- Thinking adding solar power to your home can reduce electricity costs? Not all panels deliver the same amount of electricity. Tom & Leslie explain which options deliver the most power and best savings.
- And if you like homes that feel bigger than they are, there’s a new trend in what’s known as a broken or semi-open floor plan beginning to catch on. Well top-line those details.
- With half of the winter behind us, it’s time to think about making sure your outdoor trees will bloom this spring. We’ve got tips on keeping trees alive through winter.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Pat in South Dakota wants to know more about vinyl flooring she’s looking to install on her first floor.
- Phillip from Massachusetts is replacing his cape cod roof and wants to know his options and if he should put in an ice guard.
- Carolyn down in Florida needs advice on repainting her metal garage door.
- Eric in Michigan is asking if gutters are needed if your home is on a concrete slab?
- Debs from Pennsylvania wants to know how to clean the ring around the drain of a sink.
- Mike in Arizona wants to know the best options are for replacing his old cedar siding.
- Lynn from Illinois how to replace a mailbox that is rusted and stuck in her brick.
- Rebecca in Tennessee wants to know how to repair a crack in her limestone chimney.
- Susan from Texas wants to know what kind of treatment should be done on a water well.
- Lydia in Maryland wants to know what is the best type of insulation she should put in her house.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We are here to help you get projects done around your house. What are you working on now? What are you working on this weekend? If you have a project you’d like to tackle and you don’t know where to start, start right here by reaching out to us. Couple of ways to get in touch: you can post your questions to MoneyPit.com or call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up on today’s show, do you want to tackle a home improvement project but don’t have much time? Well, we get it and figured this was a great time to share 5 fast hacks that take 30 minutes or less to complete.
LESLIE: I mean you could do five in one day because it takes such a short amount of time.
LESLIE: So this is a really great motivator.
TOM: If you’re really, really motivated.
LESLIE: Well, I love it. But one thing I don’t love is that during these winter months, we see such a higher risk of home fires. But did you know that not all smoke detectors work with every single type of fire? So we’ll explain why and help you make sure that your home is protected.
TOM: And if you’re a renter, you’re probably trying to save some money and you don’t want to waste it on high utility bills. But perhaps you are paying high utility bills when it comes to your heat because you figure you can’t do anything to change it. Truth be told, you can. There are ways, even as a renter, that you can change that scenario to pay less for that heat. And we’re going to give you those tips, in just a bit.
LESLIE: But first, whether you’re doing or you’re dreaming, we can help you make your home everything that you want it to be. So what are you working on? What are you planning on working on? Alright, what do you want to finish from last year that you started but kind of gave up on? Whatever it is, we’re here to lend a hand. We don’t judge. We’ve been there, we’ve done it, so let us help you out.
TOM: 888-MONEY-PIT is the phone number to reach us. Or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Andrea in Pennsylvania is on the line with a bathroom-flooring question. How can we help you?
ANDREA: I have a half-bath. It is about 3×3 and to the back of the wall, where the toilet and the sink are, there is a gap that starts about an 1/8-inch and it goes to about an inch-and-a-quarter. And below it, in the basement, there is a hole that – a cinder-block hole – that you can see. I crawled in there, then – yeah. And it was disgusting, let me just tell you.
TOM: I bet.
LESLIE: I’m sure.
ANDREA: But there was some sort of water damage.
TOM: Hmm. So …
ANDREA: But when you go to the bathroom in the wintertime, it’s a little chilly.
TOM: Yeah. So, do you think that the floor dropped?
ANDREA: I don’t know if the floor dropped or if it’s from some sort of – connected to it used to be a refrigerator that had an ice maker.
TOM: That’s a big gap.
ANDREA: And it was connected to the toilet tank.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Wow.
TOM: A refrigerator/ice maker connected to the toilet tank.
TOM: That’s some house you’ve got there, Andrea.
LESLIE: That sounds weird.
ANDREA: Oh, my house was built in the 1930s.
TOM: They probably just tapped into the water line near the toilet tank and that’s how they fed the ice maker. Well, let’s hope that’s how they did it.
TOM: Let’s hope they weren’t making ice out of the toilet water. That would be pretty gross.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness.
ANDREA: I hope not. That would have been pretty bad.
TOM: Now, in terms of this sloping floor – sagging floor – the crack that you see, when you say it’s a crack, you’re talking about between the wall and the floor, correct?
ANDREA: Correct, correct.
TOM: Alright. So it clearly looks like the – either the wall levitated or the floor dropped.
TOM: And the floor dropped – when the floor dropped, it dropped with the toilet in it, so it must have been slow over time. Otherwise, you’d have leaks all over the place. I suspect that something’s going on with the floor here.
So the question is, first, do we have a structural problem?
TOM: My answer is I don’t know, because I didn’t see that crawlspace. But if you go down there and take a bunch of photographs and post them in the Community section on MoneyPit.com, I will take a look at it for you.
ANDREA: OK. Oh, I’d appreciate that.
TOM: Or you could have a carpenter or an engineer, a home inspector take a look at that.
If the floor has just settled that way because it’s an older house and it’s just kind of worked its way into that position but doesn’t seem to be structurally damaged, then we have to deal with just the cosmetics of it. And the way to do that might simply be to install baseboard molding or adjust the baseboard molding that’s there. Is there molding there at all now? Is there a baseboard?
ANDREA: No. Not at all.
TOM: Yeah, so …
ANDREA: Right now I have it stuffed with some Styrofoam.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I would certainly fill the gap. I would insulate under that crawlspace floor, too, so that it’s warmer in there for you in the wintertime. But then I would just put a piece of baseboard molding. I’d let the molding ride down on the floor so the molding will be crooked with the floor.
TOM: And I think that that’s OK. And if you paint it the same color as the wall, it would not be noticeable.
ANDREA: Oh, that would be excellent. That seems simple enough for me.
TOM: Alright, Andrea. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got David from Ohio on the line who needs some help making paint stick.
I know it’s a tricky subject here but sometimes it really just doesn’t want to. What’s going on?
DAVID: I have questions about redwood siding. I have an older home, built in the 50s. Paint has a hard time staying on the place. I’ve removed most of the paint and I’m coating it with a KILZ Exterior Oil-Based Primer. I was hoping to find what a good topcoat paint would be for that.
TOM: Ah, well, you know what? It sounds like you’re doing the right thing by priming that siding. Now, if it hadn’t been painted, we would’ve told you to use solid-color stain and not paint because solid color stain, as it wears, as it ages, it sort of fades out. Paint, as you’ve experienced, as it wears, can tend to peel off. But the fact that you’ve prepped it and now have used a solvent-based KILZ primer on the whole thing, I think that was a really smart thing to do because that is what gives you that sort of locking, sort of adhesion quality.
Now, on top of that, in terms of paint quality, I would recommend a good-quality paint. And by that, I mean probably Sherwin-Williams or maybe Benjamin Moore, two very good brands. Within those brands, you’re going to have choices, as well. I always find – I usually go to the local Sherwin store near me, because the guys in there always know a lot about the different variations of paint product that the company makes and can give me a really good recommendation. So, I think as long as you stick with those name brands, you’re going to be fine.
I wouldn’t wait too terribly long between the primer and the paint, though, because you don’t want that – primer is not designed to stand up to weather. And you want to get it on as soon as weather will permit.
LESLIE: Renee in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RENEE: Yes, mine is kind of like a double question. I have about a 30-year-old, connected-on-both-sides townhome, two levels.
TOM: OK. OK.
RENEE: And I heard a crack a couple months back. Well, you know, it was one of the support beams and it just – like a big, strong branch just cracked.
TOM: Huh. Did you actually see the cracked beam somewhere?
RENEE: No, I didn’t see that but I have begun to have cracks along on that same side of the house, in the corners of the wall?
RENEE: Down the corners where it’s breaking apart. But at the same time, I’ve noticed that the house has become unlevel. And that’s a little part because it’s old and it’s connected on both sides but I’m in Texas and we have big droughts and it kind of shifts a little bit.
RENEE: My concern is when I get the support beam fixed and the foundation fixed, I’ve seen on the DIY shows that suddenly they go back and they look and the house or the chimney has just been trashed. What can I do to prevent that?
TOM: Why do you say it’s been trashed? Because it shifted?
RENEE: Right. When they did the – when they put in – when I’ve watched the DIY shows, they go and they fix the foundation and the foundation’s fine. And of course, they shift everything up and now there is …
TOM: Yeah. That’s why you have to be very, very careful when you do anything that changes the angle that the house has sort of settled into. Because if you don’t, once you bring a foundation up, everything else moves. Yeah, in a wood house, if you try to straighten a slopy floor, for example, all the wires and the plumbing can get stretched and twisted and so on. So, it’s not just foundations that are of concern.
I’m concerned, though, about this crack that you say that you’ve heard. But you’ve seen cracks in your walls but you’ve not physically seen the structural crack, correct?
TOM: Alright. Now, you said it’s a townhouse. Is there an association that …?
TOM: OK. So in an association form of ownership, typically you don’t own the structure. So the structure – if the structure was to fail, that’s typically the responsibility of the association to address. Is that your understanding?
RENEE: I can double-check on that.
TOM: But in a typical condominium form of ownership, what you own is inside wall to inside wall. In some cases, you own the …
LESLIE: And then what’s beyond that wall is not yours.
TOM: Right. In some cases, you own the drywall; in some cases, you don’t. So, for example, if there was a fire, God forbid, and the whole place burned down, you would be paying for the drywall, the kitchen cabinets, the appliances, stuff like that. And the association would be rebuilding everything else, including the related infrastructure.
So you need to figure out, if there’s a structural problem, who’s responsible for it. I suspect you’re going to find it’s the association that’s responsible for it, which is good news for you. And then I would bring that to their attention and ask them to address it.
Now, as far as the cracks in the corners of the wall are concerned, I have to tell you that that’s pretty typical and that by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a structural problem. The way to fix that, though, is important and that is that you want to sand down the drywall in that area. And then you want to add some additional tape and the type of drywall tape you use would be the perforated type. It looks like a netting; it’s like a sticky netting. You put that on and then you spackle through that three coats: one, two, three coats; each one thin but three coats. And that type …
LESLIE: And allowing each one to dry and be sanded in between.
TOM: Yeah. And that type of repair typically will last.
Now, after you do the spackle repair, you’ll have to prime the wall. You can’t just paint on top of it; you’ll have to prime it and then paint it.
TOM: So I would address the structure with the association, I would fix the cracks on your own and then see what happens.
RENEE: OK. So just one more question. Let’s say that if it’s not in the association, that I do have to go into it, not only am I concerned about my roof but how much of a problem will I have with my neighbors on both sides of me?
TOM: Depends on where the crack is, if it exists at all. If that’s the case, then I would suggest you hire a professional home inspector and have the inspector do what’s called a “partial inspection,” which is usually a single-item inspection, and investigate this crack and see what’s going on in the structure. And then we’ll know how far it’s gone and what needs to be done about it.
RENEE: Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you, guys. I appreciate your time.
LESLIE: Well, some home improvement projects are fun but others you just want to get done as quickly and inexpensively as possible, which is where hacks can help. We’ve got 5 easy ones that can be done in 30 minutes or less. So think about it, you could do all 5 in 2½ hours. Or if you’re speeding, 2 hours. So this is exciting.
So, Hack Number One: label your water valves. Imagine that you’re home or you’re not home and a babysitter’s home or the older kids are home and something happens: a pipe breaks in the ceiling, water is leaking everywhere. It’s coming out of electric light fixtures on the carpeting. It’s really a disaster. You’ve got that in your mind, right? How much of a huge mess and big problems this could be, right?
Well, go ahead and locate and label every important water valve in your house, including – and especially – the water-main valve, hose valves, ice-maker valve, water-heater valve. If that unthinkable level of leak every really were to happen, now everybody in the home, in about 30 seconds, knows exactly where to go to turn something off.
TOM: Absolutely. So, speaking of leaks, how about this: stopping a leaky toilet. You know, toilet flush and fill valves can break down over time, wasting tons of water. And a running toilet, or one that sort of ghost flushes all by itself, just needs new valves. And an easy way to tell if the flush valve leaks is to just add food color to the toilet tank. If you do that and you wait maybe 10 to 15 minutes and then check the bowl, if that food coloring has leaked into the bowl, that valve is leaking. And that means you’re leaking water and it needs to be replaced. Good news is that replacing both of those valves can be done in 30 minutes or less and cost only a few bucks in parts. I mean we’re talking $10, maybe $15 in parts, max.
LESLIE: Alright. Here’s the next hack: caulking your bathtub. Now, bathtubs are the closest thing in a home to a boat. And that proximity to water wears on all of the caulk, which must be replaced from time to time. So, to do so, you want to remove the old caulk and then clean the lip of the tub with a 1:4 solution of bleach and water. That’s going to kill any mold or mildew that may have been left behind.
Then go ahead and fill that tub with water and then recaulk. Yeah, you heard me right, guys. Fill the tub with water and then recaulk. The reason why we do this is that when you actually take a shower or a bath and you step down into the tub, it kind of compresses that caulk and stretched it. So if you’re already sort of putting pressure on that tub itself, you’re creating a larger gap to fill all that caulk into. So it’s really going to do a good job of adhering and filling that space. And then when the water drains, it’s as if you were to step out of the tub and it kind of shrinks back and it gets much smaller but it’s a tighter, more secure seal.
So it’s definitely a trick of the trade. You do have to wait until that caulk is dry, though. Right, Tom? You can’t kind of just fill it and then give it a little bit of time.
TOM: No. You want to fill it up, caulk it and then let the caulk dry. And a few hours later, you can drain the tub. And you’re right, it’s the same thing as stepping in. With all that extra weight, when that tub comes back up, it’ll compress the caulk and it lasts just a lot longer that way.
Alright, next idea. Exercise is good for you; turns out it’s also good for your circuit breakers. You want to, about every sixth month, turn each breaker off and back on again. And especially, you want to push the test buttons on the ground-fault circuits, the GFCIs, to make sure that these breakers stay flexible and strong, just like you, after a good workout. And by the way, you ought to be doing that to the GFCIs that are built into outlets, as well.
LESLIE: Alright. Last but not least, Hack Number Five: clean your dryer-exhaust duct. Now, dryer fires happen when the duct gets clogged with lint. So you want to keep your dryer safe by cleaning the entire exhaust duct, from the dryer to the exterior vent. And you can use a dryer-duct cleaning-brush tool. They attach to your drill driver. They’re available at home centers, hardware stores, online, all over the place. And it is a project that you cannot believe how much mess you will generate. I mean it really is disgusting but it’s so, so, so, so satisfying. So I say if you haven’t done this project in a while, for safety’s sake please do so immediately. But also, it’s pretty cool to see all the stuff that’s been hiding in your house.
TOM: Now, also, if you’re doing this project, make sure your exhaust duct, which you’ll find behind the dryer, is not made of plastic. Some of the old ones are that flexible, coiled plastic. That’s unsafe. You can’t clean it very well. It needs to be replaced with a metal duct. And if you’re running a new duct, try to make it as straight as possible. Because for every 90-degree bend, that’s the same resistance as 20 feet of straight duct. So you want to make it a short trip to the outside. It makes a big difference on how well your dryer performs.
We used to have to run – our dryer ran down a wall, through a floor structure and then out. So it had maybe two 90-degree bends before it got out. And by stacking the dryer on top of the washer, which we did when I remodeled the laundry room upstairs, I was able to now have a 12-inch run to the exterior. And let me tell you, what a huge difference that made in how quickly the clothes dry, because there’s no back pressure on it at all. They just dry real quick because that air just gets right out. All that moist, damp air just leaves it almost as soon as it’s generated.
LESLIE: Linda in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LINDA: Yes. This is an old house and in the basement – on the wall, which was fieldstone – in the past, they had painted it with “whitewash” or – that’s what it was called back then. And no matter what kind of paint I’ve applied, it flakes off.
TOM: Hmm. Yeah, because it’s damp and wet, that’s why. Yeah. You can’t just – if you put any kind of regular paint on that, it’s going to do that. You have to use a basement wall paint. It’s a lot stickier and it can handle the dampness of that wall.
Now, you could also take steps to reduce the dampness by improving your drainage outside. But if you put typical wall paint on the stone, it is going to flake off because water and paint don’t go well together. And those stones are like little sponges and the paint’s just going to peel right off of it.
So, what you want to use is a basement wall paint. And it’s really smelly but it’s really sticky.
TOM: And it’s …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s going to stick to where you need it.
TOM: It will last a lot longer. Does that make sense, Linda?
LINDA: Oh, it certainly does.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Gary in Georgia on the line who wants to save the rainwater. What can we do for you?
GARY: Yes, I do. My wife and I have a lot of grass to water during the summertime. And in Georgia, it gets like drought weather all the time. And we’ve noticed that during this – these months – we actually have a lot of water running off the house. And we wanted to know if there’s a way that we could create a water reservoir to save that water that’s coming off of our house.
TOM: Yeah, you definitely can collect that rainwater. What you want is simply a rainwater harvesting collection system. And there are a lot of modern ones that are available. In fact, we wrote a story about this on MoneyPit.com. If you go to MoneyPit.com and just type in the search box “rainwater collection system,” you’ll see an article.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you install it but again, there’s a wide variety of collectors that are out there. There are some that look they’re traditional barrels; there’s even one that looks like a half-barrel that’s got a hose spigot on the end, on the bottom of it. So it collects water off the spouts and then you feed it from the hose.
So, it’s definitely a good system, a good idea. And there’s a lot of options out there and we encourage you to do that.
GARY: And is this an easy project that I could do probably over the weekend?
TOM: Yeah, clearly. You definitely just need to position this. Yeah, you’re going to have to – may have to rework your spouts a little bit to feed it but it’s definitely a very simple installation.
GARY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And that article, again, is called “Rainwater Harvesting Collection System” and it’s online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Well, today, better home design – fire-resistant materials, up to date electrical systems – these are all helping to reduce the risk of fires in your house. But while that’s good news, fire risk always goes up in the winter, which makes this a great time to dial in fire-protection advances for your home.
TOM: Yeah. And it starts with choosing the right kind of smoke detectors. They’re not all the same. There’s basically two types: an ionization detector and a photoelectric detector. Now, the ionization smoke alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires and the photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more responsive to fires that begin with a sort of long period of smoldering. It’s a different type of fire. So for the best protection, it’s recommended that you have both technologies in the house, so you have both types of detectors. But the good news is you can also purchase combination alarms that have both technologies in a single unit so you don’t have to have the extra alarms all over the place.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, if we’re talking about your kitchen, you want to look for a detector with a reset or silencer button that’s going to allow you to shut down the detector for approximately 10 minutes during a nuisance alarm, like burnt toast or burnt French toast or when your child decides to microwave chocolate chips in a plastic cup for 10 minutes, whatever it might be. I know that’s a very specific example; I was just trying to be creative. Not that we’ve ever had that happen. But seriously, when something like that goes off and it’s not really an issue but there’s smoke, you want to be able to sort of bypass that for a short amount of time while you deal with that smoke issue at hand.
Now, testing. That is critical. You want to make sure that your detectors are tested at least once a month using that built-in test button that’s on the detector itself. For detectors that are hardwired into your home’s electrical system, you just want to check that the status light is flashing regularly, which means it is in working order.
Now, how many detectors do you need? Well, there should be at least one detector installed per floor in your home. And because a quarter of all home fires start during typical sleeping hours, there should be a detector outside of each sleeping area and inside of each bedroom. So that’s a lot but you do need them. And it’s weird because I know with teens, they say with some kids, they have a really hard time hearing the alarm. So you want to make sure that you have a lot, that they’re loud, that they will go off when you need them so that everybody can respond.
TOM: Yeah. Also, a lot of the detectors today are interconnected. So if one goes off, they all go off. So that’s another thing to check for.
And by the way, speaking of new, modern detectors, check the age on the ones you have now because they’re always on, right? Just because you don’t have a fire doesn’t mean they’re not working. They’re always sampling and if your detectors are more than 5 years old, they need to be replaced. So, make that change. It’d just be a lot safer.
LESLIE: Tony in Iowa is having a hot-and-cold water situation. What’s going on?
TONY: Well, I’ve got an electric water heater. And the main feed that comes in from the city, that goes into my electric water heater, it’s a cold line. But yeah, I get cold water to come out of my faucets and everything but that cold-water line, up around through the water heater there, it’s hot, the line, when I touch it. And I’m just curious what’s going on with that.
TOM: So, you have an electric water heater and that’s going to be fed by a cold-water line and it’s going to go through the water heater and come out as a hot-water line.
TONY: That’s correct.
TOM: OK. And so what’s the problem? So far, it’s normal.
TONY: The water line that goes into the water heater – the cold water?
TOM: Yes. Yep.
TONY: That line is hot.
TOM: Well, some of the heat from the water heater can be working its way back up the pipe. So you may be feeling some conductive heat that comes from – the hot water in the water heater itself could be making that pipe warm. But if you go farther down the line, you’re going to feel that it’s cold again.
It goes in cold and comes out hot but the fitting right around the top might feel like it’s a bit warm. But that’s only because of the conductive heat of the water in the water heater coming back up the metal pipe.
TONY: OK. That alleviates my concerns then.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, about now, most of us are spending more and more on heating this winter than we really would like to. But while homeowners can do things – like purchase new energy-efficient heating systems, adding insulation or replacing windows – renters really don’t have those same options to improve heat in a home since they don’t own it. Or do they?
TOM: Well, actually, if you’re a renter, you can make a few easy improvements that’ll keep you warm and keep that money close at hand. And we’ve got a few tips to share in today’s Smart Spending Tip, which is presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
Now, first up, if your apartment’s heating system and rental agreement allow, you ought to install a Wi-Fi-enabled programmable thermostat. This is going to have the heat kick in when you’re home but automatically dial it back when you’re gone, because they have proximity sensors on them. Aside from just the timing, where you can tell it to come on early and heat the house or go off when you leave, if there’s no motion in that house that’s going in front of that thermostat, it’s going to know you’re away and it’ll automatically drop the heat to a point that you select but not super hot. So it’s not basically heating an empty apartment.
LESLIE: Now, you also want to make sure that all of your heating registers or radiators aren’t blocked. I know a lot of times they’re in weird spots and you put a piece of furniture in front of them. But you want to make sure that you have them open as possible. You want that air to flow freely into each room of your apartment.
Now, if your unit has radiators, you want to slide a heat-resistant reflector between that radiator and the wall. And that can help you send even more warmth into that space.
TOM: Yeah. And you know, another thing about radiators, if you’re one of these folks that love to keep stuff on top of the radiators, don’t. I’m not talking about a fire risk because it doesn’t get that hot but it blocks that flow, that convective loop of air, if you put stuff on top of it. And we’re guilty of that in our house. So, I’m always moving stuff that’s on the radiator. If the sweater got wet in the rain or whatever, you could put it on there for a day, not for 5 days. It’s got to come off. So, if you block that radiator, it’s not going to work as well.
And speaking of drafts – the cold kind, not just the warm kind – you want to look for possible air-escape routes, like around windows and doors, and seal those off. Now, one of the ways you can do this is with a product that’s called “removable caulk” or “liquid weather-stripping.” And it goes on like caulk, so you’re sort of caulking the window shut and that seals it really well. But keep in mind, you can’t open it. So if that window is part of your fire-escape route, bad idea. But otherwise, if you’ve got an old, drafty window and you don’t have the money for a new one or if you’re a renter and of course, you don’t want to pay for a new one, just seal it with a removable caulk. You can peel it off in the springtime and you’ll be back with an operable window all over again.
LESLIE: Yeah. But I feel like that’s only if you’re sure – like 100-percent sure – you’re not going to open that window at all during the winter. I mean you can open it; it just takes a little bit of extra work.
TOM: Yeah. Well, you’d have to reseal it.
LESLIE: Yeah. You’d have to reseal it. You’d have to unseal it, reseal it, the whole shebang. But it’s doable.
TOM: Yeah. But when you peel that stuff off, it comes off like – you know when you get a credit card in the mail and it has all that gooey stuff on the back of it? It’s like that. It just kind of pulls right off and it doesn’t break, so you can just pull it off in a flash. And if you had to reseal it, you could. But it’s really for those old houses that have just the one-off window that’s just really drafty and it’s not part of any kind of a fire escape. Maybe it’s even too small to get out of. It’s just a good option to seal it off with that removable caulk.
LESLIE: So if you’re a renter and all of these great ways to save some money sound good to you, you’ve got a lot of stuff that you want to do. You want to make sure that you’re taking care of everything we listed before. But also, feel around the apartment. Are there any drafts? Do you feel some air coming in on those exterior walls? If you’re feeling that, there’s air coming through.
And here’s a big tip about where a lot of exterior air does get into the house and you’ve got a ton of these holes all on the exterior walls around your entire home. You have any idea what I’m talking about? Talking about electrical outlets and light switches. Those are basically open cavities to the exterior, practically. So you want to make sure that you seal those up and stop that icy air from leaking in. It’s only going to up your heating bill.
So there’s a super-simple solution. You can pick up some foam outlet gaskets. You can find them at the home center. They’re shaped like the outlet or the switch. They go right into the cover. They seal the gaps around that light switch or the outlet. Then you put it back on and it’s got a nice, tight seal.
So there’s a lot to do. Even if you’re a renter, you don’t own the place, there are improvements that you can literally take with you in the case, for example, of a thermostat. And they don’t cost that much but they’re for sure going to save you a lot of money.
TOM: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card. Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Patty in Illinois who’s got a toilet that is running constantly. Tell us what’s going on.
PATTY: Well, it doesn’t run constantly but it runs about 5 seconds, several times an hour. And it’s gone to the point that my water bill has gone up quite a bit. And I’m needing to know if I need a new toilet or if I need new seals or a new handle pump or – what would you think?
LESLIE: It’s actually an easy fix and this tends to happen kind of regularly. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that there’s actually some level of toilet maintenance, because it’s just an appliance in your house that’s there and you use it and you expect it to work.
But inside the tank itself, there’s a fill and a flush valve. And those need to be replaced not that often but every couple of years or so. And of course, now that you’re dealing with this water-running issue – Tom, is it Fluidmaster?
TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is sort of a mainstay of replacement valve parts.
And they just wear out, Patty, over time, so this is a pretty easy fix.
LESLIE: And it’s probably 10 bucks to get both of them. But if you go to Fluidmaster’s website, the only reason I recommend that is because on their website, they’ve got a really great how-to video. So you can actually see what the fill valve is, what the flush valve, the flapper valves – you know exactly what you’re looking at and how to replace it. And it’s a really easy do-it-yourself project that you can do confidently and definitely decrease your water bill.
PATTY: Thank you. That sounds wonderful. I appreciate it and thank you so much for taking my call. Love your show.
TOM: Leslie, we’ve got an email here from Donna who says she loves the show and she remembers you from Trading Spaces.
LESLIE: Oh, how fun.
TOM: Wow. How about that?
LESLIE: So, thanks so much, I’m so glad. It was such a fun show.
TOM: We won’t mention how many years ago that was, because we don’t want to make anybody feel older than (inaudible).
LESLIE: I was just going to say – I was going to be like, “Wow, Donna. You and I are old.” But then I was like, “Don’t say that. Don’t say that.” But I just did.
So, my apologies, Donna. We are vintage, as they say, and I think that we only get better with age.
TOM: That’s right.
LESLIE: So, what’s going on at Donna’s place? She says, “My question is: is there a difference between two- and three-hinged doors? I have four door frames with two hinges already and I’m planning to replace only the doors. The doors I see in the big-box store have three hinges. Can I put them up but just remove the middle hinge? Are they spaced the same if it’s two versus three?”
TOM: Well, look. She’s trying to – she’s trying, actually, to do what is actually a fairly complicated carpentry project. She’s trying to fit a new door in an old opening and hinges are only part of that challenge.
You’re not – you’re going to find that the opening is not exactly the right size. You’ll probably want to buy a door that’s slightly bigger but then you have to cut it down to fit the opening. And then the hinge position, if it’s already pre-hinged, so to speak, is almost guaranteed not to line up with the hinges you have now. So you have to do some work either to the door or to the jamb or maybe a little bit of work to both. And leaving that third hinge out, you could do that but then you’re going to have to fill the gap on the side of the door, because it would’ve been sort of routed out to make that hinge lie flat.
So, this is actually a lot harder a question and harder a project than you imagined, Donna. I will say that if this is something you want to do, the easiest way to do this is to buy a pre-hung door, where you’re actually replacing the jambs at the same time. Because now the jambs and the hinges are all one and designed to work together. But for you to buy just the slab, just the door itself and try to make it fit the opening, that’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of skill. It is not a basic DIY project.
So, maybe you’ve got somebody that’s got that kind of skill set that can help you but you need a pretty darn good carpenter to pull that off. Otherwise, I would just get a pre-hung door and start from scratch.
LESLIE: Ooh, Donna, something that was just about a simple hinge has become a big project. It’s always what happens when you’re doing something major like this that doesn’t seem major. So, good luck. And we can totally help each other out. We’re standing by.
TOM: And that’s why you never saw that project done on Trading Spaces, because it couldn’t have been accomplished in 27 …
LESLIE: We didn’t have enough time. And actually, Tom, a ½-hour program gets dropped down to 22 minutes with commercial breaks.
TOM: Twenty-two minutes. How about that?
LESLIE: Twenty-two minutes. So imagine how quickly we had to work and to make the paint dry in 22 minutes.
TOM: Yeah. But usually, they take a week to film those episodes. So what did you do the rest of the time?
LESLIE: A week? Are you out of your mind? We had a day of scouting and shopping. So that was like the first time we saw the house in person, outside of a video and a couple of drawings that a producer went and made.
LESLIE: And then we had a full day and a half-of-a-day, minus all the times that they’d be like, “Hey, let’s stop and film this process.” And you’d be like, “I just want to get the project done.” So we really didn’t have a lot of time. But I am aware that we are responsible for a lot of not-so-nice bathroom stencils. I’m taking credit for that. I’m going for it.
TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We are so appreciative that you are, that you give us this opportunity to come into your home, your car, your earbuds, your AirPods, however you listen and allow us to help you get those projects done around your house. Remember, you can reach out, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions to MoneyPit.com. If we are not in the studio, we promise to get back to you the next time we are.
Until then, I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2022 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.)