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Sealing Drafts, Adding Insulation, Removing Holiday Decorations, Winter Decorating Ideas and More

  • Transcript

    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: Call us right now with your home improvement project. Call us right now with your do-it-yourself dilemma. Call us right now with your New Year’s resolution. There’s got to be one that has something to do with your house. Let us help you get it done. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour, we have a very important question for you. If you had to choose between insulating your home and sealing out those nasty drafts, which should be done first? Both are important but which one gives you the best return on investment? We’re going to have that answer, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And now that Christmas is officially over – sorry, all of you holiday lovers; even myself included – let’s not try to prolong the inevitable. You know, keeping those lights up until Valentine’s Day or my end-of-February birthday is just not going to bring the holiday back. So, we’re going to share a few tricks to taking decorations down and storing them for next year a little bit easier.

    TOM: And after the holidays, it’s easy to get into that DIY rut but you don’t need to put off all of your projects until spring. We’ve got your tips for winter decorating ideas that will chase those blues away, coming up.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We’re giving away a $350 gift certificate from Leggett & Platt and they make some really nice beds and bedding.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-666-3974. Let’s get right to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: David in Iowa is on the line with a heating question. What can we do for you?

    DAVID: I’ve heard you guys talk about infrared heaters.

    TOM: Yep.

    DAVID: And I have a house from the 70s; that’s the 1870s.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: And I have cool spots in the house. I’d like to do the zone heating and our two questions – one, how good are these infrared heaters and two, are they affordable?

    TOM: Well, I think the answers – the answer to both questions is that they’re very good and yes, they are affordable. I will say that we just started to work this year with SUNHEAT and they sent me one of their infrared heaters. And I was immediately impressed by its quality. The cabinet is very solidly built; the electronics look like they’re solidly put together.

    And as we started to use it in our kitchen, I noticed that the heat was very warm, very comfortable and even very moist. And so I think in our particular application, it was a perfect fit because we had one room in the house that’s a little chillier than all of the other rooms, because I have a very old house, as well. Mine is just a little bit younger than yours; it was built in 1886. But that was a perfect application.

    And there are many folks that use these SUNHEAT heaters for particular rooms or areas of their house and then they will turn down the heat in the other rooms. And that makes sense, too. If you have a living room or a dining room or a kitchen where you find that you spend most of your time on the chilly, winter evenings, why heat the rest of the house? You can turn down the heat and use a SUNHEAT infrared heater to, essentially, just warm the room where everybody is sitting.

    DAVID: Well, that sounds great. I’ll try and find your website and see if I can find one.

    TOM: Alright, terrific. David, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: And David, you can head on over to SUNHEAT.com. That’s actually their website. And you can take a look, because the cabinets that house the heating unit are beautifully made. They’re actually in an attractive style that you’re not going to mind putting anywhere in your home and you can order one right there. They’re affordable and they truly do a great job.

    TOM: Yes, they absolutely do.

    LESLIE: Alright. Saldana in Washington, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    SALDANA: I bought my house about four years ago and about a year ago, I came home one night – and it’s a two-story house – and went to take a shower and there was no water. And I went through the whole house and there was no water out of any of the outlets, upstairs or downstairs.

    TOM: OK.

    SALDANA: There’s two bathrooms in the kitchen. And I went outside to see if the water had been turned off, because that’s what it appeared to be and it was totally on, where it comes in from the public municipality.

    TOM: OK.

    SALDANA: So, then I thought, well, I wasn’t going to mess with it that night. Next morning, everything was fine, just like it had magically never happened. Then, a few months later, it happened again and it’s happened four or five times now.

    TOM: OK.

    SALDANA: Sometimes, the water is completely off; sometimes, it’s just barely running through. And I’ve turned on all the faucets at once and there have been areas (inaudible at 0:04:46).

    TOM: Right, OK. You have a – where the water comes into the house – you said it’s municipal water, so it’s not a well, correct?

    SALDANA: Right.

    TOM: And do you have a valve that’s a pressure-reducing valve, at the main water line where it comes in?

    SALDANA: Ooh, that I don’t know. I don’t …

    TOM: Because I – it sounds like a valve problem.

    SALDANA: OK. And would that be the city’s valve problem or …?

    TOM: And I think that if the valve is getting a little bit wacky on you here, you could have a situation where it’s, you know, trying to adjust pressure and just getting stuck in the closed position. And then when the pressure changes on the street side, it releases and the water starts to flow again.

    LESLIE: And opens up wide.

    SALDANA: Hmm. OK.

    TOM: So I think it’s – a plumbing system is not that complicated; the valve’s either open or closed. But if you have one of these pressure-reduction valves, there’s some degree of automation to it and that might be exactly what’s happening.


    TOM: Alright? So check that out. I think you may find your solution is right there.

    SALDANA: That would be from – that would be my valve and not the city’s valve.

    TOM: Yes, it would be usually on the house side of the main water line coming in.

    LESLIE: Correct. Which, of course, makes it your financial responsibility.

    TOM: That’s right.

    SALDANA: Oh, of course. I’ve got to find it.

    LESLIE: Lucky you.

    TOM: Alright. Svetlana, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Happy New Year, everybody. Well, it is 2011. What are you working on in your house? Are you going green? Are you becoming more energy-efficient? Do you need to redecorate? Whatever your New Year’s home improvement resolutions are, we can give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are post-holiday blues putting you into a DIY rut? No, no, no. There’s no need to put off those projects until spring. We’re going to have some tips on some projects that you can do right now, after this.

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    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: Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll do our best to answer your home improvement question and we’ll toss your name into The Money Pit hard hat because this hour, we’re giving away a $350 Leggett & Platt gift certificate. One caller we talk to may win the Leggett & Platt Home Collection, 400-thread-count sheet set with RestAssured, easy-fit corner pockets. Let me redefine that: it’s a pretty-darn nice set of sheets for your bed.

    LESLIE: No, the pockets are important, because it means the sheet is going to stay in place, because so many mattresses today are thicker than anything I’ve ever seen. And then you go and put a regular sheet on, it’s like – that means it’s going to stay in place.

    TOM: Well, alright. These are super-comfortable, fitted sheets, as Leslie just so aptly described; made of 100-percent Egyptian cotton. So you can use that $350 Leggett & Platt gift certificate to pick up a set for you. For more info, you can check out their website at LPCPG.com – that’s LPCPG.com – or call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Well, now that we are officially into the new year and this is when the holidays are over and the winter starts to get a little bit long and a little bit chilly but we’re really …

    TOM: And darker.

    LESLIE: Seriously. And darker. But spring is around the corner. But with these long, dark days of winter, a lot of us project-loving homeowners tend to get the blues. But you really don’t have to wait for spring to come, to start decorating and to get your do-it-yourself groove back. You know, a few dollar-wise home improvement projects can actually spruce up your home and your spirits and help you beat those winter blues.

    You can start by sprucing up your front door by polishing the door hardware or rolling out a brand new doormat or just making sure that your porch lights are in order and equipped with fresh bulbs at the maximum wattage that’s allowable. And that’s going to brighten up the whole outside of your house.

    Then you can also plant winter-color flowers in your porch, in your front containers or even in some strategic spots along your walkways or even landscape beds, just to spruce up your outdoor’s view when it’s not covered in snow.

    And then you can start spring early with your planters of [forest bulbs] (ph) or even a mini-herb garden, stationed right in a sunny window in your kitchen, your dining room. Wherever it is, it truly does just freshen up the whole house.

    TOM: And nothing helps beat the winter blues better than bright lights, so be alert to the needs of your indoor lighting scheme. Make additions, make adjustments for warm, welcoming, comfortable lighting throughout your family’s waking hours. You want to warm up to living areas, also, with some very comfortable and colorful throws and nice, big pillows. You can add some spring tones and textures as the next season draws near.

    Winter might be long, it might be dark but your decorating scheme doesn’t have to be. With a few, simple improvements, you can brighten up that space and you can brighten up your attitude and then you can beat those winter blues.

    We could also help you beat down those home improvement projects, take them right off that to-do list, if you pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Jimmy from South Carolina is on the line with an insulation question. What can we do for you?

    JIMMY: I attended a presentation of a foil-type insulation which goes into your attic.

    TOM: Yes.

    JIMMY: It supposably (ph), in the summertime, reduces the heat coming into your house by reflecting the heat back.

    TOM: Right. Right.


    JIMMY: In the wintertime, it contains the heat within the house, letting it – to keep it from going …

    TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s called radiant barrier.

    JIMMY: Right. How legitimate are these products and is it worth putting in?

    TOM: There’s a lot of crazy claims out there about efficiency. It’s kind of hard to pin them down. I think there’s probably other things that you can do that could be more effective for you.

    For example, most homes don’t have enough insulation to start with. So, if your house in South Carolina does not have 19 to 22 inches of batt insulation or 19 of batt, 22 of blown-in, that’s going to be the single, most cost-effective way to reduce your heating and cooling costs. If your house doesn’t have continuous ridge and soffit vents – so it’s trapping excess heat in the attic – that’s a very cost-effective improvement.           

    But radiant barrier, maybe but it’s kind of hard to tell because there’s a lot of claims of energy-efficiency but it’s very difficult to prove it out.

    LESLIE: To prove it.

    JIMMY: OK. Just wanted to check, because this here, supposably (ph), is going to save you roughly 50 percent on your energy costs per …

    TOM: Oh, well, anybody who comes and says he’s going to send you – save you 50 percent on your energy bill is like if you had no insulation and now you have insulation, maybe. But that’s – any claim that’s as outrageous as that means the product isn’t legit, in my opinion, because I don’t know any product that’s going to save you 50 percent.

    LESLIE: That truly gives you 50 percent.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JIMMY: OK.

    TOM: Very suspicious. Jimmy, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Jan in Minnesota is on the line with a countertop question. What can we do for you?

    JAN: We have old, Formica countertops and we would like to update our countertops but we don’t quite want to go as high as …

    TOM: Granite or Corian.

    LESLIE: Granite.

    JAN: Granite, granite. Right.

    TOM: Right. Uh-huh. OK.

    JAN: And so we’re looking for other options to replace our countertops and we’re looking for resale value, also.

    TOM: Sure. Well, I mean there’s a lot of options that you have. How about ceramic tile? Have you considered that? That’s an easy way to update a laminate top.

    LESLIE: And it’s something that you could easily do yourself.

    JAN: We have a ceramic backsplash, so we didn’t know about matching that.

    TOM: Yeah, you’d have to pick something that was complimentary to that, because you probably wouldn’t want to use the exact same tile.

    JAN: Right.

    TOM: There is a product called Bondera TileMatSet, which is a tile adhesive. And it’s basically a sheet product, so all you do with a laminate top is you peel the back off of this stuff and you apply it to the top. Then you peel the top off of it and you can stick the tiles right there and you can grout immediately and be done.

    JAN: Ah, OK.

    TOM: Makes the project really easy to do and that’s a real inexpensive way to change the look of that top.

    Other things that she could do, Leslie, might be to paint the Formica top, using one of the laminate paints?

    LESLIE: You know, there are so many products out there as far as countertop paint. Rust-Oleum makes two products; one is just a basic, countertop paint kit. It comes in 12 or 15 solid colors, which can range from like a muddy taupe to a bright blue, green, yellow; pretty much a good scope of kitchen-y colors. And it’s a couple-of-step process; it does take three full days to cure but it dries incredibly hard. It’s an easy process to follow and it’s affordable for the kit.

    Then they have another one in their line and Rust-Oleum is the parent company of another company called Modern Masters. And they have a countertop kit that allows you to create the look of granite, I would say, very, very realistically. But the kit is, I’m thinking, over $200 if I’m not mistaken. But it’s a fantastic kit; it really does create the look of granite.

    It’s a very simple, do-it-yourself project as long as you follow the process and allow it the proper curing time. That’s really the big killer here is that you cannot use your countertops for three days; you really have to let it set up. Otherwise, you set something down, it’s going to stick, it’s going to chip.

    There’s another company called GIANI that makes a granite kit and they only offer it in two different colors. But while it’s a great product, it ends up looking a little bit more crafty, in my opinion, whereas the Modern Master one really looks like granite. But I guess it depends on your skill set but you can paint it, no problem.

    JAN: OK. Well, that sounds like some good options. I’m not too crafty but I think I could give it a try.

    TOM: OK. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jerry on the line who’s dealing with some moss on a roof. What can we do for you?

    JERRY: Well, I have these wood shakes on my roof and they’re approximately 20 years old. And I have a lot of trees around my house; gets a lot of shade. And I was wondering if there was any kind of alternative to take care of that moss besides putting copper flashing up there. Roofer said that’d probably cost you $400 in flashing alone because I have so many peaks.

    TOM: Ah. OK. Well let’s kind of back up here and talk about what caused it. You hit on some of the issues there. First of all, you had a lot of trees around your house. Are they still there or have they been trimmed back?

    JERRY: Oh, yeah. I’ve got real tall evergreen trees.

    TOM: OK. So, because you have a very shady roof, you have conditions that are very conducive to growing moss. If you could cut back some of those trees just a little bit, thin them out, get a little more sunlight on there, that would help.

    Now, your roofer suggesting the copper flashing on the ridge, he’s a smart guy because, basically, what’s happening with that …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s a good trick of the trade.

    TOM: Yep, good trick of the trade – is the rain hits the copper, it releases some of the metal, the metal runs down the roof and then cleans the moss. So that’s kind of a natural mildicide.

    Now, there’s a good product out there, though, that if you apply it, will do a really good job of getting the moss off and then keeping it off. It’s called Wet & Forget. Have you heard of this product?

    JERRY: No, I haven’t.

    TOM: It’s used by a lot of major folks like Sea World, for example. They have all of the issues with moisture and slippery sidewalks and grimy buildings from all the algae that grows. They use this product and a lot of homeowners use this product. Their website is WetAndForget.com. It’s not caustic, it’s not acidic and it doesn’t include bleach and you don’t have to pressure-wash with it. You just apply it and it does the job by itself.

    JERRY: Well that sounds good.

    TOM: Take a look at that at WetAndForget.com. In fact, they have some before-and-after photos of roofing projects there that are particularly impressive.

    JERRY: Well, great. I’ll have to check that out.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Doug from Rhode Island who’s got a question about an attic fan. How can we help you with that?

    DOUG: Somebody gave me a new, 15-inch attic fan. And I’m considering installing it but I also wondered, the electricity I’m going to use to run the fan, it’s maybe a wash. I don’t know. In other words, is it economical to run this attic fan?

    TOM: Yeah. I’ll tell you what, I don’t have a good opinion of attic fans because what we have found – do you have central air conditioning in your house?

    DOUG: Yes.

    TOM: Well, what’s been found is that if you turn the attic fan on in the summertime, that it depressurizes the attic but it doesn’t stop there. It’ll reach down through the insulation – it’ll find all the little cracks and crevices in that ceiling space – and it’ll reach down into your house and it will start drawing off air-conditioned air and actually drive up your cooling costs.

    So, I’m glad you didn’t have to pay for the attic fan but I wouldn’t put it in, if it was me. I would just make sure that my attic was well-ventilated, using passive vents. The most preferred are ridge vents and soffit vents.

    DOUG: Yeah, I’m trying – I have sufficient vents.

    TOM: Yeah. Then I don’t think you should put it in. I don’t think it’s going to help you and it could potentially hurt you.

    DOUG: OK. No, I understand exactly what you’re saying.

    TOM: OK?

    DOUG: Thank you for your time.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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, we’ve got advice on two of the most important ways that you can cut down on energy loss in your home: one being sealing up leaks or adding insulation being the other. So Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House is going to explain the difference and what the benefits are, next.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Trewax All-Natural Hardwood Floor Cleaner. Since 1935, Trewax products have set the standard for quality floor care, with a line of waxes, sealers and cleaning products.

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    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: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we get lots and lots of questions from homeowners here on The Money Pit but we want to also talk to you, if you are an apartment dweller or a renter of any type. You’re in a unique situation. We’ve got help for you, too.

    Do you think that there’s nothing that you can do, for example, to beat back those heating costs? Because let’s face it, you can’t put in new replacement windows and you can’t replace your heating system and all of that. No, there are things that you can do and we can help you with it, so pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And you can also go to MoneyPit.com and search on heating tips for apartment dwellers and you’ll find those answers right there, as well.

    LESLIE: Melissa in Tennessee is doing some decorating. How can we help you with that fun job?

    MELISSA: We got a new sink top for my vanity. My vanity is 60 inches long.

    TOM: OK.

    MELISSA: And it has one sink. If you’re facing the vanity, it is on the right-hand side. And I had a mirror that was on the wall. It’s one of those – you just – a mirror only and it was screwed into the wall, OK?

    TOM: OK. Mm-hmm.

    MELISSA: So, I’ve been having the hardest time. What I’ve wanted to do is take that mirror down and get a framed mirror that’s really pretty.


    MELISSA: But I can’t find that size anywhere.

    LESLIE: Now …

    TOM: Yeah, well you’re probably going to have to make it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And here’s the other thing that you could do. Is the mirror in good condition and if you could add a frame to it and make it work, would that be a solution? Or is it just a weird size or it’s destroyed and you just have to take it down and replace?

    MELISSA: Yeah. The mirror is just fine.


    MELISSA: My only dilemma is where the screw is, there’s a washer in the screw and it’s sort of raised.


    MELISSA: So in order to get a piece of 4-inch trim on there, it wouldn’t be (audio gap) against it.

    LESLIE: Well …

    TOM: Yeah but you can carve that out.

    LESLIE: But there is actually one other option. Since your mirror is in good shape and it’s really an odd size, so why pay to replace the mirror if it’s in a good condition? There’s something from Moen; I’m sure you’re familiar with the company. It’s called Mirrorscapes and it’s basically sort of a flat piece that you put onto your mirror with adhesive and then this decorative panel sort of snaps on top of that.

    And it could be fluted molding, it could be more simple, it could have corner rosettes; I mean you really have a lot of options. You don’t have to miter it; it really just sort of snaps into place.

    And I used it for a client of mine in Manhattan who had this, you know, wall-to-wall, gigantic mirror that was just plain and boring, on a wall above a Jacuzzi tub. And this really was the best solution and probably the most affordable solution. I’m not going to lie, it’s not the least expensive thing but it really is a viable solution when you’re stuck with something that could be way more if you were to, say, go to a frame shop, pick out a molding, have them create a mirror for you. This really is a viable solution.

    MELISSA: Well that sounds great. I’ve never heard of that. So, it’s a Moen?

    LESLIE: Moen Mirrorscapes. And if you go to Moen.com/Mirrorscapes, it takes you right there. But I’m sure if you go to their page and search it, you’ll find it, no problem.

    MELISSA: OK. Well, that is great news. I’m glad because I’ve really had a hard time finding a solution.

    LESLIE: Well, good. And this is something you can do yourself, so it’s really an easy fix.

    MELISSA: Great.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, when it comes to making your home energy-efficient, there are certainly lots of choices and it helps to set some priorities so that you can pick a place to begin.

    TOM: That’s right. And the two most common moves to make homes more efficient are to increase insulation and to decrease the amount of air that can leak in and out of a house. But even with those, which delivers the best return on investment? Well, let’s find out as we welcome This Old House general contractor, Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tom.

    TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: Now, you must be faced with questions like this every time you start to tear open one of those grand, old homes that you guys make over. Homeowners want to know how they’re going to get the best energy efficiency out of their renovation. Where do you begin on that air sealing versus insulation question?

    TOM SILVA: Well, the air-sealing part comes in real early here, because there’s a new code out there that actually requires that I have an inspection – another form of inspection – for the inspector to come out and make sure that I do certain things.

    TOM: OK. Oh, that’s interesting. So, when we think about the building inspector looking at the foundation and the framing and the mechanicals and making sure the roof’s there, now they’re really looking at this important energy question, as well.

    TOM SILVA: That’s right. The energy is – is they have to come out before I insulate.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: And they want to make sure that before the siding goes on that the windows are sealed up correctly on the outside.

    TOM: So all those drafts are now covered by code-enforced inspections.

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. And even the joints of the plywood.

    LESLIE: Now, is this something that really only applies to a new construction or is this when you’re adding an addition or working on a major renovation? Do you have to sort of take this step with the res code, as well?

    TOM SILVA: You have to take this step with the res code. It follows a little bit different when you’re doing a renovation and addition. The old part is more forgiving than the new part. So, if I’m doing an addition, for example, I have – that addition has to meet the res check but the alteration has to be insulated but it doesn’t have to be opened up to be insulated. So you can assume that it’s insulated and you can – any wall. If I just opened up one part of a wall, I’d have to insulate that section. I don’t have to do the whole wall.

    TOM: So air sealing really is a priority, then, over insulation today. Let’s say we get the air sealing correct and we’re doing everything we’re supposed to be doing. Now we want to look at the insulation. Is there a priority, in your mind, between, say, floor insulation, wall insulation and ceiling insulation, as to what the most important place of your house is to insulate?

    TOM SILVA: Well, once you’ve cut down the drafts, now you have to think about heat. Heat rises. So, what do you want to do? You want to put the hat on the building; use the warmest hat to keep it warm. The next thing you’ve got to think about, the walls. You want to tighten those up.

    I like to insulate levels, so if I live in a two-story building, I like to insulate the first floor and the second floor. I want the heat that’s in the first floor to stay in the first floor. I want the heat in the second floor to heat the second floor.

    LESLIE: Now, if you’re insulating between the first and the second floor, because you’ve got two conditioned spaces, in essence, do you use unfaced batting or is it better to go with, you know, more of a foam type?

    TOM SILVA: You don’t need a vapor barrier at all, in a space that’s heated above or below.


    TOM SILVA: So, it’s unconditioned space needs a vapor barrier and you’ve got to think about what part of the country you live in and where do you want that vapor barrier. For example, if I live in Florida, I want the vapor barrier to be on the outside of the building. If I live in New England, I want the vapor barrier to be on the inside of the building, because I heat more than I cool.

    So, condensation can form on that wall surface in New England, for example, and it’s going to get to the outside of the building, it’s going to collect on the back side of the sheathing, frost is going to build up inside that wall, it’s going to run down and my sills are going to rot, my paint’s going to feel.

    TOM: And that’s really critical, because that condensation – I mean we think of insulation and we measure it by R-value but if you add 2 percent moisture to insulation, you reduce the R-value by up to a third. So it’s very, very important that you have insulation be as dry as it possibly can be.

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. The moisture is the enemy, whether it’s coming from the inside or the outside. And you want to keep that building tight; you want to make sure your vapor barriers are on correct. You want to make sure all of your electrical boxes are sealed up nice and tight. There’s all kinds of new things out there that you have to be careful of.

    TOM: Well, there’s an awful lot of new tricks that the old contractors out there – you excluded, my friend – are learning about how to make homes more energy-efficient and I tell you, it’s really, really great for everybody. It’s saving money; it’s making those homes so much more comfortable, as well.

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely.

    TOM: Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: As always, it’s my pleasure.

    TOM: To learn more about air sealing and insulation, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    LESLIE: And make sure you watch Tommy 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 is brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Still ahead, do you have that one neighbor that leaves the holiday lights up way longer than necessary? Like until Easter? Is that person you? Well, there are some very easy ways to undeck those halls and have it all ready to go for next year and we’ll talk about that, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

    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 you should give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We are going to answer your home improvement question, plus we are going to put you in The Money Pit hard hat grab bag, if you will, where we’re going to give one of our lucky callers this hour a great prize. We’ve got up for grabs a $350 Leggett & Platt gift certificate.

    And with that, you might choose from their Home Collection, which has a 400-thread-count sheet set or any of their fitted sheets that have those easy-fit corners so your sheets are not just going to go boing off of your super-deep mattress set. There’s really a lot of beautiful things for you to choose from that feel super-soft and super-luxurious.

    If you want some more information so you can start thinking about how you’re going to spend that $350 gift certificate, head on over to their website. It’s LPCPG.com. So you’ve got to be in it to win it. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win and your home improvement answer.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, as the holidays wrap to a close, it might be time, very quickly, to put away all of those sparkly decorations so you don’t become the neighbor with the petrified wreaths, say, come April. That would be bad.

    LESLIE: There are a lot of them.

    TOM: But while you’re taking them down, the first thing you want to do is check for any damage. You want to replace any of those burned-out bulbs. You want to make sure there’s no frayed wires from the holiday season. I always like to plug the lights back in after I take them off the tree, to make sure that I haven’t kind of loosened any bulbs in the process of doing that.

    LESLIE: In your wrapping up of them.

    TOM: So I am absolutely certain this next year, when I pull them out, that they’re going to work, right? So just plug them in one more time when they’re all wrapped together, so that you know that they’re going to be good to go. This way, if there’s any damage, you can replace them while those light strings are still on half-price-off sale.

    LESLIE: That’s correct. Now, if you can still find them at the department stores while you head out this week to get your 50-percent-off Christmas decorations. This is when I always buy my cards, my wrapping paper, everything. It’s the best time to get good deals.

    Now, with your holiday lights, the best way to store them – what you want to do is cut some cardboard into a 12-inch by 9-inch piece and then you can wrap the lights around that piece of cardboard and that’s just going to keep them tidy and really ready for next year. Nothing’s going to get tangled; you’re not going to get anything roped up and twisted, so that’s a good way to store them.

    Another fun idea is to use a rolled-up magazine, maybe a newspaper or even a large, cardboard tube. This way, you can stick the ends into the middle and plug them together to keep the lights from coming undone. This way, you know exactly where it starts, where it ends and it really just helps you to put the lights back onto the tree or the bushes or wherever you’re putting them on next year, just if they’re properly organized from the start.

    You want to make sure that you store all of your decorative items in clear plastic bins, so you know exactly what you’ve got. And this way, you’re going to be sure that moisture isn’t going to get in there and deteriorate any of your holiday cheer. And then place all of your stored items at the back of your storage area. This way, you’ll be able to get to whatever’s current and what you might need for the season, right up at the front. Sort of keep rotating through that storage area so everything you need is always accessible.

    TOM: Good advice. For more good advice, pick up the phone and call us right now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Chris in Iowa is dealing with some window condensation. Tell us about it. What’s going on? When do you see it?

    CHRIS: Well, I’m noticing it more, as the season begins to get colder, there’s a small amount of condensation on the inside of the bottom of my windows. I was wondering if this is something I need to be concerned about.

    TOM: Well, it’s more of an annoyance than anything else but let me tell you what’s happening. The windows are transmitting the temperature from the outside to the inside and the warm, moist air inside of your house is striking that cold surface and it’s releasing its water, essentially, the same way that in the summer you will have moisture that will release onto, say, a glass of soda or iced tea when you put it outside. It’s basically the air, when it’s chilled, can’t hold as much moisture and that’s why the warm air of your house strikes it and condenses.

    You can do something simple like if you put shades or curtains over those windows and that stops as much warm air from getting there. That will slow it down. But it’s not really a problem you have to deal with in terms of structure or anything like that; it’s more just of annoyance. I mean if it gets really bad, it could rot out window sills but that’s about it.

    CHRIS: OK. Well, that’s a relief. I have new windows and I was concerned that they were going to be rotting out sooner than later.

    TOM: Yeah, they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be. It sounds like a pretty minor problem.

    CHRIS: OK, great.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, one hot holiday item this year was the flat screen TV but now, if you got one, that’s great. But this – here comes the hard part: how are you going to hang it, right? How are you going to get that thing …?

    LESLIE: How do you make sure it stays on the wall?

    TOM: Yeah, put it up on the wall and not have it fall down again and crash into a million pieces. We’re going to have some tips on how to accomplish that task, next.

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    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we are so glad to see that so many of you are joining our Community section at the fantastic MoneyPit.com. And we’re seeing new questions posted every single day and we’re really getting super-busy in the new year, answering them. And here …

    TOM: Yeah, by the way, we could use some help. So if you know something about home improvement, log on and help us answer a few questions.

    LESLIE: Seriously. Yeah.

    TOM: We could use some additional opinions.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Even if you’ve maybe done a similar project or you’ve got pictures of a project that you worked on that was just like it, post them. We want to see what you’re working on. You could totally lend somebody a hand in the virtual home improvement universe. We’re really happy to have everybody participate.

    And you can post your questions there and I’ve got one here from Jenna who wrote: “Like many people this season, we are buying a new, flat screen TV and we’re planning to mount it over our fireplace. I was wondering if there were any special precautions that we need to take because of the fireplace being behind the wall that we are mounting it on. Is it going to affect or damage the bricks or the functionality of the fireplace if we have to drill into this wall and what would be the best way to do it?”

    TOM: Well, first of all, let’s presume that this is a real fireplace as opposed to a manufactured fireplace. If we’re talking about real brick, there’s really no damage you’re going to be doing by drilling into it.

    You want to use the right fastener. Probably the easiest fastener would be a Tapcon fastener – T-a-p-c-o-n. This is a fastener that’s specifically designed to attach to concrete or brick. When you buy it, it comes with a pilot drill that’s the right size. So you drill the holes first, then you use these special screws to kind of drill or bolt it right onto that brick surface.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they do really make a very secure hold, so you’ll know that you’re really getting into something and that this is going to stay there.

    Make sure that when you buy the mount, that it’s appropriate to the type and size of the television that you have, so you want to make sure that they sort of fit together as a puzzle piece goes. And then, really just make sure you anchor that on there securely.

    And also, there’s so many options with these mounts. You can get pivoting ones, ones that pull away, so look into how you’re best going to view it in the room and then choose a mount that works for that TV and how you’re going to enjoy it and that should do the trick.

    Alright. I’ve got another one here posted from Jancan (ph) who writes: “We have an expanse of Mexican paver flooring. It’s 20 years old and some of them are badly stained from grease and water. I think they were never properly sealed. Is there any type of floor which can be applied over this type of floor, to alleviate the necessity and huge project of removing the pavers? Thanks for your input.”

    LESLIE: When she says pavers, I wonder if she means those terracotta, Mexican Saltillo tiles that are just like …

    TOM: That’s what I’m thinking, you know.

    LESLIE: We have them in our kitchen and most of them are not glazed.

    TOM: Right. And that’s, in fact, the look that you try to achieve with that type of tile.

    LESLIE: Of that tile.

    TOM: If they’re really badly stained from grease and wear, you could probably try to steam-clean them and take some of that out of there.

    LESLIE: I wonder if that’ll work.

    TOM: But I mean the main question, Jan, is can you go on top of it? Well, you can as long as the base is solid. You can put new tile over old tile as long as the base is solid. If the base is weak in any way – if any of those tiles are popping up, for example – you absolutely shouldn’t do that.

    You can also, if you want to not use tile, you could put laminate floor on top of it or you could put even engineered hardwood on top of it. You would use the most appropriate underlayment for whatever material you’re putting in but either could go right on top.

    The main concern, though, that I would have, especially if this happens to be in a kitchen, is the thickness. Remember, if it’s going to be in a kitchen, you may have issues like the refrigerator or the dishwasher, trying to fit those underneath cabinets. And if you make a floor that’s now an extra inch thick, it’s just not going to fit.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You really want to make sure that if you end up changing that floor, pull out the dishwasher, put the new floor underneath, adjust the legs and then slide it back in, because you don’t want to trap those appliances in. But whatever you choose, good luck with your project. Flooring is the number one topic of our callers here at The Money Pit, so we know you are in good company and maybe somebody else can post a good answer for you.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Happy New Year, everybody. We hope we helped you get a good start on those New Year’s resolutions. For more tips, head on over to our website, where the show continues online at MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: 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 2010 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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