Silencing Noisy Houses

More in:
  • house noises
  • 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 we are here for one reason and one reason only and that’s to help you with your home improvement and décor projects. But you need to help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, does your house have annoying squeaks and bangs and thuds? No, we’re not talking about the noises that kids make; we can’t help you out with that.

    LESLIE: That’s right.

    TOM: But your home is not haunted, because all houses make noises. The trick is just figuring out where those sounds are coming from. So we’re going to share some tips to do just that, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, a kitchen makeover can cost a bundle. You know, appliances, counters, flooring, it all adds up and it can add up to quite a bit. But the biggest single expense is likely your cabinets, especially if you go with custom creations. We’re going to have some tips to help you save a chunk of change by refacing or refinishing the cabinets instead.

    TOM: And if you’ve been thinking about adding smart-home technology to your home, we’ve got a great way for you to do just that, because we’re giving away the Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart-Lighting Dimmer Switch and Starter Kit worth 99.95. Going out to one caller drawn at random, so make that you. Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Beverly in Nebraska is on the line and is looking to do a flooring, I guess, tiling project. Tell us what’s going on.

    BEVERLY: Well, I have a brick fireplace that I would like to reface with ceramic tile.

    LESLIE: Oh, great. It’s a fireplace question.

    BEVERLY: Yes. I want to know if what – if I need to do any special steps to prep the brick. I’ve heard yes and I’ve heard no, so thought I might call somebody that might have a real answer.

    TOM: As long as the brick is not dirty or doesn’t have loose paint on it or anything of that nature, I don’t think there’s a lot of prep involved there. What’s going to be really important is that you get a good coat of adhesive underneath it. And you can use a tile mastic on top of that brick to attach the tile to.

    LESLIE: What size are the tiles that you’re looking at, Bev, to put over this?

    BEVERLY: Twelve by twelve, probably.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Tom, is there any concerns with the difference between the brick and the mortar line for unevenness? Or because the tile is so large, it’s going to …

    TOM: No, because you know what? Think about it. When you put tile down, you use a notched trowel, right? So you never have a complete, 100-percent contact of the tile with the substrate. So the fact that there’s recessed mortar on this brick fireplace is not of a concern to me. It’s just more of a concern that we get a good, solid coat of adhesive there and that they dry well, they’re nice and stable.

    And really, you want to make sure that you plan this out carefully, Bev. I mean frankly, it’s really small spaces to get that to fit right, to look right, to make sure the corners are done properly. If it’s sloppy, you’re going to be kicking yourself, because it’ll be obvious to anybody that looks at this that it wasn’t done by a pro. So just make sure it’s done really well so that it looks like it was almost intended to be that way the first time the fireplace and the hearth was envisioned, OK?

    BEVERLY: OK. One thing that I’d heard about, the brick mortar line sucks up the moisture out of the mastic quicker. Is that something I need to worry about or just …?

    TOM: Nah. Nope. Wouldn’t worry about it at all. That makes no sense to me. Look, people put concrete – put tile down on concrete and will tell you the same issue. Just plan it correctly, Bev, so that you have all the corners line up right, you have the right pieces, the right – the types of tile that you’re choosing are the ones that, for example, have closed corners where they wrap around the outside.

    And make sure it’s going to work. You may find that 12-inch is too wide for that; it might be easier if you use a smaller tile because you’d have a little more flexibility.

    BEVERLY: Like maybe a six or eight?

    TOM: Like a six, yeah, or an eight. Yep, exactly.

    Depending on the shape, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. It really depends on what look you’re going for. And with a ceramic tile, think about the finish on them. A glazed tile is going to clean better when you get dirt and debris from the smoke in the fireplace itself. But an unglazed one might have a more hearth-y, traditional look. So think about the overall look you’re trying to get.

    And you can also – a 12-by is kind of large. So if you’re looking to put a decorative tile, say, as cornerstones around your mantle or something, think about adding in little detail pieces and then you can size your tiles accordingly.

    TOM: So does that help you out?

    BEVERLY: Yeah. We’re just trying to make it look a little more modern.

    TOM: Yeah, I think that’s definitely a good idea. I think it will look more modern. I think it’ll be very attractive. Just take your time. Do it once, do it right and you won’t have to do it again.

    LESLIE: Steve in Kentucky is on the line with a roofing question. Tell us what’s going on.

    STEVE: Hi, Leslie. Well, I’ve got a little 1930s – early 30s – farmhouse that we’re restoring and trying to get a little environmental project going up there.

    TOM: OK.

    STEVE: And we have a couple of leaks. We’ve had a record rainfall down here in Louisville this last year and we noticed that when it’s a really hard rain out of the west, that along the seams of the old tin roof, we get – well, it’s like a wetness and then it turns into a drip in different locations.

    And I’m just wondering, what’s the proper way to seal something like that up where we don’t have to pull the whole roof to get it?

    TOM: Now, what kind of tin roof do you have? Is it a flat-seam metal roof or is it a standing-seam metal roof?

    STEVE: It’s a standing-seam metal roof.

    TOM: OK. And has it ever been covered with tar or anything like that to try to seal it up?

    STEVE: No, it’s still the original tin.

    TOM: OK. So …

    STEVE: It has a little paint on it.

    TOM: Right. That’s a good thing because, typically, the way you fix those is you solder them. And to do that, you have to strip the paint off, identify the sort of worn-out area. There’s probably a worn-out, cracked, rusted-out area and the repair would be to solder it. And that’s actually a good thing, Steve, because if you solder it, it’s sort of a lifetime repair.

    What happens with these – too many of these metal roofs, though – is that folks don’t want to take sort of the long approach to this repair and they will cover it with tar or caulk or something of that nature. And in doing so, eventually the water gets underneath that and then it seriously rusts it out pretty quickly.

    STEVE: Right.

    TOM: So the secret to success here is to try to find somebody who’s been around long enough that knows how to re-solder a metal roof. And that will fix it permanently.

    STEVE: OK. And I’m assuming that that’s probably some specialized tools then.

    TOM: Well, just the right-size torches and solder and all of that sort of thing, yeah. But the guys that do metal roofs have those tools.

    STEVE: Great. And is that – I guess maybe I ought to go up there with them. If I can get them to fix it, I’ll watch and learn a little bit.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, then, you’d be able to do it yourself next time, right?

    STEVE: Maybe so, maybe so. Well, I appreciate the advice and I’ll look along that path. And I just want to let you know that we really enjoy you all’s show down here in Louisville.

    TOM: Well, thank you so very much and good luck with that project. Remember, when you’re working with that heat up in that roof, too, that there’s a fire hazard associated with this repair, too. So just make sure that you’re super, super careful, OK, Steve? We don’t want you to call us back and ask us how to rebuild the building as the next call, OK?

    STEVE: Nope. I think I’ll put somebody with a fire extinguisher in the attic and we’ll do it on a little spring day.

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

    TOM: And 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s fast and easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to

    Up next, is there snow and ice in your future? Your snow-survival checklist is next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: We’d love to hear from you about what’s going on in your money pit. You’ve got a project that you’re planning for the winter that remains or the spring that is just ahead? Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-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.

    LESLIE: What are you working on this winter weekend? Maybe you’re inside and feeling like it’s a little too dark or maybe a little too bright or just thinking about adding smart-home technology. Well, we’ve got a great reason for you to do just that, because we’re giving away the Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart-Lighting Dimmer Switch. It’s a starter kit worth 99.95.

    So, now, this whole Caseta system, it allows you to control the lighting around your house at the switch, so you can use almost any dimmable bulb with it. And it easily controls the lights from anywhere when you use the free Lutron app. You simply can set your lights to go on at dusk. Caseta is going to make sure that happens night after night, through all the seasonal changes as it gets lighter earlier and darker earlier. Whatever it is, we’ll make sure that you’re always coming home to a well-lit house. Plus, right at your phone, you can control the mood in an instant.

    TOM: This giveaway is worth 99.95. It’s going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and give us a call right now. We’d love to chat with you about your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Elaine in Delaware is on the line and is looking to redo a kitchen completely. Great project. How can we help?

    ELAINE: I have a house that was built in like 1955, OK? So I have the arch entrance going into the dining room. I also have a door going into a basement. I have a door going outside and I have two windows, OK?

    LESLIE: And this is your kitchen we’re talking about.

    ELAINE: Yes. And the kitchen is only 18×12 feet with a 4-foot bump-out for the basement door.


    ELAINE: OK? So I was wondering, number one, if I take out that archway – because I have several other entrances in the house that have the same archway. If I take out that archway and take out that whole wall there that opens up into the dining room …

    LESLIE: Do you want to see your kitchen all the time from the dining room?

    ELAINE: I like that open concept, yes.


    ELAINE: But I’m wondering if it will take away from the integrity of the 1955 style with the arches.

    LESLIE: I think an open plan has a much more modern and fresher feel. But I mean you’re talking about mid-century and that itself has a modern and fresh feel. So I don’t think it compromises one another. The issue is, is that wall load-bearing? Can you feasibly and structurally actually remove it?

    ELAINE: I don’t think it is a load-bearing wall. No, we’ve done some work in the house and I think that we could actually cut that out.

    LESLIE: Now, your kitchen itself, is that original to the home from 1955?

    ELAINE: Yes, it is. And it’s got the old, wooden-type cabinets. Like the back door opens up right into the stove.

    TOM: Well, the nice thing about the old, wooden cabinets is that they’re really well-built and the second thing is that they’re also easy to refinish.

    That’s a perfect candidate for painting cabinets, replacing hardware and thinking about doing a less-expensive kitchen update that way, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. It sounds to me, though, that Elaine has got her heart set on a gut job, which isn’t a bad idea either. You know, Tom is right: those cabinets are exceptionally well-made. I think the idea of opening out the room, as long as it makes sense and as long as you don’t mind – is this going to be your formal dining room off of the kitchen?

    ELAINE: Yes.

    LESLIE: OK. It instantly is going to take on a less formal feel because it is integrated into that main portion of the kitchen.


    LESLIE: But you can still add details to it to dress up that portion of the space. Plus, you can add – a kitchen island is a great addition to a space; it gives a more casual seating area. But keep in mind that once you do the open plan, it does sort of reduce the formality of the dining area. But you can dress it up through color, lighting fixtures, furnishing choices, a rug. There are ways to do that.

    And keep in mind that now you’re opening the space, your working triangle needs to be modified a little bit. But I think there are great ways to make an open plan work and I think eliminating that archway really isn’t going to take away from the historical aspect of the home.

    ELAINE: OK, yeah. And we were actually thinking about maybe putting a couple stools where the wall is now, if we take out that archway, and kind of making a little breakfast bar.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. No, I think as long as structurally you’re able – and you’ll have to consult with an engineer – there’s no problem with removing that wall itself and creating that open plan.

    And do a lot of research on mid-century design, because you’re smack in that age bracket for your home. And it is swank; it’s very modern. There’s some interesting furnishings; you don’t have to buy the authentic stuff. Although, as gorgeous as it is, there are some fantastic knockoffs in a lot of those pieces. And you can really do something interesting.

    And Lucite is back in a big way. And if you mix Lucite and wood and some interesting lighting, you can really create a cool, mid-century feel.

    ELAINE: OK. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: Some of the coldest temperatures of the year hit this month, so you want to make sure you’re prepared. Here’s some tips to help you do just that. The first thing you want to have, of course, is a good shovel.

    Now, it occurs to me that in our part of the country, Leslie, we don’t really get so much snow that your snow shovel wears out.

    LESLIE: No. Thank goodness.

    TOM: Right. It doesn’t really wear out. I think we just kind of get tired of it. But a couple of years ago, I decided to upgrade because I saw a new, metal shovel that I really liked. It had an ergonomic handle. It had a steel edge on the front of it but it was like a plastic or reinforced fiberglass sort of shovel part to it. And it made it a lot easier to not only clear the snow but a heck of a lot easier on our backs.

    So, if you are still dealing with an old snow shovel, take a look at the new ergonomic ones because they just work a lot better.

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. And then you’ll see that shoveling before truly was a pain in your back.

    Well, now that you’ve got that snow clear, let’s think about tackling the ice. Rock salt is probably the most popular item out there for melting the ice but it can be really hard on your plants and your sidewalks. So, you’re better off using deicer pellets that are non-corrosive. Plus, now, you can actually go to the store and buy a liquid product, which is kind of what the professionals use and it works really, really well.

    Now, Branch Creek makes one for the home called Entry that’s chloride-free and it’s an ice-and-snow melt. And we like it because it doesn’t track all of that mess inside. It’s safer for your pets, all the surfaces and even your landscaping.

    Now, you’re also going to want to pick up a can or two of a spray lubricant, something like a WD-40. And that’s really great for deicing frozen locks in your house and in your car. And if you spray your shovel before you actually shovel the snow, you’re going to see the snow slide off super fast.

    TOM: Yeah. And finally, be sure to do a good job protecting your hands. You know, the gloves have changed a lot from those we wore years ago that kind of made your hands sweat and then freeze. You want to look for pairs with three layers. It should have a waterproof outdoor shell, an insulation layer that kind of extends all the way up to your fingertips and an inner liner for wicking away that moisture. If you get those three elements, those gloves will stay dry, your hands will stay nice and toasty warm.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call right now. If you’ve got questions about your home, we are here to help.

    LESLIE: Alright. Our next caller is a Facebook fan of The Money Pit and he’s calling in from Wisconsin. We’ve got Antoine on the line who’s got a pellet-stove question. How can we help you?

    ANTOINE: My house is about 1,000 square foot and I wanted to put in a pellet stove.

    TOM: OK.

    ANTOINE: And I was wondering, what would be the best location and the best way to ventilate it?

    TOM: OK. Good question. Now, first of all, hurray for the choice of a pellet stove. A very green energy choice. Lots of options. Pellet stoves are affordable, the fuel’s affordable. They work very, very well. You fill them up and literally can walk away from them.

    Since it’s not tied into a central-heating system, you want it to be centrally located so you get the best amount of heat distribution outside of it. Very, very important that you follow the National Fire Safety Protection Organization standards for installation of that, because they do get very, very hot.

    How you install it, it depends on where you’re putting it. For example, the average wood stove needs about 3 feet of space behind it to combustibles. However, if you build a heat shield, then you can move it closer. I’ve seen them as close as 12 inches if they’re installed with heat shields, which basically create sort of a wall that’s vented that the heat can sort of pass over and the air can pass over and it can remain cool.

    Going up to the attic? Same situation. You typically use a triple-wall pipe – triple-wall vent pipe – to take that hot gas out. And again, it has to be installed correctly. So, it’s not the kind of project that I would recommend you do if you’ve never installed one before, because of the specialty knowledge you need to make sure it’s done safely, Antoine.

    So if you want to shop it, buy it, get it in the store, get it in the house, that’s great. But I would definitely consider having a contractor that’s built these before do the actual installation for you. I would also make sure that you have the local fire marshal inspect the installation for you to make sure that it’s done correctly.

    ANTOINE: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and for liking The Money Pit page on Facebook, which is at

    And by the way, if you would head on over to and like our page, you can also get priority access to the radio show as we produce it.

    LESLIE: Hey, does your house make some annoying squeaks or bangs and thuds, perhaps in the middle of the night? Well, we’re going to have some tips to stop those ghouls – I mean the noises – after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on this winter weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in exactly the right place. We’d love for you to pick up the phone and call us and join the conversation. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT and it’s 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.

    LESLIE: Well, if you love old homes, you know that they can definitely have personalities. And some of that personality can come out in the way of a noisy plumbing system.

    TOM: With us to talk about some of those sometimes mysterious sounds that your plumbing system can make is a very popular plumbing personality: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Nice to be here.

    TOM: So, I guess the question is: are all those banging and clanging noises that we hear from both our plumbing and our heating systems just a nuisance or can they potentially signal a more serious problem?

    RICHARD: Well, I am the pipe whisperer and I can hear sounds that nobody else can ever hear.

    It’s usually telling you something. It’s usually – we laugh on Ask This Old House that so many of the letters we get are about people trying to describe the sounds in their houses.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: And there’s some obvious places where it comes from. It’s any time that a pipe expands and so on a heating system, like a baseboard system, that thermostat comes on and all of a sudden, 180-degree water goes through that pipe. And now, that pipe wants to get longer and so now you’ll hear that tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. And as it gets up to temperature – tick-tick-tick – it slows down.

    TOM: Slows down, yeah.

    RICHARD: It slows down and then it does it again 20 minutes later. And so you’ve really got to look for where that pipe is rubbing against any wood, because that’s part of it, or anywhere it just can’t expand. And so there’s a whole bunch of tricks that we’ve done through the years to try and release this thing so it can expand.

    LESLIE: But that’s really not an issue of concern; it’s just more of a nuisance, correct?

    RICHARD: Well, if it wore long enough – it that pipe rubbed back and forth against wood or metal over time, it could wear the sidewall of the copper pipe and you could have a little pinhole leak, yeah. So it …

    TOM: Because it’s pretty soft copper, right? It’s not going to abrade well.

    RICHARD: Yeah, it’s not really heavy, heavy-duty, so – particularly the heating pipes are a little bit even thinner than the water pipes are.

    TOM: So how do you diagnose that? Do you have to isolate that pipe that’s making the noise?

    RICHARD: Well, you listen for it, try and – it’s always best at night; it’s always best when you’re asleep, trying to sleep. If not, you’ll keep – there’s no other noise in the house. And then you’ll find it. And then, usually, you can look where the pipe comes through the wall. And you might take a little bit of cardboard or the matchbook and sort of put it in so it releases that pipe from rubbing against the wood.

    And it’s a piece – you’d be surprised. We did one where the whole thing was so loud on the show that it just made this noise that woke people up. And we looked and it was – the pipe was so long when it was first installed, it had no room to expand.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: So it just was pushing the outside wall out a little bit. And we cut it shorter and fixed it.

    LESLIE: I think another call that we get a lot at The Money Pit is about something called “water hammering,” or they’re hearing this loud clanging and banging when they’re getting the hot water running.

    RICHARD: Yep. Sure.

    LESLIE: And they immediately think something is horribly wrong.

    RICHARD: Yep.

    LESLIE: But in that situation, again, it’s just a rubbing situation or – how is that?

    RICHARD: The thing that makes it happen, the water is going through the pipes to any fixture. And if the fixture is what they call a “quick-acting valve,” like a washing-machine valve that suddenly shuts off or a dishwasher valve that suddenly shuts off – now, the water has a certain amount of inertia going through the pipes. And all of a sudden, it stops so suddenly that it’s as if you’ve now taken a hammer and hit that pipe. The water is actually creating the bang, the noise.

    So we’ve installed, through the years, a thing called a “water-hammer arrestor.” It’s really like a shock absorber for your car but it’s a little sphere with a little neoprene bladder in between, so it – when the water comes, it can sort of be absorbed into that bladder, like a little bit of a shock absorber. And they work; they really do work.

    TOM: And that absorbs the energy and stops the pipe from shaking.

    RICHARD: Right.

    TOM: Also a good idea to take a look at those pipes and make sure they’re properly secured. Because sometimes, you go in the basement and this pipe’s just like hanging and loosely just – like almost from point to point, like a curtain, yeah, that’s drawn.

    RICHARD: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Hanging.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s exactly – the thing I was going to jump on is that for lack of a 20-cent clip, that pipe has been banging for its whole life. And so, any time you can, just clip it. Don’t clip it too much; let it breathe a little bit. But just clip it at least every other joist when you’re going horizontally.

    TOM: We’re talking to Richard Trethewey – he is the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House – about silencing noisy plumbing systems.

    Now, here’s one that really can wake the dead: when you get one of these screaming, squealing faucet sounds. What causes that?

    RICHARD: Some foreign matter has gotten into one of the smaller openings inside the faucet, generally. In my own house, right now I have a diverter. The little thing that makes your spray hose work has a very small opening and that must have something in it. So, you can hear my faucet, so this is like the case of the cobbler’s kids having bad shoes. So, I’m leaving from the studio to go to repair that, yeah, so …

    TOM: Go fix that. It’s on your honey-do list.

    RICHARD: That’s right, so …

    TOM: But that’s pretty straightforward to fix, then, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah, it is. Yeah, you have to take it apart any place that people have really hard water, high minerals, high calcium, where it can get in and sort of clog the inner workings, you know. You may have to shut the water off, take apart the aerator, take apart the stem units and the things inside the faucet and just clean them out a little bit. And at the worst case, you have to replace those working parts that are just closed down a little bit.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. The other thing we hear a lot about is when your ductwork sort of makes a popping or …

    RICHARD: Hmm. Yeah, the tin can.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And what is causing that?

    RICHARD: Well, think about the life of ductwork. You sit in the house and it’s cool and you’re relaxed and all of a sudden, the thermostat comes on, the furnace sends hot air. And now that metal, like any metal, wants to expand as it gets warmer. And so now, as it wants to expand, it’ll suddenly just sort of start ticking first and then – also, the air that’s being now pushed into that ductwork that used to sit contracted, now you’re pushing air in. And now, like a tin can, it actually expands. And so, all of a sudden, you hear that [buh-wung buh-wung] (ph). Is that the sound? Buh-wung (ph)?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s pretty good. Yeah. The oil-canning sound.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    TOM: So it’s kind of like the ductwork itself is filling up like a balloon.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: And that air is just pressing on the interior walls outward.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Right, right.

    TOM: Now, is there a way to sort of restructure those ducts or reinforce those ducts to kind of stop that from happening?

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Wrap them in Quiet Wrap?

    RICHARD: Well, not just Quiet Wrap. You want to give it some structure, so you can take some of the standard J-bead and some of the – when you connect conventional ductwork, you connect it with real little, galvanized strips of metal. And you can take some of those and span those big, horizontal, flat spaces to try and just give it a little bit of a reinforcement.

    LESLIE: Right.

    RICHARD: And then you can insulate it, as well.

    TOM: In a jam, I’ve actually just put a furring strip across the duct, just anything that …

    RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. Anything that keeps it to hold its shape a little bit, yeah.

    TOM: Gives it that rigidity to (inaudible).

    RICHARD: Yeah, yeah.

    LESLIE: Can you see the exact spot where this is happening if you watch it? Or are you just guessing?

    RICHARD: Not generally. But it’s going to be – I think it’s mostly going to be on a long, straight run of ductwork, where you’ve got a long, expansive thing that’s unsupported where it wants to now kettle or push up or down.

    TOM: We’re talking to Richard Trethewey. He’s the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House.

    Finally, Richard, let me ask you about radiators. Sometimes, you get a whistling sound that happens from the radiator and particularly, steam radiators. How do we straighten that out?

    RICHARD: Hissssssss (ph).

    TOM: That’s it.

    LESLIE: I like it.

    RICHARD: I’m the master of all voices.

    TOM: He’s going to be our new sound-effects man.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Every time a steam radiator comes on …

    LESLIE: An angel gets its wings.

    RICHARD: Thank you.

    The air that’s in the radiator, in the off cycle, has to leave the radiator. And so this little valve on the end of it has to allow all the air out. And so it has to hiss and it’ll hiss until steam touches it. And when steam touches, it’ll shut completely. So, that is a function that’s – you’re supposed to have a noise.

    TOM: So that’s normal.

    RICHARD: You’re supposed to, with a steam radiator. The thing about steam radiators is you can also have a bang with steam radiators when – the water that used to be steam turns into what they call “condensate.” And if the radiator’s tipped the wrong way, it can sound like somebody took a sledgehammer in the middle of the night. Anybody who’s lived in New York City or Boston that has these steam systems – any urban environment, they know steam.

    TOM: Those are little steam explosions inside, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah. That’s when you put your little iPhone earpieces on and go to sleep. Turn the music up.

    TOM: But you say you can correct that by re-pitching the radiator?

    RICHARD: Yeah. On the hammer – the banging of the steam radiator – you can pitch the radiator so that the water goes back towards the pipe of which the steam came up through. And the air vents, you can change and put new ones on to try and get it to sort of clean – to whistle a little bit less.

    TOM: So you don’t have to tolerate it; there are solutions to all of these noises.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: It does not mean your house is haunted.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: It just means it needs a little plumbing TLC.

    Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert from TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by American Standard.

    Just ahead, new cabinets can eat up a big chunk of your kitchen-makeover budget. We’re going to have some advice on how to save thousands by reusing your cabinets. You can get those options, when The Money Pit returns 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: We’d love for you to pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your home improvement projects. Or you can post your questions online at our Community section at or on The Money Pit’s Facebook page, Instagram page or Twitter feed.

    And if you’ve been thinking about adding some smart-home technology to your home, we’ve got a great reason for you to pick up the phone and give us a call, because we’re giving away the Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart-Lighting Dimmer Switch Starter Kit worth 99.95.

    I like this kit for a couple of reasons. I like the product line, I should say, for a couple of reasons. First of all, usually when you have some sort of a smart-light product, it’s just at the bulb. But this one is at the switch, which means if you’ve got, say, ceiling fixtures where you’ve got, I don’t know, a bunch of high-hat fixtures or something of that nature or some pendant lights on one switch, this device from Lutron – the Caseta Smart Dimmer – will control all of them.

    And the other thing that it does is if you want to add another switch in your house – say, one on the other side of the room so that you can maybe turn those lights on or off easier or at the top and bottom of stairs or something like that – you can do that with the remote that comes with the kit. And ingeniously, they’ve designed this to look just like a regular light switch. So, you kind of just stick it on the wall. It looks like it’s hardwired but it’s all done through the app.

    Very, very cool system, worth 99.95, going out to one caller drawn at random. Make it you. That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if new cabinets are eating up a big chunk of your kitchen-makeover budget, you might want to consider options for reusing the kitchen cabinets that you currently have. Now, say you like the style and the configuration of the cabinets and they happen to be made of wood or laminate, you can refinish them. I mean that’s the clearest route to remodeling and keeping the cost under control.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. Now, older cabinetry is built very well. But you want to take a look at the construction carefully before you pull out the sander, because if it includes the very thin sort of paper-thin veneers that cover every surface but it has solid fronts, you might need to rethink your old refinishing plans. The veneers can’t be sanded or stained. They can lightly be sanded just to take the gloss off it, so to speak, but you can’t use machines on them. They’re just too thin. So, painting would be the option for that if they’re involved.

    Now, whether you are painting or staining, you want to choose an oil-based finish. Here’s why: even though the latex finishes are fantastic today, they’re just not as durable as the oil finishes. So, with all that traffic of those cabinet doors and drawers opening and closing and opening and closing, if you don’t use an oil-based or solvent-based finish, it’s just not going to stand up.

    LESLIE: Now, another option is refacing the cabinets that you’ve got already. Now, that involves replacing the doors and veneers on the existing laminate or wood boxes. It’s really not a job for a beginner in the field. But you have to understand that the pro you hire, your satisfaction with the results is going to be directly proportional to their skill and their level of craftsmanship. So you’ve got to do your research very, very well in this area because the quality of the existing cabinetry and the new materials, that’s also going to impact the end product. So you’ve got to look at all of those three sort of pieces of the puzzle to make sure that refacing works for you.

    TOM: And lastly, if you want a really easy and inexpensive way to change the look of your kitchen, try just replacing the knobs and the pulls on the cabinets. It sounds silly but I’ll tell you, if you do that, people will walk in and notice it right away. It really does change that personality. It’s kind of like the bling in the kitchen.

    Now, if you want more info on your options of reface, replace or refinish, we’ve got a great post about all that at Just search “cabinet reface or replace” at and you will be in the know and good to go.

    LESLIE: Hey, do cold drafts have you thinking about a new front door? Well, we’re going to tell you exactly what you should be looking for before you buy, 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 call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: That’s right. 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: Alright. And if you’re looking to help yourself, why not email Tom and I what you’ve got going on at your money pit? Or post your question to the Community section right there at

    We’ve got a post here from Annie in Seattle. Now, Annie writes: “I need to have a new front entry and storm door installed. I’m not sure if I should go with the steel door or fiberglass door. The door faces west and it gets hot between the entry and the storm door. I’m concerned about durability and maintenance. Any suggestions?”

    TOM: Well, I think this is a common misunderstanding. You don’t need to get a storm door anymore.

    You know, back in the day when we had really leaky steel doors – or even worse, wood doors – you needed a storm door to make your home energy-efficient and keep the weather out. Today, though, those doors don’t require storm doors to do that.

    Now, of course, you may want to have a screen door but you don’t need a storm door. And that leads me to my next point, because the reason that these doors overheat – and I have seen the trim around the windows actually melt because they get super hot, like greenhouse effect, because they cover these fiberglass or steel doors with glass storm doors. You don’t need that. You can just have the screen door itself and then you don’t have to worry about the door overheating, the handles get hot. I mean kids can burn themselves. You could burn yourself on the handle when on a hot summer day that door really, really heats up.

    So, I would recommend you focus on fiberglass. It’s much more energy-efficient than steel and then think about getting a screen door but not a storm door. It’s just not needed.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I don’t have a storm door. And actually, I like the look of the house without it. But I will tell you, it’s very off-putting when the pizza delivery guy is like, “I’ll just walk right in.” You’re like, “No, no, no, no.” So, just beware you’ll have some new friends.

    TOM: Invisible shield, right? You can’t just walk into your space, yeah.

    LESLIE: Exactly. It’s just that layer of protection. But you’ll get used to it.

    Alright. Next up, Bob in Michigan posted: “I just moved to a colder area of the state and I’m wondering what I can do to keep my apartment’s heating costs down while staying warm in the winter. You got any tips?”

    TOM: It’s tricky because you don’t own the heating system. But what you could do is remove and replace your thermostat. There’s no reason that you couldn’t do that. And you could use one of the new Wi-Fi thermostats, which are much more energy-efficient in terms of their capabilities. You also want to make sure your heat registers are not obstructed. Sometimes, in apartments, the furniture gets pressed right up against them.

    And then think about adding some heavier drapes or better yet, cellular shades. These are the ones that kind of look like honeycombs? They do a great job. It’s actually that they don’t so much insulate but it stops the warm air from hitting the window directly and then falling. And if you’re sort of sitting on the couch with the chair near that window, you feel this draft. It’s not so much air blowing in but it’s this convective loop that makes you uncomfortable. So what do you do as most humans with a brain? You turn up the heat. That’s where you waste the energy.

    So, think about that. Heavier drapes or cellular shades. Keep the registers unobstructed and replace that thermostat.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending part of your day with us on this winter weekend. Not too many winter weekends left. It’s a good time to start thinking about your plans for the spring. It’ll be here before you know it, so get those tools out, wipe off the dust. Get them ready and start making a list of those projects.

    And remember, if you’ve got questions on how to get those jobs done – repair, replace, refinish, restore, remodel – you can always reach us at The Money Pit website at or by calling us, 24/7, at 1-888-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.)

Leave a Reply


More tips, ideas and inspiration to fuel your next home improvement, remodeling or décor project!