Tax Credit for Home Improvements, Best ROI for Green Upgrades and Fireplace Safety Redo
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: And Happy Fall. It is officially the fall season and that makes it, officially, the fall fix-up/home improvement season. You know what I like about fall? It’s what we call the “Goldilocks season,” because it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, it’s just right to get started on your home improvement projects. And the first thing that you should do to get started is pick up the phone and call us with your how-to question.
You want to do a job yourself? You want to hire a pro? You’ve got to pick up a paintbrush and decorate a room? You want some advice on choosing colors, getting that paint to stick and not peel? Maybe you want to clean your deck now that you’ve gone through the summer with it, get it ready for next year? Whatever is on your to-do list, slide it over to ours by calling us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up this hour, if you sold your home and closed the deal and handed over the keys this year, you may think you’re done. Well, not quite. We’re going to have some tips on what you need to do after you sell to complete the transaction, especially if you’ve made a few home improvements over the years.
LESLIE: And going green at home is a big trend nowadays, with homeowners looking to save money on energy bills while also shrinking their environmental footprint. But how do you sort the good from the all-around bad advice out there? Well, we’ve got the solution, in just a bit.
TOM: And before you start the home fires burning this fall, we’re going to have some tips on how to make sure your chimney is up for the challenge.
LESLIE: Plus, we’re giving away a handy product this hour called Bondic. Now, it’s the only product that works where glue fails, because it’s a liquid plastic that only hardens when it’s exposed to the included UV light. It’s super cool.
TOM: Yeah. And it can be used to fix dozens of things around the house. Bondic sells for 19.99 and we’re giving away a 5-pack to one caller drawn at random right now. So give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Caroline in Iowa on the line who’s dealing with some musty odors. How can we help you today?
CAROLINE: Yes. We rented a brand-new apartment that was just finished and we got a lot of mold and mustiness and it infected my brand-new pairs of shoes. I had five pairs brand new, never worn. They got so musty and moldy. How do I get the mold out – the musty smell?
TOM: So are these inside of a closet, Caroline?
TOM: Well, a couple of things. First of all, you need to take everything out of that closet, because those mold spores will really be getting into all kinds of spaces. The reason it showed up there is because it’s damp, it’s dark, it’s moist. And those are conditions that mold loves to thrive in. So, I would get everything out of that closet, make sure it gets really, really dry because that – just taking the moisture away will kill any active mold that’s there.
You’re going to have to wash the walls down of the inside of the closet with some sort of a mildicide solution. There’s a lot of options on that. You can use one of the professional products. You could simply mix up about a 20-percent bleach solution with water, spray those walls down, let it sit for a few minutes so it kills anything that’s there and then rinse it all off.
Is there carpet inside of that closet?
CAROLINE: OK. There was carpet, yeah. We have since moved out of there and you couldn’t see any black mold on the leather on the shoes but the brand-new shoes took on the musty odor. And I don’t know how to get that out of those shoes.
TOM: So in terms of the odor that’s in these shoes, I think it will probably mostly go away on its own if you get them into a very, very dry space. What I would try to do is get them into a place where it’s really, really sunny and warm, like on a windowsill or something like that where it can really bake out any of the moisture that’s in there. And of course, if there’s any residual mold, which I doubt at this point, it would kill that, as well. Beyond that, you know, I think you just have to clean the way you would clean any shoes. Or you could take them to a shoe maker and have him or her do that for you.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. The other thing that I would try is sort of a perforated mesh-y kind of bag that you might get jewelry in or something. You know those fancy, little, silky bags? I would fill that up with baking soda and stick it in there and put one in each shoe and see if that helps to draw out the moisture and the yucky smells, because that does help.
Also, my son has the stinkiest feet ever of life and they – Adidas is the best ones out there. They’re these little, black, little – they almost look like a ping-pong ball but you turn them and they have some sort of deodorizer in them and you stick them in each shoe. They magically do the trick. So, you might want to try a combination of those things.
CAROLINE: OK. That’s an idea. Yeah. I have set the shoes – see, I’d never worn them ever. And I have set the shoes out on the deck in the hot sun. And that still hasn’t – but yeah, I’ll try your ideas next and see what comes. I mean these are brand-new shoes I never wore.
TOM: Yeah. Well, sorry to hear that. That problem is not uncommon when you have clothes or shoes or boxes or anything in a closet like that that’s closed up and dark and damp. Usually, what we tell people to do in that situation is everything I started telling you in terms of getting things out and cleaned up. But then replacing the door to the closet with a louvered door – because if you let a lot of air in there, that can also address it.
So, good luck with that project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to take a call from Spokane, Washington where we’ve got Dave on the line. What’s going on at your money pit?
DAVE: I have a house and my electric heat was kind of expensive. And I checked some insulating ideas and I used Frost King pipe-wrap insulation tape behind the electric baseboard heat and I used it with a foil side against the heater. I’m not losing the heat into the wall and the heater’s working about 30 to 40 percent more efficient. My question: is it fire-safe?
TOM: That’s an interesting question. So, you took this insulating tape. Now, describe the tape to me. Is the foil-faced sort of rubbery-like insulation that Frost King makes? Or what does it look like?
DAVE: Yes. It’s Frost King pipe-wrap insulation tape. It’s 8- and 7-inch thick. It’s 2 inches wide. It comes in a 15- or 30-foot roll. It’s sticky on one side, then it’s got a foil on the other side. The foil is what reflects the heat away from the heater and away from the wall out into the room. The heat doesn’t go into my wall now. I had an infrared done by the fire department and most of the heat used to go back up into the wall. Almost none of it’s in the wall now and the heater’s a lot more efficient. And I don’t know how to get the material approved but it does work. My insulating material works and it’s very inexpensive. It costs about $10 a heater and it’d be a whole lot more efficient.
TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s really interesting. Now, I would say, first of all, we’re definitely dealing with what is termed an off-label use. In other words, the manufacturer would never sell it for that particular purpose.
To your core question, is it safe? I can see a couple of ways where it could potentially be not safe. In particular, the heater is designed to release a certain amount of heat to the back wall of it. And if because of the reflective qualities of the foil, it’s now not doing that and basically reflecting that heat more into the room, I guess it’s possible that some of the electrical components inside the heater itself could work – could have to work there at a higher temperature than they normally would and therefore potentially be unsafe. I would think that in both cases, both using the tape from the Frost King manufacturer’s perspective and even from the electric-baseboard manufacturer’s perspective, I don’t see any scenario where they would recommend those two be worked together.
So, even though it’s not – it’s off-label, is it really unsafe? Are you really at a risk hazard? I really can’t tell you for sure. But I guess common sense would dictate that if you’re not smelling anything that’s burning or anything seems to be working poorly in any way, you may want to continue to use it. But keep an eye on it. So I’m afraid I can’t completely put your mind at ease, because it’s kind of a solution here that you sort of made up yourself that’s not going to be recommended by either the baseboard manufacturer or the insulation manufacturer.
You know, that said, there are probably other materials that would more likely be designed to go in that space: perhaps a foil insulation, which is more typical of a baseboard space. So I would say if you’re going to keep using it, keep a close eye on it because it is potentially unsafe.
David, 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. Give us a call. We’d love to hear what you are working on this hour.
Hey, you guys. You’ve closed the deal and you’ve handed over your house keys to those new homeowners. Well, do you think your home sale transaction is complete? Not quite. We’ll tell you what you need to do after you sell.
TOM: And also ahead, these days, getting advice on how to go green in your home is plentiful but is it always good advice? Kevin O’Connor from This Old House will be here with the solution.
And today’s This Old House segment on The Money Pit is brought to you by Proudly Propane. Clean American energy. We’ll be back with that and more, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. It’s called Bondic.
Now, Bondic is the world’s first liquid welder. It can bond, build and fix just about any material using a very unique liquid formula that turns to a 100-percent hard plastic in 4 seconds, with the use of an included UV light.
The way this works is you apply the product across what you’re trying to repair. So let’s say you broke your glasses, right, and you want to try to put them back together? Well, if they’re broken, you simply stick the two pieces back together, you put Bondic over the top of it, flip the applicator upside-down – it’s about the size of a marker or a Sharpie – hit the UV light switch on the side of that for four seconds. It’s rock-hard. Put the glasses back on and continue on your day. It works that well.
We’re giving away five starter kits. They’re worth 19.99 each. So the total prize value with shipping is over 100 bucks. It’s going to go out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mary from Massachusetts is on the line and needs some help with finishing a project. What can we do for you?
MARY: Well, I live in a very old home. And the front – I have double front doors that are made of walnut. They’re very heavy and very thick but somewhere along the line, somebody put some kind of finish on them. So now they’re peeling. They face the east, so they get a – I mean the west. So they get a lot of summer-hot sun. And I just don’t know how to get everything off and then refinish them.
TOM: So, what are the doors made out of? Are they wood doors?
MARY: Oh, yes. They’re solid walnut. And they’re about an inch-and-a-half thick.
TOM: OK. And the finish that’s on it, is it a clear, like a urethane-type finish that’s peeling?
MARY: Yes. It looks like that. And then there’s some kind of stain on the door that turns really dark, dark wood.
TOM: OK. So, listen, first of all, congratulations on having a really beautiful set of doors. Walnut doors are very rare and that’s terrific. So they’re worth putting the time into it and time you will need for this project, Mary.
What you need to do is you need to strip all that old finish off. What I would do is I would take the doors off of the hinges, I’d lay them on a couple of sawhorses. I’d have a vibrating sander. I would just start to sand that finish away and get all of that down to raw wood. It is totally worth it because you can’t put good finish over bad finish. You’ve got to get done to that wood.
Now, once you’re done to the wood, since it’s a darker wood, you may or may not want to stain it. If it turns out that there – maybe there’s some unevenness in the coloring of the wood, you could think about adding a stain to try to sort of blend it all in. And then on top of that, you’re going to put a new finish.
Now, since these doors face the sun, what I would use is I would use a marine varnish on that. And the key difference with marine varnish is it has exceptionally high UV protection. So it’s going to stand up to that UV radiation from the sun and not peel off quite as easily as just any other exterior UV would. So, strip it down to the raw wood, stain it as needed and then refinish it with a marine varnish. I would use a satin, not a gloss, because it’ll make the doors look a lot nicer. And then just enjoy them. If you do this, even though it’s going to take you a long time, it’s going to last for years to come.
Now, look, it’s also not the kind of project you can bang out in an afternoon. So, this may be a situation where you pop the door off the hinges, which is pretty easy to do, you get it out on the sawhorse, you do as much as you can for the day, you put the door back on the hinges and you close it in whatever shape it’s in at that moment. And then the next time you have time to do this, you take the door off and continue. So it can just kind of continue on.
I don’t want you to try to do this vertically. It’s going to make you much more tired. Believe me, gravity plays a big part in being able to do this well. And if it’s laid out flat on a couple of sawhorses in a shady area, it’s just going to be a lot easier for you to work on it.
MARY: OK. Just one other quick question: what weight of sandpaper do you use on the vibrating sander?
TOM: That’s a great question. It depends on kind of how it behaves, so to speak, when you start to use it. But I would start with a medium grit. So that’s going to be around 100 to 125, maybe 150. The thing is if you go too fine to start it, you might find that the paper clogs up.
There’s also a type of paper that’s available that looks more like screening or netting. And when you’re working with finishes, that type of material tends to clog less. So if you’re in the home center aisle and you see that as an option, that’s something that you might want to give it a try until you find the paper that works the best.
Try not to put too much pressure on it. You don’t want to – if you lean in and push hard down on it and not let the machine do its work, what’ll happen is some of that old finish can heat up, it’ll kind of gunk up the paper and ruin it. And you’ll just have to get a new piece and continue. But you’re going – it’s going to take you a while and you’re going to have to do a lot of handwork, as well.
And speaking of which, if you have sort of nooks and crannies, if you have sort of moldings in this door that you have to get into, there are sanding sponges that companies like 3M make. I also see these in the home center paint aisle at Home Depot. And these sanding sponges – I really like them because they’re squishy but they’re abrasive. So you can actually crush it up against that uneven molding, press it in there, work it up and down and it does a good job, OK?
MARY: Oh, OK. Because there are – there is molding in it. They’re not even, flush doors.
TOM: Yeah. You’ll find that sanding sponge really handy.
MARY: OK. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate your help.
TOM: Good luck, Mary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
So, if you’ve sold your house recently and handed off your keys to the new owners, you might be thinking you’re done with all the home selling details. But according to the experts at the National Association of Realtors, it’s not time to celebrate just yet.
LESLIE: Yeah. For starters, you should organize copies of all the paperwork. I mean there’s a ton of it related to the close of the sale of your home. Now, you’re going to need all of this when you file your taxes. And after that, it’s really smart to have the records on hand in case you’re audited. I hate to even say that word but I did.
TOM: Now, just as important for all you home improvers, you need to keep proof of those upgrades, as well. The IRS does allow you to add the cost of the improvements to your home’s cost basis while you own it, which is pretty nice if you have a sizable capital gain. You want to make sure you have all those receipts to prove it, as Leslie said, just in case.
And just in case you’re thinking about a home improvement project that you need help with, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Rich in Arkansas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RICH: Yes, I was – my question is concerning ceramic-valve cartridges in faucets. Since they theoretically resurface themselves during each operation, I’m wondering if it would be prudent to open the valve its full radius and then back down to your desired flow, in order to ensure proper, even resurfacing.
TOM: I don’t think so. So, just to back up, for those that are unfamiliar with this, most of the good-quality faucets today have ceramic valves, which basically are two ceramic discs that rub against each other. They’re very finely polished. In fact, it’s interesting that if you touch them together when the valve is all apart, which most of us will never see – but because I’m kind of a geek, I’ve been to these factories. If you touch these two sides of the ceramic valve together, you almost can’t pull it apart because of the surface tension. It’s almost like magnetic.
And as Rich – as you said, the more you use these, the more worn they get. But they don’t – they actually get tighter. They don’t really wear out, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this. I think they’re far tougher than you give them credit for and I wouldn’t worry about the evenness of the wear. I just think it’s a real terrific technology that’s probably the best we’ve ever had.
RICH: OK. Well, I kind of expected that but I would – yeah, my theory, my mind works in mysterious ways.
TOM: Apparently. Well, put your mind at ease, Rich. There’s going to be no issues with that. I’m sure there are other projects that you can put your attention to now. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Just ahead, if you want to go green but you don’t really know which projects are going to give you the best ROI, well, we’ve got a great guest for that. Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House is stopping by with some advice.
TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-look tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.
KEVIN: Hi. I’m Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House on PBS. From floorboards to shingles, you are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show with Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on the first weekend of fall. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Since it is fall, you might be getting ready to fire up your woodstove. You want to be careful not to fuel the fire with the wrong fuel. If you burn the wrong fuel in your woodstove, you might damage it. And that decreases efficiency, costing you some bucks. Don’t burn trash, driftwood or treated materials. Do use seasoned wood. And hardwood, by the way, is going to give you the best BTUs. And that’s also going to give you the least amount of creosote buildup, which is very important for your safety.
LESLIE: Thomas in Tennessee is on the line with a wallpaper question. How can we help you today?
THOMAS: I have two layers of wallpaper in a small half-bath that I’m trying to take off. And I was wondering what you guys’ best solution is. One is a lighter wallpaper, like you would find in the rest of the house. But the other one is a very thick, waterproof-type that’s mostly used in bathrooms.
TOM: Yeah. Well, removal is pretty much the same regardless of that type. You know, essentially, what you have to do is you’ve got to run a tool across the paper called a “paper tiger.” And it’s a tool that puts small, prickly-sized holes in the paper. And then once you have those holes in there, you’re going to apply a water – a wallpaper-paste remover to it, which will soak into the paper, get behind it and start to loosen it up.
Now, it’s a lot of work but considering it’s just a bathroom, perhaps it won’t be that difficult for you. If you really, really, really have a hard time getting that paper off, you could always rent a wallpaper steamer and that will make the job a little bit easier.
THOMAS: Oh, OK. Well, do you have any home remedies for this where you don’t have to buy a whole lot of tools? Because I’m kind of on a budget.
TOM: Well, the paper tiger is not very expensive. It’s a little hand tool. It’s probably $7 or $8, something like that. So that plus a few dollars for the wallpaper-paste remover is – that’s really all you’re going to need.
THOMAS: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: Alright, Thomas. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, going green at home is a big trend nowadays with homeowners looking to save money on energy bills while also shrinking their environmental footprint.
TOM: But as with any trend, there’s a lot of hype and misinformation surrounding the green movement. So, how do you cut through the claims and figure out the straight scoop? Here to help us get to the bottom of it all is This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.
TOM: So, listen, I guess we’ve heard some pretty bad energy advice over the years. I’m sure you have. I mean for starters, I once heard a window dealer say you could save 50 percent on your energy bills by installing new windows.
KEVIN: Wouldn’t that be great?
TOM: I said, “If I had no windows and now I have windows, maybe.”
KEVIN: I had a guy tell me that if I replaced half my windows, I could reduce my energy bill by half, at which point I turned to him and said, “Well, why don’t you replace all of my windows and then I won’t need energy at all?” And then I kicked him out of the house. I’ve heard some awful energy advice. One of my favorites is – you know this whole thing about trees providing shade and it’ll reduce your A/C load?
KEVIN: Which is all true, absolutely. But when they actually advise you to do it, I’m kind of like, “Well, it’s going to take 30 years for this tree to grow big enough.” Some of it just doesn’t add up.
TOM: Alright. So let’s talk about those windows. Does it always make sense to replace your old windows – your old wood windows – with energy-efficient windows?
KEVIN: No. I don’t think it always makes sense. Now, there are times where it does make sense. They operate better, they can provide more comfort and that may be reason enough to do it. But if you’re talking specifically about saving energy, think about this: according to the EPA, replacing old windows with an ENERGY STAR-certified window has the potential to lower your household energy bills by about 12 percent nationwide. And so that’s something to consider.
But, again, there’s a lot of costs that go into actually replacing your windows. You’ve got to buy the new windows, you’ve got to have someone install the new windows. And as you guys know, you don’t just pop them out and put them in. You’ve got trim to deal with and all of that.
So it’s a little bit more of a complicated calculation. There are some utilities throughout the state that actually will help you purchase the windows at a discount and you can check those out. There’s a couple websites out there, like ENERGYSTAR.gov. They’ve got a rebate-finder feature and you might want to look into that.
TOM: So, certainly, replacing your windows will give you a more convenient experience: tilt in, cleaning and that sort of thing. But truth be told, if you just really want energy savings, you might be better off sort of replacing the weather-stripping on your old windows, improving your storm windows and putting the job off for a while.
KEVIN: You know that we’re in the business of old homes. A lot of times, our customers want to save the original windows and we tell them, “That’s perfectly fine.” If you have single-pane windows, just one piece of glass that are 100 years old – we just did this on a house – and you add to it a good, working storm window and you actually seal up so that there’s not a lot of air movement, drafts and you tighten these windows so that they lock and clamp down, you can get a very efficient, comfortable window that, I will tell you, can be comparable to a new window. It is something to consider.
LESLIE: I think another sort of energy victim, if you will – something in your home that gets a bad rap when it comes to savings – is insulation. So what’s the truth there?
Well, insulation is great. Don’t get me wrong. I think – I’m a huge fan of it. And more insulation is better than less insulation. If your house doesn’t have it, you should definitely add it. And if your house was insulated many, many years ago, you should definitely look into upgrading your insulation. And think first about critical spots, like the attic. That’s probably the best return for your dollar.
But keep in mind that insulation is not the same as air sealing. And the way that we’re losing heat from our houses is escaping a couple different ways. And if the air is moving – if the air is leaking into the house, sealing up those leaks can be just as important as insulating the house properly. And you want to think about those two in combination with each other.
And there are lots of places where we can seal those leaks: around windows and doors, certainly, but also around the rim joists, for example. And a good insulation contractor can actually seal between floors. So if you have recessed lights on the second floor and heat is escaping up into an uninsulated attic, those types of places could be sealed up. Air sealing and insulation, to me, go hand and fist.
TOM: Good advice. We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, about some of the energy myths that are out there.
So, Kevin, how do you think people can avoid sort of falling prey to those outlandish claims and bad energy advice? Is there a reliable source of information for these topics?
KEVIN: There are. And there are a lot of different sites out there. But if I was going to point somebody to a single site, I would say start with www.Energy.gov. It’s run by the Department of Energy and they’ve got a section there, an energy-saver section, that will point you to different resources when you’re thinking about heating, cooling, weatherization, saving electricity and other fuels in your house. It’s a good catchall site.
TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.
KEVIN: My pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks, Kevin.
You guys 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 and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.
Up next, are you looking forward to those cozy fires coming this fall? Well, we’ve got some tips on how to make sure your chimney is up for the challenge, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you with pretty much anything that you are working on at your money pit. It’s just starting to be the fall season, you guys, so there’s probably a lot of stuff you’re tackling. And we’re here to help you out with all of that.
And we love to give away prizes when you call into the show. And we’ve got a pretty fun prize that I imagine you’ll be looking for creative uses to use around your house. We’re giving away the Bondic Starter Kit.
Now, this is the world’s first liquid-plastic welder. And you’re like, “What is that?” So think about it: you can bond, you can build, you can fix, you can fill pretty much any material. Now, it uses a unique liquid formula and then it turns into 100-percent hard plastic in 4 seconds. You cure it with a UV light that’s included. It’s kind of like a pen. One side’s the glue but it’s not really a glue. It’s literally liquid plastic. The other side’s the light that cures it all together.
So if you’ve got something like a car key ring – like a key fob, for example – and that little skinny end of plastic breaks off and you’re like, “Well, now what do I do with this?” You can rebuild it with the Bondic. I’m telling you, you will walk around and start figuring out fun, cool things to do with it because it’s really amazing. It can be sanded, polished, drilled. You can fill it, you can shape it, you can paint it. It creates a flawless repair.
It’s a great product. Check it out at NotAGlue.com. We’ve got a bunch of kits to give away. They’re 19.99 each, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, if you’re looking forward to the chillier nights that are coming up – you know, those ones when you might use your fireplace – you maybe want to hold up before you strike that first match. Regular use of your fireplace, that leads to the buildup of creosote. Now, combined with animal nests and other obstructions, these things can all lead to a chimney fire and that can be a potentially serious safety threat.
TOM: Now, your chimney should be swept by a professional on an annual basis. The rule of thumb is to sweep after every quart of wood burned. You can also prevent chimney buildup by being sure to always burn hardwoods, like oak and maple and poplar, and not softwoods like pine and fir. And by the way, if you burn hardwoods, you’re going to get more heat out of the hardwood than you would out of the softwood.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to choosing a chimney sweep, there are many reputable chimney sweeps out there. But beware of those whose pricing might seem too good to be true. There’s some unscrupulous sweeps out there and they tend to combine cheap inspections with discovery of expensive problems that only they can do the repair on.
TOM: When I was a home inspector, I actually watched this happen time and time again. A chimney sweep would advertise a very low-cost inspection. “Make sure you’re safe. We’ll come out and inspect your chimney for 50 bucks.” Well, guess what? That’s like paying a salesman to come to your door to sell something because, yeah, they do an inspection but they always find a very dramatic and horrifying defect in that chimney that may or may not exist and then try to convince you, on the spot, to hire them to fix it.
So you’ve got to be really careful to make sure you only use a very professional certified and competent chimney sweep near you. A good way to find one is to start with the non-profit Chimney Safety Institute of America, CSIA.org.
But generally speaking, if any contractor that’s in the business of fixing things ever tells you that you have a serious problem that needs to be repaired, get a second opinion and perhaps not from another contractor because, again, you have that conflict of interest. You could hire an engineer, a professional home inspector. I mean certainly, if it’s a big enough fix, it’s worth the minor expense to have a professional inspection done by somebody who only does inspections and does not sell repairs.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rob in Maryland on the line with a building with a dirt floor and he needs some help with it. How can we help you?
ROB: Yeah. Hi. I have an 18-foot-diameter round space outside. It’s a little hut and I have a dirt floor. And just want to see if there’s some type of concrete that I can just pour down there or pour on it and it’ll just find its own level.
TOM: Well, concrete, to some extent, find its own level. You have access to this space, right? Is there any reason you can’t float it out?
ROB: Yeah. It’s easy to do.
TOM: Yeah. So then what you’re going to want to do is a couple of things. First of all – this is an unheated space?
TOM: Alright. So what you want to do is you would want to make sure that the dirt is solidly tamped down, right? And then you’re going to add concrete to that to a thickness of at least 4 inches but maybe even 6. And then float the concrete.
It takes a little skill. You’re going to have to do some research on how to do this. But essentially, when the concrete comes off the truck, there’s stone that’s embedded in it. And as you spread it out with a shovel and a rake, you sort of float it. You shake it with a float – a trowel. It’s like a big trowel. And then the stones sink to the bottom of the concrete and sort of the cream comes to the top and that’s what gives you that nice finish. And you’ll sort of work the concrete smooth and then work your way out the door. So I think it’s as simple as putting in a concrete slab floor.
ROB: Is there anything like a dust cover?
TOM: Yeah. You can – there’s plastic dust covers and things like that. But you want a floor that you could actually use, so the concrete is the best way to go.
ROB: OK. Alright.
TOM: You could probably do something with brick pavers. But it’d be a lot of work because you’d have to cut all those round edges.
ROB: Alright. Well, thanks a lot.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Well, for all the happiness they bring, pets can really deliver some actual real hassles. And I’m talking about these things often happening on your carpets. You know what I’m talking about? We’re going to tell you the best way to remove those pet stains from your flooring, 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.
Hey, it’s the fall season. Are you watching the trees change color?
TOM: Or getting ready to.
LESLIE: I know. It’s my favorite time of year. But you know what? Let the fall colors and all of the changing of colors inspire you to change your colors, as well. Talking about the color of your house, you guys. Painting vinyl siding, it’s really a wallet-friendly way to give your house a whole new look that’s going to last for years. So we’re going to share a step-by-step guide to giving your vinyl siding a new coat, at MoneyPit.com.
TOM: And you can also post your home improvement question to us at MoneyPit.com. That’s what Kendall did in Washington D.C. Kendall says, “What’s the best, most effective product or method to completely remove pet urine odors and stains from the carpet?”
Remove the pet? Oh, we don’t want to do that.
LESLIE: No. I’m telling you …
TOM: But she says, “All products claim the same results but I know they do not all work.”
So, what do you think, Leslie? There’s that one product that we recommended for years that seems to be pretty effective.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know what? It’s a company called Just Rite. And it’s R-i-t-e. That’s the name of the company. You can look them up online: JustRite.com. They have a product called 1•2•3 Odor Free and it’s a grouping of different products. You use them in a series of stages. And the interesting thing here is it’s not just a cleaner or an odor remover. It actually gets into your carpet padding and the carpet fibers and removes the enzymes that cause the odor.
So when we first moved into our house, the previous owners had a dog who had some accidents on a carpeting. And then our dog started to say, “Oh, hey. This is the bathroom,” and was doing the same thing. And I had posted a couple of questions online, looking for a product that – actually, the owner of Just Rite sent me a sample kit. And I tried it. And it actually really, really worked. And I’ve been using it for years and unfortunately, I have a dog now who has a lot of health issues and she keeps having accidents. And it works.
So I’m going to say it’s a good product. I’ve been using it for years, unfortunately, because I have a dog that likes to pee. But definitely check it out. It’s JustRite.com and the product is 1•2•3 Odor Free. You’ll definitely find that it works.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Robert in Delaware who writes: “My crawlspace recently flooded for the first time in nearly three decades I’ve been in my home. The crawlspace is sand with a plastic vapor barrier. I removed the water with a portable sump pump and a wet vac and ran a box fan. Do I need to remove the old vapor barrier and install a new one because it got wet? Should I have the sump pump installed permanently? Should I spray the crawlspace with some kind of anti-mold solution?”
TOM: All good questions, Robert, but I think you may potentially be overreacting a bit. First of all, the fact that it flooded for the first time in nearly three decades was probably because of an extreme weather event: very, very heavy rain perhaps coupled with something in your drainage system outside that broke down. Most commonly a clogged gutter, disconnected spout, something of that nature or maybe a neighbor who has now, all of a sudden, dumped a lot of water on your property. It’s not really anything you want to panic over. Try to figure out, if you can, what caused that and make sure you get that back in shape so it doesn’t happen again.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com on this first fall weekend. We hope we’ve been able to give you some tips and advice on fall fix-up projects that you have in mind for your money pit. If you’ve got questions as you seek to improve your home, give us a call any time of the day or night at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, by the way, when you call, we will call you back the next time we are. You can also post your questions to our website at MoneyPit.com. That’s all for now.
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 2016 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.)