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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: Happy Holidays, everybody. Hope you are enjoying a wonderful holiday weekend in your money pit. If you are getting ready for some guests, maybe have a last-minute repair to tackle, we’d love to help you with that. We are here to help you solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Maybe you got a stain in that tablecloth – you just pulled it out from last year, you don’t know what to do with it – call us. We’ll help you get rid of it. Maybe you had some lights go out, maybe you’ve got power problems, maybe you’ve decided that you’re going to take the last day before people show up at your house for a holiday dinner – say, a holiday cocktail – and paint a room. I don’t know, something crazy like that.

    LESLIE: Maybe that holiday cocktail inspired that room painting?

    TOM: Call us. We will help you get the job done. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Maybe you’re planning your New Year’s resolutions early. We can help you with that.

    Coming up this hour, if you have a formal living room, you probably have it all decked out right now. But you know that they tend to be wasted space that get traffic only a few times a year, like right now. So we’ve got some tips this hour on how you can turn that space into a room that you can use every day, including the holidays, and you’ll have that in just a few minutes.

    LESLIE: Plus, the bathroom, it can be a pretty tough place to navigate if you’ve got the wrong faucets or fixtures. So we’re going to have tips on how make a bathroom that’s beautiful, safe and accessible for all ages, coming up.

    TOM: Also ahead, stairs can be one of the most dangerous parts of your home but they can be even more risky without the right railings, many of which are improperly designed or installed. We’re going to tell you how to make sure your house is safe.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away the Stanley 170-Piece Mechanics Tool Set. It’s worth 75 bucks. It’s a really great prize. If you want to check it out, head on over to MoneyPit.com and you can see it in real life.

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

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Kim in Missouri is having some issues with a heat pump. To quote her directly: “It wigs out at 32 degrees or below.”

    Welcome, Kim. What’s going on?

    KIM: Yes, I’ve just noticed that my heat pump, when it hits around freezing or below – and that it just doesn’t keep up anymore. It just …

    TOM: So does it get cold in the house when that happens?

    KIM: Yes, yes.

    TOM: OK. So, let’s just talk a bit about the way heat pumps work, because there is a secondary system built into it that may not be functioning properly. Heat pumps have an electric-resistance furnace built into them, as well.

    And what happens with a heat pump is if you set your thermostat at, I don’t know, say, 72 and it falls to 71 or 70, the heat pump stays on and tries to maintain it to get it back up to 72. When it gets to 69 or below, the heat pump says, “Whoa, I can’t keep up with this, so I’m going to bring on my electric backup resistance heat to bring it back up to within that 2-degree differential.”

    Now, if there’s something wrong with the resistance-heat component of your heat pump, that could be why it’s not keeping up, especially in super-cold temperatures. So, that is most likely the source of this issue.

    KIM: OK. OK. But …

    TOM: And it’s a call to a service man to make sure because – do you have, on your thermostat itself, a setting that says “emergency heat”?

    KIM: Yes, I do. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Now, have you ever put it on there and had it work fine?

    KIM: Yes, when I switch it over to there – to that – this red light comes on and the heat comes out warm.

    TOM: Yep. That’s right. Because that is turning on, without the switchover happening, the electric furnace. I suspect there’s a problem with your control circuit and it’s not balancing between the two.

    KIM: Oh, OK.

    TOM: When you manually turn it on, you’re actually turning the heat pump off and the electric furnace on; that’s what the emergency heat setting is.

    KIM: Oh, OK.

    TOM: So we know we have coils that work, we know we have a heat pump that works; they just don’t work together.

    KIM: OK.

    TOM: So, I think that’s probably the heart of the situation.

    KIM: OK, OK. So I just need to have somebody come and look at that then and fix it.

    TOM: Yep. Alright, Kim?

    KIM: Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright. Yeah, good luck. Yeah, because you don’t want to run that electric furnace a lot, because it costs about two or three times as much to run that as it does to run the heat pump.

    KIM: OK. That makes sense. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Travis is updating the basement and needs some help with this project. What can we do for you?

    TRAVIS: Well, my man-cave is almost finished, so I’m really excited.

    LESLIE: Alright.

    TRAVIS: All I’ve got left to do is essentially buy the commode and vanity for my bathroom. Then the plumber will come out, hook everything up, put in the pump that will pump everything up.

    TOM: OK.

    TRAVIS: But I’m a little concerned. When it comes chili-and-poker night and my big buddies come over, I don’t want to have a wimpy commode. And I’m a little worried about going out and buying something off the shelf.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TRAVIS: I was hoping maybe you guys could advise me, so I’m not embarrassed when my friends come over.

    TOM: Well, there is a company that specializes in upflow toilets. It’s called Saniflo – S-a-n-i-f-l-o – and they’ve been around for many, many years and they’ve got toilets that are, I think, chili and baked bean-proof (inaudible at 0:06:25).

    LESLIE: Oh, Tom.

    TRAVIS: That’s good because when the guys come over, that last thing I want to be worried about is something going wrong in a basement with plumbing.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah. Yep.

    LESLIE: I don’t want to know about this.

    TOM: And you can hook this up so that the vanity – the sink – can drain into it, too. And basically, it’s a pump that will take all the effluent, pump it up, pump it out and works completely automatically.

    TRAVIS: And it’s powerful, right?

    TOM: Very powerful.

    LESLIE: Gross.

    TOM: Can handle …

    TRAVIS: Like I said, I’ve got big friends. They’re big geeks on poker and I’ve got to take care of them.

    TOM: Yes. Alright. TMI, TMI – too much information.

    TRAVIS: Great show, as always, guys. Thanks for all the help.

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

    LESLIE: Oh, thank you.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We hope that you are enjoying your holiday weekend. If there’s anything you need help with before the guests arrive, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We are here to give you a hand.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, you know that formal living room that so many of us have? When do you use it? This weekend? When else do you use it? Never. You want to change that? We’ve got tips on how you can make great use of that space all year long. That’s coming up, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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: Happy Holidays, everybody. Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT if you’ve got a home improvement question that you’d like to answer. Perhaps it’s a do-it-yourself dilemma that you’ve got planned for early next year. Perhaps it is in response to a New Year’s resolution that your spouse made you take. We can help you get the job done the easy way.

    Call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, we’ll toss your name in a Money Pit hard hat, because we’re giving away this hour a 170-Piece Mechanics Tool Set from Stanley worth 75 bucks. It comes with all the sockets, ratchets and wrenches that you’ll ever need. And this set is full polished chrome, so it’s anti-corrosive. It’s got a durable carrying case and a lifetime warranty. Learn more at Stanley.com or call us right now for your chance to win. The number again is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Give us a call. We’d love to help you with whatever it is you are working on.

    And right now, we want to talk about living rooms, because there’s a good chance you’re sitting in your formal living room right now, enjoying the holidays, enjoying the money pit. But generally, a formal space like this barely gets used. So why not take that space and create an area that your family can actually use all the time?

    Now, if you walk directly into the living room from your front door, a library or even a reading den is a perfect alternative. You know, you could also turn it into a music lounge, which is perfect for a piano or maybe if your kids practice the violin or the recorder. Whatever it is, it’s a great space and you can really use it to house your family’s entertainment system. So it’s a good idea and you’ll use it far more often.

    TOM: Here’s another bold idea for a living room and that is you can use that larger living room space as a formal dining room. Now think about it: many of these formal living rooms have beautiful windows, they’ve got a majestic fireplace. You can use that as a formal dining room. It’ll get much more use.

    And then the smaller, formal dining room space that you had? Well, why not turn that into a reading den, say, a small family room or even a home office. It’s right off the kitchen; it’s a perfect place for that.

    Be creative as you think about that space. You will find many, many options to help you use it more effectively all year long.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? If you’re just stumped and you really want to get some really fantastic ideas, head on over to MoneyPit.com, search “living room” and right there, at the stroke of a keyboard, you are going to find some great ideas. And you can start thinking about your New Year’s resolution to change that living space into a space you’ll use.

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

    LESLIE: Jodi in Indiana is working on a flooring project. How can we help you with that?

    JODI: Yes, I have a question about my floor. I’m taking out a center wall and I have asphalt tiles on one side, which are the way really old ones, and I have vinyl tiles on the other. Do I have to remove the entire floor and start over to put hardwood floors down?

    TOM: You’re going to use engineered hardwood or are you going to use standard hardwood? Is it prefinished? What kind of hardwood is it, Debbie?

    JODI: It’s prefinished.

    TOM: OK. And so you have asphalt tiles on one side and vinyl tiles on the other?

    JODI: Right. Right.

    TOM: Are they adhered well? Are they loose and popping up?

    JODI: No, they’re (inaudible at 0:11:23).

    TOM: There’s no reason you can’t go on top of them then.

    JODI: I guess …

    TOM: They’re not very thick, so they’re not contributing to the thickness of the floor. So you can basically lay your new hardwood floor – your prefinished hardwood floor – right on top of that.

    JODI: So I can nail through it?

    TOM: Certainly. I don’t see any reason you can’t do that. And some of the prefinished, though, is actually click-together. Is this a nail installation?

    JODI: No, mine has to be nailed.

    TOM: OK. Yeah, I don’t see why you can’t do that.

    JODI: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Dennis in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

    DENNIS: In my home, on the foundation, I have about a dozen or 14 foundation vents. They measure 8 inches by 16 inches and they have the capability of being opened or closed.

    TOM: Yep.

    DENNIS: You know, they have the screen on to prevent bugs from getting in.

    TOM: Yeah. Uh-huh, yep.

    DENNIS: Now, should they be opened in the summer or closed in the winter or vice versa? I’m unclear.

    TOM: Sure.

    DENNIS: Maybe you can help me out.

    TOM: Yeah, well, the job of the vents is to basically keep the crawlspace area as dry as possible. So here’s what you want to do: in your area, probably for a good 10 months of the year, you’re going to have them open. You can close them in the winter months when it gets really cold and the air is drier; there’s less moisture in it. But for the most part, you want to have the vents open so that the crawlspace can vent.

    Now, in addition to that, make sure across the crawlspace floor that you have plastic sheeting. That stops a lot of moisture from wicking up through the floor and getting into that space in the first place. The reason you want the crawlspace dry is because you’re going to avoid mold and also, if you have insulation down there, if you keep it drier, it’s going to work better.

    DENNIS: Excellent. That answered my question. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got L.T. Cooper on the line from Texas. What can we do for you today?

    L.T.: Just got a question reference the advisability of cleaning ductworks, if you feel like there’s maybe an air-quality problem within a home.

    TOM: Well, if you think there’s an air-quality problem within the house, cleaning the ducts is not the first thing you want to do. What you’d want to do is look at the filter system. I presume you have a hot-air heating system or is this just for air conditioning?

    L.T.: It’s A/C and hot air. Air conditioning.

    TOM: OK. So what kind of a filter do you have on this, L.T.?

    L.T.: Fiberglass filters, mesh filters and the pleated filters.

    TOM: We call those rock-stoppers, because that’s about the size of the dust particle it has to be for them to stop it.

    L.T.: OK.

    TOM: What you really want to have is an electronic air cleaner.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Which will clean all the air in the house. Everything that goes through the system will be cleaned many times during the day as all of the air cycles through it.

    L.T.: OK. Where do you get an air – electronic air cleaner?

    TOM: You contact your HVAC professional. It has to be permanently installed. I’ll give you two good brands to look at: one is Trane CleanEffects and the second one is the Aprilaire.

    L.T.: Aprilaire.

    TOM: Yep. Both of those are excellent air cleaners and they’ll stop even virus-sized particles. So if you have a good filtration system on there like that, you’re not going to have to worry about what’s inside your ducts.

    L.T.: Right. OK. Well, I think that’s great. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. And you should be breathing a lot easier, L.T. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Do you know they say that the air inside your house is more polluted than the air outside?

    LESLIE: Yeah, like 90 percent more polluted.

    TOM: I believe it. I believe it.

    LESLIE: Of course. I mean you’ve the windows closed, you’re cooking, you’re cleaning, you’re doing everything. Everything stays in there.

    TOM: You’ve got all those kids breathing all the time, pets and …

    LESLIE: You’ve got gassy husbands, things.

    TOM: We’re living in a pollution stinkpot, being the family folks that we are.

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

    LESLIE: Toni in Alabama is dealing with an HVAC issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    TONI: Oh, hi. OK. I live in a ranch-style home.

    TOM: OK.

    TONI: And the fireplace is in the den and I’m fine during the wintertime. I can turn the heat on. No odor, no nothing. But come summertime, when the humidity goes high, there’s an awful odor of creosote that comes out into the room.

    TOM: Well, have you cleaned your fireplace, Toni?

    TONI: Oh, well, we had it cleaned when we – well, initially, when we burned wood in it. We’ve been here 30-some years and we burn wood.

    TOM: OK.

    TONI: Well, we decided we didn’t like that so we got a gas insert. And we had the chimney cleaned before and I personally got in there and cleaned all the brick that you can see, where you burn, you know.

    TOM: Right. Hmm. Well, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to have that chimney inspected because – I know you think it’s clean. It may not have been cleaned. I don’t know if you looked up inside of it or got up on the roof and looked down.

    But what I want to suggest you do is contact a professional home inspector and have them do the inspection. You want to find somebody who’s got a fair amount of experience. You can do that by going to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, at ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.o-r-g.

    And a good home inspector is going to go up on the roof, look down the chimney. You want to take a good look at what it looks like inside of it. Let’s make sure it truly is clean. Not that the chimney sweep you had would have done a bad job on purpose but we’ve seen it before, so let’s make sure that the chimney is very clean. Because if it’s still got some creosote in it, not only is it potentially dangerous, it also is going to react with the moisture. And because your return vent is right near there, it’s going to draw right into the house. So I think that’s the best place to start.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Saldana in Washington, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    SALDANA: I bought my house about four years ago and about a year ago, I came home one night – and it’s a two-story house – and went to take a shower and there was no water. And I went through the whole house and there was no water out of any of the outlets, upstairs or downstairs.

    TOM: OK.

    SALDANA: There’s two bathrooms and a kitchen. And I went outside to see if the water had been turned off, because that’s what it appeared to be. And it was totally on where it comes in from the public municipality.

    TOM: OK.

    SALDANA: So, then I thought, well, I wasn’t going to mess with it that night. Next morning, everything was fine, just like it had magically never happened. Then, a few months later, it happened again and it’s happened four or five times now.

    TOM: OK.

    SALDANA: Sometimes, the water is completely off; sometimes, it’s just barely running through. And I’ve turned on all the faucets at once and there have been areas (inaudible at 0:18:11).

    TOM: Right, OK. You have a – where the water comes into the house – you said it’s municipal water, so it’s not a well, correct?

    SALDANA: Right.

    TOM: And do you have a valve, that’s a pressure-reducing valve, at the main water line where it comes in?

    SALDANA: Ooh, that I don’t know. I don’t …

    TOM: Because I – it sounds like a valve problem.

    SALDANA: OK. And would that be the city’s valve problem or …?

    TOM: And I think that if the valve is getting a little bit wacky on you here, you could have a situation where it’s trying to adjust pressure and just getting stuck in the closed position. And then when the pressure changes on the street side, it releases and the water starts to flow again.

    LESLIE: And opens up wide.

    SALDANA: Hmm. OK.

    TOM: So I think it’s – a plumbing system is not that complicated; the valve’s either open or closed. But if you have one of these pressure-reduction valves, there’s some degree of automation to it and that might be exactly what’s happening.

    SALDANA: OK.

    TOM: Alright? So check that out. I think you may find your solution is right there.

    SALDANA: That would be from – that would be my valve and not the city’s valve.

    TOM: Yes, it would be usually on the house side of the main water line coming in.

    LESLIE: Correct. Which, of course, makes it your financial responsibility.

    TOM: That’s right.

    SALDANA: Oh, of course. I’ve got to find it.

    LESLIE: Lucky you.

    TOM: Right.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, it’s time to talk bathroom design. Many of us think that because we have a bathroom that perhaps is small, it is has so many built-in fixtures and faucets, it’s really difficult to make design changes. That’s just not true. There are many easy changes you can make that can improve the safety and the style of your bath. We’ll have those tips, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the HydroRight Drop-In Dual Flush Converter, proud sponsor of Water Conservation 2011. The HydroRight easily converts your toilet into a water- and money-saving dual-flush toilet. Push the quick-flush setting for liquids or the full-flush for more. Look for the HydroRight at The Home Depot and other fine retailers or visit SaveMyToilet.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: Happy Holidays, everybody. Hey, do you want to resolve to make big changes every year, not just on New Year’s? What about big changes at your money pit? We’re asking our listeners to head on over to Hometalk.com this week and post your New Year’s resolutions for your home. We would love to hear what you have planned for your home in terms of improvements in the coming year. Just look for our post on the New Year’s Resolutions Contest.

    Now, did I say “contest”? Yes, I did and that means there must be a great prize.

    LESLIE: That’s right. One post is going to be chosen at random and that person will win a $250 gift certificate to The Home Depot. Certainly a good start to whatever project you might be working on. So check out our page on Hometalk.com and share your home improvement resolutions with us today.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jerry on the line who’s dealing with some moss on a roof. What can we do for you?

    JERRY: Well, I have these wood shakes on my roof and they’re approximately 20 years old. And I have a lot of trees around my house, gets a lot of shade. And I was wondering if there was any kind of alternative to take care of that moss besides putting copper flashing up there. Roofer said that’d probably cost you $400 in flashing alone because I have so many peaks.

    TOM: Ah. OK. Well, let’s kind of back up here and talk about what caused it. You hit on some of the issues there. First of all, you had a lot of trees around your house. Are they still there or have they been trimmed back?

    JERRY: Oh, yeah. I’ve got real tall evergreen trees.

    TOM: OK. So, because you have a very shady roof, you have conditions that are very conducive to growing moss. If you could cut back some of those trees just a little bit, thin them out, get a little more sunlight on there, that would help.

    Now, your roofer suggesting the copper flashing on the ridge, he’s a smart guy because, basically, what’s happening with that – yep, good trick of the trade – is the rain hits the copper, it releases some of the metal, the metal runs down the roof and then cleans the moss.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s a good trick of the trade.

    TOM: So that’s kind of a natural mildicide.

    Now, there’s a good product out there, though, that if you apply it, will do a really good job of getting the moss off and keeping it off. It’s called Wet & Forget. Have you heard of this product?

    JERRY: No, I haven’t.

    TOM: It’s used by a lot of major folks like Sea World, for example. They have all of the issues with moisture and slippery sidewalks and grimy buildings from all the algae that grows. They use this product and a lot of homeowners use this product. Their website is WetAndForget.com. It’s not caustic, it’s not acidic and it doesn’t include bleach and you don’t have to pressure-wash with it. You just apply it and it does the job by itself.

    JERRY: Well, that sounds good.

    TOM: Take a look at that at WetAndForget.com. In fact, they have some before-and-after photos of roofing projects there that are particularly impressive.

    JERRY: Well, great. I’ll have to check that out.

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

    LESLIE: Well, it’s a good idea to plan for all stages of your life when you’re remodeling or even when you’re building from scratch, even if you are in perfect health right now. Hey, you never know what life may throw at you along the way.

    TOM: That’s right. And a universally-designed bathroom can do just that by simply making your bathroom accessible to people of all abilities. The host of This Old House, Kevin O’Connor, is here now to tell us more.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Thank you very much for having me, guys.

    TOM: Now, it sounds like making these bathroom alterations isn’t always that difficult.

    KEVIN: It’s not. And in fact, I think these are some great DIY projects. And you’ve got to keep in mind, you might not just be doing these for people who have physical disabilities; these make sense for anybody at any age. And they can really increase the amount of time that we spend in our houses comfortably.

    TOM: Really good point. And something as simple as a door knob. We’re so used to round door knobs but a lever handle is just easier to use.

    KEVIN: If your hands are arthritic, getting it around that round door knob and actually turning it left or right could be difficult. With a lever handle, you can actually use your palm, your elbow, your arm; it’s a lot easier to work on.

    TOM: Let alone that, if your hands are filled with groceries.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    KEVIN: Yeah, absolutely.

    LESLIE: If my hands are filled with the laundry, Henry’s toys, anything and everything, an elbow is great.

    TOM: Children.

    LESLIE: I mean and the same goes for bathroom faucets and fixtures, as well. You know, knob handles in the shower or on the sink really could be much more easily operable with lever handles, as well.

    KEVIN: And I’ll tell you what, they look great. This is not something you expect to see in a facility or a hospital; these are some good-looking fixtures. So, it’s a nice upgrade.

    TOM: Now, another upgrade is to replace your current bathroom/vanity/cabinet/sink with a pedestal sink. A lot more accessible, right?

    KEVIN: Yeah, sure. Think about this: the vanity is really just a sink surrounded by a big box. And so if you’re in, say, a wheelchair and you want to roll up to it, it’s not as accessible whereas a pedestal sink is, so consider upgrading to that.

    And also, when you choose a pedestal sink, you might be able to get one that you can raise up a few inches so that you can get underneath it better and also, as you bend down to wash your hands, just a little closer.

    TOM: And it makes the bathroom look that much bigger, too.

    KEVIN: Absolutely.

    TOM: Now, another improvement that’s easy to make to bathrooms would be grab bars. But I think when you say “grab bars,” we all think hospital-esque.

    LESLIE: Oh, super-sterile.

    TOM: Yeah. Stainless steel, knurled handles, things like that. The grab bars today, though, can be quite attractive. In fact, I think I’ve seen some plumbing manufacturers that make them to match the faucets.

    KEVIN: Match the faucets, beautiful stainless steel, nice chrome finishes. And also, the hardware is really good, right? Because we don’t know what’s behind those walls and when you’re doing a retrofit, you’re wondering can you get a stud or not. Well, they’ve got some great hollow-wall anchors so that you can actually put in a grab bar that could hold all of your weight, make it nice and secure.

    LESLIE: And I think another good point that not only works well in the bathroom but throughout the house is to improve lighting. I think all of us end up doing work under super-dim lighting and then we’re all wearing glasses earlier than we’re supposed to. So it just makes a lot of sense to use the brightest bulb that fixtures can handle.

    KEVIN: Our ability to see diminishes with age and it’s not just distance, as you say; it’s also how bright things are. So light up the house.

    TOM: Now, what about the toilet? That’s probably the last seat in the house that you end up changing but those couple of inches, in the difference between a standard toilet and one that’s known as an ADA-height toilet, can make a big difference.

    KEVIN: It’s a lot of up and down.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: You’re going to be getting up and down on all of the toilets.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: So as you say, the higher up it comes, the easier it is to maneuver yourself in and out of that toilet. And if you do end up using a wheelchair, a higher toilet is easier to shift over to.

    TOM: And they’re far more water-efficient today. Any time you replace a toilet, you get one that’s much more water-efficient and does a great job.

    KEVIN: We spent a lot of time at one of the country’s – actually, one of the world’s largest plumbing manufacturers – and they have an entire division set up just to invent stylish, hardworking, efficient fixtures, faucets, toilets and stuff for an aging population. They’re very aware of this problem, so there’s a great number of choices out there.

    TOM: And these are improvements that make sense, not only for the bathroom but for the kitchen and really, for your entire house.

    KEVIN: All over the house, right? So think about this: if you’ve got a banister going up once side of the stairs, put it on the other side, as well; put another railing there, too. It only helps, another place to grab. You can do it all throughout this house.

    And we’ve got a great gallery of photos and ideas on ThisOldHouse.com that can walk you through all of the possibilities.

    TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: 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 really great step-by-step videos on making your home more accessible – and a lot of other projects – you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    And still ahead, we’ve got great home safety tips to make sure your next trip isn’t down your stairs.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by ODL’s Add-On Blinds. Enclosed behind tempered glass, they eliminate the need for dusting and exposed cords, both problems with traditional blinds. Plus, they easily install over your existing entry glass. Visit www.ODL.com to learn more.

    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. Why don’t you give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT? Because we’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We’ve got the 170-Piece Mechanics Tool Set from

    Stanley worth $75. And it comes with all of the sockets and ratchets and wrenches, pretty much, that you are ever going to need.

    And the tools have a knurled-handle finish, so they’re not going to slip out of your hands when you’re getting busy and working super-hard on whatever projects you’ve got going on at your money pit. And the set comes with a carry case and a lifetime warranty.

    TOM: Now, if you’ve got a holiday gift that you really don’t want, you want to return it, this would be the perfect exchange. Take that cash and pick up the Stanley 170-Piece Mechanics Tool Set for 75 bucks; you can’t go wrong. I actually have this set and I’ve had it now for, I don’t know, probably five-plus years and it’s great. It’s kind of my go-to box whenever I have to go off to do a project I’m not quite sure what I’m going to need. I just grab this box; I know it’s going to have whatever I need in it to get the job done.

    LESLIE: Well, stairs are among the more precarious spots that you’ve got in your home but they can be even more hazardous if you do not have the proper railings. And we want you to keep everybody safe, so why don’t you follow these tips? And this way, you will be pairing the right railing with each set of stairs that you’ve got in your home.

    Now, if you’ve got stairs with at least three steps, you should have a handrail mounted securely to the wall. For open staircases, spindles should be installed and placed no more than 6 inches apart to prevent those small kids from squeezing in between. And if you think it can’t happen, I was on line at an amusement park and I did see a little guy wiggle his head in between those spindles. It can happen, so really think about proper placement.

    Well, it was kind of amusing. It did take a little while to (inaudible at 0:30:32), I will say. And it wasn’t my son but it was still – it was nerve-wracking and funny.

    TOM: And that’s why it was amusing.

    LESLIE: Seriously.

    TOM: Nerve-wracking for the parents, no doubt.

    You also need to take special precaution where steps are uneven, particularly in older homes. You know what happens? When you go up and down your uneven steps all the time, you kind of get programmed for that unevenness. But when you have guests come and visit, like around the holidays, it’s very easy for them to trip.

    Because the stairs are universally designed to have sort of a normal proportion of height to depth. And when you have stairs that don’t have that proportion, it really can trip people up. So, make sure those stairs and railings are safe and you just might spare yourself or a loved one an unwanted trip down those same stairs.

    LESLIE: Jimmy from South Carolina is on the line with an insulation question. What can we do for you?

    JIMMY: I attended a presentation of a foil-type insulation which goes into your attic.

    TOM: Yes.

    JIMMY: It supposably (ph), in the summertime, reduces the heat coming into your house by reflecting the heat back.

    TOM: Right. Right.

    LESLIE: OK.

    JIMMY: In the wintertime, it contains the heat within the house, letting it – to keep it from going …

    TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s called radiant barrier.

    JIMMY: Right. How legitimate are these products and is it worth putting in?

    TOM: There’s a lot of crazy claims out there about efficiency. It’s kind of hard to pin them down. I think there’s probably other things that you can do that could be more effective for you.

    For example, most homes don’t have enough insulation to start with. So, if your house in South Carolina does not have 19 to 22 inches of batt insulation or 19 of batt, 22 of blown-in, that’s going to be the single, most cost-effective way to reduce your heating and cooling costs. If your house doesn’t have continuous ridge and soffit vents – so it’s trapping excess heat in the attic – that’s a very cost-effective improvement.

    A radiant barrier, maybe. But it’s kind of hard to tell because there’s a lot of claims of energy-efficiency but it’s very difficult to prove it out.

    LESLIE: To prove it.

    JIMMY: OK. Just wanted to check, because this here, supposably (ph), is going to save you roughly 50 percent on your energy costs per …

    TOM: Oh, well, anybody that comes and says he’s going to send you – save you 50 percent on your energy bill is like if you had no insulation and now you have insulation, maybe. But that’s – any claim that’s as outrageous as that means the product isn’t legit, in my opinion, because I don’t know any product that’s going to save you 50 percent.

    LESLIE: That truly gives you 50 percent.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JIMMY: OK.

    TOM: Very suspicious. Jimmy, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still to come, older homes are notoriously under-insulated. But what kind of insulation is best to solve that problem? We’re going to tell you, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Hometalk.com. Join Tom and Leslie on Hometalk.com and log on to become part of the community of folks who love taking care of their homes, at Hometalk.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to spring clean in January, hey, why not? Visit MoneyPit.com for all of the cleaning info and advice you are ever going to need. We’re going to tell you how to make chemical-free cleaning supplies, what works best on wood floors, even how to get stains out of your holiday tablecloth. It’s all at MoneyPit.com; just search “cleaning.”

    And while you are online, you can post your question, if you don’t feel like calling in, and we answer those posts right now. And I’ve got one from Mark in Ohio who writes: “I’m debating on getting my old home insulated. It was built in 1941 and I don’t believe there is any insulation. I was thinking about going with foam insulation. If I insulate the roof line, would I then be insulating the shingles and causing them to hold more heat and get hotter in the summer and lessen their lifespan?”

    TOM: Wow, great question, Mark. Yes, the answer is yes; you would be shorting their life. But the bigger question is: why would you want to insulate the roof line?

    Typically, insulation goes between the conditioned and the unconditioned space or the heated and the unheated space. So, in a house that’s going to be the attic floor – unless, of course, the attic is finished. So you wouldn’t want to insulate at the attic roof line; you would want to insulate at the attic floor line.

    And foam insulation – insulation products like Icynene are a great choice for that. What’s cool about the foam products is that not only do they insulate, they also seal drafts. So all of those cracks and crevices between the conditioned and the non-conditioned space in your house are sealed and insulated with one step.

    So, good approach. Just put it at the ceiling level, not at the roof line.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Rose in Florida who writes: “While taking a shower in my daughter’s upstairs bath, I noticed the water in the tub to be accumulating towards the front of the drain area. Also, some creaking sounds while stepping there. What might this be?”

    TOM: Hmm. You know, the newer homes have acrylic tubs and a lot of plumbers are not putting these in correctly. What you’re really supposed to do is to mix up some concrete or something of that nature – just a little bit, like a ¼-of-a-bag worth of a QUIKRETE bag or something like that – and you put that cement mix under the tub. And then you drop the tub in place and then sort of press it down while it’s wet. And that gives you really good support under the entire tub. If you don’t do that, you will get some flex in that tub and that could be what you’re seeing.

    As far as the ponding of the water …

    LESLIE: And what you’re hearing.

    TOM: Yeah. As far as the ponding of the water, the pulling of the water, it sounds like the tub was not put in level. So at this point, there’s probably nothing that’s worthwhile for you to do there. It’s going to be a little extra maintenance. Get one of those little squeegees that just dry out the tub every time you’re done.

    Alright. We have one more here. Now, let’s move to the kitchen with a question from Robert. Robert says he has a tile floor in his kitchen. The kitchen is not heated. He would like to heat that floor and wonders if there’s a way to heat the underside of the subfloor from the basement, to add some comfort to the room.

    And yes, there is. If you have hot-water heat now in your house, you can add a zone using PEX piping – P-E-X. That stands for cross-linked polyethylene. And that zone could be mounted to the underside of the subfloor. It will warm up the subfloor and the tile above it. If you don’t, then there’s really no easy way to add heat to that. There is a way to use electric radiant heat but for that, you would be removing the tile, putting the radiant mat down and then replacing the tile.

    I hope that helps, Robert. Thanks so much for logging on to MoneyPit.com in our Community section.

    And you can post your question right there in the Community section or call us anytime with your question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this holiday weekend hour with us. We are so pleased to have you here. Hope that you are enjoying yourselves and we officially give you permission to take the day off from home repairs so that you can spend it with your family.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 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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