Frozen Pipe Prevention, Sealing Hidden Sources of Air Loss, All Natural Wood Stains and More
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: Call us right now with your home improvement question. Standing by to help you out at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
If your significant other wrapped up, let’s say, I don’t know, a window to stick under the present – under the tree – you know, we can help you with that. We’ll probably tell you how to install it, whatever. Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Seriously, we know that this is a day of relaxation, a day of celebration – a weekend, I should say, of celebration for you – so let’s talk about next year’s home improvement projects. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up this hour, it is a common side effect of chilly temps and it can cost you thousands of dollars in damages. We’re talking about frozen and burst pipes. Imagine heading out for some holiday visitations to come back to water pouring out your front door. It has happened and it could happen to you. We’re going to tell you, though, how to take care of those pipes so it won’t happen this season.
LESLIE: And also ahead, speaking of leaks, it doesn’t just mean water; it can also mean air. So we’re going to teach you about how to find those leaks that are going on in your house that maybe aren’t so obvious, like around your attic stairs. A lot of your conditioned air can sneak out there, so we’re going to tell you how to take care of that once and for all.
TOM: Plus, we’ve got an all-natural way to stain wood, using stuff that is so safe, you can drink it. We’re going to talk about how you can stain wood, using products like coffee or other pantry ingredients that are super-green, super-safe and will produce amazing results.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. It’s called a Throver from Crypton Super Fabrics. It’s worth $115 and it’s like a cover and a blanket but it is completely dirt-proof. It sounds pretty awesome and it could be yours for free.
TOM: It’s going to go to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question. So give yourself a present today and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Harvey in Illinois needs some help with the gutters on his house. What can we do for you?
HARVEY: Hi. I just wanted to mention you have a wonderful show.
TOM: Thank you, Harvey.
HARVEY: OK, I’m repairing some gutters for a neighbor. OK, she had some gutters put on by a contractor and they did a very poor job.
HARVEY: The problem is they threw on some leaf guards.
HARVEY: Plastic, snap-on leaf guards and left the receiving end sticking up in the air.
HARVEY: They’re not tucked under the material, so that’s a total disaster. So my question is, do I just leave them off or do I cut the seal along the edge of the roofing material to tuck them underneath there.
TOM: Why do you have to cut a seal? Is this asphalt shingles?
HARVEY: No, it’s not; they’re single ply.
TOM: Oh, it’s single ply. Yeah, no you don’t want to cut it.
TOM: Probably wouldn’t even have put leaf guards on that. Is this a flat roof?
HARVEY: It’s a gently sloping flat roof. Yeah, yeah.
TOM: Yeah. That was probably not a good choice for leaf guards because what happens is if you don’t have a lot of water that runs off, you’re not going to wash those leaves off the top of the gutter guard. Typically, you need like a 2/12 or a 3/12 pitch to make that work. So I think, in this case, I would tend to leave the leaf guards off. I would put the wire baskets in the top of the downspouts, that stop leaves from going down there, and then at least if you have to clean them off, you won’t have a clogged downspout to worry about.
HARVEY: OK. That sounds like a solution to me. Appreciate it.
TOM: Alright, that’ll help you out.
HARVEY: Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Harvey. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Nice of Harvey to be taking care of the neighbor’s gutters.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s a good neighbor.
TOM: Most people in this country don’t take care of their own gutters. Harvey is a particularly generous soul.
LESLIE: And then there’s me that makes fun of her neighbor’s gutters. There’s a tree growing out of one.
TOM: Yeah, well you learned to take care of your gutters when your basement flooded.
LESLIE: It was my first house. Leave me alone. I never had a gutter.
TOM: Alright. Who’s next?
LESLIE: Kim in Missouri is having some issues with a heat pump. To quote her directly: “It wigs out at 32 degrees or below.”
Welcome, Kim. What’s going on?
KIM: Yes, I’ve just noticed that my heat pump, when it hits around freezing or below – and that it just doesn’t keep up anymore. It just …
TOM: Now, so does it get cold in the house when that happens?
KIM: Yes, yes.
TOM: OK. So let’s just talk a bit about the way heat pumps work, because there is a secondary system built into it that may not be functioning properly. Heat pumps have an electric-resistance furnace built into them, as well. And what happens with a heat pump is if you set your thermostat at, I don’t know, say, 72 and it falls to 71 or 70, the heat pump stays on and tries to maintain it to get it back up to 72. When it gets to 69 or below, the heat pump says, “Whoa, I can’t keep up with this so I’m going to bring on my electric, backup resistance heat to bring it back up to within that 2-degree differential.”
Now, if there’s something wrong with the resistance-heat component of your heat pump, that could be why it’s not keeping up, especially in super-cold temperatures. So, that is most likely the source of this issue.
KIM: OK. OK. But …
TOM: And it’s a call to a service man to make sure because – do you have, on your thermostat itself, a setting that says “emergency heat”?
KIM: Yes, I do. Mm-hmm.
TOM: Now, have you ever put it on there and had it work fine?
KIM: Yes, when I switch it over to there – to that – this red light comes on and the heat comes out warm.
TOM: Yep. That’s right. Because that is turning on, without the switchover happening, the electric furnace. I suspect there’s a problem with your control circuit and it’s not balancing between the two.
KIM: Oh, OK.
TOM: When you manually turn it on, you’re actually turning the heat pump off and the electric furnace on; that’s what the emergency heat setting is.
KIM: Oh, OK.
TOM: So we know we have coils that work, we know we have a heat pump that works; they just don’t work together.
TOM: So I think that’s probably the heart of the situation.
KIM: OK, OK. So I just need to have somebody come and look at that then and fix it.
TOM: Yep. Alright, Kim?
KIM: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Yeah. Good luck, yeah, because you don’t want to run that electric furnace a lot, because it costs about two or three times as much to run that as it does to run the heat pump.
KIM: OK. That makes sense. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Kim. 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, home improvement, home improvement resolutions for 2011. We can help you with all of that, so give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, a trivia question, Leslie. What freezes first: hot-water pipes or cold-water pipes?
LESLIE: I know there’s a trick answer to this.
TOM: Well, the answer will surprise you. We’ll tell you, after this.
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 you should give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one caller we talk to this hour is going to win the Crypton Super Fabrics Throver. That’s a throw and a cover in one. You can use it to drape over an antique sofa or the back seat of a car on the way to Grandma’s house, to protect the car, perhaps, from pets if you’re taking them along on the ride.
LESLIE: Or kids with soccer shoes.
TOM: Or soccer shoes. That’s right.
The fabric is treated with an eco-friendly process that makes it very resistant to stains. It’s worth 115 bucks but it’s going to go to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Well, the Throver – and I do love that word and I’m so glad somebody invented that, because it’s fantastic – but a Throver, it can keep you warm but can it keep your plumbing warm?
Well, folks who live in the frigid climates of the United States may be getting the bonus of a white Christmas this weekend but also, they have to deal with the unpleasant side effect, which could be frozen pipes.
Now, when a pipe freezes, it can burst and then that can cause major, major damage; sometimes thousands of dollars in repairs. So to prevent frozen pipes, there are a couple of things that you should do.
First, insulate the pipes. You can do this with foam tubes, fiberglass tubes and fiberglass pipe wrap. You can use them all, use one, your choice. Now, if you notice that the same pipe freezes all the time, then you might want to consider having that pipe rerun through a warmer section of your house, to avoid that pipe freezing.
You also want to check for areas outside where cold air might be getting into that area where that pipe is freezing, because some additional weatherstripping or even insulation might be all that you need to stop this pipe from freezing from all that cold air getting in.
TOM: Now, if you realize a pipe is frozen, electric heat tape can be used to help thaw it but a big caution here, folks: heat tape can be dangerous if it’s not used correctly. You want to make sure the product that you use has a built-in thermostat. Also, make sure it’s UL-listed and properly installed, which means you can’t double it back on top of itself; you basically lay it on top of the pipe in one continuous piece and then attach it that way.
Now, if that doesn’t work and the pipe is still frozen, you may need to hire a plumber that has a pipe-thawing machine or you can rent one from a local rental company that will help thaw out those frozen pipes for good.
Now, the answer to the trivia question, what pipe freezes first – hot-water pipes or cold-water pipes – is a hot-water pipe. Surprised?
LESLIE: But you would think cold.
TOM: You would think cold but here’s why. That’s because when the water goes through the water heater, it boils out all the air that’s in the line. So, when a pipe that has cold water in it only freezes, it’s kind of spongy because it has a lot of air pockets inside of it and that actually takes up some of the expansion. But a hot-water pipe, no oxygen and it cracks the pipe first. So hot-water pipes will always freeze and break before cold-water pipes.
LESLIE: I’ll make sure when I’m having some bubbly at a New Year’s Eve party, I turn to someone and say, “Hey, let me tell you a little trivia question.”
TOM: Did you know? That’s right. Maybe you could win some money on that bet.
888-666-3974. Who’s next?
LESLIE: Richard in Ohio is dealing with ice damming. Tell us what’s going on.
RICHARD: Every winter and whenever we have some freezing rain and it – I always end up with ice dams. Now, I’ve had more insulation blown into my attic. I have about – probably a good 20 inches of insulation blown into my attic. I do have the panels that go in between your roof rafters – your rafters – that make sure my soffits are getting plenty of air. And no matter what I do, I still end up with ice dams and then I’ve had leak where the water’s backed up and started leaking into – well, into one of my closets.
TOM: Well, the number one way to prevent ice dams is with Ice & Water Shield.
TOM: So, obviously, you don’t have that under your roof shingles but that would …
RICHARD: No, I need to put on a new roof, probably, here in the next couple years. My roof had …
TOM: Yeah, that would be the solution. What I would use is Grace Ice & Water Shield and it’s a material that’s about 3 feet wide.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because it only goes on that first 3 feet of your roof.
TOM: Right. It goes from that first edge on up and it’s designed – if the water does get trapped at the gutter edge there and backs up, it can’t get in the roof. It just can’t. Can’t get through the Ice & Water Shield.
LESLIE: Because it’s like a rubberized membrane.
RICHARD: Exactly, yeah. I saw – I’ve seen the product but do I need to add any more ventilation to my roof? I only have two hats. I have a hip roof and it’s a ranch home.
TOM: Yeah, hip roofs are difficult to vent. What you want to do is – what’s your soffit vents look like? Are they continuously opened?
RICHARD: Yes, I have continuous, open soffits. I have 2-foot soffits and they’re vented.
TOM: And they’re all vented? OK, so that’s good. So, how much ridge do you have on this hip roof?
RICHARD: Probably 24 feet.
TOM: OK. So what I would do is I would add a ridge vent to that 24-foot section.
TOM: That’ll really open that up and then with the soffit vents and the ridge vents, they’ll work together to depressurize the ridge and positively pressurize the soffit. The air will run in the soffit, up under the sheathing and out. That plus the Ice & Water Shield should make this problem go away permanently, Rich.
RICHARD: Well, thank you very much for your information.
TOM: You’re welcome, Richard. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jean in Oregon is having a cleaning issue. Tell us what you’re working on.
JEAN: Well, I’m trying to figure out how to keep my Whirlpool, black appliances from streaking.
LESLIE: Yeah, that is like the most common complaint. We, ourselves, have a GE Profile oven which has a black cooktop and that is the hardest thing to keep clean. Dust shows up right away on it. No matter what I use, I always get streaks, so I kind of did a little bit of experimenting. And if you sort of ditch your paper towels and go with microfiber cloths, that kind of helps to reduce any kind of scratching you might get from a paper towel. Either way, paper towels or a nice cloth, you’re going to be alright but the cloth does help.
Then, when you’re cleaning, you really can’t use any sort of cleanser that has a harsh chemical, because that damages the surface. So if you end up with a big, greasy mess, dish soap and water will just do a great job to help you get rid of that grease. If that doesn’t work, you can make a paste of baking soda and water that’ll help break up whatever food buildup has sort of dried on there or residue or oil from cooking. And baking soda is super-safe, so that’s not going to scratch.
Now, once you get whatever food or stain is off of there and you want to really just cleanse it, truly a mixture of white vinegar and water – or if you get Windex with vinegar – that’s really going to be the best thing to get rid of any of that streaking. It’s going to dry nicely; you’re going to end up with a nice, clean surface.
Now, if you find you end up with the streaks after you clean with just water, it could be that the water you have may be full of chemicals or like a – maybe full of actually minerals or something that can leave that white, streaky mark. So, again, anything with vinegar in it is really going to be helpful. If you do want to use some type of water, just to aid in the cleansing and you find it is your tap water, you can get distilled water by the bottle at the supermarket. I mean those are good tricks that we’ve used, because it’s certainly – it’s annoying, more than anything.
JEAN: Well, when the sun shines in, it can be embarrassing.
LESLIE: Yeah. You really feel like you’re not doing a good job, even though you’ve just cleaned it. So, the vinegar really does make a huge difference.
JEAN: Alright. And thank you very much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright, Joe in Georgia has got his house down to the studs. Tell me what is going on. You’ve gutted it?
JOE: Yes, I bought a house. It’s about 58 years old.
JOE: And I gutted the house based on – just the interior walls looked kind of shoddy. I got it at a great price. So I gutted the house. Now the problem that I’m faced with is that there’s some interior wood in the walls that is going to need to be replaced.
JOE: Problem is is that all of the studs are true 2x4s.
TOM: Ah. So it’s really 2 inches by 4 inches; it’s not 1-5/8 by 3-1/2.
TOM: Right. OK. So you just took – you took all the old plaster and wallboard off of this stuff and so now you just want to figure out how you’re going to clean it up? Do you have to replace studs? Why don’t you have …?
JOE: Yeah, I have – there’s several. I would say probably 25 percent of the studs are going to have to be replaced.
TOM: Well, here’s what I would do. I would buy standard 2x4s. I would rip out some – set up a table saw, rip some ½-inch strips of wood. I’d build the wall. You can either pull the 2×4 to the – forward so that it basically has some space behind it or you can just pad it out by a ½-inch.
JOE: So basically, build the individual – or build a new 2×4 up.
TOM: Exactly, build a new 2×4.
TOM: That’s going to be a lot cheaper than – you can always buy 2x6s and rip them down but that would be a terrible waste.
JOE: Right. I just didn’t know if I was going to have to buy like milled 2x4s or …
TOM: No, I don’t think you can buy them. By the way, the wood originally was 2 inches by 4 inches, as you saw, and the milling is what took it down to 1-5/8 by 3-1/2, so they still call it a 2×4. But the 2×4 measurement was actually before it was milled. So that’s just a little bit of building lumber history; a little stud history there as to why it’s called a 2×4.
But you know, your options are to pad up the surface before you put your wallboard on it or just to buy 2x6s and cut them down.
I don’t know. If I had maybe a half-a-dozen studs to worry about, I’d probably buy the 2x6s and just rip them down. If I had one or two, I might pad it out.
JOE: Alright. Well, thank you for your help.
TOM: And those are your options, Joe. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Yeah, when you built the old walls and you were putting up wood lath and then slathering plaster on top of that, it didn’t matter if they were not completely flush. If one bowed out a ½-inch or …
LESLIE: Right, because you could cover that up.
TOM: Yeah. You put a little more plaster here, a little less plaster there and you’ve got a flat wall. But now when you’re trying to put drywall up and the board bends and buckles and shows every deflection, you’ve got to have a pretty straight wall. And so, when you gut it, your – this is a problem; part of the problem.
LESLIE: June in North Carolina is thinking about selling her house and needs some help with what repairs to do first. How can we help you?
JUNE: Yes. First of all, I’d like to say how much I love the show.
LESLIE: Thanks, June.
JUNE: You’re welcome. My husband and I have a three-year-old house with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths plus a SOG.
JUNE: We are trying to figure out if it would help the marketability of the house to add a closet and a bathroom so we can classify the SOG as another bedroom.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
JUNE: Or would it make any difference?
TOM: In general, adding bathrooms always helps but you need to compare your house to what’s selling in the neighborhood because when you put your home on the market, you’re competing with everything else that’s around you and having an extra bathroom may or may not help you. It’s really an appraisal question.
I would check with some local realtors. You can ask them to do a market-value assessment of your home both ways; with two-and-a-half baths and three-and-a-half baths, or whatever the case is, and see how the numbers play out. Bathrooms generally do get you the best return on investment but only if you stay within what’s for sale in your neighborhood.
JUNE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks 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. Well, still ahead, would you be willing to show the world a very ugly part of your home? I know I wouldn’t but I always try to avoid ugly parts of our house.
Well, our next guest did just that and actually won a makeover for doing so. We’re going to hear all about it, after this.
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TOM: Where home solutions live, 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. And if you happen to have the ugliest door around your neighborhood, you probably don’t want everyone to know unless, of course, there was a chance that you could win a brand new one. And that’s just what our next guest did.
TOM: And her name is Judy Gruszcynski and she entered Therma-Tru’s Ugliest Door in America contest and had the honor of truly having the ugliest door voters have ever seen.
Here to tell us why that is a good thing, in this case, is Judy.
Hi, Judy. Welcome to the program.
JUDY: Well, hi. Thank you for having me.
TOM: It’s our pleasure. We took a look at your video entry and we must say, we agree. I don’t know if it was the warping, the peeling brown paint, the ugly door knocker and/or the massive amounts of caulk that seemed to be everywhere. This truly was the weakest link in your house, wasn’t it?
JUDY: It really was. It just didn’t – it didn’t say what I wanted it to say about my house and my home and my indoors and how I take care of my house. So, it really was a sore thumb.
LESLIE: So, other than the fact that this was just a horrible instance on your beautiful home, I mean was that truly the only thing that inspired you or had you been looking into the Therma-Tru doors for a while?
JUDY: Oh, I had been looking at Therma-Tru doors. I had been to several home improvement establishments in our area and had narrowed it down to the Therma-Tru doors and was always going back and looking at their website and checking it out to see this style or that style, et cetera. So, I’d already made my decision about what brand of door to buy.
TOM: So you’d been thinking about the project and then when you heard about the contest, you jumped right on it.
Now, the website is MyUglyDoor.com. You can go there and take a look at Judy’s winning video of her ugly door.
Now, you’re going to choose a new door now. What do you have in mind? We talk a lot about the fact that a new exterior door can really drive up the perceived value of your house, save you some money on your energy bills and it just looks good. What kinds of doors have you been considering in the fiberglass category?
JUDY: Well, that was my difficulty. I had so many options with Therma-Tru. They truly have a beautiful door. So I drove around neighborhoods, I drove other cities, I went to dealers.
LESLIE: You’re doing your research. That’s good.
JUDY: Yeah. I just – and looked through magazines, et cetera, et cetera. It just took me a long time to narrow it down and of course, I went back to one of my – you know, my first love.
TOM: It’s always that way.
JUDY: Yeah, isn’t it? And so that’s what I ended up doing and I had a wonderful dealer in the Chicago area who helped me narrow it down and we finally ordered it.
LESLIE: That’s great. Are you adding anything different? Are you changing a sidelight? Are you adding glass to the door?
JUDY: I already had a single sidelight so we’re going to keep with a single sidelight. That’s all the larger I could make it but we’ve chosen a beautiful glass. It’s called their Bella glass and it’s quite pretty. And when you see it online, it doesn’t really do it justice when you see it in person at a showroom; it’s quite a beautiful, glass option.
LESLIE: And it’s really going to make your home just pop and really stand out on the block.
JUDY: Absolutely. Absolutely it will, yeah.
TOM: Well, Judy, congratulations on having the ugliest door in America.
JUDY: Thank you.
TOM: I see that you got …
JUDY: It’ll be now pretty and secure and safe and energy-efficient and all of those good things, kind of all wrapped into one, so I’m very excited about it.
TOM: Alright. Well, thank you so much for spending some time with us, telling us all about your ugly door.
You’ve got to go online and check this out. The Ugliest Door in America contest is over but you can see, at MyUglyDoor.com, all the submissions, including Judy’s winning submission.
And Judy, when the project’s complete, I hope that you’ll get some photos up there so we can see the – both the before and the after.
JUDY: Of course. I will do that.
TOM: Alright, Judy. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and congratulations, once again.
JUDY: Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Leslie, for having me today.
LESLIE: Man, Judy. That is so brave of you to share this whole story.
And we know that new door is going to help keep Judy toasty, toasty, toasty warm this winter. So up next, how you can keep toasty by sealing air leaks that you might not even know you had, so stick around.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we’d love for you to be part of The Money Pit, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, even if it’s just to say, “Happy Holidays.” We’d love to hear from you.
And one lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Crypton Super Fabrics Throver and I feel like we should incorporate that word into our vocabulary on a daily basis. It’s a throw and a cover all in one and it works like a tarp but the fabric actually feels like a blanket, so it doesn’t feel like industrial or cold.
And you can use it to drape it over an antique sofa or the backseat of your car, to protect it from your kids’ snowy shoes or the pets. Whatever you’ve got in your car, it’s going to keep it clean.
Now, the fabric is treated with an eco-friendly process that makes it resistant to stains, liquids, odor, mildew, even bacteria. And you can check it out at CryptonFabric.com or give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your answer and your chance to win.
Well, you might think that your home is ready for winter’s chill but if you still feel a draft, there are a few overlooked areas in the home that might be able to use a little extra treatment.
Owens Corning, for example, has insulation accessories that can add that final layer of comfort before winter winds blow through. There is the Owens Corning Attic Stairway Insulator, which is made up of pink fiberglass insulation. It’s very tough and it’s got very reflective foil. I actually have one of these on top of my stairway and we love it. It comes ready to install and it’s a very easy, do-it-yourself project and it’s amazing when you pull down the attic stairway and you feel all the heat right above it that the Owens Corning Attic Stairway Insulator is containing. It does a really, really good job.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I know that’s a space that a lot of people don’t think about right away, if ever, when they’re thinking about sealing off their house.
And another weak spot that often gets overlooked is your garage. Now, Owens Corning also has a garage door insulation kit that comes with eight fiberglass insulation panels with a washable, white vinyl facing. And this kit is designed for use on uninsulated, metal garage doors.
And the panels fit right into the exposed channels of the door and you’re going to get five times better thermal performance and as much as a 20 percent reduction in noise level, which is a great bonus.
Now, a single door can be insulated in less than an hour, so you can do it in, you know, a weekend’s project or even a day. Just head on over to OwensCorning.com for more information on these projects and other great ways that you can insulate your home and start saving some energy dollars.
TOM: Or pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Justin in Illinois is dealing with an unbalanced HVAC system. Tell us about the problem.
JUSTIN: Yes. I just bought a house last year and it was just recently flipped and I can’t get no airflow to my upstairs.
TOM: So, we have no airflow whatsoever on the second floor?
JUSTIN: Well, I can breathe harder than it can blow.
TOM: That’s coming out of there? Alright. So the duct system is somehow restricted to the second floor and this never came up in a home inspection or anything like that?
JUSTIN: It’s got that insulated fiberglass – that flexible ductwork.
JUSTIN: And it’s got 14 ducts coming out of it. I don’t know if that’s …
TOM: Fourteen ducts? Like it looks like an octopus?
TOM: Yeah, that probably wasn’t installed right. Typically, you need to have a trunk line and then the ducts come off of that. I’ve seen those installations where you have one big, central dispatch point and then lots of hoses coming off of that and that’s never going to be very efficient.
JUSTIN: Yeah, that’s what I was wondering.
TOM: I have a feeling you’re going to have to do some duct work here. And what you want to do – is this on a basement or a crawlspace?
JUSTIN: It’s in a basement, yes.
TOM: So what you want to do is you probably want to have hard ducts until you get to the dispatch point that goes up into the wall and then you can switch to flex duct.
But I have a feeling that this was not installed correctly and as a result, you’re not getting the airflow that you need.
JUSTIN: Would I be better off shutting – I mean closing off some of them other ducts that I don’t need?
TOM: Well, that’s a very short-term solution, Justin. The problem here is that you don’t have a properly installed duct system.
TOM: And you need to get the air where it needs to get and part of a properly installed HVAC system is duct design. And there is some science behind it and there’s some standards of practice behind it. And when you have one distribution box and a lot of – 14 different hoses coming off it, that’s not going to work.
TOM: There’s so much back pressure when the blower comes on that not enough air can get into the ducts and make their way through the ducts up into the rooms.
TOM: Yeah. I would contact an HVAC contractor and have them evaluate it and give you an estimate on what it might take to correct this problem.
LESLIE: And have them evaluate the system.
JUSTIN: Yeah. I went running in quite a few problems on this flip.
LESLIE: No, no.
JUSTIN: But you know how that goes.
TOM: Yeah, well, welcome to home ownership, Justin. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Sandra in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
SANDRA: Well, I have my – every year I have my heating elements looked at, inspected and – for a tune-up. And this time, I changed companies and the people that came found a biological growth and lots of dirt in the master bedroom system.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
SANDRA: I’ve got three systems and that one is available through a closet; it’s not in the attic. And I was – he told me that I had to put in a very sophisticated system with some kind of bulb that would kill the mold that went through the tubes and so forth and that it would cost around $900.
TOM: Right. Mm-hmm. Right. So you think he may be just trying to sell you something or do you think you really think you have a problem?
LESLIE: Since it’s a new company.
SANDRA: Yes, I think so because my son went up after and he said, “Well, that’s just dirt.” That white mold that they said that was there was dirt of the construction and he wiped it off.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, there is a light that’s an add-on to heating systems – like an ultraviolet light that is designed to kill bacteria and – I’m not even sure if it kills mold spores. It’s not a very popular add-on. But it sounds to me like they’re just trying to sell that to you, especially if your son ID’d it as dirt.
A lot of these folks that are identifying mold, they just call it all mold and if they get the sale, they get the sale. So you’re right to question it. Always a good idea to have a second opinion. In this case, it sounds like your son had the right information and I wouldn’t worry about it.
SANDRA: Thank you for your wonderful program.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Sandra. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Tim in Alaska has an issue with a popcorn ceiling. How can we help you today?
TIM: My house was built in 1978 and from what I understand, that was about the timeframe that they were switching from non-asbestos products and I was wondering if – what the likelihood, really, that – my ceiling has got popcorn ceiling all over it. What’s the likelihood of that having asbestos in it?
TOM: Well, I have to say that I think that most of the asbestos was gone by then but the only way you would know for sure is if you took scrapings and sent it out and had it analyzed, which is not a terribly expensive thing to do.
LESLIE: And worth it if you’re thinking about taking it down.
TOM: Yeah, we get a lot of calls about popcorn ceiling and it’s – you know, there’s a lot of – it’s a lot of work to get rid of it but I will say that you’re probably going to be a lot happier when you do.
TIM: Yeah, it’s very dirty, so …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Tim? You should have it tested if you plan on taking it down, even if you planned on painting it because, as you work with it – and especially if you’re going to take it off – it becomes completely torn apart. It’s a big mess; it comes apart in pieces. And if there’s a chance that there’s asbestos in there, you probably have to have it removed in a very special way that you won’t be able to do yourself. So it’s better off to know what’s in there before you even think about tackling it.
TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, are you worried about using toxic, chemical-based stains for your wood projects? Why not consider all-natural stains made out of stuff so safe, you can eat it or drink it. Find out exactly how to do that, after this.
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. And I’m talking to you guys out there, all of you Money Pit fans. We want you to show us what you’re working on. We want you to ask us a question. You can even post a blog and you can do all of that and more. I mean these are things we want you guys working on with us, in MoneyPit.com’s new Community section.
Now this is a great way for us to even get more involved in what you guys are working on. We just love to hear from you, so make sure you visit MoneyPit.com and click on the Community tab. And when you’re there, you can post a question. Tom and I answer them; you guys can answer someone else’s question. It’s a great place to form a wonderful home improvement community.
And we’ve got a posting here from Jay M. who wrote: “Our house was built in the 1950s and I was looking for input on insulating the rafter area upstairs. If we do this, would we need more vents on the roof and a fan on each end of the peak of the roof?”
TOM: Hmm. Interesting question. The only time that you ever want to insulate those rafters, though, is if it’s a finished living space up there in the attic. If it’s unfinished, you never, ever insulate the rafters; you always insulate the space between the conditioned, which would be your second floor, and the unconditioned, which would be the attic space, because you want to keep the heat, basically, at the attic floor level.
If you were to go ahead and insulate the roof rafters, what can happen is the shingles will overheat and they can fry.
LESLIE: And shorten the lifespan.
TOM: Yeah, you can shorten the lifespan dramatically by doing that. So I would concentrate on insulating the attic floor area and make sure you have at least 19 to 22 inches of insulation in that area and leave the attic rafters uninsulated, if this is an unfinished attic space.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And by doing all of that, you can really make sure that you cut down on a lot of your energy loss. Just make sure you have ridge venting and soffit vents for a great airflow, to keep that insulation doing its job, and you should have a great heating season.
TOM: Well, if you’re concerned about using toxic materials in your home improvement projects, there are many ways that you can green some of those materials. Leslie has got those ideas in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: That’s right. If you’re looking for a natural, non-toxic wood stain, you might want to actually raid your kitchen pantry because coffee, tea and black walnut hulls can be steeped to make a concentrated solution that can actually be used as a stain.
Also, black raspberries are an effective wood stain when they’re crushed and then rubbed onto the wood. What you then do is you allow that berry pulp to dry on the wood and then you just wipe it away.
Now, vinegar works as a wood stain when you add a metal object in the mix and then let it sit in a glass container for a week. So, a handful of pennies added to the vinegar is actually going to produce a beautiful, pale, Caribbean blue because, obviously, that’s the patina you get when copper turns that beautiful greenish-blue. Now, a wad of steel wool is going to give you a rich, reddish hue because that steel wool is going to rust.
Now, as with any stain, you should check out the results that you’re going to get, on a piece of a scrap wood. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to get as the end product so there’s no surprises, especially if you’re building something from scratch and you spent all the time and then you’re like, “What did I do?” So you really get an opportunity to see how many coats, how the shade changes depending on how many pennies you add. It’s a fun way to sort of experiment.
Also keep in mind that stained wood can change with age, often with attractive results, but be prepared to potentially end up with a different look later. Now, you can use a clear sealant on the top of your stain to keep it from fading but that will also enhance the durability and keep the surface from scratching or sort of changing from water stains.
If you want some more ideas or specific instructions, just Google “money pit natural wood stain” and you’re going to find a whole host of great ideas there.
TOM: And this is The All-Natural Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Coming up next week on the program, when you’re trying to cut energy costs, which is more important: sealing out those leaks or insulating your home? What do grab first: the caulk gun or the insulation? We will sort that out, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
Happy Holidays, everybody. And 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.)