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:
[audio timestamp: 0:00:25.0]
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 give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Because this is where work and fun meet. We're here to help you get the jobs done that you need to do to take care of your house, to improve your space, to build out that nest egg, maybe to tackle some staycation projects because we're all staying home these days. Nobody has got money to go flying off somewhere for vacation, so we're fixing up our money pits. I ...
LESLIE: Hey, I'm flying off in my imagination, friend.
TOM: Yeah, what are you working on at your house these days? I've got a kitchen that needs to be painted; that's my staycation project.
LESLIE: Ours is the entire front entry needs a fresh coat of paint and it's sort of needed it for the past year but now I'm really going to do it. (chuckles)
TOM: I'm thinking if you're really careful, you can probably drag that out for at least a month.
LESLIE: No. (chuckles) My portion is taping off the windows. Ed hates to do that. He's actually going to slap the paint on but I will take my time putting the tape up.
TOM: Well, whether you're picking up a paint brush or picking up a hammer, pick up the phone first and call us. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up today, you might have seen your heating bills for the - most of the winter by now and you still feel like you're paying way more than you need to and you might be wondering is there a way you can have a more efficient system. How can you figure it out? Coming up this hour, we're going to tell you about a way to calculate the cost of heating or cooling your home with a variety of sources, so you can actually figure out which way is the most economical way to go.
LESLIE: And you know what, Tom? I've got to tell you, our heating provider has never, ever made us put a stamp on the envelope for the bill and just this month they've decided that they want us to put postage on it. I'm like, 'Whoa! (Tom chuckles) So my bill is 600 bucks and you want the forty-two cents?'
TOM: And forty-two cents.
LESLIE: And I almost mailed it away without looking at it; thank goodness I took a second gander before I put it in the post box.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Everybody is cutting corners; even the utility companies.
LESLIE: Alright. Also ahead this hour, it is time to start gathering that paperwork for your taxes. That's right ...
TOM: (chuckling) Already.
LESLIE: ... I said the dreaded word. If you find that you've got mountains of stuff to go through, you may want to pare it down. We're going to tell you what to keep and what to toss so that you can stay organized at home.
TOM: And speaking of taxes, our green-scene reporter is on the case this hour to tell us about a way to get credits on your taxes. There are actually some improvements that if you tackle them this year, it will drastically cut your tax bill.
LESLIE: And we're giving away a Smart Pack of Redback tools to one lucky caller this hour.
TOM: It's worth 50 bucks, so call us right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who's first?
LESLIE: Ellen in California, who needs some help with a kitchen counter.
ELLEN: I have an unsightly Formica countertop and I didn't want to go to the expense of granite countertops and - because they have the - Formica has to be removed besides the application of granite.
ELLEN: So, this contractor says that there's a product - I believe it's polyurethane - that looks like granite and you could get it in different patterns and he sprays it on and it's supposed to last for years.
TOM: I tell you what, I wouldn't go that route and here's why. Because your countertop is only going to be as good as the base and if the - and typically, what happens with Formica tops is eventually the water starts to separate the Formica from the base, what it's glued to, which is typically some sort of a fiberboard. And even if you spray on something on top of it that works really well or looks great, the base is still going to swell and become deteriorated after a while. What ...
LESLIE: And eventually peel off.
TOM: Yeah. If you're concerned, you don't have to go straight to granite; I mean, you could simply replace it with a new fiberglass top at about a quarter of the cost. So if you're happy with - excuse me, if you're happy with the Formica, you could simply replace it with a new Formica top for like a quarter of the cost.
ELLEN: (overlapping voices) No, I don't like the Formica.
TOM: Alright. Well, how about Solid Surface? Are you familiar with that?
LESLIE: Like a Corian?
TOM: Yeah, you could use a Corian or a product like that.
ELLEN: Oh, Corian.
TOM: Wilsonart, yeah.
ELLEN: I know about that.
TOM: Yeah, that's good stuff; beautiful.
ELLEN: Yes. Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: Well, you're very welcome, Ellen. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thanks for stopping by and giving us all your home improvement questions to tackle. We love to give you a hand. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Is the cost of home heating making you consider a switch in fuel? How can you figure out the most economical way to heat your home? We're going to have that answer, next.
[audio timestamp: 0:05:08.1]
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. Hey, give us a call. The number here - you know it already. It's 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a tool Smart Pack from our friends over at Redback Tools. Now, that Smart Pack includes a Maxi Strike Junior Hammer and Maxi S5 Phillips Screwdriver. The Smart Pack is worth 50 bucks but it could be yours for absolutely nada; totally free if we choose your name at random from among our callers this hour. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Well, have you been staring at those heating bills now for a bit too long? Kind of depressing, isn't it?
LESLIE: It's totally.
TOM: Ever wonder if switching from gas to oil would make a difference in the cost of heating your home? How would you even figure out such a thing?
Well, there's a great website that has an excellent selection of energy conservation calculators and by answering just a few simple questions you can compare cost savings by converting gas to oil, oil to gas - whatever. There are also calculators for estimating insulation savings as well to determine how much money you can save by adding a setback thermostat. It's not affiliated with any group or manufacturer; completely independent. We've been recommending it for years; it's a great site. It's called WarmAir.net. Check it out.
LESLIE: Heading over to Virginia to chat with Roderick about a leaky bathroom. What's going on?
RODERICK: Yeah, I've actually got a - I bought a three-level townhome and at the top level where the shower is, where the door is, I've actually got a leaking - it's actually leaking towards the bottom on the drywall and I'm trying to find out what's the best way for me to actually try and find that leak.
TOM: Do you suspect, Rod, that the leak is behind the wall or do you think it's happening when the water sort of bounces off you when you're standing in the shower?
RODERICK: You know what? I actually looked at the seal. I actually looked at the seal by the door and the seal by the door looks about fine, so I've got a suspicion it's actually coming from behind the actual drywall itself.
LESLIE: Hmm. And there's no access panel to look at the plumbing itself?
RODERICK: You know what? There isn't. I've actually got to probably knock out that drywall to actually find the actual leak itself, so ...
TOM: Well, before you do that, Rod, why don't you take off the shower head and then screw on a cap to the end of that pipe. You take the shower head to your local hardware store; they can sell you a little cap for the end of the plumbing pipe that'll be just, you know, fifty cents. Screw it on there ...
TOM: ... and then turn the shower on. So now ...
TOM: ... you don't have any water coming out but you have the shower line pressurized and see if the water ...
TOM: ... shows up behind it. If it doesn't show up behind it, then there's nothing wrong inside the wall. Don't go performing, you know, sheetrock surgery looking for a leak that doesn't exist.
RODERICK: Yeah, exactly.
TOM: Now, if it's not there, then the only other thing it can be doing is just dripping down from somewhere else. So it's either bouncing off you when you're in the shower or it's collecting in the door and running out; it's coming from a different location. But if you pressurize that line and you don't have a leak, then that's going to actually save you a lot of aggravation.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if you're opening it up, Rod, you want to make sure that - especially if you've got access behind it - leave an access panel. This way you've got a piece that's removable without completely damaging the drywall again, so in case there ever is, God forbid, another leak or incident, you're able to get to those pipes.
RODERICK: OK. I really appreciate it.
TOM: Alright. You're welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
Sounds to me like Roderick really wants to tear into this wall.
LESLIE: (chuckling) Yeah. Looking for an excuse to do some demolition.
TOM: (overlapping voices) We're trying to tell him not to do it. Demolition is fun but reconstruction, not so much.
LESLIE: Carolyn in West Virginia needs some help with some squeaky floors. I bet it is just driving you crazy.
CAROLYN: Absolutely. (Leslie chuckles)
LESLIE: So tell us about the squeak. Is it just in one area? In a whole room? Describe it.
CAROLYN: We have a great room and two bathrooms and a laundry room. (Leslie chuckles) Well, and the bedrooms but we have just put in hardwood floors in the whole main area and my husband is a little stout so every time (Tom and Leslie chuckle) he walks, it squeaks. I can walk on it and it's pretty good but ...
CAROLYN: ... mostly it's around the heat pump and plumbing area.
CAROLYN: We've had people go in under there, trying to shimmy up little shims in there.
TOM: Alright. Well, let's talk about why floors squeak. They squeak because there's movement in the floorboards and the best way to eliminate the movement is to secure the floorboards down to the floor joists from above. Now, with hardwood floors it's a little trickier because, of course, it's a finished floor.
But what I would do is this, Carolyn. I would identify the floor joists under the floor. You can do that with a - like a stud finder or something of that nature.
TOM: You can do it by sort of measuring it out but you definitely want to know where the floor joists are. And then what you're going to do is drill into the floor and you're going to screw the hardwood boards right down through the subfloor into the floor joists. You're going to have to put a wood plug in, sand it, refinish it when you're done but that is absolutely the solid, permanent way to quiet your squeaky floor.
Now there's another way that you can do this; it's a little less disruptive but not as effective but it might do the trick. And that is instead of using a screw - which you have to sort of pile a drill and countersink below the floor surface ...
TOM: ... you could use a finish nail. And the way to do that is to take a finish nail and probably a number 10 or a number 12 - pretty heavy finish nail - and you're going to use that finish nail as the drill itself by putting it in the drill chuck and sort of spinning it into the floor. The reason I say to do this instead of a drill bit is because when you use the nail as the drill, it separates the wood fibers.
In fact, Vermont American had a product actually called a nail spinner that was used for this very, very job but since you're only going to do it once or twice, I wouldn't tell you to go buy this nail spinner. Just put the nail right in the chuck of the drill, spin it into the floor and then finish it off, you know, with a hammer and sink it right below the surface. That won't be as permanent but it could quiet the floor as well.
CAROLYN: OK. Alright. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
TOM: (overlapping voices) You're welcome, Carolyn. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
Carolyn calling from West Virginia on behalf of her stout husband. (Leslie and Tom chuckle) Nicely put, Carolyn. Nicely put.
LESLIE: No one's feelings were hurt in the taking of that question. (Tom chuckles)
Olivia in Utah, you've got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
OLIVIA: We had a water heater begin to leak in the middle of the night the other night. Anyway, for our home we had two 40-gallon tanks, regular water heaters, and ...
OLIVIA: ... in replacing these, it was suggested to us that we get only one 25-gallon, quick-response water heater. And this particular company has told us that the one 25-gallon, quick-response water heater will give us as much hot water on demand as the two 40-gallon tanks gave us. Is this correct or incorrect?
TOM: I actually have no idea because it sounds to me like you have a hybrid here; between a tank and a tankless water heater. What I would recommend at this juncture, considering that you had two water heaters that went and both are going to go and be replaced now, I would recommend that you look into a tankless water heater; not a smaller tank than what you have but a true tankless water heater. You have gas?
TOM: OK. So I would go to a website called ForeverHotWater.com and that website has a sizing tool on it so you can figure out what size tankless water heater you need. It's put together by the experts at Rinnai.
TOM: And I think that a tankless water heater would be an excellent solution for you because it's going to deliver an unlimited amount of hot water. It also has a lot of nice features. It's energy-efficient, you can dial that temperature down or up from a remote location and it's going to last a heck of a long time. Now is a perfect opportunity for you to do this because you're replacing your old-fashioned tank water heaters. And also you're going to save a lot of room because the amount of actual floor space - or more importantly, wall space - that the tankless needs is much, much less than what you would have needed for the tanked water heaters. Follow me?
OLIVIA: Uh-huh. What do I run into cost-wise?
TOM: Well, the tankless water heater is going to be more expensive than a tank water heater but it's going to last a long time, it's going to save you money on utility bills.
LESLIE: It's also going to take up far less space.
TOM: And take up far less space. So ...
TOM: ... it really is the way to go today. If my water heater went, I would not put back a standard tank water heater; I would always go tankless at this time.
OLIVIA: Oh. I probably have made a terrible mistake because we have already let them put in what they said was a quick-response, 25-gallon water heater that is supposed to furnish us as much hot water as the two tanks we did have.
TOM: Well, it sounds like they sold you something that they, you know, had some experience with or perhaps just made some more money on; I don't know. I'm just not familiar with that in-between model.
TOM: I've seen them at trade shows but I certainly don't think they have enough history. You know, tankless has been out for a long time now; it works really, really well.
TOM: But I guess time is going to tell.
OLIVIA: OK. I really appreciate your help. I just ...
OLIVIA: ... wished I could have gotten in touch with you all sooner, before I let them put it in. But thank you. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Stuart in Texas has a counter question for us. What can we do for you?
STUART: Hi. I have a house. It's about four years old and it has granite countertops in the kitchen. The granite, though, it's not as smooth as what I would really like it to be. When I run my hand across it, I can feel small voids in it.
STUART: It's not like it's been worn; it's like it was that way, you know, when they first put it in and just never did anything more with it. Is there something that can be done; like to either grind that down more to get rid of the void?
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Well, you feel like a space, almost as if like a piece has been chipped out, correct?
LESLIE: Yeah. You have to - this is sort of like the myth about granite countertops that no one tells you. They need to be resealed every year because when they cut the granite, it ends up having these like chips and gouges all through it and then they put like a clear resin, sort of heavy coating over it that fills in all these spaces and gives you that nice, smooth, super-glossy surface. And that wears down, you know, annually with cleaning, with improper cleaning products and so once a year, you do need to reseal it.
STUART: OK. And that'll fill back in those voids then?
LESLIE: It absolutely will.
STUART: OK. And you don't have to worry about the product getting up into food product - food things that you're chopping up on the counter or anything like that?
TOM: No, not once it dries.
STUART: OK. OK, well, thank you very much.
TOM: You're welcome, Stuart. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: In fact, I know it's time for me to do mine because right on the edge - of course, I splurged for the OG edge ...
LESLIE: ... which is that wonderfully ornate edge; I feel like a big divot in it.
You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, up next we are going to have our green-scene reporter on the case with home improvement tax breaks for you. Find out which projects are going to save you money in more ways than one.
[audio timestamp: 0:17:30.9]
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation's leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Did you know that adding a Therma-Tru entryway can add as much as $24,000 to what others think your home is worth? To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And speaking of ways to make your home better, you know we're not too far away from tax season and this year millions of Americans will do all they can to find tax credits and deductions and maybe have a little extra money to put into that house.
LESLIE: That's right. So we've got our green scene reporter on the case, Aimee Oscamou, and she has some great incentives for those of you who want to take on some home improvements that will also qualify for tax incentives. So we've got Aimee joining us now to sort it all out and to help you to start saving some cash.
AIMEE: Hey, guys. How are you?
TOM: Now this is pretty exciting news because some of these tax incentives actually had run out at the end of last year.
TOM: And if I recall correctly, they were reinstated as a part of the financial bailout bill, correct?
AIMEE: Yes, that's right. Any improvements that were made in 2006 and 2007 could earn you credits; so there's an opportunity to claim those coming up here as well as all new credits.
LESLIE: Now, Aimee, I know previously windows had been one of those incentives as far as a tax break. What are some of the new projects that really qualify to all of these tax incentives?
AIMEE: Well, windows are back in there again and you can also look at insulation of all kinds. That can be everything from caulking to weatherstripping to other special sealing that you do around your home. There are also central AC equipment; heat pumps; even geothermal heat pumps - that's a little more specialized but they have their own specialized tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost.
TOM: Yeah, up to a maximum credit of 2,000 bucks so that ...
LESLIE: That's great.
TOM: ... really can significantly reduce the cost of doing that install and then you can enjoy that energy-efficiency kind of all year long.
So Aimee, what exactly do you have to do to qualify for these? How do you prove that you've got the improvement done? Are there certain types of improvements that you need different types of documentation for? How does it work?
AIMEE: Well, you want to make sure that you're keeping track of purchase receipts for any of the qualifying products that you buy and for some things like Energy Star windows, there'll be special labels on those windows that you'll want to keep in your files; don't throw them away after you ...
TOM: Yeah, so when you peel that stuff off the windows when you first get them, make sure you stick it on a piece of paper and stick it in a file.
AIMEE: Absolutely, and keep that together with your records for 2009 taxes.
LESLIE: Now what if you've got a vacation house? Can you do improvements to both homes or does this really only qualify for my primary residence?
AIMEE: You have to do these improvements on a primary residence; other residences don't qualify for the tax credits.
TOM: What about additional rebates that are offered by, say, the local utility company or the state? Can you get all of these rebates, Aimee, or can you only get the federal one? You can't sort of double-dip.
AIMEE: Actually, you definitely want to look into what your local utility company and your state offer because you can enjoy those benefits on top of what Uncle Sam is offering you through this credit program.
TOM: Well, that's pretty cool because that's like going to a store and getting the, you know, the 20 percent off something that's already on sale. (chuckles)
AIMEE: Exactly, yes.
TOM: Kind of - you really add up.
LESLIE: Now, Aimee, it seems like there's a lot of information to sort of compile as far as what product, what I need, is this state, is this federal. Is there a website that I can go to that has everything sort of easily laid out for me and anybody else who's interested?
AIMEE: Yes. There's a great place to start and that's www.EnergyTaxIncentives - three words put together - .org and they'll have information on the products that qualify. And you'll need a lot of those details for especially your more complicated equipment, like for your HVAC system.
TOM: EnergyTaxIncentives.org. Easy enough. Aimee Oscamou, our green-scene reporter, thanks for filling us in on those tax incentives. It sounds like a no-lose deal for consumers.
AIMEE: That's what I say. (Leslie chuckles) Thanks very much, guys.
LESLIE: Alright, Aimee. Thanks so much.
Well, speaking of taxes, hey, are you holding onto those pay stubs from, say, the last decade? Well, how do you know what to keep? How do you know what to recycle? We're going to tell you how long to hold onto those important pieces of paperwork, next.
[audio timestamp: 0:22:20.8]
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: Ready to get started with a project? Maybe you're knee-deep in the middle of one? Anything worth starting is worth starting over with us. If you're stuck, pick up the phone, give us a call; we'll help you out. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
If you get on the air with us this hour, not only will we give you the answer to your home improvement question; you could win some tools to get the job done because we've got a set of Redback tools here worth about 50 bucks. Includes a hammer, a screwdriver, tape measure; everything that you need to get that project done around your house. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Yeah. Pick up the phone and give us a call, especially if Aimee, our green-scene reporter, has inspired you to sort of fish through all of your tax receipts and start thinking about what home improvement projects will apply this year.
Well, as you're going through all your paperwork, you might be realizing that you've got a mountain of that paperwork accumulating and you're just not sure what are the rules of what do you keep and for how long? Well, here is a quick breakdown.
You want to keep credit card and utility bills one to three years; you want to make sure that you keep your tax documents, bank statements and accident reports and claims for seven years; and then keep wills, employment records and medical history indefinitely.
And you know, there is a great, new data storage product out there. There's one called the Personal Pocket Safe; it's a secure, encrypted technology and it keeps all of your documents safe and in one tiny spot, so bye-bye mountain of paperwork.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. Let's get back to the phones.
LESLIE: Tony in New York is dealing with a broken sewer pipe. This sounds like a stinky, messy disaster. What's going on?
TONY: Hi. My daughter has a broken sewer pipe that goes to the ...
LESLIE: So it's her stinky disaster.
TONY: Yes, that goes out to the main - you know, the main sewer line that the city has. She had a company come down. They gave her two options: one is to dig it up and repair it and the second option was called Nu Flow, where they send a balloon in and they expand it and it's an epoxy seal. Have you heard of it? Is it any good?
TOM: Yes. Yes, we have heard of it. Not that particular brand but this technique is one that is tried and true and it works very well. I know a lot of the drain-cleaning companies do it as well. Basically, they take what's like a fiberglass sock, sort of inside-out, and they run it inside the broken line and then it's expanded and there's like a fiberglass kind of material that lines the inside of pipe. It's kind of like creating a pipe inside of a pipe.
TOM: And after it's hardened, that now becomes the new pipe and that's what the waste flows through, Tony. So, it is a system and usually you're going to use this if it's too hard to dig the pipe up. If the pipe is going under sidewalks and buildings or pools or whatever ...
TONY: It's under the sidewalk. (chuckles)
TOM: Well - but listen, I'm going to tell you, it's a lot more expensive than digging it up so you may want to make sure you do a cost analysis on this to figure out if repairing the siding - the sidewalk is going to cost less than putting this system in. Now I know that, for example, in my house, we had to tear up a sidewalk to replace a main water line and a waste pipe and we were able to literally cut a section out of the sidewalk, lift it, do the repair, drop the section back in and it's still there today, like some 10 years later.
TOM: So you - just because it goes under a sidewalk, it doesn't mean you have to use this technique. I do know it's a lot more expensive than the digging it up by itself; so just make sure you check out the cost benefit analysis on this.
TONY: Right. I just wanted to make sure that it does work.
TOM: Yeah. It's a viable system; been used for a number of years now. We've covered it for probably four or five years ...
TONY: Right, right.
TOM: ... and it does work. Again, I'm not familiar with that trade name but the system, the concept, is solid.
TONY: Thank you for the information.
TOM: You're welcome, Tony. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: John in Georgia has an issue with a water heater. Tell us what's going on.
JOHN: Hi. This is - it's a gas water heater on - this is my first rental house that I just bought. And so it's been sitting for a while and what's happening is it won't light.
JOHN: And I can see when I hit - the water heater itself is about a year-and-a-half old. When I hit the igniter switch, I can see the spark. So what I did was I opened the line, the gas line, and I, you know, bled the line out thinking maybe there was just air in there.
TOM: You know, typically, with a water heater, you have a thermal couple and you have to light the water heater by hand and you have to hold the gas valve down until the thermal couple heats up and then you let the gas valve out, turn it on full and you're good to go.
TOM: But if you have an electronic ignition, then that's really above and beyond the scope of what you can do yourself.
JOHN: It's not electronic; I mean, I've still got to hold the button down, the ...
TOM: (overlapping voices) The gas line - the gas - the pilot ...
TOM: ... valve? OK.
JOHN: Right. And then it's - you know, like on a gas grill where you hit the igniter?
TOM: And it clicks?
JOHN: (overlapping voices) A push-button igniter?
JOHN: That's what's on there.
TOM: Alright. So look, here's what you can do. If you have an igniter there and it's not working, it's not getting the spark far enough away ...
TOM: ... you could probably light it by hand.
TOM: If just the igniter is not working. But you're probably - you're better off calling a plumber to do this because I don't want you to stick a match in there without knowing what to do with it.
LESLIE: Hey, you want to make sure nothing is clogged or leaky or ...
LESLIE: Before you just run around with a match.
TOM: And if it's just the igniter itself, you're right; it might be the alignment that's - you know, the gas is not getting into the right place.
TOM: When the gas valve opens up for the pilot light, that doesn't throw a lot of gas out so if it's not connecting the spark it's not ...
TOM: ... going to light and you don't want to ...
TOM: ... hold it on too - hold it open too long because that could cause a dangerous condition.
JOHN: Right. OK.
TOM: Doesn't sound like a big deal, though. I think you're going to get to the bottom of it without replacing that water heater.
JOHN: OK. Yeah, I shouldn't; it's only about a year-and-a-half old.
TOM: But John, think of this as the first of many repairs in your rental house.
JOHN: (chuckling) Absolutely. Alright. Thanks for your help.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, we're going to dive into the e-mail bag. We have a rather amusing one here from Bill in Connecticut who says he has large chunks of black stuff falling out of his furnace. That can't be good. Has that happened to you? I think a tune-up may be in order. We'll get to the bottom of that and your calls, next.
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TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We want to get to our e-mails right away because we've got a couple here from people that seem to have some pretty serious problems. Let's start with our furnace guy.
LESLIE: Alright. Bill in Connecticut writes: 'While checking my furnace, I noticed a large amount of combustion deposits falling off the vent pipe from my oil furnace. How concerned should I be about seeing this flaking?'
TOM: Hmm. Not good. You know, what happens is when natural gas burns, if it burns inefficiently it leaves a lot of moisture and a lot of combustion deposits that will stick to the inside of the vent pipe, the inside of the chimney. If you're seeing that, number one, your furnace definitely needs to be serviced; and number two, your furnace and your chimney probably need to be cleaned. You don't want to have those combustion deposits in there because they can really impact the flow of the heating gases outside the house and we certainly don't want to have a problem with that because that could lead to a carbon monoxide problem. So, when you see that stuff spit out of your furnace, not good; get a service done right away.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up we've got Paul in Oswego, New York who writes: 'We are in upstate New York where winters can be well below freezing with lots of snow and ice, which are also very wet and slushy springs. We are restoring an 1880 Victorian that is quite large and the walls have never been insulated. Because the plaster walls were in such disrepair, we gutted all the walls and are now going to insulate from the inside. We are very interested in spray-foam insulation but is moisture going to be a problem?'
TOM: Not at all. Actually, the nice thing about the spray-in-place foam insulation products - like Icynene, for example - is that they both seal and insulate at the same time. Now, while that product is not a vapor barrier, they do have some recommendations as to how you can achieve that. You don't need to worry about the moisture because it does breathe.
You know, the key to energy efficiency and moisture management is really creating an air seal around the building envelope and Icynene is actually a really good way to do that. And in fact, they have a new product right now that Leslie and I got to see at the Builders Show that's called ICYNENE LD-R-50. And what's really cool about this? It's made out of castor oil. Can you believe that?
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) I know. How great.
TOM: Foam insulation made of a really natural product like that. So not an issue and the foam insulation is actually a really good choice for any time you have a wall torn open and want to do a really good job reinsulating it.
LESLIE: Alright, Di in Michigan writes: 'How can I reattach sagging, cracked plaster ceilings? I heard there is a special washer you could screw into the ceiling lath that would draw the sagging plaster up. Is that true?'
TOM: Yeah, it's called sheetrock. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) Well, no, I know what she's talking about and I have seen people do this but you've got to remember; when the plaster is releasing from the ceiling, that surface is - that plaster is really deteriorated. It's releasing from the wood lath it's probably stuck to and it's eventually going to all fall down. Yes, you could put a bolt in there with a washer and it could pull up that piece but, really, you're better off breaking out all of the loose stuff and then replastering it or covering the whole thing with a new layer of sheetrock and this way you'll have a fresh surface to start with.
LESLIE: Alright, Di. I hope that helps.
TOM: Well, as we talked about earlier, improving your kitchen is one of the most cost-efficient things you can do. It can really add a lot of value to your house. Part of that could be sprucing up those soffits. If they're not just bringing any style to your kitchen, you can dress them up. Leslie is going to tell you exactly how to tackle that project in today's edition of Leslie's Last Word.
LESLIE: That's right. If your kitchen has soffits that continue right up to the ceiling but they have absolutely no detail above your kitchen cabinets, why not dress it up using moulding or wood appliqu