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 with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We are in that very fun time now between the major holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas or whatever else you celebrate at the end of the year. And so now is a good time to think about some improvement projects that you can get done quickly, say, within a day or two, to fix up your house for the next year; for 2011. I mean what’s on your to-do list? Let’s get a jump on it right now. We are here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, there are some improvements that you can put off and there are other repairs that you just can’t let go and repairing cracks in concrete is one of them. You know, the longer you wait, the bigger that project is going to get. So we’ve got some tips this hour to make that project go very, very smoothly. We’re going to show you how, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And since we’re spending more time indoors this time of year, you might be starting to notice some things around your house that just don’t seem right, like nail pops, cracks or even gaps in your walls. It could be showing your home’s age but don’t worry because most of the time, these are just cosmetic issues and they’re easily fixed. And they’ll stay fixed if you do it right.
So coming up, we’ve got the right tools and techniques to help you with this project.
TOM: And Leslie, it is once again time to roll out the holly.
TOM: Get those holiday decorations out early, so you can enjoy them all season long. So we’ve got some tips on safe and sound decorating coming up.
LESLIE: Plus, we’ve got a great prize to give away this hour which – it’s pretty awesome and you might want to keep it for yourself or you might want to gift it. We’ve got the Stanley 3-in1 Tripod Flashlight. It’s a prize worth about 30 bucks and it really does make a great gift, even if it’s a gift for yourself.
TOM: Gift or regift, doesn’t matter. A great prize going to go out to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. And the phones are lighting up like a Christmas tree, so let’s get right to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Renee from North Carolina on the line who is looking to update some finishes. What can we do for you today?
RENEE: Our home was built in the 80s. All the finishes in our home are brass, down to our doorknobs, light fixtures and hinges on our doors. I’d like to update some of those finishes. Obviously, I can’t change everything out. What is the best metal to go to when you want to update your home but you are not able to do everything?
LESLIE: Hmm. You’d actually be surprised to hear that brass is kind of making a comeback, so if you kind of hang in there …
TOM: But not at Renee’s house.
RENEE: But yeah.
LESLIE: I know you’re probably so tired of it but it’s actually seeing a resurgence; this sort of high-polished brass. Even an antique brass. But I think a lot of people are leaning towards antique bronzes or that oil-rubbed bronze, which has like a black-ish, sort of antique-y finish to it that looks kind of neutral, if you will. I feel like something that’s not so shiny is a little bit better to stand the test of time; more like a satin nickel or something in the silver family that doesn’t have too much of a sheen to it.
With faucets and fixtures, you want to make sure that whatever color that you go with has a coating on it that will allow that finish to really stand the test of time because sometimes faucets, whether they’re for a sink or a tub, they can be on the higher end price-wise. And you want to make sure that that finish isn’t going to rub off or wear over time or start to change its patina as it ages.
I don’t think you need to do everything at once but I will say that if you do tackle anything, tackle it as a suite; handle an entire bathroom at once. Don’t sort of leave a brass fixture and then add a satin-nickel faucet, because it’s going to seem kind of weird.
RENEE: OK. Great. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Renee. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Russ in Maine needs some help making a home purchase. How can we help you with that big purchase?
RUSS: Yeah, I have some questions about radiant heat. I’m looking at a home on a lake or as we would say in Maine here, a camp.
RUSS: We’re looking at a camp, whether it’s 4,000 square feet or not. And the people who own it have been going to Florida in the winter for the last, probably, five or six years.
RUSS: And for the first few, they kept it warm in the winter and – but for the last couple of years, they’ve shut it all down and pickled it. And so I want to make sure when I go look at this, that I’m looking at all the right things, to make sure that I’m not stepping into a broken system.
TOM: Is the heat on now or is it not on?
RUSS: This time of year – they also have a gas stove and they may be using just that, so I don’t know if they’re using that or not.
TOM: OK. Well, look, you’re not going to be able to tell whether or not the radiant heat is functioning properly unless it, in fact, is turned on.
LESLIE: Until you fire it up.
TOM: So, whatever you do in terms of buying or not buying this house, you need a contingency that says at some point before closing – and hopefully well before closing – that heat has to be turned back on and thoroughly checked out by a professional. Because there’s just absolutely no way that you can sit there and stare at those floors and know if the water is traveling through those pipes the way it should be, with no breaks or cracks or leaks.
Because I will tell you that radiant heat is fantastic; it’s a wonderful heat to have until it breaks and then it’s quite a job to get it fixed.
LESLIE: It’s a huge fix.
RUSS: Alright. Well thank you very much for the help.
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. Let us be part of your holiday home improvements. Give us a call and we’ll help you get your house in tip-top shape – since the big holidays are upon us – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to give you a hand.
Up next, concrete is a very durable material that can even hold water, as long as it is intact. But if you’ve got cracks in the concrete surface of a pool, a basement wall or a bird fountain, we’ve got the info to plug that leak for good and that’s next.
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 on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we’d love for you to be part of The Money Pit, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And this hour, not only are you going to get an answer to your home improvement question but we’re giving away a great prize to one lucky caller-inner.
We’ve got the 3-in-1 LED Tripod Flashlight. It’s from our friends over at Stanley and it’s got a really cool, hands-free, tripod design. And it’s got three flashlights that you can sort of take apart and use them separately or join their forces and make one super-powerful flashlight. The lenses are shatterproof, so it’s great for your home improvement projects or toddlers, depending on what you’ve got going on at your house.
It’s worth about 30 bucks but you can win yours for free if we pick you at random from The Money Pit hard hat this hour, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
This would make an awesome gift, Leslie, if anyone’s asking what I’d like for the holiday season.
LESLIE: Oh, do I need to be taking a note for Tom’s Christmas gift this year?
TOM: You can put that in my list. No, seriously, I took one of these Stanley 3-in-1s to the Boy Scout Jamboree this past summer; 45,000 scouts in one camp site. We needed a lot of flashlights and this was an absolute must-have for an experience like that.
It’s also real handy. We used it over at a house that we own. We had to do a repair under a kitchen sink. No problem; just set it up and it illuminated the whole thing, because it comes with its own tripod stand. So it worked really, really well. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, concrete and masonry are both very durable construction materials that can last a long time and hold up to the elements. But the experts at QUIKRETE tell us that despite the best construction methods, any concrete construction can eventually develop cracks. And once you’ve got a crack, you need to worry about leaks and then it’s a vicious cycle, because the leak will make the crack bigger. So, the sooner you can fix the crack, the better.
LESLIE: Now, if those cracks happen to be in your basement and on the basement wall, you want to first make sure that the water is generally draining away from your foundation and not coming into your basement. Then you can tackle that repair.
Now, a good product for this job is QUIKRETE Hydraulic Water-Stop Cement. It sets in minutes and it’s designed to plug those leaks in concrete and masonry instantly. Now, you can use it above or below grade, so that’s great. And when you’re repairing a crack, you actually have to make that crack bigger first with a hammer and a chisel.
TOM: And that’s psychologically difficult to do.
LESLIE: I know.
TOM: Because you don’t want to make it any bigger but if you don’t widen it out, then the concrete-repair material doesn’t have anything to kind of grab onto.
LESLIE: Exactly. So if you’re dealing with, you know, a sort of thin crack, you want to widen it to about ¾-of-an-inch deep and the same width; that’s truly the best. Then you want to be sure to get all of that loose material out with a wire brush and then the QUIKRETE Hydraulic Water-Stop Cement should be mixed to a dough-like consistency and then you push it into the cracks.
And once it dries, you’re all set, literally.
TOM: And if you want more tips on how to repair projects just like this, you can log-on to QUIKRETE.com or pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Brandy in California is calling in about a sprinkler issue. Tell us what’s going on.
BRANDY: Yeah, we have this issue with our sprinklers when they go on and when they switch from the front sprinklers to the back sprinklers. It makes a loud knocking sound; so loud that it wakes us up in the middle of the night. And we just want to figure out how to fix it.
TOM: What does it sound like?
BRANDY: What does it sound like? Just like if you hit the wall; a loud – just one loud knock.
TOM: OK. Well, it’s probably the valves.
BRANDY: OK. That’s what we thought.
TOM: Yeah, there’s a valve that basically, because of a timer, basically takes one – you know, one zone goes on and then the valve shuts that one off and another one comes on. So I’m sure it’s the valve that’s clanking on and clanking off. What you could do is you could manually turn on the zones and see if you can replicate that sound and certainly could identify which valve is making the noise and replace it. It shouldn’t be a big deal.
BRANDY: Oh, OK. So just replace the valve?
TOM: Yeah, replace that part of the control.
TOM: It should be a minor repair for a sprinkler contractor.
BRANDY: OK. Huh, OK. So we’ll look into that. Is there anything else that could be causing it?
TOM: No, I think that’s it. I mean you’re saying it’s switching from front to back. It’s basically going from one zone to the next; that’s when you hear the sound and that’s obviously when the valve is opening up.
BRANDY: OK. And aside from it just waking us up, is there any other problem it could cause if it …?
TOM: No. Nope. Just a lack of sleep.
LESLIE: Which is a problem enough, itself.
BRANDY: Alright. So nothing to worry about; we don’t have to worry about any pipes bursting or anything.
TOM: If you had a burst pipe, you would know it because there’d be water everywhere.
LESLIE: Donna in Texas is dealing with a moldy smell coming from a crawlspace. Tell us about it.
DONNA: Yeah. When we bought our house about three or four months ago, we noticed – as we were looking at the house and then after we moved into the house – that there’s just really a pretty significant odor when you come into the house. And it is just kind of a moldy, mildewy, old-house smell. The house was built in about ’84 and it’s got [pure beam] (ph). It’s [pure beam] (ph), obviously.
TOM: And it’s not that old.
DONNA: Yeah, it’s not that old to be smelling that old, let me tell you now.
TOM: Right, exactly. Now what’s it built on? Is it on a crawlspace?
DONNA: Yes, it’s got a pretty good-sized crawlspace under there. It’s probably about 4 foot, 3 feet, 4 foot tall.
DONNA: It’s on the slope so it does get some drainage from other areas, which we have worked to move to where it doesn’t come in that much to the house.
TOM: Right. So …
DONNA: And there were French drains in place when we first got here but we think they probably have been kind of eaten through by roots and things out there in the yard. We’re actually going to dig those up, because I think they’re just not working anymore, quite frankly.
LESLIE: Well, generally, the situation when you get a mold or a musty smell coming from a crawlspace, that sort of inundates the house, it just means that you’ve got a moisture issue and you know this. So, what you really need to do is address the moisture outside and you’re right spot-on to look at this French drain and see what’s going on and see what’s happening with the root system.
But also, kind of a first step would be check your gutters. Make sure that you have gutters on this house, make sure that you have downspouts, that the downspouts on the gutters aren’t clogged and then you want to look where the downspouts deposit that water. Are they connected to that drainage system? Are they buried underground? You want to make sure that everything’s connected and that the downspout doesn’t just drop the water right next to the foundation with one of those splash guards. You really want it to move that water, maybe, 4 feet, 5 feet away from that foundation wall, just to get it away from that house.
Then you also want to look at the grading. You said there’s a slope, so look at all the flower beds and whatever soil is around the perimeter of the foundation and make sure that it slopes away from the house. And you want like a gradual slope, so you can go down maybe 6 inches over 4 feet and that’ll do a great job of moving that water away.
Now, with crawlspaces, Tom, you can get a crawlspace dehumidifier or even a humidistat for down there, right?
TOM: Well, yeah. What you would do is you would put a fan into the crawlspace vent – and there are fans that are actually made to fit inside the crawlspace vent – and that is hooked up to a humidistat so that whenever the humidity gets high in the crawlspace, it comes on.
DONNA: OK. OK. Fantastic. Well, I think you might have solved our problem then.
TOM: Well, we’re happy to help. Donna, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Tim in Delaware needs some help with an insulation question. What can we do for you?
TIM: Well, I have a basement crawlspace and what’s the best way to insulate it? Right now it’s just nothing there.
TOM: So it’s a crawlspace or a basement?
TIM: It’s actually a – on one side, I have a full walk-in basement.
TIM: And on the other side, there’s actually a crawlspace; looks like a half-finished basement. But I can see …
TIM: Looking into the other side, it’s like a crawlspace.
TOM: Alright. In the crawlspace area, you should insulate the floor from below. So if you have like 2×8 floor joists, you should put 8-inch-thick batts of fiberglass insulation in there and they can be held up with insulation supports, which look like kind of small wires that sort of get springy in between the floor joists.
TIM: Right, I’ve seen those. OK.
TOM: Right. That’s the best way to insulate that. As far as the basement …
TIM: How about the pipes? There’s some pipes down there.
TOM: Not necessary. Generally not necessary to insulate the pipes.
TIM: Let the pipes go?
TOM: Yeah, mm-hmm. But insulating the floor is going to make you a lot more comfortable upstairs.
TIM: I have oil heat; oil-like steam heat, I guess.
TOM: OK. Right.
TIM: Is that going to be OK?
TOM: Sure, I don’t see why not. Now, as far as the basement, the only place you really need to insulate an unfinished basement is the box joist, which is above the wall all the way around. If you decide to put walls in, like finished walls, and you’re going to frame them out, then you could put insulation in the framed walls. But other than that, you should just insulate the box joist right above the foundation.
TIM: Now, I’ve seen a place where they’ve actually taken like plastic and they’ve staple-gunned it between the joists after they put the insulation. Is that recommended or no?
TOM: No, I would do not do that because, if you’re talking about the crawlspace, the vapor barrier goes between the insulation and the living space.
TOM: Which means it would be above the insulation; against the underside of the floor, not below it.
TOM: Because if you put it below it, you’re going to trap moisture in that space and …
LESLIE: And you’re going to reduce the R-value.
TIM: Got you. OK. Alright, I think that’ll do it for me. That’s all there is to it. There’s nothing – just besides that, there’s nothing and no other tricks we’ve got to do?
TOM: Nope. Nope, it’s a good project and one you can get done in a weekend.
TIM: Sounds great. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Like it sounds like Tim wanted it to be more difficult.
TOM: Yeah, he did. No, that’s pretty straightforward. You want to be careful with the insulation. Obviously, you want to wear a dust mask and long sleeves and gloves and safety glasses. But an insulation project is not that hard to do and some insulation products today, they have a different sort of weave to them.
LESLIE: Big payoff.
TOM: So they’re not really as stringy as the old-fashioned fiberglass used to be. They’re more like a wool. Encapsulated insulation, it’s called.
TOM: Yep. Easy project and very cost-effective and a great return on investment.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, nail pops, cracks and gaps, all are wall issues that show the signs of a home’s age. Well, the good news is they’re not at all hard to repair, if you’ve got the right tools and the techniques to do the job.
Coming up, This Old House contractor, Tom Silva, is joining us with the tips and the tricks.
TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Trewax; Trewax All-Natural Hardwood Floor Cleaner. We’ll be back with tips from Tom Silva, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by SnowBlowersDirect.com. Thinking about getting a snow blower? Check out SnowBlowersDirect.com’s interactive buying guides, recommendations and customer reviews. Snow blower experts are available to help you pick the perfect snow blower. Visit SnowBlowersDirect.com.
TOM: Where home solutions live, 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 with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
And if you use your garage as a second entryway into your home, you might want to think about making that space a little more homey with paint. Find out how to do this project when you visit MoneyPit.com and search “painting garage walls for a warmer welcome.” That’s online at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get back to the phones.
LESLIE: Howard in Texas lost a skylight to an unfortunate hail storm. And you’re thinking about replacing it. How can we help you with that project?
HOWARD: Well, I have to replace it.
LESLIE: Well, yeah.
HOWARD: And my question is, I had a bubble-type skylight and I’m wondering if that’s what I should replace it with or should I go with a more flat surface on a skylight?
TOM: Yeah. You know, I’m surprised the bubble skylight lasted that long, Howard. They’re really not very good skylights.
HOWARD: The bubbles?
TOM: They’re very minimal in terms of quality and they frequently leak or they get foggy. So I would definitely not replace it with a bubble light again.
What I would use is either an Andersen, a Pella or a VELUX; all great brands. And what I like about all of them is that they have a mechanical flashing system, so they don’t rely on adhesives to seal them to the roof and remain leak-free. You install it much like you install a roof.
LESLIE: Can you, with a skylight, get your glass to be impact-resistant since Texas is known to be a storm kind of area?
TOM: Absolutely. I mean you certainly could order that. It will be a more expensive skylight that way but you certainly could order impact-resistant glass in a skylight.
HOWARD: OK. So Andersen, Pella or – what was the third?
TOM: VELUX – V-E-L-U-X. All great brands.
HOWARD: V-E-L-U-X. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Howard. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve got cracks, holes and nail pops, which are showing your home’s age, your walls could probably use a little TLC.
TOM: And the good news is that’s something that you probably can do yourself, because drywall repair is a fairly easy DIY project, if you use the right materials. Joining us now with tips on how to do just that is This Old House general contractor, Tom Silva.
TOM SILVA: Hey, how are you? Nice to be here.
TOM: Now, listen, drywall repairs – got to be one of the most common home maintenance chores that we have to take on as homeowners. As durable as we like our walls to be, they really do take the dents and the dings pretty easily. Not to mention all of the cracks and the nail pops that open up from the movement of the walls in the house; just the sort of life that the house has all by itself.
But you can fix them and it’s not that hard to do. Can you give us some tips?
TOM SILVA: It’s not that hard to do. There are three most common types of repairs that are needed, like nail popping, holes – you take a picture off a wall or maybe a kid threw something at the wall, like a ball or something – and some cracks from the house moving.
TOM: Alright. Alright. Well let’s start by talking about the nail pops, because this is the one that I think fascinates most people. The nails that hold the drywall in place actually do move and they’ll back out of the hole that they were originally driven into.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. They can actually pop out of the wall. A screw can do the same thing. Lots of times, that nail will pop because it doesn’t hit the stud correctly or it just gets the sides and wings by it and it will pop out.
LESLIE: And you know that these are nail pops, generally, because you’re going to see them in a vertical line; they’re going to be exactly where that stud is. So that’s pretty much the signal that that’s what it is, right?
TOM SILVA: Exactly. So what I like to do is I actually pull the nails out but I put another nail right beside it. I make sure that it goes into the stud; I don’t want that nail to back out at all. I also want to make sure I use a ring-shank nail or a screw, alright?
TOM SILVA: And then you want to cover that hole with a spackle or a joint compound.
TOM: Alright. Now what about cracks? Because those are things – when people see them, they think, “Oh, my God.”
LESLIE: Yeah, they get nervous.
TOM: They’re nervous; they think their house is falling in around them but that kind of movement also can be fairly normal in a house.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. Yet sometimes you get cracking in the corner; you’ll get it over the corner or the edges of doors, over the headers of windows and stuff like that. And that – just basic movement of the house, the temperature changes, the frost, the cold, the heat, the wind. All those kinds of things move your house.
And to fix those, I like to scrape out the crack a little bit. I put some compound in it and tape over the crack with a good, heavy, fiberglass mesh tape and then a couple of layers of joint compound on top of that, sand it and then problem solved.
TOM: Now, the fiberglass tape is that perforated tape. Because one of the tricky parts of using the old paper tape is getting that even layer of plaster underneath, correct? But the fiberglass tape eliminates all that.
TOM SILVA: Right. A lot of people, when they use the paper tape, they put it on top of the joint compound but the joint compound may have set up a little bit. And it’s a little dry; you don’t get good adhesion, so the paper tape will bubble off.
LESLIE: Now what about when you’re dealing with a hole in the drywall? Does it matter the size of the hole, the method of repairing or is there really one plan of attack for everything?
TOM SILVA: I have a special – in dealing with a hole. I don’t – I’ve actually cut my patch and I make my patch fit the hole. So I cut a patch, I hold it on the wall, I scribe around it, I cut the hole and then my patch fits perfectly.
TOM: So you open up the wall to fit the patch.
TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly. So I find an old, scrap piece of drywall around, maybe from an old window opening or I go to a lumber yard and maybe find a piece there or even an old job site. I basically put a couple of pieces of strapping in behind the wall, put my hand in the hole and just put it up against it and screw a screw right through it; right through the drywall, into the strapping. And then I slide my patch into place and I take an old screen wire out of an old screen or even some fiberglass tape, put it around the hole, mud it in and sand it and a couple of layers of joint compound and patch it. The hole is done.
TOM: We’re talking to Tom Silva, the general contractor from TV’s This Old House. Now, Tom, you mentioned before, spackle and joint compound. Is there a difference or are they interchangeable?
TOM SILVA: Well, you can use both but I think spackle is more for a smaller job.
TOM SILVA: And the joint compound comes in 5-gallon buckets. You can do a whole house with a bunch of 5-gallon buckets.
TOM: Plus, they make a great place to sit down to eat lunch on.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
TOM: Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: It is my pleasure.
TOM: For more tips and a step-by-step article on how to take care of the walls in your home, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: And you can always watch Tommy and the entire This Old House team, on This Old House and Ask This Old House, on your local PBS station.
TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by Bostitch. Quality, durability and reliability, that’s Bostitch.
Up next, news flash: it’s less than a month until Christmas. But not to worry, we’ll have your safe-and-sound holiday decorating tips, after this.
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: And you should pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because we’ve got a great reason for you to do just that. We’re giving away the 3-in-1 LED Tripod Flashlight from Stanley. It is absolutely my favorite flashlight I’ve ever had. It’s got a hands-free tripod design with three flashlights that can be used separately or as one powerful light. The lenses are totally shatterproof. It’s worth about 30 bucks but you can win yours if we pick your name at random from the callers who get on the air with us this hour. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
And this would make a fantastic holiday gift. In fact, we’ve got a list of great holiday gifts for all those handy folks in your life, online right now at MoneyPit.com. Just look for the Holiday Gift Guide.
LESLIE: Alright. And speaking of the holidays, really, this weekend is the perfect time to pull out all of your holiday decorations and get your home super-festive for the holiday season. But before you deck the halls and trim the tree, follow this advice for safe decorating.
First of all, before you get out all of those holiday lights and start decorating everything, make sure you test them indoors and out. Make sure that they’re all working and make sure that the lights themselves are marked with a UL label, which stands for Underwriters Laboratories. And it gives the seal of approval.
And if you’re using them outside, make sure they’re marked for outdoor usage, if that’s where you’re going to use them. If you’ve tried to put indoor ones out there, they’re going to short; they’re never going to work.
And then you want to make sure that each strand is clear of damaged and frayed wires. And if you really have any doubts about the strand or it’s kind of flickering or doing something weird, just throw them out. Or if you can recycle them in your area, go ahead and do so.
And remember that those strands of lights, they’ve become so inexpensive that it’s best to be safe and just get yourself a new strand. I mean really, why take a risk?
TOM: Yeah, that’s right. But on the box of those strands of light, there’s always one very misleading statement. It says, “Lights stay on if one goes out.”
TOM: Well, the truth is, yes, they’ll stay on if the light bulb burns out but that almost never happens. What typically happens is those bulbs get loose in the socket and if the bulb gets loose in the socket, guess what? The whole string goes dead.
So, if you find out that you have a strand that’s not lighting, you want to gently press each bulb in to make sure that it’s secure. I cannot tell you how many times I have saved strands of light by doing just that. Because think about it, as you wrap them up, take them off the tree at the end of last year, they may tend to loosen up. But if you press them back in, it will work just fine.
Now, to help with energy costs, you want to keep those outdoor light displays – you know, the kind that you can see from Mars – on a timer, so that they’ll turn on and off on their own. And for inside light displays, just remember, folks, never leave the lights on when you’re not at home. Some lights can become very hot to the touch. You never know when you’re going to get a short circuit or something like that that could cause a fire hazard, especially with the dried-out branches on the tree.
So, be safe and be merry at the same time.
LESLIE: Jeff in South Carolina is dealing with some squeaky floors. Tell us about it.
JEFF: This house, I had built four years ago. It has white oak, hardwood floors and on two outside walls, they’ve started to creak a little bit. It’s not the floor structure, which is Trus Joist high beams with OSB subflooring.
And I’m not sure if the subcontractor who put the floor, put down the rosin paper or not. I wasn’t there when they did that. So, this problem has really been ongoing; not just developed lately.
TOM: Alright. Well, listen, wood floors that are creaking in a four-year-old house is not the least bit unusual. Now, are these finished floors – like solid hardwood – or is it plywood that’s like under carpet or something of that nature?
JEFF: Oh, no, no, no. This is a white oak; Grade A, white oak, tongue-and-groove, yeah.
TOM: A white oak, OK. OK. So you’re going to have a fair amount of movement. What happens is, Jeff, you’re going to get some shrinkage when it first goes down; you’re going to get some movement. The nails that are holding that down to the floor structure are going to loosen.
You get two kinds of squeaks: you get a squeak where the tongue and the groove move together and rub together and cause friction and you get a squeak when the nail sort of moves in and out of the wood.
JEFF: I see.
TOM: Now, the only way to fix this is to secure the white oak boards better down to the subfloor and hopefully the floor joist below.
JEFF: So, basically, I have to face-nail them?
TOM: No, well, you could face-nail them or you could screw them with trim screws and you could plug them.
So, a trim screw would be a better option, because it’s a really tiny screw and it’s more firm and once you put it in, it doesn’t pull out.
LESLIE: It’d be more permanent.
TOM: If it’s a – kind of just one minor area, you can drive a finish nail. You’d have to predrill this but you can drive a finish nail – like a number 10 or 12 or even bigger – on a slight angle and make sure you go down through the oak floor and into the floor joist below and that will tighten that up.
But the best thing to do is to use screws and if you can’t get trim screws, you can use regular screws. You’re just going to have to counterbore it and plug it. So, it’s a bit of a wood-finishing project but I would tackle the noisiest, loosest areas first; secure those down and then move from there. But it’s going to be sort of ongoing. When you have a wood floor like that, it’s not unusual for it to squeak and those squeaks rarely mean that anything serious is happening structurally.
JEFF: So, I can either tackle the project or live with the squeak.
TOM: Pretty much. Yep. You can consider it charm.
JEFF: Well, folks, thank you so much.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Frances from North Dakota on the line, calling in about grading for a basement. What can we do for you?
FRANCES: Hi. Yes, I have an older home and I have a large pine tree in the front yard. And I was wondering if it’d be OK to put more soil around the foundation of the home, to grade it down to the curb of the street.
TOM: Well, it’s always a good idea to have positive drainage away from the foundation perimeter. If you’re going to add soil and you’re adding soil to improve your drainage, you want to add clean fill dirt, not topsoil because topsoil will hold a lot of water.
LESLIE: And just give you more moisture in that basement.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. And that’s designed for planting. But clean fill dirt, that would be the hot ticket and it’s the least expensive way.
And then after you’re done with the grading, you can add a little bit of topsoil, just to support some grass or some stone or whatever else you want to put on top of it. But you build it up with the clean fill first.
FRANCES: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much for your program. I listen to you all the time.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Frances. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, your dryer works day in and day out to keep the clean clothes coming but it needs to be lint-free to keep it from becoming a serious fire hazard. And that means going further than just cleaning that lint trap. We’ve got tips on the easy way to get that project done, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.
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: And MoneyPit.com is your one-stop resource for information on all your home improvement questions. We’ve got ideas, we’ve got solutions and we have an entire community of home improvers standing by to help answer your questions because, let’s face it, we can’t get to them all but we’ve got a lot of help. And it’s all online and free at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: That’s right. And you know what else is free? The answers to your questions. So while you’re at MoneyPit.com, make sure you e-mail us your question if you’re feeling a little too shy to call in.
And I’ve got an e-mail here from Linda who writes: “My dryer vent is running under my house that’s built on a slab. Since it’s such a long run, it’s hard to clean the lint. I’m venting on the inside of the garage with a device that catches it in a large container, with a small amount of water.” Man, your garage must be super-humid. “I have to keep emptying it, which I can do with no problem, but I’m wondering about the items stored in my garage, like blankets and clothing. Will this device cause moisture damage in the walls and the stored items?”
TOM: Well, yes. I mean first of all, you should not be venting your dryer into your garage, under any circumstances, because you’re dumping all of that lint into the garage. You’re also dumping all of that moisture. Remember, what’s in the dryer vent – the dryer exhaust duct – is moisture; it’s steam, it’s humid air. And once it hits that unconditioned, chilly garage space, especially in the cold weather, it’s going to condense, it’ll get damp, you could grow mold; it’s a real mess. So you really out to think about rerouting that to the outside.
The second thing is, you really need to keep it clean. There are thousands and thousands of dryer fires every single year. And if you don’t clean out not only the lint trap on the dryer itself but the entire run of dryer exhaust duct, it can become very, very dangerous and a very serious fire hazard.
LESLIE: Yeah, it is true. And you know what? I know, Tom, you’ve helped me with this before but with our house, even though we have such a short run, I’ve noticed that every so often, my house coughs up tumble lint, meaning that the dryer vent itself, from the part in the wall to the exterior, sometimes gets clogged.
And Tom, you turned me onto a great product, which really does an awesome job of cleaning it out. What is it, the Gardus Lint Eater?
TOM: Yes, it’s the Lint Eater; their website is LintEater.com. Basically a flexible brush on a long, fiberglass rod. You hook it up to your drill, you can feed it through the entire run of duct and it really pulls out everything that’s in there. You do that every six months and you’ll be totally safe.
LESLIE: Really? Every six months?
TOM: Yeah, I think so. Every six months, especially if you’ve got an active family like you do and like we do. We’re really running that laundry almost 24/7 it feels like sometimes.
LESLIE: Hmm. Alright. Well, I hope that helps you out, Linda, and it really is actually a fun project to take on. You’ll be amazed what comes out of that dryer vent. Don’t be embarrassed; there’s a lot of lint in there and it’s kind of a good joke upon yourself when you see what comes out of there. Maybe, in fact, that missing sock is in there.
Alright. Dennis from New York writes: “We live in a split-level home. We find a large collection of dust every few days, in the bedroom. The house, in general, is a dusty house. A new oil-burner with an oil hot-water system was installed last year. All year long, the dust accumulates on the furniture. What can we do?”
TOM: Well, if you installed a new oil burner – and I’m assuming here that you have a forced-air system – the one thing that you didn’t install, Dennis, it sounds like, is an electronic air cleaner. And if you do that, you’re going to find a major reduction in the amount of dust, because all the system is going to do without good air filtration is recirculate it. You will get – because of condensation, you get different types of convective air loops and so you’ll very frequently get dust that will settle in one area and dirty a wall, for example, and not another area or dirty a carpet.
So, what I would think about doing is adding a good-quality, electronic air cleaner to the HVAC system. These air cleaners today are so good, they can take out even virus-size particles. Taking dust out? Not a problem. It can handle that completely.
LESLIE: Do you think it’s possible that there’s no filter there at all?
TOM: Well, I think it’s possible that there’s either no filter or maybe he’s using one of the fiberglass filters which, frankly, doesn’t do very much.
LESLIE: Which really doesn’t do anything. Alright. Well, go in there. Check it out, Dennis, because I bet you it’s a simple solution. And if you go with a whole-house air cleaner, you’ll have to clean far less.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us.
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 2010 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.)