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Home Improvement Tax Tips, Steps to Simplify Floor Refinishing, Kitchen Redesign Ideas

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects which, this week, might be cleaning up from last weekend and all of the fun and festivities that happened at your house and getting set for the new year ahead. If you’ve got a home improvement question, a home décor question, perhaps a home cleaning question because one of those guests just dropped something where they shouldn’t have, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And as the year rolls to a close, it’s also a good time to take a good look at your finances. We’re talking about your home improvement finances, that is, because some projects that you tackled this year could be tax-deductible. We’re going to review a list of those items to help you save some money that you can add to next year’s how-to budget, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, we’ve got some tips to help restore your hardwood floors. Now, if you’ve not had your floors refinished for a while, they might be in need of some attention and maybe more than just some attention. We’re going to share some tips to simplify that project, coming up.

    TOM: And also ahead, if all the holiday cooking and cleaning in your kitchen made you realize that it’s ready to be revamped, we’ve got some advice on kitchen design that will make life a lot easier on you and your aching back.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a set of Lutron Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switches.

    TOM: They’re very convenient. They help save energy, too. So, give us a call right now. Let’s get started. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Larry in Ohio is on the line with a heating question. How can we help you?

    LARRY: Yes. I’ve got a house – it’s 6,000 square foot – and they divided the utilities up into two separate houses. And right now, I have a hot-water tank that we use all the time and we have a hot-water tank, that sits on the side that the kitchen is on, that is only used for the dishwasher.

    And I’m wondering, would I be better off to get me a tankless hot-water tank or just deal with the electric? I’ve got an electric, 50-gallon one. I don’t know which one would be more cost-efficient.

    TOM: So, the only thing that you’re using that water heater for, on that side of the house, is the dishwasher? And that’s a 50-gallon water heater?

    LARRY: Yes.

    TOM: Wow.

    LARRY: But like I say, this house was actually set up to be a bed and breakfast.

    TOM: If the only thing that water heater is serving is the dishwasher and there’s no way to get that dishwasher fed off of the other water heater, you just need a very small water heater for that dishwasher and I mean like a 20-gallon electric or something like that. Really small. Because there’s really not much water that it needs to heat and it would be foolish to have it heating, you know, 50 gallons, 40 gallons of water 24-7 when you really don’t need it except to wash dishes and, I presume, to run the kitchen sink.

    So a very small electric water heater, perhaps even on a timer so that it only kicks on maybe in the evening hours when you’re using that dishwasher, would be the smart thing to do there and the least expensive way to both install the new water heater and to run the new water heater. OK?

    LARRY: OK. Actually, there’s two bathrooms that are also hooked to this but it’s just the idea right now – we’re not using it. We’ve got two bathrooms on the other side of the house, too.

    TOM: OK. Well, that’s different. That’s different. If you have two bathrooms – full bathrooms?

    LARRY: Yes. Full bathrooms.

    TOM: Well, then, OK, so that’s different. If there’s a full – two full bathrooms – I’d asked you if it was just the dishwasher and you said, “Yes.” But if it’s two full bathrooms on it, then you do need a larger water heater. And again, I would probably recommend – if you’re not using it that often, I’d probably recommend an electric water heater, in that situation, on a timer.

    LARRY: OK.

    TOM: But you’ll probably need more like a 40-gallon.

    LARRY: Actually, on the tankless ones, I’ve noticed the different amount of water per minute.

    TOM: Yeah, well – but you – do you have gas? Do you have natural gas?

    LARRY: I’ve got propane.

    TOM: You have propane? Well, you could use a tankless water heater. The installation cost will be a lot higher. It does deliver you 24-7 endless supplies of hot water. Except in that side of the house, again, you’re not really using those bathrooms that much, so that’s not as big of a concern to you.

    That’s why I’m suggesting a minimum, inexpensive electric water heater for that. At least you’ll maintain your home value. Because if you didn’t have adequate – an adequate water heater to supply those two bathrooms plus the dishwasher, your home value would suffer. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you put in a $1,500 tankless, because I just don’t think it’s going to be cost effective for you.

    LARRY: OK. That was my big question right there: would it be cost-effective (ph)?

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Cynthia from South Dakota on the line who’s got a question about a firewall. Tell us what you’re working on.

    CYNTHIA: I have an old house and I’ve been ripping out the plaster walls. And I found, along this one wall – see, the whole entire house is this pretty durable and tough plaster-board stuff. And I was wondering if that is a firewall, because that seems to be where all the cold-air returns and stuff are and if I should or should not rip it out. And if I do rip it out, is there a certain kind of drywall that I should use there?

    TOM: Where is this wall located exactly?

    CYNTHIA: It could have been on the outside of the house at one point but it’s (audio gap) under the furnace.

    TOM: Well, first of all, the only place that you typically would have a firewall – in other words, a fire-rated wall with a certain rating – is between the garage and the house. All the other walls and ceilings inside the homes are – usually have traditional, ½-inch drywall. If it’s an exterior – an interior/exterior wall – an inside surface of an exterior wall, like a garage wall, then you would use a 5/8-inch-thick, fire-rated drywall. But all of the other places in the house, you’d have regular plaster board – I’m sorry, regular drywall.

    CYNTHIA: OK. Have you ever seen this plaster board before?

    TOM: Well, sure. Now, how old is the house?

    CYNTHIA: I believe it was built in 1896?

    TOM: See, there’s different stages of wall construction. In 1896, you would have had something called “wood lath,” so there would be wood strips on the wall and then plaster put on top of that.

    CYNTHIA: Yep. That’s on most of the walls. But this one particular wall – which could have been an outside wall at one point; I’m not sure exactly – it’s like in 2-foot strips.

    TOM: Yeah, OK. So that’s a later addition. And what they did with that is when they stopped using wood lath, they started using rock lath or – you would think of sheetrock in those 2-foot-wide strips? They put that on and then covered that with wet plaster. So that’s just a more modern version of the way walls were constructed. So it went from wood lath to rock lath to sheetrock. That’s, essentially, the progression of wall construction over, roughly, the last hundred years.

    CYNTHIA: OK. Well, thank you.

    TOM: A little lesson on building history. Hope that clears it up for you.

    CYNTHIA: Yeah. Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright. 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.

    We hope you’re enjoying your holiday season, gearing up for the new year, as well. If you’ve got a project you’re working on to make your home that much better for 2014, give us a call. We’re here to lend at hand at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, you may work in your kitchen but does that kitchen design work for you? We’re going to have tips on changes that can take some of the work out of your chores, when The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues, after this.

    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. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Welcome back to this hour of the program. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we hear from you, we’ll answer your home improvement question and we might just help save you a lot on your lighting bill.

    One caller we talk to is going to win a set of occupancy-sensing switches by Lutron. These sense when someone has walked into the room and switch the light on when that happens. And they switch it off, most importantly, when the room is empty. So no more asking your kids, “Who left the lights on?” You can see all of Lutron’s great, green home improvement products at LutronSensors.com.

    Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question, your home décor question, your home maintenance question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Brian in Kentucky is on the line and working on a Tudor, which is my favorite kind of home. What can we help you with?

    BRIAN: I have bought an old, 1979, English Tudor home. It’s about 2,700 square feet. And it’s down in Seymour, Tennessee. And it has got brick on the first floor and the upper floor has the English Tudor style but it’s been made out of plywood. And it looks like it’s textured plywood with raised 1×2-inch strips on it.

    The house has never been touched and it’s a good money pit. I’m going to be taking the stripping off of it and I’m going to be probably caulking between the joints of the plywood and replacing whatever existing plywood is rotted with OVC marine board and then siliconing everything.

    I’m going to – I want to put stucco or Dryvit over top of that existing plywood. And I’m leaning towards the Dryvit because of the Styrofoam, which will be an insulation factor. But I don’t know the pros and cons of original stucco or the Dryvit and the cost factor.

    TOM: Alright. First of all, I’m very familiar with the design house you have and yes, it’s attractive. Unfortunately, it’s really bad in terms of weather-resistance because, usually, they use – well, what they’ll use for the what you’re calling the “plywood siding” is a composite type of material that looks a little bit like – supposed to look a little bit like concrete or look like stucco but it’s not.

    BRIAN: Exactly.

    TOM: And it’s a composite siding that really does not stand up very well. And if it’s not been touched since 1979, then it probably all needs to be replaced.

    BRIAN: OK.

    TOM: If you’re trying to decide between using real stucco – or it’s actually called Dryvit and it’s a brand name for EIFS, which is exterior insulated foam siding – E-I-F-S. I would tell you that you should stay away – stay away – from the foam siding. All you need to do is Google-search that stuff and you’re going to find huge problems. There’s been a lot of complaints over the years and as a friend of mine once said to me, who’s a structural engineer – he said, “That product was leaking on the drawing board and it hasn’t stopped since.”

    BRIAN: OK.

    TOM: Now, they made a lot of changes to it and some people said they’re happy with it. If you live in a wet climate, I wouldn’t use it. If you live – I think it’s good on commercial buildings and masonry buildings because they don’t have the decay factors. But I would absolutely stay away from the exterior insulated foam siding for a residential home.

    I think you’re going to end up, Brian, taking all of that plywood off and then you’re going to have to decide what you want to replace it with. If you’re going to go with real masonry siding – real masonry stucco – I think that’s a wise choice. I think that’s a choice that will last a lifetime and give your house a proper English Tudor.

    You know, English Tudors last forever because they’re built to last forever. But when we make the fake English Tudors with the composite siding and the furring strips, you’re lucky that it lasted the 30-plus years that it has.

    BRIAN: Yeah. Would you go with the marine board, like I was talking about, and then put the Tyvek around that or the tar paper or …?

    TOM: Well, what you’re going to end up doing is you’re going to have a plywood sheathing. So you’re going to take everything off, examine the interior, make sure there’s no rot in the studs. You’re going to add a plywood sheathing, you’re going to add building paper, you’re going to add metal – woven metal wire – and you’re going to put the stucco right on top of that.

    Of course, I mean, really, your mason is going to do this but that’s, essentially, the process.

    BRIAN: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

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

    LESLIE: Well, with all the time we’ve spent in the kitchen this holiday season, have you ever noticed that your kitchen-sink area is a source of stress? And I’m not just talking about the stress that you get when your kids are arguing about whose turn it is to do the dishes. It always seems like it’s the other one’s turn, so why is it always my turn? I don’t understand it.

    No, I’m talking about the design. For example, if you’ve got a sink that’s deeper than 6½ inches or if your faucet is located at the back of the sink, you might be noticing that you’re bending over a little bit further than you should be and maybe your back is aching. So you can actually say, “Hey, these dishes are a pain in my back,” even though I wanted to say something else.

    TOM: Yeah. The simple solution to that is to move your faucets to the side of the sink, which is not a terribly complicated plumbing project. Or even better yet, you can switch to a faucet with a built-in, pull-down sprayer, which you can move wherever you want to.

    Those pull-down sprayer faucets are really fantastic. You simply grab the sprayer head at the tip of the faucet, pull it down and clean your dishes and then snap it back up there when you’re done. You really don’t have to reach towards the back to grab it and have a hose that’s difficult to work with; they’re very, very flexible. And they have great capabilities of offering you different types of water streams to really help with the cleaning.

    Now, speaking of bad backs, has this ever happened to you in a kitchen? You’re lugging a big pot full of water from the sink to the stove? Water is heavy. So the solution there is to treat yourself and install what’s called a pot-filler faucet at the stove. It’s a brilliant idea that you wonder how you went all those years without once it is up and running.

    So there you have it: some tips to ease the stress of working in your kitchen, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Sue in Ohio needs some help cleaning a carpet. Tell us what’s going on.

    SUE: I have a concrete sun-porch slab that has – had been covered with black carpet. And it’s – we had a very muggy summer this year and green mold started to grow on it. And though I tried washing it off and rinsing it off – and it just won’t take care of it. And I know that you had helped other people with mold problems with 10-percent bleach. But I wouldn’t dare put bleach on that black carpet and I wondered if there’s something else that will kill that mold.

    TOM: Well, how do we know it’s mold? It sounds like algae.

    SUE: Could it be?

    TOM: It could be, yeah. What I would do is I would simply – if the carpet’s that dirty, I would simply go out and rent a steam cleaner – rent a carpet cleaner. Those carpet cleaners are pretty darn effective. I rented one myself at The Home Depot just a few weeks ago for a couple of rooms in an apartment that we own that was getting a new tenant. And I’m always astounded with what a phenomenal job those steam cleaners do on what looks like carpet that has to be torn out.

    But when you steam-clean it with the right materials, use the chemicals that come with the machine, it does a really good job. You’ve just got to take your time. Usually have to go over it a couple of times and it takes a little bit of work but it really does a great job. So I wouldn’t try to do this any other way.

    The way the steam cleaners work is water is injected into the carpet and then almost at the same time, a very strong vacuum pulls that water back out with the dirt and debris attached to it.

    SUE: Oh. So the steam kills the algae.

    TOM: Yes. It’ll clean it. And then if you dry it really well after that, it should stop it from coming back.

    SUE: OK. OK. Well, that’ll help me, yeah.

    TOM: Alright? And that won’t damage the color.

    SUE: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us.

    LESLIE: John in Michigan is on the line and is having an HVAC issue. What’s going on at your money pit?

    JOHN: Well, I’ve got a house I just bought recently and it’s on a (inaudible at 0:16:50) ranch on ­- with crawlspace. No basement.

    TOM: OK.

    JOHN: And my heating ducts are in the ceiling and the return is on the outside walls. But it’s not ducked (ph) back to the furnace and the crawlspace is just all open down there; there’s no ducking (ph).

    TOM: Does the return duct run, also, through the attic, John?

    JOHN: Yes. So the heat’s in the attic.

    TOM: Alright. So what’s your question?

    JOHN: Should it be ducked (ph) back to the furnace for the return?

    TOM: What you’re telling me is that the duct system goes through the attic, the furnace is located in the garage. And when you pull the vent – the filter – off of the furnace, there seems to be no return connected to it whatsoever? Is that correct?

    JOHN: That is correct.

    TOM: That’s a problem, OK? Because the way an HVAC system works is it doesn’t heat the air up all at once; it recycles the air. And it gets warmer every time it goes through or in the summer, it gets cooler every time it goes through. So, you definitely have an incomplete HVAC system and you need to have a real HVAC professional come in and evaluate it and figure out the best way to get you a return system in that house.

    JOHN: OK. That’s what I wanted to know.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, hardwood floors are a very popular option in flooring. But repairing them doesn’t have to be hard. We’re going to get tips from This Old House General Contractor Tom Silva, next.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and look, if you think I’ve got it dirty, listen to Tom. He works in a pit. Well, it’s a money pit but you get the idea. It’s still filthy.

    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 it’s time for The Money Pit’s Santa’s Home Improvement Facebook Sweepstakes. We have got three fantastic prizes up for grabs on our Facebook page, at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. You can win a Whirlpool, 26-cubic-feet, French-door refrigerator worth $2,299, an Amsden electric fireplace from Dimplex or even a stylish towel warmer from Mr. Steam’s Fifth Avenue Collection.

    LESLIE: And because we are in a giving mood, if you share your entry on Facebook, you are going to get five bonus entries which will, of course, increase your chances of winning, which is – I love to help you guys out. So check out our Santa’s Home Improvement Sweepstakes, right now, at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. Good luck, you guys.

    TOM: And give us a call with your home improvement question, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’ve got hardwood floors, you know they look great, they add a warm feel and they definitely add value to your home. But over time, however, the daily wear and tear can really take a toll on the floor.

    TOM: Well, the good news is that there are many techniques that you can use to maintain the beauty of your hardwood floors for many years to come. Here to go over some of those is Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tom.

    TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: And old, wood floors, they are beautiful but they do need some maintenance. So why don’t we start by talking about just sort of normal wear and tear and scratches? Any tricks of the trade to get rid of those?

    TOM SILVA: Well, normal wear and tear on a hardwood floor is usually in the area that is used the most: the high-use areas like, for example, an entryway, in front of the kitchen sink.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: If you have hardwood floors, when you turn your feet and when you walk a lot, there’s grit on the bottom of your shoes. It’s like sandpaper. It’s going to wear it out.

    TOM: So you’re walking sandpaper, basically.

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely, absolutely. So I always tell people, “The smartest thing that you can do is put a finish on that floor before it needs a finish.”

    TOM: Yep.

    TOM SILVA: And the way you’re going to do that is you basically don’t sand it; you screen it. And you screen it with, basically, a giant buffer. And on the bottom of that, it sands off the top layer of grit.

    TOM: OK. So the buffer is sort of like a giant floor buffer that you might see in a mall or something like that, right?

    TOM SILVA: Right.

    TOM: But instead of the buffing, there’s actually a sanding screen that fits there?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, it’s a screen. It’s just an open wide – you don’t want to use sandpaper. You’re just going to skim off that grit and you’re going to make the top layer coarse enough that it will allow the new finish to adhere to it.

    TOM: Urethane, right.

    TOM SILVA: And then you could put two coats of that on it. Makes a big difference.

    The other trick to hardwood flooring is when you’re finishing a hardwood floor, if you like the wet look, the high-gloss, that’s a great look. It’s wet, it shows all the imperfections but that’s the hardest finish that you can get and that’s the longest-lasting finish that you can get.

    TOM: Oh, I didn’t know that. So high-gloss basically gives you more durability? Is that right?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. But if you don’t like that look and you like the semi-gloss or the flat, the first thing that we do, no matter what – if you were a homeowner and I was coming in and putting a floor in your house and you don’t like the wet look, guess what? You’re getting the wet look the first two coats.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: The highest gloss that I can get, we’re using. And then, that last coat or that last two coats are going to get the finish that you want. Now, when your floor starts to wear from you turning and walking and kids running through it and all that, it gets into that high-gloss finish. But because it’s getting into that high-gloss finish, you’re dulling it with that sandy grit.

    TOM: As you go.

    TOM SILVA: As you go. So you never notice it.

    LESLIE: So as you expose those layers of that higher-gloss finish, it’s already been worn.

    TOM SILVA: Right, right. Right.

    LESLIE: So it matches your desired look.

    TOM SILVA: And the finish on your floor will last a lot longer. So that’s why you want to use a high-gloss.

    TOM: Great trick.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: Now, what if you, say, pull your refrigerator out or do something like that and get a nice, clean scratch in that floor?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. I hate that.

    TOM: Don’t ask me how I know that.

    LESLIE: A good gouge.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, that’s …

    TOM: But it – that actually did happen to me once. We were moving a refrigerator over a floor – and not in my house; I didn’t care as much. No, no, only kidding. My friends are listening right now.

    How do you actually go about fixing just a single scratch where you’re not going to redo the whole floor?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. A scratch can be tricky. I mean it depends on how deep it is. If it’s deep, you’re in trouble. If it’s a light scratch, then you can basically, again, sand the finish and then try to blend it back in.

    You want to clean it really well. Clean it with some mineral spirits or let it dry. It has to be dry once you’re ready. And then, I like to use basically a spray-on finish because I can blend it better. But lots of times, I will take a piece of – a thing you clean your ear with?

    TOM AND LESLIE: Oh, Q-tips?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, there it is. Take some of the urethane out of a can and dip it into that with a Q-tip and run it across the scratch.

    TOM: Almost use the urethane as a filler, right?

    TOM SILVA: You’re going to use it as a filler. Then you’ve got to let it dry and then you’re going to buff it flat. And then you’re going to spray it with a finish because you can blend it. You’re going to spray the way you’re not supposed to spray, like in an arch.

    LESLIE: You want that overspray.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly.

    TOM: So you can just use the urethane that comes in a can, like a spray can like spray paint, right?

    TOM SILVA: Yep. And then it comes in the finishes that you like, if it’s a high-gloss, a semi-gloss or a flat.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And that’s what you want to use.

    LESLIE: And that’s really the best step for something on the smaller side. What if you’ve taken out, you know, a cast-iron radiator or you’ve got a really good-sized, damaged area on the floor?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you know what? You have to know what your finish is. If it’s a urethane finish that most people use today, it’s actually harder to patch than if it was the old varnish finish. Because varnish is actually easier to patch.

    But the real trick is trying to match the colors. Because as it ages, no matter …

    LESLIE: Color changes.

    TOM SILVA: The color changes. Sometimes, you have to stain the floor a little bit, add a little color to the floor before you put the finish on.

    Again, the trick is: how do you blend it? Because the urethane is like a plastic and it creates a little bit of a ridge. So, you can brush it on in the main parts and then thin it out with a spray. I go wet onto dry. So when I – if a brush an area, I stay back a little bit and then I blend it with the spray can into the floor. And that lays flat that way. It’s tricky.

    TOM: It’s really artistry. I mean you don’t really think about it but it really is.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: Getting those finishes to match really involves getting all of the steps in the right order and getting it to lay in right. When we first moved into our house, there were some holes in the floor that I think may have been from an original floor furnace. So literally had to sort of replace the flooring in that area. Old house, Douglas fir – clear Douglas-fir flooring which, of course, you can’t find in a lumber yard.

    TOM SILVA: It’s very expensive.

    TOM: You’ve got to buy it and basically mill it yourself to match. And then, of course, the color is dramatically different.

    TOM SILVA: They’d be different today.

    TOM: Now, in our case, we put it in without staining. I wish I’d known that trick back then. Because it took about a year for it to fade into the color of the other floor, which is another option, as well.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: But you’ve really got to think about those – that whole process when you tackle this. So if you’re going to replace a board because of a radiator or you’re just going to do a minor repair, that coloration is really critical, correct?

    TOM SILVA: Right. Exactly. We did a radiator story on Ask This Old House where it had – the radiator had leaked and the floor was all damaged underneath. And I showed how to patch the floor. But then I tried to match the finish and it was difficult. I actually had to take two or three different stains and mix the stains together to get the color of the floor that I was matching that didn’t even have a stain on it. But it was the same species of wood, because it was so old.

    TOM: Great advice. Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and really helping us dig in on this process of maintaining and repairing our hardwood floors.

    TOM SILVA: As always, it’s nice to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are presented by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Still ahead, we’ve got end-of-the-year home improvement tax tips to help cut costs so you’ll have more money to put into your money pit next year. Yeah, we all know it’s a vicious cycle. The Money Pit continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we are taking your calls at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one lucky caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a set of Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switches from Lutron. Now, what’s really cool is that this switch will automatically sense when somebody is in the room and then turn the lights on or off so that you can actually start to see your lighting bill drop right before your eyes. It’s kind of awesome.

    TOM: And the cool thing about this is that it can sense the slightest movements, as well as body temperature. So, if you’re sitting still – say, maybe you’re reading, doing a little work on the computer – the lights won’t turn off on you while you’re doing that. You can see all of Lutron’s very green home products at LutronSensors.com. And give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    Well, as you get your paperwork in order for tax time, you want to make sure that you hang onto your receipts from all of the do-it-yourself projects that you may have tackled in 2013. There are many home improvements that could qualify for tax deductions or tax credits. If you did anything, especially to make your home more energy-efficient, the U.S. Government has got some deductions for you.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, keep in mind there are deductions or tax credits, which are available for the following home improvements. If you’ve taken out a home improvement loan, you might be able to get some points. If you’ve put in a wood or a pellet stove – have you done any upgrades to your heating, ventilating, air conditioning, your HVAC system? Did you add insulation? Even if it’s a small amount or just some auxiliary insulation in the attic, that might be enough to get you a little bit of a credit.

    Did you do a roofing project? Metal? Asphalt? Those have big bonuses. Upgrading your water heater, non-solar category. That’s really where you’re going to do well. And even your windows and doors. You don’t have to do all of the house to find an upgrade here. You just do a couple on the side that tends to be the coolest or the shadiest and you’ll see a big increase in your heat efficiency. But you might also be able to get a tax credit there.

    So keep in mind, ask your accounting professional, save your receipts. Think creatively here about what you’ve done in your home. You’ll have to prove it, so make sure you hold onto, if you’ve done your windows and doors, any Energy Star labels that you might have had on there. That’s really what you’re going to need to get this credit. And some of them are one-time only. So if you’ve done this in previous years, you might not qualify this year.

    But definitely ask your accounting professional for some advice so that you really can go in prepared this year.

    TOM: And then you can take all that money that you saved and add it to next year’s home improvement budget – 888-666-3974 – which, by the way, we will be happy to help you spend.

    LESLIE: Seriously. Because we know you’re going to.

    Alright. Now we’ve got Jackie in Colorado on the line who’s dealing with some issues from a sink drain. What’s going on? Stuff is only supposed to go down, right?

    JACKIE: Yeah, it’s supposed to. The only time I have trouble with it is when I use my washing machine. It’s connected to the same line as my sink. And the old-timers put it out in an open well. And so, the only time I have trouble with is when the washing machine drains, then it bubbles back into my sink. And then when the water finally goes out, I get this gray-water smell.

    TOM: So, you have a gray-water drain when you say it goes to a well. You don’t mean a drinking well; you mean a gray-water well.

    JACKIE: It’s just an old well that they dug and they used it to – as a drain. It’s not a septic tank.

    TOM: OK. So, yeah, it’s called a “gray-water drain.” And so, you’re getting odor back in. So the reason you’re getting odor is because you need an additional trap in the system. Before that line goes out to the “well,” that you’re calling it, there should be an additional trap.

    Now, the trap is a U-shaped pipe, the same that you might see under your sink. And the idea of the trap is it lets the water drain one way but stops the gases – the odor that you’re getting – from coming back in. And so, if they didn’t put a trap in that line, that’s why you’re getting the odor.

    The fact that you have the washing machine and the sink on the same line is not exactly legal but it’s also not unusual. And so, I’m not going to tell you to change that but you absolutely do need a trap in there. Otherwise, who knows what kind of gases you’re going to bring back in from the soil? And if you do that, that should solve that problem once and for all. OK, Jackie?

    JACKIE: OK. Alright. See if I can get that done then.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, mold. It can happen to anybody, even if you live in the desert of Nevada. We’re going to tackle that challenge, next.

    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: 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 as we are sort of bounding into the new year – I can’t even believe it: it’s 2014 in just a few days – do you want some ideas to help you create maybe a New Year’s resolution that you can actually keep more than just the first two days of January? Well, right now on our home page at MoneyPit.com, you can check out our gallery for ideas on New Year’s resolutions that you can make for your house.

    TOM: And while resolutions about losing weight or quitting bad habits can be hard to keep, we’re going to give you some ideas for resolutions that will save money and keep your home running right all year long. It’s online, on our home page, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can post a question in the Community section, just like Melissa in Nevada did who writes: “I live in a very dry climate but I’ve heard that even here, mold can be an issue. Can you explain why and tell me what I should be doing to prevent it in my house?”

    Yeah, Melissa, I really think that that is a concept that a lot of people just simply cannot wrap their heads around because you live in a state, like Nevada, that seems to be very, very dry or so you think. And it turns out you’re ending up with mold. Well, there’s actually a lot of studies that are confirming it that it’s not just those wet and damp climates that are the ones who are susceptible to mold. Get this: the states with the dry climates – like Nevada, where you are, and Arizona – are actually on the Top 10 list for mold risk. So, it’s a lot to sort of think about there.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, the drier climates are at risk for mold because they’re constantly hot. And think about Phoenix and Arizona. And if your house is continuously sealed off from the heat, your A/C is running non-stop. And if you add to that the cooking, the bathing, all of that adds to prime conditions for mold. You need moisture, you need air and you need a food source. And you’re going to have it, even in the drier climates.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, Tom is right: all of that is completely adding moisture to your home, which creates a prime environment for mold growth.

    But why is this important? Well, for a couple of reasons. It can impact your health negatively but, I think, on a broader scale, when it comes to homeowners insurance or property insurance, the insurance companies are kind of wising up to this whole mold situation and they’re excluding it from a lot of policies. So if you do end up with damages from mold, you might not have the right policy to cover what you might need to have replaced.

    TOM: Yeah. So the bottom line is that no matter where you live, dry climate or not, you ought to think about controlling the humidity: things like improving your gutters and grading around the house to keep water from collecting around that foundation. If you’ve got a basement, you want to make sure that it’s not damp and humid because that moisture will work its way up through the house.

    And if you want to add some technology to try to reduce mold in your house, you could add a whole-home dehumidifier to your HVAC system, which would work to measure the humidity and bring it down when it’s too high whenever that system is operating.

    Sometimes, you find mold in the least expected places. I remember several years ago, I was doing a mold inspection on a house for a TV show that we were working on.

    And I found mold, Leslie, in a portable air conditioner that was right above the baby’s crib. And as I lifted the cover off, I saw all the mold collecting right where the air blows out.

    So, you can’t be too careful. Be wise to mold. Keep your eyes peeled for it. Reduce the weather conditions that cause it. Reduce the moisture, reduce the humidity inside your house and stay safe.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Because we know that mold does lead – potentially, in some cases – to asthma. So we’ve got to stay on top of it. You’ve got to keep your health in check and you’ve got to keep your home moisture level in check, as well. Alright, guys?

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this last broadcast of 2013 with us. We are so pleased to have been able to help you with your home improvement project this past year. And the good work will continue as we move into the new year in just a few days.

    Happy New Year, everybody. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    Copyright 2013 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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