How to Stop House Fires for Good

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    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 we are here to help you with your projects. What are you working on? You’ve got something going on in your apartment? Maybe you want to talk about some improvements you can make that are going to not crush your security deposit, let you get all that money back at the end of the term? Do you want to update your house, plan a project for the spring which is now, thankfully, not too far ahead? Those are all great things for us to chat about but we are here to help you. Help yourself first, though: pick up the phone, call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to the Community page at

    Coming up on today’s show, every year firefighters respond to more than a million home fires. But a home sprinkler system can take that number down dramatically. We’re going to share how to know if a home sprinkler system is right for you.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you’ve ever thought about adding solar power to your home but to reduce those electricity costs, did you know that not all of the panels deliver the same amount of electricity? We’re going to share some of the differences that you need to know, just ahead.

    TOM: And if you like homes that feel bigger than they are, there’s a new trend in what’s known as a broken or semi-open floor plan that’s beginning to catch on. We’ll topline those details.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you’ve got going on so we can give you a hand. So, what are you guys working on? Are you cooped up indoors and maybe working on some decorative stuff inside so that you can dream about being outside again? Or are you just simply dreaming about being outside? Whatever it is, we are here to lend a hand and make sure that your money pit is working for you.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

    LESLIE: Joyce in Massachusetts, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    JOYCE: I have nine windows and we had someone caulk the windows where the window sills – because we live in Boston and the cold air has been blowing in. I want to know how I can seal them up, because it didn’t do one iota thing for the gentlemen caulking the nine windows.

    TOM: Didn’t do any good, huh? And did he caulk them from the outside or from the inside?

    JOYCE: From the inside, because this is an apartment building. And what – we’re on the seventh floor and we have windows going on different angles. And so I’m trying to find out what is the easiest way to prevent the cold from blowing in, because it’s unbearable.

    TOM: OK. Since you’re on the seventh floor, I presume that you don’t use your windows – you would never use your windows for emergency egress. Do any of them go to a fire escape or anything like that?

    JOYCE: No, no.

    TOM: OK. So, there’s two things that you can do here, one of which is you can use a shrink film. It’s a clear, plastic wrap that you cut to fit the size of the window. You attach it with a double-face – clear double-face tape that comes with it. And then you use your hair dryer to heat it and it becomes very taut and clear so it doesn’t obstruct the view.

    JOYCE: What about weather-stripping, like weather felt?

    TOM: Well, that’s all possible but there’s another option. And the reason I asked you if you needed to use your windows for egress is because I was going to recommend temporary weather-stripping.

    Now, there’s a caulk that’s like a weather-stripping sealant but it’s a temporary sealant, OK? So the way this works is you essentially caulk your windows shut. You caulk all the seams in the window, where they slide up and down, with this clear, temporary caulk. And then what happens is in the spring, you can actually grab the edge of this caulk and peel it right off. It comes off like a clear, rubbery strip. And it enables you to essentially seal your windows shut in the winter and then restore them in the spring.

    JOYCE: Thank you very much. And I enjoy your program immensely.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Going out to Tennessee where Jack is dealing with some rust on a toilet. What is going on, dude?

    JACK: Well, I’ve got a toilet-bowl problem with a stain that I’m unable to do anything with.

    TOM: OK. What have you tried so far?

    JACK: I’ve only tried the normal thing with Ajax or Comet, one of the scrubbing powders.

    TOM: What kind of stain is this? Is it like a rust stain?

    JACK: I think it is sort of – the plumber said it was a rust stain. I had the tank – all the works in the tank.

    TOM: Replaced? Mm-hmm.

    JACK: I was talking with him about it and he said it’s a rust stain and says, “Never use Brillo or any of the other scrubbing wires,” and suggested a sanding pad. It’s a soft pad. And I did use one of those and got a tiny bit of result but not what I’m looking for.

    TOM: Alright. Well, here’s a suggestion. First of all, you’ve got commercial products, like CLR or Lime-A-Way, that can work. Or you’ve got some sort of do-it-yourself products or mix-it-yourself products that you could put together. But the most important thing is to start with a dry bowl. So you want to turn the water off at the toilet and flush it and dry out that bowl, because you’re going to be able to get more of the cleaning product onto the surface.

    You can use lemon juice. That’s an acidic-based rust remover. White vinegar also works well. Borax works well. You can mix Borax with hot water and that works pretty well. And here, right from The Money Pit Engineering Department, my crack engineering team tells me that they’ve had good success with Coca-Cola. And I’m sure they wouldn’t be making that up. So, again, any of these acid-based products can do a pretty good job of pulling that rust out of the toilet bowl. But you want to flush it and dry it first so that it really has a chance to get to work.

    And in terms of the scrubbing pad you mentioned, something like the Scotch-Brite pad is a good thing to use on that. It’s not going to destroy the surface.

    JACK: Thank you so much for taking my call. And I’ll get on it this afternoon.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Jack. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit. Call in your décor or remodeling question now to 888-MONEY-PIT.

    888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free.

    TOM: That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Just ahead, there are a million-and-a-half fires reported in the country every year. But there’s one way that you could make sure that a fire never happens to your house or at least doesn’t cause major damage. That’s by investing in a home sprinkler system. We’ll tell you how they work and if they’re right for you, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Love to hear what you’re working on in your money pit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: Nancy in Massachusetts is dealing with a garage that’s got other plans than closing. What’s going on there?

    NANCY: I have a dilemma about what to do about the door. It’s just not closing properly and sometimes, it doesn’t even want to go up and down, never mind when it comes down it wiggles left to right, left to right until it gets to the bottom.

    TOM: This is on a garage-door opener?

    NANCY: Oh, oh, yes, yes.

    TOM: So when it goes up and down, it shimmies in the opening?

    NANCY: Yes. And the closing.

    TOM: So, generally, the rollers on the side of the garage door are failing when that occurs. They’re ball-bearing rollers and when they get stuck, then they get sort of hung up on the way down and that’s what makes the door sort of vibrate and puts a lot of resistance on it, too. And that may be the reason it’s not closing all the way or closing evenly.

    It sounds like the door is pretty old. And your options are to replace all the hardware and try to realign the door to get it working right or just replace the door and the door opener. If it’s that old and that sort of rickety, I might lean towards just a replacement. The new doors today are actually a lot lighter than the old doors and they work really smoothly.

    I just put two on in the garage, I guess, about 8, 9 months ago now and I’m really happy with them. And I used to have really heavy, hardboard doors on this garage and now I have nice, factory-painted steel doors that look really good, really sharp and just close flawlessly every single time.

    NANCY: Well, this is one of those metal doors.

    TOM: It is? OK. But it’s an older metal door?

    NANCY: Yeah. And I put Boeshield on the tracks to try to get it to roll down properly.

    TOM: Yeah. But if the hardware has failed – even if you’re lubricating the tracks, if the hardware has failed, it’s not going to work right.

    NANCY: So what would you recommend? A new door or just get somebody over to do the hardware?

    TOM: I’d get a new door and a new opener.

    NANCY: Yeah, OK. I don’t want to put good money after bad.

    TOM: Exactly. I think – who knows if you could find the old hardware to match and everything? I’d just get a new door and a new opener. I think it’d be worth it.

    NANCY: OK. Very good advice. I appreciate it very much.

    TOM: Thank you, Nancy. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Heading over to Florida, where Peter has lost power in the bathroom.

    Peter, what’s going on and can you see what you’re doing?

    PETER: Yeah, I had a GFI go bad. And when I went to change it over, for some reason I couldn’t get any juice to the receptacle underneath the sink. So, I got juice to where I put the new one in but – so I went down to Home Depot – I listen to you folks all the time – and I got a new one. And the gentleman over there told me to find the hot wires go and put them on the receptacle where it says “line.” And then the other two hook up on the bottom of it.

    TOM: Peter, do you know that the ground-fault circuit worked properly and then it stopped working?

    PETER: Yes, sir.

    TOM: So it worked properly and then stopped working. Have you considered the fact that the ground-fault circuit interrupter could be doing its job and then there could be a problem elsewhere in the circuit?

    PETER: Yeah, I didn’t give a thought about that. No, I didn’t.

    TOM: So, I think that when ground-fault circuit interrupters start to trip, people say, “Oh, it must be a bad circuit breaker,” and they don’t consider the fact that the circuit breaker is, in fact, doing its job detecting a diversion of current to a ground source and tripping to prevent you from getting a shock.

    So, the solution wouldn’t be necessarily first to replace the ground fault. I would investigate further to see what exactly is happening and causing that to trip. I think, based on your description of what you’ve done thus far, that this might be just a little bit above your skill set. And while we can respect the fact that you’re doing this on your own, when it comes to electricity you want to get it right. And if you were to miswire that and in fact, perhaps, you – there are different ways to hook up ground faults. And if you do it one way, you can get it to trip and not protect the rest of the circuit. So, it would appear to be working correctly when, in fact, it wouldn’t.

    So this is not the kind of thing I would recommend that you do yourself, Peter, with all due respect. I would definitely have an electrician look at this because I suspect that the ground fault is doing its thing. They rarely go bad. And if it’s tripping, it’s probably tripping because something is going on elsewhere in the circuit.

    The ground faults will cover everything that’s on that circuit. So if you had, for example, a loose wire somewhere down the line and that was causing some sort of an arcing condition, that could trigger the ground fault to go off.

    So, contact an electrician. This is the kind of job that you should not do yourself, because I want to make sure that the problem is what you think it is and it gets properly fixed.

    Peter, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, each year, fire departments respond to more than 1.5 million fires. But the National Safety Council says only a fraction of Americans have taken any steps to improve their fire safety and protect themselves.

    Now, one way you can add a layer of protection is with a home fire sprinkler system. That, plus having working smoke alarms and a fire-escape plan is really the best way to stay protected from fire.

    TOM: Now, a lot of homeowners don’t even know that fire sprinklers are an option for their home. Sprinklers detect high heat from a fire and they put water on the flames as soon as the fire starts. And that limits the smoke, it limits the poisonous gases that a fire produces.

    Fire sprinklers also protect property and belongings.

    LESLIE: Now, if you’re buying a home or you’re moving to a new apartment, try to choose one with a fire-sprinkler system if you can. If you’re building a home or remodeling your existing home, consider having home fire-sprinkler systems installed.

    You have to talk to your local fire department for some help. You can find a qualified home fire-sprinkler installer probably through the fire department. And they will help you figure out what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, how much you need. They’re really going to put together a good quote for you and properly get the water to those sources and help you find out what that cost is and if it’s feasible for you.

    TOM: Now, there’s also a very common misconception that home fire sprinklers can trip unnecessarily, like when you burn toast, but that’s just not true. The technology is solid and it’s a great idea to install them when you can.

    LESLIE: Jessica in Missouri is dealing with a floor that’s sinking in on itself. What is going on over there?

    JESSICA: Hi. I live in a 128-year-old house and my kitchen floor has settled, maybe, in the middle. If everything is not strapped to my walls, it will go towards the middle of my floor.

    TOM: Wow.

    JESSICA: Yeah. So I didn’t know if you guys had any thoughts about a repair on that, if you think maybe it’s like a joist underneath there or …

    TOM: Yeah, does it sit on a basement or a crawlspace, Jessica?

    JESSICA: No, it’s dirt.

    TOM: It’s dirt. So you can’t really get under it?

    JESSICA: I have a crawlspace that I can get underneath it but it’s in the opposite side of my house.

    TOM: OK. So, can you get down there and physically examine the beams to see what’s going on?

    JESSICA: Yes. But it would take the size of a small child to get underneath there.

    TOM: OK.

    JESSICA: So, there lies another problem – is how to see what’s going on, where the best place would be to go in at to try to get that …

    TOM: Listen, I had to do a plumbing repair project on my own home, in a crawlspace that was about 6 inches taller than me flat on my back. So, I know how tough it is to work in spaces like that. You’ve got to kind of shimmy in to get there.

    But the thing is, I am concerned with this sagging, that somebody has a look at that – those beams – to make sure there’s nothing structural going on, like a termite infestation or something of that nature. If it’s just normal sagging, well, I mean there are some things that we can do from the top side to address that.

    One of which comes to mind is that you could use a floor-leveling compound on this old floor. To do so, you are really talking about the entire kitchen floor, including the cabinets. Because to do it just in the middle might not be enough. You really have to go wall to wall on this room. And because it’s a kitchen, it becomes very, very complicated to do that.

    But the first thing is to evaluate the structure to make sure that there’s nothing going on there. And then the second thing is to look for a solution above it. It’s generally not possible to raise up a floor that’s already sagged, especially in a really old house, because it took 120 years to get in that position and you’re just not going to bring it back up again. Sometimes you can reinforce it a little bit with some additional beaming and stiffen it up a bit. But generally, if you want to level it, you’ve got to do that from the top side and not from the underside in an old house, OK?

    JESSICA: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you guys’ time.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Mike in Iowa on the line who needs some help insulating a garage. Tell us about it.

    MIKE: Hi. I have a three-and-a-half or four – basically, a four-car garage underneath a house that’s a ranch. The trusses – the floor, it has trusses in it and it’s cold in there. And it gets cold here in Iowa and it stays 35, 45 degrees during the winter, even in the coldest day.

    And it has batting insulation in it but it’s still cold. And our bedroom is above it, so I was thinking about putting some insulation in it, either in the – blowing some – drilling the holes and blowing it in or just doing it around the outside, the outer walls. Or am I just wasting my time trying to do any better?

    TOM: Alright. So, the garage ceiling – the walls between the garage and the house – should already be insulated. So what you’re asking is: can you add additional insulation to the exterior garage walls? Is that correct? Because that would be, theoretically, the only part of this garage that was not insulated.

    MIKE: Correct. Well, the outer walls are concrete.

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    MIKE: So it’s basically the ceiling I’m after. Would it be – because the cold air goes up the rooms above the garage.

    TOM: So, do you have any – the way the ceiling is configured, it’s drywall right now?

    MIKE: Correct.

    TOM: So there may not be any additional room above that to add additional insulation. You mentioned blown-in. If that ceiling was built correctly, there’s already insulation there, so you may not be able to add more to that.

    This might be a situation where you need to improve the heat more than add to the ceiling insulation. Because short of building it downward so that you have more depth, I don’t see how you’re going to add additional insulation if it’s already insulated.

    MIKE: Well, there’s batting up there. I didn’t know if it would do any good to have them blow it in and pack it as tight as they can get it with that blown-in insulation.

    TOM: No, because insulation doesn’t work on being packed as tight as possible. Insulation works on the principle of trapped air. And so if you overpack the insulation, it becomes less effective, not more effective.

    MIKE: Right. Alright. Well, that tells me I would’ve wasted my money if I’d have – went and had somebody come out and blow it in.

    TOM: I know it might not be the answer you want but at least we didn’t have you spending money on something that wasn’t going to work, Mike. I hope that does help.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, if you’ve ever thought about adding solar power to your home to help reduce those electricity costs, you might not have thought about the fact that not all of those panels will deliver the same amount of electricity. We’re going to share some of the differences that you need to know, 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. We’re standing by to help you out at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Let’s get back to it. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joe in Michigan who’s dealing with a gutter issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    JOE: Hey, this roof, I need some help with. I bought the house about eight years ago. And it’s got a good roof on it but it appears that they tried to save some money and have somebody do it. And what the problem is is the shingles don’t come out far enough from the top of the roof to get into the gutters. And there’s a metal strip that goes along, right at the bottom edge of the roof.

    And from what I see, it almost looks as though it’s turned around backwards as though if it were put in properly, it would extend out further to help get the water towards the gutters or into the gutters?

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    JOE: So what – the mess I’ve got now is I’ve got all this water that’s hitting some spots in the gutter properly and others not. And I’ve tried to push the gutters and tap the gutters back up as far against the fascia as I can and I’m still getting water through there and it’s frustrating.

    TOM: Well, the metal strip is throwing me a little bit. Now, typically, at the edge of the fascia, you’d have something called a “drip edge,” which is sort of like a right-angle piece of trim that goes over the front of the fascia and up under the roof. And it’s at a 90-degree angle. Is that kind of what you’re seeing or not?

    JOE: I had them install some aluminum over the fascia board but I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about. It is a channel of sorts but it’s right on the top lip of the roof, if I’m explaining this right. You know where they first start putting the shingles on and then they start moving up forward? It’s like right at that edge, there’s a – there’s metal.

    TOM: Are the shingles resting on top of the metal?

    JOE: Yes.

    TOM: Regardless, the solution here is the same. What you need to do is to extend those roof shingles into the gutter. So, because there’s not a magic potion that will do that, the way to fix this is to get a flat bar – and that’s a very thin pry bar. And you’re lifting up the edges of those shingles at the bottom of the roof edge. And you’re going to slip underneath some flashing. And the flashing that you would use is probably just aluminum-roll flashing, maybe 6-inch or 8-inch-wide flashing. And the easiest way to do this is in small pieces, because it becomes too hard to handle when you have a long piece.

    And you run the flashing up under the roof shingles and you make sure it extends past the roof shingles and lays into the top of the gutters. So, essentially, what you’re doing is creating a bridge to make up the distance between where the shingle ended and where it really should have ended, which is at the edge of the gutter. And this way, when the water comes down the roof, it will drop from the shingle to the flashing to the gutter. Does that make sense?

    JOE: Absolutely. And that sounds like something I can do, so I appreciate you and we’ll give that a shot.

    TOM: Yeah. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re thinking about adding a solar-energy system to your home to help reduce or possibly even eliminate your electricity bill, one of those decisions that you’re going to have to make is which solar panel is right for you.

    Now, there’s a lot of options out there, so we reached out to the experts at to learn how they differ.

    TOM: Well, first, panels are going to vary by the number of cells, which would be typically 60 or 72. Now, the difference really comes down to the dimensions, since panels that hold more cells are physically larger.

    LESLIE: Also, you want to consider cost per watt. Full-size panels typically deliver anywhere between 275 watts to 400 watts of output. But higher output doesn’t always mean a better deal.

    TOM: Next, you’re going to want to think about the reputation of the panel manufacturer. Now, that’s important because these panels are designed to last 25 years or more. And you’re going to want to be confident that the manufacturer is going to be there with you the entire time.

    LESLIE: Now, along those same lines, you want to consider the warranty. Most are 25 years but some can be 30 years. And one manufacturer even has a third-party company that backs the warranty the entire time so that in the unlikely event something happens to that first manufacturer, the third-party company would be there to handle those issues.

    TOM: Now, finally, you want to consider the panel efficiency, which basically tells you how good the panel is at converting sunlight into usable energy. This is particularly important if you have limited space for the panels on your roof. Higher-efficiency panels are more expensive but they deliver more power output per square foot of available space. And that’s helpful when roof space is an issue.

    LESLIE: Now, if you’d like to learn more about adding a solar-energy system to your home, you can visit They have a super-informative Solar Info section on the website – with videos, posts, even calculators – and they’ll walk you through the entire process. Plus, they really know their stuff and they’re happy to chat with you directly about your own project.

    TOM: Yep. And right now, if you tell them you heard about on The Money Pit, they will ship your solar system to you for free. That website, again, is

    LESLIE: Ooh, now we’ve got Catherine from Colorado on the line. Not something we like to deal with: pest control. What is going on with the mice and the rats?

    CATHERINE: Well, the downstairs in the house is not finished. So, somehow, they’re getting in downstairs and I see little droppings, different days. So what I’ve been using so far is the – those green pellets of poison? But I’ve heard from a friend that there is a new product out there: the Ultrasonic Plug-In. So I wanted to get information about that, if you would know.

    TOM: Yeah, I would skip that. I think that’s kind of junk science. So, I would skip any of those ultrasonic plug-in things.

    What you want to do is a couple of things. First of all, you want to eliminate nesting areas. So around the area of your house, if you have firewood, trash cans, debris of any sort that’s anywhere near the foundation, those are nesting areas for rodents. You eliminate those. Secondly, you plug up any openings in the outside walls of that house. Now, mice need something the size of about a quarter or even less to get in, so any openings should be plugged.

    Inside the house, you want to make sure that there’s no food for them. So, a lot of times, people will make mistakes by providing food when they don’t realize they’re doing it. For example, I had a friend who used to keep her pet food in the garage and it was a big sack, 50-pound, whatever it was, bag of pet food. Never really even noticed that the mice had dug themselves a nice, little front door for this that wasn’t obvious. And they were just getting a big meal every single day from the pet food. So, look for things like that where food is being left out for them. Moisture is also very attractive to rodents, so water that collects at the foundation perimeter can bring them in.

    And inside the house, I think you’re doing the right thing using the baits and the poisons, because that’s – they’re very effective with most of the baits today: for example, the d-CON. One hit of that, so to speak, it takes them out. It’s just one and done.

    So, I think all those things together is what’s going to control and reduce the rodent population around this house.

    OK, Catherine?

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

    Well, for the past several years people, both in new and in older homes, have been taking on remodeling projects to create a more open floor plan. But is that open floor plan right for you? We’re going to share the details, 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: Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    Hey, are you thinking about new flooring or maybe picking up a new kitchen, a new bathroom? Are those projects in the plan for the year ahead? HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free. Check them out at

    LESLIE: Ben in Illinois is on the line and is having some issues with a water heater. Tell us what’s going on.

    BEN: Over a period of time, my hot-water stream would keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller. And finally, it got to the point where I’d turn the hot water on, it would just barely trickle. I disconnected the discharge pipe on the discharge side of the hot-water heater and found that the lime had built up so bad in the pipe, coming out of the top of the hot-water heater, that there was just a very tiny hole there.

    TOM: Right.

    BEN: At that point in time, I didn’t know what else to do. I just took a very large screwdriver and tapped that limestone out of there. Of course, that fell to the bottom of the hot-water heater. It’s been fine for about four-and-a-half years. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to do it again.

    And I’ve talked to retired plumbers in that and they told me that what’s causing that is a reaction between the copper pipe and the metal that is on top of the hot-water heater. And I was told that there was like a nipple that you screw on top of the hot-water heater and then connect your copper pipe.

    My question is: what type of metal is that that goes between the copper pipe and the metal coupling on top of the hot-water heater?

    TOM: Yeah, Ben, all you want to do is head to a plumbing supply house and ask for plastic-lined nipples. That actually is going to create the sort of the bi-metal protection or insulation between those two pipes. And that will stop that corrosive effect that you’re seeing and of course, they’ll stop the pipe from clogging as a result of that.

    BEN: Alright. Well, I sure thank you for your time and your advice.

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

    LESLIE: Would you love to have an open floor plan? Now, most people say yes. Most open floor plans consist of one large space or a great room and that combines the kitchen, the dining and the living areas, which altogether provide a very refreshing, open feel.

    TOM: Now, another benefit of an open floor plan is that it maximizes space, both visually and literally. You’re not likely to wind up with an unused formal dining room, for example, or a living room that’s only used when company’s coming. You know, that wide-open line of sight also provides a sort of sense of continuity. And that allows the furnishings and the style in your home to really shine.

    LESLIE: Now, realtors are seeing that most first- or second-time home buyers want that open-concept living. And even those who are living in more traditional, closed-up plan homes, they’re looking for ways to remove walls and open things up, especially in smaller ranch- or Cape-style homes, which tend to have smaller rooms.

    TOM: So, all in all, if an open floor plan is a look you enjoy, it’s a remodeling project that results in a desirable design that will no doubt add some value and interest in your home when it comes time to sell.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re talking to Georgia in Texas who’s got a question about tile flooring. How can we help you with your project?

    GEORGIA: Yes. I live in a house that my grandparents originally built back in 1950. The flooring in the kitchen is what I refer to as the old linoleum. A rubber-topped linoleum is what I thought. But it is crumbling and someone at a tile place told me it is probably asbestos, because of the age of it. So, I have been told, yes, I can it rip it up and it’s OK or no, don’t mess with it and put something over it, like cement board, and then retile.

    TOM: So, this tile floor is located where?

    GEORGIA: In the kitchen.

    TOM: And how old is the tile floor?

    GEORGIA: It was put in in 1950.

    TOM: Well, if you want to determine whether there’s asbestos in it, you’d have to take a piece of tile and have it tested.


    TOM: But if it’s the original floor and you want to put a different floor over it, there’s really no reason not to. Laminate floor, for example, would be a good choice for a kitchen. And there’s no reason you can’t lay that right over the existing tile.

    GEORGIA: Well, no, it is literally cracking and crumbling. I trip over it every day and another new piece goes flying across the floor.

    TOM: Again, what I would do is I would probably not – tell you not to tear it up. It’s most likely simply vinyl tile. But if you want to be safe, just leave it in place and go ahead and floor right over it.

    GEORGIA: OK. Well, I wasn’t sure, you know? The flooring underneath it – the wood underneath it – is still good. So, yeah, I just wasn’t sure which way to go or how to go about it, if I should go to the expense to put down the cement boarding and then put the – on top of the floor, screw it down and then put tile over on that.

    TOM: Well, why are you going to put the cement floor down? Are you going to put ceramic tile down?

    GEORGIA: It’d be nice. I grew up calling it “Mexican tile” or tile that’s made in Mexico.

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    GEORGIA: And it’s heavy and you’ve got to putty it and you’ve got to work with it and stuff.

    TOM: Well, certainly, if you’re going to do it that way, you could put the board underneath the tile, right on top of the floor. There’s no reason you couldn’t do that, as well, OK?

    GEORGIA: OK. Thanks.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come, wood stoves are a great way to cut those heating costs if you install them safely. We’re going to help a listener tackle that challenge, next.

    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. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online for free.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Check them out today.

    TOM: Well, if new furniture is in the plan for spring 2019, it can be somewhat overwhelming. Lots of decisions to be made there, like whether or not you might go with leather or fabric. You know, leather, it’s durable but it’s expensive. Fabric, beautiful, less expensive but is it going to stand up to the kids jumping on it every day? Leslie is someone that knows the answers to those questions. And she’s got the tips to help you sort it out, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    With your two boys, they definitely can stress-test your furniture, huh?

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. You have no idea. You have every idea; you’re just now a little bit removed from it, so you can actually have those nice things. Whereas I tried to, again, have nice things and it was a poor choice at this current stage in child development.

    But truly, guys, fabric is such a personal choice. I mean there’s so many options out there and so many things to consider when you’re selecting a fabric that aesthetics should be kind of the last thing you’re considering, especially if you’ve got a young family. So, think about it: you want to consider durability, you want to consider looks. But first, when you’re thinking about durability, you want to know what’s going to last, what’s easy to clean.

    Now, leather is a great choice for that because it is very, very durable. But you have to consider the type, the price on it, what kind of furniture you’re using it on and weigh those things into how you’re selecting that leather.

    A lot of those leather types are going to be easy to clean. A damp cloth usually is all that you’re going to need to wipe that sofa or that chair or that cushion, whatever it might be down. Super durable and it can outlive a fabric by many years if you take care of it properly. That leather is going to give you a clean, sophisticated and sometimes modern look. It can also be very classic and very traditional. It just depends on the frame and the type of upholstery.

    Now, leather, however, can be easily scratched. And some people find that leather is super cold to the touch. Or when it’s humid or warm out, your skin might stick to it. Those are some things that bother me about leather but I actually really like the look of it, so I find that it’s tolerable.

    You’re also going to see that with leather, not a ton of colors out there as you would see with a fabric. True, lots of colors, lots of different degrees of agedness on a leather. So, truly, you can personalize a leather look.

    Now, when it comes to fabric, you’re looking at patterns, you’re looking at colors, you’re looking at textures. So much to consider when it comes to a fabric but you have to think about what you’re upholstering and who is sitting on it.

    Now, I’ve got two kids and a dog, so I can’t have any fabric that has sort of a loop or a texture or some kind of raised threading to it, because it’s very easy to snag and get pulled. So I look for something more of smooth, very light texture, maybe a microfiber or something that’s easily washable, cleanable. Sometimes, I even look at commercial fabrics and sometimes Sunbrella or outdoor fabrics that are easier to clean, just because I know the degree of wear and tear. Also, consider fabric slip covers. They can be more tailored, more loose. You can really create a customized look. Plus, a lot of them are washable.

    On the downside, fabrics can get stained pretty easily. Some of them aren’t as durable. You might tire of a pattern if it’s something on trend. Lots to consider. Lots of pros, lots of cons. Choose what’s best for you and you’ll really make a good fit.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, does your house have annoying squeaks and bangs and buds, even in the middle of the night when no one is awake? Well, we can promise you that your home is not haunted. All houses are going to make some noises. The trick, though, is figuring out where the sounds are coming from. We’ll share those tips, 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.


    (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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