myself on some projects. And it adheres really, really well to the old concrete. It’s super strong and it looks great. It’s kind of like giving the concrete an entire new surface.
LESLIE: Rick in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RICK: When our house was built, in place of the usual wooden boards that are used to trim around the edges of the roofs and around the bottom of the house, they used a plastic composite-type material.
RICK: And it’s used in place of wood and it’s maintenance-free, lasts forever, that kind of stuff. With the exception that any place this wood is – this composite material is cut, it becomes kind of a haven for mold and mildew. And you get green growth there and it’s – you spend a lot of time and effort continually pressure-washing to clean it out. So, what I’m looking for is some means of sealing – is there some way of sealing this to prevent this mold growth on what is otherwise a maintenance-free material?
TOM: Well, if it’s composite, it may be a product called AZEK – A-Z-E-K. And that’s paintable. And so you could paint those areas and that might tend to seal it in a bit more. Because I think what you’re saying is that the cut areas are probably more absorbent than the surface areas and so you’re getting a little more moisture. Maybe it’s a trap. There’s a little rougher surface there. It might be a trap for dirt that feeds mildew or algae and that sort of thing.
So, what comes to mind right away is that you simply could paint it. But of course, you know what comes after paint: repaint.
RICK: Exactly. It takes away the maintenance-free aspect of it.
RICK: But is there a type of paint that would be more conducive or last longer, like an epoxy-type paint or something like that?
TOM: Not for a surface like that. No, you would just use an exterior paint and you would probably prime it first.
RICK: So it wouldn’t be latex. It would be an enamel?
TOM: No, you would use a 100-percent acrylic latex paint. That’s what AZEK recommends be used. And you also might want to take a look at Sherwin-Williams for the paint manufacturer, because I know that they have paints that are specifically made for vinyl or PVC products, which is what that product is. AZEK is simply an extruded cellular PVC.
LESLIE: Not everybody does this but some contractors tend to skip the step of filling holes when it comes to a composite trimming. You know, they’re like, “Eh, you can’t see it. It’s OK.” But this could give you the opportunity – if you’re going to paint the trim, as well – to go ahead and fill any nail holes. And that’ll really give it almost a more natural wood look, the brushstrokes. It could be a good thing.
RICK: OK. Thank you very much. That’s a great idea.
LESLIE: Naomi in Pennsylvania, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
NAOMI: What I have is my backyard, over the past several years we’ve taken down a couple of major trees. They’ve died. And now, whenever it rains, pretty much I have standing water for a long period of time and it’s really nasty.
So, I’ve been looking online for ideas. I’ve gone to garden centers looking for plants that do well in standing water. And in the Northeast, we don’t have a long growing season, so a lot of the plants that I’m looking up don’t seem to be doing well.
So, other ideas my husband and I have kicked around are putting a floating deck, I see, that you can build out there?
TOM: Floating deck? That’s called a “raft.”
NAOMI: Yeah. Spring …
TOM: I don’t think you have to become Tom Sawyer here, Naomi, OK and build a raft to float down the river.
NAOMI: Well, my husband’s idea was to put stone all over.
TOM: How about this idea? How about if we drain the backyard of water? You like that idea?
NAOMI: Well, how do you go about doing that? We were not sure …
TOM: So, first of all, it sounds like the backyard is sloped in such a way that the water runs into it but doesn’t run out of it. Is that fair to say?
NAOMI: That’s pretty – yes, pretty fair to say. My neighbor’s yard is slightly higher.
TOM: And then is an area below your house that’s slightly lower than the backyard?
NAOMI: After we bought the house, we found out it was built on a swamp, so everybody has drainage problems.
TOM: I’m pretty sure that you’re not looking at the water table there; you’re looking at some water that’s staying around. So here’s the solution: it’s called a “curtain drain.”
And what a curtain drain is is a trench that you construct from the part where the water is ponding to somewhere lower than that in the elevation. Now, the curtain drain is a trench that’s about 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. You put in a couple of inches of stone, then you put in a perforated PVC pipe. And then you put more stone and some filter cloth and you cover it with soil so it’s completely invisible when it’s done.
But here’s what happens: as the water runs down to that area where it’s ponding now, it falls into the trench, it comes up into the pipe and then it runs down through the pipe and discharges at a lower area of your property. So you are essentially collecting the water, shooting it around the house and then discharging it somewhere at a lower elevation.
NAOMI: Does this require a backhoe or is this something that we can do with shovel and …?
TOM: No, you can do it with a shovel. And you don’t need much pitch either: you need about a ¼-inch a foot – per foot – on the pipe. So just as long as you get a nice, clean trench dug, you get the stone in there, you get the perforated pipe in there, it’ll work very well. And it’ll drain that yard whenever it fills up.
NAOMI: And I look for the wettest part of the yard to start it in and then I go to a – you said a ¼-inch per foot?
TOM: Foot, yeah. And you want to bring it down to someplace lower on the yard where you can discharge it. And the best thing to do is to discharge it to daylight; in other words, have the pipe actually pop out somewhere so the water can run out.
NAOMI: OK, great. Terrific. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Naomi. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You know, sometimes I am inspired by the idea of upcycling, Leslie, when I see something that is old and worn and dirty and gross and I make something pretty out of it.
TOM: I did that this weekend. We had a whole bunch of tomato stakes that I had cut up for last year’s crop, which was quite impressive. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to have the same one this year. But I had them all wrapped up and they were half-covered in dirt but the wood was about – maybe about 3/8-inch by 1-inch by about 3 feet long. And I’m thinking, “This would make a really handsome lattice.”
And so we had rosebushes that were growing very well and kind of getting out of hand and blocking off some gates. And I just built lattice out of it and that was a Saturday project. And sometimes you get inspired by what you find and you get ideas on what you can do with it. And I find that those are sometimes the most satisfying.
LESLIE: It’s always a fun project when you can reuse something and then it looks really good and completely different.
Alright. Now we’ve got Phyllis from the Jersey Shore calling in. What can we do for you today?
PHYLLIS: I am looking to purchase a home. And the problem is I’m looking at a very specific area because I don’t want to leave the current school district the children are in. And all the homes around here were built in the 60s. So my first question is: what should I look for in that era of home construction that might be a red flag? And also, the way the homes are all built, the bottom floor has radiant-floor heat and upstairs is hot-water baseboard. And I just – I can’t imagine that 50-year-old pipes are not going to go at some point. And I’m wondering, how do I make sure they’re OK or look for signs that they’re getting weak?
TOM: So you’re basically looking for the good, the bad and the ugly of 1960s construction.
TOM: And the story is that it’s actually a pretty good time for home construction. You had copper plumbing, you had decent wiring. Sometimes, the services were a little small but if the homes were mostly natural gas, you really don’t need more than about 100 amps to power pretty much everything, including central air conditioning. And you’ve got hardwood floors. Very frequently, you had hardwood floors in 1960 houses. And it’s interesting because they put the hardwood floors in and they very promptly covered them with wall-to-wall carpet.
LESLIE: With shag carpeting.
TOM: Or shag, yeah. That’s right. Which actually protects them very nicely and didn’t allow them to wear. So, it’s a pretty good year for home construction.
Now, because it’s a 50-year-old house, you’re obviously going to have – how old is the furnace? How old is the water heater? Stuff like that to consider. What’s the general maintenance been? But in terms of an era of home construction, I think it’s a really strong era.
Now, if you’d asked me about the 80s, I would tell you, eh, not so much. Those houses were put together pretty fast and not always in the best possible way. But the 60s is a pretty good year for construction.
PHYLLIS: Oh, good. Because I’m moving up. I live in an 80s house now.
TOM: Oh, there you go. So you’re going to get better.
In terms of that radiant heat, that’s probably one – the one weak link that that home has. But the thing is, you can’t really determine how far along it is and whether or not it’s going to break. It probably will eventually fail and when that happens, you’re going to be faced with a pretty costly repair. You’ll have to put in some sort of alternative heat system, because it’s virtually impossible to repair those pipes in the slab.
So the first floor of your house will either be running new baseboard pipes or you’ll be running electric radiant or you’ll be adding an air-to-water heat exchanger so that you can take hot water from the boiler, run it through a heat exchanger and blow air over it through your HVAC system, the same one you use to cool the house.
But I wouldn’t obsess about that. I mean it’s probably going to happen eventually but it may not even happen in the time that you own this next house. So if you like the neighborhood, 1960s is a pretty good era for home construction.
PHYLLIS: Great. That’s great news. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, now that we’re knee-deep into the air-conditioning season, we’re also knee-deep in those high electric bills. Well, we’ve got five low-cost and no-cost improvements that you can make to cut those costs without giving up your comfort.
TOM: That’s right. So, let’s start with a really simple one: shade the air-conditioning compressor, people. Ample shade for that outdoor compressor will help it work more efficiently. Just make sure that there’s plenty of space around it, because you need to have at least 1 foot away on all sides of that unit for it to work and work well.
LESLIE: Now, you also want to make sure you seal your air-conditioning ductwork. About 20 percent of the cool air that your system generates can leak out through poorly sealed and insulated ductwork. So, take the time now to eliminate those escape routes. You can use duct sealant, like a mastic, or a metal-backed tape. Never use duct tape as it doesn’t really have the required staying power. And you want to seal up all of the seams and the connections and then follow with an insulation wrap.
TOM: Now, here’s a really simple one: change the HVAC filters regularly. You know, in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector, sometimes I would open up a furnace or an air conditioner and look inside and the thing would be absolutely caked with dirt, from top to bottom, except it would have a brand-new filter. That’s not the only time you change your filter – when the inspector is coming – OK?
If you change it on a regular basis, your system will be more efficient because a dirty filter makes it work harder. It slows down the airflow. It also wastes energy and it threatens components with dirt and dust buildup. But believe me, they’re also much less expensive to replace than those compressors themselves. Because if you let that evaporator coil inside the air handler get caked up and the dirt can’t – the air can’t get through it, it’s going to fail that outside compressor. You’re going to be looking at at least a $2,000 repair. So, change the filter.
LESLIE: More than once a year.
Alright. Here’s an easy one that you guys can do and it’s keeping your storm windows closed and the shades down. The same air that leaks in during cold weather is going to leak in during the summer. And that’s going to drive up your cooling cost. So, keep your storm windows closed in rooms with window air-conditioning units. That’s going to give you some extra cooling comfort and efficiency. Plus, keep those rooms cool by closing shades and blinds during the sun-filled hours of the day.
TOM: Finally, let’s talk about those ceiling fans. If you’ve got one, make sure they’re spinning in the right direction, because the direction will change from winter to summer. You get – they have reversible motors. There’s a little switch on the side of it. And make sure you set it so that it pulls the cold water up off the floor; it doesn’t push that hot air back down from the ceiling. You want it to sort of suck the air up into the fan and then it will be working properly and you will be much more comfortable as a result.
We’d love to help you get comfortable with whatever project you’d like to get done. So call us now with your question at 888-MONEY-PIT or post it to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
Well, did you know the easiest door to break into for any house is your garage door? It is true. And we’ve got a tip to help you avoid becoming a victim by tightening that space up and making it more secure.
LESLIE: Yeah. If you’d like to protect your home from intruders, it’s important to identify those vulnerable areas of your house, like hiding spots that you might have if you’ve got some tall bushes or trees, as well as any easy points of entry. And this is super important if you’re going out of town.
For example, the garage door might be easier to open than you think but you can secure it by simply installing a bolt through one of the extra holes in the garage-door tracks. Now, with that bolt in place, the door won’t be able to roll upward and that door is going to be way more secure.
TOM: Now, for everyday use, you could integrate a smart garage-door controller. So, that’s a great way now to keep tabs on whether the door is opened or closed. If you’ve ever driven away from your house and thought maybe, in the back of your head, you left your garage door open or maybe it turned out you did, these controllers will alert you when that happens and give you the opportunity to close the door remotely so you know that the house is always secure.
Pretty cool technology. You can add it without adding anything else. Just a smart garage-door controller will do the trick.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tammy in Philadelphia on the line who’s looking for a better shower. How can we help you today?
TAMMY: Hi. I was calling in because I wanted to find out – I have an old Victorian house and I have a three – it’s three stories. I have a bathroom on the third floor and a bathroom on the second. And when I – if someone is in the shower on the second floor and then someone takes a shower or runs the water upstairs, on the third floor, the shower goes cold. And I’ve been asking my contractors and my plumbers and I’m not getting a consistent answer. So, I’d like to remedy that, because I’m doing remodeling.
TOM: OK. So are you opening up walls as part of this remodeling?
TAMMY: Yes. Completely stripped down to the studs.
TOM: OK, great. So, first of all, the reasons you have reduced water pressure in older homes are generally because you have old steel pipes that suffer from internal rusting and they clog. They close down, kind of like a clogged artery, and then you can’t push enough water through it.
Now, that could be your main water pipe, it could be the supply pipes that are inside the house or a combination of them. And so, since you’re taking the walls apart, the general rule of thumb is that whenever you expose these old, steel pipes, you want to replace them with copper pipes or with PEX, which is a different type – a newer type of plumbing pipe.
Now, the other thing is that you may not have enough water pressure coming in from the street.
TAMMY: Well, the pressure is not that big of a deal, because I think that the pressure is kind of OK. It’s just that, basically, we have two bathrooms in the house and you can only use one at a time. Like the water completely goes ice cold if you’re in the shower and somebody comes in and uses the sink.
TOM: Well, that’s because the pipes may not be supplying that hot water. They may not be moving enough hot water.
What size water heater do you have?
TAMMY: Forty gallons.
TOM: Alright. Well, that’s a minimum size but it should be OK for two bathrooms.
TOM: And is it an older water heater?
TAMMY: No, I just replaced the water heater.
TOM: When you replaced it, did they change any of the plumbing around it? Is it still going through the steel pipes?
TAMMY: I don’t think that they changed the pipes around the – no, I don’t think so.
TOM: So, you need to talk with your plumbers about what kind of pipes you have, whether or not that’s contributing to the problem. And you need to know what the water pressure is at the street. Because if you’re not getting enough pressure, that could be the whole cause of it.
TAMMY: OK. Now, I Googled and I saw something online called a “pressure-balance valve.” Would that remedy the issue at all?
TOM: So, a pressure-balance valve is designed to be used primarily in a shower. And what it does is it keeps the mix between hot and cold balanced so that you don’t get scorching or freezing-cold water when the pressure drops. So if somebody was to, say, run hot water downstairs and now rob all that hot water from the upstairs shower, it would not change the balance of water from – the mix of water between hot and cold. So the flow would be less – you’d have less of a stream – but it wouldn’t be – the temperature wouldn’t change.
TAMMY: OK, OK.
TOM: Right. So, no, that’s not it. I don’t think that’s the cause. I mean that would certainly be a good thing to have and something you should consider. But I don’t think that’s the reason you’re not getting hot water on the second floor. I just don’t think you’re moving enough water up there.
TAMMY: OK. So, basically, what I need to do is tell them to check the piping around the water heater.
TOM: Yeah. And the plumber should know this. Not only around the water heater but basically, if you’re going to open up those walls, what kind of pipes do you have and are they corroded? And should they be replaced to help alleviate this, OK? And if all else fails, you could always add a second water heater upstairs. You can add a tankless water heater, which would be a really small unit. And it would supply additional water to that second-floor bathroom.
TAMMY: Oh, OK. OK, that’s interesting. OK. Well, I think that kind of remedies the problem.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, perhaps you live in an older home and you’re realizing you don’t really have that much storage space. Well, Jack is realizing that very same problem and so he posted a question. Says, “We do not have a closet in our bedroom. I want to build one but I’m not sure how large it should be. Are there any rules of thumb for closet size?”
That’s tough. If you’ve got to take away from your bedroom space to make storage space, that’s a slippery slope right there.
TOM: Yeah. It’s a trade-off, too, and it’s a permanent trade-off once you do that.
TOM: And that’s why in older homes it’s not uncommon to see armoires used. Armoires are closet-sized pieces of furniture because they’re movable, you know? You can move them from one side to the other and find out – and if you have enough space in there – and they don’t take as much room as a closet.
The problem with a closet is if you have one wall and you’re going to have to basically make – even a narrow closet is going to have to be at least 2 feet deep. And then it’s going to have to be maybe at least 3 to 4 feet wide. And then you’re going to have this sort of recessed area from wherever that stops to the opposite wall. And it just makes it really hard to move around the bedroom. Once you put the bed in there, you’re kind of turning sideways every time you pass the closet, which is not good.
So, if you don’t have the space to put it in there, don’t use it. Just get an armoire and use that. That’s what people did for many, many, many years and it’s still an effective and efficient way to go.
And by the way, you can buy some quite affordable ones at IKEA. I remember when our son was born that we fit all of his stuff, including all of the baby gear – small babies have big things, as you’re well aware, Leslie.
TOM: We fit all of that stuff in the armoire and it wasn’t that expensive.
LESLIE: Well, I mean that’s a good use of storage space.
Now we’ve got a post here from Charles and he writes: “Our master bathroom’s window has a crank attached to the window frame. The window’s in good shape and the frame is, too. My situation is that the crank doesn’t operate the window to open or close anymore. It almost feels like it’s stripped. Is this something that I can fix myself?”
I know exactly what he’s talking about. It’s like you’re just turning that crank and nothing’s happening.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely.
It sounds like you found yourself in this unfortunate situation where the hardware has worn out faster than the window itself. That happened to me, as well. We have a beautiful bay window in our office and the crank wore out there. But fortunately, it was an Andersen window and Andersen keeps a healthy supply of that sort of hardware. And I was able to order a new crank kit and actually install it myself and it works fine.
If you can figure out who made that window, I would definitely try that first, because you’d be surprised. And we even had to replace some hardware on a casement window and it was one that was kind of a no-name brand that I bought at Home Depot many, many, many, many years ago. And I was able to figure out the manufacturer. And they had another company that specialized in replacing their hardware and I was able to order the parts that way.
So you’ve got to be a bit of a detective, Charles. One place to look is at the insulated glass in most of these windows. Between those panes of glass, sometimes imprinted into the frame or the swiggle – that is the insulator in between that glass – will be the name of the manufacturer. So try to figure that out. See if you can track them down, because it’s definitely something that is repairable if you can find the part.
LESLIE: Yeah. And that shouldn’t be a difficult repair. So good luck with that. And you’ll be so happy to be able to use that window again. There’s nothing worse than having something functional that just doesn’t because of a part.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, I hope that we gave you a few ideas in this episode on how to fix up some spaces around your house, maybe plan some improvements for now or for the future. If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can also post your questions to The Money Pit Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
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.)