- Generators: Lost power? When storms make the lights go out, power up by choosing the right generator for your home.
- Furniture Repair: Dings, dents, scratches, and stains are easy to fix with these DIY furniture repair tips.
- Heating Costs: Even if you’re a renter and not a homeowner, there are ways to heat your apartment more efficiently and save on energy bills.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Countertop Materials: Iris wants to upgrade her kitchen countertops. Quartz needs less maintenance than marble or granite and offers more options.
- Egress Windows: Can a basement egress window be too high from the floor? We give James advice on finding safe and convenient egress window products.
- Fireplace Noise: Why are howling and whistling noises coming from a new gas fireplace? We think Sharon should contact the manufacturer about issues in the venting through the roof.
- Dishwasher Repairs: The dishes aren’t drying in Jackie’s dishwasher and mold is building up in the machine. The heating element probably failed and it may be cheaper to replace the dishwasher rather than repair it.
- Bathroom Addition: Adam wants to install a second bathroom and has questions about the plumbing. We offer ideas on how to run the water supply.
- Radon: Is radon a potential hazard for a house on a slab foundation? Only if the radon level is very high in the soil, and we explain to Kathy how to have the home tested for radon.
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: Got a project you want to get done around your house? Don’t stress out. We are sort of your home improvement therapists. We give you remodeling advice, repair advice, décor advice to help you get the job done once, get it done right so you can get on to enjoying your home. You can help yourself first, though, by calling us with those questions at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting them to MoneyPit.com. Just click on the blue microphone button.
Coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk winter storms. The power outages they have can really bring everything about you to a full stop, right? You can’t do anything. So you may be considering a generator, because we got a lot of power failures this year and I know more and more people are looking at those. So we’re going to give you some tips to help you pick the best type for your home.
LESLIE: And if you’ve got an active household, your furniture is likely to take a few hits or more from time to time, especially if you’ve got kids because they are messy. We’re going to share some tips to make water rings, dings, dents and scratches disappear.
TOM: And just because you’re a renter doesn’t mean you can’t make changes to your home or apartment to cut heating costs. We’re going to share some solutions to solve your energy problems, including some that you can even take with you when it’s time to move on.
LESLIE: Also, guys, you need some help? What are you working on? You have a renovation, a repair, maybe just a decorating project? Whatever it is, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or you don’t know where to start or you just want some guidance, whatever it is we are here to help you create your best home ever and tackle your to-dos with confidence. So don’t forget we’re standing by. Reach out anytime.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That’s 888-666-3974. Or better yet, go to MoneyPit.com, click the blue microphone button, which you’ll find on every page. Record your question and send us a voicemail. We’ll get back to you the next time we produce the program.
LESLIE: Iris in Florida is on the line and has a question about a new countertop.
Tell us about it.
IRIS: Oh, hi. First and foremost, Leslie, let me tell you I’ve loved listening to you and Tom for so many years. You’re just – both of you are just so wonderful.
TOM: Thank you, Iris. We appreciate that.
LESLIE: Thanks, Iris.
IRIS: You’re most welcome. Well, my husband and I built our current home about 4 years ago. We did not upgrade the granite counters in the kitchen. We are now putting in a wonderful click-in, waterproof, vinyl planking throughout the entire house. And of course, the counters are looking like they need to be upgraded, as well. So we’re …
TOM: What kind of counters do you have right now?
IRIS: We currently have granite but we’re very strongly favoring a quartz.
TOM: OK. OK.
IRIS: So, what do you think?
TOM: I mean the cost is about the same. It’s kind of a toss-up between those two products. The granite is probably a bit harder to take care of because it’s more absorbent. It’s a difference between solid stone and really engineered stone. The solid stone is what you have now and engineered stone is what you would be getting.
IRIS: We want to stay in this house fairly permanently, so – and we’re pretty contemporary. And there’s so many beautiful quartz patterns.
TOM: Oh, yeah. Mm-hmm. Yep.
IRIS: What are your thoughts about Silestone?
TOM: Silestone. Yeah, it’s beautiful stuff.
LESLIE: So, I think, Iris, the reason why – I really do like quartz as a product. We put it in – my mom has a vacation home out on the East End of Long Island. My whole family shares it. And we had a big flood due to a pipe bursting a few years back. And we renovated everything in the house and we had Formica countertops, laminate countertops that – from a gajillion years ago.
And we – all of us loved the look of marble but none of us wanted the maintenance of marble, so we ended up going with a quartz that looks just like a beautiful, white marble. And it’s gorgeous, it’s durable, it’s stain-resistant. You can put a hot pan on it and not worry about it. We try not to but it – you can.
So we all love it. And we ended up also doing one that has a concrete look for a surround to a fireplace. And we’ve all been happy. This was trying to please three siblings and a mom. So, we all struggled on picking the right thing but I really do enjoy the quartz product. Truly, I love marble, I love granite but there is such a level of maintenance that goes along with it. And if you’re not willing to take on that maintenance, it’s just not going to stand up.
IRIS: Well, it sounds like you made an excellent decision based on so many people to please. And since we were leaning so favorably toward it, I think I’m convinced. So, thank you both so very much.
TOM AND LESLIE: Alright.
TOM: Yeah. Good luck with it. I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful when it’s done.
IRIS: Thanks so much, Tom. Take care.
LESLIE: Jim in Washington is on the line and needs some help with an egress window.
Tell us what’s going on.
JIM: Well, I’ve got a window in my basement that I need to replace with an egress window.
JIM: And there’s plenty of square footage in the opening in the concrete wall but my window will be 54 inches off the floor, which is a little bit more than the 44 that’s required off the finished floor. And I was just trying to figure out what my options were.
TOM: So your problem is that in the basement it’s going to be 54 inches off the floor?
TOM: Why are you putting it up so high? Is it because of the grade outside or the conditions outside?
JIM: Initially, I think that’s why they put it up so high.
TOM: Well, listen, you’re not going to achieve an escape window if it’s that high. I think what you need to do is look outside and let’s talk about some of the options there.
The BILCO Company – B-I-L-C-O – you know, kind of famous for the BILCO Door that’s that sort of metal, slanting door that covers a lot of basement doors. They have two products that are actually very efficient, very functional.
And one of them is actually particularly good-looking. One’s called a StakWEL and it’s an egress window well. Basically, it’s a very deep window well, very wide that has a ladder built into it. So you don’t really see the ladder unless you’re inside looking out. But you basically can go through the window, grab the ladder and then kind of climb up.
And the other one’s called a ScapeWEL, as in escape well. And that one’s kind of cool because it has a planter design; it’s like a terraced kind of a look to it. And that’s going to take up a little bit bigger room outside but it’s designed to do the same thing. It enables you to basically have that window at the proper height. And then if you had to go through it in the event of a fire, you would easily be able to climb up out of that ScapeWEL.
So I would take a look at those products from BILCO. I’m sure there may be others that make it. I just happen to be familiar with those. I’ve seen them at the trade shows and they are pretty cool-looking. If I needed one, I’d definitely buy it.
JIM: OK. Is there any option, like building a step inside to bring you up to a …?
TOM: I mean you probably could do that but why would you want to have an extra step on the floor? That’s just going to take away from the square footage.
LESLIE: I’ve seen, similar to climbing out of a pool, sort of indentations where your feet would go in to get a foothold to climb up. I’ve seen that built into a wall when you have a similar situation. And then you climb into that egress window and then you climb out, as well. That’s a good solution if you need it but then you have to worry about the ability of somebody who might be in the space and the ability to climb out.
JIM: StakWEL and ScapeWEL.
TOM: Yep. Yeah, take a look at those BILCO products and I think you may find a solution right there.
JIM: OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Calling in from Michigan, we’ve got Sharon on the line.
How can we help you today?
SHARON: We had a new fireplace – gas fireplace – put in last July. And almost constantly, since we’ve had it put in, we hear a whistling/howling noise behind the glass, behind the fireplace. We’ve called the installers and they had a wind guard made and came out, just a few months ago, and put it up by the new cap and the noise is still there.
TOM: Ugh. Hmm. (inaudible)
SHARON: And we – I hear it almost every single day.
TOM: Yeah. Hey, is this gas fireplace – this is completely brand-new or this was a masonry fireplace that was converted to gas?
SHARON: No, it – the fireplace and all the venting is brand-new. When we had the house built 12 years ago, that fireplace went out about a year or so ago. And we couldn’t find replacement parts; everything was discontinued and obsolete. So that’s why we had to put in a brand-new fireplace.
TOM: What brand fireplace did you put in?
SHARON: It’s a Travis 864 TRV.
TOM: The venting on this, is it up through the roof or is it out the back of the fireplace?
SHARON: No, it goes up through the roof. The fireplace is almost in the middle of the house.
SHARON: We kind of almost have a square house. And I did call and ask the guys that put in the venting – the new venting – the angles and the length. And they told me that they went up and – the two angles are going to be at 45 degrees. Initially, from the fireplace, it goes up 12, then turns and goes 10 feet and then up 10 feet to the roof. And the two angles are 45 degrees.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Where it goes through the roof, there’s a rule called the “2-10 rule of chimney construction,” which means that it has to be at least 2 feet above any part of the roof that’s within a 10-foot radius. So if you were to kind of have a 10-foot string swing around that chimney, it has to be 2 feet above the roof at the closest part. Do you have the sense that the vent is tall enough where it comes through the roof?
SHARON: Honestly don’t know.
TOM: So here’s what I would do. I think that you’ve already, you know, talked enough to the installers and the folks that you bought this from. I would talk to the manufacturer. I would talk directly to the folks at Travis Industries. Their website is simply TravisIndustries.com but they have a separate website for this particular fireplace brand. It’s simply called FireplaceX.com. I see the information on the 864. It looks like a beautiful unit but I suspect this is in the venting.
The problem is in the venting and it may have to do with the type of vent that you use or the installation of the vent or the height of the vent above the roof perhaps being not tall enough. Because it sounds to me like what’s happening is as the wind blows over that vent, you’re getting this whistling noise and it should be something that they could figure out and design around.
SHARON: So, the 2 foot above the roofline. What was that again? It has to …
TOM: Think of the chimney coming through the roof, right? If you were to go to the top of the chimney and go 10 feet in any direction, like a circle, that top of the chimney has to be at least 2 feet above any piece of the roof.
TOM: Alright? But I would – I think you should probably work with the manufacturer on this, at least to try to figure out what the possible issues are.
TOM: Because you certainly shouldn’t be putting up with this, OK?
SHARON: Alright. Alright. Thanks so much.
LESLIE: Well, with an aging electrical grid and severe weather seemingly more prevalent than ever, getting caught without power is becoming a lot more common.
Now, generators are an option. But the type all depends on your budget and your needs. There’s two basic types. We’re talking about portable and whole-house. Now, each serves a specific purpose.
TOM: Well, that’s right. So let’s talk about portable generators first. They’re usually gasoline-powered. There’s a range of power they provide. Small units can power a few essential items, like your refrigerator and your lights. And they can also be taken sort of to-go to places like campsites and tailgates.
Now, the pros are that they’re very affordable, they’re compact, they’re portable – you can take them with you to other locations if you need to.
But on the con side, you need to store fuel, operate safely and you need to manually operate. They’re not really designed to be used in the long term. For example, if an outage lasts more than a few days, you’ve got a lot of noise, you’ve got a lot of fumes to deal with and you’ve got to get fuel. And remember, if the power is out in your neighborhood, you’re not able to buy gas. Because power is going to be out at the gas stations, as well. That makes it hard to keep them going.
LESLIE: Now, the whole-house generator, these are installed directly into your home’s electrical system. Now, they can run on natural gas or propane and they’re tied into your home’s fuel source. And they can power the entire house in seconds when the power goes out.
Now, these use an automatic transfer switch and that monitors your utility power. So when that goes out, that automatic transfer switch automatically turns on the generator, whether you’re home or not, and then it automatically shuts it off once the regular power is restored.
Now, the pros here are you don’t have to think about it; it’s safer; you don’t have to store fuel, run extension cords. It’s really good for outages when you’re not home and not able to hook up a portable unit.
Now, the cons here are it can be expensive and you might not be able to recoup that investment if you sell your home. Although, I promise you, it’s going to be a fantastic selling feature.
TOM: You know what I love about my whole-house generator? It always tells me when it’s Thursday, because that’s when it comes on to run the test cycle. Once a week, I hear that come on. I go, “Oh, it must be Thursday.” Yeah, that’s a feature of that. They always run to sort of exercise themselves.
And I think that – I feel so much more comfortable having it. And there’s nothing cooler than coming home to a power outage where everybody in the entire neighborhood has lights out and your house is just bright and cheery.
LESLIE: I know. I feel bad but not too bad. Listen, you’re always welcome to put stuff in my fridge. I’m happy to help out.
Jackie in Florida is on the line with a dishwasher question.
Tell us what’s going on.
JACKIE: Here’s my thing. It’s a Whirlpool dishwasher. It’s only 4 years old. And all of a sudden, just one day a few weeks ago, it just – I noticed all the dishes just stopped drying. And so I did some looking up and just sort of troubleshooting. It could be this, it could be that. And now, they seem to be washing but just not drying. But now there’s mold building up in it, as well.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
JACKIE: And I’ve even noticed – like it’s still hot if I pull it right after the cycle’s done. It’s still – you could still feel the warmness of it but …
TOM: But you’ve got to – but you have to hand-dry them, in other words.
TOM: Well, usually, if the dishwasher is not drying, the problem is in the heating element. The fact that they’re warm is probably just the hot water that you’re using to wash it with, because dishwashers are hooked up to the hot-water side. But the heating element is that electric coil that’s in the bottom of the dishwasher and it may have failed. But you’ve got a decision to make because you just mentioned you have a 4-year-old dishwasher. And having somebody come out and diagnose it and repair it is probably going to cost you 200 or 250 bucks.
TOM: So, what you’ve got to figure out is whether or not you want to risk that or just go ahead and scrap it and go – and order yourself a new one.
TOM: When it gets to be middle-aged like that, it doesn’t always make sense to repair it.
JACKIE: Right. And here’s the thing. I’ve tried to even look up online to see if I could buy the heating element myself and then replace it myself but …
TOM: Yep. Well, you certainly can do that.
JACKIE: But the part number doesn’t come up. I can’t find a matching part to it. And so then I talked to Whirlpool and of course, they want to send someone out and …
TOM: Did you try Sears? Because I think Sears has Whirlpool parts. And they’re really good about stocking a lot of parts and also taking them back if they don’t fit.
JACKIE: Do I have to pull it out of the cabinet to get to the screw to unhook it? Or does it pull right …?
TOM: I wouldn’t know without looking at it. And that’s the other thing: you’re going to be diving into something that you’re unfamiliar with and it might just be that, again, it just doesn’t work.
TOM: So I’m sure that somebody out here has had that problem before and has a YouTube video waiting for you to look at, to kind of figure out.
LESLIE: There’s a YouTube video for everything.
TOM: Yep, exactly.
JACKIE: Right. You can do everything on YouTube.
No. And that’s actually – what I’ve looked into is YouTube, as well. That’s how I figure out how to fix anything and everything these days is YouTube.
TOM: Well, good for you. That’s great.
JACKIE: But I didn’t know if there was a simple way. I cleaned it well. I scrubbed everything down thinking maybe that was the problem, because you know how dirty they get and clogged up.
JACKIE: So, I don’t know.
TOM: But like I said, I don’t think it’s a clog situation. Because if you told me your dishes weren’t coming out clean, then we’d be having a different conversation. But it sounds like they’re just not drying and that’s most likely going to be that coil.
JACKIE: OK. Alright. Well, thank you. I think you just made the – my final decision.
TOM: Alright. Well, we’re glad we could help you out. That’s what we do.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Adam in Louisiana is on the line looking to add some space to the home.
Tell us what you’re working on.
ADAM: Well, I just bought a house – my first home – and it’s pretty small. It’s 1,150 square feet. So it was originally one bedroom and one bathroom. And it’s a pier-and-beam style house. They had put an add-on on the house. They put a concrete slab down and they built an additional bedroom that’s the entire length of the house.
ADAM: What I’d like to do is put a second bathroom in. The existing one is really small and it’s kind of in an awkward spot of the house as compared to where the nice, large bedroom is. So I’d like to build one in the large bedroom, sacrifice a little bit of the space – I don’t need a 400-square-foot bedroom – and put a nice bathroom in there.
ADAM: My concern, though, is with the house being pier-and-beam, it’s raised higher than the addition is. So I have no idea what kind of project it would be regarding plumbing.
TOM: So, the plumbing would – is going into the slab section of the house?
TOM: And you have an attic above that section, as well?
ADAM: No, there’s no attic.
TOM: There’s no attic?
ADAM: Not on the add-on, no. Not in the addition.
TOM: Is it a cathedral ceiling?
ADAM: Yes. So I guess, in theory, I could raise the bathroom.
TOM: Yeah. But that’s going to be kind of weird. Now you have another layer in the house.
Look, the drain is not a problem because for the drain, you can – you’re basically going to have to bust through the slab. But you will hook up the drains outside and then run them to the sewer or to the septic. It’s the water supply that’s a little harder to get to. And that’s why I asked you if you had an attic. Because if that was the case, I would run insulated pipes across the ceiling and then down. But you don’t have those, so we’ve got to get the water supply to that bathroom.
Could the bathroom be on the wall between the old and the new? Is it possible we could bring the plumbing in there?
ADAM: Yes. So I guess, for you to visualize, if you were to walk into the current bathroom – so let’s say facing you, directly in front of you at 12:00 is the shower. At 10:00 is where the toilet is and at about 2:00 is where the hot-water heater is.
ADAM: On the wall opposite the hot-water heater – so I guess it would be about 3:00 – that’s the wall to the new bedroom – for the add-on bedroom.
TOM: OK. And you would back the bathroom up to that? Because that would make the most sense.
ADAM: I would think that’d be the easiest thing to do, yeah.
TOM: Yeah, I think it would make the most sense because you can take advantage of the plumbing there.
I suspect that this is going to end up being a partial renovation of the original bathroom, too, by the time you get all the plumbing reconfigured. But that is going to be probably the best way to do that.
ADAM: OK. I mean is it a major, major undertaking? I’m not really the most handy person on the house except for a couple of YouTube videos and …
TOM: Yeah, it’s not a like, “Hey, let’s – what am I going to do for my first DIY project? I’m going to build a new bathroom.” Not recommended.
TOM: OK? But look, what you might be able to do is to get the help of a professional plumber with the hard stuff, right? Have the drains run, have the supply pipes run, bring everything out into the room where it belongs. Then you could do all the finish work and you have the plumber come back and hook everything up or you hook it up. So, maybe you could just sub out those more complicated parts of this project and do the finish work yourself.
ADAM: Do you have any idea – I know, of course, location, everything else matters. Ballpark idea of how much I should try to budget for a project like this?
TOM: Well, a bathroom is usually a few thousand bucks. But what I might do is try to reach a good-quality plumber. I’m thinking how you should do that. I would go to HomeAdvisor.com and see who’s listed in your area of the country.
ADAM: OK. Mm-hmm.
TOM: And then create a description that fairly assesses the project to be done: adding an additional bathroom. You’re looking for rough and finish plumbing to be completed in those spaces. And put it out there and see what plumbers reply on that.
The nice thing about HomeAdvisor is that you can read the reviews of folks these guys have worked for in the past. I used them when I needed to get emergency plumbing work done for my mom’s house. And I’m in New Jersey and she was in Florida and she wasn’t even there.
TOM: It was a winter home and we got a letter from the water company saying that she’d used 10,000 gallons last month in an empty house. I’m thinking, “Hmm. That’s not good.”
ADAM: Right, right.
TOM: And I was able to find somebody quickly to go in there and figure out what happened and get it fixed. And it turned out to not be a big deal. It was a valve that we thought was off that was on and it was leaking water from the toilet. And we got it resolved.
But the point is that I’d made that decision quickly and easily because I was able to read the reviews on these guys, even though I wasn’t there. So, I would use that service, try to find a plumber. You know, they don’t charge for estimates, generally. And have a couple of them come in and talk with you about the work and probably give you some more ideas on how to get it done. Then you could take it from there.
ADAM: I’ve never owned a home before and this place is 70 years old. Anything I should be on the lookout for? Potential problems or catastrophic issues that I might overlook?
TOM: Yeah. On our website at MoneyPit.com, we have an article that is – that talks about what goes wrong with houses based on the year that they were built.
TOM: But a 70-year-old house, you’d be looking at the plumbing. You could start there. You may have some steel plumbing in there and that’s plumbing that will rust. You may have an antiquated electrical system. There’s a type of wiring called “knob-and-tube” that was common in that time of – that timeframe. It’s an ungrounded system.
Beyond that, it’s pretty much just wear-and-tear things that you would expect.
TOM: On the flip side, the structures are usually pretty well built and you often get hardwood floors and pretty solid wall framing and roof framing and floor framing. OK?
ADAM: OK. Well, thank you very much for your help. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve got an active household, your furniture might suffer the occasional water rings, a ding, a dent, a scratch. Well, luckily, there are many ways to bring furniture back to pristine or near-pristine shape. Here’s how to handle the most common types.
Now, white rings. They’re caused when water vapor penetrates into a finish. But they can be easily removed by wiping them with a cloth barely dampened with denatured alcohol.
Now, shallow chips, this is where a clear finish is chipped but that underlying color is intact. So you can fill that ding with just a few drops of a clear nail polish. And after that polish dries, you want to sand flush with a 600 grit sandpaper.
And then to restore the sheen on a satin finish, you want to rub with a 4/0 steel wool and a paste wax. And for gloss finishes, you can use auto-polishing compound and a rag but strictly keep that to the furniture.
TOM: Now, here’s some tricks for large scratches or worn edges. You can use a felt tip touch-up marker to actually sort of color in that worn edge. And sometimes, I’ve done this with a Sharpie if the finish is dark enough. I sort of color in the place where it’s sort of scratched down to the raw wood, because it’s a lot harder to see a dark line than a lighter line. And if you kind of rub it in there and wipe off the excess immediately, it sort of blends right in.
And then once you get that done, you can add a coat of paste wax over the top of the repair and the adjacent surface. And it will actually give you a very even sheen across the whole thing, making those dark, deep scratches virtually impossible to see.
LESLIE: Now, to restore the sheen on satin finishes, you can rub with a four-ought steel wool. Now, that’s four zeros. Why they call it “four-ought,” I don’t know but that’s just what it is, guys. And you use a paste wax with that. With the ought – four-ought.
Now, for gloss finishes, you want to use an auto-polishing compound and a rag. But make sure it only stays on the piece of furniture. You don’t want anybody slipping and sliding.
Kathy in Arkansas is on the line and has a question about potentially having radon in the home.
Tell us what’s going on and why you might think this.
KATHY: I built a house about 2 years ago, on the slab. And I always hear a lot about radon lately, for some reason. Is that a potential hazard on a slab home or is that only where you have crawlspaces? I just – I don’t know how that works.
TOM: So, it’s technically possible that you could have radon in a house that’s slab-on-grade. Radon is a gas that’s in the soil. And if it builds up to a point where it’s over 4 picocuries per liter of air – that’s the measure of radon – then you would take some action to reduce it in your house.
Typically, if your house is on a basement or a crawlspace – well, if your house is on a basement, it’s probably at the highest risk because it can come directly through the walls and get into that space and up into the house. Crawlspaces not so much because it’s very well ventilated. Slab-on-grade homes can have a radon level if the radon is very, very high in the soil.
Now, the only way to know is with a radon test. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to do. You pick up a radon-testing canister. You can buy one at a home center or you certainly could order one online. You would place this canister in your home for a period of around 2 to 6 days. Then, after that exposure period, you would seal it back up, ship it off to the lab. They would read it and tell you what your radon levels are. And based on that information, you could either do further testing or talk to a radon mitigator about getting it resolved.
So, that’s the – that’s basically the long and the short of it. Slab-on-grade houses don’t have as high a risk as a basement house but it is technically possible for them to have elevated levels.
KATHY: Wow. I just wondered how it could get through the cement from the dirt.
TOM: Yeah, it finds a way.
KATHY: Wow. OK.
TOM: Alright? Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
KATHY: Thank you.
TOM: Well, heating an apartment is the single biggest expenditure during the winter. But while homeowners can do things like purchase new energy-efficient heating systems, renters don’t have the same options to improve heat in a home they don’t own. Or do they?
LESLIE: Yeah. Even if you’re not responsible for your apartment’s heating bill, there are investments that can help you feel warm all winter long. And if your apartment’s heating system and rental agreement permit, you can have a programmable thermostat installed.
TOM: Just set the thermostat lower by 10 degrees overnight and warm your apartment again about an hour before you wake up. And then scoot that temperature down while you’re awake during the day. And better yet, it can happen all automatically if you get a smart thermostat. Because smart thermostats figure out when you’re home and not home and they adjust the heating automatically. This will kind of allow you to set up a very comfortable heating routine and you’ll save about 150 bucks a year in energy costs.
LESLIE: Now, you can also make sure that all heating registers are unobstructed by furnishings and window coverings so that that warm air can actually flow freely into each room of the apartment. Now, if your unit has radiators, you can even slide heat-resistant reflectors between the radiator themselves and the wall. And that’s going to send even more warmth into the room.
TOM: And let’s talk about drafts. You want to seal all those possible air-escape routes around windows and doors with a removable caulking product or a removable weather-stripping product. It’s just like caulk. You seal in the gaps around the windows and the doors and then you peel it back off in the spring. You’ve just got to make sure that it’s not a window that has to open in the event of an emergency and likewise with a door.
Another area to check is the attic hatchway. If you’ve got a panel up in the ceiling that allows access to the attic, that’s a spot where a lot of warm air will exit. So that also ought to be weather-stripped, as well.
LESLIE: And also, if you’re able to turn off heating units in rooms in the apartment that aren’t being used and shut the doors to keep that warm air moving exclusively in those occupied areas, that’s going to help make you feel nice and cozy.
TOM: Yep. And if your apartment is too warm, work with your property manager to solve the problem. Because it might signal an issue with your unit’s heating system.
LESLIE: Ted wrote in to Team Money Pit and he says, “I’m closing on my first house in a few weeks. And one of the first things I need to do is move the washer and dryer hookups from the detached garage to inside the house. Who do I call to do this for me? Do I call a contractor who’s going to sub out the electrical and plumbing work? Or do I call an electrician and plumber separately? It should be pretty easy to install because it will be right beside the existing water heater.”
TOM: Well, first of all, Ted, you’ve got to do the deinstallation, right? So you’re going to remove those machines from this detached garage. That means you’ve got plumbing lines going out there. And I would make sure that those plumbing lines are turned off from the house. Because those plumbing pipes, even though they’re not going to be used, they’re certainly going to be at continued risk of freezing and breaking. So make sure you do that.
And likewise, if you happen to have a 240-volt electrical circuit out there, I’d make sure to turn the breaker off for that inside the house. No sense having that line electrified.
In terms of the installation, you need both. You need a plumber to basically run the pipe and make that connection. And you need an electrician to properly wire the additional outlet for it. Hopefully, you could add this to an existing circuit and not have to wire a new circuit back to the panel, because that’s more work. But you’re right: these are smaller projects.
So what I would do, especially if I was moving into a house new or for the first time, I would sort of group up all my little projects that I want done. Maybe you need an extra outlet somewhere or maybe you need a new faucet or a fixture. Do all that at once. And this way, you’re not paying just for the plumber or electrician to come out for this one smaller project. You get several done at the same time for just a little bit more money.
LESLIE: Alright. Smart. Good tips.
TOM: Well, here’s an idea we could all get behind: better toilet seats. From comfier to cleaner, there are a lot of affordable upgrades out there for your throne. Leslie highlights some popular options, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
So, Leslie. Should we sit down for this?
LESLIE: I’m already sitting down. What? No, I’m kidding.
I mean think about it. All the places you sit at home are comfortable: your desk chair, your sofa. But there’s another place that you do spend a good amount of time sitting and I’m talking about the bathroom. Heck, if you go in there with an iPad, like some people I know, you could be in there for forever, my God. But …
TOM: It’s the reading room.
LESLIE: It is the reading room, which is so crazy. But everybody does it.
So, how can we make your toilet seat, you know, not that cold, uninviting place that’s in your house? There are a bunch of upgrades that are hitting the market and picking up steam and available for less than 200 bucks each.
So, do you hate it when that toilet seat slams closed? I know I jump out of my skin every time it happens, which is a lot with two boys. Well, let’s be honest. They’re not really closing the toilet seat. So when I do hear it, I’m shocked to begin with.
Now, you can stop those instantly with quiet-close toilet seats. All you have to do is a gentle touch and that lid drops super slow and soft and no loud bang and that means less touching and fewer germs as well.
And toilets can be cold. Well, you can shiver no more with toilet seats that sense activity and actually warm up when you sit down. Some models even have adjustable settings so that you can control the temperature. How about that for toasty buns?
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, we’re going to talk about plaster walls. They are common in older houses. But cracks in those walls are just as common, especially after decades of settling. We’ll share a trick of the trade to make repairing those cracks fast and easy, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
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.
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