Hidden Household Hazards, DIY Arbors and Pergolas, and Mulching 101
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 to help you with your home improvement projects. So help yourself first: pick up the phone and call us, because this is a listener participation sport. You’ve got to call us so that we can help. 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 is the phone number. And you know what? Doing a home improvement project can be just like a sport because you kind of compete with yourself to get it done, right? Keep that motivation up?
LESLIE: It’s true.
TOM: Don’t make any mistakes, no errors on the play. We can help with all of that, so give us a call. We are here for you.
Coming up this hour on the program, you think of your home as a safe place but could the opposite be true? We’ve got tips to help you find and fix the hidden household dangers, coming up.
LESLIE: And if you think arbors and pergolas only exist on the pages of magazines, you need to think again. General contractor Tommy Silva from TV’s This Old House is here with do-it-yourself tips for building wooden structures for your lawn and garden.
TOM: And speaking of your lawn and garden, mulch is an important element to any spring garden or landscape plans. But how much mulch is too much mulch? And who knew there were about seven different types of mulch to choose from? We’re going to have tips on how to choose mulch to make your garden grow, including an important caution about which type of mulch can grow fungus that’s almost impossible to get rid of: the dreaded artillery fungus, right?
LESLIE: Ugh. It’s such a pain in the butt; you can’t really get rid of that off of certain things, so you’ve got to be careful with which one you choose.
And also this hour, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We’re giving away a Husky 11-Piece Screwdriver Set and a 20-Piece Ratcheting Wrench Set. Now, Husky tools aren’t just engineered to last forever, they’re guaranteed to last forever. It’s a prize set valued at $60.
TOM: It’s a great addition to any tool collection but especially great for the caller who wins it free this hour just by talking to us. See how easy that is? Pick up the phone, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Dan in Pennsylvania is on the line with a plumbing question. What can we help you with?
DAN: Yes, my son has an older house with cast-iron or steel drainpipes and they go – the main line goes straight down from the toilet and then under the basement floor. And he’s continually getting clogs because of the – the cast iron gets rough over time and tends to catch things.
So I’m wondering – I realize normal drain lines, you drop them an inch a foot so you don’t get too fast a drain and siphon out the traps. But can you – with the main line, can you do pretty much do whatever you want with that? Like, say, two 45s and then straight down to get it to the edge of the property? And then that way I’d only have to tear up a little bit to get to – out of the house with the plastic pipe.
TOM: Well, you may not have to tear anything up. There’s a pipe-lining technology that you can consider where, essentially, they reline the cast-iron pipes with a fiberglass sleeve that’s smooth and doesn’t have those types of obstructions. It also helps stop root growth that can sometimes get into the seams of cast-iron piping.
TOM: And that can be done with the pipes in place. You wouldn’t have to tear anything up.
DAN: I would have to cut the pipe though, I’m guessing, because if it goes down and then underneath the portion of the basement at some sort of a – probably a 90. And there may be a trap in – under the basement floor, as well.
TOM: But all of this can be done without you having to access it. Because the way the pipe lining works is – first of all, they put a camera down there to figure out which way the drains are going and they can do that with a pipe camera. And then they run what looks kind of like a fiberglass sock through the pipe.
And it’s kind of like – if you can imagine turning a sock inside out, they do that with water pressure. And it turns inside out and sort of forms against the inner walls of the cast-iron pipe and then sort of dries and hardens to this sort of very strong, smooth surface that won’t obstruct the flow.
DAN: OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Dan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ann in North Dakota, you’re on The Money Pit. How can we help you?
ANN: I am looking at a house that is over 100 years old and it has an open staircase. The problem is is that there’s a bedroom that is above the staircase and adjoins it at the top. And part of that bedroom is cantilevered harshly and then totally over the open staircase. And I have a big crack that’s developing on an open area. And that area is cantilevered out about 6 feet from a load-supporting wall.
And I don’t know if I can just patch it or if I need to put a support beam or jack or something underneath it, because this area is getting pretty worrisome. I’ve got two cracks that are about 3/8-inch and pretty long.
TOM: So, Ann, are these new cracks or has it always been cracked?
ANN: It’s always been cracked but it’s been a hairline for many years.
TOM: Oh, boy.
ANN: And then we had a massive flood.
TOM: How long ago was the flood?
ANN: That was in ’97. And then the ground has been shifting ever since. Since that flood, the cracks have gotten bigger. That was in ’97.
TOM: When we have cracks in walls and foundations and things like that, we always look to determine if they’re active or inactive. Because, frankly, all homes have cracks. If you tell me that over the last 20 or so years that this crack has opened from a hairline to 3/8-inch, it might be active. I’m not actually convinced of that yet but I am concerned enough to tell you that you probably should have it looked at by an expert.
What I’d like you to do is go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors; that’s ASHI – A-S-H-I – .com. And find a home inspector in your area. There’s a zip-code sorting tool there that’s a member of ASHI. And talk to two or three of them and find one that specializes in structural issues like this and have them look at it. And see if we can determine, based on that inspection, whether or not this is an active, ongoing situation or just a crack in an old, plaster wall that needs to be fixed.
It’s not unusual for old homes to have lots of cracks in them and especially around a staircase, because just the way homes were framed back then is different than they would be today. And so, that’s not an uncommon area for cracks to develop. But I think we need to determine – for your own sort of sanity, if nothing else – whether or not this is active and ongoing or something that’s really just historical. Does that make sense?
ANN: It sure does.
TOM: Alright, Ann. 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, you know what they say: “April showers bring May flowers.” So are you prepared for all the rain we’re going to get this month? Well, whatever it is you are working on at your money pit, whether it’s making it drier or making it more pretty or more structurally sound, we can give you a hand 24 hours a days, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, you swapped out the smoke-detector batteries and you cleared the toys off the stairs but are there other hazards lurking in your home? Find out when The Money Pit continues, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Vigoro. The Vigoro brand offers quality products for your lawn and garden at the ultimate value. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Visit your local store today.
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 and give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT. And if we talk to you on the air this hour, you could win a Husky 11-Piece Screwdriver Set, plus a 20-Piece Ratcheting Wrench Set.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, Husky’s modern handle and their body designs will actually let you work in super-tight areas and you’re not going to sacrifice any accuracy. And our winner will never be short a screwdriver again. The 11-Piece Screwdriver Set includes 5 slotted screwdrivers, 4 Phillips and 2 offsets.
TOM: Combined with the wrench set, it’s a 31-piece prize valued at 60 bucks but it’s going out free to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that caller you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sparky in Georgia on the line with, fittingly, an electrical question. What can we do for you?
SPARKY: Hi. I’m in a prewired home that has RG59 coaxial cable coming into each room. I need to replace that now with RG6, which is a thicker coaxial cable. What is the best way of going through to replace all those?
TOM: Well, generally, whenever you want to rewire anything in the house, it doesn’t always make sense to remove what’s there. What you’ll generally do is cut it back. And you’ll just essentially – you’re going to run the new cable as if you were putting it in for the first time. Of course, because the house is already up, it’s tricky to do this to run it through walls and stuff but you would use wire snakes to do this. And sometimes, if the cable is loose in the wall, you can actually attach the new cable to the old cable and pull it through at the same time.
Sometimes you can get away with that but it basically takes a lot of skill to run new wires in a house that’s already up. And that’s pretty much the way you do it. The answer is: any way you can. So, if your cable is loose and you can pull one end up and tie the other end to it so that you’re kind of pulling it all the way through, you do that. If you can’t do that because it’s nailed in place, then what you might do is just sort of snip off the ends, tuck it away in the wall and run a new cable next to it. But basically, it’s a bit of a tricky job and you try to get it done any way you can.
SPARKY: I gotcha. Very good. You’ve been helpful. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to Virginia where Margaret has a question about a bathtub. Tell us what’s going on.
MARGARET: I have an old, cast-iron tub and it’s real rusty in spots. And I’m wondering what we could do to restore it.
LESLIE: Now when you say real rusty in spots, are we talking about big spots or are we talking about small, little ones from a chip here and there?
MARGARET: No. We’re talking about big spots because the water – it was not good water when we first moved here. And so it had a lot of wear and tear on it about 40 years before we moved here. And we’ve been living here, probably, about 45 years, so …
TOM: So your tub is almost 100 years old, huh?
TOM: Yeah. Well, look, it served the house well. It’s not going to last forever. It needs to be reglazed at this point. And I’ve had some experience with folks that have tried to reglaze these tubs inside the house and it can be done but it’s an awfully messy and intensive job. And unless it’s done professionally, it doesn’t seem to last very long. There are home reglazing kits and Rust-Oleum makes one that’s for tub and tile but I wouldn’t expect it to last all that long.
The best way to do this is to have the tub taken out and reglazed. But if you’re going to do all that, you might as well replace it and not just have that – not just not have that reglazed unless it’s particularly beautiful. I think those are your options. It’s not easy to do a touch-up to something like this when it’s just got so – it’s got almost 100 years of wear and tear on it.
MARGARET: Oh. Yes, yes. OK. That was my question. I appreciate that.
TOM: Unfortunately, Margaret, there’s no easy way to remove 100 years of wear and tear on that tub and so you’re probably better off just replacing it.
Well, you want your home to be a safe place but unfortunately, many homes have hidden dangers that can make them unsafe if they’re not fixed.
LESLIE: That’s right. And here are a few of the most common ones that you might not be aware of.
First up, we’re going to start with your chimney. Now, creosote buildup from all those crackling fires that you enjoyed this super-cold winter can lead to a flue fire. So you want to make sure to have your chimney checked and cleaned well before you start firing it up again next season.
TOM: A more surprising hazard might be your garage door. Modern garage doors include a safety feature to make them reverse direction if they come into contact with anything other than the floor like, say, your foot. You want to test yours occasionally to make sure that this important feature is working, because they do fall out of adjustment and sometimes need to be tweaked.
LESLIE: Yeah. And now we all know that kids, regardless of their age – now I’ve got small ones, two and six, so I know that mine are as agile as monkeys. So when it comes to climbing, kids are going to climb on pretty much anything that they can. Whether it’s an appliance, a TV, a stove, a bookcase, anything that you’ve got climbable, you’ve got to make sure that it’s not going to be a tipping hazard. So you have to secure it to a wall. And this includes any of your bookcases, tall pieces of furniture. You know, you’ve got to kind of think like a kid. Think “how can I get a toe-hold on this?” and then secure that to the wall.
TOM: Definitely. And finally, let’s talk about gutters. Now, that’s something you might not think could cause any harm, right? But anyone who’s ever had a clogged gutter can tell you about the damage they cause: my goodness, structural failures of foundations, icy sidewalks, ice dams, roof leaks. There’s just dozens of home improvement problems that can be caused by clogged gutters. So give your gutters a seasonal cleaning so that they don’t clog up and send rainwater where it’s not supposed to be.
LESLIE: Pat in Louisiana is on the line and needs some help with a cleaning project. What can we do for you?
PAT: We had our carpet cleaned about a year ago. And in this bedroom, we have a heavy, clear, plastic mat that goes underneath the computer chair.
PAT: Well, recently, I moved it over a bit and I noticed that it was wet underneath it.
PAT: There’s no leak in the roof; water hasn’t come in the house. So only thing that could be is a year ago, the water from the carpet-cleaning service got underneath this mat and it’s been there all this time.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
PAT: So, we cut out a large circle, like a 5-foot circle, and got all the part out that was wet. So we’re going to have to replace the carpet and the pad. But on the concrete – the bare concrete – there are some spots of discoloration, so I don’t know if that’s mold or mildew. My question is: how do I clean that concrete before we have the new carpet installed?
TOM: The concrete spots, if anything, are mineral-salt deposits; it’s not mold.
TOM: And so, it’s really cosmetic at this point. If you can wash it down with a vinegar-and-water solution, it’ll melt the mineral-salt deposits away.
But the other thing that occurs to me is sometimes, concrete will draw moisture into a house. And so, if anywhere near that area outside you’ve got water that’s ponding or collecting, it’s possible for the concrete to sort of draw that moisture up into the slab and across. And it may not have been able to evaporate where the pad was covering the concrete, which is why that area stayed damp, whereas the other area dried out. So there may be a different explanation as to why that stayed wet.
One of the things that you might want to do, since you have the carpet pulled all the way back, is to paint the concrete. Paint that area with an epoxy paint. That will seal in that concrete and stop some of the evaporation if the moisture is being drawn through it and up into the floor surface.
PAT: So, should I – we paint the whole room? We don’t have all of the carpet up yet; we just cut out the middle part.
TOM: Well, if you’re going to take all the carpet up, then paint the whole floor. If you’re only going to take part of it up, then just paint what you can get to. But I would definitely paint the floor.
TOM: That’ll do it. Pat, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Doug in Rhode Island is dealing with a squeaky floor.
Tell us, Doug, where is it?
DOUG: I have a – there’s a couple of spots in the master bedroom where when you walk over those spots, they squeak. Now the room has wall-to-wall carpeting and I’m wondering if there’s some type of a fastener that can go through the carpeting without damaging the carpeting. But I also have access to the joist and subfloor, from the basement, and I don’t know if there’s something I could do with that from that end.
TOM: Yeah, there is. Now, how old is your house, Doug?
DOUG: It’s 25 years old.
TOM: OK. Perfect. So, there’s two things you can do here. First of all, the reason the floor is squeaking is because there’s movement between the subfloor and the floor joist, so if you can tighten up the attachment of the subfloor to the floor joist, then it’s going to quiet the squeak.
Now, you can actually do this through the carpet and this is method one. If you can identify where the floor joist is through that carpet by use of a stud finder – because they can look actually deep into the floor boards, about 3 inches in there. So if you can find where those joists are, you can either take a finish nail -and I like to use a galvanized Number 10 or Number 12 finish nail. And I’ll drive it through the carpet at a slight angle so it’s going through the carpet, through the subfloor and into the floor joist.
Then what you do is grab the carpet nap and sort of pull it up so it comes through the head of the nail. And kind of brush it and it will disappear. When you first do nail the – drive the nail in, the carpet will look dimpled. But if you grab the nap of it and pull it up so it actually pierces the nail, you can sort of make it disappear. You can also do this with what’s called a “breakaway screw.” There’s a screw that’s like a drywall screw except it’s designed to snap off at the head. And that can be done through carpets.
Now, you asked about doing something from below. Yes, what you could do, also, is if you could figure out the noisy places, you could take a block of wood – I’ve done this with maybe like a 1×3 or a 2×4. And I’ll put a lot of adhesive – like a LIQUID NAILS, a construction adhesive – on two edges of the board, like the places – the part that’s going to be up against the subfloor and the part that will be up against the floor joist. And I’ll put the 3½ inch side against the floor joist and push it up tight into the subfloor and then I’ll screw it into the floor joist so it’s really tight, right? And then I’ll kind of leave it alone and let it dry. And that will give you some additional support for that loose area and that can quiet the squeak, as well.
DOUG: Yeah. I understand exactly what you’re saying.
DOUG: Alright. Appreciate it. I’ll try it out again.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Doug. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, here’s one way that you can make your yard or garden the talk of your neighborhood: you can build an arbor or a pergola. They’re really more do-it-yourself friendly than they look, so we’ve got Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House up next to tell us how.
KEVIN: Hi. I’m Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House on PBS. From floorboards to shingles, you are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show with Tom and Leslie.
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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 it’s time to welcome a brand-new Money Pit affiliate in the great state of Pennsylvania: WCED-FM 107.9 in Rockton.
Rock on, Rockton, and welcome to The Money Pit family.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Marie calling in to The Money Pit with a cabinet question. How can we help you today?
MARIE: I’m in a dilemma over kitchen cabinets. I really like this fairly contemporary look but it’s a slab. We’re at – we’re on the salt water and I’ve been told to maybe stay away from a slab cabinet door because of the way it expands and shrinks. What’s your opinion on that or your advice?
LESLIE: When you say “slab,” are you talking about a full overlay?
MARIE: No, it’s an actual slab. I don’t think it’s an overlay or veneer at all.
TOM: I think you mean a solid-wood door, one-piece wood door, as opposed to one that’s made up of panels, like a raised-panel door?
MARIE: Yes, it’s not a raised panel but you can actually see the pieces of wood – well, I guess they’re glued together. But there’s no raised panels or anything on it.
TOM: Yeah, it’s a solid piece of wood. It’s a laminated door, basically. Solid pieces of wood glued together.
I don’t know. I mean if the door is made right and the wood is dried when it was built and it’s sealed properly, I don’t think it’s more or less likely to swell than a raised-panel door would be.
MARIE: You know, that makes total sense the way you put it that way. Why wouldn’t they dry it out first and then seal it properly?
MARIE: Huh. I never even thought about it in that context.
LESLIE: The boxes themselves that the cabinets are – the cabinet box is going to be constructed out of a wood-laminated ply so – or something that’s more structurally stable. And I don’t think you have to be concerned about the door.
MARIE: Hmm, I think, looking at it from that point of view, maybe I won’t be. I’ve had people tell me that they’re just going to get all warped and – but why would they? If they’re – if it is, like you said, a reliable cabinet maker – I guess that would be the question.
TOM: Right. Exactly. A good-quality cabinet should be dimensionally stable.
MARIE: I agree with you. Ah, I found a beautiful door and I think I might go for it then. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you flip through any lawn or garden magazine, you’re sure to come across landscapes that include arbors and pergolas. These wooden yard structures are so beautiful and well within most DIYers’ reach.
TOM: That’s right. And here with tips for building both, we welcome This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.
TOM SILVA: Nice to be here, guys.
TOM: Now, this is a project that I think a lot of folks are interested in because outdoor living is so important today. We want to get outside and really enjoy that space, kind of treat it like an extension of our own living rooms or kitchens or the places that make us comfortable. These are the types of additions that can do that. Let’s start by talking about what the difference is between an arbor and a pergola. So what’s an arbor?
TOM SILVA: Well, think of an arbor as almost like an accent piece that gets you into the front entry of your house or maybe into a garden. It’s like a doorway to the outside of your garden. To walk through this little entryway.
TOM: So it’s just a nice, architectural feature that kind of helps to establish the space.
TOM SILVA: Right.
TOM: So what’s a pergola?
TOM SILVA: A pergola is like a free-standing structure, usually with four legs, maybe six legs, depending on your design. And it’s a place that you can sit under and entertain.
TOM: Now, does it have a permanent roof?
TOM SILVA: It doesn’t have a permanent roof. Lots of times, you have the plants that will grow up over the roof or the ceiling of it. It’s because the roof design, in lots of cases, are strips of wood or lattice and that allows the plants to grow on it.
TOM: Now, because it’s a fairly large structure, it’s going to have some weight to it, some heft to it. Does it have to be properly secured to the ground, just like you would any deck, for example?
TOM SILVA: Well, it has to be secured to the ground properly, so you’re probably going to have to go into the ground, at least to your frost line, because you don’t want it to come up and down. But I guess the biggest thing you want to think about with a pergola is whether or not you need a building permit to build it. Because you don’t want to have that thing built and then find out that you’re too close to the lot line or you had to go down a certain depth for your footings. And you want to make sure that you’ve done all that right.
TOM: Now, what about an arbor? That sounds like it’s a lot simpler project.
TOM SILVA: Arbor is a lot simpler. An arbor is that entryway into your garden or whatever. And you put some lattice work on it and you’ve got a nice little place to grow some plants.
TOM: Now, let’s talk about materials. There’s a lot of choices out there in weather-resistant materials. If you just wanted to tackle a project yourself, you’re a DIYer, would you simply start with pressure-treated?
TOM SILVA: Pressure-treated is a great way to start; I mean it’s inexpensive wood. Or you can go the next route up: you can go to a cedar. A red cedar is not as good as a white cedar but it will hold up and give you some life. If you wanted to use an accent wood, like an oak, I would stay away from red oak because it won’t hold up to the weather. A white oak will hold up but you’re going to have to really treat that wood and make sure you really treat the part that goes into the ground.
TOM: Now, it occurs to me that this may be the one and only time you can do a really, really good job finishing this wood structure because, especially if you’re going to put vines on it, you’re never going to get them off.
TOM SILVA: Right.
TOM: You can’t mask around the ivy.
TOM SILVA: Right, right.
TOM: So, what would you actually do on finishing these before you actually start your planting?
TOM SILVA: If you’re going to use pressure-treated, you’ve got to think about how you’re going to finish it if you don’t like the natural look of that wood. And it can be a real issue later on when the plants start growing.
TOM: Great point. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Can’t wait to get started. Perhaps you will tackle it, as well, this weekend.
TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. It’s always nice to be here.
LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House andAsk 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 on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.
Up next, it’s mulching season. We’ll have tips on how to mulch for the best weed-free results, when The Money Pit continues.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
And the number to call here is 888-MONEY-PIT. Now, one of you lucky callers that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a Husky Prize Pack and that’s going to include an 11-Piece Screwdriver Set and a 20-piece Ratcheting Wrench Set. All are sleeker and easier to use than ever before and of course, you are not sacrificing any accuracy.
TOM: It’s a prize pack worth 60 bucks. You can visit HomeDepot.com to learn more. And call us, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Caitlin in Iowa is on the line and needs some help restoring an old bath. Tell us what’s going on.
CAITLIN: Hi. My husband and I moved into our 1917 farmhouse about a year ago. And our main bathroom only has a clawfoot tub and we would like a shower in it. So I was wondering if you had any tips on restoring the clawfoot tub and installing a shower kit.
TOM: So, you want to keep the tub, right? You don’t want to put a separate shower. You just want to basically plumb up a showerhead into that, correct?
TOM: Since it’s a clawfoot tub, if you disconnect the plumbing, then you can get that out of the house. Because the best way to refinish that or resurface that is to send it out to a company that does that. Because if you do it in the house itself, they can come in with acids and they can etch the old finish and they can add a new finish and then they can bring in heat lights and bake it on. But I’ve found that it doesn’t work nearly as well as basically sending it out to a place that’s set up to re-enamel a tub. And then you’re going to have one that really lasts for the long haul.
And after that, installing a shower kit to that is pretty much a plumbing project. Lots of places, like Restoration Hardware, have kits or you can find them online, where you could basically plumb up the pipe that comes up and then arcs over for the showerhead. And you need a circular shower curtain – shower bar above it for a curtain – and all that’s easy. But the hard part is getting the tub re-enameled.
CAITLIN: OK. And how costly is re-enameling a tub?
TOM: It’s probably not as expensive as buying a new tub and it’s going to last indefinitely.
CAITLIN: OK. Well, thank you for your advice.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, mulch can give your lawn or your garden a very clean, finished look but did you know that mulch is very beneficial to your plants and soil, as well? We’ve got advice on how and when to mulch, in this week’s Lawn-and-Garden Tip, presented by Vigoro.
LESLIE: Yeah. I guess a lot of people don’t realize this but mulch does a lot of things for your landscaping beds, including reducing the surface evaporation of moisture form the soil, protecting shallow-rooted plants, discouraging weed growth and improving water penetration.
TOM: Now, you can mulch any time of the year but the areas to be mulched should be cleared of weeds, leaves and grass. You want to use at least 3 inches of mulch, too, for an effective covering.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to the material, there are a lot of choices out there when it comes to mulch. And it comes down to appearance more than cost. Now, you can find both natural and man-made mulches, from wood to stone to rubber.
TOM: And that’s your Lawn-and-Garden Tip, presented by Vigoro. Vigoro’s mulch includes rubber and will soon introduce new wood mulch in red, brown and black. Availability varies by market.
Vigoro offers high-quality lawn-and-garden products at the ultimate value. Find the entire Vigoro line only at The Home Depot. Visit HomeDepot.com to learn more.
LESLIE: Michael in West Virginia is on the line with some questions about windows. How can we help you?
MICHAEL: Yes. I’m getting ready to do replacement windows in my house. And I was wondering – I’ve gotten a few estimates from some of the window companies. And I don’t want to mention any major brands or anything but I know that when they came to do a job across from me, they told the man that – after they gave him the estimate and everything, they came in and they said that this was the cost of the window. Well, then once they got there, they told him that that didn’t include the capping, it didn’t include this, it didn’t include that.
TOM: I hope you didn’t call that company.
MICHAEL: Well, I’m not going to call that company but I mean that’s – they’re a major corporation and…
TOM: Yeah. Well, I don’t care how big they are, that’s just bad form. You just don’t do that.
MICHAEL: I was debating on whether just going ahead and having a company come by and go ahead and measure my windows. I’ve had two or three estimates, so they’ve already been measured. And I’m going to measure them again myself and then order them from a contractor, like Lowe’s or maybe from Pella Windows or somebody like that. And I just was wondering what you all thought about the warranties on the windows.
TOM: OK. Well, first of all, there’s a label on windows that’s very helpful. And it’s called – it’s the National Fenestration Rating Council or the NFRC label. And it’s going to give you some key indicators of the quality of the window. And so, when you’re looking at these windows, you want to know what that data is because, this way, you can compare and contrast as to what’s the most efficient window.
Now, in terms of do-it-yourself or not, you know, it’s not terribly difficult to install replacement windows if you’re – if you have some basic carpentry skills. And if that’s the case, you could go ahead and order them and do the installation yourself. I generally tell people not to do their own ordering because each type of replacement window gets fitted slightly different and you’re always better off having the manufacturer or the retailer do the measuring, even if there’s an additional fee. This way, if it doesn’t fit, it’s their problem, not yours.
But in terms of what happened to your neighbor, I think that should be the exception and not the rule. I can’t imagine a company pulling that but there’s always people out there that try these types of approaches where they show up with the windows and say, “Oh, by the way, it’s going to be a lot more to complete this installation.”
Typically, you can get a price for the window and installation includes the re-covering of all of the trim. If it’s going to be covered by aluminum or whatever, that’s all specified out in the bid. So I guess your neighbor didn’t know enough to kind of check for that or ask for that. But all of that work should be specified in advance. And if it is, then it’s a relatively painless process.
So I would definitely suggest you stick with name-brand windows like Pella, like Andersen, like Simonton and with their dealers that they work with. They usually have their own set of installers that I think, with those bigger brands, you’re less likely to run into that.
The problem with replacement windows is it’s just – there’s so many people in the business and they all have different sources of the windows. And you just don’t always get what you think you’re paying for.
Michael, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, when it comes to painting, clean, crisp paint lines will give your paint project that professional look. But if you don’t have a pro’s steady hand, no worries. We are going to share a do-it-yourself trick of the trade, next.
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: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: OK. Why DIY alone when you can have Leslie and me there with you? Perhaps not in person but listening to us is the next best thing. You can get that if you subscribe to The Money Pit podcast. You’ll get this show when you want, whenever you want. Just click on the Radio and Podcast section on the home page of MoneyPit.com. You can visit and subscribe today.
LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, you should post your question, of course, in The Money Pit Community section.
And I’ve got one here from Phil in Arizona who writes: “Hi, Tom and Leslie. My question: how can I get the nice, clean paint lines when I’m repainting? I got burnt years ago when paint seeped under the painter’s tape and ruined the entire job. Any suggestions?”
TOM: Well, if we all had a steady hand like a professional painter, this wouldn’t be an issue. But there’s a lot of high-quality tape today that makes this a little bit easier, right?
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s in the quality of the tape and there’s really a bunch of different kinds. You might want to consider FrogTape – they’ve got a multi-surface painter’s tape – or even ScotchBlue’s Painter’s Tape with Edge-Lock Paint Technology.
Now, what both do, probably in a different formulation – but both tapes, what they will do is when you place them on the wall and then when you run that first line of paint down that edge of the tape, it sort of creates this sealed but like a polymer that creates a lip between the tape and the wall so that the paint will never seep underneath. So that’s a really interesting technology.
And I think, Phil, because you’re located in Arizona, you want to make sure that you do look at a tape that will work for multi-surfaces. Because I’ve found in working on the makeover shows that whenever I’ve been in states either in the South or in Arizona or in New Mexico, you get a lot of textured wall surfaces. And that could’ve been part of your problem. So you want to make sure you’re working with something that will really work well for the type of wall surface that you’re working on.
TOM: Alright. Laurie is up in Boston and she says, “I need to buy some indoor filters. How low is too low when it comes to the MERV ratings?”
So I guess we should start by telling folks what the MERV rating is.
LESLIE: That’s a big word for a homeowner.
TOM: It’s a big word. It basically is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value and it’s a way to compare and contrast filters.
Now, generally, it doesn’t take more than few dollars per filter to jump up several grades higher on the MERV spectrum, Laurie. So as a rule of thumb, I would go with something that’s termed a “micro-allergen filter,” which usually has a MERV score of at least 11. But if you want to hone in on more than just ratings, there’s a whole line of Filtrete air filters that can weed out various particles, dependent on your intended results. Even there’s filters for reducing odors or allergens, so you can get combination filters, as well. And you can learn more about just that at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think it’s important to point out, Laurie, that the filter is not only going to affect the quality of air that you have in your house, it’s going to also affect how efficient your system runs. So you want to make sure that you’ve got a high-quality filter that’s doing a good job so that you feel well but also helping you to have properly running equipment in your home, as well.
TOM: You know, the other thing that good filtration does is it cuts down on housework. And I think a lot of folks don’t recognize this but if you can scrub the air of the dust right where the air is being recirculated, then a lot less of that dust is going to land on the furniture.
It’s also not going to stain walls and ceilings. Because sometimes you get this sort of ghosting pattern, like black stains near where walls and ceilings come together. That’s because that’s sort of the coldest lumber area of the house. There’s not much insulation where there’s lumber and so, you’ll get condensation there. And then if the air is dirty, it just sort of sticks there and you can get these really dark lines. It could look kind of spook; that’s why we call it “ghosting.”
LESLIE: Yeah. And you want to remember, whichever filter you pick, make sure you change them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations because that will make sure everything is working well. And remember, the less money you spend, the less things you’re stopping, because Tom likes to say those are pebble-stoppers.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Happy Home Improvement, everybody. It’s the spring season. Time to get up, get out and get going.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2015 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.)