Seven Free Tips on Lowering Cooling Costs, How to Shop for a Air Conditioner, Fix Up a Dorm Room on the Cheap, and more
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: We are here to help you with your home improvement project. Got a do-it-yourself dilemma? Call us. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’d like to talk about the projects that are on your to-do list. You get this one opportunity to shift them over to our to-do list. We’ll do them together but you’ve got to take the first step and that’s to pick up the phone and call us at 888-666-3974.
We’ve got a great show planned for you coming up this hour. If you have just about had it with the summer’s heat and humidity, we’re going to give you some help in the form of seven simple ways to stay cool. And the bonus is that a lot of these tips will also save you money on your energy bills, as well.
LESLIE: Alright. And are you in the process of setting up a kid at college for the first time or maybe, like Tom, you’ve got a child going back to school this September? And maybe they’re returning to a dorm room that’s pretty much lacking in any personality at all. Well, we’ve got great ideas for fixing it up without dipping into your tuition fund.
TOM: Plus, if you’re sweating in the summer and shivering in the winter, it may be time to think about replacing your HVAC system. But when you check out all the options, trying to figure out which one to purchase might have you sweating just as much, which is why we invited This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey to stop by with some tips on how to invest smartly in a new heating-and-cooling system.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a water filtration system from Aquasana. And it’s a countertop system that removes 60 different contaminants and that’s going to save you a ton of money, too, on ditching that bottled water.
TOM: It’s worth 125 bucks. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question. So pick up the phone. Let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mary in Virginia, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
MARY: I’m looking to purchase a home that has a slab foundation. And when I went in, I kind of smelled a musty, mildew-y odor. And I’m just wondering, how would you know that water is coming up from the ground and saturating that slab? And how do you protect a home that has just – that’s built just on a slab. They’re nothing under for water to drain under or anything.
TOM: Was this a home that was vacant or did it have a family living in it?
MARY: It has been vacant for a while.
TOM: And that makes sense. Because when you don’t run the HVAC system as frequently as you would if it was occupied, sometimes you’re going to get high humidity inside the homes. But because it’s a slab doesn’t make it any more or less susceptible to water infiltration. But of course, because it’s above grade, you don’t get floods. What you do get is the power of the concrete basically drawing water up from the ground – it’s called “capillarity” – and then letting it evaporate into the air.
The correction for that is the same thing you would do even if you did have a basement, which is to improve your drainage on the outside: extend the downspouts, the gutters; improve the soil slope so that water is sort of shunted away from the foundation perimeter. But I think that once you move into the house and use the HVAC system, you’re going to find that that moisture is not nearly as detectable as it is right now. And if it does become more detectable, you could always add a dehumidifier.
MARY: OK. So it’s the – that smell I’m getting is not coming from the carpeting that’s on top of the – laying on top of the slab?
TOM: Ooh. Carpet on top of slab? That’s a bad thing.
MARY: Well, I mean I don’t know what’s under the carpet and I’m assuming that there’s some kind of subfloor there. But yeah, it’s wall-to-wall carpeting and I know underneath it is basically a …
TOM: Yeah. We don’t like carpet on concrete, for a whole bunch of reasons. So I would be recommending that you find another type of flooring for that. Because when you put carpet, which is largely an organic material, against those damp, moist, concrete slabs, bad things happen. You get mold and mildew growth, you get allergens that form, you’re going to get dust mites, things like that. So, we really don’t like carpet on concrete slabs. If you can choose a different type of flooring, if you’re going to do some remodeling, that would really help out a lot.
MARY: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Mary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Roger in Alabama, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ROGER: I have a problem with a door. It’s a storm door. And when I originally installed it, everything looked perfect on it. And now, there is a large gap at the bottom and a small gap at the top and the latch doesn’t really want to hold anymore. And I put levels on it and everything looks like it’s supposed to be but it’s not. And I’m at a standstill trying to figure out how to fix it outside of knocking my post out of align.
TOM: OK. So it sounds like the door is out of alignment and it’s not square. Got a situation where the jamb probably has to go up or down. So, for example, if you were to take the jamb and move it down, then the outside edge of the door will move up. If you were to take the jamb and move it up, the outside edge of the door would move down. So it sounds like something is not in alignment.
Storm doors can be tricky because every side of the jamb is applied separately. But what I might do is I might leave the jamb side attached, then try to reset the other two pieces of the door.
In terms of the gap at the bottom, if you can’t close that, just add weatherstrip to the outside of the door. You know, you can pick up a door sweep that has sort of a metal flange with a broom-like bristle edge at the bottom that works very well. We use it on exterior doors all the time. And that will stop drafts from coming through it.
But it sounds like the door is out of alignment. What you’ve described with uneven gaps and a latch doesn’t work means that the door is simply not square in the opening.
ROGER: OK. I think I’ve got an idea of what I can do with it now.
TOM: Alright. Great. Roger, hope that helps. 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.
Well, it’s official: we’ve entered August and summer is just about done. If you guys are working on some projects that you want to tackle quick before the big Labor Day weekend and summer – wah-wah – is officially over, give us a call. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, we’ve got seven simple ways to help keep you cool for the hot days ahead. That’s all coming up, after this.
MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.
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LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One lucky caller who makes it on the air with us this hour is going to get cleaner drinking water in your very own home. We’re giving away a water-filtration system from Aquasana.
Now, it’s a BPA-free countertop system and it filters out 60 different contaminants plus chlorine and chloramines. And it gives you healthier and better-tasting water.
TOM: And it’s probably a lot less expensive because you’re not going to be buying all of that bottled water.
You can check out the countertop filter and all of the other great filters at Aquasana.com. Again, that prize is worth $125. You want to win it? Pick up the phone, call us with your home improvement question, 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Kathleen in Illinois on the line and she’s got a question about a vaulted ceiling. What can we do for you?
KATHLEEN: I’m calling about a renovation project that we are trying to do on a three-season sun porch. And it’s a 12×27 room. We did tackle doing window replacement by ourselves and we managed to do that. They’re vinyl-clad windows, the tilt-in kind and everything. But the ceiling right now is 12-inch tiles that are – they seem to be glued up to the ceiling. They’re not on a grid system; they’re just up there. And we want to put faux-tin ceilings. And we’re wondering if that’s a project that we could tackle or is that something best left to professionals or – we’re looking for your advice.
We had some damage from rain on the roof and we’ve had the roof replaced. But I even painted over where the water stains were with a Zinsser Stain Stop. You can still see the – it did not cover it, so we need to change the ceiling.
TOM: Hey, they make these tiles that are a drop-ceiling type of a tile that looks just like tin. Have you seen those, Kathleen?
KATHLEEN: Yes, we have. And we thought that those were very cool and we didn’t know – do you think just LIQUID NAILS or something to put it up over these existing tiles?
TOM: What’s underneath the tiles? Plywood sheathing?
KATHLEEN: I don’t know. It feels really solid when you push a …
TOM: I would try to figure out what’s underneath it. You could take some pieces of the old tiles apart, see how thick that is. I would prefer to have a mechanical attachment, like a staple or something like that, than just simply the glue. The glue is OK.
LESLIE: I mean I would use LIQUID NAILS and something else.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
KATHLEEN: Uh-huh. And you don’t think it would – I don’t want it to look uneven, you know, how they – you see sometimes those grid systems where the tiles kind of droop and sloop and look …
TOM: No, if it’s done really well, it looks great. We’ve seen them at really high-end décor showrooms, where you have some really upscale decorating done, and they look fantastic.
KATHLEEN: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project, Kathleen, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, with scorching temperatures across the country, smart homeowners can still stay cool and cut those costs with seven simple tips that we secured from the folks at the Edison Electric Institute.
First up, did you know that you can save 1 to 2 percent on cooling costs for every degree that you raise your thermostat? So, set that thermostat at 78 degrees or higher when you’re home and 85 degrees when you’re not. And if your system’s filter hasn’t been changed or cleaned in more than 30 days, it’s probably time to do so.
And might I add, I got a call from the folks at The Boston Globe this week. They wanted to know about any home improvement myths I was aware of. And one that comes to mind for the summer is this: how many times have you yourself or other folks that you know walked into a warm space and then moved that thermostat down, down, down, down, down thinking the lower it goes, the faster the place is going to cool off? Well, it’s just not true. Thermostats are kind of straightforward. If you set it at 78, it’s going to – and it’s already 85 in the room, it’s going to get to 78 when it’s going to get to 78. It’s not going to get there any quicker because you moved it down to 65; it just doesn’t work that way. So, save yourself the money and the aggravation; just set it and forget it.
LESLIE: Alright. Here’s some more tips. If you want to save another 2 to 4 percent, close those curtains and shades that you’ve got on any south-facing windows. And if you’ve got ceiling fans or table fans, turn them on. A fan is going to allow you to raise your thermostat about 4 degrees but still feel cool. And you need to remember that your ceiling fan should be turning clockwise when it’s hot. And only use a fan while you’re in the room because fans cool people and not places.
And if you’ve got an unused room, make sure you shut the door and close any air-supply vents inside of them. And that’s going to save you up to 3 percent on your cooling costs.
TOM: Now, when it comes to cooking, you might want to think about using the microwave instead of the regular oven because it’s cooler and it saves on energy. Or maybe even cook outside on an outdoor grill.
Of course, you ought to be thinking about installing compact fluorescent lights or LED lights in high-use fixtures. They are not nearly as warm as incandescent bulbs. When it comes to laundry, always wash and dry full loads of clothes and do so in cold water. And another energy-saving tip is to check out your electric company’s website. All electric companies offer free, expert advice on saving money and many also have special energy-saving programs that many times have incentives attached to them.
So, MoneyPit.com, also, completely packed with energy-saving advice. It’s out there. I do encourage you to take advantage of it and then take some action. If you don’t do everything, just do one or two things because they all add up and they’ll make a big difference, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Vernon in Colorado who’s fixing up the bath. How can we help you?
VERNON: I had heard a while back on your show, if you’re going to recaulk your bathtub, to fill it up with water? But I do not remember if anything was said about removing the water immediately after it was caulked or letting the caulk set up first before you would let the water out. So I wanted to check on that before I started my project with some good kitchen-and-bath caulk.
LESLIE: Well, absolutely. The tip you heard about filling the tub with water is totally correct. And the reason why we do that is when you fill the tub with water, it sort of weighs down and sits down onto the base a little more.
So if you fill it with water and then go ahead and caulk, then you let the caulk dry and then you drain the bath. When it sort of empties out, it’s going to lift back up and compress that caulk. So the next time you actually go to take a bath or a shower and you’re standing in there and the tub presses down on the base, it’s going to stretch the caulk and it’s all going to stay in place.
So that’s a really good trick of the trade because it keeps it in its place longer and it really lets it adhere to where it needs to be.
VERNON: Perfect. OK. That’s what I’ll do. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Vernon. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got John in North Carolina.
Welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you today?
JOHN: I’d like to ask a question about a product that is one of your sponsors, I guess: the Wet & Forget Mold and Mildew Remover.
TOM: Yes. OK. How can we help?
JOHN: OK. Hearing what you have said and reading the label on it, I’m wondering if it’s appropriate for my application. I have a second-floor balcony, which is supported underneath by floor joists that are pressure-treated wood.
JOHN: Alright? That is exposed to the point where it’s starting to get a little mold and mildew on it and I would like to remove that and then stain it. It had never been stained. It’s about three years old.
JOHN: I have the Wet & Forget product but a couple things about it – it said and you have said, as I’ve heard in one of your programs, that the direct sun is one of the activators for it and also that it kind of depends to do its work on rainwater. Well, in that situation, those joists underneath are always in the shade and the water that it gets is not direct rain but it’s just sort of bleed-through between the decking above.
JOHN: Also, it is a vertical application as opposed to a horizontal one. And in that situation, they say if it is not fully exposed to rainfall or is vertical, some assistance may be required. Can you give me some idea of what that means and if I’m just barking up the wrong tree in trying to use this product?
TOM: Well, I suspect when they say “some assistance might be required” means that you may have to wet it down from time to time if it’s not getting the moisture that it needs to activate. Now, do you have any sun in this particular area or is it totally in the shade all the time?
JOHN: Well, there’s lots of sunlight in the area but because it’s underneath that deck, it doesn’t get any direct sun.
TOM: Yeah. Right. But I don’t think it has to get – it has to get sunlight; it doesn’t have to get direct beaming, the heat of the sun.
TOM: I’ve never – in all the times I’ve talked with these folks and interviewed some of the chemists, I’ve never heard that it has to be fully exposed. Because, frankly, a lot of areas aren’t fully exposed and secondly, a lot of mold and mildew and algae situations happen because areas are covered.
TOM: And so it’s always good for driveways and sidewalks and areas that get like that. And a lot of times, that happens because they’re under trees and that sort of thing.
So, I think it would probably work. I think it’s a low cost of entry for you to give this a try.
TOM: I wouldn’t do anything aside apply it and following label directions. And then if you find, after a week or two, that you’re not seeing much difference, then you might want to try to get into a situation where you perhaps wet it down from time to time.
JOHN: OK. Any problem with it on pressure-treated wood as a surface?
TOM: No, none at all. In fact, it’s supposed to work on pressure-treated wood. In fact, these guys are now working on a new product that’s going to take mold out of a bathroom. It’s specifically designed to work on tile.
JOHN: Oh, OK.
TOM: So I don’t know how they figured this out without the sunlight component but I’m looking forward to giving it a try because it’s a constant battle.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s a special formulation for the interior, as well.
TOM: Yeah. It’s a constant battle.
JOHN: Alright. Thank you, Tom.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, if the summer heat has caused your air-conditioning system to start feeling the strain, we’ve got some tips on how you can shop for a new unit, after this.
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LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, do you want to make sure your outdoor furniture lasts for more than just this summer? Go over to MoneyPit.com, search for the article “Give Your Outdoor Furniture Some TLC” for tips on how to keep it looking great this summer and many summers thereafter.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Virginia on the line who needs some help with a basement-flooring project. Tell us what’s going on.
VIRGINIA: We want to finish the basement floor.
VIRGINIA: And in the – it’ll be like a kitchen area. And we want to put in – it’s kind of like a laminate wood-type flooring that you put in sections. Is that a problem? Like somebody said something about – you need a moisture barrier? Is there an issue with that?
TOM: Well, first of all, it’s a good choice for a basement because it is very moisture-resistant. The way you install it is going to depend specifically on the manufacturer’s recommended instructions for it, Virginia. So, it’s really critical that wherever you buy this, you follow their specs because each one’s a little bit different.
But conceptually, it’s not hard to do. I mean in some cases, they’re going to want you to put down a vapor barrier first. In other cases, the vapor barrier could be attached to the bottom of the laminate. The underlayment could be pre-attached to the bottom of the laminate and so on.
So, I would follow the manufacturer’s instructions but it is a perfect choice for a basement. It’s real durable stuff and gosh, today it could look like anything. It could look like hardwood, stone, tile, you name it. It’s a good product and it’s a good application for it.
VIRGINIA: Oh, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: If you’re sweating in the summer and shivering in the winter, it might be time to replace your HVAC system.
TOM: That’s right. But with all the options, trying to figure out just what to buy can make you sweat just as much. For tips on how to shop for a new HVAC system, we’re joined by Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert for TV’s This Old House.
RICHARD: Nice to be here again.
TOM: So, how long does a typical HVAC system last?
RICHARD: Well, it can last a long time with proper maintenance. I think it’s one of the few appliances on the planet that people expect it to last forever. You know, we’ll talk to people who’ll say, “How long has your heating system been there?” They go, “Oh, it’s pretty new. Yeah, we put it in when Suzy was born.” “How’s old Suzy?” “Well, she’s 50.”
And so people expect them to last a long time. Most of the systems, you can expect, I think, 15 to 20 years at least. What we’ve seen, though, in the last 20 to 25 years is the efficiencies on the equipment have gotten so much better than they were in the 80s. There’s been such a quantum leap with all these condensing appliances and these super-efficient pieces that even if the system was working fine, people should be thinking about changing it from the financial side of it.
Because if I can save 25 or 30 percent on my fuel bill – there’s even more that we can save on many of them – think about if it cost you 10,000 bucks.
RICHARD: Where would you put $10,000 nowadays and get any return on it? Would you put it in a passbook savings …?
LESLIE: Why do I feel like you’re talking about my house, you’re talking to me?
RICHARD: Yeah. You’re …
LESLIE: My 42-year-old boiler and my $10,000 new boiler/heating system, thank you so much.
RICHARD: Right. But I think most people are not explaining to the consumer the whole financial side of it, that there’s no question fuel is going to keep going up. If I can save 25 percent now on what my fixed costs are – that are no longer fixed, that are going to go up – there’s no better investment right now than to put better heating equipment into a building. And people just ignore it because it’s the dirty, dark part of their building; they don’t want to think about it.
TOM: Well, let’s say we’re going to replace it. What’s the most important thing to consider? I mean one of the things that I see a lot is that people think bigger is always better when it comes to HVAC systems, like other things.
RICHARD: Yep, yep.
TOM: But isn’t it more important to size the unit to match perfectly what the actual heat loss of the house is?
RICHARD: That is – the biggest crisis in the whole heating-and-cooling industry is oversizing. And the homeowner is an unindicted co-conspirator on this. If you’re talking about – people measure the cooling systems in terms of tonnage.
RICHARD: And they’ll say to somebody, “Alright. How much for a 2-ton system?” And he’ll give a number and they’ll say, “Well, how much for a 3-ton?” And they’ll say, “Oh, it’s only that much more for the extra ton.”
LESLIE: “Well, might as well get the 3-ton.”
RICHARD: Right. And they might have a ton-and-a-half or less in load. And so, really, this oversizing leads to so many issues. Uncomfortable in the house, for one thing, but also, if you have any mechanical device and you make it come on and come off every nine minutes, it really wants to be on for a long time and off for a long time. And that’s what we don’t see in this country because we oversize so much.
TOM: Right. So it cycles. It comes on, drops the temperature, goes off.
RICHARD: It cycles like crazy. Yep. On and off, on and off, on and off all day long.
RICHARD: And if you did that to your automobile or your lawnmower – turn it on and off every 20 minutes – it would be – it would fail in a relatively short period of time and it wouldn’t be efficient.
LESLIE: And will that cost more to operate?
TOM: So the solution is to do what is known as a heat-load analysis. So talk about that.
RICHARD: Yeah. I think when you’re talking about an HVAC system, it is a system that is designed and installed by a professional. You should shop the contractor first; you really should. You should find somebody in your local market, through word of mouth or otherwise, that has been in the game for a while and knows what they’re talking about. That person then has an obligation to himself and to you to size this thing perfectly. And what we need is to have – is the right-size unit for the coldest day of the year for the heating side and for the hottest day of the year on the cooling side.
Now, everybody, you might do a thing called a heat loss. And if it came out – historically, in this country, if you came out with 100,000 heat loss, this wholesale supplier and the contractor, historically, would put in 150,000 – 50 percent extra size. And then always with a wink and a nudge say, “Oh, that’s just in case you add onto the building.” But that means you would – it would be like having a V12 engine in a little Volkswagen, so it’s literally just on and off, on and off. And that’s really what we’ve got to fight against.
If we’ve done our job in the heating industry, on the coldest day of the year, the heating boiler or furnace would never shut off. It would just be on to satisfy. And then in the milder times of the winter – now, think about it, most of the heating season is not that cold day you remember. It’s the spring and the fall and it’s about 70 percent of the heating season you could have heated with less furnace or boiler power. You could have heated with less gas input. You could have heated with lower water temperatures. And that’s where the savings come in, in those long spring and falls where you don’t have this oversized thing on and off.
TOM: Now, does the length of time that you’re going to live in the house – should that play any part of the decision as to whether or not you should change the system or not? You want to be there long enough to get the benefit?
RICHARD: Everybody says they’re going to move and then you still see them 25 years later still there.
LESLIE: Same house.
RICHARD: And they rationalize the way they want to rationalize it. And so, I think people have to understand it from the investment thing that I talked about just a minute ago and to say, “I know the fuel is going to go up. How do I hedge against fuel going up? Well, I jump into the game now to cut my fuel bill. It’s only going to save me more when fuel goes up. But it’s not going to be the payback. I’m only going to be here a year.”
You know, there’s something very interesting in Germany I’ve seen recently, which is a thing called an “energy pass.” And it is for any home or any apartment. You, before you rent it or buy it, you know exactly what that building spent in fuel to heat it. Now, imagine that metric if we did that in this country.
RICHARD: Now, you would buy a house and it would say, “Oh, this has got this rating.” And now it would be more valuable to you because the cost to operate it would be less. And in Europe, we see it. When you are going to rent something, if it’s got a high energy pass where it’s not efficient, the landlord can get less rent. And so now it’s a market driver to force people to save energy.
And I think we may never get to it in this country but it’s an interesting idea to think about. And we have 5 percent of the world’s population and we use 25 percent of the world’s energy. We use two times more per capita than anybody else in this planet (inaudible at 0:26:31).
TOM: Well, that’s why if you’re buying a house today, it definitely pays to ask for a year’s worth of utility bills.
LESLIE: Oh, absolutely.
RICHARD: Yes. Yeah, yeah.
LESLIE: And I even have to say, when we made the changes to our heating system this year, I immediately thought, “Even if we move next year, from a resale-value situation, somebody is going to look at our brand-new, three-zoned heating system and say, ‘Wow, this is ready to go. I don’t have to make that change.'”
RICHARD: Yeah. Yes. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.
LESLIE: And even when I look at listings, I’m like, “Ooh. A 30-year-old oil heater.”
RICHARD: Yeah. Yep, yep.
LESLIE: I’m like, “Hmm. Not so desirable.”
RICHARD: I’ve often wished that we could actually put our heating equipment out on the driveway and our cars down in the basement. Because then people would pay for …
TOM: More attention to it.
RICHARD: More attention to it.
LESLIE: Well, if everybody created plumbing-and-heating systems, Richard, the way that you do so beautifully, that captivates both Tom and myself into these bowels of the homes that you guys work on, then absolutely I would say put them right in the front of the house.
RICHARD: Yeah. So …
TOM: Alright. Great advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
RICHARD: Always great to see you guys.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, where you can get hardwood floors for less.
Up next, a drab dorm room might not make for a happy learning environment. We’ve got inexpensive ways to help fix up your co-ed’s room, after this.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Taking your calls. We want to talk about your home improvement projects. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And we want to give away stuff. This hour, we have got from Aquasana a countertop water filter to give away. It’s an easy, do-it-yourself, BPA-free filter that uses three different types of filtration for better tasting water. It removes three times more contaminants than the leading pitcher filters and requires no permanent installation. And it’s worth $125.
You can see it at Aquasana.com or call us right now with your question. We will toss all of the folks that call us for this hour of the program into a hard hat and perhaps draw yours out to award that Aquasana water filter to you, worth 125 bucks. 888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get back to the phones.
LESLIE: Alice in Illinois is on the line. Alice has got a hard problem: she’s got hard water. How can we help you today?
ALICE: I have well water and on the well water, I have iron, hardness and manganese. And I do have filters that I use with [salt packs] (ph). But I’m looking for something else besides those [salt packs] (ph).
TOM: There’s another option that’s an electronic option and it’s called EasyWater – E-a-s-y-W-a-t-e-r. And essentially, what EasyWater does is it installs to your main water pipe and it sort of causes the hardness in the water to polarize in the sense that it doesn’t stick to the fixtures anymore. And there’s a lot of people using it now. It’s been pretty effective and it’s an alternative to using a salt-based solution for this particular water problem. They’ve been around for about 25 years. They seem to be a good company, do a good job.
Take a look at their website at EasyWater.com. I know they’ve got a pretty good guarantee, so if you don’t like it, you can send the unit back.
ALICE: Yes, great. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Well, although it’s been a few more years than I care to admit, I still do remember my college dorm room very fondly. And while most dorm rooms are never going to end up on the cover of Architectural Digest, there’s really no reason for them to look like a scene from Animal House, either.
The problem is, though, of course, your children don’t own that space. And they’re only going to be there a short time, so you don’t want to put a lot of money into fixing it up.
LESLIE: That’s why as your kids are heading back to campus, we’ve got some easy tips that won’t add to their student loan. Think about color.
Now, you can’t paint the walls but you can get inexpensive canvases and paint them. You can pick one bold color for a statement or just use multi-colors that complement each other. And then you just hang them on the wall and that is going to make a huge difference. But you’re probably thinking, “You can’t put a nail in a dorm-room wall.” Well, there’s all sorts of sticker adhesive things from – you know the company I’m talking about; I think it’s 3M. You buy them at the home center or the craft store and you just stick them and they really work fantastically. And that’s going to make a fantastic difference.
You can also buy wallpaper remnants quite inexpensively. You can frame them in some thrift-store frames and that’s going to give you something that’s instantly unique and totally chic.
TOM: You also might want to think about the space. Now, most dorm rooms are barely bigger than a closet, so pick furniture that really doubles as a storage unit, like ottomans with a hidden compartment or something of that sort. And make use of that wall space with shelves or even cubes that you can paint.
Now, if you want more tips, we’ve got tons of resources on dorm-room makeovers, on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Hugo in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
HUGO: I’m redoing my kitchen and bathroom. And I’m wondering what you would recommend for flooring it. I’ve got carpet in it now and I sincerely dislike the carpet. And I want to put something else in and would you recommend a composite material or vinyl or linoleum or what?
TOM: Well, I can’t think of two rooms that are worse for carpeting than kitchens and bathrooms.
HUGO: I know. Tell me about it. I bought the house seven years ago and it had that in it, so …
TOM: Yeah. Bad décor choice but I think you can do a lot better. I think one thing that you might want to take a look at is laminate flooring because laminate flooring can come in a wide range of designs. I mean it can look like tile, it can look like stone or it could look like wood. And it’s really durable when it comes to moist/damp places.
HUGO: What about – will a stove and refrigerator leave dents in it?
TOM: I’ve had laminate flooring down in my kitchen for 10 years and we pull the refrigerator out whenever it’s necessary. I never worry about it.
HUGO: Well, I appreciate the information. I thank you and I’ll look into it.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, we’ve got tips on how to paint a porch floor so you can enjoy it for the rest of the summer and into the very pleasant fall season ahead.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And I have got something awesome to share with you guys. Are you guys on Pinterest yet? It’s really just the greatest thing and it’s super-fun.
Now, if you go to Pinterest, why aren’t you following The Money Pit there? You can go to our Pinterest page. You can get great ideas on everything from decorating to energy efficiency. Now, you can pin articles, blogs and more directly from our website with our Pin It button. And then you can share our pins or pin your own great ideas to our boards.
Now, you can find it all on the official Money Pit Pinterest page. And if you aren’t on Pinterest yet, what you have to do is get a friend to invite you. I promise, it is definitely worth it.
And while you’re online, make sure you check out the Community section of The Money Pit and you can post your questions there. And I’ve got one here from Josh in Nevada who writes: “I’m going to paint the wood floor on my screened-in porch. Do you have any recommendations for what type of finish I should use? Also, how many coats should I use? It has no paint on it now, just old wood that I can sand if need be.”
And you’re probably going to need to.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. You know, in terms of the type of paint that you would use on a porch floor, I would use an oil-based paint for that. I would definitely use a solvent-based paint and here’s why: while latex paint has a lot of great qualities, durability, in terms of scrubbability and abrasion-resistance, that’s not one of the qualities it has. And so, I have found, personally, that the best floor paint would be solvent-based paint.
What I would do is I would sand down the floor that’s there now. And there’s a lot of ways that you can do this. You can sand it down by hand with hand sanders, you can rent a floor buffer with a sanding screen. But you’ve got to get some of the old finish off and make sure it’s super-clean.
And if there’s good finish that’s sticking to all the wood all the way across, you don’t have to reprime it. If you get bare spots, though, you will have to prime those spots. And then I would put at least a couple of coats of, as I said, solvent-based, oil-based floor paint. And I think that’s the best way to get long-term durability out of that.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. But Josh, keep in mind you’ve got to let it dry really well in between coats. Because if you start putting another coat of a solvent-based paint on top of a previous one that’s still kind of tacky, it almost gets a feeling like it never dries. And you’ve got to do it on a day that’s really not humid. You want to make sure things are drying thoroughly before you go ahead and apply the next coat.
Alright. Now we’ve got one from Maria in New York who writes: “I recently had my hardwood floors redone. The guys I hired apparently slopped varnish up on my white baseboards. I painted one coat over the baseboards but the yellowish-brown stains still show through. Before I put another coat of paint on, I thought I’d ask if there’s something else I should be doing to get that varnish off of the baseboards.”
TOM: Yeah. Sand it. It’s kind of hard to get varnish off. Varnish is oil-based and if it’s on the baseboard, you’re not going to get it off. So, you’re going to have to sand it and you’re going to have to paint over it.
Now, if the stains are still showing through, what you might want to do, since you’ve already done this once, is apply a coat of primer. Because remember that primer has different qualities than top-coat paint. Primer is going to seal it in very well and you’ll be able to paint over that and then not see anything come through from the back side. We do this whenever you have stains, whenever you have, say, knots or something like that or sap in the wood that tends to bleed through or an old water stain. So primer is really an important part when you’re trying to cover a stain.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. So that really covers it, Maria. Sand it, prime it and then go ahead and repaint it. It’s going to look great and it’ll really look awesome against your new wood floors.
TOM: And next time, hire neater guys.
LESLIE: Yeah, good advice.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show online at MoneyPit.com. Available 24-7 to you at 888-MONEY-PIT.
That’s all the time we have for this hour of the program. The show does continue online, though, so pick up the phone and call us anytime. Visit us in the Community section of MoneyPit.com.
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 2013 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.)