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Eco-friendly features for selling a home, setting up dorm rooms, outdoor entertaining 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: Standing by to help you tackle your home improvement projects. So look around your house or if you’re driving, think about your house. And call us and let’s talk about the one home improvement project that you’d like to get done. I know you may have many but let’s choose one – give everybody a chance to participate in the program – and we will help you take the first step.

    Don’t know what that first step is? Well, we’ll tell you. Don’t know what materials you need? Don’t know if you can do it yourself or need to hire a pro? We’ll talk about that, as well. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up in this hour of the program, we’re also going to teach you why going green can help bring you more green when you sell your home. And we’ll teach you how to add eco-friendly features right now that will save you money in the meantime.

    LESLIE: Plus, setting up a dorm room? It’s kind of fun. You know, there’s all that cute décor and funky furniture that’s totally teenager-appropriate and not somebody like me who’s in their 30s.

    But don’t forget, guys, you want to send your kid off to college with a dorm-room tool box. You need to help them learn how to get out of any sort of dorm-improvement jam.

    TOM: Plus, we’re going to give you great ideas for amping up your outdoor entertaining space, when we interview HGTV’s Paul Lafrance. He is the host of Decked Out.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got a $50 PURPLE tool kit from National Gypsum. And it includes everything a do-it-yourselfer will need: a hammer, a screwdriver, a level and more. Plus, we’re giving you a hat and a mug and you can even send that off to your college-bound kid.

    TOM: 888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Patty in Illinois who’s got a toilet that is running constantly. Tell us what’s going on.

    PATTY: Well, it doesn’t run constantly but it runs about five seconds, several times an hour. And it’s gone to the point that my water bill has gone up quite a bit and I’m needing to know if I need a new toilet or if I need new seals or a new handle pump or – what would you think?

    LESLIE: It’s actually an easy fix and I mean this tends to happen kind of regularly. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that there’s actually some level of toilet maintenance, because it’s just an appliance in your house that’s there and you use it and you expect it to work.

    But inside the tank itself, there’s a fill and a flush valve. And those need to be replaced not that often but every couple of years or so. And of course, now that you’re dealing with this water-running issue – Tom, is it Fluidmaster?

    TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is sort of a mainstay of replacement valve parts.

    And they just wear out, Patty, over time, so this is a pretty easy fix.

    LESLIE: And it’s probably 10 bucks to get both of them. But if you go to Fluidmaster’s website, the only reason I recommend that is because on their website, they’ve got a really great how-to video. So you can actually see what the fill valve is, what the flush valve, the flapper valves – you know exactly what you’re looking at and how to replace it. And it’s a really easy do-it-yourself project that you can do confidently and definitely decrease your water bill.

    PATTY: Thank you. That sounds wonderful. I appreciate it and thank you so much for taking my call. Love your show.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Anthony in Tennessee on the line. How can we help you today?

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I’ve got a ’99 379 Peterbilt and it’s got one bed in it. And we pretty much live in the truck and we’re wanting to turn that one bed into a bunk bed. We tried to widen it and it didn’t work out too good. So I’ve got to go right weight because I’ve heavy and the truck’s real heavy. So if I do it in 2x4s, it’s going to be a real heavy, heavy truck.

    TOM: Anthony, you know what comes to mind, that I think would be a good solution for you, is a metal bunk bed – an army cot bunk bed. The army cots, if you just Google “army cots and bunk beds,” you will see a wide variety of metal bunk beds that are stackable. And they certainly have them in light-duty to heavy-duty designs.

    They’re not terribly expensive. I see them online for $300, $400, $500. And they’re not very heavy and they’re super-strong and they can be two, full, twin-size beds stacked one on top of another.

    ANTHONY: OK. Well, the bed that’s in here, the frame of that bed is part of the truck.

    TOM: So it has to sit on top of that, correct?

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I have to set something into that framework above my bed.

    TOM: Right. So then maybe what you want is just basically one half of that cot-style bunk bed. And then you have to build supports to get it up in the air for the space. So I would take a look at these metal bunk beds online.

    ANTHONY: OK.

    TOM: I think you’re going to find your solution there and it’s going to be a lot easier to deal with than trying to frame something out of wood.

    ANTHONY: Yeah, because then I could just set it in place and mount it to my bed.

    TOM: Exactly.

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that.

    TOM: Alright, Anthony. Well, I’m glad we helped you out. And I’ve got to say, this is one very unusual question for us and I’m glad we were able to come up with a solution.

    LESLIE: Pick up the phone and give us a call. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you tackle all of your home improvement projects at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’ve got a list of tools every college-bound kid needs for the perfect dorm-room tool box. We’ll tell you what that is, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Bostitch professional-quality, pneumatic nailers and staplers. Designed for productivity, built to last. For more information, visit Bostitch.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 who gets on the air with us this hour has a chance to win a $50 tool kit from National Gypsum. Now, it’s got in it everything, pretty much, a do-it-yourselfer is going to need to tackle a project. It’s got a hammer and some screwdrivers, a torpedo level and more. Plus, a project is not complete without a cup of coffee and a hat, so we’re throwing that in there, as well.

    TOM: You know, PURPLE drywall products provide resistance to mold, mildew, scratches and dents and they can even reduce noise. You can check out these new products at AskForPURPLE.com or give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    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: Alright. Now we’ve got Gary in Maryland with some wall cracks. Tell us what’s going on.

    GARY: The cracks are along the one outside wall – or the one wall on the short side, on a 26-foot side. And they’re both on either side of the bathroom, which is between two bedrooms.

    TOM: So what you’re describing is a pretty normal scenario. We typically get movement in walls of homes and where you have seams between walls and ceilings, one wall and another wall or above a window or above a door. That’s where the movement tends to evidence itself.

    Now, the solution here is going to require that you redo the seam between the cracked areas. What you’ll do is you’ll pull off the old drywall tape, if it’s loose. If it’s not loose, you could probably leave it in place. But if it’s loose or if it’s wrinkled or anything like that, I would pull it out. And I would replace that with fiberglass drywall tape.

    Fiberglass drywall tape kind of looks like a netting and it’s sticky, it’s easier to handle. And so you press it into the seam. And then once it’s pressed in place, then you’re going to add three layers of spackle on top of that, making each one as thin as possible. So you start with the first one, try to keep it pretty narrow and just cover the tape. And then the subsequent two, you go a little wider and a little wider and try to feather it out at the edges. And that actually will bridge that gap between the two surfaces and the crack will not form again.

    If you try to spackle over a crack without doing that, it’s just going to show up. I mean you could spackle it and paint it but it’s going to come out every winter or every summer, depending on whether it’s swelling or shrinking that’s causing the crack. It’s going to pop open again.

    GARY: Good. Thank you very much. Good show, too.

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

    LESLIE: Well, back-to-school shopping is definitely amped up when college is the destination. And among all the linens and door décor and study supplies, your student should definitely have a trustworthy tool kit. So make sure you send them off with these basic tools: a hammer, pliers, you want to give screwdrivers – both a flat and a Phillips-head – an adjustable wrench, utility scissors and some duct tape. Now, it’s also a good idea to include a flashlight, a few cleaning supplies like wipes, a Magic Eraser, a stain remover. I remember I even packed a little vacuum.

    TOM: Why does that not surprise me?

    Now, once you’ve got everything assembled, you want to do a little how-to review so that your co-ed knows what tool to use when. And that could generate a few eye rolls but trust me, they will thank you later, even if it’s silently from many miles away.

    888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading on over to Michigan where Terry has a water-heater question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    TERRY: I was wanting to know if $800 is a reasonable amount of money to pay to have a hot-water tank replaced. But actually, the tank was free and the labor was free and the plumber said that you need to pay $800 for parts only to replace a hot-water tank.

    TOM: So, he’s saying the labor is free but the water heater is 800 bucks? Is it a regular, standard, gas-fired water heater?

    TERRY: The water heater itself was also free because it was a warranty item.

    TOM: That sounds pretty ridiculous for a warranty repair. If the labor is free, then he was already paid for a good portion of the work it took to take the tank out. Now, if he had to add an additional part – I don’t quite understand his explanation. But if he had to add something additional or re-plumb something, $800 is a bit of a crazy price for a little bit of additional plumbing work, considering he was paid for the bulk of the project through the warranty. That sounds like you’re getting gouged.

    TERRY: Right. We’ve already contacted the warranty company and the plumber, as well.

    TOM: Yep. Right.

    TERRY: And the warranty company says, “Contact the plumber.” The plumber says, “Contact the warranty company.” Do we really have any recourse at all to try and recoup some of that money?

    TOM: So you’ve already paid this?

    TERRY: Correct.

    TOM: Well, unfortunately, what I think you’re going to have to do is take them to small-claims court. And I would take both of them to small-claims court. Both. Because then they’ll fight it out amongst themselves because it’s going to be more expensive to defend it than it is to settle it with you.

    TERRY: OK.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to help Bud in Oregon avoid a hair-raising electrical situation.

    What’s going on, Bud?

    BUD: I’ve got 3 banks of the 2 bulbs each, 4-foot long mounted up in the ceiling, built into a box directly over my cooktop. And during the summertime, when the humidity is higher, if I get any moisture up there, it can take sometimes days before those lights will come on reliably on the first flip of the switch.

    Now, in the winter, when I’m burning a wood stove, which means I’ve got lower humidity inside the house, if I’m cooking on the cooktop and don’t turn the lights on before, I get the same problem. Except as soon as the moisture stops going up there and I’ve got 10, 15 minutes, then the lights will start coming back on regularly and be reliable again.

    So, what I need to know from you, if you’ve got some suggestions, is before I get up there and start looking for how to do something, I want to know what I need to have in stock. Is there something – a lubricant, a cleanser or whatever – to do something with contacts or got any suggestions?

    TOM: I would give up on those fixtures.

    BUD: Yeah, I would, too. I think you’re right.

    TOM: I would just give up on them. They don’t sound safe to me. I’m not quite sure what exactly is going wrong with them but they certainly shouldn’t be behaving that way. And I would worry about them getting worse and potentially causing a fire.

    The cost of a 4-foot, doable fluorescent fixture is not very much today. And so I would simply take this on as a project and replace each and every one of them. I wouldn’t try to change the ballast out, I wouldn’t try to clean it, I wouldn’t try to do anything like that. I would just replace them. It’s just not worth it.

    BUD: It’s not what I wanted to hear but it’s a good thing and it’s probably cheaper in the long run to spend the $8, $10 per what you – put up 3 brand-new ones.

    TOM: Exactly.

    BUD: OK. I’ll just look for a good time when I can do it without breaking my neck.

    TOM: That’s always important. Bud, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Cindy in Delaware is on the line with some plumbing odors.

    Tell us what is going on, Cindy.

    CINDY: I have dual sinks in the master bathroom.

    TOM: Right.

    CINDY: And every once in a while, I get a strong sewer smell.

    TOM: OK.

    CINDY: I don’t know what’s causing it. It doesn’t matter if I run the water or flush the toilet but the left bowl connects the – underneath the pipe connects to the right one and it goes down into the – you know, under the house.

    TOM: OK. Well, assuming that they were plumbed correctly – and that you, in fact, have a plumbing trap there, which I’m going to presume you are – the odor is probably the result of something called biogas, which is – basically happens when you get a lot of debris over the years. And it lines the inside of the pipe and it lines the inside of the connections, the drain and so on. And then that material will start to produce a pretty strong odor.

    So what you need to do is take the drain apart and use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of it. You can’t just run something down there. You physically have to scrub it – those pipes – out. And that usually will eliminate that material and therefore the odor.

    CINDY: OK. OK. Because I had used – tried vinegar and baking soda.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s all good stuff but if it’s really building up like that, you’re going to have to remove the scum, so to speak, that’s containing all that bacteria that’s producing the odor.

    CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to Delaware where Margie has a crawlspace question. What can we help you with?

    MARGIE: I’d like to know if you should put plastic on the ground underneath your house. We have a 3-foot – you can climb under there. Should we lay plastic on that for a barrier – for a moisture barrier? Underneath a ranch house.

    LESLIE: What’s the – is it underneath the entire house or is it just under a certain area?

    MARGIE: No, it’s underneath the entire house. You can crawl under and someone said you should put plastic on top of the dirt.

    LESLIE: Now, are you having any moisture issues inside the house?

    MARGIE: Not really. We were just thinking it would be a good idea to do that.

    LESLIE: Now, generally, with an enclosed crawlspace or one that’s smaller scale to an entire home, we would always recommend putting down sort of a plastic sheathing. And you want to fill the entire space. And in areas where you do have to have seams, you want to make sure that you overlap a good foot or two so that it really lays down nicely.

    Now, Tom, would you do that if it’s under the entire house?

    TOM: Yeah, I’d put it down across the crawlspace floor, along the entire house, because it stops the moisture in the soil from wicking up and evaporating up into the air and then getting the insulation damp and making it ineffective. So, it’s always a good idea to have – it’s called a “vapor barrier” – and have that down on top of that soil surface.

    You also want to check the exterior, though, to make sure that your gutters are clean, the downspouts are extended. It’s part of a moisture-management solution. It’s not just [one-off] (ph).

    LESLIE: You want to make sure you’re limiting the amount of moisture that actually gets to that – the dirt or the soil underneath the crawlspace. So if you make sure that your gutters are extending away from the house a good 3 feet or so and not depositing the water back towards that crawlspace – any sort of plant-embedded areas, you want to make sure that that soil slopes away. You just want to do your best that you can to move the moisture away.

    MARGIE: OK. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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. Still to come, how to kick up your outdoor space a notch to turn it into an oasis in your own backyard, so stick around.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    The backyard has always been a haven for rest and relaxation but more and more, it also serves as a great place to hang out and entertain family and friends. Joining us now with tips on how to turn your backyard into a destination is the host of HGTV’s Decked Out, designer and builder Paul Lafrance.

    Welcome, Paul.

    PAUL: Hey, man. Thanks for having me on.

    TOM: Hey. So, if you’re going to start with a deck project, my first question is this. Most people get overwhelmed by the fact that they’ve got a big, blank slate out there – big, empty backyard space. They don’t know where to begin. How do you get going on the planning process?

    PAUL: Design. I mean that is the most commonly overlooked thing. Guys that go to the store, they’ll buy a bunch of wood and they’ll just come back and say, “I’m just going to be build a big square box. I’m going to build a rectangle or I’m going to build a square.”

    And I’m trying to get people’s mindsets out of the box and realize that if you incorporate some creativity into that backyard design, what you – any good builder can build anything that I design. But it’s got to be something that draws you into that backyard space that’s got a cool emotional response to it. That’s the musician in me saying, “I want to create something out there that draws people out from the inside as opposed to answering a hundred e-mails.”

    TOM: Yeah. And I think the planning is really critical. And we hear the same thing on our end when folks are planning additions. They seem to be very reluctant to hiring design professionals. And I think too many people don’t recognize the real value that a good design and a design pro bring to the process. It makes the whole project go easily and it also saves you a lot of money, too, don’t you think?

    PAUL: You know what? That’s a great point and it’s a point I try to make all the time. Because there’s a bit of a stigma when it comes to the design. And people think, “Oh, I can’t afford that. That’s only for the doctors and the lawyers of the world.” And I say, “No, no, no.”

    My backyard is a perfect example. It is about quality of square footage over quantity. You don’t have to build this humungous deck to have something that’s going to really truly draw you into the space. I’ve got about a 400-square-foot deck, which is a decent size, but I spend 80 percent of the time in my backyard in a 10×10 space.

    Now, mind you, it’s a pretty cool 10×10 space. And I’ve got fire pieces incorporated, water features. I’ve got a retractable awning. I’ve got – it’s all ultra-low-maintenance decking and it’s really, really cool. But if the rest of the deck disappeared, I would – that would still be enough of a draw and it keeps the budget numbers down.

    TOM: We’re talking to Paul Lafrance. He is a builder and a deck designer, as well as the host of HGTV’s Decked Out.

    You mentioned low maintenance. What’s your take on pressure-treated versus decay-resistant, like cedar and redwood, versus composite?

    PAUL: Well, let’s think about it. If the true goal is to create a backyard retreat, a backyard oasis, a backyard staycation, something that keeps you from having to travel to a resort if you have it in your backyard – well, if you went to a resort and someone said, “Hey, here’s a margarita. And when you’re done, would you mind going and painting the cabana,” you wouldn’t go back there.

    TOM: Yeah.

    PAUL: You’re not going there to do maintenance. But so many people walk into their backyard and the psychological impact of looking around and realizing, “Man, I’ve got to strip this thing and sand it and restain it every single year” – that is why more and more people are saying, “You know what? I want to look into this ultra-low-maintenance decking.”

    So, that’s why I’m partnering with a company called Trex because their Transcend decking line is absolutely the best decking I’ve ever seen. It looks like natural wood. It’s not going to warp, split, crack or fade. Twenty-five years down the road, it’s going to look exactly the same as the day you put it in and all you’ve got to do is wash it like you wash your car. That’s got huge value, not just psychologically but also on the return value on your investment.

    TOM: We’re Trex fans here, as well. Used it personally. It was used a lot in the construction of the boardwalks along the Jersey Shore, where we’re based, and it’s good stuff.

    Hey, let me ask you a question. Speaking of the Jersey Shore, decks are very popular around travel-destination areas. And invariably, I predict, right now, that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we will hear of at least one deck collapse because people invite over 100 of their closest personal friends. And you can predict what’s going to happen when too many people get on a deck that’s got some structural problems. How should you go about making sure your deck is safe for a summer of outdoor fun?

    PAUL: You’re right. And so many people, what they do is they say, “It’s a deck. You know what? I don’t need to get a permit for this thing. It’s just a deck.” And then you hear those horror stories and something collapses because proper construction techniques are not taken into account. And one of the number-one areas where people fail is they connect the deck to the house improperly. They’ll anchor the deck off of brick veneer. And brick veneer is not structural; they don’t go into the actual structure of the house.

    TOM: Yep.

    PAUL: That’s one of the main areas that causes a deck to collapse. I encourage people to build their own decks but for Pete’s sake, it’s not just about getting a good design but make sure that you’re getting a permit for it. Because they’re not there to hinder you; they’re there to help.

    TOM: Paul Lafrance, designer, builder, host of HGTV’s Decked Out, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    PAUL: Awesome, man. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: And if you’d like more information on composite decking, the Trex decking that Paul was talking about, check out Trex.com – T-r-e-x.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, how you can make some extra green by making your home more eco-friendly, for an investment that’s sure to pay off when you sell.

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    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question; 888-MONEY-PIT is the phone number.

    And one caller who gets their question on the air with us this hour is going to win a $50 PURPLE tool kit from National Gypsum, which includes everything a DIYer needs for their next home improvement project: a hammer, a screwdriver, torpedo level and more.

    LESLIE: Now, it’s a 24-piece set. And PURPLE drywall products from National Gypsum provide resistance to mold, mildew, scratches, dents. And they can actually even reduce noise between your rooms.

    TOM: You can look them up at AskPURPLE.com but give us a call right now with your home improvement question and your chance to win, 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    DARLENE: Well, we heat our house with wood and our fireplace bricks are real cream – light-cream colored and they’re very roughly textured. My question is the soot – above the fireplace doors, soot gets in the brick and embedded in there. And I’ve tried to scrub it out with everything I can think of, other than muriatic acid. And I know I can’t use that in the house. Do you have any suggestions?

    LESLIE: Have you tried TSP, which stands for trisodium phosphate? And it’s sort of like a cleaning prep step when you’ve got some really sticky stuff that won’t come off.

    DARLENE: I think I did some time back but maybe I should use a stronger solution instead of – it says not to use it the way it comes out of the bottle.

    LESLIE: Well, what you can do with TSP is it comes in a powder format and it’s available in the clean – well, in the painting aisle, generally, of the home stores. And I would just mix it up so that it’s more of a paste than a liquid and apply it that way. And let it sit there and give it some time to do its job.

    DARLENE: Alright. That sounds great.

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

    Well, more and more home buyers are looking at green features when choosing new homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders. So how does this trend carry over for those of you who already own or are looking to buy existing homes? Well, you can certainly add value to your home while using environmentally friendly products and materials.

    For example, you could choose paints that are labeled as containing low volatile organic compounds – those are the VOCs – because those paints won’t give off gas or produce noxious smells.

    And choose an appliance that is extra efficient. When you’ve got an option, always go for the most efficient appliance possible.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you want to consider using natural, enduring materials like stone or quarry tile and brick instead of those less durable synthetic materials. You should also be using eco-friendly light bulbs and install occupancy sensors in your rooms that are going to turn the lights off and on automatically. So you don’t even have to think about remembering or forgetting to turn off a light switch.

    Now, you can also change out older fixtures for WaterSense-rated certified plumbing fixtures, which are going to save you a ton of dollars and a ton of water. You can consider using renewable resources such as bamboo flooring. And finally, you should be using native plants and shrubs in your landscaping. This way, your lawn and garden are going to thrive without putting in a lot of extra care and a lot of extra water.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. We are here to help you care and water your money pit, so pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question, 1-888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Laura in Pennsylvania needs some help with a lighting question. What can we do for you?

    LAURA: Oh, well, my son gave me some compact fluorescent bulbs because he didn’t like them.

    TOM: OK.

    LAURA: And I had never used them before and I thought, “Well, I’ll put them in my little lights I use with timers.” Only they all blow out.

    TOM: There’s no reason you can’t use a compact fluorescent bulb in an outlet that has a timer. I mean a timer simply automatically turns the light switch on or off, so that shouldn’t have an effect on damaging the bulb.

    LAURA: Yes, that’s what I thought. And I have incandescent bulbs in them now and they work just fine.

    TOM: Well, maybe he gave you some bum compact fluorescents, I don’t know. But it’s kind of an odd thing for it to happen to. Compact fluorescents work really well in most fixtures that take incandescents. In fact, you can even have them work well in fixtures that are controlled by dimmers.

    There are special dimmers today that are designed to work with compact fluorescents and with LEDs, where you can adjust the range of the dimming so that it doesn’t ever flicker or go out. So, compact fluorescent bulbs are a great option. I don’t know why they’re not working for you but the timer shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

    LAURA: OK. Well, maybe I’ll try them again or – I have two left. Or I’ll try and buy some. Maybe he has an off-brand or something like that, I don’t know. Because they should last a really long time, right?

    TOM: They should. And you know what I like better than compact fluorescents are the LED bulbs. Take a look at the Philips LED bulbs. These are – they’re very distinctive. They’re yellow. They look like bug lights but they have a very pleasant white light that comes off of them. And they’re going to be more expensive than compact fluorescents but they last forever and they’re super-energy-efficient.

    LAURA: OK. I will be happy to. That’s a really good idea. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to head on up to the attic with Eric in Alaska. What’s going on at your money pit?

    ERIC: Oh, well, we bought a home this last year and unfortunately, the home inspector we’d hired neglected to find a lot of problems and one of them was they didn’t put a vapor barrier up in the attic. And so we’re in the midst of doing all the court issues with that and I’m trying to find something I can do to mitigate the migration of the moisture up into the attic or move it out of the attic until we can do permanent repairs.

    TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, when you say there’s no vapor barrier in the attic – so you’re referring to vapor barrier between the ceiling and the insulation?

    ERIC: Correct. Yeah, they didn’t do anything. They just – we have knotty, hardwood pine interior and they …

    TOM: OK. Just laid the fiberglass on top of it? Is that what happened?

    ERIC: Well, they had blown insulation – blown-in insulation.

    TOM: Oh, blown-in insulation. OK.

    Well, you’ve got to manage your moisture, as you’re well aware, and the best way to do that in an attic is with a combination of roof vents. You want to use a ridge vent that goes down the peak of the roof. Do you have a ridge vent right now?

    ERIC: Right now, we just have eave vents and gable vents.

    TOM: Alright. So what – I think you ought to think about installing a good-quality ridge vent right down the peak of the roof. That really opens up the attic and lets it breathe. I would get one that’s made by the AirVent Corporation. It’s a CertainTeed company. The reason I say that is because the metal vent that AirVent makes, it has sort of a baffle on the side of it, if you look at the profile, that really speeds up the depressurization. So as wind is blowing over your roof, it depressurizes that ridge and really draws air out of that.

    But that’s only half of the ventilation system. The other half is soffit vents at the overhang of the roof. So if you add soffit vents and a ridge vent, then what happens is air presses into the soffit, it rides up under the roof sheathing and exits at the ridge. And that’s a cycle that runs 24-7, 365, so you’re always sort of washing drier ambient air through that attic and pulling moisture out at the same time. That’s a very effective way to go.

    ERIC: Yeah. No, we have a metal roof here. So, do they have an application for a metal roof?

    TOM: Yeah. I don’t see why you couldn’t use a ridge vent on a metal roof. The specific type of ridge vent may be a little bit different and of course, the installation’s a little bit different but we see metal – we see ridge vents and other types of vents on metal roofs all the time. The roof still has to breathe, metal or wood.

    ERIC: OK. Yeah.

    TOM: OK?

    ERIC: Yep, yep. Alright. Thank you much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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. Coming up, if your trips to the basement to do your laundry are starting to be a drag, we’ve got some great ideas to help bring your laundry room to you, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

    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: Here to help you with your home improvement projects. We want to solve do-it-yourself dilemmas, so help yourself by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    You also have the option to post your question in the Community section of MoneyPit.com, which is what Shelly did. And she is from New Jersey.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Shelly writes: “I’m looking to buy a house in a specific and very large subdivision. Hundreds of homes all built in 1961, which have two-zone heat. They’ve got radiant flooring downstairs and a hot-water baseboard system upstairs. The homes are on a slab foundation. My question is: is there any way to tell the condition of the plumbing? I’m worried about leaks in the radiant pipes, which are now over 50 years old. How would a leak even be detected and how could it be repaired?”

    TOM: Well, with that sort of leak, it’s only detected when you actually see the water for the – and for the most part, you know? When your feet get wet, you’ve got a leak.

    Look, the homes that were built in that era were built pretty well. They have solid-copper plumbing. And while it’s possible for the pipes to break and they probably ultimately will break at some point, I would not obsess over that and make that a reason not to buy the home.

    When they do break, you’ll have options about how to restore heat to that area, which could involve putting in baseboard heat, putting in electric base or a hot-water baseboard. It could even involve adding an air-to-water – excuse me – a water-to-air heat exchanger, where you have a heat exchanger mounted into the HVAC ducts that the air blows across and then cools or warms your house that way.

    But I wouldn’t get too crazy about it. I think that that’s indicative of the homes of that era. And in the meantime, it’s a very, very pleasant, warm, toasty type of a heat to have.

    LESLIE: No. It feels great and it definitely makes you have a nice, warm and good type of sort of heat, as well. It’s got that moisture in it; it’s not going to dry you out. It’s definitely excellent.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Sal in Florida who writes: “How long should a garage-door opener last? Ours seems to be working intermittently lately, especially the remote units in our cars. We changed the batteries in them. The unit itself is about 12 years old.”

    TOM: Well, that’s not – it’s not unusual for you to have to replace it after 10-plus years. And the thing is that the technology on these door openers keeps constantly changing. Not only do they get safer, they also get quieter. I replaced my door openers not too long ago and I was shocked with how silent the new doors were.

    In the old days, you could hear the garage doors going up and down from anywhere in the house. But with the new ones, they’re so silent and they’re so smooth that you really just don’t notice it. So, 12-year-old opener, if it’s starting to act up on you, I’d go ahead and replace it. They’re not terribly expensive and I think you’ll get much improvement as a result.

    Well, if you’re constantly navigating narrow stairs with a laundry basket in your arms, it might be time to bring the laundry room up to you. Leslie tells you how to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, more new homes are having the washers and the dryers in hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. But if yours is still stuck down in the basement, don’t worry. It’s actually never been easier to move your laundry room upstairs.

    For example, a stack washer and dryer, they’re small enough to fit into a closet. Another type of combo unit is actually going to wash and dry your clothes without any help from you. The unit actually looks like a normal washing machine but it’s a washer and a dryer, so you don’t actually have to move the wet clothes. And it actually will save you a ton of space.

    So you can think about these ideas. It’ll bring your laundry room to you instead of you having to go to the laundry room every single time you need to clean your clothes. And anything that helps make doing the laundry less of a chore is a good idea by me.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, we’re going to have advice on one of the most stressful parts of home ownership: hiring pros that you can trust to work on your home. We’re going to give you tips on what to look for when hiring a contractor, 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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

     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: Standing by to help you tackle your home improvement projects. So look around your house or if you’re driving, think about your house. And call us and let’s talk about the one home improvement project that you’d like to get done. I know you may have many but let’s choose one – give everybody a chance to participate in the program – and we will help you take the first step.

    Don’t know what that first step is? Well, we’ll tell you. Don’t know what materials you need? Don’t know if you can do it yourself or need to hire a pro? We’ll talk about that, as well. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up in this hour of the program, we’re also going to teach you why going green can help bring you more green when you sell your home. And we’ll teach you how to add eco-friendly features right now that will save you money in the meantime.

    LESLIE: Plus, setting up a dorm room? It’s kind of fun. You know, there’s all that cute décor and funky furniture that’s totally teenager-appropriate and not somebody like me who’s in their 30s.

    But don’t forget, guys, you want to send your kid off to college with a dorm-room tool box. You need to help them learn how to get out of any sort of dorm-improvement jam.

    TOM: Plus, we’re going to give you great ideas for amping up your outdoor entertaining space, when we interview HGTV’s Paul Lafrance. He is the host of Decked Out.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got a $50 PURPLE tool kit from National Gypsum. And it includes everything a do-it-yourselfer will need: a hammer, a screwdriver, a level and more. Plus, we’re giving you a hat and a mug and you can even send that off to your college-bound kid.

    TOM: 888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Patty in Illinois who’s got a toilet that is running constantly. Tell us what’s going on.

    PATTY: Well, it doesn’t run constantly but it runs about five seconds, several times an hour. And it’s gone to the point that my water bill has gone up quite a bit and I’m needing to know if I need a new toilet or if I need new seals or a new handle pump or – what would you think?

    LESLIE: It’s actually an easy fix and I mean this tends to happen kind of regularly. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that there’s actually some level of toilet maintenance, because it’s just an appliance in your house that’s there and you use it and you expect it to work.

    But inside the tank itself, there’s a fill and a flush valve. And those need to be replaced not that often but every couple of years or so. And of course, now that you’re dealing with this water-running issue – Tom, is it Fluidmaster?

    TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is sort of a mainstay of replacement valve parts.

    And they just wear out, Patty, over time, so this is a pretty easy fix.

    LESLIE: And it’s probably 10 bucks to get both of them. But if you go to Fluidmaster’s website, the only reason I recommend that is because on their website, they’ve got a really great how-to video. So you can actually see what the fill valve is, what the flush valve, the flapper valves – you know exactly what you’re looking at and how to replace it. And it’s a really easy do-it-yourself project that you can do confidently and definitely decrease your water bill.

    PATTY: Thank you. That sounds wonderful. I appreciate it and thank you so much for taking my call. Love your show.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Anthony in Tennessee on the line. How can we help you today?

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I’ve got a ’99 379 Peterbilt and it’s got one bed in it. And we pretty much live in the truck and we’re wanting to turn that one bed into a bunk bed. We tried to widen it and it didn’t work out too good. So I’ve got to go right weight because I’ve heavy and the truck’s real heavy. So if I do it in 2x4s, it’s going to be a real heavy, heavy truck.

    TOM: Anthony, you know what comes to mind, that I think would be a good solution for you, is a metal bunk bed – an army cot bunk bed. The army cots, if you just Google “army cots and bunk beds,” you will see a wide variety of metal bunk beds that are stackable. And they certainly have them in light-duty to heavy-duty designs.

    They’re not terribly expensive. I see them online for $300, $400, $500. And they’re not very heavy and they’re super-strong and they can be two, full, twin-size beds stacked one on top of another.

    ANTHONY: OK. Well, the bed that’s in here, the frame of that bed is part of the truck.

    TOM: So it has to sit on top of that, correct?

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I have to set something into that framework above my bed.

    TOM: Right. So then maybe what you want is just basically one half of that cot-style bunk bed. And then you have to build supports to get it up in the air for the space. So I would take a look at these metal bunk beds online.

    ANTHONY: OK.

    TOM: I think you’re going to find your solution there and it’s going to be a lot easier to deal with than trying to frame something out of wood.

    ANTHONY: Yeah, because then I could just set it in place and mount it to my bed.

    TOM: Exactly.

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that.

    TOM: Alright, Anthony. Well, I’m glad we helped you out. And I’ve got to say, this is one very unusual question for us and I’m glad we were able to come up with a solution.

    LESLIE: Pick up the phone and give us a call. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you tackle all of your home improvement projects at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’ve got a list of tools every college-bound kid needs for the perfect dorm-room tool box. We’ll tell you what that is, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Bostitch professional-quality, pneumatic nailers and staplers. Designed for productivity, built to last. For more information, visit Bostitch.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 who gets on the air with us this hour has a chance to win a $50 tool kit from National Gypsum. Now, it’s got in it everything, pretty much, a do-it-yourselfer is going to need to tackle a project. It’s got a hammer and some screwdrivers, a torpedo level and more. Plus, a project is not complete without a cup of coffee and a hat, so we’re throwing that in there, as well.

    TOM: You know, PURPLE drywall products provide resistance to mold, mildew, scratches and dents and they can even reduce noise. You can check out these new products at AskForPURPLE.com or give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    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: Alright. Now we’ve got Gary in Maryland with some wall cracks. Tell us what’s going on.

    GARY: The cracks are along the one outside wall – or the one wall on the short side, on a 26-foot side. And they’re both on either side of the bathroom, which is between two bedrooms.

    TOM: So what you’re describing is a pretty normal scenario. We typically get movement in walls of homes and where you have seams between walls and ceilings, one wall and another wall or above a window or above a door. That’s where the movement tends to evidence itself.

    Now, the solution here is going to require that you redo the seam between the cracked areas. What you’ll do is you’ll pull off the old drywall tape, if it’s loose. If it’s not loose, you could probably leave it in place. But if it’s loose or if it’s wrinkled or anything like that, I would pull it out. And I would replace that with fiberglass drywall tape.

    Fiberglass drywall tape kind of looks like a netting and it’s sticky, it’s easier to handle. And so you press it into the seam. And then once it’s pressed in place, then you’re going to add three layers of spackle on top of that, making each one as thin as possible. So you start with the first one, try to keep it pretty narrow and just cover the tape. And then the subsequent two, you go a little wider and a little wider and try to feather it out at the edges. And that actually will bridge that gap between the two surfaces and the crack will not form again.

    If you try to spackle over a crack without doing that, it’s just going to show up. I mean you could spackle it and paint it but it’s going to come out every winter or every summer, depending on whether it’s swelling or shrinking that’s causing the crack. It’s going to pop open again.

    GARY: Good. Thank you very much. Good show, too.

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

    LESLIE: Well, back-to-school shopping is definitely amped up when college is the destination. And among all the linens and door décor and study supplies, your student should definitely have a trustworthy tool kit. So make sure you send them off with these basic tools: a hammer, pliers, you want to give screwdrivers – both a flat and a Phillips-head – an adjustable wrench, utility scissors and some duct tape. Now, it’s also a good idea to include a flashlight, a few cleaning supplies like wipes, a Magic Eraser, a stain remover. I remember I even packed a little vacuum.

    TOM: Why does that not surprise me?

    Now, once you’ve got everything assembled, you want to do a little how-to review so that your co-ed knows what tool to use when. And that could generate a few eye rolls but trust me, they will thank you later, even if it’s silently from many miles away.

    888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading on over to Michigan where Terry has a water-heater question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    TERRY: I was wanting to know if $800 is a reasonable amount of money to pay to have a hot-water tank replaced. But actually, the tank was free and the labor was free and the plumber said that you need to pay $800 for parts only to replace a hot-water tank.

    TOM: So, he’s saying the labor is free but the water heater is 800 bucks? Is it a regular, standard, gas-fired water heater?

    TERRY: The water heater itself was also free because it was a warranty item.

    TOM: That sounds pretty ridiculous for a warranty repair. If the labor is free, then he was already paid for a good portion of the work it took to take the tank out. Now, if he had to add an additional part – I don’t quite understand his explanation. But if he had to add something additional or re-plumb something, $800 is a bit of a crazy price for a little bit of additional plumbing work, considering he was paid for the bulk of the project through the warranty. That sounds like you’re getting gouged.

    TERRY: Right. We’ve already contacted the warranty company and the plumber, as well.

    TOM: Yep. Right.

    TERRY: And the warranty company says, “Contact the plumber.” The plumber says, “Contact the warranty company.” Do we really have any recourse at all to try and recoup some of that money?

    TOM: So you’ve already paid this?

    TERRY: Correct.

    TOM: Well, unfortunately, what I think you’re going to have to do is take them to small-claims court. And I would take both of them to small-claims court. Both. Because then they’ll fight it out amongst themselves because it’s going to be more expensive to defend it than it is to settle it with you.

    TERRY: OK.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to help Bud in Oregon avoid a hair-raising electrical situation.

    What’s going on, Bud?

    BUD: I’ve got 3 banks of the 2 bulbs each, 4-foot long mounted up in the ceiling, built into a box directly over my cooktop. And during the summertime, when the humidity is higher, if I get any moisture up there, it can take sometimes days before those lights will come on reliably on the first flip of the switch.

    Now, in the winter, when I’m burning a wood stove, which means I’ve got lower humidity inside the house, if I’m cooking on the cooktop and don’t turn the lights on before, I get the same problem. Except as soon as the moisture stops going up there and I’ve got 10, 15 minutes, then the lights will start coming back on regularly and be reliable again.

    So, what I need to know from you, if you’ve got some suggestions, is before I get up there and start looking for how to do something, I want to know what I need to have in stock. Is there something – a lubricant, a cleanser or whatever – to do something with contacts or got any suggestions?

    TOM: I would give up on those fixtures.

    BUD: Yeah, I would, too. I think you’re right.

    TOM: I would just give up on them. They don’t sound safe to me. I’m not quite sure what exactly is going wrong with them but they certainly shouldn’t be behaving that way. And I would worry about them getting worse and potentially causing a fire.

    The cost of a 4-foot, doable fluorescent fixture is not very much today. And so I would simply take this on as a project and replace each and every one of them. I wouldn’t try to change the ballast out, I wouldn’t try to clean it, I wouldn’t try to do anything like that. I would just replace them. It’s just not worth it.

    BUD: It’s not what I wanted to hear but it’s a good thing and it’s probably cheaper in the long run to spend the $8, $10 per what you – put up 3 brand-new ones.

    TOM: Exactly.

    BUD: OK. I’ll just look for a good time when I can do it without breaking my neck.

    TOM: That’s always important. Bud, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Cindy in Delaware is on the line with some plumbing odors.

    Tell us what is going on, Cindy.

    CINDY: I have dual sinks in the master bathroom.

    TOM: Right.

    CINDY: And every once in a while, I get a strong sewer smell.

    TOM: OK.

    CINDY: I don’t know what’s causing it. It doesn’t matter if I run the water or flush the toilet but the left bowl connects the – underneath the pipe connects to the right one and it goes down into the – you know, under the house.

    TOM: OK. Well, assuming that they were plumbed correctly – and that you, in fact, have a plumbing trap there, which I’m going to presume you are – the odor is probably the result of something called biogas, which is – basically happens when you get a lot of debris over the years. And it lines the inside of the pipe and it lines the inside of the connections, the drain and so on. And then that material will start to produce a pretty strong odor.

    So what you need to do is take the drain apart and use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of it. You can’t just run something down there. You physically have to scrub it – those pipes – out. And that usually will eliminate that material and therefore the odor.

    CINDY: OK. OK. Because I had used – tried vinegar and baking soda.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s all good stuff but if it’s really building up like that, you’re going to have to remove the scum, so to speak, that’s containing all that bacteria that’s producing the odor.

    CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to Delaware where Margie has a crawlspace question. What can we help you with?

    MARGIE: I’d like to know if you should put plastic on the ground underneath your house. We have a 3-foot – you can climb under there. Should we lay plastic on that for a barrier – for a moisture barrier? Underneath a ranch house.

    LESLIE: What’s the – is it underneath the entire house or is it just under a certain area?

    MARGIE: No, it’s underneath the entire house. You can crawl under and someone said you should put plastic on top of the dirt.

    LESLIE: Now, are you having any moisture issues inside the house?

    MARGIE: Not really. We were just thinking it would be a good idea to do that.

    LESLIE: Now, generally, with an enclosed crawlspace or one that’s smaller scale to an entire home, we would always recommend putting down sort of a plastic sheathing. And you want to fill the entire space. And in areas where you do have to have seams, you want to make sure that you overlap a good foot or two so that it really lays down nicely.

    Now, Tom, would you do that if it’s under the entire house?

    TOM: Yeah, I’d put it down across the crawlspace floor, along the entire house, because it stops the moisture in the soil from wicking up and evaporating up into the air and then getting the insulation damp and making it ineffective. So, it’s always a good idea to have – it’s called a “vapor barrier” – and have that down on top of that soil surface.

    You also want to check the exterior, though, to make sure that your gutters are clean, the downspouts are extended. It’s part of a moisture-management solution. It’s not just [one-off] (ph).

    LESLIE: You want to make sure you’re limiting the amount of moisture that actually gets to that – the dirt or the soil underneath the crawlspace. So if you make sure that your gutters are extending away from the house a good 3 feet or so and not depositing the water back towards that crawlspace – any sort of plant-embedded areas, you want to make sure that that soil slopes away. You just want to do your best that you can to move the moisture away.

    MARGIE: OK. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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. Still to come, how to kick up your outdoor space a notch to turn it into an oasis in your own backyard, so stick around.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    The backyard has always been a haven for rest and relaxation but more and more, it also serves as a great place to hang out and entertain family and friends. Joining us now with tips on how to turn your backyard into a destination is the host of HGTV’s Decked Out, designer and builder Paul Lafrance.

    Welcome, Paul.

    PAUL: Hey, man. Thanks for having me on.

    TOM: Hey. So, if you’re going to start with a deck project, my first question is this. Most people get overwhelmed by the fact that they’ve got a big, blank slate out there – big, empty backyard space. They don’t know where to begin. How do you get going on the planning process?

    PAUL: Design. I mean that is the most commonly overlooked thing. Guys that go to the store, they’ll buy a bunch of wood and they’ll just come back and say, “I’m just going to be build a big square box. I’m going to build a rectangle or I’m going to build a square.”

    And I’m trying to get people’s mindsets out of the box and realize that if you incorporate some creativity into that backyard design, what you – any good builder can build anything that I design. But it’s got to be something that draws you into that backyard space that’s got a cool emotional response to it. That’s the musician in me saying, “I want to create something out there that draws people out from the inside as opposed to answering a hundred e-mails.”

    TOM: Yeah. And I think the planning is really critical. And we hear the same thing on our end when folks are planning additions. They seem to be very reluctant to hiring design professionals. And I think too many people don’t recognize the real value that a good design and a design pro bring to the process. It makes the whole project go easily and it also saves you a lot of money, too, don’t you think?

    PAUL: You know what? That’s a great point and it’s a point I try to make all the time. Because there’s a bit of a stigma when it comes to the design. And people think, “Oh, I can’t afford that. That’s only for the doctors and the lawyers of the world.” And I say, “No, no, no.”

    My backyard is a perfect example. It is about quality of square footage over quantity. You don’t have to build this humungous deck to have something that’s going to really truly draw you into the space. I’ve got about a 400-square-foot deck, which is a decent size, but I spend 80 percent of the time in my backyard in a 10×10 space.

    Now, mind you, it’s a pretty cool 10×10 space. And I’ve got fire pieces incorporated, water features. I’ve got a retractable awning. I’ve got – it’s all ultra-low-maintenance decking and it’s really, really cool. But if the rest of the deck disappeared, I would – that would still be enough of a draw and it keeps the budget numbers down.

    TOM: We’re talking to Paul Lafrance. He is a builder and a deck designer, as well as the host of HGTV’s Decked Out.

    You mentioned low maintenance. What’s your take on pressure-treated versus decay-resistant, like cedar and redwood, versus composite?

    PAUL: Well, let’s think about it. If the true goal is to create a backyard retreat, a backyard oasis, a backyard staycation, something that keeps you from having to travel to a resort if you have it in your backyard – well, if you went to a resort and someone said, “Hey, here’s a margarita. And when you’re done, would you mind going and painting the cabana,” you wouldn’t go back there.

    TOM: Yeah.

    PAUL: You’re not going there to do maintenance. But so many people walk into their backyard and the psychological impact of looking around and realizing, “Man, I’ve got to strip this thing and sand it and restain it every single year” – that is why more and more people are saying, “You know what? I want to look into this ultra-low-maintenance decking.”

    So, that’s why I’m partnering with a company called Trex because their Transcend decking line is absolutely the best decking I’ve ever seen. It looks like natural wood. It’s not going to warp, split, crack or fade. Twenty-five years down the road, it’s going to look exactly the same as the day you put it in and all you’ve got to do is wash it like you wash your car. That’s got huge value, not just psychologically but also on the return value on your investment.

    TOM: We’re Trex fans here, as well. Used it personally. It was used a lot in the construction of the boardwalks along the Jersey Shore, where we’re based, and it’s good stuff.

    Hey, let me ask you a question. Speaking of the Jersey Shore, decks are very popular around travel-destination areas. And invariably, I predict, right now, that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we will hear of at least one deck collapse because people invite over 100 of their closest personal friends. And you can predict what’s going to happen when too many people get on a deck that’s got some structural problems. How should you go about making sure your deck is safe for a summer of outdoor fun?

    PAUL: You’re right. And so many people, what they do is they say, “It’s a deck. You know what? I don’t need to get a permit for this thing. It’s just a deck.” And then you hear those horror stories and something collapses because proper construction techniques are not taken into account. And one of the number-one areas where people fail is they connect the deck to the house improperly. They’ll anchor the deck off of brick veneer. And brick veneer is not structural; they don’t go into the actual structure of the house.

    TOM: Yep.

    PAUL: That’s one of the main areas that causes a deck to collapse. I encourage people to build their own decks but for Pete’s sake, it’s not just about getting a good design but make sure that you’re getting a permit for it. Because they’re not there to hinder you; they’re there to help.

    TOM: Paul Lafrance, designer, builder, host of HGTV’s Decked Out, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    PAUL: Awesome, man. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: And if you’d like more information on composite decking, the Trex decking that Paul was talking about, check out Trex.com – T-r-e-x.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, how you can make some extra green by making your home more eco-friendly, for an investment that’s sure to pay off when you sell.

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    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question; 888-MONEY-PIT is the phone number.

    And one caller who gets their question on the air with us this hour is going to win a $50 PURPLE tool kit from National Gypsum, which includes everything a DIYer needs for their next home improvement project: a hammer, a screwdriver, torpedo level and more.

    LESLIE: Now, it’s a 24-piece set. And PURPLE drywall products from National Gypsum provide resistance to mold, mildew, scratches, dents. And they can actually even reduce noise between your rooms.

    TOM: You can look them up at AskPURPLE.com but give us a call right now with your home improvement question and your chance to win, 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    DARLENE: Well, we heat our house with wood and our fireplace bricks are real cream – light-cream colored and they’re very roughly textured. My question is the soot – above the fireplace doors, soot gets in the brick and embedded in there. And I’ve tried to scrub it out with everything I can think of, other than muriatic acid. And I know I can’t use that in the house. Do you have any suggestions?

    LESLIE: Have you tried TSP, which stands for trisodium phosphate? And it’s sort of like a cleaning prep step when you’ve got some really sticky stuff that won’t come off.

    DARLENE: I think I did some time back but maybe I should use a stronger solution instead of – it says not to use it the way it comes out of the bottle.

    LESLIE: Well, what you can do with TSP is it comes in a powder format and it’s available in the clean – well, in the painting aisle, generally, of the home stores. And I would just mix it up so that it’s more of a paste than a liquid and apply it that way. And let it sit there and give it some time to do its job.

    DARLENE: Alright. That sounds great.

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

    Well, more and more home buyers are looking at green features when choosing new homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders. So how does this trend carry over for those of you who already own or are looking to buy existing homes? Well, you can certainly add value to your home while using environmentally friendly products and materials.

    For example, you could choose paints that are labeled as containing low volatile organic compounds – those are the VOCs – because those paints won’t give off gas or produce noxious smells.

    And choose an appliance that is extra efficient. When you’ve got an option, always go for the most efficient appliance possible.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you want to consider using natural, enduring materials like stone or quarry tile and brick instead of those less durable synthetic materials. You should also be using eco-friendly light bulbs and install occupancy sensors in your rooms that are going to turn the lights off and on automatically. So you don’t even have to think about remembering or forgetting to turn off a light switch.

    Now, you can also change out older fixtures for WaterSense-rated certified plumbing fixtures, which are going to save you a ton of dollars and a ton of water. You can consider using renewable resources such as bamboo flooring. And finally, you should be using native plants and shrubs in your landscaping. This way, your lawn and garden are going to thrive without putting in a lot of extra care and a lot of extra water.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. We are here to help you care and water your money pit, so pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question, 1-888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Laura in Pennsylvania needs some help with a lighting question. What can we do for you?

    LAURA: Oh, well, my son gave me some compact fluorescent bulbs because he didn’t like them.

    TOM: OK.

    LAURA: And I had never used them before and I thought, “Well, I’ll put them in my little lights I use with timers.” Only they all blow out.

    TOM: There’s no reason you can’t use a compact fluorescent bulb in an outlet that has a timer. I mean a timer simply automatically turns the light switch on or off, so that shouldn’t have an effect on damaging the bulb.

    LAURA: Yes, that’s what I thought. And I have incandescent bulbs in them now and they work just fine.

    TOM: Well, maybe he gave you some bum compact fluorescents, I don’t know. But it’s kind of an odd thing for it to happen to. Compact fluorescents work really well in most fixtures that take incandescents. In fact, you can even have them work well in fixtures that are controlled by dimmers.

    There are special dimmers today that are designed to work with compact fluorescents and with LEDs, where you can adjust the range of the dimming so that it doesn’t ever flicker or go out. So, compact fluorescent bulbs are a great option. I don’t know why they’re not working for you but the timer shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

    LAURA: OK. Well, maybe I’ll try them again or – I have two left. Or I’ll try and buy some. Maybe he has an off-brand or something like that, I don’t know. Because they should last a really long time, right?

    TOM: They should. And you know what I like better than compact fluorescents are the LED bulbs. Take a look at the Philips LED bulbs. These are – they’re very distinctive. They’re yellow. They look like bug lights but they have a very pleasant white light that comes off of them. And they’re going to be more expensive than compact fluorescents but they last forever and they’re super-energy-efficient.

    LAURA: OK. I will be happy to. That’s a really good idea. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to head on up to the attic with Eric in Alaska. What’s going on at your money pit?

    ERIC: Oh, well, we bought a home this last year and unfortunately, the home inspector we’d hired neglected to find a lot of problems and one of them was they didn’t put a vapor barrier up in the attic. And so we’re in the midst of doing all the court issues with that and I’m trying to find something I can do to mitigate the migration of the moisture up into the attic or move it out of the attic until we can do permanent repairs.

    TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, when you say there’s no vapor barrier in the attic – so you’re referring to vapor barrier between the ceiling and the insulation?

    ERIC: Correct. Yeah, they didn’t do anything. They just – we have knotty, hardwood pine interior and they …

    TOM: OK. Just laid the fiberglass on top of it? Is that what happened?

    ERIC: Well, they had blown insulation – blown-in insulation.

    TOM: Oh, blown-in insulation. OK.

    Well, you’ve got to manage your moisture, as you’re well aware, and the best way to do that in an attic is with a combination of roof vents. You want to use a ridge vent that goes down the peak of the roof. Do you have a ridge vent right now?

    ERIC: Right now, we just have eave vents and gable vents.

    TOM: Alright. So what – I think you ought to think about installing a good-quality ridge vent right down the peak of the roof. That really opens up the attic and lets it breathe. I would get one that’s made by the AirVent Corporation. It’s a CertainTeed company. The reason I say that is because the metal vent that AirVent makes, it has sort of a baffle on the side of it, if you look at the profile, that really speeds up the depressurization. So as wind is blowing over your roof, it depressurizes that ridge and really draws air out of that.

    But that’s only half of the ventilation system. The other half is soffit vents at the overhang of the roof. So if you add soffit vents and a ridge vent, then what happens is air presses into the soffit, it rides up under the roof sheathing and exits at the ridge. And that’s a cycle that runs 24-7, 365, so you’re always sort of washing drier ambient air through that attic and pulling moisture out at the same time. That’s a very effective way to go.

    ERIC: Yeah. No, we have a metal roof here. So, do they have an application for a metal roof?

    TOM: Yeah. I don’t see why you couldn’t use a ridge vent on a metal roof. The specific type of ridge vent may be a little bit different and of course, the installation’s a little bit different but we see metal – we see ridge vents and other types of vents on metal roofs all the time. The roof still has to breathe, metal or wood.

    ERIC: OK. Yeah.

    TOM: OK?

    ERIC: Yep, yep. Alright. Thank you much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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. Coming up, if your trips to the basement to do your laundry are starting to be a drag, we’ve got some great ideas to help bring your laundry room to you, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

    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: Here to help you with your home improvement projects. We want to solve do-it-yourself dilemmas, so help yourself by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    You also have the option to post your question in the Community section of MoneyPit.com, which is what Shelly did. And she is from New Jersey.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Shelly writes: “I’m looking to buy a house in a specific and very large subdivision. Hundreds of homes all built in 1961, which have two-zone heat. They’ve got radiant flooring downstairs and a hot-water baseboard system upstairs. The homes are on a slab foundation. My question is: is there any way to tell the condition of the plumbing? I’m worried about leaks in the radiant pipes, which are now over 50 years old. How would a leak even be detected and how could it be repaired?”

    TOM: Well, with that sort of leak, it’s only detected when you actually see the water for the – and for the most part, you know? When your feet get wet, you’ve got a leak.

    Look, the homes that were built in that era were built pretty well. They have solid-copper plumbing. And while it’s possible for the pipes to break and they probably ultimately will break at some point, I would not obsess over that and make that a reason not to buy the home.

    When they do break, you’ll have options about how to restore heat to that area, which could involve putting in baseboard heat, putting in electric base or a hot-water baseboard. It could even involve adding an air-to-water – excuse me – a water-to-air heat exchanger, where you have a heat exchanger mounted into the HVAC ducts that the air blows across and then cools or warms your house that way.

    But I wouldn’t get too crazy about it. I think that that’s indicative of the homes of that era. And in the meantime, it’s a very, very pleasant, warm, toasty type of a heat to have.

    LESLIE: No. It feels great and it definitely makes you have a nice, warm and good type of sort of heat, as well. It’s got that moisture in it; it’s not going to dry you out. It’s definitely excellent.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Sal in Florida who writes: “How long should a garage-door opener last? Ours seems to be working intermittently lately, especially the remote units in our cars. We changed the batteries in them. The unit itself is about 12 years old.”

    TOM: Well, that’s not – it’s not unusual for you to have to replace it after 10-plus years. And the thing is that the technology on these door openers keeps constantly changing. Not only do they get safer, they also get quieter. I replaced my door openers not too long ago and I was shocked with how silent the new doors were.

    In the old days, you could hear the garage doors going up and down from anywhere in the house. But with the new ones, they’re so silent and they’re so smooth that you really just don’t notice it. So, 12-year-old opener, if it’s starting to act up on you, I’d go ahead and replace it. They’re not terribly expensive and I think you’ll get much improvement as a result.

    Well, if you’re constantly navigating narrow stairs with a laundry basket in your arms, it might be time to bring the laundry room up to you. Leslie tells you how to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, more new homes are having the washers and the dryers in hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. But if yours is still stuck down in the basement, don’t worry. It’s actually never been easier to move your laundry room upstairs.

    For example, a stack washer and dryer, they’re small enough to fit into a closet. Another type of combo unit is actually going to wash and dry your clothes without any help from you. The unit actually looks like a normal washing machine but it’s a washer and a dryer, so you don’t actually have to move the wet clothes. And it actually will save you a ton of space.

    So you can think about these ideas. It’ll bring your laundry room to you instead of you having to go to the laundry room every single time you need to clean your clothes. And anything that helps make doing the laundry less of a chore is a good idea by me.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, we’re going to have advice on one of the most stressful parts of home ownership: hiring pros that you can trust to work on your home. We’re going to give you tips on what to look for when hiring a contractor, 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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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