TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are so glad you’re here with us today. And we are standing by to help you tackle your home improvement project. So, if you’ve got a project on your mind and if it’s on your to-do list, let’s slide it on over to our list. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’ll get you the answer to your home improvement question and it will most likely be correct. Well, we’re hoping that it will. But it would be worth more than what you pay for it, 888-666-3974.
Hey, coming up this hour, with summer just a few months away, is your A/C on its last legs? You wondering how you’d even know? Well, we’ve got tips on the life spans of common household appliances and when it’s best to replace them.
LESLIE: And also ahead, if you’re due for a new furnace soon, we’re going to tell you what you should be looking for as you shop for the new one, including what kind of warranty you should get.
TOM: Plus, if your utility bills are getting more expensive every month, you might want to consider an energy audit. It will help you see just exactly how much energy you’re consuming at home and tell you how to cut costs. We’ll tell you all about energy audits, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And we’re giving away a stud sensor worth 20 bucks this hour.
TOM: Yep. It makes finding studs quick and easy, so call us right now. Let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And for those of you that just hate finding those letters on your phone: 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Robert in Delaware is on the line with a cracked slab. What is going on at your money pit?
ROBERT: My money pit – your show is so aptly named. Getting my house ready for – to sell it. And I’ve been doing stuff but there’s one thing that I’m afraid to do. And I wanted to call you guys.
My two-car garage has a through-and-through crack through the middle of the garage concrete. I can see dirt. I estimate the slab to be 3 inches and maybe more but I don’t know whether I have to get an engineering review before I try to solicit contractors. Or am I over-thinking this?
TOM: Well, if it’s just a garage floor, I think you are over-thinking it because the garage floor is basically the floor covering. You know, it’s that slab covering the dirt. It’s not really supporting any part of in your house; it’s really just supporting itself. Cracks are incredibly common.
I would seal the crack. I would fill the crack up. QUIKRETE has a variety of crack-seal products in different colors that you should consider. There is a product called Gray Concrete Crack Seal. There’s even a video online, at their website, that shows you exactly how to use it.
How wide is this crack? Is it like a ¼-inch or so?
ROBERT: It’s, I’d say, between an eighth and a quarter but I’ll give you more data. The house is unbalanced to the point where the garage door does not close outside the crack anymore.
TOM: Has the slab moved? Has it shifted?
ROBERT: I think the entire ground – it’s a 35-year-old home. I think the ground around my home, for a couple hundred yards, is – has moved since I’ve lived here. And so, I have not seen any internal cracks in my basement. I have not seen any external cracks in the walls around the exterior of the home.
TOM: Just the slab in the garage, right?
ROBERT: Right. But it’s not a flat crack.
TOM: So you’re telling me it’s displaced?
TOM: One side’s higher than the other?
TOM: OK. So you might need to do a two-step process here. You could use a crack filler to seal the crack and then you can use a patching compound or a patching product – also from QUIKRETE – to kind of smooth over those areas and make it a little more even so you don’t catch your foot or your heel on that. But it’s entirely fixable. It’s not structural. And I think if you take the time to watch the videos and make the repair, you’ll be good to go.
ROBERT: Alright. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Helen in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you with your tiling project?
HELEN: I just basically have a question about what I should do with tile. The grout is actually falling apart and I’ve been told that it was – actually, the wrong materials were used by the contractor. And so, now I have a floor that I need – basically need to redo it.
TOM: OK. So the grout does have to come off and there’s a number of ways to do that. If it’s a lot of floor, you’re probably going to want to have a contractor do this. They can grind out that grout. There’s a variety of tools that can do that job. And then once it’s ground out, basically, you can just reapply it. Pretty straightforward project.
Are the tiles solid? Are the tiles moving at all or is it really just the grout that’s falling out?
HELEN: No. The tiles are moving. And I think that’s part of the problem.
TOM: Oh, wait. The tiles are moving?
TOM: If the tiles are moving, your problem is not the grout; your problem is the tile. So, the grout might just be evidence that the tiles are moving. But if the tiles were not adhered well and they’re shifting, that’s going to break off little pieces of grout as a matter of that action – of that movement.
So in that case, yes, you may need to pull the whole floor out. If it’s just not installed well, you really can’t do anything about that if you want tile. If you want to do something besides tile, you could install laminate flooring – which, by the way, is beautiful these days and it can actually look a lot like tile – on top of the old tile, if that’s something that interests you. But generally speaking, if the tile is not adhered well and it’s coming up and getting loose, that’s more and more likely what’s causing the grout to fall out.
HELEN: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Helen. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Sometimes what you see is not the actual problem; it’s evidence of the problem. It’s kind of what you’re not seeing that could be causing it. You know what I mean, Leslie?
TOM: So in this case, if the grout is loose, she’s thinking, “Well, I’ve got bad grout.” Well, not really. Apparently you’ve got bad tile.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Give us a call, let us know what you are working on. We are into March, you guys, which means spring is not far behind. So the warmer weather is coming. Let’s get your house in tip-top shape. We’re here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up, is the clock ticking on your home’s major components? Learn when it’s time to replace things like a roof, siding and the HVAC system, when we return.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour we’re giving away a stud sensor worth 20 bucks. Helps you make finding those studs fast and simple. Really handy to have this tool if you have to hang something that’s heavy, like a mirror or a heavy picture or a mantle or something like that.
It’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. That number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Victor in Massachusetts, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
VICTOR: I’m considering making my walk-in shower a shower steam room.
VICTOR: I had the house – our house built in 2007 and at that time, I called your show for advice on bathroom tiles and tankless hot water (inaudible at 0:07:57). That worked out perfect for your advice.
TOM: Oh, good. So we got that right.
VICTOR: Yeah, you did. Got it all perfectly right. OK.
TOM: How big is this shower that you want to turn into a steam bath?
VICTOR: Eight by five.
TOM: Alright. Perfect, perfect. So, it’s definitely a good project. It’s going to add some value to your house and make a nice, beautiful room for you to enjoy. And you can do that by adding a steam shower generator.
Now, these generators are very small: about the size of a briefcase. Take a look at the generators from Mr. Steam – MrSteam.com. These guys are the leaders in this space.
TOM: And they give you all the information there, on the website, on how to do this. But you can basically locate this steam generator. You don’t even have to put it in the bathroom. It can be up to 60 feet away. And then when you call – they have all the controls. And when you call for steam, it comes on, it generates the steam and comes right through the ports that you will install into that shower space. It really sounds like a perfect setup for something like this.
VICTOR: Is that M-i-s-t-e-r or Mr. – M-r?
TOM: Mr. – M-r-S-t-e-a-m.com. MrSteam.com. Check it out. They’ve got all the information right there. It’s a great product.
VICTOR: So, overall, the concept is OK to do?
VICTOR: OK, great.
TOM: That’s exactly the space you want to have to do something like this. Fantastic opportunity. I would go for it.
VICTOR: Thank you so much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Barbara in South Dakota is on the line with a cigarette-smoking house. What’s going on?
BARBARA: Just have a strange odor coming from the drain in the kitchen sink and also a slight drain in the bathroom. Not sure where it’s coming from or how to correct it, so I thought I’d give you a call.
TOM: OK. But you describe it as a smoke-like odor?
BARBARA: It’s smoke, like someone’s been smoking in the house. I know it’s the strangest thing. We don’t have smokers.
TOM: And you have it in the bathroom and where else did you say?
BARBARA: Well, mainly in the kitchen sink. Sometimes, when you just come into the kitchen, you can smell it and sometimes it’s real strong. Other times, it’s a lighter smell.
TOM: What it might be – especially because you have it in both wet locations – it might be biogas. So biogas happens when you get debris in the kitchen sink that just sits there for the longest time and it starts to decay and leaves off an awful odor.
So, what you might need to do is to really scrub those drains in both of those sinks. And I would use a bleach solution to do that, like OxiClean or something of that nature. It’s like an oxygenated bleach. And I would try to sort of cover all of that in that solution and let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes so it really kills any of the bacteria that’s laying in there.
But you can get some pretty odiferous bacteria that can cause that type of odor and have it emanate from the drains and sinks and bathrooms. We’ve seen it many times.
BARBARA: But what does the debris come from? Because we’re all using the garbage disposal.
TOM: Bacteria. You’re not going to see this level of debris.
LESLIE: Yeah. And it just sort of sticks to the side, just naturally.
TOM: It grows in there. Yeah. Mm-hmm.
BARBARA: OK. You mean fill the sink with bleach – kind of bleach water? How would you keep it?
TOM: Yeah. With like an OxiClean. Not so much the sink but more importantly that drain. You want to get that drain really coated in that bleach solution.
BARBARA: OK. So just let it sit there so it goes through the elbow, right?
TOM: Yep. Exactly.
BARBARA: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Give it a shot. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, are you wondering how long you might have left on your major house components? I mean every product in the home has a life span, right? But if you evaluate your major home components, like the roofing and the siding, on a yearly basis, you might be able to stay ahead of the game.
LESLIE: Now, while it might be tempting to wait until these features wear out completely, it’s smarter and definitely more cost-effective to replace aging items before they break down.
TOM: Well, that’s right. So, for example, when it comes time to replace your roof, your deck, your siding or your driveway, you want to get competitive prices and try to have the work done during the off-seasons. This will help you save some serious cost.
Now, roofs can typically be re-shingled at least once, for a total of two layers of asphalt shingles, that will also reduce the expense.
LESLIE: And as far as your appliances go – like your furnace, boiler, water heater or central air-conditioning – it’s important to take life span into consideration. A water-heater breakdown could lead to major water damage. Losing heat in the middle of winter will leave you with no choice but to repair or replace when you don’t have time to shop for what’s best or most cost-effective or most energy-efficient. You’re kind of stuck because you’re in a jam.
TOM: Now, remember that life span plays into whether or not you should sink money into repair or if replacement is the most cost-effective way to go.
If you’d like to learn more about the exact life expectancies, you can check out our home page. We’ve got a great article there called “Appliance Repair or Replace” on the home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Vincent in Texas is putting up a fence and needs some help with the project. What can we do for you?
VINCENT: Yeah. I’m putting up a chain-link in front of my house. Where my house is, it’s in the dip. And the street – both the street – goes up on each end.
VINCENT: And I’m about four blocks from the lake. And we had a lot of rain and that water levels up. And when I’m about 14 inches down, I’m hitting water.
VINCENT: Is there a special cement or how should I do that when setting the post?
TOM: OK. So what you want to do is – because it’s chain-link, you’re going to want to dig down about 3 feet. And try to do that with the post-hole digger even if you hit water. And then the way you deal with this is you mix up concrete, like a QUIKRETE product.
It’s a basic masic (ph) concrete mix. Mix it up in a wheelbarrow to the right consistency and then shovel it into the hole and let it displace the water that’s in the hole. Does that make sense? So as you put the concrete in, the water will kind of work its way right out. And what will be left will be the concrete. It will dry nice and rock-solid and you’ll be good to go.
VINCENT: OK. Thank you. You saved me a lot of worry.
TOM: Alright. Don’t worry about it. That’s the way to handle that. Mix it out of the hole and then drop it in the hole and the water will displace.
Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Susan in Minnesota is dealing with a cabinet issue. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
SUSAN: I have my coffee maker, you know, under the cabinet area. And the steam from the coffee maker tends to make the finish from the cabinets fade. And I don’t know where I can put that coffee maker.
TOM: Yeah. I mean that’s because of all the moisture – the warm moisture – that’s being wicked against that cabinet over the years. That’s definitely going to happen. You may have to refinish those doors if that keeps up.
SUSAN: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Would I have to sand them first or…?
TOM: Generally, it’s a good idea to do that, yes. You’re going to lightly sand it. And then if it’s only a light sanding and it’s not sort of cutting through the finish, you might be able to just put a new coat of urethane over the top of it. If it’s actually getting into the stain itself and changing the color of the stain, well, then you have to do a deeper sanding and you have to re-stain it. And that’ll be a little tricky, because you’re going to have to try to match the old color.
SUSAN: Oh, yeah.
TOM: I hope that advice helps, Susan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joe is Ohio is on the line with a blower-motor question. What’s going on at your money pit?
JOE: I was listening to another home improvement show locally and they had an electrical – residential electrical contractor on there. And he said that you could let your furnace blower run constantly. He said that because the capacitor sucks up a lot of electricity in order to start the motor, that it – I guess if it’s cycling on and off frequently, that you would save on electricity by letting it run constantly.
TOM: I would disagree with that and here’s why: those blower motors, that uses most of the electricity it takes to run the furnace. Now, if the blower is cycling on or off, that’s a whole different problem. That means that the thermostat is not operating properly, the system’s not sized right. There’s other things that cause that. We call that short-cycling.
You’re not going to hurt the blower motor by running it but I think you’ll find that you’re going to drive up your electrical cost by doing that. We know people that, for example, love to heat their homes with a wood stove. But because it’s hard to distribute the wood stove’s warmth throughout the house, they’ll turn on the wood stove and then also turn on the blower on the on position – not the auto position; turn it to the on position – and use that blower’s system and the ducts to basically move the heat around the house. So, you’re not hurting the blower because it’s got bearings and it’s not designed to run indefinitely. But you might be driving up your electrical costs. Does that make sense?
JOE: I wondered about it because – like you say about the short cycling, I’ve had someone check the furnace and it cycles like about every five minutes and when it’s really cold outside. But they said – they came out and checked it and said that that was normal or that was the way it was meant to operate.
TOM: Yeah. Five minutes sounds too quick. I would find that to be odd for that to be normal.
TOM: So, that’s all I can tell you. It sounds too quick to me. It sounds like a short-cycle situation. That’s probably the more important thing for you to address.
JOE: Alright. Well, maybe I’ll check with another one then.
TOM: Good luck with that project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Renee in Texas is on the line with a question about cleaning a water heater.
RENEE: I’ve got a stinking water heater. I’m going to have to go down to my daughter’s house for about four months. I turned the water heater off because they thought I’d be there through the winter and they didn’t want it to freeze. And they drained it. And when I come back to the house and build it back up, the water stinks.
TOM: Does it have a sulfur-like smell? Does it smell like rotten eggs?
TOM: Yeah. OK. So what’s going on is that you need a new anode rod. If you look at the top of the water heater between where the two pipes are, you’ll see what looks like kind of a hex nut, like a big bolt. And right below that is an anode rod. It’s called a “sacrificial anode” and it goes down into your water heater. And the water reacts with it and it takes that odor away, among other things. And so if you have a strong odor, that’s what you have to replace.
It’s not for the faint of heart. It can be difficult to get that anode rod out, even for an experienced plumber. So, you’re going to have to decide whether you want to go through the trouble of replacing the anode rod or you just want to replace the water heater.
Alright? And that’ll do it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Still to come, so you’re in the market for a new furnace but do you know what you’re looking for? We’re going to tell you what features to look for, to make sure you’re getting an energy-efficient appliance that will last, when The Money Pit continues.
NORM: Hi, I’m Norm Abram from This Old House. And when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: As the saying goes, “so nice, they’re airing us twice.” Our affiliates WRHI-AM and FM 94.3 in Rock Hill, South Carolina air The Money Pit on Sundays now. Both stations have added the show on Saturdays from 11:00 to 1:00. Thank you, Rock Hill. And now we can tackle twice as many as your home improvement questions, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Monica on the line with a roofing question. Tell us what’s going on.
MONICA: Yes. My daughter had just purchased a home and originally, apparently the house had a flat roof. And then they put a peak roof over the top of it. I was just wondering if on that flat roof – if you should go into that space and insulate over that flat roof.
TOM: It’s a good question. So, first of all, the idea of covering a flat roof with a pitched roof is not unusual. Folks do that for a number of reasons, both architecturally because they like the appearance of the pitched roof and because they’re just sick and tired of dealing with flat roofs and the leaks that can happen more frequently as a result of them.
Now, typically, you would have insulated inside that ceiling under the flat roof. So, therefore, there’s no reason you cannot add additional insulation over that. You could do something as easy as laying fiberglass batts right on top of that roof: side-by-side unfaced fiberglass. It would add additional insulation to that space.
MONICA: Oh, that was what I was wondering. That would help keep some of the heat from getting on the tarring of the flat roof and help cool the lower level, right?
TOM: Well, yeah. I mean it would – more importantly, it’s going to keep the heat or the coolness inside the house. So, yeah, it will help separate some of that heat. And there should also be ventilation in that new pitched roof. That will be necessary for the insulation to work well.
MONICA: I think that – the house is actually a three-layer house. Both roofs, apparently, were flat and they peaked both of them.
TOM: What you can do in that situation is you can add a ridge vent to the peak and you can add some roof vents lower on the roof and that will improve the ventilation dramatically.
Monica, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, whether your old furnace is shot or you want a more efficient upgrade, a new furnace should never be an impulse buy.
TOM: Well, that’s right. But too often, that’s exactly what does happen, especially if your furnace gives out in the middle of winter. Here to tell us how to shop furnaces the smart way is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House.
RICHARD: Hey, guys.
TOM: So, a broken furnace is something that is completely unplanned. I know in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector, one of the things we would always check is the heat exchanger. And I remember, time and time again, when I may have done an inspection at 10:00 in the morning, diagnosed a cracked heat exchanger, always told the homeowner because it was dangerous and by the time I left a couple hours later, somebody was rolling in a new box, because it’s not something that we plan for. But it will happen eventually and if we do, is it something that we can kind of be ready for by being familiar with what the options are?
RICHARD: You’re going to hire a good contractor, I’m sure, to – and they’ll go through all the choices that are in the local market. But the fact is if you’ve got a cracked heat exchanger, it is deadly. Deadly. It’s carbon monoxide going out into living space, so that forces your hand. So you’re not going to repair that. You’re going to get a brand-new one and then it’s just a question now of what are the choices.
Well, there’s now mandates that say that you can’t just get a 70-percent officially. You can’t get the old-style Studebaker anymore.
RICHARD: You have to get the high-efficiency. In different parts of the country, they have different higher standards. But you’ve got to get up into the 80s and 90s, where it used to be you’d be a 75-percent – 75 cents out of every dollar. Now you’ve got to be at least – I think it’s 85-percent efficient on furnace – 85 and 86.
Now, to do that, it means that they’ve got a ton of fans and – fans, blowers, pressure switches, safety devices, all kinds of different things making this thing run at its optimum efficiency.
TOM: With the increased efficiency, we picked up all of those additional complications.
RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right.
TOM: And it’s – frankly, it’s harder to inspect.
TOM: It either works or it doesn’t work and we want it to work.
RICHARD: That’s right. They all have a printed circuit board now. They all have little computers. They all have higher levels of brains, where you can’t just put a couple screwdrivers into here and see if a switch comes on or off. You know, it’s like your cars. Our cars are now so – nobody can troubleshoot a car anymore without the fancy diagnostic. Well, it’s really the same in the HVAC industry.
LESLIE: So if you are looking to buy a new furnace, what are some of the key points I’m looking for?
RICHARD: Well, there’s a measurement system for furnace efficiency. It’s AFUE -Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency – AFUE. The minimum allowed in the United States is 80 percent. That’s changing all the time. Some states are asking for 82, 83, 84, 85. And then for some units, they go up to 97 percent, which means they have to squeeze every bit – almost every bit – of the energy out of that fuel. So, what’s left is 3 percent of waste goes up the chimney. But what’s going to go out through that chimney – and it’s not even going to go out through a chimney anymore, by the way; it’s going to be out of plastic piping – is a tiny bit of temperature. It’s going to – that exhaust temperature has nothing left in it, so it wouldn’t even be able to go into a chimney, because it wouldn’t have enough lift to actually go …
TOM: Enough draft.
RICHARD: Yeah. Enough draft or lift to go up inside that chimney.
TOM: So that’s why, very often, you’ll see homes with no chimneys, yet there’ll be additional plastic pipes coming out either a side wall or out the roof.
RICHARD: That’s right. Right. I personally like to see that vent go out through the roof. Nothing beats putting the flue products up and away so you’re not blowing those flue products out through the side of the building whenever possible.
TOM: Now, Richard, back in the day when I was inspecting homes for a living, we could see a heat exchanger. Of course, that’s the metal that’s inside the furnace that keeps the combustion gas separate from the outsides. Kind of like a hot-water radiator, where instead of water circulating inside, you have this combustion gas that’s circulating inside.
Today, all of these units have sealed combustion. I mean it’s necessary to get the efficiency. But we still have the dangers of carbon-monoxide poisoning if they leak or crack. How do you protect yourself from that?
RICHARD: I don’t think any of – a modern house with a modern furnace should not be without a carbon-monoxide tester. And that should be at least one down where the equipment is and on every floor and code will help to determine – but even if it isn’t code, it’s really good practice. Carbon monoxide is colorless, it’s odorless and it’s a killer.
LESLIE: Right. And if the alarm goes off, you should get out of your house.
RICHARD: That’s right, that’s right.
LESLIE: There’s usually no false reading.
RICHARD: Right. Every winter, we see the news stories about sad folks that have died because they were either – tried to heat with an unvented appliance. But many times it’s about this: furnaces that have lost their venting and putting carbon monoxide in the building. It’s deadly.
TOM: Or people have it go off but they don’t believe it.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
TOM: Right? It’s because they can’t see it.
RICHARD: Trust your data. Trust your data.
TOM: Trust your data. Exactly.
LESLIE: If your alarm is going off, get out.
RICHARD: Trust your data.
TOM: You know, the difference between that and a smoke detector, which more folks are familiar with, is that when the smoke detector goes off, there’s always an additional indication of the problem. There could be flame or it could be burnt toast.
RICHARD: Right, right, right, right. Yeah.
LESLIE: Small fire.
TOM: But you have other verifying evidence. With carbon monoxide, like you say, if it goes off, trust it.
TOM: Get out, call the gas company, figure it out later.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. Now, there’s a lot of safety devices inside these. These furnaces now are smart and there’s some things you can also get in these furnaces that’s really terrific. One is a modulating gas valve or a two-stage gas valve.
So, the old-style furnace was like having an automobile that had a gas pedal at full blast and a brake.
RICHARD: When your thermostat came on, it just made the furnace hot and then shut off. Nowadays, these things are so smart that it can say, “Wait a minute now. I’m getting close to the temperature I need upstairs. Let me just put a little bit of heat into the heat exchanger. Let me just put a little bit of fan to push the air out into the room.” So now it’s gentle, gentle, gentle all the time, keeping up with the heat loss versus trying to catch up,
TOM: That makes so much sense.
Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice on how to select a new furnace. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
RICHARD: Stay warm, you guys.
LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.
And still ahead, are your utility bills getting more and more expensive? We’re going to give you tips to cut those costs by figuring out where the energy dollars are going, with advice on how to get a home energy audit, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you get whatever it is done at your money pit, even whether you’re just planning out a project. We’re going to help you get whatever information or product recommendation or process or how-to or design idea. That’s what Tom and I do here at The Money Pit. We’re here to lend a hand.
Plus, we also give away great prizes. And this hour we’ve got up for grabs a stud sensor. You guys know about stud finders. You use them to locate the studs in your wall, then you can hang pretty much anything that weighs a whole heck of a lot on that wall without worrying is it going to come crashing down in the middle of the night. Nobody wants to be Flat Stanley squashed by a corkboard, just like in the kids’ books. Find where the studs are. That’s why we’re giving away a stud sensor worth 20 bucks.
TOM: Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, are your utility bills giving you a sense of sticker-shock? Well, you can curb energy consumption at home if you know where to cut back. To start, assess your home’s energy efficiency during the past year with the ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick. You can find that online at ENERGYSTAR.gov.
LESLIE: Yeah. With a few minutes of time and last year’s utility bills, you’ll be able to compare your home’s energy use with that of similar homes around the country and then get recommendations for changes and upgrades that you can make in the upcoming year.
TOM: Now, if you’d like a more detailed and tailored, specific assessment, hire a qualified professional to perform a comprehensive home energy audit. This way, you’ll know exactly where those energy dollars are going. And keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to make big changes to see significant results.
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: So, according to most real-estate professionals, a room can’t be considered a bedroom without a closet. So if you want to add a closet, thus adding a bedroom – whether it’s for resale value or just because you need more space – we’ll tell you exactly how to do it, after this.
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TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Hey, Money Pit listeners. You want a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re up to when we’re not on the air? Well, follow us @MoneyPit on Twitter and at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. Lots of interesting stuff going on there, pictures of what we’re working on. We love to hear what you guys are working on, so keep your posts coming in.
And also, we want to help you guys out with your projects. So while you’re online, post your question. And I’ve got one here from Lindsey who writes: “Hi. We don’t have a closet in our bedroom. I want to build one but I’m wondering how large it should be. Any rules of thumb for figuring this out?”
TOM: Well, I don’t think you can have too big of a closet. I mean doesn’t your stuff naturally expand to fill whatever closet you said you have?
LESLIE: That’s true.
TOM: Isn’t that like a rule of physics or something like that?
LESLIE: That is true.
TOM: Look, in older houses, it’s not unusual to come across bedrooms without closets and that’s why armoires were used in eras past to store clothes and accessories. And that’s a trend that’s somewhat on the rise with customizable wardrobes. But even in homes with added wardrobes and armoires, closets are never a bad idea, especially from a resale standpoint.
Now, in terms of size, I think you really can’t go too large but you need to balance the storage needs with the amount of square footage you have in your room, because that’s as much as you’re going to lose. Closets do add value but not if they reduce a bedroom to the size of a postage stamp.
LESLIE: And you know what, Lindsey? Another good idea to sort of minimize whatever construction you might have to do – and of course, if you’re not going with the furniture option to create clothing storage – what you can do is there are these channels. They’re almost like a ceiling-mounted curtain rod and then the little curtain sliders sort of slide into the channel. So you could square off a corner, put two tracks on the ceiling and then hang a really pretty, decorative fabric and then store clothing in there. You can then use maybe sort of a freestanding piece of furniture in there or open shelving, depending on what kind of clothing storage you’re looking for.
But that’s another idea, especially if you’re a renter. You can’t be building things if you’re renting but you can put a couple of screws in a ceiling with some brackets for support. It’s really just another idea if you don’t want to go out and build something.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Vincent who writes: “What rating should indoor-air filters have? Many intake filters don’t even list a MERV rating.”
TOM: Ah. But the question is: what is a MERV rating? Well, MERV stands for Minimum Energy Reporting Value and it basically ranges from 1 up to about 20. If you’re buying a filter, the higher the rating, the greater that filter’s ability to block out dust and allergens from getting into your air. And it generally doesn’t take more than a few bucks to filter a jump of several grades higher on that MERV spectrum. So I would say that, as a rule of thumb, go with a micro-allergen filter, which basically usually has a MERV score of at least 11.
Now, if you want to hone in on more than just ratings, there’s an entire line of air filters by Filtrete that can weed out various particles depending on what your intended result is, like even reducing odors or allergens specifically. There is a filter for everyone and if you don’t want to go with the disposable filters, you can always consider a permanently installed electronic air cleaner into your HVAC system. And these are so good. They can actually take out virus-size particles from the air. Not inexpensive. You’re going to probably drop at least 1,000 to 1,500 bucks to have one installed but super effective at scrubbing your air, making it nice and clean and easy to breathe in your house.
LESLIE: Tom, is there still a component within that permanently installed filter that you do have to clean or change out occasionally?
TOM: Yes. But very infrequently. And you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and maybe we’re talking once every six months.
LESLIE: Alright. Sounds great.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We love talking home improvement and décor. If you’ve got a question, we’ve got answers, 24/7. All you’ve got to do is head on over to MoneyPit.com, post your question there to the Community section or pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-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.
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(Copyright 2016 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)
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