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How to Clean Outdoor Furniture, Finishing an Attic and Avoiding Ladder Injury

  • 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 with your home improvement project. Got a remodeling project you’d like to get started on? Thinking about a repair, a renovation, maybe getting ready to tackle some décor jobs around your house? Whatever is on your to-do list, move it on over to ours by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    Coming up on today’s program, it’s a good time to clean up your outdoor furniture before you head into hibernation mood for the cold weather ahead. We’ve got tips to help you clean and store that furniture, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, Tom Silva from This Old House will be stopping by with advice on a very popular fall project: finishing your attic. If you didn’t think it’s possible, Tom pretty much is going to change your mind here. He’s got excellent advice on exactly what it takes.

    TOM: And we’re also going to try to keep you safe with your project, this hour, with some tips on the most common cause of ladder falls. And you might be surprised to know that there’s just one simple adjustment you can make, when setting ladders up, that will make sure you can come down the ladder with gravity on your side.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, you’ll get the answer to your home décor or your remodeling question, plus a chance to win a great, new product that we’re featuring. It’s called C-Sleep. And it’s part of a new line of connected bulbs from GE called C by GE. And it’s just out now at Lowes and Lowes.com and Target.com.

    TOM: And it includes the new C-Sleep bulb that can actually be programmed to help you get a better night’s rest. And we’ve got a starter pack, with 4 bulbs to give away, worth 70 bucks going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and let’s talk about what’s going on in your money pit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Lee in Maryland is on the line with a concrete question. What can we do for you today?

    LEE: House was built 30 years ago. And I’ve been told by several contractors that – my slab is 16×18 that I’m going to pour. I’ve been told by several contractors that I should put rebar into the house and connect it to the house. And then I’ve been told by other contractors that I should just put expansion joints in. And I don’t know what to do.

    TOM: OK. So this slab is for the garage?

    LEE: No. It’s off the side of my deck.

    TOM: Oh, OK. So a patio. Is that what you’re saying?

    LEE: Yeah. It’ll be right up against the house, so …

    TOM: OK. Yeah, listen, putting the rebar in and tying into the house is a good, solid way to do that. But if you prep the soil right underneath it, I tend to think you probably don’t have to do that. Most people, where they go wrong is they don’t prep the soil, they don’t prep the base. And if that soil is compressible – if it’s topsoil, if it’s mulch, if it’s not flattened out and really tamped down mechanically, I mean with a machine tamper – then you’re going to have all kinds of movement in that slab. And that’s where you get in trouble.

    So, if it’s just a matter of being concerned about it dropping, you know, I guess with all the work you’re doing it wouldn’t hurt to run the rebar into the house. You’d have to drill holes, set it inside the block wall and then run the rebar into the slab itself. But you want to make sure that slab is properly reinforced. If it’s 16×8, you’re probably going to want to put a seam in it to give it some room to move without cracking.

    But I think it’s not terribly necessary but I don’t think you can go wrong by doing it. But again, the most important thing is to tamp that base under where you’re going to pour the slab really, really well. Because invariably, that’s what causes the problems with slabs. And make sure you have a good pitch away from the house so that you don’t trap any water against the house, you don’t force water to run back into the house even when it settles, OK?

    LEE: OK. It had a base of concrete backwash tamped down really good and it was starting to set up pretty good. But I was going to bring in some more 57 limestone and then pack it down. You think that would be ample or a good – to put some rock to use?

    TOM: Yep. I would go through the trouble of renting a mechanical tamper and using a mechanical tamper. Because I tell you what, when you put that base in and you tamp it mechanically, it itself becomes hard as concrete.

    LEE: OK.

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

    LESLIE: Margaret, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    MARGARET: Yes. I’d like to know what I can do about my popcorn ceilings. They’re getting dirty. They’re 20 years old.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a couple of solutions. Do you like them and want to keep them? Or you just want them to not look so dingy?

    MARGARET: I would not rather – I would not like to keep them no more.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, generally, with popcorn ceiling, if it’s truly a popcorn ceiling and not a texturized stucco, what you can do to remove it is you can get one of those garden sprayers or those light-duty paint sprayers. Put water in it and you spray the ceiling to sort of saturate the popcorn. And then you take a wide spackle blade – as wide as the one you can find – and you sort of gently start peeling away at the popcorn ceiling – at the popcorn texture, I should say, from the ceiling.

    And that generally does a pretty good job. Because if you’ve ever tried to paint it, if you don’t have the right roller, when it gets wet, it starts to peel away from the ceiling. So by getting it wet, you’re being able to remove it. You just want to make sure, with your blade or your scraper, that you’re not digging into the drywall below it. Because keep in mind whatever’s left underneath there is what you’re going to paint and then see.

    MARGARET: OK. How do I go about cleaning if I decide to just go ahead and keep this?

    LESLIE: Well, you wouldn’t clean it. You would paint over it.

    MARGARET: Oh, no. No.

    TOM: Yeah, there’s actually a special roller for that. It’s like a slitted roller. It’s a very thick roller that’s got slits in it and it’s designed to squeeze the paint into that popcorn area. And that’s exactly why I would do it. I would paint it. It’s going to look a lot better than cleaning it. You just can’t clean that stuff. There’s nothing cleanable about a popcorn ceiling. You’ve got to paint over it.

    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, the kids are back at school, so that might be giving you some extra time to work on some things around your money pit. What is it? What can we help you with? We’re here to lend you a hand. Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we’ll help you with whatever it is you are tackling this fall season, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: Up next, would you like to gain space for a new master bedroom or a playroom for your kids? Finishing your attic might be the solution. Tom Silva from This Old House stops by with advice. And today’s This Old House segment on The Money Pit is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-look tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

    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: So glad you’re here and looking forward to helping you with your home improvement projects. So help yourself first: pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a starter pack of four of the new connected bulbs from GE called C by GE. And this includes two of the new C-Sleep bulbs.

    They’re kind of cool because they work in sync with your sleep cycle. There’s three settings: one for nighttime, one for the morning and one for everything in between. There’s an automatic transition that happens between calm light in the evening and vibrant light in the morning. And they are easily controlled from your smartphone.

    You can find C-Sleep and the C light bulbs at Lowes and Targets. That starter pack has a value of 70 bucks. Contains four bulbs. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Bob in Connecticut, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    BOB: I live in a house that’s 18 years old. And I actually have the original hydro-air heating-and-cooling system in the home. It’s got one air handler in the attic, one in the basement, along with the boiler and then two 2½-ton air compressors. This may sound strange but the systems worked absolutely flawlessly for 18 years. And other than – three or four years ago, I noticed there was some – the water in the condensation pump on the air handler was a little rusty and it’s continued that way since.

    And so, my question is – I feel as though I may be on borrowed time. And I’m not sure if I should look to be proactive and actually replace everything. I know that wouldn’t be cheap but I hate the thought of it just kind of going out on me, so to speak. And so I appreciate your thoughts.

    TOM: Well, look, I mean 18-year-old air-conditioning compressors are certainly beyond the normal life cycle. But an 18-year-old boiler and an 18-year-old furnace is still kind of middle-aged. So, if anything, the compressors will probably go first. A little bit of rust in the condensate pan and system is not unusual. That could – it’s probably coming from the ducts.

    I would tell you just make sure you keep servicing it on a regular basis and doing the same thing you are. I personally wouldn’t replace it until I had to, because you know what? That could go another six months or it go another six years.

    BOB: OK.

    TOM: And you know it could be on borrowed time and so if it happens, you replace it then. But if not, you just keep going the way you are. Just as long as you keep it serviced, it’s going to work as efficiently as it possibly can.

    BOB: Awesome. Thank you so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Charlotte in Georgia is on the line with an electrical question. How can we help you today?

    CHARLOTTE: I just put a breaker box in my house. The house was built in the late 50s. The switches in one room do not work and the kitchen sometimes trips my breaker. Do you think it’s – I don’t want to do the – rewire the whole house. I just want to pull the wiring through the wall and I don’t want to take off any of the sheetrock.

    TOM: Well, generally, if there’s switches and outlets that are not working, it’s not the wiring itself. And as much as it could be the switch or the outlets – or it could be a problem where it’s actually connected to the switches or the outlets. And it’s obviously impossible for us to diagnose this for you.

    In answer to your general question, typically, you do not have to remove drywall except in rare circumstances. Electricians can almost always find a way to run wire through a wall. And they have tools that are specially designed to do that. They’re long fiberglass rods that the wire kind of gets tied onto the end of and they can use that to kind of snake it through the walls and pull it up where it needs to go.

    But I think the bigger question for you is why is this happening and is it dangerous? Because if you’ve got things that are not working, you know, we want to make sure that didn’t happen because something shorted out, which could lead to a fire. So I would not advise you to do this yourself, Charlotte. I would advise you to get a professional to help you with it because I’m concerned that you need to get to the bottom of what caused the defect, whether it’s just broken switches. It would be unusual for all of these things to break at the same time. I have seen an occasional switch go bad but almost never an outlet go bad. So if you’ve got two switches and an outlet not working and you checked the breakers and the fuses, I think it’s time to call a pro.

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

    TOM: Well, as outdoor-living season starts to come to a close, the time has come for your outdoor furniture to go into hibernation. But before you pack it up, it’s a good idea to clean it.

    Now, at our house, we like to get started by running any cushions that are machine-washable through the machine and then letting them dry in the sun. At the least, you can vacuum any that can’t be run through a washer and then I group them in heavy black plastic bags for storage in the attic.

    Now, I might mention that this worked well for many, many years except for one year – that one year – when I had a very hungry squirrel in the attic that decided that my cushions were exactly what he needed to eat. But otherwise, it generally works pretty good.

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. Those squirrels. They’re crafty and for some reason they love to eat plastic.

    Now, guys, for plastic furniture that tends to get stained and generally nasty-looking, you can actually make a really great cleaning solution yourself. All you have to do is mix dish soap, borax and half a cup of peroxide into 1 gallon of water. Then go ahead and use a nylon brush to scrub down your furniture and then rinse it really well.

    Now, for metal furniture, you want to use soapy water and simply, guys, some elbow grease. Now, you can also remove any rust and stains with sandpaper or a wire brush. And then go ahead and prime and repaint those spots and you’ll avoid further rusting.

    TOM: Now, for wood furniture, you simply want to wash it down with oil soap and let it dry. It’s also a good time to take note of any that needs refinishing in the spring. I have a teak picnic-table-and-chairs set that we have had for years – I mean over 10 years – because the stuff just doesn’t wear out. However, when the sun gets to it, it does look kind of nasty and gray. So every few years, I restain it.

    And this year, I used an oil-based solid-color stain and it came out fantastic. I did note it took a long time to dry but man, it’s been looking great for the entire season once it did. So, when you have any kind of furniture that you’re concerned about the wear and tear, like tables and chairs, I always recommend the oil-based or solvent-based solid-color stains because it just seems to stand up a lot better.

    888-666-3974. If you need help standing up to your next home improvement project, give us a call. We’ll lend a hand at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dina in New Jersey on the line who’s dealing with something going on with the chimney. What’s happening? You’ve got grout crumbling? What’s going on there?

    DINA: I have water, apparently, leaking in and it’s coming down around the fancy bricks of my fireplace. Because I see the cement crumbling and I see changes of – after a rain that I had, it’s darker over on the cement that’s crumbling.

    I’ve had my chimney relined and I just don’t know what it is. They said maybe it’s the flashing up on top that needs to be repointed and then it should be sealed. I just don’t know where to start and I’m getting high, big prices.

    TOM: Alright, Dina. This is a masonry chimney?

    DINA: Brick.

    TOM: A brick chimney, yes. OK. Masonry chimney, OK. Same difference.

    DINA: OK, thank you for being there for people like me.

    TOM: Alright. “No, it’s not masonry, it’s brick.” “Well, that clears it up.”

    Alright, look, when you have a masonry/brick chimney, at the top there is a chimney cap, which is a concrete lip that goes between the flue liner and the outside of the brick edge. And typically, when you get leaks, that concrete crack – cap is cracked. And it’s a very minor repair to seal those cracks or even to replace those cracks – that concrete section. It’s just a little, maybe 6-inch-deep section of concrete that’s sort of troweled between the clay flue liner and the outside edge of the brick.

    So the first thing I would do is seal the gaps or cracks around that and see if that fixes it. Now, the leaks are coming into the chimney. They’re not coming around the chimney by the ceiling, right? So that means – that sort of excludes flashing, because the flashing seals the gap between the masonry chimney and the roof. And if the flashing was failed, then you would have, probably, leaks when you look up at your ceiling. The chimney itself is leaking, so the most common culprit is simply that concrete cap or that masonry cap around the top of it.

    The other thing that you could do is you could put a chimney cap on this, because that has the effect of sort of putting a roof over your chimney without really blocking the chimney. And sometimes, that will dissuade the volume of water from getting into it.

    Now, the – one of the things I have to caution you about is that the chimney contractors – the chimney sweeps – that do these sorts of repairs are a disingenuous group. They’re not the most honest contractors out there and they almost always try to tell you a tale of woe, of death and destruction that will befall upon you unless you open your checkbook open wide and write them a big number. So, just be careful to find somebody reputable that can dig into what’s going on and just do what’s necessary but not an excessive amount of work on it, OK?

    DINA: Uh-huh. They’ve also mentioned doing repointing on the chimney and then waterproofing it.

    TOM: If it turns out that the masonry is cracked or deteriorated or falling out between the bricks, certainly repointing – but I think it’s a lot simpler than that. I think most likely it’s just some minor cracks in the chimney cap.

    DINA: Uh-huh. Because what they showed me was – they said, “See? There’s moss growing here. So that means that there’s water in between the bricks.”

    TOM: There’s always going to be water in a chimney. It’s a masonry structure; it holds moisture. And if you’ve got moss, you can put a mildicide on it. You can put a product like Concrobium on there that will kill that moss or another product called Wet & Forget that will kill that moss. And then beyond that, you need to get to the source of the leak, which I think is that chimney cap.

    So let’s not overcomplicate it, OK? Let’s see if that thin concrete cap is cracked and get that fixed.

    DINA: Thank you so very much. And now I know that bricks are masonry. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright. Thanks so much. Bye-bye.

    LESLIE: Just ahead, attics, they’re one of the best untapped spaces in your house and a prime spot to create extra storage. Tom Silva from This Old House is joining us in a bit with advice on how to get that project done.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment on The Money Pit is brought to you by Proudly Propane. Clean American energy.

    NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, have you ever wondered how old your house is? You know, as a home inspector, I was often asked to estimate house age. So I’m going to let you in on a little trade secret. Here’s a way to tell that’s really easy: plumbing manufacturers usually stamp the inside of tanks or lids with the year a toilet was made. And since toilets don’t get replaced very often, you can generally estimate about how old the house is by looking at the inside of that lid.

    Now, you can also find these dates stamped into older types of plumbing, as well, like on the bottom of cast-iron sinks. I’ve seen it there. It’s kind of a fun way to figure out exactly how old your house is and it’s a lot easier than having to do a records lookup on it. And it’s almost always correct.

    LESLIE: Sue in Rhode Island needs some help removing paint from something. What’s going on?

    SUE: I have a large deck that’s probably 12×30. And for the first couple of years, we had oil-based stain on it.

    TOM: OK.

    SUE: And then we accidentally put a latex over the stain.

    TOM: Bet that didn’t work out too well considering that oil and water don’t usually mix.

    SUE: Oh, I know. I thought it was the right stain when I put it on but nonetheless, we ended up putting it on.

    TOM: Yeah. And it’s probably peeling up, right? Is it peeling up like crazy right now?

    SUE: Oh, it was horrible.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SUE: So I power-washed the heck out of it. I probably power-washed it three, four, five times. I’ve used paint remover on it that you would use when you refurnish something. And I probably got about three-quarters of it off. But the rest of it is not coming off.

    TOM: So it’s not coming off? There’s just no way it’s coming off? You’ve scraped it, you can’t get it off, even with a hand scraper?

    SUE: Even with a hand scraper.

    TOM: Alright. Well, then let’s assume it’s got good attachment to the deck and now we’ve got to get a new coating of stain on there. So, the most important thing you have to do right now is you have to use an oil-based primer on that entire deck. You’ve got to put the primer on first and then you could put an oil-based stain on top of that, get good adhesion. Stay in the same manufacturing family. So if you’re going to use Sherwin or Ben Moore, just make sure you stay within that same family of products and use the recommended primer for that type of stain.

    But if you’ve tried everything to get that old stain off and it’s not coming off, then I think we can safely assume that it’s in for good and you’ve just got to get a new coat on there. But you want to prime it first, because the primer is a different characteristic than the stain and it’s going to make sure you have good adhesion to that entire deck surface and stop the peeling from happening again. Does that make sense?

    SUE: Alright. Oh, that’s been really helpful. I can’t wait to stain my deck.

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

    LESLIE: Are you dreaming of the top floor of your home becoming a serene master suite or a quiet home office or even a getaway for the kids? Well, an unfinished attic can become any of these things but not before you have the info you need to make that happen.

    TOM: Here to walk us through just what we need to know is Tom Silva, the general contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Oh, thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: You know, an unused attic space is really a great place to tap into when you’re looking to sort of spread out. But it has some fairly unique structural characteristics. So, where do we start?

    TOM SILVA: Well, first of all, you want to make sure that that attic space is legally usable. So, you want to check with your building code to find out if you have the right amount of headroom and the right amount of square footage. That combination is usually 7 feet wide, 7 feet high. And you want to have – it’s the – they call it the “70-square-foot rule.” And you want to make sure that you have that.

    The other thing is is you want to make sure that you have egress to get into that attic. And it can’t be a pull-down stair. It has to be a stairway that will meet the fire egress in and out of that attic: a railing, the stairs have to be a certain width. And you’ve got to – and the hard part about that is finding a place for the stairs.

    TOM: Right. Because you need a lot of room for a staircase.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: Now, if we do meet those standards but now we just want to make some practical changes, say, to increase the room where we can kind of walk around without bumping our heads, now we’re talking about structural changes, like attic dormers. Pretty complicated, huh?

    TOM SILVA: They can be complicated. A shed dormer is – with a shed-style roof is obviously the simplest type. You have triangular cheek walls with a flat wall off the back. And just that angle of the roof – simple, angled roof – that would come down and it gives you plenty of headroom and it’s pretty easy to frame.

    If you get into a gable, then you’ve got valleys to deal with and everything else and it’s more complicated. And you’ve got to know what you’re doing. In both cases, you’ve got to know what you’re doing.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And I feel like, basically, attics are just used to store a couple of things and obviously, your insulation. So you’ve got to make sure that whatever your top-floor structure is that ceiling structure can support the weight of it. I don’t think you can just – if you can get a staircase up there, go ahead and willy-nilly build a space.

    TOM SILVA: Right. But is the floor going to have bounce in it and everything? Lots of times, the floor structure will carry the load but it’ll bounce. And if it bounces, then you’re going to have cracked ceilings and it’s not going to be able to bear the load of a bed or people walking around or things like that. So you want to make sure that the floor structure is strong.

    TOM: Now, one area that I see that folks get wrong all the time is the insulation and the ventilation when they take a standard, unfinished, ventilated attic and go ahead and finish it. They kind of lose track of the necessity of ventilation, in particular. You mentioned those shed roofs. In all the years I spent as a professional home inspector, I would find, many times, those shed roofs were rotted because they basically choked off all ventilation through that space.

    TOM SILVA: Right. Because of the type of insulation that they used, the insulation would take the moisture in the wintertime, because the house is swollen with moisture and heated air. It would get through that insulation. When it hit the cold side or the underside of the sheathing, it would condensate at the high point of the roof. And the rafters would rot where they meet the ridge or wherever and in those blind spots. So it’s very important, if you’re going to use certain insulations, you have to vent over that.

    LESLIE: What about a sprinkler system? I’ve heard so many times that if you’re building into a third-floor space and now it’s becoming usable space, you’ve got to have a sprinkler system. Is there truth to that?

    TOM SILVA: In most cases, you don’t have to have one but a sprinkler system is always a good idea. I think they’re great systems. I have sprinkler – I have a few sprinkler heads in my house. I had mine on stairways and stuff like that. But they’re – you know, fire is not good. My brother lost his whole house in about 6 hours that he lived in for 34 years. And if he had had a sprinkler system, who knows? Maybe …

    TOM: Well, when you have all those walls and ceilings torn open that is, in fact, the right time to make that kind of addition.

    TOM SILVA: Just make sure you put the sprinkler system – if it’s going to be a wet system, it has to be in heated space. So you don’t want those pipes to freeze up in that roof line because then you’re going to have another problem.

    TOM: And you might get a sprinkle when you least expect it.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, exactly.

    TOM: Tom Silva, great advice. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: Always a pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

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

    Just ahead, a simple mistake made when setting up a ladder can send you right to the ER. Learn how to make gravity work for you, after this.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Welcome back. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call. We’d love to hear what you are working on at your money pit and we kind of want to hear what’s going on. And believe me, guys, we’ve pretty much heard it all, so don’t be shy. We can lend you a hand. There’s nothing too weird that we haven’t heard and we like the weird questions, too, guys.

    Plus, we’re giving away a great prize this hour. We’ve got a starter pack of four of the new connected bulbs called C by GE and that includes two of the new C-Sleep. Now, what happens here is they get in sync with your sleep cycle. It’s got three different settings: one for nighttime, one for morning and one for everything in between. And there’s an automatic transition. So it goes between calming light in the evening to a more vibrant light in the morning. And it’s easily controlled right from your smartphone, via Bluetooth connection. No hubs required.

    You can check it out. You can find out about these C-Sleep and C light bulbs over at Lowes and Target. You can even find them at Lowes.com, even Target.com. And the starter pack of four bulbs is worth 70 bucks.

    TOM: Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. We want to hear about your home improvement project. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, if you’re heading outside for home repairs up high, a sturdy ladder is definitely a must. But you’ve got to be super careful. Ladder falls send hundreds of people to emergency rooms every single year and they’re easily preventable.

    LESLIE: Yeah. The biggest mistake that you can make is taking shortcuts. So in order to be safe, a ladder needs to remain stationary. Now, for extension ladders, you need to level the feet by digging out the dirt or by using ladder levelers.

    TOM: Now, on hard, dry ground, what you want to do is rest the feet flat. Make sure that they’re free of any of the slippery plastic tarps or debris that might be on the ground. And then make sure the textured rubber pads are intact, not worn out, because that can be really dangerous.

    Now, if it’s on grass or soft ground, what you want to do is this: flip the feet up and then drive their spiked end into the ground. This will guarantee that that ladder can’t slip out. Or if you have to lay the feet flat, you need to tie them down on the side or you can brace them with 1×2 stakes driven in near the legs and then of course, tie it off.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And now, really, the angle is the most important thing to get right. You want to position the ladder so that the distance from its base to the wall is one-quarter of the height of the ladder at its resting point. And that’s going to create that perfect 75-degree angle.

    TOM: Now, if you don’t happen to have a protractor handy while you’re doing your ladder project, here’s a quick check.

    LESLIE: And who does, really?

    TOM: Here’s a way you can do a quick check: if you stand at the base of the ladder with your feet touching its feet and your arms extended, your palms should rest on a rung at shoulder height. If it does, it’s in a good position. But always be careful when using those ladders. We want to make sure that gravity works for you, especially on the way down.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, if you’d like to take your home improvement project to new heights.

    LESLIE: David in Massachusetts is on the line and is installing an outdoor shower to a deck. How can we help you?

    DAVID: We’re having a raised deck put on the back of our home. It’s going to be about 22 inches off the ground. And it’s going to be 12×30-ish. Anyhow, there’s going to be a shower along the – about halfway down the length. And it’ll be up against the house.

    And I was kind of curious whether the water is just going to go through the floorboards into the AZEK material. So it’s not going to rot anything but – and pressure-treated floor joists. So, the bottom of the floor joists will be about 10, 12 inches off the ground. And I didn’t know whether the water coming from the shower going down should be diverted away from the house a little bit or if it doesn’t matter.

    TOM: So, is this going to be kind of like a beach shower, just for sort of quick showering off when you come back from the beach or the lake?

    DAVID: Correct.

    TOM: So, you’re not going to be taking real long showers out there. It’s certainly – the deck’s going to be slippery because of this. But underneath, what you might want to do is just put in a drain using sort of a stone base and then a perforated drainpipe. And then run that – pitch that up away from the house so that water that gets in there doesn’t end up back into the basement or crawlspace, depending on what your structure is. But since you’re not putting a lot of water there, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I think, generally, those outside showers are pretty quick.

    Is it going to be a shower stall or is it just going to be an open shower where you’re standing on the deck to wash off?

    DAVID: No, it’s a shower stall. Actually, there’d be a little dressing area and a little shower area.

    TOM: Yeah. If you’re going to do that, why don’t you just put a drain in it? I mean if you’re going to go with the whole stall – I thought it was just going to be kind of a shower sticking out of the back wall of the house. Put a drain in it and run the pipe under the deck and just discharge it away from the house somewhere.

    DAVID: Are you talking about putting a shower floor in?

    TOM: Yeah, yeah, pan – the shower pan. Yep. If it’s going to have a stall, you might as well have a pan. Sit it right on top of the deck and then put a drain in it and run it right out. That’s what I’d do.

    DAVID: OK. It may be a little late for that now because they’ve already gotten – all the joists are in place and we’re ready for the …

    TOM: Well, no. The joists are in place, that’s OK because it’s going to sit on top. So that shouldn’t affect anything. Just a little bit of plumbing work is what you need here.

    DAVID: Alright. Well, I can discuss it with the contractor.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, electric water heaters, they’re pretty much the most expensive way that you can heat hot water. But a simple improvement can dramatically cut those costs. And it’s not a water-heater blanket, guys. We’re going to tell you what you need to avoid taking a bath on those water bills, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

    TOM: This is 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, if you have an electric water heater, you might know that these can be the most expensive way to produce hot water. But you can add a simple timer so that water is heated only when you need it, like early in the morning. And the rest of the day, the timer simply keeps the water heater off, which can add up to saving you lots of energy dollars.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You want some more tips and tricks on how you guys can save some money? Head on over to MoneyPit.com. You can search whatever you like. We’ve got so much information there to really help you guys with everything that’s going on around your house. And of course, you can post a question, just like Christy did. And she writes: “Our sliding-glass doors are leaking where the top of the door meets the ceiling. We tried adjusting the gutters by pitching them but it still gets water inside every time it rains. How can I fix this?”

    TOM: That’s a great question. And I think the solution has to do with the flashing. And that’s basically what makes the seal between the door and the siding. And sometimes, we find that there’s no flashing there if the door was installed incorrectly or perhaps it’s the wrong type of flashing.

    The best way to seal that now is with the new self-adhered products. Grace has one that’s called Vycor Plus. It’s kind of a stretchy, flexible, rubbery kind of flashing. And I like it because you can almost mold that area, from the drip edge above the door right up under the wall and under the siding. There will be folks that will try to simply caulk an area like this but you might find that if you keep doing that, it’s just not going to work or it works for a very short period of time. So, I would recommend that if it is an ongoing problem that you take the siding off that area and then properly reflash it.

    You mentioned trying to adjust the gutters by pitching them. Sure, that’s a solution – temporary solution. The other thing that you could do is you could put a diverter up on the roof so that you don’t dump as much water towards that area of the gutter. Probably shift it to one side or the other, depending on the position of the downspouts, and that you can sort of run that water to the downhill side. That could also help.

    But again, these are kind of stop-gap measures. The real solution here, Christy, is to simply take that siding off and have it probably reflashed with a good, flexible product. And that will stop it once and for all.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Matt who writes: “My door has a metal threshold that was previously connected to the cement foundation using glue. The threshold has come loose and there’s a large crack in the cement that expands the entire width of the door from jamb to jamb. I’d like to avoid buying a whole new door just for the threshold.”

    TOM: No, you shouldn’t have to. You need to fill the crack in but you need to do it with the right product. So, what I would do, in this case, is I would use an epoxy patching compound rather than cement because that’s never going to stick. Use epoxy and it’ll really fill in. It’ll grab on to the sides of that crack and it’ll be a pretty permanent repair.

    Now, in terms of how you’re going to attach it, have you tried the Tapcon fasteners? These are those special, black screws that are designed to drive right into the concrete itself. They can be drilled – predrilled – and then you simply screw them right in. They’re a much better way to attach that threshold directly to the concrete and will give you a lot better holding power than any adhesive could.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Matt, you’re going to find that Tapcons really are the go-to fastener for pretty much any masonry project. You’re really going to find that it’s going to give you a good, strong connection and that’s really what you want with masonry, because you’re dealing with something that could kind of crumble away. So you want a fastener that’s meant to really grip. And that’s the best part. And it comes with all of the attachments that you’ll need for your driver so you’re in good shape.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Hope we gave you some good tips and advice that will help you move your projects along. Remember, you can post your questions on The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit or call us any time of the day or night at 1-888-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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2016 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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