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Get Ideas for Home Improvements that Pay Off, New Kitchen Trends, How to Clean Overlooked Areas of Your Home and more

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    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 what are you working on this fine spring? We’d love to help you get that project done. Call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT because this is the first official weekend of spring. And that means it’s time to get out the paintbrushes, get out the tools and get to work. We’ll take some of that burden from you. Just give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll help you figure out how to get that job done right the first time quickly, safely and to make sure you don’t have to do it again anytime soon. 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, do you have a nice, long project to-do list and you’re not sure where to start? Well, why not consider this idea: start with projects that pay off in the long run? We’ve got details on this year’s Cost Versus Value Report and you would be amazed at the return on investment certain projects give you when it comes time to sell your home.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, a hot, new trend in kitchen design is breaking all the rules. We’re going to tell you why mixing metals on your kitchen finishes is the new way to go.

    TOM: Plus, it’s time to take on some spring cleaning. We’ve got your list of overlooked areas, room by room.

    LESLIE: And this hour we’re giving away a set of Memory Foam Slippers by Therapedic. It’s a great way to keep your feet super cozy at home. Plus, they’ll only remember your feet, so there’s no sharing slippers. It’s a prize worth 20 bucks.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, let’s get to it. Who’s first?

    LESLIE: Heading to Minnesota where Beth is doing some work in the bathroom. And you want some toilet help. What’s going on?

    BETH: Toilet kept running. The water kept running into it, so I decided to install a new fill valve and clapper. And I measured everything and I followed the instructions and I did solve the original problem. But now I developed a new one. When I flush it, the water goes into the bowl OK, except now anything in the bowl goes to the top of the bowl, almost to the rim. And then when the tank itself is filled, then the bowl goes down slowly and it flushes but then it only leaves a little water in the bowl.

    So I called the manufacturer and talked to them. He said, “Well, try plunging it because it might be a clog.” So I did that. I tried hot water and bleach to see if I could get that if it is a clog. And nothing has worked. And I don’t know what to do. I give up.

    LESLIE: I mean that’s what happens, typically, in a clog is it’ll fill to the top and then the tank will fill and then it’ll – the suction force will just bring everything down.

    TOM: Yeah. And the one’s with the trickiest to diagnose is when you have a partial clog where you have some water that’s getting past but not a lot. So I wonder if something is lodged in either the trap of the toilet or the line beyond that. And really, the next step is to have a plumber come out and do a drain cleaning on that.

    I’ll tell you a funny story about how this happened when my kids were younger. We had a toilet that was clogged in a downstairs bathroom and I – outside this bathroom, we had a willow tree. And I knew that the willow tree roots used to get into the plumbing line, so I immediately assumed that was what it was. And I went outside and dug up my yard and found the pipe cleanout, which was a couple of feet below the surface. And I snaked one way and snaked the other way and I couldn’t find any clog.

    So, I thought, “Well, maybe it’s between the pipe break and the toilet.” So I decided to pull the toilet off. And don’t you know that when I did that, I turned it over and noticed something blue in the bottom of the toilet. And of course, you’re not supposed to have anything blue in a ceramic toilet. It turned out to be a little toy telephone that one of my kids had dropped down there that was letting just enough water through to trick us.

    And so you never know what’s going to be in there. And if you have a partial obstruction like that, that could explain for what’s happening.

    BETH: OK. Well, the only thing I can do then is to get a plumber?

    TOM: Yep. You don’t want a carpenter, that’s for sure.

    Beth, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to North Carolina where Chris has a question on flooring. What can we help you with today?

    CHRIS: I had a leaking toilet that rotted my wood subfloor. I ripped it all up and I put the new pieces of wood back down.

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: Well, my cuts weren’t exactly perfect and there’s some spacing in between, like maybe three-sixteenths.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s pretty good.

    CHRIS: OK. It’s just in some sections. And I’m going to put down the ¼-inch cement board to put tile down here.

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: And I just wanted to know: what type of mortar do I use to put the cement board down onto this wood subfloor? And then once the cement board is down and it’s screwed in, do I have to put some type of mesh tape to put the boards together and then mortar the tape?

    TOM: No. So, first of all, if you’re going to put down DUROCK, which is sort of that cement board that you’re describing, generally, that’s screwed down. So you would screw that down to the floor. And then on top of that, you would apply the adhesive for the tile. And you’d glue the tile right to the board.

    CHRIS: OK.

    TOM: You know, having those gaps in the plywood repair is no big deal because that’s all going to be covered over. Just make sure that when you put the cement board down that you don’t align the seams of the board with any of the old seams of the plywood below it.

    CHRIS: Right.

    TOM: Everything should overlap.

    CHRIS: Do I still have to put the mesh tape, though, for the boards – the cement boards – or no?

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t think so.

    CHRIS: OK.

    TOM: I think you can go right on top of that. As long as you have good adhesion of those boards down, they’re secured well in place, they shouldn’t move.

    CHRIS: OK, great.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re always working. The wheels are always turning when it comes to home improvement and design and building and construction. Whatever it is that you need help with, we’re going to know the answer. And if not, we’re going to figure it out real fast and tell you. We’re here to give you a hand, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you not sure where exactly to start on your spring-cleaning list? Well, we’ve got room-by-room spring-cleaning tips to make sure your home gets spic and span, in no time, 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: We’d love to hear from you. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement project. Plus, this hour we’re giving away the Therapedic Memory Foam Slippers. These are pretty cool because they have a pressure-relieving memory foam with ComfortGear technology, which gives you maximum heel, arch and toe-bed support.

    Learn more at Therapedic.com. They’re worth 20 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random, so make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Geri in Massachusetts is on the line with a very mysterious noise. What is going on?

    GERI: Well, I don’t know if it’s the cold weather or what but I get this loud, loud bang in my house. It’s not a certain time of day. It can be at night, it could be in the morning. And I would say it’s a corner of my house and I can’t figure it out.

    TOM: Does it happen when your heating system kicks on?

    GERI: No. It’s just random. It can happen at any time of day and I can’t figure it out.

    TOM: Do you have a duct system or do you have radiators that give you heat?

    GERI: Baseboards.

    TOM: Baseboard radiators. OK. Do you have central air-conditioning?

    GERI: I do.

    TOM: And does it happen in the summer, as well as the off-season?

    GERI: No. I only detect it in the winter.

    TOM: OK. Well, a couple of things here. First of all, if your boiler is not tuned up properly, you can get a condition called “explosive ignition.” Like if too much gas comes out and then the boiler ignites, it can do so with a bang and that’s generally disturbing and very unsafe. So I would make sure that the heating system was serviced.

    And the second thing that often causes noise that far exceeds its damage is something called “water hammer.” And this can happen when water is running through the pipes of the house and stops suddenly. The centrifugal force of that water continuing down the pipe will cause it to move or shake and that can result in a bang that goes almost end-to-end on the house. And the solution is both to secure loose plumbing pipes and install something that’s kind of like a shock-absorber for your plumbing system. It’s called a “water hammer arrestor.”

    So those are the two most common in your type of heating system and plumbing system, areas where I think sound can originate.

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

    LESLIE: William in Illinois is on the line with a heating question. How can we help you with your project?

    WILLIAM: I live in the Midwest here in Illinois. I’ve got a smaller house, about 1,100 square foot. It’s got an addition on the front of the house that is about 12 foot by 10 foot, something like that. Well, it’s in a small room. It’s got a pretty good-sized window facing the road. It’s on a foundation but it’s not attached to the garage and it’s not heated. I don’t have a heating duct running out there. It’s attached to the attic space, which is insulated. That room gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

    And I wondered if I just ran a heating duct out there, if that would be enough or should I put a vapor barrier down? Or should I knock a hole in it to attach it to the basement or get up under there and insulate and then run a heating duct or what?

    TOM: First of all, whenever you have a stand-alone space like that that’s pushed off from the rest of the house, you have more exterior surfaces, so you have more ways for the – basically that building to chill. Adding insulation is always a no-brainer. Adding insulation to the floor, adding the insulation to the attic, making it as insulated as possible is good.

    Now, you ask, “Can I add a heating duct to that?” Maybe. Depends on a lot of things. Depends on the existing layout of your HVAC system and whether or not you can get a properly sized supply and return duct to that space.

    Does this room get heat from the rest of the house but just not enough heat?

    WILLIAM: It doesn’t get anything right now. It has just a door. It was – we just use it as a bedroom at – in the summers, I guess.

    TOM: It doesn’t get anything. OK. So what I would do is I would consult with your HVAC contractor to see how difficult it would be and whether or not the pro thought you could get enough BTUs into that room to provide enough heat. And I don’t know if it includes the air conditioning or not.

    If not, the other thing to look at is what’s called “split-ductless.” Basically, you would install what is, essentially, sort of a miniature heat pump right outside the wall of that house. And you would hang on the wall a register that has the fan built into it, sort of a blower unit. And that can supply cold air in the summer and that can supply warm, heated air in the winter. And that would, basically, be a separate heating system for that room – a separate HVAC system for that room – but it’s easier than trying to sort of extend, sometimes, the core system of the house. Does that make sense?

    WILLIAM: Right. Yeah, yeah, it sure does. Alrighty. Well, I will look into both of those options.

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

    Well, have you been feeling the itch to give your house that really good onceover cleaning that comes with spring? Well, it is time and we’ve got some dos and don’ts to make that go very smoothly.

    LESLIE: Alright. First, I’m talking about that often overlooked upholstery. Now, you can rent an upholstery cleaning machine but don’t do anything without testing a small patch first because, believe me, things can react weirdly. And it might not even look weird in the cleaning process but it might dry weird. So you have to test a spot that nobody’s going to see. This way you’re not surprised.

    Now, for the pillows, most of those can be removed from the slipcovers and machine-washed or dry-cleaned, whatever it is for your fabric. So, take care. Make sure you look at what that fabric is.

    TOM: Now here’s a tip for cleaning windows. You don’t want to clean them when the sun is shining through, because the sun will cause the cleaner to evaporate and that leaves streaks and also kind of a really dull, nasty-looking residue.

    LESLIE: Now, if we’re talking about ceiling fans, you want to make the cleaning easier by dusting the blades once a season with a U-shaped brush. Now, after you wash the blades, don’t forget to dry them because a wet blade is just going to attract dust all over again.

    TOM: If you’d like more quick spring-cleaning tips, check us out at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Carol in Mississippi, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    CAROL: I have a floor that’s sinking in the hallway and the kitchen and I was just trying to find out what’s the best way to repair that and what type of wood should it be repaired with.

    TOM: So do you have any idea, Carol, as to what’s causing the floor to sink?

    CAROL: I don’t know if it’s the foundation. I don’t know if it’s the foundation, because it’s in Mississippi and there’s lots of moisture there. And for some reason, the homes there really look rundown and stuff. And I always – and I did research just because it’s so moist there. But the house is really, really old, so I have no idea what’s causing it.

    TOM: Is the floor a wood floor?

    CAROL: Yes, it is.

    TOM: And is it over a crawlspace?

    CAROL: No, it’s not over a crawlspace.

    TOM: Is it over a basement?

    CAROL: No, it’s not over a basement. It’s on the foundation part of it.

    TOM: Yeah. OK. Look, there’s only really three types of floor structures. You’re either going to have – your house is going to be built on a slab, which means it’s on concrete, or it’s going to be on a wood-framed floor, which is either going to be over a crawlspace or over a basement. I’m trying to figure out what kind of floor structure you have.

    CAROL: OK. It’s up off the ground a little bit.

    TOM: That’s a crawlspace. So what has to happen, Carol, is somebody has to go into the crawl and get under that area and look up and see what’s going on. If you have a lot of moisture, you could have some rotted beams there. And if that’s the case, they have to be repaired. That can’t – well, it’s very difficult to do that from the top side; you would do that from the bottom side. And then once you know what the cause of the sagging is, then you’ll know how to approach it.

    But let’s say that you’ve found there was a beam that was decayed. Well, what would happen in that case is you would put a new beam next to it. So if one bad floor joist, you’d put another one next to it, maybe even one next to that so you’d kind of sandwich the bad beam between the two good beams. And that would straighten that out.

    Once the structure is repaired, then you can go in from the top side and repair any remaining decay, like if it was the wood – plywood – subfloor or something in that nature. But you’ve got to start with the structure, which is what’s underneath there, to figure out why this sag has occurred and why this area has sunken in. And once that’s re-supported, then you can move to the top side.

    Does that make sense?

    CAROL: Makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Jacob in Kentucky is on the line with a water-heating question. What can we do for you?

    JACOB: Hi. Basically, the problem that I’m having is when I’m taking a shower and it – kind of in the sink, as well in the kitchen – when I turn on the hot water, you could – I mean you can cook macaroni in the hot water.

    You’ve got to kind of fidget with it if you wash your hands too long or something. And in the shower, kind of the same thing. I won’t turn it on full blast on hot but just about normal and it’ll cool off after just a couple of minutes. It’ll just almost go cold and then just, as you’re taking a shower, in the duration of 5 or 10 minutes, I end up going all the way over with the hot water. Just the one knob. I end up turning it on, I guess, full-blast hot.

    TOM: So let’s see what’s going on here. How old is your water heater?

    JACOB: It’s fairly new. I think it’s just a few years old. Maybe three years old.

    TOM: So, electric or gas?

    JACOB: It’s gas.

    TOM: So, first of all, let’s check the temperature of the water heater. It needs to be at about 110 degrees. And see if – there may be a temperature indicator on the valve that you can line up or you could simply measure it with a thermometer.

    Secondly, in terms of the shower, what I would recommend is that you install what’s called a “pressure-balanced valve.” So what a pressure-balanced valve does is that once you have set the temperature, it maintains the mix between hot and cold so that you deliver that same temperature, regardless of what happens to the pressure on one side or the other. So if somebody flushes a toilet or runs the dishwasher and all of a sudden, you’ve got less cold water or less hot water, it’s going to adjust. So the flow may be greater or less but the temperature will never change. And that makes the shower situation pretty much go away.

    JACOB: OK. Awesome. What was it called again, the valve?

    TOM: A pressure-balanced valve. It’s a type of shower valve.

    JACOB: Oh, OK. Awesome. Well, I appreciate it.

    TOM: Hey, ask your plumber for it. They’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.

    JACOB: Alright. Well, I definitely appreciate your call.

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

    LESLIE: Rob from Utah is on the line who’s looking to save some green by going green and needs some help with an energy audit.

    How are you doing today, Rob?

    ROB: We are interested in getting a home energy audit and mostly trying to figure out what to expect. Like how much should it cost?

    TOM: Well, that’s a great question. Now, have you looked around for audit providers?

    ROB: I haven’t really reached out to people yet but tried to get in a little bit. But no, not really.

    TOM: OK. So I would start with your local utility company. Because sometimes, they provide home energy audits themselves or will provide those at a discount. What I would like to see you find is someone that’s not tied in with a repair operation, so you get somebody that’s truly independent. There are some energy auditors that work for the same companies that offer insulation services and weather-stripping and that sort of thing. And what you really want to do is find someone who’s completely independent.

    The scale of the energy audit can vary dramatically. A couple of things that I would look for – one thing that is really good to get is what’s called a “blower door test.” And this is where they take a device and pressurize your house with air or depressurize it and can measure the amount of leakage your house has. And that can help you pinpoint the worst offenders and teach you how to get those sealed up.

    Other parts of an energy audit would determine how energy-efficient your windows are, how much insulation you have in your attic space. Does it match with the right kind of ventilation? How efficient are your appliances? You know, it really looks at all of those areas.

    And then it should boil down to a specific list of recommendations that are prioritized. Because I think a lot of times when we try to make our homes more efficient, we guess. We guess at where we’re suffering the most, whether it’s new windows or insulation or whatever we think we need or a salesperson tries to sell you. It ends up being a guess. But an energy audit really can nail that down with some cold, hard facts and help you prioritize where to put the money.

    ROB: OK. Great. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Still to come, do you have a list of projects and you’re really not sure where you should be starting? Well, choosing what home improvements will pay off is a great place to start. We’re going to share details on what exactly those home improvements are, after this.

    (theme song)

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    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.

    Well, if you do them right, there are many home improvements that can certainly add value to your home. The question is: how much value can you expect to recoup when you do sell your home?

    TOM: Well, you can find out exactly how much, in the annual Cost Versus Value Report, which comes out each year from the editors at Remodeling Magazine. Joining us now is Craig Webb, the editor-in-chief.

    Welcome, Craig.

    CRAIG: Thank you.

    TOM: So for those that are not familiar with cost versus value, kind of give us the background on this.

    CRAIG: Well, we’ve been doing cost versus value since 1987 and it’s a fairly simple process. We have experts around the country figure out how much it costs to have a professional remodeler do any of 30 different projects around the house. And then we figure out the prices for doing that project by a professional remodeler in 100 different markets in the United States.

    Once we’re done with that, we then survey real-estate professionals around the country in those markets and say, “If someone were to do that project in your market and you sell the house within a year, what do you think the added value on the sale of the house would be?” That gives us the value. We then divide one into the other and we get the cost-value ratio or the bang-for-the-buck number.

    TOM: Now, everybody wants to think that when they make any improvement to their home, they get 100-percent return on investment, right? That entire amount gets slapped right onto the value and you’re good to go.

    LESLIE: Of course.

    TOM: That’s actually true in some cases but it’s certainly not the average. What was the average return on investment for a home improvement project?

    CRAIG: Well, this year the average return for having a professional do the project was 64.2 percent. Or for every dollar you spend, you get added value of 64 cents on the dollar. But it really varies dramatically. The best payoff was for putting fiberglass insulation into your attic. You could get a $1.17 back for every dollar you put in.

    TOM: So better than 100 percent on that.

    CRAIG: Absolutely. And in something like, oh, about 30 percent of all the projects in all the United States, you could get over 100 percent back. However, in other projects, you only get 50 or 60 percent back when you have a professional do the job.

    LESLIE: Now, what do you think – there obviously has to be projects that you can focus on that are going to give you the best return on investment, outside of insulation. So where would you start if you’re really trying to tackle a project where you’re looking for the best ROI?

    CRAIG: The best ROI, right now, involves projects on the exterior of the house, because curb appeal is very, very popular. For example, the second most popular cost-versus-value return was for putting stone veneer on the outside of your house. That gives you about a 93-percent return.

    Others involve replacing garage doors, replacing entry doors. One of the things we did not notice this year is that bigger projects tended to have a higher increase in their cost-value return than in past years. And we think that’s just representative of the fact that housing prices, in general, are going up. So you can do a better job.

    TOM: Yeah, confidence seems to be higher, so folks are more willing now to invest in those bigger projects. And as a result, they’re getting a better return on them. For many years, people were sort of picking very carefully the projects that they tackled. They weren’t willing to put too much money into it in the event that the economy still wasn’t settled.

    CRAIG: That’s true. And this is an indication to us that things are a little better. The fact that the attic-insulation number was so high – and this was the first time we’ve ever done an energy project – suggests to us, too, that there is a value in the – perceived by the general public in doing things that can save you energy costs over the long run. So that’s another good sign for homes.

    TOM: You know what’s interesting about that project, Craig, is that’s one that totally is within the realm of the do-it-yourselfers. So, assuming that your estimations were made with the cost of a professional doing that job, if you did it yourself, boy, it’s got to be completely off the charts.

    CRAIG: I would say so. Blown-in insulation – well, the people who install blown-in insulation probably would disagree but it is possible, if it’s a relatively simple job for you to be able to do that yourself.

    You are bringing up a good point, though – is that all the projects that we list are projects in which the cost includes the price of hiring a professional remodeler to do the job. For certain jobs, you may want to try them yourself: attic insulation or maybe replacing a steel door. Other projects here – like doing a two-story addition or building a deck where you want it to be safer, adding a family room – well, those are the kinds of things that you’d probably want a pro to do for you anyway.

    TOM: Craig Webb is the editor-in-chief for Remodeling Magazine. They are the authors of the annual Cost Versus Value Report, an integral tool for determining which home improvement projects deliver the best return on investment.

    Craig, it’s an incredible service that you do the entire industry, putting this report out every single year.

    If you’d like to learn more, you can go to CostVSValue.com. That’s Cost – V-S – Value.com.

    Craig Webb, thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.

    CRAIG: I appreciate it. Thank you much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, we’ve got some inside info on the latest kitchen trend: mixed metals. We’re going to tell you why matchy-matchy finishes are on the way out, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT. You are going to get help with your home improvement questions and projects. And this hour we’re giving away the perfect prize for when you are done with your home improvement projects and you want to relax.

    We’ve got up for grabs a pair of Therapedic Memory Foam Slippers and they’ve got this pressure-relieving memory foam in them with ComfortGear technology. So you’re going to get the most heel and arch and toe support, so your feet are going to be all cozied up and feeling so good after being on your feet working hard all day.

    If you want to check them out, head to www.Therapedic.com. The pair of slippers is worth 20 bucks but one lucky caller, whose name is drawn out of The Money Pit hard hat at random, is going to win them for free.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Make that you. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Rosemary on the line who’s got some sort of mystery smell going on at her money pit. What’s going on?

    ROSEMARY: Well, about a little over a year now, we’ve been noticing a smell that just wafts in through to nowhere, I don’t know. Might come up from the basement; we don’t know. It’s out in our family room and kind of stays that way, which is attached – I mean it’s directly over the – next to the kitchen, et cetera.

    It smells a little bit like burning rubber but it’s a very short-lived scent. And it comes and it goes quite rapidly. And we can just, all of a sudden – “Whoop, there it is.”

    TOM: What kind of a heating system do you have, Rosemary?

    ROSEMARY: We have natural gas, forced air.

    TOM: How old is the furnace?

    ROSEMARY: Oh, boy. I’d say 12 to 15 years.

    TOM: Twelve to fifteen? That’s not terribly old. And you have a natural-gas dryer, as well?

    ROSEMARY: No, I have an electric dryer.

    TOM: Electric dryer? OK. Is the dryer anywhere near where the smells are originating?

    ROSEMARY: No. Uh-uh. When we added on the family room, we added on a laundry room, which is on the other side from when we’re – where we’re smelling it.

    TOM: So, when you say sort of a burnt-rubber smell, I think of what appliances in the house might cause that, one of which is the dryer because – or the washer, frankly. Because those are somewhat belt-driven and if the bearings go bad, the belts can disintegrate and it can cause that smell to waft through the house.

    Also, the blower unit on the heating system, if that’s potentially going bad that could cause a burnt-rubber smell, which would be circulated through the house via the heating-and-air-conditioning duct systems.

    So those would be the first two things that I might think about.

    ROSEMARY: We’ve got – the washer and dryer are only two years old and they’re in the other …

    TOM: Yeah, I had a washer bearing go on a drum where it was about four-and-a-half years old and I was not happy about it. But unfortunately, it is possible and it’s not obvious until it completely fails. You know, by the time I took that washer apart when it completely failed, it was obvious it was going on for a long time. There were all sorts of shredded pieces of rubber belts, not only in the cabinet itself but the smoke had sort of come out of the cabinet and stained the wall.

    ROSEMARY: Oh, my.

    TOM: So, that possibly can happen. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on here but I would take a look at that plus your blower for your furnace. Have you had the system serviced yet for the summer, for the air conditioning?

    ROSEMARY: No, we haven’t.

    TOM: Next time you have a serviceman come in the house, have him check the blower unit very carefully to see if it’s possible that any of this odor is coming from there.


    TOM: OK. He can manually operate it and check the bearings to see if they’re in good condition or not.

    ROSEMARY: Yeah, OK.

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

    Well, if you’re thinking about an updated look for your kitchen, mixed metals is a trend you might want to consider. It’s a really modern look that is much different than that sort of matchy-matchy style of the past. It really steps it up and is a very, very attractive way to go.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Maybe you’ve heard the design rule that finishes of your appliances should match the finishes of your plumbing fixtures, your hardware and your lighting but not anymore.

    TOM: Yeah. The mixed metal trend really adds a layer of interest and dimension to a room, so we’re talking about combining silver and gold or chrome and brass or adding oil-rubbed bronze to existing fixtures. And these are going to really make your kitchen look livelier.

    LESLIE: Seriously. I mix and match finishes as far as jewelry goes. When I’m wearing, I have silver and gold bracelets all mixed up together. So there’s really no reason why this trend doesn’t apply to your kitchen and other parts of your house. You can do this anywhere with any sort of design finishes, from lamps and side pieces, mirror frames. All of that can mix and match.

    So if you’re wondering if this is going to work for your home, the good news is this look can be a universal trend. And it works with so many color palettes and all different styles and types of homes. So you don’t have to worry if you’ve got a transitional, rustic, even contemporary. All of those home styles can benefit from this mixed metal-finish trend.

    If you want, check out my latest blog and you’ll learn more there.

    TOM: It’s on the home page at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Don in Illinois is on the line with a foundation question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    DON: Yes. I’ve got an old farmhouse. They started building it back in the 1800s and the foundation is red brick on a crawlspace. And it’s sinking in one area real bad. And I had a guy tell me that I – because I can’t dig a footing tier because there’s an old system back here, also. He said that I could pour a large pad, go underneath the house and come out and make it like a sidewalk along the edge of the house and then pour – actually pour – the wall up as high as I could and then possibly either put, as a last row, a block in. Is that possible to do something like that?

    TOM: Maybe, maybe not. You’re talking about a major structural piece of work here, Don. And the problem with this is – I’m going to presume you’re not a licensed structural engineer. If you start doing this kind of work on your own and then sometime in the future you want to sell this house and you’ve not had the right kind of professionals involved in this kind of a major repair, that’s going to be a huge red flag. That could make it very difficult for you to sell the house.

    I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector, Don. And when I saw houses like this that had these kind of issues, I always recommended that the homeowner spend a little bit of money to have an engineer look at it and design a specific repair for that situation. Because this way, when you go to sell the house and if it becomes an issue, you can show that you had a professional review it and tell you exactly what to do and then you took action on that. And you can even have them come back and sort of certify that it was done right. Then you end up having sort of a pedigree on the quality of that repair, because this is not something to do yourself and get wrong. You could make it worse and you can devalue your house in a very major way.

    DON: That’s what I was kind of wondering. It sounded kind of farfetched to me, in a way, and I was just like, “Well, I’ve been listening to you guys. I’m going to give it a shot, give you a call and see what you guys have got to say.”

    TOM: Yeah. We’re glad you did and now we’ll get you on the road to recovery, OK?

    DON: OK. I know a couple engineers. I’ll see if I can get one out here. I appreciate the information.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, one spring-cleaning tool that you want to add to your arsenal is a great vacuum cleaner. If you’re not sure what you should be looking for, we’re going to give you some advice on picking the right vacuum, after this.

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Let’s drop into the e-mail bag. We’ve got a question here from Tyler who says, “Is there a do-it-yourself solution for getting rid of ants or do I need an exterminator?”

    Well, Tyler, that’s a question I got from my son this week, who is enjoying a new apartment in the Midwest. He had an ant problem, so I’ll tell you what I told him. And that is that there are some things that you can try yourself, like Borax. It’s a good insecticide for ants. You can leave Borax around where they seem to be coming through, see if it has an effect. If you’re looking for perhaps a commercial but slightly less toxic solution, TERRO makes some good over-the-counter ant-bait products.

    And if that doesn’t work and you need to turn to a pro, I wouldn’t be too concerned about that, in terms of toxicity, because today the insecticides are very, very specific. They’re aimed at just the insect that they’re designed to control. And if you have a pro apply it, it can be done properly and with good practice so there will be no spillage, no contamination outside of that.

    Now, in his case, he actually lives in an apartment complex, so I’m sure they have a contract with a pest-management professional that could handle that. In your case, I would certainly try the DIY options first. But if they still persist, then it would be time to pick up the phone and call a pro.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got a post here from Janice who writes: “I’m interested in getting a whole-house surge protector that can help me avoid blackouts. What do I need to know beforehand?”

    TOM: Well, it’s not a project that you can do yourself, because surge protectors for whole-house systems have to be installed, typically, inside the main electrical panel. So what you need to know is to call a reliable electrician and have them do it for you. It’s not a bad idea, because it’s going to protect you against a power-equipment failure outside, like a bad transformer or other event that could cause a surge of electricity through the system, which could certainly damage some of your finer electronics.

    So, not DIY. Get a pro and get it done right.

    LESLIE: And you know what? Consider a standby generator if you really want to avoid blackouts.

    TOM: Well, if your house, like mine, has been closed up and gathering dust all winter, it is high time for spring cleaning. Leslie has got some ideas on how to pick the right vacuum cleaner to help get that project done, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, guys, a vacuum, it’s not going to be the most glamorous thing that you buy but the right vacuum cleaner is sure going to make your life a lot easier. And then your home will be more glamorous. So let’s look at it that way.

    Now, first, you’ve got to consider the type of vacuum. If you have wall-to-wall carpets – and I know a lot of people do because I’m always looking online at houses for sale and surprised at how many people still have wall-to-wall carpet. So if you’ve got that, an upright is going to do the trick best for you. Now, a canister vacuum is better for a variety of types of flooring in your house but they can be tougher to lug around and some of them are actually quite heavy.

    You also want to consider saying no to some of the attachment options because they’re going to run up the price. And quite frankly, you’re not going to use them. Example: don’t pay for a drapery attachment if you only have blinds.

    Also, learn about filtration systems on a vacuum. Now, the level of filtration varies from zero, which you would use a bag to collect your dirt, to very sophisticated systems that will filter out things like pollen and tiny particles. A bag might be all you need at your house. Now, units with filtration systems tend to cost more but they are great at reducing allergens inside your home.

    So like anything else, do your homework first. Maybe buy them from a retailer where if you don’t like it, you can return it after. Because, truly, a vacuum is like a love/hate thing. You’re either going to love your vacuum or you’re going to think it’s the worst thing ever. So if vacuuming is already a chore, why not make it one that you’re going to enjoy and be really happy with the results?

    TOM: Great advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this spring weekend with us. Yes, it’s time to get to work, so we’ll let you get to it. But remember, if you’ve got questions, you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-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.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2016 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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