How to Find out About Home Related Tax Deductions, Circuit Breakers and Other Electrical Safety Tips, Adhesives for your DIY Tool Box 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 we are so happy to be here with you to help you tackle your home improvement projects for spring. Help yourself, first, and pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Well, sorry to report but if you haven’t heard or you just prefer to remain seated firmly in denial, yes, it is tax time again. Time once again to pony up, hand off to the government what they’re due. But not to worry because when it comes to your house, we’ve got money-saving advice on how to get tax breaks on your home improvement projects.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, you’re in the middle of drying your hair and the power goes out.
TOM: Yep. Happens to me all the time.
LESLIE: I mean that’s why your hair is always so beautifully coiffed. I’m always commenting like, “What kind of hair dryer do you use, Tom?”
But seriously, that’s a big problem if the power goes out in the middle of drying your hair, because then your hair is going to dry all weird. Well, let me tell you, guys: if your circuit breaker trips, it’s happening for a reason. And we’ll tell you why these devices keep you safe and what you should be doing if they’re tripping.
TOM: And one lucky caller this hour can finally hang up all those frames and artwork. We’re giving away a super laser level, great for making the right cut or hole the first time. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. So give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and a chance to win a great tool. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Angela in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ANGELA: I am purchasing a beautiful 1940s home. It’s two stories with a basement and I was just wondering you guys’ thoughts on the second floor. Basically, there’s a very tiny staircase that goes up to the second floor and I’m worried about if there was a fire, something that blocked the stairway. Are there products out there that you can purchase – well, yeah, I don’t know, a roll-down ladder or some kind of alarm or something? What do you guys know about that?
TOM: Sure. There’s all sorts of things. In terms of egress, if you have just the staircase and you want another option, you could always get a ladder that – it’s like a chain ladder that hooks over the window and you drop it down the outside wall of your house. Problem with those, though, is that in – from a practical matter, in a fire you have black smoke filling the house. It’s really hard to find that ladder and set it up.
LESLIE: Some of them are actually built into window-box units that look like a decorative window box that you can attach to the exterior of your home. And it would be right outside of the window. But then again, that’s not really ideal if it’s a kid’s room.
ANGELA: Right, right. Yeah. And that’s – it’s just me and two kids and we all have our own room, so …
TOM: So I would make sure that you have a good-quality smoke-alarm system. You know, if you can afford to use one that’s centrally monitored, I think that’s best because now you know the system – the home is being monitored 24/7. And you could add carbon-monoxide protection to that and even flood protection to that and temperature protection to that all in the same system.
ANGELA: Is there some kind of system that – I don’t want to have to hard-wire it in the house. But is there a system that maybe uses Bluetooth or some things that have to talk to each other?
TOM: Yes. If you have hardwired smoke detectors now – so if you have a detector that’s already wired – not battery-powered but hardwired – you can replace that with a Nest Protect. And the Nest is the brand, Protect is the detector. And the Nest Protect is a combination dual-technology smoke detector, so it works for both with a photoelectric sensor and an ionization sensor, which basically means it’ll detect smoldering fires and flash fires but it also protects you against carbon monoxide.
Now, what I like about this system is if you also install it with the Nest Thermostat, if either of those things were to happen – if you had a fire or you had a carbon-monoxide alert – it will actually turn the thermostat off, which is important. Because if it’s carbon monoxide, the most likely source in the home is the furnace or the boiler, depending on what kind of system you have. And if you have a fire, running that furnace during the fire helps to spread the smoke.
You definitely can install it yourself. It’s not difficult. Nest provides great instruction on how to do that. In fact, I just replaced – I have a centrally monitored system in my house but I decided – we also had, sort of as a redundant system, two hardwired detectors: one on the first floor, one on the second floor. I’ve just replaced those with the Nest Protect. And I’m really happy with it. I think it’s a really good system and just gives me some added peace of mind.
ANGELA: OK. Well, thank you so much. That’s a great idea. I think that’s the way I’m going to go.
TOM: Alright, Angela. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mike in Louisiana is on the line with a question about concrete. What’s happening to it?
MIKE: I have a crack in my foundation and I was wondering what would be the best way to stop it.
TOM: So is this a basement foundation or a crawlspace foundation? What’s it look like?
MIKE: I have a slab. I don’t have a (inaudible at 0:05:33). It’s just a crack in the concrete. Goes pretty much all the way across on one end of the house.
TOM: OK. So does it – is it the floor or do you see it from the outside? Where are we seeing this?
MIKE: Just in the floor. I just see it in the floor. I don’t see it on the side. Looked at twice on the outside and I haven’t seen it.
TOM: Alright. So that might not be part of the foundation. Because when you have a slab-on-grade house, the floor area itself is actually not part of the foundation; only the perimeter is. So that’s a pretty standard crack repair. What you want to do is go to a home center and pick up a QUIKRETE – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E – epoxy-based or patching compound. And that is something that you can apply to the crack.
There’s a number of different types of this. Some of it comes in a tube that you can apply with a caulk gun and others you mix up. But it has to be a patching material because the – otherwise, it won’t stick to the old concrete. Then what you do is clean out that crack, you apply the patch, let it dry and you’re good to go.
MIKE: OK. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks again 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. You guys, it is officially the first weekend of spring. I know it’s Sunday but it’s the first weekend of spring. I’m just going to count it as the whole weekend, so let’s move out of this winter and move into sunshine-y, warmer days with all of those summer days on the horizon, get your house in tip-top shape, everything you want to do. We’re going to start focusing on the outdoors and get it ready. Give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT.
Yes, it is the first weekend of spring and that means it’s also time to start getting your taxes together. We all want to avoid giving more money to Uncle Sam, right? So coming up, we’ve got tips and advice on how to take advantage of tax breaks for home related expenses. That’s all coming up, 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.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour we’re giving away a great prize. It’s a laser level. It’s got a unique ball-and-cup mounting system to help you get all those pictures and other projects aligned nice and straight and level.
It’s worth 30 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. Make that you by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Kathy in Delaware is on the line and wants to talk about gutter options. Tell us about your house.
KATHY: I’d like to know what type of gutters would be best for a two-story Colonial house.
TOM: Well, the same kind of gutters that would be best for a one-story ranch house: the ones that are properly installed, properly sized and cart that water well away from the foundation. So, here’s a couple of things to know about gutter selection and installation.
First of all, what’s very, very important with gutters is the number of downspouts. Because one downspout can typically only handle 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface. So, no matter what type of installation, you need to really focus on making sure that there’s enough downspouts.
And where this can get tricky is if you have, especially with a Colonial, let’s say you have an upper roof. And sometimes that drains to a lower roof, like over a garage. And now you’ve got all of the upper roof, plus part of the lower roof, going down to one downspout that’s at the end of the lower roof. In that scenario, those spouts can get easily overwhelmed and that means the water overflows. It can cause decay damage into the framing. It can also drain right at the foundation perimeter and that can lead to issues with flooding and disruption of your foundation. So, I would tell you to make sure you have enough downspouts.
Secondly, in terms of the gutters themselves, 4-inch, K-style gutters are the standard. If you would like to do something that’s a little bit better than that and one that is less likely to clog, consider the 6-inch, K-style gutters.
KATHY: How about the covered gutters?
TOM: In terms of the covered gutters, they’re a good option but you have to choose them carefully. There are many types of gutter covers that are out there. The ones that I like the best are the ones that work on the principle of surface tension. So what happens is the rain runs off the roof shingles onto the top of the gutter cover. And then it falls through a groove in the front of the gutter cover into the downspout, yet the leaves wash off the front.
KATHY: They able to get more clogs than the open ones?
TOM: No. They’re going to get less clogged than the open ones. If you use something like a screen on your gutters, which is the way we used to always protect gutters, those can get clogged quite readily.
KATHY: Right. I’ve had them and taken them off.
TOM: Yeah. Exactly.
Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Dave in West Virginia is on the line and needs help with a water heater. What can we do for you today?
DAVE: Hi. I was wondering if – I know there’s efficiency advantages in the – convenience advantage with the tankless. But I’m wondering if they last longer in hard-water areas versus a tank. Seems like I’m replacing a tank water heater about every 9 or 10 years.
TOM: The problem with tankless water heaters in hard-water areas is that sometimes the internal plumbing of the tankless water heater gets clogged. So you have to have a water softener on that that’s effective so that you don’t deposit those minerals inside the tankless water heater and have it jam up on you.
DAVE: So if you have a – if you do have a water softener, does it – do they last longer than the 10 years usually or less than you get out of a tank type?
TOM: Yeah. I think so. It’s more like purchasing a boiler than it is a water heater. So they’re pretty durable in that respect.
DAVE: OK. Because I was reading online – there just seems to be a lot of different opinions out there whether they’re good or not. And I guess there’s a lot of controls on them than on a regular water heater that can go bad. And I guess they’re recommending an annual service and things like that, where a regular tank type – you don’t really – once you install it, you don’t think too much about them.
TOM: I really don’t think there’s that much service to them. I do know there’s a lot of misinformation about tankless water heaters out there. You know, for many years, plumbers were putting them in wrong and then blaming the appliance. They would use the wrong-size gas lines and stuff like that. But I think tankless technology has proved out to be very reliable and something that I think I definitely would do if it was time for a new water heater at my house.
DAVE: Yeah. The problem is it’s in the 20s here and it’s failed so I don’t have much time to do much research to make the swap. Do you have any recommendations on making a tank-type water heater last longer, besides a water softener?
TOM: Well, I mean yeah. That’s really it. Conditioning the water is the hot ticket there.
DAVE: Yeah. OK. Well, thanks.
TOM: Alright, Dave. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, look, if you’d like to shave a few bucks off your tax bill, now is a good time to do that because the benefits of home ownership might be able to pay off. There’s lots of deductions available for homeowners if you know where to look.
LESLIE: Alright. So the IRS says that home improvements are tax deductible but they’ve got to meet a certain criteria. Now, the home improvement must be substantial, must prolong the useful life of your home. And that can include adapting your home to new uses.
TOM: Well, that’s right. And home improvements that are made because of, say, a medical need are always tax deductible. So look, if you’ve got to do things like a wheelchair ramp or add some grab bars, lowering the light switches, maybe making the doors more accessible and maybe even something like adding a whole-house filter to make the air more breathable inside your house, those are all deductible. You’ll also find that there are tax credits now available for certain improvements that save energy.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now here’s the rub: anything that’s considered regular maintenance and repair is not tax deductible. But the cost of those repairs and maintenance can have tax benefits when you go to sell your home. So keep all of your receipts for everything anyway, just in case.
TOM: Yep. And the way it works is those costs are actually added to the total cost of your home. So, for example, if you paid maybe 200,000 for your house and you sold it for 300,000 but over all those years you owned it you spent maybe 20,000 in repairs and maintenance, well, your real cost of the house is the original purchase price of 200 plus that 20. And that brings your tax you pay on any capital gain down significantly.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And there still are a few other deductions that homeowners can take advantage of. Talking about mortgage-interest credits, property taxes. And moving expenses are among those that you can deduct.
Now, the best thing that you can do is get professional advice, because I’m not a tax pro but I know how to point you in the direction of one. And if you do see a pro, you might find that you get to keep some of your own money in your own pocket where you want it to stay.
TOM: You’ve got to love that.
888-666-3974. We would love to hear from you about the projects you’re tackling this fine spring weekend. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Linda in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
LINDA: I’m looking and getting quotations on installing a natural-gas generator for my home, which would cover the entire house. However, my problem is in my yard, there are three different locations where every year, after the snow and you are in spring, there is an indentation in the ground which is round, approximately 36 inches in diameter, where it completely sinks. And every year, I just fill it in with topsoil and cover it with grass seed and that takes care of it for the summer. But in the spring – and this has gone on to the last 10 years anyway.
So my concern is I was informed that it would – oh, the weight of the base of the generator would go anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 pounds. And I don’t want to have a base and then it just disappear into the ground if there were any other spots in that location or that would cause it …
TOM: OK. So a couple of things to consider here. One thing I would do is when you choose the best location, because of the plumbing connections and that sort of thing, I would excavate out some of that soil, especially if you’ve been piling topsoil upon – on top of topsoil for years. Because topsoil is very organic and it’s going to decay and settle.
I would install a stone base, just like I would if I was building a paver patio. And so I would put a 6-inch stone base in there of crushed gravel stone. I’d tamp it really well, pack it down nice and solid. When you do this, it becomes really, really durable, almost like a concrete slab. And then you can basically do this so it gets up to the level where the generator pad will sit just over it. And in this way, you’re creating a good support structure where the weight can be spread out evenly across that entire surface.
I just wouldn’t drop the pad on the soil and put the machine on it, because that could be an issue. But if you create a bit of a stone base there and do it really well, I don’t think you’re going to have any problems. And by the way, installing a generator is a really smart thing to do these days. The costs have come down and it’s just super convenient to be able to say you’re never going to run out of power again.
LINDA: Well, thank you ever so much. I certainly will do that.
TOM: Alright, Linda. Good luck.
LESLIE: Jeff in Pennsylvania is on the line and has a question about the order of things when it comes to a roofing project. What can we do for you?
JEFF: Wanted to check with a neutral third party to see if they have any recommendations or if you’d have any recommendations on putting a heavy, architectural shingle over top of an existing three-tab that’s very thin, very flat.
TOM: Well, first of all, we generally don’t like to put – to recommend you put a second layer of roofing shingles on it but it comes down to economics. Yeah, we’ll say this: if you put a second layer on, the second layer doesn’t usually last as long as the first layer. Because the first layer holds a lot of heat and that can, over the long haul, wear out the second layer because that heat is the enemy of the asphalt shingle. It forces more oil to evaporate out of it and more of the materials that make it pliable and watertight. And so, second layers generally don’t last as long as the first layers.
The other thing to consider is how long you’re going to be in the house, because you’ll probably have a shortened roof life. If it’s a short-term house for you – maybe you don’t care or you’re trying to save some cash – then maybe you want to go ahead and put a second layer on. But the best way to roof a house is to tear off the old layers and put on a second layer. Weight is not an issue, if that’s what you’re concerned about. Can it handle it? Yeah, it certainly can handle a second layer. But it’s just not good building practice.
JEFF: OK. I thank you much.
TOM: Good luck, Jeff. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, one area of the home that you should not attempt DIY repairs without experience is your electrical system.
TOM: Up next, we’re going to hear from This Old House electrical contractor Scott Caron about your home’s electrical panel and what you need to know about circuit breakers.
And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-like tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.
JOE: Hi, this is Joe Namath. And if you want to move the ball on your home improvement projects, listen to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
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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: And it’s the first weekend of spring and also spring flooring season. That means it’s time to get your free, 68-page Lumber Liquidators spring flooring-trends catalog by calling 1-800-HARDWOOD today.
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TOM: Just call Lumber Liquidators at 1-800-HARDWOOD and get the free spring flooring-trends catalog to get started on a great, new floor.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then visit your local Lumber Liquidators store or LumberLiquidators.com and get a great spring flooring deal.
TOM: You know, Lumber Liquidators has hundreds of stores nationwide. For locations, call 1-800-HARDWOOD or visit LumberLiquidators.com. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.
LESLIE: Sue in Florida is on the line with a shower that doesn’t drain. Tell us about it.
SUE: Well, we’re getting ready to close on a home and after the home inspection, we found that the water stands on the shower floor and doesn’t drain.
TOM: OK. So this came up during the home inspection, Sue?
TOM: Well, I would have the seller fix this. What’s causing it? Who knows? Could be as simple as a clog. It could be something more complex, like a broken pipe beneath the slab or a missing vent pipe. But that’s a mechanical issue. And mechanical systems usually have to be in working-order condition at the time of closing.
So I would ask the seller to repair that. And if they’re not going to repair it, to give you a substantial credit because you’re going to have to do the investigation to figure out what it is and get it fixed on your own. And when drains are in floors and probably inside of a slab floor, it could be very complicated. It could become expensive.
Good luck with that project, Sue. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, we’ve all been there: you’re in the middle of something when – poof – the lights go out. It seems to happen at the worst possible time, too.
TOM: Well, it might be a nuisance but circuit breakers trip for a major safety reason. Here to tell us why and how circuit breakers actually work is Scott Caron, the master electrician for TV’s This Old House.
SCOTT: Hey. It’s good to be here.
TOM: So, let’s talk about, first, what exactly circuit breakers are and how they work to protect you from fires.
SCOTT: Sure. So a circuit breaker does two things. First and foremost, it protects wires. And then there’s two types: there’s an overload and there’s a short circuit. Now, when that circuit breaker gets overloaded either from too many appliances or too many things on at the same time, it’ll shut off. In a short-circuit situation, if those wires touch or something happens that’s drastic, it also shuts off really quickly.
LESLIE: So with circuit breakers, I mean they’re really only supposed to provide a certain amount of power. And if they’re drawing too much and the circuit overheats, they’ll trip, right?
SCOTT: Yes. That wire is matched to that circuit breaker and vice versa. So on a 15-amp circuit breaker, that wire is rated for 15 amps. Same thing with 20 and 30.
TOM: So how does that differ from a fuse?
SCOTT: Believe it or not, fuses are safe. Once they shut off, they’re off until you unscrew the fuse and put a new one in. They’re not as convenient, which is why we came from fuses to circuit breakers.
TOM: Now, there are new types of circuit breakers out there right now. And one of the most recent is a type of circuit breaker called an “arc-fault circuit interrupter.” How do they work?
SCOTT: So an arc-fault circuit interrupter or an AFCI, it works by sensing any sort of power spark. So if the positive and the negative touch, then it shuts right off immediately. And these are all required from code as you build a new house today. You need to put one in. If you add a circuit to a room, you need to use this particular circuit breaker. And they just came out with an arc-fault circuit outlet.
TOM: So how does that work? How is that different? Does that actually protect everything that’s on the same circuit by having one AFCI? Does it control the entire circuit?
SCOTT: So the arc-fault outlet, which is really nice – if you’re adding an outlet from another outlet, you can swap out the regular outlet and you’ll have arc-fault protection from there on afterwards. It’s a nice way of doing an additional outlet off of another situation that you can’t get to the main electrical panel. That’s the basics of it.
TOM: So basic, it’s sequential. As long as it’s at sort of the start of the circuit, it will protect everything that follows?
SCOTT: Yes. That’s right.
TOM: Now, these sound very similar to what a ground-fault does. How would you describe the difference between a ground-fault circuit interrupter and an arc-fault circuit interrupter? The ground-fault is one that we’re used to seeing in damp locations, right?
SCOTT: That’s right. So they both interrupt the power going to the end device, whatever that might be, whether it’s an outlet or a light fixture. The ground-fault, it does exactly what it says: it senses a very small amount of electricity travelling to ground – milliamps, a really tiny amount – and it shuts it off immediately. So, therefore, somebody can’t get electrocuted. They use them in all wet environments, like your kitchens, your bathrooms and outdoors.
TOM: So what about code considerations? Are these new types of circuit breakers actually required in buildings yet?
SCOTT: So, yeah. In new homes today, we’re using arc-fault circuit-interrupter breakers on almost every single circuit in the house. And the ground-faults – again, if there’s water outside, inside, garage, we’re using those, as well.
TOM: Great upgrades, great information. Scott Caron, the electrical contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
SCOTT: You got it. It was fun to be here.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.
Still to come, granite remains a very popular material for kitchen counters. We’ll have tips on installation and maintenance, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
And we want to hear what you are working on on these very fine, early days of spring. That’s right. I’m just going to jump right in. It’s springtime. I know it’s the first day but I’m going for it. So we want to hear what you’re working on, 888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call. We’re going to get you the answer and give you some help with what you’re working on. But we’re also going to give you a great prize.
And this hour, we’ve got up for grabs a laser level, which really makes life so easy when you’re trying to hang things in a straight line or if you’re trying to put up a piece of chair rail or some sort of molding that’s kind of just floating in the middle of a wall and you want it to look straight. That is where a laser level will really help you. It’s also great for hanging shelves, cabinets, mirrors, you name it. You’re going to be so thankful to have it.
It’s a prize worth 29 bucks and it’s going out to one lucky caller at random. So give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Zelda in North Carolina is looking for some help with a renovation. What can we do for you?
ZELDA: Yes. I’ve done a lot with my floors but I put some laminate in everywhere, because I have a little Chihuahua dog and didn’t want to get scratches on real wood. But there is a bathroom upstairs and a small hallway in front and I didn’t want laminate there, because you don’t want it in a bathroom. So, what else would be good? Because I didn’t want the grout issues of tile or – and I didn’t know what else to go to. I thought about bamboo or is there some tile that doesn’t have the grout-y stuff or …?
TOM: Well, there’s a wide variety of choices. Now, you mentioned that you didn’t want to put laminate there. Do you want something that gives you a wood look?
ZELDA: Not necessarily.
TOM: Alright. Well, one of the options that I was thinking would be a bamboo floor. Bamboo is very, very durable and it’s also very good in moist, damp areas. It doesn’t swell. And you can pick up bamboo as an engineered product, which means it’s made in multiple layers, which gives it dimensional stability. But of course, that is going to give you sort of that wood look.
There are also luxury vinyl products that are out today that are very, very thick and heavy vinyl tile that are not very expensive.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s like a rubberized vinyl, even. They’re fairly thick. They’re available in a plank style, so it actually looks like wood. Some of those will – some will snap together as the rubberized vinyl. Some will sort of overlap and stick to one another. It depends on the quality of the product, to be honest with you, but they’re both – however much money you do spend on a rubberized vinyl, it goes together very easily and it looks fantastic. And it’s a little bit softer, so it’s more forgiving on your legs, knees, back when you’re standing in the room for a long time.
ZELDA: Well, yeah, because my first choice, when I went to look, was the bamboo. But I wasn’t sure if that could go in a bathroom. So that really is what I kind of liked the best. Yeah, great.
Thank you so much. That’s very helpful.
TOM: You’re welcome, Zelda. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
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TOM: Visit LIQUIDNAILS.com to learn more.
LESLIE: Heading out to Delaware where Ed has got a problem in the basement and some sort of mysterious odor. What’s going on down there?
ED: I purchased a home back in 2015 of August. And about three months into it, I lost power in the basement and it turns out I had some moisture in the electrical outlets. So, those outlets have since been closed off and I was told I had to get them rewired. But apparently, there was some moisture coming in somewhere.
But ever since I purchased the home, I’m – there’s this odor that radiates from the basement and it’s just like a chemical odor. And it comes upstairs and literally gets in everything that’s – the clothes and everything. It goes with you to work and it stays in the clothes. I just can’t seem to get rid of it.
TOM: Is the basement unfinished, Ed?
ED: No. Unfortunately, it’s finished. It has paneling against the wall.
TOM: It has paneling?
TOM: And does it have carpets?
ED: Half the basement has carpet, yes. And the carpet seems dry and everything, so I was hoping it was something radiating from the carpet. But that seems to be OK. So my next option is basically to get a waterproofer in here and potentially have the basement gutted and finished, seal the walls.
TOM: You don’t want to do that. So, I do think that most likely source of the odor is simply dampness. And because it’s partially finished, the materials can – when they get wet, they can also hold bacteria and that can cause an odor. The carpet is absolutely terrible. That will hold dust and dust mites and dirt and can really contribute to the smell.
But the solution is never, ever to call a basement waterproofer. Those guys generally install one kind of system and one kind of system only. And that’s a series of drains and pumps that pump water out. But your problem can be easily resolved by doing two things. Number one, improving the drainage condition of the foundation perimeter. So that means adding soil where it’s flat, sloping it away from the walls and that sort of thing. And secondly and even more importantly, looking at the gutter system, making sure the downspouts are clean, free-flowing and extending from the foundation perimeter at least 4 to 6 feet. So those two things will reduce the amount of moisture that collects at the perimeter. And that will reduce humidity in the basement and certainly reduce any chance of flooding.
Once that’s done, I would probably also opt to install a dehumidifier in the basement. And I would put in a good-quality dehumidifier, such as one from Santa Fe. They have some nice units that hang from the ceiling that really do an effective job at pulling moisture out. And you can set up that drain so it basically drains outside or to a condensate pump, so it’s not like you’re going to have to empty a pan of water now and again.
Then, at some point you’re going to have to decide what you want to do with that basement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen paneling pulled off to find lots and lots of mold behind it. And that may or may not be the case there. But I think if you reduce the moisture in that basement, then I think you’ll find that a lot of the odor will dissipate.
ED: OK. And as far as the electrical outlets in that basement containing a little bit of moisture …
TOM: Condensation. It’s all related; it’s all the same issue. You’ve got a lot of condensation there.
TOM: Take a look at MoneyPit.com. Right on the home page, there’s a good article, one of the most popular ones on the site, about how to solve basement-moisture problems and flooding.
ED: OK. I will do.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Ed. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Nothing keeps your home looking updated than a current kitchen. Now, if you’re thinking about switching out your old countertops for granite, we’ve got some design tips for you, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you know The Money Pit e-Newsletter is another great source for home improvement tips. Comes out every Friday morning. Sign up for free at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, post your question. And I’ve got one here that says, “I’m ready to install my granite countertop. Should I do the 4-inch backsplash of granite or should the granite go flush to the wall and then use a tile backsplash? Some say the granite backsplash is outdated.”
TOM: I would definitely not do a 4-inch backsplash of granite. I think, when you’re going to spend the money on a granite countertop, putting a little 4-inch piece, like a curb, as a backsplash is really not going to look good. You want to probably do a full backsplash of tile or some other organic material. But I don’t think you want to do it with granite.
Would do you think?
LESLIE: Well, the 4-inch backsplash, I think, is really more suited for a bathroom environment. Because in a bathroom, you’re not really dealing with such a large-scale tile surface behind your vanity. So that, I think, is where it works best. If you love the look of the granite that you’re getting and you’re super in love with it and you want to see more and you don’t know – or perhaps the pattern in your granite is a little bit busy and you’re having a hard time figuring out a tile that goes with it, your option could be a full backsplash of that same granite. I’ve seen that done before, especially when a granite is busy but so busy that it kind of clashes with tiles. And then you would think it would be overwhelming as the backsplash but it actually looks awesome.
So that’s an option but keep in mind now you’re doubling the amount of granite you’re going to need, because you’re doing a full backsplash of it. And granite, as we all know, comes with a high price tag. So you want to make sure that that’s within your budget.
Now, I personally love the look of a tile backsplash. It can be simple and you can maybe put it on the diamond pattern or do something interesting with a subway tile and sort of soldier them rather than staggering them. There’s a lot of different techniques that you could use with a very simple tile to make it more interesting. You could also use a glass tile, something that’s of a simple color that’s maybe frosted, that has an interesting look to it for your backsplash. Or you can do a simple tile and then just pop in a very special tile here and there that keeps the cost down but still makes the design something a little bit more interesting than just plain. But I really like the look of a tile backsplash.
Now, when it comes to granite countertops, you have to keep in mind, too, that that front edge of your counter, you know, you get to pick what that looks like. So you can go with something that’s a squared edge or a rounded edge. You really have to think about it. If you’ve got small kids, you don’t want anything pointed on a corner. Because if somebody bumps into it, it could be sharp.
Also, keep in mind the more detailed the edge, the more expensive it’s going to be. My favorite one is always the OG edge, which is like this router bit that’s all curvy and fancy and it makes this beautiful edge. It’s also the most expensive one. So don’t pick it if you’re trying to stay on a budget. There’s a lot of ways that you can get crazy expensive with granite or stay more cost-effective and I think that’s really where we all want to look into.
Next up, we’ve got Juan from Pennsylvania who writes: “I’m questioning getting a heat pump installed in a house that I’m in the process of buying. It’s located in Western PA. Currently has a gas furnace, no cooling. The idea is taking some of the heavy lifting off of the gas furnace and getting cooling in the summer. It seems like a good idea. What’s your opinion?”
TOM: I don’t think I would give up my gas furnace to go with a heat pump, because I think it’s going to be much more expensive, especially in a climate like Western Pennsylvania where it gets super cold. So I would definitely keep the gas furnace. If anything, I would upgrade that to a high-efficiency gas furnace and a matching high-efficiencyair-conditioning system. I don’t think that that’s a good climate for a heat pump. Really no reason to give up using the gas fuel in that scenario.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps.
TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and always online at MoneyPit.com. Thanks so much for spending the beginning of this beautiful spring weekend with us. If you’ve got questions, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’re also most welcome to post your questions to our website at MoneyPit.com or at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
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 2016 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)