Top Trends from the International Builders Show, Getting the Most Return on Your Home Improvement Investment, Setting a Home Maintenance Budget, Going Green in a Few Easy Steps and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now. We are standing by to help you with your home improvement projects. We’re going to solve the do-it-yourself dilemmas. If it’s a project that’s too big for you to do yourself, we’ll give you some advice on how to hire a contractor and how to make sure that you’ve chosen the right materials to make sure that project comes out exactly as you planned.

    Also ahead on this hour’s Money Pit, when you make an improvement to your home, do you tell yourself sometimes it will increase the home’s value? I’ve been telling my wife that for years. That’s how I got a shop, a finished basement, new bedroom, new bathroom. Well, the truth is that, sometimes, it does not. How do you know? Well, the Remodeling Cost Versus Value Report has been just released and it includes tips on what home improvements will bring you the most bang for your buck. We’ll talk to the magazine’s editor, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, Team Money Pit is back from covering one of the biggest trade shows in the country: the International Builders’ Show. We’re going to have the highlights and our take on the top five trends coming out of that show this year.

    TOM: And this hour, we’re also giving away a great prize. It’s the Black & Decker 4 Power-Tool Kit, including lithium-ion batteries and a circular saw. It all comes in a nice bag to keep all your new tools in and it’s worth $179.

    Going out to one caller drawn at random, so what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone. Let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: We’ve got Cindy in Michigan on the line who wants to talk about reducing energy costs. How can we help you?

    CINDY: Is there a way to lower your electric bills by generating your own electricity? I’ve heard of solar panels and windmills and seems like they cost a lot of money to get them going. And I’m wondering, is it actually feasible, financially, to do something like that?

    TOM: Yeah. Well, first of all, the most effective way to cut those energy costs – and especially if we’re talking about heating and cooling energy – is to improve the energy efficiency of your home. And the single most important way or easiest way to do that is by improving insulation. It’s amazing how many people simply don’t have enough insulation. And in a state like Michigan, you’re certainly going to want to have 15 to 20 inches of insulation in your attic.

    Now, as to your question about generating your own power, there are some programs that are run by state governments and by utility suppliers that include different sorts of rebates and different sorts of purchase – I don’t want to say “schemes” but sort of plans for getting that equipment to your house.

    So, for example, in my part of the country, they have offers where you don’t actually pay for the initial installation. You partner with an energy company that does the installation of solar panels and then as it generates energy, you get to keep some of that and some of that goes back to the utility company and eventually it pays off the cost of that installation. So I would investigate solar programs in your area and rebates that might be available. Start with the utility companies and go from there.

    Because if there’s a favorable program, that’s the only way it makes them cost-effective. You are correct in that a lot of these things are very expensive and don’t make a lot of economic sense. But if there’s rebate money available – either locally, at the state level or federally – it does make sense.

    CINDY: OK. So you would just call your energy company then?

    TOM: I would start there, with your utility company or just simply do some research online for rebates that are available in your area. OK, Cindy?

    CINDY: Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: John in Wisconsin is on the line with a washer/dryer question. Tell us what you’re thinking about there.

    JOHN: We were thinking of putting a washer and dryer in our spare bedroom. And where we want to is next to an inner wall. And I was wondering, if we vented it up through into the attic, through the insulation so it’d come out on top, would that be damaging to the – it’d be too much moisture in there or not?

    LESLIE: Now, would this still remain a guest room or would this become a new, snazzy laundry room?

    JOHN: Yeah, it’d be a laundry room, yeah.

    LESLIE: Generally, when you talk about resale value, the amount that you could possible resell your house for directly correlates to the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms that you have. So, you may want to start by talking with a local realtor who’s familiar with home values in your neighborhood, as to what the effect might be to removing a bedroom.

    Now, if you have no intention to sell and you’ve got this dream to have just a kick-butt, gigantic laundry room with perhaps a sewing area and enough ironing space, then this could be awesome for you guys.

    TOM: Now, in terms of your technical questions, obviously, you’re going to have to get hot and cold water there and you’re going to have to get electricity there for your washer and your dryer and 240-volt if it’s an electric dryer. Venting was the one question you had and can you go up through the wall into the attic? Yes. But you can’t stop there. You have to continue with that vent, John, until it gets outside. You cannot dump the warm, moist, lint-ladened dryer exhaust up into the attic; you’ve got to take it outside.

    So, what you should do is only use solid metal piping, not flex ducting. Get it up in the attic and turn it 90 degrees and then run it across the floor, so to speak, above the joists, and then out the side wall of the house, with a proper dryer-vent termination on the outside of it. And the test is when you turn the dryer on, you look outside, you should see the flap open up. You really don’t want to have any restriction. It’s very important you get that lint out, because there’s a lot of dryer fires that happen because people collect too much lint inside those pipes.

    JOHN: Oh, I see. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Alright?

    JOHN: Yeah. Very good.

    TOM: John, good luck with that project. 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 Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still to come, are you wondering what improvements to make to your home this year? We’ve got tips on the hottest trends in housing, straight from the floor of the International Builders’ Show. We’ll share those, after this.

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    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing here holding a beautiful, new Black & Decker 4-Piece Power-Tool Kit, which we’re going to give out to one lucky caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: It comes with a 2-speed drill driver, a 5½-inch circular saw, a reciprocating saw, a flashlight, 2 lithium-ion batteries, a charger and a large storage bag.

    TOM: The Black & Decker 4-Piece Power-Tool Kit is worth $179, so give us a call with your question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now we’ve got Ron in Virginia on the line who’s got a flooring question. Number-one topic on The Money Pit, my friend. How can we help you?

    RON: I have a ceramic-tile floor that’s been down for almost 20 years. Put it down myself. The tiles are all intact. None of them are loose but I have some tiles that are cracked. And I was wondering, rather than take the tiles up, if I could put a laminate floor over top of it.

    TOM: Absolutely. The nice thing about laminate floors is that they’re floating floors. And so you certainly could put a new laminate floor together. Most of them are lock-together boards these days. And you can lay that right on top of the tile floor below as long as it’s solid, which it sounds like it is.

    Now, of course, it’s going to make that floor that much thicker. I don’t know if that’s an issue.

    RON: No, I don’t think that would be a problem. Do I still need to put down that thin layer of the foam? Put that right over top of the ceramic?

    TOM: I think it’s a good idea because it cushions the floor and it also quiets the floor. It’s not quite as click-y, you know what I mean, when you walk on it? Now, keep in mind that some of the different laminate-floor manufacturers have the underlayment attached to the bottom of the actual floorboard. It’s sort of like a sponge on the bottom of it. But you definitely want to follow their instructions.

    But to answer your real question – can you put it on tile? – yes, you can.

    RON: Oh, great. Well, that would certainly save a lot of time and headache trying to take that tile floor up.

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

    LESLIE: Laura in Pennsylvania needs some help with a lighting question. What can we do for you?

    LAURA: Oh, well, my son gave me some compact fluorescent bulbs because he didn’t like them.

    TOM: OK.

    LAURA: And I had never used them before and I thought, “Well, I’ll put them in my little lights I use with timers.” Only they all blow out.

    TOM: There’s no reason you can’t use a compact fluorescent bulb in an outlet that has a timer. I mean a timer simply automatically turns the light switch on or off, so that shouldn’t have an effect on damaging the bulb.

    LAURA: Yes, that’s what I thought. And I have the incandescent bulbs in them now and they work just fine.

    TOM: Well, maybe he gave you some bum compact fluorescents, I don’t know. But it’s kind of an odd thing for it to happen to. Compact fluorescents work really well in most fixtures that take incandescents. In fact, you can even have them work well in fixtures that are controlled by dimmers.

    There are special dimmers today that are designed to work with compact fluorescents and with LEDs, where you can adjust the range of the dimming so that it doesn’t ever flicker or go out. So, compact fluorescent bulbs are a great option. I don’t know why they’re not working for you but the timer shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

    LAURA: OK. Well, maybe I’ll try them again or – I have two left. Or I’ll try and buy some. Maybe he has an off-brand or something like that, I don’t know. Because they should last a really long time, right?

    TOM: They should. And you know what I like better than compact fluorescents are the LED bulbs. Take a look at the Philips LED bulbs. These are – they’re very distinctive. They’re yellow. They look like bug lights but they have a very pleasant white light that comes off of them. And they’re going to be more expensive than compact fluorescents but they last forever and they’re super-energy-efficient.

    LAURA: OK. I will be happy to. That’s a really good idea. Thank you.

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

    Well, every year, Leslie and I get to take a trip to some of the biggest trade shows in the industry, where we get to learn about the newest products and trends. And this year’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas was no exception. We were among the 75,000 designers, builders and remodelers that descended on one of the largest trade shows in the industry.

    And there are some very clear trends that are emerging about how we live in and use our homes. And these might impact the home improvements being done this year.

    LESLIE: That’s right. The top five trends, as uncovered by Consumer Reports, include speedy appliances, which is everything from ranges to ovens to dishwashers that will save tons of time. The high-speed cooking technology available now is similar to what is used in places like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. So, soon, you’re not going to even have to leave your house for fast food.

    TOM: Now, another trend is more connectivity. Controlling your home’s functions with an app is the wave of the future. And many homeowners are already using this technology today.

    And along with that goes smart fixtures. We’ve heard of smart appliances? Well, smart fixtures also seem to do the thinking for you, including color-coded displays so you can tell, for example, what water temperature your child’s bath is set at, with one glance.

    LESLIE: Now, the high-tech home is here to stay, including ideas for countertops with an embedded, wireless phone charger, so replenishing your battery means simply putting your phone down.

    The final trend includes color and gray is the hot hue for this year.

    TOM: So go ahead and choose your improvements wisely. If you’re smart, you’ll make changes you can enjoy now and home buyers will covet when it comes time to move on.

    888-666-3974. Let’s move on and take the next question on The Money Pit.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sylvia in Texas on the line who’s got some bathroom things going on at her money pit. How can we help you?

    SYLVIA: Whenever I flush the toilet, I can hear the water running through my sink drain – you know, the bathroom sink drain?

    TOM: Right.

    SYLVIA: And so I didn’t know if that was normal or not. And then the other day, we had a real windstorm and I could hear the wind under my house, through my pipes, through that same sink. And I have a concrete slab, so I didn’t know – is that normal?

    TOM: Probably the wind blowing over the roof and you’re hearing it through the vent pipe. The plumbing system is all connected, obviously. And the water drains down and the air kind of replaces it from the top – from the vent on top. And so when you flush the toilet, in some cases you can hear that water run down through the pipe and it be replaced by air. So that’s entirely possible.

    But if it’s behaving properly and you don’t have any odors and everything’s flowing right, I wouldn’t worry too much about that, Sylvia.

    SYLVIA: Oh, OK, OK. Thank you very much. I was just worried about it, because I was just like, “What’s going on with my plumbing, right?”

    TOM: And the other thing about plumbing is it’s – it really carries the sound. Anyone that’s ever had a second-floor bathroom and flushed it to the horror of everyone that’s sitting in the dining room enjoying dinner time knows exactly what I’m talking about.

    SYLVIA: Oh, thank God I don’t have a second floor.

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

    LESLIE: Doug in Rhode Island is up next with an electrical question. How can we help you?

    DOUG: I did some remodeling work and I’m upgrading the island. And it used to be a floating island. And now that it’s fixed to the floor, I’m considering putting electrical outlets. And I’m just curious as to what might be the best location, as well as what the code – the electrical code – might require.

    TOM: Well, are you over a basement or a crawlspace?

    DOUG: I’m over a basement.

    TOM: OK. Because what you’re going to want to do is run the wire up from the basement below, into the side of the island. Is it a standard kitchen cabinet that you’ve used to create this island with?

    DOUG: Yes.

    TOM: Because you can mount the electrical outlet, basically cut it into the side of the cabinet. You’re going to want it off the countertop, down below on the side of the cabinet. And the key safety aspect here is you want to make sure that it’s a ground-fault outlet. Those are the outlets that have the test and reset buttons in them for wet locations.

    DOUG: I did see something online concerning that.

    TOM: Yeah. So as long as you use a ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet and you just bring the wire up from the basement, that’ll be the most practical way to do it. It’ll probably end up not being on the same circuit as the kitchen because, generally, what you do in a situation like that is you grab the closest power source that you can, that’s convenient and safe, and just kind of go up from there.

    DOUG: OK. Sounds good. Thanks for your help.

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

    PETER: When we had first moved in, everything was cosmetically perfect. And now, all of a sudden, we’ve got cracks everywhere in our hardwood flooring and our crown molding. Now, certainly, we could live with a little cosmetic shifting but it’s so drastic, I’m wondering if there is a greater underlying problem here.

    TOM: So the cracks in the molding, where are you seeing those cracks? Corners? Is the top and the bottom of the molding separating from the wall? What are you seeing?

    PETER: All in the bottom of the molding.

    TOM: OK.

    PETER: However, it could be anywhere: corners, middle, anywhere.

    TOM: OK. And so you have cracks up at the crown molding, which is between the ceiling and the wall, but you also mentioned you had cracks at the floor. What are we seeing at the floor?

    PETER: Yeah, it’s more drastic. On the first floor is all hardwood flooring.

    TOM: Right.

    PETER: And like I said, it was seamless when we had moved in. Now, over the past two months, I’d say every third board has a gap in it. And the gap may be very slight but some are as large as an 1/8-inch now.

    TOM: OK. So you’ve got some shrinkage in the floor and you’ve got some gaps in the wall. I mean the entire house could be shrinking. What kind of heating system do you have, Peter?

    PETER: It’s electric heat.

    TOM: OK. Electric heat. Forced air or radiators? What do you have?

    PETER: Oh, it’s forced air.

    TOM: It’s a very dry heating system.

    Well, I will say this: gaps around molding and gaps around floor and gaps in the crown molding, especially along the walls, that’s generally not the kind of crack that indicates structural movement. When you see walls – that looks like – that sounds like shrinkage. When you see walls that are cracking at the corners or cracking above doorways, physically cracking inside the drywall itself, that’s usually more of a concern. What you’re describing to me sounds a lot more like shrinkage.

    That said, I would keep an eye on it. We’re coming off of cold months. If you had the heating system on, you’re going to get a lot of shrinkage then and you’ll get more swelling in the summer as it gets more moist and humid out.

    So, you can either keep an eye on it, see what happens or if you want to get a structural opinion, what I would do is I would suggest that you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. That’s ASHI – A-S-H-I.o-r-g. And look for a certified professional home inspector – an ASHI-certified inspector – in your area. These guys don’t work on houses, so they’d have nothing to gain by finding things that need to be fixed. They’re just there to diagnose. And I would say an ASHI-certified inspector, because they are clearly the best.

    In fact, my nephew was buying a house last week and he’s in the Air Force in Florida. And I helped him find an ASHI-certified inspector there and I saw the report and I’ve got to tell you, I said to him – I said, “You know what the name of my show is?” He goes, “Money Pit?” I said, “You got one,” because there was so much wrong with it.

    PETER: Mm-hmm. Right.

    TOM: So, I would definitely suggest monitoring it and if you wanted to get an opinion on the structural aspects, bring in a professional home inspector and see what they have to say, OK?

    PETER: Alright. Great. I appreciate your time, Tom and Leslie. Enjoy the show all the time.

    TOM: Thanks very much, Peter. Have a great day.

    LESLIE: Coming up, are you debating between a new kitchen, a new deck or maybe even a new bath? We’re going to tell you which home improvements bring the most return on your investment, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, it’s one of the most expensive and most important decisions you’re going to make as a homeowner: what home improvements to make. But you need to take into consideration your desire for comfort and function in your home but you also have to consider resale value. Which improvements will bring you the best return on your investment?

    Here to tell us is Sal Alfano. Sal is the editorial director of Remodeling Magazine. And every year, the team there comes up with a cost-versus-value report and this year, there were a few new developments.

    Welcome, Sal.

    SAL: Hey, Tom. Thanks. Great to be here.

    TOM: Hey. So, I think the first thing that I thought really interesting about your report this year is that in each of the 35 project categories you measure, every single one seems to be doing well. They’re up.

    SAL: Yeah, they’re all up. This is the second year in a row that’s happened and believe me, it feels good because since 2008, when the economy took a dive, these numbers have been going down. So to see them coming up two years in a row is good news for the industry.

    TOM: Alright. Let’s start with the basics. Explain what we’re talking about when we say “cost versus value.”

    SAL: Sure. We look at 100 cities across the U.S. and we take 35 popular projects. Some have two different definitions, so we have a mid-range and an upscale version of about a dozen of the projects.

    We take the cost to construct those projects by a professional contractor and then we ask realtors – members of the National Association of Realtors – to estimate what those projects – how much value do those projects retain at resale. And then we divide one by the other and we come up with a percentage, which is essentially your return on investment for that project.

    TOM: You know, I think all of us are guilty of making the home improvements that we really, really want – our favorite improvements – and then always kidding ourselves and say, “Yeah, it’s going to add to my house value.” But you guys kind of cut the wheat from the chaff and you tell us exactly how much it’s going to add to our house values.

    And to that topic, I was also surprised – well, not shocked but surprised – to see that the biggest gainer of all the things you measured was a backup power generator. I guess the storms had an impact on that.

    SAL: Well, I think they did. We’ve been running that for – that project for probably five years or so. And the idea was there were some disasters and we thought, “Well, maybe this a project that contractors ought to be looking at and suggesting to their customers.” It didn’t do well for quite a few years and it still – I don’t know – it’s in the middle of the pack; it’s like Number 25 on the list. But it took a big jump this year and I think the crazy weather we’ve been having the last few years may be convincing people that, hey, this is something they ought to be looking at.

    TOM: Now, most of us consider kitchen and bathroom remodeling as being among the top projects that we love to do, the ones that really we feel in our heart of hearts are going to give us a good return on investment. What happened in those categories?

    SAL: Well, K and B – you’re right; they’re popular projects. They’re the sexiest rooms in the house. We spend a lot of time in those rooms and they’re a favorite among homeowners.

    Minor kitchen remodel, which is kind of a facelift for a kitchen, is the number-one K-and-B project; it came in ranked seventh overall. It’s about an $18,000 project, so it’s less than a car loan. You can almost pay for it on your credit card, which is important for – a lot of the projects that are ranked high are on the lower end.

    And so you can get a lot of value out of it, a lot of bang for your buck, because you’re not tearing out everything in the kitchen and moving around the plumbing and electrical systems. You’re just kind of replacing fronts – door fronts, drawer fronts, hardware, new countertops, new appliances – so it’s a shiny, new kitchen. A buyer sees that and it’s got real good curb appeal but you’re not doing a major remodel.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re not getting a second mortgage for it.

    SAL: Right. Exactly. Bathrooms are also doing fairly well. The bathroom remodel is around Number 17 on the project – on the list. And versus the addition, neither bathroom addition did very well. In fact, additions have kind of taken a hit over the last four or five years, partly because they’re just more expensive projects. Whenever you’re breaking ground and trying to get permits to add onto your building, it’s more complex, it’s more money.

    The bathroom remodel takes existing space within the house and upgrades it. So there’s a mid-range project and an upscale project. Both the same size, just different finishes. And they both do pretty well.

    But the real winners were the replacement-style projects this year, as in the past few years.

    TOM: Yeah. Speaking of which, you don’t have to spend $15,000, $20,000 to get a good ROI. Lots of value here. Under five grand in that replacement category: entry-door replacement, 96.6 percent; garage-door replacement, 83.7 percent; and fiberglass entry doors – an upscale fiberglass door – 70.8 percent. I just put one of those in my house not too long ago and I just absolutely love it.

    So, doesn’t look like you need to spend a lot of money to get it back.

    SAL: Right. And those are – and what’s responsible for that is the low initial cost. All four of those projects are under $3,000. And the entry door is like an $1,100 project. And you have tremendous curb appeal. If you’re changing the look of your front door or your garage door, that’s something people see from the curb. It makes a big impression – a good first impression – on a homebuyer and I think that’s why the value has been high, really, since we introduced those projects in the last three, four years.

    TOM: We’re talking to Sal Alfano – he’s the editorial director for Remodeling Magazine – about the Remodeling Magazine 2014 Cost Versus Value Report.

    Sal, spring is around the corner. Wood-deck addition – adding a wood deck – 87.4 percent. Making those outdoor rooms look pretty spectacular right now.

    SAL: Yeah, that was a big jump. I think pressure-treated decking is still the most popular, although the composites are gaining market share. But I think outdoor living is back. People feel like their houses are worth a lot more, so they’re willing to spend on what would – really we’d consider a discretionary – you don’t need a deck but you want a deck. And so, people finally feel confident enough to go ahead and build those projects.

    TOM: And finally, if you’ve got a lot of money and you want to dump it into your house and do something really fabulous, master suite, 67.5 percent?

    SAL: Yeah. Well, it’s a big – yeah, it’s a big project. It’s kind of on the luxury side of things. But again, I think that’s really the big story in this year’s results. You know, the percentage went up last year but it was because costs went down. This year, the ROI went up because the value of housing went up, so I think even big projects like a master suite, people just feel – they feel like their houses are worth a lot more than they were a year ago or two years ago. And so they’re not worried about taking a chance on a big project.

    TOM: Confidence is up. The report is called “Cost Versus Value” and that is the website: CostVs – V-s is the abbreviation –

    An important piece of work, Sal. Thank you so much for filling us in on this year’s report.

    SAL: You’re welcome, Tom. Good to talk with you.

    TOM: That’s Sal Alfano, the editorial director for Remodeling Magazine. And their website is

    LESLIE: And while we’re talking about improvements, we also need to talk about something that’s almost more important: home maintenance. How much money should you be setting aside for maintenance each year? We’re going to give you a formula, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller we talk to on the air has got a chance to win a $180 four-piece, power-tool kit from Black & Decker. It includes a circular saw, a reciprocating saw, a drill driver, a flashlight, two lithium-ion batteries and a carrying case.

    TOM: It’s a great prize from Black & Decker that goes to one caller we help today. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Rick in North Dakota is on the line with a driveway-repair question. How can we help you today?

    RICK: I have a concrete driveway that, over the years, it’s started getting little pits in it in some of the areas. It almost looks like it’s where rocks have popped out of the concrete from over time and there’s other areas that little – small, little scales or sheets of concrete have come loose. And I’m just wondering what type of a product I can use to repair those pits. I know I’ve seen, different times, where people have put regular concrete in there and it doesn’t tend to stay very well.

    TOM: So, what you want to do is use a concrete patching product. And it’s not just regular concrete or regular cement, because that won’t stick. It usually is epoxy-based. And I know QUIKRETE has a product designed specifically for this and you can go to their website at That’s spelled The epoxy-based products will stick to the old, original concrete material and not fall out the first time the surface freezes.

    Now, I just want to also point out that being in North Dakota, I’m sure you get a lot of road salt on that driveway and that probably contributes to this. But if you’re doing any salting on your own, make sure you’re using potassium chloride, not calcium chloride. Because potassium chloride is much less corrosive to the concrete surface and will not cause that destruction that you’re witnessing now.

    Alright. Does that help you out?

    RICK: Yep. That does. Thank you very much for your assistance.

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

    So, as you’re setting your household budget, you’re also going to want to include some money set aside for home maintenance and repairs. It just doesn’t make sense for issues to pop up and then scramble as you decide how to pay for them.

    LESLIE: Now, a good rule of thumb for setting aside a maintenance-and-repair budget is one percent of your home’s value. So if your home is worth $250,000, you should plan on spending about $2,500 on and over the course of a year.

    Now, that doesn’t include big expenses that you should anticipate every once in a while, like a new furnace, air conditioning, roof, even a water heater, et cetera, things like that.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, if those components are aging from the start, it’s a good idea to set even more money aside. And lastly, when it comes to appliances, it’s often cheaper to replace them rather than repair them.

    For a quick reference guide on which one makes sense over the other, take a look at the article, “Appliance Repair or Replace?” It’s online at and includes an easy reference chart.

    LESLIE: Tim in Virginia is dealing with some stuck windows. Tell us what’s going on.

    TIM: Hi. Run into an issue a lot of times, with some of the older homes that I had, with the windows. For some reason, they are painted shut or nailed shut. But I’d like to know how I can resolve that, as well as some of these windows being dual-pane windows with condensation already in them. Next to replacing them, what can I do to resolve that problem?

    TOM: Alright. Two separate issues. First of all, I presume we’re talking about old, wood windows being painted shut? Is that correct?

    TIM: That is correct.

    TOM: You’re going to need three things. You’re going to need a putty knife, a wood block and a hammer.

    Here’s what you do. First of all, you take the putty knife and you run it in between the wood window sash and the frame, all the way around, as many places as you can. Wherever you can get that in there, wiggle it in there, that will free it up.

    And you take the block of wood and from the inside, you put it on top of the sash and you take the hammer and you take a – make a quick rap. We’re actually driving the window down, as if you’re trying to close it more. Do that on both sides, on both ends. And what that quick rap does is it tends to break the paint seam that’s sticking it to the sides. So if you run the putty knife around and you take the block of wood, give it a quick rap downward, that should free up the bottom sash.

    A lot of people try to get their hands under the window and push up. That tends to pull the wood frame of the window apart. But if you give it a shot down, which is somewhat counterintuitive, that works very well.

    Now, as far as the windows that you’re dealing with that are thermal-pane and the seals are failed, can’t do anything about that. When they’re failed, they’re failed. And those windows would have to be replaced if you want them to be clear again.

    TIM: OK, OK. Alright. I will certainly put that to use probably within the next week or so with the new unit Pella just purchased. Thank you so very much.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, are you looking forward to spring? Well, most Americans certainly are after one of the worst winters in recent memory. Your home and yard probably can’t wait, either. So what do you need to do to get them ready? Find out, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And you can visit our Facebook page, right now, to check out the brand-new Pin to Win Sweepstakes. Now, I know everyone is ready for spring but are you ready for spring cleaning?

    LESLIE: Well, we’ve got four great tips to help you get started cleaning. And all you have to do is pin at least one of our tips to your Pinterest board and you’ve got a chance to win one of three gift cards to The Home Depot. We’ve got up for grabs a $100 one, $150 and $250 just waiting on you.

    TOM: Check it out at

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, you can post a question in the Community section, just like Joy in Arkansas did. And she writes: “We had a rough winter, worse than any I can remember, and I’m concerned about the impact it had on my home. How can I check to make sure everything’s in good shape?”

    TOM: You know, it’s always a good idea, after a bad storm or certainly the rough winter, just to give your home a really good, careful inspection from the outside. So, what I look for are things like the condition of the paint. Is it cracked? Is it covered with moss or mildew? The caulk around the windows and doors. Is that intact? Is any of that loosened up?

    I step back, grab a pair of binoculars and take a careful look at the roof. Look for any roof shingles that are missing. Look for intersections between roofs and walls. Look for flashing that has flown off or plumbing vents that are cracked along the top. Those are the type of items that lead to leaks.

    So take a careful look at the outside, a careful scan, and fix whatever is necessary.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Joy. It’s not a bad idea to do this after every winter season. Get in the habit now and hopefully, next winter will be better.

    TOM: Well, St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. And if you’ve got a bit of Irish in you – of course, we all do on St. Patrick’s Day – so you’ll probably be wearing green. But let’s say you want to take it one step further. There’s a few things you can do to actually go green in your home, which is a great way to save green at the same time. And Leslie has got those tips, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. These are some really easy ideas and they’ll go a long way in helping you be more eco-friendly.

    First of all, bring your own bag. Whenever you’re shopping, not just to the grocery story – I like to bring a tote bag to the mall, the shoe store, everywhere. I keep them in the car, all those reusable bags. I kind of stuff them into one another. I just keep them there and when I’m going shopping, I just grab them and throw them in the shopping cart.

    Next, you can drink tap water. Why not install a water filter and forget those bottles of spring water? Now, you can also clean with natural ingredients, like vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and skip all that stuff with chemicals and all those harsh fragrances.

    You can use glass containers for storage instead of plastic. In fact, you can even reuse jars from salsa, sauces and other pantry items. Now, they work really well for reheating in the microwave, too, and they’re less dangerous than plastics, which are kind of iffy in the microwave. And you’ve got to wonder about that BPA. Is it in it? Is it not in it? Now, if you do these simple things, you can enjoy going green.

    Now, I’ve got a tip for all of our listeners out there who’ve got small kids. If you want to do something really super-fun, which I do with the boys on St. Patrick’s Day, we like to pretend that a naughty leprechaun has gotten into the house the night before. And he turns all of the drinks in the refrigerator green, like the milk and the lemonade and whatever else.

    So, keep a jar of little droplets of some green food coloring and you can turn a lot of funny things green. I have friends who do really mischievous things with toilet paper all around the house and stuff. But our leprechaun just likes to turn the drinks green. It’s kind of funny. It’s funny because they don’t also like to drink it. But it tastes just the same, so Happy St. Patty’s Day and enjoy going green.

    TOM: I don’t know about the green milk. Everything else, probably OK.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, do you have old windows that just don’t stay up? Well, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Most likely, they’ve simply got a broken sash cord or spring, which can actually be repaired without replacing the entire window. We’ll teach you how, on the 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 2014 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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