In this Episode…
DIY or Go Pro? If you want to tackle a project yourself, we’ll be the first ones to cheer you on. But how do you know when hiring a pro is the best way to go? We’ll tell you how to think it all through before you pick up a hammer. Plus…
- When it comes to home improvement, there are a lot of myths that cost DIYrs a lot of money. We’ll tackle 4 common MYTH-STAKES.
- Cold weather is not far off making now the perfect time to check out your insulation. We’ll tell you how much you really need.
- Butcher block counters are beautiful but are they safe? We’ll share secrets to finishing butcher block with risking E.coli and other harmful situations.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about, hiring an architect for addition project, installing ice & water shield under roofing, realign doors, getting estimates for a painting project, best options for a covered patio roof.
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 hey, what are you working on? It is early September, almost fall, officially fall. Another week or so I think we’ll be into fall, which makes it a great time to do projects both inside and outside your house. What do you have on your to-do list? What are you thinking about getting done and what are you planning for the future now that the summer heat is – it’s hard to get motivated when it’s really, really hot and sweaty and 100-percent humidity and 90-degree heat.
LESLIE: It’s just gross.
TOM: It’s just ugh, just terrible. That said, though, I did take on some projects in that heat. But the thing is, it’s not the most popular time for those that have the option of waiting. And I know a lot of folks like to do projects in the fall. It is what we used to call the “Goldilocks season”: not too hot, not too cold.
But if you’ve got a project on your to-do list, we’d love to help you figure out how to get going on that. Give us a call, right now, and we will talk about that. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ve got to repair something not working right in your house? We can try to walk you through how to get that resolved, 888-666-3974.
Hey, coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk about projects that you do yourself or not. DIY or get a guy is the way we like to talk about these. I mean you could say DIY or go pro, because there’s plenty of women that are good professional contractors, as well. But whatever you want to call it, the thing is if you’re going to take on a project, you’ve got to make that call, right? You’ve got to decide – “Can I do it myself? Do I have the skills to do it myself or not? And if so, how do I find the best pro to get the job done?” So we’re going to give you sort of a way to walk through those options and make the best decisions.
LESLIE: And when it comes to home improvement, there are a lot of myths that cost DIYers a lot of money. So we’re going to tackle four common myth-stakes (ph).
You like what I did there?
TOM: The myth-stakes (ph). Got it. Very creative.
And hey, also ahead, it might still be warm but colder weather not too far off, making now the absolute perfect time to check your insulation. You know, improving insulation is the single number-one most cost-effective way to cut your heating costs. We get all kinds of questions about – “Hey, should I put in solar? What about wind generators? What about this? What about that? Low-E paint? Should I change my windows?” First question: how much insulation do you have? Because that is …
LESLIE: Wait. What’s insulation? That’s …
TOM: That’s where you’ve got to start. Exactly.
So, we’re going to give you some tips on how to get that done. But most importantly, we want to hear what you want to talk about.
LESLIE: Give us a call. Let us know what you are working on. I know we’re all wrapping up the summer but Tom is right: it’s going to stay warm for a while, so let’s work on those outside spaces. Let’s keep our houses in tip-top shape. So let us lend you a hand.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Or post your question at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Annette in Arizona is on the line and needs some help with a patio project. Tell us about it.
ANNETTE: The problem that I’m having is I’ve been wanting a patio cover put on my house for the last 20 years.
ANNETTE: Well, now that my kids have grown up, I’m able to do that now. So, the problem is everyone is telling me that I have a very low roof and my ceilings in my house are only 7½-feet ceilings.
ANNETTE: So, I don’t have much of a clearance. So, of course, everything else seems to be lower in the backyard.
I’ve called probably eight or nine different builders now to see how much it would cost, this patio cover. And it’s straight across, so it’s 56 feet long, the whole length of the house.
ANNETTE: And I think probably six of them never called me back.
TOM: That’s pretty typical.
ANNETTE: And so the two that have, one of them is a very good friend of mine and I really do trust him in building this top patio cover. But he says I need to cut 6 feet into my roof in order to get the pitch that I need for at the very end. So I really wanted a 56-feet-wide by 10-feet-out patio cover.
TOM: Right. So what he’s saying is that if he adds a roof that starts at the edge of your roof and then kind of comes out from that, you’re not going to have much pitch, is that correct? Because you’re starting so low.
TOM: So I think your builder friend is probably correct, from your description. That said, the problem that you have with different builders giving you different advice can be completely avoided if you get a design professional to go in there first.
So if you’re able to find, for example, an architect in your area that wanted to take on a small project, have them design this patio cover for you and then you’ll have a set of specifications. You can work through all the angles with the architect or the designer. Then you’ll have a set of specifications. You can call those contractors back and say, “This is exactly what I want. Now, just give me a price to build it.”
Otherwise, you have no way of comparing apples to apples, because every builder is going to have their own solution. And you’re going to get different prices and you’re really not going to know how to compare them, because who knows what one guy is doing versus another? Does that make sense to you?
ANNETTE: Yeah, I understand. And the problem is I wouldn’t mind him doing it but I am so afraid that wherever he cuts into it to build out – I’m so worried that I’m going to start having problems leaking.
TOM: I really wouldn’t worry about it, OK? Because builders know how to build roofs and they know how to build roofs that don’t leak. And somebody built that roof that’s over your house right now and there’s no reason to think that your builder can’t attach another roof to it and then reroof that area properly so that you don’t get leaks. I think he’s giving you the right advice, because you can’t – if you start low and then go out, you’re going to end up with almost a flat roof and that’s going to leak like a sieve.
So if you have a good pitch, that’s going to be the surest way to avoid leaks. I would not worry at all about a contractor that has to dig into an existing roof; that’s done all the time. It’s not a big deal. If somebody knows what they’re doing, they can roof it properly, flash it properly and you will have no leaking issues – new leaking issues – as a result.
ANNETTE: Alright. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate your answer because my worry was it’s going to start leaking. And then I’m going to have major problems because it’s going to be leaking over the family room, the dining room, the kitchen and the bedroom and the – I said that’s another problem that I don’t want to get into.
TOM: Yeah, well, now that the kids are gone, I think it’s time for you to get that project done and enjoy it, right?
ANNETTE: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Annette. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Richard in Washington on the line who’s doing an addition and needs a hand. What can we do for you today?
RICHARD: Actually, here’s what I’ve got. I’ve got a house built in 1938: a footprint – essentially, it’s shaped like a cross.
RICHARD: The bottom portion of that cross used to be the garage. They turned it into living space and what they simply did with that bottom left quadrant, they poured about a 4-foot-high concrete wall.
What I’m wanting to do is try to gain as much ceiling height as possible. It’s currently framed with 2×10 for the ceiling joists. And I just didn’t know if some of the new engineered lumber would allow me to perhaps get away with something a little shallower, while still retaining the strength. But I need to go 16 on center – pardon me, 12 on center instead of 16. I’m willing to do that.
TOM: So, Richard, let me ask – let me stop you, OK? Because you’ve got a complicated question. And my first question to you about this is: do you have an architect working with you on this project?
RICHARD: Not currently.
TOM: You need one, OK?
TOM: This is not a do-it-yourself, general-contracting kind of project. You’ve got a house that you started with that’s got problems. It sounds like – it definitely sounds like the guy before you didn’t have an architect; otherwise, he wouldn’t have designed all these drainage problems into it. And then the guy that came before that, that originally built the house, didn’t have an architect: at least one that knew what he was doing. You, my friend, need an architect.
An architect can look at this situation, address these questions in terms of the design, the elevation and spec out the lumber that you’re going to need to get you where you want to go. Yes, will TJIs or laminated beams help you get more span with less depth? Yes, they will. But it’s an engineering problem to figure out which ones you use and how you lay it all together.
So I would tell you, “Stop, right now.” Stop wasting time trying to figure this out on your own and focus on finding an architect to help you. You will be spending some money on this design. It will be well worth it. You will avoid a whole host of problems with the design later on. And secondly, you’re also going to have a set of specs that you can use to go to different contractors and get some prices. So that’s definitely your next step.
RICHARD: OK. I guess that covers it.
TOM: Richard, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Claire in Alaska on the line who’s dealing with a first-time basement. What can we do for you?
CLAIRE: Well, I have purchased a 1900 house and it has this basement that is getting moisture. It has this sticky, black paper on the outside but it is not functioning properly, apparently, because there’s a lot of moisture coming in.
CLAIRE: And it would require digging out on the outside to do the outside. Is there any way to address it from the inside?
TOM: Well, there’s another way to address it on the outside and that is to pay attention to the angle of the soil around the house. So when it does warm up and you have the opportunity to regrade the foundation perimeter and make sure that the angle of the soil, the angle of the grade slopes away from the building …
CLAIRE: Well, I put French drains in all around the property and sloped it and put gravel.
TOM: So there’s – well, OK. Now, if he sloped it with gravel, then he didn’t really do you a favor, because the gravel is porous. So the water goes through the gravel, back to the dirt underneath and into your basement. So if you’re going to slope it – yeah, give him an A for effort but it’s not going to be successful. You have to grade it with clean fill dirt so that you can tamp it and the water will run away from it. Water is not going to run over gravel; it falls through it.
But there’s a second thing to check and that is: do you have gutters on the roof?
CLAIRE: No, because the snow pulled them off.
TOM: Right, OK. Well, look, if you can collect the water at the roof edge – and even if you have deep gutters or if you use the type of gutters that have the warming cables up on the roof, if you prevent water from running off the roof and against that foundation perimeter, you’ll prevent a wet basement because most of the water collects at the outside.
Protect the perimeter; keep it as dry as possible. And a lot of wet basements are caused because gutters are missing or gutters are clogged and the water rolls off the roof right against the foundation. Soil is flat, so the water has got nowhere to go and it just sits there and leaks into the basement.
CLAIRE: OK. So I’ve got to work on that.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, doing home improvement projects and improvements yourself may seem more cost-efficient than ever. But how do you know when to tackle home improvement projects on your own or when to hire a pro contractor? Which really is the best decision? We’ve got tips, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com.
Step one, you’ve got to keep your eye on the prize. So, before you start stocking up on tools or choosing paint colors, your first do-it-yourself project is to think about the exact end result that you’re after. Now, work your way back through all of that knowledge, the techniques and elbow grease involved, doing whatever research is required to fill in those blanks.
TOM: Next up, you’ve got to assess your abilities and you’ve got to do that honestly to decide whether or not you are truly the best person for the job. Consider that every project requires some level of prep and a sliding scale of time to get it done. And by the way, neither of which is obvious in the many popular home improvement TV shows that spend days building and then edit into what – what’s a ½-hour show now, Leslie? Like 18, 19 minutes?
LESLIE: Twenty-two minutes.
TOM: Twenty-two minutes, OK.
LESLIE: Twenty-two minutes.
TOM: You know, two days of work, 22 minutes of TV. So, it’s never going to take you 22 minutes to get a job done, so you’ve got to think about, realistically, how much time you have to devote to the project. And remember that mistakes add hours and expense that can easily wipe out any DIY savings.
LESLIE: Yeah. And now is also a time to build a budget. So before you begin the hiring search for a contractor, you’ve got to compile the best possible estimates of potential cost. Now, this is going to take a little research but it needs to be done so that you’re well acquainted with what’s involved. And then you can determine your financial limitations before those bids start rolling in.
Now, include a reserve of about 20 percent. That’s going to cover all of these inevitable project surprises and additions and all of the stuff that sort of starts adding up and then increases whatever you might need to finance for this project.
TOM: And lastly, get the help you need. Whether you’re looking for a handyman or a remodeling contractor to hire, personal recommendations from family members and friends are critical to finding the right match. But services like HomeAdvisor can help you find pros for all or just part of the job you feel the least prepared to go alone on. For example, you might be fine building the deck but running new wiring and lighting, well, that might best be left up to a pro.
And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com. They really do have the best local pros for any home service.
LESLIE: That’s right. Doesn’t matter what that project is, they make it fast and easy to find top local pros for your projects.
TOM: Plus, I love the fact that they now have clear, up-front pricing on over 100 everyday projects. So a fixed price for the project. To get started, just download that HomeAdvisor app today.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Pamela in Tennessee on the line who’s got a shingle question. What can we do for you today?
PAMELA: Our house was built in 1994 and it’s at the point where it’s going to be needing a new roof and we started getting estimates. And the last man who came offered to put a new roof over the existing roof. And I had thought I had read somewhere that that was never a good idea but he gave us the two options: the price with removing the old and putting on the new and another one for just putting a new layer over the existing roof. And I was just trying to find out which is the best way to go on that.
TOM: Well, Pamela, both are viable options for a roof replacement. It kind of comes down to how long you expect to be in that house. So, is this a house where you think you’ll be in it for the next 15 or 20 years, which would be the life of the new roof?
PAMELA: Well, we would like to move tomorrow if we could. We’ve had it on the market a couple times in the last couple years and we haven’t even had any lookers with the economy being what it is. So, we haven’t really had any issues with leaking, as far as we know, but every time it storms or the winds blow really hard, we lose a few more shingles.
TOM: Right. OK, well, that’s really good to know. So, the answer is that you most likely will sell it, say, in the next 10 years because the economy will eventually recover in the real estate market.
And the reason I ask that is this, Pam: because when you put a second layer of shingles on a roof, the first layer tends to hold a lot of heat, which causes the second layer to wear out just a bit faster. I’ve seen it wear out anywhere from 25 percent to, say, 33 percent faster – from a quarter to a third faster. So that means that you’d have a bit of a shorter roof life. Instead of going 20 years on the next roof, maybe you’ll go 15. However, it does save you some money.
So when does it make sense to tear it off? Well, if you’re going to be there for the whole 20 years – 25 years of that roof – then I would say tear off, go down to the plywood sheathing and go up from there. If this is a short-term house for you and you’ve already got just one layer so you’re only putting a second layer on, no reason not to put a second layer of roof on that. It’s clearly going to last for the next several years and more. And by the time you’re ready to sell it, no one really cares whether there’s one layer or two; they only care whether it leaks. And when that new owner gets around to replacing the roof, then they’ll strip everything down to the sheathing.
TOM: But that’ll be their expense, not yours. So I think it’s OK to put a second layer on at this point.
PAMELA: OK. Well, I appreciate your answer. I had just not had anybody else give us that option; it was just this one guy. And so I didn’t know if it was a good idea to do that or not.
LESLIE: I would also check with your village. The only reason I say this is that when we were looking into having our roof replaced, the rules within our village were that if you were putting a new roof on top of your existing shingles, you didn’t need any permitting. But if you were taking off the existing and putting on a new set of shingles, getting down to the sheathing, then you needed a permit. It’s just something to look into.
PAMELA: OK. Well, I appreciate that because I wasn’t aware of that. But I will check into that and I thank you both for your answer.
TOM: You’re welcome, Pam. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
So, Leslie, I have been taking our own advice and went to GetSunday.com and ordered up my summer lawn-care subscription package. And I tell you what, I’m pretty darn impressed. Sunday makes non-toxic lawn-care products. The shipment came and the neat thing is these applicator bottles, they’re sort of like the soft-side bottles. And they come with a hose applicator. So you unscrew the top, drop in the house applicator. And then all I had to do was walk around the property and spray the Lawn Strong product, which is a product that is going to give my lawn the nutrients it needs to grow healthily through the upcoming fall season and stay good and green, I should say, for the remaining of the hot summer months.
So, pretty impressed with the company and especially the process where I ordered it. It did a satellite shot of my house and they figured out where all the lawn is, which I thought was amazing because they could figure out where there was lawn under trees and where there was lawn, you know – not lawn, I should saw, under tree areas or around the garden areas. It did it all electronically and measured exactly my square footage that was left. And that’s the product that I got. So I’m not over-applying or under-applying.
And if you want to check this out, go to GetSunday.com. And if you use the promo code MONEYPIT, they’ll give you 20 bucks off. It’s a pretty affordable and wonderful service. I think they’ve done a great job with it. And you’ll love the website: GetSunday.com.
LESLIE: Well, when it comes to the topic of home improvement, there’s often more bad advice than sage wisdom that spreads like wildfire. But here’s some good advice.
First up, Myth Number One, you guys: when picking a contractor, the lowest bid is the worst one. Now, that’s not always true. The truth of the matter is that you need more information to assess whether a bid is good or not. You need to ask about specifics, talk to bidders and see whether one is covering the same work as the other. You can’t compare apples to oranges when two contractors are actually proposing two very different things to do.
You also want to make sure that the contractor is licensed and insured and not just liability insurance. You want workers’ comp, as well.
And sometimes, people think that if a contractor puts in the highest bid, well, they must be the best and the most expensive. And oftentimes, however, a contractor will just submit a high bid because they’re really not that interested in your job.
TOM: Yeah, definitely.
Now, here’s the second myth, my favorite: you don’t need a permit for a do-it-yourself remodel. Listen, just because you’re doing the project yourself doesn’t mean you can automatically skip the permitting process. Now, look, things like painting or sanding, putting up crown molding, stuff like that, no permit required. But if you’re adding electrical outlets, if you’re changing out a stove from electric to gas, if you’re replacing windows, moving a wall, adding a door, you do need a permit.
And you’re better off getting one because all I’m going to tell you: when you get around to selling that house some year in the future and it turns out that you don’t have permits for that, you can get fined. It could also really cause – throw a monkey wrench into the process of selling that house, because it’s not in compliance. So you’re better off being safe than sorry. And look, the electrical inspector, the plumbing inspectors, they’re there to make sure it got done right. So, give them a chance to do just that and save yourselves some hassles.
Now, speaking of plumbing, here’s another myth that’s worth mentioning and that is that people today still think that the low-flow toilets don’t work. And you know what? We had this requirement to take toilets down to a low-flow status and I think it happened way before the technology caught up. And yes, the very first generation of low-flow toilets didn’t flow very well. But today, that’s all changed.
The main design change is this: the trap of the toilet, which is the pipe that takes the waste out – it’s that sort of S part that’s built into the body – they just made it wider and they glazed the inside so it doesn’t restrict. It wasn’t that big of a change but now that the toilets are all made that way, they work perfectly. So if you’ve got one of the old 5- to 7-gallon models, get rid of it. You can get a toilet that works very, very well and uses less than 2 gallons of water on a flush.
LESLIE: Alright. Last myth up here, guys: when it comes to cooling-and-heating systems, bigger is better. Now, this one can be a headache for the HVAC pros out there. Homeowners always seem to want a bigger system than they actually need. And the truth is that oversized systems won’t work as well as a system that fits a house just right. An oversized air-conditioning unit is going to cool off the house with a quick blast of frigid air but is going to shut off before removing much moisture from that air. And that’s going to result in a clammy environment that’s prone to mildew.
And likewise, an oversized furnace is going to quickly pump out heat and then shut down, which is extremely inefficient. A furnace that turns on and off quickly is like a car engine in stop-and-go traffic. It’s a fuel hog.
TOM: And finally, let’s mention one more myth that I think can be a costly mistake and something that too many people find out too late. And that is homeowners insurance will always cover a flood. The truth is that you need to check your policy. Because while your policy could cover flooding if it’s caused by something from inside the house, like a broken laundry hose, you’re generally out of luck if the flooding is the result of, say, a storm or something of that nature. Water-main breaks, pipe breaks, those things are generally covered. But storms, unless you have flood insurance – a specific type of homeowners insurance called “flood insurance” – you will not be covered.
So, make sure you know what you’ve got and get it if you need it.
LESLIE: Lotus in California is on the line with a sliding-door question. How can we help you today?
LOTUS: Well, I’m very interested in finding out how to make my sliding-glass door – we have two of them but one of them gets a lot of usage. And all of a sudden, it’s just almost impossible to open and close.
LOTUS: So, rather than replacing it, is there a way that I can fix it and not spend the money in replacing the door?
TOM: Well, why is it hard to open and close it? Is it dragging on the bottom?
LOTUS: It seems to be dragging on the bottom and it’s the last 4 or 5 inches when I try to close it that is really hard to push.
TOM: So, if you look along the bottom of the sliding part of the door, there’s usually some pegs or plastic buttons that cover the wheel mechanism that’s under the door. And if you pop those out, sometimes you can stick in a screwdriver or an Allen wrench and adjust the height of the wheels. The wheels under the door move up and down and with a couple of clicks of a screwdriver or an Allen wrench, you could move those wheels.
If those are accessible, you may try raising the door a bit to get it up off the ground. Because they may have worn and now the door bottom is actually dragging across the aluminum sill. But if you make the wheels a little deeper, you’ll get that clearance again. That’s the first thing I would try.
LOTUS: I see, I see. So it’s a matter of pushing those up so that the door sits up higher, is what you’re telling me.
TOM: Correct. That’s it.
LOTUS: OK. I got it. Good. Well, thank you for your help.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Darlene in Iowa is on the line who’s got a leaky roof. Tell us what’s going on.
DARLENE: I have got a three-season room that was built onto the house that I purchased and it was attached to the original home. And I’ve been fighting with a leak in that area. And I used some Black Jack for a sealant where the shingles come over onto the three-season room area. It’s a flat roof.
TOM: So, I think that what’s happened here, Darlene, is that the junction between the three-season room and the roof was probably not correctly done. The Black Jack stuff you are talking about is, obviously, a temporary, coal-tar patch type of a product. And that might give you a short-term solution but it definitely will not give you a long-term solution.
If you’re having this kind of a long-term problem, what I would do is I would take the roof apart at the intersection between the three-season room and the main roof and then I would reinstall it, making sure that I address whatever the imperfection is.
So, I suspect that since it might have been added after the fact, that it wasn’t flashed correctly. So, if you were to pull that off and use ice-and-water shield, which is like this rubberized material, under that junction between the three-season room and then the main roof and go up from there and make sure everything overlaps properly so that the water runs down and not back up, that will solve it.
But short of doing that, you’re only going to be making very small gains in terms of slowing down this leak. So I would encourage you to stop using the temporary patch material, to take the roof apart and then fix it right so that you won’t have to be bothered with it again. Because if you don’t, there could be long-term problems: it could cause rot to the roof sheathing, as well. Even though you don’t see the water below, it could be leaking very slowly into the roof sheathing. So that’s the way to fix it once, fix it right and not have to worry about it again.
Darlene, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Listen, if you’ve avoided going up in your attic all summer long because it’s a bit too toasty, you do need to head up there now. It’s a good time to add attic insulation, because it’s going to save money through the fall and winter. Because, listen, just like your body loses heat through your head – remember your mom always said, “Wear a hat, wear a hat, wear a hat”? Well, your home loses heat through the attic. That is the house hat right there.
LESLIE: Right. Now, the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program recommends at least 12 inches of insulation for most homes. But if you’ve got a home in colder climates, you really need about 16 to 20 inches. So, when you’re shopping for your insulation, you’re going to see a number with an R in front of it. Now, that R stands for resistance to heat loss or R-value. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation’s ability to keep heated air from escaping. And that’s going to keep you warmer in your house and your energy bills down.
TOM: Correct. Now, to find out exactly how much insulation you should have in your attic, go to ENERGYSTAR.gov. If you answer a couple of questions about your home’s heating system and the climate where you live, ENERGY STAR will help you calculate the right level of insulation for your part of the country. That tool is online at ENERGYSTAR.gov.
LESLIE: Preston in Kentucky is on the line who needs some help with a painting project. What’s going on at your money pit?
PRESTON: I was just curious why – I’ve gotten a few estimates on getting the inside of my home painted. And I was curious why they – why there’s such a wide gap in between the prices that I’ve gotten. Is one job different than the other?
TOM: Well, it depends. When the first painter comes, did you have sort of your blue jeans on and dirty shirt and when the second guy came, you were all dressed up in a suit and tie like you had just walked out of the bank?
LESLIE: Dressed from work?
TOM: They bid you as much as they bid the job.
LESLIE: Briefcase handcuffed to your wrist?
TOM: Yeah. Yeah, don’t wear the fake Rolex now when the guy comes over to give you a price.
Listen, the thing is what you want to do is make sure they’re comparing apples to apples on these estimates. So there could be a lot of things that they’re doing differently. I would check that first, starting with the brand of paint – because the better paint is going to be worth it; it’s going to be more scrubbable – how many coats they’re going to apply.
LESLIE: Are they priming? What’s the prep work? Is it plaster? Do they need to skim-coat? Is there any repair work that needs to be done to the existing drywall?
TOM: And also, you’re just going to have to – because it’s so labor-intensive, you’re absolutely going to positively have to do your homework on all these guys and get references and talk to people that they did work for recently.
And I like to ask people for references of somebody that they worked for at least a year ago, so we can see over time what their reputation has been. Because you definitely need to have someone who’s careful about their – working inside your house and who’s also a skilled painter. So I would dig in on the references and I would make sure that we’re comparing apples to apples in terms of what the project is that they’re actually doing.
And then another thing that you can do is always go online. And I like to search “complaints against” and the name of the business. And believe me, if there is anybody who’s had a problem, they’re going to pop up in a Google search. So if you search the word “complaints” and the name of the vendor, you’ll find out right away.
And keep in mind, there are complaint sites out there. The only reason people go to them is to complain, so you don’t always get a balanced view. But if you see a lot of complaints on a lot of different sites, then you know maybe it’s an issue and you should steer clear. Does that make sense?
PRESTON: OK, great.
TOM: Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. And here’s a post from Tanya. Now, Tanya writes: “I’m putting butcher block in for the bar top and countertops. What do you recommend as a sealer?”
TOM: Well, look, butcher block is a beautiful addition in any kitchen but it can require a lifetime of maintenance to keep it that way. Now, you mentioned that you’ve got bar top and countertops.
And to me, Leslie, those are two completely separate surfaces.
Now, the bar top is not going to be a space where you’re preparing food, so you want that top to be super durable. For that, I think a good choice is an epoxy finish. It’s a two-part epoxy resin and the way you apply this – there are some tricks to it. Once you mix up the clear-coat epoxy, you do one coat, which is called a “seal coat.” And you spread it on pretty thin and you watch it.
Because when you spread it on, what’s going to happen is you’ll get air bubbles underneath from the raw bar top that will kind of permeate up through the finish. And the way you get rid of those air bubbles is with a propane torch. You basically wave the flame about 6 to 10 inches over the bubbles and they will instantly pop. There’s nothing flammable about the epoxy product, so you don’t have to worry about that. And then you let it harden really well.
And then you can apply what’s called the “float coat,” which is where you put a thicker coat of the epoxy. You’ll have far fewer bubbles but you have to watch out for them. And within a few hours, it will be rock-hard and absolutely beautiful and a durable, solid surface for the bar top.
Now, the countertop is a totally separate issue because for that, it’s going to be something that you’re going to be putting raw meat on, eggs, dairy. And there’s a lot of opportunities for bacteria to grow, so you’ve got to be really, really careful.
One of the options is to use food-safe oils and these are sold just for butcher block. It’ll give you a clear, attractive finish. But the thing is, you’ve got to disinfect that countertop pretty regularly because the butcher block does soak up a lot of stuff, right?
LESLIE: I mean it really does. But I think it’s interesting that when people put in a butcher-block countertop, it’s instantly assumed like, “Oh, my whole countertop is a cutting board.” It doesn’t have to be. You know, it’s like you – but you still should be using a cutting board on top of it, just to preserve the countertop’s look to begin with and to help reduce the risk of contamination.
And you’re right, though: it doesn’t have to be the entire countertop. You can sort of mix materials. You can dedicate a specific area to that butcher-block countertop and then actually use it as a cutting board and just maintain it properly. I’ve even seen this done where people will have just a slab of marble sort of inset in a different type of countertop, because they’re big bakers and they like to have that cooler spot to do that. So you can sort of customize that.
But with butcher block, you have to be so careful because you’re right: there is a risk of contamination there.
TOM: There’s a rule of thumb for applying the oils. And what you do is you apply the oil once a day for the first week, then once a week for the first month and then once a month pretty much for the life of the countertop. Just remember that when you’re choosing your oil, it’s got to be one that’s food-safe.
Mineral oil, for example, is a good choice. And you can find it at your local drug store, usually.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s interesting. So you don’t always have to go somewhere specific for that. Mineral oil is going to do the trick. And once you’ve got the conditioner, just take a rag, apply a good amount of it onto the counter. And as time goes by, you should notice that the wood is soaking up less and less oil each time. And that means it’s working.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thanks for spending this part of this late summer weekend day with us. If you’ve got questions about your home improvement projects, if you’re planning something for the fall weather ahead, if you’re stuck in the middle of a repair, remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Because if we’re not in the studio, we will call you back with the answer the next time we are.
Until then, 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.)