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Fixing Drafty Windows, Bringing the Outdoors Inside, Range Vent Safety Tips and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to help with your home improvement projects. What are you working on? Take a look around your house and give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s take everything on your to-do list and move it to the done list with one call to 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour, hardwood floors are as popular as ever but new trends and colors and designs are on the horizon. Coming up, we’ve got your first look at new hardwood trends for 2015.

    LESLIE: And if you’re lighting your fireplace for the first time this season and it’s making you a bit nervous, it’s for a good reason. You could have buildup and debris, which could send your relaxation up in smoke, not to mention your house. Now, make sure that your chimney flue, your damper and your firebox are all safe before you fire up the first fire of the season. We’ll tell you how, just ahead.

    TOM: Also ahead, trees provide shade and are beautiful to look at but did you know trees can also help your hearing? Learn why a tree-filled soundscape is good for you, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away the Palit, which is a bamboo work surface that you can slip over your pedestal sink to provide much needed counter space in a small bath.

    TOM: It’s worth $129. Going out to one caller drawn at random, so let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

    DON: Now, we’re going to redo our kitchen ceiling this year and we have these 6-inch pot lights up in the ceiling.

    TOM: OK. Yeah, the can lights?

    DON: Yeah.

    TOM: OK.

    DON: And we were wondering if we would take them out, if we put the LED lights under the cabinets, if it would give us as much light.

    TOM: No, I wouldn’t take them out. I would keep them in.

    Now, one is for area lighting; one is for task lighting. So the LED lights that could go under the edge of the cabinet could give you task-specific lighting for food prep. And they also look darn cool when you dim them in a party or something like that.

    DON: Yeah.

    TOM: But I would keep the lights in the ceiling.

    But by the way, you have a lot of options in the type of bulb that you can put in those ceiling lights. You could actually put in LED bulbs into those ceiling lights, too. And you may find the quality of light is better than what you have with the incandescents.

    DON: I mean take them out and put maybe like 4-inch ones in smaller ones or just leave the 6 ones in there?

    TOM: I would leave them. I think that – I think you could use the 6-inch ones that you have. I don’t think that’s part of the project that’s going to give you a good return on investment. But if you change the bulbs out, I think you’ll find that that will make a difference.

    Take a look at those Philips bulbs. I’ve got several of those now in my house, including in the kitchen, as can lights. They’re LEDs and we matched them up with Lutron dimmers where you can adjust the dimming range. And they’re super-bright and they cost a heck of a lot less to run than the incandescents. And they last a lot longer. We used to replace those incandescents all the time and these have been – I’ve never had to replace them and I think they say they last over 20 years.

    DON: Where would you find the (inaudible at 0:03:38) on that?

    TOM: You can get them at Home Depot.

    DON: OK.

    TOM: I know that I’ve gone there. They’re really interesting-looking, Jack. They’re the ones that look – they look like yellow. They kind of look – I always think they look like bug lights.

    DON: OK.

    TOM: But you’ll be amazed when the thing comes on how bright it is.

    DON: OK.

    LESLIE: And they’re super-efficient.

    DON: Well, that’s what we’re looking for.

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

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

    JAN: We have a – it’s a very small bathroom and they had built a tile shower in this – like the middle of the room. And I want to know if you can change the places where the shower and the toilet are: if you can just reverse them and use the existing drains.

    TOM: No, you can’t because the shower drain is about half of the size of the toilet’s drain waste/vent pipe.

    LESLIE: And it’s a gray-water line, too.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not – well, they’re going to drain to the same place but you would have to reconfigure the plumbing. So it’s not quite that easy but not impossible. What is this bathroom built on? Is it over a crawlspace or a basement, by any chance, or is it over a slab?

    JAN: It’s on a slab.

    TOM: Very expensive project. I would think of something – other way to redecorate that bathroom and make it pleasant for you. Because switching those is a big job; you’re going to have to tear up the floor to do the plumbing.

    JAN: Oh, wow. OK. Well, I guess we’ll just leave it the way it is.

    TOM: Looking better all the time, isn’t it, Jan?

    JAN: Well, no. But I mean it is what it is.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    What were they thinking when they put the shower in the middle of the room?

    LESLIE: Views from every part of the bathroom? I’m not sure.

    TOM: That’s not a walk-up shower, it’s a walk-around shower.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Whatever you are working on at your money pit, we are here to lend a hand. So pick up the phone and give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, do you love the look of hardwood floors? You want to kick it up a notch? We’ve got tips to help you get in on the hottest hardwood trends, coming up, with a tip on what’s hot for 2015, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the Chamberlain MyQ Garage. If you forget to close your garage door, it alerts your smartphone, so you can control it from anywhere. Works with most garage-door openers. Discover smarter possibilities at Chamberlain.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number to call is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Pedestal sinks are a great space-saver for small bathrooms but one downside might be a lack of counter space. Well, not anymore, because one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Palit. It’s a 100-percent bamboo cover for your sink.

    LESLIE: Yeah, the Palit helps you create much needed space on top of your pedestal sink. And since bamboo has antimicrobial properties, you’ve got a hygienic surface. It also has a silicone well created to put all of your hot tools on, you know, like your curling iron and your hair dryer. It also has holders for your makeup, razors and more, so no more dropping your favorite blush brush into a wet sink. Happens all the time to me.

    Now Tom, you don’t get this, because you’re not putting on blush.

    TOM: I don’t.

    LESLIE: But once that brush gets wet and then you put it back into the blush, talk about a hot-pink streak on your face and not in a good way.

    TOM: Well, I’m sure it works well for shaving gear, as well. It’s from NYCVanity, it’s worth $129 and going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show.

    Check it out at ThePalit.com. It’s P-a-l-i-t .com. And give us a call, right now, for your chance to win and the answer to your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ron in Kentucky is dealing with some ants. Tell us about the problem. And it’s not like your mom’s sister, right?

    RON: No. No, I’ve got problems with ants, like on my kitchen counter and I just can’t get rid of them. I’ve tried spray, I’ve tried the little ant baits and I just can’t get rid of them.

    TOM: Do you want a natural solution or a nuclear solution?

    RON: Whatever works. I’m open for suggestion.

    TOM: Well, first of all, on the natural side, you can do something like, for example, planting mint around your foundation perimeter is a pretty big ant-deterrent. And mint grows really quickly and it smells nice and the ants hate it. So, that’s something that will deter ants from coming in.

    Once they get into the countertop, what’s good for that? Bay leaves, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Bay leaves, yeah. You can take, you know, little canisters of bay leaves and just sort of place them just loosely in pots around your countertop. Or if they’re coming in through a windowsill, you can even crush up some of the – in a spice section, bay leaves, the dried ones. Crush them up and drape that – some of – across your windowsill. For some reason, they hate that, as well.

    TOM: Now, if you want a pesticide that can take care of ants, there’s a number of them that are out there that are non-detectable, in the sense that once they’re applied to, usually, the foundation perimeter, the ants will walk through them and get the insecticide on the ant. And since they’re social insects, they take them back to the colony, pass it to the rest of the ants and that wipes them out. And that’s something that would have to be applied, though, by a pro.

    And that said, they’re very effective, so I always recommend pros over do-it-yourself pesticides, because I think that people tend to over-apply the do-it-yourself pesticides and actually give themselves more exposure to those chemicals than they would – that they would have had if they had a pro do it from the get-go. Does that make sense?

    RON: OK. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sampat in North Carolina who needs help with a heating question. What can we do for you?

    SAMPAT: I have a 2,600 split-foyer house and we have natural gas and electricity for heating purposes.

    TOM: OK.

    SAMPAT: Mostly, we use natural gas.

    TOM: Good.

    SAMPAT: Would a quartz infrared heater save us any money?

    TOM: I don’t think so. If you’ve got natural-gas heat already, that’s going to be the least expensive per BTU. So if you wanted to save money, what I would suggest you do, Sampat, is to take a look at your energy efficiency in your home and see what could be improved there. For example, take a look up in the attic and tell me if you’ve got 15 to 20 inches of fiberglass insulation. If you don’t, now is a good time to add to that.

    SAMPAT: Yeah, we do have good insulation. Very good insulation. But there’s still – the heating bill is running around close to $200 a month in the wintertime.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. So, another thing to take a look at is the outlets on the exterior walls – the lights and the outlets and the switches on the exterior walls – and make sure that those have insulation gaskets behind them, because there’s a lot of drafts that get in there.

    SAMPAT: Yes.

    TOM: And look to all of the areas where you can tighten up the house. That’s going to give you a better return on investment than adding quartz infrared heat, which is very, very expensive to run. Now, the only time that that makes sense is if all the rest of the rooms in the house are turned off, so to speak, and maybe you’ve just got one area that’s a little chilly and you just want to run it for a little bit of time strategically, like in the evening when you’re all gathered around.

    But I would never suggest that you use that in lieu of your natural gas-fired, central heating system because it just wouldn’t make sense.

    SAMPAT: OK. Alright, Tom. Very good. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Good luck, sir. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, hardwood floors are the flooring option of choice for homeowners these days. But there’s a huge variety of colors and styles happening now that can bring hardwoods well into the future, according to IndustryEdge. And that’s the expert blog from the National Hardware Show.

    LESLIE: Alright. I’m so excited about this because, first off, gray is huge. Now, it pops up in all aspects of home design, from furniture to cabinets to paint. And it’s also making its way into flooring. Gray hardwoods are going to be super-hot for 2015, ranging from those muted, neutral tones to bolder and darker shades of gray. And they are gorgeous.

    TOM: And IndustryEdge is also reporting that we’re going to see a lot of matte-finish floors. Now, the matte look helps hide scuffs and scratches and it’s a little more modern than the expansive, high-gloss, shiny wood that perhaps you’re used to seeing. You’re also going to see a lot of exotic wood species. I like these: the Brazilian walnuts and bamboos. And the floors will go bolder with big variations in color.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. Soup to nuts and floors to shingles.

    LESLIE: Anna in Oregon is on the line and she’s got a question about sheds and critters. What’s going on?

    ANNA: Well, I have a question. I was thinking of getting one of those sheds that you build yourself, like from Home Depot, and you put it in your backyard. And a neighbor of mine did that and another friend that I know did that and then they said they got rats underneath. And I’m wondering, is there any way to prevent that problem from happening?

    TOM: Well, if you build this in such a way where it’s supported up in the air so you basically have created, for lack of a better term, sort of a kind of crawlspace underneath the shed, then you could get animals that are going to nest down there. But a better way to do this might be to put it on a simple foundation.

    And so to do that, essentially what you’re going to want to do is dig down into the area where the foundation – where the shed perimeter is going to be and set blocks into that area. Now, you would put them on a simple footing and set blocks into that area, compact the soil, set bricks or blocks in that area and then position the shed on top of that block foundation. And this way, it’ll be kind of a sealed bottom, as opposed to an open bottom. So if you put it on a small foundation – or the other thing you could do is you could pour a slab and then you don’t have to have a wood floor; you could just have an open floor.

    ANNA: I see. Well, OK, I appreciate that suggestion.

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

    PETER: We built our house in ’06, so it’s a brand-new house; we had it built. My wife was in a wheelchair, so we made the doors wider, like instead of 28, 30.

    TOM: OK.

    PETER: And we’re still bumping up against the door frames, you know? And they’re not too bad but they’re – when we’re backing up and stuff, we’re hitting the walls and the door frames. And we were just wondering if there was anything that you might be able to – maybe to cover up the dents in the wood.

    TOM: So do you want to repair the wood or do you want to – like do you want some advice on how you can put a guard on those door frames?

    PETER: I think maybe just to try and repair them or cover up the dents.

    TOM: Well, that becomes a pretty easy repair. Basically, what you want to do is sand out the paint there and sand out any rough spot around that. And then you want to fill it. There’s a wide variety of products you could choose from. Elmer’s has got a great line of wood fillers that are easy to sand. And then you touch up with some primer and then you paint it again and that will cover it up.

    And you also might want to think about taking a look at some of the clear corner guards that are available that can protect that. They kind of blend into the material so you don’t really see them. But it’ll help you protect from gouging it any further.

    LESLIE: Oddly enough, at the home centers, Peter, they are found in the painting aisle. And I know this because the steps going down to our basement, my four-year-old likes to run down and grab onto that corner and he peels off the wallpaper every time he goes down and it’s been driving me nuts.

    PETER: OK, great. Hey, thank you very much for your help. Yeah, we love listening to your show. We have a new house, so we don’t have all the problems like people have with dirt cellars and all that, so …

    TOM: Oh, that’s alright. We’re glad we can help you out with the small repairs, as well as the big one. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Debra in Texas calling in to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    DEBRA: We bought a countertop – a granite countertop – a year-and-a-half ago. And we sealed it with a sealer we bought from the company and we had a warming plate – not a warming plate, a hot pad – by the cooktop. Moved the cooktop and it has changed colors. Under the cooktop, it’s the natural color – under the warming plate/hot plate, it’s the natural color. Beside that has turned darker.

    And then on the bar area where we sit, it has turned darker. And I don’t know if it’s the oils from the cooking, the oils from us sitting here at the bar.

    TOM: Have you done any cleaning of the granite surface since this has happened? Have you tried any additional products on it?

    DEBRA: No. Just that one.

    TOM: Well, we do know that granite needs a lot of care, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: I mean it really does. And also, depending on the color of the granite – if it’s a lighter granite, it needs more maintenance than a darker-toned granite as far being sealed and resealed.

    Now, I usually don’t recommend sealing the granite yourself, because the materials that are available for a do-it-yourself sealing job are not as durable and effective as something that a pro might put on. So you may have put something on that has discolored due to, perhaps, the heat of the warming plate. It’s hard to say. Is that truly the natural color under the warming plate and everything else has darkened or has it lightened under the warming plate because of the heat?

    DEBRA: That was the natural color.

    LESLIE: It could just be that the sealant that you’ve put on is reacting to the moisture in your kitchen.

    TOM: Yeah. I’m thinking that whatever finish was applied here is what’s discoloring.

    Now, since you haven’t tried anything to clean this yet, I’m going to recommend a website that specializes in granite care. And they have a lot of products that are designed to help restore granite and it’s called StoneCare.com. What I would suggest you do is take a look that website, search by the type of surface, which is granite, and take a look at the products that are available there. And then contact them directly and ask them which one they would recommend for this specific situation.

    My first thought is that we need to make sure that what you have is clean. And these products can help draw out anything that’s contributing to the color change. And if not, then you may have to refinish the surface again and remove what’s there.

    DEBRA: And how do I do that?

    TOM: Well, I have to tell you, as Leslie said, I don’t think it’s a good do-it-yourself job because – I’ll give you the example of finishing a floor, alright? When you think of a hardwood floor, one of the greatest examples is the gym floor, right? And you think of the basketball games and the gym floor and they’re always shiny and hard and they take all this abuse. But the floors that we have in our house don’t ever look that way. Do you know why? Because most of the time, we finish them ourselves and we don’t get access to the same kinds of products they use professionally.

    Professionally, when they finish a gym floor, they use a two-part, sometimes epoxy-based product that hardens in place – chemically hardens. We use air-dry products and the air-dry products just don’t – aren’t as tough as some of the ones that are based on chemical reactions.

    So the same thing applies to some of the sealers that are out there. The ones that we may use as consumers aren’t the same as what a countertop shop might use. So, if that’s the case, you may want to have it professionally refinished. And this way, you’ll get a proper surface on there and you can start again from scratch.

    LESLIE: Well, still to come, trees are great for shade and fresh air, but did you know that trees can actually increase focus and concentration? We’re going to tell you what else trees can help with, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

    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: And have you ever noticed how a walk in the woods or through the park just is very, very relaxing? Well, it turns out that’s it not just the exercise that’s good for you. There’s new research out that shows trees can actually help you focus and concentrate.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Our next guest is an expert on soundscape ecology and is studying how trees impact what we hear and how that affects everything from mental ability to crime. So here to tell us more is R.J. Laverne, an arborist and researcher for Davey Tree Expert Company.

    Welcome, R.J.

    R.J.: And thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

    TOM: I’ve got to tell you, R.J., one thing that drives me crazy – I live in an old neighborhood where there’s lot of trees. And invariably, when someone buys a house in this neighborhood, the first thing they do is send the bulldozers in and knock them all down.

    And it’s just terrible because then they start, after they build the house, by putting in these little twigs where these beautiful, massive trees used to be and it really impacts the entire neighborhood. From your research, it sounds like that’s a bad thing to do, not only for the visual impact but also in terms of how it makes you feel as an owner of that property.

    R.J.: That’s true. And of course, we want to make sure that the trees that are around our homes are structurally safe and healthy. Every tree is indeed a living organism and sooner or later, we’ll have to take those down. But the more that we can do to preserve those large, mature trees, the better off we’ll be and the more benefits that we will realize from having healthy trees around our homes.

    LESLIE: And it’s interesting, because when you walk the blocks of an urban environment – like New York City, say – you really get the sense of when you’re in an area that’s more financial or business-directed, because there are no trees. And then when you get to the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side or more neighborhood-y sections, you have all these beautiful trees that almost signify that you’re in a home situation. So it’s interesting to say that in an urban environment, you’re really seeing a big difference between areas that have trees and areas that don’t.

    R.J.: Well, it’s interesting that you brought up walking on streets in New York. I made a series of sound recordings in Midtown Manhattan and then made sound recordings on the interior of Central Park. And the walk through the street in Midtown Manhattan energizes all of your senses. Everything is on high alert, especially your hearing because all of these imposing noises are coming at you.

    And I noticed when I walked just a few steps from the streets of Manhattan into Central Park, there was a noticeable decrease in the level of stress that I felt. Your senses drop from that high-alert status. The heartbeat drops, your respiration rate drops. And in that very urban setting, it’s quite incredible to experience the transition from a busy, urban street into a green space, like Central Park.

    TOM: I’m going to say that makes sense because, heck, I’m always on alert when I’m walking the streets of Manhattan. I mean you pretty much have to be. And get me into a more park-like environment and I automatically feel a lot less alert, so all of those other good things are going to happen.

    But let’s get out of the extreme comparison of Central Park to Manhattan’s busiest streets. What about in your own neighborhood? What should folks in their own neighborhoods be thinking about? Making sort of those strategic decisions about how many trees to have in their yard, how to care for those trees, whether a tree should be removed, that sort of thing.

    R.J.: That’s a very important question. And the answer starts with making sure that if you’re planning on planting trees, you put the right tree in the right place. And make sure that there’s enough space for that tree to achieve its full mature dimensions. Because it’s with those larger and mature trees that we realize the most benefits from cleansing of the air that we breathe, to reducing the amount of storm-water runoff, to the beneficial shade that reaches our houses. Most of those benefits come from larger trees.

    So if you’re going to plant a tree, make sure that you’re putting the right tree in the right place. If you already have large trees on your property and you’re considering taking those trees down, the best advice I could give would be to contact a qualified arborist to come in and inspect your trees. And the arborist can tell you whether the tree is healthy, whether it’s structurally sound and safe to keep on the property, which hopefully it is. And if, indeed, you do have healthy, vigorous trees, then keeping those on the property will help you realize all of those benefits.

    TOM: Excellent advice from R.J. Laverne, an arborist and researcher for the Davey Tree Expert Company.

    R.J., thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit and filling us in on your fascinating work.

    R.J.: It’s my pleasure and it was great talking to you.

    TOM: And if you’d like more information about the Davey Tree Company, you can go to their website at Davey.com. And Davey is spelled D-a-v-e-y.

    LESLIE: Alright. Looking forward to that first crackling fire of the season? Well, hold that match, that is, until your fireplace and your chimney are safe and secure. We’re going to tell you what to look for, after this.

    (theme song)

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

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

    Well, how many of you have small bathrooms with pedestal sinks out there? If you’ve got a small space, you know what a great space-saver the pedestal is. Except one downside is that you have a huge lack of counter surface. Well, not anymore. One lucky caller we talk to this hour is going to win the Palit, a 100-percent bamboo cover for your sink.

    TOM: The Palit creates much needed space on top of your pedestal sink. And since bamboo has antimicrobial properties, you’ve got a hygienic surface. There’s also a silicone well, which creates a dedicated, heat-resistant surface for your hot tools. It’s worth 129 and goes to one caller this hour.

    Check it out at ThePalit.com. It’s spelled P-a-l-i-t. And call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Pam in Missouri is dealing with some mysterious water noises. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    PAM: When I run water down the kitchen sink and after I stop running the water, that kitchen sink gurgles.

    TOM: Well, your problem is very simple: you have to stop running water and flushing toilets.

    PAM: Can’t do that.

    LESLIE: Stop using the plumbing.

    TOM: Alright, look, what’s going on here is your plumbing system is starved for air; you don’t have enough ventilation. And you know when you look at a house from the outside and you see the plumbing pipes sticking up through the roof?

    PAM: Right.

    TOM: Those are vent pipes. And what they do is they let air into the system so that when the water runs out, it’s replaced by air without gurgling. When your plumbing can’t get enough air, it gurgles like that.

    And the solution here is going to be figuring out what’s wrong with the existing plumbing-ventilation system. You may have a blockage somewhere that’s causing this. There are ways to add additional vents if necessary but you’ve got to get to the bottom of it, first, and figure out why it’s blocked.

    How old is your house?

    PAM: It’s 14 years old.

    TOM: Has it always been this way?

    PAM: I don’t think it has always been that way. It seems like the more that we use – when I’m home on a weekend and use it a lot, it gurgles more.

    TOM: I think you have to have a plumber take a look at that, because you don’t have enough air getting into the system.

    PAM: OK.

    TOM: Something is wrong with the venting and you may need to open that drainway’s vent pipe up somewhere else to get some more air in there.

    Pam, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    So, fall is now officially halfway over. And whether or not you used your fireplace yet this season, don’t light another match yet. Fireplaces and chimneys have a big job to do and making sure they’re up for it is the key to your family’s safety.

    LESLIE: Alright. Seasonal chimney maintenance, it’s done because you need to ensure that smoke, fire, embers and ashes are all going to stay contained in your fireplace and chimney. It’s also going to check for creosote, which is a highly combustible buildup that can lead to chimney fires. Your chimney should also be checked for creosote at least once a year or after about 80 fires. You can head over to the website for the Chimney Safety Institute of America to find a certified chimney sweep in your area.

    TOM: And even a safe fireplace can use some backups. You want to place a non-flammable rug in front of the fireplace to keep those loose sparks from damaging your floors or perhaps even worse.

    LESLIE: And if you don’t already have chimney caps, have them installed because it’s going to keep those wildlife creatures from using your chimney as a passageway into your home. And you know what? When we bought out house, it actually happened to us. There were no chimney caps on it and a squirrel came right down. And I heard it like thump on the flue. And my sister happened to be over and we heard like tap dancing and panicking. And we were both like, “Alright. I know exactly what this is.” So we called the chimney guy to come and help us and he was like, “You’re going to want to get out of the house at this point.”

    TOM: I’ve seen those rodents get in and do a lot of damage, too, so it’s definitely important. And let’s also talk about your firebox. Now, that’s the area where the logs burn, so it needs to be cleaned at least once a week during the months you’re using your fireplace. And you always want to leave about an inch of ash in there because that acts as insulation.

    Now, when you do clean that firebox, never ever place those ashes in anything other than a metal ash bucket. And store that well-away from your home to be super-safe. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Mike in North Carolina who’s got a driveway question. Drive it on over. What can we do for you, bud?

    MIKE: I had put in a new plant – or got ready to put a new plant in front of the house. And when I took the old one out, there was a crack in the foundation and also a pretty good-sized void underneath the driveway. And I’ve had three different companies out to take a look at it and after all that, I don’t quite know what to do.

    TOM: OK. So this crack is in your foundation? It’s on your basement wall? Where are you seeing it – or on the outside wall? Describe it.

    MIKE: It’s on the outside wall, in the corner of the garage.

    TOM: Alright. And you’ve got a driveway near there where the driveway is sunken in a bit? It sounds to me like you’ve got a water problem where water is collecting in that area. May have undermined some of the soil. Small cracks – is it vertical cracks – small vertical cracks are what it is?

    MIKE: Vertical crack, yes.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s a very minor, very almost commonplace kind of a crack, so I wouldn’t get too terribly worked up about it. You’d be surprised how many cracks foundations have. We see them all the time. So, I wouldn’t panic about it. But if you’ve got an area that’s sunken in where the driveway is, what you are going to have to do is cut that driveway out, fill that area in, tamp it down, pack it properly and have the driveway restored in that particular area.

    MIKE: The driveway hasn’t sunk yet. It’s just where it always has been.

    TOM: Well, when you just said before – when you said before that there was an area that was sunken in, you did not mean the driveway? What’s sunken in?

    MIKE: No, no. Actually, there’s a void underneath the driveway. You can see where the driveway pad comes up to the garage – when I took this plant out, you can see a void underneath the driveway.

    TOM: OK. So the void’s under the apron, is what you’re saying.

    MIKE: Correct, yes.

    TOM: It’s under – OK. Alright. Same advice. You’ve got to fill the void in or the driveway will drop into that spot, OK? And water will continue to collect there and it’ll wash out what’s left of the footing around there – the soil under the footing – then you get more shifting. So, you’ve got to restore that soil.

    Not unusual, because a lot of times you get organic matter that gets in there. It could be, I don’t know, wood. It could be paper. It could be anything that was accumulating there from when the foundation was dug. And then it rots away and the voids form and the water gets in there and it’s kind of a vicious cycle. So you need to get that repacked with soil properly and then regraded to slope away and then restore the driveway.

    So I don’t think you have a big problem there. I think you have sort of a medium-sized maintenance problem but you should do it, because it can get worse if you ignore it.

    MIKE: Yeah, OK.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come, holiday celebrations mean a lot of food, which means a lot of cooking. You want to make your kitchen a safe and functional place to help you make food prep easier? We’re going to have some advice on how to do just that, when The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, if you want some tips and tricks for all of your holiday gatherings, get advice from our Pinterest board: “Holiday Entertaining.” You can find it on The Money Pit Pinterest page.

    TOM: And while you’re online, head on over to The Money Pit Community section and post your question. Claire did and she says, “I am interested in repairing some sun damage I see on my front door. Can you give me more information on how to sand and prep the door for varnish? For example, do I have to take the door off its hinges? Can I hand-sand? Do I need a power sander? How long can I expect the project to take? And knowing that the door needs two layers of varnish, does the first layer have to dry completely?”

    Wow. Lots of great questions, Claire. First of all, this is a project for a beautiful fall day. And yes, I would take the door off the hinges, because it’s just a lot easier to work on it when it’s on a couple of sawhorses and laying it flat.

    In terms of sanding that old varnish off, you don’t have to get it all off but you have to get all the loose surface off. It’s much easier to do that with a vibrating sander. So, if you have one of those, I would use a vibrating sander and then I would probably have to do quite a bit of hand-sanding, as well.

    Once that’s done, two coats of varnish will do the trick. But yes, you do absolutely need to let the first coat dry. So you may end up doing one coat, putting it back on the door and then taking it off and doing it again, depending on the weather.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And Claire, when you’re getting your supplies, make sure you pick an exterior-rated varnish, because that will have UV protectant in it so you won’t have to do this again so quickly.

    TOM: Well, many of us will be spending more and more time in the kitchen as we get ready for holiday celebrations of all sorts throughout the rest of the year. And if you’re looking for shortcuts to help ease the workload, Leslie has some advice on how to create a kitchen that is safe and functional, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word, presented by Blindsgalore.com.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First, I’ve got to admit I really do love cooking for my friends and my family. But there are several tips and tricks that I always keep in mind to make sure I’m working safe and smart.

    Now, first of all, you want to remember that raw poultry can carry salmonella. And preparing it requires an extra step of disinfecting. So, wash your hands often. Use a plastic cutting board, not wood because the wood will hold germs in the small cuts that it gets on the board surface. If you want quicker cleanup, just flip the board over after poultry prep. Don’t forget to wipe down the counter, though, with a disinfectant afterwards.

    Next, heavy pots and pans, they can be tricky to move from place to place. So, when you’re filling them, you want to place the pot on the stove first and then add your ingredients. If you can, use an extra-long hose for your sink sprayer so that you can fill your pots with water without moving them.

    Now, lighting is key everywhere but especially in the kitchen. And it’s not difficult to do. You can actually get some stick-on LEDs that’ll run on batteries. And it’ll give you some instant under-cabinet lighting that you can use faster than you can actually stuff that turkey. And you don’t have to keep them there permanently; you can just use them seasonally. But it definitely helps to have proper lighting.

    Finally, remember that half of all burns treated in the ER result from a scalding injury. So set your home’s water heater to 120 degrees and that’ll help you avoid water coming from the tap at a dangerous temperature. But most of all, remember to enjoy that turkey, guys.

    TOM: And today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word is presented by Blindsgalore.com. For free samples, free shipping, free window expertise and truly amazing prices, go to Blindsgalore.com.

    And the first 25 listeners who select Money Pit at checkout will get a free copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. So go to Blindsgalore.com today.

    LESLIE: Alright. Coming up next week on The Money Pit, household plumbing, it stinks by its very nature. But rarely do we smell those awful odors unless something is going horribly wrong. We’re going to teach you how to diagnose and fix plumbing odors on the next Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    TOM: 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 2014 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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