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  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
    (promo/theme song)

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. Hey, are you thinking about making a green home improvement; thinking about ways to save energy around your house, make your home a little bit more comfortable? We’d love to help you out with that question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    You know despite the economy, research is showing that people are still spending money where it counts; like on home improvements. But you need to be careful how you spend that and there are definitely some home improvements that don’t pay off. We’re going to help you figure out how to improve wisely, this hour.
    LESLIE: And also ahead, you know maintaining what you’ve already got in your money pit is key and that includes pest control and damage prevention. We’re going to have a few termite tips for you this hour.
    TOM: And the top question we get asked here, more than any other question on the program, deals with flooring. You know wood floors are still extremely popular. They are durable and they look great. But you can sometimes get cupping or gaps. We’re going to get some expert advice on how to solve these problems when we talk to Kevin Ireton, the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine in just a bit.
    LESLIE: And we’re giving away a great home improvement prize this hour to one lucky caller to The Money Pit. We’ve got an 18-volt compact drill kit from our friends over at Ryobi that I guarantee every one of you out there can find a use for.
    TOM: It’s worth 159 bucks, so give us a call right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    Leslie, who’s first?
    LESLIE: Dennis in Arkansas has a plumbing question. What can we do for you?
    DENNIS: Yes, ma’am. I have a house that’s five years old; sits on a slab. It’s got two toilets on the drain system. They’re on the first part of it and the last part and everything else is in between them and they drain fine. But the toilets occasionally will overflow. And this will happen two or three times in a row and then they won’t do it again until ten days or so and then they’ll do it again.
    TOM: How old are these toilets, Dennis?
    DENNIS: They’re five years old. The house has been – you know, it’s …
    TOM: Oh, are they the original low-flow toilets?
    DENNIS: They’re full-flush toilets.
    TOM: Yeah, I know they’re full-flush but are they 1.6-gallon toilets? And the reason I ask …
    DENNIS: Yes.
    TOM: … is because around five years ago we were still seeing a lot of the first-generation low-flow toilets and they just didn’t work that well.
    TOM: And that may be what you’re seeing here. See, here’s what happened. Originally we had toilets that used three to five gallons and they worked great but they wasted a whole lot of water and the government came in and said, “We need you to make low-flow toilets,” so the toilet manufacturers said, “Fine,” and they just made a smaller tank that had less water. But that water didn’t have the pressure necessary to flush the toilets properly. It flushed but if there was a little bit of obstruction it would just back up. And so now those toilets have come so far so fast that they work extremely well, but to get them to work well what they had to do was completely redesign the bowls and redesign the trap – which is the part that’s under the toilet; sort of the internal plumbing – to make the traps wider and also to put glazing on the inside so they were smoother and wouldn’t have as much restriction. And so if you’ve got one of the original low-flow toilets, I’m not surprised they’re giving you a hard time and you might want to think about …
    DENNIS: OK, so I need to replace …
    TOM: You may want to think about replacing them. I’ve got one that, in my house, that’s by American Standard. I picked it up at Depot. It’s called The Champion and it’s one of the low-flow toilets; has sort of a new flush valve design called a flush tower. And I’ve got to tell you, the thing has never, ever clogged from the day I put it in.
    TOM: I’ve got three kids. They put it through it’s paces. (Dennis and Leslie chuckles)
    LESLIE: To put it nicely.
    TOM: Alright? Alright, good luck.
    DENNIS: Alright, thank you.
    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: It’s always such a delicate balance between disgusting information and important information (Tom laughs) when you’re talking about toilets. (Leslie laughs)
    TOM: Hey, we have to stress test around here and make sure all the products work properly before we recommend them on The Money Pit.
    Alright, Leslie, who’s next?
    LESLIE: In Alabama we’ve got Pat who needs some help reinstalling a backsplash. What happened?
    PAT: Hi. I bought a home that had mirrors for a backsplash in the kitchen.

    LESLIE: Mirrors?

    TOM: Mirror. OK, that’s unusual.

    PAT: Yes, and I would like to replace them with tile. Do I have to remove the mirrors or can I tile over them? I’ve tried to remove the mirrors but they appear to be glued to the wall.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah, are they – is it fairly flat and solid?

    PAT: No, they’re flat in the middle but kind of beveled on the outside of it.

    TOM: I don’t know. What do you think, Leslie? Is it worth going on top of them? I think you probably can epoxy over it. It’ll be a fairly thick application when you’re done. But the problem is that because they’re glued on the wall, you’re going to end up really damaging the wall if you try to take them off. You’ll end up breaking them to take them off.

    PAT: Yes, I know.

    LESLIE: And what kind of tile do you want to put over it?

    PAT: I was thinking of the – sort of the small, the little glass quarter-inch kind of tile.

    LESLIE: Oh, like the pretty mosaic kind?

    PAT: Yes.

    LESLIE: Well, I mean that tends to adhere really well. Because of the mesh backing it really does give a space for all of your mastic or whatever adhesive you’re putting on the back to sort of find into the nooks and crannies. You might – Tom, do you think it’s going to be too slick on the mirror and you might have to take some sandpaper just to sort of scuff up the face of the mirror …?

    TOM: No, probably not because think about the mirror as it attaches to the wall. I mean you basically use an epoxy glue on that and that adheres well to the wall. So I think we can get the tiles to adhere to the mirror. You know, my choice is always to remove it; even though it’s a lot of work.

    LESLIE: But mirror; it’s like a whole host of problems. You know, we have a good trick where you take some piano wire and if you can get behind it along the top and sort of take that wire back and forth and cut through the adhesive; but you’re destined to break that mirror and, you know, it could be a dangerous task.

    TOM: You have to be very careful because you’ll get shards of glass; it’ll fly off. You have to wear gloves and safety glasses and, you know, another trick of the trade is to cover it with duct tape and then basically, very gently, try to break the mirror into pieces and then scrape it off the wall that way. You know, the good news is that even if you damage that drywall behind it …

    LESLIE: You’re tiling over it.

    TOM: … you’re tiling over it; so even if you peel the paper off, that the drywall is attached to, you’d probably still be OK.

    PAT: OK.

    TOM: So I would say if you can get the mirror off that would be my first choice. If not, I’m pretty sure that you could adhere the new mosaic tile right to the top of it.

    PAT: Alright, 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. Pick up the phone so we can give you a hand with your next home improvement project or even a home repair or home maintenance. We can help you get the job done right the first time. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week we’re here for you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    TOM: 888-666-3974.
    Up next, not all home improvements are created equal. There are some that add value to your house and there are some that just don’t. How do you sort out what’s right for you? We’ll tell you, next.

    (theme song)
    ANNOUNCEMENT: The Money Pit is brought to you by APC. Protect your computer with APC’s newest energy-efficient backup 750G, guaranteed power protection that can save up to $40 a year on your electric bill. For more information and a chance to win, visit www.MoneyPit.com/Green. That’s MoneyPit.com/Green. That’s www.MoneyPit.com/Green. Now here are Tom and Leslie.
    TOM: Where home solutions live. 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 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and be ready to ask us your home improvement question because if you do you might just win the Ryobi lithium-ion 18-volt compact drill kit. It’s more compact and lighter, it reduces user fatigue. It also comes with two lithium-ion batteries. It is a great tool. It is worth 150 bucks. It comes with a tool bag. The complete package could be yours if we draw your name out of the Money Pit hardhat at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Yeah, pick up the phone and give us a call; especially if you’re planning on tackling some home improvements in this crazy economic environment that we are all dealing with. You know we know that home improvements are a great investment but they don’t always pay off. So when you’re planning your home improvements, you want to consider the long and the short-term values; you know, in dollars and in common sense.
    You know, wall treatments, flooring and energy improvements; those are all great investments. But before you take on a big project like an addition, you want to decide how long you’re going to be living in the house and if the improvements that you’re going to make are going to price your house out of the neighborhood that you live in, in that price range. So think about all of these things before you jump into that home improvement project and you’ll be making a wise investment.
    TOM: 888-666-3974. Invest a little time in that phone number and you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question.
    Leslie, who’s next?
    LESLIE: It’s swarm season and Irene in South Carolina is seeing the termites. What’s going on?
    IRENE: Hello. Yes, several weeks ago I listened to one of your programs and you were talking about termites. You mentioned that the bait trap systems now are passé.

    TOM: Correct.

    IRENE: And you said that there was an applicant on the market but I wasn’t quite sure what you had said; if it was Thermidor or Tomidor.

    TOM: You’re close. It’s called Termidor. T-e-r-m-i-d-o-r. It’s a BASF product and it’s something that a professional pest control operator could apply for you. And basically the way these products work today is they’re undetectable, which means that once the pest control operator applies them in the soil around the house and in the foundation of the house, the termites cannot detect that this termidicide is in the soil and so what happens is they’ll pass through it, get it on their bodies and take it back to the nest and then, of course, it wipes out the entire nest. Think of it as germ warfare for bugs.

    IRENE: I see.

    TOM: And it works really well. It’s very effective. It’s very safe. They’ve had tests that go 10, 15 years now in effectiveness and it works great.

    IRENE: And they think …

    TOM: The website is called TermidorHome.com and there’s a locator there where you can find a pest control pro in your area that could do the work for you. I’ve used it in my own home and it worked very effectively.

    IRENE: Now could you spell that again?

    TOM: T-e-r-m-i-d-o-r.

    IRENE: OK.

    TOM: Termidor.

    IRENE: Home.com.

    TOM: TermidorHome.com.

    IRENE: And this has to be applied strictly by a pest control …

    TOM: Absolutely. It’s not a do-it-yourself product. Yep, mm-hmm.

    IRENE: Alrighty. Well, I thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Redd in Utah has a question about roofs; specifically, how long they should last. What kind of roof are you talking about, Redd?
    REDD: I got an asphalt roof, you know.

    TOM: OK.

    REDD: Yeah, I’ve got the house and it’s been added onto and then – but this roof has been on for, you know, 20 years.

    TOM: Yeah, and that’s about as long as they normally last but it depends on a number of factors. You know, in a real hot climate you may only get 15 years. In a cold climate you may get 25 years. It also depends on the level of roof ventilation. If the attic under this roof is well-ventilated so that the attic stays cooler in the summertime, that can add some life to the roof. If this layer of shingles is a second layer, as opposed to a first layer, typically the first layers don’t last as long because they kind of stay hot or retain more heat because of the first layer underneath of it. So 20 years is a good average.

    Are you seeing signs that this roof, perhaps, may need to be replaced, Redd?

    REDD: Well, you know, I’ve had the guy say, “Oh, you need to replace it because the shingles are curling up on the edges.” But you get up and look on the top – you know, get up on top of the roof – I mean it still – the sand that they put on for coloring and stuff like that, that isn’t coming off. It’s not showing bare asphalt on it. It’s just the curls of the corners of it.

    TOM: OK, if your shingles are curling up, I’ll tell you right now that roof is probably older than 20 years. Because the shingle technology has changed and the new ones have been out for a good 15, maybe more, years …

    LESLIE: And they don’t even curl, regardless of the wear.

    TOM: … and they don’t curl anymore. Yeah, the older ones that are 20, 25 and older are the ones that curl and so, if you’re seeing the edge of those shingles curl up – now, the fact that you don’t – that you still have sand on there, that doesn’t mean the shingle is not worn because what happens is the oil in the shingles evaporates; the asphalt becomes more porous and then it holds more water against the roof. So, if your shingles are starting to visibly deteriorate and curl and crack like that, then I would think that a new roof is in your future. Now we’re not talking about an emergency; you’ve got to do it next week.

    REDD: No.

    TOM: But certainly within the next year; that would a good time for you to start thinking about replacing that and if your shingles are curled like that, I would absolutely not recommend an additional layer because the next layer will look uneven and unsightly. I would definitely strip down the existing one or two layers that are on there right now and put only one layer on.

    REDD: Oh, this is an original layer. There’s only one layer.

    TOM: I would still strip it off. I wouldn’t put a second layer on if the shingles are curled like that.

    REDD: What about putting a metal roof over top of them?

    TOM: (overlapping voices) That you could do.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Now, that you could do.

    TOM: Yeah, that you could do and that’s – you know, that’s going to be a very expensive solution, but metal roofs are terrific and they last, you know, 50, 100 years.

    LESLIE: Fifty years.

    TOM: Yeah.

    REDD: And they’re cheaper in the long run, though.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, if you live that long. (laughs)

    REDD: Well, I won’t – well, I won’t live 50 to 100. I’m already 69. (chuckles) Alright, thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974 and we certainly hope that Redd makes it through the next roof and the one after that.
    LESLIE: Calling in from Colorado with the number one questions asked on The Money Pit, about flooring, we’ve got Beverly. What can we do for you?
    BEVERLY: Well, hopefully you can solve our problem. We’re in a debate over the fact that we’d like to take up the carpeting in our dining room but we have ceramic tile on our kitchen and hallway and we’d like to put down the hardwood floors that are so popular right now. And so …

    TOM: On top of the ceramic tile?

    BEVERLY: Well, that’s what my question is. We take up the carpeting …

    TOM: OK, if you wanted to put down engineered hardwood, which is thinner than sort of standard hardwood, you could put an underlayment down – it’s sort of like a thin sheet of foam – and you can lay that on top of the ceramic. Now, did you say this is in the kitchen?

    BEVERLY: That part is in the kitchen.

    TOM: What you have to watch out for in the kitchen is you don’t want to lock in your dishwasher …

    BEVERLY: Oh.

    TOM: … because if you floor right up to the edge of it you’ll never be able to get it out. You know, as many – in as many years I’ve been giving that tip I got a call from my sister about six months ago. She was – her dishwasher had died and the guy from the appliance company came to put it in and said, “I can’t change it because it’s locked in by the ceramic tile floor.” The guy that she bought the house from had tiled right up to the edge of the dishwasher. We had to pull the countertop off to get the dishwasher out. So you’ve got to be careful about that sort of thing.

    BEVERLY: Yeah, because we weren’t going to – we were asking if we could put that on top of the tile. But now, if we put it on top it is going to block the dishwasher.

    TOM: Well, you could pull the dishwasher out and you could, if you have enough room for .another, say, half-inch of flooring you could just adjust the legs of the dishwasher.

    BEVERLY: Oh.

    TOM: Just want to make sure that you do that.

    BEVERLY: Oh, yes. That’s wonderful.

    TOM: Well, that’s why they’re adjustable. (Leslie chuckles)

    BEVERLY: And then to make it even with the dining room he’d have to put down – after he brought up the carpeting he’d have to put down a board, right?

    TOM: Or a saddle, yeah. Mm-hmm, that’s right.

    BEVERLY: You call it a saddle. OK, I’ll write that down.

    TOM: A saddle, yep.

    LESLIE: Well, the saddle would be the transition between the dining room …

    TOM: Between the two rooms.

    LESLIE: Between the two rooms.

    BEVERLY: Right. Right.

    LESLIE: So you’re not stepping up or down.

    BEVERLY: Right. OK. That’s wonderful. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Beverly. Thanks so much for calling 888-MONEY-PIT.
    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live.
    You know, wood floors are fantastic but maintaining them is sometimes a hassle. How do you deal with unusual problems like gaps or cracks or buckling? We’ll find out, next.

    (theme song)
    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Did you know that adding a Therma-Tru entryway can add as much as $24,000 to what others think your home is worth? To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    TOM: And one of the top five questions we get asked here on the program has to do with flooring. You know, flooring is still a very popular project and for a good reason; because floors are durable, floors look great. But they can take a lot of abuse and need a little TLC.
    LESLIE: Yeah, you know especially when we’re talking about wood flooring. You know the downside of gorgeous, beautiful wood flooring – we do love it – is that you get a bunch of common problems including gaps and cupping and buckling. But have no fear, folks. We’ve got an expert on today to give us some advice on how to fix those problems. So joining us to tell us exactly how to resolve the 11 most common wood flooring problems, we’re joined by Kevin Ireton and he is the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine and good friend to The Money Pit.
    KEVIN: Hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom.
    TOM: Welcome, Kevin. So Leslie set it up. You’ve got 11 wood flooring problems and solutions. Let’s start with the first one: gaps.
    KEVIN: The reason you get gaps in flooring is typically because the flooring was installed at the wrong moisture content and the way to know about the right moisture content is to have a moisture meter and to check the flooring before it’s installed. And you want to install flooring that’s at about eight percent moisture content.
    TOM: Let’s say you can’t do that. A lot of our listeners have old floors and they have big gaps between the boards. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from folks who have tried – obviously without success – to put filler in between those boards. We’ve often suggested using jute roping or something of that nature and then finishing on top of it. Do you have a better solution?
    KEVIN: Yeah, our expert agrees that filler is not the right choice.
    LESLIE: Oh, it just comes right out.
    KEVIN: He literally glues in narrow slivers of wood to fill those gaps.
    TOM: Hmm. So basically rebuild it with what was there.
    KEVIN: And you want to glue those in when the gaps are at their narrowest. You don’t want to glue them in when they’re at their widest because then the …
    LESLIE: Because you’ll overfill.
    KEVIN: The floor will expand and you’ll have problems again.
    LESLIE: So now – and that’s strictly a cosmetic issue; no structure issue there unless you’re sick of looking at it.
    KEVIN: Exactly. If the gap bothers you, then it’s an issue; if it doesn’t – I mean some old floors, a lot of old floors – you know especially in New England – have big gaps and they look beautiful.
    LESLIE: We like to call that charm, Kevin. What about cupping and crowning? I notice, you know, little raised areas and little sunken areas as well on a wood floor often.
    KEVIN: You’re going to notice that moisture problems are one of the themes that runs through this and the cupping usually happens because floorboards have been installed over a damp crawlspace or a damp basement. And so the real key there is you’ve got to solve those moisture problems before you install the floor. If you don’t, the floorboards are going to cup and you’re going to have trouble.
    TOM: We’re talking to Kevin Ireton. He’s the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine. Their latest issue has a great article on wood flooring called 11 wood flooring problems and their solutions.
    Kevin, I’ve heard about a lot of these. We just talked about buckling. You’ve got peeling finish, excessive wear, debris in the finish. Here’s one I’ve never heard before that seems pretty interesting. It’s called poly droplets. What exactly are poly droplets?
    KEVIN: Well, what happens is that sometimes, when you’re putting the finish on the floor, the finish rolls into the crack between the floorboards. Later on, as the floorboards expand, they’ve squeezed together and their pushing these droplets of finish up above the surface of the floor.
    TOM: Ah, interesting.
    KEVIN: So it literally looks like you’ve got these little drops of finish. Now sometimes if that happens, it’s usually this kind of a timing problem where you put the finish on kind of at the wrong time …
    TOM: Right.
    KEVIN: … because the boards were still moving. A lot of times, though, if you’re careful, you can remove those with a single-edged razor blade and not have to refinish the floor.
    TOM: Good technique. And what about when you get some debris in the finish? Do you really have to cut through it to kind of pull that out?
    KEVIN: Unfortunately, the answer is, in most cases, that you do.
    LESLIE: Really?
    KEVIN: If the debris is in there, you’ve got to sand back down to a level where the debris or scratches even are not present.
    TOM: Can you build it back up, though, without having to do a major area?
    KEVIN: It’s really tricky. Repairing small areas of floor finish, without having to do the whole floor, is one of those things that most people are not going to be able to do. So if that’s an issue, what you want to do is move a rug. (Leslie chuckles)
    TOM: Yeah, I imagine that applies to any type of damage that happens after the fact. I pulled a refrigerator out on a wood floor once in a condo I owned and I think the scratch is still there today. (chuckles)
    Kevin Ireton, editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, good article; very informative. If you’ve got wood flooring, pick it up. Fine Homebuilding is on newsstands now or you can go to their website at FineHomebuilding.com.
    Thanks, Kevin.
    KEVIN: Thank you, guys.
    LESLIE: Well, thanks for the help, Kevin, and now that all of you are thinking about installing wood flooring into your house, what would you do if you had the opportunity to look at a pest lineup? Do you think you could identify a termite? Well, we’re going to tell you how to spot them and what to do if you find them, next.

    (theme song)
    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you buy Citrus Magic, the 100% natural odor-eliminating air freshener. Unlike other air fresheners, Citrus Magic actually eliminates odors and lasts up to four times longer. Visit CitrusMagic.com for more information. Now here are Tom and Leslie.
    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and the number here at team Money Pit is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You know we’ve got our operators standing by right now and we want to help you answer all of your home improvement questions. And one lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is really going to win a great home improvement prize. We are giving away the Ryobi lithium-ion 18-volt compact drill kit. You know it’s more compact and it’s lighter, so it really helps you tackle a lot of projects without getting that arm fatigue that you could get from other drills. It comes with two lithium-ion batteries. It also includes a tool bag so you’ll keep all of your supplies in one place. It’s worth 159 bucks but it could be yours for free, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
    TOM: 888-666-3974.
    Now, one home improvement project that you may find yourself needing to deal with but it’s not something you’re happy about is a termite infestation. This is the season when that happens and if you think you spot termites around your house, do you know what you’re really looking at? Here’s a quick way to ID a termite.
    They’re about ¼-inch long and termites are smaller than ants and they have only two body segments; unlike ants who have three body segments. They also sport two pairs of long wings and straight antennae; ants, on the other hand, have angled antenna. So if you do spot termites, you want to double-check with a pro to make sure you know what you got and what has to be done about it.
    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right because only a trained pro is going to be able to tell you if you have an infestation in your money pit and then they’re going to be able to say what extent the damage is; what have these termites already done to the wood around your house. But before you make any repairs, you want to make sure you control the problem by having a trained pest control professional use an undetectable type of bait or termidicide. And the termites are going to pass through this termidicide and then what happens is it gets all over their bodies; then they go back to the colony and then they rub up against one another and then suddenly everybody has been infected by this wonderful thing that your pest control professional has put down around your house and suddenly your termite problem will be gone.
    And you want to make sure that you get all of this done before – as we heard from one home improvement professional that Tom and I met at the builders show – your house becomes – what? – termites holding hands.
    TOM: (laughs) That’s right. Yeah, let’s take your house off the menu.
    888-666-3974.   Leslie, who’s next?
    LESLIE: Debbie in Virginia wants to talk replacement windows and doors. What can we do for you?
    DEBBIE: My husband and I recently purchased our first home and we have old aluminum frame windows that really let in a lot of cold air. So …

    LESLIE: And you’re freezing.

    DEBBIE: Yeah. So we’ve been getting prices from different window companies to try to decide what kind of window company to go with. We’ve gotten several – quite a range of prices and some of them are on super-windows, which are triple-pane and have a different kind of gas than argon gas …

    TOM: Right.

    DEBBIE: … and I was just wondering if those would be worth the extra money.

    TOM: Not in Virginia. I don’t think you’ll get the return on investment. If you’re in an extreme climate – and particularly an extreme northern climate – you’ll get a return on investment for a triple-pane window. In your area it’s just another way for those guys to make some money …

    LESLIE: It’s not really going to do anything.

    TOM: … and it’s going to just drive up your cost. I would use a good quality thermal-pane, double-pane window. I would make sure the window is Energy Star-rated and there is also a rating called the NFRC rating, the National Fenestration Rating Council, and that will tell you what the UV rating is, what the air infiltration rating is and you can use these numbers to compare apples to apples. And you also mentioned that you’re replacing your doors. For doors I would recommend a fiberglass door. Fiberglass doors are eight times more energy efficient than wood doors and they don’t ding or dent like steel doors.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. They don’t really require any maintenance like a wood door would.

    TOM: And they’re absolutely gorgeous, too.

    DEBBIE: How about the difference between vinyl and fiberglass windows?

    TOM: I think that either is fine. I’d probably use a vinyl replacement window and a fiberglass door. If you want to check out some really good-looking doors, go to the website for ThermaTru.com. They have a door designer right there and you can see some Therma-Tru doors. Those guys invented fiberglass doors. They’ve been around for like 25 years. As far as the windows, most of these windows are made by the companies that are selling them locally, so it’s harder to use a brand name unless you’re going to do completely like new construction-style windows. So I would make sure that I use the rating system to compare window to window. Don’t go triple-pane. Go double-pane and make sure it’s Energy Star-rated and you’ll have a good window to put in that house.

    LESLIE: Sal in New Jersey is dealing with the inevitable side effects of winter: holes in the concrete from the salt. Tell us about the problem, where you see it, how bad is it.
    SAL: Yeah, hi. I guess – the house is only five years old and I started throwing salt – this was last year – on the concrete to melt the ice and now it’s chipping away; it’s flaking off. Do I have to replace the whole thing? Is there something I can put over it?

    TOM: Well, it is reparable but first of all let’s deal with the kind of salt that you put down. I suspect you put rock salt down, which is extremely corrosive. There’s another type of salt that’s either potassium chloride or magnesium chloride that’s usually sold under a brand name like Safe-T-Salt or something like that and you want to buy these salts that are safe for concrete; otherwise, you’re going to continue to deteriorate the concrete surfaces next winter.

    In terms of repair, you want to look for an epoxy patching compound. The thing is, if you patch it it’s going to look patched. It looks fairly spotted so you’re going to end up patching the holes but then sort of recoating the whole thing with epoxy, so it almost looks like it’s a painted walk. But that’s the only way you can really fix this. You cannot put more concrete on top of this because it won’t actually bind to the old stuff and it’ll chip right off the next winter for sure.

    SAL: OK.

    TOM: So be careful about the salt that you choose, OK?

    SAL: OK, thank you.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
    Up next, old houses have a lot of great features along with some personality problems like floors that squeak or maybe are just a little askew. We’re going to answer some e-mail questions about leveling old floors, next.

    (theme song)
    ANNOUNCEMENT: The Money Pit is brought to you by APC. Protect your computer with APC’s newest energy-efficient backup 750G, guaranteed power protection that can save up to $40 a year on your electric bill. For more information and a chance to win, visit www.MoneyPit.com/Green. That’s MoneyPit.com/Green. That’s www.MoneyPit.com/Green. Now here are Tom and Leslie.
    TOM: Where home solutions live. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    Hey, you know you can listen to The Money Pit anywhere you like and whenever you want. All you need to do is download our free podcast and it is available right now at MoneyPit.com/Listen. You can get there from our website. It is super-fantastic to just walk around and listen to all of the home improvement advice any time you like.
    And while you’re on MoneyPit.com you can click on the Ask Tom and Leslie icon and you can e-mail us your question. We’re going to do that right now. We’ve got one here from Wheaton in Illinois who writes: “I want to put a new doorway through a wall and I want to do this project myself; however, I started the project – started taking the wall apart – and now right where I want to do the doorway are two separate six-inch vertical duct pipes. Now what?”
    TOM: Uh-oh. (chuckles) That’s one of those ruh-rohs.
    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s like an “Oops, I should have looked before I leaped.”
    TOM: Yeah, you probably should have. Listen, what you’re going to have to do here is consider the integrity of the heating system because you can’t just, obviously, cut those off. Those ducts are there for a reason. They could be returns. They could be supplies. You’re going to need to contact an HVAC professional, a heating contractor; figure out a way that you can rerun those ducts from point A to point B.
    Now also, since you’re putting in a doorway here, remember you need to make sure that that wall is not a bearing wall. You can’t just cut out the studs because you’re not going to have the support you need. You need to have a header above that door. So the first step is to get the ducts moved and the second step is to make sure that that opening is properly reinforced so that doorway doesn’t come crashing down.
    LESLIE: Alright, now we’ve got one from Ruth in Alabama who writes: “I need to know about leveling the floors in an old house. My house is about 1,800 square feet and most of the rooms aren’t level. I wonder what the process is and about how much the cost is going to be.”
    TOM: Well first, Ruth, it’s not always a good idea to try to re-level floors in an old house. Structurally, you really never want to do it because, remember, it could have taken 80 or 100 years for those floors to sag and if you try to pick them up where they were on day one, you’re gong to do a lot of consequential damage. You’re going to crack walls. You could pull open pipe joints. You could pull wires apart. It’s just not a good idea.
    The only time I recommend that you think about leveling floors in an old house is when, say, you need a real flat floor for a kitchen or a bathroom. And in that case, you want to add a leveling compound on top of the floor; sort of like a lightweight, slurry-like mix that can be screened out, troweled out and bring that floor to a nice, level state and then you can put another floor surface over it like a laminate or, say, a vinyl or whatever you want to use. But never try to bring up those old floors in the old house because it’s just not going to work out. It took a long time for them to get there and they’re just not going to come back without a lot of extra work.
    LESLIE: And you know what, Ruth? All of those uneven floors in an old home, it’s character and charm; so enjoy it.
    TOM: Well, if you’ve got the spring home improvement bug and you’re ready to take your walls from, say, boring to somewhat amazing and you don’t have a lot of money, no problem. Leslie’s got the tips and the tricks in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. This is a great little tip that really doesn’t cost a lot of money to create big bang for your design bucks around your house. You know you can add visual interest to plain walls by creating paneling using decorative moulding. You can add a chair rail or crown or base moulding or even wainscoting or you can even use some flat moulding to add a frame to a wall; you know, sort of frame something out so it looks like you’ve got this beautiful framed-out paneling above, say, a chair rail. There’s lot of things that you can do.
    If you’ve got a very simple, stark, plain wall, just add some detail to it. It’s a project you can do yourself. It really does make a big difference. Put some beautiful, shiny paint on there and it will make a huge difference to your house.
    TOM: Coming up next week on The Money Pit, our Earth Day focus continues with ideas for using vinegar and other household products in your everyday cleaning. They’re cheap, they’re natural and you can use them for lots and lots of cleaning projects. That’s coming up next week on The Money Pit.
    TOM: I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    TOM: Helping you build big dreams.

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    (Copyright 2009 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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