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Front Door Lets in Light, How Drip Irrigation Works, Spring Cleaning Solutions That Are Homemade And Safe for Children & 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: And you should pick up the phone right now and call us with your home improvement question, because we know you’ve got one. Hey, spring is just around the corner. I mean heck, it’s literally hours away and it’s time to pick up the tools and get to work. And you know what? While it might not feel like spring in every part of the country, those of us who struggled through the long winter know it is just a matter of time before we’re back outside enjoying that mild weather.

    So, we are here to help. And as you plan your spring renovations, you might want to think about bringing in a new, spring look to your front door with a design that lets in lots of light and looks great and is energy-efficient, as well. We’re going to have some tips on how you can do just that, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And since spring is on your brain, you might be getting ready to tackle this year’s spring planting session. And if you are thinking about that project, you maybe want to consider drip irrigation. Now this is a foolproof way to water plants and landscaping without wasting a drop of water.

    TOM: Plus, if you’re getting your cleaning bucket ready for the big, spring workout, we’ve got some ideas to help you make your very own kid-safe cleaning supplies that are safe, they’re inexpensive and they really, really work.

    LESLIE: Oh, I thought you were going to say we’ve got some ideas to get your kids to do the spring-cleaning chores, because that’s something I think we should be sharing.

    TOM: Not so much.

    LESLIE: Well, up for grabs this hour, guys, we’ve got a great prize for you. We’re giving away the Swash 1000, which is the ultimate in bathroom hygiene and comfort. It’s a high-tech toilet set with a warm-water bidet system built right in.

    Wow, that sounds fascinating.

    TOM: I am flush with excitement. This is a great prize and it’s worth, check this out, 599 bucks. So give us a call right now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    We will toss all names of this hour’s callers into The Money Pit hard hat and if we draw your name out, we will send you the Swash 1000. Imagine the conversation you’ll be having with family members. “Hey, what are you doing in there?” “Nothing. Just swashing around with my Swash 1000.”

    You know, on their website, I understand it comes with a wireless remote. Imagine if you hide that from your guests?

    LESLIE: Oh, that would be the meanest trick. Considering that – I’m just looking at some of these features. It’s got an aerated wash spray, endless warm water, oscillating massage. I can’t even talk about it.

    TOM: Leslie is speechless.

    LESLIE: This is amazing.

    TOM: Write that down. It won’t happen again very frequently. 888-666-3974. Let’s get to work.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Sally in New York is dealing with some noisy pipes with the heating. What can we do for you?

    SALLY: Well, hi. When my heat comes up automatically in the morning, and also sometimes in the afternoon if the oil burner goes back on, I hear a lot of creaking and booms and everything. I have copper pipes in the basement and I wonder – I don’t heat my basement. Should I turn the heat up in the basement?

    TOM: Not necessarily. What you’re explaining here, Sally, is normal expansion of the pipes as they heat up. Now, it might be that the pipes are a little looser than we’d like them to be against the wood framing and so you’re hearing a little bit more drama there than you’d, perhaps, typically would. But it’s not indicative of any kind of a problem; it’s very, very common for hot-water heating systems to have a little personality to them as they go about their job.

    LESLIE: I like that: personality.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SALLY: So I have to be aware of it. I wasn’t really aware of it until a friend stayed overnight and she said, “Wow, your heat’s noisy when it comes up in the morning.”

    TOM: Yeah, well, you know why? Because you probably – you totally tuned it out.

    SALLY: Yes, I’m used to it.

    TOM: Yeah. Nothing to worry about there, Sally.

    SALLY: And nothing I can do about it?

    TOM: Well, there are some things you can do about it but you’re going to be kind of chasing ghosts here, I think.

    SALLY: Oh, OK. Well, thank you very much and I love your program.

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

    Leslie, sometimes when you chase these things down, you find that you nail it in one spot and then it starts somewhere else. It’ll kind of drive you crazy.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh, it’s totally – it’s like the squeaky stairs at my house.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: I fix one step, then the next one decides it wants to go. It’s like you can never win with stuff like that. It’s just charm, as we say.

    Bill in South Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    BILL: Hi. We’ve got some nice, big picture windows in a house overlooking a lake. And we have some problems with radiant heat during the midday sun and we’re worried about fading in the floors, so we were thinking of tinting the windows. We were told that they’re gelled when windows – we were told that it would probably void the warranty. Do you all have any opinions about how often that damage occurs? And if you’re going to do window tinting on something like that, do you know which one gives you the best bang for the (audio gap)? I know that there’s the Llumar and SUN-GARD and 3M.

    TOM: Yeah. I think 3M has got a pretty reputation on – in this space. I don’t know about the impact on the warranty. I could understand that manufacturers build and test windows and they don’t really like anything touching it after that. And you can understand that.

    LESLIE: Right. But from my understanding, Tom, aren’t the 3M window – well, the option – isn’t it a film that you apply and it’s not a permanent coating? So I really can’t understand how that would void a warranty.

    TOM: Yeah, I can’t either. And it doesn’t attach to the inside of the window.

    BILL: It’s just a film that goes on the inside but they say that it can trap enough heat in there that it can cause a potential problem with the seals and cause cracks.

    TOM: Correct.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Yeah and I’m sure it does.

    BILL: Do you have any idea about how often that may occur? Is it a frequent occurrence or is that really rare?

    LESLIE: I don’t know. I guess you really need to think about the costs of the sun damage that’s occurring to your fabric, your furnishings, your floor. Is it worth it to sort of get a light-diffusing shade that you can pull down during the super-sunny hours rather than putting a film on the window? You know, there are other options as far as adding a fabric shade or something just to reduce that light coming in. But over the long run, you’re going to have to replace your furniture again, as well.

    BILL: Those are all good thoughts. Very good thoughts. OK, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Pick up the phone and give us a call, because we are here to lend you a hand with all of your spring home improvement projects. Let me tell you, we are all very excited to get this winter over and done with. So let us give you a hand with your spring chores any time of day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, letting in the light with some door designs that feature decorative glass that is energy-efficient and adds elegance and beauty to your front entry. We’ll have those details, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide four times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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: Call us right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We are here to help you with your next home improvement project. We are here to help you solve your do-it-yourself dilemma and if you’re not going to do it yourself, if you’re going to direct it yourself, call us and we will make sure that you know how to get the job done properly if you’re going to hire a pro.

    Plus, if you do get on the air with us this hour, you have the opportunity to win the ultimate in spa-like experience for your very own bathroom. We’re giving away the Swash 1000 from Brondell, which is a high-tech toilet seat and I mean high-tech. It’s got a warm-water bidet built right in. It installs in less than an hour, it fits 98 percent of all residential toilets and the Swash offers a cleansing and soothing water spray. It’s worth 599 bucks. Going to go to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement project at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    If you’d like to see this thing in action, check it out at Brondell.com. That’s B-r-o-n-d-e-l-l.com.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s pretty amazing. There’s quite an interesting video that goes along with it and it really is a high-tech toilet seat. It’s quite fascinating, so give us a call right now for your chance to win this great prize but also to let us give you a hand with what you’re working on around your money pit.

    And now, this time of year, I can absolutely just tell that spring is right around the corner, mostly because the sun is just out a little bit longer every day. And I love the idea of sun just pouring into my home. It really is inspiring me to look at what’s going on at my money pit and maybe take on some new projects that will really help enhance the return-on-investment value to my home; the perceived value of the home. And one of those is a front door.

    Now, when you’re replacing your front-entry system, you can think about different options. You can go with just a door or you can go with something to allow more light in, maybe with sidelights. And there are so many options out there that will give you a very energy-efficient door but also energy-efficient glass that’s incorporated right into the design. It truly is a great way to lighten up a big foyer and really create a grand entrance to your home.

    TOM: And if you are thinking about doing a new entrance to your home, you really should consider Therma-Tru because they are the original manufacturer of fiberglass doors. And they have a brand new glass called Avonlea, which is just beautiful; a true work of art for your home’s exterior.

    Let me kind of describe this for you. It’s got a clear, baroque glass, it’s got fluid lines and a free-flowing leaf pattern. Plus, it’s accented with bronze water glass and black, nickel caming. Bottom line, it is absolutely beautiful. And the best part is that this Therma-Tru Avonlea glass is as energy-efficient as it is gorgeous.

    In fact, it is Energy Star-qualified, which is really amazing, Leslie, when you think about the ability to do that with a gorgeous, decorative glass like this.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And Therma-Tru really does glass very beautifully. And it’s going to compliment many home styles, including modern architecture, New American homes, even Colonial-style homes. And the glass is available in a variety of sizes and shapes, including oval and arched, so you truly can create a really customized look for your home.

    Check out their website. It’s ThermaTru.com and then once you’re there, look at the Avonlea glass in Therma-Tru’s fiberglass, the Smooth-Star, the Profiles and even the Traditions door lines. And once you pick out a beautiful design for your home, all you need to do is let the sunshine in and enjoy the spring.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let us shine some sun on your next home improvement project, with some tips to help you get it done right.

    Who’s next?

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

    CLAIRE: Hi. I want to build a sauna at my home.

    TOM: OK.

    CLAIRE: And I’ve been to the home shows where they sell these very expensive, $7,000 packages and they – we can’t afford that. So, might there be a problem with using several of the clear or red infrared bulbs that are sold at the hardware stores? And how can we tell what wattage is enough for our sauna space?

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t think that you’re going to get enough heat with those infrared bulbs. It certainly would make it warm but it’s no sauna. You have to have a sauna heater, at least. If you’re going to build the room yourself – and that’s fine but I think you have to start by selecting a proper sauna heater.

    For me, I want to just look for a good, electric heating coil and that has sort of rocks that surround it, because I love to throw the hot water on the hot coils and have it steam up.

    CLAIRE: OK, thank you very much. I appreciate your help.

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

    DAVID: I have a question pertaining to moisture getting trapped in between the walls when you’re remodeling. On the outside of the house, there’s a ½-inch foam and I was going to put foam right over top of lath plaster and then put drywall over top of that. And I was wondering, am I creating a problem with moisture in the wall?

    TOM: So, did you say that you have foam on the outside of your house? You have a faux stucco made out of foam?

    DAVID: Somewhat like that. It’s like a Filatex (ph) product.

    TOM: Well, there’s a type of stucco called EIFS – Exterior Insulated Foam Siding – and this is a problem – this is a product that’s associated with a lot of moisture problems and rot underneath and mold and things like that. I’d hate to see – to think that you’re adding to that, David.

    DAVID: Alright. This is – it’s not like that but it – I am concerned that when you put a 4×8 sheet of ¾-inch foam or ½-inch foam on the outside and then do the same on the inside to try to create a better insulated value, if you are …

    TOM: Why do you want to put it on the inside? Why would you not just use standard, fiberglass insulation in between the batts – in between the bays – in the stud bays of the wall?

    DAVID: Well, it’s a plank house and it’s got real fancy trim and you can’t really do that.

    TOM: OK. So you’re just looking to get an additional layer? And you want to put this on the wood structure or you want to put this over the plaster?

    DAVID: Either way.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: If I can get away with putting it on the plaster, that’s the way I’d go.

    TOM: You probably can. I don’t think you’re going to cause any additional moisture. The thing is, you’re making your walls awfully thick and you’re going to have to deal with that with the windows and the doors, because now your window wells and your door wells and your electrical boxes and switches – it’s going to be awfully thick if you do that. So you understand what that’s going to do? That’s going to pull everything – make everything deep, because the wall will essentially be an inch or two thicker.

    DAVID: Right. I’m pulling all the trim off except for the baseboard and I’m putting jamb extensions on that.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    DAVID: I understand that, even with the electrical.

    TOM: Yeah. And I will caution you, though, that the best place to save energy is not the walls; it’s the ceiling space above. So make sure that in your area of the country you have something in the area of 18 to 22 inches of insulation. Because the wall insulation is going to be much – you’ll save energy but the big heat loss is what’s going up.

    And so, put it in perspective. Make sure you’ve got plenty of attic insulation first and then whatever you do to the walls will help after that.

    DAVID: Alright. Thank you.

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

    And I suspect, Leslie, after the winter we’ve had, there’s going to be an awful lot of folks that, as the weather turns warmer, are going to be thinking about ways to not let that happen to them again, in terms of the energy bills.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I mean really, the Northeast and pretty much the entire country have suffered with a very, very cold winter season. So, we’re all really learning and seeing that just making a few simple changes are really going to enhance how our home uses its energy and how we save our dollars.

    Now we’ve got Rebecca from Georgia on the line who has a question about her brick house. How can we help you?

    REBECCA: I stained my house – oh, gosh – 20 years ago.

    TOM: You stained your brick house?

    REBECCA: And I have – yeah.

    TOM: OK.

    REBECCA: It’s a brick house and I stained it in a dark color and I’ve never liked it. Is there anything I can do to get this stain …?

    TOM: But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    REBECCA: Yes, it did. Yes, it did. It’s an ugly brick and it just stood out. It just shouted at you and I was trying to just, you know, calm it down a little bit.

    TOM: Right.

    REBECCA: But it – I’ve never liked it. And I would like to – I wish I could get my natural brick back, is what I wish.

    TOM: And now that you’ve been staring at it for 20 years, that’s all you can stand and you can’t stand it anymore.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    LESLIE: And you really don’t like it.

    REBECCA: My next step will be to paint it but …

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Oh. Hmm.

    REBECCA: I wish I can get that stain off; I really do.

    TOM: Problem is that the brick is like a sponge.

    LESLIE: Porous.

    TOM: It’s very porous.

    REBECCA: Yes, yes.

    TOM: And so I’m sure that whatever stain you used soaked right into it and since – not even like it’s something that we can physically get to …

    REBECCA: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Yeah, because even if you paint brick and then years later you’re like, “Bleh, I want to get rid of it,” that would be something that’s like a sand-blasting option. And you can get that paint that sticks to the surface off but once you get down to the brick, say you painted it white, you’re still going to see a wash of white in all the pocking of the brick.

    REBECCA: Exactly.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: So with the stain, I don’t even think sand-blasting would get that.

    REBECCA: No.

    TOM: And it’ll destroy the brick, too.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah.

    REBECCA: Oh, I see. I thought about that.

    TOM: Well, I think you should not stress about it anymore and I think you should think about painting it.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: But before you do that, think of any other things – and I’m going to ask Leslie to put on her decorator hat now – any other things that you can do to soften that dark color and do other things like the trim, the windows, the molding; any of those types of exterior …

    LESLIE: Adding shutters.

    TOM: Right, shutters.

    LESLIE: Adding window boxes with lots of beautiful floral and greenery to hide some of that.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Encouraging ivy to grow on the side of the brick.

    TOM: But now, seriously, you can think about decorating around the dark color. It’s like when you buy a house that’s got a really old, 1950s bathroom and you hate the pink but it’s rock-solid – it’s a rock-solid tile project.

    REBECCA: Yes.

    LESLIE: She’s like, “Wait, I have one of those, too.”

    REBECCA: You’re talking about my house.

    TOM: There you go.

    LESLIE: Oh, God.

    TOM: There’s always a way to decorate around it, so I’d just like you to think about that because once you paint, you know what comes next?

    REBECCA: Yes.

    TOM: Repaint.

    REBECCA: I know, I know. Yes. But anyway, I will definitely do what you said. That sounds good.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, drip irrigation is an easy way to make sure your garden and your landscaping has the water it needs, without wasting a single drop. We’re going to tell you how to make that happen at your house, 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.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We would love to talk with you about your home improvement project and we’d also love if you would consider joining The Money Pit community at MoneyPit.com. You can get great project ideas and advice from us and your fellow do-it-yourselfers.

    We also write blogs on a regular basis there. We also post our photos of our projects and you can also share your projects on Facebook, all through MoneyPit.com in the Community section. Check it out today.

    LESLIE: Jim in Georgia is looking for some help with a humidifier. What can we do for you?

    JIM: We were looking on the internet for an in-room, tabletop humidifier. Even though we live in the South, it gets dry in here in the winter and with the air conditioning, it gets really dry in the summer. And we happened up on this thing called an in-house humidifier that I believe hooks up to a forced-air system and also you connect through your water system.

    TOM: Right.

    JIM: Our water heater is less than 2½ feet from the heating unit, so we were wondering about that and I wondered if you all had any suggestions or any thoughts on that.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re talking about a whole-home.

    JIM: Yes.

    TOM: And you’re right. It fits onto the HVAC system, usually on the supply side. And it’s a very efficient, effective way to add humidity to the air.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it delivers a nice, even, uniform moisture when you need it and only when you need it, because of a humidistat.

    TOM: And so it’s definitely the most efficient way to go.

    JIM: They said on the internet that you should have it professionally installed but the people that were writing the reviews – and there are only like three reviews on this thing – said that that was kind of bogus; that they could install it themselves. I’m not great with plumbing but I didn’t know if it was something I wanted to attempt or have a plumber or an A/C person come in and install.

    LESLIE: I wouldn’t.

    TOM: I would have an HVAC contractor. You know, you could buy them and have them installed right from a pro and this way, you know that it’s done correctly. If it’s done incorrectly, if it starts to leak, it could rust out the heat exchanger from your furnace. That could cause all sorts of problems, so I would definitely have it done by a pro.

    JIM: Are there drawbacks or anything I need to be aware of or are there any that you would recommend?

    TOM: I like a unit that’s made by Aprilaire, because it has sort of a trickle-down system. I don’t like the kind that are like foam rollers that roll through a pan of water, because they tend to get a lot of mineral-salt deposits on them very quickly. And that causes them to seize after about a year.

    The Aprilaire one is one that’s going to last a long time and it’s pretty much a standard.

    JIM: Awesome. Well, I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Well, in most parts of the country, trying to keep yards watered throughout the summer is no small feat, especially if you live in a conservation-conscious area that restricts your water usage.

    TOM: Well, if the best defense is a good offense, one of the best ways to beat the heat and make sure your plants thrive is with micro-irrigation. Now, this is a system of drip tubing and tiny sprayers and it’s a great way for you to get water right where you need it. Here to tell us more is Roger Cook, the landscaping expert at This Old House.

    Hey, Roger.

    ROGER: Hey, Tom, Leslie. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: Well, thanks for being here. And unlike a lawn-irrigation system, it seems that installing drip irrigation is not quite as complicated. So, would you consider this a DIY project? And what kinds of gardens is it best suited for?

    ROGER: Oh, it’s definitely a DIY project. The tubing and the plastic fittings and everything are very, very simple to work with.

    TOM: OK. So where do we begin?

    ROGER: We begin at the connection to the house. You need to make a connection through the tubing and usually what you have is an adapter which regulates the amount of pressure that goes through to the drip irrigation because …

    TOM: So that’s where the drip part comes in?

    ROGER: Right. But too much pressure going through that drip hose will actually blow it apart and …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because the holes are just so tiny.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: Right. So you need a certain pressure – a certain psi – to make it work properly.

    LESLIE: Alright. So now we’ve established our connection. How does this really work to deliver the water where we need it?

    ROGER: Well, from the connection, there’ll be a solid pipe that’ll bring it out to the area where you want the drip to be. Then we transition either to the drip tubing or the specific emitters, which’ll put that water right down where the roots are.

    LESLIE: Now, it seems like we’re going from one end of the yard to the other. Do we need to be concerned about distance and the amount of water that will get to the plants that need it?

    ROGER: You will. And you’ll find that there are directions which tell you how many feet of drip or how many emitters you can have on one, what we call, zone; one area. And you’ll have to break up your system into either manual zones where you turn it yourself or they have electric zones, which will control the different areas so that one area gets the water for a certain period of time. Then we switch over to another and another.

    TOM: Now, Roger, it seems that with most irrigation systems, there’s a fair amount of inefficiency. I mean either we don’t have it aimed to the right place or we get a lot of evaporation. But with drip irrigation, it seems like we put it exactly where we need it; right where that root needs to drink, correct?

    ROGER: Right. That’s the key to it is you don’t have the water running down the driveway and usually you don’t have a geyser shooting straight up when a head gets eaten up by a lawnmower. This you adapt, you wrap it around your shrubs or your perennial beds and you just give the area the water it needs.

    LESLIE: Can you use it for ground cover, for watering certain sections of your lawn or better to focus it on a smaller area?

    ROGER: Ground cover, perennial beds, individual shrubs. It’ll be awful hard to do in a lawn area because you would have to have a whole series of pipes exactly the same distance apart or your lawn wouldn’t get an even watering.

    TOM: Now, I’ve even seen drip irrigation used for things like hanging planters. Are there lots of accessories for these sorts of applications?

    ROGER: There are. And that’s one of the biggest things we’ve done in the last few years. People are doing planters and pots and they’re the hardest thing to keep watering because they’re out, exposed to the elements.

    TOM: They dry out very quick.

    ROGER: Very quickly. So we just put a couple little emitters in there through this microtubing.

    TOM: So, when you get started on this, it would seem that you need a bit of a plan, just like any kind of project; sort of sketch out where everything has to go and then you can kind of tally up the parts?

    ROGER: Exactly. You want to know how many zones you’re going to have, how many runs; that sort of thing. And you’ll get a lot of great information online and even going to a place that sells this and showing them your plan, they’ll help you design a system that’ll work there.

    LESLIE: Now, what happens to the system at the end of the year? Is it like traditional irrigation where you have to blow out the systems to keep things from freezing, I guess?

    ROGER: Right, you do in any place that it’s going to freeze because if there’s water left in that tubing and it expands, it’ll crack it. We want to use that for years; we don’t want to have to replace it.

    So you’re going to blow it out at a low psi and just clean the water right out of it.

    TOM: This sounds like a really green approach to watering your garden.

    ROGER: It is.

    TOM: Very, very efficient. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    And for more great tips, including a video about installing micro-irrigation systems, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    LESLIE: And you can watch Roger and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by the National Association of Realtors.

    Up next, we’re going to take more of your calls and offer some great alternatives to chemical cleaning supplies, in perfect time for your next spring-cleaning project. We’ve got tips on how you can create homemade cleaning products that are both inexpensive and safe for kids.

    (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. And we’d love to hear what you are working on, so pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And if you give us a call and get on the air this hour, you are going to have a chance to win, really, a fantastic spa-like update to your bathroom.

    You are going to have a wonderful spa experience every time you are in the can. We’ve got up for grabs the Swash 1000 from Brondell. And this is a high-tech toilet seat with a warm-water bidet that’s built right into it. It’s going to install in less than an hour. It fits pretty much 98 percent of residential toilets. And the Swash offers a cleansing and soothing spray that anybody who uses your restroom while they’re visiting your house is going to enjoy greatly.

    It’s worth 600 bucks, so give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win. And if you want to see how this all works, you can see a video, you can see how you easy it is to install. Check out their website. It’s Brondell.com and you’ll find all the information there.

    TOM: Well, you’re probably getting ready to haul out the cleaning bucket and those supplies for some major spring cleaning. If you are, though, we’ve got some options for non-toxic cleaning solutions now that are quick, easy and child-safe.

    First, let’s talk about an easy window cleaner. All you need to do is fill a spray bottle with a quart of water and a tablespoon of white vinegar. Now, you can use the same ingredients for a floor cleaner. You just want to pump up the volume a bit, mixing a ¼ cup of white vinegar to a gallon of hot water.

    Now, borax and water actually make a great disinfectant, if that’s a need you have. You can use them to clean countertops, to clean tile and cabinets. And if you’re dealing with mildew, here’s a tip: a strong, thyme tea can help get rid of that.

    And if you’re looking for a bathroom cleaner, a paste of baking soda and lemon juice smells great and cleans sinks, toilets and chrome.

    LESLIE: And the best part of all of these tips is you probably have everything right now in your kitchen cupboard, so you really can get to some nice, healthy cleaning for your house.

    Now, if you have some carpeting, you can deodorize that carpet by sprinkling corn starch or even baking soda right onto the rug and then vacuum it up. You can also, with brass components in your house, clean that with equal parts of flour and salt and mix that into a small amount of vinegar and it’s a great paste to clean all of that brass around your house.

    And here’s an added bonus to making your own household cleaners: with these basic ingredients and easy recipes, you can send your kids to work around the house safely and completely guilt-free, because you know they’re working with some nice products that you made yourself.

    If you want a complete list of these recipes and more, just Google “money pit child-safe clean” and you’ll go right to that great article.

    TOM: And if you’re facing a tough cleaning challenge, why not call us right now? We will help you out. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mike in North Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    MIKE: Hi. How are you guys doing?

    TOM: We’re well.

    LESLIE: We’re great. So you’re working on a flooring project?

    MIKE: Well, no, not yet. I’m not much of a handyman but – say, my wife and I bought a condo about a year ago and it’s got linoleum flooring in it, which is nice, but we’re wanting to put some laminate down in our kitchen.

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    MIKE: And one of the things I read that you need to consider is if you have any appliances that are underneath the countertop, that installing the laminate isn’t going to interfere with that?

    And our dishwasher is right snug up against the bottom of the countertop, so if we put anything underneath that, you know, it’s not going to – or if we just …

    TOM: Yeah, that’s going to be a problem. Yeah.

    MIKE: Yeah.

    TOM: So what kind of flooring do you have down now?

    MIKE: It’s just linoleum.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, Tom, how much play does adjusting the feet on the dishwasher give you?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. You should have at least an inch of play in the feet of the dishwasher.

    LESLIE: And the laminate’s going to be about three-quarters, correct?

    TOM: Less than that.

    LESLIE: Less than …

    TOM: Probably less than a half.

    LESLIE: Because, Mike, what you would do is before you start your flooring project, you would pull the dishwasher out, floor underneath it and then you’ll see on the bottom of all appliances – ovens, dishwashers – there’s some feet that sort of screw in and out to adjust the height. And then you would just drop it down all the way and slide it back in. And that should give you enough clearance.

    But before you start anything, you might want to just disconnect that dishwasher for a hot second, pull it out and see how much adjustability there actually is there. You don’t know what kind of position it’s already set in. You may have way more clearance than you think.

    MIKE: If I don’t – what if I don’t have enough clearance?

    LESLIE: Well, Tom has dealt with the crazy, floored-in dishwasher situation before, which is never fun.

    TOM: Yeah. What kind of countertop do you have?

    MIKE: Well, it’s not granite, if that tells you anything. I guess I’m not sure what it …

    TOM: Is it laminate?

    MIKE: Yeah.

    TOM: Well, look, you can pull the top off and drop the dishwasher in from the top, if you had problems getting it in and out.

    MIKE: OK.

    TOM: But if you – but if this is the original floor and it’s a vinyl floor – so you don’t have multiple layers there – it would be very unusual that you can’t adjust this dishwasher down.

    MIKE: Yeah.

    TOM: I mean they all look like they’re up close to the top but they almost always have an inch of space on those legs.

    MIKE: Sure.

    TOM: So, you need to take off the control panel on the bottom and take a look. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    MIKE: Awesome. That’d be – I had – I didn’t even think of that, so appreciate it very much.

    TOM: Alright. Well and – but you thought to call us and that was the right thing to do.

    MIKE: Thank you.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up, is your home making you sick? Well, if you’re suffering from more colds than usual, if you have a sore throat or even suffering from flu-like symptoms, your house could be the reason but not to worry. We’re going to help you diagnose and treat it, next.

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    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. And do you want to hear the coolest thing, guys? You can check out The Money Pit Radio Show on the go with The Money Pit iPhone app. How cool is that?

    You can get full show archives, you can ask a question on the Community forum or you can even connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. You can check it all out at MoneyPit.com and the app is free and it’s super-cool.

    TOM: And while you’re on MoneyPit.com, please do post us a question. That’s just what Joe did in Virginia who says, “The air in my basement seems to make some people sick but I can’t figure out what’s causing it. I put an air cleaner down there but it’s not improved. Symptoms are sore throats. I checked into getting the air tested but it was 500 bucks just to have the air quality tested. What else can I do that is reasonable in terms of cost?”

    Well, first of all, we’ve got to get – we’ve got to find out what’s going on here, Joe. Don’t know that I would jump right to air testing but probably a mold inspection is not a bad idea. I would suggest that you evaluate that space for its propensity to grow mold. Like for example, do you have a carpet down there? That would be really bad if it’s damp, because carpets are just perfect places for mold to grow and to harbor. And also, dust mites and other types of irritants will get trapped in that carpet, which is very filter-like, so you should think about that.

    Also, your heating system is down there. We want to make sure that that is clean, that it’s working properly, that there are no carbon-monoxide issues. That’s all very, very critical. So you really need to sort of diagnose here by looking at the conditions to see what could be causing mold and other allergen-like symptoms. And also, look at the heating system to make sure things are totally safe.

    A good place to start might be by hiring a professional home inspector to do what we call a partial inspection, which is sort of an inspection of one or two items. Costs a little bit less than a full inspection but maybe they can help narrow it down. You are going to probably have to spend some money here but if you’ve clearly identified that people go in your basement and they get sick, well, we’ve got to get to the bottom of this because the sickness is going to get a lot more expensive than what it costs to get it fixed right. And then you can be restful and comfortable when you go down there and not worry about it so much.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And the other thing you might want to consider is that in rooms that are below-grade, there’s a tendency – and it’s not in every home but it does happen – for something called radon, which comes out of the soil around the house. And since your basement’s below grade, there’s a possibility that radon could be coming into your house.

    You can get a kit at the home centers. You just have to make sure you close all the doors and windows except for normal ins and outs of the space. And I think – how long do you keep that in there? Is it like a day or two?

    TOM: Usually, two to seven days. And obviously, if it was a radon problem, it’s not what’s causing the kinds of sickness that you’re describing but if we’ve got some issues down there, it’s good to know.

    LESLIE: Yeah, especially if you’ve got some other things going on there. And then you just send the kit away and you get a result back in the mail and hopefully, it’s nothing. But at least if it is something, you know exactly what you need to do to make that basement better for you and your family.

    Alright. Donna from North Carolina posted this question: “I have a ridge roof but the ventilation is inadequate. I’ve been told to add an attic fan. Is this the best way to increase ventilation?”

    TOM: No.

    LESLIE: You hate those attic fans.

    TOM: Bad idea. Here’s why, Donna. When you have an attic fan, what happens is you depressurize the attic, true, which is a good thing because you’re pulling hot air that builds up in the summertime and makes it more expensive to air condition your house. However, in the wintertime, it doesn’t work because it’s temperature-actuated, so you’re not doing anything to deal with the moisture that builds up.

    But what it does, in addition to pulling out that hot air in the summer, is it reaches down to the house and pulls out the air-conditioned air, too, because it doesn’t stop at just the insulation level; it actually gets back down into the space.

    So, a better idea for attic ventilation is a continuous ridge vent matched with continuous soffit vents at the overhang. Those two things will work together to pull a continuous air stream in the soffits, under the roof sheathing and out the ridge. Takes out the heat in the summer, takes out the moisture in the winter and does a really good job of ventilating that space, for a lot less than the cost to run an attic fan.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We’ve had fun. We hope that you have, too, and we hope that you learned a couple of tricks along the way. The show continues online right now.

    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.

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    (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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