Water-Saving Showerheads, Faucets & Toilets that Really Work

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 for you, to help you on this warm, summer day with your home improvement projects. Help yourself first: pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Or post your question online to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com. Any job, big or small, do it right or not at all.

That’s my new slogan, Leslie.

LESLIE: I like it.

TOM: You know, it came to me in a fortune cookie from my dinner last night.

LESLIE: No way. Are you serious?

TOM: I’m serious. Isn’t that funny? That was my fortune.

LESLIE: That’s a great one.

TOM: That was my fortune. And then I was like, “Ah, that’s awesome.” Any job, big or small, do it right or not at all. But we – even we agree with that.

LESLIE: That’s perfect.

TOM: It’s perfect. So, if that’s perfect for you …

LESLIE: Money Pit by fortune cookie.

TOM: There you go. Give us a call, 888-666-3974.

Coming up this hour, with all the water that we are plowing through in summer, there are a lot of folks driving demand for water-efficient faucets and toilets and sprinklers and the like. But how do you know if the new, efficient plumbing can do the same job? We’re going to have the lowdown on low-flow faucets, fixtures and sprinklers, coming up.

LESLIE: And here’s another summertime headache: sticky doors. Are you dealing with this around your money pit? It’s because of all the humidity. And this is the time of year when doors start to swell and then they swell and get stuck in their openings. But there is an easy fix. We’re going to tell you how to make that door work year-round, regardless of the weather.

TOM: And between sky-high electric bills and expensive heating costs to come, is this the year you’re finally getting ready to replace those leaky or drafty windows? We’re going to have tips on the best way to get that project done and be able to enjoy year-round energy savings, summer and winter.

LESLIE: And we know you guys love to be online. Everybody’s searching for things left and right. But are you guys on Pinterest? It’s such a fun site and we’re so happy to see that over 100,000 of our audience visits us every month for great ideas on everything from decorating to energy efficiency.

Now, when you go on Pinterest, you can pin articles, blogs and more, directly from our website, with our Pin It button. And then you can share our pins or pin your own great ideas to our boards. You can find it all on the official Money Pit Pinterest page. And if you aren’t on Pinterest yet, get a friend to invite you. It is definitely worth it. You can search anything and everything and get a ton of great ideas.

TOM: Alright. Let’s get to your questions. The number, again: 888-MONEY-PIT.

Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Kelly in Illinois is on the line with a foundation issue. Tell us what’s going on.

KELLY: It’s very complicated. I’ll try to keep this as simple as I can but we, having had our house for 22 years, suddenly water was coming in through one of the basement window wells. It’s not an egress-size window, just a small window in the basement. And so, we think it’s primarily because the grade is negative now and it’s all – you can see, even with your eyes, that it’s definitely sloping down towards that window well.


KELLY: So, we need to regrade everything and fix it all so it’s a positive grade. But the big issue that’s in my mind now is a lot of landscapers, if you get them to come over to regrade around the base of your house, they just seem to want to throw soil up on there and not worry about waterproofing or stuff like that.

TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Right.

KELLY: So I was researching on the internet and it seems to me like a lot of sites and even books say you should have a 4- to 6-inch clearance before that soil starts before – you don’t want soil touching the bottom of your siding or even the bottom of your brick. Our house happens to be brick, not façade. Real brick. But you don’t want that soil right up on there, so – but yet I’ll have people coming over all the time, so-called experts saying, “Oh, it’ll be fine. I’ve done it this way for years. It won’t matter.” And I don’t want the foundation of my house and the poured concrete walls of our basement to crack.

TOM: Yeah, that’s not going to be an issue, so let me put your mind at ease. First of all, yes, if you have typical wood framing – you don’t; you have a brick house – but if you had wood framing, you do not want to have the soil to cover the siding, because the wood’s right behind it and the concern is insect infestation and rot. But since you have a largely masonry house – a poured-concrete foundation and brick walls – you can go ahead and put the soil up as high as it needs to be. What you need to be careful of, though, is this: the landscapers like to work with topsoil because that’s what they work with every day.

What you need to do, if you’re trying to make a drainage improvement, is use clean fill dirt first. That’s what you build up the slope with is fill dirt. It doesn’t look like topsoil. It’s not organic. It packs really well. It looks a little bit like the sort of the golden-brown color of a pitcher’s mound.

And once you get that slope established, you can put topsoil over that or you can put mulch or you could put stone or whatever you want to put on it. But you’ve got build up that grade first. And you want it to drop about 6 inches over 4 feet, so I would focus on that. And then whatever top cover you want to put over it – and then also pay careful attention to your gutters and your downspouts. Make sure they’re extended out well away from the house and that the gutters are clean, because that’s even more important than the grade if you want to keep your basement dry.

KELLY: Yes, yeah, we were and – but I’m not sure what you mean by fill dirt. Are you saying that this dirt has some clay in it?

TOM: It could, yes. It could have some clay in it and that’s fine because, again, you’re just using this to fill in the area that’s settled and then you’ll put topsoil over it. Now, it’s called “clean fill dirt.”

Take a look at our website at MoneyPit.com. We’ve got an article there on how to fix a wet basement and it explains it very specifically.

KELLY: Oh, cool, OK. I didn’t know that. But also, the rubber-type membrane that you can paint or trowel on there or something like that …

TOM: You’re talking about on the walls?

KELLY: Well, on the very bottom layer of brick if I’m going to have soil go up against that brick. It still makes me nervous to have dirt touching that brick.

TOM: It’s not necessary. It’s not an organic surface. It’s not going to rot, it’s not going to decay and there’s no difference, really, between having it against the stone – having it against the poured-concrete foundation or having it against the brick. They’re both masonry products. I would not worry about it. You want to do anything to slow down moisture and do it, you could put a brick sealer on there, you could put a masonry sealer on there. But I really don’t think it’s necessary to tar it.

KELLY: Well, not real tar, that rubber stuff.

TOM: Same idea, though. Same concept.

KELLY: Somebody told me today that concrete does wick, so it will absorb water and it will crack from water.

TOM: Almost every home in America is made out of concrete or concrete block and so it’s typical for the soil to be right against that. Yes, you could put a sealant on there if it’s below grade. And if that makes you feel better, you certainly could do that. But I think just to adjust the grade that you’re talking about, it’s really not going to be that big of a deal.

KELLY: OK, well …

TOM: Alright. I think I’m telling you what everybody else told you but I’m telling you this and I’m not the guy that’s going to sell you the work, OK? So, take it for what it is. It’s independent advice. I don’t think it’s an issue.

KELLY: Thank you.

TOM: Alright. Good luck.

LESLIE: Larry in Texas is on the line looking for some help with a new roof. What’s going on?

LARRY: Well, we have a 15-year-old roof. We put 30-year Timberline shingles on originally. About 15 years ago, we had a hailstorm. I had the insurance adjuster come out and take a look at it and he said, “Yes, you need to replace it.” He says we’ve got about 35 squares to tear off and 39 to replace.


LARRY: He estimated 15 pound felt for most of it, 30 pound felt for our 12/12 pitch. He suggested a roofer company A that suggested shingle brand one.


LARRY: And I have worked with roofer B, who said no, we probably ought to go with shingle brand two.

TOM: Are they both name-brand shingles?

LARRY: Yes, I can name them if you want.

TOM: Yeah. Are they dimensional shingles, so do they look like the Timberline that you mentioned that you had before or …?

LARRY: Yes. They would be very similar to the Timberline dimensional.

TOM: And do they both have the same warranty?

LARRY: I think they both carry 30-year, although one I have not seen written copy from either one. And one of them indicated that after 10 years, the warranty may taper off.

TOM: All these roofers, all these contractors, they’ve all got their sort of attitudes and practices and they like one over the other. But let me tell you something, the differentiator on a roofing installation is not as much the shingle as it is the guy doing the shingles – the shingler, so the speak – because it all comes down to workmanship. And if the workmanship is not rock solid, it doesn’t matter how good that shingle is, you’re still going to have problems.


TOM: And so, I would make my decision based on which roofer I was most confident in could do a good job. And whatever product he’s comfortable working with, then I would just accept that product and not try to force him to use another one. But the devil is in the details. It’s about the flashing, for example, and the underlayments and the ice-and-water shield and things like that. If you get a roofer that does a really good job with those details, then you’re not going to have any issues.

LARRY: The adjuster missed one skylight in his estimate. He also missed one roof jack and he said, “Oh, well, we can pick that up when the roofer does his job.” Is that common industry practice?

TOM: I don’t know what he means when he says he can pick that up. If he missed it in his estimate, then I think you need to ask him to go back and revise the estimate to add the elements in that he missed. Because while you’ve got this guy’s attention and while he’s into the job and you guys are talking on a regular basis, I would just – I would ask him to revise it. It should be no big deal for that to happen. We don’t want this to go to installation and then there’s a payment dispute, you know, three months from now or something and nobody remembers what was said to who and when.

So, yeah, you want to get it in writing. You’re right. If he mixed the count up, if you add six skylights and he wrote down five, then you make him change it. That’s not a big deal. You can do it now.

LARRY: OK. Well, I did a lot of quoting when I was still in the working world and yeah, counts are important.

TOM: Yep. It’s his job.

LARRY: One quick note. My wife wanted a fishing tank out in front of the house and had one contractor dig that one and it didn’t hold water. I had another contractor say, “I can do that.” So I have called it my money pit, with apologies to your program.

TOM: Well, that’s OK. We will lend it to you for that purpose. You say a fishing tank. Is that like a goldfish pond, that kind of thing?

LARRY: No, it was about a ¾-acre pond.

TOM: Oh, my goodness. Wow.

LARRY: But here in Texas, they’re called “tanks.”

TOM: OK. Well, alright. Is there anything living in that fish tank right now?

LARRY: No, it’s not holding water. So I’m going to put more money into it and fill it back in.

TOM: Oh, boy. Alright. Well, listen, whatever it takes to make your wife happy, right?

LARRY: Absotutely (ph).

TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us, Larry, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call. We know it’s hot in lots of parts of this country. So if you are working on an outdoor project, we want to help you stay cool and create a project that you can do quickly and get back into the air conditioning. Or maybe you’re working on something inside. Whatever it is, we’re here to lend a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

TOM: 888-666-3974.

Just ahead, do you have doors that swell and stick because of all this summer humidity? We’ll have the step-by-step solution, next.

Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. 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 presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros, compare prices and book appointments online, all for free.

LESLIE: Joann in Ohio is on the line and has an issue with mold. What can we do for you today?

JOANN: I have two decks in my backyard. One of them seems to be fine but the second one, which has a very large dog pen on it, has developed a lot of mold over the winter. And my thought is to buy a lot of bleach and to dilute it and just scrub the mold off. But perhaps you have something better that you could tell me to do.

TOM: There’s a much more effective way to get that deck clean. It’s a product called Spray & Forget. And just as the name implies, you spray it onto the deck surface and you don’t do anything else. You forget about it and it essentially goes to work immediately. And within a few days, it will degrade and destroy the mold, mildew, algae and moss that forms on your deck.

JOANN: Can I then have it repainted?

TOM: Sure. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. Yeah. You could paint it after that. But the thing is, if you use a lot of bleach, you end up potentially damaging all the landscaping that’s around that, as well. So, I would definitely recommend Spray & Forget.

JOANN: Is this – come in a canister or a powder or something?

TOM: Comes in a bottle. It’s a no-mix bottle.

JOANN: In a bottle?

TOM: Yep. You can find it at lots of places. I think The Home Depot has it and many other retailers. Their website is SprayAndForget.com.

JOANN: Very good. I will definitely do that. And it’s safe for pets, too?

TOM: Yes. It’s biodegradable. It’s a safe, non-corrosive product that works really well. It’s also a great roof cleaner. Sometimes you get moss and it discolors your roof shingles. You can spray this on your roof. It does the same thing.

JOANN: Oh, that’s wonderful. I am going to purchase this. Thank you so much for your information.

TOM: Happy to help you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

JOANN: Thank you.

TOM: Well, if you’ve got doors in your home that stick due to the summer humidity, you don’t have to put up with them. To fix a sticking door, the first thing you need to do is to figure out exactly where around the door the stick actually begins. So, what you want to do is open and close the door slowly until you spot the exact area where it’s sticking.

Now, if you want a visual guide, here’s a trick of the trade. You can take a piece of chalk and color the top of the door where it seems to stick. And then when you close the door, that chalk will transfer to the spot of the jamb where it’s sticking. And now you’ll know exactly where you need to work that repair.

LESLIE: Yeah. Now, there’s a bunch of things that sometimes cause this, outside of the humidity. And you can see what the issues are by that mark there.

Now, first of all, you can tighten the hinges. This really is one of the most common reasons that doors do stick. It’s because that they have loose hinges and then it gets out of alignment. And if the door’s out of alignment, it’s obviously not opening or closing correctly. So you can tighten those hinges and that’ll help the door shift just enough to free up the area that’s sticking.

Now, the other option is to just simply sand the door, which has the effect of fitting the door to the frame. It’s super easy. You’re going to have to sand just a little bit off or perhaps a lot, depending on where that mark is and seeing how much is sticking.

So, to do that, you want to take a piece of rough sandpaper and rub it firmly along the section of the door that’s been sticking. Your goal there is to bring down the size of the door by a fraction of an inch before you test it again. Now, repeat the process until you’ve sanded down all of those sticky points and the door no longer sticks in the frame. But try not to overdo it. Once your door fits well, you can use finer sandpaper – get finer and finer and finer – to smooth the rougher edges. And then prep the door to paint.

TOM: Yeah. And once it is fitting properly, you do want to make sure you paint it or seal it with a clear finish because, otherwise, you’ll have an open area of the wood that can absorb more moisture and perhaps actually swell the door again.

So, pretty simple, straightforward process. Don’t tolerate it. Fix it. It’s easy to do. We’ve got more tips on how to fix doors that swell, on MoneyPit.com.

LESLIE: Tim in Illinois is on the line and looking to tile a bathroom. How can we help you with your project?

TIM: Redoing a bathroom in a 100-year-old house. And we’re looking at putting floor tile down, possibly with heat under the tile. And I was wondering what – the best way to do it. By putting the tile on, do you need to go right to the subfloor or do you have to have some kind of concrete board underneath the tile with doing heat under the floor?

TOM: Well, sometimes the heat is actually put underneath the subfloor itself, so that’s another way to do it from the back side of it. Depends on your access issues. But there’s a special type of subfloor that’s designed for radiant heat or sub-slab heat where, especially if it’s PEX-based, the piping runs through a channel in the subfloor itself. So there’s no chance it could get crushed or anything like that. It’s sort of a channeled-out piece of underlayment.

And then once that’s done, you can put your tile adhesive right on top of that and glue the tile to that underlayment.

TIM: OK. This is in an upstairs bathroom, so we won’t have access to the bottom side.

TOM: What kind of a heating system are you thinking about putting in? Is it going to be electric?

TIM: It’ll be electric. We have geothermal in the house itself, so we’ve got forced-air heat. So it would have to be – I think they have some kind of electric under-mat or something like that. And also, I was wondering, is it best to just do the areas where – the main traffic areas? You don’t need to do the whole floor. Is that correct?

TOM: No, you don’t have to. It certainly is nice. You don’t have to go around the toilet, for example. So, yeah, if you went in front of the sink, in front of the toilet and wherever you step out in the shower, then that should be fine.

And yes, some of those electric heating systems are really nice. They don’t use as much electricity as they used to. You can set them up on timers so they heat up right before you go in the bathroom and then time-out after that.

TIM: OK. So if I get this correct, you can just put a thinset concrete and then put tile right down onto the subfloor? Is that right? With the heating mat underneath?

TOM: Right. If it’s nice and smooth, you can do that. If it’s uneven, then there’s a number of ways to smooth that out, either through an additional subflooring material or by setting mud underneath it.

TIM: I appreciate your show. Thank you.

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

LESLIE: Well, with all the water that we go through in the summertime, there are a lot of folks driving demand for water-efficient faucets, toilets, sprinklers and more. But how do you know if the new water-efficient plumbing can really do the same job that you’re used to? We’re going to have the lowdown on low-flow faucets, fixtures and sprinklers, next.

TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: And we’d love to hear about what’s going on in your money pit on this beautiful summer weekend.

How’s that cooling working out for you? Is it challenging? Is it not cooling the house and keeping it comfortable? That’s a subject we can help with and so much more. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-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: Alright. We’ve got Jerry in Massachusetts on the line who needs some help cleaning the basement. What can we do for you?

JERRY: I’ve got some efflorescence on the cement walls in the basement. For years, I – when I built the house, I didn’t put gutters up; I had overhangs. And then it started developing. Somebody told me, “Hey, it’s because you don’t have any gutters.” So I put them up right away and it didn’t get any worse but I’d like to clean that white efflorescence off. And I didn’t want to use muriatic acid.

TOM: No, you don’t need that at all. It’s really simple. First of all, the stains that you have, the efflorescence, is just lime. It’s mineral deposits that are left over when water comes through the wall and evaporates. So what you can simply do is brush that off as much as you can. You can use a stiff wall brush for that. And then just use water and white vinegar together. Hot water and white vinegar. Vinegar will melt the salts.

JERRY: Do I have to rinse it down after?

TOM: No, only if you don’t want your house to smell like a salad. Aside from that …

JERRY: Well, I’m not worried about that. But white vinegar should do it.

TOM: Yeah, white vinegar does it. It’ll melt the salts. It’s a really good solution.

JERRY: I thought that but I just wanted to check with you guys first.

TOM: You buy it by the gallon, you mix it with some hot water and just, you know, brush it down.

JERRY: I’ll try that. Should work. Thank you very much.

TOM: Alright. Good luck.

LESLIE: If your water bill is making you woozy, you’ve probably been thinking about figuring out how to cut down on your water use lately.

TOM: And the good news is that there are lots of folks driving demand for water-efficient products. And manufacturers now offer many options and products that really perform but save water at the same time. Richard Trethewey is the plumbing-and-heating expert for TV’s This Old House and he’s here now with the lowdown on low flow.

Welcome, Richard.

RICHARD: Hi, guys.

TOM: So, when most of us think about cutting back on water use, we immediately think that we’re going to have to put up with a slow-flowing shower or a toilet that won’t flush. But that’s changed a lot, hasn’t it?

RICHARD: That’s right. Performance is really the buzzword now. When those low-flush toilets first came out, they didn’t work as well as they should’ve. Now, people are getting water saving with the performance they expect.

TOM: We used to call those the “flush-twice models.”

RICHARD: Yeah. And it was – it didn’t quite work. I think the legislation came ahead of the technology. We’ve caught up, though, which is …

TOM: Now we have flush-twice models but for a whole different reason. We’ve got toilets now that literally have the button for a Number One and a button for a Number Two.

RICHARD: Right, right. It’s a dual-flush and that’s a great invention because so often, you only need it for the Number One, not the …

TOM: Most of the time. And so you really save quite a bit of water that way. Add that to the fact that the toilets now need less water altogether because of changes of design. The trap design had a lot to do with that, didn’t it?

RICHARD: That’s right. There’s a certain physics you need in order to make that trap work.

TOM: And the trap, of course, is sort of the path that the waste takes on the way out of the toilet.

RICHARD: That’s right.

TOM: And the old ones were wider but they were not glazed. And there were restrictions in those.

RICHARD: You actually have to create a siphon inside of a toilet. You need enough water to be able to pull that water up into the upper part of the trap and then pull it back down again. And that physics wasn’t worked out at the time the legislation came along. Right now, they work as good as we could ever dream.

TOM: Now, speaking of legislation, there’s a program that’s out, not that many years now, very similar to ENERGY STAR called WaterSense.

RICHARD: That’s right.

TOM: That’s a good thing to look for, isn’t it?

RICHARD: Right. It’s a certification from EPA and it sort of becomes a clearinghouse on what products are sort of blessed and can perform the way they’re supposed to.

TOM: Theoretically, those are going to work and save, I think, up to 30 percent more water.

Let’s talk about showerheads. Man, there’s one thing you want in the morning is a good shower. You’re almost willing to pay for that water out of the recreational budget.


TOM: How are the low-flow showerheads working today?

RICHARD: Well, I think anybody can remember those very first showerheads that came out where you got a fine spray that you didn’t even know if really water was coming out. And the idea was that in order to save water, you had to suffer.

And now, it is – it feels as generous as any showerhead. We did one on Ask This Old House this year where it could come out at 1.5 but you could just hit a button on the side and it would be even less and it still was a great shower.

TOM: So you’re talking about 1.5 gallons per minute.

RICHARD: Per minute. And then when you shut it off, it defaulted back to the regular setting, so it let you choose what you want to do. But in either case, the shower was so generous that you didn’t feel like you were suffering.

TOM: Now, what about aerators on faucets? Have they changed, as well?

RICHARD: They’re really just like the showerheads now that – in the earliest days, the extent of water saving was just to take the equivalent of a squashed dime and drill a small hole in it and hope that the water came out.

TOM: Right.

RICHARD: But now, they’ve got engineered aerators that give you that beautiful flow with a really low consumption.

TOM: And the engineering really is the key. These guys have figured out how to use less water but really have them perform just like their water-wasting forerunners.

RICHARD: That’s right. The science has caught up with the legislation in almost all aspects of water conservation.

TOM: So making these few simple changes can really add up to substantial water savings.

RICHARD: They can.

TOM: Now, Richard, replacing a toilet requires an investment. Same with faucets, same with showerheads. What if we want to just do something with what we have right now? Is there anything that we can sort of add to our existing plumbing system that’ll help us save some water?

RICHARD: If you’ve got a toilet that’s an old-style toilet, you want to make it more water-saving, there’s a really cool device that allows you to turn it into a dual-flush unit in a retrofit.

TOM: OK. And dual-flush, of course, that means half-flush or full flush?

RICHARD: That’s right. And so you have to change both the flush valve, the thing that makes the water go – leave the tank and go down to the bowl – but also the fill valve, the thing that – the valve that makes the water refill into the tank.


RICHARD: You change them both – they’re about $25 – you’ve got a pretty modern toilet.

TOM: Covers you for both Number One and Number Two.

RICHARD: There you go.

TOM: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

RICHARD: Great to be here.

LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and a step-by-step video on this project and others, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot.

Just ahead, between sky-high electric bills and expensive heating costs to come, is this the year you’re finally getting ready to replace those leaky or drafty windows? We’re going to have tips on the best way to get that project done, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com, next.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you a hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros, for free.

LESLIE: Mary in Wisconsin, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

MARY: I’m redoing my basement and I’m wondering about flooring. It has had a rubber-backed carpet, which has been taken up so we’re down to the concrete. And I’m just wondering, what would be a good thing to put back down on the floor there?

TOM: So, rubber-backed carpet was kind of popular at one point in time. But generally speaking, we don’t recommend carpet for basements because they’re so damp. You can build up a lot of debris down there that can cause allergic reactions. You get dust mites and all that sort of thing that will nest in the carpet.

So I would look to a smooth-surface material. So your options might be laminate floor, which is beautiful. It could look like hardwood floor or tile. It’s made of different composite materials. It’s a very, very tough surface. And it floats. It doesn’t – it’s not glued down; it floats on top of the floor. Or you could choose a special type of hardwood floor called “engineered hardwood.”

Now, solid hardwood would not be recommended for a basement because it’s too moist. But engineered is made up of different layers of hardwood. It kind of looks – the guts of it kind of look like plywood but the surface, it looks like a regular hardwood floor. You can’t really tell the difference once it’s down. And I think that would be a good option, as well.

MARY: I really like the carpet down there.

LESLIE: Use area rugs. You’re just going to be sad. It’s just going to cause a lot of problems. It’s going to make you feel yucky. It’s going to feel damp down there.

TOM: And it’s a very dated look today, too. Things have changed in terms of décor. And I think the solid surface of a laminate floor or an engineered-hardwood floor would be much more common today.

MARY: Is there something feasible in a price range, though?

TOM: Yeah. Laminate floor is really affordable. You can get that for as little as maybe four bucks a square foot.

LESLIE: Yeah. You know what? Go online. I’ve seen laminate flooring just south of $2 a square foot. So there’s really some great options that are very affordable out there.

MARY: OK, thank you.

TOM: Well, between sky-high electric bills and expensive heating costs that are going to start to pile up in just a few months, is this the year you’re finally getting ready to replace your leaky or drafty or otherwise inefficient windows? You know, that’s a job that’s best left for a pro but we’ve got a few tips to help make sure that project goes very smoothly, in today’s Pro Project Tip presented by HomeAdvisor.com.

LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, I think it’s important to understand the difference between a replacement window and a new-construction window. Now, replacement windows are just that: they’re custom-sized and designed to replace an old window but they fit in the exact same-size opening. Unlike new-construction windows, there’s no need to remove any siding.

TOM: Right. Now, once you determine the pro you’re hiring for the project, it’s important to make sure the pro does the measuring for the new windows. Here’s why. Some folks like doing this themselves but I think it’s a big mistake. All replacement-window manufacturers’ specs for measuring can vary. But most importantly, if the pro measures for the window and it doesn’t fit, guess what? It’s their problem and you’re not going to have to buy an extra window because maybe you made an error in the measurement process.

LESLIE: Now, once your installation day arrives, here’s some things that you can do to help. I know the pros always like it if you’ve thought ahead and maybe get a jump-start on things. So go ahead, remove all those window treatments and clear the window-installation area as much as you possibly can. I’m not saying move a couch if you’re all on your own; they can help you with that. But do what you can to make things accessible for them.

The installation process is pretty simple when it comes to this but it will go much more smoothly if you get that area ready for them.

TOM: Now, lastly, you want to make a rain plan. Have a discussion, because you want to find out what your window installer’s weather policy is and decide together on what the acceptable weather conditions are for your projects.

Now, keep in mind that since replacement windows can be installed just, say, one or two at a time, it’s not like your house is going to be stripped bare and open to all the elements, like Swiss cheese. But you just want to make sure you have the conversation so that you guys know what’s going on and you get a rainstorm, there’s no big surprises.

LESLIE: True. Monsoons? Definitely do not install it.

TOM: Yeah. Bad day.

LESLIE: Bad day.

And that is today’s Pro Project Tip presented by HomeAdvisor.com. With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area and compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.

LESLIE: Eric in Arkansas is on the line and has a problem with smoke damage at his money pit. Tell us what’s going on.

ERIC: Yes, I recently bought a foreclosure that’s got some smoke and fire damage. And I was curious. Is there a product or a special way that the walls need to be treated? Some kind of special primer to cover up the smoke damage to get rid of the smell? Or do I have to gut the whole thing?

TOM: One of the best primers for this particular purpose is made by Zinsser and it’s called B-I-N – B-I-N. And essentially, it’s a synthetic shellac. And what it does is completely seals in the odor that’s kind of soaked into that wall. So if you do a really good job applying this type of a primer, I think that the odor will go away and you’ll have a terrific base upon which to apply your sort of topcoat of color.

ERIC: OK. Now, Zinsser? Is that what it was called?

TOM: Zinsser is the manufacturer. Their product is called B-I-N – B-I-N.

ERIC: OK. Well, thank you very much.

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

LESLIE: Hey, do you have a floor that needs painting? Well, the type of paint you select for a floor project is actually quite different than the one you might use for just about everything else. We’ll explain why, after this.

TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Standing by for your calls, your questions to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They really have the best local pros for any home service.

LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. It doesn’t matter what that project is, they make it fast and easy to find top-rated pros.

TOM: And there are no membership fees. It’s 100-percent free to use. HomeAdvisor.com.

LESLIE: Alright. While you’re here with us at The Money Pit, we love to jump into our Community section, where people post questions online, and help those guys out.

Josh in Nevada did just that. He writes: “I’m going to paint the wood floor on my screened-in porch. Do you have a recommendation for what type of finish I should use? Also, how many coats should I use? It has no paint on it now, just old wood that I can sand if need be.”

TOM: Yeah. You know, Josh, that’s a great project, especially for this time of year. And for floor paint, I always recommend oil-based or solvent-based finishes, the kind that you need solvents to kind of clean up with after.

And here’s why. I love latex paint for pretty much everything else in the house, inside and out. But when it comes to durability and most importantly, abrasion-resistance – a paint that can really take that furniture being scraped over the floor, for example, as chairs maybe shift under a table or people have a rocker on the front porch and it just puts all of that friction over and over again as you use the rocker – there’s just nothing better than oil-based finish for that.

So I would definitely sand that old wood so you get rid of any of the loose fibers of the wood that are on top. And then I would use a floor finish, a floor paint. Because there is paint made specifically for – but an oil-based floor paint. Give it a couple of coats, make sure it dries thoroughly in between, then you’ll be good to go for a very long time.

LESLIE: I mean I think it’s amazing. There’s even a product called “porch-and-floor paint,” which is definitely made for just that.

TOM: Yeah.

LESLIE: So buy the right product for it and you’ll be happy with it.

TOM: And while you’re at it, Leslie, aren’t there some beautiful outdoor rugs now that are available for a porch? It used to just be the fake green grass but now you can get rugs that look like they may have been in a living room, for that porch, and they stand up well to the weather.

LESLIE: There are so many new fibers that are meant to stand up to moisture, sunlight, humidity, all of that and be meant for outdoor usage. And not only just meant for outdoor usage but you can keep them out there. There’s beautiful rugs in amazing patterns that are made from polypropylene. Granted, they feel like a plastic and they look like a plasticky mat but they’re gorgeously made in a ton of fun colors. And then you’ll find a traditional-looking rug or even a sisal that’s just made with a different type of fiber to really withstand outdoor usage.

So, go ahead and up that ante out in your screened-in porch. And get furnishings and fixtures and things that are all made for that outdoor space, to create this sort of extension of what your interior style looks like. That’s the best use of that outdoor space.

TOM: Absolutely.

LESLIE: Right. Maria writes: “I recently had my hardwood floors redone. The guys I hired apparently slopped varnish up to my white baseboards. I painted one coat over the baseboard but the yellowish-brown stain still shows through. Before I put another coat on, is there something else I should be doing?”

TOM: Yeah. When you get stains that come through successive layers of paint, the solution is very simple: you need to prime it first. You need to add a layer of primer. So, with baseboard, you probably can use a water-based primer for that. But if you don’t put the primer on, those old stains will pull through the new finish quite simply. So just prime those spots where they slopped on the varnish from the floor project and you should be good to go.

LESLIE: And they definitely did slop on that varnish is what it sounds like.

TOM: A little sloppy, yeah.

LESLIE: Good luck, Maria.

TOM: Yeah, it’s a technical term: sloppy.

This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We hope that you are enjoying this beautiful summer day. If you’ve been thinking about home improvement projects, didn’t have a chance to reach out to us, remember, you can contact us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or always post your question online to The Money Pit community. We love to chat with you and help you move those projects forward.

But for now, that’s all the time we have. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


(Copyright 2018 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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