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How to Care for Your Fresh Christmas Tree, Creating Natural Cleaning Solutions from Pantry Ingredients, Holiday Candle Safety 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: And we are here to help you. We’re going to help you with your home improvement projects. We’ll help you with your décor projects, your do-it-yourself dilemmas. But you need to help yourself first and pick up the phone and call us. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    It is a busy, busy time of year and it might be the time of year when your holiday tree is starting to fade right before your eyes and a visit, of course, from the big guy. So this hour, we’re going to have a few tips on how you can keep your holiday tree fresh and looking bright and green straight through New Year’s Eve.

    LESLIE: Right. But never until my birthday in February. Why does it not work out that I can’t have a birthday tree?

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t know, Leslie. Can’t help you with that. You know, you’re going to have to go synthetic if you want it to stay green through February.

    LESLIE: Not doing it.

    Well, also ahead, you guys, it’s a budget-conscious time of year. So a little later, we’ve got a quick-and-easy recipe for a cleaning paste that you can make very cheaply from your pantry ingredients, that you probably already have, so it could be free.

    TOM: Plus, this time of year, candles can add a nice touch and a holiday glow to all your celebrations. But also, candle fires peak in December, not so surprisingly, so we’re going to have some tips on how you can use your candles safely, including ones that perhaps you’ve never heard before that are really important to follow.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, we’re giving away a $50 prize pack from Greased Lightning. And it includes supplies and even the right gear that you can wear while you’re doing your cleaning projects.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: J.O. in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    J.O.: Got black mold or fungus stuff on the inside of my roof, in the attic space, between the rafters.

    TOM: OK.

    J.O.: The roofing has been replaced and we’ve added ventilation on along the eaves and stuff, so I think we’ve done things to prevent more of it but now I need to figure out how to get the old stuff out of there. I’ve heard that you can use dry ice or something like that.

    TOM: Here’s all you need to do. Mix up a 10-percent bleach solution. So, 10, maybe 15 percent bleach and water. Put it in a pump-up sprayer. You can use a garden sprayer, or something that will be easy to kind of reach back into those ceiling areas with, and spray the mold. That will kill it. And because you’ve dealt with the moisture issue, it’s not going to grow back.

    So if you want to take care of what’s there, treat it with a bleach-and-water solution. And because you’ve got better ventilation now, you don’t have to worry about it reoccurring, OK?

    J.O.: Yeah. Along that same line, too, I did mention is it’s got really old, matted-down, smashed-down insulation.

    TOM: OK. Well, then it’s a good opportunity for you to restore your insulation. What I would do is I would take out the old insulation and I would add about 15 to 20, 22 inches of new insulation. You can use a fiberglass batt. You put the first layer, fill it up flush with the top of the floor joists and put the second layer in perpendicular.

    J.O.: OK, great. Appreciate the help.

    LESLIE: Dreama in West Virginia is on the line and could be dealing with a structural issue. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    DREAMA: Yes. I purchased a house about 13 years ago and the house is approximately 30 years old. And all of a sudden, last year, in the load-bearing center wall, I started getting a crack. And now, within a year, that crack has gapped approximately a ½-inch wide and it’s also – I noticed another room has a crack now. So I had a local handyman look at it and he suggested that I put in three piers – columns – to support the center wall.

    And I guess my question is – I haven’t had an official, large construction company look at it yet. I’m getting ready to do that. But I wanted to educate myself a little bit more. What would you all suggest?

    TOM: How long have you been in this house?

    DREAMA: Thirteen years.

    LESLIE: And this is new.

    DREAMA: Just started about a year ago.

    TOM: See, here’s the thing. If you call a contractor, you’re going to get a contractor’s solution, which is to hire them to do something. What I would suggest you do first is to get an independent expert opinion, not necessarily an opinion from a contractor. So your options on that are two: one is low-cost; one, I would say, is moderate cost.

    The low-cost option would be to find a local professional home inspector. You can go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. That’s at ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.org.


    TOM: And you can put in your zip code. They’ll shoot back a list of certified professional home inspectors in your area. You can call from that list, find somebody that’s experienced and have them look at it. Because they’re just there to find out what’s going on and what caused it and what it’s going to take to fix it.

    The second way to go, which is the moderate cost, is to actually hire a structural engineer. Now, why may you want to do that, Dreama? Well, you might want to do that – if this is a fairly obvious problem, you want to certainly preserve the value of your house.

    DREAMA: Right.

    TOM: And if you have a structural engineer look at it and write a report as to what’s going on and what it’s going to take to fix it and then you actually give that report to a contractor and say, “This is what I want you to do,” and then you have the engineer sort of recertify that it was done correctly. It’s kind of like having a pedigree that the repair is done correctly and then kind of sell with your house, so to speak.

    Problem with contractors is that they’re not structural engineers; they’re just handy guys and they think that they have the expertise to fix stuff like this and they just don’t. They don’t have the schooling, they don’t have the education, they don’t have the training. And so, that’s not necessarily the best way to go about dealing with a situation like this.

    I am a little concerned that it happened over this past year, because it sounds like it’s active and we want to get to the bottom of why it’s active and why it’s showing up all of a sudden.

    DREAMA: Well, someone had mentioned that it’s a possibility – we’ve had a lot of dry – several dry summers and – because that could cause a settling in the foundation. Is that possible? I’ve never heard of that before.

    TOM: No. I mean there are some expansive soils that behave differently when they dry out a lot but listen, there’s going to be a lot of opinions. Every neighbor you ask is going to have a different one. What we’re trying to do is move you towards an expert opinion so you really know what you’re dealing with.

    So, as I said, contact a professional home inspector or a structural engineer. Get the assessment. It’s well worth it. Your home is a big investment. We want to make sure it’s protected, OK?

    DREAMA: I hadn’t thought of a home inspector. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whatever you are working on, we are here to give you a hand at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, candles can add a very warm and friendly glow to your holiday celebrations but you need to use them safely to avoid tragedy. We’ll have tips to do just that, after this.

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We want you in on the holiday home improvement fun. And one caller that we talk to this hour is going to get a $50 prize pack from our friends over at Greased Lightning, including a supply of Greased Lightning Super Strength, which is a great cleaning product. You can actually use it on carpets, laundry, pretty much anything that has grease and grime on it.

    TOM: And the winner also gets some cleaning gear to take on anything. At about 3 bucks a bottle, Greased Lightning is a very affordable product. You can check it out on their website at Greased-Lightning.com. Or pick up the phone and call us right now for your chance to win and the answer to your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Shay from Tennessee on the line with a washing-machine issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    SHAY: There’s a smell coming out of my washing-machine drain. It was like that when I bought the house.

    TOM: Can you describe the drain? Does the drain go into a pipe or does it go into a sink? What’s the drain look like?

    SHAY: It goes into a pipe.

    TOM: And is the smell kind of a sewer smell?

    SHAY: Yes.

    TOM: So it may very well be that that drain does not have a trap in it. Now, if you’ve ever looked under a sink and see the U-shaped drain pipe, that’s known as a trap. Because what it does is it gets filled with water and then it stops sewage gas from backing up that drain and getting into the house. But sometimes when I’ve seen washers installed, it’s kind of almost an afterthought; it doesn’t seem to get the same kind of care and attention that a sink drain would. And if that happened to you, they may have put that in without a trap.

    The solution is pretty easy, though. You can add a trap by extending that drain pipe and then adding that U-shaped trap to it. If you have the U-shape trapped in there, you will not get a sewer-gas smell, because that gas can’t back up through the pipe. Does that make sense?

    SHAY: Yes, it does.

    TOM: So it’s a minor plumbing repair but it should solve it.

    SHAY: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, the use of candles to add a warm glow and a pleasant scent has really increased dramatically over the last 5 to, say, 10 years. But always keep safety in mind; you have to remember that.

    Now, candle fires actually peak in December and most of the time, candle fires happen because of human error or simply negligence. So before you light those candles, keep some of these safety tips on mind. Now, you want to keep your candles in sturdy holders and away from your kids and pets. Never leave burning candles unattended and be sure to put them out when you’re done and definitely before you go to bed.

    TOM: Also, of course, it’s important to keep candles away from flammable materials, like curtains and other fabrics, as well as paper towels. And never put lit candles on or near a Christmas tree.

    And the best way to stay safe is to avoid using candles altogether, which you can do today easier than ever, because there are so many really attractive and authentic electric candles on the market now, even ones that flicker like a real flame.

    I brought one of these home to my wife and turned it on. Of course, she didn’t see me turn it on; I just showed her the candle. She thought it was lit and then she jumped back because I put my hand on top of it as if I was going to burn myself. Because it really looks that good, you know? And they’re low-voltage and the batteries last a long time. So take a look at the electric candles to keep those holiday celebrations safe and fire-free.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Frank in North Carolina on the line who’s dealing with a flooring project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    FRANK: Yeah. I had some flood damage to a building and I had ¾-inch waferboard in it and I replaced it with ¾-inch plywood. I wanted to put down wood-plank flooring and I’m wondering if I need to put down underlayment before I put down the wood plank or just use adhesives and nails on it.

    TOM: You want to put down prefinished or raw wood-plank flooring?

    FRANK: Raw.

    TOM: So you want to put down unfinished wood flooring? Well, typically, all you do is lay down rosin paper. You know what that is?

    FRANK: Rosin paper, OK.

    LESLIE: It’s like that pink roll of paper that you find in – it’s usually in the flooring or the roofing section, somewhere in the home center.

    TOM: Yeah, just because it gives you a clean surface to start on. And then you’ll nail right through that. You don’t glue the flooring down; you nail it down with a – you can rent a nail gun – a flooring gun – so you get the nails in. Because the nails have to be driven at an angle into the tongue of the floor. So you rent a nail gun and go from there.

    FRANK: OK. Thank you so much.

    LESLIE: Ann in Georgia, you are on the line with The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    ANN: Well, my house was built back in the 60s and I know now when they put up drywall, they use drywall screws.

    TOM: Yep.

    ANN: But back then, they used a hammer.

    TOM: Yep. And nails, mm-hmm.

    ANN: And I’ve got these dings on the walls and the ceiling. And I’ve tried to put spackle over the top of them and scrape it off and sand it and then paint it and there they are; they come right back again. Is there anything I can do to sort of cover it or do I have to take down all the drywall?

    LESLIE: No, no. Are you sure it’s a hammer ding and not a nail pop? Does it seem like it’s raised or does it seem like it’s recessed?

    ANN: They’re recessed.

    TOM: They’re recessed. OK.

    So, the solution here is spackling but it’s not just a one-shot thing. What you want to do is put multiple coats of spackle on, Ann. So you start – and you can go out to a home center or a hardware store and you can buy plastic spackle knives that are basically disposable.

    So you start out with one that’s about 2 inches, then you go to one that’s about 4 or 5 inches, then you go with one that’s like 6- or 8-inches wide. And if you put on three layers like that, you’ll fill it in, it’ll be absolutely flat.

    But you can’t just stop there. If you’re going to start doing this around the house, you’re going to have to repaint all of those surfaces and you should prime them first. Because if not, you’re going to get different absorption between the areas that were newly spackled and the old ones. And that will result in sort of like a weird kind of glazing or sort of shade difference with the way the paint kind of takes.

    ANN: Oh, OK.

    TOM: Alright? Now, if you have one that looks like it’s cracked – what Leslie was talking about are called “nail pops” – and frankly, that’s much more likely than the dents you’re describing, unless you just happen to have a really over-aggressive guy with a hammer that put that thing together back in the 60s.

    LESLIE: Those dents are haunting you 50 years later.

    ANN: I know.

    TOM: Yeah. The nail pops, you could put another nail next to the one that’s sort of stuck out and drive it in. And that – the second nail will hold in the first nail. But remember, it’s really key that you sand, prime and paint to make this all go away.

    And lastly, the type of paint you use is critical. Make sure you use flat paint; do not use anything with a sheen. Because when you put something with a sheen on a wall, any defect in the wall becomes magnified when the light hits it.

    ANN: Well, that’s great advice.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ames from Colorado on the line who’s got a question about repairing stucco. How can we help you?

    AMES: We have a home that’s eight or nine years old. It has a stucco exterior and it has cracks – horizontal cracks.

    TOM: Is it a masonry-stucco house or is it a synthetic-stucco house?

    AMES: You know, I don’t know.

    TOM: So, is it like a concrete kind of a finish to it? Does it feel like concrete or does it feel soft? Like could you put your finger and push it and it would be spongy?

    AMES: It’s hard.

    TOM: It’s hard, OK. And so you’ve got cracks in horizontal stucco, eight-year-old house. You’re going to want to get those cracks sealed because what happens with stucco, if the water gets behind it, especially in a cold environment, it will tend to do two things: number one, it will freeze and as it does, it will push and loosen the stucco; and number two, there’s probably a metal mesh that was applied to the home first, that holds that stucco in place, and the moisture will rust that away.

    So, the best thing to do is to use an exterior caulk. You can get one that matches the color of the stucco or you could use a clear, silicone-like caulk and seal those cracks to try to minimize the chance for moisture to get through. And that’s going to be pretty much normal maintenance with a stucco surface.

    Does it appear like any chunks are coming off or is it just the crack that is forming?

    AMES: Yeah, it’s just a crack.

    TOM: Yeah, so stay on top of it, Ames, and you’ll really minimize it. And it’ll last for a long time.

    AMES: Alright. And then it also has rust stains, probably from that metal lath.

    TOM: Yeah. And so, after you get all of the cracks sealed, if you’re getting – next time you repaint the house, I want you to prime it first. That will seal in the rust stains and prevent them from coming through quite so quickly.

    AMES: OK.

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

    LESLIE: Karen in Kansas is taking on a tiling project. How can we help you with that?

    KAREN: Yes, we were wondering the difference between the SnapStone – what’s the pros and cons of that and the traditional?

    TOM: Well, I mean the SnapStone is an easy installation. It’s really aimed at DIYers and it makes it a lot easier to put it together. You don’t have to align them, because you’ll get sort of perfect ¼-inch or so …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. They’re like gridded out already.

    TOM: Yeah. You get perfect grout lines with it. You can actually physically take them apart and reuse them if you want. But it’s just a lot easier for a DIYer to install them.

    Are you going to do this yourself?

    KAREN: Yes, that’s – we were going to try, starting in our bathroom, and see how it looked and …

    TOM: Yeah.

    KAREN: If it worked – if we could do it right, then we were going to continue on into the kitchen and dining room.

    TOM: Well, what you’re probably going to need to do is rent a wet saw, because cutting the tile is what separates the pros from the DIYers.

    KAREN: Right.

    TOM: If you don’t have the right – if you have the right tools, it’s really easy; if you don’t, it’s just not. And tiling is very unforgiving. But if it’s a small area, a small project and you’ve never done tile before, I think going with the SnapStone is probably a good first attempt. It’ll be probably more forgiving than if you did it with regular tile.

    KAREN: Cost-wise, how long would it last compared to the other, do you think?

    TOM: I think it should last the same time, which is pretty much indefinitely.

    KAREN: Really?

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. The only downside I can see is that you’ve only got 11 tile choices, so you’ve got to like what they’ve got. Whereas if you’re installing tile in a traditional sense, sky’s the limit as far as tile choice, layout, pattern, design, everything. So if you’re OK with something in their color palette, which seems like a good run, it looks like there could be something for your job. Then I say do it.

    KAREN: OK. Well, thank you so very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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.

    Say, is your holiday spending breaking the bank? Well, how about some cheap-and-easy cleaning recipes that go easy on your wallet but really tough on dirt? Get ready to take some notes, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellent and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’d love to talk with you about your home improvement projects. If there are any that you need to get done this week, give us a call right now. But also, think about those New Year’s resolutions for your home. There’s got to be a project that has just been on your to-do list. Let’s put it on the done list. We’ll help you take the first step if you call us with those questions, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Burt in Delaware is on the line and needs some help with a bathroom vent. What can we do for you?

    BURT: So our house was built 21 years ago and I’m working on remodeling an upstairs bathroom. And I’m putting a – it’s a small, Jack-and-Jill bathroom with a commode and the shower in a separate area but it’s very small. So I’m putting a fan directly over the shower that’s on a GFI. And when they vented the old fan, they just stuck it out at the top on the – out by a soffit. And I’m just wondering – that might not be the best way but it’s still – is that still – does it still work, I guess, is what I’m asking?

    TOM: Yeah, it’ll work. The thing is you want to make sure it actually comes through the soffit. I’ve seen bathroom-vent fans be dumped like in the soffit, expecting the warm, moist air to come through the perforation of the soffit.

    BURT: Right.

    TOM: But if it actually turns and vents straight out through the soffit, that’s fine. It’s probably a fairly short run, which means you’re not going to have any loss as you move that air along the duct and then bring it out.

    BURT: OK. But you’re saying cut a hole in the soffit.

    TOM: Absolutely. You don’t just want to dump it inside the soffit; you want to cut a hole and bring it out. Otherwise, you’re going to – ask for problems with moisture, as well as a fire hazard because all of that dust will collect up in that one space and that’s just not a good idea.

    BURT: OK. Well, that’s what I need to know. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Gwen in Virginia on the line who needs some help protecting her kitchen wall. How can we help you?

    GWEN: I actually saw this product at a show: an invention – female inventors’ show that was being aired – was being taped in Chicago. And this lady, she had a product that you take it and it just sort of sticks to the wall. She had it in different colors, that it would blend in with your kitchen wall or if you wanted to have a stainless-steel look – but it was just a piece of material that went behind the trash can, that when you hit – when you would step on the flip tops, it would hit up against that area and would not damage the wall.

    And then when you decided that you want to either move your trash can to another area in the house or you were tired of that particular pattern, you could just peel it off. It didn’t mess up the paint but it protected the wall.

    LESLIE: So it was like a sticker.

    TOM: That’s interesting. I’ve got a couple of ideas for you on that.

    First of all, you don’t need an invention; you could simply put a small piece of clear Plexiglas on the wall using double-sided tape. Or the second thing you could do, which is even easier, is you could add a bumper to the top of the garbage can so that when it comes up, it doesn’t scuff the wall. You could use a felt-tip bumper on it.

    LESLIE: Or even if you go to childproofing – in the childproofing section of any baby store, you’ll find that rubber edging that you can put on coffee tables and things. And you could put a piece like that right on the edge of the garbage can.

    GWEN: OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Lawrence in Wisconsin on the line who’s dealing with a porch post that’s rotting. Tell us what’s going on.

    LAWRENCE: It’s an outdoor porch on the front of the house. And where that post and the floor come together there, the corners of the post – about an inch in on each corner – are rotting away. And I was wondering if there was a way I can fix that or does that entire post have to come out?

    TOM: So, is it just the base of the post, because the moisture collects there?

    LAWRENCE: Yes.

    TOM: Can you sort of dig out the rotted area? Because if it’s just a small area like that, you can dig it out and fill it back in with a product like an Elmer’s Wood Filler, which will take shape and you can kind of work it like wood after it dries. So you don’t necessarily have to tear it out.

    Now, the other little trick of the trade for dealing with those porch-column bottoms – is it a square column?

    LAWRENCE: Yes.

    TOM: So, what you could do is you could add another piece of trim on the outside of that on all four sides and put a skirting on the bottom of the column. And that’ll – if you do it well, it looks like it was always designed to be that way. Does that make sense?

    LAWRENCE: Yeah, the – when the builders built, they put a little piece of wood all the way around it.

    TOM: Yeah, like a piece of trim? So you put a bigger piece of wood – like a taller piece of wood – all the way around it. If it’s just a small quarter round or something like that, you could put a 3-inch or even a 6-inch skirting around the bottom of that on all four sides and you’ll completely cover up the rotted area.

    LAWRENCE: OK. I’ll give that a try.

    TOM: A lot easier than replacing the post, right?

    LAWRENCE: Yes, it is.

    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 MoneyPit.com. If you’ve got a fresh-cut Christmas tree, do you find that it’s losing its pep right about now? We’re going to give you some advice to help you revive that tree and help it last through the new year.

    TOM: That’s all coming up, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and to find the perfect holiday gift, visit StanleyTools.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, you are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. If you do, we’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat, because one caller we talk to this hour is going to win a $50 prize pack from our friends at Greased Lightning, including a supply of Greased Lightning Super Strength, which is a great cleaning product that you can use on carpets, laundry and any other grease and grime.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You’re also going to get some cleaning gear to get you ready to take on any cleaning project. You can visit their website, which is Greased-Lightning.com, for some more information. Or pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement projects.

    TOM: Well, about now, your tree might start to lose a little bit of its lovely green luster. If that’s the case, we’ve got some tips to help make it last as long as possible. And it all starts with keeping it well watered. So never, ever let the tree suck up all the water in the stand because once a tree goes without water, the trunk actually seals itself off and there’s no way to kind of start it drinking again, short of taking the tree down and making another fresh cut on the base which, of course, is impossible with all the stuff on it.

    So, if you find yourself watering it often, you might want to invest in a different stand for next year: one with a deep water reservoir or maybe even one of those watering systems where you kind of keep a jug near the tree and through the power of the siphon, it actually keeps it full all the time. Just don’t let it go down and get dry, because then you’ve kind of defeated the purpose and it’s not going to want to drink, after that, again.

    LESLIE: It’s also a good idea to keep the tree away from your fireplace, your heating vents, your radiators and any other sources of heat. You might consider using a humidifier overnight, just to keep a little moisture in the air, especially if you’ve got a forced-hot-air heating system at home.

    Now, you can also keep the temperature in that room a bit cooler or at least turn the heat down when no one is home. It’s also going to help you cut those heating costs, in addition to keeping your tree fresh.

    You know, another thing you can do is you can actually spray your tree with an antitranspirant. Now, transpiration is when the moisture passes through the pores of the membrane. So an antitranspirant is sort of a compound that you would spray onto the tree and it kind of seals up all of the needles and the leaves on the tree itself so that that moisture doesn’t escape. You can get it at any garden center in a spray form or in a powder that you’ll mix up. But that’s kind of an interesting and scientific way to keep your tree feeling fresh.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, if you’re thinking that a live tree isn’t the most eco-friendly holiday choice, you might want to think again. Even though you’re taking the tree off the planet, it’s probably going to be replanted. And unlike their mostly plastic, artificial counterparts, live trees contribute positively to the environment where they’re raised, they’re a renewable resource and they’re also biodegradable. Plus, they probably came from a tree farm near you as opposed to a factory overseas. All good reasons to have a live tree during the holiday season.

    LESLIE: Daniel in Washington is in love with his older home’s windows but needs some help working on them. What can we do for you?

    DANIEL: I want to know how I can remove them without destroying them or having to cut off the weights and letting them fall in the wall, as I was told that’s what I have to do.

    TOM: Well, why do you want to preserve the weights, Dan?

    DANIEL: Well, I just – my biggest fear is they’re upstairs windows and I don’t want them to cause any damage when I cut them loose. And I just want to pull them out intact, I guess, for seeing what exactly they are. They’re being used for weights.

    TOM: Yeah, you don’t have to worry too much about that. How old is your house, Dan?

    DANIEL: It was built in 1900.

    TOM: OK. So, the weights themselves are these sort of round, tubular pieces of solid cast metal. And I wouldn’t worry about letting them drop. They’re only going to drop to sort of the bottom of the wall cavity. They’re not really going to do any damage. They’ll drop down a couple of feet and stop. But what you do is cut those cords or disconnect the chains, let the weights drop, pull out the pulleys, take out the upper and the lower sash and then you insert the replacement window into the rest of the wood sort of old window frame that’s left.

    That’s the smart move because it’s very easy to do. You don’t have to tear up any siding or anything like that. You basically just take apart the operable sashes and slip the new replacement windows inside, which you can do because all replacement windows are basically built to fit. That’s the way the technology is designed to work. If you put in an order for replacement windows, they put all the numbers into a computer and it spits out the window at the other end of the assembly line. And you just slip them in and you’re done. It’s a very easy installation.

    You need to be really careful in the measuring, though. And I would have the company that you’re buying the windows from do the measuring to make sure you get it right. But not to worry about the weights. Not a big deal.

    DANIEL: And it’s funny you mention that. He actually did come out and look at them and he told me that he wouldn’t be able to give me the measurements to get the windows myself. Because when he – they order them, the guys that install them have to do any work that’s needed to make them fit properly, because he just takes a rough measurement.

    TOM: So was he just giving you an estimate? Was he there to measure for an estimate?

    DANIEL: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, I mean that makes sense. Plus, I’ve got to tell you, every company does it a little bit different. So if you buy it from Manufacturer A, they may measure one way and Manufacturer B might measure it slightly differently. So whoever you buy these from, they have to do the exact measurements. He may have just been measuring so he knows how to price the order but it may have to be measured again before you actually do the order.

    LESLIE: Plus, they’re – the numbers are really guarded. He might be thinking that if he gives you the exact measurements, you’re going to turn around and go to another company or order them yourself and try to do it yourself.

    TOM: Which you really couldn’t do because what if he has the numbers wrong? You’ll end up paying for windows that don’t fit.

    DANIEL: So if we already did – I measured the frame on the windows, not the window itself. And we did just put the order in. So I could be in trouble here.

    TOM: Are you going to put them in yourself?

    DANIEL: Yeah. Because it’s – half the cost of the windows was the labor to put them in.

    TOM: Well, how did you know how to measure them? Did you get advice from who you bought the windows from?

    DANIEL: Yeah. He told me to measure the frame – not the window, not the part of the window that moves – but he said the frame itself.

    TOM: Right.

    DANIEL: And he said that’s the number that they would use if they sent somebody out.

    TOM: Right.

    DANIEL: And then he offered, because it was free, and when – to send somebody out. And when the guy showed up, he did the kind of – “Whoa, hold on. I just kind of give them rough numbers and they do what they need to do to make them fit from there.”

    TOM: What I would do, if I were normally ordering windows, is I would get the advice on how exactly they need to be ordered. I would make – take the measurements and order them to fit. If that’s what you did and you followed their instructions, you should be OK. The thing is, if you’ve got it wrong, you’re going to get a window that doesn’t fit and you’re going to have a problem. But as long as you followed their instructions, then you should be OK.

    DANIEL: Alright. It just kind of made me worry when the guy that showed up here gave me a different story than the guy down at the store.

    TOM: Yep. Yeah, well, they’re all experts; they all have their way.

    LESLIE: And clearly they’re not talking to each other.

    TOM: Exactly.

    DANIEL: Yeah. Like I said, that was the part that scared me and why I wanted to get some advice on this.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, basement refinishing. Is that a project that has you stumped? Wondering what goes first: insulation or vapor barrier? We’re going to give you the step-by-step, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs for appliances, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical. Visit BuyTotalProtect.com to see if you qualify for a special offer. That’s BuyTotalProtect.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Ho-Ho-Home Improvement Radio Show, The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, while you guys are out playing Santa, wouldn’t you just love it for Santa to come and visit you? Well, he can if you enter The Money Pit’s Santa’s Home Improvement Sweepstakes. And he may be on his way to your money pit.

    TOM: And you can win a brand-new Whirlpool Duet High-Efficiency Washer and Dryer worth 1,449 bucks. Entering is easy. Head on over to MoneyPit.com, click on the Facebook link and you can enter right there.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Once you’ve submitted your entry, you can actually share the contest link on your Facebook page and you can earn bonus entries. It’s kind of awesome you get more than one chance to win. But you’ve got to enter today. Go on over to Santa’s Home Improvement Sweepstakes at MoneyPit.com for your chance to win.

    TOM: And while you’re online, you can post your question in The Money Pit’s Community section, just like James did in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. James says, “I’m finishing our basement. I have the framed walls and I’m wondering about insulation and vapor barrier. What do I do about installing the fiberglass batt and do I put the batting up first? And if so, where do I put the vapor barrier?”

    Good questions, James. First of all, I’m a proponent of framing walls that are not attached to the block walls, assuming you have a concrete or a block wall. I like to frame walls that are just a couple of inches in. And if you do that, you can put insulation up, in the traditional sense, inside the framed wall with a vapor barrier facing in. Remember, vapor barriers always go towards the heated side of the house or the living-space side of the house. So if you frame the wall, leave a couple of inches of space between it and the block wall and then add an insulation batt with a vapor barrier facing inside. You’ll be good to go.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s really going to make a difference in your comfort in the basement space.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Mort in New Jersey who posted: “I’m refinishing a hardwood floor. I want to use sawdust from the first sanding to fill in gaps. What should I mix in?”

    TOM: You know, that’s a good question. I typically wouldn’t use sawdust, on a large-scale basis, as a filler. I’ll frequently mix sawdust with yellow glue if I’m filling in a small hole or something like that.

    LESLIE: Do you make a paste of it?

    TOM: Yeah, kind of a paste of it so that you have the wood fibers mixed in with the glue. Use as little glue as possible. But the nice thing about doing that is that when you go to stain it after the fact, the stain will still grab onto the wood fibers and it kind of blends in nice and it becomes hard to see.

    For a whole hardwood floor, though, I wouldn’t do that. I would use one of the commercially available fillers that are out there. I mean they come in a dozen different colors these days. They dry nicely, they sand nicely and they’re going to stay in those small, fine cracks that might be forming in your floor better than the sawdust. So I wouldn’t use sawdust on a big project like that, only on a smaller one and that’s why.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Alright, Mort. Good luck with that project. It sounds like a big one but that floor is going to look great.

    TOM: Well, you may have winterized and weatherized and completely buttoned up but have you considered all of those hidden sources of energy loss? Leslie has one such source and how to stop it, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Imagine leaving a window open all winter long: the heat loss, the cold drafts and of course, the wasted energy. If your home has a folding attic stair, that may be just what’s happening in your home every single day or at least what it might feel like.

    Now, you can get an attic-stair insulator. It’s a kit; they’re usually very do-it-yourself-friendly. They’re also really easy to take down when you need to access those stairs.

    Now, you can cover up your attic stairs and that’s going to avoid all of that heated air – from whatever floor, room, wherever you’ve got that staircase hidden away – from being sucked right out of your living spaces. So you’re going to save a whole ton of energy, you’re going to feel a lot warmer and it really is a great project that you can do very quickly on your own.

    TOM: And a very simple one, to boot.

    Coming up next week on The Money Pit, a sump pump is one of those household appliances that you don’t need very often but when you do, it’s got to work. Now, there are several types out there and if you’re wondering which one is right for you, we’ll review all, on the next edition of The Money Pit. Happy Holidays, everybody.

    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 2012 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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