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Energy Efficient Holiday Lighting, Ladder Safety, How to Avoid Roof Collapse from Heavy Show and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now because we are here to help you with your home improvement project. And if that means getting your house ready for the hordes of holiday guests that are upon us, well, pick up the phone and call us. We are standing by to help, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    You know, simple projects like, perhaps, painting a room can make a huge difference in the appearance that your home shows to the guests that are coming. So that’s a project we could talk about. Another good topic for today’s program would be to talk about energy-efficient improvements that you have, now, just a couple of weeks left to do. Because there’s going to be some tax credits that you can qualify for. If you’ve got a question about those, pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And speaking of energy efficiency, also coming up this hour, we’re going to talk about those holiday light displays. If you’d like to have the kind of light display that’s visible from space, well, good for you. We don’t want to see your electric bill. But for the rest of us, those holiday lights really do add up to some additional money on the electric bill. There is a way to cut costs. We’ve got some tips on energy-efficient holiday lighting. We’ll cover those, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, if you need to be using a ladder to hang all of those elaborate exterior lighting displays, you want to make sure that you use caution. There are over 100,000 ladder injuries happening every single year here in the United States and most of those tend to happen during the holiday season. So we’re going to share some ladder safety tips, coming up.

    TOM: And winter also means heavy snowfall in some parts of the country. So heavy, in some cases, that the weight of the snow on a roof can cause it to collapse. We’ll have some advice on how to clear snow from a roof safely.

    LESLIE: And one caller this hour wins $50 worth of Renu products from Leviton. Renu is a very cool line of switches and dimmers and outlets. They’ve got faces – the plate covers – that can actually be changed out to match any décor. And they’re available in 20 colors.

    TOM: So let’s get to it. The number, again: 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Michaeline in Wisconsin is on the line needing some help insulating a crawlspace. Tell us what’s going on.

    MICHAELINE: Well, I hung some plastic and insulation from the ceiling of the crawlspace and all the way around. And I’m still getting drafts and air coming in into the bedroom that faces the north, by the wall.

    TOM: So you’re getting drafts up through the walls? Is that where you feel like it’s coming up?

    MICHAELINE: Yeah. And up through the crawlspace. There’s half a basement, half crawlspace.

    TOM: OK. Now, what kind of insulation did you use, Michaeline?

    MICHAELINE: Well, I used the black plastic and I used the R-stuff with the …

    TOM: The R-stuff. Let’s back up for a second, OK? The insulation that you put in, is it – was it unfaced insulation? Did you press it up into the floor joist, like nice and fluffy?

    MICHAELINE: No, I didn’t press it into the floor joist.

    TOM: How did you hang it?

    MICHAELINE: I went with what the Reader’s Digest said, to hang it from the ceiling of the floor, down to the flooring of the crawlspace and let it …

    TOM: So, where is the – the insulation that goes up in that floor should be unfaced: should have no paper face, no plastic face. It should be unfaced. And it should be big and fluffy and it should be as thick as the crawlspace floor.

    But here’s the steps. And if you had called me before you started this, here is what I would have told you to do. First of all, I would say the area on the outside of your house, where we have what’s called the “box joist” – that’s the beam that goes around the outside perimeter.

    MICHAELINE: Right.

    TOM: In that area, you want to seal the gaps with an expandable foam, like GREAT STUFF or a product like that, so you …

    MICHAELINE: On the inside?

    TOM: On the inside, right. You seal that, you spray it. Because you get little gaps that – where air can come in around that. Then once that dries, it gets nice and hard. Don’t try to scrape it away or cut it; it doesn’t matter. Just spray it, let it dry, stop right there, don’t cut away the excess. Then, add some insulation and the insulation would be unfaced fiberglass batts. If your floor joists were 2x10s, I would put 10-inch fiberglass batts there.

    How do you support those? You use insulation hangers. They’re like pieces of wire that stick in between the joists. And let it hang there. And then, on the crawlspace floor – is it a dirt floor?


    TOM: So if it’s a dirt floor, then you want to add the plastic right on the dirt floor. Now, that’s not for drafts; that’s to stop moisture from coming up.

    LESLIE: That’s for moisture.


    TOM: And those things – that’s the best you can do for that crawlspace.

    LESLIE: And Michaeline, when you’re putting the plastic on the floor of the crawlspace, if you, for some reason, have to use more than one sheet, make sure you overlap by 2 or 3 feet so that you’re not getting any moisture releasing into it. Because, as Tom said, the moisture can really reduce the effect that the insulation is going to have.

    MICHAELINE: Do you – do I tape it then if I’ve got to use more than one sheet?

    LESLIE: If you overlap them by 2 or 3 feet, they’ll stay.


    TOM: Yeah, they’ll stay. Gravity will hold it in place.


    TOM: Alright? And that’s it. Alright, Michaeline? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mark in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    MARK: Well, I am going to be putting down an engineered-hardwood floor.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: And I’ve got the manufacturer’s instructions and I’m going to tell you, the tolerances for the floor are really tight. They want the floor – so the plywood subfloor, off-grade house – they want the floor to be no more than 3/16-inch over 10 feet or an 1/8-inch over 6 feet deflection.

    TOM: I haven’t seen a house yet that has that little deflection, right?

    MARK: I know. Exactly. Yes.

    Anyway, my question is – I’ve taken a 10-foot 2×8 and confirmed it was straight and put it on the floor.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: And I’ve got a Sharpie and I’m kind of marking off what is within tolerance. And there are some sections that are and ones not in tolerance. So my question to you is: how do you meet that specification that they call out for? For instance, some of the load-bearing walls, you can see where the subfloor has actually dipped down from the weight of the home. The house is about 23 years old. And I’m just wondering, how do you meet that? It’s extremely tight.

    TOM: How close are you, Mark?

    MARK: It depends. Some of the areas, we’re talking probably half – maybe a ½-inch in some of the bad places.

    TOM: OK. So what you want to do in those areas is you’re going to fill in with a floor-leveling compound. You don’t have to do the entire floor but if you have the areas that are really down, you can fill those in.

    The thing here is you want it to be reasonably flat. And the reason it wants to be reasonably flat is because with engineered-hardwood floor, the panels lock together. You know, I’ve got an 1886 house and I put in a laminate floor when it sort of first came on the market. And this is similar to the engineered-hardwood floor except that when laminate floor first came on, you had to glue it together; it didn’t lock together.

    And so I was able to glue this together. It actually worked in my favor because by gluing it together, it had a lot more ability to stretch and bend and twist over my very roly-poly floors. But if you’re just going to rely on the joint of the hardwood floor to lock together, then you can’t really stress it that much. If you try to twist it, it could crack or pop up.

    MARK: I see.

    TOM: And so, what I would do is I would get floor-leveling compound. DAP makes one that works very well. It’s called Flexible Floor Patch and Leveler.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: And so, if you go to the DAP website at DAP.com – D-A-P.com – just search for the Flexible Floor Patch. You’ll see a picture of it there; you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for. And then you can order that from, I’m sure, your home center or your hardware store or find it online. And that’s designed specifically to work on wood floors or under wood floors and level them out.

    LESLIE: On subfloors, especially.

    MARK: OK. Well, great. Thank you very much. I really enjoy your show and look forward to maybe meeting the two of you one day.

    LESLIE: Oh, thanks.

    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 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’ve got tips on energy-efficient holiday lighting that won’t lead to a shocking electric bill.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Bostitch Mechanics Tools deliver the rugged reliability you’ve come to expect from Bostitch. Designed for the professional, built to last. For more information, visit Bostitch.com.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a set of Renu lighting products from Leviton worth 50 bucks. Now, the faces on these Renu switches and their dimmers and their outlets, you can actually snap them off and then change that whole plate cover to a brand-spanking-new color.

    So, if you’re painting the room or you just want to be accenting with a different color or you just want to try something different, you’ve got 20 different colors to choose from, so it’s really super-easy to match anything you’ve got going on. They’ve got vibrant colors, sculpted lines. I mean it really is an instant makeover.

    TOM: You can visit Leviton.com/Renu for more information or pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, for your chance to win that great prize from Leviton: Renu lighting products. 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rika from rainy Oregon on the line looking to replace some siding. How can we help you?

    RIKA: Hi. I’m calling to see if you can recommend the best siding for our climate.

    TOM: OK.

    RIKA: We’re out here in the Northwest where we get a lot of rain and wind. And our T1-11, the paint has been peeling off and it’s starting to kind of disintegrate.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s a high-maintenance siding, T1-11. And if you’re not familiar with it, for those that are listening, that’s a plywood siding. And it’s OK as long as you paint it every day before you go to work; otherwise, it does wear out quite quickly.

    LESLIE: Now, when you’re talking about wind, Rika, are you saying that you get like super-duper-duper high winds, like hurricane conditions? Like we should be looking at a certain mile-per-hour rating or just normal rainy/windy?

    RIKA: We did have one hurricane out here, so it survived through that and stuff.

    TOM: You know what the nice thing about T1-11 is, though? It makes a really good sheathing. You don’t have to take it off to put siding over it.

    LESLIE: Should you paint it and seal it and make sure it’s in good, coated condition?

    TOM: No, no, no. You’re not going to rely on its weather resistance whatsoever; you’re just going to go right on top of it. So you could put a building paper or a Tyvek or something like that and go right over it.

    And the kind of siding that I think is probably one of the most weather-resistant sidings out there is a siding called HardiePlank, which is a siding that’s a cementitious type of a siding product. It’s molded. It can look like clapboard, it can look like wood cedar shingles. I’ve got an 1886 house, Rika, and I’ve got on my house real, old-fashioned wood shingles on the house and on the garage, we have HardiePlank. And I’ve got to tell you, from the street, they pretty much look identical.

    RIKA: Wow.

    TOM: Because the HardiePlank is just so well-made and it has that appearance of being like an old shingle. But it’s not organic; it’s not wood, so it doesn’t fall apart. And we actually ordered them from the factory primed and painted, so it was a little bit more money but so worth it. Because when you factory-paint this stuff, you just do so much better of a job than you can possibly do on-site itself. So, I would definitely look at HardiePlank siding that’s made by the James Hardie Company as one of the options.

    RIKA: OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Well, if you want to have the brightest holiday decorations on your block, without blowing your budget on your electric bill, you’ve got to choose the right lights. And you can actually save a bundle if you use LED and fiber-optic lights.

    Now, there’s a variety and versatility to all of these products, which really make them better than ever. And I’ve got to say, some of the color options that you see with the LED and the fiber optics really are beautiful and unusual.

    TOM: And the LEDs have come a long way since they were first introduced and they were somewhat dimmer early on. Now, the LEDs are fantastic. You know, they convert energy into light rather than heat, which lowers cooling bills in the summer, too, not to be ignored. Each light actually uses only 4/10 of a watt for up to a 90-percent efficiency over incandescents. And the LEDs also don’t contain mercury, which is a concern with the CFLs, and they can burn for more than 50,000 hours.

    So they really are solid products today. The costs are coming down and they work really incredibly well.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they stay incredibly cool to touch. I have to tell you I still like those old-fashioned C9s: the big, 1950s-looking, exterior holiday lights that you’ve seen?

    TOM: Right. Yeah, the big bulb? The thumb-size bulbs?

    LESLIE: I love them.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: For some reason, there’s something just so nostalgic. And I was just looking at some in the store and I plugged them in just to test them out. And immediately, when I plugged in that strand of lights, the bulb was just – you could feel the heat on it. And if you go for one of the LEDs or even the fiber optics, they just stay so much cooler.

    Now, with the fiber optics, how this works is it’s actually a single incandescent bulb which sends lights through tiny fibers. And the result there, again, is a cool-to-touch lighting display and they really just look phenomenal.

    TOM: Well, if you want some more tips on how you can cut those holiday-lighting costs, you can search “energy-efficient LED holiday lighting” online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Pete in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    PETE: Well, I’ve got lime deposits in my toilets and I’ve got probably five toilets in my house that I’d like to get them out of it. They’re around the upper part of the rim where the water comes out and then down in the bowl.

    TOM: OK.

    PETE: And I’ve tried LIME-A-WAY and I tried a vinegar soak. Maybe I just didn’t do it long enough but I’d like to find a way to get the – those lime deposits out of there and get my toilets looking nice.

    TOM: Have you tried CLR?

    PETE: Yes, I have.

    TOM: You have tried CLR and CLR didn’t do it either?

    PETE: Didn’t do it, no.

    TOM: Well, Pete, if the commercial cleaners like CLR and LIME-A-WAY are not working, there’s a couple other things that you can try but you have to be very careful. One of them is to use something that’s abrasive, like pumice or a rubbing compound. And you can try to abrade away the deposit.

    Theoretically, these abrasives are softer than the porcelain but you have to do it very carefully. You don’t want to rough the surface of the porcelain because if you do, it’ll get dirtier that much quicker the next time around.

    Some folks also use muriatic acid. I don’t like to recommend that because it’s pretty harsh stuff and you’ve got to be super, super careful when you use it.

    PETE: Yeah.

    TOM: But it is a possibility, as well.

    And then, the other thing that you can try is you did use vinegar but I don’t know if you mixed it with baking soda.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Because that helps.

    TOM: And that helps, as well. You kind of make it into a paste and let it stand for a while and then you rinse it.

    PETE: OK.

    TOM: So, there’s a couple of additional things that you can try.

    I also found a great article online. Whenever you find an article from a university or an extension service, it’s usually pretty well-researched. And if you just Google “removing mineral deposits and North Carolina Cooperative,” you’ll find it. And it’s an extensive article that’s a little old but has a lot of great suggestions in it. And specifically, it has solutions for the different types of deposits that you get on these fixtures, whether it’s rust, iron, copper, what kind of stain it is and so on.

    PETE: That sounds great. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Al in Texas has got a house that tends to move a lot. Now you can’t close your darn doors. Tell us what’s going on, Al.

    AL: Well, here in this part – side of town – our soils are not very good and they tend to shift all the time.

    TOM: OK.

    AL: So it’s a constant battle with the doors not locking properly. And so my question has to do with – there’s a male and a female side and so, should I change – adjust the door or do I need to go to the female side to adjust that so that the door locks properly?

    TOM: The place you make the adjustment, Al, really depends on what’s the easiest way to do this, so let me give you a couple of examples.

    Let’s say that the door itself was hitting the door jamb a little bit low and you had to pick it up a bit? Well, if you went to the upper hinge and was able to tighten it, that will actually sort of twist the door upwards in its frame and move that striker up higher, perhaps enough to actually make the connection on the strike plate. And if you had to move it down, you could tighten the lower hinge. So you can do a little bit of movement by shimming the hinges or moving the hinges or tightening the hinges in the door.

    Beyond that, the easiest thing to do is to actually reset the striker plate on the door jamb itself, to move that up or down to align properly with the door itself. And you could actually have a striker that’s a little bit wider than perhaps what you really need, in terms of the actual striker hole, so that if the door was to shift a little bit throughout the year because of swelling and expansion and contraction, it would still continue to operate properly. Does that make sense?

    AL: It does. Now, let me ask you one last thing. On the – not on the door but on the other side, would I need to change that piece of wood? And why I say that is because, typically, that little metal piece is actually almost encrusted onto the wood. I mean there’s always like a little square and if it’s like perfectly in there, would I need to replace all of that or could I just maybe …?

    TOM: Not necessarily replace it but what you would do is you might open it up a little bit. So, for example, you would take off the striker and then with the chisel, you would widen out the hole a little bit and then you would put it back together.

    AL: That makes sense.

    TOM: OK?

    AL: Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Hey, thanks so much for calling.

    Alright. Coming up, tips to help you avoid two major winter safety issues: roof collapses and ladder falls. Both are peak this time of year. We’re going to tell you how to avoid them and stay safe, next.

    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, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

    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: Well, a bathroom is a source of many, many leaks sometimes inside your house. There are just a number of places where water can show up where it’s not supposed to be, whether that’s a dripping faucet or a leaking showerhead. Those areas are pretty easy to access and pretty easy to fix.

    But one type of bathroom leak – and one that I observed quite significantly in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector – is when the leak forms under the toilet. Not in the toilet but under the toilet. And the reason that that is such a problem is because when that happens, not only do you get the hassle of water dripping out, say, a floor below where it’s not supposed to be but even worse, those leaks happen so slowly that they end up rotting out bathroom floors, which turn minor repairs into major, major fixes.

    Fortunately, there’s a new product out that offers a solution.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And here to tell us all about it is Bob Grimmett and he’s the president of Sani Seal Gasket.

    Welcome, Bob.

    BOB: Hello. How are you guys doing today?

    TOM: We’re doing well.

    Now, Bob, when this happens – and typically, we have to take a toilet off of the bathroom floor and replace the wax seal – that’s a pretty messy job. You actually have invented a product that takes the place of that and that actually does a far better job of sealing those toilets to the floor and stopping those leaks. How does the Sani Seal work?

    BOB: Well, the Sani Seal is made out of a polyurethane foam. It is waterproof and chemical-proof. And it allows some movement in the toilet so that the material actually compresses. And yet, it still has enough deflection to maintain a nice, good seal. The most common reason that your toilet would leak anyway is because of some slight movement or rocking. That’s very common, especially on a – it’s a tile floor.

    LESLIE: Now, is that from an unevenness in the wax gasket or is that an unevenness in the floor?

    BOB: Typically, it’s because the floor is uneven there.

    TOM: Well, many times, you have old, wood floors that naturally have some flex in them. And I think the issue is that the gaskets don’t really handle that very well, the wax gaskets. Especially as they sort of dry out and get older, they tend to not seal as much and they’ll crack and they’ll open up.

    So this product is a polyurethane-foam gasket that has much more give in it. Another scenario that we find when we’re doing bathroom renovations, Bob, is when we add a floor to the – a new floor to the bathroom. Typically, you have to raise the toilet flange. Is this product thick enough so that you could add, say, a laminate floor to a bathroom and not have to adjust the flange because this new gasket will be thick enough to kind of absorb that?

    BOB: Definitely. We designed the Sani Seal to be an inch-and-5/16 thick, which allows it to work in probably 98 percent of the applications. So now your flange can be anywhere from 3/8 above the finished floor to 3/8 below. So now when you install standard ¼-inch tile with thinset, even with the DUROCK underneath it, that would put your flange about ¼-inch below the finished floor. So one Sani Seal will work in those applications.

    The only time that you would have to stack Sani Seal is if that flange is more than 3/8 below the finished floor, as if you were maybe to add a radiant floor heat or something like that.

    TOM: You know, when I was taking a look at your website, there’s another little intricacy of this product which I think is kind of cool. And that is that if you ever tried to install a toilet, it’s almost impossible to get the bolts to stand up straight while you’re lifting this very heavy porcelain toilet over on top of them and getting them sort of lined up. You actually have designed, into this gasket, a way to keep the bolts straight so as the toilet comes down, it compresses it, the bolts are in the right place and you’re pretty much good to go.

    BOB: Oh, definitely, yeah. The Sani Seal has the holes coming through it to hold your bolts upright. That way, one person can easily do this job. You don’t need to have anybody help align the toilet as you’re setting it down. It also allows you multiple attempts. So you can actually – if you do need to set the toilet down for some reason and you missed the other bolt, it’s not a problem. Just pick it back up and align it on the other bolt so you can realign that – the toilet.

    TOM: Bob Grimmett, President of Sani Seal Gasket, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    BOB: Thank you for having me.

    TOM: Our pleasure.

    Now, if you’d like more information on Sani Seal, you can visit their website at SaniSeal.com. That’s spelled S-a-n-i-S-e-a-l.com. And Sani Seal is available at Lowe’s stores throughout the country.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, getting up on a ladder to deck the halls? Well, make sure you’re using it correctly and safely. The amount of ER visits from ladder falls this time of year is unbelievable. We’ve got tips to avoid one holiday trip that you didn’t plan, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Diamond Crystal Salt. The benefits are bigger than you expected. After all, you’re worth your salt. Diamond Crystal Salt. A brilliant choice since 1886.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain MyQ Garage. When you forget, it alerts your smartphone so you can close your door from anywhere, on most garage-door openers. Available now. For more information, go to Chamberlain.com.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Happy Holidays, everybody. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller that we talk to this hour is going to win a way that maybe you can give a room in your home a little holiday makeover. We’ve got up for grabs a Renu lighting-product set from Leviton worth 50 bucks.

    Now, the faces on the Renu switches, dimmers and outlet plates, just snap them off and you can change them to a new color, which will help you create a new look for any room you’ve got. And it’s got 20 different colors to choose from, so you can just match these plates to pretty much any part of your décor. And it looks great.

    TOM: If you think about it – vibrant colors, you get the sculpted lines – it pretty much adds up to an instant makeover. For more information, you can visit Leviton.com/Renu. That’s Leviton.com/Renu.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ann in Georgia on the line calling in with an air-conditioning question. How can we help you?

    ANN: What happens is there is an excessive amount of dust in the house.

    TOM: OK.

    ANN: I mean it’s huge. So I just rake my finger across a table and you can see long particles, long hair-type – it’s not hair but it’s like long string. And it’s really, really thick. And when the pollen was really bad down here in the spring, when it was yellow pollen outside, you could – it was in the house.

    TOM: Let me ask you some basic questions, Ann. First of all, you’re talking about a fan. What kind of heating system do you have in this house to begin with?

    ANN: It’s a heating pump.

    TOM: OK. It’s forced-air. It’s a forced-air system, right?

    ANN: Yes, yes.

    TOM: Alright. So, the best type of air-filtration system would be an electronic air cleaner. An electronic air cleaner would be installed on the return side of the air handler, so it would clean the air as it goes back to the air handler. And good-quality electronic air cleaners can take out all that dust, all that pollen, right down to virus-size particles. Most of us rely on the fiberglass filters, which are very inexpensive; they cost maybe $1 apiece. But they don’t do very much, you know? We call them “pebble stoppers” because everything else goes right through them.

    So, if you really want to clean up your house and reduce the amount of dust, you simply need a better filtration system on your HVAC system. And so, an electronic air cleaner would be that. You could take a look at models by Trane or by Aprilaire. And there are a number of others, as well.

    But don’t be confused by electrostatic versus electronic. You want an electronic air cleaner because these work. Some of them charge the particles so that they have sort of magnetic attraction to the filter material. Some of them combine electronic cleaning with filtration cleaning. But either of those two brands – either Trane or Aprilaire – make very good-quality electronic air cleaners. And you’ll see a huge difference. But it’s the kind of thing that you have to have an HVAC technician professionally install. It’s not a do-it-yourself project.

    ANN: OK. Sounds great. OK. Thanks so much.

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

    Well, if you’re getting ready to decorate, no doubt you’re about to get up on a ladder, maybe for the first time since last year. You’ve got to be careful. You want to save yourself a trip to the ER and follow these foolproof safety tips.

    First off, check the ladder before you take your first step on it. Because a lot of old ladders, they got worn, they get broken and they cause a lot of injuries every single year. You also want to make sure that the ladder has slip-resistant rungs and feet. And inspect it for any of those rungs that are split or any rivets that get loose because that can cause those rungs to pull right out.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, if you’re using an extension ladder, you want to make sure that you’re not pitching it too steeply. So if you’ve got a roof that’s 12 feet high, the base of your ladder needs to be at least 3 feet from the house. You want to go a quarter way. Kick those feet out from the height of whatever it is you’re climbing up to. And you really need to have somebody hold that base steady.

    Finally, you know that little label that says, “Never ever stand above here” or “Don’t use this as a step” or “Don’t sit here”? Really do follow it. Because if you step on there, suddenly the whole sense of balance is thrown off and it’s just a terrible idea.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Do you have a home improvement question? A décor question? A fix-up question? We’d love to talk to you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Maryann in California is on the line with a tiling project. How can we help you?

    MARYANN: Yes, hi. Well, I would like to replace the tile in my kitchen. They’re large and they’re – several of them are cracked and the grout is just – it’s wearing out and it’s pretty dirty. And I was just wondering if there’s something that someone who is not extremely handy, like myself, could do for a reasonable cost or is that kind of like out of the picture?

    LESLIE: Are you talking about floor? Backsplash? Countertop?

    MARYANN: Oh, I’m sorry. The floor.

    TOM: OK. And you have tile now, so you have to either put a second layer on top of that or tear out what you have there. And you said it’s really dirty and gross. Is it structurally solid?

    MARYANN: Yes, I believe so. Several of them are cracked.

    TOM: They’re not separated from the subfloor, are they?

    MARYANN: No.

    TOM: OK. You can put a second layer of tile on top of that. It’s possible to glue one tile on top of the other. The one issue you have to be careful of – do you have a dishwasher?

    MARYANN: I do.

    TOM: So you have to watch the height of that dishwasher cavity to make sure you have enough play on the legs of the dishwasher to be able to basically make it a little shorter, so you could make up the thickness of the tile layer. But you can put a second layer on top of it.

    Is it a do-it-yourself project? Well, if you can handle the layout, if you can handle the tile cuts – you need a tile saw – a wet saw – to do it. It’s a pretty adventurous home improvement project and of course, the material is pretty expensive and you – if you screw it up, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. So, it’s probably not the first do-it-yourself project that we would recommend but you can do it yourself.

    MARYANN: I see.

    TOM: But you’ve got to have special tools and a lot of patience.

    MARYANN: OK. That sounds like it’s probably not for me then.

    TOM: And even the grouting itself requires some skill. And if you don’t grout it right, it dries, it’s impossible to get off and you don’t get a second shot at it without a whole lot of work.

    MARYANN: I see. But how about a different type of flooring that isn’t tile?

    TOM: Now you’re talking. So what about a laminate floor, for example? This is a lot easier on you.

    A laminate floor is great. You can get laminate-floor patterns that look like tile or look like marble or look like wood. They’re like puzzle pieces; they all lock together. There’s a strip version and there’s types that look more like tile.

    And that’s a lot easier to handle. You can cut it with a regular saw and it floats on top of the tile, so you don’t have to pull up the old stuff. Still have the same height concern with the dishwasher space but it’s a lot easier and a lot more forgiving to do something like that. And it’s very durable. I’ve had a laminate floor down in my kitchen for more than 10 years and it’s great.

    MARYANN: Yeah, that sounds like the way to go. So, I didn’t realize you could put it right on top of the – what you have already. The tiles that I have are not flat, smooth, you know? They kind of have a texture to them. Does that matter?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s perfectly fine. No, there will be a slight – a very thin – underlayment underneath the laminate floor, usually a thin foam. It’s either separate or it’s attached to the back of the laminate and so that will take up any slight defects like that. But I think that’s the way to go.

    Why don’t you head out to Lumber Liquidators? You can go to a Lumber Liquidators store, you can go to LumberLiquidators.com and take a look at all of the laminates that are there. You will be amazed at the number of selections. And choose one for your house. I think that’s a great option for you and a lot easier than trying to cut tile.

    MARYANN: Oh, my gosh, yes. I wouldn’t even think of attempting that. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come, major snowfalls can easily put a lot of stress on your roof. So we’re going to share some tips on how you can avoid a roof collapse, next.

    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, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

    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: On air and online at MoneyPit.com. You can post your question in the Community section, like Susan did from Massachusetts.

    LESLIE: Alright. And Susan writes: “Recently, a deal on the sale of my home fell through because the buyer wanted me to replace the fully functional but 25-year-old furnace. After giving into many demands, I drew the line at this one. Should I replace the furnace so that it doesn’t come up for future buyers?”

    TOM: I don’t think you have a responsibility to replace an appliance just because it’s old. Whenever you sell a house, some elements of the home are going to be old and some are going to be newer. I mean they’re not going to pay you more just because maybe you have a new roof but you have an old furnace. You can’t have it both ways.

    One thing that you could do, Susan, just to kind of prepare yourself the next time the home is on the market and faces homebuyers, is to consider having a professional home inspection done of your home as the home seller. This way, you’ll fully understand the condition of the home in the eyes of a potential homebuyer and you can kind of head off any concerns at the pass.

    So, for example, you may want to be very clear that – “Here is my – I have an older furnace. I 

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