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Energy-Efficient Dryers, Your Spring Home Checklist, and Keeping Warm-Weather Bugs Out of Your Home

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement project. So look around your house and help yourself first. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, April showers may bring May flowers but what else do they bring? Well, they bring bugs. Spring is almost here and with it comes the creepy crawlers, the kind that freak you out and eat your house. We’re going to teach you how to protect yourself, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And after so many years of seeing the ENERGY STAR label on all kinds of appliances, dryers are finally getting in on the act. Well, we’re going to tell you what you need to know about the new ENERGY STAR ratings for dryers that’s turning them into money-saving laundry machines. That’s coming up this hour.

    TOM: And speaking of laundry, someone’s laundry room is a little more Zen lately.

    We’re going to hear all about your laundry-room redo project, Leslie. And I want you to tell us what you learned that can help our listeners on their next project.

    LESLIE: Alright. Will do.

    And also, we got a great prize today, guys. It’s going to make our winner’s house pretty much the coolest one on the block, not to mention the safest. We’re giving away a Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock. And now it’s the latest in smart-home technology and it will let you unlock your door with simply the touch of your hand.

    TOM: That’s right. No more fumbling around for your key. It’s a cutting-edge prize worth $219 going home to one lucky caller. So give us a call, right now, with your home improvement hassles and headaches. We’re here to help at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Richard in Ohio is living in a pretty drafty house. Join the club. Tell me what’s going on.

    RICHARD: Insulation contractor came and blew cellulose insulation in the walls. Left a lot of voids in it, which caused forced drafts. I had infrared-camera work done and the floors are like 31 degrees and about 45 degrees waist-high. And I can’t seem to figure out what’s going on here or what to do about it. However, I found a physics teacher that restores old homes. She told me that if you leave a void in an insulation – insulated wall – it will cause a forced draft. [Be creating] (ph) quite a few forced drafts in here.

    TOM: Well, maybe, maybe not but here’s the thing. First of all, you had blown-in insulation done and you followed that up with an infrared-camera inspection. I’m guessing you didn’t do that right after the installer was done, correct? You did this later on to try to figure out why it was still cold in the house?

    RICHARD: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah. And it’s very difficult to install blown-in insulation in a wall and do it correctly, so we’ve heard this before. The best installers will take a long time to make sure it gets in just right. They put in just the right amount and they knew how to get it in every bay and then they use an infrared camera to figure out if they’ve missed anything. So it sounds to me like now we’ve got a real mess in the outside wall. We don’t know what’s insulated, what’s not insulated.

    Let’s set that aside for right now and cover two other very important basics. Number one is the attic. You want to make sure that you have enough insulation in your attic because if you can trap the heat from escaping from the attic, which is where most of the heat leaves the house, you may find that it’s going to make you more comfortable.

    In the attics of Ohio, where you’re located, you’re going to need at least 15 to 20 inches of fiberglass insulation. Most people don’t have that much. But that is what the Department of Energy would recommend. So if you don’t have that much insulation, the first thing I want you to do is add insulation to your attic.

    The second thing – you mentioned you’re on a crawlspace. Your floor has got to be insulated. Again, unfaced fiberglass batts. If it’s a standard 2×10 floor joist, you want to fill that up with a full 10 inches of insulation. If you can insulate the floor and the attic – two areas that are accessible and easy to access – you’re kind of halfway there.

    Now, what are we going to do about the exterior wall? Well, short of taking it apart, we’re not going to easily solve this problem with a blown-in. If you had an insulation company that could work with the camera and add additional blown-in, they might be able to fill it in. But that’s going to be expensive and I don’t know that you’re going to get a good return on investment.

    So what I would suggest you do is everything else that you can do to stop the drafts. So that means sealing around windows and doors and outlets and light switches, especially, to make sure that we get as many of those gaps closed as possible.

    And then from a decorating perspective, very often – Leslie, you jump right in because I’ve heard you recommend heavy drapes over these windows, too, to try to short-circuit those drafts that are sort of falling around the windows.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you can do it sort of two-fold. You know, we have drafty windows. Unfortunately, the previous owners installed not the greatest of windows and they were poorly installed. So, short of doing a major project here, I’ve gotten creative. I’ve done a sort of double-lined fabric shade that’s up against the glass portion of the window itself. And I’ll draw those down during the colder times. And then I have a heavier drape that I use in the winter, as well, that’s lined that I will just close up to make sure that I’m keeping those drafts out.

    Also, if you’ve got baseboard heating in that room, you want to make sure that nothing is blocking those baseboards. Your furniture – you’ve got to pull away from the walls. Think about giving it some air, just sort of circulate the heat around the room a little bit better. But really, heavy fabrics, heavy draperies, that really does make a huge difference.

    TOM: Richard, I hope that advice helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Shirley in Nebraska is on the line and has some issues with heating water. Tell us what’s going on. You’ve had 4 in 28 years? That is an amazing turnover rate and not in a good way.

    SHIRLEY: No, it’s not a good one. It’s not. And when I talked to someone from our gas company – we have a maintenance thing with the gas company. And they said, “Well, the one thing is maybe” – I said, “I thought with a water softener, you were supposed to be able to prolong the life of your appliances.” And he said, “Well, maybe your salt level is too high.”

    Our plumber does not think so, so I just kind of wondered what your take was on it.

    TOM: OK. First of all, if you have city water, then you shouldn’t need a water softener; you should just be able to work with that water right out of the tap. I think you’ve had extraordinarily bad luck having to replace the 4 water heaters in 28 years. If you feel that the water, even the city water, is a little bit hard then, of course, you can use a water softener. And you might want to consider using one that is a no salt-water softener, if corrosion is a concern.

    There’s a product called EasyWater that uses electricity to polarize the hard-water minerals inside and force them to not stick to the sides of pipes and faucets and fixtures. So, that’s another option, as well.

    But the next time you buy a water heater, I would look for one that’s got the best warranty, because you haven’t had very good luck with this and at least it’ll be covered.

    SHIRLEY: OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, pretty much whenever that pipe breaks or something is going on at your money pit. We are here to answer your calls. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, a question: what’s got more legs than you do and is heading your way right now? Bugs, of course. With spring around the corner, the pesky creatures are coming out of the woodwork or perhaps even going back in for a snack and that could mean trouble for your house. We’ll have tips to keep them away, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And you are listening to The Money Pit, where we give away a prize that’s really helpful and sometimes really cool and helpful. And this hour, we’ve got one that’s pretty much awesome. We’ve got the Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock.

    TOM: It lets you unlock your door with, get this, the touch of your hand so no keys are needed. Give us a call, right now, for a chance to win this fantastic prize worth $219. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Going out to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question, drawn at random from The Money Pit hard hat. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Julian in Louisiana is working on a tile-ceiling makeover project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    JULIAN: I’m wanting to repair my ceiling. The old, Styrofoam, square – 12-inch square – tiles are in bad need of repair. Some of them are broken loose and some of them are stained. And I want to do something to cover that up but I’m not sure if I need to take those down or if I can cover – put something over the top of them.

    TOM: I would recommend that you take the tile down and not sandwich them in between new drywall.


    TOM: Now, when you take those down, Julian, what you’re probably going to find are wood strips underneath that. We call it “furring strips,” yeah.

    JULIAN: Yes.

    TOM: It’s going to be a pain in the neck because you’re going to have hundreds of staples to pull out one at a time or un-flat (ph).

    JULIAN: Right, right.

    TOM: But when you do take them out, get all those staples nice and flat and then go ahead and add the drywall right to the wood strips. And I would recommend you use drywall screws to hold it in place, because sometimes those strips get a little bouncy if you try to nail into them. And the screws will be the easiest way to handle getting those sheets in place. And that’ll do a real good job and you’ll be very happy with it, I’m sure.

    JULIAN: OK, OK. Is it very hard to do the design on the ceiling, like the “stomp and drag”? That’s what type of finish I was trying to get. Is that hard to do yourself?

    TOM: Can I tell you how many calls we get from people that want to take that away?

    JULIAN: Oh, really?

    TOM: Seemed like a good idea at the time but we get dozens of calls every month from folks that want to remove textured ceilings.

    JULIAN: Really?

    TOM: So, we’d say don’t do it. Yeah, don’t do it.

    LESLIE: Don’t do it. Do a good job with your tapes. Instead of doing just the paper tape when you’re doing the joints on the drywall on the ceiling, use the fiberglass tape.

    JULIAN: OK. Alright.

    LESLIE: Do thin coats. Do several coats and get wider as you go out from each coat. Let it dry well, sand in between, then prime it, because you’ve got brand-spanking new drywall. Prime it, let it dry. Then you want a ceiling paint, because it’s going to adhere differently. Use a flat paint, white, you’re good to go.

    JULIAN: Thanks. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Shirley in Oregon is on the line with a solar-panel question. How can we help you?

    SHIRLEY: Hi. Yes. I had heard that with solar panels or solar shakes on the roof, that if you had a fire, that the Fire Department would not be able to start fighting that fire until the sun went down because you’re actually creating electricity? And I just was considering putting solar and I just wanted to make sure if that is correct: that they didn’t want to get the water on anything that was actively creating electricity.

    TOM: So let’s just think about this, Shirley. Your house is on fire, the Fire Department pulls up, they spot the solar panels and say, “Ah, you know what? We’ll be back, say, what, 6:30, 7:00? Sun should be down by then. Then we’ll take care of it.”

    SHIRLEY: That’s what I thought was ridiculous.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SHIRLEY: That’s why I’m thinking, “Why is anybody doing solar if that’s the case, is there?”

    TOM: No. I mean look, there’s electricity all throughout your house. Why would electricity on the roof have – be any different? If electricity is a concern, the Fire Department is going to go over and turn the power off; they’ll pull the meter.

    SHIRLEY: Well, they said that solar creates its own electricity so even if the meter was turned off or pulled, that it still would be creating. Is that not correct with the solar?

    TOM: Let’s think about what you’re saying. You can fight a fire in a power plant if you had to.


    TOM: So, this is not an issue. Somebody is pulling your leg, Shirley, OK?

    SHIRLEY: I think it was just somebody that was kind of ignorant and I said I couldn’t hardly believe it. But I was going to ask before I – thank you.

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

    Well, as we get closer to spring, warmer weather also brings an increase in the pest population.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And when we’re talking about warmer weather, 60 degrees is that critical temperature. That’s when you can expect to see lots of things popping up around you. So, as you’re doing your spring cleaning, take a few steps to keep spiders, ants, centipedes, bees and wasps from making their way from the outside and into your home.

    TOM: And first and foremost, you want to look for areas where they can make their way into your home that may have been caused by winter damage. So we’re talking about things like cracks in the foundation or missing sealants, like caulks. These can be calling the bugs by name and inviting them to make a home right there in that crack or crevice.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And as you’re getting your yard ready for spring, as well, you want to move all of your winter firewood supplies away from your foundation. That wood is full of insects. It’s been sitting there for months and they’ve really had a chance to make a nice home.

    Also, you want to make sure that no leaky hoses are sitting around your yard or your patio or your deck.

    TOM: And if you’re like most of us and hate the sight of those fast-moving centipedes, remember that centipedes feed on smaller bugs. So keep those smaller bugs away and the centipedes will steer clear of your house, as well.

    888-666-3974. We don’t want to steer clear from your home improvement question, so give us a call right now.

    LESLIE: Bill in Florida needs some help with a garage floor.

    Bill, what’s going on?

    BILL: We have stains from acid spills in various places. The floor is about – the building is about seven years old. There are a lot of various stains from the traffic and normal automobile dirt.

    LESLIE: Yeah, regular wear and tear.

    BILL: I wondered if there’s some company that specializes in – or where I can find out how to clean the concrete floor first and then some – possibly some coating that would withstand the acid and normal battery – or normal automobile stains.

    LESLIE: So this is a big project. Is this something you want to hire out or do you have a maintenance team in the building that would take care of this?

    BILL: No, we would have to hire someone. But the first challenge is to find out – satisfy ourselves that it can be done.

    TOM: Well, it absolutely can be done and you don’t have to have a professional do this. It’s really just a big painting project. And there are products that are used to clean the concrete first and then there are different products that are used to paint it.

    BILL: Is there any problem in cleaning the spill – the battery acid?

    TOM: No. All of the painting products are going to have a recommended prep procedure. And one of the ones that works very, very well is QUIKRETE.

    They have an epoxy system, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Right. They’ve got a two-part, epoxy, garage-floor coating system. A lot of people make them. I happen to really like the QUIKRETE because I like that they offer 40 different colors. I’ve never tackled a space larger than my own garage and the neighbor’s garage and this is a pretty massive space we’re talking about. But your first step is going to be a product that they have called BOND-LOK.

    And that really etches and preps the surface. It cleans it, it prepares it so that the paint and the epoxy coating system is going to adhere really well. So once you’ve done the BOND-LOK step, the floor is prepped, ready to go, let it dry, whatever the manufacturer’s directions say. Then you mix up this two-part epoxy floor coating and that goes on and it’s going to protect it against gasoline, oil, scuffs, normal wear and tear. There’s an additional coating that you can put on top that’s premium that will – probably because it’s a commercial space, you’ll want to go for.

    But there are products out there. You don’t have to worry about what’s already on the floor as long as you do that cleaning step.

    BILL: And so all I have to do is contact the QUIKRETE people.

    TOM: That’s right. QUIKRETE 2-Part Epoxy is the best way to go.

    BILL: I really appreciate your help and enjoy your program.

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

    LESLIE: Erica in Illinois is dealing with a paint situation. Tell us what’s going on. You’ve got peeling and bubbling?

    ERICA: Yes. I had my paint – my ceiling painted by someone probably about three years ago. And just recently, the ceiling has started peeling and the walls have started, oh, crackling almost. Like it looks like underneath, there’s a crackle to it that if I pressed it hard, it would flake off.

    TOM: OK. So I suspect that when it was painted last time, the walls may not have been prepped properly. They clearly were not primed. I think now is an opportunity, Erica, where you’re going to have to get rid of all of that old, loose paint. Sand the ceiling down, sand the walls down and apply a primer. The primer is going to be key here because whatever that unknown surface is underneath that layer, we want to make sure we have something that can attach to it. And primer you should think of as sort of the glue that makes the paint stick.

    So prep what you have, prime it thoroughly, then put a second top coat on. And that last coat, make sure you use a really good-quality paint and make sure it’s flat for the ceiling. And that will hide any imperfections that might be left behind. Does that make sense?

    ERICA: Yes. Now, as far as my wall, do I need to try to scrape it off so I don’t have any of this crackle looking on my wall?

    TOM: Yeah, I definitely would. I would definitely try to get rid of as much of that loose paint as possible and the same thing goes: prime them and then do a top coat after that.

    ERICA: OK. Alright. Sounds like a job but I’ll take it on.

    TOM: And I know you can do it, Erica. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, are you looking to save some money on utilities? Well, aren’t we all, really? So, ENERGY STAR, they are surprising us right now with a brand-new way that we can save money. We’re going to share that secret with you when The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues.

    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: And if you’re like most homeowners, you are always looking for ways to save money on monthly utility costs. ENERGY STAR’s certified appliances have gone a long way in helping homeowners do just that. And now, for the first time, clothes dryers are joining the list of ENERGY STAR-certified appliances.

    LESLIE: Wow. That’s pretty amazing. So here to tell us more about that is Denise Durrett from the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

    Welcome, Denise.

    DENISE: Thanks so much for having me on.

    LESLIE: Now, Denise, this is kind of unheard of. I mean it’s always been dryers are dryers. They use electricity or gas and they use a lot of energy because it’s a dryer. So how is this ENERGY STAR-rated all of a sudden?

    DENISE: Absolutely. So, you know, unlike clothes washers, which have seen about a 70-percent drop in energy use since 1990, as you said, dryers have remained largely inefficient. And clothes dryers actually use more energy than any other appliance in your home because just like you said, they create a lot of energy to create the heat to dry your clothes. Now that’s, of course, while they’re in use.

    So, ENERGY STAR has now worked with manufacturers to bring more energy-efficient dryers to the market. And the way that these dryers have become more efficient is through innovative, energy-saving technologies, such as advanced sensors that do a better job detecting when your clothes are dry and then automatically shut the dryer off.

    TOM: So it doesn’t run longer. And I guess that also preserves the clothes, because I think that the longer you run your clothes in the dryer, the more wear and tear you get.

    DENISE: Absolutely. It’s a waste of energy and it does kind of wear down the fabric of your clothes. And to be fair, many people will say, “Well, my dryer has an energy – has a moisture sensor on it.” And that’s true. A lot of dryers have had sensors on there that were supposed to do exactly what this ENERGY STAR requirement does. But the problem was that they weren’t living up to their duty.

    So, the clothes would dry. If you put it in and you put it on a 90-minute cycle, it will go the full 90 minutes. And it may not have needed to because the clothes may have been dry. So, what the ENERGY STAR requirement does is it actually holds the manufacturers accountable for making sure that these sensors do the job that they’re supposed to do and turn off when those clothes are dry.

    TOM: We’re talking to Denise Durrett. She’s a communication specialist with the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. It’s a program we like a lot because it’s a government program that really, really works.

    So, Denise, dryers, in addition to having these sensors, they’re also changing the technology in terms of how they actually dry. When it comes to the electric units, they’re now building dryers that are heat-pump dryers. So, you’re essentially using a refrigeration cycle to very efficiently pull that moisture out of the clothes, as well, correct?

    DENISE: Absolutely. So, yes, there a couple of models that currently have – they currently are ENERGY STAR-certified that have the advanced heat-pump technology. And these are about 40 percent more energy-efficient than a standard model. So a regular ENERGY STAR-certified dryer is going to be about 20 percent more efficient than a comparable non-certified model.

    But heat-pump dryers actually go further down the energy-efficiency line and you can actually get about 40-percent savings off of those. And what they do, heat-pump dryers actually recapture that hot air that’s used by the dryer and they pump it back into the drum and reuse that heat. So they’re more efficient and they also, a lot of them, avoid the need for ducts in your home.

    LESLIE: Wow. That’s really exciting, because I just really don’t think people have realized that dryers were just never very efficient or you had the option for them to be efficient.

    Now, when we’re talking about the fuel source, with the dryer you’ve got a choice of natural gas or electricity. Are you seeing an equal energy savings with both types of fuel source?

    DENISE: Yes. Actually, electric is predominant in the market. Most people have electric dryers. But you can compare to a standard, new dryer. And an ENERGY STAR-certified gas dryer can save about more than 6 million BTUs of natural gas and about $65 in energy-bill costs each year.

    TOM: So let’s talk a little bit more about the savings, because it’s always a cost-benefit analysis that you have to do, as a consumer, to determine whether it makes sense to replace your existing dryer, assuming it’s not completely broken down. At what point should you be thinking about replacement, just because we can get the efficiency? Where can we expect to get the return on investment?

    DENISE: Right. Well, let me just start by saying that a new clothes dryer – so I’m with the EPA and we’re about environmental protection. And so, for me, the story goes beyond just how much money you can save but it’s also what good it’s going to do for the environment. And so when we look at the overall picture, last year more than 5 million dryers were sold in the United States. There are – about 80 percent of American homes actually have dryers.

    And so, we’ve figured out that with this new ENERGY STAR technology, if all residential clothes dryers that were sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR-certified, we – as Americans, we could save over $1.5 billion every year in utility costs. But we’re also preventing greenhouse-gas emissions that would be equal to those of more than 2 million vehicles off the road. And this is an every-year number, so we’d be saving that amount, collectively, every year.

    Now when you’re looking at an individual home, it’s a little bit less. So, with dryers – because it’s not a product, like your refrigerator, that stays on 24 hours a day – it’s really how much energy does it use when it’s operating. So, we’ve – so replacing, say, your old clothes dryer with a new, ENERGY STAR-certified model can save you $245 and that’s over the course of the lifetime of the dryer.

    TOM: So I would think that the next time you need a new dryer for your home, you certainly should be shopping for one that is ENERGY STAR-certified.

    Denise Durrett from the EPA, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit and for all the great work you do to help us all save money and save the environment.

    DENISE: Thank you for having me.

    TOM: And for more information, you can go to ENERGYSTAR.gov/NewDryers.

    LESLIE: Alright. Great news as far as energy-saving dollars go.

    Well, guess what, guys? We know you are ready for warmer weather but is your house? We’re going to help you check for winter damage and get it ready for spring when The Money Pit continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize to one lucky listener. It’s the Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock. Kind of featuring the latest in smart-home technology.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, it not only lets you unlock your front door with a touch of your finger, it lets you send eKeys or virtual keys to your family and friends. And you can do it all with your smartphone.

    TOM: To learn more about this cool technology, check out Kwisket.com and call us, right now, for a chance to win this awesome prize worth $219. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Brian in Ohio is dealing with a settling house. Tell us what’s going on.

    BRIAN: Ah, well, I have a real nice, 1930s, brick Colonial. And in a number of areas, you can see that the house has settled so that the doors aren’t square in the door frames. And the tile on one wall in the bathroom is about an inch below where the tile line on the other wall is. And there’s some cracks in the outside of the brick structure.

    And I just wondered if it – if there’s a way to fix this to sort of square up the house. Because, among other things, if I redo the bathroom, I’m afraid that if the house is moving or twisting, so to speak, and I put new, beautiful tile on the floor or the wall, that it’ll crack that next.

    TOM: Brian, did you have a home inspection done when you bought the house?

    BRIAN: Well, I’m in the real estate business, so I kind of knew what I was getting into from the standpoint of the structure. So I did not have a home inspection done, no.

    TOM: Hmm. Yeah. Or not.

    OK, well, as a former professional home inspector, my first advice would be to determine if the home is still actively moving. And that’s the type of observation that takes a bit of a trained eye. You want to see if there’s anything that tells you that those cracks are active or not. It may very well be that in a 1930s house, this is just normal settlement that’s happened over time.

    In terms of re-squaring the house, really bad idea; you never want to put a house back where you think it belongs. Because it took many, many, many, many years to get into that sort of skewed, settled state. If you try to lift up different pieces, you’ll end up cracking more walls, breaking wires, breaking pipes and that sort of thing.

    So, what you would do, if you redid the bathroom, is basically just live with that. Chalk it up to another real estate word, “charm,” and just live with it, OK?

    BRIAN: Thanks. Great. Great insight, OK.

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

    LESLIE: Well, spring, it really kicks off the official start of the home improvement season. And while there’s probably a lot you’d like to do as the weather starts to warm up, it’s going to be helpful to prioritize. And you want to check your home for damage that winter may have left behind.

    TOM: Yeah, start by heading outdoors. You can finally see your deck now that the snow and the ice are gone but are you sure they haven’t been ravaged by winter? You want to get underneath that deck and check it for rot and make sure the joists and the posts are in good shape.

    And especially you want to inspect the area where the floor joists attach to the exterior wall or go through the exterior wall for – and are supported by that foundation. Very often, you will get rot or decay in that space and that’s really important that it be solid so you don’t have any problems with deck collapses.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you want to give your roof a once-over, as well. You need to make sure that the shingles are still intact. You want to check the flashing around the plumbing vents. Also, look at the chimney. Get some binoculars and really take a good look at the roof.

    TOM: And ice can do a real number on gutters, so while you’re on the roof, check to make sure that the gutters are still connected. And also check that the downspouts are not only intact but that they are dumping at least 4 feet from your home’s foundation. That is a key move to keeping your basement dry this spring. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: John in Massachusetts is on the line and needs some help finding a good, licensed contractor.

    Good question, John. How can we help?

    JOHN: I own a home in New Bedford and the original part of the house was – it used to be in – back in 1940, it was a one-room candy store and they put additions onto it. And the one-room part of the house that was original – from 1925, when they built it – it was – the sills are rotted. Not because of termites, because I just had it checked out; there’s no active termite damage at all. It’s because water was getting in on the bad side of the house, on the weather side.

    And I found that out right after I bought the home but I never got around to fixing the sills. I temporarily – repaired it temporarily until I can get a contractor that’s licensed. Because in the past, I worked with – I’ve gotten contractors that said they were licensed and they’re not; they just lie. They get it on their card and they’re not even licensed.

    TOM: Well, I think you can confirm all that with the local licensing authorities but …

    JOHN: Yeah, yeah. I know that now but yeah, it was a really hard way to go with a few of the contractors I’ve dealt with in the past, you know? They take the down payment, then they wouldn’t show up for weeks and weeks and weeks and I’d have to call them and …

    TOM: So, things are a little bit easier today because of the advent of the internet, frankly.

    JOHN: Yeah.

    TOM: The fact is that there’s a lot of places where you can research and see contractors and check out their reviews and find one that’s good. One of the websites that was one of the first ones is Angie’s List.

    JOHN: Yep, I called them.

    TOM: They’ve done well with that site. They’ve expanded to other areas, including medical. But as far as contractors are concerned, that was one of their first groups that they had on the site. And there are lots and lots of reviews, from people like yourself, that have had positive and not-so-positive experiences with contractors.

    So, I mean finding one that way to kind of get started, I think, is a good idea. At least you can come up with a list of folks that have had some bit of experience. And then from there, as you bring them into your house – look, if it’s something like sill repair, there’s not a lot of material expenditure with that. So they shouldn’t be looking for a big down payment; you should be – maybe a progress payment along the way. But let’s face it, there’s not a lot of lumber expense when you’re just replacing sills.

    JOHN: It wasn’t so much in the past of getting ripped off, it was – I had to chase them because they take the money from my job and they would go and do one day here, then they’d go to another job.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JOHN: And then – you know what I mean?

    TOM: Well, we want to make sure that the money that they get from your job is based on them finishing your job. Alright? So I hope that helps you out. I would start with Angie’s List and go from there.

    LESLIE: Hey, we’ve been talking about my laundry room and it is complete. And I’m not saying that it was an easy project but it looks fantastic and I definitely learned a few things along the way. And the things I learned, they might help with your next project. We’ll tell you all about it, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety and convenience, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Want to remind you that you can post your home improvement questions and get answers in the Community section of MoneyPit.com. Just this week, we solved questions on care for vinyl-floor seams, how to fix saggy attic doors and how to get super-clean paint lines. So you can help yourself by posting your question at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, many times, I’ll meet a listener who comments something like, “Our homes must be perfect.” Well, shocker, they’re not. Just like yours, they break down at the most inopportune time. But that only creates the opportunity to push through the bumps and the snags which, in Leslie’s case, resulted in a beautiful, new laundry room. What she learned along the way is the topic of today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, I really never thought I’d be so happy to head downstairs and do laundry but I really am. And while I was really disappointed when the front-loaders that I ordered wouldn’t fit down the steps – I mean half of my motivation for taking on this project, when my washer stopped working, was that I wanted front-loaders.

    But, I did bounce back and I realized that it wasn’t so much my washer and dryer that were the problem as the mess and the disorganization that kind of surrounded the whole situation in there. And let me tell you, when I posted those pictures online on Facebook about what my laundry room looked like, that was really outside of my comfort zone. I let you guys in to what a mess this one room was. And while it was kind of organized, there was just so much stuff in there.

    So I think the big key here was I took everything out of that space. And in taking all of the stuff out, I realized I had bottles and bottles of wine and alcohol that people had given us when they came over for a party or as a birthday gift to my husband or whatever, things that I wasn’t touching and hadn’t touched in years. So I regifted those and prioritized that kind of area.

    I went through all the stuff and I saw I was holding on to weird things that I didn’t need. And I was just shoving stuff in this sort of storage area that was there because it was sort of out of sight, out of mind, even though it was plainly in clear sight in the laundry room.

    So I sort of went through all of my stuff, saw exactly what I needed to be storing, which was extra paper towels and extra snacks for the kids and cleaning supplies and laundry detergent and ironing boards and all that stuff. And I looked at what I had that was going to go back in the space and then I got the organizational supplies that went with it.

    Another thing that went on in there was the dryer and the washer were sort of shoved into this corner. And then there was a slop sink that was like shoved right on top of that, so I was able to get a sink with some storage underneath. And granted, it’s a small sink, so I’m not going to be like really scrubbing clothes in there. But for the most part, I wasn’t doing that anyway. So I got something smaller that gave me so much more room.

    It was a great learning opportunity because my son, Henry, he’s six-and-a-half. And granted, he’s not that capable of doing a ton of stuff but he wanted to help. So I taught him how to cut-in and he helped me roll on the paint and he helped me pick out the paint color, which – he picked hemlock, which happens to be the same name of his school, so maybe that’s why he picked that color?

    But it really is about making the project something that you can learn from, making it an experience for everybody in the house so that they can take on a new skill set. And for my son, he’s so proud that he helped paint. And for me, it was an opportunity to get rid of stuff that I didn’t need and really organize the stuff that I did need. So it was a great project and I hope you guys will tackle it, because now this is one chore that I’m thrilled to do. And laundry really isn’t that fun.

    TOM: So, you see there, our homes do break down. But when we dig into a project, we get it done.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, you know the saying that goes something like “good fences make good neighbors”? Well, it’s true unless your fence happens to be a beat-up, old, chain-link fence. And in that case, your neighbors might disagree. We’ll have tips on fence makeovers, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2015 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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