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The Benefits of Standby Home Generators, Money-Saving DIY Plumbing Repairs, and Getting Rid of Mold Once and For All

  • 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 tackle your home improvement projects. Help yourself first: pick up the phone, give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’d love to hear what you’re working on around your house.

    Coming up this hour, from dead cellphones to spoiled food, power outages can do a number on your day and by the way, your wallet, too. But there is a solution that’s more affordable than you think and it’ll keep your homes powered even when everyone else has lost theirs. We’ll have that tip, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, are you sick and tired of scrubbing away mold only to have it come back all over again? Well, we’ve got a solution that crushes mold down right to the roots, getting rid of it, once and for all, and without harsh chemicals.

    TOM: Plus, why spend your hard-earned money on a plumber when you can fix it yourself? We’ve got tips on which plumbing repairs are safe to tackle on your own.

    LESLIE: And before you head indoors this fall, head over to True Value for some supplies and advice for all of your home improvement and weekend project needs. And in fact, one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $50 True Value gift card.

    TOM: So call us right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie who’s first?

    LESLIE: Matt in California is on the line and needs some help with a fireplace. What can we do for you?

    MATT: Our hearth is ugly and we want to replace it. We want to take it out and replace – it has a fireplace insert but we want to replace it with a wood stove. And our question is: does that – by taking the hearth out, will that effect the flue – the integrity of it – when we put in a wood stove?

    TOM: Well, I mean it depends, structurally, how it’s constructed. You know, generally speaking, with a fireplace, the chimney rests on the fireplace. So, structurally speaking, you need to make sure that that is still the case.

    If you’re going to leave the fireplace in place and essentially just convert it to a wood stove, then what you’ll probably do is break into the chimney and the flue above the fireplace, kind of with a 90 degree bend and straight in, and you’d seal the bottom of the chimney or certainly put a clean-out door there or maybe just leave the damper in place.

    It won’t affect the structural integrity as long as you leave it structurally intact. You can’t start just taking apart the fireplace and expect the chimney not to fall, though. Does that make sense, Matt?

    MATT: Yeah, alright. OK. And I’m glad I asked. Didn’t want to take that out and have it all fall apart on me.

    TOM: I would – if it’s just the hearth down on the bottom that sticks out, you can probably take that out. But you’re really going to have to have somebody with structural common sense take a look at that and answer this question for you, because I can’t see it from here, obviously.

    MATT: Right. Exactly. That’s what I thought. OK. That helps. I appreciate that.

    LESLIE: But are you open to just changing the hearth and changing the look of the fireplace itself? Because that’s not terribly difficult.

    MATT: Yeah. The fireplace itself is not good, economically, even with the insert that’s in there. It’s not economical at all. So then we want to go with a wood stove. So, if we put a wood stove there, that would look not very pleasing with the – with it – with the hearth sticking out like it is and then having a wood stove. So we thought we could replace that, all the way up to the wall, and then kind of design it so it’d look attractive with a wood stove within there.

    TOM: Well, you might be able to remove that hearth but you’re going to have to have a mason or a contractor look at it. If the hearth is – the hearth is there to, essentially, help make use of the fireplace safer. So if the hearth is not lending any structural contribution to the overall fireplace, you may be able to break that part out and leave the rest in place.

    MATT: OK. Yeah. I’ll have someone look at it, because I think that’s what we want to do. You’re right. I have (inaudible at 0:04:15) first.

    Thank you a lot. Appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jan in Iowa on the line who is dealing with a concrete patio that has some carpeting issues. What’s going on?

    JAN: We purchased our condo as a retirement home with a patio – an outdoor patio -with indoor/outdoor carpeting already installed on it. And we think it’s awful. It’s discolored and stained and we want to remove it. We need it know the best way to get it up off the concrete. And then we would like to know what to use as something that could improve the appearance of the concrete. Because we know it’s going to probably have bits of glue and who knows what that’s adhering to it. And it won’t be attractive.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a very time-consuming, messy job to rip up indoor/outdoor carpeting that’s been glued down. So, let’s just assume that that’s the case. And you’ll get off as much as you can but there’ll still be some black, rubber backing and other bits of glue that’s still stuck there. So, it is difficult to decide what to do with that.

    I would tend to think that the best thing to do might be to cover it. And what you could do is you could take a brick paver and basically assemble pavers right on top of the patio. Now, that will raise it by about an inch-and-a-half to 2 inches but it will look beautiful. And you won’t have to worry about any movement in the brick pavers, because you have a solid piece of concrete underneath.

    JAN: Alright. So once the carpet is off, then the brick pavers could be installed over the concrete.

    TOM: Yep. Right on top of the concrete. You can – there’s lots of different styles and colors and they’re all modular. And they fit together like puzzle pieces.

    JAN: We’ll do that.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. 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, can’t look back now. It is officially autumn. So, we want to give you a hand keeping your money pit in tip-top shape. Just give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you looking for the bright side of power outages? What? You didn’t know there was a bright side? Well, it could be your home, literally. We’ve got an easy way to keep your lights on when everyone else’s power goes out.

    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. Pick up the phone, give us a call. The number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, we’re going to help you get your autumn home improvement projects done right the first time but we’re also going to give you some tools to get the job done. And this time, we’ve got up for grabs a $50 True Value gift card, which is perfect for picking up supplies for your fall projects inside or outside of your home.

    TOM: And if you hit a snag with any of those projects, the local experts at True Value can lend some suggestions and advice.

    Head to TrueValue.com for your nearest store location. And give us a call, right now, for your chance to win at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Leonard in North Carolina on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

    LEONARD: Yes, I have a hallway in my home that is totally dark. And I want to know: what kind of options do you have available?

    TOM: So you don’t have outlets in the home, so you basically want to add some additional lighting.

    LEONARD: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. So, why don’t you simply run an extra circuit to feed a ceiling fixture?

    LEONARD: That might be an option.

    TOM: I mean it’s not as hard as you might think. Electricians do this sort of thing all the time. They will look for the path of least resistance, both electrically and physically, to get the wiring where it needs to go and provide that additional lighting option. You don’t necessarily need an outlet to do that.

    If you had an outlet or even if you had an outlet, for example, on the opposite walls – say the – let’s say the hallway is between – the other side of the hallway is a bedroom and there’s an outlet on that same wall, they might go down that wall to grab power from that outlet, bring the wire up across the hallway, drop it back down again and put in a ceiling fixture.

    LEONARD: Never thought about that.

    TOM: So I would consider – yeah, I would consider just running a ceiling fixture and forget the idea of using any kind of plug-in device.

    LEONARD: You guys have been a big help. Thanks a lot.

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

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

    MARTA: I have a set of concrete steps that are adjoined to my concrete driveway. And they are separating. The step is separating from the driveway.

    TOM: OK.

    MARTA: And I have a big crack and it’s – and the concrete is kind of starting to eat away. But I also have sand coming out and I want to know what I can do to, well – because I’ve got to fix it. I don’t know if I can just – do I use concrete in there? Do I use a sealer in there? I don’t know. But I’ve got to do something and I don’t want the crack getting bigger, especially with winter coming.

    TOM: Right. And you’re correct, because if you do let it get bigger, what’s going to happen is water will get in there and it’ll freeze and expand. So you do want to seal that. I would take a look at QUIKRETE.com – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com. They’ve got step-by-step videos there that will take you through this process.

    But essentially, you’re going to use one of a number of different types of crack-repair or concrete-repair products that they sell premixed, ready to rock and roll. And you’re just going to apply it. Some come in caulking tubes, for example; some come in squeeze bottles. You apply it to those cracks – let it flow, let it settle, let it dry – and that will seal the crack and stop it from any further deterioration.

    MARTA: Because it’s up along the house, too. And I put some concrete in there but …

    TOM: Well, the problem is that you can’t use regular concrete. Because if you put concrete in by itself, what happens is it will freeze and break and crack and fall out rather quickly. That’s why you need to use the products that are designed for repair, because they both adhere to the old concrete and then they stop the water from flowing in.

    MARTA: OK.

    TOM: And that’s going to do the job. OK, Marta?

    MARTA: Sounds good. It was QUIKRETE.com?

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

    LESLIE: Well, storms and power outages, they do go hand in hand. And when the forecast is calling for severe weather, it’s important to make sure that you’re ready for the storm. So here’s a tip to help you do just that, presented by KOHLER Generators.

    TOM: It’s never a bad idea to keep batteries and flashlights on hand but wouldn’t it be great if you never had to use them? Standby home generators are becoming a popular way to keep your home powered, even when the rest of the neighborhood has gone dark.

    LESLIE: Now, standby generators are installed outside of your home, a lot like air-conditioning units. They can run on propane or gas and they keep you connected to the lights, appliances, fresh food and electronics that become more crucial than usual during storm emergencies.

    Smaller portable generators, they’re another option for staying powered during storms. They’re not going to keep your entire house running but they can power individual items, like plug-in appliances or lamps.

    TOM: And this Severe Weather Tip is presented by KOHLER Generators. Running on clean propane or natural gas, a KOHLER standby generator is permanently installed outside your home and comes on automatically within seconds of a power outage. To learn more, visit KOHLERGenerators.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Richard in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with a structural issue in the basement and a bowing wall. Tell us what’s going on.

    RICHARD: OK. My wife and I built our own house and it is a pretty good-size house. But anyhow, we just got the thing dry to the weather and got 14 inches of rain in 2 days. And anyhow, the front wall buckled in a little bit. What do you know about these outfits that claim that they can jack walls out?

    TOM: OK. So, is this a home that you’ve just completed, Richard? You say you just got it closed to the weather.

    RICHARD: Well, about 40 years ago.

    TOM: OK. Now that we have the timeline correctly – so you have a 40-year-old home and you’ve got a wall – a front wall – that’s buckling in due to heavy rain. Is this something that happened slowly over time or does it seem like it happened all at once?

    RICHARD: Well, no, it happened – this happened 40 years ago when we built the thing. We just got the thing dry to the weather and got 14 inches of rain in 2 days.

    TOM: I see. So it’s been sitting like that, in the buckled position, for 40 years?

    RICHARD: Yeah. And it’s not going anyplace.

    TOM: I think if the wall has stayed in that position for all of those years, then there’s not much for you to worry about, with the single exception of: what are you going to do when it comes time to sell the house? It will no doubt come up as an issue in a home inspection report or an engineering report.

    What you could do, just to kind of make sure that you have all bases covered – you asked me about contractors that claimed to push walls back. I would not – repeat not – hire a contractor as my first step. My first step would be to bring in a structural engineer. Contractors are not qualified to make those types of assessments.

    If you have a structural engineer look at that wall and if it needs to be modified or reinforced in any way, you let the engineer design that. He or she will design that fix. And then you take that design to the contractor and say, “This is exactly what I want done.” You do not leave it up to the contractor, because they’re not qualified to make that structural assessment.

    And in doing it that way, when it comes time to sell the house, if you have the engineer come back and inspect the work when it’s complete and basically certify that he analyzed it, he designed the repair and the repair was properly constructed, that’s kind of like having a pedigree on the effectiveness of that repair. And if it turns out that it doesn’t need any work, well, he can put that in writing, as well.

    But I would not hire a contractor that’s going to claim to do something to that wall. Because first of all, it stood like that for 40 years. It’s not getting any worse, so certainly it’s not an immediate problem. But just to protect yourself in the future – and especially if it comes time to sell the house, Richard – I would have it looked at by a structural engineer and then follow his or her advice.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ann in Georgia on the line calling in with an air-conditioning question. How can we help you?

    ANN: What happens is there is an excessive amount of dust in the house.

    TOM: OK.

    ANN: I mean it’s huge. So I just rake my finger across a table and you can see long particles, long hair-type – it’s not hair but it’s like long string. And it’s really, really thick. And when the pollen was really bad down here in the spring, when it was yellow pollen outside, you could – it was in the house.

    TOM: Let me ask you some basic questions, Ann. First of all, you’re talking about a fan. What kind of heating system do you have in this house to begin with?

    ANN: It’s a heating pump.

    TOM: OK. It’s forced-air. It’s a forced-air system, right?

    ANN: Yes, yes.

    TOM: Alright. So, the best type of air-filtration system would be an electronic air cleaner. An electronic air cleaner would be installed on the return side of the air handler, so it would clean the air as it goes back to the air handler. And good-quality electronic air cleaners can take out all that dust, all that pollen, right down to virus-size particles.

    Most of us rely on the fiberglass filters, which are very inexpensive; they cost maybe $1 apiece. But they don’t do very much, you know? We call them “pebble stoppers” because everything else goes right through them.

    So, if you really want to clean up your house and reduce the amount of dust, you simply need a better filtration system on your HVAC system. And so, an electronic air cleaner would be that. You could take a look at models by Trane or by Aprilaire. And there are a number of others, as well.

    But don’t be confused by electrostatic versus electronic. You want an electronic air cleaner because these work. And some of them charge the particles so that they have sort of magnetic attraction to the filter material. Some of them combine electronic cleaning with filtration cleaning. But either of those two brands – either Trane or Aprilaire – make very good-quality electronic air cleaners. And you’ll see a huge difference. But it’s the kind of thing that you have to have an HVAC technician professionally install. It’s not a do-it-yourself project.

    ANN: OK. Sounds great. OK. Thanks so much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Montana where William is dealing with a sump-pump issue. What’s going on?

    WILLIAM: Hey, I’m having a great time. I bought this house and there’s already – had it in the system. And what’s happening is it – it’s got a ¾ bath. It’s installed low level with my septic tank in the basement. Now, from time to time, as it gets to the – it’ll go through a cycle. But once the water is – or the waste is pumped out, it doesn’t stop pumping. It rattles and makes all kinds of noise in the floor.

    TOM: So it doesn’t shut off after the water is evacuated out of the sump? Is that what you’re saying?

    WILLIAM: Right. Actually, the water is already evacuated out of the sump. It’s still pumping; it’s still rattling or whatever (inaudible at 0:17:15). Now, I go down and I hit the – I tap the (inaudible at 0:17:19) housing and it seems to resolve the issue temporarily.

    TOM: Is it float-actuated? Is there a float that comes up to turn the pump on?

    WILLIAM: I believe it is float-actuated, because there is a string going up into the – into a cap on top of the 4-inch or 6-inch PVC, out of the floor. It’s a cement basement, so I can’t – all I see is a cap.

    TOM: Well, look, the pump – you know how the pump is supposed to work. When the water is going, it usually runs for a second or two and then shuts off. If it’s getting stuck in the “on” position, the pump’s going to burn out.

    So if it’s float-actuated and you can get it open and take a look at it and look at the float and see if it’s getting hung up and that’s repairable, then fix it. But if it’s not, you’re going to have to replace the pump.

    WILLIAM: And how would I know – how would I spot that?

    TOM: You’ll see the linkage. You’ll be able to lift the linkage up and down and turn the pump on and off. You’ll be able to see it. And if it’s hung up some way because maybe the hardware is bent or not attached properly or it’s getting hung up on the side of the – if it’s rubbing against the side of the hole or something – if you can adjust it, then problem solved.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, still ahead, why spend the money to have someone do it for you when you can do it yourself. Find out which plumbing projects are do-it-yourself and wallet friendly, coming up.

    JONATHAN: Hey this is Jonathan Scott, host of HGTV’s Property Brothers. And you’re listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    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: Well, the leaves are starting to fall and cold weather isn’t too far behind. So make sure your home is ready for winter with easy, fall home improvement projects that will protect extreme weather, leaks, loss of heat and more. It’s all online at MoneyPit.com.

    And while you’re there, don’t forget to sign up for our free e-newsletter so we can bring you even more advice on keeping your money pit in tip-top shape.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Laurel from Louisiana on the line with help with a tiling project. How can we help you today?

    LAUREL: My husband and I are building a new house, right now, and we’re putting ceramic tile in the living room and the kitchen. And it’s not going to be sealed, so we were wondering what was the best kind of sealant to put on that ceramic tile.

    TOM: What kind of tile are you using that’s not sealed? Are you trying to say that it’s not glazed?

    LAUREL: No, it was glazed but I was told that you need to put a sealant over it to make the tile last longer?

    TOM: No, not true. The glazing is plenty tough enough to protect the tile. What you – the sealant usually refers to the grout. And if you seal the grout, it can help keep it cleaner and repel water. And the grout sealants are silicone-based.

    So, as long as you use a good grout sealant – and the time to do this is before you move in, you know? Because once you move in and you start grinding some dirt in that tile, it becomes a lot harder to maintain. But if you seal the grout right after the tile is installed, that’s the best time to do it.

    LAUREL: What would be the best kind to use?

    TOM: A silicone one. A silicone-based grout sealant is what you’re looking for.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you want to look for one that applies in a manner that you are comfortable with. Like if you’re doing a smaller grout line, you would look for one that almost looks like a nail-polish brush or a rolling foam wheel. With a floor tile, you could be looking at a ¼-inch to a ½-inch grout line, so that’s easier to apply. But you want to make sure you have something that you feel comfortable applying strictly to the grouted areas.

    LAUREL: OK. Alright. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: If you’ve ever had a plumber come to your house, stay for 20 minutes and charge you a couple of hundred bucks, you may have asked yourself whether you could have handled that project yourself.

    TOM: Well, the answer is maybe yes or maybe no. There are a variety of do-it-yourself-friendly plumbing projects that you can accomplish yourself with some basic skills and a few tools. Here to walk us through some of those is This Old House heating-and-plumbing contractor Richard Trethewey.

    So Richard, what projects can a consumer take on and what really should be left for the pros?

    RICHARD: There are some projects that a homeowner, if they’re even marginally handy, should be able to do around the house. Clearing a clog on a drain, fixing some basic toilet troubles, repairing the inside of a toilet tank and some basic leaks, they should be able to do. Probably the most common is the clogs. The kitchen sink is the biggest culprit.

    There are really three ways you could clear a clog. One is chemical. Now, chemicals are the big business in the United States. You’ve seen all the drain brands on the shelf; Drano was the first and there’s a ton of them now. And these are chemicals that you pour down the drain, they sit in the pipe and they hopefully clear the stoppage to clear whatever that food stuff that’s in there.

    But they also sit and work on the pipe. They sort of ferment in there. They should never go into a system that has a septic system, because you don’t want to break down the basic, biological function that’s inside of a septic system. And it’s dangerous if you splash them on your skin or in your eyes.

    The other thing is if you’ve used a lot of these chemicals and you ultimately do call a plumber, you should at least caution them that you’ve got that drain filled with this caustic chemical that sort of could hurt them. So, be careful on that.

    There’s an alternative to the chemical cleaners and that’s biologicals. They’re dry enzymes. And these enzymes, when they go into that water, they will start eating anything that’s organic and go after it.

    And so, I one time saw an example of this where somebody put a container of this stuff down into this septic – really a cesspool; it was an open cesspool. And we left it overnight and I came back and it’s as if somebody had sent five people down there to buff and clean that thing. It was – it looked like it was brand new.

    So I got to see it firsthand that these biological enzymes are pretty interesting how they scour the pipe clean. And they’re non-toxic and safe for septic.

    LESLIE: Richard, what about snaking a drain? It seems like whenever you call in a pro, this is their sort of first plan of attack when they’re dealing with a clog. And I’ve seen them at the home centers. Is this something a homeowner should be like, “Look, I’m going to do this myself”?

    RICHARD: Well, you certainly can. And in my opinion, this is the way to clean it – mechanically cleaning it – which means you send a snake or a wire – by whatever name you want to call it – down through the trap.

    And now you are spinning this wire down the drain. And as you’re doing that, you’re trying to run water, as well. And every time that wire spins, it’s scraping the side of the pipe and it’s breaking things off of both the pipes that are laid horizontally or vertically. And it’s really scouring and cleaning that. And then now you’re going to get a mechanical cleaning of that drain that I don’t think can be beat. Maybe the biologicals, on their best day, could do it.

    So, any plumber, that’s the principal tool they want to use. They’re going to go in with this – either a hand snake or sometimes on kitchen sinks and main drains, you’ll have this big tool that comes that will really clear that thing. It’s the only way to do it.

    Now, on a toilet you, don’t want to use that same snake. Because if you use that snake and went down through the toilet bowl, you would scratch that porcelain terribly. And we always know when somebody says, “No, I didn’t use a snake,” and you look down and you see the thing completely destroyed.

    They make a specialized tool and it’s called a closet auger. It has a protective coating on the bottom. And when you put it down into the bowl, it protects the bottom of that bowl so you’re not going to scratch the porcelain. And then you turn a handle and it drives that wire up into the trapway, clears the stoppage and comes right down.

    And the whole length of that wire is no more than 2½ to 3 feet, because that’s all you have to clear inside of a toilet. You’re not going to use that to clear a pipe. You’re only going to clear the trapway inside of a toilet. And toilets are a very common stoppage.

    TOM: We’re talking to Richard Trethewey. He’s the plumbing and heating contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    And Richard, while we’re talking about toilets, the most basic form of mechanical clearing is, of course, the plunger. And you have an interesting trick that you taught me some years ago about how to use a plunger. It’s not the push; it’s the pull with it, right?

    RICHARD: That’s right. If you’ve got a hard stoppage down into that toilet bowl and now you take that plunger and push that stoppage harder – the trapway gets smaller as you go up inside it. So what you actually want to do is you want to take your plunger and get it seated down so it’s tight. And then you give a dramatic pull backwards so that you would hopefully pull that stoppage back to clear so it could get into a more open space. And then it should be able to go down the trapway.

    So if you take that plunger and push it up into the trapway, you’re only going to pack it in tighter. If you have it come back, it’s going to loosen it. And that’s the right way to do it.

    That’s your tip. I wasn’t going to tell anybody, though. You made me tell the truth.

    LESLIE: Now, is there any sort of do-it-yourself toilet tune-ups that we should be working on, to make sure that these systems will continue to work well for us?

    RICHARD: Well, the most common DIY thing around a toilet is inside that toilet tank – you look at that toilet, it’s got the bowl and it’s got the tank on the back, it has a lid. You lift that lid and you look inside and there’s almost always a flapper valve: a valve that is designed to hold water in the tank.

    And if that is not holding, what happens is water leaks down from the tank to the bowl. It doesn’t leak to the floor. It just continues to leak down, from the tank to the bowl, and that will drive you crazy. You’ll get water running all the time, you’ll have ghost-flushing in the middle of the night. You’ll hear as if somebody has walked up to your toilet and flushed it. And that is really – if you look inside it, it becomes clear what has to be done.

    You can sort of play around by pushing the tank lever and you’ll see what action happens. You lift the lever and then the flapper goes up. Now, if that flapper doesn’t seal properly or if it’s worn – you know, over time, it’s just going to wear out because it’s a rubber piece – and then you’ve just got to shut the water off, take that flapper out, match it with a new one that matches it and you’re back in business. And that’s something people could do.

    TOM: Great advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, at great personal risk of putting plumbers out of business, giving us some do-it-yourself plumbing repair tips.

    RICHARD: I don’t think so.

    TOM: Thanks, Richard.

    RICHARD: Great to be here, guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    Still ahead, get rid of mold, once and for all, without harsh chemicals or bleach. We’ll tell you how, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $50 gift card to True Value.

    TOM: And the local experts at True Value can point you to everything you need for your next project. Find your nearest True Value store by heading to TrueValue.com.

    And call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Jeff in Missouri is on the line and needs some help with a patio project. What are you working on?

    JEFF: I really already got it done but I failed to put a sealer on my patio. And I was wondering what I can do about that at this late date. It’s been poured about six months.

    TOM: So, why do you want to put a sealer on it?

    JEFF: Because the leaves and the grass stain it.

    TOM: You could clean it. You could use a trisodium-phosphate solution to scrub it and clean it and brighten it up again. But then you have to wait until it’s really dry, so doing this in the chilly weather is not a good idea. You want to make sure it’s super-dry and then you could add a concrete sealer on top of that.

    The concrete sealers that you want to make sure you get are ones that are vapor-permeable and that means that the moisture moves in and out. You don’t want to completely seal the brick, because then what’ll happen is the moisture will still get in it but it’ll freeze and start to break apart or spall, as the technical term goes.

    So if you get a good-quality concrete sealer and get it clean to start with, certainly you can reduce some of that staining going forward.

    JEFF: Good. And what do you call it so it breathes in and out?

    TOM: Vapor-permeable.

    JEFF: I appreciate that. Thank you, you guys, for what you do.

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

    LESLIE: Well, it’s the dreaded four-letter word that homeowners fear most: mold – m-o-l-d. And we get lots of questions about mold here at The Money Pit. So there’s a good chance it’s a problem in your home and you may not even know about it.

    TOM: And you know what? Getting rid of mold can be tough, especially if you want to get rid of it without harsh chemicals. It’s close to impossible until now.

    There’s a product out called Concrobium Mold Control. It’s new, it’s a market-leading product and it does more than just wipe away spores. It actually crushes them at the roots and that is so important. Plus, it leaves behind an invisible barrier, which prevents the growth of future mold spores.

    LESLIE: And the clincher? Concrobium Mold Control is non-toxic, which means it contains no bleach, ammonia, or VOCs. A first-of-its-kind product that offers all the effectiveness of those harsh chemicals but no need to worry about the possible health effects that could affect you or your family or your pets.

    TOM: It works on porous and non-porous surfaces, so it’s as safe and effective on fabric and upholstery as it is on drywall, wood, brick and other solid surfaces.

    Visit CureMyMold.com for details or find Concrobium at your local home improvement store to get rid of mold for good without bringing harsh chemicals through your front door.

    LESLIE: Marlene in Minnesota is on the line. How can we help you today?

    MARLENE: We have two aluminum-clad, factory-finished garage doors, dark brown in color or at least they were.

    TOM: OK.

    MARLENE: And they’re beginning to fade due to oxidation and sun exposure. Is there anything we can do to restore that finish?

    TOM: Well, not short of painting them. Because if you – when you say “restore them,” that would presume that there’s a way to kind of bring back the luster of the original paint finish. But after years of exposure to sun and especially those darker colors, you do get oxidation where the paint surface is broken down. And you’re not going to bring that surface back.

    The good news is that because they’re metal doors, they’re fairly straightforward to paint. You want to make sure that you lightly sand the door. And then I would use a metal primer – so a good-quality, metal priming paint – and then whatever your topcoat of paint is going to be beyond that.

    And if you do that right – because it’s metal and it’s not organic, so it’s not subjected as much to expansion and contraction and certainly not moisture absorption – a good paint job on a metal door like that could easily last 10 years.

    MARLENE: OK. Well, thank you for your help.

    LESLIE: Still to come, are you choosing a builder? Well, we want to make sure that you get the best possible protection. Find out what to ask about builder warranties, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.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: Pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. You can also post that question online at MoneyPit.com.

    Speaking of which, if you love older homes but you live in a newer home situation or maybe you’re already in an older home and you want to do a better job honoring its past, tell your home’s story with historically inspired paint colors. These’ll evoke the look and the feel of the past. We’ve got tips on what you need, where to find it and how to choose those colors on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com. So check it out.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, post your question just like Kathzap did who writes: “I want to recaulk my bathtub. How do I remove the old and deteriorating caulk so I can start fresh?”

    Well, thank goodness you want to do that and not just caulk right over the old, gross stuff.

    TOM: That’s right. Perhaps you’ve learned your lesson.

    This is actually a great question, Kath. And it all starts with removing that old caulk. Now, if you can’t get it off by sort of scraping it away with – I would recommend a plastic putty knife, because that won’t scratch the tub. What you can do is you could pick up a product called “caulk softener.” Think of it as sort of paint remover for caulk. You apply this caulk softener to the caulk and it does just as the name implied: makes it soft and gooey. Then you can scrape it away.

    Now, the next step is the most important one. After you get all that old caulk off, you want to fill the tub with water, all the way to the top. And you keep it filled while you’re recaulking the tub. And the reason you’re doing that is because you want the tub to be heavy; you want it to pull down.

    Once that caulk dries, you can let the water out and the tub will sort of come back up and compress it. And this way, when you step in the tub, it’s not going to stretch that caulk and it’s not going to peel it apart and allow water to get in, which makes it grow mold and it gets all kinds of gross.

    So, make sure you fill the tub up with water before you recaulk it.

    LESLIE: And you want to leave it in until it’s dry, correct?

    TOM: Yep. Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Alright. And then you can go ahead and drain and watch that caulk compress again.

    Alright. Next up, we have a post from Downer2050 who writes: “I’m looking to have a new home built but I’ve not yet picked a builder. What should I look for in builder-provided warranties?”

    TOM: You know, that’s a great question and I’ve got some real concerns about the builder warranty programs. I have some concerns, because I actually used to work as an arbitrator for those programs and I don’t think they’ve changed much since I did that many years ago.

    And my concern is this – and you can verify this by reading the warranty document. But first of all, the standards in those warranties that are established, that tell you whether or not something is actually a defect or not, are very generous to the builder. So, if you have floors that are out of level, molding that’s not closed at the miters, things like that, they really give the builder a pretty big window to not have to fix that sort of thing.

    So I wouldn’t so much focus on the warranty, because I think they’re fairly standard no matter what builder you go to. I would really focus very, very carefully and very diligently on picking the right builder.

    You want to make sure that you go to some of his past projects. Talk to homeowners at his house that he built last year, 5 years ago, 10 years ago, if they’re available. Don’t be afraid to knock on a door and tell people you’re thinking about having this builder build your house, and you really want to know if they’re happy with the house and was the builder responsive when it came time to addressing any issues, that sort of thing.

    Just do your homework on the builder. Don’t focus so much on the builder’s warranty, because I really don’t think, in some cases, they’re worth the paper they’re printed on.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And on the bright side, you’re about to have a fantastic dream home built, so enjoy the process. It’s probably going to be a long one. You’re going to have plenty of fights with your spouse. But try to enjoy it; don’t stress out.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve filled you with tips, ideas, suggestions to help you improve your money pit. The show continues online, right now, 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 2014 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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