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How to Stage Your Home for a Fast Sale, Tips on the Next Generation of Smart Home Products and Ideas for Kitchen Counter Makeovers

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, 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: So psyched to be with you guys today, Father’s Day Weekend. If you’re giving the dad some time off, maybe you could do a project for him. We’re here to help. Call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’ve got a great hour planned for you.

    First up, if you’re thinking about selling your home, the best place to start is by taking a fresh look at how you’re presenting your home. We’re going to have room-by-room advice on how to edit your stuff so your home attracts offers from the very first showing.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, connected products and the concept of a smart home are more popular for very good reasons. We’re going to get some insight on the next generation of smart home improvements.

    TOM: Plus, is your kitchen countertop ready for a makeover? This is one kitchen project that can deliver a big visual impact. We’ll have tips on how to pick the best one for your home, coming up.

    LESLIE: And if you’re a serious DIY-er or a pro, you’re going to love the product we’ve got in studio today to send out to one lucky caller. It’s the Milwaukee SHOCKWAVE 45-Piece Drill and Driver Set from The Home Depot worth 50 bucks.

    TOM: Plus, we’ll include a $25 Home Depot gift card, which means that $75 package is going to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone. Let’s talk about your home improvement or home décor project at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Judy in Missouri is on the line with a roofing question. How can we help you today?

    JUDY: Yes, I was wondering if you had ever heard of – had a roof repair a few years ago and it’s been leaking ever since. They used what they called Tam-Shield. It’s a synthetic underlayment.

    TOM: Yeah, mm-hmm.

    JUDY: And it’s plastic and they used that instead of felt paper.

    TOM: Yeah, right. It’s synthetic. And it’s actually an upgrade to standard, 15-pound felt paper. And it’s actually better than using standard felt paper under a roof.

    The reason that your roof is leaking now is probably not because of the Tam-Shield; it’s probably because of something that went wrong with the repair. But I don’t think it would have been the underlayment, because that’s actually pretty good stuff.

    How is it leaking, Judy? Tell me about the leak.

    JUDY: Well, we really don’t know. It comes through in our bathroom and we get up in the attic and we can see drips. But they can’t seem to pinpoint it. They worked on it several times and they just can’t get it to go away.

    TOM: Alright. Usually, if your roof is leaking above your bathroom – there’s a pipe that goes through the ceiling right there and up through the roof and it’s the plumbing-vent pipe. And right around that vent pipe, there’s like a rubber boot that seals that pipe between the pipe and the roof itself. And then there’s flashing that goes around that. That’s the most common place for a roof leak when you have it leak right above a bathroom.

    Now, a lot of times, contractors will try to sort of tar that in place but that’s a bad idea. What I would recommend is to take out the plumbing-vent flashing. And you can do that easily by removing a few shingles in that area.

    Roof shingles are actually pretty easy to disassemble if you know kind of a trick of the trade. I like to do it with a flat bar that you can slip up under the roof shingle, find the nail and sort of pry it from side to side and it’ll pop right out. And then you replace that plumbing-vent flashing and put it back together again and make sure you put everything in the right order so it – the roofing lays on top of the flashing. That usually stops that leak.

    JUDY: But you – but leave the vent pipes there?

    TOM: Oh, yeah. The vent pipe is there for an important reason. You’re going to start having problems flushing your toilet and all your sinks are going to start to gurgle if you take that out. But replace the plumbing-vent flashing there, OK?

    JUDY: OK. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Judy. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: James in Virginia is on the line with a ceiling-fan question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    JAMES: I live in a 1986 2-story ranch and we do not have overhead lighting in any of the bedrooms and there’s no lighting fixtures. And we want to add ceiling fans, so I was wondering how difficult it would be to do that in the bedrooms.

    TOM: It’s not terribly difficult but it’s not terribly easy either. I would say that it would be very easy for an electrician to do that because they have the tools necessary to get the wiring where it needs to go. It’s kind of hard for a DIYer to do that.

    And the other important thing about a ceiling fan is you need to make sure you use the right type of electrical connection in that ceiling so that you have some support on that fan. Because it gets very heavy and it also vibrates sometimes. So you need to have the right connection for the fan to the ceiling and of course, the wiring has to be in place.

    Now, electricians can fish wires through there. There’s a couple of tricks of the trade that they use. They have these sort of long, skinny fiberglass rods that can be run in the space between ceiling joists to run wires where they need to be. But what I would do is if you’re thinking about maybe doing this in a couple of rooms, I would sort of pile those jobs together. Because there’s sort of a mobilization cost when you hire a pro for a small project like that. And maybe try to get all of your electrical work done at the same time.

    Now, with a 1986 house, you might also want to find out if you’ve got ground-fault circuit interrupters protecting the bathroom and the kitchen outlets. That would be another easy thing to add to that to-do list that will protect you from shocks.

    JAMES: OK. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your help and I love your show. Listen to it all the time.

    TOM: Yeah. Good luck with that project and with all the work you’re doing to your new house. Call us back anytime, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’d love to help you out with whatever it is you are working on. We’re here for you at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still to come, do you know the number-one reason homes for sales don’t show well? It’s clutter. We’re going to have tips on how you can edit your stuff to focus on your home’s best features, next.

    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, with your home improvement question on this Father’s Day weekend. You’ll get the answer, plus an opportunity to win a fantastic product. In studio going out to one lucky caller is the Milwaukee SHOCKWAVE 45-Piece Drill and Driver Set from The Home Depot.

    Now, this drill-and-driver set has optimized geometry that’s ideal with impacts. And like all Milwaukee products, these are job site-durable. And the bit tips can even be customized to match the project you’re working on. Plus, we’re also going to throw in a $25 Home Depot gift card. So, pick up the phone and give us a call with your home improvement project. Heck, you might get the answer to that home improvement project, plus the tools to get the job done. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Minnesota where Mike has some issues keeping his shingles on the roof. What’s going on?

    MIKE: Since we added on – actually rebuilt – an attached garage to the side of our house, I’ve got a different kind of shingle on there. The ones on the two-and-a-half-story home itself were not worn out and so I just left them. They’re the interlock-type shingles.

    TOM: OK.

    MIKE: And I haven’t had – I put those on originally, because we’re kind of out in the country and we live in a very windy part of the country.

    TOM: Right, yeah. And I bet they stayed – that they stayed in really good shape because they were completely locked down.

    MIKE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. The interlocks I have had no problems with. But we put the salted (ph), regular asphalt shingles on the new garage area. And I know they’re supposed to seal down with the tar strip and all that kind of stuff that’s underneath them but we get high winds. And almost every time we get this windstorm out of the northwest, up to 40-mile-an-hour winds, I get a few shingles that blow off.

    And I’ve been up there (audio gap) re-nailing, re-tarring, replacing shingles and all that. And I can’t find the interlock shingles in our area anymore. And so the person that did the roofing for me last time used these regular ones. I was nervous about them then because I was afraid they weren’t going to hold up to the wind that we get. And I just didn’t know if you had any suggestion.

    TOM: Well, at this point, the shingles are already down. So if you were to replace the roof, there are shingles that are specifically designed for storm-prone areas, hurricane areas and that sort of thing that can stand winds up to – up and over 100 miles an hour. The typical shingle is not.

    Now, when you put the shingles on also seems to make an effect, have a difference. If you put the shingles on in the spring and they had a good, long summer to seal down, that seems to last a lot longer than if you put them on in the winter and they never quite got a chance to seal until the following summer.

    One thing that you could do now – you may already be doing it – is are you putting dabs of asphalt roof cement underneath the shingles?

    MIKE: I haven’t been up there and done that to every one of them but I’ve done a number of them myself in the areas where they seem to want to take the worst beating. And to be up there and put, you know, a dollop of asphalt tar or shingle cement or whatever under every one of them, no, I haven’t done that yet.

    TOM: Does that work? Do the ones that you’ve cemented still peel off?

    MIKE: No, I think those typically stay. But I usually put another nail or two in them, too, and then put the tar over the head of the nails to make sure that that …

    TOM: Yeah, not the best technique but OK.

    So, all I can suggest, at this point, is to put dabs of asphalt cement under the shingle tabs or just keep replacing them. But if it comes time to actually re-roof, you want to use a high wind-resistant shingle. It’s a specific type of shingle that will last to over 100 miles an hour.

    MIKE: Is that – I mean is there a – is that just a generic name? It’s just a high wind-resistant shingle or what – is there a title?

    TOM: They’re available from different manufacturers. But for example, Owens Corning has one that’s called Duration STORM. And the Duration STORM shingles are warrantied up to 130 miles per hour with only four nails per shingle. So, just so you know that these products do exist. But what you bought was just a typical roof shingle and that’s obviously not going to stand up to the kind of wind that you have.

    But if you use a wind-resistant shingle with that kind of warranty, it’s built differently. There’s more layers of material, so the shingles don’t tear off. The adhesive is different, so it really grips tightly and it holds it together.

    MIKE: Yeah, I was going to ask if it was extra-thick or something compared to a standard shingle.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a different type of shingle. It’s designed specifically for high winds. We see them a lot in our part of the country on the shore, where homes are subjected to really high winds off the ocean. But they’ll work anywhere.

    MIKE: I suppose those would be special order from my home building center, huh?

    TOM: It may be. They may be. But it’ll be worth it.

    MIKE: Oh, I appreciate the advice.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tammy in Arkansas is on the line and is having an issue with the bricks on her home. What’s going on?

    TAMMY: OK. I’ve got a home that sits on a concrete slab. They’re made out of the cinder blocks and the cracks are beginning to crack on the outside and the inside. And somebody told me to use concrete with it and I’m wanting to do it myself. So what do I need to do to seal those cracks?

    TOM: Yeah, you don’t want to use concrete because concrete is not going to fill cracks very well. Are we talking about sort of hairline or fairly thin cracks here, Tammy?

    TAMMY: Well, maybe a ½-inch. They’re kind of separating there but they’re separating into seams of the block.

    TOM: But you really think it’s a full ½-inch? That’s an awfully big crack.

    TAMMY: Well, you can put your finger up to it. It’s pretty deep. You can see on the outside and you can see on the inside.

    TOM: OK. Well, listen, if you’re getting that kind of movement in the wall, you need to have this looked at by an expert. I would have a professional home inspector or a structural engineer look at it because that’s a huge crack in the building. A ½-inch crack is really big if it’s pulling apart. That means that the house is sliding apart at that wall or settling on one end of the building, causing that to crack. And I would like to know why that’s happening.

    Are those cracks new or have they always been there?

    TAMMY: No, no, no, no. They just started, because the place was built in 1969.

    TOM: Yep. You’ve got to get to the bottom of it, Tammy, because there’s something wrong with the house for those cracks to occur like that.

    Now, you’re not talking about mortar that fell out, are you? You’re talking about physical cracks; all the mortar is still there. It’s just separated.

    TAMMY: It’s just separating. It’s all it is. The mortar is still there.

    TOM: Yeah. I would – here’s what I would do, Tammy: I would go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. It’s ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org. Find a certified home inspector in your area or have a structural engineer look at it, get their recommendations and then you can take it from there. If the cracks are that big, I want to stop the building from moving before we begin to think about sealing them up, OK?

    TAMMY: OK. OK. I sure appreciate it.

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

    Well, if you’re thinking of putting your home on the market and you want it to sell fast, the best first step is decluttering.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, we’re not saying you’ve got to live like a minimalist. We’re just saying edit down your current décor so that potential buyers can visualize their own lives in the home. They can’t do that if you’ve got stuff spilling out from every nook and cranny. They’re going to feel crowded. Plus, it’s going to make your house feel small.

    TOM: So, just go room to room and decide what you’ll save, what you’ll donate and what you’ll throw away. You do want to keep furniture to a minimum in living areas so that the rooms appear bigger. Edit down those bookshelves for a neat, orderly look and only feature books and a few decorative items. Then organize the cords for electronics like TVs, computers and printers so everything is tucked neatly away.

    LESLIE: Now let’s talk about the kitchen. You want to remove everything except essentials from the countertops. Clear off the front of the fridge and arrange the contents of the cabinets so that all labels face forward, because people are going to be opening your cabinets.

    Now, in the bath, store your toiletries out of view and freshen the space with soaps and towels or even a small vase of flowers.

    TOM: And finally, give your entire home sort of a mechanical makeover. Get all the systems serviced so you know everything is in good shape, because you know that home buyer is going to bring in a home inspector. And that whole process will make your home sell quickly and for the best possible price.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, it’s time to chat with a pro out of Iowa. We’ve got Ed on the line who wants to get some information to put some issues to rest. What’s going on, Ed?

    ED: I’ve got a homeowner in the Omaha area that is doing an extensive remodel. We’ve removed an awful lot of walls in the home and obviously, there’s a lot of new sheetrock and texturing taking place. Typically, when I do a job like this, obviously, you’re plastic-ing off various rooms to keep dust under control. But you know how dust can move around, regardless of how you try and capture it with blankets and so forth.

    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    ED: This particular issue, I’ve asked the homeowner to regularly check and change their furnace filter.

    TOM: OK.

    ED: And when she changed the filter, unfortunately, I saw one of the cheapest – those blue fiberglass filters that you and I …

    TOM: Right, yeah. We call them “rock-stoppers.”

    ED: That’s about it. That stop a rock and not much more.

    OK. Now, unfortunately, the response I got from this gal was not what I normally get. And here’s the deal, Tom: her brother is a salesman for heating-and-air-conditioning equipment in the Omaha market.

    TOM: OK.

    ED: And he tells her, “Lori, do not buy an expensive filter. Buy the cheapest filter that you can buy because the new, highly-rated-efficiency furnace filters that have the MERV rating 10, 12, 14 and up, they create so much resistance for the blower motor on the furnace, you will shorten the life of your blower motor significantly. Therefore, I recommend not using those filters.”

    I’ve never heard that and I told her, “Lori, I’ve never heard that in my life.”

    TOM: So here’s what I would tell Lori. I would say, “Lori, you either put in a high-efficiency filter or you become a high-efficiency filter. Do you want the dust stopped at the filter itself or do you want the dust stopped in your lungs? Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

    And beyond that, whenever you’re doing a project that’s generating this level of dust, this is the rare circumstance when I will recommend a duct cleaning when the project is done. But you’re wise to try to limit the dust up until that happens.

    But look, if she’s got a family member that’s planting this in her brain, you’ve given her your best advice, I mean you’ve just got to walk away. I wouldn’t get between her and her brother.

    ED: OK.

    TOM: But I think that you’re correct. I think she is incorrect. I’ve never, ever seen any data whatsoever that said that high-efficiency filters cause shortened blower lives. And I’m sure I would’ve heard of this by now, considering for how long we’ve been talking about these and studying them.

    You know, if she doesn’t put a good filter in, what’s going to happen in this case – and if she doesn’t clean it – if she’s got a central air-conditioning system, that evaporator coil where all the air is being pulled through is going to get cake-solid with all that dust. And then it’s going to have a very short life for an air-conditioning compressor. Which isn’t terrible news because, let’s face it, she does have a brother in the business who can buy her a new one.

    ED: Well, I – and Tom, I …

    TOM: And that’s what I would call “poetic justice.”

    ED: Very well said. And I just wanted comfort in knowing that, in all the years I’ve been encouraging people to use high-efficiency filters and going forward, am I giving, as a contractor, good advice or am I not?

    TOM: Nah, I think you’re giving excellent advice. Keep it up. Don’t let one bad experience dissuade you.

    ED: Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Coming up, connected products can save you time and money by making your home work smarter. We’re going to have the latest on smart-home gadgets that make your home improvement projects more successful, next.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to 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: Well, perhaps you have noticed that, thanks to technology, homes have been getting smarter and smarter. From sprinkler systems that can predict the rain to smart skylights that automatically shut when it rains, connected home technology is available to make it easier than ever to enjoy and maintain our homes.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Amanda Parrilli is at the heart of new biz development for The Home Depot and says, “Connected products are leading the next generation of home improvement.”

    Amanda, welcome to the program.

    AMANDA: Hi. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, Amanda, with the availability of wireless internet connections pretty much everywhere, the growth of connected home products has been truly incredible. What areas of the home or apartment are consumers most interested in making smarter?

    AMANDA: Yeah. I mean it’s really individual what people are trying to solve for them. So, it’s very interesting. People are obviously, you know, interested in saving money and kind of conserving their energy use. So that could be a thermostat or maybe water conservation. And then people are also very interested in just securing their home and having more awareness about what’s going on in their home. And that really varies from door locks or garage-door openers, cameras, just being more aware of what’s happening inside their home. So, is it really room-by-room? It’s across the whole home and having kind of more awareness or saving money across that whole house.

    LESLIE: And I think the platforms have become much easier. Prior to today’s day and age, everything was kind of spread out across multiple platforms. You had to commit to sort of one to make things work. And now, thankfully, stores like The Home Depot are putting together categories of things that will work together. So anybody who wants to make any area of their home smart can very easily do so.

    AMANDA: Absolutely. So, a lot of times people aren’t coming into our store to – “I want the entire smart home and everything that’s in it.” But they’re coming in because they want to be able to understand maybe when their kids are coming home and get a notification from the door lock after school that their kids got into the house at the right time and then locked it behind them. So they’re coming in for maybe one issue or one way that a smart device may make their life easier.

    And so, if you think about – it’s just the next generation of door locks or the next generation of home improvement. It’s an upgrade to where technology is making people’s lives easier. It’s not this whole Jetsons experience that you’re buying in a box off the shelf. But it’s about improving areas of your home and making them smarter and work better for you.

    TOM: And it’s very easy to do that in a very systematic, step-by-step sort of modular way. If you start with a thermostat and then you go to a lighting system and then maybe you go to a security system, it’s really easy to add these components as you go.

    Let’s talk about – speaking of lighting. let’s talk about the idea of saving energy. How are some of these products helping us reduce the energy and actually lower those electric bills?

    AMANDA: Yeah. That’s a great point. And so, overall, with lighting, the conversion to LED is just at a really great price point and value to a customer. So, the prices have come down where it’s completely reasonable to actually convert your whole house to LED. This isn’t – you’re not spending thousands of dollars on new LED bulbs. You can buy a – you can buy down lights for under $10, right? And so, this whole-house LED conversion and then potentially making it a connected version of the home is – it’s really reasonable and really affordable.

    So, we do have connected lighting and that can be at anywhere from – some people might put connected lighting in their house just for security purposes, right? To be able to turn on the lights before they get home or to be able to turn on and off the lights at different schedules while they’re traveling or away. So we definitely do a great amount of light.

    It’s a very easy install for somebody to connect their light bulbs. So it’s not – it’s a very approachable, good entry point for somebody. It doesn’t cost a lot and people feel really comfortable that they can install a light bulb. They’ve done that for years. And as long as you can get an app on your phone and install a light bulb, it’s a really approachable way to start.

    LESLIE: And I think that’s a similar technology with thermostats. We’ve always talked about setback thermostats – where you’re able to control the temperatures when you’re using it, when you’re not using it – to sort of control your energy usage. Now, it’s sort of extended where the thermostat themselves are so smart, they kind of predict how you use your heating and cooling systems in your home. But also, the connectivity there so that you can control things on an app and make sure that homes are heated when you’re away or cooled when you’re coming in. The smartness there is just so savvy.

    How difficult is it for a homeowner, though, to sort of switch to that smart-thermostat technology?

    AMANDA: So if you can install the thermostat, it’s a couple of wires. It’s very easy to install. If you have WiFi in your home and you can download an app on your phone – which most people have lots of apps, most people are comfortable with WiFi – it’s a very easy project to do.

    TOM: It’s funny about thermostats. I never considered it a big inconvenience to have to get up out of my easy chair, walk across the room and adjust my thermostat. But how cool …

    LESLIE: Right.

    AMANDA: Until you had one, yeah.

    TOM: But I like having it on my phone now because now I don’t have to do that. I can do it right from my easy chair.

    AMANDA: I know. It’s amazing how – the convenience. You’re like, “No, it’s not lazy. It’s just more convenient for me.”

    TOM: That’s right.

    We’re talking to Amanda Parrilli – she is the director of strategic business development for The Home Depot – about a topic that they’re really calling “the next generation of home improvement.” And that is the connected home.

    Hey, let’s talk a little bit about conserving water. That’s always been an issue. Every single summer somewhere in the country, it – we run into droughts and that sort of thing. And also, just driving around our neighborhoods, I hate seeing sprinklers on when it’s raining out or sprinklers that are misadjusted and watering sidewalks. The connected home really extends that smart-home technology into those irrigation systems in a very big way.

    AMANDA: Absolutely. It is – we have a couple of different options. We have a new Orbit Irrigation Controller that is connected to a weather station near your house. So once you install it, it knows what the weather is going to do near your house. It predicts that it’s going to rain and it will not water for you. So it is saving water, it’s saving you money. It is very unlikely that I would ever have gone out to my garage to turn off my irrigation before work and remember to do that if I thought it was going to rain. But it’s so nice that it just does it for you.

    TOM: That’s fantastic.

    And also, let’s talk a bit about the home security area. I recently purchased a Canary camera. And I’ve got to tell you it’s really amazing. It knows when we’re home, it knows when we’re away. And if there’s any activity in the house, it shoots us an alert, which is usually my dog jumping up on the couch. But heck, it makes for a cute video.

    AMANDA: Yeah. Well, then, you can talk to your dog through it and tell him to get down and get off the couch.

    TOM: That’s right. “Get off the couch.”

    AMANDA: And he’s like, “Where are you at home?”

    Yeah. We had – so, cameras are another one of those really easy installs. You plug it in, you hook it up to your – you hook your app up, you hook your camera up to WiFi. It’s very easy.

    We’ve seen a lot of growth in doorbells. So we have the Ring Doorbell, too, which actually is a camera inside a doorbell. So, you’re getting a great view of the front of your house. And then a lot of times, if someone’s trying to break into your house, the first thing they’ll do is ring your doorbell to see if you’re home. And so that allows you to answer the doorbell through a speaker. And whoever’s ringing your door has no idea whether you’re there. You could be a thousand miles away; they don’t know the difference. So, it’s two-way talk, very easy to install and kind of gives people more security over the front of their house.

    TOM: And that’s why they call it “the next generation of home improvement.” Amanda Parrilli, Director of Strategic Business Development for The Home Depot, thank you so much for catching us up on all the latest connected home technology.

    AMANDA: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

    TOM: And if you’d like to learn more about Home Depot’s vast supply of connected home products, head on over to Home Depot or visit them online at HomeDepot.com.

    LESLIE: Alright, Amanda. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    Hey, guys. While we’re talking about smart homes, I mean there’s so many great things that you can do, especially in the kitchen. Maybe a fridge with a monitor in it so you can look up recipes or smart lighting or water-sensor faucets that turn on right when your hands go underneath them. Well, all of that makes the kitchen the heart of your home and the right countertop keeps it beating. We’ll tell you how to choose the best one for your family, 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. We want to help you with whatever it is you are working on at your money pit this Father’s Day weekend. Plus, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs this hour. We’re giving away the Milwaukee SHOCKWAVE 45-Piece Drill and Driver Set from The Home Depot.

    Now, the set has optimized geometry, which is ideal with impact, so it reduces wear and tear. And like all Milwaukee products, these are job site-durable and the bit tips can even be customized to match the project you’re working on. Plus, we’re going to throw in a $25 Home Depot gift card, so this really is a great prize pack.

    You can check out the Milwaukee products at HomeDepot.com. For the prize pack worth $75, though, you’ve got to give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, kitchen counters serve as the work surface for family life, which is why choosing the best material for your counters is really important. So if you’re ready for a counter makeover, here are a few things to consider before making that choice.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, perhaps the most popular option these days is a natural stone. Now, the look of natural stone adds richness and depth to a space. And that really makes it a good choice for kitchens and baths.

    Now, granite and quartz, they’ve become the gold standard of late. Now, they’re both beautiful but they can be very costly.

    TOM: Yeah. But remember that those natural-stone surfaces do need maintenance. Like occasional resealing prevents stains.

    Now, another option is solid-surface countertops. These look great and they’re easier to customize than stone, which gives you plenty of design flexibility. The composite material is available in lots of colors and texture blends. And solid-surface countertops can also be a part of a green kitchen or bath solution because they’re durable and stain-resistant, as well as easy to install. And they’re affordable.

    LESLIE: Lastly, don’t discount ceramic tile as a great option. Tile is going to offer the most size, color, shape, texture and even pattern options. It’s durable, stain-resistant, easy to install and affordable. But the grout is where your problems can happen. So you need to seal your grout and that’s going to prevent the staining.

    TOM: And still, Leslie, I really like butcher block, too, but it does need the most care, especially to prevent the absorption of E. coli bacteria.

    If you’d like some more tips on countertop selections, visit MoneyPit.com for more tips on choosing countertops.

    LESLIE: Jim in Oregon is on the line with a driveway question. How can we help you today?

    JIM: It’s a brand-new home. I lived in it less than about three months. A strange odor started coming through in the master bedroom that can’t be detected. We had plumbers come in to check the sewage system. They did a smoke test on it. Couldn’t find that. We just don’t know what the problem is. It’s really an odd odor.

    TOM: How would you describe the odor?

    JIM: It’s a cross between garbage and sewage smell.

    TOM: Has anyone ever suggested biogas as the source of this?

    JIM: No one ever suggested that.

    TOM: Alright. So, this is a – I’m speculating here, alright? Now, I realize that they’ve done all these tests and so on but sometimes, you get bacteria that deteriorates in the traps of sinks and toilets. And it can release a biogas, which has an absolutely terrible, terrible smell.

    One way to deal with that is to get a concentrated – like an oxygenated bleach solution mixed up and – like OxiClean or something like that – and then take a bottle brush and try to get that solution into the drain. Make sure you’re really scrubbing all the nooks and crannies of that drain and let it sit there for a bit. And if there’s any bacteria that’s forming there that could be contributing to this odor, that will eliminate it. So that’s one idea.

    The second potential cause for this is simply a dead rodent. We’ve seen in the past where the rodents get into the spaces in and under or in the wall or something like that. And then they decompose and you get that kind of odor. So I don’t have a lot of solutions for you on that but I would try the biogas solution first.

    And make sure you also get the overflow of the kitchen, of the – sorry – of the bathroom sink. That overflow channel? By letting the water run up, it’ll block the drain until it hits the overflow? Because if you have any of that bacteria in the overflow channel, that can contribute to it, as well.

    JIM: OK. Did you ever find this in a new home before?

    TOM: Yeah, I mean it can happen pretty quickly.

    JIM: Oh, really? Hmm.

    TOM: Even though it’s a new home, it’s been under construction for some period of time and so, it could have preexisted.

    JIM: Well, I’ll definitely give it all a try.

    TOM: Give it a shot. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, guys. When it comes to choosing which home improvement projects to do, picking one with a good return on investment is really important. But did you ever wonder which improvements deliver the least? The answer is going to surprise you and that’s next.

    ANNOUNCER: Today’s Money Pit is presented by Haier, the world’s first appliance brand. Stay cool this summer with a Haier Serenity Series Air Conditioner. Quieter than average window air conditioners, yet cool your home effectively and efficiently. Learn more at H-a-i-e-r.com.

    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: Here to help you with your home improvement projects at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question online. Just head on over to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    LESLIE: And that’s what Abby did. And she writes: “I’m a novice when it comes to home improvement DIY work. And I’m interested in repairing some sun damage that I see on my front door. I heard you recommend to sand the door down and then apply marine varnish. Can you give me some more information on how to do that?”

    TOM: You know, that’s a great summer project: doing over your front door. I find the best way to do a door project like this is to take it off the hinges for the day. So pop those hinge pins out, take it off the hinges, get a couple of saw horses and put it out right out in the front yard or the backyard, whatever door you’re working on. And that just makes it a lot easier because you’re not dealing with gravity as much, right? You don’t have to reach up high or reach down low. You really can work on that door very, very carefully, area by area, piece by piece.

    You do want to sand it down. Then I’m going to presume that we’re talking about a wood door here. If that’s the case, you’re going to want to sand down as much of that finish as you can. If it’s stained, you may have to touch up if you get down to the raw wood. But once you can sand it down, you can work it almost one side at a time and touch it up. You can apply the marine varnish.

    Now, the reason we say “marine varnish” is because it actually has a lot of UV-inhibitor built into it. And that’s going to help keep the sun from fading it out as quickly.

    Now, if it’s a painted door, kind of the same thing applies. You are going to sand it down but then I want you to apply another coat of primer. You can never have too much primer on a door and it gives you good adhesion for the topcoat. And then choose a good-quality exterior topcoat. I prefer the solvent-based topcoats for doors because they’re a little more durable. They’re tougher to clean up because they’re oil-based but they’re going to give you a beautiful, durable finish.

    LESLIE: And Abby, plan on sticking around for the day. This way, you’re giving the door the entire day to sort of dry and be finished. And when you’re ready to head out for the night, you can pop the door back on its hinges and you’ll have a beautiful front door.

    TOM: Well, getting the best value out of every home improvement dollar you spend is important. But there are some improvements that deliver a lower return on investment than others, one of which, surprisingly, is a home office. Leslie has details in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. Each year, more and more people are working away from an actual office. But apparently, one place they aren’t working from is a home office. So, with all the mobile technology that we have available to us these days, work from home can actually mean working from a park bench or a lounge chair or the beach or your deck or pretty much anywhere but an office.

    Now, it also turns out that building a home office delivers a terrible return on investment. An average home office remodel can cost $30,000, which is money that you will not recoup, most likely. So while it’s a great idea to have a dedicated workspace at home, you need to make sure that that space can be used, maybe, as an additional bedroom or a multi-purpose space, especially if you’re planning on putting your house on the market, because you’re not going to see a big return. So maybe incorporate it into a fancy walk-in closet or a kitchen prep area. There are ways that you can disguise this workspace to be multi-functional and that’s what will be appealing.

    TOM: Good advice.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, nobody wants to drink or cook or clean off with smelly, rotten-egg tap water. The solution might be as simple as replacing just one part of your plumbing system. We’ll have details on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (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.)

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