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: What are you doing? What are you working on? Call us right now. Let's talk about it. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Reach out and touch the experts. We're here to help you (chuckling) with your home improvement projects; with your do-it-yourself dilemmas; with your direct-it-yourself dilemmas. Maybe you don't want to do the job yourself. Maybe you just need some help. You want to figure out what to ask the contractor; how to find a contractor. Call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, are you thinking about putting in a brand new floor? Well, there is a wide array of choices out there. You've got genuine materials - like hardwood and ceramic - to the great pretenders; you know, the laminates, the vinyls. Which material is right for you? We're going to give you the step by step tips on how to choose the right flooring this hour.
LESLIE: Plus we're going to tell you how you can stay in the home that you love for as long as you can. We're going to give you the tips to learn how the simplest things done now will allow you to enjoy your home for years to come.
TOM: And in a few minutes, we're going to hear from one of the testers; one of the guys at Consumer Reports ...
LESLIE: Which is the coolest job.
TOM: Yeah, it's the greatest job. I mean you get to buy all this stuff. You get to be a secret shopper and buy like every generator that's out there and then go to your lab and test every single one of them. We're going to talk to the guy that's in charge of testing at Consumer Reports. And we've talked to Peter Sawchuk before but today he's going to tell us about backup generators. Because you know, we all tend to lose power this time of year and if you do lose it, you might need a backup. They've tested them all. He's going to tell us how to pick the right one for your needs.
LESLIE: Also this hour, one caller we choose is going to win a Eureka vacuum. It's worth 130 bucks. It's really a super vacuum. So call us now with your home improvement or your home repair question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Leslie, who's first?
LESLIE: Laura in San Francisco, what's on your mind?
LAURA: I have a cute 100-year-old Edwardian in San Francisco.
LESLIE: Oh, that sounds really cute.
LAURA: And they are cute but they have some maintenance issues.
LAURA: And of the problems that I have is that when I bought the house, there is a toilet in the garage. And it's never been functional (inaudible) ...
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Like a - just one that doesn't work or ...?
TOM: (overlapping voices) Is that in case you can't make it to the house? (chuckling)
LAURA: Exactly. (chuckling) It's actually so that when you were doing gardening you didn't have to track the dirt in.
LESLIE: And it gives you a much open environment ...
TOM: That's right. (chuckling)
LESLIE: ... so you don't feel like you're confined in that tiny bathroom.
LAURA: Yeah, exactly. So I have this but it has never worked and there seems to be water just standing below the drain of the - you know, the grate?
LAURA: And I had a plumber look at it and he said that - one plumber has said 'No problem' and another plumber has said, 'Yeah, you need a Roto-Rooter kind of thing.' And I'm wondering what do you think.
TOM: Well, when you say that you see water below the grate, you mean below the toilet or below a draining grate in the garage?
LAURA: The drain in the garage, which is pretty close and kind of on a close angle.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, first of all, it's not - it's very unlikely that the toilet would be hooked up to the same drain. It was probably a completely separate drain because you wouldn't want to hook them up together because one is called gray water and one is sewage water.
TOM: And so they're probably separate. Now, you said the toilet's never worked.
LAURA: Well, it's never worked in the year that I've owned it.
TOM: Well ...
LAURA: When I bought it.
TOM: Do you have a water supply to the toilet?
LAURA: Yeah, I think I do. Yes.
TOM: So does it - is it filled with water? Can you make it flush?
LAURA: I have not tried because it said don't, you know, do it. (chuckling)
TOM: Well, there's nothing to be really harmed. It's in the garage, you know; so what's the worse that's going to happen? You're going to get a wet floor. If you really want to get a sense as to what's happening with these drains and where they're going and whether or not they're properly hooked up, you may want to call a Roto-Rooter expert and here's why. They have a technology that's called a drain camera and it can actually run a camera through the drains and not only inspect the drains for any breaks or cracks but figure out where they're going. And there's a way that they can actually sort of follow that camera from above to locate the exact spot where any obstruction could exist.
LESLIE: Yeah, it's like orthoscopic surgery for your plumbing system. They don't have to dig up huge holes. It makes it so that the repair is actually far less intrusive.
TOM: Because if you know where the problem is, then you can just sort of attack it right there as opposed to like tearing up your whole floor; especially important when you're in a space where you have, you know, concrete you don't want to disturb.
The first thing you might want to try is - first of all, see if there's a water supply to the toilet. Open it up; get enough water in there to flush it. Flush it; you know, see if it works. If it works, fine. Don't ask anymore questions. If you have any issues, then call Roto-Rooter; have them inspect the lines, figure out where everything's going and they'll give you an estimate on what it's going to take to get it working again. And then you can decide if you'd rather walk inside to use the bathroom or take that short, quick and convenient trip to the garage/outhouse. (chuckling)
LAURA: Now what about the water standing just below the drains? Is that a problem or is that normal?
TOM: Nope. No, not an issue. It's probably a trap so it's probably supposed to have some water in it.
LAURA: Excellent. Thank you so much.
TOM: Laura, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: John in Pennsylvania listens on WAMO. What's going on in your basement?
JOHN: Yes, I just have some block walls that I discovered that I have dampness coming through; not actually water coming into the basement but the blocks are damp several feet; roughly about two feet up from the floor grade.
JOHN: And I was planning on trying to do something with the concrete block; putting some sort of drylock product on or something of that nature. And I was just wondering whether that would be the appropriate method to try to use to lock the moisture out or should I plan on doing some sort of excavation or grading away from the foundation at that point?
TOM: I think you're on the right track. Using the - any kind of a basement wall paint is a good last step, but the first step is to really reduce the amount of moisture that's getting there to begin with. The reason that the block saturates from the bottom up is because, generally, when you build a block wall, you install it with what's called solid grout. That simply means that the bottom course of block - sometimes up two courses of block - is filled with solid cement and then the hollow blocks start over that. So typically the water gets inside the wall; it falls; hits that solid grout section; and then sort of leaches out. And that's maybe what you're seeing.
The solution here is to stop the water from getting there in the first place. You absolutely do not have to do any kind of excavation to control that, but what you might want to do is look at the grading and the gutters outside the house.
LESLIE: Yeah, you really want to look at a bunch of those things because that really brings the moisture in; especially if - do you have gutters on your house?
JOHN: Oh, yes.
LESLIE: OK. Check that the gutters - make sure that they're doing their job. Make sure they're not overflowing. Make sure that they're clean. If you can, put some sort of, you know, screening on top to help the debris not get stuck in there.
LESLIE: Look at your downspouts. Make sure that they're cleaned out properly. You know, just cleaning the gutter itself seems like it's enough, but sometimes debris gets wedged in there; a twig or a clump of leaves. You could even snake out that downspout. Just make sure that's clean. And then look at where it's depositing the water. Sometimes they are depositing them right next to the foundation. Make sure those downspouts get that water away; six feet, ten feet, however far you can go away from your house isn't far enough. Just keep getting it away.
And then also look at your grading. You want to go down about four inches over six feet. You want to make sure that what you're using really helps control that water and get it away from that house. And that'll really control the dampness. It does a good job at our house.
JOHN: And may I say, I thoroughly enjoy listening to the program.
TOM: Thank you very much, John.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Thanks very much, John.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Maria in Virginia, you're on the line. What are you working on?
MARIA: OK, the - it's a two-story wood-frame home. It's an older home. It's over 100 years old. And we've added low-e windows and everything. And we have central air and heat and we have one unit for air condition. And during the summertime, the - we have the air condition and it keeps the bottom - first floor - nice and cool. But upstairs it's still roasting. The same thing is - in the winter time, it's nice and toasty upstairs, but downstairs it is still cold.
TOM: Is this a ducted system that you have? You have - you have ducts that go through the house?
MARIA: Yeah, we had to put - cut the ducts in.
TOM: What's happening here, Maria, is that you don't have the proper balance. I suspect that you don't have adequate return air on the second floor and that's why you're getting such a dramatic imbalance. You need to get an HVAC person in there that can redesign the duct system to get you the right air flow to these spaces because you're getting these overheated or overcooled places, then you're not going to be able to ever get it to balance properly.
The most common reason this happens is because there's not enough return ducts. So you may need to add additional return ducts to pull the heated or cooled air back to the heating plant - wherever the furnace is - so that it can be cooled or chilled and sent back again. Because it's not just a one time thing. It's got to go back and recycle time and time again in order to work properly.
MARIA: Thank you so much.
TOM: You're welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey out there in Money Pit land, now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week; even on upcoming Thanksgiving folks. You're having a problem with that oven, we will be there to help you. Call 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, are you thinking about putting in a floor? Well you've got tons of choices out there; hardwood, ceramic, laminate, vinyl.
LESLIE: Oh my!
TOM: What to choose? We're going to give you the step by step, next.
[audio timestamp: 10:52]
[audio timestamp: 14:02]
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. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. From coast to coast, from wet basements to leaky roofs, we are the experts here every week to help you with your home improvement projects; your do-it-yourself dilemmas like choosing a floor. You know, never underestimate the power of a floor. It definitely helps set the tone for the character of your entire room; your whole space.
LESLIE: Oh, and my gosh, you can make the simplest change and it can make it the hugest difference.
TOM: It really can because it's a very, very large visual space and everybody looks down when they come in. You know, that's why, in casinos, did you ever notice they put the craziest, most disturbing carpet down?
LESLIE: (chuckling) Yes.
TOM: Do you know why? Because they're playing games with your head. They want you to look up at the - at the slot - at the slot machines so that you go spend money. They don't want you looking down at the floor.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Uh-huh. You're like, 'Whoa, that's an ugly carpet. Hey, look at that slot machine.' (laughing)
TOM: 'Hey, maybe I'll drop a quarter in this puppy.' (laughing)
Well if you're picking out flooring, there is a lot to consider; a lot more than appearance. Consider what happens in the room. What will the floor have to withstand? That's going to determine what you're looking for in a warranty; how long - if ever - until you replace that new flooring.
Now, some floors, like hardwood and ceramic, can last a lifetime; if they are properly cared for, that is. But other floors, like laminate, may last for say, 15 to 30 years. And then you have like the less expensive alternatives like peel and stick vinyl that might only last you a few years. But there's a lot to think about before you decide which one's right for you.
LESLIE: One of the things you should consider is if you have an active household or not. You know, some types of flooring are better than others at standing up to traffic, resisting pet nail scratches, any sort of liquid spills - which, inevitably, are going to happen regardless of whatever you put down on that floor. And vinyl sheet and vinyl tile are excellent choices for homes with kids and critters; you know pets running around. And your kids run around, too.
And consider the care and maintenance of the floor as well. Most of today's flooring options offer easy maintenance to keep them good looking over time and some of them are easier to care for than others, with nothing more than simple vacuuming or a wet mop, while others require periodic refinishing. You know, laminate and vinyl sheets are too of the easiest floor products to care for. So keep that in mind.
TOM: I can testify to that as a father of three rambunctious children. Thank goodness ...
LESLIE: Your kids are always sliding around on your floors, too. It's hysterical.
TOM: (chuckling) We have a game they call Slide. Yeah, my little one likes my wife and I to hold his hands and then ...
LESLIE: I've seen couch cushions fly across the floor at your house.
TOM: Exactly. And he likes to slide across the vinyl floor, so (chuckling) you have to really consider the use. It's very important.
LESLIE: You're like, 'Hmm, how well do my socks slide across this one? Alright, good.'
TOM: (overlapping voices) That's right. Exactly. Yeah. So, do you slide with cotton socks or wool socks? You know? (chuckling) There's a lot to think about but there are a lot of choices.
There is a guide, by the way, online that can help you sort it all out. It's from the folks at Armstrong Floor. It's called The Complete Guide to Flooring. And that is online at their website; Armstrong.com. That's Armstrong.com. Excellent resource if you're trying to sort out all of those things we just talked about.
LESLIE: Yeah and it's a nice website because you can actually, not visualizing your own room, but you can see what a flooring type might look like in a den or a living room so you can get a better understanding if you can't sort of take that leap and visualize. It's a good website to check out, so do that.
And if you call us this hour, we can even help you clean your floors; whether they're new or old. And this is going to clean just about anything in your house. You could have the opportunity to win the Eureka Uno vacuum.
LESLIE: That's right. It's the Uno vacuum.
TOM: It's a vacuum.
LESLIE: It's an upright vacuum that - I bet most of you folks out there with an upright, I bet it doesn't clean the rise and the tread on your stairs. Well, if you win this, Eureka Uno can. It's a full-sized upright that's going to tackle all surfaces of the home; not just floors. It features a Power Paw brush which is going to clean vertically and horizontally and the unique edge feature is going to reach right up against your wall. So it's going to tackle two jobs at once.
TOM: But you know, it has a Power Paw brush.
TOM: Do you think that that will make my dog be any less - more likely to like it?
LESLIE: Uh, no. I think regardless of your type of vacuum, your dog is still going to pounce at it.
TOM: Yeah, he has an unrealistic, unfounded fear of vacuums.
LESLIE: I don't understand. It's hysterical. (chuckling) Your dog can be as quiet as a mouse; resting and sleeping. You pull out that vacuum, before you even plug it in, your dog is on it.
TOM: (overlapping voices) It's like territorial fight ensues. (chuckling)
LESLIE: It's hysterical. Well this is a great prize. Your dog is going to love it and still attack it, as well. It's worth 130 bucks but it can yours for free if we pick you out of the Money Pit hardhat. So call right now.
TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 1-888-666-3974. Leslie, who's next?
LESLIE: Painting is a great fall fix up and John in Idaho is working on that. How can we help?
JOHN: Alright. I've got some - that T111 plywood siding. And I was just wondering is it better to stain and polyurethane it or stain and shellac it. What would you guys go with?
TOM: Well, I wouldn't - I would not polyurethane or shellac. It's an exterior siding so you're going to use either exterior paint or you're going to use an exterior stain.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Or exterior stain.
TOM: And when you choose the stain, the stain is available in different densities. If you buy semi-transparent it's not as dark as if you buy solid color. You can still see some of the grain coming through on either in either case. But, generally, with T111, most people will either paint it or stain it. I like - I prefer to stain it because then the paint, when it wears out, it peels; but a stain just kind of fades and then you restain it.
LESLIE: Yeah, and especially if you don't know what's on there already. If you've just sort of acquired this house and you're not really sure what's on there, what condition it's in, you want to make sure that you prime and prep that surface properly. Make sure it's clean. Use a full-strength cleanser. Strip off anything that's on there that you're just unsure of and then prime and use a solid stain, I say.
JOHN: Well, excellent. Appreciate your time.
TOM: You're very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we're taking a call from my favorite place in the world; Hawaii. Kimberly, how can we help?
KIMBERLY: I am looking for a good home warranty program for my appliances in my apartment.
TOM: OK. And these are - these are appliances that you own, I presume?
KIMBERLY: Yes, sir.
TOM: I will tell you that while there are many types of warranty programs under the cover - you know, sort of multiple appliances - generally, you are - if you really are concerned about spending money on repair, you're better off self-insuring. In other words, you're better off saving - starting a savings account for appliance repair than buying a service contract.
There was a study done by - in fact, it's done every year by Consumer Reports - on the propensity for different appliances to break down. And when those companies sell you the service contracts, it's really a pretty good deal - for them, not for you. Because most people's appliances don't break down. So I generally don't recommend service contracts on appliances.
LESLIE: What about renter's insurance? Does a renter's insurance policy perhaps cover appliances?
TOM: A renter's insurance policy covers the same thing a homeowner's insurance policy would cover but for a renter. And it's important, for example, for a renter to have like a renter's insurance policy to cover their furniture because if there's a flood or a fire, the homeowner's insurance policy would cover that if you own the house but, you know, you don't really have insurance on your stuff. So that's what a renter's policy does.
KIMBERLY: Well thank you so much. I appreciate it.
TOM: You're welcome, Kimberly. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jill in California's got some unwanted visitors to the yard. What do you have? Gophers?
JILL: I have a pocket gopher, I think.
TOM: A pocket gopher?
JILL: It's a little circle shape with a plug in the center and I've read that might be a pocket gopher.
JILL: I don't know what to do about it. I thought it was a mole and I tried to get rid of the grubs, but the gopher's still there.
TOM: Well, the first thing is - you said you tried to get rid of the grubs? Did you use a product like GrubEx?
JILL: I did. I got it from (inaudible). Something just like that.
TOM: OK. Because that's the first thing you want to do is eliminate the insects in the lawn because that's what the gophers will eat.
TOM: The second thing that you might want to do is try some rock and roll music. (laughter)
LESLIE: Yeah, I know it sounds crazy but if you get a portable battery-operated radio, turn it up real loud on a loud rock and roll station and drop it down that hole and it sends them scattering because it's too annoying for them.
TOM: If nothing else, it's fun.
JILL: (laughter) I hadn't thought about that. If that doesn't work, any other ideas?
TOM: Yeah, there's also some bait - some poisons - that you can buy that you drop into the hole and they will eat them. And they're very similar to rodent baits. They will eat them. Because they like the same kind of food that people eat and rodents eat. And so they will eat the bait and they will be poisoned and they won't come back.
JILL: But you have to make sure - even though you're putting that down the hole and covering it up, you want to make sure you keep your pets and any small kids out of the yard for a couple of days just to make sure there's no instance of them picking it up because it can be harmful for them.
TOM: Jill, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, the best backup generators on the market, according to the experts. Who are the experts? Consumer Reports, of course.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) The Consumer Reports.
TOM: We're going to talk to the guy that does all the testing, so if you're thinking about buying one, stay tuned. We'll have story, next.
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ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Dens Armor Plus, the revolutionary paperless drywall from Georgia-Pacific.
TOM: 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. What are you doing? What are you working on? You can reach out and touch the experts right here by calling 888-MONEY-PIT or logging onto our website at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Well, you might not have to worry about certain effects of Mother Nature such as earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes; depending on where you live in the U.S. But anything, even a bad thunderstorm, can actually turn your life upside down by making the power go out.
Along with an emergency plan and a three-day supply of food and water, you might want to consider backup power.
TOM: You know, it's a really good idea. We have one here. An emergency generator is just a great way to avoid the inconvenience of losing power during a major storm. We've had ours be out for three, four, five, six hours at a time; which is not very much, compared to some people in the country that can lose their power for days. But I've got to tell you, the last time it went out it was in a severe thunderstorm, Leslie, and I was out on the road and I came home - the entire street was dark, except for my house.
LESLIE: Yeah, and then you had angry neighbors. (chuckling)
TOM: It looked - it looked like it was possessed. And it's kind of cool to have it. It's very convenient. And you know what, it's become less expensive and a more reliable way to have backup power. And let's face it, electricity is just not as reliable as a California sunset anymore.
With us to talk about the right generators and how to get them installed properly is Peter Sawchuk. He's been on this program because he leads the testing programs at Consumer Reports for home improvement products.
So Peter, what did you guys learn about generators?
PETER: Well, the first real thing that we learned, particularly for the portable generators, which most people think of when it's time for emergency standby power, is that you have to be - in my terms - a real Boy Scout. You need to be really prepared with a lot of fuel and you have to have the unit ready to run. And what we find is a lot of people really don't do that.
TOM: You know, I see in your article that you figured out that these portable generators can use 12 to 18 gallons of gasoline a day. That is a lot of gasoline; not to mention the fact that when the power goes out - at least on my street - the corner gas station runs out of power the same way the homeowners do, so they can't pump gas.
PETER: Yes, that's correct. And another aspect of gasoline is that gasoline today will tend to degradate or go bad pretty quickly, so you have to put stabilizer in with that gasoline and it's got a certain shelf life and then you've got to change it.
LESLIE: So you constantly have to be on the upkeep of making sure you maintain all of these.
What about propane? Do they do portable devices in propane power?
PETER: There are some portable propane machines. Actually, we evaluated one which is in our ratings; not in the recent issue but in our prior issue; the prior ratings that we did. There's one called the North Star. It's the North Star 8000 TFG and it's by Hydraulics Northern products.
TOM: What about built-in generators? We've got a Generac standby generator here and it runs not on propane, not on gasoline, but on natural gas. So it's hooked right into the plumbing system for the home and so, whenever the power goes off, this thing kicks on in about 15 seconds. And I've got to tell you, with the size of this thing, I think it's - oh, I think it's 15K - it can power almost the whole house.
PETER: Yes, that's true. And that's what I'm recommending. I'm recommending that people begin - who are serious about emergency standby power - look at the permanent mounted units. And they run on either natural gas or propane. And actually, you don't have to make a choice when you buy it. It comes with an adjustment valve and so you can set it for either one. And those units are very convenient. Most of them start automatically and connect themselves automatically; turn themselves automatically off and even check ...
TOM: Yeah, ours comes on every - I think it's every Thursday morning it comes on for 10 or 15 minutes so we know it's always working.
LESLIE: That's amazing. And I think with the permanent units, it's so - it's a much safer mindset because you don't have to worry about proper usage. You know, they sort of take care of themselves. With the portable unit, there's so many things you need to remember to make sure that your family is safe.
PETER: Yes. And one of the big concerns now that's being publicized is carbon monoxide poisoning ...
TOM: Of course.
PETER: ... and it's very easy to place generators so that the exhaust will come into the house or affect the people around the house.
TOM: We're talking to Peter Sawchuk. He's the program leader for home improvement products testing for Consumer Reports magazine.
Peter, let's talk about the wiring of standby generators. Now, you and I both know that there's a - there's a transfer switch that has to be hooked up. I think a lot of people envision rolling this portable generator up to their - up to their doorstep and running a bunch of extension cords. Talk to us about a transfer switch; why it's important and how it makes the whole system run safer.
PETER: Well, a transfer switch is highly recommended. And what a transfer switch does is it totally disconnects - it wires into your normal home electrical circuit box, but it totally disconnects the power from the outside so that no stray power can go out and affect the linemen who are trying to fix your power. Secondly, it allows you to very efficiently and effectively transfer the power from the generator - the portable generator - into the home circuit. And usually there are several breaker switches which allow you to direct that to key circuits that you would need. So it's a very efficient and, of course, a very safe way to do that.
LESLIE: Well Peter, when you make the decision whether you want a portable or a stationary unit, how do you know what size is right for you?
PETER: Well, it's interesting. A number of the manufacturers - and we've even just put up a wattage chart where you can check off appliances that you think you would need to use during a power emergency and you can add up that wattage.
Now one of the things I advise is that you actually add another 20 percent to that wattage because many of the - we learned that many of the circuit breakers have internal design points where they actually trip at about 80 percent of the load that they're designed for. So you calculate this wattage either by using one of the numerous charts that are out there and then that gives you an idea of what size generator you'll need.
TOM: And you don't have to run everything in your house on a portable generator. You know, you certainly don't want to put your central air conditioning or something large like that. But do you think it's a good idea to sort of go through the house and make your own sort of checklist of things that you do want to run; like your refrigerator, your furnace, your lights in key areas, things like that?
PETER: Oh, absolutely. And among the key things we have are - that we see are sump pumps. For people who have hot water heaters or water heaters that use electricity, an electric water heater is another one that they need to look at. Furnace fans. And in some cases, where it's quite warm, you may need to do a window air conditioner.
TOM: Good points.
Peter Sawchuk from Consumer Reports, thanks again for being with us. Great advice. Always appreciate when you can stop by.
If you want more information on all of the generators that Peter talked about, you can check out their website at ConsumerReports.org.
LESLIE: Alright, Money Pit listeners. Do you want to stay in your current home as long as you possibly can? Well, most older Americans tell the AARP that they definitely want to. Coming up, find out what you can do today so that you can stay in your home for lots of tomorrows.
[audio timestamp: 30:21]
[audio timestamp: 33:58]
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: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The website is MoneyPit.com. Making good homes better every single day.
Well, taking care of your home will not only keep you safer and more comfortable, but it will keep up on its value and allow you to stay in the house just as long as you possibly can.
LESLIE: Yeah, and a few things that can help you do that, you know, each month test your smoke detectors. Test them ...
TOM: Very important.
LESLIE: Yeah, make sure they're working. Make sure the batteries are good. You want to test and reset ground fault circuit interrupters. Press that little red button. Press the reset button; make sure it's doing it's job. And check the gauge on your fire extinguisher. I like to always sign the little tag and say, 'Leslie Segrete checked the fire extinguisher.'
TOM: (overlapping voices) Was here? (chuckling)
You know, also, if you're looking at your fire extinguishers, you want to make sure that it says A-B-C. It's not a spelling test. (chuckling) What it is, is it means that the fire extinguisher will work for all types of fires; wood fires, electrical fires and gas or oil fires. So A-B-C is the rating.
LESLIE: Yeah, because they won't actually put out a fire that they're not rated for. So do a good job, get one that's rated for all three and then whatever might happen to burst into flames in your house, you can tackle it safely.
TOM: (overlapping voices) (inaudible) Exactly.
Something else to do, a couple of times a year you want to check all the faucets and under the sinks for leaks. You want to check the caulking around the sinks, around the tubs and the showers. You know, it's amazing how many times just a little leak in the shower can lead to a termite problem, because there's moisture that gets in the wall, or a mold problem or just a plain old, nasty leak below that shower. So check that caulking.
Also, clean the coils on your refrigerator and drain a few gallons of water from your water heater to prevent any kind of sediment build up.
LESLIE: Yeah, you know, quick checks and repairs now can help ensure your future in your home for years to come. So do what you can now because it'll really help you in the future.
If you want more info, you can go to AARP.org/UniversalHome. That's AARP.org/UniversalHome. You'll get lots of good tips and ideas there.
LESLIE: Yeah, and periodic maintenance is the best way to prevent major repairs. You know the saying: 'A stitch in time saves nine.' It's true. In our next issue of the Money Pit e-newsletter, you can find out more about maintenance you should be doing in your home right now.
TOM: Make it a part of your routine and it'll become second nature.
If you don't already get the free Money Pit e-newsletter, sign up today at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright, folks. Well, if you've got a home improvement or a home repair question, you can call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we choose this hour is going to win the Eureka Uno. It's an upright vacuum that tackles all surfaces of the home; not just the floors, folks. That's right. The Uno's Power Paw - rowr! We love that name (chuckling) - it allows you to take vacuuming vertical. It sounds like extreme vacuuming.
TOM: (chuckling) Exactly. You'll be able to clean the tread and the rise on your stairs all at the same time. I guess vacuuming the drapes becomes a possibility while they're still up. And it's got this edge thing that helps you get really tight up against the walls. Anyway, worth 130 bucks. That's what you need to know. Call now. Get the answer to your home improvement question, which we guarantee will be worth more than what you paid for it. (chuckling) And you could win a vacuum worth 130 buckarooskis. How do you do that? Pick up the phone. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must have a home improvement question to ask us. 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who's next?
LESLIE: James in Pennsylvania listens on WAMO. I love their call letters. WAMO. It's just super fun to say. James, what can we do for you?
JAMES: A couple of summers ago, I did some landscaping in my yard ...
JAMES: ... to try to get the water to run away from the foundation.
JAMES: And so I hauled in quite a bit of topsoil.
TOM: That's a mistake.
JAMES: And I thought it was good stuff. So now what the topsoil's doing, it's cracking. And big cracks in it and the water runs down in it beside the foundation.
LESLIE: Well topsoil, James, is a great choice for gardening and planting, but not a good source for grading. Really bad idea to use that because it's so filled with organic materials, it's just going to hold that water right up against your foundation, which you don't want to do at all. You want to get that water away.
TOM: Yeah, James, it's like putting sponges around your foundation. If you're making a grading improvement to try to a control water problem, you never make it with topsoil. You always make it with clean fill dirt. It doesn't absorb as much water and allows water to run over the top and away. Think about the soil that's on top of a baseball pitcher's mound. That's what fill dirt looks like. It packs really solid.
LESLIE: Yeah, if you were to make a mound of topsoil, you'd stand on that and sink right through.
TOM: (overlapping voices) And sink in it. Yeah, exactly. So it's...
LESLIE: And then grow a daisy.
TOM: It's the wrong type of soil for a grading improvement. Are you still having problems with leakage in the basement?
JAMES: Oh yeah, whenever it rains, it goes down in the cracks.
TOM: OK, well here's what you're going to have to do. First of all, look at the gutter system. Make sure your gutters are clean, free flowing and those downspouts are extended out 10 feet from the house. That is what causes most wet basements.
Secondly, with the situation with the soil, you're going to have to rake out some of that topsoil away from the house; try to get down to the virgin soil and add some fill dirt. Once you establish the slope with the fill dirt, you can put some of the topsoil back over that. But this way, the water that hits it will run down and away from the house. That first four to six feet around the house has to be sloped properly so the soil - so that the water runs away. And you can't use the wrong dirt because it's just going to soak up. It's kind of like putting stones or mulch around your house. It's not really helping it even if it slopes away because the water just falls right through it.
So Leslie, what do you do when your icemaker runs amok and just keeps making ice and ice and more ice?
LESLIE: You invite penguins over to take a bath and a dip and enjoy it very much.
TOM: Or invite all your friends and pour lots of drinks. (chuckling) Well, a listener emailed us that exact question. We're going to talk about the kind of maintenance task that your icemaker might need and what you need to know to make sure it doesn't happen to you, after this.
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ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Roto-Rooter, for all your plumbing and drain cleaning needs. Whether it's a small job or a big repair, request the experts from Roto-Rooter. That's the name and away go troubles down the drain. Call 1-800-GET-ROTO or visit Roto-Rooter.com.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number - 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The website - MoneyPit.com. Your source for tips and advice on every type of home improvement project and the ability to write us by clicking on Ask Tom and Leslie.
So, we've got some e-mailers that have done just that. Let's get right to the email bag, Leslie.
LESLIE: Alright. This one is from Jim in Florala, Alabama. And he writes: 'The arm to the icemaker in our refrigerator has come disconnected and now the ice just keeps on making.' (chuckling) 'If the arm is in the up position, ice will not make. But in the down position, it makes ice. So we cannot connect it. So it's stuck in the down position.'
I guess there is a ton of ice in this house.
TOM: It sounds that way.
I've got bad news for you, Jim. I'm going to give you some practical advice. Repairing icemakers is usually not worth spending any money on it whatsoever because you can buy one for like around 100 bucks. So if yours has become damaged where - to the point where with your own ingenuity you can't figure out how to repair it ...
LESLIE: (chuckling) You can't MacGyver it back in place.
TOM: You can't MacGyver it back together, it's time to toss it and buy a new one. There are certain appliances in the house that that makes sense for. For example ...
LESLIE: Can you easily just remove this icemaker portion from the freezer?
TOM: Oh, yeah. Oh, sure. Oh, yeah. You don't need it. You can go back to the plastic trays.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) So it doesn't mean you have to replace that whole, entire refrigerator/freezer.
TOM: No, no, no, no. Just the icemaker.
TOM: Oh, yeah. Oh, sure. Icemakers always can come out like that. Yeah, that's no problem at all.
LESLIE: Alright, this one is from John in Vienna, Virginia - oh, excellent - where my sister lives. 'We are in the process of moving into our new home. From the beginning, we've had a musty moisture odor in the house and we're eager to treat the symptoms and the cause. The front of the house is underground; approximately three feet on average. We had an inspection done at purchase. Found no causes. What do we do? It's stinky.'
TOM: There is something that you can do and that is you need to investigate the source of the moisture. Now, if you did it with a visual inspection and you didn't find anything, I'm going to suggest that you contact your home inspector again and make sure that the home inspector has a tool called a moisture meter. It's actually a fairly inexpensive tool. If you're in the home inspection business, it costs only a couple of hundred to maybe 300 bucks. But with a moisture meter, you can find the source of the moisture and once you find the source of the moisture, you'll be able to find the source of the smell.
LESLIE: Ooh, it's like one of those Indian water (inaudible) high tech.
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK, well when you think of modular or prefab homes, you probably don't necessarily think quality. You picture half a house (chuckling) rolling down the highway. We've all followed the homes before. You know, 'Wide load. Stay away.'
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) 'Wide load. Drive around.' (chuckling)
TOM: That's right. (beeping sounds) Wide load! (chuckling)
LESLIE: And they're not talking about my butt, folks. (laughing)
TOM: (laughing) Never!
Well, the truth is that modular homes are actually better built than the real thing. They're better built than stick built, onsite built houses. Why? Leslie's going to tell you in today's edition of Leslie's Last Word.
LESLIE: You know, it's interesting. I was just at a home expo in Anaheim, California and they had a whole area completely devoted to modular homes. And they are gorgeous, folks. They don't look like what you think they look like. They really look like beautiful, well-made homes and they can really be as stylistically beautiful and unique as you want them to be, which is a great option. And building a new home can be a lot of work.
But one type of new home that can help you save time and headaches throughout this complicated project - that's right, it's this modular home we're talking so much about. And modular homes, they're factory built and then they're shipped to the site. They're not only cost effective but their quality is top-notch. That's because by building the home in an enclosed factory setting, you don't have to worry about weather. It's going to have little effect on the construction process and the time. And the quality can be meticulously maintained and supervised. So it really is a smart idea. Plus, with the hundreds of designs to choose from, you're going to be sure to find one right that meets your budgets and your needs. So really, look into it. It's a good option.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, standing by for your calls 24/7 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT; available online at MoneyPit.com.
Hey, coming up next week on the program, how to keep your house off the menu for mold. You know, those tiny little spores need just a bit of moisture and some organic food like paper or fabric or wood to spread like a cancer throughout your house. But if you leave the food out of the equation with paperless drywall - yes, there's such a product called paperless drywall - your house cannot be infested with mold. We'll give you the tips, the techniques and the tools to build a mold-free house, next week on this program.
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.)