Get Outdoor Spaces Ready for Entertaining, How to Clean Your Wood Deck, How to Find and Fix Rotted Wood, How to Fly the American Flag and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement projects. Help yourself first. Pick up the phone, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    What are you working on this spring? Well, if part of your plan was to finish those home improvement projects by the, say, end of spring, you’d better get going because you’ve only got about a week left. The big Memorial Day Summer-Kickoff Weekend is now just a few days away and that’s a day to honor those that have served, as well as enjoy time with family and friends in the great outdoors. This hour, we’re going to have some tips to help you get those outdoor spaces good to go.

    LESLIE: That’s right, like your deck. You know what? Chances are, after the winter that most of us have had, your deck could use a little TLC. We’re going to tell you what steps you need to be taking when it comes to refinishing your wood deck, in just a few minutes.

    TOM: And also ahead, a long, wet winter can contribute to a common problem for homeowners: rotten wood. You know, rot can ruin wood trim, it can ruin the sills on your windows, it can rot the entire window or door right out. We’re going to tell you how to find it and fix it before it becomes a big problem.

    LESLIE: And one caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win the MyQ Garage from Chamberlain. It is such a cool product. You can open and close your garage from anywhere with just a mobile-phone app.

    TOM: It’s worth $130. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us on today’s show, so pick up the phone. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Rudy in Mississippi is working on a flooring project. How can we help you today?

    RUDY: I’ve got a Great Dane and he’s kind of a hefty fellow. And he puts scratches in the floor when he’s playing. And we’re thinking about selling our home and my wife thinks that we’re not going to be able to sell our home because of the scratches. And I believe it’s just gone through the laminate; I don’t think it’s actually gone to the hardwood underneath. Is there any way to fix that or cover up that problem?

    TOM: So you have a laminate floor? You don’t have hardwood floor. The hardwood floor is underneath the laminate but the scratches are just in the laminate? Is that correct?

    RUDY: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Well, it’s not really possible to fix deep scratches in laminate. I mean there are fillers for it.

    LESLIE: It looks like a waxy crayon.

    TOM: Yeah. I could only imagine, with a dog, how many scratches you have. It’s probably a lot. It’s not like you moved one piece of furniture and got a deep scratch. So, if you’re concerned about selling the home, I would think about replacing that laminate floor. Laminate floors today are pretty inexpensive and they float, so they’re easy to install. And they lock together; they snap together. If it really looks that bad, you probably would be wise to think about replacing it. You’re just going to have to keep your dog off it then until you sell the house.

    RUDY: Well, I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Cynthia from South Dakota on the line who’s got a question about a firewall. Tell us what you’re working on.

    CYNTHIA: I have an old house and I’ve been ripping out the plaster walls. And I found, along this one wall – see, the whole entire house is this pretty durable and tough plaster-board stuff. And I was wondering if that is a firewall, because that seems to be where all the cold-air returns and stuff are and if I should or should not rip it out. And if I do rip it out, is there a certain kind of drywall that I should use there?

    TOM: Where is this wall located exactly?

    CYNTHIA: It could have been on the outside of the house at one point but it’s (audio gap) under the furnace.

    TOM: Well, first of all, the only place that you typically would have a firewall – in other words, a fire-rated wall with a certain rating – is between the garage and the house. All the other walls and ceilings inside the homes are – usually have traditional, ½-inch drywall. If it’s an exterior – an interior/exterior wall – an inside surface of an exterior wall, like a garage wall, then you would use a 5/8-inch-thick, fire-rated drywall. But all of the other places in the house, you’d have regular plaster board – I’m sorry, regular drywall.

    CYNTHIA: OK. Have you ever seen this plaster board before?

    TOM: Well, sure. Now, how old is the house?

    CYNTHIA: I believe it was built in 1896?

    TOM: See, there’s different stages of wall construction. In 1896, you would have had something called “wood lath,” so there would be wood strips on the wall and then plaster put on top of that.

    CYNTHIA: Yep. That’s on most of the walls. But this one particular wall – which could have been an outside wall at one point; I’m not sure exactly – it’s like in 2-foot strips.

    TOM: Yeah, OK. So that’s a later addition. And what they did with that is when they stopped using wood lath, they started using rock lath or – you would think of sheetrock in those 2-foot-wide strips? They put that on and then covered that with wet plaster. So that’s just a more modern version of the way walls were constructed. So it went from wood lath to rock lath to sheetrock. That’s, essentially, the progression of wall construction over, roughly, the last hundred years.

    CYNTHIA: OK. Well, thank you.

    TOM: A little lesson on building history. Hope that clears it up for you.

    CYNTHIA: Yeah. Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright. 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

    Well, I guess you guys are all getting ready for the big Memorial Day Weekend, so let us give you a hand around your money pit. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you ready to hit the deck, like maybe with a burger and a beer? Get that deck ready first. We’ve got staining tips, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Foundry Specialty Siding. Foundry vinyl cedar siding gives your home the beauty of real cedar shake without the hassles and worries that come with wood siding. Foundry, unsurpassed beauty and strength. Find out more at

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And one caller who asks us their home improvement question on the air today is going to win the MyQ Garage from Chamberlain, which is a very cool piece of technology.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You can set up your existing garage-door opener with the MyQ system. No wiring needed. Then, you download the MyQ app and you’re ready to go.

    Now, it’s going to alert you if you’ve left the garage door open and you can also monitor your door from wherever you are.

    TOM: It’s worth $130. It’s available at Amazon, Home Depot and select Best Buy stores. You can learn more about the product at And you can pick up the phone and call us, right now, for your chance to win a MyQ Garage. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Kurt in North Carolina on the line who’s working on a restoration. Tell us about the project.

    KURT: So I’ve got 2×6 floor joists spanning 15 feet. And I’d like to know if I rip some ¾-inch plywood and sister it up against the 2x6s and glue and screw it, if that would be sufficient. My crawlspace has six vents under the floor and I want to seal them up. I read it doesn’t need cross-ventilation. It’s kind of old-school. And I put six-mil poly on the ground. Your thoughts, please.

    TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, in terms of beefing up the floor joists, sistering the floor joists by doubling them – I don’t necessarily think I would use plywood on them; I would double them.

    KURT: Would it be flimsy?

    TOM: Well, I mean it may not be flimsy but the thing is, if you want to sister a floor joist and help support it, you need to go from bearing point to bearing point. So if it’s going from a girder to an exterior wall, the sister beam has to go the same length.

    KURT: Yeah.

    TOM: You know, another thing that you could do, Kurt, is you could run another girder, at the midpoint of that 15 feet, from end to end. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be – has to be as strong as the main girder for the house, because you’re really just taking the flex out of it. So if you poured a small footing underneath it and just got something in there to kind of stiffen the floor, that would take the bounce out.

    KURT: Right. Yeah, I thought about that on the main floor but my second story, I didn’t want to – if I put a glulam in, I only have 7 feet, 5 inches to ceiling height.

    TOM: I understand. So, doubling them is a solution, as well as using a mid-span girder.

    KURT: Alright, sir. I appreciate the information.

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

    Alright. Now we’ve got Jackie in Colorado on the line who’s dealing with some issues from a sink drain. What’s going on? Stuff is only supposed to go down, right?

    JACKIE: Yeah, it’s supposed to. The only time I have trouble with it is when I use my washing machine. It’s connected to the same line as my sink. And the old-timers put it out in an open well. And so, the only time I have trouble with is when the washing machine drains, then it bubbles back into my sink. And then when the water finally goes out, I get this gray-water smell.

    TOM: So, you have a gray-water drain when you say it goes to a well. You don’t mean a drinking well; you mean a gray-water well.

    JACKIE: It’s just an old well that they dug and they used it to – as a drain. It’s not a septic tank.

    TOM: OK. So, yeah, it’s called a “gray-water drain.” And so, you’re getting odor back in. So the reason you’re getting odor is because you need an additional trap in the system. Before that line goes out to the “well,” that you’re calling it, there should be an additional trap.

    Now, the trap is a U-shaped pipe, the same that you might see under your sink. And the idea of the trap is it lets the water drain one way but stops the gases – the odor that you’re getting – from coming back in. And so, if they didn’t put a trap in that line, that’s why you’re getting the odor.

    The fact that you have the washing machine and the sink on the same line is not exactly legal but it’s also not unusual. And so, I’m not going to tell you to change that but you absolutely do need a trap in there. Otherwise, who knows what kind of gases you’re going to bring back in from the soil? And if you do that, that should solve that problem once and for all. OK, Jackie?

    JACKIE: OK. Alright. See if I can get that done then.

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

    Well, spring is one of my favorite times of year. It’s when we get to go outside and take care of things that we’ve let go, perhaps, all winter – because it was brutally cold – like your deck.

    Now, if you want to get it back in shape, it’s easy. There’s a few things you need to do and we’ve got tips on how to just that, presented by the experts at Flood, the wood-care specialists.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And considering most of our decks have been covered by several feet of snow for several months of the year, you really want to start with a good cleaning. And there are several products on the market specifically for this purpose or you could simply mix laundry detergent and water.

    Now, you might think a pressure washer can make quick work of a deck cleaning but you’ve got to be careful. Too much pressure and you can actually damage the wood.

    TOM: Now, if you really want your wood deck to look great for years to come, it needs to be restained every year. And there are so many products on the store shelf, it can really make your head spin. So, how do you know which product or products you need?

    LESLIE: Well, that depends on several factors. First of all, you have to think about what kind of wood is it, whether or not it’s been stained already, what kind of stain it has on it. Are you going to be changing the color or are you just maintaining it? And you also need to consider the condition of the current stain. These factors affect not only which finish or stain that you should get but also how you need to prep the wood.

    TOM: Now, the easiest way to tell exactly what you need to do is simply go to and use the Staining Made Simple Guide. It’s free and you get a complete, customized plan for your project, including a supply checklist. And you can take a look at their how-to videos.

    Check it out at

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Jim in Oregon with a paneling question. Tell us what you’re working on.

    JIM: I’ve got a house that was built in the early 1950s and I moved into it in the 70s. And it didn’t have any insulation in the walls of the house, so I took the interior paneling off, which was – ¼-inch plywood was all it was. And then I put insulation behind that and of course, rewired it at the same time.

    And then when I put the ¼-inch paneling back, after I put the insulation in, then I put – of course, it was in the 70s, the big paneling era. So I just put paneling over the top of that. Now I want to kind of upgrade it a little bit and I’m not too sure if my best route would be to clean the paneling really well and paint it or clean the paneling really well and have somebody come in and spray it, like you do sheetrock. Or maybe I should put ¼-inch sheetrock over the top of it and tape it off and then spray it. Or possibility of putting – on every stud, put a 2×2 on the stud and then put the insulation in that looks like Styrofoam with the tin foil on each side and then a panel over – or sheetrock over the top of that. So, I’m kind of looking at dollars and cents in which way to go.

    TOM: Wow, you have a lot of choices. Do we want – we really want a cosmetic solution here?

    JIM: Yes.

    TOM: That’s the case, there’s no reason you can’t paint this.

    I mean paint on paneling can look quite attractive if it’s done well. Right, Leslie? But I think priming is probably important.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You’re right about wanting to clean it. Then you’re definitely needing to prime it with a very good-quality primer, because you want it to adhere very well to the paneling. And depending on if this is actual wood paneling or some sort of wood-like paneling, you just want it to stick well. And then I would go with whatever paint over it.

    The issue here is whether or not you like the look of the vertical lines. If you like them, then you’re going to love it painted. Because somehow, white paneling looks fantastic, especially if you’ve got a décor and a home style that lends itself to that look. It can really work for you.

    I really wouldn’t paint it any other color because then it’s like, “Oh, that’s painted paneling.” Where suddenly, in white, it’s like, “Oh, it’s got a country chic-ish charm to it.” But it’s really up to you whether that’s a look that you like and will enjoy. If you can work with it, then I definitely say go for the paint.

    JIM: So if I painted white on it, my big-horn sheep hanging on the wall and the antelope and stuff would stand out really well then.

    TOM: Yeah, I bet they would.

    LESLIE: That’s a whole ‘nother conversation for another day.

    JIM: Yeah, I can just understand. I used to own a sporting-goods store, so I understand that.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us, Jim, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Marlene in Iowa is dealing with some winter window issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    MARLENE: We had our siding and our windows replaced a couple years ago. And ever since we replaced the siding and the windows, in the wintertime when we turn the furnace on and get the heat started in the house, every morning when we get up, every window in the house has moisture buildup at the bottom of the window and even to the point where it makes little pools on the windowsills. So we have to go around to every window and take a towel and dry all that moisture off the bottom of the window and out of the windowsills.

    TOM: Well, the good news is you have to – you’re cleaning your windows every day, so they never get dirty.

    MARLENE: Thanks.

    TOM: So, the reason that’s happening is because your windows are not insulated very well. Are these thermal-pane windows?

    MARLENE: They were supposed to be. They were supposed to be very good windows but we had trouble with the siding that the guy put on, so I suppose he sold us a cheap window along with the siding that we had problems with.

    TOM: You see, the reason that you’re getting this condensation is because when it’s cold outside, the warm, moist air strikes the inside of the glass and it condenses. And so you probably have high humidity inside your house.

    There’s a couple of things we can do to try to reduce that. But if you don’t have good, insulated window glass, that problem gets really pretty bad. It can actually add up, as you discovered, to quite a bit of water.

    So, the fix, unfortunately, is to replace your windows, which is expensive. So what I would suggest that you do is take a look at all of the reasons that you get high humidity inside of a house. So, you get humidity from activities that people do: cooking, cleaning and bathing.

    Make sure that if you have exhaust fans in your bathrooms, that you have the fans, they’re ducted out of the house and that they’re run on timers so that when you’re done with showers and baths, they can continue to run for 15 or 20 minutes to pull that moisture out. Make sure that you have an exhaust fan over your range, of course, that’s also, again, ducted out and not a recirculating.

    Make sure that around the foundation perimeter of your house that your grading is adjusted properly. You want to make sure that soil slopes away from the walls and that your gutters and downspouts are extended. Because believe it or not, if they’re not – if the gutters are not clean, they’re not extended, if the grading is too flat, that water is going to collect in the soil around the outside of your house. It will be drawn into the foundation and then it will be wicked out of the air on the other side and work its way up through the house, increasing humidity the whole way.

    So, simply by making sure you keep water away from the house, you’ll reduce humidity inside the house. Does that make sense?

    MARLENE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: So that’s why it’s happening. Those are the few things that you can do inside to reduce the amount of humidity that you have.

    MARLENE: Alright. Well, you’ve been very helpful. At least I kind of understand what’s going on. Thank you and I enjoy your show.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you take damp, wet weather and you add wood, you’re probably going to end up with rot. So, coming up, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva has tips to help identify rotted wood and help you fix it so that your exterior wood details are in good shape.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by the Stanley TM65 Laser Distance Measurer, packing a variety of measuring functions in an easy-to-use design. Point, click, measure, done.

    JOHN: Hi, this is John Ratzenberger. Played the part of a know-it-all on Cheers and here’s something I really do know about. You’re listening to the best home improvement radio show made in America: The Money Pit with Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.

    ANNOUNCER: Starting an outdoor wood-staining project? Get it done the simple way with Flood Wood Care. With products like Flood CWF-UV, you get long-lasting quality at a great value, plus guidance to help make the whole process easier. Get started at

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are just back. We are literally unpacking our bags this week from our trip to the 2014 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. And that is really a great place to be if you are a do-it-yourself enthusiast like us, because it’s not open to the public. It’s the place where the manufacturers roll out all the new products that you’re going to see on store shelves over the coming year. And we get to check out those highlights sometimes before they even get to the stores.

    And I’ve got to tell you, there is one exhibitor there whose products I have loved and admired for years. It’s Gladiator. And they make garage storage products and work products and organization products. So if you’ve got a project that you’d like to tackle, if you’ve got a space that you want to work in, these guys can outfit it perfectly so you can get that stuff done.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? They do it very well. Gladiator work benches, they’re going to adjust to the exact height that you like. They can hold up to 3,000 pounds and they come in maple or solid bamboo.

    TOM: Now, one common appliance that we see in garages a lot is a refrigerator, right? And typically, it’s the old refrigerator: the one that used to be in the kitchen and now it’s quite old and it’s sort of stuck in there to handle the extra food? Well, that refrigerator is not really designed to work in the intense hot and cold temperatures of a garage. Because garages, of course, are unconditioned spaces.

    Gladiator has a solution: it’s called the Chillerator. And it’s designed to be a garage refrigerator and it works really well. And it does stand up to that kind of temperature swing.

    LESLIE: Now, here’s the kicker. You know how most garage storage stuff has that stainless tread-plate design on it?

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Well, if you want something that’s maybe a little softer, they’ve got a great finish in the Gladiator Select Series in new Everest White, which would be great for laundry rooms.

    TOM: That’s really smart. It provides some options. You can learn more at and follow the hashtag #TopProductsNHS on Twitter for more of our favorites from the 2014 National Hardware Show.

    LESLIE: Well, everyone’s house is susceptible to rotted wood and it usually happens where wood meets water.

    TOM: Yeah. But rot isn’t just a condition; it’s actually a living, breathing pack of organisms that can wreak havoc on a home. Here to tell us more is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. Nice to be here.

    TOM: You know, rot is sort of a term of art, right? People use it to describe just about anything that structurally goes wrong to a house. So, let’s start by kind of describing what’s actually happening when you find a piece of rotted wood.

    TOM SILVA: Well, you get rot when you have too much water around wood.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: Long periods of time will rot that wood. And it’s actually a fungus that gets into the wood, it becomes mold or mildew and it starts by staining and so on down the line. And it actually ruins the integrity of the wood.

    TOM: So it’s really like the microorganisms that start to attack those fibers.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. And when that starts to break down, there’s not a lot that you can do. You either have to cut it out or fix it.

    TOM: So, if we are going to fix it now, what’s the best way to sort of attack this? Is it just a situation where you’re going to use wood putty?

    TOM SILVA: Well, I wouldn’t use wood putty.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: First of all, you have to eliminate the rot. You have to cut it out and you have to get down to bare wood. I use a two-part epoxy and that epoxy goes over a primer that you have to put on there first. And that’s a two-part system, also.

    So you have to dig out, rout out, whatever you have to do to get rid of the rot and then get to the fresh wood so you can apply this primer or Primatrate, they call it. And you apply it to the wood.

    Now, I have 10 to 45 minutes to work with that. So I mix up my epoxy. It comes in a two-part caulking gun. And there’s either a tip that will mix it or I can squeeze it out to a piece of glass. And I can mix it up with a plastic knife and then just plow it into that void.

    And I can build it up as thick as I want. I can either follow a molding profile and make it with that, overbuild it. And what I like to do when I – if I have a profile, I’ll actually take a plastic knife and I’ll make up the profile of the molding and then I’ll just trace it or scribe it right down. And then I just have to fine-tune it later on.

    TOM: Now, do you have to account for shrinkage? Do you have to do it in layers or can you just sort of one-and-done?

    TOM SILVA: Not with the type I use.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: You can just build it right up and it’s amazing that – it takes about 24 hours, sometimes 40 hours for it to dry. But once it’s dry, I can rout it, I can sand it, I can grind it, I can form it, chisel it, whatever you want.

    TOM: Probably stronger than the wood it replaced.

    TOM SILVA: It is stronger. But the big deal is that it moves with the wood; it’s flexible.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And that’s very important.

    LESLIE: Now, does it ever get to a point where you sort of have to weigh whether it’s better to repair that wood that has the rot or just simply replace that piece?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. You want to definitely look at the cost because the epoxy is not cheap. In some cases, where you have a round column or you want to do a curved molding around the bottom, it gets expense to do that. But if I have a simple window casing at the bottom where it meets the window sill, it may be rotted. So I can – may be able to just patch in that little rotted end of the sill and fix the lower part of the casing.

    TOM: And that is the distinctive voice of Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House. We’re talking about rotted wood.

    Let’s talk about how you detect the difference between rotted wood and insect damage. As I said before, people call it all rotted wood but it really is a significant difference. And I think the key to repairing anything is knowing what causes it, right?

    TOM SILVA: Right. And the main culprit is water. Water is the enemy. When it gets into the wood and you get a certain moisture content, it will just rot on its own.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: But if it gets into the wood and it’s the right location of the house and you may have carpenter ants, they’ll get into that wood because they like the moisture. They are wood movers and they will actually move that wood.

    A termite will get in and they are wood eaters, so they will eat the wood. The difference is termites don’t like the sunlight and carpenter ants don’t mind the daylight or the sunlight. And they just take the wood and they could move it 20 feet away.

    TOM: So if we’ve got rot and maybe we suspect some insect damage, we also need to make sure that we’re not only repairing the rot but treating the insects. Because you know how it is: if you see them in one place, they’re somewhere else.

    TOM SILVA: Maybe they’re somewhere else. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

    And you could tell if the wood is eaten by insects because the grain of the wood, there’s all – there’s an open grain or a fast-growing grain and then a hard grain.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And they usually eat the softer grain.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And you can see it’s a thin, thin ring that – left around.

    TOM: Love that summer/spring growth; hate that hard, slow winter growth.

    TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah. Exactly, exactly.

    TOM: Yep.

    TOM SILVA: To stop rot, the main thing is primer and paint, all six sides.

    TOM: Yep.

    TOM SILVA: Get it in there and stop the water from getting around it.

    TOM: Painters always forget the fifth and the sixth side. That end grain is so critical because that’s so absorbent, right? Draws the water right in.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly. Yep.

    LESLIE: You know, Tommy, it’s funny. A lot of people will say the term “dry rot.” Is that …?

    TOM SILVA: Mm-hmm. I love that term.

    LESLIE: Right. Is it its own category of rot or is it non-existing?

    TOM SILVA: Well, if it’s its own category – if you mean that it’s dry rot, it’s rot that’s been caused by water that’s eventually dried out and so now it’s dry rot.


    TOM: It’s not a new type of rot; it’s the regular rot.

    LESLIE: So there’s not three different kinds? That’s just the next stage of it.

    TOM: Without the water.

    TOM SILVA: That’s the next step after it dries out.

    TOM: Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit and filling us all in on the topic of rot.

    TOM SILVA: Well, it’s nice to be here. Thanks.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Still to come, we’ve got flag-flying tips just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, so stick around.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Foundry Specialty Siding. Foundry vinyl cedar siding gives your home the beauty of real cedar shake without the hassles and worries that come with wood siding. Foundry, unsurpassed beauty and strength. Find out more at

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who asks us their home improvement or repair question on the air today is going to win the MyQ Garage from Chamberlain.

    Now, you can set up your existing garage-door opener with the MyQ system. No wiring needed. Then, you just download the MyQ app and you’re ready to go.

    TOM: It alerts you if your door is open. It can also monitor your door from anywhere. It’s worth $130 and it’s available at Amazon, Home Depot and select Best Buy stores.

    You can learn more at Or call us, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Vivian in Texas is dealing with a mysterious odor in her house. Tell us what’s going on.

    VIVIAN: I don’t know what’s going on. I have had three plumbers out there, thinking they could find out what it is. But one of them told me I had a bird in my air-conditioning vents upstairs, because our air conditioning-and-heating system is in the attic, and it wasn’t that. And it’s only been a year-and-a-half since I had the septic tank pumped out.

    TOM: Where is the odor most prevalent?

    VIVIAN: When you walk in the back door.

    TOM: Do you think it could be originating near the kitchen sink?

    VIVIAN: I had one plumber tell me that, too. And he opened it – opened the grease trap or whatever you call it outside. And he says, “No, that’s clean as a whistle.”

    TOM: One of the areas in the house that is often overlooked when it comes to odors, and especially sewage-like odors, are the kitchen-sink or the bathroom-sink drains and not, though, the traps themselves. But what happens is that you will get bacteria that will form around inside the pipe and actually line the pipe. And it gives off what we call “biogas.” And biogas has an awful odor to it and it really is difficult to track down because sometimes it’s worse than others.

    So, what we would recommend that you do, before you do anything else, is to get the equivalent of a bottle brush and some bleach-and-water solution and carefully scrub the inside of the drains of the kitchen.

    Now, to do that, you might have to take that trap off again and kind of work up. But you really want to make sure that you get rid of any debris that could be stuck to the inside of those pipes because that’s what the biogas is built upon, so to speak. Does that make sense?

    VIVIAN: Well, thank you very much. I’m going to sure try it because three plumbers couldn’t tell me what it was.

    TOM: Alright. Well, thanks very much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, Memorial Day Weekend is coming up. And along with barbecues and pool openings, we are celebrating what it means to be American and saluting our troops. And what’s more perfect for that than flying the flag?

    Well, we’ve got some tips to help you pay proper respect to our flag. First of all, you have to handle it with care. The American flag should not touch the ground, become worn or soiled.

    TOM: Now, when you’re flying the flag, it should be displayed with the blue union up, except as a distress signal in times of dire emergency. And another important bit of flag etiquette: never use the flag as a wrapping or any other sort of decoration. That’s what the red, white and blue bunting is for.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, here’s some other protocol you’ve got to follow. When you’re hoisting the flag, you want to raise it briskly. And when you’re lowering it, you want to lower it ceremoniously to a recipient’s waiting hands. You have to fold the flag neatly and carefully for storage.

    And when you’re flying the American flag at night, you need to make sure that there’s a light on it at all times. Pick a spot that’s illuminated by a porch or a streetlight or consider installing sensor lights that automatically come on in the evening.

    TOM: For more flag-flying tips, including tips on how to attach a flag bracket to just about any type of building material, visit

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

    CYNTHIA: I have white dust on my shoes – my leather shoes – and my purses inside my closet. And my shoes can be inside of a shoebox and I don’t understand what it is.

    TOM: Do you have a heating duct inside that closet?

    CYNTHIA: No. But right outside the closet, I do.

    TOM: Well, generally, if you get a lot of dust in the air, then you don’t have good filtration in your heating system. And so, if you have a forced-air system, you ought to have a good-quality filter on the return duct. And unfortunately, a lot of folks use those fiberglass filters which don’t filter very much. I always call them “rock-stoppers” because everything else goes right through.

    But if you improve the quality of the filtration on your heating system, that will go a long way to cleaning the air in your home and reducing the amount of dust that’s laying not only on your shoes, in this case, but on your tables and chairs and everything else in the house.

    CYNTHIA: OK, great. Thank you. Have a great day.

    LESLIE: Well, termites, they’re not just gross, they actually cause millions of dollars in damage every year. Do you have them? Well, how do you find out and what’s the best way to prevent termites in the first place? We’re going to answer those questions, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Fan us on Facebook to get great info on our giveaways, our product reviews, our how-to videos and more. And you’ll be the first to find out about our sweeps and new content as it’s put up on Simply go to

    LESLIE: Alright. And you can post a question, like we answer at this point in the show. And I’ve got one from Chris in Oklahoma who posted: “My neighbors just discovered termites in the wood trim of their home. Could this mean that I have them? Am I more likely to get them? What should I do?”

    TOM: Listen, termites were here long before we were and they’ll probably be here long after we are. The fact that your neighbor has them does not necessarily put your house at more or less risk of getting a termite infestation, because they’re everywhere.

    Now, what you should be doing is having your home inspected on an annual basis by a licensed pest-control operator or a home inspector or people that are in the inspection business, because they know how to spot termites and termite infestation way before you will. The worst time to find a termite infestation is when they swarm and they just get everywhere. Thousands of flying insects can really overwhelm your space.

    I remember in the years I was a professional home inspector, I’d often come upon a termite swarm outside.

    I remember one house, Leslie, where they covered a patio.

    LESLIE: Really?

    TOM: They were like wall to wall. It was like a moving patio. It was the weirdest thing. But then, you know, two hours later you go back there and they’re completely gone. But if you get a swarm, they are everywhere all at once. So you should be having your house inspected on a yearly basis.

    And if you find them, there’s a new type of termiticide called an “undetectable” that’s on the market now. Termidor is one of the brands. And the way this stuff works is it’s injected into the soil. And the termites pass through this and they don’t detect it and they get it on their – on themselves. They take it back to the nest and they pass it from termite to termite. I think of it as germ warfare for termites, right? And it totally wipes out the entire colony, so it’s a very effective way to protect your house from termite damage. It stays active for many, many years in the soil and it affects termites and nothing else.

    So, that’s what you need to do. Get the inspection and if you find termites, take action.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? I was having my home treated for the spring and doing my normal inspection with my pest professional. And they were telling me that because we had so much snow this winter throughout the country, the ground is just so saturated that this is going to be a big year for ants, termites, everything. So you want to make sure that you stay on top of pest control so that your house stays in tip-top shape.

    Oh, here’s another pest question from Jill in New Jersey: “The stink bugs are back.” Yes, they sure are. I actually rescued one from my foyer the other day. “I can’t stand looking at these little pests. How do I get rid of them without smelling up the place?”

    TOM: Well, first of all, you don’t want to smash them because then you will smell up the place. The most effective way to get rid of them is to vacuum them up.

    LESLIE: Really? I think they smell like fresh-cut grass.

    TOM: They stink, believe me. And they’re gross; you don’t want to have them around your house. But the thing is, you don’t want to smash them. You want to suck them up with a vacuum because this way, you’ll get rid of the stink bugs when they are found around the house and you won’t impact the odors and affect your enjoyment of the house.

    They’re pretty common, especially with all the damp, humid weather that we’ve had right now. If there’s really an excessive amount, you can have a professional spray a pesticide that will reduce the populations. But remember, don’t sweep them up, don’t crush them. Just vacuum them up.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Maybe I think fresh-cut grass smells good. Maybe you think it smells gross. I don’t know.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some ideas, some tips, some advice on how to get your money pit in tip-top shape, especially if you’re getting it ready for the next big summer weekend, Memorial Day, just a week away.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 2014 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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