Fall Lawn Care Tips, Rot and Insect Resistant Trim, Exhaust and Ceiling Fan Maintenance, and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you get your home improvement project done. So pick up the phone and call us and let’s get started. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Whether you are a DIY or you’re a get-a-guy kind of a person, do-it-yourself or not, call us. We will help you take the first step, 888-666-3974.

    And it’s my favorite time of the year: it’s fall. And that means it’s also fall fix-up time. And you do a lot of things this time of year, one of which is stowing away your lawn mower for the season, right? Well, yes. But before you do that, you’ve got a few things to do to make sure your lawn is ready for those cooler months ahead. And we’re going to tell you what steps you’ll need to take to make sure it’s good to go for spring.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, do you love the look of wood trim but you don’t like it turning into a buffet lunch for every wood-loving bug in the country? Well, we’re going to tell you about a solution that looks just like wood but isn’t.

    TOM: And now that the fall fix-up season has officially begun, we’ve got some 30-minute maintenance projects that you can tackle to help make sure your home is set for the season or for the return of next summer. And on that topic, we’re going to have some tips later on how you can clean and maintain the fans in your house so they’re ready for storage and good to go to help keep you cool, once again, next summer.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, if you’ve been battling summer bugs all season, well, now that we’re in these autumn months, it is time to get even. One lucky caller this hour is going to get a great way to fight bugs. Actually, several ways. We’re giving away $50 worth of Raid and OFF products, including a Raid Max Bug Barrier.

    TOM: So give us a call right now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Shannon in North Carolina is on the line and needs help with a bathroom vent switch. What’s going on?

    SHANNON: The problem is I turn the switch on to it; sometimes it comes on, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I turn the switch on, it briefly takes between two to three minutes. And if it comes on after that …

    TOM: Now, Shannon, is this powering an exhaust fan?

    SHANNON: Yes, it is.

    TOM: So I think probably the exhaust fan is starting to wear out. It sounds to me like the motor for the fan is perhaps dirty or the bearing is a little worn and it takes a while for it to kind of get going. And that’s a very kind of common symptom of a motor that’s wearing out.

    Is this an old bath fan?

    SHANNON: Yes. It’s about 18 years old.

    TOM: Yeah, man, time to replace it. Don’t last forever.

    SHANNON: Yeah, I know.

    TOM: You know, it’s very simple. Does this bath fan have a light that’s built into it, as well?

    SHANNON: No, sir.

    TOM: Alright. Well, when you pull the cover off the fan, sometimes you’ll see that the fan is actually plugged into the side of the housing. And so you could plug a light into the side of that housing, unplug the fan and then go to the light switch and turn it on – I’m sorry, the bath fan. So turn it on/off, on/off. You’ll probably see the power come on and off like normally, as evidenced by the light bulb that you just plugged in for testing purposes. And again, that just means that the power is fine. It’s not a problem with the switch; it’s the fan.

    And if you’re getting that kind of resistance out of it, I’d just replace the fan. They’re not very expensive. And the good thing is that even though it’s an 18-year-old bathroom exhaust fan, the sizes are pretty standard. So chances are you’ll be able to replace that without a lot of trouble.

    SHANNON: OK. Sounds common and easy.

    TOM: Yep. Pretty straightforward. Shannon, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Alice in Michigan on the line who’s dealing with mold in the shower. Tell us where you’re seeing it.

    ALICE: Hi. I am having issues to where my caulk keeps having black mold come through. I strip it, I redo it and the mold just keeps returning. What can I do to stop that?

    TOM: A couple of things. You’re talking about the – just the shower or the shower/tub kind of a thing?

    ALICE: The walls are separate from the actual tub, so I’ve got the caulk that attaches on.

    TOM: OK.

    ALICE: And I will strip it, I put bleach on it and then I put new caulk down but it just keeps coming through.

    TOM: Have you tried DAP caulk? And the reason I bring that up is they have a kitchen-and-bath caulk that’s treated with an additive called Microban. And Microban absolutely, positively will not grow mold or algae in it.

    ALICE: I don’t think I’ve tried that.

    TOM: You might want to give that a try. And the other thing that I would do is – and I know you’ve been through this all before but remember to pull out all the old caulk. You can use a caulk softener, which is kind of like a paint stripper for caulk, to pull that out. You want to wipe that down and spray with a bleach-and-water solution in a spray bottle, up into that gap so that we make sure we get up in there and kill any algae spores or mold spores that are left behind.

    Now, this is on a tub?

    ALICE: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So next thing you do is fill the tub with water all the way up. And while the tub is full, caulk the seam between the walls and the tub. And then after the caulk dries, let the water out. That lets the tub sort of come back up and compress the caulk and helps seal it better so that moisture won’t get behind it and it won’t sort of tear out again.

    ALICE: Oh, OK.

    TOM: And then, finally, make sure you use the caulk that I suggested with the mildicide. And there are others but I just happen to have good experience with that particular one. It’s DAP Kitchen and Bath Caulk with Microban; that’s the additive.

    ALICE: Oh, perfect. OK. Well, I really appreciate that. Thank you so much.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now, you can pick up the phone and give us a call; we’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can e-mail us your questions. We want to help you with all of those fall fix-ups. This is the perfect time of year to get those projects done, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, now is the time of year to make sure your lawn will survive the cooler temperatures ahead and be around for next season. We’ll tell you how to get it ready, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellant 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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller this hour is going to get a great prize, actually perfect for this time of year. We’re giving away a useful prize. It’s $50 worth of Raid and OFF products, which will fight all kinds of bugs. And the package includes several products, such as Raid Ant Gel and Roach Killer.

    Because you guys know, it starts to get colder outside and all of those unwanted buddies try to find their way into the house. So let’s keep them out. Give us call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: Yes. Regrettably, insects do also enjoy central heating systems.

    LESLIE: Ugh. Why? Can’t they just stay outside?

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Claude in Georgia on the line who’s dealing with some unwanted visitors. You’ve got moles in the yard. Tell us about them.

    CLAUDE: These moles are tearing up my yard. I haven’t found anything that can stop them.

    TOM: Well, we can stop them for you, Claude.


    TOM: Here’s what you need to do. First of all, you need to realize why they’re there and they’re there because they’re hungry. And what they’re hungry for are the insects that are in your lawn, most specifically grubs. Grubs are like a delicacy to moles and they love to eat them. So, if you treat your lawn with a grub product to control the grubs, then they will completely go away.

    So, the solution here, Claude, is for you to use grub control. That’s going to eliminate the grubs in the grass and if you eliminate the grubs, you’ll eliminate the moles. Well, you won’t totally eliminate them; they’ll just go to your neighbors and chew on their lawns for a while.


    TOM: Bayer Advanced is a manufacturer that we recommend. And they have a season-long grub-control product that’s also a turf revitalizer. So you might want to take a look at that product, apply it to your lawn, follow the label directions. Get rid of the grubs and the moles will follow by leaving your property and trying to find other places to eat.

    I know that it can be a very annoying problem and they really can tear up a lawn. But if you get rid of the insects, you’ll get rid of the moles. OK?

    CLAUDE: OK. You’re recommending Bayer Advanced?

    TOM: Bayer Advanced Grub Control.

    CLAUDE: Alright. I’ll get out there tomorrow and buy some and try it.

    TOM: Alright. Give it a shot. I’m sure it’ll work well for you. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got lucky lady Nancy who lives in Hawaii, the greatest place in the world, who needs help waterproofing a lanai.

    Welcome, Nancy.

    NANCY: Hi. Aloha.

    LESLIE: Aloha. How can we help you?

    TOM: Aloha.

    NANCY: Well, we have a walk-around lanai on our home that gets water on it when it rains. And the floors don’t slope, so it’s standing water. And so we’re trying to figure out a way not only to help make a slope but something that’s a waterproof floor that we can put on there to prevent our wet lanai.

    TOM: So what’s the lanai made out of now? What’s the floor now? Is it concrete?

    NANCY: It’s plywood with waterproof paint.

    TOM: OK. So if you want something that’s really super-durable on that floor and you want it to be completely waterproof, I would recommend fiberglass. We very often use fiberglass when we build waterproof decks like, for example, that might be on a second floor where there’s living space below.

    It’s kind of like handcrafting the hull of a boat, you know, across that deck surface, because you make it very much the same way. You put it in fiberglass, in resin, in varying layers and the pros will just make it so it’s almost like one complete piece and then it can have an abrasive finish on it so that nobody slips or anything like that. So that’s a really super-durable way to create a deck that you can walk on, push furniture around on and not have to worry about it breaking through or ever leaking.

    NANCY: And then there’s a way to make it slope?

    TOM: Right. And so what you would do before you did the fiberglass is you would probably put a second layer of plywood over there. And you would build it up using what’s called “sleepers,” which are sort of like long shims, to kind of create the pitch first. And then once you had the pitch established with the wood, you would cover it with fiberglass. And that would actually go up under a bit of the siding where it attaches to the house so that it gives you a complete waterproof seal.

    NANCY: Oh, perfect. What a great idea. Thank you so much for your help.

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

    Well, you know the best part of fall and winter for many homeowners? It’s not having to mow your grass. But before you get too excited about that, there are a few things that you should be doing right now to take care of your lawn.

    First, to keep that grass healthy and help it withstand the matting from all of those fallen leaves, make sure you prepare your lawn by gradually lowering the cutting blades on your mower to 2 inches. Don’t do it all at once; just a little bit at a time is the trick.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You want to adjust each time you mow until you actually reach that 2-inch height. So start planning out now how many more times you’re going to mow and then divvy it up and start going in those increments. Because if you actually cut the grass any shorter than this, you’re going to end up damaging the roots and then that’s going to loosen your grass’ grip on the soil. And then the next thing you know, you’re going to end up with just a pile of dirt in your yard. And once these cooler temperatures sort of set in, you can’t really do anything about it to fix it. So start slowly but start doing that now.

    Now next, you want to remember to store your gas-powered mowers empty. Any gas that you’ve got left over, it’s not going to be good next year anyway. So, really, the best approach is to add a fuel stabilizer to the gas and then run that mower until it’s completely out of gas. This way, that little bit of leftover fuel that remains inside the engine will not gunk up and make that mower really difficult to start up next year.

    TOM: Now, this is also a good time of year to tune up your mower if you’ve not done that, including giving all moving parts lubrication, as well as cleaning and sharpening the mower blades. If you can’t do it yourself, very worthwhile – take it into a mower shop to make sure that it’s good to go. Because there’s nothing worse come spring than pulling on that crank handle and just throwing your shoulder out because the mower won’t turn over. Get it ready now; it’ll be good to go when the grass comes back in the spring.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’re going to talk about cracks in driveways with Todd in North Dakota. What can we do for you today?

    TODD: Yes. I was wondering if there’s something that I could put on my concrete driveway, because I have hairline cracks all over in the driveway. And it’s not that old.

    TOM: Yes. There is a product that’s available from QUIKRETE. It’s simply called Concrete Repair and it’s a sanded, acrylic latex formula. So it’s called “sanded” because it has this sort of texture to it, like …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. So it looks concrete-y.

    TOM: Yeah, concrete-y, yeah. Hey, there’s another word you made up, Leslie: concrete-y.

    LESLIE: I know. It’s my Money Pit-isms.

    TOM: Exactly. So it’s very easy to apply because it comes in a caulking tube. There’s either a …

    LESLIE: It also comes in a squeezy tube. So whichever way you feel more comfortable.

    TOM: Yeah, squeezy tube, too. Yep. And you could go through and seal all those cracks.

    And that’s a good thing to do because if you leave them exposed, water tends to soak into them and then it can freeze and expand those cracks even further. So, I would look for the Concrete Repair product that comes in the caulk tube. It’s available from QUIKRETE. Very easy to do.

    TODD: And if there’s – they’re pretty small hairline cracks. Would they – would you get that stuff – that into the cracks or …?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a caulk tube and so what you want to do is you cut a very small opening at the end of the tube and then you can press it right up against the crack and squeeze it in.

    TODD: How about if I – could you take – you see advertised sometimes these – you can paint your floors and stuff. Would that seal them up, too, or …?

    TOM: It’s not designed for that. Why don’t you use the product that’s specifically designed to fill cracks with?

    LESLIE: And also, do you want to paint your driveway?

    TODD: No, no, I don’t.

    TOM and LESLIE: Yeah.

    TODD: OK. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got David in Florida on the line who’s looking to clean a roof. How can we help you?

    DAVID: Well, actually, life was wonderful and then we moved to Florida where there’s too many homeowners’ associations.

    TOM: OK. I guess you’ve been cited for something, huh, David?

    DAVID: Oh, more than one thing.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: But one of the things that is always annoying, not to mention the expense, is the issue of washing the mold, fungus and/or whatever off of the roof which, in this particular (audio gap), is a concrete roll-tile roof and so on and so forth.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: And it seems that all – when you call up the roofing manufacturers, they are all recommending that you don’t do anything. Once the roof is installed, you don’t walk on it, you don’t look at it, don’t paint it. Just leave it alone.

    LESLIE: And if you paint it, you can only paint it this color; don’t even think about this other color because we’re on you.

    DAVID: What is the deal about that? Should roofs – and does it depend upon the type of roofing coating? Like if you go to composite versus concrete shingle or actual clay tile, should those be pressure-washed or not?

    TOM: Great question. Will pressure-washing a roof damage it? And the answer is yes if you are too aggressive with it. It’s OK to rinse your roof off; it’s not OK to sort of blast this algae off.

    I would suggest that you go to WetAndForget.com and take a look at this product. This product, once you apply it to the roof, it will start to degrade that algae and clean the roof on its own. There’s a lot of photos on the site, too, of before-and-after roofs that have done very well with just putting Wet & Forget on it. Literally, you wet it down and you forget it, walk away and then, in the next couple weeks, you’re going to start to see that algae just sort of die and fall off and not come back.

    DAVID: Wow. That is really good because there have been a number of people that – obviously, you do the pressure-washing with 4,000-psi rotating whatever…

    TOM: Yeah. And they try to sell that to you, right? It’s kind of like, “Well, if this guy has only got a 2,000-psi machine, we’ve got a 4,000-psi machine.”

    The thing is, it’s not how much muscle that you have, it’s the finesse, it’s the touch. It’s using chemistry to your advantage and that’s why you want to use a product like Wet & Forget. And you may find that you’ll use it on your sidewalks and on your siding, too.

    Listen, go buy enough of this stuff to try it out. See what happens and let us know how you make out. But I used it on my house; it’s been great.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And give it some time. You’re not going to see the results the first day; you need a couple of days, a week. And I mean if you go to the website, you’ll see that they used it on the Sydney Opera House, on an aquarium in Florida: places that were just completely dealing with humidity and moisture and mold growth. And to be honest, cleaning those surfaces was a giant pain in the you-know-what, so they applied it for the heck of it and it worked.

    DAVID: Oh, excellent, excellent. That sounds really good. Yeah, because the only other alternative – we had another competitor who used to put the good old sodium hypochlorite all over the roof, which did get the algae. Unfortunately, it also gets the plants below it.

    TOM: Yeah, right. Kills everything.

    LESLIE: And that doesn’t actually kill the mold and stop it from coming back. Yes, it gets rid of it but the spores are still there and they’re going to grow back.

    DAVID: Alrighty. Well, that sounds excellent. Thank you so much. I will call you back. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, natural wood, it adds beauty to any home but you know what? It’s also an invitation to bugs and rot. We’re going to tell you about some synthetic options that are available now that look just like wood but without any of the headaches that go along with it, after this.

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    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: Hey, has this ever happened to you, Leslie? You’ve left your house and wondered if it was safe while you were away?

    LESLIE: Oh, completely.

    TOM: Happens to all of us. Well, if you install a do-it-yourself security system from Swann, you can be protected. Swann Security is a brand-new sponsor of The Money Pit and they have do-it-yourself cameras, alarms and monitoring systems that will protect your home and keep you connected 24-7, even with apps that run on your smartphone or tablet. Very high-tech stuff.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s really cool. And right now, you can enter to win one of five complete home security systems in Swann’s Get Connected, Be Protected Sweepstakes. You enter today at Swann.com and that’s Swann – S-w-a-n-n – .com.

    TOM: And these systems are fantastic. In fact, each week they’re giving away a $1,000 system, so five $1,000 systems going out. And then there’s a grand prize, which is a $5,000 system that includes even an LCD TV and an iPad.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: It is a great promotion being run by our friends at Swann.com. Swann Security. It’s the Get Connected, Be Protected Sweepstakes. So check it out right now. Go to Swann.com and enter today.

    And if you share your entry with your good friends on Facebook, you get bonus entries, which gives you even more chances to win. Again, that website is Swann – S-w-a-n-n – .com.

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

    ANNA: Well, I hope you can without involving me in too much work. I have …

    TOM: OK. A tall order but we’re up for the challenge.

    ANNA: I have two long slats from a bunk-bed set. Now, to use it as a bunk bed, you can’t get rid of these and I was thinking about throwing them out. And then when I looked at them, I thought, “Down the road, if somebody else would ever want these and use them as a bunk bed, I can’t throw them out.”

    TOM: OK.

    ANNA: But they’ve been outside and they’ve been kind of sheltered. But they’ve been outside for a couple years and they’re rusted; they’re metal. And so, I wondered how I could clean the metal off, (inaudible at 0:21:37) the rust off them so that – and treat them however – so that they could be used again.

    TOM: Right. So, very simple. What you’re going to want to do is either wire-brush and/or sand the metal to get rid of all of that rust. Then wipe it down so it’s nice and clean and dry and then you’re going to paint it with a rust-proofing primer like Rust-Oleum. If it’s fairly flat, you can brush it on. If it’s got any kind of detail to it, you can buy it in a spray can and just spray it on.

    It takes a couple of hours to dry the Rust-Oleum product but it’s worth it because it really does seal it in and protect it. Then after it dries, you can put a topcoat on of the same color that the slat was before, just so it doesn’t look like – it doesn’t have that primer color to it.

    ANNA: OK. So I can get it in a color as a shade.

    TOM: Oh, sure. Any color you want. But the rust-proofing primer is kind of like a rust color. And so after that dries, then you can paint whatever you want.

    ANNA: Thank you for the advice and I like your show an awful lot.

    TOM: Thanks very much, Anne Marie. Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’ve ever torn out a rotted piece of trim off the outside of your home, you know how difficult it can be to prevent just that from happening.

    TOM: True. And in some ways, the rot process starts from the very moment it is installed. It’s just a matter of time before it gets so bad that you have to replace it.

    But what if there was a material that looks, cuts and paints just like wood but it can never rot? Well, there is. It’s called cellular PVC. There is a wide range of manufacturers that make it and here to tell us all about that is Tom Silva, the general contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: Now, we’ve had synthetic materials around for years but what really seems to make this stuff stand out is that you can work it just like wood, correct?

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. Same tools for using the PVC that you use when dealing with wood. It cuts easy, it planes, it sands. You can mold it, you can turn it. I’ve easily turned it on a lathe.

    TOM: Oh, is that right?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Heated it and bent and made big arches out of it. So you can do all kinds of things with it.

    TOM: And most importantly, it doesn’t rot.

    TOM SILVA: It doesn’t rot. It’s not organic, so it doesn’t take on moisture, it doesn’t take on an insect. They can’t eat it; they don’t like it.

    TOM: Now, I’ve had an experience with insects. In fact, we had a carpenter-bee problem at my garage and we had – the bees would attack the fascia over and over again. I’d treat them every year, I’d fill the holes. And you know what stopped them? Replacing it with cellular PVC.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: And it was funny because they would sort of fly around it and go, “Looks like wood. Doesn’t take like wood.”

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Yeah. “I can’t land on it. This stuff isn’t any good. I don’t want to eat this.” Yeah, yeah.

    No. But it is great stuff. I mean it’s waterproof, basically, so water can’t get into it. Insects don’t get into it. It doesn’t peel, it doesn’t chip. You can paint it; you don’t have to paint it. I don’t recommend painting it with a real dark color. I wouldn’t use black or a dark brown, because it does expand and contract just like wood. But the difference is it expands and contracts over length, not width.

    TOM: Oh, interesting. So it’ll stretch.

    TOM SILVA: It’ll stretch. So you want to make sure that when you put it on in the summertime, you allow for it to compress in the wintertime. So if you have a board that’s going to go from point A to point B and it’s like 18 feet long, you want to make that board 18 foot, ½-inch and force it into the opening because it will shrink down. If you cut it to fit in there just nice, in the wintertime, you’ll have a ½-inch gap on one end or the other.

    TOM: Interesting. Now, where are some of the places it makes the most sense to use PVC trim?

    TOM SILVA: Well, I tell you, I’m using it more and more everywhere. It is a little more money; there is no question about it. But again, the working tools are the same. But let’s say around a garage door, where the trim hits the concrete. Window sills.

    TOM: Now, that’s a good point because that is a spot that rots every single time.

    TOM SILVA: All the time.

    LESLIE: It’s just an invitation for rot.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. All the time.

    TOM: Yeah, the wood strikes the concrete, concrete is wet all the time, water gets drawn up. Rot, carpenter ants, you name it.

    TOM SILVA: That’s right, that’s right. So any place like a threshold: underneath the threshold of a door and up against the house where you may have a flashing detail under a sliding-glass door where you’re into the deck.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: Anywhere that water splashing off the house can run down. The list can go on and on and on.

    It’s just a great – it’s a great product. You can screw it, you can glue it. If you scratch it, you can sand it, fill it, whatever you want to do. They have epoxies that basically glue it together that are very, very strong.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, we’re even seeing these synthetics in so many other places, as far as decking and railings. Do you recommend those, as well, especially if you’re in a moister climate?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. I just renovated my house. Now, my house is 1845, 1850. And there isn’t a piece of trim on my house that is now not PVC.

    TOM: Wow. That’s quite an endorsement.

    TOM SILVA: I made my railings – I have a curved stairway that enters into my house. Just a small stairway. And I actually bent all the curves. All the risers, all the stringers, everything are solid PVC.

    TOM: You want to spend the time repairing other people’s houses, not your own.

    TOM SILVA: Well, this is something that I had to do. It was long overdue.

    TOM: Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and some great step-by-step videos on home improvement projects that you can tackle, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    Up next, now that cooler temperatures are here, it’s a good time to get your ceiling and room fans cleaned up and ready for storage for the off-season. It’s a project that you can do in 30 minutes or less and we’ll tell you how, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Swann Security. Enter Swann’s Get Connected, Be Protected Sweepstakes today at Swann.com and you could win one of five complete, do-it-yourself home security systems, including the top prize of a four-camera security system, iPad and plasma TV valued at over $5,000. Enter today at Swann.com. That’s S-w-a-n-n.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller this hour can look forward to a bug-free fall, thanks to a great prize we’re giving away from Raid and OFF. We’ve got $50 worth of products, including Raid Max Bug Barrier and Ant and Roach Killer. So give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, home maintenance doesn’t always require a free weekend to get it done. Many projects that you could do could actually be done in as little as 30 minutes and we have a whole host of those in our book, My Home, My Money Pit.

    Now, here’s one. It’s a great time to clean the fans in your house. For example, if you’ve had a long, hot summer – and we all have – and all of those extra showers washing off from the days at the beach, lake or pool, you know your bathroom vent fan could probably benefit from a good cleaning.

    So this is how you do it. You want to make sure you turn off the power. Then you remove the cover and wash that cover with dish soap. You also want to wipe the fan’s blades clean with a damp rag.

    TOM: Now, it’s also a good time of year to clean the ceiling-fan blades if you’ve got ceiling fans in your house. And if you do have those fans, also time to change the ceiling-fan direction for winter use. There is something that folks mostly forget. There’s a small reversing switch on the side of the motor so in the summer, the fan should pull the cooler air up from the floor and in the winter, they should push that warm, rising air down from the ceiling.

    And finally, before you do seal yourselves in for the cold weather ahead, clean your kitchen exhaust fan. Take out the filters. Most of the time, you could put those metal filters in your dishwasher, run them through a cycle. The charcoal filters you should simply replace. You can wipe down the underside of that, consider changing out the light bulb and it’ll be nice and clean and working well for the winter season ahead.

    If you want more tips on maintenance projects just like that that you can get done in 30 minutes or less, head on over to our website. They’re online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Jim. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    JIM: Yes. I’m shopping for a new driveway.

    TOM: OK.

    JIM: My old one’s cracked really bad. And I was wondering what to look for as far as to know whether a guy is going to give me what I really need and something good that won’t crack again very well.

    TOM: What kind of driveway do you have now? Is it a concrete or asphalt driveway?

    JIM: It’s a concrete.

    TOM: Well, the key here is going to be the preparation of the base. I mean that’s where the rubber meets the road. If the concrete is not thick enough, it’s not going to be strong enough. And if it’s not strong enough, it’s going to crack. So what I would focus on is making sure that you get a quality contractor first.

    And how would I find a quality contractor? Well, I would thoroughly check the contractor’s references. I would go online and check some of the review sites. Take a look at Angie’s List, for example. And see if you can find somebody who’s got a good reputation for doing good work in the area.

    And then, once you’ve selected one or two guys that are good, then get their estimates and compare those to try to make an apples-to-apples comparison, because there’s a lot of ways to kind of cut corners when it comes to driveways. You know, one guy could put 3 inches of concrete down and another guy could put 6 inches of concrete down. One guy could tamp the base really solid with equipment that’s designed to do that and another guy might just throw the mud down and drive off.

    So, it really comes down to technique and making sure it’s applied correctly. And if it is, you’re going to have a concrete that can – a driveway that can last indefinitely.

    JIM: OK. This one gentleman I was talking to about it said the concrete he uses was – has fiberglass in it?

    TOM: Yeah. Well, there’s a way to put a – different types of material in concrete that helps it resist cracking and that’s just one of many elements that would go into a good driveway job.

    JIM: OK. Do they still use mesh and rebar and stuff like that?

    TOM: Oh, yeah. Mm-hmm. Yep. They sure do.

    JIM: OK. Well, I really appreciate the help.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, creepy crawlers and pests of all kinds, they do not take a break when fall arrives. I feel like they kind of go into overdrive, actually. We’re going to answer those questions on getting rid of those unwanted guests – I mean please, do any of us want these things in our house? – just ahead.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Andersen Windows. Replacing windows or patio doors is always a big decision. Lowering energy bills? Well, that’s easy. And Andersen Windows, the number-one brand of windows in America, with over a century of making quality, energy-efficient windows, makes replacing your old, drafty windows easy with the new 400 Series Tilt-Wash Double-Hung Replacement Window. Available 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: Hey, are you having a debate with yourself or your family about whether you should move or improve your money pit? Well, it’s all based on cost and trade-offs. If you check out my blog on that topic, we’ll give you some important financial considerations to make the right call. Just go to MoneyPit.com and search “move or improve.”

    LESLIE: That’s right. And while you’re online, you can head on over to the Community section. It is just a-bustling with home improvers like yourselves out there, who are posting questions and commenting on projects and bragging about what they’re working on. And you can post your questions there and we will answer them.

    And I’ve got one here from Chris in Oklahoma who wrote: “My neighbors just told me they found termites in their wood trim. Does this mean I’m more likely to get them? What should I do?”

    TOM: That’s interesting. You know, a lot of folks think just because their neighbors have had a termite problem that it makes them more or less likely. I’d say you’ve always been just as likely. The fact of the matter is that the termites were here first, OK, and it’s one of Mother Nature’s ways to get rid of dead wood.

    Now, the fact that it got up into the trim of this neighbor’s house, I need to know a little bit more information. But I’m hoping, because you’re writing from Oklahoma, that we’re talking about a subterranean termite here. They’re a little easier to handle because they live in the soil and they come up into the house just to feed. So if they got the trim, they probably went through some studs or other structural members along the way. So as far as your neighbor is concerned, make sure that she or he gets a very good inspection to determine what the chances of damage are.

    But the way you control termites is by treating the soil in and around the house. And you put in, essentially, what’s a chemical barrier. And the types of treatment products they use today are not detectable, so they’re invisible to termites. They go through the chemical barriers, they get them on themselves. Since they’re kind of social insects, they go back to the nest, they talk to their friends, they pass this virus-like chemical around everybody and it wipes out the nest. So, it’s very easy to get rid of them if you do this properly and there’s a number of products that this will work with. One of them is called Termidor but you have to have it applied professionally.

    So I would say it’s a good reason for you to get an inspection done, Chris. And based on that inspection, you can consider whether or not you want to have the house treated for a termite problem or preventatively treated for a problem. But the termites are not going to fly from your neighbor’s house to your house. They’re already there, is what I’m saying.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You may have them and just not even know about it. But definitely, it’s worth getting it checked out.

    Alright. Next up, we have a post from Jim in Tennessee who wrote: “I have a problem with fruit flies in my kitchen. The minute any fruit comes in the house, they’re on it before we can eat it. How do I get rid of them?”

    Well, it could be a storage issue. If you’re saying they’re coming on the fruit right when you walk in the house, that kind of makes me think maybe you’re just putting it on your counter. It could be warm and humid in your house. You definitely want to keep all fruit in the refrigerator or within some type of container. Bananas I keep outside on that special hanging thing. I feel like that’s OK. But any other piece of fruit, I keep right in the fridge and that tends to not let those fruit flies get to it.

    But if you do happen to have them in your house, there’s a great little trap you can make with apple cider vinegar. And then you put some Saran Wrap on top and poke holes in it and they’ll go in there but they can’t come out. So put it in a dish, put it in a cup and any kind of fruit flies that you’ve got in there will be attracted to the scent of the apple cider vinegar and then not be able to escape.

    But really, storage is key and if you’re going to throw away any fruit, don’t put it in the regular trash. Don’t put fruit juices in your regular trash. And if you have a garbage disposal, just make sure you keep it clean. Because any sort of biofilm that ends up staying on the disposal itself will attract more. So it’s really a storage and cleanliness issue. And I hope that helps you, Jim.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Happy Fall, everybody. Time to get outside while the weather is just perfect for all of those outside and some of those inside projects, as well. If you’ve got questions, remember you can reach us 24-7 by calling 888-MONEY-PIT or by posting your question online in the Community section of MoneyPit.com.

    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 2011 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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