Learn what to look for around your home after a storm blows through. Consumer Reports releases the results of its tests on laundry detergents. You can help cool your home and lower your energy bill with three simple and free steps. Plus get answers to your home improvement questions about, light switches, well water, seating storage, leaky drains, pet urine, vinyl siding options, bathroom venting, basement noise.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call right now with your home improvement project. We will help solve the do-it-yourself dilemma. If you can’t solve it yourself, call us. We’ll noodle on it together, we’ll come up with a solution, we’ll help save you some money. We’ll give you some tips to save energy, maybe some ideas to get that project done faster. We want to make sure it comes out right. Call us. We’re here to help you with all those topics, 888-666-3974.
We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, tornado season is actually starting to die down a bit but that means that hurricane season is getting underway. So, hooray for bad storms. And even if you’re thinking, “Hey, no problem. I don’t live where we have tornadoes and I don’t live anywhere near hurricanes” – but you do have severe summer thunderstorms, too, right? They’re always present.
So, we thought it would be a good idea, here that we are in the middle of summer, to talk about how you can inspect your home for damage after a storm has passed. Because my experience has been, after 20 years as a professional home inspector, that it’s super-easy to miss something that – bad that happens to the outside of your house that can add up to a big and expensive repair down the line. So we’ll give you some tips on how to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, if you’re like me, with young kids and you’re doing a lot of laundry, are you wasting money on your laundry detergent? And I mean this really could be anybody. We all do the wash, you know? Well, an expert from Consumer Reports is going to be along this hour to tell us the results of their latest testing and give us ratings on this common household product.
TOM: And also ahead, if you are sweating at home right now and – but maybe you’re trying to avoid cranking up the A/C to save some money, we’re going to tell you three free things that you can do to stay cool and keep your energy costs low.
LESLIE: And also, one caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to be able to turn their garage into a workroom, with one tool. We’re giving away a Garage Power Station from Chamberlain and it’s got air, power and lighting all in one.
TOM: Very cool product worth $129. So give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Katherine in Wisconsin is on the line with a soundproofing issue. Tell us what’s going on.
KATHERINE: I live in a condo with a basement and there’s an I-beam that runs through the basement. And when I’m in the basement, I can hear my neighbors from two houses down talking in their living room because their voices travel down the I-beam.
KATHERINE: So I was – yeah. So I was interested in covering the I-beam somehow to reduce the noise but I wasn’t sure what the best way to do that would be.
TOM: Well, there’s a couple things you can do. First of all, can you frame in the I-beam so that it’s – like has something that we can attach a drywall to?
KATHERINE: Yeah, yeah, I could. I just wasn’t sure what to do that with or if that would help.
TOM: OK. So once you – yeah, once you frame it in, there’s a product called QuietRock.
TOM: And it’s a soundproofing drywall. It’s sold at Lowe’s. It’s pretty expensive. Regular drywall is 5 bucks a sheet; QuietRock is about 40 bucks a sheet. So it’s pretty expensive but you don’t need a lot.
LESLIE: Yeah. But if she can hear them, they can hear her.
TOM: Yeah. But you don’t need a lot. You know, you don’t need a lot. So, if you can frame in that beam and you’re sure that’s where it’s coming from, you may want to think about using QuietRocks to actually cover the I-beam and that should do the trick.
KATHERINE: Oh, really? So I wouldn’t need to put additional insulation between the …
TOM: No. Insulation is – insulation doesn’t really work as a soundproofing material.
KATHERINE: OK, OK.
TOM: It’s kind of a misnomer to think that insulation works on a wall. It’s cheap but it really doesn’t do much. The QuietRock absorbs the vibration of the sound and I think that’s what you need to do.
KATHERINE: OK, great. And the QuietRock is just spelled like it sounds?
TOM: Yep. Q-u-i-e-t – Rock. If you go to Lowes.com, you can find it right there. And I was able to find it; I needed it for a project. I was able to find it right in my local Lowe’s.
KATHERINE: Thank you. Bye.
LESLIE: Kevin in Texas is dealing with a dangerous situation. You’ve got water leaking through a light in your kitchen?
KEVIN: I actually live in an apartment but nevertheless, my concerns are obviously valid for my health and so forth. All of a sudden, water started coming through the light fixture in the kitchen. And I threw down buckets and went up and knocked on the gentleman upstairs’ door and it turned out his washing machine had gone crazy and had put a bunch of water in my ceiling that – most of which came right through the light fixture, point of least resistance.
LESLIE: Oh, wow.
KEVIN: However, I can tell that it got into the rest of the ceiling. There’s a place where this living room is bowed in with the stain, so I know that it got wet up inside there. And furthermore, the guy, when he was made aware of it, apparently thought that it wouldn’t act up anymore and actually turned on his washing machine again and went and stepped into the shower. And so it just leaked profusely until we could finally get his attention, between me and Maintenance.
TOM: Oh, my God.
KEVIN: Yeah. I mean we’re sitting there with shop vac, buckets and mops and just shaking our heads.
KEVIN: So it was a one-time event, so it wasn’t an ongoing leak. And I was wondering what my risks are of black mold. Is there a test? Is there a preventative? What’s the story with that?
TOM: Yeah, it’s a good question. But here’s the good news: a single leak like that that happened and then dried out is not going to become an ongoing mold problem. If it stays wet for a long, long time and especially if it’s in an unheated place, it’s more likely to become a mold problem. But a single leak like that is not.
And also, one more point and that is you mentioned that your ceiling bowed. If – and I hope it doesn’t – but if that ever happens to you again, what you want to do is somewhat counterintuitive but that is to poke a hole in the ceiling wherever you see that water starting to form.
TOM: Because it’s easier to fix a hole than it is to replace the entire ceiling, which is probably what’ll end up having to be done. But when you see water coming through like that, what you should do is grab a screwdriver and just poke a couple of holes until you find the spot where the water just starts dripping out.
TOM: The quicker you can empty that ceiling of water, the better off you’re going to be.
And we had a problem like that not too long ago because of a piece of flashing that blew off our roof. And the first thing I did was took a Phillips screwdriver and poked three or four holes until I found the right spot. All that water drained right out and all I had to do was fix those holes. And it didn’t even have a stain on the ceiling when we were done.
KEVIN: Wow, yeah. That’s good advice there.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair, home improvement, home storm-proofing or even just something as fun as a home décor question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, speaking of summer storms, tornado season ending, hurricane season starting, summer thunder and lightning, like severe-storm season, well, we’re right in the middle of it. Sometimes, you feel like you really can’t get a break from those types of storms. And while you can’t do anything about the weather, one thing you can do is learn how to inspect your home for those very subtle signs of damage that could lead to big repair bills later on.
LESLIE: What to do after a storm rolls through, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Happy to take your calls right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. We are also giving away one tool to one lucky caller that could totally transform your entire garage into a workroom. It’s called the Garage Power Station from Chamberlain.
This is really cool. It mounts on the ceiling, it’s got a 25-foot, auto-retractable utility cord. Now, that cord gives you on-demand power, an LED task light, 100 watts of overhead light and a 100-psi air compressor.
LESLIE: That’s pretty awesome. Now, you can slide a docking ball anywhere you want to bring that cord and then lock it place. It’s really the only cord with the power to pump up, light up and power up everything from a single unit.
TOM: It’s available at The Home Depot and worth $129. Check it out at Chamberlain.com and call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.
LESLIE: Mike in Iowa is on the line with a venting question. How can we help you?
MIKE: Yeah. I was listening to one of your shows earlier and you were talking about how the bathroom vents are vented into the attic?
TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
MIKE: And I have that problem regarding that. I mean it’s right into my insulation; it’s not vented out by any means.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. A very common problem.
MIKE: I was wondering the best – yeah, what’s the best way to fix that problem?
TOM: OK. So what you want to do is you want to install a duct – a vent duct – and you can use flex duct for this. That will take it from the bath exhaust fan to a discharge point.
Now, where the discharge point is is going to be up to you. A lot of options. Typically, you can take that out to the nearest side wall, like a gable wall, and bring it right through the wall. And you would use a termination point – a discharge point. It’s like a piece of flashing that has a hood on it and lets the air get out and then snaps shut and it keeps it from getting wet.
You could also take it and you could drop it into a soffit but you have to actually bring it through the soffit again into a grid so that it’s not obstructed. So you can take the vent and drop it down so it points towards the vented soffit right out. Or you can take it up further and point it right at an existing roof vent. Now, I don’t like that as much because I think that the higher you try to lift that air, the less effective it’s going to be. But that is an option. You can bring it straight up and point it at an existing roof vent and let it exhaust there.
MIKE: Well, my house is about six years old and I’m wondering – I’m paying pretty high energy bills regarding the heat.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because what happens is when the insulation gets moist from all that moisture that’s being dumped into the attic, it completely cuts down on the R-value of the insulation. So you do need to get that vented outside, whether it’s through the siding with one of those trap doors that sort of opens out every time you’ve got it on or through the soffit. But you want to keep it the shortest run so that you can effectively move that air.
Now, if you’re evaluating what’s going on with the insulation up in the attic, you really need to look at how much compression is there, what is the condition.
Are you talking about pink fiberglass batts?
MIKE: It’s got a white fiberglass.
LESLIE: It looks like it’s blown in?
LESLIE: Yeah. You can add more blown-in, because you want it to fill up to the floor joists when you’re looking up in your attic floor. You want it to sort of reach the height of that bay and you can do that with more blown-in or what you can do is just take rolls of fiberglass and go perpendicular to your floor joists, just to sort of make up and add some oomph to the R-value. And that will really enhance your insulative value. But you do have to vent that outside.
MIKE: OK. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Mike. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, this has been an especially rough tornado season. And just recently, Colorado State University released its forecast for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Now, they’re predicting 18 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. These are numbers I don’t want to bet on because, given its history, we have seen some pretty nasty storms. Plus, even serious summer storms can cause damage, which is why it’s a really good idea to know what to look for after the storm has rolled through.
TOM: That’s right. And it’s easy to spot things like broken windows but there are very easy-to-miss things that could add up to big trouble down the road. So, what I like to do is first examine all sides of a home from the ground up to check for wind damage. Now, you can do this by eye, you can do this with binoculars by checking the roof and so on. You want to look for loose siding, loose trim, loose soffits and missing or broken roof shingles.
Next, you want to check for any walls that are bulging or doors that won’t close or new cracks on exterior or interior walls. Because these could mean that the foundation’s been compromised and you’d need to call in a pro for a professional inspection.
Now, if any of your electrical appliances got wet or if your heating or air-conditioning components got wet, you do need to replace them. Salt water, especially, will conduct electricity and electrical circuits can fail or even catch on fire once they’ve come into contact with salt.
And finally, be sure to report the damage to your insurance company and document everything. Pictures, videos, you name it, make sure you record it because, like most insurance companies, there’s probably going to be a fight at some point getting the claim paid. And if you’ve covered yourself with good documentation, you’re going to be that much better off.
If you want more tips on how to deal with issues that arise in your house after a storm, we’ve got those, online, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Carol on the line from Oregon. How can we help you today?
CAROL: Well, I’ve got a problem. I should know better but I have rented to people with – who brought in a puppy.
TOM: OK. Oh, that’s terrible.
CAROL: And now I’ve got to deal with lots of urine, fecal. It’s damage that’s probably been on there too long, too deep. Gone through the carpet to the pad to the subfloor. So, my question is: can the stain ever be removed? I’m thinking I should just take everything up. My question would be what to put down new. Replace the subfloors? Solution? People have said something about KILZ and something like Zenix (ph) or something like that.
LESLIE: Well, it really depends. If you even want to attempt salvaging the rug that’s there – generally, with a rental situation, you’re probably better off with a tile or a laminate floor just because of cleanability. And then let the folks bring in their own area rugs. But if you want to attempt to sort of get the stain away, get the odor away, there’s a product that I used when I was training our dog, who was untrainable for the first year. And it’s on a website called JustRite and it’s R-i-t-e.com. And it’s called 1-2-3 Odor Free.
And it’s like a series of different products. One’s a stain remover, one’s an odor remover and it sort of neutralizes through enzymes. And there’s an injector that you use to get through the carpet and into the padding and into the subfloor. And I kid you not, it works. Because there was a spot at the top of the steps that Daisy just loved and no problems to this day.
So, you might want to try that. However, if there is a lot of stuff to deal with, your best bet is probably to just pull everything off and you’re right about wanting to seal that subfloor. Because if you don’t put a primer – a good one – on top of it, whatever you put on top, get a humid day and you’re going to notice it.
TOM: Yeah, so that’s why, Carol, what you want to do is use an oil-based primer like a KILZ or a B-I-N. There are a number of different primers out there but I would use the oil-based ones for a problem like this because they’re going to do a better job of sealing in odor.
CAROL: OK. And if I do decide to put down a rug – because this is a house I would like to sell future forward; it’s a nice house – is there a type of rug that can better be cleaned?
LESLIE: OK, yeah. It is from Mohawk and it’s a carpet that they call SmartStrand. And it’s got built-in stain- and soil- resistance that’s never, never, never going to wear off or wash off or clean off. And it feels soft. And it’s environmentally friendly because it’s made in part with a recycled plastic.
And I think it was last year at the Builders’ Show – Tom and I were at the event – and they were just launching this SmartStrand product. And they had taken carpeting and carpeted the pen of an elephant at the zoo and left it in there for a year and then took it off, cleaned it and brought a patch in and had half under the cover of glass and half out. And there was a little door that you could open up to the dirty side and you opened that up and of course, I didn’t smell because I always do strange things like that. And it like reeked horribly. And the side that was cleaned was beautiful, clean, soft, smelled fantastic.
So, I’m not really sure about the price point but it is an amazing product and available in a lot of different looks, different piles. So I would start with Mohawk, their SmartStrand.
CAROL: OK. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Steve on the line who’s dealing with a vinyl-siding issue. Tell us what’s going on.
STEVE: I bought a house last summer and was further looking at it closely. I noticed that the siding is severely oxidized and I was – I tried a little baby oil on a section of it and it looked good for about a month but I just was …
TOM: Baby oil?
TOM: Baby oil?
TOM: Well, is your house your baby?
TOM: And a house is certainly as expensive as children, that’s for sure.
STEVE: Like I say, it looked good for about a month. It brought all the color back to it.
TOM: When those oils dry out, of course, that’s going to be the end of it. Vinyl siding is not really designed for oil but I will tell you this: there are paints that you can put on top of vinyl siding. So it is possible to paint a vinyl-sided house.
That said, you know what comes after paint, don’t you? Repaint. So once you start this process, you’re going to end up having to paint it again, Steve. But you can paint vinyl siding. You just need to make sure – I would go to a Sherwin-Williams or a good-quality paint supplier like that and make sure that you pick up a paint that is rated for vinyl siding.
STEVE: Does it peel pretty easy?
TOM: No. It’s designed to adhere. That’s why it has to be special for vinyl.
STEVE: Oh, I see.
STEVE: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, if your house is anything like mine, there’s never a shortage of dirty laundry or more recently, a shortage of clean laundry just waiting to be folded. Well, Consumer Reports is going to tell us which laundry detergents pack the most bang for your buck – because it does cost a lot of bucks – after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, doing the household laundry is not a chore that most of us look forward to doing. But choosing the wrong laundry detergent can actually make that chore not only a waste of time but also a waste of money. And it’s true that not all laundry detergents are created equal. In fact, Consumer Reports found a pretty big difference between brands’ performance and price. So we’re joined today by Dan DiClerico, a senior editor at Consumer Reports, to tell us more about their findings.
DAN: Hey. It’s great to be here. Thank you.
LESLIE: So, what’s the deal? Everybody just brings in their dirty laundry from the week – kids’ soccer tournaments, whatever – or do you actually manufacture stains while you’re doing this testing?
DAN: We do actually manufacture them. We work with fabric swatches that are stained with a variety of different tough stains: mud and blood and grass and something called dust sebum, which is supposed to simulate ring around the collar. So these are the swatches that we put into our washing machines with about 80 different detergents this go-around.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. Now, what exactly is the criteria that you’re looking for when you’re starting to test these detergents?
DAN: Well, the best detergents are going to tackle a variety of stains because, of course, every household is going to be confronted with different types of stains. So that’s really what we’re looking for. We don’t want the detergent to just be good on grass. It should be good on grass and blood and the ring around the collar that I mentioned. So, versatility; that’s really what we’re looking for.
LESLIE: And are you also looking at things like price per load?
DAN: We are, we are. And as you said, there really is a variety out there. You can pay, you know, upwards of 30, 35 cents per load or as little as 10 cents per load. So, when you multiply that over the 10 or 15 loads of laundry that some households are doing each week, it can really add up.
LESLIE: So tell us what you found. What was your sort of standout detergent all around?
DAN: Well, Tide is a perennial powerhouse in our ratings. They’ve been top of our ratings for many years and they continue to be. So, in the high-efficiency category, the Tide Ultra Plus Bleach Vivid White, which is kind of a mouthful – but that is our top-rated HE detergent. And there are a couple of other Tide picks in the high-efficiency category, as well as among conventional detergents. So Tide really is a very safe bet when it comes to laundry detergent.
LESLIE: Now, how about cost per load? Does it tend to be more expensive?
DAN: It does. You’re going to pay a bit more, so that’s where we have some nice options. And Tide is really starting to feel the competition from a couple of names, in particular. Wisk being one. Among conventional detergents, Wisk is actually our top – our new number one there. So that’s kind of big news. It does cost about as much as the Tide pick in that department but when we move over to high-efficiency detergents, there’s a Wisk that we like there very much: the Wisk Deep Clean Free & Pure. And it costs just 14 cents per load compared with 23 cents per load for the top-rated Tide. So that’s a great alternative.
And one more that I’ll just quickly mention is a Costco brand: the Kirkland Signature. It costs as little as 9 cents per load, so that’s great value. If you’re a Costco shopper, you should definitely check out the Kirkland brand laundry detergent because it delivers great performance and great value.
LESLIE: And I think it’s probably hard to say that a laundry detergent could be labeled as green but I feel like sometimes you go in the supermarket aisle and you’re seeing laundry detergents that are green or environmentally friendly. Are they saying that – first of all, is it real? And secondly, are they saying it because of – the ingredients used are better for your skin or better for the plumbing? What categorizes that they are to be green?
DAN: It’s a big marketing campaign. There are a lot of “green” detergents. Now, the thing to keep in mind – and you really need to be careful about this – is there are no federal standards for things like natural or Earth-friendly, even though manufacturers kind of toss these claims around pretty loosely. We’ve looked at all the various labels.
There’s one called Biobased and this has the backing of the federal government – the USDA, in particular. And what this tells you is what percentage of that detergent is – contains renewable materials. Often plant-based, although not exclusively, but renewable. And that is a reputable label. Seventh Generation is the detergent in our current ratings that carries this label; it is 95-percent renewable. And it’s a pretty good detergent. It didn’t quite rise to the level of our recommended detergents but delivered very good cleaning overall, in particular, against grass and blood. So it’s a good option if you’re looking for a truly green detergent.
LESLIE: Well, it’s definitely a very interesting topic, given the amount of laundry that you, Dan, and I both tend to do given our children.
LESLIE: If you guys want to check out all of the results, you can actually pick up a copy of the Consumer Reports Magazine’s August issue, which is on shelves now.
TOM: Dan DiClerico from Consumer Reports, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
Well, up next, are you feeling the heat of the summer and your rising energy bills? We’ve got three free things that you can do to cool off and cut those costs, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who asks us their question on the air could win a Garage Power Station from Chamberlain.
Now, this prize is pretty awesome, so no picking up the phone and being like, “How do I win the prize? I asked a question.” No, no. We want a home improvement question because we know you guys are working on something.
Now, this Garage Power Station from Chamberlain is a great ceiling-mounted device. It’s going to supply air, LED light and power to your garage work area, all through one 25-foot, retractable cord. It powers on and off automatically. You can pump up, power up and light up anything from this one single unit. It’s worth 129 bucks and it’s available exclusively at The Home Depot.
TOM: You can see the Power Station in action at Chamberlain.com. And give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
LESLIE: Brian in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
BRIAN: Hi. We have a house. It’s about a year-and-a-half old and it has a – in the upstairs, it has a game-room/play-room area, you know? And got a two-year-old and a six-year-old and so trying to think of – trying to build – yeah.
LESLIE: And lots of stuff.
BRIAN: Lots of toys. So I’m trying to think of a seating area, bench, storage area. Suggestions? Ideas?
LESLIE: I mean you’re on the right track. I’ve done a ton of makeovers on $100 Makeover with a similar situation, where – small kids, lots of stuff, multi-function rooms. You want it to look good, you want it to be practical but you want to have a place for everything and everything in its place.
And if you’re a handy guy, you can easily make a storage bench and it could be something as simple as a framed-out box with one of those slowly-closing hinged tops to protect the kiddies’ fingers, either painting it or wrapping it in fabric, padding the top and wrapping just the top, veneering the bottom. It depends on your skill level. And there are ways to even modify existing pieces that you might have.
Maybe there is a bench or a piece of inexpensive furniture that you can find at one of those stores where you sort of put things together yourself. And you can add baskets underneath. It depends on what your skillset is and what kind of look you want for that space.
BRIAN: I saw on some show leaving it open using 2x4s or 2x6s – or would you suggest enclosing it?
LESLIE: I feel like leaving things open, only from my experience with my own son and people who I see how they live – if it’s closed up, it tends to be neater.
LESLIE: And you can frame something – build the box out of 2x4s, clad it with MDF, dress it up a little bit with 1x3, make it almost look like it’s paneled or something.
LESLIE: Give it some raised areas and recessed areas, if you even want to go that far. Up to you. You can add in a baseboard to just sort of dress up the bottom. Paint that. Everything looks beautiful in glossy white or glossy black or a great chocolate brown.
And then on the top, same thing: MDF top. You want to wrap it with some batting. Put some foam, wrap that in batting, wrap it with fabric, staple to the underside. And the key is the hinge; you have to get that hinge that slowly, slowly, slowly goes down. Because the kids are always going to get their hands in everything.
BRIAN: Now, we have a corner area, so should I just make it straight or should I make it like an L-shape or what?
LESLIE: I think an L-shape is really practical. And what you can do is on the ends – on both ends or just one – you can sort of then build out an additional area that maybe has some open shelving on both ends, to put some books.
BRIAN: Awesome. Looks like I’ve got a project to get started.
TOM: Sounds like you do.
LESLIE: It’s a good one.
BRIAN: Alright. Well, I appreciate it.
LESLIE: Well, the mercury is climbing but your energy bill doesn’t have to skyrocket with it. Because those two things usually go hand in hand. Well, there are things that you can do to stay cool in the summer while keeping costs down. And the best part is they’re simple and free.
First, a simple step: always run those heat-generating appliances – like your clothes dryer, oven and dishwasher – only at night when the temperatures are cooler.
TOM: Second, close your storm windows when you run the air conditioner. This is a trick that many people just don’t know about. And the reason you’re doing that is because the same air that leaks in during the cold winter months also leaks in during the summer months and drives up cooling costs.
And here’s another idea: reverse your ceiling fans. If you’ve got them, take advantage of their single energy-efficient feature, which is a reversible motor. If you control the direction of the blades, you can use the fan to pull that cold air up in the summer and then push it back down in the winter.
And finally, here’s a bonus tip that’s not free but very inexpensive and very important and that is to do this: change or clean your heating and air-conditioning system’s filter. Because dirty filters will cause inefficiency and it’s one of the biggest reasons that a central A/C coil will freeze. And believe me, when that happens, it’s really expensive to fix.
We’ve got more tips on how to cut cooling costs, online, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Terry in Tennessee needs some help with a retaining-wall problem. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
TERRY: Yes. I have a leak problem from a drain on my back end of my house. I have a full basement and it’s heated and cool but I use it as a garage/work area, et cetera. From my garage, there’s a retainer wall that goes past the end of my drive. It’s about 20 yards long. I have two drainpipes at the bottom of that.
And when it rains, well, mud is coming out, so undoubtedly it’s stopped up. And I’m hoping that you can give me the name of some apparatus without digging out the whole entire back of the retainer wall.
TOM: So the mud gets from behind the retainer wall and then comes out the bottom of it on the low side and what? Runs down your driveway or something?
TERRY: Yeah, the retainer wall is right at the end of my driveway, coming up from the street to the end of the house.
TOM: So, the solution here would have been in the way the retaining wall was built to begin with. Because behind the retaining wall, it sounds like there’s a lot of dirt sort of pressed right up against it. The way to build this is dig down around the retaining wall, probably about 2 feet behind it. And then you’re going to have stone that is about 12 inches away from the retaining wall. Behind that, you’d have filter cloth and then behind that, you would have soil. I’m talking vertically now.
So, up against the retaining wall, you have stone. Right behind the stone, you have filter cloth. Right behind that, you have the soil. And so, if you don’t have something like that and you’re getting a lot of dirt that’s just basically turning into mud and running through the wall, then that’s going to happen.
Now, I guess your question is: is it really worth it to regrade the area behind the retaining wall to put in the proper type of drainage stone and so on? Or do you just put up with cleaning your driveway every once in a while? For me, if I bought into a house that was like that, I’d probably clean the driveway every once in a while.
TERRY: Yeah. Well, it’s almost a constant thing when it rains. But when the drainpipe – of course, it was put all the way around the house: the proper drainage factor, like the drainage pipe; the gravel over the pipe; the cover over that. So it was all done that way, as far as having that done.
TERRY: It’s just, over time, it’s – the house is 17 years old. Well, it started to leak and some way or another, it filtered down into the drainpipe, which drains past my driveway or it did at one time, anyway.
TOM: Well, you could always rerun those downspouts so that they’re not discharging that close to the house and keep them well away. That could help you a bit, as well. But it really comes down to how that soil is put together behind the wall, if that makes sense to you.
TERRY: OK. OK. Well, that was my question and I thank you so much for your help.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, a hot summer can turn a beautiful lawn into a field of brown needles. We’re going to tell you how to keep your grass green in the heat, after this.
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LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you can join The Money Pit community for great project ideas, info and advice from your fellow DIYers, as well as Leslie and myself. It’s all online at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re on the website, head on over to the Community section of MoneyPit.com and post your question there, just like Cynthia from Georgia did. Now, Cynthia writes: “I have a mystery on my porch. I have to turn the light switch on and off several times to get the light to turn on. I assumed the switch had worn out and wasn’t making a connection, so I replaced it. I’m still having this problem.”
TOM: Well, you worked on one end of the circuit, Cynthia, but you’ve got to probably work on the other. So, this could be a bulb issue. I don’t know if you’ve changed your bulb yet. And if not, it could be a fixture issue and that might be the next step. Or it could be a problem with the wiring.
Now, in most cases, you’re going to have the wire terminate at the switch and then at the fixture, so it’s generally not an issue where something happens in between. But I have to warn you that there could be a short somewhere that could lead to a fire. So I would certainly replace the bulb and maybe replace the fixture. If it continues to happen, I would call a professional electrician because something is definitely not right with the wiring in that circuit and perhaps even beyond it.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And that’s not a mystery you want to turn into a detective mystery, yeah.
Next up, Jeremy from Maryland writes: “I’ve had some problems with my iron and sulfur in my well water. I’ve cleared up the problem but I’ve been left with some ugly stains in my toilets. Do you know what I can use to clean the stains without upsetting the septic system?”
Now, I know that’s tricky because you can’t use a lot of cleansers that you might go for, initially, because he’s on a septic system, right?
TOM: I don’t think that there’s any reason you can’t use a product like CLR Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover. I mean look, that product’s been around from the dawn of time because it works and it works really well. So, I wouldn’t mess around with any homemade remedies here. I would use something like CLR. I think that that will clear that rust up very quickly.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Jimmy in Michigan who writes: “My friend is a general contractor. I’m about to retile my bathroom and he told me a trick he uses to seal the tile before he grouts. Does this sound right to you?”
TOM: Only if you’re not using a glazed tile, Jimmy. Because if you’ve got a glazed tile, you wouldn’t seal it. If you’re using an unglazed tile – like a clay tile or something like that, like a Mexican tile – in that case, yes, you put the tile down first, then seal it and then grout it. In fact, it’ll make the grouting project that much easier because the grout won’t sort of leak into the clay tile and make it a hard project to clean it off when you’re doing the grouting project.
LESLIE: Ooh. It is super-hard to clean the grout off of an unsealed tile. So if you’re using an unsealed tile, seal it beforehand.
TOM: Well, the dog days of summer are just about upon us and that’s a time when you can watch your beautiful green lawn turn into a totally brown disaster. Leslie has got tips on how to keep your lawn looking good, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, I’ve seen one too many lawns turn into a hayfield when the true hot, summer weather rolls in. So, to keep this from happening to you, first of all, you want to cut back on mowing. Cutting too often can actually cause the grass to lose moisture. Once a week is probably about right and it’s also a good idea to water very early in the morning. That’s going to give your lawn a chance to dry out before nighttime when a wet lawn can really attract a lot of bugs and diseases.
It’s also a good idea to water deeply a couple of times a week, rather than lightly every day. That’s going to encourage deeper root growth. And if perhaps you get some water restrictions as the summer goes on and your lawn does start to turn brown, try not to walk on it in this condition. Your green grass is going to come back as soon as the rain returns.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, if you’ve got a backyard pool, it’s critically important that you keep it as safe as possible. Because, shockingly, drowning is the leading cause of death in kids under five. So next time on the program, we’re going to teach you how to combine safety features for the best protection against deadly drownings, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself ...
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2013 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.)