Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(Note: The timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio files of this show.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
(theme song, commercial)
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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The website, newmoneypit.wpengine.com. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project. Let us help solve that do-it-yourself dilemma. Let us help tackle improvements to every room in your house. The basement, the bedroom, the bathroom, even the laundry room.
LESLIE: Well, you spend a lot of time in there, don’t you? I know I do.
TOM: Absolutely. And you want it to look nice. In fact, we’re thinking of planning a laundry-room makeover at my house.
TOM: The laundry is on the second floor. Now, you know I have a very old home. And this was like the small, extra bedroom. We turned it into a laundry room, moved the laundry …
LESLIE: A laundry suite, if you will?
TOM: Sort of. It’s got closets and the machines in there. But the floor is sloping like crazy. You know, like if you stand in there maybe you think you’re drunk or something. You just sort of like fall down the hill.
LESLIE: So, one half of your washing machine is not getting cleaned because it’s never seeing water.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. (laughing) So I have this idea that we’re going to basically tile the whole floor and I’m going to make the whole floor like part of the overflow pan. And I don’t have to worry about tilting it; I’m just going to put the drain for the floor in the low part of the laundry room.
LESLIE: Aw! (laughing)
TOM: And you know, if the washing machine ever overflows it’ll just go right down there and have the house in puddles.
LESLIE: You’re like, ‘Forget that shut off valve.’
TOM: Hey, you’ve got to go with the flow, you know, baby? (laughing) Go with the flow, you get it?
LESLIE: Ha ha. I think it’s really cool. We were very lucky that when we bought our home the laundry room was finished, it had a beautiful little working space. It’s important that you have proper space to fold everything, a good space to iron. And if you’re going to spend a lot of time in there and if you have a large family, why not encourage the family to be in there with you? Put a work space in there. Let your – balance your checkbook, let the kids do arts and crafts. Get everybody in there and heck, maybe they’ll fold a sock or two.
TOM: Hey, my kids, finally, are big enough to do the folding …
TOM: … and they actually like it.
TOM: Yeah, so I hope they never change.
LESLIE: What’s the trick? What did you do there?
TOM: I don’t know. They just like it. I’ll tell you what the trick is. I let them …
LESLIE: A dollar a t-shirt?
TOM: No, I let them fold on our bed while watching the TV in the bedroom. So if the TV’s on and they’re going to sit there anyway, they’re happy to fold all the laundry. So I think it’s a fair tradeoff for TV time, don’t you?
LESLIE: I think that sounds good.
TOM: Works good. Works for me, right? (laughing)
LESLIE: It’s a good incentive.
TOM: Does that work for you? Do you have another home improvement question, a do-it-yourself dilemma we can help you with? Call us right now we’ll give you the answer and a chance at winning a fabulous prize.
LESLIE: Good prize this hour. We’re going to give away the 12-volt HP4 drill from Ryobi. So call in.
TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to those phones.
LESLIE: Alright, now we’re going to welcome Adrian from Texas who says the ceiling joists in the 7,000-square-foot home he’s remodeling are not parallel. Did you call to boast?
ADRIAN: We’ve got rooms in there we don’t even know what to do with. (laughing) We’ve got three kids and me and the wife; we’ve got the saloon and poker room and we’re going to have a little theatre in there …
ADRIAN: … just because we have space we don’t know what to do with.
LESLIE: Well, how can we help you, Adrian?
ADRIAN: Well, part of the problem is they took like a 700-square-foot farm house and they went ballistic on adding on. And I got to looking at the walls and the ceiling joists and they’re not parallel; they’re off about three or four inches on either end of it …
ADRIAN: … where they’re running diagonally. And, at first, I was worried about it being the walls; then I got (inaudible) and I could see where the ceiling joist – the first one came off at an angle and then just stayed at that angle throughout the remainder of the house.
TOM: Is the room square? Do you know …?
ADRIAN: It appears to be. I haven’t gotten out there and actually double-checked all of it. And …
TOM: You see this in one room, for example, Adrian?
ADRIAN: This is the entire house. All 70-foot of it.
TOM: Okay. Well, could you take one room that perhaps is square and look at this? Because the reason I’m suggesting that is if you could measure the diagonals – if you measure from corner to corner, if those numbers are not equal …
LESLIE: Then it’s not square.
TOM: Then it’s not square. And I’m wondering if the house is out of square or did somebody just start putting the joist at a slight angle and just sort of followed it? Maybe like they had a line – they should have put it on one side of the line, they put it on the other side of the line; so the whole thing went in not parallel. You follow me?
ADRIAN: Yeah, well the very first ceiling joist you can see where it’s coming off the wall and it starts out about 12 inches down the south side of the house and by the time it gets to the north side of the house it’s about 14 inches.
TOM: Well, structurally, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. But I tell you where it’s going to drive you absolutely nuts. And that is when you try to put drywall on there. Because nothing’s going to be where you expect it. So you’re going to have to be a little unorthodox in marking the positions of those ceiling joists on the wall, perhaps, so that you have two points that you can sort of maybe snap a chalk line across and know where to nail. Because nothing’s going to make sense as you start to work it.
And the other thing is – of course, it’s going to apply to anything that you do up there wiring wise and things like that. But, structurally, because they’re not parallel, I’m not that concerned about it. Leslie, what do you think?
LESLIE: I just think it’s also going to be a big pain if you ever try to do anything built in in the corners, but – if it’s not square. But, otherwise, I don’t think it’s a big problem that they’re not parallel.
ADRIAN: That was my main – structurally … yeah, structural integrity is what I was mainly concerned about. This house, it needs most of the outside siding and all the sheetrock inside; the electric and plumbing is done. They just – the people just ran out of money.
TOM: Well, the only concern, structurally, I would have Adrian, is if it looked like, say, one wall maybe shifted or something like that; like during construction, where it sort of shifted forward and took all of the ceiling joists that were connected to it with it. But I think you would see that in the corner because the corner would be coming apart.
ADRIAN: Yeah. No, the exterior of it all looks good. There’s some walls in there they don’t have (inaudible) ‘they just top – top 15, 1,700 square foot upstairs in the attic.’
TOM: You know what you might want to do, Adrian, just to be safe? You might want to hire a professional home inspector to have a look at that place; to eyeball it and see if that person spots any other structural trouble spots. Because while things are torn apart, right now, it’s super easy to make those repairs.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s the time to fix it.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It might be good, because it is an old building, to have another set of expert eyes take a look at it. But my gut feeling is you’re okay.
ADRIAN: Alright, well I appreciate it. I just found you out on XM last week and enjoyed the show.
TOM: Thanks, Adrian.
LESLIE: Enjoy that saloon.
TOM: Absolutely. (laughing) But don’t serve the alcohol until your friends are done working, okay?
ADRIAN: Alright. I appreciate it.
TOM: Alright. Thanks for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright, my guess is Paul in Wyoming is having a very cold winter because you want to get the hot water to the sink faster?
PAUL: Yeah, my water heater is about 30 feet away from my kitchen sink and just seems to take forever to get the hot water up there; plus we waste so much.
LESLIE: Well, this seems like a good opportunity. Can’t you do those on-demand hot water heaters but like closer to the source?
TOM: Yeah, the problem is that it doesn’t matter if you have on-demand tankless water heater or a tanked water heater, you still have the physical problem of having that many feet of pipe for the hot water to go through before it gets to the distribution point, which is the bathroom. Now, there is a way to plumb a house where it has a continuous loop of hot water always sort of moving through all of the pipes so that the distance is very short and you get hot water very quickly. But the problem with that is now you’re paying to heat that water that’s circulates through that loop for all of the hours that you don’t need it. And if you were to compare that cost against the cost of the water that’s being wasted while you wait two minutes for the water to get hot, it’s still cheaper to let the water run. Follow me?
PAUL: Yeah. Plus I have a finished basement, so plumbing that …
LESLIE: Would be a huge mess.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. Okay? So our advice would be, really, to just deal with it. Because it’s not going to be cost-effective for you to put in a loop where you constantly have hot water. If you have the opportunity to either split your system into two loops, where you could have two water heaters, you may cut back on some of the distance then. But, remember, there’s a cost benefit analysis that you have to go through to determine whether or not that makes sense. And most cases, because water is so inexpensive, it doesn’t actually make sense to do the plumbing for that to actually happen.
PAUL: Thank you very much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, ‘Money Pit’ listeners, are you thinking of painting or carpeting or laying down wood flooring? Well, let us do the math for you. Check out newmoneypit.wpengine.com. We’ve got a whole area there for estimators, calculators, on everything from project budgets to exactly how much paint you’re going to need for that project. So when you go to the website, newmoneypit.wpengine.com, look in the estimator and calculator section and you’ll see everything you need to get everything right on your next order.
TOM: And if you want to check out the latest trends, you can also find that info on newmoneypit.wpengine.com. Speaking of trends, you know the number one trend in kitchen countertops is natural stone.
TOM: Yeah, we’ve seen – think about it; we’ve seen a lot of changes. You know, we’ve had the laminates, the formicas, concrete was in for a long time. Now it’s natural stone. But the price tag that comes up with that look can be really, really steep. When we come back, we’re going to give you a great tip to help you get the look you want without paying a fortune. After this.
(theme song, commercials)
ANNOUNCER: This portion of ‘The Money Pit’ is being brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools: pro features, affordable prices. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: So, Leslie, do you like the stone countertops, the quartz countertops, that sort of thing?
LESLIE: Well, we were very lucky. We have granite countertops. I put them in when I redid our kitchen on like our mini-makeover. And because our kitchen is very tiny and we have a very limited amount of counter space, we were able to purchase something that was a little bit more hefty in price tag because we didn’t need a huge amount. So we were lucky. But that’s not always the case.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. And if you do like stone counters, they can be super expensive. Here’s a way to get a stone countertop without spending a lot of money. You can buy sections – smaller sections of stone. They’re sold as large squares. The squares can be placed side by side and the joists can be filled with grout. So think of how you might put in, let’s say, a tile countertop; where you put the tiles together and have grout in between. Except you’re doing that sort of modular assembly with large pieces of stone, like 12 x 12 pieces of stone. They’re cut square; you can put them right next to each other with a little bit of space for the grout line and then seal the grout line and when you’re done, you’re going to have a gorgeous stone countertop for like a quarter of the cost of doing a solid stone piece.
LESLIE: Yeah, and there are a lot of good options. I mean, even at my Home Depot, you can find some beautiful granite tiles that are just such – in interesting color choices and good prices. And they might be special order but they don’t take that long and they’re really helpful. So, good choices out there.
And we have a prize that will help you if you’re planning on doing this countertop yourself. Because, you know, you’ve got to put a base under there and this is exactly what you need to do it. It’s the 12-volt HP4 drill; it’s from Ryobi. It’s got a 24-position adjustable clutch for every type of screw driving task. It’s designed with a unique, power-grip surface that covers the entire tool so it’s not going to come slipping out of your hand no matter how long you’ve been working with it, and it even has a keyless chuck, a built-in level and onboard screwdriver bits so you’ll never be looking for them again. It’s worth about $60 and it could be yours. So call in now.
TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Who’s next?
LESLIE: Ian in Maryland listens to ‘The Money Pit’ on WJFK, 106.7. And Ian is thinking about expanding upward. What’s going on, Ian?
IAN: Yes, I live in the (inaudible) and, as you probably know, this whole area is kind of going through a huge real estate boom. And I’m trying to think of the most economical way of adding space to my house. And I’m thinking about actually raising the roof (laughing) and putting an extension on the – raising the roof so the attic becomes a full-size additional level.
TOM: So you have an attic space right now?
IAN: Right. It’s renovated. It actually looks quite nice but it’s not a full-size space and there’s no real bathrooms or bedrooms upstairs so I’m trying to figure out (inaudible) …
TOM: Okay. Do you have dormers in that space so that you could stand up and make better use of it? Or is it a peaked roof that goes down – like right down to the floor.
IAN: It’s a peaked roof. It doesn’t go right down to the floor, but it is slanted.
IAN: There’s no dormers but I was thinking about maybe doing that and maybe to add another room onto the house. I’m trying to figure out what’s the best method of maximizing my return on doing such a large project, if at all.
TOM: Well, it’s a great question and you have to kind of start by looking at your neighborhood and the other homes that surround you. Making your home bigger than it is now is almost always an okay home improvement project to do, as long as you don’t overdo it and make it so much bigger than other places that are around you to the point where it becomes sort of a big albatross on the street. (laughing)
IAN: Right, right.
TOM: Now, usually, adding a bedroom or a bathroom is a really good investment because those have definable real estate values. When appraisers come and try to put a number on your house to determine how much it’s worth, if you have two bedrooms the home is going to be worth less than if you have three bedrooms. And if you have one bath, it’s going to be less than you have one-and-a-half baths. So adding bedrooms and bathrooms is almost always a really good investment.
So the next question comes down to what’s the easiest way to do that to your house. That’s why I said, for example, let’s talk about a house that might be, say, a cape cod; where it has a very steep roof and the walls go down to, say, a small dormer with like a four-foot knee wall. Space like that, typically, the improvement is to put dormers on the roof that sort of kick out that roof and allow you to use that entire area of the second floor. Now, I don’t know how your house is shaped but if you can raise the roof that you can pick up more usable space toward the exterior walls, that’s a reasonably easy way to make better use of that space. And that’s …
LESLIE: And the good thing about building upward, in that way, is that if you want to continue and put a bathroom up there, you just continue the line of plumbing from a lower bathroom. And that’s easier than trying to, say, expand the house outward or sideward; where you’re trying to run plumbing that twists and turns and tries to go in new directions. This way, at least, you’re following a continuous line.
TOM: Ian, probably the best thing for you to do as you’re mulling this around in your head, is to consult with an architect that might be able to come to your home and, say, for a small consulting fee, hear you out, get your ideas, get a sense of your neighborhood. And a professional like that could probably, literally sit in your living room and put pencil to paper and say, ‘Well, you could go up here or out there or raise the roof’ and maybe give you a whole bunch of ideas. You’ll be much better informed, at that point, to make a decision.
And then, I would highly, highly, highly, recommend that you hire an architect to design that addition for you and to spec out – even if it’s just a renovation – what exactly goes into it. The money that you pay that professional will be very well spent because you’re going to end up with a set of plans that has a set of specifications that says exactly what that space is supposed to look like when it’s done.
And then you take those plans and you use those to give to the different contractors that you want to bid on your project. And this way, no matter what comes back, you’ll know everybody’s bidding on the exact same renovation and not the one that they think …
LESLIE: Instead of their interpretation of it.
IAN: I’ve got you. I guess the architect couldn’t give me an actual budget price for doing the work itself, I guess, correct?
TOM: Exactly. And, in fact, you’ll kind of feed that budget to the architect.
LESLIE: Well, the architect can give you a budget for materials. Once they decide what exactly is happening and how you’re going to be doing it, they’ll be able to say, ‘You need x amount of drywall and you need this amount of tile and you need this amount of flooring.’ And then you can, therefore, go ahead and figure out, ‘I’d rather spend this much on flooring and this much on tile and figure out which type of tile or flooring works with your budget.
TOM: You almost might be able to take a look at your house and say, ‘Alright, well I paid x for it; that was a few years back. Now it’s worth y. If I put $100,000 into this addition, it’s going to be worth even more than what it’s cost me for the addition.’ You could try to chew through those numbers and know, realistically, whether whatever your budget is – if it’s $50,000 or $100,000 or more to do this addition – how much space you could reasonably hope to get for that dollar amount. And I just think you’re going to have a lot more information to be able to make that decision, once you know all those options.
IAN: I got you, I got you. Okay, well, I appreciate the advice. I guess the first place to go is the architect and I guess I’ll start there, then.
TOM: Sounds good, Ian. Thanks so much for calling 1-888-MONEY-PIT and for tuning in on free FM 106.7 in Washington, DC.
LESLIE: Alright, are you getting ready to install vinyl flooring? Well, don’t start yet. We’ll give you a very important warm-up tip, after this.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of ‘The Money Pit’ is being brought to you by Kenmore, makers of the Kenmore Elite Induction Cooktop which cooks food faster and more efficiently than gas or electric ranges. To learn more, visit your local Sears store or call 1-888-Kenmore. Now, here’s Tom and Leslie.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And Leslie, before the break you were talking about the challenges of installing a vinyl floor. I’ve been there, done that. And it ain’t easy because it comes in rolls.
LESLIE: Well, plus the enormity of it. It’s huge.
TOM: (overlapping voices) It’s heavy.
LESLIE: And if you have a big room to cover, it’s big.
TOM: Exactly. So what’s the trick?
LESLIE: Okay. Well, vinyl flooring, as you know, is an attractive option for kitchens, basements, even garages. But it’s not even your parent’s vinyl flooring anymore. Today’s vinyl flooring is much better looking and it’s much more durable. But here’s a tip when installing it. Vinyl is easiest to work with when it’s at room temperature. So before putting your final floor down, be sure to take it out of your car or your garage and give it time to come to room temperature. This way, the material will be easier to work with, the glue will adhere better, and you’ll be floored by the difference it makes when you add it to your home.
TOM: And that’s a great point because, typically, when that gets delivered by the floor company, yeah, where are they going to put the big roll of flooring? In your garage.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) In your garage.
LESLIE: Well, and that’s even true with like a laminate wood floor, like those planks. You need to store those in the room you’re going to install them for 24 hours so that it becomes sort of cured, or used to that temperature of that space. So you really need to think about that.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, if nothing else, things that get cold shrink.
TOM: So, it could be put in smaller and then once it warms up it could swell and buckle up. So …
LESLIE: And don’t let paint freeze in your car.
TOM: Yes, bad idea.
LESLIE: Don’t let paint freeze anywhere. It never goes on the same after it. Not that I know from experience.
TOM: (laughing) I bet. Yeah, I bet.
LESLIE: (laughing) You want to know how I know? It’s really a terrible, terrible thing.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, how do you? How do you know?
LESLIE: Well, a few years back, I designed one of the dressing rooms for the host of ‘The View.’ And Andrew and I were going to – Andrew from ‘While You Were Out’ – we were going to appear on ‘The View’ and talk about this wonderful dressing room that we did when we had two days to do this makeover. And I went to The Home Depot the night before – I was going to go there and do the work – and I bought all this paint and I said, ‘I’ll just leave it in the car; I have to leave at like five in the morning anyway.’ It was freezing cold that night and the next day, when I went to install the paint, it was like clumpy (laughing) and disgusting and I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I just wasted all this money.’
TOM: (overlapping voices) I hope they didn’t … I hope they didn’t edit it out of the segment.
LESLIE: They did edit it out. But it’s true. I mean it’s like we make stupid mistakes because I was tired from working all day and decided, ‘I’ll just leave the paint in the car.’ Don’t do it.
TOM: I had a friend of mine that she decided to surprise her husband and paint the kitchen …
LESLIE: (laughing) Okay.
TOM: And he – you know how she surprised him?
LESLIE: Oh, God.
TOM: She went down to the basement and got like every left over gallon of like white, off-white, semi-white …
LESLIE: And mixed it all together?
TOM: Yeah, and mixed it all together. (laughing)
LESLIE: And made her own color?
TOM: Yeah, it was a surprise; let’s put it that way.
LESLIE: Well, how did …
TOM: How he found out, because when it went on it wasn’t sticking right. And I kind of got the story out of her. So, finally, she had to strip it all off and then put primer on it and start again.
LESLIE: Ugh. Surprise!
TOM: Surprise! It was a surprise. Yeah. Honey, I don’t think crackle finish was the best choice, alright? Not that I didn’t appreciate your attempt.
LESLIE: Aw. Good effort. Well done.
TOM: Well, give us a call, right now. Maybe you have a home improvement story where it didn’t quite work out. We’d like to hear about that. Anything worth starting is worth starting over with us. (laughing) 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Karen in Texas has a water heater that gurgles when you turn on the hot water. Certainly, an unexpected noise. Karen, what’s happening?
KAREN: Well, it – what it does is as we’re turning on any hot water in the house, whether it’s the dishwasher, the washing machine or the hot water faucet in the sinks or whatever, it’ll actually make a – we called the manufacturer because it started making a gurgling noise. It’d make a gurgle, like a …
TOM: Like a rumble.
KAREN: Actually, like a metal …
TOM: Right. Yeah.
KAREN: … bubbling noise. And then, every once in a while, a ping would come with it.
TOM: Right. What did the manufacturer tell you?
KAREN: They told us to try draining it first. And so we hooked up the water hose to the outside and drained it all out and then filled it back up and it still does it. So I started reading more information on it. And it has the little spigot at the top with the little – it’s like a pressure release spigot …
KAREN: … I even tried doing that and it still hasn’t taken care of the problem.
You know, I’ve heard that sound many times over the years and never really connected it to anything damaging that was going on. It’s basically the expansion and the contraction of the metal tank inside of the water heater itself. And it is sort of an oil can sort of noise; that ping of the metal expanding and contracting. Sometimes if the tank gets filled with lime deposits or mineral salt deposits from being in the water, it can make it worse. But, really, I’ve never been able to determine that that was anything unsafe about that sound except it’s just a bit annoying. It kind of sounds, Leslie, sort of like a dull thunder (laughing) kind of sound.
LESLIE: Yeah, but when you think about the amount of times you use hot water in a day.
KAREN: Well, a lot of times, like going to bed, our hot water heater is right there next to our bedroom.
TOM: Ah, so it’s really annoying to you.
KAREN: Yeah, you’ll hear it.
TOM: How old is your water heater, Karen?
KAREN: We moved into the house in ’96, so it’s about – it was a year old when we moved in there, so it’s about, I guess, eight or nine years old now. And it’s been doing it for seven or eight years. So it’s not really …
TOM: Well, you know, pretty soon it’s going to be time for a new one.
LESLIE: Isn’t life about 10 years on a water heater?
TOM: Yeah, roughly 10 years. What you might want to think about doing when it comes time for a new one is to replace that old gas water heater with a tankless water heater. Tankless water heater has no tank. It’s about 25 percent of the size of a regular water heater and it’s far more efficient; it costs a lot less money to run because it’s not trying to keep that tank of water hot all the time. It heats water only as you need it. And so, it’s just a lot smarter system to use.
KAREN: Okay, great. Great. I sure do appreciate that. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Karen. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, is your home at risk for an electrical fire? It could be; especially if it was built between 1965 and 1972. We’ll tell you why right after this.
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ANNOUNCER: This portion of ‘The Money Pit’ is being brought to you by Kidde, the leader in home fire safety. Kidde: technology that saves lives.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT is the number you need to call for the answer to your home improvement problem, to your do-it-yourself dilemma, if your floor squeaks, if your toilet leaks or if your lights go dim. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, pay attention because if your house was built between 1965 and 1972, you could have an electric problem and not know what it is. Any ideas, Leslie?
LESLIE: What is it called? It has like a tree. Something with a tree.
TOM: Ah. Well, you’re close.
LESLIE: I’m close.
TOM: Yes. It’s actually aluminum wire.
LESLIE: But it’s like it’s got a name. It’s like branch circuiting or …
TOM: Well, aluminum branch circuit wires. Exactly, now …
LESLIE: Okay. And how do you know if you have it?
TOM: Well, aluminum wiring – branch circuit wiring – was used between 1965 and 1972. Seemed like a good idea at the time; until homes started to burn down across the country. Because what happens is the wiring where it connects to the outlet to the light to the switch – that connection, it expands and contracts so much that it builds up resistance and can catch on fire. So, it’s a very bad thing; aluminum branch circuit wiring.
If you have it, there is a solution; it’s called COPALUM. It’s one of the procedures for correction that was approved by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. In fact, I think it’s the only way to correct this properly. And you could probably get more information – in fact, you can get more information on that at the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov. And it’s pretty expensive but it really does need to be done.
Now, the direct wired circuits, like the 240-volt circuits that wire your heating system that might wire your range, your oven, your air conditioning compressor – those circuits are okay. It’s the smaller, branch circuits – the ones that handle the lights, the outlets and the switches in the house that do need to be replaced.
LESLIE: Which you use the most.
TOM: Exactly. So good idea to find out if your home was built between ’65 and ’72, if you have it. And Leslie said, ‘How do you know?’ Well, if you open up your electrical panel, you’ll see aluminum branch circuit wiring. But it’s really not something you should do unless you know what you’re looking at because once you open that panel up, you’re exposed to all of the electrical connection and you could be hurt.
LESLIE: Yikes, that sounds dangerous. Alright. Well, this isn’t the only building problem associated with that particular time frame. And every time frame has it’s own pitfalls. And so each home built in whatever decade, from the 1900s to even just recently, has its own problems. So if you want to know what those are, read our ‘Home Improvement by the Numbers’ column – it’s on newmoneypit.wpengine.com – and you can find out everything that could potentially be hazardous or go wrong with your house, depending on what year it was built. And you can really narrow it down so you know what you’re looking for. So check it out. It’s a very useful and helpful article.
TOM: And once you find those problems, you need to fix them. You could do that with this hour’s prize. It’s the HP4 drill from Ryobi. You like the way I worked that right in?
TOM: That was pretty good, wasn’t it?
LESLIE: Here’s a problem and we have the solution for you.
TOM: Home improvement aspirin; call us right now. (laughing) 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We will give you the answer to your home improvement problem and, perhaps, the tools to get it all done. If you are the name we draw out of ‘The Money Pit’ hardhat this hour, you will win the Ryobi HP4 drill worth – what? – 60 bucks?
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s a good prize.
TOM: Sounds cool. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Who’s next?
LESLIE: Now we are going to go so far away, to Alaska, and talk to Matt about windows that are sweating. First of all, Matt, is it dark there all the time, now?
MATT: Aw, not really.
LESLIE: Not really? (laughing) How often do you see the northern lights?
MATT: Oh, at least five nights a week.
TOM: Wow. That must be beautiful.
MATT: It is.
LESLIE: And how often does a polar bear knock on your door?
MATT: Daily. (laughing) Think it starts at Santa Claus.
TOM: There you go.
LESLIE: Now, what can we help you with?
MATT: I’ve got a problem with windows that are sweating when it’s real cold and we’ve got a fire lit or heat going. The inside of the windows are sweating real bad.
TOM: Okay. The kind of windows that you have, are they insulated windows?
MATT: No. I mean it’s an older house.
TOM: Yeah, I could’ve … could’ve figured that out.
LESLIE: Are they aluminum frame?
TOM: Yeah. Well, so far we’re guessing pretty well, aren’t we, Leslie? (laughing)
LESLIE: What happens is, is because they’re not insulated and because the frame is aluminum, they get so cold that when the windows react with the warm air inside, there’s a lot of condensation which causes the sweating; which could only be solved by insulating those windows or changing them to vinyl windows.
TOM: Yeah, thermal pane windows. You might want to take a look at the moisture sources inside your house and see what you can do to reduce those. So, for example, starting outside looking at the drainage conditions around your house, making sure your downspouts are directed well away from the house and that the soil slopes away …
LESLIE: They’re all covered with snow, Tom.
TOM: I know that. But snow eventually melts and that saturation raises the humidity level inside the house. And the other thing would be …
LESLIE: And even burning a fire does the same.
TOM: Well, now, if the fire is working correctly, if the chimney’s working correctly, that should not be letting moisture in the house; it should be taking warm air out of the house. But I’m also thinking about the fans, the bath fans, the kitchen fans and, basically, looking at all the different ways your house is supposed to vent. And lastly, even up on the roof, making sure that you have ridge vents and soffit vents that – if you have good attic ventilation, then a lot of that vapor pressure that fills the inside of the house ends up in the attic; and if it’s vented properly, it’ll vent out.
And so, all of those are places where moisture can really build up inside of your house, Matt. And if you could take some steps to reduce that volume of moisture until you get better windows in there, then you’re going to have less of a condensation problem with leaky windows on the inside of your house.
MATT: What’s your suggestion for windows?
TOM: I would recommend that you replace those with replacement windows; and when I say replacement windows, that means that they fit inside the existing opening so you don’t have to disturb too much of the siding. You can buy replacement windows very inexpensively, today; say, for between $200 and $300 or $400 each, depending on the size. They’re not that hard to install. It’s completely a do-it-yourself …
LESLIE: Most of them even come with a video to show you exactly how to install them yourself …
TOM: Oh, really?
LESLIE: … so it really takes all the guesswork … yes, I know that the – is it the Marvin replacement window? – comes with a great kit to make it really easy for you to do yourself.
TOM: Yeah, that’s a great investment for you to do. And if you can’t afford to do the whole house, start on the north side, then go to the east side; then do south and west last because those are the sides that are going to have the greatest energy loss.
MATT: Alrighty. Okay. Well, I sure do appreciate it.
TOM: You’re very welcome and thanks for tuning in in Alaska, Matt.
LESLIE: Creaks, gaps; does this sound like your money pit?
TOM: Oh, I thought you were talking about me. (laughing)
LESLIE: Or Tom? Does this sound like Tom? Well, I know it does. Anyway, if this sounds like your house, maybe we can help you. I’m sure we can help you figure out exactly how to solve that problem. And when we come back, we’re going to help Dorian from New Jersey who’s got gaps in the floor. Oh, no!
TOM: Oh, no!
ANNOUNCER: This portion of ‘The Money Pit’ is being brought to you by Reiker Room Conditioners, available at all Menard’s, selected Lowe’s and Home Depots, and as a special order in all Lowe’s and Home Depot stores. Or contact Reiker at www.heatingfans.com. Or call 1-866-forreiker – that’s R-e-i-k-e-r – for additional information.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The website is newmoneypit.wpengine.com; that’s where you’ll also find information on how to sign up for our free ‘Money Pit’ e-newsletter chock full of great home improvement tips and chances to win more great prizes every single week. And, also, a place where you could email us. You could use the form on newmoneypit.wpengine.com. Or you could simply email us if you, perhaps, are a bit shy and don’t want to pick up the phone; we understand, we don’t judge. Dorian – from Haddon Heights, New Jersey – had to pick up her computer keyboard and write us this question.
LESLIE: Alright. And she did that at ‘Help Me’ at newmoneypit.wpengine.com, just so you know for future reference. Alright, Dorian writes, ‘My home is 100+ years old with pine flooring. We recently removed old carpeting and found there are gaps between the boards as well as some small holes. Is there some type of wood filler I could use to close up those gaps and holes before applying a finish coat such as a polyurethane?’
TOM: Mmm, uh-uh.
LESLIE: I know, Tom, you like to call that charm.
TOM: Yeah, we call that charm. You can’t fill the spaces between old floorboards; you can only replace the floorboards with perhaps slightly wider boards if those floorboards are worn out. Because whatever you fill them with is just going to crack and get really junky. And somebody tried to do that on one of the times the floors in my house were redone, way before I became the owner. And I’m constantly picking up chunks of wood filler because of that mistake.
LESLIE: Or – the best thing is, someone had done that to our house during its lifetime. And the floor is beautifully finished and we have this wonderful wood filler, in between, that sort of cracked apart. And now, every time I vacuum …
TOM: You suck up a piece?
LESLIE: … it’s like more and more pieces. And I’m always afraid I’m going to break my beautiful, fancy vacuum that doesn’t lose its suction but will definitely get stuck with things going like, ‘Clack clack clack clack clack clack.’ And it makes a funny noise and it’s great but don’t do it. It’s really …
TOM: It’s ka-ching.
LESLIE: … it’s a character to the floor. You’re going to end up ruining any of your cleaning devices. What would you say if there’s like a small hole that would be dangerous as a trip hazard or something, Tom?
TOM: Well, I would replace the board. I would just replace it. In fact, when we redid the floors in my 1886 home, the threshold – where it went from one room to the next – was filled up – excuse me, it was worn out and filled up with a lot of wood filler. And so I completely tore out the wood there. Now, if you ever have to tear out old pieces of flooring, what you want to avoid is a straight line seam. You want to kind of do like a finger joint, where you take some of the new boards and you sort of inter-splice them into some of the old boards, to get this kind of finger-joint pattern. Because what happens is, when you first put it in, it looks really obvious, like a patch. But over time, the new boards kind of fade to the old board color and then they look really, really good.
If you were to go into my dining room today where I did this, Leslie – and there was a hole in this floor from an old floor furnace that was like three-foot square – you would not be able to find that hole in the floor today because of the way the installation was done with that sort of finger-joint appearance.
LESLIE: That’s why we call you up and ask you all questions, Tom. (laughing)
TOM: And you do. (laughing)
LESLIE: That’s my job, you know?
TOM: You put me in the home improvement 911.
LESLIE: It’s true. Usually, I would call my dad but I don’t have my dad anymore and now I have you and I’m thankful for ya. And I know everyone else is.
TOM: Happy to help. Well, it’s one of the best home improvement projects that you can do. Remodeling your bathroom. Why? Because it’s got a great return on investment; just like my co-host, Leslie, (laughing) with her edition of today’s ‘Leslie’s Last Word.’
LESLIE: Alright, folks. Well, updating your bath is a great investment and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can flush out lots of possibilities for an inexpensive shower with this tip: while fiberglass and ceramic tile are traditional choices for showers, new solid surfacing materials like Corian are now available as tub and shower enclosures. Corian is durable, easy to maintain and can be installed at a fraction of the cost of ripping out and replacing more traditional tile walls. And it comes in amazing patterns and wonderful little speckles of fun colors; even solids, if you want to go that route. But there are some beautiful choices and really fun choices, too. So give it a look next time you’re out there.
TOM: That washes away another great hour of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: Ah, and I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember you can it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.