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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: Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. This is a show that is to, for and about making your home what you want it to be. You want to improve it? You want to make it safer? You want to redecorate it? Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Because improving your home is always a great investment.

    LESLIE: Well, Tom, 2005 seemed like a really strong year for new construction of homes.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: But by December, that figure had actually dropped off by 10 percent. And these are the most recent figures we have available to us. And this could be a sign that new construction is actually tapering off and that could mean that existing homes – maybe yours – are worth even more money. So if you sold right now, do you think you would get top dollar?

    Well, this hour, we’ve got some tips to make your money pit worth even more money. So if you’ve got a home repair or a home improvement question, call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: Or you can email us to helpme@moneypit.com. You know, getting home repair chores done around the house can be a challenge; especially when you’ve got three rambunctious kids at home like me.

    LESLIE: (laughing) And they are that; I’ve seen them.

    TOM: Yes, they are. Yes, they are. But you know what? If you get the kids involved, the chores can actually become a bonding experience. No, Leslie, it’s not slave labor.

    LESLIE: (laughing) I think it is.

    TOM: It is not slave labor. Although it does come in very handy, once in a while (laughing), when you want the kids to help you with a home improvement project. And you know what? Our guess this hour, Mark Clement, actually wrote an entire book about that. He wrote a book called the ‘Kid’s Carpenter’s Workbook.’ He’s going to come on and talk to us about some tips for having your kids help you with your carpentry projects.

    LESLIE: Well, we’ve got a great prize, this hour, to start those kids off right with some high-quality tools like the ones we’re going to be giving away from IRWIN. It’s going to be a prize package with all kinds of goodies including a saw, a level, a laser guide and pliers. It’s worth about $250; this is a huge prize. And you are automatically entered to win when you ask us your home improvement or repair question on the air.

    TOM: So let’s get to those calls. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. Sarge from Wisconsin listens to The Money Pit on WAGN and you’ve got a question about a hot water pump. What can we do for you?

    SARGE: My wife requested this for Christmas, believe it or not, to get the hot water to your faucet faster so you don’t have to run so much water; the hot water will always be there.

    TOM: Well, basically, you have a faucet that’s far from the water heater itself.

    SARGE: Right.

    TOM: And you want a way to get the water there faster. Problem is that if you do that, you’re going to be running that water back through the heater much more frequently than you have right now. And as a result, it’s going to cost you a lot more to heat the water. So you can put a loop in the plumbing system that brings water back and circulates it back through the heater. But what this means is that you’re going to have the hot water pipe and the return pipe be warm all the time. That means the water heater’s going to run all the time and that’s going to cost you a pile of money to heat the water.

    SARGE: Okay.

    TOM: Now, if you want to try to do it a different way, you might think about putting in a second water heater. But it involves replumbing your house, Sarge, to have a shorter run. Another way to save money with a water heater is to replace the tanked water heater with a tankless water heater which is a little more expensive to buy up front, but it saves you a lot more money because you’re only paying for the water when you actually use it. But in any event, that’s not going to deliver water to you any quicker.

    SARGE: Okay. Is there anything … I thought I read somewhere about a convection pump or … it wouldn’t be a pump then, I guess, just …

    TOM: Hmm. Nope. Not familiar with that. I mean it’s basically a simple loop of pipe that’s installed into your house. If you want to have it be hot all the time, you’ve got to have a return loop back to the water heater on the domestic hot water side; but that means you’re going to have to keep it hot all the time and that’s going to cost you more money.

    SARGE: Okay. Appreciate the advice.

    TOM: Alright, Sarge. Thanks so much for calling us.

    LESLIE: You have to get her a different gift.

    SARGE: (chuckling) I guess so. Or a diamond or something, ay?

    TOM: There you go.

    LESLIE: It’s just as good.

    SARGE: Yes, definitely.

    SARGE: You know what, Sarge? She really doesn’t want the water heater. She’s just trying to kind of get you to feel guilty so you buy her something that she really does want.

    LESLIE: Oh. All I know is one year my mom asked for a treadmill and treadmill actually meant diamond earrings.

    SARGE: There you go.

    LESLIE: And when she got that treadmill, she was mad. (laughing)

    SARGE: This could mean Corvette.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: Yeah, you’ve got to understand the code.

    SARGE: Yeah, right.

    LESLIE: Yeah, take apart the letters and rescramble them and I bet it spells out Corvette. (laughing)

    SARGE: Sounds great.

    TOM: Thank you so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ellen in Massachusetts seems to be having a painting problem. What’s happening, Ellen?

    ELLEN: Hi. We have an old farmhouse – and I mean really old; it was built in 1750.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: Wow.

    ELLEN: Really old. (chuckling) And we’ve had it for 30 years and for 30 years we have had problems with the paint on the exterior peeling off.

    LESLIE: What are the exterior walls made out of?

    ELLEN: Well, we replaced the siding, about eight years ago, with new cedar siding. But that didn’t help. They told us that would help but it didn’t.

    TOM: Well, if you’re having a problem with paint adhesion, usually there’s a moisture source for that. There’s moisture in the walls that’s, basically, wicking out and causing the paint not to stick.

    LESLIE: And the cedar is like a great source for the water to just sort of stick into and feed into.

    TOM: Now, when you put the cedar up, did you prime it?

    ELLEN: Yes. And, supposedly, they left … they let it sit to be sure it dried out and everything. But we have a stone and dirt basement – the original foundation and basement – which definitely are very damp and we do believe that is the problem. Someone said to us maybe we should try to put an interior wall in the basement. We don’t know how to get rid of the moisture …

    TOM: Alright. Well, let’s talk about ways you can reduce the humidity levels inside your house. I’m going to guess that you have a hot water heating system. Is that correct?

    ELLEN: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. Well, hot water systems are far moister than hot air systems and you can’t really use a whole home dehumidifier with that because you don’t have a duct system. Are you air conditioned?

    ELLEN: Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t understand your question. We have an oil … we have an oil burner …

    TOM: Right.

    ELLEN: … and it’s forced hot air.

    TOM: Oh, it is forced hot air. Oh, perfect.

    ELLEN: Yes, it’s forced hot air. I misunderstood your question. So it’s not …

    TOM: Here’s what I would recommend you do. First of all, on the basement question. Let’s talk, Leslie, about outside drainage.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you want to think about a couple of things. When you’re dealing with your gutter situation on the outside of your house, you want to make sure that those gutters are always as clean and clear as you can possibly maintain them. This way, the water is actually staying in them and running down those downspouts; instead of spilling over and hitting directly into your foundation.

    Now, with the downspouts, you want to make sure, Ellen, that the downspouts are depositing the water about three to six feet away from your house. You want to make sure that they’re not just depositing the water, again, directly into your foundation.

    And then, you also want to look at your grading on the exterior of the house. You want to make sure that the ground slopes away from the house and you want it to go down about six inches over four feet. So it really is a gradual slope but it’s enough to sort of make all moisture move away from the house. And that will help a great deal.

    TOM: Now, Ellen, after you get the grading and the drainage conditions straightened out to reduce the overall moisture that’s getting in there, let’s talk about managing what’s left. I asked you about your heating system. You said you have a forced air system. What I’m going to recommend is that you have installed a whole-house dehumidifier. Not …

    LESLIE: You will be amazed at the amount of water it pulls out of the air inside your home in one day.

    TOM: Yeah, it takes out like 90 pints of water a day. A whole-home dehumidifier is … becomes part of your HVAC system. It’s not the kind of humidifier that sits in your basement with the pan that you have to empty. It’s different. It’s installed into the home’s heating system itself; has to be professionally installed. It’s made by Aprilaire.

    LESLIE: But it’s pretty easy to do.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. On Aprilaire.com you can get information about that. And that’s going to take out a lot of humidity in the house. And I suspect when you get the drainage conditions straightened out and you dry out the home, you’re going to have a lot fewer painting problems. Because that water finds its way right through those walls and wicks right out. And I’ve seen that happen with cedar time and time again and it always comes back to a managing-the-moisture situation.

    ELLEN: Well, thank you very much. After 30 years, if we can solve this, it would be wonderful. (laughing)

    TOM: Yeah, well, we’re so happy to be able to help you do that. Ellen, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, Money Pit listeners. Are you looking for a quick and easy way to save money on your energy bills?

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: I know; who isn’t? Everyone’s on that bandwagon this season. Well, a good and easy way to save some dough is to insulate your hot water heater with a blanket. But if you’re not sure exactly how to do that, you can find step by step instructions at moneypit.com. If you go to the Repair and Improve section, right now, you will find a complete list of materials and exact directions to do just that.

    TOM: Well, besides saving money on energy projects, how about doing some improvements that could give yourself a little more elbow room? Want to take on a remodeling project or an addition? Wondering what the difference between those is anyway? Is one harder than the other? We will help sort out this home improvement dictionary, next.

    (promo, theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being sponsored by Peerless. If you’re putting in a new bathroom or kitchen faucet, Peerless can help you with every step including the hardest one – getting that old faucet out. For a complete undo-it-yourself guide, visit the Peerless faucet coach at faucetcoach.com.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. So now, if you want to give yourself a little more space, you can take on either a home addition or remodeling project. They both do start with an existing structure. The difference is this – a remodel actually changes an existing area of the structure and an addition adds more space to the structure; hence the term add-ition. (laughing)

    To decide which is best to suit your needs, you need to check local zoning laws. Because while remodeling is entirely possible to do within the confines of the four walls of your house, an addition may not. Even though your entire neighborhood could have, for example, an extension to the garage, you may be the one that fell after some law was changed that affected zoning and you might not be able to do it. So remodeling projects are always, usually, easier to do than additions. To determine which is most cost effective for you, you need to check the zoning laws before you pick up that hammer.

    LESLIE: Okay. And do you want to know which five home improvements bring the biggest return on your investment?

    TOM: I do.

    LESLIE: Well, who doesn’t? And the answer is in next week’s e-newsletter so sign up for your free Money Pit e-newsletter, now, at moneypit.com. They’re always chock full of information and they’re free right into your email inbox. So sign up now.

    And to get started on those improvements, how about a whole kit of tools to add to your DIY arsenal? It’s from IRWIN and Strait-Line and the prize package comes with more than two dozen tools including – this is a ton of them – vise grip groove lock pliers, fast release pliers, a MARATHON carpenter saw – yes it runs 26 miles (laughing) – a Pro Touch utility knife with extra blades, work site gloves, Strait-Line Grip-Light, a torpedo level, an entire set of vise grip pliers and a giant, soft-sided bag to keep everything in. It’s worth 250 bucks but it could be yours for free if you call in and we answer your question on the air. So call in now and be one of those lucky callers.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. You must be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: David in Nevada has a question about a damaged roof. Well, the good news is I don’t think it rains very much in Nevada. Does it, David?

    DAVID: No, it doesn’t rain too much but we get … where I live, we get a fair amount of snow.

    LESLIE: Ah, and you’re in that now. How’s … what happened to the roof? How’s the damage?

    DAVID: Well, it was wind damage and it kind of tore some of the shingling off the tar paper, I guess it is. And my problem is I’ve got a pitched roof and then, in another spot, I’ve got a flat roof. And I’m not quite sure how to go about fixing it. I just got the house just a little while back.

    TOM: The part of shingles that actually blew off – those were, of course, the pitched roof or did you lose some … did you have some damage to the flat roof, too?

    DAVID: The damage seems to be mostly on the flat roof.

    TOM: Oh, okay. What kind of material is being used, right now, to do that flat roof? Do you know? Is it an asphalt based material? Does it look like a shingle but it’s run in sheets? It might be roll roofing.

    DAVID: It’s roll roofing.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s the least expensive flat or low-slope roof material and it really doesn’t last very long. I would recommend – if you’re having that kind of damage – that you …

    LESLIE: Well, and can you even repair that? Because it’s a sheet product, can you go in and patch what’s broken off?

    TOM: Not that successfully. I mean is it a … is the flat roof really big? How big is it?

    DAVID: Oh, it’s probably 12 by, oh maybe, 30.

    TOM: Well, that’s not terrible. If it was my house, I would replace the roll roofing. I hate roll roofing material. It really doesn’t last very long. Even in a perfect installation, I’ve rarely seen that stuff last more than five years. So I would choose an elastameric product; something like a modified bitumen. It’s like a rubbery asphalt material that goes down. You’re going to want to have some sort of a coating on it. In the climate that you’re in, in Nevada, you’re probably going to want to use a fibrous aluminum paint when you’re done; that’s going to reflect some of the UV rays of the sun and stop the material from deteriorating.

    But start with the flat roof and make sure that goes up and under the shingles. And as far as the wind damage is concerned, you can use a high-wind shingle. They have hurricane proof, so to speak, shingles that have different glue in them. And they actually stand up to those high winds that you might be getting coming off those mountains.

    DAVID: Uh-huh. Well, right now, even the pitched part is rolled.

    TOM: Ah, the pitch is rolled as well? Yeah. You know, it sounds to me like you could patch this right now, Dave, but roll roofing is just really a low-quality roofing material. And you’re just not going to get a lot of longevity out if and you’re going to continue to have these issues.

    LESLIE: Well, and you’ll end up spending more money repairing it than the lifetime of satisfaction you’ll get if you replace it with a quality roofing product.

    TOM: You know, here’s a thought. This was weather-related damage. You could place a claim under your homeowner’s policy for that.

    DAVID: Uh-huh. Yeah, but I still want to know how to get it done properly.

    TOM: Well, that’s fine. I’m suggesting a way that you could finance some of that work, though. Because, I think, in the best possible situation, you’re going to want to replace that with a better quality material. And if part of that cost could come from your insurance policy, then heck, why not?

    DAVID: Yeah, you bet. Now, what were you calling that, for the flat part? Modified what?

    TOM: Modified bitumen. It’s called modified bitumen.

    DAVID: Could you spell that for me?

    TOM: Yeah. Well, now this is the tough one, right? See, I never did well in spelling.

    LESLIE: (laughing) I’m like, ‘Don’t ask me.’

    TOM: That’s b-i-t-u-m-e-n; bitumen. David, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Satisfied guy; writing down his answer, knows exactly what to get. Phil in Pennsylvania wants to talk about geothermal furnaces. I know it’s Tom’s favorite subject. How can we help, Phil?

    PHIL: I recently went to a fair up here in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. And this guy had this stand set up there and he was kind of … a little air conditioner set up and blowing and what not. Well, I have a forced air furnace; it’s natural gas. And he said that if I switched over furnaces, it would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of, oh, eight to ten thousand dollars that I … it’d be like burying a gas tank in my backyard and I’d be able to save a lot of money with these geothermal furnaces. What could you tell me about it? Is that true?

    TOM: So you have a perfectly functioning gas furnace, right now. The guy wants 10 grand to convert you to an electric geothermal system, correct?

    PHIL: Correct.

    TOM: Big mistake. You know, the first choice on fuel for heating your home, in terms of cost, is gas. Even though gas is more expensive this year and gas and oil are going to continue to go up, it would have to go up an enormous amount for me to recommend a heat pump or a geothermal heat pump or electric heat pump over that. That would be sort of my … probably my third to fourth choice. First, I’d take gas; then, I’d take oil; then, I’d take propane; then, I might take a geothermal heat pump; and then, I might take an electric heat pump; and after that comes electric resistance heat. (laughing) That would be the order of events, in my mind.

    LESLIE: (laughing) I can see why it’s your favorite, Tom.

    TOM: Yeah, you know why? Because you have to put in the … it basically uses the constant temperature of the ground, as part of the refrigeration cycle, to heat and cool your house. And anytime I’ve seen these and talked to the guys that install them about warranties and things like that, they’ll say, ‘Well, that ground loop’s warranteed for 25 years.’ ‘Yeah, but does that include labor?’ ‘Well, no.’ (chuckling) You know? But what if you have to tear up your whole ground to replace it if you have a break in that thermal loop?

    But more to the point of your question – since you already have gas, I would definitely not switch off of gas and go geothermal. No way, no how.

    PHIL: Well, I really appreciate clearing that up for me.

    TOM: Alright, Phil. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: He was blinded by the cotton candy; that’s what it was.

    TOM: The last time I answered that question that way, I got hate mail from like the geothermal association. So we’ll see what happens.

    LESLIE: (overlapping) Ah. Slippery slope, Tom.

    TOM: But that’s how I feel about it. You know, I would not put in … I would not put geothermal in if I had gas; I’d use gas first.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, when you’ve got projects around the house that need to get done and you’ve also got children who need care, why not combine the two and make it a day of bonding for both parents and kids. Coming up, tips on how to get your kids safely involved. So stay with us.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed smart humidifiers. Aprilaire’s computer-equipped, completely automated, no-touch humidifiers never need manual adjustments. Advanced computer technology measures the outdoor temperature and indoor humidity over 86,000 times a day and continually adjusts your home’s indoor humidity for maximum comfort. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. So Leslie, take it from me; it is not easy to get home improvement projects done around the house when you’ve got kids. Now …

    LESLIE: Yeah, you always make it work.

    TOM: I do, I do. And you know, I try to spend as much time as I can with my three. But I have found that one of the best ways to bond and get chores done is to involve them in home maintenance projects. Now, some may think of that as slave labor (laughing), but you know what? It works well and it’s a good family bonding time.

    LESLIE: (laughing) Slave labor; fond memories. Whatever you call it.

    TOM: Exactly. Whatever you want to call it.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s exactly what our next guest found, too. Mark Clement has regularly shared home improvement expertise on The Discovery Channel and PBS, among many others. And when he’s not writing or talking about construction, Mark is renovating his own 100-year-old home. And he’s here to talk about the follow-up to his acclaimed book, ‘The Carpenter’s Notebook.’ And it’s called, appropriately, ‘The Kid’s Carpenter’s Workbook.’ Welcome, Mark.

    MARK: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie. Nice to be back.

    TOM: Well, it’s nice to have you. And this is a little bit of a change from your original book that we interviewed you on some time ago. This is a chance for you to kind of express what has been going on at your house. I know that you have a lovely daughter named Lexie.

    MARK: Lexie.

    TOM: Lexie. And has Lexie inspired you to be a better carpenter?

    MARK: She absolutely … we have been making projects together. She’s four years old and we’ve been making projects together since she was … how old, Lexie? Two?

    LEXIE : Yes. Two, two.

    TOM: (laughing) Lexie’s there?

    MARK: Yeah, she’s here; she’s with me. She …

    TOM: Mark, can we talk to Lexie?

    MARK: Yeah, you can. Let me put her on the phone.

    TOM: Okay.

    LEXIE: Hi.

    TOM: Lexie? Hi, Lexie.

    LEXIE : Hi, you guys.

    TOM: Hey, Lexie. Are you doing carpenter jobs with your dad around your house?

    LEXIE: Yep!

    TOM: Alright!

    LEXIE: And a Buffalo (ph) and Daddy are fixing our bathroom.

    LESLIE: And what have you worked on in the bathroom?

    LEXIE: The bath … the bathroom doesn’t work, you guys. Upstairs; the upstairs bathroom. But our little … our guest’s bathroom is so small that they can’t even fix it. (laughing) I’d rather work on the bigger bathroom.

    TOM: So your daddy … Daddy’s a good carpenter but he can’t make that bathroom grow, huh? (laughing) Hey, Lexie?

    LEXIE: What?

    TOM: Do you have a tool belt that you put nails in and tools?

    LEXIE: Yep. I do.

    LESLIE: What color is your tool belt?

    LEXIE: Brown.

    LESLIE: Me, too. I like the brown ones.

    LEXIE: Me, too.

    TOM: Has Daddy helped you build a dollhouse?

    LEXIE: Yeah. Actually, Daddy made it. There’s only three parts and three sides and (one big) top because the top was a little bit of something really important (laughing) but Daddy made it.

    TOM: Something very important but Daddy made it. (laughing)

    LEXIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Lexie, you are wonderful.

    LEXIE: Thanks.

    TOM: Can we talk to Daddy, now?

    MARK: Hey, Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: You’re just training her so she can fix up your house later.

    MARK: (laughing) Well, I’ll tell you. Once … whether or not I wrote ‘Kid’s Carpenter’s Workbook’ or not, it doesn’t matter. Because the thing that I learned the most, building these projects with Lexie – which I would have made anyway – is that building stuff with your kids is a way to show kids that they can do way more than you … than they think they can. And this is a way to do it with you leading the way.

    LESLIE: Well, now, if she started helping you when she was two, what kind of tasks were you assigning her at that age? You know, obviously, safety’s an issue; but you want them to feel like they’re really involved. So what was she doing?

    TOM: Yeah, do you start with the compound mitre box? (laughing)

    MARK: (laughing) Exactly. Twenty-two pound rotary hammer.

    TOM: There you go. (laughing)

    MARK: No. We did in real life what we do, also, in ‘Kid’s Carpenter’s Workbook’; which is we do something called parallel play. So I would be doing something with tools in a shop; and I would give her another sort of related task. Like turning screws with a screwdriver or, when she was very little, she was just handling a screwdriver and knocking stuff and pretending she was fixing it.

    TOM: Hey, that’s a great tip. We’re talking to Mark Clement; he is the author of the ‘Kid’s Carpenter’s Workbook.’ That’s available at kidscarpentersworkbook.com. For information on how to get that book, you can call 202-425-4695. 202-425-4695. Also available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

    So Mark, what do you think is the most important thing to teach a kid when it comes to working with tools and working around the house? Does it have anything to do with building confidence and working safely; making it fun? What’s the most important thing?

    MARK: It’s totally about those things. And to say there’s a most important thing is saying like there’s a most important player on a team; and there’s really not. It all goes together. Focus, discipline, spatial relationships, fun – it’s mostly fun. I teach Lexie to count. She can read a tape measure. In fact, she can count in about four languages.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: Really?

    MARK: Yeah, we play games, you know? She can count in Japanese and Spanish and English and in French.

    TOM: And in your new book, you have the projects for … ‘Kid’s Carpenter’s Workbook’ has a … five different family-friendly projects: kid’s toolbox, the step-up stool, sandbox, lemonade stand and the seesaw. Sounds all like fun projects. I know that we built a lemonade stand with my kids and they’re very, very cute and I made a few bucks on it, too. (laughing)

    MARK: There you go. (laughing) The best part of these projects, too, is in case you’re a beginning home improvement person or beginning … you’re maybe not too sure about what’s going on with tools. All the projects are really pretty easy but, at the same time, you get something super cool at the end of it. It’s a good mix.

    LESLIE: Well, and it just builds so many wonderful memories. And those are going to be some great things that she’ll cherish when she’s much older. And she’ll know that she spent some good time with you. So, well done.

    MARK: Leslie, thank you. And I’m glad you said that, too, because at the end of the day, it’s about … it’s not about making things; it’s about making memories.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s this private, special thing that she does with you; and that’s so wonderful. And I did the same with my dad and it instilled so much in me. So, I think you’re doing a great job.

    MARK: Oh, thank you very much.

    TOM: Mark Clement, author of ‘Kid’s Carpenter’s Workbook.’ Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Well, the frame of your house usually provides support and a good base for the outer layers. Now, usually, wood is used for the frame. But there are other materials out there that can make those walls even stronger. When we come back, we’ll feature the best framing materials for your home.

    (promo, theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by the amazing Telesteps Telescoping Ladder which extends from 30 inches to 12-and-a-half feet in a matter of seconds. Available online at rewci.com or by calling, toll-free, 888-845-6597. Take advantage of free shipping now. And don’t forget to mention coupon code ‘Money Pit’ and receive five percent off your purchase today.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. So Leslie, wood framing is fairly the norm, right?

    LESLIE: Of course. That’s the way you build a house.

    TOM: That’s the way you build a house, right. Well, now there are new, more modern frames that actually can be even stronger than wood. Of course, there’s steel framing. And you know, they used to build homes out of steel after World War II when all the GIs were coming home and they needed to really bang out a lot of housing really, really fast. So they used a lot of steel then.

    LESLIE: Yeah, but is that more expensive?

    TOM: Well, today it’s making a little bit of a comeback. But my problem with that is that there’s a lot of thermal conductivity right through the wall because of the steel stud. I think a much better alternative is something called an insulated concrete form. Have you ever seen these homes?

    LESLIE: Are they like concrete blocks? Are they sort of embedded with plastic?

    TOM: Well, basically, they are blocks; they look like big, foam blocks. And they lock together … think of a LEGO block but one that’s just huge.

    LESLIE: So like a giant LEGO house.

    TOM: Like a giant LEGO house; that’s exactly right. And …

    LESLIE: That sounds fun.

    TOM: … they snap the blocks together and then they put, inside the blocks, the actual steel reinforcement for the concrete, which is the next step. They actually pour the concrete into the hollow cores of these blocks. And so the wall, when it’s done, it becomes a solid, rock hard, concrete wall but the foam stays on the outside of it which gives you great insulation.

    LESLIE: And then do you still put in studs to, then, drywall? Or just …

    TOM: Well, you don’t have to because the plastic webs that these foam blocks are supported by are air-entrained. What that means is that you can actually screw into the plastic webs.

    LESLIE: And how do you, then, determine where these webs are to hang shelving?

    TOM: Ah ha! Now there is a question that only you would think of. Because stud finders don’t detect plastic. However, since it’s modular, once you find one you know where all the others are.

    LESLIE: Well, then, that sounds pretty cool.

    TOM: Yeah, it is pretty cool. You know, if you build a concrete form house like that, you can actually downsize your heating and cooling system by a third because they’re just so super-insulated.

    LESLIE: That sounds really great. So you’d be saving a ton of money and especially with these high energy bills, you might – if you’re building a new home – think about this.

    TOM: Exactly. So if you’re building a concrete house, you probably wouldn’t, however, need the prize we’re giving away this hour (laughing), which includes a lot of woodworking tools. For the rest of you that are building wood houses, this prize is for you if you call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and ask a home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Yeah, but even if you do have one of these concrete homes, I’m sure you doing something inside that one of these two dozen tools will address. And it’s a great prize. It’s from IRWIN and Strait-Line and it’s a whole kit of tools which will just enhance your DIY arsenal. And the prize package comes with more than two dozen tools including a vise grip groove lock pliers, fast release pliers, a MARATHON carpenter saw, a Pro Touch utility knife with spare blades, work site gloves, Strait-Line Grip-Light, a torpedo level, an entire set of vise grip pliers and a humongo, giant, soft-sided bag to keep everything in so you’ll always know where it is. It’s worth 250 bucks and somebody win it because oh, my God, I can’t stop talking about it!

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Gary in Virginia listens to The Money Pit on Free FM – WJFK. What can we do for you?

    GARY: I have a 19 early 60s house that I’m – a fixer upper. And in the kitchen I have an electrical question that my TC (ph) ran from 12/3 wire. So, for example, to use … for two circuits. So, say, a circuit for light and a circuit for small appliances.

    TOM: Okay.

    GARY: And then down to the … down to the main – the breaker – do I have to use two-pole breakers or can I use single-pole breakers and not have a (inaudible) problem?

    TOM: No, actually, I think the best thing to do in that situation is use a two-pole. Well, why did he run 12/3? Why didn’t he just run two circuits? If he’s got to run wire; why doesn’t he just the run the wire?

    GARY: Well, to be candid with you, I spent a lot of money on the house and I’m trying to get some help that’s not costing me a fortune. And that’s why I’m calling you to make sure that what’s not costing me a fortune still does it.

    LESLIE: Is done right.

    GARY: Understand?

    TOM: Gary, with the kind of remodel that you’re doing, I would recommend that you not use one wire for that. I think you’re better off using two separate circuits. I mean you’re trying to save some money but, really, what you ought to be doing is you can use a 14 gauge, 15 amp wire for the lighting circuit. And then you can use the 12 but just use the wires that you need for the one circuit to run the small appliance circuit. This way you have two completely separate circuits to do completely dedicated circuits to each area of the house. It’s going to be a lot safer and a lot cleaner way to get that job done.

    Secondly, make sure that you get an electrical (ph) permit and make sure that you have this area inspected to make sure the electrician is doing it right. It gets pretty complicated when you’re tackling remodeling projects on existing homes. You never quite know where all that wiring is going. We want to make sure it’s done safe.

    And the other thing that comes to mind is on that kitchen counter circuit, where you have the small appliances, you also need to add ground fault circuit interrupters to protect yourselves from any shocks that could occur from that electricity getting in contact with water.

    GARY: Alright. I’m going to separate them. I really appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, replacement windows are a great option when you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient. Is this a project you can handle on your own? Well, that depends. We’ll explain, right after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being 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 prices. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. And for those of you that, perhaps, are just too shy to pick up the phone or maybe you’re too darn busy – that’s okay. You can log on to our website at moneypit.com and send us an email question through there. Moneypit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, I know some people do prefer typing to talking and, on some days, that is me. Well, TC from Pensacola, Florida writes: ‘We need to replace all of our windows and are willing to do the work ourselves.’ Well, that sounds adventurous. ‘Do you have any suggestions on where to purchase the windows and how to put them in? We have a brick home built in 1960.’

    TOM: Well, you know, putting in replacement windows has gotten easier and easier to do. And I don’t see why you can’t tackle that job yourself.

    LESLIE: You know, they’re saying … I know Marvin makes a great replacement window that comes with a full-on installation video so that you can watch this video – or DVD, now, if you’re modern – and you can really learn exactly how to do it. And all it takes is some pretty basic skills and a friend to help you pick things up.

    TOM: Yeah, really. I mean getting rid of the old window is the first step and, generally, with a replacement window you leave the actual frame of the window but you remove the sash – the part that slides up and down. So once you have that out, you simply slide the new replacement window inside that old frame.

    Now the skill part of this, TC, comes in how you trim that out. First of all, you want to make sure it fits right so you get a good energy-tight fit. But secondly, you’re going to have little portions of wood or of vinyl that are exposed on the outside that may need to be covered with some sort of trim to make it look nice and neat and pretty. And that’s kind of where the skill comes in. But if it looks like it’s going to be a fairly straight shot to get the windows to fit, no reason you can’t do them yourself.

    You can simply order those windows from your local home center or from your local window retailer and then go ahead and try to put one in. If it ends up being a problem, any decent carpenter should be able to help you. And it really doesn’t have to be that expensive a job.

    LESLIE: Now, I’m sure the outlet that you purchase that replacement window from is not going to turn you away if you come back and say, ‘You know what? I’m going to need someone to help me do the job.’ I’m sure they’ll be very happy to do so.

    TOM: That’s right. If you have the courage to admit that you’re in over your head (laughing), they will most likely help you out.

    LESLIE: Alright, do we have time for another one?

    TOM: Let’s do it.

    LESLIE: Okay. Judy from California writes: ‘We have a 1960s patio room. How can we keep the rain out of the odd size screened windows? The old plastic sheeting ones are gone. Frame’s too bent and plastic has deteriorated. We are using this as a workout room and want the equipment protected.’ Well, that makes sense.

    TOM: You know, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen rooms that weren’t really designed to be interior rooms but people keep trying all sorts of ways to convert them. If it’s not building an odd-size window, it’s like sticking a heating duct through the wall. The truth is, if you want your walls to be water tight, you have to build them in the same way that you would build them if it was new construction. It’s got to be framed and supported properly if you want to support the window.

    If you want to make a homemade window or screens that can be – windows can be removed – you can do that. But it’s, generally, not going to last that long, Judy. So our suggestion would be to actually frame those windows in and purchase some replacement windows or some new construction windows. Only then are you going to get, truly, a water tight fit.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and that’s the best way to keep that equipment protected because they probably were a costly investment and they’re good for your health, too. So you want to keep them in good working condition. Well, thanks for your question, Judy.

    TOM: Well, Leslie, earlier in the show I was talking about one of my favorite forms of wall construction – the insulated concrete form. But there is another type of concrete form that is made out of, well, solid concrete. And that is the topic of today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, if you think you can’t find style and beauty in a concrete wall, there are plenty of people who do; and you might be one of them. Listen to how these walls are making a great new impression. If you use a technique called stamping, concrete walls can provide both strength and beauty to a home. The form’s, pressed into wet concrete, make attractive patterns that can be left natural or colored using a paste of color hardener, acrylic bonder and water. The result is a wall which is both highly durable and attractive and maintenance free to make your home’s exterior very beautiful and very durable.

    TOM: So you know why I like concrete as a wall construction material?

    LESLIE: Why?

    TOM: It’s a solid investment.

    LESLIE: Ha ha ha.

    TOM: That’s all the time we have on this hour of the program. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2006 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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