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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)


    (promo/theme song)

    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: Reach out and touch the experts. That’s us. (Leslie chuckles) Well, call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Because we are here to help you get those home improvement projects done; to solve the do-it-yourself dilemmas.

    You know, most of the folks that are listening to this show fit into two categories, Leslie. They’re either do-it-yourselfers or direct-it-yourselfers. But by listening to this show we promise to prevent you from becoming a do-it-to-yourselfer (Leslie chuckles) by screwing up those home improvement projects. So call us first.

    LESLIE: Is your first word of advice, ‘Read the directions?’

    TOM: That’s right, read the directions. (Leslie chuckles)

    The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Because we have a lot in store for you today. First up, are you getting tired of the cabinets in your kitchen or your bathroom? Well, you don’t have to rip them out to get an entire new look. We’re going to have some easy fixes that can completely change the look of your room. And these are fixes that can be done in one single day; sort of easy, low cost, low maintenance …

    LESLIE: Ooh, I love it.

    TOM: … low stress makeovers for your kitchen or your bathroom.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, when you’re thinking about things for your home do you think, ‘Hey, I want a green home?’ Or do you think, ‘I want a healthy home?’ Well, if you like those two ideas they’re not necessarily interchangeable. We’re going to tell you what’s truly green as opposed to what’s considered healthy. That’s all coming up in a few minutes.

    TOM: Right about now you’re also probably sick and tired of that electric bill because cooling costs are really, really driving that bill through the roof. So we’re going to have some tips this hour that will help bring that bill back down to earth.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. It’s the Eureka Capture Plus vacuum. It’s worth $169. It’s got a ton of really cool features and it is going to make your vacuuming chores so super fun. But you’ve got to be in to win it.

    TOM: So call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question. We will draw one name out of the Money Pit hardhat at the end of today’s program and present that lucky listener the Eureka Capture Plus worth 169 bucks. Another number to remember, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? I bet Robert in Iowa knows the answer since you’ve got them all over your yard.

    TOM: How can we help you, Robert?

    ROBERT: Hi, Tom and Leslie. Appreciate the show. I have woodchucks and they’re causing problems in the retaining walls.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: Have any suggestions on how to get rid of them?

    LESLIE: Yeah, there’s actually a couple of things you can do. It depends on how aggressive you want to be and kind of how mean you want to be to the animals as well. (Tom chuckles) Some of the more natural ways are Epsom salts. You can actually sprinkle Epsom salts sort of around the garden wherever you see them; where you know they’re coming in or even just around the whole yard itself. The good thing is they hate the smell of it. As it rains the Epsom salts actually help your garden so you might actually see it grow a little bit better. But you do need to replace it over time. But they hate that smell so that keeps them away.

    Another scent sort of, I guess, inhibitor for them that they don’t want to be around is if you soak rags in ammonia and put them around your property. They hate the smell. They’ll stay away. But again, you’re going to have to replace that every so often because the scent’s going to wear away.

    TOM: There’s a commercial product that’s called Shake Away that is available online at WoodchuckRepellent …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) You can’t say it.

    TOM: Yeah, I can’t. (chuckling) At Woodchuck – (all laugh). WoodchuckRepellent.com. Fifteen bucks and it’s an organic product and it will keep woodchucks away. So there’s a product that you may want to give a shot. Certainly worth a $15 investment. See how well it works for you.

    LESLIE: You can also, if – you know, if you’re finding that you’re just fed up and nothing is working you can do chicken wire fencing around the property as well. But you have to make sure that you bury one foot of that chicken wire fencing below ground. And that one foot, you want to tilt it at an angle away from your garden. For some reason they can’t burrow around that either. But you know, it’s like it’s going to take upkeep. You’re going to have to work at this. They seem to like your yard.

    ROBERT: Yeah, well you know, I didn’t have a problem when it sat on the retaining wall and teased the neighbor’s dogs.

    TOM: (laughing) It was kind of cute back then, right?

    ROBERT: Yeah. And it’s really neat watching them eat like an orange or an apple. They’ll clean the peel off without even breaking the peel. But when they start causing my retaining walls to collapse, you know, that’s a bit much. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: Well, you know, one of the things that you could do is also just get a couple of Havahart traps. Are you familiar with those?

    ROBERT: Yeah.

    TOM: That will trap it alive and then you’re just going to have to take them off into the woods somewhere and let them go.

    ROBERT: My luck they’ll find their way back. (Tom laughs) They’ll have GPS systems. (Leslie laughs)

    TOM: Robert, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    ROBERT: Thanks.

    LESLIE: Alright, home improvement fans. Now is the perfect time of year to start thinking about the autumn. There are a ton of things that you can do to your house now to help you be much more energy efficient as the cool air arrives. So, call us right now with your home repair or your home improvement question anytime you feel like it. If it’s right now or if it’s in the middle of the night we are available at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, you are sick and tired of looking at those kitchen and bathroom cabinets. We know it. We know. You’re bored. You’re looking for a change? We’ve got a tip that will help you change their look for just a few dollars in just a few minutes. That’s next.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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: Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we usually give you the answer to your home improvement project and the tools to get the job done. But today – today only – we’re going to give you the tools to clean up from that big, stinking mess that you made with your home improvement project. Because we’ve got this cool vacuum from Eureka to give away. It’s the Eureka Capture Plus. It’s worth 169 bucks. It’s got all the cleaning attachments to make it easy to reach those hard-to-reach places plus it has a sealed HEPA filter. I like that because that means it won’t be spewing that dust out the back and making you cough and choke on it. So you can fix up your house and clean up after that mess all at the same time by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to give that vacuum to one caller to today’s program. You must be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Alright, well knobs, pulls, handles; whatever you call them let’s call them a fun, inexpensive way to add new life to old cabinets and furniture. There are literally thousands of shapes, styles and sizes so don’t be afraid to mix and match with this easy, hands-on, one-day project to completely update the look of your kitchen.

    TOM: You know, it really works. We changed all the hardware in our kitchen and when the family came over they knew that it was improved; they just couldn’t figure out what we did.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) They couldn’t tell why.

    TOM: They couldn’t tell. They couldn’t tell. So it really does work. It’s not expensive and there’s lots of options out there.

    LESLIE: Well, and there’s a lot of interesting choices. You can go to an architectural salvage shop and get something that’s historically accurate to your home. You can go to a trendy little store like an anthropology – they sell really beautiful items there. You can look online. There are so many resources.

    TOM: So in the anthropology store can you get bone handles? (chuckling)

    LESLIE: You know, they have bone – you’re so funny. They have bones; they have crystal; all sorts of interesting looking ones. Their prices are a little bit on the higher end but they’re truly unique finds. So you never know. Keep your eyes open. You might find the right thing for your exact project.

    TOM: Could you just save your steak bones and use those?

    LESLIE: (chuckling) That would be gross.

    TOM: (chuckling) 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright. Calling in we’ve got Grace from North Dakota who listens in on WDAY and everybody loves to drink water except when yours is stinky. Grace, what’s going on?

    GRACE: I do have a sulfur smell to it when it comes out of the faucets.

    LESLIE: Is it just the cold or is it the hot or both?

    GRACE: It seems to be both. I couldn’t – cannot distinguish which it is. But if I let it set on the counter for a while or my ice does not smell and I let it sit on the counter for a while it doesn’t smell. I run it through a Brita filter …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Right.

    GRACE: … for my drinking.

    TOM: Grace, when you turn this faucet on, does it only smell sort of initially or is it always the same?

    GRACE: No, different – no, it’s always the same smell …

    TOM: OK.

    GRACE: … but sometimes it doesn’t.

    TOM: Well, have you had the water tested, Grace?

    GRACE: Yes, I have gone two my health department and had the water tested and …

    TOM: OK.

    GRACE: (INAUDIBLE) fine.

    TOM: So then the only issue here is really the odor and that could be – that could be solved with a charcoal filtering system. Now, the filtering system can be put on at the point where the water comes into the house. And it’s going to be activated charcoal – a large tank – that will run the water through the charcoal and that will deal with the odor issue. Or another option is you could put on the charcoal filter right at the kitchen sink, for example, if it really bothers you there but perhaps not as much in the bathrooms.

    GRACE: Yes.

    TOM: Now, the charcoal filters are available from tap size (INAUDIBLE) the end of the faucet. I don’t so much recommend those. I would use a larger one that’s – that would fit underneath the kitchen cabinet. Or better yet, have one put in right to the well system where the water line comes into the house and that will cover everything.

    LESLIE: Now Grace, have you had any work done recently to the plumbing around this sink or near this fixture?

    GRACE: No, but that’ll …

    LESLIE: No? OK, because sometimes Tom talks about a putty that can be kind of stinky also.

    TOM: No, I think that was – that would be a drain issue but if this is all the time then it’s probably the well itself that has the water that’s not pleasant. And that, again, could be fixed with a charcoal filter.

    Grace, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Al in Utah is doing one of the most popular home improvement projects: remodeling the kitchen. What can we help you with?

    AL: Well, I need help with my appliances. I’m putting in a gas stove and a new dishwasher and a microwave. And I know you can go very high-end on these appliances. What I’m looking for is the biggest bang for my buck and what I should watch out for on purchasing these appliances. I wonder if you could help me with that.

    TOM: The very first thing that you should be looking for; your basic level of qualification for whether or not you want to buy the appliance or not is whether it’s Energy Star rated. Because that’s going to have a terrific return on investment. It’s going to make sure that the appliance is running as efficiently as possible. Beyond that, it becomes very much a personal choice in terms of what you’re looking for.

    LESLIE: Consumer Reports has an issue. It’s on stands now, I believe, and it talks about all of the types of appliances and what you should be looking for and brands that are attention-starved or should I say ones that need repairs a lot.

    AL: OK.

    LESLIE: And they go over, specifically, you know, if you’re looking at a range these are the things you should look for; this is a great brand and this is why; and these are ones, you know, that have all the bells and whistles but really aren’t worth it because maybe it needs repairs more often. It’s very helpful because the folks at Consumer Reports, you know, are independent. They test everything. They completely are unbiased and they’re doing this for you. You know, they really give you the lowdown on what’s what with each brand; especially when it comes to a specific appliance. And when you’re looking to, I guess, look for a suite of appliances – you know, maybe you want everything to be stainless so you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to buy all the same brand,’ you know, one brand may do an oven really well but not a dishwasher.

    AL: Right.

    LESLIE: And because all of the major brands are – you know, they kind of copy from one another so you’re going to get similar looks across the board from many of the manufacturers. You know, buy the manufacturer that makes the best product that they can; you know, regardless of if it’s one for the dishwasher and something else for the oven. As long as they’re the best at what they do for that specific job you just want to get it.

    AL: Right. Absolutely. Well, I was surprised like on gas stoves, what – you know, on the stoves, how expensive a stove will be. I just nearly cried (chuckling) when I saw some of these prices.

    LESLIE: There’s a lot of good models under 1,000 bucks. In fact, GE Profile, they have an excellent pro-looking range and oven combo. The whole thing is fantastic. It’s under 1,000 bucks. There’s convection. There’s a lot of different options. And that’s a wonderful product.

    AL: Have you guys heard anything – my wife is wanting to go with white and I want to go with black. She says the white shows up less dirt. Have you guys heard either way on that or is that just a preference as well?

    TOM: Well, it is a preference but I think black does probably show more dirt than white.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Black shows fingerprints like the second after you clean it.

    TOM: Yeah, we’ve got white everything and three young kids and I’ve got to tell you, I’m glad we do have white.

    AL: OK. Well, that’s helped out immensely because I sort of like the black look of it. So, sounds to me like I’m going to be going white on the appliances then.

    Good deal. Thank you very much for your help.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. And Al can’t go wrong remodeling a kitchen. One of the best returns on investments you can get.

    LESLIE: Linda in Maryland listens in on WJFK and you’ve got a decking question. How can we help you?

    LINDA: Hi, I wanted to know how I should maintain my Brazilian Cherry deck?

    LESLIE: Is it a brand new deck? Is there anything on it? What’s going on with it?

    LINDA: It’s about three years old. There was a stain put on originally and it did not work out so well and I’m looking for a new sealant or a new stain or oil. And also, I had heard there may be a problem powerwashing it before I stain it.

    LESLIE: Is the stain that’s on there now – is it sort of worn away in some places? Like do you think you need to strip it down to get a fresh start or is that where you think you are with it?

    LINDA: Yeah. It’s pretty – it’s – the stain is basically gone now. There are just little spots of stain left. So I have to do something completely new.

    LESLIE: OK. Well, if you can, try with a pressure washer, you know, to try to get rid of the last remaining bits of stain. If that’s not budging there’s a couple of products you can use. You want to, unfortunately, use a chemical stripper. And you want to make sure you get all of that stain off of it. And the reason why you want to get that stain off is you really want to get down to as raw or fresh of a wood surface so that whatever you put on top is going to adhere very, very well. And since you’re decking of Brazilian Cherry is only three years old, you shouldn’t have any problem with how the graining looks; how the actual decking pieces themselves are integrity-wise. They should look great so you should be able to put something clear on there to really showcase the beauty of the lumber itself.

    So, for stripping you want to use something and Flood makes a lot of great products. First you want to use their Strain Strip Exterior Stain Stripper. It’s going to strip all stains, all finishes. You want to follow the directions; make sure you wear protective gear; let it do its job and clear everything off. Then let it dry very, very well once you’ve washed everything away. And then what you can use also from Flood is the CWF-UltraLast Premium Natural Finish. And this is made specifically for exotic hardwoods; for lumber types that are specifically very difficult to have stains penetrate into them. So you want to make sure you use something that’s really made for the exotics so it’ll saturate and seal and really stabilize the wood to minimize cracking and warping and even damage from moisture and the sun. If you do that, you should be great.

    And the UltraLast Premium Natural Finish comes in a couple of different color options which are all natural. It’ll really let the lumber itself show how beautiful it is. And if you do that you shouldn’t have to do anything for five years.

    TOM: And Linda, you mentioned about the cautionary advice you got with regard to pressure washing. That is spot on because pressure washing, if it’s done improperly, can really damage a wood deck. So I would use pressure washing only in the lightest possible sense. As you’re doing your cleanup to get ready for the staining procedure, I would not use too much pressure because wood is very soft. It’s going to really eat away some of that surface of the wood boards that you have. So even though you have hardwood, the pressure washer will definitely damage it if you don’t use it very, very carefully. So use the wide spray; the same one you use, for example, when you’re cleaning a car with a pressure washer. It’s great for putting on a lot of water in a reasonably good pressure for cleaning but not one that’s going to damage the wood.

    Linda, thanks so much for calling us the Money Pit. The number is 1-888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Ooh, just thinking about our next caller’s situation is giving me the willies. (Tom chuckles) Jerry in California, welcome. You’ve got bats in the garage?

    JERRY: Yes, in the belfry, if you want to put it that way. (Leslie laughs)

    TOM: (chuckling) OK.

    LESLIE: I tell you, I am always afraid that they are going to get stuck in my hair. That is what everybody says and we actually had one almost attack my sister. It really wasn’t attacking. It was just sort of getting away from her because she opened up its sleeping habitat which was our umbrella. And I laughed and laughed but secretly was like, ‘Thank goodness that wasn’t me.’ (laughing)

    TOM: It wasn’t you. (laughing)

    Well Jerry, what kind of a problem is it? How bad is it?

    JERRY: Well, it’s pretty bad. It’s an older structure …

    TOM: OK.

    JERRY: … that had been converted into a barn from some kind of farm building.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    JERRY: It has open soffits with the screen. I’ve plugged up holes. I’ve plugged up woodpecker holes. They get into the walls. They’re up in the rafters. And I’ve counted, on hot days, when they come out I’ve counted as many as 40 just hanging up there.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: Mm.

    JERRY: They don’t really hang. They cling to the wood. But the worst part is the droppings.

    TOM: Yes. And they can be very, very unhealthy. You don’t want to be exposed to that. You’ve got to get this cleaned up.

    I want to recommend an excellent website to you, Jerry. It’s called BatCon.org. It’s the Bat Conservation International website. Fabulous website with all of the tips, all of the techniques that you need to know to keep those bats outside. They give you a lot of drawings and instructions …

    LESLIE: Even videos.

    TOM: … on how to – instruction videos – how to construct bat doors and how to seal and deter bats from getting into the house. So it’s BatCon – B-a-t-C-o-n.org. And I think you’ll find all your answers right there.

    JERRY: Thank you very much.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. And when it comes time to get your electric bill do you have to hide from the mailman? (Leslie chuckles) Well, I mean this summer – I have to say, I opened up an electric bill and a water bill very slowly …

    LESLIE: And you fell on the floor? (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: … this month. Well, actually, we had our sprinkler system set incorrectly. See, even we make mistakes in home improvement. And I discovered it was running exactly twice as much as it should.

    LESLIE: Oh!

    TOM: And so my bill was exactly twice as high as it was the month before. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) As it usually is.

    TOM: Yeah. So, you know, there are things, though, that you can do to reduce the cost of that electric bill and we’re going to give you some tips on how to do that and keep cool at the same time, next.

    (theme song)

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    And right about now – I know I am – you guys have got to be fed up with your energy bills. You know, cooling your home all summer long is very, very costly. And one way to save money is why not think about an upgrade to a more energy-efficient system? Something you want to think about before another cooling season and money spending season rolls around.

    TOM: Absolutely. And now is the time to think about it; definitely not at the beginning of the next season. Get it done now while the getting’s good.

    With us to give you some ideas on what you should be looking for if you’re going to buy a new cooling system is Emmy Award-winning reporter Marc Silverstein and he is the crusty but lovable (Leslie chuckles) Marc from The Food Network.

    Hey, Marc. How you doing?

    MARC: (pirate voice) Hey. How are you? (Leslie chuckles) Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie. Thanks for having me here.

    TOM: Alright, so about now we’ve been paying pretty high AC bills and our AC’s been chugging along. You know, maybe it failed this summer. Maybe it didn’t. But if it’s getting to be, you know, in that, say, 12 to 15-year-old range there’s a lot of improvement that could be sought from buying a new unit. But where do you begin?

    MARC: Well, here’s one place you begin. Let me start with (INAUDIBLE). We’re talking about being cool. Let me talk about a little couples therapy here.

    LESLIE: Oh, no.

    TOM: OK. (laughing)

    MARC: Alright? The answer to the question is 78 degrees.

    LESLIE: That’s impossible. That’s too hot.

    MARC: Oh, my goodness!

    TOM: No, it’s not too hot.

    MARC: You see, women normally want it hot. We have a battle in my house between my wife and I. She’s always making it warmer. I’m always making it cooler. It’s a metabolic thing.

    TOM: But it’s not the heat. It’s the humidity. (Leslie chuckles) And you pull the moisture out of the air, 78 is quite comfortable.

    MARC: Absolutely. And that’s the most efficient place – temperature – to set your room air conditioner on.

    TOM: Alright, so that’s the goal.

    MARC: Yes, that is the goal. And just so you know, Tom, women always win.

    TOM: So if we’re going to buy a new unit, though, what do we want to look for?

    MARC: For a lot of people it’s an impulse buy.

    TOM: Right.

    MARC: About a quarter of the sales are spontaneous and they have to (INAUDIBLE). Well, this is a perfect time of year to go because now it’s past the peak of summer; the stores are going to be discounting so you start looking for good bargains. That’s first and foremost.

    TOM: Right.

    MARC: Shop around a little bit. If you replace a 10-year-old unit you could save about $25 a year on your energy bill. Average energy consumption per unit has decreased about 20 percent since 1990. So you’re going to be thinking, ‘Alright, how big …’ The first question, ‘How big of a unit do I need?’ Now this, once again, gets back to that, I guess, [male thing] (ph). (Leslie chuckles) I’m going to walk into a store; I’m going to say, ‘Oh, give me the one …’

    TOM: The biggest one you got.

    MARC: ‘… with the most – give me the biggest one in the store,’ right?

    TOM: Right.

    MARC: Right? With the most BTUs. That’s not the way to go …

    TOM: OK.

    MARC: … because it’ll cool off the room very quickly but, as you said …

    TOM: And that’ll be clammy and uncomfortable and that’ll lead to another big spousal incident.

    MARC: I mean obviously you’re going to – so you’re going to the store; you look for the Energy Star that’s on there. That’s a special designation that means it’s at least 10 percent more efficient than one without an Energy Star.

    TOM: Right.

    MARC: Maybe you want some nice features on it. You want maybe washable filters. So you have to – you have to clean those filters out every 90 days or so. You want it to work well and you want the filters so it’s easy to take care of. You just drop them in the washer. They have these new – these room air conditioners and they now have all sorts of new features like expandable side panels and remote – see, I like the remote control …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    MARC: … because then it turns on and off when I want it to or I can set it to so I can keep my costs lower.

    TOM: And you don’t have to get up from the easy chair while you’re watching a game.

    MARC: Right. But the other thing to do is you’ve got to figure out the right size for the room that you’re going to put it in.

    LESLIE: So how do you even go about figuring it out? Is there a formula? Do you go by square footage of the room? What do you do?

    MARC: Perfect. I’ve got – I’ve got a website for you.

    TOM: Alright.

    MARC: It’s www.CoolOff.org. CoolOff.org. There’s a cooling calculator there …

    TOM: OK.

    MARC: … that figures all this out for you. Alright? So it’s going to ask you a bunch of questions.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Great. So the information is at …

    MARC: You’re going to need about five minutes and it’s going to ask you about how many windows are in the room and how big the walls are; the length and the height of the walls. You’re going to have to measure your walls.

    TOM: Yeah, I think many people don’t understand that there is quite a bit to know before figuring out the size because you’re basically doing – what these calculators do is give you the ability to do a heat loss calculation.

    MARC: Exactly.

    TOM: And that’s how you determine the amount of BTUs you need to purchase in an air conditioner. I did one of these not too long ago for a friend of mine that had an office in the city. And it was a 600-square-foot office. And you would think a small space like that needs, you know – I don’t know – 5,000, 7,500 BTU. No, it was like 24,000. Because it had a whole wall of south-facing glass and that just threw the numbers, basically, off the chart.

    MARC: Exactly right. I mean if you’re facing the sun it’s going to make – it’s going to make a big difference.

    TOM: So the bottom line is it’s a good time to think about buying a new air conditioner. If you’re going to buy one you want to make sure you get one that is the right size and you want to take a look at the new features and the new energy efficiency. And if you want to figure that out it’s all at the website CoolOff.org, which I see is run by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Nice to see that the manufacturers are banding together to help give us the information that we need to be a smarter consumer of cooling appliances.

    Marc Silverstein, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    MARC: Thank you, Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: For more cooling info you can visit CoolOff.org. CoolOff.org.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, when you’re thinking about your house would you categorize it as both healthy and green?

    TOM: Not always because mold is green, too. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Alright. Well, aside from mold, the terms healthy and green really aren’t interchangeable. Both my help you with your energy bills but a home that is only healthy might not be doing much for the environment. We’re going to tell you why and what you can do to keep your house both healthy and green, next.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: It’s a great hour. It’s a great idea. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where work and fun meet. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us right now with your home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. A great reason to pick up that phone is that one caller we talk to this hour is going to win the Eureka Capture Plus. It’s a vacuum that’s worth $169. Going to go, at random, to one caller to 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question. It’s got several features that will help you clean hard-to-reach places like this feature called the Edge Cleaner. It will grab dirt within millimeters of baseboard edges.

    LESLIE: Ooh, I love that.

    TOM: Like that? The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can call us. You can ask up anything you want. Maybe you’re thinking about ways to make your home more environmentally friendly or green. And when some people think about green homes they instantly think of healthy homes. But did you realize that these terms can mean very, very different things? According to a group called Sustainable Architecture Building and Culture, green and healthy homes do share some similarities including being made or remodeled with generally nontoxic building materials. But for your home to be truly green it must have at least a few very special features, one of which is the use of building materials that are made from renewable resources or even recycled items.

    TOM: You know, another is to make sure your house is energy efficient. This can be done by installing appliances powered by renewable resources like solar heating for air and water. You can also have a green home if you make sure you prevent air leaks around windows and door frames so that you’re not wasting a lot of energy; be it energy that you’ve used to cool the house or energy that you’ve used to heat the house. A good way to do that is to make sure that you seal gaps around the windows and doors with a self-adhered flashing; for example, Grace Vycor Plus. It’s a stretchy, high-tech flashing material that works really well to prevent not only water from getting in around the windows and doors but also air leaks. So that’s a good thing to make sure that you do correctly. Flashing around those windows and doors will really keep the air from moving through that wall and costing you more in cooling costs as well as more in heating costs.

    If you want more information on how to incorporate technologies like this into your home, you can log on to Grace’s website at GraceAtHome.com. That’s GraceAtHome.com. Or call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Let’s get back to the phones. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Mike in Florida, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    MIKE: Well, I’ve got some questions about earth-covered homes.


    MIKE: And several. But in general – I don’t know how much – how many questions you want me to ask (Tom and Leslie chuckle) but in general …

    TOM: Well, let’s start with why are you considering an earth-covered home?

    MIKE: Well, we’re going to move to – eventually we have an 80-acre family farm in Oklahoma.

    TOM: Alright.

    MIKE: And so we thought, for one, tornado protection.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: True.

    MIKE: And for two, utility savings.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    MIKE: And just because, you know, we’ve lived in conventional homes all of our lives …

    TOM: Yeah.

    MIKE: … and are kind of interested in it.

    TOM: And that’s the biggest reason. Because you can get a good, well-insulated home and you can get one that stands up to tornadoes by using conventional construction. But if you just are interested in it because it’s going to be a unique, unusual home then that’s terrific. I mean the earth is a good insulator and I have seen some earth homes and they are very attractive. It’s always interesting to be able to mow your roof, you know? (Leslie and Mike chuckle) This is something that you can’t do everyday.

    MIKE: No, or you could have goats, I guess. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: I guess you could. That’s right. I guess you could. Now, what’s your question?

    MIKE: Is there any – like can it be built – is Oklahoma a fairly decent place to do it? I know that in Florida I was told that it was – you know, the water level was too close to the ground sources to do it here. And – at least where we’re at. And that was my question. And you know, the land in Oklahoma is pretty flat. I guess that would probably make it easier. You know, we just – some general construction questions.

    TOM: You know, Mike, earth homes are very, very popular in Texas. So I see no reason why they wouldn’t work well in Oklahoma. There’s actually several types of earth buildings, though, that you might want to consider. There’s rammed earth. There’s poured earth, which is similar to concrete homes. And then there’s earth bag. There’s a good website that will give you a good overview of earth homes and earth-building techniques and it’s called GreenHomeBuilding.com. GreenHomeBuilding.com.

    MIKE: Alright.

    TOM: That would probably be a good place for you to start investigating this. And you know, I certainly congratulate you on wanting to do something that’s environmentally responsible.

    MIKE: Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Next up we’ve got Lisa who’s looking to move or improve. How can we help?

    LISA: Yes. So we would like to move. We have to move. We’re kind of growing out of our space. And we can build over – we have a den that we can easily build over and add another three bedrooms and a master bedroom. But we have been hearing from different people that, ‘Do not do construction. Move.’

    TOM: OK.

    LISA: Because construction is a big pain and it’s just like a never-ending money pit.

    LESLIE: Aw.

    LISA: So, I just wanted a recommendation on that. Like do you recommend construction and dealing with all the hassle on the never-ending, you know, money that comes out of that? Or just to pick up and move and buy a bigger house?

    TOM: Well, it never – it doesn’t really have to be that much of a hassle if you do it correctly. Now, if you’re talking about a project of that size, it sounds like – I mean adding a number of bedrooms and a master suite sounds like a fabulous home improvement project to do because that’s definitely going to add some value. And assuming that you’re not overbuilding the home for the neighborhood, what we would do is tell you to, first off, hire an architect to design this for you and develop a set of specifications. Those specifications is what should be put out to the contractors to bid on because the architect should not only design the specs but also should be hired to supervise the construction for you and do some periodic inspections. Get the skills of an experienced pro like that to help you shepherd this through.

    A lot of the construction delays come from simply having poor management. Too many folks try to manage major construction projects like this and they’re just not familiar with it. But I think it’s definitely worth hiring somebody to do that and an architect is the guy that can do it.

    LISA: Right. Yeah. No, we would definitely would hire an architect but I’ve just – I feel like people have been telling us that it would end up costing less money in the long run.

    LESLIE: Well …

    TOM: Well, there’s a lot of factors involved there because it also depends on – I mean there’s hidden costs for moving that you have to consider.

    LESLIE: Plus, also in this crazy real estate market that’s been going on right now, you might, in a few years, get way more money for your house – especially with an added bedroom – rather than selling now and not getting the best price and then you’re sort of stuck and what are you going to buy. You know, is it going to work out in a way?

    You know, I’ve got the 2006 cost versus value report here. And in New York, if you do a master suite addition or a bedroom addition, if you go midrange you are looking at – oh gosh, I just lost it – 84.5 percent recouped. If you go upscale, 83.4. So it’s a good investment. You’re going to make that money back, you know, almost fully. And you’ve got that space customized and you don’t have the hassle of moving.

    TOM: Yeah, do you like the neighborhood? You know, it’s probably worth doing the improvement. I wouldn’t run away only because it’s difficult. People do successful home improvement projects all the time. It just requires good planning and good execution and if it’s not something you’re familiar with hire some pros to help you get the job done.

    LESLIE: Lots of great calls this hour but coming up after the break we’re going to have some great e-mails; in fact, up next, restoring wood moulding with years of paint buildup to its original beauty. We’re going to help one e-mailer with that. So stick around.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    And Tom and I are here to help you with all of your do-it-yourself dilemmas; any of your home improvement headaches and even those projects that you started and maybe they didn’t go exactly like you thought.

    TOM: We’re like a home improvement aspirin.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Exactly. (Tom chuckles) Or a home improvement Band-Aid, if you will. (chuckling) You can call us anytime at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Operators are standing by at all times. You can also go to MoneyPit.com and check out our new project finder. You can click on any topic and find anything and everything we have ever written about just about any topic all at your fingertips. You can also, while you’re there, click on Ask Tom and Leslie and if you don’t feel like picking up the phone you can e-mail us your question.

    TOM: And that’s what Peter did from Brooklyn, New York. He says, ‘We just purchased an apartment. The plaster walls and wooden mouldings in the bedroom have many layers of paint on them which is cracking and peeling in lots of places. Should I use a paint stripper on the mouldings? They’re so covered with paint that they have a clumpy look.’ Clumpy look. That can’t be good.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that looks terrible.

    TOM: The dreaded clumpy look. ‘Or would it be cheaper and easier, in the long run, to simply remove the old mouldings and put in new ones?’

    You know what I’m thinking here right away; an old apartment in Brooklyn? Lead paint.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh, true.

    TOM: And if you start stripping out all that clumpy moulding – paint that’s on that moulding – you may have a lead paint situation because …

    LESLIE: And you know what? He did say ‘we’ in the e-mail, which makes me believe that he’s got a family. You know, a lot of young couples are moving out to Brooklyn with small kids. And lead paint in the house is really a dangerous situation.

    TOM: You know, plus, stripping paint is just really hard work. So, in this situation …

    LESLIE: And you’re going to have to take the moulding off the wall to strip it in the first place.

    TOM: Right. So I think it’s probably easier just to replace it; you know, especially if you’re handy, Peter, and you can cut and saw moulding. You know, you can’t really go too far wrong doing trim work. It’s not structural. It’s cosmetic. And it will be a lot easier to replace the moulding. You know, it’s going to cost a few more dollars than it would cost to buy all that paint stripper but I think it will come out great. So I would definitely go for that.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and you know what, Peter? If you’re not that confident with your mitre cuts, you can do two straight joints into a corner – just butt them right up against one another – and then they sell these little post caps that sort of fit over an inset corner or an exterior corner that’ll make it look like an extra decorative detail and you don’t have to mitre a thing.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Those plinth blocks that go at the bottom of moulding at the top of corners …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … very nice. Look good; very ornate; attractive and, again, no mitres to worry about.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and they could be very appropriate to your brownstone apartment’s history; you know, in Brooklyn lots of nice, old apartments with beautiful details.

    TOM: Well, you know, we all know it’s been a very, very warm summer out there and the thought of going up into your attic might not seem like a good idea; unless, of course, you want a natural sauna. (Leslie chuckles) But adding attic insulation is always a good idea and doing that now can actually help you save money in the fall and winter. Leslie’s got the lowdown in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right, Tom. In fact, just like your body – you know, your body loses its heat through your head – your home actually loses its head through the attic. So we’re very similar here; us to our homes. In fact, the folks at the EPA’s Energy Star program recommend at least 12 inches or r38 insulation for most homes. And homes in colder climates should have around 16 inches or r49. The higher the r value the better the insulation’s ability to keep heated air from escaping, which keeps you warmer in your home and keeps your energy bills down.

    To find out exactly how much insulation you should have in your attic you want to go EnergyStar.gov. If you go to their website you can answer a few simple questions about your home’s heating system and the climate where you live and Energy Star is going to calculate the right level of insulation for your part of the country. It’s an excellent thing to know and it’s an easy to update and it’s a good time of year to do it now.

    TOM: EnergyStar.gov. I love the Energy Star program because it is one government program that actually works.

    LESLIE: Ooh. (snickers)

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We are available 24/7/365 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Plus, everything we’ve ever written about home improvement projects is on our website at 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.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2007 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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