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Water Saving Tips for Summer, Whole House Dehumidifiers Can Prevent Damage to Your Home, Whole House Fans Can Cool Efficiently and Easily, 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: What are you doing on this fine summer weekend? Are you working on your money pit? Well, we can help. If you don’t know where to start to tackle a project, we can help. If you’ve got a project going but maybe you’re stuck smack dab in the middle, we can help. You’ve got to help yourself first, though, by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-666-3974. Think of Leslie and I as your home improvement coaches. And if you don’t want to do it yourself, we’ll make sure that you don’t do it to yourself by taking on a project that’s too big, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up on today’s program, one of the most wasteful uses of water around the house happens when we wash cars at home. Did you know that professional car washes actually save water and do more to protect the environment? We’re going to have more surprising water-saving tips in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And as the old saying goes, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. We’re going to have tips on how to cut the humidity and improve your comfort.

    TOM: And also ahead, our friend Tom Silva, the general contractor from TV’s This Old House, is going to stop by with tips on how to install a whole-house fan. And he’s going to share some advice on when and how it should be used for maximum creature comfort.

    LESLIE: And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a RotoSaw from RotoZip. It’s worth 69 bucks and can cut tile, wood, plastic, underlayment and drywall.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now with your home improvement question for your chance to win. That RotoZip will go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us on today’s show, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Terri in Washington is on the line with a decking question. How can we help you with your project?

    TERRI: Yes, I have an 11×12-foot deck on the back of my home and I’d like to put some kind of a roof over it. I don’t want something to keep the light out but I don’t want it real bright. I’ve gotten five bids and five different ways that they thought it should be done and I’m thoroughly confused, at this point.

    TOM: OK. OK. So what kinds of things are you considering? Like awnings and that sort of thing?

    LESLIE: A pergola? An awning?

    TERRI: No. No, I don’t want an – I want it to be permanent so that in the winter, when it’s raining, I can still go outside.

    TOM: OK. And what has been the cost range of these designs?

    TERRI: I’ve had anything from $1,700 to $6,500.

    TOM: Hmm. OK. Well, the problem here is that you have no way of comparing apples to apples because what you have is apples to oranges. And the reason you have apples to oranges is because there is a critical, missing component of this project.

    LESLIE: A design plan.

    TOM: And that’s a design plan, exactly. So, what I would recommend you do, since the appearance is very important to you is – this is the kind of small project that it would be worth hiring a designer or an architect to lay out for you.

    TERRI: Yeah.

    TOM: For the few hundred dollars it will cost you, you’ll be able to make sure that this is exactly what you want to achieve with this space, Terri. The designer will work with you to choose the materials, to choose the size, the shape.

    LESLIE: And it may, Tom – it may have to be an architect because depending on what the village/town/county – you might need a variance, you might need special permits. It might be something that you need an architect to have approved specific drawings.

    TERRI: I don’t think you have to have a permit for this size. I think if it was 1 foot larger, we would have to have a permit.

    TOM: But let me give you one of the other key benefits of this and that is that once you have the design done, then you can go back to those five contractors and say, “This is what I want you to build.”

    TERRI: I see.

    TOM: So you’re not relying on them to design it; you’re saying, “This is what is going to be designed; now, you can give me a price to build it if you want to build it.”

    LESLIE: Right.

    TERRI: Right.

    TOM: And this way, you’ll have all five contractors bidding on the exact same project.

    TERRI: And then I can compare apples to apples.

    LESLIE: Correct. Because currently, you’ve got each contractor just being like, “Well, this is what I think.”

    TERRI: OK.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And then the next one is like, “But I think this.”

    TERRI: Exactly. And I tried to narrow them down but – so that they – so we’re all on the same page but it just doesn’t seem to work.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I mean the other thing is if one of the contractors has given you – I doubt there’s drawings associated. But say one contractor has been like, “Oh, here’s my sketch and here’s what I’m thinking of doing,” and you like what’s been presented, you can then use that. But really, an architect, this is where they come in; this is their forte.

    TERRI: OK.

    LESLIE: They’re going to help you determine materials. It really will be exactly what you want.

    TERRI: That sounds wonderful.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got David in Mississippi on the line who wants to add some extra insulation. How can we help you?

    DAVID: I wanted to put some more insulation in my ceiling and I was wanting to see if I could put blown insulation over the roll-out. Or would I need to go back with roll-out?

    TOM: You can definitely do that; there’s no reason to do – there’s no reason you couldn’t do that. But remember, when you have blown-in insulation, it’s a lot harder to manage the space up there in the attic if you’ve got to get around there for storage or work. The other option that you could do is just to add some unfaced fiberglass batts and lay them perpendicular to the existing insulation. So you could, essentially, double what you have there. And that’s a lot easier to do and you can do it yourself.

    DAVID: Yeah. And that’s what I would like to do. I’m retired and some of the stuff is – I just want to do – be able to do some of it myself. And that’s with the flooring; I was wanting to do a lot of that myself.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re just – you’re retired so you’re looking for projects to keep you busy, I know.

    DAVID: Yeah, that’s …

    TOM: You’re tinkering.

    DAVID: Well, I’d like to – you know, I want to be able to do it right. I want to do a professional job and – on the floor, especially.

    TOM: Alright. Well, I think that insulation is an easy project for you to tackle, David.

    DAVID: OK. I sure appreciate it. I listen to you all’s show all the time. Sure appreciate all the information I can get from you all.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. 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.

    Up next, we’ve got advice on water saving this summer. It’s peak drought season. We’ll teach you how you can conserve both money and water, after this.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

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    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’ve got a fantastic tool to give away to one lucky caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. It’s called a RotoSaw from RotoZip. This is a new spiral-saw system that’s specifically designed to tackle plunge and freehand cuts in nearly any building material. We’re talking about tile, wood, plastic, laminate, underlayment, drywall, you name it. And it comes with a dust-collection system that cuts down the debris while the venting works to keep dust away from you, the user.

    It’s worth $69. Check it out at RotoZip.com or give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: David in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    DAVID: I have a project that I’m trying to undertake here. It’s a large circle of granite rocks and mortar around a tree. And the tree was small and there was no problem. And for 15 or 16 years, there was no problem. But lately, there’s been – developing these cracks – vertical cracks – where the rocks are separating from the mortar. And I think it’s because the – our roots have gotten so big that they’re pushing out. But I don’t know – I need to have something that I – that is flexible and will at least hold it or I’ve got to do something else; I don’t know what.

    TOM: And that’s it. Look, you enjoyed this tree for those 15 or 16 years and yes, now it’s finally growing up and becoming an adult. It’s gone from a baby tree to a big boy tree and so it’s lifting up all that masonry all around it. You’re not going to stop this from happening, David. If you don’t want to see cracks, you could use something that was more like a brick-paver patio but that’s going to move, too. You’re just not going to stop this from happening.

    So, you either have to kind of work with it where it is or you have to take out the tree. Those are really your two options. You’re not going to be able to …

    DAVID: Oh, I can’t take out the tree; it’s just too beautiful.

    TOM: Then you’re just going to have to accept that this is the way it’s going to be and maybe think of some other design for that particular area that accounts for this.

    Why not just replace it with stone instead of – like loose stone instead of anything that’s more of a brick surface? Then you could just sort of rake it around.

    DAVID: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, you could rake it around as the roots start to show. You’ll have a little bit more maintenance but at least it won’t be a hard product like concrete or granite.

    DAVID: OK. Well, that sounds like a solution. I’ll give it a shot and I’ll let you know in a couple of years how it works out.

    TOM: OK. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, this is the peak season for water conservation. Now, you can do simple things like taking shorter showers or washing only full loads of laundry. And don’t forget, there’s no need to pre-rinse those dishes before loading the dishwasher. But if you’re washing your car at home to save water and money, you might be surprised to learn that you aren’t doing yourself any favors. It actually makes more sense to go to the car wash.

    TOM: Yeah. After lawn watering, summer car washing produces the largest demand for water use. It’s probably both the water that gets on your car and the water that gets on the kids and the rest of your family as you’re washing the car. But professional car washes use less than a tenth-of-one-percent of the water used in a municipality daily.

    So you also need to think about the detergents and the chemicals that you’re sending into the ground when you wash your vehicle at home. So, think about taking your car to the car wash instead because they actually recycle that material and keep it out of the environment. That saves water and keeps the chemicals from entering lakes, rivers and streams.

    We’ve got more water-saving tips just like that at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Laura in South Carolina is just not enjoying the taste of a popcorn ceiling. Tell us what’s going on over there.

    LAURA: Well, a tree fell on the roof of our house, which caused the ceiling to crack in the bedroom.

    TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.

    LAURA: And we’ve gotten the roof fixed and all those things fixed and everything. And so we redid the drywall and the plaster up in the ceiling. But we can’t match the popcorn so that you can tell or not tell that there’s been damage. And we don’t know what to do.

    TOM: How have you tried to patch it?

    LAURA: Well, we took – we patched it first. We removed the section that had actually come through the ceiling and put new – the new ceiling up.

    TOM: Yep. Yeah.

    LAURA: And then we plastered over the crack, because there were two cracks where the edge of the – the width of the tree was, all the way to the middle of the ceiling

    TOM: Right.

    LAURA: And so we plastered that and then we tried to use that popcorn texture that you get at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

    LESLIE: In the spray can?

    LAURA: And you – yeah, in the little – no, we tried the spray but that was so, so messy. And then we got the can of it – the little container of it – where you use the putty knife or the paintbrush?

    TOM: Right.

    LAURA: And tried to put that up but it does not – it looks horrible; it looks like watery dripping or big drip marks.

    TOM: Right.

    LAURA: And it just does not match at all and we don’t know what to do.

    TOM: So, did you file an insurance claim for this act of God?

    LAURA: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: You did?

    LAURA: It wasn’t actually an act of God; it was a dead tree from the neighbor’s house that fell.

    TOM: Oh, OK. But it’s covered by insurance, right?

    LAURA: Yeah, the insurance took care of it.

    TOM: So why didn’t they go all the way and just restore the ceiling? This was something that is covered by insurance and you had a popcorn ceiling and you deserve to have that ceiling restored. Why didn’t they just pay for a painter to come in with the popcorn-ceiling machine and just respray the whole thing?

    LAURA: Well, it was kind of a mistake on our part because there was a gentleman that lives in the neighborhood who’s a contractor that we got. And then he finished the outside and most of the inside but didn’t finish that part.

    TOM: Alright. Well, live and learn. I mean you probably can go back to them but look, are you really in love with the popcorn ceiling? Because most people are not; most of the calls we get about popcorn ceiling is how to get rid of it.

    LAURA: No.

    LESLIE: How to get rid of it.

    TOM: So, the other option here is just to get rid of what’s there and match it all.

    LAURA: Exactly.

    TOM: And you can do that. It’s not really that hard to do. You dampen the ceiling with – you can use a pump-up sprayer to put a little bit of a water spray on it: not terrible, not a lot but just enough to dampen it. Then you can scrape away the popcorn with a putty knife or with a drywall knife, like a spackling blade?

    LAURA: Right.

    TOM: And you get that off the whole ceiling that way. And then you prime the whole thing and then you paint it with a flat paint because it won’t reflect light when it strikes across the flat paint. And that usually blends in quite nicely.

    So, if you’re not satisfied with the patching – because it sounds like you’re using the right products. And if it’s not looking right to you and you can’t have the entire ceiling restored, then why not get rid of the popcorn that remains and just go with a popcorn-free ceiling?

    LAURA: Yeah, that might be the best – but I didn’t know how hard it would be to remove that ceiling, so we didn’t want to start something we didn’t know if we could finish, like …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not easy but it’s not terrible, either. So, that’s – I think that’s your best approach.

    LAURA: Yeah, it sounds like it’s going to be our only option at this point. Alright. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

    TOM: Well, you’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    You know, I don’t know if Laura did this but if you do have something that you can file with your insurance company for protection on – for coverage on, I should say – you really want to get a public adjuster in at the get-go. Because public adjusters work for you, not the insurance company. They work on a percentage of the claim. They’re always going to find more than the insurance-company adjuster does.

    And this is a perfect example of the kind of thing they would not miss. They wouldn’t put in for the popcorn ceiling to be patched; they would include a big budget number for the entire thing to be restored, completely replaced. And if you do that at the get-go of a project like this, it’s going to come out better.

    And the other lesson, I guess, Laura learned is never hire the nice man that lives around the corner to do your project when – get enough money for it and have a professional do it. It’s not a part-time job.

    LESLIE: No. And it can never end well when utilizing a neighbor’s help.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ben in Arizona who’s dealing with a situation of arachnophobia. What’s going on with those spiders?

    BEN: Oh, not a whole lot. They seem like they’re overtaking our yard. I can mow and they just scatter everywhere. I kill anywhere from 30 to 50 of them every time I mow.

    TOM: Do you have any idea what kind of spider it is?

    BEN: No. They call it – from what I’ve heard, they call them “wood spiders.” And I don’t know if that’s what they’re – really what they’re called or not. But they’re brown and they’ve kind of got black streaks across their backs. And some of them are smaller than – some of them look like they can get to 2-inch diameter or so, something like that.

    TOM: There’s actually a couple things that you can do to try to control these – the population of these wolf spiders. First of all, things that you can do on your own are to try to eliminate their nesting sites. And that are areas where you have bushes, ivy, grasses or any plant that is right up against the house. Wood piles, lumber piles, rock piles are all places where these spiders can nest.

    But the most effective way to get rid of them is to use a pesticide. Now, you can either do this yourself or you can hire a pro. If you want to do it yourself, there is a pesticide dust that you can buy in a lot of places; I know it’s available on Amazon. It’s called EcoEXEMPT D Dust. The letter D – EcoEXEMPT D Dust. And it’s an organic, plant-based insecticide that’s ready to use. And it’s pet-safe, as well, which is important.

    I’ve got to tell you, if I had kids and I had that much of a problem, I’d probably have it done first by a professional and then I’d follow up with my own do-it-yourself pest control after. Because the products that the pros use are just far more effective. And they are absolutely safe if they’re applied by a trained professional according to label directions. Does that make sense?

    BEN: OK. Alrighty.

    TOM: 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 MoneyPit.com. Well, if you’re running your A/C but your house is still hot, we’ll tell you how to install a quick and clever way to stay cool – a whole-house fan – after this.

    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 follow The Money Pit’s Pinterest page and get great ideas on everything from outdoor entertaining to energy efficiency. You can pin articles, blogs and more directly from our website with our Pin It button and then share our pins or pin your own great ideas to our boards. Find it all on the official Money Pit Pinterest page.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Pamela in Tennessee on the line who’s got a shingle question. What can we do for you today?

    PAMELA: Our house was built in 1994 and it’s at the point where it’s going to be needing a new roof and we started getting estimates. And the last man who came offered to put a new roof over the existing roof. And I had thought I had read somewhere that that was never a good idea but he gave us the two options: the price with removing the old and putting on the new and another one for just putting a new layer over the existing roof. And I was just trying to find out which is the best way to go on that.

    TOM: Well, Pamela, both are viable options for a roof replacement. It kind of comes down to how long you expect to be in that house. So, is this a house where you think you’ll be in it for the next 15 or 20 years, which would be the life of the new roof?

    PAMELA: Well, we would like to move tomorrow if we could. We’ve had it on the market a couple times in the last couple years and we haven’t even had any lookers with the economy being what it is. So, we haven’t really had any issues with leaking, as far as we know, but every time it storms or the winds blow really hard, we lose a few more shingles.

    TOM: Right. OK, well, that’s really good to know. So, the answer is that you most likely will sell it, say, in the next 10 years because the economy will eventually recover in the real estate market.

    And the reason I ask that is this, Pam: because when you put a second layer of shingles on a roof, the first layer tends to hold a lot of heat, which causes the second layer to wear out just a bit faster. I’ve seen it wear out anywhere from 25 percent to, say, 33 percent faster – from a quarter to a third faster. So that means that you’d have a bit of a shorter roof life. Instead of going 20 years on the next roof, maybe you’ll go 15. However, it does save you some money.

    So when does it make sense to tear it off? Well, if you’re going to be there for the whole 20 years – 25 years of that roof – then I would say tear off, go down to the plywood sheathing and go up from there. If this is a short-term house for you and you’ve already got just one layer so you’re only putting a second layer on, no reason not to put a second layer of roof on that. It’s clearly going to last for the next several years and more. And by the time you’re ready to sell it, no one really cares whether there’s one layer or two; they only care whether it leaks. And when that new owner gets around to replacing the roof, then they’ll strip everything down to the sheathing.


    TOM: But that’ll be their expense, not yours. So I think it’s OK to put a second layer on at this point.

    PAMELA: OK. Well, I appreciate your answer. I had just not had anybody else give us that option; it was just this one guy. And so I didn’t know if it was a good idea to do that or not.

    LESLIE: You know, I would also check with your village. The only reason I say this is that when we were looking into having our roof replaced, the rules within our village were that if you were putting a new roof on top of your existing shingles, you didn’t need any permitting. But if you were taking off the existing and putting on a new set of shingles, getting down to the sheathing, then you needed a permit. It’s just something to look into.

    PAMELA: OK. Well, I appreciate that because I wasn’t aware of that. But I will check into that and I thank you both for your answer.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you’d like to cut cooling costs without flipping on your air conditioning, a good option is to install a whole-house fan.

    TOM: That’s right. And unlike an attic fan that only cools the area above the ceiling space, a whole-house fan gets mounted in your ceiling and cools your house for a fraction of the cost of turning on your central air-conditioning system or for that matter, a bunch of room units, as well.

    Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, is a pro at installing whole-house fans and is here to tell us more.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Hi, guys. Nice to be here.

    TOM: So, Tom, many people that we talk to confuse whole-house fans with attic fans. So why don’t we start there? Can you clarify the difference and tell us exactly how a whole-house fan works and what it does for us?

    TOM SILVA: Well, an attic fan is meant to cool the attic, which will cool the house ever so slightly. But a whole-house fan is meant to change the air in the house, completely cooling it through the windows below. And you want to make sure that you have a fan with a lot of CFMs – cubic feet per minute. And the more it draws, the faster the air will be drawn through your house, cooling it.

    TOM: So then we open a couple of windows up below, we turn the fan on – the whole-house fan – and then it just pulls a nice breeze through the house for all the time it’s on.

    TOM SILVA: Mm-hmm. Right. But you have to make sure that in the attic there is enough opening that will match the CFMs of the fan. In other words, you have to make sure that the gable vents, the ridge vent and even the soffit vents combined will match the CFMs’ push or draw of that fan.

    LESLIE: So you don’t need a mechanical system in the attic to draw that air out; it can be done through passive systems like the gable vents and soffit vent.

    TOM SILVA: Yes. But you can have a mechanical system that will work with the fan but passives are fine.

    TOM: I’ll tell you, we had a whole-house fan in a home that we opened previously and it’s amazing. When you turn those on, the depressurization is instant inside the house.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, you can feel it.

    TOM: And you feel it and you pull that cool air in.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: And so much of being comfortable is just having that air sort of move over your skin.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: But when you look at the power draw, it’s just a fraction of what air conditioning costs to run.

    TOM SILVA: It’s a fraction of the cost. Exactly right. But you don’t want to have a fire going in the fireplace if you have a whole-house fan because it will create negative pressure down your chimney.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah. And then …

    TOM SILVA: I had a homeowner that did that once.

    TOM: Yeah, not only the fire in the fireplace but I guess it could reverse drafts on water heaters and that sort of thing.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, absolutely.

    TOM: Yeah, so you have to use it smartly.

    So let’s talk a bit about the installation. How do you get this big fan into your ceiling? What kind of carpentry work is involved here, Tommy?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you basically – when I say you’re going to install it in a hallway on the second floor, for example, you’re going to be in between two walls. Usually a joist or supported on the two walls on either side of the hallway so you are able to head it off. By heading off means cut one of the joists out and then put the fan into that opening. But they do have whole-house fans now that will actually sit on top of the joists. So you cut the plaster away. You don’t have to worry about restructuring.

    LESLIE: It’s just supported by those joists.

    TOM SILVA: It’s supported by those and then you build a box down to the opening in the ceiling for the louver.

    TOM: Turn the floor joist into sort of the duct that just basically brings it down.

    TOM SILVA: Right, right. And we actually installed one on Ask This Old House where it fit in between the joist and it was really nice. And when we turned that on, it actually had two electric, insulated doors that opened up. And they had a lot of insulation value to those doors. So that’s important. So when the fan isn’t working, you want to make sure that it’s closed off and sealed for the winter.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because essentially, it’s opened up to your attic space, which is your unconditioned area.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. Yeah. And you get a lot of heat loss through it when it’s not running.

    TOM: We’re talking to Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, about how to install a whole-house fan, a project that can keep you cool and comfortable and cut your cooling costs at the same time.

    Tom, one more final question. Let’s talk about the wiring for a whole-house fan. Any tips on what it takes for the wiring and the switch?

    TOM SILVA: You’re going to have to get an electrician to run power to it and switching. So, the switching, in most cases, is near the unit and it’s up on the wall. I always recommend putting them up a little bit higher so that the young kids can’t turn them on. You know, you don’t want that fan running when you don’t want it running, so …

    TOM: Yeah. And how about a timer? A good idea?

    TOM SILVA: A timer is good, yeah. Sixty-minute timer, two-hour timer. Just a turn type that clicks. You don’t hear them clicking but turn it on because you don’t want it running during a hot day, that’s for sure. And when you turn it on before you go to bed, it makes a big difference. And before you know it …

    TOM: By the time you fall asleep, you don’t care.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: That’s right. Exactly.

    LESLIE: Any areas of the country that this is a better application for than others?

    TOM SILVA: New England is great.

    LESLIE: You’re like, “We’re in it. It’s perfect.”

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, I know. New England is great. But when you have hot, muggy nights, air conditioning is going to (inaudible at 0:27:11).

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not going to take the place of central A/C but it’s definitely going to – in the beginning of the season and the end of the cooling season, it definitely can supplement what you’re doing with central A/C and save you money whenever you use it.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. No, it’s definitely not. It’s a big savings.

    TOM: Tom Silva, general contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys.

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

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing. That’s the power of The Home Depot.

    Still ahead, learn why excess humidity in your home is not only uncomfortable, it’s downright dangerous for you and damaging for your home.

    LESLIE: We’ve got high-humidity cures for you, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by PORTER-CABLE professional-grade nailers and staplers. With over 100 years of experience producing quality, performance-driven tools, PORTER-CABLE continues to be a leading manufacturer and marketer of professional-grade, pneumatic fastening tools and compressors. Available at The Home Depot and independent retailers. To learn more, visit PORTERCABLE.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    One lucky caller that we talk to this hour is going to win the RotoSaw from RotoZip. Now, the RotoSaw is compatible with more than 20 different cutting bits and it’s powered by a 5.5-amp MagnaCore motor that handles even the toughest materials without getting bogged down. And it weighs just 2½ pounds.

    TOM: Check it out at RotoZip.com and give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question.

    Well, you hear people say it all the time: “I could put up with the heat if it weren’t for the humidity.” Now, it’s true that your house would be more comfortable and healthier if you could control the moisture level in your air. And the good news is that you can, with a product called a “whole-house dehumidifier.”

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, a whole-house dehumidifier is going to hook right up to your HVAC system. So what’s going to happen is all the air moves through the system. It’s actually going to suck the moisture out of the air and then it’s going to exit through your condensing unit or that same drip pipe. It’s just going to get out of the house; you don’t have to empty any buckets. And I think one of the leading models removes 90 pints of water a day, which is a huge amount of water.

    TOM: It’s almost enough to fill up one of those 5-gallon water jugs that you see at the water cooler. I mean it’s a tremendous amount of moisture. And if you pull that out, then it’s just a lot easier to cool your house. You’re going to be more comfortable. You won’t use the air conditioning nearly as much because with that much less moisture in the air, your skin will cool more evenly and more rapidly. And it’s just a really smart thing to do.

    Again, it hooks up to the HVAC system. Contact your local HVAC contractor for estimates and prices on picking one up and getting it installed. It has to be professionally installed but it’s a real nice thing to have that you will really appreciate this summer and every summer to come after that, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Brunie (sp) in Alaska who’s looking for some planting help in Alaska. Some cold plants, I guess. Fake ones.

    Welcome, Brunie (sp). How can we help you?

    BRUNIE (sp): We have a very narrow swath of grass, which is actually just moss and tall weeds. Can’t quite tell what kind of weed it is and there’s no grass growing; it’s just moss and it’s damp. It’s on the north side of the building and it’s just at the edge of the deck.

    TOM: OK.

    BRUNIE (sp): So it virtually gets no sun ever. I think it’s – crabweed, I think it’s called or some kind of a ferocious weed that grows uncontrollably.

    TOM: OK.

    BRUNIE (sp): So I was wondering if you could make any suggestions what else I could grow there.

    TOM: Well, the key here is to understand what hardiness zone that your area of the country is in. And anybody that lives in Alaska is pretty hardy, by my book.

    BRUNIE (sp): Yeah.

    TOM: But there are actually hardiness zones there.

    And taking a look at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s site, Leslie, what zone does it look like she’s in?

    LESLIE: It looks like Anchorage is placed in the 3b/3a zone, which would put you in the -40 to -30 degree temperature zone. So that kind of gives you an idea of what hardiness of plant or grass that you would need to sustain those temperature swings.

    TOM: And if you go to the Almanac.com, which is the website for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, they actually have a guide there that has all these plants listed by hardiness zone. So there are actually quite a few plants that will survive, believe it or not, in that hardiness zone. And they’re all listed there in a directory on The Old Farmer’s Almanac. So I think that would be a good source for you. Gives you lots of options on what you can do with that space, based on that hardiness zone and of course, the amount of light. And hopefully, we can get something growing there pretty soon.

    BRUNIE (sp): Thank you so much. That’s very nice.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, choosing flooring for your basement can be tricky because it needs to be waterproof and warm. We’ll talk about choices for a great lower-level floor, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    And waterproofing your home is really the surest way to protect your home’s value. And if you’re selling, you want to keep your buyers interested. If you head on over to MoneyPit.com, search “basement waterproofing tips.” We’re going to tell you the right way and some wrong ways to keep the water away.

    Now, while you’re online, if you’ve got some questions about what you’re working on or you want to share pictures of your projects or you just have some questions, you can post your question in the Community section like Andrew from New York did. And Andrew writes: “I want to install a wood laminate or something similar in my finished basement. The room is below grade but so far, we have had no moisture. We do find that the floor gets cold, particularly to bare feet. The current floor has a double pad and a Berber carpet. What can I use for a subfloor so that I can insulate under the floor somehow?”

    TOM: First of all, we congratulate you for removing the Berber carpet. We both feel that carpet in a basement, except for an area rug, is really a bad thing. Because think of the carpet as a big filter. And in the basement, with the moisture and the debris that gets stuck in the carpet, you’re going to get dust mites and other forms of contaminants that really can make it a very unhealthy space.

    So, pull up the carpet and then you’re going to add a subfloor before you put the wood-laminate floor down. Now, there’s a couple of ways to do that. You can lay foam between furring strips on the floor. You could use a prefabricated subfloor where – there’s a prefabricated subfloor that’s like wood panels, with rubber feet that lock together, that work very nicely. And when you put the laminate floor down, there’s usually an insulating layer that goes in between that and the subfloor. It’s very thin but it does the trick and it also helps give the floor – make the floor a little bit more comfortable.

    You mentioned laminate. Great choice for a basement. Another choice might be to think about installing engineered hardwood. You can’t put real hardwood in the basement but you can put engineered hardwood that’s made up of multiple layers of wood glued together 90 degrees apart. It’s dimensionally stable and it will stand up to the moisture.

    So, I hope that helps. It’s a few tips for doing a basement floor. It’s a little bit different than doing floors in other parts of the house. But remember, carpets are out; laminate or engineered hardwood is in.

    LESLIE: Is it an option to go ahead and put in some sort of radiant heat or those mats to sort of create radiant heat, especially since he likes those warm toes?

    TOM: You could if you have a hot-water system heating your house. That would be the most cost-effective way to do it. You could do it with electric radiant heat. It would be much more expensive and I would only recommend it if it’s – you’re in a cold area and it’s really a room you’re going to use a lot. Because it’s going to be very costly to operate.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Gail in New Hampshire who wrote: “I’m moving into a 120-year-old home. The cedar siding is very dark and dirty looking. How do you recommend I clean it or can it even be cleaned if it’s that old?”

    TOM: Well, the problem is that cedar siding does naturally turn dark. And so it’s very difficult to sort of brighten it up again. I would suggest that now is a really good time to think about staining it. You could prime it first and then stain it with a solid-color stain. Have any color you wish, Gail, and it’ll last for a very long time if it’s done well. I think if you did brush it or sand it and lighten it up, it would only last for a very short period of time. Staining it is the best way to have long-term protection and get the color that you appreciate.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s finally – you know, after 120 years, maybe your house is looking for a facelift like that. Everybody loves good cosmetics.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We’re happy to take your calls 24-7 because we never sleep. Well, actually, I sleep once in a while but I make Leslie stay up and answer the calls. So call us 24-7 at 888-MONEY-PIT, seriously, with your home improvement question. You can also post it online in the Community section at MoneyPit.com.

    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 2013 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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