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 1 TEXT:
[audio timestamp: 1:00]
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: Pick up the phone and call us now with your home improvement question. The number is easy to remember. It's 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Because we're here to help you get the job done. You know, if you're thinking about tackling an outside project, this is a good time. It's the last month of the summer season, officially, and a great time to tackle those important outside projects. Maybe you're thinking about doing some work to the air conditioning system. Maybe you're sick and tired of feeling the hot heat of the sun; the radiant energy streaming through those windows. Maybe you want to build a deck. Maybe you want to build an outdoor room.
LESLIE: Maybe you want to sit in the sun more. (chuckling)
TOM: Yeah. Maybe you're getting exhausted just by thinking about all the projects you could be doing but you just want to hang out. (Leslie chuckles) That's OK, too, but call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
Now, in some areas of the country we are smack dab in the middle of hurricane season right now. And this hour we're going to talk about some good ways to prevent major hurricane damage. And this advice could also apply to those of you that are at risk of any type of storms, be it a hurricane ...
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. Even winter storms.
TOM: Yeah, winter storms or tornadoes.
LESLIE: That is true. Also, are those round doorknobs in your house getting in the way every time you're trying to get in and out. You know, have you ever tried to open the door with your slippery hands or maybe even an arm full of groceries? Well, we're going to tell you how to make getting in and out of your home much easier with a very simple home improvement project.
TOM: And if you're thinking about tackling any how-to project, you may want to call in just to get a shot at winning the great prize we're giving away today because it's from Zircon and it's worth 100 bucks. It includes a circuit finder and a MetalliScanner and that's going to help you tackle home improvement projects; especially those that involve getting inside the wall ...
TOM: ... without hitting something you don't want to hit. You know, like wires and pipes. (Leslie chuckles) So call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let's get right to the phones.
Leslie, who's first?
LESLIE: Bob listens in on WABC in Fairfield, New Jersey. How can we help you today?
BOB: Well, I am considering putting in a tankless water heater.
BOB: And I've looked into it and I've gotten some negative feedback from the plumber. He said he wouldn't trust it. He would think that a lot of problems. An architect told me that they're subject to breakdown. But I don't know, you know, if it's when they first came out or if they've improved them. And they say that they don't give you enough demand water. But from what I could read from the manufacturers there's different models that are rated for different BTU and different BT uses.
TOM: You know, with all due respect to your plumber, sometimes it takes a while for old dogs to learn new tricks. And tankless water heaters are really the wave of the future. They work extremely well. They're extremely energy efficient. But they have to be properly installed. I'll give you a very common example of a place where plumbers improperly install tankless water heaters. First of all, do you have gas in your house?
BOB: Yes, I do.
TOM: Alright, because they don't run well on electric. If you have gas in your house, the way that plumbers have been hooking up gas water heaters since the beginning of time of gas water heaters is to use one size of gas heating pipe. Now, with a tankless water heater you need a larger gas pipe. You don't use more gas but you use a larger volume of gas for a shorter period of time. And if they take the existing gas line and don't make it bigger what happens is the tankless water heater is starved for gas ...
LESLIE: So it's not properly heating the water.
TOM: So as long as the gas line is correctly sized and the water heater's correctly installed, I think a tankless water heater is a great idea.
BOB: Does that mean they have to repipe the whole gas line or just from where it connects to the ...
TOM: Usually they have to repipe it from where it connects to the next intersection with your main gas line. So it's not running new pipeline throughout the whole house but generally just a section of pipe that has to be upgraded so that you're getting the right volume of gas in there. There is a website called ForeverHotWater.com.
BOB: Yeah, I checked that. Rinnai.
TOM: Yeah, that's a good one. The Rinnai company does a good job there and there's some sizing guides there that will tell you what size you need for your particular needs. But I do think that a water heater - a tankless water heater's a really good idea. It's a very green idea, too. It's a very energy efficient idea and it gives you a lot of flexibility. I mean one of the things that I really liked about some of these tankless water heaters, I have children and you can actually have a remote control panel for your water heater. So you can dial down the temperature of the water. Say if the small kids go up to take a bath you don't have to worry about them scalding themselves. There's just a lot of flexibility with tankless water heaters that you get besides being very energy efficient.
So go forward with that project and maybe you can suggest that your plumber just gets a little more education on it because they do work well if they are correctly installed.
1-888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number. Call us now with your home improvement question.
LESLIE: Flooring. To refinish or to carpet. That's on Theresa's mind in North Carolina. Let's sort it out. What can we do?
THERESA: Well, I'm hoping very much that you can help me make a decision with regard to going either to carpeting or to the new wood flooring.
LESLIE: What do you currently have in the room and what room is it?
THERESA: OK, it's my living room and it could also encompass my dining room, which is two steps above the living room. And I'm on a concrete slab and needless to say right now it's kind of cold. I was leaning kind of toward the carpeting but I was wondering if there was a way I could do the wood flooring and still get a certain amount of composition of insulation ...
LESLIE: Well, Theresa, because you're on a concrete slab you cannot use a solid hardwood; only because it wouldn't be structurally stable. All of that moisture would change the integrity of a solid hardwood. But thanks to different underlayments and different types of materials that are used for underlayments you can comfort, you can get insulation. You can use something that's called an engineered hardwood which is made to go on a concrete subfloor or even a laminate. But they're both very different and an engineered hardwood is going to be made similar to how plywood is made. So it's built up in varying grains and textures. They oppose each other so that they become structurally stable. And then the top is about an eighth-inch of that solid wood veneer. So you have the wood look in exactly what you want and it's a natural wood but it's engineered below it and that's a great choice. Or there's laminate flooring.
TOM: That's right. Laminate flooring is installed much the same as engineered hardwood and generally there is an underlayment that goes under that as well. And that's going to give you some additional level of cushion as well as some additional level of insulation. So while these products may not feel as comfortable to your bare feet as carpet, they're not bad. And they really are far more durable and they're also better for the environment in terms of less dust and better for folks that have any kind of respiratory or allergy issues, too.
THERESA: And how about the insulation factor?
TOM: Well, depends on the manufacturer but usually they have some sort of a very thin insulation that goes under it. Like I know that we put down Formica and there was a - like about an eighth to a quarter-of-an-inch-thick foam insulator that went under the whole thing. Armstrong has got a similar kind of spongy surface that goes under theirs. All the manufacturers have different ones. Some of them are even attached to the flooring itself. But it does give you an additional layer of insulation between the floor and the actual material itself.
THERESA: Oh, great. I was unaware that Armstrong even dealt in the wood.
TOM: Oh, no. They make engineered hardwood and they make laminate and it's good stuff.
LESLIE: And they have three separate companies all under the Armstrong umbrella and all of their residential floorings come with a 25-year warranty. So they'll take care of you.
TOM: You know in fact, Theresa, I'll tell you what you should do. Armstrong.com has a book on it called The Guide to Flooring which is very, very well done. You ought to go download that at Armstrong.com. You can read all about it.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
So, are you looking for ways to live green at home? Well we can help you do that. Just call in your home repair or your home improvement question. Green or not, we can help you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
We can also help you make your home more accessible. You know, doors can let you into a room or a house but they can also keep you out. Up next, we're going to teach you some tricks of the trade to make doors even more accessible by a slight change of hardwood.
[audio timestamp: 9:23]
[audio timestamp: 12:50]
ANNOUNCER: AARP is proud to sponsor The Money Pit. Visit www.AARP.org/HomeDesign to learn more about making your home more functional and comfortable for years to come.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And our slogan is 'You can do it. We'll stand back.' (Leslie chuckles) So call us right now. No, seriously. Our (chuckling) - that's not ...
LESLIE: With proper safety attire on. (chuckling)
TOM: That's right. And the proper safety gear. No, call us right now with your home improvement project because we don't really stand back. We will actually step forward and hand you a great prize because this hour one caller is going to win the Zircon prize package. It's worth 100 bucks. It includes a circuit-breaker finder and a MetalliScanner. It's a tool that can locate metal plumbing, ductwork, rebar, nails and screws behind drywall, paneling, tiles, stucco, plaster and even concrete. So, those are all things you don't want to hit ...
TOM: ... when you're doing a home improvement project (INAUDIBLE).
LESLIE: And you know what? It's a pretty handy-looking tool, also. It's like it's really a gorgeous, futuristic-looking thing.
TOM: It's very like Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi wand-like looking thing.
LESLIE: It is. There's a center blue panel that glows.
TOM: I love it.
LESLIE: That's all I have to say.
TOM: Yeah, I've been ...
LESLIE: Lucky winner, you will be thrilled.
TOM: I have an old house and the regular stud finders don't work here. You have to use this MetalliScanner because it can't get through the plaster.
TOM: So it's kind of a cool tool. Anyway, this package is worth 100 bucks so if you want to win it you've got to call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question because at the end of today's program we will draw one name out of the Money Pit hardhat and if that's you we'll be sending you those scanners.
LESLIE: Alright, folks. Well, we are smack in the middle of summer and you know, it is the perfect season for yard work. But the next time you finish one of those messy outdoor projects think about what you have to do to get inside and then clean up quickly. You know, that round doorknob on that back door you've got is going to stand between you and your kitchen sink and that means no clean up; not happening quickly. You can't turn that knob because your hands are covered with garden dirt, paint, engine grease. Insert whatever sticky, messy material goes along with whatever your favorite project is. And you know, many homeowners are getting rid of those round doorknobs because young people with small hands are having a hard time grabbing them; older people with weak hands can't turn those round doorknobs. And if you love to work on cars or weed that garden, you know, those doorknobs are a slippery nuisance.
TOM: And the solution is simple. The new trend in door hardware is lever knobs. Yes, you don't need a round knob. You can use a lever knob because you don't have to twist or turn them. You don't even have to grab them. All you do is press down on the handle's flat surface and push. It takes only sort of the touch of a closed fist or finger. You can even sort of elbow ...
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Or elbow. (chuckling)
TOM: ... your way in. Right. So, the next time you're purchasing door hardware think about skipping the round knobs. Go with the lever knobs. It's a great design tip from our friends at AARP. If you'd like more information on accessible home design, lots of quick tips like that for your kitchen, your bathroom, your outside of the house and the inside of the house go to their website, would you? It's AARP.org/HomeDesign. That's AARP.org/HomeDesign. You can also pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who's next?
LESLIE: Tuning in in Illinois we've got Eric who listens on WYLL. What can we do for you?
ERIC: Well, I'm calling to see if a geothermal heating system is really worth the time and effort of putting it in.
TOM: That's a fair question, Eric. Is this a new home you're building?
ERIC: No, this is an existing home?
TOM: Alright, and how is your house heated now? Is it heated by gas?
TOM: I wouldn't do it. I think a geothermal heat pump's a good idea if you don't have availability of gas or oil. But you know, it's a pretty big deal. They have to ...
LESLIE: [What is it?] (ph) An alternative to electric?
TOM: Yeah, as an alternative to electric I think it's a superb idea but if I had - if I had gas I would put in a high-efficiency gas furnace every time before I put geothermal in. Because you have to run those coils under the soil around your house because, basically, it uses the constant temperature of the earth to basically cool [when the] (ph) refrigeration cycle; much the same way as an air conditioning compressor works. It basically converts refrigerant from a liquid to a gas and it uses the constant temperature of the earth to do that. But you know, you have this coil that runs underground. If you ever have a break in that it's very expensive; very costly to make repairs. You know, I think it's a fine technology if I was faced with straight electric heat but if I had gas available I would not put in geothermal. I would put in a high-efficiency gas condensing furnace and just make sure that everything else I put in that house was as efficient as possible. I wouldn't use geothermal.
ERIC: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You're welcome, Eric. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. You realize, of course, we're now going to get hate mail from the electric companies.
LESLIE: (chuckling) But do you think that geothermal meant to work more efficiently in different climates in the world or do they really work the same all over the place?
TOM: Generally, when it comes to any kind of heat pump, the farther south you are the more efficient ...
LESLIE: The better they're going to work.
TOM: Yeah, but this guy's in Chicago.
LESLIE: It's cold there.
TOM: You know, it's darn there and I would definitely be looking for a more efficient system like gas.
LESLIE: Wendy in Maui, Hawaii. Aloha. How can we help you?
WENDY: Four years ago we put in a Berber carpet in our new home. It's a single dwelling on a slab. And we have two large dogs and the carpet is almost ready to be replaced. (Leslie chuckles) What we would like to do is we would like to know some treatments for the slab; other than just throwing something on top of it like a - I heard that there's a treatment or two that you can put to make it look like marble.
LESLIE: Instead of putting a carpeting.
WENDY: Instead of a carpeting.
TOM: Yeah, you know what? You're probably referring to like an acid stain or something of that nature.
WENDY: Yes. The people that put the carpet said it's the nicest slab that they've seen. So we know that there's a really nice slab underneath this carpet.
LESLIE: Well, there's several different treatments you can do to concrete. There's something called acid staining. There are kits available, if you look online. But generally, because it's a chemical reaction, you really want to make sure that the chemicals you're using are going to react to your concrete in the right way. So it might make more sense to hire in a pro because there are pros who come in and do acid staining. And they can create it to look as if it's slate, marble. It can have variations in color; almost look like things are blending.
There's also something called polishing concrete which kind of has an industrial look to it but it can be toned with different colors and it ends up being super-duper shiny or it can have a matte finish to it. But it looks almost like there's a thick resin on top of it, which looks great. We have a friend who has a loft space in the city and their concrete floor is highly polished and it's beautiful. And then there's also something with concrete stamps; not pressing down stamps but it's almost a sticker that goes over it and then a coating is sprayed on. And it can look like different tiles; like brick; any different patterns. There's great websites.
WENDY: So it can look like a tile?
LESLIE: Oh, yeah.
TOM: Oh, it can look like lots of things. You know, I recently responded to a question on acid staining in my blog on AOL.com. And I found a website that really impressed me. It was called Modello Designs; M-o-d-e-l-l-o Designs. It's ModelloDesign.com. And if you want to see what you can do with concrete staining and stamping, check out that website. It's absolutely amazing the patterns that these guys have created on concrete. And there's a lot of advice on how to do it there and how to buy the materials that you need and so on. So check that out. ModelloDesign.com.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Another good resource is TheStampStore.com. They've got a lot of different things; same thing: acid stains, concrete additives, different stencils that you can put down on top of the concrete and then apply over. There's a lot of great options.
WENDY: Thank you so much.
TOM: You're welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: A tiny hole in a waste pipe could be equaling a big problem for Isabelle in New York who listens to The Money Pit on WABC. How can we help you?
ISABELLE: I have a question regarding the main waste pipe that is visible in our basement. Our house was built in 1950 and there seems to be a pinprick hole and we don't know whether this can be patched or whether the hole pipe has to be replaced.
TOM: Is this one of the old cast iron pipes?
ISABELLE: I guess that's what it is, yes.
TOM: Usually cast iron has no holes or big cracks.
ISABELLE: No, this is a tiny - it looks like there - you can see that liquid has dripped from it but we don't see actual water coming out of it.
TOM: Does it look like - almost like shiny; like there's a stain on the pipe?
ISABELLE: Yes, that's it.
TOM: OK, that's not a leak. When you assemble cast iron pipes, the joints are packed with a material that oil in it. And sometimes the oil will leak out and it will drip down the pipe and it looks like a leak but it's not. Waste pipes are designed not to be pressurized and when they're assembled properly the water just drips right down the pipe and out. If you get a backup sometimes you'll get a leak. But if you're seeing that sort of oily stain on the pipe that's not a leak. That's normal and it has to do with the way the pipe is assembled and what was packed in the joint and there's nothing to worry about there.
ISABELLE: OK, great. Well thank you so much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
See, not all plumbing problems are big problems. Sometimes it's just normal.
LESLIE: You are tuned in to The Money Pit.
So, when you're entertaining at home - answer this question, Tom - where does everyone eventually end up?
TOM: In the kitchen.
LESLIE: Ding, ding, ding. (Tom chuckles) That's because the kitchen is the heart of the home. But when it comes to the heart in your house are you suffering from cardiac arrest? We're going to teach you some cheap tricks to cook up that kitchen of your dreams. It's all at MoneyPit.com. Just click on Ideas and Tips and search the words 'cool kitchen.' You are going to find everything you need to make the heart of your home operating smoothly and gorgeously.
[audio timestamp: 22:47]
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. We know you've got a project you want to tackle around the house. Let us help. We're offering. All you've got to do is pick up the phone and call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well you know, Leslie, there are actually three things you can count on.
TOM: Besides death and taxes (Leslie chuckles), it's also the Money Pit e-newsletter. You didn't know that did you? Yes, it comes to your inbox every Friday and ...
LESLIE: But that's the one thing I look forward to. (laughing)
TOM: Oh, OK. Besides death and taxes? Well hey, listen. I'll take that. That's great. In our next issue, great ideas to build a home sweet home for man's best friend; or woman's best friend. We're going to tell you everything you need to know to build a backyard doghouse in our very next e-newsletter. It's free, too. All you've got to do is visit MoneyPit.com to sign up.
Leslie, who's next?
LESLIE: Robert in Virginia listens on WSVA. What's going on with your front porch?
ROBERT: Well, I have a crack that runs from the front door to the stairs. It's about four feet long and it's about an eighth of an inch wide. And the house is 15 years old. And it looks like it was a settling crack from a long time ago. I've tried to fill it in with a thinset mortar, which just cracked right off.
LESLIE: Yeah, because it's not going to adhere.
TOM: Yeah, the mortar's not going to adhere because the mortar is not very expansive. It's just going to flake right off, as you discovered. The best way to repair this is with a caulk or an epoxy patching compound; a caulk that's, say, a silicone caulk. If it's not going to be painted you could use a clear silicone caulk. If it's going to be painted you would have to use a latex product. Or you could use an epoxy patching compound. But it sounds, since it's just a very thin crack, that just some gray silicone caulk would work fine with this.
Are you concerned about the cosmetics?
ROBERT: Yeah, and I wanted to put that pretty, shiny stuff on the front porch because it's a smooth concrete.
TOM: You wanted to seal it?
ROBERT: Well, the stuff you use in the garage. On the garage ...
TOM: Oh. Yeah, OK.
LESLIE: Oh, the epoxy coating.
TOM: Yeah, those are epoxy coatings.
TOM: Yeah, no worries.
LESLIE: You want to make sure - especially since this is a front entrance to your home, you want to make, you want to make sure that you get one that has a grit to it; something that's going to be pretty much nonslip and not skid. Sometimes there's an additive that you can put in but you want to make sure you get one that works well with the epoxy kit. Comes in a kit. Good price. Very easy to follow. All the steps are there. And it really does a nice job.
ROBERT: Alright, thank you.
TOM: You're welcome, Bob. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Hopefully we'll keep Robin in Nevada from having a hair-raising situation with electricity. What's going on? How can we help?
ROBIN: My house that I live in was built in 1961.
ROBIN: And with the exception of the major appliances - the washer, dryer, the refrigerator, et cetera - we don't have any three-prong plugs. And they're getting old and we wanted to replace the two-hole prongs with three-hole ones. And I didn't know - is that something that an individual can do on a fairly easy basis or do I need to get a contractor in electricity or something?
TOM: Well, I think you're going to need an electrician for this, Robin, because adding that third prong to the outlet doesn't mean that it's safe. That third prong is for a ground. Unless there's a ground wire installed it's not going to work properly.
LESLIE: It won't actually do anything.
TOM: Yeah. Now, an electrician could, in an area where you're trying to create a ground situation where it's going to be safer, what they can do is they can replace the two-prong outlets with a three-prong ground fault outlet and if it's wired correctly it won't be grounded but it'll be ground fault protected. And what that means is if you plug in, say, a bad light or a bad appliance or something that's going to short, rather than you get that shock it'll actually turn off at the outlet itself. The outlet has a built-in breaker. An electrician would know how to wire that to make that work. But if you truly wanted a grounded system you're going to have to have a three-wire system. Right now you probably have a two-wire system where the wiring that goes through the house only has a hot and a neutral and you need a hot, a neutral and a ground. With only a two-wire system it's grounded through the neutral but you can't hook up a three-prong outlet to that and have it work properly.
ROBIN: OK, so - and is that, would you think - we're like 1,600 square feet. Is this like a huge monetary thing that I'm going to be doing to ...
TOM: Let me ask you this question. Is - you have a ranch, a colonial? What's the structure of the house like?
ROBIN: It's a one-story - probably ranch, I guess. We're not really ...
TOM: Finished basement?
ROBIN: No basement.
TOM: No basement? So it's a - is there a crawlspace?
TOM: OK. So if you can get access under the floor that makes it a lot easier to run new wires. So I would suggest that you meet with an electrician and talk about what rooms it makes sense to update and what rooms it may not make sense. Some areas of the house are going to be easier to get to than others. And by the way, that two-prong outlet, as long as it's used properly, is not necessarily unsafe.
ROBIN: OK. Well thank you very much.
TOM: You're welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright, more great home improvement information coming up. But first, we've seen a lot of big storms in recent years. The one thing we've noticed is that homeowners who were prepared often suffered the least amount of damage to their homes. Up next, we're going to tell you how to take extra measures to protect your home's windows and doors. So stick around.
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[audio timestamp: 30:54]
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.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete. And hey, if you give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, one caller that we're going to today is going to win a prize package from the folks over at Zircon. And this super prize pack is going to include a circuit breaker finder, so you know exactly if it's off and what it controls, and a MetalliScanner and this is really a super-cool, futuristic-looking tool. It's a metal detector. It's going to locate nails and screws and metal conduit and rebar and ductwork and just about anything behind your walls; especially if you're dealing with plaster and you've got all that wire lathe behind there and you're having a hard time finding the studs. And it's going to help you figure out exactly what's going on back there. It's worth 100 bucks. It's really cool. You've got to call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Ask a question on the air for your chance to win.
OK, we are smack dab now, Leslie, in the middle of hurricane season and so it's probably a good time to talk about how to protect your home's windows and doors from ...
TOM: ... the effects of those severe storms. It could be a hurricane or it could just be a really, really nasty rain storm.
LESLIE: Yeah, or it could even be a really bad winter storm.
TOM: Well, one of the things you need to think about is the weather barriers around those windows and doors. What are you doing to try to keep the leaks out? You know, just simple aluminum flashing is not going to work anymore. You really need to look at the high-tech weather barriers that are available.
LESLIE: Yeah, and when you're thinking about flashing and areas to flash and seal up you want to make sure that you seal those gaps around your windows and doors because drafts and moisture can easily pass through these openings even if they're super-tiny. And that can cause damage and promote mold growth happening behind your walls where you're not going to see it until it's a huge problem. So you want to make sure that you properly flash your windows, using even a self-adhered product that's going to help close up those gaps and prevent the water and air and that moisture infiltration. And it can also help make your home a lot more energy efficient.
TOM: You know, there's a really good website with more tips about weatherproofing your home's weak spots. It's GraceAtHome.com. You can find product information as well as weatherproofing tips just a mouse-click away at GraceAtHome.com or you can pick up the phone right now and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslies, who's next?
LESLIE: Known to family and friends as the Plunger Man, we've got Jerry from Naples, Florida. What's happening at the toilets that you've got this nickname?
JERRY: Well, actually I gave that name to myself because I (Tom chuckles) ...
LESLIE: (chuckling) Oh, God.
JERRY: ... so much time with a plunger in my hand. (Leslie chuckles) And the toilets seem to, you know, continuously stop up and I just can't figure out whether it's the paper that we're using. There aren't any particularly large people in this house. (Tom and Leslie laugh) I don't think that's what it is.
TOM: Is it a low-flow toilet? Is it a more modern toilet where it only uses 1.6 gallons of water?
JERRY: I don't think. It's 11 years old, OK?
TOM: Might be.
JERRY: Was that popular 11 years ago?
TOM: Yeah, it might be. You may have one of the first generations of those things ...
LESLIE: Is there a way to look at the toilet and see that, Tom?
TOM: Usually - oh, I could tell you in a second. When you look at the tank you can tell that it's not like a four-gallon tank. It's like a smaller, you know, one-and-a-half gallon tank when you look at it.
LESLIE: But there's no markations, a different system inside the tank?
TOM: (overlapping voices) Nah. Well, maybe. Could be inside. But you know, the toilet design has actually gotten a lot smarter over the last few years. The toilets are now using 1.6 gallons and less. We even saw one recently that used 1.1 gallon and how is it possible that it's efficient with less water? Well, because they completely redesigned the trap and that's where, well, you know what, gets trapped. (Leslie chuckles) It's the u-shaped part of the toilet where all the waste gets flushed through. And they figured out how to, first of all, make that piping wider so it's easier to pass material through.
LESLIE: More accommodating (INAUDIBLE)?
TOM: Yeah, and also they've changed the angles. So the angles are sort of softer and there's no tension in the water as it passes through it.
LESLIE: I like how we're handling this very delicately.
TOM: Yeah, we're doing it very clean so far.
LESLIE: Very good.
TOM: And they've also changed the flush valve design. In fact, American Standard has one that they call a flush tower design and I think it's called their Champion toilet line, where they basically have figured out how to get more water in faster so it pushes everything down quickly and efficiently ...
LESLIE: Yeah, and the ad for the Champion showed a larger gentleman enjoying a, what I would call a three-foot sub and then looking at the toilet and the ad was, 'Yeah, we can handle that' or something like that.
JERRY: Oh, no! (Leslie laughs) Tell me it ain't so!
LESLIE: It's true, Jerry.
JERRY: So you're - in summary you're trying to tell me that I've got a stupid toilet?
TOM: Pretty much telling you that your toilet probably is worth replacing. If you want to keep the Plunger Man nickname, by all means hang on to it. But we're thinking that you could probably give up the toilet and the Plunger Man nickname by getting a new john.
JERRY: Well, I did come out with a left-handed plunger. I don't know how well it'll do. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) By the way, what should we look for, though? I mean do you have any name brands that you think are ...
TOM: Yeah, I have in my house the American Standard Champion. That's the name of the toilet; Champion. And I think this summer they're coming out with another one - Champion Four - I hear. So, I think that that's probably a very good brand for you to get.
JERRY: Hey, well thank you very much.
TOM: You're very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Saying goodbye to Plunger Man from Naples, Florida.
LESLIE: Talking cleaning with Sandra in Texas. How can we help you?
SANDRA: My husband and I have recently moved into a house that we purchased. And the previous owner had refinished the hardwood floors and then somebody did some plaster work and has dropped either plaster or cement or both in various places on the floor and I'd like to know how to get it off.
TOM: Very carefully. If the floors were refinished, I think with a plastic trowel you might have a shot at scraping some of that away. And then what you're going to want to use is a very fine abrasive pad like a Scotch pad.
TOM: And try to rub it very carefully using small sort of circular motions like you're buffing your car to try to get the rest of it out. You could also try some rubbing compound if you get down to having just a little bit left. And then, once you're done, you may find that the floor under there is a little duller than surrounding areas. And you can combat that with some paste wax. But it has to be floor paste wax because it's not slippery.
LESLIE: Mavis in New Jersey listens to The Money Pit on WABC. How can we help you in your money pit?
MAVIS: I have - I live in a split level and I have two bathrooms upstairs and one downstairs. Now, recently I had a sour odor emanating from the sink downstairs when the sink is open.
LESLIE: Mavis, is this a bathroom that you use not so often or are you using it regularly?
MAVIS: No, it's used regularly. And also, sometimes I get a sour odor in the upstairs sink and the shower.
TOM: OK, is it a sewage smell or is it just - is it some other smell?
MAVIS: I don't know. There's no blockage or anything?
TOM: The drains in your sinks are u-shaped and the u-shaped portion is known as the trap. And the reason Leslie asked you if you use it a lot is because if the sink is not used a lot the trap will dry out. And if the water in the trap dries out then sewage gas from the rest of the house can back up into the bathroom.
MAVIS: No, they're all used regularly.
TOM: Then the next thing I would want you to check is to make sure that if you look under those sinks that you, in fact, have a u-shaped pipe there. If you don't have a trap you could be getting sewage gas that's backing up from the rest of the house. If you have a trap and you have - and the bath is used regularly, there's really no source in that bathroom for that smell. It's certainly not in that sink. Now, it could be coming from something else but it's certainly not coming from the sink because the water acts as a gasket and seals the pipe from any sewage odors that are downline from coming back up into that.
The other thing that you could do is you could have the traps taken apart and perhaps they are become dirty or corroded or filled up with all sorts of things that get into bathroom sink drains; you know, hair, soap, all kinds of things like that. And that could be causing a bit of the odor. But short of that, I can't imagine anything in that sink that would be causing the odor because, again, if the water's in the trap there's no way for gases to get back up the pipe and that's designed to protect you that way.
Mavis, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. And up next, Leslie, you know, in all the years I spent as a professional home inspector I used to get lots and lots of questions about cracks in concrete.
LESLIE: Yeah, like fixing them; are they dangerous; is it structural.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. People are usually freaked out about it but I've found that what's unusual is to have concrete that's not cracked. (Leslie chuckles) That being said, we do have some solutions. We're going to tackle those when we answer an e-mail, next.
[audio timestamp: 39:45]
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show available 24/7/365 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We never sleep. We're always here to take your home improvement question; to solve your do-it-yourself dilemma. In fact, we can even be the voices in your head through every step of your home improvement project if you download the free Money Pit podcast at MoneyPit.com. And while you're there, click on the Ask Tom and Leslie button and send us an e-nail.
LESLIE: I like that; e-nail. Alright, and Anthony from Oxford, Connecticut writes - and I think this is going to reminisce back to your home inspection days, Tom - 'We have engineered cracks in our basement concrete floor. The cracks are about one-half inch in size. What can I do to seal up the cracks so that the change in weather does not open them up each year?' But isn't that what an engineered crack is supposed to do?
TOM: Well, an engineered crack is supposed to open and close and that's why it's there. Now, the engineered crack is basically the seam that's left in the slabs of concrete. And certainly they are going to move; they are going to expand and contract. And it's not - that's not a problem. I mean basement floors crack all the time and what people get confused about is they think it's a structural issue. You know, your basement floor - you should think of that as another flooring material. It's like having carpet or tile or hardwood floor. It's not structural. It's just covering the dirt. And if it cracks it's not that big of a deal. And if it cracks where it's supposed to - which is on the seams - then it's even less of a big deal. So this is not a problem.
But those cracks that form outside of the engineered spaces, the way to deal with them is with a flowable urethane sealer. A flowable urethane sealer or a urethane caulk. And the reason that's a good thing to use is because it does stick very, very well to both sides of the crack ...
TOM: ... and it expands and contracts. So as that slab moves it's going to move with it and it's not going to open up again and that's all there is to it.
LESLIE: Yeah, so you're not going to have to do it again.
TOM: No structural issue there. Simply Mother Nature doing it's thing; forcing that expansion and contraction.
LESLIE: Alright, next up we've got Roger in Bow, New Hampshire who writes: 'The cold water outlet in a bathroom sink upstairs began emitting a sulfur, rotteny-egg smell. The smell goes away after running the faucet for about 30 seconds. A plumber told us that we needed to have our well tank bleached and so we did. It took care of the problem for a while but it came back. We've been through this process a couple of times during the past three years and now it's happening again. What can we do to permanently fix it?
TOM: What I'd do, Roger, is this. First of all I would have a water sample taken and tested. Make sure you understand everything that there is to know about the quality of your well water. Based on that analysis, then you could have a treatment company come in and design a system to deal with not only the odor but, most importantly, any contaminants that end up in that system.
LESLIE: So that really should take care of the trick once and for all.
TOM: Yeah, it'll smell better; it'll taste better and it'll be healthy to boot.
LESLIE: Good to know.
Alright, and lastly we've got Jacques from Colorado who writes: 'How do I clean the toilet tank? It looks black in there.'
TOM: Ah. Well, you know what? Stop leaving the toilet tank lid open for all your guests to peek in there, Jacques.
LESLIE: And just stop looking in there.
TOM: You know, it's not that important that they see the functionality of the toilet tank. But you know, if it really bothers you, you could wipe it down with bleach but I would do it with the tank drained because you don't want the bleach to get into the linkage and the floats and all of that sort of thing because it'll really mess up your valves.
LESLIE: Yeah, it's going to give you more projects.
TOM: Well, it's been a great hour. We've pretty much covered it all from floorboards to shingles, just like we promise every single week.
LESLIE: And everything in between.
TOM: If we happened to have missed your question we want to remind you that our show is available 24/7/365 at MoneyPit.com along with about 1,000 home improvement articles; most of which we have written personally. Pretty much everything we've ever written about home improvement is on MoneyPit.com. And it's actually more than two articles. (Leslie chuckles) It really is up to like - I think - really, I think I checked the other day.
LESLIE: (chuckling) Alright, it's five.
TOM: I think it's about 1,200 and something. So it's a lot of home improvement content and it's available for you there. So go there and check out the project finder that we built because it helps you kind of narrow down and find out exactly what you need to know when you need to know it. So if you're inspired with a home improvement question at 3:00 in the morning there's two things you can do. You can go online at MoneyPit.com and you can always call, 24/7/365, 1-888-MONEY-PIT and we will call you back the next time we are in the studio; which probably will be a little bit later in the day.
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.
[audio timestamp: 44:30]
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(Copyright 2007 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.)