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Cut the Cost of Your Hot Water Bill For Free, The Best Kitchen Lightning Options, Select the Best Home Fueling For Your Needs and More

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call because we are here to help you get through your next home improvement project. Spring is right around the corner and if you are ready to spring into home improvement, we are ready to help. But pick up the phone and help yourself first by calling 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour, do your hot-water bills have you steaming mad, perhaps? You can cut those costs. We’re going to teach you how to do that and do it without replacing your water heater, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, are you missing something very important in your kitchen? Nah, we’re not talking about that expensive range or maybe that tricked-out island that you’re dreaming of but something else that can help make sure that your food prep goes as planned: good lighting. And especially task lighting, we are talking about.

    So if your cakes always come out salty or your meatloaf, for some reason, tastes sweet, you know exactly what I am talking about. We’re going to tell you how to get lighting where you need it in the kitchen, a little later.

    TOM: Plus, have you ever wondered what the most cost-efficient way is to heat your home? Later this hour, we’re going to talk about the difference between oil, gas, propane and electric, to help you determine which one is going to deliver the best energy efficiency for your situation.

    LESLIE: And one lucky caller this hour is going to win a Lumber Liquidators gift certificate for $250. And with the discount prices that they’ve got, that is plenty to get you well on your way to a new floor for one room in your house.

    TOM: So, pick up the phone and give us a call right now. We’re standing by to help you get that job done. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Rich in West Virginia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    RICH: Hi. I’ve got a drywall question. My house is only about nine years old but a lot of the seams between the sheets of drywall have – where the tape was – the tape is cracked and it’s curled up a little at the edges.

    TOM: Yep.

    RICH: It’s especially bad out in my garage – the unheated garage – on the ceiling pieces but even some in the house. You know, I don’t know if – I’ve heard different things: that they could have put it in when it was cold and it froze before it set or …

    TOM: Let me tell you what’s going on, Rich. Nine years ago, as they do today, the builders will drywall the garage for one reason and one reason only: because they’re required to to maintain the fire separation between the garage and the rest of the house.

    But being builders, they only do what they absolutely have to do to get past code. I always tell these guys, “It’s like you guys are proud of being – of getting a D, not an F. You want to get a D. Nobody really strives for an A.” It’s like – how would you feel if your kid came home from school and said, “Guess what, Dad? I got a D. Ain’t you proud?” The builders just do the absolute minimum.

    So in the drywall situation in the garage, that means this: they put on the tape and one coat of spackle. Only one. Where in the house, they put on three because that’s the normal thing you do. So they save a few pennies by only putting on one coat of spackle and you’re faced with tape that – what a surprise – falls off over the years.

    RICH: OK. Yeah.

    TOM: So, in this case, Rich, if it’s loose and separating, you really can’t put spackle on top of that, because it’s not going to get between the paper tape and the drywall underneath. I would cut off any loose tape and then I would put another layer of tape on top of that or in lieu of that. And I would use perforated drywall tape, which is very forgiving, especially for somebody who’s an amateur spackler, because you don’t have to worry about getting the paste underneath the tape. It actually goes through the tape; it’s more like a netting.

    RICH: OK.

    TOM: And then you do that with three coats and sand it out in between. Take your time; it’ll take you a little while to kind of get used to it. But that’ll do the trick there. Then prime and paint.

    And as for the areas inside the house, it’s not at all unusual for a nine-year-old house to get some cracks in the seams or where corners come together or above windows or doors. And you pretty much handle those the same way. If the tape is absolutely loose, you have to take it off and replace it. But if it’s just cracking, you can actually put that same type of drywall tape on top of that, three coats of spackle, prime and paint and you’re done, OK?

    RICH: OK. Sounds good.

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

    LESLIE: Bridget from Illinois is on the line and has a question about insulation. Tell us what you currently have or do you just have nothing?

    BRIDGET: I don’t know if my walls are insulated. I have a one-story house and it has cedar siding.

    LESLIE: OK.

    BRIDGET: So I want to know what’s the best way to insulate it and how can I tell if there’s insulation in there already?

    TOM: Well, an easy way to tell is to take the cover plate off of an electrical outlet. And with a light, you can usually look to the left or to the right of the outlet, into the stud bay itself, and see what kind of insulation is in there.

    How old is your house, Bridget?

    BRIDGET: It was built around 1965.

    TOM: Well, typically, it would have fiberglass insulation in those walls, though. That’s not terribly old.

    BRIDGET: OK. Thank you. That was my question.

    TOM: Alright, Bridget.

    BRIDGET: And if it does have – if it doesn’t have insulation, what would – what should I do?

    TOM: Well, in a 1965 house, the first thing we would tell you to do is to look in the attic, because that’s where you’re having the most heat loss. So you want to add 19 to 22 inches of insulation in the attic first. After that, you would take a look at the floors and over the unheated space and insulate those. And then, thirdly, you could look at the walls. But the walls would have to be done by blown-in insulation.

    Although I tell you, it would be very unusual for a 1965 house to not have any insulation.

    LESLIE: To not have insulation.

    TOM: However, it would be typical for them to have – for a 1965 house to have not enough insulation in the attic space.

    BRIDGET: OK. Well, that’s where I’ll check first then. Thank you.

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

    I bet she’s cold in Champaign, Illinois.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, we’ve only got a few, short weeks of winter left, so if you’ve got some winter home improvements or some spring-readying projects on your to-do list, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, save energy and save money heating the hot water you need for your home. We’re going to tell you about some simple steps that you can take to cut those bills, next.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.

    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.

    TOM: And one caller who comes on the air with us this hour could win a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators. Because Lumber Liquidators cuts out the middle man and buys direct from the mill, you will be well on your way to new flooring for a room in your home. Lumber Liquidators has a great selection of engineered hardwood, exotic woods and laminates at unbeatable prices. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get back to those phones.

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Kevin in Alaska on the line who is working on a flooring project. What’s going on?

    KEVIN: Hey. I’m putting on some laminate flooring on a slab cement and I’m putting down the plastic on it first, for the condensation, and then the rubber foam padding goes on but my wife wanted me to double it up.

    TOM: OK. And why does she want you to double it up, Kevin?

    KEVIN: Well, initially, it was for her feet. She wanted something nice and soft to walk on rather than the laminate.

    TOM: Oh. Well, why are we choosing laminate floor when she wants something nice and soft?

    LESLIE: Wants something soft.

    KEVIN: Well, we have dogs and they seem to make a lot of mess.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: And so I tore all the carpet out and yeah, we want to try this next.

    TOM: I see. Alright. Well, obviously, it’s going to be a lot less maintenance than carpet ever would. But my concern about doubling up the padding is that it may be too soft for the laminate floor. The laminate floors today have a locking joint: a locking, click-together kind of seam.

    LESLIE: Oh. And I wonder if you sort of step on an edge, would it force the bow?

    TOM: Absolutely. I’m afraid that if you step on it with a lot of give underneath, you will push that apart and you will never, ever get it back together.

    KEVIN: Right. Yes.

    TOM: So I would only follow the recommendations of the manufacturer on this. Putting the clear plastic down is fine but put down one layer of the underlayment that they recommend – which is usually a thin, foam sheet – and then put the flooring on top of that.

    KEVIN: Right.

    TOM: And if she needs more cushion, buy the girl a throw rug, will you? Because I don’t think you want to put any more under that floor.

    LESLIE: Or some really cushy, comfortable slippers.

    TOM: That would work, too.

    LESLIE: This way, the cushy floor is always with her.

    KEVIN: There you go. I will definitely let her know.

    TOM: Alright.

    KEVIN: Thanks for all the information over the years, you guys.

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

    LESLIE: So, you turn on the tap and you get hot water.

    TOM: You hope.

    LESLIE: Yeah, exactly. But have you ever actually thought about what it might take to heat that water and bring it to you? You know, lots of energy dollars can be wasted in that whole process but there are things that you can do.

    Now, most water heaters are going to run on gas, oil or electric. And if your water heater is gas-fired, it’s important that you have it serviced. Because combustion deposits, they can build up and that’s going to make the water heater run inefficiently. And the same goes for an oil water heater; you need the same type of servicing that you would need for your oil-fired boiler or your furnace. You have to take care of these things.

    TOM: That’s right. And on electric water heaters, one of the two coils can burn out after a while. So, if you start to run out of hot water on an electric water heater, that is the sign that the coil is bad. The good news is that an electrician or plumber can fix that pretty easily.

    Another way to save electricity when you are heating your water with an electric water heater is to install a 240-volt timer. The timer gets installed on the supply line and essentially, you set this so it only comes on a few hours a day. When? Well, a couple of hours before you get up in the morning and it stays on throughout the morning sort of shower hours. And then it goes off for the majority of the day and comes on again for a few hours of the evening. Basically, you’ll save a lot of money on the water-heating cost, because you’re only going to have to heat the water for 8 to 10 hours a day when you actually need it.

    Finally, if you are willing to make an investment, a tankless water heater that heats only the water you use as you need it is truly the most efficient type of water heater. It’s small enough so you can install it close to the bathrooms. Plus, you’ll never have to wait for a hot shower again.

    888-666-3974. You’ll never have to wait to get your home improvement question answered, because we’re available 24-7, 365 at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Sally in New York is dealing with some noisy pipes with the heating. What can we do for you?

    SALLY: Well, hi. When my heat comes up automatically in the morning, and also sometimes in the afternoon if the oil burner goes back on, I hear a lot of creaking and booms and everything. I have copper pipes in the basement and I wonder – I don’t heat my basement. Should I turn the heat up in the basement?

    TOM: Not necessarily. What you’re explaining here, Sally, is normal expansion of the pipes as they heat up. Now, it might be that the pipes are a little looser than we’d like them to be against the wood framing and so you’re hearing a little bit more drama there than you’d, perhaps, typically would. But it’s not indicative of any kind of a problem; it’s very, very common for hot-water heating systems to have a little personality to them as they go about their job.

    LESLIE: I like that: personality.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SALLY: So I have to be aware of it. I wasn’t really aware of it until a friend stayed overnight and she said, “Wow, your heat’s noisy when it comes up in the morning.”

    TOM: Yeah, well, you know why? Because you probably – you totally tuned it out.

    SALLY: Yes, I’m used to it.

    TOM: Yeah. Nothing to worry about there, Sally.

    SALLY: And nothing I can do about it?

    TOM: Well, there are some things you can do about it but you’re going to be kind of chasing ghosts here, I think.

    SALLY: Oh, OK. Well, thank you very much and I love your program.

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

    Leslie, sometimes when you chase these things down, you find that you nail it in one spot and then it starts somewhere else. It’ll kind of drive you crazy.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh, it’s totally – it’s like the squeaky stairs at my house.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: I fix one step, then the next one decides it wants to go. It’s like you can never win with stuff like that. It’s just charm, as we say.

    Billy in Rhode Island is working on a roofing project. How can we help you?

    BILLY: Hi. I just bought a house with a red roof.

    TOM: Well, congratulations. We’ll be able to see that roof from space.

    LESLIE: OK. Now when you say a red roof, are you talking about red asphalt shingles or those beautiful terracotta tiles?

    BILLY: Oh, no. I’m in the Northeast; we don’t use terracotta out here. That’s wrong. It’s a three-tab, cottage-red roof.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Wow. And what color is your house?

    BILLY: White.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: Wow. Boy, what were they thinking, huh?

    LESLIE: That’s an interesting choice.

    TOM: Yeah.

    BILLY: Maybe they got a deal on the shingles. I don’t know.

    TOM: That’s right. Maybe that red shingle pile was sitting in the store for a long time.

    LESLIE: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red roof, so I could imagine that it was.

    TOM: Well, I mean the answer to your question, Billy, is no, you can’t paint them. There’s no way to change the color. You can only re-roof.

    So, your option is to live with it, maybe decorate around it, add some red shutters or something to pick up the color and make it look normal, if it’s possible. Leslie is cringing.

    LESLIE: Ugh. I might go with – definitely stay away from anything in the green/brown family, because that’s going to be like the complimentary color and it’s going to be too Christmas-y. But you might want to go taupe-y/beige/tans, bringing in some black. That might be able to make it work. Black shutters? I don’t know. A red roof is tough.

    BILLY: OK. Thank you. Thank you, guys.

    TOM: Alright, Billy. When we’re driving through Providence, we’re going to know it’s your house now, you realize that.

    LESLIE: Seriously. I’m on the lookout.

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

    Poor Billy.

    LESLIE: Wow. Why would you buy the house?

    TOM: I’ve seen the ones, the dimensional shingles that are supposed to look like terracotta tile and they are red. And actually, there are some houses along the beach near where I live that have them on and it’s beautiful.

    LESLIE: Do they look like terracotta tiles for real?

    TOM: It does. From a distance, it does.

    LESLIE: From a distance.

    TOM: From a distance. Yep.

    LESLIE: Once you get up on those houses – and I love those dimensional, architectural tiles because when you see them, you’re like, “Wow, look at that slate roof.”

    TOM: Right. It is.

    LESLIE: And then as you get closer, you’re like, “Not a slate roof but still gorgeous.”

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And my God, they’re so expensive.

    TOM: And I’ll tell you what. If you really want to make it look like slate or look like terracotta, what you have to do is you have to put in the same type of flashing that would exist if it truly was a stone product like that. So that means you’re going to have standing-seam, copper valley flashings and copper ridge and that sort of thing.

    LESLIE: To really make it authentic.

    TOM: Make it authentic, that’s right. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to take terracotta tiles and do sort of a French-weave, valley-style seam, because tiles don’t bend.

    LESLIE: But you know what? Now that you mention it, I’ve never seen those details on one of those dimensional roofs.

    TOM: That’s because they’re not doing them right. If they want to make it look truly like the shingle is trying to emulate, that’s the way you have to do it.

    LESLIE: Ron in Georgia is on the line. How can we help you today?

    RON: Yeah. I’ve had a plumbing problem in my kitchen. I had a leak and I had a plumber come out and put a used sink part in the hot-and-cold-water thing and it makes a thumping sound now when you cut the water on?

    TOM: OK. Yep.

    RON: And it thumps every so often.

    TOM: Yep. That thump has a technical term. It’s called “thumping.” No, it’s called “water hammer.” And it happens because water is very heavy; it actually weighs about 8 pounds per gallon.

    RON: Right.

    TOM: And as it’s running through the pipes, when you turn the faucet off, it has a certain level of centrifugal force and continues to move forward. And in doing so, it creates that thumping sound that you’re hearing.

    Now, there’s two ways to fix this. Number one, you can figure out where the pipes are loose and tie them tighter to the framing. Or number two, you could put in what is sort of a shock absorber for your plumbing system; it’s called a water-hammer arrestor. And it basically takes the centrifugal force of that water and dissipates it.

    But the good news is that it’s not causing a problem, structurally, to the pipes.

    LESLIE: It’s more of a nuisance.

    TOM: It would have to be incredibly bad and you’d have to have a really – a system that just was on its last legs for this to cause any damage. So it’s really an annoyance more than anything else.

    RON: Yeah. Well, that’s what I’ll do then.

    TOM: Alright, Ron. Well, good luck with that project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    RON: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Well, still ahead, are you in the dark when you’re doing kitchen duty? There is an underused space for task lighting in your kitchen that can shed light on the subject. We’ve got Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House, joining us after the break to tell us how to take advantage of under-cabinet lighting.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House feature is presented by Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Icynene fills the gaps other insulations miss, delivering up to a 50-percent energy saving. We’ll be back with Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Icynene. If you’re building, remodeling or reinsulating, demand Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Icynene fills the spaces other insulations miss, for up to 50-percent energy savings. Learn more and find a dealer at Icynene.com. I-c-y-n-e-n-e.com.

    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.

    TOM: And chances are you might be missing something in your kitchen. It’s not the fancy island you want or the imported tile backsplash that you’ve been dreaming of. It’s actually a lot simpler: under-cabinet lighting. It is the fastest way to brighten up a dark kitchen. Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House, has some advice on that project and we’ll be hearing from him, in just a few minutes.

    LESLIE: And today’s This Old House feature is presented by Icynene. If you’re building, remodeling or reinsulating, demand Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Icynene is going to fill those spaces that other insulations just miss. And you’ll see up to a 50-percent energy savings.

    TOM: And you could win $500 from Icynene by entering our Stay Warm with Icynene Giveaway. All you have to do is send an e-mail to StayWarm@MoneyPit.com. You’ll be automatically entered. We will draw one name at random; it could be you. You might just win a $500 gift card to help you get started on your next energy-saving project.

    LESLIE: Kitty in Wisconsin needs some help with a wallpapering project. What can we do for you?

    KITTY: I was wondering, what is the easiest way to remove wallpaper that’s been on a wall for about probably 10 years?

    TOM: Get used to it. It’s tough to remove but I can give you a couple of tricks of the trade.

    KITTY: OK.

    TOM: First of all, you want to start with a chemical remover. Before you do that, you’re going to run a little tool called a Paper Tiger over it that puts little, tiny perforated holes in it.

    KITTY: Oh, OK. I’ve heard of that.

    TOM: That helps the solution – yeah, that helps the solution get behind it. And by the way, if you’re in a pinch for a wallpaper remover, you can use fabric softener, too.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Fabric softener and water and it’s usually about 10 to 1, being 10 parts water and 1 part liquid fabric softener.

    And what you would do is you mix the solution and then you just spray it or rag-soak it onto the wall.

    KITTY: Oh, OK. I’ve heard of that, also, before.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. The spray bottle will help it be less messy.

    TOM: Yep. And it makes your wall smell lemony-fresh.

    KITTY: Oh, OK. Great.

    LESLIE: I mean I would sort of try the fabric softener first, because it works surprisingly well. And it’s so much less detrimental to you, your hands, the odor in the house. It’s just – it’s a much more pleasant working environment.

    KITTY: And you said 10 to 1. Fabric softener, 10 to 1, eh?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Ten ounces of water, one ounce fabric softener.

    KITTY: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. And by the way, if you’re trying to get this wallpaper off and that doesn’t work, the next step beyond that is to rent a wallpaper steamer.

    KITTY: OK. I’ve heard of that, also. OK.

    TOM: OK? And that’ll do the trick.

    KITTY: OK, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you find that your cakes are tasting salty and your meatloaf is sweet, what you might be lacking is not actually some good cooking skills but the right lighting in your kitchen.

    TOM: That’s right. And the kitchen is one of the best places in your home for task lighting. And one place that’s usually lacking that is under kitchen cabinets. Here to talk about that is This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor.

    Kevin, welcome to the program.

    KEVIN: Thank you for having me.

    TOM: And it’s always amazing how much we do with so little light in the kitchen.

    KEVIN: Isn’t it? Have you chopped off any fingers lately?

    TOM: Thankfully not. But I’ve got to tell you, it’s – a missing element is that task lighting. And I think a lot of folks don’t realize that. You really need several types of light in a kitchen for it to be truly efficient.

    KEVIN: Yeah. And one great place to add this task lighting is underneath the upper cabinets, under mounted lights, we call them. And think about it: these cabinets go over most of your counter space, which is where you’re doing most of your work. You might be working on an island some of the time but you’re also going to be working on those counters that wrap your kitchen. So this is a great place to add lighting.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think a great place to add dimmer switches, as well, in the kitchen.

    KEVIN: Well, the dimmer switches really get you two lights in one, right? So when you’re doing all of the prep and you’re working in the kitchen, it’s nice and bright, you can see what you’re doing, you save a couple fingers. But then when you’re serving dinner and you’re having a cocktail afterwards, you can turn them down to dim and it just is a good mood lighting throughout the kitchen.

    LESLIE: Or sneaking in for that late-night snack.

    KEVIN: Or sneaking in for the ice cream.

    TOM: Now, what kinds of fixtures do we have to choose from here? Are they all pretty much the same or are there a lot of options, as always?

    KEVIN: Well, no, there’s a lot of options that are out there. And for me, there’s three different kinds: you’ve got the fluorescents, you’ve got the halogen/xenon bulbs or you’ve got LEDs. And they all have different qualities.

    Now, the fluorescents, they burn a little cooler and they use less electricity. And one nice thing about them is that there’s not a lot of heat thrown off of them. So if you put them underneath the cabinet and the peanut butter is up above, the peanut butter is not all soupy when you open up in the morning. But they do produce a particular color light that some people don’t like.

    And I think that’s why some folks go for either the halogen or the xenon bulbs, which is the second option. And they emit a very bright, white light. Halogen is the brightest; xenon burns a little cooler but lasts a little longer. And when you put those in, you just have to know that you need a transformer, generally, to step down the voltage.

    TOM: Now, of all the types of lighting that’s out there, the newest – and what I think is probably my favorite – is LED.

    KEVIN: Yeah, LED is out there and we know these are super-efficient. They’re also cool to the touch so your peanut butter doesn’t become soupy. And while they were new just a few years ago, these days there are a lot of different options out there. Whether it’s a continuous ribbon that you stick to the bottom, whether it’s a traditional fixture that you mount to the bottom of these cabinets, the choices for LED lights are growing with every passing year and they’re a great option.

    TOM: And you know, there are a lot of kits that are out there today with kitchen-cabinet lighting. So, you don’t necessarily need an electrician for this project.

    KEVIN: You don’t. I mean believe it or not, you can actually just plug some of these things right into an existing outlet. But if you don’t want to do that, if you want sort of a cleaner look, you can actually wire them yourselves. They’re pretty easy to do. They often come in these small, little strips that you mount and wire and you’re good to go.

    TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, this is a great project and one that you’re really going to enjoy for many years to come. Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a lot of great step-by-step videos on home improvement projects that you can do, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.

    Still to come, gas, oil, propane, electric. There are so many ways to heat your home. Ever wonder which one is the most efficient? We’re going to tell you which one it is and which one is the cheapest, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by ODL’s Add-On Blinds. Enclosed behind tempered glass, they eliminate the need for dusting and exposed cords, both problems with traditional blinds. Plus, they easily install over your existing entry glass. Visit www.ODL.com to learn more.

    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. And the number here at Team Money Pit is 888-MONEY-PIT. Now, one caller who calls in and gets on the air with us is going to win a great prize. We have up for grabs a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators.

    And what’s cool is that you’ve got Lumber Liquidators and they cut out the middle man and they buy the wood directly from the mill. And then they pass all of their savings directly on to you. And they’ve got a huge selection of engineered hardwoods, exotic woods and even laminates. And with 250 locations in North America, you should be able to find somebody near you, I’m thinking.

    The number here is 888-MONEY-PIT, so give us a call for help with your home improvement project and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Judy in California has a lamp that’s acting up. Tell us about this tricky lamp.

    JUDY: Oh, hi. Yes. I have a real antique table lamp: real heavy brass and real glass-heavy shape. And the cord that’s on it is a – it has a switch about halfway down on the cord: one of those roller switches.

    TOM: Right. Right.

    LESLIE: OK.

    JUDY: You roll it forward for “on” and roll it back for “off.”

    TOM: OK.

    JUDY: And when I roll it on, it comes on OK but then it comes off just without touching it, all the time. And in order to get it back on, I just kind of bend the cord and stick it under a book or something and then it stays on and …

    TOM: That’s a really bad idea, Judy.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: That’s a really bad idea. You have a short in that cord or in the switch and bending it and sticking it under a book is basically like lighting a match and sticking in the kindling. So, don’t do that. That’s dangerous, alright?

    JUDY: OK. Oh.

    TOM: Because that could catch on fire.

    LESLIE: But you can …

    TOM: But it’s an easy fix. Take that to a hardware store and let them replace the switch for you. It’s not that hard to do.

    LESLIE: It’s not that difficult. They can even just rewire that whole cord and it won’t be expensive. It’s something that can be easily done, whether you bring it to a lamp-repair shop or a local handyman/hardware-type store. It’s an easy project.

    JUDY: Uh-huh. OK. So just the switch or the switch and the cord, huh?

    LESLIE: It’s probably going to be the cord has to be replaced, because the switch is in line to the cord.

    JUDY: Right, right.

    LESLIE: They’ll have to look at it but it’s definitely a short somewhere.

    JUDY: So it’s dangerous like that, right?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: It’s very dangerous. That’s right. You do – you want to replace it. Stop using the lamp, unplug it and get that cord replaced, OK?

    JUDY: Alright. Thank you. I will.

    TOM: Well, have you been bombarded with ads compelling you to choose propane over oil or natural gas or over electric? It is the season for fuel suppliers to compete for your business. And all those competing claims can make it pretty hard to find out what is really the best deal.

    Now, according to the Department of Energy, the best home-heating fuel option for your home depends. Really helpful, right? It depends on what? Well, it depends on a variety of factors, including the cost and the availability of the fuel and the cost of the maintenance and installation.

    Well, that makes sense. But the truth is for most of us, our home-heating fuel options may not be up to us, since the fuel has to match the appliance that was installed in your home, your apartment, your condo. Switching, sometimes, from one fuel to the other isn’t usually practical.

    But that said, there are ways to save, regardless of what kind of fuel you have.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That’s right. If you heat by oil or in some cases, propane, one way that you can cut your costs is to join fuel-oil cooperatives.

    Now, cooperatives, they are groups that form to purchase fuel oil in bulk at discount prices. And then those discounts are passed along to the end users. Cooperatives, they’ve been around for more than 20 years and joining one can result in substantial savings.

    Now, believe it or not, some major retailers are joining the fuel-selling business. Some locations of BJ’s Wholesale Club offer heating oil to consumers. So before you decide to buy fuel online or at a big-box store, remember that these providers do not offer services, you know, like an emergency oil delivery on a cold weekend night.

    So if you’re looking for some more information on the types of fuels, how you can service them, what you need to do, just Google “money pit home-heating options” and you’ll get a ton of information there.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Chuck in Arkansas needs some help with a countertop situation, I guess? What’s going on at your place, Chuck?

    CHUCK: Yes, ma’am. We have some old countertops that are outdated and I’m just trying to decide whether or not it would be better off for me to actually hire somebody to do that or if it’s a project that me and my brother could tackle ourselves.

    TOM: What kind of countertops are they?

    CHUCK: Laminate countertops.

    TOM: OK. So you actually, Chuck, could relaminate these tops if you’re looking for something – an easy way to replace them to save some money. If you pull them out of the kitchen – if you take out the sink, pull out all the plumbing, anything that’s attached into them, get them out on some sawhorses – you actually can put a second layer of laminate – whatever that is, whether it’s Wilsonart or Formica. You could put that right on top of the existing layer.

    And I would do probably the countertop first and the splash second. And there’s a special router bit that actually trims the laminate so it all comes out nice and clean and square. And you use contact cement for adhering the one layer to the next. So I think that that’s an easy solution; it’s a definite do-it-yourself project.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, we’re going to talk about flooring. It’s actually still one of the most asked-about topics and it has our new-and-improved Community section buzzing with questions.

    We’re going to talk about what type of flooring is best for a kitchen and offer some tips on how to clean laminate floors, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Santa Fe, makers of the world’s most energy-efficient basement and crawlspace dehumidifier. Santa Fe offers a complete line of high-capacity, Energy Star-rated dehumidifiers, specifically designed to effectively operate in the cooler temperatures of crawlspaces and basements. Visit DehumidifierSolutions.com to learn more.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question or you could also post it on our Community section. We’ve got tons of featured experts there now, including a master plumber – our friend, Ed Del Grande – and also some very experienced professional home inspectors standing by to answer your home improvement question.

    And if you ask them, it’ll generally be right. If you ask us, you take your chances but it’s a lot more fun.

    So, head on over there. One way or the other, post a question, call us – 888-666-3974 – or get on over to The Money Pit community at MoneyPit.com. Marietta was bold enough to do that and she posted a question about remodeling her kitchen.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And Marietta posted – and here she is taking a gamble by posting her question. Marietta wrote: “I want to remodel my kitchen. My washing machine and dryer are also located in the kitchen. What flooring would be better off installing? I was thinking of a wood floor but I read your answer regarding laminate and water, et cetera. So what do you recommend?”

    TOM: Well, look, there are a few floors in the house that take more punishment than the kitchen, Marietta. So you need to keep that in mind. There’s a reason that so many kitchen floors are tile: it’s because it’s so indestructible. Of course, it’s also destructible to your plates on it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Unless you drop something on it.

    TOM: Right, exactly.

    So, the kinds of flooring that I think are really good choices for the kitchen – if you really want wood floor, I would never put solid hardwood in; I would always put engineered hardwood. Engineered hardwood is like solid hardwood except that it’s made up of multiple layers of hardwood that – glued in opposite directions. Makes it sort of dimensionally stable and that means that if you get a leak or a big spill, it’s not going to swell up.

    The other option is laminate and I think laminate’s a great choice. With laminate, it’s very similar in construction to laminate countertops, except it’s about 20 times tougher. There’s actually a test that’s called a Taber Abrasion Test. They essentially take sandpaper on a disk and spin it into the laminate until it grinds it all down and they measure how tough it is that way. And the laminate floor is 20 times tougher than a laminate countertop, so don’t confuse the two.

    I really like laminate; I’ve had it in my kitchen for a long time. We’ve dished out a lot of punishment to that floor between pets and kids and the dropsies that go on with just raising a family. I really like it; I think it’s a great choice. So I would probably recommend laminate or engineered hardwood.

    Leslie, what’s your take, as a decorator, on some of the high-end vinyls, perhaps?

    LESLIE: Oh, I mean it really depends. I’m a big fan of laminates. I think because the way they’re made today, it’s done sort of with a printed photograph on that top layer of the laminate flooring. So truly, laminate can look like anything.

    And with vinyl floorings, you’re in a similar situation, at a variety of price points. You know, it’s sort of one step down pricewise from the laminates, rather. So you kind of need to look at your budget, what you want that floor to ultimately look like and that will really pay off in the end. And good luck with your kitchen remodel.

    Now I’ve got one here from “PlantsAndDance” – I love that name – who wrote: “After I clean the floor, it always look smeary unless I buff it. Is there a special cleaner for laminate floors?”

    TOM: I wonder if you’re using a liquid wax like you might use with vinyl or a wood floor. Laminates really require nothing except for moisture. We’ve always just used a warm, damp mop on our laminate floor, maybe just a touch of Lysol or something like that in there. But really, just a minimum amount of moisture goes a long way with laminate and you shouldn’t have to buff it.

    If you buffed it, that means there’s something left on the floor when it dries and you really shouldn’t ever have that, right?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, PlantsAndDance? I just had to say her name again. If you know the manufacturer of your laminate floor, just look them up online and find out what cleanser they recommend. Chances are they make one and then you can go ahead and spray that on and just sort of dry-mop it with a paper towel on your Swiffer mop. And that’ll really do the trick.

    But Tom is right: water will do the job.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips, some advice, perhaps a bit of inspiration to help you save some perspiration on your next home improvement project.

    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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2012 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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