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Insulation for Warmth, Sound and Fire Prevention, Fix Uneven Heat in Your House, The Trick to Measuring for New Carpet, and more

  • Transcript

    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: On air and online at MoneyPit.com. Standing by to help you with your home improvement projects, to solve those do-it-yourself dilemmas or to tell you to hire a pro, because maybe it’s not a DIY project. We’ll help you hire the right pro by giving you the right questions to ask. But you’ve got to help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us with that question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, it’s not too late to make sure you’ve got enough insulation to keep your house toasty warm through the winter. But we’ve got some ideas on a new type of insulation that’s made with natural materials, that not only insulates better but it’s also soundproof and fire-resistant, as well.

    LESLIE: And speaking of toasty, do you have areas in your home that are too hot or worse, icy cold? We’re going to get the fix when we welcome Richard Trethewey from TV’s This Old House. He has the solutions to solve the age-old problem of uneven heating in your home.

    TOM: And also ahead, replacing worn or dated carpeting is a pretty popular project this time of year, as we all get ready for the holiday parties and for all of our visitors and guests. But before you get ready to shop, it’s nice to know how much carpeting that you’re going to need. It helps you budget and when you go to the carpet store and they tell you how much it is per yard, you can figure out exactly what it’s going to cost to do your house.

    So, how do you measure for a carpet? Well, we’ve got a little trick of the trade that you can use, that will make it really super-easy and it accounts for all of the waste that you’ll need to get that job done. And this way, if the carpet store comes out and says you need a lot more, well, you’ll know that maybe they need to measure it again.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’ve got a great prize package from our friends over at Stanley Tools worth more than $220. Now, it includes a collection of hand tools that will help you get started on just pretty much about any do-it-yourself project. And it’s got the very popular FuBar, which helps you with pretty much any demolition – anything, really, that you want to destroy – in any area of your home that you then want to improve. It’s really a great tool.

    TOM: Yes. And before we go any further, you should know that FuBar stands for Functional Utility Bar and nothing else.

    LESLIE: Not the other thing.

    TOM: And it makes a great gift, too, and it’s just one of the many holiday gift picks featured in The Money Pit’s Gift Guide at MoneyPit.com, which is presented by Stanley Tools.

    So, let’s get right to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and we will toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat for this prize package of Stanley Tools worth more than 220 bucks.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Terri in Missouri is on the line with a ceiling issue that’s just cracking up. Tell us what’s going on.

    TERRI: I have a wall in my living room/kitchen area that has a vaulted ceiling that, at the 8-foot level, it has a horizontal crack and it keeps reappearing after it gets repaired. It’s happened three times and it cracks again after about two or three weeks; it doesn’t last very long. So I was wondering how we could fix that permanently.

    TOM: Well, that’s an area where you have a lot of movement, a lot of expansion and contraction. And if you just try to spackle it, it’s not going to work. So I think what you really need to do is to use a perforated drywall tape.

    TERRI: Perforated drywall tape.

    LESLIE: It looks like a mesh.

    TOM: A mesh, that’s right. And it’s sticky. And after you kind of lightly sand the surface around the crack, you lay the tape in there and then you spackle over that tape until you don’t see the tape anymore. And that creates a stronger bond between the two sides that are moving and the crack won’t open up again as the house goes through a normal expansion and contraction.

    TERRI: Sounds good. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joseph in Kentucky on the line who’s got a question about stainless steel. How can we help you?

    JOSEPH: Three-and-a-half years ago, I was using these rubber PZV water-supply lines in the bathroom, under the commode and the sink.

    TOM: OK.

    JOSEPH: And one of them had busted at the time and it flooded the floor in the bathroom and the hallway with water. So I went over to the hardware store and I got these braided stainless steel and put on there.

    TOM: Right. Uh-huh.

    JOSEPH: I was told at the time that these here were not supposed to break or leak. But the – one of them under the sink has started leaking up under the sleeve, next to the coupling nut.

    TOM: OK.

    JOSEPH: And I tried tightening it down a little bit but that didn’t do any good, so I finally went back over to the store and got two new ones and put on the sink. Is there some kind of a time-replacement period on these things or just did I get a bad hose?

    TOM: I think you did, because it’s very unusual for those flexible lines to leak – to break down and leak. They are clearly the most convenient way, when you’re replacing a faucet in a situation like that, because you don’t have to get the length just right. You know, if you’re a plumber, you cut everything to fit nice and neat and tight. But for a consumer, they’re the way to go.

    I’ve put on dozens of those over the years for sinks and toilets and other fixtures and I’ve never had a problem with them. So I suspect that you got a bad one or perhaps when you attached it, maybe you cross-threaded it, maybe there was a bit of debris in it that caused the leak. And now that you’ve replaced it the second time, does it seem to be holding?

    JOSEPH: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah, I suspect that there was either a problem with the installation or the product the first time around. You just got a bad one.

    JOSEPH: Is there any kind of a time-replacement period on that thing? Say, 10 years or 15 years or …?

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what, all those products have their own warranty. And I’ll give you a little aside story. I told this on the show several months ago but my mom, we had bought a sink for her 17 years ago from Home Depot, through American Standard.

    JOSEPH: Yeah?

    TOM: And it chipped. And I was getting ready to replace it and I mentioned it to one of the guys in the store. He said, “I think there’s a warranty on that.” And he was right. They no longer carried them in the store but I contacted American Standard. They sent me a new sink 17 years later and only because I had the warranty and I had the receipt, because my mom is great about saving stuff like that. She saves everything.

    So, if you happen to have the receipt and there is a warranty, maybe you can get a few dollars back that you spent on that. But otherwise, I would just chalk it up to bad luck and move on.

    JOSEPH: Well, OK then. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Joseph. 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, we are in the full swing of the holiday season, so if you need a hand getting your money pit under control for your guests that are knocking on your door and staying straight through the new year, we can help you with all of those projects to make their rooms nice and comfy – but not too comfy – to make your money pit look super-nice, as well, for the holiday season. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Speaking of comfort, up next, insulation is key to being comfortable and have a nice toasty and warm house. But what happens when the insulation gets damp? Well, then it doesn’t work very well. We’ve got tips on a new type of high-tech, natural insulation that actually resists water, fire and can even help soundproof your home. And that’s coming up, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellent and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.

    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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This hour, we’ve got a great group of prizes. We’ve got a combo pack of really cool hand tools from our friends over at Stanley Tools. And the tools are really perfect for a variety of projects, including the Stanley Stud Sensor. It’s got a feature on it that can even detect live wires buried really deep in your walls. And you can get the Stanley Stud Sensor and many more handy tools from Stanley worth a total of 220 bucks. It’s a package of perfect gifts for that handy person in your life.

    TOM: And for more handy gift ideas, take a look at our Money Pit Holiday Gift Guide, presented by Stanley Tools, which is online at MoneyPit.com. So give us a call right now with your home improvement question and you could just win one of those fantastic tools in the package, which is worth $220. The number, again: 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Larry in Missouri is having a plumbing issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    LARRY: Yes, I have a well on my property here that meets the water for our house. And in the last couple of months, we’ve had what I think is an unusual thing happening. The couplings on the 1-inch pipe – the PVC pipes that are coming from the well – so far, 3 of them have broken. And they’d be split – and the couplings that split almost right in half. And so I’ve had to dig out this PVC pipe from in the ground, because it’s all underground.

    TOM: Right.

    LARRY: And just wondering, what would be causing those couplings to be splitting like that?

    TOM: OK. The couplings that you’re using – what’s the size of the PVC pipe? Is it an inch-and-a-half or what is it?

    LARRY: One-inch PVC pipe.

    TOM: And so, basically, the coupling is where you have two sections that join together. Is that correct?

    LARRY: Correct.

    TOM: So what you might want to think about doing is replacing these glued – they’re glued-on couplings. Is that right?

    LARRY: Yes, they are.

    TOM: What you might want to think about doing is replacing these glued-on, hard, plastic pipelings (ph) with something called a Fernco. Are you familiar with that?

    LARRY: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: It’s more of like a rubber boot and they have different types for different pipes. But it attaches to both sides of the pipe and it has a little bit of flexibility in between it. And this way, if you’re getting expansion and contraction in the pipe, it’s going to move with it and put less stress on the joint.

    LARRY: Mm-hmm. Now, the ones that I have totally replaced – I have replaced three of them so far and I would guess there’s probably another five probably to the well. What I’ve done – there is this one – it’s got a rubber seal on it but then they screw together. I don’t know exactly what they’re called but …

    TOM: It’s called a Fernco – F-e-r-n-c-o. Their website is Fernco.com. And they’re sold at plumbing supply houses; I know they sell them at The Home Depot. You should have no problem finding this.

    This might be what you’re using, based on how you describe it; I’m not quite sure. But this is a good solution when you’re having this problem with the couplings that you’re using breaking down because, as you’ll see, this will give you a lot of flexibility. I’ve been using these in the ground for pipes for many years and I’ve never had one fail on me yet.

    LARRY: OK. Well, very good. I will look into that and see if I can find them around here. And if another one breaks, I will try it out.

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

    Well, one of the most effective ways to cut heating costs this winter is to make sure you’ve got enough insulation in your attic. How much do you need? Well, according to the Department of Energy, you need at least 19 inches of batt insulation or 22 inches of the loose, blown-in insulation. So, go grab a ruler, get on up there and measure what you have and fill in wherever it’s needed. It’s going to make a big difference in your energy bills.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, if you’re building a new home or you’re adding on to your existing home, starting this process from scratch really helps out, because you could actually consider a new type of insulation called stone wool. And it’s made by Roxul and they’re a new Money Pit partner.

    And what Roxul is – it’s a product made from natural stone and recycled slag. Now, slag is a byproduct of steel production, which makes this a very green process.

    TOM: Yeah. And stone wool is actually pretty interesting stuff. It was discovered on the Hawaiian islands at the beginning of the century and it’s also a byproduct but it’s a byproduct of volcanic activity. So, when it’s manufactured, the stone wool actually combines the durability of rock with the characteristics of typical insulation wool, which is a pretty cool, strong combo.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s what makes stone wool such a good insulator. It actually helps your home stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. That means you’re going to use less energy to heat and less energy to cool your home. And it’s going to save you money all season long.

    TOM: Now, if you’d like to learn more about stone-wool insulation, you can check out these two products from Roxul. They have the Roxul ComfortBatt, which is designed for exterior walls and attics and crawlspaces and basements. Then they have another version, which is called Roxul Safe’n’Sound.

    And this is pretty interesting, because it’s designed for interior walls, ceilings and floors and it’s got the added benefit of soundproofing noisy rooms, like bathrooms or laundry rooms or a nursery. And it can also sort of protect you from the racket maybe caused by your kids’ new garage band if you use it in that wall. Both products have the safety capability, because they’re non-combustible.

    If you want to learn more, head on over to DIYWithRoxul.com and Roxul is spelled R-o-x-u-l.

    LESLIE: Next up, our caller has a great name. We’ve got Leslie on the line who’s got a question about cutting down a door.

    Welcome, Leslie.

    CALLER LESLIE: We have one door that I need to cut down. Goes into the basement.

    TOM: OK.

    CALLER LESLIE: It’s also a six-panel, solid-core oak door.

    TOM: Right.

    CALLER LESLIE: When we went to cut it off, there seems to be staples or some kind of small metal pieces inside the – there’s about 8 inches. They go across the bottom. We were cutting that off or a portion of it: 6 inches of it. And it’s totally ruined a saw blade.

    TOM: Right.

    CALLER LESLIE: Do you have any suggestions as how to cut off a solid-core door?

    TOM: Yeah, having the staples inside of that is not unusual. Depends on how – they might have been used in the manufacturing process. I’ll be willing to bet that you used a non-carbide saw blade, because had you used a carbide saw blade, it would have probably cut through the metal and all.

    CALLER LESLIE: OK. So just use a carbide.

    TOM: Use a carbide blade and safety glasses and not a great carbide blade, because it will ruin the blade. But generally, it’ll cut right through something like that.

    CALLER LESLIE: Alright. Thank you so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Rich in Illinois is on the line and working on a concrete project. How can we help you today?

    RICH: Well, I’ll tell you what, we’ve had a new house built for us and because it was in a flood zone, we decided to have the house built on 9-foot poured concrete walls. Now, originally what we thought was going to happen is they were going to be concrete-slab walls and we were going to wrap a nice façade river rock around the whole bottom.

    TOM: OK.

    RICH: This is out in the country, in a forest setting on a lake and it’s got nice cedar siding. And when they poured the concrete, they poured it in forms, rather than being a slab, that looked like bricks.

    TOM: OK.

    RICH: And we ended up looking at it and thinking, “You know, we kind of like the look of this – these forms left.” Instead of spending a lot of money to wrap it in river rock, we were thinking about leaving it. And then somebody came by and said there’s a technique that you can use to paint this brick-like concrete so it actually looks a lot like brick. And I’d never heard of that. And they said they had seen it but they didn’t know how it was done. I was wondering if you guys knew anything about that.

    TOM: So, Rich, this is a poured concrete wall that has a brick pattern but of course, it looks like gray concrete, so we’re not fooling anybody into thinking it’s real brick, correct?

    RICH: Right.

    TOM: So, there is a way to add color.

    I would suggest acid staining, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And there’s several manufacturers that do make an acid-staining product. And it’s – it really is a chemical reaction done onto the surface of the concrete that causes the concrete to truly change its color; it’s not something that’s applied to it. There’s an etching process and then the coloration process.

    QUIKRETE makes them. If you look up online, you’ll find a ton of different manufacturers that do also make them. And if you get a little creative, you can mix and match and give it the depth and texture of an aged brick. I would recommend working on an area behind a bush or somewhere in the back side of the house until you get comfortable with your technique and the coloration, so you know what you’re going to get.

    RICH: Right. OK. Fantastic. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Kurt in North Carolina is looking to replace an air-conditioning system. How can we help you with that?

    KURT: Yeah, I went out of town. My wife ran the air conditioner last summer and anyway, it had a leak in it. And I found the leak but I was wondering if – probably the compressor probably got damaged, because she ran it for a week. I’m pretty sure it overheated so I’m probably – would like to replace it and I’m wondering if there’s a – I’ve seen in magazines and on the internet these little units, basically, for a room or a garage. Would that be more economical? They say like 18 SEER and better?

    TOM: OK. So, a couple of things. First of all, because she ran it when it was low on refrigerant doesn’t necessarily mean that she damaged it, alright? As long as it’s been fixed, the hole has been repaired and there’s no further loss, I think it’s fine.

    Now, it is 18 years old. It’s probably not as efficient as the newer ones but I think what you’re talking about is a through-the-wall, split-ductless system. And a split-ductless system is good for specific areas of your house.

    I have one in an office. Leslie has one in a basement. They supplement the rest of our main, central air-conditioning systems. But for an entire house, you wouldn’t generally put split-ductless throughout the whole house, because you’d end up needing a half-a-dozen compressors outside.

    So, I think if you do get ready to replace it, you just replace the compressor. But just because it has a leak and it ran low doesn’t mean you have to replace it. Does that make sense, Kurt?

    KURT: OK. Would I actually have the Freon put in it to test it or …?

    TOM: Yeah, I would have it serviced. And I would have it serviced and see if it holds.

    KURT: OK. Alright. Well, I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Still ahead on the program, does your heating system seem to run hot and cold? We’re going to tell you how to balance out those uneven temperatures in your house, get comfortable and save money, next.

    NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and to find the perfect holiday gift, visit StanleyTools.com.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And are you looking for inexpensive ways to get your home holiday-ready? Well, just visit MoneyPit.com and search “low-cost Christmas home improvements” for quick and easy and frugal ideas to bring holiday cheer to your home.

    LESLIE: Robert in Alaska is on the line with a crawlspace situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROBERT: Basically, what I’ve got going on is we had a lot of rain this summer, so I had water kind of penetrate the foundation. And I was wondering if there is anything I could do from the inside to maybe stop some of that penetration from coming in and getting on the wood that’s holding up the, I guess, the floor.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Now, are you talking about concrete-block walls?

    ROBERT: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So a couple of things. First of all, we want to make sure that you are doing what you can to slow the collection of water from outside moving inside. So that means looking at your gutter system, making sure you have gutters and that they’re diverting water away from the house, not just a couple of feet from the foundation but well away. And make sure that the angle of the soil around the foundation slopes away and that will do a lot to move the water away from that backfill zone.

    Inside the crawlspace, you can add a vapor barrier to the soil and that will stop moisture from evaporating up. And on the blocks themselves, you can apply a product called Ames’ Blue Max, which is a rubber paint. It’s very stretchable and it adheres really well. And when you apply it to the block, it stops any moisture from coming through the block. Ames is spelled A-m-e-s and the product is called Blue Max. You can search for it online. Their website is AmesResearch.com.

    ROBERT: OK. Good deal. Yeah, I’ve got a company coming in to, I guess, dig the outside of the foundation and lay some drainage this spring – this coming spring – so …

    TOM: OK. Well, let me stop you right there, OK? Because that’s not likely going to help you and it’s not necessary.

    ROBERT: Oh, OK.

    TOM: If that moisture is consistent with rainfall – in other words, you get a lot of rain, like you mentioned, and then you get leakage – then putting all those drainage pipes and disturbing all that soil is really not the way to go. If you improve your gutter system and you improve the grading – the angle of the soil around the foundation perimeter – that stops the majority of that surface water from getting in.


    TOM: The only time we recommend drainage systems, like what you’re describing, is when you have a rising water table which, if you did, you wouldn’t be getting leakage that’s consistent with rainfall.

    ROBERT: Ah, OK. Well, good. That’s important to know then.

    TOM: Yep. So now there you go; saved you a bunch of money.

    ROBERT: Oh, yes, you did.

    TOM: You’ve got it, Robert. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, every home seems to rely on their heating and cooling system to maintain comfort all throughout the year. But what do you do when one room’s too hot, one room’s too cold? Do you start doing science experiments and adjusting vents and thermostats?

    TOM: That’s right. And in order to compensate for those uneven temperatures, many homeowners often open and close vents, they wear layers or they fiddle with the thermostat throughout the entire day which, of course, does nothing to solve the problem and definitely drives your energy costs up.

    There are better solutions. And for advice on how to do just that, we turn now to Richard Trethewey. He’s the heating and plumbing expert for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, guys.

    TOM: Now, listen, all that bouncing of the thermostat up and down all day, that has got to add to a lot of wasted energy, right?

    RICHARD: Right. I mean hot and cold spots throughout the home are not only annoying, they’re also inefficient. It usually comes down to poor ductwork. You know, we’d love to make the assumption that the first person that did the engineering to do the heating system in this building calculated exactly how many ducts, calculated exactly what size the ducts would be, calculated exactly the right amount of air coming out and then put the – everything in correctly. Well, it’s not always the case.

    TOM: It just doesn’t happen. And so we end up with areas in our house that are too hot, too cold. I’ve got an addition. I have an old house: 1886. The kitchen is an addition that was sort of bolted on after the initial construction. So now you have an addition that has more sides that are exposed to the weather. That room was always hotter in the summer, was always colder in the winter. And we had to add heat to it and we had to add air conditioning to compensate because, basically, it was calling for more BTUs than we were delivering.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.

    TOM: And that’s a condition that is really faced by many people across the country in problem areas like, for example, rooms above garages, rooms are at the end of the building, as far away from the HVAC system.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: So if the guy that put it in initially got it wrong or if there were just changes in the building over the years, what are some of the ways that you can attack that?

    RICHARD: Well, I think zoning is underutilized in this country. There are mechanical zoning dampers that can be added to a hot-air system that can – like in the case of your kitchen, I’ll imagine that that’s probably the farthest room away from the furnace.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: Well, air or water wants to take the path of least resistance; it doesn’t want to fight its way through a long duct. It’ll say, “I’m just going to go right here and I’m going to go right up through this duct to the upstairs second floor and overheat the second floor.”

    With zoning, we can say, “No, let’s shut off the air that would’ve or might’ve gone to the second floor and drive it to the farthest or hardest-to-heat place.” And that would be your kitchen.

    TOM: So, a separate zone is literally a separate set of ducts, separate supply …

    RICHARD: No, the same ducts. All we’re doing is putting in motorized dampers in strategic places inside the duct system.

    TOM: OK. Oh, OK.

    RICHARD: And that really is – that technology is out there, that technology is now perfected. So many of the heating industry just says, “Oh, I don’t want to do that. I’m not sure I know how to do that,” and so they’re down on what they’re not up on. But zoning is a very important sort of thing to be able to do deliver comfort and to save energy. Many times, we have a furnace that is heating up a very big part of the building but we really only needed the kitchen or the den to be heated.

    TOM: So unlike hot-water zoning where we really do have separate sets of pipes, with zoning in hot air, we really use just one set of ducts but we just control and balance the flow, to put it where we need it, when we need it.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. And what we need to do is to be able to match the furnace’s size or power. If you’ve only got one register open, you don’t want that full-size furnace on. So some of these modern furnaces can now talk in concert with the zoning system.

    TOM: We’re talking to Richard Trethewey. He is the heating and plumbing expert for TV’s This Old House.

    Now, aside from the duct system, thermostat location can sometimes be problematic if it’s not in the right position. You could get false readings and false communications to the heating and cooling system, right?

    RICHARD: We’ve seen everything. We’ve seen thermostats behind the television and the TV is giving out – the big flat screen is giving off so much that …

    TOM: Heat?

    RICHARD: Right. We’ve seen people that put a wood stove in right next to the thermostat and satisfy the thermostat so the rest of the house doesn’t have any heat.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: We’ve seen everything. It really needs to be in a representative location to be able to sample what the building’s looking for.

    TOM: Now, aside from laying out the ducts improperly or putting the thermostat in the wrong place, sometimes the initial contractor just gets the duct size incorrect or the size of the HVAC system incorrect, correct?

    RICHARD: Oversizing of mechanical equipment is the number-one energy waster in the home heating system. Everybody, if they were – if the HVAC industry was designing a car, they’d put a V12 engine into the equivalent of a Volkswagen. They want to be safe, they want to have plenty of power but it actually leads – it works completely against you. Because if you’ve got too big of a furnace or a boiler, it comes on and it shuts off, comes on and shuts off. It gives you too much heat and then it doesn’t give you enough. And so it cycles.

    Now, try doing that to any device. Do it to an automobile. Turn it on and off every minute. You wouldn’t be efficient, it wouldn’t last and that’s what we’re doing. So, we’re sort of – and the consumer is the unindicted co-conspirator, because if they have a contractor come in and say, “I’ll give you a 100,000 BTU furnace,” and somebody else says, “I’ll give you 150,000 BTU,” people will buy the bigger one, like they’re buying meat.

    TOM: Right. Bigger is better.

    RICHARD: And so, really, what you want is the right-size device for the coldest day and in cooling mode for the hottest day of the year. And if we had done our job as heating professionals on that coldest day of the year, the furnace or boiler would never shut off.

    TOM: You want to apply the Goldilocks principle: not too hot, not too cold; we want it to be just right.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. “Who’s been sleeping in my bed?”

    TOM: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and some step-by-step videos on how you can repair a laminate countertop, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

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

    Up ahead, carpeting is a popular project throughout the winter season but measuring your room the wrong way can cost you big bucks. We’ve got an expert trick of the trade to figure out just what you really need, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs for appliances, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical. Visit BuyTotalProtect.com to see if you qualify for a special offer. That’s BuyTotalProtect.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: On air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to get the answer to their home improvement question and win a combo pack of hand tools from Stanley Tools, including the FatMax 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Rule, which is my personal magnetic tape-rule choice because it’s got a really powerful, rare-earth magnet that helps make sure you can grab onto exactly what you want to measure and a very cushioned grip, which gives you a comfortable, slip-resistant hold.

    The prize package is worth over $220, so give us a call right now for the answer to your question and your chance to win. We will draw one name out of The Money Pit hard hat, from those that call the show today, and send on over that prize package from Stanley Tools with $220 worth of great hand tools.

    LESLIE: So, ’tis the season. Not just the holiday season, it’s also the carpeting season. Did you know that more and more consumers install carpeting in the winter than just about any other time of the year? And if that’s a project that you’re planning for your money pit, measuring is what’s key here.

    Now, it’s key to making sure you have enough carpet but it’s also key to making sure the carpet company is not overcharging you.

    TOM: Right. And here is an easy trick of the trade to make sure you have the right amount. Simply measure your room in feet. You want to multiply length times width and then divide it by eight to get the yards. Now, you might be wondering, “Why 8 when there are really 9 square feet in a square yard?” Well, that’s because you’re allowing for just the right amount of waste. So if you divide by eight and not nine, that will be included in the calculation.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You also want to keep in mind that most carpets come in 12-foot widths. So if you’ve got a room that’s wider than 12 feet, you have to think about where your seams are going to be or perhaps you can look into finding a wider carpet.

    And for stairs, you want to count 1 full yard for each step and you should be good to go.

    TOM: And now you know exactly what you need before you head out to shop for carpet and you can avoid any big sort of budget-busting surprises when you get to the carpet store.

    LESLIE: Eric in Alaska is on the line with an insulation question. Tell us about it.

    ERIC: I have a crawlspace and I’m trying to figure out what – the best way to keep the temperature a bit warmer than it is down there and to keep my floors in the home from getting so cold. I’ve got hardwood – ceramic-tile floors.

    TOM: OK.

    ERIC: And my – all of my plumbing is in the crawlspace. My pressure tank is down there, so I need to keep the temperature somewhat warm down there so I don’t freeze my pipes up.

    TOM: OK. How much insulation do you have in the floor above the crawlspace area now?

    ERIC: None.

    TOM: Is it completely – oh, you have none? Well, see, now there would be a good place to start, Eric.

    ERIC: Right, right.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s going to make a huge difference.

    TOM: So, what you want to do there is if you have – let’s just say your floor joists are 2x10s, then you’re going to use 10 inches of insulation. You want to fill up that entire cavity with insulation. You can use unfaced fiberglass batts. The first place you insulate is the box joists – that’s around the outside perimeter – and then you work your way in to the floor joists.

    ERIC: Right.

    TOM: You can use insulation hangers to hold it in place. And that’s going to make an enormous difference warming up that floor.

    You may find that the crawlspace becomes a bit warmer as a result of that. Or you may find it becomes colder, because now the heat from upstairs is not getting down there. Is there a concern of water pipes or anything like that freezing?

    ERIC: Yeah, that’s what my concern is if I insulate the floor there. You know, my pressure tank and all of my plumbing fixtures and drains are all down there.

    TOM: You don’t have to worry about the drains freezing, OK? They’re never going to hold enough water to freeze and break. As far as the plumbing pipes are concerned, if you do have pipes that are below the insulation – if they’re in the insulation, you don’t have to worry about it. If they’re below the insulation, then you can insulate those themselves with insulation sleeves that just fit around them and get taped off.

    So, insulate the pipes, insulate the floor joists and I think you’re going to find it’s a lot more comfortable as a result.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still ahead, have you ever wondered why one light fixture in your house always seems to blow a bulb? We will shine a light on that solution, 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: And as you were decking the halls this season, did you find that the holiday lights that worked perfectly well last year have now mysteriously gone dark? If so, just search “Christmas light repair” on MoneyPit.com. We’ve got free and easy tips to get those strings of holiday lights blinking again in no time.

    LESLIE: Alright. And speaking of lighting issues, we’ve got one who was posted by Sarah who writes: “We have at least one light bulb on our back porch that seems to burn out about every two weeks.”

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: That doesn’t sound good. “Our home was built in 1943 but the electrical box has been updated and is not a jumbled mess. Any ideas what could be causing this?”

    TOM: Well, yeah, a couple of things. First of all, because you said it’s on the back porch, the first thing that comes to mind is if it’s on the wall where the back door is and you get a lot of slamming of that door, you may have a lot of vibration in that particular fixture. There is a special type of bulb that you would use in a fixture like that and it’s simply known as a “rough-service bulb.” They’re a little more expensive than traditional bulbs …

    LESLIE: Yeah. But she’s buying a new bulb every two weeks.

    TOM: Yeah, well, that’s right. So it’s going to end up costing you less. Now, that is if you’re going to buy an incandescent bulb.

    Incandescent bulbs are pretty sensitive, they’re pretty fragile, so that vibration breaks them. But if you’re going to go green, which we recommend, and you pick up an LED bulb, you shouldn’t have this issue because LED bulbs are a little more electronic in the way they work and they shouldn’t be sensitive to the vibration that breaks filaments in incandescent bulbs.

    Now, the other thing that could be causing this, though, is a problem with the fixture itself. So, if the fixture is not newish, I would maybe think about replacing that outdoor light fixture. Because let’s face it: they’re not very expensive and I’d like to just, for safety’s sake, eliminate the possibility that there’s no shorting or other sort of unpleasant electrical condition that’s developing in that fixture and arcing and sparking or giving you reasons for that light bulb to burn out.

    So, why take the chance? Replace the fixture and next time, use either rough-service bulbs or pick up an LED bulb and you should be good to go.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from vmoney who writes: “I’m a new homeowner and would like to install a small storage area in the attic. The problem is in addition to having the standard pink insulation in between the joists, I also have about 16 to 20 inches of blown-in white insulation. What is the best way to go about this?”

    TOM: I love when these are all posted online and we get user names like vmoney.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: So, vmoney, here is the answer to your question. It is actually excellent that you have 16 to 20 inches of insulation in your attic because, you know, that’s in the area of what the Department of Energy recommends. But it does cause a problem when you want to store up there, because some people will squish that down and put stuff on top. But that’s actually a bad idea because it kind of defeats the purpose.

    So here’s what you do. You want to build a platform above the insulation. You can add some additional beams just above the insulation, tie them into the existing rafters and sort of build a platform just above that, which you use for storage. The other option is to simply remove some insulation but only in the area where you’re storing, down to the height of the floor joist. And just store in that area and leave it high everywhere else.

    But either way, you’re still going to have the benefit of having that good 16 to 20 inches throughout most of the attic space. And that’s going to save you a lot of money and keep you comfortable throughout the entire heating and cooling season, by the way.

    LESLIE: And give you back some valuable closet space throughout the rest of the house.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this pre-holiday hour with us. We know you’re busy as you go about getting ready for the days ahead. If you’ve got a home improvement question, holiday or not, 24-7, we want to remind you that you can reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT any time of the day or night.

    If we’re not in the studio, you can leave a question with our call-screener and we will call you back the next time we are. And you can also post that question in the Community section of MoneyPit.com.

    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 2012 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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