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: Give us a call right now, because we are here to help with your home improvement projects. We want to solve the do-it-yourself dilemmas, the projects that you are taking on. Just a couple of months now left in the year and we’re moving into the holiday season, which means so many of you are tackling projects that you would like to get done before the friends and relatives stop by the house. If that’s on your to-do list, why don’t you put it on our list by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974? Inside the house, outside the house, whatever you’d like to get done, let us help you do just that.
We’ve got a great hour planned for you. First up, have you ever tried to go to work or school on maybe zero sleep thanks to some noisy neighbors or perhaps a yapping dog? We’re going to tell you about how the right insulation could not only help your energy bill but it might also help you get your beauty sleep.
LESLIE: And speaking of sleep, we’re also going to tell you how you can rest easier knowing that your house is free of odorless and possibly deadly carbon monoxide.
TOM: And if you’re just throwing your clothes in a washer and dryer, you might just be washing away more than dirt. We’ve got a few tips to suggest that can save you big bucks on your energy costs.
LESLIE: And also this hour, we’re giving away the Mr. Beams Wireless LED Power-Outage Lighting System. You know, we’re entering the winter months. We might be heading into some times we’re going to lose power, thanks to those winter storms that are going to happen across the country. And this really is a great way to get emergency lighting for your home in case of a blackout. And it’s worth 70 bucks.
TOM: So, give us a call right now. Let us help with your home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to the phones.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Paul in Missouri is on the line with a clay residue in the water system. Tell us what’s going on and where you’re seeing it.
PAUL: Yes, I’m seeing it in the kitchen faucet mostly and the bathroom faucet. The well’s 230 foot down with casing the whole way.
TOM: So, you can pick up a whole-house filter. It’s actually called a whole-house sediment filter. And the way these work is they’re – we’re not talking about treating the water; we’re talking about filtering the water. So there’s going to be a micron rating. That basically tells you how small of a particle it will trap. It’ll usually be 5 microns or 10 microns. And the other thing that’s important to note is the pressure drop. Because it does take away some of the pressure and so you want to make sure that you have enough pressure that flows through it.
So if you simply search "whole-house filters" online, you’ll find a bazillion choices. And then if you head out to your local plumbing supply and ask them for a sediment filter, tell them your situation. I’m sure your local plumbing-supply contractors or retailers can recommend one that’s going to work for you. Not terribly difficult to install. And that should handle the sediment issue that you’re having in the house, OK?
PAUL: OK, sir. I appreciate it.
TOM: Good luck with that project, Paul, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Doris in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DORIS: What kind of paint would you use to keep mold away?
TOM: Well, paint is not the solution for mold. If you’ve got mold, there’s other causes for it. We can talk about how to paint to cover a mold stain but if you’ve got mold, you’ve got to address the reason for that. What room are we talking about? Are we talking about an interior room?
TOM: OK. And is there any leak that’s causing this mold?
DORIS: No. Everything’s all in one room and it’s got an A/C. There’s no ventilation.
TOM: Mm-hmm. So you have a lot of humidity, yeah.
OK. So here’s what I would do. First of all, I would wash the surfaces down with TSP – trisodium phosphate. You’ll find that in a paint aisle of a home center or hardware store. And that’s a good way to clean the walls and get them ready for the paint.
The next step is I would prime the walls. And you can use a latex-based or an alkyd primer. And you apply the primer and that’s going to kind of seal in any imperfections in the wall and give you a good, neutral surface upon which to apply your paint. And then you could paint the walls after that.
And you want to use a very good-quality paint; don’t buy cheap paint, because it’s just not going to cover well. So a good-quality paint will do the trick. And I think those steps, in that order, will address that concern.
DORIS: OK. Thank you very much for your help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Doris. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: David in Oklahoma, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
DAVID: I was wondering about the vents in the house. I have central heat and air and every – you wipe all the shelves and all that stuff off, then you get this film all over everything where you just have to continually do that. I’m just wondering, is there a way to cleaning vents out without creating a bunch of dust in the house?
TOM: Well, there are duct-cleaning companies, obviously, and what they do is they have specialized equipment that goes inside of HVAC ducts to clean the dust that gets stuck in them. I will say that unless you’ve had a reason to get your ducts super-dirty like, for example, you’re doing some construction or remodeling, I don’t – I’m not sure that that’s really worth the expense. So, what I would tell you to invest in, if you want to invest in something, is a good-quality filter system for your HVAC system.
So, that means an electrostatic or an electronic air cleaner mounted just before the blower compartment so that all the air that runs through the duct system is thoroughly scrubbed. In terms of the registers, you can just vacuum them. But a good-quality HVAC filter system is going to make a world of difference in terms of the quality of air inside your house, David.
DAVID: OK. Well, I’m just wondering about where the vents come out in each room. I’m wondering if I can put anything like a – similar to cheesecloth or a filter or something in there.
TOM: Yeah, that would not be the right place to put the filter. The filter goes on the return duct and it cleans the air on the way in. And this way, the air that comes out is clean.
DAVID: Yeah, well, he changes the filter every month.
TOM: Yeah. But you know what? If he’s changing the filter every month, he’s not got the right kind of filter on there. The basic fiberglass filters don’t do a good job. A good-quality media filter or a good-quality electronic air cleaner is going to make a big difference, David, OK? That’s the solution.
DAVID: OK. Hey, I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’re here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are entering into the busy season in our homes: it’s the holidays. Lots of family stopping by. So if you’ve got something you want to improve before the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re here to lend you a hand at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, if you skimp on your insulation, you may be missing out on more than just a warm and toasty winter: your house could actually get louder. We’ve got tips on how you can soundproof your home with insulation, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellant and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.
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: Standing by to talk to you about your home improvement projects, so pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do make that call, you might just win the Mr. Beams ReadyBright Starter House Kit. This is a wireless LED lighting system we’re giving away that automatically detects a power failure and provides up to 40 hours of bright light. And you can install it yourself, no electrician needed. It’s worth $70. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Theresa in Oregon, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
THERESA: I have a problem with my lawn; it’s a mess. And we are trying to decide – oh, it’s full of tall grass and moss and crabgrass and has poor drainage. And so, one of the things my husband said that happened was is that when we put the lawn in years ago – it’s been about 15 years – we got a lot of potting soil donated from a commercial garden/landscape place. And so we think that might have had part – been part of the problem: it’s potting soil rather than solid dirt.
So we’re trying to figure out whether we should rototill the whole thing out and start over or we should just reseed and keep weed-and-feeding or something.
TOM: What about doing a Roundup restoration to it?
LESLIE: I like that: a Roundup restoration.
TOM: That’s actually a process that is pretty common.
TOM: You apply Roundup to the entire lawn and pretty much zap the whole thing, so you kill everything that’s there.
TOM: And as the existing grass and the crabgrass and all the stuff that’s mixed there dies away, you can seed in – right into that with fresh seed. And that seed will take. The old, dead grass will help hold it in place.
And if you do it now, you’ve actually got a couple of months of decent weather for the grass to start to take hold. And this way, it’ll grow now, it’ll grow in the very early spring and hopefully develop thick-enough roots to be able to sustain the first, warm summer that it encounters. But that’s why now is a good time to do it. And when you’ve got some lawn that’s in that bad a shape, a Roundup restoration is a good way to go.
I did that for my entire backyard. And it looked a little scary for a while but it turned green pretty fast after that and ended up being a great lawn for us.
THERESA: Wow. OK. So just kill the whole thing off and start over with seed.
TOM: Kill it off and start again.
THERESA: OK. And any particular recommendation on seed?
TOM: I don’t have a particular recommendation on seed. Any name brand, I think, will do.
THERESA: Any name brand. OK. Very good. Well, that helps a lot.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jason in Louisiana, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JASON: I just have a problem with my well pump that I have here. From my knowledge of talking to a few people, they dig the wells pretty shallow here in Louisiana, because they don’t have to dig any deeper than 40, 60 foot.
JASON: And I had a well-pump guy come out because I had a pressure problem.
JASON: He rebuilt my well pump itself. Got great pressure after but then the next, few following days, I started getting a gray silt that started being pumped into my home.
JASON: And I flushed out the system, restarted it. It clears up for a few days and then problems persist again. What do you think could be the problem with that? He told me I may need to dig a new well and go down a few hundred foot but other people say they’re all shallow wells.
TOM: What kind of filtration system do you have on the home? Because it seems to me like if you’ve just got a fine-grade silt, that that could be dealt with by a filter rather than replacing the well.
JASON: I recently have installed a whole-house filter out there since.
JASON: That seems to be aiding in fixing the problem. I noticed a significant difference in my water.
TOM: OK. So this is progress then.
JASON: I think that could have potentially fixed it but that filter seems to be getting pretty dark pretty quick.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Well, they always get dark pretty quick but that doesn’t mean that they’re totally blocked. Usually, they’ll discolor pretty quickly, because they look so pretty and clean coming out of the box. I wouldn’t – yeah, I wouldn’t run out and replace the well right away. I mean it might be that the increased pressure is causing a little more debris in that water than what you’re accustomed to. But if the filter is holding it, I would just live with that.
JASON: OK. Yeah, because I have the whole-house filter and I also put a filter on my sink water in my kitchen, so whenever I cook …
TOM: Yeah. Just make sure that you replace it per the manufacturer’s instructions. In other words, don’t let it go for an extensive period of time, because then it could get worse and it could affect your water pressure.
JASON: Right. I think there are recommendations every three months on this filter that I bought.
TOM: There you go.
JASON: OK. So you think that – yeah, because the guy was quick to jump to want to charge me $2,800 to redrill me a well.
TOM: Of course. He needs the job.
JASON: And I just said, "No, I don’t foresee that happening."
TOM: Yeah. Proceed slowly, my friend. Jason, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, we often get calls here at The Money Pit about noise: more specifically, how to get rid of that extra noise. One answer is insulation.
TOM: Yeah. But only if you use insulation that is actually designed for sound reduction, like Roxul. Now, they are one of The Money Pit sponsors and they make an insulation called Safe’n’Sound. It’s designed for interior walls, as well as ceilings and floors. And it delivers not only a great insulating barrier but also a little quiet cushion between your kids and their music or your neighbor and her car alarm or whatever else is causing noise pollution in and around your house.
LESLIE: Absolutely. And the way it cuts noise is pretty interesting. Roxul is made of a really dense stone wool and that’s going to keep the sound from transferring through the insulation itself. And it’s also both fire- and water-resistant, which provides another reason that you can actually rest a little easier.
TOM: Now, you can find Roxul at The Home Depot and Lowe’s, as well as many lumber-yard locations. And you can install it yourself. Simply go to DIYWithRoxul.com to see an instructional video and to learn more. And Roxul is spelled R-o-x-u-l. That’s DIYWithRoxul.com.
LESLIE: Mary in Virginia is dealing with some tricky wood flooring. Tell us what’s going on.
MARY: Well, in our bedroom, there’s a hump in the floor – I mean in the flooring. The house has all wood floors – no carpet or anything – and we don’t know what’s wrong with it. When we bought the house, a structural engineer looked at it and supposedly fixed it but he didn’t fix it. Supposedly, he put a crossbeam.
And then when you go downstairs and look up at the basement ceiling – which is the floor of the upper bedroom, right – you can see the cross piece but the hump is still there. So, we’ve had a couple people look at it. One flooring company told us they thought the floor had warped or something and we’d need new floors but we don’t know what it is.
TOM: So, the question is, is the deflection or the warping, is that in the floor joists or is that in the flooring material itself? What kind of flooring material do you have now? Let’s start with that.
MARY: It’s wood flooring.
TOM: Is it carpet? Hardwood? What is it?
MARY: No, no, no. It’s hardwood floors. No carpet.
TOM: It’s hardwood floor, OK. The work that the – the work that this engineer did, that was addressing the floor joists, I imagine, correct?
MARY: Well, I don’t know. Supposedly, supposedly. I’m not sure what happened. This was when we bought the house and supposedly, this fixed it.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Alright.
MARY: But to me, it doesn’t look like it’s been fixed, because there’s still the hump there.
TOM: The hump is still there, yeah.
Well, we’ve got to figure out what’s causing that hump and it’s not unusual for a floor beam, for example, to warp or twist and press up and cause a floor to deform. But unfortunately, I have no way of diagnosing this from this view, over the radio.
LESLIE: But you can actually take some pictures and post them on our website.
TOM: Yeah, that’d be a great idea. If you could take some photos and post in the Community section of MoneyPit.com – now, I’d ask you to take some photos from the top down and also from the basement up so we can have a look at it. We might be able to give you some further advice.
But if it is a floor joist that happened to buckle, there’s a way to lower that down and it’s a repair that we used to do all the time when – and new construction was really when that happens most. How old is this house, by the way?
MARY: I think it was built in ‘68.
TOM: Sixty-eight? OK. Well, it’s a little old for this particular scenario to happen. But if it is a joist that’s twisted, typically what you do is you actually cut the joist and you can put pressure on from above and get it to sort of lay down a bit. And then you reinforce it by putting two new joists on either side of it and create a new beam.
MARY: So you don’t need to replace the whole floor, like this flooring company is telling us?
TOM: If the floor structure is not the – is the problem, replacing the floor is not going to change that, OK? But I mean if – listen, if it’s not really, really bad, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it with a house that’s built in 1968. Why don’t you just chalk it up to charm?
MARY: Yeah. But we’re trying to sell it in the spring and these days, everything has to be pretty much turnkey-perfect, you know?
TOM: OK, look. Here’s what you should do. Listen, if you’re getting ready to put the house on the market, go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors at ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.org. Using their zip-code locator, find an ASHI-certified home inspector in your area. Because of the market and because of the issues that you’re concerned about, have your home inspected by a professional home inspector.
You’re doing this for a couple of reasons. First of all, the inspector is an independent expert that should be able to diagnose this floor problem for you and tell you whether it’s something to be concerned about or not. Secondly, the inspector will be able to identify other potential issues that could come up in the house sale and give you the opportunity to fix them or not without a buyer looking over your shoulder.
So if the goal here is to get the house ready for sale, let’s not speculate on what’s going on; let’s get a trained set of eyes in there that is – and somebody who’s not working for a contractor trying to sell you flooring or God-knows-what-else. And let them look at the house and figure out what’s going on. And this way, you’ll know and you’ll have the time to do the job right, OK?
So, again, the website is ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.o-r-g.
MARY: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Coreen in Alaska is on the line and has a question about real estate value. Tell us about it.
COREEN: I live in an older condo with a wood fireplace.
COREEN: Would a wood fireplace be more – have more resale value or would a free-standing stove?
TOM: I think a fireplace probably would have more value. It certainly might make the place more attractive to most buyers who make more emotional decisions than practical decisions.
LESLIE: And I think from a decorating standpoint, I know that freestanding wood stoves, to me – while, yes, they create a cozy little seating area, sometimes they pose a ginormous decorating dilemma.
TOM: Well, true, because they just have to be out there in the middle of everything, so how do you work around that?
LESLIE: Right. And they’re usually a certain color. It’s not the easiest thing to paint or change the look of.
TOM: Yeah, so I would stay with the fireplace. Wood stoves are more efficient but I wouldn’t replace it if you’re getting ready to sell the house. I would keep the fireplace. I think if you did something to dress up the fireplace, if you needed it – with a new mantle, that kind of thing, cleaning up brick, whatever, just make it look good – I would just stop right there. I don’t think putting the wood stove in is going to be something that you’ll get a return on that investment from, Coreen.
COREEN: OK, great. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Coming up after the break, carbon monoxide poisoning. It can happen fast and it can be deadly. And unfortunately, we hear more and more about it starting this time of year. We’re going to tell you how you can protect your home and your family, after this.
NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.
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TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And now that the weather has you spending more time indoors, have you noticed that your décor might just benefit from a bit of a spruce-up? One fast way to do that is with a new floor. You can find out the best options in flooring by simply searching "flooring guide" on MoneyPit.com. You’ll get tips on the pros and cons of nine of the most popular flooring options out there.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Antoinette in Ohio on the line looking to put a bathroom in the basement. How can we help you with that project?
ANTOINETTE: Is there possible – a shower? I think it – when you were on earlier – that you don’t have to go through the – if it’s in the basement, you don’t have to go through the cement to put a flow of the water that comes out of the shower to the drain?
TOM: So, Antoinette, am I hearing that you’d like to add a shower to your basement?
TOM: And you’d like to do that without the use of a jackhammer, correct?
TOM: OK. So, you can do that. There is a way to add a shower and have that shower drain to a reservoir, which then pumps the water up high enough to drop it into your regular drain-waste vent line that takes all the waste out of the house.
ANTOINETTE: Oh, that way – because I’ve got drains down in the basement, see. And that’s where – my washer goes to that drain. That’s why I wanted a shower, so that when the water – the dirty water – comes through the shower part, that it’ll go right into the same drain.
TOM: And where is that draining eventually?
ANTOINETTE: Well, it goes through – well, just where all the water of the – your bathtub and your kitchen water, they all go the same place.
TOM: If the drain is low enough where you can do that with a basement shower, then that’s how you would do it.
ANTOINETTE: Yeah. But do they have bases on the shower – you know, your base of your shower that has it that you can do that?
TOM: You build up the shower so it’s not flush on the floor of the basement. It would be on – stepped-up a few inches to a foot or so, so you could get the plumbing in there. And then you would make sure that you drain that, if possible, to a lower point where the house drain can pick it up. But if not possible, you drop it into what’s called a "lift pump." The lift pump lifts the water up and then drops it into the main drain line for the house and carries it out and away.
ANTOINETTE: OK. Well, that’s a good idea. OK. Thank you for the information.
TOM: You’re welcome, Annette. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, you can’t see it or smell it but it can be fatal. We’re talking about carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that can build up in your home when fuel-burning appliances aren’t working right.
TOM: That’s right. And CO-poisoning symptoms mimic the flu, so it can be hard to figure out what’s going on, that is, without a carbon-monoxide detector. Here to tell us how to choose the best CO detector for your house is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor for TV’s This Old House.
RICHARD: Hey, guys.
TOM: Now, this is a problem that can be really difficult to spot. In fact, there have been reports where even medical pros have been sickened because the gas not only mimics symptoms of the flu, it actually causes confusion and makes it pretty much hard to think straight. So, what’s the most common cause of a carbon-monoxide problem in the house?
RICHARD: Well, any fossil fuel-burning appliance – gas or oil – anything you’re going to have combustion products that should go up the chimney, one of those byproducts when you burn a fossil fuel is CO – carbon monoxide. There’s also CO2 and a little bit of H2O – water. Now, those are all supposed to go up the chimney together. But if a little of this carbon monoxide comes back into the building, it is odorless, it is colorless and it can be absolutely deadly.
TOM: And why does it make you so crazy? Why does it make it hard to think straight?
RICHARD: Well, it’s robbing the oxygen out of your body and you’re slowly depriving your brain of any oxygen to be able to process what’s going on.
LESLIE: So, really, the best plan of attack to make sure that you and your family are safe is to have a carbon-monoxide detector, correct?
RICHARD: Right. In so many jurisdictions, it’s now code and law every time you exchange a house or pass papers, you have to be sure you have CO. And it’s really a good thing to have, because houses in the winter are tighter, you’ve got this fuel-burning appliance, people are going to go to sleep and we want them to wake up every single morning. And that’s when the CO detectors are really important.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Do you want to have one on every floor or just by these fossil fuel-burning appliances?
RICHARD: Well, it’s every floor at least and it really should be near every bedroom. And you really can’t have too many, I tell you. The nice thing about this, if there is a nice thing, is smoke, you have to put the sensors up high to be able to – because smoke rises. CO is insidious; it will fill the entire room. So as long as you have one in the room, it doesn’t have to be high at the ceiling; it just has to be in the space and you’ll be able to pick it up.
LESLIE: Is it even better to keep it lower to the floor, since it doesn’t rise as quickly?
RICHARD: Not really. It’ll fill all the air molecules at the same pace, so it just wants to be in the space.
TOM: So, we know it’s a serious problem, we know detectors can help us but how do we choose the best detector for our own personal needs?
RICHARD: Well, there’s a lot to choose from. The simplest one is the most affordable: you just plug it into an electrical outlet. They’re better than nothing but they’re not going to work in a power outage. And if you’ve got a backup generator, that, too, is a fossil-burning appliance, so you might want to be careful there.
There’s battery-powered/plug-in models that will continue to operate after the power goes out, so that’s a good one. But you’ve got to make sure those batteries are working, just like smoke detectors; they’re only as good as their backup battery.
And then they make these combination units that you see nowadays in most renovations and new construction that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide. They’re hardwired into the home’s electrical systems and they’re usually ceiling-mounted, because smoke rises for the smoke detector.
TOM: Now, that’s a good point because carbon-monoxide detectors, by themselves, can really be anywhere on the wall, right?
RICHARD: That’s right. CO will really fill all the air molecules in the room, so the location of the CO detector is much less important where it is in the building, as long as it’s in the right place. And in that case, you want to be sure there’s one on every floor and you’d like to have one in each bedroom.
LESLIE: Now, Richard, what do you do if one actually goes off? I mean I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of people saying, "Oh, my carbon-monoxide detector went off but I didn’t believe it, so I just turned it off."
RICHARD: Get out. Get out, get out, get out, get out of the building. Trust your data. Get out and call the fire department immediately and just be safe.
TOM: And that’s a good point. You say trust your data, trust the information that’s coming to you, because many folks compare carbon-monoxide detectors to smoke detectors. Difference is when a smoke detector goes off, you smell the smoke, you see the smoke.
LESLIE: There are symptoms of it.
RICHARD: That’s right.
TOM: When a carbon-monoxide detector goes off, you’ve got to trust it.
RICHARD: That’s right. You only hope that the detector goes off. Because every winter, we hear tragic stories about families that didn’t wake up in the morning because they didn’t have one or the battery wasn’t maintained. And it is this silent, odorless killer.
TOM: Very important advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit with that important safety tip.
RICHARD: Great to be here.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on how you can choose a carbon-monoxide detector and other projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Get hardwood floors for less with Lumber Liquidators.
Up next, when you wash your clothes, you might be needlessly washing away energy dollars. We’ve got some tips on how to save money as you wash, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs for appliances, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical. Visit BuyTotalProtect.com to see if you qualify for a special offer. That’s BuyTotalProtect.com.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up your phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One lucky caller this hour, who gets on the air with us, will not be left in the dark next time you experience a power outage. We’re giving away a Mr. Beams ReadyBright Starter House Kit.
Now, it’s a wireless LED power-outage system and it can tell you when there’s a power failure. You know, obviously, the lights will be off, so you’ll know, too. But it will know and it will automatically turn on LED lights.
Now, you can control the light remotely for maximum safety, convenience and battery life. It’s a great prize. It’s worth 70 bucks. Visit their website; it’s ReadyBright.com for more information. And pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
LESLIE: Jeff in Delaware is dealing with a mysterious sulfur odor from a well. Tell us what’s going on.
JEFF: Well, we have a well and I have a water softener on it, a filter and – cartridge filter – and we still have a lot of iron in our water and it has a real strong sulfur smell. And I don’t know anything else to do and it – sometimes, if it sits for – if we go out of town and come back a day or two later, the smell is just horrendous. And I was just wondering if you guys could give me any tips.
TOM: Jeff, that sulfur smell may not be coming from the well; it could be coming from the water heater. Have you considered that?
JEFF: No, sir.
TOM: Because if the anode in the water heater is wearing away, that can result in a very strong sulfur odor. Have you noticed if the sulfur odor is more prevalent in the hot water or the cold?
JEFF: Hot. Yes, sir. It is.
TOM: Yeah. I don’t think it’s the well at all; I think it’s your water heater.
JEFF: Oh, wow. That would be great. OK. What’s the solution?
TOM: Now, you can replace the anode in the water heater.
TOM: It basically unbolts from the top of the water heater. If you look at the top of the water heater, you’ll see what looks like a big hex nut. And you can unscrew that, pull out the old rod and put in a new one.
JEFF: Oh, OK.
TOM: So I think you might be looking at the wrong place for the source. I think the problem is the water heater and not the well.
JEFF: Well, I will sure try that. That’ll be a simple fix for me.
TOM: It certainly will be. It’s called a "sacrificial anode" for that reason. You sacrifice a little bit every time, for all the time that it’s in there. And at some point, sometimes it develops the point where it has a sulfur smell.
If you add a replacement anode to there, that should help alleviate the sulfur smell. Because, essentially, what’s happening is the anode contributes to the production of hydrogen-sulfide gas and that’s what has that nasty, rotten-egg odor to it. OK?
JEFF: Well, I really do appreciate that. Man, I appreciate you taking my call. I sure do.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And it’s time now for today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron, makers of the Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve been washing your clothes with machines that are more than a few years old, you’re probably missing out on some very significant energy savings. Today’s high-efficiency, energy-saving washing machines, they use about a third of the energy of our older machines. But even if you have those older washer and dryers, you can actually still save some money with a few ways that you actually use those machines.
TOM: First, you want to make sure that you use lower settings rather than hot water and high-temp drying. In most cases, your clothes will get just as clean.
Now, there are specific cold-water detergents on the market that will do the job. And you want to make sure that the thermostat on your water heater is set to about 120 and not higher. And also, don’t do laundry if you don’t have a full load, because small loads waste both power and water.
LESLIE: That’s right. Now, when it comes time to actually do the drying, you want to try and separate the clothes by their fabric. Synthetics, they’re going to dry much faster and you can use a shorter cycle. Also, you don’t want to over-dry your clothes. Not only does over-drying wear out your clothing faster, if you take them out when they’re slightly damp, you can smooth out any of those wrinkles by hand. And you can hang them to dry completely and then skip the ironing, which is awesome.
TOM: And that’s today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron. Easy upgrades, big impact. Choose Lutron. Learn more at ChooseLutron.com.
LESLIE: Linda in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LINDA: Yes. This is an old house and in the basement – on the wall, which was fieldstone – in the past, they had painted it with whitewash or – that’s what it was called back then.
LINDA: And no matter what kind of paint I’ve applied, if flakes off.
TOM: Hmm. Yeah, because it’s damp and wet, that’s why. Yeah. You can’t just – if you put any kind of regular paint on that, it’s going to do that. You have to use a basement wall paint. It’s a lot stickier and it can handle the dampness of that wall.
Now, you could also take steps to reduce the dampness by improving your drainage outside. But if you put typical wall paint on the stone, it is going to flake off, because water and paint don’t go well together. And those stones are like little sponges and the paint’s just going to peel right off of it.
So, what you want to use is a basement wall paint. And it’s really smelly but it’s really sticky.
TOM: And it’s …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s going to stick to where you need it.
TOM: It will last a lot longer. Does that make sense, Linda?
LINDA: Oh, it certainly does.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, when it comes to your home’s wiring, that is one area that you can never let slide. We’re going to have some safe-wiring tips, after this.
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LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: You know, the demand for green products today has caused the market to truly explode with options. But how can you tell whether a product is truly green or just, as we say, green-washed, has perhaps some made-up green credentials? Well, all you need to do is go to our website at MoneyPit.com and we can help sort that out. Just search "truly green" and you’ll find five telltale signs to determine whether your product is actually kind to the Earth or just using it as a marketing gimmick.
And while you’re there, be sure to stop by the Community section, just like Patricia did from Alabama.
LESLIE: Alright. And Patricia wrote in: "I know granite countertops are still all the rage in kitchens but I’ve heard that they can emit radon. Is this true?"
TOM: Well, it is true that in some circumstances, they can emit the tiniest amount of radon but I have never, ever run into a situation or seen evidence of a situation or read about a home where the radon level was so high it caused the occupants to have to take any adverse action whatsoever. I mean it’s true that it could have radon. So could stone in your fireplace, frankly. But it’s so rare and the levels are so low, I would certainly not worry about it.
If you are concerned about radon, what you should do is you should test your house for radon. And there’s a couple of ways to do that but initially, you want to do what’s called a "short-term test." And you can order a radon kit online. The radon kits are not expensive; I’m thinking 25, 30 bucks. You expose the kit in your house. You put it on the lowest living space.
So, what does that mean? Well, if you’ve got a basement, even if it’s unfinished, we would consider that the lowest living space, so you set it down there. During the testing period of time, you need to leave all the windows and doors closed in the house except for normal entry and exit. That’s why this is a really good time to do that because, naturally, you are keeping the house somewhat closed up.
And then you’ll send it to a lab and the lab will read the test, send you back a report. And you’re going to look for the level of radon. And if it’s 4.0 picocuries per liter of air or more, you take some action. And if it’s less, you don’t have to worry about it. And that’s how it’s done.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it really is worth it and the test is super-easy to use, Patricia. So don’t worry about those countertops.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Janine in Missouri who wrote in: "I have booth seating in my eat-in kitchen. Can you recommend a fabric that’s stain-resistant and super-strong to reupholster the booth? I don’t want it to look like a cheap, 1970s diner." Drat! Because I was going to totally say vinyl.
TOM: Yeah. With big flowers on it.
LESLIE: Yeah. Or something that looks like from a bicycle seat: speckly, sparkly, something like that.
No. You know what, Janine? I think it’s funny, because one of the easiest solutions is something that people overlook when it comes to furnishings for your interior, whether it’s a sofa or a breakfast nook or upholstered seating like that. It’s indoor/outdoor fabric, only because this stuff is made to be outside, it’s made to get rained on and snowed on and get dirty and be cleaned and have things spilled on it.
So, anything that’s rated truly for outdoor use – Sunbrella is a brand that people are most familiar with. But every fabric manufacturer makes their own line of exterior-rated fabrics that can look like anything from a beautiful tweed to a terrycloth to a print to something solid. So it doesn’t have to look like, "Ooh, I’m at an outdoor luau." It can be really gorgeous, it can be very simple. Prices really do vary per yard. You can find something in the $20 to $30 range to well over $100. Kravet has a beautiful line of exterior fabrics.
So, don’t limit yourself to something that you might think is necessary for that space. Think indoor/outdoor and you’ll have a great-looking kitchen.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show continues online at MoneyPit.com.
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 2012 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.)