In this episode…
From single sinks to limited square footage, smaller bathrooms often leave much to be desired. But you don’t have to make a bathroom bigger to make it better. Tom & Leslie share tips expand your bath without emptying your wallet. Plus…
- Do you ever feel like you spend as much time cleaning your kitchen as cooking in it? Well, we’ve got tips on how you can put all of that to rest by creating a low maintenance kitchen!
- With the chilly weather setting in, do you have an area in your house that just never seems to get warm? Space heaters may be a solution – IF they’re used safely. We’ll tell you how to shop for a space heater that can supplement your whole home heat and without driving up utility expense.
- If you are getting ready to rent an apartment, there are many things to consider outside of just the 4 walls. Find out what you need to know before you rent to make the best choice in where you live.
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 take on projects around your house. What are you planning for today, tomorrow, this weekend, next weekend? If you’ve got a project you’d like to get done, we’d like to help. Help yourself first by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
Coming up on today’s episode, from single sinks to limited square footage, small bathrooms often leave a lot to be desired. But you don’t have to make a bathroom bigger just to make it better. We’re going to share some space-saving tricks, just ahead.
LESLIE: Plus, do you ever feel like you spend as much time cleaning your kitchen as you do cooking in it? Well, we’ve got some tips on how you can put all of that to rest by creating a low-maintenance kitchen.
TOM: And with the chilly weather setting in, do you have an area of your house that just never seems to get warm? Now is a really good time to talk about a possible solution with space heaters. If they’re used safety, they can be terrific. We’re going to tell you how to shop for a heater that can supplement your whole home heat and do so without driving up the utility expense.
LESLIE: But first, are you thinking about a project that you’d like to get done while the weather is really just so perfect outside? Well, maybe you want to bring some of those fall colors into your home or you’re doing a redecorating project or you’re thinking of doing a flooring project or painting. Whatever it is, we are here to help.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Think of us as your extra set of hands to get the job done.
And speaking of which, we’re also giving away, this hour, the E-Z Hold Bar Clamps. Those are my extra set of hands. We’ve got a set of eight from the Pony Jorgensen Company that are going out to one lucky caller drawn at random, so make that you. Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Judy in Virginia, you’ve got a painting question. How can we help you with that project?
JUDY: We are trying to put an epoxy on our basement floor, like we did on our garage floor. And we are having a very serious problem with this basement-floor project, because we went through all the process of putting down the pretreatment that would get rid of any oils or solutions on the floor. That bubbled up the way it was supposed to. Then we went in and we put down the epoxy as we were supposed to and it came right back up. It turned to a brown powder and then just came up.
And so, we got all that off and then we went back in and put down a sealer and then came back with the epoxy again. And it’s doing the same exact thing. We had no problem with our garage floor and it’s a garage floor that was put down several years after the basement was done. And we were told that – from some people who know the history of the house – that the basement – or that the house was built in the winter months, back in the mid-80s, and that they likely used calcium chloride to help the cement set up and that it could be having an effect on this epoxy.
We’re using a very good-quality – a name brand. It’s not a box-store quality; it’s a quality, quality product that we’re using.
TOM: OK. Have you turned to the manufacturer to ask the question as to what might be going on?
JUDY: Well, we have asked and the calcium chloride did come up as a possibility. But they don’t really know what to do about that.
TOM: So, you did talk directly to the manufacturer, not the retailer, about this.
JUDY: The retailer actually talked with the manufacturer about it.
TOM: I would go right to the manufacturer and speak with them directly about this. I don’t like going through the middle man because – not that I don’t trust the retailer to do this. You can never be sure if they’re actually talking to the right guy. And they could be talking to – you see, they could be talking to a field rep who thinks he knows the answer and maybe he doesn’t.
Obviously, something – the first thing that came to mind was moisture. Did the floor – was the floor thoroughly dried before you started this whole process?
JUDY: Yes, it was. We made certain it was very dry in there and used big box fans after we had scrubbed the floor real thoroughly. The big box fans were used and the doors were opened to let the air circulate through. And it was very dry.
TOM: Both times, the paint that you put down, was it from the same batch?
JUDY: No, different batches.
TOM: I’ve never heard of an epoxy floor not adhering, so this is an unusual situation. And it’s one that I would turn to the technical experts at the manufacturer. As you mentioned, it’s a major brand. They have folks – chemists – that basically are standing by to take questions like this; most of them do.
If you have difficulty identifying the right people to talk to, if you e-mail us to [email protected] with the details, perhaps some photographs and the name of the manufacturer, I am certain that we could quickly get through to the right person for you. There’s a chemical reaction going on here that’s causing this issue and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it.
JUDY: Will do. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. That’s an unusual situation and there’s got to be a reaction going on between that floor.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, I’ve heard of instances where a previous homeowner maybe put a water-based sealant or a water sealant on a concrete and …
TOM: Or a silicone.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you don’t see it.
TOM: I was thinking about a silicone sealer. Yeah, yeah. I mean if they put a silicone sealer down on the concrete, that could impact it, as well.
LESLIE: Right. And then you might not know it’s there.
TOM: But that’s what the pretreatment is supposed to deal with. The idea of using the acid-etch products that all the epoxy floors come with – the epoxy, they come with an acid etch and it sounds like that’s what Judy did. So, let’s hope she can get to the bottom of it.
LESLIE: Heading out to Iowa where Andrew has got a question about a wood floor. Tell us what you’re working on.
ANDREW: My fiancée and I just sanded our floors and we are getting ready to put down some product on our floor. And I just wanted to know what kind of product I should be using. It’s probably an oak floor.
TOM: That’s a great project, Andrew. There are choices to be made now. Did you have a finish on this floor before?
ANDREW: It did. It was like a reddish tint.
ANDREW: So it’s still showing through a little bit. We didn’t take it all the way down to bare wood.
TOM: What did you use to sand it with?
ANDREW: It was a machine that had – it was like a giant hand-sander, basically. It had a handle on it and a big sheet of sandpaper on it. It took down the old varnish that was on it.
TOM: OK. So was it a belt sander where the big, wide belt spins around or was it more of sort of like a vibrating sander?
ANDREW: It was a vibrating sander.
TOM: Alright. So, here’s the thing. This floor was stained before and I’m concerned that if you just put a clear finish on it – if you’re happy with the look of the floor, right now, with a little bit of the red showing through, then you can just put a clear finish on it. But if you’re not, it gets a little bit tricky because to try to add more of that color in, it’s hard to get the exact same color. And you would almost probably have to go a couple of steps darker. And then you may have some issues about some areas had more of the old varnish on it than other areas and they’re going to absorb differently.
So, it’s a little more difficult to refinish a floor, like you’ve done, if it had stain on it. Now, if it didn’t have stain on it and you’re just sort of sanding off the varnish and you’re putting a fresh coat of varnish, you don’t have the issue.
The issue that you might have is, because it was stained before, you might have some of that blotchy color coming through. If you have stain on a floor, generally, you can’t use that type of approach to sand it. You have to use the belt-sander approach, which is a big machine with a very wide belt that you should not do yourself. Because if you sneeze while using this thing, you’ll just ruin the floor. It’s a very hard machine to use as a do-it-yourselfer. It’s really something a pro has to use all the time.
So, the first question you have to kind of ask yourselves is: are you happy with the look of the floor? If you reseal it and finish it just like it is, if that’s going to work for you guys. And if it is, what I would do is I would put on at least three coats of oil-based polyurethane or solid, solvent-based polyurethane. Do not use the water-based products – the acrylic-based products – because they’re just not durable enough. They’re great on doors and trim and furniture but on floors, I would always use the oil-based product.
Now, you apply it, not with a brush but with something called a “lambswool applicator.” And basically, it’s kind of like a mop on a stick. And you dip – so dip it into a tray of this urethane, then you sort of mop it on and work your way out of the room and then find something else to do for at least a half a day, maybe even longer to let it dry really, really well. If it’s the least bit tacky, do not put second coats on it. This may take a couple of days, depending on the humidity level. Wait until it’s really, super dry.
If you try to recoat it and it’s still tacky, it has even a harder time drying the next time around. So make sure it’s super dry before you put the next coat on. And about three coats of that, try to stay off of it as much as you can for the first month or so. And by that, I mean don’t drag the furniture around. Put some pieces of carpet or something underneath the legs. Just try and treat it gingerly because it does take a while for it to really, really harden. And you’ll be good to go.
ANDREW: Great. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
We’d like to also give away some product this hour. We’ve got a set of Jorgensen E-Z Hold Expandable Bar Clamps to give away.
You know, these clamps are very handy. You definitely will be able to clamp with one hand by using them. Plus, they can be joined together to double the capacity for big projects. And they deliver 600 pounds of clamping power.
They’re made by the Pony Jorgensen Company. You can learn more at PonyJorgensen.com. Got a set of eight clamps. We’ve got 2 each of the 6-inch, 12-inch, 18-inch and 24-inch, so you’ll be all set for any kind of clamping project around the house. The package is worth almost 170 bucks. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. How do you do that? Call us with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post it to The Money Pit’s website at MoneyPit.com.
Well, there are a few things that those that love old houses, like me, are familiar with. And one is drafty windows, less-than-perfect plumbing is another, squeaky floors and small bathrooms. Especially that last one, which greets you every morning when you feel like you can hardly fit in the place to get done what you’ve got to get done.
LESLIE: It’s true. And you know what? Baths in new homes have nearly doubled in size over the past 30 years. And most older-home bathrooms average about 5×8. That’s pretty small. That’s like a sheet of plywood when you think about it.
TOM: Yeah, right? Exactly. A little bit more.
LESLIE: It’s a little, tiny space. But short of ripping out the walls to increase the space you’ve got, you might think you really don’t have that many options. But there are some ways that you can use the space to its fullest potential and here are some tips to help you do just that.
Now, first of all, if it works in your space, consider a corner sink. Now, whether it’s a pedestal style or a wall-mounted version, a corner sink is going to provide some functional charm and free up a lot of floor space in that bathroom.
Now, setting up space-saving storage elsewhere in that room means you don’t need the traditional cabinet vanity. And a smaller bowl is still going to give you plenty of capacity to wash and brush.
TOM: Now, speaking of the corners, another thing you can consider is called a “curved-quadrant shower unit.” You can conserve some precious floor space by including a curved shower enclosure in your bath remodel. That takes two straight sides in a corner and mounts it with a curvy entry that saves at least 1 square foot of space, compared with traditional units. And that 1 square foot of space might not seem like a lot but trust me, it is. And it works really well.
Another thing that you might do is to consider toilets that have flat tank tops. The flat-top tank gives you another storage spot where you can place an organizer directly on top of it or you could take advantage of the wall space above for hanging a cabinet or a shelving unit.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, you also want to think about lower-profile faucets and fixtures. Now, that’s going to open up some visual space when you choose something that has a more low-profile look to it. And while the range of styles available allow you to really choose something that beautifully accessorizes a small bathroom, you’re going to find that just having that little bit of space just to your eye really opens up that room to you. Plus, bath sinks don’t have to be big to get the job done.
Now, another thing you can consider is a small-scale, cabinet-mounted vessel sink. A vessel sink is really great because that style – sort of mounted on a smaller, scaled-down cabinet or maybe even another piece of furniture that’s being repurposed, to give you a bit of storage in that bathroom. It really is lovely, plus that frees up a lot more space.
Now, another thing that you can consider is converting a piece of furniture. Maybe it’s a vintage find, maybe it’s something you’ve already got. Perhaps it’s a bar cart or something interesting, kind of a fun, vintage find. That’s going to add a ton of personality to your bathroom space but also give you some clever storage. Obviously, depending on the piece you pick will determine what you can store there. But it could be for linens, toiletries, makeup, whatever. But you can do it in a stylish way. So just think outside of the box.
TOM: Now, we were running out of towel storage in one of the bathrooms in our house. And we needed a towel rack, like the kind that you see in hotels, that’s about 4 feet long. And I could not, for the life of me, find one that was that wide. They were all more narrow, like around 2 feet. So I made one.
Now, I didn’t make it out of chrome pipe. I made it out of PVC and then I painted it chrome. And it looks fantastic. You do not know that this isn’t chrome when you look – when you first look at it. And it fits the space perfectly.
So, bottom line: where there’s a will, there’s a way. Use up all that space – both the spaces down low and the space that’s up high – for storage in a small bath. It really does make a big difference.
LESLIE: Elizabeth in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ELIZABETH: I have an outdoor shower and all of a sudden, the pressure just went very, very low. So I didn’t know what to do with it.
LESLIE: And it’s the only fixture that the pressure has changed on?
ELIZABETH: The rest of the – my hoses are fine outside. Inside is fine.
LESLIE: Well, have you thought about taking the showerhead off and sort of disassembling it? Because you may have just some sort of sediment or something that’s come in through the pipe and just sort of lodged itself at where the water outflow would come?
So if you unscrew the showerhead, then sort of start taking that aerator apart – but remember the order in which you’re taking things out, because it’s got to go back in, obviously, in the opposite order. And I would just start taking things out and rinsing things off, because there could be just some debris – I mean especially if it’s an outdoor shower – just something clogging it up in there. And that usually does the trick. I would start there. Just make sure you put it all back in the correct order and it’ll work fine.
ELIZABETH: I love the outdoor shower. It’s the greatest.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Carol in Texas is on the line with a question about a ceiling crack. How can we help you?
CAROL: I have a crack right in front of my front door. It’s a slab. It was the porch and then it was [took into] (ph) the house. It’s more like a sunroom. We extended the outside of it all the way to the ends of the house, so it’s about 33 foot across. And I think what happens is that it gets dry – the soil gets dry – and so now we have a crack in that ceiling.
And we hope to put our house on the market next year. Being a realtor, I don’t really want that crack showing, because people get alarmed. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about but I don’t like the looks of it. So would you tell me what to do and do it right?
TOM: So, the ceiling material in the porch is made of what?
CAROL: It is sheetrock up there with the finishing so that you – it’s not popcorn or anything like that. It’s smooth finish on the ceiling.
TOM: And the crack is – you said it’s 33 feet long. So is it a …?
CAROL: No, no, no. The crack goes across the other direction.
TOM: Oh, OK. So it’s – good.
CAROL: It goes from a – yeah, it goes the other way.
TOM: So it’s not 33 feet long. Alright.
CAROL: Yes, sir.
TOM: So here’s what happens. The cracks reform because people generally spackle them. And then they expand and contract and it kind of shows through. The right way to do it is to sand over the area of the crack so you get some rough surface there. And then you put a piece of fiberglass repair tape across it, which is sort of like a mesh-looking kind of sticky-backed drywall tape. And it’ll hold there by itself and then you put spackle on top of that so the fiberglass mesh actually bridges the gap across the crack. And once that’s done, it’s a much stronger seam. And as the ceiling expands and contracts, the crack doesn’t reform. It takes three or four good coats of finish to get that done but that really is the hot ticket.
CAROL: And then you go ahead and paint it white, just like your ceiling white paint?
TOM: Paint it. Yep, yep. Absolutely. Uh-huh. That’s correct.
CAROL: And I just don’t want it showing. I’m not really worried about it because it’s a very, very small hairline crack. I just – I know that it’ll alarm people and so …
TOM: Yep. Sure. Totally understand. And I think that that’s basically the right thing to do. OK?
CAROL: I appreciate that. And thank you for your help.
LESLIE: Well, if you asked us to choose the most popular home improvement of all time, it would have to be the kitchen. And there’s really a good reason for this. Now, kitchens, along with bathrooms, consistently deliver the best return on your investment when it comes time to sell.
TOM: And it’s really mission control for family life. It’s the space you probably spend more time in than another room in your home. Today’s kitchens also require less upkeep as they’re easier to keep clean and organized; two things that make cooking a lot easier.
With us with tips on how to create your own low-maintenance kitchen space is Dan DiClerico. Dan is the home expert and smart-home strategist for HomeAdvisor.
DAN: Hey, it’s good to be here, guys. Thanks.
TOM: You know, I saw a series – in fact, I shared it with Leslie – of kitchens throughout the years. And it really is amazing how many changes that room has gone through. Where do you think we are now and what’s going to be the next big thing in the kitchen space?
DAN: Yeah, I think it is on a 20-year cycle, so we’re sort of entering into new territory here. And I think there is a real emphasis on low maintenance. I think it’s largely being driven by millennials. They’ve had a harder time getting into that first home. Now that they’re there, they want the experience to be a little more stress-free, a little more frictionless than perhaps 20 years ago.
So it’s really influencing, I would say first and foremost, a lot of the material choices, starting with countertops. If you go back 20 years, it was a beautiful marble countertop that if you dropped a glass of grape juice on it, your mother would rip your head off.
DAN: So, a lot of interesting quartz, for that very reason. It’s a very durable material. It’s going to resist stains and scratches. Or porcelain slabs. Something else that’s really coming on strong of late, for the same reason.
TOM: Yeah. Even laminate is making a comeback now. And that’s pretty inexpensive; a couple bucks a square foot.
DAN: It is and it looks great. Gosh, we were at the show a couple of weeks ago – kitchen and bath show – and some of these patterns and designs are so beautiful and so – if you want to go for the natural look, it really – it’s very convincing, I know. There’s all sorts of bright colors if you want to go a different direction. But yeah, laminate is a great choice.
LESLIE: And you know what I think that’s so interesting is that when it comes to these surface finishes, the floor – a gigantic surface in your house – there’s so many options for that, as well, at a variety of price points. And then you sort of have to look at it as what’s your level or want of maintenance and durability.
DAN: Yeah. I mean people – hardwood floors are – always going to love them. But hey, there is a lot – I’ve got hardwood floors in my home. The scratching and the – it’s an issue. The fading. So, that’s where something like a wood-look porcelain tile can be a great solution. Very little upkeep without, really, any compromise in style. It looks fantastic.
Similar with vinyl. Some of the luxury vinyl tiles that we’re seeing these days is just beautiful stuff and at a much more reasonable price point than real hardwood floors.
TOM: Let’s talk about colors. The all-white kitchen has been popular for a long time now, with the white subway tile to match. Where do you think the colors are going to go in the next few years when it comes to kitchen remodels?
DAN: We are seeing color come into the kitchen. And I think maintenance is a big issue there. That beautiful, pristine white kitchen doesn’t stay that way for long. So better to introduce a little bit of color onto the cabinets and onto the walls. We’re seeing beiges and blues, greens leading the way. So, more colorful kitchens in the decade to come, for sure.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. And the cabinetry colors that are out there – you’re right – with the blues and the teals. They’re gorgeous, they’re rich. They look like they’re so heavily saturated that they make such a statement in the kitchen. And I love when you mix it with an unexpected finish on a faucet. We’re seeing all that antique gold again. It’s so beautiful.
DAN: Absolutely. And with the cabinets themselves, shaker cabinets, for several years now, have been coming on strong. But I think it’s going to – they’re going to continue again.
And back to maintenance, if you compare that with a complicated French Country cabinet from 20 years ago that was trapping grease and all those details were kind of hard to keep it clean. Shaker is just a much more sensible option that’s still beautiful, still elegant. So, you’re not having to give up style to get all these benefits of low-maintenance materials.
TOM: Yeah. And as we said in the opening, the number-one reason that folks love to remodel kitchens is because they actually give you a really good return on your investment. They help you sell the house if you want to sell it. And you get to enjoy it all the years leading up to that.
DAN: Oh, absolutely. Listen, the kitchen, it’s the room that sells the house but it’s the room you’re going to enjoy the most while you’re in there. So, you know, spend some time, spend some money, do the job right.
TOM: Dan DiClerico, the home expert and smart-home strategist for HomeAdvisor, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.
DAN: Thanks, guys.
LESLIE: Bob in Connecticut, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
BOB: I live in a house that’s 18 years old. And I actually have the original hydro-air heating-and-cooling system in the home. It’s got one air handler in the attic, one in the basement, along with the boiler and then two 2½-ton air compressors. This may sound strange but the systems worked absolutely flawlessly for 18 years. And other than – three or four years ago, I noticed there was some – the water in the condensation pump on the air handler was a little rusty and it’s continued that way since.
And so, my question is – I feel as though I may be on borrowed time. And I’m not sure if I should look to be proactive and potentially replace everything. I know that wouldn’t be cheap but I hate the thought of it just kind of going out on me, so to speak. And so I appreciate your thoughts.
TOM: Well, look, 18-year-old air-conditioning compressors are certainly beyond the normal life cycle. But an 18-year-old boiler and an 18-year-old furnace is still kind of middle-aged. So, if anything, the compressors will probably go first. A little bit of rust in the condensate pan and system is not unusual. That could – it’s probably coming from the ducts.
I would tell you just make sure you keep servicing it on a regular basis and doing the same thing you are. I personally wouldn’t replace it until I had to, because you know what? That could go another six months or it go another six years.
TOM: And you know it could be on borrowed time and so if it happens, you replace it then. But if not, you just keep going the way you are. Just as long as you keep it serviced, it’s going to work as efficiently as it possibly can.
BOB: Awesome. Thank you so much for your help.
TOM: Good luck, Bob. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you haven’t done so already, pretty soon you’re going to be turning up that thermostat to get warm and cozy at home. But did you know that every 2 degrees you lower your thermostat in the winter could save you 10 percent off of your energy bills? Well, to supplement heat in the room that you use most often, why not consider a portable heater?
TOM: Now, I am totally loving this, because I do have one room in my house that is always cold and can benefit from a portable heater. And the best kind are the electronic infrared zone heaters. This is a supplemental heater that uses infrared heating to warm any area of your home.
Now, you can turn down the furnace and stay warm and save money, especially if it’s one room where, perhaps, you and all the family just tend to congregate.
LESLIE: Now, if you’re thinking about picking one of these up, you need to understand exactly how infrared heaters work. So, basically, an infrared heater heats the object in a defined space and not the air, which is what central-heating systems do. It’s like the difference between being directly in the sunlight versus sitting in the shade.
Now, no matter where you are, you’re not actually seeing a difference in the air temperature. You feel more warm in the sun because the light of the sun hits your clothing and your skin and then keeps you warm.
TOM: So, with that in mind, you want to make sure you’re buying the best model size. Now, portable infrared heaters are going to range in sizes that can heat from about 300 square feet up to 1,000 square feet. And many models have a programmable thermostat to start the heater. So, just before you get home and you plop down in your favorite chair, it’ll already be warm and ready for you.
So, buy one that’s just big enough but don’t overbuy one. Don’t buy one that’s too big or you’ll definitely be wasting some energy.
LESLIE: Laura in Connecticut is on the line and needs some help with a project. What are you working on?
LAURA: I was listening to your program on Saturday, OK, and you were referring to galvanized nails rusting with siding.
TOM: Yes. Mm-hmm.
LAURA: I have a similar problem. If I polyurethane the nail and paint over it, would that work or would it chip?
TOM: It will still rust through if you don’t have the right kinds of nails.
TOM: See, if you’re talking about cedar siding, what you should have used – or the carpenter should have used – was a stainless-steel nail. Those nails, obviously, won’t rust. If they’re standard galvanized nails, you do tend to get sort of a bleed through it.
Now, if you refinish the siding and you stain it or paint it, then – and you prime it first, by the way – then you probably will do a pretty good job of stopping most of that from coming through. But the problem generally happens when you want to stain it, as you want to enjoy the grain of the wood, then it’s really hard to cover it up.
LAURA: Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Unless, of course, you go with rust-colored stain.
LESLIE: You could do that.
LAURA: Oh, OK. That sounds good.
TOM: If you can’t beat them, join them.
LAURA: Exactly, exactly.
TOM: Good luck, Laura. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Matt in California is on the line and needs some help with a fireplace. What can we do for you?
MATT: Our hearth is ugly and we want to replace it. We want to take it out and replace – it has a fireplace insert but we want to replace it with a wood stove. And our question is: does that – by taking the hearth out, will that affect the flue, the integrity of it, when we put in a wood stove?
TOM: Well, I mean it depends, structurally, how it’s constructed. You know, generally speaking, with a fireplace, the chimney rests on the fireplace. So, structurally speaking, you need to make sure that that is still the case.
If you’re going to leave the fireplace in place and essentially just convert it to a wood stove, then what you’ll probably do is break into the chimney and the flue above the fireplace, kind of with a 90-degree bend and straight in. And you’d seal the bottom of the chimney or certainly put a clean-out door there or maybe just leave the damper in place.
It won’t affect the structural integrity as long as you leave it structurally intact. You can’t start just taking apart the fireplace and expect the chimney not to fall, though. Does that make sense, Matt?
MATT: Yeah, alright. OK. I’m glad I asked. Didn’t want to take that out and have it all fall apart on me.
TOM: I would – if it’s just the hearth down the bottom that sticks out, then you’d probably take that out. But you’re really going to have to have somebody with structural common sense take a look at that and answer this question for you, because I can’t see it from here, obviously.
MATT: Right, exactly. That’s what I thought. OK. No, that helps. I appreciate that.
LESLIE: But are you open to just changing the hearth and changing the look of the fireplace itself? Because that’s not terribly difficult.
MATT: Yeah. The fireplace itself is not good, economically. Even with the insert that’s in there, it’s not economical at all. So we want to go with a wood stove. So, if we put a wood stove there, that would look not very pleasing with the hearth sticking out like it is and then having a wood stove. So we thought we could replace that, all the way up to the wall, and then kind of design it so it would look attractive when the wood stove was in there.
TOM: Well, you might be able to remove that hearth but you’re going to have to have a mason or a contractor look at it. If the hearth is – the hearth is there to essentially help make use of the fireplace safer. So if the hearth is not lending any structural contribution to the overall fireplace, you may be able to break that part out and leave the rest in place.
MATT: OK. Yeah. I’ll have someone look at it, because I think that’s what we want to do. But you’re right, I have (inaudible) first.
Thank you a lot. Appreciate it.
TOM: You can post your questions to The Money Pit on MoneyPit.com or on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. And that’s what Marcia did in Illinois.
And Leslie, she is tackling an age-old issue.
LESLIE: That’s right. Now, Marcia writes: “We bought an older home and the whole house is paneled. Is there a way to fill in the gaps in the paneling so that you can paint and make it look like regular walls? I’m on a tight budget.”
You’re going to spend all that budget on filler, by the way.
TOM: I tell you what, I’m always surprised about how many times people have asked us about filling in the grooves in paneling. It’s not really something that you can do. Whatever you put in there is not going to stay. It’s just going to look awful. So, your options are either to remove it or to drywall over it or to paint it.
And if you need a budget-saving sort of step, maybe between all those possibilities, painting is not so bad. You know, I think that if you prime the paneling well and you paint it a neutral color, you can kind of get away with it. It doesn’t look as dated as you might think. I’ve seen some beautiful homes that had painted paneling and it buys you a little bit of time.
But the other thing is if it is sticking to the walls because it was glued on, what you might want to do is think about adding drywall on top of that paneling. You can use very thin drywall, which is only 3/8-inch thick. You’re just going to have to spackle it and then prime it and then repaint everything.
LESLIE: Well, good luck, Marcia. This is a big project but I promise you it’s going to look awesome once you get that paneling taken care of.
TOM: Well, if you’re getting ready to rent an apartment, there are many things to consider outside of just those four walls. Leslie tells you what you need to know to make the best choice in where you live, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Well, moving is a big step, especially if it’s your first time doing so. Now, choosing the best rental is key but making sure you manage things like the commute and the neighborhood, all of that are equally as important.
First of all, you’ve got to think about the driving distance. It might be the perfect apartment but if it’s a half-hour or more commute from your job or school, that’s going to get old really quick. Now, while distance doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in your chosen apartment, it does matter. Not only does that commute mean time spent on the road every single day, it means money spent in gas and that can strain your budget even further.
Also, what do the traffic patterns look like around that neighborhood you’re considering? If you’ve got a car, is there reasonable places to park? If you don’t want to have a car, do you easy access to public transportation? How long is it going to take you to get to work, whether you use the public transportation or you get there on your own? And don’t forget to check out things, like where’s the local grocery store? What about the restaurants, the bars, the social activities? You’ve got to really take a look at that neighborhood and that will tell you a lot about the atmosphere and whether or not it’s a place for you and where you really want to live.
And I always like to – if I’m looking at a house or an apartment or whatever it is, I want to go by there in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, late at night. You want to sort of check it out at different times. And the same with the little outlying areas of the neighborhood, just to kind of get a sense of what it’s like throughout the course of the day.
If you want some more tips, check out “8 Things You Need to Know Before Getting Your First Apartment,” on MoneyPit.com.
TOM: Yeah, we did a lot of this when our daughter needed to find an apartment in Philadelphia so that she could start her new residency. And she’s got one more residency to go before she graduates. And we were surfing those streets using the Google street maps, driving around the neighborhood, checking out where the parking lots were, how far it was to where she’s going to be working. All of those things you are able to do now virtually but I do agree that getting there and just taking a good, solid look before you sign the dotted line makes sense, as well. All important things to keep in mind before you sign that lease.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, if you are a big consumer of bottled water, you might have noticed that the price never seems to go down. And if you’re ready for a healthy alternative to that cost and all the waste of getting rid of the plastic, we’re going to share tips on whole-house water filters that both save money and deliver great-tasting water, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2020 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)