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Create a Home Theater for Holiday Entertainment, How to Unclog a Drain, Safety Tips for Preventing Residential Fires and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And what are you working on during this holiday season? Are you working on getting your house ready for guests? Did you just have some guests visit you and they left your place a wreck and you want to try to put it back together?

    LESLIE: Or they’re still there?

    TOM: Or you can’t wait to get rid of them? Hey, listen, whatever you’re working on now or perhaps planning for the year ahead, we’d like to help. You need to pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT because we are here to help you with your home improvement questions, your décor questions, your can-I-do-this-myself-or-am-I-nuts questions. Just give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, holiday entertaining is well underway, so we’ve got some tips to help you turn a ho-hum space into a home theater for great winter viewing on a budget.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, maybe the worst part of home ownership is dealing with a clog, something which is really very common this time of year. So coming up this hour, we’re going to have expert advice from This Old House plumbing contractor, Richard Trethewey, on the best way to restore the flow once again.

    TOM: Plus, you can learn how to avoid a dangerous problem that could be lurking behind your walls: older wiring. That could lead to arcing, a major cause of residential fires. Find out about some new technology that could protect your home.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a basket of assorted Citrus Magic all-natural air fresheners worth 50 bucks.

    TOM: Citrus Magic works great to absorb odor and does so with no harmful chemicals. So let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Clyde in Missouri is on the line with a roofing question. What can we do for you today?

    CLYDE: I’ve got a composition roof on my house. I have a garage. It’s 14 foot, 6 inches to the perpendicular, with a metal roof. And I want to attach the two. What would be my most simple way to do it?

    TOM: So these two roofs will intersect, Clyde?

    CLYDE: Yeah, they’re the same height, floor and roof ridge. Everything is the same.

    TOM: But you have metal on one and then you want to put composition on the other. So what would have to happen is the metal roof would be flashed up underneath the composition roof. The metal would actually be both the roof of the garage and the flashing for the composition. So where they come together, the composition would overlap on top of the metal but the metal will actually go under the composition to create the watertight seal. Does that make sense?

    CLYDE: Yeah. Hey, yeah, that’ll help out a lot. I can go from there. Appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Sandra in North Carolina is on the line. How can we help you today?

    SANDRA: We’re trying to decide which quality of filter to use for our furnace filter ­- switch out? Should we use the ones that are cheaper, like the 4-for-$2 or should we use the HEPA-filter quality ones that are like $20 for your furnace filters, when you change them out?

    LESLIE: Well, with filters, you’re definitely getting what you pay for. And it really depends on what the situations are with everybody in your house.

    Now, the less expensive a filter, the thinner that membrane is going to be and of course, the wider that webbing is, if you will, so it’s really not going to stop very much. You know, Tom and I always joke that they’re called “pebble stoppers,” because that’s really the only thing that’s not getting through there.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: So it really depends. The less money you spend, the less things that are getting trapped. If you’ve got somebody with allergens in the house, you want to spend a little bit more money because you’re definitely going to get what you pay for.

    SANDRA: OK. So I need to go to a quality filter because I have a lot of allergies. And the people that built the house say to go with a cheaper filter so you can let air circulate.

    TOM: Yeah, well, look, a good-quality filter does not block the air, whether it’s one that’s designed for better filtration or one that’s designed for lesser filtration. None of these things block the air. So if you have allergy issues, you have asthma issues, you definitely want to use a good-quality filter.

    And if you want the ultimate in filtration, what you might want to think about doing at some point is installing an electronic air cleaner. This is a device that’s built into the HVAC system right near the furnace, generally. And these are incredibly efficient at taking out 95-percent plus of the contaminants that are in the air. I mean these electronic air cleaners today can take out microscopic-size particles.

    SANDRA: OK. Well, I really appreciate your information. You’ve been very helpful.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, Sandra. 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.

    Well, we hope you guys all enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday and we are here to give you a hand as we roll towards the new year and every holiday between now and then. Give us a call. We’re here to lend a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, no need to spend big bucks on your entertaining space. We’ll have tips on how you can create your very own home theater on a budget, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Diamond Crystal Salt. The benefits are bigger than you expected. After all, you’re worth your salt. Diamond Crystal Salt. A brilliant choice since 1886.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain MyQ Garage. When you forget, it alerts your smartphone so you can close your door from anywhere, on most garage-door openers. Available now. For more information, go to Chamberlain.com.

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

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

    Now, one caller that we talk to this hour is going to win a $50 gift basket from Citrus Magic. The Citrus Magic air fresheners are really extremely effective at getting rid of bad smells. They come in both a solid or a non-aerosol spray and they’ve got several scents that you can choose from. And the unique formula in the solid air freshener includes baking soda, which helps naturally absorb odor. I tell you, I use the linen one – the one that smells like laundry – in the baby’s room, in the nursery, sort of by the diaper-pail area. And you could not tell that diapers containing you-know-what are kind of housed in this cabinet because all you can really smell is a dryer sheet. It’s fantastic.

    TOM: So, if your home smells like diapers or perhaps last week’s turkey is still lingering about, check out Citrus Magic products. They’re all made in the U.S.A. You can get them online at CitrusMagic.com or at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger or your favorite local hardware store.

    Give us a call right now. We’ve got a basket of Citrus Magic products to give away to one lucky caller at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sacari (sp) on the line who’s dealing with some mold issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    SACARI (sp): I have a half-basement – half dirt and the rest is cement – and there’s a crack in the brickwork but it doesn’t go all the way through. But it must be enough so you can – it seeps through. We’ve measured it and it hasn’t moved – the crack – but water, every once in a while when it rains, we hear it come through the wall and you can see it’s all wet. But upstairs, what it’s doing is causing the vents to get rusted. And my towel bars are wooden, so I’m constantly, every few months, spraying it with bleach or Tilex to get the mold off and then painting it over with KILZ that I thought would stop the mold from coming through but it doesn’t.

    TOM: So you’ve got a major moisture problem going on in this house, right?

    SACARI (sp): Right. It seems that way, too. And so I was worried about the mold, so I brought that test kit from Lowe’s that tells you. I sent it in and they analyzed it and said that we weren’t in danger of any mold but I’m always seeing mold on the shower curtain, the dish drains and everything, so …

    TOM: Yeah, well, there’s different kinds of mold and the kind of mold that you have on shower curtains and dish drains is something called Cladosporium, which is a really common household mold. And unless you’re super-sensitive to it, it generally doesn’t cause a threat.

    But let’s talk about the moisture issue because this is a situation, Sacari (sp), where you need to learn how to better manage the moisture that’s in your house. Now, I think that the moisture is starting in the basement because, obviously, you’re getting water in that crack when it rains heavily. And the fact that the water is consistent with the rainfall is actually good news because that means that this is a relatively simple problem to fix.

    You have too much water collecting in the area immediately adjacent to your foundation: that foundation perimeter zone. And so what you need to do is really two things. Number one, I want you to look at your gutters. Do you have gutters on your roof?

    SACARI (sp): Yeah, we have gutters and we keep those pretty cleaned out. We actually even put the leaf protector so that they wouldn’t overflow. And it’s fairly new, the gutters. Well, I guess they might be like 10 years old but they’re in really good shape.

    TOM: They need to be extended.

    SACARI (sp): Well, that’s supposed to be like a hose thing under the ground that goes out from the house, so …

    TOM: Well, the fact that you said “supposedly” means you’re not really sure and that’s mission critical. You need to be absolutely certain that that water is not leaking out anywhere near that foundation perimeter. If it is, that roof is collecting water and shooting it into your foundation.

    It’s crystal clear to me that you have too much water around your house. How that’s happening, I’m not sure. But the number-one culprit is usually downspouts. And so if that water is not discharged away from the house – and I’ll tell you an easy way that you could check this. That is disconnect the downspouts from the underground pipes and just go add – buy three or four pieces of leader material from your local home center. Let it run out over the grass so that the water is away from the house. It won’t look good for a few weeks but at least you’ll be able to know when it rains, the water is absolutely not getting around the foundation perimeter.

    And if you discharge that water and you’re certain it’s not near the foundation and it doesn’t show up in the basement, well, now you know the solution to your problem: somehow, in those underground drains, it’s being – it’s leaking out and redirecting into that foundation area.

    The second part of that is looking at the grading and making sure that the soil slopes away from the wall. You want it to drop about 6 inches over 4 feet. And if it’s too flat or if it’s too mulch-y or there’s any kind of landscaping that’s retaining water against the house, that’s a problem. But I say that in most cases, 80 percent of this is gutters and downspouts and 20 percent of it is grading, unless you just happen to be at the bottom of a hill.

    If this was sourced by a rising water table, it would not be consistent with rainfall. But the fact that it rains heavy and you get water in the basement, it’s got to be associated with water collecting around the foundation. You just need to figure out where and how it’s getting there.

    SACARI (sp): Alright then. Maybe because we have a lot of trees, maybe some roots did grow and puncture those – that downspout that’s underneath the ground. So, you’re saying buy some leader and let that run out and see when it rains hard. I gotcha, I …

    TOM: Right out of the top, just to test it – just to test the theory and see what happens, OK? And if you wanted to invest the money, you could have a drain-cleaning service run a camera down those pipes and see where they’re actually broken. But let’s just figure out where it is first and then take it from there.

    Sacari (sp), thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, it’s time now for The Money Pit’s Pinterest Tip of the Week, presented by Citrus Magic Air Fresheners. And this hour, we’ve got some tips to help you create a home theater on a budget.

    LESLIE: A home theater can be a valuable investment, especially as the cost of family entertainment and gas continues to rise. So to begin, you want to assess the space that you’ve got to work with.

    Now, take into consideration a comfortable distance between your screen, speakers and the seating area. Remember, a great home theater doesn’t require a giant screen and a gazillion speakers.

    TOM: The ideal viewing distance from a television is usually two to two-and-a-half times the width of its screen. The switch to digital TV signals a few years ago have made flat screens and HDTVs more affordable. There are also home-theater-in-the-box sets that include everything you need and are designed for the budget-conscious consumer.

    LESLIE: No need to spend big on new home theater furnishings or room redesigns because you’ve probably already got most of what you need for both comfortable and optimal acoustics.

    Now, fabric upholstered couches and chairs, those are ideal. You can inexpensively add sound-absorbing elements like area rugs and draperies and that’ll do the trick.

    TOM: And finally, lighting is also important for good home theater viewing, so make sure you have dimmable lamps or lighting. Any windows should also have drapes or shades that block natural light when it’s needed.

    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.

    Alice in Illinois is on the line. Alice has got a hard problem: she’s got hard water. How can we help you today?

    ALICE: I have well water and on the well water, I have iron, hardness and manganese. And I do have filters that I use with [salt packs] (ph). But I’m looking for something else besides those [salt packs] (ph).

    TOM: There’s another option that’s an electronic option and it’s called EasyWater – E-a-s-y-W-a-t-e-r. And essentially, what EasyWater does is it installs to your main water pipe and it sort of causes the hardness in the water to polarize in the sense that it doesn’t stick to the fixtures anymore. And there’s a lot of people using it now. It’s been pretty effective and it’s an alternative to using a salt-based solution for this particular water problem. They’ve been around for about 25 years. They seem to be a good company, do a good job.

    Take a look at their website at EasyWater.com. I know they’ve got a pretty good guarantee, so if you don’t like it, you can send the unit back.

    ALICE: Yes, great. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sampat in North Carolina who needs help with a heating question. What can we do for you?

    SAMPAT: I have a 2,600 split-foyer house and we have natural gas and electricity for heating purposes.

    TOM: OK.

    SAMPAT: Mostly, we use natural gas.

    TOM: Good.

    SAMPAT: Would a quartz infrared heater save us any money?

    TOM: I don’t think so. If you’ve got natural-gas heat already, that’s going to be the least expensive per BTU. So if you wanted to save money, what I would suggest you do, Sampat, is to take a look at your energy efficiency in your home and see what could be improved there. For example, take a look up in the attic and tell me if you’ve got 15 to 20 inches of fiberglass insulation. If you don’t, now is a good time to add to that.

    SAMPAT: Yeah, we do have good insulation. Very good insulation. But there’s still – the heating bill is running around close to $200 a month in the wintertime.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. So, another thing to take a look at is the outlets on the exterior walls – the lights and the outlets and the switches on the exterior walls – and make sure that those have insulation gaskets behind them because there’s a lot of drafts that get in there.

    SAMPAT: Yes.

    TOM: And look to all of the areas where you can tighten up the house. That’s going to give you a better return on investment than adding quartz infrared heat, which is very, very expensive to run. Now, the only time that that makes sense is if all the rest of the rooms in the house are turned off, so to speak, and maybe you’ve just got one area that’s a little chilly and you just want to run it for a little bit of time strategically, like in the evening when you’re all gathered around.

    But I would never suggest that you use that in lieu of your natural gas-fired, central heating system because it just wouldn’t make sense.

    SAMPAT: OK. Alright, Tom. Very good. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Good luck, sir. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Pam is dealing with some mysterious water noises. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    PAM: When I run water down the kitchen sink and after I stop running the water, that kitchen sink gurgles.

    TOM: Well, your problem is very simple: you have to stop running water and flushing toilets.

    PAM: Can’t do that.

    LESLIE: Stop using the plumbing.

    TOM: Alright, look, what’s going on here is your plumbing system is starved for air; you don’t have enough ventilation. And you know when you look at a house from the outside and you see the plumbing pipes sticking up through the roof?

    PAM: Right.

    TOM: Those are vent pipes. And what they do is they let air into the system so that when the water runs out, it’s replaced by air without gurgling. When your plumbing can’t get enough air, it gurgles like that.

    And the solution here is going to be figuring out what’s wrong with the existing plumbing-ventilation system. You may have a blockage somewhere that’s causing this. There are ways to add additional vents if necessary but you’ve got to get to the bottom of it, first, and figure out why it’s blocked.

    How old is your house?

    PAM: It’s 14 years old.

    TOM: Has it always been this way?

    PAM: I don’t think it has always been that way. It seems like the more that we use – when I’m home on a weekend and use it a lot, it gurgles more.

    TOM: I think you have to have a plumber take a look at that because you don’t have enough air getting into the system.

    PAM: OK.

    TOM: Something is wrong with the venting and you may need to open that drainway’s vent pipe up somewhere else to get some more air in there.

    Pam, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    HUGO: I’m redoing my kitchen and bathroom. And I’m wondering what you would recommend for flooring it. I’ve got carpet in it now and I sincerely dislike the carpet. And I want to put something else in and would you recommend a composite material or vinyl or linoleum or what?

    TOM: Well, I can’t think of two rooms that are worse for carpeting than kitchens and bathrooms.

    HUGO: I know. Tell me about it. I bought the house seven years ago and it had that in it, so …

    TOM: Yeah. Bad décor choice but I think you can do a lot better. I think one thing that you might want to take a look at is laminate flooring because laminate flooring can come in a wide range of designs. I mean it can look like tile, it can look like stone or it could look like wood. And it’s really durable when it comes to moist/damp places.

    HUGO: What about – will a stove and refrigerator leave dents in it?

    TOM: I’ve had laminate flooring down in my kitchen for 10 years and we pull the refrigerator out whenever it’s necessary. I never worry about it.

    HUGO: Well, I appreciate the information. I thank you and I’ll look into it.

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

    LESLIE: Still ahead, learn how to unclog a drain quickly and easily and without damaging your pipes. The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues, after this.

    NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Citrus Magic Air Fresheners, the perfect fresh-air solution that eliminates bad odors naturally and replaces them with fresh scents. There’s magic in the air. Available as a solid air freshener or non-aerosol spray, online or at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger or your favorite local hardware store.

    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: And right now on our home page at MoneyPit.com, we’ve got tips to help make your holiday guests more comfortable. Check out the new gallery and make your overnight visitors feel right at home.

    LESLIE: Well, drain clogs can be a real hassle of home ownership. They happen at the least convenient moment and they can be a real pain to fix.

    TOM: True. But they do come with the territory and they don’t have to be complicated to free up. Here to explain the solutions is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hello, gang.

    TOM: It seems to be the most common thing for homeowners to do to fix this is to reach for the chemicals. But that’s not always the best approach, is it?

    RICHARD: Well, I’m a licensed plumber. I would never use the chemicals. People do it. It’s a big industry. They can at least do it to do maintenance. But if you have a real solid clog, particularly in a kitchen sink that is loaded with you name it: celery and all sorts of heavy-duty garbage …

    LESLIE: I believe they call that “biofilm.” Ugh.

    RICHARD: That these chemicals are not going to necessarily be able to clear that.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: And so, to me, the best way is to do some sort of mechanical clearing using a proper snake. But it’s a big industry and it’s – people do it, you know? We often – when we used to be brought in to – when I was brought in to clear this things after the fact, the chemicals became a real terrible thing for us because we had to deal with this caustic stuff and try not to burn our hands, yeah. But it’s …

    TOM: All the chemicals that they put in before they called you.

    RICHARD: Yeah, that’s right.

    TOM: They would fill these drains up with chemicals and then …

    RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. Come to this nuclear waste department. So, clear it now, please.

    LESLIE: And it can’t be good for the plumbing.

    RICHARD: Well, if it sat for too long and it was a thin-wall brass pipe, it could wear it out. I don’t want to say that all the chemicals are going to wreck the plumbing.

    LESLIE: Right.

    RICHARD: It’s just I don’t think it’s effective as much as people think it is effective, on these chemicals.

    TOM: So let’s talk about what is effective, starting with the mechanical clearing methods. Baseline defense: plunger, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah. I don’t – every house should have a plunger. I think the toilet stoppage …

    LESLIE: The grossest tool in the house.

    RICHARD: It’s a great tool.

    LESLIE: It’s pretty gross.

    RICHARD: No. Well, you do have to wash it once in a while but it is really a terrific tool and every house should have one. Particularly, as toilets get smaller and smaller water content, the passageways get tighter and you have to find ways to clear it.

    And what we’ve shown a couple of times on camera is that people tend to think they want to plunge and push the stoppage down. You actually want to get the plunger down over the lower part of the bowl and actually create a little bit of a vacuum and pull backwards to clear the stoppage back towards you. It’s a completely counterintuitive move to ever say, “Let’s pull this back towards me.”

    TOM: Right. You’re not pushing it – yeah, you’re not pushing it back down the pipe; you’re really pulling it out to give it a chance to go down on its down again.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Right, right. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. So the plunger is an important tool that every house should have.

    And the other is – they’ve now got, at the home centers, these beautiful, little drain snakes: a little hand snake that can feed by itself. As you turn the drum, there’s a trigger that can allow you to not have to put your hands on it. And so now it’ll advance. And every house should have one of those, so you could go down through – on a kitchen sink, you could go down through the trap and right to the horizontal part of the kitchen drain, which always tends to clog because of the food products in there.

    And just – now, when you get that down in there, then you run the water while you’re spinning that snake, you are cleaning that inside of the pipe like no chemical could ever do and just get – yeah, get it all down the drain, yeah.

    TOM: And washing all that debris down at the same time.

    RICHARD: It’s the effective …

    LESLIE: If you improperly snake a drain, can you do some damage to it? Like if you’ve got a bathroom that has double sinks and they share sort of like a T-drain …

    RICHARD: Yeah, it’s never – it’s not always as easy as I might make it sound or we make it seem on television. But typically, though, you’re going to run the snake down, it’s going to go in the right direction. And it’s worth looking at.

    The bathtub is also a chronic stoppage point. And so, what you should look for – when you have a bathtub, people think, yeah, they have a drain stoppage. But most of these have a trip-lever device, which is the thing that lets you stop the drain to hold the water mechanically.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: And behind that, that can often get clogged with hair and stuff. So, they think they have to run a snake down but what you really have to do is to pull that whole assembly out. If you were facing the overflow – that chrome thing that’s up on the side wall of the tub when you’re in the tub – there’s two screws there. Pull the screws out without dropping the screws into the drain and then pull that whole assembly out and you’ll be surprised what you can see in there, particularly if you’ve got people with long hair that can get down in the drain and …

    LESLIE: Again, why is everybody looking at me? What’s going on?

    RICHARD: Look, when you’re talking about hair, you don’t look at me.

    TOM: We’re talking to Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House.

    OK, so we’ve covered the mechanical clearing, the plungers and the hand snakes. What about the bigger snakes: the electronic drain cleaners when you have the really big pipes that are clogged?

    RICHARD: Those are done by a professional and it’s the only way you can clear a main-drain stoppage. The main-drain stoppage in the American home is a very real problem.

    What happens is we see, most often, the cause of it is tree roots. So when that sewer line goes out through the front foundation of the building, out to the street – if you see a nice, big, beautiful oak tree or some tree right next to it, there’s a good chance that little, tiny roots – little capillary roots off of the main roots – can get just into those connections. And once they get in there, they’re in a perfect place to grow because they get organic matter and warmth and water and they’ll keep on growing. And then you come in with a drain snake that’s got a nice cutter wheel at the end of it, you can then clean it and stuff but it’s still going to grow back.

    So, people that live with this whole tree-in-the-front-yard stuff can live their lives worrying that in the next five years, they’re going to have to do it, you know, again and again. But it’s a real issue.

    We did something on Ask This Old House that was a very interesting solution where we actually lined the existing pipe underneath the ground. This sort of inflatable sock that we sort of did like a clown’s balloon and inflated it down the entire length of the pipe that was covered with epoxy.

    TOM: Yep.

    RICHARD: And the balloon – filled with water, at this point – held that sock until it cured. And it completely lined the inside of the pipe so that the roots could no longer get into it. It’s an amazing – so you’re not going to do it everywhere but you’re going to do it when you have a fancy landscape in the front yard where you really want to – wouldn’t want to dig up the front yard.

    TOM: Yeah, it makes sense.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And I imagine that a drain camera was probably instrumental in that.

    RICHARD: Oh, what – that technology is so cool now. Yeah, going down – “Here we go. Going down.”

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    RICHARD: Yeah. What’s nice is the homeowner can understand what the issue is.

    LESLIE: The process.

    RICHARD: Yeah, so they’re not sort of sitting in the dark, literally.

    TOM: So the drain camera goes in the drain itself and you can actually see the physical leaks, see the root ball underneath the ground.

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

    Now, there’s one other thing I should mention that – we talked about chemical cleaners. They also have a really cool thing that I want to just mention. It’s an enzyme that once you put it down into the drain and it comes in contact with water and it’s got a little bit of warmth to it, these enzymes just start eating any organic matter.

    And I’ve seen an example of this which, still, to this day – somebody put an entire can of it down into a cesspool. And it looked like it had been cleaned by a professional cleaning crew.

    TOM: Wow.

    RICHARD: It’s just amazing. And this is a whole sort of natural, biological reaction versus a chemical. So, keep your eyes open for this whole enzyme biological cleaner.

    TOM: Good advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Always great to see you guys.

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

    TOM: And you can watch This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station. Ask This Old House is brought to you by Angie’s List. Angie’s List, reviews you can trust.

    And still to come, is your kitchen in overdrive this time of year? Well, we’ve got tips to help you cut energy costs in this hardest working room of your house.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.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: And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a cool product. It’s a $50 gift basket from Citrus Magic. Citrus Magic air fresheners are extremely effective at getting rid of bad smells. They come in lavender, pure linen and citrus scents and they’re available in both a solid and a non-aerosol spray.

    LESLIE: Now, the sprays are made with organic citrus oils and the active ingredients in there last four times longer than ordinary air fresheners.

    TOM: Get them online at CitrusMagic.com or at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger or your favorite local hardware store.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Barb in Iowa on the line who’s got a heating question. How can we help you today?

    BARB: Yes. My son recently purchased a house and it has the hot-water heat. And was wondering about if we replace that, if you’d suggest staying with that system or going with maybe the forced-air natural gas?

    TOM: Oh, no, I would – well, first of all, is it a gas-fired heating system? It’s just heated by hot water instead of ducts?

    BARB: Yeah, it has kind of – the radiators along the …

    TOM: Oh, listen, Barb, you’ve got the best heating system available. So, you definitely don’t want to take – never take apart a radiant system.

    Now, if you want to add air conditioning, you add a separate set of ducts for that. But you never disable that hot-water baseboard system because it delivers warm, moist heat. Now, most builders today don’t put these in because they’re too expensive. But if you bought a house that’s got one, you definitely want to keep it and enjoy it.

    BARB: OK. And then if – just repair it if it would need any …

    TOM: Well, I mean hot-water systems rarely need repair; it’s just that the boiler needs maintenance. But most hot-water, gas-fired boilers will last 25 or 30 years.

    BARB: OK. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: More than half of all electrical fires are caused by a dangerous problem called “arcing.” Electrical arcing creates a high-intensity heat, sometimes more than 10,000 degrees, that could ignite surrounding materials like wood framing or insulation.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s true. And there are a few causes: humidity, natural deterioration of the older wiring. And even animals that chew through the wiring can cause arcing. And you know what else causes arcing? People cause arcing.

    Have you ever moved the couch, Leslie ­- I know this has happened to you – and then you realize the lamp cord was pinched under it all that time?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Well, things like that can cause arcing. It can damage the wiring and cause it to arc and spark and that can cause a fire.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Alright. So what’s the solution? Leviton, one of our newest sponsors, has a new product called the SmartlockPro Outlet Branch Circuit AFCI Receptacle. Now, that may sound like a mouthful but when it comes down to it, this is a receptacle that has some advanced technology, which is going to help protect against electrical fires caused by arc faults.

    It’s going to detect dangerous arcing conditions and then it will respond by interrupting power. It also has a test and reset function on it, just like a GFCI.

    TOM: Yeah. And the AFCI stands for arc-fault circuit interrupter. And it also has feed-through protection. So that means that it can detect arc faults anywhere in the circuit.

    So, if you use one of these for every circuit in your house, your entire home will be protected. It’s very affordable. They are less than $29 each.

    LESLIE: Get Leviton’s Outlet Branch Circuit AFCI Receptacle at Amazon.com or at The Home Depot. And if you want some more information on it, visit Leviton.com/AFCI.

    TOM: That’s Leviton.com/AFCI.

    LESLIE: Mary Lee in Washington has a call about radiant heat for the floor. Tell us what’s going on.

    MARY LEE: I’m going to remodel my bathroom. It’ll have a tile floor. Some of my neighbors in my condominium have put under their floors and say they love it. But I wonder if there’s any efficiency to it or if it’s just an expensive comfort.

    TOM: I think it’s more of a luxury item, because your condominium probably has enough heat with the core heating system.

    That said, it is kind of nice to have that toasty floor in the bathroom. And if you don’t mind the expense to install it, you can control the expense to run it because you’re always going to – you’re only going to operate it when you need it. You can put it on a timer, you could heat the floor up just for one particular bath/shower experience. You can really control that usage.

    But it is awfully nice to have. There’s nothing efficient about it; it’s definitely going to cost you some money to run because it’s electric. And it’s the most expensive form of heat.

    MARY LEE: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still ahead, we’ve got tips on the best way to save on heating costs. That’s all coming up, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, celebrating their 170-year anniversary. At Stanley, making history is our future. To learn more, visit StanleyTools.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And you can head on over to MoneyPit.com and check out our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide, which is presented by Stanley. You’ll find some great gift ideas for the handy guy or gal in your life, like Stanley’s TwinTec Ratcheting Wrench.

    I love this product because it’s one tool that can actually take the place of an entire socket set. You might even find a few items to add to your own list, so take a look at it right now at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, head over to the Community section at Money Pit and you can post a question there, just like Phil from Wisconsin did. And Phil writes: “I know a programmable thermostat can help save money. We use ours to have the heat go down at night and then set it to have the house warmed up by the time we wake up. But I’m home all day. Is there a better way to save energy since I can’t program the heat to come down at all during the day?”

    TOM: Well, actually, there are lots of ways to help you cut energy costs. But beginning with a programmable thermostat, since you are home during the day, as you mentioned, you can’t set it to go down. However, are you home all the time during the day or is it just that you’re home sometimes during the day? Because what is very effective, in a programmable thermostat, is to look for one that has a motion-detection capability.

    For example, there’s a product we use in our house called the Nest thermostat. And we’re often home, kids going in the house during the day, but there are many times when there’s no movement in the house, indicating that the house is empty. And in that case, the thermostat senses that and automatically brings it down to the lowest setting. So something like that, using technology to your advantage, can cut those energy costs.

    But there are just tons of other things that you could do and should be doing this time of year if you’re concerned about costs. I would say that the first place you should look, though, is in your attic. Because adding insulation is important and most homes in America don’t have enough insulation. If you’re in an average, four-season area of the country, you really ought to have 15 to 20 inches of insulation in your attic. And if you don’t, you’re really wasting money every single time you pay that energy bill.

    So start with the insulation in your attic and kind of work down from there. On MoneyPit.com, we have dozens upon dozens of tips on how to cut heating costs, so just search that topic on MoneyPit.com. You’ll get lots more ideas.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Brad in Colorado who writes: “I had contractors in smoothing some walls recently. I realized too late that they cleaned the joint compound off of their tools in my kitchen sink. What will this do to the pipes?”

    TOM: It’s kind of rude but nothing. I mean look, the joint compound is water-soluble, so most of it will sort of have just dissipated away. But even if some small chunks get left behind, there’s really no difference between little pieces of that stuff and food that you wash down the pipes every day.

    So, I wouldn’t freak out over that. I think that you’ll probably be perfectly fine.

    LESLIE: And next time, have this discussion with your contractor. Say, “These are the things I allow in my sink and these are the things I do not.”

    TOM: Although I have to admit that my wife will chase me out of the sink. Every once in a while, I’ll go into the kitchen sink to clean a paintbrush. And if she’s watching, I’m usually in trouble for doing that. But see, I clean up after myself. I get rid of all of the evidence, so there’s no way that she knew that I was there, most of the time.

    LESLIE: Hmm. But now she does.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s true. I did just mention that on the radio, didn’t I?

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We hope that you are having a fantastic holiday season. And if that holiday season involves a home improvement project or two, perhaps you need a recommendation on a gift for the do-it-yourselfer in your life, we are available 24-7 at MoneyPit.com or you can pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (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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