How to Hunt Down Drafts

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’re here to help you with your home improvement project. It’s our job to help you maximize the financial and the functional and the aesthetic value of your home. We’re going to try to educate and inspire you with home improvement tips and ideas to help you get those projects done. And if you’ve got an improvement planned, working inside or out, now is the time to do it. That’s why we call this the “Goldilocks season,” because it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, right? Just like the nursery rhyme, it’s just right. So, whether you’re working inside or out, pick up the phone, give us a call with your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post them online to our Community page at

Coming up on today’s show, now that temperatures have dropped, are you feeling the chill through your walls and windows and doors? You know, finding the source of those drafts can be tricky, so we’re going to give you some tips to help you hunt them down and seal them up, just ahead.

LESLIE: And also coming up this hour, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting is probably the most basic of do-it-yourself projects out there. But it’s also a project that can go terribly wrong if you don’t do just three things before you start. What are those three things? Well, we will tell you those steps, in just a bit.

TOM: And are you ready to fire up your fireplace for the first time this season? That’s exciting. But before you do, we’re going to have the how-to you need to know to make sure your chimney, your damper and your firebox are all safe.

But first, give us a call right now. That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We are ready to help you with your home improvement questions.

LESLIE: We’ve got Sandra in Maryland on the line and she’s got a really old house and an electrical problem. What’s happening at your money pit?

SANDRA: A hundred-and-three years old.

TOM: Oh. That’s great. That’s a good age for houses. It’s just starting to get seasoned. Settling in a bit.

SANDRA: Oh, it settles a lot.

TOM: Yeah, I bet, I bet. So, has the wiring been updated at all or is it original? Is it knob-and-tube? What kind of wiring do you have?

SANDRA: I have a mix of knob-and-tube and some updated. What’s down in the walls, I think, is still knob-and-tube.


SANDRA: Some of the stuff that’s more out has been replaced.

TOM: And what are you planning to do? What’s precipitating this question? Is this just a general concern about safety? Are you doing some other remodeling?

SANDRA: Well, what I’ve done is started redoing the kitchen.


SANDRA: And I took up the seven layers of linoleum and got all the creosote out and got all the stuff that probably I shouldn’t have been inhaling out of the kitchen. And we sanded the floors and kept the original, old, wood floors. And the paneling in the kitchen I’m not willing to tear down because it’s horsehair plaster behind it. And every time you touch the wall, you hear stuff fall.

TOM: Right.

SANDRA: So, I’m not willing to replace it. We painted the paneling and I want to put new floorboard trim around. But all of the wiring – it’s those big, black wires that go from one outlet to another outlet.

TOM: Let me give you some advice on this because it is time to update that wiring. First of all, any existing knob-and-tube wiring is very dangerous and here’s why: when it gets to be 100 years old, the insulation on that wiring is very dried out, very brittle, very crumbly. I can’t tell you how many times, in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector, that I found that kind of wiring in a house and often found burn marks – very frightening – burn marks on the framing that surrounded it.

So, you definitely want to deactivate that wiring. You don’t have to physically pull it out of the walls as long as it’s not electrified. And then, of course, you want to update that with new, modern wiring that’s consistent with current electrical code.

Now, for the kitchen, you really want to do something different than what would’ve been done when the home was originally built. It had wiring but it had all of that kitchen, I’m sure, on one circuit. And that’s why an older home, sometimes, when you’re in a kitchen, you often see the lights dim when the refrigerators kick on, because they’re both – major appliance and lighting are on the same circuit.

You want to have one circuit for your appliances – your dishwasher, your refrigerator – perhaps even more than one circuit for that and then a separate circuit for lighting and outlets. And of course, all of the outlets also should be ground-fault protected because this is a wet location. And ground-fault protection protects you from receiving a shock if you were using an appliance that shorted or had any other type of electrical incident that occurred.

So, you are smart to be concerned about this. It is something that you should take care of, whether you do it one room at a time or the entire house at a time. You know, that’s going to be up to time and budget. But you should have on your overall remodeling plan the need to get rid of that knob-and-tube and completely de-energize it, because it is unsafe for the reasons I stated.

And also, by the way, that particular wiring is not grounded nor is it groundable. So that’s another reason it’s unsafe. It’s just the way it was done back then.

SANDRA: I think some of the kitchen had been done because I did have an electrician friend come in and install some new outlets. And he just ran from one to the next and I do have different circuit breakers downstairs and all that kind of stuff. But one of the things that when – I do have – I think the one wall hasn’t been done. I know that sounds odd. But when they have the wires that are out – the big, black wires going across on any of the wires – and I don’t want them to go behind the wall, because they can’t without damaging the wall. Do I need to put those metal covers over them before I can put the trim board down so I don’t …?

TOM: Well, if you have – if you’re talking about the original knob-and-tube wiring being big black wires, you can’t bury that. That’s very unsafe and here’s why: knob-and-tube wiring – the reason – and by the way, for those that are not familiar with this, if you’ve ever seen an old house where wires seem to be strung on little ceramic posts that stick off the side of beams, those are the knobs. And then where the wires go through the framing, there’s a ceramic tube. And that’s the tube. That’s why it’s called “knob-and-tube.”

And the reason that it sticks off the beam, Sandra, is because it has to be air-cooled. So that’s why you can’t bury knob-and-tube wiring under trim. You can’t even put insulation around it because it makes it doubly unsafe.

SANDRA: So if it’s the big, black wire, then I know I’ve still got original knob-and-tube in there.

TOM: I would have your electrician come in and determine where that wire’s being energized, make sure that if it’s knob-and-tube, it is completely disconnected and then run whatever you have to do from there. And if you can only do it one room at a time, you’ll be just that much more safe. But if you could do the whole house, then just do it.

SANDRA: OK. Great. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

TOM: You’re welcome, Sandra. Good luck with that project.

LESLIE: James in Texas is on the line and having some issues with a window. What’s going on?

JAMES: Well, I have a 1928 brick-veneer home in Texas. It’s on the Register of Historic Properties in Texas, so the exterior of the house is dedicated to the public. I have problems with condensation on the interior window pane.


JAMES: It’s a single-pane and I’m looking for some kind of an option to reduce the condensation and not alter the window casing.

TOM: OK. So, you have single-pane windows? Is that what you’re saying?

JAMES: Correct. Yes.

TOM: Ah. And you have condensation inside those windows because they’re not very efficient. So there’s no insulation in the windows at all.

JAMES: Correct. So when we have a change in temperature, that’s when the condensation occurs.

TOM: Of course, yeah. Because if it gets cold outside and you have warm, moist air inside, it strikes the windows and condenses. And that’s why you get the condensation. So the only way to change that scenario is to either insulate the window, which you don’t want to do, or to potentially reduce the amount of condensation and humidity inside your house.

What kind of heating system do you have? Is it forced hot air?

JAMES: It’s central air and heat.

TOM: OK. So, you could consider installing what’s called a “whole-house dehumidifier.” This is an appliance that’s installed into that duct run. And when it’s activated, it actually takes out quite a bit of humidity and moisture out of the air. Some of the ones that I’ve seen can take out – is it 50, 60 pints of water a day? So a lot of water can come out of that. And it’s not inexpensive but it is a solution.

Other things that you could do would be to take some steps to try to reduce the amount of moisture that forms in the house by improving the grading and the drainage at the foundation perimeter. Because as water sits around the house, it soaks into the foundation and that ends up converting to water vapor and adds to the humidity inside the house. And of course, making sure you’re always using exhaust fans in the bathrooms and exhaust fans in the kitchen that actually vent outside.

So, that’s really – it really comes down to that. You’ve got to reduce humidity or you have to increase the insulation.

JAMES: OK. I appreciate your help.

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

LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Pick up the phone, give us a call. We’d love to hear what you are working on. We’re standing by to chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find top-rated home service pros, book appointments online. It’s totally free and you’ll find the right pro for the job.

TOM: Up next, drafts in your home can make you very uncomfortable. But they’re easy to fix if you can find them. We’ll have a Fall Energy-Savings Tip to tell you how to spot the leaky places drafts can turn up and how to seal them for good, after this.

Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement projects. Pick up the phone and call us 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: Now we’ve got Sandy in Texas on the line who’s got a question about texturing drywall. Tell us about your project.

SANDY: I stripped the wallpaper in our kitchen and so it’s down to sheetrock. And we’d like to put texture in it but I’d like to do it as simply as possible. So I’ve heard that you can put texture into paint and I’d like some more information about that or what you recommend.

TOM: It is possible, right, Leslie, to use an additive in paint? But frankly, we usually get the opposite question. Most people call us wanting to take the texture away.

So I would say, Sandy, are you really sure you want to do this? Because once it gets on there, it’s hard to make it go away.

SANDY: Right. Yes. Our other walls have some texture. And it’s not a heavy texture. It’s just a little bit to make it just not the flat sheetrock.

LESLIE: And it’s a texture in the paint or it’s an actual texture within the drywall itself, almost like a stippling?

SANDY: Well, I’d rather not go that route: the stippling or spackling. I’d like to add some texture to the paint just to give the walls something other than the smooth drywall.

LESLIE: Well, there’s a couple of different techniques that you can use. First, there’s something called a “linen technique.” That’s done with almost like a wallpaper brush: sort of a very short, stiff bristle that’s, you know, maybe 12 inches to 18 inches wide. And you put the paint on and then you sort of drag that brush through. And that gives you a linear texture to it. And that can kind of look like wallpaper and you can do it with one color or do a base color and then let that dry and then put a thinner coat on top and then drag that line through.

You could do something that’s almost called a – I guess it is actually called a “Venetian plaster.” But that involves sort of marbling the texture on and burnishing it and rubbing it and it really is a heavier coat of paint and plaster. But that gives a really interesting sort of cloudy, textural look that sometimes has a high shine to it. There’s a sueded texture. I think Ralph Lauren is one of the paints that makes that. And that has – it really does look like suede. It has that sort of rubbed, softer, matte-looking texture to it. There’s a sanded finish where there’s actual sand in the paint. Sometimes that can feel a little rough, almost like a sandpaper. But that gives a nice texture, too.

They all have different application techniques. So if I were looking at a paint that has a specific texture in a home center, I’d make sure that I really read those directions and looked at what that manufacturer was recommending for the application process and get those correct tools and do the proper prep work for it. Because some of those textures are kind of labor intensive for a DIYer and you want to make sure you get it right.

SANDY: Absolutely. OK. Well, I will look into the things you’ve suggested here and make a decision then.

TOM: I hope that helps you out.

SANDY: It does. Thank you so much.

LESLIE: Well, now that we are entering heating season and maybe a lot of you are already using the heat in full swing this time of year, you really want to try and get the most out of your energy dollar. And to do that, you’ve got to keep out drafts. But those drafts aren’t always just found in really obvious places.

TOM: Yeah. Now, my favorite place that sneaky drafts happen are switch plates and outlets on exterior walls. Air gets into those walls and those drafts from the outside will just zip right in to the inside if they’re not properly sealed.

But the fix is very simple. You can pick up some precut foam gaskets – they’re available at home centers and hardware stores; they’re literally pennies a piece – and then slip them under the cover plates. They do a great job of keeping those drafts out.

LESLIE: I mean truly, it’s one of the least expensive improvements that you can make that will make a very noticeable difference in your expenses, which is just amazing to me.

The other thing, if you find that you have larger gaps on those exterior walls, you can try and fill those up with an expandable foam. Now, that’s going to stop the airflow but in a lot of cases, it’s not going to stop any rodents or pests from coming in. So if you want to do that, as well, you can mix in a little steel wool just to sort of strengthen it up and keep the little rodent guys from chewing their way in.

TOM: Yeah, good point. So, lots of ways to try to cut back on those drafts. But I tell you what, they do add up. So get them done now before it gets too terribly cold. You’ll be a lot more comfortable all winter long.

LESLIE: Vincent, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

VINCENT: I have got an issue with a leaking ceiling. Not sure if it’s coming from my roof or from my air conditioners. Doesn’t do it all the time but sometimes, when it rains, it comes down. And then other times, when it’s not raining, it comes down. So we’re kind of at a loss.

We’ve got a metal roof on it. It’s an older-structure house.

TOM: Right.

VINCENT: I’m just thinking maybe the drip edge at the – going where it goes into the gutter and (inaudible). I’ve not had any luck, because I’ll think I have it fixed and then it’ll come – the rain – and it comes in again.

TOM: It comes in again, right.


TOM: So, what have you been doing it to fix it? Have you been sealing the seams in the metal roof?

VINCENT: Yeah. We got up and put some caulking and stuff along where the edges and stuff were. And it’s supposed to be a 20-year roof and we’ve only had it on the house probably about 8 years.

TOM: Well, wait a minute. So if this is a metal roof, it’s supposed to be a 100-year roof. Metal roofs last a long time.

Here’s what I would do. I would try to make it leak. So I would go up there – can you get up there in that area with a hose?


TOM: OK. So I would try to make it leak. So I would try a normal, light-duty rainfall when it falls down from the top and see if that does anything. And then I would try some directional pressure against those seams and see if I can figure out what type of driving rainstorm is coming in here. Because I suspect it is due to the rain driving in on those. And it might be trapped in there and that’s why maybe it comes out days later after a rainfall. I don’t know. But I think what you’re going to have to do is to try to figure out what part of that is breaking down.

And then once you do, if you’ve already gone the caulk route, I would suggest taking apart that section of the roof and then putting it back together with the proper sealants to make sure you get it done once and for all.


TOM: Alright? And that’s the way to approach that.

VINCENT: Yeah. We’ve got to repair the ceiling but we’re not going to repair the ceiling until we get the (inaudible).

TOM: Yeah. No, you don’t want to do that until you know you’ve got this leak done. Yeah.

And by the way, when you do repair that ceiling, make sure you use primer on it. Because if you don’t prime over leak stains, they’re going to come right through the finish paint, OK?

VINCENT: Yeah. Actually, I think what we’re going to do is put up a lip siding or a – not a paneling but it’s a plank that’ll go up and get rid of the popcorn that’s up there right now. It’s got a popcorn ceiling.

TOM: Oh, yeah. Well, listen, you know the four most expensive words in home improvement: while you’re at it.

VINCENT: Yeah. See you.

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

LESLIE: Lee in Kansas on the line with a concrete question. Tell us what you are working on.

LEE: I’m in an old house that I got in a survivorship and it’s got an old – probably was built in the 60s. I’m in the prairie of Kansas. It has an entryway concrete porch that just keeps cracking and cracking due to earthquakes. We had a pretty good one a week or so ago and now it’s really unlevel. Some of the cracks are small enough that I could fill and aren’t unlevel. And I was just wondering – because I don’t live near a Lowe’s or a Home Depot or anything like that. I think it’s like an hour-and-a-half drive away. There’s a local hardware store about 10 miles.

Can you fill small cracks with QUIKRETE or do you need concrete or Sakrete? I don’t know what the differences are.

TOM: OK. So, first of all, the type of repair material you use is different than the type of material you would use if you were, say, pouring a new concrete slab. And you mentioned QUIKRETE. That’s a great brand and they have a wide variety of repair products. You have the option to repair the cracks. You could also resurface that concrete. There’s a product for that. And in all cases, the difference between that type of a product – a repair product and the original sort of concrete product – is that the repair products are designed to adhere to the original concrete base. If anything is loose, of course, you have to pop that out and restore it.

But short of that, there are plenty of concrete-repair products that are out there and you’re going to obviously have to get yourself to a hardware store or lumberyard to find it. You could do some research online at their website. But you want to make sure you choose a repair product, because it is designed specifically to adhere to those surfaces.

LEE: OK. Thank you so much. Alright.

TOM: Good luck. 888-666-3974.

LESLIE: Coming up, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting is the most basic of DIY projects. You think it’s easy, guys, but it’s also a project that can go terribly wrong if you don’t do just three things before you start. We’re going to share those steps, just ahead, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, next.

TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: What are you working on this fine weekend day? If it’s your house, if it’s your home, you’re in exactly the right place because we’re here to help you every step of the way. Got a question? Got a tip? Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Tony in Tennessee is on the line who came home to a mystery flood. Tell us about it. And hopefully, there wasn’t too much damage.

TONY: I’d been gone for about a week. I turned the master water valve off, the water supply to my house. Been gone for about a week, came back, went – and it’s a split-foyer, pretty fair-size house. So came in through the garage, came into – straight through into my man’s den and I hear the sound of dripping water, which is obviously never a good sound. So I go back to the far end of the house, away from the garage, and the whole downstairs has a substantial amount of water in it. And I look up and it’s dripping down from the ceiling and really, directly onto my big-screen TV at that point.

LESLIE: That’s not good.

TONY: That’s no – not good. So I packed myself up the stairs, so it’s – on the very far end of the house is our washroom. The washing-machine tub is full of water and overflowing. And that was the source of the water.

TOM: When you say washing, you mean the slop sink? Was that taking the discharge of the washer or was the washer itself overfilling – overflowing?

TONY: The washer itself.

TOM: So you’re basically saying that you were away and when you came back, you found this water had collected into – in the laundry area because the washer was filled up with water and that was overflowing and leaking down through the house, right on your flat-screen TV. Is that correct? Have I got it right?

TONY: That’s correct.

TOM: But the main water valve was turned off?

TONY: Yes. And when I looked at all this, I thought, “I’m sure I turned the water valve off.” I went to the nearest faucet, turned it on, nothing. No water pressure, everything – there was no water pressure in the lines of my house.

TOM: Well, that is a mystery, is it not?

TONY: My only theory is that when you come in the garage to downstairs, there is a bathroom there and that’s where the washing – correction, that’s where the hot-water heater is. So it’s basically mid-range of the house, on the bottom level.

TOM: Right.

TONY: The washing machine is on the upper-level far end of the house. And this is about a 5,000-square-foot house. So, pretty good-size house. Only thing I can ever have come up with is it created, somehow, some type of a siphon and it had siphoned water from the hot-water heater.

TOM: Right. Yeah.

TONY: All the plumbers, everybody I’ve ever talked to said, “No way. No, it’s impossible.”

TOM: Yeah.

TONY: I said, “Well, give me your alternative,” and nobody ever has. So I thought Tom and Leslie could.

TOM: That is quite a mystery, my friend. Quite a mystery. There would be water in the pipes but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough to do what you’re saying it did.

The other thing I was thinking about is whether or not that was wastewater and it backed up from the street, because that’s not controlled by a valve.

TONY: There’s no odor to it.

TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean it depends on how the plumbing system is designed. If it’s only one waste pipe, yeah, it would be stinky. But if you had a gray-water pipe, it would not be stinky.

But I don’t have any other ideas from that than that. I was kind of thinking that siphon idea but it’s still an extraordinary set of circumstances. And it’s never happened again, is that right?

TONY: It has not. But again, I’ve always now, since then, turned the valves off so that no water could get to the washing machine.

TOM: Yeah. Right. And that’s smart. That’s the way you normally would do it, yeah.

Because I was going to say – is that I know that, sometimes, even when you turn faucets off, you can get – you can still get water that leaks through, because I’ve seen this happen. In fact, my mom lives in Florida half the year. And one year, she got a letter from the water company saying that she’d used 10,000 gallons of water. Problem was she wasn’t there for that month. And I’m like, “Where did that 10,000 gallons of water go?” And I knew that we had turned off valves.

Well, it turned out that one of the valves was not completely off and it was leaking through the toilet. So, thankfully, it went down the drain but even, sometimes, when you think the water is off, it’s not. And I do wonder if some – if that could have played part of this scenario that you’ve experienced.

But I thank you for sharing it with us. I don’t have an a-ha moment but I think I can speculate as good as the next guy. And that’s kind of what I’m thinking at this point.

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

LESLIE: Well, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting or even staining wood surfaces is really important to keep your siding and trim in good shape. Well, painting is a task that’s really among the most basic of do-it-yourself projects. It’s also one where a simple mistake can lead to a really big headache.

TOM: Yeah. And the key is it comes down to preparation. Weathered surfaces need to be cleaned and any loose paint needs to be removed before you even think about opening that can of paint. Now, if not, here’s what’s going to happen: that new paint is not going to stick to that old paint and your efforts will be totally wasted. Or it might stick to the paint but if the paint doesn’t stick to the wood, guess what? It’s all going to peel off, including new paint. So prep is really key.

LESLIE: Next, it’s always smart to apply a coat of primer first. A lot of people skip this step but don’t. The primer is formulated differently than paint that’s meant to be that topcoat. It’s got better adhesion, so it’s going to stick to the old surfaces and then prevent the new paint from peeling.

TOM: And third, for the best finished look, you want to make sure you choose the right kind of paintbrush. Now, natural-bristle brushes are best for applying oil-based paints. But for latex, synthetic-bristle brushes deliver the best results. And they’re going to help maintain the value of your home.

LESLIE: And that’s today’s Building with Confidence Tip brought to you by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. It’s completely online, reduces annoying and time-consuming paperwork and gives you a real, accurate and personalized mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation, with no hidden fees or hassles.

TOM: Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Apply simply, understand fully and mortgage confidently.

LESLIE: Anna in Delaware is on the line with a painting question. What can we do for you today?

ANNA: We painted around the bottom of our house, the foundation, with cement and sand.


ANNA: And what I want to know, can we paint over that with regular paint or would that bleed through?

TOM: The cement-and-sand mix is like a stucco mix, right? And is that sticking to that foundation? Is it breaking off in any way or is it still solid?

ANNA: No, no. It’s in good shape but I wanted – I really wanted to paint it. Some of the neighbors paint it and they look nice. Would it be OK?

TOM: OK. So what you need to do is you need to prime it first. You need to use a masonry primer. That’s really important.

ANNA: But do you have to sand that out?

TOM: No. As long as it’s intact, OK?

ANNA: Yeah, it’s in good shape, yeah.

TOM: Then you need to prime it first, because the primer is what’s going to make the top right – make the top layer of paint stick, so to speak. So you prime it first, let the primer dry really, really well. And then you can put on the topcoat of an exterior-quality paint on top of that and it should be fine. But just remember, after paint comes repaint. So, once you paint it the first time, you’re going to have to paint it again and again as years go by.

ANNA: Yeah, OK. You put the primer on first.

TOM: That’s the key. Make sure it’s primed.

ANNA: OK. Use primer first. OK. That’s what I wanted to know.

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

LESLIE: Hey, it’s fall. Are you guys looking forward to that first crackling fire of the season? Well, hold that match until you’re sure your fireplace and chimney are safe and secure. We’ll tell you what to look for, after this.

TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call right now. We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects, solve those décor dilemmas. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT and that’s presented by HomeAdvisor. They really do have the best local pros for any home service.

LESLIE: That’s right. 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.

Well, whether you’ve used your fireplace yet this season or not, don’t light another match just yet. Fireplaces and chimneys have a big job to do and making sure they’re up for it is really the key to your family’s safety.

LESLIE: Now, seasonal chimney maintenance ensures that the smoke, the fire, embers and ashes will all stay contained in your fireplace and chimney. It also checks for creosote. Now, that’s a highly combustible buildup that can lead to chimney fires. You should really be checking your chimney for creosote at least once a year or after about 80 fires.

You should head on over to a super-useful website for the Chimney Safety Institute of America and they will help you find a certified chimney sweep.

TOM: And even if a safe fireplace exists, it can always use some backup. So what you might want to do is place a non-flammable rug in front of the fireplace to keep loose sparks from damaging your floors or worse. Or better yet, use a screen and that will help keep those sparks from popping out.

LESLIE: And here’s another thing: if you don’t already have chimney caps, you need them. You have to have them installed to your home to keep wildlife from using your chimney as a passageway into your house.

I had a squirrel do it, literally, the first season we owned our house. Luckily, we had those fireplace covers – you know, the doors that closed – to keep the fire contained. Because we heard a thud and then a pound-pound-pound-pound-pound. It was a squirrel. So, truly, put those caps on the chimney unless you want some unwanted visitors.

TOM: And finally, let’s talk about the firebox. Now, that’s the area where the logs burn. It needs to be cleaned at least once a week during the months you use the fireplace. Leave about an inch of ash; that kind of acts as insulation.

But clean that firebox free of ash during the months you use it and never, ever, ever, ever leave those ashes in anything but a metal ash bucket. And you need to store that well away from your home. I can’t tell you how many times we hear about tragic fires that occur when people take ashes out of fireplaces and think that they’re out but actually, they’re lit and can stay hot for a really long time.

I’ve had fire pits have ash in it that maybe we used for one night and then the next day it rained all day. And the next night, we decided to use it and guess what? It was still hot inside that, even after a rainstorm. So, you really can never tell. Be very careful with those ashes; they do cause a lot of fires.

LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Barry in Iowa on the line who’s got a question about a bathroom with carpeting. And I know your question is really about a pet but bathroom with carpeting?

What’s going on, Barry?

BARRY: Well, the dogs were locked up in the bathroom when we went shopping. So when we came back, they had torn a hole. It wasn’t a big hole but it was probably 2½ inches by 3 inches long. And I can’t cover it no way and so I was wanting to tear the carpet up and put in new carpet because I can’t match the old carpet. And then – but I don’t know how to put a threshold down in there.

TOM: Well, first of all, putting carpet in a bathroom is generally a bad idea because, obviously, it doesn’t mix with the moisture, even if it’s an indoor/outdoor-style carpet. I don’t know what you have. But I would recommend against carpet in a bathroom. So, the dogs may have done you a favor, because it’s forcing you to take that carpet up. Your question is: how do you put a threshold in the door so that you would have a clean edge?

Yeah, well, you certainly – what you basically do is you put in a doorsill there. And it sits even with the door when it’s closed, so it’s about as thick as the door, plus another inch or so. So it’s usually a couple of inches thick. And it may be higher on one side where the carpet is and lower on the other side where the floor is.

But it’s a pretty standard piece of carpentry work or a pretty standard piece of a carpet-installation project. And I would recommend that you remove that carpet from the bathroom and put in a different type of flooring. What’s underneath that carpet? Is there tile under there now?

BARRY: No, it’s a cement slab. It’s a slab house.

TOM: OK. So then what you might want to think about doing is putting in something like a laminate floor.

Now, laminate can look like tile or it could look like stone. But it’s very moisture-resistant, so it’s a terrific choice for the bathroom. And if you want something to kind of warm it up, then put a throw rug on top of it. But I wouldn’t put carpet back.

BARRY: Yeah. Well, that’s what we were thinking, too.

TOM: Yep. Very simple step. Putting in a doorsill is all you need to do. And if you don’t know how to do it yourself, I’m sure your installer can help.

BARRY: I don’t have to nail the threshold to the door – I mean to the floor?

TOM: Oh, no. It’ll be secured to the floor but there’s lots of ways to do that. There’s a way that you can screw through the threshold with a special screw called a Tapcon fastener. And it will secure it to the floor. There are ways.

LESLIE: And then there’s a piece that snaps over it. There is – if you go into your home center, – Home Depot, Lowe’s or whatever you’ve got near you – in the flooring aisle, there’s going to be – at the end, you’ll see wood, metal. They’ll be called “transitions.” It’ll be from carpet to wood. It’ll have all the varieties of one surface to the other surface and all the different ways to install them. They’re pretty easy.

BARRY: Oh. Well, thank you, guys, for the information and I hope you have a good day.

LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

Hey, are you thinking about putting your house on the market? We’re going to highlight design trends that can actually help sell your home, after this.

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

LESLIE: Alright. But you’ve got two pros right here answering questions from The Money Pit Community section.

Now, Carol in Utah writes: “What should I do if I believe something was overlooked or just wrong in my new home’s report from the home inspector? I just discovered that I don’t have enough insulation in my attic. Shouldn’t I have been told that?”

TOM: You know, as a guy who was a home inspector for a good part of 20 years, I’d say no. It would have been a good advice to have but the fact that you don’t have enough insulation is – I mean first of all, whether or not you have “enough” is going to depend on when that house was built, because energy-efficiency standards change every couple of years. And almost all older homes could use more insulation. But I don’t think that’s a defect.

Look, if your floors had big holes in them and he didn’t tell you that, that’s one thing. But the fact that maybe you need some more insulation, it’s kind of an improvement, alright? So, I don’t think that that’s necessarily a defect of the home inspection report.

But here’s how you can tell for sure. If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – that’s ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org or I think it’s also – you can download there these standards of practice for the home inspectors. And that basically – it says what should be and what’s not included in a home inspection. So it’s very clear as to what every element is that should be inspected. And you can kind of compare that against your inspection report and give you a better sense as to whether or not the pro you hired did the job that he or she was hired to do.

LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Kate in Texas who writes: “I have an old ceramic-tile floor in my bathroom. A couple of tiles are chipped but I’m sure the manufacturer isn’t making them anymore. What can I do besides putting in a whole new floor?”

Well, Kate, sometimes you can alternate patterns in tiles. So maybe if you want to pop out the ones that are chipped and pop out a couple more to make something that looks like it’s there on purpose and put a new tile in – otherwise, reach out to the manufacturer. You never know. And there are a couple places online that you can send that tile to and they will match it for you.

TOM: Well, we see home trends come and home trends go but it seems that some changes are here to stay.

And Leslie, you’ve got some details on some that are going to stick around for a while, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

LESLIE: That’s right. Now, you guys, if you’re planning on putting your home on the market soon, there are a few key design trends that you should be aware of to help sell that home as quickly as possible. That’s really the goal: you list the house, you want to sell it fast. Don’t give yourself any time to rethink the whole thing. Get it over with.

Now, the key word here to remember, guys, is flexibility. Your rooms need to be able to be easily converted into another kind of space. Those potential buyers that are walking into your house, they want to see that they can accommodate someone who works from home, maybe an aging parent, a boomerang child just coming home from college. So many other different scenarios play out every day in everybody’s lives, so you want somebody who’s walking in the door as a potential buyer to look at your house and see those options.

Now, you might also think about adding some elements of universal design. Baby boomers are aging and not only are they caring for their elderly parents, they also want to know that their home can accommodate them themselves as their needs change with their own aging.

So, be flexible. Make those opportunities in your home so that you can see those offers coming in.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, when those leaves finally take a dive, it’s usually because of a massive rainstorm. And all of that wet fall mess, it has the potential for a very dangerous invader to form in your house and that’s mold. So we’re going to talk about how you can get rid of mold, when it’s a DIY project or when a pro is required and also whether or not you can get some insurance coverage on mold cleanups. That’s all coming up on the very next edition of The Money Pit.

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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