Home Repairs for New Homeowners

  • Buying a Home
  • 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: And what are you working on this fine wintry weekend? Of course, unless you live in Hawaii – at which point you’re probably just laughing at us right now. But for the rest of us, it’s a little chilly around here. And it’s the time of year we take on projects that will beautify the inside of our house, because we can’t work outside and we’re kind of tired of the dark, cold days. We want to spruce it up. If that’s a project on your to-do list, pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we’re here to help you get those jobs done. If you need some tips, some advice – maybe you’re just not confident about taking it on; you want to know if you can do it yourself or you need to hire it out – we’re here to help, 888-666-3974.

    Hey, most homeowners know or will soon discover that keeping up with home repairs and improvements can be expensive and time-consuming and a real exercise in stress management. And that applies whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or you’re hiring a pro. Such projects, however, are part of the deal when you trade out rent for a mortgage payment, right? I mean if you’re getting out of that apartment, there’s no landlord to call. So we thought we’d give you some tips, for all the new homeowners listening to us today, on how to deal and prepare for these eventual repairs and improvements.

    LESLIE: It really is a shock to the system. You’re like, “Yay, I own a house. Oh, I also have to do all of these things.” So we’re going to help you with that, guys.

    You know, this also is the time of year when the risk of home fires is the highest. We’re going to have some solutions to help you and your family stay safe.

    TOM: And with the wintry weather, it’s a good time to plan for roof repairs or replacements that might be needed to keep your home safe and dry. But which should it be: repair or replace? Too often, you call in a contractor for an estimate, because you have maybe a roof leak, and they always want to sell you a replacement. But it’s not always necessary. We’ll tell you how to know.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to help you with whatever it is that you are currently working on at your money pit. Are you remodeling? Are you redecorating? Are you thinking of just sprucing some stuff up for the holiday season? Whatever it is, we are here to give you a hand, so give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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

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

    LESLIE: Steve in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    STEVE: I’ve got a cabin way out in the woods here in North Carolina. And I built a bathroom onto it. And just years ago that I’ve done this. We put a flat roof over the bathroom and the seam leaked during the last storm very, very badly. When I remove the tiles – and I used the pink insulation in the roof – what do I do?

    TOM: So all that has to be torn out.

    Now, you mentioned it was because of a storm. Is this cabin insured? Do you have a homeowners policy on this?

    STEVE: I do, yes.

    TOM: That storm damage should have been covered by your policy. Yeah, if you haven’t filed a claim, I would definitely do that because it’s probably covered.

    Now, since you had such a bad leak, obviously, all that has to be taken out. So, you’ve removed the ceiling. You have to pull out all that insulation. You need to wear appropriate breathing protection when you’re doing this and try to control that area. Because with all of that mold, you don’t want to get it into the house, right? So, that’s why it’s kind of a job for a pro.

    STEVE: Yeah.

    TOM: But if I was doing it, I would depressurize the room I’m working in so that there was good ventilation and everything was blowing out, right? So, I would make sure that I managed that. Pull out all the insulation. You’re going to need to spray down all of the inside surfaces with a mold inhibitor. There’s many good commercial products on the market that do that. And you’re going to have to replace that roof.

    Now, you said it was a flat roof. That’s the least favorite type of roof, I would say, because if there’s going to be a leak, it’s going to happen a lot quicker on a flat roof than any other kind of pitched roof. But you’re going to have to replace it.

    What kind of material did you use? Did you use roll roof on it?

    STEVE: We did. And see, that was my mistake.

    TOM: Yeah. Roll roof is not designed for flat roofs. Roll roof, you’ve got to have at least about a 2/12 pitch for it to work right. And so, you really need to use a rubberized bitumen or something like that.

    But choose a material that’s designed for flat roofs when you replace this. But I think you know what’s ahead of you, Steve. You just needed me to say it. You’ve got to tear it all out. And listen, if you can get coverage because of the storm, maybe it won’t cost you as much as it might have, OK?

    STEVE: OK.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Steve.

    STEVE: Listen, I love your – listen and before I let you go, I wish you all would let the trailer music play a little longer. I love your trailer music.

    TOM: Alright. Well, thanks very much. We appreciate that. I’ve got to put that on the website. A lot of folks love that tune.

    STEVE: Really.

    LESLIE: Everybody loves it.

    TOM: You don’t even know we have additional verses to it.

    STEVE: Oh. I want to hear the whole thing.

    TOM: Alright. Thanks very much. Have a great day.

    STEVE: OK. Thank you. You, too. Bye-bye.

    LESLIE: Clara in Minneapolis, Kansas is on the line with a dryer-venting question. How can we help you?

    CLARA: Our dryer is in the basement – is the beginning part of the problem. So when we hook it up to the vent, the vent goes straight up.

    TOM: How far up does it go?

    CLARA: Well, it’s probably 8 foot.


    CLARA: And then it goes vertical – I mean horizontal – probably about 25 feet to the back side of the house.

    TOM: Wow. OK.

    CLARA: And then that’s where the exhaust comes out of the house. And we can get part of it cleaned.

    TOM: Is it a metal exhaust duct or a plastic exhaust duct?

    CLARA: It’s a metal.

    TOM: OK, good. Perfect. We’ve got a solution for you. It’s called a Gardus LintEater. And it’s a special brush that fits inside the dryer exhaust ducts and it’s on fiberglass rods. And as you …

    LESLIE: So it’s flexible.

    TOM: It’s flexible. And so what you do is you start with like 3 foot or 6 foot of the fiberglass rod, you hook it up to a drill and the drill is what spins it. You run it into the duct, pull it out a couple of times. Then you add another length of fiberglass and another length of fiberglass rod and so on.

    LESLIE: And it’s the coolest thing, because you will be amazed – both, I should say, amazed and disgusted – at the amount of lint that is going to come out of your vent the first time you do it.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s fun.

    CLARA: I imagine.

    TOM: Just Google it – LintEater, Lint-E-a-t-e-r – and you’ll find it.

    CLARA: OK.

    TOM: It’s a really handy tool to have. Once you have one, you can use it a lot. You can do it from the outside. They’ve got other attachments that help you get in closer to the dryer and so on but it’s a great product, OK?

    CLARA: OK. OK.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? If you don’t do it, you really need to be careful because all of that lint is sort of just building up in there and it could be a fire hazard. So you really do have to get on this.

    CLARA: Yeah. That’s what we were concerned about.

    TOM: And that’s actually their website, too: it’s LintEater.com. So check it out.

    CLARA: OK. That sounds great.

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

    You know, that’s such an important thing to do, Leslie, because there’s a lot of fires that happen in homes because of dirty dryer-exhaust ducts, so a good idea to keep it clean.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s funny. I was just noticing the lint buildup in my driveway again and I was like, “Ah, it’s time. Time to get out there.”

    TOM: It’s time again. Yep.

    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 whatever it is you are working on. We know this time of year is super busy. We’re all gearing up to entertain for the holiday season, trying to make the house look as perfect as possible for all our visitors. So whatever it is you are working on, give us a call. We’d love to lend you a hand. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you a former renter that now finds repairs and improvements are on your to-do list, perhaps, instead of the landlord? If you still keep calling the landlord you left, it’s going to be like, “Ha-ha. Not my problem. You’re on your own.”

    Well, up next, we’re going to tell you about a new survey that has surprising ways first-time homeowners are handling those projects. That’s all coming up, after this.

    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: Pick up the phone and give us a call right now. We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects. If you’ve got a project you’re trying to get done now because the holidays are here, maybe a quick fix that you need some help with, we can do that. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Greg in Ohio, you’ve got The Money Pit. And unfortunately, you’ve also got mice. What can we do for you?

    GREG: Yeah.

    TOM: What’s going on, Greg?

    GREG: I recently bought a home that was built in 1987. It’s kind of a split-level home. And my wife was hearing a little bit of scratching in the wall. And I had taken the vents off and shot the camera down in there and I’m like, “I don’t see anything.” And after about a week of this little scratching, we started smelling a really bad odor.

    And this happened once. And we’re like, “Oh, OK. Well, the smell is going away.” And it kept happening, over and over, for about three months. And we finally put a camera through the wall and was kind of trying to find out where they were coming from.

    TOM: Right.

    GREG: And it seems like they’re coming from the attic.

    TOM: Right.

    GREG: Well, in the home, there was a shower put in. And when I’m up in the crawlspace, I notice that the shower is not enclosed on the top as it comes through, up to the …

    TOM: Right. You mean from the attic down it’s not enclosed.

    GREG: Yeah. From the attic up. In the attic. And these mice are crawling in and they’re dropping into the walls.

    TOM: Alright. Well, look, they’re looking for food. Have you hired an exterminator yet?

    GREG: No, I haven’t. What I want to do is I want to see if I can seal that off. But my next problem is I have – in this home, I have a crawlspace and it is literally the width of my shoulders.

    TOM: Oh, yeah.

    GREG: So me getting any type of boards up there is going to be a task.

    TOM: Right. Now, let me just stop you there for a second. When you say crawlspace, are you talking about the space below the floor or above the ceiling?

    GREG: No, no, no, no. Above the ceiling. Because it’s really not like a …

    TOM: Is this like a flat roof or a very low-slope roof?

    GREG: It’s probably about a 6/12.

    TOM: Listen, Greg, let me tell you something. I think – I understand you’re trying to find all the places mice can get in and seal them. But the truth is that you really can’t, because they only need a space about the width of a nickel or a quarter to squeeze in. And just because you found those big gaps doesn’t mean that they’re not going to find another way into your house.

    So I would recommend really focusing on kind of a total-control solution where you have a combination of baits and traps, for example, that are accessible to the rodents. And they’re just looking for food and they’ll feed on them and then they’ll go outside and die. If they’re falling – I think they’re just scampering around looking for that food. They often like to burrow in insulation, too, which is sometimes why you see them in the attic. But you could also go up in that attic, even though it’s really small, and you can toss bait packets up there so that they get into all different corners of the attic, if you can’t physically get there.

    If you have pets, you can use a device called a “bait station” down in the lower level, where the bait is inside a container that only the mice can get in but the pets can’t. And then beyond that, you want to make sure that you’re eliminating any easy sources of food for the pets, like any – for example, dog food is a big one. A lot of folks will store those big bags of dog food in the garage or in the pantry and the mice will chew right through that and have a smorgasbord.

    So, that sort of thing – fixing up any small holes that you find around the foundation perimeter, eliminating nesting sites like firewood piled against walls and things like that, those are the ways that you reduce the propensity for mice to get in.

    I’ve got a post on MoneyPit.com about how to do that. If you go in there and search “how to get rid of mice,” I’m sure it’ll pop up. But that’s what I would focus on, because I don’t think you’re physically going to be able to seal up all these holes that you’re describing, because access is difficult. And even if you did, I think they’ll just find another way to get in there.

    GREG: Yeah. I was just – any attic that I usually go up in, it usually has a plywood floor or they’re joist-jumping but …

    TOM: Yeah. Now, not always. I was a home inspector for 20 years. Sometimes you just can’t get up in there; there’s not enough room to move around. I’ve got an attic in my house, over the first-story section, which was a – that’s the new addition; it was built in 1901. So that gives you an idea of how old my house is. And I can’t physically get in there.

    And so when we did some insulation work a couple of years back, we tore off the roof from the outside and I applied spray-foam insulation. I shot down from the exterior, across the ceiling, and then put the attic back together basically working from the outside. So, sometimes you have to get creative with how you work in spaces like that.

    GREG: Yeah, that – I’ll bet that worked out nice.

    TOM: Yeah, it did. It was the first time that the – that first-floor section had ever been close to the same temperature as the rest of the house.

    GREG: Yeah, well, we have the same problem, 1987 home. The upstairs is not – I just don’t know. It just doesn’t seem like it gets what it needs to get.

    TOM: Yeah. And there’s a lot of things that can play into that. Insulation is certainly one of them. But I hope that gives you some direction on the way to try to get these mice under control. OK, Greg?

    GREG: Yeah. Yeah, it does. Thank you so much.

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

    Well, according to a new study done by NerdWallet, most new homeowners are completely unprepared to cover repair costs. Forty-four percent of those who have purchased a home experienced their first unexpected repair within the first year after closing. Well, what makes it worse is that about 3 in 10 say they don’t have the money set aside for those repairs and improvements.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it turns out only half of homeowners who have done a home repair or improvement project over the past two years were easily able to pay for the majority of them. However, for the rest, sacrifices had to be made. Debt was created, savings were spent. That’s not really a great way to sort of dive into home ownership. But a lot of people just aren’t prepared.

    TOM: Yeah. And here’s one thing that I found really interesting. The study also found that overconfidence may be driving the do-it-yourself culture. Eight in ten homeowners say pros charge too much for labor and materials, so no surprise there especially since most new homeowners don’t really have a good idea of what repairs cost. But three-quarters say that there are a wide variety of resources available to them that contain enough information, so they could do every single one of the repairs or improvement projects themselves if they wanted to.

    I think that that’s a little overconfident, especially if you’re getting into maybe electrical and plumbing projects and things like that. But we are living in a YouTube generation and I guess if you could find a video on it, you think you can get it done. But just work within …

    LESLIE: That doesn’t make you a pro? I watched the video. I could totally do it.

    TOM: Yeah. I know.

    Work within your comfort zone. Don’t far exceed it just because you see a couple of folks doing it online. A lot of those videos, too, remember there’s a lot of production behind that. So while it looks like it’s done pretty easily, not so much.

    Leslie, you know. You’d spent, what, three days doing a makeover show and for a half-hour TV?

    LESLIE: We boil it down to 42 minutes. So it’s like you really have to think that there’s a lot more that goes on that you’re just not seeing. There’s more steps, there’s more background, there’s more learning about the correct process to something and also making sure you’re safe. We make sure that we do things safely; we just don’t always show all those aspects of it in these home makeover shows.

    So you’ve got to work within your comfort zone. Don’t try something that’s dangerous. And it doesn’t hurt to ask a pro for help. You can attempt something. Watch the guy do the project. Try it later down the road. Just make sure you’re working within what you can actually do.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now. We’d love to help you out with your home improvement project.

    LESLIE: Shawnie (sp) in North Carolina needs some help with a backyard problem. What’s going on at your money pit?

    SHAWNIE (sp): And on my roof, I knew it would rain. All the water would drain toward the back, since it’s on a downslope.

    TOM: Right.

    SHAWNIE (sp): And then I had some – a contractor come in and connect all of my downspouts and all to this black pipe. And they connected all of it and ran it out to one source toward that little creek. And in doing so – I mean everything was fine; it worked fine. And they thought where I was having such water problems, they sort of made a horseshoe out of the black pipe, with the Styrofoam peanuts and all of that in it.

    But what they did, when they dug around the horseshoe area, they found that that was dry. Because they figured if it was wet, it would drain and take care of the problem. But when they put that horseshoe in, wherever they put it, it was completely dry and it was further down that they realized that I had an underground spring.

    So, all of my drainpipes, everything is draining perfectly but it’s one little problem I had with that underground spring.

    TOM: But is that underground spring rising up to the point where the yard is flooding? And how much flooding are we talking about here?

    SHAWNIE (sp): It’s not necessarily flooding but it stays so wet I can’t mow it.

    TOM: It’s just wet?

    SHAWNIE (sp): And there’s a place about – I’m going to say 12-inches square-ish, maybe, that is – has puddled.

    TOM: I don’t think this is a problem worth solving. I think it’s a fairly small area of the yard. And areas of the yard that get soft like that, yeah, the grass can be hard to cut sometimes; sometimes, you have to cut it by hand instead of using a power mower on it. But I don’t think it’s worth you doing anything about it. You would have to do some major, major work to try to take the water that’s collecting there, run it downstream and have it sit somewhere else. So, I don’t think it’s necessarily a big issue.

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

    Well, now that the heating season is here, it’s also the time of year when the risk of home fires is at its highest. We’re going to tell you how to avoid the top cause of home fires, 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: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    So, Leslie, I was – I get these emails from Quora. Do you ever go on that website: Q-u-o-r-a?

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: And folks will post questions that they want answers to. And now that I’ve answered a bunch there, I get these personal questions that say – through the site that say, “This one’s aimed at you, Tom.”

    And somebody asked me the other day what the difference was between a matte finish and an eggshell finish and where you would use one or the other. And an eggshell finish is probably the lowest level of sheen you can possibly get.

    LESLIE: I like it.

    TOM: And I think the only difference between – yeah – between matte and eggshell is eggshell is probably a little more cleanable.

    LESLIE: I feel like eggshell, it’s – you try to wipe a little bit on it and it does something to that finish and it kind of changes how it looks. Though it’s my favorite, it’s not the best in certain locations.

    TOM: OK. So you’re saying it’s not that cleanable? Eggshell is not that cleanable?

    LESLIE: Ugh. No way. If it’s going to be in a space like a kitchen or a bath or something with kids, that really needs a lot of attention and probably will be wiped or cleaned quite a bit, I don’t ever go eggshell only because I feel like any time I take a damp sponge or a magic eraser or something, it sort of changes the finish in that spot. Because that eggshell really does give you that eggshell appearance, just like you see on an egg.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And it really changes it. So I prefer – if it’s really got to be cleanable, I go matte all the way.

    TOM: So, matte is not the same as flat?

    LESLIE: I feel like it’s interchangeable, although companies will have both.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, I always felt that eggshell was a little more cleanable because it had a little more of a surface to it than the flat or the matte. But it all comes down, most importantly, to the quality of the paint.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

    TOM: If you use good-quality paint, most paints are cleanable. More sheen is going to be easier to clean but if it’s a good-quality paint, that’s really the key.

    And the reason you might choose one over another is also you have to consider reflection. Because if you have, say, a ceiling fixture, right, and it’s casting light out across that ceiling, if there’s any imperfections in that ceiling and has a bit of a sheen to it, you’ll see every defect there. You’ll see the nail pops, the cracks, the lousy spackle work. It’ll just show up. But if you use a real flat finish, it kind of disappears.

    So, those are some of the reasons and some of the thoughts that go behind choosing one finish over another.

    LESLIE: Well, a wood-burning fireplace delivers a natural heat, a beautiful, crackling glow that you really can’t replace. But while that warm glow may feel good, they’re actually not really very efficient and are a lot of work to feed and maintain.

    TOM: That’s right. A better option might be to take that old wood-burning fireplace and upgrade it with an insert. This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey is here to explain.

    Hey, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hey, guys.

    TOM: So, what exactly is a fireplace insert?

    RICHARD: You know, an insert is basically a fireproof box that’s surrounded by steel or cast-iron and then fronted by insulated glass. It creates a closed-combustion system. The steel or cast-iron helps to trap the heat. And some inserts actually have a blower that pushes the hot air back into the room through front vents.

    TOM: So does that improve the efficiency over a standard fireplace?

    RICHARD: Absolutely. Most people don’t realize that regular wood fireplaces actually do very, very little to heat up a room. In fact, they typically pull warm air from inside the house and send it right up the chimney. You sit in front of that fire and for the first little bit, you’re getting plenty of heat.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: But as soon as that draft is going up that chimney, all of a sudden you realize that – “Wait a minute. I’m pulling more air out of that building – because I’ve increased that uplift in the chimney – than I’m ever getting out of the fireplace.”

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: Another problem is pollutants. Asthma or allergy sufferers may have respiratory issues when you have a wood-burning fireplace. And wood-burning fireplaces also send a lot of air pollution into the atmosphere, as you can’t really control how much air is mixed with how much fuel.

    TOM: And you’re burning all kinds of different fuels and there’s all kinds of off-gases occurring as a result of that process.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Right. And then don’t forget: you can also cause home fires. I mean there’s plenty of stories about houses that have gone – you build up creosote inside that chimney – build it up, build it up, build it up – and now, after a while, you can have a fire inside that chimney.

    LESLIE: So, now, Richard, when it comes to a gas-fireplace insert, obviously, there has to be a lot of mechanics, if you will, installed to your existing wood-burning fireplace to make this function with a gas-burning insert.

    RICHARD: Yeah. It’s not as complicated as you’d think. It’s a unit that slides right into the opening: that standard opening that you see on the fireplace, where it used to have the wood – the grates for the wood. And then it seals tight. And now, what you have to do is you have to find a way to get air from outside into the combustion area.

    Now, that’s done a couple of different ways. One would be to cut a hole and drill up through the floor to bring some air from outside, right into the bottom of the firebox. But most often, with the gas units, it’s actually a pipe within a pipe. So up inside the existing chimney, you fish a 6-inch pipe and then a 4-inch pipe inside it or a 5 and 3, depending on how big the fireplace is. And now the exhaust products go up through the smaller inner pipe and then the combustion air is pulled in down through the outer, larger pipe.

    And that really means that when you turn it on, you’re getting every bit of the air from outside, you’re getting a perfect exhaust to outside and then all the heat you make, that’s available, actually comes into the building. Not all the heat; some heat goes out in the flue products. But most of the heat you make is actually going into the building as usable heat.

    LESLIE: But what about the gas line?

    RICHARD: The gas line has to be run, certainly. With modern, flexible gas-supply lines, it’s a lot easier than it used to be. It used to be you had to cut plain steel and thread each piece or assemble it that way. So it’s a lot easier to do it but you do have to run a gas line.

    TOM: So, there certainly are different types of inserts then. We just talked about gas. There’s also a plain wood-burning insert. Would that – if you just use a wood-burning insert inside of a wood-burning fireplace, does it make that fireplace more efficient?

    RICHARD: Absolutely. I don’t want to overlook those because people still love a wood fire, the way that that flame comes off the wood and the way it crackles. It’s mesmerizing. But what you can do is if you do the wood fire – the wood insert – now you get all the best of both worlds: you get the wood fire, you get the air from outside but you don’t lose that heat up the chimney. So you can leave that fire and let it run down and not worry about the entire house emptying out of its heat.

    LESLIE: Will it utilize the existing flue or do you have to vent it differently?

    RICHARD: No, it could use – utilize the existing flue because you’re going to go there – with that case, Leslie, you have to make sure that you find a way to get air for combustion to come in. So you generally have to drill or find some hole in the bottom of the fire hearth. You have to find a way to have a duct to go down and then to outside so air can come in and stay inside that sealed – yeah, sealed space, yes.

    LESLIE: Pull it from underneath.

    TOM: And speaking of efficiency, what about pellet inserts? There are pellet stoves.

    RICHARD: Yep.

    TOM: They also have pellet inserts. Are they …?

    RICHARD: Right. Pellets are the rage. Pellets are a fabulous future source because we’ve got plenty of sawdust, we’ve got plenty of wood chips and byproducts, you know.

    TOM: And that’s a pellet is? It’s basically ground-up sawdust?

    RICHARD: Yeah. Our franchise is based up here in New England, so we’ve got Maine and New Hampshire filled with woods. We’ve got plenty of forest where there’s an issue with what to do with this byproduct. And pellets have – people that have them love them. And they’re not – they don’t have the same look as a wood fire. But their efficiency – the fact that you can meter, also, your fuel use, meaning you can put it in – when you light up a fire with five logs, you’ve got to wait for those five logs to burn down. With pellets, what they like so much is two things: one is you can meter it so beautifully and the other is how little ash you have from a pellet.

    TOM: So when you say meter it, you mean the speed with which you sort of feed the pellets in, right?

    RICHARD: Correct. Right. You always have that issue when you have a wood fire. “Do I put another two logs on or am I going to bed within an hour?”

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: With a pellet stove, it’s really like having a solid version of oil or gas where you can put in just what you need. And then as soon as you stop feeding it, it will die down ever so slightly in a much more controlled way.

    TOM: Sounds like it’s almost like having a thermostat: the faster I feed it, the hotter it’s going to get.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Right. Right. There’s a lot of potential on the horizon with this use of sort of the wood byproducts to burn renewable …

    LESLIE: Yeah. And a lot of people – we were getting calls, for a while, from the Montana area about people using pellet stoves as their primary heat source.

    RICHARD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s an interesting group up in Maine and New Hampshire that really has the dream to have a delivery method to houses, just like the old days. The ice man came and the oil guy came that have a chute on the side of your house and you would come and the pellets would be dumped right in. And then – and really, if you don’t have to travel that material too far, it actually has some real potential.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk, finally, about chimney cleaning and cleaning these vents. Has it become more complicated because now you’ve kind of blocked off the front of the fireplace?

    RICHARD: Yeah. I mean they – generally, these fireplace inserts can disconnect pretty straightforward. Just as it assembled pretty easily, you can break it apart and pull it out.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But you don’t want to be doing that every time you clean it.

    RICHARD: The fact is you should – no, I know that. But the gas ones don’t need a lot of cleaning. So the gas fireplaces – it’s only when you have wood products and particularly with conventional wood, where the creosote is rich. The pellet fire is much cleaner; you don’t have as much creosote, so your need to clean the chimney is reduced slightly.

    TOM: Wow. Great advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, I think a lot of folks are going to be looking at these inserts this coming winter season. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Insert fire here.

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

    Well, now that we are in the roughest weather season of the year, it’s a good time to plan for roof repairs or a replacement that might be needed to be done to keep your home nice and dry. But which should it be: repair or replace?

    LESLIE: We’ll have the answer, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What project are you working on right now? Maybe you’re working on getting your house in order for the holidays ahead. If there’s a repair involved or a décor project, give us a call right now. Or if you’re planning a project for the new year, we’d love to chat about that. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Ruth in Michigan on the line. How can we help you today?

    RUTH: I have an older house that’s in need of some pizzazz and wanted to put shutters over my vinyl siding. Is that possible? And how would I attach them?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s done all the time. And there are special fasteners that are used in that situation so that you pierce the siding without causing a leak to happen. And most of the shutter companies will sell those as part of the shutter, too, so you certainly can do that.

    You do want to be careful not to squish the siding because, remember, the siding is somewhat soft. And so as long as you’re careful about the way they attach, you certainly can have shutters on top of vinyl. OK, Ruth?

    RUTH: Alright. Well, good. I was wondering if it could be a do-it-yourself project.

    TOM: Absolutely. Ruth, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, now that we are in the roughest weather season of the year, it’s a good time to plan for roof repairs or a replacement that might be needed to be done to keep your home nice and dry. But which should it be: repair or replace? We’re going to tell you what you need to know to make that determination, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you’ve got to evaluate the wear and tear. Roof shingles are generally cotton or glass fiber and then that’s covered with an asphalt coating. Now, as the sun heats the roof, the asphalt is going to dry out. So, you’ve got to check your roof for signs of wear and tear. You want to be looking for cracked or curled or even broken shingles.

    Now, if you’ve got a worn section and maybe it’s just limited to a small area, you can repair it. But if the entire roof is looking this way, you really have to start thinking about replacing.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, next it’s important to understand layers. If you do need to replace your roof, you can usually add one additional layer of shingles for a total of two layers. Now, doing a tear-off, though, is not such a bad idea, even if you only have one layer down. Because second roof layers do not cool well in the summer and they wear out much quicker than the single-layer roofs will.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, if your roof is leaking, you’ve got to check the flashing, as that could be the only cause of your leak. Now, if that flashing is loose or deteriorated, it’s probably responsible for most of those roof leaks. So you really have to check that out, because that’s not a terrible fix.

    TOM: Now, lastly, if you do need a new roof, make sure you improve your roof ventilation at the same time. Because cool attics will help keep the roof cooler and the cool roofs are going to last a lot longer.

    Now, passive vents – those that don’t use any energy – are really better than active vents, like attic fans, for example. One of the best is a continuous ridge and soffit vent system. These vents are inexpensive and they can usually be added to a house of any age.

    LESLIE: And today’s Building with Confidence Tip has been brought to you by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. It’s completely online, reduces annoying and time-consuming paperwork and gives you a real, accurate and personalized mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation, with no hidden fees or hassles.

    TOM: Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Apply simply, understand fully, mortgage confidently.

    LESLIE: Thinking about purchasing a home from another era? Well, it’s actually possible to predict what might need work based only on the home’s age. We’re going to share those tips, 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: Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online to our Community page at MoneyPit.com. You can also reach out to us through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

    Hey, Bill did just that and Bill has got a question about a home that’s built in the 80s, Leslie.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, Bill writes – he’s from New York, by the way – “We’re looking to purchase a home built in the mid-1980s. What are the biggest changes in construction and building codes from the 80s to today? And are there any drawbacks to houses built around this time?”

    Well, I’m going to say the glass, brick and all the rounded corners are probably a giveaway.

    TOM: Yeah. That was pretty common back then, yeah.

    You know, I think no matter when you buy a house, every, say, decade or a couple of decades, those homes have their own characteristics of what can possibly go wrong. In fact, we’ve got a story on our website that’s called “Home Repairs by Age of House.” And basically, it sort of lays out everything that would usually go wrong with a house, based on its age, starting with the early 1900s and some of the plumbing that we used to see, up to, really, until today.

    But for the 1980s, I feel like that was an era where the economy was pretty good and homes are going together pretty quickly and pretty sloppily at the same time. So, I’m concerned about the workmanship of that era. But also, think about the core systems, like heating and cooling. If the house was built – let’s say it was built in 1980, right, and now it’s almost 40 years old. It really needs to be on its second heating system. And that should be – only be halfway through the second system. If you’ve got an original system, in that case, that’s really old. Obviously, you’re probably going to be on your second or maybe even your third roof by then.

    So the best way to understand the condition of that home before you buy it is to get a home inspection. I would recommend that you contact the American Society of Home Inspectors at ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.org. They have a website where you can do a zip-code lookup to find certified inspectors in your area. They’re really the best in the country. Schedule that inspection. I think you’ll be amazed at how much detail those inspectors can discover about that home in a two- or three-hour inspection period. And then you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself involved with there, Bill.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one here from David in North Carolina. Now, David writes: “I had a leak in my kitchen skylight that’s since been fixed. However, the track lighting under the skylight stopped working a few days after the leak. I bought a new power-source supply and installed it but the lighting still isn’t working. What should I do and can I do it myself with basic DIY skills?”

    TOM: Well, the thing is when electrical circuits and devices and appliances, like lighting – when they get wet, you really should not use them any further. So I would definitely recommend completely removing that old track lighting and putting in some new lighting.

    The lighting today has gotten so much better. Most of it’s LED, low-voltage lighting. It’s really energy-efficient. It’s a lot cooler, so you’re not trying to cool against that in the summer; it doesn’t add to the heat load of the house. And I would not mess with just replacing different parts.

    Now, whether you can do it yourself or not, you’ve done some of this work so I’m going to presume that you know how to turn off the circuit and confirm that it’s off before you start taking apart your wiring. But rewiring a track light is a pretty simple project. You’re not – you’re pretty much just disconnecting the old one and installing a new one. So I think that’s what I would do: I would take it out and completely replace it. It’s really the best way to go.

    LESLIE: And you know what, David? There’s so many great options for the lighting fixtures themselves to be used within track light that the options are really endless. And you can go with any style. So this really is a great choice if you’re looking for something versatile and practical at the same time, so good luck with that.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for hanging out with us today. We hope we’ve given you a few tips and ideas on projects that you’d like to get done around your home. If you’ve got questions, remember, you can reach out to us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question on our Community page at MoneyPit.com.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2018 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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