Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 1 TEXT:
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: Pick up the phone and call us right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. We know there’s something you want to get done around your house. We’re here to help. The number, 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Sometimes you can even do too much in your house and that’s one of the things that we’re going to talk about today. You know, investing in your home is usually a very smart thing but when does an investment become a loss that you’re not able to recoup? When are you doing too much work to your house that you make it so that it’s not as valuable as the rest of the homes in the neighborhood? We’ll help you figure that out in just a bit.
LESLIE: Plus, a rocky real estate market; you know, it can be a blessing in disguise. I know you might not be feeling that way right now but, believe me, it is; especially if you’re in the market to buy a second home perhaps as an investment or even just a nice vacation spot for your family. We’re going to tell you what to look for in either case.
TOM: Also ahead, cue the jaws music.
LESLIE: Duh-duh, duh-duh, duh-duh, duh-duh.
TOM: Let’s talk about termites. It’s the termite season again and they’re there munching and crunching through homes all across the country. How do you know if you have termites?
LESLIE: When you fall through the dining room floor? (chuckles)
TOM: That would be the first clue. We’ll tell you what to do in just a bit.
LESLIE: And we’re giving away a great prize this hour for you nature lovers out there. It’s a Yankee Flipper squirrel-proof birdfeeder plus a bag of songbird blend birdseed from our friends over at Scotts. This will attract all of those gorgeous birds to your yard so you can really enjoy the springtime weather.
TOM: And that great package is worth 175 bucks. Going to go to one caller to 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must have a home improvement question and be willing to come on the air and ask us.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Cathy in Nueva York has a question about insulation. What can we do for you?
CATHY: Yes, hi. I’m converting a basement into an art studio and like a workspace. And I – actually, I had two questions: one is, is there any kind of a do-it-yourself radon kit I can get to check out if I have radon or not; and also, where do I put insulation without robbing the upstairs of heat.
TOM: Good questions. First, to the radon question, there are lots of do-it-yourself radon kits out there. The basic type you want is known as a charcoal adsorption canister and it’s a small charcoal canister. It kind of is the same size as like a tuna fish can. And basically, you open it up and you leave it in the basement for an exposure period that goes from about two to six days and you seal it back up; you stick it in a mailer and off to the lab it goes and then a couple of weeks later they return a report to you that will tell you whether or not you have a radon issue. It’s important that when you do the radon test that the house is totally closed; it has to be closed except for normal in and out.
LESLIE: Normal openings of doors.
TOM: So, it’s getting warm now. You know, you can’t do it with all the windows and doors open because otherwise you’d just be measuring the radon gas that’s sort of in the natural air.
TOM: Now, as to the insulation question, typically what you’re going to want to do is use a basement wall insulation. You would not insulate the ceiling of the basement but you would insulate the walls because that will make the space a bit warmer. And basement wall insulation is special; it generally is foil-faced on both sides. It’s designed to go against the damp surface there and do a good job without causing any mold issues or condensation issues.
LESLIE: And Cathy, since you’re going to be using the space as an art studio, try to get your hands on some daylight light bulbs so that you can really sort of simulate natural lighting as you’re doing some really – whatever your crafty art work is down there.
CATHY: Ah-ha, good point. Yes. OK, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Cathy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Talking tankless with Mike. What can we do for you?
MIKE: Yes, I only have a 50-gallon water heater and I’m in a family of four and I’m the only guy.
TOM: OK. (Leslie chuckles)
MIKE: So that means by the time I get to take a shower I’m taking nice, cold ones.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) You get the shortest, coldest shower.
MIKE: Oh, yeah. [I’m just wondering] (ph) – I’ve heard your programs before about the tankless heaters but I think they’re related to gas and I don’t have gas in my neighborhood so I’m looking for an electric tankless.
TOM: Do you have liquid propane? Do you have LP gas?
MIKE: Not at the house currently.
TOM: OK, because you could put in an LP gas water heater. You don’t necessarily have to have natural gas. But I will say that we do not recommend electric tankless water heaters because they’re just not efficient and there are a lot of complaints about whether or not they can do the job. Gas water heaters – natural gas or LP, fabulous; recommend them all day long; would love to have one myself. But electric tankless; not so much.
MIKE: OK, that was going to be another question. Yeah, every now and then when I do get a chance to have hot water, sometimes it is nice to have like a steam shower to relax in. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: Yeah. What you might want to think about doing is replacing that …
LESLIE: Wake up earlier. (Mike chuckles)
TOM: Yeah, or replace that 50 – (chuckles) – replace the 50-gallon water heater with a 75-gallon next time out and then also, put it on a timer so it only runs like in the morning when you need it and in the evening when you need it and not so much in the middle of the night or the middle of the day.
MIKE: Thank you, sir.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
Are you dealing with an April Fool’s Day joke gone awry in your house? Well, we can help you repair whatever it was that that incident caused, so give us a call …
TOM: Egg on the windows (Leslie laughs); toilet paper in the trees. Call us.
LESLIE: Saran Wrap over the toilet. (Tom laughs) Something along those lines.
TOM: Oh man, that’s the worst.
LESLIE: (laughing) Well, give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, believe it or not, not all home improvement projects will give you a great return on your investment. Find out which improvements will make you money and which ones will waste it, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Choose the brand more building professionals prefer and add up to $24,000 to the perceived value of your home. For more information visit ThermaTru.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Yankee Flipper squirrel-proof birdfeeder plus enough Scotts songbird blend birdseed to keep it full for quite a while. It’s great for bird watching. It’s going to attract all kinds of wild songbirds that’ll sing to you as you enjoy the outside around your house. It’s a prize worth 175 bucks but it could be yours for free just for giving us a call with your home improvement question right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Yeah, give us a call. Maybe you’re thinking about doing some major renovations to your house and when you’re planning home improvements you probably think about the things that you would like along with how that improvement is going to increase your home’s bottom line. You know, if you want to spend money you can someday recoup, consider the long and short-term values. You know, bathrooms, kitchens, flooring and energy improvements; those are all outstanding investments. But before a big project like an addition, you really want to decide how long are you going to be living in the house and if the improvement is going to price your house out of your neighborhood’s range, which is something you really want to avoid at all costs.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your home improvement question.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Mary’s dealing with some driveway stains. Tell us what happened.
MARY: Oh, what happened was we had a dumpster there for many months and finally, when it left (chuckles), it left a streak like 12 inches wide only on one side. I think the other side was protected by the eave of the house. But this rust is running down the driveway. Now I know I’m going to have to resurface in the fall – in the spring, rather – but anything I can do to cosmetically first-aid that rust on the blacktop?
LESLIE: Oh yeah, there’s an easy way to get rid of it. Tom, does the trisodiumphosphate work on blacktop as well? Because I know it’s great on raw concrete.
TOM: Sure, it’ll work fine. You need to make a paste of that stuff; TSP and water.
MARY: Alright, so it’d be a good idea to just paint it on, right? Sort of – or brush it on.
TOM: Yeah, sort of. That’s right. Just brush it on; let it sit for a bit and it does a good job of removing rust stains.
MARY: OK, let it sit for, what, hours?
TOM: No, not an hour but I mean, you know, 15, 20 minutes; something like that.
MARY: Oh, OK. Sounds good.
TOM: Easy to do.
MARY: Thank you so much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Everybody’s going green including Marty. What can we do for you?
MARTY: The subject is our kitchen. We have a small kitchen. It’s about 8×10. It’s not an eat-in; it’s just a utilitarian type place. And we have fluorescent lighting in there now, which is a single fixture with two circular lights that amount to 72 watts fluorescent. And we want to change and we’re talking about going back to incandescents; perhaps a single fixture. But what we’re not too sure about is how much wattage should we use to replace 72 watts of fluorescent.
TOM: It depends on what you mean by 72 watts. Now, if you’re looking, for example, at compact fluorescents, they usually give you a wattage equivalent to an incandescent bulb. So, for example, a 75-watt compact fluorescent is actually only using about a quarter of that amount of electricity because watts is a measure of electricity and electrical consumption. If you’re talking about one of those old-fashioned circular bulbs …
TOM: … well, what you might want to do is probably go with 100 to 150 watts worth of electricity but try to buy a fixture that uses compact fluorescents because this way it’s not going to cost you anymore to operate it than the old fixture does right now.
MARTY: OK, so we were trying to get away from the fluorescent look but maybe because …
TOM: Well, but this is a different type of fluorescent. I’m talking about using a compact fluorescent bulb.
MARTY: I see.
TOM: Not a circular, old-fashioned fluorescent.
MARTY: OK. And those will fit into a regular incandescent fixture.
TOM: Socket. Socket. Correct.
LESLIE: We’re heading out to New Mexico to talk to Vicky who’s got a sump pump question. What’s going on?
VICKY: If our home does not have a basement, do we have to worry about any possible water backup? I’m trying to deal with prevention just to get information.
TOM: Now is your home, Vicky, on a crawlspace or is it on a slab?
VICKY: A slab.
TOM: Well, generally not. I mean it’s always possible that you could get a broken pipe under the floor or something of that nature, but you don’t have to generally worry about water infiltration. I have seen, in rare circumstances, where there was a lot of water that collected along the outside of a home that has a slab floor and because concrete is so absorbent it will suck up the water and sometimes that can drawn water into the house and make the carpet wet or make the wall wet. But generally speaking, if your house is on a slab you don’t have to worry about that.
VICKY: OK. Then maybe this is a related question. I never heard of a sump pump until last year. What kind of houses need a sump pump?
TOM: Well, a sump pump is simply a pump that is usually in the basement or the crawlspace that helps take water out that collects in that space. But since your home is slab on grade, you really have no need for one.
VICKY: So you folks have been very helpful.
LESLIE: Yee-ha! Going over to Texas to talk with Brian about a fireplace. What’s going on?
BRIAN: Hey, I’ve moved into a 25-year-old home and on this fireplace it looks like it’s straight out of the Brady Bunch.
LESLIE: (chuckling) OK.
BRIAN: (chuckling) It’s got stone from the floor to the ceiling and the stone is very nice but it’s got this black mortar that makes it just look kind of dated. And so what I’m wondering is how can I change the color of this mortar to make it something a little bit more friendly?
TOM: Hmm. Sounds to me like a job for some very strategic painting. (Leslie growls) Because, you know, getting light mortar to be darker is something that can be stained.
LESLIE: That’s something that can be done.
TOM: That can be stained. There are mortar stains that will do that. But to try to take a dark mortar and make it light …
LESLIE: Would you have to use some sort of heat-resistant paint?
TOM: Probably not because there’s not that much – the outside surface of the fireplace doesn’t get quite that hot.
BRIAN: OK, so I wouldn’t have to use a heat-resistant paint, necessarily?
TOM: I don’t think so.
BRIAN: I could just paint over this mortar?
TOM: I think you could paint over the mortar, yeah.
BRIAN: Oh well, that’d be great.
LESLIE: I mean is it worth it to saw out the mortar …
LESLIE: … or does that make a fine (ph) disaster?
TOM: No, no, no. That would be a disastrous job. That would be so much work it wouldn’t be worth it. I would try to paint it.
BRIAN: OK, so I’d just go with like a flat interior paint?
TOM: Yep, exactly.
BRIAN: Alright, great.
LESLIE: Talking to Carl in New Jersey about radiant heat. Tell us your question.
CARL: Yeah, I have a problem. I have a 108-year-old house and, basically, we’re trying to redo the outside. It has no subflooring, so it just has the tongue-and-groove right on the floor joists and there was a porch that came off of it and we put some subflooring to kind of match and there’s no way for me to get any heat in that area. I was going to do baseboard heat but I like the radiant heat.
TOM: In the porch area?
CARL: In the whole house area because I’m …
TOM: Whole house. OK.
CARL: Yeah, the house is old and we’ve looked at doing this floor and to redo it with 108-year-old there’s some boards that have to be replaced that I want to put in.
CARL: My question is this: can I put