Luxury Toilet Upgrades Under $200, Countertop Material Choices, New Doors to Add Curb Appeal 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: Call us right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma, because we are here to help you get the job done, short of picking up the tools and doing it for you. We give you the advice to help you do it yourself. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
And we start this hour in the bathroom because that’s the one room in the house where we all spend time every single day.
TOM: And if you have teenagers, they spend a lot of time there. Run up a lot of hot-water bills. But I’m not angry.
We’ve got some ideas on what you can do for luxury toilet upgrades in that bathroom. We’ve got tips on everything from these soft-closing lids – the ones that close themselves – to heated seats and more, all for under 200 bucks.
LESLIE: Now that’s luxury.
TOM: So why not treat your tush to a little luxury for under two bills in your bathroom? We’re going to tell you how to do just that.
LESLIE: Boy, that’s an interesting topic: luxury tushy treatment. I like that.
Alright. Also ahead, upgrading your kitchen. It doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, either. Simply updating your counters can make a gigantic difference. But when it comes to countertop materials, there are so many choices out there, including natural stone, solid surfacing, laminates.
We are going to help you figure out which one is the best choice for you and your budget.
TOM: Plus, nothing gives a home more curb appeal than a beautiful, enhanced entryway. Not only does it make the front of your home look inviting and gorgeous but it also actually can add some value to the house. So why not spend some money to upgrade that front door and enjoy all those benefits? We’re going to tell you how to do just that, a little later in the program.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away the Skil Flooring Saw. Now …
TOM: This is a good giveaway.
LESLIE: This is a great giveaway. This tool is going to take the work out of laying wood floors. It’s one saw for all the cuts you absolutely need for that project. It’s a great prize.
TOM: The Skil Flooring Saw is worth $159. Going to go to one caller who calls us with their home improvement project.
Now, you must have a question. We will toss all the names of those callers into The Money Pit hard hat and one caller is going to walk away with a Skil Flooring Saw worth 159 bucks. So, why not pick up the phone and give us a call? You might get the answer to your question and the tools to get the job done, at least if it’s a flooring question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: David in Alaska is on the line. He’s got a heating question. How can we help you?
DAVID: I just have a forced-heating problem. I have a Trane X80.
DAVID: And every year around this time – last year, we had the actual fan computer – the 55A processor thing installed. It burned out and I guess that starts the modulator.
DAVID: But this year, it’s just shutting off and it’s starting – when you hit the switch, turn it back off, let it sit, turn it back on, it kicks on and you hear the fan go and then you hear the flame kick and it stays on. But after that cycle, when it gets the house the right temp, it’ll shut off and it’ll try to start next time and this time, you hear the flame die out and then the fan just goes by itself.
TOM: Oh, boy. Well, obviously, you have a control-circuit problem with this and the more sophisticated these furnaces get, the more common that is potentially going to happen. So I can’t diagnose it for you specifically except to say that I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening before and it’s in the electronics of the system. So you’ve got to be able to identify which part of it is not functioning correctly and replace it.
Are you a DIYer? You been doing some of this work yourself or have you been getting some expert advice?
DAVID: I’ve helped install last time and all the parts for it so yeah, DIYer, too.
TOM: Right. OK. Well, I will say that, you know, Trane makes a good piece of equipment and you might want to reach out to Trane directly for this particular problem and see if you can get some help that way.
DAVID: Oh, OK. Cool. Yeah, I’ve had a few suggestions that it was the hot-surface indicator but it can’t be that, because it’s running out again.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah. And I will say, again, you’re beyond the skill set of a normal DIYer but it sounds like you like to tear into things here. So I would turn to the experts at Trane, get some advice and get it fixed.
DAVID: Ten-four. I’ll do that.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Bridget from Illinois is on the line and has a question about insulation. Tell us what you currently have or do you just have nothing?
BRIDGET: I don’t know if my walls are insulated. I have a one-story house and it has cedar siding.
BRIDGET: So I want to know what’s the best way to insulate it and how can I tell if there’s insulation in there already?
TOM: Well, an easy way to tell is to take the cover plate off of an electrical outlet. And with a light, you can usually look to the left or to the right of the outlet, into the stud bay itself, and see what kind of insulation is in there.
How old is your house, Bridget?
BRIDGET: It was built around 1965.
TOM: Well, typically, it would have fiberglass insulation in those walls, though. That’s not terribly old.
BRIDGET: OK. Thank you. That was my question.
TOM: Alright, Bridget.
BRIDGET: And if it does have – if it doesn’t have insulation, what would – what should I do?
TOM: Well, in a 1965 house, the first thing we would tell you to do is to look in the attic, because that’s where you’re having the most heat loss. So you want to add 19 to 22 inches of insulation in the attic first. After that, you would take a look at the floors and over the unheated space and insulate those. And then, thirdly, you could look at the walls. But the walls would have to be done by blown-in insulation.
Although I tell you, it would be very unusual for a 1965 house to not have any insulation.
LESLIE: To not have insulation.
TOM: However, it would be typical for them to have – for a 1965 house to have not enough insulation in the attic space.
BRIDGET: OK. Well, that’s where I’ll check first then. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Bridget. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
I bet she’s cold in Champaign, Illinois.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can be part of the fun, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will help you get all of your home improvement projects done right the first time.
TOM: Up next, we’ve got tips on how you can make trips to the bathroom a luxurious experience by upgrading your toilet seat. Everything from self-closing lids, heated seats or even a bidet can really make a big impact and cost less than you might think. We’re going to have those ideas, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide four times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
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 new wood flooring is something that can really complete the look of a room and it’s something you can definitely do yourself. But installing those floors can be tiring, it can be back-breaking work and the tools that you need can be expensive.
We, however, have got tips on a new tool that can solve all those problems and more. It’s the new Skil Flooring Saw and it’s designed to cut through hardwood, laminate and engineered flooring, up to 8 inches wide and ¾ of an inch thick. Plus, it makes both miter and rip cuts and the best news is this $159 saw, we’ve got one to give away. So pick up the phone and call us right now for your chance to win.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know what’s so super-cool about the Skil Flooring Saw is that it’s a really great alternative to larger bench-top tools for your flooring projects. Think about it. What if you’re installing floors in your basement and you have to keep running up and down the stairs to make all of your cuts?
Check out their website; it’s really fantastic. It’s SkilTools.com. You’ll find more information on this new tool but you’ve got to call in right now for your chance to win. And the number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, typically, when you think about doing home improvement projects, it costs a lot of money. But if you’d like to make a very simple improvement for under 200 bucks that you’ll be able to enjoy immediately, one way to do that is in your bath and that is to upgrade your toilet seat. You can treat yourself and your family to a bit of luxury without taking a big financial kick in the you-know-where.
For example, you could trade out that current seat for one that has a quiet, soft-closing lid. I remember seeing these self-closing lids when they first came out and they were so state-of-the-art then. Now, they’re like everywhere and the prices have come way down and it’s absolutely the way to go. Or you could step it up a bit by picking up a heated toilet seat, which I think is the ultimate in luxury, especially on those chilly, winter mornings in the cold bathroom.
LESLIE: That sounds really luxurious. And this has been a cold winter.
TOM: It definitely has. And what’s the nice way to say this, Leslie? You can even get a seat that’s a little roomier, for more comfort.
LESLIE: Hey. I don’t like where you’re going with that, Mister.
TOM: The large, economy-size seat’s also available. And finally, if you want the ultimate in luxury toilet seats, you can get one with a built-in bidet.
TOM: You can. Yeah, how about that?
LESLIE: This is amazing. I can’t even believe that toilet technology, if you will, has come so far and that we’re chatting about it like grownups. And it’s amazing that we’ve not gone down the toilet, if you …
TOM: We kept it pretty clean.
LESLIE: Exactly. All of these upgrades can actually cost less than 200 bucks and they’re really going to have an immediate impact on your comfort and your everyday use of that space.
If you want some more information and some more just out-of-this-world ideas for your bathroom, Google “money pit luxury toilet” for detailed info on all of those toilet seats we mentioned and more. That’s “money pit luxury toilet” on Google.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your home improvement question. We’re here to help.
LESLIE: Nick in Washington, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
NICK: I bought a house about five years ago and when I bought it, it has a rubber mat in my garage; like 4-foot strips butted together. I don’t know what that is for; if it’s for looks or help to keep the cold out.
NICK: But anyway, when I wipe that down with – mop it down and – the moisture coming off my car seems to have created this white powder coming up from between and underneath those mats.
NICK: And my son, who lives in El Cajon who doesn’t have the mats, has the same problem during the wintertime at his car. And I’m wondering where this white stuff is coming from.
TOM: It’s probably mineral-salt deposits. Concrete is very hydroscopic, which basically means it sucks up water pretty readily. And so, because of that and in damper weather, you may have some water that’s being pulled up through the concrete to the surface, the water’s evaporating and the mineral salts are staying behind.
So, that’s not anything to be terribly concerned about; it’s more of a maintenance issue. If you painted your garage floor, by the way, they have lots of great epoxy paints out there right now. If you painted the garage floor, that would probably cease to happen.
NICK: That’s what I wanted to know. But any epoxy paint would do?
TOM: Good-quality epoxy paint. Most of the systems today include a cleaner – where you use a cleaner first – and then you mix the epoxy. Typically, when you buy it, the can is three-quartered filled with paint and then has a quart hardener that comes with it. Mix it together and then you apply it and then many of them have color flakes that you can put in them to give you some texture and help hide the dirt.
And they really do a great job and so I would encourage you to do that. It also makes it a lot easier to clean the floor.
NICK: Right. Well, that sounds good. It’s more simple than I thought it would be. I didn’t know if I had to clean it with some acids or something to get it …
TOM: No, no, no. Don’t make it harder than it is.
TOM: It’s a pretty normal phenomenon and pretty easy to fix.
NICK: I do appreciate it.
TOM: Good luck, Nick. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Susie in Connecticut needs some help with electrical wiring. What can we do for you?
SUSIE: I was wondering how you – when you change the wiring from the old, non- three-wire wiring to the new three-wire where you can ground it and you replace the old with the new, how do you ground that box?
LESLIE: Knob and tube?
TOM: Are you replacing the panel?
SUSIE: The whole thing because it’s all fuses and all old wiring.
TOM: And you’re going to be converting it to a circuit-breaker panel?
TOM: Well, the ground wire goes from the ground bus through a wire to, usually, a stake in the ground outside; the ground stake. And if you have a metal, main water pipe, it could also ground to the main water pipe. If you have a plastic, main water pipe, of course, that’s not going to work, which many of us do today.
So, it’s either going to ground to the main water pipe or it’s going to ground to a ground stake, which is simply a metal rod – long, metal rod – that’s driven into the soil and then the ground wire basically bolts to that with a very solid, electrical connection. And that’s how the power is diverted back to ground, if it ever has to.
SUSIE: So you can do it outside?
TOM: Yes, you can do it outside. In fact, many of them are done that way. I hope you’re not doing this yourself, Susie.
TOM: Well, because it’s not a DIY project; it’s something that only a licensed and experienced electrician should do, after getting an electrical permit from the town that you live in. It’s not a home improvement project for a do-it-yourselfer. You’re talking about major work here. If you get it wrong, it could be very dangerous or it could set your house on fire.
SUSIE: That is correct. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Susie. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joe in Nebraska, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JOE: Yes. I have a really big lavatory sink. It’s china. And something got dropped in it and I’ve got a little chip in it, like a BB.
TOM and LESLIE: OK.
JOE: And I want to know if anybody makes a product that I can put on it, you know, and repair it.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely.
There is a website called Find-A-Fix, Leslie?
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. The website’s Find-A-Fix.com and it’s Find-A-Fix.com. And they have a product called Porc-a-Fix, which is basically a porcelain sort of enamel-patching paint? And it comes in like a small bottle similar to a nail polish.
And you have to apply it in several, very small layers, allowing each layer to dry, until you sort of build it up to fill in that chip. But they offer I mean a ton of different whites and bisques and all of those off-whites so that you’ll find something and it’s – you can search by manufacturer, so you’re really able to find the exact white. Because there’s a million shades of white when it comes to bathroom fixtures, I find.
JOE: Oh, yeah. There’s only one black but there’s 150 whites.
TOM: Yeah. You’ve got that right, Joe. Alright. Well, that ought to do it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Diane in Missouri needs some help with windows at her money pit. What can we do for you?
DIANE: I have double-hung, dual-glaze windows in my living room; the kind that slide down and they have a little latch on the bottom.
DIANE: The windows won’t slide down far enough to latch.
TOM: That’s probably because they’re out of square. So, you really need to push them – push the bottom window down and the top window up – enough where you can lock them together. And if they’re not locking, then something is swollen or out-of-square. It might need to be adjusted, Diane.
DIANE: OK. Now, I have brick veneer on the outside of my house and then, obviously, the drywall on the inside. And we’re concerned that the windows might need to be replaced, so that would mean, basically, tearing out the windows. So, is there any way to try to adjust the windows without taking the whole thing out?
TOM: Well, the first thing I would do is I would very slowly close the bottom window and I would look to see if it looks like it strikes the sill parallel. If it strikes one edge first and then there’s sort of a gap at the other end, then the window frame is out of square. It might be possible for a carpenter to do some adjustment of that or certainly some trimming of the window to give you enough clearance to be able to close it and lock it.
Because you mentioned possibly replacing the windows, you would use a replacement-style window if you did that and that would fit inside the wood frame of the existing window, minus the sashes. So you wouldn’t have to tear out the brick work to do that.
DIANE: Oh, good.
TOM: And today, if you replace them, you can qualify for a 30 percent tax credit to the end of the year, which will cut down on the cost, if you use qualifying windows.
LESLIE: Ed in North Carolina needs some help with a crawlspace. What can we do for you?
ED: Hello. Hey, I just wanted to get your take on this encapsulating service that some companies offer to basically encapsulate a crawlspace to keep the humidity out. I got an estimate a couple years ago and it was kind of expensive but I just wanted to know whether it’s worth the cost.
TOM: Yeah. That’s one approach. In fact, that’s an approach that they use a lot in Canada and it’s starting to work its way down into the states and it certainly does work. It’s got to be done very, very thoroughly because you can’t have any gaps in the encapsulation. But basically, it’s an alternative way to seal a crawlspace where you seal all the surfaces.
Having said that, the old-fashioned, inexpensive vapor barrier with fiberglass insulation and good drainage conditions on the outside of your house works well. Now, are you going to get a return on investment because of the difference between the two? Frankly, probably not but if you want to go with the encapsulated insulation, then go for it.
ED: OK. Is it – let me ask you, is it durable? Once they lay down that plastic encapsulating – if you’ve got to go down there and change out the water heater or just do normal routine maintenance, is that something …?
TOM: Yeah, routine maintenance it should be fine for. Yep.
ED: Alright. Hey, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
TOM: Hey, you’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, a kitchen counter upgrade can completely update an older kitchen but with so many choices out there, what material should you go with? We’re going to help you figure that out, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you can listen to The Money Pit on the go, with The Money Pit iPhone app. You can get the complete show, you can get the archives, you can ask a question on our Community forum or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. It is a free app available at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Sandra in North Carolina needs some help in the attic. Tell us about your problem.
SANDRA: How can I keep pests out of my attic without finishing it?
TOM: Without finishing it. You mean without turning it into a finished, remodeled room?
SANDRA: Correct. Because there’s like 800-and-something square – over 800-and-something square feet …
TOM: Well, who’s been visiting you up there, Sandra?
SANDRA: Oh, all kinds of pests: wasps; beetles, I guess, or some kind of flying, hard bug.
TOM: Oh, insects?
TOM: OK. Well, you can have an exterminator treat for those sorts of things but frankly, unless they’re getting down into the house I wouldn’t worry about the occasional mud wasp nest or something of that nature. I thought maybe you were talking about animals getting in there.
SANDRA: Oh, no. No, no animals.
TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s pretty common. You’re never going to make a house tight enough to keep them out. If they really bother you, you can have them treated professionally but I wouldn’t worry too terribly much about it.
SANDRA: OK. Alright. Well, I really appreciate that.
TOM: You’re welcome, Sandra. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, updating your kitchen is always a great home improvement project, since kitchens are one of the key selling points of any house.
TOM: That’s right. And the good news is that this project doesn’t always have to include a massive makeover. In fact, just replacing the countertop can make a very good first impression. Here with tips on the many options available to do just that is Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.
TOM: You know, it used to be that laminate was the only choice but we’ve come an awfully long way, haven’t we?
KEVIN: Boy, there are a lot of choices out there. We’ve spent a ton of time on our television show helping homeowners go through all of those different choices. And I guess it’s good news that you’ve got a lot of different options out there.
LESLIE: Yeah but I always find options are always the most overwhelming. As soon as you start sharing those with the customer, they really just drown in a sea of choices.
KEVIN: Yeah. And I think you need to sort of break it down into two categories: sort of what is the look that you’re going for but then also performance. And every one of the options out there is going to give you a different look, obviously, but it’s also going to perform differently.
So, let’s start with sort of the tried and true; the thing that folks are always sort of hoping for: granite countertops or another natural stone, right? So these are stones that we pull up out of the earth which – they’re natural. And they’re really popular right now. It’s an elegant choice and they’re great because they’re durable. You can take that hot pot right off of the stove and put it onto the granite countertop and you’re not going to have to worry about necessarily damaging it.
The downside is is that they can be costly, even though there is now a wide range of prices. They generally aren’t thought of as costly and they do require some maintenance. They’re kind of porous, so you want to seal them. So they can stain, depending on the color you use.
TOM: And people are shocked when they figure out their granite countertops can stain. We get calls on that all the time where there’s been a spaghetti-sauce stain or something like that and they’re a bit tricky to get out sometimes.
KEVIN: It’s funny to think that something so durable that comes up from Mother Earth is actually going to be so fragile underneath a can of spaghetti sauce or a jar of spaghetti sauce.
LESLIE: Or oil or red wine. The key is, when you do get a spill like that, clean it up as fast as possible. And I think a lot of people – marble has seen a resurgence in kitchens, as well, because it’s so beautiful and you get a very different look as far as the veining from granite. And it’s a viable option; you just have to make sure that you maintain it properly. And should you spill something, you must, must, must clean it up right away.
KEVIN: Yeah. And natural stones – marble, granites, soapstone – they’re really some of the most popular choices out there but not the only choices. There’s another category called engineered stone. Typically, they’re made from a material called quartz and people might recognize the brand names like Zodiaq or Silestone.
And these are good because they are durable like the granites but they don’t need as much maintenance. They resist the scratches and they don’t necessarily have to be sealed as much. You will pay a little premium for it, though.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think the interesting thing when you go with the engineered stone or the granites or even the solid-surface options is that they’re all antimicrobial, which is a big, key factor when you’re thinking about a countertop with so much moisture involved.
TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point.
Now, the other option, of course, is solid surfacing and that’s been around for quite a while and it’s still really popular.
KEVIN: They look really good. There’s a lot of different options in terms of the looks that are available, so it’s easy to sort of design a kitchen around them or fit these into a kitchen that you already have.
And people like them because, well, they – if they scratch, they’re solid all the way through, so they’re easy to fix. You can actually sand down or buff out a little scratch and all you’re doing is exposing more of that solid color and pattern. So they’re great for upkeep. They sometimes can be damaged by the heat, though, and sometimes can stain, so you have to be aware of that. And they are going to cost you a little bit less than the granite countertops or engineered stone, in general.
LESLIE: Now, what about a concrete countertop? I’ve seen them just rise in popularity so much so that certain manufacturers out there have a do-it-yourself, concrete-countertop kit which, as a great product, I don’t know if that’s something I would tackle on my own because there’s really an art to that, isn’t there?
KEVIN: Yeah, this is fascinating. I mean I’m intrigued by the fact that you say you see it more often, Leslie. We see this all the time.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah.
KEVIN: This is sort of kind of like a rage out there now; people making concrete countertops. And what I hear from folks, the reason they like it is because they can really make it a piece of art; they can individualize it. They can not only choose the color and the texture but we see people adding stuff to the concrete mix. They’ve got bottle caps or colored class in there. They’ve got mementos from the house thrown into the concrete countertops and they’ve really personalized them.
We have worked with both. We have worked with folks who do it professionally where they come out like a traditional granite salesperson and they template your counter space, they go off and they make it just to your specifications and install it. And we’ve also seen people who said, “Build the form, pour it yourself and make it as individual as you’d like.” And I think that’s the benefit of concrete countertops is that you can really dress it up and turn it into a work of art.
LESLIE: What about maintenance, though? Concrete is so porous and hydroscopic. How do you handle it? Because there’s so much water on a countertop on a regular basis.
KEVIN: If you really want to take care of it, it comes down to sealing but I’ve also seen people who just like that sort of rustic look and let it go and say, “Hey, it’s a concrete countertop.”
TOM: Just kind of let it grow. Whatever happens, happens.
And, Kevin, there’s another option out there which is, of course, ceramic tile. Folks have been tiling countertops for years but there’s actually a new product out there that makes it a lot easier. Have you heard of this Bondera?
KEVIN: Heard of it but never worked with it. What’s that story? It saves you a step?
TOM: Oh, it absolutely does. In fact, it’s a mastic; it’s a sheet mastic. And basically, you glue it down to the top so it could be the plywood surface of the countertop or even if it’s a laminate top, you can lay it down right on top of that. Then you can stick the tiles to it and immediately grout, so you don’t have to wait for the mastic to dry.
KEVIN: Hmm. And it’s sticky stuff, huh?
TOM: Really sticky stuff.
LESLIE: It’s super-sticky. Tom and I worked with it on a project for the AARP and I, being that it was my first go-around with the product, I had peeled off the protective layer from the other side to start setting my tile and leaned across it and my arm was stuck on it; my shirt was stuck on it and my belt. It is super-sticky. It really does a great job.
TOM: Yeah, it’s really good stuff. So that’s another option, as well, for countertops.
KEVIN: But as you say, it has grout so like traditional ceramic tile, you want to make sure that you seal that grout immediately because that will stain.
TOM: Exactly. You need a good silicone sealer as quickly as possible after that grout dries. A couple of coats of that and believe me, you’ll be doing a lot less cleaning as time goes on.
We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, about kitchen countertop-material options.
And, Kevin, finally there’s one countertop that’s almost the original top that everyone loves but boy, it does take a lot of work to maintain: wood butcher blocks.
KEVIN: Well, I’m a big fan of it. I like the look of wood on a counter. Butcher block is definitely one of my favorites, as well. It’s a great surface to work on. It is porous and you’re putting food stuffs on it, so you just want to make sure that it’s something you clean, clean, and clean again. There are specialty products out there for cleaning butcher block.
And I would say, don’t be afraid to use a cutting board – something that you can run through the dishwasher – and have the butcher block just be a good look.
TOM: Great advice. Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Great to be here, guys.
TOM: For more tips on kitchen countertop materials, you can search “countertops” at ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: And you can, of course, watch Kevin and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.
TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by Stanley. Stanley, make something great.
Still ahead, your front door can make or break your home’s first impression. We’ve got tips on complete front entry systems that take the guesswork out of great curb appeal. And that’s all coming up, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. Want hardwood floors but are on a budget? The affordable and feature-filled Skil Flooring Saw is just what you need for your installation project.
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 for your home improvement questions to be answered, your repair questions, decorating questions. Pretty much anything that you are working on at your money pit, we can give you a hand with that project. And we can actually give you the tools to get those jobs done, as well, because one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a really fantastic prize.
We are giving away the Skil Flooring Saw. Now, it’s worth 159 bucks and the Skil Flooring Saw is designed to cut through hardwood, laminate, even engineered flooring up to 8 inches wide and ¾ of an inch thick. It can make miter cuts, rip cuts. It’s really an all-purpose tool.
TOM: This tool will eliminate the need for more than one saw that you have to lug materials to and from. You can visit SkilTools.com for more info or pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
LESLIE: Well, a new survey shows that despite the economic situation we are all facing, homeowners are spending money on their homes again, both to maintain or even improve their biggest investments.
Now, one project with huge payoff is upgrading your front entry. If you use a fiberglass door, this is going to help save energy costs and it’s going to increase your curb appeal, all while increasing your home’s perceived value. People look at your house, see a gorgeous door and they suddenly think it’s worth a heck of a lot more than it actually is.
And now, there’s a smart and easy way that you can add a one-two punch of curb appeal to your home.
TOM: That’s right, two products. First, you want to start with a Therma-Tru, fiberglass door system. You can get one that’s made from the Smooth-Star line or the Classic-Craft door lines. Now, these guys invented the fiberglass door.
Then, you trim it out with Fypon. Now, Fypon can really create a beautiful exterior. These pieces are made from urethane – very durable urethane – that’s going to resist rot, insects, mildew, you name it. You can add a set of pilasters and across it on top and you’ve got an instant, entryway total transformation.
LESLIE: And urethane is the way to go. In fact, independent studies show that urethane trim pieces actually cost less to install than wood which, of course, we all know can rot, needs to be repainted, needs refinishing; just needs a ton of maintenance over its lifespan. Fypon’s motto is “out of the box and onto your house.” That means you can enhance your Therma-Tru front entry in less than an hour.
You can learn more about these entryway solutions at ThermaTru.com and Fypon.com today. It’s a great website; you can really see the possibilities of how you can change the look of your house, pretty much in an instant.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us with your question that you need answered, so that you can change the possibilities of any project, any room, any area in your house. We are here to help.
LESLIE: Brian in South Dakota is dealing with a very noisy bathroom. Tell us about the problem.
BRIAN: Yes. We have three bathrooms in our 1997 home: two on the main level; one in the basement. When you flush the toilet of the master bathroom on the main level, it makes a horrific noise throughout the entire home. What would cause that?
TOM: Hmm. Water hammer. That plus the fact that the – there’s nothing better than plumbing pipes to transmit sound. Do you hear it when the water runs down the pipes or do you hear it when the toilet fills?
BRIAN: Hmm. I guess probably when it runs down the pipes.
TOM: Yeah. Not that unusual, Brian.
TOM: Yeah. I mean what happens is you have PVC pipes in the walls. And I love when the bathroom – like the powder room backs up against the dining room, so you get to listen to this during dinner, you know?
LESLIE: Right during your holiday meal. Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam.
TOM: Yeah. Not that unusual, though. The walls do transmit the sound quite easily. And the only thing that you can do is you could consider blowing insulation into the walls that contain the plumbing pipes. That might quiet it down a bit.
BRIAN: OK. I’ll try that. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Well, glad to give you that tip. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Still ahead, there is no worse energy hog than drafty windows and with this winter, we are all – experience a lot of energy usage.
Now, add up all of those leaks and you might as well keep your front door wide open this entire winter season. We are going to tell you how to fix window drafts for good, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Well, the thermometer might not actually be saying so but get this, the calendar says that spring is just a few weeks away. I’m not sure if I believe it; I have been freezing.
TOM: I can’t wait for that.
LESLIE: I know. Seriously, it can’t get here fast enough. You can actually get your spring projects ready to go with help from our great website, MoneyPit.com. We’ve got project ideas, tools, checklists. It’s all right there at your fingertips at MoneyPit.com.
And really, it just gives you something to focus on and dream about as we get past all of the snow blindness and chilly temperatures. So why not head there for a home improvement vacation, if you will?
While you’re there, you can share your before-and-after photos, you can learn what other do-it-yourselfers are doing out there, they can weigh in on what your work is like. It’s a lot of great fun. It’s really a good community to share everything that’s going on at your money pit and it’s all right at your fingertips at MoneyPit.com.
TOM: And speaking of which, Paul in North Carolina posted a question. He says, “I need a real solution to a drafty skylight. Cold air in the winter; hot air in the summer. Not sure the extra light is worth it.”
Wow, must be really, really bad.
LESLIE: Now that’s truly an installation problem, correct?
TOM: Yeah. “How can we cover it or reduce the draft?”
Well, a tarp would work well but I think that’s kind of pointless.
LESLIE: A space heater.
TOM: You know, I think that it’s got to be an installation problem and I suspect that he has a curb skylight where the flashing is just very loosely applied.
What you might want to use is a self-adhered flashing membrane. So this is a bit of work but what you would do is take the trim pieces off the skylight. I’m going to assume it’s like an Andersen or a Pella, where you have step flashing up against the side. Take the trim pieces off, take the roof shingles – roofing shingles off. Then use a product like Vycor. Now, that’s made by Grace, the same people that make Ice & Water Shield? And it comes in rolls. You can get it in 4 inches, 6 inches, 9 inches wide.
LESLIE: So these are more like strips?
TOM: Yeah. And so you roll these strips out and it sort of adheres to the side of the skylight and to the roof underneath and of course, that seals out the drafts.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s great.
TOM: Once you put that down, then you can put the step flashing back – put it all back together again – and that should stop any drafts that are getting into that space. It really shouldn’t be so bad that you want to just get rid of the skylight. I mean it’s totally possible to put these in. It’s just that yours wasn’t done correctly.
LESLIE: And it’s never a result of the quality of glass? It truly is an installation issue?
TOM: I can’t imagine, unless it’s a really old skylight. If you’ve got a really old, junky, plastic, bubble skylight, nothing can help you. But if it’s a decent, curb skylight, it’s just an installation issue and it can be fixed.
LESLIE: Alright, Paul. Get to enjoying that skylight again; not just hating it.
Alright. Ron from Rhode Island posted: “I will have to paint my home next summer or spring and I keep hearing about the vinyl sprays with the lifetime warranty. What is up with them and are they worth it or should I just use paint or have my home re-sided?”
TOM: Stay away.
LESLIE: Yeah. It always looks too good to be true.
TOM: Stay away.
LESLIE: And I have to tell you, I get those little pamphlets in my mailbox and they’re always like, “Ooh, look. They’re never going to paint again,” and I’m like, “Don’t be tempted.”
TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Not true. Not possible. It’s a really heavy sales pitch associated with that stuff but do you think for a second, if it was possible to make paint that never had to be replaced, that every single, major brand wouldn’t be doing that? There’s a reason that there’s nobody doing that. It’s because it can’t reliably be done.
You could put a thick coating of material like that on your wood siding. I think probably what will happen is moisture will get trapped underneath of it. We’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about this stuff where it just peels off and leaves the place a real mess and people are pretty upset about it. So, I have not heard a good story about liquid vinyl siding-type products and I do not recommend them for that reason.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know what, Ron? Your best bet is to just go with good, old-fashioned, exterior latex paint. Make sure you do proper prep work: sand, caulk. Do everything you’re supposed to do and enjoy it for the next five to seven years before you’ve got to do it again.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show continues online at MoneyPit.com, where you can post your home improvement question any time of the day or night in our Community section. And Leslie or I will jump in there and answer them as well as you can get help from other DIYers in the same space. You can also pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2011 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.)