Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist's understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. 'Ph' in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
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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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your home improvement questions. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemmas. What are you thinking about tackling in your house this year? Do you want to paint a room? Do you want to do some new carpet? Do you want to install a kitchen, install a bathroom? Maybe you want to build a bar. Whatever project you've got on your mind, let's talk about it. Call us right now. We will help you get it done quickly, more efficiently and make sure it comes out just right.
LESLIE: I have to say, every single day not a moment goes by - even if I'm really happy with how a room in my house looks - that I don't think about what I want to change.
TOM: Yep. I know. Me, too.
LESLIE: It's horrible. It's an illness. I'll look at a room; it looks fantastic and my husband will see that look on my face. He's like, 'It's fine. We're not painting. We're not doing anything.'
TOM: I've had a lot of friends over the years that have done a lot of work on their homes. And when it gets just right, it's just perfect, they sell it ...
LESLIE: That's (chuckling) ...
TOM: ... and buy another one. So they have something to do. (chuckling)
LESLIE: Because you need a whole new set of projects.
TOM: Well, regardless of whether or not you're an occasional renovator or a serial renovator (chuckling), you can call us right now. We'll help you through it. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if one of your projects is painting, you might be struggling over paint color for your walls; you know, trying to figure out what color's going to be the perfect color.
LESLIE: You mean what is the right shade of white?
TOM: Exactly. (chuckling) But don't just struggle over color. You might want to think about the finish as well.
LESLIE: And there are more and more options of finishes available.
TOM: Exactly. I mean you can have high gloss; you can have - high gloss is great because it's easy to clean. You could have low gloss; you could have flat; you could have eggshell; all kinds of finishes in between. And the finish you choose has a big impact on how that actual room is going to look when it's all done.
LESLIE: Yeah and I've got a question for you today.
LESLIE: When is it a good idea to have a hole in your roof?
LESLIE: It's like a knock-knock joke but it's not a joke.
TOM: I don't think it's ever a good idea to have a hole in your roof.
LESLIE: It's actually a good idea when that hole is filled in with a skylight.
TOM: Oh, of course.
LESLIE: It was a trick question. Ha-ha. (chuckling) Well, we're going to give you some tips on installing a skylight; including how to keep the elements out, which is what you want to do.
TOM: That is the challenge because I can't tell you, in all the years I spent as a home inspector, how many times I found leaking skylights. So we'll talk about that later in the hour.
And we've got a great guest coming up. You know, now is the time to buy that computer or flat screen TV you've been thinking about if you want to take advantage of those post-holiday sales. But Consumer Reports says there's one thing you don't have to buy into and that is an extended warranty. We're going to talk to an expert from Consumer Reports about an investigative report that they did that talks about why buying those warranties might not be such a wise idea.
LESLIE: And we're giving away a great prize this hour. It's a pack of locks from Master Lock. It's worth $115 but could be yours for free, so make sure you call us right now with your question.
TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who's first?
LESLIE: Mike in Tennessee, how can we help you in your Money Pit?
MIKE: Well, I had a question in regards to refinishing a manufactured hardwood floor. I'm not sure you can do it but I thought if anyone knew if you could or couldn't, you guys would help me out.
LESLIE: Now when you're saying manufactured, is it a solid hardwood or are we talking about an engineered or laminate?
MIKE: Well, I believe it's engineered. It's not laminate. It's engineered. It's, I think, 3/8-inch - maybe a little bit thicker - on top of plywood and you can either nail it or glue it down. It was here when we bought the home. And I think the floor is probably maybe 13, 14, years old. It's in pretty good shape but there's a few little scuff marks on it and before I get started, I thought I'd give you a call and you could help me out.
TOM: Well, unfortunately, Mike, it's been my experience that you cannot refinish a 13 to 14 year old prefinished floor. Those floors were done in a very short period of time before they had aluminum oxide finishes. And they probably - it probably also has - does it have like sort of a V groove as part of the tongue and groove, where part of it's recessed?
MIKE: Oh, geez, I haven't even gotten - I haven't even gotten down below the surface. I've just ...
TOM: Because even if you sand it, you can't always get into all the nooks and crannies. And so I've found that when you try to refinish those early prefinished hardwood floors that they don't refinish very well and they end up - the new finish ends up delaminating off the old finish.
If you want to give it a shot, what I would tell you to do is to try this in a closet area. You would lightly sand that surface - and I mean lightly; like with, say, 220-grit sandpaper - and then try to use an oil-based polyurethane and see how it holds up. But it's been my experience that it's very hard to get an out-of-the-can finish to stick to an older prefinished floor.
MIKE: Sounds like that I've got some heavy work to do; like ripping and tearing and replacing. (chuckling)
TOM: Well, you know, you're going to get the benefit of a much better quality floor today because the finishes are so much better.
LESLIE: Yeah, but maybe we can just address some of the simple scuff marks. Are they deep, gougy scratches or are we seeing like, you know, a black heel mark?
MIKE: No. No black heel marks. A few little scratches here and there. You know, pet comes in, turns the corner pretty quick and there you go.
TOM: Is the pet scratching right through to the raw wood?
MIKE: It's scratching through the finish and down into the wood. It's not really deep. My initial thought was using some steel wool perhaps; scuff some of that out and refinish it. But unless I can find some, maybe, water - would you think water-based self-leveling stuff would work?
TOM: No, not - definitely not water-based on the floor. It just doesn't stand up to the abrasion. You need oil-based.
MIKE: OK. Alright.
LESLIE: Yeah, but Tom's got a great trick for some scratches that are not terribly deep but may be more cosmetic where you take those wax crayons that are made to fill, you know, any ding or damage on a finished piece of wood furniture or flooring.
MIKE: Oh, sure. Yeah.
LESLIE: And you know - Tom, what do you do? You heat it up?
TOM: Yeah, I usually take like a Bic lighter and heat the end of the - it's like a freezer pencil. And you heat the end of it so it gets a bit soft and then you can sort of press the wax into the damaged area. And then if you rub it really fast with your hand, it kind of like melts right in there and it really fills the area in very nicely. Now, unfortunately, doing that on a floor, if it's a big open area, that wax is soft. There's going to be nothing you can do to change that. But if it's just a small - like a dent, you might be able to fill it up and it will stand up OK.
MIKE: OK. Real good. I appreciate that.
LESLIE: Tommy in Texas, what's going on at your money pit?
TOMMY: I have - I'm a builder for a corporate builder in Corpus Christi. And I have a homeowner who is complaining of a musty, awkward smell; guess a smell similar to the smell you get in your garage ...
TOMMY: - you know, not a conditioned air -
TOMMY: ... in the bedroom that's directly behind the wall next to the garage.
TOMMY: Now I have - I have recognized the smell - I've smelled the smell myself. I can't identify it. The steps I've taken to try and identify it is - well one, I've had the air conditioner ductwork checked to see if there are any leaks, any air coming in from the attic. I've checked all - I've checked the insulation in all the walls to make sure there's, you know, no breach anywhere possible. It's just - it's confusing the heck out of me.
TOM: And you have good return air flow in that particular room, Tommy? So you're getting supply and return air to that room?
TOMMY: Well, see that's - that's a factor that may be causing the problem because we don't have a return grill in the room. The only way, of course, you can true return air is if the door is open. I mean this is the kind of system where if the door is cracked, it will shut closed.
TOM: Right, you have a central return. Yeah. If she leaves the door open, does the problem go away?
TOMMY: Well yes but you've got the airflow really combining with the rest of the house and that - the smell, she's - you know, smelling is really just in that one room.
TOM: And she's got nothing in the room that could be contributing to this?
TOMMY: Well, it's a baby room. I'm thinking there's a human element involved where (chuckling) ...
TOM: Yeah, I'm kind of thinking the same thing because this isn't making any sense to me. Yeah, you know, I commend you for trying to be a good guy here and figure this out. But if this room is not constructed any different than the other rooms and assuming that we don't have like a dead rodent behind the wall ...
LESLIE: Yeah, but that smell would go away over time.
TOM: Yeah, I can't think of anything that you could do short of what you've already completed.
TOMMY: Well the only difference in this room, compared to any other room in the house, is of course this room is next to the - this is the only room where there's living space next to the garage itself, outside of the utility room, where your washer and dryer would be. Now, we have - we have all of our plumbing that's actually in the slab.
TOM: Is there any chance that there is an opening in the vent pipe for the waste system?
TOMMY: That's what I'm thinking but I've done everything I can to eliminate that; you know, put expanded spray foam. Again, and I've had the insulation checked with my insulation company to make sure, you know, that there's no insulation breaks.
TOM: How old is this house, Tom?
TOMMY: Twelve months.
TOM: Well, it would be unusual for a problem to - for a mold problem to take root in that short a period of time. The only other thing that you can do here, Tommy, if you want to eliminate the possibility of a sewer vent pipe being broken or misinstalled in some way is to open up the wall, perhaps from the garage side, and take a look at that. But short of that, I think you've met your responsibility and I can't think of anything else to tell you to do.
TOMMY: Yeah, I'm just thinking the door is staying closed and you've got a baby diaper that's just kind building up smell over time.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, that's going to be the last thing they'll admit, too. The only other thing that you could maybe think about doing is adding an additional return vent and that'll help circulate some of that air and maybe quiet them down, but that's about it.
Tommy, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey out there in Money Pit land, do you need some ideas to get those resolutions rolling? Well, now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Well, picking the perfect paint color for your walls is a choice between beauty and maintenance. Learn where that balance point is, right after this.
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ANNOUNCER: AARP is proud to sponsor The Money Pit. Visit www.AARP.org/UniversalHome to learn more about making your home more functional and comfortable for years to come.
TOM: Making good homes better. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
Alright, so you're on the problem of paint. And when you're trying to pick out the perfect paint color, that's already a whole host of problems. But what about the finish? There are so many options and who knew that there's a difference between matte and flat now? My gosh, I always thought they were the same thing.
TOM: Yeah, me too.
LESLIE: Yeah, not anymore. There's a lot of different choices out there. And so, here's some info that's going to help you decide which finish is right for you. So gloss enamels, they're going to provide a durable finish. But because they're glossy, it's going to highlight any imperfections that you've got on the wall. So if there's a ding in the drywall, if you're seeing a seam where the two pieces meet, you're going to notice that immediately. And especially with plaster, if there's some texture on there, you're going to notice that. So if that's the situation, stay away from a gloss.
For best results you might want to try using a semi-gloss paint on the trim because you can easily clean it. You can even go with a satin on trim work because you'll still be able to wipe it clean. And use a flat or a matte paint on walls. I know mattes are more scrubbable. So that's really the big difference between the matte and the flat. And ...
TOM: Now is matte the same as eggshell?
LESLIE: No, eggshell is different. Eggshell is the one above the matte. The matte and the flat are sort of in the same category except the matte tends to have a little bit more durability to it, making it scrubbable. That's the big difference. And you want to make sure whoever your paint provider is, talk to them because each manufacturer is going to have a different set of finishes. They're not going to go across the board. And what they're going to call their scrubbable one might be different.
Behr is an excellent manufacturer of paint. They're available at The Home Depot so it's readily available. They've got a lot of good colors. You can even see how that color is going to look on the wall and mix and match it with a different color situation for trim work or accent all on a computer that they're going to have in the store. And the price is right and it's very durable. And remember that painting is mostly labor and it's a labor of love. So if you buy a good paint, it's going to mean less work and a longer lasting paint job. So longer between having to do it again.
TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call us right now if you have a painting question or some other project question.
One caller who gets on the air this hour is going to win a prize pack from Master Lock worth 115 bucks. It includes the Night Watch deadbolt. Night Watch fits all doors; replaces any brand of deadbolt; and can be installed in 15 minutes. And it's cool because if somebody has a key to your house and you have a Night Watch deadbolt, they cannot get in.
1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who's next?
LESLIE: Dory in Virginia's sprucing up her bathroom. How can we help?
DORY: We have - the previous owners in our home tried to seal up our shower by using that clear silicone caulking.
LESLIE: When you say seal up your shower, do you mean where the tub and the tile meets? Do you mean all over the walls?
DORY: It's a standup shower, so it's the tray and the sliding door.
DORY: When we had our home inspection done it was leaking in that area. So, they just piled on some of that clear caulking. And it stops the leak so the shower doesn't leak. But it wasn't sealed up enough to prevent moisture getting in there and mold and mildew growing ...
TOM: Oh, it looks awful, too, doesn't it? Because what happens is it gets under the silicone ...
TOM: ... and you get ...
LESLIE: Ew, it looks gross.
TOM: You get like this greenhouse effect, where the stuff grows and it get really, really gross. So ....
DORY: Yeah, it does.
TOM: ... all you need to do here is to strip that out.
LESLIE: It's gross.
TOM: Yeah. Strip that silicone out.
DORY: How do I do that?
TOM: Well, you can cut it out very carefully with a utility knife.
TOM: There's also a product out there called Caulk-Be-Gone. Essentially it's like a - it's like a stripper for caulk. It softens the caulk.
TOM: All the caulk manufacturers have different types of caulk softeners. And that's another option. That will soften the caulk and allow you to scrape it out.
When it comes time to replace it, what you want to do is use a product that has Microban in it. I think it's DAP.
LESLIE: Well also, you want to make sure you spray some bleach and water onto this whole area to saturate it, to clean it, to make sure that you're killing that mildew growth in there. And then really let it dry well before you go ahead and recaulk everything.
TOM: And then you can use DAP, which has an additive in it called Microban which is an antimicrobial additive that's specifically designed to not grow mold. Because boy, does it grow fast around the bathtub ...
DORY: It does.
TOM: ... and the shower.
DORY: It really does.
TOM: And that's what you need to do.
DORY: OK. That sounds simple enough. We've had some people look at it and they just haven't wanted to deal with it.
DORY: How - with the Caulk-Be-Gone, how difficult is it to get out?
TOM: It's a lot easier than doing it when it's not softened but it's still a bit of a job.
TOM: It's not terribly hard. I mean ...
LESLIE: But it's not terrible.
TOM: Yeah, you can do it.
DORY: Alright. That sounds good.
TOM: Listen, it's your mold, Dory. (inaudible) live with it, you know? (chuckling)
DORY: (chuckling) I want it gone.
TOM: Alright. Dory, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
DORY: Thank you.
TOM: 888-666-3974. You grow it, you've got to get rid of it yourself. (chuckling) That's the deal.
LESLIE: On our way to Michigan to talk to Anna. What's going on at your house?
ANNA: I was wondering - I had a question about mold. And I basically don't know anything about it. And I basically am looking at a condo that I'm thinking about purchasing. And the condo has a furnace in the furnace closet. It's not in the house like other places that I've seen. I don't know - it's sort of - it's like a furnace and the air conditioning unit together. And I'm not really sure, basically, once the closet door is closed there's really not a lot of ventilation in there. I don't really know if that could potentially be a problem for ...
TOM: Well, I'd be willing to be, Anna, that in that furnace closet you'll probably have more ventilation than you expect because as tight as those - that duct system is, there's probably going to be a lot of air that's leaking out. I wouldn't necessarily be concerned about that causing a mold issue.
What I would tell you, if you're moving into a new condo, one that's unfamiliar to you or if you're thinking about buying it, you absolutely, positively must get a professional home inspection done before you get so far into the contract that you can't back out of it. To do that, I would recommend that you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors and that's at ASHI - A-S-H-I.org. And this is an independent professional society that tests and certifies their members. You can put in your zip code. You'll get a list of guys that are available in your area, then you can call from there and find somebody that would work well for this inspection.
LESLIE: And it's so important because it validates the asking price of that unit; that place that you're looking for - whether it's a condo or a home. Because there might be things going on in that situation that they're not disclosing to you. And if it is true that something like that's going on, this home inspector is going to find it because he's there working for you and he's looking out for you. And if there are issues - things that need to be worked on - you can then use that to negotiate the price. So bring him in before you even get to that point but know that that's the place you want to know more about.
TOM: And Anna, if you're concerned about mold or anything else, make sure that you make a list of those concerns and bring them up to the home inspector. Some may inspect for mold. Others - or some may not. But regardless, it's important for you to make that list early, up front, so that they know what you expect and you can get more of your questions answered that way.
Anna, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Listening in on KBZZ, we've got Bob in Nevada. What can we do for you today?
BOB: Question I have for you has to do with the shelf life of diesel fuel.
BOB: We have a diesel generator here and sometimes it runs a lot, like it did last week because of a very cold and windy storm we had that went on for about four hours at night. But sometimes it'll sit quietly; the generator will just sit quietly for months on end. And I'm wondering about what the shelf life of the diesel fuel is inside there and whether or not I can extend it using fuel additives like stabilizers.
TOM: Well, diesel fuel - number two fuel oil; very similar, if not identical, to the fuel oil that's used for heating systems - has an extended shelf life compared to gasoline. Gasoline can start going bad in as little as 30 days.
LESLIE: If you don't put any additives in it.
TOM: But diesel fuel can actually last quite a bit longer. How often are you refueling this generator?
BOB: Well, just as necessary, really?
TOM: Is it a couple of times a year or what?
BOB: Oh yeah, probably. Two to three times a year. Yeah.
TOM: I think, for the most part, the diesel fuel will be fine. Most of the material that we read on it says 12 to 24 months.
TOM: And if you add a fuel stabilizer, you know, even more. It's the same fuel that's used to heat your house. It's the same type of heating fuel. It's just - it's taxed differently and that's why it's diesel fuel versus number two fuel oil. But it's essentially the same chemical compound and it can last quite a long time. Because think about it. When you have oil tanks in the ground and also above ground oil tanks for heating your house, you know, that fuel can go in there and last the entire season.
BOB: Makes sense to me. Thank you very much for your help. I enjoy the show and your newsletter very much.
LESLIE: Oh, thanks.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: When you buy a big ticket item you've been eyeing - like that plasma TV or maybe a new computer - you're no doubt going to get socked with that offer for an extended warranty.
TOM: You may be tempted to buy into it but Consumer Reports says you don't have to. Find out why when we talk to the magazine's senior editor, next.
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ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
LESLIE: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Leslie Segrete.
Well, post-holiday sales are a great way to save big bucks on big ticket items. And if you're thinking about treating yourself to that flat screen plasma TV that you've been eyeing or perhaps that new computer that you need for your home office, now might be a good time to shop. But one thing that you do not have to buy into is the extended warranty that you are no doubt going to be offered on any of these big ticket purchases you might make. The folks at Consumer Reports are taking the message to the public in a big way. The only thing an extended warranty helps is the retailers' bottom line. Not surprising.
Well, joining us to talk about extended warranties and the dangers that lie within is Todd Marks from Consumer Reports.
TODD: Hi, how are you today?
LESLIE: Great, Todd.
I can tell you, anytime I've bought an air conditioner, a TV, a computer, sure enough that sales person is trying to tack on that several hundred dollar extended warranty. Why do I feel like such a sucker and why do I feel like I need to buy it?
TODD: Well, it's because they play on your fears; the fears of not knowing, of uncertainty, of living with everyday products that are just a hair - a hairpin turn away from ruin. And because a lot of products - and you mentioned large screen TVs - because they embody new technology, a lot of times people are overly fearful and especially worried that something's going to go wrong. So it naturally, again, plays on people's fears. But the reality is, as we know from surveying tens of thousands of Consumer Reports readers over the years, that most of the time extended warranties really don't pay. Because you're really gambling and it's a long shot bet; a sucker's bet ...
LESLIE: You're betting against the house. You're betting that you're going to lose.
TODD: Absolutely, because you're betting that a couple of things are all going to happen at the perfectly right time; that the moons are all going to be in alignment (chuckling) and what's going to happen is: one - that the product's going to break; that two - it's going to break and it's going to break precisely at the time that the manufacturer's warranty has expired but precisely during the time when the extended warranty is in place - that's a rather narrow window; and three - you're betting that the cost of the warranty is going to exceed the cost of the repair. And our facts from collecting, again, years of data, show that most of the time when a product does break that - on those rare occasions that it breaks within that time period - that the cost of the repair is generally no more than the cost of the warranty.
LESLIE: So it really doesn't make sense to spend that extra cash because the repair could be far less. But the thing to think about is are the companies making more money on the product or more money on the extended warranty?
TODD: Well, in many instances, they're making more money on the sale of the warranty because they're selling pieces of paper. Pieces of paper with a profit margin that can be as high as 50 percent. No products in this day and age - or I should say few products in this day and age - really yield those kind of profits. Being in the retail business today is a dog-eat-dog profession and it's a tough way to make a living. So these folks have to come up with new ways to make it worth their while; to keep themselves afloat.
LESLIE: But are there any times when you should sort of sign up to this extended warranty on any sort of products or type of products?
TODD: I don't want to make it sound like we're adamantly opposed because we try to let our positions be dictated by the information we get from our readers. Remember this: it all depends on your tolerance for risk.
LESLIE: (chuckling) Are you a gambling man, Todd?
TODD: Exactly. It's a lot about the piece of mind. People that worry incessantly all the time about things breaking and having big repair bills, might be - might be better off buying one of these things once in a blue moon for a really high ticket product. But we believe that you'd be better off taking the money you would have spent for the warranty and putting it into - shall we call it a rainy day repair fund? Assuming even you want to get it repaired because we've learned that a lot of people don't even want to bother to get things fixed. The declining price of technology makes products a lot more affordable than they were just a few years ago. That's another reason why people don't want to get things fixed all the time.
LESLIE: Well, if you do decide to pick up the extended warranty - say it makes sense. Maybe it's for a computer program or a computer situation where you get longer service or longer technical support - what are some of the questions you should be asking to make sure you're not getting taken? Like how do you know they're going to come and pick it up?
TODD: Right. You know, that's a really good point. Because if you're going to get an extended warranty and you want the piece of mind that it embodies, make sure that it offers a few things. First of all, never pay more than 20 percent of the product's replacement cost for the cost of the warranty. That's simply excessive. Two, make sure that the warranty covers things like in-home servicing for large items or in-home pickup so you don't have to bring that big whatever to the freight depot. Also, you know, find out if you can get a loaner model if, in fact, yours is going to be laid up in the shop for a long time. And fourth, find out if there's a lemon law attached. A lot of companies say, 'You know what? When we sell extended warranties, we're not just selling a warranty. We're going above and beyond what the manufacturer's offering to give you that piece of mind and to make the product more value added.'
LESLIE: Well, good to know, Todd. Thank you so much. As always, the folks at Consumer Reports looking out for everyone's best interest. So if you're looking for more information on extended warranties and just about anything that's going to protect you, go to Consumer Reports.org.
TOM: Up next, what can you add to your home that can make it seem roomier, save you money and might actually help strengthen your bones and your teeth? We will shed some light on the answer to that question, after this.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru, the nation's leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Choose the brand more building professionals prefer. And add up to $24,000 to the perceived value of your home. For more information, visit ThermaTru.com.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, making good homes better. Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: OK. So before the break we posted this question. So what can you add to your home that's going to help make it seem more spacious, save you money and possibly help strengthen your bones and teeth?
TOM: Now the bones and the teeth one really throws you off on this.
LESLIE: (chuckling) It's totally out of left field.
TOM: There's a lot of answers to the other part of that question. (chuckling)
LESLIE: Yeah. Well, the answer is (drum roll sound) a skylight. (chuckling) Ding, ding, ding! A skylight can actually open up a room because it's exposing it to natural light. It's going to make small spaces seem larger and it's really going to create energy efficient possibilities that might even help lower your utility bills. Who doesn't like that? Plus, some studies are showing that people who are exposed to more sunlight - aha! - might boost their vitamin D, which is known to strengthen teeth and bones.
TOM: Ah, but there is a big risk - a big headache - if your skylight is not installed right. You could end up with some very costly water damage. Like I was saying earlier in the program, I used to find leaking skylights all the time in the years I spent inspecting homes as a professional home inspector. You know, when you build a skylight - just like any other roof detail like a valley, a rake (ph), an edge of a chimney, a ridge, a dormer wall - you need to take some precautions to make so that that water does not get through.
There is a product out there by Grace that is really the first of its kind. It's specially designed for areas like this. It's a waterproofing roof detail. It's called Roof Detail Membrane and it's basically just that. It's a flexible membrane that conforms tightly to the roof details. It's a little extra protection that can go a long way to keeping the difficult areas, like around skylights, definitely leak free.
If you want more information on roof detail membrane, you can go to Grace's website. It's GraceatHome.com. They've got a whole family there of weather barriers that can help in those difficult spots; like around skylights.
LESLIE: And while we're on the topic of skylights, did you know that it's easier to add a skylight that it is to install a window? And if you're just a little bit handy, you can actually do this project yourself. In our next e-newsletter, we're going to give you some tips to get started, including how to stay safe while you're up on your roof. It's called Skylight Installation 101 and it's in our next e-newsletter. If you're not a subscriber of the Money Pit newsletter, where have you been? You can sign up right now at MoneyPit.com. It's free and it's going to come into your inbox every Friday, so you don't even have to go outside in your jammies to get it.
TOM: Something else that's free this hour - our prize. One caller could win a set of locks from Master Lock worth $115 including the Night Watch deadbolt. It's the only deadbolt designed to keep burglars from getting inside even if they have your key. So call us right now if you want a shot at winning. You must be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who's next?
LESLIE: Patrick in Pennsylvania, you're on the line. What can we do for you?
PATRICK: Yeah, I've got a storage room in our basement.
PATRICK: And it is constantly getting extremely humid and there is no ventilation system so we've been running a dehumidifier all summer long and it costs a lot.
TOM: Yeah, mm-hmm.
PATRICK: I was wondering if there was an alternative to the dehumidifier.
TOM: Well, there's things that you can do to reduce the below-grade humidity. Now a dehumidifier is a good idea but are you doing anything outside to address the source of the moisture? For example, have you looked at your gutter system? Because if they are blocked or if the water coming down the ...
LESLIE: Or if they're nonexistent.
TOM: They're nonexistent or if the downspouts are not extended away from the home, say, four to six feet, you could be dumping a lot of the roof water very close to the foundation where it easily saturates through and then evaporates into that below-grade space.
Another thing to look at is the grading. Make sure that the soil around the house is sloping away from the foundation wall. You want it to drop off about six inches over every four feet. If you have any less of a slope than that then, again, the water's going to collect at the foundation perimeter and it's going to saturate through the walls. If there's enough water, it will actually leak and potentially flood that area. But if there's just a little bit of water, it gets the concrete wet and concrete is very hydroscopic so the water just draws right through it and evaporates into the air and that contributes to the humidity in there.
So those are a couple of things that you could do that won't cost you much at all once you get them straightened out.
PATRICK: Yeah, it's graded on the side of the house that the room's on.
TOM: Well what about that gutter system? Is it extended out away from the house four to six feet?
PATRICK: I don't believe it is.
LESLIE: Because sometimes, and in most cases, those downspouts are just right next to the foundation. Even with those splash blocks, you're getting all the water right there.
TOM: Well take a look at the discharge of the downspouts because you've got to keep those away from the house. They will hug the wall and saturate that entire area.
Now beyond that, you said there's no ventilation. So I should take it that there's no heating system down there whatsoever. There's no ducting at all?
PATRICK: Not into that room.
TOM: OK. And is there an adjacent room that there is? Is it possible that you could have a, for example, louvered door to let some of that air mix and dry out?
PATRICK: We could do that.
TOM: Well, I think if you don't seal it off completely and you let it - you let that damp air mix with the conditioned air, that you will find that it dries out as well. So there are three things that you can do that won't cost a whole lot of money that'll make that a lot drier.
Patrick, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Talking foundation with Don in Michigan. What can we do for you?
DON: I have a question about putting in a foundation on an existing house that's on a slab. It originally was built as a pole barn but the posts, over the years, have been rotting off. So I basically have no foundation. And I'm wondering how to go about - the proper way to trench around it and put in a foundation.
TOM: Well, because you have to support those poles. Because the slab that you have right now, it sounds to me like that's just the floor. It's not supporting the poles. Is that correct?
DON: That is correct. A good share of the poles are rotted right off.
TOM: What you're going to have to do is build temporary walls to hold up the structure while you construct a traditional footing and block wall or a [monolithic pour of a] (ph) slab to get it up to the point where it's underneath that pole area and then do whatever repairs you need to get them to rest down on top of that. Because the part that's below grade is already rotted off so you're essentially going to have to create a temporary structure to support the roof and the rest of the building while you're working on the bearing wall. It's the same kind of repair you'd do if you were working on any bearing wall either outside or inside of a house. You have to build a temporary structure to support it while you're doing the dirty work of building that new foundation.
DON: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You're welcome, Don. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, are woodpeckers making a meal out of your house? Do they love your siding? Do they love your trim? Are they knock-knock-knocking and keeping you awake? We're going to teach you how to get rid of them once and for all in a safe and humane way. That's coming up, after this.
[audio timestamp: 39:47]
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, making good homes better. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: So have you heard a question on the show and perhaps you said to yourself, 'That is exactly what I wanted to know'? Would you like to hear the answer again? If you miss something on this program, you can always go on to MoneyPit.com and play it again. All of our shows are available online. You can even listen on your desktop or you can read and even search the transcripts for all the programs. So if you heard a little piece of information, you're driving around and you can't jot it down, you don't want to forget it, simply go to MoneyPit.com and look it up ...
LESLIE: And print it out when you get home.
TOM: Print it out; read it; pass it around to your friends and show them how smart you are.
LESLIE: And you can use a highlighter. They're very excellent (chuckling) to point out things you just want to find later.
Alright, let's get into our e-mail bag so those folks who don't want to call in get their fair chance to hear their questions answered. And this one comes from, hmm, Tom in New Jersey. Hmm.
TOM: Ah. But it's not me.
LESLIE: OK. Sure, mm-hmm. (chuckling) Well, 'Every spring my cedar shake home comes under attack by woodpeckers. Any suggestions?'
TOM: Yes, Tom, there are some ways to control woodpeckers. First of all, remember that woodpeckers are looking for insects. So certainly if you have any insect problems in your house, you need to attend to those but ...
LESLIE: And clearly, they must know that there's something tasty inside that (inaudible).
TOM: They could but they might just be confused as well. Because you know, they're banging their heads all day. They're apt to get ...
LESLIE: They're like, 'That's the biggest tree I've ever seen.'
TOM: They're apt to get a bit confused now and again. But here's a little trick of the trade. Aluminum pie pans - the kind that you buy that are sort of disposable and the ones that you can throw away -
LESLIE: The really shiny ones.
TOM: - you want to attach those to the areas around your house. Hang them, if you can, from soffits so they kind of blow in the wind. And they will scare the bejeevers out of those woodpeckers.
LESLIE: Aw, your neighbors are going to love that. (chuckling)
TOM: Well, you don't have to make it a permanent thing. But until the woodpeckers go away, they see the reflection in those things and it totally freaks them out and they'll stay away from your house.
LESLIE: Because they think it's a competitive woodpecker, right?
TOM: Another thing is plastic sheeting; like strips of like - say if you take like a big, black Hefty bag and you cut it into strips; like three-inch wide strips so it's almost like plastic bag confetti. You can tack that around the area, too, and as that blows in the wind, that also kind of scares them away and they'll send them over to your neighbor's house to knock-knock-knock.
TOM: So couple of things that you can do that don't cost much money and will definitely take care of that woodpecker problem.
LESLIE: Alright, next one from Joshua in Rhode Island. 'I have a high radon reading in my basement - seven picocuries. I found a paint product on the internet made for cement floors that exclusively is for radon protection. Have you ever used this and what do you think?'
TOM: Well, I don't think a paint product is going to control your radon problem. What you need is called a sub-slab ventilation system. Simply sealing is only part of the entire mitigation process. You need a ventilation system as well and that needs to be installed only by a radon mitigation pro.
LESLIE: And four picocuries is the limit, so get this fixed fast, Joshua.
TOM: Well, small kitchens might be cozy but you can actually open them up without spending a whole lot of money. Learn the professionals' trick of the trade for creating a bigger space in today's edition of Leslie's Last Word.
LESLIE: Alright, folks. Well, we talked about it earlier. For small kitchens, adding a skylight is going to open up that room and make it much more light and airy and visually expand that space for you. Or you can even think about removing the soffits above the cabinets, which is also going to give you the effect of a larger kitchen. You can also think about extending the cabinets to the ceiling to make that room look more elongated and make that ceiling look even higher. Lastly, why not consider light colored cabinets; open shelving; even glass-fronted doors to give depth to the room and cook up a whole new look for your tiny and small, lovely kitchen?
TOM: Good ideas. Small kitchens don't have to be stuffy. They can really be opened up and it doesn't have to cost a whole lot of money.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. You know, most of you listening right now are probably in the process of constantly updating and changing your home, which is why, of course, the show is so aptly named The Money Pit. But imagine what it was like to live in a home in the 17 or even 1800s with no indoor plumbing, no sanitation or not even pest control. In the next edition of this program, we're going to interview an expert that not only imagined it; he wrote a book about it. We're going to learn about some of the techniques that they used to build homes back then and how some of those still might apply today.
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 2006 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.)