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  • Transcript

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)

    BEGIN HOUR 1 TEXT:

    (promo/theme song)

    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 with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. We are standing by and ready to help. So before you pick up the hammer, before you pick up the saw, pick up the phone and call us. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974, because spring has sprung; it’s in full swing and what better way to celebrate than to increase your home’s curb appeal.

    Coming up this hour, we’ve got some smart and easy spring spruce-up projects for your front façade that will actually help you catch in on more value in your house.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, since spring has sprung, there’s one more chore that you need to be tackling and that’s mowing your lawn. And gas-powered mowers, they’ve got their pros and cons but they’re not the only option if you’ve got a smaller lawn. We’re going to teach you about the benefits of electric and push mowers, in just a few minutes.

    TOM: And pretty soon, many of us will be flipping on the AC for the first time this year and whether you live in Miami or Michigan, there is a bit of annual maintenance that your air conditioning system needs to make sure it functions and does so without wasting lots and lots of energy. We’re going to tell you what you need to know to keep cool and save cash this summer, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour we’re giving away a cool utility wall cabinet worth 57 bucks and it’s great for storing those garden tools or your sports equipment.

    TOM: So let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Brad in Oklahoma needs some help adding onto the house. What can we do for you today?

    BRAD: Well, I was wondering if turning my garage into a den adds or takes away the value of a house because I would be losing the garage.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: You know, that’s a really good question. It depends on the neighborhood and what other folks have done. If it turns out that most of the folks in your area have garages and you’re the only one that doesn’t, that makes you kind of odd man out and I think …

    BRAD: It’s about 50/50.

    TOM: It’s about 50/50? Well, if it’s 50/50, then maybe not. But remember, you’re going to find people, when it comes time to sell this house, that are going to want the extra room and you’re going to have other people that would have preferred a garage. I will say this: if you are going to convert this garage, make sure it looks like – doesn’t look like a garage anymore. That means changing the front façade, to side it, to landscape it, to modify the driveway. All of those things are important because there are so many times when people will modify garages to create finished living space and still leave the garage door or do something else that’s kind of schlocky like that and that really takes away from the value.

    BRAD: Yeah, I agree.

    LESLIE: And I would say if you’re taking away the garage and your property allows for it, build a functional and attractive shed so that when you do sell, you have the added benefit of saying, “I’ve got this storage.” And plus, for you, it’s like where are you going to put your lawn mower; where are all your tools going to go? It’s like you do need that secondary storage area.

    BRAD: Right. See, I’ve already got a 12×24 shed already in the yard.

    LESLIE: Oh, great.

    TOM: Oh, so you’re in good shape.

    BRAD: Yeah, so. OK, well that was my question.

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

    LESLIE: Marie in Georgia needs some help with a cleaning project. What can we do for you?

    MARIE: We bought a house that was built in the early 70s. The grout between the patio tiles is very dirty and also mildew-stained and the brick around the bottom of the house is clay-stained and also very dirty. We have tried several products and even a pressure washer on the patio and we haven’t had much results and we were wondering if you had anything to recommend.

    LESLIE: Have you tried a – you know like store-bought grout stripper? It’s like a chemical-y product that you would get that would really strip off some off that top layer of the grout, which would probably get rid of a majority of that dirt.

    MARIE: Oh, no; we haven’t. We just bought the general household cleaners; you know, lots of bleach and scrubbing and pressure washing. That’s all we did so far.

    TOM: Yeah, I think that if you used a grout stripper, that would do a much better job of removing the dirt and the mildew. Make sure that when you apply it, you let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes to go to work; then scrub over that with a good, stiff brush and I think you’ll find that it’s going to come out a lot brighter this time.

    MARIE: OK. And should I do the same thing on the brick? The brick is clay-stained – you know, around the bottom of the house – because there wasn’t anything to prevent backsplash from the water.

    TOM: It may clean it but if it’s just brick that you want to clean, the other thing that you could use is trisodium phosphate, TSP, which will do a good job.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) That should do a good job.

    MARIE: (overlapping voices) OK.

    TOM: That’s available usually in the hardware store in the paint aisle or in the home center in the paint aisle and that will do a pretty good job. You want to mix it up into a fairly thick consistency and, again, put it on and let it sit. I’m not sure that I would do both. I would do one or the other because I’m not sure how they would react to each other.

    MARIE: OK.

    TOM: OK?

    MARIE: Very good. Thank you very much. That was a big help.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Pat in North Carolina has an unusual situation going on with the flooring. Tell us about it.

    PAT: Yes, my house is about six years old and I have natural wood floors. And everything was fine when I moved in and the first year I moved in I put the heat on and I seem to get an opening between the boards that are over the joists.

    TOM: Yep.

    PAT: The floor joists.

    TOM: Yeah.

    PAT: And they go away as soon as spring comes around and it warms up and I shut the heat off. And all the other boards are fine; just every 12 feet, where there’s a floor joist underneath the plywood – evidently, I don’t know what causes it but I can stand a nickel up inside of those cracks there over the floor joists.

    TOM: And that’s bugging the heck out of you, isn’t it? (chuckles)

    PAT: Yeah, everybody’s telling me, “Well, try to plane down the …” I wouldn’t know how to go about going to plane it down.

    TOM: No, I mean look; what’s happening here is normally, as the boards expand and contract, they kind of open and close equally and if that was divided up among the scope of the boards, that wouldn’t happen. But in this case, you happen to have some strategic loose boards there every 10 or 12 feet apart, so it’s showing up all in one space.

    I don’t really feel like it’s worth doing anything about it. I think it’s completely natural. I don’t think having a gap the size of a nickel is going to be looked at as a defect. So, if it was me, I’d probably just live with it.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, the countdown to the official kickoff of summer has begun. We are weeks away from Memorial Day, so get your grills ready, get your decks ready. We can help you with all of those summer fun projects. Just give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’ve got smart and easy improvements to help spruce up your front façade and increase the value of your home.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru Doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit Therma-Tru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a Suncast two-door utility wall cabinet from CSNSheds.com. Now this is a resin cabinet that’s going to mount right to your wall and it includes an adjustable shelf, which is great because you can shove anything in there – sporting equipment, gardening things. Whatever you’ve got in your garage that needs a place to go, it will fit in there. It’s worth $56.99 and it goes to one lucky caller we talk to this hour, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your answer and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, you know, your front door is the main focal point for curb appeal, so one way to improve the value of your house is to make sure it really sparkles. You know, there are a few easy things that you can do to help you accomplish that. For example, you can start with small spruce-ups like painting or refinishing the door surface. You can polish the hardware and you can touch up the surrounding trim. And you can also update your front door by simply changing the handle and the lock set; there are a lot of very beautiful ones out today and they’re not that expensive. You can add an up-to-date doormat, a stylish address plate or some new house numbers and a brand new mailbox and you’ll be well on your way to freshening your home’s first impression. And finish it all off with a bit of container gardening right around the front door. You want to use some bright, seasonal blooms.

    If you add it all up, we’re talking about a very small investment that, if it’s done well, can pay off really, really big.

    888-666-3974. If that has spurred on a home improvement project in your mind, pick up the phone right now, give us a call because we are here to help you get the job done.

    LESLIE: Alright, now we’ve got Poe calling in from Mississippi with a question about a screen door. What can we do for you?

    POE: Great show, great show.

    TOM: Thank you.

    POE: I have a metal door with vertical and horizontal strips of metal. It was originally designed as a security door. What I want to do is to get a good summer’s breeze coming through here and I want to be able to keep the insects and mosquitoes out. So I want to put a full-length screen on this metal door and I’d like to know if there’s some kind of adhesive or glue you could recommend to hold that screen in place.

    TOM: Well, typically you don’t glue a screen in place. Typically, a screen is mechanically attached with screws or something of that nature or little brackets. Now, this screen that you want to cover the door with, what you might want to do is go to a hardware store and have them assemble a screen for you in screen-framing material, which has a place for a – what’s that rubber stuff called that you push …

    LESLIE: It’s like a – it’s a …

    TOM: It’s like a rope.

    LESLIE: … textured tubing, if you will.

    TOM: Yeah, that holds the screen in place.

    LESLIE: And it pushes the screen into a channel and then what you use is this like – it basically looks like a pizza cutter without a sharp edge.

    TOM: Yep, mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: And you use that to sort of push this rubber tubing into the channel and that secures the screen.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Stretch it.

    LESLIE: And you do it on one side and then you do the opposite side. You sort of stretch it as you would a canvas.

    TOM: You would have a standalone screen and then you would attach the screen to this metal door.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) And you could just screw that on.

    POE: (overlapping voices) OK. I was trying to avoid all that and just get some glue and just glue it in there. So that wouldn’t be a good idea. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: No, you don’t want to do that because what’s going to happen the first time the screen rips and you’ve got to try to strip the glue off? No, attach it – make a standalone screen then attach that to the door and this way, you know, you can maintain it. If the screen wears out, you can simply unscrew it and replace it.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) You can replace it.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) It won’t be expensive.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) And you can take it off in the winter and just insert the screws back into the holes so that you don’t have any sort of unattractive openings in the door if you wanted to get rid of it.

    TOM: Exactly.

    POE: OK, sounds good. Sure appreciate it. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Poe.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Oh, you’re welcome.

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

    LESLIE: Alright, now we’re going to chat with Sarah in Texas who’s got an insulation question. What can we do for you today?

    SARAH: I bought a home about a year ago and it’s a 1970s home. And we have pretty good insulation in the house already but we are wanting to put in a new layer. There were a bunch of critters that used to live up in the attic.

    TOM: Oh, no.

    SARAH: There are carcasses and stuff. (chuckles) And I didn’t know whether it was OK just to kind of layer over it and blow in new insulation. Would we still get the same benefits or is it better to start from scratch?

    TOM: Well, in this situation, where you’ve got some insulation that was damaged or certainly infested by small animals, I would not recommend putting a second layer down. I would take the opportunity to pull out what you have.

    That said, if the insulation is in good condition up there – it’s still fluffy, it’s still doing its job – there’s no reason you can’t put a second layer. But if it’s been infested, I wouldn’t want you to trap all that under. The animals may have stirred it up and may have compressed it by walking on it and insulation is not going to work unless it’s fluffy and full of air.

    Now, in terms of the amount of insulation, Owens Corning recommends that you have 19 inches of batt insulation or 22 inches of blown-in insulation. They have a good website, called InsulateandSave.com, that you can go to and get tips on how to actually do the installation of the insulation yourself. It’s not a difficult project. It’s very inexpensive and, in fact, you may find that you qualify for federal energy tax credits by installing insulation and other energy-saving improvements to your house.

    SARAH: Absolutely. Cool. That’s what I thought. So I just wanted to take the best route to ensure the longevity of the new layer that we put in.

    TOM: Yeah, I think in this situation, since you had those critters up there, I would get rid of the old stuff and start new. You’ll get a really well-insulated house; it’s going to make you more comfortable, more energy-efficient and it’s going to save you some money. That website, again, is InsulateandSave.com. They’ve got a zip code tool there that will help you find a retailer in your area and also a way of calculating how much you can save on your monthly energy bill.

    SARAH: One question, though. Would you recommend having professionals come in to remove the old insulation?

    TOM: Not necessarily.

    SARAH: Because being up there, it’s a pretty – there are some pretty tight corners and, you know.

    TOM: Well, not necessarily in the sense that you can do it yourself; it’s not hard to do. But if you find it difficult to work around the attic space because it is difficult to access, then certainly it’s something you could hire a pro to. But if you do work in the attic, just remember the age-old carpenter adage. Know what that is? Walk on wood.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Yeah.

    TOM: Walk on wood. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: Or end up in ceiling of bedroom below.

    TOM: That’s right. And watch out for the nails in the roof. Sounds like you’ve got all the information you need to do this job yourself. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: David in Rhode Island has got a tricky toilet. Tell us what’s going on.

    DAVID: Well, listen. Every time – not every time but many times when I flush the toilet, I detect like a pocket of air; you know, there’s like a big bubble that comes up. And then let’s say that it doesn’t flush completely.

    TOM: Right.

    DAVID: Sometimes I have to wait until it recycles and then flush it again and then it’ll be gone.

    TOM: Hmm. Sounds like there’s a partial obstruction.

    DAVID: That could very well be. (chuckles)

    TOM: That would cause that.

    DAVID: Any quick ideas? (chuckles)

    TOM: Well, hmm. Have you had to plunge it all to get it moving again?

    DAVID: No, no. It’s never been quite that bad. No.

    TOM: Yeah. I have a feeling that there’s a partial obstruction here. I can’t begin to speculate what that obstruction is. But when you have something that’s not flushing all the way like that, that’s generally what happens. I mean I had a situation once where I had a toilet that broke down right before a big family party, so I was absolutely positive that it was the willow tree outside; the roots had grown into the drain pipe. So I got up really early and dug this big hole in my ground and tried to find these roots and get them out but then I got the pipe open and there were no roots in there.

    Long story short: I ended up taking the toilet off the floor, turned it upside down and found a little, blue, toy phone in it. (Leslie chuckles)

    DAVID: Oh, wow.

    TOM: So some home improvement expert; I tore up the whole yard and it turned out to be an obstruction right in the toilet itself.

    DAVID: Right in the toilet itself. Oh, gee.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) So I suspect that, yeah, the smallest little thing falling in that toilet can cause this condition; so I would probably take the toilet off, try to snake it out and look inside the trap of the toilet itself – that’s the curved part that’s sort of underneath the bowl – and see if you can figure out what the obstruction is. Because I have a feeling that’s what’s causing this, David.

    DAVID: Alright, then. Tom, thanks for your time.

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

    Yes, do as I say, not as I do or did.

    LESLIE: Alright, now we’ve got Dot in Wisconsin who’s dealing with a wet basement. Tell us about it.

    DOT: We get water in our basement and I’ve had many different ideas as what to do about it, but I was wondering what options you might have for me.

    TOM: Well, Dot, tell us when does your basement get wet. Is it after heavy rain or a snow melt?

    DOT: Just, yes; that is the time, yes.

    TOM: OK. So the reason it’s getting wet is because you have bad drainage on the outside of your house. You need to look at your gutters; make sure that they are clean and free-flowing. You need to extend your downspouts away from the corners of your house and you need to look at the grading around the house. You want the soil to slope away four to six inches. And those three things will stop your basement from leaking. Because what happens is water is collecting at the outside foundation. It’s sort of laying against that wall, going through the foundation wall, could actually even come up into the floor of the basement – almost like a geyser I’ve seen his happen – all because the water is collecting at that foundation perimeter.

    LESLIE: And finding it’s way in.

    TOM: So if you dry out the outside, that’ll stop it.

    DOT: OK, I have to let you know we do have a cement driveway and then we have an attached garage and I believe that the cement that was put down was kind of sloped the wrong way and I’m thinking we might have to get that all taken up.

    TOM: Well, that’s indeed possible if you have a driveway that’s running into the house. But you don’t have to tear it all out. You can put in a curtain drain at the low point; try to collect the water and then run it around the house or someplace downhill and then drain it out there.

    DOT: OK, I thank you.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, spring has sprung and we are all in our yards trimming the grass. When we come back, we’re going to explore options other than gas mowers, so stick around.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch, professional-quality hand tools, pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers. Choose the brand that pros trust most – Bostitch, available at Lowe’s and other retailers.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And speaking of online, we’ve got a list of May weekend projects online right now at MoneyPit.com; so if you’re sitting around thinking, “You know, I really feel like doing a home improvement project but I just don’t know where to begin,” the solution is MoneyPit.com. Check out the May weekend projects; all sorts of quick projects that you can get done in maybe 30 minutes or less that will add to your home.

    LESLIE: George in Virginia is having a sort of cold moment in the TV room. What’s going on? It’s freezing in there?

    GEORGE: Well, when we run the heat it is. My TV room is 14 or 15 – it’s two steps below the level of the rest of the house. During the heating season, there’s always a cold draft that comes down the steps and the floor down there is always cold and I’d like to try and find a remedy for that. Can you help me, please?

    TOM: What kind of heating system do you have?

    GEORGE: Right now, we’re using oil; furnace, forced air.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) But is it forced air or – it’s forced air. OK.

    GEORGE: Yeah.

    TOM: And so this entire house is on a forced air system. You have central returns or do you have room returns? That means …

    GEORGE: Oh, we have two small returns.

    TOM: Two small returns.

    GEORGE: Yes …

    TOM: I think that’s the problem. I don’t think you have enough return air going back. You know, supplying warm air to a room is not a one-way street. You don’t just supply it and not take it back. But I suspect that you don’t have enough cubic feet of warmed, conditioned air getting into that lower level to satisfy the drafts that you’re getting because, basically, as the air cools, it’s going to fall down to the lowest level and unless you’re resupplying a lot of heat down there, it’s not going to work.

    So, I would two things. First of all, I’d have an HVAC contractor come in and see if it’s possible to get more duct work or better air flow to that space. And if that’s too complicated, the other thing that I might suggest in this situation – and this situation only – is to add an electric resistance heater, so baseboard electric, to this room. And have that set so that you can just turn it on when you absolutely need it on those cold, cold winter nights and that will provide you enough supplemental heat to deal with the comfort issue. Because what you’re going to find, George, is even though the electric is expensive to run, you’re probably overheating the rest of the house because it’s so darn cold in the living room.

    GEORGE: Uh-huh. OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you have a big lawn, gas-powered mowers do the job and they do it well. But they do have some drawbacks, especially if you’ve got a smaller yard.

    TOM: But the good news is that there are other options and we hear about them right now from This Old House host Kevin O’Connor and lawn and garden expert Roger Cook.

    Hey, guys, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit. And Kevin, there are a lot of options today besides gas-powered mowers.

    KEVIN: You know, when it comes to mowing our lawns, we are all familiar with the traditional walk-behind or riding gas mowers. They’re essential for a big yard but they can be noisy, they require a lot of maintenance and, well, they’re not so great for the environment. But fortunately, there are some alternatives for smaller yards.

    ROGER: Yeah, there are electric power mowers that are both corded and battery-operated. They’re both quiet and they require very little maintenance. But don’t forget reel-type mowers. They’re great for doing a small yard and you also get exercise at the same time.

    KEVIN: Alright, but when it comes to performance, do reel mowers really cut it?

    ROGER: Kevin, think of them like a pair of hand pruners. There’s a fixed blade and then there’s a sharp piece that goes over that bed knife it’s called. When it does, it cuts the lawn really cleanly and that’s good for the lawn and it also leaves behind the clippings which provide nitrogen for the lawn. So it’s all a good thing.

    Now, for more information on mowers and how to use them, go to ThisOldHouse.com and check out the video.

    TOM: And I love the idea of the walk-behind mower because it’s so much cheaper than the gym membership. (Tom, Kevin and Roger laugh)

    Kevin O’Connor, Roger Cook, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Oh, it’s been fun.

    KEVIN: Good to be here.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and you know what, you guys? You’re totally right because there’s no better workout than a full day of yard work. And you know, speaking of which, today’s This Old House segment was brought to you by Cub Cadet. Cub Cadet – you can’t get any better.

    TOM: Up next, we’ve got tips to help keep your AC running cool and cost-effectively all summer long, coming up after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac and the Generac automatic standby generator. Be protected and never worry about power outages again. Visit your favorite home improvement center or call 888-GENERAC or visit Generac.com. Your home will stay on the next time the power goes out. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And you should pick up the phone right now and call us with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one caller we talk to on the air this hour could win the Suncast two-door utility wall cabinet from CSNSheds.com. It’s a resin cabinet that mounts to the wall and includes an adjustable shelf. It’s got a lockable door. It’s worth 57 bucks; going to go to one caller we talk to at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must have a home improvement question in order to qualify for this prize but it’ll be a cabinet that you can use to store your stuff, get it up off the floor, and help you get a bit more organized this spring.

    LESLIE: 888-MONEY-PIT. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to hear what you’re working on. You know, maybe it’s already starting to really warm up where you’re living …

    TOM: It is.

    LESLIE: You know. And in the next few weeks, we’re all going to be flipping on our air conditioning system for the summer and thank goodness. You know, it’s going to be my first season with mine so I’m very excited to use it. (chuckling)

    TOM: You’re very excited. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: But in order to make sure that your air conditioning system is going to run efficiently, your central air conditioning compressors, they need to be kept clean. So it’s a good idea to inspect the coils around the outside of the compressor and wash them down with your garden hose to free up any loose dirt. Also, you want to be sure that all of the bushes that are around it are trimmed to allow at least 12 inches of space around the entire compressor. Any closer and that unit is not going to cool properly and then it’s going to have to run longer to cool your house; it’s going to lower it’s efficiency and, in turn, increase the cost to operate the system.

    So, be wise, take care of the compressor outside, have your system serviced if you need to and make sure it runs well. And I can’t wait to turn mine on. I’m very excited about it.

    TOM: Simple steps to keep cool and run efficiently all summer long.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your next home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tom in Rhode Island who’s kind of midway in a floor removal project and sort of stuck. (chuckling) Tom, what’s going on? You should have called before you started peeling off the flooring.

    TOM IN RHODE ISLAND: Yeah, you’re right, Leslie; I made a mistake. (Leslie chuckles) I thought it was going to be an easy job and after spending several hours of hammering and using scrapers, it’s not coming off. As I said, I’ve got about 20 percent of the low (ph) floor covering off. It’s not coming off completely; it’s leaving some type of a paper backing on it, so you can’t really see the plywood underneath. And I’m wondering, can I just put this commercial-grade tile over everything? Would that little bit of a drop show up or do I have to continue to take it off and what would be the best way?

    TOM: So you want to put down tile; ceramic tile?

    TOM IN RHODE ISLAND: No, commercial-grade – like linoleum; you know, the one-foot squares, the commercial-grade.

    TOM: Oh. Oh, the one-foot squares. Well, in that situation, yeah, it probably is going to show up. What I would do, in this case, Tom, is I would put down underlayment. So I would put down 1/4-inch luan mahogany, plywood underlayment. You want to nail it with something called a ring nail – which is like a grooved nail that goes in and just doesn’t come out – across the entire surface. Now you’ll have a flat surface. And in that case, you can probably get away with just going right on top of the area that you tore out. May be a slight dip there but not much that’s noticeable.

    LESLIE: Should he put like a piece of tile that he removed under there just to sort of level it out?

    TOM: You know, maybe; that’s not a bad idea. You could use a piece of the old linoleum as a shim. But this way you’ll have a very clean, dry, flat surface that the glue for the new tiles can stick to very, very easily.

    TOM IN RHODE ISLAND: Now this luan underlayment, will this have to be treated prior to putting the new square …

    TOM: No, no. No.

    TOM IN RHODE ISLAND: No?

    TOM: No, no. You go right on top of it. It’s designed for this …

    TOM IN RHODE ISLAND: OK, how far apart should the nails be; the ring nails?

    TOM: Eight on the edge, six in the middle. So it’s called eight on the edge, six in the field. So eight nails where you have the end of the board and then six in the middle of the board at each floor joist.

    TOM IN RHODE ISLAND: OK. Oh, excellent, excellent. Thank you very much. You two have been a big help.

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

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

    BEVERLY: I was listening to your show and it was suggested to someone to look into the Rinnai water heater. And I am interested in Rinnai water heaters and tried previously to do that and was told that there would be a problem venting it in a pre-existing home. And I also will be needing to purchase a new heat system in the next year or so.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    BEVERLY: And so my question is, is there a way to make these new technologies happen in a pre-existing home? Are there new non-vent things or better ways of venting than they knew a few years ago? Because I’ve not looked into it in the last couple of years.

    TOM: Well, it sounds to me like you didn’t talk to the right guys because, I tell you what, it’s easier than ever to vent a high-efficiency furnace or a high-efficiency water heater because the vent pipes can be direct-vented, which means they don’t have to go into chimneys; they can go right through the exterior wall. So, I don’t know why you were told that it’s a problem to vent but it’s really not.

    BEVERLY: It’s not. See, I’m surprised because they said, “Oh, we had to go all the way through to the roof” and then I wind up buying, you know, giant, big, 50-gallon water heaters again.

    TOM: Well – yeah, well I mean you may have found yourself in a situation, Beverly, where you got a contractor that wanted to sell you a project to go in one direction and not the way that you wanted it to go.

    BEVERLY: OK.

    TOM: But it’s not hard to vent high-efficiency. It’s actually easier because it can go through the side wall of the house and out.

    BEVERLY: OK. And if your system is not at the end of the house, it’s more in the center of the basement, is that a problem or not?

    TOM: If it’s in the center of the basement, the pipes would have to go across the basement and then out. But you know what’s cool about high-efficiency is it takes so much heat out of the gases that what’s left can run through a plastic pipe.

    BEVERLY: Wow. OK, that’s great because I thought, “Gee, if she could do this, maybe I can, too.”

    TOM: Yeah. No, I think you can. I would talk to a couple of different contractors. I don’t think you’re getting the best advice there, Beverly.

    BEVERLY: Thank you. I’m glad to know that. I’m sure many other people are and I love your show.

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

    LESLIE: Baird in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    BAIRD: I’ve got a pest control service that comes out on a regular basis for termites and bugs.

    TOM: OK.

    BAIRD: And the last three times they’ve been out, they’ve been trying to sell me a vapor barrier to go down on the ground under the house. They said my moisture content is too high. The last trip they came out, they wanted to do the moisture barrier and insulate my floor.

    TOM: OK.

    BAIRD: My question is the house is 100 years old, it’s on a sandy soil, and I’ve never had anybody, over the years – and I’ve been in the house for 50 years – never had anybody tell me this before. I don’t know if they’re just trying to make a sale or if there is a problem. What moisture percentage should I be worried about?

    TOM: Baird, I would say yes and yes; they’re probably trying to make a sale. That said, installing a moisture barrier – which is nothing more than some plastic across the sandy floor of your crawlspace – is a pretty good idea because you do get a fair amount of evaporation of moisture from the soil up into the crawlspace area. That can condense, get into the house, it can cause a mold problem. But it’s pretty simple to do; I mean if you can get down in that crawlspace and unroll some heavy visqueen plastic. You want to use as big of a piece as possible with as few seams as possible and simply lay it edge to edge all along the foundation wall. That will trap a lot of moisture underneath it and make that area dryer.

    In terms of the insulation, also a good idea if you’d like the floor to be a bit warmer. Again, not a difficult project. You use unfaced fiberglass batts. They’re held in place with wire springs. They’re sort of pieces of wire – looks like hanger wire – that’s cut to be just a little bit longer than the width between the floor joists and that’s what supports the batts up into the floor and, again, it’ll keep it a bit warmer.

    So these are good improvements. Whether or not you hire the pest control company to do them or not is totally up to you, but I’ll tell you they’re pretty simple and you certainly could do them yourself.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they’re worthwhile to do.

    BAIRD: That sounds great. I think it’s something that I’m going to do myself.

    TOM: You go for it, Baird.

    BAIRD: Thank you much. Listen to your program and really enjoy it.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Up next, it has been a wet – I mean very wet – spring. And that’s got a lot of homeowners dealing with leaky basements. We’re going to have the best solutions to dry up the moisture behind your walls, next.

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can also head on over to our Facebook fan page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit or you could text “Fan TheMoneyPit” to FBOOK at 32665 and become a fan on Facebook because we are on that page all week long. We are known to answer home improvement questions with help from the rest of our fans on Facebook, so we encourage you to check out that as well.

    LESLIE: And while you are online, you can click on the Ask Tom and Leslie icon at MoneyPit.com and e-mail us your question. And I’ve got one here from Larry, who did just that. And he writes: “I own a 1920s bungalow on a hill. The basement is finished. We’ve had a lot of rain the last few years.” Wow, it must be a rainy season. “I used hydraulic cement where I could but I know I have moisture behind the studded wall. I’m thinking I need to remove the wall covering, cement board paneling, insulation and poly. This will get me to a stone foundation. Will spray foam seal the wall with a barrier and insulate it so I don’t have to remove the studs?”

    TOM: Ugh.

    LESLIE: Wow, this sounds like a big project.

    TOM: Huge project there, Larry, and before we start tearing apart that nice basement that you have, we should cover the basics of damp-proofing a basement. And I …

    LESLIE: Would you build a curtain drain or a French drain to sort of move that water around his hill?

    TOM: (overlapping voices) I don’t think – well, first of all, we don’t even know what he’s got going here because he says, “I know I have moisture,” but I mean are we talking about standing water, are we talking about high humidity. But regardless, Larry, the first thing you need to do is do a very careful look around the outside of the house. You want to look at the gutter system. You want to look at the grading around the house. You want to make sure that the downspouts are clear, free-flowing and extended four to six feet away from the house.

    I can’t tell you how many times, even in areas where people think they have high water tables and even if maybe you do have a high water table, if you’re getting moisture consistent with rainfall or snow melt, it has nothing to do with the water table; it has everything to do with the grading and the gutter system around your house. So before you start tearing out walls and all that other nonsense, make sure you address the basics.

    The other thing that I would do is after I get that straightened out is I would add a dehumidifier to your basement. And if you are fortunate enough to have a forced air heating system, you can add something called a whole-home dehumidifier which works automatically. It’s got a condensate pump on it so it pumps the water out. It works – it’s designed into the duct system, so it’s not like you have to have a standalone unit that gets hot and fills up a …

    LESLIE: That you have to empty.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly.

    LESLIE: And this removes way more moisture than any sort of freestanding unit would ever even attempt to.

    TOM: Absolutely, absolutely. So do the basics: fix the grading; fix the drainage; fix the gutters; get a dehumidifier; give it some time to work. And if that doesn’t work, then call us back and we’ll talk about some other options; but I’m pretty sure it will.

    LESLIE: Alright, next we’ve got one from Lews (sp) who writes: “I want to install a whole-house water heater.” I’m sorry, a tankless water heater. “My house has 120 voltage. Can I install the water heater without changing the voltage to 220?”

    TOM: Yes, of course you can. First of all, you’ve got to be one of the few houses in America that still has 120 volts; I would definitely upgrade your service to 240. But in terms of the water heater, there’s no reason that you need 240 on that; that runs on 120 volts because it is gas-powered. You cannot install an electric tankless water heater because it simply would not be efficient. We’d never recommend that. But as far as gas power, that would run on a 120-volt circuit no problem.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I would definitely upgrade your power. I mean we had to upgrade our service to 200 amps, which is different from his power. But seriously, he’s probably dealing with a ton of different problems when it comes to appliances and things that he needs. So definitely do it. Keep your house safe because electricity is a serious matter.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show does continue online at MoneyPit.com. Head on over there, click on Ask Tom and Leslie, send us your e-mail question or pick up the phone anytime of the day or night and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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

    (theme song)

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2010 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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