- A tree in your landscape can be a thing of beauty. But after it’s gone, the stump left behind – not so much! We show you easy ways to get rid of stumps for very little cost.
- Planning on painting your home this summer. Choosing the right colors can make a huge impact on its appearance and value. We’ll share tips for picking the perfect paint colors for outside projects.
- If you’re a renter, you might think there’s not much you can do to cut summer cooling bills and stay comfortable. Not true! There are lots of low cost to no cost things you can do to stay comfortable and stop wasting money.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Best way to remove and replace old tile floor grout.
- How to paint a popcorn ceiling (including what to do if you’ve removed all those clumps of popcorn!)
- Best way to restore dead or dying spots in a sod lawn.
- Most efficient way to insulate an old and drafty house.
- Advice for replacing a leaking sliding door with a French door.
- Does noisy plumbing signal a big repair a problem?
- Sneaky ways to find out how old your house really is.
- How to pick the most durable outdoor furniture.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you take on the projects you’d like to get done around your house. So what are you working on this weekend, today, tomorrow, next week? Got a project you’d like to do, a project you started but got stuck in the middle? Need some advice solving a problem? Got a decorating dilemma? We are here to help you take on those and many more projects. You can yourself first by reaching out and contacting us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, a tree in your landscape can be a thing of beauty but after it’s gone, that stump? Ah, not so much. While there’s nothing easy about getting rid of the stumps, if you’re patient, though, there are a number of ways to do that for very little cost. We’re going to tell you how.
LESLIE: And if you’re planning on painting your home this summer, choosing the right colors can make a huge impact on your home’s appearance and its value. We’re going to share some tips for picking the perfect colors for exterior painting projects, just ahead.
TOM: And if you’re a renter, you might think there’s not too much you can do to cut your summer cooling bills down and stay comfortable at the same time. But even though you don’t own the place you live, there are lots of low-cost or no-cost things you can do to stay comfortable and stop wasting money. So we’ll share a few ideas to help the renters out.
LESLIE: And what projects are you guys working on or maybe you’re thinking about starting? Well, reach out with your project questions. And we’re going to share some tips to help you get that project done once and get it done right so, you know, you don’t have to do it again.
TOM: And we might even give you some tools to help you take on those projects because today, we’ve got a HART 20-Volt Cordless 4-Tool Combo Kit to give away. It’s worth 178 bucks. Going out to one caller, one listener drawn at random who reaches us with a home improvement question. HART Tools are well-made, they’re versatile and they’re available exclusively at Walmart. So reach out to us right now – again, that number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT – or post those questions to MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Victoria from Arkansas is on the line and is having a grout issue. What’s going on?
VICTORIA: Well, grout this, grout that. Grumpy, grumpy grout. Yeah, grout. I hate grouting. It’s real tough. But this is with granules in it. But there’s just a couple small areas where it’s fallen out, the grout.
VICTORIA: Do I still need – I mean this is a pretty tall shower. Do I still need to pull out all the grout from the top to the bottom or can I just grout those few little particles that fell out?
TOM: No, you can definitely regrout those areas where the grout’s popped out. And I know what you’re talking about; that’s happened to me, as well. Do you have some of the grout available – some of the original grout – by any chance?
VICTORIA: No, because I bought this house about 4 years ago. But I found the same type of grout.
VICTORIA: But it is kind of like a sandy grout. Are you familiar with that?
TOM: For a shower, you typically don’t use sandy grout. That’s usually in a floor where you have a wider joint. You want to basically use a shower-style grout, which is more of a powder than a sand grout.
TOM: You could find this in home centers. It’s really inexpensive. Unfortunately, even the smallest package is going to be enough to do about three showers’ worth.
VICTORIA: Can I use the grout in the tube?
TOM: Depends on the color. If the color matches – it’s really just a matter of getting the color right.
I’ll tell you what I did. When I grouted my shower – and I have a bathroom, tub and shower all together. And the last time I grouted that, what I did is I actually bought three different grouts: one that was a little bit light, a little bit darker, one that I thought was pretty close. And I mixed up just a tiny bit of each to check – double-check – the color. Because when it dries, it has a completely different color sometimes. And then, I was able to find the one that worked best.
And in our case, we did take out a lot of the old grout but our goal there was to really do the whole shower. For you, just to do a little patch there, you don’t necessarily have to do that.
VICTORIA: Oh, thank God. OK. Well, thank you so much. I am really grateful that you guys called me back and saved me all that time and aggravation.
TOM: Oh, you’re so worth it. That’s what we do: we save time and aggravation.
VICTORIA: Yes, sir. No more grumpy-grouting. Thank you so much.
VICTORIA: Have a blessed day.
TOM: Take care.
LESLIE: Alright. Byron is dealing with popcorn. Not the yummy, delicious kind but the weird ceiling kind. What’s going on?
BYRON: That’s correct. It’s easy to take off but what do you do afterwards? I know that was a cost-saving cut for drywall workers at the time.
TOM: Builders would popcorn ceiling on because it would basically mean the drywall companies and spacklers didn’t have to do as good of a job, right? It hid all of the sins of uneven joints and stuff.
So, yeah, so what you need to do is this. First of all, it’s great that you got it all off and that it was pretty straightforward and easy. And by the way, we have a fantastic article, for those of you that are suffering with popcorn ceilings, on our website: a complete guide on how to remove this nasty stuff. But now that it’s off, you’re looking at probably a rough, uneven ceiling. So what you want to do is look for the worst parts of the ceiling and try to re-spackle and sand those to get them fairly flat.
Then what you need to do is to use a primer – and that’s really important; you want to use a primer first – and then a ceiling paint. Don’t use anything that has a sheen. It’s got to be absolutely, 100-percent flat. I would use a good-quality ceiling paint. And the reason I say that is because if there’s any sheen to it whatsoever, you’re going to see every little, uneven section of that ceiling and it’s going to look terrible, especially if you have a light fixture up near it. It’ll kind of reflect and look bad.
But you try to fix the worst parts of it, then you prime, which gives it an even sealer across the whole surface. And then you could put the ceiling paint on top of that, which is going to be a bright, white, flat paint. And that’s the best you can do and I think it’ll be good enough to the point where you’ll be really happy with it when you’re done.
BYRON: Well, great, great. Appreciate you guys giving me a call.
TOM: Alright, Byron. Thanks for reaching out and good luck with that project.
What are you guys working on this first week of summer? If you’re inspired to spruce up the outside of your place, you’ve got 2, 3, maybe, months of warm weather left. So why not enjoy it by making your place the best it can ever be? We’d love to help. Call us with your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
And hey, when you listen to The Money Pit, you get the answers to your home improvement questions plus, you always get a chance to win cool tools to get the projects done. And today, we’ve got a great one. It’s the HART 20-Volt Cordless 4-Tool Combo Kit worth 178 bucks. Going out to one listener, drawn at random, who reaches us with a home improvement question.
Now, you can’t just reach us and say, “I want to win the prize.” No.
LESLIE: “Hello? I’d like the prize?”
TOM: We get those calls every week. I notice when they come in. “I’m just calling for the giveaway.” No.
LESLIE: At least they’re honest.
TOM: You’re not going to get the giveaway. I appreciate the honesty, yeah. No, you’ve got to have a question. We are trying to get you to connect with us the old-fashioned way. We bribe you every week with cool stuff. So, if you are ready to pick up a combo kit from HART, we are ready to answer your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
This includes the HART Drill Driver, the Impact Driver, a reciprocating saw, an LED light, two 20-volt 1.5 amp-hour batteries, a charger and a tool bag. And by the way, that battery, it works on all the HART 20-volt tools, which is very cool.
So, pick up the phone, give us a call with your questions at 888-MONEY-PIT or post them to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Katherine in Arizona on the line who’s dealing with an issue with sod. And Arizona’s pretty darn hot, so tell us what’s going on.
KATHERINE: I live, actually, in the mountains in Arizona and so our issue is not the heat but the cold. And so what we’ve had happen is that we laid sod about 8 years ago. And unbeknownst to us novice homeowners, it had mesh netting on the back side of the roll. And I don’t know if we were supposed to remove that or something but now the sod did not take to our climate and it has died.
And we would like to reseed or lay on some new sod or something like that. But in order to prepare the soil and till it and all of that, I just don’t know what to do because there’s this mesh netting all over the ground. And in some areas, it’s exposed and some areas, it isn’t. But I just wondered what your advice would be.
TOM: So the sod never really bit, so to speak? It never really grew through the mesh netting and connected with the soil below?
KATHERINE: Not really. It did in some areas but it just did not grow well for our climate. It couldn’t handle the winters; it just wouldn’t recover.
TOM: Well, the first thing you want to do is a soil test. You can – sometimes, your county extension services and services like that will do the test for you. Or have a landscaper do the test. But you need to know what’s in that soil and how to adjust the pH to get it just right to reseed.
LESLIE: Yeah, to fertilize correctly and …
LESLIE: In other words, you might not be giving it the stuff that it needs and it won’t grow.
TOM: Yeah, you’re working blind.
Now, the other thing to keep in mind is that the best time to do this is not at the beginning of summer. The best time to do this is in the fall when it’s a little cooler out. Because even if you did everything right and it started to grow, the intense heat that follows a month or two down the line will burn it out and kind of ruin all the good work that you did. So I would spend this summer getting the information that you need to kind of come up with a plan.
Now, in terms of whether or not you remove the old sod or not, if it’s really loose and disconnected and not really knitting – sort of sitting on top – then, in that case, I would take it out and then prep the soil below. If it has connected, then I would leave it.
Now, if you have sod – is it weedy? Is it also weedy, Katherine?
KATHERINE: There are lots of weeds. So it’s not so much the sod that’s the issue but it’s the plastic mesh netting, that was on the back side of the sod rolls, that’s there. And I just don’t know – can we till with that there or is that going to get all caught up in the tiller?
TOM: I think you probably can. In my experience, those types of backers are designed to stay there and not be removed. And they just sort of deteriorate, naturally, away.
KATHERINE: Hmm. OK.
TOM: So I don’t suspect that that would be an issue. Because otherwise, how would you ever lay it down?
KATHERINE: Right, right. Yeah, I don’t know. I didn’t know what was supposed to be common, just that it hasn’t degraded at all. After a year, it’s still totally there.
TOM: Well, here’s an idea: one of the things that you could do is you could rent a seeding machine that slices the lawn. There are machines out there that will actually slice it and you – and drops the seed sort of into the slits and that will cut through it. But really, before you do any of that, the first thing to do is do a soil test and see what’s going on there.
LESLIE: Now, this way, you’ll know how to feed it, how to take care of it, when it’s going to want to be seeded. That will really answer a lot of questions for you.
KATHERINE: OK. That makes a lot of sense.
TOM: Yeah. And if the sod – if you end up deciding to leave the sod in place and if it gets really weedy, one thing you could do is something called a “Roundup restoration.” You can spray Roundup right on the sod and kill the sod and actually leave it in place. And then put the seed right up into the dead grass. It will hold it really well and it will resprout. And the Roundup will not prevent the new seed from taking root.
KATHERINE: Hmm. Alright. That makes sense.
TOM: Well, if you’ve got a stump to get rid of, there are a couple of really expensive ways to get rid of it. But there are also some very inexpensive ways to make those stumps disappear, as well, if you’ve got some patience.
First, let’s talk about the most expensive one and that is a method of stump-removal called “grinding.” It is a job that is about as far away from a DIY project as you can get. You need to hire a tree service, use a specialized stump-grinder. It’s a very large, very nasty-looking sort of medieval, torture-like device that grinds that stump to below grade. And that’s why it’s very expensive to do.
LESLIE: Now, if you’re a hardy do-it-yourselfer, digging out a medium-to-small-size stump is also a possible option. Now, it’s a matter of exposing the trunk below grade, chopping out that wood and then repeating until the stump is gone or you’re exhausted, I mean whichever comes first. But it’s probably going to be that you’re exhausted. It’s going to be a project.
Now, an easier way to get rid of the stump is to use removal chemicals. Now, these are sold in home centers and hardware stores and they contain potassium nitrate, which is going to speed up the microbial process of decomposition. Basically, you’re going to drill deep holes into that stump and then pour the chemicals into those holes and then cover the stump with a tarp. Now, you’ve got to wait about 4 to 6 weeks and that wood is going to become spongy and then, at that point, you can chop more easily the super-spongy wood and then remove it.
TOM: Now, lastly, you can also burn out the stump. This works best on older, dryer stumps but it’s potentially dangerous, so you really need to know what you’re doing. And it involves pretreating the stump with a flammable liquid that soaks in for a week or two and then you start a small fire on top of the stump. And it will eventually burn all out.
But of course, as I said, it’s dangerous. You’ve got to be doing this in a very carefully-supervised situation. It can’t be near the house, it can’t be near other trees. It really needs to be pretty much all by itself or you’re going to have an unexpected result, which could be a disaster.
So we’ve got the step-by-step instructions on stump-removal for all of these methods, on MoneyPit.com. Go there, check it out. You’ll find one that’s perfect for you.
LESLIE: Now we’re going to talk insulation with Albert from Massachusetts. What’s going on?
ALBERT: Well, my house is about 50 years old and the attic is unused space. It’s not very large. And it’s got minimal insulation. It’s just the strips of the fiberglass with the paper backing.
TOM: Fiberglass? OK. Yep.
ALBERT: And I’m thinking that it needs more than that and I’m wondering if I should get – should it be blown in or sprayed on? Open cell? Closed cell? You have any suggestions on that?
TOM: Sure. So, if you want to use spray-foam insulation, I think that’s an excellent choice, especially if you’re going to be in this house for many years, because it does a couple of things: it expands and it seals and then also is a much better R-value than the fiberglass insulation.
We did this in our very old house. We were replacing a roof at the time and my house is so old it didn’t have roof sheathing. So when we added the plywood sheathing, I opted to spray-foam the insulation from the inside. And we basically sprayed the bottom and the roof rafters and the sheathing, effectively sealing in the entire attic space. You no longer needed any ventilation in the attic there because spray foam is not impacted by moisture.
And now, we find that the attic is the same temperature as the rest of the house, or pretty close to it, even in the summer when it used to be boiling hot up there. So I’m a big fan of spray foam insulation. I think that’s an excellent option.
Now, you also mentioned that you’re not using the space that much.
TOM: If that’s the case, blown-in is a possibility, as well.
TOM: But once you do that, you’re definitely not going to be able to access it because it’ll just be covered. And you will continue to have to ventilate that because if you use fiberglass insulation, that is susceptible to moisture and humidity getting into it. And if it gets just a little bit damp, it doesn’t insulate very well.
But I think you may find, as I did, that when you do spray foam, it’s an instant change and just an incredibly efficient thing to do. It definitely makes the house more comfortable and it cuts back on both your cooling and your heating bills.
ALBERT: Mm-hmm. Now, with the spray foam, they would have to remove all that old fiberglass, rolled-out insulation, I take it?
TOM: Actually, I didn’t do that. I left my old insulation, which was in the floor of the attic, because I didn’t see any point in removing it.
TOM: There was nothing to be gained from doing that; just was another job. Now, I already had some of that flooring down. I had to fill in some areas that didn’t have flooring, because I wanted to be able to take advantage of it for storage.
But we applied the spray foam not to the flooring of the attic or the ceiling level of the second floor. We applied it to the roof rafters. And that’s the only time you would do that. If it was fiberglass, I never would have done that because that would have been a very difficult area to vent. But because it was spray foam, I was able to spray the underside of the sheathing and the roof rafters. And now, if you go up in my attic, it kind of looks like a cave up there because the foam is just everywhere.
And they sprayed it all in one day. They had a really good crew. And I have a really hard house to work with with this, because I had some flat roof sections and that sort of stuff. I had some tough crawlspaces and they did everything with spray foam. And I – we found an instant improvement.
In fact, if you go MoneyPit.com and search “guide to insulation” – The Money Pit Guide to Insulation – the story is in there, including my before-and-after utility bills. So you can see what effect it had.
ALBERT: I appreciate the callback.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us 888-MONEY-PIT.
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LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading to Texas. We’re going to chat with David about a French door. What’s going on?
DAVID: Yes, I want to remove my sliding-glass door on my patio – it’s about 30 years old – and I want to put in a French door. And my concern is water that keeps getting in, because sometimes my back patio will flood a little bit and I want to make sure I seal the bottom of the door correctly and the top. And I wasn’t sure how to do that.
TOM: When you say your patio floods, does it flood where it gets above the sill of the existing sliding-glass door?
DAVID: It does sometimes. We’ve got a cement slab out there that’s about 4 inches down below the sill.
DAVID: But sometimes – I have a deck built around that slab. So, sometimes if it rains real hard, the water will fill up in that, on top of the slab there before it drains off. And sometimes it’ll get up to the door.
TOM: OK. Alright. Well, the problem is that no matter how you install that door, old or new, the connection between the door sill and the house wall is not designed to stop a flood of the such you describe. I mean you’re basically talking about what would happen in a shower-pan situation, right, where the water would come up and fill up the pan. It’s not designed for that.
TOM: So, you could put all sorts of sealants under that door, it’s still going to leak through eventually. You might be better off concentrating on that drainage problem while you’re doing this work.
TOM: And if you can’t get to the slab – if you can’t remove the slab and re-pitch it or put a new one that slopes away, the least that you should do is maybe cut out the section near the house and install a drain there. You can use a type of drain that basically will sit just below the grade, it will soak up the water and then pitch it so it drains away from there.
TOM: There’s a drain called EZ-Drain that has the drainpipe and a foam aggregate around it, all in one, which makes it a lot easier to put in than a traditional French drain. But you’ve got to control that water problem and this is the time to do it. Because no matter how you seal – try to seal that new French door – that beautiful door, which is going to be expensive – against your floor or your slab, whatever it’s sitting on, it’s not going to hold back water that’s flooded above the level of the door. It’s just not designed for that.
TOM: It’s designed to keep rain out, you know, if it’s flashed properly but not a flood.
DAVID: OK. Great, that really helps. It eases my mind, anyway.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
DAVID: Yes, sir. Thank you for all your help. Bye.
LESLIE: Well, as the saying goes, you only have one chance at a first impression. But when it comes to your home, that first impression is what everybody sees from the outside all the time.
TOM: Absolutely. And the right colors can definitely make a huge impact on how your home looks to passersby, it can increase the curb appeal. And if the color palette is done well, it can even help increase the value of your home.
Now, Leslie, when it comes to making the color choice, people get so overwhelmed. They get all tied up, all confused. They’re afraid of making the wrong decision. So, what’s kind of the way to break that down? What should we keep in mind when we’re trying to create that great first impression?
LESLIE: Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right: people get overwhelmed. Because when you go to a paint center, there are so many colors and so many tones in the same color that you’re like, “These are kind of similar. Do I like this one or that one?” It’s very overwhelming. And if you don’t have the ability to, say, drop a different color door in your house in Photoshop or see through a designer’s eye of what the potential – what your house could look like, it can be very, very difficult to make a choice.
So, you kind of have to think about a few things. First of all, drive around the neighborhood. There’s going to be other houses that look sort of similar in architectural style to your home. What do their doors look like? What color are they? Is there something that’s super intriguing or exciting or interesting about a door that you’re passing as you’re going around? Take a picture of it. You know, knock on the door and ask or just be stealthy but don’t be creepy. But you know what I’m saying. Look around and see what you see.
Now, you should also think about your house. Are there any architectural details on the home itself that you might be able to highlight outside of your doors, window frames, shutters? Some of these can work very well when you use a contrasting color to the door, for example. And that can really make the home feel welcoming and really make your house stand out.
TOM: Now, that’s a situation where you want to add these as sort of accent colors. But what if you have some ugly or unusual feature that you want to kind of camouflage? Maybe the windows don’t all line up or something like that, there’s a one-off window somewhere or some piece of trim that just doesn’t really do it. If you paint that the same color as the main house, that can also have the opposite effect and help you actually camouflage it, right?
LESLIE: Oh, for sure. I mean it’s interesting how when you paint something the same color, it kind of disappears to the eye. So, that goes for things like downspouts, gutters, any sort of air-conditioning unit, things like that that are sort of attached to the home and would normally be very obvious. Paint them the same color as the house, they’re going to blend in and you’ll be surprised how quickly they go away.
TOM: Makes sense.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. If you’ve got questions about taking care of your house, inside or out, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: When you give us a call, you are also entered for a chance to win some awesome tools to help you tackle all of those home improvement projects you’re planning and dreaming of. And this week, we’ve got, up for grabs, the HART 20-Volt Cordless 4-Tool Combo Kit. Now, that’s going to include the HART Drill Driver, an impact driver, reciprocating saw, LED light, plus two 20-volt batteries, a fast charger and a tool bag to keep everything in.
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TOM: That HART Tool 20-Volt Cordless 4-Tool Combo is worth 178 bucks. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Richard in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RICHARD: Yeah, I have a lift pump that’s making an unusual noise. Like it’ll fire off and then it makes a harmonic noise about halfway through the pumping station.
RICHARD: And hoping it’ll be like a check valve that needs replacing there or if it’s – if you need more background, it’s a replacement pump for one I had in there. I had a ¼-horse in there before and now it’s got a ½-horse. It’s actually a bigger lift pump than the one I had before.
TOM: Generally, when I hear a squealing noise, I consider whether or not it’s an issue with the bearings.
It could also be an issue with the valve itself, perhaps the check valve. Because sometimes, as the water streams through that, it’s vibrating against the valve and then that vibration can transmit. Plumbing pipes are really pretty good transmitters of sound, so it can transmit and amplify and sound really bad.
If it’s still working and it’s not slowing down flow or anything like that, I guess I would think probably not to worry about it too much. But my concern is that if it is a wear-and-tear issue and something’s going to seize up, you may end up with a surprise repair.
This is not your main bathroom, is it? This is an additional bathroom?
RICHARD: Yeah, it’s an addition that was put on later on, so …
TOM: Alright. Well, if it breaks down, it breaks down; at least you’re not out of luck. But my concern is that it might be a precursor of worse things to come.
TOM: So I would keep an eye on it and see what happens, OK?
LESLIE: Well, if you’re a renter, you might think that there’s not much you can do to cut summer cooling bills and also stay comfortable. But even though you don’t own the place you live in, there are lots of low-cost to no-cost things that you can do to stay comfortable and stop wasting your money. We’re going to share a few ideas, in today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Smart Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Alright. First off, let’s cover some basics. If you’re renting a house and that house has storm windows and it has central air conditioning or rooms where you’re running the window units, you need to close the storms. The reason is that same air that leaks in during cold winter months, when we’re used to closing storm windows, also leaks in during the summer months except it’s hot, of course and it drives up your cooling costs.
Now, if you’ve got window air-conditioning units, if it’s possible, place them in windows on the shadier sides of rooms. This is perfect if the room’s a corner room and you’ve got a choice of two different walls you could use. If you choose the shadier side, it’s going to be more efficient because the cooler these units stay, the better job they do keeping you cool and comfortable. And because they’re not overheated, they don’t have to work as hard to do that and that’s how you save some money.
LESLIE: Now, another thing that you can do is during the daytime hours, you can keep shades or your blinds, whichever you’ve got, closed in the rooms that face south and west. This is going to reduce the solar heat and lower the amount of work that your air conditioners have to do to keep you comfortable.
Now, let’s talk about fans. A lot of people think, “Oh, it’s a fan. It’s not going to work as well.” But when used in conjunction with your air conditioning, I mean it’s really fantastic. They provide great evaporative cooling effects. So they’re going to move the air and thereby cause any moisture on your skin to evaporate, which will instantly make you feel more cool and more comfortable.
And you can do this more efficiently. If you’ve got a ceiling fan, take advantage of their one energy-efficient feature: it’s a reversible motor. By controlling the direction of the blades, you can actually use the fan to pull up cold air in the summer and push warm air down in the winter.
TOM: And you can also be strategic with room fans. Position them for maximum air circulation in the living areas. And if you’re using a window fan, make sure to open another window across the room and that helps with cross-ventilation.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip, presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Jan wants to know: “How can I tell the age of my house?” Now, she says, “I’ve heard that you ask listeners how old their homes are and I’ve wondered, ‘How do I figure that out for my own house?’”
TOM: Ah, that’s a great question. When I spent all those years as a professional home inspector, I had to kind of figure that out pretty much every day. And there are a lot of tricks of the trade for this but some that are super easy to do. If your home has its original plumbing fixtures, the date that the plumbing fixture was manufactured is almost always stamped into that fixture somewhere.
So, for a toilet, take the lid off, turn it upside-down, see if there’s a date stamp there or look on the side walls of the inside of the tank. Same thing goes for kitchen sinks, especially those old cast-iron sinks. Those are always really fun, because people love to keep them around because they’re so classic. They stay around a long time. People will remodel their kitchens and keep those old sinks.
LESLIE: Yeah, they’re super durable.
TOM: Yeah, I’ve found the dates actually casted into the bottom of those.
Other things to check: the electrical panel. If it’s the original panel, there should be an electrical inspection sticker on there. And then also, on our website at MoneyPit.com, we have a whole list of things inside your house that, based on their presence or absence, you can kind of guess. So, for example, if your house has the original knob-and-tube wiring or it has the evidence that it originally had that kind of wiring, you can figure that house was probably done in the 30s. If it’s got steel plumbing, maybe that was the 40s or the 50s or older than that. We’ve got a whole sort of cheat sheet on the website, at MoneyPit.com, that can help you figure that out.
But it’s a great question, Jan. Sometimes, people need to know that when they actually get homeowners insurance. They might ask you that. The other thing to do, by the way, aside from sort of snoop around your own house is the public records that are kept on your property wherever – whatever you have – a town or a county that keeps those. It’s usually part of that record, as well, so you might be able to reach out to those folks.
LESLIE: Alright. Enjoy your house detective work over there.
Now we’ve got Anna who says, “We have a great outdoor seating area but the cushions are never as stylish and durable as I wish they could be. Do you have recommendations for fabrics so I can make my own?”
So, Anna, I think here’s the issue. If you’re buying cutesy, little fabric cushions and pillows from a store – any kind of store, whether it’s a fancy design store or a regular designer shop – you’re probably not getting fabric and foam cushions that are meant to be outside. They’re meant to be in covered areas or brought in or covered every single time.
If you’re looking for something that’s going to perform well, clean well and stay mold-free, you have to make sure that you use an outdoor-grade foam for the insert. Whether you’re having this made, buying it online, whatever, look for that outside-grade foam for the inside and then look for outdoor fabric for the cover. And make sure there’s a zipper so you can take it off easily and launder it as needed.
But you want to look for something like a Sunbrella fabric: things that are made specifically to not lose their color outside, to not get moldy. Otherwise, you’re just going to be buying new cushions, I feel like, every year.
TOM: You know, it’s really interesting. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as outdoor foam. What’s the difference?
LESLIE: Oh, for sure.
TOM: Does the foam – does it drain better?
LESLIE: It does. It drains better, it’s antimicrobial. So it’s not going to sit there and hold all that moisture until you sort of sit on it and squeeze it out of it or physically squeeze the water out. So it’s constantly helping in the draining and then it will dry more quickly and not grow mold. So it’s definitely a better choice.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We really appreciate you guys spending this part of your day listening to us and we hope that we’ve given you some valuable ideas and tips to help you create your best home ever. If you’re focusing on outdoor projects this time of the year, we are, too. So, remember, you can reach out to us with those questions, any time of the day or night, at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your questions 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 2021 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.)