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Choosing New Kitchen Countertops, Adding a Skylight that Won’t Leak, and Design Trends to Avoid

  • 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: Give us a call, right now, because we are here for you to help you with your home improvement projects. Help yourself first. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, we’ve got tips on how to pick the best kitchen countertop for your home. There’s lots of new materials out there. We’ll have advice on which one works best for you.

    LESLIE: And you want to stay in the sun all year long? Why not add a skylight to your ceiling? We’re going to tell you all about which skylights won’t leak and are easiest for you to install and maintain.

    TOM: And before you set out looking for the perfect house, why not start your search for the person who can make or break the home-buying process: your realtor? We’ll have tips on how to do just that.

    LESLIE: And one lucky caller this hour is going to get a cleaner house in less time. We’re giving away the PivotPro Water Wand for all of your outdoor-cleaning needs.

    TOM: It attaches to any garden hose and washes mold and mildew from siding, patios and walkways. It’s a prize worth 49.99 but heck, call us for your chance to take it home for free. We’re going to give one away, drawn from all those that reach us for today’s show at random. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Vivian in Texas is dealing with a mysterious odor in her house. Tell us what’s going on.

    VIVIAN: I don’t know what’s going on. I have had three plumbers out there, thinking they could find out what it is. But one of them told me I had a bird in my air-conditioning vents upstairs, because our air conditioning-and-heating system is in the attic, and it wasn’t that. And it’s only been a year-and-a-half since I had the septic tank pumped out.

    TOM: Where is the odor most prevalent?

    VIVIAN: When you walk in the back door.

    TOM: Do you think it could be originating near the kitchen sink?

    VIVIAN: I had one plumber tell me that, too. And he opened it – opened the grease trap or whatever you call it outside. And he says, “No, that’s clean as a whistle.”

    TOM: One of the areas in the house that is often overlooked when it comes to odors, and especially sewage-like odors, are the kitchen-sink or the bathroom-sink drains and not, though, the traps themselves. But what happens is that you will get bacteria that will form around inside the pipe and actually line the pipe. And it gives off what we call “biogas.” And biogas has an awful odor to it and it really is difficult to track down because sometimes it’s worse than others.

    So, what we would recommend that you do, before you do anything else, is to get the equivalent of a bottle brush and some bleach-and-water solution and carefully scrub the inside of the drains of the kitchen.

    Now, to do that, you might have to take that trap off again and kind of work up. But you really want to make sure that you get rid of any debris that could be stuck to the inside of those pipes because that’s what the biogas is built upon, so to speak. Does that make sense?

    VIVIAN: Well, thank you very much. I’m going to sure try it because three plumbers couldn’t tell me what it was.

    TOM: Alright. Well, thanks very much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Louis from Michigan on the line. What can we do for you?

    LOUIS: The house was built in 1929. The siding – it’s a siding question. The siding is asbestos concrete shingles. We have iron in our well water. When spring – the flowers – the water has accumulated, over the years, on the shingles. Now, one wall of the house now has a golden glow. Any recommendations for removing the iron golden glow?

    TOM: Well, if it’s siding, you’re going to have to clean it and paint it. That’s the only thing you can really do. I mean you could wash this house down, you can use a TSP – trisodium phosphate. That will tend to take out some of that. But you’re going to end up having to paint this siding.

    The nice thing about asbestos is it lasts forever. The not-so-nice thing about it is it has to be painted forever. But it’s a non-organic product, so it will not rot, it will not fall apart organically. But it doesn’t look very nice and it does absorb a stain and needs to be constantly maintained.

    Because the asbestos is held inside of a cement binder, it’s not a safety risk; it’s just really a maintenance headache.

    LOUIS: Appreciate it. Thank you.

    TOM: Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We are standing by to take your home improvement question or your design question. Or pretty much whatever you are working around your money pit, we can lend a hand. You know the number: 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you enjoying all the summer sunlight? Well, you can have that bright light all year long if you add a skylight. There’s one that’s almost guaranteed not to leak. We’ll tell you about it, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Haier, the world’s number-one appliance brand and a leader in air-quality solutions. Haier is a new kind of appliance brand, focused on home solutions designed for each stage of the emerging consumer’s life.

    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, don’t let grime and buildup get between you and the perfect summer get-together. We’ve got a great prize we’re giving away this hour.

    LESLIE: Yeah, we’ve got a PivotPro Water Wand for all of your outdoor-cleaning needs. And it’s going to let you clean off your porch, your patio, siding and walkway a lot quicker and a lot easier than ever before. It’s a prize worth 49.99 and it goes home free with one caller we talk to this hour.

    TOM: Check out everything the Water Wand can do at TheHydeWay.com. That’s HydeWay – H-y-d-e-Way.com. And call us now with a home improvement question for your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Sue in Ohio needs some help cleaning a carpet. Tell us what’s going on.

    SUE: I have a concrete sun-porch slab that has – had been covered with black carpeting. And it’s – we had a very muggy summer this year and green mold started to grow on it. And though I tried washing it off and rinsing it off – and it just won’t take care of it. And I know that you had helped other people with mold problems with 10-percent bleach. But I wouldn’t dare put bleach on that black carpet and I wondered if there’s something else that will kill that mold.

    TOM: Well, how do we know it’s mold? It sounds like algae.

    SUE: Could it be?

    TOM: It could be, yeah. What I would do is I would simply – if the carpet’s that dirty, I would simply go out and rent a steam cleaner – rent a carpet cleaner. Those carpet cleaners are pretty darn effective. I rented one myself at The Home Depot just a few weeks ago, for a couple of rooms in an apartment that we own that was getting a new tenant. And I’m always astounded with what a phenomenal job those steam cleaners do on what looks like carpet that has to be torn out.

    But when you steam-clean it with the right materials, use the chemicals that come with the machine, it does a really good job. You’ve just got to take your time. Usually have to go over it a couple of times and it takes a little bit of work but it really does a great job. So I wouldn’t try to do this any other way.

    The way the steam cleaners work is water is injected into the carpet and then, almost at the same time, a very strong vacuum pulls that water back out with the dirt and debris attached to it.

    SUE: Oh. So the steam kills the algae.

    TOM: Yes. It’ll clean it. And then if you dry it really well after that, it should stop it from coming back.

    SUE: OK. OK. Well, that’ll help me, yeah.

    TOM: Alright? And that won’t damage the color.

    SUE: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Kurt in North Carolina on the line who’s working on a restoration. Tell us about the project.

    KURT: So I’ve got 2×6 floor joists spanning 15 feet. And I’d like to know if I rip some ¾-inch plywood and sister it up against the 2x6s and glue and screw it, if that would be sufficient. My crawlspace has six vents under the floor and I want to seal them up. I read it doesn’t need cross-ventilation. It’s kind of old-school. And I put six-mil poly on the ground. Your thoughts, please.

    TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, in terms of beefing up the floor joists, sistering the floor joists by doubling them – I don’t necessarily think I would use plywood on them; I would double them.

    KURT: Would it be flimsy?

    TOM: Well, I mean it may not be flimsy but the thing is, if you want to sister a floor joist and help support it, you need to go from bearing point to bearing point. So if it’s going from a girder to an exterior wall, the sister beam has to go the same length.

    KURT: Yeah.

    TOM: You know, another thing that you could do, Kurt, is you could run another girder, at the midpoint of that 15 feet, from end to end. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be – has to be as strong as the main girder for the house, because you’re really just taking the flex out of it. So if you poured a small footing underneath it and just got something in there to kind of stiffen the floor, that would take the bounce out.

    KURT: Right. Yeah, I thought about that on the main floor but my second story, I didn’t want to – if I put a glulam in, I only have 7 feet, 5 inches to ceiling height.

    TOM: I understand. So, doubling them is a solution, as well as using a mid-span girder.

    KURT: Alright, sir. I appreciate the information.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Kurt. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, skylights were a hot design trend that quickly faded and not because homeowners didn’t enjoy the extra sunlight but mostly because they became notorious for leaking.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But those horror stories don’t mean that skylights are off-limits totally. You can still get that vitamin D without the high risk of water damage, with a curb-mounted skylight.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. Now, curb-mounted skylights are easier to make watertight because they sit up off the roof by about 4 inches. And then they’re sealed to become literally part of that roof.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And they’re the best bet for homes being retrofitted with a skylight because they are the easiest type to install.

    Adding a curbed skylight to the top of a skylight shaft is like putting a cap on a bottle.

    TOM: Yeah. And also, make sure that you use low-E glass. That’s a high-performance glass that’s going to reflect the heat of the sun back outside and it’ll make sure that that added skylight is not going to add to your cooling bill once it’s installed.

    LESLIE: Jeremy in Pennsylvania is dealing with a leaky basement. What can we do for you?

    JEREMY: I have a finished basement that has blocked foundation. And I have a small leak that – it’s not pulling up water or anything like that; it just kind of causes me some moisture problems.

    TOM: OK.

    JEREMY: And it smells kind of musty and damp and things like that.

    TOM: Where is the leak?

    JEREMY: The leak is in that – whenever I – before I finished it, it was at the corner of the slab and the block wall.

    TOM: OK.

    JEREMY: And it seemed like it was coming up from underneath. I sealed it, I think, inadvertently with DRYLOK and I don’t think that that necessarily did the trick. And I didn’t know if there was another thing that I could do without gutting the basement completely, because I have laminate floor down and drywall up, if there is anything I can do from the outside.

    TOM: Jeremy, when – does it get worse after a heavy rain?

    JEREMY: It has before. It hasn’t gotten much worse, no.

    TOM: But it seems somewhat consistent with how much rainfall you get outside?

    JEREMY: Correct.

    TOM: Yeah, OK. So, listen, the good news is there’s nothing you need to do inside to fix this. The problem is outside.

    I would suspect, because this is in a corner, you may even have a downspout near that area of the house. But generally, if you have a leak against a foundation wall like that, it’s caused more by drainage than it is by anything like a rising water table.

    So if you look outside at the foundation in that area, you’re going to probably see that you’ve got a blocked gutter or you have a gutter that doesn’t have enough downspouts or you’ve got downspouts that are discharging too close to the house. When you have a moisture problem, you want to – really want to move those spouts out 4 to 6 feet. Or perhaps you could have some grading that’s too flat and not sort of allowing water to run away.

    That first 4 to 6 feet around the house foundation perimeter is really the most critical. And if the water is allowed to sit and collect that close to the house, what’s going to happen is you’re going to get that moisture come right back down into the basement.

    So the solution is to fix the drainage outside and the inside will fix itself.

    JEREMY: Yeah, I think it’s probably a combination of the two. I have a gutter right there in that corner and then I think my grading is – I think it actually comes towards the house, as opposed to running away from the house.

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s a double whammy.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a recipe for a flood right there.

    JEREMY: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, start by getting the downspout out. Just put an extension on that leader and you may see an instant result.

    JEREMY: OK. Terrific. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Jeremy. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Cynthia from South Dakota on the line who’s got a question about a firewall. Tell us what you’re working on.

    CYNTHIA: I have an old house and I’ve been ripping out the plaster walls. And I found, along this one wall – see, the whole entire house is this pretty durable and tough plasterboard stuff. And I was wondering if that is a firewall, because that seems to be where all the cold-air returns and stuff are and if I should or should not rip it out. And if I do rip it out, is there a certain kind of drywall that I should use there?

    TOM: Where is this wall located exactly?

    CYNTHIA: It could have been on the outside of the house at one point but it’s (audio gap) under the furnace.

    TOM: Well, first of all, the only place that you typically would have a firewall – in other words, a fire-rated wall with a certain rating – is between the garage and the house. All the other walls and ceilings inside the homes are – usually have traditional, ½-inch drywall. If it’s an exterior – an interior/exterior wall – an inside surface of an exterior wall, like a garage wall, then you would use a 5/8-inch-thick, fire-rated drywall. But all of the other places in the house, you’d have regular plaster board – I’m sorry, regular drywall.

    CYNTHIA: OK. Have you ever seen this plasterboard before?

    TOM: Well, sure. Now, how old is the house?

    CYNTHIA: I believe it was built in 1896?

    TOM: See, there’s different stages of wall construction. In 1896, you would have had something called “wood lath,” so there would be wood strips on the wall and then plaster put on top of that.

    CYNTHIA: Yep. That’s on most of the walls. But this one particular wall – which could have been an outside wall at one point; I’m not sure exactly – it seems it’s like in 2-foot strips.

    TOM: Yeah, OK. So that’s a later addition. And what they did with that is when they stopped using wood lath, they started using rock lath or – you would think of sheetrock in those 2-foot-wide strips? They put that on and then covered that with wet plaster. So that’s just a more modern version of the way walls were constructed. So it went from wood lath to rock lath to sheetrock. That’s, essentially, the progression of wall construction over, roughly, the last hundred years.

    CYNTHIA: OK. Well, thank you.

    TOM: A little lesson on building history. Hope that clears it up for you.

    CYNTHIA: Yeah. Alright. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Greg in Iowa is on the line and he’s dealing with a radon situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    GREG: Well, my wife and I are in the process of buying a home and we’re in the process of closing on this home. And when we – gone through the whole process of buying it and everything, we had to have an initial – we decided to have an inspection done. And then at the end of this inspection, where they go over everything mechanical and about the house and everything, they then offered a radon test to be done. And I had heard about the test and read about the test and figured it was a good idea to have it done. It was $100, which was pretty cheap compared to what we found out.

    And I guess what I’m trying to find out from you all is – in Iowa, they say that there’s 70 to 71 percent of the homes in Iowa have a radon problem.

    TOM: OK. Now, you had a radon test done. What did the level come back at?

    GREG: It came back at 18.

    TOM: OK. So 18 picocuries?

    GREG: Yes.

    TOM: So 4.0 picocuries is the action guideline. Remember, I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector; I got this, OK?

    GREG: Yes, sir.

    TOM: So 4.0 is the action guideline. So you have a radon problem. It’s not unusual – it depends on the area – and certainly not the worst that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen homes that had levels of upwards of 100 picocuries.

    GREG: OK.

    TOM: That said, you do need to put in – or more accurately, the seller ­- is a sub-slab mitigation system where you have pipes that go into the slab and they pull the radon gas out. Now, has that process been started?

    GREG: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Alright. So then you’re on your way. But when you’re done, it’s very important that they test out of this and get a successful number. I will caution you, though, because this is a real estate transaction, remember that you are not in control of that house.

    And one of the biggest concerns that I had as a home inspector doing radon tests was I couldn’t necessarily trust the sellers to leave my test alone. And if they open the windows or doors during the test, they’re going to vent that house and get that number to be down. So, it’s really important that when you’re doing a mitigation system, you would probably step away from doing charcoal absorption canisters and you would do other types of radon testing.

    There’s one called a “working level monitor,” where it basically takes samples on an hour-by-hour basis. And you can look at the results that come off of this and what you look for, as a tester, is a normal pattern. And you’re going to see a pattern that sort of climbs throughout the day and is really high at night when the house is completely still, starts to drop during the day. A good tester can tell if the test has been compromised.

    So just proceed cautiously. Not an unusual situation. Sub-slab ventilation is the way to go and when they’re done, this test should be down to near zero.

    GREG: Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. And I think you’re doing all the right things. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, if you’re buying a house, choosing the right house is a big decision. But choosing the right realtor is just as critical. We’re going to find out how to pick the perfect realtor for your home’s search when we’re joined by the president of the National Association of Realtors, when The Money Pit continues.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Glisten. Glisten makes it easy to clean, freshen and maintain your dishwasher, disposer, microwave and washing machine. So improve the performance of your appliances with cleaning solutions from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Visit GlistenCleaners.com.

    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, buying or selling a home can be a very exciting time in life but it’s one that can be a little bit stressful and more so if you don’t have the right pro to help you get through that process.

    LESLIE: Well, one way to help you take some of the pressure off is to find the right realtor. Now, a realtor can actually help you navigate every step of the process. So to help determine how to choose the right realtor for you, we turn to Chris Polychron, the president of the National Association of Realtors. He’s an executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

    Welcome, Chris.

    CHRIS: Thank you for having me on your show.

    TOM: Hey. So, Chris, last time we talked with you about how to purchase your first home. But finding a realtor is an important focus of that step. What do you think is the best way to match up your needs with the right realtor to help you find that all-important purchase?

    CHRIS: When you choose a realtor, you want to choose somebody that has the kind of characteristics you do. Do you want somebody that calls you frequently? Do you want somebody that uses technology to communicate? I think I might want somebody that has a mix of both.

    TOM: Got it. So, I think that a lot of times, Americans find realtors in one of two ways: they either find the house and then sort of the realtor comes with the house or they find the realtor first and let that realtor help them find the perfect house. It would seem that that’s the better approach. Wouldn’t you agree?

    CHRIS: What I really think people are doing – at least from our statistics, we see that they go online and they search for houses on their own through various portals, including Realtor.com. And then when they feel like they’ve decided that they do want to move and do want to look at houses, then they search for a realtor.

    And so, let’s start from there. I would recommend doing a couple of things first. If they’re moving to a new area, they may not have this advantage. But if they have lived in a market for a while, they could certainly ask friends that have bought homes about referrals or recommendations of a realtor that they used.

    Then I would strongly recommend that the person that’s looking for that realtor literally interview several realtors. You’ve got to ask the right questions; that’s important. I would think you need to find someone who knows their community very well.

    LESLIE: So, Chris, all of these things seem so very specific when you’re looking for a house. How do you know what the right questions are to ask when you’re looking for a realtor and when you’re shopping for this home?

    CHRIS: Here’s some of the questions that I would ask. First and obvious, I would ask them, “How long have you been in residential real estate sales?”

    TOM: Now, I guess that’s important because there are those that specialize in residential sales versus commercial sales. And that could be quite different, correct?

    CHRIS: Correct. And that’s why I would ask it that way, to begin with. And then in qualifying that person, I would ask, “How many homes did you sell last year?” I mean it’s an obvious question.

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: And I might go to – “When you sold homes or when you (inaudible at 0:22:43), how close were you to the final sales price?” In other words, find out if they were able to negotiate for you, because that’s what that realtor is being paid for is to work the process and get you the best available deal on that house that you’re buying.

    And then I would even get more specific. Because I’m not trying to eliminate the new or younger realtor. That young agent may have a better marketing system than someone that’s been in the business for a while. As far as technology, maybe they’re better than that older agent and they can help you through that process. So I wouldn’t eliminate the new agent but at the same time, I would ask what type of specific marketing system and approaches – now this is for the seller – on what you’re going to use to sell my home.

    LESLIE: That’s good advice. But what if you need an agent that’s going to be working with you as a buyer?

    CHRIS: If you were dealing with a buyer, first I would make sure that they find out how they’re going to represent you, if they’re going to be able to represent you as only as a buyer’s agent or if they can do dual-agency. But that basically means that if you have the listing or your firm does, they can still represent you.

    TOM: We’re talking to Chris Polychron – he’s the president of the National Association of Realtors – with tips on how to buy and sell a house.

    So, Chris, these are all great suggestions. And in particular, when you talk about how the realtor is going to work with the seller, I think that’s interesting because selling a home has changed a lot in the last decade. And everything seems to be digital today and I know that NAR has gone a long way to provide great services for the development of Realtor.com. Can you talk about that just a bit?

    CHRIS: Yeah, I will. You know, recently, Realtor.com sold to News Corp, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. And we’ve seen some great changes made by them. And they’ve already passed Trulia for second place and gaining on Zillow and I think they’re doing a great job. They’ve made their website easier to navigate. They’ve got a lot more exposure when they added Wall Street Journal online and in print. It added some 500 million eyeballs a month to Realtor.com.

    TOM: Wow.

    CHRIS: So, as far as exposure for selling your house, it’s increased tremendously. And the most important point is when you search for a home on Realtor.com, the accuracy is second to none.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a great point because a lot of sites have the houses up there and they just don’t stay up to date with what the current presence of the house is.

    CHRIS: Exactly right.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s a really good point, Chris. Because you fall in love with a house and then you call up your realtor and it’s not there. So if you guys are keeping up with the accuracy, then you know you’re getting the right house into the right person’s hands.

    Now, can a realtor help you find out maybe the best options when it comes to a mortgage?

    CHRIS: Make sure that the realtor that you choose understands a little bit about helping you obtain – getting prequalified for a mortgage. It’s a step that puts you ahead of the curve. Inventory is still tight right now. And if you’re prepared to make that offer and your offer looks better because you are qualified, your realtor has you ready. When that house comes on the market, it can find you and make that offer very quickly if you’re a buyer and also one that keeps you informed about the progress of your transaction.

    TOM: Yeah, that communication is oh so important. And that’s why you want to make sure, if you’re buying or selling a house, to always hire a realtor who’s a member of the National Association of Realtors.

    Another important thing to remember about realtors is that they commit to a code of ethics, which protects the consumer in the real estate transaction. And realtors take their business very seriously. They have access to educational opportunities and training in real estate specialties. And these are not available to other licensees. So make sure, if you’re buying or selling a house, look for a member of the National Association of Realtors as your agent, nothing else.

    Chris Polychron, thank you so much for stopping, once again, by The Money Pit and giving us great advice on how to buy or sell a home.

    CHRIS: Tom, Leslie, it’s always a pleasure. And I look forward – to that first-time home buyer or just a home buyer moving up, good luck in their next venture in buying a home and fulfilling that American dream.

    TOM: And that is the voice of experience.

    Chris Polychron, thank you again and have a fantastic day.

    LESLIE: Well, your kitchen is the heart of your home and the right countertop keeps it beating. We’re going to tell you how to choose the best one for your family, with this week’s Pro Tip presented by Grayne Shingle Siding from The Tapco Group, when The Money Pit continues.

    ANNOUNCER: When you’re ready to search for a home, start at Realtor.com. Realtor.com is the most accurate home search site. And be sure to work with a realtor to help you through the process. Realtor.com and realtors, together we make home happen.

    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: The prize we’re giving away on today’s show is something that I wish I’d thought of. It’s a cleaning brush that attaches to your garden hose and it makes it work easier and gives you a more effective outdoor cleaning.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s called the PivotPro Water Wand and it’s for outdoor cleaning. And it’s the closest that you’re ever going to get to siding, concrete or a porch that cleans itself. No more reaching up or leaning down and you’ll still get to all those hard-to-reach spots.

    TOM: And one lucky caller this hour is going to get to try out the 49.99 PivotPro for themselves. You can learn more at HydeWay.com. That’s H-y-d-e-Way.com. Or call us now for both the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win. Hey, it’s two for one. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, kitchen counters do serve as the work surface for family life. Think about it: it’s kind of where you prepare your food, you eat your meals and maybe even pay bills and help with the homework. That’s why choosing a material for those counters is pretty important. So we’ve got advice on what to consider when making your choice, in this week’s Pro Tip presented by Grayne Shingle Siding from The Tapco Group.

    LESLIE: You know, perhaps the most popular option is going to be natural stone. The look of natural stone is going to add richness and depth to your space, which makes it a good choice for kitchens and baths.

    Now, granite and quartz, they’ve become the gold standard of lately. They’re both beautiful but they can be very costly. A small bathroom can provide a great opportunity, though, for a luxe-looking makeover on a budget.

    TOM: Now, there’s also solid-surface countertops. They’re beautiful. There’s lots of design flexibility. They come in many colors. You get textural blends. We really like them because solid-surface countertops can also be part of a green kitchen or bath solution. They’re durable, they’re stain-resistant. They’re also easy to install and they’re affordable.

    LESLIE: And then there’s ceramic tiles. Now, they’re going to have the most size, color, shape, texture and even pattern options. They’re going to be durable and stain-resistant. They’re easy to install. They can be affordable but you’re going to have to put grout in there and the grout’s going to have to be maintained and sealed to prevent staining. So you’ve got to stay on top of that.

    Finally, there’s another choice: butcher block. Now, it’s a really beautiful and natural look but it really does need the most care, especially because you’ve got to prevent the absorption of E. coli bacteria. Which having had E. coli bacteria, ooh, you get really sick. So you do not want that.

    TOM: And that’s today’s Pro Tip presented by Grayne Engineered Shake and Shingle Siding from The Tapco Group. The uncompromising beauty of Grayne’s 5-inch shingle siding offers the charm of natural cedar with none of the maintenance. Visit Grayne.com – that’s G-r-a-y-n-e.com – or ask your pro today.

    LESLIE: Heading on over to Clint in Texas. How can we help you today?

    CLINT: Would like some recommendations on a good waterproofing for the cap stones on my roof. My house is a commercial-style building with a flat roof and the parapet is crowned with cap stone. And I need to waterproof that. And I have an exterior that is EIFS and it needs a good waterproofing. And then part of the home’s exterior is also terracotta block. I think the concrete is letting water soak down into it and then when it freezes, it shatters.

    TOM: Alright. Well, starting with the cap stone, OK, at the parapet wall, what you want to use is simply a silicone-based sealer for that, since it’s a masonry product. So a silicone waterproofing sealer for masonry is what you would use there.

    Now, the more difficult matter is when you mentioned that you have EIFS. And EIFS is exterior insulated foam siding. This is that siding that looks like stucco but it’s not; it’s foam.

    Now, do you happen to live in a home that’s masonry or is it a wood structure?

    CLINT: No, it is built all out of these huge concrete blocks that you would normally see in commercial …

    TOM: Alright. Good. Because if you were living in a wood structure that had that same type of siding, I would say you had a serious problem on your hand, because the stuff leaks like a sieve.

    I am not sure what the appropriate coating would be for EIFS over a masonry surface but I know that there’s not as much concern about leakage. Because even if it does get in, it typically gets into the joints. It’s going to strike the masonry underneath and not cause rot. The problem with that stuff is when you put it on a wood house, the moisture gets into the sheathing and studs and it causes decay, which is serious trouble. So I can’t help you about that.

    Now, what was the third part of your question, about the cracks?

    CLINT: I have some terracotta – some decorative terracotta – in the walls, around mostly the pool. And that terracotta has a concrete cap stone, also. But water is seen to getting – it’s getting into some of the terracotta. And then when it freezes in the wintertime, it breaks the terracotta apart.

    TOM: I wonder if there’s ever been a sealer put on that. Because if you put the wrong sealer on it, that very condition happens. If you put a sealer on that’s not vapor-permeable, which is a type of sealer, the water gets in but it doesn’t evaporate out. You’re never going to completely 100-percent waterproof your terracotta block but if you put the type of sealer on that’s vapor-permeable, then that allows moisture to evaporate out. So I think that’s what you’re going to need to do.

    CLINT: Alright.

    LESLIE: Well, when it comes to your home, every inch and penny counts, so don’t waste them when they’re not needed. Design trends that it’s time to ditch, when The Money Pit continues.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.

    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, hurricane season is here. Don’t wait to find out the hard way whether your house can stand up to those high winds. Head on over to MoneyPit.com, search “top five ways to reduce hurricane damage.” We’ve got steps for you to use to keep your home and family safe. It’s on the home page at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And in the Community section, you can post a question, just like Rebecca did who writes: “I’ve already fixed two pinhole leaks in my copper piping and now I have another one. What’s causing this and is there anything that I can do to prevent more pinhole leaks?”

    TOM: You know, head on over to our website at MoneyPit.com. We’ve got kind of a step-by-step guide to repairing pinhole leaks in copper pipes. It’s going to give you fixes for individual leaks, as well as suggestions for more comprehensive solutions.

    But what you need to know is that the cause of the leaks is indeed up for debate. It’s widely believed to be the result of a chemical reaction between the water and the copper and probably not anything on behalf of your water company or your equipment in your house. Take a look at MoneyPit.com and again, search “pinhole leaks.”

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a post from Sal who writes: “I built a large play structure for my kids and I’m wondering how to finish it. I’ve been told that my kids will outgrow the play structure long before the pressure-treated lumber deteriorates.”

    TOM: Well, that’s right but that’s not the reason to not refinish it. What’s going to happen is the sun is going to beat down on all that pressure-treated lumber. It’s going to cause it to crack and check and splinter and be very uncomfortable underfoot. So it is a good idea for you to finish it.

    I would recommend a solid-color stain. You’ll still get the graining that will come through, Sal, but it’ll be sealed nicely and most importantly, it will have some protection from UV degradation. And you won’t be digging those splinters out of your kids’ feet. So definitely think about refinishing it and summer is the best time to do just that.

    LESLIE: Yeah, those splinters can really hurt. Ugh. Ouch.

    TOM: So, you remember the old tongue-in-cheek saying that you shouldn’t jump off a bridge just because your friends do? Well, the same is true for home design, where some common upgrades are actually a big waste of space and money. Design decisions to think twice about is the topic of today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, the times, they are a-changin’ and that means home design should, too. Think about those built-in desks that you used to see in kitchens. They became a staple in kitchens starting about 20 years ago. I even remember one being installed in my kitchen makeover when I was a kid in the 80s. But with laptops and tablets letting us work wherever we want to, those desks aren’t just unnecessary, they’re often messy eyesores that end up getting covered in bills and paperwork. Well, that is if you are unorganized and you don’t have to be.

    But think about just ditching that kitchen desk completely. Opt for more counter space and storage and keep that paperwork in your office instead. I know a lot of people put it in the bedroom but don’t put it there, either. Create a space specifically for your paperwork.

    Now, whirlpool bathtubs. Those are another must-have of the past 20 years or so. But as any whirlpool-tub owner knows, they’re more likely to be filled with dust than with water. So ditch that whirlpool tub and install his-and-her vanities or a spacious shower or even a soaking tub that’s not quite as big instead.

    And a microwave over your kitchen range might seem like an obvious choice but it’s actually one that’s both dangerous and silly. Reaching over a hot stove to just get access to that microwave, you can actually burn yourself getting something hot out of there. And it’s really just a hassle if you’re not that tall. Instead, install your microwave in a drawer under the countertop instead. They are so cool, so stylish and super-functional.

    TOM: Good advice. Coming up next week on The Money Pit, is your older home charming but perhaps a bit claustrophobic? We’re going to teach you how to get the open-floor concept you’ve always wanted by adding a pass-through between rooms. We’ll tell you how to do it on the cheap, 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 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.)

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