Hands-Free Faucets, a New Dawn for Awnings, and Getting Rid of Things That Go Bump in the Night

  • 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 we are here to help you take on your next home improvement project. So, what have you got planned? Pick up the phone; let’s take that first step together. The number here is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Whether it’s inside or outside, now is the perfect time, really, to work outside or inside because it’s fall and it’s very pleasant. And you want to get all the stuff done before we have to sort of lock ourselves in for the cold, chilly winter ahead.

    It’s supposed to be a bad one. I’m actually thinking about getting a snow blower this year. You know, I kind of like the exercise of shoveling but I’m thinking like, I don’t know, last winter sort of put me over the edge.

    LESLIE: Actually, my neighbor and I – it was so funny. This week, when we were getting the kids on the bus, we were talking about the winter. And she’s like, “That’s it. I’m getting a snow blower.” I’m like, “Well, if you’re getting the snow blower, I’ve got the generator.” I’m like, “Now we’re not going to get any bad weather.” But that’s fine.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: I’ll take that. I’ll take that, too.

    TOM: That reminds me of when I put sprinklers in my house. The very next summer, we had more rain than I’d ever seen before. Didn’t need them.

    LESLIE: It just always works that way.

    TOM: Whatever is on your to-do list, let’s put it over on our list. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    We’ve got a great hour planned for you. Coming up first, are you hoping to avoid the flu this winter? Well, hands-free, motion-activated faucets are great for cutting down on the spread of germs in public restrooms and they could be a healthy fit for your home. We’re going to help you weigh the pros and cons of this very popular design trend.

    LESLIE: And with Halloween just ahead, who are you going to call when you hear a strange noise in your house? No, not the Ghostbusters. Money Pit, of course, you guys. We’ve got explanations and solutions for those spooky, creaky cranks and none of it involves green slime.

    TOM: That’s good to know. And if you’ve worked hard through the spring and the summer to have a lush, green landscape, there is one more step to make sure it comes back next year and that is winterize. We’re going to teach you what to do to protect plants, shrubs and the bushes for winter’s onslaught.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a prize that comes with an added bonus: extra time. That’s because Ames Collector Series Leaf Rake and Shrub Rake are both designed with unique technology that will dramatically cut down the time you spend outside actually raking up those leaves and debris.

    TOM: And both rakes are going to go home with one caller we talk to this hour. We’re going to draw that caller at random from those that reach out with their home improvement questions. So if that’s you, well, you’d better get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Adam in Rhode Island is on the line with a leaky skylight. What’s going on?

    ADAM: I have a bay window in my bedroom and it’s below a skylight. And for a while, it started to create those brown stains on my ceiling but for the most part, the biggest problem was there’s a leak in the bay window. So, my father and I went up there. We put a new flashing kit on the skylight and it seemed to help the problem, but it did not eliminate the problem.

    And I had a contractor friend over who took a look at it, as well, and he noticed that if you go out on the outside, the bay window abuts the gutter where the gutter attaches to the roof above it. And it’s his opinion that there should be, perhaps, some 6- to 8-inch gap there between where the gutter meets the house and where the bay window starts. So it’s his opinion that the bay window might have been improperly installed.

    TOM: So, it sounds like the bay window is up too high? Is that what you’re saying? So it basically goes right up under the gutter?

    ADAM: Right. It certainly – there’s certainly no separation between the soffit but there’s also no separation from where the gutter meets the house, either.

    TOM: Alright. And does the bay window have its own roof on it? Or is the roof sort of built into the soffit structure?

    ADAM: No. It’s under the overhang.

    TOM: Oh, it is under the overhang. OK. Mm-hmm. Is it possible that the gutter is overfilling and perhaps the water is backing up through the gutter, getting into the soffit and running into the bay?

    ADAM: I thought that at one point. And I have gone up and checked and the gutters are clean.

    TOM: OK. And where this is on the roof, is there sort of a long stretch of roof that goes down before this – before it hits the skylight?

    ADAM: Yeah. I guess so. Maybe 10 or 15 feet.

    TOM: So I’m going to give a trick of the trade and this might solve it. You might be getting so much water against that skylight that it’s just sort of forcing its way in. One thing you might want to do is to try to put a diverter on the roof right above the skylight. And this – see if this works. It’s really easy to do and so there’s kind of no reason not to try it.

    But you make a – you take a piece of aluminum in the shape of an L and you basically attach it to the roof. And you essentially want to intercept that flow of water down the roof and have it run around the skylight and around the bay window. So you’re slowing the volume of water that’s coming down that roof, running full steam towards that skylight and that bay-window area, and running it around that space. And all you’ve got to do is tack that onto the roofing shingles, put some silicone caulk to help seal the edge and see what happens.

    ADAM: So you caulk the edge of the L with silicone. And how do you affix the aluminum to the roof?

    TOM: Yeah, you could simply nail through the shingle and with a roofing nail.

    ADAM: OK.

    TOM: Because you’re – well, the caulk will help seal it. And basically you’re capturing that water as it’s running down the roof. And it’s sort of running right around that skylight/bay-window roof combination and then off to the gutter.

    ADAM: Alright. Sounds good. I’m willing to try it.

    TOM: Good luck, Adam. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’re going over to Alaska where Mary has a question about siding. How can we help you today?

    MARY: We recently sided our house with concrete siding. It’s 25 years old and underneath is plywood and then Tyvek. We used 4×8 or 4×12 panels that are prepainted but I can’t remember if they’re 4×8 or 4×12. And they’re attached to the plywood walls and they’re attached vertically. On that, we attached 2-inch batten, which was also prepainted at the factory. And those 2-inch battens run vertical on 8-inch centers.

    TOM: OK.

    MARY: My first question is: do I need to caulk where the batten attaches to the panels? And secondly, do I need to caulk the nail holes on the batten?

    TOM: Well, you wouldn’t caulk where the batten attaches to the panels. You might use an adhesive in that area if that’s recommended by the siding manufacturer. In terms of the nail holes, generally, you don’t have to caulk nail holes. You know, as long as you’re not smashing the nails and breaking the siding, they’re usually tight enough around them where you do not have to caulk each individual nail head.

    MARY: The nail holes have broken through the painted surface.

    TOM: So, if they broke through the painted surface, it’s not a bad idea to touch them up with a little bit of caulk. But I wouldn’t be too concerned about it.

    MARY: OK. And then you think that it needed to be caulked or adhered to behind the batten before it was attached?

    TOM: Well, no. What I said was I don’t think you need to caulk it, because there’s really no seal between the siding and the batten or the strip of wood. What you might need to do there is – or an option might be to use an adhesive, like a construction adhesive, to help adhere the siding pieces to the batten. But I wouldn’t do that unless it was recommended by the manufacturer of the siding. They’re going to have specifications for how to install the siding. And if it tells you to use an adhesive, use it; if not, you just fasten it with the nails.

    MARY: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, it’s official: Halloween comes in just a few days. I’m super-excited. Got my costume all ready. But what’s your house dressing up like? Ah, of course you’ve got to dress up your house, guys. And we can help you do that. Give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT. We can help you dress up your house for Halloween, every day or just anything you’ve been dreaming about. Give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: Still to come, learn what to do with your lawn and garden to make sure your plants and shrubs survive the cold winter ahead and make a great comeback next spring.

    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: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question or your design dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win two Ames Collector Series rakes. Both uniquely designed to speed up raking while cutting down on physical exertion.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It comes with the 26-inch Ames Leaf Rake. And it’s not only extra super-duper lightweight, it’s got engineered tines so that they’ll stay in contact with the ground all at the same time, which means you’re going to have fewer stray leaves getting away.

    TOM: And this hour’s winner is also going to receive the Ames Collector Series 8-Inch Shrub Rake, which features an extended handle and an optimized head for pulling fall foliage from tight, out-of-reach spaces. So give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question and your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Hawaii, the most beautiful place in the world, with Ross. What can we do for you today?

    ROSS: Thank you for saying this. And I had a question for you guys about countertops. What can you recommend that does not require treatment every six months or year like granite or – I know Silestone is supposed to be good. But what can you recommend in the natural-stone arena?

    TOM: Well, Silestone is quartz and quartz is not as absorbent as granite and that’s why it needs a little bit less care. Concrete tops are gaining in popularity. But again, all of those stone-based products do need more maintenance and more care than something like a basic, solid-surfacing material that is designed to look like stone.

    So, if you want to us the natural products, you’re going to have to buy into some of that maintenance. And I think if you are definitely committed to natural, I would look at quartz over granite.

    ROSS: And that would include Silestone?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a type of quartz.

    ROSS: Does that require maintenance?

    TOM: Yep. They all require maintenance, so you’re not going to get something that’s completely maintenance-free. But I think it requires less maintenance than granite because it’s not quite as absorbent. A little more forgiving to those tomato sauce and coffee stains.

    ROSS: OK, great. Well, I appreciate that very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to John in Iowa who’s dealing with a leaky shower. Tell us what’s going on.

    JOHN: Went and got a shower on my main floor, where it basically leaks onto the floor in the basement. And when I removed the 2-inch trap – this is a home that was built in ’41 but it’s been remodeled recently, probably within the last 10 years or at least the shower has – I noticed there wasn’t a whole lot of room between the tile and the flooring or the main wood behind it, as well as they sealed up the drain. It was basically just a 2-inch PVC sealed with some sort of cement and then a drain popped on top of it.

    And I’m curious – I mean how can I remedy this issue? Obviously, it needs a proper drain. But I couldn’t find anything to fit the hole that they had.

    TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, it’s still leaking and you’re in the middle of this project? Is that correct, John?

    JOHN: Well, I just bought this home and I basically said, “OK. We’re not using this shower. We have an upstairs shower that we can use during the remediation process.”

    TOM: Is this a tile shower?

    JOHN: Yes.

    TOM: So, with a 1940 tile shower, the first thing I would expect to leak is the lead pan. And the way those showers are built is there’s a lead pan put in against the drain, then the tile is put on top of the lead. And so, over the years, those pans would crack. And the way you test a lead pan is simply by blocking the shower drain and then filling up the bottom of the shower with as much water as you can get in there – usually 4 or 5 inches of water – and then wait and see what happens.

    So if it’s possible for you to test the pan, I would do that before I start assuming that the leak was at the drain. Because it might very well be that the drain is not leaking; the pan is leaking. And if that’s the case, then you have to tear out the shower base and rebuild it.

    JOHN: Ah, I see. Alright.

    TOM: It’s the lead pan. Because a pan that’s 60, 70 years old, they just don’t last that long.

    JOHN: Alright.

    TOM: OK? So, seal it off, test it off. You know what works well? One of those – you know those rubber jar openers that are about 6 inches in diameter?

    JOHN: Yeah.

    TOM: Put that across the drain, fill it up with water and then watch for a leak.

    JOHN: Alright. I’ll try that.

    TOM: OK, John. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector I used to check those pans for leaks all the time that way. And we got – you get smart after the first time this happens to you – is that you never let that water sit very long. Like you fill it up, you go downstairs immediately and see if it’s leaking.

    LESLIE: Really? It’s that fast when you’ve got a crack in the pan?

    TOM: Sometimes, yes. Because if it’s going to leak – if it’s a bad crack, it may never have been discovered or it might have been so slow. But by filling the whole pan up with water, you prove it very quickly that it’s leaking. So that’s why we always check very quickly to see if there’s a leak. And if then if not, fill it up, let it sit there for a half hour, go back and check again.

    But it’s a very, very common area for a leak and unfortunately, a very expensive one. Because think about it: you’ve got to tear out all that tile and you’ve got to rebuild that pan. And today, of course, we don’t use lead; we usually use fiberglass. But it’s a pretty big renovation. Probably a couple thousand bucks worth of work.

    Well, after all the work you put into your yard and garden, this time of year there is one more chore to do and that’s winterize. Really, it’s the only way to make sure your yard work continues to pay off year after year.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. The cold season is not only rough on you but it can actually be super-rough on your outdoor shrubs and plants. You’ve got dipping temperatures, strong winds. And that’s going to rob your shrubs of precious moisture. So you want to protect them with burlap, anti-desiccant sprays or even rose cones.

    TOM: And if you’ll be seeing a lot of snow in your area, take an extra step to prevent plant damage by tying up the shrubs with jute or building a wooden A-frame shelter to protect any fragile branches.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And winterize container plants by either bringing them inside an unheated garage or digging a hole in your garden bed and placing the plant, with its container and everything, right into that hole. And then you can add an insulating layer of mulch to the surface or even woodchips. And that’ll just keep the roots of the plant warm enough to make it through the season.

    TOM: Good advice. If you take the time now to protect plants from the extreme temperatures ahead, they will be ready to thrive again come spring.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going over to Michigan where Linda is on the line and wants to add onto a farmhouse. How can we help you with that?

    LINDA: Well, I have about a 100-year-old farmhouse and I – the only bathroom is upstairs. It’s a two-story farmhouse. And I want to age in place, so I want to add another bathroom downstairs. And also, I inherited a doll collection from my mother and it’s stored in all the storage in all the rooms, so I kind of want to bring it into one room and add another room for that and hobbies.

    People have been suggesting that I just – oh, just add a – (inaudible at 0:15:46) rooms in the house and just put a bathroom any old place. But the rooms are really well proportioned; it’s good cross-ventilation. I don’t want to have a mess. I want to have some style to the additions, so people have suggested that I go to either an architect or a drafter or interior designer. I don’t know – I’m not sure what that process involves and how many I should go to or …

    TOM: Well, I think that you hit the nail on the head and that is to hire an architect. Because, essentially, you want to make sure that whatever you do to this house flows and maintains its structural integrity as well as its design integrity. So an architect can help you do just that.

    Selecting where to put that bathroom will be a balance of compromises trying to decide where it fits best in the design, where the plumbing is now, what it would take to get the plumbing where it needs to be for this particular bathroom and then how best to design those rooms for your collections and that sort of thing. The architect can handle with the structure and the mechanical systems. Once that’s done, then you could consider bringing in an interior designer to help lay it out and choose colors, choose furniture and make it work for you visually.

    LESLIE: And I think the other good thing about bringing in the architect is they may have an interior designer that they work with. You can bring in your own. They’ll be able to sort of work together to help you specify the right materials for the right areas. So it really is a strong partnership.

    LINDA: I see. Now, do I bring – do I talk or consult with two architects and get their ideas? Or do I just go with one and get the designs?

    TOM: What I would do is I would bring in one or two or maybe three architects to see the property, tell them what you want to accomplish, find out how they work. You get a feel for them, they get a feel for you and then you make a decision based on that.

    LESLIE: I think you meet with somebody – you meet with two or three architects, as Tom suggested. Just get a feel for them, because you’re going to know if you want to work with them, you’re going to know how well you communicate back and forth. You’ll sort of spitball ideas there during that meeting and get a really good sense of how much they’re understanding you. And whoever you feel the most comfortable with, I think, is what’s going to lead you to the right decision. And then you’ll start drawings.

    LINDA: OK. I did get a card from someone who used them but – used this person but he was – this card says he’s a drafting consultant.

    TOM: You don’t want a drafter, OK? You want an architect. You just want am architect – a good-quality architect. So focus on that first. You can take – usually, they’ll have books that show some of their past projects. You can see what kind of work they do.

    You know, it’s going to be – you’ll figure out, through a process of elimination, which one you’re most comfortable with and that’s the person that’s going to get the job. But they’re well worth the investment because they’re going to make this process easy and they’re going to be – you’re going to be assured that it comes out exactly as you plan.

    If you bring in some – if you go right to the contractor step, they’re just going to squeeze this bathroom in wherever they think it fits and you’re not going to be happy with it. So get the architect; they’re well worth their investment.

    LINDA: OK. Great.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, you wash your hands to get rid of germs only to pick up more of them when you touch the handle to turn that water off. We’re going to share some tips to undo that dirty irony with a hygienic home solution worth considering, especially as we enter flu season.

    TOM: And we’ll get that advice direct from Richard Trethewey, the This Old House plumbing-and-heating expert.

    And This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by the Stanley FATMAX AntiVibe hammer. Pound nails, not your arm. We’ll be back with more, after this.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    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 you should head on over to The Money Pit’s Facebook page, right now, because you can enter the Healthy Home Sweepstakes. We’ve got three winners and each is going to receive a Get Clean Kit from Shaklee.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And each kit comes with a variety of all-natural cleaning solutions, including laundry detergent that’s free of chemicals and safe for your family and home. And even more, each concentrated solution is going to last for months. So check out the Healthy Home Sweepstakes at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit now.

    TOM: That’s Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. And to learn more about the complete line of Shaklee products offered by The Money Pit, head on over to GreenMyMoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Barry in Iowa on the line who’s got a question about a bathroom with carpeting. And I know your question is really about a pet but bathroom with carpeting? What’s going on, Barry?

    BARRY: Well, the dogs were locked up in the bathroom when we went shopping. So when we came back, they had torn a hole. It wasn’t a big hole but it was probably 2½ inches by 3 inches long. And I can’t cover it no way and so I was wanting to tear the carpet up and put in new carpet because I can’t match the old carpet. And then – but I don’t know how to put a threshold down in there.

    TOM: Well, first of all, putting carpet in a bathroom is generally a bad idea because, obviously, it doesn’t mix with the moisture. Even if it’s an indoor/outdoor style carpet – I don’t know what you have. But I would recommend against carpet in a bathroom. So, the dogs may have done you a favor, because it’s forcing you to take that carpet up. Your question is: how do you put a threshold in the door so that you would have a clean edge?

    Yeah, well, you certainly – what you basically do is you put in a doorsill there. And it sits even with the door when it’s closed, so it’s about as thick as the door, plus another inch or so. So it’s usually a couple of inches thick. And it may be higher on one side where the carpet is and lower on the other side where the floor is.

    But it’s a pretty standard piece of carpentry work or a pretty standard piece of a carpet-installation project. And I would recommend that you remove that carpet from the bathroom and put in a different type of flooring. What’s underneath that carpet? Is there tile under there now?

    BARRY: No, it’s a cement slab. It’s a slab house.

    TOM: OK. So then what you might want to think about doing is putting in something like a laminate floor.

    Now, laminate can look like tile or it could look like stone. But it’s very moisture-resistant, so it’s a terrific choice for the bathroom. And if you want something to kind of warm it up, then put a throw rug on top of it. But I wouldn’t put carpet back.

    BARRY: Yeah. Well, that’s what we were thinking, too.

    TOM: Yep. Very simple step. Putting in a doorsill is all you need to do. And if you don’t know how to do it yourself, I’m sure your installer can help.

    BARRY: I don’t have to nail the threshold to the door – I mean to the floor?

    TOM: Oh no. It’ll be secure to the floor but there’s lots of ways to do that. There’s a way that you can screw through the threshold with a special screw called a Tapcon fastener. And it will secure it to the floor. There are ways.

    LESLIE: And then there’s a piece that snaps over it. There is – if you go into your home center, – Home Depot, Lowe’s or whatever you’ve got near you – in the flooring aisle, there’s going to be – at the end, you’ll see wood, metal. They’ll be called “transitions.” It’ll be from carpet to wood. It’ll have all the varieties of one surface to the other surface and all the different ways to install them. They’re pretty easy.

    BARRY: Oh. Well, thank you guys for the information and I hope you have a good day.

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

    LESLIE: Well, hands-free faucets are so common now in restaurants and stores, you sometimes find yourself holding your hands under a regular faucet and wondering why the heck the water isn’t coming on. I mean I know I do that, even at home.

    TOM: Well, now they are turning up more and more in bathrooms and kitchens at home. Here to tell us more about the hands-free faucet revolution is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hey, guys. Nice to be here.

    TOM: This is an almost magical technology, right?

    RICHARD: Who would’ve thunk it? Smartphones and hands-free faucets. You know, they’re so practical. You tended to think they were just sort of a gizmo but you don’t have to worry about your hands being dirty, soapy. You don’t have to worry about germs; you can really keep the germ count down.

    And at home, there’s all kinds of advantages. You save water. You just swipe your hand underneath it. It shuts the water on or off. It’s great for people that have limited mobility. In the old days, it was – the only choice you had was the big blade handles that’d you have to come in for people with limited mobility. So, pretty cool.

    LESLIE: Well, it seems like it’s an interesting technology, Richard. It’s a motion sensor that realizes when your hand is under the faucet.

    RICHARD: Yep.

    LESLIE: But is this a viable option to have in your home? Does it require a lot of maintenance?

    RICHARD: Well, I think the key is the proximity sensor. These sensors, we see them in lights. You walk into a hallway and all of a sudden, the lights come on. So that simple switch, which senses your presence, is what unlocked this for the faucet. Now you can swipe your hand under it. It sees it – pass – it makes the switch. Now it goes to a solenoid valve, which opens and closes, opens and closes. So, those two devices are the key.

    Well, if you’re going to have something that has electricity, you then have to have a power source so that most of these are battery-powered. Sometimes, you can plug them in. It’s not space-age technology anymore by our standards, in this American society of ours. A simple sensor, a solenoid and a power source and you’re good to go.

    TOM: And that power source can last quite a long time. I’ve heard that those battery packs, because it uses so little power, it can last for over a year.

    RICHARD: Yeah. On the same weekend you don’t change your smoke-detector batteries, you can not change your faucet.

    TOM: Yeah. But it’s probably even more annoying to not have water than to listen to the beep of the detector.

    RICHARD: You should change both of them; you need both of them to be operating. So, do it when you change the clocks.

    TOM: Absolutely. Now, those – the faucets are changing now, too. Aside from motion detection, sometimes you have these touch faucets which you can actually touch and make them come on and touch and make them come off. The technology advances here are really dramatic.

    RICHARD: Yeah. We did one on Ask This Old House this year that was really fascinating. Just there’s something really cool about just touching and have it come on. Just seems like you’re sort of a savant or a magician when you touch it. You need to have a higher-end brass faucet so you can conduct the signal but it’s really cool.

    So, both of these have changed the plumbing game. To me, it used to be that this was strictly for handicapped or something like that but two things have come out. The technology is now proven and working and the price point has come down so there’s not some extraordinary premium for this simple technology. It used to be that it was probably a factor of two times more money and that’s not really the case anymore.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. No, I think it’s interesting and it seems more and more common that everything is becoming automated. I’ve seen automated paper towel dispensers. So it becomes really helpful in the kitchen. Now, if you sort of combine this with an automated soap dispenser, this might actually be a good plan for kids.

    RICHARD: Now you might get the kids to actually use some soap. Yeah, the same motion sensor is available now for soap dispensers. You get near it, it comes right out and you’re good to go. So, we will be completely hands free soon. We won’t need to talk to anybody, we won’t touch anybody; it’ll just be we’ll swipe our hands and the whole world will be perfect.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what, it’s pretty impressive technology and the price is coming down. And you’ve got to think seriously about getting one of these, folks, if you’re going to be updating your faucets in the near future.

    Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks for filling us in. Really interesting project.

    RICHARD: Great to be with you.

    LESLIE: Alright. 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 ThisOldHouse.com.

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

    Well, up next, are you hearing creaks and rattles and bangs and squeaks in your money pit? Well, I wouldn’t go scheduling the séance just yet. It’s not the ghosts out there that are causing that this Halloween season. It’s a far more practical cause. We will tell you what it is and what to do about it to quiet the spooky sounds in your home, next.

    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: Pick up the phone, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to cut time spent raking leaves in half. Not only because they’re going to win two Ames Collector Series rakes but because both of these rakes are built for efficiency and speed.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s awesome, the Ames Collector Series Leaf Rake is designed to miss fewer leaves, which means you don’t have to work as hard. And the 8-Inch Shrub Rake is perfect for pulling debris from those hard-to-reach spaces, like underneath your fences and shrubs. I mean you can get at it all.

    TOM: And that leaves more time for you to give us a call with your questions, which you should be doing right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Well, the Halloween spirit is in full swing but are you hearing things go bump in the night? Well, we can’t guarantee that it’s not a ghost but we’d put money on those squeaks and creaks coming from one of a handful of common, non-paranormal household problems.

    LESLIE: That’s right. For example, if you hear a mysterious knocking from your interior walls, odds are it’s one of two plumbing problems. You’ve either got a copper pipe that’s not properly attached to your wood studs in the wall – and that can cause a rubbing on the wood as it expands which will create sounds, like knocks and bangs or even drips.

    TOM: And the second cause is what we refer to as “water hammer.” And the way this works is as water runs through the pipes, it picks up speed and also a centrifugal force, which shakes the pipe when the water is turned off. And the solution, of course, is to secure the pipes better to the framing it’s attached to and also install something called a “water-hammer arrestor,” which is basically a shock absorber for your plumbing system.

    LESLIE: Now, if it’s your floorboards that are creaky and kooky, it’s probably because those boards are rubbing together or because the nails that are holding them in place have loosened.

    So, to get rid of all that racket, you need to get rid of the movement. You want to get to the floor from the underside, maybe through a crawlspace or a basement, and have somebody else walk on it above you so that you can pinpoint its noisiest locations. Now, at the squeak site, you want to gently tap a glue-coated shim in between the floor and the joist. And if the floor is carpeted, you can remove the carpet and drive a hardened drywall screw into the board.

    TOM: And unlike in the movies, a cold draft in your home doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an unwanted visitor. Imagine your home’s exterior walls as basically a slice of Swiss cheese. Now, each hole that’s cut out for windows and doors and outlets and even light switches is a source of air leakage. All you need to do is to seal these openings from the inside to prevent drafts and energy loss. And also use caulk and weatherstripping to keep that cold air out and you’ll be good to go.

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

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’re going over to Eunice in Arkansas who has a retaining wall that thinks it’s a chameleon. It’s changing colors. What’s going on?

    EUNICE: Part of it is – the part that’s turning white powdery-looking is the part that’s exposed to the weather. And it’s kind of spreading. It looks like it’s – the whole thing will eventually turn white. I don’t know if it’s oxidizing or if moisture from the ground is making it change colors or what.

    TOM: You know, that’s exactly what’s happening, Eunice. What you’re seeing is called “efflorescence.” And essentially, water from the ground pulls up because those concrete blocks are very hydroscopic. So it – water pulls up and then as the water evaporates, it leaves its mineral salts behind. And that’s what that whitish/grayish deposit is.

    So it’s not harmful; it’s really just cosmetic. And there’s not going to be a lot you can do to stop it, though. If it’s an outside wall like that, if there’s going to be a lot of moisture collecting in that area, you’re going to get that sort of thing from happening.

    EUNICE: Oh, OK. So power-washing it or using a chemical or anything wouldn’t make a difference?

    TOM: Well, really, all you need – I’ll give you a little trick of the trade. If you use white vinegar – so if you were to mix up some white vinegar and mix it with water in a pump-up sprayer, that will melt the mineral salts right away.

    EUNICE: OK. Very good. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Eunice, good luck with that project. You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: Well, it might not be as tough as quitting but getting cigarette stains and odors out of your house can certainly be a challenge. We’re going to help you breathe easy with our tips for preparing those stained and smelly walls for a fresh coat of paint, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by QUIKRETE Concrete & Cement products. QUIKRETE, what America is made of. Like us on Facebook and visit online at www.QUIKRETE.com for product information and easy, step-by-step project videos.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And you know what? So many projects, so little time left before the frigid temperatures hit. So if you’re on the fence about exactly what to tackle, consider cleaning your home’s exterior. That is a great way to feel good about its appearance all winter long. And there’s no easier way to clean your house and walkways than with a pressure washer. It’s one of my favorite tools. So if you need some tips on which pressure washer is best for you, that advice is on MoneyPit.com right now.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And if you send Tom an e-mail, he may come to your house come spring season and do all the pressure washing for you. He loves it that much.

    TOM: It’s really fun.

    LESLIE: It is. It’s really one of the most addictive chores. You start off at your house, next thing you know you’re four houses down the block, everybody’s got a sparkly driveway. So much fun.

    Well, while you’re online, guys, e-mail us a question in the Community section or post it up there, just like Casey did who writes: “My siblings and I are planning to paint the interior of our parent’s home before we list it for sale. The problem is both of my parents smoked in the house for many years, so the walls are stained by the smoke throughout. Is there any way the walls should be treated to eliminate these smoke stains and odors before we begin painting?”

    TOM: Yes. You have a job in front of you, Casey. The first thing that you need to do is to scrub those walls down. We’d recommend a solution of TSP – trisodium phosphate. Scrub, scrub, scrub, rinse them well. That will help get rid of as much tar, that’s sort of stuck to the walls, as you possibly can.

    Next, let those walls dry really, really good, because you’re going to end up putting in quite a bit of water on there to get all that smoke stain off. And once it’s dry, we want you to prime the walls.

    Now, when you prime them, I want you to choose a solvent-based or oil-based primer to use – not latex – because it’s really the best at sealing in whatever is on those walls, including the odors. And once they’re all primed, then you can apply a good-quality, flat wall paint. And good quality is important because it’s going to flow well and it’s going to look great. And I think the home will smell a lot better.

    And by the way, make sure you don’t ignore any carpet that’s in that home. If you do have carpet, tear out the carpet, tear out the padding, pull out all the tackless and then use that same primer on the subfloor. If you’ve got plywood subfloor, for example, prime it. That will help seal out the odors that would invariably stay behind.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you really have to be careful about that. If you’re showing the home, also, with any soft goods, like draperies or upholstered items, you might want to consider having them cleaned, especially if they’re super-stinky, which they just might be. And that will really help present a fresh face for the home.

    Next up, we’ve got a post from Andrew who writes: “I recently realized that my second-floor bathroom exhaust fan simply sends the moist, humid air from my bathroom straight into my attic. Would it work to run some rigid vent pipe to my soffits and vent it there? Should I even worry about it?”

    TOM: Well, you should worry about it. Because if you take all that moisture from your bathroom and send it up into your attic, it’s going to make your insulation damp, which makes it ineffective. Plus, it’s going to condense on the underside of the roof sheathing, which can lead to mold and rot and all sorts of nastiness. So you do need to vent this outside.

    Now, should you vent it to your soffit? That’s one possibility but not just into the soffit. It actually has to come through the soffit. You need to use an actual exhaust duct and a vent, right there, where it terminates at the soffit so that it doesn’t get blocked up. Free-flowing air is really what has to happen here. And if you don’t do it right, you’re going to be opening yourself up to a whole host of problems.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what, Andrew? You might want to consider installing a humidistat. And actually, Leviton makes one that will actually sense the amount of moisture in your bathroom and come on when it needs to and goes off when it doesn’t need to be on anymore. And that will be a huge moisture-reducer.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We hope you’re enjoying this beautiful fall weekend and that you’ve gotten some tips and ideas to help you improve your money pit as you choose your projects to take on. If you’ve got questions, remember you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or always online in the Community section of MoneyPit.com.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 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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