Insuring Your Contractor, Designer Deck Ideas, Ventilation for New Homes and more
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Standing by to help you take on your home improvement and décor projects. Help yourself first: pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up on today’s program, it might seem counterintuitive to think we have to let air in a building when, for hundreds of years, we’ve done nothing but chase out drafts. But this hour, we’re going to share details on how you can welcome fresh air into your home but without wasting heating or cooling at the same time.
LESLIE: And also ahead, if you’re planning on hiring a contractor to work at your money pit, are you covered? What happens if a worker gets hurt on the job – your job? We’re going to share some tips to protect yourself, just ahead.
TOM: Plus, we’ve got great ideas for luxury, designer decks and outside space that you can take to totally new levels.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a $50 gift card to The Home Depot. Now, you can use it to get your spring-cleaning supplies from Home Depot’s own HDX line.
TOM: So call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Joel in Arkansas is on the line and has a question about beams. What can we help you with?
JOEL: I have a house that has a center, load-bearing beam. And I’m kind of wanting to remove it. And my brother-in-law, who is my roommate, says that there’s a way to put it up into the attic. And I’m just kind of curious if that is possible or …
TOM: So you have a beam that runs down the middle of the house and you’d like to eliminate this so that it doesn’t become sort of an obstruction. Is that correct?
TOM: So that you have like a continuous, flat ceiling?
JOEL: Yes. We’re going to drop the ceiling down about 7 inches. The beam is actually 9½-inches down. It’s two 2×4 – or two 4x6s and then two 2x4s on either side. Kind of an eyesore.
TOM: Why are you dropping the ceiling?
JOEL: Because we’re going to put in can lighting.
TOM: Alright. So you’re only going to have an extra couple of inches to deal with with this beam. Is that what you’re saying?
TOM: Moving it a little or moving it a lot makes absolutely no difference. I will tell you that moving a main beam like that is one of the most difficult projects you can do. It’s definitely not a do-it-yourself project. It’s one where you absolutely have to have pros involved. And if you do it wrong, you could collapse your entire roof.
The way it’s done is the structure above it is supported by temporary walls while that beam is disassembled. And then it gets sort of notched into the ceiling-joist structure above and then moved up flush with those beams. So once it’s done, once it’s flush in there, then you would have a continuous, flat ceiling. I don’t see why you couldn’t put the ceiling lights above that if you want to go that whole way.
But this is a big project, Joel. This is not a small project to move that beam. Alright? Good luck, though. Thanks very much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
JOEL: Hey, thank you so much for accepting my call.
LESLIE: Karen in Pennsylvania is dealing with some mold in the basement. Tell us what’s going on.
KAREN: My mom has a house that the basement is – we put it up for sale and nobody noticed this. And one person came in and tore wallpaper off the wall and we noticed that it had mold from the floor to the ceiling and even in the inner walls. So I had a gentleman come and look at it and he said it would take $30,000-plus. And he would come in, remove all the interior walls – all the wood, the paneling, everything off the wall – down to the bare. He would have a chemical put on, clean it and then it would never come back.
And then the second guy came in and he said he would rip everything out, as he said. He would coat it, clean it and guarantee it that if it did come back, he’d fix it for $10,000.
TOM: Yeah, I don’t think you need either of these guys. You don’t have enough information yet and I don’t think you’re talking to the right people. I doubt either of them are professional mold mitigators. It sounds to me like they’re just trying to size you up for as much money as they can get from you.
The first thing you want to do is test the mold to figure out what kind of mold it is. And that’s done – there’s a couple of easy ways to do that. Basically, you take a sample and you send it out to a lab and they tell you what you’ve got. And then you can kind of design a mitigation plan around that. You know, I need to get a sense as to how much mold is there. But if it’s just a little bit of mold behind the wallpaper, you may not need to pull all this out; you might be able to treat it right in place. But it doesn’t sound right.
KAREN: Where the bathroom is has an inner wall. And that is halfway down with mold.
TOM: OK. I mean how much mold are we talking about here, square footage-wise? Is it like a 4×4-foot by 4-foot space or …?
KAREN: We’re going to say all the outer walls. Because we’ve since went around and pulled off some wallpaper here and moved some paneling. And we also – the first guy that came in for $30,000 brought in a light and to me, it looked like a black light. But he brought the light in that was a special light and it can tell what type of mold it was and where the mold was.
TOM: That is completely wrong. Do not call that guy back. It is completely wrong, OK? That guy was not giving you accurate information if he comes in with his magic light that supposedly tells mold.
LESLIE: Yeah, they can’t actually tell you what kind of mold unless they do a chemical test on a physical sample.
TOM: Well, it’s a mold test. They send it out to a lab and they read it, so that guy’s a snake-oil salesman.
LESLIE: Right. Right. But it’s actually holding a piece of that mold and testing it with certain things. And that’s done by a lab.
TOM: It sounds like you could use a basement renovation but I wouldn’t get too crazy over it. If it’s done by the right kind of company that can take that apart very carefully and dispose of all of that material – and maybe you don’t even want to put the walls back. Maybe you just want to leave it unfinished.
KAREN: Oh, good.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Tim in Illinois is on the line and looking to tile a bathroom. How can we help you with your project?
TIM: Redoing a bathroom in a 100-year-old house. And we’re looking at putting floor tile down, possibly with heat under the tile. And I was wondering what the best way to do it. By putting the tile on, do you need to go right to the subfloor or do you have to have some kind of concrete board underneath the tile with doing heat under the floor?
TOM: Well, sometimes the heat is actually put underneath the subfloor itself, so that’s another way to do it from the back side of it. Depends on your access issues. But there’s a special type of subfloor that’s designed for radiant heat or sub-slab heat where, especially if it’s PEX-based, the piping runs through a channel in the subfloor itself. So there’s no chance it could get crushed or anything like that. It’s sort of a channeled-out piece of underlayment.
And then once that’s done, you can put your tile adhesive right on top of that and glue the tile to that underlayment.
TIM: OK. This is in an upstairs bathroom, so we won’t have access to the bottom side.
TOM: What kind of a heating system are you thinking about putting in? Is it going to be electric?
TIM: It’ll be electric. We have geothermal in the house itself, so we’ve got forced-air heat. So it would have to be – I think they have some kind of electric under-mat or something like that. And also, I was wondering, is it best to just do the areas where – the main traffic areas? You don’t need to do the whole floor. Is that correct?
TOM: No, you don’t have to. It certainly is nice. You don’t have to go around the toilet, for example. So, yeah, if you went in front of the sink and in front of the toilet and wherever you step out in the shower, then that should be fine.
And yes, some of those electric heating systems are really nice. They don’t use as much electricity as they used to. You can set them up on timers so they heat up right before you go in the bathroom and then time-out after that.
TIM: OK. So if I get this correct, you can just put a thinset concrete and then put tile right down onto the subfloor? Is that right? With the heating mat underneath?
TOM: Right. If it’s nice and smooth, you can do that. If it’s uneven, then there’s a number of ways to smooth that out, either through an additional subflooring material or by setting mud underneath it.
TIM: I appreciate your show. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project, Tim. 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, the weather is gorgeous. Spring is here. Daylight for lots of hours. What are you working on? There’s no excuse. It’s lovely. Get outside. Let us give you a hand. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, if you hire a pro to work in your house, are you liable if they get hurt on the job? You might be. We’ll tell you how to protect yourself, next.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a $50 Home Depot gift card. You can use it for all your spring-cleaning supplies, like HDX Brand Bleach for germicidal and outdoor use. The HDX Germicidal Bleach is dual-purpose. It cleans and sanitizes and its powerful formula will sanitize laundry and household surfaces, as well.
It’s an EPA-registered, hospital-use disinfectant that kills a broad spectrum of microorganisms. It’s available at The Home Depot or HomeDepot.com. And you can pick it up with a part of your $50 Home Depot gift card, which is going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: James in Delaware, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JAMES: The other day, I was sitting in my living room when all of a sudden, this real loud whistle sound came out of my water-heater heater room. I opened it up. I’d just never heard this before and it did this for a few minutes. And then it just stopped.
TOM: You didn’t see any water come out of the overflow, did you?
JAMES: No. No. That’s what I can’t figure out.
TOM: How old is the water heater, James?
JAMES: About four or five years ago, I put in all electric – that was gas before – but all electric. I put a Trane heater in and there was another brand that they put in with the water heater. And it seems like now – I haven’t heard that since. Now, when I use the water – the faucet – in the kitchen, right after I turn it off, a couple minutes later I hear this noise that’s like a clicking noise or something in the water heater.
TOM: So, that clicking noise is probably the pipes expanding and contracting as they heat up and cool down. It tends to amplify itself because of the nature of the copper pipes. But everything that you’re telling me doesn’t signal that I’m thinking you’re having any kind of problem. Just sometimes, as the water expands and contracts, it will make some odd noises to it.
JAMES: Do I have to drain the heater at all or …?
TOM: Do you have hard water there?
JAMES: Oh, yeah.
TOM: So if you have hard water, sometimes you get mineral deposits along the bottom of the water heater. But that wouldn’t really impact an electric water heater, because the coils are up in the middle of the water. They’re immersed right into the middle of the tank, so it’s not going to make them less efficient. So you could but I don’t think it’ll have any effect.
If you have a gas water heater, the heating element’s at the bottom. And sometimes, if you get mineral deposits that sit over the bottom of the water tank, it’s kind of like an insulator and it makes it harder to heat the water. But in the case of electric water heater, the heating elements are embedded up in the water heater, usually a foot from the bottom and a foot down from the top. So that wouldn’t affect it.
JAMES: Well, I thought there’s – isn’t there one at the top and the bottom?
TOM: Yes. But it’s immersed in the middle of the tank. It sticks through the tank, kind of at a right angle. And there’s one about a foot down from the top and one that’s about a foot up from the bottom. So you’re not going to have any settling of mineral-salt deposits on it.
JAMES: What’s the life expectancy of one of these things?
TOM: About 10 years – 10 to 12 years.
JAMES: Ten years and that’s it. And when can I guess the elements go, usually?
TOM: Well, if the elements go, they can be replaced. But the tanks tend to leak after 10-plus years.
JAMES: Wow. And where should I keep an eye – where does it – they leak in the bottom? They just leak water all over the place?
TOM: The best thing to do is if you’re going away, right, you should always turn off your main water valve. And also, turn off the water heater, because it won’t waste a lot of electricity by heating up water in the house that you’re not using.
JAMES: Listen, let me tell you something, I love you guys. You guys have a really very wholesome – a great show. Because there’s a lot of talk shows on and different things but you guys help a lot of people.
TOM: We try. Thank you so much, James. We really appreciate that. Good luck with the project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, as you plan your home improvement projects for spring, you might be planning to hire contractors to help. If that’s the case, you absolutely must make sure they’re properly insured. If not, you could end up footing the bill in the event of an accident or a renovation that has gone bad. In many areas of the states, contractors that are sole proprietors – that means those that are not incorporated – are not even required by law to have liability insurance or workman’s comp, which is why it’s important for you to get proof of insurance before the start of any home improvement project.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, if you think that you’re already covered by your homeowners insurance, you should think again. Homeowners insurance policies, they generally do not cover incidents involving uninsured and/or unlicensed contractors. So, uninsured contractors, they kind of tend to be unfamiliar with building codes. And they’re usually unable to apply for permits, as well, so that kind of could be a red flag for you anyway when you’re going for a person to work in your home. And when a project lacks the proper permits, then a homeowner can actually be ordered to remove or repair the work that’s already been completed.
TOM: So, better safe than sorry. Be sure to check your contractor’s insurance before you let anyone begin work on your property.
LESLIE: Esther in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ESTHER: We just put a new furnace into our home. And instead of the pipe going into the chimney – the brick chimney goes way up through all levels of the house – it goes out the side of the house. And right beside it is the water heater. And I was wondering if the furnace exhaust can be directed out the side of the house and water heater, as well?
TOM: Yeah, it depends on the efficiency. So when you put a more efficient HVAC system in, the temperature of the exhaust gases are such that it can be direct-vented. That’s called “direct venting,” where you turn the vent right through the side of the house and let it out that way. If you were to try to put that in the chimney, those gases wouldn’t really make it out because the chimney would be so cold. There’d be a lot of condensation and it could even reverse the draft.
And now that you’ve taken the furnace out of the chimney, so the only thing that’s left in the chimney is the water heater, you may potentially very well still have that program – that problem – now. And I would hope that the HVAC contractor that did the furnace install made sure that that was not the case. Because if you get very cold chimneys, the amount of flame that’s coming off a water heater is not enough to warm them up. So you can get a lot of condensation where that draft will reverse and that could push the combustion gases back in the house.
If you want to run the vent for the water heater outside, you’re going to have to replace the water heater with one that’s more efficient and what’s called “direct vent” and have sort of a blower motor on top that pulls the gases out. So, technically, you can do that; it’s just a different type of equipment.
ESTHER: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Robert in Oregon is on the line and is having an issue with some plaster walls at his home. How can we help you?
ROBERT: Well, I was finishing a room in my bedroom and after applying the plaster, some of the plaster was coming off after I painted it. But originally, I did the living room, which was my first job, and I mixed it – a bunch of the plaster – Imperial plaster. And of course, I mixed too much and it got hard, you know? So I learned not to mix so much, because it only – you can only use so much during a certain time before it sets up.
So, anyway, in the next room, I drywalled it, finished it and then I used a product called Plaster-Weld, which is supposed to be a primer for the plaster.
TOM: Right. Plaster-Weld is a bonding agent.
TOM: And you used this on top of drywall? Is that correct?
TOM: Was it new drywall?
ROBERT: Yeah, new drywall.
ROBERT: But I’d primed the walls first and then put the Plaster-Weld over that.
TOM: OK. Hmm. OK.
ROBERT: And then mixed up my plaster – it was Imperial plaster – and applied it and finished it all up and troweled it to the texture I wanted. And then we went back – my wife and I – and touched up a few spots and then let it dry overnight. Then we put a primer on it and while putting the primer on it, some of the plaster was coming off.
TOM: First of all, I would not have primed the drywall. I don’t really see a reason to do that. You prime the drywall to control adhesion and to stop the absorption, I should say, of the new paint – the top coat of paint – and to get an even sheen. But you weren’t really concerned about sheen because you intended to do a plaster coat.
You were basically building what’s called “plaster lath.” This is the way homes were done in the 50s, where you have a drywall base and then you put a plaster coat on top of that. The bonding agent was the right thing to do but that should have gone directly onto the drywall. Now you put the drywall on, then you put a primer over that and then you put the bonding agent on top of that. So now you have to get the bonding agent to stick to the primer and that’s a little more difficult than getting it to stick to the raw drywall.
So I think you’ve got a situation now where you’re going to have this problem potentially repeating itself. So I hate to tell you this but what I might do is put another layer of drywall over this – a real thin layer – and start again. You don’t have to use ½-inch; you can use ¼-inch just to skim it. And then put the plaster over that.
ROBERT: Alright. Thanks.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Coming up, new homes are often built airtight, which is good and bad. We’re going to tell you how to make sure that your new home is well ventilated, with advice from This Old House heating contractor Richard Trethewey.
TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-like tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.
JOHN: Hi. This is John Ratzenberger. You know, I did play Cliff Clavin on the long-running TV show Cheers. And these days, I’m cheering on stuff made in the U.S.A., just like The Money Pit.
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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, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We are here to help you with your home improvement or home décor project.
LESLIE: James in Illinois is on the line and looking to tackle an electrical project. What are you working on?
JAMES: I have a – oh, probably a 50-year-old house. And everywhere, except my bathroom and my kitchen, I’m dealing with a two-prong outlet. And I’m just using these adapters, that are three-prong adapters, everywhere else. And I absolutely hate it.
And I don’t even know where to begin getting them fixed. I’m kind of not wanting to go the route with an electrician but the thought of doing something and doing it wrong and then having an even bigger mess scares me.
TOM: Yeah, you want to hire a pro. You don’t enough conductors for a three-prong; you don’t have the ground wire in the type of wiring system that was put in. Now, there’s a way to kind of get around it. You can install ground-fault outlets that have the ability, if they’re wired correctly, to basically shut off the outlet if there’s ever a diversion of current to a ground source, which is basically what happens when you get a shock. But even that needs to be done by a pro.
So I would have an electrician come in, look it over and figure out the easiest way to resolve it. I think it’s probably easier than you think. Electricians are pretty good at being able to run new wiring through finished walls and ceilings without disturbing a lot of the structure.
JAMES: Oh, that was my biggest fear was that it’s going to be a big mess but …
TOM: Yeah, they don’t have to tear it all out to do that. There’s different tools that can snake wires through those spaces, OK?
JAMES: OK. Great. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, James. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, an energy-efficient home can save homeowners big on energy and cash. But since they’re so airtight, they also often require extra ventilation to maintain a healthy indoor environment.
TOM: Yep. And that’s where mechanical ventilation steps in. Here to help us understand the options is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House.
RICHARD: Hey, guys.
TOM: You know, it seems somewhat counterintuitive to think that we have to let air into a building when, for hundreds of years, we’ve done nothing but chase out these drafts.
RICHARD: Well, we had no issue having fresh air come into a building when the buildings were poorly insulated and the windows leaked and they had sash cords and things like that.
LESLIE: Because it was coming in everywhere.
RICHARD: It was coming in plenty.
RICHARD: But now, as energy went up and people insulated better, we really have to worry about getting fresh air – and I really mean that, fresh air – into the building.
TOM: So the trick is to do that, though, without losing the heating or the air-conditioning that you’ve paid to generate.
RICHARD: Right. So people used to think, “I’ll just put on a bath fan or a kitchen hood and it will pull air out and some air would leak in through the outside doors and windows,” and that’s not the case anymore. So, now, in order to guarantee you get fresh air into a really tight building, you need some sort of mechanical ventilation. And that is going to be either a thing called a “heat-recovery ventilator” or an “energy-recovery ventilator.” They’re fundamentally the same thing.
RICHARD: It’s a box – a magic box – that sits somewhere in your building and has four duct connections. One is to exhaust all the air from the kitchen, the bathroom or from some central area and you push that air through that magic box. And the air continues through a core inside and gets dumped to outside. But at the very same time, the same amount of air comes from outside, comes through that same box and goes in the opposing direction. It comes across that plate where the air doesn’t touch directly but the heat always transfers to cold.
So imagine you’ve got heated air that’s going to try to leave the building in the winter. You’ve got cold air from outside. It passes through, picks up the heat that was going to leave the building and keeps it within the building.
LESLIE: That’s interesting.
TOM: Yeah. So the same way that a furnace works with a heat exchanger inside. The combustion gases run inside of that, the air moves over the outside.
RICHARD: Right. Correct.
TOM: You’re kind of doing the same thing when you have the air moving in opposite directions with a common surface in between that transfers not the air but the heat.
RICHARD: That’s right. And that’s the key to it: that you’re touching without contaminating the air between – there’s no contamination between those two airstreams. But what comes in is – 70 or 80 percent of the heat you would have lost stays within the building. And so then the only difference between the two models I talked about – the HRV and the ERV – is one removes humidity and one doesn’t.
LESLIE: In some sense, you want to take humidity out of the building to a certain percent. But you need it to also maintain the integrity of your furniture and your skin.
RICHARD: Right. That’s right.
LESLIE: So, how do you find that balance?
RICHARD: Well, think about in the winter. People say, “Oh, I’ve got some relatively dry air in the building but at least it’s a little more moist than it is outside, on a really dry winter’s day.”
RICHARD: “At least I can pick up some humidity from showering and from cooking.” So, with an energy-recovery ventilator, that humidity transfers to the incoming air and stays within the building, so it does a nice job.
The heat-recovery ventilator doesn’t do anything for humidity; it just removes it. So, different people are more comfortable with it in different parts of the country. But in all cases, they both work beautifully.
TOM: So is it a somewhat regional decision? Like if you live in the southern states – where it’s really, really humid – you might choose one or the other? Or if you live in Minnesota, you would choose one …?
RICHARD: Well, there’s no humidity in the American Southwest. There’s none anywhere.
TOM: Yeah, right. Right.
RICHARD: So you could use it – wouldn’t even matter. A heat-recovery ventilator will be fine. But it’s just – I think it’s regional preferences. I’m a believer in the energy-recovery ventilator because it doesn’t need a drain and you can stick it anywhere – upside-down, sideways or backwards – in your house and it’ll just always transfer in the right direction.
TOM: What a great invention. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. What a great way to conserve some energy and get fresh air all the time.
RICHARD: I wish we could get some fresh air in the studio.
LESLIE: You need to bring your equipment.
TOM: Yeah. We’ll have you work on this place today.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Still ahead, want to take your backyard deck to new levels? Get ideas for building luxury decks, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’re going to help you out with whatever it is you are working on this lovely spring weekend. Plus, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We’ve got a $50 Home Depot gift card.
Now, you can use it to stock up on all of your spring-cleaning supplies, like the HDX Brand Bleach. I mean it really is a powerful, bleach-based formula that’s going to remove tough stains and help whiten your clothing. It also can control mold and mildew in your bathrooms and any other germ-prone surfaces.
Now, you can find it at The Home Depot or HomeDepot.com. Again, we’re giving away a $50 Home Depot gift card.
TOM: Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Janet in South Carolina is working on a kitchen makeover. How can we help you?
JANET: I have a kitchen. It’s not a very large kitchen but the walls have been painted numerous times and not the best paint jobs. So, I have decided to possibly add some type of wood to kind of give it a rustic feel, because I really like that, on the entire walls of the kitchen. And I was wondering, could you suggest to me something I could use? I’ve had people suggest beadboard, the wainscot-type board. Could you suggest to me something to use on my walls to give it that rustic look?
LESLIE: Let’s talk about your style of rustic. Because there’s so many different ways to interpret that. And beadboard’s a great way to do a really classic, more country look, especially if you paint it a white gloss. That just tends to be really clean. But if you’re looking for more something – you know, something more natural or an age-y piece of wood, there’s ways to do that, too.
JANET: That’s it. I want to go with a light, natural-looking wood. Not too light because my cabinets are the lighter color of wood.
LESLIE: Well, what you can do is you can actually get – and this would have a nice finish to it. You can look at flooring – wood-plank flooring. And you can get one that has sort of a white, rustic, beachy wash to it. And you can even go with a vinyl flooring, because that’s going to be super easy to install. And you can install the planks directly to your wall. And you can do that with an adhesive, you can do that with a double-sided tape. There’s so many different ways you can attach it to the wall, depending on the weight of the product itself. And that – if you put that on with the planks running vertically or horizontally, that can give a different kind of rustic look in comparison to the beadboard.
Now, it seems to me like you want to go floor to ceiling with this. Is this correct?
JANET: That’s right. I do. Now, I do have cabinets that do not go all the way up to the ceiling.
LESLIE: Well, I think that’s OK, because you’re generally dealing with maybe a foot to 18 inches of space up there. And that’s really not terrible. You can keep that as a painted surface and just decorate up there with some very clean baskets or something just to give you a little bit of extra storage, plus to mask that space a little bit. But I think the beadboard is an excellent idea and that’s a very easy do-it-yourself project.
Using a wood-flooring product, whether it’s vinyl or actual wood, there’s a company – Tom, is it Timberchic, I think, is the name?
TOM: Yes. Mm-hmm. That’s right.
LESLIE: And they do actual pieces of reclaimed lumber, almost like a veneer. And that you can attach to the walls. But I’ve done it with that VCR: that vinyl tile that looks like a wood plank. I’ve done that for an HGTV show in a variety of different finishes, horizontally on the wall. And that gives a great, rustic look. So it depends on what your interpretation of rustic is.
JANET: OK, OK. Would you suggest now – would you suggest to put it over the cabinets, also? Or you stated to possibly leave it just painted? Or could I cover that, also?
LESLIE: You can. If you feel confident – if you’re using a wood-flooring planking product, you’re probably going to get two or three pieces in there without having to do any cuts. If you’re doing a beadboard, that’s something you’re going to have to cut down to that exact height and put up there. It depends on how much of it you see from the floor and what you feel comfortable with. I think if you’re going to do it, do it full out. But if you’re not confident in your abilities or it’s too high or you don’t really see it, then I think there’s other ways to mask it with some decorative accessories.
JANET: OK. I understand. OK, great. Well, thank you for your ideas.
TOM: You’re welcome, Janet. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, have you ever flipped through a home magazine or searched online and seen those really beautiful designer decks: the ones that are multi-leveled with built-in seating and feature all kinds of unique colors and finishes? Well, it might sound like an out-of-reach dream but before you write it off, consider that a deck can be a really sound investment.
TOM: Yeah. I mean it’s very cost-effective, especially when you consider that the alternative to adding living space to your house is with, what, an addition? But with a deck, you get a lot of extra square footage for a lot less cash.
LESLIE: Yeah. And when you’re thinking about this deck, you want to first consider the basics, like size and shape, color and railing style. But then you also want to consider elements like built-in seating, as well as any extra features like a bar or a pergola or a gazebo or maybe even a built-in spa.
TOM: Yep. And when choosing material, consider durable options like composite decking that’s easy to clean and maintain and comes in fantastic designer colors, pretty much for every budget.
Now, if you’re thinking about a multi-level deck, one caution: remember that every time you have to step down, you lose some of that usable space. But one thing is for sure: decks do add a lot to the resale value of your home. So build a nice one and you’ll reap the benefits of added value and great space that you can enjoy for many years to come.
888-666-3974. We’re standing by for your next home improvement question.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Frank in North Carolina on the line who’s dealing with a flooring project. Tell us what you’re working on.
FRANK: Yeah. I had some flood damage to a building and I had ¾-inch waferboard in it and I replaced it with ¾-inch plywood. I wanted to put down wood-plank flooring and I’m wondering if I need to put down underlayment before I put down the wood plank or just use adhesives and nails on it.
TOM: You want to put down prefinished or raw wood-plank flooring?
TOM: So you want to put down unfinished wood flooring? Well, typically, all you do is lay down rosin paper. You know what that is?
FRANK: Rosin paper, OK.
LESLIE: It’s like that pink roll of paper that you find in – it’s usually in the flooring or the roofing section, somewhere in the home center.
TOM: Yeah, just because it gives you a clean surface to start on. And then you’ll nail right through that. You don’t glue the flooring down; you nail it down with a – you can rent a nail gun – a flooring gun – so you get the nails in. Because the nails have to be driven at an angle into the tongue of the floor. So, you rent a nail gun and go from there.
FRANK: OK. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Still to come, laminate flooring is a great, budget-friendly option compared to hardwood. But installation is key for a clean look. We’re going to share some tips to give you foolproof installation on your new flooring, in a bit.
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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: We are here for you, so pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to MoneyPit.com’s Community section, just like Sharon did.
LESLIE: Alright. Sharon writes: “Is it the owner’s responsibility to clean out the septic tank and have it inspected before selling their home?”
That’s a good question. I never would have thought about that.
TOM: I don’t think it’s necessarily your responsibility to do the inspection yourself. I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector and typically, it’s the buyer that arranges for the septic-tank inspection. Because let’s face it, they’ve got to live with it and they want to make sure that it’s working right.
Now, whether you have to clean it out or anything of that nature is going to really depend on the result of that septic inspection. And it would include not only the tank but most importantly, the field. Because when the fields become unusable, which happens after many, many years, they have to be replaced. And that can be extremely expensive if you have a lot of property, sometimes, to move the field to another space. But if you don’t have a lot of property, sometimes they have to dig up all the entire field where it lays. And guess what? All that soil they dig out, well, that’s pretty contaminated stuff, so it’s expensive to get rid of it.
So, a septic inspection when you buy a house is really an important move. And then based on the evidence of that inspection, the seller can determine whether or not they’re going to fix it or perhaps negotiate a new price with the buyer.
LESLIE: Yeah. That really is a good point.
Alright. Next up, we have a post here from Radar who writes: “I have high-quality laminate floor throughout my living room and kitchen. I’ve installed it twice, yet it won’t stay locked. I had it inspected by the manufacturer and was told the problem is due to the room being too cold in the 60s and too humid and there’s nothing they can do. What is my next step?”
TOM: I find that really odd. A room that’s in the 60s is not too cold. Heck, I leave my house in the 60s sometimes when we’re not here in the winter, so what’s the big deal with it being that cold? It seems like the product is not performing as intended.
Now, if you did put it down twice in an effort to fix it, you may very well have worn out or loosened up those locking seams. Because in my experience, once they snap together, they’re not really designed to come apart. So you could try reinstalling it one more time but this time, instead of just locking in place, I would put some yellow glue in the seams – some yellow carpenter’s glue in the seams.
Now, it’s going to be a little more work. What you want to do is put it across the whole groove, glue it together. The glue will squish out of it. Don’t wipe it off. Let it sit until it gets rubbery. Then you can lift it off in one piece. And it’ll definitely pull that together and stop it from coming apart, especially if the problem is, as I suspect, that the plank is no longer locking. If it still doesn’t work, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You’re going to have to replace the floor anyway. But sometimes, when you put flooring down in difficult areas or in damp areas, it’s not a bad idea to also glue the seam at the same time.
Alright. Next up, Danny writes: “We have a home that was built in 1920. We want to take an upstairs bedroom and turn it into our master bathroom. Our contractor says we don’t need a fan in the room because of the windows but I think he’s wrong. What should I do?”
LESLIE: Well, technically, he’s right. If you have a window in the bathroom, you don’t need to put in a vent fan by code. But a vent fan isn’t going to do the same – I mean a window is not going to do the same thing that a vent fan will. A window, sure, is going to open up the space and get in some fresh air but you’re not going to have it open in the winter. A vent fan is actually going to suck out that moist, humid air and move it to the outside. So, technically, two different things. And I think you would benefit greatly by getting a vent fan.
TOM: Yeah, definitely. I would include a vent fan because frankly, you’re going to have a lot of maintenance problems if you don’t. That moisture is going to hang around. You’re going to have all kinds of mold and mildew problems or constantly cleaning up after it.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it really isn’t too much of a big deal. Think about putting an occupancy sensor in so it comes on automatically when someone is in the space, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn it on.
TOM: You are tuned to 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 show does continue online.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2016 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)