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Choosing a Gutter Guard, Patio Heater Options, and the Most Effective Soap for Washing Your Car

  • 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: Give us a call, right now, because we are here to help you with your home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Hey, whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or not, we’re help to help. If you just moved into an apartment and you’ve got to do some decorating, we’d love to take those calls, as well. Homeowners, apartment dwellers, retirees, mid-life crisis looking for something to do because you’re bored, hey, give us a call at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, you might be ready for fall but are your gutters ready? Leaves can clog them up, leading to big problems, like ice dams and flooded basements. So keeping them clear is key. We’ve got tips on choosing the best gutter guards to do just that, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And here’s an easy solution for beating the cold-weather blues: patio heaters. They’re going to let you use all that outdoor space all year long. What do you need to know before you go and buy one? We’ll tell you, in just a bit.

    TOM: And one lucky caller this hour is going to win 4 packs of GE LED Bright Stiks and a $25 Home Depot gift card. It’s a prize worth 65 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s program. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Carol in California is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you today?

    CAROL: I have an old house. It sits high off the ground and it’s one of the houses that when they dismantled the camps, they took houses out and people bought them and set them up. And it’s all open underneath and it is freezing cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. Is there something that I can do underneath the house?

    TOM: So there’s no insulation?

    CAROL: I don’t think so. Very little, if any.

    TOM: Yeah. Are there – is it like a sort of open floor joist? Like do you see the floor joists when you look under and up?

    CAROL: You know what? I haven’t been under the house.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, look, you’ve got to get somebody under there, Carol, to see what the structure is. But we have the technology, OK?

    CAROL: OK.

    TOM: You know, if it’s a standard floor-joist construction, you can add insulation in between the floor joists and then under that, you could use 2-inch insulating foam board and then nail that to the bottom of the floor. And that would seal up the floor from the cold air that’s getting up in there.

    And I would also take a look at the attic to make sure that that’s insulated. And you just may have a house that needs a few very basic, energy-saving improvements to it.

    CAROL: Alright. Well, I appreciate that information. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got David from Illinois on the line who’s got a question about a well system. How can we help you today?

    DAVID: It’s my son’s well. He has a well in his house and it – the water system has air pockets in it quite often so that the water will be running and then an air pocket will expel water.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: And sometimes, it’ll shoot out of the sink or what-have-you. And so I was wanting to know what you can do to get rid of the air pockets in a well system.

    TOM: Does the system have a pressure tank on it, David?

    DAVID: It has a pressure tank, I believe.

    TOM: That sounds like a problem with the pressure tank. If the pressure tank is missing or if it’s not installed properly or if the bladder has failed, then you’re not getting a chance to build up pressure and then feed off the tank. You might be feeding directly from the well, which could account for the air blast.

    So the first thing I would do is look at the pressure tank, see what kind of condition that that’s in. That’s most likely what’s causing the air getting into the lines. I think that’s the best step, OK?

    DAVID: OK.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We are into my favorite month: October. So much stuff to do around your money pit. What are you working on that we can give you a hand with? It’s about to start getting really chilly across the United States and we want you to be prepared. So give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, it’s called “fall” for a very good reason. You want to make sure all those falling leaves don’t take your gutters down with them, though. We’ll have tips on how to choose a gutter guard that will protect against leaks and flooding, when The Money Pit continues after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we are giving away 4 packs of the GE LED Bright Stik, plus a $25 gift card to The Home Depot.

    LESLIE: Yeah. What’s really awesome is these bulbs feature a slender and sleek design which will allow it to fit into more fixtures than those standard CFL bulbs. And what’s great about the GE LED Bright Stik is that it’s going to provide instant brightness, which you don’t always get with the other bulbs. And that’s just great because the lighting is beautiful.

    TOM: The GE LED Bright Stiks are available exclusively at The Home Depot and at HomeDepot.com. This prize is worth 65 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Louis in South Carolina on the line who’s got a driveway question.

    LOUIS: I’ve got about a 20-year-old driveway and the gravel apparently didn’t get shook down good.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    LOUIS: And the rocks are showing through.

    TOM: OK.

    LOUIS: And I put some salt on it one time and that didn’t help it.

    TOM: No. That made it worse, I’m sure.

    LOUIS: And what I need is – I was hoping I could finish it with something that would bond to it rather than just having to redo the whole driveway.

    TOM: Yep. OK. So, you can use an epoxy patching compound and trowel that on the driveway. Epoxy is important because epoxy will adhere to the concrete surface.

    LOUIS: And where would you get something like that?

    TOM: Oh, you can find that at a home center. If you take a look at QUIKRETE – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E – QUIKRETE.com, they make that product, as do others.

    LOUIS: And I could find a contractor somewhere that could do that?

    TOM: Yes, you could or you could do it yourself, depending on your skill level. But essentially, the epoxy is important because it will attach and glue and adhere to the old concrete.

    LOUIS: Right.

    TOM: If you just try to put more concrete on there, it’s not going to work right.

    LOUIS: It won’t crack and flake off?

    TOM: No. That’s why – it’s designed to stick to old concrete surfaces and not flake off.

    LOUIS: Well, I sure appreciate you helping me.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, sir. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Tracy in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a universal-design project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    TRACY: I have a daughter who’s 21 years old and we need some help when it comes to bathing her. We’re looking at doing a bathroom addition onto her room but we don’t even know, really, how to get started. Do we need to consult with an architect on the design advice? She’s homebound, medically fragile, 100-percent disabled and we just are looking at some advice on how to even get started to meet her needs so that we only have to do this one time.

    LESLIE: Is a tub situation easier for you or is a shower?

    TRACY: Probably a shower.
     

    LESLIE: OK. Because there are the tubs with the doors that open. It depends on how difficult it would be to sort of move her from chair to seated tub position. It just depends on how comfortable you are with the bathing situation, if you want to get in there and get wet.

    But Tom and I have actually done a lot of work with universal design and are quite familiar with some of the processes.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. And I do think it’s a good idea to use a certified kitchen-and-bath designer. And that’s somebody who is going to be specializing in universal design. You’re going to ask specifically for someone that has that talent, because they’re going to be up to speed on the best products that are out there for your particular situation, be able to recommend appropriately and you’re going to get a bathroom that actually looks nice and functions well for you.

    I would not – would not – call a standard remodeling contractor. Because a remodeling contractor will say, “Yeah, I understand. I know what to do.” And you know what? They just don’t, because it’s very specialized.

    In fact, some years ago, Leslie, didn’t the AARP have a special certification program for contractors and architects that were working with universal-design situations?

    LESLIE: They did. It was through the Homebuilders Association. And they had a special course that you could take to become certified as a universal-design specialist. So you might want to start with the AARP’s website, just to find some recommendations of folks in your area who are certified. I believe it was called the CAPS – Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist – Program.

    And even though that’s not necessarily your need, it has similar associations. So you might want to start there as far as just trying to find somebody who can help you find the right products. Because you want something that looks good; you don’t want it to feel like a hospital. You want it to function and you want it to be done right the first time.

    TOM: They have a lot of resources for universal design. Probably the best collection anywhere online is on the AARP website. You just simply click on the Home & Family section and then Home Improvement and you’ll find a lot there.

    They also have a section on livable communities. Because the universal design just makes sense for folks of any age, whether you are a senior citizen, whether you are disabled or whether you are just a mom that comes home with her arms full of grocery bags and needs to pop open a door with her elbow because she can’t really turn a door knob. You know, there’s tips like that that really make it so much easier for you to live comfortably in your house, regardless of age or physical condition. So I would start there, as well.

    But make sure you work with people that are experienced in universal design. There are lots and lots of people out there. You’ve just got to find them, OK?

    TRACY: Great. Thank you so much for your help.

    TOM: Well, no surprise here, a flooded basement is one of the top fears among homeowners. But what you might be surprised to know is that simply keeping your home’s gutters clean can reduce the risk of that happening to you.

    LESLIE: Yeah. True to their name, gutter guards are going to keep leaves and debris from clogging up your home’s drainage system, which will prevent leaks, floods and even costly ice dams that build up when the water has nowhere else to go.

    TOM: Yeah. But the thing about gutter guards is they’re not all created equal and their price tags are really all over the place. So you’ve got these bottle-brush guards; they’re one of the simplest and most affordable options. They kind of look like large bristles. They rest in your gutters from end to end and they keep the leaves out while letting the water pass right through.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, foam-type fillers, they’re also going to drop into gutters to block the debris. They’re made of a porouspolyurethane that prevents mold and mildew and they can be added to most homes for just about a few hundred bucks.

    TOM: Now, I like the mesh guards but they’re pricier and they do work to prevent those fallen leaves from getting into gutters at all, especially the very fine needles. They’ll keep them out.

    And the nylon gutter guards are especially good in colder climates because they also keep snow from accumulating, which prevents ice dams that can really cost a lot of money in damage.

    For a complete list of the different types of gutter guards that are available, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each, search “Gutter Guards: Are They Worth It?” on MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ben in Arizona who’s dealing with a situation of arachnophobia. What’s going on with those spiders?

    BEN: Oh, not a whole lot. They seem like they’re overtaking our yard. I can mow and they just scatter everywhere. I kill anywhere from 30 to 50 of them every time I mow.

    TOM: Do you have any idea what kind of spider it is?

    BEN: No. They call it – from what I’ve heard, they call them “wood spiders.” And I don’t know if that’s what they’re – really what they’re called or not. But they’re brown and they’ve kind of got black streaks across their backs. And some of them are smaller than – some of them look like they can get to 2-inch diameter or so, something like that.

    TOM: There’s actually a couple things that you can do to try to control these – the population of these wolf spiders. First of all, things that you can do on your own are to try to eliminate their nesting sites. And that are areas where you have bushes, ivy, grasses or any plant that is right up against the house. Wood piles, lumber piles, rock piles are all places where these spiders can nest.

    But the most effective way to get rid of them is to use a pesticide. Now, you can either do this yourself or you can hire a pro. If you want to do it yourself, there is a pesticide dust that you can buy in a lot of places; I know it’s available on Amazon. It’s called EcoEXEMPT D Dust. The letter D – EcoEXEMPT D Dust. And it’s an organic, plant-based insecticide that’s ready to use. And it’s pet-safe, as well, which is important.

    I’ve got to tell you, if I had kids and I had that much of a problem, I’d probably have it done first by a professional and then I’d follow up with my own do-it-yourself pest control after. Because the products that the pros use are just far more effective. And they are absolutely safe if they’re applied by a trained professional according to label directions. Does that make sense?

    BEN: OK. Alrighty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    JANET: Right. Yes.

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

    JANET: Yes.

    TOM: How about AZEK?

    JANET: AZEK?

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

    JANET: OK.

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

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

    TOM: Right.

    JANET: OK.

    LESLIE: That could be very lovely.

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

    JANET: Alright. Sounds wonderful.

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

    LESLIE: Jason in Delaware is on the line and needs some help with an electrical update at their money pit. Tell us what’s going on.

    JASON: Hi. Well, let’s see. We bought an older home: probably like 1940, 1950. It’s a great home. No doubt about it. I mean we thought we were going to have a bunch of problems: we thought we were going to have to replace the roof, we thought we were going to have to replace the foundation. But it’s pretty much like somebody built the house and never really lived in it.

    TOM: I think we’re getting to a “but.” Everything’s great but what’s happening?

    JASON: But the breaker box is outdated. And the total cost of replacing that – hiring a certified and professional contractor and everyone – the electrician to do it – is going to cost us around $5,000.

    TOM: Alright. Why do you say it’s outdated? What’s wrong with it?

    JASON: It’s a 100-amp box.

    LESLIE: OK.

    JASON: And you can’t run more than two air conditioners in the house at one time.

    TOM: Take a breath. I’ve got great news for you, alright?

    JASON: What’s that?

    TOM: You don’t have central air, right? You’re running window units?

    JASON: Window units.

    TOM: You do not need a new panel. A hundred amps is way more than enough power to run that house. What you need …

    LESLIE: Unless you’re planning on making those updates.

    TOM: Yeah. What you need are some new circuits, which are easier to run.

    JASON: OK.

    TOM: You see, the reason you’re tripping those breakers is because whatever circuit those air conditioners are on is pulling more power than that one circuit can handle.

    Now, most circuits that go to bedrooms, for example, are 15-amp circuits. You put an air conditioner or two on a 15-amp circuit, it’s going to pop, especially an older air conditioner that’s not as energy-efficient, because it’s going to start pulling more power. And if you happen to have those two air conditioners on the same circuit, there’s not a chance that you’re going to be able to run that when you have to.

    What you do is you add more circuits. So you add another circuit that’s just for that air conditioner, from the point where it’s installed to the panel. Put that on its own 15-amp circuit and there you have it; you’re done. No $5,000 for a new panel.

    See, this is another example – when electricians come in and they size you up and they give you a price on doing a job that you really don’t need. A hundred amps is a lot of power. I doubt in a house that’s probably gas-fired – is that right? It’s gas-powered?

    JASON: Yes.

    TOM: So you have a gas-powered house, so you’ve got gas heat, gas stove, gas water heater. You know, if you pulled 30 amps when everything was running in that house, I’d be surprised. So you don’t need a new box; you need more circuits.

    JASON: OK. Well, thank you, guys, so very much.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, are you feeling cabin-feverish already? Well, with the right patio heater, you can hang out in your yard or on your deck well into the fall or even year-round. We’re going to have patio-heater shopping tips from This Old House‘sRoger Cook.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by the STANLEY Smart Measure Pro, Bluetooth-enabled for quick and easy measurements right from your smartphone. Snap, measure, share. We’ll be back with more, after this.

    JOE: Hi, this is Joe Namath. And if you want to move the ball on your home improvement projects, listen to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    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: Well, with turkey stuffing and cranberry just around the corner, it’s a great time to add space and convenience to a small kitchen. We’ve got some big-impact ideas you can add in time for the holidays. They’re on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Jamie in South Dakota is on the line with a vaulted ceiling with a crack in it. Tell us what’s going on.

    JAMIE: We’ve been living in this house. It’s (audio gap) built in 2000 and I believe it was a modular that was moved onto a basement foundation. And a few years back, we noticed it started to crack. And my husband tried to fix it but apparently, whatever he did didn’t work.

    TOM: OK. Well, let’s give him a little break on that. He can probably try it again but maybe he didn’t take some of the right steps.

    Now, first of all, cracks in vaulted ceilings are very, very common. There’s a tremendous amount of expansion and contraction that goes up there, not to mention the fact that it’s one of the warmest places in the house, especially in the summer.

    So, what you want to do to try to fix this is to sand over the area where the crack is so that you remove any loose paint, dirt, debris, that sort of thing. Next, you want to cover that with a piece of perforated drywall tape. It looks a bit like netting. It’s a little sticky and it comes on a roll.

    And on top of that perforated tape, you want to add three layers of spackle. You start very narrow at about 4 inches and you work out to maybe 6 or 8 or 10 inches, in terms of the width of the spackle blade.

    That netting actually bridges the crack and makes sure it doesn’t come through again. If you were simply to go up there and spackle it, the crack really isn’t fixed. So, the next time the ceiling expands and contracts, it’s going to show up again. Does that make sense?

    JAMIE: OK. Alright. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, as the weather cools down and summer turns to fall, you might be wishing there was a way you could keep enjoying your deck or patio, even with a little nip in the air.

    TOM: Well, if you’d like to keep dining entertaining in your beautiful outdoor spaces well into autumn, it can be done. All you need is a patio heater. Here to tell us about the different types of heaters available is This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.

    Hey, Roger.

    ROGER: Hey. How are you doing?

    TOM: We’re doing well. So, how does a homeowner go about choosing the patio heater that’s right for their setup? There’s an awful lot out there to look out.

    ROGER: Well, there’s basically three different types – three different fuel types – which signifies which type you may like to use. The first one is natural gas and that’s a hard-plumb thing, meaning it goes in one spot and it stays there. It’s not movable.

    TOM: Right. OK.

    ROGER: But the great part is you don’t run out of fuel.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Yeah, right. There’s no propane to refill and I guess that’s the next type.

    ROGER: Right. The propane ones are great because they allow you to move them around and go to different spots if you’re using different areas in the yard.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And they are also in a couple of different sizes. You could even get a tabletop propane one I’ve seen.

    TOM: Yeah.

    ROGER: Yeah. And you see a lot of the umbrella ones – the big, tall ones that radiate down – at a lot of restaurants outside, too.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    ROGER: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, what about the infrared heaters? Now, these are fairly new in terms of the patio-heater market but they’re run by electricity.

    ROGER: Right. And again, it’s a product of choice of what you want to use. If you want to use electricity, these are pretty good heaters for a smaller area.

    TOM: And sometimes, we’ve seen infrareds that are run by natural gas and those are really big, industrial. I’ve seen those in big, open-air restaurants, right?

    ROGER: Right. Well, even guys try to heat places in the wintertime to keep working and they’ll use those big infrared heaters.

    TOM: Right. Like in garages and that kind of stuff.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: So I guess the next choice is portable versus stationery and that comes down to, I guess, how much space you want to heat?

    ROGER: Exactly. You know, well, you can move some of them around; some you can’t. So we have to look at that, to begin with. The natural-gas ones are stuck in place.

    LESLIE: Now, are you stuck with – when you’re using an outdoor heater, are you stuck with sort of a – sort of low/medium/high setting or can you call up a specific temperature? How do these really work for you?
     

    ROGER: Some of them have thermostats on them so you can really control what you want. The other thing is to figure out the BTUs you need. You need something that’s 45,000 BTUs …

    LESLIE: How would you even know that?

    ROGER: Probably from the – what the manual says.

    LESLIE: So it’ll say a 45,000-BTU unit might do a 20-foot diameter or something.

    ROGER: Exactly.

    LESLIE: OK.

    ROGER: So it’s a matter of pricing something in your zone. You don’t want to pay for too little or too much, so read the manual and see which fits you the best.

    TOM: Now, you also have open versus enclosed types of heaters. There are a lot of places where you can use a patio heater either, I guess, where – a fully open area or something maybe on a roof?

    ROGER: Well, just remember that any time you have combustion, you have carbon monoxide. You want to get fresh air in so that you don’t have a buildup of carbon monoxide. So never, ever bring one of these combustible heaters into a closed space.

    TOM: So that would include maybe some place that was roofed over where that gas could kind of build up.

    ROGER: Exactly.

    TOM: Even though it’s outside, you could be still subjecting yourself to the off-gassing.

    ROGER: Right. You want to make sure you have good air movement to carry the carbon monoxide away.

    LESLIE: Are there any safety features sort of built into these, like maybe an on/off switch? Because I’ve got kids and a pet, so I feel like I want to make sure things are really safe for us.

    ROGER: Yeah. Most of the high-end ones have an on/off switch but they also have a tip-over switch so that if something happens that it fell down, it just shuts itself off automatically.

    TOM: Now, that’s really, really important. And I guess, as always, maintenance is key. Just because it worked one season doesn’t mean it’s going to be working safely the next.

    ROGER: No. And you want to take and store these properly in the winter so you have them again next year.

    TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House andAsk This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Still ahead, without the right soap, washing your car is a complete waste of time. We’ll teach you how you can trade in the dish soap for specially-designed suds that shampoo your car while also conditioning its paint, when The Money Pit continues after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question and a chance to win this hour’s prize, which are 4 packs of the GE LED Bright Stik and a $25 gift card to The Home Depot.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Get this guys: the GE LED Bright Stik bulbs, they cost less than $4 per bulb, which is really beyond affordable. And it uses 80-percent less energy. So pretty much it’s paying for itself as you use them.

    TOM: They’re available exclusively at The Home Depot or at HomeDepot.com. Pick up the phone, give us a call right now. That Bright Stik-and-gift-card package is worth 65 bucks. Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    HOWARD: Alright. Thank you, Tom.

    TOM: Well, if you are a fan of The Money Pit, you’re probably into doing it yourself. And if you’re a DIY-er at home, you are probably a DIY-er with your car, too. And now your favorite center, The Home Depot, is also your one-stop shop for auto-care needs.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Head on over to the auto aisle for products like Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner. Now, most people seem to use dish soap to wash their cars. Even though hand-dishwashing liquid is a degreaser, it’s not the thing that you should be using on your car’s finish.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. Because while it might remove dirt, grease and old wax, it’s going to also take important oils right out of the paint’s finish. Instead of dish soap, use a cleaner formulated for vehicles, like Meguiar’s Gold Class.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s going to gently foam away dirt and grime and it’s also going to condition the paint at the same time. Now, you can get it in the auto-care aisle at your closest Home Depot location or online at HomeDepot.com.

    TOM: And remember, The Home Depot has automotive cleaning products you need, in store and online. Find supplies for cleaning, auto accessories and even everything you need for an oil change.

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

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

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

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

    TOM: Alright.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    HELEN: Like now.

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

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

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

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

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

    LESLIE: Janet in Kansas is on the line dealing with a condensation problem. Tell us what’s going on.

    JANET: Well, my husband and I, we have steel-framed windows and we get a lot of condensation on those in the winter. And it runs down on the window sills and ruins the finish.

    TOM: OK.

    JANET: And I was wondering if there were any suggestions on how I could make that stop.

    TOM: Well, the reason that you have condensation is because the windows aren’t well-insulated. So what happens is you have warm, moist air that’s inside the house and then you have cold air that’s outside the house and cold windows. And so as the warm air hits the windows, it condenses. Because the windows will chill the air; they’ll lower the air temperature and then it releases its moisture.

    So, short of replacing the windows with better-quality windows, this is going to be a challenging problem. The only thing that you can do beyond that is take steps to reduce moisture inside of your house by making sure you have exhaust fans, making sure your drainage around the foundation is good and making sure that you have proper attic ventilation. So, reducing moisture inside the house will help reduce the amount of condensation on the windows. But the reason it’s happening is because the windows are not insulated.

    JANET: OK. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    By now, you’ve probably gotten wind of alternative energy sources that claim to cut your energy bills. But do they live up to the hype? We’re going to tell you how to separate wind-power fact from wind-power fiction, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Glisten. Glisten makes it easy to clean, freshen and maintain your dishwasher, disposer, microwave and washing machine. So improve the performance of your appliances with cleaning solutions from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Visit GlistenCleaners.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, it’s time to say goodbye – or at least goodbye, for now – to your summer home or boat. But first, you want to make sure it can stand up against the cold temperatures in months to come. We’ve got tips on how you can winterize your vacation home so it stays as good as you left it, right now, on the home page at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation like the Segrete family did last winter, with our family summer home with practically a foot of water thanks to some frozen pipes.

    TOM: That wasn’t good.

    LESLIE: Not a good thing. So let us help you avoid that altogether. And you can post a question, just like Miranda did who writes: “I hear a lot of pros and cons to wind generators. What’s the truth? Is there a wind generator that works and pays for itself over time without costing thousands of dollars?”

    TOM: Well, the answer is: it depends. And that because it really depends on a lot. I mean it depends on where you live and how much wind you have in that area. It depends not only on the initial cost but also on what rebates might be available from state or local governments or your utility company. And even if the answers to those first two questions are positive, it also depends on whether the local government is going to allow you to have a wind generator or your property without triggering any crazy zoning variances that can cost thousands of dollars to resolve.

    It’s been my experience that if you’re going to think about something so far out of the norm, at least residentially-speaking, as installing a wind generator, you really need to assess that you’ve done everything else perfectly when it comes to energy efficiency in your house. So we’re talking about insulation in the attic.

    How much insulation do you have? Is there 15 or 20 inches of insulation in that attic? Has everything else been sealed up nice and tight? Is your heating system efficient? Is your water heater efficient? Where else are you wasting energy?

    If you do an audit of your house, you will find probably plenty of places where you could step up your efficiencies without triggering any major zoning issues or having to do a cost-benefit analysis on putting a 40- or 50-foot tower in your backyard.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Which it really doesn’t sound like – unless you live on a lot of property, kind of in a rural area – that it’s going to get approved. But it’s always worth the ask.

    Alright. Next up we’ve got a post from Rob who writes: “I have an interior brick wall that was painted years ago. The last coat, however, was paint meant for steel and it’s now turning into a fine powder. I can scrape loose the paint but how do I safely and fully remove the powdery paint from the wall? I thought I could use a steel brush but that’ll send the steel paint into the air. Even with a face mask, I’m afraid it will get into my lungs.”

    TOM: Well, I would suggest, in this case, that you use a paint-stripping product. Even though you think the paint surface is somewhat deteriorated, you’re still going to have to loosen up what’s underneath all of that.

    LESLIE: And all the other coats underneath it.

    TOM: Well, exactly, because you don’t know what’s underneath that. So you want to get a good respirator. Yeah, you’re right. If you put on of those paper-dust masks across your face, you probably will breathe the stuff right through it. But if you use a proper respirator, which is available at a home center or a hardware store, it will not.

    You want to match the respirator to the project you’re doing. So if it’s fumes, that’s one kind of respirator. If it’s dust, that’s another kind of respirator. But if it’s installed – if it fits firmly on your face – it fits properly on your face, I should say – you’re not going to get any leakage in there and you’ll be able to do that project without a lot of hassle.

    Another little trick of the trade, though, by the way, is to depressurize the area that you’re working in. Set up fans so it pulls air out of the space and sort of across the room. And that will take any particles that get released to the air straight outside, as well.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Rob. You know, you have to be really safe when you’re doing this. You don’t want to mess around with anything getting into your lungs. Really, the other thing is, know that with brick, the surface is so porous. You’re probably never going to get back down to a fully clean brick, so you might have to sort of fall in love with that almost white-washed effect or whatever color the last coat is. But you can get there and you might love the results.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve been able to help you out with some tips, some ideas, some inspiration to avoid the perspiration when you tackle your home improvement projects. Remember, you can reach out to us, 24-7, at 888-MONEY-PIT, online at MoneyPit.com or post your question to Facebook.com/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 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2015 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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