How To Check For Risky Radon Gas, Tips For Saving Water And Saving Big On Your Water Bill, And Researching Your Home’s History

  • 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: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, because we are here to help you with your home improvement project at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Hey, if it’s too hot to work out today, we get it. So why not take today to plan your next fall fix-up project? We can give you the advice and the guidance that you need to get it done, no sweat, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up on today’s program, it’s not just about saving the planet anymore. Conserving water can save you money, too. We’ll have tips on easy changes that you can make to trim money off your water bill.

    LESLIE: And you plug in your vacuum or bust out the bleach when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Well, if housework seems to help you decompress, you might be a stress cleaner. And that is just one of several cleaning-personality types that are identified in a new survey. You can find out what yours is and how you can overcome it or perhaps work with it, in just a bit.

    TOM: And you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t taste it but radon gas causes cancer. And it’s found in 1 out of every 15 American homes. We’re going to have tips on what you need to do to make sure yours isn’t one of them.

    LESLIE: And speaking of healthy homes, one lucky caller this hour is going to win a free 5-Minute Mold Test. Now, it uses EPA-recommended dust samples, instead of air samples, for more accurate results. And you get them in 5 minutes.

    TOM: Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Mary in Illinois is on the line with a basement-moisture situation. What’s going on over there?

    MARY: My neighbor’s house sits a little higher than mine does. And they’ve also re-landscaped since they moved in about three or four years ago. They have an oversized downspout that’s pointed directly towards my house. And when it rains, the water pools from their downspout up against my house. And then, also, after it rains, for days later the downstairs basement brick wall can be moist.

    About a year ago, I had a landscaping company come in because I thought I could address this on my own. And they put a French drain in and trenched it out through my backyard and it still doesn’t seem to be addressing the issue.

    TOM: Well, have you spoken with your neighbors about potentially extending those downspouts in a different direction? Typically, you can just run them out farther so that they don’t end up on your property.

    MARY: I haven’t spoken with them yet. I had another issue shortly after they moved in where they were – again, they are higher on ground than I – and they had their sump-pump line pumping out. And it ran downhill, flooding my backyard. So, when I tried to address that with them, although it did eventually get changed, it wasn’t an easy nor very negotiable process. So I was trying to not get into another situation where …

    TOM: Yeah. You’re trying to be as nice as you can but – and they’re not being very cooperative. That’s not very neighborly of them, is it?

    MARY: No.

    TOM: Well, I mean there’s always legal recourse but what you might want to do is speak with them and say, “Look, I’m having this issue with water in my basement.” You can blame us. Say, “Hey, I called my friends at The Money Pit Radio Show, who diagnose this problem every single minute of the day sometimes.” And we get so many questions about this. And just explain to them that water that collects around foundations ends up as basement leaks and you’re trying to avoid costly repairs. And if they would simply extend their downspouts, or allow you to extend the downspout so it doesn’t drain water right at the foundation corner, that will be very helpful.

    Now, I do think that your landscaper was on the track – on the right track. You said that he put in a French drain. I’m going to guess what you’re talking about is a curtain drain, because curtain drains that are properly installed – and it may very well be that this was not properly installed. But a curtain drain that’s properly installed can intercept that water as it runs down and run it away from your house.

    And if I was putting a curtain drain in, I would trench it down about a foot below the surface. I would put in 2 or 3 inches of gray gravel, on top of which I would put a perforated PVC pipe. Not the flexible, black drainpipe that so many landscapers use but a regular PVC pipe with holes in it. It’s a perforated pipe. That pipe has to have a pitch to it, so it has to drop maybe an 1/8-inch per foot or so, just so it has some pitch.

    And the holes are on top. What happens, it fills up, the water flows into the holes and then it runs down the pipe, around the house and out. So, on top of the stone, you put the pipe, you put more stone to cover it completely. Then you put filter cloth, which is like a black, sort of burlap-y kind of landscape cloth. Then you could put dirt and sod on top of that.

    But if it’s done correctly, it will successfully intercept the water – the runoff – and run it around the house and away from that foundation. You’ve got to start with the simple stuff here, Mary, which is talking to your neighbors and seeing if they’ll extend those downspouts so that they don’t dump into your house and flood your basement.

    MARY: OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Daniel in Washington on the line.

    Daniel, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    DANIEL: Well, you could help me figure out why my wife takes a cold shower and I take a hot shower.

    TOM: I bet she’s not too happy about that, either.

    DANIEL: She’s very unhappy and she seems to think it’s my fault.

    TOM: So, who goes in the shower first? She goes in first?

    DANIEL: She does.

    TOM: And then what? It takes a long time for the water to get hot?

    DANIEL: Well, she turns it on. Our bathroom shower is about, I guess, when I added up all the pipes, maybe 30 feet from the water heater. So it’s not very far. We’ve lived in the house for 12 years, so we can usually count on hot water coming about four seconds after we turn on the water. And it’s not happening this time. She’ll leave it on for a minute or so, it’s still cold. And she says, “What the heck, I need to get going.” So she takes a shower and then she screams and yells at me.

    LESLIE: And then it’s all your fault.

    DANIEL: Twenty minutes later, after she clears out of there, I get in there and the shower is nice and warm.

    TOM: Well, that’s an odd problem because certainly, it’s not the distance; that’s very, very short.

    Now, as far as you know, is your water heater working normally? So if you go to your kitchen sink, does it deliver hot water pretty quickly?

    DANIEL: When we turn it to the left, it’s hot, and when we turn it to the right, it’s cold.

    TOM: Right. So the kitchen sink is fine.

    DANIEL: And the kids’ bathroom is fine.

    TOM: OK. So, it’s not the water heater, it’s not the pipes. What’s left here? The shower valve. You’ve got a bad shower valve.

    DANIEL: You came to the conclusion pretty quickly that it’s not the hot-water heater. Somebody suggested that it’s some deely bopper inside the hot-water heater that has to kick over.

    TOM: By virtue of the fact that your water heater delivers hot water to your kitchen sink and delivers hot water to your kids’ sink, it’s only not delivering hot water to your master-bath sink or shower, right?

    DANIEL: It does deliver hot water to the master bathroom and the master bathroom shower, but it takes – I don’t know – 10 minutes or so after my wife goes in there. So, one theory is that we’re – by her taking a cold shower but having the nozzle turned to the right – to the left – where it would give hot water, it activates something.

    TOM: OK. So, let me ask you one more question. In your master bathroom, you have a sink, correct?

    DANIEL: Yep.

    TOM: And does that sink get hot quickly?

    DANIEL: Sure. But maybe not first thing in the morning.

    TOM: Well, does it take as long as the shower to get hot?

    DANIEL: I haven’t tested that.

    TOM: Alright. So test that. If the sink gets hot quickly and the only plumbing fixture in the house that’s not getting hot quickly is that shower, then you’ve got a problem with the shower valve. And that could happen. Something could break down inside the shower valve. And it might be that it takes so long to run before it finally lets some of that hot water in, because maybe you’re waiting for one of the pipes to – one of the valve parts to expand and just something that jams shut and it’s just not letting the hot water out.

    So I suspect if you’ve eliminated – everything else is normal; it’s just that shower that’s not. I’d replace the water valve. It’ll probably save your marriage. Think about it.

    DANIEL: Well, at least my hearing.

    TOM: There you go. 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 Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with whatever-you-are-working-on question from your home. We can help you get it done right the first time. We’re here for you, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Hey, if you only pick up a scrub brush when you’re stressed, well, you’re not alone. In fact, there’s a name for that. It’s called being a “stress cleaner.” How do I know that? There’s a new survey out that teaches us all about the types of cleaning personalities. And if you understand what yours is, you’re going to learn how to get that cleaning done faster, better and happier. We’ll tell you how to do it, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, you’ve got home improvement questions and we’ve got home improvement answers. Sounds like a perfect match.

    And one caller who gets answers this hour is also going to win a free 5-Minute Mold Test Kit.

    LESLIE: Well, whether you’re buying, selling or renting, you just want to make sure that your home is healthy. Now, you can save hundreds of dollars on mold inspectors with this EPA-approved approach.

    TOM: Yep. And we’ve got one here. It’s called the 5-Minute Mold Test Kit. You can learn more about it at But we’re giving away one kit this hour to one lucky caller to The Money Pit. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Adele in New Jersey is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you today?

    ADELE: We just had new carpeting installed in our living room/dining room and we’re having the balance of the house done in about a week-and-a-half. We are now finding, when you walk through the living room and dining-room area, we are getting a few squeaks in the floor in walking.

    Now, whether that has anything to do with our subfloor – the house is approximately only 28 years old. We bought it new when it was built. Now, do you think it might be a problem with the subflooring? We do have a crawlspace.

    TOM: So, underneath the carpet, what is the subfloor? Is it plywood?

    ADELE: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So, you have a good opportunity now. Not for the rooms that you’ve already carpeted but for the ones you’re about to carpet. When you take up the old carpet, you need to go through and re-nail or screw the subfloor down to the floor joist. Because those boards loosen up and as you step on them, they’ll – they move back and forth and that’s the squeak.

    So what I would like to see your contractor do is pull the carpet up and then take some drywall screws – these case-hardened steel screws that are sold everywhere today – and physically screw the plywood down to the floor joist. You put a screw in – about four screws across the width of the plywood on every single floor joist. You just go from one end to the other. They’re driven in with a drill, so it’s a very easy job to do. And that will really tighten up that floor and reduce the movement dramatically and that will prevent, if not eliminate, squeaks under that carpet.

    ADELE: Yes. Oh, that sounds terrific. Thank you so much for your help.

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

    Well, does your house get a good dust or vacuum only when you’re at the end of your rope? If housework is your version of Zen, you might be a stress cleaner. And that’s just one of several cleaning-personality types identified by Jelmar, makers of CLR cleaning products.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, get this: your cleaning-personality type is going to identify how you approach or perhaps don’t approach cleaning. Which in the case of a stress cleaner means that you’re facing off against germs when life seems to just be getting the best of you.

    TOM: Or maybe you shake out those rugs only when company is coming or maybe close to never. And there’s a cleaning-personality type for that habit, as well.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And once you know yours, Jelmar is going to give you custom tips for pushing past your type’s hurdles to clean your house faster, better and in a way that’s going to make you more happy, as well. Head on over to CLR Cleaners’ Facebook page and you can take Jelmar’s cleaning-personality quiz there. You can share your results on social media and you’re going to get tricks and tips for your specific type.

    TOM: And just by taking the quiz, you’ll be entered to win a $500 Visa gift card and Jelmar cleaning products. It’s all online at

    LESLIE: Dina in Iowa is on the line with a painting question. How can we help you today?

    DINA: I have this brown paneling and it goes all the way from the floor to the ceiling in every room. And I wondered if I can paint over this or wallpaper – or what is your suggestion?

    TOM: Wow. That’s a – what’s that, 1970s?

    DINA: Yeah. Yep.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, I kind of remember that growing up. We had those – that error in my house. And it’s always better to remove it but you can paint it.

    What you want to do, Dina, is you want to prime it. So, the first thing you would do is you would clean it, you would lightly sand it. And because there’s so much of it, I would – when I go to the paint store, I would get a sanding extension. It’s on a pole. It’s like a pole with an indexing head at the bottom – at the end of it, I should say. And you can run this pole over the surface and sand it, rough it up a little bit.

    And then you’re going to want to prime it. And I would use a good-quality, oil-based primer. It’ll go on nice and thick. It’ll give you a good, solid surface on which to add the wall paint. And then you can use latex wall paint on top of that. And I think it’ll come out nice and it’ll go on easy if you do those steps in that order. Because once you prime it, you get a very nice, even surface. It fills in any of the imperfections in the surface and it will make sure that that topcoat can be accepted properly.

    DINA: What about those grooves?

    TOM: You’re always going to have those grooves. You can’t do anything about it unless you want to take the paneling down which, by the way, could be an option. Because sometimes, when they put the paneling up, they just nailed it with these types of small, very thin ring nails. You could experiment with the possibility of taking that paneling off the walls. And you may find that underneath it is drywall.

    Now, generally, you have to do a lot of spackling, sometimes retaping and that kind of thing. But it is possible that underneath that paneling are some decent, typical drywall-covered walls.

    DINA: OK. It sounds like a Saturday job.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, at least, if you’ve got that much paneling. It might be a couple of Saturdays’ jobs. A lot of Saturdays.

    DINA: Yeah.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to Nebraska where Dan is on the line with a mold situation. What’s going on?

    DAN: So I put up a pole building three years ago, and it’s a 48×36 and 10-foot sidewall. And I finished off about 700 square feet on the inside and sheetrocked it, put R30 in the ceiling, R19 on the walls. And it’s got a 4-inch slab concrete base to it.

    And this spring, I went out there and I had mold all over everything. And I don’t know what’s causing that. The first two years I never had a bit of problem.

    TOM: Well, it’s been a very wet year. Now, you have no heat in this building, I presume?

    DAN: I heat the bathroom, which is about 8×10, during the winter here in Nebraska. And the rest I don’t heat.

    TOM: Well, look, mold needs three things to survive: it needs moisture, it needs air and it needs food. And all those things are available in that pole building. Your walls are made of drywall, I presume?

    DAN: Yes, sir. Sheetrock. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Yeah, right. Drywall, yeah. So the paper facing, that is terrific mold food. And you have moisture there and you have plenty of air and you’re not heating it, so the humidity is always pretty high. And that’s why you’re growing mold. So, you need to at least ventilate that building. If you’re not going to heat it, just keep moving the air through it so it doesn’t – the humidity doesn’t become quite as high. But at this point, if you’ve got all that mold, that has to be treated.

    DAN: Yeah. And I’ve done that. I’ve gotten that all out of there, right now, but I – and I put a dehumidifier in there just to …

    TOM: OK. Well, that will help.

    DAN: And it took me like 2½ days and I got it down to like 30 percent, so it came right down. Do I need to seal the floor? The concrete floor in there?

    TOM: I don’t think that that’s necessarily the cause of the problem. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to seal the floor but I think that this is just a condition of the fact that you’ve got a damp building there with no central heating system, with plenty of drywall, plenty of moisture and plenty of air. So, just because of the conditions, the mold is going to grow.

    Now, there were other ways that you could have constructed these walls. For example, there’s a product called DensArmor, which is a fiberglass-faced drywall that’s specifically designed not to grow mold, because it’s not organic. But with paper-face, in an un-heating building like that, I’m not surprised that it grew. Well, I am surprised it took two years but it might just be that it was just so moist this last year that it really took off.

    DAN: How do I go ahead and vent that, though?

    TOM: Well, what I would do is I would probably have a fan in there that was based on the humidistats so when the humidity got really high, that it would kick on and draw air out of that building. Kind of like having an attic fan but on a humidistat instead of a thermostat, right?

    That plus the dehumidifier should help you keep the moisture to a minimum.

    But keep an eye out for mold because once it gets started, then it really can take off quickly and it sounds like that’s happened in this case. So if you catch it sooner than later, you’re going to be much better off.

    LESLIE: Up next, stop paying more than you have to for water. We’re going to tell you the quick and easy ways that you can help the planet and help your monthly budget, when The Money Pit continues.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Haier, the world’s number-one appliance brand and a leader in air-quality solutions. Haier is a new kind of appliance brand, focused on home solutions designed for each stage of the emerging consumer’s life.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, summer can be hot and dry in this time of year, especially. We see a lot of efforts being made to conserve water but really, you can save water all year long and save money in the process.

    LESLIE: Here to tell us how to do just that is Dave White, a water-conservation expert from The Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta.

    Welcome, Dave.

    DAVE: Hey, thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, Dave, let’s start by talking about WaterSense. Now, I think still many Americans are not familiar with the WaterSense program. And while so many of us are very familiar with ENERGY STAR as the EPA’s program to help set standards that manufacturers strive to achieve energy efficiency, WaterSense is another EPA program. But it sets water-efficiency standards and that’s had a big impact on the products that are sold at places like The Home Depot. And it’s really helping us save water. Can you speak to that a bit?

    DAVE: Yeah, absolutely. And it really is. It’s really the equivalent, as what you were talking about.

    So, WaterSense, it really allows us to have product in the stores that are going to be certified and water-efficient, just like the energy-efficiency standards that we have, as well. So, things like showerheads, bath faucets, those kinds of things. And they’re really simple ways to save water and conserve water. And technology now has actually allowed those.

    A lot of people, you know, thought that if it said WaterSense or water-conserving, that it wouldn’t work as well; you wouldn’t get the water pressure and that kind of stuff. But the newer WaterSense-certified showerheads and other things that we carry really have been designed so that you get a really – a maximum water flow but you still are conserving water.

    LESLIE: What are some of the other water-wasters in the house? I mean immediately, we think of the faucets. But where else might you be losing some water and some money in the process?

    DAVE: I think the big culprit in most homes is the toilet. A lot of people – you guys probably have experienced it. I know you probably have where you hear the toilet kind of running at night and those kinds of things. And it’s usually the simple flapper replacement, right? But people are intimidated by repairing a toilet and it’s really very simple and very inexpensive, as well. But you can save thousands of gallons of water.

    You could also replace the system that’s in your toilet now, the older flush valve, with a hydro kit – repair kit. That turns the toilet into a dual-flush – and you’ve seen those now on the market; they’re very popular – so that you can flush – you have two flush levels and different amounts of water that you use.

    TOM: And you can also think about simply replacing your toilet with a WaterSense-certified toilet. Now, years ago when water-efficient toilets first came out, they got quite a bad reputation and deservedly so, because they just didn’t perform well. But now the engineers have really perfected this technology and they work quite well. And they use a lot less water.

    DAVE: Absolutely. And again, they’re doing a couple of different things. They are designing the toilets so that, just based on the engineering, they flush more efficiently and they flush more powerfully with less water. But they’re also designing them with some of this water-saving technology and the “dual-flush zones,” as they call it. So, yeah, they’re doing a great job.

    And also, the toilets – they even have the toilets now that flush – they’re powerful enough to where they actually help clean the bowl in the meantime.

    TOM: We’re talking to Dave White. He’s a water-conservation expert from The Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta.

    Dave, let’s talk about outside. I think one of the first products to become WaterSense-certified were the irrigation products. You guys stock great lines of products, like those from Rain Bird, that can help us save a lot of water, especially with our sprinkler systems. Can you talk about that?

    DAVE: Correct. So, a couple of things that we recommend, first of all, is drip irrigation. If you’re in a situation where you’re wasting a lot of water watering a few number of plants in a wide area, drip irrigation is fantastic. It’s very simple to do. You can get starter kits that allow you to do about 50 feet of watering. Then, literally, it just gets the water right down to the base of those plants rather than having it evaporate using sprinklers.

    We also have the dual-spray heads. And this is fairly new but it makes a lot of sense. So the spray heads on your regular pop-up sprinklers, they typically are designed to reach a certain amount of distance. A lot of times, the short distance for close-up watering is really difficult because they’re kind of overshooting this, so you have to water a lot more. Now they have a dual-spray so that there’s a downward angle right on the head, so that you get close-up watering and then the farther-reach watering that comes out of the regular part of the spray head.

    LESLIE: Now, when it comes to the landscaping itself, is there any sort of trick of the trade that a pro might do to cut water usage when it comes to picking the plants or how you landscape?

    DAVE: Oh, absolutely. And it’s really not so much about – like a lot of people think that they have to have – that maybe we just have to have a bunch of rocks and cactus so that we don’t have anything to water. And it’s all about xeriscaping and that really is looking at the yard and literally watching where the sun is and where the hot spots in the yard – what gets most heat and picking plants accordingly. It really just makes a whole lot of sense.

    And then let’s say you have – and you can use succulents, too, by the way. Succulents and cacti and there’s all kinds of great plants that you can get that look fantastic but they don’t take a whole lot of water. So, there’s all kinds of things you can do and still have a beautiful, lush yard.

    TOM: Great advice. Dave White, water-conservation expert from The Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta, thank you so much for helping us save water and be efficient in our homes.

    DAVE: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: And if you’d like more information about how you can save water in your home, Home Depot actually has a section of their website devoted to that. It’s simply That’s

    LESLIE: Alright. Up next, carbon monoxide gets more attention but radon is another odorless and colorless gas that poses a real threat to homeowners. Could it be lurking in your house? We’re going to tell you how you can find out and then send it packing for good, when The Money Pit continues.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is sponsored by Pella Windows and Doors. Pella products with Insynctive technology can connect with compatible home automation systems so they can be programmed to help keep your home in sync with you. Learn more at

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And getting rid of mold isn’t easy but figuring out whether you actually have mold is no walk in the park, either.

    LESLIE: Well, one lucky caller this hour is going to win the new, easy and accurate 5-Minute Mold Test. Yes, five minutes. That’s all it takes and you will get your home tested, using samples that you find right in your own house for mold.

    TOM: It’s the first step toward a healthy home without the hassle or the cost of a mail-in test or hiring a mold specialist. And it can be yours if we answer your question on the air today, because we’re going to give away one 5-Minute Mold Test Kit to one lucky caller drawn at random. So, pick up the phone, call us, right now, with your home improvement question for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Mark in Maine is on the line with an electrical question. How can we help you today?

    MARK: Yes, I have a couple of rooms. Our house is from around the 1930s and some of the rooms, the three-way wiring isn’t quite right. Like to turn on the light as you enter the room, you turn on one switch. You can’t go to the other side of the room where the other switch is and turn the light off; you have to go back to the original switch, turn the light off. Then you can …

    TOM: Oh, OK. So do you know that it was originally designed to be a three-way switch?

    MARK: I do not know that.

    TOM: Listen, you’re going to have to have an electrician open up the wiring and test it, trace it out and figure out what’s going on. It’s either that a switch has gone bad or more likely, it’s just not hooked up correctly.

    MARK: OK. OK. Now, I had been told that there are switches that are specific to three-way and that is probably the problem but I’m – to be honest, I don’t know.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s entirely possible but it’s got to be opened up and take a look at what switch device is in there and then also determine if it’s wired correctly. Because it sounds like, most likely, it was incorrectly wired. It might have been that somebody replaced one of those switches at one time and just hooked it up wrong.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: I mean I’ve done that myself, just inadvertently. When I was painting, I recall, I took a switch apart to replace it from a toggle switch to a décor switch that’s the kind of flat-panel kind.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: And I swore that I had gone wire for wire and got it right but I didn’t; I got it wrong. And it did exactly that, so I had to reverse some wires to get it working back again.

    MARK: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’ve got some research to do.

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

    Well, your home inspector probably tested for radon gas when you bought your house but there’s also a good chance you haven’t thought about it again, perhaps, since you moved in.

    LESLIE: Now, it’s true. Radon gets so little attention or even press, especially when you compare it to another odorless gas that’s getting all the buzz lately: carbon monoxide.

    Now, radon is naturally occurring and it does pose some serious health risks. It’s even been proven to cause cancer. And it can make its way into your home, at any time, without you knowing.

    TOM: Now, here’s how that happened. Radon will basically creep through cracks and gaps and basement floors and walls. And it’s more common than you might think. In fact, 1 of every 15 homes in the United States is believed to have elevated radon levels. We would frequently find it in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And what’s interesting is that one house could have high radon levels and the house next door doesn’t. So, you really have to pay attention and do the testing.

    Now, you can order a quick and easy charcoal adsorption kit online. And that’s going to test your home for radon. It’s inexpensive and it can determine radon levels in about a week’s time.

    TOM: And if you do have radon or you just want to be safe instead of sorry, you can install a radon-mitigation system. Now, a radon mitigation system uses a fan in a vent to pull radon from beneath the house. And then it vents it safely outside.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Melanie in California on the line with a decorating question. What can we do for you today?

    MELANIE: I have untreated, (inaudible at 0:30:20) knotty pine throughout the house. I would like to continue into an 8×12 bathroom with the same. Is this the best application for the bathroom or will untreated wood hold up to condensation?

    LESLIE: Now, where are you seeing this? On the walls? On the celling?

    MELANIE: Oh, well, I’d like to do the whole bathroom. Yes, walls and ceiling.

    TOM: I would say, Leslie, that knotty – untreated, knotty pine is a really bad idea for a bathroom.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: I actually do have a bathroom that’s got pine wainscoting but it’s completely sealed. And it goes up about halfway up the wall. I would definitely not put unfinished wood in a bathroom because it’s going to soak up the moisture. It’s going to grow mold or mildew and just is not going to look right. You can’t clean it, either. So, a bad idea for the ceiling.

    That said, if you like the look of wood, there are many ceiling-tile products that do look quite a lot like wood.

    MELANIE: OK. We’re limited. We’re in a small area, so we’re limited as far as hardwares go and paneling. We checked out our local hardware stores. And where’s the best place to find, oh, say, ceiling paneling and …?

    LESLIE: Well, now, a clever, creative idea – which, you know, you might be able to source online and perhaps you haven’t looked at some of this in the local places to you – would be a laminate flooring that’s a plank that looks like a knotty pine so that we could utilize that in the same application that you’re talking about. But it’s made to withstand high-moisture situations because it’s a manufactured product and not a natural product.

    MELANIE: Sure, sure.

    LESLIE: And that, because it’s sold in planks, if you do have to order it online or if somebody has to order it from the vendor directly through your local stores, it ships really easily because of its packaging. And being plank size, you’re not going to have a hard time getting it in, rather than a sheet product.

    MELANIE: Oh, OK. Very good. And I think that would look far better than a sheet product. We just – I think that’s why I don’t care – the wainscoting or coating, how do you pronounce that?

    LESLIE: Oh, absolutely.

    MELANIE: Is that …?

    LESLIE: I say “wainscoting,” but I think everybody says it every way they feel like. Tomato, tomato.

    MELANIE: OK. It’s just very attractive. But we need to do this complete, up the walls.

    TOM: You don’t have to. You could go partially up the walls and then trim off the top edge of it.

    MELANIE: Hmm. And then would – OK.

    TOM: It depends on what look you’re going for.

    For example, Leslie, you’ve often given the suggestion that you can take an old door, turn it on its side and that could be a wainscoting.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That works out beautifully, especially because it gives you the paneling sort of built right into the door. The only issue there is that anywhere you’ve got an electrical outlet or something that might protrude from the wall, you’re going to have to bump that out to accommodate the extra thickness of the door. Not a big deal but it’s an extra step.

    MELANIE: Boy, it sure is. Oh, boy. OK. Well, thank you so much. That’s a lot to think about and I really like that plank-flooring idea. That was a thought that never even crossed my mind, so – nor my husband’s.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project.

    MELANIE: Thank you so much. And thank you for taking my call.

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

    LESLIE: Still ahead, are you wondering if your kitchen is an addition or perhaps part of the original footprint of your home? Well, whether you own a home or you’re thinking about buying one, they’re easier to navigate and improve when you know that home’s history. We’re going to tell you how you can track it down, when The Money Pit continues.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, are you looking to hire a pro right now to do some work in or around your home? Well, you’ve got to make sure that it’s the right person for the job. Money Pit has got the top 10 questions to ask your prospective hires that’ll give you the best chances for safety and home improvement success. It’s all on our home page, right now, at

    And you can post your question in the Community section, just like Gabe did who writes: “How often do I need to seal my pitted driveway and what should I use?”

    TOM: Well, I mean driveway sealing is best repeated every couple of years. But the frequency is going to depend on how much wear and tear your driveway suffers. Now, you mentioned pitting. If you live in the Northeast or any place where rock salt is used on your driveway, it might be – have to be repeated more often because it’s very, very corrosive. You can cut down on that maintenance by switching from the sodium-based rock salt, which is really corrosive, to calcium chloride, which is a lot safer.

    Now, in terms of the project itself, it’s really pretty straightforward. You can start by patching and filling the cracks. Then you apply a thin coat or two of asphalt sealer.

    Take a look at the products by QUIKRETE – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E. They’ve got a patching compound there and they’ve got driveway-sealing products. And they work really well. There’s great guidance online to teach you how to do it yourself.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Jen writes: “Do you have any specific suggestions on painting stucco after repairs have been made?”

    TOM: You know, it’s pretty much like painting any other masonry surface. You want to use oil-based primer as a first step and let it dry really, really well. Or you could think about re-stuccoing the entire foundation after that stucco is patched so that the color is consistent. We have a great article on how to do that, on our website at

    LESLIE: Alright. Good advice.

    TOM: Well, if you own an older home or you’re thinking about buying one, you probably wish its walls could talk. The stories it could say! Well, no talking walls needed. Leslie has got ways for you to learn about your house’s past and it can help you avoid future problems, as well as make you aware of previous issues, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Knowing your home’s age is pretty much a valuable asset, since homes that are built in the same era tend to face similar problems.

    Now, with the help of an architecture book or two, most homeowners can narrow their home down to core style and a time period. Public records, these are key, guys, because they’re going to hold information about your home. So researching public records is an especially good idea if you’re the prospective owner of a home and want to know what changes have taken place over the years before you buy.

    You can visit your local building department, a tax assessor or even the Registrar of Deeds Office to find deeds, maps, plot plans, even building permits that have been filed and perhaps some that are still open and need to be closed. And that’s going to give you peace of mind and give you a piece of the home’s history so you know exactly what’s going on there.

    Now, maps. They’re used by insurance companies since about the mid-1800s. And they’re also a great way to find out more about your home. They’re used to catalogue buildings in your area and they give an excellent description of size, layout and the materials used.

    Now, you can also learn a lot by just observing the materials a home was built with. Knob-and-tube wiring and steel plumbing pipes, for example, those were common from about 1900 to 1940, whereas small, fuse-type electrical systems and plaster-lath walls were used from about 1940 to 1960.

    And finally, take a good look around. Now, you might be lucky enough to find dates stamped on plumbing fixtures, like toilets and sinks, if they’re the original fixtures. Now, you can bet your home was built just after these were made.

    Now, knowing your home’s past can actually help you plan for your home’s future. It’s a great thing to know, because you’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with, what repairs might run and what problems are going to face you in the years ahead of home ownership.

    TOM: Great advice.

    Coming up next week on The Money Pit, stainless steel is the go-to choice for kitchen sinks. But did you know that not all stainless steel is created equal? We’re going to tell you what to consider before buying your next kitchen sink, an important purchase that we use every day, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    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 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.)

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