Learn how to mix men’s and women’s styles to decorate your home without arguments, find out about the benefits of a geothermal heat pump, discover the pros and cons of a portable electric generator versus a standby backup power generator. Plus get answers to your home improvement questions about, repairing wood floors, shower draining problems, deck repainting, asphalt roofs, fixing cracks in ceiling, settling foundations, soundproofing, solar energy ideas.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. We would love to hear what you’re working on around your house. We’d love to pitch in, lend a hand, give you some tips, give you some advice to help you get that job done right.
Now, one job that you might be thinking about doing is a romantic home repair. Now is the season to take on those romantic home repairs. Now, that could be something like, you know, building a – I don’t know – a beautiful master suite or something much simpler like …
LESLIE: Fixing the squeaky doors, stopping the leaky faucet; any of those things.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. Really, actually, anything that you can do that takes a to-do off of the honey-do list I think would be much appreciated. Now, I don’t know if it’s going to be the same thing as buying a box of chocolates but …
LESLIE: Boy, you know we’re getting desperate when crossing something off the honey-do list qualifies as a Valentine’s Day present.
TOM: Qualifies, right. I want credit for that.
LESLIE: But when you’re married, seriously, this puts stress on relationships.
TOM: Well, one part of the honey-do home improvement projects that does cause stress is decorating.
TOM: I mean that is something that most couples cannot agree on. And remember, Leslie, we’ve even spoken with attorneys before who handled divorce cases that stemmed from home improvement decorating disagreements. So, home improvement can place a lot of stress on the relationship but it doesn’t have to be that way.
LESLIE: That’s why you just barrel through and run over the partner and just do what you want as far as the decorating scheme goes.
TOM: Oh, I see.
LESLIE: No? That’s what I do at home.
You know what, guys? You really don’t have to let a decorating dilemma ruin a perfectly good relationship. We’ve got ideas coming up on how to compliment each other’s styles without bulldozing over one another and maybe even some advice that could possibly save your marriage.
TOM: And also ahead, right about now you might be looking for a way to save on your home heating cost; take off some of that economic stress on the relationship. Well, there is a solution to those rising heating costs and it might be right under your feet. We’re going to talk a bit today about a geothermal heat-pump system and how it can draw a lifetime supply of energy right out from the soil underneath your house. Learn more about that, in just a couple of minutes.
LESLIE: Plus, winter storms, many of us have been dealing with them since the onset of winter. We all know that they can actually knock out your power and with snow and ice in the mix, restoring that power could be days away. So we’re going to share some tips on how a portable power generator can help and what to look for in a more permanent solution.
TOM: And this hour, we’re also giving away something that will keep the snow and ice away from your front door at least. It’s a heated door mat from HeatTrak worth about $80. Going to go out to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question, drawn at random from everyone who calls in for today’s show at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Mitch in Tyler, Texas, who is a repeat caller here at The Money Pit or should we say addicted do-it-yourselfer? Mitch, what can we help you with this time?
MITCH: I think addicted do-it-yourselfer is probably a better selection.
Here’s what’s going on. I live in a two-story, pier-and-beam house. It’s about 95 years old. We have some buckling going on now in our master bedroom, which is on the first floor, under the wood floor. And I want to know, first, what – how can I go about trying to match that wood flooring so that I can replace just the part that’s buckling and not have to redo the whole thing? And then, secondly, what may be causing it to buckle like that?
TOM: Is this a prefinished floor or is it hardwood – raw hardwood – that was finished?
MITCH: I think it’s raw hardwood that was finished.
TOM: OK. Alright. So, the first part of the question is how do you pull out the bad stuff? What you basically do is you take a circular saw – I assume you’re handy, because it’s going to take somebody that’s pretty handy to do this.
TOM: But you take a circular saw and you plunge-cut – set the depth to the same thickness of the floor – and you plunge-cut into the bad boards and you take a couple of rips down as opposed to a cross-cut. You cut with the grain down through the bad boards and then you chisel them out at some point and start lifting them out. And so the plunge-cuts actually help to loosen that up; you can actually cut right through the joints, so you’re cutting through the tongue and the groove of the bad boards. So you’re loosening that up, you’re pulling those boards out and then you’re going to put new pieces in.
Now, you may have to cut off – if it’s like a tongue and a groove – on the groove side, you may have to cut off the bottom of the groove so you can build this from the top down. You may have to place new pieces of wood in that way.
Now, when you do that, it is going to be slightly different in color. I don’t know if this is stained or finished but even if it’s just a plain, clear coat of finish, there will be slight difference in color. It’s going to take …
LESLIE: Well, just because of wear.
TOM: Well, not so much wear, I think, but color. It usually takes six months to a year for them to fade back in to where they’re invisible again. But you can use a throw rug or something in the meanwhile.
Now, in terms of why it buckled, typically it buckles when the floor gets wet or if it was pulled in with not enough space around the outside edge and it just got humid and it just pressed into each other. That’s typically why it buckles.
MITCH: So if I have – if it’s buckling, let’s say, because it’s wet, then I probably need to go underneath and there may be another problem I’m going to have to fix then, too, right?
TOM: Maybe not. I mean it could have just happened because of a one-time saturation or it just might, again, have been put in too tight.
MITCH: OK, great. Well, I did want to make a comment on when I called you guys last time.
TOM: Yeah? OK. How did it work out for you?
MITCH: Well, I don’t know if you recall, I called and said that I had the fascia board on my roof was coming off and I had the electrical power line hooked onto that.
MITCH: And I asked you guys what I needed to do before the power line pulled it off and you all said, "Well, call your electric company. It’s going to cost you some money," and all that stuff. Well, I happened to be – [monitor company] (ph) – we’re in a co-op in the area I live in in Texas.
MITCH: Well, I went down and told them about it. They came up that same day, fixed it. They replaced the fascia board, even, for me and didn’t charge me a thing.
TOM: Wow. That’s great.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s fantastic.
MITCH: They said that the co-op members didn’t. It was nice but it kind of surprised me. I thought, "Man, I’ve got to call you guys and let you know."
TOM: Alright. Well, that’s fantastic, Mitch.
MITCH: Alright. Well, thank you. Love your show.
TOM: Glad to hear it. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
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 I’m-snowed-in-and-need-a-project-and-can’t-deal-with-the-winter-anymore phone call. We’re here for you. We want to help you with all your home improvement projects 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, men and women are often very different when it comes to decorating styles, Leslie.
LESLIE: That’s true. Oh, sure, he’s going to tell you, "Go ahead and pick whatever you like." But beware that battle, man, once it’s up and guess what? He hates it.
TOM: We’ll have the "he said, she said" guide to home decorating, next.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
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: And the number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Keep that number handy, pick up the phone and use it to call us with your home improvement question. Let us help solve your do-it-yourself dilemma because if you do, this hour you could get the answer to that question and a chance to win the HeatTrak Heated Door Mat worth about 80 bucks.
I could have so used this last month in the blizzard of 2010 that we suffered here right before the new year hit, because we didn’t get rid of that snow for like a week.
LESLIE: It’s crazy. And you know what? The coolest thing about these HeatTrak mats is that there are other products in their line that you can sort of piece together to do stairs outside or do a walkway. So it really is a great way, you know – especially if you don’t feel like getting out there and shoveling – to sort of help you with this handiwork that, come wintertime, that you actually need.
TOM: You’ve got to be in it to win it, though. Pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, this time of year, we all start thinking about Valentine’s Day, mostly because your wife or girlfriend starts nudging you and being like, "Don’t forget February 14." So let me be that wife/girlfriend right now and be like, "Hey, Valentine’s Day. It’s February 14."
So, if you’re thinking about surprising your sweetheart with maybe a room makeover for this lovely Valentine’s Day, remember that when it comes to décor, rather than Mars versus Venus, it’s more like men are from Home Depot and women are from Lowe’s.
Now, the stereotype is that men often lack a woman’s touch and women like all things lacy and frilly and often, neither is true. So here are a few tips that will help guide a room redo that both of you cannot only live with but maybe actually love.
First of all, go with a paint color that’s either neutral or that ranges in that gray-blue or sort of sea-greeny family. Those actually qualify as neutrals today; all of these soft grays, soft blues, soft greens, taupe-y beiges. Those all work fantastically as a neutral.
And more vivid colors can be incorporated in small doses, like in throw pillows or a ceramic accessory or a tray for a tabletop; that’s where you can have fun and have a punch of color.
TOM: Well, that’s right. Now, keep in mind that men prefer the earthy, durable materials like leather and hardwood. But keep in mind that they can be mixed and matched with softer fabrics and patterns to create that cozy, warm and even feminine look that women tend to like.
And when it comes to hanging paintings and prints, men and women can easily clash. Guys tend to like the rugged landscapes, the wood scenery and even the man-cave art of the basement or lest we not forget, the bikini-model-posed-on-a-sports-car variety or in our case, handling the power tools, which I have to admit I’ve seen in many a man’s shop.
Women, on the other hand, are pulled more towards the flowery art, the botanicals and the cottages. So, to compromise, you want to look for abstract art and graphic designs that appeal to you both, as well as beach or city scenes.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And finally, before ever heading out to the paint or the furniture store, you want to plan a cozy evening at home that you can both surf through some home decorating sites. Maybe it’s your favorite store that you like to go into; go to their website, look at all your catalogues. Look at your favorite design magazines – even if it’s the first time and you’re just running to the store and picking up a couple to browse through – and start ripping out pages.
If you do this together, you’re going to start to get a sense of what color schemes, themes you might like. And tear out a picture, whether it’s because you like the color, you like the print on a fabric, you like the texture of something you’re seeing. And as you sort of build up this pile of tear sheets, if you will, you’re going to end up starting to notice a trend or a theme that sort of carries through all of your selections.
And this will help you both to decide what kind of decorating style or scheme or idea that you’re going for and it’ll really help you in the process. This way, you’re going to find pieces that you all like, you’ll find colors that work together and this is going to make you both really feel at home.
TOM: And most importantly, you will have peace and harmony in your marriage.
888-666-3974. Call us right now. Maybe there’s an item on your honey-do list; let’s check it off. Give us a call right now. We’ll help you get it done.
LESLIE: Song in Alaska has a question about a rental property. Welcome to The Money Pit.
SONG: I have this older, split-home rental house that’s been flooded several times. The renter told me last spring – what he realized was after he took a shower from downstairs and the water wouldn’t drain from the tub – and then he realized that the toilet wouldn’t drain either from downstairs.
SONG: And then he realized the toilet didn’t drain from upstairs either.
SONG: So he plunged it, the toilet, downstairs and he couldn’t get it through and then he had to take the toilet seat out and run a very long snail.
SONG: And he said his hand actually reached over, probably about a foot or so, into it and then he heard this noise like a perforation noise and then he said everything started to drain again. So, my question is, does this solve the problem or do I need to have this camera examination?
TOM: Well, have you had it happen again since he snaked the drain out?
TOM: OK. Well, I think that you should leave well enough alone. It very well may have been something that was stuck inside the pipe that the action of using the snake, you know, freed up. And so I don’t think it’s necessary for you to have a drain-camera inspection done unless you have an ongoing problem; we’d need more information. At that point, you can have a drain-camera inspection done.
And basically, it is exactly that: they take what looks like a plumbing snake but has a camera on the end of it, run it through the pipe. And it’s very helpful if you think that the pipes are old or cracked and you don’t know where the breakdown is.
LESLIE: Where there’s a root issue.
TOM: You can visibly see it; I mean you can watch this thing go through the pipes. I’ve seen these tests done.
TOM: But if you – but if they – if he’s already broken through the clog, then I think you’re good to go. And I think you’ve got a pretty handy tenant there, too.
SONG: Thank you. Thank you.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Dan in Arkansas needs some help tackling a deck project. What can we help you with?
DAN: We have just recently purchased a home. It has a very expansive wood deck; it’s approximately – it’s 15x93, which would be 1,400 …
LESLIE: That’s huge.
TOM: That’s an aircraft carrier.
DAN: Yes, yes. You have to pack a lunch to get to one end. The wood is unknown but I’m guessing it’s going to be pine or treated pine.
DAN: The deck has been painted with probably a latex exterior or latex stain and it’s flaking off very badly. We’re tracking it into the house; we’re afraid about the dogs breathing it. Some contractors suggested power washing; others said that would break up the surface of the wood.
And so, there we are. Can’t afford to replace the decking, we don’t think, at 1,400 square foot. If we remove the deck, the first step is 15 foot to the ground.
LESLIE: Well …
TOM: Well, I’ve got to tell you it’s an enormous project to get the old paint off. They’re correct in saying that pressure washing could potentially damage the deck. Pressure washing really only should be used for rinsing. The tool is fine but if you make it too strong, what happens is you wear out the soft, summer growth which is the thick part of the ring of the tree.
TOM: You sort of groove that out and it definitely takes some life out of the deck. Probably the only way you’re going to be able to get this off is to use a – is a chemical stripper and even that by itself is a big job with 1,400 square feet.
LESLIE: Yeah and you’re going to have to work in sections because you have to apply it as per manufacturer directions, with a roller or with sort of like a mop applicator. And then you let it sit on that section for 10 minutes or so before it dries but you want it to sort of sit there and saturate and do its job of breaking up the paint. And then you would lightly pressure wash it away; get rid of the product and get rid of the paint that comes off with it. You wouldn’t want to just pressure wash because, as Tom said, it would just be detrimental to the health of the lumber.
But it’s going to be a big undertaking but you will be able to get it down to raw wood which, at that point, you could then apply, depending on the condition of the lumber – is it checking? Is it splintery? Does it look OK? Depending on if it looks great, then you can go with a semi-transparent. If it looks a little worse for the wear or you had a hard time getting off a lot of the paint in some areas where it just really stuck, you might have to go with a solid stain, which is different from a paint because it still sort of saturates the wood itself. So you can see some of the grain but you get that pigmentation. And you can go with a natural tone in a solid color.
TOM: Another option here, Dan, is – and I know you say you don’t have a lot of money to spend on this – you don’t necessarily have to replace the entire deck. You can just do a deck makeover by pulling off the decking boards themselves and replacing them with a composite product like Fiberon. That is sort of the half-price way of getting a brand new deck, because the structure is fine; you won’t have to deal with that. And another thing that you could think about doing is take a look at the underside of the deck and if you’ve got some bad boards or maybe they’re not painted on the bottom, you could pull them up and flip them over.
DAN: OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Hope we gave you some options. Appreciate the call.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Calvin on the line calling from California with a roofing question. What can we do for you?
CALVIN: I had a question about an asphalt-shingle roof. Years ago – maybe 30, 40 years ago – I added some type of recommended oil to the roof and I don’t remember how long it lasted because 4 or 5 years later, I added another section to the building and reroofed the entire thing. Is that procedure a recommended procedure or is it a bad procedure?
TOM: Yeah. Absolutely not. There’s really no roof coating that goes over an asphalt-shingle roof, Calvin. If you want to make it last as long as possible, you can do a couple of things, mostly related to making sure that your attic space is well-ventilated so that the roof stays cooler.
So, generally, if you improve your soffit ventilation and your ridge roof ventilation, that’s going to flush a lot of that warm air out. Because the warmer and the hotter a roof gets, the quicker the oils that are in the asphalt evaporate and the shingle becomes brittle and cracks and that’s how it deteriorates. But adding a coating to it is really never a good idea.
I have heard of companies that go out and sell roof paints, essentially, that they apply and then claim that it’s going to extend the life of the roof but there’s absolutely no reason for me to believe that. I’ve seen no research to prove that; I really think it’s just folks out there trying to sell you a bill of goods.
LESLIE: It’s like a snake oil.
CALVIN: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Calvin. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still ahead, learn how the technology behind a geothermal heat pump can provide an endless source of energy that is right beneath your feet.
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TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. But if you can’t get through on the phones, please head on over to MoneyPit.com, click on the Community section and post your question right there. We answer them all week long and we would love to talk to you.
LESLIE: Pat in Delaware needs some help fixing a ceiling. Tell us about the problem.
PAT: Yes. I have a 60-year-old, two-story colonial and I’ve maintained it over the years but the cracks in the ceiling have me concerned. And I was wondering, do I have to get a plasterer and pay the exorbitant fees or can do it at home? Fix it myself.
TOM: Well, you can fix it yourself.
LESLIE: Yeah, are the cracks that you’re seeing, are they where the molding meets the ceiling or are they smack in the middle? Does it seem like it’s on a seam?
PAT: They’re in the middle.
TOM: That’s pretty much normal expansion and contraction. I think those cracks can be fixed.
I would use the perforated drywall tape on that, Leslie.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. What you need to do is you need to cover it up with the perforated drywall tape, like Tom mentioned, and that’s the kind that looks almost like a gauze but it’s sticky all around.
LESLIE: And then you would put that …
PAT: I’ve used that before but I find it gets sticky and cake-y. Then am I supposed to hand-sand it before I paint it?
LESLIE: What you’re supposed to do is apply the joint compound in several different layers.
TOM: Thin layers.
LESLIE: Thin layers. So you want to put a layer over it, let it dry really well, then sand it. Then you want to put another layer over it, let it dry really well and sand it. And you want to keep getting wider and wider and wider and sand it out so that it really almost feathers away and you don’t even notice it.
TOM: Pat, thanks so much for calling us at1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, given all the attention being paid to solar power these days, you might be surprised to learn that one of the most promising solutions to high energy costs isn’t up in the sky but buried deep under your lawn.
TOM: That’s right. It’s called geothermal and a geothermal heat pump with this type of technology, everyone could literally be sitting on their lifetime supply. Here to explain exactly how it works is our friend, Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating expert for TV’s This Old House.
RICHARD: Hey, guys. Nice to be here.
TOM: Well, we’re glad to have you. I want to ask you about how this compares to electric heat pumps because in my experience, electric heat pumps are kind of the heating system of last resort. They can be very, very expensive but if you don’t have gas or oil, it’s the way to go. But with a geothermal, is the economy a little bit different in terms of return on investment?
RICHARD: Well, first of all, geothermal heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps. But instead of using the heat found in the outside air, they rely on a stable, even heat under the earth to provide heating, air conditioning and in most cases, hot water.
RICHARD: In principle, a geothermal heat pump functions just like a conventional heat pump – or actually, I should even explain that a heat pump is much like an air conditioner or a refrigerator.
A refrigerator takes the heat that’s inside the box and dumps it out to your kitchen. An air conditioner does the same thing; takes the heat from the house and dumps it to outside. A heat pump just reverses that cycle and brings the air from outside in.
The problem is that sometimes there’s not as much heat in the air as you want on a cold day, when you need the heat the most.
RICHARD: So, in that case, the earth’s temperature stays at a constant 50 degrees or so, so no matter how cold it gets outside, you’ve got this sort of source of heat to get from the ground.
TOM: So, Richard, exactly how does a geothermal heat pump work?
RICHARD: Well, the basic heat-pump principle is pretty straightforward. You have refrigerant that’s inside this refrigeration loop with a condenser and an evaporator.
RICHARD: And so it’s going to – normally, you’re going to take the heat from outside that’s in the air, you’re going to get it absorbed into the refrigerant, you run a compressor. That makes that temperature warmer and it dumps into the house and then it goes back to be – to get more heat from outside.
Well, the challenge is that you don’t have all that much heat available on a really cold day.
RICHARD: And there’s always about a 50-degree temperature underneath the ground and so, in this case, you’ve got a pipe drilled down into the ground and that’s filled with glycol and that absorbs the heat that’s in the ground – that 50-degree temperature – and it brings it into the house and boosts it up to a much higher temperature.
TOM: Richard, let me ask you about how deep this type of system has to go. And can you put it both vertically down and also can you spread it out if you happen to have a large property?
RICHARD: Well, it really depends. It starts with engineering. You need to determine how much collector loop you need.
Now, if you’re going to go vertically, you may have to drill down 400 feet and that gets expensive. If you go horizontally, you’re going to end up with a serpentine pattern that’s underneath your front lawn and it has to be down 4, 5 or 6 feet below the frost line so you get that 50-degree temperature.
TOM: Now, what about the warranty on this system? I would imagine it – if it goes under the property, we’re talking about it potentially going under driveways and decks and things like that. Is this pipe essentially – this loop going to last indefinitely? Do you have to be concerned about that?
RICHARD: Well, it’s generally this high-density polyethylene and it shouldn’t get so hot or so cold that it wears out in a short period of time. The unit that needs service at some point is the inside unit; you can always get at that.
TOM: So in terms of your options, if you had gas or oil, it’s still better to use fossil fuel?
RICHARD: It depends. Those fuels are going to go up in price and if you do a properly-installed geothermal heat-pump system or a really efficient system, it becomes not important what the fuel is; it’s a question of how efficient it is. So geothermal can make a great sense.
LESLIE: I mean I imagine the expense up front is going to be pretty hefty.
RICHARD: Oh, yeah.
LESLIE: Do you make that back? Is it quickly made back or are you looking at 15, 20 years before you finally recoup?
RICHARD: We find most people will do geothermal when they’re building a new house because they put the cost of the drilling – and that can be substantial and here in New England where we live, the drilling could be $15,000; $20,000; $25,000 or $30,000 that you’re paying for that so you’re – you have to put up that upfront investment.
RICHARD: If you build it into your mortgage, your operating cost often drops by more than what you’ve had to pay on your additional mortgage.
LESLIE: That’s a lot of money, though. I didn’t even realize it was that much.
TOM: Yeah, it sure is. And plus, I would imagine that there are probably rebates available. They’re going to vary by state but that could actually cut down your costs, as well.
Also, is this a system that’s quieter than a typical heat-pump setup?
RICHARD: I think that’s what most people like about it the most is that it’s the magic-box theory. There’s one box that’s inside the house; there’s nothing outside that you see. People think about an air conditioning system, they think about that this – are condensing it outside, it’s making noise, I can’t sit on my deck.
LESLIE: The condensing unit.
RICHARD: And with a geothermal, there’s nothing outside and so there’s nothing that you have to hear.
LESLIE: Now, given that you do have to drill extensively, is this something that’s just not viable for an urban development?
RICHARD: Well, it’s tricky to get the drilling equipment in and it’s – you’ve got to find a way to do it. So in a really tight urban environment, it’s often impossible to drill, yeah.
TOM: And Richard, because we’re relying on the constant temperature of the ground, does this work as well in a super-cold climate as it might, say, in middle-America?
RICHARD: Yeah, well, the earth doesn’t know what the temperature is – well, down in the core of the earth, it doesn’t know what temperature above is. That’s only affected for the first 4, 5, 6 feet. So yeah, it works; this is one of the heat pumps that does work great in cold climates.
TOM: Very exciting technology. Richard Trethewey, from TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.
For more tips just like that, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: Alright. For more great home improvement information from Richard and the entire This Old House team, watch This Old Houseand Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.
TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.
Still to come, we’ve got expert tips on what you can do to get your portable, electric generator ready in case a winter storm knocks out power to your house.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. Want hardwood floors but are on a budget? The affordable and feature-filled Skil Flooring Saw is just what you need for your installation project.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call with your home improvement, repair, decorating question. Whatever you are working on, we’re going to help you get that job done.
But we’ve also got a great prize up for grabs this hour, which is really fantastic, especially if you live in a snowy, winter climate. We’ve got the HeatTrak Heated Door Mat worth about 80 bucks. And it’s a patented mat and it’s designed to stay outside all winter long. And then what happens is, when it snows, it actually melts the snow away at the rate of 2 inches per hour.
Now, some of you living in certain parts of the country may over-snow that demand, depending on where you live, but it really is a fantastic thing to help you sort of clear that first step as you’re stepping out of the door, so you can actually step onto a nice, open area rather than climbing into 3 feet of snow when you get out there to tackle your shoveling project.
And it’s also going to help prevent slips and falls, because it’s not going to be icy right out there. Check out their website, because it’s a great product. It’s HeatTrak.com and that’s Heat – T-r-a-k – .com. It’s worth about 80 bucks but it could be yours for free, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your answer and your chance to win.
TOM: Well, if you’ve ever suffered a big power outage, you know that a portable, electric generator is a very good investment if your area is prone to such outages. But if you’ve got one, there is some prep work involved to make sure it works in case power goes out.
First, you need to make sure that it’s fueled. (inaudible at 0:29:24) it makes sense, right? But here’s something that you may not know: the fuel has got to be fresh and that means it’s got to be less than 30 days old or it has to be treated with a fuel stabilizer, because fuel actually goes bad after about 30 days.
You also need to make sure you’ve got enough extension cords to power your essential appliances and be sure that they’re long enough to keep the generator away from the house so carbon monoxide does not become an issue.
You also should power up the generator every once in a while – maybe every couple of weeks – to make sure it works reliably.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, if you’re looking for a safer, more reliable source of power at about the same cost as a portable generator, you might want to consider a CorePower Home Standby Generator from Generac.
Now, a home standby generator is something that gets permanently installed and it gets connected to your home’s power supply. So, in an emergency, you’re not even going to have to think about turning it on; it’s going to automatically turn itself on. And a home standby generator is going to run continuously off of your home’s power – whatever it is; your natural gas supply – and the great thing about CorePower by Generac is that it tests itself automatically every single week so that you know it’s going to work when you need it.
If you want some more information about a very, very cool product and how to keep you and your family in the power, if you will, and out of the dark on many occasions, visit Generac.com. You’ll find lots of information there and actually how to find one appropriately-sized for your home and your needs, so check it out today.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now to check out the answer to your home improvement question.
LESLIE: Susan in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
SUSAN: I don’t know if you can mention a brand name. So we got this basement waterproofing system thing installed a couple years ago.
SUSAN: And it’s supposed to help your house. In fact, it’s made our house settle, because they jack-hammered around the inside walls downstairs and dug up outside. And it’s like my house is settling worse than it was. Is there any way to slow it down?
TOM: Well, first of all, most of the time, those types of waterproofing systems are absolutely and completely unnecessary. I know that they’re typically sold with a lot of pressure and a lot of promises and had we talked to you a couple of years ago, we’d have told you absolutely to not do it.
Now that you have done it, I don’t think that anything that they did would make it worse. That said, though, if you still are continuing to get a lot of water that collects around the foundation, that water, although it may be draining down into this drain-tile system on both sides of the foundation, that actually could be loosening up some of the soil and causing an excessive settlement.
Think about it: when you walk across the yard when it’s dry, you walk on top; when it’s wet, you sink in. Your house does the same thing and these subsurface drainage systems, all they do is they let the water run down along the foundation, collect it and then pump it out. What we generally advise is that you take the steps to improve the drainage condition at the foundation perimeter, so that you slope the soil away from the house, you clean the downspouts, you extend them out away, so that water never, ever gets a chance to collect at the foundation perimeter. It stays away from the house; it never gets anywhere near the basement. And that makes the basement a lot more stable, as well as drier.
SUSAN: Alrighty. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. 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. Still ahead, are loud, outside noises interrupting a good night’s sleep? Well, you don’t have to resort to ear plugs.
Coming up next, we’re going to tell you how to reduce outside noises so that you can rest in peace.
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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. And we know that all of you love to surf the internet, so why not put the internet to good use and join The Money Pit community? This way, you’re going to get advice from do-it-yourselfers just like you. Plus, you’re going to get expert advice from Tom and myself.
And you know what’s super-cool about the Community section of The Money Pit is that you can post pictures of your current project, you can brag about a project well done, you can show us something specific that might be going wrong or that you don’t know what’s going on. Maybe it’s a finish, maybe it’s mold, maybe it’s whatever you’re working on that’s just confusing you. If you post it online, we can all sort of decipher what exactly is happening there. It’s really a great, new part of The Money Pit.
And you can also write a blog and post it to your Facebook page. It’s all in the awesome Community section of MoneyPit.com.
TOM: And speaking of which, let’s take some posts now that were on the Community section this week. One here from Daniel who says, "I hear your show frequently on WPTF in Raleigh and thought you might be able to help. Currently, I live in a townhouse off of I-40 and the traffic noise is enough to disturb me around 4:15 a.m. every workday." I’m guessing he doesn’t get up that early, typically.
"They’re adding another lane and with no present design for an acoustic barrier. Is there anything that can be done to eliminate or at least dampen the traffic noise?"
This is a pretty common problem where you have road construction and there’s a couple of things that you can do. Your problem is your walls and your windows. So, with respect to the walls and even the ceilings, what you can do is you could put in sound-deadening drywall to those walls, so that you can add a second layer of drywall with special drywall that is designed to deaden sound.
And you can put that on the inside of your walls very, very simply. It’s a little expensive. If you want a less-expensive alternative, you can use something called Green Glue and normal drywall; again, putting a second layer. But if you buy the special, sound-deadening drywall – I know they sell QuietRock as one of the brands at Lowe’s; probably by special order – that will help.
Now, the windows are another case, though. And while they do have sound-deadening windows, they would, of course, be very, very expensive.
But Leslie, couldn’t we do something here with a couple of layers of drapes that would capture and deaden that sound?
LESLIE: Yeah. I would probably start with some sort of fabric shade – like a Roman or a structured Roman or a soft, Roman shade – with blackout lining fabric; just like heavy-duty linings of fabric sort of interlined underneath that fabric that you select for that window treatment. And that will give you a good barrier right there.
Then you might even want to go with some sort of drape that you can pull closed in front of the window. And again, I would line, interline, use blackout lining fabric; all of that to sort of add some weight and some heft to that fabric, just to sort of stop that noise from even getting through.
My only concern is that you mentioned that this was a townhouse. And yes, you can do all of those things, you know, as far as window treatments. But the walls are really going to be a vulnerable area so before you go and add that extra layer of drywall, double-check with your community, especially if it’s some sort of condo co-op that you have to get permission for. Because you don’t want to sort of put that expense in, unless you don’t even care and they’ll let you do it; go for it. But ask questions before you do, because that’ll really help you.
Alright. I’ve got a post here from Amy that says, "I live in a southwest-facing manufactured home with little to no shade in the front yard. The sun bakes the paint off my front door, even in the winter. Do you have any low-cost, doable ideas for how to harness this solar energy?"
TOM: Amy, there are actually lots and lots of ways to harness the sun and there are a lot of articles that – where we’ve written about this, on MoneyPit.com. There’s a great story there about solar panels and geothermal heating ideas for your house and also one called "Solar-Powered Solutions Using Active and Passive Designs." All of that is online at MoneyPit.com, so check it out there.
LESLIE: And you know what, Amy? Make sure you check with your local utility company, because there are so many rebates available. You never know, they might be paying you for this service.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We’ve hope we’ve given you a few tips, a few ideas to help improve your 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 2011 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.)