Home Improvement Tips & Advice
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.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. You got a question about your home improvement project? Call us right now. 888-666-3974. Let’s help you get the job done. There’s always jobs to be done around the house. I know there is around my house.
LESLIE: There’s always something to do. And just when you think it’s done, something happens and then you’ve got triple projects. It’s out of control being a homeowner.
TOM: And some people just love having projects. I call them serial renovators.
LESLIE: (laughing) Well they say people always have five projects going on.
TOM: Yeah, I have friends that buy houses, fix them up – you know, all the way to the nines – and then sell them just because they can’t stand to be … to not be without a home improvement project.
LESLIE: Yeah, but I would become emotionally attached to all of those renovations and then want to live there; not just one handed over.
TOM: Well, that’s why you’ll never move.
LESLIE: (laughing) I kind of like my house. I’m glad.
TOM: Because you like your money pit and I like mine.
LESLIE: (laughing) And …
TOM: Do you like yours? Need any help making it a, perhaps, more efficient money pit? You know you want to save some money, maybe, on your cooling bills this summer. You want to get your windows replaced; you want to paint; you want to fix up; you want to spruce up? Call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, speaking of money pits – you know, while technology has changed just about everything else, the way builders are putting together homes pretty much has stayed the same.
LESLIE: Yeah, for the past 150 years. So, later this house, Fine Homebuilding editor, Kevin Ireton, suggests new ways to build homes to increase energy efficiency and cut down on waste on the job site.
TOM: And we’ve got a great prize we’re giving away this hour. It’s a Husky pressure washer worth 300 bucks. To qualify for any Money Pit prize, call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must be willing to come on the air and ask us your home improvement question.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Barbara in Lincoln, Nebraska’s up next. And you’ve got a painting question. What can we do for you?
BARBARA: My daughter purchased a house and it has a varnished woodwork and stained.
BARBARA: And it has been painted … I mean everything’s been painted and it’s been stained and people haven’t washed it off. And how can you repair this to get paint to stick and not chip off?
TOM: OK, so you don’t want it to be varnished; you want it to be painted.
BARBARA: It needs to be painted. It’s in just bad enough shape it needs to be painted.
TOM: And is any of the existing material peeling off or is it fairly intact?
BARBARA: It’s intact.
TOM: Alright, well that’s good. So what you’re going to want to do is you’re going to want to sand it. And you’re going to use a medium grit sandpaper – like about 100 grit – and you’re going to cut through some of that surface to give you a fresh place to start. And then what I’m going to recommend you do is use a primer. Because a primer is a great material because it gives you a neutral surface. It’s designed to stick. The primers are designed to stick. The topcoats are designed to give you the color. But it’s hard to get a paint that has both of those characteristics in one because of the way the chemicals are put together. So you want to use a primer on the surface first and then use a topcoat of paint.
TOM: And that’s definitely going to make it stick this time.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’ll brighten everything up and make it look really nice. And the sanding that you’ll do will rejuvenate any of the detail work that’s in that molding or trim that you have in that house already.
TOM: Painting is the fastest way to get that room opened right up again.
Barbara, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Claude in Virginia’s got some unwanted squeaky sounds coming from the floor. Tell us about it.
CLAUDE: Well, it’s an older house. It was probably built in (clears throat) post-World War II and had some renovations done on it; putting in a complete bath … bathroom and a basement refinishing and so forth. But upstairs I get annoying creaks and crack sounds when people are walking and it’s because, I guess, the wood or the joists or something are old. And I didn’t know if there’s anything I can about it or do I have to live with it.
TOM: Do you have carpeting on the second floor?
CLAUDE: Yes, I do.
TOM: OK. So, the best way to fix a squeaky floor is to remove the carpeting. Now, it’s possible to tighten up the loose boards by working through the carpet, but it’s not nearly as successful. I’ll tell you both ways to do it. If you can remove the carpet, what you’re …
LESLIE: And not remove it permanently; just lift it back.
TOM: Yeah, pull it back in the area where the squeak is. You may have to have a carpet professional relay it if it’s, you know, wall to wall.
CLAUDE: It doesn’t matter because I … just so happens I have to replace it anyway.
TOM: Oh, perfect.
CLAUDE: I was just (inaudible) wood floors.
TOM: Perfect. This is the time to do it, then. When you get the old carpet up, what you want to do is you want to go ahead and drywall screw – use the long, harden screws; they’re about two-and-a-half inches long. We call them drywall screws, normally. You take them and you basically drill through the floorboards and into the joist below. So you’re going to attach all of the subfloor to the joist below and you want to do this about every 16 to 24 inches across that whole surface of the room.
LESLIE: Yeah, use a stud finder to find out exactly where those joists are and then go ahead and drive a bunch of screws in.
CLAUDE: That’s all I have to do?
TOM: That’s all you’ve got to do. Screw them down and then it’ll be nice and tight and it’ll be very, very quiet. And that’s the perfect time to do it; when you’re replacing the carpet or changing to a different type of flooring and that’ll fix it.
CLAUDE: Oh, great. I thought I had to like throw some oil and hope it seeps in or something.
LESLIE: (laughing) No.
TOM: (laughing) No, not quite that drastic. Simply screwing that floor down.
And by the way, for those folks that are listening that want to hear the tip about how to work with carpet that’s already down – you can take a finish nail – again, as Leslie said, use a stud finder to find the joist – you can take a finish nail; usually you want to use one that’s galvanized because it has a little bit of rougher surface and it’s a little stronger in terms of the friction. And you can actually drive it through the carpet, through the subfloor and into the joist below and then grab the nap of the carpet and pull it back up through the head of the finish nail until it disappears. And that will help tighten up the squeaky floors in that particular area.
LESLIE: Yeah, they’re squeaking because the two boards – being the subfloor and the joist – are rubbing together because whatever was holding them together initially has either backed out or the glue has dried up. And so that’s what you’re hearing; is the two pieces of wood rubbing against each other.
TOM: Exactly. And so, you can actually nail right through the carpet to tighten that up. Although I will say, it doesn’t work nearly as well as when you actually screw it down, which is what we recommend that Claude do.
Claude, thanks for calling 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Rich in D.C. is up next and you’re thinking about a granite countertop. Tell us about it.
RICH: Well, I really just wanted to get some … get some information between granite or this new stuff called Silestone.
LESLIE: Well, the Silestone, it’s a hard surface solution. So what it is, it’s a quartz product that they manufacture to have a whole bunch of benefits. When they’re making this countertop, they make it so that it has a mildicide built in. So you’re not going to get any bacteria or mildew or mold growth on your countertops. You still need to clean them, but there’s not going to be a hazardous growth of something that’s dangerous to your family on there.
TOM: Which is the downsize of granite. If you put in raw granite, it’s very difficult to keep it clean and you could get …
LESLIE: And you have to use special cleansers.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. And you can get mold and you can get bacteria that grows in it if it’s not, you know, constantly maintained properly. So you know, the new quartz products like Silestone or some of the others basically have done that work for you.
LESLIE: And the interesting thing about Silestone also is that they’re scorch resistant, they’re stain resistant, they’re not going to fade, they’ll maintain that same look over time. But it’s not granite. It’s up to you, you know, really, what the choice is. If you like the look of granite, you’re not going to get that from a Silestone. They’re going to look very different. But Silestone is gorgeous and there are so many choices. I think they have like 100 different color choices. So it’s really up to you. And I think the costs are about the same.
RICH: Now, as far as installation – the Silestone, is that something you can install yourself or is that …?
LESLIE: Absolutely not.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely not. That is definitely not something you want to install yourself (inaudible) tricky stuff.
LESLIE: Because they’re in slabs the same way that granite is.
LESLIE: So it needs to be cut specifically for the exact measurements of your home. So all of those things need to be laid out and measured properly. Plus then, the drilling of it. I’ve actually seen this be installed and when you drill out the holes for your sink or for your faucets, I mean it’s a messy thing and they’re not going to just sell it to you; you have to have it installed.
Darryl in Florida’s up next. What’s going on with your roof?
DARRYL: Yes, I bought a home that was built in 1988. In 1993, they upgraded the roof. They put a metal roof on the home and all the other structures on the property also have the same metal roofing. And the Florida sun has faded what was a gray – charcoal gray look – to a silvery look. And I need to repaint that roof to match what … the color scheme that I’m going to be painting the house to. And I would like to know what type of paint to use and a process for cleaning it to make sure that the paint adheres correctly.
TOM: Well, Darryl, metal roof paint is actually a fairly specialized product. And the reason it’s specialized is because metal has such a high expansion and contraction rate that the paint has to be able to do the same thing. So roof paint is going to have a very elastameric quality to it; which means, it’s going to stretch as the roof actually moves.
There is a good product out by Calbar that’s called SHOWER PROOF ‘WB’ – that’s what it’s called – and it’s available in seven different colors. And you can apply this with no priming whatsoever. You just have to clean the roof but you can apply it with no prime. So you can basically go on top of what’s there.
What’s important about is it is elastameric, so it does stretch. And it’s also an acrylic, so it has water clean up.
LESLIE: It gets about 200 square feet per gallon. So take that into consideration when you’re purchasing.
DARRYL: Appreciate that very much. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
So, have you been doing a bad Bill Murray impression in Caddyshack; trying to get rid of your moles and your gophers around your house? Well, lose the lisp and grab a radio.
LESLIE: It’s in the hole. That’s my bad Billy Murray impersonation.
Alright, folks, if you want a cheap and easy way to get rid of garden pests, we’ll tell you next.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit was 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: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
So, have you been fighting the battle of the gophers and moles around your house?
LESLIE: This is a great tip. I think this is hysterical and it actually works.
Alright, folks, if you don’t want to use poison or traps, you want to be humane about getting rid of these gophers and moles, here’s what you do. You get a small radio and you just blast it at ground level or even stick it in the hole; wherever you think these gophers and moles are digging. These rodents are so sensitive to sound that they’re going to relocate. Best choice in music is loud rock music; it’ll give you the best results. And 80’s hair bands are highly recommended.
TOM: (laughing) So you’re sure this works?
LESLIE: That … it totally does work.
LESLIE: They hear it and then they run away and then they’ll go to your neighbor’s yard. And then, you know.
TOM: Or they dance.
LESLIE: Yeah. Or they come out and do the little (singing) ‘Ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga. I’m alright.’ Everybody knows Caddyshack.
TOM: Well, do you have a home improvement question that needs answering? Maybe you’ll want to get rid of some moles. Maybe you’ll want to get rid of some ants. Maybe you’ll want to get rid of some bugs. Call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You could get the answer to your home improvement question and a chance at winning today’s prize which is the Husky 2200 PSI Premium Portable Pressure Washer. It’s great for the weekend warrior in you who needs a powerful yet portable pressure washer. It’s worth 300 bucks. It’s available exclusively at The Home Depot but we’re going to give one away, on today’s program, to one caller to 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Wes in Kentucky’s up next. And you’ve got a cleaning question. What can we do for you?
WES: Yes. What I was wanting to know is I’ve got hardwood floors and I also have tile floors and I also have carpet (inaudible) in some rooms. And what I was wanting to know was what is the best all-around vacuum that is going to do a good job on the carpet but still not harm my hardwood floors.
LESLIE: Well, I know with hardwood floors, it’s very important that you use … you know, don’t go all over it with the motor. Use that attachment wand with that flat piece that has the sort of the fabric on the head; I don’t know exactly what they call that attachment, but I know it’s kind of a pain …
TOM: That would be the floor attachment.
LESLIE: Well, thank you sir. (laughing) The floor attachment. I know it’s kind of a pain in the but because you’re using such a smaller piece but it really does protect the floor. It’s good for wood floors, it’s good for laminates and it won’t scratch up anything.
TOM: There you go, Wes. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ottie (sp) in Illinois is having a plumbing problem. What’s going on?
OTTIE (sp): Well, I’m redoing a bathroom and there are three plumbing fixtures in the bathroom. On one side of the wall there is a toilet and a sink. On the opposite side of the wall there is a bathtub. When we opened the wall up, what we found out was that the toilet is vented to a pipe but the sink is a pipe that goes up; it’s capped off but it’s not vented into any type of vent pipe. And sometimes when you have the water going, you hear the gurgling sound when the water goes down in the sink.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
OTTIE (sp): And I’m trying to figure out must that pipe that’s – it goes up, it’s capped off – should it be vented to a (inaudible) pipe also, like the toilet is?
TOM: Yeah, it should. That’s why you’re hearing the gurgling; because the sink is basically gasping for air …
OTTIE (sp): OK.
TOM: … is what that sound is. So it should be connected up to the main vent pipe or, you know, it ought to have … there’s a type of a valve that can go on top of that vent pipe that basically let’s air in but doesn’t let sewage gas out.
OTTIE (sp): OK.
TOM: But either way, whatever the easiest way is to vent that, it should definitely be vented; otherwise, you’re going to have a slow, gurgly sink for as long as you have that house.
OTTIE (sp): OK. OK, so it must be vented. OK.
TOM: Yep. OK, Ottie (sp)?
OTTIE (sp): Thank you very much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Dana in Florida is looking to chill out in a Jacuzzi. Tell us about it.
DANA: I’m thinking of putting a Jacuzzi in my garage and what I’ve done is I’ve converted the garage into a rec room.
LESLIE: So, Dana, it’s not still all filled with tools and your lawn mower?
LESLIE: OK, good.
DANA: Now, is it … would it damage the interior if I were to put a Jacuzzi in there; with all that extra moisture and stuff?
TOM: Ah, that’s a great question. Because … now, when you say a Jacuzzi … now a Jacuzzi is a bathtub that you fill up and use and then drain. I think you’re talking about a hot tub.
DANA: Yes sir, I stand corrected.
TOM: Yeah, that’s right. Well, there’s a couple of things to be concerned about. Humidity is one of them. You will find that not only the humidity but the chlorine is very corrosive. And so, you’ll get corrosion on electrical outlets and switch plates and other things that are metal in there. So it might be that you need to ventilate that space as well as simply having the tub there by itself. However, having said that, there’s absolutely no reason, that I can think of, not to do it as long as, you know, you do it consistent with all of the building codes and do everything safely; especially from an electrical standpoint. You want to make sure that thing’s wired correctly so you don’t have anything unsafe about the electrical system.
DANA: Well, what do you mean by ventilation? This room has no windows and it only has a garage door itself.
TOM: Now, are you going to keep the garage door?
TOM: So you’re going to … you’re going to have this garage that’s going to be like you can pull your car in, (laughing) get out of the car, strip down to your shorts and jump right into that hot tub.
DANA: (laughing) Sounds like a good idea, but no.
TOM: Well, I don’t think you have to worry about ventilation if you have a big old garage door on it. I thought you were going to convert into a complete rec room.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah, but if you’re going to keep the door closed while you’re sitting in there.
DANA: Right. Correct.
TOM: Garage doors are plenty leaky by themselves.
DANA: Oh, OK.
TOM: But what I’ve seen is people put hot tubs into basements or other sealed in spaces and really don’t deal with the ventilation issue. And in most enclosed rooms that have either a hot tub or a pool, you’ve got to deal with the ventilation. You’ve got to have the ability to bring out that moist air and bring in the drier air so that you don’t grow mold and rot and things like that. And also, you want to make sure that you have a top that, of course, goes over that hot tub because not only does that keep the heat in, that also stops the water from evaporating and reduces that humidity in that space.
DANA: Really appreciate your help, guys.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Enjoy it.
DANA: Thank you very much.
TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Then Dana could really get that bumper sticker that says, ‘My other car is a Jacuzzi.’ (laughing) Ta-da-bump!
TOM: (laughing) Exactly. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Scott in Virginia is looking to best work on his project himself and is looking into how to get codes and permits. Scott, what are you working on?
SCOTT: Hi. Bought a house a couple of years ago and have a partially finished basement. Some of the studding was up and a little bit of the wiring was done. And I’m kind of wanting to know how much of this can I do myself and if I do it myself, how do I look up the codes to make sure I’m doing things to code? And do I need permits for this type work? And of course, it’ll be, you know, putting wall up, some electrical and some plumbing.
TOM: Well, I’ll tell you. You definitely do need, technically, permits to do electrical and plumbing work in your house. And that’s going to vary from state to state. But in the Virginia area, pretty much you definitely do need to have a permit. If you do the work yourself and get your own permit, you’re allowed to do that. You don’t necessarily have to hire a plumber or electrician.
LESLIE: But do you need to bring in a professional at the end to approve all of the work that was done?
TOM: No, you have to have it approved by the local code inspector. So, if you’re doing the work yourself, you’re allowed to do your own electrical and plumbing work. It just has to be up to code.
Now, your question is how do I know what current code is. Well, you need to get a copy of the code books, which I’m sure would be available at the local library. But as to the actual job that you’re tackling, Scott, now you say it includes some plumbing. Let me start there. Why does it include plumbing? Do you have to add a bathroom?
SCOTT: Yeah. There is a roughed-in … I mean to say roughed-in bathroom. When they built the house they had the pipes and all ready to go to put a bathroom in there (inaudible).
TOM: And the wiring was partially started as well?
SCOTT: Yes, but I imagine that was done by somebody without a permit.
TOM: In this particular situation, since you’ve got everything half started, I think that the easiest way to get you to completion is for you to consider hiring both a plumber and electrician just to complete these mechanicals. Because A, you don’t know if the first guy did it right to begin with. You could be like tacking onto his problems if he didn’t do it right or if she didn’t do it right. B – you know, it’s got potentially major implications if you do it wrong; in terms of, you know, dangerous electrical wiring.
And you want to get that stuff done as quickly as possible because the rest of this, frankly, is pretty easy to do. You know, if you’ve to put up a stud wall, put up some drywall, you know, put in some flooring …
LESLIE: And that’s all easily doable; whereas electrical and plumbing work might be most complicated.
TOM: Yeah, that seems to be the biggest challenge in this project, Scott. So you might want to get some help just with that and do the rest yourself.
Alright, Scott, well good luck with that project.
SCOTT: Thanks. Great show.
TOM: Thank you. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Need some help with your basement project? Maybe your kitchen project? Maybe your bath project? Maybe your garage project? Call us right now. 1-888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Well, green building is in and some builders are realizing that homeowners want to be responsible and do their part to protect the environment and avoid the cost of waste.
TOM: But it’s been a long time coming. Building techniques have not changed in more than a century. What’s being done about it? Fine Homebuilding editor, Kevin Ireton, joins us, next.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Dens Armor Plus, the revolutionary paperless drywall from Georgia-Pacific.
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. 888-666-3974. Now Leslie, you and I both live in fairly old homes.
TOM: But what’s always fascinating to me about our old homes – yours and mine – is that they’re built much in the same way that modern homes are built today. In fact, we’ve been building houses pretty much the same way for like 150 years.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s true. It’s … and you know, the way your grandparents home may have been put together is probably the same exact way that your home is and that my home is. In fact, your grandparents built your home, Tom. (laughing)
TOM: That’s right. That’s right. It was built by my great-grandfather.
LESLIE: Well, while other building techniques and materials have been updated, house framing has not, really. And according to the folks at Fine Homebuilding Magazine, it needs a big change; it’s overdue.
TOM: Well, joining us to talk about techniques that will increase energy efficiency and reduce waste is Kevin Ireton, the editor of Fine Homebuilding Magazine.
KEVIN: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie.
TOM: It is fascinating that we really haven’t changed the way that we built homes for the last 150 years. And I always think it’s crazy that we build a hollow structure, we build a structure with many, many holes in it at the initial framing stage and then, pretty much, everything else that you put on this house is designed to fill a hole. I mean, a window fills a hole; siding fills a hole. But we don’t start with anything that’s really solid; we start with something that’s very perforated and we try to seal it in.
LESLIE: And something that’s very organic …
LESLIE: … and tends to deteriorate over time.
TOM: Does that still make sense?
KEVIN: It doesn’t make sense. You know, the way we build houses was invented about 150 years ago, when we first had mechanized sawmills and could cut the lumber up into these small sticks that we call studs and rafters. But we invented this system back before we had so many windows; back before we had insulation; before we had pipes and wiring; before we had a lot of the things that now are standard in houses. Yet we’re still building them the same way, trying to figure out how to cram all this stuff into a wall framing system designed 150 years ago. It’s nuts.
LESLIE: Well, and the interesting thing is that a lot of these materials, you’re using them outside. And you can’t control the weather so sometimes you’re compromising the building materials’ integrity because it rains for five days of the work.
KEVIN: Some folks out in Arizona actually did a study of the homebuilding process. And what they found was that up to 40 percent of the time, on a typical home construction project for a new home being built, up to 40 percent of the time, nothing was happening.
LESLIE: What was going on? People were eating lunch?
KEVIN: Well, part of it was delays because of weather; part of it was delays because of scheduling. But weather was a big factor. And the truth is, you know, we have the capacity to take a lot of our building processes into (audio gap) factory environment where you can control the weather.
LESLIE: Well, that’s interesting. You’re seeing, Kevin, that a lot of building materials are changing how they’re making like drywall, for example. You’re seeing glass-coated gypsum that can stay outside in the rain for three months because they know that that’s what’s going on. But why isn’t the framing adapting to that?
KEVIN: I really can’t answer that question. I mean the most common analogy that people use is they say, ‘The way we build a house these days is the equivalent of having all the parts for a car dumped in your driveway and then assembling the car in your driveway.’ It just doesn’t make sense.
TOM: So Kevin, we know that there are problems with the way homes are built and actually, if there weren’t problems, we may not have a show. So (laughing) not a bad thing for us. But if we could … if you could start all over again, Kevin – let’s just say we could wipe out the way homes have been built for the last 150 years – what would the recommendations of Fine Homebuilding Magazine be? What’s the best way to build a house today?
KEVIN: Well the truth is, a lot of … a lot of the best ways already exist somewhere in the world. They just haven’t been brought together. For instance, one of the things that we ought to do is disentangle the structure of the house and the insulation from all the mechanical systems and the interior walls. That might sound farfetched but that’s the way we build most of our offices these days. When you think about the wiring and the plumbing that lives up in a drop ceiling.
KEVIN: Easy to access so that you can change it later, which you know you’re going to; every house gets …
LESLIE: Or update.
TOM: Yeah, or move the floorplan around. You know, make the office cubicle bigger. You can make the office cubicle bigger, why not make the kids’ bedrooms bigger?
KEVIN: Exactly. And what house doesn’t get changed?
TOM: Right, exactly.
KEVIN: But we build them as though they’ll never change. So that’s one of the things; is incorporating some of these things that we do in commercial structures.
TOM: Well, one idea along those lines, Kevin, and the kind of construction that I’m really excited about that’s been around for a few years now but it’s just really starting to take hold, is this insulated concrete form construction; where you have foam blocks that are built up to create the outside wall of the house and then, inside the hollow foam block is poured concrete. So that the wall becomes, really, the bearing part of the entire structure. The interior walls don’t hold very much and you can move them around. Yet, you have this super insulated structural wall that’s, you know, soundproof and is super energy efficient and actually can cost less to build than a stick house.
KEVIN: And is much quicker than traditional concrete forms. I couldn’t agree more. That’s a great way of doing not only a foundation but even one and two-story houses.
TOM: What else?
KEVIN: Well, we touched on the fact that more and more components – including walls and roofs – ought to be assembled in factories; whether it’s a panelized system or whether it’s different forms of modular home building. There’s nothing about the notion of building in a factory that means the quality has to be less. When done right, it will actually lead to higher quality.
LESLIE: But why do you think it is that, say, modular homes have really caught on in Europe and not so much here?
KEVIN: Because we’re stupid. (laughing) At least that’s what I think. I’m really not sure. It may have to do with Europe being older. They’ve … they used up a lot of their resources. You know, they cut down all their trees long before we did. And so, they had to get smarter. They had to get more efficient. They couldn’t afford the kind of waste that we suffer in our building process.
TOM: Interesting. So I guess the secret here is to look towards Europe for the new building technologies and try to bring them here. And on a practical matter, what are some things – some technologies – that are actually available here today that people could use? Let’s say I was getting ready to build a house next year. I mean we talked about insulated concrete form. You mentioned panelized homes or prefabricated houses. What else works? How about structural insulated panels? What do you think of those?
KEVIN: I think structural insulated panels are a great choice because you end up with an insulated … you know, an insulated structure that’s going to be much more energy efficient. And with most structural insulated panel houses, they do bring the mechanical systems inside. You can route plumbing and electrical in those walls but you pretty much try to avoid that. So what …
TOM: Well, it’s interesting. We’re talking to Kevin Ireton, the editor of Fine Homebuilding Magazine. And Kevin, I think when you think of Fine Homebuilding I think many people have this vision of, you know, the master carpenter that falls the tree and strips the bark off (chuckling) and builds his own logs and makes his own 2x4s and hand-builds that house from scratch. And here you are saying, ‘No, don’t do that. Go prefabricated whenever you can. You’ll get a better quality house. It’ll probably cost you less and you’ll like it more when you’re all done.’ Any risk we’re going to put you out of business?
KEVIN: Well, I … you know, probably not. (laughing) There are always going to be old houses that need work. And there’s always going to be a place for hand craftsmanship. But you know, the other side of the coin is that people need houses; people need shelter. And good energy efficient houses should be much more common than they are and should be available to more people.
TOM: Kevin Ireton, editor of Fine Homebuilding Magazine. Thanks, as always, for stopping by The Money Pit. For more information, you can visit their website at FineHomebuilding.com.
Up next, how to burglar-proof your house. The United States Department of Justice says a home is robbed every eight seconds. Find out how to make sure yours is not one of them, next.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit was 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: 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.
Well, summer vacation season is the prime time for home burglaries. Keep thieves away by making it harder for them to break in. If they can’t get in, they will move on. Some things you can do.
Trim back shrubs and bushes from the front door and the ground floor windows. Don’t give them a hidden area in which to work. Make sure you use motion sensor lights outside so they pop on and light the area when the thieves show up. Get a deadbolt for your door. Make sure you have a deadbolt. The regular handle lock is just not enough. And have your lawn mowed while you’re away. Burglars prefer to work when no one’s home, so it’s unlikely they will choose a home that looks like it’s (audio gap). Burglars prefer to work when no one’s home, so it’s more likely that they’re going to choose a home with long stringy grass because they figure that it’s vacant and no one’s paying attention.
LESLIE: And you know what? If you don’t do all of those things, we’ve got a great prize this hour that you could just power wash the burglars right away. It’s a good option.
TOM: Is that … is that one of the features of the Husky Pressure Washer?
LESLIE: Enough psi to blast burglars off a front stoop. Says it right there.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Says it right here. (laughing)
LESLIE: So we’ve got a great prize this hour. It’s a Husky 2200 PSI Premium Portable Pressure Washer. Oh, my God, that’s a tongue-twister folks. You don’t have to say it; you just have to win it. And you have to ask us a question that we answer on air and it could be yours. It’s a wonderful tool. It gets just about everything clean and washed and zipped up all around your premises. It’s great for the weekend warrior. It’s portable. It’s got a telescopic handle. It’s worth 300 bucks but it could be yours for free.
TOM: Call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Janie in Florida’s up next. What’s going on in your house?
JANIE: I had my house re-piped with the PVC pipe and when I turn the water on, it sounds like water is dripping behind the wall. And I was wondering if I need to be concerned about it.
TOM: Probably not. It sounds to me like what you’re hearing is the expansion and contraction of the pipe. I bet that you will hear this more with hot water than with cold water, Janie. Because what happens is as the pipe expands and contracts, if that piping is rubbing against a wood stud, it makes a sound that sounds just like a drip inside the wall. It’s sort of like a crick-crick-crick-crick-crick sound and it’ll start when you turn the water on and then when you turn the water off, it’ll basically contract so it’ll go back. So what you’re hearing is most likely the expansion and contraction of the pipe and nothing to worry about.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: James in Indiana is having a flooring situation. What’s going on?
JAMES: Well, I’m doing a remodeling and there’s – I’m going to call it a parquet wood flooring. They’re interlocking … they …
LESLIE: They’re little tiles.
JAMES: Besides the interlocking, they were actually glued to a concrete floor.
TOM: Ah, you see, oil and water don’t mix and neither do wood flooring and concrete. (laughing)
LESLIE: And concrete. That sounds terrible.
TOM: Yeah, usually the concrete is so hydroscopic, it holds so much moisture that it causes the floor to warp.
JAMES: Oh. Well, it doesn’t … it hasn’t done that …
JAMES: … but I want to take it all up.
JAMES: I’ve taken like a air chisel hammer type thing …
JAMES: … and I’ve been prying it up. But there’s still a lot of glue on the concrete.
TOM: I bet.
LESLIE: Well, they probably needed so much glue to overcome the moisture in the concrete to make it adhere.
TOM: What kind of finish floor do you want to put down?
JAMES: Well, what I want to do is put a subflooring down then I’m going to put oak on top of that.
TOM: Generally speaking, it’s still not a good idea to put wood flooring on top of concrete unless …
LESLIE: Unless it’s an engineered hardwood.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah. I think you might be … I think … there’s probably an easier way to do this. If you can get as much of that glue off as you can, to the point where it’s fairly smooth, engineered hardwoods go down on top of an underlayment that’s usually soft and cushy and will take up some of the … if there’s any roughness left from the glue. And then they lock together. Think of … think of hardwood plywood. That’s what engineered hardwood floors are. It’s like a laminated assembly of different hardwoods that go in angles that are 90 degrees opposed to each other. And when you do that, James, they become dimensionally stable and they won’t rot or twist or warp. And they’re pretty easy to put down because they lock together.
Now there are different densities of finishes that you can buy on that. You can buy a residential grade or a commercial grade. And there is a huge, I mean huge difference in durability between the different levels of finishes. So you need to pay close attention and buy the best finish you can afford if you want it to really last.
JAMES: Oh, OK. Now, do you have any suggestions of how to get this glue up?
TOM: Well, you know, there are some earth-friendly products that actually will work to remove adhesive that you might want to try. There is one that’s called Citrus King and the website for that is CitrusDepot.com. And they have an earth-friendly, non-toxic, biodegradable adhesive remover that might work for a situation like this.
LESLIE: Yeah, especially when you’re dealing with so much glue to get rid of.
TOM: Yeah, you don’t want to use a harsh chemical and that’s why I think something that’s a little … a little less toxic would probably be a good thing.
LESLIE: Robert in Illinois has an insulation question. How can we help you?
ROBERT: I was wondering if you know if anyone’s got any products on the market that you can use to insulate walls without actually having to tear the walls apart like you used to years ago.
LESLIE: Well, yeah, that’s blown-in insulation.
ROBERT: OK. So they do have … because the only insulation I had ever worked with was the old pink stuff that you had to tear the wall out and roll the … unroll it in between the studs.
TOM: No, you can use blown-in insulation. The way it works is a small hole is drilled in the walls and the insulation is blown into that wall cavity and then the hole is patched and spackled and touched up. So when you’re all done, you have completely insulated walls. It’s a good idea to have a pro do that because they have to put it in around … with the right density so that, when it settles, you don’t end up with voids that are uninsulated.
LESLIE: Yeah, and it could be really messy.
ROBERT: Well, that answers my question real well.
LESLIE: Cracks where the ceiling and walls meet are very common in many homes. But does it mean that your house is about to fall in around you?
TOM: One of our e-mailers wants to know just that. We’ll give you the tips to solve those cracky walls, next.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being sponsored by Metal Roofing Alliance. We call metal roofing investment-grade roofing. Because in your lifetime, a metal roof will save you money and add value to your home. To find a Metal Roofing Alliance contractor or to learn more about investment-grade roofing, visit www.metalroofing.com.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Do you want to get an email to us? Log on to our website and click on Ask Tom and Leslie, just like Michael did from Virginia.
LESLIE: That’s right. Michael writes: ‘I live in a townhouse and many of my walls where corners and ceilings meet have cracks. How do I fix and prevent this from happening? My house is 11 years old.’
TOM: Well Michael, you know your home is always moving. It’s always expanding; it’s always contracting. And these cracks will form. It’s very common for them to be in the corners; also over doors and windows which tend to be the weakest part of the wall. So, if you see those cracks, it’s best to do a real professional repair job on them and use a reinforced fiberglass spackle tape first.
So what you want to do is sand down the area around it so you can get off any of the paint or any of the dust or dirt that’s sticking to the wall surface and you want to apply a fiberglass spackle tape. It looks sort of like a netting and it self-sticks. And once you have that down, you can spackle on top of that tape and that will do a good permanent repair and not … it’s not going to open up the next time the wall shifts.
LESLIE: Yeah, and try to do it in many layers. Put on a layer, let it dry, sand it, apply another layer. That’ll give you a nice, professional-looking finished product.
Alright, we’ve got another one here from Jeff in Oregon who writes: ‘My mom and I have pressure treated decks built in 1983 and 1984. I know the chemicals to treat them are now different and less hazardous. I pressure wash them every couple of years and it makes them look almost like new. Should I put a sealer on them after I’m done? I have some people tell me yes and some say no. What do you think?’
TOM: Well, I think it’s a good idea to seal your deck every couple of years; every … maybe, every three to five years. Because that really slows the deterioration. A lot of the chemicals today have anti-UV products in there so it really stops the deterioration of the wood fibers itself. What do you think?
LESLIE: Well, and it’s really important, I think, that even though, if you’re pressure washing your deck, make sure you use a cleaning solution. Because just water alone is really not going to get it as clean as you want it to. And you’d be surprised. The folks at Flood have a great cleaner that, if you put it on, it restores the look of the wood almost to brand new. And then that gives you a basis to go ahead and put a stain on, a sealer, a solid stain; whatever the look is that you’re going for. And also, assess the condition of the wood before you decide if you go with a sheer stain or a solid stain because that really makes a lot of difference. If the wood is all worn and sort of yucky looking, you don’t want to put a sheer one on there because that’s going to highlight the faults. So there’s a lot of great products. Check them out at Flood.com or go to The Home Depot; you can find them there.
TOM: And one more quick one from Sherry in Chicago. She says, ‘Should I drain and clean my electric water heater every year? The owner’s manual recommends it.’
Yes. I do think it’s a good idea to drain and clean your electric or your gas water heater. Make sure you turn the gas off or the power off before you do that. And the reason you’re doing this is because the hard water builds up on the bottom, leaves a mineral deposit – which is an insulator – and makes it less efficient.
Well, among her many skills is that of a fine, accomplished French chef.
Many people don’t know that about you.
LESLIE: Yeah. Although, with my travel schedule, I don’t get to do much cooking lately.
TOM: That’s right. Well, on today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word, you’ve got some tips on how to keep that stove and the stove hood working properly so that all your meals come out just as good as Leslie’s.
LESLIE: Yeah, don’t … well, you could try. Hoo-hoo-ha-ha-ha! (laughing) No, I’m kidding.
Anybody who’s cooking is doing better things than me because I can’t even get to my stove lately. So enjoy your cooking adventures, folks.
That’s right, your stove’s vent hood – it’s with you. You use it a lot. Do you ever think about maintaining it? You know, you probably don’t give it as much credit as it deserves. It helps you keep your kitchen clean. So show your appreciation for it by keeping it in tiptop shape and it’ll do you good in return. The filter in your stove vent hood needs regular attention. So make sure you clean the standard filters with a degreasing solution, followed by warm, soapy water. Or even put it in the top rack of the dishwasher and just run it through the next cycle you do. And in units that use activated charcoal filters, replace those filters on a regular basis and you’ll be really happy and so will your vent hood. Happy cooking, everyone.
TOM: Great tip. Remember, 24/7 you can reach us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can log onto our website and click on Ask Tom and Leslie. 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.
END HOUR 2 TEXT
(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.)