- As we say goodbye to winter, now is a good time to take a look at your driveway to see what winter’s road salt left behind. We walk you through options for driveway sealing, resurfacing or replacement and share a key detail on the type of asphalt that lasts the longest.
- Are you dreaming of relaxing on your deck in the warm days ahead, but have a deck that looks more like a nightmare? We can fix that with tips for a deck makeover that you’ll be able to get done for LESS than the average refund the IRS may be sending your way this spring – in today’s Tax Refund Project Tip, presented by HART TOOLS, available exclusively at WALMART.
- And as the first day of spring approaches, we get you ready with room-by-room Spring cleaning tips to make sure your home is spick and span.
- If you’re still feeling a chill, we share tips for selecting the best type of space heater.
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 oh, man, spring is almost here and I just cannot wait to get outside and take on some DIY projects that we’ve got planned. If you’ve got a DIY project that you’ve got planned, you may need some help getting it done. Whatever it is, outside or inside, we are here to help you create your best home ever.
You can reach us by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. You leave your message there, we’ll call you back when we’re in the studio. Or you can post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, now that we are moving towards the end of winter, have you taken a good look at your driveway and kind of checked out what winter’s road rage has left behind? Spring is a great time to plan to repair or even replace your driveway. We’ll share those options.
LESLIE: And are you dreaming of relaxing on your deck in the warm days ahead but maybe your deck looks more like a nightmare? Well, we can fix that with tips for a deck makeover that you’ll be able to get done for less than the average refund the IRS might be sending your way this spring, in today’s Tax Refund Project Tip presented by HART Tools, available exclusively at Walmart.
TOM: And the first day of spring is just ahead. It’s March 20th. So we’re going to get you ready with some room-by-room spring-cleaning tips to make sure your home is spic and span.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know how we can help you create your best home ever. What are some of your spring home improvement plans? What are you working on? How can we help you get those done? How can we help you get those done right and create the space of your dreams?
TOM: Give us a call with those questions at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading north to Ruth in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Ruth, what’s going on? Tell us what’s happening.
RUTH: I have a dining-room set that was custom-made and it’s solid oak. It’s carved and curved and it had six chairs, a buffet and a china cabinet that was all solid oak and custom-made.
TOM: Sounds beautiful.
RUTH: And my husband – well, we had to move into a townhouse and it’s just too big.
RUTH: And I really don’t want to get rid of the table, because it is so ornate and unique and solid. I don’t want to buy another table and in 5 years have it be rickety and whatnot, you know? So I would like to know if I could refinish it. It’s a medium oak right now.
TOM: What color do you want it to be?
RUTH: An off-white maybe.
TOM: OK. So, right now it’s stained oak and you would prefer it to be a white – sort of like a gray wash, gray white, almost like a pickled kind of a color?
RUTH: Yeah. That would be perfect.
LESLIE: But a sheer where you can see the grain and not a solid paint.
RUTH: That would be nice.
LESLIE: I mean at this point, what you’re going to have to do is remove the finish and the stain that’s currently on the piece so that you can get to a raw-wood surface that will accept the new stain. Because if you want to see the grain, it’s going to be a semi-transparent or a solid-ish stain, where you can still see the grain through but it has more of a more saturated look to it.
Depending on what type of finish is on there, you should generally use a chemical product. I know in Canada they’re very specific about what’s allowed and what’s not, so you’ll have to see what type of chemical-stripping agent is available to you. It might be something that you brush on and then sort of scrape off. I’m not really sure what the products are up there.
If the finish isn’t too thick or is more worn, you can probably sand it off. So there are ways that you can do so. And then once you’re down to raw wood, you can then apply whichever stain in whatever color tone you like.
TOM: Yeah. It’s going to be a project. It’s a lot of work to take that wood table from a finished surface – finished, stained surface – like that down to the raw wood. I just did a project like this for a friend of mine and his table was made out of pine. And it was a lot of work with a pine table and it wasn’t nearly as ornate as what you’re talking about. But it was a heck of a lot of work. It’s not just a matter of pulling the finish off. There’s a lot of hand-scraping and sanding and you may need to use files or scrapers to get in the nooks and crannies.
And then let’s say you get – the whole thing is done, it’s clean as best you can get it. What I would suggest you do is turn it upside-down and I would definitely also sand a good section of the bottom of the table so that you can test the finishes that you want to use. Because the fact that the table has had another finish on it is going to result in a very unique situation, because it will have already absorbed some of that old finish. And when you put the new finish on, it may not come out as the same color as it shows on the can or on the website when you chose it. You know what I mean? So you’re going to have to sort of test it and make sure this is what you want before you commit yourself to doing the entire table.
RUTH: Oh, yeah.
TOM: Because after all that work, you don’t want to end up with something you didn’t expect.
RUTH: I think it would probably take me 6 months to a year just to get the finish off and – because of all the nooks and crannies and curves and whatnot.
TOM: Yeah. It’s a big job. Maybe it’s – it might be one you want to hire out or maybe a company – a furniture stripper you can take that to, that has the tools and equipment to do it for you.
RUTH: Yeah, I should see if I can find one of those. I guess I could look on the internet and just see if there’s one somewhere in the area.
RUTH: Thank you, thank you. I was hoping there would be something easier – paint it on and wipe it off – but I guess not.
TOM: Yep. Yep. Well, those fine, old pieces of furniture are worth saving if you can figure out a way to get it done, Ruth. So good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us.
RUTH: Thank you. Bye-bye.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jay on the line who’s dealing with a chilly basement floor. Tell us about it. Nobody likes it, so let’s give you a hand.
JAY: On the concrete floors in your basement, you are talking about how to keep them toasty warm.
JAY: Because once that concrete gets cold, it looks like an iceberg.
TOM: Yeah. Yes, sir.
JAY: And they’re not warming up.
TOM: Yeah, that’s right. Yep. So, there’s a couple of things that you can do.
First of all, there’s a product called DRICORE – D-R-I-C-O-R-E – and it’s a subfloor that puts some space between you and that cold concrete floor. It’s a pretty inexpensive product. They come in panels that are about 2-foot-square, roughly. They interconnect and you lay them down. And then on top of the DRICORE, you could use that floor if it’s just – as an unfinished floor or you could put carpet, which we really don’t advise for basements, but you could if you wanted to.
TOM: Or you could put hardwood – engineered hardwood – or vinyl or any kind of a product like that.
And they have two versions of it. One of them has insulation built into it, so it may be a little bit warmer. And that’s called DRICORE+.
TOM: So take a look at the DRICORE website. It is D-R-I-C-O-R-E and I think you’ll find your solution right there.
Jay, hope that tip warms up your floor space and thank you so much for calling us at The Money Pit.
LESLIE: Jeff in Iowa needs some help with a low-flow showerhead. In true Seinfeld fashion, you’re just not getting a good wash going?
JEFF: No. No, I’m not. My house is a 1978 ranch. We’ve lived here about 10 years. I’ve always had good water – what I felt was reasonably good water pressure. Still has the original showers and showerheads in it, so I decided to upgrade everything to more eco-friendly stuff. Replaced the toilets, no problems. But the showerheads, I put these low-flow showerheads on and it’s like the water is just barely – I expected some decrease in performance, obviously, but the water is just like falling out of them. It’s not spraying out like I would expect.
TOM: Is this just happening at one showerhead, Jeff, or is it happening at several showerheads?
JEFF: Two showerheads.
TOM: Two showerheads, OK. So, we can rule out any kind of blockage because it wouldn’t be happening to both at the same time.
Now, what kind of showerheads did you put in there? Can you tell me the brand?
JEFF: Well, the first one was the home improvement store’s brand showerhead. The second one I’ve got is a Waterpik. It’s not the highest end of – I thought maybe I just went too cheap on the first one, so I went kind of middle-of-the-road. Made it – I didn’t know if I maybe needed to upgrade even more or just go back to the old showerheads.
TOM: So, when you install a low-flow showerhead and you didn’t have one before, you are correct in that you’re going to get a reduction in the power of the shower that perhaps you were used to.
Now, there should be an adequate amount of water. And the fact that you’re not feeling that means that maybe you don’t have the right showerhead or there’s something wrong with the installation. I’d like to, for the purpose of this conversation, rule out the installation, rule out any clogging, although that is entirely possible. And you might want to take it off to look behind it to make sure that’s the case.
But what I would recommend is that you upgrade the showerhead to a name brand, like a Moen or perhaps a Delta. Because these guys spend a lot of time and a lot of money engineering their showerheads so that they don’t decrease performance when they save you water. And the other thing to look for is a certification called WaterSense. And it’s sort of like ENERGY STAR for appliances but it’s like measuring water efficiency for faucets and showerheads.
JEFF: I will definitely give that a try because what I’ve got going on now, it takes me so long to shower and get foamy and stuff, I might as well use the high-flow and …
TOM: Not going to work, right? Yeah.
JEFF: Then in and out, you know? It takes the lumps. So, yeah, it’s not doing the trick. I will look into the more expensive one and see what that does for me.
TOM: Alright. Yeah, you can always take it back if that doesn’t work. But take a look at the installation first, just to be sure. Make sure you don’t have any plumbing tape that got jammed in there or anything of that nature, OK?
JEFF: OK. Sounds good. Thanks, guys.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Jeff. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, asphalt driveways take a major beating from Mother Nature: sun, moisture and certainly this winter’s freeze/thaw cycles. And all that weather combines to cause cracks and deteriorate the asphalt binders that hold your driveway together. That’s why it’s really important to repair those driveway cracks or potholes and apply driveway sealant on a regular basis to protect it.
But if you’ve done that or maybe you should have done that and now it seems like that driveway is ready for replacement, there are a few things you need to know before you call in a pro.
TOM: First, you need to know what you’re buying. Aside from driveway sealing, which is a very thin coating of asphalt sealer that’s applied, there are two ways to redo a driveway.
First, a pro can add a layer to what you already have or they can completely tear out the driveway and start from scratch.
Now, if the driveway is just worn but it doesn’t have big potholes or cracks, a topcoat could be an option. Now, if the driveway is in really bad shape, adding a topcoat is not going to change that. And the new asphalt will likely sag and crack very quickly.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, for a driveway replacement, the most important thing is the preparation of the base. Once that old asphalt is removed, a new gravel base, typically about 6 inches, should be installed and then rolled – think about a big, 3,000-pound roller – until it’s almost as solid as a finished road itself.
TOM: Another reason it’s not a DIY project, by the way.
LESLIE: Yeah, for sure. I’m like, “Where do you even get that roller?” It’s amazing. It’s like you need a huge tool there to make that gravel nice and flat.
So, I mean if you do that part well, you can actually expect that your new driveway is going to look the way it is on the first day it goes down, for a lot of years. It’s also important that that driveway be sloped so you get proper drainage. Nothing is going to wear a driveway out faster than puddling water, so you’ve got to make sure you’re moving the water away correctly.
TOM: Lastly, it’s important to choose the right type of asphalt. Yes, there are several types of asphalt. Who knew? And some have more aggregate or stone in it than others and wear better.
Now, you don’t want to put an asphalt coating down that’s too sandy, because that driveway won’t be very strong and you’ll have problems in as little as a couple of years. You want to put one down that’s got more aggregate. That’s going to last 10 years or more. That sandy asphalt, sometimes people want it because it has a smoother appearance but it just doesn’t last.
So, don’t do it. Always choose a mix with more gravel, for durability.
LESLIE: Cheryl in Wisconsin has a question about heating. How can we help you stay toasty?
CHERYL: I have a large area downstairs. It’s about one-third – it’s 11×36 feet and about one-third of that we use for a dining and kitchen area, mainly when we have company.
TOM: OK. Mm-hmm.
CHERYL: And I’m not looking to heat that whole area, just the area where we eat. And I was wondering if one of those oscillating space heaters would be a good idea. One of the taller ones?
TOM: Well, look, here’s the thing. I think your question is about efficiency and most space heaters are not very efficient. They’re only efficient if you’re going to do what you’re doing, which is – that is to isolate the heat to just one very narrow space of the house. But this is a big area. If it’s 30-something feet long, it might be hard to do that. It’s different if it’s like one individual bedroom or something of that nature.
But I will say that, generally speaking, they’re more expensive to run than your heating system on a BTU basis: in other words, comparing the cost to create a BTU in your main heating system versus the space heater.
What kind of heat do you have? What kind of fuel do you use?
CHERYL: Natural gas.
TOM: Yeah. Natural gas is always going to be less expensive than electric space heaters. But if you’ve got an area that’s a little bit chilly and you want to just supplement it on a limited basis, like just when you’re using that room for company or dining, I think it’s OK. But there’s just not very much that – there’s not very much that’s efficient about the use of a space heater.
CHERYL: Yeah. I was just thinking right close to the table in the area where we eat.
TOM: Yeah. But only in those limited circumstances, when you’re using that area, do you want to use the space heater. Then you’ll keep the heat down the rest of the time?
CHERYL: Actually, our basement is so cold. When we have company, we really crank up the heat and the basement is still really cold. You know, we live in Wisconsin.
TOM: Yeah. So even when the heat’s up, it’s chilly.
TOM: So, if you’re just using it on a temporary basis to supplement it only when you’re down there eating, then I think it’s probably OK. But I think your original question: is it efficient? No, it’s just not.
CHERYL: OK. That’s what I wanted to know.
TOM: Good luck with that project, Cheryl. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: John is on the line and he’s dealing with a mold situation. Tell us what’s going on.
JOHN: I have a mold problem around my shower door. I bought the house two years ago. I stripped all the caulking out when I had the mold problem. I’ve put caulking in with a nationally known brand. I even used a Saran Wrap-type thing on my finger to eliminate any contamination. Before I did that, I cleaned it, I stripped it out with a plastic scraper. I also used mineral spirits to clean it out. I put it in and I still have problems with it.
God, I’m just at my wits’ end here. I run the humidity in my basement between 40 and 50 percent. I leave the shower door open. I even shut the furnace vent off in there to try and keep it so it doesn’t have a breeding of bacteria or anything or mold in that.
You’ve got to tell me what I need to do. I don’t know if I have an off-spec caulking that I used, which is nationally known, or if I have an off-spec aluminum frame and door that causes the mold. I have no idea.
TOM: Well, look, you’re going to get mold when you have moisture and organic material. And in a shower, that organic material can be soap and dirt and that sort of thing. So you’re doing the right thing but let’s just back it up and try it again here.
You want to remove the old caulk. You mentioned mineral spirits. I usually recommend a bleach-and-water solution because this kills – this is a mildicide that kills anything that’s stuck behind. After you get that all dried out and cleaned out really, really well, then you can apply a caulk with mildicide. I would use a caulk that has Microban in it. DAP caulks are available with Microban and it’s a good antimicrobial additive that will not grow mold.
Now, the other thing I would do is I would also make sure that you have – obviously, have a bath exhaust fan and that you have an exhaust fan that’s hooked up to a humidistat, which takes sort of you and anyone else that’s using that bathroom out of the equation. If it’s on the humidistat, it’s automatically going to kick on when the humidity gets high enough to cause mold problems. And it will stay on for some number of minutes when that humidity goes down, to make sure that the room is thoroughly vented out.
That’s the best way to handle that. And I think if you do those steps, you will find success.
JOHN: Hey, thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Charlene in Tennessee with a flooring question. What can we do for you?
CHARLENE: Well, we built our house in 2006 and we purchased, from the mill, solid-oak hardwood planks that we were going to put down for flooring. And it’s 6 inches wide, tongue-and-groove.
Underneath that, we put – my husband thinks it’s called AdvanTech. It was a 50-year warranty and the mill told us between that and the tongue-and-groove solid oak to put 6 mil of plastic.
TOM: Alright. So what’s the problem we’re trying to solve here?
CHARLENE: The problem that we’re solving is in a few areas, one which is mainly the bath and the other is the kitchen, there’s a squeaking noise. It’s like you can’t sneak in that area. It’ll make that noise.
TOM: So when you go on a diet, your husband can hear you when you try to sneak into the kitchen to get to the refrigerator, huh?
CHARLENE: Yeah, something like that.
TOM: Alright. So, look, this has little to do with what is underneath the floor and more to do with just sort of normal wear and tear and expansion and contraction. The reason those floors are – those boards are squeaking is because they’re moving. And so, what you need to do is to tighten them up.
Now, since it’s a finished floor, you can’t just go willy-nilly throwing nails and screws into it; you’ve got to be a little more strategic. So what you want to do is find the place where there’s a floor joist underneath. And you can do that with a stud finder.
And once you identify that spot, you drill small holes through the floor and you use what’s called a “trim screw,” which is only a little bit bigger than a finish nail. You screw through the finished floor, into the floor joist, and that will pull that floor down and make it tighter and reduce the amount of movement that it’s capable of. And that’s what’s going to quiet down your squeak. A little harder to do when it’s a finished floor but that’s the way to do it.
CHARLENE: OK. It sounds like it might be an easy fix.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, it is tax season just about. I mean we’ve got a little bit longer before you’ve got to mail in those checks. And then what happens after that? You get a refund. And it turns out that the average refund that Americans are going to get is about 2,800 bucks. And guess what? That’s enough money to do a whole bunch of home improvement projects.
So, we partnered up with HART Tools, which you’ll find exclusively at Walmart, to create a series called the “Tax Refund Project Tips.” We’re always up for helping you spend that money efficiently. And today, we’re going to talk about a deck redo. If yours is looking a little shaky, a little rough, maybe a deck do-over can refinish and rejuvenate that family space and have it looking just great for the season ahead.
Here’s what you need to know.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, first of all, take a good look at it. Because over time, your deck – when it’s exposed to the elements, especially if it’s a wood deck – really can just be worse for the wear. So, depending on the amount of wear and damage, the solution just simply could be to clean, refinish, repair, maybe replace a few parts. But if your deck is needing a little bit more of TLC or some more serious attention, we’ve got five ways to help you restore your deck to a safe, sound and beautiful state.
TOM: Now, first, we want you to do this: a deck safety check. There is no sense reno-ing a deck that’s in need of structural attention. A good deck check is going to examine the ledger, which is where the deck attaches to the house – and detaches for the house, by the way, if it is in bad shape, which is very dangerous – as well as the hardware, the framing, the railings and the footers. And any repairs that are needed need to be the first priority on your list.
LESLIE: Yeah. Next, you want to clean the deck. So, a dirty deck, it could be covered by moss, mildew, algae. It’s going to look horrible. But they actually can be hiding some areas that could need a repair. So, deck cleaning, it’s an easy DIY project with a good deck wash and a pressure washer. You just have to be careful to keep that pressure setting at a lower level so that it doesn’t damage the deck surface itself.
TOM: Now, you also want to repair any cracked deck boards. This is one of our favorite tricks of the trade. Wood deck boards take a lot of abuse from the sun and the wind and the rain. And they often will crack or splinter.
The fix, though, is easy. Here’s what you need to do. You pry off the old deck board and then you turn it over, upside-down, because the back of the deck board hasn’t been exposed to the weather. And chances are it will be in near-perfect condition, regardless of its age, and it can be reattached.
And likewise, you want to check those railings for any loose sections and repair or replace them as needed.
LESLIE: Yeah. And for the finishing touch, you restain that deck. For this project, you want to be sure to use solid-color exterior stain. A lot of people prefer to use that semi-transparent stain, because they’re afraid that a solid stain is going to look too much like paint. Yeah but it doesn’t. That grain is still going to show through and that stain will last far longer, because solid stain contains more pigment than the semi-transparent version.
TOM: Yeah. And finally, if you’ve found that your deck framing is structurally sound but the floorboards or railing are so badly worn and cracked and twisted there’s just no saving them, you can remove those old boards and replace them with composite decking and railing.
Composite decking is widely available. It’s beautiful. It can take the weather better than any type of wood decking or railing. It’s what we call a “deck-over.”
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Tax Refund Tip presented by HART Tools, available exclusively at Walmart. Do it with HART. You can learn more at HARTTools.com, where you’ll also find step-by-step plans for dozens of fun projects.
TOM: Yeah, including several that will help you really enjoy your outdoor spaces this season, like a porch swing, a raised garden bed, a grill cart and even the complete, step-by-step plan to build your very own giant Jenga game set. Check it out at HARTTools.com.
Jenga is so much fun, especially when you make a really big set.
LESLIE: It’s a fun game to play outside in the yard.
Doug in Illinois is dealing with some water under a deck. Tell us what you’re working on.
DOUG: Well, I’m interested in a roof or a water-drainage system up underneath my deck. I have a 16×40 deck and I saw somewhere on TV that they have some sort of a system that goes up in between the joists. I was wondering if you knew anything about that.
TOM: Yeah. Is this like a second-floor deck and you guys sit under it or something?
DOUG: Yeah. There’s this – there’s a full lower level under the deck, yes.
TOM: Well, those are called “deck drainage systems” and there’s lots and lots and lots of different manufacturers of it. There’s DEK Drain, there’s DrySnap.
LESLIE: Yeah, there’s something called UnderDeck that seems to be a Depot product.
TOM: Trex has one that’s called RainEscape.
So, these are all deck-drainage systems. I don’t know enough about them to give you a recommendation of one over the other but that’s what you want is a deck-drainage system. They basically – as you say, they fit in between the joists, so they fit under the deck. They’re designed to collect the water and then run it to some sort of a traditional gutter and get it away from the house, so that you could have some living space underneath that deck and not have the rain falling on your head.
DOUG: Absolutely. That’s what I’m looking for. Did you say something about Home Depot?
LESLIE: Yeah, Depot has a product called UnderDeck, which is basically like – I guess you could call it an “under-joist gutter system.” And it sort of pieces together; it’s modular.
DOUG: Oh, OK. Wonderful. Well, I sure will check there.
TOM: Well, have you been feeling the itch to give your house a really good once-over cleaning that comes with spring? It’s time. And we’ve got some dos and don’ts to make that go more smoothly.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, let’s talk about that often overlooked upholstery. You can rent an upholstery-cleaning machine but do not do anything without testing a small patch first. This way, you’re going to avoid any surprises.
Now, for pillows, most of them you can remove the slipcover. Maybe they can be machine-washed or dry-cleaned. You know, you take the inside the pillow itself, put it outside. Let it fill up with air and sort of freshen itself out. That’s a great way to start.
TOM: Now, for windows, don’t clean them when the sun is shining. Why, you say? Because the sun actually causes the cleaner to evaporate a lot more quickly and that leaves streaks and a dull residue.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You’ve got a ceiling fan? Make that cleaning easier by dusting the blades once a season with a U-shaped brush. Now, after washing the blades, don’t forget to dry them, because wet blades are just going to attract more dust.
TOM: And while you’re up there, don’t forget to reverse the spin of the blades so all of that cool air that you’re generating with your air-conditioning system lifts up throughout the entire house.
If you’d like some more quick spring-cleaning tips, check out our resource guide at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Ann in North Dakota, you’re on The Money Pit. How can we help you?
ANN: I am living in a house that is over 100 years old and it has an open staircase. The problem is is that there is a bedroom that is above the staircase and adjoins it at the top. And part of that bedroom is cantilevered partially and then totally over the open staircase. And I have a big crack that’s developing on an open area. And that area is cantilevered out about 6 feet from a load-supporting wall.
And I don’t know if I can just patch it or if I need to put a support beam or jack or something underneath it, because this area is getting pretty worrisome. I’ve got two cracks that are about 3/8-inch and pretty long.
TOM: So, Ann, are these new cracks or has it always been cracked?
ANN: It’s always been cracked but it’s been a hairline for many years.
TOM: Oh, boy.
ANN: And then we had a massive flood.
TOM: How long ago was the flood?
ANN: That was in ‘97. And then the ground has been shifting ever since. Since that flood, the cracks have gotten bigger. That was in ‘97.
TOM: When we have cracks in walls and foundations and things like that, we always like to determine if they’re active or inactive because, frankly, all homes have cracks. If you tell me that over the last 20 or so years that this crack has opened from a hairline to 3/8-inch, it might be active. I’m not actually convinced of that yet but I am concerned enough to tell you that you probably should have it looked at by an expert.
What I’d like you to do is go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors; that’s ASHI – A-S-H-I – .com. And find a home inspector in your area – there’s a zip-code sorting tool there – that’s a member of ASHI. And talk to two or three of them and find one that specializes in structural issues like this and have them look at it. And see if we can determine, based on that inspection, whether or not this is an active, ongoing situation or just a crack in an old, plaster wall that needs to be fixed.
It’s not unusual for old homes to have lots of cracks in them and especially around a staircase, because just the way homes were framed back then is different than they would be today. And so, that’s not an uncommon area for cracks to develop. But I think we need to determine – for your own sort of sanity, if nothing else – whether or not this is active and ongoing or something that’s really just historical. Does that make sense?
ANN: It sure does.
TOM: Alright, Ann. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Barry in Texas posted a question about generators on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
Now, Barry wrote: “With all the ice and snow and outages we had this winter in Chicago and spring storms in the forecast, I’m wondering if I should put in a backup generator. What are my options and will it add to my home’s value?”
TOM: You know, Barry, I think that given the fact that electricity has, unfortunately, become somewhat less reliable because of the aging infrastructure …
LESLIE: And the demand.
TOM: And the demand. I think a backup generator, especially now post-COVID – even when we get past this, when vaccines are very common, I think we’re still going to be spending a lot more time than we have in the past. And I think it’s a really smart thing to do. I do think it’ll give you a good return on investment. In fact, I think Consumer Reports says – what was it, Leslie? Three- to five-percent increase in your home value?
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s three to five percent, which is amazing because – I mean it’s something I would look for in searching for a new home, because I have one. I know the value of it. And I certainly hope that my next home would have one. And if it doesn’t, I’m putting one in.
TOM: Oh, yeah. Me, too. Absolutely. Once you have one, you don’t want to go back. It’s like having a garbage disposer: once you buy one, you never want to have the house that doesn’t have one.
If you’ve got gas going into the house, that’s what’s going to be key for you, because natural-gas generators are really the best. They require no maintenance of the fuel. You could only run a portable one on gasoline. But your only other gas option is propane and that becomes expensive. So if you’ve got a natural-gas connection, definitely go for it and get a whole-house generator. You won’t be disappointed.
Well, if you’re a renter and you’re suffering with a cold and drafty apartment, picking up a space heater might be a great solution to get rid of those goosebumps. Leslie explains how to choose the best one for your space, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. There’s a couple of things to know when you’re picking out a space heater. First of all, there’s basically two different types of heaters out there: radiant and convection. And they work very differently from one another.
Now, radiant heaters warm objects – and that includes you – by radiating heat, as their name implies. Convection heaters, on the other hand, warm the air in a room and eventually warm the entire room, provided you buy one that’s appropriately sized for the size of room that you have. Now, there’s different types and styles for both types of space heaters, ranging from tabletop radiant heaters to larger, freestanding convection heaters that can warm an entire space.
Next, you’ve got to consider price, including not only the price to buy the space heater but more importantly, the price of running it. Now, space heaters can cost as low as $30 and go up to well over $100. But if you’re paying for your own electricity and you use that heater for an average of 6 to 8 hours per day, it’s probably going to add about $10 to $20 per month to your electric bill. And that’s why it’s super smart to choose the right-sized heater. Too small, you’re still going to be cold. Too big, you’re going to be paying way more money for energy than you need to.
Now, lastly, let’s talk about safety. You want to make sure that you buy a space heater that includes a sensor, which will trigger the unit to shut down if it starts to overheat. There are also freestanding models with a switch that shuts off the heater if it tips over, which is always a possibility. People have pets, people have kids. Cats get very curious. Things get knocked over. So that’s an excellent safety feature.
And here, this is super important: never, never, never use an extension cord for a space heater or even a power strip. Now, space heaters use a lot of electricity. And if that extension cord or power strip isn’t rated properly, they can and they will catch on fire. So you’ve got to be safe here. We want you to be warm but we want you to be alive.
TOM: Excellent advice.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, before we had walls made of drywall, we had walls made of plaster. Now, many of us have walls made of plaster cracks. We’re going to tell you how to fix those plaster flaws once and for all, 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 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.)