- If we had to name a project that can really change the look of a kitchen, or even a bath, replacing the countertop would be high on the list! But while removing and replacing a countertop is a costly and complicated project, simply restoring the surface with a stone coating is not. We show you how to do it in a weekend!
- There’s nothing like a good, steamy shower – BUT too much moisture can cause paint to peel, and mold to grow. We’ll share a solution to keep that moisture in check.
- Consumer Reports runs thousands of products through thousands of tests every year to ﬁnd the ones that provide the best performance and value. But they also point out many to avoid. We’ll share appliances that earned the not-so-prestigious do-NOT-buy recommendation.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Brian from Delaware and wants to know more about the best water softening systems to get rid of hardwater.
- Marta in Iowa has concrete steps that are separating from her driveway and needs a solution.
- Doug in Texas has a 30-year-old home and wants to know the best way to add insulation to his attic.
- Susan from Pennsylvania wants to know how to scare off a woodpecker eating away her home.
- Anthony is calling in with an odor coming from his stove top.
- Alberta from Arkansas wants to make it easier to open up her vinyl drop down windows.
- David from Oklahoma is asking how to clean his HVAC vents without spreading dust throughout the house.
- Jeff in Delaware is having a sulfur odor coming from his well even after having a filter installed.
- Joyce from Missouri needs help refreshing the grout on her ceramic tile.
- Josh in California needs help replacing 45-year-old copper piping with Pex.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And what are you working on this weekend? You’ve got a project you’d like to get done? Well, we’d like to help.
Couple of ways to get in touch with us: pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT – that’s 888-666-3974 – or post your questions to MoneyPit.com. Because that’s what we do. We help you take on your do-it-yourself dilemmas. Trying to decide if you want to do it yourself or hire a pro? We can sort that out. Need a source to pick up a part, pick up an idea for your project? We might be able to help you with that, as well. So reach out to us with your home improvement questions.
Coming up on today’s show, if we had to name a project that can really change the look of a kitchen or even a bath, replacing the countertop would definitely be high on the list because it’s such a big space, visually and physically. But while removing and replacing a top is a costly and complicated project, just restoring the surface with a stone coating is not. It’s really easy and it can be done in a weekend.
LESLIE: And there’s nothing like a good, steamy shower but too much moisture can cause paint to peel and mold to grow. We’re going to share a solution to keep that moisture in check, just ahead.
TOM: And Consumer Reports runs thousands of products through thousands of tests every year to find the ones that provide the best performance and value. But they also point out many to avoid. We’re going to share appliances that earn that not-so-prestigious do-not-buy recommendation, in just a bit.
LESLIE: But first, we’re here to help you tackle your to-dos with confidence. I can’t even believe we’re in November already. So start planning your Thanksgiving menu and figuring out what you need to do to keep your house looking great to accompany that meal. We’re here to help you out.
TOM: Plus, we’ve got a great tool to give away to one listener drawn at random. It’s the Arrow T25X WireMate Staple Gun. So let’s get to it. Call us right now – again, that number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT – or post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Brian in Delaware is on the line looking for a water-softening solution. Tell us what’s going on.
BRIAN: I have hard water in my house. I need a conditioning system. I don’t know a ton about them. I know there’s a salt-based system that has been around forever and I need to research some ionized-type systems. I’m not sure which one is the best route to go.
TOM: So, if you’ve got hard water, that’s really tough to live with because it is not good on your clothes. It doesn’t feel good on your skin. It always feels like you came out of a salt-water bath when you take a shower.
LESLIE: And you can’t get the soap off of yourself. It’s terrible.
TOM: Right. Yeah. Shampoo and soap. It doesn’t suds up, right?
So, you’re right: you are going to need a water softener. And there are two types, generally. A salt-type water softener, which is traditional and has been around for a long time and it works really, really well – basically, the way a salt-based system works is it uses sodium to reduce the mineral concentrations. And in particular, it gets rid of the calcium and the magnesium that is what could damage your plumbing system or your boiler or your skin or your hair. It’s also really bad when you have a tankless system, because the tankless tubes are really, really small and they can get caked up with the hard water.
So, salt-based systems are good. They’re tried and true. There’s a misconception that using a salt-based water softener adds sodium to your drinking water. It really doesn’t. It’s a chemistry thing. Just take my word for it; it doesn’t do that.
The other option, of course, is salt-free. What that really does is it crystallizes. It doesn’t remove those minerals. It crystallizes them so that, theoretically, they won’t be embedded into the water. The best way to think about is if – you know when you have magnets and you try to touch the positive side against the positive side of another one, it bounces it away? That’s kind of what it does: it charges the hard-water particles and causes them to repel each other. So, you don’t have that persistent feeling of the hard water in the water.
But in terms of the entire house, generally, I would use those if I had maybe a smaller house. But if I had a whole home and I was dealing with this, I would definitely use a salt-based system. So I think that’s the best solution.
LESLIE: Marta in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MARTA: I have a set of concrete steps that are adjoined to my concrete driveway. And they are separating. The step is separating from the driveway.
MARTA: And I have a big crack and it’s – and the concrete is kind of starting to eat away. But I also have sand coming out and I want to know what I can do to, well – because I’ve got to fix it. I don’t know if I can just – do I use concrete in there? Do I use a sealer in there? I don’t know. But I’ve got to do something and I don’t want the crack getting bigger, especially with winter coming.
TOM: Right. And you’re correct because if you do let it get bigger, what’s going to happen is water will get in there and it’ll freeze and expand. So you do want to seal that. I would take a look at QUIKRETE.com – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com. They’ve got step-by-step videos there that will take you through this process.
But essentially, you’re going to use one of a number of different types of crack-repair or concrete-repair products that they sell premixed, ready to rock and roll. And you’re just going to apply it. Some come in caulking tubes, for example; some come in squeeze bottles. You apply it to those cracks – let it flow, let it settle, let it dry – and that will seal the crack and stop it from any further deterioration.
MARTA: Because it’s up along the house, too. And I put some concrete in there but …
TOM: Well, the problem is that you can’t use regular concrete. Because if you put concrete in by itself, what happens is it will freeze and break and crack and fall out rather quickly. That’s why you need to use the products that are designed for repair because they both adhere to the old concrete and then they stop the water from flowing in.
TOM: And that’s going to do the job. OK, Marta?
MARTA: Sounds good. It was QUIKRETE.com?
TOM: QUIKRETE.com. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, when you listen to The Money Pit, you get answers to your home improvement and décor questions. And occasionally, you get a chance to win a tool to help get the job done. And today, we’ve got the Arrow T25X WireMate Staple Gun to give away.
Now, this is a particular type of staple gun that is really handy this time of year, because it’s known as a cable-tacker. And if we’re going to be hanging a lot of holiday lights, this is the perfect product for that. It’s got a lot of power. It’s compact. It’s lightweight. It’s very precise, so you know exactly where the staple is going. And it’s got a very simple loading mechanism, so it makes loading the staples as easy as pushing a button.
It’s worth 35 bucks. We’re going to toss in a couple of boxes of staples. And it’s going to go out to one listener drawn at random, so make that you. Call us, right now, with your home improvement questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Doug in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DOUG: I’ve got a 30-year-old home here in Northeast Texas. Wanting to know the best way to upgrade my insulation in the attic. It has what I would call – it looked like a recycled newspaper, maybe, blown in there. Probably about 2½, 3 inches thick. And wondering if I could just blow a new type of insulation on top of it. Or do I need to do preparation first?
TOM: Yeah, you can add additional insulation and that makes a lot of sense. But I would not put new insulation on top of that old insulation because the old insulation is probably settled down, compressed and it’s not insulating as well as it should. So what I would recommend is that you remove the existing insulation.
Then, if you want to go with blown-in, there’s actually a product out now that allows you to do your own blown-in insulation. It’s from Owens Corning and it’s called AttiCat. And the way AttiCat works is you go to your local Home Depot and you purchase the bags of AttiCat insulation. And if you buy 10 bags, they will give you the blowing machine for free. The rental – there’s no charge for the rental.
And then the blowing machine gets positioned outside your house or in your garage or whatever. The insulation packages slide into it. It’s almost designed as a slot; you put it right in the side. You take the hose up to your attic and it’s remote-controlled, so you can turn the machine on and off and control the flow.
And then, this type of insulation gets into the nooks and crannies, it expands nicely and it’s low dust. So it’s a very easy way to do your own blown-in insulation and get a really good, contiguous, solid application of insulation in that attic.
LESLIE: And a targeted application, as well.
TOM: Yeah. And you could do a whole house in about 4 hours.
DOUG: OK. Great. Well, I appreciate the advice. I’d like to maybe get a big vacuum cleaner to get the old up.
TOM: Yeah. The new insulation will go in in 4 hours. Getting the old stuff out, though, that’s going to be a day. Good luck with that project.
DOUG: Alright. Thank you for your help.
LESLIE: Susan in Pennsylvania is dealing with a woodpecker, except it’s not Woody the Woodpecker giving her the heh-heh-heh-heh-heh.
Although he might be, as he’s making holes in your house. What’s going on, Susan?
SUSAN: Well, thank you very much for taking my call. I’ve learned so much from listening to this show. I live with my daughter and son-in-law and there is a woodpecker every morning. He comes and has breakfast, compliments of our home. And my son-in-law has looked and there is damage and of course, he’s going to have that taken care of. But we’re trying to find out how do we deter this woodpecker from coming back or just picking another spot.
TOM: Does he generally like to pick the same kind of spot?
SUSAN: Yeah. He seems to be right over top of their bedroom, right in that area on the side of the house.
TOM: Oh, great. So it can wake them up in the morning.
Alright. So, let me give you a couple of things that you can try that are really easy. One of which is to get some tin pie plates, like the aluminum pie plates. Hang them from fishing line or sort of a thin cord or something so that they sort of dangle in the area where the woodpecker likes to hang out. Because they really are annoying to the birds and they don’t like to see their reflection; they think there’s other birds around. And sometimes, that’s all it takes to make them go away.
Another thing that you can do is you could take strips of a plastic Hefty bag, cut it into 3-inch strips so that it kind of blows around in the breeze. That kind of has the freak-out effect. And neither of these, obviously, hurt the birds. You don’t want to leave them on for very long but they do work pretty well at keeping the woodpeckers away from your house. And maybe they’ll just decide that your neighbor’s house is a better place to be.
SUSAN: Oh. OK. That’s fantastic. Yes.
LESLIE: I had a woodpecker put a pretty nice-size hole in the soffit material of my home. And I was re-siding and changing out all of the soffit material for one of those AZEK type of extruded PVC product that looks like wood but obviously, the woodpecker is not going to eat it. So I didn’t bother repairing this pretty nice-size hole that the woodpecker made. And in the process of the work happening, before that soffit and fascia material came off, a whole family of squirrels moved in.
SUSAN: Oh, aren’t you lucky? Well, thank you very much.
LESLIE: Well, if we had to name a project that can really change the look of a kitchen or even your bath, replacing that countertop would definitely be high on the list. But while removing and replacing a countertop can be costly and kind of a complicated project, simply resurfacing the top of that counter with a stone coating really is a simple, durable DIY project that you can complete in a weekend.
TOM: Yeah. And there’s a kit that does that. It’s called the SpreadStone Countertop Finishing Kit. It’s kind of a simple alternative to a full-scale reno. You can pick it up for about 125 bucks online. It covers 40 square feet in countertop space at a lot lower cost than the cost of replacing that countertop.
LESLIE: Yeah. And one of the differences between a SpreadStone product and other countertop-refinishing kits is that this is an actual stone coating and it’s not a faux finish. It really adds a decorative-stone layer that’s real and it’s embedded into a durable coating. And it’s way thicker than any paint.
TOM: Yeah. In fact, the manufacturer, Daich Coatings, these guys have specialized in this kind of product for years. They have a lot of experience in polymer-coating chemistry. And they basically combined that with really enduring raw materials, like stone. And they’ve created a line of very unique finishes that make these surfaces, which are beautiful and incredibly durable.
I saw a demo of this top where a hot pot – pulled right off the stove, right off the burner – was put on top of this, remember, laminate top that was covered with the stone coating and absolutely no marks, no burning, no scarring. It was really pretty impressive.
If you’d like to check out the SpreadStone Countertop Finishing Kit for yourself, head on over to DaichCoatings.com. That’s D-a-i-c-h-Coatings.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Anthony, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ANTHONY: We have a three-burner gas range: you know, one in the oven and then two on top. And we have an odor emitting from one of the pilots that seems to be a little bit higher than the other one. And it’s building up like an ashy, creosote, real fine, black mess. If you touch it, it goes everywhere. And it smells in the mornings when you wake up. Is it not vented properly?
TOM: Here’s what I think is happening: the burner is somewhat partially blocked and so the gas is not fully combusting. And when you get a gas flame that doesn’t fully combust, it has sort of a sickeningly sweet smell to it, which actually contains a pretty high level of carbon monoxide.
So, what you should do is take those burners apart and clean them thoroughly and get them operating properly again. There’s something obstructing the burner and that’s why it’s not fully combusting. It also accounts for the fact that it’s building up an additional carbon deposit. If the gas is not fully combusting, this is what happens.
ANTHONY: Alright. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’re taking a call from Alberta in Arkansas working on a window project. How can we help you with that?
ALBERTA: Yeah, I’ve got vinyl windows that are the drop-downs so you can clean them and they’re real stiff; they’re hard to open and close. I was wondering if there’s anything I can do to make them easier.
TOM: Have you tried to use any lithium grease on them?
ALBERTA: I haven’t used anything, no.
TOM: So what you might want to do is – there are different types of lubricants that are available. WD-40 probably is one of the most famous ones.
TOM: But you can also buy, in a spray can, lithium and it has a tube that comes out of the top of the spray nozzle. You can get it right into the area along the jambs, between the operating sash and the jamb of the window, and kind of spray it up and down. If you overspray a little bit, you can go wipe it down. And that will lubricate that jamb and reduce the friction.
ALBERTA: Is the lithium better than the WD-40?
TOM: It tends to stick around a little bit longer. It’s a little thicker.
TOM: In a pinch, you can use WD but you may have to do it again.
ALBERTA: Alright. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. 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 clean the 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.
So, Leslie, my dishwasher had died recently and I got a brand-new one. Headed over to Consumer Reports and chose the Bosch, which was one of their top-rated ones.
I installed it which, you know, is not an easy challenge because it requires inserting a 250-pound man into a 30-inch sink cabinet but I got it done. And it was working perfectly. Perfectly. I mean we were really, really happy with this. And then after running it for less than a week – we probably only did six or eight loads – it threw an error code. It said, “Error E15.” I’m like, “OK. What the heck does that mean?”
So I look it up and it means there’s a leak. And I’m thinking, “There’s no way there’s a leak.” I did a good job installing that. I’m taking it personally now, right, that that machine thinks I didn’t hook something up right, so it’s leaking.
So, OK, I take off the panel at the bottom of the dishwasher, like the kick plate? And I look in there and it looks a little wet. And then I grab the insulation there and it’s soaking wet. I’m like, “Oh, man, what is going on here?” So I had to take it out from under the counter. I pulled it out. And as I looked behind where the drain line connects to the dishwasher, I was staring at a 1½-inch-wide hole that was created by mice.
LESLIE: Oh, no.
TOM: They chewed right through the drain line and all the water was pumping out when the cycle got to that point and going into our crawlspace which, of course, I wouldn’t notice it right away. And yep, those son of a guns had chewed a hole in the drain line. So I was not too happy.
LESLIE: So now you have to get back in the cabinet.
TOM: Now I’ve got to get back in the cabinet and I’ve got to hook up a new line in there. And I think I might wrap it with foil or something, just to deter them. But we had had – we live in a farmhouse and you do get mice from time to time. We kind of manage them and maintain them and put bait packets down and bait traps and such. But I guess we’re going to have to step up that effort, because now they’re chewing on my plumbing. And you just don’t do that to a home improver.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness.
TOM: We take that personally. So, installation was great. Machine was great. Mice not so much.
LESLIE: Not so great.
TOM: Well, the most humid place in any home is probably the bathroom. And while there’s nothing like a good, steamy shower, you need to know how to control the moisture in the bath. Because if you get too much moisture, you’re going to cause your paint to peel and mold to grow.
LESLIE: Yeah. Anywhere that you combine moisture, air and drywall – or any other food source, for that matter – you can get a mold problem. And all of those are certainly present every single time you take a shower.
So to prevent your bathroom from becoming a Petri dish, you really need a powerful bathroom-vent fan.
TOM: Yeah. Now, there are two kinds of fans that are most common for this job. The first one is a standard bath fan that goes directly into the bathroom, usually in the ceiling. And that discharges moisture to the exterior via a duct.
And by the way, if you’ve got a fan like that, make sure it’s actually going all the way through to the outside, not just into the attic and that when you turn it on you see the actual flapper on the end of the duct open.
The next kind is called a “remote fan” or also known as a “multi-port ventilator.” Now, what this is is when you have one centralized, mounted fan – it could be in the attic – and then it’s connected by ducts to multiple bathrooms. You see this a lot in commercial buildings. If you ever go to a hotel bathroom, you know there’s a vent there but you don’t really hear the fan running. That’s a multi-port ventilator – a very large one, by the way – but it’s basically one fan somewhere that’s pulling it from multiple locations.
Both work very, very well and are really an important part of managing the moisture in the bathroom.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? Today’s newer homes may but don’t always include those bathroom vents. And surprisingly, in some areas of our country, builders aren’t required to install a bathroom-vent fan if that bathroom has a window. What, you’re just going to leave that window wide open in the middle of winter?
TOM: Yeah, I really think that that’s a technicality that needs to be fixed in the building code. Because you’re right: you’re not going to throw open the window on a chilly day. And in fact, you get more moisture because the walls are colder, so you get more condensation.
LESLIE: Right. More condensation. Plus, the wind’s not always blowing the air out.
And finally, your bathroom ventilator needs to be left on when you leave the room. So, hook it up to a timer so that once you’re done with your bath and you leave it, the timer stays on for 20 minutes. There’s also moisture-sensing bathroom ventilators. And either way, the idea is it stays on long enough to pull all that moisture out, so it doesn’t settle on the walls and grow mold or cause the paint to peel.
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. Well, 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.
LESLIE: Hey, what are you working on this weekend? Perhaps it’s something that requires a WireMate Staple Gun. Well, if it is, you are in luck, my friends. We’ve got, up for grabs, the Arrow T25X WireMate Staple Gun.
Now, it’s a super-handy cable-tacker. It’s ergonomic. It’s got plenty of power. It’s compact. It’s comfortable to use. And it has a simple loading mechanism, which makes putting the staples in as simple as pushing a button.
It’s a $35 prize pack. It includes some staples, as well. And it’s going out to one lucky listener.
TOM: Make that you. Give us a call with your home improvement questions. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joyce in Missouri is on the line with a grout question. What can we do for you?
JOYCE: Hi. I have ceramic tile that I have had down for a few years. And I have – the grout is a charcoal color with a black-and-green tile. And the charcoal has dulled over the years and looking almost chalky. What can I do? Do I have to pull all that grout out and regrout it? Do I need to paint it or what can I do to give it new look of life?
TOM: Well, the grout is pretty easy to replace. There are special tools called “grout saws” that you can use to carve out the grout and then put new grout over sort of where the old grout was. You don’t have to get it all out but you’ve got to go down at least an 1/8-inch or so. And so, if your real concern is the grout and the condition of the grout, I think that’s the easiest way to deal with that.
JOYCE: OK. So that’d be – the best way to make it look fresh and new again is just take the top layer off at least an 1/8-inch and just regrout it?
TOM: Yeah. Make it look fresh and new by putting in fresh and new grout.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then make sure you seal it.
TOM: Right. Yeah, that’s key. You want to seal it first.
LESLIE: Otherwise, it’s not going to look fresh and new for so long.
JOYCE: Seal it after I put new grout in and let it dry? Then seal it and then we’re good to go?
TOM: Right, exactly.
JOYCE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, Consumer Reports runs thousands of products through thousands of tests every year to find the ones that provide the best performance and the best value. While they highlight top models, you might not realize that they also highlight ones that aren’t so hot. And some of these brands really are surprising.
Now, for example, a refrigerator. This is the Viking Professional 7 Series and the overall score was 34 out of 100. Now, the Viking refrigerator costs more than $10,000 but the testing revealed that its internal – a $10,000 refrigerator. Does it also cook my meals for me maybe? But the testing that Consumer Reports did showed that the internal temperature doesn’t always match the thermostat. And the Consumer Reports team say people who buy Viking refrigerators are more likely to have them break within the first few years than the other brands.
TOM: So, why are you spending 10 grand on a refrigerator anyway?
LESLIE: That’s a lot of money.
So, next, there was a range from Fisher & Paykel. The overall score was 28 out of 100. And I think we’re seeing a trend here, because this range costs $3,900 and earned a poor rating in cooktop low-temperature tests because the burners were not able to maintain low-heat settings.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, when it comes to washing machines, Consumer Reports is talking about an Amana model. And their overall score was 32 out of 100. And their take was if you’re looking for a washing machine that can get stains out of your clothing, this Amana top-load agitator isn’t it. It earned just a fair rating for washing performance, which means there were plenty of red-wine, blood, carbon stains – all of that – left on the swatches that they were washing on a normal cycle. And the washer did even worse for water efficiency. It used 25.5 gallons to wash a single load. Washers that earn an excellent rating from Consumer Reports used less than half of that amount of water. That’s a lot of water.
TOM: It really is. So, I mean the bottom line is that Consumer Reports is a good source to check for appliances before you buy them. You’ll find out which ones you should buy and definitely which ones you ought to stay away from.
LESLIE: Josh in California is on the line tackling a plumbing project.
What’s going on? Good for you doing this yourself.
JOSH: I’m doing the bathroom remodel and I am hoping to replace the current, old copper piping – it’s about 45 years old – with PEX, because I’m a little bit leery of sweating copper in the crawlspace of my house. But I’ve also found evidence of rodents. I was wondering if it would be a bad idea to do that and if I should just learn how to sweat copper in tight spaces a little better.
LESLIE: Yeah, Josh, PEX is a great solution. It’s great for tight spaces, especially so that you don’t have to sweat copper pipes in those confined spots.
TOM: Yeah. Propane torches inside crawlspaces, not a good combination. So, yeah, I think that PEX is the perfect solution for that.
Of course, for those not familiar with it, PEX is short for crosslinked polyethylene. It’s a plumbing pipe that is very easy to work with. It’s flexible and you can basically run it a lot easier than you could copper pipe. And you can get it anywhere you need to go.
The only possible downside of PEX – and it’s rare. But it turns out that PEX can be damaged by rodents. But if you’ve never had a rodent problem or if you do and you take care of it quickly, you shouldn’t have any issues with that. So I would always prefer PEX going forward now over using copper piping.
LESLIE: Jane has got rot. We’ve got an email here from Jane. Apparently, she’s got rot. This is what she says: “We have a tall support post attached to our deck – we live on a hill – that’s been eaten by ants. The rot is only 1 foot down. I listen to your show and you recommended a product but I didn’t get a chance to write it down.”
Too busy chasing those ants.
TOM: Yeah. I think you’re talking about WoodEpox by Abatron. This is a product that’s a two-part product where you mix it together and it solidifies. You can press it in place. It’s a little bit like putty. And then you can mill it just like it was wood. You can cut it, sand it, file it and so on.
My only concern here, though, is because in this case, you’re talking about repairing a structural component. And if it’s just a hole in the post, you’re trying to fill it in so it doesn’t get any worse, then this is probably a good choice. But if it’s impacting the structural integrity of the post, then I do recommend you replace the entire post. Don’t just try to rebuild it with this particular product, because that might not be the intended use for it exactly. Because I don’t want anybody leaning on this post and then having it sort of break away or collapse.
So, if that’s the case, replace it. If it’s just a minor amount of rot, then you can go ahead and fill it. And if it was ants that caused it, you’d better treat them, as well. They’re called “carpenter ants” for a reason.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. And they don’t like to actually build anything; they like to destroy the thing. So, it’s – they should really be called “demolition ants.”
Alright. Now I’ve got one here from Crystal who reached out and says, “I work on a concrete floor. What can I use or put around my area to keep from constantly getting shocked?”
TOM: She must be in a place that’s just chock full of static electricity. And yeah, that can be really annoying. If it happens once in a while, OK. But if you’re a workstation and it happens all the time, man, that would get old quick.
There is a solution, though, and it’s a product that’s used in a lot of electronics factories, because they can’t really have any type of a static charge where they’re working on their parts. And it’s simply called an “anti-static mat.” They’re usually made of rubber. And they actually plug into the ground prong of a regular outlet.
If you see the wires on this, there’s an adapter. And instead of having the two metal prongs that are flat and then the round one that’s the ground, those two prongs are plastic, so they’re nonconductive. They only thing that connects to the wall or the service is the ground plug. So, basically, you’re grounding the mat, right? And if you do that, you’re not going to have a situation where you’re going to discharge electricity and get that static, so it’s – get that shock.
And so it’s a pretty good system. An anti-static mat. Not terribly expensive. You know, I saw some nice-sized mats for 40, 50 bucks online. So I’m sure you’ll find something that could work.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got one here from Monica who lives in New Jersey, who’s writing about the garbage disposal. “I guess every time we’re using it, something happens and it seems to jam up. What’s going on?”
TOM: Well, if your disposer jams, you can get it unstuck. The first thing you want to do is make sure you turn power off to it. And then, at the bottom of the disposer, there’s usually a key, like a hex key-sized socket. And I bet you the actual hex wrench is down there, too, because usually the installers leave it with it or it’s in the box. And it’s designed so that you could put this hex key in it – this big Allen wrench – and then sort of rotate it left, rotate it right to free up whatever’s in there.
Now, there’s also going to be a reset switch down there. If you don’t have power, that may have tripped. So once you get it moving, then reset the power. Push back in the reset switch, turn the power back on and you should be good to go.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com on a beautiful fall day. We are looking forward to getting out and picking up the tools and getting some projects done around our house. If you’re doing the same and run into a question, a comment, a concern, remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or by posting your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Until next time, 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.
(Copyright 2021 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.)