TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And what are you working on this beautiful spring weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in exactly the right place because we’re here to help. We’ve got the garden gloves on, we dragged out the painting equipment. We’re ready to get to work to lend you a hand tackling those projects and more around your house. But help yourself first: call us now with that home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT or post it to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
Well, it might be spring now but summer is just ahead. I mean Memorial Day is coming up and that makes now a good time to make sure your deck is ready to host a barbecue with, you know, dozens of your closest, personal friends. We’re going to highlight a deck-safety check to make sure that your deck is safe and good to go.
LESLIE: And also ahead, if you don’t have a deck, maybe building a patio is a project that you’d like to take on just in time for Memorial Day. Well, it’s actually a lot easier than you think and we’ll tell you how, in just a bit.
TOM: Plus, as summer approaches, it’s also a great time to make sure your home’s cooling plan is set to deliver comfort and energy efficiency. So to help, we’ve put together a list of low-cost to no-cost tips that will do just that.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’ve got a very fun tool to give away. It’s the iconic, American-made prize package which includes Arrow T50AC Electric Staple Gun and Nailer, Arrow’s GT20DT Dual-Temp Glue Gun, which is personally my favorite glue gun, staples and glue sticks. It’s a great package and you can make a ton of stuff with it.
TOM: Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Judy in Florida is on the line with a countertop situation. What happened? You scraped it? You cut it? What’d you do?
JUDY: The previous owners had painted it and I took a razor blade and went up under it and I was able to get all of that paint off. But evidently, they sanded the tops and I would like to bring some life back into the top.
LESLIE: So, wait, is it wood? Is it butcher block? Is it laminate?
JUDY: It’s laminate, yes. And it’s in good shape. It’s just that it’s dull. It’s got the marble look.
LESLIE: You’ve got a couple of options. You could paint it again. There are several different companies that make a laminate painting kit. Rust-Oleum has a couple of different products: Modern Masters and – oh, Tom, there was that one we saw in Vegas. It’s named after the guy’s daughter; it’s got two marbling kits in it.
JUDY: Yeah, I have seen that and I prefer not to do that. I read an article somewhere – and I cannot find the article – that said that you could use car wax, paste wax and buff it?
JUDY: Would that look – the countertop looks fine; it just needs a gloss. I don’t want a real high gloss; I just want it to look better.
TOM: Well, there’s no reason you couldn’t use the car wax. It’s not all – except that I wouldn’t want my food to be in contact with it. But other than that, I think it – probably OK.
JUDY: That’s a good idea, surely. Well, I thank you for your time, your suggestions.
TOM: You’re very welcome.
JUDY: I appreciate it.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Olen in North Carolina on the line who needs some help with a radiant floor-system project. Tell us what you’re working on. Are you doing this yourself?
OLEN: Yeah, I am a do-it-yourselfer kind of guy and I’m going to just do the rough end of the tubing myself. I’m going to leave the pumps and whatnot to the professionals. But it’s sort of smart to let the – to have somebody to do the hard stuff for you. But I figure I can do the tubing myself.
And my question regards the choice between PEX and Onix tubing and about cost-effectiveness.
OLEN: And which one is more appropriate for my region? I’m in North Carolina.
LESLIE: Well, what type of subfloor are you working with?
OLEN: I’m going to be working on my existing, open floor joists and 16-inch centers, so I’ve got plenty of space under there to staple up either the aluminum plates or to put up the rubberized Onix material.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And what’s going to be your flooring?
OLEN: Above it, I will have a hardwood floor and in some areas, I’m going to be putting down the cement board and tile on top.
LESLIE: OK. Now, when you’re dealing with radiant flooring with hardwood, you have to make sure that the certain type of hardwood you buy is appropriate for radiant. And it depends on the way the graining is cut. And I forget exactly what it’s called but you have to make sure you buy the correct type of grain, the way the piece of flooring for the wood itself is cut. Otherwise, you’re going to get a lot of shifting and movement just due to the nature of the heating.
OLEN: Right. I hear that the PEX tends to cause a little bit more expansion and contraction in the tubing itself. And my floor is actually existing pine floor; it’s only a certain area where I’ll be putting in the cement board and the tile.
TOM: Well, look, I think that either product, as long as it’s installed consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions, is going to be fine. PEX is really the more common, known product for this and we’ve seen it in many, many houses. PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene. Onix is cross-linked EPDM, so it’s another formulation for a radiant-tubing product.
Personally, I would use PEX only because it seems to have the history. I know that Onix was used a lot on outdoor applications for snow melting and that sort of thing. But because it’s inside the house and because it’s got such a great reputation, I would use PEX. And I have seen PEX become very, very indestructible when it comes to its ability to work with all sorts of conditions inside the house.
In fact, I saw a demonstration once. One thing that’s cool about PEX is the memory that it has. You can heat this stuff and stretch it to twice its length and let it go and it goes back to its original shape. So it retains its original shape.
So it’s a pretty impressive product and I think it’s got the history. And that’s what I think I would trust if I was going to go radiant in my house.
OLEN: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit. What’s your how-to or décor question? Give us a call now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.
TOM: Just ahead, are you looking for a new space to enjoy outdoor living this summer? Building a patio or expanding the one you have is a project you may be able to do yourself.
LESLIE: We’ll share some tips and a key trick of the trade to help you design the perfect space, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we’d love to hear about your home improvement or repair project. Call it in, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
And if you do just that, we’ve got a handy set of tools going out to one listener who calls in their home improvement project or posts it to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: That’s right. We’ve got some great tools to help you get a variety of projects done. From Arrow, we’ve got up for grabs the T50 Electric Staple Gun and Nailer, plus the Arrow Dual-Temp Glue Gun, along with a ton of staples and glue sticks. So you’ll be able to get a lot done. And the package is worth 95 bucks.
TOM: Yep. And these are two tools that will be super useful for many things around the house, from crafts to repairs, including a fun project that Arrow is featuring, right now, at ArrowFastener.com. It’s a vertical succulent garden. The entire project – including the materials list, photos and all the details – are online at ArrowFastener.com. Just click on the projects and you’ll find all the details right there.
LESLIE: You know what’s so great is that the Arrow Fastener Company has been making these staple guns and the staples right here in America – in the Saddle Brook, New Jersey plant – for almost 90 years.
And Tom, you and I went there. And I mean it’s really an impressive operation.
TOM: We did. And these tools are made so well. That electric stapler is really made for a pro but it’s great for consumers. And the Dual-Temp Glue Gun, like you said, it’s your favorite because it heats up fast and it doesn’t drip. I have dripped so much glue with the wrong glue guns over the years and that’s why we love this Arrow product.
So they’re both going out to one lucky listener drawn at random. If you’re feeling lucky today, hey, you’ll get your home improvement question answered and you could win this great prize pack from Arrow. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Eloise in North Carolina is dealing with some unwanted visitors: squirrels.
Eloise, one tried to get into my screened-in porch last week because of a pizza box. I can only – and it scared the bejesus out of me.
TOM: Must have been an Italian squirrel.
LESLIE: Tell us. What’s going on?
ELOISE: The squirrels have decided that they like the coziness of getting inside and down into the eaves of the porch rather than to nest in a tree. And they have started eating away at my house. I’ve noticed places where they’ve been gnawing, as well as the nests that are down in the eaves. How can I get rid of them?
TOM: Well, there’s a couple of ways that you can deal with squirrels in the attic. It’s kind of like bats in your belfry: they drive you crazy. But there are some ways to try to manage these populations.
First of all, you can trap and release. If you invested in a couple, or even one, Havahart traps – Havahart is a trap that has a door on it that lets the squirrel in, doesn’t harm them. Usually, you’ll use an apple or something like that as bait. We usually recommend you wire it to the frame of the trap, because they’ll figure it out and they’ll steal it and not get stuck in the trap. And then once they get stuck in the trap, you take the whole trap, stick it in the trunk of your car, drive out to a woodsy area, lift the door and off they will run happily to once again rejoin Mother Nature.
Another thing that you can do is you could consider using a squirrel repellant. There are different types of repellants that are available. They usually are repellants that are designed to emulate a natural predator of squirrels, like fox or something of that nature. And you either spray them or you – sometimes they’re in a bag and you hang them in the area and that can deter them.
But really, the first thing I would do is try to seal up any gaps that are allowing them to get into this attic space to begin with.
ELOISE: Yeah, I have some homework to do. Thank you so much.
TOM: Ah, you sure do. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Eric in Colorado on the line who needs some help with a crabgrass situation. Tell us what’s going on.
ERIC: My wife and I purchased a home last year and it’s our – it’s my first time actually trying to maintain a lawn. So far, I’m pretty happy with what we have except I noticed that there’s a patch of grass that’s on one part of the lawn. It looks like it’s a different breed or a different kind of grass or possibly a crabgrass or whatever. I’m not sure if it’s a weed or what it is but I just want to get rid of it.
LESLIE: There are products out there and if you search online, you’ll find some. One is actually a product called Crabgrass Killer and it’s on a website called MegaGro.com. And it’s truly made from all-natural ingredients. It’s got, I think, cinnamon bark and wheat flour and corn flour and cumin and baking soda. So it is made from organic, if you will, materials that make it a more safe herbicide for the lawn.
But you have to know what kind of grass that you’ve got, because it won’t harm certain lawns. But if you happen to have bluegrass or fescue, you don’t want to use it. And being that you’re a new homeowner, new to identifying what kind of grass you have, this might not be the best approach. And that’s also something you’ve got to be sort of careful about.
That one’s called Crabgrass Killer. You can search it online, read about it and see if that’s something you want to do.
ERIC: So how am I supposed to know if it is crabgrass or if it’s some other – somebody just threw some different grass seeds down there for whatever reason?
TOM: Well, you get crabgrass, you get chickweed. These seeds are in the air, OK? And they blow around and they land and they start to sprout. And so that’s why we use weed killers and preemergent herbicides and things like that, because it controls those and helps make sure that the grass can really – is really the thing that comes through.
And so, as a new homeowner, you’re going to have to buy into the fact that your lawn is going to need some care. You wouldn’t go year after year without expecting to have to paint your house. You can’t go season after season without expecting to have to take care of your lawn.
ERIC: OK. Well, great. Thanks a lot.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, it’s hard to enjoy an outdoor-living space if you don’t have a deck or a patio or you need to expand the one that you’ve got. Well, before the dollar signs start flashing in front of your eyes, know that when it comes to building a patio, it’s really not incredibly difficult for a seasoned DIYer.
TOM: Yeah. A patio, in its simplest form, is really just a concrete slab. But of course, you’ve got to plan before you pour. And an easy way to see the shape of your potential patio is to simply use a rope to lay out the perimeter. Then step back and review the space to get a good feel for it. And you can even consider maybe adding some furniture inside that sort of roped outline, to make sure the patio sort of fits all the things that you want to do with it.
Now, another important design factor to consider, if you’re putting it up right next to your house, is the distance from the top of the finished patio surface to the doorway of the house. You want to have a distance where the step-down is no more than 8 inches or it could be dangerous. And since patios tend to settle, you know, if you made it 5 or 6 inches, it’s probably going to settle another inch or so. That’s probably the goal in terms of how high you want that to be.
And don’t forget to make sure the patio slopes away from the house. It’s got to drop about an 1/8-inch per foot. And you don’t want to fudge those numbers because if you do, you’re going to have some significant drainage problems that will not make you happy.
LESLIE: Now, don’t forget about the design. I know we’re talking about all the technical stuff to make sure it stays sturdy and it stays dry. But when it comes to design, one way to give your plain patio some style is to lay out redwood 2x4s to make boxes and then pour the concrete into them.
And when it comes time to make repairs on your patio – or really, any other concrete surface – try a quick-concrete mix. Now, you can mix and use it right out of the pouch and match the contour and shape of any concrete surface. You can even use it on vertical or those horizontal surfaces. It’s really a great product, so don’t be afraid to work with concrete.
TOM: If that’s a project on your to-do list or any others, give us a call, right now, or post it to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: And now we’ve got Kimberly in College Station, Texas with a leaky roof. Tell us what’s going on.
KIMBERLY: We bought this house many years – several years ago. And we had an inspection of the house and we didn’t know that we had a problem with a roof leak. The inspector didn’t catch it because the people who owned the house first put some plastic over the leaking areas. So when it rained, it held water and we didn’t know that until four or five months afterwards, after we bought the house. And then our insurance wouldn’t cover anything.
And we’re just – we’ve got more leaks now because the house is getting older. And so, instead of replacing the entire roof, we’re looking for some suggestions on some kind of a seal. And we don’t even know – there’s all these things out there. We don’t know what would be the best, if there’s anything available, or what we should do.
TOM: OK. So, you say that they covered this with plastic and your home inspector never noticed that it was covered with plastic? I mean duh.
KIMBERLY: No. And it was – it’s on the – up in the inside of the house. And also, they painted the ceiling. They had a 5-gallon can of white ceiling paint in our garage, which – so they kept it covered all the time, which – nobody caught that. Now, I didn’t think anything about it.
TOM: Was this roof accessible? The area that was covered with plastic?
KIMBERLY: Yes. And he walked around up there and it – and I guess it hadn’t rained in a while. So, those little sealed-up areas weren’t full of water at this – at the time.
TOM: Let me ask you this: is this a sloped roof or a flat roof?
TOM: And has it ever been covered with tar or anything like that?
TOM: So the metal is still fresh in the sense that it has never been tarred over?
KIMBERLY: No, it’s not tarred.
TOM: Well, have you had a roofer look at it?
KIMBERLY: We have; we’ve had several. And one told us that it would cost us $6,000 or $7,000 to put a seal on it. And now there’s some of those things out there at the home improvement stores. We just don’t know if …
TOM: OK, look, let me make this real easy for you. You don’t seal a metal roof; you repair a metal roof. Metal roofs can last 100 years. So, if any roofer is trying to sell you something in a can that he’s going to seal the roof with, that is a disaster waiting to happen, for a lot of reasons.
First of all, it’s not the right way to fix it. Secondly, it actually does more harm than good and here’s why: because when you seal a roof with tar – a metal roof with tar – water still gets in; it gets under the tar and then it quickly rusts the roof away. If you have a roof that is cracked or has rusted out in a piece of area, then you repair those; you don’t tar over them like you might, say, an asphalt roof.
So, that’s – what you need to do is to find a roofer who is a craftsman. And I realize that that’s easier said than done. But if you find a roofer that’s a craftsman that really has experience with metal roofs and doesn’t just know how to tear one off – that doesn’t count as experience with a metal roof which, unfortunately, many will just say, “Oh, we’ll tear it off and do something else.”
No. If you find somebody that really knows metal roofs, then that should be completely repairable. And I would not encourage you to put any kind of sealant on it but to figure out where it’s leaking and why it’s leaking and fix it.
You’ve got to dig into it further, Kim. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, with Memorial Day coming up, now is a great time to make sure your deck is ready to host a barbecue with dozens of your closest friends. Tom Silva from This Old House is stopping by with a DIY deck-safety checklist, to help you make sure that yours is good to go.
TOM: And today’s edition of This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by ADT. Introducing ADT Go, the new family mobile safety app and service. Go to ADT.com to learn more today.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Well, whether you’re planning a décor project, remodeling your kitchen, remodeling your bath, fixing a leak, fixing a squeak, we’re here for you every step of the way. You can call in your question now to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.
LESLIE: Well, the weather is getting nicer and soon you’ll be spending more and more time on your deck. But before you get ready for your next season of outdoor living, it’s important to make sure that the deck is in good shape.
TOM: Well, that’s right. Now, we’ve all heard the horror stories of deck collapses and a good checkup will tell you if you’ve got anything to worry about. Here to tell us how to do just that is our favorite contractor, Tom Silva, the general contractor for TV’s This Old House.
TOM SILVA: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: Nice to have you here, as well.
Let’s talk about deck safety. Every summer, it seems that we hear the same story: it’s a party, somebody has invited over 40 or 50 of their closest, personal friends and a tragedy ensues. How do we make sure that doesn’t happen to us?
TOM SILVA: It’s so true: 40 or 50 of your closest friends; see how much weight is put onto that deck.
TOM SILVA: And if it’s not built structurally strong, it can collapse no matter what. But what you want to look for are signs of rot. And I always look at – first of all, you look at the decking itself. That’s usually a sign, because a lot of people aren’t going to get under that deck to find out about the structure.
TOM SILVA: They’re going to say, “Hey, these floorboards look a little worn. They look a little rotted.”
TOM SILVA: That’s a sign right there. And then you’ve got to start looking at how it’s connected to the house. There’s a ledger board that the joists are connecting to the house. What’s the condition of that? Usually a sign is at the top edge, where it meets the deck. You may have some rot in there that you’ve got to look out for. Take a screwdriver and hit it, poke it, just like you’re looking for a rotted sill on a house.
TOM: Now, that’s a good point. A screwdriver really can be one of your best rot-detecting tools.
LESLIE: Probing tools, if you will?
TOM SILVA: You should know, yeah.
TOM: All the years I spent as a home inspector, I used to wear the tips off of those screwdrivers, because it really does tell you whether the wood is good or not.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely.
TOM: Because it can look perfectly fine from the outside.
TOM SILVA: Right. Very deceiving, especially if someone has put a coat of paint on it or a stain or whatever, it can hide it.
But also, look at your supports where they are connected at the bases. A lot of time, they’ll rot in the center. If there’s a bolt or a fastener that runs up the middle, there’s no protection there. And if the deck isn’t a good, pressure-treated material or it’s just regular, conventional lumber that hasn’t been sealed, you’ve got a short life.
TOM: Now, the flashing is also real important because that’s what separates the water from the wood, correct?
TOM SILVA: The water from the wood and also the house connection. It keeps that connection nice and clean. Because if water is going to get in between that flashing and the ledger, you’re going to rot the ledger but you’re also going to rot the house. And you’re not going to see that from the outside, so you’ve got to be – make sure that the flashing is really solid.
LESLIE: Now, when you’re inspecting that ledger point, can you actually see the flashing there or is it so encased behind it that it’s anybody’s guess if it exists?
TOM SILVA: It depends on what type of flashing they used and how they sealed the flashing. Lots of times, people will use an aluminum flashing on a piece of pressure-treated wood and that’s going to rot anyways on its own. And then they put nails through the flashing, so you’ve just defeated the purpose of the flashing. So you’ve got to really look and inspect it and hope – poking around with that screwdriver will really solve a lot of problems right up around there.
TOM: We’re talking to Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House.
So, first we have to check for rot, then we have to check the flashing. The fasteners are also very important, too.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. Look at the fasteners, look at the hangers, look at the connection where the posts or supports are to the, hopefully, the footings. And if you see any signs of rust at all, that’s usually a sign that there’s a problem somewhere. Maybe the wrong fasteners were used and you’ve got to look into it.
LESLIE: And what about the railings and the banisters? They really take a ton of abuse, especially if you’ve got a fairly high deck. How do you make sure that they’re maintained?
TOM SILVA: Well, again, you want to look at the connection where the railing hits the post: that connection there. You want to look at the balusters. Usually, the sign – the way the balusters are connected to the railing at the bottom, you may see some signs of deterioration or rot there or the wrong kind of fasteners.
So if you check your railing, you can give it a gentle kick at the bottom to see if there’s any loose movement there. And if there is, get on it; get it fixed.
TOM: Now, speaking of railings, a lot of times we have decks that were built many years ago and the railings were actually quite low. It’s a good time to take a look at the height of those railings, as well, isn’t it?
TOM SILVA: Yeah, the railings were 26, 29 inches high. They look great.
LESLIE: That’s low.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Historical houses. But think about it: back then, nobody fell off the deck, you know?
TOM SILVA: But the building code today is now 36 inches. Some people like 42. I don’t like the look of a 42 but if you’re up 3, 4 or 5 stories, higher is better.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And what about the spacing? It almost seems to keep them closer together so that kids and pets can’t wiggle their way through.
TOM SILVA: That’s the idea. You don’t want a 4½-inch ball to go through the hole of that railing or the space – any space at all – because you don’t want a baby to climb through it or a dog or a pet.
TOM: Now, aside from the structure, we’re looking at the floorboards and we just find that they’re badly splintered. Do you think – a lot of folks think that because you have pressure-treated wood, it’s not going to deteriorate but that’s not true. Sun can really do a number on it. It can splinter it, it can become uncomfortable for the feet. Any quick tricks to fix those boards?
TOM SILVA: Well, you’re right; you hit it right on the head: pressure-treated wood still needs maintenance. People don’t think it does. It gets large checks in it. Lots of times, it won’t rot. Sometimes, you can get – and actually get a defective piece and it will rot.
But you should keep some stain on it. You should keep something in there protecting that wood. I don’t care if it’s pressure-treated or not; it still should have some protection on it. And if it’s too far gone, you may have to cover it with another product or basically replace it. Sometimes, you can take it, flip it over.
TOM: Great advice. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. This is a really important topic and something that you really should be doing at least once a season, correct?
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. Right after the winter.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on deck maintenance, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot.
Coming up, with summer ahead, now is the time to get your A/C system in order so it not only works but works efficiently and saves you money. We’ll have tips to do just that, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, next.
Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: What’s your home improvement question? Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post it to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dean in Pennsylvania on the line who’s got an insulation question. What can we do for you today?
DEAN: I have an older home. It has a brick exterior and then the stud walls on the inside. And between there is the air space. And that air space, it dumps down in the basement. And in the wintertime, I’m feeling the cold air sinking and I want to try and get my kids to use the basement a little bit more but it’s a little on the chilly side. And I don’t know if I’m – if that’s like a vent of some sort, if I’m allowed to insulate that or will I cause problems if I close it off or what?
TOM: You can actually see where this gap opens up to the basement?
DEAN: Yep, mm-hmm.
TOM: There’s no reason that you can’t insulate that. That would be along what we call the “box beam” or the “box insulation.” And that’s actually a standard place to add insulation.
The other thing that you could consider doing is you could use an expandable foam in that area to kind of seal the gap, if it’s not too wide, or simply add some fiberglass-batt insulation there. I think that’s the easiest thing to do. That will stop some of that draft from getting through to the basement and make being down there a lot more comfortable.
DEAN: Yeah, right. I didn’t know if that was how you have insulated windows now: two panes of glass with the air space in between. I didn’t know if it was something like that.
TOM: No, there’s not quite that much thought put into it. It’s just kind of the way those old homes were built. So you can certainly insulate that space.
LESLIE: Well, now that summer is approaching, it’s a great time to make sure your home’s cooling plan is set to deliver comfort and energy efficiency. To help, we’ve put together a list of low-cost to no-cost tips.
TOM: First, let’s talk about those low-cost tips. It’s important to get your air-conditioning system tuned up right now. Pretty much as soon as temperatures reach about 60 degrees, you’re good to go to book your local HVAC pro for a pre-season call to make sure that they’re checking it out. They’re going to check the refrigerant levels, all of the bells and whistles that make that system chug along. And get it done now because if you don’t, you might be standing in line when they get busy, when it gets hot. Or it might break down, you know, Memorial Day Weekend, which would be really inconvenient.
The other thing you want to do is change your filters regularly. It’s really important to change them at least once a month. If you have a better-quality filter, which we hope you do, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on that.
And know when it’s time to upgrade. I mean if your A/C is over 10 years old, it might be due for a replacement. And if you do that, get an ENERGY STAR-qualified model because that’s going to save you some money.
And keep in mind that when you replace just the outside compressor, it has to match what’s going on inside. Because if you don’t do that, it’s not going to give you the same peak efficiency. So if you’ve got an energy-efficient compressor outside but a very not energy-efficient condensing coil inside, you’re not going to save money. So make sure you consider that.
And if you use room air conditioners, you want to make sure they’re sized for the space you’re cooling, as well. If you use one that’s too large or too small, it’s going to waste energy and not cool your house properly.
LESLIE: Now, here are a few no-cost tips. So when you’re installing those window A/C units, you want to make sure you do them on the shady side of the house, if you can. Try to keep those air conditioners out of the direct sunlight. The cooler the unit, the more efficient it’ll be.
Your storm windows. You keep them closed in the winter, also keep them closed in the summer. You’ve got the same leaks year-round, so doing that is going to provide for extra cooling comfort and efficiency.
Window shades? Pull them down. Keep those rooms cool by closing the shades and blinds during the sun-filled hours of the day. The more sun that comes in, the harder the A/C is going to have to work. So just cut that sun out altogether.
Now, if you’ve got an overhead fan, you might have noticed the little switch sort of on the motor unit itself. And maybe you’ve wondered what it is. Well, that’s to change the direction that the blades run in. Now, you want to spin them in the right direction for cooling efficiency by setting the reverse motors for counterclockwise. And that, you’ll see, will pull the air up and sort of recirculate that cool air all around the room.
And when it comes to washing dishes in the dishwasher or doing the laundry or running the dryer, run all of those heat-generating appliances at night if you can. This way, your cooling system won’t have to work as hard, it’ll be more efficient and it won’t put so much stress on the system.
TOM: Improving your home’s A/C system is important. It could be achieved through a combination of sort of common-sense maintenance tips and also by reducing the heat that gets into your home. So if you follow these steps, you’ll definitely improve your air-conditioning efficiency, you’ll save some money and you’ll improve your comfort all year long.
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LESLIE: Alright. Colleen in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
COLLEEN: Yes, I was wondering about a product called Restore. It’s called Liquid Armor Resurfacer and I have a dock that I wanted to put it on.
TOM: Alright. I’m familiar with those Restore products. I’ve not used them but I know what they’re supposed to do. One thing I would tell you is – I don’t know about the brand you mentioned. I would make sure it’s a brand that’s been around for a long time. Because we’ve seen some of those thick-paint products do more damage than good.
I know, for example, that Rust-Oleum, which is a good brand, makes a product called Restore. It works on concrete and decks, as well as vertical siding. So I might start by taking a look at the Rust-Oleum product. Just make sure you stick with a name brand that’s been around a long time so that you know that you’ve got a really good product that you’re putting on the deck.
And I would also make sure that you tested it in an area, maybe on a couple of deck boards, to make sure you’re completely happy with it before going all-in on the entire deck or dock.
COLLEEN: And is it harder to use this type of product versus just a regular paint?
TOM: Yeah. It’s going to be more difficult because it’s about 10 times thicker than paint. So the application has got to be done right. You’re going to use similar tools but it’s just going to be slow.
COLLEEN: OK. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, are you thinking about expanding your tool collection but maybe you’re confused about which tools you can really get the most out of? We’re going to have some tips to help, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your how-to or décor question at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or post it to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
And The Money Pit is presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home improvement pros you can trust. Call in your home improvement question, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Or go ahead and post your question online, just like Christian did. Now, Christian writes: “I’m thinking about buying either a table saw or a sliding miter saw. I want a lower-priced one since I don’t do all that many DIY projects. Something between $100 and $150 would be in my price range. What would be best for general projects around the house?”
Now, can you get a table saw or a compound miter saw for 100, 150 bucks?
TOM: You know, they are – they do have some surprisingly low-priced units but your first decision is whether or not you want a table saw or a sliding miter. Because they’re actually …
LESLIE: They do completely different things.
TOM: Yeah, they – I mean they really do. If you’re doing small projects around the house, a sliding miter box is probably all you need because it can handle cross cuts of boards that are a few inches wide. And it kind of gives you that flexibility of being able to deliver angled cuts which is super, super helpful.
A table saw, on the other hand, is really designed for those bigger projects, like cabinet-making. And you’re not going to find many choices in your budget, frankly. So, for a sliding miter, though, I think there’s a pretty good selection of tools that are under, say, 200 to 250 bucks. So, my gut tells me that a sliding miter is definitely what you’re after. And in that case, I would research the most current models. Check out the reviews online and make a decision from there.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we have a post here from Maggie. Now, Maggie writes: “We’re building a new house. The first floor has a concrete slab, which we stained and sealed. Can we put wooden baseboards, which are primed and painted, directly on that finished concrete?”
TOM: Well, I think you can. There’s no reason that you can’t. It is wise, just as matter of sort of building practice, that when you do put baseboard molding or wood molding on a concrete-slab house, what I used to do is just put a little small air space in between. I would stick maybe a shim or something in the base – under the baseboards, as I was nailing in place, and then pull it out. So you ended up with an 1/8-inch of air space, just in case that slab does get damp. Concrete tends to be very absorbent, so if you get a heavy rain against the outside of the house there, it can get drawn into the concrete slab. And it just stops it from wicking up the baseboards and leaving that sort of nasty water stain.
And the other thing to consider, of course, is if you’re really worried about that – is you can use a composite baseboard molding that looks like wood, cuts like wood but it’s actually made out of foam.
So those are two options that can help you get those baseboard moldings into a house that’s on a concrete slab.
Alright. Patty is posting to The Money Pit Community page. She has a question about outdoor furniture. Wants to know if there are any limitations in the type of cushions that you can use.
Leslie, that comes down to the fabric, right?
LESLIE: Yeah, that really does. And Patty, that’s a great question. Because you find, a lot of times, people will just pick up any pillow or cushion that they like and then stick it on outdoor furnishings. And then they’re really surprised when they grow mold or they fade or they just don’t hold up past, quite frankly, a few weeks in the summer sun and the rains that come.
So, when you’re buying fabrics or cushions or pillows for outdoor spaces, make sure that they are outdoor fabrics. And even further, make sure that they are outdoor foam or fillings, whatever is inside that pillow or cushion. Because mold will grow from the inside and then spread to the outside and your fabrics will fade. Whereas if the fabric or foam are made specifically for outdoor usage, they won’t fade. They’re very durable. You can clean them very easily. They won’t grow mold.
I mistakenly put a regular pillow that I kind of just really liked, on my little outdoor settee, which is even in a screened-in porch. And within a season, that was just completely nasty. So buy the right things for the right spaces and you’ll get long use and be really happy.
TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on this beautiful, rather late spring weekend. Summer is just ahead. But be it spring or summer, we’re here for you to help every step of the way, with the projects that you want to get done to improve the comfort, the energy efficiency and the beauty of your home.
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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