Porches Become Popular Again

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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: Pick up the phone, give us a call because we’re here to help you take on your next home improvement project. And given the fact that it’s spring – hooray! – that project might be outside. Maybe you’re thinking about doing a deck, doing a patio, doing some landscaping, maybe building a fancy pergola, maybe updating your driveway. Or maybe it’s inside, you know; you want to refresh that space. Lots of kitchens happen this time of year, lots of bathroom projects, lots of flooring projects.

    Whatever is on your to-do list, we’d love to help you get it done, get you over a hump. If there’s a question or a problem that you’re thinking about or you’ve run into or just give you some advice as to whether you can do it yourself or you should hire a pro, all great things to talk about. Help yourself first, though, by picking up the phone and calling us. We’re here for you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And coming up on today’s show, do you remember the days when everyone used to sit outside, Leslie, and chat with neighbors and enjoy a nice, cold lemonade maybe on a rocker or a porch swing?

    LESLIE: Or the stoop. Come on.

    TOM: Yeah. Or a stoop.

    LESLIE: We’re not opposed to stoop hangs.

    TOM: That’s true. But you do need a porch or some structure to do that. The good news is that those porches are now making a really big comeback. For a long time, we were barely constructing anything to help us get into the house and now, full-size porches are back. We’re going to talk about that trend, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Oh, gosh. And they make a house look so pretty. And when you have one, you will be on your porch all the time.

    Also ahead this hour, did you know that just 5 feet below the surface of your home, the temperature of the Earth is warm enough to provide you with heating in the winter? Well, we’re going to highlight this cutting-edge geothermal technology that can harness the Earth’s warm temperatures to safely and reliably heat your home, without relying on those messy fuels like oil or propane.

    TOM: Plus, if your family is like most, you probably are using the garage as much as your front door to get in and out of your house and keep the home secure. But if your door is old and worn, it might not only be unsafe, it could also be providing some easy access for intruders when you’re away.

    Now, replacing the door, that’s not do-it-yourself project; it’s best done by a pro. So we’re going to tell you what you need to know, in today’s Pro Project, just ahead.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. Give us a call now with your décor or remodeling project, repair or fix-up question, right here to 888-MONEY-PIT. You’re going to get the answer to whatever it is you are working on, plus we’re giving away a great product from GE Lighting. It’s the C by GE Smart Switch, which can make any bulb in your house that you’ve already got smart.

    TOM: You’re also going to get a two-pack of the vintage-style LED bulbs. And together, this prize package is worth 65 bucks. Would you like it? Well, you’ve got to work for it by picking up the phone and calling us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: Kyle in Iowa needs some help installing some trim. Tell us what you’re working on.

    KYLE: We just put in some new Willamette wood floors a couple weeks ago and we decided to rip out all the old – the construction trim that comes with the newer homes and …

    TOM: Baseboard molding?

    KYLE: Yeah, the baseboard molding. And we’ve decided to upgrade to – I think it’s about a 5¼-inch tall, almost ½-inch-thick baseboard, to kind of upgrade the look around the house.

    And I’m just having a hard time. I’m using my buddy’s miter saw and it’s not tall enough to do a vertical cut for my outside corners. And every time I lay it horizontally and try to tilt the miter saw to cut it, there’s no real clamping mechanism on it to hold the boards in place. And every time I push the miter saw into it, it moves it just slight enough to where my angles for when I try to do a scarfing or an outside corner – it just kind of pushes my angles off on it just a little bit and it’s making the process harder.

    TOM: Well, let me ask you this: when you’re making your baseboard cuts for an inside corner, are you mitering it?

    KYLE: For the inside corner, I’m doing a cope.

    TOM: Oh, good. OK. That’s what I was concerned about.

    KYLE: And the coping turns out to be easier than the outside corners for me, so …

    TOM: Now, actually, when you do the outside corner, the only part of the miter that’s got to be perfect is the top edge of that board. As long as you have a straight line, if you end up taking up a little bit too much wood on the inside of that cut, nobody is ever going to see that. In fact, many times, when I’m doing that type of a corner, I’ll sometimes cope out the back of the miter cut, take a little bit extra meat out of that so that it kind of gets out of the way and I can pull it together really nicely, tightly at the corner. As long as I have a crisp line that pulls together on the corner, then I’m happy with that.

    I understand you’ve got challenges with your tools. I’m not going to be able to give you a solution, because you don’t have the right tools. What you really need is a compound miter saw that’s sort of half miter saw, half radial-arm saw. And that will give you the exact capabilities that you’re looking for. But to do this by hand with a regular hand-miter box is just going to be a challenge.

    KYLE: So, it’d be easier maybe to try to find someone to borrow a compound one from?

    TOM: I think so. Yep. Yeah, you’ll be very happy. Because it sounds like you’ve got the skills. If you know how to cope a joint, then you’ve got the skills.

    And for those that have no idea what we’re talking about, when you put up baseboard molding or any kind of molding or even crown molding in a house, you don’t cut a 45-degree angle much like you would for a picture frame. You actually put one piece in whole and square it to the wall and the other piece, you cut that 45 as if it was going to be a miter but you take a coping saw and cut out the back of all of that wood, except for that crisp line that’s on the front of the angle of the miter. When you push that together, you get what appears to be a perfect, mitered cut but it’s actually not; it’s actually a butt joint but it looks like a miter.

    And it’s the best way to work with trim because it allows you to work with a house that’s not quite straight, because none of them are. And the other trick is I like to cut those boards just a little bit longer than what you need, because then it puts additional pressure on the joint and brings it together nice and tightly.

    So I think you’re on the right road. You just need to get some better tools to help you get there, OK?

    KYLE: OK. Thank you, guys.

    TOM: Good luck, Kyle.

    LESLIE: Gwen in Wyoming, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    GWEN: Well, we’re working on a kitchen remodel and I’m looking at sinks. Right now, we have a stainless-steel sink that has three compartments in it. And it just doesn’t seem to hold the water hot for very long. And I was wondering, are different things more insulated or how could we insulate a sink?

    TOM: Well, sinks are generally not insulated.

    GWEN: Right.

    TOM: What should be insulated is the wall behind the sink. And if the wall behind the sink is not insulated, then the cabinet gets that much colder and then, of course, the water doesn’t stay warm in the sink very long. It’s an interesting question, though, Gwen, and I’m thinking about how could you possibly insulate a sink.

    I mean one idea comes to mind is to spray the whole thing with expandable foam insulation, because it would be under the cabinet. And once you got it done – it would be kind of a messy job but once it was done, you’d be finished. Except that you would want to make sure you keep it away from all the plumbing connections because, eventually, you’re going to want to replace the faucet and you don’t want to have to cut through all that mess, you know. Or you could just wrap it with some other type of insulation: one that’s perhaps encapsulated, like a batt insulation.

    But I’ve never actually had anyone ask me how to try to keep a sink warmer but I see why it’s important to you. Because it would make sense, as you’re doing the dishes, to try to keep that water as warm as possible. But I would first want you to concentrate in making sure the wall underneath there is properly insulated.

    GWEN: That makes sense. So when we pull it all out and – we’ll double-check to make sure that wall has good insulation.

    TOM: Yeah, that might be part of your problem. And if you get it warmed up – insulated and warmed up ­– you may not have to deal with trying to insulate a sink.

    GWEN: OK. Well, great. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Money Pit is presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others have paid for a similar project, all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.

    TOM: Still ahead, are you longing for the days of a past era when we all sat outside and chatted with friends and neighbors and enjoyed a nice, cool drink in a rocker on a porch? Well, you might get another chance because porches are making a big comeback. We’ll have those details, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call in your question, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated local home improvement pros for any home project. Just go to HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: And hey, if you do reach out today to MoneyPit.com, you’ve got a chance to win today’s featured product. We’ve got, up for grabs this hour, the C by GE Smart Switch. Now, it’s worth 50 bucks, along with a two-pack of vintage-style LED bulbs worth $16.

    Now, the C by GE Smart Switches from GE Lighting can make any bulb that you’ve already got in your house smart. And I’m talking about any type of bulb: LED, CFL, halogen, incandescent. And you don’t need a hub, you don’t need any additional hardware or wiring. It’s simply the switch that’s going to let you turn that bulb on and off or dim just with the sound of your voice, an app, movement, touch, whatever. That bulb is going to function for you.

    And if you already have the C by GE Smart Bulbs, here’s the coolest part: you can actually operate that switch – well, that bulb – even if the switch is off, right from the app.

    TOM: The C by GE Smart Switch, including a two-pack of those vintage-style LED bulbs – which I love, by the way; they’re just gorgeous – they’re going out to one listener drawn at random. The package is worth about 65 bucks. So if you’d like to win it, pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your décor or home improvement or remodeling question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Carl in Arkansas is on the line with a thermostat question. How can we help you?

    CARL: I bought an older house and it’s – the thermostat that’s in it now for the heating and air conditioner is an old mercury switch. And what I bought is a Honeywell 5-2 switch, a programmer for 5 weekdays and then 2 weekend days. And what I’m wanting to know is, can I – is that something I can change out myself or is that something I need to hire an electrician to come do? The package says easy to install but I’ve looked it over and it doesn’t look like it’s that easy to me.

    TOM: Well, look, if you’re uncomfortable with it, I would not hire an electrician. Kind of heat do you have? Is it gas? Oil? What is it?

    CARL: It’s electric.

    TOM: Oh, it’s electric heat. What kind of furnace do you have?

    CARL: Trane.

    TOM: Is this a heat pump?

    CARL: No, no, no. It’s not a heat pump. That’s one thing I didn’t want was a heat pump.

    TOM: It’s a straight electric furnace?

    CARL: Right. Straight electric furnace and it has an outside unit, which is also a Trane.

    TOM: Uh-oh. Wait a minute. Listen to me. If you’re telling me you have an outside condensing unit that works with this, you’ve got a heat pump. You’ve got the compressor outside and then the furnace inside.

    Now, a heat pump is a combination heat pump/electric furnace. That’s the way they’re designed to work. And the reason that that’s important is because the thermostat that you chose – and I don’t know that this is the case or not but it has to be rated for a heat pump.

    Because the way heat pumps work is when you set your heat – let’s say you set your heat at 68 degrees. It starts getting cold outside, right? Then inside the house, it falls to 67, the heat pump comes on. Still cold, falls to 66, heat pump stays on. Still cold, falls to 65, now it’s at more than 2-degrees split between what it was set at and what it is. The heat pump says, “I can’t keep up with this. I’m going to bring on my friend, the electric furnace.” So now the electric-furnace coils kick on and then bring the house up to temperature.

    But by you not having the right thermostat, what can happen is you can run more of the electric furnace and less of the heat pump, which will significantly increase your electric bill. So, the thermostat you choose has got to be designed for a heat pump.

    So I would say your first thing to do is to confirm – I don’t know if you have an HVAC contractor that you work with but get that system serviced. All these compressors have to be serviced once a year. If you haven’t done it, get it serviced, get the refrigerant checked out. While that guy is in the house, have him install a heat pump-rated thermostat. Because you’re obviously uncomfortable with it and we don’t want you to have all those wires apart and just have a problem where you’ve got no heat or no air.

    So I wouldn’t do it myself, because you’re uncomfortable with it. And when in doubt, don’t do it. But make sure you use the right thermostat. Otherwise, you may drive up those costs unexpectedly. OK?

    CARL: OK. Well, I appreciate it.

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

    You know, even if you can do it yourself, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do it yourself. And just like Carl said, if he read the instructions and it still seems confusing to him, then don’t do it. If you’re not comfortable with it – and especially if it’s something like your furnace where if you hook up the wires wrong – you’re probably not going to break it but you’re not going to have heat and that could be very unpleasant.

    Well, Leslie, do you remember – you grew up in Garden City and I grew up in a seashore town in New Jersey. You remember that all the houses had beautiful porches? People sat outside, they enjoyed a cool drink, they talked with their friends and their neighbors. And that seems to have gone bye-bye in the last couple of decades, in terms of architectural style. But the good news is that those porches are coming back and they’re getting more popular now than ever before.

    LESLIE: Yeah. They really are making a huge comeback, especially in new construction. And if they only make you think of the old days, think again. New porches, guys, are being equipped with radiant heating panels in the floor, glare-proof mesh instead of traditional screens and so many other features that not only make them comfortable in the spring and summer but fantastic for year-round use.

    TOM: Yeah. And if you’re not building a new home anytime soon and you want to get in on the trend, you could think about screening-in an existing deck. That’s a great way to get that much needed extra space or to just extend your day-to-day living outdoors. And once you do, you could think about a variety of weatherproof features that allow for televisions and couches and other sort of unexpected touches on that same porch.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, guys? Extra seating is probably a good call, because porches are fantastic for introducing you to neighbors that you might not have met otherwise. But before you invite anyone up, make sure that that porch is structurally sound, weatherproofed and ready for its revival.

    TOM: We’ve got more tips on repairing everything, from porch doors to floors and railings, at MoneyPit.com. Just log on and search “porch repair.”

    LESLIE: Nadine in Iowa has an interesting question. Your countertop has gotten noisy? Tell us what’s going on.

    NADINE: Yes, it does. We had it installed, I would say, between three and five years ago. And right after we had this Corian counter installed, we started getting very sharp, loud bangs occasionally. And I mean like somebody-just-shot-up-the-house bangs. And it has been going on since we had it installed, to varying degrees. Louder sometimes than others.

    But they’ve been out to check and can’t figure it out and I don’t – the only unusual thing that happened when they put it in was that one corner didn’t want to go down, so the guy had to put his full weight on it to push it down and finally make it go down. And my feeling is – or something must be bound in there that every once in a while builds up enough energy to really snap.

    TOM: Well, that’s certainly an unusual situation, because countertops aren’t known for their noise.


    TOM: We get squeaky-floor questions, we get banging-pipe questions.

    I don’t think we’ve ever gotten any loud-countertop questions, huh, Leslie?

    NADINE: Well, I doubt that it’s the countertop. My feeling is something might be bound in there, having been caused by having the countertop put on.

    TOM: Well, you might be correct and what could be happening is that you could have expansion and contraction going on, either with the walls or even with the plumbing. Especially with the water being right there, when a pipe heats up it tends to expand. And if it’s attached to the framing very, very tightly, it will rub across that framing and it can make a creaking sound or a banging sound.


    TOM: And I’ve heard that before in bathrooms and also in kitchens.


    TOM: The other thought is that if the countertop is bound, as you say, against part of the frame of the house and you’re getting expansion and contraction, that could be the source of the sound. Although, I tend to think that, even though it’s annoying, it probably isn’t really very damaging if it’s one of the other of those things.

    NADINE: No, I don’t think it is damaging at all. It’s just that when you have guests and their eyes get wide and they start to go for the floor, you think maybe – I mean it is quite loud when it does it. So you think it could possibly be plumbing?

    TOM: It could very well be, because plumbing really carries the sound. And especially if you’re running a dishwasher and the hot water comes on, that could cause a noise.

    NADINE: However, we’ve kind of checked that out – what’s on, what’s running and all of that – and that doesn’t seem to come into play. What would your suggestion be as to sleuthing this problem out?

    TOM: Well, I guess I would have to be sitting there staring at it, thinking about it for a long time. But reinstalling the countertop would probably be the best solution, although it’s a boatload of work and you can potentially damage the countertop in the process. If they had to really squeeze it in, I suspect that something is a little bit too tight in its intention and it’s really not designed to be pulled out.

    NADINE: Yeah. Alright. Thanks so much.

    LESLIE: Up next, did you know that just 5 feet below the surface of your home, the temperature of the Earth is warm enough to provide you with heating in the winter? We’re going to highlight a cutting-edge geothermal technology that can harness the Earth’s warm temperature to safely and reliably heat your home, without relying on messy fuels like oil or propane.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, in many parts of the country, we’ve just wrapped up another heating season. And for those, especially, in the Northeast, that means you’re left with a dirty, smelly, oil-fired or propane heating system that needs another cleaning.

    TOM: Well, if you’re ready for a more affordable, cleaner and more reliable solution, geothermal may be just the solution. Dandelion Energy is making home geothermal installations affordable. And with us to talk about that technology and how it can work for you is Kathy Hannun, Dandelion’s CEO.

    Welcome, Kathy.

    KATHY: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, hey, I see you’ve got a pretty strong history in helping find ways to make our world a bit greener. I was interested to see that you led a team that created technology to extract carbon dioxide from seawater, to create carbon-neutral fuel. That is a very cool history.

    KATHY: Thank you. It’s a very fun project to work on.

    TOM: And now, you’re helping to do that with heating systems. You guys are launching a geothermal system, by Dandelion Energy, that is very, very efficient. For those that are not familiar with how geothermal systems work and how they may be different from a fossil-fueled system, can you give us kind of an overview?

    KATHY: So, geothermal systems make use of the fact that there’s a lot of low-temperature thermal energy that’s just constantly right beneath the Earth’s surface.

    TOM: OK.

    KATHY: And this technology lets you tap into that energy. So, in the winter, you can actually pump heat from the Earth into your house, to warm it to whatever temperature you want. And then, in the summer, it works in reverse so you can actually pump heat from your house, into the Earth, cooling your house.

    LESLIE: Now, Kathy, I just got back on a trip from Iceland. And there, everything is geothermal heat. And there is so much heat and hot water and it’s wonderful because there’s an endless supply. But here, in the continental United States, that’s not the case. So, how is it sort of different, in what we’re reaching for underground, to provide this heat source, I guess?

    TOM: Yeah, we’re not talking about molten, volcanic heat here in the States. But I guess it is a constant source of energy that’s warmer than the atmosphere.

    KATHY: It is. And it’s a great distinction, because I think a lot of people think of volcanoes when they hear the word “geothermal.” And it might be reassuring for people to know that no, we’re not going down to the molten core of the Earth to provide heating for your home. It’s actually a different type of geothermal energy. So, whereas electric geothermal requires really, really hot temperatures under – deep underground, this type of geothermal heating and cooling, it’s much lower temperature, much shallower. And you’re just harnessing that heat directly for heating and cooling in the house, so you’re not making electricity with it.

    TOM: We’re talking to Kathy Hannun – she’s the chief executive officer for Dandelion Energy – about the geothermal opportunities that lie just beneath the surface of our Earth to heat and cool our homes.

    And Kathy, I want to ask you about your company. You actually were spun out of Google’s X lab. Now, Google’s X lab is an organization that is responsible for a lot of innovation. How did that happen?

    KATHY: Really, the insight that started Dandelion was – you know, we go through a lot, as a society, to heat our homes today. If you think about how we’re drilling for oil somewhere in the world, that oil has to be refined, then it has to be shipped, then it has to be delivered in a truck to an oil tank in a homeowner’s basement. And then that homeowner uses the furnace to burn that oil for heat, when every home is already sitting on top of an essentially infinite reservoir of renewable thermal energy that they could just tap into using geothermal.

    And the reason that hasn’t happened in the past is because geothermal has been a luxury product. So it’s very popular among the ultra-wealthy but it just hasn’t been affordable to the typical homeowner. And so, Google X really focuses on how do we use technology to create products that could really change society in a positive way. And being able to give every homeowner the opportunity to save money and use a renewable resource that they already own in their yard – instead of paying for sort of dirty, smelly oil every year – seemed like one of those opportunities. And so we really have invested in creating the technology to make these systems much easier to install and much more affordable.

    LESLIE: And this truly is for every part of every place in this United States? I mean is there any criteria as to where your house is located, what type of ground you’re on, the ability to go to a certain depth? How do you know if this even works for your house?

    KATHY: Almost every home in the United States can do geothermal. But the homes that it makes the most sense for are ones that are in places that get very cold in the winter and also have a relatively warm summer. So that’s why Dandelion has started in the Northeast, because that’s certainly the case here.

    And on top of that, a lot of homeowners – millions in the Northeast – are purchasing really expensive heating fuels. The more money you spend on heating today, the more you have to – you could save if you switched to geothermal. So, the financial consideration is just really, really great in the Northeast. But it’s also very strong in the Midwest and other parts of the country that have cold winters and warm summers.

    TOM: Let’s talk about that finance end of it. What’s the typical return on investment? How much more efficient is geothermal compared to these fossil-fueled systems, like propane and oil? And how long would you expect the reinvestment to take? What is that return? Is it something that happens within a decade?

    KATHY: Yeah, it is. So I’ll just give you a quick example of one of our customers here in New York named Tiffany. She was using fuel oil before she switched to geothermal. And she was spending about $3,000 a year on fuel oil. Now, keep in mind that oil prices are not at their peak right now.

    TOM: Right.

    KATHY: So you could imagine that – who knows what will happen with the price of oil over the next decade? But it could go way up from that, it could potentially go down from that. But history suggests that probably it might go – there will be some years that she’s spending much more than 3,000.

    Anyway, today she’s spending about $3,000. Once she gets geothermal installed, she’ll be spending about $700 total on electricity to run that system. She’s coming out ahead about $2,300 a year. And in her case, she knew that she had to replace her furnace anyway within the next five years. It was getting towards the end of its life. And now, she’ll have this brand-new geothermal system that does heating and air conditioning. She won’t have to spend $15,000 on a new furnace and installation. We charge about 18,000 after tax credit for the system, so her payback is very strong.

    TOM: Kathy Hunnan is the CEO of Dandelion Energy.

    Kathy, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    If you’d like to learn more about geothermal and see if your home qualifies, head on over to their website at DandelionEnergy.com/MoneyPit. That’s DandelionEnergy.com/MoneyPit.

    Thanks again, Kathy.

    KATHY: Thank you for having me.

    LESLIE: Well, if your family is like most, you depend on the garage as the real front door to your house for reliable access, as well as protection. But if your door is old and worn, not only is it unsafe, it could be providing an easy entry for intruders when you’re away.

    TOM: We’ve got tips on what to look for in a new garage door when you hire a pro to get that job done, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com, after this.

    Making good homes better, 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 spring how-to question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 presented by HomeAdvisor. You can get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: And hey, if you do reach out, you’re going to get a chance to win today’s featured product, which is the C by GE Smart Switch worth 49.99, along with a two-pack of vintage-style LED bulbs worth 15.98. It’s a fantastic product that makes every single bulb in your home smart without any need for an additional hub or hardware. So give us a call now for your chance to win.

    TOM: Going out to one caller drawn at random. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Don in Missouri is on the line with a porch question. What can we do for you today?

    DON: I have a four-post that has an exposed top.

    TOM: OK.

    DON: And the stair railing is fastened to it.

    TOM: OK.

    DON: It’s got a beveled top on it like that’s what they put on most of them. It’s treated lumber and there is a crack that goes from, I’m going to say, a quarter, maybe three-eighths. And I don’t know how deep it is but it’s very deep. And I want to seal the top of it or seal it so that water doesn’t get in there for use and expand the crack.

    TOM: Now, Don, let me ask you a question. Do you want to paint this porch railing? Or is it painted now or not?

    DON: No, we do not want to paint it.

    TOM: The reason I’m asking you these questions is because I’m going to tell you what to fill that crack with. But the problem is some of the materials that you use to fill the crack are not going to be the color of treated lumber; they’re going to stand out and maybe look worse than the crack looks right now. So I’m trying to figure out what – how you’d like this to look when you’re all done.

    DON: Well, just – the main thing is to keep water from running in there and freezing, expanding.

    TOM: Alright. So if you’re not so concerned about the look, then what I would do is I would use an epoxy patching compound. You want to use a wood epoxy patching compound. And the reason I say that is because that has the ability to really stand up to the weather and bind to that wood material. You’re going to apply it with a putty knife and you’re going to press it into that crack and then let it dry and sand over the surface to try to get the excess off. That’s the best material to use for that particular situation.

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

    Well, hey, if your family is like ours, you probably depend on the garage as your real front door. It gives you that reliable access, as well as protection and security. But if that door is old and worn, it might not only be unsafe, it could also be providing easy access for intruders when you’re away. We’re going to have some tips on what to look for in a new garage door when you hire a pro to get it done, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: First of all, the garage-door designs of today are amazing. You used to have to choose from heavy wood doors that needed a lot of upkeep, to metal doors that were just cold and prone to rust. Well, today there is a wide variety of composite and fiberglass doors that are available, that are going to look amazingly like wood but need virtually no care at all. Plus, the doors are better insulated and can keep those drafts out of your garage, which is especially nice if that’s a space that you like to work in.

    TOM: Yeah. But in addition to better doors, we also have much better door openers. The door openers that you can get today are fully integrated with smart-home technology. And that’s going to let you open and close them from your phone. And that’s pretty cool because that means you can do it from anywhere. If you’ve ever driven away from your house and wondered if you left your door open, these days you can just whip out your phone and check and there’s usually an alert that says, “Hey, you left the door open.” And you can go ahead and shut it or you can let in somebody that has to get into the house. Maybe the kids forgot the key.

    In my case, my neighbor is picking up some tool they want to borrow and I’m just hoping to get it back. I can let them into the garage even if I’m not there. So, definitely a great time to upgrade that door.

    The openers are also a lot safer than they were years ago, with improved auto-reverse mechanisms that can prevent injury. And they also – many have battery backups. And that could be really super handy, even in the event of a power failure.

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

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

    LESLIE: Up next, don’t pack away those winter clothes just yet. We’ve got advice on a DIY project that will help protect all of your off-season clothing when they’re not in use, when The Money Pit continues.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    TOM: You can also post your question to MoneyPit.com or to any of our social-media channels. Phil did just that. And Phil says, “Can I use hardwood planks in my basement? We have extended the gutters and added a French drain, which empties into two different sump pumps. So water is not a problem.”

    It’s funny he says that, Leslie.

    LESLIE: He already knows the answer.

    TOM: Because if he’s filling up two sump pumps – I’d say water is a problem, Phil, because you probably didn’t do the drainage right outside. You shouldn’t be getting water in those sump pumps if the gutters are all clean and extended.

    But to your original question, even if you had a perfectly dry basement, which this isn’t, I would never use hardwood – because the humidity down there is so high that hardwood is going to swell, it’s going to buckle and it’s going to be completely ruined – especially now, though, because you have so many other amazing choices of flooring that look identical to hardwood, including real hardwood in the form of engineered hardwood. Which is – if you can think of like – think of a plywood-style board. And only I say plywood not because it’s a big sheet, because it’s a regular hardwood board but it’s made of layers, right? And it’s cross-laminated, so that becomes dimensionally stable.

    And what else, Leslie? Vinyl, laminate, engineered vinyl plank. These all look like real hardwood these days.

    LESLIE: I mean there’s really so many options. I personally – I know it’s not the warmest of options but I love a ceramic tile that looks like a wood plank, also, which is a great option for a below-grade space.

    There’s so many things that you can do. And don’t forget, even with a laminate or a vinyl that looks like hardwood, add an area rug and somehow it becomes even more convincing. And that is a perfect amount of carpeting that you can add to a below-grade space – is an area rug.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: So, there’s so many things that you can do, Phil, that will make that space feel homey and warm and finished and give you that feeling without actual hardwood.

    TOM: Well, digging out your shorts and your swimsuits and your light jackets from storage is a great way to start your spring. But it can turn into kind of a big disappointment if you find they’ve been ravaged by insects or moths. Leslie has got a timeless solution that you can build yourself to deal with that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, for centuries, cedar has been used to keep bugs or moths from turning your wardrobe into their seasonal buffet. Now, cedar is not only going to repel those pests but it can also resist mildew, which means that turning a standard closet into a cedar closet will keep your belongings safe for years to come.

    Now, you can add as much or as little cedar as you want to the walls of an existing space. But it’s really most effective if you line that space in full, including the ceiling, the floor, the back of the door, the whole jamb.

    So, to start, you want to make sure you go with Eastern red cedar. It’s the type that gives off a scent that keeps the moths away. You can either nail the tongue-and-groove cedar to the studs, attach it using construction adhesive or do a combination of both.

    Now, you want to use a stud finder to find and mark the studs in the space and begin at the back wall. If the baseboard or the floor in the space is sloped, you’re going to need to scribe that first cedar board to that slope so that boards stay on top of it will stay level. Then go ahead and nail through the tongue of the wood at each stud location. Make sure you angle those fasteners about 45 degrees down to keep them from getting in the way of the next board. And don’t forget to check that the boards remain level as you go. And once you’ve got that back wall covered, you can install the cedar on the side walls, allowing the back edge of the boards to cover the cut ends at the corners.

    Now, you do have to sand that cedar lightly once a year or so. That’s just to rejuvenate and bring back that natural aroma. And don’t forget, it’s the aroma of the cedar that keeps all of those pests away. So that is something you do have to do, so add that to your seasonal routine as you’re swapping out all those clothes. Trust me, you will not be grabbing cashmere sweaters in the fall/winter again with holes in them. That is the worst.

    Invest in your clothes, invest in your storage and make sure you keep those bugs away.

    TOM: Great advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show and Podcast. Hey, if your bathroom could use a pick-me-up, one of the reasons is probably dirty grout. It can really bring that entire space down. Coming up on the next edition of the program, we will tell you how to restore it to sparkling-clean condition.

    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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