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How to Find Out if Your Home is Unhealthy, Install Radiant Heat for Warmth, How to Choose a Snow Blower 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: Here to help you tackle your home improvement projects. Here to help solve the do-it-yourself dilemmas. Here to help you plan your projects for 2014. But you’ve got to help yourself first by heading over to the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, you know, according to the National Center on Healthy Housing, 40 percent of homes in America are considered unsafe. Could yours be one of them? We’re going to find out, coming up.

    LESLIE: Hmm. And also ahead, a cold floor on a cold morning, that is no fun at all. Radiant heat is a great solution. It’s going to help you save on energy bills and it’s going to keep your tootsies nice and warm. We’re going to share some tips on that, coming up.

    TOM: Plus, now is the season to shop for snow-removal equipment. If you’re thinking about getting a snow blower or a snow thrower, we’re going to tell you how to sort out the difference. There are some key components that can make the difference in terms of the cost and how well that equipment will clear snow from your property. So we’ll have some tips on how to buy snow blowers and snow throwers, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: You’ve just snow-blown people’s minds.

    And have you ever left your house and wondered, while you’re on your way to work or already at work, “Did I close the garage door?” I feel like I do that all the time. Well, not anymore because there’s an app for that.

    One caller that we talk to this hour is going to win the MyQ Garage System from Chamberlain. And it’s a new way to check on your door from anywhere.

    TOM: It’s worth $129. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Tom in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a driveway-cleaning project. What’s going on?

    TOM IN TEXAS: I’ve got a driveway – a concrete driveway – that I put in about 10 years ago. And it’s maybe 60-plus feet, a couple of car lengths wide – a couple of car widths wide. And I had an oil leak in the truck and really wasn’t paying much attention to it until one day I noticed it. And there was quite a bit of staining down there, so I got some Oil-Dri, started putting it down. And it has held but there’s still some staining there.

    I never sealed it. And then I also get – from leaves and stuff. So, I just was wondering – I was thinking about getting a power cleaner and maybe some kind of detergent and clean it up. Or do I just live with it?

    TOM: What you can do to try to clean this is to use a product called TSP – trisodium phosphate. It’s available at home centers and hardware stores, usually in the painting aisle. You mix it up into sort of a paste-like consistency, apply it to the stain, let it sit there for a little while and then you can rinse it off. And that will tend to draw the oil out of it. It’s not a miracle cure but it does a pretty good job of cleaning up oil stains.

    TOM IN TEXAS: But do I need a power washer or just hose it off?

    TOM: No, you just hose it off. A lot of pressure is not your friend here. It’s really just having the right products on that oil to kind of draw it out.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And once – when you’re in the paint aisle getting the TSP, right next to it you can get a paint-tray liner and just maybe slide that under the truck for a little while.

    TOM: There you go.

    TOM IN TEXAS: I should probably just attach something under there.

    TOM: Yeah, attach it and then you can set up a couple of traffic cones. And then every day when you come home, you pull up to the cones, you know that the pan under the car will be directly aligned with the leak and that’ll be it.

    TOM IN TEXAS: Alright. Very good. Well, okay. I will take all that into consideration. Thank you all very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Elsie in California on the line who’s dealing with a shower that goes from hot to cold and all over.

    That doesn’t sound very pleasurable, Elsie. What’s going on?

    ELSIE: Oh, it sure isn’t. It’s very shocking.

    I live in a ranch-style house. The water heater is in the garage at one end of the house and the two bathrooms are at the other end of the house. And whenever someone flushes the toilet or turns on the tap or the sprinkling or drip system comes on, the water will go from hot to pure cold and I’ll have to readjust it.

    TOM: And the reason that happens is because the pressures are imbalanced. In other words, you adjust the temperature in your shower and that’s based on the pressure of water that’s coming from the hot and coming from the cold. And once that’s locked in, the temperature stays where you want it. But when someone down the line, say, spills off some of the cold water because now they’re flushing a toilet or washing their hands, then the – there is going to be less cold water going into that same mix, which means the water temperature is going to get higher or hotter.

    And so, the solution is a new valve for the shower and it’s called a “pressure-balanced valve.” And what a pressure-balance valve does is it maintains the mix in spite of the pressure differential. So, what could happen in that scenario is if you adjusted it and then someone flushed the toilet, you may get less pressure overall. So the shower may be not quite as strong but the temperature won’t change, the mix won’t change. The mix is locked in; it’s set right there, regardless of how much pressure variation you have on the hot water and the cold water coming into it.

    So, common problem, straightforward solution. It’s called a “pressure-balance valve.”

    ELSIE: Okay. Well, thank you so much. I listen to your program every week. I have your book and I’ve learned so much from both of you.

    TOM: 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. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’d love to lend a hand. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you tired of cold tootsies on chilly floors in the morning? Well, we’ve got two options in radiant-floor heating to share with you, that could solve that problem once and for all. Those are coming up, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Bostitch Mechanics Tools deliver the rugged reliability you’ve come to expect from Bostitch. Designed for the professional, built to last. For more information, visit Bostitch.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: And we make good homes better. We can make your home better if you pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Because one caller who asks us their home improvement question on the air today is going to win the MyQ Garage from Chamberlain.

    LESLIE: Now, you can set up your existing garage-door opener with the MyQ system. That is what is so awesome about this. There’s no wiring needed; you don’t need anything special. Then what you do is – we’ve all got smartphones, right? So, you download the MyQ app – because, of course, there’s an app for that – and you’re ready to go.

    It’s going to alert you if your door is open. And it can also monitor your door from anywhere. So, say, you’re backing out of your driveway, you press the button and you turn around and continue on your way, what if something rolled underneath and now your door doesn’t all the way close and pops back open and you think it’s closed? Well, this will tell you, “Hey, Dodo bird, you left it open. Close it. Press this button.” I mean it’s really – it’s fantastic. I love things that make your life easier and this definitely does it.

    TOM: It’s worth $129. It’s available at Amazon, Home Depot and select Best Buy stores. You can learn more at Chamberlain.com/MyQGarage. And call us right now for your chance to win. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Georgia where Robin is dealing with a porch issue. What’s going on with the cement?

    ROBIN: The back of the cement porch, where it meets the house, has sunk down from the brick about an inch and maybe as much as 2 inches in some places. And then, up the wall, the brick has also got lines in it, in some places, that have dropped down, as well. And you can see where the brick has dropped down under the windows.

    TOM: Okay. So what’s happening here is settlement and it’s happened slowly, probably over a number of years. And typically, what happens in porches is – you know, you frame the outside sort of foundation wall of the porch and then you pour the concrete last. And sometimes, when they backfill the porch, it doesn’t compress properly or sometimes you get organic debris in there, like tree stumps and that sort of thing. And then they, of course, rot away, you get voids and then the porch drops.

    So the question is: can you patch something that has dropped 2 inches? And my answer is no. It’s too much to patch. So, you really have two choices. You can temporarily seal those gaps. The only purpose in doing this is to stop some of the water that might collect from rainfall of running in there and making the matter worse. But it really is a very temporary fix.

    The proper thing to do would be to have that concrete floor torn out. Once it’s torn out, you’ll be able to work on the brick wall that’s sagging underneath. The bricks would probably be sitting on top of a ledge of a foundation. I don’t know why they’re dropping but you need to investigate that, rebuild the bricks up under the window and then pour a new concrete floor on properly tamped, properly compacted base.

    That’s really all you can do at this point because you can’t patch something – you can’t put a layer on it of additional concrete to kind of fill that in. It just won’t stay. It won’t look right. Okay, Robin?

    ROBIN: Okay. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

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

    Well, when the temperature drops, it always seems that the last area of your home to heat up is your floor, especially on a chilly winter morning. Radiant-floor heating may be the solution. It can save you a bundle on bills and it can keep your home very toasty and comfortable.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. There’s two types of radiant-floor heating and you really have to think about which one will work best for you.

    Now, there’s hydronic, which is really just a fancy word for water, or electric, which is easier to install if your home isn’t undergoing a major renovation. Now, with radiant heat, you can install it below the subfloor or you can actually sandwich it between the subfloor and whatever your finished floor is going to be. And you’ll still get a warm, moist heat to that space.

    Now, electric radiant heat is really good for smaller spaces or homes that have warmer climates, where you really just want to keep the chill off, say, a bathroom floor that’s tiled. Electric gets expensive. You don’t want to use it in a big, big space in a cold climate.

    TOM: Now, if you’ve shied away from radiant-floor heating due to the expense of installing it, think about this: there’s no better or really more efficient way to heat your home. It heats the place that is the coldest – your floor – and it doesn’t waste the heat by warming the top of the room, making it a very, very smart choice. So think about it – radiant-floor heating – the next time you walk across a cold floor. Might be just enough motivation to have you pick up the phone, call a pro and get some info about what it will take to get that installed in your house.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jack in Delaware on the line who’s dealing with a whistling noise coming from his HVAC system and he thinks it’s the furnace.

    Hey, Jack. What can we do for you?

    JACK: My problem is this. I’m 67 years old. I’ve never had this as – or all the houses I’ve ever owned. But when the heat is on, it sounds like a jet plane taking off through the air ducts. Mostly up in the loft but you can hear it everywhere. So if you’re laying in a bed in the bedroom, in the loft site, and the heat comes on, it can wake you up because it’ll make like a whistling sound.

    So I called – because it is guaranteed for a year so, naturally, I called them to come take a look at this. I wasn’t home; my wife was. And then when I got home, she said, “They said everything’s fine.” Well, it’s not. So I want to call them back and I’m going to be here when they come back. But I don’t want to sound stupid and I want to make sure I can ask the right question.

    TOM: Well, the reason it’s doing that is – it has to do with the installation of the duct system. It’s a design issue. And with some systems, if the ducts, perhaps, are too small, they have too many turns in them, they’re not smooth in terms of their transition from room to room to room, you’re going to get a buildup of pressure that makes this worse.

    So, this is a problem of installation.

    JACK: Okay.

    TOM: It might be that this is a higher-efficiency furnace that has a higher flow than, perhaps, other ones. You might want to talk to them about whether or not the fan speed can be adjusted. I don’t know if that will impact it. But it’s really the duct system, not the furnace, that’s causing the problem. The furnace would probably be quite silent if it wasn’t hooked up to the ducts.

    JACK: Yeah. And of course, if they didn’t fix ­- any ductwork would be just like – they wouldn’t do that.

    TOM: I would bring it up with them. But the thing is, you’re not going to be able to rely on any kind of warranty on this. Are you talking about the new homeowner’s warranty – a new homebuyer’s warranty?

    JACK: Yes, yes.

    TOM: Yeah. In a lot of cases, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. I know a lot about those programs and I’ve got to tell you, they cover builders only if builders get an F. They don’t cover A, B, C and D, you know what I mean? Unless it’s really bad, that’s when maybe something kicks in and even so, the coverage is just not good and the programs are just not solid. I used to arbitrate for some of those years ago and I remember horrific defects that weren’t covered. So, I have no faith in those programs.

    You might be better off dealing directly with the builder than trying to go through the warranty company. Because the warranty company is going to have a very specific set of standards that says what is and what isn’t covered. And you’re not required to necessarily, in most cases, go through the warranty company. You can go direct to the builder. And if you’re loud enough and persistent enough, you might get it fixed.

    JACK: That’s what – I am going to do that; I definitely want to go to the builder first. I just wanted to go to the builder armed with some kind of knowledge. See, right off the bat, you helped me because I thought it was the furnace.

    TOM: No, it’s the duct system that’s causing this.

    JACK: Alright. One more thing about the furnace. I won’t hold you. When the air conditioning was on last summer, I had to have a little bucket under this one pipe because it kept dripping. And I called them back about that and they said, “Oh, the insulation around this copper pipe wasn’t tight enough.” And so he did something – and again, I wasn’t home – and left and now it doesn’t drip as bad but it still has a lot of moisture where I keep a rag underneath the thing, just so it doesn’t puddle on the floor. Of course, that’s not right, right? I mean you’re not supposed to have any moisture, correct?

    TOM: No, of course it’s not. That’s an active leak even though it hasn’t gone to – become a drip. And it’s going to get worse in the summer when it’s really humid out. So it might just come back as bad as it was before.

    Is this a development where there’s a lot of homes that are built?

    JACK: Yes, yes. A brand-new development. It’s a 55-and-older development.

    TOM: I’ve got some suggestions for you. There’s power in numbers when it comes to that. It’s easy to ignore one homeowner but if you get a few of them together that are having the same issue, it becomes a lot more difficult for the builder to ignore.

    JACK: Funny you should say that. We had – one of the owners down the street wants to form a committee to have all our grievances listed and go to the builder.

    TOM: Yeah, I think it’s a great idea. And also involve the building inspectors locally in the municipality. Because if the building inspectors know that there’s issues with these properties, they’re going to be a lot more careful about inspecting them. And that’s something that a builder is not going to be happy about and you might just twist his arm enough to address it.

    It stinks to have to complain to get something done but sometimes, a squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    JACK: Yeah, well, I’m about to become the wheel. I’m going to squeak then.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Jim in Oregon with a paneling question. Tell us what you’re working on.

    JIM: I’ve got a house that was built in the early 1950s and I moved into it in the 70s. And it didn’t have any insulation in the walls of the house, so I took the interior paneling off, which was – ¼-inch plywood was all it was. And then I put insulation behind that and of course, rewired it at the same time.

    And then when I put the ¼-inch paneling back, after I put the insulation in, then I put – of course, it was in the 70s, the big paneling era. So I just put paneling over the top of that. Now I want to kind of upgrade it a little bit and I’m not too sure if my best route would be to clean the paneling really well and paint it or clean the paneling really well and have somebody come in and spray it, like you do sheetrock. Or maybe I should put ¼-inch sheetrock over the top of it and tape it off and then spray it. Or possibility of putting – on every stud, put a 2×2 on the stud and then put the insulation in that looks like Styrofoam with the tin foil on each side and then a panel of – or sheetrock over the top of that. So, I’m kind of looking at dollars and cents in which way to go.

    TOM: Wow, you have a lot of choices. Do we want – we really want a cosmetic solution here?

    JIM: Yes.

    TOM: That’s the case, there’s no reason you can’t paint this.

    Paint on paneling can look quite attractive if it’s done well. Right, Leslie? But I think priming is probably important.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You’re right about wanting to clean it. Then you’re definitely needing to prime it with a very good-quality primer, because you want it to adhere very well to the paneling. And depending on if this is actual wood paneling or some sort of wood-like paneling, you just want it to stick well. And then I would go with whatever paint over it.

    The issue here is whether or not you like the look of the vertical lines. If you like them, then you’re going to love it painted. Because somehow, white paneling looks fantastic, especially if you’ve got a décor and a home style that lends itself to that look. It can really work for you.

    I really wouldn’t paint it any other color because then it’s like, “Oh, that’s painted paneling.” Where suddenly, in white, it’s like, “Oh, it’s got a country chic-ish charm to it.” But it’s really up to you whether that’s a look that you like and will enjoy. If you can work with it, then I definitely say go for the paint.

    JIM: So if I painted white on it, my big-horn sheep hanging on the wall and the antelope and stuff would stand out really well then.

    TOM: Yeah, I bet they would.

    LESLIE: That’s a whole ‘nother conversation for another day.

    JIM: Yeah, I can just understand. I used to own a sporting-goods store, so I understand that.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us, Jim, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, it turns out, as a whole, homes are getting more unhealthy. Find out why and what you can do to make sure that your home is as healthy as it can be, after this.

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    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.

    Well, across the country, homes are getting less healthy, especially in urban areas. The good news is many of these homes need simple repairs to get them back on track.

    TOM: And here to tell us about the state of healthy homes in our country and what volunteers are doing to make sick homes better is Rebecca Morley. And she’s the executive director for the National Center on Healthy Housing.

    Welcome, Rebecca.

    REBECCA: Hi. Thank you.

    TOM: Now, you say 40 percent of American homes have health-and-safety hazards. That is a huge number. Where are they falling apart? What’s causing those dangers?

    REBECCA: Well, there are a wide range of problems in these homes. One of the theories that we have is that the foreclosure crisis has kind of exacerbated some of these conditions. So, these conditions have actually gotten worse by about 5 percent. So that was 30 million homes in 2009 and it’s about 35 million homes now, 40 percent of American homes having at least one of these problems.

    So we think the foreclosure crisis, people having less income to maintain their homes certainly is a contributing factor.

    TOM: And what are the problems that are causing homes to be unsafe?

    REBECCA: Well, some of them are hidden and some of them are pretty obvious. So we’ve got things like mold and water leaks that are problems for people with allergies and asthma. We’ve got peeling paint, which is a hidden hazard. Most people think of it as cosmetic but it can be lead-based paint and that can be dangerous for children. We’ve got electrical problems, we’ve got plumbing problems, we’ve got roof problems. They really run the gamut but some of these are just basic physical-condition issues that with a little bit of love and care can be addressed.

    LESLIE: Rebecca, how are you finding out that these properties have these issues? I mean is there somebody truly just pounding the pavement and knocking door-to-door? Or is this done through some association of realtors or home inspectors?

    REBECCA: Well, there are people pounding the pavement. It’s the U.S. Census, actually. So the U.S. Census conducts what’s called an American Housing Survey. It’s funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. So we take the data that they collect on millions of homes around the country and then we analyze that to look at housing conditions, specifically.

    TOM: Now, you’re also working with Rebuilding Together to kick off a healthy-housing challenge that’s going to help fix up some of these homes. Tell us how that works.

    REBECCA: Yeah, we’re so excited about this partnership.

    So, we know that a lot of people have these problems. Some people have the means to fix them; others do not. And again, with people having less income for home maintenance, that’s why we’re seeing a lot of these deferred-maintenance problems.

    So we have joined with Rebuilding Together to work with their affiliates around the country. And we’re working with teams of volunteers to provide health-and-safety upgrades to homes and homes of low-income families. It could be a returning veteran, it could be an older adult who’s aging in place, it could be a young family. So, our nation’s most vulnerable and cherished populations who we want to work with to improve their housing quality.

    TOM: And if you have a home that may have one of these problems or perhaps you know of a home or homeowner that has that situation, how would they get in touch with the organization and perhaps get involved with the program?

    REBECCA: Well, they can certainly come to NCHH.org and look up the Healthy Housing Challenge. You can also just look up Rebuilding Together in your local phone book and get connected to one of the affiliates and ask about the Healthy Housing Challenge.

    TOM: And the Healthy Housing Challenge is at HHChallenge.org. That’s HH – for Healthy Housing – Challenge.org.

    Rebecca Morley, Executive Director for the National Center for Healthy Housing, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    REBECCA: Thank you, guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, we’re helping you get ready for winter with tips on choosing the right snow blower or thrower, hmm, after this.

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    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 door from anywhere, on most garage-door openers. Available now. For more information, go to Chamberlain.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to hear from you and help you with whatever you’re working on.

    We also want to give you a pretty cool innovation. We’ve got up for grabs this hour, to one lucky caller, a MyQ Garage from Chamberlain. Now, you can set up your existing garage-door opener with the MyQ system – no wiring needed, no fancy equipment – and then you download the MyQ app and you’re ready to go.

    TOM: Yeah, it alerts you if your door is open. It can also monitor your door from anywhere in the world. It’s worth $129. Available at Amazon, Home Depot and select Best Buy stores.

    Learn more at Chamberlain.com/MyQGarage. And call us right now for your chance to win. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Katherine in Wisconsin is on the line with a soundproofing issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    KATHERINE: I live in a condo with a basement and there’s an I-beam that runs through the basement. And when I’m in the basement, I can hear my neighbors from two houses down talking in their living room because their voices travel down the I-beam.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: Crazy.

    KATHERINE: So I was – yeah. So I was interested in covering the I-beam somehow to reduce the noise but I wasn’t sure what the best way to do that would be.

    TOM: Well, there’s a couple things you can do. First of all, can you frame in the I-beam so that it’s – like has something that we can attach a drywall to?

    KATHERINE: Yeah, yeah, I could. I just wasn’t sure what to do that with or if that would help.

    TOM: OK. So once you – yeah, once you frame it in, there’s a product called QuietRock.

    KATHERINE: OK.

    TOM: And it’s a soundproofing drywall. It’s sold at Lowe’s. It’s pretty expensive. Regular drywall is 5 bucks a sheet; QuietRock is about 40 bucks a sheet. So it’s pretty expensive but you don’t need a lot.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But if she can hear them, they can hear her.

    TOM: Yeah. But you don’t need a lot. You know, you don’t need a lot. So, if you can frame in that beam and you’re sure that’s where it’s coming from, you may want to think about using QuietRocks to actually cover the I-beam and that should do the trick.

    KATHERINE: Oh, really? So I wouldn’t need to put additional insulation between the …

    TOM: No. Insulation is – insulation doesn’t really work as a soundproofing material.

    KATHERINE: OK, OK.

    TOM: It’s kind of a misnomer to think that insulation works on a wall. It’s cheap but it really doesn’t do much. The QuietRock absorbs the vibration of the sound and I think that’s what you need to do.

    KATHERINE: OK, great. And the QuietRock is just spelled like it sounds?

    TOM: Yep. Q-u-i-e-t – Rock. If you go to Lowes.com, you can find it right there. And I was able to find it; I needed it for a project. I was able to find it right in my local Lowe’s.

    KATHERINE: Thank you. Bye.

    TOM: Well, no matter where you live in the country, it’s time to brace for the coldest months of the year. And if that includes snow in your area, having a snow blower can ease the pain of shoveling. But before you think about buying one, you need to do a little homework.

    The first thing to consider is the amount of area that you need to clear and what type of space it is.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First, there’s the electric snow blower. Now, that’s great for smaller areas. The machines are maintenance-free and all you need is a flexible outdoor extension cord and an outlet and you’re good to go.

    Now, if you have a larger surface that does need to be cleared, as well, you may want to step it up to a gas-powered snow blower. And there’s two types there: there’s a single-stage and a dual-stage.

    Now, a single-stage blower throws the snow once. That means a gas engine spins an auger, scoops up the snow and then throws it out the chute. Now, you cannot use these blowers on gravel unless you’re interested in pelting some neighbors with rocks, which you might be. But not very friendly, especially this time of year.

    TOM: If you don’t like your neighbors.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Now, they also can’t handle very large snowfalls. So if you frequently get a lot of snow, you want to go with a two-stage blower. These machines will throw the snow twice. A metal auger picks it up and a high-speed impeller throws it out through the discharge chute.

    If you’d like a checklist of what you need to consider when buying a snow blower, go to MoneyPit.com and search “snow blowers.”

    LESLIE: Amy in Michigan is on the line with a condensation question. How can we help you?

    AMY: I live in a house; it’s about 15 years old. And every winter, I have the same problem. I’ve been here for three years but I have condensation on the inside of my windows. I think they’re pretty decent windows. I know when we had the home inspection, the guy said these are really good windows. Just wondering what I can do to control it.

    LESLIE: Now, when you’re talking about this, this is in your living room, you’re saying?

    AMY: It’s actually in just about every room of the house. It’s worse in my bedrooms and it’s gotten – it seems like it’s getting worse in other areas of the house.

    TOM: Well, the reason that your windows condense, Adrienne, is because they’re not insulated properly. I’m going to presume that they’re thermal-pane windows. Is that correct?

    AMY: They are.

    TOM: They’re thermal-pane windows but they’re not very good thermal panes, because the windows are super-cold. So what happens is when the warm, moist air inside your house strikes them, it condenses.

    So what can you do at this point in time short of replacing the windows? You could take some steps to try to reduce the volume of moisture that’s inside the house.

    AMY: OK.

    TOM: This might include taking a look to make sure that your outside drainage is done properly so that you’re not collecting water.

    Do you have a basement?

    AMY: We do.

    TOM: OK. So you want to make sure that you have gutters on the house, downspouts that are clean, downspouts that are extended away, soil that’s sloping away from the walls. That sort of thing reduces soil moisture. Dehumidification in the basement can help. You can either do it with a portable or a whole-house dehumidifier.

    LESLIE: Depending on your heating system.

    AMY: Right.

    TOM: Making sure that your bath fans are exhausted outside, making sure that your kitchen range hood is exhausted outside. Those are the sorts of things that will reduce the volume of humidity in the house.

    But I think until you get better-quality windows in there that are better-insulated, you’re still going to continue to have this to some degree because it’s just sort of the nature of the beast. If it’s really cold outside and it’s really warm and moist inside, that condensation is going to form, the same way it happens in the summer when you go outside with a glass of ice water and you get droplets on the outside.

    AMY: Sure.

    TOM: It’s just the nature of the condensation.

    AMY: Why does it seem worse when I have the blinds drawn or the blinds are down and closed? And then there’s more condensation on the windows.

    TOM: Because the windows are probably colder when the blinds are down. The warm air inside the house is not getting to the glass as readily. So the windows are probably a little colder when the blind’s down; you have less air circulation across it, so you’re not drying off some of that moisture, probably, as quickly as you would have.

    AMY: Oh, OK. Yeah, that makes sense.

    TOM: So do what you can to reduce the amount of humidity inside the house and then keep an eye on them. But I think, eventually, you’re going to want to think about replacing your windows and you can do that in stages. Start in the north side first, because that’s going to be the coldest side of the house and the side that will give you the best return on investment.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Montana where William is dealing with a sump-pump issue. What’s going on?

    WILLIAM: Hey, I’m having a great time. I bought this house and there’s already – had it in the system. And what’s happening is it – it’s got a ¾ bath. It’s installed low level in my septic tank in the basement. Now, from time to time, as it gets to the – it’ll go through a cycle. But once the water is – or the waste is pumped out, it doesn’t stop pumping. It rattles, it makes all kinds of noise in the floor.

    TOM: So it doesn’t shut off after the water is evacuated out of the sump? Is that what you’re saying?

    WILLIAM: Right. Actually, the water is already evacuated out of the sump. It’s still pumping; it’s still rattling or whatever (inaudible at 0:31:47). Now, I go down and I hit the – I tap the (inaudible at 0:31:51) housing and it seems to resolve the issue temporarily.

    TOM: Is it float-actuated? Is there a float that comes up to turn the pump on?

    WILLIAM: I believe it is float-actuated because there is a string going up into the – into a cap on top of the 4-inch or 6-inch PVC, out of the floor. It’s a cement basement, so I can’t – all I see is a cap.

    TOM: Well, look, the pump – you know the pump is supposed to work when the water is going – it usually runs for a second or two and then shuts off. If it’s getting stuck in the “on” position, the pump’s going to burn out. So if it’s float-actuated and you can get it open and take a look at it and look at the float and see if it’s getting hung up and that’s repairable, then fix it. But if it’s not, you’re going to have to replace the pump.

    WILLIAM: And how would I know – how would I spot that?

    TOM: You’ll see the linkage. You’ll be able to lift the linkage up and down and turn the pump on and off. You’ll be able to see it. And if it’s hung up some way because maybe the hardware is bent or not attached properly or it’s getting hung up on the side of the – if it’s rubbing against the side of the hole or something – if you can adjust it, then problem solved.

    William, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Next up, we’re going to talk about newer trends in home design, including those high, vaulted ceilings that everybody just seems to love. But how do you heat those spaces efficiently? Can you? We’re going to tell you how, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

    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: And if you head on over to The Money Pit Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit, you can enter the Santa’s Home Improvement Sweepstakes. We’ve got a phenomenal prize. We’re giving a Whirlpool 26-Cubic-Feet French-Door Refrigerator worth $2,300. Great prize.

    LESLIE: This is awesome. It’s got micro-edge shelving so that if you spill something in there – and who doesn’t spill in the refrigerator? – it actually keeps those spills contained. Enter now by following us on Facebook.

    And if you share the sweepstakes with your friends, you’re going to get bonus entries. Just go to Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit for your chance to win. And you can post a question in the Community section, just like Sam in Maryland did who writes: “I have a cathedral ceiling in my living room. I want to add insulation but don’t have an attic. Is there a way I can do it?”

    TOM: No. It’s not practical, Sam, is the short answer and here’s why. Insulating cathedral ceilings is one of the toughest types of ceilings to insulate. Because let’s assume that the ceiling joist is a 2×8. You can only put 6 inches worth of insulation in there. You’ve got to leave an extra 2-inch space between the top of the insulation and the underside of the sheathing for air circulation. Otherwise, you’re going to get moisture that’s going to build up there, it’s going to delaminate the plywood sheathing. It can make the insulation damp and ineffective.

    What you can do, if you haven’t done it already, is add one or two large, slow-moving paddle fans to be able to push that warm air that’s collecting up there back down to the house to sort of reheat it. So insulating a cathedral ceiling after the fact is difficult unless, of course, you want to do it from the outside of your house. And if that’s the case, you can reshingle the roof and put insulation between the shingles and the sheathing.

    But again, it’s a dramatic project, a lot of expense and one that you’re not likely to get a return on investment from.

    LESLIE: Ooh. Don’t know if that’s the answer you were looking for, Sam, but some creative ideas, as well.

    TOM: Well, decking the halls is a fun and festive activity this time of year for so many of us. But if you’re tired of the same old decorations, it’s okay to use a little imagination and stray from tradition. Leslie has some out-of-the-box wreath ideas in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, there’s nothing more traditional than a Christmas wreath to help celebrate the season. But you really don’t have to go with the traditional look of evergreen boughs and pine cones and holly berries. You can get creative, which I like to do. And sometimes my ideas are weird but at least I try them, guys. And you can really have fun with the concept of a wreath, presented in lots of unique ways.

    For example, you know those fancy ceiling canopies? You can get PVC ones or foam ones at the home centers and they go on the ceiling, where the canopy part of the chandelier would go into the ceiling? So you get that beautiful, decorative piece – traditionally, they were plaster but you can buy them super-affordable – and then paint it maybe gold or silver and hang that on your front door. It’s kind of like a modern nod to a traditional décor.

    Now, you can also use old or damaged Christmas ornaments. And you can attach them to a Styrofoam ring as another idea. Now, if you want something that’s more eclectic, you can just leave them the way they are. If you’re looking for a more uniform look, you can cover up some of the really badly-damaged ornaments and give the whole thing a coat of spray paint in a really festive color. You can also do the same with glass-ball ornaments. It really does make a beautiful look.

    And if you are celebrating this time of year with lots of wine at your parties, you can take the corks from your old wine bottles that you’ve enjoyed throughout the year, or perhaps just in these past few weeks of December, and you can glue them to a Styrofoam ring. And then weave silver or gold, red, whatever color ribbon, whatever your theme is this year and sort of weave it through the corks and really make sort of a festive nod to the holiday season.

    The ideas are endless. You can Google some great wreath ideas. You can check everything out and just come up with something fun. And remember, you’re your worst critic, so make something fun, have a good time. Everybody’s going to love it, I promise.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, we’re going to have some decorating tips when it comes to painting. When you choose paint, you have to choose, also, the sheen. You’ve got choices like eggshell, satin, flat, semi-gloss. And if you choose the wrong one, it could make the room look terrible. We’re going to tell you how to choose the best sheen for the project you’re trying to tackle, 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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (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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