How to Save Money Heating Your Apartment

  • 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 it’s the final week of the ho-ho-home improvement season. So if you’re rushing to fix up your house before the big guy arrives, you’re in exactly the right place. We’re here to help you get the jobs done: the décor projects, the organizing projects, the repair projects. If your house is totally stressed out because of all the folks that have been coming and going, we can help you plan for some repairs for the year ahead. Whatever is on your to-do list, your job is to slide it over to ours by calling us at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s show, if you’re a renter, you’re probably doing that to save money. But we don’t want you to waste it on high utility bills, so we’re going to have some tips on how you can save money heating your apartment. It’s going to make you a lot more comfortable and it doesn’t involve any types of major repairs that only the landlord would do. This is stuff that you can do yourself to cut back on that chill and make yourself a lot happier.

    LESLIE: Alright. I love those tips.

    Plus, did you know that one of the most energy-efficient materials that you can use when you’re building a home is plastic? That’s right. You know, we’re going to share the many ways that this amazing material is now being used to help improve your comfort and lower your energy bills.

    TOM: And if you’ve been thinking about updating your kitchen but are concerned about the costs and the complications of the project, we’re going to have tips on easy updates that you can do over a weekend that can totally transform your space without those hassles.

    LESLIE: Plus, we’re giving away a fun tool to help serious DIYers get lots of projects done around their money pit. It’s the Arrow PT50 and it delivers some serious pneumatic-tool performance at a price that DIYers love. But we love it because we’re giving it to you for free.

    TOM: We’re giving out that Arrow PT50 to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Sue in Ohio needs some help cleaning a carpet. Tell us what’s going on.

    SUE: I have a concrete sun-porch slab that has – had been covered with black carpeting. And it’s – we had a very muggy summer this year and green mold started to grow on it. And though I tried washing it off and rinsing it off – and it just won’t take care of it. And I know that you had helped other people with mold problems, with 10-percent bleach. But I wouldn’t dare put bleach on that black carpet and I wondered if there’s something else that will kill that mold.

    TOM: Well, how do we know it’s mold? It sounds like algae.

    SUE: Could it be?

    TOM: It could be, yeah. What I would do is I would simply – if the carpet’s that dirty, I would simply go out and rent a steam cleaner – rent a carpet cleaner. Those carpet cleaners are pretty darn effective. I rented one myself at The Home Depot just a few weeks ago for a couple of rooms in an apartment that we own that was getting a new tenant. And I’m always astounded with what a phenomenal job those steam cleaners do on what looks like carpet that has to be torn out.

    But when you steam-clean it with the right materials, use the chemicals that come with the machine, it does a really good job. You’ve just got to take your time. Usually have to go over it a couple of times and it takes a little bit of work but it really does a great job. So I wouldn’t try to do this any other way.

    The way the steam cleaners work is water is injected into the carpet and then almost at the same time, a very strong vacuum pulls that water back out with the dirt and debris attached to it.

    SUE: Oh. So the steam kills the algae.

    TOM: Yes. It’ll clean it. And then if you dry it really well after that, it should stop it from coming back.

    SUE: OK. OK. Well, that’ll help me, yeah.

    TOM: Alright? And that won’t damage the color.

    SUE: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jim in Mississippi on the line with a question about siding. How can we help you today?

    JIM: My wife and I are looking at retiring here before long. And we purchased a house that we’re going to be living in and we’re remodeling it. And it’s an older home. It was built in 1946. And we’ve been doing some work remodeling on the inside. But on the outside of the house, it’s had vinyl siding put on it in the last several years. And I had a contractor out doing some work for me and I had him to take a look at what was under the vinyl siding. And he told me that it was lap board. It looked like, to him, it was 6-inch lap board. And I didn’t know if the lap board – if it had asbestos in it or not.

    TOM: Well, I think he’s calling – he’s talking about clapboard, which is like a horizontal, 6-inch siding. And typically, that’s made of wood or a composite; it’s not usually that style made of asbestos. In a house that was built in that era, if it did have asbestos it would most likely be an asbestos tile. That’s called a “cement asbestos tile,” because the asbestos is inside of a cement binder.

    So, if it’s not a tile, then it’s not likely to be asbestos.

    JIM: Actually, what he said – he mentioned lap board – is what he said. I was thinking maybe – I know that they used to make a Masonite …

    TOM: But I mean you said that that would have been the original siding, so that would have been since the late 40s?

    JIM: Yeah, the house was built in ‘46.

    TOM: That wouldn’t be the masonry hardboard siding, not at that age.

    JIM: OK, OK. So you don’t think there’s any concern, as far as the siding.

    TOM: Well, not unless I know more. Unless I know more. But certainly, I would want to find out what that is. He ought to be able to tell you if it’s a composite material or not.

    JIM: OK. Well, I was just concerned about – like I said, he was just doing a little work for me and I asked him just to take a look.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    JIM: And he told me – he said he didn’t think I needed to be concerned about it but I …

    TOM: Yeah. You can scrape the surface and see if it’s wood or not or if it’s hardboard or what. It’s pretty easy to tell.

    JIM: Yeah, he scraped the surface of it and it just sort of peeled off.

    TOM: Well, it might be the paint he took off, too. But it’s not likely based on what you’re telling me, OK? You can test it to be sure but it’s not likely.

    Good luck with that project. Thanks, again, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, hey, just because you’re a renter it doesn’t mean you have to settle for high heating bills. We’ve got apartment-friendly tips to keep heated air from escaping, when The Money Pit Radio Show continues 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: Do you have a project in mind? Does it involve a lot of stapling? If you do, we’ve got the perfect tool that we’re giving away this hour. It’s the Arrow PT50. It’s a pneumatic staple gun and it comes with a supply of staples.

    This thing gives you a pretty serious tool performance at a great price. It’s nicely designed. It’s got an easy-load magazine. It’s got an overmolded comfort grip, which is important. Because when you’re doing those big jobs, your hands get so sore.

    Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Oh, it really is important to make sure that the tool you’re using sort of fits into your hand, is made to protect your hand in the process of using it. Because if you’ve got a tool you love – and I promise you will love the Arrow PT50 – you’re going to use it again and again.

    It’s also got the power and versatility to tackle pretty much any home project. And it’s capable of bump-firing to speed those big jobs along. And that’s when you just sort of hold the trigger down and you go pop-pop-pop as you sort of press down on the safety as you move it along, along, along on the project that you’re working on. And then you can just continue to fire those staples in.

    It includes all of the necessary fittings and operates on home compressors up to 120 pounds per square inch. So it works on pancake compressors, even the ones that are a little bit larger.

    Check them out, right now, at ArrowFastener.com and you’ll also find some great step-by-step projects out there on things that you can do with your PT50, including how to carpet stair treads. Just click on Projects.

    TOM: That Arrow PT50 Pneumatic Staple Gun and a supple of staples going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us, right now, with your home improvement or décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Larry in Ohio is on the line with a heating question. How can we help you?

    LARRY: Yes. I’ve got a house – it’s 6,000 square foot – and they divided the utilities up into two separate houses. And right now, I have a hot-water tank that we use all the time and we have a hot-water tank that sits on the side that the kitchen is on, that is only used for the dishwasher.

    And I’m wondering, would I be better off to get me a tankless hot-water tank or just deal with the electric? I’ve got an electric, 50-gallon one. I don’t know which one would be more cost-efficient.

    TOM: So, the only thing that you’re using that water heater for, on that side of the house, is the dishwasher? And that’s a 50-gallon water heater?

    LARRY: Yes.

    TOM: Wow.

    LARRY: But like I say, this house was actually set up to be a bed and breakfast.

    TOM: If the only thing that water heater is serving is the dishwasher and there’s no way to get that dishwasher fed off of the other water heater, you just need a very small water heater for that dishwasher and I mean like a 20-gallon electric or something like that. Really small. Because there’s really not much water that it needs to heat and it would be foolish to have it heating 50 gallons, 40 gallons of water, 24/7, when you really don’t need it except to wash dishes and I presume, to run the kitchen sink.

    So a very small electric water heater, perhaps even on a timer so that it only kicks on maybe in the evening hours when you’re using that dishwasher, would be the smart thing to do there and the least expensive way to both install the new water heater and to run the new water heater. OK?

    LARRY: OK. Actually, there’s two bathrooms that are also hooked to this but it’s just the idea right now – we’re not using it. We’ve got two bathrooms on the other side of the house, too.

    TOM: OK. Well, that’s different. That’s different. If you have two bathrooms – full bathrooms?

    LARRY: Yes. Full bathrooms.

    TOM: Well, then, OK, so that’s different. If there’s a full – two full bathrooms – I’d asked you if it was just the dishwasher and you said, “Yes.” But if it’s two full bathrooms on it, then you do need a larger water heater. And again, I would probably recommend – if you’re not using it that often, I’d probably recommend an electric water heater, in that situation, on a timer.

    LARRY: OK.

    TOM: But you’ll probably need more like a 40-gallon.

    LARRY: Actually, on the tankless ones, I’ve noticed the different amount of water per minute.

    TOM: Yeah, well – but you – do you have gas? Do you have natural gas?

    LARRY: I’ve got propane.

    TOM: You have propane? Well, you could use a tankless water heater. The installation cost will be a lot higher. It does deliver you 24/7 endless supplies of hot water. Except in that side of the house, again, you’re not really using those bathrooms that much, so that’s not as big of a concern to you.

    That’s why I’m suggesting a minimum, inexpensive electric water heater for that. At least you’ll maintain your home value. Because if you didn’t have adequate – an adequate water heater to supply those two bathrooms plus the dishwasher, your home value would suffer. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you put in a $1,500 tankless, because I just don’t think it’s going to be cost effective for you.

    LARRY: OK. That was my big question right there: would it be cost-effective (ph)?

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

    LESLIE: Well, most of us will spend more on heating this winter than we really want to. But while homeowners can do things like purchase new energy-efficient heating systems, renters don’t have those same options to improve heat in a home that they don’t own. Or do they?

    TOM: Actually, renters can make several easy improvements that’ll keep them both warm and keep that money close at hand.

    Now, if your apartment’s heating system and rental agreement permit, you should install a programmable thermostat. That will have the heat kick in when you’re home but dial it back when you’re gone. And these new, Wi-Fi-enabled versions are super easy to hook up and you can replace them with the old ones when you move out.

    LESLIE: Now, you also want to make sure that all heating registers are unobstructed so that the warm air can flow freely into each room in the apartment. Now, if your unit has radiators, you want to slide heat-resistant reflectors between that radiator and the wall. And that can help send even more warmth into your room.

    TOM: Now, also look for possible air-escape routes, like around windows and doors, and seal those off with a removable caulk. It’s pretty cool stuff because what it does – it provides a weatherproof barrier against the drafts and the moisture when applied indoors or out. But it can be easily removed without causing any damage. It just peels right off in the spring.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You want to make sure that you add that weather-stripping to doors and windows. And make sure you shop your local home improvement center or hardware store, because there you’ll find a variety of easy-to-use weather-stripping products that are tailored to different surfaces and constructions. Because that’s really the key: it’s got to stick to whatever and wherever you’re trying to put it. So make sure you buy the right product for the right place.

    TOM: And finally, you want to cover those hidden holes in your outside walls. So what are we talking about? Well, covers on windows. That’s important. Covering the through-the-wall air conditioners. That’s going to block some of those drafts. And then for the outlets and the switches, you want to add gaskets behind them. These things cost pennies and they seal the gaps around that light switch or the outlet. You’d be amazed how much air will just sail through the wall in a spot like that.

    So, easy things to do. Even if you’re a renter, you don’t own the place, these are improvements that you can literally take with you – in the case, for example, of a thermostat –or that don’t cost very much but will make you much more comfortable.

    888-666-3974. What are you working on? We’d love to hear about it. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Harriet in Georgia is on the line with a painting question. What are you working on?

    HARRIET: I have a brick house and the trim is wood. My house was built in ‘78 and originally, the trim was painted with oil-based paint. And since then, it’s been painted with latex paint. And I felt like the oil-based paint lasted better, longer. And I wondered, which do you all recommend?

    TOM: Well, certainly, oil-based paint is more durable in terms of sort of wear and tear because it’s harder. But if you have latex on it right now and you want to go back to oil or back to solvent-based paint, you’re going to basically have to sand that to make sure there’s no loose paint left. And then you’re going to have to prime it and then put your topcoat over that.

    Because my concern is that if it’s not prepped properly, that you might get a situation where it delaminates, Harriet, and starts to peel off. You’ve got to get rid of that top layer of paint by sanding it to make sure that whatever is left is really well-adhered to the surface that it was originally applied to. Does that make sense?

    HARRIET: Yes, it does. Well, if I did the oil-based paint and did sand it, would – is that a better paint than latex or does it really matter that much?

    TOM: Well, it’s maybe a little bit more durable but there’s plenty of good-quality latex paints that are out there today. The thing about paint is you don’t want to kind of cheapen out on it; you want to use the best paint from a good manufacturer. Because if you use like, for example, a Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams, you’re going to have good results. The only time I really suggest oil-based paint these days may be on a floor, if you’re going to paint a floor, because it’s really durable for that or perhaps on something like kitchen cabinets, where the doors are getting banged around a lot.

    But for trim, for the most part, you can use a latex-based paint.

    HARRIET: OK. I’ll do that. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Charles in Arkansas is on the line and needs some help putting in a door. What can we do for you?

    CHARLES: Got an old door I’m replacing on the front of my house. It’s an exterior door. I bought an oak door – solid door – to replace it. I did not measure for the hinges when I bought the door. I just measured for the doorknob and I don’t know how to cut those grooves for the hinges: those 4-inch hinges that go on the door.

    TOM: So we know the door fits into the jambs, it fits into the opening? We just need to figure out to get it hinged? Is that correct?

    CHARLES: I just need to know how to cut the door for the hinges.

    TOM: But the door does fit the opening right now, so you have an existing opening it can fit into.

    CHARLES: Well, yes. A matter of fact, you know, if you ask for 84-inch door, you’re going to get about 83- or 82½-inch door, so it’s just adequate on size. It’s just a matter of the cutting of the hinges.

    TOM: OK. So it’s really just a case here of being very accurate in how you lay this out. So you have to remember that when you set the door in the opening, you need about a ¼-inch of space above the door just to allow for expansion and contraction and adjusting the door. So what you want to do is measure down from the top of the door and measure up from the bottom of the door until your first hinge position. I would put those maybe 8 or 10 inches down from the top and equally – equidistant – up from the bottom and then the third one right in between.

    And remember that what you want to do is – you can take that door, set it on its side. You can lay the hinge right over it where it’s going to be attached and you can draw an outline of that hinge onto the door. And then with a really sharp chisel, you’re essentially going to notch out the thickness of the hinge material itself, which is really something in the order of a 1/16-inch or so of material that will come off of that, so that when the hinge is on the door it lays completely flat. The idea here is that the hinges don’t really take up any space.

    And now, once you have those set on a door, you’re going to put the exact same – in the exact same locations, you’re going to notch them out into the jamb in much the same way. You’ve just got to be really accurate with your measurements to make sure they line up properly. Another way to do this is to put them in the jamb first, set the door in place, kind of shim it up and get it exactly where you want, then transfer the marks over. Either way, the alignment is key.

    And once you do that, when you’re ready to put it all together, the trick of the trade is when you

    start to drive the screws in and hold the hinge plates on, don’t drive them all the way home. Leave them a little bit loose so you have some slop in that hinge. It’ll make it a lot easier for you to get it all back together. And then you can tighten it up once the hinge pins are in place.

    CHARLES: That’s what I wanted to find out.

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

    LESLIE: Just ahead, did you know that one of the most energy-efficient materials you can use when building a home is plastic? We’re going to share the many ways that this amazing material is now being used to help improve your comfort and lower your energy bills, so stick around.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, did you know that many of the most energy-saving materials used when building a home are actually made from plastic? There are actually many ways that this amazing material is now being used to help improve your comfort and lower your energy bills.

    TOM: With us to talk about that is Chris VandenHeuvel with Plastics Make it Possible.

    Welcome, Chris.

    CHRIS: I appreciate you having me on.

    TOM: I think that folks don’t really appreciate the fact that there’s a lot of plastic in their house, you know? And the fact of the matter is that when it comes to making your home energy-efficient, we really couldn’t do without it. Let’s talk about some of the ways that we tighten up our house with that material.

    CHRIS: Yeah. I think most people realize – especially if they have a big house or especially if you have an older house – that it can be really expensive to heat and cool that. And fortunately, a lot of newer, advanced building materials made out of plastics can really help your home energy efficiency.

    The big role it really plays is helping to seal the building envelope, which I’m assuming your listeners have probably heard that term before.

    TOM: Yeah.

    CHRIS: It’s basically just the barrier between indoor air-conditioned air and outdoor air. So it’s walls, windows, doors and so on and so forth.

    And the concept of envelope, I think, is really important to think about. It’s just like a typical envelope that you stuff with cash, for example. If you don’t seal that up, you’re going to wind up losing some of that cash.

    TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.

    CHRIS: And if you have a leaky house and you don’t have the building envelope nicely sealed, the outdoor air is going to come in and basically remove the indoor air, which is basically like taking cash from you, as well.

    TOM: It’s interesting that we’re still building homes much the same way as we did 200 years ago. We put up a wood frame and pretty much everything that happens after that is designed to tighten up that building envelope. And plastics now is a big part of that. So we’re talking about things like plastic-foam insulation that can help you seal against the outdoor heat and the cold or plastic house wrap that really does a good job in draft-proofing the house, right?

    CHRIS: Exactly. Adding plastic house wrap, which really is sort of like the waterproof materials that we wear on our body to protect us from rain and so on and so forth.

    TOM: It’s like the raincoat.

    CHRIS: Exactly. It winds up adding an additional coat which prevents air moving in and out of the house. It’s really very efficient at that.

    And you mentioned some of the plastic building insulation. The big ones are the foam-plastic insulations, which most people are fairly familiar with. There’s the polystyrene foam, which can be used throughout the entire house, but it’s pretty well known, also, for putting underneath foundations or underground walls because it’s so durable and water-resistant. And then there’s polyurethane foam, which expands. Usually, it is professionally installed and it expands into the wall cavities and the ceiling and so on so forth. And it helps prevent hot and cold air moving in and out. It also keeps out dust, dirt, insects. And then there’s polyiso, which is a thick foam board, which some folks are now using on the outside of the walls. So they put it underneath the siding so that the outdoor air never even touches the building material, such as the 2x4s you mentioned.

    TOM: Right.

    CHRIS: So, it’s a pretty innovative way of using advanced plastic building materials.

    TOM: I can think of two of those materials that I have added to my house over the prior decades. Many years ago, when we replaced the siding, we used an isocyanurate-foam insulating board on the outside and that made a big difference. And then not so long ago, we added spray-foam to the entire attic space, the crawlspaces under the house. And it made a huge difference in the comfort of the house. I mean I live in a house that was built in 1886 and when we would go from the two-story section to – it’s like a one-story. We call it the “new addition” because it was built in 1901.

    CHRIS: Wow.

    TOM: But when we go into that section of the house, it was always hot in the summer and cold in the winter. But now it’s perfect, so we really do enjoy the benefits that that brings to us.

    We’re talking to Chris VandenHeuvel – he’s with Plastics Make it Possible – about all the ways that plastic is now being used to make our homes more energy-efficient.

    And Chris, you guys have a tour that’s going on right now. You built a tiny house and it is making its way around the country. And it’s interesting because in this tiny house, you’ve been able to showcase a lot of these advanced plastic-building materials, right?

    CHRIS: That’s right. It’s interesting that our homes in the United States keep getting bigger and bigger. Right now, the average home is about 2,700 square feet, which is the size of the square footage of a tennis court. And that’s the doubles tennis court.

    TOM: Right.

    CHRIS: But at the same time, we’ve got this tiny-house movement where people are building homes that are a few hundred square feet. And we thought it’d be interesting to build a home that showcased a lot of these advanced plastic building materials. In particular, focus on how you seal the building envelope.

    So we asked Tiny House Nation star Zack Giffin – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that TV show – to build us a house and focus specifically on all of these various building materials – such as foam insulation, sealants and caulks and siding and so on so forth – all of which help contribute to seal the building envelope, keep the hot air out or the cold air out where it’s supposed to be and the conditioned air inside.

    TOM: And there are many other building components that are made of advanced plastics, as well. I mean I’m thinking vinyl windows. That’s really changed the face of the window industry.

    CHRIS: Yep.

    TOM: Many years ago, when they first came out – and now you can’t live without them. They’re affordable, they’re energy-efficient and they last for a really, really long time.

    CHRIS: That’s exactly right. And then some of them also have little air pockets on the inside of them to provide more insulation. Some of them actually have foam insulation on the inside of them to increase the insulating effect.

    And there’s a number of different things, like vinyl windows. Rather than just here’s a wood door, you can create these beautiful doors that are made out of fiberglass, with foam insulation on the inside of them. Skylights made out of polycarbonate, which are – can allow sunlight to come in but they’re UV-protected to keep the hot air out. Vinyl siding and trim, which you mentioned, as well. So there’s a ton of different advanced plastic building products. And the key is having them all work together in a system that seals the building envelope and prevents kind of air from leaking in and out, as you described in your old 1900 house.

    TOM: Yeah.

    CHRIS: That’s how – the way they were built.

    TOM: Exactly.

    CHRIS: And even some newer homes today, they don’t do a perfect job of sealing the building envelope.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Right.

    CHRIS: So do-it-yourselfers can go in, whether it’s an old home or a new home, with different caulks, sealants, insulation products and really help seal that building envelope.

    TOM: Chris VandenHeuvel with Plastics Make it Possible. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit, Chris. Really interesting discussion about all the ways that plastics are making our buildings more energy-efficient.

    If you’d like to learn more, visit their website. It’s PlasticsMakeItPossible.com. And be sure to check out the new tiny house that Plastics Make it Possible is touring around the country, to see up close and personal the many ways that these products are making even these tiny homes incredibly energy-efficient.

    Thanks again, Chris.

    CHRIS: Thanks, Tom.

    LESLIE: Alright, Chris. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    Coming up, if you’ve been thinking about updating your kitchen but you’re concerned about the costs, we’re going to have some tips on easy updates that you can do over a weekend that totally transform your space without the hassles, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, next.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, 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. You’ll get the answer, plus an opportunity to win a great product we’re giving away this hour. It’s the Arrow PT50 Pneumatic Staple Gun and a supply of staples, worth 50 bucks.

    It’s a nicely-designed tool with an easy-load magazine, an overmolded comfort grip. And it’s got the power and versatility to take on any home project. It’s even capable of bump-firing to speed big jobs along.

    It’s worth 50 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can learn more about the product at Arrow Fastener and also check out their Projects section, where they’ve got step-by-step guidance on a whole bunch of things you can get done around your house.

    And this month, they’re featuring a project about how to carpet stair treads. So, if you’re thinking about taking that on, the info that you need is at ArrowFastener.com.

    LESLIE: Barbara in Texas is on the line with a brick question. What’s going on?

    BARBARA: Well, I have brick around my house and the mortar is coming out. Back when it was built around 40 years ago, they didn’t put in enough of the cement so it would stay in. So, I don’t know if that’s something I should attempt to try to fill in. I know matching the grout color is real important. What do you all recommend?

    TOM: So do you have a lot of this to do, Barbara? Or is this just sort of some minor repairs?

    BARBARA: No, there’s quite a bit.

    TOM: Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend you do it yourself. I’d have a mason do this because there is some technique to this. You have to mix up the mortar just right. It’s got to be kind of sticky. And once it’s laid in, it really takes a skilled hand to do it. So, I would have a professional do that. I would not make that a do-it-yourself project.

    If it was just some areas that were broken out and needed some minor fix, then I’d say OK. But if there’s a lot of repointing to do, I would not suggest you do that yourself, only because it takes an awful lot of practice and sort of a steady hand. That is something you wouldn’t be able to do right out of the gate.

    BARBARA: OK. [My need is] (ph) going to get it right like that. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck, Barbara. Happy to help.

    LESLIE: Well, if home is where the heart is, then the kitchen is clearly one of those vital organs that converts a house into a home. So it’s no surprise that kitchen renovations are among the most popular remodeling projects tackled every single year. But while so many home improvement projects can be complicated, major kitchen remodeling can actually turn your life upside-down, not to mention all the fast-food pounds you’re going to be putting on waiting for that kitchen to welcome you back in.

    TOM: Absolutely. You’re going to have the pizza guy on speed dial.

    LESLIE: Seriously.

    TOM: Well, to avoid those home improvement hassles, it does make sense to break the projects into modules, which can be completed independently of one another. Not only does this approach make the project more manageable, these smaller changes can really have a big visual impact and cut down on the need for more major makeovers.

    LESLIE: For example, changing your kitchen countertop, painting the cabinets or just replacing all of that cabinet hardware. Those are projects that can be done in hours – not weeks, not months and not cost a bajillion dollars – and result in very attractive transformations.

    TOM: Also, other big spaces, like replacing the kitchen floors, improving the kitchen lighting and just painting the room can deliver a fresh, new look to that space. And replacing the faucets with water-efficient models, as well as maybe switching out some old appliances for more ENERGY STAR-certified appliances can lower utility costs across the entire board.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Building with Confidence Tip 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: Paul in Alaska is on the line with a roofing question. What can we do for you?

    PAUL: I have a 45-year-old, built-up roof and it was the age of the house. And it just needs to be replaced. And so I’m looking at one of three options: the EPDM, which is the .06-inch rubber, if we can have – I guess have recovery board under it. And then there’s two torch-down options: one is APP and one is SBS. Now, I’m told the SBS – there’s one contractor that actually offers that and he says that, you know, it’s less susceptible to cracking, so it lasts longer. And we have about 100-degree swing in temperatures here in Anchorage: between about 80-above to maybe minus-20. But the SBS can be torch-down, cold or MOP. And of course, the APP, I guess, is just basically torch-down but …

    TOM: OK. Well, first things first. In terms of the flat roof, torch-down roofs or the EPDM roofs, I think, would be my choice in those environments. And what really makes the difference with these flat-roof installations is simply the workmanship, because there’s just no tolerance for errors. If you’re putting in a sloped roof – and you can be a little sloppy with your assembly of the roofing shingles, for example, and they’re pretty forgiving and usually don’t leak. The flat roof? If you get it wrong, you’re going to have a mess on your hands.

    So, I would make sure that the contractor was very experienced with flat-roof installation and then let them work with the product that they’re going to be willing to back up.

    PAUL: Thank you very much.

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

    Up next, a holiday poll here, guys. Would you rather have the smell of a fresh Christmas tree or the ease of setting one up and taking one down that’s artificial? We’ve got your live-versus-fake tree pros and cons, 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: Standing by for your calls to 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your questions to us online via our social-media pages – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – also the Money Pit Community page at MoneyPit.com which is, I believe, where Rose landed when she had a question about a shower. What’s going on?

    LESLIE: Rose writes: “While taking a shower in my daughter’s upstairs bathroom, I noticed the water in the bathtub tended to accumulate towards the front of the drain area. Also, some creaking sounds while I was stepping. What could this be?”

    TOM: Hmm. Interesting. I wonder if this is totally new or if this is something that’s ongoing. It’s kind of hard to tell what you mean when you say creaking sounds. Because when I hear about noise in a shower, typically that happens because the shower pan wasn’t properly put in or the bathtub wasn’t properly put in. Because the newer tubs are made of fiberglass or some sort of reinforced plastic. And typically, what the contractor is supposed to do is put sort of a wet mix of mortar under it and then press it down to give it additional support. And if that doesn’t happen, you do get that kind of buckling, creaking sound.

    Of course, if it’s structural, I’d be more concerned. I just have no way of telling. So I think that you’re wise to notice this. I might recommend that you have an expert take a look at it. And that might be a professional home inspector or somebody of that nature that doesn’t have a project to sell you, to try to figure out if this is just normal or there could potentially be a structural issue underneath. Because we don’t want you to fall through that tub. That would be like the real Money Pit movie, right, when the tub fell through the ceiling and he ended up in the kitchen or something? We don’t want you to do that.

    LESLIE: That part of the movie makes me just laugh and laugh and laugh when Tom Hanks is stuck in that rug in the floor and his little arms are just stuck in there. Don’t let that happen to you, alright, Rose?

    TOM: Well, it can be a tough decision to make but real trees and fake trees each come with their own distinct perks and drawbacks. Leslie helps you wade through them to make the best decision to keep everyone merry and bright, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    Leslie?

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, as any live-tree loyalist will tell you, fresh-cut Christmas trees smell the best. And they even keep your home cleaner by removing carbon dioxide and replacing it with oxygen. So, therefore, get a live tree. I think you know where I stand on this, guys.

    But if you do get a live tree, make sure that you buy one from a nearby farm, because that’ll help your local economy. And then they can be broken down into mulch after the holiday. That’s all the benefits of having the live tree.

    Now, the downside of a live tree is you’ve got to deal with all the needles. It needs watering and a lot of it. You want to make sure that you water it enough so that it doesn’t dry out. And then, of course, with the lights it can become a major fire risk.

    Now, if time is hard to come by this holiday or you’re going to be out of down for long stretches, a fake tree really might be the best way to go. And honestly, sometimes I feel like fake trees just get a bad rep. There are a lot of perks out there to a fake tree. And let me tell you that they look gorgeous. They are prelit and prelit very, very well and that is something that takes a long time if you’re doing it yourself on a live tree.

    Now, here’s some great ideas about a fake tree. You can reuse them year after year. It saves you money, it saves you a hassle. They look just like the real thing. The fake trees are maintenance-free, so you don’t have to worry about allergies or sap. But you do need a place to store them year after year. Assembling them does take time and they’re often made from a non-renewable resource: plastic. And there’s often no benefits to the economy as many of those fake trees are made abroad.

    So you’ve got to think about all of these different factors, which one better suits your family. Either way, have a wonderful holiday season. Enjoy your tree, real or fake. Have a wonderful, wonderful holiday. I hope it’s warm and cozy, everybody.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, you know what’s not warm and cozy? Having to shovel your driveways and sidewalks after a big snowstorm. But if you’re ready to give your back a break and buy a snow blower, there are a lot of options to wade through. We’re going to help you choose the one that’s best for you, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (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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