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Is Duct Cleaning the Way to Go?, Find Out Where to Learn about the Best Power Tools and Meet Tom and Leslie, Discover the Best Windows on the Market 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: Here to help you with your home improvement problems. Here to help you solve those do-it-yourself dilemmas. Happy Labor Day, everybody, and as the name implies, if you’re taking on some home improvement projects this weekend, we can help you labor a little less. Just pick up the phone and call us for the solution to that do-it-yourself dilemma at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
     
    And as you enjoy this final weekend of summer, you might be sweating a bit over your cooling bills, because it’s been a hot one and that means the A/C has been running pretty constantly across the country. The good news is, though, there are things that you can do right now, even moving into fall, that will help you save money through this next warmish month and certainly next summer. And if you do it right now, you can actually save some money on your taxes, as well. We’ll tell you all about that, in just a bit.
     
    LESLIE: And you know what? Having those A/Cs going full blast can often cause power failures this time of year. So if you’re thinking about a backup plan, we’ve got tips to help you pick the perfect backup generator, in just a few minutes.
     
    TOM: And we’re also giving away, this hour, all the tools that you’ll need to get started on a flooring project, courtesy of our friends at Lumber Liquidators. It’s a do-it-yourself installation kit worth almost 60 bucks. Going to go to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Take a look around your house. We know that there’s a project on your to-do list. Call us and we’ll help you get it done, together.
     
    Leslie, who’s first?
     
    LESLIE: Sue in South Carolina is having some trouble removing wallpaper. Tell us what you’ve done, what’s going on.
     
    SUE: I haven’t even started yet. I was waiting to get your solution.
     
    TOM:  OK.
     
    SUE: I live in an older home where the wallpaper has been adhered to sheetrock and I know the sheetrock was not prepared in any way. Can you give me some tips as to the best way I can remove this old wallpaper or is there anything new on the market I might try?
     
    LESLIE: Hmm. Now when you’re dealing with wallpaper and essentially because you know there was no prep work, you’re probably – once you start removing the paper – going to be kind of doing a lot of damage to that drywall but it’s always worth a shot.
     
    Generally, what you want to do is score the paper first. Some people use a product called a Paper Tiger, which is essentially a bunch of blades on a circular, palm-held device that you can sort of score the paper into tiny little bits on the wall and then you steam it. Other people use just a simple matte knife and do long strips and then sort of steam that, as well.
     
    And you really do have to kind of saturate the wall with steam; really let it get to the glue. And the reason why you score it is so that the steam and the warmth can sort of get behind the paper and loosen up that glue, so you can sort of peel it away.
     
    It’s going to be a lot of work but once you start doing that, you’ll see sort of how that drywall is reacting behind it. If you see that it’s just a disaster, you might as well just stop there and get yourself some super-thin drywall and just recoat the entire room and start from scratch.
     
    SUE: Well, that is an option. I had not thought of that. Thank you so much.
     
    TOM: You’re very welcome, Sue. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    LESLIE: Bob in Michigan needs some help with a siding issue. What can we do for you?
     
    BOB: Well, I’ve got white aluminum siding. It’s old aluminum siding. Most of it looks pretty good but on the north side, opposite the kitchen and the bathroom – I’m sure that’s where the moisture is coming from – I have mildew along that outside wall.
     
    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
     
    BOB: It has to be washed off; it looks terrible. And once I wash it off, can I leave it like that or does it need to be coated or painted or …?
     
    TOM: No. What kind of siding do you have?
     
    BOB: It’s painted aluminum.
     
    TOM: It’s painted aluminum. Alright. Well, you’ve got to be very careful about cleaning this up because you may end up taking off some of the paint in the process. But my suggestion would be for you to use a siding cleaner. JOMAX, for example – J-O-M-A-X – is a good start.
     
    And basically, it’s a product that you mix with bleach and it activates and basically sits on there for a few minutes. It’ll kill the mildew and the moss and then you rinse it off. But you can’t be too aggressive; if you use a pressure-washer, it’s got to be on a very light setting. But it’s a two-step process.
     
    And then after you’re done, you can decide whether you’re happy with the finish or not. I will tell you that you can paint it again, obviously. But there’s nothing you should be putting on there that protects it. If you do cut back on some of the overhanging trees – try to get more sunlight on those two walls – that will have a natural effect on cutting back on the amount (Bob chuckles) of mildew that grows there.
     
    BOB: I’m doing that right now, so I understand that part.
     
    TOM: Alright. Well, you’ll find that it won’t come back nearly as quickly.
     
    BOB: Good, good. Well, thanks.
     
    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    LESLIE: Heading on over to Idaho to have a chat with John about a crumbling foundation. Tell us what’s going on.
     
    JOHN: Yeah, it’s an old house. About two feet up from the ground, maybe where the sprinklers hit it, just the face of it is crumbling and I just wanted to know what’s the best thing to be to clean it well and resurface this.
     
    TOM: So is it a block foundation or a brick foundation?
     
    JOHN: It’s cement.
     
    TOM: It’s cement? OK. Very common. You may be right about the sprinklers but more commonly, you get overflow from gutters and you get rain that hits the ground and bounces up. So that particular area of the foundation is common to have cracks and loose, falling concrete and that kind of thing.
     
    The key here is that you want to break off anything that’s loose. You want to clean it really well. I would use something like a JOMAX, which is a siding cleanser, to clean any mildew that’s attached to there. Then you’re going to mix up a new mix of stucco and you’re going to patch right over that.
     
    Now, there are epoxy patching compounds that are stucco with sort of an epoxy mix. They’ll tend to be a lot stickier. They may not match in color – I’ll warn you there – so if that’s the case, once the patch is done, you may want to paint that section of the foundation.
     
    JOHN: Good, good. And so any particular epoxy brands or …?
     
    TOM: Well, QUIKRETE is a leading brand in that category and they have a variety of stucco products that are designed to be used for repair, where they stick to places like that.
     
    JOHN: That sounds great. Thank you very much for your help.
     
    TOM:  Alright, John? You’re 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. Pick up the phone and give us a call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with your home repair, home décor, home improvement question. Whatever you are working on, we can lend a hand. We’re here for you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    TOM: 888-666-3974.
     
    Happy Labor Day, everybody. Give us a call right now with your home improvement questions and we will help you labor a little bit less with your next project. Back with more, after this.
     

     
    (theme song)
     
    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
     
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
     
    TOM: Hey, we’re heading out to Chicago on October 2. Hope if you are in the neighborhood, you’ll stop by and say hello. We’re going to be at the Craftsman Experience Store, a brand new store there in downtown Chicago. It’s actually in the River North neighborhood. And we’re going to have a chance to broadcast the show from there and also do some tool demonstrations and check out this very cool, new Experience Store that they’ve created.
     
    You can get up close and personal with all the different Craftsman tools. You can talk to the experts. You can attend some clinics; find out exactly what you need to know to get a project done around your house and what tools you need to do it. That’s coming up on October 2 at the Craftsman Experience Store in Chicago.
     
    Well, if you give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, not only will we do our best to answer your home improvement or home repair question, you’ll be entered into this hour’s drawing. We’re going to give away a DIY installation starter kit courtesy of Lumber Liquidators. You know, flooring is really a top question on this show, so we know it’s a project that many of you are taking on. And this is a kit that’s got all the tools you’ll need to get it done.
     
    LESLIE: That’s right. It’s got all the tools you need to install a floor. It’s worth 60 bucks but you can get yours for free if you get on the air this hour, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?
     
    LESLIE: Frank in California is calling in with a squeaky floor. Tell us about it.
     
    FRANK: I have a rear deck and it keeps on squeaking when I walk over certain joints.
     
    TOM:  OK.
     
    LESLIE:  OK.
     
    FRANK: I was wondering, what do you think about that? You think it’s ready for a new deck when it starts squeaking like that?
     
    TOM: Not necessarily, Frank. You said it’s a wood deck, so we’re talking about the exterior deck?
     
    FRANK: It’s a wood exterior deck, yes.
     
    TOM:  OK. Very simple solution. What you want to do is identify those boards that are squeaking and you want to add some deck screws to those boards. There are probably nails holding the boards down now?
     
    LESLIE:  Yeah, there’s probably not a screw in there at all.
     
    TOM: Yeah. And you want to add some deck screws to that. Now, a deck screw is going to be about three to three-and-a-half inches long. It’s going to have a wood thread on it and you put it in with a power drill, with a little screwdriver tip on it so it’s very easy to put in. And that will tighten those deck boards down and stop them from moving and that will stop them from squeaking. Because the movement of the deck board rubbing against the joists, rubbing against the nails going in and out of the joist below, that’s what’s causing the squeak. So if you screw those boards down, you’ll find it’ll quiet up very, very quickly and easily.
     
    FRANK: OK. Very good.
     
    TOM: Alright, Frank. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and we hope that that helps you quiet down your neighborhood.
     
    LESLIE: Kay in Colorado needs some help with a patio project. What can we do for you today?
     
    KAY: I have a cement patio that was part of the original house and it has the wrought-iron posts and everything all the way around. And on that, it has a corrugated roof and I need to figure out how in the world to put on a gutter, because there’s no place to hook it to. You know, this wrought iron just goes up behind it and it’s been just hooked to it with little clips.
     
    TOM: So it’s like a covered patio? Is it like a metal roof?
     
    KAY: It isn’t metal; it’s kind of a corrugated plastic of some kind.
     
    TOM: OK. And you want to try to figure out a way to connect a gutter to that?
     
    KAY: Yeah, it’s across the front, because from there you can step down and go into the backyard and if it’s raining, you can’t because you get rained on.
     
    TOM: As you know, normally a gutter is attached with long screws or nails that go through the gutter and into the fascia behind it. Now, if you cannot create a section – a fascia-like material where you can attach things – there’s another type of gutter that’s used very commonly on old houses, where the bracket actually goes on the roof. It hangs on the roof itself. So you can attach to the face of the corrugated roof that you have and the gutter would hang off the roof rather than hang off the fascia.
     
    You’re not going to find that bracket in a hardware store or a home center; you’re going to have to go to a gutter company for it and have them make this piece for you. But there is a way to hang it off the roof without having a fascia and I think that will solve the problem.
     
    KAY: OK. Well, I’ll go in there and see what I can do. Thank you so much.
     
    TOM: Great. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to Alaska to chat with Benji about freezing toilets. I imagine it’s always freezing (chuckling) in Alaska.
     
    TOM: This probably is a story that can only happen in Alaska.
     
    Benji, how can we help you?
     
    BENJI: Well, we’re having a heat wave, currently. I think it’s about 70 degrees outside.
     
    TOM:  (chuckling) OK.
     
    LESLIE:  Whoa, it’s hot.
     
    BENJI: But the water that is coming in, even in the summertime, is frigid cold and the problem is the condensation on the outside of the reservoir tank of the toilet.
     
    TOM: OK.
     
    BENJI: It’s quite a problem dripping onto the floor, then through the linoleum and through the baseboards. There’s wood that’s starting to rot and the mold.
     
    TOM: OK.
     
    BENJI: The only think that I thought of as a solution is an aquarium tank-like heater for the fish in aquariums but that’s in case the …
     
    TOM: Yeah, that would be pretty expensive. I have a better solution for you.
     
    BENJI:  Yes.
     
    TOM: You can take Styrofoam and line the inside of the toilet tank.
     
    BENJI: OK.
     
    TOM: You’re essentially insulating the toilet tank so that the toilet tank doesn’t get quite as cold and then the warm, moist air that strikes it is not going to condense and drip all over the place.
     
    LESLIE: Would you use like …?
     
    BENJI:  OK, one more question. Excuse me?
     
    LESLIE: I was just saying would you use like the pink insulating foam or that blue foam that you find at the home center or could you use crafty Styrofoam?
     
    TOM: Yeah, I would actually – you’d probably even use something thinner than that, because I don’t think you’re going to be able to put an inch in there. But you could probably find like a half-inch sheet Styrofoam, cut it to fit nice and tight and do that.
     
    BENJI:  OK.
     
    TOM: I think that will make a difference. I’ve actually seen that done a number of times.
     
    LESLIE: So it’s like a toilet tank cooler.
     
    TOM: Yeah, kind of. That’s right. (Leslie chuckles) Kind of like a toilet tank liner.
     
    BENJI: Well, maybe I can save some energy by throwing a couple of beers in there and keep them cold, too.
     
    TOM: Maybe.
     
    LESLIE: Hey, they’d always be handy where you want it.
     
    TOM: And chilly.
     
    BENJI: Oh, yes. Well, thank you very much.
     
    TOM: You’re very welcome.  Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    LESLIE: Gail in Georgia is dealing with a sink that just won’t stay unclogged or backed up. What’s going on? This sounds like a disaster.
     
    GAIL: It is.  It’s been going on for quite a while and I had Roto-Rooter come out and it would clear up for just a short while.
     
    TOM:  OK.
     
    GAIL: Then I asked the extension agent, “What would you do and what does it sound like?” And he said, “Well, maybe you need new drain fields.” So we had new drain fields put in, we emptied the septic and it still backs up.
     
    TOM: Huh. Does it only back up into the one sink?
     
    GAIL: That’s right.
     
    TOM: Well, have you ever considered having a camera inspection done to the drains?
     
    GAIL: No, but I’m a nurse and I understand what that means.
     
    TOM: Yeah, well, it’s kind of similar to what you might do in surgery. But basically, yeah, they run a line through the pipe. It has a camera on the end of it and they can do a drain inspection. It might be that, say, for example, one of your underground waste pipes is cracked; there might be roots that are forming in there and filling it up. I think, at this point, you need to figure out what’s wrong with the drain system because, obviously, wherever it is, it’s not been addressed and I think I would stick a camera down those drains and take a look and see what’s going on.
     
    I know Roto-Rooter has those systems. Other drain-cleaning companies have them as well. It’s called a drain camera inspection and they actually can run a tape while this thing is going through and then back it up and you can all take a look at it together. But I’ve seen pipes that were cracked that would have been undetectable any other way. And they would run the snake through it, they’d clean out some roots and then two months later the roots would grow right back because, of course, with all that sewage there, it’s a great, very rich environment for the roots to grow.
     
    GAIL: Alrighty. I appreciate the information and thanks for taking my call.
     
    TOM:  You’re welcome. You’re very welcome, Gail. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    LESLIE: Jerry in Pennsylvania, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
     
    JERRY: Well, I burn fuel oil and – I have hot water baseboard heat and my water is heated through the oil furnace. Well, the last time I got oil – it was about a month ago – it was $3.90 a gallon, which is pretty scary.
     
    TOM:  Yeah.
     
    JERRY: And so I’m looking at some other types of ways to save fuel. You know, I thought about a fireplace insert, a hot water heater and I’m just not sure if any of those things are good ways to save money or if I’m throwing good money after bad.
     
    TOM: Well, instead of looking at your mechanical system, which is pretty expensive to change, have you thought about doing a home energy audit of your house, as it is now, to see if we can make your home more efficient?
     
    JERRY: No, I never did think of that.
     
    TOM: Yeah. You might want to think about doing that. You know, there are some sites online that can walk you through the do-it-yourself version. There are energy auditors out there that can do it professionally. And I would concentrate on trying to figure out how I could make my home more energy-efficient so you burn less fuel.
     
    You know, having a hot water baseboard system is fantastic; I mean it’s the best kind of heating system that you can have because it’s warm and it’s moist. The oil is expensive right now but other fuels are not going to make that big of a difference to you because you’d end up having to replace your system, your mechanical system, which would ruin the cost efficiency.
     
    So I would think about improving insulation; I’d think about cutting back on drafts. In terms of a fireplace, well, do you have a fireplace right now?
     
    JERRY: Yeah, I do.
     
    TOM: And you talked about putting an insert into that? Well, you know, the damper on the fireplace, if it’s closed, that’s going to be about as efficient as you can make that, with or without an insert, so that you’re not leaving it open all day long, so the heat isn’t rushing out the chimney. But little things like this can make a difference on how much energy you use.
     
    So I think, in your situation, I would concentrate on making the home as efficient as possible and then get an energy auditor to help me do just that.
     
    JERRY: Mm-hmm. OK. I’ll give that a whirl.
     
    TOM: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, this summer’s high cooling bills may have you hot under the collar but don’t fret. There is a solution. We’ve got ideas to cut costs for this year and next, after this.
     

     
    (theme song)
     
    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
     
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Well, right about now, you are probably sweating over your air conditioning, literally. You know, are you so scared to get that cooling bill that you’re turning up the temperature? Well, that’s a good idea to shave dollars off your cooling costs.
     
    TOM: Well, there are easier ways to cut those cooling dollars than turning up the A/C. Here with some of those ideas is Dave Pannier. Dave is the Interim President of NATE, the North American Technician Excellence group.
     
    Hi, Dave. How are you?
     
    DAVE: Hi. I’m great, thanks. Thanks for having me on.
     
    TOM: So tell us about NATE. Now, you’re an independent certifying authority that really helps qualify contractors and the work they do.
     
    DAVE: Yes. Actually, we certify technicians who are employed by contractors and we certify them in the specialties that are important to the home heating and cooling systems that are installed in most homes across the United States.
     
    TOM: So if you wanted to make sure that you had a competent HVAC contractor working for you in your house, you would want to ask if they have a NATE certification? Is that correct?
     
    DAVE: Absolutely. You’d ask them, “Do you have NATE-certified technicians working for you?” And in fact, we have means whereby consumers can actually check by going online to determine where they might find contractors who have NATE-certified technicians.
     
    TOM: Terrific.
     
    LESLIE: Do you find, Dave, that it’s more one specific company might make all of their technicians be certified or is it sort of the technician gets the certification themselves; sort of independent of the company?
     
    DAVE: It actually works both ways. Good contractors who are interested in serving their customers and taking good care of their consumer customers will expect that their technicians get certified to validate their skills and their abilities. But technicians also want to prove what they can offer an employer, for example; and so, many technicians will go out of their way to become certified. So it’s kind of a push and pull.
     
    TOM: Well, you know, as the saying goes, the cream rises to the top. And I always think that if there’s a professional out there that cares enough about their profession to get an independent certification like NATE, that that certainly is a mark of the kind of person you would want working in your house.
     
    DAVE: Absolutely.
     
    LESLIE: Now tell us about cooling. You know, this is my first summer season with central air conditioning and I find the thermostat to be a bit of a mystery. With the first time I cranked it on, I had it on like 70 and high and I’ve quickly learned that auto and 76 is really where I want to be. (Dave chuckles)
     
    So what are some of the best ways to really keep the house comfortable but also keep the bills at a price that I’m comfortable with?
     
    DAVE: Right. Well, there are any number of things you should think about and one of them you already touched on. Try to keep your thermostat set as high as you can and yet remain comfortable. For every degree of temperature that you increase your thermostat in the summertime, you can save as much as five percent on your cooling cost.
     
    TOM: And that’s quite a bit.
     
    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s a bit.
     
    TOM: Now, if you’ve not done it yet, is it still a good idea to have your HVAC system, and specifically your air conditioning compressor, serviced? Because I think a lot of us run these compressors and we assume that they’re working efficiently but if they’ve not been serviced – if they don’t have the proper level of refrigerant, for example – they could be running longer to do the same thing and that can add to the cost.
     
    DAVE: Yes, certainly. We would recommend that you have your system checked at least once a year. Many people will actually check their systems just before the cooling season starts and just before the heating season starts, just to make sure that everything is tuned properly; as you mentioned, that the refrigerant charge is appropriate and there’s nothing that’s going to happen to take that system offline on the hottest day of summer, for example.
     
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Does it matter if you service it before or after, as long as it’s a regular practice?
     
    DAVE: No, it really doesn’t. Once a year is way better than never at all. In fact, once a year is probably sufficient to catch anything that might interfere with the appropriate operation of your system.
     
    LESLIE: Now what are some of the things we can do in the house? I understand you should really think about drafty areas and seal up gaps and cracks around windows and anywhere you might have some air loss. We always think about that for heating expenses but same goes for cooling, right?
     
    DAVE: Absolutely. If you can keep that hot, outdoor air from infiltrating into your home – by weather-sealing around your windows and doors; by making sure you have plenty of insulation in the walls or in the ceilings or in the floors – that makes a huge difference. And often, adding insulation can be a much more effective way to reduce your energy cost than even moving to more efficient heating or cooling equipment.
     
    TOM: That’s very interesting because I think we all think that if the bills are high, we need to buy more efficient equipment but the truth be told, there are things that you can do inside your house that cost a lot less and deliver a lot better return on investment. Dave Pannier, Interim President of NATE, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
     
    If you want more information on how to cut heating and cooling costs in your house, you can go to their website at HVACRAdvice.com. That’s HVACRAdvice.com or go to NATE’s website at NATEX.org. That’s NATEX.org.

    Dave, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
     
    DAVE: My pleasure. Thank you very much.
     
    LESLIE: Well, high summer demand from all of that A/C use can also cause an unwanted side effect: power outages. If you’ve been thinking about backup power, we’ve got advice on how to choose the perfect generator for you, next.
     

     
    (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: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
     
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
     
    TOM: And today we’re launching a brand new series, in partnership with the experts at PowerEquipmentDirect.com. Now this is a company that was started by a very good friend of mine, Jon Hoch, that has actually grown into an online superstore that can help you get great products, great prices and information on a real wide range of power equipment that can help you take care of your house.
     
    LESLIE: It occurred to Jon that when folks need to buy a product – like an electric generator, for example – they need to ask themselves a series of questions to help narrow down that choice. So with the help of Jon and his team of experts, we’re going to help those of you who need to buy power equipment, with a feature we call How to Pick a Perfect. And today’s first episode is all about how to pick a perfect standby generator and is presented by ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com.
     
    TOM: You know, just a few years ago, the thought of owning an emergency standby generator could have seemed a bit excessive. But now, living without electricity is all too common and most folks really can’t afford to ride out another power outage. So instead, they are now installing home standby generators in record numbers, to protect their families and their investments.
     
    LESLIE: Now, the concept is really simple. Standby generators are permanently installed outside and operate just like a central air conditioner, with two differences. First, it has an engine instead of a motor. Now, air conditioners run off electric motors, which obviously won’t work during an outage. Home standby generators have engines instead and these engines can connect to your natural gas line or liquid propane tank and generate electricity as long as you’ve got fuel supplied.
     
    Secondly, an electric generator has a really cool device that tells it when to come on and off, called an automatic transfer switch. When power goes out, the automatic transfer switch turns on the generator whether you’re home or not and automatically shuts it off when the power is restored. Now, unlike portable generators, home standby generators operate automatically without any human intervention.
     
    TOM: Yeah, that’s cool. So you don’t need to be there when the power actually goes out.
     
    Now, the next thing you need to know about how to pick the perfect standby generator is how much power you absolutely need. And that depends on what you want to power: your whole house, just essential circuits or even somewhere in between. Whole-house generators are the ideal solution because they do power the entire house. And that’s what I bought, actually, from the site many years ago and I couldn’t be happier because it’s saved me and my family a lot of angst over the years.

    But if that’s more than you want to take on, you can actually opt for an essential-circuit generator and that’s a standby generator that can handle the most important 16 circuits in your panel. Or you could choose something called a smart-circuit generator that won’t power the entire house but it will maximize the amount of electricity produced by your generator and it’ll set it just where it’s needed.
     
    LESLIE: Look, any way you choose, a standby generator is simply a fantastic product to have on hand, to make sure that you are never left in the dark again. For more tips on how you can pick the perfect standby generator for your needs, go to a great website: ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com. That’s ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com.
     
    TOM: Or pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    LESLIE: Going over to Maryland now, where Karen has got a driveway that’s cracking up. Tell us about it.
     
    KAREN: Well, thank you very much for taking my call.
     
    LESLIE: Our pleasure.
     
    KAREN: I have some cracks in the driveway. We’ve just moved into the house not long ago and there are some cracks in the sidewalk. And I had listened to one of your shows a while back and written down what you suggested. Went to two hardware stores – Lowe’s and Home Depot – and they said they didn’t know what I was talking about.
     
    TOM:  OK.
     
    KAREN: Since then, I’ve lost the paper with the name of the product.
     
    LESLIE: The piece of paper?
     
    TOM: Alright. How big are these cracks?
     
    KAREN: Oh, I would say no more than maybe a quarter-inch.
     
    TOM: OK. And it’s concrete we’re talking about?
     
    KAREN: We’re talking about concrete. Yes, sir.
     
    TOM: Alright. So you can use either a flowable urethane or, if you can’t find that, you can use silicone caulk. I’m sure both home centers will sell you silicone caulk.
     
    KAREN: OK.
     
    TOM: And that will sit in there. It’ll wear well, last about five years and it will expand and contract. And what it will do, Karen, is it will reduce the amount of water that gets into those cracks and that’s really what you want to do because as the water gets in it freezes and it makes them worse.
     
    KAREN:  Yes. Oh, OK.
     
    TOM: So that’s why you’re filling them up.
     
    KAREN: OK. And what suggestion do you have where I could find – what’d you say it was – flowable urethane?
     
    TOM: Flowable urethane? Well, that’s another sort of hardware store/home improvement store
    sort of staple.
     
    LESLIE: Staple, really.
     
    TOM: I mean it’s pretty common. But if you can’t find it, use silicone caulk. That’ll work just as well.
     
    KAREN: OK. I thank you so very much and I think your show is absolutely fantastic.
     
    TOM: Thank you very much. We appreciate that, Karen. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
     
    LESLIE: Doug in Washington needs help installing a second bathroom or maybe a third. Hey, Doug. What’s going on?
     
    DOUG: Hi. I’m actually installing a bathroom in the garage that I’ve converted for my home office.
     
    TOM: OK.
     
    LESLIE: Oh, perfect.
     
    DOUG: And yeah, it’s a concrete slab and putting in a shower, a toilet and a tub. And I actually, from the way that it’s going to lay out …
     
    TOM: You plan to stay there a long time, don’t you, Doug?  In that office.
     
    DOUG: Not sure  but I do want there to be a bathroom over here, so …
     
    TOM: OK.
     
    DOUG: So the question is, I’ve never cut through a concrete floor and I think the slab is probably 25-years-old or more. What should I do to tackle that or is that a job that I should hire out instead?
     
    TOM: Well, it’s a big job, especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever done it. This whole thing is a pretty complicated plumbing job. The first question is where is the waste pipe and are you above it?
     
    DOUG: Yes. I’ve already located the sewer line and it’s not difficult to tap into that. The big chore I’m going to have is getting through the concrete.
     
    TOM: Well, what you would do in that situation, Doug, is you may go to a rental center and you could rent the saw that is used to cut concrete and essentially, it’s a saw that has an abrasive blade on it. You sort of curf the concrete around the hole and then you might use a jackhammer to break it out.
     
    LESLIE: So you sort of score the perimeter?
     
    TOM: Sort of score it pretty deep all the way around and that’s the way you get a really clean, square cut.
     
    LESLIE: You know, similar to notching like a four-by-four post or a six-by-six where you sort of create the perimeter and then sort of notch in the middle. Would you do that the same way with the concrete?
     
    TOM: I would just cut the four corners of the place I want to take it out, so I have a nice square, and then I would jackhammer out the middle and this is the way to do it without disturbing the rest of the floor. And then of course, after it’s all done, you’re going to have to pour a patch in there.
     
    DOUG: OK. Very good.
     
    TOM: Alright. And listen, if you feel like it’s too much for you, you wouldn’t be admitting defeat if you hired a plumber just to rough this in for you.
     
    DOUG: OK.
     
    TOM: And then you could concentrate on all the stuff that’s above the floor but have the plumber just rough-in the drain. They could probably get it done in a quarter of the time.
     
    DOUG: Very good.
     
    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it is still pretty hot outside but even though it’s a good time to think about how you’re going to heat your home this winter, we’ve got some options for you that’ll save some cash, next.
     

     
    (theme song)
     
    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 may still be running your A/C this weekend but now is the time to take a look at that heating system before you start using it. You know, that’s when you get the first really cold blast of air. That’s when everyone calls their heating contractors and they figure out that their furnace is not working then. Bad idea. Do it now when you’re not waiting in line.
     
    It’s very important to have your heating system serviced every year, especially if it’s a gas system or if it’s an oil system or a propane system, because those fuels do allow the systems to get dirty over time and they do need to be serviced once a year. It’s an easy thing to do; it’s just like servicing your car. But now is the time to do it, so think about picking up the phone and making that call next week.
     
    LESLIE: That’s right. And while you are thinking about your home’s heating system, we’re going to tackle an e-mail on that very subject. And I’ve got one here from Lisa who wrote in: “We recently bought a home with a gas log fireplace; propane. It’s got wood siding around the top and sides and we were told by the builder that that was really not safe and we needed to put up marble. It does not have a chimney. Is marble our only choice?”
     
    TOM: Alright. Let’s dissect this fireplace, Leslie.
     
    LESLIE: So she means it has a wood mantle and it’s a …
     
    TOM: But it doesn’t have a chimney, which means it’s probably a manufactured, gas-fired unit. We really need more information to answer this accurately, Lisa, but I would suggest that you identify the kind of fireplace you have.
     
    Now, if you have a typical masonry fireplace with a gas log in it, obviously you would need a chimney. There are propane fireplaces out there that are ventless, so to speak. We don’t like them, personally, because I just don’t like the concept of putting the propane offgassing back into your house. Bad idea. The reason is there’s a lot of moisture that comes off that gas, even if the carbon monoxide problem is managed, because it’s burned completely, which a lot of those fireplaces do; they burn very efficiently. Just really don’t like those ventless fireplaces.
     
    In terms of the distance to combustibles, that ties back in directly to the unit itself. When that unit is manufactured, the manufacturer itself is going to specify how close it can be to combustibles. The standard for the code is the National Fire Protection Association code but again, they’re going to defer to the manufacturers and their individual certifications.
     
    So, can’t really give you a clear answer is what I’m telling you. I think what you probably should do is to have the fire inspector in your town or an independent one take a look at that, identify what kind of furnace it is – or excuse me; what kind of fireplace it is. There should be some markings on it. Then you can go to the manufacturer’s website and figure out what the distance to combustibles is and then you’ll know if you’re operating safely.
     
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I hope that helps, Lisa, and congratulations on your new home. I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot from you
     
    TOM: Well, there’s nothing that gets my day started quicker than a nice, hot, crisp, morning shower. But if yours has been less than invigorating, Leslie has got steps to clean those faucets and restore the flow, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
     
    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, slow-flowing faucets or showerheads – they’re typically caused by blockages from debris or even mineral deposits that just simply get stuck there. So to free up the flow, this is actually pretty easy. What you want to do is unscrew and then disassemble the aerators or the faucet heads – whatever you want to call them – and soak them in a white vinegar and water solution.

    Now, here’s something that’s going to help you out with the whole process. You want to make sure that you remember, write down, photograph – anything – the way that you disassembled the aerator, because there are going to be a couple of pieces and they have to go back in exactly the way you took them apart. This way, you’re going to make sure everything goes back exactly so.
     
    Then you can reassemble it once you’ve soaked everything in the white vinegar and water and then you can enjoy that exciting, new vigor in your shower or your sinks and have that fantastic morning shower again.
     
    TOM: And we promise you won’t smell like vinegar.
     
    LESLIE: Right. 
     
    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
     
    Coming up next week on the program, do you know where your home is leaking? We’re talking about energy leaks, that is, and an energy audit can help you find out. We’re going to tell you exactly how to get one of those done, to save some money on your energy bills all year long, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
     
    I’m Tom Kraeutler.
     
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
     
    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
     
    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
     
     
     

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