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How to Clean Outdoor Furniture Before Storing it for Winter, How to Winterize Including Insulating Drafts, Great Ideas for Halloween Decorating and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And it’s time to pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT because we will help you get to work on your home improvement project, 888-666-3974. Look around your house. We know that there is a project on your fall to-do list. Let’s move it to the done list. We’re here to help, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    You know, with the fall season in full swing, it’s also a good time to think about cleaning up your outdoor furniture before we all head into the hibernation mode for the cold weather ahead. So, this hour, we’re going to have some tips to help you clean and store furniture for the winter so it’s good to go next spring.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, what a super-fun time of year we’re in. We’re going to have some great ideas for really easy and inexpensive Halloween décor, coming up.

    TOM: Plus, we’ve got ideas for winterizing your home to keep that warm air in and the cold air out, including some inexpensive ways to reduce drafts.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a showerhead water-filtration system from Aquasana, which is great for softer skin and hair.

    TOM: So, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That product is worth 85 bucks. Going out to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question. Let’s get right to those phones. They’re lighting up.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Jerry in Washington is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you today?

    JERRY: I need to find out if I can insulate my attic crawlspace or not.

    TOM: OK.

    JERRY: What I have – it’s a house built in 1960 and it’s a very low-pitch roof. The center of the roof has only got about 18 inches of space above the ceiling joist, to the peak of the roof. And right now, it’s got the under-eave vents. And I want to find out, can I blow in insulation, basically covering all those under-eave vents up and then add more vents over the top of the insulation to compensate?

    TOM: Well, if you’ve only got 18 inches in the high point of that ceiling – is that what you’re telling me?

    JERRY: Correct.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, you can only – you don’t want to cover the vents. Are the vents at the overhang, at the soffits?

    JERRY: Right.

    TOM: Yeah. You need both sets of vents; you need vents at the soffit and vent at the ridge. Because what happens is air will enter in at the soffit, Jerry, go up under the roof sheathing and exit at the ridge, so you can’t block it.

    JERRY: Right.

    TOM: So all you should really do is to get as much insulation into those floor joists as possible without blocking the soffit vents. And then you might want to add a ridge vent down the peak of the roof, which you can easily do from the outside, to provide that exhaust venting.

    Unfortunately, when you have a really low-sloped roof like that, it’s very difficult to get as much insulation there as you might want to get.

    JERRY: Yeah. That’s what I was afraid of. I was hoping to be able to go all the way to the edge of the side of the house.

    TOM: Well, the thing is if you put all that insulation in there, it’s going to be so damp and moist it’s just not going to insulate. You’ve got to have the ventilation to dry it out, to keep it working properly.

    JERRY: Well, you answered my question.

    TOM: Alright.

    JERRY: It wasn’t exactly what I hoped for an answer but …

    TOM: Not the answer you wanted but it is the right answer. So, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    DEBBIE: I have a home built in 2006. I have an unfinished basement. All the walls are cement. My air conditioning and heating unit is down there.

    TOM: OK.

    DEBBIE: I have a very fine, white – it’s not even a dust; it’s like a powder that’s getting through the whole house.

    TOM: Through the whole house.

    DEBBIE: It’s going through the whole house. It’s got to be coming through the heating and air-conditioning vent.

    TOM: OK. Hmm.

    DEBBIE: I don’t know if it’s something – it feels like the same powder that is on the cement walls. Like something was sprayed onto them?

    TOM: So are – these are concrete-block walls?

    DEBBIE: Solid concrete.

    TOM: Solid concrete. Alright. And do you see any sort of white powder that’s sticking to the concrete – to the cement wall?

    DEBBIE: Absolutely.

    TOM: You do? OK.

    DEBBIE: Yes, absolutely.

    TOM: So …

    DEBBIE: Like if I go to wipe my finger on and it’s in this chalkboard?

    TOM: Yep, OK. So here’s what’s going on. And it may be – it may not be connected, these two observations. But in so far as the walls are concerned, that’s a mineral-salt deposit. And what happens is the water that collects around the outside of your foundation will draw into the wall. The walls are very absorptive. And it will draw into the wall and it will evaporate – the moisture will evaporate – into your basement but it will leave behind the mineral-salt deposits that are in the soil and in the water.


    TOM: And that’s that white powder. Sometimes it looks light gray. And you can prove it to yourself just by taking a little bit of vinegar and wiping down the wall. Usually, vinegar will melt salts and makes it disappear.


    TOM: Now, it’s nothing harmful about it but it does indicate that you have too much moisture collecting around your foundation perimeter, Debbie, so I do want you to take a look out there and make sure that the soil is sloped to grade away from the walls. Also, make sure that your gutters are clean and free-flowing and that you’re not doing anything to really retain water at the foundation perimeter.

    In the worst-case scenario, this kind of situation can develop into a wet basement. And so we don’t want it to get that far for you.

    DEBBIE: No. Could that be getting into the air conditioning and the heating unit?

    TOM: Doubtful. I think you’re seeing some other type of dust that’s getting into the HVAC system, so let’s talk about what to do with that.

    Now, in most cases with homes that were built and – you said 2006. In that era, most of the heating systems are going to have a fiberglass filter in them. Now, do you know where your filter is for your air conditioner and heating …?

    DEBBIE: I do.

    TOM: OK. Is it in the blower compartment?

    DEBBIE: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So, typically, if you look in there, you’ve got a very thin, fiberglass filter. Those are not very effective filters; they just don’t do a great job.

    DEBBIE: That’s the one that I change?

    TOM: Yeah, the one that you change. Exactly.


    TOM: Now, what you could do is you could get a better-quality filter for that same space.

    DEBBIE: I change them like every month.

    TOM: Yeah, I know. And the thing is, you shouldn’t have to. You have to change them every month because they are not very good filters.


    TOM: And they clog up easily and they let a lot of stuff through. And we call them “rock stoppers,” because it’s pretty much all they stop.

    So, what you might want to do is get a – first of all, you can get a better-quality filter for that blower compartment. And if you look for one that’s pleated, that’s a good start. 3M has a line of filters that are pretty efficient. They’re going to have a MERV rating on them – M-E-R-V.

    Now, when you look at the MERV number, keep in mind that the higher the number, the better.


    TOM: So, a MERV 8 is better than a MERV 5. And a MERV 12 is better than a MERV 8. And so the higher the MERV number, the more efficient the filter system.

    Now, if you want to step it up from there and really put a much better-quality air-cleaning system onto the house, then you may look to an electronic air cleaner or an electrostatic air cleaner. And these would require a slight modification of your ducts. With the electronic air cleaner, it fits basically somewhere in the return side. And it’s about 3 inches wide and it uses a combination of static electricity and a filter to pull absolutely all the dust out. Now we’re talking about a filter that can take out minute-sized particles of dust and air and even virus-sized particles.

    DEBBIE: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, we are in the fall season and we are here to help you stay warm and be prepared for those winter nights up ahead. So whatever you are working on, we’re here to lend a hand at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, when spring finally arrives and it’s time to pull out your lawn furniture, do you want a moldy, grimy mess to deal with? Well, if you don’t, you’d better store it properly. We’ll have tips, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Arrow Sheds, the leader in steel storage sheds and buildings. Steel sheds are durable, secure and a great value. Arrow Storage Products, available at national home centers, hardware stores and online. See a complete line of products at Sheds.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: Give us a call right now with your home improvement question. We are standing by to help you get to the bottom of that do-it-yourself dilemma. And one caller we talk to on the air this hour could win the Aquasana AQ-4100, which is basically a very cool water filter with a showerhead. It gets rid of 91 percent of chlorine and 60 different contaminants. It is great for softer skin and healthier hair, two things I’m sure guys struggle with every single day.

    Their website, if you’re curious, is Aquasana.com. But give us a call right now. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. We would love to talk to you.

    LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Roger in Alaska who’s got a super-loud heater. I guess in Alaska, your heat is on a lot, so you want it to be kind of quiet.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: We bought a bed-and-breakfast up here and we’re not using it as a bed-and-breakfast; we’re just living in it.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: And one of the last things that was done to it was they replaced this old, 77-percent-efficient furnace with a brand-new, cutting-edge 97-percenter. And we did a bunch of insulation work on it and everything after that, too. But one thing we notice is the vents – I mean when that thing – it’s like it’s a variable stage. And the vents seem to roar sometimes when it gets to blowing warm air.

    So we haven’t heard it kick on, I think, full power. And maybe that’s it: we’re just starting to hear it. And I’m wondering, can – we’re probably going to have to contact the HVAC guys but is there anything that can be done or maybe open the ends of – replace the floor grates with something that’s wider aperture or something? It just sounds like there’s a lot of noise coming out of it.

    TOM: The one question I would have is: did they change the blower speed? Because if the blower speed is higher than it was before – and it might be necessary by – depending on the type of the high-efficiency furnace that was installed. But the blower speed was stepped up, that could make for louder air noises going through the duct system.

    And second to that, it is possible to do a few things to quiet the duct systems, if they’re expanding and contracting and sort of making that oil-can popping sound. They can be reinforced to slow that down. They can also be insulated and you could add additional bracing to it to cut down vibrations. So I think you’ve got to isolate as to whether or not this is just wind speed because of the blower or is it vibration and expansion and contraction because the ducts are just sort of old and loose and like you say, potentially undersized.

    So you do need to look into it a little bit deeper but rest assured that there are a couple things that you can do to probably quiet it. Although having said that, the high-efficiency systems are louder sometimes than the old ones. Because the old ones only had, really, kind of a lazy burner that lit up and then the blower that just sort of chugged along. High-efficiency systems have draft inducers, which are motors that come on and pull the gases through the system so that you’re assured of getting every single BTU out of the gas that you burn. That’s what gives you the efficiency but it does add just a bit to the noise component.

    ROGER: Yeah, we don’t know the history on the thing because we just moved in. And we do know the gas bills are pretty horrendous over recent years; that was part of the disclosure in the sale of the house and all. So we’re happy to have the high-efficiency system. But like you said, maybe it’s just – it’s a requirement because of the high efficiency of it.

    But yeah, we’re going to have to look into a few other things. I’m afraid that it’s going to involve getting an HVAC company in to possibly change out the squirrel-cage blower in there. And I really – it’s a new system; I’d rather not do that.

    TOM: That’s something that I would not do and frankly, that would have been part of the furnace anyway, so you wouldn’t just replace that if it – those are multi-speed blowers and the fan speed can be adjusted. But that would not be part of what I would expect.

    ROGER: OK. Well, I love you all’s show. I’m just worried that we may have bought a money pit up here in Alaska.

    LESLIE: Oh, no.

    ROGER: But we love it, I tell you.

    TOM: Well, Roger, if it turns out that’s what you did, you know the number: 888-MONEY-PIT.

    ROGER: Thanks so much. Love the show.

    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 just pack it up and stick it in the shed, it’s a good idea to clean it. We suggest you start with the furniture cushions and pillows. You want to thoroughly vacuum them on all sides and surfaces.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, when it comes to cleaning it, it really depends on what type of material your furniture is made out of. So, if you’ve got plastic furniture, you want to clean that with a mixture of dish soap, borax and a ½-cup of peroxide, all in one gallon of water. And you can use a nylon brush to help scrub down those furnishings and then just make sure you rinse it really well.

    For metal furniture, simple soapy water and a lot of elbow grease is going to do the job. And you can also remove any rust stains with some sandpaper or a wire brush. I mean it’s really key to just make these look nice before you wrap them up.

    TOM: And for wood furniture, you want to wipe it down and make note of any pieces that need refinishing when they come out again in the spring, like my teak patio table, which is definitely showing some wear.

    I try to save that project, though, for my kids. I think it’s a really good – you know, it’s a really good project to keep them busy on a spring or summer afternoon.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Mark in Iowa on the line who’s got an insulation question. How can we help you today?

    MARK: Live here in the Midwest so, obviously, we do get the temperatures getting below zero. So I’ve been kind of doing some research on the spray foam. And the one question that I’m not for certain of is when it comes to the walls and then the sill plate.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: The best thing I can determine is it looks like when it comes to the walls, it’s probably the closed cell. But then getting up into the sill plate, I can’t tell – I’ve seen it two ways: one says it’d be OK with the closed cell and others, eh, just fill the whole thing with open cell. Don’t know what’s the best way to go.

    TOM: OK. Have you taken a look at the Icynene products?

    MARK: Yes, I have.

    TOM: Because we’ve had some very positive experiences with Icynene. And we also have been in homes where Icynene has been applied and in particular, they use them on a number of This Old House properties and had very good success. So I’m very comfortable with that product.

    Now, in terms of open cell versus closed cell, don’t necessarily have a preference. But the key with the spray-foam insulations is to make sure that A) you have a good-quality product and B) that you have very trained installers. Because the installation can – you can really make it or break it when it comes to the installation quality. If you don’t have installers that are really experienced with the products, they can leave areas that are underinsulated. They can actually apply too much insulation and cause problems as a result of that.

    So I would focus on the product and the installers that are going to put it together first.

    MARK: OK. Alright. I guess my biggest concern is I haven’t seen any indication to worry about water/moisture issues. But it’s the wind barrier – the air barrier …

    TOM: Well, there’s two benefits to using spray-foam insulation over a fiberglass insulation. The first is, of course, the insulating ability but the second is the air-barrier ability. Because spray-foam insulation both seals out drafts and insulates at the same time. So that’s the benefit of that product over, say, a batt product like fiberglass or frankly, even cellulose because you don’t get the air-sealing capabilities.

    Now, is this a new home that you’re constructing? Where is the insulation going to be used?

    MARK: Yeah, it was an unfinished basement when we moved in. Built in about 2005, 2006.

    TOM: How’s the rest of the house insulated?

    MARK: Up in the ceiling, it is kind of like, oh, the real fluffy type of cotton spray.

    TOM: It sounds like blown-in fiberglass.

    MARK: Yeah. It’s not rolled or anything. It is loose, so it could be raked around and everything but it doesn’t itch to the touch. For the most part, it’s well-insulated. It’s just the basement was poured concrete. It looks like the brick look and I’m finishing the basement. And if I’m going to spend a little money, I’d rather do it right and that’s why I’ve been trying to bypass the fiberglass and looking at the spray foam.

    TOM: Yep. Well, also, you’re going to find that there’s a lot of drafts that get into that band-joist area and that’s going to make the first floor a lot warmer.

    MARK: Yep.

    TOM: Finally, to kind of address your question about open versus closed, what we hear from the marketplace is that many people really prefer closed over open because it reduces the chance of moisture getting into the product.

    MARK: Yep. And that’s why the walls, I’ve kind of leaned more towards that but the sill-plate area, there’s some areas where it might be hard for them to spray in there. And that’s where one of the quotes I got back was recommending to going just straight open cell and just fill it.

    TOM: It really depends on whether – what you need to do to get 100-percent coverage. And if the tools – and that may be the truth because the tools have to get up in there and they may not be flexible enough for some of those nooks and crannies in that particular scenario. So, yeah, if that’s what feedback – I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that.

    LESLIE: Well, when your home is damaged due to fire, flood, storm or another disaster, it’s heartbreaking. But when your insurance company gives you the runaround, it’s devastating.

    TOM: Up next, learn how to figure out exactly what you’re covered for, before the unthinkable happens.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Plastics Make it Possible, reminding you that October is National Energy Awareness Month. From plastic foam insulation to LED light bulbs, products made with plastics help you save on energy bills in your home and contribute to sustainability year-round. For more information, visit PlasticsMakeItPossible.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: Well, all across America, if there’s a disaster – be it a fire, a flood or a hurricane – you can bet there will be insurance companies who try to get out of paying claims. And I’ve got to tell you, here in the Tri-State area where Leslie and I are based, claims from Hurricane Sandy are no exception.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Because of disasters like Hurricane Sandy – along with the more frequent, severe weather that we’ve been getting – insurance companies are shifting more risk and cost to you than ever. So you need to know exactly what your policy covers and what it doesn’t. So here to help us all figure it out is Ric Edelman, the chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services.

    Welcome, Ric.

    RIC: Great to be with you. Thanks.

    TOM: We’re always so shocked when we have a claim and it turns out the insurance will come back and say it’s not covered. What’s the best way to make sure we have the coverage we believe that we have been paying for, for many years, in most cases?

    RIC: Well, I hate to say it but the best approach is to read the policy contract itself. I hate to say that because who’s going to find fun in reading an insurance contract? And chances are, you might not be able to understand it fully because let’s face it, it’s written by lawyers to be read by other lawyers. So, do your best to read it. If you have questions, ask your insurance agent.

    TOM: Now, most policies – most homeowner policies – don’t cover some natural disasters, like floods and earthquakes and landslides. Are those disasters that you need additional coverage for or riders for, Ric?

    RIC: Yes. And it’s really shocking that many people don’t realize that their policies will not cover them for such things that they are routinely going to be victims of. And that’s exactly why the policies won’t cover you. Because let’s face it, they don’t want to have to cover you for something they know you’re going to need. So, if you’re in a high-risk zone, you need to check with official local flood and earthquake maps and talk with your insurance agent to make sure that you do get coverage for these kinds of risks.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think it’s also important to sort of pay attention to what your deductible is and how often and what kind of deductible you might be facing, right?

    RIC: Yeah. Most people don’t realize that policies have two different kinds of deductibles. One is a flat – covers for a flat dollar amount for most losses. But there’s another higher deductible if the loss is related to wind. So, in a big storm, what was it that caused the damage? Was it rain or was it wind? And you need to make sure that you are properly protected and that you also understand the nature of the deductible so that you’re not going out of pocket more than you expected.

    TOM: Yeah, Ric, something that we’ve seen here in the area that was struck by Hurricane Sandy is some insurance companies are denying claims because they say that you don’t have earthquake coverage. And you say, “Well, how does that apply here? Because this was a hurricane.” Well, they claim that because the storm moved mounds of earth, that that triggered the earthquake claim. “And as a result, you’re not covered for it. We’re not going to pay you.” So, they’re always looking for a way to twist that language and get out of these claims.

    RIC: You’re right. And there’s another common way that they do this. Let’s say you’re in a big storm and there’s both wind damage and flood damage. Well, the wind damage will be covered by your policy but flood damage won’t. And what many policies do is they have a clause called ACC – anti-concurrent causation – which means if you have both wind and flood, they assume that your damage is caused by the one they don’t cover. So you want to make sure that it’s not heads-they-win/tails-you-lose kind of scenario with your policy.

    TOM: We’re talking to Ric Edelman. He’s the chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services and a guy that’s got a lot of financial expertise. We’re talking about homeowners insurance.

    Ric, I think one thing that a lot of our listeners don’t recognize, that we’re very happy to point out to them when they call us about a roof leak, is that’s the kind of thing that homeowners insurance is designed to cover, correct?

    RIC: Yes. But you have to make sure that your policy is going to cover you not just for the leak to the roof but for any damage that the dripping water then causes to your personal property. So you have to make sure that you understand the potential scenarios that can exist and that your policy will pay for that.

    LESLIE: Now, Ric, I think there’s a lot of confusion because insurance is generally based on the cost it was to purchase your home. But then they go through this whole series of how much it might cost to replace your home. So how do you know if you actually have enough insurance to cover what you hopefully don’t need but might?

    RIC: Well, you need to make sure your coverage is accurate to today’s environment. Remember that you don’t need insurance for the entire cost of your home because that includes the value of the land. And the land isn’t going to go anywhere, in most cases. So if your house burns to the ground, the land is still there.

    What you need is enough insurance protection to rebuild the house. And this is where the trap incurs. Because you might have bought your house 20 years ago and it was worth a lot less then than it is today. By the same notion, you need to make sure that just because your house is worth one dollar amount, that a builder would actually rebuild the house for that dollar amount. So the best thing to do is to talk to a local real estate agent and a local home builder and ask them the simple question: “If you were going to build this house from scratch, how much would it cost to do that?” And then make sure you have that amount of coverage on your insurance policy.

    TOM: Great advice. We’re talking to Ric Edelman. He’s the chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services.

    Ric, one more question before we let you go. Prices for insurance can vary and it seems that it’s the kind of purchase, like so many things in our financial lives, that we sort of set it and forget it and we never go back and reevaluate the value of the policy. How often should we be re-shopping for homeowners insurance?

    RIC: Oh, probably every three years or so. It’s called “endowment bias.” It’s a fascinating phenomenon in behavioral finance. We tend to keep what we’ve got, even if what we’ve got isn’t what’s best. And the insurance industry knows this. So they know that we all get lackadaisical. We bought the homeowners insurance a few years ago. It was a nuisance to do it. Now that we’ve got it, let’s move on to other things. So they can raise our rates year to year knowing we’re unlikely to re-shop the policy.

    So odds are if you’ve gotten rate increases over the past several years, you might very well be able to shop around and get a new policy that is lower in cost. You ought to take a look.

    TOM: Great advice. Ric Edelman, the chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit, Ric.

    RIC: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: If you’d like to learn more about Ric’s work, go to his website, which is RicEdelman.com. And that’s RicEdelman.com – R-i-c-E-d-e-l-m-a-n.com.

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    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Aquasana AQ-4100, a very cool water filter with a showerhead. It’s BPA-free and gets rid of 60 contaminants. It is also great for softer skin and healthier hair.

    Visit Aquasana.com for more information. It’s worth 85 bucks.

    Well, one of the biggest causes of high heating bills is cold-air infiltration, otherwise known as a draft. You can easily cut down on those with a few tips. And we have them, presented by Stanley Tools, right now.

    First up, weatherstripping. It’s an old standby and it really works. You want to use it around your doors, all around your house. Now, if you’ve got doors that aren’t used very often in winter, you can cover the bottom with a draft snake. It’s a long, stuffed tube that seals off the bottom gap between the door and the floor.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? For a few bucks, you can get a window-insulation kit at any hardware store or home center. Now, this kit is going to include a plastic film that you put over your windows and it’s a temporary solution; you just use it in the winter season. But it does make a huge difference in sealing out that cold air.

    I mean you’d really be surprised at just how much cold air gets through your exterior walls. So you want to look around those walls for any outlets or light switches and you can get foam gaskets. You know, they basically just look like a foam outlet cover or a foam light-switch cover. And it goes on the back side and sort of just seals everything up. And you want to use those on the exterior walls only.

    TOM: And you know another product that’s really cool to use to weatherstrip these days? It’s called “weatherstripping caulk.” It’s kind of like a clear caulk and if you have an old window that’s super-drafty and you’re not going to use it all winter long, you can essentially caulk it shut. And then what happens in the spring, because it’s a temporary caulk, you grab the edge of it and you peel it off and it comes off in sort of one long, sort of rubbery strip. You just don’t want to use that in any window that you might have to get out of in the event of an emergency like, for example, a bedroom window.

    Now, these winterization tips are brought to you by Stanley Tools, makers of the FatMax Auto-Locking Tape Rule. It locks in place so you can measure with one hand and mark with the other. To learn more, visit StanleyTools.com.

    LESLIE: Sean in Ohio is on the line and needs some help with a moist basement. Tell us what’s going on.

    SEAN: Yes. My basement, I finally got the outside fixed. I heard you guys say if it’s a rain event, that’s usually drainage. So I got that done and now there’s some kind of ceramic – or some waterproofing on the walls and it is flaking off onto the floor.

    TOM: Oh, great.

    SEAN: And it’s been there – the house was built in the 70s and I was wanting a good way to clean that up or what I could put on the walls to re-waterproof it.

    TOM: OK. So, I think what you’re talking about are mineral-salt deposits. Is it sort of like a whitish, grayish, powdery substance?

    SEAN: Yeah, yeah. This is like it’s been spackled on, though.

    TOM: Oh. So somebody put something on the walls and it’s releasing and falling off the block?

    SEAN: Right.

    TOM: Hmm. OK. What do you plan to do with these walls?

    SEAN: I just want to just waterproof them again, get the mold off of them and clean them up.

    TOM: So, I don’t know that you have mold on the walls. It sounds to me like you’ve got some sort of a finish that’s separating. So, can you scrape it off? Will it release easily?

    SEAN: Yeah, yeah. I just didn’t know, being the 70s, whether it might have asbestos in it or is there a good – better way to clean it up?

    TOM: I would say not likely. Of course, you could have that tested, too. But if it’s coming off easily, I would remove it and if I put anything on the walls at all, it would simply be a damp-proofing material, like a Thompson’s WaterSeal.

    And remember, the purpose of that is not to waterproof your walls; it’s to slow down the evaporation of moisture from the soil outside into the walls and any mineral salts that will be drawn through because of that. You’re not going to waterproof simply by painting your walls; it just doesn’t happen that way. You waterproof by redirecting the water away from the house, which it sounds like you’ve already tackled on the outside.

    SEAN: Yeah. It took me about 15 years but I finally got it done.

    TOM: Yeah. If it scrapes off easily, I would continue to take the rest of it off. I’d clean it up, I’d put a couple of coats of damp-proofing paint on it and I’d call it a day.

    SEAN: Oh, OK. Well, thank you very much.

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

    You know, people tend to think, sometimes, that everything that’s black and dark is moldy and it’s not always the case, especially when you’re talking about concrete-block walls. The walls themselves don’t grow mold; it’s what’s attached to them that grows the mold. And those home test kits are notoriously inaccurate and they can be misleading.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s so many different kinds. I think you’re bound to get some sort of reading …

    TOM: And it’s normal to have mold in a house. You’re always going to have some level of mold. So it’s – as I said, it’s very misleading and really should only be used in the hands of a professional.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, we’ve got easy and inexpensive Halloween decorating ideas that you can do with your kids. You’ve got to love it. The Money Pit continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain MyQ Garage. When you forget, it alerts your smartphone so you can close your garage door from anywhere, on most garage-door openers. Coming soon. For more information, go to Chamberlain.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.

    And we want to hear from you, so post your questions in the Community section of The Money Pit, like Debbie in Texas did, who writes: “I have white, glossy tile in my kitchen. I hate it. It shows everything. It’s in good shape but is there any way to color or texture it?”

    TOM: What about adding a runner over the tile? Because you can’t really color tile but I guess you could color the grout, though, right?

    LESLIE: You could. I mean we talk about tinting grout or dyeing grout, whatever you want to call it, often. In this situation, with the tile being super-white and so glossy, it might just draw more attention to it.

    I – like you, Tom – am a big fan of area rugs in all spaces of the house, including the kitchen. I like to use a long runner that has an interesting texture or pattern to it, depending on the décor style of the homeowner, in front of expansive cabinetry with the sink, like your work area.

    You could do that, strategically, Debbie, to hide a lot of stuff.

    TOM: Yeah, that makes, I think, more sense. The problem with the tile is that you’re kind of stuck with it. But if you really hate it, you could always add a laminate floor; just put it right on top of the tile.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if you go to Lumber Liquidators, they always have an assortment of laminates starting at $2 a square. So, not expensive.

    TOM: Well, getting your house into the Halloween spirit doesn’t have to leave your bank account looking a bit scary. Leslie has got some decorating tips that are both budget- and eco-friendly, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I love Halloween. It really is such a fun time of year. It’s a great holiday and you can truly get into the spirit without breaking your decorating or your energy budget. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, guys. You just have to be a little bit creative.

    Now, if you don’t want to go to the store and buy expensive decorations that you’ll just have to find room to store, think do-it-yourself. This is a really fun idea. Instead of buying special lights and driving up your electricity bill, you can cover up a window or two with inexpensive black paper that you cut out into fun, spooky, Halloween shapes. It could be a witch with her hat or a ghosty shadow or Frankenstein with his arms straight out, whatever you feel like drawing and cutting out.

    It doesn’t have to have a face or anything; it’s essentially just a silhouette. And when you tape it to the interior of the window, you throw your lights on inside and you sort of get this great, spooky effect. Super-duper fun. You can recycle the paper when you’re done because it’ll probably be all faded and you won’t want to reuse them next year.

    Now, another inexpensive and green project that your kids will love involves buying some inexpensive glow-in-the-dark paint. You can get it at any craft store. And then you gather up some rocks and you paint them and just sort of scatter them around your property or make a walkway up to the front door. And they’ll just sit there all day in the sunshine getting ready to glow. As soon as it’s sunset, they sort of make this cool, eerie, glowing effect around your yard.

    And don’t forget, guys, the original Halloween decoration: the jack-o’-lantern. They’re great, they’re super-easy, they’re fun to do with the kids. If you’re not that great at carving, you can paint something on the pumpkins. You can also just use melon-ballers or I like to use vegetable peelers to just thin out the exterior skin of certain parts of the pumpkin because then it kind of glows when you put a candle on the interior.

    And don’t throw away the seeds, guys. Clean them up really nicely. Throw away the pulp. Don’t ever put the pulp in the toilet or down a disposal; just throw it all away. But those seeds, wash them well, let them dry on a paper towel. Put some nice seasoned salt on there or some kosher salt and roast them in the oven at 400 for maybe 10 minutes. And they are the most delicious snack ever.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, our series on Sandy recovery continues as we follow the team at This Old House, as they help three Jersey Shore homeowners. And in the next edition, we’re going to learn about the town that was pretty much wiped off the map.

    Remember the TV footage, Leslie, of the house sitting in the middle of Barnegat Bay?

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: That house was washed off its foundation in Mantoloking, New Jersey. We’ll have details, 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 2013 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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