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Best Features in a Backyard Grill, Landscaping in a Shady Yard, How to Survive a Home Inspection, and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement projects, so pick up the phone and help yourself first. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Well, across most of the country, it is hot, hot, hot. If that’s what you’re dealing with, we’ve got some tips, this hour, on how you can cut energy costs, how you can cut water costs. We can help you tackle just about any project that will help you around your house if you help yourself first by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And when it comes to summer, there is one appliance that always gets a workout and that is your gas grill. And if yours has seen better days, maybe it’s cooked up its last barbecue, well, you might be thinking about buying a new one. And if you do want to do that, you need to be very aware of all of the features and which ones make sense and which ones are a total waste of money. So we’ve got a list, coming up.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And how much assembly there actually is when you assemble them yourselves.

    Also ahead, a shady yard doesn’t have to mean that you have a bare yard. This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook is going to stop by with advice on landscaping an area that doesn’t get much sunlight.

    TOM: And also ahead, many home sales take place in summer, so we’ve got some information to help you navigate one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the transaction, for sellers that is. And of course we’re talking about the home inspection, something I know very well as the guy that was making sellers very nervous for about 20 years of my professional home inspection career.

    LESLIE: Alright. Plus, this hour, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We are giving away a very Earth-friendly prize this hour. We’ve got the new Ziploc Brand Compostable Bags. And you can really feel a lot better about tossing these eco-friendly bags when you’re done.

    TOM: Give us a call right now, 888-MONEY-PIT. We are here to help you with your home improvement questions, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Todd in Louisiana wants to work on a wood-flooring project. How can we help you today?

    TODD: Yes. I was listening to your station the other day and somebody had called in and stated that they had put in some wood flooring. And they had put it in, at the time – well, let’s put it this way: they had a contractor put it in and it was done during a time of the year where the gentleman had left a little gap or swelling. And then when the other season came on by, instead of swelling, it contracted, so the gaps that he left were even larger. So I’m trying to see, at what point in time of the year is the wood going to be already contracted, so I know how to adjust for this?

    TOM: Well, in Louisiana, you don’t have the temperature swing that we might have to deal with, for example, in the North, which is a bigger issue.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: So you’re – I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in your particular part of the country. But generally speaking, wood is going to shrink in the winter and swell in the summer.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: High humidity is going to cause everything in your house to swell. And that’s where doors start to stick and that sort of thing.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: But the rule of thumb here is that if you’re going to put in hardwood floors, you want to put that material in the house and let it acclimate there for a few days, you know, before you actually start the installation.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: You don’t want to take it from one climate, bring it into the indoor climate and start banging it in right away. You do want to let it acclimate a little bit, for a little bit of time.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: So I don’t think it’s as much of a concern for you in Louisiana, for those reasons.

    TODD: OK. Hey, I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Todd. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ooh, now we’ve got Catherine from Colorado on the line. Not something we like to deal with: pest control. What is going on with the mice and the rats?

    CATHERINE: Well, the downstairs in the house is not finished. So, somehow, they’re getting in downstairs and I see little droppings, different days. So what I’ve been using so far is the – those green pellets of poison? But I’ve heard from a friend that there is a new product out there: the Ultrasonic Plug-In. So I wanted to get information about that, if you would know.

    TOM: Yeah. I would skip that. I think that’s kind of junk science. So, I would skip any of those ultrasonic plug-in things.

    What you want to do is a couple of things. First of all, you want to eliminate nesting areas. So around the area of your house, if you have firewood, trash cans, debris of any sort that’s anywhere near the foundation, those are nesting areas for rodents. You eliminate those. Secondly, you plug up any openings in the outside walls of that house. Now, mice need something the size of about a quarter or even less to get in, so any openings should be plugged.

    Inside the house, you want to make sure that there’s no food for them. So, a lot of times, people will make mistakes by providing food when they don’t realize they’re doing it. For example, I had a friend who used to keep her pet food in the garage and it was a big sack, 50-pound, whatever it was, bag of pet food. Never really even noticed that the mice had dug themselves a nice, little front door for this that wasn’t obvious. And they were just getting a big meal every single day from the pet food. So, look for things like that where food is being left out for them. Moisture is also very attractive to rodents, so water that collects at the foundation perimeter can bring them in.

    And inside the house, I think you’re doing the right thing using the baits and the poisons, because that’s – they’re very effective with most of the baits today: for example, the d-CON. One hit of that, so to speak, it takes them out. I mean it’s just one and done.

    So, I think all those things together is what’s going to control and reduce the rodent population around this house.

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

    Well, we are just a few, short weeks away from Labor Day. So if you’ve got a couple of things that you want to tackle around your money pit before we jump into the fall season, give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, if you’ve got a house on the market, surviving the buyer’s home inspection is critical to the sale of your home. We’ll tell you what to expect, after this.

    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.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Bostitch professional-quality, pneumatic nailers and staplers. Designed for productivity, built to last. For more information, visit Bostitch.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We will answer your home improvement questions and one lucky caller who makes it on the air with us is going to take home a great, big supply of Ziploc Brand’s newest bags. It’s the same Ziploc quality but these are compostable, so you can toss them, even with food still in them, right into a commercial compost bin. They come in all the regular sizes that you’ve used for snacks and sandwiches but also a bigger size to line your home compost bin in.

    Check them out at SCJGreenChoices.com or pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, this problem is something we probably have all dealt with: your water is taking way too long to heat up. Monty in Alabama, tell us about it.

    MONTY: We’ve got a – our water heater – we moved into a house a few months ago and it’s taking about 90 to 120 seconds for the – in the kitchen – for the hot water to heat up. And it was just this tremendous waste of water.

    And it’s an electric water heater and it’s located on the other side of the house, upstairs, so it’s having to travel so far, I’m sure. Is there any reasonable solution to that?

    TOM: Yeah, well, you hit the nail on the head. The reason it takes that long for the water to get hot is because that’s how long it takes for the water to travel that long run down the pipe and to get over to the kitchen from the other side of the house.

    What I might suggest that you consider is adding a second water heater. Now, you could pick up a tankless water heater and they do actually have some reasonably energy-efficient, electric tankless water heaters right now. I never used to say that but I recently saw some new ones. The technology is getting a little bit better. They actually have heat-pump water heaters that are pretty efficient. But if you were to split the run to get the water heater a little closer to the kitchen, that would make a difference.

    Now, is the kitchen the only place you’re having this? Is it – is the hot water reasonably quick, in terms of where the bathrooms are located?

    MONTY: Yes.

    TOM: Yes, since the bathrooms are more important than the kitchen, in terms of the speed with which the hot water arrives, especially if it’s you standing on a cold floor waiting for the water to get warm before you hop in the shower, I would probably tolerate it, if it was me. I would tolerate it and deal with it.

    Now, the other thing that you could do is you could put a point-of-use water heater, right under the kitchen cabinet, to supply additional hot water. But again, it’s kind of an expensive project and I don’t know if you would ever make that up in terms of the savings on water cost and that sort of thing.

    MONTY: Mm-hmm. Yeah. If it’s not something that we can make up, it’s not really worth doing because …

    TOM: I don’t think it’s worth doing then, Monty, because it’s not really inconvenient because it’s not near the bathroom. It’s just you have to be patient a little bit waiting for that warm water to arrive. And I imagine after it arrives, you know, it stays warm in the pipes a little bit longer.

    One thing you could think about doing is insulating that hot-water pipe so that once the warm water gets in it, it stays warm a bit longer. And that would …

    MONTY: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s a good thought and that would be inexpensive.

    TOM: Inexpensive, right. And make it a little bit more convenient. OK?

    MONTY: OK, Tom. Thank you so much. Enjoy your show.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re a home seller, the buyer’s home inspection can feel like a scene from a bad reality show. But if you survive the experience without blowing a fuse, a big payoff awaits.

    Now, the home inspection is critical to the sale of your home and it’s included in every home purchase contract. And it happens right after the contract is signed.

    TOM: Yeah. And here’s what to expect. The buyer is going to come in with the home inspector and the inspector is going to do a two- to three-hour review of your home’s structural and mechanical condition. They peek in every nook and cranny. They evaluate everything from roofs to basements. They could also test for radon gas, check for wood-destroying insects and more. But when it’s all over, the inspector issues a detailed report to the home buyer, not the home seller. The home buyer.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You never know about it.

    TOM: You’ll find out later.

    LESLIE: Yeah, oh, believe me. You’ll find out if there’s anything awry in that inspection because unexpected results can actually lead to more negotiation, which is why more smart home sellers are actually getting their own home inspection done first. I mean well even before the buyer is involved.

    Now, it’s a really good investment that you might want to consider making because you can then make those changes yourself. You can be in control of what’s happening. It could end up saving you a lot more money than you think in the long run.

    TOM: Absolutely. And as a former professional home inspector, I can tell you that those sellers that have gotten their own inspections first are definitely the smartest and they avoid all of those surprises that come up. Because everybody feels bad, including me as the home inspector, when we have to walk into a home that you think is perfectly fine and tell the home buyer that, “Hey, I’m sorry, you need a brand-new furnace.” And bam, there’s a $3,000, $4,000 expense that the home seller is going to face that they just did not know about. So, very wise to get those inspections done before you put your home on the market.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joe in Michigan who’s dealing with a gutter issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    JOE: Hey, this roof, I need some help with. I bought the house about eight years ago. And it’s got a good roof on it but it appears that they tried to save some money and have somebody do it. And what the problem is is the shingles don’t come out far enough from the top of the roof to get into the gutters. And there’s a metal strip that goes along, right at the bottom edge of the roof.

    And from what I see, it almost looks as though it’s turned around backwards as though if it were put in properly, it would extend out further to help get the water towards the gutters or into the gutters?

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    JOE: So what – the mess I’ve got now is I’ve got all this water that’s hitting some spots in the gutter properly and others not. And I’ve tried to push the gutters and tap the gutters back up as far against the fascia as I can and I’m still getting water through there and it’s frustrating.

    TOM: Well, the metal strip is throwing me a little bit. Now, typically, at the edge of the fascia, you’d have something called a “drip edge,” which is sort of like a right-angle piece of trim that goes over the front of the fascia and up under the roof. And it’s at a 90-degree angle. Is that kind of what you’re seeing or not?

    JOE: I had them install some aluminum over the fascia board but I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about. It is a channel of sorts but it’s right on the top lip of the roof, if I’m explaining this right. You know where they first start putting the shingles on and then they start moving up forward? It’s like right at that edge, there’s a – there’s metal.

    TOM: Are the shingles resting on top of the metal?

    JOE: Yes.

    TOM: Regardless, the solution here is the same. What you need to do is to extend those roof shingles into the gutter. So, because there’s not a magic potion that will do that, the way to fix this is to get a flat bar – and that’s a very thin pry bar. And you’re lifting up the edges of those shingles at the bottom of the roof edge. And you’re going to slip underneath some flashing and the flashing that you would use is probably just aluminum-roll flashing, maybe 6-inch or 8-inch-wide flashing. And the easiest way to do this is in small pieces, because it becomes too hard to handle when you have a long piece.

    And you run the flashing up under the roof shingles and you make sure it extends past the roof shingles and lays into the top of the gutters. So, essentially what you’re doing is creating a bridge to make up the distance between where the shingle ended and where it really should have ended, which is at the edge of the gutter. And this way, when the water comes down the roof, it will drop from the shingle to the flashing to the gutter. Does that make sense?

    JOE: Absolutely. And that sounds like something I can do, so I appreciate you and we’ll give that a shot.

    TOM: Yeah. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Karen in Arizona is on the line with an air-conditioning question. How can we help you today?

    KAREN: Yeah, I was just curious which is a better choice between the Ruud and the Trane. I need four units. I have to replace them all.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a good question. I would look at a couple of things.

    First of all, they’re both good brands. So I would look at the efficiency rating for all of the units. I would look at the warranties for the units and I also would make sure that you choose your HVAC contractor carefully. Because a lot of the efficiencies in these systems rely heavily on the quality of the installation. So, we do want to be very careful about who’s installing it. Make sure the ducts are all sealed and that kind of stuff. Because if not, you’re going to have inefficiencies as you use the system as time goes on.

    But they’re both great brands, so I think you can’t go wrong either way. Just make sure when you’re comparing apples to apples that you make sure they each have the same efficiencies and warranties.

    KAREN: Well, you said something about ducts.

    TOM: Yeah, the duct system that feeds the air to the different rooms, you want to make sure those ducts are properly installed and that they’re sealed. Because a lot of times, where ducts are joined, especially in older homes, those intersections are not sealed properly and a lot of air leaks out there. So the little things like that have a big impact on efficiency of the system.

    KAREN: OK. And the other question is – I have a pet-boarding business and I’m trying to use some sort of air filter that will get – will take up smells. Do you know if any are better than others? Because I put the Oreck and another brand in the cat room and I can still smell cats.

    TOM: Yeah, I bet. That certainly would be the test of any HVAC – any filtration system.

    Well, look, the best filtration systems are really designed more for dust than for odor. However, I know that 3M has one that has a charcoal base to it that is far more efficient at taking odors out than just about anything else out there. And so – is this a forced-air system that you would have for that area, as well?

    KAREN: No, this is just – like I had gone into one pet-boarding place and I smelled urine really bad and I thought, “This isn’t going to make it, this place, because of the urine.” And then they had four filters that were sitting on the wall, just – they kind of look like a mini-Oreck. They were on the wall, hung on the wall, just like the size of maybe 1 foot by 1½ feet. A little rectangle? And they really took the smell out and I don’t know which brand she used.

    LESLIE: Now, Karen, I think the issue that you’re having in finding something that is going to work well for you is that we really want to make sure that we find you something that works from a commercial standpoint: something that’s made for a business like yours, which has a lot of animal odors.

    And there’s a company out there called Air Oasis and that’s their website: AirOasis.com. And if you click on their Commercial section, you’ll find that they’ve got commercial air purifiers and air sanitizers that are carbon based and they will really reduce a lot of this odor and bacteria and viruses and VOCs.

    So I would check them out and there might be something that would work well for you there.

    KAREN: Alright. Yeah, that’d be good. It might help for smokers, too. I don’t smoke but in case the audience is listening.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Still to come, we’ve got some tips to help you create a lovely landscaped yard, even if it’s shade that dominates your space.

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    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: Hey, if you’re looking for the coolest roof around, you might want to check into the new breed of material: metal. That’s right. Metal roofing can actually cool down your home. Why? Well, because it’s treated with a low-E paint that reflects the sun’s heat energy right back at it. So check out “Cool Metal Roofing” on MoneyPit.com. you’ll learn more about metal roofing and how it works to lower your cooling costs.

    LESLIE: Diane in Minnesota has got a steamy bathroom. Tell us what’s going on.

    DIANE: Yes. The exhaust fan, it just does not seem to take the steam out of the bathroom at all. It just doesn’t work, for some reason.

    TOM: Well, where is the exhaust fan mounted? It’s on the ceiling and goes into an attic? Is that correct?

    DIANE: Yeah, it’s in the ceiling. I just live in an apartment, so I’m not exactly sure where it goes but …

    TOM: OK. Well, see, that would be a good place to start. Because you want to make sure when you turn on an exhaust fan that you can see it actually exhaust somewhere. And generally, it’s going to be a vent outside the building somewhere. And you can turn on the exhaust fan and see that vent open. So you need to figure out – or if it’s an apartment, you need to have a super figure out where it’s exhausting. Because it could be obstructed, it could be crushed, it could be blocked, it could be terminated. There could be a lot of things wrong with it.

    And the other thing that you might want to think about – and you may or may not want to do this, because it’s an apartment and not a condominium that you own, but there’s a different type of exhaust fan that’s out now. Broan and NuTone make it. Same company. It’s called ULTRA. And what’s cool about it is it has a moisture-sensing switch built into it – a humidistat – so it runs whenever the room gets moist. So, you can kind of set it and forget it. And you take a shower, it’ll just stay on until all the moisture is evacuated out of the room and then go off again.

    DIANE: OK. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, sizzling summer days make the shady areas of your yard especially inviting. But those are also really hard areas to landscape.

    TOM: Well, the solution might be to create a shade garden, an area for growing plants and shrubs that are shade-tolerant and do well in little sunlight. Here to tell us more about shade gardens is a guy who always has the sunshine on him: it’s Roger Cook, from TV’s This Old House.

    Hey, Roger.

    ROGER: Hey, Tom. I heard you were a little shady.

    TOM: Sometimes. Well, certainly when it comes to my landscape skills and that’s why we like to have you here.

    Landscaping for those shady places is difficult because we tend to want to choose one plant and put it everywhere, regardless of sun, but that’s a big mistake.

    ROGER: There’s really no one plant that can exist in all the different conditions because you have sun; you have light shade; you have deep shade; moist, deep shade; you have light, dry shade. So, you know, you’ve got to pick the right plant for the right spot.

    LESLIE: And that’s really tough because how do you define shadiness? Is it by the amount of sunlight it gets? Is there a certain duration of sunlight that we say, “OK, this qualifies as this type of plant.”

    ROGER: Right. You have to look at it whether it’s early-in-the-morning sunshine or late-in-the-day sunshine. Obviously, late in the day, it’s not as strong as the morning, so there’s a little bit of shade there. Light shade could be caused by a tree. Deep shade is usually caused by a building or some side of a building.

    LESLIE: An immovable object.

    ROGER: There you go. That you’re not going to change. I mean you can cut down the tree and change light shade into full sun but certain areas you can’t change.

    TOM: Roger, it seems that people will tend to tolerate their natural shade gardens, where they get some growth but it’s never quite right. You don’t really have to put up with that, though, do you?

    ROGER: No. A plant that’s in the wrong environment – a plant that likes some sun and put in a shade – it will grow, it’ll exist but it won’t thrive. That’s the biggest thing. It doesn’t get beautiful, it doesn’t get better. But if you take it out and put it in the sun, it’ll become what it’s supposed to be. Shade gardens really need plants that like shade.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think that’s important. We had a similar situation in our shady area of the garden that had a rhododendron, which sometimes do OK in a not-so-sunny area. But this one just had a clump of giant leaves on the end and a very bare branch. I knew it was wrong. I just felt terribly guilty about getting rid of it or moving it or …

    ROGER: Well, we’ve had – come into the same problem a lot. But what I do, good Yankee that I am and not to feel guilty, is I usually transplant it to a sunny part of the property. And you’ll come back two or three years later and all of a sudden look and go, “Oh, my God, that was that little skinny, scrawny thing that was out front. Look at it now. It’s beautiful.”

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: It’s amazing what they’ll do in the right spot.

    TOM: That’s right. Get the right plant in the right place and Mother Nature does the rest.

    ROGER: That’s all it is. Mother Nature at her best.

    LESLIE: And I think when it comes to a shade garden, to me green is the most beautiful color in a yard. And when you have a shade garden, you’re dealing with such a variety of greens and depths of greens and tones that it really is one of my most favorite areas to landscape, if it’s done successfully.

    ROGER: Right. And a lot of times, shady areas are grown more for the texture and the color of the plants than they are for the flower they have. But you can use ferns, you can use hostas.

    LESLIE: Which are so beautiful.

    ROGER: You can get hostas from miniatures that are 6 inches tall or they’re some that are 4 or 5 feet across with beautiful, big, blue leaves.

    LESLIE: And they flower.

    ROGER: And they flower. So if you get it right, prep the soil and give them the right amount of water. You can have a beautiful shade garden and it’s easy to maintain.

    LESLIE: And I think the financial benefit, let’s say, of a shade garden is that most of those are perennials.

    ROGER: Yes.

    LESLIE: So you’re getting those back year after year.

    ROGER: I would say that 99 percent of the plants you use in a shade garden will be perennials.

    LESLIE: Now, I did see an interesting spread in a magazine about moss as a ground cover.

    ROGER: Yep.

    LESLIE: And I think that’s such a great solution because you try – and mostly unsuccessfully – at trying to have a lawn in these areas, correct?

    ROGER: Right. And that’s one of the indicators of a lawn in shade is when it starts getting mossy. Mother Nature is telling you what to use there; we just don’t pick up on the tip.

    TOM: So in an area like that, moss actually might make the most sense.

    ROGER: It would be easy to do. But there are actually nurseries that will sell moss. You can order pieces of moss. And it’s nothing like mixed in – again, like you talked about, Leslie – different textures and colors together and watching it spread and adding some rocks, which the moss will climb on and look absolutely naturally beautiful.

    TOM: Now, is planting a shade garden any different than planting another landscape? Anything special about it that you need to keep in mind?

    ROGER: The type of soil for what you’re going to have. Most shade areas are moist areas so that the material – you want to hold water; you want to have a lot of water there for these plants.

    TOM: So does it actually end up using less water, though, in terms on a rewatering basis?

    ROGER: Once they’re established, they don’t need any more. They take their key from nature.

    TOM: Another big benefit.

    Roger Cook, the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit and teaching us how to build a beautiful shade garden.

    ROGER: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

    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.

    ROGER: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Still to come, are you thinking about buying a new gas grill? Well, don’t until you learn which features are worth paying for. We’ll have those tips, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Don’t forget to be part of the fun, here at The Money Pit, by giving us a call with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, we’re giving away a brand-new product this hour from a trusted brand. We’ve got Ziploc’s brand-new compostable bags. So, here’s the deal. You keep your food fresh and then what you can do is go and toss the bags and the leftover food and whatever right into your commercial compost bin. And then you don’t even have to feel guilty about tossing a plastic bag.

    And even if you’ve got curbside commercial composting, you’ve got to check these out. I mean it’s really great.

    Check them out at SC Johnson’s website, SCJGreenChoices.com, or give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win this awesome new product.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Shirley in Nebraska on the line who has a foundation question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    SHIRLEY: I have a townhome and the dirt around my foundation, due to the drought, pulled away. I had somebody come in and grade it, fill it with dirt and some river rock on top of that. However, my basement is a poured-concrete basement, where they have the metal rods in different – in the sections? And I have some fine lines of cracks going down and maybe going out about 6 inches from those rods. Do I have to be concerned about that? Do I have to fill those in with something or do something? Paint over it or …?

    TOM: Generally, those are shrinkage cracks. Whenever you pour that much concrete, you get a fair amount of shrinkage cracking. And so if they’re fine lines like you’re describing, I wouldn’t worry too much about them, Shirley.


    TOM: That’s considered fairly normal with a poured-concrete foundation which, by the way, is one of the most – is one of the stronger foundations that you could have.

    SHIRLEY: Mm-hmm. I just didn’t have all those before the dirt problem, so that’s why I was wondering about it.

    TOM: Yeah. And I would make sure that you maintain proper drainage around the house so that you’re restoring the dirt that shrunk away and then it’s always sloping away from the wall. Because that’s going to keep – that’s going to make sure you don’t make excessive moisture, because the other thing could happen: when it’s not dry out and you get very wet weather, the excessive moisture, that can have an adverse effect on a foundation. So just make sure you always maintain the proper slope on the outside and fill in those gaps as they fill up, as they occur.

    SHIRLEY: OK. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: So, do you want to upgrade your grill before the next big cookout? Well, go for the bells and the whistles that really count. You want to choose features that will make your grill more efficient and safe, like an electric igniter. These things are great. They’re easier to operate and they’re more reliable than those rotary or those push-button starters.

    You can also go for a grill with rounded edges for some extra safety. And you make sure when you’re looking at the grill on the store that you test it for its sturdiness. Like nudge it in a couple of places, press down on the side shelves. You want to make sure that they’re going to hold your platters and pots and whatever you’re bringing to the grill, without just sort of collapsing on themselves.

    TOM: Now, the most frequently replaced part of a grill is the burner. So you want to look for burner warranties that are 10 years or longer. Also, check out stainless-steel or coated, cast-iron grates because those give you very durable and dependable cooking. And don’t be misled by the BTUs; bigger is not always better. You want to choose a grill that’s got features you want, backed up by a solid warranty. And that’s the way to have one that you’ll enjoy for many barbecues in the years to come.

    LESLIE: Jim in Arkansas is on the line with a chimney question. How can we help you today?

    JIM: Well, the reason I called is because I have an issue with my fireplace. It’s just a regular wood-burner. It doesn’t have an insert in it. And I want to seal the chimney for health and energy-loss reasons. I was thinking about putting a steel plate on the top because here in the Ozarks, whenever we get bad weather and that wind is howling, it sounds like a freight train coming through my fireplace and I have quite a bit of a draft. And the damper just does not hold securely enough so I don’t get that air through there.

    I was wondering, can you give me some advice as to who to contact if it’s feasible to do something like this? Is safety a concern?

    TOM: It’s certainly feasible to do this project. It’s sort of the kind of project that you’ve got to be a bit creative with, because what you’re going to want to do is try to form some sort of weather-tight shield across the top of the flue. I would tell you that whatever you do to this, make it removable because chances are if you sell this house at some point in the future, somebody might find it really attractive to have a fireplace there in the Ozarks and want to reactivate this chimney, so to speak.

    So, however you seal it across the top, you’ve got to find out – find an easy way to do that. One thing that comes to mind is that there’s a damper that fits in the top of a chimney liner. And it’s sort of like a weighted, heavy, metal door. And the way it’s activated is that there’s a stainless-steel cable that goes down through the middle of the chimney and it’s hooked onto the side of the fireplace. And when you release the cable, the door flops open. So that would be a way to put a device up there that’s really designed for a flue and will serve the dual purpose of sealing off the draft from the top.

    JIM: OK.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, if you love to cook, you probably don’t love the built-up grease that can result. We’ll have easy tips to keep things clean, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    Hey, are you following us on Twitter? It’s a quick and easy way to get your home improvement tips sent directly to your computer or mobile device. Just follow @MoneyPit.

    LESLIE: And while you are online, you can post your question to the Community section, just like T.J. in Missouri did. And T.J. writes: “The house I just bought has a lot of old grease stuck on the cabinets and even the walls in the kitchen. I did not realize how hard it was going to be to get this off. Is there any reason why I can’t use one of those adhesive removers on it, like Goo Gone or Goo Off?”

    TOM: You know, I think those products work very well but I don’t know that they’re designed for grease as much as adhesive.

    But what about those orange products, Leslie, that work well for grease?

    LESLIE: Yeah. The orange products – I think Orange Glo is the one that I’ve had a lot of success with – will work great on a wood surface like a cabinet. Now, the walls, I think your best bet is probably to give the walls just a good scrub with TSP and then prime them. I feel like any sort of cleanser that you’re going to put on is going to just do something weird to the finish.

    Am I right?

    TOM: The problem with some of the walls is they’re very absorbent. So sometimes, with those commercial cleaners, they can soak in. But I think a good, solid wash with TSP – trisodium phosphate – would do well to remove the grease. And then, of course, if you prime it, then you could put any kind of paint over it because the primer is going to really adhere. Even if the wall has a little bit of debris left on it, the primer will still adhere well and then the paint will stick to the primer. So that’s the total solution.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that should really do the trick.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a question from Patty in Michigan who writes: “I just bought a new home and thought it would be a good idea to add some blown-in cellulose insulation to my attic. In doing so, I discovered some fiberglass batts underneath the cellulose, with the paper side faced away from the living area. They don’t feel wet or smell but now I wonder if I really want to add more cellulose on top. Should I remove the fiberglass first?”

    TOM: So let’s talk about the issue. Why would she be concerned about the paper facing the living room? Well, because the paper is a moisture barrier. And you always want to put the moisture barrier towards the heated space, not towards the unheated space, which would be up in the attic.

    There is a way to kind of correct this problem, simply, and that is to just cut that paper. So you could reach through the cellulose, you could slice that paper every 6 inches with a utility knife and that would release any moisture that’s there. So I think if you just did that, then you can go ahead and add the additional insulation. Then you’ll be totally good to go.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Ernie in Texas who writes: “Can you tell me the advantage of stripping my old fiberglass roof before putting on a new roof?”

    Well, Ernie, I’m going to say that, first of all, it really depends on how many layers are on your roof to begin with. If you’ve got more than one up there, I don’t think it makes any sense to put an additional layer on top. It’s going to weigh too much, it’s going to completely degrade the brand-spanking-new roof that you’re putting on there. Because the more layers you have, the more heat that gets trapped, the hotter the roof gets, the less life span you’re going to get out of that shingle.

    I just feel like in any opinion, you’re putting on a new roof, you want to start from scratch, you want to see what’s going on with the sheathing underneath. I would just get rid of everything.

    TOM: I think that’s a good idea. Plus, the new roof will last longer if it doesn’t have an old roof underneath because the old roof tends to hold a lot of heat. And in all the years I spent as a professional home inspector, I would typically estimate that a roof that was a second layer lasted about two-thirds as long as the initial layer. Because when they – when that roof was put on as a second layer, the first layer had all that heat. That would speed up the evaporation of the oils in the asphalt and that would cause it to fail far more quickly than if it was just a single layer of shingles and not a two-layer-thick situation.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Ernie. You know, I just actually had my roof done and in some areas, I had two layers and in some areas, I had three. And I just felt the best thing was to just take everything off, strip it down. And it was actually a good thing I did because in some areas, I had water damage to the sheathing. Even though there was no leaking inside the attic itself, I had water damage on the sheathing. And then I discovered that there was no flashing in some areas between the siding and the roof-joint area. So I was able to make a lot of repairs. It looks great and in the long run, it’s going to save a ton of money.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips and some advice to help you care for your money pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2013 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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