How to Divert Water from Your Home with Proper Drainage, Winter Storm Survival Kit, Insulating Your Attic Stairs and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. We want to solve do-it-yourself dilemmas. If you’ve got a décor challenge you’re working on, we’d love to talk about that, too. But help yourself, first, by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, water: it’s one of your home’s worst enemies and that includes water that collects outside your home. So we’re going to talk about the most common sources and causes for poor yard drainage and tell you what you need to do to make it all go away.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, are you worried about heated air escaping through your windows and doors? Well, you can use weather-stripping and caulk but if you’re missing one crucial area, you might as well leave those windows just wide open. We’re going to tell you what part of your home must be sealed up to prevent heated air from escaping.

    TOM: And this hour we’re giving away a $50 assortment of Thompson’s WaterSeal products, along with an array of premium painting tools from Purdy. So give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

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

    SUSAN: OK. My house is approximately 100 years old and it’s pretty much been redone. But I was taking some sheetrock off one of the walls in one of the rooms and I know that on my walls – behind the sheetrock, on the walls and ceiling are 1x6s, very close together. And so I was thinking about taking the sheetrock off, I guess, staining or doing something with the 1x6s. But I want to know how you seal the cracks, you know, where the 1x6s join each other. They’re small cracks.

    TOM: So, the 1x6s, are they on top of plaster or something like that? It sounds like they were furring strips that were put into place to hold the sheetrock. Is that correct?

    SUSAN: No. Behind the sheetrock are the 1x6s and then on top of those 1x6s is old-timey wallpaper.

    TOM: Oh, OK. So these are the original walls of the house? Alright. Interesting.

    SUSAN: Yeah.

    TOM: So you wouldn’t seal the cracks. You would basically celebrate the cracks. You’re not going to hide them. So, what would you like to do with the one-by? You want to paint it or stain it or what?

    SUSAN: I want to stain it. I want natural wood.

    TOM: OK. So you’ve got a big sanding project in front of you but you can do it. You’re going to have to use a pretty coarse sandpaper to cut through whatever’s there. You’re going to have to sand them down and then you can seal that wood and you can stain it and you can put a varnish on it or urethane on it. I wouldn’t use anything with much of a sheen to it. I’d probably use flat or semi-gloss. You can stain it but then you could use a flat polyurethane. It has no sheen to it.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Tom in Washington is on the line and needs some help building a shed. Tell us what you’re working on.

    TOM IN WASHINGTON: We want to add on a good-looking 8×20 unheated storage building. We plan to use cedar shingles, exterior plywood, 26-gauge metal roofing. And I had a couple of questions for you. Should I use – it’s an unheated, uninsulated shed. Should I use house wrap, like Tyvek or TYPAR or one of those?

    TOM: Yeah. I think it’s not a bad idea to keep – it will help keep the moisture out of the building.

    TOM IN WASHINGTON: We also have an 8×6 greenhouse that’s going to be built on the end of it. And I wanted to ask you if it needed some air-circulation vents or any special device knowing that the greenhouse is “attached” to the unheated storage building.

    TOM: Yeah, I think any greenhouse needs some air vents in it, if nothing else just to make it possible for you to work in that in the summer. So I would definitely plan some cross-ventilation into the greenhouse.

    TOM IN WASHINGTON: And I was planning on doing ¾-inch plywood on the floor, ½-inch on the roof and wall.

    TOM: Is this going to be a wood-framed floor or is it going to be a concrete slab?

    TOM IN WASHINGTON: Wood framed on 2×10 joists.

    TOM: I mean what kind of foundation are you going to use?

    TOM IN WASHINGTON: Just a pure block concrete.

    TOM: It sounds like you’re building this on a crawlspace. You’re going to put a footing down, then build up block and then put the floor structure on top of that. Is that correct?

    TOM IN WASHINGTON: That’s correct.

    TOM: Well, then, yeah. You can use three-quarters on the floor and ½-inch on the roof.

    TOM IN WASHINGTON: And then would I do any caulking or sealing in the seams or cracks or would the house wrap just be sufficient for the moisture prevention?

    TOM: Well, you just follow good building practice. You put – you’ll use the house wrap, you’ll apply the siding material and you’ll caulk around the windows and doors. Make sure you have the right kind of flashing in place to keep the water out and you’ll be good to go.

    TOM IN WASHINGTON: Hey, I love your show.

    TOM: Thanks, Tom. We appreciate the call. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Marlene in Minnesota is on the line. How can we help you today?

    MARLENE: We have two aluminum-clad, factory-finished garage doors, dark brown in color or at least they were.

    TOM: OK.

    MARLENE: And they’re beginning to fade due to oxidation and sun exposure. Is there anything we can do to restore that finish?

    TOM: Well, not short of painting them. Because if you – when you say “restore them,” that would presume that there’s a way to kind of bring back the luster of the original paint finish. But after years of exposure to sun and especially those darker colors, you do get oxidation where the paint surface is broken down. And you’re not going to bring that surface back.

    The good news is that because they’re metal doors, they’re fairly straightforward topaint. You want to make sure that you lightly sand the door. And then I would use a metal primer – so a good-quality, metal priming paint – and then whatever your topcoat of paint is going to be beyond that.

    And if you do that right – because it’s metal and it’s not organic, so it’s not subjected as much to expansion and contraction and certainly not moisture absorption – a good paint job on a metal door like that could easily last 10 years.

    MARLENE: OK. Well, thank you for your help.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Let us know what you’re working on and we’ll give you a hand to get that project done right the first time. We’re here whenever you need us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you worried about heat loss at your home? Well, sealing just one area will be like closing a window that you left open all winter long. Find out what that is, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we want to talk to you. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour we’re giving away some Thompson’s WaterSeal products, along with a supply of premium painting tools from Purdy.

    And these guys make good stuff. Whether you’re a skilled pro or a do-it-yourselfer, the WaterSeal products can protect your exterior-wood items from the elements and the Purdy painting tools can help make these projects get done easily and accurately.

    You can find the products at lots of retailers but we’ve got a whole collection here we’re giving away, worth 50 bucks, to one lucky caller. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Richard in Arizona is on the line with a central air-conditioning question. What can we do for you today?

    RICHARD: As the heat comes into the duct system, you hear this little popping – I call them “expansion and contraction noises.” When the unit is fully operative and the heat is coming out, it’s relatively quiet until it stops and we go through a period of hearing these tingling and popping noises. So that’s the reason for my call. Is there anything on the market today that might work to quiet down those ducts? The aluminum duct is not wrapped in any form of insulation.

    TOM: The answer is probably not but let me give you a suggestion. First of all, there’s two types of duct noises. When the furnace comes on and the blower comes on, right, do you hear any kind of a pop or a bang when that blower comes on?

    RICHARD: No.

    TOM: OK. Because sometimes when ducts expand, they’ll do what we call “oil-canning” and kind of ping as they sort of flex outward. There is a way to address that. But if that’s not the case, then it sounds to me like – you mentioned it earlier – what you’re hearing is the expansion of the metal and the expansion of the metal where it’s attached to the framing.

    So the only thing I can suggest is if you were to replace those fasteners and put a strip of rubber gasket in between – like all across the bottom of the joist, for example – that might quiet that down. But frankly, it’s an awful lot of work. And I know it bugs you a lot but it’s an awful lot of work to try to make it quieter. It really is.

    RICHARD: I think so.

    TOM: It’s not going to hurt the system in any way. It may just be a little bit annoying but it’s not going to damage it. We get the same kind of complaints from plumbing pipes. Sometimes, when you turn on your hot-water plumbing pipe, it starts to expand and then makes a very similar kind of cricking sound that resonates through the whole pipe. And again, you can open up the wall and move the pipes and re-secure them and that sort of thing. But it’s generally not worth it because it doesn’t hurt anything. It’s just, really, just an annoyance.

    RICHARD: Well, thank you, at least, for your time and your consideration. Obviously, we, as you can hear, have been here for quite a while and we intend to stay here. Matter of fact, we’ll probably just brick up the windows and turn the house into a mausoleum.

    TOM: Well, look, you think of it as charm, alright? I don’t think it’s going to cause you a problem and it’s – probably all the houses in that neighborhood probably do the exact same thing. It just happens to be something that really bothers you and I certainly can sympathize with that. But rest assured knowing that it’s not causing any damage, OK?

    RICHARD: No, we know that. So, thank you, once again for your time and your information.

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

    LESLIE: Heidi in North Carolina is on the line with an electrical problem. How can we help you today?

    HEIDI: Well, I have kind of a two-part question. I have an older home. It’s about 68 years old. We paid an electrician to come in when we converted over to a heat pump from an old furnace to up our service. And we have an old fuse box that are the screw-in type fuses. And when he put the system in – the new electrical box – he was supposed to convert everything over into the new electrical box and he left the little electrical box – the little fuse box – in my kitchen.

    And unfortunately, he put the new electrical box on the outside of my house. That would be OK, except I’m a single woman and I don’t – safety reasons, I don’t think it’s really smart considering I have a full-size basement it could have easily been put in.

    LESLIE: Right.

    HEIDI: So do I need to – I mean I would never call this guy again, for lots of reasons. But do I need to pay somebody else to come in and convert that last part of my home into this other fuse box or – you know, these little fuses are hard to find and when they blow …

    TOM: So, it’s definitely an active panel, right? The fuse panel?

    HEIDI: Oh, it’s active. Yes, sir.

    TOM: OK. So that’s called a sub-panel and that’s going to be a sub-panel from the main panel. You said the main panel is now in the basement or the main panel is outside?

    HEIDI: It’s outside. We have a full basement and why he put it outside, I have no clue. But he put the main panel …

    TOM: Yeah, that makes no sense. Because the only time you usually see full panels outside is maybe a condominium situation and then they’re in utility closets. So I can’t imagine why that was done that way. It doesn’t make sense. It sounds to me like you do need a better electrician to come in and take care of this.

    If it makes you feel any better, the fact that you have a fuse box does not mean that it’s unsafe. Fuses are actually quite safe if it’s the right-size fuse matched against the wire that’s hooked up to that circuit.

    And so, to know if that’s the case, somebody has to open the panel and say, “OK, this is Number 14 wire, so it’s a 15-amp fuse. And this is Number 12 wire, so it’s a 20-amp fuse,” and so on and physically write that right above the fuse on the panel so you know what size to put in there. Because it’s too easy, with a fuse box, to put in a 20-amp fuse on a wire that’s only rated for 15 amps. Then, of course, that’s potentially unsafe.

    So, it does sound like you need another electrician. It’s obviously not a do-it-yourself project. And unless there’s some compelling code reason in your part of the country to put that outside, I don’t understand why they would have done that. And you could consider rerunning it back to the inside and unfortunately, that’s kind of where we’re at. It’s not an easy fix; it’s one that’s going to require the investment of a good electrician.

    HEIDI: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: Well, imagine leaving a window open all winter long. I mean think about it: the heat loss, the cold drafts and all that wasted energy? Well, if your home has a folding attic stair, that might be exactly what is happening every single day. But there is something you can do about it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. We’re talking about attic-stair insulators. Now, these are designed to reduce heat loss from an attic ladder-access opening. This lightweight product fits through the attic opening from below and then slides into place to cover the opening and encase that retractable ladder.

    TOM: Exactly. And if you take just this one extra step, you’ll be saving money and you’ll be making your home much more comfortable.

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

    LESLIE: Steve in New Hampshire, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    STEVE: I’ve been in this house for – I don’t know, maybe 15 years. But the crack was there before. It’s in the garage.

    TOM: OK.

    STEVE: And it’s – maybe at the most, it’s probably a ½-inch wide. But the floor is almost buckled a little bit along the crack line.

    TOM: OK. Yep.

    STEVE: And I’m just trying to figure out what would be the best way to try to repair that. I know that where my driveway meets my garage floor, the snow comes in, the rain and everything else. And I do have a drain in the middle of the garage – excuse me – so, the water does go down the drain. But it goes into this crack and I’m just trying to figure out if there was a way to repair that. I was thinking about maybe breaking it up and cleaning it out and regrouting it or something.

    TOM: You don’t have to do anything quite so dramatic. So here’s what you would do. Because it’s so wide, you’re going to need not only a crack filler – and I would look at the products that are sold by QUIKRETE. They have a number of crack-fillers, including one that is for wide cracks. It’s more like a flowable kind of a product.

    And before you apply this to the crack, you’re going to put something inside of it called a “backer rod.” So a backer rod, it’s kind of like a foam tube. You know those foam tubes that kids play with in the pool?

    LESLIE: It’s like a pool noodle. Pool noodle.

    STEVE: Yeah. A noodle. Like a noodle.

    TOM: It’s like – right. It’s like a miniature version of that.

    STEVE: Yeah.

    TOM: And you press it into the crack so that it basically holds up the crack filler. You’ll press it in so that it leaves maybe a ¼- to ½-inch of space from the top of the backer rod to the top of the concrete. And then you apply the flowable filler on top of that and that will stop additional water from getting in there. And by stopping additional water, you’re likely to get less movement, because it’s kind of a vicious cycle where you get water in that crack, it displaces some of the soil and then the slab will settle.

    Now, in terms of where the door meets the floor, if that’s not lining up, you may have to do some work for that door. Is it a wood door?

    STEVE: No, no. It’s a – what I was talking about there was where the driveway comes into where the slab of the garage meets the – where it meets the driveway. So the crack has protruded beyond and it’s like …

    TOM: Oh, beyond it? OK.

    STEVE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, well, you can – then you can complete the crack repair all the way out to the exterior the same way.

    STEVE: Alright, guys. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Teddy in Oregon is dealing with a wet foundation. Tell us what’s going on.

    TEDDY: Well, I am blessed with rain and clay soil here in Western Oregon. And I have a crawlspace that is wet. I lift up the plastic and there is mold and salamanders and slugs under there.

    And so I did discover a crack in the foundation, which explains a lot of this moisture.

    TOM: Well, yes and no. You know, concrete foundations and brick foundations are very porous. The fact that you have a crack doesn’t mean that that’s the only way water is getting through. What this does mean is that you have way too much water collecting on the outside of your house.

    So what you need to do is to very carefully improve the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter so that soil slopes away from the house. And even more important than that is to clean your gutter system and extend those downspouts away from the house. That’s really critical. If you do that, you will find that it makes a big difference on the amount of water that’s getting into that space and it will dry up quite nicely and frankly, quite quickly.

    TEDDY: Oh, OK. I believe that the gutter system is all – has pipes out to the street.

    TOM: Yep. You need to be sure about that and you need to be sure that they’re not disconnected or clogged.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Especially if you’ve got something underground that you can’t monitor or see if it’s, in fact, free-flowing. You’ve got to make sure that it’s actually going somewhere, it’s connected. Because the smallest amount of a clog can produce a huge amount of water, in comparison to the amount of a clog, inside your house.

    TEDDY: Oh, OK. OK. So, I’ll work on that and grade the soil away from the house.

    Now, right now, I have – I was all set to buy a dehumidifier and then someone told me, “No, that won’t do you any good.” So, I put a fan on either end – one blowing in and one blowing out – so it could go out the vents.

    TOM: But look, the solution here is not to try to get rid of the moisture that’s there; it’s to stop it from going there in the first place. So you need to follow our advice on this, which is specifically to improve the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. There’s advice on how to do this, online, at It’s one of the most common questions we get asked and the solution is really quite simple, OK?

    TEDDY: OK. Yeah.

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

    LESLIE: Well, water, it can be your home’s worst enemy, even if it’s on the outside. We’re going to tell you the most common spots for water to collect on your property and then how you need to divert it away from your yard, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, water can be a home’s worst enemy and one of the most vulnerable spots for water to collect is actually around your home in your yard. There’s lots of things you can do, though, to control that water.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Here to tell us how to do that is Ryan Larsen, AKA Dr. Drainage, a civil engineer with NDS.

    Welcome, Dr. Drainage.

    RYAN: Well, thank you for having me.

    TOM: So Ryan, I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector and one of the most common questions we got was about how to stop a basement from leaking. And it almost always came down to three things: drainage, drainage and more drainage. And most of that drainage was outside, because when the water was collecting in the yard and around the foundation perimeter, it was headed right for the basement. And the good news is that’s not that complicated a fix to make.

    RYAN: No, it’s not. In all the years that I’ve been designing drainage plans for homes – and here with NDS, taking thousands of calls each year and doing outside research – we found that they are very common problems to most homes, just like you – that one you stated.

    TOM: As water collects, does it usually start with sort of a low-lying area? That’s where it all ponds and that’s kind of where the solution begins?

    RYAN: It is. And the most common place for that to happen is below the rain-gutter downspout.

    TOM: Right, right. And that, of course, leads to the wet basements and the wet crawlspaces. But we also see ponding that ends up, say, in the middle of backyards. I’ve had folks tell me that they’ve got the equivalent of a swimming pool or a skating rink because water sits in the middle of a backyard. So, what’s the approach to getting rid of that water?

    RYAN: The most – the easiest approach is to collect the water. There’s a variety of applications or products that you can use to collect that water. And once you have it collected, to drain it to – the easiest way is generally to drain it to the street. But that’s depending on the regulations of your municipality.

    TOM: Yeah. And what they let you do. So in terms of that collection strategy, NDS makes drainage products, like perforated pipe and that sort of thing, correct?

    RYAN: We actually don’t make the perforated pipe. We manufacture your catch basins, your drain grates that you see in the ground. We have dry wells. We have all the collection products.

    TOM: So not the pipe that transports it. OK. So is that the – where you start with those low-lying areas, do you insert some sort of a collection device, like a dry well, to collect that water and then take the spill-off from that dry well, run it through a pipe – downhill, hopefully – out to the street. Is that the best way to handle that?

    RYAN: Yes. And so, that’s where you run into – based on your municipality and their regulations, the easiest, like we were saying, is to collect and to run it either through a dry well or through a catch basin, a grate, some sort of collection device and run it to the street.

    Now, if your municipality does not allow you to drain to the street or if, like you were saying, you don’t have the slope or to get the water flowing downhill, you have to store the water underground on your site, we also have those storage devices, as well.

    LESLIE: You know, Ryan, I think it’s interesting that people will first react to when there’s something unsightly, like if they’re got a muddy area or they can’t use a certain part of their yard. But I don’t think they realize how much damage drainage issues can cause in your home. I mean what are some of the things that could happen to your house?

    RYAN: The most common problems that you’ll see is water damage in your basement or your crawlspace, like you were talking. Or if you have enough water, you can have your foundation settle and crack. Can lead to termites, can lead to mold and mildew and just a general nuisance of having that musty, moldy smell in your home.

    TOM: Now, if you do have a problem with water around the house, it’s collecting, I would imagine the best time to work on that would be in the so-called dry seasons. So you have to be a little disciplined about this, because you don’t want to be digging through wet, muddy dirt to get these systems in place, correct?

    RYAN: Yeah. No one wants to be out digging in the rain or when they’re – you’re dealing with muddy soil. You know, digging in the mud, your holes aren’t going to hold up and you’re going to be fighting against yourself and fighting against the water the whole time. So, now, before the big rain starts is the time to actually get going before the rain comes.

    TOM: We’re talking to Ryan Larsen. He’s a civil engineer and goes by the nickname Dr. Drainage. He’s with NDS, a manufacturer that makes a number of good, solid drainage products.

    So, Ryan, where do you draw a line between a simple grading fix and one where you actually need to install some drainage equipment? For example, in the years I spent as a home inspector, we often would advise that folks not only get those downspouts and leaders extended from the foundation but also sort of regrade that foundation perimeter so that we have soil that slopes away. That will work but only for a certain amount of water, right? If it gets too excessive, even the grading is not going to move this – move that moisture, correct?

    RYAN: That’s true. You always want to – regardless of your home, you want to make sure that the dirt right next to your home, adjacent to the foundation, is built up so that water is draining away from the home. Regardless of your drainage system, whether you have one or not, that is the first step.

    Now, a lot of people will try to dig what they call “just a little swale,” a shallow depression, and hope that water can drain around the yard. Those will work temporarily and for a short time. If you have nothing else you can do, then do that. But any time you have standing water is when you want to collect it.

    TOM: Well, the good news is that there are some great solutions. And NDS is a company that provides the gear that you’re going to need to get those done on your house and the great advice and direction of Ryan Larsen, also known as Dr. Drainage.

    Ryan, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. We really appreciate your information.

    RYAN: Well, thank you. And if anyone has any questions or problems, I’d be more than happy to help. They can e-mail me at [email protected]

    TOM: And that website, again, is

    LESLIE: Alright. Still to come, winter storms can pop up unexpectedly or more likely, be much worse than they’re predicted.

    TOM: We’ll tell you about the emergency supplies you need to have on hand to help you weather any storm, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We want to hear from you and help you out with what you’re working on. And we also want to give away some great home improvement products to help you get your projects done.

    Now, this hour we’ve got up for grabs an assortment of Thompson’s WaterSeal products and an array of premium painting tools form Purdy. I mean this is awesome. So you don’t have to be a pro and you’re going to get pro results just because the products are so fantastic.

    You can find them at a ton of different stores. Pretty much wherever you go you’ll see the Purdy sign and you’ll also see the Thompson’s WaterSeal products. We’ve got a $50 prize pack up for grabs going to one lucky caller that we draw at random this hour.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Scott in North Dakota is on the line with a water-heater question. What’s going on?

    SCOTT: I’ve got a cabin that we’re going to remodel and I was wondering if it’s better to go with a tankless water heater or a tank one, because we’ve got – well, we’ve got to drain everything in the winter. But I was kind of looking online and stuff and what the difference between them. And the tankless ones only raise at a certain amount of temperature. And up here, the groundwater is usually about 40 degrees, so…

    TOM: So, first of all, we’re talking about an electric water heater versus an electric tankless?

    SCOTT: Correct. Yep, yep.

    TOM: Yep. I would definitely go with an electric water heater and I would install that water heater on a timer so that you can control when it comes on and off. Because especially being a vacation property, you’re not going to want that on in the middle of the day. You’re probably going to want to have it come on for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. And that will save you a lot of cost.

    SCOTT: Well, great. That answered a lot of questions.

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

    Well, winter storms can pop up very quickly. But if you think through a couple of preparation steps right now, you can avoid everything from minor annoyances to major problems. First, one of the more difficult situations to get yourself out of is when your car gets stuck in snow. Really frustrating. The tires can spin endlessly with no traction and you’re not going to get anywhere. So a tip: keep a bag of kitty litter or birdseed handy in your trunk. You can spread that under the tires and it will help improve the traction and it might just get you out of that jam.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Another thing are deicers. That’s a great thing to keep on hand, also, especially for your car’s windshield. Now, you can make your own deicer from one teaspoon of a grease-fighting dish detergent, like Dawn, one teaspoon of rubbing alcohol and a ½-gallon of warm water.

    TOM: Now, you can also use this solution on driveways and walkways and windshields to prevent those wet surfaces from freezing over. You want to use it before the storm and you’ll keep ice from bonding to those hard surfaces.

    Next, choose the right shovel. If you look for one with an ergonomic handle and a nonstick surface, you’ll be good to go.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But if you’ve already got a good shovel, here’s a hack that you’ve probably never thought of: spray your snow shovel with cooking spray or a lubricant, like WD-40. That snow is going to slide right off, which makes shoveling a little bit easier for you. It’s still going to hurt your back and your arms and everything else but at least the snow will come sliding right off the shovel.

    Now, in case you have a power outage, why not freeze plastic bags of water ahead of time? And then when the power goes out, you can use these in your fridge to help keep your food cold.

    TOM: Now, you can also use outside spaces to keep food from spoiling. If the temperature outside is 40 degrees or below, you can put hardy perishables, like fruits and veggies, in a cooler and just leave them on your deck, your patio or your front porch.

    888-666-3974. Hey, do you have a home improvement question we can help with? Pick up the phone right now. We are standing by to do just that.

    LESLIE: Elvis from Texas is on the line. He is in the building and he has a question about plumbing.

    Elvis, what can we do for you?

    ELVIS: My wife and I had a house built. Started back in early 2005 and it’s in Lubbock. Houses are made on concrete slabs.

    TOM: Yep.

    ELVIS: Before they poured the slab, they put in a – with all the plumbing was installed. And instead of copper plumbing, which was in kind of short supply back in 2005, the going thing then was called Kitec. I think it’s K-i-t-e-c. And it’s a double-walled plastic pipe with aluminum in the center, instead of regular connections that use, if I’m understanding, a bronze connector. And we’ve had a couple of small problems with the plumbing but it seems as though I’ve read that the bronze can cause a delinkification (ph) in the copper.

    And I’m wondering if there’s been any studies done, if there’s different fittings that can be replaced. If the plumbing has to be replaced, it’d be very labor-intensive to go underneath the house. And we get down to fairly low winters, maybe to zero, and I don’t think I’d want any plumbing overhead for it to freeze. Or if you have any suggestions or thoughts.

    TOM: Yeah, Elvis. The problem with Kitec plumbing is, as you suspect, the fittings will leak.

    Now, what’s interesting is that Kitec starts with PEX, which is cross-linked polyethylene which, by itself and as installed today, is actually an excellent plumbing pipe with fittings that don’t leak. But the Kitec system has definitely had a history of leaking. In fact, there are many class-action lawsuits over that product that are active and going on around the country. And you certainly should investigate those that you may qualify to join.

    Unfortunately, your solutions only include, really, replacing it. And what I would advise you to do is to only replace it where it’s accessible. I mean I wouldn’t create the emergency if the emergency doesn’t exist, so I’m not going to tell you to tear open your walls and pull all the plumbing out and start from scratch. But I would say that if you do happen to be doing a bathroom renovation or you open a wall and you find Kitec, it should be sort of a matter, of course, where you always replace it. Because it’s not going to get any better; it’s only going to get worse.

    ELVIS: Not news I wanted to hear but kind of what I suspected.

    TOM: Yep. Unfortunately, that’s the case. Every once in a while, we get a building product like that and I’ve seen it happen many times over the years. And there’s just no way to make it better because at its core, it’s a defective system.

    ELVIS: OK. No way to just replace the fittings. It’s going to be the pipe itself, too, that’ll have problems.

    TOM: That’s correct. So I would attach it to a plumbing – to copper piping or to traditional PEX piping.

    ELVIS: OK. So I can talk to some local plumbers and discuss it from that point.

    TOM: Exactly. I hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, reclaimed furniture can be a great way to save money and the environment. But you have to take one extra step to make sure old furniture is safe. We’ll tell you what you need to know, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And hey, Money Pit listeners, the Money Pit e-Newsletter is another good source of home improvement tips. You can sign up for it at and get it free every Friday.

    LESLIE: Alright. And then you can always go to anytime when you’re looking for a project or how to do a project or if you want to ask us for help, just like Sid did who writes: “I have water leaking from my chimney, through the flue and into my basement. This has happened twice. Both times we had rain with heavy winds. Any idea what’s causing this and a possible solution?”

    TOM: Yeah. Keeping water out of your chimney, Sid, is really important but sometimes it definitely can feel like an uphill battle. What I would recommend you do is use a product called a “masonry sealer” for your chimney.

    Now, masonry sealers are silicone-based and they do a pretty good job of keeping out wind-driven rain. But you want to make sure you buy one that’s listed as “water-permeable” because water-permeable means that water can evaporate out and not freeze and eventually crack the brick. It’s a do-it-yourself project that – it can be brushed on like paint or even sprayed on.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Sid? While you’re working on the chimney, why don’t you check the top of the cap? If you see any cracks in there, those are also going to have to be sealed. I mean you can do that with a caulk, so it’s really not that difficult, but you want to make sure you get rid of all of those water-access points.

    TOM: Well, using found items – you know, like old furniture and that sort of thing – is a great way to decorate. There are lots and lots of vintage pieces just waiting for the right touch. And you know the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” But you need to be careful about reusing some of those older items, especially in kids’ rooms. Leslie has advice on what to look for, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. If you do decide to do some dumpster-diving to save cash, you want to be really careful about which vintage pieces you choose for your child’s room. First of all, you don’t want to get anything with old, chipping or even potentially lead-based paint on it. And you also want to make sure that you stay away from furniture with out-of-date latches and hardware, like chests and cribs.

    Now, if you are in the market for something like that, you can check on That’s the Consumer Product Safety Commission – .gov. And that’ll list recalled items there. So if you do see a crib or something that’s interesting that really involves some child-safety precautions, do make sure that there has not been a recall on it before you start to salvage those old pieces.

    Salvaging furnishings is really a great way to save money and help Mother Nature and keep the planet green. So you want to look for pieces that have their finishes sort of intact so that you’re able to rough up the surface to put on the new finish or remove whatever existing paint or finish is there so that you may refinish. You want to look for pieces that can be multifunctional. Don’t be afraid to look at a dresser and turn that into a changing table. By adding a simple 1×2 rail around the sides, you can then put a changing pad in there and it becomes a super-functional and highly stylish changing table. So don’t be afraid to think of multi-purposing things or repurposing items that they weren’t normally used for. And again, with kids’ rooms, safety is the most important.

    Also, look for interesting vintage fabrics, old bedding that you can turn into window shades or draperies or make into a bed skirt. Don’t be afraid to sew and you don’t have to know how to sew. There’s a little something called Stitch Witch or Heat Bond. You can iron all of your hems and make things beautiful that are ironed together and no one will be the wiser.

    TOM: Very cool tips. So you basically can glue the fabric together?

    LESLIE: Pretty much. As long as it’s not something that’s really going to get a lot of wear and tear. Like I wouldn’t stitch-witch or fuse-bond a jacket. But I would a pillow case for a decorative pillow or a bed skirt onto an existing bed skirt or some decorative detail onto a shade. Really easy ways to do it.

    TOM: Great advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, sometimes all that a home improvement project needs to get done is heat, in the way of a torch, a heat gun or maybe even a soldering iron. But finding the right combination of temperature and tools can be tricky. Learn which tool you’ll need for your next project, 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 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.)

Leave a Reply