Downsizing Your Home, Energy Efficient Improvements, Choosing the Right Lumber, Green Carpeting and More
(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.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
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 with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. We are here to help you get the job and, most importantly, to stop you from becoming a do-it-to-yourselfer. (chuckling) We’re going to make it easier, faster, safer, nicer for you to get those projects done around your house.
Hey, coming up this hour, according to a recent survey by Better Homes and Gardens, homeowners are now focusing on price, energy efficiency and organization for their next home. That’s a big change from a time when the American dream was to own a showplace home. We’re going to talk about what you can do to maintain your home’s value and integrate energy efficiency ideas all at the same time without spending a ton of money.
LESLIE: That’s right. And you know, one of those ideas is Energy Star-rated replacement windows. We’re going to talk to an expert from Simonton Windows about why the timing for window replacements could not be better than right now for your home and your wallet. We’re going to teach you how to save energy and cash in your tax return, in a little bit.
TOM: And if you give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, not only will we answer your home improvement question, we’ll throw your name in the Money Pit hardhat because we’re giving away a Granitex Concrete Finishing Kit worth 150 bucks. It’s an acrylic, stone-like coating that can be applied to indoor or outdoor concrete surfaces to make them look great just in time for summer. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Sharon in Texas is working on a bathroom project. What’s going on there?
SHARON: Hi. Well, yes, I’ve got a bath-and-a-half and I’m talking about the half-bathroom. There’s only a lavatory inside and the toilet. Now, I’m going to have to replace the flooring because the toilet has gotten old and I’m replacing it. Do I need to replace just where the toilet was or the whole floor?
LESLIE: Hmm. I mean you should be able – correct me if I’m wrong, Tom – be able to just replace the commode itself without damaging the floor, correct? Because it’s just attached with some bolts and a wax seal.
SHARON: The floor is getting old, too.
TOM: Well, then, you’re sort of moving into the three most expensive words in home improvement here: might as well. (Sharon and Leslie chuckle)
TOM: And so if you’re asking us to endorse the idea of replacing the floor, you have our blessing, you have our endorsements; we think you should just continue and do that. But if you’re asking me do you absolutely have to replace the floor, the answer is no. I will say, however, that sometimes the toilet base on the old toilet is a lot bigger than the toilet base on the new toilet and, if that happens, you could find yourself in a situation where the floor is somewhat unfinished around the toilet.
LESLIE: And I wouldn’t – Sharon, I wouldn’t just replace the flooring in the area of the commode; I feel like that might look very piecemeal and not very well thought-out or put together. You can find – I mean, if it’s a half-bath, you’re probably dealing with very small square-footage. Am I right?
LESLIE: So, generally, you’re probably looking at maybe – what – six square feet, eight square feet, ten square feet?
SHARON: (overlapping voices) Yeah, I’d say about six-and-a-half to seven.
TOM: Yeah, it’s not that much, so you might just go ahead and do it.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) So that’s not going to be that expensive and, depending on the type of flooring that you choose, I mean, you could find anything as low as $3 to $4 a square, depending on what you pick.
SHARON: OK. OK. Well, good. Thank you. Because it was like, “Do I replace the half of the floor or replace the whole floor?” And the reason why I keep saying about replacing, because I’ve noticed in the back of the toilet there, on the floor, it looks like it could – it’s wiggly. So, does that mean I need to replace it because it’s wiggly or just – could it be just the toilet itself?
TOM: (overlapping voices) Do you think the floor is soft in that area?
SHARON: Yes. I’m almost sure that it is.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Ah, well, here’s what’s going on. You may have a slight leak around the wax seal and if that’s the case, if the floor is soft, you may have some rotted subfloor there and that’s a little bit of a bigger repair. If that’s the case, you definitely are going to have to pull up the old floor and fix any of the rotted material that’s underneath it and put down a new floor.
SHARON: Thank you. Thank you because (inaudible at 0:04:19.2). I think that’s what I’m going to do; I feel safer that way.
TOM: (overlapping voices) See, I just gave you the reason you needed to replace that floor (Leslie chuckles), which is what you want to do, anyway.
SHARON: Well, yes, you did and I thank you (Tom and Leslie chuckle) so much for confirming that. (laughs)
TOM: Happy to help you out.
SHARON: (overlapping voices) Thank you.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Moses is working on a water feature, complete with fish. How can we help?
MOSES: Well, I’m – I built a koi fish pond in my backyard and that’s about a 2,300-gallon fish – koi fish pond. Got fish introduced and everything. The only thing is I have an extension cord going from my kitchen, through my back door, to my koi fish pond and I need to put plug outlets at the pond.
MOSES: And had a question about running it from my breaker box, so that it was an independent breaker.
TOM: OK, completely separate circuit, yep.
MOSES: Just had a question as to how to get that done.
TOM: Well, if you’re asking the question on how to wire your new electrical circuit, my advice is to hire an electrician because it’s not something that you should be doing. I will tell you, in general terms, that the type of circuit that you want to install is something called a ground-fault circuit. It is a special circuit that has a breaker in it that will trigger – it will turn off if someone is unfortunate enough to be receiving a shock.
Now, a traditional circuit breaker is designed to prevent the wire from overheating. A ground-fault breaker is designed to not only prevent the wire from overheating but also to prevent you from overheating if you get an electrical shock. So installing a circuit is not a complicated project; it’s a fairly straightforward job and a relatively simple job for an electrician but not one that I would want to be your very first electrical project.
MOSES: OK. And as far as putting the ground-fault, could that be done with an actual AC plug in line by …?
TOM: Yeah, there are two places you can do it: you can do it at the breaker or you can do it at the actual receptacle itself.
TOM: But if you do it at the breaker, it covers the entire circuit and that’s probably – if you’re starting from scratch, that’s where I would do it.
MOSES: OK. Great.
TOM: I would make the entire circuit ground-fault protected. This way, if you decide to tie in another outlet later, it’s all covered.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. Run an exterior lighting for the garden.
MOSES: OK. Great. Hey, thank you guys very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Moses. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com and we want you to be part of The Money Pit, so call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’d be glad to lend a hand, so call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, have you been thinking about some new carpeting? Well, we’re going to have some tips on how you can pull the rug out of chemical hazards in those carpets, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and you should give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one caller that we talk to on the air this hour wins a concrete facelift kit from Granitex. Now, Granitex is an acrylic, stone-like coating that can be applied to indoor or outdoor concrete surfaces and it’s ideal for everything from patios, porches, balconies, pool decks, garage floors, walkways, steps and even driveways. And after it’s applied, the surface is extremely durable and very, very easy to clean.
It comes in four different colors that can be combined to make some pretty fantastic patterns. It’s a prize worth 150 bucks, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
Well, carpeting is a pretty popular floor covering, especially when it comes to bedrooms. But keep in mind that new carpets can also contain preservatives like formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds known as VOCs that can be linked to cancer and other developmental problems.
Now, to avoid exposure, you want to make sure that any new rug meets indoor air-quality standards that are set by the Carpet and Rug Institute. And as an extra precaution, you want to air out the house for about 48 hours before you install new carpeting.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what you can do? When we got carpeting for Henry’s room, before he was born, I asked if the manufacturer where we got the carpeting – I said, “Can you roll it out in your warehouse for a couple of days to air out before you bring it to my house?”
LESLIE: They said they did. I noticed far less odor when it was in the house. I mean they could have been pulling the wool over my eyes (chuckling), so to speak.
TOM: Good tip.
LESLIE: But you can ask for that and you should.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Who’s next?
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got David from North Carolina who has a question about heat and hot water. What can we do for you?
DAVID: I’m interested in knowing what would be the best route as far as going with instant hot water; whether I want to stay with electric or go ahead and have a gas pack or something like that put in.
TOM: Are you talking about a water heater? Not instant hot water, like for your sink, right?
DAVID: Yeah, instant hot water for – yeah, sinks and showers.
TOM: (overlapping voices) For the whole house, right?
TOM: Now, do you have natural gas or propane available, David?
DAVID: We can have in-ground tanks put in or outside, you know. (inaudible at 0:09:39.6).
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. Propane, though. Right. Well, I tell you, the best thing for you to do – if this is something new that you’re going to do – is to put in a tankless water heater. Now, tankless is not available in electric; it’s only available in gas. So, if you were to put in a gas tankless water heater, you would need to install an above-ground or underground propane tank.
There’s one other option, though: that is a high-efficiency, electric heat pump water heater that is coming out right now. These cost a lot less to run than a traditional electric water heater and they do supply quite a bit of water but they’re not – it’s not an endless supply like a tankless is.
TOM: So those are your two options. If you stay with electric, you can go with a heat pump water heater or if you go with gas, you can go with a tankless, propane-fired water heater.
DAVID: So I guess there would be a matter of suitability for the gas tank and …
TOM: Yeah. And cost. You know, they’re both going to be a little bit more expensive than a standard electric water heater than you have right now but they’re going to be far more efficient.
DAVID: Do you have suggestions for finding the right type of unit or …?
TOM: Sure. Well, GE has one and also Rheem has one. Rheem has the HP-50, I believe it’s called, which is very good. So take a look online. These are brand new; they just came out this year. Before, it was almost impossible for you to get an energy-efficient electric water heater but with this heat pump technology, it really is efficient.
And something else to consider is that they’ll qualify you for the federal energy tax credit, so that can actually reduce the cost of the unit, as well.
DAVID: That’s good. OK. That’s very helpful and I appreciate your time with this.
TOM: You’re very welcome, David. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Talking to Monique in Utah. What can we help you with today at The Money Pit?
MONIQUE: I have a front entry door that has that that six-inch window that runs the length of the door that has clear glass. And I have a curtain up there now but I would really like to put something on there that would kind of make it look more fogged or crystallized or something. I’ve heard there are products out there or tints but I’m not sure if that’s true or not.
LESLIE: Now, it’s just sort of a light that’s in the center of the door? Is it paned in any way?
MONIQUE: No, no. It runs the side, the length of the door. It’s kind …
LESLIE: So it’s like two sidelights? Or just one sidelight?
MONIQUE: No, it’s just one window that runs the length of the door. So right next to the door there’s this little window that runs – it’s about six inches wide and runs the full length of the door.
LESLIE: OK, so there’s no grillwork or anything on there.
MONIQUE: No, no.
LESLIE: You can get – if you’re looking for frosting, there’s actually a spray can of glass frosting. I think Krylon makes it. It’s available at craft stores and home centers. And you just have to be careful in your application of it because you want to make sure you do it uniformly. You don’t want to end up with areas where you get spray-heavy, so you might want to get a piece of glass just to sort of practice on to get your technique down. But that works extremely well.
They also have colored, frosted glass paint but I – you know, we’ve used it on the TV shows I’ve worked on. I think it can look a little cutesy and chintzy, in some cases. But if you pick a nice color, it might do the trick.
Or you can get rice paper; beautiful paper that comes in lengths on rolls or several different colors of it and almost put it together as a patchwork or run the whole length of the glass. And attach that with just some double-stick tape or even some spray adhesive lightly in some key areas in the corners, just to sort of hold it in place so that you’re not spraying adhesive all across the entire glass.
And those are some good ideas to sort of give you a different sort of take on it.
MONIQUE: OK. Now, I have a dog that likes to put her nose against it, so would I be better off using the Krylon product, you think, for that?
TOM: The frosted paints, as good as they are they’re not going to take (Monique chuckles) repetitive noseprints.
MONIQUE: No, no. I think once it’s frosted up she won’t be as prone to look out there but that’s another reason I just – I want to have something that if she …
LESLIE: Because I know that once it’s dry it even gets a little powdery if you kind of brush it.
MONIQUE: Oh. OK, OK.
LESLIE: So I think with a wet nose you might end up with a little wet nose spot.
MONIQUE: Little spots underneath it. Oh, I don’t want that.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, exactly.
MONIQUE: OK. Well, I have to figure out something to keep her away from there but if she can’t look out it anymore, I think it’d be a nice thing. But it’s mainly the people looking in; the little kids that press their faces. So it’d be nice to have a little privacy there without having to replace the full glass. So, OK, I’ll give that a whirl.
TOM: Great, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Steve in Delaware needs some help replacing a boiler. So this is a project you want to do yourself?
STEVE: Yes, I do.
TOM: Have you ever replaced a boiler before, Steve?
STEVE: No, I haven’t. I’ve done a lot of hot water heaters. This one – the existing one I have now looks pretty straightforward – one flow, one return pipe – and I’m thinking about attempting it. Just wanted to know what may be – what possible difficulties I can encounter.
TOM: Well, I mean – I don’t necessarily always like to recommend that people do a big HVAC project like that because when you get into it and start having problems, you need to be able to solve them. This is probably not the best do-it-yourself project. Replacing a water heater and replacing a boiler are two completely separate projects and I think it probably worth your while having the plumber help you with this.
STEVE: OK. I sort of agree. I think that’s what I’ll probably do.
TOM: Alright. Well, we were so glad we could help you make your mind up, Steve. (chuckles)
STEVE: OK. One other quick question?
STEVE: I have a radiator that I can’t get any heat out of and I have bled it and have had no luck, so I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the problem.
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. Hmm. Do we know that we’re getting water flow to that particular radiator? I’m wondering if the water is being blocked somewhere down the line.
STEVE: Well, in the basement, I do notice it drops off on some of the pipes. It seems like the return pipe – if I’m right, the return pipe is getting warm but the flow pipe isn’t.
TOM: Supply pipe. Another good reason, Steve, to have the plumber install the boiler. You’ll probably get all this sorted out at the same time.
TOM: Alright, Steve? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT but we think you’re making the right decision not doing this one yourself.
LESLIE: Holly in North Dakota needs some help with kitchen cabinets. What can we do for you?
HOLLY: Hi. We are looking at either laminating our kitchen cupboards or what I would like to do is to paint our kitchen cupboards but I’m not exactly sure the right process or the best paint to use on it.
LESLIE: Well, what are they currently made of? Are they wood? Are they a laminated wood surface now?
HOLLY: They’re like a laminated wood surface, you know, with the shine to them. The house was built in ’88 and stuff and I just want to give it a fresher look, I guess.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) OK. Well, generally, when you’re painting a laminated surface, you want to make sure that, number one, it’s clean. And then once you’ve gotten it super-duper clean, you need to abrade the surface. And because you don’t want it to be, you know, rough-hewn in its look or have a rough, gritty look in its surface, you can use something that’s called a liquid sander, which is a liquid that sort of just lightly abrades the surface.
TOM: You mean liquid sandpaper.
LESLIE: Yeah, liquid sandpaper. And then you brush that on or rub that on according to the directions; I think you rub it on with a towel. And then once that sort of does its job, you need to use a really good-quality, oil-based primer because you want that primer to stick super-duper well and if you go with a latex you’re going to be able to scratch it right off.
And you need to make sure you that you do this on a day that is not humid at all. On Trading Spaces, we painted a kitchen cabinet set – all of it – on like a rainy, gross day and that paint was scraping off. So you need to make sure that you use the oil-based primer; do it on a day that’s super-dry; let it dry really, really well and then go ahead and put a latex topcoat on top of that.
HOLLY: OK, that sounds great.
LESLIE: Mike in South Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
MIKE: I’ve got a little problem. I’ve been doing a house improvement on my house. It’s 31 years old and about a year ago – back then they used to put prints on the ceiling. So about a year ago, me and my wife had somebody come over – took all that off the ceiling, sand it down, mud it so it’d be slick.
MIKE: Well, about wintertime, when I use the gas logs, sometimes it will pop; not all the time but just back and forth pop. And I just wonder what caused that?
TOM: When you say “pop,” you mean crack?
MIKE: (overlapping voices) Yeah. Well, it’s about like a crack; a pop, you know. You can touch the ceiling and hear the same sound.
TOM: Well, Mike, it sounds like that ceiling is causing you to crack up.
LESLIE: (chuckling) Tom.
TOM: I think what’s going on here is when you put on the heat, you get a very – you know, warm air that’s rising, it’s drying out that space and, as a result, you’re getting some expansion and some contraction; some shifting in that structure above the ceiling. That’s what’s making that sort of very loud noise; it can sort of echo in that space and probably sound worse than it is.
But I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. As long as you’re not seeing physical cracks in that ceiling, it’s really just the noise, I think, that’s pretty typical. It’s kind of like when you turn on the hot water in the bathroom; sometimes you hear sort of a creaking sound coming from the pipes. You get a lot of movement in that space; you’re going to get that kind of noise and I don’t think it’s going to hurt you.
MIKE: OK. I was just wondering what it could be. And I listen to your show all the time and I love it. I love it.
TOM: Thank you so much. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Well, replacing your old, drafty windows can help you see instant savings in your energy bills, plus cash in on your tax return. We’re going to tell you all about that, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your toolbox, visit StanleyTools.com.
TOM: 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. Well, new studies show Americans are still cautiously spending money to improve their homes but, this time, in slightly different areas. Now, in the past, a big-budget kitchen upgrade might have been a common project but these days, investments that make your home heartier, healthier and help save you money are more the norm.
TOM: Yes. Like replacing old, drafty windows. There’s never been a better time to do just that. Here to tell us about two major incentives to help pay for the cost of energy-efficient replacement windows is our friend, Tony Eschmeyer, the senior product manager for Simonton Windows.
TONY: How are you guys doing today?
TOM: We are excellent.
I want to talk with you about the confusion over windows that qualify for the energy tax credit, versus windows that don’t qualify. As I drive around – and I’m sure as our listeners drive around different parts of the country – we hear lots of ads for windows. And in fact, one of the most common ones is – I heard ads that say, “Our windows are Energy Star-rated, so buy them and get an energy tax credit.” And that’s not necessarily the case because the Energy Star rating doesn’t assure that you’re going to qualify for this tax package, because there’s a much higher requirement for that. And that’s kind of …
LESLIE: And they’re very specific requirements, right?
TOM: Exactly. Very specific requirements and that’s why I want to ask you about the glass packages that you guys have put together, because you’re now guaranteeing a specific type of window that will qualify, aren’t you?
TONY: That’s absolutely correct. And you’re both correct in stating that and we’ve heard the same thing in the marketplace, Tom and Leslie – is that, you know, there has been a lot of confusion amongst consumers – and even amongst window dealers and distributors – about the new requirements that went into place last year and are actually valid for both last year and for this year.
As part of that Recovery and Reinvestment Act, there are a couple of incentives for homeowners and it is very specific and it’s specific to performance. Just because you are purchasing an Energy Star-compliant window doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you’re going to achieve that tax credit. And Leslie, you’re absolutely correct in stating that the requirements to achieve the $1,500 tax credit in either 2009 or 2010 is very specific for the U-factor and the solar heat gain coefficient. And both of those need to be below a 0.30 or better.
TOM: And that’s where it gets very confusing because those are very technical terms – the U-factor, the solar heat gain coefficient; all very technical and you have to really understand how to read the label of the window to determine if it actually qualifies.
So what you guys are doing is making this a little bit easier now by offering a manufacturer certification that the glass actually does qualify and therefore, you will be able to get your tax credit of up to 1,500 bucks.
TONY: Yes. Simonton really wanted to simplify this entire process and what we were able to achieve was that we were able to go in and identify – through testing and simulation; you know, real-world testing that we have at our own product development center – that basically helped us identify which glass packages, in each of our products, were going to give us that 30/30 compliance.
And what we did was we created glass packages that are actually labeled ETC glass package – and there are several different versions – but anything that you would buy from Simonton with an ETC designation in the glass package guarantees that you’ll meet that 30/30.
TOM: Now let’s talk about some of the other benefits of an energy-efficient glass. Not only is the government going to help you pay for these windows this year but you’re also going to enjoy some longer-term savings in reduced energy costs.
TONY: Yeah. There are really a number of advantages to replacing the old windows that you may have in your house, you know. The tax credit was – it was definitely for replacement windows but there were some other categories of products that you could buy; in heating, air conditioning, things like that. Insulation, I believe, was also another.
But if you’re putting new windows into your home, you’re going to realize not only long-term benefits in a $1,500 tax credit in either ’09 or ’10 but you’re also going to notice immediate savings in your monthly energy bill, as well as the comfort in your home. So, you are actually receiving three benefits for replacing that one product.
And the reason I mention the other product categories is that you could go in and make an investment in insulation, either for your attic or for HVAC. But if you still have those old windows, you’re going to be losing that energy that you’re putting into your home or you’re trying to keep in your home, through the windows. But by replacing it with – making the investment in replacement windows that are tax-credit qualified, you’re guaranteeing yourself – and not only long-term savings with the tax credit at the end of the year but immediate savings on your monthly energy bill.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, Tony, I understand you guys have partnered with H&R Block to really make this tax incentive super-easy to understand and really easy to file for.
TONY: We’ve got a great promotion with H&R Block that essentially brings to a close the entire window purchase process. And essentially, you buy 12 windows from select lines from Simonton Windows and we offer up to $150 towards tax preparation at participating H&R Block locations.
TOM: That’s great and that’s about what it costs to have your taxes done, anyway, isn’t it?
TOM: Fantastic. Tony Eschmeyer from Simonton Windows, great program. Thanks for filling us in and stopping by The Money Pit.
TONY: Thank you, Tom.
TOM: For more information on Simonton Windows, you can go to their website at Simonton.com/taxcredit, where you’ll find everything you need to know about taking advantage of this great opportunity to have the government help pay for your brand-new windows.
LESLIE: Up next, what Americans want in their next home. Here’s a hint: number one on the list is not a ginormous master bedroom with an on-suite bath. Why not? That’s what I want.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bondera TileMatSet, the fast, easy way to add the style and value of tile to your home. For more information, visit BonderaTileMatSet.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And if you have an old, dirty or boring concrete patio, we’ve got a prize this hour that can help with that. It’s Granitex; it’s an acrylic, stone-like coating that can be applied to indoor or outdoor concrete surfaces and it’s ideal to really spruce them up and have them looking really nice. It comes in four colors and they can actually be combined to make patterns. It’s worth 150 bucks and it’s going to go out to one caller we talk to on the air this hour at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, huge, sprawling homes – they’re pretty much what I think about all the time but they’re not as in demand as they once were. Now, according to a survey done by Better Homes and Gardens on Americans’ next home, here’s the big trend: it’s downsizing and it’s a huge one.
Now, more homeowners say that they expect their next home to be somewhat smaller or much smaller. And also, a top priority is a greener home with 87 percent planning to have high-efficiency heating/cooling in their next home and 86 percent planning to have high-efficiency appliances.
Now, as more of us telecommute, the home office is a huge priority. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed plan to have one in their home. Why can’t I? I’ve got a small house and a home office; can’t they go hand-in hand? (Tom and Leslie chuckle)
TOM: Well, some good ideas for those of you that are planning improvements. You really can’t go wrong with the energy-efficient home improvements like new windows or, say, a more efficient HVAC system. You’ll reap the benefits now, earn tax credits and create some very attractive selling points later on. So, think about those energy-saving improvements because they really can go a long way to saving you money and increasing the value of your home.
888-666-3974 is the number you need to know to increase the value of your next home improvement project. Give us a call and we will help you out.
LESLIE: Tim in Texas is dealing with a leaky house. Tell us about the problem.
TIM: Well, I’ve got a 13-year-old or 14-year-old home that’s on a slab and the copper pipe underneath the slab develops pinholes in it and they have to bust out the concrete to patch the holes. And I was wondering if there’s something that they’re overlooking.
TOM: Well, pinholes form in copper pipes when the water is somewhat acidic. Now, this is a – these are heating pipes in the slab?
TIM: No, it’s the water pipes, you know; runs up to a sink or to a washing machine.
TOM: Right. Have you installed any type of water treatment to try to lower the acidity of the water in your house?
TIM: Well, there’s a water-softening system that’s underground out in the valley.
TOM: OK. Tim, you know, there’s a good article on our website at MoneyPit.com; it’s got a lot of information on this problem. It’s called “Repairing Pinhole Leaks in Copper Pipes.” You can find it if you simply go to MoneyPit.com and search on “repairing pinhole leaks in copper pipes”; you will find it instantly. And it gives you a lot of detail on the different types of pitting – there are actually three different types: type I, type II and type III – and a link to a complete study that was done on this, called the Toolbase Case Study on Pinhole Leaks.
And finally, if you get to a point where you’ve torn anything open and you’re at a place where you can replace a pipe, what we would recommend you do is always use PEX. It stands for cross-linked polyethylene and it’s a type of polyethylene piping that obviously will not develop any type of further leaking issues. So if you do end up tearing things open, that’s what you want to fix it with, OK?
TIM: Well, I’ll take a look at it and see what I can do.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Linda in New York needs some help with a question about whether to take on a remodeling project or not, in this economy. What can we do for you, Linda?
LINDA: I live in a New York City suburb and in this recession era, when housing and values and prices are faltering, is it wise to invest approximately $50,000 into a new kitchen?
TOM: OK. Well, look, I don’t think you have to spend 50K on a new kitchen in this market. I think there’s probably less expensive things that you can do, unless your kitchen is really, really dated. How old is your house?
LINDA: From 1947.
TOM: Oh, is it the original 1947 kitchen?
LINDA: No, no, no. We have new appliances – the stainless steel, granite countertop and granite floors, and very inexpensive laminate cabinets. The problem with it is it’s a very tiny kitchen and we thought to expand into a room adjoining the kitchen that is a little sitting room.
TOM: I see. Alright, so this is more than just a remove and replace of cabinets. You’re really talking about a major remodel here.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) A new layout.
TOM: Yeah, a totally new layout.
LINDA: (overlapping voices) Yes.
TOM: Well, look. We don’t want to tell you to spend a whole lot of money on the house right now but I will say that if you’re going to choose one thing to do, a kitchen or a bathroom always gives you the best return on investment. But I would say tone it down. Don’t go luxury everything. Be realistic based on the market today and choose products that are going to still give you a good-looking kitchen, you know, without spending a whole lot of money. So I would tone down the granite countertops, the Corian tops; you know, the real expensive appliances. Maybe reuse what you have. If you really …
LESLIE: But I still think that those solid-surfacing or even natural-stone countertops are a huge selling point when people are in the market, especially if you’ve got something that’s neutral in coloration that will work with all types of paint colors and choices that a new homeowner might make coming in the future. And remember, your previous owners in the house that you’re in, they made a bad decision in putting a super-expensive countertop on a very inexpensive cabinet. You want to make sure that you sort of match up because you don’t want the cabinet to not last as long as your countertop is going to.
LINDA: (chuckling) Yeah.
TOM: Yeah. But I just don’t think it’s a good time to do a luxury upgrade. I would be very budget-conscious if I was going to do this. I would either not do it or I’d be very budget-conscious and if I was going to not do it, you may want to think about other ways to make a small kitchen look big. You may want to think about some …
LESLIE: Lighter colors.
TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.
LESLIE: Different window treatments.
TOM: Replacing the doors with ones that have clear glass, lighting, improving – well, you said the floor and the countertops are great so, you know, changing the hardware on the cabinets, adding dimmers; that sort of thing.
LINDA: Oh, thank you very much. I really appreciate your help.
TOM: Alright, Linda. Hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Yeah, I just don’t feel like it’s a good time to do a luxury upgrade right now.
LESLIE: You know, meanwhile, our neighbors just pulled up a dumpster; they’re about to take on a major kitchen remodel. It’s just amazing to me that I’m seeing …
TOM: Wow. There’s no recession on Leslie’s street.
LESLIE: It’s amazing. New houses are going up; people are doing construction projects and big ones. But it’s just so interesting that people are tackling such huge projects right now.
TOM: Well, maybe it’s a positive sign of a soon-to-return economy. We can all hope.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, time to roll up our sleeves and help solve some of the most common plumbing questions we get asked about like, “How do you fix that constantly-running toilet?” We’ll figure it out, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Have you been thinking about a kitchen renovation but are afraid of the costs? You don’t have to be. Just go online at MoneyPit.com and search cheap tricks for cool kitchens. We get lots of cool décor ideas that Leslie and I have put together to help you build a new kitchen at a fraction of the cost of tearing out the whole thing.
LESLIE: That’s right. And while you’re snooping around online for some great home improvement advice, you can e-mail us your home improvement question. And I’ve got one here from Melinda who writes: “We have one toilet in our house that runs for a few seconds, then shuts off when the water is run in other locations in the house or another toilet is flushed.” OK. So it seems like one toilet will run and run and run until you turn on water somewhere else. “What can we do to make this stop?” Sorry, I just had to …
TOM: I don’t think the fact that the water is running somewhere else has anything to do with what’s wrong with this toilet.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) (chuckling) I like that.
TOM: It’s probably, simply, a leaking flush valve at the bottom of the toilet, that lets out a little bit of water and then the float comes on and refills the toilet. That’s really the only thing that causes this. The fact that there are other fixtures running somewhere else in the house probably has nothing to do with it.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Coincidence.
TOM: So, what I think you need to do here, Linda, is simply replace both the flush and the fill valve in the toilet. It will cost you all of about 15 bucks; parts are available at hardware stores and home centers. Fluidmaster is pretty much the industry leader on this. They’ve got videos on their website that shows you how to do this project. It is an easy plumbing project and it definitely is something that you could do yourself.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, I’ve got one here from Sandra who writes: “What causes and how do I get rid of the smoky smell that fills the house for days/weeks after using the fireplace? The fireplace is brick on an exterior wall. It’s been professionally cleaned and a new flue has been installed.”
TOM: Hmm. You know, it’s interesting because you would think of this as a cleaning problem, Leslie. But it’s really an airflow issue because what’s …
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s got to be.
TOM: Well, what’s happening here is that when you build a fire in the fireplace, you create an airflow where the heat goes up the chimney and it pulls air from the house and brings it on up the chimney. But when the fire is not running, you’ll have cold air that’ll settle in the fireplace and push down into the house, bringing the cold air into the house and all of the smell that it picks up from the chimney on the way.
So the thing to do here is, first of all, to install a damper and make sure you close it when the fireplace is not in use. That, plus a good, tight-fitting, glass fire screen is probably going to solve this issue 100 percent. I don’t think it’s a cleaning issue; I think, really, it’s an airflow issue and that will clearly take care of it.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? The best part about that good, tight-fitting, glass fire screen, Sandra, is that they’re absolutely beautiful. It frees up a lot of space on the hearth and it’ll just keep your nice-looking fireplace all gorgeous and well-designed. So I hope that really helps you with the problem.
TOM: Well, we’ve been talking about a lot of green things this month, from green paint to green gardening. Leslie, however, has got the last word this hour with some advice on green lumber that can be especially safe in your child’s backyard play set.
LESLIE: That’s right. You know, not all lumber is created equal, especially when it comes to home playgrounds and decks.
Now, there is a wood out there that is better for your family and the environment. Now, when it comes to exterior lumber, a lot of times chemicals are used to treat that wood. And then when those chemicals are used, they can actually leech out over time and pollute the surrounding grounds and eventually endanger your family’s health.
So, for decks and playground equipment, you want to use reclaimed cedar or redwood. Now, both of those lumbers – the cedar and the redwood – are naturally resistant to fungus and insects, which is fantastic. If you can get the reclaimed stuff, go for it; it’ll give it a nice, age-y charm. If you can’t, buy new; it’s still great. You’re going to pay for it but it’s gorgeous and it will stand up to the test of time. Or you can opt for recycled plastic lumbers. You know, they’re called composites; Fiberon makes a beautiful one that has fantastic graining and is completely stain-resistant.
So go for it, either way. The composites are great; you will never, ever, ever have to refinish them. And enjoy your new, outdoor environment. Hey, it’s almost springtime, folks, so get out there.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, we’re going to talk about plumbing problem prevention. It’s never convenient when a plumbing problem occurs. We’re going to have tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2010 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.)