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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (Note: The timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show.)


    (theme song, commercial)

    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: Welcome, welcome, welcome to this hour of the program. 1-888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number. Call us right now with your home improvement questions, with your do-it-yourself dilemmas, with those jobs that you want to get done to make your house more comfortable, more safe and just plain more fun to be around.

    LESLIE: (laughing) And heck, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner; so if you need a fix-it-up for your sweetie we can help you out with that. So call in for some gift and Valentine-y advice.

    TOM: Or perhaps some romantic home improvements we could discuss. (laughing) Like, you know, how to install a whirlpool tub. Perhaps how to …

    Leslie Segrete: I was going to go somewhere completely more gross with that but I’m not going to.

    TOM: (laughing) No, maybe some romantic lighting. Perhaps some sconces on dimmers. You know?

    LESLIE: We could … we can show them the 45 cent dimmer.

    TOM: There you go.

    LESLIE: Instant romance.

    TOM: (chuckling) 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Not only will we share our home improvement advice with you – for what that’s worth. We will also give you something far more valuable, and that is a chance to win a great prize from our friends at Ryobi. It is the Ryobi MultiTASKit. It is a cool new product.

    LESLIE: It’s super-duper cool.

    TOM: It does all kinds of stuff.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s cool. It’s got a laser-head attachment, a working light attachment, a magnetic tray so you’re not going to lose your bits and bobs while you’re doing your job. And the coolest is it has a helping hand attachment so if you’re working on something on your own, you can actually do it without anybody else’s help. So really cool product.

    TOM: Yeah. I prefer the helping hand attachment because, otherwise, I have to ask someone in my family.

    LESLIE: No back talk?

    TOM: Yeah, no back talk. (laughing) Exactly. No complaints, you know. No ‘you’re not listening to me,’ ‘I’m trying.’

    LESLIE: ‘I’m tired. I don’t want to do this project anymore.’

    TOM: (chuckling) Exactly. ‘Do your own darn home improvement project.’ (laughing) So it’s worth 50 bucks. Going to give it away to one caller whose name we will draw, at random, from all callers to the program. You must come on the air and ask your home improvement question. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Gary in Delaware’s about to start a bathroom renovation. How can we help?

    GARY: I have a … I just bought a house. It’s about 75 years old.

    LESLIE: Congratulations.

    GARY: Thanks, thanks. First-time home buyer. And looking to improve the bathroom; it needs some repair, upstairs. It’s … the whole house is the knob and tube sort of older wiring.

    LESLIE: Ooh.

    TOM: Right. Not good.

    GARY: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Wondering if when I’m in there redoing this bathroom – I’m going to pretty much rip the floor out, put some wainscoting on the walls, do the whole deal – is that a time to try to upgrade that wiring? Is that something I should …?

    LESLIE: That’s something you should do first and foremost.

    GARY: But if I’m not doing the whole house, should I do just the bathroom?

    TOM: Well, you definitely should always … if you expose knob and tube wiring, you should always replace it wherever it’s convenient to do so. Let me explain to you why. First of all, knob and tube wiring – for those that are not familiar with it – is a wiring system that was first installed like in the 30s. It really was the first centrally installed wiring system. Before you had the telephone pole with the wire that came to your house and that’s where you had your power. This was the first version of an installed electrical system. And it’s called knob and tube because the wires are strung through the home on knobs and through tubes …

    LESLIE: And those are made out of ceramic.

    TOM: And they’re ceramic, right. Now, the reason that they used the tubes and the knobs is because the wires need to be suspended in mid air to cool properly. So you can’t have them go under insulation and things like that. So it’s not …

    LESLIE: And being that you live in Delaware, your house is most likely insulated. And if the knob and tube wiring is still operating and the insulation is sitting on top of it or near it, the wiring isn’t getting enough circulation or ventilation with the air as it needs to operate safely and you could have a really dangerous fire hazard.

    TOM: Yeah. And the other thing to worry about is that it’s not a grounded system and it’s not groundable. So it’s really an unsafe system. It has open air electrical splices and just all sorts of reasons it’s not good. So we always recommend, whenever possible, replacing that wiring. Now, sometimes I’ve seen – in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector – many people will just replace the main electrical panel. But that’s not the issue. The issue is really the wires where they go through the house and through the wall. So I think you asked a small question and we just gave you a bigger project to do.

    GARY: Yeah. And the electrical – the box itself has been replaced, downstairs, like you said. But ‘inaudible.’ But it’s still up to code, I mean as far as that goes.

    TOM: Well, but code … see, it’s not really up to code because if it was a new house, it would be more modern. See, code does not make you – force you – to upgrade old technology. I mean an aluminum wired house – which is a major fire hazard – is up to code, technically; because the code doesn’t require you to replace it. It’s not really up to code in the sense that it’s unsafe. It’s just not worth having in your house and we would highly recommend that you take every opportunity that you can to replace it.

    Now, you can check circuits and attack those circuits one at a time. You can do the ones in the basement; you can do the ones in the attic. Depending on how your house is shaped, you run new circuits the easiest way. Typically, you just de-energize the old stuff; you don’t rip it out but you run new circuits where you need, to be able to restore power.

    But, for all those reasons, it’s really not safe. It’s a real fire hazard and it’s a real safety hazard.

    LESLIE: Well now, since he’s doing the bathroom and there’s the knob and tube wiring in there, can you – when you put new outlets in, can you put the ground fault circuit interrupter outlets in? Or does that not even function with the knob and tube?

    TOM: No, you can’t wire a ground fault to a knob and tube. I mean you … there’s probably a way to jury-rig it but it’s very, very unsafe. I would definitely run a new circuit from the nearest three-wire circuits you have or run it straight from the panel up and install it with a ground fault circuit breaker. Because a ground fault, basically, senses somebody getting a shock; it senses a diversion of current to ground. And if 2/1000 of an amp of electricity goes to ground – which is not enough to hurt you – it turns the circuit off. So, in order to have that level of safety, you do need to replace the wiring.

    GARY: Alright.

    LESLIE: Sorry, Gary.

    TOM: That’ll teach you to call us, won’t it?

    GARY: (chuckling) I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Yes, we can take a small project and make it bigger than you ever, ever imagined.

    LESLIE: (laughing) Meanwhile, Gary is like hanging up the phone being like, ‘I wanted to ask about tile.’ (laughing) Oh, well.

    TOM: Yeah, he forgot his question. (laughing) Alright. Well, we gave him good advice; we can do the same for you. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Brian tunes in to The Money Pit in California on KQKE – The Quake. And you’ve got a question about mold in the home. Have you seen some?

    BRIAN: I’ve got a lot of mold in the house.

    TOM: Uh-oh.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s not good.

    BRIAN: No. It’s a two-story house and actually got mold on both floors and it seems to be eating the walls alive, almost.

    TOM: Well, let’s … describe the mold. You say it’s on the walls. So it’s on the drywall?

    BRIAN: It’s on the drywall. So we’ve got drywall on almost all the walls and, of course, painted over. And it’s thickest at the bottom – the base of the wall – and kind of thins out as it goes up.

    LESLIE: What color is the mold?

    BRIAN: The mold is gray.

    LESLIE: That sounds like the dangerous kind, the …

    TOM: Stachybotrys.

    LESLIE: Thank you.

    TOM: Yeah. The first thing you need to do is have the mold tested before you do anything else. Because you need to understand what you’re dealing with and determine whether or not it’s a toxic mold, Brian. So …

    LESLIE: The toxic molds can make you very, very sick over the long run.

    TOM: Yeah and … it really can.

    BRIAN: Yeah, and that’s what I’ve heard. Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah.

    BRIAN: Is there a … I guess the only place I’ve seen to get it tested are people who … the testers also … they charge a couple hundred dollars to test your mold and your house and then they’ll take that fee off of the fee they charge for removing the mold – off several thousands of dollars.

    TOM: You can find a lab that does testing. There are microbiology labs around that can simply read that. I mean there’s … I’m on the other side of the country. I know one right here that will take a sample from anywhere in America and read it for you for about 60 bucks.

    BRIAN: Oh, really?

    TOM: And so you don’t have to go to a contractor and have that done. You just need to find a microbiology lab. And, typically, what you do is you take a sample of it by taking a piece of scotch tape –

    BRIAN: Right.

    TOM: – clear tape – and you press it into the mold, pull it off and slip that inside of a plastic sandwich bag and send that to the biologist. And they read it and they’ll tell you what it is. If it turns out that it’s …

    BRIAN: And you can do this through the mail, it sounds like?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Yeah, you can FedEx it. Sure. Mail it or FedEx it. And if it turns out that it’s a toxic mold, now you’re going to have to look into mold remediation. Now is this a home that you own or one that you rent?

    BRIAN: It’s a home we own. Yeah.

    TOM: You’ve got to really look into this because it’s not going to get any better.

    BRIAN: Yeah.

    TOM: And you may need to get a sick building investigator in there to try to figure out the best steps to get it remediated. But it can make you super sick so it’s definitely not something you want to mess around with.

    BRIAN: Uh-huh. Is it usually a case of mold coming from inside the room? Like just air that’s humid or is it inside the walls coming out kind of thing?

    TOM: (overlapping) It’s usually a case of moisture. It’s usually a case of moisture. Mold needs three things to grow: it needs a food so the drywall’s a really good food …

    LESLIE: They love it.

    TOM: … because it’s organic.

    LESLIE: Because it’s paper; it’s tasty.

    TOM: Exactly. And then it needs water. And it needs air.

    LESLIE: Which is all there.

    TOM: What’s unusual is you’re that having it in both floors of the house which means you must have a lot of humidity in that house. A lot of moisture.

    BRIAN: Yeah.

    TOM: So you need to get on top of this because it sounds … it sounds to me like it’s a potentially serious problem and the longer you wait the worse it’s going to get. So you need to find out what the mold is and if it turns out it’s toxic, then you need to get it professionally removed. You can’t do it yourself because if you do, you’re going to release all those mold spores throughout the house and that could make everybody even more sick.

    LESLIE: And it’s possible that you might even need to relocate while – if it’s the toxic mold – while the work is being done. Because it’s really quite hazardous to your health.

    BRIAN: Yeah, it is. It can be a real problem, it sounds like. I wasn’t sure if the websites I saw were just kind of playing it up to charge more. And now I …

    TOM: Oh, no. It’s definitely an issue.

    LESLIE: No.

    BRIAN: Okay. Okay. I guess … I guess that’s the first step. So we find out what kind it is and then I guess I go online or something to look for somebody to take it out if it’s …

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. And if you’re having trouble and you need somebody … you need a reference to a lab, email us at helpme@moneypit.com and we’ll send one to you.

    BRIAN: Okay.

    TOM: Okay?

    BRIAN: Sounds great.

    TOM: Alright. Thanks for calling The Money Pit.

    LESLIE: Hey, are you one of those unlucky people with a wet basement? Maybe you’re wondering exactly how much paint you’ll need to paint a room. Well, whatever your home repair or home improvement question is, the answer is always available at your fingertips 24/7. Go to www.moneypit.com. You can search everything we’ve ever written about fixing up your money pit at that fantastic website. And you can sign up for our wonderful and free home improvement e-newsletter and all of that is at www.moneypit.com. So check it out.

    TOM: You know, there’s a great article there on whether you should move or improve. You know, you might be making that debate with yourself. Should I fix up my house now or should I take off, sell it and go somewhere else? Well, there actually are some things to think about that would help you; some tips that we could give you that would help you make that decision. And we’ll talk about those right after this.

    (theme song, commercials)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Kenmore, makers of the Kenmore Elite Induction Cooktop which cooks food faster and more efficiently than gas or electric ranges. To learn more, visit your local Sears store or call 1-888-KENMORE. Now, here’s Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. So Leslie, when you bought your house, was this the first house – the one that you’re in now?

    LESLIE: Oh God, yeah.

    TOM: You went from apartment like into this one, right?

    LESLIE: Correct.

    TOM: So now, if you were ever kind of getting tired of where you were or decided to move, or let’s say that you outgrew the house, you have to make this decision as to whether or not it’s more cost effective to put the addition on, to add another bathroom or bedroom or whatever you need, or to just go buy a bigger house.

    LESLIE: Well, I think it depends on what it is you’re looking to do. If it’s ultimately going to improve the return value of your home, then go for it. But if it’s kind of a moot point, then go somewhere else, I think.

    TOM: Well, exactly. You know, remodeling can have a big price tag if you’re remodeling the right components of your house. And as long as you’re not over-improving for the neighborhood. But something that people don’t think about is that moving actually has some hidden costs as well. When you move, you’re probably going to spend at least five percent of that cost of the new house just on fixing up the new house. I mean think about it. The paint, the wallpaper, the changes to your normal day-to-day habits of where you’re driving and things like that all adds up.

    LESLIE: Well and if you’re anything like me … it’s like I have to have all of those things done even before I would get to my new place just so I wouldn’t have to deal with it while in it.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. But that all adds up. So a lot of financial things to think about if you’re going to move or improve. If you do decide to improve, remember, don’t over-improve for your neighborhood because if you do, you’re not going to get the return on investment. Some home improvements do give you a good return on investment: bathrooms, kitchens, things like that. But others have the same value of perhaps a used vacation. It’s fun while you’re there (laughing) but there’s no resale value there.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that tan does not last forever.

    TOM: That’s right. So if you just have sort of a unique decorating style – perhaps you really love that velvet wallpaper …

    LESLIE: (laughing) And people do.

    TOM: … hey, enjoy it, go for it. But don’t expect the next guy to like it.

    LESLIE: (laughing) Well, that’s a great tip and we’ve got a great prize this hour. Super-cool and really a new and sort of innovative item. It’s the Ryobi MultiTASKit – it’s a one word of fun. And basically, it’s four tools. What it does is it has that AIRgrip technology that they use, where it sucks itself to the wall; doesn’t mar, mark, leave a stain, leave any sort of … any clue to let you know that it was once adhered to your wall. And it has four attachments so it becomes four separate tools. It can be a laser level with a rotating head, it can have a work light, it can have a magnetic tray to hold all your bits while you’re working on a project, and it even has like an extra clippy hand so you can do projects that you generally would need someone else to assist you with all on your own.

    So it’s a great tool for any sort of do-it-yourselfer out there. It’s worth 50 bucks but it’s yours for free if we pick you out of the Money Pit hardhat. So call in now.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Who’s next?

    LESLIE: Jimmy in Tennessee has a septic tank problem he’d like to tackle here. How can we help?

    JIMMY: Yeah, I was just kind of wondering … I’m adding a new bedroom on along with a bathroom. And I’m running a whole new fill line – septic line – for the new part to my existing septic tank …

    TOM: Okay.

    JIMMY: … a whole separate line.

    TOM: Right.

    JIMMY: Where do I need to put the vacuum pipe that goes up through the roof? You know that so that when you flush the toilet you know it’ll get a good vacuum on it?

    TOM: (chuckling) Yeah, it’s not the vacuum pipe; it’s the vent pipe. (laughing)

    JIMMY: Yeah, yeah. The vent pipe. I’m sorry. (laughing) Sorry about that. It’s all new; I’m just doing it all myself and everything. And the way the … it’s going to be hooked up to the septic line – the fill line, septic tank line?

    TOM: Yeah. The vent pipe, Jimmy, should be right above the bathroom and it usually comes right off the toilet line – the waste line. There’s a Y and it goes up through the wall and then it goes up through the roof. And you want to make sure you clear that roof by about a foot.

    JIMMY: Okay. Now, that …

    TOM: And that lets the air into the plumbing system so that you don’t develop a vacuum – which is what you might be thinking about – and assures that all the water and the waste will roll back down to the septic tank.

    JIMMY: Yeah. Now that’s where … say, it’s going to go to the vanity, then it’s going to go to the bathtub, then to the toilet.

    TOM: Well …

    JIMMY: Do I need to extend a pipe on out past the … you know, the … the toilet so I don’t …

    TOM: All of the … you just need one vent pipe, okay?

    JIMMY: Okay.

    TOM: So you have the sink drain and you have the tub drain and you have the toilet drain all go into the same pipe …

    JIMMY: Yeah.

    TOM: But the vent pipe would come off the back of that main line and go up through the roof and out.

    JIMMY: Oh. Oh, okay. I see what you’re talking about now. Okay.

    TOM: Yeah, you didn’t have to have one in each one. Okay, Jimmy?

    JIMMY: Okay, thank you very much.

    LESLIE: (overlapping) No, wait. Tom. Does Jimmy need to be concerned that the septic tank is the proper size to handle this new addition?

    TOM: Well, that’s a good point. One additional bathroom in the septic tank. It’s probably okay because it – unless you’re really increasing the size of the house to boot, you probably would be okay with that. I wouldn’t be too concerned.

    LESLIE: Well, Randy in Nevada is looking for a different sort of heat-making device; maybe in the form of a wood and pellet burning furnace. How can we help, Randy?

    RANDY: Hi, how are you doing?

    LESLIE: Good, thanks. What can we do for you?

    RANDY: I have heard about alternate fuel additions that you can add on to your furnace. And I wondered if there was such a thing that burns either wood or wood pellets or both. That you could add into an existing furnace to cut down on the fuel bills.

    TOM: Well, I know that you can take an existing furnace that is running, for example, on oil and convert it to gas. There’s a burner that does that. I doubt you can take an existing furnace that’s running on oil or gas and convert it to wood burning because the combustion chamber is an entirely different shape.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and these furnaces don’t look anything like your conventional furnaces; they seem to be much larger.

    TOM: Well, that’s right because the combustion chamber that … where you burn the wood or you burn the pellets …

    LESLIE: Or even corn.

    TOM: … or the corn pellets – right – requires a certain amount of size and shape and space. And there’s different feed systems that attach to them. So I don’t think you’ll be able to retrofit an existing furnace. What you probably will need to do is to replace it.

    RANDY: Okay. So you suggest replace the whole furnace system then.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Before you, though … before you go to a complete pellet system, make sure you identify a good source of supply for pellets in your area or a good internet source. Because I have heard complaints from people that have made the switch to just pellet burning wood stoves and then were upset that they could not get an adequate source of supply on the pellets. And if you’re going to rely on this as your principal heating system, your problem is going to be more serious. It won’t be one of convenience; it’ll be one of necessity. So make sure you identify a good source of supply before you make the switch.

    RANDY: Do you know of any of those pellet stoves that would also have a fire chamber to accept fire wood? Or is that going to be two different animals also?

    TOM: I think it’s probably going to be two different animals. There may be one out there but usually we see them designed for multiple types of pellets and not designed for either wood or pellets.

    RANDY: Okay, great.

    TOM: Okay, Randy?

    RANDY: I appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re welcome.

    RANDY: Thanks …

    TOM: Good luck with that project and thanks for calling 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re replacing your kitchen floor, don’t let your refrigerator stand in the way of a successful job. Find out how to avoid a huge inconvenience down the road, right after this.

    (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: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show broadcasting coast to coast and floorboards to shingles to answer your home improvement question. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Alright, well let’s talk about your kitchen floor improvement job. Some flooring products like ceramic tiles or hardwood can raise the level of an existing floor, which is a problem if you’ve got built-in appliances. Suddenly your dishwasher is trapped and your refrigerator could be a problem, too. So make sure you have these items removed for repairs in the future. But be sure to take this into consideration before installation to avoid a headache. So think about it in advance. You don’t want to trap those appliances in there.

    TOM: Good advice. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Call us with your home improvement question. Maybe you’re working on your kitchen. Maybe you’re working on your bathroom. If your floors squeak, if your toilets leak; call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Margie in Maryland is looking to remove some insulation from the basement. And my first question is why?

    MARGIE: We had a new house built and with our package we got what was called the energy-efficiency package.

    TOM: Okay.

    MARGIE: And what they did in the basement, there’s like a foot of insulation that’s bolted into the concrete wall.

    TOM: Oh, they wrapped the inside walls with the batting.

    MARGIE: It’s … yeah, it’s like a foot thick.

    TOM: Yeah, it looks like big insulation blankets.

    MARGIE: Exactly.

    TOM: Right.

    MARGIE: Very, very thick.

    TOM: Yep.

    MARGIE: And so, to put our drywall up against them, my husband … I remember thinking he’s dragging his feet on doing the basement but … because he believes he needs to take all of that down in order to get normal size installation that would fit behind the drywall.

    TOM: No, no, no. He leaves it in place and then frames a wall in front of it.

    LESLIE: How much space does he need to leave between the wall – well, the framework – because it needs circulation; it needs air.

    TOM: Yeah, I mean just leave a little bit of space. But I would frame a wall in front of that. I would never attach the drywall right to the foundation.

    MARGIE: But we have another circumstance where they didn’t run enough electric.

    TOM: Okay.

    MARGIE: So now we have to cut through (inaudible)?

    TOM: Well, that’s very easy, then. No, that’s very easy. You frame the wall, leaving some space for the insulation, and then you rough-wire it just like you would a regular wall. And then you drywall over that. You can even frame it with metal studs which will be … may be even easier to work with in the basement. And then use a drop ceiling up top so you have access to the wiring there.

    And the drop ceiling today … there’s a ton of options in drop ceiling panels. They really, really can look cool and look beautiful. And they don’t just look like those old two foot by four foot plain white boards they used to have years ago.

    MARGIE: Right. That’s what we had in our old house and …

    TOM: No, they really … they really look good. You ought to look at some of the Armstrong ceilings.

    MARGIE: Okay.

    TOM: They’ve got one that I saw not so long ago that looks like a tin ceiling. It was gorgeous.

    LESLIE: Oh, it’s really pretty.

    MARGIE: Oh and that’s Armstrong that’s probably carried at some of the local stores?

    TOM: Oh, I’m sure it’s at the local home centers, yeah.

    LESLIE: You can even go to their website, Armstrong.com …

    MARGIE: Oh, okay.

    LESLIE: … to find a specialized dealer in your area.

    MARGIE: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Which might have more options than just a store in your area.

    MARGIE: Right.

    TOM: Yeah, don’t take that insulation down, though.

    MARGIE: Yeah. Okay.

    TOM: It’s there for a reason, okay?

    MARGIE: Thank you.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    LESLIE: Max in Maryland finds The Money Pit on WJFK – Free FM 106.7. And your question is how important are gutters on a home? Well, I would think pretty important. What’s going on?

    MAX: Well, I just wanted to know about that. My local code enforcer wanted to make sure that I had gutters up and then I wondered, because I’ve seen so many structures right on the ground with no gutters in place, so I want to know the significance of the gutters.

    TOM: Well, that’s a great question. You know, the gutters are one of the more under-appreciated building products that are on our home.

    LESLIE: But they work pretty darn hard.

    TOM: They do work hard. And they actually do a lot of things. In fact, on our website at moneypit.com I wrote, actually, a story some years ago that’s up there about gutters and all the uses of gutters. But they do a lot of things. Now you’re in Maryland so you’re in the area that freezes. So here’s some of the things they do.

    First of all, they do keep the water off your head, of course, when you’re going in and out of your house in a rainstorm. Secondly, they collect the water and, if the water’s managed properly, it goes down downspouts and diverts away from the foundation perimeter. So that means you’re not going to get leaky basements. It means you’re not going to get leaky crawl spaces. It’s going to keep the soil dry right around that outside edge of the house if you have those downspouts extended. And if you do that, you won’t get cracks and chips in your foundation. So they have a structural reason for being there; it’s not just a cosmetic reason. And they are really important to have on a house for all those reasons.

    MAX: Okay. Well, thank you very much. I will eat my humble pie and …

    TOM: (laughing) No, it’s a great question, you know? It’s understandable why you wouldn’t understand … why you didn’t really recognize all of the things that they do. But they’re important for the structure, for the foundation, and for the basement and for the roof.

    MAX: Okay. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: Yeah, Max. Thanks for calling The Money Pit. And, by the way, check out the website. The article is called ‘Clean Gutters Avoid Major Home Repairs,’ and it lists all of the things that can happen to your house if you don’t have clean gutters. Leaking basements, cracked foundations, rotted wood, leaking roofs, slippery sidewalks …

    LESLIE: Oh, my.

    TOM: … aging driveways. And the list goes on. So tips there, as well, on how exactly to tackle those gutter cleaning projects. So go there today; moneypit.com.

    LESLIE: Okay. Well, if you’re ready to tackle that paint job, here’s one thing you need to check in your toolkit for. Do you have a rubber band?

    TOM: A rubber band?

    LESLIE: Well, yeah. This is a great tip because you’re going to need one to get that paint job done pretty good. We’ll tell you why, right after this.

    (theme song, commercials)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. Study after study shows that as homes become tighter and more energy efficient, more contaminants become trapped inside. Aprilaire’s technologically-advanced electronic and media air cleaners are the best choice for maintaining healthy indoor air. 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. And my co-host, Leslie Segrete, says you need a rubber band to tackle a paint job. Is that so if you’re using the small cans of paint you can rubber band the can to your hand so you won’t drop it?

    Leslie Segrete: (laughing) No, but that’s a great idea. (laughing) It’s like the cell phone headset holder; where they rubber band it to your head and they’re like, ‘Look, it’s hands-free.’

    TOM: They actually Velcro the can to your hand. (laughing)

    LESLIE: No. But here’s a good instance where rubber bands and painting do go hand-in-hand. If you stretch a heavy-duty rubber band across the top of your paint can, anchoring it at the handles, when you dip your brush in you can wipe your loaded paint brush across it so the excess paint will land in the can, rather than in the lip, so it’s not like a big, huge mess. It helps you save paint, you won’t have a big mess when you go to reseal that lid and it splatters all over everything. So it’s a good, inexpensive tip that’ll keep you saving time when it comes to the cleanup.

    TOM: Here’s a tool that could help you with those home improvement projects. Hey, do you need to install chair rail, hang a picture, install a window dressing, maybe lay some tile, put up shelving, fix a wall border, install some lighting, put some cabinets up? All these projects can be made easier with this product from Ryobi. It’s called the MultiTASKit. It basically is an electronic hand tool that’s got revolutionary AIRgrip technology. Basically, it sticks to the wall and once it’s stuck on the wall it does a bunch of things. It’s got a laser head so it can give you laser level lines. It’s got a work light. It’s got a magnetic tray. And it acts as a helping hand so you don’t need somebody to hold the other end of that chair rail molding as you’re putting it up. No fights with your spouse.

    LESLIE: It’s an assistant you can depend on.

    TOM: That’s right. Use your MultiTASKit. Avoid the divorce discussion, you know? 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We will take all callers this hour and put their names in the Money Pit hardhat. One person will win that prize from Ryobi. 1-888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Brian in Virginia has a heating and air conditioning question. What’s on your mind?

    BRIAN: Hello. Thanks for taking my call.

    LESLIE: Not a problem. How can we help?

    BRIAN: I have a question here and it’s about the heating system that I put in – installed in my house four years ago.

    TOM: Okay.

    BRIAN: My house is 20 years old. It’s a split foyer so you either go up or down when you first walk in the door.

    TOM: Right.

    BRIAN: It’s 2,000 square foot. Downstairs, when they installed the heating and air, they put a 14 (inaudible) unit with Puron and they put it up in the attic and it stays cold downstairs where they put the vents.

    TOM: Right.

    BRIAN: I have wood paneling on the downstairs but my wife wants … we never use the downstairs because it’s so cold.

    TOM: It’s not balanced, it sounds. It’s not balanced properly.

    BRIAN: Yeah, and they put one 12-inch vent in one big room that’s 11×20.

    TOM: Well, there’s one big 12-inch vent; that’s probably the return duct. Is that where the air’s going back or coming out?

    BRIAN: No, it’s coming out.

    TOM: Okay.

    BRIAN: And the salesman said that’ll do good for the (inaudible). Well, it’s not. In the last four years it’s been cold downstairs. I have baseboard heaters and I’ve been having to use that to equal the heat out.

    TOM: Yeah, it sounds like they’ve totally blown the design on this.

    BRIAN: Yeah, I was wondering … I was wondering if it was the wood paneling that’s on the wall.

    TOM: No, no, no, no.

    BRIAN: Maybe that’s not insulating right.

    TOM: No, no, no, no. No. It sounds to me like they don’t have enough air getting to that space and they certainly don’t have enough return air probably getting back from that space. You may need to make some adjustments in that duct work.

    BRIAN: Now it’s been four years. I don’t think they’re … they’re going to come out and redo it. So I’m going to have to do it myself.

    TOM: Well, I would say this. I don’t know what it cost you but if thing was never designed right from the get-go, it’s not like there could have been anything that you did to make it worse. It’s not like you added an addition on it or something like that. If it wasn’t put on right, it wasn’t put on right. And there could be an argument that you’ve wasted a ton of energy by overheating other places in the house.

    BRIAN: Yes. So I should contact the heating and air conditioning company?

    TOM: I would definitely contact them and I would make a stink about it.

    BRIAN: Yeah, that’s … because that’s like a family room and we had to move our (inaudible) upstairs.

    TOM: (overlapping) Yeah, it was never … it was never done right. It sounds like it was never done right. Now, it might be that you have to have an expert diagnosis and you may have to take them to small claims if they don’t try to make some adjustments for you. But when it comes to the physical layout of the heating system, if it’s not correct then you’re not going to get that even heating and cooling.

    Now I will say that the split-level house is one of the more difficult ones to heat or cool. But, still, it shouldn’t be super cold.

    BRIAN: You know what they offered me when I first bought the house? They said, ‘Okay, well if this doesn’t work right, you’re going to have to put a second unit in for the downstairs.’ (laughing)

    LESLIE: So maybe they purposely sabotaged the setup.

    BRIAN: I just spent $6,000 on this setup, you know?

    TOM: No. It’s not right.

    BRIAN: Okay. Well, I’ll …

    TOM: Okay?

    BRIAN: … I’ll call back the company and see if they can come out and …

    TOM: You do that.

    BRIAN: … and they can make (inaudible).

    TOM: Alright. Well, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. You know, if you do have a big job done like that and it’s not right, don’t let four years go by.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s like what do you think? It’s going to get better?

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. I mean if it’s not heating, it’s not heating. And putting a second system in should not be the solution. If it’s a 2,000 square foot house, you should be able to heat and cool that entire house with one properly installed system. So, Brian, we hope that that helps you out and gets you back in a warm house as quickly as possible.

    LESLIE: Well, coming up after the break, we dip into the Money Pit email bag. And our question, today, is going to be Frieda, who writes: ‘What is the most cost effective, energy saving home improvement I can do?’ Well, we’ll find out the answer to that when we get back.

    (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. 1-888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number. Moneypit.com is the website; home of the free Money Pit e-newsletter, which comes into your email inbox every Friday morning, chock full of great home improvement tips, advice and chances to win more fabulous prizes from this program. Now, you can call us anytime of the day or night at 888-MONEY-PIT or you can email us to helpme@moneypit.com.

    And this hour we’ve got a question from Frieda. Now it seems to me that a lot of people think home improvements have to be costly. But Frieda is giving us a very specific challenge, isn’t she, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. I love budget challenges and that’s exactly what this is. Frieda writes: ‘I don’t have a lot of money but I want to save some money with energy costs on the rise. If you’ve only got $500, what kind of improvements would you do first to make the largest impact you can?’

    TOM: Ah, the $500 energy challenge. Well, actually, that’s a lot of money.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s a good amount of money.

    TOM: That’s a good chunk. Probably … I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you my kind of top one and maybe you could …

    LESLIE: Well, especially because a lot of these little energy saving tips are not that expensive.

    TOM: Well, that’s true. You know, something as inexpensive as buying a couple of dollars worth of caulk; I mean everything goes a long way. But for a $500 investment, the very, very, very first thing I would be doing is going up in my attic with my tape measure and measuring the thickness of the insulation, Frieda. Because no matter where you live in the country, you really need to have somewhere between 10 and 15 inches of insulation in the attic, today, to really do a good job of keeping that heat where it should be and that is below that attic insulation surface. So I would measure it and if you don’t have it, I would devote a good portion of that 500 bucks to buying more insulation.

    Now, what you want to buy is unfaced fiberglass insulation. And you can lay those perpendicular – by the bats – and lay them perpendicular to the existing insulation; kind of in a criss-cross pattern. That’ll give you a really nice, warm blanket that will definitely …

    LESLIE: What if the insulation that’s already up there has sunk below your floorboards?

    TOM: Well, that’s a good question because you’re going to want to assess that and if it’s really compressed – it’s not doing it’s job – then I would remove the old, saggy insulation and then reinsulate the whole space. That might end up being a little bit more money but, again, it’s a really good investment because heat rises and if you can keep it at that ceiling level, you’re going to save some money in the long haul.

    LESLIE: And I would say a good investment, which is right around the $500 mark, is a good replacement window. You can do them yourself, they’re not that costly and if you’ve got some old – maybe aluminum or wood framed windows – get rid of them; they’re doing you an injustice and they’re wasting your money. So look at your windows, too.

    TOM: Good point. Yeah, and you might want to start with the coldest, draftiest window in the house and work from the east side – the north side to the east side, then do west and south after that.

    LESLIE: South is less because you get the most sunshine there. Alright. Well, good advice.

    TOM: Well, some of us have enough trouble taking care of one money pit but others throw caution to the wind and decide to buy yet a second money pit. Perhaps you have a vacation home or a home for an in-law – I was going to say a home for a spouse (laughing). No, that’s not what I meant. (laughing) No. Perhaps you have to buy a house for another member of your family who you …

    LESLIE: Maybe your spouse.

    TOM: … really love and … no (laughing) … but you just don’t want them living with you. If you are going to do that, you’ll appreciate today’s topic of Leslie’s Last Word. How to afford and how to deal with having a second home.

    LESLIE: Well, whatever your reason is for that second residence (laughing) …

    TOM: We don’t judge.

    LESLIE: … that’s your business. But here’s some house rules to follow. When buying a second home, remember, it can be a smart investment but it needs to work out for your lifestyle, too, to make it all worthwhile. So if you’ll be renting it out, make sure you know all of the maintenance details. If it’s a vacation home, make sure you spend some time in the area before you buy it. And just in case you want to live there long term, it’ll let you know what it’s like during the winter months – say, if you’re at a beach residence. And also, check traffic on Friday afternoons and on Sunday evenings to make sure you won’t be caught in a jam when you’re heading back to your first house. This way you won’t be giving your second home any second thoughts.

    TOM: Don’t give us a second thought. Tune in same time, same place next week. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 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 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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