Super-Efficient Heating and Cooling

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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 what are you working on this almost-spring day? I think spring’s officially about a week away now. If you’ve got a project planned, we’re here to help you take the right steps to get that done. But help yourself first: pick up the phone, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s show, you know, we spend more money heating and cooling our homes than just about any other expense. But now, there is a new system on the market that provides heating, central A/C and hot water at over four times the efficiency of any furnace on the market. We’re going to have those details, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, there’s a new light switch out by GE that we’re going to tell you about. It has the ability to make any bulb in your house smart, with lots of very cool features. We’re going to have a review, in just a bit.

    TOM: And hardwood floors are one of the most desirable floors around, for both durability and the value that they can add to a house. But the finishes do wear and need to be replaced. And that can be a big project that might best be left to a pro. We’ll have tips on how to get that project done, in today’s Pro Project, just ahead.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you’re ready to take on some serious spring cleaning, we’re ready to offer some serious help. We’ve got a Greenworks 1,800-PSI Pressure Washer, worth 169 bucks, going out to one caller drawn at random. And believe me, whoever wins this is going to be spring-cleaning their house, up the block, everywhere they go. Pressure washers, such a fun chore.

    TOM: You can’t stop. It’s such a fun tool. That’s right. So if you’d like to win it, you’ve got to be in it by picking up the phone and calling us with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: Dreama in West Virginia is on the line and could be dealing with a structural issue. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    DREAMA: Yes. I purchased a house about 13 years ago and the house is approximately 30 years old. And all of a sudden, last year, in the load-bearing center wall, I started getting a crack. And now, within a year, that crack has gapped approximately a ½-inch wide and it’s also – I noticed another room has a crack now. So I had a local handyman look at it and he suggested that I put in three piers – columns – to support the center wall.

    And I guess my question is – I haven’t had an official, large construction company look at it yet. I’m getting ready to do that but I wanted to educate myself a little bit more. What would you all suggest?

    TOM: How long have you been in this house?

    DREAMA: Thirteen years.

    LESLIE: And this is new.

    DREAMA: Just started about a year ago.

    TOM: See, here’s the thing. If you call a contractor, you’re going to get a contractor’s solution, which is to hire them to do something. What I would suggest you do first is to get an independent expert opinion, not necessarily an opinion from a contractor. So your options on that are two: one is low cost; one, I would say, is moderate cost.

    The low-cost option would be to find a local professional home inspector. You can go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. That’s at –


    TOM: And you can put in your zip code. They’ll shoot back a list of certified professional home inspectors in your area. You can call from that list, find somebody that’s experienced and have them look at it. Because they’re just there to find out what’s going on and what caused it and what it’s going to take to fix it.

    The second way to go, which is the moderate cost, is to actually hire a structural engineer. Now, why may you want to do that, Dreama? Well, you might want to do that – if this is a fairly obvious problem, you want to certainly preserve the value of your house.

    DREAMA: Right.

    TOM: And if you have a structural engineer look at it and write a report as to what’s going on and what it’s going to take to fix it and then you actually give that report to a contractor and say, “This is what I want you to do,” and then you have the engineer sort of recertify that it was done correctly. It’s kind of like having a pedigree that the repair is done correctly and then kind of sell with your house, so to speak.

    Problem with contractors is that they’re not structural engineers; they’re just handy guys and they think that they have the expertise to fix stuff like this and they just don’t. They don’t have the schooling, they don’t have the education, they don’t have the training. And so, that’s not necessarily the best way to go about dealing with a situation like this.

    I am a little concerned that it happened over this past year, because it sounds like it’s active and we want to get to the bottom of why it’s active and why it’s showing up all of a sudden.

    DREAMA: Well, someone had mentioned that it’s a possibility – we’ve had a lot of dry – several dry summers and – because that could cause a settling in the foundation. Is that possible? I’ve never heard of that before.

    TOM: No. I mean there are some expansive soils that behave differently when they dry out a lot but listen, there’s going to be a lot of opinions. Every neighbor you ask is going to have a different one. What we’re trying to do is move you towards an expert opinion so you really know what you’re dealing with.

    So, as I said, contact a professional home inspector or a structural engineer. Get the assessment. It’s well worth it. Your home is a big investment. We want to make sure it’s protected, OK?

    DREAMA: I hadn’t thought of a home inspector. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Dreama. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Bill in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a lightning rod. Tell us what’s going on.

    BILL: I would like to get your recommendation with regard to lightning protection. I would like for you to tell me what you recommend with regard to the best protection for lightning.

    TOM: Well, installing a lightning-rod system makes a lot of sense. And the key, though, is the installation has to be done correctly. Because if it’s not, it could actually sometimes cause more damage than it can prevent.

    One of the common mistakes is that when the lightning rods are installed – and typically, in the average roof, it’s going to have three of them – that the cable that connects them to the ground source, you have to make sure that they run that cable across the roof and then down the side of your house nowhere near any other copper wiring or copper plumbing. So you would want to keep it – for example, if you had plumbing running through the same wall, you want to keep it away from that.

    And the reason you’re doing that is because if you get a lightning strike, it can run down the ground wire on its way to safety where it dissipates into the soil. But it will transfer or jump across to the plumbing system in the house and electrify that.

    So, that’s just one part of the system; you also have to take a look at your electrical panel and make that sure that that’s surge-protected. But a combination of those systems makes a lot of sense, Bill, if you’re in an area that’s really prone to lightning.

    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 Hey, what’s on your to-do list? Give us a call now and we can give you a hand at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to

    TOM: And just ahead, we spend more money heating and cooling our homes than just about any other expense. Now, however, there’s a new system on the market that provides heating, central air conditioning and hot water at over four times the efficiency of any other furnace. We’ll have those details, 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: What are you working on? Give us a call right now. Let’s talk about that project 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.

    And if you’re planning to take on some spring cleaning soon, we can also help you with that because, this hour, we’re giving away the Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer, which is worth 169 bucks, to one lucky caller.

    I took a look at this product and I tell you, it’s really good. You’ve got a 13-amp motor that gives you over a gallon of water a minute. That’s a lot of cleaning power. And some of my favorite features include the fact that it’s got five different quick-connect nozzles, including the Turbo Nozzle.

    Now, I’ve got this Turbo Nozzle and I’m telling you, it’s like – you know how you just choose one that does it all? That’s this.

    LESLIE: Right. That’s your go-to?

    TOM: I mean it’s – that’s my go-to. And it covers a whole bunch of different cleaning projects around the house. And I like that they all store on board. That means that you’re not going to be hunting around drawers or cabinets looking for these things. They all attach right to the pressure washer itself, along with the power cord and the spray tips. It keeps it all there within easy reach.

    So, that product’s worth 169 bucks. It’s available at your local Lowe’s home improvement store. But going out to one caller. If that’s you, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we pick your name out of The Money Pit hard hat, you’ll take home that Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer.

    LESLIE: Barry in North Carolina is on the line and looking for some help with a sunroom. Tell us what you’re working on.

    BARRY: Well, we’ve got a 12×15 sunroom and it’s just – it gets cold and it gets hot. It’s double-pane glass, insulated and it’s about 2 inches thick for the bottom part. But it’s like all metal, all aluminum and it’s just cold and hot. And I just want to know – and it is ducted; there’s an air duct out there.

    TOM: OK.

    BARRY: And is there anything I can do to make it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer?

    TOM: Well, what’s going on here, Barry, is you are not putting enough cool air or warm air in that space to deal with the heat loss that’s going on. So, I presume now this – what you did is extended your HVAC system into this space? Is that how it’s ducted, when you say it’s ducted?

    BARRY: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. And this is typical. The HVAC system is not sized correctly for that area and for the heat loss in that area and for the heat gain in the summer. This is a perfect scenario, though, for you to add a kind of system called a “mini-split ductless.” A mini-split ductless is basically three pieces: you have an indoor unit that hangs on the wall; you have an outdoor unit that’s a very small, very quiet, very efficient compressor; and you have copper tubing that connects the two.

    And you would buy one that’s just big enough for this sunroom and what it would do is supplement the central heat or cold air that’s coming through the duct systems and balance it out. It can have its own thermostat and can supply warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer and make that room totally comfortable. There’s little else that you can do to insulate the structure. It’s just a very cold structure by its very nature, a sunroom. But a mini-split ductless is a good product to install to balance this out.

    You might want to take a look at this website: That’s the website for the Fujitsu Company. I personally have a Fujitsu mini-split ductless in my office because the room, just like you say, it’s too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. And it’s been the perfect addition to my HVAC plan, because it really makes this space comfortable.

    BARRY: I’ve seen those units mounted before but usually they’re mounted up high.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    BARRY: Can they be mounted down low?

    TOM: You know, I believe they can. But the higher the better, especially for the cold air so it falls.

    BARRY: But there’s only like 2½ feet of solid piece down below; the rest of it is all window.

    TOM: Well, what about the wall against the house where the ducts come through?

    BARRY: That’s a point. I hadn’t thought about that.

    TOM: Yeah, see, it doesn’t have to be on the exterior wall.

    BARRY: OK.

    TOM: It can – and in fact, you would want to have it on the interior wall – against the house, where the ducts come through – and mounted up high. And you’ll be amazed at how comfortable that space will be.

    That website, again, is You can check out the Fujitsus there. And they also have an energy-efficiency calculator so you can figure out pretty much how much energy you save.

    Problem is that we build these spaces and we add them on to our house. We try to extend the heating and cooling systems …

    LESLIE: And it just puts too much pressure on the system.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s just not enough.

    BARRY: OK. Very good. That answers my question then.

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

    LESLIE: Well, there’s no doubt that heating and cooling our home is one of the biggest expenses of owning that home. Now, however, there’s a new system on the market that provides heating, central air conditioning and hot water at over four times the efficiency of any other furnace on the market.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s called Dandelion Energy and it uses cutting-edge, geothermal technology to pretty much harness the Earth’s warm temperature. And it’ll safely and reliably heat your home using that power. It does it, also, without relying on traditional expensive heating fuels, like oil or propane.

    LESLIE: Now, homeowners who make the switch to geothermal heating will save, on average, $2,250 per year. I mean that’s a lot of savings. Now, the system is going to pay for itself in three to seven years and it has a lifetime of 25 years. So it can really be an affordable way to cut your heating oil or your propane bills.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s a very cool concept. It’s really heating and cooling reimagined because it’s clean, it’s quiet, it’s safe. And it’s also nice that you’re going to be sort of energy-independent. You’re never going to have to wait on heating oil deliveries or propane deliveries ever again. You pretty much own your own heating and cooling.

    If you’d like to learn more about this technology, head on over to That’s

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Trish in New Jersey on the line who’s got a remodeling question. What are you working on?

    TRISH: I have a wall that goes between the kitchen and there’s a set of steps that go down to the basement.

    TOM: OK.

    TRISH: My question is – that it’s also a bearing wall. Is it worth it for me to go through the expense of taking this wall out? And then what do I do about the – when you take the wall out, it’s going to drop down to the basement steps right there.

    TOM: Right. So, OK, it’s a big project, Trish. Really big project. Because when you take a wall out like that, you have to reinforce all the structure above it first. And you build the reinforcement, then you take the wall out. You reassemble it with different types of structural members – like laminated beams, for example – that run that span and allow you to have that sort of open space.

    Now, you raise another good question, like, “OK, what happens to the basement stair?” Well, obviously, you’re going to need a railing there. So, it’s a really big project. I don’t know if that’s going to be worth it for you in terms of what you’re going to get out of this. What are you trying to achieve, from a design perspective?

    TRISH: To have an open concept. And here’s another idea. There’s another wall that goes between the kitchen and the dining room and that’s just a small wall, because there’s a doorway there.

    LESLIE: Trish, there are some other ways that you can actually make the rooms feel larger. Considering I don’t know the exact floor plan or the situation of the space – but if you’ve got some windows in, say, your dining room, on the wall opposite it, why not put a really large mirror over, perhaps, a service area or some sort of great storage cabinet? Because the mirror will sort of help bounce the light around and open up the space and make it feel larger. Using paint-color tricks, where you slightly change one wall color to a lighter hue in the same family, can make the space feel larger, as well.

    Mirrors really are a huge help. I’m not talking about mirroring an entire wall but I am talking about – perhaps some strategically placed, really decorative mirrors will do the trick, as well.

    These are all ways – furniture layout. If you can sort of keep the flow more open to encourage a good pass-through, that can help make the space feel larger, as well. So there are ways without taking on major construction projects.

    TOM: That’ll make it look so much bigger.

    Trish, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Time to talk to Phillip in Rhode Island about a roofing question. What can we do for you?

    PHILLIP: Well, in Rhode Island, in my neighborhood in Jamestown, there’s a lot of beautiful, red cedar-shingled houses. And I just put brand-new, red-cedar shingles on my house, on my roof. I noticed some of the houses age beautifully. Like when I – what I mean in beautifully is they age darker red and sometimes little bits of black or streaks of black and red and deep, deep red. And some of them don’t age that way. It’s like – and I’m just wondering if you guys know anything about how to get them to age the way I want them to. I don’t want them to age light; I want them to age darker red.

    TOM: Yeah, we don’t always get to choose how we age, right? And that applies to our shingles, as well.

    So when you choose red cedar, that gets darker over time and it will turn to a very dark gray, typically, as it’s exposed to sunlight. I guess it’s possible that you could apply a stain to the cedar shingles, even though they’re roofing shingles, but most people don’t do that.

    So, what we typically get calls about, when it comes to cedar, is how to not to have – how to prevent them from getting darker. And one way to do that is to replace the vent across the ridge of the roof. Or if you don’t have a vent there, you can essentially do the same thing with a strip of copper.

    If you were to overlay the peak of the roof with, say, a 12-inch-wide strip of copper – so half goes on one side and half goes on the other – what happens is as rainwater strikes that, it releases some of the copper. And that acts as a mild mildicide and helps to keep the roof shingles clean and prevents algae growth.

    PHILLIP: Oh. But it still – then they wouldn’t age dark; they’d stay lighter.

    TOM: It would be less likely to get as dark and they certainly wouldn’t grow an algae. Perhaps you may have noticed that sometimes when you look at houses, especially around chimneys that have metal flashing, you’ll see bright streaks at the bottom of the chimney. That’s for the same reason. What happens is that metal flashing releases some of its copper and then cleans that area under the chimney. That’s why it gets streaky there. But if you do it across the whole peak of the roof, then it will sort of clean evenly.

    PHILLIP: It’ll clean evenly. But I’m looking for that aged look: the kind of the darker-shingle aged look, the darker color. And I guess it’s just up to Mother Nature is what you’re saying.

    TOM: It really is.

    PHILLIP: Yeah.

    TOM: It really is.

    PHILLIP: I appreciate it. Thanks very much, you guys.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, there’s a new light switch out by GE that we’re going to tell you about. It’s got the ability to make any bulb in your house smart, with lots of very cool features. We’re going to have 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.

    Well, updating your lighting to add more features or automation typically involves a lot of electrical work or the installation of more equipment, like smart-home hubs.

    TOM: But now, GE has developed a switch that can make any bulb in your house smart without all that extra equipment or expense. With us to explain is Mason Hall, a product manager for C by GE.

    Welcome, Mason.

    MASON: Thanks, Tom and Leslie. Appreciate you having me on.

    TOM: This sounds pretty cool. But before we get too much into the new switch, tell us about the C by GE line. Because it’s a platform you guys have had for a while that’s now going through an extension, right?

    MASON: Yeah, absolutely. Around two years ago, we started with some smart bulbs: soft white and then a tunable white smart bulb. Since then, we’ve been able to add a significant number of new devices to our portfolio.

    And what we’re really excited about is we’re tripling the portfolio here in 2019. And a lot of that comes with the introduction of our smart switches. So we’re building on top of this foundation of smart bulbs and bringing in smart switches to really service a bunch of different use cases for the homeowner.

    TOM: Now, in many cases, when you’re talking about a smart-home platform, all the parts are designed to kind of work within the same line. One thing that’s unique about the smart switch that you guys have just come out with is it works with any bulb in your house, in addition to the C by GE bulbs you mentioned earlier, right?

    MASON: Yeah, that’s right. So just like, I would say, every other smart switch in the market today, we work with traditional bulbs. So making a traditional bulb like an LED or even a standard incandescent decorative bulb. You can make that smart, right? So it’s a very cost-effective way to transform your home into a smart-lighting home. But in addition to that, we also – our product works with C by GE smart bulbs, which we think is a really cool and powerful capability for smart switches.

    So, an example would be if a user has a color bulb – a C by GE color bulb – and they love controlling color in their ceiling from an R30, they can keep that bulb in the ceiling. And where a normal switch – if you turn the power off at the switch, you’ve killed the smarts, now, in your ceiling with that color bulb. Not our switch. You add our switch to the mix, you are able to control that color bulb. When you turn off the switch, you can still come back and control that bulb via the app or via your voice assistants. So something we’re really, really proud of and excited about introducing this year.

    LESLIE: Now, you also have eliminated the need for a smart hub by creating this switch where everything is really built into that switch. Is that right?

    MASON: That’s right, yeah. We constantly hear this from consumers. People don’t like hubs. You know, most people are aware not every product works together and there’s no perfect solution from a hub standpoint. We’ve looked at our portfolio and we feel very strongly about a hub-free product.

    So with our switches – our smart switches – they are both Wi-Fi products and they have our BLE capability inside so that the benefit there is you don’t need to purchase another device. You purchase that smart switch, you can put it in your wall and you’re up and running with all of the awesome capabilities.

    TOM: Let’s talk about some of the control that you’ll have with that. You can set lighting schedules. You can control it, also, with your voice; it connects with the Google Home Assistant. Or you can even control it when you’re away from home. And all that technology is part of the platform?

    MASON: It’s all included, yeah. So, building off on that hub-free capability we just talked about, because you’re buying a smart switch that has that hub-free capability, it can simply connect to Alexa or Google. And then also, in early 2019, we’re adding HomeKit compatibility to the mix. So, we’re really looking across the three major voice assistants. And our product will be compatible with all three of those voice assistants.

    So, we’re allowing the user – that they don’t need to make trade-offs, right? So if they have a home that accommodates either one of those, they can purchase the C by GE product and have confidence.

    And then with that, all the other capabilities that you mentioned. People really value the set-it-and-forget-it capabilities of scheduling. So, we felt strongly in making that a simple, easy-to-use experience that you can – when you’re in your home, set a schedule. Or if you’re away on vacation and you forget to set your schedule, you can simply connect to your app – the C by GE app – and set a schedule while you’re on vacation, that your lights come on in the morning and turn off in the evening.

    LESLIE: I’ve got to say, I really love the motion-sensing technology that’s built into it. So many times I’m carrying things, like laundry baskets or kid toys or whatever – up and down the stairs and entering into rooms. And that motion-sensing capability is truly a lifesaver.

    MASON: You nailed the primary-use case there, right? People are getting busier in their days and especially that use case of when a user comes home or if they’re doing something, they don’t want to have to worry about turning the lights on and off the traditional way, right?

    So, we built a product. We actually have a second product that we introduced. So it’s an in-wall dimmer switch. And we added in motion-sensing capabilities. So, the beauty is you can install it in any room in your house – just like a normal, in-wall dimmer switch – and you have a full, hands-free experience.

    Something else we did, we think is going to be a powerful consideration for the consumer, is we added an ambient-light detector with that motion sensor. And really, they work in synchrony with each other. So, the use case you can think of is when you walk in your room, you want the lights to come on but you really only want them to come on when there’s not enough natural light, right? So the lights are going to come on, bringing up the room level to the right lighting level.

    But if you do have enough natural light in your room, that ambient-light detector will actually sense that there’s enough natural light and it won’t trigger the motion sensor. It’s a powerful use case as homes become more and more automated in the future.

    TOM: We’re talking to Mason Hall – he’s the product manager for control devices and software – about GE’s new smart switch that’s part of the C by GE line. It can make any bulb in your house smart.

    Lots of capabilities. Very simple to install. I see no reason why you wouldn’t want to pick up one of these right away and get started with it. Nice thing about these lines, too, is you could start small – you could start with just a couple of bulbs and a switch – and build it out over time, as you get accustomed to it and start to enjoy all the capabilities, right?

    MASON: Yeah, that’s exactly right. As the industry reaches into more of the mass market, we’re getting out of just early adopters buying products. We really want people to buy one and experiment with it, because we find if you buy one you’re going to find aspects of it that you like. And then you can build out your system from there. That’s why we look across smart switches and smart bulbs being able to work together as an overall platform and really provide unique capabilities to the user. So we do feel strongly about that ability to buy one and build your system as the user wants to build their system.

    TOM: The system is called C by GE. You can learn more at that website:

    Mason Hall, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit with info on this brand-new smart-switch line from GE.

    MASON: Thanks, Tom and Leslie. It’s been a pleasure.

    LESLIE: Up next, hardwood floors are one of the most desirable floors around, for both durability and the value that they add to a home. But those finishes do wear and will need to be replaced. And that can be a big project that might be best left to a pro. We’re going to have some tips on how to best get that project done, in today’s Pro Project presented by, 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: Floorboards to shingles, gazebos to garages, call us now with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you’ll find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: Alright. Give us a call. Let us know what you are working on or what you’re planning on working on, because we are here to give a hand. And we are just about to be in the middle of the spring season. I know it’s just starting but in my mind, I’m fast-forward and like, “Give me summer. I want things to be green and pretty.” Believe me, I love winter but I am ready for the spring. And I am so ready that I want to help everybody else get ready.

    We are giving away a great spring-cleaning tool to one lucky listener. We’ve got, up for grabs, the Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer. It’s got a 13-amp motor and it’s going to deliver 1.1 gallons of water a minute. You can clean so much with that. It comes with five quick-connect nozzles, including the Turbo Nozzle.

    I mean it’s really fantastic for cleaning just a wide range of things on the exterior of the home and all around the property and your neighbor’s house and the people down the block. Because, believe me, with a pressure washer, you start and you just want to keep on going.

    Check it out. You can find it at Lowe’s home improvement store locally or you can go to their website to see it in person. It’s 169 bucks. It’s the Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer. Going to one lucky listener drawn at random.

    TOM: Make that you. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    SUSAN: OK. My house is approximately 100 years old and it’s pretty much been redone. But I was taking some sheetrock off one of the walls in one of the rooms and I know that on my walls – behind the sheetrock, on the walls and ceiling are 1x6s, very close together. And so I was thinking about taking the sheetrock off, I guess, staining or doing something with the 1x6s. But I want to know how you seal the cracks, you know, where the 1x6s join each other. They’re small cracks.

    TOM: So, the 1x6s, are they on top of plaster or something like that? It sounds like there were furring strips that were put into place to hold the sheetrock. Is that correct?

    SUSAN: No. Behind the sheetrock are the 1x6s and then on top of those 1x6s is old-timey wallpaper.

    TOM: Oh, OK. So these are the original walls of the house? Alright. Interesting.

    SUSAN: Yeah.

    TOM: So you wouldn’t seal the cracks. You would basically celebrate the cracks. You’re not going to hide them. So, what would you like to do with the one-by? You want to paint it or stain it or what?

    SUSAN: I want to stain it. I want natural wood.

    TOM: OK. So you’ve got a big sanding project in front of you but you can do it. You’re going to have to use a pretty coarse sandpaper to cut through whatever’s there. You’re going to have to sand them down and then you can seal that wood and you can stain it and you can put a varnish on it or urethane on it. I wouldn’t use anything with much of a sheen to it. I’d probably use flat or semi-gloss. You can stain it but then you could use a flat polyurethane. It has no sheen to it.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, hardwood floors are a real benefit to any home. They add beauty, durability and value when it comes time to sell. But they do need to be refinished from time to time and that’s a project you might want to consider hiring a pro to accomplish. We’ve got tips on how to best get that project done, in today’s Pro Project presented by

    TOM: Alright. But first, how do you know if your floors do need to be replaced? Well, there’s actually a simple test. Here’s what you do. Go to a high-traffic area where the finish takes a lot of abuse and pour a tablespoon of water on the floor and watch what happens. If it forms a bead, the floor is properly sealed. If the water takes a few minutes to seep in and only kind of darkens the floor slightly, the finish is partially worn and probably should be redone soon. But if it soaks right in and leaves a dark spot, it’s gone, got to be replaced.

    LESLIE: Now, if you do have to refinish the floor, it’s a pretty big job. And while you might be able to do it yourself, it’s probably not one that you actually want to do yourself. Now, the process starts with removing that old finish off the floor. And that’s one area we constantly see well-meaning DIYers get themselves in a jam.

    Now, pros are going to use floor sanders for that part of the project. And even if you were to rent one, it does take a lot of practice to get those skills to use it correctly. And if you have one slip-up, that means you’re going to be staring at a deep, ugly gouge for all of those days that you are left with that floor in that house. And that’s truly just not worth it.

    TOM: Now, aside from sanding the floor, refinishing it after it’s sanded is a pretty big job that’s got to be done right. If you’re restaining the floor, the color you see in a store is rarely the color you’re going to see when you apply it to your floor.

    The age of the floor, if you combine it with the old finish, that absorption rate is going to vary. And a pro is going to know how to apply that stain to keep everything looking nice and even, as opposed to ugly and blotchy. Plus, the finishes that pros apply are often much tougher than what you might find in a home center or a paint store. They dry quickly and they get you back into your newly-refinished rooms as fast as possible.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, 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: Just ahead, is building a patio on your to-do list this spring? We’re going to have the step-by-steps to help you get that done right, 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: We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects, your remodeling jobs, your do-it-yourself dilemmas. Whether it’s décor or repair, new construction, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: You can also reach out to us at and post your questions in the Community section, just like Tim in New Jersey did. Now, Tim writes: “I recently inherited a house that’s not been occupied in over five years. Electricity is questionable in two of the rooms and I’m not sure about HVAC. And there’s been water in the basement. Floors, walls, ceilings look good but the roof has three layers on it. Should I try to repair it or get rid of it as is?”

    TOM: It’s never a bad thing when you inherit a house, even if it is a real life money pit, Tim. None of the things you mentioned are insurmountable. If the basic foundation, framing and roof are intact, everything else is fixable.

    Now, even though these things can be fixed, it’s a question of economics and skills and time. If the projects aren’t too much for you, you could consider selling the home as is. But don’t give it away. The problems you mentioned are entirely repairable and for far less than the value of that home. Even that wet basement is an easy repair. We’ll walk you through the step-by-step to fix it, on

    LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with that.

    TOM: Well, if building a patio is on your to-do list for spring, we’ve got some tricks of the trade for that project to help you get it done a lot easier. Leslie has got those details, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    Leslie, patios, decks all very popular outdoor-living projects for spring, right?

    LESLIE: Yeah. Because you want to be on them when it’s summertime. So, now is the perfect time to do them.

    You know, if you are planning to create that relaxing, paver-brick patio space to enjoy all that summer sunshine, we are here to tell you that this is a definite DIY-capable project. And we’ve got some tips here that are going to help you do just that.

    First of all, in the realm of DIY-patio possibilities, brick, natural stone, cement pavers, those are the main paving choices that you should be thinking of for the material. Now, all three varieties are installed into sand, with irregularly-shaped natural stone being the biggest challenge to work with as that’s more like assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle on the outside space.

    So, you’ve got to think about what you really want to have it look like. And that will determine which of those materials you pick and how you piece them together and the layout. So there is a puzzle part to all of those pieces there but it’s a matter of which ones you choose, how they join together, what shape you pick, what pattern you pick and then you go forward. But first, you’ve got to figure out the layout. You need to access the space that you’re slating for placement and planning, because you have to have necessary drainage.

    Now, a good trick of the trade in the yard here is to use a rope and outline the shape of this patio that you want. Then you can even go ahead and set some furniture up inside that roped-off area. Make sure you’ve got enough space, make sure the layout is good, make sure it’s user-friendly. Can you come and go from the right spaces? That’s going to give you a lot of flexibility at that point, before you’ve actually started laying the pavers and then it’s more difficult to rethink its process.

    Now, the most common paver-patio mistake comes from not properly prepping that base. You want to take your time. Properly excavate the area. Level the soil and then line the patio area for long-lasting, trip-proof results that’s going to create a barrier from weeds growing through. It’s a matter of layers here, guys. And if you don’t do it right, it’s never going to last.

    Once you’ve done that, you can add in the patio bricks. That’s the fun part. Pick shapes, pick patterns, pick anything you want. Make it look gorgeous. And trust me, come Memorial Day weekend, you’re going to be out on that patio and you are going to be so happy. And we’re coming over.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, garage doors are one of the best investments you can make if you buy the right one. We’ll have some tips to help you pick out the right garage door, 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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