Home Security System, Energy Efficient Tax Credits, Decorating Your Windows and More
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And it is officially the ho-ho-home improvement season. At least it is on this program. Look, we’ve crested Thanksgiving. We are now heading smack-dab into the Christmas season. And if you’ve got a home improvement project that you would like to tackle before the next set of friends and relatives arrives at your home, pick up the phone and give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
You know what else happens this time of year? You pay your first heating bill, right? I mean in a lot of parts of the country, heat’s been on how for a month or two.
LESLIE: Please, we had 30 degrees in November.
TOM: It’s crazy, right? And you start to look at those bills and you’re like, “Oh, man, this is a lot of money. I forgot how expensive it was to heat my house.” If that’s your situation, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We have some tips on how you can cut those heating costs.
Lots going on this hour. We’re going to talk about holiday time being a prime time for burglaries. When you go away, the burglars come home to your house to play. We’ve got some tips to help you decide if it’s a good idea for you to install a home security system.
LESLIE: You can also set that against those guests that you might not want to come and visit.
TOM: That’s right, exactly. Harrass them into leaving.
LESLIE: That’s right. Also ahead, decorating the outside of your house, it’s fun and festive. But if you’re putting anything on your windows, there are a few extra steps that you should take to make sure that you don’t damage them. We’ll tell you how, in just a few minutes.
TOM: Plus, just a few weeks left in the year but enough time to make an energy-efficient home improvement that could yield a tax credit for you come April. We’ll have details on that.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a set of Stanley tools, including the FatMax Auto-Locking Tape Rule and TwinTec Ratcheting Wrench worth more than 200 bucks.
TOM: So let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Andrea in Pennsylvania is on the line with a bathroom-flooring question. How can we help you?
ANDREA: I have a half-bath. It is about 3×3 and to the back of the wall, where the toilet and the sink are, there is a gap that starts about an 1/8-inch and it goes to about an inch-and-a-quarter. And below it, in the basement, there is a hole that – a cinder-block hole – that you can see. I crawled in there, then – yeah. And it was disgusting, let me just tell you.
TOM: I bet.
LESLIE: I’m sure.
ANDREA: But there was some sort of water damage.
TOM: Hmm. So …
ANDREA: But when you go to the bathroom in the wintertime, it’s a little chilly.
TOM: Yeah. So, do you think that the floor dropped?
ANDREA: I don’t know if the floor dropped or if it’s from some sort of – connected to it used to be a refrigerator that had an ice maker.
TOM: That’s a big gap.
ANDREA: And it was connected to the toilet tank.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Wow.
TOM: A refrigerator/ice maker connected to the toilet tank.
TOM: That’s some house you’ve got there, Andrea.
LESLIE: That sounds weird.
ANDREA: Oh, my house was built in the 1930s.
TOM: They probably just tapped into the water line near the toilet tank and that’s how they fed the ice maker. Well, let’s hope that’s how they did it.
TOM: Let’s hope they weren’t making ice out of the toilet water. That would be pretty gross.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness.
ANDREA: I hope not. That would have been pretty bad.
TOM: Now, in terms of this sloping floor – sagging floor – the crack that you see, when you say it’s a crack, you’re talking about between the wall and the floor, correct?
ANDREA: Correct, correct.
TOM: Alright. So it clearly looks like the – either the wall levitated or the floor dropped.
TOM: And the floor dropped – when the floor dropped, it dropped with the toilet in it, so it must have been slow over time. Otherwise, you’d have leaks all over the place. I suspect that something’s going on with the floor here.
So the question is, first, do we have a structural problem?
TOM: My answer is I don’t know, because I didn’t see that crawlspace. But if you go down there and take a bunch of photographs and post them in the Community section on MoneyPit.com, I will take a look at it for you.
ANDREA: OK. Oh, I’d appreciate that.
TOM: Or you could have a carpenter or an engineer, a home inspector take a look at that.
If the floor has just settled that way because it’s an older house and it’s just kind of worked its way into that position but doesn’t seem to be structurally damaged, then we have to deal with just the cosmetics of it. And the way to do that might simply be to install baseboard molding or adjust the baseboard molding that’s there. Is there molding there at all now? Is there a baseboard?
ANDREA: No. Not at all.
TOM: Yeah, so …
ANDREA: Right now I have it stuffed with some Styrofoam.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I would certainly fill the gap. I would insulate under that crawlspace floor, too, so that it’s warmer in there for you in the wintertime. But then I would just put a piece of baseboard molding. I’d let the molding ride down on the floor so the molding will be crooked with the floor.
TOM: And I think that that’s OK. And if you paint it the same color as the wall, it would not be noticeable.
ANDREA: Oh, that would be excellent. That seems simple enough for me.
TOM: Alright, Andrea. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Steve on the line who’s dealing with a vinyl-siding issue. Tell us what’s going on.
STEVE: I bought a house last summer and was further looking at it closely. I noticed that the siding is severely oxidized and I was – I tried a little baby oil on a section of it and it looked good for about a month but I just was …
TOM: Baby oil?
TOM: Baby oil?
TOM: Well, is your house your baby?
TOM: And a house is certainly as expensive as children, that’s for sure.
STEVE: Like I say, it looked good for about a month. It brought all the color back to it.
TOM: When those oils dry out, of course, that’s going to be the end of it. Vinyl siding is not really designed for oil but I will tell you this: there are paints that you can put on top of vinyl siding. So it is possible to paint a vinyl-sided house.
That said, you know what comes after paint, don’t you? Repaint. So, once you start this process, you’re going to end up having to paint it again, Steve. But you can paint vinyl siding. You just need to make sure – I would go to a Sherwin-Williams or a good-quality paint supplier like that and make sure that you pick up a paint that is rated for vinyl siding.
STEVE: Does it peel pretty easy?
TOM: No. It’s designed to adhere. That’s why it has to be special for vinyl.
STEVE: Oh, I see.
STEVE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Steve. 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 are a few, short weeks away from the big holiday, so if you need some help getting your house in tip-top shape, you’re running out of time. But we are here to help you get it done, just in the nick of time. Maybe St. Nick will even bring you a home improvement gift or two. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Up next, we’ve got some holiday decorating tips that you can use to make sure you don’t damage windows when you’re applying those decorations. In the old days, when we just had wood windows, it was no big deal to throw some tacks in them. But today, our windows are very high-tech. They are thermally sealed. If you’re not careful, you can damage the mechanism that operates those windows. We’ll tell you what you need to know, next.
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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. Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question.
One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a great set of tools from our friends at Stanley. We’ve got $200 in products, including the FatMax Auto-Locking Tape Rule – that’s been my number-one tape ruler for many, many years; love that product – and also the TwinTec Ratcheting Wrench, plus some other, additional products. These are all products that make great gift items.
You can visit StanleyTools.com to learn more. And also, check out the 2013 Holiday Gift Guide on MoneyPit.com right now, which is also presented by Stanley.
LESLIE: Heading over to Wisconsin now to chat with Dorothy. How can we help you?
DOROTHY: In the wintertime, we get cold air around our windows.
DOROTHY: And so we put plastic. Some of them, we plastic the outside up the windows and some inside of the house. I’m wondering which is better or if we should plastic both the inside and the outside.
LESLIE: It depends, really, on the functionality of the window. When you’re feeling the draft, is it on the glass itself? Does it seem to be on the operable parts of the sash, where the window unit goes up and down, or is it around the trim work?
DOROTHY: On a couple of them, it’s actually on both: the glass and around the trim work, yeah.
LESLIE: OK. Well, there’s a couple of products out there that maybe you’ve not heard of and there’s one that’s a weatherstripping caulk. And basically, what you would do is you would close your window and around the sash – you know, the operable part of the window itself – you would caulk, essentially, that window closed, sealing out that draft. And then what happens when springtime comes and it’s warm again, you peel it right out.
Now, the issue with that is if it’s a window that, say, is in the kitchen that you want to open and close while cooking or a window that should be used as an exit in the event of an emergency, you want to make sure that you consider those before you seal off all of those windows.
Now, DAP makes one. It’s called Seal ‘N Peel. Red Devil makes one? Did I make that up?
TOM: Yeah. And you may not find it in the hardware-store aisle; you may have to ask for it. But it’s temporary caulk so – and it goes on and then you peel it off in the spring.
DOROTHY: So it comes off real nice.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It just pulls right off. And you want to make sure that it’s actually a temporary caulk, because you don’t want to go put a latex caulk in there that’s not meant for this purpose. Because if you try to remove it, it’s not going to come out.
TOM: Yeah, the weatherstripping caulk peels off; it feels like you’re peeling a strip of rubber off in the spring.
LESLIE: Like the backing, when you get a new credit card and it’s stuck to that paper?
LESLIE: Like it’s got that sticky consistency.
DOROTHY: And I can do that and maybe still put plastic on the outside or inside, right?
TOM: Well, yeah, if you feel like you need it. But you might find that if you seal away those gaps, you don’t need to do that, Dorothy, OK?
DOROTHY: Oh, I appreciate that very much.
TOM: Well, holiday decorating can put everyone in a joyous mood. But if you accidentally damage your vinyl windows, well, that’s not such a happy thing.
When the windows were wood, we didn’t have this problem because we had wood filler and other ways to fix the push pins and the small nails and the other holes from hardware. But you need to be careful and be smart when you’re dealing with vinyl-clad windows or you’re going to damage them. And you could blow your warranty, as well.
LESLIE: Yeah. You never want to put nails or screws or even staples or glue into or onto your window frame. Not only is it going to damage the window, it’s going to decrease your energy efficiency. And as Tom said, it could also invalidate the warranty. And remember not to decorate with anything that’s going to keep you from being able to open that window.
TOM: The best way to decorate around those windows is simply to use suction cups with the hooks. I mean they work really well today and you can hang lights or ornaments. You can also use them to hang wreaths. Or you can use clear fishing line and loop it sort of very gently over the window hardware itself.
Just don’t ever use a metal fastener. It’s a really bad idea, because you want to make sure that you keep the energy efficiency intact, keep the windows in good shape. And this way, you will stay warm well beyond the holiday season.
LESLIE: Clara in Minneapolis, Kansas is on the line with a dryer-venting question. How can we help you?
CLARA: Our dryer is in the basement, is the beginning part of the problem. So when we hook it up to the vent, the vent goes straight up.
TOM: How far up does it go?
CLARA: Well, it’s probably 8 foot.
CLARA: And then it goes vertical – I mean horizontal – probably about 25 feet to the back side of the house.
TOM: Wow. OK.
CLARA: And then that’s where the exhaust comes out of the house. And we can get part of it cleaned.
TOM: Is it a metal exhaust duct or a plastic exhaust duct?
CLARA: It’s a metal.
TOM: OK, good. Perfect. We’ve got a solution for you. It’s called a Gardus LintEater. And it’s a special brush that fits inside the dryer exhaust ducts and it’s on fiberglass rods. And as you …
LESLIE: So it’s flexible.
TOM: It’s flexible. And so what you do is you start with like 3 foot or 6 foot of the fiberglass rod, you hook it up to a drill and the drill is what spins it. You run it into the duct, pull it out a couple of times. Then you add another length of fiberglass and another length of fiberglass rod and so on.
LESLIE: And it’s the coolest thing because you will be amazed – both, I should say, amazed and disgusted – at the amount of lint that is going to come out of your vent the first time you do it.
TOM: Yeah, it’s fun.
CLARA: I imagine.
TOM: Just Google it – LintEater, Lint-E-a-t-e-r – and you’ll find it.
TOM: It’s a really handy tool to have. Once you have one, you can use it a lot. You can do it from the outside. They’ve got other attachments that help you get in closer to the dryer and so on but it’s a great product, OK?
CLARA: OK. OK.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? If you don’t do it, you really need to be careful because all of that lint is sort of just building up in there and it could be a fire hazard. So you really do have to get on this.
CLARA: Yeah. That’s what we were concerned about.
TOM: And that’s actually their website, too: it’s LintEater.com. So check it out.
CLARA: OK. That sounds great.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You know, that’s such an important thing to do, Leslie, because there’s a lot of fires that happen in homes because of dirty dryer exhaust ducts. So, a good idea to keep it clean.
LESLIE: It’s funny, I was just noticing the lint buildup in my driveway again and I was like, “Ah, it’s time. Time to get out there.”
TOM: It’s time again. Yep.
LESLIE: Joe in Georgia is on the line with a cooling situation. Tell us what’s going on at your Georgia home.
JOE: I purchased a 1,700-square-foot ranch.
JOE: And it has a 3-ton air conditioner now. The owners put on an additional sunroom about 220 square feet but really didn’t upgrade the air-conditioning unit.
TOM: OK. Hmm. Yeah.
JOE: So in the summer, when it comes time to air-condition the whole house, that room never gets cool.
TOM: I bet. Yeah, not surprising.
JOE: It gets very warm out there.
JOE: There’s a lot of windows and our options are going to a bigger unit of 4½ tons to cool the whole house or some people have suggested to me that there is an individual unit that you can put out there with its own compressor.
LESLIE: Joe, do you have an actual wall or is everything all glass?
JOE: There’s a space on the bottom, under the window, and there’s a space above it. I’ve measured it and from what I can find online, I think the unit would just about fit on top of the window spot.
TOM: Well, here’s what you would do, Joe. I would definitely recommend that you use a separate system for the sun room and here’s why. If you get a 4½-ton unit, you’re going to have to run that unit all the time, whether you need the extra cooling power or not, and that’s going to really run up your electrical cost.
A 3-ton unit rule of thumb – and you’re in Georgia, so I would be on the extreme of this – is you would figure 600 to 800 square feet per ton. You’re in Georgia, so I would figure 600. That’s only 1,800 square feet. And believe me, there’s a lot of other things that calculate into this: how much insulation you have, how many windows you have facing south and so on.
TOM: So your system is right where it should be, at 3 tons.
TOM: If you were to make that bigger, it would be wasteful for the rest of the house. I would look at a product called a Mitsubishi Mr. Slim. This is a split-ductless system, so there’s no ducts to install. You put the compressor outside, the refrigerant lines get run to the inside. They hook up with an air handler that essentially hangs or is mounted right to the wall. I would put it on the exterior wall of your house facing into the sunroom.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they’re like, what, 18 inches by – no, 12 inches by 30 inches?
JOE: OK. OK.
LESLIE: They’re not gigantic.
TOM: I had to turn around and look at the one that’s hanging from my studio. That’s how quiet it is. Yeah, it’s probably 16 inches tall by maybe 2½ – yeah, 2½-foot wide.
LESLIE: Two or three feet.
TOM: And they’re great. They’re real efficient and …
TOM: You can get them in just the air-conditioning mode or you can get one in air conditioning and a heat pump. In case you want to use that space in the wintertime, you could just switch it into the heat mode.
LESLIE: And they heat super-fast.
JOE: That might be a good idea because it does get – it does stay cooler and I guess that must be because of the large, expansive windows that are in that one room.
TOM: Absolutely. Yep.
JOE: So it probably stays cooler, so we do find that we don’t even use that space once it starts to drop. But the temperatures don’t get extremely cold in Savannah here but still …
LESLIE: But it gets chilly.
TOM: And it’s perfect for that because it’ll really just sort of take the edge off. Go to the Mitsubishi Electric website and check out Mr. Slim.
TOM: That’s the product. It’s a good product; it works well. And I think it’s the perfect solution for your sunroom in Georgia.
JOE: I’d been leaning towards what you just said. I actually looked at another brand but if the Mitsubishi is good, I’ll pull that up online and kind of look into that one, also.
LESLIE: It’s the one that Tom and I both have personally in our homes and we’ve got one in the studio. And it just worked out that way, not for any reason sponsorship-wise or anything. And we both love them.
JOE: OK. Alright. Well, I’m going to do my homework on it and I appreciate all your help.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Still to come, with holiday vacation and plenty of high-end goodies up for grabs this holiday season, it’s not a surprise that this is the peak season for break-ins. Find out if a home security system is the answer you’ve been looking for, after this.
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.
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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: Standing by for your home improvement question. Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Coreen in Alaska is on the line and has a question about real estate value. Tell us about it.
COREEN: I live in an older condo with a wood fireplace.
COREEN: Would a wood fireplace be more – have more resale value or would a free-standing stove?
TOM: I think a fireplace probably would have more value. It certainly might make the place more attractive to most buyers who make more emotional decisions than practical decisions.
LESLIE: And I think from a decorating standpoint, I know that freestanding wood stoves, to me – while, yes, they create a cozy little seating area, sometimes they pose a ginormous decorating dilemma.
TOM: Well, true, because they just have to be out there in the middle of everything, so how do you work around that?
LESLIE: Right. And they’re usually a certain color. It’s not the easiest thing to paint or change the look of.
TOM: Yeah, so I would stay with the fireplace. Wood stoves are more efficient but I wouldn’t replace it if you’re getting ready to sell the house. I would keep the fireplace. I think if you did something to dress up the fireplace, if you needed it – with a new mantle, that kind of thing, cleaning up brick, whatever, just make it look good – I would just stop right there. I don’t think putting the wood stove in is going to be something that you’ll get a return on that investment from, Coreen.
COREEN: OK, great. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, home security is a top concern of homeowners. And new technology has made home security smarter and easier to use.
TOM: Definitely. But is this something that you should invest in or just another nifty gadget that you’ll grow tired of? Here to weigh the options is the host of TV’s This Old House, Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: Hi, guys.
TOM: You know, with all the different sort of tiers of protection that are available, how much security do you really get for your money these days?
KEVIN: Well, you know what? I mean cost is a big factor and there are a couple things to think about.
First of all, I think you get what you pay for, right? So the cost of alarm systems range from next to nothing for just the basic components and maybe a monthly monitoring contract, to several thousand dollars for a more advanced system. And ultimately, your cost is going to depend on the features that you include in the system and also, I guess, the level of service that you choose.
TOM: And there’s a lot of features available. You’ve got video surveillance, carbon-monoxide detection, all kinds of options today.
KEVIN: And if you start layering them on, you’re going to pay for more of those options.
So, the best advice: do your research and try to avoid any surprise costs. Sometimes there are surprise costs that are associated with setup or activation fees, that maybe you weren’t aware of, that can catch you off-guard. So read the fine print and just try to push past all the flashy marketing material and really focus in on the details.
LESLIE: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. Because a lot of times, they sort of reel you in with “Oh, it’s free to install. Sure, we’ll freely install a $3,000 security system but by the way, you have to sort of sign up for this annual monitoring, which is $700.”
KEVIN: Right. And that changes the equation completely.
TOM: Well, absolutely. So let’s talk about how these systems work. Because there certainly is a lot of variety out there. But let’s talk about the basics.
KEVIN: Well, alright. So the basics are they come with a combination of, say, motion detectors or door-and-window contacts that connect back to a home device with at least one keypad. And so when the system is armed and active, those sensors – whether it’s the motion sensor or the contacts on doors and windows – they will trigger an on-site alarm.
Now, if that alarm isn’t immediately disarmed by punching the correct code in the keypad – so you’ve walked through the door and you know what the code is, you punch it in there and shut it down.
KEVIN: If you don’t do that, the security company’s monitoring center is notified and then they’ll, in turn, call you and the police if they don’t get through to you.
LESLIE: And every person on your list.
KEVIN: And every person on your list.
LESLIE: We had – we were doing some plumbing repair work in the house and I could have sworn, in my mind, but chalk it up to pregnancy brain at the time – I thought I called the alarm-monitoring company and said, “Hey, there’s going to be soldering. Put the fire alarm in test mode for the day, so you don’t – if it goes off, don’t call anybody.” And I guess I didn’t and they’re soldering, literally, like 3 feet away from the smoke detector. And it’s the time that I ran into the store and decided that the phone could just stay in the car.
And they’re calling me, they call my mom, they call my husband, they call my sister and everybody is like, “The house is on fire.” Fire department shows up. The plumber said that they were just short of kicking down the front door when they were like, “No, everything’s fine.” Banana breads will be delivered to the Garden City Fire Department, I’m going to tell you that much.
KEVIN: And now here’s something I never thought of. Who do you put on the list? Your friends or the people you don’t like? Who do you want to get the call?
LESLIE: Well, it’s apparently the person who knows the code and can get in there or verify that – your whereabouts.
TOM: But that’s a good point. There are false alarms but that doesn’t change the equation in terms of the value of these systems. We talked about all of the options. Certainly, smoke and fire and the security is one side of it. But carbon-monoxide detectors, having that centrally monitored, is a good idea. They have flood detectors so that if your basement floods, for example, and you’re away – you get pipes that break, those sorts of things – they could be very worthwhile additions to add.
KEVIN: Boy, if you’ve got a second home and you’re not there all the time and you want to know if the heat goes out, you’re going to want to get that call so that you can make some changes or stop something tragic from happening.
But you also – if you’re thinking about it from just a cost perspective, you can – these things can help you out. First of all, they could be a good deterrent, right? There are studies out there that say just the presence of a security system can decrease crime. But also, you might save money on your homeowners insurance.
TOM: Ah, good point.
KEVIN: I mean that policy might drop.
LESLIE: A substantial amount.
KEVIN: Sometimes a substantial amount.
LESLIE: You know, we saved, I think, close to $300 annually by adding in the alarm system.
KEVIN: Right, right. And you get peace of mind.
TOM: We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, about alarm systems and whether these security systems are truly worth it.
Kevin, besides the security system, there are other things that you can do to sort of reduce the risk that you’re going to be burglarized, for example. Let’s talk a bit about those.
KEVIN: Well, there are other things that you can do and they don’t cost you that much, right? So a well-lit home on the inside, but especially on the outside, is going to help a lot. Believe it or not, keeping things like shrubs and landscaping trimmed can help.
We put a garden in once. Roger Cook was working on it and he took the high shrubs away from the windows and he called it a “burglar-proof garden.” But you can imagine. You can’t stand behind these tall arborvitaes and go through a window without the neighbor seeing, so there’s no obstruction to those types of things.
Locking the doors and windows obviously helps. And don’t leave burglar-y tools laying around. So don’t leave a ladder out there during a renovation that someone can easily access and get up through a window.
TOM: Yeah, I interviewed a crime-prevention officer once and he was telling me how frequently burglars will go to the shed first to find out what’s kind of there that they could use: the ladders and the shovels and other things that they can use to actually do damage and break into your house. So those …
LESLIE: I also like to leave a note of thank-you pads there so they can write me a thank-you note like, “Thank you for leaving me the tools to break into your home.”
TOM: The burglars? Oh, yeah.
KEVIN: It’s kind of a sad state of affairs when the burglars don’t even bring their own equipment.
TOM: But regardless, we do want to keep them out and your advice has helped. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for being a part of The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Pleasure 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 brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.
Still to come, there is still time to make some energy-efficient home improvements that can pay off big come tax time.
LESLIE: That’s right. We’ll tell you what improvements give you credit with Uncle Sam, after this.
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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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $200 prize pack from Stanley Tools. It includes the FatMax Auto-Locking Tape Rule, which makes one-handed measuring easy, a TwinTec Ratcheting Wrench, which you can actually use to take the place of an entire socket set. It’s perfect for your car or a boat tool box. It’s really fantastic. These are just two of the many great prizes in this kit.
TOM: And both of these products make great gifts. You can visit StanleyTools.com to learn more. And also, check out the 2013 Holiday Gift Guide online, right now, at MoneyPit.com, which is also presented by Stanley.
LESLIE: Well, just a few weeks left in 2013 but it’s still enough time to get in a project that will make your home more energy-efficient. What’s the rush? Well, homeowners who remodel for energy efficiency can take a credit of up to $500 over their lifetime.
Now, some ideas might include a heating upgrade, new windows or doors or even insulation. Now, this tax credit has been around since 2006, so a lot of you taxpayers out there have actually already used this credit. But if you haven’t taken advantage of it, it’s a good time to do it now.
TOM: There’s also a $500 credit that’s separate for energy-efficient appliances. If you’ve not used that credit yet, it’s a really good time of year to be shopping for energy-efficient upgrades on your washers, your dryers, your refrigerators. You know, holiday sales are everywhere, so you could get both a great price and that credit, to boot.
So, if your budget’s been holding you back, maybe this is the time to go ahead and make all of those energy-efficient improvements that you’ve been holding off of. Because Uncle Sam will give you a tax credit. And remember, a tax credit is much more valuable than a tax deduction because you get to deduct the full value of the credit off the money you owe the government.
LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line with a mold question.
LAURIE: My husband and I think that there possibly might be some mold in our drywall or insulation in our home and we wondered the best way to check for that. We don’t have any airflow in our home, though.
TOM: What makes you think you have mold? Do you physically see it?
LAURIE: Well, we have an underground – part of our home is underground and there is a lot of moisture. It seems like in the air – we’ve seen some mold on some items in our home. And we have some cold-like symptoms from time to time that we think might be caused from it.
LESLIE: It’s like allergies, you’re saying.
TOM: So it’s more of the effects of it that you’re concerned about.
TOM: And this is in the basement.
LAURIE: Yes. It’s in the part of the home that’s underground and I had read online that some of those mold test kits are unreliable that you buy in the store or mold inspections can be very costly. I just didn’t know the best choice there.
TOM: Well, the truth is that mold pretty much exists in every home and so we can always find mold. The question is whether or not this is causing a problem in your house.
What kind of floor do you have in that basement, Laurie?
LAURIE: It’s cement and then there’s carpet over that.
LESLIE: That’s a huge mold trap right there. If you were to get rid of that, you would notice. Even if there’s moisture management in a basement, we never recommend putting a carpet down on a concrete slab in a basement area, just because concrete’s hydroscopic. It pulls the moisture from the ground. That then gets into the carpet pad, the carpet itself. And then the dust gets in there and you’ve got a breeding ground for mold.
So if you were to get rid of that, put down laminate or tile, use some area rugs, you’re instantly going to notice a better respiratory situation, I think.
TOM: Well, exactly. Plus, carpet is a filter material, so that carpet can trap dust, dust mites and all sorts of other allergens. So there could be other things, Laurie, here that are causing the breathing issues.
So let’s just give you some general clean-air advice. First of all, as Leslie said, the carpet’s not a good idea. Secondly, you want to make sure that your basement remains as dry as possible. And the way you do that is by making sure the gutter system is clean, free-flowing and the downspout is discharging well away from the house itself.
Secondly, we may want to add some sort of a filtration system. Now, do you have forced air into that basement space?
LAURIE: We do not. We do have a dehumidifier that we run and we have some ceiling fans but not in every room or not in every area.
TOM: So, is it a hot water-heated house?
LAURIE: No, it’s electric.
TOM: It’s all electric?
TOM: OK. So what we would really like to see is some sort of a filtration system in there – a good-quality, portable air filter, electronic air cleaner perhaps – that will pull the dust and dust mites and anything else that is of allergen basis out of that basement space. So a portable air cleaner could be a good addition.
But I suspect, from everything that you’ve told us, reducing dampness and removing the carpet will make that space a lot more comfortable.
LAURIE: Excellent. Thank you so much. That gives me some great ideas.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project, Laurie, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LAURIE: Thank you.
LESLIE: Coming up, we’re going to help one listener figure out if a project is in his do-it-yourself realm of capability, when The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, celebrating their 170-year anniversary. At Stanley, making history is our future. To learn more, visit StanleyTools.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.
TOM: On our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com, we’ve got a great gallery on holiday home safety. It’s shockingly a very busy time of the year for home-related emergencies. So we’ve got tips on how to stay safe when it comes to your winter fires, your holiday lights, your sparkling candles and so on. It’s on the home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: And while you’re online, if you want you can post a question there for us in the Community section, just like Charles in Colorado did. And he writes: “How hard is it to replace faucets on our bathroom and kitchen sinks? We have zero do-it-yourself skills. Is this something that we could do ourselves?”
I think the question is: “Is this something we should do ourselves?”
TOM: Yeah. And you know what? It’s not a hard project to do if you have some basic home improvement skills. But if you have zero skills, I would say it’s going to be a bit challenging for you. Because first of all – I mean look, if you can turn the main water line – well, not the main but the water supply that feeds the faucet, the hot-and-cold water supply off in the sink – if you can actually get those off and they go off 100 percent – which they don’t always because sometimes those valves get kind of jammed up. You can turn the water off, at least there’s not a risk of further leakage.
But a lot of bad things happen when you replace plumbing valves. Sometimes, they break or they strip and in a lot of cases, it’s very difficult to get into the area that you need to get into to attach things. For example, when I replace faucets on sinks, I take the sink out of the vanity or take the entire top off because it’s just a lot easier to put it all together when it’s on the ground. I’ll drop the top back on.
So, it’s kind of an advanced do-it-yourself project. It’s not a really hard one if you’ve got the basic tools and basic skills. But I would say that if you are – if you really are saying you have zero DIY skills, there’s a lot of other things that you should be doing, like painting and maybe even some molding or something like that around the house that’s easier. I wouldn’t start with plumbing.
LESLIE: Bill in Columbus, Ohio writes: “I have a pink substance on the floor of my shower that won’t go away. I think it’s from the water but it only appears in the shower.”
TOM: That would be because it’s probably a mineral-salt deposit, which happens with some types of water. A product that works well to take off mineral-salt deposits is CLR. It stands for Calcium, Lime and Rust. And if you apply that and follow the label directions, that should get rid of that pinkish stain.
Now, if it’s into the grout, that might be more difficult if this was, in fact, a tile shower. In that case, you may, if it’s bad enough, want to think about replacing the grout. You can use a grout saw, which scrapes out the old grout. And then you can regrout right on top of that. And when you regrout, if you use an epoxy grout, it won’t be very absorbent and any type of mineral-salt deposit will be easily wiped away.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And really won’t stick to it, so that’s a really good plan of attack.
TOM: Alright. Let’s go to this question from Allie who writes: “I’m trying to add heating to the basement that will be cost-effective and efficient at the same time. The basement area is about 300 square feet and the rest of my home is on hot-water baseboard.”
Well, efficient and effective, sometimes it’s hard to get both. But here’s the thing, Allie. If you have a boiler in the basement and it’s simple enough for your plumber to add another zone to just heat the basement, that’s going to be the least expensive way to heat the basement.
That said, sometimes that is expensive to install. So in the alternative, I would consider electric baseboard heat because that’s inexpensive to install. It can be costly to run but frankly, in a basement, you usually don’t have to run the heat more than, I don’t know, half the time you’re running the heat in other parts of the house. So that might be the best way to go.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, Allie, if you’re going to go that route, it makes a lot of sense to use a programmable thermostat. This way, it’ll come on when you need it and off when you don’t. And it’ll really help you save a lot of energy dollars and it’ll be the most effective that way.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air, online at MoneyPit.com. It is a very busy time of the year. We hope that you’re all having a fantastic day as you go about your business.
If your to-do involves a home improvement project, remember you can reach out to us 24-7 at 888-MONEY-PIT or online at MoneyPit.com.
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.
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(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.)