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How to Take an Empty Nest House and Make Use of the Extra Space, Get Organized for After School Homework Sessions, Learn How to Discover the Age of Your House and More

  • 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: And thank you so much for tuning in to today’s program. What are you working on? Take a look around your house. There’s got to be a project that’s on your to-do list. Let us help. Pick up the phone and give us a call, 888-666-3974.

    I know that I am getting ready to ship my kid off to college. And once that happens, we could be left with extra room in the house. So what should you do? Quickly remodel before they come back. No, only kidding. We’re going to have some tips, though, on empty-nest makeovers so when the kids do finally move out, you’ve got some room. What can you do with that space that’s going to make the most sense?

    LESLIE: But you know what, guys? Maybe you’re like me who’ve got some school-aged kids and you really just need some help getting organized. Because for me, I’ve got a kindergartener this fall and I have a feeling we’re going to have homework. And maybe you’ve got homework coming back into your routine and you need to figure out what’s the best way to make all of this work into your fall lifestyle. So we’re going to have some tips on that, as well.

    TOM: Plus, is the age of your home a mystery? I mean besides just knowing that it’s old. There are actually a few tricks of the trade that I will share from my lifetime – my prior lifetime – as a professional home inspector, where we used to have to figure out the home age upon inspecting it. Because it actually was a clue to what was wrong with the house. And so I’m going to share some of those tips and help you date your house, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And one caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to be able to turn their garage into a workshop, with one tool. We’re giving away a Garage Power Station from Chamberlain. And it’s a 3-in-1 tool that provides on-demand light, power and compressed air.

    TOM: It’s worth $129. Going out to one caller drawn at random, so let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Stephanie in California is having a heating-and-cooling issue. Well, specifically, a cooling issue in the bedroom. What’s going on?

    STEPHANIE: Oh, we don’t know. Right now, we live in a four-bedroom house. Every room in the house, except for the master bedroom, gets cool in the summer. We have not done a winter yet. This bedroom – the master bedroom – is at least 5 to 7 degrees warmer than any part of the house.

    TOM: OK. Well, there could be a number of reasons for that. First of all, what side of the house is it on?

    STEPHANIE: It would be on the south side of the house.

    TOM: The more sun, the cooling you need. So it’s not unusual for a room on the south or the west side to need more cooling power.

    So let’s talk about what you could do to try to improve this. First of all, I would check the airflow at the registers to make sure you’re getting good airflow at all of the A/C registers. In some cases, systems can be balanced so that they supply more air to one room and less air to another.

    Just as important is to check the return registers, Stephanie, because not only do you have to push cold air into the room, you have to pull the air back so it can be recooled. If you don’t have a return in the bedroom itself, it’s going to be a central return, like in the hallway, perhaps, outside of the bedroom. If that’s the case, you want to make sure that when you close the door of the bedroom, that there’s at least a 1-inch gap under the door. Because that’s how the air gets pulled back and again, recirculated.

    Other things that you can do would be to increase insulation over this particular room. So if there’s an attic access above, for example, you could double up the insulation over that and that would also help to keep it cooler.

    So I would speak with your HVAC professional, initially, to try to get the balance working a little bit better. And then if that doesn’t work, think about adding some additional insulation. And if that doesn’t work at all, the other thing that you could do is you could add supplemental cooling to that.

    I have a room, for example, in my house where I have a split-ductless system because it happens to be on the west side, in my case, and it overheats. It’s far away from the air-conditioning-system supply and so I never quite get enough cooling air into this one room to make it comfortable. So we have a split-ductless system in there that supplements it.

    So those are all good options to help even out the temperature of that room in the house. Stephanie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Richard in Kansas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    RICHARD: I’m interested – I have an older home I remodeled. It’s build in the 30s and I wanted to put in a whole-house water-filtration system. And I was going to connect right to the service line going in.

    And I’ve been shopping around. I found the small canister types and then it just jumps up to a big, 33-gallon, barrel-type filtration, which is too much. And I just wanted to know what a good brand is and what I need – reverse-osmosis and all that.

    TOM: You know, Richard, 3M makes the Filtrete line. That’s F-i-l-t-r-e-t-e. And they have single filters for use under maybe your kitchen sink or bathroom but they also have a whole-house system. It’s not terribly expensive; I think it’s under 100 bucks. And installation is pretty straightforward, so perhaps you could even do it yourself. And they also have various levels of filtration.

    So I would take a look at the Filtrete Whole-House System Water Filters and I think that’s a good choice to make sure your water is tasting good throughout the entire home.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, the weather is starting to get cooler. It’s going to be officially autumn very, very soon and maybe you’ve got some things that you’re working on around your money pit, like tightening up all those gaps and cracks to stay nice and cozy in the cooler weather. We’re here to give you a hand at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Hey, have you, like me, just shipped off the kids to college? Perhaps you’re already wondering what you can do to hijack that extra space that used to be their bedrooms? I mean quickly, before they come back? We’re going to have some ideas on how you can do some empty-nest transformations, after this.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    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: Here to take your home improvement questions at 888-MONEY-PIT and also give away one tool that could transform your entire garage into a workroom. It’s called the Garage Power Station. It’s from our friends at Chamberlain and it’s very cool because it mounts on your ceiling. It’s got a 25-foot auto-retractable utility cord and that cord gives you on-demand power, an LED light and 100 psi of compressed air. So think about all the things that you can do with that: fill up the bike tires, et cetera.

    It’s worth $129 and it’s available exclusively at The Home Depot. Check it out at Chamberlain.com. And give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Chad in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    CHAD: I attended an energy show where they were showing an energy shield or a wrap made out of aluminum. What it was designed to do was to basically block the radiant heat from penetrating your house in the summer. Thus, you’re using less energy, I guess, to stay cooler.

    And then, in the wintertime, what it does – it prevents your heat from escaping, very much like the astronauts use from the extreme temperature in space. Since I’m building a new house, could you put this wrap between your ceiling drywall and the bottom of your trusses? Or is there a better way of keeping the radiant heat from penetrating your house in the summer?

    TOM: What you’re talking about here is a product called “reflective barrier.” And I have to say that I’m not convinced that it works really well and would not necessarily recommend it. And usually, it’s put in a home that’s already constructed. It’s a little bit easier to put in a home that, obviously, is being built.

    But there are far better alternatives if you really want to make your home energy-efficient. I would tell you to look into spray-foam insulation, specifically Icynene. Because when you use a spray-foam insulation in new construction, it does two things: not only does it insulate but it seals every possible little gap that is going to be throughout that building. And when the walls are open like that, you can have it sprayed and it’s going to do that. It’s also quieter in terms of preventing sound transmission. It just has so many wonderful benefits. I would tell you to focus on something like that to give yourself a real benefit and stay away from the radiant-barrier products.

    CHAD: Oh, OK. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Chad. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, it might be the day that you’ve dreamt about or maybe even dreaded but after the kids go off to college or out into the world, you’re left with some empty space in your home. So what should you do with it? Even if you don’t have kids leaving the house, you might have some dead space in your house that could really use a makeover.

    TOM: Well, a spare bedroom can make a great home office, a craft room or even a home gym. Now, all of these uses are pretty easy to convert from a bedroom and you can still have room for a bed or a pull-out sofa in that same space to accommodate guests.

    Whether you like it or not, more and more kids, though, are returning home. So, if that happens, not a problem. Converting those rooms back to bedrooms is also not a difficult project.

    LESLIE: Now, if you know those kids are gone for good, congratulations. Go ahead and splurge, guys. You know, you could think about creating a home spa.

    Now, bathroom upgrades, they always deliver a great return on investment. And when you’re designing the space, think about a high-end hotel. You can think about some really beautiful tile; painting those bathroom walls a really nice, soothing color; maybe adding in a beautiful light fixture, some fluffy towels, some amazing linens in your bath space and some creative furnishings, maybe a double sink, something just really relaxing and beautiful. Pampering. Think about that when you’re creating that permanent upgrade.

    TOM: Or you can consider a project that has literally no return on investment and we don’t care. Why not a man cave? We don’t build man caves because we think they’ll add value to our homes; we build them because we want them. And that’s something that you could do, as well. Just add a big-screen TV, a wet bar, a card table, pool table. Now you’ve got a room just for the boys and it’s no longer all about the kids. You can use that extra space the way you have always wanted.

    888-666-3974. If you’ve got a home improvement question or maybe you want some additional advice on how to upgrade some of those empty rooms in your house, give us a call right now. Let’s get to it.

    LESLIE: Shirley in Oregon is on the line with a solar-panel question. How can we help you?

    SHIRLEY: Hi. Yes. I had heard that with solar panels or solar shakes on the roof, that if you had a fire, that the Fire Department would not be able to start fighting that fire until the sun went down because you’re actually creating electricity? And I just was considering putting solar and I just wanted to make sure if that is correct that they didn’t want to get the water on anything that was actively creating electricity.

    TOM: So let’s just think about this, Shirley. Your house is on fire, the Fire Department pulls up, they spot the solar panels and say, “Ah, you know what? We’ll be back, say, what, 6:30, 7:00? Sun should be down by then. Then we’ll take care of it.”

    SHIRLEY: That’s what I thought was ridiculous.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SHIRLEY: That’s why I’m thinking, “Why is anybody doing solar if that’s the case, is there?”

    TOM: No. Look, there’s electricity all throughout your house. Why would electricity on the roof have – be any different? If electricity is a concern, the Fire Department is going to go over and turn the power off; they’ll pull the meter.

    SHIRLEY: Well, they said that solar creates its own electricity so even if the meter was turned off or pulled, that it still would be creating. Is that not correct with the solar?

    TOM: Let’s think about what you’re saying. You can fight a fire in a power plant if you had to.


    TOM: So, this is not an issue. Somebody is pulling your leg, Shirley, OK?

    SHIRLEY: I think it was just somebody that was kind of ignorant and I said I couldn’t hardly believe it. But I was going to ask before I – thank you.

    LESLIE: Vinnie in New Jersey is on the line with a flooring question. What can we do for you today?

    VINNIE: I want to install laminate flooring in my bedroom. Right now, I have builder’s carpet and rather than removing the carpet, can I put the laminate flooring right over the carpet?

    LESLIE: Well, while it seems like it would be a good idea, it’s definitely not. Yeah, the issue is because a laminate flooring is a floating floor, it locks together and sort of floats in the perimeter of the space of your room. It needs a solid foundation to sort of keep those joints together and to keep it standing up to the wear and tear of just furniture placement and usage of the space. So you really do want to take up that carpeting, you want to take up whatever underlayment they’ve used and then you want to use the underlayment that the manufacturer of your laminate flooring specifies.

    So, some of the laminates come with an underlayment attached already to the back. Some recommend a foam that sort of rolls out. It really varies but it’s super-effective and you do need it.

    TOM: A lot of the seams with the flooring are locked together. And if the underlayment of carpet, in this case, is soft as I’m sure it is and you press down on that seam, it could pop open or it could break. It’s just not designed to be supported by anything other than the underlayment sold by the manufacturer and specced out to go with that particular product.

    VINNIE: So, the underlayment sold by the manufacturer would be more firm.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s usually a very thin foam, like maybe an 1/8- to ¼-inch stiff foam that comes in rolls and rolls out or like Leslie said, it could be attached to the back of the laminate piece. And it would go right on the subfloor or on the slab.

    VINNIE: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Erica in Illinois is dealing with a paint situation. Tell us what’s going on. You’ve got peeling and bubbling?

    ERICA: Yes. I had my paint – my ceiling painted by someone probably about three years ago. And just recently, the ceiling has started peeling and the walls have started, oh, crackling almost. Like it looks like underneath, there’s a crackle to it that if I pressed it hard, it would flake off.

    TOM: OK. So I suspect that when it was painted last time, the walls may not have been prepped properly. They clearly were not primed. I think now is an opportunity, Erica, where you’re going to have to get rid of all of that old, loose paint. Sand the ceiling down, sand the walls down and apply a primer. The primer is going to be key here because whatever that unknown surface is underneath that layer, we want to make sure we have something that can attach to it. And primer you should think of as sort of the glue that makes the paint stick.

    So prep what you have, prime it thoroughly, then put a second top coat on. And that last coat, make sure you use a really good-quality paint and make sure it’s flat for the ceiling. And that will hide any imperfections that might be left behind. Does that make sense?

    ERICA: Yes. Now, as far as my wall, do I need to try to scrape it off so I don’t have any of this crackle looking – on my wall?

    TOM: Yeah, I definitely would. I would definitely try to get rid of as much of that loose paint as possible and the same thing goes: prime them and then do a top coat after that.

    ERICA: OK. Alright. Sounds like a job but I’ll take it on.

    TOM: And I know you can do it, Erica. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Sean, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    SEAN: I was noticing – last fall, I was up cleaning my gutters out. And I’m getting mold or a mildew type of growth on my asphalt shingles. And I’m wondering if that’s a problem I need to deal with or just let it go and deal with it, I guess.

    TOM: Well, it’s mostly a cosmetic issue. So, it’s not going to affect the longevity of the roof. If it got really thick – sometimes we see moss that gets up there and can actually lift and crack shingles.

    Now, if you want to try to get rid of it because it doesn’t look that nice, there’s a couple of things that you can do. First of all, the green solution is to get more sunlight on it because the more sunlight, the less chance that you’re going to have any type of algae growth on that roof surface.

    The second thing is that you could use a product called Wet & Forget. If you go to WetAndForget.com, it’s a product that you mix up. It’s in a concentrated form that you mix it up, you apply it with a garden-type sprayer, let it sit there for a bit of time. And then eventually, the Wet & Forget product will completely destroy the mold, the mildew, the algae, the moss and clean that roof right up.

    And then thirdly, a little trick of the trade is you could put a copper strip across the top of that roof, from end to end. And with a metal strip made out of copper, you can slip it under one row of shingles, as well. Every time it rains, it will release a little bit of that copper and that is also a mildicide and will keep the roof clean.

    SEAN: Wow. OK. Alright. I think we’ll try the spray on it first, then maybe get a piece of copper and run it across the roof.

    TOM: There you go. Good luck with that project, Sean. 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. Still to come this hour, are you stumped by the age of your house? Now, this really is a mystery worth solving because it can actually help you with the regular maintenance you need to perform. We’re going to tell you how to do the detective work, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by LIQUID NAILS. For tough jobs, demand the extraordinary strength of LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive. It bonds a wide range of materials, indoors and out, for a job done once, done right. Learn more about LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive at LIQUIDNAILS.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: Now that Labor Day has come and gone, fall is right around the corner. So make sure your home is ready for the cooler weather. Head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “fall fix-ups” for tips on how to do just that.

    LESLIE: Judy in Florida is on the line with a countertop situation. What happened? You scraped it? You cut it? What’d you do?

    JUDY: The previous owners had painted it and I took a razor blade and went up under it and I was able to get all of that paint off. But evidently, they sanded the tops and I would like to bring some life back into the top.

    LESLIE: So, wait, is it wood? Is it butcher block? Is it laminate?

    JUDY: It’s laminate, yes. And it’s in good shape. It’s just that it’s dull. It’s got the marble look.

    LESLIE: You’ve got a couple of options. You could paint it again. There are several different companies that make a laminate painting kit. Rust-Oleum has a couple of different products: Modern Masters and – oh, Tom, there was that one we saw in Vegas. It’s named after the guy’s daughter; it’s got two marbling kits in it.

    JUDY: Yeah, I have seen that and I prefer not to do that. I read an article somewhere – and I cannot find the article – that said that you could use car wax, paste wax and buff it?

    LESLIE: Sure.

    JUDY: Would that look – the countertop looks fine; it just needs a gloss. I don’t want a real high gloss; I just want it to look better.

    TOM: Well, there’s no reason you couldn’t use the car wax. It’s not all – except that I wouldn’t want my food to be in contact with it. But other than that, I think it – probably OK.

    JUDY: That’s a good idea, surely. Well, I thank you for your time, your suggestions.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    JUDY: I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, as long as there have been homes, there have been home repairs. But if you know the age of your house, however, problems common to homes built in that era can sometimes be avoided.

    TOM: Or at least you’ll know what to expect. Kevin O’Connor is a guy who has seen more than his fair share of the secrets old homes can share. He is the host of TV’s This Old House and is here with some tips on how to figure out the age of your own home.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.

    TOM: You know, Kevin, after spending 20 years as a professional home inspector, I got pretty good at knowing what might be wrong with a house before I even sort of walked in the door. And that wasn’t because I had mystic abilities but more because I had seen the same defects in houses of the same age time and time again. I’m sure that you have seen much of the same. So what are your favorite ways to kind of date a house before you tear into all of those fantastic renovations?

    KEVIN: Well, my favorite way is to show up with Tom Silva.

    TOM: That’s your secret weapon, right?

    KEVIN: That’s my secret weapon because that guy, like you – I mean if you do it for 20, 30 years – he’s seen it all and he’s just got an eye for these things. If you don’t have that magic eye, I would say one of the first things you want to do in compiling a history of the house is just identify the era in which the structure was built.

    And you can do that, oftentimes, with the help of an architectural book or two. Most homeowners are probably going to be able to narrow their house down to a core style that’s common to their area. And that’ll give you a pretty broad range of the timeframe when it was built.

    TOM: So you can get it narrowed down to the era. And also, of the area of the homes that you’re in, a lot of times you find that – what we think of as a modern development today of a bunch of two-story Colonials, back then it was a bunch of Victorians, right?

    KEVIN: Yeah, it’s amazing. We did a project in Brooklyn and these guys had all these brownstones that we loved that we think are historic houses. These were done by developers. This was just track housing for the workers in Manhattan. They’d buy a block, build eight of them at a time and then repeat the process.

    So, yes, you’re right. You can actually see clumps of these houses being built from one period to the next and it can really narrow it down.

    TOM: Now, what about public records? There are a fair amount of records that are out there if you know where to look.

    KEVIN: Well, there’s a lot out there and they can actually tell you a lot about your house. So, think about visiting your local building department, maybe your tax assessor or the Register of Deeds Office. And there you’re going to find things like deeds or maps, plot plans or even building permits. And they can tell you a lot about your house. Each one of those things is a piece of paper and has probably got some history on your home.

    I’ve heard about insurance companies, that they actually have maps that go back to, say, the mid-1800s that they’ve kept to catalog buildings in your area. If you can get your hands on those, you’re probably going to find a wealth of information just there.

    TOM: Yeah. And that building-permit tip is a really good one because it’s amazing when you get your hands on that file – and it’s all public record, so you can ask for anyone’s building permits that you’d like. And it could be your neighbor’s, whatever. And you can see the history of that house through those permits and see what additions were made and get the dates and all of the work that was done. There’s just a lot of information there that’s literally at your fingertips if you just go dig up the files.

    KEVIN: Yeah, it’s one, big, long chronology of your house, oftentimes.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about some of the ways that you can date your house based on what’s in the house. Certain improvements, certain wiring techniques, plumbing techniques are tied into certain dates, right?

    KEVIN: Yeah, this is great and this is why I love having a guy like Tom Silva by my side. Because when we dig into these houses, we find these things, right? Knob-and-tube wiring. We talk about these things all of the time and what you have to do to replace them or fix them. You’ve got steel plumbing pipes.

    But the reality is is that these things were materials used in very specific periods. So knob-and-tubing or steel plumbing pipes, they’re generally dated to the 1900s to the 1940s. Those small, fuse-type electrical systems or …

    TOM: The ones that people always put coins behind?

    KEVIN: Exactly. Or plaster-and-lath, right? You ever dig into one of those things? Or have you ever seen vermiculite insulation? Well, those things, well, they were common in 1940 to 1960, so they’ll tell you a little about your house.

    And hey, remember avocado appliances?

    TOM: Ah, who can forget?

    KEVIN: Right? Yep. That’s 1960s or 1970s, the dark era of design. They’ll tell you something, too.

    TOM: Absolutely. Now, there are actually places in your house where dates are physically recorded. I think this is always really fun. You can look inside of toilets and see when the toilet was manufactured. And you can look under sinks. And sometimes, the dates are actually cast right into it.

    KEVIN: Stamped there by the manufacturer. It’s like an archeological dig. It’s going back to Pompeii and saying, “Hey, look at this toilet. It was actually made in 1915.” That information is there if you know where to look.

    TOM: And you know what? It was done right before it was installed in the house because they didn’t stockpile those plumbing fixtures back then.

    KEVIN: No, probably not.

    TOM: They made them and installed them. So if you’ve got a date that it came off the assembly line, you can bet your home was built pretty close to that time.

    Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, that’s a really fun topic. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and sharing a little house history with us.

    KEVIN: My pleasure.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Up next, well, it’s back-to-school time and that can add up to a storage-problem situation as your kids bring home the schoolwork. That’s why we’re going to have some storage tips that will make for neater study centers, after this.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One super-lucky caller that we talk to on the phone this hour is going to be able to turn their garage into a workshop, thanks to the Garage Power Station from Chamberlain.

    You know, I think this is a really great prize for this time of year. It’s starting to get cooler, you’ve got projects to work on outdoors, maybe you need some extra space in the garage. And this is perfect because it’s a 3-in-1 ceiling-mounted device, so it clears up a lot of counter space, that’s going to supply you with air, an LED light and power to your garage work area, all through one 25-foot retractable cord. You can instantly pump up anything with the 100-psi multipurpose inflator.

    I mean I constantly feel like every time we open the garage to shoot a basketball or do something, all of the balls are deflated. I don’t know what happens in the garage overnight but something is happening, apparently. So this could really be a valuable thing at our household.

    You’re also going to get up to 100,000 hours of LED light and it’s going to bring power to all of your tools in every part of your garage.

    TOM: Very cool tool. It’s worth $129 and is available exclusively at The Home Depot. So check it out at Chamberlain.com and give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Steven in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    STEVEN: I have two bathrooms, side by side. They’re divided by one wall. I’m thinking of taking the wall out and combining the two bathrooms.

    TOM: You should approach this project very carefully, Steven, and here’s why: because the number of bathrooms in a house is – has a direct relationship with the value of a house. There’s a difference between a house with two bathrooms and a house with one bathroom and a house with one full bath and one half-bath. So, if you’re going to eliminate an entire full bathroom from the house, that will reduce your home value.

    Now, that might be OK if you’re not concerned about that or you just want a bigger bathroom and you’re just kind of willing to deal with that. But unfortunately, the way homes are valued – and you can check with a local realtor and ask this very same question. I think you’re going to get a similar answer. Will your home be worth less if you combine two bathrooms into a single bathroom? And I think the answer is going to be yes.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But Steven, I’m all for quality of life. If you want that big bathroom, you should have a big bathroom.

    STEVEN: It’s something I’ve been kind of dreaming/thinking about for quite some time and …

    TOM: Well, then, maybe you should do it. We just don’t want you to do it without having all the facts.

    STEVEN: Would I have to bust the slab out in order to relocate drainage pipes?

    TOM: Yes. If you’re not going to put the fixtures back in the same place, you will have to break the slab out to get the pipes where you want them. You’re going to probably end up extending the drain line to where the old location used to be. So, yes, there is going to be some demolition involved in that project, as well.

    STEVEN: OK. Now, what is that going to do to the structural integrity of the slab?

    TOM: Oh, it won’t – well, it’s obviously going to destroy the slab in that area but the slab is not load-bearing in the areas where you’re going to be breaking it apart. It’s not – it won’t have an effect on the foundation because you won’t be impacting the exterior walls. You’re going to be breaking apart the slab in the thinner sections where it’s 4 or 5 inches thick.

    STEVEN: OK. Alright. I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’ve got school-aged kids, you know how much homework they have these days. And if they have homework, I’ve heard that means you have homework.

    So, you can help your little scholars with all of that work that you both have to do by setting up a designated and organized study space. Think about it, guys. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be a bedroom corner or a dining-room table, whatever is going to work for you guys.

    But having a specific space can help your kids really build a study routine. It should be free of clutter and any distractions, so hide the iPads and all of the Nintendo things. It’s a good idea to have some drawers or a storage bin or even a filing cabinet, just to keep everybody organized. And make sure you label your containers with your child’s name. And this will really give your kids a sense of ownership so maybe they’ll want to keep it tidy.

    TOM: There’s also the challenge that kind of grows during the year and I do mean grow. And that’s what to do with all of the artwork, the tests, the projects, the science projects, stuff like that that the kids bring home.

    LESLIE: And they remember every piece of everything, so you can’t get rid of it.

    TOM: Absolutely. So one way to deal with that is to simply take pictures of all the prized work or to scan the schoolwork that you want to save. And then you can save it electronically. You’re still going to have it. You can join together, look at the photos but you don’t have to save every stick of whatever they bring home.

    My kids used to go to something called Camp Invention in the summer. And they would take apart old radios and vacuum cleaners and they’d make these new creations out of it, which was great at the time. But then they would bring these buckets of stuff home and it was a lot of junk kind of loosely strung together. And it was rather impossible to store this stuff. So, I wish that I had thought of this idea then and I wouldn’t feel quite as guilty as I do now for having thrown it all away.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got David in New Mexico who has bubbles in the toilet? What? What’s going on?

    DAVID: The only time that – when you flush it, you get a bubble in it that comes up.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Starving for air.

    DAVID: That’s what it’s doing, OK.

    TOM: For whatever reason, you don’t have enough ventilation; you don’t have enough make-up air getting into that toilet. Because if you think about it, when you drop all that water in the drainpipe and it pushes down, it’s got to be replaced by air somewhere. You’ve got to let air in sort of through the top of that so it doesn’t gurgle and bubble. And you don’t have enough ventilation.

    If the toilet’s working well and it’s flushing OK, you’re not getting a lot of backups and that kind of thing, it’s just kind of an annoyance but I wouldn’t worry about it. If you start having problems with it not flushing correctly, then you might need to get a plumber in to add an additional vent to that waste line so that it does flow as it should.

    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. Well, fall means leaves and that, of course, means gutter cleaning. We’re going to tell you how to take care of your gutters so they take care of keeping all of that water away from your home, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

    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.

    Well, the fall season is just about officially on us and we’ve noticed in the Community section that you guys are super-busy talking about what’s going on this time of year. And we’ve noticed that gutters is a hot topic. And I’ve got a post here from Sarah in Ohio who writes: “I have never cleaned out my gutters in the 12 years that I’ve lived in my home.” Well …

    TOM: Perhaps just a bit overdue.

    LESLIE: Right. It’s a chore you should tackle, you know, every decade or so.

    But she writes: “There aren’t a whole lot of trees around but there are some. My gutters and roof are unusually high and very difficult to reach. We have what’s called a ‘saltbox-constructed home,’ tall and narrow. The last big rainstorm, I noticed sheets of water falling from the gutter on one side of my home. What could be causing this and what is the best way to clear it considering the difficulty of reaching my gutters?”

    Hire a pro.

    TOM: Hmm, let’s see, 12 years, haven’t cleaned the gutter. What could possibly be causing the obstruction? I have no idea. We cannot help you, Sarah. Next question.

    LESLIE: Sorry. Cannot be a clogged gutter. I can’t even imagine.

    TOM: Hire a pro, Sarah. That’s what they’re there for. The gutter-cleaning companies that are out there, I’ve found they are very, very affordable and they’re very, very quick. I’ve used them from time to time on homes that I’ve owned and I just couldn’t get to the gutter-cleaning. So, perfect. Just hire them once; you’ll be good for another 12 years.

    But seriously, when you’re thinking about the gutter-cleaning, one of the things that happens this time of year is there’s a lot of companies that are out there advertising for gutter guards. And I just want to warn you to be careful when you’re dealing with these companies. Because I had an experience recently – and it’s not an unusual experience; I’ve actually had it before because I usually ask these questions as I’m learning about products.

    But I was at a big community event and there was a company there called LeafFilter. And they claim they’re approved by all these consumer magazines and this and that. So I asked them a simple question: “Hey, what does it cost? About what per square foot or whatever – about what per linear foot does it cost?” And they’re like, “We don’t know. We’ve got to come to your house.” I’m like, “What do you mean you’ve got to come to my house?” “Well, there’s all these different variations and possibilities and configurations.” I’m like, “Look, what if I had a 50-foot-long ranch with 4 downspouts – 2 on the front, 2 on the back – and the roof’s 8 feet off the ground? What’ll it cost?” Absolutely no idea. Insisted upon coming to the house.

    Why do companies do that? Because they want to get to your house where they control the situation. They usually want both decision-makers there. As you look into companies that are like this, you’ll find complaints that speak to these issues. I think if a company cannot give you a rough approximation – they could say, “Hey, it’s about this but we’ve got to look at your house.” That’s fine. I would accept that because people aren’t always accurate with their descriptions. But they shouldn’t have to come to your house to give you a rough idea of what things cost.

    So, finally, the salesman I was talking to – in utter frustration because he just couldn’t explain himself – he said, “Well, if I tell you, am I going to be able to close you now?” “No, actually, you won’t and in fact, you never will. So, with that kind of attitude, just forget it.” But it’s very frustrating, so be careful when you’re dealing with these companies. Those products do work; they work well. Not all of them work well but you can do your research on them. But if the sales tactic is so aggressive like that, just stay away and go to somebody else.

    LESLIE: And Sarah, I’m just going to speak quickly to the fact of hiring a pro. As Tom said, it really is super-helpful. I use a local company which I like and they come four times a year, which I think is enough. And they do a super-job of really clearing out those gutters and all of the downspouts and doing any repairs that are necessary, all for an annual contract, which is not very expensive and totally doable in your budget. So definitely look into these options.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The fall is upon us. We know that you’re getting ready to tackle some of those fall fix-up projects. So as you do, remember, you can count on us to help you 24-7. Just head on over to The Money Pit website, join the Community section there, post your questions online or call us any time of the day or night at 888-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.


    (Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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