Butcher Block Countertops that Take Your Worst Kitchen Beating #0402181

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  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And it is that time of the year that we’ve all been waiting for all winter long, you know? You’ve been feeling cooped up? Well, it’s time to bust out.

    I was at Home Depot yesterday. Really busy day in the store. Folks are there. They’re picking up plants, they’re picking up tools. They’ve got that whole outside section set up. Went by the hardware store a little bit later in the day. Needed to pick up something I’d forgotten and the parking lot was packed. It’s just that time of year when just – people just can’t wait to get out and start working on their house, their home, their apartment, their condo, whatever it is that you call home.

    I don’t care if it’s a yurt; we’re here to help you with those projects. But help yourself first: pick up the phone and call us, 24/7. It doesn’t matter when you’re hearing this program. The calls are always answered at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can post your question on the Community page at Money Pit.com.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up, we’re going to talk about butcher-block countertops. Now, they can add beauty and exceptional functionality to your kitchen but they’re also incredibly durable. I mean you can’t beat the fact that this is a countertop that you could cut, pound, chop on and it just gets better over time. So we’ve got some tips on the new trends in butcher block, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And pendant lights are also a popular choice right now and for good reason: they’re sleek and they add a lot of style and drama to your lighting plan. So we’re going to have some tips on both the highs and lows of pendants.

    TOM: Plus, did you know that the average homeowner is going to receive a tax refund of 3,000 bucks? Well, we heard this and figured it’s our duty to help you spend that newfound wealth on your house. So we’re going to have a segment on the best projects for under three grand.

    But first, we want to talk with you. Give us a call, right now, about your how-to project, your décor dilemma, whatever is going on in your money pit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    LESLIE: Ellie in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    ELLIE: Yes. I just recently moved to Florida and the house I bought, the water softener is broken because – I believe it’s because they had it outside the home. Every other house in my community has them in the garage. And mine, they – for some reason, the water line is on the opposite side of the house, in the garage. So, it would be a – I believe it would be a major thing to have the water line brought from one side of the house to the other so I could have it inside.

    And Sears tells me that I can have it put outside but you have to have some kind of protective covering. Lowe’s tells me that they don’t sell any that go outdoors. And a private plumbing company is telling me that they have one that – to put outside, specifically. And other people are saying you don’t even need one, to go – don’t even bother the expense. So, I don’t know what to do.

    TOM: So, first of all, the question is: do you need a water softener or not?

    ELLIE: Right. I’ve looked online and I see the pros and cons.

    TOM: Right. Well, if you – if you’re accustomed to a water softener and you eliminate it, you may find that you don’t like that experience. You certainly could bypass the water softener just to see if you like the water.

    Is the water city water?

    ELLIE: Well, it’s not well water. So does that mean it is city water? I don’t know.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s city water. If it’s city water, you probably do not need a water softener.

    ELLIE: Well, I was – I think no. I don’t think it is city water because people in Ocala, I think they told me that they don’t need it; they have city water. I could be wrong; I’m not sure. But everybody in this development says you need it.

    TOM: Ellie, the first thing you want to do is figure out if you’ve got city water. If you do, it’s going to be treated. If you’ve got well water, then you do need, probably, a water conditioner, as well as to have the water tested to make sure that it’s safe. And that’s something that should be done on an occasional basis.

    Now, in terms of the enclosures, given the fact that you’re in Florida, we’re not concerned about freezing pipes. I wouldn’t be too concerned about putting it outside. I would want to have it enclosed. Now, how do you do that? Well, you either use one that’s rated to be outside – and perhaps your – the water-treatment company – the plumbing company has one that has such a certification, that’s designed for interior or exterior use and that’s fine. And if not, you’re going to have to construct something or have something constructed or perhaps pick up a small shed or something of that nature where the equipment could be protected from the weather.

    But I think the first thing you need to do is determine whether or not you need it and determine what kind of water supply you have. If it’s well water, get it tested. You can even have the hardness tested. You’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with. And if it’s city water, then I think you can try bypassing the system you have right now and see if you like it.

    I hope that helps you out. Ellie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now I’ve got Andy in New Jersey on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you today?

    ANDY: I added on an addition – an enclosed porch – to the back of my rancher. It’s a 12×24 addition. And so, first, it was just a porch. And now, we’re enclosing and trying to make it part of the house. So, the question I have was about insulating the ceiling. Because what it is – it has a gambreled (ph) roof on it. And it comes out of the house 14 feet to the back door and it’s 24 feet wide.

    And then there’s an A-frame, OK, that goes on top. So I call it a “great gambreled (ph) roof.” I don’t know if I’m using the right terminology but – so the insulation in the ceiling on the two sides, OK, it’s like a vaulted ceiling, I guess you might say. See, the rafters are 2×8 and then they drop into the eaves. So, I’m not sure about the ventilation of the roof.

    TOM: So that’s what we call a “cathedral ceiling.”

    ANDY: Right. But it only comes up that far for about 8 feet.

    TOM: Right. It’s like a partial cathedral, so part of it’s flat and part of it is cathedral. Is that correct?

    ANDY: Yes. It comes up – yeah, it comes up right along the rafters of the ceiling for about 8 feet and then it cuts right across.

    TOM: OK. So let me give you some suggestions.

    So, first of all, unrelated to your question, you just mentioned that you built this addition on a porch. Does the porch have a proper foundation?

    ANDY: Well, no, I’m sorry, we built the whole porch there as a porch.

    TOM: Oh, it was all part of it. OK, fine. Because a lot of times, we see folks that take old porches and try to turn them into additions and they don’t have the right foundations. Because before we put money in this, we want to make sure you had a good foundation.

    Now, in terms of insulating the cathedral section, the way you do that is if you have a 2×8 cathedral, roof-rafter kind of span, you can only put 5½ inches of insulation in that. You need to leave the balance of the space for ventilation, as you’ve mentioned. And you are going to need to make sure that you have ventilation at the peak and also towards the bottom of that.

    Now, depending on how it’s configured and how it intersects with the lower slope or the flatter section, you need to figure out a way for air to move above that insulation and get up underneath between the insulation and the rafter and out.

    Now, another way to do this is to not use fiberglass at all. What you could do is use spray-foam insulation – Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. I did this in my house. In fact, I just got an assessment of how well the home was insulated compared – or how energy-efficient the home was compared to my neighborhood. And it went up to being in the top 19 percent of the neighborhood for insulation, which I thought was quite an accomplishment because my house was built 125 years ago. It’s not like we started with a house that was built in the year 2000. This is a 125-year-old house. It’s in the top 20 percent of the most insulated homes in the area because I used Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation.

    And if you use the spray-foam insulation, you don’t need to ventilate. Basically, you’re changing that area from an unconditioned space to a conditioned space. You can spray up right against the underside of the roof sheathing and case the whole thing in foam and it’ll be far more insulated than you could ever get with the fiberglass. Because let’s face it: we like to see R-30, R-40 in terms of insulation ability. But all you can get is R-19 because you can only get 5½ inches of insulation in there.

    ANDY: Alright. Thank you very much for your help.

    TOM: Yep. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit. What’s your how-to or décor question or what are you working on? We’re here to lend a hand. Call in now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.

    TOM: Just ahead, butcher-block countertops can add natural beauty and exceptional functionality to your kitchen. But they’re also a top that is really durable. I’ll have details, just ahead.

    Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jim on the line from Ohio who’s dealing with a high water table.

    JIM: Hi. Our sump pump runs like crazy and we’ve tried to, you know, make sure that the drainage is a little – far away from the foundation. We even went so far as to get the basement sealed and waterproofed, all that stuff, which I think we wasted our money on. But nonetheless, sump pump runs like crazy. All these things have been addressed. It’s just – and everybody says around here it is a hugely high water table, if that makes sense.

    TOM: So, does your basement leak more after a hard rain?

    JIM: Nope.

    TOM: So the rainfall is consistent?

    JIM: Right.

    TOM: So this could be the unique situation where you really truly do have a high water table. If you get basement leakage and precipitation that is worse after a snow melt or a rainfall, then it’s almost always gutter problems or problems with drainage, angle of the grade, that sort of thing.

    JIM: Right, right. As a matter of fact, we took your advice from past shows and had all that stuff addressed, because it is such a common issue. But this is the oddball. Leave it to us to have the oddball.

    TOM: If you truly do have a high water table and you have a subsurface drainage system in below the floor of the basement, then that’s pretty much all that you really can or should be doing right now. Is the water evidencing itself in some way? Is it coming up beyond the floor?

    JIM: No, no. It stays in the sump pump. I know my pump’s not going to last forever. We go through – we’ve gone through 7 or 8 of them in 12 years.

    TOM: Take a look at the pumps that are made by Wayne – the Wayne Pump Company. They make really good pumps that – in fact, they have pumps that are auto-reversing so that if they do get clogged, that they will reverse themselves to kind of spit out the clog and then come back on again.

    JIM: Oh, OK. Awesome. Thanks, you guys.

    TOM: That’s the solution. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    JIM: You guys rock.

    TOM: Well, butcher-block countertops can add natural beauty and exceptional functionality to your kitchen but they’re also a top that’s really, really durable. We’ve got details, in today’s Home Improvement Tip presented by Lumber Liquidators.

    LESLIE: Yeah. If you’re looking for a durable countertop surface that’s going to stand up to everything even the busiest kitchen can dish out, a butcher-block countertop is a great choice.

    Now, butcher-block counters are made from extra wood pieces that are created during the flooring-production process. These smaller pieces of wood are joined together to create a strong, durable and completely beautiful countertop.

    TOM: Now, because butcher block is real wood, you can cut directly on it; there’s no need for a cutting board. Now, professional chefs use butcher-block countertops because they not only withstand the direct knife impact but they can also help keep that cutlery sharper for longer.

    LESLIE: Now, butcher-block counters are also really easy to maintain. You can use a polyurethane sealant for a beautiful, easy-to-clean shine but if you’re going to cut directly on that counter, mineral oil will protect that wood and give it a really rich, old-world beauty.

    TOM: Now, replacing your countertop with butcher block or maybe just adding it as an accent to an island is really a great weekend project that can make a big impact on your kitchen. Plus, there’s even a butcher-block design to be used as a backsplash to totally complete the look.

    LESLIE: Today’s Home Improvement Tip has been presented by Lumber Liquidators. With seven varieties available in 6-foot island tops and 8-foot or 12-foot countertops, Lumber Liquidators’ selection of butcher blocks brings a premium look and feel to your kitchen without the premium price of solid-surface countertops.

    TOM: Visit Lumber Liquidators stores nationwide today or online at LumberLiquidators.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. We’re heading over to Washington to talk with Jean about moss. What can we do for you?

    JEAN: Well, I would like to know, is there a product that I can use safely on blacktop or cement to get rid of moss?

    TOM: Yeah. You can use trisodium phosphate – TSP – which you can buy in the aisle of a – paint aisle of a hardware store or a home center.

    JEAN: OK. Then if you spray that on, do you need to also wash it away and wash it off?

    TOM: Yes. Yeah, you do. You need to let it sit there for a while and you can scrub it and then rinse it away.

    And then another option is a product called JOMAX – J-O-M-A-X. And that’s available at home centers and hardware stores, as well. And that’s made by the Zinsser Company. And that’s a house wash and mildew-stain remover, so that’ll work well on the algae, too.

    JEAN: OK. And is that a spray-on?

    TOM: You mix it up and you spray it on. That’s correct.

    JEAN: OK. And then do you think you need to rinse it off, too?

    TOM: I would follow the label directions. I believe you do. And that will take care of it, OK?

    Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us, Jean, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Mark from Massachusetts on the line with a gutter question. What can we do for you?

    MARK: Hi. I have rental property: two-story, 1890 house. And two days ago, snow just finished melting in Rhode Island and the end of the gutter looks a little bit not at an angle, the wrong angle. And the gutter is dripping at the very end, onto the front granite stairs to the house.

    TOM: Right. OK.

    MARK: So, my concern is – well, obviously fixing that, what would the problem actually be and things like that.

    TOM: It sounds like you may have had some ice buildup there and expanded and pushed the gutter partway off the house. So, I mean typically, that kind of repair is pretty minor. But if it gets into any expense, it could be considered storm damage and something that would be covered by homeowners insurance. But again, if the repair is minor, you might not meet your deductible. So that’s a pretty easy fix. That happens a lot.

    And what I would do, Mark, is when you put the gutter back, I would not use the spikes that are there now. I would replace the spikes with something called a “gutter bolt” or a “gutter screw.” It looks exactly like the spike except it’s threaded. And once you install it, the gutter can’t easily pull out again.

    MARK: But it’s leaking from the bottom of the gutter. Would it be the gutter itself at the end not welded together or something?

    TOM: So it could be a couple of things. It could be that the seam broke, which is unlikely, or it could be that the water’s getting around the gutter and it’s just dripping from the bottom of the gutter. It might not be aligned properly.

    MARK: Oh, wow, wow. I’ve got you now.

    TOM: So I would take a close look at it and make that repair. In my experience, those are generally minor repairs.

    MARK: OK. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Mark. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Alice in Wisconsin on the line who has a question about imitation bricks.

    What can we do for you?

    ALICE: Well, I just want your opinion on some of the advantages or disadvantages or the types of installation, whether it’s better one way than another. And just your opinion on it.

    TOM: Where are you putting these imitation bricks?

    ALICE: On the front of the house, from top to bottom, but just this section.

    TOM: OK. Well, like all projects, Alice, it can be done well or done poorly. But the idea of using synthetic brick and synthetic stone is one that is a solid process. And not to coin a phrase but it’s a good idea. You can get a lot of beauty out of those bricks and out of that sort of synthetic stone, at a lot less weight than you would have to deal with if they were real masonry materials. You might want to take a look at the company called Boral – B-o-r-a-l – Boral Brick. They make brick and stone synthetic products that are – adheres to the outside of homes and look absolutely terrific.

    ALICE: And then there’s different ways. I’ve got the information on three or four different styles. Some are nailed, some have clips and some have no mortar.

    TOM: OK. Well, the ones that are nailed or clipped, that’s a type of siding. That’s not like a stucco process where it’s adhered to the outside of the house. That’s basically a siding that looks like brick.

    And I don’t know about you, Leslie, but I haven’t seen any of those siding products that really look like brick.

    LESLIE: No. I really would go with a faux product. Tom’s recommendation is a good one. Kodiak is another one that makes an exterior faux stone. And those will all be applied like a tile would be, with mortar with – to really stand the test of time. And they’ll look amazing and they’ll look more realistic.

    And basically, when you’re dealing with a faux stone, it’s made from – is it poured concrete, Tom? They pour it into the forms and colorize it to give it all of that natural depth and beauty.

    TOM: Right. It’s a slurry mix but it basically is made in a factory and can take on any shape or color or form that you wish. I would look into Zodiac or Boral as the manufacturers of those synthetic brick products. I think you’ll be very happy with either one. OK?

    ALICE: OK. And are they fine in a northern climate?

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Well, pendant lights are a popular choice these days and for good reason: they’re sleek and they can add style and drama to your lighting. Up next, Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, is joining us with tips.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment on The Money Pit is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Get the latest spring trends and hottest styles in bamboo, laminate, wood-look tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Whether you’re planning a décor project, remodeling your kitchen or bath or fixing a leak or a squeak, we’re here for you every step of the way. Call in your question now to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    TOM: HomeAdvisor is the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    LESLIE: Well, pendant lights, they are a popular choice these days and for good reason: they’re sleek and they can add instant style and drama to your lighting.

    TOM: True. But is this an electrical project you can hang yourself? Here to talk about both the highs and the lows of pendants is a guy that we like to hang out with: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Great to be here, guys.

    TOM: So, is this a DIY project or one best left to the pros?

    KEVIN: You know, it depends but in most cases, I think it’s a DIY project.

    TOM: Alright. Well, let’s start at the beginning. Let’s talk about what a pendant light is, for those that aren’t familiar.

    KEVIN: Well, you can imagine these things are suspended from the ceiling and they’re hanging by a rod or a chain. And they’re putting light down onto the surface or maybe even casting it sort of ambient through the space. They come in all different sizes, they come in all different prices. Some of them are as small as 4 inches, some of them are as big as 12 inches. Maybe $25 for one, maybe $250. A lot of options exist.

    TOM: So this sounds like a good option for task lighting, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean not only do they work great over a kitchen island or maybe an area where you need some specific downlighting but they really can look great in an entryway or even a hallway.

    TOM: OK. So let’s say you do want to hang them yourself. Where do you begin?

    KEVIN: Turn the power off.

    TOM: That’s always a good place.

    KEVIN: Turn the power off so you don’t get electrocuted. And I actually like to use an electrical tester when I do any electrical work. Because even if you turn a circuit off, you want to make sure that you’ve got that circuit right.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: You can put one of these little sticks up to it and it will let you know if there’s any juice running through those wires.

    But once the power is off, it’s pretty straightforward: you’ve got a new fixture, the wires are colored and you want to match them up with the colored wires that may be in the wall or in the box.

    TOM: Now, what about the controls for these? It seems like dimmers would be a really good application for this.

    KEVIN: Dimmers are great. You can imagine if you have them hanging over a kitchen island and you’re preparing dinner, you want them nice and bright. But when dinner is being served, maybe you want to dim them down a little bit.

    And the other thing I like to do, in terms of wiring them – it’s pretty straightforward, right: white wire to white wire, black wire to black wire. But sometimes it could be a three-way circuit. And I have actually taken little pictures of the wiring of whatever fixture I’m taking out so that I can rewire it the proper way when I’m putting it back in.

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s a good trick of the trade.

    KEVIN: Because sometimes you do get confused. The three-ways are a little bit more complicated to wire up.

    LESLIE: So, Kevin, when it comes time to install the new fixture, say the pendant itself has two wires that are the same color. Is there a way to tell the difference between those two?

    KEVIN: Well, sometimes, you can actually do it by feel. If you have one of the wires and you feel it and it is ribbed, well, that means it’s probably the neutral wire, whereas the hot wire is actually flat. So that might help you distinguish between the two.

    If you’re unsure, though, about what the wires are on the fixture, and especially if you’re unsure what the wires may be in the wall, then it’s time to call an electrician.

    LESLIE: Yeah, good idea. And especially if you’ve got a lot of projects, save them all up, hire that electrician once and have them take care of everything.

    TOM: Yeah, good point.

    Now, what about flickering? That sometimes is a problem with pendant lights.

    KEVIN: Yeah. Well, a flicker probably comes when you don’t have a great connection. And that bad connection might actually be between the bulb and the socket.

    TOM: OK.

    KEVIN: Lights attract bugs and they can actually get in there. So turn the power off, take the bulb out, clean it out – maybe some compressed air blown in there will get rid of any bugs or dirt – and then put the light bulb back in.

    TOM: And if it still doesn’t work, call a pro.

    KEVIN: You got it.

    TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure, guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on how you can install a pendant light, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by Marvin Windows and Doors.

    Just ahead, did you know that the average homeowner will receive a tax refund of 3,000 bucks? So, we figured it’s our duty to help you spend that newfound wealth on your house. We’ll have the best projects for under 3K, next.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And it’s tax time again. And if you’re an average homeowner, you might be happy to know that the average refund you could expect to receive this year is about 3,000 bucks. So, we got to thinking, “How could we help you spend that money?” What kinds of improvements could you do with three grand in a tax refund? And it turns out there are actually quite a few.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And many of those improvements will actually add real value to your home. Imagine that. So with us to talk about that is Brad Hunter, the chief economist for HomeAdvisor.

    Welcome, Brad.

    BRAD: Hey, Leslie. Hi, Tom.

    TOM: You have a very fun job: the chief economist for HomeAdvisor. I imagine when you went to parties and just told folks that you were an economist, they probably didn’t have much to say. But when they find out that you’re an economist for HomeAdvisor, you know all about home values and home improvements, you’re probably the most popular guy in the room.

    LESLIE: You’re always talking shop.

    BRAD: Oh, yeah. Everybody has a story that they want to tell about their project: what they’ve done, what they want to do, what they tried to do and figured out they couldn’t or what they didn’t love and so all – it runs the gamut but everybody has a story.

    TOM: Well, we want to talk about the story of improvements that you can do with that tax refund.

    First of all, I was kind of surprised to hear about that number from you guys: 3,000 bucks. That’s a good chunk of change.

    BRAD: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s a good financial strategy to use that money to shore up and enhance your biggest asset: your home. And the term that I coined is “nesting is investing.”

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: That’s true.

    TOM: Love that.

    BRAD: Put money back into your home, especially in this uncertain time with what’s the stock market going to do? Is it going to go up, down or we don’t really know? I think some people are going to say, “You know what? I’m going to take that money and put it someplace safe.” And in the home is pretty safe.

    TOM: Like paint.

    BRAD: Good. Exactly.

    TOM: Well, we’ve got five projects that you can get done for under three grand and the first one is to paint a home’s exterior. I mean we can relate to that because not only does that make your house look great, it really does protect it. Of course, that’s very important for preserving the value of that house. And HomeAdvisor is pegging that at around 2,700 bucks. So it’s in the budget and it’s something that you can get done pretty quickly.

    BRAD: Yeah, it’s a quick, easy project. It doesn’t cause too much disruption in your household and in your routine. You can get it done in and quickly, in and out. And it really adds a lot of pop, a lot of curb appeal, which everybody loves especially because, sooner or later, pretty much all of us are going to sell the house. And it’s nice to do something that can increase its value, increase the curb appeal. Good way to get there.

    And yeah, like you said, our research shows that the average cost nationwide of painting the exterior of a home is $2,690. And there’s a pretty wide range, depending on the size of the house. It could go way lower than that, it could be a lot higher than that.

    LESLIE: Plus, your neighbors will all love you when your house looks super great.

    BRAD: Oh, yeah. It just makes you feel good.

    LESLIE: It really does. But this next one I like because springtime, you usually do a major overhaul of cleaning inside your house. And I usually do the closets, the garage, everything. And you guys are recommending installing closet organizers. That’s great because it helps you put everything back neatly and you can find it. And you can do this in that budget, as well, right?

    BRAD: That’s right. Yeah, the average cost for installing closet organizers or having a professional help you install them is $1,521. And so, yeah, like you said, you kick off your spring cleaning, you get organized. And the most important thing to think about, as an economist, is: how does this allow me to extract more value out of the house or as economists say, “Utility. How much more utility can I get out of my own house?”

    And when you organize it and you use the space more efficiently, that allows you to feel like you’ve got more space. And everybody wants that.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    Now, here’s one that I think will resonate with everyone and that is – it’s a kitchen improvement. And I we all know that kitchens and bathrooms are always rooms that give you a great return on investment. But to fix up a kitchen, new cabinets, you could be talking $20,000 to $100,000 to do a major kitchen remodel. You’re suggesting just countertops.

    And I think that’s cool because, you know, the countertop is really the largest visual surface in that space. It’s one that we can do for 2,908 bucks through your research.

    BRAD: That’s right. That’s the average nationwide. Now, that includes all kinds of countertops, from the very low-end Formica, all the way up to granite and quartz and things like that. So, installing new countertops is a great way to revamp a kitchen or a bathroom, for that matter, without doing an all-out renovation of the whole room. It just adds such a pop, such an appeal to the room and just makes it look so fantastic.

    So, granite is popular as one of the higher-end surfaces. And then you also have the newest trend towards quartz, which is easier to keep clean. You don’t have to seal it. And it’s a manufactured countertop as opposed to pulling a big chunk out of the ground and smoothing it and using that as your countertop.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And the quartz products are really gorgeous. And I think the best part about changing your countertop is you’re right: you get a completely different look without doing very much work in the kitchen itself or even in the bath. And that’s really great.

    Now, this next one, I like this idea. I think people get really daunted by it because when you think about refinishing your hardwood floors, it’s disruptive, it’s a big mess. But generally, you haven’t touched those floors since the day you moved in. I know I refinished my hardwood floors. That was 15 years ago.

    TOM: But the good news is we can do this for well under the value of our average tax refund: 1,637 bucks.

    BRAD: That’s right. Yeah, that’s the national average for refinishing hardwood floors. And yeah, they’re – the rate of return on that kind of investment in your home is very high. You pretty much get back – on average, people get back every dollar that they put into refinishing their hardwood floors when they go and eventually sell the home. But I always like to say to people – my advice is: do it early so you can enjoy it, too. Don’t just wait until you’re getting ready to sell the house to do that. Do it when you can enjoy it. You’ll really get a lot out of the house by doing that.

    LESLIE: And you know what’s interesting, Brad, is it gives you extra money to go stay at a hotel a couple of nights while all of this is going on.

    BRAD: Right.

    TOM: While you’re waiting for it to dry.

    I like the fact that if you’re going to do your floors, you have to take everything out of the room, which forces you to sort it out and organizing and spring cleaning all in one project.

    Alright. And finally, an outdoor-living project that everyone could relate to: installing a concrete patio. Average cost, 2,515 bucks according to the research that you folks have done at HomeAdvisor.com. And I guess with spring pretty much being here and summer around the corner, this is the time for that project to get done.

    BRAD: That’s right. It’s a great idea. You can do some grilling, do some entertaining out in your backyard. Decks, patios, as you say, all kinds of outdoor-living investments are popular these days. And with people having gained equity in their homes, sometimes they’re going beyond just a concrete patio and doing something a little bit more upscale. So it all depends on your budget and how confident you feel in the value of your home. And so you can also do pavers, tile, brick, a fire pit.

    TOM: Yep. Yeah. Fire pits are more popular than ever right now. So, again, a great project to do.

    We’re talking to Brad Hunter. He’s the chief economist for HomeAdvisor.

    Brad, I’ve got to tell you, I really appreciate HomeAdvisor. I have used the service, personally, a number of times. Once I used it for my mom. She’s in her 80s. She lives in Florida. She was up here for the summer and got a letter from the water company saying that she had used 10,000 gallons of water in her vacant house, 2,000 miles away. And we’re like, “Oh, my God. What are – what’s going on at that house? Is it going to float away?”

    BRAD: Yeah, that’s not good.

    TOM: Well, what did I do? I used HomeAdvisor to find a local contractor. Found a great plumber named Eric. Sent him in. Neighbor let him in. Turned out it was a leaky fill valve on the toilet. We thought we’d turned that off but apparently, it didn’t. It was spilling water into the drain, so no damage. And it was fixed just like that, at a very fair price. So, it was so easy to do that because of the reviews on your site. I was able to make a choice of a contractor very, very simply and get that done.

    So, we appreciate your service. And we appreciate your time stopping by The Money Pit and filling us in on some great projects that we can get done with that tax return that is coming our way.

    BRAD: Glad to help. Good to be on the show. Thank you.

    TOM: Thanks, Brad. Brad Hunter from HomeAdvisor, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    Hey, check out HomeAdvisor.com for lots of tips just like that. And also, the best place to find a pro to get any project done around your house is HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Alright, Brad. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    Hey, is crud piling up on your deck? Dirt, tree pods, seeds and more tend to do just that. We’ll solve this problem for a member of The Money Pit community, next.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And The Money Pit is presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home improvement pros you can trust. Call in your home improvement question, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You can also post your question online, just like Justin did. Now, he writes: “My composite deck boards were not spaced properly. They all butt together, leaving no room for drainage. And the water and the dirt, it just builds up, making it a real cleaning problem. The boards were nailed in and I already broke one attempting to take it out. Any suggestions?”

    TOM: Man, it sounds a lot like Brad’s workmanship here or his contractor’s workmanship here was just not up to snuff.

    LESLIE: Do you think it’s certain that they’re nailed in? Sometimes they have that little attachment clip that they sort of lock into each other and that gets them pretty tightly together, too.

    TOM: I think if he tried to take one up and broke it, he really – he pretty much just figured out how they’re secured in place. And given the workmanship here, because of what I’m about to tell you, I’m not surprised. Because if this was done right, there would have been spacing between those boards.

    Now, some contractors think that because composite is not wood, it’s not going to expand and contract, which is the reason you leave the gaps in the wood when you put down pressure-treated. But you need to leave those gaps in there for drainage, to stop the stuff from gunking up. And in fact, a lot of manufacturers have a spacing tool that’s specifically designed for this purpose. Because if you have an even space across the whole deck surface, it looks great.

    And also, the fact that he used nails to put the composite down instead of screws, really bad idea. I mean why would you spend the money on composite and then nail it down when you could use screws that actually will go through the surface? And the type of composite screws they have today basically disappear and you never see them again. And you have a much …

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s like self-healing almost.

    TOM: Yeah, you have a much better surface. So, I do have a suggestion for you, Brad, and that is that you may be able to restore that spacing with a circular saw. And you’ve got to be good at this, OK? So this is not for the amateur.

    If you can handle a circular saw, what you could do is you could set that blade depth to be just deep enough to cut through the composite. Then you could run it down the seam between the two boards. And what will be left – what you’ll be taking out is basically about an 1/8-inch of material and that will be your gap. And hopefully, that will help your drainage situation moving forward.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we have a post from Stephanie who writes: “The product I use for my self-cleaning oven spilled into my white Corian sink and left yellow stains. Is there any way to get rid of them?”

    TOM: Well, I think the nice thing about Corian is you can sand it. The damage – the stain, in this case – is on the outside of the surface. I’ve seen this happen in my own kitchen with spaghetti sauce, right? We dump it into the Corian sink and it ends up looking very stained. But then we use a cleaner like Bon Ami or something like that, that’s got a little texture to it …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Something with a little bit of a grit.

    TOM: Yeah, a little grit and a little bit of a kind of a bleaching kind of an effect to it, it cleans it up. But if it’s really bad, all you need to do is take some really fine sandpaper, like wet/dry paper, like the black paper that’s used for metal polishing …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That’s a 400-grit?

    TOM: Yeah, about a 400-grit. And if the sink is really dry, if you start lightly abrading that, lightly sanding it, I think you’ll find you’ll take off just that top surface that’s the stained part of it. And that should brighten it right up. That’s the nice thing about solid-surfacing material, like Corian and others, is that you can abrade it if you get a little bit of damage like that.

    And then just be careful to keep those staining messes out of that sink. Because if it’s white, especially, it does take the stain right away. It’s the one thing I don’t like about those Corian sinks is it does stain pretty easily; it does require a lot of cleaning. But so does marble. The one that doesn’t is quartz. Quartz really is – of all those natural products and that natural look, I should say, that’s the one that seems to stand up the best.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I’d still be nervous with the quartz, even if it were that light Carrara marble. You’ve got just to be careful with how you use your (inaudible) sometimes.

    TOM: It’s not as indestructible as people like to think. That’s for sure.

    LESLIE: I know.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit. Thank you so much for spending this part of your spring day with us. We hope we’ve given you some great ideas to help fix up your money pit. Remember, if you’ve got questions, we are here, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. Just phone in your number or post it to The Money Pit’s Community page 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 2018 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.)

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