5 Reasons Your Electric Bill is So High, The Hidden Hazard of Chemical De-Icers, and The New Way to Go Green – And Save Big!
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: Pick up the phone, give us a call with your home improvement question. We are here to help you get that job done. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ve got a décor dilemma? Thinking about tackling a project, while it’s chilly outside, to make your winter a bit more pleasant?All great things for us to chat about. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, do you want to save some money on your electric bill? We’ve got some ideas this hour that will help you out. Stay tuned for the five reasons why your electric bill is higher than you’d like and some ideas for big savings.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, you know, they work really well on frozen steps and walkways but chemical deicers bring major health risks to your pets. We’ll have some solutions ahead.
TOM: And are you ready to unleash your inner rebel? We’ve got design rules that it’s high time to break.
LESLIE: And we’ll be answering your calls, helping you get to the bottom of your home improvement headaches.
TOM: So pick up the phone, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Kathy in South Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
KATHY: I have a problem with the squirrels chewing into my roof.
KATHY: And I was wondering, how can I – what can I repair this with and what can I put in there to keep them out?
TOM: Now, where are they chewing? Are they chewing through the trim or the soffits trying to get into the attic space? What’s the story?
KATHY: Well, they have gotten into the attic space.
TOM: The holes. Are you repairing those holes or what are you doing?
KATHY: No. I was calling you to see how you could help me, because I listen to your show all the time and you give such good advice.
TOM: Well, if they get into your attic, you can trap them and release them. You can use something called a Havahart trap. And this is a trap that is a wire cage with a trap door. And the way to bait it is to take an apple and put it in the far end of the cage and wire the apple to the cage; don’t just put it in there. But usually, I’ll take a hanger or a piece of picture-frame wire or something like that and I’ll thread it through the apple and wire it off so that it can’t bounce around.
And if they’re in the attic, they’ll come looking for that food. They’ll get trapped in there. Then you can pick the whole cage up and take it far away from your house and then release them. And believe me, as soon as you lift the door up, they are like out like a light.
LESLIE: They’re gone.
TOM: They just fly right out there and they’ll take off. They want nothing to do with you, so it’s completely safe.
Now, in terms of those holes, you have to repair them. Now, you can put – if it’s a small hole, you can put steel wool in it or something like that. But if it’s a bigger hole, you really should simply rebuild it or repair it, whatever it takes. So if it’s wood or if it’s vinyl or if it’s metal soffit material, you really just need to completely rebuild that.
And then, the other thing I’ll mention that seems to have been pretty effective over the years -and that is if you were to put moth balls down your attic, that does seem to have a deterring effect on the squirrels, as well. So if you spread them …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It will, though – that odor does seep into the house, so don’t go crazy with it.
TOM: Yeah, right. You sprinkle them in there, yeah. Especially along the eaves.
KATHY: Now, is there anything else I can put up there to keep more from coming in?
TOM: Well, we want to identify the holes and get those fixed. It’s really an entry issue. You’ve got to basically close the door on them here. And so, if we can identify those holes and those entry points and seal them up, then you shouldn’t have a problem with squirrels. They don’t naturally live in the attic but they’re obviously finding a way into your house.
If you’re not quite sure where they’re getting in, you obviously can’t get in there – up there – to kind of look that closely, then work from the street level, walking around the outside of the house and looking up. Try to get a pair of binoculars or borrow one and see if you can spot the holes where they’re getting in. But that’s what has to be closed up.
KATHY: OK. Thank you so much. I’m so grateful.
TOM: You’re very welcome.
LESLIE: Lee in Texas is on the line with a window and foundation situation. Tell us what’s going on.
LEE: Well, I’ve got a house that’s approximately a little over 45 years old and it’s got the original windows in it.
LEE: And I’ve got a foundation problem.
TOM: Alright. What’s going on with the foundation?
LEE: Oh, it’s shifting, it’s cracking. I’ve got a big crack on the westbound side.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
LEE: And it’s spread out quite a bit.
TOM: Do you sense that it’s actively – like it’s growing?
LEE: No, it isn’t growing. It’s stable, just a crack.
TOM: It’s been like that for how long?
LEE: Probably about 20 years.
TOM: OK. Well, then, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. If it’s not active, which means it’s moving, then it’s probably stopped. It just happened for whatever reason: soil shift, who knows? But if it’s not active, then I don’t think it’s a big concern if it’s been stable for 20 years. So then I think you can move on and think about replacing the windows.
A good time to replace windows. The technology has really come a long way. They’re super energy-efficient; very, very comfortable; very, very easy to operate. What you want to do is choose your windows very carefully.
If you go to our website at MoneyPit.com, we actually have a free guide. It’s a download from our book, My Home, My Money Pit. Just click on the picture of the book and look for the guide to replacing windows in your house. It will walk you through kind of the whole purchase process and tell you what to look for. You have to decide what kind of frames you want, what kind of glass you want: double-pane versus triple-pane and so on. And it will help sort of walk you through that whole process and then you’ll be more knowledgeable when you start talking to the actual window companies.
But replacement windows are pretty easy to install. They fit inside the existing openings, so there’s not a lot of siding that’s torn off and stuff like that. And for the most part, they can do the whole project in a day or two.
LEE: But if it starts being active again about when it shifts?
TOM: Mm-hmm. Then here’s what you need to do: you need to consult a structural engineer, not a foundation-repair company or a contractor or anybody like that. There’s a lot of so-called experts out there but unless they have the pedigree of a degree, then we don’t want to hear from them. We want you to consult a structural engineer.
Because when you have a serious foundation issue, you have an engineer inspect it, you have them write a report stating whether or not it needs to be fixed and if so, how it should be fixed. Then you get it fixed by a contractor. Then you have them come back and reinspect it so that they can certify that it was done correctly.
And with that record, you won’t have any problem selling your house. If it becomes an issue later on, you can show them that you hired an expert to review it and to review it after it was fixed and it’s been done satisfactorily. And that should be all you need to know to fix the foundation and to protect the value of the home.
LESLIE: Coreen in Alaska is on the line and has a question about real estate value. Tell us about it.
COREEN: I live in an older condo with a wood fireplace.
COREEN: Would a wood fireplace be more – have more resale value or would a freestanding stove?
TOM: I think a fireplace probably would have more value. It certainly might make the place more attractive to most buyers who make more emotional decisions than practical decisions.
LESLIE: And I think from a decorating standpoint, I know that freestanding wood stoves, to me – while, yes, they create a cozy, little seating area, sometimes they pose a ginormous decorating dilemma.
TOM: Well, true, because they just have to be out there in the middle of everything, so how do you work around that?
LESLIE: Right. And they’re usually a certain color. It’s not the easiest thing to paint or change the look of.
TOM: Yeah, so I would stay with the fireplace. Wood stoves are more efficient but I wouldn’t replace it if you’re getting ready to sell the house. I would keep the fireplace. I think if you did something to dress up the fireplace, if you needed it – with a new mantel, that kind of thing, cleaning up brick, whatever, just make it look good – I would just stop right there. I don’t think putting the wood stove in is going to be something that you’ll get a return on that investment from, Coreen.
COREEN: OK, great. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We pretty much eat, sleep and breathe home improvement so we’re always here to give you a hand, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, do you use chemical deicers on walkways and outdoor stairs? Well, they might just be harming your pet’s health. Get the details, next.
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: Hey, do you love saving money and picking up some skills by tackling home projects on your own? Well, don’t let your DIY turn into DI – “What did I just do?” We’ve got the top five home improvement mistakes to avoid on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ken on the line who’s dealing with a very moist situation in the attic. Tell us what’s going on.
KEN: OK, yeah. Say, we live – Dorothy and I – about three blocks from the Pacific Ocean, next to the Columbia River. I purchased a house here with a flat roof. Basically, it has about a 3/12 pitch. It had a torch-down system on it and I opted to go – an IB Teflon system.
KEN: And it was about a $10,000 system. Well, after they put it in, about a year later I noticed mold on the underside of the roof. And they put three vents – about 8-inch-diameter vents – in the ridge. And when I saw the mold, well, they said, “Well, you’re not getting adequate ventilation in the (inaudible at 0:10:24).” Well, anyway, they put six more vents in there and they had messed up and left about a half-a-dozen little holes where they had bad leaks. And so I had water in between the IB system and the torch-down and my plywood.
KEN: So I put the fan in there and my question now is – and putting those additional six vents on the bottom.
TOM: Are you talking about – when you say “the bottom,” are you talking about the underside of the overhang, at the soffit level?
KEN: Well, no. I don’t have any overhang.
TOM: You don’t have any of the – OK. Mm-hmm.
KEN: It’s a flat roof and it just comes to the walls. And so, after they put the six – three on the – or four on the top ridge about – I had mentioned to them we should put some vents down low and they said, “No, you don’t need vents up here with that little” – but probably wouldn’t have had to have but they were incompetent.
KEN: And they did because they left about a half-a-dozen holes and leaks in that Teflon.
TOM: Alright. So here’s the situation. So you had a minimal amount of vent. You spotted some mold, you added additional vents and now you’re – are you still seeing mold in the attic or not?
KEN: No, I think – they came in and they wiped it down with whatever.
TOM: So you’re not seeing the mold anymore in the attic. And the question is do – is it possible to have too much ventilation? The answer is no. In fact, a perfectly ventilated attic space is going to be at ambient temperature all the time.
Now, because it’s a flat roof, it’s much more difficult to vent. If this was a pitched roof with an overhang, you would have soffit vents down across the soffit, ridge vents across the peak. It would essentially be wide open all the time, constantly circulating air. And what that does is in the wintertime, it takes out moisture, which can condense and lead to mold. In the summer, it takes out heat which, of course, drives up your cooling costs. So I don’t think it’s possible to have too much attic ventilation.
Did you also mention that you put a fan in there?
KEN: Well, I put a fan in there to dry out the moisture first and that’s what my concern was. Maybe I shouldn’t have put the fan, because I’m spreading those mold spores around by doing that.
TOM: Well, if the mold was treated, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. But here’s the thing about fans. Now, the fans – the attic fans – are only going to work on a heat-sensitive switch unless you wired them somehow differently. And so those fans – those attic fans – typically only work in the summertime; they don’t work in the wintertime.
KEN: It was in the fall, so it was relatively cool.
TOM: Right. But there’s – but those attic fans work on a thermostat, which is generally, if it’s installed correctly, set at around 100 degrees. So it would have to be an awfully warm, fall day for that to kick on. I would say that if you’re not spotting the mold any further and the attic doesn’t seem to be leaking, you addressed all those issues, that you’re just good the way it is and I would just stop right there and enjoy it.
KEN: Right, right. Well, this is about the eighth house – we retired in the last four years. It’s kind of like watching gold rush here; you’re always going to find something in an old house. So, we enjoy it but it’s a lot of work.
TOM: Well, icy steps and walkways can obviously be hazardous. But some deicers are even more dangerous, at least when it comes to your four-legged friends. It turns out that chemical deicers can burn your pet’s paws and some can even poison them.
LESLIE: Yeah. I mean it’s really not a great thing. So to keep your pets safe, you want to choose a deicing product that’s marked “pet safe.” And they’re sold at many of the large pet-store chains.
TOM: Now, another option is to just use sand or gravel for traction on ice instead of the deicing. Just be sure to sweep up between the storms. Both of these can get pretty messy.
LESLIE: Now, chemical deicers are also bad news for your carpeting and wood floors if you happen to track them indoors on your shoes. And face it, we all do.
TOM: All good reasons to choose a deicing product very carefully to keep your pets and your home in great shape all winter long.
888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Amy in Michigan is on the line with a condensation question. How can we help you?
AMY: I live in a house; it’s about 15 years old. And every winter, I have the same problem. I’ve been here for three years but I have condensation on the inside of my windows. I think they’re pretty decent windows. I know when we had the home inspection, the guy said these are really good windows. Just wondering what I can do to control it.
LESLIE: Now, when you’re talking about this, this is in your living room, you’re saying?
AMY: It’s actually in just about every room of the house. It’s worse in my bedrooms and it’s gotten – it seems like it’s getting worse in other areas of the house.
TOM: Well, the reason that your windows condense is because they’re not insulated properly. I’m going to presume that they’re thermal-pane windows. Is that correct?
AMY: They are.
TOM: They’re thermal-pane windows but they’re not very good thermal panes, because the windows are super cold. So what happens is when the warm, moist air inside your house strikes them, it condenses.
So what can you do at this point in time short of replacing the windows? You could take some steps to try to reduce the volume of moisture that’s inside the house.
TOM: This might include taking a look to make sure that your outside drainage is done properly so that you’re not collecting water.
Do you have a basement?
AMY: We do.
TOM: OK. So you want to make sure that you have gutters on the house, downspouts that are clean, downspouts that are extended away, soil that’s sloping away from the walls. That sort of thing reduces soil moisture. Dehumidification in the basement can help. You can either do it with a portable or a whole-house dehumidifier.
LESLIE: Depending on your heating system.
TOM: Making sure that your bath fans are exhausted outside, making sure that your kitchen range hood is exhausted outside. Those are the sorts of things that will reduce the volume of humidity in the house.
But I think until you get better-quality windows in there that are better-insulated, you’re still going to continue to have this to some degree, because it’s just sort of the nature of the beast. If it’s really cold outside and it’s really warm and moist inside, that condensation is going to form, the same way it happens in the summer when you go outside with a glass of ice water and you get droplets on the outside.
TOM: It’s just the nature of the condensation.
AMY: Why does it seem worse when I have the blinds drawn or the blinds down and closed? And then there’s more condensation on the windows.
TOM: Because the windows are probably colder when the blinds are down. The warm air inside the house is not getting to the glass as readily. So the windows are probably a little colder when the blind’s down; you have less air circulation across it, so you’re not drying off some of that moisture, probably, as quickly as you would have.
AMY: Oh, OK. Yeah, that makes sense.
TOM: So do what you can to reduce the amount of humidity inside the house and then keep an eye on them. But I think, eventually, you’re going to want to think about replacing your windows and you can do that in stages. Start in the north side first, because that’s going to be the coldest side of the house and the side that will give you the best return on investment.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Gwen in Virginia on the line who needs some help protecting her kitchen wall. How can we help you?
GWEN: I actually saw this product at a show: an invention – female inventors’ show that was being aired – was being taped in Chicago. And this lady, she had a product that you take it and it just sort of sticks to the wall. She had it in different colors, that it would blend in with your kitchen wall or if you wanted to have a stainless-steel look – but it was just a piece of material that went behind the trash can, that when you hit – when you would step on the flip tops, it would hit up against that area and would not damage the wall.
And then when you decided that you want to either move your trash can to another area in the house or you were tired of that particular pattern, you could just peel it off. It didn’t mess up the paint but it protected the wall.
LESLIE: So it was like a sticker.
TOM: That’s interesting. I’ve got a couple of ideas for you on that.
First of all, you don’t need an invention; you could simply put a small piece of clear Plexiglas on the wall using double-sided tape. Or the second thing you could do, which is even easier, is you could add a bumper to the top of the garbage can so that when it comes up, it doesn’t scuff the wall. You could use a felt-tip bumper on it.
LESLIE: Or even if you go to childproofing – in the childproofing section of any baby store, you’ll find that rubber edging that you can put on coffee tables and things. And you could put a piece like that right on the edge of the garbage can.
GWEN: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Still ahead, do you want to go green but you’re not sure where to start? Well, we’ve got advice on how to cut through all that green noise and make the changes that really count, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, what are you working on on this beautiful day? Pick up the phone and give us a call. We would love to talk. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Barry in Florida is dealing with a plumbing situation. Tell us what’s going on.
BARRY: Well, I replaced the sprayer in my kitchen sink. And I did – at the same time, I did a dishwasher and the dishwasher is working fine, no problem. And the sprayer, though, it’s been there 22 years. It just wasn’t spraying. I figured it was all clogged up, so I replaced it. And when I did, the new one – when I turn on the water – not the sprayer but the water – I get a bang-bang-bang, like air in the pipes. But it’s been doing that for about a month now, waking everybody in the house up.
So, I thought maybe I’d call you guys and see if you could help me figure out – I’m fairly handy – what I need to do. Either replace the whole thing again – and I replaced it with a brand-new one I bought at the hardware store.
LESLIE: Barry, when you said that the sound is waking everybody up, is it happening on its own or only when you’re using that sink?
BARRY: No, no. Only when you’re using the water. My wife told me that when I get up in the morning to make coffee, I wake her up by turning on the water. Only when you use the main water handle.
TOM: Now, does it happen when you turn the water on or when you turn it off?
BARRY: On. When you turn it on.
BARRY: The whole time the water’s on it does that.
TOM: Hmm. That’s interesting.
BARRY: If I left it on for 20 minutes, it would do it constantly for 20 minutes. That’s why I don’t think it’s air.
TOM: And the whole time it’s on. Yeah, so, I think you’ve got a bad washer in there somewhere.
Now, if it happened when you were spraying and then you released it to turn the water off and you got banging then, that I would say is water hammer, because the water has a forward momentum in the pipes. And when you stop spraying the water, it keeps moving and bangs the pipes. That’s water hammer.
BARRY: Ah, yeah.
TOM: That has one solution. But if it’s happening just because you turned the sprayer on, then I think that the valve in the sprayer is bad and it’s probably vibrating somewhere in there. This happens sometimes with kitchen sinks. If you lift up the lever to turn the sink on, sometimes you get a kachunka-chunka-chunka-chunk (ph) kind of a sound.
TOM: And that’s when you have a bad valve. And so I suspect that if you replaced just – you don’t have to replace the whole line but just the handle part of it. Try replacing that and see if it still does it. I think you’ve got a bad one there, buddy.
BARRY: You’re talking about the handle in the hand-held sprayer.
TOM: Correct. Yeah. And those are replaceable.
BARRY: OK. OK, sure, yeah. Absolutely. OK.
TOM: Alright, Barry. Give it a shot.
BARRY: Well, I’ll try that. I didn’t think – that’ll be an easy fix if that’s the fix.
TOM: Well, we get it: you want to go green. I mean consumer appetite for sustainable products is like off the charts right now. But truth is there is no easy button to make your home more sustainable. And it can get pretty overwhelming sorting through the green noise to figure out what you really can do to make a difference.
LESLIE: Well, one way is with updated appliances. For decades, your clothes dryer was the least efficient appliance in your home. Not only does a traditional dryer use a lot of energy but it wasn’t even an appliance that ENERGY STAR would rate. But that is all changing and a leader in the change is Whirlpool.
TOM: Yeah. Whirlpool has this new product called a HydroCare dryer and it’s completely changing the way we dry our clothes at home. We were recently at the Greenbuild Conference in Washington D.C., where all the new sustainable products come out. And we checked in with Whirlpool’s global-sustainability expert, Ron Voglewede, about that new dryer technology. Here’s what he had to say.
RON: Yeah, so it works totally different. So instead of just blasting your clothes with heat, one, it dries – let’s say bad fabric-care performance. But what we’re doing here is essentially like an air conditioner or a dehumidifier would. So we’re dehumidifying your clothes, which makes it a lot more efficient, because we’ve learned from our refrigerators that now use less than a 60-watt light bulb. So your iMac on idle actually uses more energy than that five-door refrigerator we have here today.
So what we’ve done with this is it uses ventless drying, so not only did we take the technology up but we made it more versatile. So it’s about choice.
TOM: Well, the entire interview is featured in our Top Products Podcast online, right now, at MoneyPit.com. And you can learn more about HydroCare at Whirlpool.com.
LESLIE: Jane in Pennsylvania is on the line and needs some help with a bathroom-heating project.
JANE: Well, I have baseboard heat; it’s hot-water baseboard heat in the bathroom.
JANE: And the front cover is all rusting out.
JANE: And I cannot find a cover and right now, I have contact over it so you don’t see the rust.
TOM: Oh. You can actually order covers for those baseboards. There is a company that sells perforated covers that go on top of them, so it won’t reduce the heat terribly much. I think it’s called – is it Baseboarder, Leslie?
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, their website is BaseboardHeaterCovers.com. And they sort of just go where – I guess they would replace that whole inset that’s sort of rusted away on you. You keep your end panels, this piece goes in. It’s a pretty easy do-it-yourself installation. You just have to make sure you measure them correctly.
They’re not going to rust and because the entire piece is perforated, I think it’s going to help you get as much heat out of it as you can. And since yours is mostly covered by the commode anyway – they’re not gorgeous. They’re not terrible, I don’t think, but I mean it’ll do the job for you.
JANE: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Jane. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Coming up, are you ready to be a rebel with a cause: a design cause? Well, we’ve got design rules that it’s time to break, after this.
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TOM: Have you resolved to get organized? Why not make it an efficient new year by creating new storage spaces around your home?
Hi. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete with today’s Money Pit Home Improvement Minute.
TOM: For organized, convenient storage, take a closer look at the spaces you already have and refit them for more efficient use.
LESLIE: Closet systems can convert even the smallest space into useful storage. Take a look at how you’re currently using the closet and figure out how to make the most of any empty awkward spaces inside.
TOM: In your garage or workshop, install hooks and simple shelving to keep gear contained. And build in safe storage to put harmful chemicals, paints and solvents safely out of reach.
LESLIE: You can also add style to office or living-area storage by working colorful, archival boxes into your shelving schemes. They’ll add interest to display areas while protecting your mementos, photos and collectibles.
I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And I’m Tom Kraeutler. For more Money Pit home improvement tips, visit MoneyPit.com.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: With a shout-out to Springfield, Missouri. Could your home improvement use a little kick in the pants? Well, tune in to The Money Pit on KICK-AM. That’s at 1340 on the dial, starting this Sunday morning at 11:00.
LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?
DON: Now, we’re going to redo our kitchen ceiling this year and we have these 6-inch pot lights up in the ceiling.
TOM: OK. Yeah, the can lights?
DON: And we were wondering if we would take them out, if we put the LED lights under the cabinets, if it would give us as much light.
TOM: No, I wouldn’t take them out. I would keep them in.
Now, one is for area lighting; one is for task lighting. So the LED lights that could go under the edge of the cabinet could give you task-specific lighting for food prep. And they also look darn cool when you dim them in a party or something like that.
TOM: But I would keep the lights in the ceiling.
But by the way, you have a lot of options in the type of bulb that you can put in those ceiling lights. You could actually put in LED bulbs into those ceiling lights, too. And you may find the quality of light is better than what you have with the incandescents.
DON: I mean take them out and put maybe like 4-inch ones in smaller ones or just leave the 6 ones in there?
TOM: I would leave them. I think that – I think you could use the 6-inch ones that you have. I don’t think that’s part of the project that’s going to give you a good return on investment. But if you change the bulbs out, I think you’ll find that that will make a difference.
Take a look at those Philips bulbs. I’ve got several of those now in my house, including in the kitchen, as can lights. They’re LEDs and we matched them up with Lutron dimmers where you can adjust the dimming range. And they’re super bright and they cost a heck of a lot less to run than the incandescents. And they last a lot longer. We used to replace those incandescents all the time and these have been – I’ve never had to replace them and I think they say they last over 20 years.
DON: Where would you find the (inaudible at 0:29:39) on that?
TOM: You can get them at Home Depot.
TOM: I know that I’ve gone there. They’re really interesting looking, Jack. They’re the ones that look – they look like yellow. They kind of look – I always think they look like bug lights.
TOM: But you’ll be amazed when the thing comes on how bright it is.
LESLIE: And they’re super efficient.
TOM: Hey, is your electric bill giving you sticker shock? Well, to get those monthly numbers down, you’ve first got to figure out where all that power is going. You know, often it’s wasted in places you’re not even aware of and there’s five of those in particular.
LESLIE: That’s right. Vampire appliances. Now, these are appliances that are always plugged in, drawing energy whether you’re using them or not. So to reduce the drain, you want to use a power switch that you can turn off when that appliance is not in use.
TOM: Now, bigger appliances – like dishwashers, washers and dryers – eat power like it’s going out of style. So run them only when they’re completely full and select low heat for the dryer.
LESLIE: Also, using light to brighten an entire room can do a number on your electric bill. So design your lighting plan efficiently. This way, you can brighten couches, chairs and desks only as you need them.
Now, consider swapping out incandescent bulbs for more efficient LEDs. LED costs, they have really come way down and they last a tremendously long time.
TOM: Now, here’s another electric eater: ceiling fans. Remember, they cool people, not rooms. So turn the ceiling fans off when no one’s in the space. And don’t forget: you can adjust the toggle switch on a ceiling fan so the blades switch direction for better efficiency according to the season. They should run clockwise in the summer and counterclockwise in the winter.
LESLIE: Also, appliances that are past their prime don’t run nearly as efficiently as those newer models. So consider upgrading to more energy-efficient ones.
TOM: And if your home has turned into a full-time charging station, keep in mind that the mp3 players, the tablets, the electric razors, the game systems and the phones are contributing big to your monthly electric bill, not to mention wearing out those batteries, as well. So when you’re not using them, unplug them.
Hey, you want to get plugged into the answers to your home improvement questions? Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Linda in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LINDA: Yes. This is an old house and in the basement – on the wall, which was fieldstone – in the past, they had painted it with whitewash or – that’s what it was called back then. And no matter what kind of paint I’ve applied, it flakes off.
TOM: Hmm. Yeah, because it’s damp and wet, that’s why. Yeah. You can’t just – if you put any kind of regular paint on that, it’s going to do that. You have to use a basement wall paint. It’s a lot stickier and it can handle the dampness of that wall.
Now, you could also take steps to reduce the dampness by improving your drainage outside. But if you put typical wall paint on the stone, it is going to flake off because water and paint don’t go well together. And those stones are like little sponges and the paint’s just going to peel right off of it.
So, what you want to use is a basement wall paint. And it’s really smelly but it’s really sticky.
TOM: And it’s …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s going to stick to where you need it.
TOM: It will last a lot longer. Does that make sense, Linda?
LINDA: Oh, it certainly does.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Cecily in Iowa is on the line with a wallpaper conundrum. What’s going on at your money pit?
CECILY: Well, I have a probably 24-year-old townhome that I think the paper has been on the wall since – for that long.
TOM: It was popular back then.
CECILY: Yeah, yeah. Back then.
I’m just wondering – person I had in here tried to, where the wallpaper butts up against the ceiling, there’s – it looks like a bad job and there’s some marks. And he thought he could wipe it down. And everywhere he wiped it down, there’s like a watermark all along where he – looks like icicles: an uneven line of watermark.
And I don’t know if it can – I’ve been told you can paint over it. I mean we have vaulted ceilings; it’s a lot of paper. And I don’t know how you would – if what – they took it off. There’s actually some posts papered with it and I don’t know what’s underneath.
TOM: I think the answer is you can remove it. It’s a lot of work, like any type of wallpaper.
TOM: If you want to paint over it, it’s going to look like the wallpaper underneath.
LESLIE: Textured paint.
TOM: It’s going to look textured underneath. So, if you want to do like a really inexpensive, short-term fix, you could paint over it. I would recommend that you use a very thick roller on that because otherwise, it’s going to be very hard to get the paint in where it has to go. And maybe you might even need to use a slitted roller: the kind of roller that we use on textured ceilings where it has actually sort of slots in it. Because it really gets in and around and thick and will sort of fill out that whole surface with paint.
CECILY: Mm-hmm. Is it terribly difficult to remove?
LESLIE: It depends on how long it’s been there, what the prep process was to the wall below the paper. All of those can add up to an easy job or a tremendously difficult job. And it’s one of those things that you don’t know until you try. And there are ways to do it.
Now, with a textured wall covering like this, whether it’s grass cloth or the string cloth, you can try to use a store-bought wallpaper remover, you can use a steamer, you can do homemade concoctions. One is white vinegar and hot water; another is fabric softener and hot water. Both situations, you super-saturate the walls and just sort of let it sit there for a few minutes. I’ve even heard of clothing starch with hot water and making a paste onto the wallpaper.
And I’ve used the fabric softener and that does work. That was a traditional vinyl, which I had to score first. But I’ve also heard with grass cloths, that you can take a paint scraper and scrape the actual string cloth or the grass cloth off of the backing, so that might make it easier to remove. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of work and you never know what’s behind it. You could get everything off and the wall could be so textured and dinged up that you end up having to put a layer of drywall over it anyway.
CECILY: Ah, OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. That’s very helpful and I’m glad I called.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Coming up, breaking the rules is sometimes allowed. We’re going to tell you when to push the boundaries that will bring big results and compliments, 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: Well, appliance shopping involves plenty of big decisions, including the big one at the end: service contract or no service contract. For us, the answer is a simple no. Service contracts are rarely worth the extra cost. Details why, on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. We’re going to take a post from our website, as well, where Kyra writes: “I’ve seen a bathtub made completely of tile. How does the tile hold water? I know that tile alone will hold water but grout won’t. I really liked it but is it worth it?”
TOM: Well, you’re correct that the bathtub tile is not going to hold water. In this case, the tub is not waterproof but the material beneath the tile tub is.
Now, learning how to build a tile tub, you first need to construct the tub, then line it with a waterproof membrane, Kyra. And that would have to be material like fiberglass or a rubbery material. It’s basically what’s done when constructing a tile shower pan for a shower stall.
Building a tile bathtub is not a simple do-it-yourself project, though. So if you really want a fancy tub, you might just be better off buying one.
LESLIE: And you know what? I’m not so sure how comfy a tile bathtub would be on your tush.
TOM: That’s a good point.
LESLIE: It’s like you want to relax and lounge around in your tub and I don’t know if that’s exactly the best finish for it, you know?
Alright. Bill writes: “I have a 1938 Tudor home and I discovered some vermiculite insulation. Is that bad? Do I have to get rid of it?”
TOM: Oh, yeah, that definitely is a concern because vermiculite - which is an insulation material that was used in the early 1900s, primarily – may very well contain asbestos. In fact, you should assume that it does. So the material has to be tested and then you’ll have the information that you need to have to determine what to do about it. If it’s got asbestos, it’s got to be removed by a pro.
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s got to be removed properly and safely.
TOM: For all the cutting-edge design trends out there, most of us still follow some unwritten design rules: those things that someone at some point decided we should never, ever do. Well, sometimes, breaking out those rules is necessary. Leslie has got some ideas for shaking up the status quo and making some big design statements, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: That’s right. Well, whether you inherited them from your parents or just never thought to break them, it’s time to go rogue on some old design rules.
Here’s one to start with and it’s my favorite one to break: neutral colors only in small spaces. Even if bold colors do make small spaces look smaller, the illusion is worth the added eye candy, trust me. It’s a great use of a small space to put a really, really bold and bright color in there. Mess with the finishes. You’re going to be so happy with the results that it’ll be worth it if the space does feel a little cave-like. But it’s kind of awesome at the same time.
Now, somewhere along the line, somebody decided that master bedrooms should be very serious. Well, throw that rule out, too. Fun décor gives you something exciting and inspiring to wake up to. And it brings out the kid in all of us. So have some fun in your bedroom.
Also, artwork. Do you think it should only be hung at eye level? Well, think again. You want to lean frames and canvases on the floor for an art-studio vibe. And play around with height for a distinctly memorable look.
Also, if you’ve got something over a fireplace, it doesn’t always have to be centered. You can mix and match some of the art that you’re putting up above a fireplace and kind of put something askew to the side, maybe even over the side of the mantel. Have fun with it, because things really are getting a little bit off-kilter and I think that’s a lot of fun you can have in your home’s décor.
And who said that your chairs have to match? Well, mismatched dining chairs are a great way to put a new spin on formal. It’s also a great way to let each member of the family put their own touch on a common area of the house.
So have fun with your design. You’re going to have it for a long time, so really make sure you’re making choices that you love but also take a couple of risks. It’s going to pay off in the end, I promise.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, would you like some tips to quiet down your household? We’re going to have the lowdown on silencing loud pipes, ducts and more, on the 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.
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(Copyright 2015 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.)