Blackout Survival Tips, Snow and Ice Removal, Going Green with an Older Home 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: And Happy New Year, everyone. We hope that your new year is going well.

    Have you had a chance to tackle any of those New Year’s resolutions just yet, Leslie?

    LESLIE: You’re like rushing everybody. It’s only been a couple of days and no, I cannot lose 10 pounds in a week. Maybe you can.

    TOM: Well, maybe you can declutter those closets. That will let your house lose weight. It could work that way, too.

    LESLIE: Hmm. But how can I make that come off of my own scale, unless I weigh the house with me? But I don’t even want to know what that weighs, uh-uh. Not happening.

    TOM: Well, no matter whether or not you have tackled that resolution or not yet, we are here to help you get those projects done around the house. But help yourself and pick up the phone right now and call us. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, well, it’s the storms. The winter storms that are coming can also knock out your power at the same time. And that can be pretty dangerous, so we’re going to have some tips on how you can survive those power outages and get the lights back on as quickly and easily as possible.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, older homes are fantastic and they’ve got lots of things going for them that you’re just not going to find in brand new construction. You know, they feature period details, high-quality construction and of course, charm.

    But one thing that really has come a long way in modern construction is energy efficiency. So for all of you older homeowners out there, we’re going to help you green your older home, with tips from the experts at This Old House, a little later.

    TOM: And this hour, we’re giving away something that can keep that snow and ice away from your front door, at least.

    Now, this is the ultimate in luxury, Leslie. It’s a heated doormat from the folks at HeatTrak.

    LESLIE: That sounds excellent.

    TOM: What a great way to make your guests feel welcome. It’s worth 80 bucks. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, let’s get right to those phones. Who’s first?

    LESLIE: Judy in Iowa is on the line with a termite question. Tell us what’s going on.

    JUDY: Hi. Well, I heard you talking about the Termidor that – used for termites and we’ve had termites in – we have an older home that we love. In fact, we’re just getting – just had new carpet put in today. And anyway, we’ve had a lot of trouble with termites in the 30 years that we’ve lived here and we have a company come out and they put green tubes in the ground and then they put this stuff in it that’s supposed to kill the termites. But this is like an ongoing thing and I’m hearing you talk about once every 10 years, you use this Termidor and that’s it.

    So I just wondered where to …

    TOM: You’re talking about two different systems. You’re talking about a baiting system versus a chemical treatment system. Now, they both can work. The baiting system that you’re talking about is called Sentricon. It’s very effective; created by Dow AgroSciences and yes, you bait for the termites and then when the termites show up, you install a termiticide to the bait station. They take that back to their nest and it wipes them out. Particularly helpful if you’ve got a building that’s hard to treat chemically or even historic property. It’s very often used in historic properties like even, I believe, the White House.

    The other system is also good and it’s an undetectable termiticide. Basically, the pest control operator comes out, he trenches around the outside of the house, he applies this chemical. The termites don’t know it’s there so as they go about their business – their normal workday, crawling through the soil and into your house for a meal – and then back to their nest, they get it on their bodies and they take it back to the nest and they pass it to the rest of the insects and that wipes them out.

    LESLIE: Eating your house.

    TOM: So, both systems work well but you just have to decide what’s right for you.

    JUDY: OK. But if you do this, you just put it in a little trench all the way around your house, right by your foundation?

    TOM: Yeah, not you. You have to have a professional do this.

    LESLIE: A pro does it, only.

    JUDY: Oh, oh. OK, OK. Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. Right. The website is – T-e-r-m-i-d-o-r – Take a look at it and maybe ask your pest control company about that product.

    JUDY: I think I will. Well, I appreciate your program. I like to listen to it because, like I say, this is an old house and we’re constantly doing stuff, yeah.

    TOM: Alright, Judy. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: And the only people who should be causing damage to your own home is yourself and not termites.

    TOM: Is you.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: You can do quite well on your own.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Harry on the line who needs some help with a bathroom refinishing project. Tell us what’s going on.

    HARRY: I was redoing the tile in my bath and the old tile – I was pulling it off – dropped down; you know, some fell and chipped my – the tub that was in place. And I was just wondering, is there anything you can – is there a product out there? Is there something I can do to cover that chip up, short of fingernail polish or something like that?

    LESLIE: Well, how big is this chip?

    HARRY: Oh, it’s just probably about the size of a dime; dime or a quarter. It’s just …

    LESLIE: That’s a good size, though.

    TOM: Yeah. That’s a pretty good chip.

    LESLIE: That’s pretty big.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s pretty good. You did a good job with that.

    HARRY: Well, it’s not through the metal; it’s just the porcelain coating is what is chipped off.

    LESLIE: The porcelain. Right. Once you have compromised the finish …

    HARRY: But it’s just unappealing to look at.

    LESLIE: No, I know but – and then you’re going to start to see things just expanding and changing. Now, I’ve used something myself because we had a small – I mean much smaller than the size of a dime or a quarter. It’s called Porc-a-Fix. And it’s kind of in a nail polish-type bottle; similar. You have to put on very little layers, let it dry, put on another one, let it dry, put another one, because you have to build it up. And these are very durable, almost – are they even epoxy, Tom, I would imagine?

    TOM: Yeah. I believe they are.

    LESLIE: And Porc-a-Fix, I know, does a ton of different whites and taupes and creams, based on manufacturers’ colors, so they made it really easy to find the one that match the tub, if you know what it is. Otherwise, whites are so close together, as well as the creams, that you could be slightly off. But yours is pretty big, so you might need to buy four or five bottles.

    TOM: The website for Porc-a-Fix is and that’s You’ll find it right there and, as Leslie said, do it in layers. Take your time and I think it’ll come out very, very well.

    LESLIE: Keep it dry.

    HARRY: OK. Sounds very good. Well, I appreciate your time.

    LESLIE: And watch your butterfingers.

    HARRY: Yeah, no kidding. I’ll cover my tub next time I pull the tile off, eh?

    LESLIE: Ah, seriously.

    TOM: 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 Well, we can help you jump headfirst into your home improvement, New Year’s resolution list. So give us a call with all of your how-to questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, when you suddenly lose power, are you left to stumble around the dark with absolutely no idea where you last left the flashlight? Not good. We’re going to tell you what not to do during a blackout and how to get through it quickly, easily and safely, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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. And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call right now with your home improvement, repair, décor question. Whatever you are working on, we are going to give you a hand to get the job done. And one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win, really, a perfect, wintery Money Pit prize.

    We’re giving away a HeatTrak heated doormat. It’s worth about 80 bucks and it’s a patented mat that’s designed to stay outside all winter and it’s going to melt the snow as it touches it, at a rate of 2 inches per hour. So it …

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: That’s pretty cool.

    TOM: That’s a lot.

    LESLIE: So at least, when you’re going out there to tackle the shoveling job, you’re not going to jump into a big snowdrift. At least you’ll sort of step cleanly into the snow and then decide if you want to head into it or go back in.

    So, give us a call for your chance to win. You can check out that great product at HeatTrak – T-r-a-k – .com or call us now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, we’ve all seen the news stories about entire towns that go for days without power. Now, if a powerful winter storm is going to leave you in the dark, what do you need to do? Well, number one, don’t use candles. It’s amazing how many folks still turn to candles today when we have these amazing devices called LED flashlights that are just so much more convenient and so much brighter. You want to keep them handy; keep them always in the same spot so you know exactly where they are when the power goes out. You also want to check the batteries often.

    Now, during a power outage, you want to power down appliances and don’t restart them until the electricity has been restored for at least a half hour. Why? Well, this way, the utility company can stabilize the power grid and avoid another blackout. Plus, you could prevent your appliances from being damaged because as the power goes up and goes down – it goes up, it goes down – you have this brownout condition, which results in less voltage to the house and that can really make your appliances go nuts. So, wait a little while, then turn anything back on.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Speaking of appliances, with your refrigerator, I know it’s tempting; you want to open it up, look inside, see what’s going on. But when the power is out, just don’t open the refrigerator unless you really, really need to go in and sort of think about what’s there, grab it and close it immediately. Because this way, you’re keeping the cool inside and you want the items to stay in there as long as possible.

    Fridge items, they’re only going to last a day or two, whereas frozen items can last up to several days. So just really keep track of those items if your power is out for a long amount of time.

    Now, to avoid becoming a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is very common in the winter and very common during power outages, you want to make sure that you never, ever run a gas-powered generator inside your house or even in an open garage. And also, avoid cooking with charcoal or even propane in any type of enclosed area.

    If you plan on heading to a relative’s home to wait out the power outage, remember that street lights and traffic lights will also be on the blink, so make sure you approach busy intersections – even quiet intersections – with caution, just to be safe.

    TOM: Now, if you want to avoid a bad situation completely, consider investing in a standby, backup power generator. These units are more affordable than ever before and they are pretty much more necessary than ever, as well, with all the blackouts we’ve been having.

    A great site to get one at is That’s where I purchased my Generac standby generator. It runs on natural gas and it’s fantastic because if the power ever goes out at my home or even at our studio, it comes back on within – oh, with about 30 seconds, we are good to go. So, just a great thing to have and really not that expensive anymore; a backup, standby generator.

    888-666-3974 is also a great thing to have if you have a home improvement question. Let’s get to it.

    Who’s next?

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

    TODD: Had a question about space heaters and I guess, more particularly, the infrared, which I don’t know much about.

    TOM: OK.

    TODD: Anyway, I was told in the past that – and this is going back 10 years ago – that when it comes to these portable heaters, that they’re all resistant heaters and they’re all 100 percent efficient. Although electricity is expensive, doesn’t make them cost-effective.

    TOM: OK. So, here’s what you need to know. First of all, you can use a space heater strategically and you can use an infrared heater strategically. And what I mean by that is you’re not going to put one in every room of your house but if you have one room of your house – home office, living room; in my case, a kitchen – that’s a little chillier than the rest of the house, a space heater is a great option for a space like that.

    Now, we work directly with the SUNHEAT heating company. They make an infrared heater and they actually sent me one. And I’ve got to tell you, right out of the box, I was very impressed with the quality of it. And then we plugged it in and I found that it was a very soft, a very warm, a very comfortable heat; even felt very moist, which was nice.

    And we’ve been using it in the kitchen now for about a month and especially on those chilly nights, it does a really good job. And then first thing in the morning, when I put it on and we get down there to throw the coffee on in the morning, it really helps heat the room up quite quickly because, in my case, I have a kitchen that sticks out from a two-story house. So the kitchen is one-story and the house is two stories. So because it’s one-story, it has more exterior surfaces and hence, gets a lot chillier.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now in our instance, I used one in our living room, only because we’ve got aluminum baseboard heating. It really doesn’t hold the heat very well. There’s a lot of windows in this room and I’m always freezing in there but I find if I raise the thermostat, every other room is just super-hot and this room is still freezing. So I keep ours there during the heating season.

    And what’s great is that because it’s our main room that we hang out in – it’s actually in an attractive case, it’s beautifully made, it’s all wood, it doesn’t look like a space heater – so it’s nice in the fact that I don’t mind having it out. The case doesn’t get hot. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old; I don’t have to worry about him stumbling over and touching it. And it really does effectively heat that space and allows me to keep the thermostat at a normal level without forcing everybody else into a sauna.

    TODD: OK. Alright. Well, I really appreciate the help.

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

    LESLIE: Leslie in Wyoming is calling in with a draining issue, as in they are not draining. Tell us what’s going on.

    LESLIE IN WYOMING: My situation is I live in a mobile home and it’s a 2000 model. And in this tub, I’ve got one of those little drains in there that you take it out because the hair collects and such.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE IN WYOMING: But it’s starting to clog up and I’m really scared of putting something down there, because every time I go to the grocery store and I pick up, say, Drano or whatever …

    TOM: Yeah. No, you don’t want to use those drain cleaners on a tub. Can you open the drain and kind of look down there and see what’s in there?

    LESLIE IN WYOMING: You know what? No because that – the way that they made the drain – I’ve never seen anything like it – it has like a crisscross type of a, I don’t know, metal in there. So, I took this plastic thing that has little teeth on it and I shoved it down in there, which is – I bought it at Walmart.

    TOM: Right. Right.

    LESLIE IN WYOMING: And it pushes stuff down, so it temporarily opens up the drain again.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE IN WYOMING: But a friend of mine said, “You get” – she lies in a mobile home, too – she said, “You’ve got to get this cleaned.”

    TOM: Yeah. Got to be a way to get that open and out. It might unscrew but if you can get that out, I’ll give you a simple thing that you can do and that is you can take a vacuum – and this is best done with a wet/dry vacuum; if you don’t have one, maybe you can borrow one – but you can actually sort of suck all that stuff right out of the drain. It’ll go right down to the trap and pull up all the crud that’s in there and pull it right up into the wet/dry vac.

    LESLIE IN WYOMING: OK. That sounds great. I really appreciate you guys. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Rob in Alaska is dealing with a door that swells in the winter, which means you probably are dealing with a swollen door quite often. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROB: Well, it’s actually – the door opens and closes fine but when I try to turn the bolt into the frame, I guess, it doesn’t go.

    TOM: Right.

    ROB: And last year, I had the same problem and I took the thing apart and chipped out – tried to basically move the hole up a little bit.

    TOM: Right.

    ROB: And then, again this year, it’s doing it again. So, I’m stuck.

    TOM: Well, I suspect that you didn’t get it exactly in the right place so let me give you a trick of the trade, OK? I want you to take off the metal plate for the door – for the striker. This is the bolt, right? So take off that metal plate, alright?

    And then open the door and on the end of the bolt itself – you can do this with a wax crayon or with a lead pencil; real soft, lead pencil; I do it with a carpenter’s pencil – I color the back end of that bolt – just the very end – so it’s really full with just a lot, a lot of lead. You can also do it with chalk. Close the door and then snap that bolt closed a bunch of times. Just snap it; one after another after another.

    And what you’re doing is you’re transferring that lead to the door jamb. And then when you open the door, you’ll know exactly where that bolt is hitting and you’ll be able to put the striker plate back. You can carve it, make it a little bit bigger, chisel it out – whatever you’ve got to do – and it’ll close right every single time.

    ROB: Excellent. That’s excellent. I would never have thought of that by myself. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Sharon in Texas needs some help with appliance maintenance. What are you working on?

    SHARON: Well, I just got this house and they were nice enough – they leave me their washer and dryer. Well, I was cleaning up around it and stuff and cleaning the little lint filter out and stuff and was cleaning behind it and I noticed the hose. And I’ve always heard about you need to clean it for chance of possibly catching on fire, so is there some way to clean it or should I replace the whole thing?

    TOM: The dryer exhaust has to be cleaned. You should be cleaning that every six months. There is a special brush that actually fits inside the dryer exhaust duct and I think one of them is called LintEater. It’s on a …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s by a company called Gardus.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s on a flexible, fiberglass rod and you can spin it in there. It hooks up to a drill and a vacuum, so that’s really easy. And once you get one of these and clean it out, you’ll see how important it is because you’ll get a lot of dust out of there.

    SHARON: How much does the little snake thing – the thing run for the dryer? Do you know?

    TOM: The tools?

    SHARON: Yeah. (inaudible at 0:18:41).

    TOM: Oh, I don’t know. Not too much; $20, $30.

    LESLIE: And it’s a really fun chore and, Sharon, you’re going to be amazed what comes out of that whole exhaust duct.

    SHARON: Oh, I’d probably be so grossed out.

    LESLIE: It’s not – there’s nothing gross. It’s just a tremendous amount of lint; perhaps a random sock or something odd. But it is a tremendous amount of lint.

    SHARON: OK, OK. Well, alright. Thank you very much. I needed help with that. I didn’t know what to do by myself. I appreciate that.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Sharon. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Coming up, if you’ve got an older home, that’s great. You know, they’re built to last and they’ve got loads of charm and character. But one thing that you sort of can adapt with your older home is making it more energy-efficient.

    So when we come back, Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House is going to share some tips on greening an older home, so stick around.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Thinking about getting a snow blower? Check out’s interactive buying guides, recommendations and customer reviews. Snow blower experts are available to help you pick the perfect snow blower. Visit

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Have most of your New Year’s resolutions already taken a back seat? Well, you can make them for your home instead. We can help you with a home improvement checklist that has a project for every weekend this month. It is all online at

    LESLIE: Linda in North Carolina is dealing with a mold situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LINDA: I have found a – I think it might be a substantial amount of mold, in different places throughout the house.

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    LINDA: First, I want to start cleaning. I’d rather not have to use bleach, so I was wondering if there’s another way to clean. I’ve looked up some other things …

    TOM: Well, how much mold are we talking about, Linda?

    LINDA: I have one closet. We had a cut-off valve for the water for the house that was leaking; we didn’t know it.

    TOM: Right.

    LINDA: It’s a large closet full of – it’s full of mold. The house – I mean the clothes are full of mold.

    TOM: OK.

    LINDA: But I found mold in other areas in the house, also.

    TOM: OK. Well, there’s a couple of things you need to be – you need to know. First of all, if you expose yourself to this mold and if it’s a toxic type of mold, it could make you really sick. Secondly, you could contaminate the whole house with it.

    So when you say quite a bit of mold, do you think that collectively it’s more than a few square feet?

    LINDA: Oh, yes, I do.

    LESLIE: Oh wow.

    TOM: I think you need to have this looked at by a health expert and I would start by contacting professional home inspectors in your area and see if they do mold inspections or if they could recommend somebody that does a mold inspection. I would prefer that you not work with anybody that does the actual cleanup work because they’re just going to have a motivation to find more and more in your house. We want to get some independent, expert advice.

    An easy way to find a good-quality home inspector is to go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. That’s at ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org. And you can put in your zip code; they’ll shoot you back a list of all of the home inspectors in that particular area.

    And then based on that information, you could make a few phone calls; try to find a good consultant. Because if you’ve got something that’s repeating throughout the house and if it’s a potentially toxic mold, you want to be very careful and very deliberate about how you approach the cleanup.

    LINDA: OK. So I just need to get some advice and – OK, well, A-S-H-I.o-r-g.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LINDA: Alright. I’ll give them a call. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Well, they don’t make them like they used to and that’s a phrase that describes home construction pretty well. In fact, older homes, they were built to last.

    TOM: Ah, yes. But older homes were built well before we became so eco-aware. So, what do you do if you want to bring your turn-of-the-century home up to today’s environmental and energy-efficient standards? Kevin O’Connor has got some ideas. He is the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Well, hey, it’s good to be here, guys. Thank you for having me.

    TOM: And way back when many older homes were built, energy was cheap and we really didn’t seem to care so much about how much was needed to keep comfortable. Any tips on how to take one of those grand, old homes and make it a little more environmentally-friendly and efficient?

    KEVIN: Well, you’re right, Tom. We didn’t really care about how energy-efficient they were and I’m not actually sure that there should be any shame on folks who were building them back then. Think about this: in 1950, a barrel of oil cost a little bit under $3 per barrel. Today, it’s hovering around somewhere at $75 a barrel.

    TOM: So, Kevin, any tips to start to help get those older homes a little bit more efficient?

    KEVIN: Well, I think, generally speaking, older homes are definitely less efficient and it’s mostly because they’re leakier. The air is sort of coming and going in and out of that house. And there are ways that they measure this; they actually talk about air changes. And a typical older home might have the entire air in the house change over four to six times an hour.

    So think about that: the air in the house that’s conditioned, either hot or cold, is leaking out of the house and the exterior air is coming into the house. And every time that air changes – every time new air comes into the house – well, what do you have to do? You have to heat it or cool it again and that requires resources and that costs money.

    LESLIE: Well and I think it’s important – you know, there’s been so many advances in the technology to figure out exactly where these air leaks are in your home – whether it’s through a blower-door test or that geothermal screening where they’ve got the color differentiations to show you exactly where you’re losing the heated air – that can help you really pinpoint where you should do your best work.

    KEVIN: There is an industry out there right now – professionals who are in the business of home energy audits – and they’ll do those blower-door tests that you talk about, Leslie. They’ll come in and they’ll give you exact, scientific measurements about that air movement.

    You can actually rent an infrared camera now from some of the home centers. You can go down there and in the course of a weekend, for $75, have that tool in your hand and see where the heat is escaping. That information is powerful for you, as you start to pursue where you’re going to plug these leaks.

    TOM: Yeah and that’s really true, because I think we get into analysis paralysis; we don’t know where to put the energy dollars. Do I get windows? Do I get doors? Do I insulate? Do I caulk? Do I weatherstrip? You really can’t know where you’re going to get the best return on investment and skills of the professionals like that do help you really narrow it down and make some really smart decisions.

    KEVIN: They’re complicated beasts, our homes. There are sophisticated systems that are inside of them and there’s no shame in relying on a professional to give you some guidance.

    You can make some very basic rules, however, or I should say a list, however. And for me, it starts with insulation. You really can’t have too much insulation in a house. And so, if you have an older house, it’s probably underinsulated.

    And I would start by adding insulation if you don’t have any or increasing the amount of insulation that you have in your attic. It’s often easy to do and you can sort of do it kind of sloppily, because you’re not trying to put it behind your finished walls. So you can blow in cellulose or lay down fiberglass batts and you’ll get a big bang for your buck on that.

    For the basement, I’d move to the …

    LESLIE: Well and Kevin, let me just jump in one second. The attic. What’s a good rule of thumb for the amount of insulation you should really have up there?

    KEVIN: My rule of thumb is you can’t have too much.

    LESLIE: Right. But for somebody who’s not going to fill joist to rafter with insulation, where should you stop?

    KEVIN: Fill the joist bays. I mean that is a great place to start. Your joist bays …

    TOM: That’s the minimum.

    KEVIN: Yeah, that is the minimum.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: Fill those joist bays because you’ve got a cavity there; you can get it in. But I would say go over the joist bays, as well, because you’ve got natural seams between the joists and the second that you start to go over the joist bays, you’re not only adding insulation but you’re also cutting down on the number of those seams and cutting down, therefore, on air flow.

    TOM: That’s right. And the key there is to go perpendicular on the second layer of insulation and to use unfaced insulation so you don’t trap any moisture inside there.

    LESLIE: Now with insulation, I think there’s some confusion. People don’t always know which direction to put that vapor barrier or the facing, too, when they’re installing this insulation.

    KEVIN: No, I think you’re dead-on here. There is quite a bit of confusion where you put this vapor retarder. And there, unfortunately, isn’t a single, simple answer. The vapor retarder is trying to prevent condensation from occurring, basically, in the insulation. And it really depends on how you’re heating and cooling your house, how often you’re doing one or the other, what type of insulation you’re working with and where you live. And so you can get lost in that matrix pretty quickly.

    But a professional who’s familiar with this can sort it out for you in just a minute, so it’s a good thing to consult with someone who knows what they’re talking about.

    TOM: And that’s the place to start. Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great advice.

    And you can get more from the team at This Old House by visiting them online at

    LESLIE: And you can watch Kevin and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House, on your local PBS station.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    Still to come, we’ve got great tips for clearing snow and ice off of your car. We’ll have that, after this.

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can call us now with your home improvement or your home repair or your home décor question and we will do our best to help you out. And you could win the HeatTrak heated doormat worth about 80 bucks, just for picking up the phone.

    This is a very cool product. It’s a patented mat that is designed to stay outside all winter and it will melt snow at a rate of 2 inches per hour. So you’ve got that first step cleared out the door and well, that’s one less, then, you have to shovel.

    LESLIE: Give you a head start.

    TOM: Also prevents slips and falls. You can learn more at That’s Heat – T-r-a-k – .com or call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Pick up the phone and give us a call if you need some help with some of your New Year’s projects. We know you’re getting started with your New Year’s home improvement resolutions.

    And actually, this winter, even though it’s only been a couple of weeks, has already been packing a big punch across the country. Lots of snow already. So if you happen to be in a part of the country where snow is common this time of year but you don’t have a garage, you know it’s a giant pain in the rear to actually clear the snow and ice off of your car. But it’s got to be done.

    In fact, some states, it’s actually illegal to drive around with a car that is not cleared off and it’s really dangerous to drive that way. You know, here’s some advice. First, if you’ve got a long driveway, get ready before the storm hits by actually parking your car at the end of the driveway and not all the way down where you’re going to have to clear a ton to get the car out of that.

    TOM: We seem to learn that the hard way every single year.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: I don’t know why we always forget but invariably, after the first storm, I have the car up against the garage.

    LESLIE: You learn your lesson?

    TOM: Or worse yet, in the garage and then you have to shovel the entire driveway to get it out.

    LESLIE: I mean it really is smart and it makes a ton of sense. And the same thing goes if you have a parking spot, maybe, at a condo or an apartment complex. If you don’t have an assigned spot, try to grab a parking spot that’s actually near the exit of the complex. This way, you can kind of get in and out kind of easily, that is, if the snow plows don’t trap you in there, which happens a lot in the New York area.

    Another trick is to put up the windshield wipers so they don’t freeze to the car window. Also, use a long-handled broom. That’s going to help you get the snow off of the top of your car before you open the door and then end up with a heap of wet snow falling right into your seat or on your head. You know how it goes; it’s winter fun.

    TOM: And don’t forget to clear snow around your headlights and your taillights. If your driver’s door is frozen, you can try all the doors and there may be ones that face the sun, where the ice has already started to melt.

    And you can also use a lock deicer or in a pinch, you can even use WD-40. Yes, it’s one of the million uses for that product; works well as a deicer.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Now, as for what to keep in your car should a storm strike, well, your snow kit should include a scraper, a small shovel or a broom – I like the fold-up shovels, like the Army shovels; very sturdy and easy to keep in the trunk – and of course, mittens or gloves and maybe even an extra pair of boots and you will be good to go.

    Which you’ll also be if you pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Josh in New York who’s dealing with a grouting issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    JOSH: Well, I tiled my bathroom and I set the tiles up and set the spacers in so that there would be grout lines. And once I mixed up the grout and put it in, pushed it in and wiped it off, set it to dry, it looks as though there are these little holes in where the grout is; almost like when a wave hits the beach and then the waves retreat and there are little holes in the sand where the clams are. They …

    TOM: Sounds like it wasn’t mixed very well; you got some air bubbles in there or something.

    JOSH: Yeah, yeah. I guess it’s just air bubbles and there are quite a few of them. What I’m wondering is, do I have to take one of those grout scrapers and scrape it all out and then redo it or can I just remix a batch and then go over it again?

    LESLIE: Fill it in.

    TOM: Hmm. What do you think, Leslie? Can he grout on top of grout? I’m not sure that ever works very well, for me.

    LESLIE: I don’t know how well it’ll stick to one another. I’ve never tried it so I …

    JOSH: I haven’t sealed it yet.

    LESLIE: Hmm. It’s not like concrete where you know they don’t mesh together.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: I would say it’s worth a shot, just to see, especially if you can get the mix better and you can fill in those areas and make sure you clean it up properly so you don’t get the clouding.

    And where did you say this was? Is it a floor?

    JOSH: On the shower wall.

    LESLIE: Shower wall. A wall would be OK. If it’s a floor, I might say no just because of the movement you might get. I say go for it.

    JOSH: OK. Well, that should be easy enough; as easy as grouting can be.

    TOM: Grouting is a fun job.

    LESLIE: Which some people find pretty complicated but it’s a matter of technique, as far the application: holding the float at a 45-degree angle so you really get it in there; not putting too much water when you’re wiping it away. It takes some finesse.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JOSH: Sure, yeah. This is my first project so I’m infinitely more proud of it than my neighbors would be of it but that’s OK. I’m learning, so – awesome.

    TOM: Josh, you’ve got nothing to lose. Worse comes to worse, you could always get a grout saw and pull the grout out and start again. But this is a great first project. Congratulations and enjoy it.

    JOSH: Alright, cool. Thank you.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Up next, dry, heated air is certainly common this time of year and it can definitely affect your health. A humidifier can help. We’ll tell you how to pick the best one for your house, next.

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And while you’re online, please visit our Community section and post your question to us right there. We’ve got one now from Deb and she writes that her home’s heating system is extremely dry. “But I have had very bad luck with humidifiers. Neither of the two previous humidifiers we had lasted more than a year.”

    LESLIE: I feel like that’s the general rule with humidifiers.

    TOM: We’ve heard that time and time again. And you know why? It’s because, typically, folks are choosing the least expensive humidifiers out there.

    LESLIE: And then running them and running them and running them.

    TOM: Well, absolutely, and not cleaning them, which has to happen.

    LESLIE: And you have to clean them. I was amazed. I think you and I have talked about this before. My son gets bloody noses. His room gets very dry, so we have to make sure we have a good humidifier in there.

    And I remember I bought one that was really super-fancy and opened up the instruction manual it was every day, put this piece in your dishwasher and scrub this piece and do that and I was like, “Really?” I didn’t do it. It didn’t last us more than a couple months.

    TOM: And that’s just the portables. I mean the ones that are permanently installed actually can last a lot longer. But think about it: as the water evaporates off, it leaves behind mineral deposits and that’s what clogs …

    LESLIE: Which are sticky, gunky stuff.

    TOM: Well, it gets kind of crusty. It’s usually lime and that kind of stuff.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It does.

    TOM: And it really jams the thing up.

    So, first of all, the type of humidifiers that have the drums on them and the foam pad, they’re not going to last more than a year or so. The best kind – the ones that have the vertical evaporator pads; Aprilaire makes one, Trane makes one – a little more expensive but they’re going to last.

    And you need to clean them regularly. You follow the manufacturer’s advice and then cleaning is very easy. Because the nice thing about mineral salts is it melts with vinegar; white vinegar. Don’t use red vinegar or your house will smell like a salad and it’s bad.

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: But white vinegar will make it all melt away. So if you maintain it, Deborah, you’ll find that you have a lot better success. And if you choose the type that have vertical evaporator coils – not the round, sort of squirrel-cage pad that’s on the least-expensive ones – that’s going to work the best. I think you’re just not maintaining what you have and you’re probably not choosing the best equipment.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got another posting here from Yvonne who wrote: “We are installing new hardwood floors. Upon entering the front door, is the wood laid lengthwise or crosswise? Is it supposed to be parallel or perpendicular to the front door?”

    TOM: It’s not a question of the door, isn’t it? It’s a question of the shape of the room. You want the wood to go lengthwise with the room.

    LESLIE: The length of the room. The longest run.

    TOM: Right. The direction of the wood should be the longest run.

    And a lot of people like to try different patterns with wood flooring but unless you have a really big room, it’s hard to get away with that, isn’t it, from a decorating perspective? Because doesn’t it make the room look smaller?

    LESLIE: It gets busy, it makes the room look small and then depending on how you’re going to use the space – or you’re going to just cover it up with a rug and then waste all of that hard work anyway.

    You know, a period detail that you see in a lot of older homes is very simple, traditional, wood floor planking layout the length of the room and then you can do a decorative border, which is what would stick out anyway. Maybe you inlay at a thinner width of planking, a darker wood or stain it a different color and sort of create a border or even sort of a Greek key pattern, where you’ve got that square that sort of loops back on itself in the four corners of the room, just as a decorative edging.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And that’ll really stand out and that’s something that you can do affordably. It’s something that even if you’re doing this entire project yourself, you can do that yourself and not worry about it being a huge expense. And it does add a lot of great detail to the space.

    But I say, when you’re saying wood flooring, make sure that the direction of the wood planks run in the longest width or the biggest run of that room and that’s really going to help you achieve the biggest-feeling space.

    TOM: And also, because this is a foyer, you want to use the best-quality, prefinished flooring that you can find. I would recommend Bellawood, which is one of the Lumber Liquidators brands, because think about it: as you walk in that foyer, all that dirt that gets on your feet, it’s just going to grind right in, so use good flooring.

    LESLIE: That you track in. Yeah, that’s really smart and you know what? A doormat. Get one that you like, that you’re going to use and really, if you can, just take off your shoes when you walk in the door. You’re going to save a lot of damage to the floor if you do that.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve helped you tackle at least one or two of those New Year’s resolutions but let’s face it, there’s plenty of time to get the rest done.

    TOM: 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.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2011 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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