TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. If you’re putting away the red, white and blue decorations from last weekend’s Independence Day celebration, maybe you want to pick up some red, white or blue paint, make it a bit more permanent. We can help you with that. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Speaking of colors, coming up this hour, we all want a green lawn but we want to do that without wasting water. So we’re going to have some tips to help you cut water costs without losing that luscious lawn in the process.
LESLIE: Plus, home security systems, they’ve always been a kind of leave-it-to-the-pros project. But DIY home security has never been easier or more effective, especially now that home monitoring is available for systems that you install yourself. We’re going to have details, in just a bit.
TOM: And speaking of home security, do you know the top three signs a burglar looks for to know you’re not home? Well, somebody does because there was an interesting survey of 86 burglars and that’s one of the questions they asked.
LESLIE: How do you think they found the burglars to do this survey? “Hey, I’m looking for a burglar.”
TOM: I think they were all convicted burglars, though. But it was interesting because some of them had, you know, been in the business for 20 years and they were very forthright with their advice to help keep your home safe. So we’ll share that in just a bit. But first, let’s get to your calls. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
[radio_anchor listorder=”1″]LESLIE: Cindy in North Carolina is on the line and is having some issues with an epoxy floor coating.
What happened, Cindy?
CINDY: My husband and I have a townhome and it was owned by several other people. From what I understand, the previous owners used to fix cars in the garage, so – it’s a two-car garage. There are no cracks in the floor but it does have a very gritty surface to it and it looks horrible. I don’t really know what I can do. I mean at first I thought, “Well, maybe I can just” – is there some kind of paint I can paint over it or maybe – or is it something where I have to do another epoxy on top of the epoxy? Is it something a typical homeowner can work on?
TOM: Mm-hmm. So, Cindy, the floor that’s there now, is it well adhered to the concrete? Is it peeling off in any way or does it look like it’s pretty down there and pretty durable?
CINDY: It looks like it’s on there pretty good.
TOM: OK. So what I think you should do is clean it and then put another coat of epoxy on top of that – one or two coats over that. And I think that can brighten it up. So many choices and colors today and you’ve got manufacturers, like QUIKRETE, that make good products that can go there. There’s different types of texturing material you can add or color flakes you can add to give it some personality.
But trying to take that off wouldn’t make any sense. I don’t think it’s really buying you anything. Even though it’s got a texture to it, I would paint over it after it was cleaned and properly prepped.
CINDY: Can I ask how hard it is to handle the epoxy paint?
TOM: It’s not difficult. The way it works is it’s chemical-cured. So when you buy epoxy paint, you actually get two cans.
TOM: So you’ll get one that’s a gallon can but when you open it up, it’s only going to be filled three-quarters of the way. And then you’ll get a second can that’s a quart can and that’s the hardener. So the first thing you do when you open up the gallon can and the quart can is you mix them together. And that becomes the paint that you’re working with.
Now, remember, though, once you start mixing them, the clock starts ticking. And you’re only going to have probably, I guess, maybe two, three hours to use it up. But it won’t take that long, because you’re going to be applying it with a brush first on the outside perimeter and then a roller. And then you kind of work your way out of the garage. And as you apply it wet and they usually – they’ll give you these color flakes that you kind of shake over it to give it that personality and you stick in there and you just keep moving.
TOM: And I would do a 4-foot strip – wide strip – all the way down, then I would put my color flakes in. Then I would do another 4 foot and another 4 foot and pretty soon you’ll be right out the door. They’re really not that hard to do. You know, the key is just to be organized and to prep it properly so that once you actually mix up the paint, you’re good to go.
LESLIE: And then don’t paint yourself in a corner.
CINDY: Would I need more than one can for a two-car garage, as far as you know?
TOM: I would check the coverage on the can to see how many square feet that it covers.
LESLIE: Yeah. A gallon usually does 400 square feet, so …
CINDY: So, realistically, it’s something I can do in a couple of hours or …?
TOM: Oh, absolutely.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah. For sure.
TOM: Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. Mm-hmm.
CINDY: OK. Alright. Well, that sounds great. I really was afraid it was going to be a lot harder than that.
TOM: Dive in, Debbie. The water’s fine.
CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you.
TOM: Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
CINDY: Thank you. Bye-bye.
TOM: This takes one project to kind of get your confidence up and away you go.
LESLIE: You can give us a call now at The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor. You can get matched with background-checked home service pros in your area and compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments, all online, for free.
TOM: Yep. No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust. So give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question.
Up next, do you want a green lawn without wasting a whole bunch of water? We’ve got tips on cutting lawn-watering down to size for a lush lawn that’s easy on the environment and your wallet, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question which is presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.
So, Leslie, I was doing a bit of gutter-cleaning this past week.
TOM: And I was thinking about a story that 60 Minutes ran just a couple of months back that – it really was pretty interesting. And it was about homes in the areas where there’s a lot of wildfires and how you can protect those homes from wildfires. And guess what one of the solutions was? Clean your gutters.
LESLIE: Keeping it wet constantly.
TOM: Well, no. Actually, here’s the thing: they actually proved that if you can maintain a 100-foot barrier around your house of nonflammable material – so, for example, what was burning were pine needles that were landing on the roof and in the gutters, firewood stacked against the house, wood decks, wood mulch, things like that.
TOM: If you can basically design a perimeter around your house – because what’s actually catching fire when the big firestorm is blowing all of the red hot embers everywhere – they actually showed a video in a test environment that that was what was catching on fire. So it was the kindling for the house.
So when the pine needles lit up, then that roof lit up after that or when the firewood along the side lit up and so on. So they proved that if you can change those perimeter areas of your house and cut down on the things that are flammable, you have a much better chance of surviving the fire.
And then they went into communities where people have actually done this. And sometimes, when you see these communities that are badly damaged, you think it’s just kind of a random act of nature in terms of which houses are standing and which ones didn’t make it. Not this time. They showed that the houses that made those improvements were actually standing. And many that didn’t were gone.
So, really interesting tip and another reason to make sure you maintain the perimeter of your house in a way that there’s nothing there that could be kindling that could catch fire. And I think that’s good advice no matter where you live, whether you’re in one of these Western areas where you have a lot of wildfires or whether you’re in the East or the South of the country. Why put that kind of kindling against your house, right?
LESLIE: That really makes a lot of sense.
TOM: And hey, if you’ve got a great home improvement question or a story like that to share with us, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
[radio_anchor listorder=”3″]LESLIE: Larry in Texas is on the line looking for some help with a new roof. What’s going on?
LARRY: Well, we have a 15-year-old roof. We put 30-year Timberline shingles on originally. About 15 years ago, we had a hailstorm. I had the insurance adjuster come out and take a look at it and he said, “Yes, you need to replace it.” He says we’ve got about 35 squares to tear off and 39 to replace.
LARRY: He estimated 15 pound felt for most of it, 30 pound felt for our 12/12 pitch. He suggested a roofer company A that suggested shingle brand one.
LARRY: And I have worked with roofer B, who said no, we probably ought to go with shingle brand two.
TOM: Are they both name-brand shingles?
LARRY: Yes, I can name them if you want.
TOM: Yeah. Are they dimensional shingles, so do they look like the Timberline that you mentioned that you had before or …?
LARRY: Yes. They would be very similar to the Timberline dimensional.
TOM: And do they both have the same warranty?
LARRY: I think they both carry 30-year, although one I have not seen written copy from either one. And one of them indicated that after 10 years, the warranty may taper off.
TOM: All these roofers, all these contractors, they’ve all got their sort of attitudes and practices and they like one over the other. But let me tell you something, the differentiator on a roofing installation is not as much the shingle as it is the guy doing the shingles – the shingler, so the speak – because it all comes down to workmanship. And if the workmanship is not rock solid, it doesn’t matter how good that shingle is, you’re still going to have problems.
TOM: And so, I would make my decision based on which roofer I was most confident in could do a good job. And whatever product he’s comfortable working with, then I would just accept that product and not try to force him to use another one. But the devil is in the details. It’s about the flashing, for example, and the underlayments and the ice-and-water shield and things like that. If you get a roofer that does a really good job with those details, then you’re not going to have any issues.
LARRY: The adjuster missed one skylight in his estimate. He also missed one roof jack and he said, “Oh, well, we can pick that up when the roofer does his job.” Is that common industry practice?
TOM: I don’t know what he means when he says he can pick that up. If he missed it in his estimate, then I think you need to ask him to go back and revise the estimate to add the elements in that he missed. Because while you’ve got this guy’s attention and while he’s into the job and you guys are talking on a regular basis, I would just – I would ask him to revise it. It should be no big deal for that to happen. We don’t want this to go to installation and then there’s a payment dispute, you know, three months from now or something and nobody remembers what was said to who and when.
So, yeah, you want to get it in writing. You’re right. If he mixed the count up, if you add six skylights and he wrote down five, then you make him change it. That’s not a big deal. You can do it now.
LARRY: OK. Well, I did a lot of quoting when I was still in the working world and yeah, counts are important.
TOM: Yep. It’s his job.
LARRY: One quick note. My wife wanted a fishing tank out in front of the house and had one contractor dig that one and it didn’t hold water. I had another contractor say, “I can do that.” So I have called it my money pit, with apologies to your program.
TOM: Well, that’s OK. We will lend it to you for that purpose. You say a “fishing tank.” Is that like a goldfish pond, that kind of thing?
LARRY: No, it was about a ¾-acre pond.
TOM: Oh, my goodness. Wow.
LARRY: But here in Texas, they’re called “tanks.”
TOM: OK. Well, alright. Is there anything living in that fish tank right now?
LARRY: No, it’s not holding water. So I’m going to put more money into it and fill it back in.
TOM: Oh, boy. Alright. Well, listen, whatever it takes to make your wife happy, right?
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us, Larry, at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you love a thick, green lawn but would like to get that without wasting a ton of water, when, where and how much water you use on your lawn can really mean the difference between a lush lawn or perhaps an empty wallet.
LESLIE: Yeah. But cutting water costs without giving up the green lawns we love is pretty easy with a few simple steps.
First of all, you want to water your lawn early in the day. That really prevents evaporation. If you water at night and leave the lawn wet, your grass could develop a fungus disease. Think about it: it sits there wet all night, it doesn’t really have a chance to dry out ever, so it’s just going to develop all sorts of illnesses. And then you’re dealing with another problem to solve with your lawn.
Also, you want to make sure that you adjust your sprinklers to avoid wasting water by having it directed away from your driveway and your sidewalks. Makes sense but I see so many people just watering concrete, which isn’t going to turn green ever. Well, it might mold but that’s not the kind of green you’re looking for.
TOM: Yeah. The only thing that grows when you water your sidewalks is pretty much your water bill. So, you want to be careful with that.
TOM: Also make sure you use timers on your sprinklers to limit the water usage to only what’s needed. We’re talking, really, two or three times a week. It’s much better than daily, which can actually sort of over-water your grass. And a good rule of thumb is to make sure your lawn receives about 1 inch of water a week. And you can also accomplish that with smart timers.
Today, the smart valves are so smart, they can actually adjust the watering based on the rainfall. So, pick one up and give it a shot. Your lawn will still be green and healthy but you will save a lot of water and a lot of expense.
[radio_anchor listorder=”2″]LESLIE: Heading to Nebraska now where Ellie is on the line with a window question. What can we do for you today?
ELLIE: I’m replacing a window in the lower level of our home and I was wondering if you had an opinion as to what would be the best material for the window. Vinyl? Wood? Composite?
TOM: What kind of a window do you have there now? Is it a standard sort of double-hung window?
ELLIE: No. It’s actually five windows in one. It’s 9 foot by 3 foot.
TOM: Oh, that’s a big job. Yeah. My first point would be that you need to make sure you’re buying an energy-efficient window because with a space that big, you want to make sure that you’re using well-insulated glass. So I would only buy one that was ENERGY STAR-rated.
TOM: And you want to make sure that the glass is going to have a low-emissivity coating or a low-E coating, because what that does is that reflects the sunlight back out so that it doesn’t overheat your house. Otherwise, you’re going to heat that space up like a big, old greenhouse with a 9-foot window.
In terms of the material itself, I think outside the house, you want something that’s very, very weatherproof, like vinyl. And inside the house, depending on the window you buy, it can be wood or it could be vinyl. So if you look at a window like an Andersen window, they have beautiful windows that are wood on the inside and vinyl on the outside. It kind of gives you the best of both worlds. But again, there are many different types of manufacturers out there. The most important thing is not as much the material but the certification, to make sure that it’s an efficient window that’s going to perform well for you and last a long, long time.
ELLIE: We will look for those energy ratings then.
TOM: Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
[radio_anchor listorder=”4″]LESLIE: Alex in West Virginia is on the line with a question about grading. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
ALEX: I bought my house last year. It’s a 1926 American Foursquare home. The lot that the home was built on is 140 feet deep by 30 feet wide. But the problem is the drop from the very back of the lot to the very front of the lot is pretty significant. It’s about 10 feet. So the house is on a hill and I’m wondering what I can do to level out the front yard so it’s easier to mow and so it looks nicer, if I could build some sort of retaining wall.
And then I want to do something in the backyard the same way because playing on it, for our dog and kids, is kind of hard. I was wondering what you thought about maybe trying to level that out somehow.
TOM: Well, right now it sounds like the house is kind of cut into the hillside. Does it – so it slopes down towards a street in the front or it slopes away from the house?
ALEX: That’s correct. It slopes down. If you stand on the very front of the yard, you can’t – you’re not even above the lawn in the back.
TOM: So, I mean a retaining wall is the best way to achieve that. But of course, building a retaining wall, especially if you’re talking about several feet like that, is no small task. It’s a pretty big project and it’s got to be done well because if it’s not engineered properly, it’s going to fail. Fortunately, today there are a lot of good masonry products – precast masonry products – that work extremely well for retaining walls.
It used to be that your best option was something that looked like railroad ties that were stacked up and you had these railroad ties that would go back into the hillside. They were called “deadmen” because they would just lay there and hold the wall in.
LESLIE: That’s a terrible name.
TOM: But eventually, it – that’s what it was called. It was called the “deadman” and it was the piece that was perpendicular to the wall and was basically covered with soil, because that would be sort of the tie that would hold it in place.
But today, you could use precast retaining-wall blocks. They’re made by a number of great manufacturers. And you can stack those up, once you prepare the base properly, and then just sort of backfill as you go. And remember to provide for proper drainage because that really is the key. Whatever you do, you want to make sure that you’re handling the water that’s running down that hillside properly.
And if you are building into a slope like that, it’s really more important than ever to have what’s called a “swale,” where the water sort of divides before it gets to the back of your house, then it goes around the left and the right sides and then runs down to the street.
But certainly, that’s an option but it’s a big project. And it’s one that I would recommend you get professional help with because of the size and the scope of it. Well worth having a landscape architect or a designer kind of spec that out for you because if you’re going to do it yourself, you’ll know exactly what you have to do.
And if you’re not going to do it yourself, you can use that spec to get bids from qualified contractors and you’ll know that they’re all going to be sort of bidding apples to apples. The problem is if you just call a contractor and say, “Build me a retaining wall,” everyone’s going to build it slightly differently. And it’s going to be hard for you to figure out what’s the best choice, because the guy that’s the cheapest may not be doing the best job or using the best materials. You follow me?
ALEX: Mm-hmm. Oh, yeah, yeah.
TOM: That’s the way I’d approach it.
ALEX: I appreciate your answer. I listen to your podcast every week.
TOM: Well, thank you so much for doing that and we’re so glad you called.
ALEX: Alright. Thank you.
LESLIE: Hey, you guys, DIY home security has never been easier or more effective now that home monitoring is available for systems that you install yourself. We’re going to have those details, just ahead.
MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit, my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, as smart-home products keep getting smarter, it’s become entirely doable to install a home security system that’s just as capable of keeping crime away from your home as anything that you would find professionally installed but at a much higher price. But one thing that’s not been very available is a service that monitors those DIY systems.
TOM: Well, Iris is now changing that landscape with the launch of a new professional-monitoring service, which gives homeowners the ability to have first responders dispatched to their homes in the event of a security, smoke, carbon-monoxide or even panic alarm from their smart-home system. With us to talk about that is Mick Koster. Mick is the vice president and general manager of Iris Home Systems.
MICK: Hey. Thanks for having me.
TOM: So, Mick, I’ve got to tell you, I get this sort of local crime alert form the police department. And just yesterday, there was an attempted burglary probably within 300 or 400 yards of our home. And we’re in an area where, typically, fortunately we don’t get that much of it. But you know what stopped the burglar? A security system. Some monitored security system that tripped him up and they ultimately ended up catching the guy. So, this is really important. I think that’s why law enforcement agencies are constantly recommending that you use a security system and one that’s monitored.
MICK: This aligns really well with our purpose of trying to help customers love where they live and feel more safe and secure in their homes. So it just – we thought about trying to bring this service to market. It just made a lot of sense for us.
We’re always trying to think of how do we help our customers, how do we make them feel more safe and secure. And so adding this kind of feature set to our existing DIY system just made a lot of great sense. And then how do we make it as affordable and accessible to as many customers as we can was the other big goal. So glad to hear that your neighborhood’s safer as a result.
TOM: This is kind of a game changer because the DIY smart-home base security systems have been out for quite a while. But folks really do appreciate the monitoring aspect of that and that’s been the differentiator between those systems and the much more expensive, professionally-installed systems. How is it that we’re at a point now where we can employ monitoring services to take our technology – our self-installed, DIY technology from Iris – and use that in much the same way?
MICK: So, it’s – one of the goals that we’ve heard from our customers for a long time is, “Hey, we love the concept of self-monitoring security but the industry has really just built that mindset around having the ability to have police response or fire dispatch.” And we worked pretty hard over the last several months to really try to make this connection into these professional monitoring services and jump through a whole bunch of hoops, with respect to licensing and everything else, to make sure we could bring it available to our customers at a very affordable price point.
So we’ve really tried to make sure we can stay true to the value proposition of what we’re trying to do at Iris: make it a mass-market affordable opportunity for the everyday customer that’s walking into a Lowe’s today.
LESLIE: Now, Mick, I think it’s interesting. You know, when we think about home security, there’s so many layers to it. But when we talk about what you all have been doing in sort of this smart space, there really is a deep history here of exactly what you guys offer. Can you tell us a little bit about what these smart devices are?
MICK: We’ve been doing smart home now for almost five years and what we’ve really tried to do is bring together and marry the concepts of security with a smart home. And there’s not too many systems out there that are really doing that today. So we can obviously do things like monitor your doors and your windows through contact sensors or motion sensors. We have glass-break sensors. We have a keypad. Kind of all the things you would expect from a normal security system.
But then we marry that together with all the smart-home functionality, so you’re able to control your lights, thermostats, garage doors, as well, water-leak detectors, smoke and CO. And we even go a little bit further, even into some things like water softeners and hot-water heaters. So we’re really trying to bring two of these ecosystems together for a consumer, to really just make it simple and easy to say, “I don’t have to make a decision on do I want to have a security system or do I want a smart home. I can now have it all together with that 24×7 monitoring.”
TOM: Yeah. And it’s nice that you can basically customize your entire experience. Whether it’s a thermostat or whether it’s lighting or whether it’s your water heater, you can choose the smart-home devices that you choose to deploy in your house. And with security, you can do exactly the same thing. Whether you want cameras or sensors or water detectors, carbon-monoxide detectors, you can pick and choose your perfect complement of devices.
Is there a central sort of piece of this, a central module that is part of just the security system, Mick, that would bring all of the security aspects together?
MICK: Sure, yeah. For most of our devices, they all work primarily through what’s called the Iris hub.
MICK: And that’s kind of the quart of ice; it’s the heart of the system. It’s really what kind of enables all those devices to talk to each other and work with the app on the phone that you’re going to see or on your computer. So, that’s kind of a quart of ice and then once you get that going, you’re kind of up and ready to go. And so all those things just simply pair up with that hub and then you’re ready to rock and roll.
And as you said, it’s really easy for our customer base. They can just come on down to a Lowe’s and add to it and customize it at their own pace. You don’t have to call another installer to have them come out to add those different types of devices. It’s kind of at your own beck and call and you can customize it as you like. And we also now work with both Google Home and with Amazon Alexa, so you even have the voice-control features on top of that, as well.
LESLIE: You couldn’t make it more convenient.
Now, when it comes to this sort of monitoring package, is it a one-size-fits-all type of thing or can you kind of pick and choose what’s being monitored and how much that might cost for you?
MICK: We try to make it easy for the customer, so we do kind of include all of those monitoring services together. And really, we do that at what we believe is the market-leading price of 14.95 a month. So under $15 a month for 24×7 professional monitoring. You know, if you compare that to what the traditional security companies cost and even companies that offer security and smart home, you’re looking $40, $50, $60 a month, long-term contracts.
We enable you to basically cancel at any time. So, it’s month to month but you can sign up for monitoring for two days for a weekend away or for a trip away. That’s fine with us. We try to make it simple and easy for the consumer to be able to – you don’t have to leverage whatever they want to leverage: what their needs are, how they want those served. So, we’re trying to be a little disruptive in the space, we’re trying to be – make it easy for consumers. What we hear is: “Hey, I may just want it for a certain amount of time and be able to go back to self-monitoring outside of that.” But we just try to really make it affordable. That was the big thing.
TOM: You’ve flushed out your app further, too. You’ve got some new features called Alarm Tracker and History Visualization. What do those bring to the table?
MICK: So the Alarm Tracker concept is if you’ve ordered a pizza in recent times, right, you may have seen that there’s now pizza trackers. They kind of follow your way around in terms of what’s happening with your order. Well, we kind of took that concept and thought, “Well, how does that apply for security?” And when you’re in a very stressful situation, you kind of want to know where you’re at in the process.
And so we created this Alarm Tracker concept, which is very similar, just so that you know exactly where you’re at, whether an alarm has been triggered, whether your grace period expired, whether a monitoring station has been alerted or the police have been notified and they’re on their way. So you could have that incremental peace of mind to feel good about what’s happening in your home and where you are in the process.
Because maybe your phone’s not next to you at the same time. You want to make sure that if you pick up that phone, you can get really quickly to what’s happening and what stage of that process you’re in, just to kind of de-stress what is normally a very stressful situation when it comes to alarms in your home.
TOM: It’s really a real-time, 24/7 monitoring no matter where you are in the world. Great concept, great product. It’s called Iris and the website is MyIrisSecurity.com. Check it out today. And I’ll tell you what, in just a few hours, you could have your home completely covered by a burglar alarm and be protected through the Iris Professional Monitoring System.
Mick Koster, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
MICK: Hey, thank you, guys. I appreciate it.
LESLIE: Alright, Mick. This is really super helpful and it’s going to save people a ton of money in the expenses of home security but really keep everybody safe with a customized plan. So thanks.
And speaking of home security, do you know the top three signs a burglar looks for to know that you are not home? We’re going to hear what some actual burglars have to say about that, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find trusted home service pros, compare prices and book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: Hey, did you know that spending just about a dollar a month can save you a $1,500 or more home repair bill? We’re talking about the filters that protect your air-conditioning system. You need to change those to make sure that the coils don’t get clogged and to allow those machines to work efficiently. So pick yourself up a set of good-quality filters, change them on a regular basis and you will keep cool and you’ll avoid a potential major home repair.
LESLIE: Well, there’s a lot of advice out there on how to keep your house safe from burglars. But there really was an interesting survey done by the investigative team at KGW News in Oregon. They asked 86 inmates to respond anonymously to 17 questions detailing how they broke in, when the crime occurred and what they were looking for. We’ll share the highlights in today’s Home Security Tip, presented by Iris Smart Home Security.
TOM: Yeah. The KGW story is actually super interesting but in total, there were really four things that these burglars look for when deciding whether to go forward with a break-in.
First of all, they don’t want to be seen, right? So they always look for homes with big fences and overgrown trees or bushes that are easy for them to hide behind. Secondly, they do not want to see a car in the driveway. Almost all the burglars interviewed said they think twice if there was a car in the driveway.
Sound also freaks them out, so if there was a TV or a radio blaring, burglars say they would rarely break in. And finally, security systems – real security systems – not just a sticker, because the burglars definitely think twice about breaking into homes with one that has a security system and especially homes with cameras, which are so inexpensive and easy to do today.
So that – there you have kind of right from the horse’s mouth: four things that will keep those burglars away from your house.
LESLIE: Alright. Good tips. And that is today’s Home Security Tip, presented by Iris Smart Home Security, a DIY system that connects an entire range of compatible smart devices in your home through one single app. It lets homeowners create a do-it-yourself tailored system that’s not only convenient but effective, with 24/7 monitored protection for as little as $15 a month.
TOM: Yep. The service gives homeowners the ability to have emergency responders dispatched to their homes in the event of a security, smoke, carbon-monoxide or even a panic alarm, with no long-term contract required. You’ll find Iris at Lowe’s, Lowes.com and Amazon. And the Iris Smart Hub retails for just 69.99. And a security starter pack is just 99.99.
[radio_anchor listorder=”5″]LESLIE: Kevin in Rhode Island has a question about keeping a basement dry. What can we do for you?
KEVIN: I removed the downspout extension that took the water away, maybe, 3 feet from the foundation.
KEVIN: And I replaced it, because someone said it didn’t look good. I replaced it with a cement kind of water carry-away, which is 2 feet. And I noticed I have some water in the basement. So, it’s very damp. It’s damp is what it is.
KEVIN: So I put a little crushed rock at the end of the extension, hoping that that would maybe help out on the water dispersing down or something.
TOM: Yeah, that’s not going to do anything except prevent erosion. If you want to make your basement drier, you’ve got to move the moisture away from it. You were on the right track with the downspout extension.
Now, if you don’t want to see that, you might want to explore the possibility of running your leader into a solid PVC pipe and running that underground. But it has to be pitched and then discharged somewhere. So it depends on kind of the shape of your property as to whether or not you could make that happen.
But I would rather see those downspouts extended away from the foundation wall than deal with the water that can accumulate in the basement as a result.
KEVIN: Good idea.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Still ahead, can flickering lights be a sign of a dangerous electrical system? The answer is: it depends. We’re going to tell you how you can stay safe, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, which is presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find a home service pro you can trust. You can read reviews, compare prices and book appointments online at HomeAdvisor.com.
LESLIE: Alright, guys. Let’s talk about some cleaning projects. I know we’re spending more times out of doors these summer months. But getting all yucky and sweaty means you’re spending more time in the bathroom. And then you’ve got to clean it.
So, have you ever tried to clean your tub or shower only to find out that the more you clean, the duller it looks? Well, the problem might be that your shower is fiberglass and you are literally rubbing the shine away.
TOM: Yeah. Fiberglass showers are finished with a layer of gel coat, which is very easily damaged by abrasive cleansers which, of course, is exactly what so many folks use in the bathroom. So you want to choose your shower-cleaning products carefully if you want to keep that shiny luster and prevent water-spotting. Another thing you could try is waxing the shower walls once a month with liquid auto wax. Just don’t wax the floor of the shower.
LESLIE: Oh, don’t wax the floor.
TOM: Because we do not want you to get slippery and fall and all of that. So, hope that helps you out as you try to find new and easier ways to keep your bathroom tidy. And we can also give you some help with your projects if you go to The Money Pit’s Community section at MoneyPit.com and post your question right there. That’s what Kevin did.
LESLIE: Alright. Kevin writes: “My home was built in 1969 and the upstairs lights sometimes flicker when I first turn them on. It stops after a few seconds but I’m concerned. Should I be?”
TOM: Yeah. I think you definitely should be concerned, Kevin, and for a couple of reasons. First of all, even if I didn’t know when your house was built, anytime you have flickering lights like that as a result of turning the switch on or off, it means that there’s a loose electrical connection or a breakdown somewhere. Could be in the switch or it could be near the fixture. But if it’s flickering like that, I mean it possibly is the bulb but it’s definitely of concern. You want to make sure you don’t have any issues there.
And the reason I say that that would apply even if I don’t know your age is because in this case, I happen to know the house age of 1969. And I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector and some things I have an encyclopedia mind about and it’s usually not what I ate for lunch yesterday. But I can tell you that between ’65 and ’72, there were millions of homes in the country that were wired with aluminum branch-circuit wiring. We’re talking about the thinner wires than the number 10, number 12, number 14 gauge wires that were used for branch circuits.
And the problem with aluminum wiring is it overheats and can cause fires. So I would want to know, also, whether or not your house has aluminum branch-circuit wiring. We’re not talking about the really big wires for air-conditioning compressors and maybe electric dryers and things like that or electric ranges. We’re talking about the smaller branch circuits that go to your outlets and your lights. If they’re aluminum then, unfortunately, that wiring has to be replaced. There are a couple of modifications out there but if it was me, I’d probably rather just replace the whole thing.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a question here from Kate who writes: “My refrigerator isn’t working well and I’m wondering if I should call in a repairman to have the refrigerator repaired or just start over with a new fridge. It’s only a few years old and I’ve been happy up until now but it’s also out of warranty at this point.”
TOM: Well, deciding whether to repair or replace an old refrigerator, Kate, really requires that you consider several things, like the age of the refrigerator, the cost of the repair and the chance that it’ll break down again. And with the refrigerator only being a few years old, I think it’s still fairly new, so probably worth repairing.
Now, if you told me it was 10 or 12 years old, I would be much less likely to recommend that you spent any money on that. So, think about that when it comes to making that repair-versus-replace decision: how old it is and how long it’s expected to last. And then kind of do the math and make your decision.
LESLIE: So, Tom, I recently had something funny happen with my fridge. The front of one of the veggie drawers kept breaking off and every time I tried to repair it, it would just pop right back off. So I permanently removed the front and laid all my wine bottles sideways and now it’s kind of a makeshift wine fridge.
TOM: And it looks like it was always supposed to be that way and your friends go, “Hey, where do I buy a wine fridge like yours?”
LESLIE: Duh. Oh, you know, it’s custom.
TOM: Very special.
LESLIE: Special option.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. If you’ve got questions, you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2017 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.)