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Trace the History of Your Home, The History of the White House, Keeping Your Pets Safe in Winter 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: Standing by to take your home improvement questions on the projects that you’re working on for your money pit. So pick up the phone and give us a call right now with that question. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We are here to help you fix up your space to make it more attractive, more energy-efficient, to finally once and for all get rid of that squeak, get rid of that leak. Whatever’s going on, we can sure help you save some time in getting the project done the right way. So pick up the phone and help yourself first by calling us at 888-666-3974.

    We’ve got a great show for you planned for this hour. First up, you know, if you travel around the Northeast, you’re likely to see a few sort of “George Washington Slept Here” kinds of signs. But really, wherever you live in the nation, there are many homes that are rich with history. Could yours be one of them? We’re going to have tips on how you can trace your own home’s history. Who knows? Maybe George Washington slept there, too, or maybe just some guy named George. But hey, there could be some history. We’ll help you figure it out.

    LESLIE: Well, while we’re talking about where presidents sleep, have you ever wondered what it takes to keep the White House running? Wait until you hear what the chore list looks like. In honor of President’s Day, we’re going to tell you what it takes to actually maintain one really, really big, white house.

    TOM: And we actually know exactly how much paint it takes to paint the White House. How about that?

    LESLIE: A lot.

    TOM: A lot.

    Also ahead, winter is a risky time of year for your pet, so we’re going to have some tips on how you can keep them safe when the thermostat dips.

    LESLIE: And one caller this hour is going to get a high-tech system that will let you check in on your home from anywhere, anytime using your computer or smartphone. It’s VueZone’s Wireless Home Video System and it’s a prize worth $200.

    TOM: Going to go out to one caller that has the guts, the fortitude, the courage to pick up the phone and call us right now with their home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

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

    DANA: Well, I have a shelf that needs to be cut down so it’ll fit in the base of our A-frame cabin that we just bought in the Ozarks. And so it’s about 20 inches tall and it’s about 3 feet long and it kind of has those baskets that fit in it. And so, what I’d like to do is I’d like to cut it at an angle so that it fits back in there and it’s not just sticking out into the flooring space.

    LESLIE: So, Dana, what you need to do is that – I mean really what you have to do is sort of resize this piece so that it will fit into that open-bay portion so that it’s not, as you say, sticking out into the room. And you really need to be creative with the angles to sort of figure out what needs to come out of where.

    Can you tell me a little bit more about this A-frame and the size of the shelf?

    DANA: Well, the A-frame is just a regular A-frame; it goes all the way from the top to the peak, all the way to the ground level. And so I was trying to figure out, how do you figure the angle so that I know what angle to cut this shelf on?

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a tool that you’re going to want to get: T-bevel.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: And it’s like a plastic handle with this sort of a tic-tac, oval-shaped blade that’s got a slide set in the middle of it.

    TOM: Blade. Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: And you’re going to open that up. You can get that at any tool area at the home center.

    DANA: OK.

    LESLIE: And you’re going to want to open it up and you put that right in the corner at the angle and then lock it in that position. And then you go ahead and put that at your T-square and that’s going to tell you exactly the angle that you need to cut at. Or you can then take that T-bevel and go right up to the bottom of your shelf, put it exactly where you’re going to want to put that cut and mark that line.

    DANA: OK.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s like an adjustable square and it’s called a T-bevel. And you should be able to find an inexpensive one, like Leslie said, at home center.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It really is going to save your day and make this the easiest project.

    DANA: Ours …

    TOM: I use that all the time for different types of fancy mitering cuts in, too, because there’s a couple of tricks of the trade where you can measure an angle and then divide it so that you can make a miter that ends up perfect on both sides.

    And we also use it sometimes to set the angle on saw blades, so I think you’ll find that it’d be a very handy tool for this particular project. OK, Dana?

    DANA: Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Larry in Illinois on the line who needs help with a cleaning question. Tell us what you’re working on.

    LARRY: Yes. Working on some floors that I refinished but I even washed the floor down after I sanded them originally with mineral spirits. And then I stained them and put two coats of stain on them – I believe it was at least two coats – and then put clear poly on the top of it like that. Three coats of it and sanded in between. Now I’m getting kind of a white haze coming up like that. And I don’t know if it’s from the original wood or what; I was just curious. Can I just sand that area down and will it blend into the rest of the floor, without having to redo the whole floor?

    TOM: Well, you might be able to but I want to make sure it’s really super-dry before I tell you to do that. How many days has it been sitting around now?

    LARRY: Oh, it’s been about four years. Three or four years.

    TOM: Oh, well, I guess it’s dry.

    LARRY: Yeah.

    LESLIE: It’s cured.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LARRY: Yeah.

    TOM: Here’s the way to do this. Instead of sanding it, what you can do is buff it with a sanding screen. You could head out to a rental-supply house and pick up a floor buffer and a sanding screen.

    LARRY: OK.

    TOM: So, the sanding screen kind of looks like window-screen material but it’s a very fine abrasive.

    LARRY: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve used that before.

    TOM: OK. So you know what I’m talking about. So that just takes off the upper surface of the floor itself; it doesn’t really dig in and damage the wood.

    LARRY: OK.

    TOM: It won’t cause you to have to restain or touch up anything. And I would try using that machine and then buffing out the whole surface with that. And then you can use a damp mop and very carefully lift up and vacuum up all of the dust.

    And if you want – when that’s done, since you have all the furniture out of the room – you could maybe put one fresh coat of urethane on it. And that should restore the surface.

    LARRY: Now, can I use 220 DA sander? That’s what I’ve used in between the coats like that if they recommend.

    TOM: Yeah. You could do that, as well. It’s just I think that the floor buffer is not an expensive piece of equipment to rent and a very easy way to do a large area. Get down there with a floor sander, even if it’s a half-sheet sander, that’s important to have to get into the nooks and the crannies in the corners. But the floor buffer with a sanding screen is just a really easy tool to use once you get it picked up and back to the house.

    LARRY: OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. What are you working on this three-day-long weekend? Let us give you a hand to tackle all of those President’s Weekend projects 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, you know that if you live in an older home, it takes constant upkeep. But there’s one address that probably has you beat.

    Coming up, in honor of President’s Day, we’re going to tell you what it takes to keep 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in tip-top shape. And I bet you’ll never guess how many gallons of paint it takes to paint the White House.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

    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. And you should give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, because one caller who’s going to get on the air with us this hour is going to win the hottest technology in home security. We’ve got a wireless home video system from VueZone worth $200.

    Now, VueZone lets you see your home from your smartphone, wherever you are in the entire world. And if there’s motion in your house, the system will even e-mail the video right to you. Visit VueZone – V-u-e – Zone.com – or call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Mike in Iowa is on the line with a venting question. How can we help you?

    MIKE: Yeah. I was listening to one of your shows earlier and you were talking about how the bathroom vents are vented into the attic?

    TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

    MIKE: And I have that problem regarding that. I mean it’s right into my insulation; it’s not vented out by any means.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah. A very common problem.

    MIKE: I was wondering the best way – yeah, what’s the best way to fix that problem?

    TOM: OK. So what you want to do is you want to install a duct – a vent duct – and you can use flex duct for this. That will take it from the bath exhaust fan to a discharge point.

    Now, where the discharge point is is going to be up to you. A lot of options. Typically, you can take that out to the nearest side wall, like a gable wall, and bring it right through the wall. And you would use a termination point, a discharge point. It’s like a piece of flashing that has a hood on it and lets the air get out and then snaps shut and it keeps it from getting wet.

    You could also take it and you could drop it into a soffit but you have to actually bring it through the soffit again into a grid so that it’s not obstructed. So you can take the vent and drop it down so it points towards the vented soffit right out. Or you can take it up further and point it right at an existing roof vent. Now, I don’t like that as much because I think that the higher you try to lift that air, the less effective it’s going to be. But that is an option. You can bring it straight up and point it at an existing roof vent and let it exhaust there.

    MIKE: Well, my house is about six years old and I’m wondering – I’m paying pretty high energy bills regarding the heat.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because what happens is when the insulation gets moist from all that moisture that’s being dumped into the attic, it completely cuts down on the R-value of the insulation. So you do need to get that vented outside, whether it’s through the siding with one of those trap doors that sort of opens out every time you’ve got it on or through the soffit. But you want to keep it the shortest run so that you can effectively move that air.

    Now, if you’re evaluating what’s going on with the insulation up in the attic, you really need to look at how much compression is there, what is the condition.

    Are you talking about pink fiberglass batts?

    MIKE: It’s got a white fiberglass.

    LESLIE: It looks like it’s blown in?

    MIKE: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You can add more blown-in, because you want it to fill up to the floor joists when you’re looking up in your attic floor. You want it to sort of reach the height of that bay and you can do that with more blown-in or what you can do is just take rolls of fiberglass and go perpendicular to your floor joists, just to sort of make up and add some oomph to the R-value. And that will really enhance your insulative value. But you do have to vent that outside.

    MIKE: OK. Alright. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, you’ve heard Tom and I talk about the constant upkeep on our older homes. Well, how would you feel about a 200-year-old home that must be kept in perfect condition always?

    We are talking about the White House. As we celebrate President’s Day Weekend, it might help your attitude toward your chore list to consider the maintenance needed on this symbol of American history.

    Construction began at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in October of 1792 but it took eight years before President John Adams and his wife moved in in 1800. But the first White House? It only lasted 14 years as the British set fire to it in 1814, resulting in, of course, its first major reconstruction.

    TOM: Now, perhaps the biggest overhaul was during the Truman presidency. The house’s load-bearing walls were actually found to be close to failure and the Trumans had to not only fix it but they had to move out. They had to move across the street while the interior was gutted and new load-bearing steel frame was constructed inside the walls. But as at least one example of “they don’t build them like they used to,” the stone walls that made up the exterior, they are still completely original today.

    And finally, if you think you have a tough job painting, it takes 570 gallons of white paint to cover those outside walls. And chipping, of course, isn’t tolerated. So before you go feeling so sorry for yourself or anyone else, this house has a permanent staff of painters year round.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: It’s also got a team of plumbers, carpenters, electricians and even this: in case it’s not covered by the other group, they have 33 handymen. Like if you don’t know who to call – a painter, a plumber, a carpenter or electrician – you’ve always got the troupe of 33 handymen to take care of your White House.

    LESLIE: Right? And think about this, if you buy, say, a $45 gallon of paint, you’re looking at $25,650.

    TOM: Right. Yeah but it’s the government. Wouldn’t that $45 gallon of paint really cost like 250 bucks?

    888-666-3974. Give us a call right now. Hopefully, your projects aren’t quite as complex. But whatever they are, we are here to help.

    LESLIE: Linda in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    LINDA: Yes. This is an old house and in the basement – on the wall, which was fieldstone – in the past, they had painted it with whitewash or – that’s what it was called back then.

    TOM: Right.

    LINDA: And no matter what kind of paint I’ve applied, if flakes off.

    TOM: Hmm. Yeah, because it’s damp and wet, that’s why. Yeah. You know, you can’t just – if you put any kind of regular paint on that, it’s going to do that. You have to use a basement wall paint. It’s a lot stickier and it can handle the dampness of that wall.

    Now, you could also take steps to reduce the dampness by improving your drainage outside. But if you put typical wall paint on the stone, it is going to flake off because water and paint don’t go well together. And those stones are like little sponges and the paint’s just going to peel right off of it.

    So, what you want to use is a basement wall paint. And it’s really smelly but it’s really sticky.

    LINDA: Right.

    TOM: And it’s …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s going to stick to where you need it.

    TOM: It will last a lot longer. Does that make sense, Linda?

    LINDA: Oh, it certainly does.

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

    LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

    DON: Now, we’re going to redo our kitchen ceiling this year and we have these 6-inch pot lights up in the ceiling.

    TOM: OK. Yeah, the can lights?

    DON: Yeah.

    TOM: OK.

    DON: And we were wondering if we would take them out, if we put the LED lights under the cabinets, if it would give us as much light.

    TOM: No, I wouldn’t take them out. I would keep them in.

    Now, one is for area lighting; one is for task lighting. So the LED lights that could go under the edge of the cabinet could give you task-specific lighting for food prep. And they also look darn cool when you dim them in a party or something like that.

    DON: Yeah.

    TOM: But I would keep the lights in the ceiling.

    But by the way, you have a lot of options in the type of bulb that you can put in those ceiling lights. You could actually put in LED bulbs into those ceiling lights, too. And you may find the quality light is better than what you have with the incandescents.

    DON: I mean take them out and put maybe like 4-inch ones in smaller ones or just leave the 6 ones in there?

    TOM: I would leave them. I think that – I think you could use the 6-inch ones that you have. I don’t think that’s part of the project that’s going to give you a good return on investment. But if you change the bulbs out, I think you’ll find that that will make a difference.

    Take a look at those Philips bulbs. I’ve got several of those now in my house, including in the kitchen, as can lights. They’re LEDs and we matched them up with Lutron dimmers where you can adjust the dimming range. And they’re super-bright and they cost a heck of a lot less to run than the incandescents. And they last a lot longer. We used to replace those incandescents all the time and these have been – I’ve never had to replace them and I think they say they last over 20 years.

    DON: Where would you find the (inaudible at 0:17:54) on that?

    TOM: You can get them at Home Depot.

    DON: OK.

    TOM: I know that I’ve gone there. They’re really interesting-looking, Jack. They’re the ones that look – they look like yellow. They kind of look – I always think they look like bug lights.

    DON: OK.

    TOM: But you’ll be amazed when the thing comes on how bright it is.

    DON: OK.

    LESLIE: And they’re super-efficient.

    DON: Well, that’s what we’re looking for.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Gary in Georgia on the line who wants to save the rainwater. What can we do for you?

    GARY: Yes, I do. My wife and I have a lot of grass to water during the summertime. And in Georgia, it gets like drought weather all the time. And we’ve noticed that during these months, we actually have a lot of water running off the house and we wanted to know if there’s a way that we could create a water reservoir to save that water that’s coming off of our house.

    TOM: Yeah, you definitely can collect that rainwater. What you want is simply a rainwater harvesting collection system. And there are a lot of modern ones that are available. In fact, we wrote a story about this on MoneyPit.com. If you go to MoneyPit.com and just type in the search box “rainwater collection system,” you’ll see an article.

    There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you install it but again, there’s a wide variety of collectors that are out there. There are some that look they’re traditional barrels; there’s even one that looks like a half-barrel that’s got a hose spigot on the end, on the bottom of it. So it collects water off the spouts and then you feed it from the hose.

    So, it’s definitely a good system, a good idea. And there’s a lot of options out there and we encourage you to do that.

    GARY: And is this an easy project that I could do probably over the weekend?

    TOM: Yeah, clearly. You definitely just need to position this. Yeah, you’re going to have to – may have to rework your spouts a little bit to feed it but it’s definitely a very simple installation.

    GARY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    And that article, again, is called “Rainwater Harvesting Collection System” and it’s online right now at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Well, have you ever wondered who lived in your house before you got there or what changes have been made to it? This Old House host, Kevin O’ Connor, joins us after the break to tell us how to trace the history of your home.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House feature is presented by Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Icynene fills the gaps other insulations miss.

    We’ll be back with Kevin O’Connor from This Old House, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Icynene. If you’re building, remodeling or reinsulating, demand Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Icynene fills the spaces other insulations miss, for up to 50-percent energy savings. Learn more and find a dealer at Icynene.com. I-c-y-n-e-n-e.com.

    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: Hey, have you ever wondered about your home’s inhabitants before you or perhaps whether there were any renovations made since it was first built?

    LESLIE: Well, coming up, Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House is joining us in just a few minutes, with tips on how to learn more about the history of your home. And today’s This Old House segment will be presented by Icynene.

    If you’re building, remodeling or reinsulating, demand Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Icynene fills spaces other insulations miss, for up to 50-percent energy savings.

    TOM: And how about this? How would you like to win 500 bucks from Icynene? Well, you can enter our Stay Warm with Icynene Giveaway. All you need to do is send an e-mail to StayWarm@MoneyPit.com to enter. It’s as simple as that. Send an e-mail to StayWarm@MoneyPit.com. Now, let’s get back to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Erica in Pennsylvania is on the line looking to renovate a kitchen. How can we help you with that project?

    ERICA: Well, the kitchen is here now. When we first bought this place, I had moved the refrigerator from where it was at to a different location. And I noticed that the tile – there was no tile on the floor underneath the refrigerator. And now I’m ready to continue with the renovation – putting new cabinets in and a new floor in – but I’m thinking, “Do I want to put the floor in first or do I want to put the cabinets in first?”

    TOM: That’s a good question. So, I – what kind of floor, first of all. What kind of floor are you putting in?

    ERICA: Well, what’s down there now is a tile: a linoleum-type tile. What we’re going to do …

    TOM: Right. And we’re talking – so were we talking about ceramic tile?

    ERICA: No, we’re talking about linoleum. But what I want to replace it with is with some of that laminate …

    TOM: Laminate? OK. Well, you know, laminate isn’t terribly expensive, so I would tend to probably, if I was you, do the whole floor first.

    And I mean you can save yourself a foot or two against the wall but frankly, I’d just do the entire room, throw the cabinets on top and call it a day.

    ERICA: That’s what I was wondering. I thought that would make a nicer finish but I got to thinking, “Was that the way I should go?”

    TOM: Yeah. I would do it first. It’s just – it’s a lot less cutting because, otherwise, you have to cut around all of those cabinets.

    ERICA: You’re absolutely right.

    TOM: It’s easier to put the cabinets on top and just drop them down on the floor.

    ERICA: OK.

    TOM: Alright? Well, good luck with that project. And take a look at LumberLiquidators.com. They have great prices on that laminate floor.

    ERICA: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

    LESLIE: Well, Tom and I both live in very old houses with very rich histories. And if you do, too, you might be interested to learn as much as you can about your home.

    TOM: That’s right. Finding out when your home was built, who lived within its walls and what changes were done over the years can be a bit challenging. But it can also be fascinating. With us to talk about that is a guy who’s uncovered the history of many old houses. He is the host of TV’s This Old House: Kevin O’Connor.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Great to be here, guys.

    TOM: So, Kevin, how do you get started? This is a real history project, isn’t it?

    KEVIN: It is. It can be a lot of fun, especially if you love old homes like I do. And I would say that the first step is to identify the era in which the structure was built. And you can do that with the help of architectural books. Most homeowners can figure out a core style by just examining the silhouette of the house that they live in and its layout, as well as the style of the windows and the doors and other features, all of which might be clues to tell you when your house was built.

    TOM: Now, there are also records available either in your local municipality or even at your county level that can give you some clues, as well.

    KEVIN: Yeah. Building permits is a great place to start. Sometime around the 1900s, we had to start pulling permits and so that becomes a permanent record in every town. But then there are also preservation officers, town historical societies that keep catalogues of this municipal information, old maps. Sometimes, local newspapers will have those.

    When I was doing the research on my old house, we were able to actually pull up old photographs from the historical society and they were taking pictures of the street. They had a picture from 1890; the home wasn’t there. They had another picture of 1894 and it was there.

    TOM: Well, there you go.

    KEVIN: So we were able to narrow it down to that four-year window.

    TOM: Good point. And that’s a real treat when you do have the pictures of the way the home used to look, because there’s been an awful lot of changes in the last 100 years. And let’s face it, nobody keeps track of that.

    KEVIN: No one keeps track of it. And those old pictures of your house always look so good. Whereas when you buy it, it looks so run-down.

    LESLIE: Aww. Now, Kevin, are these records fairly easy to get? Are they publicly accessible? Can you just walk in and ask or do you need permission?

    KEVIN: Well, it depends on where you’re getting them. The county records are all public records. Anything the town holds is public record. The historical societies, you’re going to have to ask for their permission but keep in mind, that’s what they’re there for.

    TOM: Now, another clue to how old the home is is to really look at what’s around the home. Look at the neighborhood; there’s a lot there that you can gain.

    In fact, I remember when you guys were doing the Brooklyn house, there were a lot of clues. You actually found parts of your – the house that you were doing in the project at other people’s houses.

    KEVIN: It was quite remarkable.

    TOM: They were like sharing some of the architectural details.

    KEVIN: Yeah. And so here’s the thing: it was early 1900s, late 1800s and a lot of these old, brick row houses were going up. And you wouldn’t think about it because they look so old and classic but it turned out it was just a subdivision.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: It was just a developer rolling up the street one block at a time, building 10 houses and moving on because they were building worker housing.

    TOM: And then when did development become a dirty word, you know? I mean we see beautiful, old neighborhoods and we see developments and developments are like, “Ugh. I don’t want to live in a development; I want a beautiful, old neighborhood.” But they were all developments.

    KEVIN: They were all developments.

    LESLIE: I think another great way, if you’re sort of stuck with determining the age of your home, are probably in the construction details. Because I imagine a lot of the way that houses were built are very significant to the time that they were actually built.

    KEVIN: Yeah, because the way our houses are built and the materials we use, they change over time. And so they can actually be really good indicators of when the home was built.

    For example, if you have knob-and-tube wiring in the house, well, that was used pretty much up until the 1920s, so that ought to be a good indication. Plumbing wasn’t always copper pipes; they used to make those pipes out of steel. And so those were used up until about the 1940s. But then you can look for other things like unlined chimneys. Is there any insulation in the walls? Are you using plaster and wood lath? All of those things can be really good indicators of when your home was built.

    TOM: Now, what about newspapers? Is it a good idea to check the history with newspapers? Clearly, there’s many, many years of newspapers contained in microfilm today.

    KEVIN: And there’s probably a lot of good stories from your town locally. There may even be a story about a bigger house in the neighborhood that was built, because it was a big event. And that might lead you to the date when your home was built, as well.

    TOM: This is a real fun detective project.

    KEVIN: Can be.

    TOM: Alright. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a lot of step-by-step videos on so many projects that you can tackle, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    Up next, with all the work to make sure your home and family is safe during these cold winter months, it’s easy to forget Rover or Spot or Daisy. We’re going to have tips on keeping your pets safe and happy at home.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by ODL’s Add-On Blinds. Enclosed behind tempered glass, they eliminate the need for dusting and exposed cords, both problems with traditional blinds. Plus, they easily install over your existing entry glass. Visit www.ODL.com to learn more.

    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. And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Hey, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs going to one of you lucky callers who gets on the air with us this hour. We’ve got a high-tech way that you can check in on your house from anywhere at any time. It’s the VueZone Wireless Home Video System and it’s worth nearly $200.

    Now, it’s going to let you see cameras that you’ve set up in your home from your computer or your smartphone wherever you are. And it’s even going to alert you if there’s unexpected movement in your house. Check it out at VueZone – V-u-e – Zone.com – and call us for your chance to win at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Sebastian in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    SEBASTIAN: Yes. I have a 1940s brick-sided bungalow or Cape Cod, in Michigan. It has plaster walls ventilating on the interior.

    TOM: OK.

    SEBASTIAN: I was told the best – and it has no insulation in the walls. I was told the best way to insulate this is by going from the outside, drilling through the mortar joints and pushing the cellulose. I just didn’t feel confident this was the proper way of doing this.

    TOM: Yeah. No, I don’t think so. Typically, you don’t insulate that type of an exterior wall. There’s just really no effective way to get insulation in there; there’s no wall cavity for you to fill out.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And the stones should be insulating enough as itself but generally isn’t.

    TOM: Yeah. Believe it or not, the air that’s trapped inside of it. So what I would focus on in your house, Sebastian, is two things. In terms of the exterior walls, I would concentrate on air infiltration, so that means good-quality windows, proper sealing, weatherstripping and caulking.

    But most importantly, from an insulation perspective, it’s everything that’s above you because 80 percent of your heat loss is going to go up; only about 15 percent goes through the exterior walls and about 5 percent through the floors. So I would concentrate on making sure that you have at least 19 to 22 inches of insulation in the attic space, because that’s going to do the best – that’s going to be the most effective way at cutting down on utility costs and improving comfort.

    SEBASTIAN: OK. Say, the walls actually feel like an ice cube; when you’re laying there in bed, you can actually feel the cold coming off the walls. It’s really extracting; the temperature flows from hot to cold and you can really feel it leaving your body.

    TOM: What kind of insulation do you have in the attic space?

    SEBASTIAN: That I know I can put in, because I just put in – I just added 2x6s up there; it’s on top of the original (inaudible at 0:31:35).

    TOM: Yeah. I think what you’re going to find is this: when you insulate the attic, you’re going to find that you have, all of a sudden, more heat in the house and that’s going to make those walls warmer.


    TOM: Because you’re losing a lot of heat.

    SEBASTIAN: OK. Very good. Thank you.

    TOM: Well, winter’s here for at least another month but that winter weather can last well into March and even April. And while you’re probably busy making sure the cold stays outside, you also need to pay attention to your pets’ needs.

    Now, there are gadgets that are available that can keep those four-legged friends toasty/happy and not tearing up things inside the house.

    First, if you have a strictly outdoor dog and you live in a colder climate, you might need to heat the doghouse. Believe it or not, there are portable climate-control units designed specifically for doghouses. And they can also dehumidify that same space in the summer.

    LESLIE: Now, if your pet is too pampered to spend that much time outdoors, you may want to consider doggy boots and a warm coat for those necessary potty outdoor breaks that you’ve got to take.

    Next, be careful with those chemical deicers because they can hurt a doggy’s sensitive paws. And finally, if you turn the thermostat down at night, consider a heated dog bed. You know, you can even get a cordless one in case your best friend is a chewer.

    TOM: For more ideas on keeping Rover safe, search “dogs and winter safety” on MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Kelly in South Dakota is on the line and needs help with a cleaning question. Tell us what’s going on.

    KELLY: Hi. We have a stain on our breezeway cement. Seems like an oil stain and we just are having a lot of trouble getting that up. Do you have like a professional formula?

    TOM: Where’s the floor and why do you need to get the oil stain on the cement? Oh, wait. Is it in the garage or where?

    KELLY: No, it’s in our breezeway. We have – in between the – it’s an enclosed breezeway. It’s kind of decorated and we use it.

    TOM: I see. So it’s a finished space, yeah.

    Well, what I would do is I would consider painting that cement floor. I would use an epoxy paint. I would use a two-part epoxy paint, which you mix up and has a chemical cure. There’s going to be a degreaser that’s part of the process that preps the surface. And so you clean it with a degreaser first.

    And I assume we’re talking about an old stain here, nothing that’s soppy and oily.

    KELLY: No, no.

    TOM: But you hit it with the degreaser first, let it dry. And then you use the epoxy paint and you’ll get a nice, clean finish and you’ll find that it’s going to be a lot easier to sweep and keep nice and tidy, too, with the epoxy paint. Not terribly expensive, not complicated and it will clearly solve the issue.

    KELLY: Will it be slippery if it gets wet?

    TOM: No, absolutely not.

    KELLY: OK. Well, that sounds great.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, rooms that are against outside walls of your home can be the coldest rooms in your house this time of year but there is a way to warm them up. Find out what that is, after this.

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    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.

    Hey, is your ceiling fan just sitting there idle through these winter months? Well, you can actually use it to help you heat your home. Check out MoneyPit.com and search “reverse ceiling fan” and you’re going to get some money-saving tips on making the most of your heating system.

    TOM: And while you’re on MoneyPit.com, please check out the Community section and post your questions there. We’ve got one here from Pauline who says, “I live in a really cold climate and I plan to put in a new stone walkway when spring comes. I know I have to dig below the frost line to put it in but how do I determine how far down that is?”

    Well, actually, when it comes to walkways, you don’t have to dig below the frost line. You do, however, need to plan for proper drainage. So it’s the same advice that we would give, really, for any paver/patio type of project. And that is it all starts with a really good base.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Pauline. The base is super-important to making sure that that entire walkway is going to last. So you want to dig down maybe 8 or 10 inches, get it all nice and even. You’re going to want to rent a mechanical tamper from the home center. It’s just going to make your life a lot easier when it comes to all of this process.

    So once you’ve sort of mapped out your walkway, removed the soil, dig down 8, 10 inches. Then you want to put down a base of a good sort of even-sized stone. It could be aggregate. You’ll just ask at the home center and they’ll give you that base. You put that all out, tamp that down. Then you want to put in sand. Get nice, clean sand; put that on top of that. Tamp that down nice and evenly.

    And then you can go ahead and put whatever paver, brick, whatever stone you’re using to create that walkway. And that’ll give it a good, nice, smooth base that’s really going to keep everything in line.

    TOM: That’s right. And with those steps taken, Pauline, you really should have no worries when it comes to that cold winter climate.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Pauline? For a top step, you can go ahead and brush in some joint-locking sand. I think QUIKRETE makes one called Joint-Lock. And what that does is it sort of fills in the gaps between all of your paver stones, as tiny as they are. And then you spray it with a hose and that sort of locks it all together. And it keeps bugs and any grass growth or anything from coming up through.

    And if you ever need to replace a paver or turn it over, you can just sort of loosen it and jiggle it and it’ll pop right out and you can do so.

    TOM: That’s right.

    Next up, we’ve got a post from Erica who says, “I burn through a lot of firewood. I know these man-made logs burn longer but I worry about them giving off chemicals. Which would you say is safer and cheaper in the long run?”

    Well, first of all, just burning pure hardwood – oak, cherry, birch – a good hardwood that’s been dried for six months to a year – perhaps it was cut last year and it’s really nice and dry – that’s the best wood that you can burn.

    As far as those chemical logs, I call those convenience logs. I’m not worried about the fumes because it’s going up the chimney. But let’s say you’re having a nice party, you’re having some friends over, you don’t want to have to mess with it, you don’t want to have maintain it, I’ll throw one of those chemical logs on now and again, because it just is kind of a no-brainer. You don’t have to mess with it and it’s going to be burning there for a good hour, hour-and-a-half sometimes.

    LESLIE: Even three hours.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. So, I wouldn’t use a lot of them. Generally, I stick with the hardwood but a little bit is fine. Not to worry.

    LESLIE: And Tom, I’ve seen sometimes at the store, they make those chemical logs that claim that they clean your chimney and they clean out your fireplace. Is that worth anything?

    TOM: Oh, those are really, really bad. Bad idea. Yeah, those chemical – supposed chemical fireplace/chimney cleaners are incredibly corrosive, so I would steer clear of those. But cleaning your fireplace is something that’s really important to do. In fact, the rule of thumb is this: for every cord of wood you burn, you need to have that fireplace cleaned. So do it seasonally – perhaps in the beginning of the year before you start burning – and you will be good to go for the entire year.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s good advice. But most of all, enjoy that fireplace.

    TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for sticking around with us this hour. We hope we’ve offered you a tip or two to help make your money pit a pleasant place to live.

    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 2012 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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