- Drafty Windows: When cold weather sets in, you’ll want to find and seal up any drafts in your windows. Here’s what to do.
- Standby Generators: If your home loses power, having a reliable standby generator can be crucial. We’ve got recommendations.
- Hiring a Home Improvement Professional: Not all home projects can be done by DIY-ers. We’ve got info on hiring the right contractor for the job.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Damp Basement: Holly’s basement floor is cracked and changes color after it rains because it’s absorbing moisture from around the perimeter of her home. We’ll explain how to improve the drainage and keep things dry.
- Insulation: What is the difference between closed-cell and open-cell foam insulation? Michael learns about comparing the total R values, which one is best for moist areas, and the need for correct installation.
- Musty Odors: That persistent musty smell means Sandy has excessive moisture and humidity in her basement. We’ll discuss gutters, downspouts, grading, sealing the walls, and using the right size dehumidifier.
- Air Conditioner Vents: Condensation on the AC vents keeps dripping and staining the ceiling in Stanley’s Florida home. Because it’s so humid, he needs to insulate the air conditioning ducts
- Marble Surface: Gary removed the stain from his marble table and now wants to seal the surface. There are products he can use to seal and polish the glaze.
- Light Switches: The light switches in Ken’s home need to be in a certain position to control two locations. It seems like he has a three-way switch that wasn’t wired correctly.
- Water Quality: Colleen’s well water is high in sodium and calcium and her water softener needs to be replaced. We suggest a salt-based water conditioner for her home.
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 it’s fall fix-up time. If you’ve got some projects that you want to get done around your house, you are in the right place because we are here to help. We probably won’t hold the nail for you because, well …
LESLIE: I value my fingers.
TOM: Definitely not holding the nail for you, because I know enough not to.
But hey, just about everything else we will help you get done. If you’ve got questions on how to get started on a project or you’re kind of stuck in the middle, reach out to us because that’s what we do. The number here: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your questions at MoneyPit.com/Ask. Just click the blue microphone button.
Coming up on today’s show, now that it is fall, have you felt a chill in your home lately? It may very likely be coming from your windows. We’re going to share an easy checklist to follow to make sure your windows are still as energy-efficient as they were the day they were installed. Unless that day was many, many, many, many years ago, in which case we’ll make sure they’re better than that.
LESLIE: Alright. And also ahead, no matter where you live, more and more power failures are happening. Whether it’s a winter storm or just a stressed-out local electric grid, you can’t just rely on the electric utility to keep that electricity flowing to your home, 24/7. Standby generators really offer the best backup solution. So we’re going to review the latest technology and share our experience with these handy powerhouses.
TOM: Plus, does the thought of hiring a contractor make you a bit nervous, wondering if you’ll get a good guy or not? Well, the first step to finding the best pro for your job is to know what to look for. So we’re going to share some tips to help you find the best professionals for your projects.
LESLIE: But before all of that, we’re here to help you create your best home ever. So whether that’s a quick fix or a pretty big project, we can help you save time, money and hassles. We can help you with all of those projects. So don’t be afraid. Reach out. We’re standing by to lend a hand.
TOM: That’s right. Help yourself first by reaching out to us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or go to MoneyPit.com and click the blue microphone button.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: We’ve got Holly in Ohio on the line who’s got a question about a cracked floor.
What’s going on?
HOLLY: Yes. Our basement has some cracks in it. And when we get a heavy rain, the floor seems to change color. Now, we have a dehumidifier down there and we – if we leave it running, it’ll go away eventually. But wondering does that mean that there’s moisture coming up from the ground? Is there any way we can stop that?
TOM: So, if your floor is changing color, it’s getting damp. And concrete is very hydroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture very, very easily. And if this – the fact that this is happening, though, after heavy rains is good news because that means it’s an easy fix. The moisture, even though it may appear to be sort of coming up from the ground, as you say, is really not coming up as much as it is collecting at the foundation perimeter and then pressing down and under that slab and through the wall.
So the solution here is to keep moisture away from the outside walls that make up the basement. And the way you do that is twofold. Number one, the easiest and clearly the most effective way to stop water infiltration is to make sure you have a properly-installed gutter system. And that means the gutters have to be there – A – they have to be clean – B – and C) the downspouts must be extended at least 4 to 6 feet away from the house if you have a condition like this.
Because most of the time, when installers put in downspouts, they turn them out a few inches at the bottom, put in a concrete block and call it a day. And all that water that shoots off the roof – and even if the gutters are clean – it’s going to collect in that corner and then it’ll just soak in along the foundation. So you need to manage the exterior water and make sure it’s moved away from your house.
And the second thing is if the gutter system is clean and perfect, as I’ve just described, then what you can do is you can regrade the foundation perimeter to make sure that the soil around it slopes away. You want to avoid any type of border that holds water against the house. And if you manage the outside water in that way, you will find a dramatic reduction or complete elimination of the stains that you’re seeing now on that floor.
HOLLY: Oh, great. Now, how would we know how far the gutter goes out? Do you have to dig it to find that?
TOM: Well, no, it should be visible. The downspout should come down and you should see it turn out in an elbow at the bottom. And usually, it’s put on something called a “splash block.” But that only goes out a couple feet.
LESLIE: I mean sometimes they are buried in the ground, right next to the foundation. You’ll see the downspout sort of disappear into the dirt. And then usually, there’s a place where it exits.
TOM: Yeah. Or not, which is trouble either way. So, yeah, I like to see that water coming out. And I’ll tell you what, if you just kind of want to prove – like sort of prove the concept, what you could do is just go to a home center, buy a bunch of 6- or 8-foot pieces of leader material, attach it to the end of those downspouts.
Let it lay on your grass. Throw a stone over the end of it so it doesn’t move around and watch it. And if you find that, all of a sudden, you’ve got a dry basement, well, you’ve just figured out what’s going on. Now, you can think about ways to make it look a little bit more attractive, you know what I mean? But you can just try it by attaching those downspouts to the end of that elbow and moving that water completely away from the foundation and seeing what the result is. It’s a really simple and effective experiment that I’m confident will show you what’s going on with this moisture problem.
HOLLY: Alright. Great. That sounds good.
TOM: Alright, Holly. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
HOLLY: Appreciate your help. Bye-bye.
LESLIE: Michael in Louisiana is on the line with a question about insulation and the different types.
How can we help you?
MICHAEL: Hey. My question is about closed-cell versus open-cell foam and in a roof-deck application, the difference between using open- and closed-cell foam and roof-deck rot.
TOM: So, first of all, it’s a really good product to use for any type of a roof insulation. Spray-foam insulation is really the best way to go. It’s not subjected to the same types of humidity and decay issues that traditional fiberglass would, because it’s essentially designed to be in a conditioned space. You don’t have to vent it.
Now, in terms of the differences, open-cell foam characteristically is a little softer and more flexible. It has – the cells are deliberately left open. And closed cell is just as the name implies: they basically are sealed together, stiffer and harder.
The R-value on closed cell is usually higher than open cell. So that means you can get more insulation in the same physical space with closed cell compared to open cell. But the other side of it is it’s usually more expensive.
So what I would do is I would compare and contrast total R-value on making the assessment, not just how many inches of insulation. Because that’s what you’re paying for, right? You’re paying for the insulation value. And I will say that if it’s an area where I’m concerned about moisture more so, closed cell is probably the better way to go.
For example, we see houses along the beach where the underside of the floor structure is sprayed. In those applications, I like to recommend closed cell over open.
MICHAEL: So I think I understood that the industry, several years ago, was recommending closed cell for roof-deck scenarios. But then they kind of got away from that and went back to open cell due to moisture accumulation in the roof deck.
TOM: Yeah, I’m not familiar with that. I would talk to the manufacturer of the product that you’re deciding to work with. I did my house and I used Icynene. I was really happy with them. They’re a Canadian company, one of the biggest in the world with that product. But there are lots of good companies.
It also comes down to the installer, because it’s a product that has to be mixed on site. It’s not like you’re heading to the home center and picking up some rolls of insulation. This stuff is mixed and applied right there, so the experience of their installer is really important, as well, in getting the job done right.
MICHAEL: So we had our entire roof foam-insulated about a year or so ago. And I’ve noticed that the interior humidity level since then has been higher than what we had previous to that.
MICHAEL: So I don’t know if the overall envelope of the house – obviously, it’s much tighter. But our – the home was built in the mid-90s, so we have kind of builder-grade insulation and builder-grade windows in the exterior walls.
TOM: Right. Right.
MICHAEL: So, I know that the roof deck and the eaves and all that are much tighter.
TOM: It’s entirely – I understand what you’re saying, Michael, and it’s entirely possible because you have now less natural ventilation. You basically may have taken a home that had several air changes per hour and now cut that way back. It is possible that you could have a bit more humidity inside. But I think that that’s not a problem. I think it’s just a condition that you should manage and especially in an area like Louisiana, where you are 100-percent humidity 9 months of the year, it would seem, right?
You might want to think about using a piece of equipment that’s designed specifically to reduce humidity. For example, there’s a type of product called a “whole-home dehumidifier.” Now, don’t confuse this with a dehumidifier you typically see on a lower level of a house that’s hooked up to a bucket and just dumps water out. This is actually installed into the duct system as part of the HVAC system. And it runs on a humidistat. And when it comes on, it is designed only to pull humidity out of the air. And it can do so in a really surprising volume. It can take out 100 pints of water a day.
So in your area, that might be something that I would consider, especially if I’m seeing excessive humidity inside the house. But I think you’re on the right path with the spray foam.
MICHAEL: Very good. Thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, guys. You know something that Tom and I are both really, really good at? Well, it’s adding things to your to-do list. I was taking all the blame myself earlier but I’m going to throw some of it on Tom, too. We definitely …
TOM: Yeah. I do. I own up to that.
LESLIE: I mean it’s fun. We all love working on our houses and we all love our spaces to be the best that they can be. So definitely let us lend you our advice and give you a helping hand. We are standing by to do so.
But we’ve got one great way for you to get a lot more advice more regularly. And that’s by joining on to The Money Pit Podcast. And you can get some new episodes every Monday and Thursday. Just check it out at MoneyPit.com/Podcast or wherever you get your pods. Whatever your favorite platform is, you can find The Money Pit there, as well.
Sandy in South Dakota is on the line with a funny smell coming from the basement.
Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
SANDY: Our basement is – got a real bad, musty smell to it. And we’ve had fans going down there all summer long, we’ve had a dehumidifier going year-round. And I can’t get rid of the musty smell. I don’t know what to do with it.
TOM: Alright. Well, there’s a couple of things that you can do.
First of all, the musty smell is because you have an excessive amount of moisture and humidity down there. So we want to do some things to try to reduce that amount of moisture. You’re going to start outside your house and examine your gutter system. You want to make sure that you have gutters, that the gutters are clean and free-flowing and that the downspouts are discharging 4 to 6 feet, minimum, away from the foundation.
SANDY: They do.
TOM: They do. Alright. And then after that water discharges, does it run away from the wall?
SANDY: It runs away from the house, yes.
TOM: So, I’d like you to take a look at those gutters in a heavier rainfall, just to make sure they’re not becoming overwhelmed. Because that usually is a source of many moisture problems.
If the gutters are working well, then we need to look at the grading around the house. The soil should slope away and drop 6 inches on 4 feet. And that soil grade should be made up of clean fill dirt, not topsoil, not mulch or grass. You could have a little bit of topsoil and grass on top of it but you have to establish the slope first with fill dirt. And the reason you’re doing this is because you want rainfall that hits to run away from the house and not sit up against the house. That slope is really, really important.
If that’s done, then going down to the basement area, we could make sure that the walls are properly sealed with a damp-proofing paint and then a dehumidifier on top of that. But the dehumidifier has to be properly sized for the basement space and it has to be drained – set up with a condensate pump so that it drains outside.
And those steps together are usually going to take out as much moisture as you possibly can.
SANDY: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Alright, Sandy. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, now that it’s getting chilly, have you guys started to feel the drafts? It’s probably coming from your windows, which makes now a really good time to inspect them for signs of those drafts that drive up energy costs and just make you downright uncomfortable.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you want to start by examining the edges of your windows and your patio doors for some drafty areas. Now, an easy way to do this is to run the back of your hand slowly over these areas. And the back of our hands, they are way more sensitive than the palms. So you’re going to be able to quickly find those leakiest spots.
TOM: Yeah. And those leaks can usually cut down on the energy efficiency of your windows. So you want to use weather-stripping or caulk to seal the gaps. And if you don’t use those windows at all during the winter, consider window film that can be temporarily installed and cover you for the entire season. Then you remove it in the spring.
LESLIE: Now, if your windows don’t open or close easily, it could mean that key components inside are damaged or need adjustment. And that could mean that the windows are no longer as efficient as they were. So you might want to consider repairing them or replacing them altogether.
TOM: Now, if this sounds expensive, remember, there are options. You can replace windows a few at a time and cut those costs. But if you’re going to do this, be smart about it. Replace the ones on the north-facing rooms of your house first, especially if you’re worried about drafts in the winter.
Now, if it’s the flipside, if you’re concerned about the heat that your house takes on in the summer, than do the southern windows first. You can do one side of the house every year and spread the cost out accordingly.
LESLIE: Stan in Florida is on the line and it’s apparently raining in his house.
Stan, what’s going on?
STAN: Well, we like to keep it cool and comfortable. And with the humidity outside, the condensation accumulates on the air vents.
STAN: And it literally is dripping and staining the ceiling areas where I painted.
TOM: Yep. I’ve seen this before and it’s amazing how much humidity and how much water can come out of the air when it’s that warm, right?
STAN: Yes, it is. It’s been bothering us. I was wondering what my solution might be.
TOM: So, your solution is to insulate the air-conditioning ducts. You know, we don’t think about insulating ducts much in the southern part of the country because usually, you’re insulating them to prevent heat loss.
In this case, the reason that you’re getting this condensation is because you have warm, moist air, of course, that’s up in that attic space where those ducts are. And as that warm, moist air strikes the attic ducts, it condenses and releases its moisture, much the same as what you would see happen if you took a glass of ice water outside and the outside of the glass gets wet. That’s the warm moisture in the air striking the glass and cooling. So as it cools, it releases water because cool air can hold less moisture than warm air. That’s why no one ever complains about it being too humid when it’s cold outside, because the moisture is not in the air.
So, what you need to do is to insulate those ducts. Now, I can imagine that in some cases, this is difficult because of getting access to it. But perhaps if you focused on the areas where it’s worse, by insulating the ducts you won’t get that condensation that forms on them because the insulation will be a barrier then between the duct and the warm air itself.
Does that make sense?
STAN: It sure does.
TOM: And that is the solution there, sir. You’ve got to have insulated ducts and that will stop that from happening. Because we can’t control the humidity, that’s for sure.
STAN: Right. Well, we have some blown-in insulation but I was wondering, should I add an attic fan and circulate the air? Would that help any, also?
TOM: I don’t generally recommend attic fans and here’s why, especially in a southern climate. What attic fans tend to do is depressurize the attic as they try to pull air out of it. But the problem is they don’t just stop at the attic. They are so strong that they reach in through the wall cavities, where wires and pipes go through and there’s little spaces between the drywall and the walls. And they actually find a way to steal the air-conditioned air from your house. So, using an attic fan in Florida can actually drive up your cooling costs when most people would think it’s the opposite.
If you want to improve the ventilation in the attic, you should do it passively by adding ridge vents to the peak and then making sure the soffits – the overhang – are fully opened. And you’d have screening there but you want to make sure the air can get in there. And this way, it goes in the soffits, it goes under the roof and goes out the ridge. But a fan itself is not a good idea.
That said, I can promise you that just improving the ventilation is going to stop the condensation. I think you’re going to find when push comes to shove, that insulation is the best solution to this issue.
STAN: That sounds accurate to me. I appreciate your help so much and that’s what I’m going to do.
LESLIE: Hey, guys, would you like to win a whole workshop full of tools to take on some fall fix-up projects and more? Well, you can when you enter The Money Pit Fantastic Fall Fix-Up Sweepstakes, presented by our friends at Arrow.
TOM: Now, one grand-prize winner is going to receive 750 bucks worth of Arrow tools, including the TacMate Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and the 5-in-1 Manual Staple Gun, which is handy because it drives 5 different types of fasteners, allowing one tool to be used for 5 or more different types of fastening projects.
LESLIE: Yeah. And speaking of 5, there’s also going to be 5 runner-up winners, you guys. And those folks are going to receive the Arrow Holiday Light Helper Prize Pack worth 100 bucks. That’s going to include the Arrow T25 WireMate Staple Gun and the Arrow T59 Wiring Tacker. Plus, all of those lucky winners are going to get plenty of staples and glue sticks to get those fall fix-ups started and finished and maybe even some winter projects.
TOM: Enter once a day at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes, where you can also earn bonus entries for additional chances to win. That’s MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes.
LESLIE: Heading over to Delaware where Rosalind is on the line about a marble question.
What’s going on?
GARY: Yes, I’m Gary. I’m Rosalynn’s husband.
LESLIE: Oh. Hi, Gary.
TOM: Hi, Gary. How can we help you?
GARY: Yes. We have a question. We bought a marble table and we didn’t know that it needed to be sealed. How do we go about doing that?
LESLIE: Gary, are you calling because you’ve stained it and now you’re sort of stuck and want to work backwards or you’re just preemptively doing some work?
GARY: We had stained it. We got the stain out but we didn’t know that it needed to be sealed.
LESLIE: And is it a new marble table or is it sort of an older piece that’s maybe lost its surface finish over time?
GARY: No, it’s new.
LESLIE: Brand new. So, now, there’s a couple of different kinds. You may have a honed piece of marble, which doesn’t have any polish on it at all and it’s meant to sort of have that chalky, unfinished look to it. And then there’s a more high-polished finish that looks like it has a glaze to it, where it’s shiny.
Now, there’s a couple of different ways to achieve that. There are professional products that you can get at your local – a place where you might get granite or marble countertops. And they have a sealant. Sometimes it’s better if they do it. I know when you have marble or granite countertops, they should be reapplying that glaze every 3 to 5 years. If it’s a lighter color, it should be more often.
But with a piece like that, you might be able to just get away with some marble polish, which will give you a shine and give you a bit of a more protective surface on there. But there really doesn’t seem to be a homeowner type of glaze that you can get to apply, because it is truly a mixed different bunch of parts that are meant to be applied very systematically, very carefully.
GARY: Oh, OK. So now I can get that at a local home goods store or something like that?
LESLIE: Yeah, I would definitely get a marble polish. And follow the directions and apply that exactly the way you’re told. And that’ll give you a nice sheen on it and make it much more durable.
If you want something that’s much more shiny and really meant to coat and protect the surface, I would head on over to a local vendor near you that does marble and granite countertops and ask them for a product. They might have something that’s DIY or they might be willing to take the piece and coat it for you. Since it’s a small table, it shouldn’t be much of a charge.
GARY: I see. OK. Alright. Well, thank you.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
GARY: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: I love that Rosalynn’s putting up her husband, Gary, to make the call.
LESLIE: “Get on the phone, Gary.”
TOM: She’s like, “Talk to these people, because you’re going to have to fix this.”
Well, no matter where you live, more and more power failures are happening. Whether it’s a winter storm or just a totally stressed-out local electric grid, you just can’t rely on the electric utility to keep it flowing, 24/7. And because that’s the case, standby generators offer the best backup solution.
LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s why Tom and I have both invested in Kohler standby generators to protect our homes year-round. We’ve had our units for almost 10 years now and there is nothing better than knowing your house is powered, even when the rest of the street is dark.
Now, when you’re considering models, Kohler makes a 20kW standby generator. And that’s capable of providing whole-home power to the average house. And it really has some great features. First of all, it’s completely automatic. If that power goes out, these generators use an automatic transfer switch to turn the generator power on within seconds, like 10 seconds. And your home is going to be up and running as if nothing ever happened.
TOM: Yep. And they’re also solidly built and super reliable. Kohler generator engines are built and tested to withstand extreme loads for years to come. And that’s why hospitals and airports and even the National Weather Service trust Kohler for their backup-power needs.
I can tell you, we’ve experienced blackouts literally while we were on the air. And our Kohler generators definitely saved the show.
LESLIE: I mean it really, really is amazing. They also feature an exclusive unique PowerBoost Technology and you’re only going to find that on Kohler generators. Now, this helps make sure that your generator can handle large starting loads – so, your air conditioner, for example – without dropping that power to the other appliances that are already running on it.
If you guys want to learn some more or maybe even get a free quote, reach out to your local authorized Kohler dealer. They’re located across the country. Just go to PoweredByKohler.com. That’s PoweredByKohler – K-o-h-l-e-r – .com.
TOM: And listen, we’ve got a special offer for Money Pit listeners who order a unit before November 18th. You’ll also get a free 10-year extended warranty, which is a $995 value. And you can save up to 750 bucks on select models. So, remember, go to PoweredByKohler.com today. PoweredByKohler.com. That’s PoweredByKohler – K-o-h-l-e-r – .com.
Kohler Generators, backup power from a name you can trust.
LESLIE: Ken in Illinois is on the line with a question about a light switch. It seems like some sort of mysterious light switch that works, doesn’t work.
What’s going on?
KEN: I have a light switch that’s controlled in two locations but it seems like less than the exact right up or down spot. But it doesn’t work. It’s like one controls the other one. Just wondering how I can fix that.
TOM: Ken, you have a three-way switch that’s not correctly wired. That’s your problem there. That’s why you have to have one of these switches in one position because that’s providing power to the circuit and then that’s why it doesn’t automatically turn on or off, depending on which switch you’re at. So, you need to have this wiring evaluated and repaired by an electrician. That’s what’s going on here. It’s not a bad switch; it’s just that it’s wired incorrectly because it’s not behaving properly for a three-way switch.
Well, if you’ve been thinking about hiring a pro for a project, half the hiring battle is matching the right pro to the job, right? Now, some of the confusion starts with the word contractor itself.
LESLIE: Yeah. I think we toss around that word, contractor, a lot. But technically, a trade professional is who you want working on your home’s mechanical systems. Even seasoned DIYers hire these pros for services related to heating, air conditioning, electricity, as well as water, sewer and natural gas-line work.
TOM: Yeah. Now, trade professionals are typically educated at technical skills and through apprenticeships in the field. And some are subject to state and local licensing, like electricians and plumbers. They tend to be Mom-and-Pop businesses, literally, with Mom answering the phones and paying the bills and Pop out on the sales and service calls.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, remodelers, on the other hand, either specialize in specific rooms, like kitchens or decks or operate as generalists, doing a variety of interior and exterior work. Now, remodelers acting as general contractors, the coordinator of those projects, they can work with you to create a plan or work from a plan that’s been created by an architect or a designer.
TOM: Yeah. But way before you get to the stage where you’re hiring the building or mechanical pro, consider employing those architects or designers. These pros work alone or for small firms. And generally, they design the space and deliver an accurate set of specs, which is super important. That’s short for specifications. And this way, you’ll have one set of documents for contractors to bid on. You can compare apples to apples when you get those prices and one set of documents for the contractor to work off of when he’s actually doing your project.
LESLIE: Either way, guys, we strongly recommend these professionals when it comes to large projects, structural changes and assuring that the expansion is going to fit the character of your neighborhood. Lots of appropriate times to hire the right pro to make sure your project goes off without a hitch.
Heading out to Texas where Colleen has a question about water softening.
What’s going on?
COLLEEN: Well, we have well water and it’s really high in sodium and calcium. It’s extremely hard.
COLLEEN: And we’ve had water softeners before and they need – some of them need to be replaced.
TOM: Mm-hmm. OK.
COLLEEN: And I was looking at this EasyWater that you recommend. And I was wondering if it would really take care of the extremely hard water we have in West Texas.
TOM: Well, I’ve never had a listener use it with really, really, really hard water. It sounds to me that if that’s the case here, that you probably need a salt-based water conditioner which, by the way, doesn’t put salt in your water. It just fosters the chemical process that softens the water and makes it easier to use.
What EasyWater does is it charges the particles in the water so that they don’t stick together, they don’t clog your pipes and stuff. And then – but I do think it would probably – would still be – feel a bit hard when you’re trying to do your clothes. Like sometimes it doesn’t feel like it gets sudsy when it’s really hard? So I would just replace it with a standard, salt-based water conditioner, Colleen, OK?
COLLEEN: Would you suggest using that charger, too, on the – in the well? The pump house?
TOM: So that doesn’t go on the well; that goes on the main water line when it comes in. It wouldn’t hurt but I would put the salt-based system on first, because I think you’ll find it’s probably enough.
COLLEEN: OK. Great. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Those EasyWater systems are like – think of them as magnets, Leslie, where the particles have the same charge, so they repel each other. And they’re effective because they – it doesn’t stick to the pipes and clog up things. But I still wonder whether or not you’ll get the same level of sort of sudsiness. I know that if I’ve had houses with hard water, that you try to wash your hands, for example, with soap or try to do the dishes, it doesn’t get very slippery because the hard water just kind of fights you the whole time.
LESLIE: It’s so weird, isn’t it?
TOM: It’s a very weird feeling and it kind of dries out your skin, too.
LESLIE: Oh, I know. I’ve experienced it when traveling with the home makeover shows. You know, it’s like you get to Louisiana and you’re almost always going to have – and you’re like, “Why is my hair always like this?”
TOM: Yeah. “What’s wrong with this?” Right. “What happened to my hair?”
LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s so weird for the ice makers. The ice is never right and the dishwashers get clogged up. It’s just not good all around.
TOM: And if you have a tankless water heater – so it has a very, very small plumbing system where the pipe goes through many, many loops – it can clog them up. There’s actually cleaning procedures, in areas that have hard water, for tankless systems because they can clog up and stop working.
LESLIE: Well, Karen is tackling a floor and wants to know which direction to lay the flooring. So she says, “I have a hallway and a bathroom to put new flooring in and I’m installing luxury vinyl-plank flooring with a wood look. I know that the boards are usually put down parallel to the longest wall. But in my case, this will make them perpendicular to the hallway. Will that still look good?”
TOM: That’s a really good question, Leslie, and I can see how that might be a frustrating thing to figure out. You want to get it right because you only get one shot to do it.
LESLIE: I feel like if you’re going from a hallway into a bathroom, you’re going to have a threshold or some sort of transitional piece in there. So you’re not just going from one direction to the other. So I think you can kind of treat them as two independent spaces, right?
TOM: I think so, too. I wouldn’t worry about just that one threshold as looking odd. Because I think if you ran the board sort of the wrong way and didn’t have them going against the longest wall that yeah, that might be frustrating, as well. That might …
LESLIE: That would seem weird.
TOM: That would seem weird. But much more weird than just what’s happening around that threshold. So I think running them perpendicular is a good choice.
LESLIE: Yeah. And Karen, that’s a great choice of flooring for those spaces. So definitely, smart floor shopping on your behalf. Because it’s going to stand up, it’s going to wear well and it’s going to be perfect for the bathroom and the hallway, which both get a ton of traffic. Good on you.
TOM: Well, with the holiday cooking season ahead, now is really a good time to check and troubleshoot your oven before that baking begins and stomachs start to grumble. Leslie shares how, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, ovens, they really are one of the hardest-working appliances in the house all year long. But you really put them to test over the holidays when baking and big meals and long cooking hours just truly puts that oven into overdrive. So now, think about it. Ovens do need occasional repair and maintenance, especially if you want to avoid them breaking down during the busy season. So here’s how you make sure that your oven is good to go.
Now, first off, you need to check the accuracy of your oven’s temperature. You have to make sure it’s actually cooking like it says it is. So, you want to set a thermometer into a preheated oven, then compare its reading to the setting that you put on the oven. If it’s 350, is it actually 350 on the inside? Now, if it comes back a little high or low, no worries. A reading of 25 degrees Fahrenheit above or below that set temperature is perfectly acceptable. I know 25 seems like a lot but that’s totally within range.
Next, you want to clean your oven’s control panel. You want to use a non-abrasive cleaner or a glass cleaner, not a cream cleanser. You want to remove any grease or any remnants of food. Then you want to check that door seal. Now, oven doors have gaskets that keep the heat inside. So you need to inspect those gaskets to make sure that they’re not warped or cracked. And replace them as needed.
And lastly, if you plan to use your oven’s self-cleaning feature this season, don’t wait until the last minute. Self-cleaning cycles, they are stressful on that oven and they cause it to break down. And that’s something you definitely don’t want to happen literally right before your guests arrive. So, a little maintenance well in advance of the big cooking day will definitely help you out in the long run.
TOM: Good tips. I think it’s amazing how important it is that the temperature in the oven be accurate. Because it can really mess up, especially, your baking projects, right?
LESLIE: Definitely. Baking is such a science that from everything from mixing the ingredients to the correct cooking temperature and type of cooking temperature, super important for success.
TOM: Hey, coming up next time on the show, with winter snowstorms ahead, it’s a good time to think about upgrading your snow gear. And to get rid of the white stuff, we’re going to share tips to help you pick the best gear to help dig out from those storms, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
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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