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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, making good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. You know, old houses are like fine wines; rare, expensive and full of strange things.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and they get better with age.

    TOM: They do get better with age. Do you need some help making sure your home ages in place better? Call us right now.

    LESLIE: Well, first you want to make sure you store it on its side so the cork never dries out.

    TOM: (laughing) That’s right.

    LESLIE: That’s really important.

    TOM: For houses, yes. Very important. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your home improvement questions. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemmas. Call us with your direct-it-yourself dilemmas. Maybe you want to …

    LESLIE: Just call us already.

    TOM: Just call us. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Got a great show in store for you today.

    LESLIE: That is correct. Repair or replace. That is the question.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) That is – that is the question.

    LESLIE: It is indeed. And you know what? It can be a tough call when it comes to a big ticket item in your house, like an appliance. This hour, we’ve got tips to help you decide which is best for you.

    TOM: You know, the first draft in Shakespeare was not ‘To be or not to be?’

    LESLIE: It was ‘Repair or replace?’

    TOM: Yeah, but it got killed by the editors. Also …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) They’re like, ‘What’s an appliance?’

    TOM: … has your bathtub seen better days? Is the finish worn or chipped? If you think it needs replacing but you don’t want to spend the money, we’ve got a solution for you that you may not have considered.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And also coming up this hour, building your dream house. You want to keep it very energy efficient for less money? We’re going to tell you how and what you can do to make it just that.

    TOM: And one caller we choose this hour is going to win no bagels, but a pack of locks from Master Lock. (chuckling) So call in your home improvement or home repair question right now to 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Steve in Massachusetts listens on WPRO. What can we do for you in your house?

    STEVE: What I have is a breezeway that’s attached to my garage. Now it’s not heated but when I built it, I put 18 inches of clearance between the bottom of the floor joists and the ground. I put plastic on top of the ground and I vented it to get the moisture out.

    TOM: OK. So far so good.

    STEVE: I put the insulation in – it’s a faced insulation – but I think someone gave me misinformation because I put the facing on the top of the joist so the fiberglass is hanging down. Of course, now it’s broken free.

    TOM: That’s actually the correct way to do it.

    STEVE: Oh, it is?

    TOM: Yes. You put the vapor barrier between the crawl space and the heated space so if it’s heated above that …

    STEVE: Yes.

    TOM: … then that’s where the paper face goes.

    STEVE: OK.

    TOM: Most people put it in backwards. Because it has the paper lip, they’ll staple it to the joist upside down; like from the crawlspace working up. But you did it exactly the right way.

    Now, if the insulation is separating and settling down there, what you might want to do is get some of those wire supports that basically are designed to fit right between the floor joists. They’re about the diameter of hangers and you stick them up there and they sort of stick under the floor joist. They’ll hold the insulation in place.

    STEVE: Oh, OK. Because one of the thoughts I had was that material you’ve talked about that Georgia-Pacific makes …

    TOM: Oh, the Dens Armor Plus? Mm-hmm.

    STEVE: Yeah, I was thinking should I put that on the bottom …?

    TOM: No, that’s not designed for that particular application. That’s a terrific – you’re talking about Dens Armor Plus; it’s a paperless drywall and it’s designed to go in interior spaces where you don’t want mold to grow. But you’re just talking about a way to support the insulation and certainly, by putting some sort of sheeting on the bottom, it’s going to do that but there’s a lot easier way to do it.

    With the wire supports, you could simply go in there. If you’ve got 18 inches, you can do it on your back, maybe with one of those creepers, and just kind of crawl around in there and just stick those wire supports up. And that’ll hold the insulation in place and you’ll be good to go.

    STEVE: Yeah, that would be a much better solution. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Steve. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Tom in New Jersey listens on Discovery Radio Network. What can we do for you today?

    TOM IN NEW JERSEY: Well, I was calling regarding a hot water recycling system that keeps hot water in your pipes.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM IN NEW JERSEY: And wondering whether they were advantageous. Looking at them, it seems to be about $300 to install one. I have a hot water, gas-fired boiler.

    TOM: Yes, but there’s another cost. There’s a cost that they’re not telling you about and that is the cost of keeping heated water in your pipes 24/7/365.

    LESLIE: So is it constantly running back to your hot water heater and then sitting in your pipes?

    TOM: Yeah. It’s a continuous loop. So in other words, it’s like having an extra set of heating pipes run through your house. But you know how much it costs you to heat your house with that hot water that goes through the baseboard radiators and the cast iron radiators; whatever you have. You’re now going to have another zone that’s warm all the time and that’s going to be expensive because you’re going to have to pay more for the fuel to keep that hot all the time.

    Are you experiencing a situation where you have to wait a long time for hot water?

    TOM IN NEW JERSEY: Yeah, two, three minutes every day.

    TOM: Well, you know, you might be better off spending the same amount of money and rerunning the pipes; trying to find a more direct route to speed that up.

    LESLIE: Because your heating costs are going to be through the roof.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. And that 300 bucks will be the tip of the iceberg. I could see you easily adding a substantial additional chunk of change onto the fuel bill every month by keeping those pipes hot. I’d much rather see you spend the money on rerouting your plumbing so that you don’t have to wait quite that long. And if you want a more efficient water heater, switch from a tank water heater to a tankless. That’s a truly on-demand system. It’s not going to change the time it takes the water to get to the faucet, but it will be more efficient to run that way.

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

    LESLIE: Jeff in Iowa’s next and it says here on my notes that you live in an earth home which is leaking. What exactly is an earth home, Jeff?

    JEFF: Well, it’s a – the home I have is – some people call it an earth home; some call it a berm home. My home is literally six feet under the ground. I don’t have a roof on it. And I have one side of the home that is open to the outside so you get some sun. It’s pretty economic for heating and cooling and all that kind of thing.

    TOM: Oh, how interesting.

    LESLIE: So is it almost built into a hillside?

    JEFF: Yes, it is.

    LESLIE: Interesting.

    TOM: So, alright. Well, I think this may be the first earth home question we’ve ever had but we’ll do our best. What’s going on with it?

    JEFF: I have two different places in my house that I have – and the home is built – it’s poured cement. And then it’s kind of, you know, even the ceilings are cement.

    TOM: OK.

    JEFF: And I have two different places that leak. When I get a lot of rain, there’s some leaking on there. And I’ve done things like I’ve backfilled areas. My brother has told me about some products that they have for – that you can use on cement [until you take it down to the natural part to fill it] (ph). And I was wondering if that’s the best idea or if there’s other things that I can use to try to prevent the water leakage or …

    TOM: So is the earth covering the cement?

    LESLIE: Everything, yeah.

    JEFF: Everything. I’m six feet under ground. Literally. I have one – four different skylights. And if you stand and look at the skylights, you can literally see where I am six feet under the ground.

    TOM: So in order to repair this, you have to actually excavate some of that soil away …

    LESLIE: Remove the earth.

    TOM: … to get down to the concrete surface. Is that what you’re telling us?

    JEFF: Well, to get to part of it is. I have a garage that’s built over part of what – where would be my kitchen and bathroom area. And I have an elevator that comes from there down into my house.

    LESLIE: Interesting.

    JEFF: OK? And that is where one of the areas is where it looks like it’s leaking. Right in that one corner of the place.

    TOM: Alright, let me ask you a question. Do you have to excavate the soil to get to the surface where the crack might be?

    JEFF: Yes, I would have to.

    TOM: Alright. Well, once you expose that, certainly there are products that can seal it. That’s going to depend on the size and the shape of the crack. But for example, it’s horizontal, a flowable urethane or a silicone can be used to fill the gap in the concrete. But you’re going to have to expose it and then see what it looks like. Once you do that, it’s probably going to become fairly apparent.

    And the other thing that comes to mind here, Leslie, is that once he gets that soil away, he may find some movement – some structural movement in here – that needs to be investigated.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I mean once you start moving that earth – and the house is completely underground so you’re dealing with that wetness of the earth sitting right on that concrete so you’ve got to address that sealant issue with the concrete. And then make sure everything is tamped properly and put in properly so you’re going to get as minimal movement as possible.

    JEFF: Is there anything that can be done from the inside out?

    TOM: Well, I mean you probably could inject a sealant into the crack and just give it a try.

    JEFF: Because I haven’t found a crack yet.

    TOM: Well, then you know, then you’re on a witch hunt …

    JEFF: Yeah.

    TOM: … Jeff. Because I mean, you don’t know where it is. If you knew exactly where the crack was, where the source of this was, you could deal with it. But if you don’t know, you’re going to have to excavate and find it.

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

    LESLIE: Alright, Money Pit listeners. The holidays are quickly coming upon us and I’m sure you’ve got a home repair or a home improvement question. Quick, before those guests arrive. You can call us anytime; 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what. Just dial 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: Up next, should you repair or replace a major appliance? It can be a touch decision. We’re going to give you some money-saving tips to help it all make sense, after this.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Roto-Rooter, for all your plumbing and drain cleaning needs. Whether it’s a small job or a big repair, request the experts from Roto-Rooter. That’s the name and away go troubles down the drain. Call 1-800-GET-ROTO or visit Roto-Rooter.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Alright. So to repair or to replace. That was the question we posted earlier.

    TOM: Yes.

    LESLIE: And when it comes to repairing or replacement of major appliances, age is going to be that biggest factor. For instance, if your refrigerator is near it’s 15-year life expectancy, replacement is the way to go. If it’s younger, new parts, new door seals, other adjustments can be a more cost-efficient approach. But first, make sure you check your product warranty before you do anything else.

    TOM: That’s right. And if you want to go the repair route, check out other appliances as well. Often, the biggest part of the repair bill is that service call. So, if you can save up a couple of minor repairs and have the service person come out once and fix, say, the refrigerator and maybe that squeak in the dryer or whatever else is going on around your house, you can actually get a lot more done for the same amount of money.

    LESLIE: We have an appliance repair guy in our neighborhood and he came once before we replaced our stove. And he shows up in an ambulance and he has like a doctor’s kit with all his tools in it (chuckling) and he wears scrubs. It was hysterical. He came in the house. I was like, ‘Can I take your picture?’

    TOM: That’s his shtick.

    LESLIE: ‘This is awesome.’

    TOM: We have a termite company around here that’s like Termite Busters or something like that and they’re like …

    LESLIE: Do they look like ghost busters?

    TOM: The ghost buster thing with the ambulance. Yeah, exactly.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) That’s excellent. You’ve got to have a gimmick.

    TOM: Well, what is your home improvement or home repair question? Please call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You might win a prize that will keep you and your family safe and sound. It’s a Master Lock gift pack worth $115. It includes a luggage lock; a cargo kit; a contractor-grade padlock and a combination lock; and – but wait, there’s more – a Night Watch deadbolt.

    LESLIE: It’s the never-ending prize. My goodness.

    TOM: This Night Watch deadbolt is pretty cool. You know, it’s the only deadbolt that’s designed to prevent an intruder from entering your home even if they actually have your key.

    LESLIE: Yeah, even though I know how this works, I still have no idea how it works. I’m like, ‘How does this work?’

    TOM: Well, what it enables you to do is to disengage the lock. You know how you put your key in the lock, you turn it, it opens the door, right?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Well, once you get inside the house, you basically can disengage the lock mechanism so even if you put a key in that fits it and spins, it won’t move the lock. It won’t open the door up. It’s the smartest thing I’ve ever seen in locks.

    LESLIE: And it will be valuable on April Fool’s Day to joke with the family.

    TOM: Now, just don’t tell them. Just put it in, give them the key and then just don’t tell them.

    LESLIE: ‘Gosh darn it. Why can’t I get in?’

    TOM: Say, ‘What do you mean? It works for me. Watch,’ you know? ‘Wait a minute. Let me go in. You try it.’ (chuckling)

    888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: We’re talking to Arizona next with Marty. What’s going on at your house?

    MARTY: Hey, what I’m trying to do is I’m remodeling the kitchen. I’d like to run an RO line or – excuse me, a line for the icemaker and the refrigerator from the RO. Situation I have is that the kitchen sink is on one side of the kitchen and on the directly opposite side of the kitchen is where the refrigerator is.

    TOM: And you need to get a line, basically, from the – from the supply. And generally, icemaker lines are pulled off of the kitchen sink. Now, do you have a filter there? You have a reverse osmosis filter there for the kitchen sink?

    MARTY: We’ll be installing that when we put the kitchen back together. Yes. (chuckling)

    TOM: Alright. Well, is the kitchen over a crawlspace or over a basement?

    MARTY: No. No, it’s on a slab.

    TOM: Alright. Well, then your only option – is it possible to go through the cabinets all the way around the kitchen to the icemaker? Because a lot of times, that’s what you have to do. You have to drill a small hole along the back of the whole cabinet line and basically feed it through the back of the cabinets all the way across and into the refrigerator.

    MARTY: Now, it’s not continuous cabinets. There’s a – it’s like a U shape and there’s a doorway at the end of the U here also.

    TOM: Alright. Now, can we go up and over? Can we go up through the ceiling and then across and down?

    MARTY: Well, it is a vaulted ceiling so it follows the pitch of the roof line.

    TOM: Do you have a water line for that – for that refrigerator where it’s going to be right now?

    MARTY: Yes.

    TOM: Well then, put in a separate filter. Forget about using the same filter. Put in a separate line filter just – you know, put in a charcoal filter where you can access it and change it every six months.

    LESLIE: Yeah, because trying to access that reverse osmosis filter to your sink is going to be …

    TOM: So much work.

    LESLIE: … a huge mess.

    TOM: Yes.

    LESLIE: I mean I understand if your kitchen is completely open now and you’ve got open drywall; you can see the studs and you’re bare. Then go for it. But if not, it’s going to be a lot of work.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re better off with a second filter.

    MARTY: What about the potential of channeling the concrete and running it down under the ceramic tile that …?

    TOM: Man, you’re looking for the hard way to do this.

    MARTY: Yeah.

    TOM: I would – really, I would just put in a separate filter. (chuckling)

    MARTY: OK.

    LESLIE: At least he was honest. He’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m looking for the hard way.’

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, exactly. Yeah, he’ll be like, you know, chisel the – chisel the concrete out and then maybe he’ll hit a water line in there. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: Oh God, what a mess.

    TOM: No really, Marty, the easiest way to do it is just put a separate filter in. Believe me, that ice will taste a lot better if you do it that way.

    MARTY: (chuckling) That’s what I’ll do.

    LESLIE: Richard in Florida’s got a painting situation. What happened?

    RICHARD: I have an existing old warehouse building that was turned into office space. And we have a metal wall and the metal wall, I used primer and I’ve sanded and everything and I can’t get the paint to stick. And when I do get it to adhere to the wall, the corners keep peeling off. I can’t get anything to hold onto the corners. It’s like a drywall corner with the metal strip on the corner. Nothing will stick to it. Do you have any suggestions for that?

    TOM: So it’s metal that you’re trying to paint or drywall you’re trying to paint?

    RICHARD: (inaudible) on the drywall that I’ve trying to get the paint to adhere to.

    TOM: OK. So you’re just – when you say a metal wall, it’s basically a metal framed wall and you have drywall on top of it and you have metal quarter beam and you’re having trouble getting the paint to stick to the corner beam. Are there any dampness or humidity issues?

    RICHARD: No …

    TOM: What kind of primer did you use? Did you use an oil-based or a latex-based primer?

    RICHARD: Latex based.

    TOM: If you’re having an adhesion problem, what I would suggest you do in this particular situation is use an oil-based primer. You’re going to get better adhesion with that; better bonding with that with the drywall and metal surface. After that dries, you can put latex as a topcoat, but the oil-based primer is going to give you the best adhesion and the best coverage. Because it sounds to me a little bit like there’s a troubled surface here. I don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with and why it’s not sticking, but the best thing to do is to go back to the beginning and put an oil-based primer on the whole surface. And that ought to make the paint stick.

    Mike (ph), thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: We’re on our way to West Virginia now to talk with Steve. What’s going on at your house?

    STEVE: Well the house was built in ’52 and it’s a cinder block foundation. And they’ve obviously – it was a very clean basement when we moved in but we have noticed during very heavy rains that saturate the ground that we’re getting some water seepage that comes in on the floor level.

    TOM: Steve, is that – is it coming through the block wall and coming out sort of the bottom of the block wall and under the floor?

    STEVE: Right, right. It …

    TOM: Alright. Well, the good news is this is easy to fix. First of all, the reason this is happening is because you have a drainage problem on the outside of the house. You need to look at your gutter system and make sure it’s clean, free flowing, that all the downspouts are extended away from the foundation. And then you need to look at the angle of the soil around the house to make sure that the soil is sloping away from the walls. Because what’s happening here is the water is getting into the block walls – which are hollow, as you said – and then the water goes down through the hollow core and it hits the first layer of block which is right on top of the footing which is filled with solid concrete. They call it solid grouting. And when it hits that, it sort of fills out and that’s when you’re seeing it spill off into the floor.

    So this is just a water management issue. You need to keep the water away from the first four feet of soil around your house by maintaining your gutter system and by improving the drainage angle around the house.

    STEVE: You’re exactly right. There are several places that I’ve noted that the drainage is either stagnant right around the house or it doesn’t slope away from it.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s amazing. If you just have a puddle of water in one area, I’ve seen water run 20, 30 feet because it’s collecting in one particular area and show up like a geyser in the middle of the basement floor. And if you just fix that low spot, it all goes away because it’s really all connected.

    LESLIE: Mike in Ohio, you’re on The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    MIKE: Hi, yes. I just recently made my first home purchase and I bought a house that was built in the mid-50s. And it still has the original furnace.

    TOM: OK.

    MIKE: And with the rising cost of natural fuel, it really eats up a lot of my budget in the winter time. I’m just starting to wonder is it better to take the hit and replace it now and spend the money or maybe ride it out and see how long I can get out of it?

    LESLIE: Well, that’s an – that’s an almost 60-year-old furnace.

    TOM: (chuckling) Yeah. If that thing has lasted 60 years, it’s going to go first; perhaps when you least expect it or when you’re least budgeting for it. So, a 60-year-old furnace definitely should be replaced.

    LESLIE: You know, generally, they get 25 years as life on a furnace, right?

    TOM: Yeah. And something for you to look into, Mike, is that right now the federal government is offering energy tax credits. So if you put in an Energy Star high-efficiency furnace – which does not have to be that expensive – you may also qualify for an energy tax credit and get to knock some money off your tax bill at the end of the year.

    MIKE: Oh, really?

    LESLIE: And also, with all of these new furnaces, they operate way more efficiently. So you might need to install a chimney liner so you don’t get condensation. Because they’re not outputting as much hot air through your chimney as the older furnaces do. So that’s something also to keep in mind and it’s a very minimal addition to this repair.

    MIKE: OK.

    TOM: So Mike, I definitely think it’ll be the first good improvement you make to the house. Replace that furnace.

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

    LESLIE: Alright, so you’re building your dream home from scratch. Well, you want to make it as energy efficient as possible, right?

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, if you want to know how to do that, we’ve got a great guest coming up. It’s Kevin Ireton. He’s going to talk about a building technique that’s going to help you do just that, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: AARP is proud to sponsor The Money Pit. Visit www.AARP.org/UniversalHome to learn more about making your home more functional and comfortable for years to come.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, standing by at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We make good homes better with your help. Call us right now. We’ll do that together. 1-888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: So, if you’re building your dream house, are you thinking about increasing your home’s energy efficiency? Well, maybe you should consider rigid foam insulation.

    TOM: Hey, if you’re building your dream house, you have to think about energy efficiency or you won’t be able to afford that house …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) That’s true.

    TOM: … once it’s built. But it’s true. You know, in a typical wood-framed house, about a quarter of the wall area is made up of uninsulated wood and structural elements. Think about it. The box beams, the 2x4s, the sheathing. All these things are not insulated because wood is just not a good insulator. But if you cover it with sheets of foam, you’ll conserve about 35 percent more energy and that’s math that’s not hard to figure out. Here to tell us more about that is Kevin Ireton, the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Hi, Kevin.

    TOM: So why is rigid foam such a good idea and why aren’t more people using it?

    KEVIN: Well the first thing I’ll say is there’s lots of different ways to properly insulate a house. This is just one of them. But the advantage is that it’s an addition to the – to the way we normally build our houses; to build a stud wall, to cover it over with plywood or OSB sheathing. And what you do then is you add a layer of one-inch thick polyisocyanurate foam to the outside.

    The reason more people aren’t doing this is because it does cost money. Those sheets of rigid foam cost money and it takes time to install them. But you know, sometimes people are penny wise and pound foolish.

    LESLIE: And this is something, Kevin, that has to be done in the initial building phase. It’s not something that once you have a home that’s established for years and years you go and have them rip down all your siding and do it.

    TOM: Well, not necessarily, Leslie. I’ll tell you, in my house – which you know has been in my family a long, long time – it was built in 1886 with zero insulation. And so, when we bought this house, we actually ripped off three layers of siding from 100 years of wear and tear on the outside of the house, filled those stud walls with insulation and then put the polyisocyanurate foam over that. I think the brand name – and I don’t even know if it’s still available, Kevin, because it was done years ago – is called THERMAX.

    KEVIN: Yeah, it’s still out there.

    TOM: And it worked great. It really has tightened the house up nicely and it’s never been warmer.

    LESLIE: How much of a major renovation was that?

    TOM: It was a major renovation. It was an incredible renovation. I mean we had to rip the house open from the outside. So it’s a big job. So it’s not that it can’t be done, but I mean it’s not going to be a weekend project; let’s just put it that way. (chuckling) Catching it when you’re building the house new is going to be a lot easier than what we went through.

    KEVIN: The truth is these rigid foams – especially polyisocyanurate – have a high r value. And they can be used in different ways. You can add them to the interior of your house as well. Some people design walls and put the foam underneath the drywall. That’s another approach.

    TOM: Does that cause any humidity issues? Any moisture problems where moisture gets trapped in the wall because the vapor pressure’s moving the wrong way?

    KEVIN: It can. As can putting the foam on the outside. It’s tricky business, these days, because of how tightly we seal our houses and all the moisture that we generate inside. These days, the theory is – I mean the main concern is that warm, moist air inside the house is going to move into the wall cavity and condense when it hits a cold surface in the winter. Putting the foam on the outside of the sheathing basically eliminates that condensation area. The sheathing’s no longer cold because it’s insulated with foam on the outside so you don’t get condensation in the walls.

    LESLIE: Do you use it in conjunction with the baffle insulation as well? Or do you just skip that completely?

    TOM: And can you put it on the roof as well or is it just for the side walls?

    KEVIN: Again, there are ways to do it on the roof. The baffles that Leslie’s talking about are usually used underneath the roof sheathing and provide an air channel underneath the roof and you would still use those normally.

    In terms of putting sheathing on the roof, it wasn’t what was done in this case. Typically, roofs are a little easier to insulate because they’re – you know, they’re thicker; oftentimes there’s an attic. So it’s easier to create a high r value in a roof. On a wall it’s harder because they’re thinner and that’s why these rigid foams make so much sense.

    TOM: We’re talking to Kevin Ireton – he’s the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine – about ways to save energy, especially when you build a new house, by using rigid foam insulation in addition to the other materials that you’re applying to the new house.

    And Kevin, you say in your story that another consideration is financial. But it doesn’t seem to be that strong a one because the materials and labor to add this stuff to a new house only adds about $1,600 to the cost. That seems very small for the return …

    LESLIE: That’s little.

    TOM: … on investment that you might get.

    KEVIN: Yeah, this was a 2,000-square-foot house. The cost, as you say, was $1,600. You know, included in a 30-year mortgage, that’s about $7 a month. And I’m pretty sure that the folks that live in this house are going to save a lot more than that on their energy costs.

    TOM: Kevin Ireton. We call him our phi beta kappa carpenter because he’s the smartest one we know. (chuckling) Thank you, as always, for stopping by The Money Pit, Kevin. We appreciate your good information.

    The current issue of Fine Homebuilding is on newsstands now. Or you can check out the website at FineHomebuilding.com. The name says it all. (chuckling) Fine homebuilding.

    LESLIE: Alright, folks. Well, don’t throw that worn out bathtub out with the bathwater. It’s not going to fit down the drain. Why don’t you refinish it instead. Learn how, after this.

    (promo/theme song)

    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: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Two people that are trying to stand between you and another visit to the emergency room. (chuckling) So call us first with your home improvement questions before you pick up the hammer; before you pick up the saw.

    LESLIE: Call me silly. I just think 10 fingers work best.

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

    OK, so we were talking about how to refinish a tub. You know, you don’t have to send it out; you don’t have to replace it. There are different ways that you can do this. First of all, a professional can refinish a tub; even an out of date or very old tubs. You know, they really don’t wear out and it will cost you a fraction of what you’d pay for a new one. You know, replacing a bathtub’s a pretty big job because …

    LESLIE: Well, plus the other things you don’t even think about.

    TOM: Yeah, you’ve got to – well, getting it out is a big, stinking mess. You have all the plumbing associated with it. So it actually makes sense to refinish it in place if you can. It is not a do-it-yourself job but it is a job that a professional can do. You won’t get soaked by the added cost of replacing pipes, hardware, floor and wall materials and all of the other things that happens in the demolition. So, refinishing is possible but it’s a job just for a pro.

    LESLIE: You know, absolutely. Any time you’re doing any sort of demolition work, that pathway from that room that you’re demolishing to the out of doors, always gets dinged up in the process. So save some dough and refinish.

    And if you want to read about how to accomplish more inexpensive facelifts for the stuff around your house, in our next Money Pit e-newsletter – it’s free, folks – whether you’re thinking about refinishing your kitchen cabinets or upholstered furniture, there are tons of inexpensive alternatives to the replacement option. You want to read all about it in our next issue. It’s free, so make sure you subscribe today at MoneyPit.com. And while you’re there, you can email us a home improvement or home repair question.

    TOM: 888-MONEY-PIT. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, making good homes better. If you call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, one caller we choose this hour is going to win a Master Lock gift pack worth $115. It’s got a lot of stuff in it to keep you safe, guys. It’s got a luggage lock; a cargo kit; a contractor-grade padlock; a combination lock; and a Night Watch deadbolt.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and the Master Lock Night Watch deadbolt – it’s the only deadbolt that’s designed to prevent an intruder from entering your home even if they have the key. So it’s pretty innovative and it’ll keep your family nice and safe. And that Night Watch deadbolt – it fits all doors; it replaces any brand of deadbolt and can be installed in about 15 minutes with just a Phillips screwdriver. So call in your question now at 888-MONEY-PIT to be eligible for the prize.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s go back to the phones.

    LESLIE: Kitchen confidential. Shirley in Illinois has got something going on in the kitchen. What’s happening?

    SHIRLEY: Yes, hello. I bought a wooden kitchen cabinet a few months ago. It’s about four feet tall and about two-and-a-half feet wide. I don’t know if I should say that the door is warped but the door doesn’t close all the way, so there’s like maybe a half-inch opening on the bottom.

    TOM: OK, it might be that it’s – that it’s warped. Or it might be that it just needs an adjustment. Take a look at the hinges and see if they look like they’re adjustable. Now you say that there’s a gap at the bottom and not at the top? So in a situation like that, what you’re going to want to do is move the bottom hinge in and the top hinge out.

    LESLIE: Yeah. When you – if you have something that’s called a euro hinge, it’s sort of got two big circles drilled; one on the backside of the cabinet door and one on the inside of the cabinet and then there’s this big metal monstrosity. It doesn’t look like a regular hinge. It looks like these overlaying euro hinges. And there’ll be two screws that you can adjust. One of them sort of sinks in and out; it’s just like a casing and that controls the door coming away or to the cabinet. And then another one sort of adjusts its angle. And if you just sort of mess around with those screws, you’ll be able to get that to match up; unless the door is warped.

    SHIRLEY: OK. Well, you’ve given me some hope.

    TOM: At least we can do that. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Phil in Illinois listens on WYLL. What’s going on at your house?

    PHIL: I’m trying to redo the bathroom – put a new counter, a new sink, new commode – and the shutoff valves underneath the sink are just – I can’t move them. Building’s about 25 years old. I’m afraid to do it because if I break it, then I have to hire a plumber to come it and redo the whole thing.

    TOM: Well, that’s the risk. Have you tried to spray them down with some WD40?

    LESLIE: It could be that they’re just rusted shut.

    PHIL: Yeah, I used WD40. In fact, somebody told me to put vinegar in a bag and soak it in it and it just – I can’t get them loose.

    TOM: Well, you might need to replace the valves. You’re probably going to have to turn the water off at the main and replace them if you simply can’t move them whatsoever. We’ve got no miracle cure for you on that one. Those plumbing valves will really stick sometimes and it’s real important that, from time to time, they be replaced. Because some of them can’t be repaired.

    PHIL: Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got some Cajun home improvement with Larry from Louisiana. What can we do for you?

    LARRY: Oh. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: Oh, it sounds bad, Larry.

    LARRY: [What I do?] (ph) I have two bathrooms that back up to one another.

    TOM: OK.

    LARRY: And everything seems to drain fine; the toilets do and the bathtubs do. But the sinks keep backing up with [dry goo] (ph) in them. And you know, I can use a plunger and clear it out for a while but after a while it seems to want to back up [dry goo] (ph) again. I’ve had a plumber in and I think they haven’t done anything to really fix the problem because it still happens.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) But they’re taking your money.

    TOM: Have you …?

    LARRY: That’s true.

    TOM: Have you taken the traps apart, Larry, underneath the sinks and looked for obstructions in the traps?

    LARRY: Well, as a matter of fact, I had to replace one of the traps because I think after the plumber got through they put a hole in one of the (chuckling) little aluminum tubes …

    TOM: Yeah, they do tend to get deteriorated and if you try to snake them they can – you can draw a hole right through them, that’s for sure. So when you replaced the traps, did that do anything to alleviate the problem?

    LARRY: No, it didn’t.

    TOM: But when you plunger it, it does temporarily go away?

    LARRY: Correct.

    TOM: Alright. Well then there’s only one other possibility. If there’s no obstruction in the throat of the sink – in the drain; there’s no obstruction in the trap, the obstruction has to be farther down the line. And very often, you know, you get hair and soap and all kinds of things that get stuck in these pipes – perhaps in elbows or places where the pipes turn or twist – that can actually build up quite an obstruction. So, probably what you need to do is to work on the pipes from where they go under the sink to where they enter the main drain waste vent pipe section right there.

    The other thing to check is to make sure that the sinks are adequately vented. Because if they’re not adequately vented, you can add a vent under the sink that has sort of a flapper valve on it so it doesn’t let any sewage gas out but it lets more water into the plumbing system so that the water will flow through more freely and not have any suction or any vacuum affecting it so that it doesn’t sort of gurgle or become slow – a slow-running drain.

    So those are two things that you can try. And by the way, the next time your sink gets clogged, instead of plunging it, do you happen to have a wet/dry vacuum; like a shop vac?

    LARRY: I do.

    TOM: Put it on there and suck the obstruction up out of it instead of pushing it down further.

    LARRY: OK, do I have to close off the other drains and stuff?

    TOM: No. Whatever’s in there will pull forward. You’ve got nothing to lose by trying it. In fact, who knows? You might find the mysterious hunk of whatever that’s been causing the trouble. That’s also a good trick of the trade for a bathroom (ph) with a slow drain. Just use a wet/dry vacuum and suck the water up out of the trap.

    LESLIE: It could be the missing Hope diamond.

    TOM: You never know.

    LARRY: (chuckling) I wish. (laughing)

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright, well other radio shows out there – I know there are others. We just choose to ignore them. But they think, those radio shows, that you should pay to download podcasts of their show. How wrong is that?

    TOM: Totally wrong.

    LESLIE: We – I know. It’s wrong. Well, we here at The Money Pit think that our podcast should be just like our radio show – free, free, free. So help yourself to our entire library of Money Pit podcasts. You can even search by topic. It could not be easier. Just go to MoneyPit.com and go from there.

    TOM: Up next, how to keep rain water from getting into the vents in your roof. Ever happen to you? Did you ever get a leak around a vent? Well that’s the first question we’re going to tackle when we dip into the email bag, next.

    (theme song)

    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: Standing by for your calls, your questions, your emails at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    You know, lots of our listeners tell us they hear The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show when they’re in the car and it’s inconvenient to call. So believe it or not, there is a better way to reach out to us besides our telephone number, which is available 24/7/365 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And that is go to our website at MoneyPit.com and click on Ask Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: Yeah, the website looks new and fantastic. So check it out if you haven’t visited before or if it’s been a while. It’s gorgeous and there’s new stuff there everyday so take advantage.

    Alright, our first email is from John – and I love the name of where he’s from; Laytonsville, Maryland. And he writes: ‘I recently had a 90 percent furnace installed. The AC installer installed a concentric vent through my roof. There’s no covering, cap, nothing over the top of the pipe; similar to what we had on the old furnace. I asked the installer about this but they don’t have a solution. Is there a cap that can be used for those concentric vents to keep rain from going straight down the pipe?’

    TOM: No. And it’s actually not an issue, John, because what you’ve installed is known as a condensing furnace. And it’s called a condensing furnace because the furnace is so efficient, it takes almost all of the heat out of the gas as it’s combusted. So what’s left is mostly water vapor and in fact, is going up a plastic pipe. It’s designed to condense and fall back down through that pipe into a condensate pump which is collecting that water down in the basement or wherever your furnace is. And then that gets pumped outside. So having an open vent pipe for a condensing furnace is no big deal. You don’t have to worry about capping it or any of that sort of thing. The moisture’s just going to run right back down it.

    LESLIE: Alright, one more; from Hank in Illinois. ‘How do I check the electrical wires behind the walls of my home’?

    TOM: Well, depends on what you’re checking for, Hank. Generally, nothing goes wrong with the wires where they’re – where they’re behind the walls. The problems with wires usually develop at the point of termination. So we’d need to know …

    LESLIE: Sort of like in receptacles?

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. So we’d need to know more. But a basic electrical inspection could involve opening and evaluating the electrical panel and the wiring there and then simply using a tester at every outlet, for example, would give you a sense as to whether the home was wired correctly.

    LESLIE: Alright, good to know. Lots of good advice for you folks out there so keep those questions coming in.

    TOM: Well Leslie, I’ve been known to kill artificial plants; usually from over watering. (chuckling) But I hear, on today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word, you’re going to save me and apparently it is a good idea to wash – not so much water but wash your artificial plants.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s the big difference. Wash, not water. You never want to put water underneath the flowers and fill up that imaginary dirt with, you know, water because it’s not going to do a darn thing; it’s just going to cause mold to grow and it’s going to get extra stinky after a little while. But you can, with silk or artificial plants – you don’t want to water them, but you can give them an occasional shower. You know, it gets rid of any dust buildup that can actually weigh them down and it makes them look a little bit dull and lifeless.

    So what you want to do is you want to remove that arrangement from their pot or vase – wherever you’ve got them – and place them under a gentle, cool shower. Don’t put it on full force. Don’t put it on warm. Nice and cool and nice and light spray. Then you want to pat dry the arrangement and it’s going to be full of new life. It’s going to just be fresh and pretty and it’s going to look, actually, real again instead of dusty, fake flowers. So give them new life and enjoy them.

    TOM: Coming up next week on The Money Pit, have you been thinking about replacing your roof? You know, it is a major home improvement project and one you only have to tackle about every 20 years. But if that’s too much for you, how about a roof that you install once and you never have to replace it again? Maybe your grandchildren or your great-grandchildren might have to do it, but you certainly will never have to replace that roof.

    LESLIE: Hey, if it’s not my problem, super.

    TOM: That’s right. Pass it on to the kids. Let them deal with it. It’s a metal roof. No, it’s not the kind of metal roof that’s going to be noisy and bangy and keep you awake at nights. It’s a new high-tech metal roof. It’s gorgeous and it’s super energy efficient because now they’re treated in a way that reflects the sun’s energy and can actually keep your house cooler and more comfortable. We’re going to tell you all about it next week on The Money Pit.

    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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