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Best Way to Clean Screens, Easy to Build Masonry Projects and How to Create a College Toolbox

  • 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: Hey, what are you working on on this beautiful summer afternoon? We’re here to help you get that project done. Call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. If you’ve got a home improvement, a home décor, a how-to or just how-do-I-hire-somebody-to-make-this-go-away kind of question, give us a call at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, while you may have been enjoying a lazy summer, your screens have been taking a beating. Between the bugs and the bird droppings and anything else floating through the air, now is a great time to clean them. We’re going to have the easy step-by-step to help you do just that.

    LESLIE: And masonry work may be viewed as one of the toughest jobs. Bricks and blocks are heavy and they’re hard to cut and that makes many projects off-limits to the basic DIY-ers out there. But we have some info on a new modular system that will allow you to build an amazing number of masonry projects without cutting a single brick.

    TOM: And it’s back-to-school time. If you’ve got a teenager heading off to college, there’s more to being prepared than just notebooks and a laptop. We’re going to tell you how to put together the perfect college toolbox for all their needs.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away the perfect product to help eliminate mold as well as mildew, moss and algae. We’ve got three bottles of Spray & Forget 1-gallon House and Deck Cleaner with Nestable Trigger going out to one listener who calls in with their question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: Yep. Spray & Forget is the best performing, no-rinse exterior cleaner and it removes stains without the need for rinsing. That 3-bottle package is worth 84 bucks, including shipping. And it’s going out to one caller drawn at random, so make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, with your question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    GLORIA: Yeah. Oh, hi. I’m calling about the product SUNDEK. It’s also called Kool Deck. And I really just find – it’s that product that keeps your feet very cool? I had a pool put in and so when you get out of the water, it’s nice and cool on the feet; you don’t have the hot cement.

    But I find it very hard to keep clean. It looks kind of unsightly and when it rains, it just seems to attract dirt. Prior to the SUNDEK, I had cement and I found that it dried very quickly. I could take the hose and it was all very fresh. And this product just tends to hold water. I believe it’s an acrylic base. I just wondered, you know – I don’t know if I could even have it removed somehow, kind of with some solution or if there’s some suggestion about how to take care of it.

    TOM: Gloria, I don’t think you have to remove or strip the Kool Deck paint to get it to cleanit. Kool Deck is actually made by a company called Mortex – M-o-r-t-e-x. Their website is Mortex.com. And they make not only the Kool Deck but they make a cleaner that can be used on top of that; it’s a commercial-quality cleaner.

    So I would go to their website and look up the Kool Deck product, look up the cleaners. There is a website – there’s a – sorry, a link and a telephone number there where you can call and purchase the product. I don’t think you’ll find it in a home center or a hardware store; you may have to go direct. But we have the technology. No need to repair or replace what you have. You can keep it clean.

    GLORIA: Well, thank you so much. That’s going to be wonderful. I really appreciate your help.

    LESLIE: Chad in Iowa is on the line with a question about a basement. What are you working on?

    CHAD: Well, I’m working on finishing my basement. And just a question of how important it was – if I really needed to insulate those exterior walls or if I’d be fine just leaving them the way they are. Because it stays pretty comfortable in there right now. So, just kind of curious about that.

    TOM: So generally, in a basement, you want to insulate the area which is sort of the end of the floor structure. It’s called the “box beam.” So, it’s basically the wood floor that – portion of the wood floor that would be against the exterior wall. And that you definitely want to insulate.

    Now, if you – do you want – if you’re asking should you insulate the rest of the wall, it’s not a bad idea to do that and there’s special basement insulation – it’s sort of like a foil roll that’s faced on both sides that’s somewhat moisture-resistant – that can be used for that space. But again, I don’t think it’s necessarily that important. The area below grade is pretty insulated just by virtue of the fact that the earth is there. So you’re really only talking about the top, say, 2 to 3 feet above grade between that and the underside of the floor structure.

    CHAD: Yeah. And I guess that that box section you’re talking about, that’s already done. And I guess – I know you wouldn’t want something that’s waterproof or water-resistant but the basement’s already actually been – a bunch of work done for basement and the walls bowing and waterproofing. So there’s already a pretty good polyplastic on the walls right now. So would that be OK just to put then just regular batt insulation on there, just to save a little money then?

    TOM: I think so. Are you talking about having a wood-frame wall in front of it or are you talking about attaching it directly to the wall?

    CHAD: Wood-frame wall in front of it.

    TOM: Yeah, if you have a wood-frame wall in front of it – and I would leave maybe 3 inches between the wood-frame wall and the concrete wall. Then I would put some dummy vents in that wall so you had some air circulation. By dummy vents, I mean you could take a return register for a heating duct and put one low and one high across one wall, maybe four of those – two at the bottom, two at the top – across every wall of the basement. That would allow you to have some air circulation behind there and keep it – the moisture down.

    CHAD: Perfect. That answers my question.

    TOM: Alright. 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. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re always here to lend a hand and we love to hear what you’re working on. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are your window screens full of bugs and ready for a brush-up? We’re going to have the step-by-step on the easiest way to make them clean and fresh, 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: 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: So happy to be here to help you with your home improvement and home décor questions. If you give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, we will not only give you the answer to your question, plus we might give you the product to help you clean away a very difficult problem in a lot of houses and that is mold. Because we’ve got 3 bottles of Spray & Forget’s 1-gallon House and Deck Cleaner with Nestable Trigger.

    And each bottle can treat 150 square feet. It’ll remove exterior stains caused by mold, mildew, algae, moss and lichen without the need for rinsing. Super easy to use with a nestable trigger spray that allows for easy application on flowerpots, decks, patios, walkways, pavers, stone, outdoor furniture and more. And what I really like is that it’s eco-friendly. There’s no bleach, no lime, no acid, no phosphates or heavy metals in this product.

    You can learn more at SprayAndForget.com. But we’re going to give away 3 bottles of Spray & Forget’s 1-gallon House and Deck Cleaner with Nestable Trigger, worth 16.95 each, to one lucky caller. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Terri in Washington is on the line with a decking question. How can we help you with your project?

    TERRI: Yes, I have an 11×12-foot deck on the back of my home and I’d like to put some kind of a roof over it. I don’t want something to keep the light out but I don’t want it real bright. I’ve gotten five bids and five different ways that they thought it should be done. And I’m thoroughly confused at this point.

    TOM: OK. OK. So what kinds of things are you considering? Like awnings and that sort of thing?

    LESLIE: A pergola? An awning?

    TERRI: No. No, I don’t want an – I want it to be permanent so that in the winter, when it’s raining, I can still go outside.

    TOM: OK. And what has been the cost range of these designs?

    TERRI: I’ve had anything from $1,700 to $6,500.

    TOM: Hmm. OK. Well, the problem here is that you have no way of comparing apples to apples, because what you have is apples to oranges. And the reason you have apples to oranges is because there is a critical, missing component of this project.

    LESLIE: A design plan.

    TOM: And that’s a design plan, exactly. So, what I would recommend you do, since the appearance is very important to you is – this is the kind of small project that it would be worth hiring a designer or an architect to lay out for you.

    TERRI: Yeah.

    TOM: For the few hundred dollars it will cost you, you’ll be able to make sure that this is exactly what you want to achieve with this space, Terri. The designer will work with you to choose the materials, to choose the size, the shape.

    LESLIE: And it may, Tom – it may have to be an architect because, you know, depending on what the village/town/county – you might need a variance, you might need special permits. It might be something that you need an architect to have approved specific drawings.

    TERRI: I don’t think you have to have a permit for this size. I think if it was 1-foot larger, we would have to have a permit.

    TOM: But let me give you one of the other key benefits of this and that is that once you have the design done, then you can go back to those five contractors and say, “This is what I want you to build.”

    TERRI: I see.

    TOM: So you’re not relying on them to design it; you’re saying, “This is what is going to be designed; now, you can give me a price to build it if you want to build it.”

    LESLIE: Right.

    TERRI: Right.

    TOM: And this way, you’ll have all five contractors bidding on the exact same project.

    TERRI: And then I can compare apples to apples.

    LESLIE: Correct. Because currently, you’ve got each contractor just being like, “Well, this is what I think.”

    TERRI: OK.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And then the next one is like, “But I think this.”

    TERRI: Exactly. And I tried to narrow them down but – so that they – so we’re all on the same page but it just doesn’t seem to work.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And the other thing is if one of the contractors has given you – I doubt there’s drawings associated. But say one contractor has been like, “Oh, here’s my sketch and here’s what I’m thinking of doing,” and you like what’s been presented, you can then use that. But really, an architect, this is where they come in; this is their forte.

    TERRI: OK.

    LESLIE: They’re going to help you determine materials. It really will be exactly what you want.

    TERRI: That sounds wonderful.

    LESLIE: Well, as summer rolls to a close, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about the cooler temperatures. One important step in getting your house ready for a seasonal change is taking care of your window screens. They’ve probably been collecting summer gunk all season and they’re really due for a cleaning.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, the first step is to remove the window screens from the frames. You want to put them on a flat surface, like a driveway, and then use a mild soap, water and soft bristle brush to take away the dirt and the grime. Be sure to clean both sides and around the interior and exterior of the frame, then rinse off the screens with lukewarm water. And let them dry completely before replacing them back in the windows.

    LESLIE: You’ve got to be careful, though, because screens can be easily damaged if you’re too aggressive with your scrubbing. Don’t ever use a pressure washer or you could wind up with a seriously messed-up screen.

    For complete instructions, go to MoneyPit.com and search “cleaning window screens.”

    TOM: That’s a really good point, Leslie, because very often with the UV degradation, especially with some of those cloth screens, they can become easily damaged. So use your judgment. Don’t put too much pressure on the screen until you’re absolutely sure that the screen can take it. And if it starts to tear through, well, guess what? It’s time to replace them. Bring them to your local home center or hardware store and have them replaced.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: William in Utah is on the line with a flooring question. What can we do for you today?

    WILLIAM: Yes. So I’m moved into a house that was built in 1930. And it has the original Douglas fir-grain hardwood still in it. And I was in a predicament, so it’s through the master and hallway and guest bedroom.

    Now, the guest bedroom had carpet along with the hallway. And the master was – the floors were in immaculate condition. When I pulled up the glued-down OSB and all that stuff – so they made a really tough job on me trying to get through that stuff. But I eventually got it sanded down and found some patches that needed to be taken care of and fixed. And in the guest bedroom, I discovered that a 3 – about roughly 3-foot by 10-foot section, where they moved the wall for the guest bedroom, is the joints running across. So you have half – almost a little over half of the floor is the original floor. And then the other side is – might have to go back and lay in new boards.

    TOM: So you’re trying to figure out how to make this all match?

    WILLIAM: Yeah. Close as possible. We want to keep – the original wood in the house mostly in good shape other than all the glue. But I’ve fought through most of it already. And now we’ve got it and it’s looking pretty good and sanded up really well. And I’m getting ready to lay down that 3-foot by 10-foot section to patch.

    TOM: Now, do you have the material for that, William?

    WILLIAM: I do.

    TOM: Oh, that’s great. That’s great. OK. Yeah, because one of the issues is sometimes finding the Douglas fir flooring. And by the way, it’s not hardwood, it’s actually softwood. It’s one of the only softwoods that’s used in flooring.

    So, I had a similar situation myself. I have an 1886 house. And when I first moved into the house, there used to be a floor furnace right smack dab in the middle of the dining room. So we had a big, old 3-foot by 4-foot hole in the floor. And so we framed that out and then we installed the new flooring in there. And what I did is I made sure that I sort of finger-jointed the old flooring with the new flooring, so it didn’t have a clean cut line so to speak. Basically, I overlapped all of the boards.

    Now even after I did that and carpentry-wise did a great job, the problem is, as you know, that the colors of the old wood and the new wood are different. And here’s where you have options.

    First option is this: do nothing. Try to ignore it because over the next year or two, it’s all going to settle down into the same color once it gets exposed to the UV light. That’s what we did in our house.

    The other option is to stain it. And you could stain it in a very light pine sort of fir color that sort of matches what you have right now. It’s just that now you have stain on the floor. So those are really the two options. But it’s most important that when you put down that patch that you don’t follow that sort of crisp line, that you try to inter-splice or inter-wind the old wood with the new wood, even if you have to take out some more of the old wood to make that happen. It will make a very convincing repair if it’s done that way.

    I mean in our house, we had thick plaster walls which we took out. So we ended up having almost 3 inches all the way around the outside perimeter of the floor where I had to cut in new wood, in addition to that floor-furnace repair. And so it looked kind of patchy for a while but it looks pretty good now.

    And in fact, I’ve got some other areas of the house now that many years have gone by, in doorways, where it’s starting actually to wear down to where so much wood is worn now, it’s down to the very thin part of sort of the groove of the top surface of the wood. So I’m going to have to do some more repair work on this. In our case, we had a really hard time finding the wood. So I actually had to buy raw Douglas fir wood and mill it myself on a table saw. It was a bit of a hassle, so I’m glad to hear you found a supply there locally.

    WILLIAM: Oh, yes. Yeah, luckily I’m in Sugar House, Utah. All the old times, most people are trying to do this, so a local spot actually keeps roughly 1,000 foot in stock as best they can just for jobs like this. But I know what you mean about the seams. So I’m going to try to go in and finger it back in so we don’t have that straight line through there.

    As for the stain and the blending – so we like the natural-wood color. After it’s been sanded, the girlfriend loves the color of it. But it will be different. And I do live-edge furniture, so I’m pretty good with my stains and things. But I was thinking maybe a Danish oil. Maybe would that kind of do that? Would it change the old wood to the new color or semi-match it or …?

    TOM: So, Danish oil is kind of like what we also used to call French oil. It’s a combination of linseed oil and shellac. And I don’t think it’s durable enough. I think it’s not going to really do much to protect the wood. In my case, I would never put an oil finish on a softwood like that, because it’s not really going to do anything in terms of protecting it. What I used was just a urethane. But I would always use a solvent-based urethane, not a water-based, because of the same reason: I just don’t think it’s durable enough. But I sanded it, I put the urethane on it and I just waited. And it faded in really, really nicely.

    If you have that skill set, though, where you could mix up some stains and try to blend it at that level, then I think that’s probably your best option. It’s just that for a lot of people, they don’t have that skill set. So they may put the same stain on the entire floor and still find that one area is lighter than the other and be frustrated by it. But if you understand to work with stain and you can kind of work that to try to blend it pretty well, I think that plus a bit of time is going to be the solution to your challenge.

    WILLIAM: OK. Alright. Yep. And I was thinking maybe – you said a different type of stain. So maybe golden oak to kind of keep the pine?

    TOM: Yeah, to keep the lighter color. Exactly.

    What you might want to do, William, is since you’ve got some extra material there, sand up some pieces and experiment with it. You know, try to – try some different colors of stain until you get one that you’re happy with. It may be that you have to mix two together but once you get it nailed, then you can apply it to the patch, OK?

    WILLIAM: Awesome. Well, thank you. I appreciate the info.

    TOM: Good luck, William. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. It sounds like it’s going to be a beautiful floor.

    LESLIE: Hey, did you know that you could build a project – like a fire pit or a planter, bench, even an outdoor kitchen island – by just stacking blocks one on top of another? That’s right. It’s like a grown-up Lego project. We’re going to have expert tips, just ahead.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by QUIKRETE Concrete and Cement Products. QUIKRETE, what America is made of. Like us on Facebook and visit online at www.QUIKRETE.com for product information and easy, step-by-step project videos.

    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.

    Well, of all the possible home improvement projects, doing masonry work might be viewed as one of the toughest. Bricks and blocks, they’re heavy and they’re hard to cut, which makes building projects off-limits to a lot of basic do-it-yourselfers.

    TOM: Ah, yes. But what if there was a way to build a project, like a fire pit or a planter or a bench or even an outdoor kitchen island, by just stacking blocks one on top of another? Well, there is and it’s a new product available at The Home Depot called SplitRock. With us to talk about that is Lucas Barry. He’s the national account manager for Pavestone.

    Welcome, Lucas.

    LUCAS: Thanks for having me on today.

    TOM: So this is a challenge for consumers, right? I think they’re intimidated by trying to do anything with bricks and blocks. And you guys have really taken some steps to kind of make that a lot easier for basic DIY-ers to build a wide variety of projects.

    LUCAS: Absolutely. And especially with our SplitRock system and RumbleStone system. What these do is they’re basically building blocks. So they all modulate with one another without – to be able to create, basically, any project with zero cuts.

    TOM: Now, I guess the prep, just like any project, is important depending on what you’re building. You’ve got to start with a solid base. What do you guys recommend, say, for something like a fire pit or a bench? You don’t want it to move after you build it. So how do you get the base ready to go?

    LUCAS: So we would recommend that you remove the top 2 to 3 inches of organic material, install about 2 inches of base, compact it and then about ¾ to an inch of leveling sand. That will ensure your project is level and ready to go.

    TOM: And what’s the base constructed of?

    LUCAS: So, The Home Depot carries Step 1 and Step 2. So the Step 1 is a paper-based material, which is a mixture of different size aggregates that compact really well. And just like a house, I mean the house is only good as the foundation. Same thing with a paver, patio or even a fire-pit installation.

    TOM: I didn’t realize that it was all part of the modular system. So it’s as easy as that. You take in each element, separate it out so you can basically go to The Home Depot and pick up exactly what you need to construct this.

    So, what are some of the most popular projects that you’re seeing consumers build with SplitRock?

    LUCAS: Well, benches, fire pits, of course, are the number one. But we also have a wide array of different planters, mailboxes. And you can virtually build any project you want. You don’t have to build this up to the specifications that we have. So if you have an imagination – and just like kids use their building blocks growing up, you can do the same thing with these …

    LESLIE: Does it say it’s like Legos for adults?

    LUCAS: Exactly.

    TOM: So, yeah, I guess right now is probably a great time for a fire pit, right? We’re towards the end of summer and it’s going to get chilly pretty soon. And that’s just a really great project.

    I’ll tell you what, once you have a fire pit, you just wonder how you got along without it. Because when we built our first one many years ago, we found all sorts of excuses to be out there. And the kids just love to sit around it and toast marshmallows and we love to sit out there and have dinner and a nice glass of wine.

    LUCAS: Absolutely. And especially with the cool nights like they are right now, it’s wonderful to get out there. And the most beautiful thing is the customer can build this over the course of a weekend or even in a half a day with an experienced DIY-er. What the SplitRock system and RumbleStone system offers is layer-by-layer instructions that you can download from the Pavestone or Home Depot website. And on those instructions, it also has the grocery list. So it tells you exactly how many pieces of each you need.

    TOM: Terrific. Lucas Barry, the national account manager for Pavestone, filling us in on a new product called SplitRock. Allows you to become a DIY mason building a wide variety of projects around your home.

    If you’d like to learn more, visit Pavestone.com. And remember, you’ll find SplitRock exclusively at The Home Depot.

    Lucas Barry, thanks so much for being a part of The Money Pit.

    LUCAS: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re shipping a child off to college this year, you may need to pack more than books and computers. A basic tool kit can help a lot. We’re going to tell you what your student will need in a college toolbox, next.

    ANNOUNCER: Today’s Money Pit is presented by Haier, the world’s number-one appliance brand. Stay cool this summer with a Haier Serenity Series Air Conditioner. Quieter than the average window air conditioners, yet cool your home effectively and efficiently. Learn more at HaierAmerica.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.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. You will get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got up for grabs 3 bottles of the Spray & Forget 1-gallon House and Deck Cleaner. And it features a nestable trigger. And that’s going to treat about 150 square feet.

    Now, really, what you’re going to get with the Spray & Forget is it will remove exterior stains: you know, ones that are caused by mold or mildew, algae, moss, even lichen. And there’s no need for rinsing. It’s got an easy-to-use, nestable trigger spray allowing for easy application on your flowerpots, deck, patios, walkways, pavers, your outdoor furniture and more. It’s eco-friendly. There’s no bleach or lye or acid or phosphates or any heavy metals in it, so you can use it confidently.

    Check it out. See how it works. Look at it at SprayAndForget.com. And we’ve got Spray & Forget 1-gallon House and Deck Cleaner with the Nestable Trigger. It’s worth about 16.95 each. And we’re giving away three bottles with the shipping. And that’s a total value of $83.85. Plus, your whole entire exterior space of your home is going to look beautiful.

    TOM: Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. Call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Janet in Illinois is working on a decking project. How can we help you with that?

    JANET: We have ordered the material for the flooring of the deck and it’s going to be waterproof and where we have a patio beneath it. And we would like to finish the underneath side so that we can do some canned lighting or – and/or some ceiling fans. And wondered what the best product would be to finish the underneath side.

    LESLIE: To sort of waterproof it, block it from any sort of water, be it rain or snow, getting to that lower underside.

    JANET: Well, the top product is going to do that. So we just want to finish it so it’ll look nicer than just having the wood showing from the framework.

    TOM: OK. Will this be exposed to the weather from the sides, though? I understand you’re putting a roof over the top but will there be sides on this or is it possible for wind and rain to blow in?

    JANET: It will be possible for wind and rain to blow in so, yeah, we would want that.

    TOM: So you do need a good-quality product that’s going to seal and protect the wood.

    So in that case, Leslie, I guess I would go with solid-color stain, a deck stain.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But I think you’re looking for a material, first, to put on the ceiling, correct, other than wood?

    JANET: Right. Yes.

    TOM: Oh, for the ceiling? The underside of the ceiling?

    JANET: Yes.

    TOM: How about AZEK?


    TOM: Yeah, A-Z-E-K. Yeah, AZEK is an extruded PVC product that’s available in many different finishes. It’s synthetic, so it doesn’t rot and it doesn’t need paint.

    JANET: OK.

    TOM: So if you go to A-Z-E-K.com and look at a lot of the sheet products …

    LESLIE: Yeah. I bet there’s a beadboard or something that would look like a shingling or a paneling for the ceiling.

    TOM: Right.

    JANET: OK.

    LESLIE: That could be very lovely.

    TOM: Right. But the deck surface is also going to need some protection. So that – for that surface, I would use a solid-color stain.

    JANET: Alright. Sounds wonderful.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve got a college student getting packed up for a new year, it’s a good idea to make sure there’s a handy tool kit in their cargo.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You want to start with the basics, like a hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench and a socket-ratchet set. Those are incredibly helpful if you’ve got to assembly some portable furniture. Also include in there a pack of nails and screws, a utility knife, a tape measure and of course, everybody needs duct tape.

    TOM: Next, you want to add a flashlight and a collection of picture-hanging supplies, many of which can help hang pictures, photos and more without damaging those walls. And be sure to toss in some super glue, some wood glue, adhesive remover and one of those absolutely amazing magic erasers to get rid of all those wall marks.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And once you’ve got this tool kit assembled, do a little how-to review with your college-bound kids. Now, you’re probably going to get a few eye rolls. I mean every kid’s going to do that when you want to sit down and give them a talking-to about anything. But they will thank you from afar the first time they need to grab a tool or any kind of supply to work on a project.

    TOM: And for the complete college toolbox list, visit MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Howard from North Carolina on the line with a water-softening question. What can we do for you today?

    HOWARD: Well, my question, really, has to do with the EasyWater Water Conditioner. And I’m making a distinction here between water softening and conditioning, because I understand that products that don’t use salt really are not softeners but they are conditioners. And I think that’s really what my need is.

    I have no problem with the relative softness of the water, if you will, for cleaning purposes. However, it is a lime- and scale-producing water. It’s municipal water but it comes from an artesian-well system.

    So my question, really, is: is this the product on the market? Are there other ones that do much the same thing? How proven is it? Is it something that I can reliably install or is it still relatively an unproven item? It seems to be a name that’s in the market but I’m not – I’m just looking for some endorsement of it, I guess.

    TOM: Alright. So, several years ago, EasyWater was a sponsor of the show. They haven’t been for many years. And when that happened, they sent me one of their units and we don’t have well water but I had a friend of mine that did have it. And he installed the EasyWater system on his main water line, as directed, and had really miraculous results. And it really got me interested in the technology.

    And the way it essentially works is if you can think of a way a magnet works, where positive sides repel each other, that’s kind of the way EasyWater works. It forces the particles that go through – the hard-water particles – to not stick. That leads to less scale and other types of buildups that stick to pipes and stick to faucets and so on. So that’s basically the way it works.

    I will say that I do know they have a really good warranty on it and I think it’s like a 90-day, money-back guarantee. It’s pretty long, from what I recall. So I see no reason to tell you not to try it. I’ve had good experiences with it through the test unit – the dummy – that they sent us. They have a pretty good warranty on it. I’d give it a shot.

    HOWARD: Alright. Thank you, Tom.

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

    LESLIE: Helen in Indiana is on the line with a driveway-sealing question. How can we help you today?

    HELEN: I have an asphalt driveway that when I purchased the home had some cracks in it. But it’s gotten worse and I now have a pothole.

    TOM: And it’s officially grown to be a pothole, huh?

    HELEN: Yeah. That’s what happens in the Midwest.

    TOM: Alright.

    HELEN: I’ve had some estimates and they’re way out of my budget. So what can I do to prolong the life and make it look a lot better?

    TOM: So there’s lots of stuff that you can do yourself.

    First of all, you do need to patch that hole. And at your local home center, you can find blacktop patch. It comes in a bucket – either a small, 1-gallon bucket or something even as big as a 5-gallon bucket – where it has some stone in it and it has the blacktop material. And it’s usually latex-based these days, too, which is good news.

    And you simply clean out the hole that you’re trying to fill, you trowel in the new stuff, you tamp it down. And you can do that with a board or something like that or – if you don’t happen to have a tamping iron.

    And then once you have the holes filled, then you want to work on the cracks. And as far as the cracks are concerned, the driveway sealers and crack fillers, there are some that come in actually caulking-like tubes that you can use to sort of roll into those cracks.

    So you seal those all up and then the last thing you do is to apply the asphalt sealer. And that comes in 5-gallon buckets and you buy an application tool for it. It’s kind of like a big squeegee. You start at one end and you squeegee it on, work down towards the other and you’re done.

    So it’s totally a do-it-yourself project. The best time to do this is when the weather gets to be around 50 degrees or so, on average. You don’t want to do it when it’s really hot out, because it’s a difficult job and …

    HELEN: Like now.

    TOM: Yeah, like now. And it doesn’t dry that well. So you wait for slightly cooler weather and you can totally reseal that yourself. And then once you get all the cracks filled and the sealer on, then next year maybe you just do another coat of sealer and it’ll be really easy.

    HELEN: So it’s a three-step process.

    TOM: Pretty much. Patch the holes, patch the cracks, apply the sealer. That’s it.

    HELEN: I think that’s something I can do.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, garages can be a great place to work when the weather is warm. But sometimes the weather gets too warm to make that possible. We’re going to have some tips that can help, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’re here to solve your do-it-yourself dilemma or give you some advice on how to hire the right pro to get a project done, or choose between one material or another or one approach or another when it comes to tackling the projects that you want to get done around your house. We’re going to do that, right now, for Andrew who’s interested in solar power.

    LESLIE: Now, this is interesting. Andrew writes: “I’ve seen several ads for DIY solar power for homes. They claim to be able to show you how to build your own power supply and panels to reduce your utility bills by 75 percent or more. Are these claims legitimate and is this something that might be worth pursuing?”

    TOM: You know, Andrew, while solar-utility solutions are becoming more common, I would tend to be very suspicious of such a dramatic claim. There are way too many variables to back up a blanket promise like one stating that you’ll save more than 75 percent on electricity. Every home definitely has solar potential but it’s based on where the roof faces, where the trees are located and a lot of other details. But it’s going to vary from home to home.

    Now, even more, building your own solar panels is no way to start a DIY career. If you dig into the history of this company and of course, their references, that would be a great start. In today’s world, your reputation is easily searchable online. And if the company has the level of success they claim, it should also be verifiable and easy to find out. However, allow me to remind you, though, of the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is. And whether or not you end up having solar panels installed, remember that there are plenty of smaller steps that you can take towards a greener and more efficient home, in addition to adding solar.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You’re right, Tom. It’s amazing how people think when – “Oh, I want to be energy-efficient.” So they immediately jump to something drastic, like solar power, without thinking of things that are smaller and manageable and actually DIY projects that you can do, like smaller insulation projects or caulking around your windows and doors, things that are manageable that you can sort of bite off in doable chunks.

    TOM: Yeah. I would do all the basic stuff first before I dug into putting solar panels up or building a wind generator.

    LESLIE: Right. “I’m going to put a wind turbine in my backyard. Yes or no?”

    TOM: Well, if you’re struggling to keep your home cool this summer, you might want to consider that your attached garage could be adding to the struggle. Leslie has solutions, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Keeping your garage as cool as possible is not just so that your car can live in luxury. Now, garages can become boiling in the summer and that will send the heat into your home. So you’ve got to stop this. I mean first of all, make sure that the wall between your garage and your home is well-insulated. Many homeowners think that garage itself is the insulation but that’s not true.

    Now, you should also insulate the ceiling overhead and the additional exterior walls. If you’re well-insulated and still reaching record temps in there, try adding some shading. A well-positioned tree really can do wonders.

    Now, if your garage also doubles as a hobby space, it might be worth adding air-conditioning. A split-ductless heat-pump system really is the way to go. It’s an air handler that mounts on the wall inside the garage and the compressor is outside. And it can be run only when it’s needed. Just be sure you get one that’s ENERGY STAR-rated.

    Tom and I both have one. Tom’s got one in the studio space that we’re in right now. I’ve got one in my basement at home. They’re really fantastic. They’re super quiet, they’re energy-efficient. You’re going to love it if you add one to your garage space. And then think about all the extra hobbies you can be doing year-round in there.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, high-efficiency washers are on the rise. But are energy-efficient washers and dryers good investments at this point in the game? We’re going to have some tips on what you can expect in terms of savings and performance, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 2016 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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