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: Do you ever wonder why we call it “the money pit”? Well, it’s a term of endearment, because we know that you hate your home and you love your home all at the same time and that’s why you call it “the money pit.”
LESLIE: And it sucks up endless amounts of cash because you’re always doing something to it?
TOM: It does. And time. And it’s the subject of many conversations, not all good ones. But you know what? You still love it. We’re going to help you love it a little bit more by making those projects easier to accomplish, quicker to accomplish and yes, less expensive to accomplish if you help yourself, first, by calling us. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
And speaking of saving you money, coming up this hour, we’re going to have some tips on how you can cut those homeowners insurance costs down to size by picking the right improvements that can help you save on insurance it costs to maintain your home.
LESLIE: And if you’ve got great curb appeal, make sure it’s visible day or night. What’s the point of having a beautiful-looking front of your house if you can’t see it? We’ve got tips on how low-voltage lighting can illuminate your façade. It’s a simple do-it-yourself project and we’re going to walk you through it.
TOM: And a really popular spring home improvement project is to replace your windows, especially if they’ve been really chilly all winter long and they’ve been driving up those heating bills. But the problem is that shopping for new windows today, it can be really overwhelming because there’s a lot to understand. There’s many different ratings and certifications that can help and we’re going to help you decode those for window shopping, once and for all, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And one lucky caller we talk to this hour has never got to deal with wobbly ladders or wobbly knees again. We’re giving away the innovative and comfortable Werner 9-Foot Reach Aluminum Podium Ladder and it’s valued at $89.
TOM: Learn more at WernerPodiumLadder.com and call, right now, for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Sandy in Pennsylvania, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
SANDY: Yes, I was calling to ask about building a garage. My husband and I just bought a home. It’s a two-story colonial but there’s no garage and we’re trying to decide detached, attached, with or without a breezeway. We know we want it to be oversized but we’re trying to decide which would be the most efficient and convenient choice to go with.
TOM: So, it’s as much an architectural question as it is a structural question, because you’re trying to figure out what’s going to fit best with the property. So that amount – that involves looking at the house itself in terms of its design and also looking at the neighborhood to determine what’s going to fit in well. Because it’s OK to have the nicest house on the block but it’s not OK if it’s that much nicer that the rest of the neighborhood pulls it down in value. Does that make sense?
SANDY: Yes. And I think the rest of the homes are very, very similar except they have garages.
TOM: OK. Well, then that’s a good model for you to follow.
TOM: Now, if you have the breezeway, then obviously you’re going to have more functional space. So I’m not quite sure what we can do to help you with this question, because it’s really a design that you have to kind of agree on with your husband and then set apart building it. When it does get built, it obviously has to be built by a pro, in accordance with all of the local regulations, which are going to probably require that you have a set of architectural plans.
TOM: So, you might just want to start with that because an architect – architects can help you look at the options very easily with the computer programming they use today and give you a chance to look at it from several different angles, both outside and inside, in terms of available storage space and in different configurations.
SANDY: OK. Also, we need to replace the roof on the home, so I was thinking making it an attached or with the breezeway. Kind of makes it a little more efficient as we replace the roof on the home, we’d be putting the roof on the garage, as well.
TOM: OK. Well, it would make sense for you to do the entire roof and have that folded into the same project. And then you could, in fact, fold it into the same financing, too, if you’re financing the project. So, yeah, I’m all for planning those projects to be done together. Because when the roofing team is on site, that will be the most cost-effective way to get it all done.
TOM: And have it match.
TOM: You know, we did our roof in the last year and we did everything but the garage. And the garage really didn’t need it but seeing that brand-new, beautiful roof on the house, I just decided that I would ignore the fact that I had a few years of life left on my garage roof. And we did that, as well, which is why we always say that the three most expensive words in home improvement are “might as well.”
SANDY: Right. Right.
TOM: Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Heading to Arkansas where Fred is on the line with a mold question. What’s going on at your money pit?
FRED: I’m (inaudible at 0:05:28) to do some work on my house. And he went to open it up to start doing it and since the last time I’d been underneath the sink, it had grown a large bunch of black mold underneath there. He needed to do some work in the utility room and same black mold up there. I got a mold abatement to come in and give me an estimate on it and I almost fell backwards.
TOM: What did they want to charge you and what did they say they were going to do, Fred?
FRED: They would come down, tear out all of the affected areas and charge it off. And I would be responsible for having it put back in.
TOM: And how much were they going to charge you for that privilege?
FRED: Between 2,000 and 4,000.
TOM: Wow. That’s very nice. Yeah.
OK, so we have this mold in two areas, right? We have it inside the kitchen cabinet? Is that correct? With the sink cabinet?
TOM: Alright. And how much mold would you say is there if I were to ask you for sort of in square footage? Is it like 2 square feet, 3 square feet, more than that? What do you think?
FRED: Probably 5 or 6 square feet.
TOM: So it’s quite a bit?
FRED: No, it’s not that much. It’s just there’s a lot of area under there.
TOM: Is it like growing on the walls of the cabinet?
TOM: OK. And then you said there was a utility room? How much mold is in that area?
FRED: It’s completely covered out there. My water heater blew out the other day and I couldn’t get at it right away. And between the time I got it replaced, there was mold growing there, too.
TOM: Now, was that outside the house or inside the house?
FRED: It’s off the carport outside.
TOM: It’s off the carport outside. So that’s less of a concern because it’s more exposed to the exterior. It’s like an outside closet, correct?
TOM: So, the New York Department of Health – New York State Department of Health – has some really good guidelines on sort of do-it-yourself mold control. And they generally recommend that if it’s less than 10 square feet, you can do it yourself.
If this cabinet – this sink cabinet – is not structurally damaged, you could treat the affected mold with simply a bleach-and-water solution. I would use a fairly heavy bleach-and-water solution. Maybe at least 25-percent bleach if not 50-percent bleach. You’re going to have to have proper eye protection, proper respiratory protection while you spray it and gloves and all that kind of stuff.
And you’ve basically got to spray it on there thoroughly and just let it sit so it kills the mold spores. And then you can clean it up again with all of that proper respiratory protection and good ventilation, too, in case any of those mold spores get stuck to – get distributed to the air. What I like to do is open all the windows in the house, put some fans on so we depressurize the rooms and then go ahead and clean it.
But if it’s a small amount like that, there are guidelines online that you can follow to do it yourself. But that’s essentially it. You spray the mold to kill it and then you clean it from there. And the reason it happened is because you have a cold, damp, enclosed space like that. And if you try to make sure that you check it once in a while so it doesn’t leak, it doesn’t become stagnant like that, it probably won’t come back.
FRED: So I guess I’ll ask – get someone else to do that because I’m a disabled vet and I’m on oxygen already but ..
TOM: Well, now, yeah. So, OK, I’m glad you mentioned that. Because if you have respiratory issues, then it’s more important that you’re very, very careful not to distribute that to the house. So I would have somebody experienced do it but I don’t necessarily feel like this contractor’s approach of tear it all out is necessarily the right way. Because in my view, that’s going to even cause more disruption than if you were just to clean it.
FRED: Now, that’s what I figured. But some of these guys are in business to make a lot of money off of …
TOM: Yeah, I know. And they panic-peddle, too. They see mold, they try to get you all freaked out about it. And yeah, it’s an issue but it’s fixable, alright?
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and thank you so much for your service, sir.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or quite frankly, in the middle of the night when all of a sudden you’re like, “Hmm, how does this work?” or, “What if I did that?”
TOM: Or if you wake up because the roof is leaking and it’s dripping on your head?
LESLIE: Right. Or more importantly, that. So, if that’s the case, write down this number and never forget it: 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, if you think your homeowners insurance can only go up, think again. We’re going to have tips on how you can cut down on what you pay each month, when The Money Pit continues, after this.
ANNOUNCER: When you’re ready to search for a home, start at Realtor.com. Realtor.com is the most accurate home search site. And be sure to work with a realtor to help you through the process. Realtor.com and realtors. Together, we make home happen.
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: And hey, anybody who’s scared of heights definitely wants to win this hour’s prize. We’ve got the Werner 9-Foot Reach Aluminum Podium Ladder.
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s got a large standing platform and it feels like you’re standing on the ground, which is so comfortable if you’re kind of afraid of heights and you need to work on something that’s not within arm’s reach. And it’s going to actually offer you the same reach height as a 5-foot step ladder.
TOM: It’s a prize worth $89. You can learn more at WernerPodium.com or call us, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Heading out west to Hawaii where Gary has an electrical question.
Aloha, Gary. How can we help you?
GARY: Aloha. Thank you, guys, very much.
I have a situation in my bathroom where I actually want to take an existing wall light and I want to remove it and then create a situation where I have a light on either side of the mirror. So I’ve got this one electrical feed coming out of the wall. And what I want to do is I want to kind of splice it so that I could take one wire off to the left and one wire off to the right of the mirror. And I’m trying to find out if there’s an easy way to do that or if, basically, there’s a kit that might help me do that because I’m not an electrical – I’m not an electrical genius here.
TOM: So, because you’re not an electrical genius, I don’t want you to try this yourself, OK?
TOM: But I will tell you that it’s a fairly easy project that any electrician could do this for you. Since you have power going through the one fixture, it’s very easy to split that off into two separate fixtures and use the same switch that the other fixture was on. So it’s a really simple project but I don’t want you doing it yourself. Because if you want to tackle a plumbing project, you can get wet; if you want to tackle an electrical project, you could get dead. So, we don’t want you to try that yourself, alright? You’ve got to use common sense.
GARY: OK. OK. Very good. I appreciate the advice, yeah. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you’re looking to take the edge off those monthly bills – and who isn’t? – you might be able to squeeze in some extra savings from a surprising place. That is your monthly homeowners insurance bill.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, it’s going to require some upfront spending. But if you invest in the right place, then you’re looking at savings for years to come.
TOM: Now, insurance companies end up paying a lot for water damage, so they’ll reward you with lower rates for making sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. So a simple thing to do is just to replace any rubber hoses on your clothes washing machine with a no-burst, braided, stainless-steel hose. This way, you can save up to 10 percent on your insurance bill for doing just that one improvement.
LESLIE: Now, if you live in an area that’s prone to higher winds, a tougher garage door can slash your monthly premiums. Install a hurricane-resistant door or buy a retrofit solution that’s going to strengthen your existing one.
TOM: And finally, here’s something to get a jump on. Do you have any backyard trampolines that you’ve bought for your kids or maybe one was there when you bought the house? Owning one can sometimes mean paying what they call a “nuisance charge” of up to about $100 per policy. That kind of backyard toy is dangerous, so don’t use it.
So with a few, simple changes in your home improvement projects, you can actually save lots of money on your homeowners insurance cost. We’ve got a full list online at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: OK. Let’s welcome Donna from North Carolina with some squeaking floors. What’s going on?
DONNA: We have a 13-year-old home in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was purchased as new construction. We have squeaky floors – wood floors – primarily in the kitchen, in front of the sink. Originally, we – there were shims placed between the joists to even the floor after we moved in. But after a first frost, there were raised areas of flooring, particularly in the kitchen. And some of the shims were removed to even the floors once again.
Currently, we’re selling our house and my concern is that when the purchaser employs a home inspector, that the squeaky floors would be so obvious that we would need to resolve the problem. And I wondered what you would suggest we do.
TOM: I was a home inspector for 20 years and I’ve never ever, in those 20 years, reported squeaky floors as a structural problem.
TOM: So, on that point, I don’t think you have a lot to worry about unless you have somebody that really doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Sometimes, if you get an inspector that is really under-skilled, they will take the minute, normal occurrences of a home and turn it into a major issue. But that’s it.
It is kind of annoying. And trying to figure out why it squeaks requires you understanding which part of that floor assembly is moving, because it’s evidence of movement. So, if there’s movement between the subfloor and the floor joist underneath, that could be one source. Or if there’s movement between the finished hardwood floor and the subfloor and the floor joist, that’s another type of movement.
You can deal with all of this if you were to be able to identify where – from the topside, from the kitchen side – the floor joists are underneath that area that’s loose. And then you can drive what’s called a “trim screw,” which is about as wide as a finish nail, with the proper prep. Which means you have to pre-drill the floor. But you can drive a couple of those into the hardwood floor to kind of tie it all together. And once you do that, you’ll find that you’ll quiet it down quite a bit and the size hole that you’ll have to fill is no more than the width of a finish nail.
DONNA: OK. So the key is finding the joist, I would guess.
TOM: Floor joist. And there’s a way to do that, too. And you can do that by measuring it out or you could simply get a stud finder – a stud sensor. They have them today where they’re good enough where they can actually see through 2, 3 inches of building material and find the floor joist below with great precision. Stanley makes a number of very good-quality and inexpensive stud sensors that can do that.
But don’t panic. A squeaky floor is pretty much typical and it’s not indicative of a structural issue.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah. It’s just more annoying. And I think one of the benefits of you saying – you seem to have so much knowledge of the shims and what’s going on there. It makes me feel like you have access to the thing, so it should be fairly easy for you to get to the bottom of.
DONNA: Alright. Well, thank you so much for that information. It’s encouraging.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hi, Fred. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
FRED: I have a standard toilet. House was built in ’29, so it’s, what, 80 years old? It’s the type where the tank hangs on the wall and then you have an L and then you have, I guess – what do you call that, the “bowl”?
And it started to leak and so the old metal was pretty corroded and everything. So we took everything out, we took the tank off the wall, we – I say “we.” The plumber, who I’ve been using for many years, cleaned everything up. Went to the hardware store that handles these kinds of fittings and we just cannot get this thing to work. It leaks.
TOM: Where does it leak? Does it leak at the base of the tank, where the pipe connects?
FRED: Both. Yeah. Well, one time we did it, it leaked at the bottom of the tank. The other time, it leaked when it went into the bowl.
TOM: What kind of a washer are you using? Or what kind of a gasket or seal are you using in those two places?
FRED: Well, I don’t know the technical names of it. The guy at the – they look like the same stuff we took off. You know, I’m a musician; I’m not up on these things.
TOM: Well, this shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish and it sounds like whatever they’re using in that gasket space right there is not working. And look, if all else fails, you can simply use silicone here. You could apply the silicone in – as you put this together, you could – you seal all of those joints with silicone.
Let it dry. Try not to touch it until it dries. And then you can take a razor blade and cut off the excess nice and neat and essentially make your own gasket.
FRED: Yeah. The plumber mentioned something. He said the only thing is if that thing fails and I’m not home, I’m going to have a house full of water.
TOM: That’s true. But the thing is, if it – once it works, it usually works continuously. It’s not – it doesn’t usually fail. If you get it right, it’s not going to fail, OK?
FRED: So, in other words, unless I can see some chips or damage on the porcelain or something like that, which I don’t see, it should work?
TOM: But I would take it apart and I would seal, with silicone, each connection as it goes together so that you end up with a good compression of silicone around that. That’s the solution.
LESLIE: Well, have your past painting projects been ruined by rust? Well, there’s a new paint out there that’s going to keep your rust under wraps so paint looks good for years to come. We’re going to tell you all about it, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And next week, we are off for a road trip to the 2015 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. It’s an industry-only event where we get the inside scoop on the hottest, new products, directly from The Money Pit’s Top Products Pavilion on the hardware-show floor. You can’t be there but we will be and we’ll bring that story to you.
LESLIE: Yeah. And we’re super-lucky because we’ve actually gotten a few sneak peeks already. And one of the coolest products that I’ve seen so far is Krylon’s Covermax spray paint. It not only dries in 10 minutes or less, which is super-awesome for an impatient painter like myself, that’s really faster than any other general-purpose aerosol out there. And it’s the only general-purpose paint with built-in rust protection.
Krylon Covermax paint, where color meets performance.
TOM: Check it out in our Top Products Gallery at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Let’s say hi to Katie in Massachusetts who has a whole-house dehumidifier question. What’s going on?
KATIE: I purchased a WAVE ventilation system. It was advertised on one of the radio stations that I listen to. Company is based in Canada. I checked them out, Better Business Bureau, they’re all fine. But my electrician had a question for me that he’s really not sure that I should keep it, because you hook it up in the basement away from the …
TOM: Heating system.
KATIE: The heating system, thank you. And then you open up a vent to the top of the house, which we have. We did that up the basement stairs into the mudroom. So there’s a vent there that will feed this system but there’s no return.
And my electrician said, “Gosh, if you don’t have a vent from the outside feeding in air to circulate …” – he just doesn’t see how the whole system will really work efficiently if there is not something feeding this flow.
TOM: I think you’ve got a great electrician there and a guy who really understands building science. Because I’ve got to tell you, I hear the advertisements for these systems all the time and they leave me scratching my head. Because what they claim to do is to dehumidify your basement. And the way they do that is they simply take the basement air and they pump it upstairs.
LESLIE: Yeah. But then what do you do with all that moist air in the rest of the house?
TOM: Well, upstairs, you don’t notice it as much because it doesn’t collect and sit. And the temperatures are warmer so it gets absorbed into the air. And of course, that means that the basement is going to be less humid because that moisture is being pumped upstairs. But if you pump too much airflow upstairs, you’re going to depressurize the basement. And the reason it has to be that far away from the furnace is because if you depressurize the basement, guess what’s going to happen to all of the fumes that are generated by your heating system? It’s going to – the draft is going to reverse and you’ll start filling your house with that combustion gas, including carbon monoxide.
Now, in a typical ventilation system – let’s say you have a really high-efficiency house. Like my cousin is building a house right now that’s an ENERGY STAR-rated house. He’s using foam insulation. You know, it’s going to be a really tight house. And I was explaining to him the other day that because it’s so tight, you might need to bring in fresh air to this house.
And typically, the average house, we don’t worry about bringing in fresh air because our homes are naturally drafty. But when you build a tight house, you have to bring in fresh air to exhaust stale air. And the way they do that is basically by pulling in cold air from the outside and exhausting it with stale air from the inside. But they trap the heat so you’re not exactly just filling your house up with cold air. You’re going to able to sort of transfer; there’s a mechanical way to do that.
These ventilation systems that you’re describing are only one-half of that. They’re basically just sucking the moisture out of the basement and pumping it upstairs. So, to me, it just seems like somewhat of a pointless exercise that potentially could go horribly wrong if the basement was depressurized. Have you noticed that the basement is less humid as a result of running this thing?
KATIE: Actually, we haven’t even put in yet because we’re a month away from moving in. But I purchased it. But this WAVE ventilation system, the system itself is – it’s ducted to the outside. So what it does is it sucks the air in from the bottom – from, obviously the basement but it draws from the top half of the house and it expels it, so – butut I don’t know how it’s replaced. It just doesn’t make any sense and that’s what our electrician said. So, the air that is circulated through this system is not pumped back upstairs; it’s actually expelled through the house. But what replaces it?
TOM: And also, the other issue here is if you’re going to take all the moisture, all the air from inside the house and pump it outside, then you’re going to depressurize. And again, you may have to – you may drive up the heating cost as a result or the cooling cost as a result. Listen, I honestly don’t think they’re necessary.
TOM: I would never put one in my house and if you’ve not – if you can cancel the contract, I’d recommend you do that.
KATIE: Really? OK. So what do we do to keep the basement dry?
TOM: Alright. So let’s talk about that. So, there’s a bunch of things that you can do. Keeping your basement as dry as possible starts at the foundation perimeter outside your house. You want to make sure that the soil slopes away from the wall. You want to have it drop about 6 inches over 4 feet, well-tamped down and then covered with stone or mulch or grass. But you always want to have that sort of slight slope away from the foundation perimeter.
In addition to that, you also want to make sure that the gutters are clean and free-flowing and that the downspouts are extended 4 to 6 feet away from the house. That can help move the water away from that critical area of the foundation perimeter and stop it from building up in the soil right against the foundation walls, where it will get into the house. Those two things alone will make a huge difference in how much moisture gets down there.
Now, is the basement finishable?
KATIE: Yes. And it’s beautiful. It’s all rock. The original owner who was previous to us built this home and it’s a fortress.
TOM: OK. So if you were to ultimately finish the basement and heat it, that is also going to dry it out, too, because warm air is going to absorb any moist air – any moisture that’s in the air.
The other thing that you can do is you could paint the interior walls with a damp-proofing paint that stops just the normal soil moisture from evaporating into the house itself. And if it does ever get damp, I would put a dehumidifier down there before I put one of these big ventilation systems. I’d just make sure that I drain it outside. And you can do that through something called a “condensate pump.”
KATIE: Sure. OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: I hope that makes sense. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: So, picking out new windows can actually feel more like a maze or perhaps a really hard riddle than a fun shopping trip. But understanding all of those window ratings and certifications can help a lot. We’re going to help you sort it all out, when The Money Pit continues.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One lucky caller that we talk to this hour is going to win a Werner 9-Foot Reach Aluminum Podium Ladder. It’s got added comfort and safety to help keep your mind on the job, not all of that space and height and air below you.
TOM: Yep. It’s a prize worth $89 and it’s one of our top products picks from this year’s National Hardware Show. So give us a call, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question at 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Mary in Illinois is on the line with a painting question. How can we help you today?
MARY: I want to paint a fireplace that’s brick and just want to know if there’s – if you can do that, first of all, and if there’s a certain kind of paint you need to use?
LESLIE: Has it been painted before or is it natural brick?
MARY: No. It’s natural brick – original brick.
TOM: Well, you certainly can paint it but I would think very carefully before you do this. Because once you paint, you have to repaint eventually. And fireplaces tend to get very dirty and very smoky and they’re hard to keep clean. If it’s just the color that you don’t like, there may be some ways to sort of decorate around that color. But I would really hesitate to tell you to paint it.
We get a lot of calls from folks that are not happy with a painted fireplace and they want to know how – do the exact opposite, which is get the paint off. And once you paint it, it’s just really hard to do that.
MARY: OK. I was kind of worried about whether it would peel or – when you say just to – you just have to keep repainting because of…
LESLIE: Well, paint, over time, is going to crack and dry out. And it will get so dirty, just from the exhaust and the use of the fireplace, that you’ll get sort of that haze around the upper portion of it regardless of what type of screen you have.
Now, the other thing to keep in mind is that since this will be its first time being painted, the brick is so porous that you’re going to put a lot of time into priming, because it’s just going to absorb all of that primer. And you want to get a good-quality primer, you want to make sure that you brush in the grout lines, roll on the surfaces of the brick, brush again. So it’s a lot of steps. It can be done.
But as Tom said, if you want to take that paint off, it’s now a chemical stripper. And because that brick is so porous, it’s going to have sucked in all of that color and so it’ll never get back to that original brick look again. It’ll have that sort of hue of whatever color it was.
MARY: Uh-huh. OK. OK. Great. Well, thank you for your help. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, anyone who’s shopped for windows in the last few years knows those ratings and certifications that are designed to make shopping easier sometimes can overwhelm you more than they can help.
TOM: And that’s why it’s important to know what they mean, so here’s a few to understand. A rating you do want to see is the Gold Label certification from the AAMA. And that’s the American Architectural Manufacturers Association. It basically means that a window has been tested by a third-party pro and meets the standards for resistance, durability and forced-entry resistance.
LESLIE: Now, labels from the NFRC – and that stands for the National Fenestration Rating Council – works more like a gallons-per-mile sticker that you see on a new car. They’re going to rate glass, framing and other permanent parts. So you can head to the NFRC’s website to compare ratings among different manufacturers and assess windows accordingly.
TOM: And finally, here’s what I think is the most important label: the ENERGY STAR label. That basically means that a window meets the standards that are established by the U.S. Department of Energy. And as an added bonus, they can make you eligible for tax rebates once they’re installed.
LESLIE: Matt in California is on the line and needs some help with a fireplace. What can we do for you?
MATT: Our hearth is ugly and we want to replace it. We want to take it out and replace – it has a fireplace insert but we want to replace it with a wood stove. And our question is: does that – by taking the hearth out, will that affect the flue, the integrity of it, when we put in a wood stove?
TOM: Well, I mean it depends, structurally, how it’s constructed. You know, generally speaking, with a fireplace, the chimney rests on the fireplace. So structurally speaking, you need to make sure that that is still the case.
If you’re going to leave the fireplace in place and essentially just convert it to a wood stove, then what you’ll probably do is break into the chimney and the flue above the fireplace, kind of with a 90-degree bend and straight in. And you’d seal the bottom of the chimney or certainly put a clean-out door there or maybe just leave the damper in place.
It won’t affect the structural integrity as long as you leave it structurally intact. You can’t start just taking apart the fireplace and expect the chimney not to fall, though. Does that make sense, Matt?
MATT: Yeah, alright. OK. I’m glad I asked. Didn’t want to take that out and have it all fall apart on me.
TOM: I would – if it’s just the hearth down the bottom that sticks out, then you’d probably take that out. But you’re really going to have somebody with structural common sense take a look at that and answer this question for you, because I can’t see it from here, obviously.
MATT: Right, exactly. That’s what I thought. OK. No, that helps. I appreciate that.
LESLIE: But are you open to just changing the hearth and changing the look of the fireplace itself? Because that’s not terribly difficult.
MATT: Yeah. The fireplace itself is not good, economically. Even with the insert that’s in there, it’s not economical at all. So we want to go with a wood stove. So if we put a wood stove there, that would look not very pleasing with the hearth sticking out like it is and then having a wood stove. So we thought we could replace that, all the way up to the wall, and then kind of design it so it would look attractive when the wood stove was in there.
TOM: Well, you might be able to remove that hearth but you’re going to have to have a mason or a contractor look at it. If the hearth is – the hearth is there to essentially help make use of the fireplace safer. So if the hearth is not lending any structural contribution to the overall fireplace, you may be able to break that part out and leave the rest in place.
MATT: OK. Yeah. I’ll have someone look at it, because I think that’s what we want to do. But you’re right, I have (inaudible at 0:33:06) first.
Thank you a lot. Appreciate it.
LESLIE: So, now that outdoor lighting is in full swing, as we all love to spend more time outdoors – but the right lighting is going to do more for you than just brighten a space. How do you add low-voltage lights for dramatic results? We’ll tell you, when The Money Pit continues.
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TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Check us out on Facebook for some home improvement answers, home improvement advice and other fun stuff that we just can’t fit into the show. You can find it all at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. Like us and get your Money Pit fix when you want, where you want and go ahead and post your question, just like Carol from Massachusetts did.
And Carol writes: “At least once a week, a light bulb burns out in my home. About 75 percent of the outlets have ground holes in them, so I would think that the electrical has been updated at some point. But this probably means nothing but the electrical box is pristine and not a jumbled mess, so what’s causing this?”
TOM: You know, one thing that I would think could be causing this is a problem with the voltage in your area. So I would reach out to the electric company and request that they double-check the voltage at your electric meter to make sure that there are no transformer issues in the area.
Because, see, here’s how it works. If the transformer is going bad, it can actually cause the voltage to be higher than what the fixture rating is and that could account for the rapid burnout.
Now, if that comes back negative, I would hire an electrician to thoroughly examine the electrical box at the main electrical panel, because it might look perfect from the outside but you can dig deep and find out that it’s defective. I’ve have that happen many times in the years I spent as a home inspector and you don’t really see it until you start taking the breakers apart and looking behind them and that sort of thing. So it’s a bit of an investigative process you have to go through.
But I would start with the utility company, because that’s just a call to make sure the transformer is good. And if not, then you can touch base with your electrician and take the next step. But it is important to get to the bottom of it because it’s certainly not a normal occurrence, Carol.
LESLIE: Yeah, Carol. I mean I can totally relate with you. You don’t want to have something that’s super-dangerous. You don’t really care about the cost of the bulbs. It is a nuisance but you want to make sure that whatever’s going on in your house you get to the bottom of and fix it. You want your family to be safe.
TOM: Well, if you want your backyard or your landscaping to really pop this summer, the key is the subtle, dramatic look of low-voltage lighting. You can take a page from Leslie and your yard will look like it came from the pages of a magazine, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. Low-voltage lighting, it really does make a gorgeous addition to your driveway, your walkway, even flowerbeds. And thanks to today’s versatile lighting kits, you can create designer-quality results with relatively little do-it-yourself skill and prep. You’ve got to start by gauging, though, how much lighting you actually need and how long you want your investment to last. The shorter your stay in your present home, the simpler your lighting plan should be.
Next, you want to look up your state’s guidelines. Unlike line voltage, which has national codes and installation standards, low-voltage lighting is guided by state codes. Don’t let this extra step, though, deter you. Trust me, the final results are going to be worth it.
Now, before you go shopping for a lighting kit, you want to use a voltage meter to pretest the outlet that you’re going to be using for the transformer. Then invest in a top-quality UL – and that’s the Underwriters Laboratory – approved transformer that’s going to give you enough power to keep your system shining. And when it comes time to install those light fixtures, two steps will simplify the process.
First, you want to wet the installation zone the night before, because wet soil is so much easier to work with then dry. And second, take the time to lay out the fixtures and the connecting wire in the configuration that you desire, to create an above-ground map before you start digging. Then once you’ve got everything positioned correctly, go ahead and imbed all of those elements into the ground and look forward to a really beautiful and subtle light show every evening. It’s really worth it, guys. It’s an excellent project to take on.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, we’re going to talk about outdoor kitchens. They’re really hot this year and they’re not as expensive as you might think. We’ll teach you how you can turn your patio or porch into the sizzling kitchen space of your dreams, on the 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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(Copyright 2015 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.)