TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are so pleased to have you here today. We’re here to talk about your house, your home; give you some tips, some ideas, some inspiration to get projects done around your home.
Coming up in just a couple of weeks, it’s a big holiday. Well, it’s a very important holiday. Guys, you need to pay attention to this. It’s Valentine’s Day. And if you usually give flowers or candy, hey, we’ve got another idea. We’re going to help you step it up and spice it up with a Valentine’s Day room makeover.
LESLIE: That’s true. Also ahead this hour, we’re going to take on an annoying problem: shaky stairs and loose railings. Hey, that could be your Valentine’s Day gift. That’s one thing in a house that people tend to tolerate, just because they really don’t know where to begin to fix it. So we’re going to share some tips, in just a bit.
TOM: Plus, if the thought of shoveling more snow has you paining for a better solution, well, it might be time to invest in a snow blower. We’re going to explain the options, to help you pick the best one for your house. So let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Lisa in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
LISA: I’ve got borders and wallpaper to take down. Now, what if I paint over it? Should I prime it? And if I have to take it off, do I score it and then peel it off? Do I use water and vinegar? Hey, that’s my question.
TOM: So here’s the best way to approach this project. And yeah, you’re right: it is a lot of work. But we really don’t like the idea of painting over the wallpaper, because you’re just kind of putting off the problem for later. It makes it even harder to deal with.
TOM: The easiest way to take off a lot of wallpaper is with a steam wallpaper stripper. And it’s a tool that you can easily rent. I know Home Depot rents them. I’m sure other places rent them. And it really does a good job of steaming the glue and loosening up the paper.
You can speed the job up by scoring the wallpaper. And there’s a neat little tool called a “paper tiger” that is really a one-of-a-kind. And it kind of rolls over the paper and puts a bunch of little holes in it that helps the steam get through the surface to get to the glue underneath. And it comes off that much easier.
Now, even though I say it’s easier, it is still a lot of work, so I don’t want you to kid yourself. But renting the steam stripper for the wallpaper is definitely the best way to go.
LISA: Well, cool. Thanks a million.
LESLIE: George in Utah is on the line with some sort of subfloor issue over at their money pit. What is going on?
GEORGE: Yeah, I’ve got a bathroom floor that’s starting to crack in places, made of tile. So the flooring underneath it is crumbling and I’m just not sure what to fix it with.
TOM: Are they big tiles? Are they wide tiles, like 12-inch-wide tiles or what?
GEORGE: They’re about – yeah, they’re your standard 12-by …
TOM: Yeah, I figured that. When you have those big tiles, the floors have to be that much stronger because there’s no flex in those big tiles. I mean if you have – you know, if you have mosaic tiles and they’re only an inch by an inch, all those grout lines give you a little bit of flex. But in those big tiles, it’s got to be rock-solid.
So, there’s no easy fix for this. You’re looking at having to tear out that floor and properly rebuild it. If you want the big, wide tiles, you’re going to have to take out everything that’s there, down to the subfloor. Put in new plywood subfloor, probably pretty thick subfloor, too, so it’s really strong. Or maybe even go with a mesh mud floor where basically you put mesh down, then you put a mix of concrete over that floor – a slurry mix – and then level it out and then glue the tile on top of that so that it’s absolutely rock-hard and perfectly flat. Otherwise, what’s going to happen is you get any deviation in that space, you’re going to break that tile.
GEORGE: Hmm. OK.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Gerald in Massachusetts, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
GERALD: I have a roof that is about seven years old. And I notice on a couple of the eaves, where the shingles go down from the garage onto my breezeway, I get a little bit of leakage. And I was just wondering if, possibly, I could use that Flex Seal. Would that help and not hurt my shingles? I’m sure they’re the standard type of shingles. They’re about, what, 30-year asphalt shingles?
TOM: Yeah. So, when you say this is between your breezeway and your garage, is there a sort of a flashing point there? Is there an intersection of a wall and a roof or two different kinds of roofs? Give me a better picture of what’s going on.
GERALD: There is, there is. Between the breezeway and the garage, there is a different wall. The flashing? No, not really.
TOM: So, you’re just seeing shingles that are just sticking up?
GERALD: I notice that, yes, when I went up the – when I went on the roof and I cleaned off all of my pine needles – I have a lot of pine needles in my property – I noticed that the shingles would stick up.
TOM: I would just use asphalt roof cement. That’s what that stuff is designed for.
GERALD: Is that what that – OK, I was going to ask you if there was any other thing that you would suggest.
TOM: You can get some asphalt roof cement. It comes in a quart-size can. Get one of those disposable putty knives. You can apply a dab of it under the shingle, press the shingle down. Maybe you have to weight it overnight, if you want to put something on it.
TOM: But that’ll hold those – hide to hold those tabs down. The shingles actually have a cement underneath the tab but sometimes, that breaks down or wears out and that’s why – where asphalt roof cement will come in.
GERALD: I see. So asphalt roof cement. Thank you very much, sir.
TOM: Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question. Whatever it is you are working on this home improvement weekend, we want to lend a hand. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, when the snow comes down, you know what happens? The shoveling starts and then the backaches follow. Well, snow blowers can be a much better option. We’re going to share some tips on how you can choose the right one for your driveway and your walks, 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: Well, spring is just around the corner. In another month or so, we’ll be into some warmer weather. And I’ve got …
LESLIE: You’re always an optimist, Tom.
TOM: I know. I am. I’m ready for it.
LESLIE: You’re always looking forward.
TOM: I’m ready for it. Well, I’m ready for it and I plan for it. I’m going to do a project I’ve been putting off for a long time and that is garage reorganization. I’ve got a lot of tools and I’ve got a big family. And sometimes, after a winter and after the fall, all of that stuff, like all sides of my life – the tool side of my life, family side of my life – it all shows up in piles in the garage.
LESLIE: One big, jumbled-up mess.
TOM: Kind of a maze of air conditioners and tools and furniture and kids’ stuff from college and all this. So I’m going to do it; I’m going to completely empty this building. Because I think that’s the best way to get this project done. Then I’m going to epoxy the floor and then I’m going to try to put back about half of what was there, if I can get away with it.
LESLIE: And you know what, Tom? You really brought up a good point. When you’re organizing this space, I think the biggest step that you can do is emptying that space. You really want to sort of take an inventory of what you’ve got. And the best way is just get everything out, pull it all out, look at what you have and then decide what you’re keeping, what you can get rid of, what you can donate. And then what’s left in the I-really-need-to-have-to-have-this pile – then you can sort through, buy the correct storage containers and really get organized.
TOM: Well, I’m going to be donating some tools. I’m going to make some local people very, very happy.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, good luck with the project.
Now we’re going to Missouri where Tammy is having issues with her new furnace. What’s going on? Let’s talk you through this.
TAMMY: Oh, I replaced the furnace in my mobile home here before the beginning of winter. And since then, I’ve had a buzzing noise in my breaker box every time it kicks on. I would like to say that the furnace that I replaced was about up to my knees. And the newer furnace is about chest high. Would that have something to do with the pulling of the amps or …?
TOM: Well, the size of the – physical size of the unit may or may not be related to this. It’s more like how much power is it pulling and how is it wired into the break box? But if you’re getting a vibration in the breaker box itself, that’s not a good sign. The breaker could be deteriorating internally and what you’re hearing are the early stages of that or perhaps the advanced stages of that. I don’t know.
I would tell you that if you’ve got that kind of a signal, I would definitely have it checked out by an electrician. Open that panel up, have him pull out those breakers, look behind them. Make sure they’re – it’s sized properly. Make sure nothing is over-fused, for example, where the wrong size fuse is being used on a wire and therefore not protecting it from overheating.
It’s definitely not a good sign and shouldn’t be happening. And you need to get it checked out further, OK, Tammy?
TAMMY: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jeff in Iowa needs some help with a low-flow showerhead. In true Seinfeld fashion, you’re just not getting a good wash going?
JEFF: No. No, I’m not. My house is a 1978 ranch. We’ve lived here about 10 years. I’ve always had good water – what I felt was reasonably good water pressure. Still has the original showers and showerheads in it, so I decided to upgrade everything to more eco-friendly stuff. Replaced the toilets, no problems. But the showerheads, I put these low-flow showerheads on and it’s like the water is just barely – I expected some decrease in performance, obviously, but the water is just like falling out of them. It’s not spraying out like I would expect.
TOM: Is this just happening at one showerhead, Jeff, or is it happening at several showerheads?
JEFF: Two showerheads.
TOM: Two showerheads, OK. So, we can rule out any kind of blockage because it wouldn’t be happening to both at the same time.
Now, what kind of showerheads did you put in there? Can you tell me the brand?
JEFF: Well, the first one was the home improvement store’s brand showerhead. The second one I’ve got is a Waterpik. It’s not the highest end of – I thought maybe I just went too cheap on the first one, so I went kind of middle-of-the-road. Made it – I didn’t know if I maybe needed to upgrade even more or just go back to the old showerheads.
TOM: So, when you install a low-flow showerhead and you didn’t have one before, you are correct in that you’re going to get a reduction in the power of the shower that perhaps you were used to.
Now, there should be an adequate amount of water. And the fact that you’re not feeling that means that maybe you don’t have the right showerhead or there’s something wrong with the installation. I’d like to, for the purpose of this conversation, rule out the installation, rule out any clogging, although that is entirely possible. And you might want to take it off to look behind it to make sure that’s the case.
But what I would recommend is that you upgrade the showerhead to a name brand, like a Moen or perhaps a Delta. Because these guys spend a lot of time and a lot of money engineering their showerheads so that they don’t decrease performance when they save you water. And the other thing to look for is a certification called WaterSense. And it’s sort of like ENERGY STAR for appliances but it’s like measuring water efficiency for faucets and showerheads.
JEFF: I will definitely give that a try because what I’ve got going on now, it takes me so long to shower and get film and stuff, I might as well use the high-flow and …
TOM: Not going to work, right? Yeah.
JEFF: Then in and out, you know? It takes the lumps. So, yeah, it’s not doing the trick. I will look into the more expensive one and see what that does for me.
TOM: Alright. Yeah, you can always take it back if that doesn’t work. But take a look at the installation first, just to be sure. Make sure you don’t have any plumbing tape that got jammed in there or anything of that nature, OK?
JEFF: OK. Sounds good. Thanks, guys.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Jeff. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if this is the season that’s got you thinking you’re finally ready to invest in a snow blower, there are a lot of options available now. And a lot of them are very affordable, especially when you figure in the savings on a few of those trips to the chiropractor.
LESLIE: Seriously. Shoveling snow really can do a number on your body. I know they always say you’ve got to stretch before you shovel. And really, who the heck does that? But it’s true. I bet you’d feel a lot better.
Well, you know what’ll really make you feel better is a snow blower. And the snow blower actually has an interesting history. It was invented by a teenager who wanted to get out of doing work around the house. This is, as the story goes, back in 1941, a very mechanically inclined Boston teenager named William Murphy was looking for an easier way to clear snow from his home’s 100-foot-long driveway. I mean can you blame the kid? So he took a small, 1-cylinder Briggs & Stratton gas engine – one that’s commonly used in lawn mowers – and then he modified it to throw the snow.
TOM: And what’s interesting, the design, the basic concept hasn’t changed a lot since then. So, if you want to buy one, there’s a couple of things to know. First of all, you have to know what – how many stages you want. There’s a single-stage blower and then there’s two-stage snow blowers. The difference is that with single-stage gas snow blowers, they use an auger. It spins at a really high speed and it chips up the ice and the snow to collect it and throws it straight out a chute.
The two-stage blower is a little bit different. The blowers have a spinning kind of impeller that’s behind the snow-collection auger. The impeller functions like a pump. It collects the snow that’s churned by the auger and then pushes it from the discharge chute out at an increased speed. More snow, basically, is moved and it could also be moved at greater distances, in some cases up to about 40 or 50 feet with some models. So that’s for the big, serious snow-blowing tasks like clearing a parking lot or maybe 100-foot driveway.
TOM: But the other thing is that there’s also battery-powered snow blowers that are available today.
LESLIE: And they work very, very well. They charge quickly, they hold their charge well. And they can clear a fairly decent-sized driveway. I actually have a battery-operated one and it works very well, only because I truly have a hard time starting the gas blowers. I don’t know why. I just can’t seem to do them. So, for me, the battery-operated one, it’s much more lightweight, it’s easier for me to use.
Now, I think a lot of people get concerned, when they think about snow blowers, is they think that they’re a really dangerous piece of equipment to use. And it’s important to remember anything can be dangerous if you’re not following the rules. So you want to pay attention, you want to read the directions. But you’ve got to remember that the injuries are most frequently happening when the person who’s using it is trying to clear that auger or the collector area with their hands. And that’s a huge mistake.
According to Consumer Products Safety Commission, every year there are almost 6,000 hospital emergency-room visits due to snow-blower related injuries. So you always want to stop the engine. And then remember, use a long stick to do any unclogging of wet snow or debris from the machine. This way, you’re keeping your hands far, far away and really at a safe distance.
TOM: Yeah. And the interesting thing about that, Leslie, is even if the engine is stopped, it can still be under tension and the blade can advance.
LESLIE: Yeah, once you clear that blockage.
TOM: Right. Never ever stick your hands in there, period. Always use a stick to do that.
LESLIE: Frieda from Ohio is on the line with The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
FRIEDA: Hi. My Amana Radarange microwave, it’s mounted above my stove. And on the bottom, the down light that shines down onto the stove, the light bulbs in that keep burning out. And I have to replace them about once a month and they’re getting expensive.
TOM: What kind of light bulb are you using? Just a regular incandescent?
FRIEDA: It’s like the R11, the little appliance bulbs? Forty watt?
TOM: And is this a fairly new problem, this once-a-month burnout, or has it been going on for a long, long time?
FRIEDA: It’s getting worse. We’ve had the microwave in here – it’s probably about 16 years old or – give or take.
TOM: Yeah, that doesn’t really owe you any money. That’s pretty old for a microwave appliance. You’ve pretty much reached the end of a normal life cycle. In fact, I’m kind of surprised it lasted that long, because it’s been my experience that the microwave ovens that are mounted above ranges don’t last nearly as long as a countertop microwave. Because the additional heat from all that cooking has the effect of sort of wearing on those components.
Typically, when you get a bulb that burns out quickly, it’s either because you have a loose connection, you have a loose ground or you have a problem with the voltage that’s going in there.
Sometimes, depending on what’s happening with the power company, you could be getting, say, more than 120 volts. You might be getting 125 or 130 volts, sometimes, because there could be something that is bad down the line with the power supply – the quality of the power supply. So if you have extra volts going into those lights, that is one of the first things that tends to show it. It’s kind of like the canary in the coal mine. When the lights start to go – burn out frequently – like that, it could be an issue with the voltage.
So, have you been thinking about a new microwave?
FRIEDA: Not really.
TOM: What I would suggest is at this point, you really need to have the voltage tested. So I would call the utility company and ask them to meter the voltage going into your house and see if it’s – let’s eliminate that as a possibility.
If that is OK, I would – the second thing I would check is the plug that it’s actually plugged into. I’d check the outlet to make sure it’s properly grounded. And if it’s properly grounded, then I think you’ve exhausted the two things that are the easiest to fix and at that point, you might want to think about replacing the microwave.
FRIEDA: Alright. That sounds good.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, does your home suffer from some shaky stairs or loose railings? Well, fixing them to make steps safe again is actually pretty easy. We’re going to tell you how, after this.
MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit, my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.
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LESLIE: Pure Safety is also fire-resistant. In case of a fire, you’re going to have extra minutes to escape to safety. And those are minutes that can make all the difference.
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LESLIE: Making good homes better, you’ve got The Money Pit. I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: Hey, guys, if you’ve got a flooring project planned for the next few months and maybe it’s a vinyl-flooring project, here is a tip that’ll make your project go a lot easier. Now, vinyl flooring is really easiest to work with at room temperature. I mean have you ever picked up a roll of vinyl and it’s cold out and you had it in your car and it gets inside your house? They are really almost impossible to unroll and get to lay down flat. So you want to make sure that before you install it, take it out of your car, even your garage, put it in the space where it’s going to go and give it some time to warm up. You will see that that material is going to be so much easier to work with and your project is truly going to get done a lot easier.
TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Tim in Iowa is on the line with some issues with a basement floor. What is happening at your money pit?
TIM: Well, I’ve got a 1920s house. I’ve got a ditch out in front of the house. When I get a lot of rain, I get a wet basement. My question is: is there any product, purely decorative, to put on the basement floor that is not going to come up when my basement floor does get wet?
TOM: How about this idea? How about if we tell you how to stop that basement floor from getting wet, Tim?
TIM: Well, it’s – like I said, it’s an old house. It’s not tiled. Other than just – if the county would be willing to put a big, 6-foot drain in place of the ditch, that would probably fix it. But we’re not going to be able to do anything about that.
TOM: What’s causing this? Are you telling me that there’s something going on outside that you can’t control? Because generally, the causes of a wet basement are really two things. Number one, the failure of the gutter system. So that means you don’t have a gutter system or the gutters are clogged or the gutters are discharging too close to the foundation. And number two, the angle of the soil around the immediate, say, 4 to 8 feet around your house. If it’s flat, if it’s pitched into the wall, that’s going to fill up with water and lead to this wet basement.
The fact that you have a wet basement that is consistent with rainfall means that it’s not a rising water table; it means it’s just drainage. So the solution is to better manage that drainage. And no matter what’s going on around you, I have almost never seen a case where you couldn’t make it a lot better by controlling and improving what you can control, like your gutters and your drainage.
TIM: Well, I don’t mean to disagree with you but I get the same water during snowmelt.
TOM: And the same reason for that. Because, again, if you – if that water is coming from snowmelt or rainfall, it’s surface drainage; it’s not a rising water table. Believe me when I tell you, this is one of the easiest things to fix but people just don’t get it.
LESLIE: Because they think it’s too easy.
TOM: They think it’s too easy. They think they have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on it. And there’s an article on the home page of my website. And it’s kind of funny when you read the comments, because there’s an ongoing debate that goes on between waterproofers who try to argue against it and other experts, like home inspectors, who go, “No, this guy is exactly right. We don’t need your expensive sump-pump systems. This can be fixed with better drainage and gutter control.” And it’s actually one of the most downloaded articles we’ve ever had on the site. I think there’s like a half-million downloads of it.
So, it really is as easy as I’m explaining. And you can improve this. To the original question about paint, yeah, there are damp-proofing paints that are available for your floor. You would just use a basic epoxy paint. It’s a two-part mix that has a chemical cure. And as long as you put it on when the floor is dry, it’s not going to come up when the floor gets damp.
LESLIE: Well, big houses sometimes get a bad rap from an environmental perspective, with some complaining that they’re energy hogs compared to smaller, more efficient homes.
TOM: Yes. But size might not matter as much as people think. What matters is how we operate them. Here to help set the record straight is a guy with experience remodeling homes of all sizes: This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be back.
TOM: So, the current sort of tiny-home craze notwithstanding, American homes have generally gotten bigger over time, right?
KEVIN: They have gotten bigger over time and they are continuing to get bigger, despite that tiny-home craze.
Think about this: the average size of a home in 1950 was 983 square feet. Fast forward to 2013 and the average size was 2,598 square feet.
KEVIN: So they are definitely …
LESLIE: That’s insane.
KEVIN: It’s insane. They are definitely getting a lot bigger. And while they’re getting bigger, the number of people living in those houses is going down. In 1950, the average household had about 3.38 people. In 2014, it was 2.5, so a lot more room person.
LESLIE: That’s crazy.
TOM: But we don’t build them like we used to, do we?
KEVIN: No, we don’t. And I think this is the thing that’s behind the premise that a big house isn’t necessarily bad. And again, let’s look at some statistics. Homes that were built after 2000, they consume only 2 percent more energy than homes that were built prior to 2000, despite the fact that on average, they are 30 percent larger. We are building better houses. And the only reason that the total home energy consumption isn’t down in those periods is because we’re using a lot more electricity for all of our electronics and gadgets. We use 21 percent less energy for space heating in today’s homes than we do in older homes, despite being so much bigger.
TOM: So it’s not so much the house that’s wasting energy, it’s all the people living in the house that’s using energy.
KEVIN: Well, it’s using energy but the point is that we can make a bigger house that uses less energy than a smaller house. And so the size – well, the size is kind of a moot point. What’s important is really how you operate the house. That’s the thing that you really have to look at.
LESLIE: And I think, you know, you bring up an interesting point. We’re remodeling houses to make them larger. There’s not really a lot of new home stock happening out there.
KEVIN: Did you build a new house, Leslie?
LESLIE: No. I’m in a 100-year-old house.
KEVIN: You bought – there you go.
How about you, Tom? Did you build …?
TOM: Yeah, mine’s been in the family since 1886.
KEVIN: Well, there you go. The first house I bought was built in 1895 and the second house I bought was built in 1950. Very few of us build a new house. Less than half of 1 percent of new – of our existing housing stock are new houses built every year. So the vast majority of the 112 million homes are homes that we buy that are already there. So there’s very little we can do about their size. What we can do is think about how do we operate these houses efficiently.
And if I move into a big house – let’s say I buy a 3,500-square-foot house but then I go and I add a ton of insulation and energy-efficient equipment, aren’t I taking a lot of housing stock and making it more efficient? I’ve actually improved the efficiency of a big house, which is necessarily a good thing. So you have to think about not the size of the house but what you do with it.
TOM: So bottom line, Kevin, really, for any size house, if you want to make it more efficient, what are the top things to consider?
KEVIN: It’s a pretty short list. And as you say, it doesn’t matter what size the house is. This list applies to all houses.
And the first thing you want to do is you want to make sure that you add insulation. If the house doesn’t have any, there’s a great opportunity to add tons of it. If you’ve got some in there, you often can add to what’s there and improve on what’s there.
After insulation, you want to think about air sealing. You want to stop the moving air from going in and out of the house, around windows and doors. And around the sill is certainly a place. You can also upgrade your mechanical equipment. Mechanical equipment these days can be 90-, 95-percent efficient. So new equipment will be super-efficient. And then the easiest thing is your electrical load. You can reduce your electrical load very quickly using things like LED light bulbs all throughout the house.
All of those things will take a big house or a small house and make it more efficient.
TOM: Great advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: My pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.
LESLIE: Up next, are you at a loss as to what to get your valentine? Well, how about a romantic room makeover? We’re going to have some tips for truly lovey-dovey gifts, after this.
LESLIE: Making good homes better, you are tuned to The Money Pit. I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: Hey, you guys, it’s February. So, I think everybody’s probably planning a warm-destination vacation to get the heck away from all this cold.
How about you, Tom?
TOM: Absolutely. I’ve had – just about had it. Looking forward to spring.
TOM: Ready to get into the to-do list and just can’t wait to get outside to do that without freezing my patookies (ph) off.
LESLIE: Seriously. I mean it’s been cold and they’re even projecting that, you know, this early spring/end of winter is just going to be very unbearably cold for most of the country. That polar vortex is making a return, which is so great.
And along those lines, with people taking vacations this month, with the schoolkids off and everybody just trying to warm up a little bit, I think it’s important that we take a step and think about what we can do to avoid frozen pipes, potential dangerous leaks that could happen while you’re out of town. And you might not know about it until you get home and there’s a tremendous amount of water sitting in your home and so much damage done.
So I think, if you’re going out of town, the best advice is to know where your water main is, turn it off. Turn off all the water flow into the house, drain out all the pipes – just open the valves, let the water run out until there’s nothing left – and then go away with peace of mind knowing that nothing could potentially freeze within your home.
Now, if you are home and it’s super cold, it tends to be all of your sinks in your kitchen and your bathrooms could be on exterior walls. And a lot of plumbing is there, as well. So if you do have a sink on an exterior wall, you can go ahead and open up those cabinet doors, just on the case or the cabinet itself. Let that warm air from the heated part of the room really just get to those pipes to keep them warm. There’s even pipe-insulation tubes. It looks like a little foam gasket that just wraps around. Anything that you can do to help warm air circulate around those pipes and keep those pipes free-flowing will save you from a lot of damage and a lot of headache that you might not even realize is there until all of a sudden, there’s so much water you’re not really quite sure what to do with it.
TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show standing by to help you with your home improvement questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, we’ve got Valentine’s Day coming up and it really does tend to be the time of year when a woman’s fancy turns to things she wants to improve around the house, you guys.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. That’s what my wife wants on Valentine’s Day: home improvements.
LESLIE: Yeah, of course. Home improvement projects. Seriously, you know jewelry and flowers, those truly are a standard go-to. But there are actually some romantic makeovers that can truly make a romantic gift, as well.
TOM: Well, that’s right. Think about adding maybe some new lighting to your bedroom or what about, say, a spa-shower update? Those are pretty easy to do with some of the plumbing fixtures that are available today. They kind of just hook up to your existing piping.
You might want to consider a new paint color or you could do something really simple like hang a collection of, say, favorite photos of the two of you or perhaps the entire family on a gallery and sort of make a beautiful wall out of it, any of which would be a really big surprise for your valentine.
LESLIE: Yeah. Can I make a suggestion, though? Listen, guys, while you’re doing whatever this improvement is or hanging the artwork, whatever you’re going to do as this improvement gift, send your lady to the spa or somewhere without the kids for like an hour. That’s a bonus present.
TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Give us a call, right now, with your how-to question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mary in North Carolina is on the line with a mossy roof. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
MARY: Well, we have a 10-year-old roof – asphalt shingles, I believe they are – and the sections between shingles are beginning to be filled up with moss.
LESLIE: It’s like a mossy grout line.
MARY: Yeah, that’s right. I’d like to know how to get it safely clean and keep it from growing back again. It isn’t the entire roof. We are in an A-frame house, so it’s very sharp, very steep roof. And it’s just about the 8 or 10 feet closest to the edge.
LESLIE: OK. Do you see it all the way around or do you just see it on, say, the north-facing side or in the area …?
MARY: It’s just on this north-facing part.
LESLIE: OK. So that’s the area that gets the least amount of sunlight.
LESLIE: Do you have a large tree that’s adding more shade to this area?
MARY: We have a lot of trees, yeah.
LESLIE: A lot of trees.
TOM: Yeah, therein lies the problem.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, I mean the best solution here is – can you trim out or thin out those trees in any way to get more sunlight onto that portion of the roof? Because if you can do that, sunlight really is your best weapon in getting rid of this moss and keeping it away. Now, you’ll have to do some work to get it to be gone in the first place but if you can add more sunlight, you’re going to help it stay away.
MARY: Alright. Very good. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, homes come in all shapes and sizes. And that includes roof structure and ceiling structure and truly, what the interior looks like. And when it comes to heating those homes, some of them can be more challenging than others. We come back, we’re going to help somebody with a cathedral ceiling to get a better heating situation, so stick around.
LESLIE: Making good homes better, you are tuned to The Money Pit. I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: Hey, you guys, we are a month into the new year. What are you working on? What are you trying to tackle around your money pit? Well, you know we’re here to help, so why not post your questions online and we can talk you through it right here on the radio show?
I’ve got one here from Sam in Maryland who writes: “I have a cathedral ceiling in my living room. I want to add more insulation but I don’t have an attic. Is there any way to do it?”
TOM: Nope. Well, not exactly true. It’s hard to insulate a cathedral ceiling because if you have a cathedral ceiling, then really any insulation, except for spray foam, needs to have an air space.
So let’s say the rafter, right – this is the roof rafter – is about 8 inches deep. Even if it’s deeper, let’s say it’s 10 inches deep, you can only put 8 inches of insulation there because you need to leave the extra 2 inches for air to circulate above the insulation, to take the moisture out. And so, if it’s jammed up with insulation, it doesn’t help you because it’s going to be damp.
So what do you do? Well, a couple of strategies. First of all, the best thing to do is probably to take the drywall off of the ceiling. And then you can either deepen the rafter bay, right, by adding additional material underneath the rafter, kind of faking it and making it at least, say, 12 inches deep. But I would say to do is if you are going to take that step, why not use spray-foam insulation?
You know, about 30 percent of the work that spray-foam companies do are retrofit. And if you’re going to insulate your house and you want it to really be warm and comfortable, there’s no better system than spray foam. So to do this, you would take the drywall down. You would take the old insulation out. You would not have to deepen the rafter bay because spray foam is more efficient than that. Then the spray foam could be sprayed into those rafter bays. Then the drywall could be replaced and you will never be more comfortable or have a more efficient house by doing that.
I did this with Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. I was very happy with the result. And today, the formulas have so little VOCs in them that basically, you have to be out of the house for two hours. You go back in and you’re good to go.
LESLIE: And you’re nice and toasty warm.
TOM: Exactly. There is one other option and that is to take the roof off, put about 3 inches of foam on top of the old roof sheathing, then new roof sheathing and re-roof. But you can see, whether you work from the top or the bottom, it’s really hard to make a cathedral-ceiling house more energy-efficient unless you take one of those two steps.
LESLIE: Alright, Sam. I hope that helps keep you nice and warm in your big, cathedral-ceilinged room.
Next up, we’ve got a post here from Brad in Colorado who writes: “I had contractors in smoothing some walls recently. I realized too late that they were cleaning the joint compound off of their tools in my kitchen sink. What’s this going to do to my pipes?”
TOM: Well, it’s not smart, Brad, but probably not. Because joint compound is water-soluble and if they cleaned it into the drain and ran some water, it probably just melted and ran down the pipes. And even if some stuck and got hard, it’s going to be pretty soft and will erode pretty quickly. It was just not a great idea that they did that.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Brian in Boston who writes: “I’ve got a question for you guys. Sometimes, I feel like there’s something going on with my electrical panel. I have a ground-fault circuit interrupter” – he writes “GFCI” – “but sometimes when the garbage disposer is on, it’ll trip the light in the kitchen. It doesn’t seem like things like to play nicely when they’re both on together. What can I do?”
TOM: Well, if you’ve got a ground-fault circuit breaker that’s tripping, you need to listen to it. It’s doing that because there’s something going wrong with the circuit. And also, if you’ve got one on a circuit with a garbage disposal, well, that’s a problem because those disposals have a big amperage draw. And typically, you don’t put that kind of a product on a GFCI. So I think you need to get an electrician in there. I’d recommend you go to AngiesList.com. It’s free now and they have about 10 million reviews of contractors. I’m sure you’ll find a good one there.
LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s always effective to have somebody else’s opinion. This way, you know you’re getting somebody you can trust.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The Money Pit is also available by podcast. And you could subscribe on our website at MoneyPit.com.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2017 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)