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How to Clean a Fireplace Screen, Using Trees to Lower Your Energy Bill, Generator Maintenance Tips and More

  • Transcript

    TOM: And how about that? This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online and on Jeopardy! this week.

    Can you believe that, Leslie?

    LESLIE: How amazing.

    TOM: Yep. Jeopardy! used The Money Pit to what you just heard was the answer to a $1,000 question: “This phrase for a house that keeps needing costly repairs is also the name of a home improvement radio show.” “What is The Money Pit?” I guess when your show is the answer to a Jeopardy! question, you have officially reached pop-culture status.

    LESLIE: I feel like we’ve made it. I’m so excited. It’s really so exciting. Really.

    TOM: We have arrived. And you have arrived at The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air, online, on Jeopardy! and all happening at MoneyPit.com.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you this hour. If the damage estimates are still not complete yet but it seems like this year’s hurricane season is sure to be near the top of the costliest natural disasters this country has seen. Power outages accounted for much of that loss, including spoiled food, lost business and of course, those dreaded, flooded basements we heard so much about.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Well, if you hadn’t considered a portable generator before, you’re probably strongly thinking about one now. And if you do already have one, you know that keeping it primed and ready really is the key because you never know when Mother Nature’s wrath is going to strike. So we’re going to give you some maintenance tips, in just a little bit.

    TOM: Well, Mother Nature can certainly work against you but you can also make Mother Nature work for you, too. That’s why, coming up, Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House is going to join us with some tips on all-natural ways to save energy at home by planting trees in strategic locations around your yard. We’ll have more on that just ahead.

    LESLIE: Plus, it’s time to get ready for fireplace season with a quick tip to clean your screens. Because a good cleaning will keep your fireplace safe and it’s also going to allow you a nice view of that roaring fire all winter long.

    TOM: And this hour, we’re also giving away a $250 gift certificate for Lumber Liquidators. You can get all your hardwood flooring for less at Lumber Liquidators, where they buy factory direct for the best prices. That $250 gift certificate is going to go out to one caller who goes to the phone and calls us with their home improvement question, so why not make that you? Pick up the phone, call us right now at 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Laura in South Carolina is on the line with some hail damage and then a roof leak and now the water stain that won’t go away. Tell us what’s going on.

    LAURA: You hit the nail on the head. We had hail damage about a year ago and we’ve gotten the roof fixed and they changed the plywood up there. But when the roof leaked, it left some brown spots on the ceiling.


    LAURA: And it’s in the kitchen, which leads into the – and then the next room over is the sunroom and then the bathroom’s right next door to the kitchen. And it’s left this brown spot and we’ve tried to putty over it, like use a little jar of plaster and cover over it and paint it. We’ve tried primer and painting it and it still keeps on soaking through or like the brown keeps showing through. And we don’t know what to do to fix that.

    LESLIE: And you’re certain that the leak has been repaired?

    LAURA: Yeah. It was really soggy and they could put their foot – in fact, one of them put their foot through. So they changed all that plywood out and changed the – because it was right by where those little three spouts are, those vents? And they’ve changed all that around there and put new flashing around it and everything. And yeah, I mean it’s not wet; it’s just these brown spots keep haunting us and they won’t go away.

    TOM: OK. What kind of primer did you use when you – did you use a water-base primer or oil-base?

    LAURA: It was a water-base.

    TOM: OK. So what I want you to try is use oil-based primer. Assuming that it is, in fact, dry, if you use an oil-based primer, that’s going to stop it. Because there’s a chemical reaction that happens sometimes with these water stains and the material that gets into them that will just leach through paint. And it’s particularly bad with water-based paints.

    But I want you to use an oil-based primer. This is going to seal in anything that’s there and once it dries, you should be able to use a latex paint on top of that without any problems. And you will not see it come through again.

    LAURA: Oh, good to – in fact, we’ve been using a water-based paint, too.

    TOM: Well, the water-based paint is OK but only on top of the oil-based primer. So go buy a good-quality KILZ or B-I-N is another brand, made by Zinsser. Just a good-quality, oil-based primer should do the trick.

    LAURA: Oh, wonderful. OK. We didn’t even think of it. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Laura.

    LAURA: Thank you. OK. Bye bye.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Barry in Tennessee on the line who is looking for some unbiased opinions on heating and cooling systems. Tell us what’s going on.

    BARRY: Well, my wife and I are in the beginning planning stages of building our home and we are trying to figure out what might be the best option.


    BARRY: I mean you’ve got everything from a wood stove to a heat pump; there’s all kinds of choices out there. What might be a good one?

    TOM: And we know why you need a new home, because you’ve got some kids in the background to stuff into that new place, huh?

    BARRY: I have a two-year-old, sorry.

    TOM: That’s OK. That’s OK.

    So, let’s talk about fuels first. Do you have natural gas in this location?

    BARRY: We have natural gas. We have, of course, heating oil or something of that nature and we have electric.


    TOM: Alright. So you have all the choice in the world. So I would suggest that natural gas would be the best way to go, the most cost-effective way to go.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

    TOM: In terms of the type of heating system, you have – forced air or hot water would be the two most common types. Forced air is less expensive to install because you have one set of ducts that does both heating and cooling. However, hot water is a more comfortable heat because the heat is moister …

    LESLIE: It’s got a moisture to it.

    TOM: And it’s also quieter, too. But if you put in a hot-water heat, then you’re also going to have to run a duct system for the air conditioning. So you’re kind of putting in sort of a system-and-a-half.

    If you do run hot water, you may want to consider using radiant floors in some of those rooms. There’s a type of plumbing pipe called PEX – P-E-X; it stands for cross-linked polyethylene. And you can run that up under floors so that the entire floor gets warm, which is really pleasant. You know, when you come home – come down in the morning to a cold floor, no more. It’ll all be nice and warm all the time. So that’s a real nice way to heat your house.

    And that’s some of the options. But I think you have the opportunity to build a well-insulated house. Use a gas system. I prefer to have hot water if it wasn’t too prohibitively expensive and then take advantage of some of the things that you can do with the PEX piping, which really allows you the flexibility to put heat exactly where you want it.

    BARRY: OK, great. One more question that’s associated with that, if I may. The PEX piping, I know that that’s under concrete or some other type of solid floor. What if I’ve got a second floor? Is that still a good option?

    TOM: Yeah, because up in the second floor, you could do the same thing with the flooring or you could use radiators. Some folks opt to put radiant floor in a bathroom so that’s nice and warm when you go in there with your bare feet but maybe use a hot-water baseboard elsewhere.

    BARRY: OK. Alright. Very good. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Barry. 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, it’s October. Hooray for Halloween! If you have got some seasonal decorating on your to-do list this weekend, give us a call because we’d love to help you make it extra spooktacular. Or maybe you’re tackling a home improvement project. Either way, we’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, are you thinking about firing up your fireplace for the first burn of the season? Do you want to actually see the fire? Well, you can if you start with a clean fireplace screen. We’ll tell you how to make that happen, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by InSinkErator, instant hot or hot/cool-water dispensers. Delivering 200-degree hot or cool filtered water in an instant, at the touch of a lever right at the kitchen sink. Perfect for homeowners looking to save time in the kitchen. For more information, please visit www.InSinkErator.com.

    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: Hey, are you looking to spruce up your home with some new floors? Well, if so, you’re in luck. You can visit LumberLiquidators.com for great ideas on all kinds of flooring options. But better yet, you can pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT because one caller we talk to on the air today is going to win a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Pick up the phone and give us a call and we’d love to help you with whatever it is you are working on. But maybe you have got autumn projects on your mind. And you’re thinking about how do you spruce up your home, how do you decorate it, how do you make it comfy-cozy.

    Well, one thing that really is just so super-seasonal is having a working fireplace in your house. But all of that charm that it adds can also add up to a giant cleaning chore. That’s why this week’s Fresh Idea presented by Trewax is all about how to clean and maintain your fireplace screen.

    So, to begin with, you want to, maybe once or twice a season, use a cleaning solution of about an 1/8-cup liquid dishwashing detergent per quart of water. And that’s going to remove the caked-on ash and soot. Now, take that mixture and gently scrub the screen with a soft-bristle brush. And then follow up by wiping it with a lint-free cloth to avoid rusting.

    TOM: Next, you can polish the brash section of the fireplace screen with a brass cleaner and again, a lint-free cloth. Now, if you do this, you’ll have a nice, clear view of that crackling fire.

    And that’s today’s Fresh Idea, which is presented by Trewax All-Natural Hardwood Floor Cleaner. Just a few sprays safely, quickly and easily removes the soils and stains common to every household, from hardwood floors, cabinets, furniture and more. Visit Trewax.com for more information.

    LESLIE: Diane in Maryland is just not getting the proper pressure in her shower. What can we do for you today?

    DIANE: Hi. I’m having trouble with the water pressure in my whole house, actually.

    LESLIE: The whole house?

    DIANE: I have low water pressure upstairs and really high water pressure downstairs. Is there anything I can do about it?

    TOM: Low water pressure upstairs and high water pressure downstairs usually means that your main water line into the house is not delivering enough water and the fixtures that are the farthest away from the main water line have the least flow.

    DIANE: Gotcha.

    TOM: So that’s not unusual. How old is your house?

    DIANE: It’s about 40 years old.

    TOM: And what kind of pipes do you have coming into the house? Do you know?

    DIANE: They’re copper.

    TOM: They’re copper. So, the copper is not going to restrict like a steel pipe would but it might be a problem with the valve.

    DIANE: OK.

    TOM: So, the pattern that you’re describing is probably plumbing-related in terms of a valve that’s restricting water to the second floor. And what I would do is I would sort of dissect or have a plumber dissect the supply lines up to the second floor and figure out where the drop in pressure is.

    DIANE: OK.

    TOM: Now, the pressure on the second floor that’s low, is that low through all the fixtures in this bathroom? Is it one bathroom, first of all?

    DIANE: It’s the bathroom in the kitchen upstairs.

    TOM: OK, so it’s just one bathroom.

    DIANE: So yes, all the fixtures.

    TOM: And you say all the fixtures, so we’re talking about both – what, a tub and shower and a sink?

    DIANE: Yes.

    TOM: Any problems with the toilet?

    DIANE: Yes.

    TOM: Hmm. Alright. Well, I would say to check the cold-water supply line up to that space because I suspect that it’s restricted somewhere and that’s why you’re having this pressure problem. I doubt very seriously there’s any problem with the clogging of a pipe because as long as everything is copper, there’s really nothing for you to clog.

    DIANE: OK. Well, thank you for your information. I want to check into that.

    TOM: Alright, Diane. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Tom in Arkansas is on the line looking for some information on a product called Restore. How can we help you today?

    TOM IN ARKANSAS: Wondered if you ever heard anybody work – that worked with this stuff or worked with it. It seems like it’s a real good product. In fact, I bought some cans of it to do my deck, which is about 18 years old and hasn’t been taken care of very much by the previous owners of this house. So, I stained it about two, three years ago but it needs some more work on it and this stuff looked like it was great. So I was wondering if you heard anything about it.

    TOM: So you’re talking about a product called Deck Restore, right, by Synta?


    TOM: OK. So, I think – I’m not familiar with this particular product and I can’t comment positively or negatively on it. But I – Leslie, you mentioned that you’ve had some experience with this manufacturer that was positive.

    LESLIE: Yeah, the manufacturer, Synta, they also do a couple of different lines in the crafting sector. One is a variety of paints called Anita’s. And I’ve used their craft paint, I’ve used their metallic craft paint, I’ve used their yard-and-garden paint. And I’ve always been very happy with the coverage, the quality, the cleanability. And then they have another line called Studio Essentials, which is more for not a professional artist but a painter, if you will. And I’ve used their gesso, I’ve used their brush cleaners. And I’ve been very happy with that line of product.

    Now, in just doing a little research on the Deck Restore, it seems like a very good-quality, thick product that’s meant to sort of coat and cover and restore, if you will, the deck itself where it’ll put down splinters. But I’ve never used it. You know, if you search online, look and see what some of the reviews are. They all seem pretty positive and you’ve already got it, so I say go for it.

    TOM IN ARKANSAS: Yeah. And while I was there, some guy came in and bought 20, big, 4-gallon cans of it and I asked him – I said, “Well, boy,” – I said, “What do you do?” He says, “I restore decks and I do concrete pool on the decks.” He said, “It works great.” I said, “Well, no kidding.” So, I bought 3 4-gallon buckets and I figured I’d have it done by now but my power washer wouldn’t start.

    TOM: Well, the guy with the 20 buckets, did he take some out the door, back into the back of the store and then they take them back and they just start the whole thing over?

    LESLIE: He does it all the time.

    TOM IN ARKANSAS: Oh, no, no, no. In fact, I went over to another store and they had about six gallon – six buckets there and they were all gone, too. He bought those, too.

    TOM: Yeah, sure.

    TOM IN ARKANSAS: So I was glad I bought the 3, big, 4-gallon buckets that I did when I did because they were out. He said, “We’re going to get some more in a couple weeks,” but …

    TOM: Yeah. Well, you know what? I would tell you to – I think it sounds like a pretty good product. I’d be willing to give it a shot. I might not do the entire deck; I might do a small section and see how it goes or test it on some boards before I committed to the whole thing.

    But since you’re talking about restoring a deck that’s got a lot of cracks and checks in it, I’m going to also take this opportunity to give you one of our favorite tricks of the trade. If you’ve got a board that’s really badly deteriorated or cracked, pry it up and flip it over. Because the …

    TOM IN ARKANSAS: I can’t. They’re 45s. They’re running on a different angle.

    TOM: Ah, you can’t because they’re on an angle.

    LESLIE: Oh, what a bummer.

    TOM: Oh, too bad.

    TOM IN ARKANSAS: I can’t do it. I thought of that but I can’t flip them over so – but I …

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Without re-mitering and adding some.

    TOM: That’s right. The back side’s perfect but the miters are going to kill you on that. Thanks for giving us a call about it and let us know how you make out.

    TOM IN ARKANSAS: OK, thanks.

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

    LESLIE: Barbara in Texas needs some help sprucing up a kitchen. What can we do for you?

    BARBARA: Hi. I’m calling to find out – I want to do my kitchen countertops and I understand that there’s something called GIANI aluminum paint that you put on in different – comes in different colors and I think that it was a Thomas and something company and I’d like to know where.

    TOM: Yeah, you got pieces of it right there.


    TOM: The product is called GIANI. It’s made by a company that also manufactures liquid stainless steel and that’s why you’re a little confused by it. And the company, in fact, is called Thomas’ Kitchen Art.

    So, you got a lot of the words; you just got them mixed up a little bit. The website is simply LiquidStainlessSteel.com and the liquid stainless steel is a paint that you can use on kitchen appliances that does, in fact, look just like stainless steel. It’s pretty cool stuff.

    BARBARA: Alright.

    LESLIE: And it’s very durable.

    TOM: Very durable.

    LESLIE: But that’s for your appliances.

    TOM: And they’ve invented the world’s first granite paint kit for laminate countertops. You can put this stuff right on Formica countertops and it looks just like granite. And that, in fact, is called GIANI. So go to LiquidStainlessSteel.com and you will see the options there for GIANI. And Leslie and I have seen it; we’ve tried it. It works pretty well and I think you’ll like it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It comes in two different tones, Barbara.

    BARBARA: Very good. I’m glad to know that. I’m excited.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, trees certainly are a staple of any well-landscaped lawn. But not only do they add green to your landscape, they can also add some green to your wallet. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House is going to be here to tell you how, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you in part by Arrow Fastener Company, the leader in professional fastening products since 1929. The makers of the iconic T50 Staple Gun, the world’s bestselling staple gun, Arrow Fastener has the right tool for every application. Explore Arrow’s latest product innovations at ArrowFastener.com.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the HydroRight Drop-In Dual Flush Converter, proud sponsor of Water Conservation 2011. The HydroRight easily converts your toilet into a water- and money-saving dual-flush toilet. Push the quick-flush setting for liquids or the full-flush for more. Look for the HydroRight at The Home Depot and other fine retailers or visit SaveMyToilet.com.

    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: Hey, here’s a question: could you use a $10,000 dream-room makeover? Well, who couldn’t? And our friends at Arrow Fastener will be awarding one lucky winner just that: a $10,000 room makeover with the help of one of the most trusted and experienced interior designers of all time, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Woo! Oh, my gosh.

    TOM: Why don’t you talk about this? It’s pretty cool.

    LESLIE: I mean this is super-exciting. You know, we’ve partnered with Arrow Fasteners to come up with this great contest that’s going to be all available at Arrow Fastener’s Facebook page, which is Facebook.com/ArrowFastener. And if you go to Facebook, log on. You become a friend of Arrow by “liking” Arrow’s Facebook page.

    And then you can enter for your chance to win your design dream to come true at a $10,000 budget, which is amazing because, Tom, you know I’ve worked on like 450 rooms across this United States of America. And I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $1,000.

    TOM: That’s going to be a very nice makeover.

    LESLIE: This is going to be fantastic. So we really want to hear from you guys, all of you. So log onto Facebook today. “Friend” Arrow Fastener on their Facebook page, enter the contest. One lucky person is going to get this $10,000 dream-room makeover and I’m so excited, because that is a whole lot of moolah to create a really fantastic room for this lucky person.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your maybe not grand makeover question but maybe even minor makeover question. We can help you get it done because we still know how to do it for less than 10 grand, too.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Tom in South Carolina who needs some help in the garden. What can we do for you today?

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I’ve got a corner of the yard that’s been kind of neglected and I’ve got two Crepe myrtle trees over there and they’ve never, ever been trimmed. So they’re – you know how Crepe myrtles have just bare, barkless-type trunks and branches going up to a canopy?

    TOM: Yeah. They’re beautiful.

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Whereas these trees are just – they’re bushy from top to bottom. And I’m just wondering – yeah, they’ve never been trimmed and I’m just wondering when I should trim the trees and if I should do it all at once or – what’s the best time of year or is it too late to do it?

    LESLIE: Well, let’s see. If you’re looking to – and it sounds like you are – reshape and sort of encourage new growth and size maintenance, there’s really two key times and that’s late winter or early spring. Because you want to do that when the tree has entered dormancy so that you’re not going to damage it or encourage new growth off-season or sort of delay dormancy in the tree. So really, late winter or early spring; that’s the best time to do it. And I think what you really need is a good, fresh start.

    And there’s actually a good website called Gardenality.com and it’s G-a-r-d-e-n-a-l-i-t-y. And if you go there and do a search on Crepe myrtle trimming, you’re actually going to find diagrams, what to remove, what to keep. And it’ll give you an idea of what it’s supposed to look like so you know where to go.

    And just as a fun tip, the little pieces that grow up at the bottom and sort of take over and become like a big bush rather than a tree?

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Yeah, exactly.

    LESLIE: Those are called suckers and I just think that’s funny. But I would wait. Give it a little bit more time, wait for the winter to sort of set in and then go at it.

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Great. Well, thank you.

    LESLIE: Well, green home improvement projects that save money and make your home more comfortable are among the most popular improvements to make these days. But there’s one kind of energy-efficient home improvement that is green in more ways than one.

    TOM: That’s right. Planting trees of the right size and shape, in the right places, can deliver energy savings for many, many years. Here to help us plan that project is Roger Cook, the lawn-and-garden expert for TV’s This Old House and a guy who’s planted a lot of trees in his career, huh?

    ROGER: Yeah. And Tom, it’s pretty exciting to know that the Department of Energy has done studies that show you can save up to 25 percent by strategically planting trees.

    TOM: That’s amazing. I mean I don’t think that people realize how successful this can be as a way to save energy. We think about insulating and caulking and things like that but just getting these trees right makes a whole lot of sense.

    So, what are the considerations that you have to ask yourself, to help yourself start saving some energy?

    ROGER: Well, before, if you even think of trees, if you’re building a new house, consider how you’re going to space the house. You want the living areas with the kitchen to get sunlight all day long so they take in that radiant heat.

    TOM: OK. So the orientation of the building is the critical first step, if you have that opportunity. But what if you don’t?

    ROGER: Well, then you start thinking about heating and cooling.

    Now, if you want to cool the house in the summer, you’re going to plant some deciduous trees on that corner of the house, usually the south or east side of the house. And that’ll block the rays of the sun from hitting the roof and the window.

    LESLIE: And a deciduous tree is like an evergreen, sort of dense? Describe that a little bit more.

    ROGER: Deciduous trees are the ones that drop their leaves, because that’s going to be great for you. The rest of the season, during the fall and winter, the radiant heat, the sun’s light will be able to get through the tree and heat your house when you need it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. OK.

    ROGER: On the north side of the house, we would plant an evergreen tree or a row of evergreen trees. And you see these in farms all the time, especially in the Midwest. That’s to protect …

    LESLIE: Oh, like a wind block, almost.

    ROGER: Exactly. To protect those cold, winter winds from coming in and buffeting the house, no matter …

    TOM: Those farmers are pretty smart, huh?

    ROGER: Yeah, they’re a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They’ve been doing it a long time, too.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    ROGER: You think about those cold, winter winds coming in and hitting your house. No matter how tight we seal it, there’s always cracks and that’s going to blow that cold air into the house.

    TOM: Now, Roger, what if we’re in a neighborhood where we just can’t bring in a whole bunch of brand new trees? Can we get some minor benefit by only shading parts of the house?

    ROGER: You can. If you have air-conditioner units and you can shade those, they will operate more efficiently. Two ways to shade them. Sometimes we’ll put up a solid fence, which will protect them, or even a row of shrubs to keep the sun from beating on them when they’re operating.

    LESLIE: Makes it a lot more attractive, as well. You’re not looking at that condensing unit.

    ROGER: Yeah.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    Now, Roger, we get a fair number of calls for folks asking for help when trees get actually too close to the house and impact walkways or foundations. How far should we keep the trees away to get the benefit of that strategic shade but not actually be too close?

    ROGER: I would say a minimum is 20 to 25 feet from the house.

    TOM: Got it.

    ROGER: That gives room for the tree to grow but also for the house to breathe.

    TOM: Great advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Thank you. I had a great time.

    TOM: And to see a great video on how to plant trees and save energy, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    LESLIE: And you can watch Roger and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

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

    Coming up, as so many have learned the hard way these past few storm-filled months, you never know when your power is going to go out. A generator can help, though, if it works when you need it. We’ll show you how to be sure it does, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac, makers of the number one-selling Guardian Series Home Standby Generators. Now introducing a full line of consumer and professional power washers. Whether you need to power it, clean it or protect it, Generac can help. Visit Generac.com to learn more.

    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 I’ve got a good question for you: who doesn’t like the look of a beautiful wood floor? Pretty much everybody loves a wood floor. The price tag? Not so much.

    Well, Lumber Liquidators, they have brand-name flooring for less because they’re going to cut out the middle man and buy directly from the mill, so you’re going to save big bucks when you shop with them. And you’ll find hardwood, engineered, wood, cork, bamboo, laminate. You name it, you can get it for a great price at Lumber Liquidators.

    However, one lucky caller to The Money Pit this hour is going to win a $250 gift certificate for Lumber Liquidators, which really …

    TOM: Helps you get started.

    LESLIE: I know, greatly. And if you’ve got a small room, you might even be able to tackle the entire room.

    TOM: Do the whole thing.

    LESLIE: So call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, ask us your home improvement question and you’ve got a great chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, literally millions of Americans have learned the importance of having a working generator this year. Leslie and I are no exception. Hurricane Irene did deliver a very powerful blow to the East Coast and it left homes and businesses all around here in the dark.

    And you may have also learned that it’s not enough just to have a generator; you also have to take care of it. You never know when your power is going to go out and it’s not just the storms that cause those outages.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That’s right. You know, Generac and one of its leading online retailers, Norwall Power Systems, they suggest the following steps so that you can make sure your generator is always good to go.

    First of all, you want to check the oil level every time you start it up. You want to make sure that you fill it with the proper weight oil and to the level that’s suggested in the guidelines of the manual that comes with it. Hold it, save it, put it in a Ziploc bag in case you end up with a flood somewhere in this crazy storm. Just make sure you pay attention to it.

    And you’re also going to need to change the oil filter every season or even more if you happen to use your generator often, OK, guys?

    TOM: That’s right. And if you do use the generator often, you also need to replace the air cleaner and the spark plugs about once a year. Plus, very important that you use fuel stabilizer in the gas tank. If not, the gas may not work when you need it. Gasoline actually goes bad after about 30 days. But if you put the stabilizer in it, well, then it can last about a year.

    Finally, it’s also a good idea to clean the generator but don’t do that with a garden hose – which, of course, is the first thing everyone grabs – because water can get in the fuel system and that causes big problems. Instead, you just want to use a damp cloth and a loose-bristle brush.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if you have any more questions, make sure you consult your owner’s manual or consult the product experts at Norwall Power Systems. And you can visit them online at Norwall.com.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to North Carolina where Linda has a log cabin. What can we do for you?

    LINDA: Yes. We had built a log cabin about two years ago here in North Carolina – and it’s not up in the mountains area. But the 4×6 posts that are used to make the stairway going up to the second floor have begun to have big cracks in them and I wondered what we should do to correct that or stop it from cracking or fill it in or what.

    TOM: Well, Linda, there’s a technical term for those cracks. It’s called charm.

    LINDA: Oh, yes. Well, it has charm, alright. 

    TOM: When it comes to log cabins, those logs are designed to check, they’re designed to crack and that should not affect, significantly, the strength that they provide you as support posts.

    LINDA: Right. I don’t think that.

    TOM: You’re not going to stop them from splitting. You’re not going to be able to glue them back together. That’s a natural process of the drying-out of the log.

    LINDA: I see.

    TOM: So I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

    LINDA: OK. And don’t worry about it?

    LESLIE: Uh-uh. It’s not structural.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LINDA: OK, yeah. Oh, I thought maybe it’d be better – it just doesn’t look very pretty but I thought maybe I could fill it with something.

    TOM: Well but some people – when you’re going to have a wood house, Linda, you want to look at some of those natural features in the wood. And the cracks and the checks and the knots and all of that, that’s all part of the process.

    LESLIE: And anything that you could add in, Linda, would just dry out and split.

    LINDA: Yeah, right. OK. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    I love people that want to have wood houses and wood furniture and wood tables and wood paneling – all natural raw wood – but then they complain about the knots, the cracks. If you’re going to have that kind of natural material, you’re going to have those types of imperfection. That’s the way Mother Nature made it; that’s the way it’s going to be presented.

    LESLIE: And I wouldn’t call them imperfections. I feel like a lot of that adds to the beauty and the depth of the piece.

    TOM: And the charm.

    LESLIE: So, enjoy it, seek it out. It’s what makes it unusual and truly a unique, individual piece.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, a question many of you have faced this season is: how do you proceed after you have a flooded crawlspace or even a flooded basement? We’ll have the solution, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by The Iron Shop, the leading manufacturer of spiral stair kits. Visit www.TheIronShop.com today to find out how you can own a beautiful, iron spiral staircase.

    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: Hey, do you still have some lingering storm damage around your house? If so, you can visit our website at MoneyPit.com for lots of valuable information on how to assess and fix storm-related damage. And if you can’t find the info that you need, you can shoot us an e-mail or better yet, post the question in the Community section of MoneyPit.com, where you can even include pictures and get expert advice.

    LESLIE: Alright. And L.J.C. from Delaware did just that and that person writes – I’m like, “L.J.C.? You could be anybody, so I’m just going to say, ‘You’ve written.'”

    “I’ve lived in my house for 27 years. My crawlspace flooded for the first time during Hurricane Irene. I had 8 inches of water in there. The crawlspace floor is sand with a plastic vapor barrier. I removed the water with a portable sump pump and a wet vac and ran a box fan. The only thing in my crawlspace is the holding tank for the water from my well. The pressure switch got wet and had to be replaced on the tank. So, do I need to remove the old vapor barrier and install a new one because it had gotten wet? Should I now have a sump pump installed? And should I spray the crawlspace with some kind of anti-mold solution?”

    TOM: Wow. So, first time it’s flooded in 27 years.

    LESLIE: Twenty-seven years.

    TOM: Lots and lots of questions from L.J. in Delaware. So, my suggestions are as follows.

    First of all, we want to stop it from ever flooding again, so you haven’t asked us how to do that. But it bears mentioning that if your crawlspace or basement flooded as a result of the storm – and I presume you’re not in an area where the street …

    LESLIE: And it says it’s the first time it flooded in 27 years.

    TOM: Right. And I presume it’s not flooded because a dam broke or the river broke its banks or something of that nature.

    LESLIE: River.

    TOM: I mean it really just happened …

    LESLIE: But Irene dumped like 10 inches of rain.

    TOM: Well, if it happened because of the rain, then we stand a chance at being able to prevent this. You know, just today, I got a call from a friend of the family. His daughter and my daughter are pals and said, “Listen, I know that you talk about this stuff on the show. My basement flooded for the first time. Can you take a look?” So, it’s a neighbor; I went over and took a look. And I said, “Listen, if I wanted to make a basement flood, I would do exactly this to it.” Everything was wrong about the drainage.

    And that’s why, if you want to stop crawlspaces and basements from flooding, you need to first pay attention to the downspouts. You need to have one spout for every 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface. You need to have those spouts extended away from the foundation. In my friend’s case, they were basically just disconnected and eroding the soil right against the wall of the foundation. So, obviously, the water had no place to go but into the basement. But extend those downspouts 4, 5, 6 feet away. You can run them underground if you don’t want to look at them; that’s fine. If you do that, run them through solid PVC pipe.

    And then next, make sure you improve the grading around the foundation so it slopes away. Those two things will help you a lot and we do have lots of step-by-step on that on the website at MoneyPit.com.

    You do not need to remove the old vapor barrier. Once it dries out, it doesn’t go bad, so that’s fine. Do you need a sump pump? Probably not. That would be the absolute last resort and only if you had a rising water table which, of course, was not the case.

    LESLIE: You would have known before now, after 27 years.

    TOM: Yeah. And should you spray the crawlspace with some kind of anti-mold solution? Only if it’s starting to grow mold. It’s not necessarily …

    LESLIE: A guaranteed thing. “Oh, I’ve got water. You’re going to get mold.”

    TOM: Yeah, right. If you dried it out reasonably quick, then I wouldn’t go crazy. If you see some mold growing a little bit, just kind of getting started, you can mix up a bleach-and-water solution – maybe 10 to 20 percent bleach and the rest water – put it in a spray bottle and spray it down and just walk away from it. Leave it there; it’ll kill anything that’s left behind in the mold department.

    But this is something that’s totally a do-it-yourself project and it’s not something to panic over. If it only happened because of the hurricane, first time in 27 years, it’ll probably be at least 27 years before it happens again.

    LESLIE: Alright, L.J.C. Good luck with that and let’s hope for no more hurricanes in the Northeast.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope it’s been fun; we hope it’s been exciting. We hope that you’ve learned a couple of things along the way to help make your money pit a much happier place to be.

    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.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2011 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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