- Improving your insulation is the easiest and least expensive way to get comfortable and save money. To help, Tom & Leslie review the most popular types of insulation – including a new “itch-free” fiberglass insulation plus another that’s fire resistant to over 2000 degrees!
- A serious commercial stove can boost both your cooking powers, and your home’s resale value. We’ll share what you need to know if you’re looking for one of these brawny commercial beauties in your kitchen.
- And are you laying your head down on a bed of bacteria every night? We have tips to help de-tox your mattress to keep IT clean and YOU, healthy. Plus how to spot and get rid of bedbugs.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Joan in California is ready for a kitchen remodel and doesn’t know where to start!
- Kirk from North Dakota is ready to convert incandescent bulbs to LED’s and needs to know how lumens compares to light bulb wattage.
- Jody in Delaware needs help fixing a foundation with dry lock that is peeling off.
- Robert in North Dakota wants to know what the best way to heat a big space.
- Carol from Ohio has a cutting project and needs to know what’s the best blade to cut a door with.
- Louis in Pennsylvania needs tips to choose the best replacement water 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: Hope you guys are enjoying a beautiful January day in your part of the country. Hope you’re nice and toasty and warm if you’re inside. If you’re fixing up your inside space because you are spending a lot more time in it with the chilly weather, we would love to help you do just that. Or if you’re planning an escape for the spring, maybe you want to build that beautiful outdoor-living space, spruce up the deck, build a patio. Whatever is on your to-do list, slide it right over to ours by reaching out to us with those questions. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can also post your questions to our social media pages. Those links are all on MoneyPit.com. Or you can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up on today’s show, if you’ve thought about adding solar panels to your home to reduce energy costs, did you know that not all panels deliver the same amount of electricity? It’s important to understand this because you may need more or less, depending on what the panel is capable of doing. We’re going to top-line those details, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And if you like homes that feel bigger than they are, there’s a new trend in what’s known as broken or semi-open floor plan. And that’s beginning to catch on. We’re going to share all those details on this new trend, coming up.
TOM: And with half a winter behind us, it’s time to think about making sure your outdoor trees will bloom this spring. We’re going to share some tips on keeping the trees alive through the remaining chilly months.
LESLIE: But first, do you need help with a renovation, a repair, a decorating project? Whatever it is that you are working on, we’re here to help you create your best home ever. So give us a call and let us know what you are working on.
TOM: That number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT; that’s 888-666-3974. Or post those questions to MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Pat in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
PAT: Yeah. I have a question about some flooring. Our flooring is about 25 years old. We have carpet and vinyl laminate on about 800 square feet. And I know the subfloor is good but I want to pull up the old carpets and lay some flooring down. And I saw some vinyl – some of the new vinyl-plank stuff.
Now, I’ve laid a laminate floor before that had the backing attached and that wasn’t too bad. And I was just curious – the main floor, I want to do it all together because it all runs together. But it’s got a bathroom. It’s a quarter-bath and a kitchen and a dining room and the family room and a landing in a hall. So there’s lots of corners and stuff like that. And I’m just curious what your opinion is on that new vinyl-plank flooring. Is it easier to install, more durable?
TOM: Yeah. I think you’re talking about the engineered vinyl plank, I think. The EVP?
LESLIE: It’s like the rubberized vinyl. It looks like a plank. Some of them glue together with an overlapped tab that has an adhesive already on it. Some of them, you actually put an adhesive down, almost like a mastic, and then apply it like a tile. So it depends on which kind you’re looking at, because one of them is much thicker than the other and they both then have a different prep and a different adhesion process. So I think you really need to look into which that is.
PAT: Mm-hmm. Now, the one I saw at the home show here, locally, was – it was kind of – it was a vinyl. You could bend it and it looked like a wood grain but it was kind of a click-together installation. But it wasn’t like the solid, the firm laminate flooring that clicks together. It wasn’t soft. You can’t bend that but this vinyl stuff you could bend. And it looked pretty nice.
TOM: Yeah, Pat. You’re talking about a product called EVP or engineered vinyl plank. That’s another type of vinyl flooring much newer to the market. But from what I’ve seen of it, it’s 100-percent waterproof. It does click together much like other types of laminate floor would and the finish on it is super durable. Lumber Liquidators makes one that has a 30-year finish on it and it looks just like wood. So that is definitely another option for you.
PAT: Now, do you – the stuff I’ve laid before already has the backing attached. The click-together laminate? That has backing attached. Now, for something like this, do you just lay it right over the subfloor and the linoleum in the case as long as it’s even and good?
TOM: Yeah. In fact, this is a floating floor much like a regular laminate floor would be. So it’s not adhered to the old floor; it lays on top of it. So, as you say, as long as the floor is flat with no big dips or bumps or humps in it, then it just is going to lock together and lay right there and you’re going to trim it along the edge, against the baseboard molding.
PAT: OK. Well, thank you for your help.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: We’ve got Philip in Massachusetts on the line who’s dealing with a roofing issue. So tell us what’s going on at your place.
PHILIP: I was going to replace the roof on the backside of the house. It’s a Cape Cod. I was wondering about what type of roof would be the best for this application and if I should use ice guard. I’ve had a problem with backup under the shingles in the frozen, 30-degree weather.
TOM: Yeah. Definitely, in the Massachusetts area, you’re going to want to have ice-and-water shield because you get a lot of snow that kind of cakes up on the gutter, it forms to ice. Then as the snow melts higher up on the roof, it runs down, hits that sort of blockage and backs up into the house.
So, well, what you’re going to want to do is take existing layers of shingles off because you can’t put ice-and-water shield on top of an old roof. So you go right down to the roof sheathing. And then you’re going to use ice-and-water shield. The biggest name in that is Grace – G-r-a-c-e – Grace Ice & Water Shield is a good product. It’s about 3 feet wide and it goes along that bottom lip, that bottom edge of the roof right above the gutter. You don’t have to go beyond that because the ice dams don’t form up higher on the roof. You just put it along the bottom edge, front and back.
In terms of the shingle quality, you have a lot of choices in shingles today. The first one is going to be cosmetic, whether you want sort of a standard shingle or you – one that emulates wood. So dimensional shingles are the ones that can look like a wood-shake roof, even though they’re made out of asphalt. And generally speaking, you’re going to probably want something that’s in the basic 20-, 25-year range.
I would not get bamboozled by manufacturers that have 50-year warranties. Because when it comes to roofing-shingle warranties, it only covers the roofing shingle; it doesn’t cover the labor. And it only covers it on a pro-rated basis. So if you’re – let’s just say you were dutiful enough to keep all of your paperwork and your 50-year warrantied shingles only last 25 and you had all that documentation, they go, “Yep. It definitely failed. Here’s half the cost of new shingles. You’re on your own for the rest.” And that’s the way that works.
So, I think, you know, 20-, 25-year average life for a roof shingle is reasonable and your only decision is whether or not you want one that’s dimensional, that has that sort of pattern to it, or just sort of a plain shingle.
LESLIE: Heading to Florida where Caroline is on the line and has some rusty doors that need painting. How can we help you?
CAROLINE: I’m needing to repaint or fix my garage doors. They’re metal. And I don’t know what I have to do. They do have some rust on them and so I guess I’m going to have to sand them down and treat them. But I just don’t really know what to use on them.
TOM: So that’s a pretty straightforward project. So the first thing you need to do is you need to sand off those rust spots because you don’t want to paint over the rust. So you want to sand them off. You use a very fine-grit sandpaper for that. Probably something that’s around 200, 300 grit, like an emery paper, will work well for that.
And then next, you do need to prime them. I would recommend Rust-Oleum. And you can buy that by the quart, by the gallon. You’re going to want to prime that whole door. And by the way, aside from sanding that rust spot, you want to lightly sand the whole door to make sure it’s clean. Because again, you don’t want to have anything in between that and the primer. Then you can use a Rust-Oleum primer on the entire door.
And then on top of that, you’re going to use – I would just stay with the Rust-Oleum line and use a topcoat of color from there. It’s a little tricky when you’re dealing with garage doors. You have to sort of have them propped open a little bit because otherwise, the door, when it closes, it rubs against the weather-stripping. And of course, that mars up the paint finish. So, you’re going to have to sort of pick a day when it’s warm enough where you can have that garage door open and let it dry. And just don’t put it down all the way. If you leave it sort of suspended in the air about maybe halfway down, you’ll probably be OK.
I would work one side at a time. It’s going to be a bit of a time-consuming project but it’s pretty straightforward and it’s not that difficult.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Eric in Michigan on the line who’s got a question during a construction project here about an eavestrough.
ERIC: The question is: eavestrough, yes or no? When you’re building, does it make a difference if it’s on a concrete slab or if you have a basement? Get your thoughts whether to install these troughs or not.
LESLIE: Yeah. Tom, I’ve never heard this term before. What is an eavestrough? Do we have those here?
TOM: Ah, yes. You say gutter but in Michigan, they say eavestrough.
LESLIE: Ah. The famous tomato, tomato, gutter, eavestrough. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
TOM: Tomato. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Your question is: “Do I need gutters?” And yes, you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a concrete slab or if you have a basement, because the gutters are going to manage the water to the foundation perimeter, which is important in both cases.
Now, if you let a lot of water run off your roof, even if you’re on a slab, you’re going to find that as the soil gets very wet around the foundation, you’ll have more settlement and you’ll get some cracking. And also, in some cases, if there’s a heavy rainfall, you’d get so much water that because concrete is so hydroscopic – it absorbs water like crazy – it can actually pull that water up into the living space of your house. Now you’ve got mold issues and everything else. So, yes, you do need gutters. And if you basements, well, if you don’t have gutters, you’re just waiting for a flood to happen. You’re ready for it because it’s going to happen.
So yes, put gutters on the house, put downspouts on the house. Make sure they are extended at least – this is new construction, so I would say at least 4 or 5 feet away. And when they do the final grade, do a little bit higher of a grade than they are required to by code, because it settles and it settles quickly. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the minimum grade just turn flat within 6 months to a year. And now you’ve got no drainage at all and the water’s just sitting there.
So, that water management is really, really important, Eric, and that’s why I think you definitely should have eavestroughs around the roof edge of your house.
LESLIE: Hmm. That’s fancy. I’m going to start using that every day of my life. “Oh, that eavestrough is overflowing.”
TOM: Use that in a sentence in your general conversation.
LESLIE: “Hey, kids. Keep those tennis balls out of the eavestrough.”
TOM: There you go.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re thinking about adding a solar-energy system to your home so that you can reduce or eliminate your electricity bill, one of the decisions that you’re going to need to make is which type of solar panel you’re installing. Because there’s actually a lot of options out there and I think people don’t realize that.
TOM: Yeah. Now, panels are going to vary by the number of cells, which would typically be 60 or 72. And the difference really comes down to the actual physical dimensions, since panels that hold more cells are physically larger and they have to be fitted properly on your existing roof space.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you also want to consider cost per watt. Now, full-sized panels typically deliver anywhere between 275 watts to 400 watts of output. But higher output doesn’t always mean a better deal.
TOM: Yeah. And next, you’re going to want to consider the reputation of the panel manufacturer. Now, that’s important because these panels, they’re going to be with you for a while. They’re designed to last 25 years or more and you’re going to want to be confident that the manufacturer is going to be there the whole time.
LESLIE: Yeah. And along those same lines, you want to consider the warranty. Now, most are 25 years but some can be 30 years. And one manufacturer even has a third-party company that backs the warranty the entire time so that in the unlikely event that something happens to the manufacturer, that third-party company would be the one to handle those issues.
TOM: And lastly – and this is really important – you want to consider the panel efficiency, which basically tells you how good the panel is at converting sunlight into that important, usable energy. It’s particularly important if you have limited space for your panels on your roof, because high-efficiency panels are more expensive but they deliver more power output per square foot of that precious available space. Which, again, is particularly helpful when you have a really tight roof-space situation. Because you need to not only have the space but the roof has to face the right direction. So that efficiency number is really critical. So you have to kind of balance that against the cost of the panel.
LESLIE: Heading out to Fayetteville, Pennsylvania where Deb’s on the line.
So, I’ve heard about ring around the collar, I’ve heard about ring around the tub. But you’ve got a ring around the sink? What’s going on?
DEB: My problem is that I have a bathroom-counter combination sink that’s beautiful, it’s creamy yellow, I love it. Nothing’s wrong with it except right around the drain is this ugly black that won’t come off. And my husband says I might have to just replace the whole sink. I said it’s ridiculous. Everything’s perfect except that spot. There’s got to be something to use.
He mentioned something like a Lime-A-Way. We haven’t tried anything yet. But it’s like I said: just a ring around the drain part. Everything else in the sink is perfect. I’d hate to get rid of the whole thing for that. There’s got to be something, even if we have to sand it or something. Maybe there’s a new product to get rid of that black. But it’s really a shame because everything else is perfect.
TOM: Yeah, Deborah. I know what you’re talking about. And what happens is – that is the area of the sink with a composite sink, which is I’m pretty sure what you’re referring to, where it really wears. The finish on the sink wears and then over the years, you get just sort of the dirt and the grime that embeds itself into that space. Sometimes you get a reaction between the metal drain that’s there and the sink itself.
It’s funny you mention sanding. I think if you’ve done all this sort of over-the-counter product attempts – I would try CLR maybe, just to make sure you’ve checked that off the list. That’s the Calcium Lime Rust Remover. But I would try that. I would also try an oxygenated bleach.
But if those two things don’t work, you could consider disconnecting the drain, basically pulling that all out and then seeing if you could abrade some of that dark area away with some steel wool. I don’t think sandpaper will work but it would allow you to have a better shot at it. And then when you put it back together, make sure you use a new drain connection from the top side, because you will stop getting any additional deterioration. And you might even consider one that has a slightly wider – like it has a slightly wider lip on that metal drain. That would actually cover the old black, which is probably forming between the drain itself and the sink.
So, there’s a couple of ideas for you. Hopefully one of those will straighten this problem out without you having to replace the entire thing.
LESLIE: Mike in Arizona is on the line.
You’ve got a question about siding. What’s going on?
MIKE: My house currently has western redcedar as siding but it’s 20 years old and really in bad shape. And I’m wondering, because of my local place, if I can go with a pine tongue-and-groove siding versus a western redcedar tongue-and-groove siding if it would be appropriate for this area.
TOM: So, Mike, you want to replace the western redcedar with pine but you’re going to basically have the same situation. The fact that you’re replacing wood with wood, that pine in 20 years is going to look just as bad, if not worse. Because, by the way, pine is not as insect-resistant and not as decay-resistant as cedar is. So if you really want wood siding and the existing wood siding is just deteriorated, I would simply replace it with more western redcedar.
Now, that said, if you want to get away from wood siding, I would take a serious look at HardiePlank siding or HardieShingle siding. The Hardie sidings are really well-made and they’re basically a cement siding. And they are pre-painted at the factory. I, for example, have wood shingles on my house and I have HardieShingles on my garage. And from the street, they look identical. But I can tell you that I will be doing a lot more painting of the house than I will of the garage because those shingles just don’t wear out.
LESLIE: How long have I had my HardieShingles? Ten years now?
LESLIE: All I do is occasionally power-wash a little area. The house looks pristine.
TOM: Right. All I’ve had to do was spray a little mildicide on it to get rid of some of the moss that likes to grow on it. But other than that, it looks perfect. It has shown no wear whatsoever. It’s just amazing stuff.
LESLIE: No. And it looks like the real deal.
TOM: It does.
LESLIE: It looks like real shingles, so there’s no downside.
TOM: Yeah. So you’re not picking up any benefit by replacing cedar siding with pine siding. But if you want to pick up a benefit, I would switch out and maybe go with a Hardie. Or if you really like the wood, then just go with the cedar again but this time, use a solid-color stain on it. That’s going to give it more protection. You’ll have to do that probably about every 5 years to keep it from cracking and checking and wearing out again.
LESLIE: Heading over to Illinois where Lynn is on the line who’s having a bit of trouble getting her mail these days.
What’s going on?
LYNN: I have a mailbox that’s been closed in a brick enclosure – an ornamental brick enclosure. And the mailbox has rusted and the door eventually fell off and I couldn’t reattach it. So, I’m just wondering – it’s a pretty small mailbox inside that enclosure, so I can’t slip another one in inside it. But I was just wondering if there’s any suggestions of what I can do about that.
TOM: Wow. Yeah, that’s definitely a hassle. And sure, that metal box that was surrounded by brick is definitely going to have a life expectancy, which you’re apparently at the end of right now, Lynn. So let me make you a couple of suggestions.
First of all, that mailbox had to have been installed into that brick with some sort of mechanical fastener. So the mason would have made the brick surround it but he also would have had to have attached it in some way. I suspect that if you look – perhaps you need a bright flashlight for this. If you look deep into that metal mailbox, you’re probably going to see the heads of some bolts or nuts or screws that are sticking through the sides of that mailbox.
I’m going to tell you how I would do it. You may not have the tools for this or the patience for it. But what I would do is I would cut the head of that screw off from the inside of the mailbox. I mean this is something I would do with a Sawzall. You could probably also do it, frankly, with just a hacksaw blade if you’re patient enough. You’ll slide it flush with the metal mailbox and basically saw back and forth. It’s a little rough to handle, so just use some tape on the raw part of the blade that you’re holding on. And be careful not to slip because you could cut yourself doing this.
But you’ve got to cut those screwheads off. That should loosen this box enough for you to get it out. And you may have to pry it a little bit, eventually. Try to get it out with as least damage as possible but just yank it out of that hole. Now you’ve got this clean hole to work with. And at this point, I would just get online and just start searching for mailbox upon mailbox upon mailbox and see if I could find one that has a dimension that feels like it would work.
You know, Amazon Prime is perfect for this, if you have it, because they usually have free returns. And you could order three or four of them until you find one that fits and send the rest back.
And I also might suggest that, nowadays, a lot of those mailboxes are made up of very sturdy plastic, which is simply not going to corrode like the metal one did. I bet when this was first installed, there was no such thing as a plastic mailbox that was sturdy. These new mailboxes are made out of a really sort of industrial-strength plastic. I’m not quite sure what it is but I’ve seen them and played with them and they’re pretty tough. I would suggest you slip one of those into that brick opening, because it’d certainly be worth the extra effort so that you don’t have to disassemble that brick portion of the mailbox holder, so to speak, to get this project completed.
LESLIE: Well, if you had the choice, guys, would you love to have an open floor plan? You know, a lot of people do. Most open floor plans consist of one large space or a great room and that combines your kitchen, your dining and your living area, which can give you a very refreshing, open feeling. It’s for some people; it’s not for everybody. So you’ve got to decide how you can best live within this space.
TOM: Now, another benefit of an open floor plan is that it maximizes space, both visually and literally. So you’re not likely to wind up with an unused formal dining room, for example, or a living room that’s only used when company’s coming. That wide-open line of sight also provides sort of a sense of continuity and it allows the furnishings and style of your home to shine.
But Leslie, you always say that figuring out how to place furniture is additionally a bit more complicated when you have sort of an open style like that, right?
LESLIE: Oh, for sure. Because you still want that furniture, even though the space itself is open. You want those furnishings to kind of create those rooms, you know what I’m saying? So it’s like there’s tables that go behind couches and there’s different areas and different things to sort of say, “I’m a living room. I’m the dining area. I’m the kitchen area. I’m the hangout zone.” So you have to really think about that. And I think it’s important, when you’re doing this, to think about plug placement. Do you need something in the floor because that’s where a lamp is going to be?
So there’s a lot more to think about but interestingly, realtors are seeing that most first- or second-time home buyers really love this open-concept living. I mean even those who’ve been used to living with that traditional closed-plan home, they’re really looking for ways to remove walls, open things up. I’m kind of a fan of this little bit of a mix of it. So maybe your kitchen opens to the family room but then there’s still separation to a dining area. I like that sort of mix of it all, if that’s such a thing.
TOM: Yeah. I think, all in all, if an open floor plan is a look you enjoy, it’s kind of a remodeling project that does result in a very desirable design that’s no doubt going to add some value and some interest to your home when it comes time to sell. And you know what? If you sell your house and all your furniture is out, let the new buyer figure out how they’re going to fit their stuff into that flow, right?
LESLIE: Yeah. Let that person that does the virtual rendering that says, “If your house could look like this” – let them come up with some ideas.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
LESLIE: Rebecca in Tennessee is on the line with a question about a crack in a foundation. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
REBECCA: Well, let’s see. Where do I start? I have an external chimney. I believe they said it was limestone. There are cracks that are going from the bottom of it all the way to the top, on the front. And if you’re facing it, on the right side, as well. And on the inside, around the mantel, let me put it to you this way: there are paint chips that have shifted about an inch above from where they were originally on the wall. And there are cracks kind of coming from the vicinity of the chimney, down to the windowsill.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
REBECCA: I had someone take a look at it and he said the foundation under the chimney was cracked. And what it is – I’ve really been given two different opinions as to what I need to do to fix it.
TOM: OK. Let me ask you a question, Rebecca. The person you had look at it, was this a chimney contractor or a mason?
REBECCA: It was a – he’s actually a roofer, an external specialist. But he also works on chimneys. He …
TOM: OK. So it’s a contractor. And who was the second opinion from? Another contractor?
REBECCA: Yes, another contractor.
REBECCA: And one opinion is the chimney needs to be torn completely down. And the other one is it needs to be knocked down to the roof level and tied into the roof.
TOM: Now, let me ask you a question here, Rebecca: what do both of these guys have in common?
REBECCA: I don’t know.
TOM: They both want your money. That’s what they have in common, OK?
REBECCA: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah.
TOM: So they have a conflict of interest.
This is a significant project and a potentially serious one and one that may go deeper than what you’re seeing. What you’re telling me is concerning because of the number of cracks and the evidence of movement. So, I’m going to tell you that what you should do is find a professional home inspector. You can find one that’s certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors and have that inspector look at your chimney. Either a home inspector or a structural engineer but not a contractor.
A home inspector does not do work on the house. They only inspect, so they don’t have that conflict of interest. If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, which is ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org or I think it’s also HomeInsector.com, you can enter in your zip code. You’ll get a list of certified inspectors in your area. You can call a few, chat with them about what’s going on.
They’ll charge you a small fee: maybe $100 or $200, I would guess, to do what’s called a “partial inspection.” It’s basically they come out and look at one item. But I really think you need a set of skilled eyes looking at that, where the guy is not trying to sell you a repair, to tell you what exactly is going on and what has to happen, before you start spending money with these contractors.
They may be completely right but I’m uncomfortable whenever you have a contractor that says, “You’ve got a problem, lady, but I’m just the guy to fix it for you.” It’s just a big conflict of interest and you’ve got to guard against it, OK?
REBECCA: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Susan in Texas is on the line with a water question. What’s going on?
SUSAN: My daughter has a country home she just purchased and there’s a 900-foot-deep water well on it. And she wanted to know, does she need to use a water softener or a carbon filter for the drinking water? And also, how much electricity would that use, that water well?
TOM: Well, the first thing she needs to do is to have a comprehensive water test done. Was that done?
SUSAN: I believe so because they had inspectors come out. But I don’t remember what she said.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I wouldn’t believe anything unless I had a result back from a water-testing laboratory. That’s going to tell you what kind of treatment you need to do locally. So, the first thing she needs to do is to get a water test done – a thorough water test done – that’s going to check for all sorts of contaminants and pesticides and that sort of thing. And then based on that, you can determine what you want to do to treat the water. But you just don’t start treating it first. You start with the test and the test is what determines what needs to be treated. Make sense?
SUSAN: Yes. Lots of sense, yes.
TOM: Well, with about half of the winter behind us, it’s a good time to think about making sure your outdoor trees are going to actually bloom this spring. There are some steps that you can do right now to make sure that those trees actually survive the remaining colder weather ahead and are good to go when it warms up.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, it’s important to know the trees aren’t just hanging out when the weather’s cold. They’re actually working to conserve food and energy and protecting their growing parts underneath those layers known as buds, which are very, very vulnerable this time of year.
TOM: Now, one thing you can do to help your trees is to keep them warm, so to speak, through the winter by making sure you add a thin layer of composted organic mulch to the tree’s soil surface, which helps protect those roots from extreme temperatures. If you happen to get a warmer day, go ahead and add another layer of it midwinter, just to make sure that they are totally covered.
LESLIE: Yeah. And if the tree is on the younger side and it hasn’t developed that corky bark, you want to wrap it and you need to keep pets and animals away, too, during this very delicate time.
TOM: Yeah. And lastly, you want to resist the urge to prune too many dead branches. Cuts need to be made selectively until the weather warms up. So if there’s something that looks kind of dangerous, yeah, go ahead and trim that. But for the rest of it, just wait until the spring.
LESLIE: Heading over to Baltimore where Lydia is on the line with a question about insulation. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
LYDIA: Well, I would like to know what kind of insulation we should go for.
TOM: OK. So, right now, do you know what kind of insulation you have in the attic? Most homes have fiberglass. Is that what you have?
LYDIA: I don’t know what’s up there.
TOM: OK. Tell me how old your house is, Lydia. Any idea?
LYDIA: About 25 years old.
TOM: OK. Well, most likely it has the original fiberglass insulation. And in a 25-year-old house, that’s going to have settled down and be fairly compressed and not doing a great job insulating your home. So that means you’re probably spending more than you have to on heat.
So here’s what I would do. I would add 8 to 10 inches of unfaced fiberglass batts. So that’s no paper face, no foil face. And you lay those perpendicular – so 90 degrees – to the floor joists that are up there. And this will create a second layer of insulation. It’ll make a big impact in improving the energy efficiency of your home.
Now, you will have to give away some storage space, because you can’t crush that insulation. It has to remain thick and fluffy to do its job. But I think if you put another layer of, say, 8- to 10-inch unfaced fiberglass batts up there, you will be far more comfortable in that home this winter.
LESLIE: Liz writes in and she says, “We want to add a deck or patio to our backyard. Which one is going to add more value to the home: a wood deck or a patio of pavers?”
TOM: Well, frankly, the idea that you can create living space beyond the four walls of your house is a really popular home improvement project. And some reports say that installing a deck will give you as much as a 75-percent return on investment when it comes time to sell.
Patios are not rated, Liz, but I would expect the results to be similar. It’s more important to use the right application here because if your door at the back of your house, whether it’s a slider or just a regular door, if it’s up more than about 8 inches or maybe it’s like one step down, you definitely might want to think about a patio. If it’s higher than that, use a deck. What you don’t want to do is build a deck too low to the ground because it becomes kind of a rotty, nasty, sort of algae-covered mess at that point and that’s not going to add any value to your house.
LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with those projects. It sounds fun.
TOM: Well, if you’ve ever tried to furniture-shop, you know it can be somewhat overwhelming. Many of the decisions you’re faced with, when considering a new sofa or an easy chair, is the material. Now, leather is durable but it’s expensive. However, fabric might not stand up to your daily grind. And if you’ve got pets, oh, man, that further complicates everything. Well, Leslie has got some tips to help us all sort it out, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
Leslie? Where do we begin?
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, when you’re choosing between leather and fabric, there’s a lot of things that you need to consider. Now, most leather types, they’re pretty easy to clean. A damp cloth is usually all that you need to wipe down the sofa. Leather is going to be very durable; it can outlive a fabric by many years if you take care of it properly. It’s clean-looking, it kind of has a sophisticated, modern look. And I mean it really can have a different look, depending on the frame or shape of that piece of furniture, as well.
But some people find – and this includes me – that the leather furnishings, it’s kind of cold to the touch. And when you sit on it in the warmer months or if it’s humid, you kind of get stuck to it. So those aren’t my favorite options when it comes to leather, those reasons there. Also, with leather, you’re not going to get as many color options as you would with a fabric. Obviously, one’s a hide and one’s a manufactured thing.
Now, for fabrics, there’s a lot of colors out there, there’s a ton of patterns. It can feel warm and cozy, it can feel inviting. I’m not saying that leather doesn’t also but there is definitely two very different feels when it comes to these materials.
Now, some fabric sofas are going to have a removable cover that allows them to be professionally cleaned. On the downside, though, fabrics can be very easily stained, so they’re not as durable as leather. And then, sometimes, depending on the fabric that you pick or the pattern that you pick or the texture of it, it can get more dated or feel more dated more quickly than a leather furnishing would.
So there’s a lot of stuff to consider. You really have to weigh your pros and cons to decide what’s best for you. I’ve got two boys. I feel like every time I pick something, it doesn’t really matter what I pick. They manage to destroy everything. So, I look for pieces of furniture that are cleanable, that have fabrics that I can definitely wash, that no matter how much chocolate is eaten on the couch – regardless of me saying, “Hey, buddy, use a napkin. Don’t eat it on the couch” – I’m still able to clean that chocolate off the couch. So you’ve got to really look at your lifestyle and then decide what’s going to sort of get you through the long haul.
I’ve also decided that I’m not allowed to have anything nice until – I don’t know. When is it, Tom? When they leave the house? When can I buy nice things again?
TOM: Well, listen. So let’s think about that, right? So my three have left the house …
LESLIE: But they come back.
TOM: With dogs.
TOM: With dogs, OK? So that totally has an effect on furniture choice. It never really ends.
LESLIE: So, guys, just pick what’s going to get you through.
TOM: Alright. Well, it sounds like we’ve got to get out of here. I hear our music.
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.
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