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Where to Look For Dangerous Germs in Your Home, Learn About the Growing Trend of Living Roofs, How to Hire a Contractor, 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: It is officially the first weekend of spring and that means it’s time to get out and tackle a project. There’s got to be one lying about your house that you want to do. Whether it’s painting, roofing, decking, cleaning, we are here to help. No, we’re not going to come to your house and help with your spring-cleaning project but we might have a tip or two to help make it a bit easier. You could help yourself first, though, if you pick up the phone and call us. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    And speaking of spring cleaning, if you’d love to get your house sparkling clean, you’re going to want to hear this: there are places in your home that you might be overlooking, that aren’t just dirty but they could potentially be dangerous when they’re not clean. We’re going to tell you where they are and what to do about it, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And do you think that you are a do-it-yourself superstar? Well, even if your do-it-yourself skills are mind-blowing, there still could be times when you need to bring in that pro. So we’re going to have tips on how to find a good contractor for your money pit.

    TOM: And this winter, did you get tired of paying those high heating bills? Did you think that perhaps you’re losing most of your heat through your roof? Well, we have a solution you might not have thought of and it’s got a lot of benefits: it’s called a “living roof.” We’re going to tell you exactly what that is and how to grow your very own – yes, we said, “Grow your own roof” – in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Oh, you mean I don’t have to bring a couch up there and make it my new living room?

    TOM: No. But you do – you can grow it but you don’t have to mow it. I’ll tell you that much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good.

    And if you happen to have a new roof, why not add a beautiful, new floor to go with it? One caller this hour is going to get a great start on a new floor, because we are giving away a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators. They have got a huge selection of top-quality wood flooring at a great, low-price guarantee.

    TOM: So give us a call right now and let’s get to it. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

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

    TOM: OK.

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

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

    BARRY: Yes.

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

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

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

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

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    BARRY: Can they be mounted down low?

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

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

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

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

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

    BARRY: OK.

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

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

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

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

    TOM: Yeah, it’s just not enough.

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

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rebecca from Georgia on the line who has a question about her brick house. How can we help you?

    REBECCA: I stained my house – oh, gosh – 20 years ago.

    TOM: You stained your brick house?

    REBECCA: And I have – yeah.

    TOM: OK.

    REBECCA: It’s a brick house and I stained it in a dark color and I’ve never liked it. Is there anything I can do to get this stain out?

    TOM: But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    REBECCA: Yes, it did. Yes, it did. It’s an ugly brick and it just stood out. It just shouted at you and I was trying to just calm it down a little bit.

    TOM: Right.

    REBECCA: But it – I’ve never liked it. And I would like to – I wish I could get my natural brick back, is what I wish.

    TOM: And now that you’ve been staring at it for 20 years, that’s all you can stand and you can’t stand it anymore.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    LESLIE: And you really don’t like it.

    REBECCA: My next step will be to paint it but …

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Oh. Hmm.

    REBECCA: I wish I can get that stain off; I really do.

    TOM: Problem is that the brick is like a sponge.

    LESLIE: Porous.

    TOM: It’s very porous.

    REBECCA: Yes, yes.

    TOM: And so I’m sure that whatever stain you used soaked right into it and since – not even like it’s something that we can physically get to …

    REBECCA: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Yeah, because even if you paint brick and then years later you’re like, “Bleh, I want to get rid of it,” that would be something that’s like a sand-blasting option. And you can get that paint that sticks to the surface off but once you get down to the brick, say you painted it white, you’re still going to see a wash of white in all the pocking of the brick.

    REBECCA: Exactly.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: So with the stain, I don’t even think sand-blasting would get that.

    REBECCA: No.

    TOM: And it’ll destroy the brick, too.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah.

    REBECCA: Oh, I see. I thought about that.

    TOM: Well, I think you should not stress about it anymore and I think you should think about painting it.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: But before you do that, think of any other things – and I’m going to ask Leslie to put on her decorator hat now – any other things that you can do to soften that dark color and do other things like the trim, the windows, the molding, any of those types of exterior …

    LESLIE: Adding shutters.

    TOM: Right, shutters.

    LESLIE: Adding window boxes with lots of beautiful floral and greenery to hide some of that.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Encouraging ivy to grow on the side of the brick.

    TOM: But now, seriously, you can think about decorating around the dark color. It’s like when you buy a house that’s got a really old, 1950s bathroom and you hate the pink but it’s rock-solid – it’s a rock-solid tile project.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    LESLIE: She’s like, “Wait, I have one of those, too.”

    REBECCA: You’re talking about my house.

    TOM: There you go.

    LESLIE: Oh, God.

    TOM: There’s always a way to decorate around it, so I’d just like you to think about that because once you paint, you know what comes next?

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: Repaint.

    REBECCA: I know, I know. Yes. But anyway, I will definitely do what you said. That sounds good.

    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.

    Well, if you’ve been letting the cobwebs gather all winter, it’s time now to throw open the curtains and give your house a good spring cleaning. We’re going to tell you where serious dirt might be lurking, after this.

    (theme song)

    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 who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a great spring-project prize. We’re giving away a $250 gift certificate from our friends at Lumber Liquidators. And they’ve got some of the best selection that you can find in flooring, really, with a great price tag to go along with it. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your project and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Adam in Iowa is dealing with a wet bathroom. Tell us what’s going on in there.

    ADAM: Well, I have condensation on my ceiling.

    LESLIE: OK.

    ADAM: We had our roof redone, oh, about three years ago and now it seems like when it gets cold out, we get condensation on our ceiling.

    LESLIE: Do you have any sort of venting in your bathroom? Because it sounds like your attic is cool and you’re in your shower and the bathroom gets super-hot and then there’s no movement of air in that bath and that’s what’s causing that temperature differentiation.

    TOM: So what happens is the warm, moist air strikes the underside of the chillier bathroom ceiling and condenses.

    ADAM: OK.

    TOM: And so, if we were to warm up the bathroom ceiling by making sure it’s insulated above, couple that with proper bathroom ventilation, then this problem will totally go away.

    ADAM: Right. OK. So the vent we have for the shower is probably not significant enough for the bathroom itself?

    LESLIE: And are you certain that the vent that you have in the bathroom is actually vented outside and not just venting into your attic?

    ADAM: I believe it is. There is – I don’t know. I’d have to look for sure but I think they did put it but it’s not a very big vent itself.

    LESLIE: OK. So you have some air movement but just not enough. It could be that you’re just not getting enough of that moist air out or you’re not using it in the proper way.

    Traditionally, with a bathroom vent fan, you want, obviously, to have the vent fan on while you’re bathing and then you want to continue to run it for about 10, 15 minutes once you’re out of the shower, because that’s when the condensation really occurs.

    Now, if it’s time for a new one – maybe your model’s just not efficient enough or not moving enough of that moist air out – a great company to check out is Broan-NuTone. And if you go to their website, Broan.com – B-r-o-a-n.com – you’ll find a ton of different models available with lights, without lights, ones that actually look like vent fans, one that looks like a ceiling high-hat that really conceals a bath vent fan.

    And what’s great is that a majority of their models are Energy Star-rated, because they’re made so efficiently to be silent and to move a tremendous amount of moisture out of the bath. That’s how they meet a lot of the Energy Star ratings. They’re affordable. It’s really worth looking into because if you’re dealing with this problem over and over again, eventually you’re going to get mold and mildew growth on your ceiling. You’re going to have to repaint, repair. There’s a lot that this is going to cause if you don’t nip it in the bud right now.

    ADAM: OK. And this is something I could install myself?

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. If you’re a handy guy or you’re a DIYer, you definitely could put in a new fan yourself. It’s not terribly a difficult project to do: pretty much basic carpentry and basic electrical work.

    ADAM: OK, guys. Appreciate it.

    TOM: Well, no more excuses, folks. It is the official first weekend of spring and that means it’s time for spring cleaning. And when you’re giving your house that good onceover, take note: there are things in your home that you might be overlooking that could turn into, oh, shall we say a “bio-hazard”?

    You know, one of the most common places to find that overlooked grime is your ceiling fan. Clean the top of the blades to make sure dust, dirt and who-knows-what aren’t flying off onto you or your guests when you flip the fan on. Especially important if that fan is over, perhaps, your kitchen or dining room table.

    Also, clean the top of your fridge. Unless you’re super-tall, it’s not a place that you might see every day but that grease, that dirt, that grime, it can really accumulate there pretty quickly. And it will also lead to germs and even a fungus or two, so that’s especially important if you store anything up there.

    LESLIE: Ugh. You’re adding things to my to-do list, Tom. Stop.

    And guys, you know those cloth, reusable grocery bags? They’re great for the environment but do you ever wash them? Oh, my gosh. I don’t know if I ever have. Remember that you’ve probably had raw meat in them and they really need a good cleaning after each use. So unless that bag says otherwise, wash them in hot water. I am going to do that this weekend.

    Next, you probably love your morning shower but if you’re not cleaning your showerhead, you could actually be bathing in bacteria.

    Why do these spring-cleaning segments always give me the heebie-jeebies, Tom?

    A study from the University of Colorado found, get this, 30 percent of showerheads had the bacteria on them that cause lung infections. Zoiks. Clean those showerheads.

    And lastly, your trashcans. Unspeakable things can grow on the bottom of that trash bin from your leaking garbage. You may want to take them outside. You may want to use the pressure of a hose on them.

    You want to follow these tips. This way, you can have a clean and safe spring. Now that you’ve thoroughly got the willies, take out your paper, make your list and then go do them.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your next spring home improvement project.

    LESLIE: Ann in Iowa is working on remodeling a kitchen. Tell us how your project’s going.

    ANN: Well, we haven’t started it yet but I have high hopes.

    LESLIE: OK. OK, good.

    ANN: I had a question. I was looking – my husband and I, we’re remodeling to have an open floor plan between the kitchen and the dining room and the living area.

    LESLIE: OK.

    ANN: But we’re having some differing ideas on where to locate the sink. And I just wondered what type of things – what considerations you guys might have for us, as far as – my husband is thinking put it on the counter against the wall, looking out a window. And I’m wondering if maybe it would be better on the island, overlooking the room.

    TOM: For the sink? I think because most of the work you do at your sink is sort of the small, day-to-day stuff, it’s always nice to have it near a window.

    Some folks like to have a second sink in an island but that’s more for like vegetable prep and that sort of thing, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Or like a bar type of sink.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: The main thing that you need to keep in mind is the functionality of the kitchen itself, Ann. And generally, people go by what’s called a “working triangle”: going from the fridge to your sink to your stove, so that it sort of triangulates between the three. And it doesn’t have to be a perfect, normal triangle – it can be any sort of access of the three points – but it’s just made for convenience.

    An island is great. Some people put a cooktop in the island; some people will put a smaller sink. A lot of people also use the island as an additional eating, sort of sitting/dining area. You need to think, since you’re in that open plan, the other thing is in the open plan, your sink tends to get kind of messy. You’re going to have dishes building up there.

    If you’re like me, your husband never puts the dishes in the dishwasher, so you’re going to be dealing with things sort of just building up and sitting around in that area, even if it’s just for a minute, which could be kind of distracting should it be in the center of the space.

    ANN: Right.

    LESLIE: So it might be better to have it off on the counter but think about how you’re going to traffic between the three areas. And put it really where it’s going to best work for you guys.

    ANN: Right. OK, OK.

    LESLIE: With an island, sometimes people will – and I’ve done this for clients before – sort of build a two-level island. And I’m not talking about a crazy height difference but maybe a 6-to-an-8-inch step-up, so you’ll have your work surface at the lower height, where you could have a sink.

    ANN: Right. Right.

    LESLIE: And then on that little step-up will be your overhang for your stools or your counter-service area. So that this way, if you’re looking it at from the open-plan area, it does hide that mess a little bit. So if it’s really something that you just have to have in the island, that helps.

    ANN: How would that be, even if we didn’t have a sink there? Would it be – the uneven island – would that be a good idea, even if we didn’t have a sink or …?

    LESLIE: It definitely helps, only because then you have an area to be a little bit messy and not be on showcase: the mess or the utensils sticking around or your kids’ projects.

    ANN: Right. Right.

    LESLIE: It sort of gives you a little place to hide things from the main area.

    ANN: Right, OK.

    LESLIE: I think it’s definitely beneficial. Think about – when you’re planning the height, think about the stool height. You’re sort of stuck at 28 inches and 30-something inches, so make sure you pick a height for that step-up that works with seating.

    And then also think on the kitchen side, you’re going to need something on that backsplash. So if you’ve got a certain tile in mind, think about two or three runs of that tile to give you the height that you need or whether you’re continuing your granite or whatever your surface is, as the backsplash. Because those are some things to consider.

    ANN: You’ve helped me make my decision, so I really appreciate it. I love your show, too.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Ann.

    TOM: Good luck with that project, Ann. 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, you might think of fairy tales or extreme environmentalists when you hear the term “living roof.” But it is, in fact, exactly what you’re picturing: grass, flowers and more, right up over your head.

    TOM: Green roofs are growing in popularity and they actually deliver benefits you might not know about. We’re going to find out all about green roofs when we talk to an expert, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Quicken Loans. Call Quicken Loans today at 888-450-0024 or go to QuickenLoans.com to receive your free home-loan review. They’ll give you their best possible mortgage at their best possible rate, in the shortest amount of time. That number, again, is 888-450-0024. Equal housing lender. Licensed in all 50 states. NMLS Number 3030. Call today. 888-450-0024.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, 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: Well, they aren’t just from Middle Earth or Grimms’ Fairy Tales anymore. Regular folks all around the country are opting now for a living roof.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, living roofs or green roofs are just what the name implies: they’re roofs that are covered in vegetation. So why would the average person want this? Well, you’d be surprised at the advantages.

    Emilio Ancaya, the president of Living Roofs Incorporated is joining us to explain.

    Welcome, Emilio.

    EMILIO: Thank you.

    TOM: So my first question is: how do you mow your roof?

    EMILIO: Well, most of these roofs aren’t the type of roof that need to be mowed, so we’re not putting typical sod.

    TOM: That’s good.

    EMILIO: But that’s a good question.

    TOM: So, what is a living roof typically made of? Is it always grass? Are there other vegetations that are used? How do they kind of get installed and most importantly, how are they maintained? Because I think we think of anything that is vegetative as needing a lot of care.

    EMILIO: Right. Well, to start out, most green roofs – the kind of modern-style, contemporary-style green roofs now – are not planted with grass. Grass is high-maintenance, as we all know: mowing and fertilizer and all that. So, really, what we’re going after on a more modern-style green roof is low-maintenance-type plants: drought-hardy, they don’t need to be mowed, they can grow in thin soils, lightweight roofs. So they’re a lot less maintenance; they don’t need to be cut. So that’s really what the modern-style green roofs are planned with.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And Emilio, I’ve seen them, I would say, on more swanky hotels and urban environments that are kind of eco-friendly and trendy.

    EMILIO: Sure.

    LESLIE: And I mean is it a viable choice for any kind of location or is this really an urban phenomenon?

    EMILIO: No, no. We see it everywhere. It’s most common in urban settings and universities. Really, when we first started the business, most of our work was residential, I think, just because it was kind of a popular thing. It was written up a lot in garden magazines. But now that people are learning more about it, we’re seeing more and more universities, real estate, commercial, downtown properties, condos, like you said.

    But also, still, a lot of homes are doing it. So it’s not just high-end, swanky-type places. We’re seeing a lot of public buildings, as well, installing green roofs.

    TOM: We’re talking to Emilio Ancaya. He is the president of Living Roofs Inc.

    And Emilio, what does it actually take to install a living roof? Does it impact the structure of the building? Is it something that you could do in a remodeling situation or do you really have to use this only if you’re kind of building a new home or a new commercial building from the ground up?

    EMILIO: No, it absolutely does best in a new construction, because that’s the easiest way to go with – because you’re able to design it in the design phase to hold that weight. Because, obviously, there is a lot of weight involved with a green roof.

    But for retrofits, you absolutely can do it. Fifty percent of our projects are retrofits but you absolutely have to have a structural engineer get in there, look at the building structure and see if it can handle the added weight.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And is there a roof line or shape or style that is better suited for this application? Is it strictly a flat-roof application?

    EMILIO: Yeah and in most – 90 percent of the projects are flat roof. And when we say “flat,” they’re not actually dead flat; there is some slope to it, so it still allows water to drain. So, usually, that’s a ¼-inch per foot fall or very slight slope. So it’s not strictly flat.

    But that’s really where we’re seeing most of our projects and those are the – honestly, they’re the cheapest way to do it. Once you get into a sloped roof where you have to incorporate all kinds of soil-retention systems and things that keep the material from sliding off the roof, then it gets pretty costly.

    TOM: What kind of roof is actually installed as sort of the waterproof membrane under this? Is there a particular type of low slope or flat roofing that works better than others?

    EMILIO: Yeah, there’s a whole gamut of waterproofing systems out there. There’s your single-ply-type systems, like you see in a lot of commercial roofs, like your TPO and PVC roofs that are like a white membrane-type roof.

    There’s also built-up systems, that other manufacturers have, that are more beefy, that have many more layers to them. So, there’s a lot of typical waterproofing systems that are used with green roofs. It’s not really anything special that goes with a green roof.

    LESLIE: So, Emilio, I’m sold on the idea and I’ve seen it beautifully done in an urban environment. But as a suburban homeowner, is there anything that I can do myself to sort of implement this plan and reap the benefits and the beauty?

    EMILIO: Yeah, absolutely. There is – something that we offer is something – is a plan set for garden sheds or small outdoor structures with green roofs. And basically, it’s a plan set that any homeowner or anybody can buy and build their own shed. It’s got all the material list, the design. They’re properly structurally designed for the load of a green roof and then what types of plants you can use. So that’s a great way to get your foot in the door, just to get some early education on green roofs at your home level.

    TOM: We’re talking to Emilio Ancaya. He is with Living Roofs Incorporated.

    There are a lot of energy-saving benefits to installing a living roof, Emilio. I would imagine, in the summer, it can be particularly energy-saving because it’s going to keep a lot of that heat out of the building, meaning that you’re not going to have to spend as much in air conditioning. Is that correct?

    EMILIO: That’s right, Tom. You’ve got it. I mean it’s – they significantly reduce heat that goes through the roof structure into the building. So if you can keep your building cooler, then you’re going to have less to man on your HVAC system.

    TOM: Excellent. You can see more of Emilio’s work and read about green roofs on his website. That’s LivingRoofs – that’s roofs with an S – Inc.com.
     

    Emilio, thanks for joining us and spreading the word about living roofs.

    EMILIO: Thank you, Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: Well, you’ve no doubt heard horror stories about contractors gone bad. Well, get this: there are actually plenty of great contractors out there. You just have to find them. So we’re going to tell you how to do that, after this.

    (theme song)

    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: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now with your home improvement project. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you might just be the one caller who wins our prize this hour. It’s a $250 gift certificate from Lumber Liquidators. That is plenty to get you started on your next flooring project.

    Lumber Liquidators is great because they cut out the middle men and they buy direct from the manufacturer. That means savings for you on their gigantic selection of flooring. So pick up the phone right now, ask us your question and you might just win a $250 gift certificate from Lumber Liquidators. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, you could be a star with a staple gun or perhaps you’re a Houdini with a hammer. But unless you are a professional, there are times when you will need to call in a pro for some of your home improvement projects. If the project is dangerous, if it’s over your head or if it’s just going to take too much time to learn as you go, call in a pro.

    And you’ve probably heard nightmare stories about needing to do that when they talk about contractors botching a project, taking way too long or even sleeping on the job. The good news is that there are ways to avoid that.

    First, make a budget. You need to know as much as you can about the project cost before you get started. And this way, you’ll be protected that no one tries to overprice the job.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, once you’ve done that, you want to start asking around. Word of mouth is really important in the contractor world. You want to ask your family and friends, you want to go on websites like Angie’s List or ServiceMagic. And you’ve got to read what people are saying about different contractors.

    Now, once you’ve sort of narrowed it down, start taking bids from the ones that you’ve selected. And remember, cheaper really isn’t always better. I don’t know if it’s ever better. You want to interview the contractors that you’ve selected and ask for a timetable.

    Now, most contractors, they want to do a good job and they want to use you for a reference. It’s just a matter of finding that right one for you.

    If you want some more information, Google “money pit find best contractor” and we will help you with the step-by-step there to find a good person in your area.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Dottie in Nebraska is on the line and needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you today?

    DOTTIE: I’m replacing – will be replacing a vinyl floor in the kitchen. And I’ve never had a wood floor. I love the look of wood but I’m confused as to whether to go with wood or with laminate, because I want easy care.

    LESLIE: OK. And this is strictly for your kitchen or does it …?

    DOTTIE: We will be going into the dining room, too, we’ve decided. We’ll be taking up carpet in there to extend into the dining room.

    LESLIE: OK. So it’s – is it an open plan or is there a threshold or is there a division between these two spaces?

    DOTTIE: There is a counter between the two.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, for kitchens, hardwood floors are beautiful but generally, even if they have a commercial type of coating on them, they’re not really meant to stand up to the wear and tear and perhaps the moisture that could occur in a kitchen environment. I think a laminate is probably a better choice for you, just because of the way they are made. And the finishes on top of them make them more easy to clean, easier to deal with any spills that might occur and certainly more durable and of course, can look like anything.

    I actually just put a laminate, in a home I redid in California, that was a 6-inch-wide plank that had a hand-scraped finish on it. So it certainly had that warmth and look and a quality of a traditional hardwood that you’re probably looking for. And depending on the quality of laminate, you could get kind of close to a hardwood price but I think you can still keep it in your price range.

    DOTTIE: Yes.

    LESLIE: But you can find, certainly, beautiful options in the laminate. I think that’s probably the way you want to go for a kitchen.

    DOTTIE: OK. And see if you agree with this: I’ve been told that we have oak cabinets that are OK and not to try to match those. Is that right to go lighter or darker?

    LESLIE: Absolutely. What color is the oak? Is it sort of natural? Has it been stained a different tone?

    DOTTIE: It’s pretty typical, warm oak: kind of a golden – kind of a medium brown.

    LESLIE: I like the idea of a darker floor in a kitchen. I feel like it’s more forgiving. I feel like it makes the cabinets sort of jump off and create a more put-together look for a kitchen space. I think with a lighter floor, you’re always going to be trying to clean it and care for it, cover it up.

    DOTTIE: OK. And as far – I have a friend who put – I think she said hers is cherry but I love the look. It’s kind of a – the planks are a different shade; they’re not all the same color. Is that something you think that I could find or would that look nice with the oak?

    LESLIE: Now when you say “different shades,” is it strikingly different? Does it look sort of patchwork-y or is it more tonal?

    DOTTIE: No. No. More subtle than that.

    LESLIE: More subtle. I mean I think it could be a very good look if you’ve got the right look for your kitchen. That tends to be a more – not a hippie-dippie but Bohemian, free-spirited sort of eclectic look that’s very popular right now. So if you’ve got that look going in your lighting fixtures and in your tile work and in your countertops, then it could really tie it all in together.

    DOTTIE: OK. And one last question. That floor that I like is laid on the diagonal. Do you do that much and do you recommend that?

    LESLIE: Depends on the size of the space. Because if it’s a tighter or a narrow kitchen, it could look very busy. But if you’ve got a good expanse and the kitchen is fairly wide, then it could play very nicely.

    DOTTIE: Well, that’s wonderful. That’s what I wanted to know. I thought probably the laminate was better. I want it to look beautiful; I don’t want it to look fake.

    TOM: I’ll tell you, Dottie, I have laminate in my kitchen and I’ve had it for about 10 years now.

    DOTTIE: OK.

    TOM: It looks like stone floor and it’s beautiful.

    DOTTIE: Wonderful. OK. And no particular brand tips or anything like that? Maybe you can’t do that. I’m really a novice here.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you, you might just want to – a good place just to kind of shop for it is LumberLiquidators.com, only because they have good prices and they have a whole bunch of manufacturers there on their website.

    DOTTIE: Sure.

    TOM: So that might be a good place to start.

    DOTTIE: OK. I will do it. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright, Dottie. 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.

    Say, are you tired of a cold and sterile-looking kitchen? Well, nothing says “warm and cozy” like a country-themed kitchen. We’re going to have some tips on how you can create one, after this.

    (theme song)

    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 what are you doing this first weekend of spring? Are you guys busy around your money pit? Are you following us on Twitter? Because if you’re working around your money pit, you need to be. You can get the latest in home improvement news, you can join in on our discussion or you can just get tips directly to your mobile device. Just follow @MoneyPit and you’ll get a ton of information.

    And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section of The Money Pit. And I’ve got one here from Sam in Delaware who writes: “My plaster walls aren’t in the greatest condition, just because of age. I want to hang some pictures on them. Any suggestions on how to do this without a total disaster?”

    TOM: Yeah. You can hang lots of things on plaster walls; you just have to be a little careful. If it’s something that’s super-heavy, the best way to do that is with a toggle bolt: a good, old-fashioned toggle bolt where you drill a hole right through that plaster into the stud bay behind it, pop in the toggle and then tighten things down. It can be quite strong. And frankly, it usually gets behind the wood lath that holds on the plaster, so that does a super-good job.

    If you want to hang something really lightweight, you can drive a nail right through that using a standard picture-hanging nail. And in the middle, well, there’s just tons and tons of fasteners that work on this.

    There’s a website for a manufacturer that makes probably more of these different types of picture- and wall-hanging things than anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s called HangmanProducts.com. And they’ve got, for example, their picture- and poster-hanging kit that has these really cool screws that you can predrill, screw them in and sort of has a washer that stops it when it gets in just the right distance. And then you can hang something on the outside edge of the screw.

    LESLIE: You know, I’m amazed, Tom. There’s a whole sort of field of art hangers out there and I work with one locally when I have my own design clients. If there’s a situation like, “Oh, I need to hang this thing on a staircase,” and I need a tricky ladder and things I don’t really want to do or things that are just too heavy – and I’m amazed at the arsenal of nails and hangers and security hangers like they use in hotels, where you get one piece that goes into the wall, one piece that goes onto the back of the art and a secret tool that sort of locks them together.

    TOM: Right. Yep.

    LESLIE: I mean it’s amazing what’s out there and Hangman is a great site to check out. So you’ll find a lot of cool stuff there.

    TOM: Well, nothing could be more warm and welcoming and cozy than a country-themed kitchen. The country style focuses on making the room warm and friendly while maintaining a kitchen that’s really practical. Leslie has some tips on how you can design your own country kitchen, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. It’s classic and it’s comfy and it can be practical, too. When you’re choosing the materials for your country kitchen, you want to keep everything as natural as possible.

    Now, hardwood flooring, that’s a classic look but it doesn’t always lend itself to the abuse a kitchen floor needs to handle. A stone tile floor contrasted with beautiful wooden cabinetry will really bring your room to life.

    Now, with kitchen cabinets, a painted finish is a great look, especially if you use a pale color, which will allow that wood grain to show through. An island? That’s a great feature for any kitchen but it really fits in particularly well with the country style. Open shelving on your island, that’s also a great way to display your country-themed accessories, like maybe wicker baskets or tea kettles or enamelware. Anything like that will really show off the personality of a country kitchen.

    And country colors and fabrics, they really can include everything from blues to yellows to gingham and toile patterns for your fabrics, depending on what sort of theme or style you’re going with underneath all of that country genre.

    Now, you can go with a modern country look and use these traditional colors and patterns in different ways. You can think about painting a gingham-checked focal wall or even stenciling a toile pattern on a wall, as well, or even on your backsplash.

    Now, you can cook up your own country kitchen and you can have a warm spot for your family to gather for years to come. And let me tell you, nothing makes a happy home more than a beautiful kitchen, so get busy this weekend. It is spring, after all.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, are you looking for an easy way to live in a totally green house? Well, you might want to consider a modular home. We’re going to tell you about the changes in prefab homes, that are green and modular, 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.

    (theme song)

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (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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