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Garbage Disposer Odors, Sweating Toilet Tank, DIY Projects with Kids and More

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by for your calls to 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because we are here to help you get those projects done around your house that we know are on your to-do list. Yes, we know the summer is almost over and that you’re going to be paying those heating bills soon enough. You’re thinking, “But I haven’t even paid off the air-conditioning bill.” We know that. But the heating bills are coming, so let’s think ahead to fall.

    LESLIE: So that is the plan.

    TOM: There’s got to be a fall fix-up project on your to-do list or maybe it’s that one summer project that you just didn’t get done, just didn’t have the time, the knowledge. You didn’t have the energy to tackle it? Well, let us help you right now. Pick up the phone and call us with that project. We’ll help you take that first step to 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite tools in the kitchen and that’s the garbage disposer. It’s kind of like if you never had one, you don’t miss it but once you own a house with one of these puppies, you never want to go back.

    LESLIE: You never want to go back.

    TOM: But the problem is that they can be a bit stinky, so we’re going to have some tips on how you can make that disposer odor-free in a jiffy.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, just because we’re in the middle of the dog days of summer, it doesn’t just mean that you are sweating. You might actually notice that your toilet tank appears to be sweating, as well. Well, it is, actually. We’re going to tell you what causes the toilet-tank condensation and how to get rid of it, a little later.

    TOM: And that’s important because that can rot out your bathroom floor in a jiffy.

    And it’s about that time for kids when summer vacation has lost a little of its appeal and boredom has begun to set it. That’s why it’s the perfect time to get your kids involved in some DIY projects. We’ve got some great ideas for good first projects that you can take on with your kids for a total family experience.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, we’re giving away the Dremel Trio, which is worth about 100 bucks. And it’s a super-handy tool that can be used to sand and cut and also function as a router. I mean I remember my first Dremel tool 20-something years ago. And I tried to find a use for it practically every day, so I guarantee you’re going to love it.

    TOM: It’s definitely a go-to tool to have in your house. So give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Rich in New Jersey calling in. What can we do for you today?

    RICH: Hi, Leslie. I was – I’m working with a bunch of volunteers; we’re trying to fix up New York Military Academy, which is a school where we graduated from. The barracks is the first prefabricated concrete building in the country; it’s solid concrete.

    TOM: Oh, how interesting. Prefabricated. In what year was it built?

    RICH: 1921.

    TOM: 1921.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    RICH: And we’re all volunteer labor but there’s a question going back and forth and we’re trying to get an issue settled.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    RICH: Half the guys are saying that we’re crazy if we don’t scrape this 100-year-old building down to the original concrete before we repaint it. And the other half says we’ll do just as well to patch and fill and then apply the spray paint and just come back in three to five years. And we’re just going back and forth and we can’t seem to get any resolution, so I thought I’d call the experts and ask your opinion.

    TOM: Well, I’m sure you’ve got lots and lots of layers of probably some of that good, old-fashioned lead paint on there, which means you’ve got to be a little bit careful with this process. But the general rule of thumb is you want to get as much of that off as humanly possible.

    Now, it may not mean going all the way down to the original masonry surface – concrete surface – but you certainly have to get down to where you’re looking at something that’s very solid. The next thing – and this is going to be a very critical part of this – you want to make sure that you prime this.

    Because you have to understand that primer and exterior paint have separate qualities. The primer is the glue that makes the project – makes the paint stick. And so if it’s not primed properly, it’s not going to stick.

    Now, if you have damage to the wall, then you need to use a patching material made of epoxy: an epoxy-patching compound. There’s a company called Abatron – A-b-a-t-r-o-n …

    LESLIE: They make a great selection of all sorts of patching materials that’ll really cause good adhesion.

    TOM: Yeah and that’s the key.

    RICH: Good, old-fashioned spackle is not the solution?

    TOM: Not going to – no, absolutely not.

    LESLIE: No, it’s not going to stick.

    RICH: OK.

    TOM: Any type of concrete that you put on there, not going to work. It’ll fall right off the very first New York winter you get at the New York Military Academy, OK?

    RICH: Thank you.

    TOM: Critical to use an epoxy patching compound; it’s got the qualities to make it stick. Critical you paint it, prime it first, then top-coat paint it. And I think if you do that properly – the nice thing about masonry surfaces is unlike organic materials, like wood siding, that paint can actually last 10 or 15 years because think about it, you don’t have the expansion and then the contraction that you would have associated with a wood surface. So it does tend to last a long time.

    Definitely worth, though, taking the time on the prep. Now, even though it’s very painful, you’re going to need a lot of hands for this. Definitely worth getting it straightened out right now because this way, you’ll be able to do it once, do it right and then by the time it’s ready to paint it again, your kids can do it.

    RICH: That’s good to hear. That’s good to hear. Is the preferred technique a sand blaster?

    TOM: You have to be very careful with a sand blaster because you can damage the original concrete surface. But it’s not a bad thing to try because you may find that it comes off easily that way.

    RICH: Well, thank you. That’s a good piece of advice. And now that we’ve heard from the experts, I can win the bet at the bar.

    TOM: Well, we’re happy to settle the bet. Rich, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And what a great project for a bunch of guys to do. You know, if you are working on projects like that around the country, we always ask you to call with your home improvement questions about your house but …

    LESLIE: And send pictures.

    TOM: Certainly, if you’re doing a project for charity like that, if you’re working on a community event – perhaps building a playground or fixing up a building for a deserving group – we’d love to hear about that. So pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Judy from South Carolina on the line who’s working on a flooring project. How can we help you with that job?

    JUDY: OK. Well, what I wanted to know was – I have a house on slab; it’s about 25 years old.

    TOM: OK.

    JUDY: And I wanted to put down either some laminate or some type of engineered hardwood?

    TOM: OK.

    JUDY: And I needed to know if I should put down a moisture barrier of some sort, even though there has not been any type of moisture problem with the carpet.

    TOM: No, not necessarily. Both of those products will have recommendations from their manufacturers and they’re all a little bit different. Now, some of the laminates have sort of a vapor barrier attached to the bottom of them.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Almost like an underlayment.

    TOM: Right. And both of them are floating floors, so they’re not physically attached to the concrete. And you are correct that engineered hardwood is OK over concrete. Regular hardwood, of course, is not; it will buckle. But engineered is dimensionally stable. So, both of those are excellent choices to go on top of a concrete floor and as long as you follow the installation instructions, you won’t have any problems.

    A very good source for both laminate and engineered hardwood floors is LumberLiquidators.com. Take a look at their website. They’ve got some floors there, Judy, that have a 100-year warranty; they’re amazing.

    JUDY: OK. That sounds wonderful.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, we’ve got a couple of short weeks left until the big Labor Day weekend. So if there’s some things you want to tackle before the summer kind of unofficially or officially, I should say, ends, give us a call. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are stinky odors in your kitchen coming from your sink? Well, it might be that your garbage disposer needs a good cleaning. We’ll tell you how to do that, after this.

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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.

    TOM: And you should pick up the phone and call us right now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because not only will you get the answer to that question, you can also win the new Dremel Trio.

    This is a very versatile tool that allows DIYers to cut, sand and rout with just one tool. You can also adjust between horizontal and vertical surfaces without switching tools. It’s available at retailers nationwide, like Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Amazon.com. But to you, it’s worth 100 bucks. It’s going to go out to one caller who’s got the guts, the determination, the fortitude to pick up the phone and call us with their project at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now it’s time to jump into this week’s Fresh Idea, presented by Citrus Magic. And if you have a garbage disposal, you already know that it’s a great addition to all of your cleanup responsibilities around the kitchen. And disposers today, they can really handle most organic food scraps. But keeping that disposer clean and smelling fresh? Well, that’s another issue.

    Now, first of all, you can use baking soda and vinegar or some lemon juice; you can pour it right down there to get rid of some of those food smells. Maybe most of them. But if you’ve got a stronger odor that just doesn’t seem to go away, you might have something called “biofilm” growing on the inside of your disposer or on the pipes below it. And this organic film, it can even help fruit or drain flies breed and then you end up with a whole second problem that’s just a nightmare to deal with.

    So the best way to get rid of that is with oxygen bleach. It’s a cleaning product that’s particularly effective for getting rid of biofilm. And you can find that at just about any hardware store or home center in your neighborhood.

    Now, to keep the rest of your kitchen smelling fresh and clean, you want to use Citrus Magic All-Natural Spray Air Freshener. It’s made from the essential oils of citrus fruits and this product is 100-percent natural, so it’s completely safe to use around the kids and the pets.

    And that is your Citrus Magic Fresh Idea for this week. If you want some more great ideas and to check out their great products, check out CitrusMagic.com for some more information.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Ruth in Arkansas has a question about an attic. What can we do for you today?

    RUTH: We built our house a couple of years ago and we have a sheetrock ceiling. And we failed to have an opening for an attic and I feel like we’re losing storage space.

    TOM: When you built your roof, do you know that if it was stick-built or is it built with trusses?

    RUTH: It’s trusses.

    TOM: It’s trusses. OK. And do you know if they’re attic trusses?

    RUTH: Yes.

    TOM: OK, do you know what an attic truss is, Ruth? It has a storage – it has a flat area for storage where you can put boards and create a floor. It’s a special kind of truss.

    RUTH: Oh, OK. Well, it is flat on top, I mean.

    TOM: Alright, let me explain this to you. You can put an opening in by cutting the sheetrock under two of the trusses; they’re probably 24 inches apart. And so you can cut the drywall out into the size that you need for the opening. It depends on whether or not you’re putting a hatch or a staircase. But you would cut it to fit whatever type of opening you want.

    But the issue is that, with respect to the trusses, you can’t cut any of the pieces of the trusses away because they’re designed to be – to work as one, continuous unit. And if you cut any piece of that truss, you’re going to make the roof structure weak. So you may not have storage up there, is what I’m telling you, unless you have a specially-designed attic truss, which has a flat floor section sort of built into it that you can put some plywood down and some storage.

    If your builder did not provide an attic truss with room for storage, you’re not going to be able to create it now. That attic may not be storable.

    RUTH: OK. Now, I’ll have to check with my contractor for sure, that put the trusses in.

    TOM: Good. That’s a good place to start.

    RUTH: Yes. OK. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: So instead of a traditional roof truss where you’re dealing with that, say, triangular shape that’s sort of supported throughout that triangular frame, you have an open box within that triangle frame?

    TOM: An attic truss, right. It has – it doesn’t have as many cross-members. It’s sort of like a framed – sort of like a big, framed opening and then the bottom cord, instead of being a 2×4, might be up higher. It might be 8 inches off the – off, say, the drywall, so that you could have room for enough insulation and still have some flooring space there.

    LESLIE: Gotcha.

    TOM: It’s a specifically-designed type of truss structure and you can’t just put a floor on a regular truss because you’re going to crush the insulation that’s there. Plus, you’re not supposed to be loading those up.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got David in Iowa who is working on a basement floor. Tell us what’s going on.

    DAVID: Hi, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Hi, David.

    DAVID: Yeah, the sewer backed up into our basement; carpet is down there.

    LESLIE: Oh, goodness.

    TOM: Sorry to hear that.

    DAVID: So I pulled out the carpet and the pad and I was …

    LESLIE: And got it far, far away from your house.

    DAVID: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Wearing nose plugs and ran from it.

    DAVID: And I was thinking of options in what to put down instead because I was reluctant to do carpet again. So my wife wanted to do ceramic tile and it’s about 540 square feet. That would be kind of pricey, so I’m just going to paint it with epoxy paint and I was wondering if that would be a good idea. There are a lot of bowls and waves in the concrete.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. OK.

    DAVID: But the carpet …

    LESLIE: Well, that’s all fixable.

    DAVID: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, I think you’ve got a bunch of options. Epoxy paint, definite possibility. They have a lot of good-looking colors in epoxy paint and a lot of different sort of chip surfaces.

    LESLIE: Like additives.

    TOM: Yeah, additives that kind of give it a nice décor look to it.

    The other things that you could think about doing would be either laminate flooring or even engineered hardwood floor.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And of course, these are all things that run the gamut of the price range. You know, even with ceramic tile, which is something that your wife likes, you can get something for as low as $2 to $3 a square, up to $100 a square. So you really need to sort of look at your budget. But Tom’s right: you can go laminate, you can go engineered hardwood. Those are all things that are made to be in that super-moist area that is your basement, on that concrete subfloor.

    And another thing, you’re mentioning this epoxy flooring but you did say – I heard that the floor is kind of wavy and a little uneven? There are a ton of products out there.

    Is it Abatron, Tom, is the website?

    TOM: Yeah, mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: Abatron. They make something called Abocrete or Abocast; I forget which is the one. But it’s a compound that you mix up and sort of put over the floor that you already have and it sort of self-levels and evens out the areas where there are dips and divots. I mean it’s a process; it takes a couple of days. But if you’re going to go with that epoxy floor, you want it to look smooth.

    DAVID: Can I just put more concrete?

    LESLIE: No, it won’t stick to each other.

    TOM: No. No, no, no, no. It won’t stick. No, you need an epoxy patching compound; that’s the only thing that’s going to adhere.

    DAVID: OK.

    LESLIE: Otherwise, it’ll just pop right off and then you’ll have an area that’s half epoxy-coated and one that’s not. So don’t even mess with it. Definitely level it off first.

    DAVID: OK.

    LESLIE: And it’s not a difficult process; it’s just a bag of powdery material that you’ve got to mix up and it’s work. But it does make the floor fantastic.

    We had a similar situation; we had the basement flood with carpeting. Took all the carpeting up; the concrete subfloor was a disaster. And there were some real areas of unevenness and that Abocrete like saved my basement’s life. It really – it took three days to cure with fans and really a process but that floor looks fantastic. And then we put a laminate over it, which is – we love it.

    DAVID: Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Ross in Wyoming is working on some wrought-iron stairs. What can we help you with?

    ROSS: Well, we salvaged it out of a school to use in our house and it has a lot of old paint on it and of course, there’s a lot of pieces every 4 inches. And wondered what’s something that we could use – easiest way to strip that old paint off. And since we have it out in the open, maybe we could spray it with something or a pressure washer or something.

    LESLIE: I think the best plan of attack is probably going to be – are the layers so thick that if you sort of scraped away and sanded away the areas that it’s flaking away from and then made it smooth, would you have a big difference in the texture of the surface?

    ROSS: Yeah, I think it’s really flaky. I think I have to take it all off, I think.

    TOM: Well, I will say that pressure washers are pretty handy tools for paint strippers when you need to take the paint off of a wrought-iron railing. I’ve used a pressure washer to strip paint off a radiator and it worked great; didn’t damage the metal.

    LESLIE: Really? You got all of it off?

    TOM: Got all of it off, 100 percent.

    ROSS: But did you spray it with some solvent or something or …?

    TOM: Nothing. Just the pressure of the water. It’s a little messy because the water hits it and it goes everywhere.

    LESLIE: And it goes everywhere.

    TOM: But it was fun at the same time. It’s why we like using pressure washers; it’s the kind of tool that once you get going, you don’t want to put it down.

    LESLIE: And then I think if you – it’s like Tom says: if you’re able to get a lot of it off, then what you would want to do is sand the areas where you still have some residual sort of stickiness of the paint, just to sort of smooth that edge so that you’re not dealing with a chunk of paint and then new surface, just so you sort of make that transition better.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Exactly. But the most important thing is, Ross, when you get that paint off, is to make sure you prime the entire surface again. Don’t just paint on top of it. Make sure you prime it because once it dries real well, you can prime it; use an oil-based primer. Rust-Oleum is a really good product. Let it dry and then you can put any kind of top coat you want after that. But you’ve got to prime it because the primer is part of the adhesive that makes the paint stick.

    ROSS: Right. OK. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, in the summer, you are not the only thing that sweats. Find out why your toilet tank seems to be doing the very same thing and how you can stop that drip, drip, dripping from rotting out your bathroom floor.

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    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: And if you are sick of sweating it out all summer and are totally ready to get your house some cool, conditioned air, check out our online guide for which A/C system will best suit your need. Just Google “money pit air-conditioning options.”

    LESLIE: Kathy in Missouri is calling in with a patio question. What can we do for you?

    KATHY: Yes. I have a big crack in my patio; it’s a long crack. And I put cement or had someone to patch it and it didn’t hold. And then there’s a smaller crack going off to the side of it.

    TOM: Yep.


    KATHY: And I’m going to have to repair that.

    TOM: Yeah, well, we’re not surprised that it didn’t hold, because you cannot repair a concrete patio with cement; that’s not going to work. Even though it seems like the material should be compatible, they’re kind of not. And the reason is is because what happens is water gets underneath that new cement patch that you made and it lifts it right out.

    So, what you want to do is get an epoxy patching compound, which is something that you can mix up and trowel onto those cracks. And it’s specifically designed to both fill in the voids and also to seal.

    KATHY: Epoxy.

    TOM: Epoxy, yeah. That’s the best way to repair any kind of a crack in a concrete surface, Kathy. It’s a permanent fix, OK?

    KATHY: OK. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thank you very much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, summertime is a great time of year for barbecues and pool parties. And it also causes you and your family and friends to sweat it out a little bit. But it also causes your toilet to do so, as well.

    And if you’ve ever noticed water dripping off of your toilet tank in the summer, you know what we mean.

    TOM: So why does a toilet sweat?

    LESLIE: It’s getting a workout.

    TOM: And what can we do about it? To help answer these questions, we’ve enlisted the skills of This Old House plumbing expert, Richard Trethewey.

    Hi, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hey, guys. Nice to be back.

    TOM: And it sounds funny but a sweating toilet can actually cause quite a bit of water damage, can’t it?

    RICHARD: Absolutely. You know, condensation is the problem. Any time you have too much of a temperature difference – you’ve got cold water on the inside of the tank and then you’ve got warm, moist air on the outside of the tank, it will actually sweat on the outside of that surface and drip down onto the floor. And so we see it – anywhere east of the Rockies, we’ve got this humidity issue. In the West, we don’t have a lot of that sort of thing.

    TOM: And we’ve seen some crazy solutions for this, including toilet-tank insulator kits and things like that.

    RICHARD: Right. And that – I don’t want to say they don’t work but they don’t always work, because it really depends on that humidity level in the building and just how cold that water is. And so, really, the best solution we’ve seen is this anti-sweat valve that is designed to be installed down underneath the toilet.

    And what it does is it sends cold water but it also mixes a little bit of hot water – not a lot – but just enough to raise the temperature of the water in the toilet tank to get below …

    TOM: Oh, interesting. So it warms up.

    RICHARD: Right. To get below the dew point that would cause that condensation to form.

    LESLIE: That’s interesting. I mean is that something that a homeowner can tackle themselves or because we’re dealing with water and the toilet and waste, is that something we just shouldn’t even mess with?

    RICHARD: Well, it really depends on your skill set. I think it does require soldering; it requires you to shut the water off and to do a little bit of plumbing.

    LESLIE: Which people forget: turning the water off. People forget.

    RICHARD: Yeah, it’s much better to do the work with the water shut off, yes. So it tends to be a professional solution and it’s really as a last resort. But we did one on Ask This Old House and this guy had lived with this sweating problem. He just – everything in his house was perfect and he just couldn’t stand that the water was dripping on the floor. And we finally fixed it and he was just – it was great joy in his house.

    TOM: I bet. Now, does it use a lot of hot water? Does it cost energy?

    RICHARD: It’s not a lot. It does cost some energy because you’re using some hot water.

    TOM: Right. Right.

    RICHARD: You’re not literally – you’re not making that hot water, that toilet tank, be filled with hot water; you’re only just trying to temper it a little bit just to get it down above that 45-degree or 50-degree temperature.

    TOM: And so I imagine this is a problem that’s much more common in a home that does not have central air conditioning.

    RICHARD: Yep, yep. Yeah. If you get drier air – if the air conditioner is on and you’ve dried the air out – there’s a good chance you’re not going to have this condition.

    TOM: Now, Richard, is this a problem that’s common to older toilets with the really big tanks or does it also happen with the more modern ones that are more efficient?

    RICHARD: Well, it’s really any conventional toilet tank that has water in it. And so, most of the models can have this issue in a high-humidity area.

    There are some pressure-assisted toilets. Now, if you looked inside the toilet tank on a pressure-assisted, you wouldn’t see the tank fill with water; you’ll actually look inside and see this black plastic tank or chamber. And in that case, you’re not going to have that temperature difference and it won’t sweat.

    LESLIE: Now, I imagine in some situations, you’re dealing with a leaky toilet. Maybe you’re getting phantom flushing or issues where the toilet is running. Is it important to make sure that that’s sort of fixed or maintained before you implement this system, to not waste hot water?

    RICHARD: Absolutely. Just imagine if water came into a toilet tank and even if it was cold, over time it would warm up. And so then the sweating problem is gone. But if you keep on adding new 40- and 45-degree water, that sweating problem will be a real issue. So you want to make the repair on two fronts: one to stop wasting water and the other is to help stop that condensation.

    TOM: That’s terrific. Now, you have a video on how to do just this on ThisOldHouse.com.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: Yeah and it’s really interesting because you can see underneath the terrible damage that this toilet had been doing to this poor guy’s ceiling for years. And with a very small plumbing assembly, like you’ve just described, it all goes away.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Like magic.

    TOM: Very, very simple fix. Great idea. Richard Trethewey from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Glad to be here.

    LESLIE: For more great home improvement advice, you can watch Richard and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Trane. Nothing stops a Trane.

    Still to come, how to get your kids involved in DIY-ing and get them started on skills that will help them as future homeowners. That’s all coming up, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac, makers of the number one-selling Guardian Series Home Standby Generators. Now introducing a full line of consumer and professional power washers. Whether you need to power it, clean it or protect it, Generac can help. Visit Generac.com to learn more.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call right now for your chance to get in on our great prize giveaway. One lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Dremel Trio. And it’s the first multi-functional tool of its kind. It’s a spiral jigsaw, an edge sander and a detail router all in one. I mean you could make an entire piece of furniture using this thing.

    The Dremel Trio is available nationwide at all hardware and home improvement centers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, even Amazon.com. It’s worth 100 bucks but it could be yours for free if you ask your question on air. Again, the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, if your kids are anything like mine, it is about that time of the summer when the excitement of vacation has pretty much totally worn off and they are looking for something, anything to do. And that’s why it’s a good time to take on some DIY projects with your kids.

    Now, for many years, I timed my DIY projects to be done without my kids, for a very good reason, because sometimes they would come and try to help when they really wanted to help but sometimes it wasn’t that much of a help, like the time that my little five-year-old son kicked a full gallon of paint down a set of stairs. That took a long time to clean up. Really, really, long time.

    LESLIE: I can imagine.

    TOM: But there actually are some fun and safe projects that you can tackle with your kids, so here’s a couple of ideas. You might want to start by building some outdoor furniture: something that they might enjoy, like a sandbox or a tree swing or maybe even sort of a mini-golf course. We used to do those growing up: we’d always create mini-golf courses in the backyards of my friend’s house and his mom always let us do it until we took out a window once with a wild swing.

    LESLIE: Yeah?

    TOM: The golf-course operation was shut down promptly after that. But that’s a fun thing to do with kids. And you don’t have to use anything more aggressive than a hammer and some nails to do some of this stuff. You can do very small things like this and teach them those skills early on.

    I also will let the kids paint occasionally, when it’s manageable: when it’s something that’s easily correctable or something that they just really want to help with and you’re not too concerned about the quality, have the extra supplies. Exactly.

    LESLIE: Or you have extra supplies.

    TOM: And the other thing that I do with my kids is I give them a hammer and nails and a couple of chunks of wood – and safety glasses – and let them go ahead and try to bang some nails into wood. And that is something that they love to do and they feel like they’re really helping with a project. They’re at least practicing their DIY skills.

    So be creative; think about it. There are lots of ways to get kids involved and you know what? There’s no place in school when this is being taught, so you really have to teach kids yourself. There’s no such thing as a shop class in a lot of parts of the country anymore, so you really need to take that responsibility as parents to teach your kids how to handle tools, how to do simple things around the house so that they are comfortable and confident as they grow up that they can tackle these things on their own, as well.

    LESLIE: You know, it’s funny. Over at the Children’s Museum locally to me, they have a tool section where the kids get to hammer nails into wood. And I do this at home with my son, Henry, who’s three, because you’ve always talked about doing this growing up and I’ve always been very hands-on with my parents when I was a kid.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: So Henry sits down at the little table at the museum and this lady comes running over. She’s like, “I’m sorry. They have to be five.” I was like, “Oh, sorry, at my house, we swing hammers. I apologize.”

    TOM: Really? Yeah. Not in my house.

    LESLIE: Apparently, five is the acceptable hammer-swinging age unless you are at the Segrete household.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Well, if you guys want some more kid-friendly, do-it-yourself ideas, some great projects, check out our very next e-newsletter. You can sign up now at MoneyPit.com. It’s completely free; it goes right to your inbox every Friday morning and it is just full of great information. So sign up today.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Josh in Pennsylvania is calling about a foundation. What can we do for you?

    JOSH: I own a home. It’s over 100 years old. I recently bought the home, I’d say, within the year.

    TOM: OK.

    JOSH: And it has a stone foundation that takes on some water. The whole basement does not flood. It’s almost like it’s concaved on one side, where it leaks in a little bit and runs down into a hole where there’s a sump pump.

    TOM: Right.

    JOSH: I guess my question is – one, I had it quoted to get it “repaired.” Their definition of repaired was dig up the cement there, put a drain under it.

    TOM: Right.

    JOSH: Or two, just get cement and smooth over the whole basement and just clean up the walls with cement, pretty much.

    TOM: Yeah and neither of those solutions will work, OK? You know, just the other day, we had a call from a writer at the New York Times that had this exact same question for an article that she was working on and I’ll tell you exactly what we told her. You almost never, ever need to install an underground drainage system like that.

    And in fact, doing so does not stop the walls from getting wet, will not protect the walls from caving in. Because the water collecting outside those walls will remain whether or not you collect it on the inside or not. And especially when you have a solid wall, there’s going to be no relief in pressure whatsoever.

    So, the solution is how do we stop the walls from leaking without tearing up the inside of the house? The question is: how do we stop the walls from leaking without tearing up the inside of the house? And the answer to that is outside drainage, outside drainage and outside drainage.

    Look at the gutter system. If you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it’s clean, free-flowing, the downspouts are extended 4 to 6 feet away from the foundation perimeter and look at the angle of the soil around the house. It’s probably flat. It’s probably settled over the years. Add clean fill dirt, not topsoil. Clean fill dirt. Tamp it down, pack it down. Should drop about 6 inches over 4 feet. And those two things alone will solve 95 percent of all wet-basement problems.

    JOSH: OK. Wonderful. I appreciate both of your help. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re 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. Still ahead, termites, they cause millions of dollars of damage to homes across the country every single year. Now, do you currently fear that termites are right now making a meal out of your house? If so …

    TOM: Chomp, chomp, chomp.

    LESLIE: We are going to tell you the telltale signs of a termite infestation, so you will know for sure, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by The Iron Shop, the leading manufacturer of spiral stair kits. Visit www.TheIronShop.com today to find out how you can own a beautiful, iron spiral staircase.

    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: And even though you’re sweating bullets, now is actually a very good time to think about your heating system. Why? Because if you need a new one, it’s the old rule of supply and demand: there’s not a lot of demand right now and there’s plenty of supply. So now, actually, is a very good time if your heating system is very, very old. If your furnace is ancient and you’re thinking you might need to replace that antique, go out and get some prices right now because you’re going to get the best deal of the entire upcoming heating season.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, you can head on over to MoneyPit.com and you can join our Community section and you can learn all about what everybody else is working on. You can post pictures of what you’re working on and if you want to ask Tom and I for some help, you can post your question there.

    And I’ve got one here from Sandra in Auburn, Mass. who wrote: “We have a 1972 ranch-style home. We recently noticed some wood particles that look like sawdust, that seem to be coming from one of the breather holes in the strip of wood to which the gutter is attached. We are worried this could be termites. What do you think?”

    Breather holes?

    TOM: I’m laughing because there is no such thing as a breather hole in the strip of wood to which your gutter is attached.

    LESLIE: I’m like, “I’ve never heard of that.”

    TOM: What you’re witnessing there are holes that were drilled by not termites but carpenter bees.

    LESLIE: Yeah. They make a perfect dowel-like diameter; it’s crazy.

    TOM: And they’re consistent, too. So you could think actually they were supposed to be there for some reason. But no, those are actually carpenter bees that you have there and you need to treat those and you need to plug those holes. And if you get tired of treating them, what you can do is take down the gutter and replace the typical 1×6 pine with a piece of what’s called AZEK – A-Z-E-K. It’s an extruded PVC material that looks like pine but it’s actually plastic and the carpenter bees can’t eat that.

    But as far as termites are concerned, your problems with termites are more likely to be at the ground level. And the key thing to look for in a termite inspection is really the tubes – the mud tubes – that they build from the ground on up, because they cannot be exposed to sunlight. So they build these tunnels that are usually about a ¼ to a ½-inch wide. And they’ll crawl inside these tunnels. Sometimes, you’ll see them on the outside of the foundation or coming up the block wall.

    And the other thing is if you have a basement and if the floor joists are exposed, what you can do is take a heavy screwdriver – I usually take a real long one, like a 12-inch one – and tap the ceiling joists all around the outside edge. And if you get one that’s hollow, you’ll hear it and you’ll also check the sills right above the foundation. That’s the way we find termite damage before it gets too terribly bad.

    Good idea to have a yearly termite inspection, by the way, so you catch them before they do too much destruction.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I can remember when we bought our home, we had our termite inspection – our initial one – and the gentleman came in with a screwdriver and he was like, “Yeah, this is my official tool,” and just started poking at things.

    TOM: I know.

    LESLIE: And at one point, just went right through a piece of wood.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: And I was like, “Oh, should I be upset that you’re destroying the house or yay, we found we something?”

    TOM: I know. I used to wear the tips off on those big screwdrivers, because it just isn’t an effective termite testing-for tool.

    LESLIE: Probe, if you will?

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Alright. Betty in Florida is looking for a way to get rid of wall paneling and she wants to fill it in to make it look smooth to paint. I say either cover over it with a ¼-inch drywall or just learn …

    TOM: Or pull it down.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Pull it down if you can or learn to love it and make it work. Because if you try to fill in those grooves on the paneling, nothing’s going to stick.

    TOM: Never works. Yeah.

    LESLIE: It’s going to fall right out. You’re just making more work for yourself.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s surprising how many folks think that you can spackle in those grooves. It’s just not something that’s possible. It’s not like you’re trying to fill in a ding and …

    LESLIE: Plus, how long would that take?

    TOM: Yeah, I know. And it’s not like you’re going to fill in a ding. And paneling is usually pretty easy to pull down. So start in a corner, try to loosen it up.

    LESLIE: See what’s behind it.

    TOM: And unless it’s glued to the wall, you’ll be surprised at how quickly it comes off.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And then you’ll have a whole modern look, Betty.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope you’ve gotten a few ideas to help turn your money pit to palace.

    Remember, you can contact us any time of the day or night by simply picking up the phone and dialing up 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we are not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are. And you can also post your question to the Community section 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.

    (theme song)


    (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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