- Yard Drainage: When melting snow and spring showers leave a soggy mess, here’s how to dry up your yard.
- Attracting Birds: If you like to hear the sound of chirping birds, find out how to attract birds to your yard with these native plants.
- Houseplant Care: The best way to keep your houseplants healthy is to water them properly. Get tips on knowing when it’s time to water those plants.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Clogged Toilet: When Beth flushes the toilet, the water rises up to the rim and then empties slowly. Sounds like she needs a plumber to drain a partial clog.
- Basement Floor Crack: Mike is worried about a crack across one end of the floor. It’s not the foundation and we’ll tell him about a DIY concrete repair.
- House Sounds: What is that mysterious banging sound? Depending on the cause, Gerry learns she may need to tune up her boiler or get a water hammer arrestor.
- Buckled Floor: Should a new engineered hardwood floor be buckling? We tell Matthew it’s not acceptable and advise him to report it to his home builder and home warranty company while it’s still covered.
- Window Shutters: Can you install window shutters over vinyl siding? Ruth finds out it’s a common DIY project using special fasteners.
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: Happy Spring. What are you guys planning for this weekend? If it has something to do with your house, got a project you want to get done, maybe you started one and you’re going to keep going on it or maybe you’re stuck and need some help, maybe you don’t know what to do but you have lots to do, that’s what we are here for. We’re here to help you take on the projects you want to get done so you can do them once, do it right and then get back to enjoying the beautiful spring weather.
First thing you have to do is help yourself by reaching out to us. Couple of ways to do that. The preferred way is to go to MoneyPit.com/Ask. Once you get there, you’ll find a blue microphone button. You click that button, you record your question, we’ll answer you the next time we’re in the studio. Or you could call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That’s 888-666-3974.
Coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk spring showers and melting snow, because they can leave your yard a very soggy mess. We’ll show you how you can dry up those yards so you can start enjoying them all spring and summer long.
LESLIE: And if you enjoy seeing birds in your yard but they don’t seem to be that interested in seeing you, the solution might be as simple as adding the native plants that they love. So we’re going to share some tips on how you can do just that.
TOM: And if you want to keep your houseplants healthy, watering is key. But what’s the best time to do that? We’ll share tips on how to know if your plants really need water and what time of day is most efficient for giving them the water they need.
LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you want to know. Because if you can dream it, you can build it and we can help. But we can’t help you if we don’t know what it is you want to work on. So, pick up the phone, shoot an email. Whatever it is, let us know how we can help you so we can get all of those projects off of your to-do list and put them in the done list.
TOM: There number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT or go to MoneyPit.com/Ask.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading to Minnesota where Beth is doing some work in the bathroom.
And you want some toilet help. What’s going on?
BETH: Toilet kept running. The water kept running into it, so I decided to install a new fill valve and flapper. And I measured everything and I followed the instructions and I did solve the original problem. But now I developed a new one. When I flush it, the water goes into the bowl OK, except now anything in the bowl goes to the top of the bowl, almost to the rim. And then when the tank itself is filled, then the bowl goes down slowly and it flushes but then it only leaves a little water in the bowl.
So I called the manufacturer and talked to them. He said, “Well, try plunging it because it might be a clog.” So I did that. I tried hot water and bleach to see if I could get that if it is a clog. And nothing has worked. And I don’t know what to do. I give up.
LESLIE: I mean that’s what happens, typically, in a clog is it’ll fill to the top and then the tank will fill and then it’ll – the suction force will just bring everything down.
TOM: Yeah. And the ones that are the trickiest to diagnose is when you have a partial clog where you have some water that’s getting past but not a lot. So I wonder if something is lodged in either the trap of the toilet or the line beyond that. And really, the next step is to have a plumber come out and do a drain-cleaning on that.
I’ll tell you a funny story about how this happened when my kids were younger. We had a toilet that was clogged in a downstairs bathroom and I – outside this bathroom, we had a willow tree. And I knew that the willow-tree roots used to get into the plumbing line, so I immediately assumed that that was what it was. And I went outside and dug up my yard and found the pipe cleanout, which was a couple of feet below the surface. And I snaked one way and snaked the other way and I couldn’t find any clog.
So, I thought, “Well, maybe it’s between the pipe break and the toilet.” So I decided to pull the toilet off. And don’t you know that when I did that, I turned it over and noticed something blue in the bottom of the toilet. And of course, you’re not supposed to have anything blue in a ceramic toilet. It turned out to be a little toy telephone that one of my kids had dropped down there that was letting just enough water through to trick us.
And so you never know what’s going to be in there. And if you have a partial obstruction like that, that could explain for what’s happening.
BETH: OK. Well, the only thing I can do then is to get a plumber?
TOM: Yep. You don’t want a carpenter, that’s for sure.
Beth, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mike in Louisiana is on the line with a question about concrete.
What’s happening to it?
MIKE: I have a crack in my foundation and I was wondering what would be the best way to stop it.
TOM: So is this a basement foundation or a crawlspace foundation? What’s it look like?
MIKE: I have it on a slab. I don’t have a basement or nothing. It’s just a crack in the concrete. Goes pretty much all the way across on one end of the house.
TOM: OK. So does it – is it the floor or do you see it from the outside? Where are we seeing this?
MIKE: Just in the floor. I just see it in the floor. I don’t see it on the side. Looked at it twice on the outside and I haven’t seen it.
TOM: Alright. So that might not be part of the foundation. Because when you have a slab-on-grade house, the floor area itself is actually not part of the foundation; only the perimeter is. So, that’s a pretty standard crack repair. What you want to do is go to a home center and pick up a QUIKRETE – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E – epoxy-based or patching compound. And that is something that you can apply to the crack.
There’s a number of different types of this. Some of it comes in a tube that you can apply with a caulk gun and others you mix up. But it has to be a patching material because the – otherwise, it won’t stick to the old concrete. Then what you do is clean out that crack, you apply the patch, let it dry and you’re good to go.
MIKE: OK. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks, again, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Geri in Massachusetts is on the line with a very mysterious noise.
What is going on?
GERI: Well, I don’t know if it’s the cold weather or what but I get this loud, loud bang in my house. It’s not a certain time of day. It can be at night, it could be in the morning. And I would say it’s a corner of my house and I can’t figure it out.
TOM: Does it happen when your heating system kicks on?
GERI: No. It’s just random. It can happen at any time of day and I can’t figure it out.
TOM: Do you have a duct system or do you have radiators that give you heat?
TOM: Baseboard radiators. OK. Do you have central air conditioning?
GERI: I do.
TOM: And does it happen in the summer, as well as the off-season?
GERI: No. I only detect it in the winter.
TOM: OK. Well, a couple of things here. First of all, if your boiler is not tuned up properly, you can get a condition called “explosive ignition.” Like if too much gas comes out and then the boiler ignites, it can do so with a bang and that’s generally disturbing and very unsafe. So I would make sure that the heating system was serviced.
And the second thing that often causes noise that far exceeds its damage is something called “water hammer.” And this can happen when water is running through the pipes of the house and stops suddenly. The centrifugal force of that water continuing down the pipe will cause it to move or shake and that can result in a bang that goes almost end-to-end on the house. And the solution is both to secure loose plumbing pipes and install something that’s kind of like a shock-absorber for your plumbing system. It’s called a “water-hammer arrestor.”
So those are the two most common in your type of heating system and plumbing system, areas where I think sound can originate.
Alright, Geri. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Matthew in Georgia is on the line with an issue with some hardwood flooring.
What’s going on?
MATTHEW: I have – I think the brand name is Mohawk – engineered hardwood floor in my house. And I’m having some buckling, raised edges where the boards meet each other at the ends.
MATTHEW: And so I was asking the builder about it. And they said that, you know, it’s acceptable to have some moisture inside there because of the concrete-slab foundation. Even though they use a moisture barrier and it is a glued-down floor, they still will have some moisture in there. So I was curious as to what is an acceptable amount of moisture and should that moisture be causing the boards to buckle?
TOM: If the boards are buckling, something is not right. Those boards are not designed to be – to buckling. Buckling is not a normal condition of hardwood floor – of engineered hardwood floor. And if that’s what you’re seeing, something’s wrong. What exactly the level of moisture should be in that floor? I really don’t know. There’s going to be a spec that the manufacturer is going to say that if the floor is more than X-percent damp, don’t use this product.
I’ll tell you, I know that engineered hardwood is popular today for these types of floors but you’re much better off with an engineered vinyl plank than engineered hardwood. First of all, it looks just like hardwood – I dare say you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference – and the stuff is totally and completely waterproof. You’re not going to have issues with swelling. And if this is a newer house and this floor was put down, I think you’ve got a potential claim here because it certainly should not be buckling.
MATTHEW: See, they’re telling me that they’re not going to do anything about it because the edges raised up are less than 1/8-inch.
TOM: Oh, well, that’s outrageous.
LESLIE: It shouldn’t be buckling at all.
TOM: That’s outrageous, yeah. And whose standard is that, less than an 1/8-inch? An 1/8-inch buckling is OK. Are they going to give you a letter from Mohawk saying, “You know what? You put our floor down and the edges buckle up 1/8-inch, that’s no big deal. That’s how we designed the product.” I don’t think so.
How old is this house? When did you move in?
MATTHEW: I bought it in March and it was built in November.
TOM: OK. Does it have a warranty on it?
MATTHEW: Yes, it does. It has a one-year warranty for things like this, for trim being out and things like that, creaky floors and stuff.
TOM: Right. OK.
MATTHEW: But then it has a 10-year warranty for structural issues. And so that kind of leads into my next question for you. Having some issues with my yard draining. So I took a line level and I measured the grade of my yard and it’s actually a negative slope. It’s about 1/8-inch per foot back downsloping towards my foundation. So what …?
TOM: OK. So, hold on for a second here, Matthew, OK? Because you’re getting away from yourself.
MATTHEW: OK. I’m sorry.
TOM: We’re going to break this up, OK? Alright. I understand you’re excited. You’ve got a lot going on. But there’s something very, very important you have to do right now.
TOM: And that is: did you craft a letter to the builder and to the warranty company reporting all of the things that you have found wrong with this house? You’ve got to do that, not just notice to the builder. But you’ve got to notice the warranty company, too. Because notice to the builder does not constitute notice to the warranty company. So you have to notice both of them before this year is up.
So it sounds like you’re getting very close to that now, so I want you to draft a letter and I want you to send it certified mail, return receipt requested, to both the warranty company and the builder. Put everything in there that you suspect so that it can be proven that these claims existed before the year was up, OK? That’s the first thing you’ve got to do.
MATTHEW: It seems to me like the warranty and the builder are the same entity, though. You get what I’m saying?
TOM: I understand what you’re saying but there’s going to be a …
MATTHEW: Like it has no – but the warranty I have is Quality Builders Warranty and then – but every time I call the warranty office, I get the builder’s office – customer-service office.
TOM: Well, look, whatever address is on that warranty and whatever address is the builder, you’ve got to protect yourself here by documenting that these things happened. Look, I used to do a lot of arbitrations, as one of the many jobs I had sort of over the years, for these warranty companies that were backing builders. And I think the warranties, for the most part, they try to sell it to you like it’s a warm blanket but I find it’s a wet blanket and it really doesn’t give you much coverage whatsoever. And I also have seen builders that like to be Mr. Nice Guy up until the day after that first year expires. And then they become like ghosts; you never see them again.
TOM: But you need to notice them that this is a problem and you need to demand that it be fixed.
I would also, after you get done with that letter and that notification process, I would also contact Mohawk, speak to their technical-service department – these are not just people that answer the phones; these are experts – and tell them what you’re seeing. Send them photographs. Get their expert opinion as to whether or not this is acceptable or not. Because I don’t think it is. I have never heard of a flooring company that would permit an 1/8-inch lift of a board like that. I think it was just …
MATTHEW: I’m writing all this down, so …
TOM: I think it was done wrong, OK?
TOM: So, write the warranty company and the builder with this and anything else you suspect is wrong with that house. And then, also, once that’s done and off and on the mail – send it by email, send it by certified mail. Just document that it’s been sent.
TOM: And then after that, talk to Mohawk simultaneously to any conversation you have with the builder. And find out what their specs provide for. But I would be shocked if they told you that having an 1/8-inch lift on the board – because it’s a tripping hazard; someone can get hurt on that – was acceptable.
TOM: I don’t think it is acceptable. And I think that floor has to be torn up and replaced.
MATTHEW: Yeah. I was told if I – if they can slide a credit card over top of it and the credit card does not get stopped, then it’s within tolerance.
LESLIE: Yeah. But an 1/8-inch you can.
TOM: Yeah, 1/8-inch would probably be about 10 credit cards.
MATTHEW: So, I guess going onto my second question, would the yard draining back into the foundation, could that raise the moisture levels inside the concrete slab?
TOM: Certainly, yeah. Because what happens is a slab is very absorbent, it’s very hydroscopic. So if you have a lot of water that’s collecting at the foundation perimeter, it could definitely raise the moisture level of the slab. Also, if you didn’t have gutters that were properly installed or properly extending their downspouts away, all of those things, it should be …
LESLIE: Or the downspout is not connected.
TOM: Yeah, those could all lead to additional humidity and moisture in that slab that could lead to the condition that you’re seeing right now.
MATTHEW: Awesome. Thank you so much for your help. I really do appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that. Let us know how you make out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, when spring comes around, a combination of snowmelt and rain, that can spell disaster for your basement and your landscaping. And that water can, no doubt, cause a lot of damage if it goes where it shouldn’t.
TOM: Now, yard drainage is a topic that most folks only deal with when it becomes a big problem, like a flood. But it can definitely impact landscaping and also make the yard a really hard place to use and enjoy.
LESLIE: So, here’s where you start. First of all, your number-one defense against water is cleaning your gutters. You’ve got to make sure they’re clean and you need to make sure they stay clean. Even if your property is graded correctly, water pouring right off of the roofline of your house is definitely going to find its way into your cellar. So you have to make sure that either a gutter extension or a splash block at the base of each gutter is there.
TOM: Now, once you’ve covered your bases in terms of the gutter runoff, it’s time to take a look at the grading or the angle of the soil around your house. The grade needs to slope away from the house, not towards the house and not even flat. I mean it’s got to slope away. That 10 feet of ground closest to the house should slope down by at least 6 inches in order to keep that water away from the foundation.
Now, if you get pooling water, that can suffocate your plants by depriving their roots of oxygen. So you have to make sure that your garden drains properly, as well.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, that’s going to handle any water that pools around the foundation. But if your yard gets soggy, you might need another solution and that’s called a “curtain drain.”
TOM: Yeah. Now, a curtain drain is a drain that’s basically dug into the yard at the low point. And it’s usually done by digging a trench that’s about 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Now, it used to be that you had to put stone in and then pipe and then more stone and then filter cloth and then more stone, then grass. It was a really big pain in the neck. But now, there are manufactured products, like the EZ-Drain system, that basically is sort of a one-piece curtain drain. So you dig the trench, you lay it in. You lay the EZ-Drain in there, you cover it over and it basically collects the water on its way sort of downhill. And then it can sort of run it around the house.
So if you have a situation where, say, your backyard neighbor is higher than you are and then his lawn slopes into your house, well, you put the curtain drain in the middle of the yard – it’s invisible when it’s done – and as his water hits that curtain drain, it gets sucked up by the drain and gets discharged around the side of your house. And your yard will never flood out as a result.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, a lot of people might be thinking, also, about a French drain or a dry well. Are those effective ways to get rid of water and what, really, do those do? Or how do they move water around?
TOM: Well, a dry well can be a useful tool in dealing with small drainage problems where directing runoff into the open is not feasible. A porous, plastic cistern, is basically installed in the ground and then it’s surrounded by stone and it kind of lets the water fill up the cistern and then slowly work its way back into the soil.
And there are also sort of all-in-one systems available that really simplify putting in those French drains, as I was saying. But basically, if you pay attention to the water coming off your roof, I think you’ll find that that, in my experience, is the majority of the problem. Too many times, people just have that water collect at the foundation and it either floods out a patio behind the house, floods the yard out or it can even flood the basement. So, start at the roof and work your way down from there.
LESLIE: Alright. Lots of good advice to move water.
TOM: Well, watching beautiful birds make your home their home can be a very welcome experience. We love watching, around our house, the amazing hummingbirds as they dart from our feeders and flowers throughout the warm weather seasons.
LESLIE: Now, if you’d enjoy seeing birds in your yard but they don’t seem to be that interested in seeing you, well, the solution might be as simple as adding the native plants that they love. So, joining us with tips on the best plants to attract birds to your yard this spring is Shubber Ali, the CEO of Gardens for Wildlife.
SHUBBER: Thank you. Great to be here.
TOM: So, we have folks that are all over the nation and we want to give them some advice on the best plants to attract birds to their particular yard. I know that that’s difficult, because I think what I’ve read from your materials is it really comes down to choosing native plants for their particular area. Can you give us some examples maybe of the types of native plants that might be good in general for some of the – maybe the corners of the country and then where we can figure out how to get the native plants for our area?
SHUBBER: Yeah, absolutely. So, it is – native plants is the key thing, because they provide the food sources that, ultimately, birds rely on for their young. A couple of the most popular ones that are out there for attracting native birds to your yard would be things like eastern columbine, cardinal flowers. Of course, purple coneflowers are very popular.
The trick with these various kind of perennials is you want to know the size they’re going to be, because they get quite large in terms of their spread. So, you can always trim them back but the coneflower can get as high as 3 to 6 feet with a spread of, you know, 2 to 4 feet. So, when you plant them, they seem small but you want to make sure you don’t crowd them out as you’re doing it.
LESLIE: So, is there a way to kind of know what would be the best plant for your area? And are you kind of picking a plant to attract a specific bird or you get what you get when you plant the right plant?
SHUBBER: So, it’s a little bit of both. There’s absolutely a way to find out what’s the right plants for your yard. One of the things is the National Wildlife Federation, which is the organization that is our parent, has been around for, obviously, many, many decades. And they’re focused on bringing back native habitats for a variety of native species. And they have this fantastic tool called the “Native Plant Finder,” a database where you literally put in your zip code and it gives you what are all the native plants for your specific area.
And it’s key because, oftentimes, people plant plants with the best of intention but they’re from other parts of the world. And so, while they’re pretty, they’re not really doing the job that’s important for the local wildlife that needs them.
LESLIE: And then, as far as the birds go, is it just the birds that are in your area will naturally be drawn to those plants or are you kind of planting a specific plant to attract, say, a hummingbird or a cardinal or something more specific?
SHUBBER: So, you can plant different ones that actually attract specific species of birds, for instance, based on the kinds of things like certain ones that attract hummingbirds, in particular, which feed in a very unique way. But the key is actually – what they’re doing is they’re attracting the pollinators and oftentimes, the pollinators, their young – the caterpillars are the food source for many of the birds. And so, those birds return when there is food for their fledglings that are in the nest.
And without the caterpillars – so, for instance, a clutch of chickadees in the nest will eat between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars during the short period when – through developing, right? So you need to have more places where those caterpillars can be found, which means more of the native plants.
And so, the more you plant – and I’ve done this in my own yard over the last 3 years. Pandemic was great for gardening. And I’ve planted lots of native plants and the number of songbirds that have returned to my yard is amazing. Every time I look out the window, there’s literally dozens floating around in the trees.
TOM: This sounds a lot like what you do when you plant a butterfly garden. Do butterfly gardens and native gardens that attract birds – are they many of the same plants?
SHUBBER: Yeah, depending on where you are, absolutely. Because the butterflies are some of the key pollinators. In fact, there are different kinds of flowers that you can plant for butterflies. Obviously, probably the most well known is the milkweed for the monarchs, right, which are extremely endangered. I think the IUCN has classified them as endangered butterflies. And the reason why is because their food source – milkweed – has been disappearing.
And so this is one of the things people are planting a lot of. We actually have a monarch conservation program at NWF for just that purpose. But there are lots of different kinds of butterflies that use different kinds of these native flowers.
TOM: We’re talking to Shubber Ali – he’s the CEO of Gardens for Wildlife – about the best plants to attract birds to your yard this spring.
So, Shubber, in addition to selecting the best plants, what else can we do to our sort of yard environment to make it attractive for birds? Should we be feeding them directly? What about bird baths, that sort of thing? Any way that they need to be protected that we should be aware of?
SHUBBER: Absolutely. In fact, you’ve actually hit on a big thing, which is it’s more than just food sources. And yes, you could put bird feeders out there, as well, and I’ll actually talk about the kinds of food that is best for them. But it’s also water.
You know, every lifeform needs water. Having water sources in your yard for wildlife is important, especially the birds, whether it’s for bathing or drinking, what have you. Also, shelter, right? A place where they can protect their young and protect themselves from predators is important.
There’s actually a program that NWF has called the Certified Wildlife Habitat. And over 300,000 of these have been created across the U.S. Most of them – I think over 60 percent of them – are individual homes. So, my house is a Certified Wildlife Habitat and that’s the way you provide food, water, shelter, a place to raise young. All those together, not that hard to do and it’s amazing the impact you can have.
LESLIE: Now, what do you do about keeping those plants thriving? I mean how do go about feeding them or fertilizing in a way that doesn’t harm the birds?
SHUBBER: Well, the beauty is that native plants are the ones that were here to begin with before we started terraforming and replacing them with these big, sterile lawns that we all have and that have kind of rolled across the country. Native plants know what to do when they’re here. And perennials, the beauty of them, as well, which from a pocketbook point of view is also good, is that they come back on their own. Perennials will last for years oftentimes. And so what that means is every year they’re coming back bigger and better.
And so, all you really have to do is provide the basics. The mulch will protect it. Don’t cut them down too much, because the insects and things use them even throughout the winter. And the new ones with grow back the next spring. Don’t use pesticides in them, because pesticides are bad for the insects again, as well, which is then bad for being a food source for the birds. Try to use natural pest control if you need to. What’s really good is that by bringing the birds back, they actually serve as pest control, as well, because they’re also eating the insects that bug us. No pun intended.
TOM: So, Shubber, you are the CEO of Gardens for Wildlife. I understand that you’re celebrating your 50th anniversary. Quite an accomplishment. Tell us about the things that Garden for Wildlife does.
SHUBBER: So, Garden for Wildlife is a program that was started in 1973 by the National Wildlife Federation. And it’s focused, really, on a couple of things. There’s education to let people know about the things that we’ve been talking about: why native plants are so important, how you could help wildlife by using native plants in your own garden. Which is a very easy thing for people to do, especially when people feel like, “I don’t really know what I can do. The world seems like a big, scary place and so many bad things are happening.” Well, actually, you can make a difference in your yard.
And so this program has been great for that. The Certified Wildlife Habitat program has been a big part of that. And about 3 years ago, NWF realized that one of the challenges for people was, OK, they’ve been educated on native plants but it’s really hard to find them. If you go to your local big-box retailer or garden center, most of what you find are invasive species from other parts of the world. Which are pretty, they look good but they actually serve almost no value to the pollinators and the insects that need native plants.
And so, if you want to go and find these plants, it’s often hard unless you can find local nurseries that carry them. A lot of these national delivery places that you can order native plants online, the problem is you still have to do the research to find out if they’re native for your area. So, NWF said, “What if we created a platform that allowed people to just put in their zip code, using that Native Plant Finder database, and be shown plants that they can buy for their specific area and have them shipped directly to their door, right?” So taking advantage of the Amazon world we all live in. And that is how GardenForWildlife.com was born. That’s the company that is being spun out of NWF to make it easier for people to do this at home themselves.
TOM: Yeah, you’ve got a great website. And as you mentioned earlier, all you need to do is to enter your zip code and it presents the native plants that are eligible for planting in your particular area of the country. So a really easy way to do this, to find the right plants, to attract birds to your yard so that you enjoy them all year round, really, and especially in the warmer months when the birds are just so prevalent.
Shubber Ali, the CEO of Garden for Wildlife, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great tips, great information on how we can attract birds to our homes. And thank you so much for all the work that you guys do to keep those birds safe and give us the kind of tips that we need to be successful, both as home gardeners and as birding admirers. Thanks again, Shubber.
SHUBBER: It was my pleasure. Thank you.
TOM: Now, if you’d like to find the native plants that work good in your part of the country, just go to GardenForWildlife.com. Follow the prompts. There’s a spot where you can enter your zip code. You’ll be presented with choices for all the different plants that will help attract birds to your space. Again, that website is GardenForWildlife.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Ruth in Michigan on the line.
How can we help you today?
RUTH: I have an older house that’s in need of some pizzazz and wanted to put shutters over my vinyl siding. Is that possible? And how would I attach them?
TOM: Yeah, it’s done all the time. And there are special fasteners that are used in that situation so that you pierce the siding without causing a leak to happen. And most of the shutter companies will sell those as part of the shutter, too, so you certainly can do that.
You do want to be careful not to squish the siding because, remember, the siding is somewhat soft. And so as long as you’re careful about the way they attach, you certainly can have shutters on top of vinyl. OK, Ruth?
RUTH: Alright. Well, good. I was wondering if it could be a do-it-yourself project.
TOM: Absolutely. Ruth, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you want to keep your houseplants healthy, watering is key. But how do you know when the best time to do that is?
TOM: Well, the answer is: it depends.
LESLIE: Ah, that’s a good one.
TOM: Well, it really does depend, because the best time to water houseplants can really depend on a lot of factors, like the type of plant, the water requirements for that plants and the conditions in your home. But generally speaking, it’s always best to water your houseplants in the morning.
LESLIE: Yeah and here is why. Now, watering the plants in the morning is going to allow that plant to absorb all the water and the nutrients throughout the day. And any excess moisture on those leaves or soil can evaporate during the day when there’s sunlight and warmth. Now, this can also prevent the growth of fungus and bacteria that are going to thrive in those damp conditions. Watering at night isn’t recommended for those same reasons. Excess moisture can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which can damage those plants.
TOM: Now, it’s important to note that different types of plants have different water requirements, so it’s always a good idea to check the care instructions for each individual plant to determine the best watering schedule.
Now, Leslie, what is your system for determining when a plant needs to be watered? You just do it off the clock or do you, stick your finger in it to see if it’s damp?
LESLIE: When it looks sad?
TOM: Yeah, there you go.
LESLIE: When it seems dry? I keep one plant in the bathroom and every morning when I take my vitamins and stuff, I put the excess water – dump it in there.
TOM: Oh, well, that’s – listen, you’ve got a system. It doesn’t matter how you do it. And who knows? Maybe the plant is doing well because it gets a little vitamin dust every time you do that.
LESLIE: It seems to be working. That plant in the bathroom is very happy. The other plant in the front? Not so happy.
TOM: Yeah, you can’t argue with success.
LESLIE: Stuart in Jamestown, Rhode Island wrote in saying, “I built a wood deck about 4 years ago and I haven’t stained it since then. What’s the best way I should be prepping the deck for a new coat of stain?”
TOM: So, this is a great question, because you need to make sure that the surface is ready to accept that new coat of stain. So, what I would do is I would use a deck cleaner or a deck brightener and I would apply that – mix it up, apply it to the deck surface, let it sit. And then get a brush broom, kind of as – like the kind that you might use to scrub a floor with. And go ahead and loosen up the dirt all around and then rinse it off.
I don’t recommend you use a pressure washer, because the thing is you’re probably going to wear away some of the surface of that wood and there’s really no reason. You’re not accomplishing anything there. You can do it with a deck cleaner. So, brush it out, let it sit there for a bit and then rinse it off. Now, if it’s a hot day, you’ve got to work in sections, because you don’t want it to dry on the deck.
And once the deck is done, let it dry thoroughly before you stain it. I mean we’re talking a couple of days or even longer if it’s damp and rainy out, because you don’t want to stain a deck when it’s wet. It just won’t absorb the stain – the new stain – properly.
And lastly, when it comes to picking a stain, I would avoid using semitransparent stains. I would only use solid-color stains. They’re going to last a heck of a lot longer because they’ve got a lot more pigment in them.
LESLIE: Yeah, definitely go with that solid. There’s so many great colors choices, too, that if you want to go a little daring with your color choice, there’s something fun out there for you to find.
TOM: Well, spring is here and that means homeowners across the country are going to start picking up their shovels for a variety of outdoor projects. Whether you’re planting trees or installing fences, building decks and other such activities, it’s important that you remember to make one phone call before you do any of that. And if you do, it could save your life and also save you a heck of a lot of money if you don’t make that call. Leslie has the details, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
What are we talking about, Les?
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. A recent survey found that more than half of the homeowners who planned to dig this season had no plans to check on underground lines or pipes. Now, if you dig without knowing the rough location of your utility lines, that’s really a gamble there, guys. Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid serious injury, you could still end up disrupting service to your entire neighborhood and possibly be responsible for fines and some hefty repair costs.
Now, damage to gas pipelines can cause some devastating explosions. Every digging job requires a call. Even small projects, like planting shrubs or hedges – and whether you’re planning to do something yourself or hire a pro, that call’s got to be made.
So, you call 811 from anywhere in the country a few days before you plan to dig and your call’s going to be routed to your local one-call center. You tell that operator where you’re planning to dig and what type of work you’re going to be doing. And your affected utility companies are going to be notified about your plans and then, in a few days, they’re going to send a locator to mark the approximate location of your underground lines, pipes, cables, all of it, for free at no cost. So, you’re going to know exactly what’s below and then you can dig safely without blowing yourself up, destroying things, damaging everything, being responsible for thousands upon thousands of dollars of damages. All sorts of stuff. So, it is a two-second phone call that can save your life and save you a ton of money.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, adding a backyard deck is one surefire way to increase your home’s living space. But is building a deck a DIY project? We say yes and we’ll share some guidelines to help you do just that, on the 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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