- DIY’rs are ramping up their projects this Spring with 84% planning to take on even tougher projects in 2021 than last year! We’ll share tips on a tool system that can help you get there, with a reliable battery system that works on DOZENS of power and lawn and garden tools.
- Do you enjoying hanging out in your yard or patio but would love to have a bit more privacy? We share landscaping tips and tricks to create private backyard hideaways
- If you have a plumbing project to tackle, one type of pipe is very easy to work with and can save you lots of money. That is, as the mice don’t get to it first! We’ll tell you how to keep mice away from PEX pipe.
- With Spring storms on the way, adding a whole house surge protector can help prevent against some serious electrical damage. We explain where this fits in your electrical system, how it works and why is not a project you should do yourself.
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: Here to help you get ready for your spring home improvement projects. Gosh, we waited so long for this weather to turn around again. And now that it’s starting to get warm, I can’t wait to get outside – I’m sure you can’t wait to get outside, Leslie – and you at home. If you’ve got a project you’d like to get done outside or inside – we’ll make a special exception – we would love to help. Help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us with those questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post that question at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, thanks in part to the pandemic, more people are taking on DIY projects around the home than ever before. And in fact, one study showed that of those that did a project last year, 84 percent are considering taking on an even tougher one this year. So, we’re going to share tips on a tool system that can help you get there, with a reliable battery system that works on dozens of power and lawn-and-garden tools.
LESLIE: And we’re going to look ahead to spring projects. Do you enjoy hanging out in your backyard but maybe you’re thinking you need a bit more privacy? You know, we all spent a lot of time out in the yard last year, so I think we’ve noticed that maybe the neighbors have their eyes on us, as well. So we’re going to share some landscaping tips to create private backyard hideaways.
TOM: And one type of plumbing pipe is very easy to work with and it can save you lots of money, that is as long as the mice don’t get to it first. We’re going to tell you how to keep mice away from PEX pipe.
LESLIE: But first, we’re here to help you with the projects you want to get done. From bathrooms to basements and demolition to décor, we’re going to share expert tips to help you tackle your to-dos with confidence.
TOM: So, help yourself first. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Heading to the Northwest of Montana where Dave is on the line who’s got a question about sealing countertops. Well, how can we help you?
DAVE: I have granite countertops myself and I’ve talked to the people that install granite countertops around here. And they all say, “It’s a rock. It doesn’t need to be sealed.” And they have no product that they’ll sell me. I guess maybe they want to come into my house and do it themselves but …
TOM: Yeah. Well, I mean my experience – and Leslie, you can share yours. But my experience has been that granite does, in fact, need to be sealed, especially when foods like coffee or tomato sauce or things like that get spilled on them, because they stain. They become very – they absorb the colors of those stains. And so, the sealants on the granite – yeah, it’s stone but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to absorb whatever falls upon it. So, yeah, I think it does need to be sealed. And sure, there’s do-it-yourself sealing products and there’s professional sealing products. But it’s definitely a surface that has to be sealed.
LESLIE: They are supposed to be resealed. And the lighter the color, the more often they are supposed to be sealed. Granite is a harder surface than marble, so it requires a different type of sealant and a different sort of type of frequency to sealing. I don’t do my granite countertops as often as I should. I’ve had them in the house 16 years; I’ve probably sealed them 3 times. I think the recommendation is every 2 to 3 years. And I notice little spots where it does chip out or the things where the sealant’s wearing.
But Tom is right. If it’s a lighter color, you need to make sure that it remains sealed constantly, because oil and sauces and wine will stain the heck out of it if it’s not sealed properly.
TOM: I think the secret is to choose a granite top that looks like oil and sauces and wine. And then you’re kind of covered, right?
DAVE: Yeah, yeah. So, is there something – some kind of a product that you recommend that has a certain additive, a certain chemical makeup that would be best to use? Because I’m not going to pay these guys a lot of money to come out every couple years. I’ve had it done probably 2 or 3 times in the last 10 years. And so, it tells me it does need to be done if they’re coming out to my place to do it.
TOM: So, there are a number of commercial products that are perfect for do-it-yourselfers. One is called Granite Gold. The product’s been around a long time.
I don’t know if – what you’ve been using, Leslie. Have you done this yourself or you’ve hired somebody to do it?
LESLIE: No. I have the company that installed the granite all those years ago come and do it. And they always reprimand me for not doing it sooner.
TOM: Of course, because they need the work.
TOM: But you can be the judge of that. There’s a lot of consumer products that are available that would do a fine job. If nothing else, for maintaining it before you having it professionally done. I don’t think there’s anything to be lost by doing it yourself. You could pick up a bottle of Granite Gold for 20, 25 bucks and probably do your whole tops.
DAVE: Well, I’ll look into that.
TOM: Alright. Well, listen, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us. It’s a good question. A lot of folks are confused by that, so we’re happy to address it.
LESLIE: Now we’re taking a call from Lou Ann who’s dealing with a flooring issue. What’s going on?
LOU ANN: Well, I had a hallway carpet when I moved here but my cat got sick and he started peeing.
TOM: Uh-oh. Oh, boy.
LOU ANN: Yeah, all over the carpet.
LOU ANN: So, I removed the carpet, I washed the plywood floor and then I painted it with KILZ, which is supposed to kill the smell.
TOM: Mm-hmm. OK. Yeah. Mm-hmm.
LOU ANN: Now, my dog goes pee in one spot every night. And I’m going to have someone come in next week. They’re putting down the – you know that plastic or whatever they put underneath? And I’m getting hardwood.
TOM: OK. So, you’re kind of a glutton for punishment here. You keep improving the floors and the pets keep ruining them on you.
Here’s what I would do. I would take up the old floor and I would prime the subfloor again, just because this is the time to do that.
LOU ANN: OK.
TOM: You did it right the first time. I just think you should do it again because, this way, if there’s anything left over from the pets, this will help to seal it in. And it won’t be nearly as bad as if you didn’t do it. So, before that new floor goes down, I think it’s a smart idea to prime the old floor again.
I would use – KILZ was a fine product. I would – if you had a choice, I would use the oil-based or the solvent-based version of that. Because it comes latex and it comes solvent-based. The solvent-based is a little tougher and gives you a better seal than the water-based.
LOU ANN: Well, to be honest, it was the oil base.
TOM: Oh, good.
LOU ANN: I didn’t know it.
TOM: Well, you made the right decision.
LOU ANN: It was winter and I’m putting it on.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good idea, if you have a problem with a pet like that, is to prime that surface because it does get saturated. And it’s the best way to seal it in permanently.
So good luck with that project, Lou Ann, and maybe we need to do a little work training the pets, right?
LOU ANN: Oh. Well, thank you, too, so very much.
TOM: You’re welcome.
LESLIE: Taking a local call from Steve in New York who’s dealing with a heating question. What’s going on?
STEVE: I used to have a steam heating system in my house, with the old radiators.
STEVE: My house is probably from the 1890s. And I was thinking about – the radiators have been removed and I’ve been heating with just a direct-vent heat system, one of them gas wall units. And I was thinking about trying to put forced air in the house but I have no way to get through the bottom of the first floor to the second floor, because I have sill plates in the wall. I was wondering if you’ve got any ideas what I can do for a heat system instead of putting steam back in here. Because I’d like to put central air in the house, too.
TOM: Right. So, you want to have a ducted system where you could have heat and air.
TOM: And you say that you used to have these steam radiators, but you took those out? That’s kind of a shame, because steam radiators and steam heat, in general, is a pretty warm and wonderful way to heat a house.
STEVE: Well, I still have the radiators downstairs and I could put them back in. That was my other question, too. Should I just go back to the steam radiators and a steam boiler and just forget the air condition?
TOM: To restore the steam-heating system, you would have the benefit of warm, moist and comfortable heat in the winter. Your air-conditioning system would be a separate ducted system.
Now, there’s two ways to do this. You can use a traditional ducting system, which would run in through your walls. Or you say it’s difficult, of course, because of the way the walls are constructed now. But in some cases – I know I have a house that’s a little bit older than yours. And when I put in air conditioning, we were able to run the ducts in closets and places like that, so they weren’t quite so obvious, without going through the walls itself.
But there’s another system I’d like you to look into called SpacePak, spelled P-a-k. S-p-a-c-e-P-a-k.com. SpacePak.com. This is a system that is a high-velocity, low-volume design. So, the ducts of a SpacePak system are only 3½-inch or so tubes. And they can be inside wall and floor cavities very easily. You don’t have to have the big ducts. And what they do is they move air through at a faster speed. That’s why they’re called “high-velocity.” And they still do a great job of cooling the place. So that’s another option for you in terms of getting air conditioning. But again, it’s a separate system than the heating system that you have now.
And of course, the third option is just to go with ducts all the way and putting in a forced-air system. It won’t be as comfortable as the hot water but it would be less expensive than two systems. But you’re going to have to find a very talented HVAC contractor that understands this is an old, historic home and they can’t just go tearing things wide open. He’s got to be creative and strategic about how he gets the ducts into each place in the house.
STEVE: Do you recommend baseboard electric heat at all?
TOM: No. It will cost you an arm and a leg, especially in New York. It’s the very most expensive way to heat a house.
STEVE: OK. I thought the electric baseboard came down in price but I guess I’m wrong on that.
TOM: It’s not the baseboard that comes down in price. The equipment is cheap; it’s the electricity that costs you an arm and a leg. OK?
STEVE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought they were cheaper to run today. I guess I’m wrong.
TOM: Yeah. No. Alright, Steve. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
STEVE: Yeah, thanks. Bye.
LESLIE: You know, thanks in part to the pandemic, more people are taking on DIY projects around the house than ever before. And a recent study done by Axiom showed that of those that did a project in 2020, 84 percent are considering more difficult home improvement projects this year.
TOM: Yeah. So, if that sounds like your household, you might be feeling like it’s time to start investing in reliable tools to get those projects done. And that’s why we wanted to talk with you a bit about the 20-volt line of HART tools that’s available now at Walmart.
When you’re considering power tools, it is really smart to select a line of tools that shares the same battery platform. Because no matter which tool you use, the batteries are interchangeable.
LESLIE: So, whether you need a drill, a saw, an impact driver or a string trimmer, before you shop for the tool, choosing the best battery platform to power those tools means that you’ll always have a convenient source of reliable power to get those jobs done.
TOM: Yeah. And that’s what you’ll find with the HART 20-volt system. HART’s battery compatibility is the key here because it allows all your 20-volt batteries to work with all your 20-volt tools. And that includes power tools, lawn and garden, automotive and even lifestyle products.
And the batteries are basically what puts the power in power tools. They’re compact, they’re lightweight, they’re powerful and they’re versatile enough to power HART’s entire 20-volt collection of tools.
LESLIE: So, before your next DIY project, check out the HART 20-volt system and the dozens of tools that they power. When it comes to DIY, HART powers your projects and your lifestyle.
Now, HART tools are available exclusively at Walmart, offering a complete line of tools, accessories and DIY solutions for you to easily tackle any project.
TOM: Do it with HART. Learn more at HARTTools.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Heading out to Vegas. We’ve got Mary on the line. What’s going on at your money pit?
MARY: I can’t believe how much money I’m spending on my house to maintain it.
MARY: I would never get that out of a sale or would I?
TOM: Well, it depends. What’s going on, right now, that you’re trying to deal with?
MARY: I need to put a new roof on my house.
MARY: I was basically given a choice by a roofer of using ice and snow paper, the water and ice …?
TOM: Mm-hmm. It’s called “ice-and-water shield.”
MARY: There was a 15-pound tar paper. That’s no good.
MARY: Thirty-pound tar paper or rubber.
TOM: OK. First of all, what kind of roof do you have? Is it – what kind of material?
MARY: It’s Mexican tiles.
TOM: It’s tiles. OK. And why are you getting a new roof? Had the tiles deteriorated?
MARY: They’ve been blowing off.
TOM: They’ve been blowing off. OK. They’ve been blowing off in such numbers that replacing the roof is the only option? I know that there’s more repair here than you want to.
The reason I’m asking these questions is I’m trying to make sure that the guy’s not just selling you a roof that you really don’t need. Because if the tiles are blowing off, then it sounds like they need repair; they may not need replacement.
In terms of the question, it concerns me because the options that they’re giving you, I’m sure they’re attaching enormously different price tags associated with them. And all of them are not really that much different, in terms of what the cost would be.
First of all, ice-and-water shield would be rare to use in an environment like Nevada, because it’s more common in the north. And what it does is it stops icicles from forming and – well, it doesn’t stop them from forming. If icicles do form and you get a backup of melted snow going back up under the tile, then it’ll stop it from leaking into the house. But in your environment, that’s pretty rare.
Secondly, the difference between 30-pound felt and 15-pound felt is not very much in terms of expense. And that’s just the tar paper that goes underneath the shingles. More to the point is what kind of roof shingles are we going to put on this place? Are we going to put new tile back on or are we going to go with an asphalt shingle?
And you can have asphalt shingles today that actually are styled to look like the tile that you had now. And if they’re installed properly, they actually look pretty darn good. So, those are the kinds of options that I would be concerned about.
MARY: Asphalt tiles?
TOM: No, asphalt shingles. It’s a standard roof shingle but if you look, there’s a type of shingle called a “dimensional shingle” that looks a lot like the old ceramic tile that you’re going to be removing. Has that same clay color to it. And the way it’s built, it has an edge that creates a shadow line, that gives you the visual appearance of depth. It’s another option for you.
So I would start with this. First of all, reevaluate why you want to replace this roof. The fact that you’ve got roof tiles that are blowing off, those ought to be repairable. And it wouldn’t necessarily call for a whole new roof. If you are going to replace the roof, then you have some different options, which would be more to the point of what’s going to go on the sort of the top-facing side and not what’s underneath it. Because I don’t think the expense of ice-and-water shield or 30-pound or 15-pound asphalt tar paper is going to make a big difference in the overall job that has to be done. It’s mostly labor and a small part of that is materials.
So I would proceed by determining if you really want to tear off that whole tile roof. Because in most cases, those tile roofs can last indefinitely if they’re well-maintained.
MARY: I understand. So you’re saying that ice-and-water is not …
TOM: Not typical for Las Vegas, yes. I mean how much winter snow do you get?
MARY: Well, when it rains, I don’t want it to leak.
TOM: The ice-and-water shield is not what stops the whole roof from leaking. Now, there are some cases – like in communities where hurricanes are common like down, say, in Miami – where they cover the entire roof with ice-and-water shield. But in the other 99.9 percent of the country, ice-and-water shield is only used at the roof edge. And the design – it’s designed to stop ice dams.
They only reason they use it in communities like Miami is because if you were to have a hurricane that blew off large pieces of – large sections of your roof shingles, the house could stay in – could remain watertight for some period of time and hopefully give you a chance to replace the roof before it starts to leak.
MARY: OK. How about the rubber base?
TOM: Well, I’m not quite sure what kind of rubber roofing you’re talking about. But typically, rubber roofs are used on flat roofs. And I’m sure, if you have a tile roof, it’s not flat.
MARY: Oh, I want it waterproof.
TOM: Well, a tile roof should be waterproof. That’s not – the waterproofing is not in the underlayment as much as it’s in the surface shingle that you choose.
I would talk to some more roofers, because I don’t think you’re getting the full opportunity here to understand the options. It sounds like they’re trying to dazzle you with the details, Leslie, but I don’t think she’s getting the full scope here. So I would try to get some more estimates.
Alright? I hope that helps and good luck with that project. If you have more questions, give us a call back.
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LESLIE: Now we’ve got Steve from Arkansas on the line. How can we help you?
STEVE: The water heater. We got just a regular, old-fashioned kind that they’ve made for years.
STEVE: When we moved in in ‘96, it was there and we’re still here. And this thing that’s supposed to go out in 15 years is still working fine. But I was in – the downstairs is a complete second floor, basement-style underground with concrete walls.
STEVE: And I didn’t want it to blow up or anything.
TOM: Yeah, yeah.
STEVE: Because I’ve even heard that they blow up through the roof, which in my case would be the living room floor, where my wife would be when I’d be popping up through the floor. Do I need to get in there and replace it and quit waiting on it to happen?
TOM: Well, first of all, is it a gas water heater or electric? What have you got?
TOM: I think that that machine has served that home well for you and the prior owner.
TOM: And if it was me, I would definitely upgrade it. I would replace it because why take a chance? It’s of that age where it’s probably going to leak at some point and you don’t need that kind of a mess, an emergency to deal with.
TOM: So I would definitely recommend that you replace it. New water heaters today are more efficient, too. You could also consider a tankless water heater, if you chose. So you have options now.
STEVE: We’re not worried pretty much about the cost. We just wondered, how long do these things last? Because I’ve only heard 15 years and we just can’t get over how long this one’s lasted.
TOM: Yeah. I see the warranties on water heaters anywhere from, I think, 5, 10 or 15 years. So when you get a water heater that’s 25, 26 years old, I think it’s high time to replace it.
STEVE: I know. Well, I thought maybe it might be a good one if it’s lasted this long. I’m afraid to replace it, you know? The new one might be as well. No guarantees in life.
TOM: That’s right, Steve. Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us.
LESLIE: Well, enjoying a relaxing afternoon in your own backyard really is one of the best parts of being a homeowner. But have you ever felt that maybe your neighbors are getting an eyeful every single time you’re out there? If you do feel that way, it’s a good idea to create a more private area.
TOM: Yeah. And not only is it great for you, it adds value to your home. Because a new survey of real-estate agents found that 48 percent of home buyers are looking for homes with privacy hedges. And there’s lots of very natural ways to do that, with screening options that both look great and take you out of the public eye.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think when homeowners think about privacy screening, they assume that you need a fence to get that project done. But there are a lot of natural ways that you can do that. And they do, sometimes, I feel a better job than a fence itself.
Now, a line of evergreen trees or even arborvitae, they can provide year-round seclusion even better than a fence can, because there’s no municipal restrictions on how high that tree can grow. But if you were to put in a fence, they’re going to tell you, “Oh, you can’t go taller than 6 feet,” or whatever that village code is.
TOM: Yeah. And you’ve got to get a permit and you’ve got to pay for the permit and you’ve got to get the inspection. So, yeah.
LESLIE: And then you get the ugly side.
TOM: That’s right. You get the ugly side, because you’re required to have the good side face out.
Luckily, trees don’t have a bad side. They look great all the way around. Arborvitae is a good choice because it doesn’t need pruning to keep its full shape from top to bottom. And it can handle a wide range of growing conditions. We recently replaced all our old hedges with a green-giant arborvitae. And that variety we chose because it will not be eaten by deer. Our old bushes were getting decimated by deer.
And boy, from the day we put them in, I see the deer walk up to them and they’re like, “Nah, I don’t think so.” And they move on.
LESLIE: They’re like, “Wait, what happened? This used to be our favorite spot to eat at.”
Now, you can also look into trees as an option. But if you’ve got power lines above your screen, you don’t want to mess with trees that are so big that they’ll end up growing into those wires. So you have to pay attention to their width at maturity. The spacing between the trunks when you plant them should equal mature width.
While the ideal growing conditions vary by species, one thing about all these evergreens that they have in common is they love the sun. So you need to make sure that wherever they are in your yard, they get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. And then you’ll find that the foliage is going to remain full, it’s going to keep the privacy intact, they’re going to look beautifully green all year long.
TOM: Now, if you want to get a sense of privacy right away, select specimens that are at least 6 feet tall with green foliage and very moist root balls. They’ll reach, generally, about 15 feet or more when they’re mature. And they should be planted far enough apart so they’ll be touching when they’re fully grown.
And trimming also helps determine what you plant. Now, if you want a natural wall of privacy quickly, go for the arborvitae over the evergreen trees. These can grow 1 to 2 feet each year and they can be easily shaped into a nice, neat hedge. Or they can be left to grow naturally to enjoy year-round.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading to New Hampshire. Sarah is on the line. How can we help you?
SARAH: I bought a seasonal home in Maine. So I can only be there 6 months out of the year, because you need a ferry to get over there.
TOM: OK. Oh, boy.
SARAH: And I want to make sure I’m not getting mice during the year when I’m not there, the 6 months that I’m not there.
TOM: OK. Alright.
SARAH: So, what’s the best thing to do?
TOM: Well, a couple of things. First of all, don’t store food where the mice can get to it. And that means, of course, not keeping things at ground level, making sure food is in sturdy containers if it is. If you have any small holes around the foundation perimeter, cracks in the foundation or space between the foundation and the siding, those are good to seal up. And you can do that just by sticking steel wool in the holes.
Avoid creating nesting areas. So if you have piles of firewood against the house or any kind of high brush, stuff like that is another reason for mice to kind of make themselves at home.
And finally, I would put down some rodenticide, some d-CON or a product like that, especially in the lower levels of the house. I don’t know if you have a basement or a crawlspace but that’s generally where the mice start. And then they will eat that and take it back to the nest and that will take care of, at least, some of them.
So I think it’s just a process of good maintenance and not giving them an opportunity to have food there that they want to stay around longer for.
SARAH: Well, unfortunately, the owner before me, all his wood is piled up underneath the porch. So I’m hoping that’s not an attraction for them.
And the other thing is he did insulate underneath the home. So I’m hoping that’s a deterrent. I don’t think they like the insulation. Is that correct?
TOM: No, actually, they love insulation. I’ve seen mice that will pull apart pieces of insulation to make a warm nest.
SARAH: Oh, no.
TOM: Yeah, they’re pretty energy-efficient creatures, you know? They like their insulation. But listen, I think it’s good that they insulated the floor, because it makes it much more comfortable for you.
So, those are the kinds of things. But listen, I wouldn’t worry about it unless you have a problem. And if it really gets bad, you can call a professional and they can deploy some additional tactics, OK?
SARAH: Alrighty. Well, thanks an awful lot. I appreciate your time.
TOM: Alright. Enjoy that vacation home. Thanks for calling us.
SARAH: I shall. Thank you. Bye-bye.
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: Well, if you’re building new or remodeling a home, one type of plumbing pipe has become very popular. In fact, more popular than any other over the last decade. And that’s cross-linked polyethylene and that’s more commonly known as PEX.
Now, PEX, it’s flexible. So that makes it really easy to snake down through walls or floor cavities. You don’t have to solder it together, which really makes it much safer to work with. And it’s about 60-percent cheaper than copper plumbing.
But there is a downside you’ve got to be aware of. Mice, for some reason, find this pipe super-duper delicious. It’s like their favorite tasty treat. But that can lead to a lot of water damage.
TOM: Yeah. So, if you have PEX water-supply lines, just be aware that mice can chew through them. And make sure you take quick steps to prevent a rodent infestation before it happens. We’re not saying don’t use it, because there’s a lot of really positive reasons to use it. But just be aware that that is a weakness. And if you do see any infestation, make sure you take care of it right away.
We’ve got step-by-step tips on how to keep mice and rats away, on our post titled “How to Get Rid of Mice.” And that’s on MoneyPit.com. Just search for it.
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: Janice reached out to us through Facebook. Now, Janice writes: “I’m interested in getting a whole-house surge protector that can help me avoid blackouts. What do I need to know beforehand?”
TOM: Well, first of all, Janice, the surge protector itself is not going to necessarily help you avoid blackouts. What it will help you avoid is damaging appliances and wiring in your house, because the surge protector does just that: it interrupts any surge of electricity before the rest of the electronics can be damaged.
Now, there’s different levels of surge protectors. Generally, utility companies do have, you know, sort of industrial-sized surge protectors that can protect the wires going into your home. But in terms of inside the house, you can use a whole-house surge protector, which gets installed in your main electrical panel or sometimes attaches to the top or side of it.
Definitely not, not a DIY project. Because if you know anything about the inside of electrical panels, even when the breakers are off there’s live wires coming in there. So, don’t do it yourself. But a whole-house surge protector is one option.
And then, the second thing is to use a surge protector at the device itself. So, surge protectors that protect, for example, your printers or your computers or your television sets. And those will protect those individual items.
I had a situation here, not with me but with a neighbor who got hit with a lightning strike. And it took out, I think, two air conditioners, her cable and there was something else. And I was fine. But just by luck, by happenstance, she lost all of that stuff with the lightning strike that wasn’t even visible. It must have happened. Nobody saw it but it definitely fried everything in the process.
LESLIE: I mean remember, we had that storm and I lost my dryer.
TOM: Oh, yeah. That’s right.
LESLIE: So, now it’s like everything is on surge protectors in the house. It’s like you just have to be careful, because you never know when it’s going to happen or if it’s going to happen.
TOM: Yeah. And if you want to protect yourself from blackouts, then you really need to have a whole-house generator. And that’s going to turn the power back on when the utility goes off.
LESLIE: Right. And that’s a whole different question and project.
TOM: That’s right.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to take a question from Tyler who says, “Is there a DIY solution for getting rid of ants or do I need an exterminator?”
TOM: Well, there are a lot of things you can do yourself or try yourself, I think, is the most important word.
For example, borax. It’s a very good insecticide for ants. You can sprinkle some borax around where they seem to be coming through and see if it has an effect. If you’re looking for an even cheaper, less toxic solution for ants, you can find it in your local produce aisle because a little bit of mint leaves will actually help to keep those ants away. And if you want a good over-the-counter pesticide, you can try TERRO.
Now, if the ants are relentless and they keep coming again and again and again, you really need to turn to a pro. And you shouldn’t be skittish about that, because the pesticides that are used today are much safer than the ones they had years ago. They’re designed to work on a single insect that’s bothering you and are very effective in making them go away for good.
I went through pretty much all of these steps not too long ago. I think it was last summer for my mom, because she was getting ants on her kitchen countertop. And we would clean them up and then we would use over-the-counter traps and use some borax and some this and some that. And we slowed them down but they just kept coming. So, ultimately, I called an exterminator. And he put the right amount of material, which was a gel in this case, just where it needed. And we didn’t see a single one for the rest of the year.
LESLIE: The good part is, though, if you’re seeing the bugs, it means the warm weather in the spring is finally here.
TOM: That’s right.
LESLIE: So let’s be positive.
TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. And hey, guys, we are so appreciative that you’re doing just that. And we hope that we’re bringing value to your home, value to you and saving you some time and some stress as you take on these projects. These are fun things to do. These are stress-relievers. These make your space better. And we are so pleased to be able to help you do just that.
Remember, a couple of ways to reach out to us with those questions. Of course, 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions on MoneyPit.com or on Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
That’s all the time we have for today, though. 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.)