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Decoding the Noises Your House Makes, Diagnosing Common Air Conditioning Problems, and Deck Cleaning That Kills Mildew Without Killing Your Weekend

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now. We are here to help you tackle your home improvement projects, solve your do-it-yourself dilemma. Whatever project is on your mind this fine summer weekend, pick up the phone and give us a call. Let’s tackle it together, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, have you ever noticed that your house has noises? All homes have noises and they can be annoying and perhaps, perhaps a little freaky. But not so if you know what’s behind them. We’re going to tell you how to sniff out and silence the most common house noises once and for all. And no, that does not include your children. They’re just going to continue to make noise and there’s not a thing you can do about it.

    LESLIE: How do you get them to not talk at the same time? That is the big problem over at this house. And you know, you guys, one of my favorite pastimes is just putting things off until the absolute last second.

    TOM: That’s called motherhood, isn’t it?

    LESLIE: Really. I know. Procrastination has turned into motherhood. But for everybody else, you guys, don’t procrastinate anymore, because you want to get your deck spruced up for the season. And if you’re not doing it now, you’re not going to be able to enjoy it in a beautiful setting for the rest of the summer. So we’re going to share some tips on a technique to help you clean your deck and your siding in a fraction of the time.

    TOM: And also ahead, July is not the month you want to get caught without air conditioning. If you know what to look for, if yours starts to act up, there’s a good chance the fix may be an easy one. We’ll tell you how.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a Leviton Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Outlet. It doesn’t just detect electrical fires, it actually prevents them by cutting off the power when it senses trouble.

    TOM: It’s super-easy to install; any do-it-yourselfer can do it. It’s a prize worth 50 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. So pick up the phone, give us a call right now. We want to hear your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Sparky in Georgia is on the line with a question about cleaning a bathroom. How can we help you today?

    SPARKY: I live in a subdivision, about 65 employees out in the country. I actually test the water on a daily basis for the chlorine and report that at the end of the month to the local provider. I’ve got a two-bedroom house. In one bathroom, I’ve got no problem with the water in the tank or the bowl. In the master bedroom, I’ve got the bath where it’s got a black ring – water ring. And I’ve replaced the water line, the inside of the water tank, replaced the entire bowl and it continues to come up. Even after we clean the bowl, we still get that black water ring.

    LESLIE: So you’re able to remove it but it comes back.

    SPARKY: That’s correct.

    TOM: And it only shows up on that bathroom and not others.

    SPARKY: That’s correct. And the products that we’ve gotten from the – off the store shelf have not been able to help, either. And we’ve actually gone to the internet and it says the more chlorine you put in it, the more that black ring will come back. But we’ve cleaned the bath – both bathrooms with the same products.

    TOM: Are the toilets the same age?

    SPARKY: The same age, yes. I’ve called the water company and they said they don’t have a clue. And I said I’d sampled the water and tested it every day for the monthly reports.

    TOM: I wonder if there’s something different about the porcelain finish on that toilet. For example, if it – if one toilet’s finish was – maybe it was scrubbed more over the years and as a result, it’s worn off some of its porcelain so it’s a bit more porous and becomes more of a trap for bacteria to kind of grow in. And I’m speculating here. I’m kind of shooting from the hip, Sparky, because I know that you’ve tried all of the – all the sort of normal things. But it’s confusing that it happens just in this one particular bathroom with this one particular toilet.

    I guess, given everything that you’ve done, have you considered just replacing the toilet and seeing if that does it?

    SPARKY: Well, that we’ve done. In fact, I’ve got to go back and – you may be onto something. Because one bowl is round, which is the one issue that we’ve got. The other bathroom is oblong. So they work – same manufacturer but two different bowls.

    TOM: That would be the only thing that seems left, because you’ve done everything else.

    SPARKY: I was just wondering if there was some product on the market, other than Coca-Cola.

    TOM: Yeah. Look, there’s a lot of products that clean this but it’s not going to stop it from coming back. I mean the go-to product for me is CLR. Have you used that yet?

    SPARKY: No, I have not.

    TOM: So that’s an old standby. Take a look at CLR Calcium – stands for Calcium, Lime and Rust. It basically is the – one of the best toilet-bowl cleaners out there. Inexpensive. And give that a shot. But if it continues to develop that issue, I might consider replacing the toilet if it’s really bothersome. Either that or get one of those Ty-D-Bol men with the blue dye so you just don’t notice it.

    SPARKY: Correct. Yeah, there you go. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joyce in Alabama on the line who’s got a question about a sink odor. What’s going on?

    JOYCE: Well, this is in a bathroom sink. It’s about 25 years old. It’s a type that has three air-vent holes in it or overflow holes in it. And the odor seems to be emanating primarily from there. It’s a very musty odor. And came down to that conclusion because I finally took some paper and stuffed up those holes. And things smelled much better in the bathroom that way.

    TOM: Well, sometimes what happens is you’ll get some bacteria that will grow in that overflow trap. So, what I would suggest you do is this: that is to fill the sink up with hot water and add some bleach to it and let the bleach very slowly trickle over that overflow. And so it saturates it and hopefully that will kill that mold or that bacteria.

    Now, the other thing that you can do is you could take the bathroom-sink trap apart and clean it out with a bottle brush. Now, some of the traps today are just plastic. They’re easy to unscrew and put back together. Under the sink, sometimes you can clean that. And again, you get that biogas that forms in there. If you clean it with a bleach solution, that usually makes things smell a lot better in the bathroom. OK, Joyce?

    JOYCE: Alright. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. 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 are smack in the middle of the summer season. Are you in the hurry-up-get-things-fixed? Or are you in the hurry-up-and-let’s-relax-and-take-it-easy?

    TOM: Let things fix themselves.

    LESLIE: Right. But things are not going to fix themselves, guys. It’s just not going to happen. So, pick up the phone, give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    If you are in that relaxing mode, you probably noticed more and more house noises. And for some folks, that can actually keep them awake at night. We’re going to have solutions to silence all those strange sounds your house makes, when The Money Pit continues after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, some things are hard to control, like fires from electrical wires that originate deep in the walls, floors or ceilings of your home. But the good news is that now there is a high-tech, new solution that can help sniff out those fires wherever they originate.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s called an Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Outlet and it’s made by Leviton and we’re giving one away. Now, you’re going to replace just one standard receptacle with it. It’s really easy to do and it’s super-affordable. And the best part is that it will prevent electrical fires in your home, which can be just a terrible situation to face.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth 50 bucks but it’s going home free with one caller we talk to on the air this hour. So let us hear your home improvement headaches. Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: We’ve got Cindy in Michigan on the line who wants to talk about reducing energy costs. How can we help you?

    CINDY: Is there a way to lower your electric bills by generating your own electricity? I’ve heard of solar panels and windmills and seems like they cost a lot of money to get them going. And I’m wondering, is it actually feasible, financially, to do something like that?

    TOM: Yeah. Well, first of all, the most effective way to cut those energy costs – and especially if we’re talking about heating and cooling energy – is to improve the energy efficiency of your home. And the single most important way or easiest way to do that is by improving insulation. It’s amazing how many people simply don’t have enough insulation. And in a state like Michigan, you’re certainly going to want to have 15 to 20 inches of insulation in your attic.

    Now, as to your question about generating your own power, there are some programs that are run by state governments and by utility suppliers that include different sorts of rebates and different sorts of purchase – I don’t want to say “schemes” but sort of plans for getting that equipment to your house.

    So, for example, in my part of the country, they have offers where you don’t actually pay for the initial installation. There, you partner with an energy company that does the installation of solar panels and then as it generates energy, you get to keep some of that and some of that goes back to the utility company. And eventually, it pays off the cost of that installation. So I would investigate solar programs in your area and rebates that might be available. Start with the utility companies and go from there.

    Because if there’s a favorable program, that’s the only way it makes them cost-effective. You are correct in that a lot of these things are very expensive and don’t make a lot of economic sense. But if there’s rebate money available – either locally, at the state level or federally – it does make sense.

    CINDY: OK. So you would just call your energy company then?

    TOM: I would start there, with your utility company, or just simply do some research online for rebates that are available in your area. OK, Cindy?

    CINDY: Alright. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Jack in Nebraska is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you?

    JACK: I want to put in a new floor in my basement. And I – somebody has told me that some of these new engineered-wood products, like the snap-together floors – they said that some of those are OK for a basement application. Now, is there any truth to that?

    TOM: It’s absolutely true. Now, just keep in mind that when it comes to wood flooring, there is prefinished wood flooring, which is solid and that’s not rated for a basement. And then there’s prefinished wood flooring which is engineered.

    Now, engineered flooring is essentially made up of many layers of wood. It’s a bit like plywood in that you have different layers glued together at opposing angles. Except with the engineered-wood flooring, the top layer is hardwood and it looks just like solid hardwood. In fact, once it’s down, you really can’t tell the difference. And because it’s made up of different layers that are glued together at opposing angles, it’s dimensionally stable and it can be exposed to moisture or humidity, like you have in the basement, without swelling and cracking and splitting.

    And so, yes, engineered-wood flooring is a perfect choice for a basement. And if you want another option, you could look at laminate floor, also modular in the sense that it locks together. And laminate flooring comes in many, many, many different types of sizes and shapes and colors. In fact, I saw some reclaimed, lumber-looking laminate floor recently at a big trade show that was just spectacular. I mean it really looked like the original wood floor.

    So, lots of options there for basement flooring. Just don’t go with solid.

    JACK: OK. Well, you answered my question. Thank you very much.

    TOM: Well, if your house sounds like it needs to tell you something, it probably does and The Money Pit can help. We’ve got tips, right now, for getting to the bottom of your home’s noises, in this week’s Pro Tip presented by Grayne Shingle Siding from Tapco.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, there’s a good chance that your home’s noises are coming from its plumbing. And it can be in either one of two ways. First of all, you’re either getting pipe expansion or what’s known as water hammer. Now, the expansion happens as the temperatures rise and it causes loose copper pipes to rub up against the wood studs. You can stop them from touching by replacing U-shaped clips on your exposed pipes with what are called Mickey clips. Now, they have a sleeve that keeps the pipe away from the nearby wood studs.

    TOM: Now, water hammer, on the other hand, occurs when faucets or valves are turned off, causing the water running through the pipes to suddenly stop and shake the plumbing as it does. You want to secure those pipes more firmly to the framing to silence a water-hammer noise. And you could also consider installing what’s known as a water-hammer arrestor. Basically, it’s a shock absorber for your plumbing system.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, if you do all of this and you’re still hearing those sounds at night, you want to check your heater for oil-canning. Now oil-canning refers to your ductwork that expands and then contracts as temperatures around the unit fluctuate. You can make that noise go away if you brace the ducts to keep them from popping in and out.

    TOM: And that’s today’s Pro Tip, presented by Grayne Shingle Siding by Tapco. The uncompromising beauty of Grayne’s 5-inch shingle siding offers the charm of natural cedar with none of the maintenance. Plus, the shingle’s graining patterns create natural depth and shadow for a striking on-house appearance. And its sharp, crisp edges provide the most authentic look possible from up close and around the curb. Visit Grayne.com – that’s G-r-a-y-n-e.com – to learn more.

    LESLIE: Mary in North Carolina is on the line with a mossy roof. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    MARY: Well, we have a 10-year-old roof – asphalt shingles, I believe they are – and the sections between shingles are beginning to be filled up with moss.

    LESLIE: It’s like a mossy grout line.

    MARY: Yeah, that’s right. I’d like to know how to get it safely clean and keep it from growing back again. It isn’t the entire roof. We are in an A-frame house, so it’s very sharp, very steep roof. And it’s just about the 8 or 10 feet closest to the edge.

    LESLIE: OK. Do you see it all the way around or do you just see it on, say, the north-facing side or in the area …?

    MARY: It’s just on this north-facing part.

    LESLIE: OK. So that’s the area that gets the least amount of sunlight.

    MARY: Right.

    LESLIE: Do you have a large tree that’s adding more shade to this area?

    MARY: We have a lot of trees, yeah.

    LESLIE: A lot of trees.

    TOM: Yeah, therein lies the problem.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, the best solution here is – can you trim out or thin out those trees in any way to get more sunlight onto that portion of the roof? Because if you can do that, sunlight really is your best weapon in getting rid of this moss and keeping it away. Now, you’ll have to do some work to get it to be gone in the first place but if you can add more sunlight, you’re going to help it stay away.

    MARY: Alright. Very good. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Roy in Illinois is on the line and there seems to be a crack in the front of the garage.

    What is going on? Are you getting water in the garage? Is it on the door? What’s going on here?

    ROY: When the house was built about 21 years ago, they brought in a cement saw and they cut marks in it to control the cracking.

    TOM: OK.

    ROY: Well, the first cut is 4 feet from the garage door. Well, now, that part next to the garage has settled down so when it rains, the water runs towards the garage, which is making it worse.

    TOM: Ah, OK.

    ROY: And I saw a commercial on TV for this mudjacking outfit and they say for a little more than half what it costs to replace the cement, they could jack it back up in place. But you will see the marks where they drill the holes to put the cement in and will it last? Should we do the whole driveway over or is there some way we can do something to make it look good and last? It’s a beautiful place. We have no problems with anything except you drive in the driveway and you see that.

    TOM: Yeah. So when you get close to the driveway, that last slab, so to speak, tilts in towards the garage and it’s running water up against the house? Is that correct?

    ROY: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s going to – could affect the foundation that’s holding the garage up because you throw a lot of water under it, it becomes less stable and you get a lot more movement. So I do think it’s an important thing to fix.

    Mudjacking will work and it can replace that area as long as they can lift that slab nice and even so it doesn’t crack and become worse. I would just try to get their guarantee that they’re not going to crack the slab in the process. But if they can get the mud underneath it – they’re basically filling in the low spots, bringing that slab up and then it’s not going to collapse anymore, because the concrete they put under it – the mud, so to speak – takes up that void.

    So, I wouldn’t be afraid of doing that. And if it turns out that that’s less expensive than breaking that one piece out and just pouring that one piece new, then I think you can do that. If you decide to break that out, I don’t think you have to do the whole driveway; you can just do that one piece.

    And make sure the soil below is properly tamped. You’re going to have to replace that with fill dirt and stone and get it tamped down. Tamping is really key so it’s really solid. What’s happened is water has gotten over there over the years, it’s softened the soil and that’s what’s caused that slab to sort of rotate with the car going back and forth.

    So I think either option is OK. It becomes an economic choice. My only concern is that you commit to spending money on mudjacking and end up breaking the slab and then you’re kind of almost back to the beginning.

    ROY: OK. Sounds great. Sounds like you’ve got the answers.

    TOM: Yeah, well, we try. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Don’t wait for the hottest summer day to find out you’ve got a problem with your air conditioning. Richard Trethewey from This Old House is stopping by The Money Pit to tell us how to keep it up and running all summer long.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Stanley Tools and the new line of FatMax Exo-Change utility knives. Change the blade in three easy steps: extend, remove, replace. It makes cutting easier and safer and blade change even faster. To learn more, visit StanleyTools.com.

    KEVIN: This is Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House, the longest-running home improvement show. And I want to send out a big congrats to Tom and Leslie for the most downloaded home improvement podcast on iTunes. Well done, guys.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton. With a focus on safety, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs. To get more information about how to help improve your home’s electrical safety, visit www.GetSafeToday.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 if you love the sight of butterflies, you can create a butterfly-friendly landscape that actually attracts those winged creatures to your yard. To learn how, head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “how to create a butterfly garden.” It’s all there, step-by-step.

    LESLIE: Gayla in California is having an issue with a countertop. Tell us what’s going on.

    GAYLA: I am. About four-and-a-half years ago, I remodeled my kitchen and installed Corian countertops. And I used the pattern called Savannah; it’s one of the light ones. So I’m getting ready now to sell my home and looking at the countertops, they’re really – there’s tons, like thousands of hairline scratches. And I’m wondering, how can I bring back their luster? They never were shiny but they were lustrous.

    LESLIE: Yeah, they do have a satin finish that looks very rich and nice but obviously, over time, just from normal wear and tear, they are going to dull and not look so great.

    There’s a good website that generally specializes in granite and marble care – it’s called StoneCare.com – but they do have some products for Corian. And there’s actually a spray. It’s made to reduce a residue on the surface. I’m not sure it’s going to help you with the scratches but it could be a good starting point. It’s called their Deep Cleaner for Corian. And that might be a good place to start, at least.

    GAYLA: OK. Yeah, I don’t know that they’re that dirty. I do keep them quite clean but it’s just a question – it’s just those hairline scratches. And when the sun comes through the window, you really see them.

    TOM: What that product does is it will also pull out any residue from all the cleaning that you have been doing so religiously, which is a good thing. The other nice thing, though, about Corian is the scratches can be repaired. And if you – the Corian can be repolished, basically lightly sanded, so to speak and …

    GAYLA: Oh, I was wondering about that.

    TOM: Right. To actually pull those scratches right out. So that’s not something that I would recommend that you do the first time out.

    GAYLA: No, I don’t think so.

    TOM: But if you contact a kitchen-cabinet company, for example, they might have an installer and for a reasonably small fee, they might come out and repolish those tops for you. They’re going to have all the tools and the equipment, as well. And probably they can pull many of those scratches right out.

    GAYLA: Well, thank you. That sounds like the way to go for me.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project and good luck selling your house.

    GAYLA: Well, thank you and best to you both.

    LESLIE: Well, it never fails: if your A/C is going to go on the fritz, it’s going to happen on the hottest day of the year.

    TOM: So what causes the most common central air-conditioning unit failures and how do you figure out what’s happening? Here to tell us is This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, guys. How are you doing today?

    TOM: Here’s a guy that always keeps his cool and that’s really important. Because when my A/C fails on the hottest day of the year, I’m certainly not going to be very comfortable.

    RICHARD: No one is normal when their A/C goes out.

    LESLIE: No.

    RICHARD: Those calls come in and they just – “One of you please help me with this. The whole world is ending.”

    TOM: Oh, absolute panic. So what are the common causes of failure of the A/C systems?

    RICHARD: Well, an A/C system is a pretty straightforward and simple device. It has two ends of it. There’s an outdoor condenser and an indoor evaporator. And then between it, there are copper lines that are filled with refrigerant. The number-one issue we have is a leak on that refrigerant. So the slightest, little leak will now take that perfectly delicate system and take it out of balance and make it no longer work. So you’ve got to find out where that leak is; it’s generally done by a professional. You know, putting more refrigerant in and not finding the leak is not the solution.

    LESLIE: Right.

    RICHARD: And many people do that. They do it with their automobiles when you have a leak. They just keep on putting a little more in.

    TOM: Yeah. But slowly…

    RICHARD: Right, right. And the other thing is I should warn you that this refrigerant is a dangerous hydrofluorocarbon. It’s a dangerous thing to release to the atmosphere. It’s illegal to release it. So if you have a leak and you don’t fix it, by implication you’re illegal to do that. So you really want to make sure the refrigerant that goes in there stays there, both legally and also so you have an A/C system that works.

    LESLIE: And you really also need to maintain these pieces. Not only would you find a leak as it was happening, before it became a problem, but you would sort of prohibit other things happening because you’re allowing the machine to operate so efficiently.

    RICHARD: That’s right. You’ll know your system. You’ll turn on the thermostat, it usually gets X cold in this amount of time. If you now put that unit on and it runs for 40 minutes and it hasn’t gone down, you know or you can at least suggest that you have a change in the refrigerant inside the system. Because the basic process – I need to make it clear what happens.

    Heat always goes to cold, so inside your central furnace, where the air goes across, it is a coil. That’s like an automobile radiant that is wicked cold. Cold, cold, cold. And now the warm air goes across it, heat has no choice but to go to cold. And so it gets absorbed into the refrigerant that’s in that coil and now that heat travels to outside.

    Now, the outdoor condensing unit, using a compressor, now dumps that heat to outside, making the refrigerant brutally cold again as it comes back into the building. So you – what you do with an air conditioner is you’re not making cold. You’re extracting heat and the absence of heat is cold. Absolutely.

    TOM: It’s cold. Yeah, yeah. That’s interesting.

    So, what about the controls themselves? Electrical controls, the sensor controls. Do they often fail? Is that common?

    RICHARD: They don’t fail as much as you’d think. And they – many of these devices now are so smart that they’ll tell you with fault codes. And so it’s a lot – it’s actually – in many ways, it’s a lot easier. It’s more daunting to people to see this fancy spaceship of a modern furnace or air conditioner. But all in all, an air-conditioning system works really, really hard and doesn’t fail all that often.

    LESLIE: What about drainage? I mean you’re taking all this moisture out of the air because you’re removing the heat and making it cooler. Where does all that moisture go?

    RICHARD: Well, every single air conditioner has to have a condensate drain.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: If you have a unit that’s up in an attic, there’s an additional thing you should always think about. One is to not only have a drain for the air-conditioning condensate but you have – should have an additional safety pan underneath the air conditioner.

    LESLIE: Underneath it.

    RICHARD: You only have to pay for one ceiling or have one ceiling come down to realize how brilliant this is.

    Just like it’s nice to have a safety pan underneath an upstairs washer, same so to on any air-conditioner unit that’s up in there. Because when you are removing heat, one of the byproducts of removing heat and leaving cold is that the moisture, the humidity that was in that air has to come out of the airborne solution and now becomes what they call “condensate.” Now, you have to make sure that all that water leaves there. And if that little condensate – you’ve often seen these little, 1-inch PVC pipes that carry that water away.

    LESLIE: Dripping away outside on a hot summer day.

    RICHARD: Dripping away. Drip, drip, drip.

    And if you have – what happens over time, sometimes the slime that builds up there, now it backs up a little bit. Now, if it backs up, it’s going to come out through the overflow and come down through your ceiling.

    TOM: Richard, sometimes we see compressors actually freeze up in the summertime. What’s going on in that situation?

    RICHARD: Well, that delicate balance I talked about – you’ve got the refrigerant moving between inside and outside. And what’s critical on that process to work is you have to have plenty of warm air going across that cold coil inside the house. And you have to have plenty of ways to release the air to outside on the outdoor condenser. If either one of those things are blocked -let’s say your filter is clogged on the inside air handler – now that warm air doesn’t come across it. Now, the ice – that coil inside freezes like a block of ice.

    And what the symptom many people have is, “I had cooling and all of a sudden, it stopped. And then I let it sit and I turned it off for a long time and I turned it back on, it seemed to work again for a little while.” What happens is each time you do it, you let it melt and thaw and then when you do it again …

    LESLIE: Freezing it again.

    RICHARD: What it usually means is a lack of airflow across the most important component, which is the inside unit.

    TOM: Huh. So that means something that’s blocking that – dirt, dust, whatever – has got in there.

    RICHARD: Right. When you break it down to its simplest form, it’s pretty straightforward. I just need the refrigerant to go back and forth between inside and outside. And I just need air to be moving through the inside unit so I can have that really warm, moist air be converted into nice, cool, dry air inside the building.

    TOM: Well, it sounds like this is not any kind of a do-it-yourself repair possibility. But it is nice to know what’s going on inside our system so that we know what really needs to be done once it starts to act up a bit.

    RICHARD: Right. And even when you’re hot, you know that sooner or later you’ll be cool again.

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

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. 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 is brought to you on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Up next, a cleaner, better-looking deck is in easy reach. We’ve got tips on a hot, new product that combines scrubbing, rinsing and disinfecting into one easy tool.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by SimpliSafe Home Security. SimpliSafe has no long-term contract and the award-winning, 24/7 protection is just $15 a month. Money Pit listeners save 10 percent when you visit SimpliSafeMoney.com today. That’s SimpliSafeMoney.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, some things you leave to chance but electrical wires should not be one of them.

    LESLIE: Well, one lucky caller won’t ever have to worry about that again. This hour, we’re giving away the Leviton Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Outlet.

    TOM: It installs super-easy and it prevents electrical fires before they start. It’s a prize worth 50 bucks that can save your life.

    To learn more, check out GetSafeToday.com. That’s GetSafeToday.com. And give us a call, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win the Leviton Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Outlet worth 50 bucks, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tony in Iowa is having a hot-and-cold water situation. What’s going on?

    TONY: Well, I’ve got an electric water heater. And the main feed that comes in from the city, that goes into my electric water heater, it’s a cold line. But yeah, I get cold water to come out of my faucets and everything but that cold water line, up around through the water heater there, it’s hot, the line, when I touch it. And I’m just curious what’s going on with that.

    TOM: So, you have an electric water heater and that’s going to be fed by a cold-water line and it’s going to go through the water heater and come out as a hot-water line.

    TONY: That’s correct.

    TOM: OK. And so what’s the problem? So far, it’s normal.

    TONY: The water line that goes into the water heater – the cold water?

    TOM: Yes. Yep.

    TONY: That line is hot.

    TOM: Well, some of the heat from the water heater can be working its way back up the pipe. So you may be feeling some conductive heat that comes from – the hot water in the water heater itself could be making that pipe warm. But if you go farther down the line, you’re going to feel that it’s cold again.

    It goes in cold and comes out hot but the fitting right around the top might feel like it’s a bit warm. But that’s only because of the conductive heat of the water in the water heater coming back up the metal pipe.

    TONY: OK. That alleviates my concerns then.

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

    Well, hopefully, these longer days and extra sunlight mean you’re spending more time outside, which is great unless heading outside brings you face to face with your dirty, mildew-covered deck. Yuck.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, it’s really the catch 22 of warmer weather. By the time you get that warmer weather, your deck is covered in buildup from the long winter. But because it’s so nice outside, you don’t want to spend the entire weekend cleaning it up.

    TOM: Well, you don’t have to because there’s finally a product that makes deck-cleaning not only far easier but much faster, too. It’s the Hyde PivotPro Water Wand for Outdoor Cleaning. And it attaches to any standard garden hose and it combines the water stream, cleaning brush and even soap into one tool that can handle all your outdoor cleanup.

    LESLIE: That’s right. The PivotPro for Outdoor Cleaning is more or less a long extension pole and then it’s loaded with all these amazing cleaning features. So instead of climbing a ladder with your hose and a bucket and a scrub brush, you can stay safe and sound on the ground while reaching with your PivotPro instead. And it’s going to reach and scrub and then rinse for you.

    TOM: Which means you can clean your deck in the morning and let it dry in time for guests to arrive that night. It also works on siding, fences and outdoor structures, like sheds. You can check out the Hyde PivotPro for Outdoor Cleaning at HydeStore.com. That’s Hyde – H-y-d-e – Store.com.

    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.

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

    Coming up, repairing driveway cracks makes it look better for now but at some point, you’re going to have to bite the bullet. Is your concrete driveway due for a replacement? We’ll tell you how to figure that out, when The Money Pit continues.

    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, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we want to welcome a brand-new Money Pit affiliate: KKLO-AM in Kansas City, where you can hear The Money Pit at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

    Kansas City, hey, put on a few steaks for us because here we come with help for your home improvement hassles and headaches.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, post your question, just like Mike did who writes: “My home is older and has original concrete and pea gravel in the driveway and patio deck around the pool. The rocks are coming loose and I’ve sealed them but feel it’s time to put in a new covering. What’s my best option for cost and longevity?”

    TOM: Well, Mike, you can certainly make the concrete patio repairs yourself but if the material is really deteriorated – if it’s got cracks, if it’s got significant damage – there’s really no point in putting a second layer on top of it. So if that’s the case, I would simply just tear it out and replace it. Now, if the patio just needs some quick touch-up, you can use a concrete resurfacer for that kind of project.

    Now, resurfacers are special. They stick to the old concrete, so you need to make sure you’re choosing a resurfacer. QUIKRETE makes an excellent product that works just for this purpose. And because there’s a compound in there that helps them adhere to the original concrete, it’s important to prepare the surface for proper adhesion, like sweeping away the loose dirt, the debris, as well as cleaning the surface pretty thoroughly to make sure it’s ready to have the resurfacer stick to it.

    So basically, follow the instructions really, really carefully for prep. It’s just as important as applying the surfacer itself. If you do it right, you’ll have a beautiful, brand-new-looking patio that will last for many, many years.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Kate who writes: “My refrigerator isn’t working very well and I’m wondering if I should call in a repairman to have the refrigerator repaired or just start over with a new refrigerator? It’s only a few years old and I’ve been happy with it up until now but it’s out of warranty at this point.”

    TOM: So, great question, Kate, and very common question. And it comes down to this. To decide whether to repair or replace an old refrigerator, you need to think of several factors: for example, the age of the refrigerator, the cost of the repair and really, the chance that it could break down again. Because you don’t want to spend money and then have two months go by and something else breaks and you’ve got to have the guy come back and throw even more money at it.

    So, actually, to help you sort out the possibilities, we actually have a repair-versus-replace table or chart on our website. And it gives you kind of step-by-step comparisons that help you decide whether or not you should make that repair or replace the appliance based on the age of the appliance, the cost of the repair and the chance it’s going to break down again. So that’s all online at MoneyPit.com.

    And don’t forget the other benefit, especially when it comes to refrigerators, of replacing rather than repairing. Because old refrigerators especially are real energy hogs. And if you put in a new, ENERGY STAR-rated refrigerator, it uses about the same amount of electricity as an old-fashioned, 75-watt light bulb. Of course, LEDs use even less than that today but it uses about that much electricity, which is not a whole lot, to power the entire refrigerator.

    So you will pick up some efficiency by replacing it rather than repair it, as well. So if it’s kind of close to that whether you’re going to repair or replace mark, I would go with replace and take it from there.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Kate? With some of the smaller appliances, like a garbage disposer or a microwave, you know, things along those lines, it almost never makes sense to have those repaired because the cost to replace them is going to be far less than the repair service price. So you really want to look at that.

    And good luck shopping for a new fridge. There’s so many great options. You’re going to have a super-fun time.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We’re about ready to head outside and tackle our own home improvement projects and we hope that you are ready to do the same. If you get into a job and you can’t get figure out how to get out of it, remember, you can pick up the phone and call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or simply post your home improvement question to Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    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 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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