Best Projects NOT to Do

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  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Happy Almost Spring. We like to celebrate early around here, because spring is the launch of the official home improvement season, when we know that you’re probably raring to get out and get some things done around your house or around your yard. The first stop, though, should be to pick up the phone or post your question on the Community page. Our number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we are here to help you get those projects done right, get them done on budget, get them done on time and then don’t make any mistakes along the way that can be expensive. But help yourself first: give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Hey, are you looking for projects that can add value to your home? Well, we’re going to share those that won’t and some that do, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, hardwood floors have always been one of the most popular choices. But new, lookalike flooring is delivering hardwood style on a budget. We’ll share some new trends.

    TOM: And if your home is getting tight for your growing family, an addition could be a great move. We’re going to have tips on how to plan that space to make sure it serves you for many years to come.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you are working on or what you’re planning on or what you’re dreaming of or all the different things that you think about for your money pit. Which, believe me, as homeowners I understand that we are constantly thinking about what’s next, what can we do, how can we fix it. So let us help. Alright, guys? Give us a call.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Andrew in North Carolina is dealing with a plumbing issue. How can we help you today?

    ANDREW: Bought a house about three years ago. It was built in the 1950s.

    TOM: OK.

    ANDREW: And two-and-a-half baths. We bought it – I had it replumbed with all modern PVCs, CPVCs, the whole bit. And after that, the one bathroom – whether you use the toilet, the sink or the shower – on occasion, it’ll have a hum in the pipes. Not consistent. No rhyme or rhythm. Then we had a new septic tank put in and I was thinking maybe if they redid that, it would – something would change and it did not change. And we still have this problem. I was wondering what can be done to stop that.

    TOM: Well, the humming noise in the pipe is probably caused by a valve that’s not completely closing. So this could be the toilet fill valve, for example. As the toilet goes to refill, sometimes the valve doesn’t fully close. You get sort of vibration as the water continues to move over it and that can cause that sort of what you’re describing as a humming noise. It might just be a vibration or it could be something else somewhere down the line from that where you’re running a sink or a faucet or something else that’s just running water through the pipe. It has a bad valve associated with it and that’s causing that vibration, which is leading to the noise.

    Does that make sense as a possibility?

    ANDREW: I would understand that in the toilet but what about the sink? If you draw a cup of water, just that little bit it’ll cause it. That water …

    TOM: Yeah, well, that makes perfect sense because there are valves inside the sink faucets that this happens to, as well. So, if it’s happening when you’re letting water out or when the toilet’s refilling, I would simple replace those valves. A toilet fill valve is very easy to replace, very inexpensive. Probably about $10. Easy do-it-yourself project. Sink faucet, a little bit more money and not quite as easy but it can be a do-it-yourself project if you can fit under the cabinet to get to all the fittings and the fixtures and the faucets and so on.

    But generally, it’s a noise in the valve and it’s a simple fix. And the good news is that it will have no ill effects on the plumbing system whatsoever. So it’s just more of an annoyance that you can make go away, Andrew, if you replace those valves that are affected. OK?

    ANDREW: OK, so we replace the toilet valve and the sink valve, that should stop it.

    TOM: That should do it.

    ANDREW: OK. Well, we’ll give that a try.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sue on the line who needs some help removing wallpaper. Tell us what’s going on.

    SUE: Well, I live in an older house that has – every single wall in the house is wallpapered.

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    SUE: And I’m really sick of wallpaper.

    TOM: Yeah. Going to be a lot of years of wallpaper, too, huh, Sue?

    SUE: Yes, it is.

    LESLIE: Well, as a decorator, wallpaper is coming back in a big way. And big, bold patterns sometimes work really well in interesting spaces. But they might not always be what everybody wants.

    Now, Sue, tell me, is it paper or is it vinyl?

    SUE: I think it might be a vinyl. Don’t want it.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, with vinyl, you’re going to need to score that wall covering first, only because the vinyl is going to stop any of your efforts from actually getting to where the paste is.

    Now, I’ve done this before and it depends on how you’ve actually put up the paper and how long it’s been there and what it is adhered to. Was the drywall behind it prepared first? That’s all going to depend on your success rate in removing the wallpaper. But believe it or not – and it’s definitely worth trying; it doesn’t always work but it has been successful many times for me – you can actually remove wallpaper with fabric softener.

    SUE: Really?

    LESLIE: I know it sounds crazy.

    TOM: Works great.

    LESLIE: But you can mix about a 1/3-cup fabric softener with 2/3-cup hot water. Or you can even do it with – what is it? – laundry starch: equal amounts of laundry starch and hot water.

    And the laundry starch, the benefit I find with that is that it ends up being like a thicker consistency, so it holds the moisture on the wallpaper where you want it, whereas the fabric softener and water is a little bit wetter.

    But you – if you’re using the fabric softener, you want to put it in a spray bottle, spritz that wallpaper, get it super-wet, let it sit there for 10 to 15 minutes. That wallpaper, you’re going to feel it start to loosen and then you’re going to peel it away. Start at the bottom, work your way to the top. You may need a scraper to sort of get underneath it and give it a lot of elbow grease. But with the laundry starch and hot water, you can put that on with a paint roller or a sponge. Super-wet the walls again, let it stand until you can peel away.

    And I would start there before I start renting steamers and getting crazy chemicals. Just start and see your success rate.

    SUE: OK. That sounds easier than I thought it would be.

    TOM: Well, that’s what we’re here for. Thanks so much, Sue, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and good luck with that wallpaper project.

    SUE: Well, thank you. I’m going to be starting it probably in the next couple of weeks.

    TOM: Good. And then we’ll talk to you next year when you’re finished, OK?

    SUE: No, no. It’s going to be (inaudible). Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tim on the line who’s dealing with a big crack in a driveway, causing some unevenness. Tell us what’s going on.

    TIM: Well, I have a concrete driveway. It’s 3 inches thick; I found that out after I saw the crack in the driveway. And they poured this driveway in one – as far as width. And they put it – it’s probably 16-foot wide and they poured it in 16×12-foot sections with – it looks like fracture pieces in it instead of the actual expansion joints? And where it goes over my drop – the ditch over my cupboard – it has a spot about a – 1 foot in a triangle – 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot – where it has dropped.

    And I’m trying to find some way to bring that piece back up level with the rest. That way, I can see – I’ve already had it sealed but I put a silicone in there along the joints to keep any further erosion from happening.

    TOM: How big is the piece that’s dropped? You said – is it cracked 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot?

    TIM: Yes. It’s a 1-foot triangle piece.

    TOM: So can you dig that piece out?

    TIM: No, I can’t, because it did not break on a smooth line. It fractured and it dropped down.

    TOM: Yeah. Because you know – I tell you what, I’ve broken sidewalks in half before, because I had to run pipes underneath them and then put them back in place kind of right where they were and just sort of filled them up and made it level. So, it would be sweet if you could extract that piece of concrete but I guess you can’t. And so now you’re going to have to pour a new piece.

    How thick is the – how far down has it dropped?

    TIM: The front – on the back edge of it, it’s still level. On the front, it’s probably dropped about 3 inches.

    TOM: OK. Well, not so bad. What you’re going to do is you’re going to mix up an epoxy-based, concrete-repair product that has good adhesion.

    TIM: OK.

    TOM: And then you’re going to put a second layer on that. And QUIKRETE – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E …

    TIM: OK.

    TOM: Yeah, you want to use the type of concrete mix that’s made to be a patch. And the difference is that it sticks to the old stuff. If you use regular concrete mix, it won’t stick. But if you use the patch mix, then it will stick. And they also have good step-by-step videos on their website to kind of show you how to do this.

    TIM: OK. Would I be better off by just knocking that one piece – that piece – out and refilling it, since it’s not that big of a piece?

    TOM: Yeah, you might be, because I want to make sure it’s stable underneath. But they – there’s a vinyl, concrete patcher product that can be used on top of this. And it’s designed to adhere to what was there before and not crack again. OK?

    TIM: I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at What is on your to-do list? We’re ready to help you plan projects, from foundations to faucets, here at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros, for free.

    TOM: Still ahead, are you looking for projects that add value to your home? We’ll share those that won’t, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Where we make good homes better. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project question, your do-it-yourself dilemma, your décor challenges. That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Margie in Maryland needs some help with a kitchen incident gone awry. What happened?

    MARGIE: What happened is – it’s sort of like a barbecue gone bad inside my house.

    TOM: OK.

    MARGIE: I had some deer meat in a big pot on the stove. It was – it had a cover on it. And it – I stepped out for a while and I came back and there was smoke everywhere in my house. And we opened everything; we opened all the windows and doors and all of that. And what I need is to find out how to get rid of the smoke smell. It is just disgusting; it’s terrible.

    And I – we’ve done what we can. I’m washing – my poor washing machine is going nuts. I just wash, wash, wash everything. And we Febrezed on the furniture and – but my wood furniture I don’t know what to do about and my walls and my painted woodwork. Because the day that it happened, I washed up the floor with vinegar and water. But it seems like the longer it goes, that it’s getting harder on the surfaces that it’s touched. And I just need some help to figure out how to clean it up, especially on the wood furniture, the walls and the painted woodwork.

    TOM: Well, on the furniture, on the woodwork, I think something like Murphy’s Oil Soap would be a good choice. That’s a mild solution that smells pleasant and it’s designed specifically to clean wood surfaces.

    However, I suspect that the source of most of the smell is going to be in – because of materials that are harder to clean, like fabrics, rugs, couches, upholstery, the pillows, that sort of thing. And for those, you really need to have a professional company come in and clean them. There are companies like – I think ServiceMaster is one of them that specializes in fire-and-smoke cleaning and water cleanup. And they have the right equipment, with the right types of chemicals, to take the odors out of those sorts of things. What you can do is clean those hard surfaces on your own.

    As far as the walls are concerned, I would mix up a fairly weak TSP solution – trisodium phosphate. You can pick that up in the painting section of any hardware store or home center and wash the walls down with that. OK?

    MARGIE: Yes. Thank you so very, very much. I really appreciate it.

    TOM: If you’re looking for projects that add value to your home, some home renovations, you will find, will pay better than others.

    For example, energy-efficient upgrades that earn tax credits can definitely help you save a bundle on your monthly utility bills all at the same time. Now, these include improvements like new windows, heating equipment, insulation or even adding a new solar-energy system all qualify for some pretty significant tax credits if they’re done this year.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. But you know what? Basic maintenance should also be a top priority. Because neglecting the little things can lead to big expenses later. And consider home renovations that give you the best value when it comes time to sell your home, like adding kitchens, bathrooms, decks. All of that have a big return on investment.

    TOM: Now, what doesn’t pay in terms of improvements? Well, those improvements that are very personal in nature, like decorating. Even though you love your decorating, chances are the next family may not. So, enjoy that project when you do it. But unless it’s very neutral, it’s got to come down when it’s time to sell. Typically, you have to sort of paint over all of that beautiful, burnt orange or whatever your favorite color was and just kind of neutralize the entire house.

    Another big common mistake is to make your house significantly better than all those that surround it. So, for example, if you live in a house that has, say, two- to three-bedroom homes and you decide you’re going to put a big addition on and add three more bedrooms, you’re probably not going to get the full value for that. So you’ve got to stay within the nature of the neighborhood if you want to get a good return on the investment.

    LESLIE: Now, I think another one that a lot of folks are surprised by is when you add a home office. You don’t really get a lot of return on investment there. It’s great for you, as the current homeowner who lives there and uses the space, because it’s totally functional. But as a potential buyer, you might not see the value in that space. So if you’re going to add a home office and you plan to sell in the future, don’t build in things. Use strictly pieces of furniture that can be moved out or transitioned back into the other space. Or maybe combine a guest room with the home office. Just make the space look multifunctional when it’s time to sell.

    TOM: But if you do have a project you want to take on and you need some help getting it done, well, that’s where we come in. So give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

    LESLIE: Keith in Delaware is on the line with a fireplace-decorating question. Tell us what’s going on.

    KEITH: I have a 2×2-foot chimney system, concrete block with a terracotta flue in it. And it’s in the garage. And on the living room side of the wall is a red-brick fireplace that’s 4 feet wide and floor to ceiling. And the hearth in front of it is also 4 feet wide and sticks into the room about 6 feet. And the end of it is a radius to the (inaudible) foot, kind of like a popsicle stick.

    And we don’t really – it originally had a wood stove on it, so there’s an 8-inch flue about 2 feet up off the floor. We’d like to change it over to some sort of decorative stone. But since some of it’s probably attached to drywall, some of it’s attached to concrete block, do we take it down? Can we attach to it? Will it stay up? And then what do we do with the hearth? Should we try to chip some of the brick off and then put a stone on?

    TOM: So you’re never really going to use this hearth for a fireplace?

    KEITH: Well, it was originally for a wood stove. There was never a fireplace. We’d like to put a wood stove back, eventually.

    TOM: Well, if you’re going to put something back, then you don’t want to destroy what’s there.

    KEITH: Is there some sort of product that’s thin enough that it doesn’t make it too big and bulky in appearance once we cover it over with some sort of a stone?

    TOM: Keith, you know, there’s a product on the market that’s pretty new. It’s called AirStone and their website is And it’s an easy-to-apply stone veneer. You might want to take a look at that, because you could actually attach that to the top of the brick and come up with a totally new look to it.

    KEITH: OK.

    TOM: In fact, they’ve got some photographs of some folks that have done sort of fireplace makeovers, on their website, in their blog section at

    KEITH: We had thought about painting it but we didn’t really care for the painted approach. I guess we’d have to use muriatic acid and all that to be able to cover it properly. We are committed to changing it, whether it be paint or stone. We’re just trying to refresh the room and give it an updated appearance and the brick is just an older, dingy, reddish color.

    TOM: Right. Now, I don’t want you to ignore the fact that painting this room with an appropriate color shade could change the look of it, as well. Right now, it sounds like the focus is on the fireplace.

    But Leslie, if he was to choose some complementary colors to kind of bring this all together, I think it could make an impact, as well, don’t you think?

    LESLIE: I mean it can but with the brick playing such a predominant role, you’ve got to feel comfortable with it and the colors that will work.

    Now, with a red, your complementary colors to it are going to be sort of in the green/brown tones that will sort of work well in the color wheel. It really depends on what your aesthetics are and what the look of the space is.

    And have you thought about using a slate or a bluestone, some sort of different approach to sort of sheathing it?

    KEITH: We had thought about that. In fact, on the hearth, that would probably be a good choice because it would be easier to sit a wood stove on.

    LESLIE: Right. Just on the hearth and then leaving the rest brick. And then that way – I’m not sure how close to the wood stove you might be but you could do some interesting floor cushions to give yourself a little seating area around it or some cute benches.

    There’s even, I’ve seen – I’m not sure who makes them but I’ve seen some bronze-legged, little benches that would surround a fireplace hearth, that are upholstered on top and they’re sort of built into the hearth itself to create a surround?

    KEITH: Oh, that’s a neat idea.

    LESLIE: Since it does take up so much space and you could then utilize it.

    KEITH: Alright. Those are some great ideas.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Well, hardwood is still hot but some new and even exotic styles and materials are popping up underfoot. Are these flooring trends exactly what you’ve been looking for? Find out, coming up.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: You can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joyce in Alabama on the line who’s got a question about a sink odor. What’s going on?

    JOYCE: Well, this is in a bathroom sink. It’s about 25 years old. It’s a type that has three air-vent holes in it or overflow holes in it. And the odor seems to be emanating primarily from there. It’s a very musty odor and came down to that conclusion because I finally took some paper and stuffed up those holes. And things smelled much better in the bathroom that way.

    TOM: Well, sometimes what happens is you’ll get some bacteria that will grow in that overflow trap. So, what I would suggest you do is this: that is to fill the sink up with hot water and add some bleach to it and let the bleach very slowly trickle over that overflow. And so it saturates it and hopefully, that will kill that mold or that bacteria.

    Now, the other thing that you can do is you could take the bathroom-sink trap apart and clean it out with a bottle brush. Now, some of the traps today are just plastic. They’re easy to unscrew and put back together. Under the sink, sometimes you can clean that. And again, you get that biogas that forms in there. If you clean it with a bleach solution, that usually makes things smell a lot better in the bathroom. OK, Joyce?

    JOYCE: Alright. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, hardwood flooring has long been a popular choice for homes because of the natural beauty of wood. Today, there are many new colors and finishes that help keep this traditional flooring style looking fresh.

    TOM: With a look at the latest in floor trends on tap, we welcome This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.

    TOM: So, hardwoods are not going out of style anytime soon but there are some new colors and wood finishes that are making their mark this year.

    KEVIN: No, they are definitely not going out of style. It’s definitely my favorite choice. I think it’s a classic choice but it can also be a very contemporary and a very modern-looking choice. And nowadays, people are thinking about hardwoods and they’re thinking about color.

    Gray is actually one of the trending colors. We’re seeing it in every aspect, not just floors. We’re seeing it on the wall paint, cabinets, fixtures and such but also in the floors. And when you think gray, you might be shaking your head. “On floors?” Well, there’s a sort of a gray-washed look in hardwoods. There are great tiles that are made out of ceramics, that look like wood planks so that it gives the appearance of a floor tile. And so there’s a lot of things that you can play with in terms of color and these days, in terms of gray color.

    TOM: And even very dark woods, we’re seeing some of that. Almost the opposites are attracting …

    LESLIE: Like ebonized, even.

    TOM: Right, yeah.

    KEVIN: Yeah, I mean I think it kind of grounds the rooms.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: Sometimes it can actually make a room feel more intimate. But it also gives sort of an exotic feel because those darker woods, I think, we associate with exotic wood species, like Brazilian walnut and such like that. And so people are choosing those as options, as well.

    And again, it’s a style and a color choice.

    TOM: Now, it used to be that hardwood was pretty much only oak and red oak or white oak, right? And now there’s just so many hardwoods to choose from.

    KEVIN: There are so many different hardwoods to choose from, not just the oaks. You’ve got the maples, you’ve got the walnuts and you’ve even got some things that technically aren’t wood.

    You guys know that bamboo is very popular. People may think of it as wood but it is actually a very fast-growing grass. It gives a contemporary look. People who are environmentally-conscious love it because it’s so fast-growing. It’s very renewable and there are a whole bunch of choices out there when it comes to bamboo.

    I would say, however, that bamboo can span a very broad range in terms of its durability. How hard a surface is is probably the number-one indicator of how durable a surface is. And bamboo, it can be as soft as pine or as hard as maple. It all depends on when it’s been harvested and how it’s been manufactured.

    TOM: It’s really amazing material. They’re making fabrics out of bamboo today.

    KEVIN: They are making a lot of things out of bamboo today. And it’s something that’s been around for thousands of years and used all over the world. It is now coming to the United States and into our homes in a big way.

    LESLIE: And I think with the fabric, it’s important because they’ve been using it a lot in fitness wear because it’s so moisture-wicking and it wears very well.

    KEVIN: Wow.

    LESLIE: So I’ve seen a lot of that there.

    Now, I think it’s important to look at tile because tile is still a very popular choice when it comes to flooring. And we’re seeing a lot of sort of changes in how you would traditionally think about tile.

    KEVIN: Tile is extremely durable, it’s great for cleanup. If you have got a mudroom, boy, it is an ideal choice. And in fact, on the project that we’re working on currently for This Old House, we are using a tile in the mudroom. It is actually a gray tone.

    LESLIE: Of course.

    TOM: There you go.

    KEVIN: And it is made to look like wood. So when you actually look at it, it’s in that sort of long, rectangular shape to make it look like plank wood. But it has all the benefits of tile: that sort of durability, easy cleanup. The other thing that we’re seeing – in addition to the colors and the different trends, in terms of faux wood – are sizes. People seem to be using much bigger tiles. At least they’re coming back.

    TOM: Yeah, used to think small room, small tile but now it’s – I’m seeing small rooms where you have about four tiles in it, you know?

    KEVIN: Well, it’s a style thing, so people are making the choices for that. But if you think about the larger tile, a couple things are going on. More tile, fewer grout lines.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: So you get a different look there.

    There are a couple things to think about when you’re using large tiles, other than just styles and trends, and it’s performance.

    TOM: They don’t bend.

    KEVIN: They don’t bend.

    TOM: You want to have a good base.

    KEVIN: You really do want to have a good base, because the last thing you want is a cracked tile. And a larger tile without a good base is going to be more prone to crack than a smaller one.

    LESLIE: I mean all of this really sort of makes carpeting seem obsolete. Has it kind of gone away completely?

    KEVIN: Oh, it definitely has not gone away completely. We have a lot of carpet up on second floors because it’s very cozy, at least the wall-to-wall. We’re seeing a lot of that put in houses and projects that we’re working on. And also used downstairs in terms of accent rugs. There’s different colors that you could bring, in different textures. So I don’t think it’s getting rid pf carpet but I think we’re using it in combination with these hardwoods and tiles, as opposed to just using carpet from corner to corner, wall-to-wall in a room.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what I love as a trend with area rugs is layering area rugs. That just makes me so happy. Why have one when you can have two or three in the same spot?

    KEVIN: If you could see the smile on Leslie’s face right now.

    TOM: More is better, right?

    Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit and stepping up our trend knowledge.

    KEVIN: Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. 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

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Gorilla Glue.

    Up next, is your home feeling a little tight for your growing family? Have you sorted and organized and reorganized but finally decided you just need more space? Well, then, adding a new addition might be a great move. We’re going to have tips on how to plan to make sure that new space serves you for many years to come, in this week’s Pro Project Tip presented by, next.

    Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Planning a spring project and need a pro to help? Call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    LESLIE: Byron in Arizona is on the line and has a question about a log home. How can we help you?

    BYRON: I am planning on building a log-cabin kit and – 8-inch logs. We’re in a very cold climate, 7,400 feet elevation and wondering if I need to insulate the inside of the logs or if the logs will give enough thermal mass to insulate the house itself.

    TOM: Well, you mentioned you’re going to be in a very cold climate and generally, if you’re building a log – a home in a very cold climate, most people will insulate those logs. And typically, that’s done by adding furring strips and then some sort of a sheet insulation, like an isocyanurate insulation or a Dow foam board-type insulation. And the other advantage to doing that is it makes the wiring a little bit easier; you don’t have to drill the logs to run the wires. You can use that insulation space to also run all your wiring.

    BYRON: OK. Yeah. We were hoping to keep the logs exposed, just for looks, but we might be able to do that by some – on the outside of the furring strips with some planks or something.

    TOM: Well, I think it will be warmer if you insulate them but let’s – if you want to just leave it raw for now, you could always go back and do the insulation later. Those logs are going to have some thermal mass to them, especially since they’re 8 inches thick. But I think, generally, the building practice would be, in a very harsh climate, to try to insulate the inside of those walls.

    BYRON: I think I’ll take your advice and insulate and then, like I say, use some wood planks to make it look more like log on the inside.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly.

    BYRON: Alright. Well, thank you very much for your assistance.

    TOM: Oh, you’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, adding on a kitchen, a bathroom, family room, bedroom or study can be a great way to stay in your home and neighborhood for a lot less expense and hassle of selling your home and then buying the bigger one. But it’s a project that needs careful planning to make sure that it goes smoothly. We’ve got tips on how to plan a beautiful, new addition that will serve your family for years to come, in today’s Pro Project presented by

    TOM: OK. So to get started, there are really three things you need to consider. First, you want to dig out your home’s survey and review your property lines. That’s the distance between your home and the property line. And it’s likely going to be restricted by local zoning laws. You need to understand how close to the line your new addition can be and that’s going to tell you how much space you really have to work with.

    LESLIE: Next up, planning makes perfect. Bring on a design pro to help make sure that the new addition complements your existing home. A good architect or design-build pro can help. Now, don’t just think about how you’re going to live in your addition; also consider how it architecturally affects the look of your home from the outside and your home’s value. Plus, it’s a lot less expensive to move walls around on paper than it is once that new foundation is set.

    TOM: Now, once the design is ready, your pro is going to be able to create a detailed set of drawings that list every element of the project. We’re talking about precise measurements, to a list of materials and also the products that will go into the home. Now, these are key because with a set of carefully developed plans in hand, you’re going to be able to seek bids from qualified builders for the project and know that every pro is essentially bidding apples to apples.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.

    LESLIE: Cheryl in Wisconsin has a question about heating. How can we help you stay toasty?

    CHERYL: I have a large area downstairs. It’s about one-third – it’s 11×36 feet and about one-third of that we use for a dining and kitchen area, mainly when we have company.

    TOM: OK. Mm-hmm.

    CHERYL: And I’m not looking to heat that whole area, just the area where we eat. And I was wondering if one of those oscillating space heaters would be a good idea. One of the taller ones?

    TOM: Well, look, here’s the thing. I think your question is about efficiency and most space heaters are not very efficient. They’re only efficient if you’re going to do what you’re doing, which is – that is to isolate the heat to just one very narrow space of the house. But this is a big area. If it’s 30-something feet long, it might be hard to do that. It’s different if it’s like one individual bedroom or something of that nature.

    But I will say that, generally speaking, they’re more expensive to run than your heating system on a BTU basis: in other words, comparing the cost to create a BTU in your main heating system versus the space heater.

    What kind of heat do you have? What kind of fuel do you use?

    CHERYL: Natural gas.

    TOM: Yeah. Natural gas is always going to be less expensive than electric space heaters. But if you’ve got an area that’s a little bit chilly and you want to just supplement it on a limited basis, like just when you’re using that room for company or dining, I think it’s OK. But there’s just not very much that – there’s not very much that’s efficient about the use of a space heater.

    CHERYL: Yeah. I was just thinking right close to the table in the area where we eat.

    TOM: Yeah. But only in those limited circumstances, when you’re using that area, do you want to use the space heater. Then you’ll keep the heat down the rest of the time?

    CHERYL: Actually, our basement is so cold. When we have company, we really crank up the heat and the basement is still really cold. You know, we live in Wisconsin.

    TOM: Yeah. So even when the heat’s up, it’s chilly.

    CHERYL: Yeah.

    TOM: So, if you’re just using it on a temporary basis to supplement it only when you’re down there eating, then I think it’s probably OK. But I think your original question: is it efficient? No, it’s just not.

    CHERYL: OK. That’s what I wanted to know.

    LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Hey, do you get stuck trying to pick the best colors for your painting project? Well, we’re going to share tips to help you get over the hump, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement, your décor question, your remodeling challenge. The number is 888-666-3974. And that spells 888-MONEY-PIT, which is presented by HomeAdvisor. They really do have the best local pros for any home service.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Doesn’t matter what the project is, they make it fast and easy to find top-rated pros.

    TOM: And there are no membership fees. It’s 100-percent free to use.

    LESLIE: Alright. But while you’re online, remember to post your questions to The Money Pit’s Community page, just like Cheryl did. Now, Cheryl writes: “My den has a vaulted ceiling with exposed Styrofoam beams. They’re painted black and the ceiling is white and the walls are yellow. I’d like to paint the Styrofoam beams. What color do you suggest?”

    TOM: I think so many people get into this sort of analysis paralysis when it comes to color choice. So, what’s a good place to get them started?

    LESLIE: You’ve got to start thinking about what you like, what’s the mood of that room, how do you want to feel when you’re in that space. That all sort of lends to how that color palette is going to shape up.

    Now, since you’re directly addressing the beams, I’m assuming that you like the white ceiling and the yellow walls. The beams, I feel like you’re getting such a stark transition between the white ceiling and the black beams and the yellow wall. It’s very graphic. And I don’t know that that’s the right feel for a den. I mean maybe it is; I don’t know what your furnishing is.

    But if there’s a Styrofoam beam that wants to feel like it’s an actual wood beam, I might try to faux-finish it or at least give it more of a natural, rustic-y, wood look or feel. And I wouldn’t be afraid to try. You’ve got to remember that you’re on the floor, the beams are on the ceiling. It’s a cathedral ceiling, so they’re far away – or a vaulted ceiling, rather, so they’re fairly far away from you. You can fudge it a little in creating this wood grain.

    And now, to do so, you want to pick sort of a mid-tone in this wood look that you’re trying to replicate. Paint that solidly onto the foam beam. And then take two different tones – a lighter version and a darker version – and create the wood grain with that. That’s going to give you areas of shadow. That’s going to give you areas of depth and brightness and it’s going to feel realistic.

    And there’s a couple of different ways that you can wood-grain. There’s a wood-graining tool that’s made of rubber, that looks like sort of precut triangles that you dip in the paint and then drag across the material. And it creates sort of a wood-grain look. You can move it into sort of semi-circular moves. You can create a full circle to give it a knot.

    Now, another way is to use a chip brush. You can find those at any of the home centers. And they’re inexpensive, wood-handled brushes with those very natural bristles on them. And I like to sort of thread my fingers through the bristles to create, you know, areas of non-bristles in the brush, dip in there and then create a wood grain.

    I say try it. It’s a really good technique. Once you get a hang of it, you can really make a good look for the space and it’ll feel more homey, more rustic, organic which is think the look you want for the space. So I say give that a go.

    TOM: Next, we’ve got a post from Libby in Staten Island who says, “When I flush my toilet, a very loud sound is heard coming from the vanity and sometimes the shower drain. Several plumbers have advised to break the wall to access the pipe. Can there be an obstruction in the vent pipe that could be cleared from the roof of the house?”

    Most certainly yes, Libby. You can definitely clear it from the roof of the house. And in fact, there’s a difference between plumbers and those that are involved in drain cleaning. The drain-cleaning companies have cameras that can see inside those pipes. They can access the pipe either from the ground or the basement or even the roof. And that is a smart way to clear an obstruction. And so I would suggest that you call drain-cleaning companies and not plumbers to get it done without destroying the wall.

    Plumbers can be so very destructive, Leslie.

    LESLIE: I don’t think they want to be but they can be. And sometimes, it’s through no fault of their own and you just can’t get to the pipe.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at Are you getting ready for spring? We are. Think ahead to those projects that you want to get done and reach out to us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question on The Money Pit’s Facebook page at

    For now, that’s all the time we have. The show does continue online, though.

    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.


    (Copyright 2019 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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