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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

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


    (promo/theme song)

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974, for your answers to your home improvement questions; for the solutions to your do-it-yourself dilemmas. If you want to build something, you don’t know where to begin; you want to hire a contractor and you want to know what to ask the pro; you’re thinking about doing a kitchen, wondering if you can makeover what you have or perhaps you want to gut it and start anew. You know, there are lots of different ways to tackle home improvement projects; some small, some big.

    Leslie, you were just telling me you’re working on your bathroom and you’ve got a lot of options to choose from.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you know we’re trying to do some things to the bathroom without completely gutting it; because you all know, we’ve only got one so what do you do when you just hate the way it looks? We’re trying to do a minimal amount of work to give a big impact. And you know, there’s lot of options out there from just changing fixtures to changing tile to changing paint color. So we’re looking into it and hopefully I’ll be loving it before long.

    TOM: So call us about your options. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour, you know, we always get an annual checkup, right? We go to the doctor; we get a physical. But why not make sure your house gets one, too? You know, your house can get sick. They’re just like human beings (chuckling) but the quicker you spot a problem, the easier it is to deal with. So this hour, we’re going to give you a checkup check list for the health of your house.

    LESLIE: Also this hour, if you’re thinking of installing a new floor and you want to mimic the look and texture of natural materials – such a hardwood or a stone or a ceramic – vinyl flooring offers you a wide array of designs and colors to choose from. So we’re going to tell you what you need to know before you go shopping.

    TOM: And we’re going to talk about routers. Yes, they can be one of the most useful DIY tools that you own, but they can be intimidating. Many people are afraid to buy them because they don’t know where to start, where to begin, which end to hold.

    LESLIE: Or which direction to use them in.

    TOM: That’s right. They actually can be a very, very useful product. We’re going to give you some tips and techniques from an expert on how to use a router around your house.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And with a router, you can make cheapo MDF look like fantastic products. So really, you can make some nice things with that router.

    TOM: And you can make a pile of sawdust, which is a good reason for us to give away a vacuum this hour.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. One caller we choose this hour is going to win a Eureka vacuum worth 130 bucks so call in your home repair or your home improvement question right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: Steve in Delaware has got some black spots on the siding. Tell us about what you see.

    STEVE: Yes, I found out I have these black spots on the siding and I understand it’s being caused by a fungus in my mulch. And I was wondering how do I get that off.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s artillery fungus and it’s really, really, really hard to get off of siding.

    LESLIE: What kind of siding do you have?

    TOM: Vinyl siding?

    STEVE: Yes, vinyl siding (inaudible).

    TOM: Yeah. You know, it really embeds itself and makes a permanent stain in vinyl siding. You can try a TSP solution and brush it very carefully over the siding and see if it will release itself. But it’s very difficult. I’ve got to tell you, it’s a tough problem.

    As far as that mulch is concerned, if you use the ground up mulch, it tends to happen more than if you use the bark. So …

    STEVE: OK.

    TOM: … you want to avoid using the ground mulch and use the bark chips. And the bark chips don’t – won’t allow the artillery fungus to fester.

    LESLIE: And you need to be careful too, Steve, because it’s been known to jump to cars. So if you’ve got your cars close to the garden as well, you want to make sure that you’re not getting any of those spots on the car as well.

    STEVE: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. (chuckling) I noticed it on the house and then it was on – actually on the car window and the car itself. That came off fairly easy because it had just happened.

    TOM: Right. Yeah, that’s it. If you get on it real quick. But change the mulch out and I think that you won’t have the problem again.

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

    LESLIE: Debra in Louisiana’s got flooring on her to-do list. What can we help you with?

    DEBRA: I live in a trailer; a very old trailer. And somebody went in there and they tried to fix the floor because the central heating and air is gone.

    TOM: OK.

    DEBRA: And they put – they tore the carpet out and they put some tar paper down and then they rolled out, I guess you’d call it a sheet linoleum.

    TOM: OK.

    DEBRA: They nailed it down at the sides with quarter routes (ph) and where it didn’t meet (chuckling), they put that – like that stripping that you put like in the doorway.

    TOM: Alright.

    DEBRA: Those wide metal pieces. So now that the holes that they supposedly patched, like where the vents were, are pushing through and the linoleum is all tore up because the boards won’t level, what is the easiest way for me to fix it? And carpet is not an option.

    TOM: Well that sounds like a complete disaster, Debra. (chuckling)

    DEBRA: Yeah.

    TOM: Let’s give you some suggestions here. I think that this is an excellent application for a laminate floor. Because a laminate floor is going to be inexpensive. It’s an easy do-it-yourself project with a minimal number of tools that are required. All the different laminate floor tiles – whether they’re strips or tiles – lock together.

    LESLIE: And it offers more rigidity …

    TOM: Yes.

    LESLIE: … than a vinyl product, which’ll give you a – and easier to go over the existing surface, so you’re not going to get bowing or bouncing or any sort of problems where any of those conditions are right now.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s much more forgiving to a bad floor. It’s much stiffer and it’s harder and if the floor’s a bit uneven, it can go right on top of that. So we’d suggest that you – that you’d use that product on the replacement of your floor.

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

    LESLIE: We’re going out to Virginia where Yasmine listens on WJFK. And you’ve got an HVAC question. What’s going on in your house?

    YASMINE: I’ve got a 20 – almost a 20-year-old townhouse and need to prioritize between whether I want to chance my HVAC or windows or get new carpeting.

    TOM: It’s a 20-year-old townhouse. Are the windows part of your maintenance responsibility?

    YASMINE: Yeah. I mean all of it is my responsibility.

    TOM: Oh, it’s like a Capitol Hill kind of a townhouse as opposed to like a condominium townhouse.

    YASMINE: Yeah, yeah, it is.

    TOM: OK, I get it. So your decision point is whether or not you do windows or the heating system?

    YASMINE: Yeah, I mean do I want it to look pretty or do I want to be comfortable (chuckling) and warm this winter? So …

    TOM: The carpeting is a creature comfort issue so we’re not going to stand in the way of that. But in terms of the energy efficiency, are you better off changing your furnace or your windows. That’s actually a very interesting question. What’s the best payback on that?

    You said your furnace is 20 years old. It’s probably an average efficiency furnace, which is probably in the 80 percent efficient range. It’s a gas furnace, Yasmine?

    YASMINE: Yes, it is.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: And furnaces generally have – what? – a 30-year life span?

    TOM: Well no, not necessarily. Twenty, 25 years may be average. Do you have it serviced every year?

    YASMINE: No. I bought the townhouse about four years ago and …

    TOM: It’s never been serviced?

    YASMINE: … the only time I’ve called them in is when it wasn’t working. So I don’t …

    TOM: No, no, no. That’s a – that’s a mistake.

    LESLIE: You know what, Yasmine? What you should do – you know you pay your heating provider; you pay them to deliver your energy source. You can also sign up for a maintenance package which, believe me, if something goes wrong, it’s going to save you a ton of money. We have our local company here. For 250 bucks a year, they come in the spring; they come in the fall; they service the furnace; they check it all out; they make sure all the parts are working efficiently. And then they also sort of keep ahead of any sort of problem that might happen. So definitely get it serviced because the cost alone of having somebody to come and visit and then do the repair – you could be saving thousands.

    TOM: What I want to protect you against is having this furnace break down in the middle of the winter and then you have two unexpected repairs. I’m leaning towards having you do the windows. But I want to make sure your furnace is in good working order. So you have to get it serviced; not only for safety reasons but also, Yasmine, for efficiency reasons. Because if you don’t service it, it’s going to burn inefficiently and it’s going to use more gas or more oil.

    And then lastly, you want to make sure – absolutely, positively sure – that you don’t have a cracked heat exchanger. That’s the core component of the furnace that if it cracks, it could be dangerous to use because it could let carbon monoxide leak into the house air. The only way to do that is to have a pro look at it and have them examine your heat exchanger. It’s part of a standard service call to make sure your heat exchanger isn’t cracked. So if you have a pro look at your heating system and it turns out that it’s just a straight service call, needs some maintenance and you’re good to go, that’s the first thing you should do.

    The second thing is, let’s talk about those windows. On this townhouse, you have two walls or three walls? You have a front and a back? Is it between other buildings?

    YASMINE: I’ve got – actually, I’m in an end unit so I’ve got three walls (inaudible).

    TOM: You have three walls. Alright. I think putting in replacement windows is a good idea. That’s probably going to give you the best return on investment and secondly, this year – and this year only – you can qualify for an energy tax credit as well. So you can actually get some money back on your taxes. You don’t have to do all the windows at once. You could choose to do, for example, the north windows or the east windows first, followed by the south windows because those are going to give you the greater energy loss in the winter time. But you definitely should think about installing replacement windows. You want an Energy Star qualified window with low-e glass; insulated low-e glass. And I think once you do that, you’ll see a very significant change in the indoor climate in your house. It’s going to be a lot warmer.

    YASMINE: So what do you do when it’s a rainy day? And I mean it’s raining on the inside of your house. You keep that magical phone number that you can use anytime – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – to get the answer to your home improvement question. It’s 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Yes, if we’re not in the studio when you call, we will call you back the next time we are. So we are always available and accessible to answer your home improvement questions.

    So, would you like to stay in your current home as long as you possibly can?

    LESLIE: Yes, please because I can’t afford another.

    TOM: Not too many of us can. Well you know, 90 percent of Americans tell AARP they definitely want to stay in their home as long as they possibly can. So coming up next, we’re going to tell you what to do to make sure your home-sweet-home can remain your home for many, many years to come.

    (promo/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: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, making good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, let’s go to the doctor.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, you take care of yourself. You go for that physical. Why not take care of your home? It’s not only going to keep you safer and more comfortable; it’s going to help keep up that house’s value, which is very important, and it’s going to allow you to stay in that house for as long as you can. Here are some tips to help you do just that from the folks at AARP.

    TOM: First off, make sure all of your toilets are securely bolted to the floor and not leaking. You know, very small leaks in the toilet can end up causing major rot problems under the floor.

    LESLIE: Ah, what a big mess. You want to make sure you inspect for termites, ants and any other pests around the house, including rodents. You know, if you see droppings, that’s a good sign. With termites, you might see something that looks like a powder, dusty trail on a wall. That’s not dirt. That’s where they’re living. So look for those things.

    TOM: Also do a roof inspection regularly. Now you can call a licensed professional to do it for you or you can grab a pair of binoculars, head outside and do a very careful scan of all of those surface areas of your roof. (chuckling) See any missing shingles? See any broken, bent flashing? Call a pro and get it fixed before a leak occurs.

    LESLIE: Yeah and you also want to make sure you inspect your gutters and your downspouts and clean them regularly. And there’s actually folks out there who offer yearly contracts. They’ll come quarterly and clean out your gutters. So if you don’t feel good about getting up on that ladder, don’t do it. Let somebody else do it. But it’s very important to make sure they’re clean.

    And also, have a professional inspect your heating and cooling system annually. And hire a pro to check your chimney and the flues of any wood-burning fireplaces and stoves and clean them if it’s necessary.

    TOM: And buy a carbon monoxide detector, install it and use it.

    Finally, make sure all interior and exterior handrails are secure.

    If you want more information and a checklist on how to make sure your home stays healthy, you can go to the website for AARP. It’s at AARP.org/UniversalHome. It’s AARP.org/UniversalHome.

    LESLIE: And while you’re poking around your house doing any of these repairs, you’re bound to make a mess in some way, shape or form. So we’ve got a great prize this hour. One caller we choose is going to win the Eureka Uno vacuum. It’s worth 130 bucks. It features a Power Paw brush which allows the vacuum to clean both vertically and horizontally. It’s going to help you save a lot of time and get a lot of vacuuming work done quickly and efficiently. So call in your home repair question right now at 888 – (chuckling) I did it again! (laughter) I haven’t done four eights in – what? – almost three years now? It’s three eights, folk. 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Cameron in Indiana, you’re on the line. What’s going on in your house?

    CAMERON: Well, my … (chuckles) … my …

    LESLIE: It sounds like a bad situation.

    TOM: He goes ‘Well’ and he laughs. (laughing) ‘Where do I start?’

    CAMERON: (chuckling) Well, my – the corner of my bathroom kind of looks like the Titanic. It’s sinking.

    TOM: Alright. Is this near the tub?

    CAMERON: Yeah, as a matter of fact.

    TOM: I bet it’s water damage – huh? – from sloppy shower-taking.

    CAMERON: And I just – I just don’t know where to start. I mean I’m …

    TOM: Alright. Can you get under the room, Cameron?

    CAMERON: There’s a – there’s a crawl space I can stick my head and maybe my shoulders in outside.

    TOM: So what you’re going to need to do, if you can’t really work on it too much below – it sounds like it’s a tight space to get into – I’ve seen this defect many, many times. It usually happens near the bathtub because that’s where you’re getting out and dripping wet and the water just over the years just rots that area of the floor out. What kind of floor surface is it? Is it a tile floor? What do you have?

    CAMERON: It’s laminate over – I think it’s

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