A warm fire from a wood stove or fireplace adds comfort and to a chilly winter day. But did you know that not all firewood delivers the same level of heat. We’ll share tips on how to select the best firewood for comfort and safety, coming up.
- Whether your furnace is shot or you’re ready for a more efficient upgrade, a new furnace should never be an impulse buy. But too often, that’s exactly what does happen – especially if your furnace gives out in the middle of winter! We’ll explain how to shop furnaces the smart way.
- Tis’ the season – the season for selecting a Christmas tree. But if you’re a family who always goes for the real tree, you might be surprised to learn how much a fake tree can also look like the real thing – we’ll share tips from our holiday tree buying guide, including some fun new lighting options.
- If you own an old house with chilly, drafty walls – adding insulation can seem like a difficult job. We share tricks of the trade to insulate finished walls without damaging walls in the process.
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: Here to help you, amongst all the holiday festivities, get ready for the visitors that are coming, get ready to spruce up your house, decorate your house, plan a project for the new year. If you’ve got a task you’d like to get done, if you’ve got something that you’ve just been trying to get to, as we’ve all been fixing our houses up with all the time we’re spending home, but you just don’t know where to begin, begin right here by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
You can also post your question to MoneyPit.com or post it to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
Here’s a great topic, Leslie, to start the show off with. Let’s talk about firewood. Wouldn’t you like to have some of that burning in your fireplace?
LESLIE: Yeah. And a big, nice pile to store for the rest of the winter?
TOM: Absolutely. But here’s the thing about firewood: a lot of folks don’t know that not all firewood delivers the same level of heat. And in fact, if you choose the wrong firewood, you might not get much heat out of it at all. Plus, it can actually be dangerous for the equipment and thus, your house. So we’re going to have some tips on how to choose the perfect firewood, coming up.
LESLIE: And speaking of heat, whether your furnace is shot or you’re ready for a more efficient upgrade, a new furnace should never be an impulse buy. But too often, that’s exactly what does happen, especially if your furnace gives out in the middle of winter. We’re going to explain how you should be shopping for furnaces the smart way.
TOM: And it’s the season: the season for selecting a Christmas tree or a holiday tree, to be politically correct. But hey, if you’re a family who always goes for the real tree, you might be surprised to learn how much a fake tree can also look like the real thing. We’re going to share some tips from our holiday-tree buying guide, including some fun, new lighting options to consider.
LESLIE: And we’re giving away one of my favorite tools that’s going to handle a lot of different projects. I’m talking about the Arrow GT300 Glue Gun. It is so well-designed and really easy to use and we’ve got one to give away.
TOM: All you need to do is reach out with your DIY or home décor question and we’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat. And we might be sending you that very fun, new glue gun.
Call us right now. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Carol in Texas is working on a painting project. How can we lend a hand?
CAROL: We are painting our bathroom cabinets. They are – they were put in the bathroom in 1980-something. I’m not sure about the date. We bought this house – the people lived in it 28 years and we’ve been here almost 9 years. And they’re kind of a maple color and they’re not very attractive. I’ve used that Orange Glo on them trying to make them look better. I don’t know what they used on them. Probably Liquid Gold or something trying to bring out the sheen.
But it’s just almost beyond the point. And I’d like to have new cabinets but when we do, we’re probably going to have to redo the whole bathroom, so we decided we would paint them kind of an off-white color.
What we want to know is: what’s the approach to making that paint stay on?
LESLIE: Now, you said that the cabinets are a maple color. Are they actually wood and they’re stained?
CAROL: Yeah, that’s the stain on them. They’re stained.
LESLIE: So they’re stained wood. It’s not like a Thermofoil that looks like wood or a laminate? It’s wood.
CAROL: No, it’s real wood. They’re real wood cabinets.
LESLIE: Now, if they’ve been stained and restained over the course of a couple of years and you’ve got a lot of coatings of a cleaner on there, your best bet would be – and this is how I would kind of tackle it. I would remove the doors and the drawer fronts, being very careful about labeling which goes where, you know? A little piece of painter’s tape on the back side and a little piece on the hinge saying, “A-A,” or “1-1,” just so you know exactly where things go back.
And I would leave the hinges either on the door or on the box. It’s kind of easier to leave them on the box, just for painting issues. And this way, you know exactly where everything goes back; that just kind of keeps things tidy.
And then, you really need to get some of that sheen off. So you could do it a couple of different ways. You could use something that’s like a liquid sandpaper that you wipe on, that gets rid of some of that sheen. But if it’s a super-high gloss and they’ve been oiled or polished over the years and they’re very sort of gunked up, almost, with a lot of finish on them, you may want to sand them down a little bit. Because you need to get down to something that’s a little bit not so glossy and so built up from years of cleaning and just the yuck that happens in the bathroom, just so that you’ve got a surface that the paint’s going to stick to.
And once you’ve done that to the doors or drawer fronts and the boxes themselves in the bathroom, you need to prime it very well with a high-quality primer. I would use KILZ or Zinsser – one of those that’ll stick very, very well – let that dry very thoroughly and then go ahead with your topcoat paint. And because it’s in a bathroom and because it’s a high-moisture area and it’s something that you’re going to want to be cleaning a lot, I would go with a glossy finish and an oil base if I can get my hands on one. If not, a glossy latex will do the trick but more durable, of course, would be the oil base.
CAROL: Thank you and I appreciate your help.
TOM: Carol, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to John in Iowa who’s dealing with a leaky shower. Tell us what’s going on.
JOHN: Well, I’ve got a shower on my main floor, where it basically leaks onto the floor in the basement. And when I removed the 2-inch trap – this is a home that was built in ‘41 but it’s been remodeled recently, probably within the last 10 years or at least the shower has – I noticed there wasn’t a whole lot of room between the tile and the flooring or the main wood behind it, as well as they sealed up the drain. It was basically just a 2-inch PVC sealed with some sort of cement and then a drain popped on top of it.
And I’m curious – I mean how can I remedy this issue? Obviously, it needs a proper drain. But I couldn’t find anything to fit the hole that they had.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, it’s still leaking and you’re in the middle of this project? Is that correct, John?
JOHN: Well, I just bought this home and I basically said, “OK. We’re not using this shower. We have an upstairs shower that we can use during the remediation process.”
TOM: Is this a tile shower?
TOM: So, with a 1940 tile shower, the first thing I would expect to leak is the lead pan. And the way those showers are built is there’s a lead pan put in against the drain, then the tile is put on top of the lead. And so, over the years, those pans would crack. And the way you test a lead pan is simply by blocking the shower drain and then filling up the bottom of the shower with as much water as you can get in there – usually 4 or 5 inches of water – and then wait and see what happens.
So if it’s possible for you to test the pan, I would do that before I start assuming that the leak was at the drain. Because it might very well be that the drain is not leaking; the pan is leaking. And if that’s the case, then you have to tear out the shower base and rebuild it.
JOHN: Ah, I see. Alright.
TOM: It’s the lead pan. Because a pan that’s 60, 70 years old, they just don’t last that long.
TOM: OK? So seal it off, test it off. You know what works well? One of those – you know those rubber jar openers that are about 6 inches in diameter?
TOM: Put that across the drain, fill it up with water and then watch for a leak.
JOHN: Alright. I’ll try that.
TOM: OK, John. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You know, Leslie, in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector, I used to check those pans for leaks all the time that way and we got – you get smart after the first time this happens to you – is that you never let that water sit very long. You fill it up, you go downstairs immediately and see if it’s leaking.
LESLIE: It’s that fast when you’ve got a crack in the pan?
TOM: Sometimes, yes. Because if it’s going to leak – if it’s a bad crack, you – it may never have been discovered or it might have been so slow. But by filling the whole pan up with water, you prove it very quickly that it’s leaking. So that’s why we always check very quickly to see if there’s a leak. And then if not, fill it up, let it sit there for a half-hour and go back and check again.
But it’s a very, very common area for a leak and unfortunately, a very expensive one because if you think about it, you’ve got to tear out all that tile and you’ve got to rebuild that pan. And today, of course, we don’t use lead; we usually use fiberglass. But it’s a pretty big renovation. Probably a couple thousand bucks worth of work.
LESLIE: Well, no matter when you listen to The Money Pit, you can always get in on some fun giveaways and today is no exception. We’ve got a great tool up for grabs. We’re giving away the Arrow GT300 Glue Gun.
Now, both Tom and I have one of these and we love it because it heats up super fast and it’s got a drip-resistant nozzle. It’s going to fit right in your hand, so it’s not going to make your hand tired when you keep squeezing the glue gun on the bigger projects. So it’s really helpful so you can get a lot of things done quickly.
And the nose is designed to help you get into those hard-to-reach corners, so you’re not going to waste a lot of glue or spill it all over yourself trying to get those projects done.
TOM: It’s worth 49 bucks. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. But if you’d like to win it, you’ve got to be in it. So call us with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT or post it to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Cynthia from South Dakota on the line who’s got a question about a firewall. Tell us what you’re working on.
CYNTHIA: I have an old house and I’ve been ripping out the plaster walls. And I found, along this one wall – see, the whole entire house is this pretty durable and tough plaster-board stuff. And I was wondering if that is a firewall, because that seems to be where all the cold-air returns and stuff are and if I should or should not rip it out. And if I do rip it out, is there a certain kind of drywall that I should use there?
TOM: Where is this wall located exactly?
CYNTHIA: It could have been on the outside of the house at one point but it’s under the furnace.
TOM: Well, first of all, the only place that you typically would have a firewall – in other words, a fire-rated wall with a certain rating – is between the garage and the house. All the other walls and ceilings inside the homes are – usually have traditional, ½-inch drywall. If it’s an exterior – an interior/exterior wall – an inside surface of an exterior wall, like a garage wall, then you would use a 5/8-inch-thick, fire-rated drywall. But all of the other places in the house, you’d have regular plaster board – I’m sorry, regular drywall.
CYNTHIA: OK. Have you ever seen this plaster board before?
TOM: Well, sure. Now, how old is the house?
CYNTHIA: I believe it was built in 1896?
TOM: See, there’s different stages of wall construction. In 1896, you would have had something called “wood lath,” so there would be wood strips on the wall and then plaster put on top of that.
CYNTHIA: Yep. That’s on most of the walls. But this one particular wall – which could have been an outside wall at one point; I’m not sure exactly – it’s like in 2-foot strips.
TOM: Yeah, OK. So that’s a later addition. And what they did with that is when they stopped using wood lath, they started using rock lath or – you would think of sheetrock in those 2-foot-wide strips? They put that on and then covered that with wet plaster. So that’s just a more modern version of the way walls were constructed. So it went from wood lath to rock lath to sheetrock. That’s, essentially, the progression of wall construction over, roughly, the last hundred years.
CYNTHIA: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: A little lesson on building history. Hope that clears it up for you.
CYNTHIA: Yeah. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, a warm fire from a wood stove or a fireplace really is the hallmark of the season but you do have to be careful when you’re choosing the firewood. Now, the wrong fuel can damage your wood-burning stove or even leave dangerous creosote on the walls of the fireplace chimney.
Now, you never want to burn trash, driftwood or even treated woods. And always use seasoned wood for the best heat release and minimal creosote buildup. That’s going to help prevent the chances of a chimney fire.
TOM: Yeah, there’s a difference. Freshly-cut wood contains up to about 45-percent water. But seasoned wood, which is wood that’s sat out for a while, is only 20- to 25-percent and hence, it burns better. The harder the wood also the better. So that’s why you want to burn oak or maple and not pine or fir. The harder the wood actually gives off more BTUs, so you have more energy, it takes longer to burn and then it gives you much more heat as a result.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you also want to make sure that the wood is dry. It’s got to have been cut at least 6 months before you’re planning on using it. Even a year is going to be better. It just takes that much time and sun and wind to remove that excess moisture.
TOM: Yeah. And splitting it also helps but you can’t split it right away. I mean you could but usually, if you wait a little bit it actually splits a lot easier. So splitting the wood will also help make it dry faster, because it gives you more surface area, so you get more evaporation.
LESLIE: Larry in Ohio is on the line with a heating question. How can we help you?
LARRY: Yes. I’ve got a house – it’s 6,000 square foot – and they divided the utilities up into two separate houses. And right now, I have a hot-water tank that we use all the time and we have a hot-water tank that sits on the side that the kitchen is on, that is only used for the dishwasher.
And I’m wondering, would I be better off to get me a tankless hot-water tank or just deal with the electric? I’ve got an electric, 50-gallon one. I don’t know which one would be more cost-efficient.
TOM: So, the only thing that you’re using that water heater for, on that side of the house, is the dishwasher? And that’s a 50-gallon water heater?
LARRY: But like I say, this house was actually set up to be a bed and breakfast.
TOM: If the only thing that water heater is serving is the dishwasher and there’s no way to get that dishwasher fed off of the other water heater, you just need a very small water heater for that dishwasher and I mean a 20-gallon electric or something like that. Really small. Because there’s really not much water that it needs to heat and it would be foolish to have it heating 50 gallons, 40 gallons of water, 24/7, when you really don’t need it except to wash dishes and I presume, to run the kitchen sink.
So a very small electric water heater, perhaps even on a timer so that it only kicks on maybe in the evening hours when you’re using that dishwasher, would be the smart thing to do there and the least expensive way to both install the new water heater and to run the new water heater. OK?
LARRY: OK. Actually, there’s two bathrooms that are also hooked to this but it’s just the idea right now – we’re not using it. We’ve got two bathrooms on the other side of the house, too.
TOM: OK. Well, that’s different. That’s different. If you have two bathrooms – full bathrooms?
LARRY: Yes. Full bathrooms.
TOM: Well, then, OK, so that’s different. If there’s a full – two full bathrooms – I’d asked you if it was just the dishwasher and you said, “Yes.” But if it’s two full bathrooms on it, then you do need a larger water heater. And again, I would probably recommend – if you’re not using it that often, I’d probably recommend an electric water heater, in that situation, on a timer.
TOM: But you’ll probably need more like a 40-gallon.
LARRY: Actually, on the tankless ones, I’ve noticed the different amount of water per minute.
TOM: Yeah, well – but you – do you have gas? Do you have natural gas?
LARRY: I’ve got propane.
TOM: You have propane? Well, you could use a tankless water heater. The installation cost will be a lot higher. It does deliver you, 24/7, endless supplies of hot water. Except in that side of the house, again, you’re not really using those bathrooms that much, so that’s not as big of a concern to you.
That’s why I’m suggesting a minimum, inexpensive electric water heater for that. At least you’ll maintain your home value. Because if you didn’t have adequate – an adequate water heater to supply those two bathrooms plus the dishwasher, your home value would suffer. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you put in a $1,500 tankless, because I just don’t think it’s going to be cost-effective for you.
LARRY: OK. That was my big question right there: would it be cost-effective (ph)?
TOM: So, Leslie, I think that the audience often thinks that absolutely nothing goes wrong with our homes, so I want to prove them to be absolutely wrong in that respect. We had a plumbing emergency. Well, I wouldn’t say it’s an emergency. It could have been but it was an inconvenience.
I’ve got these American Standard Champion toilets in my house, which I love because the darn things just don’t clog. With my big family, that’s saying a lot. But the flush valve actually started to leak and it was running. And in true form, I figured, “Ah, it’s just the seal. It’s just the gasket. I’ll just fix that lickety-split.” I happened to have extras because I’m always prepared, right?
So, I go to take it apart and the entire flush-valve structure just basically comes apart in my hand, because it was just worn or cracked or whatever. And I’m like, “Uh-oh.” Turned a small problem into a much bigger problem, making it worse. It’s not the kind of part you can go to the home center and pick up.
Thankfully, Amazon, when you order your flush valves on Sunday, delivers them on Monday. It’s amazing.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s fantastic.
TOM: So, in the meantime, to stop the toilet from running, I jerry-rigged this shoelace and paper clip to hold the flush valve in the closed position and I hung it up to the towel bar. And I instructed my wife and my daughter how to operate the toilet for that evening.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness.
TOM: So, they were able to use it for the night and not have it run all night long. But yeah, it happens and we get these emergencies and we have to fix our stuff, too. So there.
LESLIE: Well, now that we’re in the midst of winter, having a solid, dependable heating system really is critical. But if your furnace is shot or maybe you’re thinking of upgrading to a more efficient model, a new furnace should never be an impulse buy. You know, too often that’s exactly what happens, especially if your furnace gives out in the middle of winter.
So, Tom, let’s talk through some things that you should be thinking about now so we’re able to make a smart plan.
Now, first of all, if a broken furnace – is it ever worth repairing or do you think it’s just better to replace it? How do you know where to sort of stop and start with that?
TOM: Like a lot of appliances in your house, it really comes down to the cost of the repair and the age of the appliance and the risk of future failure. But when you’re talking about a furnace, OK – and just to kind of set the stage, everybody calls their heating system – “Hey, what’s that thing called to heat your house?” It’s a furnace. Well, it’s a furnace if it burns hot air, right? So we’re talking about if you have forced-air systems, that’s a furnace. If you have radiators, that’s a boiler. So we’re not talking about that.
But with the furnaces, the core element of that that makes it work and safe and is almost impossible to replace is something called the “heat exchanger.” It’s a big internal part. And if that cracks, it’s unsafe to use; it has to be replaced right away. So, something catastrophic like that you definitely have to fix it.
Now, if it was something like – let’s say the blower went, right? The blower could be, I don’t know, say, a $500 repair. If I got a 20-something-year-old furnace, I’m not going to replace that blower and spend 500 bucks on it because I know that no sooner do I do that, a month later the heat exchanger might crack and then I kind of wasted my 500 bucks. So it really is a question of how old is it based on how long we expect it to last – which is 20, 25 with a heating system – and what the cost is. And you just kind of make the call from there.
LESLIE: Now, what if you’re really just thinking about – “Oh, I should replace my heating system because I want to save some energy.” How do you kind of determine when that decision makes sense and really, how much of a benefit you’re going to get from it?
TOM: I think the key is this: how long are you going to live in that house? I had a friend of mine call me the other day and she wanted some advice on whether she’d paint her vinyl siding or replace the siding. And I said, “Well, is this your life house or not?” In other words, are you going to be here for the duration of whatever decision we make right now? Because that’s the key, right? If this is something that’s like – you’re going to sell this house in a year or two and move on, you can make a decision based on a whole different set of facts.
But if you’re going to be there for the next 20 years, that’s going to sway you towards maybe spending a little more money now, because you’ll have more time to get it back. And I think the same thing applies to a heating system. If you’re going to be there for the life of that system and it’s going to cost more for a higher-efficiency system, I’m going to buy the higher-efficiency system.
We have what definitely is the life house here and I talked about this on the show the other week. I got three estimates. One was twice as much as the other two, so that guy got tossed out. But that’s a big improvement. It’s a $7,000/$8,000 update but we’re going to be here for a while. So, we’re cool with that. And in that case, it was an easy decision.
LESLIE: Now, I bet there’s so many different things that you need to be considering when you are in the market for that new furnace. What should you be looking at exactly to know that it’s the right thing?
TOM: Well, you have to try to cut through the marketing speak and look at this – the energy standards. And one rating you should be considering is the AFUE rating, which is the annual fuel utilization efficiency, a fancy way of saying, “How efficient is this system? How much money is it going to save me, right?”
The minimum AFUE in the U.S. is about 80 percent now but it comes to 97, 98 percent. But the higher it is, the more expensive they are. And if you’re going to be in a house longer, that means you have more time to kind of have that make sense.
So, if it’s a short-term situation, maybe you don’t need a high-efficiency because you will never, ever make up the difference in increased cost. But if you’re there for the long-term, you certainly would.
LESLIE: Now, what about if you’re in the market for the new furnace? Should you also potentially consider a different fuel source at this time? Or is that just way too large of an undertaking?
TOM: Yeah, great question. I mean the only reason you might want to consider a fuel-source change is if you’re on – say you’re on oil and you have an underground oil tank and you’ve been just looking for a good reason to get rid of it. This is a great reason to get rid of it and switch to gas. We did that.
But in terms of other switches, it generally doesn’t make sense to change fuels. Certainly, you would never change if you had natural gas; that’s the most efficient. Now, if you have electric and there’s an opportunity to bring in natural gas, that’s something I would definitely consider, as well. If you can get a more efficient, less expensive fuel, it’s smarter to make that change but not just for the sense of making a change. There’s got to be an economic benefit to it.
LESLIE: Cindy in Illinois is on the line with a basement question. What’s going on?
CINDY: I lived in my home for over 40 years and had no trouble with water in the basement. And then, about 3 years ago, we had a terrible drought here and it seems like ever since then, if we get a hard rain, I end up with water coming up through the floor of the basement.
TOM: So, the reason you’re getting water that comes up through the floor of the basement in a hard rain is because there’s some defect in your drainage conditions outside the house. So, you need to start by looking at the roof and making sure your gutter system is clean and making sure the downspouts are extended away from the house. It should be out 3 or 4 feet.
If that’s all in good shape, then I would take a look at the angle of the dirt around the house, the grade. If it’s really flat or if there’s an area where it’s tilting in or you’re getting neighboring water from runoff from a different lot or something of that nature, you’ve got to regrade to keep the water away from the house.
The only way it’s getting down there is it’s coming from the top and pushing under. It’s not a rising water table, because that takes months to happen. If it’s reactive to the rain, then it’s a problem with drainage, Cindy. So you need to look carefully in that area and I’m certain you’ll find the cause of it and be able to stop it.
Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, for many families, Christmas trees are the beautiful centerpiece of their holiday décor. But live trees, let’s face it, they can be a ton of work. And that’s one reason lots of people are taking a second look at artificial trees, you know? Because these fake trees today, they look more like the real thing, sometimes, than the real thing I think. They’re better built and they offer a lot of different options, like built-in lighting so you can get to hanging the ornaments a heck of a lot faster.
LESLIE: Yeah. But you know what? There’s so many styles and options available for those artificial Christmas trees that finding the perfect one for your family can really be overwhelming. So, to help you make sure that you’re making the right choice, here’s what you really need to know.
Now, first of all, you’ve got to decide on the type of tree. Now, artificial trees can look like they’ve been plucked fresh from the forest, dusted with new snow. There’s really lots of types out there but let’s talk about the four main ones: fir, pine, spruce or flocked.
Now, the fir trees are going to have a bushy, full appearance and that’s going to make them a great choice. If you want to go light on ornaments because they’re going to be so full, they’re not going to look bare even when they’re just sparsely decorated.
Now, a pine tree does have that classic needle construction. It’s going to provide plenty of room for all of your favorite ornaments. There’s also spruce. Now, artificial-spruce trees have a more traditional shape and style and that’s perfect if you’ve got a lot of ornaments.
And then flocked trees. Now, the branches of a flocked artificial tree are treated to look like they’ve just been dusted with snow. And it can be a variety of levels of snow. It could look like just a light dusting, to a heavy snowfall. So, it really can give you that beautiful winter-wonderland effect indoors. But they are kind of dusty. I always feel like when we have flocked trees at work, they’re kind of a mess.
TOM: Yeah. Now, let’s talk about lighting. Here’s where some of the biggest advances in artificial Christmas trees have happened. There are a lot of really durable, built-in lighting options that are definitely more reliable than light strings, which always seem to fail when they worked perfectly the year before. Have you ever noticed that?
Now, most of the lights today are LEDs, so they are cool to touch, certainly majorly reduce fire hazard and they have a longer life than traditional bulbs. And they use a heck of a lot less energy. Plus, there’s a lot of color-changing options, so you can set your tree on white or multicolor lights, switch it back and forth, come up with your perfect festive look. And some of them can even be controlled with a remote or an app, because let’s face it: everything has an app these days, right?
LESLIE: It really does.
And you know what I think the best part of going with a fake tree is, Tom?
TOM: Yeah. No needles, right?
LESLIE: Yeah, exactly.
TOM: Oh, I hate cleaning up those needles. I think it’s something you end up doing until the next Christmas, right?
LESLIE: Pretty much. You turn that rug over and suddenly, there’s just an abundance of needles. You’re like, “Where did these come from?”
Charles in Arkansas is on the line and needs some help putting in a door. What can we do for you?
CHARLES: Got an old door I’m replacing on the front of my house. It’s an exterior door. I bought an oak door – solid door – to replace it. I did not measure for the hinges when I bought the door; I just measured for the doorknob. And I don’t know how to cut those grooves for the hinges: those 4-inch hinges that go on the door.
TOM: So we know the door fits into the jambs, it fits into the opening? We just need to figure out to get it hinged? Is that correct?
CHARLES: I just need to know how to cut the door for the hinges.
TOM: But the door does fit the opening right now, so you have an existing opening it can fit into.
CHARLES: Well, yes. A matter of fact, if you ask for 84-inch door, you’re going to get about 83- or 82½-inch door, so it’s just adequate on size. It’s just a matter of the cutting of the hinges.
TOM: OK. So it’s really just a case here of being very accurate in how you lay this out. So you have to remember that when you set the door in the opening, you need about a ¼-inch of space above the door just to allow for expansion and contraction and adjusting the door. So what you want to do is measure down from the top of the door and measure up from the bottom of the door until your first hinge position. I would put those maybe 8 or 10 inches down from the top and equally – equidistant – up from the bottom and then the third one right in between.
And remember that what you want to do is – you can take that door, set it on its side. You can lay the hinge right over it where it’s going to be attached and you can draw an outline of that hinge onto the door. And then with a really sharp chisel, you’re essentially going to notch out the thickness of the hinge material itself, which is really something in the order of a 1/16-inch or so of material that will come off of that, so that when the hinge is on the door it lays completely flat. The idea here is that the hinges don’t really take up any space.
And now, once you have those set on a door, you’re going to put the exact same – in the exact same locations, you’re going to notch them out into the jamb in much the same way. You’ve just got to be really accurate with your measurements to make sure they line up properly. Another way to do this is to put them in the jamb first, set the door in place, kind of shim it up and get it exactly where you want, then transfer the marks over. Either way, the alignment is key.
And once you do that, when you’re ready to put it all together, the trick of the trade is when you
start to drive the screws in and hold the hinge plates on, don’t drive them all the way home. Leave them a little bit loose so you have some slop in that hinge. It’ll make it a lot easier for you to get it all back together. And then you can tighten it up once the hinge pins are in place.
CHARLES: That’s what I wanted to find out.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got a question here from Roy. Now, Roy writes: “I recently bought a ranch-style house built in the 60s and I’d like to insulate the exterior walls. Is blown-in insulation a good option?”
TOM: You know, Leslie, I think people hyper-focus on one part of the project when they really should be looking at the whole thing. So in the case of insulation, the first thing that Roy should be looking at is the ceiling, right? The attic floor, so to speak. That attic insulation is most important because, as we all know, heat rises. So if I’ve got an older house, the first place I’m going to look to beef up my insulation is the attic. And I’m going to be looking to add maybe 15 to 20 inches in that space.
Now, the second place I might look to add insulation, again, is not the walls, it’s the floor, right? No one loves to step out of the bedroom onto a cold floor, right? So you want to make sure the floor is nice and warm and so you want to beef up the floor insulation by making sure the floor joists are filled solidly with, again, fiberglass insulation or another insulation of your choice. And then, if those two things are done, we can talk about the walls.
Now, a house that was built in the 60s probably has some insulation in it, so how much more can we get in? I don’t know. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. But the place to start might be by having an insulation contractor take some photos of the exterior house using an infrared camera. An infrared camera can actually detect cold spots in the walls and other places. And you’ll get a sense as to how much of a void you have of insulation there.
Now, if it turns out you need a significant amount of insulation, then perhaps you could go ahead with a blown-in product, like compressed cellulose. But if not, you might just find that doing the attic insulation and floor insulation is enough, because that’s where you’re going to get the most heat loss and also pick up the most comfort.
LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s amazing how you’re going to notice a difference with those little changes, so I would start gradually and see how much of an effect you’re having.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Jessica. And Jessica writes: “Why are my plumbing pipes in the wall making a knocking sound after I turn on the hot water in the bathtub?”
TOM: Ah, you know the answer to that one: water hammer, right? That water is flying down the pipes and then you turn off the faucet. And what happens to all of that force of the water? Well, it doesn’t want to stop, so it moves forward. And if the pipe is loosely connected to the framing, it’s going to bang. And the one thing about copper is, boy, it transmits sound really, really well.
LESLIE: Yeah, it sure does.
TOM: So what you need to do here is basically – first of all, more snugly attach those pipes to the walls, if it’s possible. If this is in a crawlspace or a basement or a place where you have access to the plumbing, you may need to add some additional clips to hold those pipes in nice and tight. And if that doesn’t eliminate it or you can’t get to it, there is a plumbing device called a “water hammer arrestor.” Sort of like a shock absorber for water. It goes at the end of the run and it absorbs that force of the water running through the pipe and therefore, it doesn’t let the pipe shake as much and make all of that noise.
The good news is it rarely causes any problems, so it’s really more of an annoyance than anything else.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I mean it really isn’t a terrible fix, so it’s not that big of a deal. And it’s going to give you so much more peace of mind and quiet.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your day with us. We hope you’ve picked up a few tips and ideas on how you can make your home more comfortable, more efficient, more beautiful.
Remember, you can reach us, 24/7, anytime by posting your questions at MoneyPit.com or head on over to our 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.)