How to Make Dirty Grout Disappear

  • Bath n Tile bkgrd
  • 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: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. You’ve got a repair, you’ve got a maintenance job, you’ve got something you’d like to decorate? You want to spruce up your kitchen, your bathroom? Indoors or out, we have the tools, the knowledge, the experience to help you get the job done right the first time. Help yourself first, though, by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up today, if you’ve got a tile floor in your home, you know that that grout, well, I guess it never seems to be as clean as the day it’s put down. We’re going to tell you some pro solutions for bringing it back to sparkling clean, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, as the saying goes, great fences make great neighbors. But simple mistakes in fence layout can ruin that friendly relationship and force you to remove an otherwise well-installed fence. We’re going to walk you through the most common fence mistakes.

    TOM: And are you feeling a little cramped at home but not ready to take on an addition? Then look up, look down and all around because your home may very well contain hidden space ready for an update. We’ll tell you where to find the best bonus spaces, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And we’ve got some prizes up for grabs this hour. If you give us a call now with your home improvement question, you’ll get the answer plus the tools to help you get the job done. We’re giving away a $50 set of Arrow tools and fasteners, which are perfect for crafters, makers, DIYers and pros.

    TOM: That’s right. The package includes the Arrow T50X Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, the MT300 Mini Glue Gun and the RL100 Rivet Kit all going out to one caller drawn at random. Want to make that you? Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Cindy in North Carolina is on the line and is having some issues with an epoxy floor coating.

    What happened, Cindy?

    CINDY: My husband and I have a townhome and it was owned by several other people. From what I understand, the previous owners used to fix cars in the garage, so – it’s a two-car garage. There are no cracks in the floor but it does have a very gritty surface to it and it looks horrible. I don’t really know what I can do. At first I thought, “Well, maybe I can just” – is there some kind of paint I can paint over it or maybe – or is it something where I have to do another epoxy on top of the epoxy? Is it something a typical homeowner can work on?

    TOM: Mm-hmm. So, Cindy, the floor that’s there now, is it well adhered to the concrete? Is it peeling off in any way or does it look like it’s pretty down there and pretty durable?

    CINDY: It looks like it’s on there pretty good.

    TOM: OK. So what I think you should do is clean it and then put another coat of epoxy on top of that – one or two coats over that. And I think that can brighten it up. So many choices and colors today and you’ve got manufacturers, like QUIKRETE, that make good products that can go there. There’s different types of texturing material you can add or color flakes you can add to give it some personality.

    But trying to take that off wouldn’t make any sense. I don’t think it’s really buying you anything. Even though it’s got a texture to it, I would paint over it after it was cleaned and properly prepped.

    CINDY: Can I ask how hard it is to handle the epoxy paint?

    TOM: It’s not difficult. The way it works is it’s chemical-cured. So when you buy epoxy paint, you actually get two cans.

    CINDY: OK.

    TOM: So you’ll get one that’s a gallon can but when you open it up, it’s only going to be filled three-quarters of the way. And then you’ll get a second can that’s a quart can and that’s the hardener. So the first thing you do when you open up the gallon can and the quart can is you mix them together. And that becomes the paint that you’re working with.

    Now, remember, though, once you start mixing them, the clock starts ticking. And you’re only going to have probably, I guess, maybe two, three hours to use it up. But it won’t take that long, because you’re going to be applying it with a brush first on the outside perimeter and then a roller. And then you kind of work your way out of the garage. And as you apply it wet and they usually – they’ll give you these color flakes that you kind of shake over it to give it that personality and they stick in there and you just keep moving.

    CINDY: Right.

    TOM: And I would do a 4-foot strip – wide strip – all the way down, then I would put my color flakes in. Then I would do another 4 foot and another 4 foot and pretty soon you’ll be right out the door. They’re really not that hard to do. The key is just to be organized and to prep it properly so that once you actually mix up the paint, you’re good to go.

    LESLIE: And then don’t paint yourself in a corner.

    TOM: Yeah.

    CINDY: Would I need more than one can for a two-car garage, as far as you know?

    TOM: I would check the coverage on the can to see how many square feet that it covers.

    LESLIE: Yeah. A gallon usually does 400 square feet, so …

    CINDY: So, realistically, it’s something I can do in a couple of hours or …?

    TOM: Oh, absolutely.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah. For sure.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Mm-hmm.

    CINDY: OK. Alright. Well, that sounds great. I really was afraid it was going to be a lot harder than that.

    TOM: Dive in, Debbie. The water’s fine.

    CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you.

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

    CINDY: Thank you. Bye-bye.

    TOM: And once Debbie tackles that, who knows where she’ll go, right? I mean it just takes one project to kind of get your confidence up and away you go.

    LESLIE: Shane in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. You want us to help you with a decking project? What can we do?

    SHANE: As respect to footings on the deck, is it more common practice to have a one solid column that goes down for your footing or can you just dig 36 inches, throw a 6-inch footing at the bottom of that and put your post on top of that and just pack it around with dirt versus covering it with concrete?

    TOM: You mean covering the post, like around – pouring around the post with concrete? Is that what you’re saying?

    SHANE: Correct.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that wouldn’t really help you because that’s not giving you any support. The idea of the footing is to get it down below the frost line. So yes, if you dug down to 36 inches and you set any kind of a small concrete pad down there, you would be fine by putting the footing – putting the post on top of that and going up.

    Now, the other thing that you could think about doing – and I like these – there are precast footings that are out there that are kind of like almost pyramid shape. They’re very tall. Not a pyramid, more like a tower. And they’re about 36 inches tall, maybe 40 inches tall. And they have a bolt that sticks out the top of them so you can put your post on right on that. And you can dig your hole and drop this right into the hole.

    What I like to do is put maybe a shovel full of stone at the bottom of the hole, make sure it’s tamped really well and then drop my footing on top of that. And this way, my post ends up above grade. I don’t like the idea, even though it’s pressure-treated, of sinking the wood in the ground.

    SHANE: Yeah, I agree.

    TOM: Because eventually, it’s going to rot. So, I like to keep it above ground. That’s why I use those types of posts.

    And then the third way you could do this is with something called a Sonotube. You know what that is?

    SHANE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s like – it looks like a paper-towel roll but it’s 12 inches in diameter. And yeah, you cut that to be about 40 inches, set that in the hole. You can go ahead and backfill around it, put a little stone in the bottom and then fill it up with concrete.

    Now, you could mix up – something like QUIKRETE in the red bag is good for this. You can mix it up and drop it into that Sonotube. It’ll be hard inside of an hour. And you could start building right away.

    SHANE: Well, great. Well, thank you for your help.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Are you going to get it done and then soon enough to enjoy it this summer?

    SHANE: Possibly. We’ll see.

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

    SHANE: Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, did you ever wonder if it’s possible to get your grout as clean as the day it was put down? Well, a pro can help you do just that. We’ll share tips, in today’s Pro Project presented by, 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: Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by You’ll never have to worry about overpaying for a job. Just use their True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. Then get matched with top-rated pros, read reviews, get quotes and book appointments, all for free at

    And you know what else is free? We’ve got some free tools to give away if you call us, right now, with your home improvement question.

    Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: That’s right. We’re giving away a $50 set of Arrow tools and fasteners that are perfect for crafters, makers, DIYers and even pros. Now, these tools are durable and reliable. I mean they’re made right here by the Arrow Fastener Company. And they’ve been making staple guns and staples in Saddle Brook, New Jersey for almost 90 years.

    The prize package this hour includes the Arrow T50X Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, the MT300 Mini Glue Gun and the RL100K Rivet Kit.

    TOM: Now, I know you love that Mini Glue Gun, because you are always armed with glue guns.

    LESLIE: You know, it’s a great tool and you can really adhere lots of different things to one another with a glue gun. And the Mini Glue Gun is great because it’s perfect for crafting. It’s small.

    But you’ve got to use glue guns safely. I let my kids use them supervised. You always want to make sure that you’re careful, because they are hot. But they’re so wonderful and you can do so much.

    So give us a call this hour for your chance to win.

    TOM: You’ll get the tools plus all the fasteners, glue sticks and rivets you need to get started. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Is that you? Well, it won’t be unless you call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Larry in Texas is on the line looking for some help with a new roof. What’s going on?

    LARRY: Well, we have a 15-year-old roof. We put 30-year Timberline shingles on originally. About 15 years ago, we had a hailstorm. I had the insurance adjuster come out and take a look at it and he said, “Yes, you need to replace it.” He says we’ve got about 35 squares to tear off and 39 to replace.

    TOM: OK.

    LARRY: He estimated 15 pound felt for most of it, 30 pound felt for our 12/12 pitch. He suggested a roofer company A that suggested shingle brand one.

    TOM: OK.

    LARRY: And I have worked with roofer B, who said no, we probably ought to go with shingle brand two.

    TOM: Are they both name-brand shingles?

    LARRY: Yes, I can name them if you want.

    TOM: Yeah. Are they dimensional shingles, so do they look like the Timberline that you mentioned that you had before or …?

    LARRY: Yes. They would be very similar to the Timberline dimensional.

    TOM: And do they both have the same warranty?

    LARRY: I think they both carry 30-year, although one I have not seen written copy from either one. And one of them indicated that after 10 years, the warranty may taper off.

    TOM: All these roofers, all these contractors, they’ve all got their sort of attitudes and practices and they like one over the other. But let me tell you something, the differentiator on a roofing installation is not as much the shingle as it is the guy doing the shingles – the shingler, so the speak – because it all comes down to workmanship. And if the workmanship is not rock solid, it doesn’t matter how good that shingle is, you’re still going to have problems.

    LARRY: OK.

    TOM: And so, I would make my decision based on which roofer I was most confident in could do a good job. And whatever product he’s comfortable working with, then I would just accept that product and not try to force him to use another one. But the devil is in the details. It’s about the flashing, for example, and the underlayments and the ice-and-water shield and things like that. If you get a roofer that does a really good job with those details, then you’re not going to have any issues.

    LARRY: The adjuster missed one skylight in his estimate. He also missed one roof jack and he said, “Oh, well, we can pick that up when the roofer does his job.” Is that common industry practice?

    TOM: I don’t know what he means when he says he can pick that up. If he missed it in his estimate, then I think you need to ask him to go back and revise the estimate to add the elements in that he missed. Because while you’ve got this guy’s attention and while he’s into the job and you guys are talking on a regular basis, I would just – I would ask him to revise it. It should be no big deal for that to happen. We don’t want this to go to installation and then there’s a payment dispute, three months from now or something and nobody remembers what was said to who and when.

    So, yeah, you want to get it in writing. You’re right. If he mixed the count up, if you add six skylights and he wrote down five, then you make him change it. That’s not a big deal. You can do it now.

    LARRY: OK. Well, I did a lot of quoting when I was still in the working world and yeah, counts are important.

    TOM: Yep. It’s his job.

    LARRY: One quick note. My wife wanted a fishing tank out in front of the house and had one contractor dig that one and it didn’t hold water. I had another contractor say, “I can do that.” So I have called it my money pit, with apologies to your program.

    TOM: Well, that’s OK. We will lend it to you for that purpose. You say a fishing tank. Is that like a goldfish pond, that kind of thing?

    LARRY: No, it was about a ¾-acre pond.

    TOM: Oh, my goodness. Wow.

    LARRY: But here in Texas, they’re called “tanks.”

    TOM: OK. Well, alright. Is there anything living in that fish tank right now?

    LARRY: No, it’s not holding water. So I’m going to put more money into it and fill it back in.

    TOM: Oh, boy. Alright. Well, listen, whatever it takes to make your wife happy, right?

    LARRY: Absotutely (ph). That’s what …

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

    Well, a tile floor or wall with a complementary grout color is a beautiful addition to your home, no doubt. But unless the tile and grout are properly clean, they can become filthy. And dirty grout can even become a health hazard and a breeding ground for bacteria.

    LESLIE: Now, if you’ve tried and tried to clean the grout on your own with not much success, you might think about having a pro do it for you. We’ve got some tips on what you need to know to get that project done, in today’s Pro Project presented by

    TOM: Now, first, you really need to understand what this grout is all about. Because it’s essentially a mixture of cement, sand and water that’s filled between the floor tiles during installation. The problem is that grout is essentially porous. And because it’s porous, it’s easily going to absorb pretty much everything that hits it, like grease and dirt and mold and mildew and limescale. And those can be really hard to clean. And when all that dirt and debris sort of builds up, well, then you can get a growth of bacteria, which can make it potentially unhealthy, as well.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s why it pays to hire a pro for this project, because getting the grout clean requires special cleaning equipment that elbow grease just simply cannot do.

    Now, the best way to clean tile and grout effectively is with steam-cleaning matched with the correct cleaning solutions and chemicals. And while you might be able to rent all of that and do this job yourself, you’re not likely going to get the same results as a pro. You know, using that pro might seem like more money up front. But with their experience and the equipment that they have, thinking about you renting things and the hours it’ll take, you’re going to end up paying the same if not more to do it yourself than just investing in a pro who’s going to do it effectively and efficiently the first time.

    TOM: Now, the biggest single cost factor in the price of cleaning your tile and grout is, of course, the square footage of the area you need to have cleaned and also, how dirty it really is. Most pros are going to probably charge a price per square foot that includes time and materials. But the national average is about 450 for the job. So, yours could be less, yours could be more but the results will definitely be well worth it.

    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, compare prices, 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: Caitlin in Iowa is on the line and needs some help restoring an old bath. Tell us what’s going on.

    CAITLIN: Hi. My husband and I moved into our 1917 farmhouse about a year ago. And our main bathroom only has a clawfoot tub and we would like a shower in it. So I was wondering if you had any tips on restoring the clawfoot tub and installing a shower kit.

    TOM: So, you want to keep the tub, right? You don’t want to put a separate shower. You just want to basically plumb up a showerhead into that, correct?

    CAITLIN: Correct.

    TOM: Since it’s a clawfoot tub, if you disconnect the plumbing, then you can get that out of the house. Because the best way to refinish that or resurface that is to send it out to a company that does that. Because if you do it in the house itself, they can come in with acids and they can etch the old finish and they can add a new finish and then they can bring in heat lights and bake it on. But I’ve found that it doesn’t work nearly as well as basically sending it out to a place that’s set up to re-enamel a tub. And then you’re going to have one that really lasts for the long haul.

    And after that, installing a shower kit to that is pretty much a plumbing project. Lots of places, like Restoration Hardware, have kits or you can find them online where you could basically plumb up the pipe that comes up and then arcs over for the showerhead. And you need a circular shower curtain – shower bar above it for a curtain – and all that’s easy. But the hard part is getting the tub re-enameled.

    CAITLIN: OK. And how costly is re-enameling a tub?

    TOM: It’s probably not as expensive as buying a new tub and it’s going to last indefinitely.

    CAITLIN: OK. Well, thank you for your advice.

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

    Know that you can reach us anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with your home repair or your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, whether you’re trying to keep pets and kids in or noise and traffic out, a fence around your yard can definitely help. We’re going to teach you how to save money by building one yourself, 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: We’d love to talk with you about what’s going on in your home. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by Never worry about overpaying for a job. Just use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. It’s all for free at

    LESLIE: Joan in Massachusetts is on the line with a mysterious radio crackling that could be connected to an LED light. What’s going on at your Money Pit?

    JOAN: Oh, I’m so happy to talk to both of you. I learn so much from listening to your show every week, so hoping you can answer my question.

    TOM: Well, thank you.

    JOAN: I’m going to be moving into a house and I had an electrician install Lotus Super Thin LED lights in my ceilings, in four rooms – actually five. And then they’re tied into Ariadni C•L 150-Watt Lutron Dimmer Switches. And when I turn the radios on in any of those rooms with – and into an AM station so I can listen to your show, I get static. And so the electrician had never heard of that before and so I’m kind of looking for some helpful information to correct the situation.

    TOM: What kind of radio do you use? Is it a portable radio? Or is it – or your stereo or …?

    JOAN: I’ve got one portable one that I’ve carried around just to see if that’s affected and that is, too. But then I’ve got just kind of AM/FM radios in the different rooms, because I like to listen to AM radio most of the time.

    TOM: Usually, if you have a static like that or an interference with any kind of appliance, it’s usually the ground. There’s usually something that’s off with the grounding system for the electrical panel or the circuits themselves, so that’d be the first thing I would check.

    JOAN: OK. So it could affect every room if the ground is off in the panel?

    TOM: Yeah, right or if somehow it’s disconnected. And that actually could potentially – be potentially unsafe, as well, so I would start by looking at the ground.

    JOAN: And look at the ground wires in each room, too, or …?

    TOM: Yeah. And right – and one thing that you could do that’s really easy is you could use an outlet tester to check all the outlets in those rooms. And that’s a really simple way to tell if it’s grounded or not grounded, because there’s a light sequence that comes on. And if it’s not grounded, you’ll see it immediately.

    JOAN: Yeah. So could it be anything to do with the dimmer switches?

    TOM: No, I don’t think it’s the switches themselves, because these are all made consistent and I don’t have anybody else across the country that’s complaining about this kind of odd thing.

    JOAN: Hmm. And that …

    TOM: But I would suggest that you check for grounding and that almost always will do it. If it’s a metal box, it might be shielded if it’s not grounded. So, it really needs to have that element checked out. Alright?

    JOAN: Yeah, because even if I go in the cellar – I had him install a couple of those fluorescent lights and it happens down there, too.

    TOM: It’s not just where you have these dimmer products.

    JOAN: Right. OK. Alright. Well, great.

    TOM: The other thing that you could do is you could get an outside AM antenna and get the radios working from that antenna instead of the one that’s built in, so there another option there.

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

    LESLIE: Well, as the saying goes, great fences make great neighbors. But simple planning mistakes can ruin that friendly relationship and force you to remove an otherwise well-installed fence. Here are some pointers on a successful fencing project.

    TOM: Yeah. So, first off, let’s talk about the preparation. You really need to plan ahead. Think about what the purpose is of the fence. Is it noise reduction? Is it pets? Is it aesthetics? There are different designs out there that will meet your specific needs. So, first up, why are you doing this job?

    LESLIE: Yeah. Next, you want to keep in mind that you’ve got neighbors and you want to think about local regulations. You’ve got to determine whether this fence is going to meet the zoning requirements and if your village or your town where you live requires a permit.

    Now, when in doubt, you’ve got to consult those planning/construction departments, whatever it has in the building department of your local municipality, to find out what is required. Because that can result in not having the right paperwork, taking that fence down.

    You also want to consult your neighbors. It just makes sense. Knock on the door and be like, “Hey, I know we’re great pals and all but I’m going to put up a fence.” People get the wrong idea all the time and you don’t want to cause an issue just because you want to put up something to make your yard a little bit more private. Let them know you still like them and you’re still pals but you’re just putting up the fence.

    And in doing so, make sure you put the good side – the attractive side of the fence – facing your neighbor. It’s the benefit they get of you having a fence.

    TOM: Now, finally, you need to pick the best material. We’re pretty much talking wood versus vinyl versus chain link. You know, wood’s going to be the least expensive. Looks kind of rustic, looks kind of cool but you’re going to replace it in probably seven to eight years. Vinyl pretty much can last indefinitely but you are going to be cleaning it, because the moss and the mildew love to grow on it. And then, of course, there’s chain link, which is pretty much timeless.

    And if it’s a fence for a pool, well, pool fences are very special. They have to be a minimum of 48 inches high. The latches have to have a safety mechanism that’s about 60 inches high. They have to be spring-loaded and the fence itself can’t be climbable. So make sure, if it’s a fence for a pool, you choose it very, very carefully.

    But I think when it’s all said and done, there’s a lot of benefits to a fence done well. It can preserve relationships and add to your home’s value all at the same time.

    LESLIE: Remember, you can always reach us with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Just ahead, if you’re feeling a little cramped at home, then look up, look down, look all around. Because, you guys, there’s most likely bonus space hiding right in plain sight. We’re going to share some tips on the best conversions, next.

    TOM: Making good homes better, you are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online. You can listen to us on this station and by podcast. Call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. 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.

    LESLIE: Give us a call right now. Let us know what you are working on. We’d love to lend a hand with your home improvement question. You’re going to get the answer to whatever it is you are working on, plus the tools to help you get the job done.

    This hour, we’re giving away a great prize. It’s a $50 set of Arrow tools and fasteners that are perfect for crafters, makers, DIYers, even the pros out there. Now, these tools are durable, reliable. They’re made here in the U.S. of A. right in New Jersey, not far from Tom. And Arrow has been making these tools for 90 years.

    In this prize pack, you’re going to get an Arrow T50X Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, the MT300 Mini Glue Gun and the RL100K Rivet Kit. Basically, if you need to fasten one thing to another, this is the kit for you. So give us a call. Let us know what you are working on and you’ll be entered in for your chance to win the prize.

    TOM: You’ll get the tools plus all the fasteners, glue sticks and rivets you need to get started. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Is that you? Well, it might just be if you pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Tony in Florida is dealing with some not-so-energy-efficient appliances. Tell us what’s going on.

    TONY: Yes. I have a Trane 19-SEER, 3-ton unit. It has a dual-compressor on there. I also have a Pentair variable-speed pool pump and one of those heat pump – GE water heater.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: And as far as I’m concerned, those are the two appliances that would be responsible for my big energy bill.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: After installing those appliances, I am still looking at an energy bill ranging between 180 and 2.

    TOM: Wow. That’s expensive.

    TONY: Yeah.

    TOM: So, let me ask you something about the heat – the Trane unit that you put in. When you put that in, did you just replace the compressor outside or did you also replace any of the internal parts?

    TONY: The full unit was replaced and re-duct.

    TOM: A couple of things that you can check. One of which is to have the HVAC contractor – or if you know how to do this, check the amperage draw for the compressor when it’s running. That can be done from the electrical panel with an amp probe. See if we’re pulling any excessive amperage. I’m wondering if anything is broken in the compressors or the fan system that’s causing it to pull more power than it should. So, you can check that against the manufacturer’s specification on both the heat pump, frankly. The heat pump, it’s a heat-pump water heater, correct?

    TONY: Yeah.

    TOM: So, check the draw. Secondly, is there any other major consuming appliance in the house? How are you cooking? Are you cooking with electric heat – with electricity, I should say?

    TONY: Yes. I’m cooking with a heat-induction stove.

    TOM: Heat-induction stove, OK. So, you are using quite a bit of power for that. What I want is to get to the point where we’re breaking this down on a case-by-case basis, to try to figure this out.

    Here’s what I want to tell you to do, OK? You’ve got a lot going on in that house. This would be a really good case for an energy audit. There are energy auditors that you could usually find through your local utility company or you can find them independently. And in many areas of the country, there are rebates for these or they’re even free.

    Energy auditors can come in and look at every source of energy that’s being consumed in that house, as well as insulation, windows and doors, things like this. And the nice thing about an energy auditor is they’re not there to sell you stuff, you know? Sometimes, when you call a contractor and say, “I want an efficient heating system,” they sell you what they want to sell you. Energy auditors are kind of like home inspectors but they specialize in energy efficiency. And they can do an independent evaluation of all of the elements in the house and help you very accurately pin down where that energy is going.

    Sometimes it’s free because it’s paid for by the utility companies. In fact, some utility companies, as a condition of licensing, are required to provide energy auditors or low-cost auditors. Find a good one. Research them carefully and get an energy audit done of your house. And I think that that will help you stop speculating on where the power – where the energy is being used and where it’s not and get some real, factual data that could help you make some intelligent decisions on how to cut those costs. Does that make sense?

    TONY: Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if your home is beginning to feel a little bit cramped and maybe you want to find some more space but you don’t exactly know where to look, you might want to take a more careful look about the space because your home likely already contains a spot that’s ready for conversion to a comfort zone, storage space or even a recreation area.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, these are the places that we call “bonus spaces.” They’re the sort of often underutilized real estate in your home. When you think about it, lots of homes have basements and attics with the same amount of square footage as the floors above or below them. And fixing one of those spaces up is kind of the least expensive addition, so to speak, you can do. I mean it’s not really an addition; it’s more of a conversion. But you’re pretty much potentially doubling the space that you have to use in your house.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And there are a lot of uses for these bonus spaces. It really depends on the size of the area that you uncover, like extra bedrooms, workshops, hobby rooms, a teen hangout, a home office. Lots of different things that you can use and a lot of them will have a different set of requirements for access, finishes, installations and even storage.

    Now, bonus-space conversions, they vary in scale, structural requirements and style. So when you set your budget, start with an honest assessment of your existing space. And remember the 20-percent reserve rule. You want to budget an extra 20 percent for any of the surprises that pop up. Once you start digging into walls and floors, something’s going to happen. So you’d better keep a little extra cash aside, because you’re going to need it.

    TOM: Going to happen.

    LESLIE: It’s going to happen. And even it could happen if – just by going, “Hmm. I really want this tile,” or “I really want this wall covering.” You never know where that 20 percent is going but trust me, you’re going to need it.

    Now, if you only need a little bit more space, there are a lot of hidden spots that you can consider, too, like the area under your stairs, inside wall cavities or using storage efficiently, like adding storage drawers under beds or shelving in the bathroom, above the toilets. These are the little things that you can do to get just back a little bit of space.

    TOM: Now, one advantage of these projects is that you can build towards adding space over time as resources become available. Since the spaces we’re talking about are truly extra spaces around your home, everything you do is, well, kind of bonus space you didn’t have before. So it’s a fun project because you could take it on, over time, as you have time and resources to get it done.

    If you want more tips on converting bonus spaces, we’ve got lots of those on

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit. Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up, are you ready to take on a below-grade flooring project? Well, not any floor is going to do the job. We’re going to share the dos and don’ts of finished-basement flooring, coming up 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 question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: And remember, you can always post your questions in the Community section, just like Adam did. Now, he writes: “Hey, guys. I enjoy listening to your show and I’m looking for some help with basement flooring. There’s a lumberyard just down the street and they can cut fresh planks that I’m thinking about laying down over some underlayment and then sanding, sealing and staining the plank on top. Any thoughts or ideas?”

    TOM: You know, I love the thought of fresh wood planks as a floor but I know it’s definitely not going to work in the basement. Because, Adam, no matter how dry your basement is, it’s not dry enough for solid-wood flooring because that ground moisture is just going to be saturating down there. It’s going to become very damp. It’s going to cause mold and mildew. It’s going to warp those planks. So, putting those wood planks down in the basement is really never a good idea, even if the space appears to be dry. If you think about it, concrete inevitably is going to hold moisture and humidity, so they will rot, they will decay.

    Now, if you are looking for a wood floor for the basement, the best type – and really the only type of truly wood flooring – is engineered hardwood. It looks like regular hardwood from the outside, except that it’s laminated. It’s many layers of hardwood glued together at 90-degree angles, so it’s dimensionally stable.

    Now, if you’re not totally sold on wood flooring but maybe you want something that looks like wood, there are many, many, many types of floors out there that are just amazingly similar to wood. Can hardly tell the difference.

    I mean I put down one of these vinyl-plank floors in my mom’s kitchen. She absolutely loves it. It’s super durable but it’s a vinyl plank. When you say vinyl, you think of the tiles that we grew up with. No, no. This really looks like wood, straight through to the staining and the texture on the surface.

    So, lots of options …

    LESLIE: Yeah, even the shape and the install process kind of is the same.

    TOM: Yeah. Lots of options out there but slabs of fresh-cut wood, not so much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Brielle (sp) who writes: “My 1984 Colonial home has no exterior door or window surrounds. I’d like to add surrounds to both. Must some of the clapboards have to be removed to install these surrounds or are there products to avoid this step?”

    TOM: Well, a company called Fypon actually offers exactly what you’re looking for. There is a wide variety of both polyurethane and PVC exterior surrounds.

    Now, the advantage of the urethane is that you never risk the rot or the warp that’s going to be associated with wood. But to answer your question, you should not have to remove the clapboard to install the surrounds. They pretty much attach sort of on top of the existing siding, preventing any water intrusion that could incur from those attachment points.

    So, if they’re properly installed and if it’s the right kind of material, they can really look fantastic and they can really add some style and some value, especially if we’re talking about a front door. It’s the first thing that people see and I tell you, the studies have shown that if you do add some décor to your front door – if it’s a good-looking door – it can really drive up the perceived value of your house. People make a big judgment based on that.

    LESLIE: And it seems like such a small addition or a detail to that area of that home but once it’s in, it really does finish the space and create such a beautiful look for the house. I think if you tackle this project, you’ll be so happy you did.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at

    Hey, we hope that we’ve given you a few tips and ideas, in today’s show, to help you move along those home improvement projects. But remember, whether you are working on a job inside or out – whether that job is the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom or the basement – we are available to help you take the right steps to get that job done once, done right so you don’t have to do it again. You can get about enjoying your home.

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

    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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