Avoiding Shopping Scams, Choosing a Snow Blower, Safeguard Prescription Medications and More
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: Call us right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Happy Holidays, everybody.
LESLIE: Yeah, I can’t believe it.
TOM: ‘Tis the season.
LESLIE: This is Christmas weekend, my goodness.
TOM: Isn’t it great?
LESLIE: I’m glad we got a moment to steal away, to enjoy the holiday with you all, our lovely Money Pit listeners.
TOM: And in the spirit of the season, we’re going to talk this hour about some of those last-minute deals; you know, the post-Christmas sales. There’s a lot of them out there but you have to be aware of the scam artists that use the busy time of the year to rip you off. So we’re going to have some tips to help keep your wallets intact, which is oh so important, especially next week, now that you’ve got done buying all your gifts for your friends and family.
LESLIE: Seriously. Plus, after all of that holiday shopping that we know you’re doing, why not splurge on something for yourself? Why don’t you get that snow blower that you’ve been eyeing since last year’s record snowfall? I mean most of the country experienced snow like never before and along with it, major snow removal. We’re going to have advice on how to choose the right snow blower for your house as winter officially sets in.
TOM: And also ahead, with all the visiting that happens over the holidays, it’s important to make sure that your home is safe for toddlers, as well as those homes that you’ll be visiting. But one area you might not think to check is the medicine cabinet, which can actually contain a whole lot of things that can make kids really sick. Think about it.
This hour, we’re going to have tips on how you can keep that area safe.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a prize that can help you with a great home improvement project, that can be eligible for a tax credit. And that’s replacing your old front door with a new, energy-efficient fiberglass one.
TOM: Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Courtesy of Therma-Tru doors, we’ve got a $50 Lowe’s gift card that you could use for just that. Let’s get right to the phones.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Eldon in Iowa has a roofing question. What can we do for you today?
ELDON: Yes. I have organic shingles that’s on the house right now and apparently they’re not supposed to be put on in Iowa, I guess, so they’re starting to break down and they’re rabbit-earing (ph) and they’re spacing real wide and that type of thing.
I wanted to know, do I – can I go over the top of an organic shingle with something else or do I have to do a complete tear-off?
TOM: Well, how old is your roof right now, Eldon?
ELDON: It’s actually only 10 years old.
TOM: OK. And is the house 10 years old or is there more roofs underneath that?
ELDON: The house is 100 years old.
TOM: OK. What’s underneath the shingles? That layer you have now.
TOM: It’s a single layer? OK.
TOM: And let me ask you, how long do you think you’re going to stay in this house? Will you be in it for more than the next 15 or 20 years?
TOM: Alright. Then what I would recommend you do – and it has nothing to do with whether the shingles are organic or not – but I recommend that you remove that old layer and here’s why. When you put multiple layers of roofing shingles on a home, the initial layer adds a heat sink to that sandwich, so to speak, and that can more rapidly deteriorate the new layer of shingles, because you’re basically holding more heat against them. Asphalt shingles are oil-based and when you evaporate a lot of those oils that are in the shingles, they can have a shorter life.
So I would recommend that you remove the first layer, so that you get the full life of the new layer of shingles.
ELDON: Well, thank you very much there. You answered my question.
TOM: You’re welcome, Eldon. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And of course, on the flip side, if Eldon had responded he was going to be in that house for the next 5 years, well then it wouldn’t really matter if the new roof lasted 10 years or 20 years, because he’s not going to be there to enjoy it.
LESLIE: You should still do the nice thing for the person buying your house.
TOM: Yeah. Well, yeah but I mean it’s an economic question.
TOM: And if you’re going to be there for the life of it, then you can get the complete return on investment for removing that first layer.
LESLIE: Although I will tell you when we looked into what our town required, permit-wise, when we were thinking about replacing our roof, they said that if we left the existing shingles on and went right over, we didn’t need anything.
LESLIE: But if we took it off and started from the foundation of the roof itself – the substructure – then we needed all sorts of permits, which I think is so weird.
TOM: That’s really intelligent, yeah.
LESLIE: And then it’s – so it’s like you get penalized for doing the right thing.
TOM: There you go. Building code at its finest, yeah. Do the right thing and punish them for it.
LESLIE: Toni in Alabama is dealing with an HVAC issue. Tell us what’s going on.
TONI: Oh, hi. OK. I live in a ranch-style home.
TONI: And the fireplace is in the den and I’m fine during the wintertime. I can turn the heat on; no odor, no nothing. But come summertime, when the humidity goes high, there’s an awful odor of creosote that comes out into the room.
TOM: Well, have you cleaned your fireplace, Toni?
TONI: Oh, well we had it cleaned when we – well, initially, when we burned wood in it. We’ve been here 30-some years and we burn wood.
TONI: Well, we decided we didn’t like that so we got a gas insert. And we had the chimney cleaned before and I personally got in there and cleaned all the brick that you can see, where you burn, you know.
TOM: Right. Hmm. Well, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to have that chimney inspected because – I know you think it’s clean. It may not have been cleaned. I don’t know if you looked up inside of it or got up on the roof and looked down.
But what I want to suggest you do is contact a professional home inspector and have them do the inspection. You want to find somebody who’s got a fair amount of experience. You can do that by going to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, at ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.o-r-g.
And a good home inspector is going to go up on the roof, look down the chimney. You want to take a good look at what it looks like inside of it. Let’s make sure it truly is clean. Not that the chimney sweep you had would have done a bad job on purpose but we’ve seen it before, so let’s make sure that the chimney is very clean. Because if it’s still got some creosote in it, not only is it potentially dangerous, it also is going to react with the moisture. And because your return vent is right near there, it’s going to draw right into the house. So I think that’s the best place to start.
Toni, 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. Thank you so much for sharing this holiday weekend with us. We know you want to kind of rest and relax but if you’ve got a home improvement project on your to-do list, pick up the phone and give us a call. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, one place to keep kids out of is your medicine cabinet. We’ve got tips on how to do that, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Making good homes better, 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. Well, it’s getting close to the end of the tax year and we do not want you to miss out on those energy-efficient tax credits. Now, you can earn up to a $1,500 tax credit if you make your home more green. And one option is to replace your wood, front-entry door with a fiberglass door.
Now, fiberglass doors, they look like wood but they actually insulate up to five times better than a wood door.
TOM: That’s right. And Benchmark by Therma-Tru is a fiberglass door sold exclusively at Lowe’s and comes in a wide range of very attractive styles to personalize your home, while increasing curb appeal. To help you get one, we’re giving away a $50 gift card to Lowe’s, courtesy of Therma-Tru, so call us right now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. One caller we talk to on the air this hour will win.
LESLIE: Now, with the holidays upon us, we’re all visiting friends and family. And we’ve got a lot of people coming over to our house. Maybe you’ve got some people visiting your house who have small kids and you’re either past that phase or you don’t have kids yet. So keep in mind that you want to sort of take the steps to childproof your home, depending on the visitors that are coming. And also, if you’re going to visit someone who doesn’t have children, keep in mind that there’s some areas you really want to look out for, just to make sure that your kids stay safe.
And one of those places that you want to look is in your kitchen or your bathroom. Now, it’s where most of us stash our medicine. But whether it’s over-the-counter cold remedies or even prescription medications, we need to be more aware of who has access to it.
Now, prescription meds, they are the most abused drugs in America by people of all ages, so you want to make sure that you take stock of what you have and then keep track of it. And you also want to store your medications in a locked medicine cabinet. And remember to safely dispose of extra, unused medication. Never put it down the drain or flush it down the toilet. The best bet is just to take it back to the pharmacist and they’ll properly dispose of it.
TOM: That’s right. And in fact, NuTone is a manufacturer of medicine cabinets and they actually have a new series of locking cabinets that’s got a very inconspicuous and very durable key lock that I love. It features a very contemporary frame, so these don’t ever look like safes. They could look beautiful; they can be stylish. These NuTone cabinets come in oil-rubbed bronze or satin-nickel finishes and it makes it very easy to coordinate them with your bath décor.
You can check them out at NuTone.com but please, please, please invest in a lockable medicine cabinet to keep you and your family safe.
LESLIE: Tom in Kentucky is on the line doing some work in the yard. What can we do for you today?
TOM IN KENTUCKY: I’m going to get into a project on my wood deck and what I want to do is put a ceramic tile floor over top the existing wood deck. Is it possible?
TOM: You want to put a ceramic tile floor over a wood deck outside your house?
TOM IN KENTUCKY: Yeah.
TOM: And what part of the country do you live in again?
TOM IN KENTUCKY: Kentucky.
TOM: Man, I don’t know.
LESLIE: I don’t know. I feel like …
TOM: Feel like it’s a bad idea.
LESLIE: Well, I feel like it’s a bad idea, number one, because a deck, regardless if it’s 2 inches off the floor or 5 feet off the ground, you’re dealing with a lot of movement. And of course, we all know that when you’re dealing with ceramic tile, you have to have a super-stable subfloor, otherwise your tiles are going to all crack.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
LESLIE: So that’s my first concern.
TOM: Why is it that you want this to be tile?
TOM IN KENTUCKY: I just want something more permanent; something that I didn’t have to restain and just fool with.
TOM: OK. Well, the solution would be composite decking, not tile.
TOM: The composites today are amazing. I mean you have to take a look at what’s happening in the composite industry because all of these products are changing. You’ve got manufacturers like Fiberon out there that have these drop-dead, gorgeous products that need zero maintenance.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s truly beautiful.
TOM: You can scribble on these things with permanent markers and wipe them right off, so it’s not like when they used to be made with the wood fibers and the mold would grow on the surface. Totally changed now and really durable and I think that that could give you what you want. You’re trying to go about this the hard way by applying tile to a deck surface.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And then, of course, you’re spending all the expense on the tile and perhaps sometime down the line, you’re going to have to make some repairs to the substructure, which is still going to be pressure-treated plywood or pressure-treated lumber, rather. And you could potentially ruin all of your tile work and have to start from scratch there again whereas with …
TOM: Yeah, not to mention the fact that during the winter, it’s going to get cold and it could get icy; it could get slippery. Even in the rain, it gets kind of dangerous. So I just think it’s a bad idea.
What you might want to do is a deck makeover where you pull up the wood planks but leave the substructure.
LESLIE: And just replace it with the composite.
TOM IN KENTUCKY: OK. OK. You all talked me out of it.
TOM: Alright. Well, just want to make sure you do the right thing, Tom. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Karen in Michigan is calling in with a heating and cooling question. What can we do for you?
KAREN: Yes. I am looking at a house that has a forced-air downdraft furnace.
KAREN: And when I was checking out the house, I pulled up the vents on the floor and all the vents do not have any ductwork underneath them.
KAREN: And it’s a crawlspace underneath, so it’s like a modular.
TOM: That’s a little strange.
KAREN: And it’s got a 3-foot crawlspace so I’m wondering how hard it’s going to be to try and put ductwork in this place.
TOM: Pretty hard. So let me get this right. So this – it sounds like it was unfinished. Because a downdraft system is not unusual but it pushes the air down to a duct system and then comes up through those registers. So you’re telling me you have registers but you have no ducts?
LESLIE: But could it just be venting for the crawlspace? Would you do that?
TOM: I don’t know. That makes no sense.
LESLIE: I don’t know; I’m just trying to understand what’s going on here.
TOM: Yeah. Karen, you need to have an HVAC contractor look at this and give you an estimate for the work. It wouldn’t be hard; 3 feet is plenty of room to work in, to do that.
LESLIE: Especially there’s so many flexible ducting options.
LESLIE: You don’t need something rigid. So they can work without having to, you know, do major construction.
TOM: Alright. But you need to do that. Did you have a home inspection done?
KAREN: No, we have not yet.
TOM: Well, that’s another thing that you ought to think about doing. I’d start with a home inspection and let the home inspector look at it. Get this documented into a report because this is definitely something you should be negotiating with the seller.
KAREN: Alright. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Karen. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Travis is updating the basement and needs some help with this project. What can we do for you?
TRAVIS: Well, my man-cave is almost finished, so I’m really excited.
TRAVIS: All I’ve got left to do is essentially buy the commode and vanity for my bathroom. Then the plumber will come out, hook everything up, put in the pump that will pump everything up.
TRAVIS: But I’m a little concerned. When it comes – chili and poker night and my big buddies come over, I don’t want to have a wimpy commode and I’m a little worried about going out and buying something off the shelf.
TRAVIS: I was hoping maybe you guys could advise me, so I’m not embarrassed when my friends come over.
TOM: Well, there is a company that specializes in upflow toilets. It’s called Saniflo – S-a-n-i-f-l-o – and they’ve been around for many, many years and they’ve got toilets that are, I think, chili and baked bean-proof (inaudible at 0:15:30).
LESLIE: Oh, Tom.
TRAVIS: That’s good because when the guys come over, that last thing I want to be worried about is something going wrong in a basement with plumbing.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. Yep.
LESLIE: I don’t want to know about this.
TOM: And you can hook this up so that the vanity – the sink – can drain into it, too. And it – basically, it’s a pump that will take all the effluent, pump it up, pump it out and works completely automatically.
TRAVIS: And it’s powerful, right?
TOM: Very powerful.
TOM: Can handle …
TRAVIS: Like I said, I’ve got big friends. They’re big geeks on poker and I’ve got to take care of them.
TOM: Yes. Alright. TMI, TMI – too much information.
TRAVIS: Great show, as always, guys. Thanks for all the help.
TOM: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Oh, thank you.
Alright. Bill is on the line with an electrical question about a three-way switch. Tell us what’s going on.
BILL: I am replacing some switches in my kitchen. I have three-way switches.
BILL: And now I can’t get it to work properly. I’ve got – I can turn – but if I turn them both on, they’ll – it’ll come on. I can turn it off at either location then but it won’t work like it’s supposed to work, you know?
BILL: I can’t exit from either door and turn it off or on.
TOM: Yeah, well, I mean somewhere, you put the wires back a different way than when you took them off, didn’t you?
BILL: For sure, yeah.
BILL: I can’t figure it out.
TOM: Doing electrical work is not a DIY project. However, if you go wire for wire, then you can sometimes get away with it. But I can’t diagnose it from my location to yours. As good as we are, I can’t tell you which wire you got wrong. But the behavior that you describe indicates that something is wired backwards.
TOM: And it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out where it is. Did you change the lights, too, or just the switches?
BILL: Only the switches.
TOM: Only the switches.
BILL: Yeah, I just put some modern – [a bay of] (ph) switches in my kitchen and didn’t get it wired back correctly.
TOM: Right. Yeah. Are they dimmers or are they just regular switches?
BILL: No, they’re just regular switches. Just three-way switches.
TOM: Yep. Yeah, well, I think you have two of the power lines reversed. I can’t tell you which ones and I can’t tell you which switch but if you did it on one side, it could affect the whole thing.
BILL: So, you think if I go in and change just the power lines on the switches …?
TOM: Nah. I don’t want you to do it, because I can’t tell you exactly what to do. You need to get somebody that does this all the time to take a look at it for you or you need to bite the bullet and call an electrician and swallow your pride and get it fixed.
BILL: Sad but true. It was worth a shot.
TOM: Alright, Bill?
BILL: I appreciate it.
TOM: It’s one thing I won’t diagnose from afar is electrical work. But it’s probably a pretty simple mistake. And you know what you might want to do, if you think about anything else that’s small in electrical improvements or repairs that you have to do at the same time, because it’s probably not going to take them more than a couple minutes to fix this and you could probably use the service call to do a onceover on anything else that you need fixing – that needs fixing inside the house.
BILL: Yeah. It’s such a small problem. We had an electrician in, gosh, just several months ago and had him fix some other things and I didn’t even think about it when he was here. But I won’t forget it again.
TOM: Yep. Ah. See that? Make your list. Get him back.
BILL: I appreciate (audio gap). Thanks so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Bill. 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. Still ahead, guys, it is official: winter is here. Now if you can’t get your kids to shovel for you, it might be time to invest in a machine that’s going to get that job done.
Up next, we’re going to learn how to pick the best snow blower for your home, from Roger Cook, who is the landscape expert on TV’s This Old House.
TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is presented by Trewax Natural Hardwood Floor Cleaner. Since 1935, Trewax products have set the standard for quality floor care, with a line of waxes, sealers and cleaning products. We’ll be back with Roger Cook from This Old House, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by SnowBlowersDirect.com. Thinking about getting a snow blower? Check out SnowBlowersDirect.com’s interactive buying guides, recommendations and customer reviews. Snow blower experts are available to help you pick the perfect snow blower. Visit SnowBlowersDirect.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, 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, winter is officially here. Learn what you need to do to prevent winter’s worst, including ice dams, snow storms and frozen pipes. It’s all online at MoneyPit.com.
And if you’ve got a pressing home improvement question, well, you can call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or you can post it into The Money Pit community at MoneyPit.com and either Leslie, myself or hundreds of my closest, personal friends on there, on any one time at MoneyPit.com, will answer it for you.
LESLIE: Jodi in Indiana is working on a flooring project. How can we help you with that?
JODI: Oh, yes. I have a question about my floor. I’m taking out a center wall and I have asphalt tiles on one side, which are the way – really old ones, and I have vinyl tiles on the other. Do I have to remove the entire floor and start over, to put hardwood floors down?
TOM: You’re going to use engineered hardwood or are you going to use standard hardwood? Is it prefinished? What kind of hardwood is it, Debbie?
JODI: It’s prefinished.
TOM: OK. And so you have asphalt tiles on one side and vinyl tiles on the other?
JODI: Right. Right.
TOM: Are they adhered well? Are they loose and popping up?
JODI: No, they’re (inaudible at 0:21:29).
TOM: There’s no reason you can’t go on top of them then.
JODI: I guess …
TOM: They’re not very thick, so they’re not contributing to the thickness of the floor. So you can basically lay your new hardwood floor – your prefinished, hardwood floor – right on top of that.
JODI: So I can nail through it?
TOM: Certainly. I don’t see any reason you can’t do that. And some of the prefinished, though, is actually click-together. Is this a nail installation?
JODI: No, mine has to be nailed.
TOM: OK. Yeah, I don’t see why you can’t do that.
JODI: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright, Jodi. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, winter is not too far away now and if the thought of last winter’s back-breaking, snow-shoveling sessions have you paining for a better solution, you might be ready to invest in a snow blower.
TOM: Ah, yes. But figuring out the options can be tricky. That’s why we’ve invited This Old House landscaping expert, Roger Cook, here to help us out.
ROGER: Hey. Glad to be here.
TOM: Now, is this one of those chores that you always took on in the off-season? I know so many landscapers that do snow plowing when the plants just don’t grow.
ROGER: You’ve got to do something to get through the winter, that’s for sure.
TOM: Now, when I was researching this topic, I learned something very interesting on your website, that the snow thrower was actually invented in your very own hometown, Boston, by a very industrious teenager.
ROGER: I didn’t know that but I sure hope he got the patent on it, huh?
TOM: He did, he did. His name was William Murphy and in 1941, he took a small, one-cylinder Briggs & Stratton gas engine that was actually used in lawn mowers and he modified it to throw snow.
ROGER: Amazing. And look what it’s developed into today.
TOM: They’re a lot more complicated, though, so let’s talk about some of the options.
ROGER: It all depends on how much snow you have to do, whether you’re doing a small walkway or a large driveway.
ROGER: There are single-stage blowers and that’s one that has the auger in the front that not only gathers the snow but blows it out of the machine.
TOM: So it happens all in one action; it gathers and tosses in one.
TOM: Got it.
ROGER: Those are great for small areas. They will throw snow pretty well. But if you have a large driveway, sometimes they can be overwhelmed, specifically if you have that good, 3-foot pile that the plow leaves at the end.
ROGER: That’s when you need a two-stage one. Now that has an auger in the front that very slowly feeds the snow into an impeller, which is turning very quickly. Now that really can throw the snow; that’ll clear a driveway very quickly.
TOM: So the impeller is sort of like a pump.
ROGER: Exactly. And it gets fed by that auger and pumps everything out.
LESLIE: Now, they’re fairly complex systems, similar to a lawn mower, that require a lot of maintenance. So how do you keep your snow thrower in workable shape throughout the season?
ROGER: Well, maintenance-wise, you take care of it in the spring and the fall; when you put it away and when you’re ready to start. You always get it ready. I use Thanksgiving as my date to get the snow thrower ready because, usually, you wait until the first snow and it’s not going to start and it’s not going to do what you need to do. And everyone else is going to have their snow thrower down in the shop to be repaired, too.
So, change the plug, make sure the oil is clean. The most important thing is gas. Gas will go stagnant on you and will not run, so you need to get fresh gas and put a stabilizer in it. Now, the stabilizer keeps it from going stagnant and you’ll have gas that’ll work all season long.
TOM: Now, this is not the kind of piece of equipment that we use every day and there are a lot of injuries that are caused by snow blowers. How do we stay safe when we use it?
ROGER: The biggest mistake people make is reaching inside the snow blower to get rid of a clog. Never …
LESLIE: While it’s on and running and they think just because it’s jammed, it stops.
ROGER: It’s stopped.
TOM: Yeah, you wouldn’t do that to a lawn mower.
LESLIE: No way.
ROGER: No but some people think they can just reach in there. I just bumped into a friend of my son’s who lost three fingers this past winter.
TOM: Oh, my God.
ROGER: There is always – every snow blower comes with something to declog the snow blower. It’s either plastic or you can use a piece of wood. Shut the machine off; never do anything when it’s running. Use that stick or plastic piece to loosen up the snow and then start it up again and see if you’ve released the clog.
LESLIE: Even if it’s off, when you sort of release whatever was blocking it, will that blade turn just a smidgens?
ROGER: It could.
LESLIE: It could.
ROGER: That’s why I always use – I never put my hand inside a snow blower.
TOM: Now, Roger, what do you think of the power shovel? Is that sort of like the starter snow blower? A shovel with a little bit of motor on it. Are any of those effective for very light snowfalls?
ROGER: They’re great. Believe it or not, I gave my wife one for a Christmas present one year.
LESLIE: How romantic of you.
TOM: And you’re still married?
ROGER: Yeah, she really loved it, you know? I use it all the time. I use it on my deck.
TOM: She apparently already had a dishwasher.
ROGER: Yeah, typical husband. Give my wife the present and I use it. No, I use it on the deck. I’ve even used it in heavy snows where you lift it up and you do the top 6 inches and then you do the lower one. Because there were cars parked in the way, I couldn’t use a big snow blower.
I love them. I think they’re a great tool, especially for people in the city.
TOM: Great advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
ROGER: Glad to be here.
TOM: And there is actually an interesting photo gallery on the history of snow blowers, on ThisOldHouse.com. Check it out. It’s really fun.
LESLIE: And remember, you can watch Roger and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.
TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by Stanley. Stanley, make something great.
Still ahead, the post-holiday deals are abound but so are the scammers, just waiting for you to drop your guard. Learn how to avoid that, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, 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, in a down housing market, curb appeal is key. Now, one option you have to really spruce up your house is to replace your front door with one made of fiberglass. Fiberglass doors look like wood but they insulate up to five times better and they qualify for tax credits.
Benchmark by Therma-Tru is a door that will do just that for you and it’s sold exclusively at Lowe’s. And it comes in a wide variety of attractive styles and glass designs.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And to help you along with this project, we’re giving away a $50 gift card from Lowe’s, courtesy of our friends at Therma-Tru. Just give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT to give us your home improvement question and your chance to win. And one lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win that prize.
So, are you ready to get some major deals by taking advantage of those post-holiday sales? If you are, make sure you’re careful. There was a recent survey that showed shoppers are 300 percent more likely to suffer credit card fraud during the holiday season.
We’re actually ripped off to the tune of more than 110,000 bucks every minute this time of year.
LESLIE: That’s huge.
TOM: It’s really – it’s crazy. So here’s what you need to know to look for. First of all, if prices on a site you’ve never heard of seem to be too good to be true, do a little homework before entering any credit card information. The Better Business Bureau gets complaints every holiday season from shoppers who say they found great deals online but never got the items they paid for. And that goes for the post-holiday sales, too.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you also want to be aware of deals on online sites like Craigslist or eBay. I know a lot of us use those on a daily basis but some of those listings can actually be bogus.
You know, if you come upon the super-hottest holiday toy that’s just sold out everywhere else, you want to make sure that you arrange for this transaction of that item in person. Choose a location that’s not your house but really, make sure you meet this person in person so that you know you’re actually getting this item and not just sending a check or your credit card information off to nowhere.
Another way scammers will get you is by tugging on your heartstrings. So before you make a donation, be sure you check out that charity.
And finally, it’s very easy to lose track of belongings when you’re out and about. If you lose your credit or your debit cards, that can lead to identity theft, which you might not notice immediately. It could be more of a long-term thing that’ll take you to see that. And it really can have a long, lasting effect on pretty much everything and anything that you’ll ever try to buy, purchase, sign up for; it’s going to cause problems.
So to save yourself the grief, make sure that your wallet is tucked away in a very secure place and put your credit cards and your receipts away carefully before you rush out of the store into the crowd.
TOM: Good advice. 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.
LESLIE: Henry in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
HENRY: I had some unexpected guests last night. They came and used about two spray cans of paint; sprayed on my barn.
TOM: Oh, no. You had some vandals?
HENRY: I guess you’d call them that.
TOM: That’s too bad, Henry.
LESLIE: They left you a lovely message that perhaps contained some four-letter words?
HENRY: No, no. It was like they drew or they spray-painted a human’s hand and fingers.
TOM: Oh, boy. Alright, so we’ve got to get rid of this, right? Did they get cleaned up?
HENRY: Four-by-eight, yeah.
LESLIE: And so this is on, you say, sheet metal?
HENRY: Yeah, this is on a barn. Like (inaudible at 0:30:43).
LESLIE: OK, so the barn is already painted, right?
LESLIE: You know what’s worked and – I mean I would imagine this is sort of similar to trying to remove spray paint from a car. If you’ve ever tried a detailing clay that you can get at an auto body shop or any sort of car shop, you can get it – one of them is called Meguiar’s Quik Clay; there’s several out there.
And then what you would do is, according to the directions, you would rub on this clay and that should do a great job of getting off the spray paint from the steel. It won’t take away the color of the steel itself – it might take away some of the sheen – but you’ll get that spray paint right off.
HENRY: Super. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jen in California has a sprinkler system issue. Let’s see what we can do. What’s going on?
JEN: Hello. I just bought a used house a couple months ago and the first month …
LESLIE: A used house.
TOM: A used house, huh? Not to be confused with a used car.
JEN: Yeah, well, a little bit better. Not the sales price or either …
TOM: A previously owned model.
JEN: Anyway, my sprinklers are hooked up to a multi-station timer.
JEN: And so the first month, everything was fine and dandy but the second month, one of the stations – the water pressure went to about 50 percent.
TOM: Huh. OK.
JEN: And so, what I did was I went to the sprinkler’s little inline valve with the twist – with the manual bleed screw that you can twist – and then it’ll manually turn it on.
JEN: I went and turned it on and that went to a full 100 percent. But when I go back to the timer and use it through the timer, I only get half pressure. Just for one of the stations.
TOM: Sounds like one of the valves is not opening up all the way and apparently, when you do it by hand you don’t have that problem. But this is a problem with the control circuit. So, I think you’re going to – you’re probably going to have a part to replace here. Not likely to be that expensive but it sounds to me like one of the valves isn’t opening all the way, which is the reason you’re not getting all the water that you’re supposed to have. It’s only opening halfway or part way.
JEN: So it’s not going to matter even if it’s the same system that’s working when you use the little bleed valve thing?
TOM: No, because I think that you’re bypassing something there. I think that whatever the valve is, it’s not open all the way and that’s what has to be fixed. So this should be a minor repair. Having a sprinkler system, this is very typical. They need an awful lot of maintenance.
LESLIE: They really do.
TOM: They’re always breaking heads or pipes that are cracking or leaking or valves that aren’t working right. They do – they take a lot of wear and tear.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Not to mention all the times you try to plant a plant and accidentally cut something that has to do with your sprinkler system.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah, at the end of the season this year, we came home to a geyser that was shooting water up over the roof of the house because one of the heads had snapped off.
LESLIE: How crazy.
TOM: And so, when this happened it was total from – like I’m just turning the system off; turned the valve off, flew all the lines out and said we’ll fix it in the spring.
JEN: Yeah. Well, I appreciate your help. That’s …
JEN: Yeah, wouldn’t have thought of that; that it would bypass it.
TOM: Alright, Jen.
JEN: So thank you very much. Take care, you guys.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and good luck with that new, used house.
LESLIE: I like that.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, one source of heat loss in your home might be your garage. Learn how to insulate that space, when we come back.
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: And we want to hear from you, online, on air. Ask us a question, tell us a do-it-yourself story, share your photos. You can even post a blog; you can do it all in our new Community section at MoneyPit.com. That’s what George did, so let’s talk to George right now.
LESLIE: Alright. The question that George posted was: “What is the best way to insulate my garage walls that are already sheetrocked? Is it possible to cut a hole in the top and drop loose material down the cavity?”
TOM: Well, it’s certainly possible and that’s called blown-in insulation, where they drill holes in the bays and then they blow insulation into it. But my question to you, George, would be: why are you insulating your garage?
Now, a garage is an unfinished space; an unconditioned space. If you want to turn it into a conditioned space – in other words, one space that you’re going to heat – then you do have to insulate all the walls. But typically, the only wall or parts of the garage that are insulated are those that are the physical barrier between the garage and the rest of the house. And I’m going to presume here that this is an attached garage, not a detached garage.
But if that’s the case, those walls may already be insulated. In fact, you can take off a light-switch cover or an outlet cover and with a flashlight, kind of look around the electrical box. You may see insulation in the wall there.
Now, if it’s exterior walls that were never insulated to begin with and for some reason, those walls were covered with drywall and not insulated, yes, you can do blown-in insulation for something like that. But also remember, you need to deal with that garage door and the huge gaps and drafts that will come in around that. So it’s a big project but it’s a definite can-do.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Alright. Now I’ve got a posting here from Garrett who writes: “I hear a lot of pros and cons about wind generators. What is the truth? Is there a wind generator that works and pays for itself over time, without costing thousands of dollars?”
Well, I mean any sort of energy-efficient home improvement like this, where you really go green, has a substantial out-of-pocket expense, correct?
TOM: Well, it does but the nice thing about wind generators is that there are a boatload of tax incentives that go on for the next couple of years. But the answer is really – it depends. It depends on a lot: it depends on where you live, it depends on how much wind you have in that area and it depends on the initial cost and of course, it also depends on what rebates are available from state or local governments.
And even if the answers to all of those questions are positive, it also depends on whether the local government’s going to allow you to have a wind generator on your property without triggering …
LESLIE: Or your neighbors, for that matter.
TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s what I mean, without triggering any crazy zoning laws that could cost you thousands of dollars to resolve.
Now, all that said, I will say that we saw a wind generator last May that was introduced at the National Hardware Show, that was literally a showstopper. It’s called the Honeywell WindTronic Generator that …
LESLIE: Oh, that’s that roof one, right?
TOM: Right. It costs about 6,500 bucks and I actually saw the president of this company just a few weeks ago at Greenbuild and they are ready to go into production on these things. They’re going to be generating about 6,000 of these an hour they’re going to be building in these huge plants that they’ve created. They’ve got orders coming in from all over the world.
And the reason they’re so popular is because they’re a great price. They’re very lightweight; they weigh only about 250 pounds and they can literally power a good part of what your average residential home’s needs would be. Completely new design, too. It’s only about 6-foot wide; the wind turbine part of it. And there’s not like a big, heavy motor in the middle. It’s all a different design, which makes it lightweight and very, very cool and very energy-efficient.
So, I’ve got to tell you, if I could have one of those in my neighborhood, I’d probably put one on my roof if I wasn’t going to trigger any crazy zoning issues associated with it, because I just think it’s just a really – the best wind-generator design that I think we’ve ever seen.
And again, that goes for about 6,500 bucks and keep an eye on that company: the Honeywell WindTronic Generator. It’s really going to do well, I think.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Over time, you will recoup those expenses, so it’s really something to look into. Start by checking out what those rebates are in your area and it’s a good place to start thinking about going green.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show continues online and in the community at MoneyPit.com, right now.
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 2010 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.)