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    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 we are here to help you with your home improvement projects, your do-it-yourself dilemmas. Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a direct-it-yourselfer – one that loves to hire out the project – we’re here to make sure your projects get started on the right foot. But to do that, you have to start with the right call, which is one to us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    It is the busy holiday season. Lots of decorating going on right now. Maybe that’s a project that you’d like to tackle. We can help. Call us, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up in this hour of the program, it’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And if you’re waiting for the big guy to make his annual visit, you might want to make sure the chimney is clean and safe. We’re going to tell you how to find a reputable and an honest chimney-sweep company, which is not always an easy task. But if you do get hooked up with the right pro, that pro can make sure that your chimney is safe and clean for the season ahead.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, does your Christmas tree barely make it to Christmas morning? Well, we’ve got some tips to help you make sure that the live tree stays fresh and green for the whole holiday season.

    TOM: Plus, your kitchen gets quite a workout this time of year, which could add up to high utility bills if you’re not careful. So we’re going to have some advice on how you can save on water, gas and electricity a little later.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a 246-piece socket set from Bostitch. It’s worth 200 bucks and it’s one of the great products we’re highlighting in our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide. Check it out at MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: And give us a call right now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Who’s first?

    LESLIE: Nadine in Iowa has an interesting question. Your countertop has gotten noisy? Tell us what’s going on.

    NADINE: Yes, it does. We had it installed, I would say, between three and five years ago. And right after we had this Corian counter installed, we started getting very sharp, loud bangs occasionally. And I mean like somebody-just-shot-up-the-house bangs. And it has been going on since we had it installed, to varying degrees. Louder sometimes than others.

    But they’ve been out to check and can’t figure it out and I don’t – the only unusual thing that happened when they put it in was that one corner didn’t want to go down, so the guy had to put his full weight on it to push it down and finally make it go down. And my feeling is – or something must be bound in there that every once in a while builds up enough energy to really snap.

    TOM: Well, that’s certainly an unusual situation because countertops aren’t known for their noise.

    NADINE: OK.

    TOM: We get squeaky-floor questions, we get banging-pipe questions.

    I don’t think we’ve ever gotten any loud-countertop questions, huh, Leslie?

    NADINE: Well, I doubt that it’s the countertop. My feeling is something might be bound in there, having been caused by having the countertop put on.

    TOM: Well, you might be correct and what could be happening is that you could have expansion and contraction going on, either with the walls or even with the plumbing. Especially with the water being right there, when a pipe heats up, it tends to expand. And if it’s attached to the framing very, very tightly, it will rub across that framing and it can make a creaking sound or a banging sound.

    NADINE: OK.

    TOM: And I’ve heard that before in bathrooms and also in kitchens.

    NADINE: OK.

    TOM: The other thought is that if the countertop is bound, as you say, against part of the frame of the house and you’re getting expansion and contraction, that could be the source of the sound. Although, I tend to think that, even though it’s annoying, it probably isn’t really very damaging if it’s one of the other of those things.

    NADINE: No, I don’t think it is damaging at all. It’s just that when you have guests and their eyes get wide and they start to go for the floor, you think maybe – I mean it is quite loud when it does it. So you think it could possibly be plumbing?

    TOM: It could very well be because plumbing really carries the sound. And especially if you’re running a dishwasher and the hot water comes on, that could cause a noise.

    NADINE: However, we’ve kind of checked that out – what’s on, what’s running and all of that – and that doesn’t seem to come into play. What would your suggestion be as to sleuthing this problem out?

    TOM: Well, I guess I would have to be sitting there staring at it, thinking about it for a long time. But reinstalling the countertop would probably be the best solution, although it’s a boatload of work and you could potentially damage the countertop in the process. If they had to really squeeze it in, I suspect that something is a little bit too tight in its intention and it’s really not designed to be pulled out.

    NADINE: Yeah. Alright. Thanks so much.

    LESLIE: Keith in Delaware is on the line with a fireplace-decorating question. Tell us what’s going on.

    KEITH: I have a 2×2-foot chimney system, concrete block with a terracotta flue in it. And it’s in the garage. And on the living room side of the wall is a red-brick fireplace that’s 4 feet wide and floor to ceiling. And the hearth in front of it is also 4 feet wide and sticks into the room about 6 feet. And the end of it is a radius to the (inaudible at 0:05:59), kind of like a popsicle stick.

    And we don’t really – it originally had a wood stove on it, so there’s an 8-inch flue about 2 feet up off the floor. We’d like to change it over to some sort of decorative stone but since some of it’s probably attached to drywall, some of it’s attached to concrete block, do we take it down? Can we attach to it? Will it stay up? And then what do we do with the hearth? Should we try to chip some of the brick off and then put a stone on?

    TOM: So you’re never really going to use this hearth for a fireplace?

    KEITH: Well, it was originally for a wood stove. There was never a fireplace. We’d like to put a wood stove back eventually.

    TOM: Well, if you’re going to put something back, then you don’t want to destroy what’s there.

    KEITH: Is there some sort of product that’s thin enough that it doesn’t make it too big and bulky in appearance once we cover it over with some sort of a stone?

    TOM: Keith, you know, there’s a product on the market that’s pretty new. It’s called AirStone and their website is AirStone.com. And it’s an easy-to-apply stone veneer. You might want to take a look at that, because you could actually attach that to the top of the brick and come up with a totally new look to it.

    KEITH: OK.

    TOM: In fact, they’ve got some photographs of some folks that have done sort of fireplace makeovers, on their website, in their blog section at AirStone.com/Blog.

    KEITH: We had thought about painting it but we didn’t really care for the painted approach. I guess we’d have to use muriatic acid and all that to be able to cover it properly. We are committed to changing it, whether it be paint or stone. We’re just trying to refresh the room and give it an updated appearance and the brick is just an older, dingy, reddish color.

    TOM: Right. Now, I don’t want you to ignore the fact that painting this room with an appropriate color shade could change the look of it, as well. Right now, it sounds like the focus is on the fireplace.

    But Leslie, if he was to choose some complementary colors to kind of bring this all together, I think it could make an impact, as well, don’t you think?

    LESLIE: I mean it can but with the brick playing such a predominant role, you’ve got to feel comfortable with it and the colors that will work.

    Now, with a red, your complementary colors to it are going to be sort of in the green/brown tones that will sort of work well in the color wheel. It really depends on what your aesthetics are and what the look of the space is.

    And have you thought about using a slate or a bluestone, some sort of different approach to sort of sheathing it?

    KEITH: We had thought about that. In fact, on the hearth, that would probably be a good choice because it would be easier to sit a wood stove on.

    LESLIE: Right. Just on the hearth and then leaving the rest brick. And then that way – I’m not sure how close to the wood stove you might be but you could do some interesting floor cushions to give yourself a little seating area around it or some cute benches.

    There’s even, I’ve seen – I’m not sure who makes them but I’ve seen some bronze-legged, little benches that would surround a fireplace hearth, that are upholstered on top and they’re sort of built into the hearth itself to create a surround?

    KEITH: Oh, that’s a neat idea.

    LESLIE: Since it does take up so much space and you could then utilize it.

    KEITH: Alright. Those are some great ideas.

    TOM: Hope that helps you out, Keith. 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. We are here to help you with your home improvement, home repair, holiday home question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    One question might be: “How can I cut some energy costs when it comes to home lighting?” We’ll have that solution, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Bostitch Mechanics Tools deliver the rugged reliability you’ve come to expect from Bostitch. Designed for the professional, built to last. For more information, visit Bostitch.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now with your home improvement question. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your question and an opportunity to win a 246-piece mechanics tool set from Bostitch.

    The ratchet handle is contoured ergonomically and designed for a comfortable grip. The socket sizes are easy to identify with stamped markers and it all comes with the Bostitch lifetime warranty.

    LESLIE: Now, the Bostitch 246-Piece Mechanics Tool Set is just one of the products that we are featuring in our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide. Check it out at MoneyPit.com and you’re going to get some great gift ideas.

    TOM: And give us a call right now for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Shironnie (sp) in Colorado is on the line and has a question about mold. What can we do for you today?

    SHIRONNIE (sp): The pipes have broken inside the walls and we fixed the pipes and everything. Now we’ve got this problem with mildew and the mold, so we have – we want to know what’s the best way to treat it.

    TOM: Yeah. First of all, when that happened, did you file a claim with your homeowners insurance company?

    SHIRONNIE (sp): No, we just got the house. We got it as is, so we’re fixing it before we move in.

    TOM: Oh, oh. OK. Got it, got it, got it. OK. Well, is it a lot of mold or is it a little bit of mold?

    SHIRONNIE (sp): A lot. We’re ripping out drywall and as we rip it out, we’re finding more.

    TOM: Oh, boy. Yeah. Yeah, this is generally not a do-it-yourself project because when you have a lot of mold, you can contaminate parts of the house with this. I really think this is the kind of thing that you want to stop and get some professional help with, Shironnie (sp). Because if you release all those mold spores into the air, you potentially could be causing a bigger problem.

    Generally, when you have that much mold – you say a lot of mold – you have to be careful about how you take that apart. What you generally do is you depressurize the house, you put fans in the house so that it pulls the air out as you’re breaking out that – the drywall and so on and flushes all of those mold spores to the outside. And then all of the framing gets sprayed down so that you kill anything that’s left behind. You get it good and dry and then you reinsulate and re-drywall.

    But it’s a pretty big job and when you have a lot of mold like that, you can be exposing yourself to that mold and that could make you sick. So I would say to proceed very cautiously when you’re trying to rebuild a house that’s got heavy mold damage. It’s not an easy problem to resolve.

    SHIRONNIE (sp): Oh, OK.

    TOM: Well, it’s a busy time of year but even some minor changes can help you save money and energy. And one of those changes has to do with the lighting in your home. You know, advances in lighting technology can help save electricity and they can also add kind of a great touch to your living spaces.

    Lutron has a product called the Lutron Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch that does exactly that. It’s great for rooms where lights are left on accidentally, like a kid’s room. And it can also be adjusted to come on automatically when you enter a room, which is perfect for, say, a laundry room or a basement or maybe even a walk-in pantry.

    LESLIE: Now, when you set it in the vacancy mode, the sensing switch can determine when there’s nobody in the room and automatically turn off the lights. No more asking, “Who left the lights on?”

    Now, what’s really cool about this technology is that it won’t turn off the lights when you’re in the room, say, sitting still, like reading a book or just relaxing. It’s going to use both heat and motion to detect even the slightest movement. So if you are reading that book or watching the TV, it’ll sense you just slightly turning the page or just being there. It’s really great. You don’t have to worry about just sitting there and then suddenly being left in the dark.

    TOM: Now, when it’s in occupancy mode, the sensor will detect you walking into a room and then automatically turn on the light. So this is great for rooms where you walk in, perhaps, with your hands full, like maybe your garage.

    If you’d like some more information about the Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch, visit LutronSensors.com.

    LESLIE: Greg in Iowa is on the line and he’s dealing with a radon situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    GREG: Well, my wife and I are in the process of buying a home and we’re in the process of closing on this home. And when we – gone through the whole process of buying it and everything, we had to have an initial – we decided to have an inspection done. And then at the end of this inspection, where they go over everything mechanical and about the house and everything, they then offered a radon test to be done. And I had heard about the test and read about the test and figured it was a good idea to have it done. It was $100, which was pretty cheap compared to what we found out.

    And I guess what I’m trying to find out from you all is – in Iowa, they say that there’s 70 to 71 percent of the homes in Iowa have a radon problem.

    TOM: OK. Now, you had a radon test done. What did the level come back at?

    GREG: It came back at 18.

    TOM: OK. So 18 picocuries?

    GREG: Yes.

    TOM: So 4.0 picocuries is the action guideline. Remember, I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector; I got this, OK?

    GREG: Yes, sir.

    TOM: So 4.0 is the action guideline. So you have a radon problem. It’s not unusual – it depends on the area – and certainly not the worst that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen homes that had levels of upwards of 100 picocuries.

    GREG: OK.

    TOM: That said, you do need to put in – or more accurately, the seller ­- is a sub-slab mitigation system where you have pipes that go into the slab and they pull the radon gas out. Now, has that process been started?

    GREG: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Alright. So then you’re on your way. But when you’re done, it’s very important that they test out of this and get a successful number. I will caution you, though, because this is a real estate transaction, remember that you are not in control of that house.

    And one of the biggest concerns that I had as a home inspector doing radon tests was I couldn’t necessarily trust the sellers to leave my test alone. And if they opened the windows or doors during the test, they’re going to vent that house and get that number to be down. So, it’s really important that when you’re doing a mitigation system, you would probably step away from doing charcoal absorption canisters and you would do other types of radon testing.

    There’s one called a “working level monitor” where it basically takes samples on an hour-by-hour basis. And you can look at the results that come off of this and what you look for, as a tester, is a normal pattern. And you’re going to see a pattern that sort of climbs throughout the day and is really high at night when the house is completely still, starts to drop during the day. A good tester can tell if the test has been compromised.

    So just proceed cautiously. Not an unusual situation. Sub-slab ventilation is the way to go and when they’re done, this test should be down to near zero.

    GREG: Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. And I think you’re doing all the right things. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    BILL: I’m trying to clean some pressure-treated deck. This is on the second floor of my house and also on the ground is stone. What we have here in Tennessee is Crab Orchard stone; it’s a soft stone. And it’s turned black. The stone has turned black over time and it’s about 15 years old. And the pressure-treated wood has turned black, also, and I wanted to see what the best thing to clean both of them – I’ve tried cleaner on the end of a garden hose and it don’t – and I followed the instructions but it didn’t do much at all.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I mean it sounds like a combination of the wood aging and also mold or algae.

    Now, you know, a pressure washer set to an aggressive but gentle setting, if that makes any sense, will probably do the best to kind of attack this growth on it. If you could use some bleach and water or Wet & Forget, a product like that that will do a good job of – I’m not going to say “attacking” but you know what I mean: really aggressively going at this growth. That will probably do a good job of getting to the base of it and removing it from it.

    If you can get more sunlight on the area to sort of beat this shady mold growth that’s happening, that will help tremendously. There’s some things that you can do there.

    BILL: OK. That’s good. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Still ahead, one job that you probably can’t do yourself is cleaning and inspecting your chimney.

    TOM: And the problem with that is putting your trust in a company that may or may not be reputable to do it for you. We’re going to have some tips on what you need to look for in a chimney-sweep company to get the job done right, without getting ripped off, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, if you have a fireplace, you know that it’s a great way to supplement your home heating system and enjoy the ambiance of a crackling fire on those chilly winter nights.

    TOM: Yes. But keeping that fireplace and chimney functioning safely means it needs to be cleaned and inspected on a regular basis. Here to tell us more about that is Ashley Eldridge. He’s the director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

    Welcome, Ashley.

    ASHLEY: Thank you.

    TOM: I think that folks don’t recognize how many home heating-related fires there are in this country as a result of the lack of chimney maintenance. Do you have a stat for us on that?

    ASHLEY: Actually, I know that appliance fires are the second-leading cause of home fires. So, it’s quite a few.

    TOM: So when you say “appliance fires,” does that include a fireplace or wood stove?

    ASHLEY: Yes. We consider a fireplace an appliance, just like we would a freestanding heater.

    LESLIE: Which is interesting. I don’t think many homeowners would consider it an appliance, since it’s something that’s built into the home. You almost think of it as incorporated into the home’s envelope, if you will.

    ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s – and it’s interesting to me that most consumers associate chimney sweeps with fireplaces when, in fact, the furnace and boiler flues are just as in need of their service.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s a good point. So how often does a chimney need to be inspected?

    ASHLEY: The recommendation by the National Fire Protection Association is that the chimney be inspected annually. And that’s important. Rather than giving you a predetermined frequency for the sweeping of the chimney – because if somebody didn’t use their fireplace last year, that doesn’t mean that it’s good to go. There are other things – like birds and squirrels, raccoons, leaves, branches, footballs, any number of things – that could collect in the chimney, over and above soot or creosote.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s absolutely correct. I mean I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector. And I remember, distinctly, finding nests on a fairly regular basis, including one that had almost completely blocked the chimney where the homeowner was pregnant at the time and had been associating her discomfort with morning sickness when, in fact, she had low levels of carbon-monoxide poisoning because the gases were backing up in the chimney. So, you can’t be too careful to make sure that that chimney is in good condition.

    Now, what happens during a chimney inspection and what does a certified chimney sweep look for?

    ASHLEY: In the inspection, procedures actually fall into three different categories. There’s a Level One inspection, which is what is recommended on an annual basis. And that is primarily to make sure that the flue is clear – there’s nothing obstructing it, as you just described – and that it can continue to operate in the way that it has been operating.

    The Level Two inspection is the type of inspection that a new homeowner might expect: a very thorough inspection that would require the sweep to go on the roof, in the attic, in the crawlspace and visit the chimney everywhere they can see it.

    The Level Three inspection would be if we found something that’s suspect and it would require intrusive – or damage to access.

    LESLIE: And does the inspection always then lead to a cleaning service or does that really depend on the findings?

    ASHLEY: It does depend on the findings. It’s entirely possible that once the inspection has been performed, there may be repairs other than sweeping that are required. Or it may be that the chimney needs to be swept and there are no repairs required.

    TOM: We’re talking to Ashley Eldridge. He’s the director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

    Ashley, I think we would all agree that regular inspections are important. But isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest in hiring a service professional to tell you, in effect, if you need more of his services? How do you avoid that?

    ASHLEY: Well, the way that you would avoid that – as a consumer, I am always suspect for someone who makes recommendations. And I expect them to demonstrate the need to me. And the way the chimney sweeps typically do that is by taking pictures. Most homeowners are not interested in going to the top of the chimney and seeing the damaged wash, for example. But if the chimney sweep takes pictures of it and incorporates that in their report, they can see that and then make a knowledgeable decision.

    The same would be true if there’s damage that’s found inside the flue. I would expect the chimney sweep to use a camera and take some pictures and show that to the customer. The better-informed customer is going to make better decisions.

    TOM: Well, that makes sense because I’ve got to tell you, we are often asked about how to avoid home improvement, home repair rip-offs. And chimney sweeps are one of the top one or two professions that we often get complaints that are associated with. And I understand that there’s going to be bad apples in any bunch but there appears to be an overabundance of those bad apples in the chimney business.

    You know, I recall my own experience of chimney sweeps that charged very, very little for their inspection. And we all knew they weren’t in business to make money doing inspections at $50 apiece. They’re going to make money finding things wrong and then charging to get those things repaired.

    ASHLEY: Well, in fact, you’ve hit on something that we at CSI are very concerned about. That’s why we recommend the CSI-certified chimney sweep.

    One of the provisions of that credential is an ethics agreement. If we found that somebody was doing unnecessary repairs or making recommendations that weren’t appropriate, they stand to lose that credential. So that’s for the consumer’s protection.

    TOM: And how do you guys investigate and police your chimney sweeps to make sure that that is, in fact – that they’re, in fact, following the code of ethics?

    ASHLEY: Sure. If somebody has a complaint, we have a procedure that goes before an ethics committee and make that determination.

    TOM: Alright. Good advice. Ashley Eldridge, the director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America, thanks for that important information.

    Good idea to have your chimney inspected on an annual basis. Just be aware when someone in that business proclaims that there’s a terrible thing wrong. Get a second opinion or make them prove that the defect exists before you open your wallet and hire them.

    LESLIE: Alright. And still ahead, easy tips on keeping your live Christmas tree fresh, all season long, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a 246-piece mechanics tool set from Bostitch. This heavy-duty ratchet has a 72-tooth gear system for great torque and better accessibility. The sockets have anti-slip rings for easy gripping and it all comes with that very excellent Bostitch lifetime warranty.

    TOM: The Bostitch 246-Piece Mechanics Tool Set is just one of the products featured in our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide. Check it out at MoneyPit.com. You’ll get great gift ideas right there.

    And give us a call right now for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Steve in Missouri is on the line and needs some help with an insulation situation. I just like rhyming.

    What’s going on, Steve? How can we help you today?

    STEVE: I have a 22-year-old house and it has that pink fiberglass insulation that’s up there. It’s blown-in and it’s probably an average of 12 inches deep right now. It’s kind of settled down quite a bit and I was wondering if there was a product that would be better than that that I could put on top of it? Or should you put something different on top of it? And how deep should it be?

    TOM: Well, 12 inches is a substantial amount of insulation but actually, today, we would recommend closer to 18 to 22 inches. So, what you could do is on top of the blown-in, you could add some additional blown-in or some fiberglass batts laid perpendicular to the ceiling joists, so to speak, so that you pick up some additional insulation.

    STEVE: OK.

    TOM: The new batts, though, you might want to make sure that they’re not – they do not have a vapor barrier attached. It’s just a raw fiberglass batt.

    STEVE: OK.

    TOM: And that will bring you up to what’s considered the sort of the normal standard for an energy-efficient house today.

    STEVE: Alright. Well, I sure appreciate it.

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

    Well, it’s time now for The Money Pit’s Pinterest Tip of the Week, presented by Citrus Magic Air Freshener.

    Now, if you celebrate Christmas, the annual outing to buy a tree is no doubt a tradition. But if your tree withers and shrivels up every year before the holiday even arrives, well, the solution is to choose the freshest tree available. So, here’s what you need to know to do just that.

    LESLIE: That’s right. When you get to the lot, I know it’s exciting. There’s lots of trees. Everybody wants their favorite one but you need to just relax and get centered here. You want to start by looking at the color of the needles. They should be shiny, green and able to bend without snapping. Also, give a branch a little tug and make sure that a bunch of needles don’t come falling off to the ground.

    And you also want to be able to measure the tree. Not talking about just vertically but also the circumference. I always like the biggest, fattest Christmas tree and when I get it home, it usually takes up the entire living room. So you want to make sure that you’re measuring the circumference because you don’t want to have to smash limbs of the tree just to get it to fit.

    TOM: Now, you also want to look for a species of tree that has strong branches. For example, a Fraser or a noble fir can hold heavy ornaments. And if possible, lay the tree down inside your car to get it home.

    Finally, forget what you may have heard about additives that claim to keep a tree fresh. The best way is to make sure the base of the tree has a fresh cut and then keep it filled with plenty of fresh water.

    LESLIE: And that’s your Pinterest Tip of the Week, presented by Citrus Magic Air Freshener. There’s magic in the air. Visit The Money Pit Pinterest page and check out our Tip of the Week Board for more on this and other ideas.

    LESLIE: Lester in Tennessee is on the line with a squeaky, noisy floor situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LESTER: Well, I’ve got some – a split-level house. And the master bedroom and the garage are on the ground floor and right above the – on the second floor, the floorboards squeak when you walk. It’s carpeted flooring and as you walk across the floor, you can tell exactly where that person is heading and what they’re doing, based on the squeak in the floor.

    And because it’s over the master bedroom, my wife has a hard time sleeping when I’m upstairs walking around and vice versa. So we need a resolution.

    LESLIE: So, now, the reason why you’re getting a squeaky noise is because there’s some movement between the subfloor and the joist. So when somebody steps now, you’ve got nails that have backed up and you’ve got the subfloor and the joist sort of rubbing together, which is giving you that squeaky sound.

    Now, with the carpet, totally not the end of the world. You do need to be able to identify, though, where those squeaks are coming from. And you’ll sort of have to do this in tandem: one person in the master bedroom, one person upstairs sort of stepping so you can kind of isolate where the sound is.

    And once you know where that sound is coming from, now you have to locate exactly where that joist is under the carpet and under the subfloor because what you need to do is reattach that subfloor to that joist. And you can do that once you know exactly where everything is, with a nail. That’s totally fine and you’ll have to use a nail, unfortunately, because of the carpet situation.

    And you’ll hammer it, actually, through the carpet, reattaching the joist and the sheathing. And then once you’ve got that all put together, you sort of grab the rug by the nap and lift up and you’ll sort of pop that nail through the carpet and just – it’ll still do its job of connecting the joist to the underlayment. Does that make sense?

    TOM: And the type of nail that you use is important. You want to use a galvanized finish nail. Galvanized because it’s rough on the outside and has more holding power. And finish nail because it has the smallest kind of head. And this way, the nail can be driven through the carpet or the carpet can be pulled up through the nail head and you won’t see it when it’s done.

    And one more tip. When you’re looking for that floor joist, you could use one of the newer – like the Stanley stud sensors that are available today. Super-accurate and they can go pretty deep into a floor. So they’ll go through the carpet, through the subfloor to locate exactly where those joists are. Because it’s really critical that when you place that nail you know that you’re going to hit the floor joist underneath.

    LESTER: OK, great. And those are new on the market? Because I have some older ones. You think I need to buy something or rent something?

    TOM: The stud sensors?

    LESTER: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, well, they’re new and they’re pretty expensive ­- they start at about 20 bucks – but you can certainly try the one you have. And if you – if it doesn’t work, then you can go out and pick up a new one.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, we’ve got advice to help you cut costs on utility bills this holiday season. That’s all coming up, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And if you’d like to get info on our prize giveaways before anybody else does, as well as behind-the-scenes photos and best tips all around, why not “fan” us on Facebook? You can check us out at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit and “like” us today.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section of MoneyPit.com, just like Janine in Connecticut did. And she writes: “A plumbing emergency forced me to redo both an upstairs bathroom and my kitchen just below it, which were both in need of major updates. How can I determine the value of my newly upgraded home?”

    TOM: I think that was a happy emergency. It sort of kicked off the major update, right? Maybe she got a little homeowners insurance coverage on the flood and just put it all to good use.

    Well, look, the good news is that improvements to kitchens and bathrooms are both very valuable in terms of adding to the resale value of the home. In fact, the cost-versus-value survey that’s done by Remodeling Online every year always shows those improvements giving a pretty consistently high ROI if you sell your house within a year, which is the way that survey works.

    But you can search out the value of homes online, on sites like Zillow, for example. And the thing to remember is that home value, especially with those online sites, is based a lot on how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, square footage and so on. So if you can find homes in your area that are similarly laid out and structured, you can get an idea as to what the value of your home might be.

    But also keep in mind the intangibles and they are if you’ve got newer bathrooms and newer kitchens, that homebuyers are much more likely to be interested in your property than a competing property. That’s why those types of improvements not only add to the value of your property but also help it get sold quicker and at the highest possible value.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think it’s important, Janine, when you’re thinking about doing a remodel – I know you’ve already done it but if you’re thinking about selling, you want to make sure that you’re making choices that are sort of neutral and palette-pleasing sort of across the board. You don’t want to go ultra-trendy and pick something that you don’t think is going to be resalable, if that makes sense.

    TOM: Absolutely. And the single, most cost-effective thing you can do before that house goes on the market is to declutter. Because remember, those that are shopping for new homes are leaving crowded homes and they certainly don’t want to buy yours if it looks like the one that they left behind.

    LESLIE: Exactly. They’re like, “Where am I going to put all my stuff,” forgetting that you’re taking your things with you.

    TOM: Well, this is the time of year that your kitchen and your energy bill go into hyperdrive. But there are some easy practices that you can put in place that will lower that energy usage. And Leslie has those tips, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, you’ve got gas appliances and you’re probably using them a lot right now. So, when you are, watch the flame. If the flame is burning yellow, that means that your burner is dirty and it’s going to be wasting some gas. Another place that you need to check out is your faucet. You might even want to consider replacing your faucets, like your kitchen one, with one that is WaterSense-certified, which means it’s going to use about 30-percent less water than a traditional water-wasting faucet would do.

    Now, here’s another tip: don’t be tempted to run your dishwasher unless it’s full. Also, those newer-model dishwashers have really powerful cleaning action, which means you don’t need to pre-rinse or even wash your dishes like our parents used to tell us when we were kids, just to keep us busy and out of trouble. Simply just scrape off the food before you put it in the dishwasher and let your fancy dishwasher that you paid for do its job.

    Handle all of these things and you’ll be saving some energy dollars before you know it.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, it is peak time for break-ins. With holiday goodies up for grabs and vacationing homeowners making for empty homes, it is the peak season for home burglaries, so we’re going to have some tips on how you can secure your home. And we’re going to ask the question: is it worth investing in a home security system? We’ll weigh those options 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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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