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Advice on Making Your Home Smarter, Turning Your Basement Into Living Space, and How to Get Hot Water From Any Faucet Right Away

  • 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: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. Let us help solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas. If it’s a do-it-yourself job that you can’t get started on, we can help you. If it’s a job you don’t want to do yourself and you need some help getting a good contractor to lend a hand, it’s a great question for us. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because we know the tricks of the trades to help you get the job done right the first time.

    What are you working on this fine fall day? Are you full-scale on into the holiday season? Maybe you had a great Thanksgiving and now you’re hitting the stores or maybe you’re fixing up your house before the relatives show up in droves, along with all of your friends and associates that need a place to stay and need a warm meal. Maybe you’re working on your kitchen, your bedrooms, your bathrooms. Hey, whatever you’re working on, we’d like to help. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour, could you and your family use a little extra space? Well, that spare bedroom or maybe a half-bath could literally be right under your feet. We’re talking about basement makeovers. We’ve got tips on how you can convert your basement into usable living space, coming up.

    LESLIE: And they sound so nice in holiday songs this time of year but frosted window panes, they could actually be the sign of a bigger energy problem. We’ll share some holiday solutions to those frosted window panes, ahead.

    TOM: And one lucky caller never has to fight common kitchen germs again.

    LESLIE: That’s right. We’re giving away a Glisten Family of Cleaners Prize Pack, including Dishwasher Magic. It’s the only EPA-registered dishwasher disinfectant out there.

    TOM: The Glisten package is worth 50 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show, so let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Marilyn, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    MARILYN: We are a military family. My husband’s in the military and I’m a stay-at-home mom to five kids and we home-school. And basically, in the past when we’ve moved, we’ve always bought a house and – basically, thinking that if you pay yourself it’s better than paying someone else. However, we’re moving to Illinois this time and the property taxes are quite excruciatingly high. And we’re just trying to decide if it’s better to buy or to rent this time.

    TOM: So do you know how long your husband – well, first of all, thank you for your service and your family’s service. Do you know how long you will be in the Illinois area?

    MARILYN: Well, it could be anywhere from two years to three, four, five. You never know with the military, you know.

    TOM: Because I mean you know what the risk is if you buy a house and then it turns out you have to move again. If you can’t sell it or if you – if the market turns and it ends up not being worth what you paid for it, you could get underwater pretty quick on that. And so, in circumstances when you’re in the military, I think a lot of times it does make sense to rent. Because the other thing is you don’t want to have to move out of there – “Now I need to carry two houses” – maybe find yourself being a distant landlord to a property. Now, these are all difficult scenarios that you really want to avoid.

    Have you spoken with your accountant about the tax consequences of perhaps renting instead of buying? Because there may be some advantages there.

    MARILYN: We haven’t yet because we just found out a couple days ago, so …

    TOM: And you know what? You can always – you can always rent first. Renting is a short-term commitment. I understand that moving is a hassle but you could always rent first, get to know the area, get more comfortable and then make a decision later if it looks like you’re going to stay. You don’t have to do it all in once.

    MARILYN: OK. I guess my hesitation with that is that we have five small children. So I’d like to move as little as possible.

    TOM: I would think that – better off selling it now, putting it on the market now. Maybe you’ll find a cooperative buyer who can delay the closing date until you guys are ready to move out. But I wouldn’t want to find you stuck not being able to get a buyer, running out of time, while your family needs to move on to the new location. So I think a bird in a hand is worth two in the bush, as my dad always used to say. So I would try to put that on the market now and hopefully they’ll sell quickly and you’ll be able to take your time getting to the new location.

    And by the way, since I can imagine, with five kids, you find the house just chock full with stuff, the best way to get your house ready to sell – there’s a great article on our website at MoneyPit.com about this. But conceptually, what we’d like to see you do is to try to declutter as much as possible, make those rooms look big and bright. Because anybody that’s going to buy your house is going to probably move in from, say, another crowded house or crowded apartment. You want to make sure it looks like your stuff can – their stuff can fit in there. And then if you have any rooms that need to be repainted, just choose neutral colors for the same reason. Make it look open and inviting and that will help you sell the property as quickly as possible.

    LESLIE: Cary in Alaska is dealing with a heating problem. It’s cold there. What’s going on?

    CARY: I live off-grid with a battery bank and inverter with a solar and generator backup to recharge batteries. Consequently, I’d – and I have a full electric house with propane direct-vented furnace. My question is: will installing a drop ceiling improve my heating efficiency and lower my propane bill? Because my ceilings are vaulted at 17 feet. And a lot of the heat goes up, so I’m just wondering – basically a 12x 24-foot area.

    TOM: So, Cary, what you need to do is to not only put in that drop ceiling but to put insulation batts above the drop ceiling. If you just put the drop ceiling in, you will not have enough R-value in that drop ceiling to do the job you need it to do. So I would build the drop ceiling and then I would put probably at least 12-inch-thick unfaced fiberglass batts on top of it. It should be plenty strong enough to support that. Just stacked end to end right above that ceiling.

    You’re going to have to kind of put the frame in, put a couple of ceiling panels in, drop some insulation in and sort of work your way across. But if you were to put that much insulation above the drop ceiling, it will have a huge difference in your heating bill. Because right now, you’re spending most of that money to heat that ceiling cavity and you’re just got to keep the heat lower than that.

    CARY: OK. Well, that’s good to hear. I appreciate the help there.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Cary. 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 holiday season and we are here to make sure that everything is in tip-top shape at your money pit. You’re running out of time, guys. Just a couple of weeks left to the big holiday, so give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you kitchen cabinets looking grimy or drab? We’ll have tips for easy cabinet cleaning, 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.

    TOM: Hey, what are you working on? Pick up the phone. Let’s work on that project together. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a Glisten Prize Pack.

    Now, Glisten – these guys are the machine-cleaning experts. And one of the products that they have is called Glisten Dishwasher Magic. I’ve been using this because, I’ve got to tell you, after Thanksgiving, my dishwasher was a mess with all the grease and grime. And I really wanted to start clean again. So we ran the Dishwasher Magic just by popping it into the rack, ran it through a cycle and now it’s clean once again.

    We’ve got a package of Glisten products going out to you if you are the lucky winner of today’s Money Pit giveaway. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The package is worth 50 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Give us a call right now.

    LESLIE: Jenny in Maryland is on the line with a squeaky floor. What’s going on?

    JENNY: I live in a one-bedroom apartment for 28 years. And I’m on the second floor and the apartment above me is on the third floor and there’s a single family that moved in five years ago. And the floorboards are really squeaking. I called off this manager and she told me – they came and checked the floorboards and she told me that they cannot be fixed. And I want to know if they can be fixed.

    TOM: Yeah, they can be fixed. Do you know what kind of floors are up there?

    JENNY: They’re just like plywood, like wooden floors. I mean just…

    TOM: Are they hardwood floors, by any chance?

    JENNY: No, no, no, no.

    TOM: Is it plywood that’s under carpet?

    JENNY: Right, right. Exactly.

    TOM: So, I think the answer is not that they can’t be fixed but she doesn’t want to fix it because here’s what has to happen. The reason you get squeaks in floors is because the board is either rubbing against the beam below or it’s rubbing against another board, if it’s the case of sort of multiple layers of plywood in this scenario. Or the nail that was used to drive the – attach the plywood to the floor joist, sometimes the nail will loosen up and then rub in and out of the floor joist and that will make a sound.

    The solution in either case is to re-secure the subfloor and here’s how that has to happen the right way: that is to pull the carpet up and then to go, basically, beam by beam and not nail but screw the subfloor down to the floor joist below. Instead of using flooring nails, you would use, say, a 3-inch drywall screw – a case-hardened screw. And basically, that will secure that plywood and everything below it down to the floor joist. Doing that in every room where it’s squeaking will dramatically reduce the floor movement and hence, dramatically reduce the floor squeaks.

    JENNY: Well, I appreciate your time.

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

    Well, we’re hearing a lot these days about smart homes or home automation but the question is: is that just the buzz of the moment right now or is it really something that you want to get in on?

    LESLIE: Well, you know, homes really are getting smarter in a way that’s going to save you money and time and energy. And it’s the kind of thing that’s pretty easy to do. You can just tackle it one home improvement at a time.

    For example, if you start off with the easiest thing, let’s think of easy ways to make your heating system smarter and that’s to add a smart thermostat.

    TOM: Yep. And a great way to do just that is with the ecobee Wi-Fi Thermostat. It’s intuitively going to understand when to turn your heating or cooling equipment on based on your home’s unique energy profile. It’s also going to measure the weather outside and then thousands of other data points to make sure you’re comfortable at all times.

    LESLIE: Oh. And then it might tell me I don’t need to wear my sweater anymore. I love it.

    Now, you guys, you can actually adjust your ecobee anytime, anyplace, right from your smartphone or your tablet or your computer. And unlike traditional thermostats that only measure the temperature at a single point in your home, ecobees – it’s got remote sensors. And that’s really going to enable you to monitor conditions in multiple rooms, all on a single device.

    TOM: That’s great because that means you’re not going to have hot spots or cold spots in the house. The ecobee retails for 249 bucks. It’s available at The Home Depot, the destination for smart-home solutions and technology, with a huge variety of brands and platforms, both in store and online at HomeDepot.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got John in Missouri on the line. John, what’s going on?

    JOHN: Well, I live in an old house built in 1892 and it has plastered walls. And I’ve got a – I had a leak this spring. I had a gutter overflow and it got behind some flashing and created what I call “plaster cancer,” which is this sort of crystalline stuff that grows out of the plaster.

    TOM: OK.

    JOHN: I mean it didn’t make the whole thing fall down. It just is crystal. And I got the leak fixed and I tried – I scraped all that stuff off and put a sealer on it – quick sealer paint – one of those alcohol-based things.

    TOM: Right.

    JOHN: And the cancer keeps going. Now it’s blown that paint off. It’s not as much but it tends to continue. And I wondered if there was something you can do to stop that from happening short of tearing that whole plaster down.

    TOM: So the plaster, when it gets wet, there are sort of fingers, so to speak, that wrap around the lath behind it. And when it gets wet, it loosens up.

    JOHN: This plaster is actually on brick.

    TOM: Oh, it’s on brick? OK. Alright. Strike that. So what else could be happening is if it’s on brick and the brick got wet – the bricks are very hydroscopic, so you could be continually pulling more moisture through there. Are you absolutely certain that you’ve addressed the leak completely? Because it doesn’t sound that way. It sounds like you’ve still got some moisture in there.

    JOHN: There could still be some moisture in the brick, I suppose, but it’s been super dry here in St. Louis since the end of July. And this – I got the thing fixed about the middle of July: all the flashing on the – it’s on a bay window. All the flashing above that was redone and – but it hasn’t rained pretty much at all since then.

    TOM: How big is the patched area?

    JOHN: It’s, oh, I don’t know, maybe 10 square feet. It’s not huge.

    TOM: And that whole area is breaking up and forming these crystals?

    JOHN: Yeah. Well, it’s doing this crystal-growth thing, which blows off whatever paint you put on the surface on it.

    TOM: I wonder if part of what you’re seeing is the paint basically disconnecting or delaminating from the plaster itself.

    JOHN: Well, yeah. This cancer sort of grows below the paint. But it’s – my problem is it’s dried up now. It hasn’t rained, so it couldn’t possibly leak; it hasn’t rained. And also, the thing is repaired.

    TOM: What I would do here is this: is I would try to strip out all the paint that I could and I would probably use a paint stripper to get whatever is left behind. Maybe a gel-based stripper. And then I would put another skim coat of plaster over it. Let it dry really, really well. And then I would prime it with an oil-based paint and then repaint it.

    But I think the plaster is basically disintegrated, in some respects, and I think you’re going to have to do some partial rebuilding of that surface.

    JOHN: Yeah. OK. Well, because it’s – yeah, the plaster is this two-layer plaster. It’s got kind of a – looks like cement at the base layer and then it’s got a real fine, white layer that’s the finish layer. So just reapply that, huh?

    TOM: That’s right. After you get rid of any loose material that’s there. You really want to make sure you have a solid base and then you can put a new skim coat on it.

    JOHN: OK. Alright. I’ll give that a try.

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

    LESLIE: Kimberly in Missouri is dealing with a noisy floor. Tell us what’s going on.

    KIMBERLY: I have a section in my tile floor. It’s the longer planks, wood-looking floor that – it’s a high-traffic area. And there’s various areas on it, when you walk over it, it makes a popping noise. And it’s not the same spot all the time. It’s probably within – they’re alternating so that they’re not all lined up together. So, it’s probably 8 to 10 different areas there that will pop from time to time.

    So, I don’t know – and it’s different times of the day; it’s not every time. But when you’re walking through an area, you don’t particularly pay right where you’re putting your foot every time you walk through, you know, so …

    TOM: Do you happen to know what the tile floor is on top of? In other words, what’s the underlayment under the tile floor? Is it a double layer of plywood, by any chance?

    KIMBERLY: It is plywood underneath.

    TOM: Is it right on the plywood or is there an underlayment?

    KIMBERLY: There is a flooring underlayment underneath that, because we had parquet underneath that at one time and that’s a solid plywood. And then they did put an underlayment board on top of that. But it’s a ¼-inch or 3/8-inch or whatever that is.

    TOM: Part of that’s sandwiched. There’s probably space in there somewhere. And it’s the kind of problem that’s not really structural in nature. In other words, I don’t think this is indicative but it’s super annoying.

    KIMBERLY: Yeah.

    TOM: One of the ways to solve this – and it’s a little bit of a pain in the neck – is by basically drilling out, from underneath, a section of the floor and then inserting a construction adhesive up into that to kind of close the gap.

    So, for example, if you had a hole saw and you set the drill bit on the hole saw to just barely be longer than the saw itself, you could, essentially, excise out a hole of the plywood – a circle of the plywood – whatever the diameter of the hole saw was. Let’s say it’s 2 inches. You can take that out up against the underlayment that’s against the tile and then you could squeeze into that space construction adhesive, like a LIQUID NAILS or something like that. And that can flow in there and take up the gap and help solidify the area.

    But it’s a very time-consuming, annoying process that’s not always successful. So unless it’s something that’s really, really, really bothering you, I would probably just accept it.

    KIMBERLY: OK, OK. Well, then we’ll just chalk it up as character then.

    TOM: Alright, Kimberly. Good luck with that project.

    KIMBERLY: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Hey, converting a basement to living space can make your life a lot more spacious but it’s not for every home or for every do-it-yourselfer. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House is going to stop by to help you figure out if it’s for you, when The Money Pit continues.

    TOM: And This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by STANLEY Mechanics Tool Sets. No matter if your project is automotive, recreational or home improvements, you can rely on STANLEY Mechanics Tools for versatility, durability and to get the job done right.

    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.

    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: And hey, are you getting ready to host holiday gatherings? Well, check out our Holiday Home Makeover Facebook Sweepstakes. It’s going on, right now, for a chance to win three fantastic prizes to help you host in style.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And the grand prize is a Tranquility Queen-Size Mattress with Foundation from BedInABox. It’s worth $1,548. Visit Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit and you can enter right there.

    TOM: I’ll tell you what: I’ve got a BedInABox mattress and I have never slept better.

    You can win one, so check out Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit to enter.

    LESLIE: John in New York is on the line with a fungus issue. What’s going on at your money pit?

    JOHN: Well, the thing is I heard about your substance – whatever treatment it was. It was called Spray & Forget. And I wondered if there was such a preparation for internal use in a house, like basement walls.

    TOM: OK. So what are you seeing in your basement walls?

    JOHN: Well, I think I do have some dampness in the basement and possible fungus and I thought…

    TOM: And so you would like to make that go away. And when you look at these walls, does it look kind of like white and gray and crusty?

    JOHN: Yeah, in some areas. And it’s just a few places.

    TOM: OK. So the white, gray, crusty stuff is not a fungus. It’s not mold. It’s not mildew. It’s mineral-salt deposits. What happens when a basement gets damp, the water evaporates from the – or goes from the groundwater and gets drawn into the basement walls and then evaporates out. And it leaves its mineral-salt deposits behind. And I’ll tell you an easy way to prove that that’s exactly what’s going on here is grab some white vinegar, put a bit in a spray bottle and spray it on that gray substance. You’re going to see the salt melt away when it strikes the vinegar. And you’ll know for sure that’s exactly what it is.

    The only time you’re going to want to use a mildicide, like a bleach-and-water solution in a scenario like that, is when you truly do have mold or a fungus. And that’s almost never – it almost never grows on a block wall. It always grows on something that’s more organic, like a drywall or wood, paper. The block wall, I mean it’s possible you can get mold on it because sometimes you get dust that sticks to it and the dust feeds the mold. But usually, it’s mineral-salt deposits that’s indicative of just a damp basement.

    What I would also tell you to do is, after you get that cleaned up, is to look outside your house and make sure that your gutters are clean and free-flowing and those downspouts are well away from the house. I’m talking like 4 to 6 feet because that will stop a lot of that water from collecting at that foundation perimeter and pulling up into those walls. Does that make sense?

    JOHN: Yes, yes. I appreciate your time, man.

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

    LESLIE: Well, we all need as much storage as we can in our homes or they begin to look cluttered. There’s nothing like the feeling of a place for everything and everything in its place.

    TOM: Well, for the answers to these issues and more, we turn to Tom Silva, the general contractor TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tom.

    TOM SILVA: Hi, guys. Nice to be here.

    TOM: So, basement renovations can definitely pay off but because they’re below-grade rooms, they have their own sort of special set of challenges, right?

    TOM SILVA: They sure do. And I guess the first thing I want to say is, “Is it safe?” And what I mean by that is is it’s going to meet building codes? Is the ceiling height good? Is the stairway to get you in and out of there safely? What about egress openings, like in a bedroom? If you’re going to make a bedroom there, you’re going to have to have a way out of that bedroom. Not out of the whole basement but out of that bedroom. That house has separate egress entry.

    TOM: So you really have to design with those core structural safety issues first.

    TOM SILVA: Right. And you may want to check with an engineer to make sure everything’s fine down there.

    TOM: Yeah, good point. So, if you are safe and you’re going to start to think about your plan for design, basement spaces are fairly dark. So lighting has to be a key consideration.

    TOM SILVA: Lighting is very key. Getting in natural light is hard in a basement because lots of times, the house is below grade. What I’ve found over the years – we’ve done it a few times in a basement – we’ve actually tricked that by using – putting a window – a full-size window – in a wall but light behind the window.

    TOM: Oh, interesting.

    TOM SILVA: So you think you’re getting natural light but you’re really not.

    TOM: You have to remember to turn the switch off at night, though.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Put it on a timer.

    TOM: Now what about insulation? That’s a fairly damp space. You want to be careful about the way you insulate in a space like that. How do you manage the moisture and get insulation in there at the same time?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you have to worry about moisture coming out of that foundation, for example, because concrete is porous. And if it’s not sealed right – so what I would do is if I’m going to use fiberglass insulation, I would nail some polyethylene against the sill and drop it down onto the floor or covering the wall and bring it out onto the floor, set up the wall and then put fiberglass insulation in there. The other option is to put rigid foam up or spray foam.

    TOM: Now, if you put rigid foam, would that go right against the foundation wall?

    TOM SILVA: I put it right against the foundation wall. There’s actually a system that’s called InSoFast where you don’t even need any 2x4s in the wall.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: It glues the foam right to the wall and there’s plastic studs in that. And you’re – studded your wall and insulated, all in one application.

    TOM: Wow, that’s great. Now, what about the floor of the basement? You know, we often get calls from folks on the radio show that want to put carpet in the floor. And I always cringe because I feel like that’s a really bad idea because of the moisture issues again.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, you’ve got to worry about it. If you’re going to put carpet in the basement, it should be a carpet that could be used outdoors: something that can really breathe and withstand any moisture that should occur.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: But if you’re going to – if you’d like to put a wood floor down, you want to make sure that you have no moisture coming out of the floor. Again, check it with plastic to make sure nothing collected underneath that poly. Use a vapor retarder or a vapor barrier over the floor before you put whatever you want.

    TOM: And of course, when we’re talking about wood floor, we’re talking about engineered hardwood floor because you can’t use solid hardwood, right?

    TOM SILVA: Yes. No, you don’t want to use a solid hardwood. You could use a vinyl floor. They have the – basically, it’s a photographed floor that’s about an 1/8-inch thick and they stick together.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And that’s its own vapor barrier.

    TOM: Yeah. And those vinyl floors are getting better than ever now.

    TOM SILVA: Oh, they’re beautiful.

    TOM: Really have done a great job with the design.

    So let’s talk, finally, about the wall construction. Now, once you’re studded out, you’ve got to choose what type of wallboard to put up. Standard drywall – well, we always joke that contains mold food because it’s covered with paper.

    TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: What’s another option?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you can use moisture-resistant drywall. And they actually have an exterior-grade drywall. You’ve seen on commercial buildings the yellow drywall. It goes on the outside of the house and it’s great stuff but it is expensive.

    TOM: Alright. A recurring theme through this entire discussion is moisture. You’ve really got to manage that moisture. How do you know if your moisture is going to be a problem and what do you do about it?

    TOM SILVA: What I like to do is take a piece of polyethylene – a couple of them, 2×2 – tape them to the floor and a couple of them and tape it to different sections of your wall. And then wait a week or so and go down and see if any moisture has collected behind the poly on the wall or on the floor.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: If it has, then you need to deal with it on the exterior, maybe, of the house if it’s your foundation. On the floor, you’re definitely going to need some type of a vapor retarder on the floor (inaudible at 0:26:31).

    TOM: Great advice. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: Always nice to be here, guys. Good to see you.

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

    Up next, frosted window panes might look nice in holiday pictures but they might also mean your windows need an upgrade. We’ll have details, 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.

    Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT. You will get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, we are giving away a perfect prize for this time of year. We’ve got the Glisten Prize Pack up for grabs.

    Now, in this prize pack, you will find the only EPA-registered dishwasher cleaner. Think about it: how many times are you using your dishwasher? You’ve got a lot of people over and Glisten Dishwasher Magic will clean, freshen and then, of course, extend the life of your dishwasher. And it just doesn’t stop at your dishwasher. We’re talking about your washing machine with Washer Magic. There’s even a microwave cleaner. It’s a great family of products.

    You can find it at a lot of retailers but check them out at GlistenCleaners.com. It’s a prize pack worth 50 bucks.

    TOM: Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, has this ever happened to you: you turn on the faucet to take your morning shower and then you wait and you wait and you wait for it to get hot? Well, I’ve got good news: if you’re tired of standing on the cold tile and getting doused with freezing water, there’s a brand-new product on the market, right now, that I’m pretty excited about. Because it’s just a really simple solution to end that hassle. It’s called the Watts Hot Water Recirculating System and it’s really easy to install, as well.

    LESLIE: Yeah. With this system, you’re never going to have to wait for hot water again because you’ll have instant hot water at every faucet or shower. And that’s going to save you water and money.

    TOM: Yep. And here’s how it works. Basically, you have two parts to this system: you’ve got a pump and you’ve got a sensor valve. And the pump is mounted on the water heater and it – basically, you use flex-line connections, so it’s pretty easy to do. And the pump also has a built-in timer. And then the sensor valve goes in a sink cabinet in a bathroom, pretty much at the far end of the plumbing loops, the one that’s farthest away from the water heater.

    And now you have this loop that goes through the hot-water pipe, from the water heater all the way to that last bathroom. And then it covers all the plumbing fixtures along the way. So basically, the hot-water supply is then constantly recirculated so it never really cools down and you get instant hot water without any added toll on your water heater or without wasting all that cold water waiting for it to get hot.

    LESLIE: Yes, so you’re going to save some money, guys. We’re talking about up to 10 percent on your water bill. And that’s up to 15,000 gallons of water each year. And the system includes built-in programmable timer, so it will only kick on when you need it.

    TOM: The Watts Hot Water Recirculating System is maintenance-free, extremely quiet and installs in less than an hour using basic tools. It retails for 199 and it’s available at The Home Depot and HomeDepot.com.

    LESLIE: Ray in North Carolina is on the – on the floor, I was going to say.

    RAY: You sound like me today.

    LESLIE: Sorry, Ray. I’m reading what your question is about and I introduce you as “Ray is calling in from the floor.”

    No, we’ve got Ray from North Carolina on the phone who’s got a crack in the garage floor. Tell us what’s going on there.

    RAY: Unbelievable. We’ve got a very small – not unbelievable but had a very small crack since we moved in, which is back in 1996. And it never really moved. And we had a little earthquake here. I don’t know if you heard about it but it was a small, little earthquake that – the one that affected the Washington Monument and all that.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RAY: But it did drag down here. But anyway, I don’t know if it’s really related to that or not but there are no cars in the garage because I’ve had too much junk, unfortunately.

    LESLIE: Join the club.

    RAY: But now the crack is now about a ¼-inch to, in a couple of spots, almost a ½-inch wide. And it goes from one end to the other. We’re talking about 17 feet. I don’t know what to do.

    TOM: Well, first of all, the concrete floor is not structural in the sense that it’s not helping to hold up the building, in most cases.

    LESLIE: And essentially, it’s right over dirt.

    RAY: Right.

    TOM: Yeah. Think of it as a very stiff type of flooring because that’s basically what it is.

    RAY: OK.

    TOM: Now, to fix that crack – you’re never going to make it go away but what you can do is seal it. And when you seal it, you stop moisture from getting in there: water that runs off the car, for example, in the wintertime. That could freeze and cause it move more quickly.

    So, there’s a couple of products out there that will do this. I would take a look at a very basic and effective product called QUIKRETE Concrete Repair. Basically, it’s a crack sealer that’s in a tube, like a caulking tube.

    RAY: Right.

    TOM: And you cut the tip off, you try to keep it to about an 1/8-inch, if it’s a ¼-inch crack. You can fill that crack from one end to the other, let it dry. And then you could put a concrete floor paint on top of that. And so that will make it very difficult for you to see, especially if you paint the floor and you use one of the products that has sort of a color chip in it. Gives it a little bit of a pattern and makes it harder to see; it’s not quite as obvious.

    So, I would simply fill it, paint it and call it a day.

    RAY: Very good. Yeah, it actually is painted now. And let me ask you this. The only other problem I’ve had in the past, real quickly, is that when I have tried to fill it, if I wait too long, it’s too high. And obviously, it’s very hard to sand down flat or level. Is this a self-leveling product? Can I just grind it down with a grinder?

    TOM: Well, it’s not going to be stiff like concrete. It’s a sealer, OK? I mean it’s a repair product, so it doesn’t – it’s not hard like concrete.

    RAY: OK. I’ve got you.

    TOM: But you basically want to put it in so it sits just below the surface.

    Now, a little trick of the trade is if you have a really deep crack, you can sort of stuff the crack first with a backer rod or some other type of product like that so that the repair material stays up towards the surface.

    RAY: Mm-hmm. OK.

    TOM: They have another product called a “self-leveling, polyurethane sealant.” And with that, it will definitely flow nice and even.

    RAY: Excellent. Well, I appreciate your help very much and I enjoy your show.

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

    LESLIE: Still ahead, would you like to clean grease and oil and fingerprints right off of your kitchen cabinets before your holiday guests arrive? We’re going to share some secrets to some amazing results, when The Money Pit continues after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Glisten. Glisten makes it easy to clean, freshen and maintain your dishwasher, disposer, microwave and washing machine. So improve the performance of your appliances with cleaning solutions from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Visit GlistenCleaners.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, are your ceiling fans sitting around doing nothing these days? Maybe just collecting dust? Well, it turns out that those same fans that keep you cool all summer can actually warm you up in the winter if you know what to do with them. We’ve got tips on how you can tap into your ceiling fans for more warmth and savings, right on the home page of MoneyPit.com right now.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online post your question, just like Amy did who writes: “What product would you recommend for cleaning wood kitchen cabinets? They’re a light, white oak and are very dirty with grease, hand grime and cigarette-smoke residue. Thanks in advance for your response.”

    TOM: Yuck.

    LESLIE: They must have just moved in, because it doesn’t sound to me like Amy would let her house go like this.

    TOM: No, it sounds pretty gross. What I would start – in a situation like that, I would start with Murphy’s Oil Soap which is a pretty good, dependable wood cleaner. Now, the rule of thumb with Murphy’s, though, is don’t use excessive water when using it. If you dip the washcloth into the Murphy’s and you wipe the cabinets down, you follow up maybe with a clean sponge to get the soap off and to get it to dry – that’s really all you need to do.

    Now, if you’re got some really nasty spots on there and you can’t get off, I’m going to give you another trick of the trade: WD-40. It’s got a ton of household uses but it works on a spot-treatment basis, as well. So if you’ve got some, say, maybe a grease stain or something like that, hit it with a little WD-40 and then more of that Murphy’s Oil Soap solution and you should be good to go. I think they’ll come out pretty clean if you follow that. But remember, not too much water. You don’t want to ruin them or cause them to swell.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That’ll really do the trick. Kitchen cabinets can get so grimy so fast. So this is a perfect opportunity for you to clean them.

    Alright. Next up, Kyle writes: “I just recently purchased a home and unfortunately, the previous homeowners were Michigan State fans. There’s all sorts of green-and-white reminders of that throughout the house, including the landscaping, white rocks in the landscaping beds and worst of all: the concrete foundation, garage floor and walkways are all painted green. How can I safely remove it from the concrete without damaging the surrounding beds?”

    TOM: Oh, that’s hilarious. Well, go Spartans. Or I guess, more accurately, go away Spartans?

    So you’re finding yourself in this sea of green. I guess the best approach isn’t to necessarily strip the old paint, as it’s almost impossible to get it off the masonry. What I would do is paint over it. And the way to do this is to first remove the loose paint. You’re going to have to wire-brush it really well. Then you need to apply a masonry primer. I’d use a really good-quality oil-based primer from a real well-known manufacturer and then add two coats of masonry paint, seal it over. Go away Spartans. It’ll be done, once and for all.

    LESLIE: Forgive me. I don’t follow football but didn’t they have a really good season this year?

    TOM: Yeah. But too much of green is apparently not a good thing.

    LESLIE: Well, at least he could be on the bandwagon.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this holiday weekend hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some ideas on improvements you can make to your money pit. If you’ve got questions and did not get through to the show, remember, you can call us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not on the air, we will call you back the next time we are. And you can always reach us online 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.


    (Copyright 2015 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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