- If you’re a renter, you may think you’re stuck with your kitchen. Not so! We’ll share 5 non-destructive spruce ups for your rental space that can be done without wrecking your security deposit!
- Filters for your heating and cooling system can help remove dust and make it a bit easier to breath. But with so many to choose from,which type really does the best job? We teach you how to decode the ratings to find the best air filter, just in time for the Spring allergy season.
- Power outages can strike without warning – especially with winter winds and spring storms. We got a plan for you to power through when your power is down.
- Filtered pitchers improve water taste and quality but take an effort to keep filled. We explore options in whole house water filter systems that treat all water in the house, right from the tap.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about using Trex decking, removing or painting wallpaper, installing blown in insulation, remove a tub mat, installing a blower on fireplace, steps to building a modular home
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: We’re here to help you take on your home improvement projects. Consider us your coach, your helper, your home improvement therapist for whatever ails you when it comes to fixing up your house, your home, your condo, heck, your trailer or your yurt. Those all count. If it’s what you call “home,” it’s what we’re here to help you take care of. Do it once, do it right and don’t have to do it again. And save a lot of money in the process. Help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with those home improvement and décor questions. Or your post your question to The Money Pit website at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up this hour, if you’re a renter and not all that happy about your kitchen, well, you might think there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Not so. We’re going to share five spruce-ups for that space that can be done without wrecking your security deposit.
LESLIE: And also ahead, filters for your heating-and-cooling system can help remove dust and make it a bit easier to breathe. But with so many to choose from, which type really does the best job? We’re going to help you sort out what it takes to breathe easy, especially during the upcoming spring-allergy season.
TOM: Achoo, achoo.
TOM: It’s really almost here.
And power outages can strike without warning, especially with the present winter winds and spring storms that are coming. We’re going to have a plan for you to power through when your power is down.
LESLIE: And no matter what, when you listen to The Money Pit, you can always get in on our fun giveaways. And this one is sure to make you want to stick around. We’re giving away the Arrow GT300 Glue Gun worth $49.
TOM: Going out to one listener drawn at random, so make that you. Pick up the phone, call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading over to Mississippi where Carl is taking on a decking project. What can we do for you?
CARL: Yes. I’m telling you I had this problem with a deck for some years, where I would replace the boards and then stain it and cover it up, seal it up good. And yet, I seem to have boards that still kind of rot on me. So I was toying with the idea of using the material that I see advertised called a “Trex board” or something similar to that.
TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.
CARL: How much maintenance do I have to face with that?
LESLIE: Yeah, Trex decking is great. It’s a composite, which means it’s made out of plastics and other materials. It’s super durable. It’s not going to rot or twist or warp like an organic material would, like regular wood. It requires, really, little maintenance. I mean you do have to clean it every so often, just because it does get yucky from the elements outside. It does get hot in the sun, so keep that in mind.
And there’s a variety of price points. Now, the lower end of the price point, I think, is a solid, single color. And I think there’s only two color options. I remember a gray and a brown. One side has a smoother texture; the other side has more of a heavy, wood-grain look to it. And then, of course, the higher price-point ends – look like a variety of wood types and are really beautiful.
Tom and I both, actually, have it. I have mine in a screened-in porch and the steps leading out to the yard and it’s been fantastic. It looks great. It lasts a long time. I’ve really had to do nothing to it in, I think, the 12 years – something like that – that I’ve had it.
CARL: How difficult is the installation?
TOM: It’s not terribly difficult. There are special screws that are designed to use with a composite that are – they sort of have, in a drill bit, sort of body to them so that they sort of cut their way in. Otherwise, you get a mushroom that comes up when you drill into it, in terms of the plastic. But they’re pretty easy.
And they’re also – and it’s not just Trex. There are many types of composite decking out there. Some of them have hidden fastening systems so you don’t even see the fasteners. So if you just look into this whole category of composite decking, I think you’ll find a solution there.
With most decks, you can remove the decking board itself. You keep the structure, so you keep the framing that supports the floor. I would probably replace the railing, too, so that everything you see is going to be composite now. I call that sort of a “deck-over project.”
TOM: And as Leslie mentioned, there is a little bit of maintenance, especially if you’re in an area, like Mississippi, where it gets warm and moist. You may have some algae that grows on it but you can clean that. But again, it will do so without causing any structural damage to that board whatsoever.
CARL: And that’ll still hold the weight like anything, like a 2×6 would?
TOM: Absolutely, absolutely. Mm-hmm.
CARL: That’s wonderful. Wonderful. Sounds like a great product. I’ll go get some and get to work.
TOM: Alright, Carl. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Cecily in Iowa is on the line with a wallpaper conundrum. What’s going on at your money pit?
CECILY: Well, I have a probably 24-year-old townhome that I think the paper has been on the wall since – for that long.
TOM: It was popular back then.
CECILY: Yeah, yeah. Back then.
I’m just wondering – person I had in here tried to, where the wallpaper butts up against the ceiling, there’s – it looks like a bad job and there’s some marks. And he thought he could wipe it down. And everywhere he wiped it down, there’s like a watermark all along where he – looks like icicles: an uneven line of watermark.
And I don’t know if it can – I’ve been told you can paint over it. We have vaulted ceilings; it’s a lot of paper. And I don’t know how you would – if what – they took it off. There’s actually some posts papered with it and I don’t know what’s underneath.
TOM: I think the answer is you can remove it. It’s a lot of work, like any type of wallpaper.
TOM: If you want to paint over it, it’s going to look like the wallpaper underneath.
LESLIE: Textured paint.
TOM: It’s going to look textured underneath. So, if you want to do like a really inexpensive, short-term fix, you could paint over it. I would recommend that you use a very thick roller on that because otherwise, it’s going to be very hard to get the paint in where it has to go. And maybe you might even need to use a slitted roller: the kind of roller that we use on textured ceilings where it has actually sort of slots in it. Because it really gets in and around and thick and will sort of fill out that whole surface with paint.
CECILY: Mm-hmm. Is it terribly difficult to remove?
LESLIE: It depends on how long it’s been there, what the prep process was to the wall below the paper. All of those can add up to an easy job or a tremendously difficult job. And it’s one of those things that you don’t know until you try. And there are ways to do it.
Now, with a textured wall covering like this, whether it’s grass cloth or the string cloth, you can try to use a store-bought wallpaper remover. You can use a steamer. You can do homemade concoctions. One is white vinegar and hot water; another is fabric softener and hot water. Both situations, you super-saturate the walls and just sort of let it sit there for a few minutes. I’ve even heard of clothing starch with hot water and making a paste onto the wallpaper.
And I’ve used the fabric softener and that does work. That was a traditional vinyl, which I had to score first. But I’ve also heard with grass cloths, that you can take a paint scraper and scrape the actual string cloth or the grass cloth off of the backing, so that might make it easier to remove. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of work and you never know what’s behind it. You could get everything off and the wall could be so textured and dinged up that you end up having to put a layer of drywall over it anyway.
CECILY: Ah, OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. That’s very helpful and I’m glad I called.
TOM: Terrific. Cecily, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, we’ve got up for grabs, this hour, a really fantastic product. We use it a lot, both Tom and I. We love it. It is the best glue gun out there. It’s the Arrow GT300 Glue Gun and it’s up for grabs this hour.
And it was actually named the Best Glue Gun by Popular Mechanics, so we’re giving one away to a lucky DIYer.
TOM: Yep. This high-temp glue gun is heavy-duty. It’s durable. It’s great for DIYers and pros. It heats up really fast. And I used this a lot over the holiday, because we had two new dogs in our house that loved to take the ornaments off the tree and then proceed to chew pieces of them and resulting in me having to do a lot of hot-gluing to put them all back together.
One thing I noticed is it’s got a drip-resistant nozzle, which is cool. Because, typically, I am a sloppy glue-gun user and it gets all over the place and usually end up, what, gluing your fingers together at the same time?
LESLIE: It hurts, too.
TOM: It does hurt. And it’s really designed well, so it fits nicely in your hand. So it’s pretty much good for school and craft projects, as well as home repairs or carpentry. Going to go out to one listener drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show.
Couple of ways to do just that: pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions, right now, to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Heading to Pennsylvania where Dave has got a question about keeping his brick house nice and warm. What’s going on?
DAVE: Well, I’m remodeling it and it’s a balloon-frame construction, which means it – you know, there’s no board to stop the fire if it goes up the fire blocks. And I have lath and plaster.
LESLIE: Feel like we have the same house, Dave.
DAVE: Well, they’re nice houses.
TOM: Yeah, sure. And well-built, too. So you’re trying to figure out how you can fill that cavity without sort of destroying the wall or the brick on either side, correct?
DAVE: Or creating a mold problem.
TOM: Yeah, I hear you. OK.
So, in this case – first of all, let’s talk about insulation priorities. I know that we all want to run to those exterior walls to insulate them first. But the most important place in any home to insulate is that uppermost ceiling, right underneath the attic. And in most places in this country, most homes in this country, there’s not enough. So, if you’re in Pennsylvania, you really need to have 15 to 20 inches of fiberglass or the equivalent in that space. That is the single, most effective way to increase comfort and reduce heating and cooling bills.
Once that’s done, then we can talk about the walls. The walls are much harder to insulate, as you’ve described, because you don’t want to destroy the plaster on one side and you have brick on the other. The only way to do this is with blown-in insulation. And the blown-in insulation you’re going to want to use is cellulose.
Now, it’s really a job that has to be done professionally because, first of all, they have to identify where those cavities are, which you can do with an infrared camera. And they need to make sure that every cavity is completely filled. And when the cellulose is blown in, it has to go in under a certain amount of pressure, because there’s a little bit of settlement that happens. And so that’s why it’s a little bit of a – it takes a fair amount of sort of insulation craftsmanship to get this right. But that’s the step that you would need to follow to make sure you get the insulation in those spaces. Once it’s done, you’ll be able to see before-and-afters with the infrared camera to make sure that you’ve gotten all of those cavities filled.
Now, if you can’t get to that, because of expense or time or hassle – you will have small, circular holes about 2 inches in diameter to be patching at every open space – every open bay, I should say – on the inside. The other part of this that you might want to do is to make sure that the box beam, from the basement or crawlspace – that outermost, lower section of the wood floor beam on the exterior wall – is also heavily insulated. Because that will stop a lot of air that will try to kind of come up under the brick, so to speak, and work its way in there.
But that’s really what you have to do when you have a brick house. You really want to concentrate on that attic insulation first. The box beam is an easy thing to check off the mark, as is the attic insulation. And then you deal with the walls. And that’s how you would deal with it and that’s really the best way to do it.
DAVE: OK. Hey, do they have a product, like vermiculite, that you can still put in the walls?
TOM: The blown-in cellulose is really the upgraded version of that. You don’t want to use vermiculite, because vermiculite – you know the reason it’s not used too much anymore? It contains asbestos. So, not such a good idea to use that.
DAVE: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: Dave, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us.
DAVE: Appreciate it.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re a renter and you’re not happy with your kitchen, you might think that you’re pretty much stuck with it. Well, you’re not. Here are a few simple but impactful projects that you can do to refresh the space without busting your budget or putting your security deposits at risk.
Now, this is a great idea and I actually love to use this in a lot of places around the house. You can use an adhesive backsplash, maybe a peel-and-stick tile or a peel-and-stick vinyl wall covering, something like that that’s water-resistant, really easy to put up but best of all, removable. You want something that’s repositionable, removable, temporary. Super-duper-duper awesome.
You can actually also attach a plywood, sort of as a temporary backsplash that you’ve put tile onto, and tile onto that and sort of make it as pieces that come on and off. That’s a great way to add a special look that you like, that’s also not permanent. That’s the key thing.
Now, vinyl-floor remnants, that’s another option. You can lay it out like a rug. They’re heavy-duty. They’re durable. You can cut them to fit a space, which really makes them a great temporary solution for a small space like a kitchen.
Other things that you can do is you can change out a light fixture. Save the light fixture. Put the other one back when you leave, so you can have something more personal. I mean there’s lots of stuff you can do. You can add lighting under cabinets. You can remove window treatments if they’re there, if you want more light, or add your own window treatments. Lots of different things, because you can always fill a screw hole on your way out.
TOM: And sometimes, less is more, especially when you take the doors off cabinets. If you do that, you can have sort of this open-shelf look and kind of help warm up the space, especially if it’s a wood cabinet. And having all your stuff in plain sight also forces you to be organized, stay neat, stay tidy.
LESLIE: Yeah, true.
TOM: Hey, if you’ve got questions about projects just like that, you’ll find answers on The Money Pit website at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Renee in Texas is on the line with a question about cleaning a water heater.
RENEE: I’ve got a stinking water heater. I’m going to have to go down to my daughter’s house for about four months. I turned the water heater off because they thought I’d be there through the winter and they didn’t want it to freeze. And they drained it. And when I come back to the house and build it back up, the water stinks.
TOM: Does it have a sulfur-like smell? Does it smell like rotten eggs?
TOM: Yeah. OK. So what’s going on is that you need a new anode rod. If you look at the top of the water heater between where the two pipes are, you’ll see what looks like kind of a hex nut, like a big bolt. And right below that is an anode rod. It’s called a “sacrificial anode” and it goes down into your water heater. And the water reacts with it and it takes that odor away, among other things. And so if you have a strong odor, that’s what you have to replace.
It’s not for the faint of heart. It can be difficult to get that anode rod out, even for an experienced plumber. So, you’re going to have to decide whether you want to go through the trouble of replacing the anode rod or you just want to replace the water heater.
Alright? And that’ll do it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ron in New Jersey is on the line with a fireplace question. What’s going on?
RON: I live in a condo or townhouse. It’s about 25 years old and it has one of those fireplaces that’s the metal type they just set in there and they build those studs around it – sheetrock. And it’s gas logs. Well, it doesn’t really work too well. And a couple years ago when we had no electricity, I tried to use it for heating but it really didn’t blow any heat in. It just pretty much went up the chimney.
I’m thinking about replacing it but I’m not sure – I have really no idea if there’s one type better than the other that would also serve as an emergency heating system in the house.
TOM: So, the reason you’re not getting enough heat out of it is because it’s a gas fireplace and they rarely put out a lot of heat. In your case, to replace it you would have to replace the entire unit. This unit is called a “zero-clearance fireplace” because basically, it’s an insulated box that can go against a combustible wall and not have any problems being used.
So if you put in a wood-burning, zero-clearance fireplace, you’ll find that you’ll get a lot of heat out of it. And if you want to step up the amount of heat that you could potentially get out of it, opt for the version that has a blower built in. And the blower will basically take air from the base of the fireplace, run it behind the firebox and out the top. And that will supply, actually, quite a bit of heat.
RON: So it would be a wood-burning though? Not the gas log?
TOM: Yeah, it would be wood-burning. You’re never going to get – well, you can put a gas fireplace in. But I just don’t think you’re going to get the same amount of heat out of it and frankly, I’m a little uncomfortable with gas-burning fireplaces. I think there’s a real carbon-monoxide risk with them.
RON: And it is vented? It’s got the pipe that goes up out through the roof and all?
TOM: But you’re still not going to get the same. It’s basically decorative. You’re not going to get enough heat out of it, as you discovered.
RON: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck, Ron. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, so I took on a garage clean-out project this weekend. And we got into the area of the garage – because it’s a two-floor garage that I built a long time ago. We got in an area of the upstairs where we keep some of our Christmas stuff. And I hadn’t been sort of deep into it but sometimes the mood strikes. You dig in, you want to sort things out.
And I struck gold. You know what I found?
LESLIE: What’d you find?
TOM: A bag of about 20 incandescent light bulbs. Remember those?
LESLIE: I’ll take them.
TOM: I feel like I’ve been hoarding them or something. But we used them – and we used to have these Christmas bells that went around the outside of the house and we used incandescent bulbs in there. And I found the whole bag of them, so now I’m good for a little bit. I haven’t seen one of those in many, many moons.
LESLIE: I will tell you I’m a convert now. I have totally switched over to LED bulbs all throughout the house. Not only did I switch to LED, I switched to smart bulbs which …
LESLIE: I mean it’s challenging for some reason. I’m going to call her “The Allegra” so she doesn’t answer me while we’re chatting here. But sometimes she hates me and never turns the lights on.
TOM: Yeah. Doesn’t turn on the right one? Yeah.
LESLIE: It drives me nuts.
LESLIE: And I’m like, “What happens if there’s no internet?”
TOM: Well, you know, we’ve switched over, too. But it was just a moment of nostalgia to see that big catch of old incandescents there.
LESLIE: I will take them, because I’m ready to go back.
Kimberly in Delaware is on the line with an interesting question. I’m reading your bath mats got melted to the floor? How did that happen?
KIMBERLY: No, I clean houses for a living and I went to clean a house. And the lady asked me if I can get it up and she said it’s been there for two years.
TOM: Wow. Stuck to the floor, huh?
KIMBERLY: No, to the – inside the bathtub. It melted into – inside the bathtub.
TOM: Oh, the bathtub. And you couldn’t get it up? You couldn’t pull it off?
KIMBERLY: No, no, no. I tried. It’s stuck there. It’s like cement.
TOM: I’m thinking it might be glued in place and not melted. Did she buy the house with this bath mat?
KIMBERLY: No. She’s had the house for 20 years and they put it – and she put the bath mat there herself. And she said her husband just put it in there so they wouldn’t fall, because they’re elderly people. And it’s been like that for two years, she said.
TOM: Well, I guess she would know herself if it was glued in place. I don’t necessarily have a good solution for you here. Generally, if I find something that’s adhered and needs to be loosened up, I’ll use a product like WD-40. But I’m afraid to tell you to use that in the bathtub because I don’t want them to slip. But that tends to break any adhesive bond that is resulting. But it’s also a lubricant.
So you could try very, very carefully under one corner of it, see if it loosens up. But you’ve got to rinse it thoroughly and scrub it thoroughly because otherwise, you’ll leave a very slick surface there.
I guess the other thing that you could try would be an adhesive – a citrus-based adhesive remover. There are orange-based products – citrus-based products that can – are used to remove adhesive.
But I have a hard time believing that this wasn’t adhesive that actually glued itself to it. And I don’t think it melted. I think there was some sort of maybe chemical reaction between the rubber mat and the bathtub that caused them to bond. Now, I will warn you that even if you get this up, it’s very possible that the surface of the tub could be damaged. And you may be having something else that you don’t like to look at there, as a result.
KIMBERLY: And that’s what I’m afraid of. Because I’m her house cleaner and I don’t want to get blamed for the tub being messed up, either, so …
TOM: Yeah. Then I don’t think you should take that – I don’t think it’s your responsibility. I would say you tried but it’s stuck in place and leave it at that.
TOM: I agree with you. You don’t want to make the situation worse and get them upset and then – and be potentially responsible for finding a solution to an impossible problem.
KIMBERLY: OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Yeah, you’re welcome, Kimberly. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and have a great day.
LESLIE: Well, we can all agree that you can never have too much fresh air. That is unless you are an allergy sufferer and that fresh air is loaded with pollen and dust.
Now, air cleaners and filters, they’re supposed to remove those allergens so you can breathe better. But with all the competing claims, it’s really hard to sort out what’s what.
TOM: Absolutely. So, to start, filters are key and they’re an important part of your HVAC system. They’re going to protect you and the HVAC equipment, both heating and cooling. And there are four basic types.
Let’s talk about the kind that don’t require professional installation and that would be first a spun filter, the least expensive. I kind of jokingly call them “rock stoppers,” because they don’t really catch a lot. They’re really super cheap but heck, they’re better than nothing.
If you want to step it up a little bit, you want to go for a pleated filter. The pleated filter is sort of folded like an accordion surface. And by doing so, it increases the amount of surface area, which makes it a much more efficient way to stop dust and allergens than a spun filter.
And then there’s a step up from that called a “pleated electrostatic filter,” which combines the pleated media with a static charge. And what that does is help the dust particles stick to the filter, just kind of like magnets.
But with all of these, the way you know if you’re getting what you think you are is by checking the MERV rating – M-E-R-V. It stands for minimum efficiency reporting values. And you’re looking for a MERV that’s between 11 and 13 for allergen protection.
LESLIE: Now, let’s talk more about electronic air cleaners. These seem to have come a really long way in the recent years. They’re becoming able to catch more and more even microscopic-sized particles. But are they worth the investment?
TOM: You know, I think so. Again, it’s kind of that argument that if you’re going to be in your house for the duration – and by that I mean more than a couple of years – it’s worth investing in a piece of equipment like that. It’ll probably run you, I’d say, probably at least $1,000 if not a little more installed.
But basically, it’s an electronic filter that’s installed into the return-duct side of the HVAC system. Not a DIY product. And what it does is it electronically sort of pulls out the tiniest particles, like viruses and even bacteria, and draws them to a collector plate. So it’s a very, very efficient way of keeping your air as clean as possible.
LESLIE: Now, since we’re talking about filters, I’ve got to ask you about this: duct cleaning. I feel like a lot of people ask us questions about whether duct cleaning is really worth it. Is it going to make a difference? I think occasionally you should do it, right? But what do you think?
TOM: I’m not really a fan. And (inaudible) come out over and over again that said duct cleaning really shows no proof of being able to make your air in the house any healthier. So I think it’s just kind of like the thought of having dust in your ducts, you figure, “Well, it must be there. I have to clean it out.” Not really.
I only recommend it, Leslie, if you’ve had a big construction project done.
LESLIE: Yeah. Or if you’ve just moved into a house that you don’t know.
TOM: Maybe. I think the bigger issue is just have a filter and make sure the filter fits. I can’t tell you how many times I, as a professional home inspector, would open up the blower compartment of a furnace and then see a filter shoved in there the wrong size, held in with hangers or rubber bands and just not done well. It’s kind of pointless, right? You’ve got to choose the right filter. It’s got to be installed properly. And that’s going to keep your air as clean as it possibly can be.
888-666-3974. If you’re thinking about taking on a home project, a décor project, an improvement, planning for the future, give us a call because we would love to help.
LESLIE: Don in Missouri is on the line with a porch question. What can we do for you today?
DON: I have a four-post that has an exposed top.
DON: And the stair railing is fastened to it.
DON: It’s got a beveled top on it like that’s what they put on most of them. It’s treated lumber and there is a crack that goes from, I’m going to say, a quarter, maybe three-eighths. And I don’t know how deep it is but it’s very deep. And I want to seal the top of it or seal it so that water doesn’t get in there for use and expand the crack.
TOM: Now, Don, let me ask you a question. Do you want to paint this porch railing? Or is it painted now or not?
DON: No, we do not want to paint it.
TOM: The reason I’m asking you these questions is because I’m going to tell you what to fill that crack with. But the problem is some of the materials that you use to fill the crack are not going to be the color of treated lumber; they’re going to stand out and maybe look worse than the crack looks right now. So I’m trying to figure out what – how you’d like this to look when you’re all done.
DON: Well, just – the main thing is to keep water from running in there and freezing, expanding.
TOM: Alright. So if you’re not so concerned about the look, then what I would do is I would use an epoxy patching compound. You want to use a wood epoxy patching compound. And the reason I say that is because that has the ability to really stand up to the weather and bind to that wood material. You’re going to apply it with a putty knife and you’re going to press it into that crack and then let it dry and sand over the surface to try to get the excess off. That’s the best material to use for that particular situation.
Well, we’ve all seen the news stories about entire communities that had to go without power for days at a time. And if a powerful storm leaves you without that all-important juice, what should you do?
LESLIE: Well, first, here’s something that you should not do: don’t use candles. Invest in some good flashlights with bright LED bulbs. Keep them handy. Always keep them in the same spot and remember to check those batteries often.
TOM: Now, if your power goes out, you want to make sure you power-down appliances and computers. And don’t restart them until the electricity has been turned back on for at least a half-hour. Here’s why, especially when it comes to something like your air conditioner, because when all those AC units come on, they have a big power draw right in the beginning. And when that happens across the entire grid, it kind of helps to destabilize it. So you want to give the utility company plenty of time to get that grid up and running and stable so you don’t have multiple blackouts.
LESLIE: Yeah. And here’s a tip, you guys, when it comes to the fridge. Some of you like to open that door and stare at what’s going on in there. “Maybe something changed since the last time I looked.” It hasn’t. All the same stuff is in there, so keep that fridge door closed because it will keep everything nice and cold. And really think about what you want from that fridge or freezer, open it quick, grab it, close it up.
TOM: Also, we hear about this tragedy in virtually every storm: somebody leaves a generator running in an enclosed space and you get carbon-monoxide poisoning. So don’t do that. Never run a gas-powered generator indoors. Don’t even run it in an open garage. And avoid cooking with charcoal or propane in any enclosed area, even an area that’s outside with a roof over it. Don’t do it, because that carbon monoxide has a way to get everywhere.
LESLIE: Deb in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DEB: My husband and I are in the process of either building a home or looking into having a modular put up. And I would like to know if you have any pros or cons of a modular, opposed to building a home – a new home.
TOM: Sure. Well, I’ve actually built both and I can tell you that the modular homes go up quicker, generally. And they can be more accurate because everything is fabricated inside of a factory. And so you’ll find tighter corners and squarer walls and that sort of thing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either approach; they both work. But if you go modular, it will probably go together a little bit more quickly. And I guess the con of that is that you may not have as much flexibility in design with that. Again, depends on the factory you’re working with and the builder you’re working with.
I will say this: you want to make sure you choose a builder that’s very experienced with modular homes and not one who just thinks he can put together anything. Because there are some peculiarities to them in the way they’re built.
DEB: Alright. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, so I was talking to a contractor – a mason – the other day, Leslie, and he told me about a project that he was called to bid on where another contractor had dug out the floor around the interior perimeter of a basement, in a house that was really, really old. Had a brick foundation. If you know about brick foundations, the brick foundation and the brick wall for the basement, it’s the same thing. It doesn’t flare out at the bottom. They just start the bricks right on the ground.
The guy dug it all out and then what happened is there was a major rainstorm. So I bet you could figure out what happened next. All of that dirt ran out from underneath and the wall collapsed.
LESLIE: Oh, geez.
TOM: And guess what kind of contractor it was that was digging out that hole? A waterproofer. This is why we rail against these guys. They don’t know what they’re doing. He did not have to dig out all of that water. I bet you there was some simple drainage problem with clogged gutters or bad grading that would have fixed it. And now, this poor homeowner has a partially collapsed home as a result.
So, let that be a lesson to you. If you get a problem with any kind of below-grade moisture like that, just fix your gutters, will you? It’ll probably go away.
LESLIE: Head over to MoneyPit.com and post a question, just like Jenny did.
Now, Jenny writes: “I’ve always used filtered-water pitchers but I’ve been thinking about getting a whole-house water filter in the house. What type of water would require one and how long do these filters last?”
TOM: Well, I mean a whole-house water filter is just like the name says. It is usually installed after the water meter or the well pump on the main cold-water-line side. And because of its location, all of the plumbing fixtures in the house will benefit from that filtered water.
I have one in my own house. I think they’re a good idea. But before having your filter installed by a master plumber, you need to have your water tested – especially, of course, if you’re on well water – to make sure that you get the best filter to fit your needs.
And in terms of filter replacements, some of those filters can last you a year. It really depends on how much water you’re using. But the filter replacement is pretty straightforward. Once installed, there’s a valve behind it and in front of it. So you turn off the fill valve to it and then you can remove and replace that filter.
LESLIE: How large are these filter units? We live in a town where the water is questionable, so a lot of people get them. And I’ve always considered it but I’ve wondered the size.
TOM: Yeah. Well, it’s a question of efficiency. The better whole-house water filters don’t have to be that large.
LESLIE: Interesting. Alright. Good to know.
Now I’ve got a post from Diane who writes: “When painting a room, do I paint the walls first and then the trim around the windows or the trim first and then the walls?”
Now, I don’t know if there’s a hard and fast rule here but I always do the walls first, trim last. I don’t know why.
TOM: I think gravity counts.
LESLIE: Well, true. Ceiling, walls, trim. That’s how I go.
TOM: Ceiling, walls, trim. Right. If you’ve painted all the trim and it’s all nice and perfect and then you take that big, old roller and you’re slopping on your walls, you’re going to slip, you know?
LESLIE: Yeah. And sometimes, I accidentally roll into the trim and I’m not a taper.
LESLIE: I don’t tape at all. I’m a steady hand but sometimes …
TOM: Pros hold that paintbrush like a pencil. That’s how I hold mine.
LESLIE: It’s like an extension of my hand.
TOM: Right. I had a conversation with my daughter the other day about this, because she was holding it just like a club. I’m like, “No. No, no, no. It’s like a pencil. It’s like a fine writing instrument.”
LESLIE: Yeah, like chopsticks. Chopsticks and a pencil.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thanks for spending part of your day with us, side by side, as we take on the home improvement projects that you are planning to do over the next few months. I think if you’re like us, you’re thinking towards the warmer weather. I’m already dreaming about some outdoor DIY projects to get my tail back outside.
I always jokingly call it, Leslie – my north office is the front porch and my south office is the back deck and that sort of thing. I like to move the office around.
LESLIE: You’ve got multiple locations. You know what I just discovered today? I was chatting with a design associate and my Good Morning America hours are 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., generally.
LESLIE: And they were like, “Oh, you’re on European hours.” And I was like, “That sounds so much better. I’m going to go with that.”
TOM: It’s just too bad you couldn’t have the European experience that goes with it.
LESLIE: Right. That’s OK. I can pretend. You’ve got your multiple offices; I keep European hours. We’re very cosmopolitan.
TOM: Well, that’s what we do. And if you’ve got questions, remember, you can reach us anytime by posting your questions at MoneyPit.com.
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 2021 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.)
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