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 Happy Holidays to all. Well, I know that you’re probably just running around going nuts this weekend, just trying to get ready for Christmas and for New Year’s and all of the people that are coming to visit you. And you’re probably not thinking about home improvement. That’s OK. So, we will think about it for you. And if you want to talk about your plan for the coming year or maybe some last-minute things you’re trying to get done, we are here to help. Help yourself, first, by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up on today’s show, it is the week when millions are shopping for that perfect Christmas tree, no matter how elusive it might be. But will you know it when you see it? We’ll have tips for picking the ideal tree for your family and that space, just ahead.
LESLIE: Plus, whether it’s around your sink, between a tub and its tile surround or covering the joints of your shower stall, nasty, worn-out caulk has got to go. We’ve got DIY tips on how to get this job done the easy way.
TOM: Plus, stone countertops are both popular and super expensive. But guess what? We’ve got a trick of the trade to help you get those granite counter makeovers without spending a bunch of cash.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a set of five Lutron Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switches. Now, these are super convenient because they’re going to give you a way to turn the lights on and off hands-free.
TOM: Yep. And they’re very easy to install, as well. The Lutron Occupancy Switches retail for 20 bucks each. We’ve got 5 going out to one lucky listener who calls in their home improvement question to us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, or post your question online to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Henry in Tennessee, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
HENRY: Last year, in December, I bought a 1940s house built on a – single-story built on a brick foundation. And it previously had heating vents in the floor that were sealed off. And the heat pump was put in the attic. The initial heating bill was terrible when I had the insulation updated in the attic. And later on in the year, I put a 21-mil vapor barrier under the crawlspace. My question is: do I still need to have fiberglass insulation batts put into the floor spaces or is the vapor barrier enough?
TOM: Absolutely you do. Vapor barriers, they’re designed to do two different things. So, the vapor barrier does – just static. It keeps the moisture down low. And the insulation keeps the heat in the house. So, while floor heat – floor insulation is not as important as attic insulation, it is important. And so if you don’t have an insulated floor, I would definitely do that.
You’re going to want to use unfaced fiberglass batts. I would try to make them as thick as the floor joists. So, if it’s a 2×10, get 10 inches of fiberglass. You’re going to press them up in between the floor joists. And there’s a kind of wire – sort of a wire hanger that you can use to support these batts. It’s like a piece of steel rod that’s flexible, that’s exactly as wide as the spaces between those joists. And you press it up and it just kind of holds itself right in place there. It keeps the fiberglass batts up where they belong.
Now, you mentioned something important and that was you that have a heat pump. And you also mentioned that your heating bills were extremely expensive. I want to make sure you understand how a heat pump works, because there is an operator error that you could make that could make that about twice as costly to operate. And that’s this: a heat pump is only designed to maintain heat at a certain level. If your thermostat is set to 65 and it falls to 64 or 63 in the house, the heat pump will come on and it will supply heat. If it falls to 62 or 61, the heat pump says to itself, “I can’t keep up with this. I need help.” And it brings up a backup system that’s built into the heat pump that’s straight electric-resistant heat. And it costs more than twice as much to run as the heat pump.
So, if you have severe cold temperatures, your heat pump may not be able to keep up. The electric heat will come on. But what often happens is people will move their thermostat up and down and up and down because we’re accustomed to using clock thermostats, right? But if you do that when you have a heat pump and you don’t have a heat-pump thermostat, which moves very slowly, you will be triggering the electric heat on a regular basis and driving up your heating costs. Does that make sense?
HENRY: OK. I appreciate your help.
TOM: Alright, Henry. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Carol in Ohio is on the line with a ventilation question. What can we do for you?
CAROL: I’ve had a plumber in just about a month ago and the pipe that goes – the ventilation pipe that goes from your sewer line all the way to the roof – and he says that it’s leaking. Now, the house is about 52 years old, something of that nature. And now it’s not leaking like now but he said – I don’t understand how he got the idea that it was leaking.
TOM: When you say “leaking,” does he mean leaking water as in a plumbing leak or leaking as in a roof leak?
CAROL: I’m not sure about that because – but the roof is probably about 10 years old that’s been on there.
TOM: Have you seen any stains underneath the ceiling, right where that pipe goes over the bathroom? Do you see stains at the bathroom ceiling?
CAROL: No. There’s none inside the house but he was looking at the pipe in the basement. The leak that he repaired there was from another pipe that – and he repaired that. And he said that he thought maybe that that had been leaking. But there’s no sign of water from the ceiling or any on the floor, you know, above the pipe there or anything.
TOM: Well, look, if you’ve got no evidence of a leak, he’s got to be more specific. I can tell you that those vent pipes typically do leak at the roof, because there’s a rubber gasket that is part of the flashing system. And over time, especially over 10 years, it’s going to crack and break and separate from the pipe. And sometimes, you get water that sort of leaks in there. They almost never leak from a plumbing problem, like a break in the joint, because from the bathroom, they go straight up to the roof.
So, there’s really not a good place for them to leak. Maybe an elbow but – I mean you would see that. You would see some staining or something. There’d be some evidence of it. So, I would ask the plumber to be a little more specific about what exactly is leaking before you turn over your checkbook, you know what I mean?
CAROL: Yes. In other words, maybe I should have someone to check the roof to see if the seal around that is broken or something.
TOM: Well, but yeah – but if you’re not seeing – you would see leak stains in the ceiling of the bathroom. I’ve seen this more than a hundred times and I can tell you if that seal is split, the water is going to go right down that pipe, hug that pipe and probably drip off into the ceiling. So, sure, it’s a good idea to always inspect your roof. But I’m just not – you’re not telling me anything that makes me think, “Oh, absolutely, you’ve got a leak there.”
CAROL: Oh, OK. Well, that’s really good news to me because I was concerned. Because he said if that pipe had to be replaced, it would have to be replaced from the basement, all the way to the top of the house.
TOM: Do you trust this plumber?
CAROL: He was – the plumber is – the company is an old company here in Canton and they seem to be very good. And I know of other people that have had them but I don’t know what his problem was that day that he saw that.
TOM: Yeah, that’s not sounding right to me. It’s very rare to have any reason to replace a vent pipe. Because a vent pipe carries air; it doesn’t carry water.
CAROL: Right, right.
TOM: It carries water down, from the toilet down. But it carries air, basically, from the toilet up.
CAROL: OK. And then that’s what I told him. I said, “There’s no water that comes down through that.” I said – but he says, “Well, there could be when rain or something of that nature.” But I thought, “Well, that …”
TOM: Now, it’s sounding even more like the guy’s looking for a job.
CAROL: OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Carol.
CAROL: Thank you.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And look, Leslie, if the guy’s got a – if she’s got a problem, then it’s got to be fixed. But I’ve never heard of a pipe like that leaking in that way and certainly not when rain comes into the pipe. Certainly, rain could get around the pipe but not into it.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Hey, you guys. It is seriously in the thick of the holidays. And if you are like me, you are running yourself ragged. And you sound like this, probably, this time of year because your kids are driving you nuts, you’ve got a ton of shopping to do, you want the house to look a certain way. Well, let us help you. And I promise your voice won’t sound like this if you ask us for some help. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, when it’s time to deck the halls, picking out the perfect Christmas tree is a fun family tradition. We’re going to have tips for choosing one that’s sturdy, smells great and lasts all season, after this.
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TOM: Where home solutions live, 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 give us a call right now. We’d love to hear about your next home improvement or décor project. We’d love to help with that project. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. And we’d love to give you a perfect product we’ve got to give away this hour. It’s the Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensors.
These are sensor switches that give you the convenience of hands-free on and off for all the rooms in your house. I’ve got these in my money pit and I love it. Because the way it works in my house, the kids walk out of the bedroom but the lights stay on, right? So, with these switches, they go off automatically. And you could set them to stay on for 1, 10, I think up to 30 minutes after somebody leaves the space. You’ll never leave the lights on.
Plus, they can also be set so that when you walk in a room, the lights pop on. So, if you walk into your basement or down the stairs and your hands are full with stuff or the laundry room or the garage you’re carrying stuff, not an issue. As soon as there’s motion detected, instantly they come on and then they go off when that motion is done.
You could pick these up at your local home improvement store or through a local electrician or you can visit LutronSensors.com. But we’ve got five to give away. They’re worth 20 bucks each, so that’s a total of 100 bucks going out to one lucky caller. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Bob in Canada is on the line and needs some help with a painting project. How can we help you?
BOB: I have a drywall – regular drywall wall – that’s been painted, I’m assuming, with regular latex paint. But what has happened is whoever painted it Varathaned (ph) over it. So, I now have to try to figure out what’s the best way to cover it and I’m thinking maybe you folks can tell me the best way to prepare the wall to either repaint it or wallpaper it.
TOM: You have Varathane on top of drywall?
BOB: Yes, sir.
LESLIE: So it’s like a super-shiny surface?
BOB: Yeah. What it was is they did all kinds of different, I guess, sponge painting and feather dusting and all this other wild kind of paint. Actually, one wall, I really like it. It’s a mural but the yellow – the Varathane over the years – I guess it was about 15 years ago they did it and the Varathane is really yellowed. So it’s now – the mural has got this yellow tinge to it. If I could actually get the Varathane off without destroying the mural, I’d like that but I kind of gave up trying different spots here and there. And I’m realizing that painting over Varathane is tough.
TOM: Well, painting straight over it but what do you think, Leslie? As long as it’s got good adhesion, he could prime it?
LESLIE: Yeah. But I’m trying to think of a creative way to just remove that urethane top coating so that you can still get that mural and I …
TOM: That’s the decorator in you not wanting to let it go.
LESLIE: I know. I mean if he likes it, I want to figure out a way to make it stay. You know, a part of me would almost say reach out to a local university that has an art-history or an art-restoration program.
TOM: Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Yep, mm-hmm.
LESLIE: And find out what they might do because they’re able to remove layers of paint on masterpieces of work that are hundreds of years old and valuable beyond belief.
TOM: Yeah, I think that’s the hot ticket. You need – see, you have to understand that the primer has different qualities than the paint. And so, if you tried to paint it, I wouldn’t expect the paint to stick to that old finish. But if you used a good oil-based primer or solvent-based primer, you should get very good adhesion to that wall surface. And then on top of that, once it dries, then you could use a latex wall paint.
BOB: Ah. Well, I certainly will give that a shot. I really – thank you very – it’s too bad about this mural because it’s the one wall in the whole house that we all agree it’s a really nice, pretty mural. But unfortunately, the Varathane is so yellowed. So maybe I’ll call the University of Windsor here in Ontario and ask them if they can help me out. Maybe they can give me a solution.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. Hey, maybe it’s a worthwhile painting you have on there and they’ll be willing to restore it for you.
BOB: Well, you never know. Maybe that university student will someday become famous.
TOM: That’s right. Alright, Bob. Good luck with that project.
BOB: Thank you very much for accepting my call.
TOM: It’s our pleasure. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, this is the weekend when millions of folks are out shopping for the perfect Christmas tree. It is elusive sometimes but I think the more you know about different types of trees, the easier it will be to make that choice.
So, first of all, there are really three different types of trees: there’s fir, there’s pine and there’s spruce. And within those different species, there are different types of fir. So, for example, balsam fir – very common. It’s a great form, it’s got a pleasant scent. Douglas fir has sort of that soft, blue-green needle look. And the cool thing about Douglas fir is if you crush the needle, it gives off a really sweet smell. You also have Fraser firs, right? Now, these are the ones that have sort of those upward-turning branches.
LESLIE: They’re my favorite.
TOM: Yeah. A little Charlie-Brownish Christmas tree kind of looking. But they’re kind of cool. They’re very earthy. And then you have noble firs. As the name would imply, it has very well-spaced kind of bold branches, right? So there’s different types of fir trees for you to choose and just in that one species.
LESLIE: Yeah. Next in species is pine and I think pine tends to be the most common, Scots pine especially. That’s the most popular of the American Christmas trees. And what’s best about it is the needles are not going to fall off as the tree starts to dry out. And come on, we’re all guilty of not watering the tree as often as it should be. So if the needles aren’t going to fall off, even better.
Now, Virginia pine, that’s kind of the stout, woody branches. And they’re really made for trimming because they’re hearty and they can hold the heavier branches. It’s also known as the Belle of the Ball in the South.
Also, white pine. White pine has kind of got that bluish-green needle. They’re about 2 to 5 inches long. And a lot of people have fewer allergic reactions to the white pine, so that could be helpful if you’ve got a kid with allergies.
TOM: And then, of course, you’ve got spruce. You’ve got white spruce, which is known for having really great needle retention. So if you don’t want to have to pick up those needles, that’s fine. Except those needles do have a very unpleasant aroma, so you’re not going to get that sort of holiday scent in the air.
Then you’ve got the Colorado blue spruce. It’s very symmetrical, it’s a very attractive foliage but the needles are super sharp. I hate when I’m trying to decorate the tree and you have to reach in deep and it’s like, “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.” I’ve had to put gloves on to, say, decorate a Christmas tree when it has those kinds of sharp needles.
So, there’s a lot of pluses and minuses to these different species of trees and maybe you ought to pull up a photo of one on Google so you know kind of what you’re looking at when you go shopping. And this way, you can know what to expect; it won’t be such a surprise.
LESLIE: Yeah. And don’t forget when you’re picking out your tree, leave space for the topper. Don’t get the tallest one. Remember your tree topper.
TOM: Good advice. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Paul in Louisiana is on the line with a concrete question. What can we do for you today?
PAUL: Well, I bought a house that’s built in the 80s with those concrete slabs with the slab. However, somebody in the past had carpet and linoleum and so forth in the old glue. My question is: those kits you buy for etching and staining cement, will they work to clean those old slabs after you get all that up?
TOM: Usually, they include some sort of prepping mix in them. I know, certainly, the epoxy flooring products do. And it’s usually some sort of wash that has to be applied to get off anything that’s residual.
Now, the glue and that sort of thing is not going to come off. If it’s well-adhered, you could paint over that. But it will take off a certain amount of sort of dirt and debris and staining and perhaps a bit of oil and that sort of thing. But if you want the glue off, then you’re going to have to use adhesive removers.
PAUL: Can I stain or etch those cements? Can they be cleaned enough to do that or just painting is all you (audio gap)?
TOM: No, I don’t think you can stain them, because here’s what’s going to happen: wherever there’s glue, you’re not going to get absorption of any of the stain. You can paint it but I don’t think you could dye it. If you’re talking about concrete dyes and stains, that’s only going to take where you can get absorption. So any place that’s got glue on it is not going to absorb it.
Now, you mentioned etching. Etching is a process that’s done to slabs to prep them for different types of finishes. And it’s something that could be dangerous. It’s usually done with hydrochloric acid or phosphoric acid. And I don’t really see a reason for you to do that. I think, in this case, you just want to prep it for the paint.
And if you want to use one of those kits, for example, QUIKRETE has a great kit of epoxy paints in many colors. And you could just use their prep products like that and then apply the epoxy paint on top of that, which is pretty darn durable these days. It’s a two-part epoxy that’s a chemical cure. So, essentially, you mix up the curing material with the paint material and then it hardens over the next two or three hours.
PAUL: Alright. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, caulking a bathtub should be a pretty easy do-it-yourself project. But it’s not when you can’t get rid of that nasty, old caulk. Stick around for some tricks of the trade.
FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Date night is a big night for us. Just me, my husband, some candles and time alone, finally. And Sean added his own flair: he installed a Caseta Smart Lighting System by Lutron. He makes a big deal out of taking out his phone and the lights come down low. Very romantic. I think I married the right guy.
MALE ANNOUNCER: Caseta by Lutron. Simple to use, simple to set up. Learn how you can win a $5,000 smart-home upgrade, at OurLifeUpgrade.com. No purchase necessary. Ends 12/15/16.
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: Hey, what’s going on in your money pit? Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT. We are here to help you with your home improvement project.
You know, one problem that a lot of people seem to have this time of year is plumbing problems, because we’re doing all this cooking and prepping. And I think that sometimes we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to that, Leslie, because people are doing stuff like pouring grease down the drains or filling up garbage disposers with shrimp shells and skin and bones and things from meat that they are clipping off. And all that stuff gets in the drain and blocks it up.
LESLIE: I know but I’m having a problem that’s not food-related at all in the plumbing in my house. How do you explain that?
TOM: What’s going on?
LESLIE: I’ve got these twin pedestal sinks upstairs in our bathroom. One’s mine and one the kids share. And it doesn’t matter whose is whose but when I’m brushing my teeth or doing something in one sink, the other sink backs up and fills up with water. And that’s really super great and everything except when you forget and put your clothes in the other sink while you’re brushing your teeth and getting ready for the day. And then they get all wet and you can’t wear them. And I cannot figure out what’s going on. Use one, it drains fine.
TOM: So, it doesn’t matter which one you use? The water just goes to the opposite?
LESLIE: Doesn’t matter which one. The other one backs up. Yeah.
TOM: Yeah. So you’ve got some sort of a partial obstruction below that drain line. And so because the water can’t drain down out of that whole bathroom area, it’s filling up into that – the nearest place it can escape is that bathroom sink. So you’ve got a partial obstruction here that’s causing this, kiddo.
LESLIE: So I probably have to take apart that – the traps below each one or …?
TOM: No, I don’t even think it’s the trap. I think it’s beyond the trap because you say it’ll back up on the other side. So it’s below those two – the drainpipes for both of those sinks are going to come together somewhere. And wherever it comes together, beyond that is where the obstruction is occurring.
LESLIE: So, I either have to get a plumber, get a snake, get a – I don’t want to put a chemical down there.
TOM: Yeah, well, that’s right. And I think it probably is a job for a plumber. And if it starts to really annoy you, that’s kind of what you’re going to have to do, because I suspect it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
LESLIE: Why couldn’t this have all been happening when Henry kept breaking the toilets and I had to fix them myself and get the plumber in? Why couldn’t any of this all have gone on at the same time?
TOM: Because yeah, plumbing problems don’t happen at convenient moments. And they happen a lot in the holidays so – as we’ve all learned.
LESLIE: I think I’m going to ride it out past New Year’s and avoid the holiday charge.
TOM: Yeah. I think that’s wise. Otherwise, you’re going to pay twice for those guys to come and fix it.
Alright. What’s going on in your house? Is it falling apart? We’d love to hear about it – 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 – because we take such pleasure in hearing about other people’s home improvement pains. So we’re not alone. What’s going on? Give us a call at 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Well, you’ve seen the ominous signs of aging caulk, like a brown tinge and the cracks opening the way for all those stubborn colonies of mildew to just take hold or even for water to seep through and make your walls, well, mushy.
TOM: Well, whether it’s around your sink, between a tub and it’s tile surround or covering the joints of your shower stall, worn caulk has got to go. Tom Silva from This Old House is here to tell us how to get this job done right.
TOM SILVA: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: Now, this is a kind of one of those pain-in-the-neck jobs that everybody’s got to do from time to time. And I’ve seen it done poorly more than I’ve seen it done well. What’s your tricks of the trade for taking this on?
TOM SILVA: Well, I think the biggest thing is you have to make sure that you’ve got every single bit of the old caulking out before you put new caulking in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone in and see layers upon layer upon layer of bad-done caulking. And it’s all black and mold because the water gets trapped in between it. It’s peeling away from the wall and the tub because it’s done incorrectly. You’ve got to clean it out, you’ve got to scrape it out and you’ve got to remove any silicone that’s there, because nothing will stick to that silicone.
TOM: Now, getting rid of that caulk without damaging the tub and tile is key. I’ve seen products that are advertised as sort of the caulk equivalent of a paint stripper. It’s supposed to soften the caulk and make it easy to pull out. Have you used this – these materials?
TOM SILVA: It doesn’t really work great on silicone.
TOM: Is that right? OK.
TOM SILVA: Once silicone has hardened, it’s – you’re not going to get anything into it. It’s just – it’s that magical ingredient that they make in there that nothing permeates it except a razor blade.
TOM: And elbow grease, yeah.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah. And you’ve got to get in there, you’ve got to scrape it, you’ve got to be careful not to scratch the tile, you’ve got to be careful not to scratch the tub. But you’ve got to get it out. And that’s the longest part of the job is getting the prep.
LESLIE: So once you’ve got all the old caulk out, what do you do with that opening? Do you take the time to spray bleach in there, clean it, let it air-dry or just go right back at it?
TOM SILVA: Well, I like all of that. I like to put bleach in there. Bleach will actually cause it to dry a little bit faster. It’s got to be dry. But once you put the bleach in there, you know, you want to make sure that you wipe everything down with a nice, clean rag. Again, you’ll feel if there’s any residue. Get that off.
And then, before I install a caulking, I like to take some tape and put it on the wall and put it on the tub and create just a little bit of a gap so that I will now be able to put the caulking in. And then push it into that crack and then wet on wet another bead of caulking, if needed. Again, push it in and get the tape off quick.
TOM: So even the experts don’t rely on the steadiness of your hand to get that line of caulk looking just perfect.
TOM SILVA: Right, right. You’ve got to – if you’re lucky, sometimes you could do it right.
TOM: Right. Exactly. But invariably, you’re having to sort of contort your body to get to all those angles, so it’s hard to get it to lay in there without having the tape to guide you.
TOM SILVA: Well, I mean you’re bringing the caulking gun down. All of a sudden, your elbow will hit the wall beside you.
TOM SILVA: So now you’ve got to stop and you’ve got to start again to get it smoothed out. And it seems like that little spot, it always bothers me because I can always see it. So I’ve got to redo it again.
TOM: Now, one of my tricks of the trade is to fill the tub with water before I caulk it so it sort of weighs it down, stretches it out a bit.
TOM SILVA: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.
TOM: With the theory being that after the caulk dries, we’ll let the water out, tub comes up and compresses it better or at least doesn’t pull out, when you step in it, quite as easily.
TOM SILVA: Right. It doesn’t – the tub is – when you fill it with water, you put weight on it so when you – when the caulking has dried, the weight comes off and it’s actually compressing the caulking into that crack. I used to do that all the time. Now, with the new caulking – the polyurethane caulking, just stuff like that – they do have a lot of flex in them, so it’s not needed as much. But in older homes, I would definitely recommend doing that.
LESLIE: Now, how do you know which type of caulk is the right caulk for the project?
TOM SILVA: Well, I’m a big fan of polyurethanes or acrylic caulking. You want to make sure that it has a mildicide in it so that it won’t promote the growth of mold or mildew in it. Silicones are good if you’re going on anything that is non-porous. Anything that is porous, silicone really doesn’t stick well to.
And also, the other thing is you want to use a caulking that is colored. Because if you have a clear caulking and you have a window in that bathroom that is shining down on the sealant …
LESLIE: They discolor really quickly.
TOM SILVA: Right. What will happen is if it’s clear, the sun goes through the caulking and it will actually break down the adhesive connection and cause it to curl and break away over time.
TOM: I’ve also seen if you do get a little mildew that forms underneath that caulk, it kind of permeates right through, almost magnifies.
TOM SILVA: Yep.
TOM: And the whole thing ends up looking black very quickly.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, mildew is not a pretty thing.
LESLIE: Is there ever a good place to put the clear caulk? I feel like it just doesn’t ever look good anywhere.
TOM SILVA: I’m not a big fan of clear caulk. And we use the clear for gluing down marble, granite and stuff like that under kitchen countertops. We’re using like a dab the size of a quarter. And you’re using it as an adhesive but not for water and stuff like that.
TOM: Now, many times do-it-yourselfers, especially, will turn to acrylic caulk only because it has water cleanup. But if you do use masking tape to kind of guide you, there’s really no reason to use that and you can have the permanence of using silicone caulk instead.
TOM SILVA: Silicone or polyurethane.
TOM: Or polyurethane.
TOM SILVA: Polyurethane, yeah. I prefer the polyurethane because it’s going to stick and it’s got great elasticity and it really holds up well.
LESLIE: I know we touched briefly on – I feel like every pro just uses their finger to smooth everything and make it look so nice. You’ve seen the tools. They look like little random, triangular, little rubber jobs.
TOM: Look for the trowel.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
LESLIE: Do you recommend them?
TOM SILVA: I can never find it.
TOM SILVA: I always find my finger, though.
LESLIE: True. But do you recommend them for somebody?
TOM SILVA: Yeah, some people love them. There are guys that I know that do use them. But it’s really a matter of preference.
TOM: Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice as always. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: Always a pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright. 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 and Ask This Old House are presented by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.
Still to come, we’ve got tips on how you can get granite or granite-looking counters without the luxury price tag, when The Money Pit continues after this.
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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: Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a set of five Lutron Maestro Occupancy Switches.
These are super convenient. When you have them in your house, you wonder how you got along without them. Because the way these things work is when you walk into a room, the lights come on. And when you walk out of the room, the lights go off. So they’re fantastic. I’ve got several in my house and I love them.
They’re worth 20 bucks each. We’ve got a set of 5 going away for a total of 100 bucks to one lucky caller that reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Check them out at LutronSensors.com or give us a call, right now, for the answer to home improvement question and your chance to win.
Well, granite countertops are pretty popular, right? But there is a way to get them in your kitchen for a lot less. And that is to create a granite top using smaller sections of stone, which are sold in square pieces. They’re usually 12×12 or 18×18. And they can be placed side by side and then the joints filled with grout. The smaller stone pieces are a lot less expensive, they’re easier to install and they can provide an equally attractive look to granite slabs but at a fraction of the price.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, if you want to get a little creative here, guys, there’s a couple of other options for a granite look. Now, you can find great designs in laminate countertops that look just like granite. I mean some of them are so beautifully duplicated that until you touch it or get close to it, you don’t realize that it’s a laminate. So, take a look at laminate today because it does come in thousands of colors and so many look like granite or other solid surfaces. And they are at a huge fraction less than the regular price of granite.
TOM: And for an even cheaper solution, there’s even paint that simulates granite. I like it because it goes on in several steps and it gives you the beautifully sort of veined look of that stone for pretty much the cost – a little bit more than the cost of average paint. So, lots of options to get that stone or that stone look in your kitchen.
We’ve got lots of options for the rest of your house, too. Call us, right now, for the answer to your home improvement or décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Renee in North Carolina needs some help weatherproofing. What can we do for you?
RENEE: I just recently moved into a brand-new apartment complex. So, the windows are pretty good windows but what I’ve found is that it is freezing in here now that the temperature has dropped. So I’m looking for suggestions on how to put up temporary fixes to the windows leaking air in. And also the sliding door. I have a big, sliding-glass door that I’m not sure how to weatherproof that.
TOM: Alright. Renee, first of all, as far as the windows are concerned, one of the things you might want to look into is weather-stripping caulk. There’s a certain type of caulk that’s designed to be removable. And one of the products is called Seal ‘N Peel with the letter N – Seal ‘N Peel. And I think that one is by Red Devil or DAP. Both manufacturers have a version of this.
And the way it works is you essentially can caulk the windows shut. So you can caulk around all those gaps. And then in the spring, you can grab the caulk bead and peel it off. And it comes off like a piece of rubber.
LESLIE: Just make sure you leave one window unclosed, unsealed because – just in case you need it for an egress in the event of an emergency. Because it comes out but it just doesn’t come out that fast.
TOM: Now, as far as the door is concerned, I would just use shrink film for that. So the shrink film – basically, you put a two-sided adhesive tape around the door and then you attach the film to that. And then you take a hair dryer and warm the film and it shrinks and gets nice and taut and crystal-clear.
RENEE: OK. So the film would actually prevent the door – the sliding-glass door – from opening?
TOM: Correct. You would not be able to use that door in the winter, mm-hmm.
TOM: If you have to be able to use it, then you’d just have to use weather-stripping. But it’s probably not going to be as effective.
RENEE: OK. Well, this has been very helpful. I’ve just been afraid to put up anything that was going to destroy the window or the paint.
TOM: I know. You want to get that security deposit back, eventually, right?
RENEE: Definitely. Or not pay more.
TOM: Alright, Renee. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, do you have a basement makeover in your future? Wondering what kind of floor is best? We’ll have some tips on that project, after this.
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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: Happy Holidays. So happy to be with you on this holiday weekend. If you’ve got home improvement questions and can’t reach us on the program at 888-MONEY-PIT, you can always post your question online at MoneyPit.com. That’s exactly what Ashley did. And Ashley is dealing with a basement-floor issue.
LESLIE: Yeah. She’s writing that – “Our new 1960s old home has a full basement but it’s unfinished. The previous owners had carpeting down there but we removed it due to a damp spring. After removal, they placed a ¼-inch cement floorboard and did it without adhering it to the floor. I’d like to utilize the cement board and install 12×12 ceramic tiles. After inspecting, though, what was underneath the board, I found asbestos tile. How can I adhere the board to the floor without disturbing the asbestos? Glue, hammer, drill, screws?”
TOM: You could move. That’s quite an assembly there. So, we’ve got asbestos tile on top of concrete and then we’ve got cement board on top of that. First of all, it would be a really bad idea to try to adhere ceramic tile to that cement board, because it’s just not solid enough. It’s not even attached to the floor. Probably the best approach would be to remove the cement board, to properly remove the asbestos tile and then adhere the ceramic tile to the original floor.
That, however, is complicated and no doubt expensive. So, another option would be to leave that all in place and then add a different type of flooring on top of it. So you could use a laminate floor, you could use an engineered vinyl-plank floor. There’s lots of floors out there. They’re extremely durable for damp locations. And then you won’t have to worry about doing anything. And the nice thing is this: you can even find these floors today that look like ceramic tile or look like hardwood or look like vinyl or look like, you know, stone. I mean the patterning on these products today is just phenomenal.
So, I just don’t think it’s worth the trouble of taking that whole floor apart to get the ceramic-tile look when there’s a lot of other ways you can do it. And honestly, it would be a lot warmer floor, too. Ceramic tile in a basement? That’s going to be one darn chilly, chilly floor no matter what you do.
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s like a recipe for cold toesies. That’s all I’m saying.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Patricia in Florida who writes: “When carpet becomes loose or wrinkled, do you need to purchase new padding? And how much can I expect to pay per square foot for stretching the carpeting?”
TOM: Yeah, that’s a good question. It really depends on how complicated it is for the carpet installers to get out there and whether or not they’re schlepping furniture out of the rooms to do this. Look, you can restretch carpet one or two times and after that, it pretty much is stretched out as far as it could be. But over the life of a decent carpet, that should be all that you need to do, if at all.
So, I can’t really put a number on that for you, Patricia. But I can say the answer, truly, is it depends. It depends on whether or not they’re going to move a room full of furniture and it depends on whether the carpet can be stretched or not and so on. So, I would say, yeah, you can do it but what it costs is going to be totally dependent on those other sort of complications of the project.
LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got a post here from Alicia in Chicago who writes: “I’ve just moved into our first rental home and the doorbell is not working. What can I do? But maybe something that’s more tech-driven because we love to see what’s going on when we’re not at home. Any ideas?”
TOM: Well, yeah. You mentioned tech-driven. There’s a fantastic doorbell out there called the Ring Video Doorbell. It’s sold at Home Depot and it works great. What happens is if somebody comes up to the door and they press the doorbell, it’s a camera and it comes on. And on your smartphone, you can kind of see who’s there even if you’re not at home, obviously. And then you can talk and have a two-way conversation.
That’s not too terribly difficult to install. I’ve done a couple myself and it’s really kind of fun to see who’s walking up when you’re not home.
LESLIE: You know what? It’s super easy to install and if you don’t like who you see coming up to your house, you could ignore them, you can call for help, whatever you need.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope that you guys are enjoying this weekend and taking some time to celebrate the season with family and friends. If you’re stressed over a home improvement question that you need the answer to, don’t be. You can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online at MoneyPit.com. That’s all the time that we have.
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 2016 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.)