- With the holidays almost here, many parents are already dreading the moment when neatly wrapped presents become incoming piles of toys. We share easy organizing tips to help.
- You can’t see it or smell it but according to the EPA, hundreds of people die accidentally each year from CO poisoning caused by heating systems — We’ll have a way to keep you safe.
- Your basement may serve as your home’s storage area, an extra play space for the kids or even your laundry room … but basements are also a major source of wasted energy usage.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Mike in Iowa wants to know if he can lay foil face on top of existing insulation.
- Marlene from Iowa has a moisture issue on her windows every morning after she replaced her siding.
- Frank needs help fixing a foundation beam that has cracked diagonally.
- Ann in Georgia is needs help dealing with excessive dust in her house.
- Carol wants to paint her stained bathroom cabinets and wants to know how to remove the current stain from the cabinets.
- Tom from Texas had an oil leak on his driveway and wants to know how to get the stain out.
- Joan in Illinois wants to know what causes dry rot and how to identify if you have it.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you improve your home. If you’ve got a project you’d like to do – maybe you’re doing some decorating this week, you’re all excited getting ready for the holidays. It’s a busy time of year. Maybe you’re planning a project for the year ahead. If you’ve got some projects on your to-do list, you can put them on our to-do list because that’s what we do. We’re here to help you get those jobs done.
If you’ve got questions, you don’t know how to get something done, you don’t know where to start, maybe you’re stuck on a core issue, an organizational issue, maybe your systems in the house are acting in odd ways, your heating bills are too high, whatever is on that list, whatever you’re dealing with, that’s why we are here. We’re here to help you improve your home. Now, you’ve got to help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us with your questions or posting them at MoneyPit.com. Our phone number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up on today’s episode, with the holidays almost here, a lot of parents are dreading the moment when all of those neatly wrapped presents becoming incoming piles of toys and paper and boxes. So we’re going to share some easy organizing tips to help you out.
LESLIE: And you can’t see it or smell it but according to the EPA, hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by their heating systems. So we’re going to have a way to keep you safe.
TOM: And your basement might serve as your home storage area and extra play space for kids or even your laundry room but basements are also a major source of wasted energy. We’re going to help you plug the leaks, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
LESLIE: But first, we want to help you create your best home ever. From bathrooms to basements and demolition to décor, we’re your coach, your counselor, your cheerleader for all of your projects, whether they’re big or small.
TOM: So call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Mike in Iowa is on the line with an insulation question. What can we do for you today?
MIKE: I’m looking to put some fiberglass insulation up in my attic. I have access to some 6-inch that’s faced on one side and it has foil on the other. Could I lay that down in my attic without having any problems?
TOM: You already have existing insulation there, right, Mike?
MIKE: Yeah, I’ve got 10 inches in my ceilings.
TOM: The answer is no and here’s why: the foil face is a vapor barrier and if you put a vapor barrier in there, you’re going to trap moisture. Now, a very common scenario is people put that up in the attic, they leave the vapor barrier facing up but that’s actually wrong. The only place a vapor barrier belongs is against the heated space, which would be under the 10 inches of insulation you already have there.
So, the foil face is not a good thing. Now, I will say that you – if you really want to be frugal about this, you could probably pull that foil off and lay the unfaced batt perpendicular to what you have right now. It’ll be a bit of a messy job, because it sounds like it’s older insulation, so you’re going to have to protect yourself with dust masks and safety glasses, long sleeves and all of that.
MIKE: I don’t care to do that. But right now, in my attic, at one time I had a flat roof. And right now, I’ve got rolled tar – or not tar paper but rolled shingling up in my attic floor. That’s probably acting as a vapor barrier, I would guess, today.
TOM: It probably is, yeah. Because it would stop humidity from getting through it. The problem is that it traps it in the insulation and when it does that, the insulation doesn’t work well. Insulation that’s damp does not insulate, so that humidity is working against you.
MIKE: I have wood heat and it takes a lot of moisture out of the house. That’s probably in my favor, I would guess.
TOM: I would think so. Now, you want to preserve that wood floor? You want to use all of that wood floor space?
MIKE: I’d like to use as much as possible, yes.
TOM: Well, why don’t you do this? Kind of a way to kind of have your cake and eat it, too, is to carve out an area in the center of the attic that you reserve, basically, just for storage. And then you add unfaced fiberglass batts on top of the wood floor to the other areas. Yeah, it’s not perfect having that whatever floor covering you have in between but I still think it’s going to add some insulation to that space and help cut some of your energy bills. And unfaced fiberglass batts are not that expensive and pretty easy to handle.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Marlene in Iowa is dealing with some winter window issues. Tell us what’s going on.
MARLENE: We had our siding and our windows replaced a couple years ago. And ever since we replaced the siding and the windows, in the wintertime when we turn the furnace on and get the heat started in the house, every morning when we get up, every window in the house has moisture buildup at the bottom of the window and even to the point where it makes little pools on the windowsills. So we have to go around to every window and take a towel and dry all that moisture off the bottom of the window and out of the windowsills.
TOM: Well, the good news is you have to – you’re cleaning your windows every day, so they never get dirty.
TOM: So, the reason that’s happening is because your windows are not insulated very well. Are these thermal-pane windows?
MARLENE: They were supposed to be. They were supposed to be very good windows but we had trouble with the siding that the guy put on, so I suppose he sold us a cheap window along with the siding that we had problems with.
TOM: You see, the reason that you’re getting this condensation is because when it’s cold outside, the warm, moist air strikes the inside of the glass and it condenses. And so you probably have high humidity inside your house.
There’s a couple of things we can do to try to reduce that. But if you don’t have good, insulated window glass, that problem gets really pretty bad. It can actually add up, as you discovered, to quite a bit of water.
So, the fix, unfortunately, is to replace your windows, which is expensive. So what I would suggest that you do is take a look at all of the reasons that you get high humidity inside of a house. So, you get humidity from activities that people do: cooking, cleaning and bathing.
Make sure that if you have exhaust fans in your bathrooms, that you have the fans, they’re ducted out of the house and that they’re run on timers so that when you’re done with showers and baths, they can continue to run for 15 or 20 minutes to pull that moisture out. Make sure that you have an exhaust fan over your range, of course, that’s also, again, ducted out and not a recirculating.
Make sure that around the foundation perimeter of your house that your grading is adjusted properly. You want to make sure that soil slopes away from the walls and that your gutters and downspouts are extended. Because believe it or not, if they’re not – if the gutters are not clean, they’re not extended, if the grading is too flat, that water is going to collect in the soil around the outside of your house. It will be drawn into the foundation and then it will be wicked out of the air on the other side and work its way up through the house, increasing humidity the whole way.
So, simply by making sure you keep water away from the house, you’ll reduce humidity inside the house. Does that make sense?
TOM: So that’s why it’s happening. Those are the few things that you can do inside to reduce the amount of humidity that you have.
MARLENE: Alright. Well, you’ve been very helpful. At least I kind of understand what’s going on. Thank you and I enjoy your show.
TOM: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, one project that can really change the look of a kitchen is replacing the countertop but replacing that countertop can be an expensive project. Refinishing it isn’t and it can be easily accomplished with a kit made just for this project that we’re giving away today. How lucky is that?
TOM: Yup. It’s called the SpreadStone Countertop Finishing Kit from Daich Coatings. It’s a real stone coating so it looks great, it lasts a long time. It’s heat-resistant and water-resistant, it comes in 11 colors and you can actually get this done before the holidays. It’s that easy. It’s literally a few hours and you are complete. A single weekend and you’re done. It’s available online at HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com and at the Daich Coatings website at D-a-i-c-h – Coatings.com.
Worth 125 bucks but we’ve got one kit to give away on today’s show. If you’d like to win it, you’ve got to be in it, which means you’ve got to call us with a question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now, we’ve got Frank with a structural question. What’s going on at your money pit?
FRANK: Yes, I’ve got an older home, post-and-beam construction. I have about a 4×8 beam that’s cracked diagonally. And I’ve already poured a footer – a 2-foot by 2-foot by 6-inch footer – and I plan on bracing that. But what I’m wondering, once I jack it back into position, number one, is there an adhesive that might help hold it together? And on the sides, I want to marry in a support. Should I use OSB, plywood or a 2×8?
TOM: What you would do is you would put another beam next to it that has to go the same width. It has to go bearing point to bearing point as the split beam. And then you would glue it with a construction adhesive from the new beam to the split beam. And I would bolt them together. And if you do that on a beam-by-beam basis, then it should be an acceptable repair.
It’s just a little tricky because you’ve got to get that new beam next to the old beam and it’s going to not be straight. And you’re going to have to work around wires and plumbing and such to get it in there and nice and tight.
But take your time fitting that beam. If you get the new beam in right, then it could be quite strong.
FRANK: Alright. I appreciate the advice. Thank you.
LESLIE: Now, we’ve got Ann in Georgia on the line calling in with an air-conditioning question. How can we help you?
ANN: What happens is there is an excessive amount of dust in the house.
ANN: I mean it’s huge. So I just rake my finger across a table and you can see long particles, long hair-type – it’s not hair but it’s like long string. And it’s really, really thick. And when the pollen was really bad down here in the spring, when it was yellow pollen outside, you could – it was in the house.
TOM: Let me ask you some basic questions, Ann. First of all, you’re talking about a fan. What kind of heating system do you have in this house to begin with?
ANN: It’s a heating pump.
TOM: OK. It’s forced-air. It’s a forced-air system, right?
ANN: Yes, yes.
TOM: Alright. So, the best type of air-filtration system would be an electronic air cleaner. An electronic air cleaner would be installed on the return side of the air handler, so it would clean the air as it goes back to the air handler. And good-quality electronic air cleaners can take out all of that dust, all of that pollen, right down to virus-size particles.
Most of us rely on the fiberglass filters, which are very inexpensive; they cost maybe $1 apiece. But they don’t do very much, you know? We call them “pebble stoppers” because everything else goes right through them.
So, if you really want to clean up your house and reduce the amount of dust, you simply need a better filtration system on your HVAC system. And so, an electronic air cleaner would be that. You could take a look at models by Trane or by Aprilaire. And there are a number of others, as well.
But don’t be confused by electrostatic versus electronic. You want an electronic air cleaner because these work. And some of them charge the particles so that they have sort of magnetic attraction to the filter material. Some of them combine electronic cleaning with filtration cleaning. But either of those two brands – either Trane or Aprilaire – make very good-quality electronic air cleaners. And you’ll see a huge difference. But it’s the kind of thing that you have to have an HVAC technician professionally install. It’s not a do-it-yourself project.
ANN: OK. Sounds great. OK. Thanks so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, organizing the kids room is hard enough the rest of the time of year but the holidays definitely create special challenges. So we’ve got a few tips to make things easier.
First of all, you want to have boxes and baskets standing by. Now, many of the gifts your child is going to receive this holiday season will be complete with an array of small pieces. And without proper organization, inevitably, you’re going to lose some of those small pieces before your kid even heads back to school after the break.
So, before Christmas, you want to invest in several small boxes and baskets. Think about the things that might be arriving under the tree and think about how you can best organize them like, say, there’s a big gift of Legos. Go and get different organizers with different bits because you don’t want to be stepping on those. So just think what’s coming and think about good ways to keep those things together, This way, they go right to a spot right out of the box.
TOM: Now, before the holiday arrives, take a look at what you can do to clean up and clean out. Are there broken toys or toys that are missing most of their pieces or toys that your kids no longer play with that are taking up valuable space on their floors? Take the time now to clean out these items, get rid of the broken stuff, consign or donate toys that are in great shape but that aren’t getting played with and pack away toys that you’re saving for younger siblings.
LESLIE: Yeah. Super-duper-duper smart.
You also want to try using labels. Now, many kids struggle with understanding how to organize their toys, especially when they’re left to do it themselves. So, simple labels, pictures, maybe, for kids who are too young to read, lettered labels for the young readers, that can really go a long way towards teaching your kids how to organize their own toys, where things go, how to put stuff back. I can’t guarantee they’re going to do it all the time but at least it gives them a helping hand.
TOM: Yeah. And here’s another idea that’s maybe easier when your kids are young but older kids can often be convinced to use this strategy, too. Instead of spreading all the new stuff out, all the new toys out across the floor as soon as the gifts are open, encourage them to put a few items back for later in the year. This way, your child can pull those items out later and feel like it’s Christmas all over again.
LESLIE: Yeah. And parents, you can just go ahead and do that sometimes. I’m telling you, in the frenzy of things, they might not even notice.
Now, getting those rooms organized really might not be that room’s natural state but at least you’re going to be able to make some order out of the chaos, find the floor, ensure that your kids can find the toys when they’re looking for them, when they’re ready to play. If you can at least give them a basis to start with to then make a new mess, maybe they’ll remember how clean it was and want to go back to that way.
Carol 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.
LESLIE: Tom in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a driveway-cleaning project. What’s going on?
TOM IN TEXAS: I’ve got a driveway – a concrete driveway – that I put in about 10 years ago. And it’s maybe 60-plus feet, a couple of car lengths wide – a couple of car widths wide. And I had an oil leak in the truck and really wasn’t paying much attention to it until one day I noticed it. And there was quite a bit of staining down there, so I got some Oil-Dri, started putting it down. And it held but there’s still some staining there.
I never sealed it. And then I also get – from leaves and stuff. So, I just was wondering – I was thinking about getting a power cleaner and maybe some kind of detergent and clean it up. Or do I just live with it?
TOM: What you can do to try to clean this is to use a product called TSP – trisodium phosphate. It’s available at home centers and hardware stores, usually in the painting aisle. You mix it up into sort of a paste-like consistency, apply it to the stain, let it sit there for a little while and then you can rinse it off. And that will tend to draw the oil out of it. It’s not a miracle cure but it does a pretty good job of cleaning up oil stains.
TOM IN TEXAS: But do I need a power washer or just hose it off?
TOM: No, you just hose it off. A lot of pressure is not your friend here. It’s really just having the right products on that oil to kind of draw it out.
LESLIE: Yeah. And once – when you’re in the paint aisle getting the TSP, right next to it you can get a paint-tray liner and just maybe slide that under the truck for a little while.
TOM: There you go.
TOM IN TEXAS: I should probably just attach something under there.
TOM: Yeah, attach it and then you can set up a couple of traffic cones. And then every day when you come home, you pull up to the cones, you know that the pan under the car will be directly aligned with the leak and that’ll be it.
TOM IN TEXAS: Alright. Very good. Well, OK. I will take all that into consideration. Thank you all very much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that results from the combustion of fuel, like natural gas or oil or kerosene. And if it’s not vented right, it could make you sick or it could even cause death. And I’ve got to say, in the many years I spent inspecting homes before getting out of the crawlspace and into the radio studio, I found carbon-monoxide leaks with surprising frequency. It’s kind of scary.
LESLIE: I mean that is really scary. And that’s why you absolutely have to have your heating system tuned up every single year.
Now, Tom, we always say that but what exactly should a tech be looking for that could lead to a toxic situation?
TOM: Well, first of all, when you look at the flame in your furnace or boiler, it should be a blue flame; it should not be an orange-y flame. And you should never smell kind of a sweet, acrid odor because that is a sure sign of under-combustion – incomplete combustion, I should say. And that means you’re producing a lot of combustion gas, which you don’t have to. A lot of carbon monoxide.
The other thing to check is the venting to make sure all those gases are going out the vent, up the chimney and away from your house. Because if you’ve got bad venting, if you don’t have the proper draft, then your house could be filled with carbon monoxide.
And thirdly, something that I found a lot of when I was doing home inspections is the most important part of the furnace, that keeps the combustion gas away from the air that heats your house, is a section called a “heat exchanger.” If you think about what a typical radiator looks like in an old house, you know that the water circulates inside and your air sort of circulates over the top of it. Same principle except with a heat exchanger, what’s inside is combustion gas. And if there’s a crack in the wall between the inside and the outside of that heat exchanger, then you could mix combustion gas in with house air.
So, a lot of things that have to be checked and that’s why it’s important to have that service done right before the heating season.
LESLIE: Now, we should also mention some other sources of carbon monoxide that can be hazardous, like never run a car, use a barbeque, run a generator, even a lawn mower in an open garage. Even an open garage, guys. The fumes can rise and then fill the entire house.
TOM: And even if everything is operating properly, it’s always a good idea to have CO detectors because they’re not just a good idea, they’re even mandatory in a lot of jurisdictions. You want to make sure one exists outside of every bedroom.
You know why that is, Leslie? Because most of the deaths happen when people sleep. That’s why carbon-monoxide detectors should always be on the sleeping side of the house, outside of those bedrooms.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joan in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with a mold issue.
Tell us about it, Joan.
JOAN: Well, I’m wondering what causes dry rot and how you can tell if you have it.
TOM: OK. Well, what are you seeing, Joan?
JOAN: Coming down to the floor, there’s about an inch below the molding. And I took the carpet up and I saw sawdust down there. And I wondered if it was dry rot.
TOM: Alright. So, first of all, there’s no such thing as dry rot; there’s only wet rot. Wood that gets wet – it gets over 25-percent moist – can start to decay. Then, if that wood also dries out, that’s what people call “dry rot” but it’s really sort of a misnomer because it’s not really dry rot; it’s wet rot that has dried out.
JOAN: Oh. So we can’t cause it by overheating or under-humidifying a house.
TOM: No. Well, not overheating but if you over-humidify, I guess it’s technically possible because you’d put a lot of water in there. But no, you’re not going to cause it by overheating.
In terms of what you’re seeing under this molding, I think that would bear some further investigation. When you mentioned sawdust, I think about carpenter ants, for example. And so, I would make sure that I know exactly what’s causing this.
One of the things that you could do is you could take a picture of it and you could post it to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. We’ll take a look at it and give you an opinion. Or you could post it to the Community section at MoneyPit.com. How about that?
JOAN: That sounds great.
TOM: Well, it’s almost Christmas and you might be thinking, “Is there a project I can do before Christmas or New Year’s gets here, that’s going to make my kitchen look great?” Well, there is. You can replace your countertop if you have a lot of money. But if you don’t, you can refinish it for a lot less. And it just so happens we are giving away a kit that allows you to do just that, from our friends at Daich Coatings.,
LESLIE: That’s right. We’ve got the SpreadStone Countertop Finishing Kit from Daich Coatings. It’s made from real stone, so it’s very beautiful. It’s going to last a long time. It’s heat-resistant, it’s water-repellant. Comes in 11 colors. It really is an easy DIY project that you can get done in – get this, guys – a single weekend. So that is a major transformation in a short amount of time.
It’s available for $125 and you can find it online at Home Depot, Lowe’s and the Daich Coatings website. Let me spell that for you. It’s D-a-i-c-h-C-o-a-t-i-n-g-s – DaichCoatings.com.
Bill in California, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
BILL: I’m looking for the best way to seal up a French door on my house. Where the two doors go together or shut together, they won’t – they don’t seal.
TOM: They don’t seal properly?
TOM: So, that’s called the “astragal” where they come together; that’s that molding configuration. And so are you getting water through these doors, Bill? Or are you getting just drafts?
BILL: Just drafts.
TOM: The first thing I would do is I would examine the fit of the doors when they come together, to see if the doors are actually closing evenly up and down. So if there’s a little bit more of a gap at the top or the bottom, that’s a different issue and you’d have to physically adjust the door so that that doesn’t happen anymore.
The second thing is I would look at the seal – sorry, the sill – where the door closes, to make sure that the sill is continuous. And an easy way to do that is with light. If you were to kneel down on one side of that door and shine a flashlight in to see if you saw the light coming under the door, that might give you an indication as to whether or not you have gaps at that sill level.
The third thing is that there is typically a hole in that configuration of the door where air gets in at the very top and at the very bottom, where you need about a 1-inch-square piece of weather-stripping to seal it. And that’s where the doors come together at the top and the bottom.
And then the rest of that, I would just look at the existing weather-stripping that’s on that door, make sure it’s getting a tight seal all the way up and down. You really have to look at it in components, to try to determine which part of that is broken down and which part of it is most responsible for the air leakage that you’re getting in there, Bill.
BILL: Oh, OK. Take a look at those items then.
TOM: Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, your basement may serve as your home storage area, (inaudible) and extra play space for the kiddos. Maybe it’s even your laundry room or perhaps it’s everything. But basements can also be a major source of wasted energy usage.
Now, experts from the U.S. Department of Energy say making some quick and low-cost basement improvements will save you on energy usage, make your home more comfortable and usable and improve your indoor-air quality and save you some money on those utility bills. We’re going to tell you how to do just that, in today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Now, here’s how you get started. First up, inspect your basement or crawlspace area. Look at the complete area – the wall surface, the underside of the floors – and try to identify any air leaks that are caused by gaps or holes, like those around pipes or vents or wiring or any kind of gap or draft that comes in around doors or windows. If you find them, seal them. Fill the small gaps with caulk. If you’ve got bigger holes, you can use expandable spray-foam insulation. If you’ve got lighting down there, make sure that it’s energy-efficient and to make sure you add it to each of the basement lighting fixtures.
LESLIE: For more ways to save, the Department of Energy website at Energy.gov features a list of minor improvements that you can make to get your basement as energy-efficient as possible.
TOM: And that is today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card. Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Susan in Missouri has a question about a fireplace. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
SUSAN: Well, I have a gas fireplace and it’s one of those where they seem to have cut the hole in the wall and stuck the fireplace in there and now I cannot stop the wind from blowing in. I don’t know what to do.
TOM: OK. So, is the wind coming in the hole where the gas pipe is coming through?
SUSAN: It seems to be coming from all around the fireplace. It’s got the mantel and it comes from around the mantel. And anywhere where there’s – where it’s been put together, it seems to have air coming in. And of course, it is coming in – it’s got the outside box, I guess. They have the exhaust.
TOM: OK. So this sounds to me like it’s a manufactured fireplace as opposed to an old, brick one that was converted to gas. Is that correct?
SUSAN: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes.
TOM: And it has doors on it, too?
SUSAN: No. It does not.
TOM: Do you know what the brand is of the fireplace?
SUSAN: A Lennox, I believe.
TOM: Well, the first thing I would do is I would take a look at the installation. And very often, there’s probably gaps somewhere around that box that were not properly sealed. I could – I would also consider contacting Lennox and getting the original installation instructions. You may even be able to download those, which would give you or your contractor a guide to determine if it was correctly installed. And then, thirdly, I would find out if doors are available for that fireplace, because that could solve all your problems.
SUSAN: Oh, OK. OK.
TOM: Especially if it’s a gas fireplace premade and it has a combustion air supply, you may be able to keep that all behind the glass doors and stop all the drafts from coming through.
SUSAN: Oh, that’s a great idea. Thank you. I’ll try that.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ruth has reached out and asks if it’s expensive to swap a toilet and a shower if you have a crawlspace and you’re already planning and budgeting to remove the tile on the floors.
TOM: You know, it’s not just a matter of removing the tile on the floors. In fact, that has very little to do with this particular project, except for the cosmetics. But you’re presuming, Ruth, that the drains are the same for a toilet and for a shower and they’re not. They’re quite different. The toilet drain is much larger. It has to be positioned in a very unique way.
So, while you can do the project, basically, you have to rework all of the drain lines as part of this. So it’s not necessarily an inexpensive job.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, we’ve got one from Ryan who says, “The bedroom in our 1963 house doesn’t get as warm compared to the rest of the house. We close our doors during the work day, have new replacement windows and the furnace is only 5 years old. Any idea what the problem might be?”
TOM: So, uneven heating and cooling could be caused on a number of things. The first thing that jumps out at me, though, is you say you close your bedroom doors. Unless you have a proper gap underneath those doors, you may not be getting air back to the return duct, which is usually located, in a 1960s house, in the center hallway, upstairs or downstairs. And if the doors are closed tight, then you may not be getting that return back and that’s not going to cycle the air enough to actually warm it.
The other thing I would do – and what I would do first – is I would check my insulation levels above the second floor because most 1960s houses don’t have enough. You ought to see 15 to 20 inches of nice, fluffy fiberglass up there. If you don’t, add unfaced fiberglass batts and see how that goes. I bet you that one improvement can make a huge difference in your comfort.
LESLIE: I mean for sure. Just adjusting the insulation in the attic does make a big change because it’s like putting on a hat when you’re outside and it’s cold. It’s the hat for the house.
TOM: Well, some leaks are minor, some leaks are major but there’s only one major leak that I know of that can be avoided with a $20 part. Leslie explains, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Imagine having a leak so bad that it collapses the ceiling of the floor below and then pretty much ruins all of your furniture. We actually had this happen at my mom’s house because the heating system ran out of oil and the weather was so bad they couldn’t come and refill it. And the pipes froze and then burst when things warmed up. And the whole ceiling collapsed, there was water everywhere. Pretty much every piece of furniture was ruined. But you know what? You can avoid things like this by replacing a $20 part.
Now, wondering what that part is? Because lots of different things around your house can freeze and cause a gigantic mess. I’m talking, in this case, about a hose that feeds water to your washing machine. And when it breaks – and it will break – it can leak thousands of gallons of water.
Now, this is a problem that has caused homeowners countless heartaches over the years for one reason. Manufacturers ship new machines with rubber washing-machine hoses and that rubber wears out. The hoses are going to crack, it’s going to form blisters and then they will eventually break. And that can lead to dumping thousands of gallons of water onto the floor below and below that and below that. It really depends on where you’ve got your washer.
Now, the best way to prevent this is to remove your washer’s rubber hoses and replace them with those braided stainless-steel hoses. This is going to cost about 20 bucks but those hoses never, ever break. So, you want to shut off the washer supply valves, remove and replace the old rubber hoses with those stainless braided ones. It’s a super easy DIY project and it’s one that’s going to give you lots of peace of mind and potentially save you lots and lots of money.
TOM: Yeah. There’s one group of people who always change out those hoses before they break: those are the ones that have had a hose break.
LESLIE: For sure.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, if you’re getting ready to refresh your home with some new décor but worried that your budget may not be ready to handle the hit, we’re going to share five ways to save lots of money redecorating your home sweet home, 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.)