Central AC Maintenance, How to Choose Vinyl Replacement Windows, Pool Deck Care Tips 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: Time to pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, we’re here to help you with your home improvement projects. We’re going to help you solve those do-it-yourself dilemmas. Maybe you don’t want to do it yourself; maybe you want to direct it yourself. You don’t know where to go, pick up the phone; we will help you get it started. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And as we roll through spring into summer, I have a prediction, Leslie. This is going to happen to somebody and probably a lot of somebodies. It never fails: hottest day of the year comes around and that’s when your air-conditioning system conks out.

    So this hour, we want to make sure that it is truly good to go. We’re going to have some simple, preventative-maintenance steps that you can take right now to head off any breakdowns before they happen.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And also ahead this hour, before we actually hit the peak air-conditioning season, we’re going to show you a new product that’s going to help you take advantage of those spring breezes. It’s a brand new exterior door that has vented sidelights. And these are super-cool and they act like mini screen doors, so you can open one side or either side or both sides of the front door. It’s a completely genius idea and you’re going to love it.

    TOM: And speaking of breezes, if you cringe every time you open those old, inefficient windows, you might want to think about replacing them just in time for the nice weather ahead, with some super-efficient, new vinyl windows that’ll start saving you money from the minute they’re installed.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know, another great project that we love to talk about, and it’s perfect for this time of year, is painting. So whether you’ve got to paint a room, a piece of furniture or your deck, this hour, we’re giving away the Green Toad Paint Brush System. It’s going to be a great tool; it’ll help you get all of those spring painting chores done. It’s worth about 40 bucks, so call us for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Mary from Iowa on the line who’s got a question about the furnace. How can we help you today?

    MARY: I have a forced-air furnace that I heat my garage with.

    TOM: OK.

    MARY: And what would be the best furnace filter for that? Because I don’t like any dust out there.

    TOM: Well, that’s a good question and you have several options.

    First of all, the standard furnace installation comes with a fiberglass filter and of course, that just keeps the big particles out. You can use a high-efficiency filter. I know that 3M has one that’s quite good called Filtrete – F-i-l-t-r-e-t-e. And that will do a much better job than the fiberglass – standard fiberglass – filter.

    And then if you really want to keep out a lot of dust, then you go for electronic air cleaner. And now you can have something that actually is so efficient, it will keep out virus-sized particles. So three good options. And if you don’t want to dust – and we feel your pain on that – you’ve got to put in a good-quality filter.

    MARY: OK. Well, anyway, I certainly appreciate the fact that I got a chance to talk to you and you answered my question.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Dan in Florida who’s dealing with a roofing issue. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    DAN: I have an asphalt-shingle roof and I’ve noticed some of the nails from the wood are popping up but not coming through or protruding through the shingles.

    TOM: OK.

    DAN: And I’m wondering how is the best way to correct that and what other measures can I take for future problems that may occur with other areas of the roof?

    TOM: Well, sometimes with – wood starts to expand and contract, it tends to spit the nail out, so to speak. And as long as those nails aren’t breaking through the surface, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    If you do have any that are pushing up a shingle, Dan, what I would do is I would get up there and lift up the loose tab of the shingle and try to nail those back down again. Or you could put another nail next to the one that’s loose and cover the head of the loose nail with the new one that you’re putting in. Because this way, you’ll be biting into some new wood. Do you follow me?

    DAN: Yes, I do. Would you recommend any sealant while I have that ability to …?

    TOM: It’s not a sealant issue; it’s a nailing issue. And unless the shingle is sticking up for some reason, there’s really no need to seal anything. Because the nails are covered by the shingles; they’re not exposed to the weather.

    DAN: That is correct, yes.

    TOM: OK?

    DAN: Alright. I appreciate it. I just thought, perhaps, I should seal it. And should I change it and go with a different nail or anything like that?

    TOM: Nope. Just use a standard roofing nail and overlap the head of the old nail and you’ll be good to go.

    DAN: Alright, great. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Dan. 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 pick up the phone and give us a call, because we can help you with all of your home improvement projects, whether it’s getting ready for Memorial Day or that summer chore you’ve been putting off. So give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’re going to talk a bit about new windows. Do you know that they can help you increase your curb appeal, save energy and cut down on both heating and cooling costs, if you know about the latest in replacement-window technology? We will share those tips, after this.

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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 four times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. This hour, we’re going to give away, to one lucky caller, the Green Toad Paint Brush System worth 40 bucks.

    Now, like me, you might be wondering why would anyone want to name a product after a green toad?

    LESLIE: They’re really cute?

    TOM: And so, curiosity got the best of me and I discovered that these Green Toad products are treated with a polymer additive that makes them biodegradable and compostable and green.

    LESLIE: Interesting.

    TOM: It’s first – it’s the first truly ergonomic, pivoting paint-brush system. It’s got a 360-degree, pivoting brush head. Very cool product. Going to go out to one caller we talk to on the air this hour at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, this is a perfect time of the year to tackle a painting project but it’s also a great time to think about replacing your windows. And the best that technology has to offer in that category are the new vinyl windows.

    So think about it. If last year’s cooling bills have really got you feeling a chill up your spine, then consider replacing any older, drafty windows and keep the cool air in your house this summer, you know, where you can actually enjoy it.

    So, to learn what you need to know when you’re choosing a vinyl window, our friends and experts over at Simonton Windows have helped us put together our complete window-replacement guide and we’re offering it for free at MoneyPit.com. And it’s the ultimate window guide and it’s got great tips on everything that you need to know when you’re selecting windows, from style to hardware to energy-efficiency and also how to get the very best warranty that you can find out there.

    TOM: And that’s important. And the experts at Simonton have the facts and they proved that installing energy-efficient, vinyl windows will definitely immediately reduce your heating and cooling bills, give you a great curb appeal and increase your home’s value.

    But here is something that’s important to know: you need to ask about the R-5 rated windows. Now, like when you buy insulation, the higher the R-value means you have more resistance to heat loss. So the R-5 rated windows are the ultimate in energy-efficiency and in fact, research has shown that the average heat loss through windows can be reduced by as much as 40 percent with the R-5 windows.

    LESLIE: That’s huge.

    TOM: That’s a lot. You can learn more about that topic and everything you need to know about replacement windows at your house by downloading the free window-replacement guide at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Ed in West Virginia. You’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    ED: Yes. I’m thinking about building a – I guess it would be called a porch, since it’s going to be like a deck with a porch – with a roof over it and a patio beneath.


    ED: And I was wondering whether I should use composite material or just treated wood. Since it’s going to be covered, I figured the treated wood may be the best way to go.

    TOM: Well, the treated wood will last a long time and because it’s not going to be exposed to the sunlight, it also will be less likely to crack and check.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And also less likely to need to be refinished as often as one that were baking in the sun.

    ED: Right. OK. So the treated would be just as good?

    TOM: It would be fine. It’s going to be less expensive and you are going to need to refinish it from time to time but because it’s under a roof, it’s not going to be exposed to the UV radiation and therefore, it’s not going to crack and check and it’ll look good for a long time.

    ED: I see. OK. Well, good.

    TOM: And you’ll save some money.

    ED: OK. That’s what it’s all about.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: True.

    TOM: Ed, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ooh, Beverly in Delaware is having some issues with a contractor. How can we help you?

    BEVERLY: Hey, love your show.

    TOM: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Beverly.

    BEVERLY: Listen to it every Saturday on WDEL in Wilmington.

    TOM: Alright.

    BEVERLY: I hired a contractor. He started a job, did it halfway, took my money and left and I haven’t seen him since.

    TOM: Oh, no.

    BEVERLY: The problem is my mom is 87, is moving in and I have a half of a shower – walk-in shower, 4×4 – and the plan was to put glass blocks from the top of the tiled wall to the ceiling. Is that something I can do myself to finish it off or do I have to hire someone?

    TOM: Well, glass blocks are a little bit tricky because it’s kind of like setting brick. I mean you have to have a mortar and then you stack them up one at a time and that’s actually what makes the wall. So you have to do it one on top of another on top of the other, plus you have to be able to make sure that the sizing works out right because you can’t end up with half a glass block, because you can’t cut them.

    BEVERLY: Right. Any special way to cut them if I have to cut them?

    TOM: No, actually what you want to do is design it so that you don’t have to cut them and buy the right-size pieces.


    TOM: Now let me ask you about this contractor that took off halfway through.

    BEVERLY: Right.

    TOM: So, why don’t you go to the police and say – and file a theft charge against them?

    BEVERLY: Well, I’ve been trying to deal with the attorney general’s office on the Consumer Protection and I’m playing phone tag.

    TOM: Right.

    BEVERLY: And so that was my next step because I just get voice-mails and no one’s really helping me, even though …

    TOM: Did you pay them and so that, basically, they took your money and ran?

    BEVERLY: Right, I paid him in increments as part of the job was done: the demolition, the drywall, the painting, the – whatever.

    TOM: Right.

    BEVERLY: And so – and then I paid them to order my doors and windows. I finally took advantage of the tax rebate this year and I was going to get a Therma-Tru door because I’ve heard you guys talk about it so much.

    TOM: Right.

    BEVERLY: So I had to give them the money to get the windows and doors and of course, I don’t have any of that either.

    LESLIE: Oh, my God. They didn’t even order them for you?

    TOM: Oh. Well, listen, if the contractor has acted in a fraudulent way like that, you can file a theft charge against them; I would check with your attorney. But generally, you can go to the police department and if they essentially take your money and run, like this guy did, that’s stealing. That’s not something that you have to necessarily go after them civilly for; you can go after them criminally.

    And you’ll find that even the sleaziest contractors, if they think that there’s a chance they’re going to get a criminal complaint on their record, they may settle up with you. So I think you can do both at the same time but obviously, check with your own lawyer; I can’t give you legal advice. But I’ve done it here and I tell you, it works; it works well.

    BEVERLY: So I can go to the police department and start there?

    TOM: Yeah.


    TOM: Go to the police department and try to file a theft complaint. They basically took your money and ran.

    BEVERLY: Right.

    TOM: That’s theft.

    BEVERLY: Yes.

    TOM: Alright? That’s not a contract dispute. It’s not like they built it; you didn’t like the way it came out.

    LESLIE: They stole your money.

    TOM: They charged you for something; they stole your money. There’s no difference between that and somebody …

    LESLIE: Walking up to you and taking your purse.

    TOM: Exactly.


    TOM: Alright?

    BEVERLY: I appreciate it greatly. Keep up the good work.

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

    LESLIE: That’s so crazy. I feel like it’s the one arena where people are like, “Oh, well, they took my money. I’m kind of screwed.” It’s like, no, you can do something about this.

    TOM: Exactly. You’re not screwed.

    LESLIE: Greg in Colorado Springs, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    GREG: I have an outside garage refrigerator and when it’s cold outside – obviously, below freezing – it freezes everything inside the refrigerator.

    TOM: OK. So you want to know how to warm up your refrigerator, huh?

    GREG: Well, not necessarily but if there’s a quick fix, maybe.

    TOM: Well, there’s not a quick fix. The problem here is with the refrigeration cycle. Now, a normal refrigerator is not designed to work in extreme temperatures: either extreme hot or extreme cold. A refrigerator is designed to work in room temperature. And when you get super-hot and super-cold, it does odd things like freeze. There are, however, special appliances that are designed to work in an unheated or unconditioned space: probably the most famous of which are made by the Whirlpool company under the brand name Gladiator.

    There’s two products: there’s the Chillerator and the Fridgerator (ph) convertible refrigerator/freezer. The Chillerator is just a garage refrigerator and the Freezerator basically gives you two compartments that are actually reversible: one can be the refrigerator, one could be the freezer or you could flip them. They’re not inexpensive but they do work and they do work very well and they’re extremely well-made.

    GREG: Well, I appreciate that. So then you can’t like leave a light bulb on them or anything like that? That makes sense.

    TOM: No, because you’re dealing with an appliance that’s just not designed to work in an unconditioned space. Even though we know many of us have refrigerators in our garage that are sort of our old refrigerator, they’re just not designed to work there. The refrigeration cycle isn’t cut out for it.

    GREG: I appreciate your help and thanks for taking the call.

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

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

    NANCY: Hi. We are wondering about hot-water heaters.


    TOM: OK.

    NANCY: We live in a ranch-style home and our bedrooms and bathrooms are on one end of the house where the hot-water heater is – down in the basement – and our kitchen and laundry is on the other end of the house about 50 feet between. Our hot-water heater is about 15 years old, so we’re probably going to have to replace it anyway. But our problem is mainly to get hot water in the kitchen, we have to leave it run for like five minutes.

    LESLIE: Oh, wow.

    TOM: Yep, mm-hmm. Yeah.

    NANCY: And then halfway through doing the dishes, to do some rinsing, the water is cold.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, the solution here is to shorten the distance between the water heater and the kitchen. And one way to do that is to split the single-zone, hot-water system that you have into two zones and add a tankless water heater nearer to the kitchen. Because a tankless …

    NANCY: Put a tankless hot-water heater near the kitchen?

    TOM: Yeah, near the kitchen. Yep.

    NANCY: OK.

    TOM: They’re very small; they’re very powerful.

    LESLIE: They take up very little space.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. And if you do it before the end of the year, you can get a tax credit because they’re very energy-efficient, as well.

    NANCY: OK. So how about the hot-water heater down by the bathrooms and where we take our showers?

    TOM: You could add a second tankless water heater to that location, as well.

    NANCY: Oh.

    LESLIE: I mean you’re definitely going to have to replace your existing water heater because you said it’s 15 years old.

    NANCY: That’s correct.

    LESLIE: And generally, the lifespan is 10 years-ish.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: If you’re lucky, 7 to 10 years. So you’ve done very well. So I would take advantage of the tax credits and replace that one and then definitely add the secondary one. You can go tankless for both but definitely tankless for the additional.

    NANCY: OK. So, could they both – could they be smaller tankless ones or do you need …?

    TOM: Yeah. You would size them for the number of fixtures that they’re handling.

    NANCY: Uh-huh.

    TOM: This way you’d have one that’s just the right size; it’s not going to waste any gas. But a tankless water heater would be the hot ticket today because it only operates when it – when you need water and it essentially supplies an unlimited amount of hot water.

    NANCY: OK.

    TOM: Alright?

    NANCY: OK. Alright. Well, I think that should do it.

    TOM: Alright, well good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Joe in Iowa has a siding question. What can we do for you?

    JOE: I have a corner piece, on my house, that’s broken and I was wondering if you knew of any way of replacing that corner piece without removing all the siding.

    TOM: Hmm. This is vinyl siding?

    JOE: Vinyl siding, right.

    TOM: Yeah. Hmm. Well, I tell you, I think that you could probably cut out that corner piece and sort of surgically extract it. Then, with a flat bar, you could reach in underneath each edge of the vinyl siding and make sure you loosen up the nails just with a flat bar. You reach under it, keep it flat, wiggle it back and forth and just get them a little bit loose so that you have a little bit of room to work. Right?

    JOE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: And then you could bend the corner and insert it under both sort of edges of the vinyl siding on both sides of the corner. I bet you could work it in. The thing is, the key is going to be to get rid of the nails that are in the way.

    JOE: Right, right.

    TOM: OK?

    JOE: So cut out a little piece and just replace that little piece? Now, overlap the corners on it or …?

    TOM: No, the cracked piece is not – is obviously going to be replaced so once you have the new piece in your hand, that would have been nailed in first. So you have to kind of cut out the old piece and get all – get rid of all the nails; use a flat bar.

    But what I’m concerned about is the vinyl siding that’s sort of laying into that. If there’s any nails that are close to the corner, you may have to pull those out or at least loosen them up, because you don’t want anything to obstruct it when you go to work the new piece in. And then you’re going to basically get the corner underneath the vinyl siding on both sides of it.

    JOE: Right, right.

    TOM: You have to get creative on how you final-nail it but I think it could definitely could be done.

    JOE: Yeah. Alright. Well, thanks very much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, before it gets super-hot, now is the perfect time to make sure that your air conditioning can handle that heat load. We’re going to tell you how, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Behr Premium Exterior Weatherproofing Wood Stains and Finishes, with an advanced, 100-percent acrylic resin to protect decks, siding and fences from sun, rain, snow and ice. The line offers long-lasting beauty and excellent durability. For more information, visit Behr.com. That’s B-e-h-r.com. Behr products are available exclusively at The Home Depot.

    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, are you getting ready for a summer season of grilling and chilling on your deck? If so, you might want to check out our post on doing a deck check, on MoneyPit.com. We will teach you how to make sure that your deck is good to go for the entire season including, most importantly, how to make sure it’s safe. Because every year, we hear about deck collapses and we don’t want that to happen to you.

    We’ve also got great ideas there on how you can decorate your outdoor room. It’s all online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Royce in Texas is calling in with a brick question. What can we help you with?

    ROYCE: Yes. My brick – I have – my house is on pier and beam and it’s shifting and I have some small cracks in the brick like ½-inch to, oh, ¾-inch wide in some spots. And I was wondering the best way to seal those, if mortar mix would be a good way to seal or if I should use something else.

    TOM: So, cracks in the brick are generally reparable with silicone caulk. You don’t want to use mortar because, if you do, what’s going to happen is the mortar will freeze and fall out. If you have any type of damage to masonry, you generally want to use a silicone caulk or an epoxy patching compound if it’s big enough and you can trowel it in.

    ROYCE: OK, an epoxy patching compound.

    TOM: That’s right, an epoxy compound. You can buy that at a home center or hardware store.

    ROYCE: But it’s called e-p-o-x-y?

    TOM: That’s right. Mm-hmm, that’s correct. That’s what sticks to concrete or brick and will be permanent and won’t fall out.

    ROYCE: Oh, OK. And you just put that in with a trowel or something?

    TOM: That’s correct, Royce.

    ROYCE: Oh, OK. Alright.

    TOM: Alright? But if it’s just a hairline crack or maybe open an 1/8 of an inch, I would just caulk that and use silicone for that.

    ROYCE: OK. Thank you so much.
    TOM: You’re welcome, Royce. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s not that hot yet but in just a few short weeks, you’ll be reaching for your thermostat and cranking up your A/C.

    TOM: And that’s why now is the perfect time to check your air-conditioning system, to make sure it’s ready to go before that sweltering heat sets in and you’re on the waiting list for a repairman. Here to give us tips on how to get that job done is This Old House HVAC expert, Richard Trethewey.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Nice to be here, guys.

    TOM: And there is nothing worse than finding out your A/C does not work on the hottest day of the summer.

    RICHARD: I know.

    TOM: It’s happened to all of us once or twice before. How do we make sure that we’re ready before the sun shows up?

    RICHARD: Well, it only breaks down on the hot days.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: Of course.

    RICHARD: And because you’re dealing with refrigerant and electricity, you really want to call a professional. And any professional is going to come in, he’s going to start by looking at the proper refrigerant or the freon. There’s a bunch of different freons being used. That’s all licensed and you want to make sure the right level is there; too little or too much will give you a lack of cooling.

    You know, you also want to check all of the electrical components. It’s amazing to me how many times it’s nothing but a thermostat that’s got a loose wire in the back side of it and just some of the basics. We always think the worst but sometimes, it’s pretty straightforward.

    And then it’s to clean the evaporator coils and the condenser coils. Now, the basic refrigeration cycle requires you to extract heat from inside the house and that means air that’s inside the house has to come up through that air handler.

    Now, if you’ve got cat hair, if you’ve got no filters, if you’ve got things that are going to clog that coil, it’s going to affect the performance on the taking out of the heat side and the same thing on the other side, outside. If you have a condenser outside that’s supposed to be dumping heat to outside and that’s obscured by leaves or anything else, then you’ve got to make sure that’s clean. And so there’s always coil cleaners the professionals will use to try and degrease or to sort of cut some of that dirt off the coil.

    TOM: I think homeowners tend to think that if it worked fine last summer, it’s going to work fine this summer.

    RICHARD: Yeah. That’s right.

    TOM: And they don’t understand the fact that the evaporator coil, to your point, takes air throughout the entire heating season, as well.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: So that can get clogged even when you’re not running the A/C.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Absolutely. That’s right.

    Any motors, we want to oil if they can be oiled. You want to calibrate the thermostat; sometimes, it’s just loose on the wall. And you really want to check your filters; the filters are critical. And when I say that, that’s – the professionals are going to check it right off the bat. But there’s other things that the homeowners can do and that starts by checking those filters regularly.

    LESLIE: Now, you mentioned that you really should bring in a pro but is it better to bring in the pro at the end of the cooling season or prior to the cooling season starting up? I mean because you mentioned it’s going to run during the winter, as well, and you could get some issues with the evaporator coil. So when do you get that pro in to do that maintenance?

    RICHARD: No matter what I answer, people are only going to call for service when it breaks down. But it should be done before the cooling season.


    RICHARD: You’re at the mercy of an overworked refrigeration staff if you wait for that hottest day of the year and it all breaks down, because everybody’s calling at the same time. You really – it’s much more sane and logical to call before the problem.

    LESLIE: Now what can you do, as a homeowner, to sort of either ready the system for that pro coming in or what things can you do on your own to keep things in tip-top shape?

    RICHARD: Now, another really important thing to do is to change the filters. People don’t realize that the air from the house has to go up through this filter and has to then be heated or cooled and then it comes back into the room. Now, that means air is on a lot. If you’ve got cat hairs or dirt that could clog the filter, it’s going to affect the performance of that unit.

    TOM: It’s not going to be nearly as efficient because the temperature has to get past all that. It’s almost an insulating mat on the filter.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Some people will pull the filters out and then it becomes even worse because then the air-conditioning coil, which has got all kinds of fins in it, gets fully clogged and you’ve got to have a pro come in and clean it.

    TOM: And that becomes the insulating mat.

    RICHARD: Absolutely.

    TOM: Now, what about the filters? There’s so many different varieties out there.

    LESLIE: And different price points.

    TOM: And different price points, too. You have the basic – I call them the “pebble stoppers.”

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: They’re the real thin, fiberglass ones for the big cat hairs.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah.

    TOM: But where do you think a happy medium is?

    RICHARD: Well, at the least case, you should at least have those pebble stoppers, just to keep the cat hairs and the basics off. But we find most people settle on the electrostatic filter and that’s one that has a slight electrical charge into it.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: Makes the dirt particles become positively charged and attract to the filter. And that’s something you can pull out and wash in the dishwasher and bring back and it can give you high level of filtration.

    TOM: And you probably don’t have to change it nearly as much. Certainly not once a month.

    RICHARD: Well, that really depends on the air quality in the house. There are houses that if you look on a sunny day, there’s just dirt and dust particles flying all around and a lot of times, household pets can actually exacerbate it pretty good.

    TOM: Let me ask you about that winter cover because in the years I spent as a home inspector, we used to find those all the time. And I learned once that in some cases, the warranties on the compressors can be voided by that because of the condensation that collects under those covers. Do you think it’s a good idea to cover your compressor in the winter?

    RICHARD: Well, basic, outside condensers are designed to be out – left out in the elements. So, it’s – some people are very nervous about leaves and things getting in, so they want to be put the covers on. And I’m not sure about the warranty item, Tom, as far as the compressor but – I’m not going to say don’t do it but you’ve got to make sure that you pull them off and you get plenty of air flow in the spring. You want – yeah.

    TOM: It’s not going to very long if you try to operate it with that cover on it.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Not if you keep it on there.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah.

    TOM: Richard Trethewey from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Because of your advice, I think a lot of us are going to be a lot more comfortable this summer.

    RICHARD: Hope so.

    LESLIE: Now you can watch Richard and the entire This Old House team on This Old House or Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

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

    Still to come, we’ve got tips on a way to cool your home without using your central A/C. We’re going to tell you about a new front-entry system that’s got sidelights that can be opened just like miniature doors. They’re called vented sidelights and we’ll tell you all about that, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac, makers of the number one-selling Guardian Series Home Standby Generators. Now introducing a full line of consumer and professional power washers. Whether you need to power it, clean it or protect it, Generac can help. Visit Generac.com to learn more.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, if you pick up the phone and give us a call, we’re going to help you with your home improvement projects but we’re also going to give you a chance to win a great prize. And we’ve got a very seasonal prize up for grabs. We’re giving away the Green Toad Paint Brush System, because everybody loves to paint in the springtime. Autumn is great for painting, too, but this time of year, it’s really nice to paint your room and give it a fresh look.

    And this paint-brush system has a comfort grip and a 360-degree rotating brush head that locks into 8 different positions. So now the brush’ll do the work and your hand doesn’t have to get all awkward; it’s really great. So you can paint, stain – whatever you want – any surface from any angle. And the coolest part is that it’s also biodegradable and you can even add it to your compost pile. It’s a truly green product.

    The Green Toad Paint Brush System is worth 40 bucks. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your home improvement answers and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, if you love those breezy spring weekends and opening your windows just isn’t enough for you, you might want to think about the new vented-sidelight options that are available on Therma-Tru entry doors.

    This is very cool. There’s no one else in the country that’s doing this and they’re mini hinged doors. They flank both sides of the main entry door and they’re also available on patio doors. And they can be opened independently to allow fresh air and sunlight into the home.

    We first saw these at the International Builders’ Show this year and I have recently ordered my very own because I was so blown away by the idea. You know, think about those sidelights. They take up a lot of space and wouldn’t it be great to keep the door closed? Because if you’ve got a beautiful door, right, typically you don’t want to put a storm door on it or a screen door.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: And you don’t have to. But you want to let a little breeze go through. So with the vented sidelight, the screen is only on the sidelight. You open up the sidelight and you’re good to go.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you’re right. When we were at the International Builders’ Show, it was in January. Therma-Tru, really, they had a beautiful booth. They were highlighting some fantastic new designs for their fiberglass doors and I mean you can walk up to these doors and have no idea that they’re fiberglass and think that they’re just beautifully constructed, solid mahogany or whatever it is that you’re looking at. So they really do have a great product.

    And these sidelights – the vented sidelights – are just a genius idea. It was one of those things that Tom and I were like, “Rawr, why didn’t we think of that?” So it’s truly a wonderful door and Therma-Tru is the only company on the market that offered decorative glass panels in those vented sidelights.

    Check out their website because it’s really helpful. You’ll learn a lot about the product; you’ll get some design ideas. And the website’s ThermaTru.com.

    TOM: That’s ThermaTru.com. Or give us a call right now with your home improvement question. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Lavonne in Kansas needs some help with a flooring project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    LAVONNE: Well, I have an old farm home. It was built in 1942.

    TOM: Wow.

    LAVONNE: And the wood is black walnut flooring. So, over the years, it’s starting to show some real wear and I don’t know how to – what do I need to do to get it back looking great?

    TOM: Well, that’s a beautiful flooring. Well, depends on how much wear you’re seeing. Obviously, you have to sand it. The degree of sanding is what you have to decide.

    Now, you can sand it right down to raw wood with a floor sander, which is like a big belt sander. But we don’t recommend that you do that yourself because the equipment, even if you rent it, is a bit hard to handle. If it just needs a light sanding, you can use a machine called a “U-Sand” machine. I think their website is U-Sand.com with the letter U, – S-a-n-d.com.

    And it’s a four-head, rotating-disk sander that’s designed for floors. A lot easier for an amateur to handle because it’s very hard to do any damage with it and it has a vacuum built in, so it sort of sucks the dust off.

    But one way or the other, you’ve got to sand the floor down and then you have to apply a couple of coats of polyurethane. I would use oil-based polyurethane and that’s all there is to it.

    LAVONNE: Alright. What kind of – do I need to put anything on top of that as maintenance or just …?

    TOM: Nope, nope.


    TOM: Once you put down a couple of coats of polyurethane, you’ll be good to go.

    LAVONNE: Alright. Sounds good.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Coming up, if you haven’t done so already, very soon it’s going to be time to open up your pool for the season. Hooray!

    Still ahead, we are going to share some pool-maintenance tips that are going to make your summer swimming stress-free.

    TOM: And if you don’t happen to have your own pool, you could use these tips to help the neighbor who’s got the pool down the street, therefore guaranteeing yourself a cool swim whenever you want it, all summer long.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We’ll be back, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And oh wait, excuse me, I’m too busy being on Facebook all the time. Because like everybody out there, it seems, people are addicted to Facebook, my goodness.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: So why not, instead of finding out what your high-school friends are doing, when you are on Facebook, why not find out what’s going on at The Money Pit? You can fan us on Facebook and if you do so, you are going to get exclusive information about product reviews, you’re going to be the first to learn about all of our latest articles and blog posts and of course, you’ll find out what we’re giving away on the show each week. And it’s all on Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    And if you head on over to MoneyPit.com, the website’s awesome. We’ve got a great Community section there. You can post questions that we’ll all answer. And I’ve got one here that John in Freehold, New Jersey posted, saying, “I am thinking about installing an inground pool.” Alright, what’s your address? I’ll come over for a swim. “However, I’ve heard that you do not get any of your money back when selling and that it can be harder to sell a house that has a pool.”

    I have heard that.

    TOM: Yes, absolutely. And in fact, in all the years that I was a professional home inspector, we used to get that question all the time, because you …

    LESLIE: Now, would you have to actually know about pool operations or did you not really inspect the pool?

    TOM: We didn’t really inspect the pool. What we did was, you know, basically give some people – some folks – advice on how to handle closings and things of that nature. But what was interesting is that half of the people that bought houses that had a pool loved it and the other half wanted to know: “How do I get rid of it? How do I fill it in? How do I make it go away?”

    And that might have been because we were mostly in the Northeast.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Now, you go down to Florida, other warm climates …

    LESLIE: And you’re the odd man out if you don’t have a pool.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. So it’s very, very regional in terms of whether or not that actually adds value to your house. But the farther you go north, I would say that, typically, the less value it will add.

    So if you’re going to put one in, just make sure that you can use it, your kids are going to use it, you’re really going to enjoy it. Don’t necessarily count on it adding value to your house. There are other improvements that do add value but I don’t think that that’s one that does.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I would imagine that if you’re in the market to buy a home and suddenly there’s a pool and if it’s not really something you were considering, you’re going to have to then think about the operational costs annually from opening and closing to the maintenance. So, really, that’s something to consider because you don’t want to be shocked and surprised, should you buy a home with a pool, and then all of a sudden find out there’s hundreds if not thousands of dollars of work every season.

    But me, personally, I like them.

    TOM: Staying on a theme now, Leslie. We’ve got one here from Jim in Florida who does have a pool.

    LESLIE: OK. Well, he’s in Florida. Make sense.

    TOM: And he wants to resurface his pool which is currently a Kool Deck which, of course, is a type of coating material for that deck around the pool. He’s asking if he can use a light-colored, sanded grout on top of the Kool Deck. My answer to that would be no because …

    LESLIE: That’s not going to last.

    TOM: You’re never going to get adhesion. Getting Kool Deck off is a boatload of work. I know contractors that sandblast it off. And if you sandblast it off, you’ll end up getting down to the original concrete and you’ll probably take out some of the softer portions of the concrete and expose some aggregate.

    Not necessarily a bad thing but that means that when you put the next coating on, it has to be built up enough to cover that. So …

    LESLIE: Now, when you get down to the aggregate, Tom, can you then put new concrete on top of that or even at that point, you need to go with some sort of a compound?

    TOM: Not concrete. I mean if you ever had to put something concrete-wise on, you would put an epoxy patching compound. But you could put another layer of Kool Deck on it. You’re just going to have to build it up enough and have it thick enough so that it actually sits sort of on top of that rough aggregate.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Jim in Florida? You can always think about doing something like a tile, a natural stone or even pavers. Brick pavers look great around a pool. Either way, get out there this season and have a good time.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show continues online at MoneyPit.com. And remember, you can pick up the phone any time of the day or night and reach us with your home improvement question, at 1-888-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.

    (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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