Should you Remodel or Move? Prevent Plumbing Emergencies, How to Use Your Ladder Safely 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: Here to help you with your home improvement projects. Maybe it’s a holiday home improvement project that you’re tackling. Let me just suggest – did you have a whole bunch of people at your house – I’m just kind of seeing how this could play out, Leslie – and all of a sudden, you thought, “Gee, I wish I had done something: maybe improved my kitchen, added a new carpet, painted, fixed up, found some more space. Or I wish I’d never invited them here in the first place”? Whatever the case …
LESLIE: “Maybe I shouldn’t have had them over at all.”
TOM: If it involves your house, we’re here to help you improve it. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. That’s our job. Your job is to pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT and we can do the job together.
Coming up this hour, this is the week when many of us are pulling out the ladders to deck the house for the holidays. If so, we’ve got some tips that can help you avoid a fall that could leave you down for the count this season. There are thousands and thousands of ladder injuries every single holiday season. We want to keep you off that injured list.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Having a full house of guests for the holiday season, that’s always a strain on you and pretty much everything that’s going on in the house this time of year. But it really is also a strain for your plumbing system and that’s something that we really don’t think about.
Now, we’re going to share some tips to help you avoid emergency calls to your plumber during what is actually their busiest time of year.
TOM: Yeah. You know what “busiest time of the year” for plumbers means?
TOM: Double time-and-a-half.
TOM: That’s what it means. So, we’ll keep you off that list.
Also ahead, now that the real estate market is moving again, many Americans are reconsidering whether they should move or improve. Well, now there’s a website devoted to help you make that call. It’s called RemodelOrMove.com and the founder will be by with tips on how to decide which is the right move for you.
LESLIE: And did you know that your electronics, like your home chargers or your televisions, they can actually use electricity even when they’re turned off? We’ll we’re going to be giving away a cool product to plug that energy drain. It’s called a Smart Strip Surge Protector and it’s made by Bits Limited.
TOM: Going out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question. It’s worth 30 bucks. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, so let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Tracy in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
TRACY: I think I have water coming down my wall between – we have a room that used to be a breezeway, that was converted into a living room.
TRACY: And so, from that roof, there’s an awning for a little porch outside. And I’m just thinking that it’s leaking between the top roof and where it comes down to the awning roof.
TOM: So, when you say awning roof, do you mean – you don’t mean awning as in a canvas awning? You mean like a regular shingle roof that’s intersecting with the higher-pitched roof. Is that correct?
TOM: The upper roof falls to the – what you’re calling the “awning roof,” in terms of the rainwater?
TOM: And the awning roof is below about – by the upper roof by about 4 inches. So that gap or that intersection between the two might be where the water is backing up. I suspect, based on your description, that that’s exactly what’s happening. What you suspect is happening in this intersection is happening because frankly, it’s a tough connection to make. It’s got to be properly constructed; it’s got to be properly flashed or the water can back up.
Has it always been this way or is it kind of just recent that you’re starting to see the leaks?
TRACY: That was an issue probably even before. Now, we did remove that awning and reapply it, which is probably not the best way. Because we just basically used a tractor to take that roof off and then put it back on.
TOM: You used a tractor to take the roof off? What did you do, tear the whole thing off?
TOM: OK. Maybe you were a little too rough with those attachment points at that point in time, I don’t know. Well, look, there’s a problem between the two roofs. You’ve got to diagnose it. What I would suggest you do is get up there with a hose and let some water from a garden hose run down the upper roof to the lower roof. See if you can make it leak. And once you make it leak, you can find out – narrow down the area where the leak is actually happening, if it’s not visually obvious to you, and take it from there, OK?
TRACY: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Bill in New Mexico is working on a bathroom remodel. How can we help you with that project?
BILL: Well, thank you for taking my call. I have a project in my bathroom. We have cork flooring and it was installed professionally.
BILL: And with the cork, you can still see the seams and such and I’m concerned about getting out of the tub, out of the shower and the water landing on the cork flooring.
TOM: Well, first of all, cork was a very, very good choice for a bathroom. I mean it lasts indefinitely. I’ve seen cork in homes that are 40 or 50 years old and still in good shape. Cork stands up very well to water, so that’s why it makes a great choice for bathrooms.
In terms of finishing the cork, it’s really quite simple. Today, we just use polyurethane. So, a light sanding and then a couple of coats of polyurethane is really all of the refinishing that needs to be done to that floor.
BILL: So when I do a light sanding, the color in the cork, is it going to change? Is it going to get lighter? Is it going to …?
TOM: It may, depending on how much of that color is dirt and grime and how much of it is the original cork.
TOM: So, I would just do a little bit at a time and do it evenly and just kind of watch what’s happening and monitor as you go.
BILL: A brush? Roller? Spray?
TOM: Actually, the easiest way to put on polyurethane is with something called a “lambswool applicator.”
BILL: Oh, yes. I see. Uh-huh.
TOM: Yeah, it’s kind of like a mop. But in a bathroom, it’s so small that you might just find it easier to brush on. I don’t know how big your bathroom is but if it’s your standard 5-foot-by-8-foot bathroom space and you have to go around all the fixtures and cabinetry, if it was me I’d probably just use a 2½- or 3-inch brush.
So does that answer your cork question?
BILL: It certainly does and I’m going to get some and put some polyurethane down.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Bill. 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. Pick up the phone and give us a call, because you can call in your home repair, home improvement, whatever holiday décor, holiday home improvement. Maybe you want to do a home improvement project as a gift for your loved one this holiday season. Let us give you a hand. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up, we’ve got safety tips to help get you up on a ladder and back down again without any injuries. Plus, more of your calls, after this.
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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 want you to give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. Now, we’re going to answer your home improvement questions and give you a hand with that. But we’re also going to help you save your money on your electric bill.
We’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We’re giving away, this hour, a Smart Strip Energy-Saving Surge Protector by Bits Limited. Now, it can actually sense when you aren’t using what’s plugged in and then go ahead and shut off electricity to whatever that item is, which will stop that costly energy drain. It’s worth 30 bucks but I imagine it’s going to save you far more dough. Plus, if we pick you out of The Money Pit hard hat, you will win that prize for free, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Nancy in Pennsylvania needs some help with a heating question. What can we do for you today?
NANCY: Well, I live in an all-electric house that was built in the 60s and it has electric baseboard heat. And those things are ugly. Is there anything that I can replace them with that’s more modern-looking? Because these have the old grillwork and they get dust and dirt. And every time you turn the heat on, you have to burn the dust off and it’s just – and it’s hard to put furniture around it, because it takes up the whole length of the wall. Is there anything that they can be replaced with or anything that would look more modern?
LESLIE: So now you’re looking for a way to get rid of the baseboard heating in total with a different heating system, correct? Not changing the electricity source but just changing the heat unit itself.
NANCY: Yeah. Just getting rid of that baseboard and replacing it with something that looks better, that looks more modern than this old, metal grillwork.
LESLIE: Well, they make covers for them. You know, if you look online, there’s one company called RadiantWraps.com. And they’re covers for baseboard heaters, regardless of the fuel source: electricity, gas, steam. And that can look like a variety of things, so you can get something that’s a little more traditional, something that’s more rustic, something that’s more modern that will cover up that basic slant/fin model that you associate with a baseboard heater. There’s perforated models that are just – cover over the fin look and make that one look disappear.
So it’s up to you. If you’re looking for something different, then go for a radiant source that’s wall-mounted. But if you want to just cover up what you’ve got, look online. One company to check out is Radiant Wraps.
NANCY: OK. Yeah, I just want something that looks nicer and more modern.
TOM: Yeah, well, I think that will do it for you. Radiant Wraps. Take a look.
NANCY: OK, I will. Thank you.
TOM: Well, if you are getting ready to decorate, no doubt you are about to get up on a ladder maybe for the first time since last season. We’d like to help you save yourself a trip to the ER with a few, foolproof safety tips.
First off, it’s important that you inspect your ladder before taking even one step onto it. Why? Well, because worn or broken ladders cause hundreds of thousands of serious injuries every year. So make sure your ladder has slip-resistant rungs and feet and inspect it for any split rungs or even loose rivets. They can pop out and you can come tumbling down.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, when you’re using an extension ladder, you want to make sure that you don’t pitch it too steeply. If your roof is 12 feet high, the base of your ladder needs to be at least 3 feet away from the house. You also want to have someone hold the base steadily.
And finally, you know that little label that says, “Never stand above this step”? Follow that advice. It is there for a reason. And getting decorating done without a trip to the hospital is one thing that you will definitely want to celebrate this holiday season.
TOM: Absolutely. So, give us a call right now and we will help you celebrate the successful completion of your next home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ron in Tennessee, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RON: Yeah, I have a home with a crawlspace and I have had some moisture under there. And the builder, when he built it, he ran the runoff from the roof down into the French drains. I diverted that and it’s helped a lot but it’s still moist. And I’m asking if these encapsulated systems, where they trench the perimeter of the inside of the crawlspace and seal off the systems with a dehumidifier and a sump pump – how they work and if that’s a solution to these kinds of problems.
TOM: Alright. So first of all, the roof drains were going where before you capped them off?
RON: Down in the French drain.
TOM: Yeah, that’s not too smart, huh?
RON: No, it wasn’t. I diverted that and it helped a lot but it’s still moist under there.
TOM: Alright. So, now that you’ve got the roof drains disconnected from the French drain, are those drains extending out away from the foundation perimeter?
RON: For sure.
TOM: How far out do they go?
RON: Oh, 20 feet?
TOM: Oh, OK. Well, that’s a good thing.
Alright. So the second thing that you could do, easily, is make sure that the soil that surrounds the foundation perimeter is sloped away. Most of the time, that soil settles after the house is built and becomes flatter or even inverted. So you want to make sure you have a pitch where the soil is running away from the foundation, dropping about 6 inches over 4 feet. You can plant something on that grass or mulch or stone after but make sure you have good, solid drainage.
Now, let’s talk about the vents in the crawlspace. You need to have enough vents, so probably one or two on each wall. You need to make sure that the crawlspace floor has a vapor barrier on it.
What’s the crawlspace floor now?
RON: It’s vapor barrier only.
TOM: It’s vapor barrier? So it’s completely covered in plastic?
TOM: OK. And then, the other thing that you could do is you could add vent fans to the walls and have them wired onto a humidistat.
TOM: So that when the moisture builds up inside the crawlspace because the humidity is high, the fans will come on and draw the drier air in from the outside.
TOM: So those are things that you could do now, without spending a whole lot of money, to try to dry that space out.
TOM: Now, the idea of encapsulating the crawlspace is not a bad approach and many homes are starting to be built that way today. But that literally means sealing everything off 110 percent.
TOM: So since you’re kind of closer to being able to improve the grading, improve the drainage, double-check that vapor barrier to make sure it’s really solid and it’s thick and covering every aspect of that crawlspace floor. Make sure if it overlaps, it overlaps about 10 feet. Make sure it’s up against the foundation walls and then get good ventilation – cross-ventilation – in there using some vent fans wired to humidistats. You may find that that gives you the rest of the moisture reduction that you – that was left over after you rerouted those drains.
RON: Alright. Sounds good. Thank you.
LESLIE: Alan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ALAN: Oh, yes. Hi. First, I’d like to say I appreciate your show and always enjoy listening to it and learning things.
TOM: Well, thanks, Alan. What’s going on in your house?
ALAN: Got basically a house that’s divided in two by a wall.
ALAN: And on the one side is the living room, office and entryway. The living room has a fireplace insert in it.
ALAN: And the living room runs too warm and on the other side of the wall, where the kitchen/dining area is, runs too cool. How can I get some of that heat from the warm side to the cool side?
TOM: Well, the fireplace is not designed to be a central-heating system so, obviously, it’s going to be hotter in the rooms where – that are closer to the fireplace. That’s the difference between a fireplace and a centralized heating system, because the centralized systems distribute the heat evenly.
Now, that said, if you were to add, perhaps, some openings – some additional openings – or if you were to add, say, a – you know what might be cool is a duct booster but not really with a duct. What a duct booster is is a fan that fits in the side of a standard register – a duct register.
TOM: It’s designed to fit inside of it. And if you had a hole in that wall between the two and you put this duct booster in it, it would basically be a fan that was on 24-7 that blew air from one side to the other. And so if you did something like that, that moved air from the hotter area into the cooler area, then you may be able to balance out a little bit.
But understand that you’re trying to do something that’s non-conventional. The fireplace in a …
ALAN: Non-conventional doesn’t bother me.
TOM: OK. A fireplace in a really old house, before we had central-heating systems, was in the middle of the home for a reason, because then it did heat the entire house. But in a modern house, when we have it on the end of the house, it’s not going to get throughout to the whole house. It’s not really something that it’s designed to do. You can kind of help it along if you provide that path for the warm air to move to the cooler spaces.
ALAN: Here’s my thought: opening up and putting a vent in high, just somewhere near the fireplace, and drawing air down through between two studs and bringing it out low on the other side and maybe a duct booster in that kind of a situation or some other kind of a vent fan.
TOM: Possibly. Yeah, possibly, if you mounted the duct booster on the kitchen side – the colder side – and then the register on the fireplace side becomes a return. Yeah, that’s possible.
What kind of heat do you have in your house?
ALAN: We have a heat pump but it’s very ineffective when you get below about 32 degrees.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah, they are, they are.
ALAN: And then you’ve got backup heat, electric.
TOM: Yeah, right. Yeah, I see, I see. Do you have a space heater or anything like that on the other room?
ALAN: Yes. And I’d just as soon take advantage of some of this heat, if I can, that we’re generating in the other side.
TOM: Sure, I understand. Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Have you ever thought about – is it possible to put an additional doorway in between the two spaces? Would that make any design sense?
ALAN: Probably not, in this case.
TOM: OK. Well, I mean those are your options.
Now, the other thing to keep in mind is that there is such a thing as a wood furnace.
ALAN: Oh, sure.
TOM: There are furnaces that are designed to heat on wood – that heat with wood – and have duct systems and the blowers that move the air through. So, there may be some other alternative to that heat pump.
Do you have natural gas in your area or is that just not a possibility?
ALAN: Not here.
TOM: Not here, huh?
ALAN: My druthers are geothermal but that’s just druthers.
TOM: Yeah. But that’s a big investment.
TOM: Even with the rebates, it’s a big-dollar amount. OK?
ALAN: Yeah. But over a period of time, it’s a good return, too.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Still to come, are you struggling with the decision of whether or not you should move? Well, help is on the way in the form of RemodelOrMove.com. Now, that’s a website that’s going to boil down the bottom line and help you figure out if it’s more cost-effective to stay and improve or get out while you can. We’re going to interview the founder, after this.
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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.
Well, you’ve wanted to remodel your kitchen for a while now and you can’t stop thinking about those granite countertops or maybe those custom cabinets and new appliances. Well, you’re not alone there. You know, for the first time since 2008, kitchens have overtaken bathrooms as the number-one remodeling project for homeowners.
TOM: That’s right. And that’s good news, because it means renovations are now going from practical to luxury. But before you start ripping up your old linoleum, it’s really smart to think about whether it’s smarter to simply move rather than improve that space.
Here to talk about that topic is Dan Fritschen. He’s the founder of a new website called RemodelOrMove.com.
DAN: Oh, it’s good to be here. Thank you.
TOM: So, this is a question that many of us will ponder when we’re getting ready to tackle a big home improvement project: whether we should move, whether we should improve; should we fix up what we have or should we go out and find it elsewhere? You started a website that’s dedicated to that topic. And tell me, what are the criteria that sort of have to be considered to make that decision for each and every person that comes to the site?
DAN: Well, you’re absolutely right and for each person is really a unique decision. But one of the first things you do is try to figure out how long you’re going to be able to stay in the home. If you’re only going to stay for months or a few years for sure, then a job or some other thing will make you move, then remodeling – especially a kitchen, because a kitchen takes so long to remodel – may not be the best decision because you won’t really ever be able to stick around to enjoy it.
The other important thing to look at is the financial side of it versus the emotional. If you’re going to live there a long time and you just – you want a special type of gourmet kitchen or second story or something, then the finances may be secondary. But if you really are trying to get the most for your money, then maybe your emotional impact, your quality of life, is secondary and you really want to focus on making improvements that will make the home appreciate and put more money in your pocket.
TOM: Well, that makes sense because – I mean let’s face it: some home improvements have the same resale value as a vacation that you just came back from. You can’t get your money back for that.
TOM: But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a vacation, because you really enjoyed yourself while you were there.
So, you’re right, there are really two angles to consider: what it’s worth to you, personally, from an enjoyment perspective and then what it’s worth to your home’s resale value.
But don’t you think that people tend to kind of fool themselves into thinking some improvements have better resale value than others, to kind of justify those that they really want to get done?
DAN: Well, yeah, I think you’re exactly right. I think people rationalize and talk themselves into all sorts of decisions and this is a classic one. And especially, there’s a lot of information on the internet and books and things that say, “On average, a kitchen remodel will pay you back this much.” Well, none of us live in the average home.
So, what I really suggest people do is two-fold – is on my website, RemodelOrMove.com, there’s a calculator. It’s free to use, takes a few minutes. But you can enter in all the information about what your remodeling plans are, what you could move to, the house you have as an option, how much your home is worth now. And it’ll give you an idea of what the cost to remodel is, as well as what your home may appreciate.
But of course, that’s just a computer program, so you really need to stop and talk to a real estate agent or somebody very familiar, spend your own time looking at your home compared to the others. Because if you already have the smallest home in the neighborhood – and it’s likely that you could add on and your home would appreciate the value of the cost of the addition. Or on the opposite extreme, if you already live in the nicest home in the neighborhood, putting a – redoing your kitchen or adding another bathroom, as you said, is going to give you as much value as a – or at least impact to your net worth as a vacation to Hawaii. You may enjoy it but it’s just an expense.
LESLIE: And is a realtor really your best tool when you’re trying to consider this? Because Tom and I often speak with our callers about wanting to turn a third bedroom, say, into an office space or knock one wall out and turn two bedrooms into one larger room. And we talk about how a realtor really is the best valuable tool you’ve got as far as is this remodel/addition worth it. Are they available to you for these questions?
DAN: Yeah, I think the majority – especially the more talented ones that are very experienced – they realize the value in helping homeowners even though they won’t get a listing tomorrow. They need to ingratiate themselves to the neighborhood and the community. I think real estate agents – the good ones – have the experience with contracting, remodeling and with home sales and what homeowners – other potential homeowners – are looking for. So they’re really the best choice.
A contractor will have a lot more of the nuts and bolts figured out but they don’t really look at the world as resale value and value on the home. They really pound nails and design rooms. So, really, a good, good real estate agent/realtor is the place to go.
TOM: Plus, if you ask a contractor if you should remodel, they’re going to go, “Sure.”
LESLIE: They’ll go, “Yeah.”
TOM: “And I’m just the guy to do it, too.”
LESLIE: “And use me.”
TOM: We are talking to Dan Fritschen. He is the founder of RemodelOrMove.com.
So, Dan, what do you think is the improvement that has the best return on investment and which one has the least?
DAN: Well, as we talked about, there’s averages but nobody lives in an average home. I think bringing your home up to the level of your neighborhood – if you have a smaller, kind of rundown home in the neighborhood – is really the best bet. So if that’s adding a bathroom – a three-bedroom, one-bath home in the United States is just not terribly popular. Adding a second bathroom can just be a zero-cost effort for a homeowner, because your home can appreciate easily that amount, because it’s such a desirable feature
So that’s really probably one of my favorites. But again, it has to be a certain home in a certain neighborhood. If you already have the nicest home, there’s really nothing you can do to that home that’s going to really make it appreciate any value. So, it’s so home-specific but I think converting garages are typically – into living space are typically not a great investment. Unfortunately, sometimes finishing a basement – just because a lot of people don’t like living spaces in basements – sometimes is kind of money not used wisely, from an investment standpoint.
Again, you go back to quality of life. If you want more living space and your garage is there and you’re OK with it, then have at it. But realize that the next person that buys the home, they rip all of that out and deduct the cost of taking – putting the garage back to a garage from the price they would pay. So, it’s just – you know, the homeowner really needs to consider these situations.
LESLIE: Dan, I think one of the hardest parts is trying to figure out exactly how much a project is going to cost, how much you’re going to get back. And I noticed on your site that you have so many calculators by room. How are these really helpful, and I have to say valuable, to homeowners?
DAN: Yeah, it’s a great question. The real value is that when homeowners just first look at their kitchen and their bathroom and they just want to get a feel for the cost of a remodel, many homeowners don’t really have an idea or even a clue what it’ll cost: 5,000 or 50,000.
So, the idea of the calculators is to – at the comfort of their own home, a homeowner can just type in some very basic information, that any of us know, about how they want the remodel done, who’s going to do the work, et cetera, et cetera. And the calculator will give them a rough estimate – nothing precise, of course – of what the cost would be and then, again, how much the home may appreciate because of the remodel. So it’s just a quick way to get a quick estimate of the cost to remodel a variety of rooms.
TOM: Good advice, Dan Fritschen, from RemodelOrMove.com.
If you’d like to check out Dan’s website, simply go there: RemodelOrMove.com.
Dan, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
DAN: Oh, it was nice talking with you all. Thank you.
LESLIE: Well, plumbers see a 40-percent increase in business when the holidays roll around. If you don’t want to be part of that statistic, stick around for tips on how to make sure your plumbing remains clog-free during its busiest time of year.
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 to find the perfect holiday gift, visit StanleyTools.com.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Call us right now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you just might be a lucky caller that’s going to now save some money on their electric bill, because we’re giving away a Smart Strip Surge Protector by Bits Limited.
This is pretty cool, because it automatically stops the flow of electricity to electronics when they’re not in use. It’s worth 30 bucks. It’s going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, the holidays mean an increase of guests for most people and of course, an increased strain on your home’s plumbing system. Now, backed-up drains, clogged pipes, stuffed disposers, those all add up to the busiest time of year for plumbers. But there are ways that you can avoid those expensive emergency calls.
TOM: That’s right and here they are. First off, in the kitchen, don’t pour fats or oils down the drain. Instead, just wipe up the grease with paper towels and then toss them away. Also, you want to avoid putting stringy, fibrous food like pumpkin pulp or potato peels, shrimp shells, you name it, even celery in your disposer. If you do, it will clog. Trust me. I’ve had to rescue many a good friend during the holidays because of stuff just like that.
LESLIE: Like on Thanksgiving morning, right before their guests are coming.
TOM: Yeah, that’s right.
LESLIE: You also want to make sure that you don’t run into hot water by running out of hot water. So run your dishwasher and washing machine at night to conserve your hot-water supply and the water pressure for your guests.
In the bathroom, you want to space out your showers to allow your water heater time to recover. And keep that water heater set at 120 degrees or below to avoid scalding, especially if you’ve got kids coming to visit and you don’t normally have kids in the house or the same with older folks. You just want to make sure that nobody gets burned.
TOM: Good advice. For more plumber-prevention tips, just search “how to avoid plumbing emergencies” at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Damon in Texas has a question about radiant barriers. How can we help you with that?
DAMON: Hey, guys. It’s getting about that time of year where I can actually go in the attic and live for a couple hours.
DAMON: And I want to put in a radiant barrier but one of my concerns is moisture buildup on either side of it and if it’s on the top side where I hang it on the rafters, will it get into the wood or will it – if it’s on the bottom side, will it trickle down into the blown-in insulation just above the sheetrock deck?
TOM: Is this something you do every year with installing a radiant barrier or is this a new project now?
DAMON: Oh, this is a totally new project. I was just – one of those things that – you know, you try to figure out ways to save energy in your house and …
TOM: Right. I know radiant barriers are popular in your part of the country but I’ve never been able to conclusively prove that they do anything, in terms of actually being super-effective.
As far as moisture is concerned, though, as long as the attic is properly ventilated and especially if you use ridge and soffit vents, then moisture shouldn’t be an issue, because any moisture that builds up should vent out.
DAMON: Right, OK. And if I were to put it in, I would have to make a slot along my ridge to make sure the air got …
TOM: Make sure or add a ridge vent if you don’t have one.
DAMON: Ooh, well, that can get expensive.
TOM: Well, it’s not terribly difficult to put a ridge vent in. I mean typically, if you put a ridge vent in, you take a circ saw with a nail-cutting blade and you cut a slot down at the peak of the roof, peel out all the asphalt there and then attach the ridge vent on top of that. There are – there’s a wide variety of ridge-vent quality.
Take a look at – I think it’s actually AirVent.com. It’s the site for CertainTeed. They make – Air Vent is one of their brands and they make a ridge vent that’s got a baffle on it that speeds up the depressurization at the ridge and helps the air really get drawn out very efficiently.
DAMON: Wow. OK. So you don’t have any good experience with radiant barrier?
TOM: No. And I’ve seen a lot of hard sales for it and that makes me really uncomfortable: a lot of promises without a lot of data to support that it works properly.
DAMON: Right, right. Because I’ve had demonstrations where the guy, he takes a cigarette and he puts it out on there and he has it sitting in his hand and he’ll take a lighter to it and all this. But anyway …
TOM: Yeah. Yeah, OK, that’s – yeah, I would throw a guy like that out of my house really quick.
DAMON: Alright. Well, thanks, guys.
TOM: If I want a magic show, I’ll go to the theater.
TOM: Good luck, Damon. 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. Still ahead, are heating problems plaguing you already? It’s not even winter yet and it’s going to be a cold one. We’re going to tackle some of the most common heating headaches, after this.
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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: Hey, do you want to win some cool tools just in time for a new year of home improvement projects? Well, we’ve got a great giveaway going on right now on our Facebook page. It’s our Santa Home Improvement Sweepstakes. Check it out at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
LESLIE: That’s right. And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section of MoneyPit.com, just like Kay in Wisconsin did. And she writes: “I have a steam boiler system. My husband says the water level should not be all the way to the top. Is this true? And do I need a professional to come in and check it each year?”
TOM: You should listen to your husband. You’re looking at the steam system through the sight glass and the sight glass is designed to show you the water level in the boiler. And it usually is about halfway. You will find that when it’s under pressure, it goes up a bit, though, and that’s pretty normal. And in fact, if it is all the way to the top, you would not really be able to monitor it; that’s why you have a sight glass in the first place. So on this one, we’re going to have to side with your husband.
Now, that said, you mentioned, “Shall I have a professional come in and check it?” Well, yes, every season. Every heating season, have a professional come in not only – and check it but service it. Because if you have an oil- or gas-fired heating appliance, it will get dirty. And if you don’t clean it, it’s not going to work very well and that’s going to cost you a lot of extra money when it comes to expenses of heating your house.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s also kind of dangerous. You want to make sure everything is operating in tip-top shape before you go ahead and fire it up for the season.
LESLIE: So, really important that you do get some maintenance done.
Now, this one is from Chuck in New Jersey who writes: “We have a forced hot-air system that runs on natural gas. For some reason, the upstairs rooms are much colder than the rooms on the first floor, even though we have all of the vents in the first floor closed. Is our heating system not designed well?”
TOM: Well, Chuck, I definitely think it’s not designed well. You need to check for airflow in all those registers but also, most importantly, check the returns on the second floor. If the returns are not drawing properly, then that second floor will never get completely comfortable. Best to leave it up to a pro. Have it diagnosed, figure out what the next step is from there. But it’s definitely an airflow issue and it could be a design issue. And if that doesn’t solve it, you may end up having to add additional supplies and returns until you get the right balance.
LESLIE: Alright, Chuck. I know how frustrating that can be but if you follow those tips, you should figure out where the problem lies.
TOM: Well, if the holiday money crunch is derailing your plans to redecorate, you might not need to drop a bundle to make your space look brand new. Leslie has got tips on how to decorate on a dime, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: That’s right. You know, the easiest and cheapest way to change the look of your room? Rearrange your furniture. It’s free and it’s still going to make everything feel fresh and new.
Now, you can bring in items from other rooms. Think about trading out your side tables or lamps or even artwork. Changing your furniture placement can also help make room for holiday guests.
Now, you can add a pop of color from your bedroom with pillows or a chair for your living room. If you look at your home with a keen eye, you can actually find ways to mix and match what you already own, for a brand-spanking-new look.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, with all the holiday food prep happening this time of year, countertops can take a real beating. We’ve got simple and quick ways to help you tackle the most common repairs a laminate counter will ever need, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2012 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.)