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Showing posts with label Home Improvement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Home Improvement. Show all posts

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Is Remodeling A Good Investment?

Should I Remodel my Kitchen and Bathroom?

Dear Dr. Penny Pincher,

Our house was built in 1912. The kitchen and bathrooms are dated and probably need updating.  For example the kitchen countertops are circa 1980. The bathrooms were updated about the same time.  Both areas are acceptable functionally and aesthetically. Due to our age we will probably sell the house and move to and apartment or condo in the future. Should we consider doing updates to enhance the value and selling potential of the house or leave both areas as they are?  What are other considerations in this decision?


A Penny Pincher Follower

Dear Follower,

It is always painful to spend money, but it is less painful when you know you can get some or all of your money back.  Real estate is generally a good investment, but a real estate investment comes with expenses such as paying property taxes and upkeep on the property.

The good news about kitchen and bath remodeling projects is that you typically get about 50 to 70% of the money you spend on remodeling back in the form of increased property value.  For example, if you spend $10,000 on kitchen and bath upgrades you may be able to sell your home for $5,000 to $7,000 more.  As you can see, you do not typically get all of the money you spend on remodeling back.

Kitchen and bath remodeling are among the highest payback projects that you can do.  If you have the money, remodeling projects can be rewarding and can help you stay in your current house longer.  When you sell your house, you'll likely pay around 6% commission to a real estate agent.  It may be worth spending some money to avoid that expense.  This article has some estimates of how much different remodeling projects add to the value of your home.  I think some of these numbers seem a bit high, but this provides an idea of what type of projects add the most value.

While a good remodeling project can increase the value of a home, a poorly done project or unfinished project can decrease the value of a home.  A lot of potential home buyers will not even consider buying a house that needs work done.  

I would suggest setting a budget for your remodeling project and trying to get the most improvement you can for your budget.  It is a good idea to get estimates from several contractors and pick one with good references.

Good Luck!

Copyright © 2014 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Peel and Stick Floor Tile: Nail Heads Coming Through

Peel and Stick Floor Tile: Nail Heads Coming Through

Dear  Dr. Penny Pincher,

Our bathroom floor has stick on tiles that were installed probably 10 of 15 years ago.  Apparently they were installed directly onto the hardwood floor. Recently (this past year) several nail heads are appearing to raise up through the tile although none have penetrated the tile. Just the outline of the nail head can be seen.

What solution do you recommend to solve this nailhead problem short of installing a new floor.


A True Penny Pincher Advocate

Dear Advocate,

The easiest and least expensive option would be to use low wattage (or low lumen) light bulbs in the bathroom so the floor problems would be less apparent.  Plus this will save you money on electricity...

Another cheap option may be to put a small washable bathroom rug over the problem area.  You can buy bathroom rugs for a few dollars at Target or Walmart.  If the area is too big to cover with a rug, you could use a couple rugs, or use one very brightly colored rug to draw attention away from the problem.

If you are willing to put some work in, you could try to set the nails through the tiles, perhaps using a hammer and block of wood to avoid damaging the tiles.  Stick-on tiles this old are probably pretty brittle, so it would be easy to damage them.

Another cheap option would be to use a nailset to set the nails right through the floor tiles.  This would make a dimple at the spot of each nail head.  After setting all of the nails that are coming through, use the nailset to make a pattern of dimples across the entire floor, sort of like a punched tin ceiling.  I would try a random pattern.  This would set the nails and may look like an intentional pattern on the floor.

Good luck!

Copyright © 2014 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Home Insulation: Save Money on Utility Bills

Home Insulation- Add Insulation to Your Home

Years ago, I bought an old farmhouse built in the 1860's era.  This was a big two story house.  When I bought it, it had 19 windows- all with single pane glass.  It had no insulation in the walls.  There was no insulation in the floors, either.  The attic had a thin layer of mineral wool insulation.

A Thin Layer of Mineral Wool in the Attic was the Only Insulation in the House!
Image Source: √ėyvind Holmstad CC-1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

We moved in over the summer.  As summer turned to fall, the furnace started running.  Then the furnace stopped heating the house, and we realized that we had emptied the propane tank already!  This was a 300 gallon tank, and propane was $1.29 per gallon at the time.  That first winter, there were times we had to fill the propane tank more than once per month.

I quickly realized the value doing a home insulation project.  Here are the home insulation improvements that we made:

Windows- Double Pane Replacement Windows with Argon

We replaced 18 of the 19 windows with double pane windows charged with argon.  The argon layer between the glass provides insulation value in the windows.  Heat easily moves through glass, but the gas layer between layers provides insulation value.  This was a do-it-yourself insulation project.  We ordered the windows 3 or 4 at a time and replaced a few on weekends until all but one had been replaced.  We used an interior plastic layer on the one large window single pane window that we did not replace.  I would estimated that installing each replacement window took a couple hours once we knew what we were doing.  We added fiberglass insulation to fill any voids and caulked around each replacement window.

Doors- Replace Wood Entry Door with Insulated Door

We replaced one old hollow core entry door with a steel door with Styrofoam insulation inside. The old door had cracked and had places where you could see light through it.  We placed large sheets of Styrofoam over two unused exterior door.  We kept one original solid wood entry door with a single pane glass window.  We added weather stripping to make a good seal around the two doors we kept as functional entry doors.  Improving insulation around the doors was also a do-it-yourself insulation project, this can be done in a few hours.

I Used Styrofoam Panels to Cover Unused Entry Doors, Saving Energy
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Blocking Drafts

Unused Single Pane Basement Window Covered with Styrofoam Insulation to Block Drafts
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

There were a couple small cracked single pane windows in basement.  I blocked these with Styrofoam from the inside and sealed them in with spray foam insulation.  I also applied caulk and spray foam insulation around openings for utility pipes, dryer vent, etc. that were letting air exchange directly between inside and outside the house.  Up next was caulking around windows from the outside to fill any gaps.  Blocking drafts is one of the most effective ways to lower your utility bill, and this is an easy do-it-yourself project.

Use Caulk to Fill Gaps in Siding and Around Windows to Stop Drafts
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

You can use an Infrared thermal leak detector to find drafts or cold spots on walls or around windows.  Just point scanner at your wall and view the readout on the IR scanner.  This will tell you where you need to add more insulation or stop drafts to save on your utility bill.  The Black and Decker model has a color-coded light that illuminates the area of your wall that is hot or cold as you scan your wall.  This makes it easier to find drafts and cold spots since you can concentrate on the wall and not focus on the temperature readout all the time.  When a red (hot) or blue (cold) spot is indicated, you can look at the temperature display to see the exact temperature of hot or cold spots.

Walls- Blow in Insulation

The interior walls of this house were plaster, and we wanted to keep the original plaster.  So to  insulate the walls, we worked from the outside.  We hired a contractor to install blow in insulation.  The contractor drilled holes through the siding and used a blower to fill the space in the walls with blow in insulation.  The holes in the siding can be plugged with wood plugs.  We just taped over the holes since we planned to replace some of the siding and paint in the spring.

The blow in insulation we used was made from recycled materials.  The main component was recycled newspaper which was ground up into small pieces.  Since paper is flammable, the insulation is treated with chemicals to make it non-flammable and suitable as a building material.  Hiring a contractor to blow in insulation cost about $2000.  I was upstairs playing with my kids on the cool day when they were blowing in the insulation.  I could actually feel the house warming up as they added the insulation in the walls!

Attic- Add Fiberglass Batts

The insulation in the attic between the joists was a loose fill material that I believe is called mineral wool.  The layer of insulation was only a couple inches thick.  I bought some unfaced R-30 fiberglass batts and added this over the top of the existing insulation.  Use unfaced fiberglass insulation when adding another layer of insulation if there is already a vapor barrier under the first layer.  The vapor barrier prevents moisture from condensing when water vapor moves from a heated space to an unheated space.

This additional insulation made a noticeable difference, especially since the bedrooms were upstairs and the thermostat for the furnace was downstairs.  It is often said that adding insulation in you attic is the most effective place to insulate to save on utility bills.  Adding fiberglass batts to the attic was a do-it-yourself insulation project that took a single day to complete.

Use Unfaced Fiberglass Batts to Add More Insulation Over Existing Insulation
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Floors- Add Fiberglass Rolls

This project was a little more challenging.  The old part of the house had a basement with easy access to the ceiling to install insulation.  However, the new part of the hose had a crawlspace underneath, and only a foot or so of clearance in some places.  Luckily, I like to save money so much that I didn't mind crawling under there in the dark to install some rolls of fiberglass insulation.  I used faced R-15 fiberglass rolls with craft paper vapor barrier.  The vapor barrier goes against the warm surface to prevent water vapor from condensing when it moves from the warm interior of the house to the cold exterior.  This was a do-it-yourself insulation project.  I worked on it a few evening a week for a month or so.  Since there were cold drafts blowing in the basement, this helped keep the floors much warmer.

Use Faced Fiberglass Batts or Rolls for the First Layer of Insulation to Provide a Vapor Barrier
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Home Insulation- How Much Can You Save on Utility Bills?

The good thing about doing a home insulation project is that it keeps paying back all the time.  In winter, you save money on heating bills every heating day after you install the insulation.  In the summer, you save on cooling every day after you install the insulation.  We spent a total of about $3000 on adding insulation to our old house.  Since our heating bills were so high, I would say that the payback period for this investment was less than 3 years.

Adding insulation to your house will save you money on utility bills, make your house more comfortable, and increase the resale value of your house.  Many insulation projects can be do-it-yourself projects, reducing the cost.  If you have a older house, an insulation project can be a good investment.

Copyright © 2014 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Structural Insulated Panels- Save Money on Energy

What Are Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)?

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are a construction material that replaces traditional framing, insulation, and sheathing for walls and roofs.  The Structural insulated panels consist of a sheet of oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood on the outside with a layer of rigid foam insulation in the middle and another layer of OSB or plywood on the other side of the foam insulation.  The result is a panel that is structurally very strong and that has excellent insulation properties.  The R-value of the SIPs can be increased by using a thicker layer of rigid insulation.  The thickness of structural insulated panels typically ranges from 4.5 inches to 12.25 inches depending on the SIP manufacturer.  The R-value of panels of this thickness typically ranges from R-16 to R-48.

Structural Insulated Panels- A layer of structural sheathing, a layer of rigid foam insulation, and another layer of structural sheathing
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

What Are the Advantages of Structural Insulated Panels over Traditional Construction Methods?

One advantage of SIPs is that they provide an airtight envelope for your building.  This reduces cold air from coming in during the heating season, and improves the energy efficiency of a building.  Since the SIPs are manufactured indoors in a factory setting, the quality and consistency of SIPs is very good.  Traditional wall construction may leave rounded corners and gaps that allow air flow.  Fiberglass insulation that is used in traditional construction loses some of its R-value at lower temperatures due to convective air currents in the insulation.  SIPs do not lose R-value at low temperatures.

SIPs can be delivered that have chases for electrical wiring in the rigid foam layer.  This eliminates the need to drill through studs to route wiring.  SIPs come in various sizes ranging from 4 foot x 8 foot panels up to 4 foot x 16 foot panels to facilitate a variety of building plans.  SIPs can be used in wall construction and in roof construction.

SIP construction usually results in buildings that are strong, quiet, and energy efficient.

Do Structural Insulated Panels Cost More Than Traditional Construction?

The material cost for SIPs tends to be higher than the material cost for studs, fiberglass insulation, and sheathing.  However, the labor cost may be lower since the panels can be installed quickly, and there may be less material waste since the panels can be ordered in the desired sizes.

For a rough idea of the cost of SIPs, you can buy a 4 foot x 8 foot SIP that is 4.5 inches thick for about $125.  A panel of this thickness provides an insulation value of R-16.  You can get a panel 8.25 inches thick that provides R-32 for $150.  Different manufactures of SIPs use different types of material and different quality material, so it is useful to check structural insulated panel specifications and prices from more than one manufacturer.

The energy savings from using SIPs may offset any increased cost of construction.  The R-value and vapor barrier qualities of SIPs are considered to be very superior to traditional construction.  Since the interior of the SIP consists of a solid material, there is no opportunity for air leakage or convective air currents though the structural insulated panel.

Structural Insulated Panels at a Construction Site: R-14 and R-18 SIPs
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

What Are the Disadvantages of Structural Insulated Panels?

As with any new technology, SIPs cost a bit more than traditional building materials.  Another drawback is that it may take some work to find construction contractors who are experienced with SIPs.  There are some special tools and methods required if you need to modify SIPs on the job site.

There are some considerations for installing cabinets into a structural insulated panel wall instead of a traditional wall with studs.  Plywood may need to be attached to the SIP wall behind the cabinets, or additional fasteners may need to be used to attach cabinets directly to a SIP wall.

For SIP roof construction, some asphalt single manufacturers will not honor the warranty if singles are installed directly on a structural insulated panel roof.  The roof can get slightly hotter and may reduce the life of the shingles.  There are construction techniques to add a cool layer above the SIP, or you can use a different roofing material to avoid asphalt shingles.

Structural Insulated Panel Recommendations

  • Consider SIPs for your next construction project to reduce energy costs
  • Get an estimate from a contractor who has experience building with SIPs
  • Structural insulated panels are one of the preferred construction methods for building super high energy efficiency homes and commercial buildings

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy