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Add Drama and Security With Exterior Lighting, How to Keep Your Lawnmower Running Through Summer, How to Build a Good Fence, and More

  • Transcript

    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: It is officially the first weekend of spring and that means it’s time to get out and tackle a project. There’s got to be one lying about your house that you want to do. Whether it’s painting, roofing, decking, cleaning, we are here to help. No, we’re not going to come to your house and help with your spring-cleaning project but we might have a tip or two to help make it a bit easier. You could help yourself first, though, if you pick up the phone and call us. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    And speaking of spring cleaning, if you’d love to get your house sparkling clean, you’re going to want to hear this: there are places in your home that you might be overlooking, that aren’t just dirty but they could potentially be dangerous when they’re not clean. We’re going to tell you where they are and what to do about it, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And do you think that you are a do-it-yourself superstar? Well, even if your do-it-yourself skills are mind-blowing, there still could be times when you need to bring in that pro. So we’re going to have tips on how to find a good contractor for your money pit.

    TOM: And this winter, did you get tired of paying those high heating bills? Did you think that perhaps you’re losing most of your heat through your roof? Well, we have a solution you might not have thought of and it’s got a lot of benefits: it’s called a “living roof.” We’re going to tell you exactly what that is and how to grow your very own – yes, we said, “Grow your own roof” – in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Oh, you mean I don’t have to bring a couch up there and make it my new living room?

    TOM: No. But you do – you can grow it but you don’t have to mow it. I’ll tell you that much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good.

    And if you happen to have a new roof, why not add a beautiful, new floor to go with it? One caller this hour is going to get a great start on a new floor, because we are giving away a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators. They have got a huge selection of top-quality wood flooring at a great, low-price guarantee.

    TOM: So give us a call right now and let’s get to it. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Barry in North Carolina is on the line and looking for some help with a sunroom. Tell us what you’re working on.

    BARRY: Well, we’ve got a 12×15 sunroom and it’s just – it gets cold and it gets hot. It’s double-pane glass, insulated and it’s about 2 inches thick for the bottom part. But it’s like all metal, all aluminum and it’s just cold and hot. And I just want to know – and it is ducted; there’s an air duct out there.

    TOM: OK.

    BARRY: And is there anything I can do to make it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer?

    TOM: Well, what’s going on here, Barry, is you are not putting enough cool air or warm air in that space to deal with the heat loss that’s going on. So, I presume now this – what you did is extended your HVAC system into this space? Is that how it’s ducted, when you say it’s ducted?

    BARRY: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. And this is typical. The HVAC system is not sized correctly for that area and for the heat loss in that area and for the heat gain in the summer. This is a perfect scenario, though, for you to add a kind of system called a “mini-split ductless.” A mini-split ductless is basically three pieces: you have an indoor unit that hangs on the wall; you have an outdoor unit that’s a very small, very quiet, very efficient compressor; and you have copper tubing that connects the two.

    And you would buy one that’s just big enough for this sunroom and what it would do is supplement the central heat or cold air that’s coming through the duct systems and balance it out. It can have its own thermostat and can supply warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer and make that room totally comfortable. There’s little else that you can do to insulate the structure. It’s just a very cold structure by its very nature, a sunroom. But a mini-split ductless is a good product to install to balance this out.

    You might want to take a look at this website: ConstantComfort.com. That’s the website for the Fujitsu Company. I personally have a Fujitsu mini-split ductless in my office because the room, just like you say, it’s too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. And it’s been the perfect addition to my HVAC plan, because it really makes this space comfortable.

    BARRY: I’ve seen those units mounted before but usually they’re mounted up high.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    BARRY: Can they be mounted down low?

    TOM: You know, I believe they can. But the higher the better, especially for the cold air so it falls.

    BARRY: But there’s only like 2½ feet of solid piece down below; the rest of it is all window.

    TOM: Well, what about the wall against the house where the ducts come through?

    BARRY: That’s a point. I hadn’t thought about that.

    TOM: Yeah, see, it doesn’t have to be on the exterior wall.

    BARRY: OK.

    TOM: It can – and in fact, you would want to have it on the interior wall – against the house, where the ducts come through – and mounted up high. And you’ll be amazed at how comfortable that space will be.

    That website, again, is ConstantComfort.com. You can check out the Fujitsus there. And they also have an energy-efficiency calculator so you can figure out pretty much how much energy you save.

    Problem is that we build these spaces and we add them on to our house. We try to extend the heating and cooling systems …

    LESLIE: And it just puts too much pressure on the system.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s just not enough.

    BARRY: OK. Very good. That answers my question then.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rebecca from Georgia on the line who has a question about her brick house. How can we help you?

    REBECCA: I stained my house – oh, gosh – 20 years ago.

    TOM: You stained your brick house?

    REBECCA: And I have – yeah.

    TOM: OK.

    REBECCA: It’s a brick house and I stained it in a dark color and I’ve never liked it. Is there anything I can do to get this stain out?

    TOM: But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    REBECCA: Yes, it did. Yes, it did. It’s an ugly brick and it just stood out. It just shouted at you and I was trying to just calm it down a little bit.

    TOM: Right.

    REBECCA: But it – I’ve never liked it. And I would like to – I wish I could get my natural brick back, is what I wish.

    TOM: And now that you’ve been staring at it for 20 years, that’s all you can stand and you can’t stand it anymore.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    LESLIE: And you really don’t like it.

    REBECCA: My next step will be to paint it but …

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Oh. Hmm.

    REBECCA: I wish I can get that stain off; I really do.

    TOM: Problem is that the brick is like a sponge.

    LESLIE: Porous.

    TOM: It’s very porous.

    REBECCA: Yes, yes.

    TOM: And so I’m sure that whatever stain you used soaked right into it and since – not even like it’s something that we can physically get to …

    REBECCA: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Yeah, because even if you paint brick and then years later you’re like, “Bleh, I want to get rid of it,” that would be something that’s like a sand-blasting option. And you can get that paint that sticks to the surface off but once you get down to the brick, say you painted it white, you’re still going to see a wash of white in all the pocking of the brick.

    REBECCA: Exactly.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: So with the stain, I don’t even think sand-blasting would get that.

    REBECCA: No.

    TOM: And it’ll destroy the brick, too.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah.

    REBECCA: Oh, I see. I thought about that.

    TOM: Well, I think you should not stress about it anymore and I think you should think about painting it.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: But before you do that, think of any other things – and I’m going to ask Leslie to put on her decorator hat now – any other things that you can do to soften that dark color and do other things like the trim, the windows, the molding, any of those types of exterior …

    LESLIE: Adding shutters.

    TOM: Right, shutters.

    LESLIE: Adding window boxes with lots of beautiful floral and greenery to hide some of that.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Encouraging ivy to grow on the side of the brick.

    TOM: But now, seriously, you can think about decorating around the dark color. It’s like when you buy a house that’s got a really old, 1950s bathroom and you hate the pink but it’s rock-solid – it’s a rock-solid tile project.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    LESLIE: She’s like, “Wait, I have one of those, too.”

    REBECCA: You’re talking about my house.

    TOM: There you go.

    LESLIE: Oh, God.

    TOM: There’s always a way to decorate around it, so I’d just like you to think about that because once you paint, you know what comes next?

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: Repaint.

    REBECCA: I know, I know. Yes. But anyway, I will definitely do what you said. That sounds good.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, if you’ve been letting the cobwebs gather all winter, it’s time now to throw open the curtains and give your house a good spring cleaning. We’re going to tell you where serious dirt might be lurking, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a great spring-project prize. We’re giving away a $250 gift certificate from our friends at Lumber Liquidators. And they’ve got some of the best selection that you can find in flooring, really, with a great price tag to go along with it. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your project and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Adam in Iowa is dealing with a wet bathroom. Tell us what’s going on in there.

    ADAM: Well, I have condensation on my ceiling.


    ADAM: We had our roof redone, oh, about three years ago and now it seems like when it gets cold out, we get condensation on our ceiling.

    LESLIE: Do you have any sort of venting in your bathroom? Because it sounds like your attic is cool and you’re in your shower and the bathroom gets super-hot and then there’s no movement of air in that bath and that’s what’s causing that temperature differentiation.

    TOM: So what happens is the warm, moist air strikes the underside of the chillier bathroom ceiling and condenses.

    ADAM: OK.

    TOM: And so, if we were to warm up the bathroom ceiling by making sure it’s insulated above, couple that with proper bathroom ventilation, then this problem will totally go away.

    ADAM: Right. OK. So the vent we have for the shower is probably not significant enough for the bathroom itself?

    LESLIE: And are you certain that the vent that you have in the bathroom is actually vented outside and not just venting into your attic?

    ADAM: I believe it is. There is – I don’t know. I’d have to look for sure but I think they did put it but it’s not a very big vent itself.

    LESLIE: OK. So you have some air movement but just not enough. It could be that you’re just not getting enough of that moist air out or you’re not using it in the proper way.

    Traditionally, with a bathroom vent fan, you want, obviously, to have the vent fan on while you’re bathing and then you want to continue to run it for about 10, 15 minutes once you’re out of the shower, because that’s when the condensation really occurs.

    Now, if it’s time for a new one – maybe your model’s just not efficient enough or not moving enough of that moist air out – a great company to check out is Broan-NuTone. And if you go to their website, Broan.com – B-r-o-a-n.com – you’ll find a ton of different models available with lights, without lights, ones that actually look like vent fans, one that looks like a ceiling high-hat that really conceals a bath vent fan.

    And what’s great is that a majority of their models are Energy Star-rated, because they’re made so efficiently to be silent and to move a tremendous amount of moisture out of the bath. That’s how they meet a lot of the Energy Star ratings. They’re affordable. It’s really worth looking into because if you’re dealing with this problem over and over again, eventually you’re going to get mold and mildew growth on your ceiling. You’re going to have to repaint, repair. There’s a lot that this is going to cause if you don’t nip it in the bud right now.

    ADAM: OK. And this is something I could install myself?

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. If you’re a handy guy or you’re a DIYer, you definitely could put in a new fan yourself. It’s not terribly a difficult project to do: pretty much basic carpentry and basic electrical work.

    ADAM: OK, guys. Appreciate it.

    TOM: Well, no more excuses, folks. It is the official first weekend of spring and that means it’s time for spring cleaning. And when you’re giving your house that good onceover, take note: there are things in your home that you might be overlooking that could turn into, oh, shall we say a “bio-hazard”?

    You know, one of the most common places to find that overlooked grime is your ceiling fan. Clean the top of the blades to make sure dust, dirt and who-knows-what aren’t flying off onto you or your guests when you flip the fan on. Especially important if that fan is over, perhaps, your kitchen or dining room table.

    Also, clean the top of your fridge. Unless you’re super-tall, it’s not a place that you might see every day but that grease, that dirt, that grime, it can really accumulate there pretty quickly. And it will also lead to germs and even a fungus or two, so that’s especially important if you store anything up there.

    LESLIE: Ugh. You’re adding things to my to-do list, Tom. Stop.

    And guys, you know those cloth, reusable grocery bags? They’re great for the environment but do you ever wash them? Oh, my gosh. I don’t know if I ever have. Remember that you’ve probably had raw meat in them and they really need a good cleaning after each use. So unless that bag says otherwise, wash them in hot water. I am going to do that this weekend.

    Next, you probably love your morning shower but if you’re not cleaning your showerhead, you could actually be bathing in bacteria.

    Why do these spring-cleaning segments always give me the heebie-jeebies, Tom?

    A study from the University of Colorado found, get this, 30 percent of showerheads had the bacteria on them that cause lung infections. Zoiks. Clean those showerheads.

    And lastly, your trashcans. Unspeakable things can grow on the bottom of that trash bin from your leaking garbage. You may want to take them outside. You may want to use the pressure of a hose on them.

    You want to follow these tips. This way, you can have a clean and safe spring. Now that you’ve thoroughly got the willies, take out your paper, make your list and then go do them.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your next spring home improvement project.

    LESLIE: Ann in Iowa is working on remodeling a kitchen. Tell us how your project’s going.

    ANN: Well, we haven’t started it yet but I have high hopes.

    LESLIE: OK. OK, good.

    ANN: I had a question. I was looking – my husband and I, we’re remodeling to have an open floor plan between the kitchen and the dining room and the living area.


    ANN: But we’re having some differing ideas on where to locate the sink. And I just wondered what type of things – what considerations you guys might have for us, as far as – my husband is thinking put it on the counter against the wall, looking out a window. And I’m wondering if maybe it would be better on the island, overlooking the room.

    TOM: For the sink? I think because most of the work you do at your sink is sort of the small, day-to-day stuff, it’s always nice to have it near a window.

    Some folks like to have a second sink in an island but that’s more for like vegetable prep and that sort of thing, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Or like a bar type of sink.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: The main thing that you need to keep in mind is the functionality of the kitchen itself, Ann. And generally, people go by what’s called a “working triangle”: going from the fridge to your sink to your stove, so that it sort of triangulates between the three. And it doesn’t have to be a perfect, normal triangle – it can be any sort of access of the three points – but it’s just made for convenience.

    An island is great. Some people put a cooktop in the island; some people will put a smaller sink. A lot of people also use the island as an additional eating, sort of sitting/dining area. You need to think, since you’re in that open plan, the other thing is in the open plan, your sink tends to get kind of messy. You’re going to have dishes building up there.

    If you’re like me, your husband never puts the dishes in the dishwasher, so you’re going to be dealing with things sort of just building up and sitting around in that area, even if it’s just for a minute, which could be kind of distracting should it be in the center of the space.

    ANN: Right.

    LESLIE: So it might be better to have it off on the counter but think about how you’re going to traffic between the three areas. And put it really where it’s going to best work for you guys.

    ANN: Right. OK, OK.

    LESLIE: With an island, sometimes people will – and I’ve done this for clients before – sort of build a two-level island. And I’m not talking about a crazy height difference but maybe a 6-to-an-8-inch step-up, so you’ll have your work surface at the lower height, where you could have a sink.

    ANN: Right. Right.

    LESLIE: And then on that little step-up will be your overhang for your stools or your counter-service area. So that this way, if you’re looking it at from the open-plan area, it does hide that mess a little bit. So if it’s really something that you just have to have in the island, that helps.

    ANN: How would that be, even if we didn’t have a sink there? Would it be – the uneven island – would that be a good idea, even if we didn’t have a sink or …?

    LESLIE: It definitely helps, only because then you have an area to be a little bit messy and not be on showcase: the mess or the utensils sticking around or your kids’ projects.

    ANN: Right. Right.

    LESLIE: It sort of gives you a little place to hide things from the main area.

    ANN: Right, OK.

    LESLIE: I think it’s definitely beneficial. Think about – when you’re planning the height, think about the stool height. You’re sort of stuck at 28 inches and 30-something inches, so make sure you pick a height for that step-up that works with seating.

    And then also think on the kitchen side, you’re going to need something on that backsplash. So if you’ve got a certain tile in mind, think about two or three runs of that tile to give you the height that you need or whether you’re continuing your granite or whatever your surface is, as the backsplash. Because those are some things to consider.

    ANN: You’ve helped me make my decision, so I really appreciate it. I love your show, too.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Ann.

    TOM: Good luck with that project, Ann. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, you might think of fairy tales or extreme environmentalists when you hear the term “living roof.” But it is, in fact, exactly what you’re picturing: grass, flowers and more, right up over your head.

    TOM: Green roofs are growing in popularity and they actually deliver benefits you might not know about. We’re going to find out all about green roofs when we talk to an expert, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Quicken Loans. Call Quicken Loans today at 888-450-0024 or go to QuickenLoans.com to receive your free home-loan review. They’ll give you their best possible mortgage at their best possible rate, in the shortest amount of time. That number, again, is 888-450-0024. Equal housing lender. Licensed in all 50 states. NMLS Number 3030. Call today. 888-450-0024.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, they aren’t just from Middle Earth or Grimms’ Fairy Tales anymore. Regular folks all around the country are opting now for a living roof.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, living roofs or green roofs are just what the name implies: they’re roofs that are covered in vegetation. So why would the average person want this? Well, you’d be surprised at the advantages.

    Emilio Ancaya, the president of Living Roofs Incorporated is joining us to explain.

    Welcome, Emilio.

    EMILIO: Thank you.

    TOM: So my first question is: how do you mow your roof?

    EMILIO: Well, most of these roofs aren’t the type of roof that need to be mowed, so we’re not putting typical sod.

    TOM: That’s good.

    EMILIO: But that’s a good question.

    TOM: So, what is a living roof typically made of? Is it always grass? Are there other vegetations that are used? How do they kind of get installed and most importantly, how are they maintained? Because I think we think of anything that is vegetative as needing a lot of care.

    EMILIO: Right. Well, to start out, most green roofs – the kind of modern-style, contemporary-style green roofs now – are not planted with grass. Grass is high-maintenance, as we all know: mowing and fertilizer and all that. So, really, what we’re going after on a more modern-style green roof is low-maintenance-type plants: drought-hardy, they don’t need to be mowed, they can grow in thin soils, lightweight roofs. So they’re a lot less maintenance; they don’t need to be cut. So that’s really what the modern-style green roofs are planned with.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And Emilio, I’ve seen them, I would say, on more swanky hotels and urban environments that are kind of eco-friendly and trendy.

    EMILIO: Sure.

    LESLIE: And I mean is it a viable choice for any kind of location or is this really an urban phenomenon?

    EMILIO: No, no. We see it everywhere. It’s most common in urban settings and universities. Really, when we first started the business, most of our work was residential, I think, just because it was kind of a popular thing. It was written up a lot in garden magazines. But now that people are learning more about it, we’re seeing more and more universities, real estate, commercial, downtown properties, condos, like you said.

    But also, still, a lot of homes are doing it. So it’s not just high-end, swanky-type places. We’re seeing a lot of public buildings, as well, installing green roofs.

    TOM: We’re talking to Emilio Ancaya. He is the president of Living Roofs Inc.

    And Emilio, what does it actually take to install a living roof? Does it impact the structure of the building? Is it something that you could do in a remodeling situation or do you really have to use this only if you’re kind of building a new home or a new commercial building from the ground up?

    EMILIO: No, it absolutely does best in a new construction, because that’s the easiest way to go with – because you’re able to design it in the design phase to hold that weight. Because, obviously, there is a lot of weight involved with a green roof.

    But for retrofits, you absolutely can do it. Fifty percent of our projects are retrofits but you absolutely have to have a structural engineer get in there, look at the building structure and see if it can handle the added weight.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And is there a roof line or shape or style that is better suited for this application? Is it strictly a flat-roof application?

    EMILIO: Yeah and in most – 90 percent of the projects are flat roof. And when we say “flat,” they’re not actually dead flat; there is some slope to it, so it still allows water to drain. So, usually, that’s a ¼-inch per foot fall or very slight slope. So it’s not strictly flat.

    But that’s really where we’re seeing most of our projects and those are the – honestly, they’re the cheapest way to do it. Once you get into a sloped roof where you have to incorporate all kinds of soil-retention systems and things that keep the material from sliding off the roof, then it gets pretty costly.

    TOM: What kind of roof is actually installed as sort of the waterproof membrane under this? Is there a particular type of low slope or flat roofing that works better than others?

    EMILIO: Yeah, there’s a whole gamut of waterproofing systems out there. There’s your single-ply-type systems, like you see in a lot of commercial roofs, like your TPO and PVC roofs that are like a white membrane-type roof.

    There’s also built-up systems, that other manufacturers have, that are more beefy, that have many more layers to them. So, there’s a lot of typical waterproofing systems that are used with green roofs. It’s not really anything special that goes with a green roof.

    LESLIE: So, Emilio, I’m sold on the idea and I’ve seen it beautifully done in an urban environment. But as a suburban homeowner, is there anything that I can do myself to sort of implement this plan and reap the benefits and the beauty?

    EMILIO: Yeah, absolutely. There is – something that we offer is something – is a plan set for garden sheds or small outdoor structures with green roofs. And basically, it’s a plan set that any homeowner or anybody can buy and build their own shed. It’s got all the material list, the design. They’re properly structurally designed for the load of a green roof and then what types of plants you can use. So that’s a great way to get your foot in the door, just to get some early education on green roofs at your home level.

    TOM: We’re talking to Emilio Ancaya. He is with Living Roofs Incorporated.

    There are a lot of energy-saving benefits to installing a living roof, Emilio. I would imagine, in the summer, it can be particularly energy-saving because it’s going to keep a lot of that heat out of the building, meaning that you’re not going to have to spend as much in air conditioning. Is that correct?

    EMILIO: That’s right, Tom. You’ve got it. I mean it’s – they significantly reduce heat that goes through the roof structure into the building. So if you can keep your building cooler, then you’re going to have less to man on your HVAC system.

    TOM: Excellent. You can see more of Emilio’s work and read about green roofs on his website. That’s LivingRoofs – that’s roofs with an S – Inc.com.

    Emilio, thanks for joining us and spreading the word about living roofs.

    EMILIO: Thank you, Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: Well, you’ve no doubt heard horror stories about contractors gone bad. Well, get this: there are actually plenty of great contractors out there. You just have to find them. So we’re going to tell you how to do that, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now with your home improvement project. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you might just be the one caller who wins our prize this hour. It’s a $250 gift certificate from Lumber Liquidators. That is plenty to get you started on your next flooring project.

    Lumber Liquidators is great because they cut out the middle men and they buy direct from the manufacturer. That means savings for you on their gigantic selection of flooring. So pick up the phone right now, ask us your question and you might just win a $250 gift certificate from Lumber Liquidators. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, you could be a star with a staple gun or perhaps you’re a Houdini with a hammer. But unless you are a professional, there are times when you will need to call in a pro for some of your home improvement projects. If the project is dangerous, if it’s over your head or if it’s just going to take too much time to learn as you go, call in a pro.

    And you’ve probably heard nightmare stories about needing to do that when they talk about contractors botching a project, taking way too long or even sleeping on the job. The good news is that there are ways to avoid that.

    First, make a budget. You need to know as much as you can about the project cost before you get started. And this way, you’ll be protected that no one tries to overprice the job.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, once you’ve done that, you want to start asking around. Word of mouth is really important in the contractor world. You want to ask your family and friends, you want to go on websites like Angie’s List or ServiceMagic. And you’ve got to read what people are saying about different contractors.

    Now, once you’ve sort of narrowed it down, start taking bids from the ones that you’ve selected. And remember, cheaper really isn’t always better. I don’t know if it’s ever better. You want to interview the contractors that you’ve selected and ask for a timetable.

    Now, most contractors, they want to do a good job and they want to use you for a reference. It’s just a matter of finding that right one for you.

    If you want some more information, Google “money pit find best contractor” and we will help you with the step-by-step there to find a good person in your area.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Dottie in Nebraska is on the line and needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you today?

    DOTTIE: I’m replacing – will be replacing a vinyl floor in the kitchen. And I’ve never had a wood floor. I love the look of wood but I’m confused as to whether to go with wood or with laminate, because I want easy care.

    LESLIE: OK. And this is strictly for your kitchen or does it …?

    DOTTIE: We will be going into the dining room, too, we’ve decided. We’ll be taking up carpet in there to extend into the dining room.

    LESLIE: OK. So it’s – is it an open plan or is there a threshold or is there a division between these two spaces?

    DOTTIE: There is a counter between the two.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, for kitchens, hardwood floors are beautiful but generally, even if they have a commercial type of coating on them, they’re not really meant to stand up to the wear and tear and perhaps the moisture that could occur in a kitchen environment. I think a laminate is probably a better choice for you, just because of the way they are made. And the finishes on top of them make them more easy to clean, easier to deal with any spills that might occur and certainly more durable and of course, can look like anything.

    I actually just put a laminate, in a home I redid in California, that was a 6-inch-wide plank that had a hand-scraped finish on it. So it certainly had that warmth and look and a quality of a traditional hardwood that you’re probably looking for. And depending on the quality of laminate, you could get kind of close to a hardwood price but I think you can still keep it in your price range.

    DOTTIE: Yes.

    LESLIE: But you can find, certainly, beautiful options in the laminate. I think that’s probably the way you want to go for a kitchen.

    DOTTIE: OK. And see if you agree with this: I’ve been told that we have oak cabinets that are OK and not to try to match those. Is that right to go lighter or darker?

    LESLIE: Absolutely. What color is the oak? Is it sort of natural? Has it been stained a different tone?

    DOTTIE: It’s pretty typical, warm oak: kind of a golden – kind of a medium brown.

    LESLIE: I like the idea of a darker floor in a kitchen. I feel like it’s more forgiving. I feel like it makes the cabinets sort of jump off and create a more put-together look for a kitchen space. I think with a lighter floor, you’re always going to be trying to clean it and care for it, cover it up.

    DOTTIE: OK. And as far – I have a friend who put – I think she said hers is cherry but I love the look. It’s kind of a – the planks are a different shade; they’re not all the same color. Is that something you think that I could find or would that look nice with the oak?

    LESLIE: Now when you say “different shades,” is it strikingly different? Does it look sort of patchwork-y or is it more tonal?

    DOTTIE: No. No. More subtle than that.

    LESLIE: More subtle. I mean I think it could be a very good look if you’ve got the right look for your kitchen. That tends to be a more – not a hippie-dippie but Bohemian, free-spirited sort of eclectic look that’s very popular right now. So if you’ve got that look going in your lighting fixtures and in your tile work and in your countertops, then it could really tie it all in together.

    DOTTIE: OK. And one last question. That floor that I like is laid on the diagonal. Do you do that much and do you recommend that?

    LESLIE: Depends on the size of the space. Because if it’s a tighter or a narrow kitchen, it could look very busy. But if you’ve got a good expanse and the kitchen is fairly wide, then it could play very nicely.

    DOTTIE: Well, that’s wonderful. That’s what I wanted to know. I thought probably the laminate was better. I want it to look beautiful; I don’t want it to look fake.

    TOM: I’ll tell you, Dottie, I have laminate in my kitchen and I’ve had it for about 10 years now.


    TOM: It looks like stone floor and it’s beautiful.

    DOTTIE: Wonderful. OK. And no particular brand tips or anything like that? Maybe you can’t do that. I’m really a novice here.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you, you might just want to – a good place just to kind of shop for it is LumberLiquidators.com, only because they have good prices and they have a whole bunch of manufacturers there on their website.

    DOTTIE: Sure.

    TOM: So that might be a good place to start.

    DOTTIE: OK. I will do it. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright, Dottie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Say, are you tired of a cold and sterile-looking kitchen? Well, nothing says “warm and cozy” like a country-themed kitchen. We’re going to have some tips on how you can create one, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And what are you doing this first weekend of spring? Are you guys busy around your money pit? Are you following us on Twitter? Because if you’re working around your money pit, you need to be. You can get the latest in home improvement news, you can join in on our discussion or you can just get tips directly to your mobile device. Just follow @MoneyPit and you’ll get a ton of information.

    And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section of The Money Pit. And I’ve got one here from Sam in Delaware who writes: “My plaster walls aren’t in the greatest condition, just because of age. I want to hang some pictures on them. Any suggestions on how to do this without a total disaster?”

    TOM: Yeah. You can hang lots of things on plaster walls; you just have to be a little careful. If it’s something that’s super-heavy, the best way to do that is with a toggle bolt: a good, old-fashioned toggle bolt where you drill a hole right through that plaster into the stud bay behind it, pop in the toggle and then tighten things down. It can be quite strong. And frankly, it usually gets behind the wood lath that holds on the plaster, so that does a super-good job.

    If you want to hang something really lightweight, you can drive a nail right through that using a standard picture-hanging nail. And in the middle, well, there’s just tons and tons of fasteners that work on this.

    There’s a website for a manufacturer that makes probably more of these different types of picture- and wall-hanging things than anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s called HangmanProducts.com. And they’ve got, for example, their picture- and poster-hanging kit that has these really cool screws that you can predrill, screw them in and sort of has a washer that stops it when it gets in just the right distance. And then you can hang something on the outside edge of the screw.

    LESLIE: You know, I’m amazed, Tom. There’s a whole sort of field of art hangers out there and I work with one locally when I have my own design clients. If there’s a situation like, “Oh, I need to hang this thing on a staircase,” and I need a tricky ladder and things I don’t really want to do or things that are just too heavy – and I’m amazed at the arsenal of nails and hangers and security hangers like they use in hotels, where you get one piece that goes into the wall, one piece that goes onto the back of the art and a secret tool that sort of locks them together.

    TOM: Right. Yep.

    LESLIE: I mean it’s amazing what’s out there and Hangman is a great site to check out. So you’ll find a lot of cool stuff there.

    TOM: Well, nothing could be more warm and welcoming and cozy than a country-themed kitchen. The country style focuses on making the room warm and friendly while maintaining a kitchen that’s really practical. Leslie has some tips on how you can design your own country kitchen, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. It’s classic and it’s comfy and it can be practical, too. When you’re choosing the materials for your country kitchen, you want to keep everything as natural as possible.

    Now, hardwood flooring, that’s a classic look but it doesn’t always lend itself to the abuse a kitchen floor needs to handle. A stone tile floor contrasted with beautiful wooden cabinetry will really bring your room to life.

    Now, with kitchen cabinets, a painted finish is a great look, especially if you use a pale color, which will allow that wood grain to show through. An island? That’s a great feature for any kitchen but it really fits in particularly well with the country style. Open shelving on your island, that’s also a great way to display your country-themed accessories, like maybe wicker baskets or tea kettles or enamelware. Anything like that will really show off the personality of a country kitchen.

    And country colors and fabrics, they really can include everything from blues to yellows to gingham and toile patterns for your fabrics, depending on what sort of theme or style you’re going with underneath all of that country genre.

    Now, you can go with a modern country look and use these traditional colors and patterns in different ways. You can think about painting a gingham-checked focal wall or even stenciling a toile pattern on a wall, as well, or even on your backsplash.

    Now, you can cook up your own country kitchen and you can have a warm spot for your family to gather for years to come. And let me tell you, nothing makes a happy home more than a beautiful kitchen, so get busy this weekend. It is spring, after all.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, are you looking for an easy way to live in a totally green house? Well, you might want to consider a modular home. We’re going to tell you about the changes in prefab homes, that are green and modular, 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.

    (theme song)


    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete


    (promo/theme song)

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by to answer your home improvement question, to help solve your do-it-yourself dilemma. Help yourself first: head to the phone, pick it up, call us, 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’d love to talk to you about what’s going on in your money pit. Want to turn it from house to home to castle? Turn to the phones first. Pick up the phone and call us, 888-MONEY-PIT. We want to help.

    Coming up this hour, spring is in the air and that means we’re all going to be spending more time outdoors. If so, why not add some exterior light to your house? You can transform kind of a ho-hum slab of grass into a dramatic exterior living area with the right lighting scheme. We’ll tell you how to do just that, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And they say that good fences make good neighbors but they also add style and value to your home. So we’re going to give you some tips on picking and building the right fence for your needs.

    TOM: Also, before you start celebrating the end of the snow, remember it also means the beginning of the lawn-mowing season. We’re going to tell you how to make sure that part of your spring goes well, with tips to get your lawn mower in shape.

    LESLIE: Boy, you can’t just catch a break with your outdoor space ever. There’s no resting season; there’s always work outside.

    So, does the spring season have you looking at your dingy carpet? Because you’re doing all this cleaning around your house and you’re thinking, “Man, I can clean all the surfaces but this rug, there is just nothing I can do to spruce it up.”

    Well, if that’s you, one lucky caller this hour is going to get a great jump on a new wood floor, because we are giving away a $250 gift certificate from Lumber Liquidators. And they buy directly from the manufacturer, so Lumber Liquidators can give you the best possible deal on everything from laminate to solid-cherry flooring.

    TOM: So pick up the phone and give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Mike in Georgia is on the line with a question about a dimmer. How can we help you?

    MIKE: My kitchen is in the center of my house, so I get very little light from the windows.

    TOM: OK.

    MIKE: And I tried an LED light. I have five 60-watt cans in there. I heard you mention about a dimmer that would work with the LEDs? My question is: is there a particular kind? I need one that works with a three-way.

    TOM: Yeah. You can go to The Home Depot and you can pick up the Lutron Skylark Contour C?L Dimmer. That’s the Lutron Skylark Contour C?L. This is a dimmer that’s designed specifically to work with energy-efficient bulbs. It works with CFLs and it works with LEDs. And specifically, it’s adjustable so that you can get the lowest level and then the highest level of light. And therefore, when you move the dimmer up and down, it controls that.

    Typically, with standard dimmers, you can get a flicker because at some point, you’re going to be not putting enough power in to bring that bulb on. So you get this sort of flickering effect?

    MIKE: Right.

    TOM: But with this Skylark Contour C?L line of dimmers, you can adjust the low end and this way, it’ll always be on when you turn the switch on. And then you can bring it up from there.

    MIKE: Yeah, I was afraid with five cans in the middle of the house, it’ll look like Yankee Stadium at nighttime.

    TOM: No, actually – I actually have one of these dimmers in my kitchen and I’ve got five cans on this dimmer, so I have exactly that situation. And I have LEDs in the lights. I have the Philips LEDs in there: the ones that are yellow. And they turn really super-clean white light when you turn them on. And I’ve got that Skylark dimmer controlling the whole thing. Now, that’s not a three-way but I’m sure it will work on a three way.

    And the thing that’s cool about Lutron is as you’re putting this together, if you have a question, they have an 800 toll-free, tech-support number. You can call them and there’s somebody always standing by to kind of answer your wiring questions. If you can’t figure out where the extra wire goes, they’ll tell you.

    MIKE: OK, great. Thanks a lot.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Mike. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Elaine in Delaware needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you?

    ELAINE: I’m mainly concerned about the fact that I have some rescue animals and some kids. And every time I try to think of what I can do – when I lift up this rug and put a surface down, I need something durable. And I thought of wood and then I thought of Pergo and everybody says, “No, the dog will scratch it or the kids will scratch it.” And then I saw something at a hospital the other day – actually, you know, like an x-ray area, where it takes a lot of traffic.

    TOM: Right.

    ELAINE: And it looked like a heavy-duty plastic, plasticized type of imitation wood. And I tried to find out where they got it from but it’s nothing I can find in going to the local shops, like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

    TOM: Right. It might have been luxury vinyl, although I doubt that in a hospital. What I think you might want to consider is laminate. Pergo is just one brand of laminate. But remember that there are different finishes on these floors and you want to find one that has a commercial finish.

    LESLIE: That will make it the most durable.

    TOM: Yeah, really super-durable.

    I think the best option here and the one that’s most accessible is to think about using laminate flooring. Laminate flooring can look like wood, it could look like tile, it can look like vinyl. And if you get one that has a commercial-grade finish on it, it can clearly stand up to the kids and the dogs.

    ELAINE: I appreciate that very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Elaine. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it is the first official weekend in spring, which means your to-do list is probably a to-do encyclopedia list of many, many, many pages of things you’ve got to do around your money pit. That’s why we are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s not just busy for accountants this time of year; it is super-busy for the home improvers. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your projects.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you ready to spend more time in your backyard but not ready to sit in the dark while you do it? We can help, with tips to add outdoor lighting. That’s all coming up, next.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now with your question. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you might just be the one lucky caller we pull out of The Money Pit hard hat because this hour, we’re giving away a $250 gift certificate from our friends at Lumber Liquidators. And that’s enough to get started on just about any kind of wood floor you’d like.

    These folks only sell fully-warrantied, major-brand flooring at a very low price and with a guarantee. So, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win just that.

    LESLIE: Howard in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    HOWARD: I’ve got an older, cement-block garage and it’s got a bunk house in there, too. But it’s got a cellar under one corner and I guess I’ve – the dirt had saddled on the outside, so those – the wall on the north and the wall on the east in that cellar was starting to push in. And it made some pretty good-sized separations in the block above the ground.

    TOM: Right. Cracks?

    HOWARD: And we dug it out and then put – just right in the corner, we put a foundation there and then put cement up and then took two strips of metal, one on each side, with bolts in them. And we got it pulled back pretty good together but there’s still some of those cracks on the outside, in those blocks. And I don’t know whether just putting mortar back in them – I had a guy tell me if he used carbon fiber to tie those together where they would stick to the block …

    TOM: Well, look, first of all, Howard, you’re talking about a do-it-yourself structural repair and I can – I appreciate your willingness to attempt this on your own. But that said, it’s not for the faint of heart.

    Now, what’s most important to understand is that the structural stability on this is being loaded from the top down. So, a vertical crack doesn’t bother me so much. A horizontal crack, where the wall has the potential of being sort of pushed in, does bother me. It sounds like you’ve dealt with the horizontal crack but you still have some vertical cracks.

    What I would do is I would simply seal those vertical cracks as best I could. Mortar is not going to work. You’re going to need to use a sealant that can stick to concrete, like a silicone or something like that. QUIKRETE has a number of products that will work for this. And then once you get that sealed, then you put the soil back.

    You need to be very, very, very careful about grading here. The reason this happened is because you had too much water that settled against the foundation. It froze, it expanded and pushed that wall in. If you get the drainage right, that won’t happen again because most of the runoff will be away from the wall and that soil against the exterior wall will stay relatively dry.

    So the drainage is going to be really important when you put it back, both with the angle of the soil, which should drop about 6 inches over 4 feet. And with any gutter system that you have on it, you want to make sure that you extend the downspout. Does that make sense?

    HOWARD: Yep. I thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, Howard. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’ve spent time and money painting, landscaping and detailing the exterior of your home, why not shine some light on it? You know, outdoor lighting can add drama to your home, as well as safety. And it doesn’t have to be expensive.

    First, you’ve got to figure out which areas you want to light. Now, consider lighting high-traffic areas, your gathering spots and any other areas where you might have some safety concerns: super-dark spots.

    TOM: Now, whether you’re doing the lighting yourself or hiring a lighting designer, it’s important to go with good-quality fixtures and components. This is one area where you definitely get what you pay for. Look for those materials, like copper and brass. And of course, you’re going to want to choose energy-efficient bulbs so you don’t regret your lighting decision when the electric bill shows up.

    And if you’ve avoided lighting in the past because of the cost, think about doing a little bit at a time. You might get a better feel for where you want those lights when you see how each group works together and how beautifully it illuminates your home and your yard.

    If you’re thinking about taking on a lighting project or any other project in your house, pick up the phone right now and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Betty in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    BETTY: We live in a ranch-style home and we have several bedrooms and bathrooms where the door frames, up above the door frames on just one side, are cracking. And we have repeatedly had contract workers out here to repair them and it has not held.

    TOM: You feel like it’s Groundhog Day? You’re fixing the same thing over and over again?

    Yeah, it’s pretty common. Around the door frame and around windows, those are the weakest portions of the wall. So if you have some movement from the normal expansion and contraction, that’s where it’s going to show. Typically, what happens is you’ll have a painter or a handyman come out and they’ll spackle the crack and paint it and it seems to go away for a while. But of course, as soon as the wall moves again, it shows up.

    What you really have to do here is sand down the area around the crack.

    BETTY: OK.

    TOM: And then you have to cover it with a perforated spackle tape. And that usually looks like netting and it’s a little sticky. You put it across the crack and then you spackle over the tape. And that does a permanent repair, because it actually sort of melds one side of the wall with the other and it should not separate again the next time the wall moves.

    BETTY: OK. Well, that sounds wonderful. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Joe in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today with tankless questioning? What’s going on?

    JOE: Based on the high capital cost and the fact that natural-gas prices seem to be at an all-time low, what is the return on investment or payback period and does the federal government still offer tax credits? Second part of that question, is the annual maintenance contract that the installers offer really needed?

    TOM: OK. Well, first of all, the tax credits are less and less today. I believe there are some still: some small tax credits.

    I do like tankless water heaters for a number of reasons, though. First of all, they last a lot longer than a standard tanked water heater. Secondly, they’re really energy-efficient and you never run out of hot water. Very important to me since I’ve got two teenagers in my house. If I’m the third one to get in the shower, forget it; it’s not going to happen. So I like the fact that they never run out of hot water.

    And I think if you compare the cost of tankless against not a standard, inefficient, tanked water heater but a high-efficiency tanked water heater, you will find that the difference is not that far apart.

    The contractor’s service contract? Look, you need to have this thing serviced like anything else. I don’t think it needs a big, expensive contract. What it’s typically going to need is a yearly service. And so I would have to probably judge that against what this contract covered. If the contract covered all of my gas appliances in the house and I felt like it was reasonable, I might do that only for the reason that we know that these gas appliances need service, because they burn dirty and they eventually have to be cleaned. But I will say that these newer, more efficient ones need a lot less maintenance than the older, inefficient ones ever did.

    JOE: OK. I guess what I’m hearing out there on the installers is these are stand-alone service (audio gap) and if you compare that to a traditional hot-water heater, you typically don’t see any service required. And I think the capital is maybe 10x difference. I mean it maybe $800 for a – maybe 900 for a hot-water heater and you’re looking, I think, upwards of $4,000, I should say.

    TOM: Yeah, that sounds a little crazy. I’m not seeing that. What I’m seeing is if you bought a high-efficiency tank water heater, it might be 1,500 bucks. And if you bought a tankless water heater, it might be 2 grand or something of that nature. I’m sure you’re going to run into contractors that are really driving the prices up and trying to charge you crazy money for service contracts and things like that. You just might not be talking to the right guys, Joe.

    JOE: You endorse any particular manufacturer?

    TOM: Yeah, there’s a bunch of good ones out there. Rinnai makes a good one. Rheem – R-h-e-e-m – makes a good one. I’d take a look at those. We’re talking about gas, right?

    JOE: Yeah, natural gas.

    TOM: Yeah, I would take a look at Rinnai and Rheem.

    JOE: OK. Excellent.

    TOM: Two good brands. OK, Joe?

    Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now I’ve got Randy in Wisconsin, who is dealing with a wet basement. How can we help you today?

    RANDY: Oh, well, I’ve got a problem with water leaking into my basement. And the situation is I’ve got a cinder-block basement and the – right where the rain gutter comes down on one corner of the basement, I’m getting water. It’s just coming in in one little, tiny spot. And it’s always in that same spot and it only seems to happen if we get a lot of rain, a really fast thaw, something like that.

    And so, what I’m trying to figure out – I know that there’s companies out there that – they’ll do your whole basement and that costs thousands of dollars. And I’m just looking for a fix that would probably go a foot or two either way out of a corner.

    TOM: Well, the good news is, Randy, you don’t need to hire any of those companies that charge you thousands of dollars. A very, very simple problem with a very simple solution.

    RANDY: OK.

    TOM: As you mentioned, it happens whenever you get a heavy rainfall; it’s right near where you have some rainwater running off.

    So, do I understand that you have a guttered spout down here, as well?

    RANDY: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So what you need to do is this. First of all, take a look at the grading, which is the angle of the soil, in that area. Make sure that you add enough clean fill dirt to slope it away, so that you have a drop of about 6 inches over 4 feet, because you want to create proper run-off.

    Secondly, and this is the most important thing, you need to make sure that all of your gutters are perfectly clean and free-flowing, that you take that downspout and you extend it out about 4 feet from the corner. If you do those two things, you will keep that soil around the house dry and you will stop the leak, 100 percent, from happening again.

    RANDY: Alright.

    TOM: Alright? Very simple.

    RANDY: Well, that sounds good. I’ll try that.

    TOM: Alright, Randy. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And yet we saved one more homeowner from wasting money on basement-waterproofing systems.

    LESLIE: But it seems so easy to just give your money away. Come on. You just want to give your money away.

    TOM: You want to give your money away, give it to a good cause. Give it to the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. Don’t give it to the waterproofers, because you don’t need to.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, you might be looking forward to the warmer weather but your lawn mower might not be because of all that increased usage. We’re going to have expert landscaper, Roger Cook, from TV’s This Old House stopping by to give us tips on how to get your mower in tip-top shape for the season, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Icynene. If you’re building, remodeling or reinsulating, demand Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Icynene fills the spaces other insulations miss, for up to 50-percent energy savings. Learn more and find a dealer at Icynene.com. I-c-y-n-e-n-e.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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. But hey, there’s no need to wait for our radio show to get your question answered. If you become a member of The Money Pit community, you’ll be able to post your question 24-7. We now have a top-notch panel of experts ready to answer just about anything home-related you can throw at them. Join now at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Lorraine in Arizona who needs some help with a paneling decorating project. Welcome, Lorraine.

    LORRAINE: We have an older home that has two walls that has paneling on. And I was told that if we took the paneling off, it would probably damage the drywall. So I was considering maybe trying to put something over top of the paneling to give it a different look and wanted some suggestions.

    LESLIE: Well, it depends. It depends on how it’s attached to whatever is behind it. There may not be any drywall behind it; it might just be the paneling attached directly to the studs, in which case you would have to put drywall up. It could be that the paneling was glued to the drywall. Then you would never get it off without completely destroying the drywall. Or it could be that it was just nailed on. You’re not really going to know until you sort of peer at a corner or an area where you can take off a little bit of trim work and see what exactly is going on before you make a decision. So that’s probably best step number one.

    Now, if you find out that there’s really no removing it and your choices are to deal with the paneling and make it look better or cover over it with ¼-inch drywall, you can do that. It depends on how much work you want to do.

    Painting paneling certainly is an excellent option. I mean it creates a totally different look when you paint paneling a crisp, glossy white or an off-white or something that really just poses a good, neutral backdrop and just sort of go with it.

    LORRAINE: OK. This is very light paneling anyway.

    LESLIE: And are you at a point where you just want to see it be darker, different or gone?

    LORRAINE: Different.

    LESLIE: You know, painting it really does look nice. It doesn’t have to be something that, in the end, you’re going to think, “Ooh, that doesn’t look good.” You just have to make sure that you clean it, you prime it well and then you give it a good top coat.

    Now, I would really start by just taking off a piece of trimming and door frame and seeing how it’s attached. And if you want to truly start with just a fresh look, you can absolutely cover over the entire space with ¼-inch drywall without losing too much space. You’re just going to have to sort of bump out your electrical boxes, your switches, your trim work, et cetera which, for a handy person, isn’t that big of a deal. So it could be a project you could do on your own. Or to hire somebody wouldn’t be that expensive.

    LORRAINE: OK. Sounds good.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with that.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, gas-powered lawn mowers and trimmers take their share of abuse during the warmer months. So some care is vital to keeping their parts in good working condition year-round.

    TOM: That’s right. And when the grass-cutting season is over, that care is especially important because you want to make sure the mower will run the following spring. Here to tell us how to do just that is landscaping contractor, Roger Cook, from TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Welcome. Your lawn mower all ready for winter?

    TOM: Not quite just yet. But so many small-engine problems are caused by bad fuel. Is that something we really have to guard against when we put our equipment away for the year?

    ROGER: Oh, especially for the winter. That fuel can gum up a carburetor and you’re going to go to start it up next spring and it is not going to run. And it’s going to cost you a lot of money to fix.

    TOM: A lot of folks don’t realize that gasoline only is good for about 30 days, correct?

    ROGER: That’s right. Right.

    TOM: Unless you put a fuel stabilizer in it. But even at that, you don’t really want to leave any gas in the system over the season, do you? Over the winter season?

    ROGER: Very simple to run the mower dry. That’s the best way to store it for the winter. Stabilizer is great. I use it in a lot of the products and especially the fuel that’s going to have – be going into my snow blower during the winter season, because that’s going to sit for a period of time.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: Nothing worse than starting a snow blower in the middle of a blizzard and have it not fire up.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    Now, what else do you need to do to get your lawn mower serviced at the end of the season so it’s good to go next year?

    ROGER: There’s a lot of things you can do in the fall and the winter to a lawn mower and all your tools, for that matter. We’re all so busy in the spring that wintertime is a great time to do some maintenance things.

    Number one, change the oil on your mower. It’ll be clean and fresh and ready to go in the spring. Sharpen the blade. Very simple to do but early in the spring, you’re just going to grab that mower and go whether it has a sharp blade or dull blade. Do it now.

    TOM: Now, is that something you can do yourself or you just take it off and send it out to have it done?

    ROGER: It’s a very simple operation to do yourself. It involves tipping the mower, in some cases, on the side. And whenever you tip a lawn mower, you want the carburetor up so that none of the fluids will run into the carburetor. You may have to have someone hold the mower for you and you’re going to need a wrench and a pair of gloves and then you can remove the blade from underneath. Just put it on a bench grinder or even a hand filer: a good, flat file. Touch up that edge and it’ll be ready for spring.

    TOM: It doesn’t have to be carving-knife sharp; it just has to be – have any of the chunks taken out of it that may be from a rock and that sort of thing, right?

    ROGER: No, I like it carving-knife sharp. You have a problem with that?

    TOM: No, no.

    ROGER: Your grass – believe it or not, the grass will grow better when you cut it with a clean edge than if you have a big, ragged cut on the end of the blade.

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: Is it a good idea to remove the spark plugs just in case anything sort of kicks on? Or once you’ve got the fuel out, it’s not going anywhere.

    ROGER: You can pull the wire off the spark plug and that way there’s no way that lawn mower’s going to fire up.

    TOM: Now, what about the air filter? Good idea to change that, as well?

    ROGER: Yeah and that’s pretty easy. You just open up the canister and in some cases, it involves washing it out with soapy water. In other cases, if it’s real bad, you can go down and get it and replace it then.

    TOM: Same advice for, say, your weed whacker or any other small piece of a gasoline-powered equipment?

    ROGER: Absolutely. And one thing we didn’t even talk about is spark plugs. It’s a great time to take the spark plug out, look at it, see what kind of shape it’s in. Some people like to clean them up. Usually, I’ll buy a new one and plop it in. And another step you can do before spring to be ready for spring.

    TOM: That makes so much sense because, like you say, now you have the time. Put that equipment away properly. You’re just going to be so happy when you pull it out for the first time in the spring and it fires up instantly.

    ROGER: If you’re anything like me, you don’t have that time in the spring to spend fixing everything. You want it ready and good to go.

    TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Hey, do you want to start up a neighborhood feud? Well, put up an ugly fence on the wrong side of a property line and that’s exactly what you’ll do. We’ll give you some tips on the right way to fence-in your yard, next.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One lucky caller this hour is going to get a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators.

    Now, Lumber Liquidators, they eliminate that middle man and are buying directly from the manufacturer. So that means that you are going to save on a huge variety of flooring and you can really make that $250 gift certificate go far. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement project and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Linda in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    LINDA: We bought the house next door to us and he had dogs and a cat. He apparently let them use his house as a bathroom.

    TOM: Oh, no. That’s terrible.

    LINDA: Oh, yeah.

    LESLIE: Never a good thing.

    LINDA: And the smell of urine was really bad. And my husband took up all the subfloor and put it outside, let it air out.

    TOM: You took up the plywood floor?

    LINDA: Yeah. It was boards: small boards.

    TOM: OK.

    LINDA: Like 1-inch boards or something.

    TOM: Alright. It probably was 1-by. Yeah, alright.

    LINDA: Yeah. And he had to take that up to fix the floor joist.

    TOM: OK.

    LINDA: So we put it outside hoping to air out the urine smell and then he put it back down. And he put ¾-inch OSB on top of that. But sometimes when you walk in there, you still smell the urine smell.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Especially on a humid day.

    LINDA: Yes. So is there anything you can buy to put on there to get rid of that smell?

    LESLIE: I mean there are several things you can do. The OSB – have you put any actual flooring on top of that yet or can you still take that up?

    LINDA: No. We were wanting to put laminate on top of it.

    LESLIE: OK. So before you do that, pick up the OSB.

    LINDA: Right.

    LESLIE: And what I would recommend – at this point, because you’re dealing with 1-by – now, Tom, they essentially don’t need the 1-by correct? The OSB could go directly on top of those floor joists and get rid of that …

    TOM: No. You didn’t have to put the 1-by back down again but the problem is you’ve already covered the problem with OSB. And what Leslie is leading to is that you – what you should have done is primed all of that subfloor with a good, oil-based primer, because that would seal in the wood. And so now that you’ve put the OSB on top of that, I’m afraid even if you were to prime the OSB, the odor will still somehow work its way through.

    LESLIE: Right. So I’m thinking pick up the OSB, pull up the 1-by, put the OSB down and just get rid of the 1-by.

    TOM: Well, these animals are long gone but their smell has lingered on. And I think that if you take up that old flooring – and I know you tried to probably save a few bucks by putting it back. But if you either prime it or just replace it with the OSB, you’ll be much better off for it.

    Linda, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, putting up a fence can add style, security and value to your property but it can also be an eyesore, it can be a maintenance headache and it can possibly cause a battle with your neighbors. To avoid all of these pitfalls and more, you need to plan very carefully.

    First up, check your property lines. You don’t want to build in your neighbor’s yard. And you also want to check with local officials to make sure you don’t need a permit to build one. Many times, you do.

    Now, once you’re sure about those things, you can start thinking about what kind of fence you’d like. And there’s lots to choose from.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That’s right. You know, fencing is available in so many materials, including natural or pressure-treated woods, vinyl and metal.

    Now, natural wood can be beautiful but it’s going to require the most maintenance. Also, you’ve got to remember that there are two sides to that fence and it needs to look good from the outside, as well as the inside.

    And you don’t want to try to save some money on your gate, because it’s going to take the most wear and tear. And it can also be a security risk if somebody leaves it open. So add a spring hinge that will help it swing back into place. Now, that is super-important if you’ve got a pool and of course, a pool means a whole host of other rules. So really think smartly if you’ve got a pool that you want to fence in.

    TOM: And finally, one installation tip for wood fences: don’t install them too close to the ground. We tend to put them right on the ground and guess what happens? Moisture gets up into the bottom of those wood slats, the carpenter ants, the termites follow and that fence doesn’t last nearly as long as it should.

    If you’d like a complete checklist and more advice on the best fences, just Google “money pit fence building.”

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got James in Florida on the line who has got a question about

    insulation. How can we help you?

    JAMES: OK. I have a house with a 4-inch layer of insulation: the fiberglass insulation. And I’m wondering if I can put down a layer of the sheeting that’s called “radiant barrier”?

    TOM: Yeah. I don’t think that it’s a good idea for you to use a radiant barrier. I think the jury is still out on whether or not it’s going to work. I think if you’ve only got 4 inches of

    insulation, the single most effective thing that you could do is to add more insulation there.

    JAMES: I see.

    TOM: It depends on how much room you have there. Most homes need 19 to 22 inches. If you’ve got a low attic space and you can only get in 12, then you take what you can get. But if you can get more insulation in there, that’s going to make a big difference to you. And make sure you also add additional ventilation to the roof space, because that’s going to let any moist air out that collects in there in the cooler seasons.

    JAMES: Sure. Thank you very much.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Happy Spring, everybody. Coming up next, if your home has ever encountered carpenter ants, you know they are no fun. We’ll tell you how to keep your house off the carpenter-ant menu, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Santa Fe, makers of the world’s most energy-efficient basement and crawlspace dehumidifier. Santa Fe offers a complete line of high-capacity, Energy Star-rated dehumidifiers, specifically designed to effectively operate in the cooler temperatures of crawlspaces and basements. Visit DehumidifierSolutions.com to learn more.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, have you ever noticed soot sticking to the walls in your home? Well, that soot, it might not actually be soot; it could actually be mold. So why not head on over to our website, MoneyPit.com, and search “identifying molds and soot,” and you can learn how to tell if that black spot is just annoying or possibly dangerous. And guess what, guys? Every home in this entire United States of America, regardless of your state being super-dry like Arizona, you’ve got mold. So you’ve got to pay attention to this, OK?

    TOM: That’s right. Mold exists in many places besides your refrigerator leftovers.

    And while you’re online, you can post your question to us at MoneyPit.com, in the Community section. And that’s what Tom did from New York.

    LESLIE: Alright. And Tom wrote: “I’m thinking about adding vinyl siding. The house has wood shingles on it right now. Some contractors say that the wood shingles have to come off and others say the shingles must stay on. Which is right?”

    TOM: You know, that’s a great question because there are two ways to put on siding and there’s different – the contractors are obviously going to bid differently. And that makes – this is one of the reasons it makes it harder for you to kind of figure out who’s giving you the best price. Because the specification – the way they’re going to do the job – varies.

    Now, personally, I prefer to take off old siding on a house before putting on vinyl siding, for a couple of reasons, including which – that when you put the siding on on top of existing siding, then everything gets sort of – gets pushed out further. You have to pack out your window trim; the windows become deeper in terms of the trim.

    LESLIE: And what about moisture?

    TOM: Well, I don’t – I’m not really so concerned about moisture one way or the other. There certainly is no insulating value to leaving the old siding there. I think really it comes down to workmanship. It’s just a sloppier job to go on top of the old siding. So I prefer to take it off and I especially prefer to take it off if it’s cement asbestos, which is very common in some parts of the country, because you don’t want to trap all that asbestos underneath the vinyl.

    So, my advice is to take the old siding off, to put up a vapor barrier or building paper or whatever you’re going to use, and then put new vinyl siding on. The siding’s going to lay nicer, it’ll be flatter, it’ll be smooth, it’ll be a cleaner job and it’ll look normal. I can tell when vinyl’s been put on on top of other types of siding, because the exterior walls just become unnaturally thick and the windows sort of unnaturally deep because it has to be packed out. The trim has to be brought so much forward to essentially make the room to attach the vinyl siding.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s a good point. So really, it’s always best to start with a fresh slate.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Holly who writes: “As soon as it’s warm enough, I’m going to build a storage shed for my lawn and garden supplies. We’ve already had encounters with carpenter ants. What can I do to make sure they don’t turn my new shed into their home?”

    TOM: There’s a couple things that you can do, Holly. First, environmentally, you want to not create a situation where carpenter ants are going to find the space really attractive. How do you do that? Well, you have good drainage on that shed. I mean even putting gutters on it is a good idea. You don’t have firewood or anything else sort of piled up along the outside.

    And secondly, you can use a carpenter-ant bait. You could have it professionally applied. There are some do-it-yourself products where they essentially take the bait back to the nest, pass it from insect to insect and that kind of wipes out the colony. Carpenter ants are really a maintenance issue. You generally don’t get them all the first time. They’ll come back again and again but you will reduce the populations to the point where they really don’t have enough ants to really do serious damage.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Holly, with carpenter ants, it’s good because it’s telling you, “Hey, spring is here. The weather’s getting warmer. The ground is warming up perfect for gardening.” But it’s also bad because you’re thinking, “Aww, nuts, they’re going to go into my home. Are they going to eat the shed?” So you really have to be careful and take the proper steps. You’re spending all this time building the shed; let’s make sure it doesn’t end up on the carpenter ant’s menu.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on this first weekend of spring. Thank you so much for spending it with us. We hope that you get the opportunity to head out and take on a project that makes your house more beautiful, safer, more comfortable and makes you feel great for getting it done yourself this weekend. We’re available to help 24-7 at 888-MONEY-PIT or online, all the time, 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 2012 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.)

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