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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript


    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)


    (promo/theme song)

    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 now with your home improvement question. Call us now with your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call us now if you’ve ever tried to move into a house and ended up with nothing but a great story (inaudible at 0:00:46.0) because coming up this hour we’re going to talk about one of life’s most stressful experiences and that is, of course, moving. It can be very expensive and very annoying and, by the way, the Obamas are doing it – happily, I might add (Leslie chuckles) – right now; their big move into their new – brand new home.

    LESLIE: That’s a move you want to make.

    TOM: Absolutely. But for the rest of us, we’ve got some tips to help make that process a bit more bearable.

    LESLIE: And speaking of the Obamas, you know, the White House, it has been home to 43 first families over the years and as each family comes in they get to make all their own renovations to make it really a more personal experience for them in that humongo space. Well, what do you do if you’ve got a temporary living situation? How can you make it more personal? We’ve got a whole bunch of information to share with you to help you do just that.

    TOM: And while we’re on the presidential theme, we’ve got an interesting fact ahead about a former president who was actually ahead of his time when it comes to energy efficiency. Wondering who we’re talking about? Well, it was Abe Lincoln and let’s just say there’s a reason they’re called Lincoln logs. (Leslie chuckles) We’re going to come up – we’ll be telling you all about that in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And this hour we’ve got a great prize for you. We’re giving away a child safety kit from our friends over at CableOrganizer.com. It’s got everything you need to baby-proof your home and if, for some reason, it doesn’t show up at your house it’s because it went to mine. (laughs)

    TOM: Yes, because it’s been Leslie-tested. It’s worth 60 bucks, so call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to those calls.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Marie in New Jersey needs some help with a cleaning project. What can we do for you?

    MARIE: My children got over-rambunctious and they used a magic marker on a white oak kitchen table. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: Ah, and you don’t like the distressed look, huh?

    MARIE: Well, no.

    TOM: (chuckling) OK.

    LESLIE: The permanent artwork isn’t doing it for you.

    TOM: What – so the table is natural wood? It’s oak?

    MARIE: It’s natural wood and it’s really a white oak.

    TOM: OK. So we want to get that marker off and you know it’s called permanent marker for a reason, Marie.

    LESLIE: Yeah, exactly.

    MARIE: I know.

    TOM: But there is a solution. There’s a product called Goof Off which is very, very good. It’s a product that’s designed to clean off all sorts of things that stain surfaces, including …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and even sticky surfaces; sticky items as well.

    TOM: Yeah. Sticker residue, crayon, tar, markers, ink, lipstick, scuff marks, stuff like that. It’s available at, usually, a hardware store or a home center; Ace True Value; places like that.

    MARIE: Uh-huh.

    TOM: And it’s made by the Barr Company – W.M. Barr Company.

    MARIE: Yes.

    TOM: And it works very well. I’ve got some Goof Off here because I have three kids (Leslie and Marie chuckle) and it’s a necessary part of the household arsenal of home improvement products to keep everything nice and clean.

    MARIE: Right.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and you know what? Even when I was doing prop work for TV shows and you would never know; suddenly you would need a wine glass for a segment and the wine glass, of course, had the sticker on it that would never come off.

    MARIE: Right.

    LESLIE: The Goof Off was always in my kit and it really was a go-to for a lot of different uses. So I guarantee once you get it you’ll be cleaning a lot of things with it.

    MARIE: Now that product is called Goof Off.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. What your kids were doing. (Tom laughs)

    MARIE: (chuckling) I think Mommy wasn’t watching. (all laugh)

    TOM: Marie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Kenny in South Carolina has got a leaky roof. What can we do for you?

    KENNY: I’ve got a problem with the twirly-bird fans that sit on top of the roof.

    TOM: The twirly-bird fans.

    KENNY: And they seem to be leaking when either one of two things; either we have no wind whatsoever – which is almost never –

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    KENNY: – or when we have a really, really, really hard rain.

    TOM: OK. Is it your sense that the rain is blowing through the fan or is it a leak where the fan attaches to the roof?

    KENNY: It’s blowing through the fan.

    TOM: Through the fan. OK. Well, first of all, those spinny, fan types of vent devices don’t really work that well as a venting strategy. You’re almost better off not having them …

    KENNY: Wow. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: … and, instead, having something called a ridge-and-soffit-vent system, where the peak of the roof essentially becomes the vent.

    KENNY: Right.

    TOM: Those vents are just not that efficient at really doing what they’re supposed to do, which is to carry heat out of the roof in the summer and moisture out of the roof in the winter.

    LESLIE: Wait, and won’t those turbine vents not even work unless you have a soffit vent as well?

    TOM: Right, because they have to pull air from somewhere; otherwise they’re just going to exhaust in between themselves, so to speak, from one to the next. So if they’re giving you a hard time, I would suggest that you think about replacing them and go with either a plain square roof vent or, better yet, with a ridge vent.

    KENNY: Thanks, Tom; thanks, Leslie. I really appreciate this.

    TOM: You’ve very, very welcome, Kenny.

    LESLIE: Our pleasure.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to give you a hand with whatever you are working on. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week we’re here for you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, packing up your life and moving into a new home is tough. Add to it the potential of getting ripped off and you’ve got a very stressful project. Up next, we’re going to have some advice to help you avoid all of that.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional-feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi Power Tools. Pro features. Affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a child safety kit from CableOrganizer.com. It’s got everything you need to keep your kid safe from common household dangers. It’s worth almost 60 bucks. If you’d like to win it, pick up the phone. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: And it is true. Childproofing is a home improvement and if you’ve got any questions I am officially now an expert on it; being that Henry is at the point where he wants to open everything and then, of course, put everything in his mouth. So give us a call if you need a hand childproofing your house and give us a call if you need a hand childproofing a new house or you’re moving and you need some help just getting your entire move organized. And we know it is one of the most stressful experiences that you can go through; the big move. And you know, moving companies; they are one of the most complained-about businesses when it comes to scams. So here are a few tips to help you get through it. You want to start looking for your moving company at least six weeks before the big day and make sure you get three estimates. But beware of estimates that seem unusually low; those are usually way too good to be true.

    TOM: Also important to consider, a binding estimate as opposed to a nonbinding. Now, you have to pay a fee but it will prevent the movers from jacking up the cost after the fact. That is the worst possible situation you can find yourself in. All of your stuff is on the truck and the movers …

    LESLIE: Yeah, what are you going to do at that point?

    TOM: Yeah, the mover says to you, “We have this little matter of the overcharge” and if you don’t sign off they’ll just drive off with your stuff and it’s just really, really terrible. So avoid that situation completely. You always want to go for a binding estimate so that you know exactly what your expense is going to be. You also want to check with your homeowners insurance policy for any coverage it provides that will apply to the move.

    888-666-3974.    Let us help you move along your home improvement projects.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright, Mary in Delaware is thinking of taking on a stucco project. How can we help you with the job?

    MARY: I’ve got some stucco problems and I don’t know whether it’s good to have it done now or to wait until the spring.

    TOM: Well, what’s going on with the stucco?

    MARY: Well, it’s starting to peel off. It’s kind of in places down – like they were in back of bushes that I trimmed down and it’s come away from the cinder block.

    TOM: OK. Well, you know, in the wintertime, when you get a lot of moisture that gets behind the stucco and it freezes and sort of peels away or expands and chips off, that’s when you’re going to get the most damage. So you might want to wait until the spring or the summer or the early fall to do a project like that …

    MARY: Oh, OK.

    TOM: … because you’re going to get the best adhesion. You’ll have better, warmer, drier temperatures for application. The repair is going to depend on how big of a damaged area you have. If it’s just some small areas that need to be patched, you’re probably going to use an epoxy patching compound. If it’s a larger area, really big space, then you’re going to probably use more of a stucco product and not a patching compound and basically replace what’s there.

    MARY: OK.

    TOM: It’s really a job for someone that’s very handy or a professional.

    MARY: Oh, I already have someone in mind.

    TOM: Alright, well then I think maybe you want to put that project off til the spring. It’ll look great all summer long.

    LESLIE: Debbie in Indiana is having some issues with paint and siding. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    DEBBIE: Hi. We have an older, two-story home. It was built I think like in 1918 and there is siding on it; aluminum siding. But any time it rains, on the south side of our house the paint is peeling off.

    TOM: Over the – only the south side of the aluminum siding?

    DEBBIE: Yes.

    TOM: Alright, so here’s why that’s happening. On the south side of your house you have the most sun.


    TOM: More sun, more deterioration, more UV radiation, quicker deterioration of the paint surface. Apparently it’s gotten bad enough where the paint now is delaminated from the siding itself. This condition will continue to get worse over the next several years as the paint gets equally worn out on the other side.

    Now the good news is that you can repaint aluminum siding …


    TOM: … but you do have to strip the oldest stuff off first because you’ve got to have a good base to adhere to. And the single best way to paint that aluminum siding is not with a brush, not with a roller but …

    LESLIE: With a sprayer.

    TOM: … with a sprayer.


    TOM: You want to go out and rent a sprayer. You know, when …

    LESLIE: And it’s really fun, Debbie. (Debbie chuckles)

    TOM: It’s fun but when you use the sprayer you’ve got to do – spend a lot of time on the prep. So don’t forget to mask everything …

    DEBBIE: (overlapping voices) OK, and how do you take the paint off then?

    TOM: Well, you’re going to want to probably abrade that off. You’re probably going to want to sand it, wire brush it to get all the loose stuff off. You can leave some of it on if it’s well-adhered …


    TOM: … but if it’s loose that’s what you’ve got to get off.


    TOM: Remember, you’ve got to mask everything down, including the car and your kids. Alright? (Leslie chuckles) Because otherwise, they’re going to get covered when you whip out that sprayer.

    DEBBIE: (chuckling) Oh, right.

    LESLIE: And get yourself one of those little pink suits; like get that little white zip-up suit thing at the home center. You’ll be really happy you did.

    DEBBIE: OK, great.

    TOM: Right, and hang out a little sign that you’re a painter and you’ll get some work from your neighbors.

    DEBBIE: (laughing) OK, thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright, Debbie. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Chris in New York needs some help with a plumbing project. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    CHRIS: I have a second home in Florida and there seem to be problems with the copper piping down there.

    TOM: OK, what’s going on with the pipes?

    CHRIS: They’re springing a small leak. I haven’t had a major problem. I had one small leak and they gave me a plastic pipe to sit it over …

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: … on the cold side. But then I went and asked some contractors about replacing all the pipes in the house. And I just wondered if this hot water side. I know …

    TOM: Chris, are you talking about pinhole leaks that form inside the pipe?

    CHRIS: Yes, that’s it. Pinhole leaks. Right, exactly.

    TOM: OK, well that happens when certain types of water that’s fairly acidic reacts with the copper and causes these pinhole leaks. If it’s just happened once with one hole I mean I wouldn’t go crazy and replace all the pipes in the house. If it starts to happen more and more often, then maybe you want to go there but, for right now, if you’ve just got one or two pinhole leaks I wouldn’t panic.

    CHRIS: OK, thank …

    TOM: There are probably better places to put those home improvement dollars.

    CHRIS: Windows. (chuckles)

    TOM: Yeah, well there you go. That’s right.

    CHRIS: Oh, thanks again. Thanks, Tom, for the advice.

    TOM: That’s what we do. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    JENNIFER: Well, I have oil-based paint in my entire kitchen …

    TOM: OK.

    JENNIFER: … and I hate the color. I just barely moved in. I hate the color. I don’t like the shine. It’s like fully glaring in my kitchen. And I don’t …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) But it’s probably easy to clean.

    JENNIFER: It is easy to clean but I don’t – I don’t want to sand the whole thing. I’ve heard you have to sand it to paint over oil-base. Is that true?

    TOM: Well, you have to certainly clean it. You’ll want to get any type of debris that’s on that surface off. It is a good idea to go lightly over it with sandpaper. But what I would do, as the most important step, Jennifer, is I would apply an oil-based primer on top of that. Applying an oil-based primer is going to give you maximum adhesion to whatever is underneath it and that’s very, very critical. Once you have the oil-based primer over the old surface then you can put latex paint right over that – any color that you wish – and you know it’s going to seal well, it’s going to stick well and it’s going to flow nicely and it’ll be great.

    JENNIFER: Nice. OK.

    TOM: Alright? So you don’t have to take it off. You just have to rough it up a little bit, abrade it, make sure it’s nice and clean. Go on top of it with the oil-based primer and then you can go use latex paint after that.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and for the kitchen you want to make sure that you do go with some sort of a sheen just because if you go with a matte finish everything is going to stick to it; it’s going to be hard to clean.

    JENNIFER: (overlapping voices) And it’s really hard to clean, yeah.

    LESLIE: Even if you want to go for something that’s not very shiny, make sure you choose something that’s scrubbable, something that’s made for the kitchen area; you know, good to stand up to the moisture and just the grease that ends up all throughout the space.

    JENNIFER: OK, well thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, in this economy, many of us have become renters or renting out a place that we’re trying to sell; so what do you do if you’re living in a house that’s not really yours or maybe you’re an apartment dweller. How do you make that space more personal without marking up those walls? We’re going to help you do that, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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 one of the most common questions we get is how to avoid mold, on this program. But there’s been a new study out that has some pretty interesting findings. They say that even dry climates now are showing up as being very prone to mold. This study found that states with arid climates, like Arizona and Nevada, can actually have more cases of mold than many other wetter states. So if you’re worried about mold you might want to make sure that your home hasn’t already made it through a mold problem. To diagnose and find out how to get rid of it, check out our mold resource guide at MoneyPit.com. There’s free information there right at your fingertips; the mold resource guide available for free at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and you know? I bet every, single home has mold and everybody always says, “Oh, no, no. Not me.” And I bet you Mr. President Obama is sitting in his White House right now going, “I don’t have any molds here.” Well, I would think again, Mr. Obama. There’s probably mold in that White House. (Tom chuckles) It’s just very well disguised.

    So are you finding that you’re like the Obamas? You’re in a new house or a new apartment and you feel like it’s yours, you live there, but you don’t technically own it; so how do you make it personal without marring it and not getting your deposit back? Although I wonder, do you think the Obamas have to put a deposit on the White House?

    TOM: I don’t think so.

    LESLIE: Probably not.

    TOM: I think we pay for that. (Tom and Leslie laugh)

    LESLIE: Oh, right; taxes.

    TOM: That’s right. That’s right. Remember Obama’s slogan: “Work hard. Millions are counting on you.” (laughs)

    LESLIE: (laughing) No, no. I don’t think that was his slogan.

    TOM: (laughing) That wasn’t in the campaign.

    LESLIE: No, no, no. That just ended up being a bumper sticker post-election.

    TOM: (chuckling) OK.

    LESLIE: Alright, folks. Well, we digress. But if you find yourself in a rental or you’re sort of in a space that’s not your own but you’re staying there for a long amount of time and you want to make it personal, paint really is the best way to put your personal touch, your own stamp, on a space that truly isn’t yours. It’s not permanent, paint, that’s the key and it’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s easy. You just want to make sure that you check with your landlord first because some leases only allow for certain colors or some require that you repaint the apartment back to a neutral color before you move out. But once you get the go ahead, follow these tips for the best results.

    Remember that the more saturated or darker the color that you choose, the more coats it’s going to take to paint it light again. And also, if you go with a dark color, get a tinted primer. It totally makes the whole project easier.

    TOM: And if you happen to like those darker colors, be creative with the designs or the patterns to get the look that you want. Now with deep or bright colors, a little bit of paint can go a long way. Make sure you also cover your carpets and other areas to avoid paint splatters or accidents that could cost you your security deposit. A little bit of work, though, on a paint project can have a dramatic and positive impact on the look and the feel of your room.

    Need some more tips on how to tackle a painting project around your house? Got a wall that won’t take paint? Got some stains you’re trying to cover up? Give us a call right now. We’ll help you out with that question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Chris needs some help with weatherproofing. What can we do for you?

    CHRIS: I just recently had my attic have a radiant spray-on barrier put in in the attic …

    TOM: Alright.

    CHRIS: … and also I had a ridgeline vent put in …

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: … to improve the energy efficiency of the home. And now I’ve recently heard that you can get this icynene foam spray for your attic which then makes it airtight up there and that approach would be they would want to do away with any attic vents, make it super airtight …

    LESLIE: Hmm.

    CHRIS: … and to prevent the hot air coming in and improve energy efficiency. Are you familiar with that type of an approach for attic insulation?

    TOM: Yeah, you’re talking about icynene. It’s an excellent product. It’s an expandable foam. It is …

    LESLIE: And man, does it expand.

    TOM: Yeah, expands like crazy. And not only is it insulation; it’s an air barrier as well. The ventilation that’s up there now is not going to hurt or help if you use an icynene type of insulation. You basically would have to remove all the existing fiberglass and then it’s sprayed across the ceiling and completely insulates and seals that ceiling from the rest of the house, which cuts back on drafts and that sort of thing. So you wouldn’t have to be concerned about the ridge vent that you put in there if you want to go that route.

    You didn’t mention what kind of insulation you have right now. What are we looking at there?

    CHRIS: Just the typical spray-in, I guess …

    TOM: Blown-in?

    CHRIS: Yeah, blown-in. Yes.

    TOM: How many inches of it?

    CHRIS: Oh, I’m up to about 24 inches.

    TOM: Well, that sounds like it’s a pretty well-insulated space. You’ve got 24 inches of insulation, it’s well-ventilated and you’ve got a radiant barrier. You know, I think you’re doing a great job there, Chris.

    CHRIS: Oh, OK. Alright. Well, very good.

    TOM: Chris, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Leonard in Alaska, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    LEONARD: I was wondering what the remedy was or the ingredients for a plugged sewer line. Not a plugged but, you know, partially plugged.

    TOM: Do you know where in the line it’s plugged, Leonard?

    LEONARD: Not for sure, no. Just – well, actually, it’s not plugged; it’s just draining slower.

    TOM: OK, so we’re talking about the waste pipe like from your sink?

    LEONARD: Yeah, it’s from the shower.

    TOM: Leonard, what you need to do is take a half a cup of baking soda and a half a cup of white vinegar. Pour that down the drain together then wait about 15 minutes and then follow that up with some boiling water.

    LESLIE: You know what? If you just boil some water in a tea kettle and then bring that right to the bath and dump that down then, you’ll be really careful with it though because you don’t want to hurt yourself. And also, if you’ve used a commercial drain cleaner, give it a good day before you go ahead and do this homemade concoction because the two can mix and cause some fumes that won’t make you feel so great. So give it some time if you’ve just done a commercial product. But the homemade remedy really does the trick.

    LEONARD: Very good.

    TOM: That should do it.

    LEONARD: Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, this is a very exciting year. It’s always nice when you get a new president and the inauguration and start thinking about presidents past. And along that subject, let’s get to Abraham Lincoln. Not only was he a pioneer in keeping this country on the straight and narrow and getting us on a good foot forward; he also was a leader in energy efficiency – but didn’t really know it. We’re going to tell you how he logged in – that’s our little hint – after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is being brought to you by Guardian Home Standby Generators, America’s choice in power outage protection. Learn more at GuardianGenerators.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and you can be part of The Money Pit by picking up the phone and giving us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Not only are you going to get the answer to your home improvement question – and we’re going to give you a hand with that – but one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a great prize. We’re giving away a child safety kit from our friends at CableOrganizer.com. It’s worth almost 60 bucks and it’s got everything you need to baby-proof against common household dangers. So give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Now we talk a lot about energy efficiency on the program and there’s one president in our nation’s history who was actually a pioneer in green living and he probably didn’t even know it because I don’t think they called it that back then. (Leslie chuckles) I’m talking about Abraham Lincoln. He spent his young years in a log cabin in Kentucky.

    Now log homes actually score very big when it comes to r value; a factor, of course, used in calculating energy efficiency. Log walls contain millions of tiny air pockets which store cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter. So, if you think about it, log homes are really the original form of a green building.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Although honest …

    TOM: It probably grew some ivy, too, which just added to the color and the allure of it.

    LESLIE: Which then made it a green building …

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: … which is something that Abe Lincoln would have said, “My, that’s green.” Of course, I don’t know that that’s how he sounded but I was rubbing my chin as if I had a long beard.

    TOM: (chuckling) I see that.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) But if you’re thinking, “Wow, log homes – green, energy efficiency,” that maybe you might want [one of] (ph) these, it’s not a farfetched idea to have a log home because, thanks to today’s building technologies, you don’t have to run for the hills to build a log cabin. Many of today’s log homes, they’re built from kits and they’re really easy to assemble. So with factory-milled logs and a selection of over 200 manufacturers out there that build log homes, the choice is really yours. So dream big and build a log home, if that’s what you choose.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let us help you build up your next home improvement project. Give us a call right now. We’re going to help you out. 888-666-3974.

    Who’s next?

    LESLIE: Marie in Florida has a question about tiling. What can we do for you today?

    MARIE: I want to see if you can help me. We put in a new flooring and it was in the kitchen and the tile is 12″x12″ and we wanted to make it look nicer so we sealed the tile in addition to the joints, which was a mistake because every time I try to wash the floor this sealer comes off.

    TOM: Ugh.

    MARIE: So how do I remove the whole thing and just leave the sealer?

    TOM: I’m wondering if you could do some sort of an abrasive buffing of the floor with the cleaning compound; renting a floor buffer from a rental house …

    MARIE: OK.

    TOM: … and then buffing the tile surface to try to pick more of it off.

    LESLIE: You know, Marie, you might want to try acetone. Now it’s something that you would find in the home improvement center; straight acetone. You can buy it. It’s really – it’s a good cleanser. If, at your home, you’ve got a nail polish remover with acetone in it – and the reason why I know that there’s nail polish remover without acetone in it is because I’ve glued my fingers together with Crazy Glue before (Tom and Marie laugh) and, believe me, I’ve tried every nail polish remover that did not have acetone in it; did not get my fingers apart. As soon as I got the one with acetone it popped right apart. The acetone is great at removing sealers, super-strong adhesives. It may react with the tile, so you want to make sure that you try it first in an area and if you’ve got nail polish remover, in the house, with acetone give it a test. But if you’re going to do the entire floor I would head to the home center and get like a big bottle of straight acetone. I wouldn’t go to the beauty store and try the nail polish remover.

    TOM: Marie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    Up next, now we tell you all the time that we are all about saving money. Wait til you hear the story that our next listener wrote in to us. He was able to save so much money he brought himself a brand new flatscreen TV with one trick of the trade that we gave him for appliance repair. We’ll share that and take your e-mails, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Owens Corning. It’s easy to insulate your home and save money. What’s stopping you? Learn more at InsulateandSave.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Available 24/7 at MoneyPit.com, where we take your e-mail questions about your home improvement projects. And we’ve got one here from a listener who actually had some success with advice that we dished out. Go figure. Must’ve been having a good day.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Alright, this e-mail comes from Rich Brotsbys (sp) who writes: “My dishwasher wasn’t cleaning the dishes and glasses properly and my wife suggested we purchase a new one. Well, one day I was listening to your show and you suggested cleaning the bottom drain. So after cleaning the drain, the dishes now come out looking like new. Thanks so much for your great suggestion. With the money I saved from buying a new dishwasher I bought myself a new flatscreen TV (Tom laughs) and I’m enjoying football games more than ever before. Way to go, Money Pit!”

    TOM: Alright, Rich. Well, hey listen. At least we got you a guilt-free flatscreen TV and your dishes are now sparkling.

    Now onto an e-mail here from Sara in Spring Valley, New York.

    LESLIE: Alright, Sara writes: “I have a bathroom in need of repair. There are tiles missing from the floor and wall. The sheetrock on the wall, which is right above the missing tile area of the floor, is damaged due to moisture and mold. Do we need to get rid of all the tiles and replace the moldy sheetrock and is this something my husband and I could do ourselves?”

    TOM: You know, it’s not a terribly difficult job, Sara, but it is a bit of a messy job and, remember, you’re talking about doing some work here in a bathroom and it could take that bathroom out of service. So I would also count into the fact whether or not you’ve got an extra bathroom, a second bathroom, to use while the repair is going on.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Or a friendly neighbor.

    TOM: What you’re experiencing is very, very common; especially in homes that were built, say, from the 80s on. They commonly use just drywall in the surround areas, especially around the tub, and the tiles will only last maybe 10 to 20 years in a situation like that until the wallboard gets so wet the tiles start to fall off. The best thing for you to do is to really actually pull out all of that old drywall and to replace it with a more durable product like Dens Armor or a product like that that’s a tile backer that will be very moisture-resistant and very sturdy and very strong. And if you do this once and you do it that way, you won’t have to do it again for a long, long, long, long time.

    LESLIE: And attaching the DensGuard is really easy. You just attach it into the stud bay on the wall right into the studs and then the tiles, I mean that’s an easy project to do and it really is a confidence builder. So feel free. Make sure you get the right glue/mastic attacher. Float the grout properly. You’ll do a great job and it’ll make you feel really good about yourself.

    Alright, we’ve got one from Kevin in New Jersey who writes: “I’ve got floors that are ice cold in the winter. I have a dirt crawlspace underneath and I’m trying to decide whether to use spray foam insulation or something like Neutocrete or plastic liner that seals the dirt and closes the vent, making it part of the house. I live in a flood zone and last year I had two feet of water under there but only when the nearby river floods is this a concern.”

    TOM: A couple of things here. First of all, Kevin, you’re not going to seal that crawlspace up so much so that you’re going to prevent water from getting in there. You know, no matter what you put on the walls it’s not going to float. So in terms of dealing with that flooding, if it is, in fact, a rising water table or a rising river, I would look to perhaps a curtain drain system installed around the outside perimeter of the house to collect some of that water and perhaps run it through the lower area where it could be distributed.

    LESLIE: Will that move – if the river is overflowing and they do live that close, will it move that much water away to prevent this?

    TOM: It actually will. And in terms of the cold floor, I would recommend fiberglass insulation – unfaced fiberglass batts – placed in between those floor joists. Use as thick of a fiberglass batt as the floor joist can take. Very easy, very inexpensive to do and it will make that floor nice and toasty.

    LESLIE: Alright, Kevin. I hope that warms your tootsies.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show continues online at MoneyPit.com where we hope that we’ve given you a few ideas to help improve your money pits for the coming year. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Helping you build big dreams.

    (theme song)



    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete


    (theme song)

    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: Pick up the phone and call us right now with your home improvement question. We’re here to help you get the jobs done. 888-666-3974. Coming up this hour, a small kitchen makes for a dark and dreary workspace but there are some insider tricks of the trade that can open up your cramped kitchen. We’re going to tell you what they are, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, you guys are never going to believe what happened to me. I wanted to have our chimney cleaned and it was the classic case of the chimney sweep coming in to diagnose many more problems and then save the day. So coming up in a little bit, I’m going to share with you my experience so you don’t feel so alone out there.

    TOM: Plus, bathroom fans are a necessity for a room that sees the most moisture in your home and if you don’t like the racket your bathroom fan makes or you’re worried about how much energy they use, we’ve got some good news for you. Coming up, our friend, Kevin Ireton, the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, is going to join us with some tips on how you can have almost silent bathroom fans that are good for you, good for the family, good for the household odor and good for the environment all at the same time. (Leslie chuckles)

    LESLIE: And speaking of good news, we’ve got a great prize that we’re giving away this hour. We’ve got the new Ryobi four-volt power screwdriver. It is up for grabs and it is totally free.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. That Ryobi tool is worth 30 bucks; going to go to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Albert in Wisconsin has got the number one question here at The Money Pit: flooring. What can we do for you, Albert?

    ALBERT: I went and I – my wife says to me – she says, “If you refinish the basement, you could buy a new cycle.” So guess …

    LESLIE: OK. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)

    ALBERT: Guess what I did?

    TOM: OK?

    ALBERT: I went and I remodeled the basement and this is before I listened to you saying never, ever, ever put carpet in a basement. But before I put the carpet in, I put plastic on the walls and on the floors. I put polystyrene on the outside walls. I also put radiant-heat tubing, half-inch PEX on the floor. I put three-quarter-inch plywood down …

    TOM: OK.

    ALBERT: … with the PEX tubing underneath that; zigzag back and forth. All of it is over plastic. And now my big question is now that it’s all done, am I going to have a water problem?

    TOM: Albert, I wouldn’t worry too much about it and I will say that since you’ve taken all these steps to make your basement as dry as possible plus you have heat under the floor, you’ve reduced some of the risks of having carpet in the basement. Generally, we don’t recommend it, though, because basements are very moist and carpet is very attractive to dust mites and it’s hard to get clean.

    LESLIE: Mold and allergens …

    TOM: The mold and – yeah. So that’s why we don’t recommend it. But having said that, the fact that you’ve got a heated floor with carpet on top of it reduces your risk significantly, so I think you’re going to be fine. So enjoy it, Albert.

    LESLIE: Heading out west to Utah where Jim has an insulation question. What can we do for you?

    JIM: Yeah, I live in a home. It’s – 1952 is when it was built and I am pretty sure that the insulation in the attic is actually asbestos.

    TOM: Why do you say that, Jim?

    JIM: Just because of the time period; that’s about what they used, is it not?

    TOM: No, not necessarily. What does the insulation look like?

    JIM: It’s kind of a grayish – it looks a little bit like, I don’t know, a worn-out suit almost. (Tom and Jim chuckle) It’s just like the little cotton balls that come off of a suit.

    TOM: Hmm. It sounds like it might be – not asbestos. It’s either rockwool or it’s fiberglass.

    JIM: OK.

    TOM: Now some rockwool insulations do contain a little bit of asbestos but it’s hard to tell. I would not panic over this. Are you …

    JIM: OK.

    TOM: … thinking about just adding more insulation to make the place a bit warmer in the winter, Jim?

    JIM: That’s kind of the plan. The other plan is – we were going to try to build in a floor in there so we could actually use it for storage as well.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Well, here’s what you want to do. First of all, is the insulation settled down to like almost nothing now?

    JIM: As far as I can tell there wasn’t much to begin with. (chuckles)

    TOM: Well, I would leave what’s there alone. I would add more.

    JIM: OK.

    TOM: I would add enough to come up to the top of the floor joists. Then you can install your floor and then you can add another layer over that in the areas that you don’t want to store in. So sort of carve out …

    JIM: OK.

    TOM: … an area in the middle of the attic that you’ll reserve for storage. You’ll have like one layer of insulation there; everywhere else you’ll have at least two. In a best-case scenario, you’d like to have about 19 inches of insulation; fiberglass.

    JIM: OK. And what is the – yeah, fiberglass. You want – not blown-in, right?

    TOM: Well, fiberglass is just easier to work with, especially …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … if you’re going to have to be up there storing stuff and it’s just …

    JIM: OK.

    TOM: … a better material.

    JIM: So just rolling it out myself? OK.

    TOM: Yeah, you can use the pre-cut fiberglass batts; very easy to lay in place.

    JIM: Wonderful. Well, I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to hear what you’re working on and we’d love to give you a hand to get that job done. We are available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Up next, we’re going to talk about small kitchens. They might be cozy but opening them up might not involve a whole lot of expense. We’re going to give you some professional tricks of the trade for creating a bigger space on a budget, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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 want you to be part of The Money Pit, so pick up the phone and give us a call. Let us know what you are working on; we will give you a hand to get that project done right.

    And to even give you a bigger hand getting that job done, we’ve got a great prize that we’re giving away this hour for one lucky caller who gets their question on the air. We’ve got a four-volt, lithium-ion power screwdriver from our friends over at Ryobi. It’s a great little tool and it holds a charge.

    Listen to this: the battery will hold its charge for up to two years and the power driver includes a set of driver bits. So it is a great prize; it’ll help you get a lot of projects done. It’s worth 30 bucks but it could be yours for free if you are our lucky caller, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT right now.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Now we turn to some ideas for how to open up the small kitchen space that you may be suffering with. You know, you can make it seem larger without spending a whole lot of money, without knocking down walls. Here’s what you need to do: for a cramped kitchen, the first thing you ought to – you might want to consider is adding a skylight. Now, a skylight will open the ceiling up to more light and can visually expand the space. An easy and inexpensive way to add a skylight is a product called a Solatube. A Solatube is a tubular skylight where you basically cut a hole in your roof. You cut a hole in your ceiling and you connect the two with a mirror-lined duct, so to speak, that basically takes the light from the roof all the way down into your house. It’s really innovative, it’s very affordable and it can really open up that small, cramped space.

    Another trick of the trade: you can remove soffits above the cabinets if you soffits that are sort of built down from the ceiling. Remove them; use that space for some display or some lighting above that. And finally, think about replacing those dark-colored doors with light-colored cabinets. You can open the shelves and the glass-fronted doors to give depth to the room and cook up a whole new look.

    So there are three easy ways to improve the look and the feel of a small kitchen without spending a whole lot of money. You need some more advice on how to open up your space? Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get back to those phones.

    Who’s next?

    LESLIE: Taking a call from New Mexico with Beth who wants to talk about tile. What can we do for you?

    BETH: Hi, I have a two-story house and the first floor is totally open. You walk in the front door on tile and the tile wraps around to the kitchen area. The living area is carpeted and it’s really in bad shape.

    TOM: OK.

    BETH: The steps going upstairs are carpeted and the whole upper floor is carpeted. And I’d like to take the first-floor carpet out but then it leaves me with what do I do with these stairs?

    TOM: Are these – these are wood stairs?

    BETH: I believe so.

    TOM: Well, if they’re paint-grade stairs or carpet-grade stairs, it’s probably pine or fir and if you pull the carpet up you may be able to sand them down and finish them and have them look halfway decent or maybe replace the full-carpeted tread, which is the runner that kind of goes up the middle of it.

    BETH: Right.

    TOM: The least that you could do is paint them and that’s always a possibility and if it’s done well it could look very, very attractive.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And in New Mexico, you probably have – you know, I always see such beautiful color usage in the state in my travels when I see people’s homes and you could really have an opportunity to do a beautiful color on the riser and a different color on the tread – still very earthy and homey and pretty – just to sort of give it that New Mexico vibe.

    BETH: Oh, that’s a perfect idea. That would – I can see that working so well.

    LESLIE: Great. And as for the first floor, I say go ahead and replace that carpet with a laminate or an engineered hardwood; whatever suits your taste. And don’t worry about the transition between the tile and the new flooring because they make all sorts of different materials that bridge that transition between one type of flooring and another; so you’re not going to be left with this oddity between the two.

    TOM: And then you could use some throw rugs to give you a little bit of a carpeted feel in the living room if you still miss that feel.

    BETH: Alright. Well, with all the dry air and dust we have here, it’d be easier not to have the carpet so I’m ready to sacrifice it. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: Alright, Beth. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to talk to Olga in Wisconsin who has got something going on with the ceiling at her money pit. What can we do for you?

    OLGA: Yes. I’m 85-years-old and my house is about as rickety as I am, I guess.

    TOM: (laughs) OK, Olga. So …

    OLGA: Anyway, I had fallen within a nursing home and the heat went out in our place and now, when I’ve come back, it seems all of the ceilings – the paint is just hanging like in ribbons.

    TOM: Right.

    OLGA: Now, what can I do about this?

    TOM: Well, what happens is when your heat goes out you get a lot of moisture inside the house and the moisture can cause the paint to separate or delaminate. Now, unfortunately, you can’t put good paint over bad paint, so that old paint has to be stripped off first; scraped off, stripped off so that you’re down to a solid surface.

    The next step is to prime it; have a primer applied. That’s going to help make sure that the final coat of paint – which will happen after that – will stick. And that’s really the steps that have to be followed: first, you need to strip off the old, loose paint; then apply a primer and then put the finished coat on top of that.

    Now, Olga, if this happened while you were not home – your heat kicked out – it sounds to me like it’s something that might be covered by homeowners insurance. Are you insured?

    OLGA: Yes, I’m insured, yeah.

    TOM: Well then, what I would do is I would contact an independent insurance adjuster or your homeowners insurance company. And if this happened because the heat went out, well, that’s a covered – that’s a covered defect and you may get them to come in and do this for you.

    OLGA: Oh, bless your heart. That would be nice.

    TOM: Alright, Olga. Well, you get on top of them – those guys – and make sure that they get this job done because that’s why you’re paying insurance.

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

    KEVIN: Hi. I was wondering if – I know you guys are opposed to putting carpet in basements. What if you have a walk-out basement? Is that still a bad idea?

    TOM: Well, the fact of the matter is that a basement space is very damp and very humid and moisture in carpet fibers, as well as the dirt and dust – because carpeting is pretty much a filter material, Kevin –

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Even the padding too.

    TOM: Even the padding.

    KEVIN: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: It’s just a really good place to attract dust mites and dirt and dust, which becomes mold food. So it’s just not a good surface for …

    LESLIE: No matter how dry you keep the space.

    TOM: Yeah, for a damp area. So that’s why we really – we prefer to see carpet up on a first and second floor. I mean, I’ve got it on the second floor of my house. It’s very comfortable where all the bedrooms are but on the first floor and the basement area we don’t have carpet.

    LESLIE: But you know what, Kevin?

    KEVIN: OK.

    LESLIE: You can easily do a laminate, which is an affordable choice. You can get one that looks like a beautiful hardwood and then get some really nice area rugs to achieve the same feeling and the coziness. I know in Utah you’re probably having chilly winters and you want to keep your tootsies warm …

    KEVIN: Yes.

    LESLIE: … so I think you can achieve the same thing and get the same decorative style by getting a couple of area rugs and creating little areas based upon these rugs; you can create little niches for relaxation.

    KEVIN: Alright. Well, thank you. That answers my question.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to head over to Michigan and chat with Mary. What can we do for you today?

    MARY: Yes. We recently updated our kitchen and we put in a high-definition laminate and I put in stone backsplash.

    TOM: OK.

    MARY: And I’d like the backsplash to have a little more shine to it.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    MARY: Is there anything I can put on it?

    TOM: You could use a stone sealer for that. Do you have any kind of a finish on the stone at all right now?

    MARY: Yes. It’s all been sealed with a sealer.

    TOM: It has been sealed. But you …

    MARY: Yes.

    TOM: Because you have high-def laminate you now basically have a fairly rich-looking countertop surface but the natural (chuckles) – actually, the laminate looks better than the natural.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) It dulls the stone.

    TOM: Exactly.

    MARY: Right.

    TOM: Mary, the sealer that was put on the first time – did you guys put that on or did you have somebody else do that?

    MARY: I had it installed, so they did that.

    TOM: OK. Can you find out what manufacturer they used? And here’s why: sealers are available in different finishes and, for the most part, people are going to apply a semi-gloss …

    LESLIE: Or even a satin.

    TOM: … sealer or even a satin one because they don’t want to have a lot of shine. In your situation, you want to have a lot of shine; you want a high gloss. Now, there are plenty of good-quality, high-gloss sealers on the market. I know DuPont makes a good one called StoneTech. The problem is that they don’t recommend that you put it over another product, so the fact that you have a sealer on there makes it difficult for you to put another manufacturer’s product over it; certainly without voiding their warranty.

    So that’s why I suggest if you go back to the original installers and find out what manufacturer’s product that they used; that manufacturer will probably have a product that’s available in high-gloss, which can go on top of the semi-gloss or the satin finish that you have on right now. Does that make sense?

    MARY: That makes sense.

    TOM: And I think that’ll do it.

    MARY: (overlapping voices) I thank you very much and I will do that.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Mary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and enjoy that new kitchen countertop.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re tired of your bathroom fan making so much racket, don’t worry. When we come back, we’re going to talk about new technology that makes this very necessary appliance – for more reasons than you think – a lot more bearable.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Choose the brand more building professionals prefer and add up to $24,000 to the perceived value of your home. For more information, visit ThermaTru.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Call us now if you’ve got a plumbing dilemma, especially if it regards the plumbing in your bathroom. And specifically, we’re going to talk now about something that is a necessity in the bathroom; at least if you live in my house. And no, it’s not the toilet; it’s the bathroom fan. (Tom and Leslie laugh)

    It certainly is a necessity for a room that sees the most moisture in your home, not to mention the odors. Without the right ventilation, you’ve got a recipe for disaster. And if you don’t like that racket that bathroom fans make or you’re worried about how much energy they use, we’ve got some good news for you.

    LESLIE: Man, you are always talking about what’s going down in your bathroom, Tom. I’m a little concerned.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Hey, I am a toilet expert. (Leslie laughs)

    LESLIE: Well, then you know that today’s bathroom fans, they’re quieter and they’ve got really cool features like timers and motion sensors so that you never forget to turn them on and turn them off. So here to tell us about these tricked-out bathroom fans is our friend, Kevin Ireton, and he is the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom.

    TOM: Hey, Kevin. We get a lot of questions about moisture in the bathroom and we’re always telling people to use …

    LESLIE: You’ve got a bath fan?

    TOM: … to use fans or …

    LESLIE: And most people say, “No.”

    TOM: Yeah, a lot of folks don’t have the fans and I think it’s a real problem with the building code because in many parts of the country, they’re not actually required if you have a window. How crazy is that?

    KEVIN: Yeah, it’s totally crazy and – I mean, who’s going to open that window when it’s, you know, nine degrees outside.

    LESLIE: Well, and even if you open the window, it’s not like you now have a circulation of air to actually move that moisture outside unless somebody is standing there with a fan or waving towels around.

    KEVIN: (overlapping voices) You’re exactly right.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Good point.

    KEVIN: I mean bathroom fans are not that expensive and they really are a valuable addition to the house.

    TOM: Alright, so how have they gotten more high-tech so that they’re A) easier to install and B) easier to live with?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. More effective, too.

    KEVIN: Well, the first and most important thing is that they’re quieter than ever. And one of the things that I was pleased to learn is that – I mean, I installed a bathroom fan about 10 years ago and the ones today are probably three or four times quieter and you can, in fact, get a retrofit for a lot of older fans that will fit in the same housing and be much quieter. That’s one of the reasons why people tend not to use the fans is they say, “Well, they’re too noisy.”

    TOM: Well, that’s good news because that means that the install is very, very simple …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … because you really don’t have to do any carpentry work; you pretty much can replace the guts, so to speak.

    KEVIN: Exactly. So if one of your problems is you’ve got an existing fan that’s making a lot of noise, think about a replacement that fits in the same housing.

    LESLIE: Now what about some new features? I mean, a big complaint also we hear is that I’ve got the fan; it’s noisy. I never turn it on or I forget to turn it off, so I don’t turn it on. Has there been anything done – sort of make it idiot-proof, user-friendly, so that they just come on when they need to come on?

    KEVIN: Absolutely. And the biggest problem with fans is that you’re not supposed to shut them off when you leave the room. I mean, if you’ve taken a shower or a bath, for instance, and filled the room with moisture, that fan needs to run for 20 or 30 minutes after you leave …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    KEVIN: … in order to evacuate all the moisture. So they have – first of all, some of these fans actually have motion detectors so when you walk in the room, they’ll come on automatically and they will run for a period of time that you determine; anywhere from 30 seconds to 60 minutes after you leave. The problem with that is if you walk into the bathroom just to get a Band-Aid, the fan is going to go on. (Leslie chuckles) You might not (Tom chuckles) – you might not want that.

    So the other thing – we’ve had timers for a long time but now they have smart switches where you can turn the fan on and flip the switch off and the fan will actually be set to keep running, for instance, for again, a time that you set; anywhere up to 60 minutes after it has shut off.

    TOM: We’re talking to Kevin Ireton – he’s the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine – about some high-tech bathroom innovations.

    Kevin, being the student of bathroom design that I am, (Leslie chuckles) I’ve often noticed that when you go into a hotel bathroom, you don’t have a bath fan; at least, it’s not obvious. But if you look up in the ceiling, there’s an extra duct which, of course – for those of us in the biz know – is connected to an in-line fan. Now, this technology – where you have a sort of remote-located fan and then a duct that connects to the bathroom – actually is seeing more use now in households because you can sort of duct-up multiple bathrooms with the same fan. That has got to cost less to run than a traditional bath fan, I would think.

    KEVIN: Absolutely, and it’s oftentimes quieter because the fan will be installed up in the attic, say; farther from the bathroom. You can also do a system that incorporates your kitchen ventilation as well; so one fan and ductwork can be connected to do …

    LESLIE: Manages all the moisture.

    KEVIN: … a kitchen and several bathrooms. Absolutely.

    TOM: That makes a lot of sense.

    Kevin Ireton, editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    If you’d like to learn more, the article is called A Buyer’s Guide To Bathroom Fans and it is in the kitchen and bath edition of Fine Homebuilding magazine. More info online at FineHomebuilding.com.

    Thanks, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Thank you, guys.

    LESLIE: Well, now is the perfect time of year to have your chimney cleaned and you know what? That’s exactly the thought that was running through my mind when I invited a chimney sweep in who decided that his needs were a lot more important than mine, so stick around.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Choose the brand more building professionals prefer and add up to $24,000 to the perceived value of your home. For more information, visit ThermaTru.com.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Call us right now with your home improvement question because we’re going to give you the answer and some tools to get the job done. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the four-volt, lithium ion-powered screwdriver from Ryobi. It’s a great little tool that holds a charge for up to two years and includes a set of driver bits to get lots of projects done around your house. It’s worth 30 bucks; going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Yeah, pick up the phone and give us a call; especially if you are thinking of inviting a chimney sweep into your home, like I just did recently. You know, Tom, I’ve been dying to tell you this story and …

    TOM: Yeah, what happened?

    LESLIE: You and I always talk about the hazards of inviting a chimney sweep in and how they’re always trying to sell you something that you really don’t need and they’re just the guy to do that work. So five minutes into my house, this guy walks in. It wasn’t even a tool in place in the fireplace before the man said, “You know, I looked at the chimney on the roof and seems like the mortar and the bricks, everything is decaying (Tom chuckles) and somebody used latex to repair that. You know, that’s not heat-proof and the whole thing looks really decrepit; so I think you really need to rebuild that whole roof portion of your chimney and while I’m there, you should probably use a chimney liner and this damper you got – I’m going to do …”

    TOM: “But not to worry …”
    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: “Not to worry, Ms. Segrete, (Leslie chuckles) because I’m just the guy to fix this for you. I happen to have all the tools that I need right here in my truck and just sign the dotted line and we’ll get right to work.”

    LESLIE: It was so funny. I was so …

    TOM: It was classic.

    LESLIE: … prepared for it, too.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And you know, I swear, the guy walked in; I was feeding my son, so there’s this woman with a baby. (chuckles)

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: (laughing) I really have like ‘sucker’ stamped across … (chuckles)

    TOM: (overlapping voices) He’s looking at you going, oh, easy pickings.

    LESLIE: But I was so ready for it and, literally, the cleaning of the chimney itself was $86.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: The estimate that the gentleman left for me to call him – and if I, you know, act fast I’ll get a discount – was, you know, $2,000. (Tom chuckles) It was just insane. So be prepared, folks. Chances are you really don’t need a lot of these things that these folks are talking about and you never want to bring somebody in to sort of, you know, assess the situation who is the person who will do the repair because chances are they’ll say, “That’s wrong and I’m the guy to fix it.”

    TOM: Yeah, clear conflict of interest. Well, you know, it’s funny; we can talk about this all the time but until you experience it, you know, you just can’t believe it’s happening and this is a very classic case of what a chimney sweep typically does. Now, by all means, there are great …

    LESLIE: And they don’t sing songs and dance on your roof, either.

    TOM: Right. (chuckles) By all means, there are great contractors out there; there are great chimney sweeps. There are real pros but unfortunately, in our experience, sometimes they are few and far between. If any professional comes in your house and recommends that you get an expensive repair and says they’re just the guy to do it to you, stop right there and get some advice from someone who doesn’t have such a conflict of interest. You could get a second opinion from another contractor or you could call an independent home inspector.

    LESLIE: Call a home inspector.

    TOM: Exactly. But don’t necessarily take that advice the first time out the door. You will save money and probably be safer as a result.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    LESLIE: If you’re tackling a tiling project you’d be like Paul in Texas. How can we help you with your money pit?

    PAUL: Well, we had our master bath remodeled recently.

    TOM: OK.

    PAUL: And the contractor did such a lousy job on the tile that we ended up firing him …

    TOM: Oh, boy.

    PAUL: … and then we had to get another contractor to come in to finish the job and there were several gaps and those sorts of things and they sealed everything. And we started using the shower and some of the grout started coming out; like little gravelly, very small, sandy kind of pieces of grout would come out.

    TOM: OK.

    PAUL: So I started sealing it with DAP and I had a friend who told me you shouldn’t do that; you should tear all the grout out and start over and I’m wondering what the best approach is to solve this problem.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve got tiny, little pieces that are falling out and it just happens once and it doesn’t seem to be a perennial problem, then using a bit of caulk to seal it up is probably not terrible. But if you’ve got grout, for whatever reason, that was not put in correctly, then in that case you may need to use a grout saw and sand out the entire joint and then regrout the whole thing to get the proper adhesion.

    PAUL: Alright, we’ll try that. Thank you.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Up next, we’re going to have some tips to help cut your energy costs by using a clock setback thermostat. Now, we know what these are; we know they work well. You set them to go down when you’re sleeping, to come back up when you’re home, to go down when you go to work. But what if you don’t go to work? What if somebody is home all day? Can a clock setback thermostat work for a situation like that? That’s what one of our listeners wants to know and we’re going to tackle that question and more when we dive into The Money Pit e-mail bag, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional-feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi Power Tools. Pro features. Affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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: Pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or head on over to MoneyPit.com. Click on Ask Tom and Leslie and shoot us an e-mail, just like Bonnie did and she says: “My husband and I work opposite shifts. Is it worth it for us to keep readjusting the thermostat or does fluctuation really use more energy?” Good question. You know, the answer depends definitely on the season, I think, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: For the heating season, it probably makes sense for you to invest in a clock setback thermostat and use it in all of its multi-setback capabilities to raise the heat only as needed. In the heating season, it does actually take a lot of additional energy to sort of reheat your house up to a comfortable level.

    LESLIE: Yeah, but if you’re dealing with the summer – you know, with central air conditioning – you still save some money with the same setback procedure, so long as you don’t totally turn off your air conditioning, allowing the home to heat up.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: You know, in that case, the system would need to run excessively just to restore the entire house to a comfortable level and that can drive up your cooling costs more than just dropping it 10 degrees or so when you need it; when you know you need to feel cool.

    TOM: And finally, if you happen to work from home and you’re not out of the house during the day, you certainly can get good savings by still using a clock setback. Of course, you wouldn’t be saving as much money because, frankly, you need more heat. But even if you do live at home, these multiple setback thermostats today are easily programmed to have however many cycles you need. And if that means keeping the heat up during the day at home, then that’s certainly easy to do and will definitely save you some money; so we would recommend it.

    LESLIE: Alright, now we’ve got one from Jim in South Carolina who writes: “We have a 40-year-old home with a heating unit in the attic. The unheated basement is not insulated and the floor remains cold during the winter. I want to put insulation in the basement ceiling floor joist and then a suspended ceiling. Should I use unbacked insulation and would you foresee any problem with this type of insulation project?”

    TOM: Not at all. If the basement is going to remain unfinished, you’re going to have to add additional heat then to the basement space. We would recommend electric heat for that because it’s inexpensive to install and you don’t need to use it that often.

    In terms of the ceiling, we definitely would recommend unfaced fiberglass batt insulation. There’s a good guide online at InsulateAndSave.com. There’s a document there called The Guide To Insulation. It’s put together by the folks from Owens Corning, which will give you some step-by-step advice, Jim, on how to get that project done.

    LESLIE: Alright. Hope that helps, Jim.

    TOM: Well, they are plentiful, pretty and free. Leslie has got the lowdown on where to find some natural fire starters for your fireplace, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, you can spend a lot of money and believe me, those fire starting logs are a lot of money but you really don’t have to. Get them if you want and you like that crackly color, go for it. But if you want to save some cash – and everybody is really looking to do so – go to the backyard and pick up some pine cones. They make a great, natural fire starter for your fireplace or your wood stove.

    And if you’re feeling really creative, you know, you can also dip them in wax. All you need to do is gather up all of your little nubs of old candles you’ve got kicking around that you’re like, “I don’t really want to put this out because it’s only two inches.” Take them, gather them, do a double-pan boiler; never put it right on top of your burner because you’ll just burn the wax and it’ll make a mess of the pot itself. And use a pot that you’re not going to use again and melt down all of your candles and then dip your pine cones in them. And once the wax hardens up again, your pine cone fire starter is going to keep the fire going and it’s going to fill your home with a beautiful, pleasant scent that you’ve gotten from all of those candles that you melted.

    So it’s a really great and fun, creative project that’s going to help you get save some money and make a nice, roaring fire for you to cozy up to this winter.

    TOM: 888-666-3974 is the number. You can reach us 24/7/365; also online at MoneyPit.com.

    Speaking of MoneyPit.com, next week we will be taking your questions via e-mail because we will be on the road. We’re hitting the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; be broadcasting from there. It’s the world’s largest consumer showcase of technology. It’s an event for industry insiders but we’re going to be there to learn about all the cool technology that’s going to be available for your home in the coming year. We’re talking about phone systems, home theater – the works. We’ll have that to you next week when we broadcast live from CES in Las Vegas.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Helping you build big dreams.

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    (Copyright 2009 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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