How to Prevent Concrete Cracks, Avoiding Hail Damage and How to Build a Homework Space for Kids
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: As we cruise towards the end of the summer, are you thinking about planning a fall project? If you are, pick up the phone and call us. We’d love to talk about what’s next on your to-do list. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We are here to help you. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself project or one you want to hire out, give us a call right now. We’ll make sure you get it done once, get it done right and then you can sit back and enjoy it for a long time to come.
Coming up on today’s program, colder weather is on its way and it’s a time when damage to driveways and sidewalks and patios and steps, that really happens. We’re going to have tips on how you can prevent that cracking in the cold weather so you’re just one step ahead of the many that will no doubt call us in the spring to ask how to fix those cracks in concrete driveways and walks.
LESLIE: We’re going to get a lot of those.
Also ahead, guys, do you know which kind of storm can damage roof shingles, tear off tree limbs and crack windshields? Hail, of course. And every year, hail damage tops $1 billion. We’re going to have tips to help you weather that storm.
TOM: And school has barely started or it’s about to start. And if your kids are starting to feel disorganized or you’re concerned about that, we’re going to have some surefire homework-space solutions coming up.
LESLIE: And if you call us with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT, you might just win the complete wardrobe you need to get these projects done, because we’ve got $120 worth of Dickies Performance Workwear to give away.
TOM: And that package includes the very durable Dickies Denim. So give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Cheryl is on the line with a decking question. How can we help you today?
CHERYL: I’m going to have a deck built at the back of my home. And I have a concrete pad outside the door. And when I asked someone to come and look at it and give me an estimate about a deck, they were wanting to put the supports right on this concrete pad that’s back here. But it’s all broken up and all uneven from a large – very large – maple tree that I have in the back. And the roots, they’re gnarly and they’re – a lot of them are near the surface. And so, I was wondering if it would even be – you even recommend that I even think of having a deck built back there with the tree roots and the situation I have.
TOM: So, first of all, this is a patio, so it’s a thin concrete slab and be 4 or 5 inches thick. Is that what you’re telling me you have?
CHERYL: Right, right.
TOM: OK. So that is not an appropriate foundation for a deck. And so anyone suggesting that it is would scare me because in your part of the country, you need to have the footings for that deck be below the frost line. So that means that those footings have to be about 3 feet in the ground. And then on top of those footings, you can build the deck. Otherwise, the deck’s going to ride up and down as the land freezes in the wintertime.
So what I would do is I would break up that patio and take it out of there. If it’s already half-broken up, I mean with a jackhammer you’d probably get that thing out of there in an hour or two. It actually will come out a lot faster than what you would imagine.
In terms of the tree roots, yeah, if you can get some of that out of there, it’s probably not a bad idea. But clearly, what you have to concentrate on is however you’re going to support this deck. If it’s pretty much a grade-level deck, you have to kind of put that beam in flush with the rest of the floor structure. If it’s going to be up a little bit, then you would basically put the beam underneath the floor joists and support it on however many columns it takes to make it compliant with building code.
But to do it right, it’s got to be on a foundation. So don’t just slap a deck structure over that patio. It’s just not going to be built correctly and I doubt it would pass building code. And it would also – could devalue your house in the event you tried to sell it in the future.
CHERYL: OK. Well, the contractor that I had out here, he was leery of – he didn’t want to disturb the tree roots too much for fear of killing this gigantic tree. And that was his …
TOM: Well, it wasn’t a solution, because the roots are going to be there with or without the patio. It’s not a solution. And he’s not going to disturb the tree roots that much. Yes, it’ll be hard to dig those holes and you may have to chop through some of them. But I don’t think just digging three or four holes for a footing is going to be enough to kill a tree.
CHERYL: OK. Well, I’m glad that I gave you a call then. Thank you so much.
TOM: Alright, Cheryl. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Marvin, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MARVIN: Here’s my situation. My son just recently bought – in Belmont, Massachusetts – a 1913 house. It was built in 1913. And it’s got no insulation, OK? And we’re trying to figure out whether it’s cost-effective, number one. And the other concern was that I read on the internet that if you do blown-in insulation on an old house like this, there’s no vapor barrier and the insulation would get wet and so on and so forth.
TOM: Well, first of all, many older homes don’t have vapor barriers, so that’s not necessarily true. If it’s in the attic and you have proper attic ventilation, then any moisture that forms in that area will be vented out. There is another way to insulate this house, where you don’t have to worry about even processing vapor, and that is to go with spray-foam insulation.
You know, I have an 1886 house and I did spray foam in my attic. And I’m very happy with it because it basically turned the attic into a conditioned space. So we don’t have to worry about any ventilation issues up there. And I’ve got to tell you, my air-conditioning bills were a lot lower after we did it, as were our heating bills. So that’s a nice thing to do to an old house, because there’s so many nooks and crannies and places where you have gaps that let in ambient air and drive up energy costs. Spray foam kind of solves all that. We used Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. It worked really well.
But if you want to go with a fiberglass insulation, you can certainly do that. You’re going to want to use 15 to 20 inches of insulation. And you’re going to want to have a really good, solid ridge vent across the peak of that roof, as well as some soffit vents or some lower vents on the roof so you have plenty of air that’s flushing through that space. Because insulation that gets damp is not as effective as insulation that’s dry. And that’s why we vent it.
MARVIN: OK. That was very helpful.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’re going to give you help with whatever home repair or home improvement question you’ve got brewing in your noggin.
But coming up, guys, extreme weather. It can affect your concrete driveway, your walkway, even your patio. We’re going to share tips of a way that you can build these structures to endure temperature changes for years to come.
TOM: And also ahead, Kevin O’Connor from This Old House stops by with advice on how to deal with the problem of hailstorms, which cause over a billion dollars of damage every year. And today’s This Old House segment on The Money Pit is brought to you by Proudly Propane. Clean American energy. We’ll be back with more, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by the Generac iQ2000 Portable Inverter Generator. Quiet, portable power anywhere, from home to the jobsite, campsite, tailgating and more. Money Pit listeners who call 800-965-1172 or visit GeneracIQ.com will receive free shipping and a free copy of Tom and Leslie’s book to the first 100 who order. That’s 800-965-1172 or GeneracIQ.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 we hope you’re having a fantastic weekend. We’d love to talk about what projects are on your to-do list or maybe one that you tried to get done and just didn’t work out quite as well as you planned. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away, to one lucky listener drawn at random, 120 bucks worth of Dickies Performance Workwear. And it includes the very durable Dickies Denim.
Dickies is the world’s leading performance-workwear brand. They’ve been outfitting Americans since 1922. It’s a brand that’s synonymous with durability and functionality and comfort. You can learn more at Dickies.com. But again, if you call us, we’re going to give away 120 bucks worth of that fine Dickies clothing to one lucky caller. Make that you. Pick up the phone, give us a call right now. We’d love to hear what you’re working on in your money pit, 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Laura in South Dakota is on the line with a leaky basement. What’s going on?
LAURA: Oh, thanks for taking my call. We live in a lovely vintage home but we have for 25 years and we want to be here another 25 years. But we have this problem about – we’re in western South Dakota but every three, maybe four years, it rains a lot in June. It’s always in June. And it’s generally three to four days of continuous rain.
And what happens is water begins seeping into our basement. And it’s only happened maybe 3 to 5 times in the 25 years we’ve lived here. However, we don’t know how to fix it. We’ve had contractors come in who won’t even respond and give us a recommendation. But we really don’t know what to do and hoping you can give us some advice.
TOM: So it’s a really, really simple project to do and a simple problem to fix. And the reason it is is because you’ve explained to me that this water problem is caused by severe rain. And when you ever – whenever you have a basement-water or a crawlspace-water problem that’s tied into rainfall or snow melt, the solution is always to fix the drainage at the foundation perimeter. And there’s two ways to do that.
The first thing that you need to do is to look at the gutter system. You need to make sure you have a gutter system, that it’s big enough to handle all the water that’s coming off the roof. You need one downspout for every 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface. And if you stand back and try to kind of estimate that in your head, you can get a pretty good idea if it’s enough. And also, if you go out in a severe thunderstorm or something – and we don’t want you to get hurt but if you see the gutters overflowing, you know that they’re either clogged or they’re just not big enough. But that water has got to be managed – it comes off that roof.
When it goes down the downspout, that downspout’s got to be extended at least 4 to 6 feet from the foundation. A lot of times, we’ll find that those downspouts are dumping right at the corner of the foundation and then just dumps right back into the basement. So get the roof water under control first. That’s the biggest cause of wet basements right there and the easiest to fix.
LAURA: Oh, is it? OK. So it’s – is it possible to add spouts to your gutter system or …?
TOM: Yes. And sometimes, you have to do that. Sometimes, you can add a wider spout. Instead of having a 4-inch downspout, you could have a 6-inch downspout connected to the old gutter system. But you need to make sure you’ve got the downspouts, you’ve got the gutters and they’re flowing properly and that discharge is well away from the foundation perimeter. Most installers will turn it out about 12 inches at the bottom and put a splash block there but that’s just not enough. You’ve got to move that water well away from the house.
And the second thing is to look at the grading and the angle of the soil at the foundation perimeter and make sure it’s sloping away from the house. It should drop about 4 inches or 6 inches over 4 feet. And if it’s flat or if it’s tilted back into the house or if the grade is made up of a lot of mulch or a lot of stone or if you’ve got a brick scalloped edge that’s holding the water against the house, you basically want any water that lands in that first 4 feet at the foundation perimeter to run away from it. Does that make sense?
LAURA: Yeah, it does. So we would have then that front graded away from the foundation? OK. Because I do have some stone here and there and it’s – we haven’t changed the gardens a lot, you know, since we’ve been here. But that really – so there’s nothing to seal in the basement or we don’t have to worry about that?
TOM: Nope. There is nothing – there is absolutely nothing to seal. No. What you basically want to do is exactly what we said. You want to keep the water away. Believe me, it is that easy. In fact, if you go to MoneyPit.com, you will find on the home page an article about how to fix a leaky basement. And the reason it’s on our home page is because in the 16-year history of The Money Pit, it’s the most popular article we’ve ever written. It’s had hundreds of thousands of views and lots and lots of comments. And it’s had that kind of traffic because it works. And it’s surprisingly easy to fix.
LAURA: Oh. Well, thanks a lot, guys. That’s great because I’ve had these visions of adding – trying to add sump pumps and this and that and I was really concerned because the contractors wouldn’t even get back to us that we’ve called and …
TOM: Yep. Not necessary.
LAURA: OK. Well, thanks so much. And I really love your show. I listen every weekend when it’s out here, so …
TOM: So glad you do. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, every spring, we get calls from folks that are dealing with cracked and buckled sidewalks. And these can require pretty expensive fixes. But if you take some steps now, you might just be able to avoid it.
First, you need to understand the damage may be caused by a variety of things, including rain and snow. But the temperature changes themselves don’t help. The main cause is the concrete. If too much of one ingredient or too little of another makes that concrete very fragile and prone to breaking.
LESLIE: Yeah. And this is a problem that QUIKRETE is tackling head-on with a product called Crack-Resistant Concrete Mix.
Now, this is a mix and it includes the proper ratio of stone, gravel, sand, cement, fibers. And it makes for a concrete so strong that it eliminates the need for wire mesh and offers much better crack-resistancy against freezing and thawing.
TOM: Good stuff. I’ve used this crack-resistant concrete mix. It’s really easy to work with for both pros and DIY-ers. And now is the time to use it to replace any of those cracked sections of concrete in your driveways, your walks, your patios before that cold weather sets in. Because what’s going to happen, the moisture is going to get in there, it’s going to freeze, it’s going to expand, it’s going to make that cracked concrete look even worse.
If you’d like to learn more about this product, you can visit QUIKRETE.com. QUIKRETE is what America is made of.
LESLIE: Ron in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. What’s going on at your house?
RON: OK. I was calling because I represented a lot of seniors for many years. I’ve been retired for 22 years. I’m up there close to 80 and every now and then, I get questions from them that indicate that they like to save some money. A lot of them are living on Social Security and small pensions.
And they’re saying rather than have their roof shingles changed, they’ve heard about this for the last three or four years – called “roof coat.” And now I’ve been told that there’s been five or six or eight colors now instead of two or three in the past. And it has a grit in it so you won’t slip, so it isn’t like a paint, really.
But it seals and it gives you a new coating that you don’t have to change your roof shingles, if there’s any grit on it at all that’s left, of course. And you don’t have to throw it and they’re environmentally safe and doesn’t cost you all that extra money.
TOM: So, Ron, it all sounds great. The truth is, though, in my experience, it’s a scam. I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector and I can tell you that roof-coat scam has been going on for a lot longer than that.
Generally, what happens is a contractor will come in and they’ll sell you on the idea of coating the roof versus replacing it. But it’s essentially a thick paint. And I don’t think there’s enough data to show that it actually extends the roof life. I don’t think you’ll find a single manufacturer of roofing shingles that thinks it’s a good idea and I generally advise against it.
I think there’s really no excuse – there’s really no way to compare the roof coating with new shingles. And you should definitely think about replacing the shingles or at least putting a second layer on shingles, if you can afford to do that.
I will say that, many times, when contractors come in to respond to leaks, they try to sell new roofs when only a minor repair is needed. But that’s part and parcel of what many seniors deal with when dealing with any type of contractor.
But I don’t think this roof coating is a good idea. I don’t think the technology has proven that it’s going to really work. And it looks good in the short term but I just don’t think you get any value out of it.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Up next, when you think about storm damage to your home, hail is probably not the first thing that you think of. But it actually causes a billion dollars’ worth of damage every year.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor from This Old House is next with tips on how to protect your home from hail damage. And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-look tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.
KEVIN: I’m Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. When I’m not working on old houses, I’m making sure my house doesn’t turn into a money pit, with help from Tom and Leslie.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, if you’ve ever had trouble sleeping at night, it turns out that the problem might actually be bedroom lighting interrupting your body’s circadian rhythm. But not to fear. Now there’s an app for that, as well, and actually a new, connected bulb to go with it. It’s just out on the market and it’s called C-Sleep. It’s part of the new line of connected bulbs from GE called C by GE that’s just come out at Lowes and Lowes.com.
LESLIE: Now, the way it works is that C-Sleep has morning, daytime and nighttime settings to provide you just the right lighting throughout the day, which is really perfect for bedroom lighting. It’s easily controlled from your smartphone via Bluetooth connection. And the app lets you schedule the bulb to turn on in the morning and turn off at night.
TOM: I like the fact that you can even group these lights together – you can dim, you can brighten the bulbs without a dimmer switch – because I’m just lazy. And I want to sit down in my chair and control my lights or lay in bed and do all that, set scenes: waking up or movie time. I mean it’s cool, new lighting technology. It’s out now, it’s there, it’s affordable and it might just help you get a good night’s rest.
You can find those now at Lowes and Lowes.com.
LESLIE: Bonnie in Pennsylvania is on the line with a dippy driveway. Tell us what’s going on.
BONNIE: Well, our driveway was asphalt originally and it’s probably 30, 40 years ago. And there really isn’t much left to it now. But it – most of it is fine. It stays solid. But there’s one part – two parts, actually, have great, big dips in them so you kind of go down in. And the water collects in there. So I was wondering what we could fill that in with. It’s not left the driveway. It’s kind of non-existent now but it’s not a …
TOM: Well, at least you have a speed bump built into your driveway, you know?
TOM: Probably safer that way.
TOM: If you’ve got a 30- or 40-year-old driveway, that driveway doesn’t really owe you any money. You can patch it. You can have it professionally patched with more asphalt material. But my concern is that whatever’s causing that dip is an underlying problem and it’s just going to reform over and over again. Once you start to get a dip, of course, the water gets in there and it sort of exacerbates it.
But I think your options are to topcoat that driveway, which you could do with more asphalt material. It’s a professional project; it’s not one you can do yourself. Or if you want to go ahead and invest the time and the money right now, you could just tear it out and build it again. When it gets to be that age, it really does have to be replaced. So if you think about it, roads have to be replaced far more frequently than that. But if you’ve got a 30- or 40-year-old driveway, it’s probably reached the end of a normal life cycle and it’s time for it to be torn out and completely replaced, not topcoated. But you could buy yourself some time by doing the topcoat application.
BONNIE: Could you just fill it in with stone or something for now or no?
TOM: No, because it’s just going to fall out. It’s not really a do-it-yourself project. You have to put more asphalt mixed with stone, under pressure, rolled over it. But my concern about recoating a driveway that’s that old is it’s just not going to last that long.
BONNIE: Yeah. There’s nothing much left to recoat it.
TOM: Right. Yeah. So it’s not worth it, OK, Bonnie?
BONNIE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: So when you think about threats to your home, hail might not be the first thing you think of.
TOM: Well, that’s true. But while fire and flood generally go to the top of the list for homeowner safety concerns, the fact is that hail, if it does hit, it could still reek its share of havoc. Here to help us with tips to weather that storm is This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.
TOM: So this isn’t really the kind of storm damage homeowners are ever really prepared for, right?
KEVIN: No. Not prepared for and not expecting and rightfully so. These hailstorms are relatively rare. But when they do strike, man, they can be really costly. Get a load of this: in the United States, hail results in over a billion dollars in damage annually. And I don’t know if you folks remember this but back in 2001, the states of Kansas and Missouri, they were affected by a hailstorm. And it resulted in $2 billion in damage from a single storm.
TOM: Wow. One storm.
LESLIE: That’s crazy.
KEVIN: That was the costliest hailstorm. It’s crazy. It absolutely is crazy.
TOM: Wow. So let’s talk about what hail is exactly so folks understand it. It’s basically what happens when rain freezes, right?
KEVIN: So hail is formed by thunderstorms that circulate water droplets in updrafts high enough that they end up freezing into these little lumps that we know as hailstones. And as they continue to circulate in the thundercloud, the hailstone grows in size as layers of ice are added. And eventually, they get so big. Guess what?
TOM: Gravity takes over and down they come.
KEVIN: Gravity takes over and down they come. And when they start coming down, they could be as small as about ¼-inch. They can get a lot bigger: up to 5 inches or so. But when these things start coming down, they could do a ton of damage to your house and so something you have to worry about.
LESLIE: I’ll never forget, we had a hailstorm in August one year and it left almost like a dusting of snow on the ground. It looked like it had truly snowed. It was crazy.
KEVIN: Yeah. I mean there’s a lot of them coming down. Now, the 5- to 6-inch-size ones are certainly a lot less frequent. Something in the range of an inch to an inch and three-quarters is probably more likely. But think about this: when they’re coming down, they could be going 70 miles an hour.
LESLIE: And that can do a lot of damage.
KEVIN: That can do a lot of damage.
LESLIE: And I think it’s important to really look for the damage immediately following a storm because specifically, if it’s something on your car and it’s in an area where you’re not looking at a certain light or at a certain angle, you’re going to miss it. And I think with insurance companies, you really only have a limited window of time.
KEVIN: So, most insurance companies will actually cover you for hail damage, which is a good thing.
TOM: Now we’re talking about homeowners insurance or we’re talking about auto insurance?
KEVIN: Well, we’re talking about homeowners insurance, which is interesting. But homeowners insurance is good in that respect. I don’t think many auto-insurance plans do cover you for hail unless you’ve got a very comprehensive policy. But if you’re talking about homeowners insurance – unlike flood, for example – oftentimes hail damage is included.
But to your point, Leslie, usually you have to file a claim within a year. And if you think about the typical damage, obviously, you have to think about the roof, right? That’s the first thing that’s going to be damaged. And it’s not like it’s going to put a hole in your roof. It may damage the shingles. It may knock some of the asphalt covering off of the shingles. And it may start a problem that doesn’t materialize for months or even a year later.
TOM: So you just might not see it right away.
KEVIN: You just might not see it right away. So two things: inspect your house after a hailstorm, as soon as possible. And if you do think you have damage, that’s when you want to reach out to your insurance company, at least to start the claim process.
TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Always a pleasure.
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 is brought to you on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Up next, has homework time become more work for you and for your kids? Well, you can subtract all the whining and add some fun by creating a homework station in your home. We’ll have tips on how to take on that project, 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.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. You will get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a fashion-forward kind of gift for The Money Pit. Actually, we’ve got $120 worth of Dickies Performance Workwear to give away. And that includes the very durable Dickies Denim.
You guys know Dickies. They’re the world’s leading performance-workwear brand. And they’ve been outfitting Americans with durable, functional and comfortable workwear since 1922. You guys know Dickies. It’s synonymous with durability, functionality and comfort. The Dickies name has definitely endured the test of time.
Check out the whole line at Dickies.com. The prize pack is valued at $120 but going out to one lucky person who calls in to The Money Pit today.
TOM: That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Steve in Pennsylvania needs some help with a building project.
I love that you’re planning and you’ve asked us to help. What’s going on, Steve?
STEVE: Yeah. I have a small SAR (ph) cabin at Lake Tahoe. And the deck was built in the early 60s. And the step-up from the deck into the cabin is a stretch. So I was wanting to put a stoop or a landing or step, or whatever you want to call it, on top of the deck to help make the step-up into the cabin a little less severe. So, I was looking at maybe something about 54 inches wide and 6 to 7 inches tall but I didn’t – I don’t know how deep to make that step.
TOM: When you say “deep to make the step,” you mean what’s the tread depth when you put your foot on it?
TOM: So, what are you going to build it out of?
STEVE: I was just going to put in wood. Everything else is wood up there.
TOM: So I would just use a 2×12 for that step. Why not make a nice, big, deep step? You could use a 2×10. I mean most steps are narrower than that. But I think a 2×12, which is 11½ inches, would be fine.
STEVE: So 12 inches deep from the edge of the cabin door to the edge of the deck.
TOM: So, it’s just one step basically between the deck and the cabin doors. Is that correct, that you want to put in?
TOM: So I would make it a 2×12. Why not? It’s about 11½ inches deep and that’ll be fine.
STEVE: Well, thank you very much for your help. You have a great day.
LESLIE: Well, for so many of us parents, back to school means back to prodding, negotiating and really just plain begging your kids to do their homework. Well, with just a little organization and planning, you can create a homework space in your home that will keep their heads out of the clouds and in the books.
TOM: Definitely. Now, for starters, you want to define that workspace. Now, whether it’s a small desk or it’s a whole room, you want to make sure the area is devoted to homework and serves really no other purpose during that homework time. Make an effort to get rid of distractions, like internet and phones and video games. And consider an open window, an inspirational quote, a framed schoolwork or some other kind of detail that gives the space kind of that special touch.
LESLIE: You also want to consider flexible furnishings. You know, fold-out work surfaces and rolling chairs and carts, they can really maximize a space but can also make it feel less like a classroom and maybe more like a workshop.
TOM: And finally, make sure the supplies that you need and the equipment are within easy reach but are not so close that they infringe on that work. And when it comes to storing the supplies, a good thing to do is to let each child pick out a lock or a cubby, a basket or some other storage that they can kind of call their own. Just really own it, maybe label it, put their names on it. And what these kind of change is the only thing smarter than this homework space is going to turn out to be your kids. Get them organized and you’ll find they’ll love it and their whole attitude about homework may just change.
LESLIE: Sal in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?
SAL: Well, we had – the A/C got a leak. The whole house – A/C got a leak. So, there’s a leakage in there and we were told the diagnosis. And they recommend we replace the whole A/C system in the house.
LESLIE: Like just the air handler and condensing unit or all of the ductwork, as well?
SAL: I think just the condenser thing.
LESLIE: OK. How old is your unit?
SAL: Well, it’s old, like about 20 years old.
LESLIE: Oh, OK. So it’s time. OK.
SAL: So, I was wondering if there’s a recommended, affordable company that can supply – can replace the whole system, with affordability, too. We live in Durham, North Carolina.
LESLIE: Well, you’re going to want to find a local HVAC contractor that you checked their references and that you trust. Ask people that you know. Ask people in the neighborhood. Look online, maybe an Angie’s List. Check their references, call them up. And find somebody that you feel comfortable with.
Now, when it comes to a manufacturer of a condensing unit, Carrier is a fantastic brand. Trane is a fantastic brand. You really want to look at things, such as energy efficiency. You want to make sure – now that you’re doing some work, you want to make sure that it’s properly sized for your home. And the right HVAC contractor can calculate which size condensing unit you’re going to need for the amount of rooms and distance of the house that you’re really trying to cool.
So you want to make sure that you’re looking for high energy efficiency. If there’s any rebates going on, ask those questions. A good HVAC contractor is going to know that and help point you in the direction of which manufacturer has those going right now, as far as tax rebates. Those are things you really want to look into. But I say you can’t go wrong with a Carrier or a Trane.
SAL: Oh, good. But I have another question. Some manufacturers offer an insurance – two years of insurance – for the replacement. Do you want me to buy the insurance or it’s a new one, we don’t have to get insurance for that?
LESLIE: It depends. Now, usually, a brand-new piece of equipment is going to come with some sort of manufacturer’s warranty. And you have to make sure and find out what the term on that is. And that’s usually included. I wouldn’t buy anything extended.
What I would look into is if there’s a service contract with the HVAC company that’s doing the install. Because it’s a piece of equipment that you’re going to want to have looked at once a year. Levels are going to have to be checked. Everything is going to have to make sure it’s in top operating condition, number one, for the efficiency. But also, you want to make sure it’s cool on the days that you need it to be cool.
So I think the money is better spent on an annual maintenance contract, because it’s going to include most of those things, as far as parts. Sometimes they include filters, sometimes they don’t. But you want to make sure that you get filters, because you do have to change those monthly and that’s in the return duct. But I think the money better spent, other than an extended warranty, would be on an annual service plan.
SAL: Oh, great. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Still ahead, when the water pressure in the shower is low, your blood pressure can go sky high. We’re going to find out what’s causing your home’s water pressure to fluctuate and what you can do about it, after this.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better or at least we try really hard. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, hurricane season is well underway and if your area is prone to hurricanes or severe storms, here’s a quick way to build a stormproof, homemade shutter for your windows. All you need to do is cut ½-inch plywood to the size of each window. And you want to be sure that you cover the outside trim. Then you can predrill holes that go through that plywood and into the trim so that the installation to take-down is really quick and easy. Once you do this, make sure you make each shutter clearly so you know exactly which window it fits. You’ll be able to really quickly protect those windows before a storm sets in.
LESLIE: Alright. Good point, Tom.
Hey, guys. If you’ve got a specific question, you can e-mail us or post it in our Community section. And I’ve got one here from Abby who writes: “The water pressure throughout my house is intermittently high and low. Within a one-minute period, it goes from being very low to wonderful for maybe six to eight seconds and then low again. It makes laundry take forever, washing dishes a pain and showers less than enjoyable. Any advice on what the problem might be and how to fix it?”
TOM: Yeah. Absolutely a big hassle factor associated with that condition. Now, what I suspect is that there’s just not enough street pressure at this home. And as a result, you’re getting the inconsistencies, perhaps, not just across your house but across your neighborhood. What often happens when you get this fluctuation in your house is – and you know this happens – you’re in the shower and somebody flushes the toilet or runs the sink or the dishwasher. All of a sudden, you get less pressure, water gets hot, it gets cold, you get these kind of spikes. And if it’s happening in this consistency, I would suspect that you don’t have enough pressure right at the main.
So the first thing you should do is call your water company, have them come out and do a pressure test at that main. There may be a problem on their side of it. If, for any reason, this area has historically low pressure, the next step would be to have the plumber install a pump at that main. You can actually install a pump and a pressure tank so that it will kind of get ahead of itself, always store enough pressure to keep that steady flow and then this problem will totally go away, Abby.
So two things to check. First, call the water company, check that pressure at the street. If it’s too low, they might just solve it for you at no cost.
LESLIE: That sounds good, Abby. Good luck with that because all of your situations – dishwashing and showers just not being great – that just sounds terrible.
Alright. Now, here’s a post from Richard who writes: “The skylight in my kitchen ceiling condenses in the winter, dripping water down the drywall and wrecking the paint around the opening of the skylight.”
TOM: You’re kind of on the right track. So let’s talk about what’s causing this. The main cause of this is you have a very inefficient skylight. I suspect it might be a single-pane skylight or you may have failed seals in that skylight. So the warm, moist air – which, of course, is going to form in the kitchen – is going to rise up and it’s going to strike that skylight and it’s going to condense. If the skylight was more efficient, that wouldn’t happen because the surface would be warm on the underside and the temperature – or the cold temperature – would be kept towards the exterior.
So, your approach is probably sloppy but effective. And short of replacing that skylight, it’s pretty much all you can do. I would encourage you, though, to think about replacing the skylight because, in addition to the moisture issues and the rot, you’re probably losing a lot of energy, a lot of heat that you paid for that’s going up in that skylight well and just kind of basically dissipating. So, I would think that now is a really good time to think about replacing the skylight.
LESLIE: Yeah. Because you really just don’t want to have to deal with all of these, you know, homemade fixes when there’s a simple solution and you just want to do it right the first time.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We hope that you are having a beautiful September weekend wherever you are in this fantastic country of ours. And if you are planning a project today, if you get stuck, remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or just post a question on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. We’d love to jump right on there and help you out.
Until next time, 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.)