Today’s Homeowner Radio Podcast | October 1, 2022

Split image of pink fiberglass insulation and a gloved hand wiping a kitchen cabinet with a rag
This week, hear our special technique to degrease kitchen cabinets, plus our thoughts on mixing and matching insulation.(Branislav, Getty Images Signature/Akintevs, Getty Images)

Hour 1

In Hour 1, learn which remodeling projects get the most bang for your buck, what could be causing a nail polish remover odor in a home, how to clean red cedar siding and more.

Projects That Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

Chelsea Lipford Wolf's new wood framed garage doors
A new garage door will give you the best return on investment, according to a new report. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

In years past, kitchen remodels have been at the top of the list of projects that will get the most back when you sell your home. However, Zonda’s 35th annual Cost vs. Value report shows that exterior replacement projects are now getting the highest return on investment. 

The number one project on the list is garage door replacement. We think this is because front-facing garages are becoming more popular.

In the past, many homes were built with the garage tucked away on the side of the house. But now with building lots getting smaller and yards shrinking, there’s no room for the driveway to extend to make a turn into the garage. So now, homeowners want to make sure their garage door is attractive from the street view.

Number two on the list is manufactured stone veneer, which is stone made from cement. Stone veneer used to be tedious to install because it was sold in individual components. But now, you can purchase it in sections, so it’s easier (and faster) than ever to add some stone accent to your home’s exterior. 

Number three on the list is a midrange kitchen remodel — a modest kitchen face-lift that offers a relatively high return when done prior to the sale of a house. You’d be surprised how far $1,000 or $2,000 can go in giving a kitchen a facelift. We did an entire kitchen makeover for under $1,000 on this Today’s Homeowner TV episode.


ProjectJob CostResale ValueCost Recouped
1. Garage Door Replacement$4,041$3,76993.3%
2. Manufactured Stone Veneer$11,066$10,10991.4%
3. Minor Kitchen Remodel (Midrange)$28,279$20,12571.2%
4. Siding Replacement | Fiber-Cement$22,093$15,09068.3%
5. Window Replacement | Vinyl$20,482$13,82267.5%
6. Siding Replacement | Vinyl$18,662$12,54167.2%
7. Window Replacement | Wood$24,388$16,16066.3%
8. Deck Addition | Wood$19,248$12,46464.8%
9. Entry Door Replacement | Steel$2,206$1,40963.8%
10. Deck Addition | Composite$24,677$15,31562.1%
Zonda’s 35th annual Cost vs. Value report

What’s That Nail Polish Remover Smell?

Air conditioner check service, leak detection, fill refrigerant, device meter liquid coolant measure
If you have a funky smell in your home, have an HVAC tech check your unit’s refrigerant levels. (valentynsemenov)

The scent of nail polish remover in her condo is giving Annie in Florida a headache. 

She says, “The smell started a few days ago and it comes and goes. It seems to be concentrated in my condo, not out in the hallway or from my neighbors.”

The nail polish remover smell could be coming from your air conditioner. 

Nail polish remover contains acetone, which has a similar smell to air conditioner refrigerant. So if your home smells like a nail salon, it could mean there’s a leak in your system.

Corroded parts or loose fittings in the unit could be causing a small leak. This will create that smell whether the unit is on or not, and it also explains why the smell is only concentrated in her condo and not the entire building.

Call an HVAC technician to come and inspect your system for leaks. And in the meantime, open a window to get some fresh air into your condo.  

Safely Cleaning Wood Siding

Split image of dirty/clean cedar wood siding
If you don’t use the right cleaning method you can easily damage wood siding. (bruceman, Getty Images)

Juliet in Salem, Ore., has a ranch-style home that’s covered in red-cedar bevel siding. 

She wants to know: “What can I use to clean the siding without buying or renting a power washer? I’ve heard that power washers can damage wood siding.”

Juliet is right. If the pressure is set to high, a power washer can damage red cedar beveled siding. Use the lowest possible setting to clean the siding. 

If you want to err on the side of caution, use a brush and a cleaner instead. There are plenty of brushes available with long handles, so you can work fast and not worry about the danger that comes with a power washer.  

For the cleaner, the USDA Forest Products Laboratory recommends cleaning cedar with a solution no stronger than three parts warm water mixed with one part bleach, with a small amount of powdered detergent. Don’t use a detergent that contains ammonia because it will react with bleach to form toxic fumes. 

If you need something stronger, you can substitute the detergent with some trisodium phosphate.

Scrub the solution onto the siding and then rinse it off with a garden hose. When rinsing, never shoot the water up, because it will get under the siding and cause water damage. 

If this solution doesn’t work, you can try an already mixed commercial cleaner, like Krud Kutter House and Siding Cleaner or Wet and Forget Outdoor

Hour 2

In Hour 2, hear our special technique to degrease kitchen cabinets, our thoughts on mixing and matching insulation, and more.

Cleaning Solution for Refinishing Cabinets

Female hand in yellow glove with blue napkin or rag wipes and washes kitchen cabinet surface
Degreasing kitchen cabinets is the key to a successful refinish. (Akintevs, Getty Images)

A hotline caller asks: “What kind of solution do you use to clean your cabinets so that you can refinish them?”

Before you do any type of painting or refinishing, you need to degrease them. No matter how clean you keep your kitchen, grease gets everywhere, especially around the range top area. 

Here’s our degreasing cleaning solution: 

  • Dampen a scouring sponge in a citrus-based degreasing solution. You can use a commercial degreaser like Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, or make a solution of your own. Add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to a spray bottle, follow it with a drop or two of liquid soap and add 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Fill the container to the bottom of the neck with warm water, shake it and you’re ready to go.
  • Heat the damp sponge in your microwave for 30 to 40 seconds and spray your cabinets with the solution. 
  • Use dishwashing gloves to remove the sponge and scrub the cabinets, then attend to any remaining residue with paper towels.

After you’ve degreased the cabinets, you can start refinishing them. Watch Painting Kitchen Cabinets: How to Do It The Right Way for a step-by-step guide.

Can You Mix and Match Insulation Types?

split image of fiberglass insulation, cellulose insulation and mineral wool insulation
No matter what type of insulation you pick, the more you have, the better. (Branislav, Getty Images Signature/Macknm Mnpohb, thamerpic, Getty Images)

Kevin in Maine heard us mention the importance of insulating the attic floor, so he peeked into his attic and discovered there is only about eight inches of fiberglass insulation between the ceiling joists.

He wants to add at least another eight inches of insulation, but he wants to know:  “Must I stay with fiberglass batts or can I use mineral wool or blown-in cellulose?”

Adding more insulation is some of the best money you can spend on your home in terms of the return on that home improvement dollar.

Yes, you can mix and match. I would recommend using mineral wool insulation. It’s very easy to install, mold and mildew resistant and great for soundproofing qualities as well.

You can put batts on top of your existing insulation and go perpendicular to your ceiling joists.

When putting in any insulation, don’t stuff it too tight over the soffit vents because you’ll block the flow of air. 

The only time I don’t recommend adding a new type of insulation over another is if you’re going to compress any of the existing insulation. When insulation is blown in, you want it to be as fluffy as can be and remain that way. But if it’s down to where you’re seeing your ceiling joints, you can add the mineral wool perpendicular.

Cut it into place and do a little at a time or the whole attic in one go. I guarantee you, as soon as you put that insulation in there, you’ll start saving money 365 days a year. 

Best New Products

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Simple Solutions

Split image of an aluminum carabiner clip and a set of combination wrenches against a wood background
To keep combination wrenches easily accessible and quick to find, clip several together with a large carabiner. (syolacan, Getty Images Signature/RomeoLu, Getty Images)

Quick-Grab Wrench Holder — To keep combination wrenches easily accessible and quick to find, clip several together with a large carabiner clip. Then hang them from a pegboard or toss them into a toolbox.

In many cases, you can use a wrench without removing it from the carabiner clip.

This tip works with any tool with a hole in the handle, including adjustable wrenches. 

Screw hooks on a wooden background
Install screw hooks faster using a power drill. (studo58, Getty Images)

Easy-Drive Screw Hook Tip — Here’s a quick, easy way to drive in screw hooks:

  • First, drill a pilot hole and then twist in the screw hook by hand with just a few turns.
  • Then, chuck a screw eye into your drill, slip the eye over the hook and slowly squeeze the trigger.

As the screw eye spins, it’ll drive in the screw hook.

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Further Reading

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