How Lightning Rods Keep Your Home Safe, How to Use Energy Efficient Lighting to Cut Electric Bills, Tips on Organizing Clutter 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 welcome to this hour of the program. As you sit there in your money pit or perhaps drive down the road and think about your money pit, you must have a project on your mind. No matter what the condition of your home, whether it’s brand new or 100 years old, we know you’ve probably had one of those money-pit moments when something didn’t go quite right. And perhaps you’re thinking about repairing it or improving your home so it doesn’t become a money pit. Then all you have to do is pick up the phone and get our help by dialing 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
We’ve got a great show planned for you. Did you know that, this week, it’s been about 300 years since Ben Franklin was born? And Benjamin Franklin was known, of course, as a great inventor.
It’s amazing, Leslie, how many things he did invent. One of which, though, is something that actually protects our homes to this day.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know, he’s probably best known for the key-and-kite electricity experiment that he did during a lightning storm. And that experiment he did on purpose to actually try to prove that iron rods could be used to draw lightning away from buildings.
And while this experiment really does remain one of life’s huge do-not-try-this-at-home projects, it did lead to the widespread practice of using lightning rods to protect our homes.
TOM: And that’s why, this hour, we’re going to have tips on how modern lightning protection systems work and tell you what you need to know to make sure that your house doesn’t get damaged and your electronics don’t fry if a lightning strike were ever to occur.
LESLIE: Uh-huh. And also ahead this hour, another way to cut back on unneeded electricity and save some money, to boot. We’re going to talk about ways that you can save on your electric bills with the latest in energy-efficient lighting ideas, including tips on a new type of, get this, energy-efficient incandescent bulb.
TOM: That’s right. You thought incandescent bulbs were all outdated because they were big energy wasters? No. Actually, now there is an energy-efficient version. We’re going to tell you about that, in just a bit.
Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a very cool tool to help speed up your painting projects. It’s the Power Painter Plus from Wagner worth 130 bucks: a very cool, power-spraying tool from the folks at Wagner. Going to go out to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question. So, pick up the phone. Let’s get to it. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Susan in Georgia is on the line with a cleaning question. How can we help you today?
SUSAN: Hi. My husband and I have purchased a 1920 Craftsman house.
TOM: That’s a beautiful home.
SUSAN: Oh, it is stunning. Well, it will be. It’s been neglected and all the interior walls that we’ve exposed so far have antique heartwood pine.
SUSAN: And so my question is not only cleaning – it’s kind of threefold. First, I need to clean it – it hasn’t been cleaned in years – and what is the best way to do that? As well as – after I clean it, I was thinking – what is the best way to restore it – the wood is dry – and maintain it?
TOM: So, when you say restore it, do you want to refinish these pine walls?
SUSAN: Yes, I do.
SUSAN: They are – I mean they’re – it’s antique heartwood pine – I mean they’re – they can be really, really pretty.
TOM: Yeah, they can be.
SUSAN: But because the house has some – it had old, coal fireplaces, so they are just really grungy.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
LESLIE: So they’re dirty.
TOM: Well, I would say clean it first; then we know how much more work you have to do.
SUSAN: What do you clean it with?
TOM: Well, because it’s wood, you can’t use a lot of moisture. But I would try something like Murphy’s Oil Soap.
SUSAN: And that’s OK to do on unfinished wood?
TOM: Yeah. Doesn’t it – it probably has some sort of base finish on it, does it not?
SUSAN: No, it does not.
TOM: It has no finish on it at all.
SUSAN: No. We actually – when we purchased the house, they had put up wallpaper on it and it was an old …
LESLIE: Directly on top of it?
TOM: New idea. If it’s completely unfinished, then you’re going to have to sand it. So I would start with one section and I would lightly sand it and see where it goes. I would use a medium grit, like a 100-, 150-grit and take it from there.
Now, I would sand it very carefully by hand to start with, just to kind of see what I’m working with. If it looks like it’s going to work out for you, then I would definitely rent or even buy – they’re not that expensive – a vibrating sander. And you …
SUSAN: I actually tried sanding it in one area that’s going to be a water-heater closet and it didn’t work so well. There is so much, I guess, tannic acid or – in it. It wasn’t working very well.
TOM: If you want to try cleaning it with something else that’s a little more heavy-duty, you could try TSP. And since you’ve got this water-heater closet, this could be your experimental room.
TOM: But you could use trisodium phosphate, which is something that you can buy in a home center. It’s usually near the wallpaper and paint section.
LESLIE: In the paint prep.
TOM: And you mix it up with water and it’s pretty good at pulling stuff out of – pulling stains out of things. But I’ve never used it on raw wood. I don’t see why you couldn’t give it a try, though.
SUSAN: Yeah. It hasn’t – it actually – you know, I didn’t know if mineral spirits or …
TOM: No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That’s going to do nothing but set it. I would try the TSP but if that doesn’t work, you’re just going to have to sand this.
SUSAN: OK, that’s fine.
TOM: And you’re going to sand enough to eventually cut through it. It’s not black all the way through, so eventually you’re going to cut through to fresh wood.
TOM: And then once you sand it, what you’re probably going to do is stain it and that’ll even out the color. So I would use a Minwax stain – an oil-based Minwax stain – and I would stain it to even out the color. And then I would finish it with a clear finish.
SUSAN: Perfect. You have the answer to my question and I’m so glad I talked to you. I didn’t realize the mineral spirits would set it. So thank you, guys, so very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Susan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mike in Illinois is on the line. How can we help you today?
MIKE: I have a – the drywall through the center of my house is separating at the seams.
MIKE: And it’s straight through the center of the house, down the hallway through the center of the house. And I’m not sure if it’s due to moisture in the attic, drying out and expanding or if it’s the floor in the house moving.
TOM: Mike, how old is your house?
MIKE: I’d say 20 years old.
TOM: OK. And is this relatively new or has it been around for a while?
MIKE: It’s been there shortly after I moved in.
TOM: Oh, so it’s been there like 20 years.
TOM: Yeah, I think it’s probably shrinkage. When a house is first built, the lumber is very wet and over the first couple of heating seasons, it tends to shrink a lot and you’ll get a lot of movement.
Now, over the years, you may have tried to patch it and then you just find that it opens up again. That’s very typical.
TOM: What you want to do to patch it is you need to sand it down where it’s cracking. You need to see new drywall tape on top of that. You can use the perforated tape; it’s easier to work with, in terms of the spackle, because you don’t have to worry about air bubbles behind the paper tape. Use the perforated tape, put about three layers of spackle on there, sand in between, prime, paint; you should be good to go.
MIKE: OK. If I have bathroom vents that are venting out into the attic, would that cause it or would that cure it if I …?
TOM: No, I don’t think – well, first of all, I don’t think it’s caused that but that in and of itself is a problem. You shouldn’t be ducting bathroom exhaust fans into an attic; they should continue through the attic to the exterior.
And the reason for that – you’re in the Chicago area, correct? Pretty cold there. And if you get that insulation damp, it’s not going to be very effective.
MIKE: OK. So, with it venting in there, that’s decreasing my R-value of my insulation, too.
TOM: It is. R-value is rated at 0-percent moisture. So when you add moisture to it, it goes down dramatically. So, the more moisture in the attic, the less effective the insulation becomes.
MIKE: OK. To fix that, would it be alright to add insulation on top of that after I fix that problem?
TOM: Yeah, you can add more insulation but you have to duct from the exhaust fan out of the attic. So you can do that by going like sort of through the gable wall or up through a roof vent with a proper termination on the end of it so no water gets in there. And just get that warm, moist air out. Don’t leave it in the attic.
MIKE: OK. And I’ve done some research on the internet. I’ve got two bathroom fans. To run them into one, they said to find a wire or a vent that’ll flip one side to the other so it doesn’t backdraft into the other bathroom. I cannot find that.
TOM: Well, I don’t think you really need that because, for example, if you run it to the gable wall and you have a typical bath/duct terminating type of a hood on it, that’s got a spring on it that stays shut. So it’s only going to open when the air is blowing out.
There’s another way to do this and that is to have a remote bath fan where they actually have the motor part that’s up in the attic space and the ducts just connect to the ceiling of the bathrooms. But that’s a nice system – it’s a quiet system – but it’s much more expensive to do. You see that a lot in hotels.
MIKE: OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Mike. 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. Now you can call in your home repair, home improvement question, whatever it is you are working on this first month of the new year. You’ve got a lot of things on that to-do list, so let us give you a hand at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, did you know that there are some 16 million electrical storms in the world each year? And every single one carries the risk of major damage if you are hit by lightning. You won’t be, though, if you install a lightning protection system. We’ll tell you what you need to know to get that project done, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, 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: And if you pick up the phone right now and call us at 888-666-3974, not only will you get the answer to your home improvement question but we will toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat to win a Power Painter Plus from Wagner.
This is a power-painting system that uses easy EZ Tilt technology, which allows you to spray-paint your home at any angle. It’s worth 130 bucks. Going to go out to one very handy listener who picks up the phone and calls us with their home improvement question, their money-pit question at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
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.
LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Well, Benjamin Franklin would have been 306 years old this week. And one of the many things that we can thank this founding father for is his discovery of the connection between electricity and lightning. But even nearly 300 years after he flew a kite into a storm, lightning strikes still cause millions of dollars in damage to homes and their electrical systems every year.
So to protect your home, you can install another discovery of Mr. Franklin’s: a lightning rod.
TOM: That’s right. Now, contrary to myth, a lightning rod does not actually attract lightning strikes but it does, in fact, direct the strikes to the metal rod, which is inserted into the grounder on your house instead of your house itself. And if you’ve done it right, that rod will absorb the energy safely.
So, here’s a tip on installation that we also posted this week on Hometalk.com and it all starts up on the roof. That’s where lightning rods are typically installed. You want to put them at the highest point on the roof.
And from the lightning rod or rods – sometimes people will put two or three of them together, spread out across the roof – you install a very heavy lightning-protection-system cable that goes from the rod, down the side of the house and into the ground stake. Now, the idea is lightning will strike the lightning rod and then travel down through the cable to the earth via that cable connection.
So, the position of that cable is very important and here’s a common mistake that folks typically make: you can’t just run it down the side of the house any which way. If you run it down the house where there is, say, copper plumbing or copper wiring, guess what happens in a lightning strike? There’s so much energy that comes down that cable, it jumps across into the house and it could fry the house, fry the wiring, cause major damage if that wire is too close to those pipes or cables inside your house.
LESLIE: How close is too close?
TOM: Several feet. You have to find the place in the wall where you don’t have plumbing or wiring nearby. And if you do that, you are going to have a very successful and safe lightning protection system that will keep the damage that lightning can deliver away from your house.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? The lightning rods, they can actually be really beautiful. So if you’re looking for something that adds a period detail to your home or some sort of decorative choice, you can really find it out there. And if you are looking for some detailed instructions on proper installation – because it is super-important that you do install your lightning rod correctly – head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “lightning rod.”
And if you’ve installed one or you’ve got a lightning rod on your home already, tell us about it on Hometalk.com. It’s a great community of do-it-yourselfers who love good advice and like to show off their finished projects, so we’d love to see it.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your next home improvement project question.
LESLIE: Eric in Alaska is on the line with an insulation question. Tell us about it.
ERIC: I have a crawlspace and I’m trying to figure out what the best way to keep the temperature a bit warmer than it is down there and to keep my floors in the home from getting so cold. I’ve got hardwood – ceramic-tile floors.
ERIC: And my – all of my plumbing is in the crawlspace. My pressure tank is down there, so I need to keep the temperature somewhat warm down there so I don’t freeze my pipes up.
TOM: OK. How much insulation do you have in the floor above the crawlspace area now?
TOM: Is it completely – oh, you have none? Well, see, now there would be a good place to start, Eric.
ERIC: Right, right.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s going to make a huge difference.
TOM: So, what you want to do there is if you have – let’s just say your floor joists are 2x10s, then you’re going to use 10 inches of insulation. You want to fill up that entire cavity with insulation. You can use unfaced fiberglass batts. The first place you insulate is the box joists – that’s around the outside perimeter – and then you work your way in to the floor joists.
TOM: You can use insulation hangers to hold it in place. And that’s going to make an enormous difference warming up that floor.
You may find that the crawlspace becomes a bit warmer as a result of that. Or you may find it becomes colder, because now the heat from upstairs is not getting down there. Is there a concern of water pipes or anything like that freezing?
ERIC: Yeah, that’s what my concern is if I insulate the floor there. You know, my pressure tank and all of my plumbing fixtures and drains are all down there.
TOM: You don’t have to worry about the drains freezing, OK? They’re never going to hold enough water to freeze and break. As far as the plumbing pipes are concerned, if you do have pipes that are below the insulation – if they’re in the insulation, you don’t have to worry about it. If they’re below the insulation, then you can insulate those themselves with insulation sleeves that just fit around them and get taped off.
So, insulate the pipes, insulate the floor joists and I think you’re going to find it’s a lot more comfortable as a result.
LESLIE: Travis in Des Moines, Iowa is on the line with a garbage-disposal situation. What’s going on?
TRAVIS: Well, I’ve got a GE garbage disposal. We just had it installed when we remodeled our kitchen. And we do our dishes out of our sink and so we fill the sink base up and then when we drain the water out, we kick the garbage disposal on just to eat up all the stuff going down.
TRAVIS: But once it gets about halfway down, this garbage disposal just shakes like crazy and it’ll shake the whole entire sink and …
TOM: Wow. If it’s shaking, it’s out of balance. And so why could it be out of balance? You said it’s a new unit?
TRAVIS: Yep. It’s brand new. The thing is is when we turn it on, it runs just fine.
TRAVIS: And then about halfway down, it starts to shake and then it stops. And then it goes back to just a clean operation.
TOM: Hmm. I suspect – now inside the unit itself, there are these sort of paddles that swing around and help mash up the garbage.
TRAVIS: Yep. Yep.
TOM: I suspect that something is wrong there and they’re getting stuck in a position opposite than the other two. Because if that happens – it’s just like balancing a tire: if you don’t have the weights in the right place, you start to get a vibration.
So I suspect that either something is wrong with one of those paddles or this just has a bad bearing. And a bad bearing can actually work really well and then when the weight distribution gets a little bit different because all the water’s going through there, it can kind of like catch an edge, so to speak, and work really poorly. But I think you need to replace that.
TRAVIS: Mm-hmm. OK.
TOM: I’m assuming that the bracket was installed properly and it’s secure to the bottom of your sink. But it really should not be shaking like that. The only time I’ve ever seen them shake is that one of those little paddles got stuck; sometimes it gets rusted shut. But if it’s brand new like that, that can’t be the case.
TRAVIS: Yeah, that’s kind of what I was thinking. But I figured you guys would know.
TOM: Yeah, it’s a balance issue and if it’s not working, I would replace it while it’s under warranty. It probably has a year warranty on it.
TRAVIS: Yeah, well, we just put it in a few weeks ago, so …
TRAVIS: Excellent. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. 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. Hey, don’t let your light bulbs be a drain on your electric bill. This Old House‘s Kevin O’Connor is going to join us to talk about energy-efficient lighting choices, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Icynene. If you’re building, remodeling or reinsulating, demand Icynene spray-foam insulation. Icynene fills the spaces other insulations miss, for up to 50-percent energy savings. Learn more and find a dealer at Icynene.com. I-c-y-n-e-n-e.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: Hey, what home improvement projects are you taking on this year? We’d love to hear about them. Simply head on over to the Community section of MoneyPit.com and post them there, ask your question or just brag, brag, brag about what you plan to do. Or pick up the phone and call us. We will help you get the project done at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Roy in Poughkeepsie, New York is calling in about roof moss. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
ROY: Well, I have a problem of roof moss on my garage roof that seems to be somewhat shadowed by a section of the house. There aren’t any trees that’s giving me the problem.
ROY: And I understand that you do recommend the copper strip along the leading edge of the roof and that’s probably the best route to take. However, in a previous program, you mentioned a solution, I believe, that you could apply. And I can’t remember, for the life of me, the name of that solution and I wonder if you might be able to recall that and give it to me.
TOM: Certainly. It would have been Wet & Forget. It’s a moss, mildew and algae remover.
ROY: Wet & Forget.
TOM: Wet & Forget. Their website is WetAndForget.com. And it works really well. It’s a concentrate. You mix it up; I think it’s about one part Wet & Forget and about five parts water. And you apply it, you let it sit, it does its job and you rinse it off. And that will actually kill the moss that’s there.
TOM: But unless you do it on a somewhat regular basis, it’ll come back.
LESLIE: It’s just going to keep coming back.
TOM: And in your case, since it’s physically being caused by the shadow of the house, it’s kind of going to be something you’re going to have to live with.
ROY: Yeah. Yeah.
TOM: But if you do that – and also, if you think about laying in a small piece of copper flashing up against the house …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Or nickel.
TOM: Or nickel, right up against the house. That metal will release every time it rains and kind of work as a regular mildicide.
ROY: Right up against the house, is that right? Mm-hmm.
TOM: Alright. Does that help you out?
ROY: Yes. Thank you very much. I certainly appreciate your show and I wish you and yours a happy new year.
TOM: Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Well, the old incandescent light bulb is quickly becoming a part of history. Now, this technological marvel of the 19th century is being replaced by the more energy-efficient bulbs of today.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, joins us now to talk about the pros and the cons of a brand-new generation of light bulb.
Kevin, everyone’s talking today about LED as the holy grail of light bulbs. So let’s start right there. What do you think of those?
KEVIN: Well, let’s start with what it stands for. LED is Light-Emitting Diode. And unlike incandescents, the LEDs, they don’t have filaments to burn out and they don’t waste a majority of their energy output on useless heat, so they are super-efficient.
TOM: I’ve also found them to be awfully bright, so I like them.
KEVIN: You know what? I do actually believe that these are the future of lighting. Between their efficiency and the fact that they can last so long – I mean up to 50,000 hours for one of these devices – I think we’re eventually going to gravitate all of our lighting to LEDs.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? The LEDs do come with a higher price tag but I think it’s because of that longer lifespan, so you’re sort of paying for that.
KEVIN: Yeah, I think you’re paying for that and I think you’re paying for early adoption. I think that price tag comes down over time as more and more of these end up in our homes.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? It was similar when we first saw that launch of CFLs: the compact fluorescents. They were very expensive; now the price is coming down. And of course, they’re becoming more commonplace as they’re really securing their own stake in the market.
But I still feel a little uncomfortable with the light that they emit; I’m kind of leaning towards those LEDs. But CFLs, they’re extremely popular and affordable and will last forever.
KEVIN: Well, I think they’re popular because they are affordable and they are efficient. And they can be up to two-thirds more efficient than incandescent and they can last 10 times as long, so you can save a lot of money.
They won’t last forever; they’re not going to last as long as LEDs. And I’ve actually found that if you don’t put them in the right fixture, they can burn out because they have a ballast, so you do have to be aware of that. But it is a great alternative to incandescents.
TOM: Now, one of the concerns about CFLs, though, is that they do contain mercury, albeit a very small amount. It does seem that there’s a little bit of overreaction about how to clean these up. Some say there’s a concern; some say there’s not a concern. Your thoughts?
KEVIN: Well, they definitely contain a trace amount of mercury and I think everyone has to be comfortable with it on their own level, as to whether they want it in the house and how they handle the disposal or when it breaks. I’ve got small kids, so when one of these light bulbs breaks, they’re nowhere near the cleanup. But it doesn’t prevent me from using these light bulbs all throughout my house. I’m very comfortable with them.
TOM: Good advice.
Now, let’s talk about halogens, which is basically an incandescent light bulb that’s infused with halogen gas.
KEVIN: It is and it can actually burn twice as long and use 10 percent less energy than the old incandescents. And the reason people like these is because it gives a really clean, bright, white light. And so we use them in a lot of key spaces: oftentimes in kitchens or maybe over a bookshelf where we really want to highlight a picture or a painting.
TOM: But they do burn a lot hotter, so you have to be very careful.
KEVIN: Yeah, don’t touch these things when you’re changing them until they’ve had time to turn down.
KEVIN: And generally speaking, heat is waste and so they’re not going to be as efficient as the compact fluorescents or the LEDs.
LESLIE: And now there’s a new bulb to the market, which is known as the high-efficiency incandescent. And now that’s brand-spanking new. Can you speak a little bit about that?
KEVIN: Well, so a lot of people think incandescents are going away for good because they’re going to be outlawed by the government. It’s not true; they’re just going to have to be more efficient. And these new incandescents are going to be 30-percent more efficient; they’re going to use less energy. And so they’re going to provide a good-quality light. You’re going to be able to dim them just like the incandescent bulbs and they’re going to last longer than a traditional incandescent. So I think this is forward progress.
TOM: Now, one of the concerns that most folks have about changing out light bulbs is that they’re not going to fit their existing fixtures.
KEVIN: I think that was the case originally but they are starting to make these bulbs in all different sizes and shapes so they can fit pretty much any fixture. You can put them in recessed, you can put them in tabletop laps, you can put them in directionals. There are a lot of options out there.
LESLIE: The bulbs themselves – before you had a bulb for, say, a chandelier – a candelabra bulb that had a very odd look to it – and now you’re seeing an energy-efficient candelabra bulb that actually has the same traditional shape.
KEVIN: Looks just like a – I’ve seen an LED candelabra bulb and you can’t tell the difference when you look at it from its shape.
TOM: You know what’s interesting? I think the investment in the light fixtures, where we’ve always concentrated in the past, now we have to think about both the fixture and the bulb we’re going to put in it.
TOM: But you’d say there’s a bright future for light bulbs?
KEVIN: I think it’s a very bright future.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: My pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and some great step-by-step videos on projects you can do and other great articles, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Up next, are you feeling a bit trapped inside? Are you overwhelmed by all the stuff that is piled up around you? Why not declutter a bit? You’ll get more energy, you will reduce your stress and you will find so much more room to fill up with more stuff. We’ll give you some tips to help you get organized for the year ahead, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by ODL’s Add-On Blinds. Enclosed behind tempered glass, they eliminate the need for dusting and exposed cords, both problems with traditional blinds. Plus, they easily install over your existing entry glass. Visit www.ODL.com to learn more.
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 the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Power Painter Plus from Wagner. And this really is no ordinary power-paint system. The EZ Tilt flex tube, it’s going to draw paint no matter which direction you’ve got that sprayer pointed. If you’ve got it down on a deck or straight up at your gutters, you’re going to get a finish as good as a professional painter with an expensive gun.
The prize is worth 130 bucks and one lucky caller who gets on the air with us today is going to win. So give us a call with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Susan is on the line with a cold-water shower that I imagine she doesn’t like very much. Tell us what’s going on.
SUSAN: It’s rather shocking.
TOM: I bet.
LESLIE: I can imagine.
SUSAN: The hot-water faucet in the upstairs shower is the only hot-water faucet that does this – is when I adjust the hot water and it’s right – a good mix with the cold water. Step in the shower, then (audio gap) the hot water stops flowing and the water turns cold. It’s almost like the faucet shut itself off or …
TOM: What kind of water heater do you have, Susan? Is it gas or electric?
TOM: And does this problem exist with any other fixture in the bathroom or the house for that matter?
SUSAN: No. It’s the only one that works that way. The hot – the kitchen does not do that; the other bathroom sinks and faucets don’t do that.
TOM: So this is a single-handle faucet?
SUSAN: No. It’s a – there are two handles. They have separate handles.
TOM: Well, I mean I think you’ve got a bad valve in there somewhere. Because if it’s just happening in one location like that, that’s the only thing it could be. We have plenty of hot water for the rest of the house. I suspect that there’s a problem with the valve. You might just want to replace the faucet set.
SUSAN: Oh, OK.
TOM: That would make sense as to its …
SUSAN: I just wondered why would that do that?
TOM: I’ll just speculate here. As the water heats up the pipe, the metal expands and causes the valve to squeeze shut a little bit or something like that. There are a lot of reasons it could happen but I think it’s mechanical, because it’s only happening in one location, so it has to be the valve.
SUSAN: Oh. That’s correct. Yeah.
TOM: It’s not – there’s nothing mysterious about this. It’s got to be the valve.
SUSAN: Alright. Well, great. Thank you for the diagnosis.
TOM: What you might want to think about when you replace this is talk to your plumber about something called a pressure-balancing valve. Now, I’m not sure if he’ll be able to find this for this kind of configuration that you have.
But what a pressure-balancing valve does is it keeps the mix ratio between hot and cold steady, regardless of what’s happening in the rest of the house. So that if you were to hop in the shower and somebody else flushes a toilet somewhere, you don’t get sort of that shock of hot or shock of cold water as one fixture sort of steals water from the other. It keeps the ratio the same. So while you may have less or more water, the temperature of the water never changes. If you’re going to spend the money on a plumber and valves, I would definitely look into getting a pressure-balanced valve set if I could.
SUSAN: Well, I’m glad to know about that. Thank you so much.
TOM: Well, now that the holiday hubbub has died down a bit, it’s a good time to take a look around your home and find some ways to dump the clutter that just adds stress and wastes energy. And just improve your organization.
Now, for living spaces that you use the most, take a step back and think about how a visitor might view the room. What? You don’t have visitors because they can’t get into the room?
LESLIE: Because you’re embarrassed?
TOM: That would be the place to start. There’s a fine line, you know, between lived-in and disorganized. So get rid of anything that isn’t used or needed daily and use storage containers for the items that tend to be free-floating.
For example, in our living room, we’ve got beautiful bins that are like drawers but sort of covered with a cloth material, like kind of on a deep tray, so to speak, under the coffee table. And that’s where the kids throw all their games and remotes and stuff like that. So, there are nice, decorative ways that you can hide stuff.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Another great way to get organized is to set up easy-to-use systems where you tend to dump things the most, like your laundry room or your mud room or whatever type of entryway you’ve got going on at your home. You’re going to want to create a place to organize your mail and any other paperwork that’s going to really need regular attention.
And when you’re searching for storage places, don’t neglect the areas above your head, which can be especially useful, say, in your garage.
TOM: That’s right. And finally, why not profit from the fruits of your labor? You can sell things easier than ever today online. You can team up with neighbors for a yard sale, you can set up an online auction. And if you itemize your deductions, you can donate clothing, furniture and books for a bit of a break at tax time. That way, it’s a total win-win situation.
LESLIE: Randy in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?
RANDY: I’ve got some insulation. It was, I think, all of 39½ inches wide and it was about – in the strips put under my house.
RANDY: And my nephew put it up but he put the paper – it’s got paper on one side and it’s facing downwards to the floor. And a friend of mine told me that was backwards; he said that wouldn’t serve the purpose like that.
TOM: Yeah. Well, you’ve got a smart friend there; that is upside down. You essentially put the vapor barrier upside down. The vapor barrier – the rule of thumb, Randy, is that the vapor barrier always go – points towards the living space or the heated space. So that should have been up.
RANDY: OK. Because I’ve got my furnace under the house; there’s a furnace under the house, too.
TOM: Well but the crawlspace is not heated so, again …
RANDY: Right, right. Exactly, exactly.
TOM: I understand the heater is in the crawlspace but that’s not the heated space. The heated space is upstairs; hence, the vapor barrier should have been up against the underside of the floor.
Now, I’ve got a trick of the trade for you, though. And that is that you can go down the crawlspace and you can cut that vapor barrier about every 6 inches; kind of slice it. That will allow some air to breathe through there and help it dry out. The problem is that you can trap moisture in there, so you need to slice it so it has some ventilation.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, most every one of us has experienced a plumbing leak or two over time. But when leaks happen, does mold always have to follow? We’re going to tell you, next.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, have you ever thought about adding heat to your garage? You know, if you do that, you could extend its use beyond just a place to park your car. If that’s a project you’re thinking about, head on over to our website at MoneyPit.com and search for “garage heating.” We’ve got some great articles there on all the options that will deliver some heat to that garage space. Maybe it’ll make it a nicer place for you to spend a bit of time working on some hobbies, taking on a home improvement project and more.
LESLIE: Alright. Now is the time when we jump into our email posts from the website. And I’ve got one here from Richard who wrote: “I have a tile shower built in the 60s. The grout is gone between the tiles and the drain and shower basin are also failing. I get leakage downstairs.” Yeah, I would imagine. “And I would like to have it repaired but I am worried that the moisture has settled behind the tile and under the basin and there may be mold. I’m unsure who to contact to get this repaired. And who would be able to evaluate the damage behind the walls?”
TOM: Well, I mean here’s the thing: if a wall gets wet once or twice and dries out, it’s not likely that …
LESLIE: This seems consistent.
TOM: Right. It’s not likely to have a mold problem. But when it gets repetitively wet over and over and over again and it doesn’t dry out, then it could have a mold problem. Do you want to open Pandora’s box and expose any mold that’s growing inside the wall to the living space? Only if you’ve got structural damage do I say you do that.
So, this is the way that you would typically inspect your tile-shower area to find out how bad it is. First of all, you mentioned that you think that the pan is leaking. I was a professional home inspector for 20 years. Very simple test you can do. Take a washcloth or a sponge or one of those drain stoppers and cover the shower drain. Then fill that pan up with 2 or 3 or 4 inches of water; don’t, obviously, let it spill over the top. But fill it up and then go downstairs and see if it’s leaking.
If it’s not leaking, then the pan actually might be fine. If it does leak when the pan is filled, then you’ve got to tear the whole thing out and start from scratch. But what might be happening here is you could have leaks in the grout joints from lack of caulk, grout that had fallen out, things like that. I’ve seen these leaks happen where people swear that their shower pans are shot and really they’re fine. The only way to really tell is to isolate it by filling up the shower pan. If you’ve got no leak after 10 or 15 minutes, your shower pan is fine.
The next thing you would do is you would gently knock – and I use my knuckles for this – on the tile-shower walls down near the pan and see if anything feels soft. If it feels soft, then you’ve definitely got structural damage; you’ve got to start taking that tile off. What I would do is I would go up probably two or three or four rows more than I had to with the tile removal and then I would cut the wall below that so that I basically could patch it and then lay the tile over the drywall seam. Does that make sense? So this way, you’re not going – you’re not having a seem in the lines with the tile itself. And that’s a way to kind of rebuild that.
Now, if it turns out that you need a new shower pan, you’re going to take it all apart. If you do get the wall all the way open and you find you’ve got decay and serious mold issues, you will need to have that treated. If it’s a little bit, you could spray it with a bleach solution and then proceed with the reconstruction from there.
So I hope that gives you some direction, Richard, and thanks so much for writing us at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: And you know what, Richard? Depending on what the situation is, it’s a good opportunity to completely redecorate your bath.
Now I’ve got one from Claire who asks: “The seal around my dishwasher fell off. It leaks badly. Should I glue it back on?”
TOM: No. Actually, you don’t have to glue it. Those seals will shrink. So I would head on over to a website called RepairClinic.com. Order up a new seal. It’ll probably cost you under 50 bucks. You can press it in place and you will be good to go. No need to get a new dishwasher.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Claire? The heat from running the dishwasher cycle will really help it stick in place. But that first time, just stretch it around, close it, lock it, leave it overnight and it’ll stay.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips that you will use in the coming weeks, the coming months, to make your house safer, more comfortable, perhaps more energy-efficient as we move into the year ahead.
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.