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An Easy and Safe Way to Clean Your Fireplace, DIY Fix for Your Clogged Disposer, When Icicles Spell Trouble for Your Roof, and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And it is the holiday home improvement season. So if there’s a home improvement on your to-do list or if you want to plan for one for next year, pick up the phone and give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    One of the things you might be planning to do this year is to get ready to cook for a crowd. And if that happens, the last thing you need is a jammed-up garbage disposer. But that’s one thing you won’t have to worry about, because we’ve got step-by-step troubleshooting tips to tell you about this hour, so you won’t have to worry about that happening to you.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, this is the perfect time of year to fire up your fireplace. But before you do, it’s also the right time to clean that fireplace, to keep soot and ash from building up. We’re going to tell you the easiest and safest way to do that.

    TOM: And one of the prettiest things about winter is the icicles. But if you’re getting icicles on your house, it could get really ugly really quick, because icicles could mean that you have a roof problem in the making. We’ll explain, with the solution, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, one caller who makes it on the air with us is going to have a home office that runs a little better. We’ve got up for grabs two great prizes: we’re giving away Dust-Off Ultimate Screen Care Kit from Falcon and a Smart Strip Energy-Saving Surge Protector by Bits Limited.

    TOM: It’s a package worth $55. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s program. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Elaine in Delaware is on the line and is looking to redo a kitchen completely. Great project. How can we help?

    ELAINE: I have a house that was built in like 1955, OK? So I have the arch entrance going into the dining room. I also have a door going into a basement. I have a door going outside and I have two windows, OK? The kitchen …

    LESLIE: And this is your kitchen we’re talking about.

    ELAINE: Yes. And the kitchen is only 18×12 feet with a 4-foot bump-out for the basement door.


    ELAINE: OK? So I was wondering, number one, if I take out that archway – because I have several other entrances in the house that have the same archway. If I take out that archway and take out that whole wall there that opens up into the dining room …

    LESLIE: Do you want to see your kitchen all the time from the dining room?

    ELAINE: I like that open concept, yes.


    ELAINE: But I’m wondering if it’ll take away from the integrity of the 1955 style with the arches.

    LESLIE: I think an open plan has a much more modern and fresher feel. But I mean you’re talking about mid-century and that itself has a modern and fresh feel. So I don’t think it compromises one another. The issue is, is that wall load-bearing? Can you feasibly and structurally actually remove it?

    ELAINE: I don’t think it is a load-bearing wall. No, we’ve done some work in the house and I think that we could actually cut that out.

    LESLIE: Now, your kitchen itself, is that original to the home from 1955?

    ELAINE: Yes, it is. And it’s got the old wooden-type cabinets. Like the back door opens up right into the stove.

    TOM: Well, the nice thing about the old wooden cabinets is that they’re really well-built and the second thing is that they’re also easy to refinish.

    That’s a perfect candidate for painting cabinets, replacing hardware and thinking about doing a less-expensive kitchen update that way, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. It sounds to me, though, that Elaine has got her heart set on a gut job, which isn’t a bad idea either. You know, Tom is right: those cabinets are exceptionally well-made. I think the idea of opening out the room, as long as it makes sense and as long as you don’t mind – is this going to be your formal dining room off of the kitchen?

    ELAINE: Yes.

    LESLIE: OK. It instantly is going to take on a less-formal feel because it is integrated into that main portion of the kitchen.


    LESLIE: But you can still add details to it to dress up that portion of the space. Plus, you can add – a kitchen island is a great addition to a space; it gives a more casual seating area. But keep in mind that once you do the open plan, it does sort of reduce the formality of the dining area. But you can dress it up through color, lighting fixtures, furnishing choices, a rug. There are ways to do that.

    And keep in mind that now you’re opening the space, your working triangle needs to be modified a little bit. But I think there are great ways to make an open plan work and I think eliminating that archway really isn’t going to take away from the historical aspect of the home.

    ELAINE: OK, yeah. And we were actually thinking about maybe putting a couple stools where the wall is now, if we take out that archway, and kind of making a little breakfast bar.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. No, I think as long as structurally you’re able – and you’ll have to consult with an engineer – there’s no problem with removing that wall itself and creating that open plan.

    And do a lot of research on mid-century design, because you’re smack in that age bracket for your home. And it is swank; it’s very modern. There’s some interesting furnishings; you don’t have to buy the authentic stuff. Although, as gorgeous as it is, there are some fantastic knockoffs in a lot of those pieces. And you can really do something interesting.

    And Lucite is back in a big way. And if you mix Lucite and wood and some interesting lighting, you can really create a cool, mid-century feel.

    ELAINE: OK. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Our next caller is a Facebook fan of The Money Pit and he’s calling in from Wisconsin. We’ve got Antoine on the line who’s got a pellet-stove question. How can we help you?

    ANTOINE: My house is about 1,000 square foot and I wanted to put in a pellet stove.

    TOM: OK.

    ANTOINE: And I was wondering, what would be the best location and the best way to ventilate it?

    TOM: OK. Good question. Now, first of all, hurray for the choice of a pellet stove. A very green energy choice. Lots of options. Pellet stoves are affordable, the fuel’s affordable. They work very, very well. You fill them up and literally can walk away from them.

    Since it’s not tied into a central-heating system, you want it to be centrally located so you get the best amount of heat distribution outside of it. Very, very important that you follow the National Fire Safety Protection Organization standards for installation of that, because they do get very, very hot.

    How you install it, it depends on where you’re putting it. For example, the average wood stove needs about 3 feet of space behind it to combustibles. However, if you build a heat shield, then you can move it closer. I’ve seen them as close as 12 inches if they’re installed with heat shields, which basically create sort of a wall that’s vented that the heat can sort of pass over and the air can pass over and it can remain cool.

    Going up to the attic? Same situation. You typically use a triple-wall pipe – triple-wall vent pipe – to take that hot gas out. And again, it has to be installed correctly. So, it’s not the kind of project that I would recommend that you do if you’ve never installed one before, because of the specialty knowledge you need to make sure it’s done safely, Antoine.

    So if you want to shop it, buy it, get it in the store, get it in the house, that’s great. But I would definitely consider having a contractor that’s built these before do the actual installation for you. I would also make sure that you have the local fire marshal inspect the installation for you to make sure that it’s done correctly.

    ANTOINE: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and for “liking” The Money Pit page on Facebook, which is at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    And by the way, if you would head on over to Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit and “like” our page, you can also get priority access to the radio show as we produce it.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, have you ever had a house full of guests and you’re cooking a storm up in the kitchen and bam, your garbage disposer gets clogged? Well, not to panic. We’ve got the easy fix, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron Sensors. Tired of reminding your family to turn off the lights? Install a Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor and you’ll never have to remind them again. It works with all bulb types and takes only about 15 minutes to install. For easy upgrades with big impact, choose Lutron. Visit ChooseLutron.com.

    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: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you might just win a great prize pack we’re giving away that can make your home office clean and safe. You’ll get the Falcon Dust-Off Ultimate Screen Care Kit. It includes a cleaning solution, a shammy, a plasma-screen cloth and more. And you’ll win a Smart Strip Energy-Saving Surge Protector by Bits Limited. Not only does it protect your electronics from surges, it can sense when you’re not using them and cut the power to save some money.

    The package is worth $55. Going out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    MARK: Well, I am going to be putting down an engineered-hardwood floor.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: And I’ve got the manufacturer’s instructions and I’m going to tell you, the tolerances for the floor are really tight. They want the floor – so the plywood subfloor, off-grade house – they want the floor to be no more than 3/16-of-an-inch over 10 feet or an 1/8-of-an-inch over 6 feet deflection.

    TOM: I haven’t seen a house yet that has that little deflection, right?

    MARK: I know. Exactly. Yes.

    Anyway, my question is – I’ve taken a 10-foot 2×8 and confirmed it was straight and put it on the floor.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: And I’ve got a Sharpie and I’m kind of marking off what is within tolerance. And there are some sections that are and ones not in tolerance. So my question to you is: how do you meet that specification that they call out for? For instance, some of the load-bearing walls, you can see where the subfloor has actually dipped down from the weight of the home. The house is about 23 years old. And I’m just wondering, how do you meet that? It’s extremely tight.

    TOM: How close are you, Mark?

    MARK: It depends. Some of the areas, we’re talking probably half – maybe a ½-inch in some of the bad places.

    TOM: OK. So what you want to do in those areas is you’re going to fill in with a floor-leveling compound. You don’t have to do the entire floor but if you have the areas that are really down, you can fill those in.

    The thing here is you want it to be reasonably flat. And the reason it wants to be reasonably flat is because with engineered-hardwood floor, the panels lock together. You know, I’ve got an 1886 house and I put in a laminate floor when it sort of first came on the market. And this is similar to the engineered hardwood floor except that when laminate floor first came on, you had to glue it together; it didn’t lock together.

    And so I was able to glue this together. It actually worked in my favor because by gluing it together, it had a lot more ability to stretch and bend and twist over my very roly-poly floors. But if you’re just going to rely on the joint of the hardwood floor to lock together, then you can’t really stress it that much. If you try to twist it, it could crack or pop up.

    MARK: I see.

    TOM: And so, what I would do is I would get floor-leveling compound. DAP makes one that works very well. It’s called Flexible Floor Patch and Leveler.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: And so, if you go to the DAP website at DAP.com – D-A-P.com – just search for the Flexible Floor Patch. You’ll see a picture of it there; you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for. And then you can order that from, I’m sure, your home center or your hardware store or find it online. And that’s designed specifically to work on wood floors or under wood floors and level them out.

    LESLIE: On subfloors, especially.

    MARK: OK. Well, great. Thank you very much. I really enjoy your show and look forward to maybe meeting the two of you one day.

    LESLIE: Oh, thanks.

    Well, one of the hardest-working appliances during the holiday season might just be your garbage disposer. And when it jams, kitchen cleanup screeches to a halt. Now, clearing it out is not hard. Here’s what you need to do.

    First, you want to cut the power to the disposer and then go ahead and fish out whatever was causing the jam. Then go ahead and use the reset button on the bottom of the unit, just in case that jam was caused by a tripped breaker. And that’s exactly where you’ll reset it, because one touch of this button could save you an unnecessary and expensive repair bill.

    TOM: Now, if this doesn’t do the trick, there might be something stopping the blades from spinning. In that case – and again, with the power turned off, maybe even at the breaker – look for the small Allen socket on the bottom of the unit. Insert the Allen wrench, which usually comes with the disposer, and then sort of wiggle it back and forth. This will move the blades manually and free up anything that gets stuck inside.

    I’ve done this to clear like a little pebble or something that got in there or perhaps a piece of broken glass that might have been washed into the sink when you break a dish. It works really, really well. Then once it’s moving again, pull out the wrench and then repower the disposer.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And finally, to prevent clogs in the first place, never put anything that’s stringy or fibrous into your garbage disposer, like a poultry skin, celery, pumpkin pulp, even fruit or potato peels, because that’s going to just jam everything right up.

    TOM: And there you go: easy ways to keep that disposer moving through your next holiday meal.

    LESLIE: Al in Texas has got a house that tends to move a lot. Now you can’t close your darn doors. Tell us what’s going on, Al.

    AL: Well, here in this part – side of town – our soils are not very good and they tend to shift all the time.

    TOM: OK.

    AL: So it’s a constant battle with the doors not locking properly. And so my question has to do with – there’s a male and a female side and so, should I change – adjust the door or do I need to go to the female side to adjust that so that the door locks properly?

    TOM: The place you make the adjustment, Al, really depends on what’s the easiest way to do this, so let me give you a couple of examples.

    Let’s say that the door itself was hitting the door jamb a little bit low and you had to pick it up a bit? Well, if you went to the upper hinge and was able to tighten it, that will actually sort of twist the door upwards in its frame and move that striker up higher, perhaps enough to actually make the connection on the strike plate. And if you had to move it down, you could tighten the lower hinge. So you can do a little bit of movement by shimming the hinges or moving the hinges or tightening the hinges in the door.

    Beyond that, the easiest thing to do is to actually reset the striker plate on the door jamb itself, to move that up or down to align properly with the door itself. And you could actually have a striker that’s a little bit wider than perhaps what you really need, in terms of the actual striker hole, so that if the door was to shift a little bit throughout the year because of swelling and expansion and contraction, it would still continue to operate properly. Does that make sense?

    AL: It does. Now, let me ask you one last thing. On the – not on the door but on the other side, would I need to change that piece of wood? And why I say that is because, typically, that little metal piece is actually almost encrusted onto the wood. I mean there’s always like a little square and if it’s like perfectly in there, would I need to replace all of that or could I just maybe …?

    TOM: Not necessarily replace it but what you would do is you might open it up a little bit. So for example, you would take off the striker and then with the chisel, you would widen out the hole a little bit and then you would put it back together.

    AL: That makes sense.

    TOM: OK?

    AL: Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Amy in Michigan is on the line with a condensation question. How can we help you?

    AMY: I live in a house; it’s about 15 years old. And every winter, I have the same problem. I’ve been here for three years but I have condensation on the inside of my windows. I think they’re pretty decent windows. I know when we had the home inspection, the guy said these are really good windows. Just wondering what I can do to control it.

    LESLIE: Now, when you’re talking about this, this is in your living room, you’re saying?

    AMY: It’s actually in just about every room of the house. It’s worse in my bedrooms and it’s gotten – it seems like it’s getting worse in other areas of the house.

    TOM: Well, the reason that your windows condense, Adrienne, is because they’re not insulated properly. I’m going to presume that they’re thermal-pane windows, is that correct?

    AMY: They are.

    TOM: They’re thermal-pane windows but they’re not very good thermal panes, because the windows are super-cold. So what happens is when the warm, moist air inside your house strikes them, it condenses.

    So what can you do at this point in time short of replacing the windows? You could take some steps to try to reduce the volume of moisture that’s inside the house.

    AMY: OK.

    TOM: This might include taking a look to make sure that your outside drainage is done properly so that you’re not collecting water.

    Do you have a basement?

    AMY: We do.

    TOM: OK. So you want to make sure that you have gutters on the house, downspouts that are clean, downspouts that are extended away, soil that’s sloping away from the walls. That sort of thing reduces soil moisture. Dehumidification in the basement can help. You can either do it with a portable or a whole-house dehumidifier.

    LESLIE: Depending on your heating system.

    AMY: Right.

    TOM: Making sure that your bath fans are exhausted outside, making sure that your kitchen range hood is exhausted outside. Those are the sorts of things that will reduce the volume of humidity in the house.

    But I think until you get better-quality windows in there that are better-insulated, you’re still going to continue to have this to some degree, because it’s just sort of the nature of the beast. If it’s really cold outside and it’s really warm and moist inside, that condensation is going to form, the same way it happens in the summer when you go outside with a glass of ice water and you get droplets on the outside.

    AMY: Sure.

    TOM: It’s just the nature of the condensation.

    AMY: Why does it seem worse when I have the blinds drawn or the blinds are down and closed? And then there’s more condensation on the windows.

    TOM: Because the windows are probably colder when the blinds are down. The warm air inside the house is not getting to the glass as readily. So the windows are probably a little colder when the blind’s down; you have less air circulation across it, so you’re not drying off some of that moisture, probably, as quickly as you would have.

    AMY: Oh, OK. Yeah, that makes sense.

    TOM: So do what you can to reduce the amount of humidity inside the house and then keep an eye on them. But I think, eventually, you’re going to want to think about replacing your windows and you can do that in stages. Start in the north side first, because that’s going to be the coldest side of the house and the side that will give you the best return on investment.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, there is nothing quite as cozy as a fire in the fireplace. But if you only see smoke stains and soot when you look at yours, we’re going to have some tips to help clean it up, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellent and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.

    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: It is the home improvement shopping season. If you’re looking for some holiday gift ideas for the DIYer in your life, take a look at our online Holiday Gift Guide presented by Stanley Tools. You’ll find the perfect gift for all the handy friends and family members on your list and maybe a little something for yourself, as well. Check it out today at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line with a mold question.

    LAURIE: My husband and I think that there possibly might be some mold in our drywall or insulation in our home and we wondered the best way to check for that. We don’t have any airflow in our home, though.

    TOM: What makes you think you have mold? Do you physically see it?

    LAURIE: Well, we have an underground – part of our home is underground and there is a lot of moisture. It seems like in the air – we’ve seen some mold on some items in our home. And we have some cold-like symptoms from time to time that we think might be caused from it.

    LESLIE: It’s like allergies, you’re saying.

    LAURIE: Yes.

    TOM: So it’s more of the effects of it that you’re concerned about.

    LAURIE: Correct.

    TOM: And this is in the basement.

    LAURIE: Yes. It’s in the part of the home that’s underground and I had read online that some of those mold test kits are unreliable that you buy in the store or mold inspections can be very costly. I just didn’t know the best choice there.

    TOM: Well, the truth is that mold pretty much exists in every home and so we can always find mold. The question is whether or not this is causing a problem in your house.

    What kind of floor do you have in that basement, Laurie?

    LAURIE: It’s cement and then there’s carpet over that.

    LESLIE: That’s a huge mold trap right there. If you were to get rid of that, you would notice. Even if there’s moisture management in a basement, we never recommend putting a carpet down on a concrete slab in a basement area, just because concrete’s hydroscopic. It pulls the moisture from the ground. That then gets into the carpet pad, the carpet itself. And then the dust gets in there and you’ve got a breeding ground for mold.

    So if you were to get rid of that, put down laminate or tile, use some area rugs, you’re instantly going to notice a better respiratory situation, I think.

    TOM: Well, exactly. Plus, carpet is a filter material, so that carpet can trap dust, dust mites and all sorts of other allergens. So there could be other things, Laurie, here that are causing the breathing issues.

    So let’s just give you some general clean-air advice. First of all, as Leslie said, the carpet’s not a good idea. Secondly, you want to make sure that your basement remains as dry as possible. And the way you do that is by making sure the gutter system is clean, free-flowing and the downspout is discharging well away from the house itself.

    Secondly, we may want to add some sort of a filtration system. Now, do you have forced air into that basement space?

    LAURIE: We do not. We do have a dehumidifier that we run and we have some ceiling fans but not in every room or not in every area.

    TOM: So, is it a hot water-heated house?

    LAURIE: No, it’s electric.

    TOM: It’s all electric?

    LAURIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: OK. So what we would really like to see is some sort of a filtration system in there – a good-quality, portable air filter, electronic air cleaner perhaps – that will pull the dust and dust mites and anything else that is of allergen basis out of that basement space. So a portable air cleaner could be a good addition.

    But I suspect, from everything that you’ve told us, reducing dampness and removing the carpet will make that space a lot more comfortable.

    LAURIE: Excellent. Thank you so much. That gives me some great ideas.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project, Laurie, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LAURIE: Thank you.

    TOM: Well, one easy way to add instant charm and coziness to your home is to simply build a fire in the fireplace when the temperatures start to dip. But all that charm can also add up to one giant cleaning chore, so it’s easiest if you clean it once or twice a season before that buildup of ash and soot gets really bad.

    LESLIE: Yep. And cleaning it is pretty easy. You just want to use a cleaning solution made of 1/8-cup of liquid dishwashing detergent per quart of water that you’re going to use. Take that mixture and gently scrub the screen with a soft-bristled brush. Follow up by wiping with a lint-free cloth; that’ll avoid rusting.

    Now, if your screen includes brass, go ahead and polish that with a brass cleaner and a lint-free cloth.

    TOM: And you can even clean out the ashes with a small broom and pan. But – and this is important – never put those ashes in anything other than a metal ash can. And keep that outside and away from your house.

    For more tips on fireplace care, just search “fireplace” on MoneyPit.com.

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

    BRIAN: Hi. We have a house. It’s about a year-and-a-half old and it has a – in the upstairs, it has a game-room/play-room area, you know? And got a two-year-old and a six-year-old and so trying to think of – trying to build – yeah.

    LESLIE: And lots of stuff.

    TOM: Yeah.

    BRIAN: Lots of toys. So I’m trying to think of a seating area, bench, storage area. Suggestions? Ideas?

    LESLIE: I mean you’re on the right track. I’ve done a ton of makeovers on $100 Makeover with a similar situation, where – small kids, lots of stuff, multi-function rooms. You want it to look good, you want it to be practical but you want to have a place for everything and everything in its place.

    And if you’re a handy guy, you can easily make a storage bench and it could be something as simple as a framed-out box with one of those slowly-closing hinged tops to protect the kiddies’ fingers, either painting it or wrapping it in fabric, padding the top and wrapping just the top, veneering the bottom. It depends on your skill level. And there are ways to even modify existing pieces that you might have.

    Maybe there is a bench or a piece of inexpensive furniture that you can find at one of those stores where you sort of put things together yourself. And you can add baskets underneath. It depends on what your skillset is and what kind of look you want for that space.

    BRIAN: I saw on some show leaving it open using 2x4s or 2x6s – or would you suggest enclosing it?

    LESLIE: I feel like leaving things open, only from my experience with my own son and people who I see how they live – if it’s closed up, it tends to be neater.

    BRIAN: Right.

    LESLIE: And you can frame something – build the box out of 2x4s, clad it with MDF, dress it up a little bit with 1×3, make it almost look like it’s paneled or something.

    BRIAN: Right.

    LESLIE: Give it some raised areas and recessed areas, if you even want to go that far. Up to you. You can add in a baseboard to just sort of dress up the bottom. Paint that. Everything looks beautiful in glossy white or glossy black or a great chocolate brown.

    And then on the top, same thing: MDF top. You want to wrap it with some batting. Put some foam, wrap that in batting, wrap it with fabric, staple to the underside. And the key is the hinge; you have to get that hinge that slowly, slowly, slowly goes down. Because the kids are always going to get their hands in everything.

    BRIAN: Now, we have a corner area, so should I just make it straight or should I make it like an L-shape or what?

    LESLIE: I think an L-shape is really practical. And what you can do is on the ends – on both ends or just one – you can sort of then build out an additional area that maybe has some open shelving on both ends, to put some books.

    BRIAN: Awesome. Looks like I’ve got a project to get started.

    TOM: Sounds like you do.

    LESLIE: It’s a good one.

    BRIAN: Alright. Well, I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Icicles in winter? They’re really nice to look at but icicles hanging from your roof in winter? That means trouble. We’re going to tell you how you can avoid the damage they cause, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and to find the perfect holiday gift, visit StanleyTools.com.

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

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

    Now, one caller this hour is going to have a cleaner and more efficient home office. We’ve got up for grabs the Falcon Dust-Off Ultimate Screen Care Kit, along with a Smart Strip Energy-Saving Surge Protector by Bits Limited.

    Now, this package is worth 55 bucks, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, as it begins to get colder across the country, ice dams can form on roofs and that can lead to leaks. This happens more frequently in homes that have insufficient insulation and ventilation, because snow will melt away from those sections of the roof that are above the heated space but not at the eaves.

    Now, as a result, that snow along the edge of the roof can freeze and cause a dam that’s going to let that melted snow from above leak through your roof. And if you’ve got a heavy mess of ice that forms, it could come crashing through your roof.

    TOM: Definitely so. Let’s talk about prevention. Now, if your roof is, say, maybe 20 or 25 years old and you’re getting big ice dams or seeing a lot of icicles, you most likely are going to need to replace your roof pretty soon. So, when you do that, make sure you ask for ice-and-water-shield underlayment.

    This is like a 3-foot barrier that goes from the edge of the roof up underneath the roof shingles and it actually seals in those areas that – where the water from the ice dams can leak in. And it’s going to prevent that damage from forming along that outside wall. It’s nothing worse than being in your living room and looking up and seeing this huge leak come in right along that exterior wall. And that will stop that from happening.

    Now, the next thing to do is to improve the ventilation and the insulation in your attic space. Because if it’s done properly, the attic will actually be the same temperature as the outside and this is going to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place and totally avoid the potential of damage altogether.

    LESLIE: Now, if you need more tips on how to stop the water from getting in and the heat getting out, visit MoneyPit.com and search on “roof underlayment.” You can really get a better idea of how it works and how you can benefit from it.

    Lee in Texas is on the line with a window and foundation situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LEE: Well, I’ve got a house that’s approximately a little over 45 years old and it’s got the original windows in it.

    TOM: OK.

    LEE: And I’ve got a foundation problem.

    TOM: Alright. What’s going on with the foundation?

    LEE: Oh, it’s shifting, it’s cracking. I’ve got a big crack on the westbound side.

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    LEE: And it’s spread out quite a bit.

    TOM: Do you sense that it’s actively – like it’s growing?

    LEE: No, it isn’t growing. It’s stable, just a crack.

    TOM: It’s been like that for how long?

    LEE: Probably about 20 years.

    TOM: OK. Well, then, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. If it’s not active, which means it’s moving, then it’s probably stopped. It just happened for whatever reason: soil shift, who knows? But if it’s not active, then I don’t think it’s a big concern if it’s been stable for 20 years. So then I think you can move on and think about replacing the windows.

    A good time to replace windows. The technology has really come a long way. They’re super-energy-efficient; very, very comfortable; very, very easy to operate. What you want to do is choose your windows very carefully.

    If you go to our website at MoneyPit.com, we actually have a free guide. It’s a download from our book, My Home, My Money Pit. Just click on the picture of the book and look for the guide to replacing windows in your house. It will walk you through kind of the whole purchase process and tell you what to look for. You have to decide what kind of frames you want, what kind of glass you want: double-pane versus triple-pane and so on. And it will help sort of walk you through that whole process and then you’ll be more knowledgeable when you start talking to the actual window companies.

    But replacement windows are pretty easy to install. They fit inside the existing openings, so there’s not a lot of siding that’s torn off and stuff like that. And for the most part, they can do the whole project in a day or two.

    LEE: But if it starts being active again about when it shifts?

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Then here’s what you need to do: you need to consult a structural engineer, not a foundation-repair company or a contractor or anybody like that. There’s a lot of so-called experts out there but unless they have the pedigree of a degree, then we don’t want to hear from them. We want you to consult a structural engineer.

    Because when you have a serious foundation issue, you have an engineer inspect it, you have them write a report stating whether or not it needs to be fixed and if so, how it should be fixed. Then you get it fixed by a contractor. Then you have them come back and reinspect it so that they can certify that it was done correctly.

    And with that record, you won’t have any problem selling your house. If it becomes an issue later on, you can show them that you hired an expert to review it and to review it after it was fixed and it’s been done satisfactorily. And that should be all you need to know to fix the foundation and to protect the value of the home.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Are you dreaming of a green Christmas? We’re going to have some tips on how you can be both festive and eco-friendly, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs for appliances, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical. Visit BuyTotalProtect.com to see if you qualify for a special offer. That’s BuyTotalProtect.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.

    Hey, last-minute holiday shoppers – and I know it’s totally not last minute. It’s December; you’re allowed to be shopping now. But I’m already done, so wah-wah.

    If you’re looking for some great gift ideas, we have a ton to share with you. You can check out our online Holiday Gift Guide, which is presented by our friends at Stanley Tools. And you will find the perfect gifts for all of the handy friends and family members on your list, because weekend warriors know you can never have too many tools.

    TOM: That’s the rule.

    LESLIE: You can never have too many tools.

    Visit MoneyPit.com today, check out our suggestions for holiday gifts. It’s presented by Stanley Tools. It’s right there online and you can post your question, too, just like Jenny in Virginia did, who writes: “I’ve noticed the nails in my drywall are starting to pop through. What can I do about that?”

    TOM: Well, first of all, Jenny, pretty popular problem to have. Very common issue and not one to panic over. What happens is, especially in newer homes as the walls expand and contract – the wood in the walls expands and contracts – it will kind of push the nail out. These drywall nails are rosin-coated. They’re glue-coated so when you drive them in, they’re supposed to stick because of – the friction heats up the glue and it’s supposed to stick in the wall. But of course, it doesn’t always stick and it pushes out and you get this big head of the nail that pushes out and it pushes out the spackle that was on top of that nail.

    So, here is what you need to do. Two methods. Number one, if you can extract the nail completely – sometimes it’s loose – just pull it out. Use a drywall screw in its place. Drive it through the same hole, recess it just a little bit and then spackle it over. If you can’t get it out, put a second nail and cover the head of the first nail. So you overlap them, drive it in again, depress it a little bit into the wall so, again, you have sort of a divot. Spackle it – you’ll need about two coats – prime it, paint it and you’ll be done.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And that should really do the trick. You know what? You might start to see it down the entire run of those nails, so you want to work on one area at a time so that you can really just spackle everything, paint that whole area and really enjoy a nice, smooth finished product.

    TOM: That’s the problem: as soon as you fix one, you’ll find five more.

    LESLIE: Completely. So it’s – you might want to wait until you have a couple and do them all at the same time. But it’s not a big problem, Jenny. Good luck with that.

    TOM: Well, the holidays create a lot of waste in the average household and Leslie has got a few tips that give kind of a whole new meaning to the idea of Christmas greenery, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, there’s no reason to stop your efforts to be green just because it’s Christmastime. There are some quick things that you can do, like using recycled wrapping paper or you can use last year’s holiday cards to cut and make snowflakes or make them into a fun wreath. But if you really want to make a difference, you need to look at your tree.

    Here’s this, guys: choose a real tree rather than an artificial one. Because most of those fake trees in the United States are imported from China and they’re made of PVC, which creates toxins. Also, an artificial tree must be used for 20 years to leave an environmental footprint as small as a natural tree.

    Now, with real trees and other greenery, you can drop them off at recycling centers. They get turned into compost and mulch and then used around your community. If you want to take it to the next level, you can get a living tree that you can plant in your yard after the holiday season. These trees can be stored in a cold place, like the garage, until the ground thaws in the spring for planting.

    And if you really want to be super-green and a little lazy, businesses actually exist that will come and pick up your living tree and care for it all year. And if it stays in really great shape, they’ll bring back the same tree next year so you can decorate it and enjoy it all over again.

    TOM: It’s kind of like tree rental.

    LESLIE: Yeah, right? Isn’t that cool?

    TOM: But what if the tree dies and they bring a different tree, are we really going to know it?

    LESLIE: I’m sure they’ll tell you, because you’ll have to buy a new one.

    TOM: Alright. Good advice.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, here’s a problem that many of us have: do you have a room or perhaps even a corner of your house that always is cold in the winter? We’re going to tackle the topic of uneven heating, on the next edition of The Money Pit and get you warm and cozy and toasty for the entire winter season.

    That’s all the time we have. 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 2012 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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