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: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. What’s on your to-do list? Give us a call now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If it’s a project you want to do yourself, fantastic. If it’s one that perhaps you want to contract out, we can talk to you about what needs to be included in that arrangement so it gets done right the first time. And if it’s anything in between, well, we’ll sort it out together at 888-666-3974.
Coming up this hour, if your home is feeling a little cramped, well, taking out some walls to open that space up could be a solution if you know how. We’re going to have some tips on how to safely remove even load-bearing walls without your house falling down around you, which is always a good thing.
LESLIE: That’s definitely a good thing. And also ahead, now that we’re knee-deep into the winter season, adding more insulation is one of the most effective ways that you can cut your heating costs and improve your comfort. But there are now many options. We’re going to help you identify the one that’s best for you, just ahead.
TOM: And while adding more insulation can be a do-it-yourself job, what about a project like replacing your kitchen cabinets? Well, even that big job can be DIY if you start with a solid design. We’re going to share a no-cost service that can do just that. Plus, let’s get to your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
[radio_anchor listorder=”1″]LESLIE: Jane in Florida is on the line and needs some help with some duct cleaning. What’s going on at your money pit?
JANE: Well, the problem is I don’t know how to have the ducts cleaned. I don’t know what would be the best way to do it.
TOM: Well, the best way to clean the ducts is to not do it yourself.
JANE: Is that correct? No. That makes sense. When I was young, I used to. Now, I cannot.
TOM: First of all, generally, I only recommend duct cleaning if you’ve done some major construction. I don’t think it’s a regular thing that you have to do all the time. What I think where most people drop the ball is on the filtration system. If you don’t have a good-quality air filter and if you don’t replace it frequently enough, that’s what lets a lot of dirty air escape into the house and just contribute to breathing difficulties and make it harder to keep the house clean and so on. So, unless you’ve done some construction, I don’t necessarily think duct cleaning is the answer.
JANE: I think construction was probably done before I moved in. So it might be a good idea. I’ve been here a long time but I do the – I have a great air conditioner with a special filter and everything. So, I’m thinking there might be – you know, I’ve lived in apartments and condos before. And when I checked them, they hadn’t been cleaned for decades. So, I’m thinking that it might be a good idea to have them cleaned.
My air-conditioning company says no. They don’t clean them because air-conditioning ducts in Florida are not metal like the ducts up north that I had done up there. So I’m wondering if there’s a different method of cleaning them than using water.
TOM: I don’t think you need to clean your ducts, as I said. I think if you have a good air-filtration system – and by the way, your air conditioning and your heating system are using the same ventilation system. So, the thing is about filters, there’s a lot of different levels of filters and you need to get one that is really efficient. The inexpensive ones that you buy at home centers generally aren’t going to do the trick. What you really want to do is have a good-quality one that has a lot of filter material to it. That’s what scrubs the air and that’s what’s going to make that dust disappear, keep the house cleaner and make it a lot easier to breathe.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT
[radio_anchor listorder=”6″]LESLIE: Brad in Iowa is on the line with a siding question. What can we do for you today?
BRAD: I’ve got an old caboose in my backyard. It’s a long story but it’s a wooden caboose. I got it in 1985 and I – shortly after I got it, or not too much longer after that, I had to put new siding on it. Because the place where I got it had sand-blasted it and it really did a job on the wood. Now, the siding was 1×4 V-groove – tongue-and-groove – all the way along it. Now, it’s about 25 foot long, 8 foot high and then where the cupola is, it worked about 12 foot high. But the siding I replaced it with was a pine car siding with a V-groove to keep it looking original. And I backed that, after I took the old siding off, with an exterior-grade plywood.
And so it’s been quite a while but it’s deteriorated really bad due to the high moisture content we have up here in Iowa. And then we get the extreme hot and cold. And I have to replace it and I ran out of time this year, so come springtime I’ll have a big project. But I don’t want to make the same mistake over again and have it just rot out again. And I don’t know if I’m choosing the wrong type of lumber or if I’m not treating it – prepping it right or house wrap or if I need special ventilation or something. Because I keep it closed up most of the time.
TOM: Well, I’ve got to say first off, Brad, this is the first caboose-repair question we’ve ever received, which is kind of cool. It sounds like you put that plywood – you put the plywood on the structure and then you put the siding right on top of the plywood. Did you have any building paper underneath that siding or did it go right on the plywood?
BRAD: No. When I took the old siding off, there wasn’t anything on it. It had a peculiar kind of insulation and some of that stayed and some of it I took out. But it’s only got 4- or 6-inch lumber in it.
TOM: But you said you sheathed it with a plywood. My question to you is did you put the siding right on top of that plywood or did you put a building paper or house wrap in between?
BRAD: I put 30-pound felt paper on it.
TOM: So, it’s wear and tear – the wear and tear is mostly not because you installed it incorrectly but it’s just because it’s – like you say, it’s a moist, humid environment there that probably causes a lot of decay.
Would you consider putting something besides lumber back on that? Because I’ve got to tell you, there’s a lot of really beautiful, very authentic-looking composite materials that are out there today that look just like wood. In fact, I would dare to say they’re almost indistinguishable from wood. But they’re not organic, so they don’t rot. I mean you have materials like HardiePlank, you have materials like Novik, you have materials like AZEK. There’s a lot of good composites out there that can look a lot like wood but not rot and not decay.
BRAD: I installed it vertically instead of horizontally and that was the problem with the car siding. And I thought maybe I didn’t give it enough time to adjust – to acclimate to our weather.
TOM: I don’t think so. First of all, it’s hard to keep that kind of siding completely leak-free because it’s basically – the water’s going to get into those grooves. So I think you’ve got an authentic look to it but I think it’s probably done the best you can with that. So I would tell you you’re either just going to have to replace it the same way you did the first time. But I would strongly encourage you to investigate in the many, many composite materials that are out there today that could look just like that but will absolutely never decay.
BRAD: Well, I appreciate that. Given that strong consideration, even if I had to do a little milling on my own, I’m pretty good at lumber work. But well, that’s a great tip. I just really don’t know anybody to ask and not too many people are into this. I suppose there’s been a few restored around the country. They don’t use them anymore, so …
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. What are you working on fresh into this new year? Give us a call. We’d love to lend you a hand with whatever it is. Whether it’s a home repair or a home improvement or even if you’re just planning a project for the new year, we’re here to give a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, if you love open floor plans but haven’t transformed your home into one because of all those pesky walls that are always in the way, well, fear not. Even load-bearing walls can be removed if you know how. We’ll let you know how to approach that project, next.
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: So, have you put away all your holiday décor? Is the house reset once again for the year ahead? We’ve almost completed that. But we’d love to hear what you’re working on at 888-MONEY-PIT.
What about you, Leslie? Are you all cleaned up yet?
LESLIE: Come on. You know I always try to stretch it out to my birthday and make a birthday tree for February but it never quite makes it. I am dealing, though, with a mystery this year.
TOM: A mystery?
LESLIE: Yeah. I put away some of the ornaments that we didn’t use. I kept them back into their – you know, I use those plastic bins that are all divvied up and I put tissue in to protect all the ornaments. And I put it back in this sort of utility closet on the side of the laundry room that has a bunch of water lines running through it.
And I pulled out the carton and clearly, there’s been some sort of a leak. There was some water on the top, like a little bit, but there’s mold all on the tissue. The ornaments that I had left in there were a little moldy. I mean I’ve taken everything out, I’ve cleaned it up, dried it out. But I have no idea where this water came from. So the only thing I can think of is maybe it was wind-driven rain through something in the foundation? But it’s totally mysterious.
TOM: Well, you said this was in the laundry room or near the laundry room, so it’s a humid area?
LESLIE: Yeah. But this was clearly water, not just humidity. Because nothing else in there had it.
TOM: If you have cold-water pipes that are going through there and you have warm, humid air, what you could be getting is condensation that drips on the pipes and then drips down on the box and then evaporates. So, when you’re looking for the leak, it’s already gone; it only happens in certain temperature conditions. So it could very well be a condensation issue.
So if that’s the case, what you want to do is find those cold-water pipes and just put a sleeve of insulation on them and it’ll all go away.
LESLIE: Yeah. Because everything does run through there. It’s like it runs out to the spigot for the outdoor water supply, it runs to the sink upstairs for the kitchen. It’s just a maze. It looks like The Goonies. Remember when the kids are walking through that underground and there’s just pipes everywhere? That’s what this little closet looks like.
TOM: Yeah, that might be it.
LESLIE: That’s pretty smart. That was not what I was thinking. I literally was touching every pipe and turning every valve and making sure nothing was leaking.
TOM: Well, you’re doing all the right things but the thing is that the answer is everything that you didn’t do and that’s just condensation. Sometimes it just is a weather condition like that that only exhibits itself. It’s like you mentioned wind-driven rain. That’s the same kind of thing. It doesn’t happen every day but when it does, it can be quite a mess. But when you said “laundry area,” I know it’s in the basement, you’ve got all that piping going through there; it’s a damp, humid space. And if you’ve got cold-water lines coming through year-round, not just in the summer, you can get moisture that collects on those pipes and drips down and causes it. So, the good news is it’s probably a very minor fix.
And you know what? Sometimes, if you call us expecting a major repair, we might have a minor fix for you, too. But find out for yourself. Pick up the phone and dial 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
[radio_anchor listorder=”2″]LESLIE: Pat in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
PAT: Yeah. I have a question about some flooring. Our flooring is about 25 years old. We have carpet and vinyl laminate, about 800 square feet. And I know the subfloor is good but I want to pull up the old carpets and lay some flooring down. And I saw some vinyl – some of the new vinyl-plank stuff.
Now, I’ve laid a laminate floor before that had the backing attached and that wasn’t too bad. And I was just curious – the main floor, I want to do it all together because it all runs together. But it’s got a bathroom. It’s a quarter-bath and a kitchen and a dining room and the family room and a landing in a hall. So there’s lots of corners and stuff like that. And I’m just curious what your opinion is on that new vinyl-plank flooring. Is it easier to install, more durable?
TOM: Yeah. I think you’re talking about the engineered vinyl plank, I think. The EVP?
LESLIE: It’s like the rubberized vinyl. It looks like a plank. Some of them glue together with an overlapped tab that has an adhesive already on it. Some of them, you actually put an adhesive down, almost like a mastic, and then apply it like a tile. So it depends on which kind you’re looking at, because one of them is much thicker than the other and they both then have a different prep and a different adhesion process. So I think you really need to look into which that is.
PAT: Mm-hmm. Now, the one I saw at the home show here, locally, was – it was kind of – it was a vinyl. You could bend it and it looked like a wood grain but it was kind of a click-together installation. But it wasn’t like the solid, the firm laminate flooring that clicks together. It wasn’t soft. You can’t bend that but this vinyl stuff you could bend. And it looked pretty nice.
TOM: Yeah, Pat. You’re talking about a product called EVP or engineered vinyl plank. That’s another type of vinyl flooring much newer to the market. But from what I’ve seen of it, it’s 100-percent waterproof. It does click together much like other types of laminate floor would and the finish on it is super durable. Lumber Liquidators makes one that has a 30-year finish on it and it looks just like wood. So that is definitely another option for you.
PAT: Now, do you – the stuff I’ve laid before already has the backing attached. The click-together laminate? That has backing attached. Now, for something like this, do you just lay it right over the subfloor and the linoleum in the case as long as it’s even and good?
TOM: Yeah. In fact, this is a floating floor much like a regular laminate floor would be. So it’s not adhered to the old floor; it lays on top of it. So, as you say, as long as the floor is flat with no big dips or bumps or humps in it, then it just is going to lock together and lay right there and you’re going to trim it along the edge, against the baseboard molding.
PAT: OK. Well, thank you for your help.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Well, if you love open floor plans but haven’t transformed your home into one because load-bearing walls that are in the way and maybe you can remove them, well, those walls can be removed even if they are load-bearing. But you have to know how, guys. You can’t just go at everything with a hacksaw. You’ve got to know what’s up.
TOM: Well, that’s true. But while we usually say that projects are not as hard as they seem, this one definitely is. It’s not something that a novice do-it-yourselfer should attempt whatsoever.
LESLIE: Now, Tom, I mean we know this but what are some of the clues, if you’re just looking around your house, that would tell you this is a load-bearing wall without actually looking at a plan?
TOM: Load-bearing wall, by definition, is the wall – is a wall that holds the structure above it. And in, say, a ranch design or a Colonial, these are usually the walls that are parallel with the front and rear walls of the home. And they usually go right down the middle of the house. Kind of it’s like the hallway or the wall between the kitchen and the rest of the house. Those walls parallel with the front and the rear, right sort of in the middle. Those are almost always load-bearing.
And just because it’s a load-bearing wall doesn’t mean it can’t be moved. It can but you have to support what it’s holding up. And the way the process works is you build temporary walls in front and behind the wall that you want to take out. Then you disassemble the wall and figure out how you’re going to carry that load.
Sometimes, if you just want to put an opening there, you may be pulling out a section of the wall and putting in a beam. Or you may decide that the beam – you want it to be flush with the ceiling, so you’re cutting up into the second-floor joists. But you do that work while this wall is temporarily supported. And then, once the new wall is in place and all built properly and inspected, which is very important, then you pull out those temporary walls and you’re good to go.
So there’s a lot of steps involved. It’s a lot of work but it can be done. And if your goal is to have that open floor plan, it is entirely possible.
LESLIE: Now, I think another good idea is if you really can’t get that open space or if you, you know, don’t want to undertake such a huge project, you could probably just maybe do a pass-through from one room to the next, just sort of like – is that what they call it when it’s a small cutout? And maybe have a little ledge there that you can dine at. You could have that pass-through from, say, a kitchen to a dining room. That might open the space. But I think there’s some other tricks.
Mirrors and lighting do a lot to make a room feel bigger. And depending on where the mirror is, it can really reflect other spaces within the house to make that room feel so much bigger or feel like you’ve got passageway into another part. I think also paint colors. Don’t be afraid to use lighter colors or mix your colors so that you’ve got a lighter wall with some other areas of a darker tone of the same paint. This way, it’ll make that room feel bigger in its own right.
TOM: So whether you want to get out the tools and take the wall apart or just sort of come up with a decorating solution, there are lots of ways to make that space feel bigger.
If you’ve got a project like that in mind, give us a call right now. We’d love to chat about it at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
[radio_anchor listorder=”3″]LESLIE: Susan in Texas is on the line with a water question. What’s going on?
SUSAN: My daughter has a country home she just purchased and there’s a 900-foot-deep water well on it. And she wanted to know, does she need to use a water softener or a carbon filter for the drinking water? And also, how much electricity would that use, that water well?
TOM: Well, the first thing she needs to do is to have a comprehensive water test done. Was that done?
SUSAN: I believe so because they had inspectors come out. But I don’t remember what she said.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I wouldn’t believe anything unless I had a result back from a water-testing laboratory. That’s going to tell you what kind of treatment you need to do locally. So, the first thing she needs to do is to get a water test done – a thorough water test done – that’s going to check for all sorts of contaminates and pesticides and that sort of thing. And then based on that, you can determine what you want to do to treat the water. But you just don’t start treating it first. You start with the test and the test is what determines what needs to be treated. Make sense?
SUSAN: Yes. Lots of sense, yes.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Susan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, this time of year has got a lot of people feeling the chill in all different parts of the country. If that’s what’s going on at your money pit, we’re going to help you sort through what types of insulation will work best for you, give you the best performance and help you save some energy dollars, after this.
KEVIN: Hi. I’m Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House on PBS. From floorboards to shingles, you are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show with Tom and Leslie.
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: Here’s a good winter tip: if you want to stop a pipe break from flooding your house when you’re away, what you want to do is get in the habit of always turning off your main water line when you take off. It’s really pretty easy once you find the main water line. It’s usually in the lowest part of your house closest to the street that you live on, the main street. So, if you have a basement, it’s going to be in the basement. If you have a first floor, it might be. I found them inside sink cabinets in lavatories that were on that front wall of the house.
But find that main water valve, put a tag on it that says “main water valve” and when you go away, just turn it off. Once it’s off, the worst thing that can happen, if you get a pipe freeze or a pipe break, is the water that’s in the pipe will leak out. But your entire house will not be washed down the street when you return because the water just ran and ran and ran. And I’ve seen that happen. I’ve seen that happen on vacant houses.
I remember one, in particular, Leslie. It was owned by a relocation company. I showed up a few days before the closing to do an inspection, make sure everything was OK. Well, it wasn’t because there was 4 feet of water in the lower half of that house. Four feet. It was a split-level house. And it was a swimming pool because a pipe broke, it was vacant and it just ran and ran and ran and ran.
So, the easy way to avoid that, if your house is going to be empty for just a weekend or more, turn off the main water valve and you can’t possibly have a major problem.
LESLIE: Well, if your winter heating bill is sending a chill down your spine, you are not alone. Millions of Americans are feeling the chill in their wallets and in their homes.
TOM: Well, part of the cure is more insulation in your attic. But insulation comes in many different types, so how do you know what to use? Here to give us an overview of the options is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.
TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: Every day we’re seeing more and more types of insulation hit the market. How do we compare insulation, in terms of performance, to really make the best decision for our homes?
TOM SILVA: Well, you’re right. There are a lot more of insulations out there now than there ever were and it’s really the – you think of the insulation as the R-value or the thermal resistance to the heat flow that is either leaving your house or coming into your house.
TOM: And that R-value is how it’s measured, right?
TOM SILVA: Exactly. Per inch and it’s usually like an R-13, it would be, for a 2×4 wall; R-38 could be for an attic. And you want to make sure that you have the right value for the area of the country that you live in, because the codes require different grades of insulation or different R-values.
TOM: So, if you’re in Minnesota, you’re going to have a lot more insulation in your attic, for example, than say if you’re in New Jersey where I am?
TOM SILVA: Exactly. Well, for example, in New England, where we are, the building code says R-38. But as of this year, I think they’re going to change it to R-40. And the walls are R-20 or R-21. So, oh, the old R-13 in a 2×4 wall won’t pass building code.
TOM: I think what surprises a lot of Americans is when they actually do look into what the recommended R-values are for their particular area – is they just don’t have enough.
TOM SILVA: They don’t have enough. No, I think more houses don’t have enough insulation than do, that’s for sure.
LESLIE: So, Tommy, with so many different kinds of insulations available – you’ve got spray foam insulation, you’ve got cellulose insulation, you’ve got fiberglass – to achieve R-value, is it the same across the board? Does that number sort of work out all the same, based on the type?
TOM SILVA: Well, yeah, it does work out the same but for different types of insulation, it requires different amounts of insulation in that cavity.
TOM: So some insulations have a higher R-value per inch than others?
TOM SILVA: Exactly. Point in place, let’s say closed-cell foam as opposed to open-cell foam. Open cell foam is 3.6. Closed cell foam is 6.4.
LESLIE: Per inch.
TOM SILVA: Per inch, which makes a big difference.
TOM: Now, also, what plays into this is the ability of the insulation to also seal out all those drafts that are getting in. I guess foam or dense pack might be a better candidate than, say, batt insulation.
TOM SILVA: Right. It’s air sealing. And air sealing is basically where you feel a draft from cold air blowing through or the warm air getting out. It can cause problems. But air sealing is key.
TOM: So important to consider both the R-value and the air-sealing capability of the product you’re choosing.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely.
TOM: Alright. Let’s talk about a couple of installation tricks to address some of the things that I commonly see wrong. Say we have fiberglass insulation in the attic right now. Perhaps it’s level with the floor joists, maybe you have 8 or 10 inches. You want to add a second layer. Faced or unfaced?
TOM SILVA: Absolutely unfaced. The face on the insulation – the paper face, craft face, foil face – is basically a vapor retarder. And that vapor retarder will stop the air that’s swollen with moisture in it when it comes – it may want to go through the insulation but that retarder will block the moisture from getting into that insulation. Some may get in there. If you go over the insulation that you have with more paper face – you create a paper face between insulations …
LESLIE: Now you’re trapping that moisture.
TOM SILVA: Now, you’re going to trap it between the two and the bottom layer of insulation will get wet.
LESLIE: Now, what if your base layer of insulation in your attic is all crushed and kind of, you know, worse for the wear? Better to just go over that or get rid of it and start over?
TOM SILVA: I like to take it out. Some people don’t want to deal with it. You can go over it but again, you want to go over it with unfaced insulation – fiberglass, mineral wool – or you can blow in cellulose or blow in fiberglass. More is better. If you have the room, you don’t use the attic for anything, just pack it right up there.
TOM: And of course, the one additional point that so many people forget is that when you add extra insulation, you also need to have adequate ventilation for that to work right.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, you want to make sure that you have a negative pressure to be able to pull the air out up high. But you also are going to make sure that you have to have a positive pressure so that the negative pressure can work. So it’s like a bottle that has a hole in the – you try to suck on that bottle, you can’t unless you put a hole in the bottom of it.
TOM: So the practical way to accomplish that might be with soffit vents that let the air in and then ridge vents at the peak to let the air out.
TOM SILVA: Exactly. Yep. Ridge vents or gable vents or even a mushroom vent. Anything up high, because that’s where the heat rises, and it’ll pull out.
TOM: Tom Silva, the general contractor from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for warming us up with great insulation advice.
TOM SILVA: Always my pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, you can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Up next, is a new kitchen on your list of DIY dreams this year? Well, doing this project yourself is possible if you get the right design to start. We’ll have tips on a no-cost way to do just that, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: On air and online at MoneyPit.com where you can subscribe to our podcast, also available on iTunes. Whatever you’re working on, we’d like to help you get it done at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
[radio_anchor listorder=”5″]LESLIE: Ben in Illinois is on the line and is having some issues with a water heater. Tell us what’s going on.
BEN: Over a period of time, my hot-water stream would keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller. And finally, it got to the point where I’d turn the hot water on, it would just barely trickle. I disconnected the discharge pipe on the discharge side of the hot-water heater and found that the lime had built up so bad in the pipe, coming out of the top of the hot-water heater, that there was just a very tiny hole there.
BEN: At that point in time, I didn’t know what else to do. I just took a very large screwdriver and tapped that limestone out of there. Of course, that fell to the bottom of the hot-water heater. It’s been fine for about four-and-a-half years. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to do it again.
And I’ve talked to retired plumbers in that and they told me that what’s causing that is a reaction between the copper pipe and the metal that is on top of the hot-water heater. And I was told that there was like a nipple that you screw on top of the hot-water heater and then connect your copper pipe.
My question is: what type of metal is that that goes between the copper pipe and the metal coupling on top of the hot-water heater?
TOM: Yeah, Ben, all you want to do is head to a plumbing supply house and ask for plastic-lined nipples. That actually is going to create the sort of the bi-metal protection or insulation between those two pipes. And that will stop that corrosive effect that you’re seeing and of course, they’ll stop the pipe from clogging as a result of that.
BEN: Alright. Well, I sure thank you for your time and your advice.
TOM: Well, early on in my home improvement career, I used to install kitchens. Now, mind you, these are not high-end kitchens, Leslie. They were basic kitchens in new developments where there were only three or four different models. And I got pretty good at it but I did also quickly find out that installing kitchens is a lot different than really any other kind of home improvement projects I had done before, especially in that if you mess something up, the fix can get pretty expensive.
So, the process begs the question: should a homeowner be doing their own kitchen-remodeling project? Should they be installing their own kitchen cabinets? Well, certainly, if it’s done well, you can save money on the entire renovation. But chances are it will take longer than it would if you hired a professional. And if you make mistakes along the way, the cost to get the job back on track can be expensive, both in wasted materials and in the additional downtime that you won’t have to be able to use that kitchen for.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, I think the point, though, is whether you decide to install it yourself or not. The big idea here, guys, is that you should work with a professional designer, especially when it comes to the point of designing the kitchen-cabinet layout. Because one mistake at this point of the process can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Plus, unless you’re doing this every day of your life, you’re simply not going to be up to speed on the most current products or trends or even ideas that are just going to make your new kitchen spectacular and that kitchen that you’re really dreaming of.
Luckily, there is a way that you can get that professional help for free, as well.
TOM: Yeah. Good point. And that’s through CliqStudios.com. First of all, these guys make beautiful and extremely durable American-made kitchen cabinets. But they’re also an excellent resource because they do something that’s very unique. They offer a free, no-obligation design service, which basically means you can work with their team to design your new kitchen cabinets at no cost. You just go to CliqStudios.com/Free and you sign up for the free design consultation. And Cliq is spelled C-l-i-q-Studios.com/Free.
LESLIE: And this weekend, I just saw that Cliq Studios is offering an exclusive cabinet buyers’ guide that’s put together by the editors of This Old House. Who better to give you advice on how to buy and design a kitchen than the guys from This Old House, am I right? So go, right now, to CliqStudios.com/Free, download the cabinet-buying guide from This Old House and then go ahead and sign up for your free cabinet-design service.
TOM: That’s all at CliqStudios.com/Free and Cliq is spelled C-l-i-q-Studios – with an S – .com. That’s C-l-i-q-Studios.com/Free.
[radio_anchor listorder=”4″]LESLIE: Mary in Massachusetts is on the line with an appliance that’s acting up.
What’s going on, Mary?
MARY: The bottom fills up with water and I mean probably an inch or two. But say we run the dishwasher at night. Like I got up this morning at seven, there wasn’t anything on the bottom of the dishwasher. And about an hour later, it was filled. And it’s been doing that. And we don’t understand what’s going on. We’ve had the hoses checked, make sure they’re not bent or anything or – but we can’t figure it out.
TOM: OK. So, have you cleaned out the bottom of the dishwasher? Sometimes, the dishwasher drain gets clogged. That’s the easy fix right there.
MARY: Oh, yeah. We’ve done that.
TOM: So you have no food particles there?
TOM: So there must be an obstruction somewhere that’s causing it. There’s an obstruction somewhere in the line that’s causing the water – the plumbing in that part of the house to back up and it’s just evidencing itself in the dishwasher.
Have you checked the connection to your garbage disposal?
MARY: Well, I don’t have a garbage disposal.
TOM: You don’t? So it drains where? Does it drain into the trap under the sink or where does it drain?
MARY: Right. Into the trap under the sink.
TOM: Yeah, I think you’re backing some water up there. It’s going back up the hose and into the dishwasher.
MARY: Alright. Then I’m going to have somebody come over. We did have someone come over. I don’t think he’s – he honestly couldn’t figure it out. He checked the hoses and made sure they weren’t bent or anything. And he stayed for a while and yeah – and it happened again. The water started coming in after he ran it.
TOM: So, if you’re running it and it’s not draining, then there’s a different set of causes for that. It’s either a drain pump or the drain impeller or there’s a solenoid kit that has to do with removing the water. But if you’re telling me this water is showing up when you’re not running the dishwasher, then I think it must be backing up through the plumbing system. OK, Mary? So I think that’s a good approach.
LESLIE: Well, wood stoves deliver comfortable and efficient warmth but they can also deliver danger if they’re installed too close to a combustible wall in your home. How close is too close? We’ll tell you, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call right now. We know you’ve got a home improvement question on your mind. Please share it with us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to have hot water on tap anytime you like? Well, an instant hot-water dispenser is simple to install and it keeps hot water handy for beverages and cooking. Goes right under the sink and it’s available in a range of styles and colors. This is one very simple luxury that once you have it, you will appreciate all year long.
LESLIE: Alright. And since everybody loves sharing their questions about what’s going on at their money pit with us, we’ve got one here from Natalie in Minnesota. And she writes: “I have a fairly new wood-burning stove in my living room. It was installed according to manufacturer’s recommendations. My problem is it works so well that the drywall behind the stove gets pretty hot to the touch. Does ½-inch drywall have a flash point?” Yeah.
TOM: You know, if you’re asking that question, I’ve got to think it’s probably way too close. I mean the answer is not so much what the flash point is, because that’s not what you want to monitor. What you want to monitor is the distance. Because if the distance is right, you don’t have to worry about it.
And how do you know how far or how close the stove should be to a combustible surface like drywall? Well, first of all, if the stove is tested and certified like most are, on the back of the stove there’s going to be an information plate. And that’s going to show very clearly how close that stove should be to that wall.
Now, most of the time, it’s going to say something like 48 inches. And you’re going to think, “Well, that’s going to put the stove out in the middle of the room.” Well, yeah. But if that’s where it’s got to be, that’s where it’s got to be. If you do want it to be closer, there is a way that you could move it closer but it requires the installation of a heat shield.
Now, a heat shield can be constructed from a variety of materials and they’re all going to enable you to be a certain percent closer than what the stove is rated for. But conceptually, the way it works is you could build one, for example, out of sheet metal – fairly thick sheet metal. And then you would build this shield so that it stood sort of off of that combustible wall by about an inch. And there would be a noncombustible spacer sort of holding that piece of metal off the wall. There’d be a gap at the bottom and a gap at the top. So what happens is as the warm air passes over it, it will sort of cycle and keep that wall cool. That’s basically the way a heat shield works.
They can be made out of metal, brick, tile, all sorts of material. But they’ve got to made right and they’ve got to be made consistent with the recommendations of the NFPA – the National Fire Protection Association – and the manufacturer of the stove. So, if you’re asking this question as to whether or not it’s too close, then the answer is it probably is. And you’ve really got to address it because it could be dangerous.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one here from Dina in Minnesota who writes: “Do you know what could cause my pilot flame to keep going out on my gas water heater?”
TOM: Yeah. Pretty common condition and it usually has two causes. Number one, the thermal couple might be bad. Now, the thermal couple is a piece of metal that stays in the path of the pilot-light flame. And what it does is it basically tells the water heater – tells the burner we have ignition. And if you didn’t have ignition, you didn’t have a pilot light …
LESLIE: Like for blastoff?
TOM: Yeah. Well, you don’t want to have a blastoff because if you didn’t have ignition, that gas would just be coming on and it could explode, right? So, if the thermal couple is bad, that could cause it and also, just a dirty burner. Sometimes, inside there you get a lot of combustion deposits that drop down, sit on that burner, sit on that pilot light. And if that’s the case, it may just be dirty. So, next time you have your heating system serviced, have that done, as well, and get to the bottom of it. Both pretty quick fixes.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then this way, you’ll stay safe and you’ll stay warm.
TOM: Where home solutions live, you are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air, online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for participating in this hour of the show. And if you’ve got questions you couldn’t get through, remember, our lines are open, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. And we also welcome you to post your questions to the Community section at MoneyPit.com.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2017 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.)