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Childproof Your Home for the Holidays, Chimney Safety Tips, Home Appliances Worth Your Money 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: Pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. It is the ho-ho-home improvement season. We know there’s a project on your to-do list: something that you want to tackle before the end of the year. Maybe you’re getting your house ready for holiday visitors. Maybe you want to start off the new year right with a resolution that you want to plan for to get done on your house. All great questions. Pick up the phone and help yourself first by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is a popular time of year for the roaring fire in the fireplace. It kind of goes hand in hand with the holidays, right? But if you’ve neglected your chimney, you could be facing a giant hazard. So this hour, we’re going to teach you how to maintain your chimney and stay safe.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, safety should also be a top concern if you’ve got kids or you’re expecting guests who have kids during the holidays.

    Now, thousands of children are injured in the home this time of year, so we’re going to give you tips on how to childproof your home.

    TOM: And we all have that one hard-to-buy-for person on our holiday shopping list. And if you’re still scratching your head, we’re going to talk to the editor of Consumers Digest. He’ll be here with some tips about the best home gadgets on the market.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away the Twist Handheld Showerhead from Moen, which places four different spray patterns at your fingertips.

    TOM: It’s a great prize. It’s worth 65 bucks. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question, so give us a call right now. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. Pete from Iowa is on the line about a leak in the basement. Tell us what’s going on.

    PETE: Well, we – it’s actually happened a couple times. We lost carpet once. But we had some heavy rains and the sump pump works. Everything works fine but between the basement floor and the walls seems like that’s where the water’s coming up through. And it’s weird because probably the biggest amount of water is coming up right below where the garage floor is.

    TOM: Alright. So this is an easy problem to solve. We just need to figure out what’s wrong with your outside drainage conditions.

    LESLIE: And what’s suddenly different. Do you have gutters on the house and downspouts?

    PETE: Yep.


    PETE: Yeah, we have downspouts and they go out about 12 feet all the way around so …

    LESLIE: Well, it’s possible, since you say that the basement’s been dry for 15 years and this is new with rainfall, that maybe one of your downspouts has become either disconnected or is clogged and it’s causing that water to either overflow or gather or not move to the place it’s supposed to, because that’s exactly what happened at my house. We had a clogged downspout, I didn’t realize it and we ended up with a flooded basement. Once that was solved, everything was dry again.

    TOM: The second thing to take a look at is the grading on the outside of the house. And I realize that you say it’s coming from where the garage floor is but just mind the fact that it can travel, yes.

    LESLIE: Oh, it can travel.

    TOM: It can travel quite successfully and mysteriously, too, so it can show up. I’ve seen rain – I’ve seen problems with drainage result in little geysers in the middle of basement floors and once you fix some grading or gutter issue, it totally goes away.

    So, you need to be mindful of the grading at the outside of the foundation perimeter of the house. Soil can settle over the years; walks can settle. If there’s anything that’s allowing water or trapping water against the house or not letting it run away, that’s going to be a contributing factor.

    But the good news is that this is happening absolutely consistent with heavy rainfall, so we need to figure out what’s wrong with the drainage.

    LESLIE: So it’s nothing else.

    TOM: If you told me this was happening inconsistently with the rainfall or heavy snow melt, that would be another issue. But because it rains, it leaks, it rains, it leaks, there’s something wrong with the exterior drainage and you just need to get to the bottom of it and it’ll go away.

    PETE: OK, great. Well, very good. Thanks for the help.

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

    LESLIE: Mary in Georgia is looking for a helping hand with her home renovation. What can we do for you?

    MARY: Do you have any information on grants or loans for home renovations? And I thought I heard you, a few weeks ago, mention a one-percent loan for home renovation?

    TOM: Hmm. I’m not sure what that is but I will tell you that HUD has a number of programs in the Georgia area for different types of home repair and home renovation loans.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Or grants even. Yeah and HUD is the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. And they’ve got a really great website: it’s HUD.gov. But if you do a little bit more investigating, once you get onto their site you’ll see that they have a program called the City Development Block Grant or Community Development Block Grant – CDBG. And there’s actually a contact in Atlanta and they are so kind to give us her name and phone number. And I’d be happy to share that with you and it could be a start.

    MARY: Alright, good.

    LESLIE: Alright. Do you have a pen and paper?

    MARY: Yes, I do.

    LESLIE: Alright. Her name – and she’s going to be so happy that we’re announcing this on air – her name is Miss Jocelyn Ross and she is the director for the Office of Grants Management for Atlanta.

    MARY: Oh, good. Oh, good.

    LESLIE: And you can reach her directly at 404-330-6112.

    MARY: Oh, wonderful. That’s 404-330-6112?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    MARY: Miss Jocelyn Ross?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I say give her a buzz first thing in the morning and see what she says.

    TOM: And tell her that Tom and Leslie said hello.

    MARY: Oh, alright. I certainly will. That’s wonderful.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Mary.

    MARY: Well, thank you so much and thank you for being there. I love your program.

    TOM: Thank you, Mary. Have a great day.

    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 at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, if not properly maintained, your chimney could become a big fire hazard this holiday season. We’ll tell you how to keep it working and safe, after this.

    (theme song)

    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.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the new Twist Handheld Shower from Moen.

    Now, with the Twist, you can switch between four different spray patterns simply with your thumb. You can go from Immerse, which is kind of an invigorating spray, to Soothe, which is a heavy mist. It installs in minutes. It’s got a design that’s going to coordinate with any bathroom style.

    Now, the Twist Handheld Shower from Moen is available at Home Depot but you could win one right now if you pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, some of your favorite holiday memories are often made while you and your family are sitting around a cozy fire in your fireplace. But a neglected chimney could result in a disaster.

    Chimney fires, they are one of the most dangerous types of household fires and they are fueled by a dirty chimney. Now, in there, temperatures can reach 2,000 degrees and destroy an entire home in a flash. The chimney is essentially a vent pipe that allows hot exhaust gases to pass safely through your home. So whether you’ve got a brick or metal chimney, both can present problems if you do not properly maintain them.

    TOM: That’s right. And here’s why: you know, when wood burns, it sends residue up the chimney and when that mixes with the condensation, you get creosote, which is incredibly difficult to clean. So it’s best to leave that job to a professional chimney sweep.

    Now, you also want to inspect the structure of your chimney. You can look outside to see if it appears to be leaning or separating from the house. You can use binoculars to look for cracks, to look for loose bricks or to check for any vegetation that might have grown around it or even in it, because that can block the flue.

    Now, if you want more detailed instruction on how to keep your chimney safe, all you’ve got to do is go to our website – that’s MoneyPit.com – and search “chimney repair and cleaning.”

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

    JOHN: Well, hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom. I have a question about a friend’s home that has a wood foundation and a …

    TOM: A wood foundation, huh?

    JOHN: A wood foundation.

    TOM: Wow.

    JOHN: And above grade, you can see a dimpled membrane that was nailed in place. And over a period of time, this membrane has been compromised due to the landscaping that’s around the house. I believe it’s settled and it’s pulling this membrane downward away from underneath the siding. And in doing so, it’s cracked and broken and it’s just not in good condition so …

    TOM: What’s the membrane made out of?

    JOHN: It’s like a plastic-type material.

    TOM: It’s covering the foundation or it’s underneath the siding or both?

    JOHN: Both. It was installed so that the siding laps over the top of the membrane.

    TOM: Right.

    JOHN: And it’s nailed in place to what looks like just plywood, I believe is the outer part of the foundation.

    TOM: Huh. Yeah, it’s very interesting, John. I can’t for the life of me imagine what this looks like. I’d like to suggest that you go to MoneyPit.com and go to the Community section and then post a photo of it right there. You can actually create a question, attach some photos of it and let’s have a look. And between Leslie, myself and the rest of the community, we ought to be able to get to the bottom of it, because it sounds like a pretty unique situation and not one that you would see every day.

    JOHN: Yeah, I agree. It is very unique and it’s got me baffled. And I want to help him out and do the right thing and not just put a Band-Aid on it.

    TOM: Alright. Well let’s take a look at it together and we’ll see what we can do.

    JOHN: Alright. Well, I’ve got a few photos and I’ll send them off. And thanks for your show.

    TOM: Alright, John.

    JOHN: I’m a podcast listener and don’t have it on the radio but I catch you all the time and – helped me out of a few jams already, so thanks for the show.

    TOM: Alright. Well, we’re happy to hear that, John. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and we’ll look forward to taking a look at those images on the Community section.

    LESLIE: Alright. Suzette in Georgia is calling in with a window issue. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    SUZETTE: Hi. We have double-hung windows; I think that’s what they’re called. They open from the top and the bottom.

    TOM: Yep.

    SUZETTE: And they’re also double-pane, so they’re supposed to be greatly insulated, right? But every time the wind blows a bit, probably every month or so, we have to check on them because they drop or sag at the bottom some – I mean at the top. They’ll like fall down a little bit and I don’t know if we should correct that with maybe the latches.

    TOM: Well, don’t you have a sash lock between the two?

    LESLIE: Yeah, don’t you keep them locked?

    SUZETTE: There are two on either side of the window but they’re not catching tight enough.

    TOM: OK. So you need to adjust the window to get it to catch.


    TOM: Because those windows may not stay up with a good, strong breeze and a lot of rattling. They may fall down a little bit in their track. So you need to figure out what’s wrong with the window to adjust it, to get that to work. So you could have a shifting of the window or maybe it’s not closing squarely but you need to use those latches, otherwise the windows will never completely close.

    LESLIE: Nor will they be energy-efficient.

    TOM: Right.

    SUZETTE: OK. So adjust them, meaning move them closer.

    TOM: No, it means, actually, adjust the window so that they will lock. Maybe you need to get a handyman to help you with this but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. And they should be a little bit tight because when you latch them, they actually press the top of the window into the head jamb and the bottom of the window into the sill.

    LESLIE: Which creates the energy-efficient seal, which keeps the windows efficient and keeps the breezes out.

    TOM: Exactly.

    SUZETTE: OK. Well, great. That should help me a lot, because I hope to save some money this winter doing those kinds of things around here.

    TOM: And that must be why your heating bills are so expensive, because they’re getting a lot of drafts in around those windows. If you get a real tight seal, that will make a big difference.

    LESLIE: Jim in Tennessee is on the line looking to heat a vacation home. Tell us where it is and when we can come over.

    JIM: OK. Oh, good. I would like to have you. You’re welcome any time. It will be in – across the Virginia line. I’m in Tennessee but just across the Virginia line. This cabin that I want to build, I won’t be there year-round and we have, of course, cold weather here. I’m thinking about the radiant heat in the floor and I’d like your recommendation as to what you all think would be best.

    TOM: OK. So you’re building it from scratch and it’s going to have a concrete floor? Or a wood floor?

    JIM: No. No, it will be a crawlspace underneath, high enough that you won’t have to bend over to get in underneath.

    TOM: OK. Sure.

    JIM: So it’s easy working.

    TOM: Well, I think a PEX floor would be awesome. Hydronic heat with PEX – cross-link polyethylene piping. That is really popular right now. It’s pretty easy to install. It would go up underneath the subfloor and heat up from there or there’s a type of PEX where it can be laid into a special, sort of carved-out version of the subfloor and then it’s installed from the top down. But either way, that’s a great system: very warm, very comfortable and you just can’t get any better than radiant heat in the floor.

    JIM: Yes, yes. I have – the package that I received from these people – radiant heat company – is 2004, so I wonder if there’s been any changes that long back.

    TOM: OK. Hey, Jim, are you on a speaker phone?

    JIM: No, I’m not. No.

    TOM: OK. You’re really echo-y.

    JIM: Yeah, that’s what I thought. The other lady said that she didn’t pick it up. I’m in a restaurant, Tom, and I’ve had to walk into the bathroom to get away from all the noise. So …

    TOM: Well, we appreciate your commitment to your project. That explains it now, Jim.

    JIM: Yeah.

    TOM: Alright. So, the contractor you’re dealing with is …

    LESLIE: Has 2004 specification.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JIM: Right.

    TOM: That might be a little bit old, because things have changed.

    JIM: That’s what I thought. I thought I might call these people to get a new, up-to-date …

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, the technology has changed quite a bit and what you want to do is you want to install PEX piping. That’s brand new; it’s been out a few years now and it works really, really well. And I think you’re going to be very happy, Jim.

    JIM: Good, good. Thank you so much . I enjoy you all’s program; I listen every Sunday.

    TOM: Alright. Thanks so much, Jim.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Jim.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And we’ll let you get on back to dinner now.

    LESLIE: And I’m amazed. Not a flush.

    TOM: Not a flush. Very good.

    LESLIE: Linda in Michigan is having an issue with a drafty door. Tell us what’s going on.

    LINDA: Well, I have these French doors; I actually have two of them. And they’ve been in there like maybe 10 years but we always have a draft that blows through the door. We have put new weatherstripping on, we’ve tried adjusting the latches and no matter what you do, you always have wind blow in the door like how it closes where the door handle is.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: It blows wind through there the entire winter.

    TOM: Yep. Well, I will tell you that a double door is one of the most difficult to draft-proof. And generally, Andersen makes a good product but if it’s an older door and if the house has shifted and it’s not perfectly square, then that could be part of the problem. Have you really looked at the alignment on this?

    LINDA: It has done it since it was in, since the house was built.

    TOM: It has?

    LINDA: So I don’t know if it was not properly installed. And we’re to the point where – just take it out. They’re expensive doors but just take them out and get new ones.

    TOM: Yes, I know. Mm-hmm. Have you reached out to Andersen directly?

    LINDA: I have not. I have had a person with …

    TOM: Because they have manufacturer’s reps and they’re a pretty responsible company and they make a good product. Before I give up on it, I’d reach out to them directly and see if they’re willing to come take a look at it, because they have reps that are on the road all over the country, all the time. And it may very well be that there’s an insulation problem they could identify for you, that you’re not aware of, and fix it.

    LINDA: That’s a really great idea. I will definitely do that.

    TOM: Alright, Linda.

    LINDA: I will look them up and see if somebody can come out and look at it. I’ve had professional door people come look at it and …

    TOM: The problem there is that they’re just going to try to sell you a new door.

    LINDA: Well, at this point, I need a new door because the house is always cold, because there’s always a draft coming through.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I would definitely go straight to Andersen. I bet they’ve got a solution there.

    LINDA: Yes, I will do that. I will get a hold of them and see if somebody will come take a look at it.

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: I really appreciate that. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Lee in Georgia is tackling some construction projects. How can we lend a hand?

    LEE: Ma’am, I’m building a deck that’s 30 feet high from the ground, 24 x 36. I was wondering if you could tell me, what can I do to stop water leaking out of it, because I’m to park my car underneath?

    LESLIE: Yeah, Lee, it’s actually called DEK Drain and their website is DEKDrain.com and that’s D-E-K-D-r-a-i-n. And it’s basically a channeling system that gets attached to the joist supports of the decking, so it creates almost like a U-shaped barrier in between each joist, on the support system for your deck. So as water comes through, it sort of goes into this channel system and then drains away. And it’s a sort of one-collection gutter, if you will.

    LEE: Oh, OK. I never knew that. Thanks a lot.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Lee. 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. Are you still looking for that perfect gift for someone on your holiday list or maybe even yourself? Hey, why not? Treat yourself this time of year, too. Well, Korry Keeker, the editor of Consumers Digest, is up next with their recommendation. And he is going to tell us about some home appliances that just might solve your gifting problem.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. And now you can easily cut through the most difficult projects with ease, with a Power Cutter from Skil. With powerful, lithium-ion technology and an auto-sharp blade system, Skil’s lightweight Power Cutter will soon become your favorite tool, too. The Skil Power Cutter. It cuts just about anything.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, this time of year, many of us are shopping for small home appliances and tools as holiday gifts. And if this is you, we’ve got a treat in store. Consumers Digest is on the cutting edge of innovations in this space and Senior Editor Korry Keeker joins us now with their take on new and innovative products.

    Welcome, Korry.

    KORRY: Hey, thanks. It’s great to be here.

    TOM: Korry, a lot of our listeners are avid DIYers. What are you seeing new in the power-tool space? Let’s start there.

    KORRY: Lately, we’re seeing a lot of power tools that are lighter and smaller and more compact. And they generate more torque than they used to before, so you can do a lot more with them.

    TOM: And get a lot more – a little more done, right?

    KORRY: Yeah.

    TOM: And what about brushless motors? There seem to be more and more of those on the market. They’re more expensive, they have less torque but the batteries last longer, don’t they?

    KORRY: Yeah, the batteries last about 20 times as long because they have less friction that eats up the energy. They’re pretty interesting little tools.

    LESLIE: And what about LED lighting? I mean I think it’s fascinating. On all of these handheld power tools, you’re seeing so many innovations with lighting that really make it so much more user-friendly, right?

    KORRY: Correct. I think one-third of all cordless drills now have LED lighting and maybe two or three lights. So if you’re underneath something or if you’re in a small corner, you can really see, as well.

    LESLIE: Now, Korry, I’ve heard that there are a lot of really great innovations in the home sort of cooking-gadget area. Can you tell us about it? Because this time of year, we all take out those food processors and the blenders and we’re really using them with all these holiday parties, so it’s great to hear what’s new.

    KORRY: Blenders are really interesting lately. There’s a company called Ninja, which has a new blender that has a stem in the inside and the blades run alongside the stem, so it pretty much vaporizes whatever you’re blending rather than your stuff being stuck at the bottom, where the blades usually are.

    TOM: That’s cool. And I see you also are featuring a mixer/beater that’s got flexible strips that scrape the mixture off the side of the bowl. Cool idea but it can be very disappointing for all those small children that want to lick the bowl while the cake is being made.

    KORRY: Yeah. And those beaters are pretty – they’re not very rigid. So if you’re mixing up bread dough or a cookie dough, they might collapse or get stuck in the dough. But if you’re making a pie batter or pudding or something, it works pretty well.

    LESLIE: What about food processors? This time of year, I’m making pie crusts and pâte brisée for quiches. But the blades, I know I shouldn’t be but they make me nervous. You know, they’re separate, reaching in there. Has anything changed in the food processor market?

    KORRY: Yeah. Actually, KitchenAid just introduced a processor with a blade that you can adjust from the outside of the machine. So instead of reaching into your food, you can – within the outside of your machine – and adjust the width and what speed you’re cutting up your tomato with.

    TOM: That’s pretty cool. So if it’s not – it doesn’t look like it’s working well, you can tweak it without having to open the machine all the way up, change out the blade, get all the drippy goo all over the kitchen counter and so on.

    KORRY: Exactly.

    TOM: Korry Keeker, the senior editor for Consumers Digest, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KORRY: Great to be here.

    TOM: For more tips, you can log on to ConsumersDigest.com.

    LESLIE: Well, the holidays are a very special time of year for children but it can also be a dangerous one if your home is not properly childproofed. We’re going to have tips, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by ODL’s Add-On Blinds. Enclosed behind tempered glass, they eliminate the need for dusting and exposed cords, both problems with traditional blinds. Plus, they easily install over your existing entry glass. Visit www.ODL.com to learn more.

    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 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the brand new Moen Twist Handheld Shower. It’s a really unique showerhead because it allows you to change between four totally different spray patterns with one hand. And the showerhead simply swivels around the handle with the push of your thumb.

    TOM: That’s right. It’s also very easy to install. It looks great with any existing bath décor and it would make a great gift for that hardworking honey in your life.

    It’s available at The Home Depot. It’s worth about $65 but you could win one right now if you pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, whether you have children or you’re expecting children to visit your home over the holidays, it’s really important to childproof for this time of year.

    Now, pediatricians, they report that this is a really busy time when they’re treating kids, because they get hurt a lot at home. One big hazard is the tree. It’s gorgeous, it’s sparkly, there’s a lot of fun stuff on it and it’s a huge tip-over risk.

    Now, you can either secure it to the wall with an eyehook and some twine or you can keep it blocked off with a child gate. And if you think ornaments are attractive, imagine how inviting they look to that toddler. Every year, emergency rooms around the country treat kids because they’ve taken a bite out of an ornament. So, hang them higher on the tree, buy not-so-tasty-looking ones for the lower portion of the tree. Better yet, get break-proof ones and please, don’t buy any that look like food.

    TOM: Good point. Now, wrapping paper, ribbons and bows also can present a choking hazard to kids and of course, a trip hazard for you, as well. So it’s best to throw them out immediately. This also is a good time of year to make sure that your television is secure and can’t tip over. And don’t put your television on anything other than the furniture that is specifically designed to hold it securely in place.

    Finally, be careful with toxic plants, like poinsettias and mistletoe, to make sure your holiday is safe and emergency room-free.

    888-666-3974 is the telephone number to reach us. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Robert in Georgia is calling in with an insulation question. What can we do for you?

    ROBERT: Well, need a little bit of information from you. I’ve got a 1970s-era house, so it’s 2×4 construction over old insulation.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: Just the regular, pad-faced insulation. I’ve got a north wall and a south wall but the problem is is I’m up here about 1,000 foot and below Appalachians, so I have a half-heating, half-cooling situation. I am literally right on the line, if you look at the maps, of where they say put the vapor barrier inside and put it outside.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: What I want to do is replace the cedar siding with new cedar; I really don’t like the plastic look of the HardiePlank and all of that.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: So I’m going to have the wall open; I’m going to have all of the panels – the openings of the 2×4 – available to me.

    TOM: Exposed from the outside, OK.

    ROBERT: Right. So my question is: what’s the optimum way to reinsulate and vapor barrier – and do I just put the insulation pads into the 2×4 and then cover that with plywood as a seal and then put ½-inch foam board over top of that and then the cedar or what?

    TOM: Well, here’s what I would do: I would insulate in between the stud bays with as much insulation as they’ll properly hold. So if they’re – if it’s 2x4s, then that’s going to be 3½ inches of insulation. And then I would resheath it, because you need the sheathing to hold the structure in place. Over the sheathing, I would put Tyvek and then over the Tyvek, you can put the foam.

    The thing is, though, when you attach the cedar shingles – if you look at the installation instructions on cedar, you probably want to put those on furring strips; you want to have some air space under them.

    ROBERT: Well, this would be a cedar board, so it would be …

    TOM: Oh, oh. You mean like a clapboard?

    LESLIE: Like a HardiePlank?

    ROBERT: Right, right.

    TOM: You mean like clapboard. Yeah, he means cedar clapboard.

    ROBERT: Yes. That’s true.

    TOM: OK. So then that, I believe, you can put right on top of the foam sheathing.

    ROBERT: OK. So then the nailing would go through the cedar?

    TOM: Right through – right. And make sure you use stainless nails or you’re going to get black spots all around the heads.

    ROBERT: So the rules of the game – far north, far south – about vapor barrier, that’s picked up with Tyvek over top of the sheathing.

    TOM: That’s correct.

    ROBERT: So you use insulation and then I’ve got that really kind of in the middle.

    TOM: Yeah. That’s right. And it’s vapor-permeable, too. So I mean it’s – you’re not going to trap moisture; it will move freely in between, the way it needs to.

    ROBERT: Is that going to be good for the north side, as well, where I don’t get that sunshine in?

    TOM: Yeah. I would do the whole – I would do all sides the same way.

    ROBERT: Now, what happens where I have the brick – not the brick but the fieldstone – across the front that you just sort of …

    TOM: Well, with the fieldstone across the front, you’re not going to do anything with that. If you want to insulate that space, you could do it from the inside. You might want to think about using blown-in in a place like that. A lot of the home centers will rent the equipment today where you could just drill one hole up high, one hole down low and use a blown-in fiberglass or a blown-in cellulose.

    ROBERT: Which wouldn’t work real well if there is even a little bit of the old insulation panels.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve got old insulation in there, then you’re correct: it will not work well. But you know what? The most important insulation, from an energy savings perspective, is what’s in the ceiling. So, the walls are important but don’t get crazy over them. Make sure you’ve got a good 15 or 20 inches in that ceiling. That’s going to do the best job possible at keeping your energy bills down.

    ROBERT: Yeah, I’ve got 12 up there and then I’ve got reflective stuff below the shingles.

    TOM: OK. Well, good luck with that project.

    ROBERT: I do appreciate your help. Thanks, sir.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Frances from North Dakota on the line calling in about grading for a basement. What can we do for you?

    FRANCES: Hi. Yes, I have an older home and I have a large pine tree in the front yard. And I was wondering if it would be OK to put more soil around the foundation of the home to grade it down to the curb of the street.

    TOM: Well, it’s always a good idea to have positive drainage away from the foundation perimeter. If you’re going to add soil and you’re adding soil to improve your drainage, you want to add clean fill dirt, not topsoil. Because topsoil will hold a lot of water …

    LESLIE: And just give you more moisture in that basement.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah. And that’s designed for planting. But clean fill dirt, that would be the hot ticket and it’s the least-expensive way. And then after you’re done with the grading, you can add a little bit of topsoil, just to support some grass or some stone or whatever else you want to put on top of it. But you build it up with the clean fill first.

    FRANCES: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much for your program. I listen to you all the time.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Norm who’s dealing with some concrete issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    NORM: Hi, guys. Yeah, I’ve got a circular driveway in the front of my house and we’ve developed some cracks. Unfortunately, when the weather gets cold here, we get water in those cracks. Of course, the ice forms and makes the cracks wider and I’d like some advice on what I should do to seal those cracks so they don’t get worse.

    TOM: Hmm. Now, these are cracks in what kind of a surface, again?

    NORM: It’s concrete. It’s a concrete driveway. I guess it’s 6 inches deep and it’s a circular driveway.

    TOM: OK.

    NORM: And we have expansion joints in the driveway but I’ve got cracks ….

    TOM: Mm-hmm. What you want to use is an – there’s an epoxy patching compound that you can use. And you’ll essentially be filling these in. You have to clean them out really well first but the epoxy is strong enough to bind to both sides of the crack.

    LESLIE: And stay there.

    TOM: And stay there, yeah. Exactly.

    NORM: Should I power-wash them out first?

    TOM: Well, now, if you power-wash them, you’re going to have to wait days and mean – I do mean days for them to get really dry again.

    NORM: OK.

    TOM: Because you’ve got to remember, concrete’s very, very absorbent.

    NORM: Sure.

    TOM: So it’ll stay very saturated.

    NORM: Alright.

    TOM: That’s the kind of project that if you’re doing like on a spring or summer day where you can really let it bake in the sun for a while, you’d have a chance of getting it dry enough.

    I don’t think you have to go that route, as long as you can just make it reasonably broom-clean, there’s no dirt. You can run a wet/dry vacuum over it, kind of suck out what’s there and try to get it real clean. You should be good enough to be able to apply the compound.

    NORM: Any specific epoxy that you might recommend?

    TOM: There’s a site called Abatron – A-b-a-t-r-o-n – that makes a whole bunch of concrete-repair products.

    LESLIE: Yeah, pretty much a ton of right products for the job.

    TOM: And you could find it there.

    NORM: Good deal. Love your show. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re very 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 MoneyPit.com. Up next, you may be used to seeing warranties on appliances but what about getting a warranty on your entire home? Ever wonder if home warranties are a total waste of money? We’ll tell you, 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 on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, I hope you’re excited because forecasters, they say this is going to be a stormy winter, so get ready.

    TOM: Woo-hoo!

    LESLIE: Yay! Are you prepared, though? I mean there’s going to be a lot of power outages. So why not head on over now to MoneyPit.com and search “power outage” for the damage a power loss can actually cause? And we’re going to give you some tips on avoiding disaster. That’s all at MoneyPit.com; search “power outage.”

    TOM: And while you’re online, you can post your question to us in The Money Pit Community section. And that’s what Larry did in Arizona. Larry says, “Our house was built in the 1960s. We just purchased a new furnace/air conditioner with its own warranty. I’ve got a new water heater and just redid the whole kitchen with new appliances, including a washer and a dryer. And we also had a new roof, with its own warranty, installed. My question is this. Currently, we pay over $700 a year for a whole-home warranty that also covers many of the same items. Is it worth renewing?”

    Well, in your case, Larry, no. And frankly, in most cases, no. I think home warranties – the whole-home warranties – are only good if you have a warranty product that doesn’t expire based on the age of the appliance. So if you have a warranty that says it only covers a furnace if it’s 15 years old or younger, it’s useless to me. If you have one that is not going to exclude older appliances and you happen to have a lot of older appliances, then it’s probably a good idea. If you have a lot of new stuff, like you do, it’s definitely a waste of money.

    And whatever you do, if you’re going to buy one of these home warranties, read it very, very carefully, because there’s a lot of fine print.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, Larry, you’ve kind of got to think of a home warranty very similar to an appliance warranty. The companies that sell them, they’re in it to make money. You have to really look at all of the fine print and find out if this is going to be something that’s beneficial to you.

    For the money that you’re paying for that whole-home warranty, you might as well just put away a couple of bucks a month into some sort of home improvement fund; make it a special account just for that. This way, you can use it in the event of an emergency and you’ll probably save money in the long run.

    TOM: Well, it’s the time of year when many people are buying Christmas trees. But will you go with a fresh or a fake tree? Leslie has got some tips on how to choose and care for your tree, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Who doesn’t love the smell of a fresh tree in their home? I know I love it; we’ve had ours up since the day after Thanksgiving, because you’ve got to get the most use out of it, seriously. You’ve got to get the bang for your buck.

    And live trees can keep the air in your home clean. You can use them for mulch when you’re done and help your local economy if you buy a tree from a nearby farm.

    Now, the downside of a live tree is that you have to deal with all those needles that are going to end up everywhere. You’ll be finding them in the summer, I promise. And you also have a huge fire risk if you don’t keep your tree properly watered. So, to keep it alive, you need lots and lots of water and only water. Now, putting aspirin in the stand or any other old wives’ tale type of solution, they’re really just not going to work.

    Now, if you find yourself to be an artificial tree kind of person, that’s great. They’re awesome; you can reuse them year after year. And I’ve got to tell you, some of those artificial trees that we’re seeing out in the market today, they look just like the real thing and it’s kind of getting hard to tell the difference.

    Now, they’re not a big fire risk and you don’t have to worry about allergies or sap. The downside? You have to have the space to store them and there is the time consideration, you know, for putting them together, taking them apart. But there are some beautiful options out there.

    Whatever you decide, have a holly-jolly holiday and enjoy your tree.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Coming up next week on the program, we’re going to talk about warm feet and cold winter mornings. They don’t always mix but you can have a warm floor and warm tootsies if you have radiant heat. We’re going to teach you about this efficient way to heat your home, 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 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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