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Bath Updates to Cut Water Costs, Getting Grills Ready for Summer, Best Home Improvement Projects for House Value and More

  • Transcript

    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: What are you working on this fine weekend? We’d love to help. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your home improvement question at MoneyPit.com.

    Coming up on today’s program, we’re going to start by talking about saving water. It’s never been more important as we roll into summer. But one easy way to do that is just to swap out your toilet for a newer model that is WaterSense-certified. We’ve got tips on how to do just that.

    LESLIE: Plus, it’s the season to break out the grill. But if you can’t break out your grill because it’s already broken or just downright disgusting – you know, cruddy and gross and you really don’t want to clean it – you’re going to be amazed at all the cool, new grills that are on the market today. We’re going to talk to a guy whose job it is to find the best one for the biggest home improvement retailer in the world, coming up.

    TOM: Plus, some home improvement projects deliver big when it comes time to sell your house but others can do the exact opposite. We’ve got tips on the improvements that deliver the best return on investment.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a $50 gift card to The Home Depot. You can use it to pick up your spring cleaning supplies from Home Depot’s own HDX line of cleaning products.

    TOM: That’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random to today’s show, so make that you. Pick up the phone and let’s talk. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Betty in California needs some help with a toilet question. What can we do for you today?

    BETTY: I’m interested in the high-rise toilet and I’d like the pros and con and possibly a brand. Because our plumber is thinking of using KOHLER – the quick flush – and we’re on well water and that’s it.

    TOM: Well, there’s really no cons of using – a “comfort-height toilet” is what’s that called. Not a high-rise but comfort-height. They’re a bit higher than a standard toilet. And in terms of brands, one that I can recommend is called American Champion 4. I’ve got American Champion comfort-height toilets in our house. And it really doesn’t matter what age you are, they are just easier to use. And the other benefit is that they use very little water and they don’t clog.

    So I would take a look at the American Standard Champion 4 toilets and just get the accessible size and you’ll be good to go.

    Alright, Betty? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Kansas where Russ has a roofing question. What can we do for you?

    RUSS: OK. I’ve got a farm that I bought eight years ago and on the farm, there’s a very large, very old barn. A matter of fact, the loft is large enough that you could probably fit a regulation-sized basketball court inside of it. According to the graffiti inside the barn, it was built in either ’34 or ’38. And it was done originally with cedar-shake shingles with 1×4 stringers, what, about every 4 inches or about a 3½-inch space in between them.

    TOM: Yep. I know the construction well.

    RUSS: OK. And as you know, those cedar shingles are not going to be in very good condition as of this point. So I know I’m going to have to go up there. Trying to figure out a safe way to work up there so I can remove the cedar shingles, so I can prep it to go back with, probably, a metal roof. The question is – I’ll have to screw the roof down. The question is: am I – will I be able to go directly with the 1x4s with the metal roofing or would I be better off nailing everything fully and putting down some plywood or OSB?

    TOM: Well, I think that a good roofer could work with the 1-by furring strips that are up there right now. Because, frankly, that’s the way metal roof was originally put down. It wasn’t put down on solid sheathing; it was put down on strips just like that. So I think that that’s a fine option for you. I don’t think you need to do the sheathing in this particular case.

    If you were going to put down asphalt shingles, I’d tell you you need to sheathe it. But for a metal roof, you may have to do some additional carpentry to get the strips where you want them, to make the seams on the roof and so on, but I don’t see a reason for you to sheathe this barn. I think the metal can go right on top of that.

    RUSS: OK. So patch the rotted 1x4s and maybe put in some where the seams are and we should be good that way?

    TOM: Absolutely.

    RUSS: OK. Do you have any suggestions on how to safely work on a 45-degree pitch?

    TOM: Yeah. Call a roofer. It’s not a do-it-yourself project. I mean that’s a really high-end project and if you do it every day, you have all the appropriate safety gear and scaffolding and skill set to be able to work on that. That’s a very dangerous place to try out your do-it-yourself skills. Because handling those big sheets up there, you get a wind gust and you start flying off the roof. Those medical bills add up very quickly, so I would definitely recommend that you have a professional do this.

    RUSS: OK.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. 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. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, although your toilet might be working just fine, it could be time to switch it out for a water-saving model and save $100 a year. We’ll explain why, 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: What are you working on on this beautiful weekend? We’d love to help. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement or décor question.

    Plus, this hour, we’re giving away to one lucky caller drawn at random a $50 Home Depot gift card. You can use it for all your spring cleaning supplies, like HDX Brand Bleach for Germicidal and Outdoor Use. This HDX bleach is high-quality, EPA-registered and a hospital-use disinfectant that truly kills a broad spectrum of microorganisms.

    It’s one of the many HDX products that’s available at The Home Depot or online at HomeDepot.com, where we are going to send you with a $50 gift card if you’re the lucky caller drawn at random from those that call us on today’s show. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Lorraine from Vermont on the line who’s got some ants invading her money pit. How can we help you today?

    LORRAINE: I have them out in my flower beds, I have them on my front and back lawn. There’s a lot of a sand here around my house.

    TOM: Right.

    LORRAINE: And I am wondering what I could do to get rid of them.

    TOM: Are they getting into the house, as well?

    LORRAINE: No, they are not in the house.

    TOM: Alright. Well, that’s good news.

    So, look, there are ways that you can work with this using sort of over-the-counter products. But I would recommend a different direction. The insecticides today have become so sophisticated and so accurate and so able to target, specifically, the insect that you’re dealing with that it’s really worthwhile having a professional apply these insecticides. One in particular that, actually, we just used at my mom’s house – well, not we; I mean I hired somebody to do this – it’s called Termidor – T-e-r-m-i-d-o-r. And I’m very familiar with this insecticide because it’s one that is part of a class called an “undetectable.”

    So, the way it works is – in the old days, we’d spray insecticides that would repel the ants or kill them on sight. And they would sort of know it was there, so it was detectable. Well, these new insecticides are undetectable. So, as a result, the ants go through the insecticide and then they get it on their bodies and they bring it back to the nest. And then they share it with the other insects in the nest. So just getting some ants to go through it basically takes it back to the nest and wipes out the whole nest. So it’s a very effective way to try to control the ant populations around your house.

    I don’t know that I would go so far as to do it in my whole yard unless it was really bothering me. But generally, you do this right around your – the perimeter of your home to try to minimize them in that area and stop them from potentially going in the house. You haven’t seen them yet but if you’ve got that many, I can almost guarantee that they’re in the house.

    Alright, Lorraine. Does that help you out?

    LORRAINE: That does. I actually tried – someone had told me to use Borax and sugar?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s one of the home remedies that I mentioned. And Borax does work but it’s just not nearly as effective as a product like Termidor.

    Good luck with the project.

    LORRAINE: Thank you so much.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rob in Iowa whose basement walls seem to be coming in on themselves. What is going on at your money pit?

    ROB: I’ve got some basement walls that are heaving in and I need a permanent solution that’s not going to bankrupt me.

    TOM: OK.

    ROB: Basically, what I’ve got is I’ve got some wall anchors that have been installed about seven years ago. I’ve been keeping those tight and the walls are still heaving in. We had a drought here in Iowa last summer and this year, we’ve had quite a bit of rain. So, walls are bowing in up to 2 inches in places and I’m getting a little worried.

    TOM: Wow. Yeah, if your walls are bowed in 2 inches, Rob, unfortunately you’ve got a very serious problem on your hands that is not only impacting the structure of your home but also the value of your home. And if the walls have gotten that bad, we are well beyond the do-it-yourself-fix stage.

    I can provide you some basic information about why this might be happening. Generally, the reason walls will heave is because you get a lot of water that collects around the foundation perimeter, especially if you don’t have terrific drainage. If the drainage is flat, if the gutters are dumping near the corners of the foundation, which is where most gutter contractors leave them, that water collects into the soil. And in the wintertime, it freezes, expands and then slowly but surely sort of ratchets that wall out.

    Now, if yours have gone to the point where they’re 2 inches out of plumb, this is a problem. So, the way I would address this – and I would do it very specifically and very strategically – is as follows: I would retain a structural engineer to examine the problem and specify a repair. It’s very important that you just don’t call a contractor for this. Because if they don’t have the pedigree of an engineering degree, it’s not going to hold water when it comes time to sell your house.

    So I would hire an engineer to analyze the problem and design a solution. And you could talk cost concerns with your engineer and options and all of that. Once you have that plan in place, at that point in time you can make the decision as to whether or not you’re going to do it yourself, which may be more possible with a plan than not, or whether or not you’re going to hire a pro.

    But however you get it done, the third and most important final step is to have the engineer come back and examine the work and then give you an additional letter that says, “Yes, I identified this problem and I designed a fix. And I inspected the fix and it’s done correctly and there’s nothing further to worry about.”

    Because ultimately, if you go to sell your house, the buyers are going to bring up this issue. You want to have that sort of pedigree in your hand so that you can prove that it was a repair that, yes, was structural in nature but was repaired correctly. Does that make sense?

    ROB: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a very interesting approach. I have one kink to throw at you and that is the wall-anchor system that’s installed was warrantied. And the owner of that company came out and said that he’ll warranty the system and he’s willing to put in three more anchors which, in my mind, is an admission of liability. Do I let him do that or do I need to get the structural engineer first?

    TOM: Is this wall-anchor contractor a structural engineer?

    ROB: I doubt it.

    TOM: Stop the repair process. Get the engineer. If the engineer thinks that’s a good idea, then that’s a different story. But warrantying doesn’t necessarily mean we put more in. If the product failed and your walls continued to bow as a result, then his liability, depending on where these walls were when he first put the system in and guaranteed that they were going to stop the walls from buckling in, his liability could be significant.

    But I would get the engineer in first and let’s get some good, impartial, expert advice here from somebody that does not have a system to sell you. I don’t want you to get advice from somebody – sometimes, contractors give you advice from people that – because they sell the system. “Yeah, you’ve got a problem? I’m just the guy to fix it for you, you know?” And that’s not really good, expert, independent advice.

    So go to the engineer first, Rob, and then you can deal with the contractor issue after you have the information.

    ROB: OK, great. Thank you.

    TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, years ago, if a plumber told you your toilet needed to be replaced, you’d have a right to be skeptical. It was pretty rare – darn near impossible, in fact – for a toilet to actually break.

    TOM: True. But today, water consumption is really the big issue. And if your toilets are from 1994 or earlier, you may stand to save a lot of money by switching them out for a current-generation of the high-efficiency toilets or HETs. Forget the low-flows of the early 90s that didn’t work. These HET toilets work really well on about 1¼ gallons of water per flush. So not very much water does the trick.

    LESLIE: Right. Now the EPA says a household of four can save about $90 a year on its water bill with an HET. Plus, a lot of local utilities are giving rebates and vouchers to households that buy one. And that makes it really worth your while.

    TOM: For more energy-saving ideas, download our free Money Pit guide to green remodeling, online, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tracy in Hawaii who needs some help with a sliding-doorsituation. What’s going on?

    TRACY: The slider door has got – it’s got grit in it. And I had sprayed it with something. It was on sale. I don’t remember because I got rid of it. But it’s like real – it hardened, whatever it was. And it’s very hard to – I want to know if I can find something to loosen it. And then what should I use on it that won’t harden when I spray it, to make it easy?

    TOM: Well, first of all, what I would do is I would get a really stiff brush and I would try to – I would brush those tracks to try to loosen up all of that gunk that’s there and then get a vacuum to kind of suck it out of there so that you can kind of get the loose dirt out and the junk out of there. And then what I would spray it with is white lithium grease. It comes in a can, just like WD-40 but it’s not; it’s a little thicker and it stays around longer.

    And another thing that you can think about doing is if you can take the door out of the tracks, it makes the whole thing easier. But it’s a bit of a tricky job because – depends on how your door is built. But generally, you can lift it right out of the track. It’ll make the whole thing easier to handle.

    TRACY: OK. That sounds wonderful.

    TOM: Good luck with that project, Tracy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Harold in Illinois needs some help with drywall repair. What can we do for you?

    HAROLD: What I’m really wanting to know is – I hear different stories about fiber mesh and paper for drywall? And my experience has been maybe fiber mesh isn’t for corners and butt joints and things of that nature. Maybe that’s just for paper. But which one’s stronger?

    LESLIE: Now, Harold, I’m going to say this in a way that I hope doesn’t offend anybody but I feel like both are really great for a seaming application or a repair in drywall. It depends on the skill level of the person doing the seaming, repairing, application of either the paper or the fiberglass. Both are going to do a great job. It’s just that with paper tape, there’s a little bit more finesse as to how it needs to be applied, how it needs to be sanded, reapplied, feathered out to make sure that that tape really stands up and does a good job.

    With the fiberglass, that mesh tape, the – it sort of has – the openings in the mesh itself allow for the compound to get in and behind it and really stick around. You still have to do sanding and layers and have some finesse there, as well, but it almost requires an artisan to do the paper work. That’s why, I think, when it comes to an average do-it-yourselfer, we tend to lean towards the mesh.

    HAROLD: Oh, OK. That works.

    TOM: Alright, Harold. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Lauren in Florida is on the line with a lead-paint question. How can we help you today?

    LAUREN: Hi. My husband and I are remodeling a 1907 home that’s been vacant for multiple years, so there’s lots of damage. A lot of the paint is chipping off the windows. There is – on the beadboard and wainscoting, a lot of the paint’s chipping off. And someone has gone in and put sheetrock mud to texture over the original plaster walls, so some of that’s chipping off. And we’ve got three young children, so we need to repaint this house and fix it but we’re really concerned about the lead-paint issue.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Understandably so. And I mean your house is in the timeframe where you do need to be concerned about lead paint.

    Now, we had an issue when we put central air conditioning in the house when my son was six months old – you know, when he was little, I didn’t think that – any concern. And they did a great job. They were very tidy; they contained all the dust. But something must have gotten on something and when we had gone for his next exam, he had elevated lead levels probably from some dust getting on a toy and then the toy going in his mouth, anything. Anyway, it turned out after we did the next blood work, his levels went back to normal, so we were really not concerned at that point. But it is a very scary issue.

    Now, I’m not sure, nationwide, what the rules are – and maybe Tom can speak better on this – but in New York, when you are fairly certain that you’ve got lead paint or the timeframe sort of dates it that way, you have to work with a painter or a contractor who’s certified in sort of lead-paint containment, if you will. Because even if you have it on a window frame and you’re opening and closing that window, you’re creating little specks of lead dust that are getting into the air. And with small children, you do need to be concerned.

    So you do need to make sure that, if you can, that this is done by a pro. There’s nothing that regulates when a homeowner does it themselves but knowing that you probably have lead paint and with small children in the home, I would just have a pro do it. And you want to make sure that things are taped off and really sealed up and cleaned very thoroughly. There are specific rules, I know, in New York State that allow for a contractor to be certified. And that’s something you really want to look for.

    TOM: Yeah. And especially because the paint is flaking in deteriorated condition right now, that’s the highest risk for this, Lauren. So you’re wise to proceed very cautiously and make sure that the contractor that you’re working with is certified as a lead professional.

    LAUREN: Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Lauren. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Up next, if the thought of sizzling steaks on the grill makes your mouth water, well, they’d be even more delicious cooked up on one of the hottest new grills of the season. We’re going to have the scoop on the best ones out there, next.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, it’s just about time to make outdoor grilling a daily part of your meal prep plan. But if your grill isn’t quite up to the task, our next guest can help.

    TOM: Dan Parrilli is in charge of buying all the grills sold by Home Depots across the country and joins us now with tips on the hottest trends of the season.

    Welcome, Dan.

    DAN: Thank you.

    TOM: So, does your job take you, basically, from one barbecue to another all season long?

    DAN: Yes, it does.

    TOM: What a country. Well, the concept of outdoor living has really been a growing trend as more and more of us really want to spend every waking hour, when the weather’s mild enough, outside. That’s got to be a big boost to the grilling industry. What are people most interested in doing today?

    DAN: Mostly, people are interested in finding multiple ways to cook. So, what you’re seeing is the trends with all our cooking shows has really inspired people to get outdoors but try new things. And that’s where grilling is really moving to on – in terms of just – typically, just cooking on gas or charcoal. Now, people are extending to smokers or having multiple grills in their backyard. And then even with their grill, they’re just buying different accessories and gadgets to cook in different ways.

    LESLIE: Now, do you find yourself, Dan – do you guys have the grills all set up at your office and you barbecue lunch for everybody, every day, on a different grill?

    DAN: That would be nice but no. That is, unfortunately, not what we do.

    TOM: Now, there are many different types of grills available. If one is shopping for a grill, how do you kind of break down what’s going to be the right choice for you?

    DAN: First, it’s what kind of fuel do they want to cook on? So, do they want to be cooking on gas that gets them up and running quicker and very convenient? Or they want to cook on charcoal or wood pellets that is – takes a little time to get hotter, right? But you get that smokier flavor. So it starts with the fuel source they want to cook with. And then goes into how many they’re cooking for.

    TOM: And they also have to decide about the accessories, right? Because I mean you can get everything from a basic grill to grills with additional burners and storage and so on.

    DAN: Absolutely. So you can start with your basic of just having a primary grill space. But then it’s what are they looking to do? Do they want a side burner to sauté some veggies? Are they looking for a rotisserie rack to do some rotisserie chicken? And so on. And that goes back to the thing I said first – is people are really experimenting with grills and trying to find ways to cook foods differently.

    LESLIE: And I think that’s interesting. We’re seeing a whole bunch of different fuels – well, at least I’ve never even heard of a pellet grill for a barbecue? That’s amazing.

    DAN: Yeah. So, wood-pellet grills have been around for a while. They’re growing in awareness and trend. And really what they are – they are an electric grill that wood pellets are fed into a hopper and basically just kind of pushes through. And so it basically takes out all the work. So it’s like an outdoor oven. You just set it to a temperature you desire and the great thing – so it’s very simple and easy but you still get the wood smoky flavor in your meat, which a lot of people are looking for.

    TOM: Now, that’s a great option because many folks live in apartments and condominiums where you really can’t use a gas grill or a charcoal grill. I know that we had a condo for many years and we had to use an electric grill. And I would’ve loved to have had access to a pellet grill to give me that smoky flavor. So that’s fantastic.

    Another popular grill system that you are – that’s coming out this year is the Weber Gourmet BBQ system. Tell us about it.

    DAN: So, absolutely. So, Weber is – came for us and we’re actually the number-one Weber retailer in America. So it’s just a huge success by both The Home Depot and Weber brands. And that Gourmet Barbecue System really hits the element of – I keep mentioning – it allows you to cook with a lot of different ways.

    So, this one – the Gourmet BBQ System – it comes with a free griddle. So, right when you purchase this grill, you’re ready to start cooking breakfast if you want to outside. But there’s four additional inserts in this system, from a pizza stone to a wok to a chicken roaster. And it just gets you up and running on cooking things differently than you traditionally would, than your traditional burgers and dogs on the grill. Now, you’re cooking pizza outdoors. Now, you’re doing things with the wok or roasting chicken with the pan. So, it’s just – it’s a great grill with a great system that allows you to cook in versatile ways.

    TOM: It’s a lot like having your range outside with that flexibility. You can really do it all.

    We’re talking to Dan Parrilli. He’s the merchant for grills at The Home Depot.

    You’ve also got a smaller Weber that is available – the Q 1200 – which is a tabletop gas grill. I guess that’s probably perfect for tailgating.

    DAN: For tailgating, camping, whatever your weekend getaway is maybe. It’s just – it hits the key element and it’s a fun grill. It’s available in eight different colors and comes with the Weber quality that our customers expect but just a great grill to take with you on the run.

    TOM: And we were at one of your events recently and saw a very unique shape, sort of an egg-shaped grill called a Kamado. You’ve got one now called the Kamado Pro Ceramic Charcoal Grill. Who knew that the egg shape was going to work so well in the grilling industry?

    DAN: It’s been a phenomenal success.

    So, Vision Grills brought us this grill and it’s just been amazing. So, it works like a convection oven and that’s – what the egg shape basically allows is your heat’s just hitting your meat from all sides. And that’s where the convection oven-type comes in. But this grill just has taken the Kamados to another level, just due to all the features it offers. So, one: it’s just got an easy cleanup with its ashtray at the bottom. It’s got ports for when you go to start the grill. It’s got extended grilling surface because it gives you another grate up top, comes with a cover.

    So, you just look – it’s a great way to cook with a convection style. It’s available in so many colors and if you just check out reviews on HomeDepot.com, over 300 people with – and it carries a five-star rating. It’s just great quality and a fun way to cook and a great grill with a lot of features.

    LESLIE: And, Dan, it’s interesting. There’s nothing that you can’t do outside that you can’t do inside. And infrared really is playing a big part in that.

    Nexgrill has a brand-new product. It’s the Nexgrill EVOLUTION. Can you tell us about that?

    DAN: Absolutely. It’s a product I’m most excited about this year. So, Nexgrill brought us an infrared grill that is an infrared system that has less flare-ups and giving our customers juicier meat. But the great thing about this grill is it’s not just infrared. The infrared system could be removed so a customer can cook direct like they’re used to. Or they can turn over the infrared system and put in wood chips and have a smoker in their grill, as well. So it gives you a ton of versatility by cooking direct, infrared or smoking all in one grill.

    TOM: Yeah. And I see that it can run on propane or natural gas with the conversion kit. That’s fantastic. So many options. The Home Depot really has everything you need for grilling at your home this season. And they’re actually running a very cool event called The Thrill of the Grill. Tell me about that, Dan.

    DAN: That is our Mecca. The grilling, it’s our kickoff to grilling season. And it’s where you’ll come in and find a lot of great special buys, new low prices on grills and a lot of accessories to basically complete your whole project, all in one time.

    TOM: Looking forward to it.

    Dan Parrilli, the merchant for grills for The Home Depot, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    DAN: Thank you.

    TOM: If you’d like to learn more, you can view all of these grills at Home Depot and HomeDepot.com, where you’ll also find more than 220 tools and accessories, also, for your grill.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, when it comes time to sell your home, some home improvement projects can deliver big but others do the exact opposite. We’re going to have tips on the improvements with the best ROI – that’s return on investment – coming up.

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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.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. You will get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a $50 gift card to The Home Depot. You can use it to stock up on your spring cleaning supplies, like HDX Brand bleach. It’s a powerful bleach-based formula and that’s going to remove tough stains and even whiten your clothing. You can use it to control mold and mildew in your bathrooms and other germ-prone surfaces in your home.

    You can use your gift card at The Home Depot or at TheHomeDepot.com and check out their HDX line of cleaning products. The gift card is worth 50 bucks and it’s going out to one lucky caller this hour.

    TOM: Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Vernon in Colorado who’s fixing up the bath. How can we help you?

    VERNON: I had heard a while back on your show, if you’re going to recaulk your bathtub, to fill it up with water? But I do not remember if anything was said about removing the water immediately after it was caulked or letting the caulk set up first before you would let the water out. So I wanted to check on that before I started my project with some good kitchen-and-bath caulk.

    LESLIE: Well, absolutely. The tip you heard about filling the tub with water is totally correct. And the reason why we do that is when you fill the tub with water, it sort of weighs down and sits down onto the base a little more.

    So if you fill it with water and then go ahead and caulk, then you let the caulk dry and then you drain the bath. When it sort of empties out, it’s going to lift back up and compress that caulk. So the next time you actually go to take a bath or a shower and you’re standing in there and the tub presses down on the base, it’s going to stretch the caulk and it’s all going to stay in place.

    So that’s really a good trick of the trade, because it keeps it in its place longer and it really lets it adhere to where it needs to be.

    VERNON: Perfect. OK. That’s what I’ll do. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Vernon. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, when it comes to selecting home improvement projects, everyone likes to think that their project will be a “good investment.” But will it?

    LESLIE: Well, maybe or maybe not. To find out, we turn to the annual Cost Versus Value Survey done by Remodeling Online and here’s what we found.

    TOM: That’s right. Let’s start with projects like adding a garage door or improving your attic insulation or even a minor kitchen remodel. These deliver big.

    Let’s talk about the insulation. That can return 116 percent on the cost of the job. And that’s a pretty huge return on investment, which could be even higher if you do the work yourself because these estimates include hiring out the labor.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But surprisingly, adding a bathroom addition is not. In fact, bathroom additions only delivered an ROI of 56 percent at the time of sale. So, contrary to popular belief, adding a bathroom is not always the smartest move and certainly not if it also means adding onto your house.

    TOM: If you’d like to learn more, just Google “Cost Versus Value 2016.” “Cost Versus Value 2016.”

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Kathleen in Illinois on the line and she’s got a question about a vaulted ceiling. What can we do for you?

    KATHLEEN: I’m calling about a renovation project that we are trying to do on a three-season sun porch. And it’s a 12×27 room. We did tackle doing window replacement by ourselves and we managed to do that. They’re vinyl-clad windows, the tilt-in kind and everything. But the ceiling right now is 12-inch tiles that are – they seem to be glued up to the ceiling. They’re not on a grid system; they’re just up there. And we want to put faux-tin ceilings. And we’re wondering if that’s a project that we could tackle or is that something best left to professionals or – we’re looking for your advice.

    We had some damage from rain on the roof and we’ve had the roof replaced. But I even painted over where the water stains were with a Zinsser Stain Stop. And you can still see the – it did not cover it, so we need to change the ceiling.

    TOM: Hey, they make these tiles that are a drop-ceiling type of a tile that looks just like tin. Have you seen those, Kathleen?

    KATHLEEN: Yes, we have. And we thought that those were very cool and we didn’t know – do you think just LIQUID NAILS or something to put it up over these existing tiles?

    TOM: What’s underneath the tiles? Plywood sheathing?

    KATHLEEN: I don’t know. It feels really solid when you push a …

    TOM: I would try to figure out what’s underneath it. You could take some pieces of the old tiles apart, see how thick that is. I would prefer to have a mechanical attachment, like a staple or something like that, than just simply the glue. The glue is OK.

    LESLIE: I mean I would use LIQUID NAILS and something else.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly.

    KATHLEEN: Uh-huh. And you don’t think it would – I don’t want it to look uneven, you know, how they – you see sometimes those grid systems where the tiles kind of droop and sloop and look …

    TOM: No, if it’s done really well, it looks great. We’ve seen them at really high-end décor showrooms, where you have some really upscale decorating done, and they look fantastic.

    KATHLEEN: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project, Kathleen, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, you could plan the most elegant outdoor soiréeever only to have it spoiled by annoying, little bugs flying around your guests’ heads by the thousands. We’re going to share tips on how to not get bugged by your bugs, 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: Let’s jump right to the Facebook post we got this week from Joni in Indiana.

    LESLIE: Alright. Joni writes: “When remodeling your home, is it wise to spend money on a high-end item, like granite countertops, or should you stick to items that go within the price range of the homes in your neighborhood?”

    TOM: That’s a great question, Joni, because that’s one that you’re constantly sort of battling. Do you do the improvement that you really, really want or do you always turn to how much it’s going to add to the value of your house?

    And I say as long as your expectations are realistic, you can go either way. Look, there’s some improvements that aren’t going to really add a dime to the value of your house but they’re going to make you feel good and you’re going to enjoy them. There’s no difference in that investment in your house than there might be in buying a new outfit or going to a nice restaurant or taking a great vacation. It feels good while you’re there but it doesn’t have any kind of return. And in fact, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. So, some improvements you definitely should do regardless of the fact of whether they’re adding value to your house or not.

    What I don’t want to see you do is do major improvements to your home that take it out of character with the neighborhood. So, for example, if you’re in a neighborhood that has 3-bedroom, 2-bath homes galore and you decide you’re going to add 10 bedrooms to your house or something crazy like that, you’re never going to get the return on investment. So, as long as you’re consistent with the neighborhood on the big things, go ahead and splurge on the small things and you’ll be happy and have a good return at the same time.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And to tell you the truth, I really think somebody who’s looking to buy a house is looking for that granite countertop. If they see a laminate, they’re just going to assume it needs a ton of more work. So, I think the granite is definitely good to go all around.

    Alright. Next up, Anita from Illinois writes: “I have to install a new central air-conditioning system this year. How do I know what size to get for my 1800-square-foot, single-story home?”

    TOM: Well, rule of thumb is that you go with a 600 square feet per ton, so you would have a 3-ton unit. But there are a lot of other factors to consider. And your HVAC contractor is going to do what’s called a heat-loss analysis where they can actually calculate how many BTUs of air-conditioning you’ll need based on not only the square footage but how much windows – how many windows you have, especially on the south side where they have a lot of solar gain, and how much insulation you have and so on. So leave it to your pro. But roughly, you’re probably going to be looking at a 3- to 3½-ton unit, I would expect.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you just want to make sure that you don’t go too big. Don’t oversize, don’t let them up-sell you. Because if it’s too big, it’s just going to be working too much. It’s not going to do what you think it’s going to do. Just because it’s bigger doesn’t mean it’s better, alright? Make the right decision.

    TOM: Well, as the weather warms up, the bugs come out and some can be much more annoying than others, like gnats. They’re the ones that I really hate. But Leslie has got solutions to those little buggers, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, your outdoor party can be ruined in a flash if guests find themselves constantly swatting away at swarms of relentless, little gnats. Now, gnats themselves, they’re pretty harmless but they are super irritating. So to keep your party gnat-free, you need to know that the little buggers love wet, rotten organic matter, like mulch. So cover your compost. Also, rake or turn that mulch often to avoid mold growing on the underside. You want to make sure that you’ve got no standing water or leaves in your gutters and keep your birdbaths and water features clean of any debris.

    Now, also, gnats, they don’t like vanilla. So, vanilla oil and aroma oil burners can help keep them away, as well as vanilla extract on cotton balls placed strategically around your outdoor table. Your guests are not only going to appreciate being gnat-free – I mean who doesn’t love the smell of vanilla? And maybe you’ll just have to make sure that you have a cake with vanilla ice cream or something because by the time the meal ends, they’re going to want something vanilla.

    TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, as you take on spring cleaning and reorganize your home, are you running out of storage space? Well, hidden spaces may exist in your home, just waiting to be discovered. We’ll tell you where they are and how to get access to them, 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.


    (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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