Reducing Radon Risk, Cast Iron Radiator Refinishing, Know Your Electrical Fuses and More
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We are here to help you with your home improvement projects, to help solve those do-it-yourself dilemmas; to give you some inspiration, some instruction, some support or just a shoulder to cry on if it didn’t go quite so well. We are here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, you can’t see it, you can’t smell it or taste it but radon could be at a dangerous level in your home. Do you know it’s the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers?
TOM: And January, in fact, is Radon Action Month. So, we’re going to teach you what you need to know about this very dangerous and naturally-occurring gas in your home, in just a bit.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And also ahead this hour, if you’ve got an older home, you might actually be lucky enough to still have cast-iron radiators. In fact, it was the heating method of choice for years and who could argue with that? There’s a level of comfort that comes along with steam heating that forced air just doesn’t have. But making a radiator fit in with today’s décor is not that easy, so we’re going to have a few tips, in just a few minutes.
TOM: Plus, you know, one thing we recommend that’s best left to a pro is electrical work. But there are some things, electrically speaking, that you should know, like how to choose the right fuses or circuit breakers for your home. We’re going to have a cheat sheet for you, a little later, on just that.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a Dremel Cordless Multi-Max Oscillating Tool and it’s worth 150 bucks.
TOM: So, give us a call right now with your home improvement question. We will toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat and you might just be the one that gets not only the answer to that question but that Dremel tool worth 150 bucks. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The phones are lighting up. Let’s get right to it; lots of folks want to talk to us today.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: David in Illinois is on the line with a foundation situation. What’s going on over there?
DAVID: Well, I bought a home; it’s a 1902 home. For some reason or another, the gentleman that was living there before me dug the floor of the basement out past the footing. I have a 12-foot basement. And as a result of – I have an 8-inch drop now from the front of the home to the rear of the home.
Basically, I just want to know what is the best avenue for repairing that, with my plans being that I plan on adding a garage onto that side of the home. I didn’t know if I should jack the house up, redo the foundation itself or just lay in some pillars and basically put in some I-beams and jack the home up that way.
TOM: Alright. So is the foundation deterioration such that it’s impacting the entire foundation or are we talking about deterioration on the exterior surface of the concrete?
DAVID: Well, it’s – the majority of that is all red brick.
DAVID: And I can just go down there and I can pull it apart with my fingers.
TOM: I see. Alright. So, clearly, what has to happen then in this case, David, is it has to be rebuilt. And so to do that, you have to support the existing structure. If it’s gotten so bad that it’s just literally crumbling away in your hands, then you would support that structure and you would rebuild it one section at a time. It’s not an easy project but if it’s gotten to that level of deterioration, it literally has no support right now. That’s what’s going to have to happen.
DAVID: And supporting it with pillars and a steel I-beam the full length of the house would be …
TOM: Yeah. There’s a couple ways to do this. Now, would these – these would be exterior walls you would have to support?
DAVID: Yes, yes.
TOM: OK. So, there’s a couple of ways to do this and it’s going to vary based on how this building actually shakes out in terms of where the pressure points are. But one way to do it is a technique called needle-beaming, where you run a, typically, a steel I-beam underneath the load-bearing portion of the wall and support it on opposite ends.
And so this way, the structure – the pier, so to speak – is away from where you’re going to build the foundation. You build the foundation kind of up around the beam and then the last thing you do is pull that beam out and fill in the hole. Does that make sense?
DAVID: Yeah, that definitely sounds like it’d be a really, actually relatively easy job by comparison. What I was worried about …
TOM: That’s what we try to figure out here; we try to find the easy ways. We’re going to save you some aggravation here.
TOM: I mean rebuilding a bad foundation is hard enough but if we can make it a little bit easier, we’re happy to help.
DAVID: Yeah and well, I sure do appreciate it. And I tell you what, I sure wish I could ask that gentleman why he dug the basement out past the footing.
TOM: Yeah, right?
DAVID: That definitely baffles me. Well, I sure do appreciate you all – you guys’ help.
TOM: You’re very welcome, David. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright, now we’re going to head over to Indiana and chat with Cassandra about a pilot light that keeps going out. Tell us about the situation.
CASSANDRA: Yes, hello. We have a manufactured home and we’ve only been in here about 11 months but every time the wind gets really strong, it blows out our pilot light on our water heater.
TOM: Oh, that’s annoying.
CASSANDRA: And my husband goes to work and then I’m here all day with no hot water because I don’t know how to turn it back on.
CASSANDRA: And we were wondering if there’s a way we can just prevent that from happening.
TOM: OK. Well, perhaps some water heater pilot-lighting training is in order for you, so at least you can have the warm water without waiting for your husband. But I suspect what’s happening here, Cassandra, is that the pilot light is weak. It might be dirty, it might be obstructed and it’s not strong enough, so that’s why when you get a little bit of wind down the vent pipe it blows out. So I think that this can be corrected with some service of that pilot line.
CASSANDRA: OK. And it just – we’d just need a new pilot line? Who do we call for that? Do you …?
TOM: The next time you’re going to have your heating system serviced, I would have them replace the pilot line at the same time.
TOM: Alright? It shouldn’t be very expensive.
CASSANDRA: OK, wonderful. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Cassandra, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. And get your husband to show you how to light that pilot, will you? Not that hard.
LESLIE: And would it be your heating maintenance company to look at your water heater or would that be a plumber?
TOM: Yeah. And typically, your water heater does need a little bit of cleaning because, remember, as that gas burns, you …
LESLIE: Well, you get a lot of rust, right?
TOM: Yes, that’s right. You get a lot of rust that flakes off the baffle, which actually goes up through the middle of the water heater. The purpose of the baffle is to slow down the flow of gases out so you get more heat out of them. But that baffle is sort of sacrificial in that it rusts and those flakes fall down, sit on top of the burner and build up. So it is an area that needs to be cleaned from time to time and certainly, the pilot light and the thermocouple need to be occasionally replaced. And that’s what I think Cassandra needs to do here.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, whether your winter weather is 60 degrees or 30 below, we can help you with your money pit winter woes. So give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, how to hunt for and get rid of an invisible gas that might be lurking in your home and that is responsible for 20,000 deaths a year. We’re going to show you how to stay safe, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you should call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your question, because one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Dremel Multi-Max Cordless Oscillating Tool worth 150 bucks. The Dremel Multi-Max can sand, scrape, grind and remove grout. It is cordless, which makes it super-easy to use. It’s got lithium-ion batteries. It’ll give you the same power as the corded version.
Call us right now with your question to win. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, earlier, we were talking about radon and radon, it’s kind of scary because you can’t see it, it doesn’t have a smell, can’t taste it. But it could be present in your home and it could be at dangerous levels, so you really need to know what’s going on with radon.
Now, radon is the top reason that non-smokers die from lung cancer and lung cancer kills 20,000 Americans a year. But radon exposure is preventable and the best way to avoid radon is to test for it in your home so that you can fix any problem that you might have and you don’t even know that you have it.
TOM: So how do you go about doing that testing? Well, there are actually several places to turn. The National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University offers discounted test kits online. You could check them out at SOSRadon.org. Plus, your local home center may sell radon test kits and some states even offer low-cost or free kits. The EPA’s website has contact info for every state’s radon center. Learn more at EPA.gov/Radon or pick up the phone right now and give us a call with your question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Carrie in Wisconsin needs some help with a popcorn ceiling. Tell us about the project.
CARRIE: Well, I am trying to redo my house and I used a spray bottle with water in it to get the ceiling soft. And that worked out really well to take it off and not have a lot of dust around but then when I wanted to put the paint up, there was still some left up there and that peeled off as I was rolling the paint on the ceiling.
TOM: Hmm. Yeah, OK.
CARRIE: So what is the best way to do that?
TOM: Well, obviously, you didn’t get it all off there. Now where are we at right now? Do you have a painted ceiling that’s got little bit of popcorn still stuck on it?
LESLIE: Got weird texture?
CARRIE: Yes, yes.
TOM: Hmm. Well, what I would tell you to do is to go back at it and try to get the rest of that off, if you really want to get rid of all that popcorn. And then, once you’re sure you’ve got it all off, the next thing I would apply is primer, not ceiling paint.
TOM: Because that’s going to seal in the surface and give it a good, firm coat for the new paint to adhere to and that will bind anything that’s sort of left behind. And then you want to use flat paint; don’t use anything with a sheen because even though you’ve got most of that popcorn off, there’s still going to be some unevenness left behind and if you use anything that’s got a sheen, it’s going to look really bad.
So, those are the steps. You’re going to have to go back and get everything that you missed; there’s no short way around that. And then prime it and then repaint it with flat paint.
CARRIE: OK. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: Alright, Carrie. Glad we helped you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Bob in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
BOB: Hi. I have a question about furnaces.
BOB: We bought our home 20 years ago and when we bought it, the furnace that was in it was about between 12 and 15 years old.
BOB: It’s still there, still works. We have it serviced and we check it out every year before we use it. And when we first bought the home, the guy that came and serviced it said that it was the most efficient way to heat a home. And my question is, is that still true 20 years later or is there something better out there?
TOM: So basically, you have a watered-air heating system, is that right?
BOB: What it does is it – the furnace heats water and then that water is pumped up through the house, through cast-iron radiators, like the old steam heat but it’s got water in them.
TOM: Right. Right. OK.
BOB: And then that – the radiators are what actually heat the room.
TOM: Yeah. That’s a very popular, very efficient way to heat your house.
LESLIE: And a very comfortable type of heat, as well.
TOM: That’s right, because it’s moist, you know. You don’t – that type of heating system doesn’t dry out the house. I mean I’ve got hot-water radiators in my house and I’m very, very comfortable with them and I wouldn’t change them for the world.
BOB: OK. That was my question, because I keep hearing these ground-source heat pumps and all this with …
TOM: Yeah and those are all good systems but you already have an efficient system.
LESLIE: But completely different.
TOM: And if you want to make it more efficient, you would improve the efficiency of the boiler.
BOB: Alrighty. Well, that was my question and – yeah, this old house, it’s been a real money pit. We bought it in 1990, paid 19,000 for it and we’ve probably put 100,000 into it but it’s really a really nice, clean, 3,000-foot home and we just love it.
TOM: And I’m sure it’s worth a lot more than that right now. Bob, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Paul in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
PAUL: Someone had spoken to me about installing a capacitor on my electric box and that would – is going to save me money on my utility bills.
PAUL: And they’re telling me that it would take wasted energy that comes from my motor and recycle it and therefore, I would be saving money. And I wanted to know what your thoughts are about that.
TOM: I’ve seen some of those schemes and I don’t know that they actually work.
PAUL: OK. Are they schemes?
TOM: I will tell you, if you want to save money on your energy bill, there are probably a lot more tried-and-true ways to do that.
PAUL: OK. That’s good to hear.
TOM: Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs, more insulation – there’s a lot easier ways to save money on utility bills than to try some of these technologies, which are just not yet proven yet.
PAUL: OK. Well, I appreciate that.
TOM: So I would stick with the basics.
PAUL: OK. Thank you very much, Tom.
TOM: You’re very welcome. And on our website, we’ve got an article with 10 free ways to save money on your electric bill. You might want to take that – look at that – at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Tom in Alabama needs some help with a laundry room situation. What can we do for you?
TOM IN ALABAMA: Well, I had – about several years ago, we added a 12×24 sunroom to the back of our house. The room sets about 10 to 12 inches off the ground.
TOM IN ALABAMA: Our laundry room is also on the back of the house, so you can imagine the vent is going into the laundry room.
TOM IN ALABAMA: Well, we always use a sheer stocking on the end to stop the lint and it works, it works.
TOM: So you have this thing venting into the sun room? Do you see like bits of lint floating in the sunlight?
TOM IN ALABAMA: No, no. Actually, it works fine. We just have to open the windows once in a while, put the fans on and everything’s fine. But I guess …
TOM: Yeah, well, it’s probably pretty humid, if nothing else. It’s not a good idea to vent a dryer into any area that’s considered living space.
TOM IN ALABAMA: You’re right. And that’s my question. What I would like to do is run it down under the floor and out but I’ve got 12 feet to run.
TOM IN ALABAMA: So, obviously, the clothes are never going to dry. Is it …?
TOM: Well, they may if you do it correctly. The secret here is to have as few bends as possible. If you can go off the dryer, down and have one 90-degree bend into that space and out and if you make that duct out of solid, metal ducting – I don’t want you to use the flexible, plastic dryer hose; there’s a lot of interior resistance. You’ll also get condensation and it could be a fire hazard.
But if you use solid, metal ducting with very little resistance, that’ll be fine. People run that metal ducting 10, 15, 20 feet all the time; it really has to do with the number of turns and how smooth it is. So if you use the metal duct, you’ll be fine doing that, Tom.
TOM IN ALABAMA: Oh, OK, great. I was wondering if I was going to have an inline – some kind of an exhaust or something I could put in – but I guess that’d be over exaggerating.
TOM: That’s overkill; you’re over thinking it. No, metal ducting is fine and just think about how nice it’s going to be to sit in the sunroom without having the odor of fabric softener in the air.
LESLIE: Which is nice, though.
TOM IN ALABAMA: You’ve got it. That’s exactly what it is. OK. Thank you so much for your time.
TOM: You’re welcome, Tom. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Darryl in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
DARRYL: Well, I’ve got these louvered windows – crank-out – on my porch and you’ve got to crank them clockwise to open them and counter-clock to close them and the whole crank comes out with the worm gear hooked to it, you know?
DARRYL: So I just want – is there any – a quick fix on that or do I got to – or where I can get a replacement.
TOM: It’s time to put your louvered windows out to pasture, my friend.
DARRYL: Oh, really.
LESLIE: Yeah, those jalousie windows are so inefficient.
LESLIE: I mean they’re great in warm climates when you want to get a nice breeze and you want to control the amount of air coming in. But you’re in Illinois and I know it’s on your porch but that can’t be helping you at all with your heating bills.
DARRYL: I’ve got the house pretty tight. It’s just the porch – I like to open it up good for the summer and spring and stuff like that and – but you’re telling me how I’ve just got to let her go, huh?
TOM: Well, you could probably find replacement parts but you’re going to spend so much time looking for them online. You may end up ordering and they’re not going to fit. I’d much rather see you think about replacing those jalousie windows because, as Leslie said, they’re incredibly inefficient and they’re kind of so 1950. (inaudible at 0:17:53).
DARRYL: Right. Well, I knew they were old.
DARRYL: There’s not even a brand name on them. I’ve looked everywhere.
TOM: Yeah. No.
LESLIE: Is there – where the handle is, generally there’s a set screw that sort of locks it.
DARRYL: No, that set screw just holds the handle on. There’s nothing that holds that worm gear in there.
LESLIE: Oh, good Lord.
LESLIE: I don’t even think you could get in there to reattach it.
DARRYL: Well, there was a pin where you can drive out the other – it’s like a half-shaft or whatever that worm gear fits into.
DARRYL: You can drive it out but I just didn’t know if you could buy a replacement part for it or …
TOM: It’s not a standard part, Darryl. I’m telling you, you’re going to have a real hard time finding this, OK?
DARRYL: OK. Alright.
LESLIE: You know what, Darryl? If you’ve really got your heart set on making this work and you know exactly what this part is that you’re looking for, there’s actually a good website. It’s AllAboutDoors.com. And they sell a ton of parts for all different types of situations. If you check out the jalousie/louver window section – you’ll know it if it’s there; there’s a lot of options, all in really detailed drawings. So make sure you check out that site because you may be able to save your beloved windows.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, cast-iron radiators, they hold a lot of heat and then distribute it evenly, which makes it a very comfortable heating source. But the radiators themselves, they’re kind of big and can be hard to incorporate into your decorating scheme.
TOM: But there is a way to make it work and we’re going to find out, when we talk to This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by SnowBlowersDirect.com. Thinking about getting a snow blower? Check out SnowBlowersDirect.com’s interactive buying guides, recommendations and customer reviews. Snow blower experts are available to help you pick the perfect snow blower. Visit SnowBlowersDirect.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And MoneyPit.com is chock full of energy-saving tips, including how to save money on your water-heating bill. And an easy to do that is to install a water-heating blanket. You can learn how on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Norma in Missouri needs some help with a sump pump situation. Tell us what’s going on.
NORMA: OK. There is a pipe all around the outside of the bottom of the basement and that – the water drains all around the house to a sump pump in the basement.
TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.
NORMA: Then the sump pump pushes it out into the sewer. What can be done so that you don’t have to have a sump pump?
TOM: Well, that’s a good question. Now, the system that you’re describing is called a subsurface drain system and it’s about as common a system as there is out there. And the reason that most people have basement drainage systems is because they get leakage. But that particular system is not the only way to stop your basement from leak; it usually comes down to grading and drainage at the foundation perimeter.
LESLIE: Oh, absolutely. I mean there are ways that you can manage it, Norma. You need to think about – do you have gutters on the house? Are they clean and free-flowing? Do you have enough amount of gutters and downspouts to provide sufficient water movement from your roof? You know, it depends on how big your house is. Is the grading OK? Are you sloping away from the house? Is it the right type of grading? Is it clean fill dirt or is it potting soil?
There’s a lot of things you need to address to get that water out of there so then you don’t need the sump pump.
TOM: On our website at MoneyPit.com, we’ve got lots of advice on how to stop leaky basements, so all the tips and the tricks of the trade are right there. Take a look at that site. Search on “fixing a leaky basement” and you will find your solution.
888-666-3974. Call us right now with your home improvement question.
LESLIE: Alright. Glenn is calling in from Devils Lake, North Dakota. Hey Glenn, go easy on us, Satan. No, I’m kidding. Hey, Glenn. How are you?
GLENN: Real good, real good.
LESLIE: Alright. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
GLENN: Well, I’ve got – in the basement, it was poured in two sections; a seam right down the middle. And this concrete is flaking off this seam, about up to 4 to 6 inches; a wide area. And actually, I’ve got some real light carpet. It’s bubbling up. I was wondering what I could do to …
TOM: Hmm. And it’s only happening in the seam area?
GLENN: Yes, it is.
TOM: Yeah. Well, when they pour concrete, the aggregate is sort of bubbled up to the top and then they sort of shake it and vibrate it and it sinks down. And sometimes, if you get some inconsistent mixing, you can get some parts of the concrete surface that are a little more susceptible to chipping, which may be what happened, depending on how this was poured.
But I will say that the best thing to do is to pull off all of the loose stuff; don’t try to repair it in place. Pull it off, get everything off that you think is even the least bit loose and then you want to use an epoxy patching compound. Because what that does is that really seals the surface in and attaches well to the rest of the concrete. And once it’s done, it will never pull off again.
You can’t try to patch this with more mortar or concrete because it will separate, it will delaminate. But if you use an epoxy compound, then it’ll stick really well and it’ll never fall off.
LESLIE: And the epoxy is super-flexible, so any further movement that you get in there, it will go with it.
TOM: Yeah, expansion and contraction. Mm-hmm.
GLENN: OK. Sounds good. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you have an older home, you know that cast-iron radiators that provided hot water or steam heat were the gold standard 100 years ago.
TOM: That’s true. They do provide a level of comfort that you just don’t get with forced, hot air. But the radiators themselves can be really hard to incorporate in your décor. This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor, is here though and he’s got some great tips on how to refinish cast-iron radiators and he joins us right now.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.
TOM: Welcome back to the program. Now, this is definitely one of the elements that adds sort of old-world charm to any older home. And I’m always shocked when we get the calls on the show from listeners who want to replace them, because baseboard radiators just can’t compare.
KEVIN: Well, when it comes to looks, I agree with you 100 percent. Some of these things are beautifully ornate, cast-iron pieces of art and they really were showpieces back in the day. And if you make them look good and you bring them back, they can be pieces of grandeur in your home.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Especially when you consider a baseboard heater is going to run pretty much the entire perimeter of the room and you have to be careful with furniture placement then, as well.
KEVIN: Yeah. There’s nothing wrong with a radiator; you can really make the thing sing.
LESLIE: So if they’re really just looking a little worse for the wear and maybe have a lot of paint buildup on them, what’s the best way to sort of tackle a cleanup on them?
KEVIN: Go find yourself a wire brush.
LESLIE: And a lot of elbow grease?
TOM: It’s a lot of labor, yeah.
KEVIN: Yeah. These things are cast-iron, right? So they’re really durable. You’re not going to hurt them. What you want to do is you want to get all those layers of paint off and you can do a pretty good job with a wire brush in place. Once you get all that loose paint off and take it down so you can see some of the details, spray paint them back up and they can look really nice.
LESLIE: And when it comes to spray paint, is temperature a concern? Do I need to work with a high-heat spray because they’re a radiator?
KEVIN: Well, I don’t think you actually do; the radiators don’t get quite that hot. Remember, they’re in our homes and you can actually touch these things. A high-heat spray paint is usually reserved for something with an open flame, like a gas grill.
KEVIN: You do want to think about, though, a spray paint that is good for metals.
TOM: And you can create almost a little spray booth right around the radiator by sort of dropping some newspaper behind it or cardboard around it, so you can really contain that spray.
KEVIN: Contain the spray and you’re going to want to use that spray paint to get into all those little nooks and crannies, because they are fairly ornate and they’re not always easy to get to.
LESLIE: And they certainly weigh a ton. I mean you’re not taking this thing outside.
TOM: Well, that’s a good point. But if you can take it outside, there are some other options. I took one out once and actually pressure-washed the paint off.
But the pros do it a little different, don’t they, Kevin?
KEVIN: We’ve had good luck with professionals who have actually taken these things offsite and sandblasted them. And it’s actually very effective, because when you get …
LESLIE: And fast.
KEVIN: Well, very fast, yep and a really thorough job, because now you can sort of get to all six sides of this beast. But a lot of these things had great detail on them that’s been lost over 100 years and 20 layers of paint. They will bring that detail back for you.
TOM: And it’s gorgeous. Now, if you decide that you really don’t have it in you to get rid of all that paint, how about covers? They’re an option.
KEVIN: Yeah, covers are an option. One thing that I’ve done in the past is I’ve put a nice piece of stone over the top of a radiator, so you still see a lot of it but you create yourself a little place to set a glass and you actually visually cut down on a lot of it.
But a cover is a great way. You don’t have to make these things yourself; there are a lot of companies out there that will make them for you. You can send them the sizes; they’ll send you the right radiator cover back. Just keep in mind, it’s mostly about having that hot air circulate through the house, so you don’t want to cover them such that you diminish the performance of the radiator.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That’s why, even with the wood covers – we have the cast-iron radiators at our home and they have that beautiful, radiator grill on the three sides that are exposed, to allow for that airflow through it. And I just happen to love the look of those radiator grills. There’s such wonderful options out here.
KEVIN: There really are a lot of really ornate options.
TOM: Great advice. Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Pleasure to be here, guys. Thank you.
TOM: And you can get more tips just like that by visiting ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: And of course, you can watch Kevin and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.
TOM: And This Old House, as well as Ask This Old House, are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.
Still ahead, learn how to listen to what your fuses are trying to tell you when they blow and learn how to fix them the easy way, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we’d love to hear from you, so pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because we’re going to help you with your home improvement projects, we’re going to tell you about something that you can do to get the job done right. Maybe it’s a product, maybe it’s a process; we want to help you get your home improvement projects done quickly and successfully. Plus, we want to give you the tools to do those jobs.
And one lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Dremel Multi-Max Cordless Oscillating Tool, which is worth 150 bucks. It can sand, scrape, grind, even remove grout. It’s got a lithium-ion battery, so it gives you a lot of power and it’s also super-light. It’s compact in size, so it’s going to fit into really tight areas. You can repair, remodel, restore; lots of fun projects with Dremel tools. So give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
OK. Now, when you’re using a lot of things in the house, you can blow fuses. And when that happens, you want to keep in mind that the fuse is just doing its job. It’s protecting your home from an overheated wiring situation, which can cause a fire.
And the answer, of course, is not to install a larger fuse. Instead, you need to reduce the load by turning off whatever you were running that caused that circuit to blow in the first place. Try running fewer items on the same fuse or move an item to a different part of the room that runs off a separate circuit.
For example, when we were setting up our holiday lights this year – a display, by the way, that I’m sure is visible from space – we had a problem blowing the fuse because it happened to be wired into the living room. So what did we do? We ran some cords around to the back of the house and thereby split it across multiple circuits and instantly, we no longer had problems loading circuits.
So, there are easy ways to resolve this. You want to keep in mind that you need to make sure your fuse and your wire size match up when you change those fuses. Because if you don’t, it might result in a wire overheating and that can be a big problem.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Just jot this down because this is a cheat sheet, which is going to help you to get proper pairings for your standard home wiring.
Now, a number 14 wire is going to get a 15-amp fuse. A number 12 wire is going to get a 20-amp fuse and a number 10 wire gets a 30-amp fuse. So if you can remember that, you can practice safe electricity in your money pit.
Alright. Gary in California, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
GARY: I wanted to ask you about the benefits of insulating your sub floor.
TOM: Warm tootsies.
GARY: I’ve got a concrete perimeter foundation and a raised sub floor.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yes, the benefits are warm feet.
GARY: Well, that’s what I’ve always heard and then I’ve done building and remodeled – I worked for the – where I’ve done all these kinds of things over the years and I thought, “You know, I’m a tall guy and it’s hard to get under there. I’m going to hire a contractor.” So I called the insulation guy and he said, “It’s a waste of money.”
GARY: He says you don’t gain anything. And I was really surprised to hear that, especially since we’re going to go from carpet to hardwood or tile.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don’t agree with that. It’s true that most of the heat loss is going to be through your ceiling, followed by your walls, so the floor is responsible for the least amount of heat loss. But there is an important consideration when it comes to comfort. We’re kidding about the cold feet but it really is true. If you have an insulated floor, you’re going to find that that floor surface is a lot warmer than it is right now.
And I do think that insulating floors is a good idea. And in fact, in most building codes, they require floors to be insulated. So, I think you got an insulation guy there that might just want – not want the job. You may want to move on to find somebody who does.
But it’s not a terribly complex job; it’s not difficult to do. It’s kind of a nasty place to work for a couple of hours but I think that you will find that it’s a good thing to do. It’ll save you a little bit of money and make the place a lot more comfortable.
GARY: Well and the – on the – when you say uncomfortable and it’s a pretty good task, this is an older home and it’s set on 4x6s with 4 foot between centers and then 2×6 and then plywood above that. So it’s a little more than just going in and throwing some 24-inch batts across there. You got any suggestions?
TOM: Because the joists are wider than normal, is that what you’re saying? The space between the joists?
GARY: Yeah, 2-foot centers. They’re 4-foot centers.
TOM: Yeah, hmm. Alright. Well then what you’re going to have to do is you’re going to have to come up with some strategy for supporting the insulation in place. How could you do that? I’ve seen it done with chicken wire, where you put the insulation batts up and then you basically run some chicken wire underneath and tack that up kind of as you go.
GARY: Oh, that’s a good idea.
TOM: And that supports it and holds it in place. So I would come up with a creative solution like that; I think that’ll do the trick.
GARY: Yeah. I think that’s a great idea. Plus, you don’t have to worry about dogs and cats and other things getting in there.
TOM: Or chickens.
GARY: There you go. Alright. Hey, that’s great. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Still ahead, as a home inspector, I’ve seen many home sales stopped in its tracks after I gave my report. But what happens if your home inspector fails to catch a major problem? Find out, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we want for you to be part of The Money Pit, so why not head on over to MoneyPit.com? And while you are there admiring the fantastic, fancy, new, user-friendly MoneyPit.com, you can post your question. If you’ve had great success with a project and you want to brag and share your tips, you can do that, as well. You can even post photos of whatever project you’re working on – whether you need help with it or you just want to show it off – all right there at Money Pit’s new Community section.
And you’re going to get a quick response to your do-it-yourself dilemma. It might be from me, it might be from Tom, it might be from somebody else who’s an admirer of The Money Pit and really just wants to give you a hand with your project.
And you can even link all of your posts right to your Facebook page, so you really get instant gratification with community right there. And it’s all at MoneyPit.com.
TOM: That’s right. And while you are on MoneyPit.com, you can leave your post in the Community section, just like Bigbny. I think that’s how we’re pronouncing this. It’s interesting trying to pronounce user names on the air, you know?
LESLIE: Right. Because you can make up anything you want, really.
TOM: Yeah, that’s right, exactly. But anyway, Bigbny says – he or she; it could be a woman. See, that’s the other thing. You don’t know gender. Ah, it’s such a challenge.
LESLIE: That’s true.
TOM: Anyway, this person purchased an old Victorian in New Jersey. “Got it inspected before we bought it. Now that we are moved in, we have discovered significant termite damage. Estimates on the damage seem to be upwards of $20,000.”
TOM: “We’ve also discovered that the seller didn’t disclose the termite activity and damage that had been repaired. I am not a litigious person.” You must be the only one in New Jersey then.
LESLIE: You might want to become one, at this point.
TOM: “But what are my options? I feel that the seller and the inspector are wrong here.”
OK. Alright. First things first. Let’s talk about what is the home inspector’s responsibility. Home inspectors are responsible to inspect structure, for sure. However, that structure has to be visible and accessible at the time of the inspection.
So, if this termite damage, for example, was in a basement where the beams were fully exposed, there’s no reason it should not have been picked up. However, if this termite damage was in a crawlspace that is 12 inches off grade – you couldn’t barely fit into – then it’s not going to be something the inspector would have been responsible to find. So you need to determine whether or not the damage was discoverable; reasonably discoverable. I’m not quite sure how you found it but it could have been obstructed by lack of access or by furniture or by carpets or by wallpaper or things like that. It has to be accessible to be discovered.
In terms of the seller themselves, well, in that case, if the seller had knowledge of the termite infestation, had knowledge that there was termite damage, had knowledge that there were repairs and somehow forgot to mention that to you, well, I call that consumer fraud. And that could certainly be actionable. This all is predicated on the fact that I am not an attorney. We don’t make these decisions and so …
LESLIE: Nor do you play one on TV.
TOM: Nor do I play one on TV or on the radio. So, your first step should be to contact one. But generally, if it’s discoverable because it’s visible, the inspector should find it. And as far as the sellers, if they knew about it, they knew that there was a defect, they definitely should have told you.
And by the way, the realtors may have some culpability here, as well. So, get to the attorney and see what they say and take it from there. It’s a lot of money, so it might be something that you’ll have to litigate.
LESLIE: Now, as a perspective buyer for a home, should you be bringing in a termite inspection or termite inspector at that point? Is that something …?
TOM: That’s an interesting question, Leslie, because the termite inspectors – the pest-control operators – well, they claim that they’re not there to inspect damage. The home inspectors, on the other hand, are not there to discover termites. By the way, live insects is not something that’s part of the standards of practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
So, you could bring in both and they’re both going to point at each other but two opinions are better than one. And the bottom line is that if this is reasonably discoverable, it should have been found.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh, man. Well, I hope that you find a really good solution to this but you know what? Enjoy your new house, have a great time with it. It’s all part of the joys of home ownership.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope you learned a thing or two about how to improve your money pit. We certainly did.
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.
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(Copyright 2011 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.)