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    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: So glad you have joined us today for this edition of The Money Pit, because we’re here to help you take on your home improvement projects. Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or say, a direct-it-yourselfer, you don’t want to do the project yourself, you want to hire somebody to help, it’s all good. Call us, though, and we’ll give you some tips to get started on those projects and more. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up, as the weather warms towards summer, it’s a great time to make sure your windows are clean enough to let that light through. We’re going to have some DIY window-cleaning tips, including a recipe for a solution you can mix up from items you probably have right now in your pantry. And it costs just pennies to do that.

    LESLIE: And have you ever wished you could get electricity to a spot in your yard without having to run one of those ugly extension cords? Well, you can if you run the cable underground. Scott Caron, the electrician of TV’s This Old House, is stopping by with tips on how you can do that.

    TOM: And is there a spot in your yard where water always seems to collect? A catch basin may be just what you need. We’ll have tips on a do-it-yourself solution that’s simple to install.

    LESLIE: Plus, we’re giving away a very cool smart-home product: PlantLink. It’s a device that makes watering simple and efficient. Now, it combines moisture sensors with the PlantLink app. And the PlantLink app is going to let you know when your plants are thirsty.

    TOM: It’s available at The Home Depot for $79 but going out to one lucky caller drawn at random, so make that you. Pick up the phone, right now, and call us with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Twyla in Nebraska is on the line with a carpeting question. How can we help you today?

    TWYLA: Well, I have a cement-slab house and I need to replace the carpet in it that is – currently, I have carpet in all the bedrooms and the hallway. And I was wondering whether I should go with laminate or whether I should go ahead and remain with carpet.

    TOM: Well, if you like the comfort of the carpet underfoot, you know, the hard thing to deal with when it comes to those concrete slabs is that they’re super-cold. So while you could replace them with laminate floor, the problem with the laminate is that it might be a bit chillier. You’d have to probably use area rugs. So if you’re comfortable with the carpet, there’s no reason not to replace it with new carpet.

    There is a trade-off, though. Because, of course, carpet needs a little bit more maintenance than laminate but it certainly is a lot warmer underfoot. Does that make sense, Twyla?

    TWYLA: But you have to put something underneath the laminate, right?

    LESLIE: You’ll see. Depending on the brand of laminate flooring that you select, there’s a different kind of underlayment that that manufacturer will recommend. And by underlayment, usually it’s a thin roll of foam. Sometimes the underlayment is attached directly to the backside of the laminate flooring. It really varies per manufacturer. But there is something that you’ll put in between the concrete and the flooring itself.

    TWYLA: OK. Do you have a recommendation on brand of laminate?

    TOM: There are lots of great brands out there. I would look for a name brand. You could look at Lumber Liquidators, you could look at Armstrong. Those are all good places to start. And just check out their websites. Get a sense as to the options and you can narrow it down from there. OK, Twyla?

    TWYLA: OK. I thank you very, very much.

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

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

    STEVE: Yeah, we’ve got a square fire pit out in the backyard. It’s really nice. We bought it about a year ago. It’s got nice, Southern tile on top. And in the middle of it, it’s got a round Lazy Susan. And you take off the Lazy Susan and it’s a fire pit with a stainless-steel fire ring. And we’ve got a bunch of fire glass in there. It’s really nice.

    And the – one of the things that we’re disappointed in somewhat is that the flame isn’t really very high on the thing. It’s really a nice kind of romantic, low fire but we’d like to figure out if we could find some way to make that a little more robust. And I’m thinking about just drilling out the holes in the fire ring to – and I’m wondering if that might solve the problem or if I’d be creating more problems than solving.

    TOM: Generally, you don’t want to modify a gas burner like that. Was this a manufactured unit that you purchased and installed?

    STEVE: Yes. Yeah, it was – it all just came – all we really had to do was just pretty much plunk the thing down and hook up the gas.

    TOM: Well, you certainly don’t want to mess with the manufacturer’s design, because that was very specifically designed to do a certain job. And if you start drilling bigger holes in it, you could create something that’s very dangerous. 

    But let me just ask you this: is this natural gas or propane?

    STEVE: It’s natural gas. Yeah, when we landscaped the yard, we had a natural-gas line run out to the area of the yard. Then we poured a really nice, big, oh, 18-circular-foot pad out there. And then the – and then stubbed it right in the middle, so that’s where the fire pit is.

    TOM: Alright. Have you checked the gas pressure to make sure that it’s where you expect it to be?

    STEVE: No. I’m not really sure, no.

    TOM: I would have a plumber check the gas pressure to make sure that the gas pressure is correct. If you have low gas pressure, that could account for the low flame.

    The other thing I would do is contact the manufacturer to find out what flame level that’s designed for, because it might be doing exactly what it’s intended to do. And if you add more – if you try to modify that, it could be, certainly, dangerous. So we’d not encourage you to drill out the burner or anything of that nature. I would encourage you to check the gas level – the gas-pressure level – as well as the valves that service it, because something is partially closed or you just don’t have enough pressure coming through that line, for whatever reason. That could also be the solution, as well.

    Steve, 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.

    Hey, guys. Don’t forget about the moms in your lives. We’ve got Mother’s Day coming up real soon, so maybe there’s a project you want to help Mom tackle or maybe you want to surprise her with a great something in her money pit. Give us a call; we’ll help you do just that, 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’ve got tips on the easy way to get windows sparkling, including a recipe for a natural window cleaner you can mix from common household ingredients.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: So glad you’ve joined us today. Give us a call with your home improvement question. We’ve got the answers to help you out and an opportunity to win a fantastic prize, because this hour we’re giving away the PlantLink.

    Now, PlantLink actually makes watering simple and efficient. By combining moisture sensors with the PlantLink app, it lets you know when your plants need water. All you do is place the links in the soil or outdoors. The system will calibrate to the plant’s watering needs using a catalog of over 50,000 plants. So you’ll never worry about over- or under-watering again.

    It’s available at HomeDepot.com for $79 but it’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Donna in Tennessee has got a funky guesthouse. Let’s just call it that.

    What’s going on, Donna?

    DONNA: We have been in this property – on this property – for two-and-a-half years. And when we purchased the property, the guesthouse had tenants. And they moved out a little over a year-and-a-half ago. However, there’s a very funky odor in the house that, instead of fading over time, is becoming more and more prevalent. The odor is best described, perhaps, as a stale cologne, so it’s not very pleasant.

    LESLIE: Stale cologne. That’s interesting because, generally, when you get a funky odor in a space that’s not used that often, it usually has something to do with a sink not getting water down it and the trap drying out and sewer gases coming back up. So you could get a funky sewer smell but cologne? Are you sure the house isn’t haunted?

    DONNA: We did pull up any carpeting that was in the house. And there wasn’t that much; it was just in the bedroom and the bathroom. The rest of the floors are wood and tile.

    TOM: Have you done any painting yet?

    DONNA: No. It had been – it was fairly recently painted prior to our purchasing the house and so I didn’t. However, after the tenants moved out, I really thoroughly cleaned the house. Actually, we moved all the appliances, everything like that. But I haven’t repainted.

    TOM: Well, I’ve got to tell you that sometimes when a house is empty, it tends to get a little dank sometimes. Are you running the heating system the way you would if somebody was living there?

    DONNA: No.

    TOM: Yeah. So you get more moisture and sometimes there can be odors associated with that. So unless it’s really pervasive, I don’t think I would worry too much about it. You’re doing the right things. You pulled up the carpet. If you haven’t painted and you’re going to paint, I would suggest one additional step and that is to make sure you prime the walls. Because if there’s anything in the walls, that will block it.

    DONNA: Mm-hmm. What type of primer?

    TOM: Well, you could use an alkyd primer, which is a water-based primer, or you could use an oil-based primer: something like KILZ or B-I-N or one of the Behr products. But the primer is kind of the glue that makes the paint stick and will also seal in any stains that have absorbed into the walls themselves.

    DONNA: OK. So if it is the paint, then the primer could actually …

    TOM: Right, exactly. In fact, sometimes we tell people that when they have carpets that are very odorous, to also prime the plywood floor before they put new carpet back down again.

    DONNA: Hmm. OK.

    TOM: Because if anything kind of soaked through the carpet and got into the floor, that’s a way to kind of seal it off.

    DONNA: OK. Very good.

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

    LESLIE: Tony in Florida is on the line with some noisy plumbing. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    TONY: It’s in the walls. It seems like the clanking is going on in the walls. And I can’t get to the pipes because they’re hidden – they’re all covered by the walls. So every time I put the faucet on, hot or cold, bang, it’s one slam and that’s it. That’s what I get. And I’m just wondering, is there some easy, quick fix for something like that, you know?

    TOM: Yeah. So does this happen, Tony, when you open and close the faucets? Is that when it’s worst?

    TONY: Correct.

    TOM: Alright. That’s called “water hammer.” And what water hammer is – you have to remember that water is very heavy; it weighs, actually, 8 pounds per gallon. And so, as the water is traveling through the plumbing line and you open or close a faucet, the inertia of that water just keeps moving. And it’ll shake the pipe and that’s what makes the banging sound. And of course, pipes transmit sound like crazy and so you’re getting that kind of sound to it.

    So, what can you do? There’s two things that you can do. All the piping that you could possibly access – so that would be like in the basement or crawlspace or attic. Any place where you can see a pipe, you want to add some additional strapping to the wall so that takes some of the bounce out of it.

    The second thing that you can do is you can install – or have a plumber install – something called a “water-hammer arrestor,” which is, essentially, a shock absorber for a plumbing system. And it will take that inertia from the water and absorb it slowly so it doesn’t bang the pipe.

    But what you’re describing is a very typical, very normal condition in an older house. Generally, unless it’s really super-bad, doesn’t cause damage. But it’s more of an annoyance than anything else.

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

    LESLIE: Well, now that the weather is warm, it’s a great time to brighten up your windows and let the sunshine in. After a long winter, a lot of dirt and grime and even salt and sand from your driveway can accumulate on your windows.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. So to get the windows clean and sparkling again, you want to mix 1 part white vinegar with 10 parts water. Then just use old, cotton socks to wipe them clean. I like the socks idea because they can go on right over your hands and you can get into all those nooks and crannies, all the corners and all the grooves, leaving the glass shiny and bright.

    LESLIE: Joyce in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    JOYCE: Have an in-law apartment and someone who was living there for a while was smoking. And we wanted to do whatever we could to get the smell of the smoke out of the apartment.

    TOM: Do you have wall-to-wall carpet in there?

    JOYCE: There is.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s going to be a bit of a problem because I’m sure the odor is into that carpet.

    So, a couple things you could do. First of all, if you’re going to paint the apartment, you’re going to want to prime all the walls first. Well, first of all, wash them down, then prime them with a good-quality primer, then paint them. That will help seal in what’s gotten into the walls.

    As far as the carpet, a good, thorough, deep steam-cleaning of that. You may have to go over it a number of times to try to get as much dirt and debris and odor out of that carpet as possible. I mean the best thing – if we have situations where this is a real problem, the carpet’s kind of worn, we’ll tell people to take it up and prime the subfloor underneath, believe it or not, to make sure we really seal out any of those odors that have soaked into the wood. But if you prime and paint the walls and if you steam-clean the carpet, that’s probably the best you can do.

    What about furniture? Is this place furnished? Do you still have the old furniture in there that the smoker lived with?

    JOYCE: The only furniture that’s really in there is a leather living-room set.

    TOM: Leslie, what do you think about that? Will the smoke odor get into the – go through the leather and get into the cushions?

    LESLIE: You know, leather is such a natural surface that it is porous in its own right and it depends on what the cushioning is on the inside. You really have to be careful and of course, you can’t really thoroughly clean leather because of its inherent natural qualities. You don’t want it to stain. You might want to see what those cushions are like on the inside. Take out the inserts. If you can replace those, that could be a huge help.

    JOYCE: OK, great. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Rich in Illinois needs some help with a painting project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    RICH: I’m working on a house that I’ve been living in since 1988. And the bottom four sections of my steel siding keep peeling. It’s like a 30-foot-long piece. Each piece is 8 inches wide. And it has a wood-grain pattern on it; looks like it’s been stamped. And every two years, I approach this project. First time, I took a wire brush to it and knocked all the loose off and primed it. And two years later, I was doing it again. 

    And every year, I try a different method. I tried a wire wheel on a drill. Last year, I took an air compressor and a hose and a drill and a wire wheel and went down to the bare metal.

    TOM: Wow.

    RICH: And went to the paint store and they gave me some primer and some paint. And seemed like everything I try – I wash it with paint thinner sometimes before I do it. Sometimes I just use soap and water. I always make sure it’s a nice, dry day – about 80 degrees – when I paint it. And it seems to always come back about every two to three years.

    I know it should be replaced but I kind of like the siding. But it’s steel and it’s – the company is no longer in business now and so the warranty is up on it.

    TOM: And there’s different qualities of steel. So even if it had a rust-resistant finish on it, it could have just worn off. And I wonder if whatever process they used is what’s causing the paint to not stick.

    When you prime it, are you using an oil-based primer or are you using an alkyd primer?

    RICH: Both. I’ve used both. I don’t know if it’s the primer that I use or if it’s – I’ve even went down to no paint at all and just the galvanized showing and – I don’t know. I don’t know what it – I don’t know if it’s the primer or what I’m using to wash the siding with that’s causing it or it’s the paint. I tried four or five different kinds of paint on this and primer.

    TOM: What I would do – I mean if I was priming it – and you may have done this already. But what I would do is I would use same manufacturer’s primer and paint. So, for example, I don’t think you can go wrong with Rust-Oleum. That’s pretty much one of the best metal paints of all. 

    I would use the red Rust-Oleum primer – the oil-based primer – and I would let it thoroughly dry after you knock off all the loose paint and sand it and make sure the surface is ready to accept it. But I would use the oil-based Rust-Oleum primer which, by the way, takes forever to dry. Depends on the weather but three or four or five hours is not unusual. And then, I would use the Rust-Oleum topcoat. Again, oil-based. And I rarely recommend oil-based but in this situation, I think that’s what’s going to give you the best adhesion.

    Now, Rich, there’s one other piece of advice that we could offer you on this and it comes from a process that’s very – that’s done very often when people work on cars. There’s a product called Prep-Sol – P-r-e-p-S-o-l. And it’s a solvent that’s designed to be applied to bare metal before the primer. You might want to look that up as – I don’t know what – you said you were using a solvent. I don’t know if you were using mineral salt – mineral spirits or something like that – but this is specifically made for it. Just Google it. It’s called Prep-Sol – P-r-e-p – S-o-l. And it’s a cleaning solvent.

    RICH: OK. Do I apply it with a brush or a rag or …?

    TOM: You apply it with a rag. Use a clean cloth and you apply it – you soak it in with the cloth.

    RICH: Yeah, I’ll try that. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come, if you have a detached garage, maybe a shed or a gazebo that you want to put electricity in, running extension cords is really the easiest fix. But laying underground wiring is much safer and guys, it’s going to look much neater.

    TOM: We’ll have tips on how to do this project properly from This Old House electrical contractor Scott Caron, after this.

    JOE: Hey, this is Joe Namath. And let me tell you, it’s no fun getting sacked, believe me, especially by your home improvement project. Stay in the game and listen to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    TOM: Making good homes better, 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, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ann on The Money Pit who’s got a question about a porch. How can we help you today?

    ANN: Our front porch, I guess, has settled. And there’s a huge crack and it goes completely through the whole slab of concrete. How would we go about economically fixing that or is it possible without having to repour the whole thing? And it’s like a slab on top of bricks, so there is a hollow spot underneath the slab.

    TOM: OK. So it’s broken in two? And can you see through the crack into the sort of the void below?

    ANN: You can’t exactly see through but it is a wide crack. It’s wide enough to see. Not all the way through, though.

    TOM: What you would do is if it’s wide enough where it’s not going to hold a patching material, you would put something in there first called “backer rod,” which is like a foam road. And it comes in different diameters. And that would sit just below the surface of the crack, maybe a ¼- to ½-inch below the surface of the crack. And then you would repair that crack with a flowable caulk, like a flowable urethane? Or I know that QUIKRETE has some patching materials that will also work.

    And that backer rod keeps that seal up towards the surface – does that make sense? – and doesn’t fall down in. So it’s not like you’ve got to put coat after coat after coat. And that flowable urethane will expand and contract with the concrete slab. So you don’t have to tear it out and replace it; you just have to fix it correctly.

    ANN: Alright. Thanks for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you’d like to add lights to your yard or you have a detached garage, shed or gazebo that needs power, you might be running heavy-duty extension cords to get that electrical source. It’s a quick fix, it’s temporary and it’s not the best solution.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, if you need to run electricity from your home to another structure, the better option is to install an underground cable. Now, this is a project that you can start yourself, perhaps, to save some money. Here to tell us how to go about it is Scott Caron, the master electrician from TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Scott.

    SCOTT: Hey, Tom and Leslie. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: Hey, it’s our pleasure.

    So, outdoor living is all the rage today, right? And includes improving lighting but it’s an area where electricity and water actually have to mix. And that’s a potentially dangerous combination if you don’t do it right, correct?

    SCOTT: Yes, it certainly is. It’s not a difficult thing to do. However, it has to be done perfectly so that you don’t have a dangerous situation.

    TOM: OK. So probably not a DIY project?

    SCOTT: Partially, Tom. The worst part about bringing power outside is burying the wire and we have to dig a trench to do that, anywhere from 12 to 18 inches deep. That’s where a homeowner can really help out.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s probably good advice.

    So, where do we begin?

    SCOTT: Well, the biggest thing that a homeowner can do to help save money is digging. And that is usually the first step is to dig a trench from the home to wherever it is that you want the electricity to go, whether it’s a garage or a detached building of some sort or maybe you have an outdoor patio area. That’s the biggest thing and the hole has to be pretty deep – 12 to 18 inches – depending on exactly what you’re doing.

    LESLIE: Scott, I think a lot of times people just want to dig and start working on a project and you hope you find a buried treasure. But more likely, you’re going to find a water pipe or some sort of electrical line. How do you know what’s underneath the ground?

    SCOTT: You have to call 811. It’s a utility-locating service. That will get you a good start. Unfortunately, they don’t always cover the small stuff in the backyard, like your irrigation systems and maybe an old water line that your grandfather ran to a well someplace. But it’ll get you started. And with the small sprinkler stuff, you can usually fix that pretty easily.

    TOM: Now, what kind of cable do we use to run outside? Is that different than the wiring that’s run inside a house?

    SCOTT: Generally, with direct-burial cable, it’s called – it is an encapsulated wiring system or a structure that has everything well protected. So you can put this stuff right in the ground. We like to put a little sand around it as a warning area. So if somebody is digging in the future – and we put a piece of tape on top that says, “Hey. Hold on a second. There’s wires here. Stop digging. Find out what’s going on.” And it helps us out.

    TOM: So this encapsulated cable – if you use it, you don’t have to have the wiring encased in any type of conduit?

    SCOTT: No. Just if you’re coming up out of the ground, it’s a good idea to encase it in this plastic PVC conduit.

    Now, Tom, digging is not my favorite thing. If you’re a homeowner and you know how to use a gas- or diesel-powered trencher, it could be some fun. Had people in the past rent these machines. They’ll dig a trench and it’ll go anywhere they went to go with it, so …

    TOM: So that’s potentially a way to save a little money, save you some aggravation and get the job done.

    SCOTT: It is. Definitely. Yep.

    TOM: Now, since we’re talking about electricity and water, what special considerations do you have to enable to make sure that there’s not going to be a shock situation?

    SCOTT: Well, if you know a licensed electrician, you can have them looking over your shoulder while you’re doing it but it has to be protected by a GFCI outlet or a GFCI circuit breaker. There’s a couple different ways of doing it but you’ve got to consult with an electrician or have them – maybe buy them a couple beers or whatever.

    TOM: Yeah. Buy them the beer after he does your project.

    SCOTT: Exactly. You’ve got it.

    TOM: We’re talking to Scott Caron. He’s the master electrician from TV’s This Old House.

    So what are some of the common places that folks run these cables for what kind of projects?

    SCOTT: Well, I’ve seen hot tubs put in the middle of their yard. I’ve seen people need power to their garage, either for a small shop or lighting or a garage-door opener. Recently, this past summer, we did an outdoor kitchen, which required a lot of power because they had two refrigerators out there. They had cooktops, they had three or four different types of grills.

    So, wherever you want to live inside and whatever your needs are inside, generally, they’re taking them outside now. People like the outside. They want to be – have that in their experience in their lives, so …

    TOM: And as you say, there’s a right way to do that. You can pretty much have all the convenience of electricity, whether you are out or in.

    Scott Caron from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    SCOTT: Tom and Leslie, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    Up next, when you walk across your yard after a storm, are there soggy spots that just go squish? Well, the solution is just ahead.

    KEVIN: Are you looking for a little help with your home improvement projects? Ask This Old Houseis ready to lend a hand, every week, on public television. Our team of experts travels the country to answer your questions and teach practical home repair lessons to people just like you. Whether we’re replacing a toilet in San Francisco, fixing a window in West Virginia or planting a garden in Florida, we’ll teach you the skills you need to do the job yourself. Tune in to Ask This Old House on PBS. Visit ThisOldHouse.com for your local listings.

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    TOM: What’s the first step of any building or repair project? I always make sure I have the tools and materials I need, starting with the QUIKRETE mobile app. With easy, one-touch access, you can watch project video instructions, quickly pull up a materials shopping list and make sure you have what you need. Or use the app to figure out how much you need and find out where to buy it. You can even share your finished project via the QUIKShare function. It’s the tool you can use, from start to finish. Download the QUIKRETE mobile app on the App Store or Google Play today.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to help you with whatever it is you are working on at your money pit. Plus, we’re giving away a great prize this hour and it’s very spring-y, this prize. We’ve got up for grabs the PlantLink.

    Now, the PlantLink is a very cool smart-home product and it makes watering simple and efficient. It combines moisture sensors with the PlantLink app. And PlantLink will then let you know when your plants are needing water. You just simply place the links in the soil, indoors or outdoors, and the system will then calibrate to the plant’s watering needs using their catalog of over 50,000 plants. So, guys, if you can’t keep your plants blooming and gorgeous with the PlantLink, then you definitely have a brown thumb. You guys never have to worry about over- or under-watering again.

    It’s available at the HomeDepot.com but it’s yours if you are our lucky caller this hour. And it’s a prize worth $79.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: George in Iowa is on the line with a decking question. What can we do for you today?

    GEORGE: The wife and I have done the sealing with the deck twice. And both times – the first time, it lasted a year and it peeled up. And we sealed it again last year and it peeled up again this time after the winter snow had melted. So, we’re not sure if you have any tips or some advice for us to help us out there.

    TOM: Well, you might want to think about doing a deck do-over where you just pull off the decking material and add a composite deck. Keep the structure. You won’t have to do this again.

    Some of the decking sealants, if you don’t strip down to the original lumber, they never absorb properly and they’ll bead up and they’ll peel off. So, your options are – to do that, strip off everything that you have there and you’ve literally got to strip it off down to the wood and sand it. And then you can use a primer and a solid-color stain and that will give you the maximum chance of adhering.

    The other thing you might want to think about doing, as I mentioned earlier, is doing sort of a deck makeover where you pull up the deck boards and then you replace just the deck surface boards with a composite, like Veranda, for example, which is available at The Home Depot. And this way, you’ll never have to worry about staining again. You can even keep your existing railing or you could go further and change out the railing, as well.

    But it doesn’t affect the structure of the deck because the material is still sitting on top of the old original joist. Just that the deck surface has now been completely made-over. It looks great and you never have to worry about staining or sealing again. Because it’s a lot of work and you don’t want to have to do it every year, that’s for sure. Make sense?

    GEORGE: Yep, that makes sense. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

    TOM: George, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, with spring rains, you may have noticed that your lawn is starting to show areas where water is puddling up. Now, not only are these areas hard to use but that standing water can actually become a mosquito breeding ground, not to mention a really hard place for your lawn to just strictly survive.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. That’s why this is one of several good spots for a catch basin. Now, a catch basin does just that: it catches water right where the buildup occurs, whether that’s in the middle of your yard or perhaps at the end of a downspout, and then diverts that water to safe areas away from structures or areas that don’t drain well.

    Now, Home Depot offers a catch basin two-opening kit by NVS Drainage, which is really perfect for this.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, it features a UV-resistant, one-piece, injection-molded structural polypropylene construction. And that makes it really super strong. Each kit is going to include the basin, the grate, two outlets and a plug, all for under $52. And there are even decorative grates available if you’d like to dress up the catch basin even further.

    TOM: Now, catch basins are a really handy way to collect excess surface water from lawn and landscape areas or even driveways and garages. In fact, when properly installed, it’s even tough enough for light vehicles to drive over. The NVS Drainage 12×12 Catch Basin Kit is priced at under $52 at Home Depot and online at HomeDepot.com.

    LESLIE: Jackie in Illinois is looking for some small garden-décor tips. What’s going on? Tell us about your space.

    JACKIE: I just purchased my home. It’ll be a year the second of next month. And my yard is big enough for me but yet small enough for anybody else. What I would like to do is put a garden area up along the west side of my fence without having to dig the yard up and make the yard look real tacky. Do you have any hints, suggestions, ideas?

    LESLIE: So, you have a fence along this one wall. You want to put a garden or a flowerbed in front of that. What is the rest of the space?

    JACKIE: Well, it’s – my backyard is fenced in.


    JACKIE: And from my garage, which is on the east side of the property, clean clear to the west side, I get plenty of sunlight.

    LESLIE: OK. But is it grass? Is it patio?

    JACKIE: The biggest portion of the yard is grass. I’ve got a small patio area right next to the garage. And if I could just put a flowerbed or a place that I can put a small garden, it’s what I would like to do. I’d kind of like to use the landscape lumber but I don’t know how much to get or how to go about putting it up.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, my first thought, since you’ve got this patio area in front of the garage and the garage is probably just a blank wall of whatever the siding material is, my first thought is to do a great, little seating area in front of there.

    And you need to think about, you know, are you looking to sit at a table or do you want to sit at a small settee, a little couch area with a chair? So think about how you would like to use that space. Are you looking for eating and entertaining or more like lounging and relaxing?

    JACKIE: Mainly eating and entertaining.

    LESLIE: Yeah. So definitely a table, umbrella, some chairs there. That’s great and does not have to cost a ton of money. I mean you can find some at home centers, department stores that specialize in home décor, for very affordable amounts.

    Now, on that back wall with the garage that’s kind of lackluster, you can either do a trelliswith some potted plants on either side, with a climber, like a clematis or an ivy or a night-blooming jasmine, something that will sort of grow up and out of the pots and onto the trellis.

    I did this on the side of my garage with two potted clematis and I have this beautiful, wrought-iron trellis that I found that I’ve put twinkling white Christmas lights on and the clematis sort of takes over it in the summer months and blooms and smells fantastic. And it’s just lovely to sit in front of. You can do something like that very inexpensively and very easily, as well.

    Now, as far as a flowerbed on the opposite side, you’re really not going to sacrifice that much yard space if you do dig up a portion of that lawn. And that really is the best way to do it to create a flowerbed.

    And what you can do is you can use either that landscaping lumber or even stones – river rock or fieldstones – stacked up to create a little wall for a flowerbed. Just remove that layer of grass, fill it in with potting soil and plant away. And that really is a great way to create a flowerbed. And if you go sort of creatively with your shape and edge it a bit, you’re not giving up that much lawn space.

    JACKIE: I thank you so much for your help and I greatly appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Well, now that the weather is mild, this is really the perfect time to take on an attic insulation project before it gets ridiculously hot in your attic. Because, remember, you want your attic to feel like what it feels like outside. So, come the summer, it’s going to be hot. We’re going to share tips on how to insulate the most difficult spaces in your home, after this.

    TOM: 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: Now, you can call your home improvement questions in to 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can head on over to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit and post them there, as well. And that’s what Anna did.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Anna writes: “We bought a house made in 1960 in Southern California. It has vaulted ceilings and no attic. There was never any insulation put in the walls of the house or above the ceiling. During the summer, it gets really hot upstairs. We have installed ceiling fans. There’s no air conditioning. We’ve not yet experienced a winter here. Can we install – blow insulation into the walls, ceiling? Would it be worth it?”

    TOM: Wow. This is a tough situation. When you have a home that’s structured without an attic, so all you have are essentially rafters that are drywall on the bottom and then roofing on the other side, it’s very difficult, even if you were to insulate that space, to get enough insulation to make any type of an impact whatsoever. The real opportunity here, Anna, will be when it’s time to replace your roof, because you can actually add insulation on top of this existing roof and then reroof over that. It’s kind of a sandwich assembly that would do that.

    In the meanwhile, there’s really very limited options for you to insulate the existing ceiling or wall structures. And probably the only one that makes any sense is blown-in insulation. The only concern I have, though, is that you really don’t have enough ventilation. And if you get a moisture buildup, it could lead to inefficient insulation or it could lead to even decay. So what you might want to do is go ahead with the blown-in. But make sure you add soffit vents and ridge vents so at least you can move some air through that rafter bay. And you can also add blown-in insulation to the walls. It could be applied from the outside or the inside, depending on the siding or the wall finish, because you do have to drill holes in the wall – about a 1-inch hole or so – so you that you can get the nozzle in to blow in the insulation.

    Now, make sure the company that you work with, Anna, does an infrared scan of the walls and the ceiling before and after the insulation project. With an infrared scanner, you can tell the areas that are hot or cold or most importantly, insulated or not insulated. And it can tell them if they’ve missed any areas, because you could have some odd framing or some reason that the insulation gets kind of jammed up in that space. You want to make sure it’s thorough and continuous and that every open bay of the roof or every open bay of the wall, the space between the studs, is fully insulated.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that really does tell you exactly what’s going on behind the walls.

    Next up, we’ve got a post here from Phil who writes: “Can I use hardwood planks in my basement? We’ve extended gutters and a French drain, which empties into two different sump pumps, so water is not a problem. If I do go with wood, do I need to put anything underneath between the concrete and the underlayment?”

    Don’t go with wood. Let’s just say that.

    TOM: Yeah. Really bad idea. And by the way, you’ve extended gutters into a French drain? That’s kind of odd. Basically, you want to extend gutters, period, away from your house. Or you could extend them, as we were mentioning earlier, to a catch basin and have that drain off to, say, an emitter or out to the street if that’s possible.

    But generally speaking, you cannot put solid-hardwood floor in a basement, a below-grade space. It’s too damp, too moist. Just the humidity is too much and it’ll swell, it’ll buckle and will make you a very unhappy camper.

    What you can put is engineered hardwood, which is a slightly different type of hardwood where it’s made up of different layers of wood that are glued together at 90-degree angles. That’s a dimensionally-stable product and it can be applied to the basement.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? If you want to warm it up a little bit, you can use area rugs. But you have to make sure that you put a product that can withstand moisture. So either a laminate or an engineered hardwood and it’ll be good to go.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this beautiful spring weekend with us. If you’ve got questions, you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions online at 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 2016 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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