How to Give Your Central AC a Tune-up, Create Instant Drama with Ceiling Embellishments, Learn Why a Standby Generator is Essential and More
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: Pick up the phone, give us a call. We are here to help you with your home improvement projects. Help yourself first: pick up the phone, call us at 888-666-3974.
Well, now that we are smack dab in the beginning of summer, it’s a great time to give your A/C a quick checkup. Make sure that it’s running in good shape so it’ll stay that way through all the hot days ahead. We’re going to have easy, step-by-step advice, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also ahead, if all you see when you look up is a plain, one-dimensional ceiling, decorative ceiling treatments can really help you bring some drama and interest to that space, in any room. And guess what? It’s not hard to do. This Old House contractor Tom Silva will be joining us with the details, coming up.
TOM: Plus, what can a standby generator do for you? Well, plenty. We’re going to tell you why backup power is not only convenient, it’s really an essential element these days. And it’s not that expensive to have.
LESLIE: And we’re giving away a Bissell vacuum to one lucky winner. The Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop eliminates the need to sweep before you mop.
TOM: It’s a prize worth $219, so let’s get to it. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Rob in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ROB: Calling to get you guys’ opinions on the – I’m having my deck partially repaired and it’s got some cedar trim and cedar boards that have gone bad, so they’re going to be replaced. So they’re going to look newer compared to the rest of the deck. I was looking into getting one of the epoxy, composite-type, deck-coating systems. Rust-Oleum Restore is one brand. Behr makes one, too. I’m just curious what you guys think about these products. And are they worth it?
TOM: How many decking boards are deteriorated, Rob?
ROB: Well, oh, it’s the majority of the steps. It’s a cedar deck with a green, treated wood underneath baseboard support. The cedar is just dying out on me and it’s about seven years old. The railings are going bad, too, so we’re looking at replacing a lot of the boards on the steps of the railing. But up to the same platform are the main boards. They are doing fine. So it’s mainly the steps up.
TOM: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily consider completely sealing in all of that cedar with a product like that.
Here’s what I would do. First of all, the deck boards that are cracked or checked or deteriorated, one thing to try is to flip them over. Because the underside of those deck boards is usually as good as the day it went down. Even though it’s cracked on top, the side that was not exposed to the sun is usually in pretty good condition. So you try to do that as much as you can. For ones that are really bad – just have to be replaced. Just replace those with new cedar decking boards. And yes, it’s not going to match.
And then once all the repair has been done, then you want to use a deck-washing product like the one that makes – that Flood Wood Care makes. You run a deck wash across everything and then you want to hit it with at least two coats of solid stain. So not paint but solid stain. Not semi-transparent, not transparent but solid-color stain. And a good-quality solid-color stain, that’s going to look all the same. It’s going to maintain its wood quality, so you’ll see the grain through the stain, and it’ll look perfect.
So, I don’t think you need to go with some sort of really thick – super-thick – coating right now. I think you just need to do some basic repairs.
ROB: OK. What stains would you recommend that …?
TOM: Good-quality stain. So, yeah, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams. A good-quality stain like that.
ROB: Alright, alright. OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Rob. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Katherine in Arizona on the line who’s dealing with an issue with sod. And Arizona is pretty darn hot, so tell us what’s going on.
KATHERINE: I live, actually, in the mountains in Arizona and so our issue is not the heat but the cold. And so what we’ve had happen is that we laid sod about eight years ago. And unbeknownst to us novice homeowners, it had mesh netting on the back side of the roll. And I don’t know if we were supposed to remove that or something but now the sod did not take to our climate and it has died.
And we would like to reseed or lay on some new sod or something like that. But in order to prepare the soil and till it and all of that, I just don’t know what to do. Because there’s this mesh netting all over the ground. And in some areas, it’s exposed and some areas, it isn’t. But I just wondered what your advice would be.
TOM: So the sod never really bit, so to speak? It never really grew through the mesh netting and connected with the soil below?
KATHERINE: Not really. I mean it did in some areas but it just did not grow well for our climate. It couldn’t handle the winters; it just wouldn’t recover.
TOM: Well, the first thing you want to do is a soil test. You can – sometimes, your county extension services and services like that will do the test for you. Or have a landscaper do the test. But you need to know what’s in that soil and how to adjust the pH to get it just right to reseed.
LESLIE: Yeah, to fertilize correctly and …
LESLIE: You know, in other words, you might not be giving it the stuff that it needs and it won’t grow.
TOM: Yeah, you’re working blind.
Now, the other thing to keep in mind is that the best time to do this is not at the beginning of summer. The best time to do this is in the fall when it’s a little cooler out. Because even if you did everything right and it started to grow, the intense heat that follows a month or two down the line will burn it out and kind of ruin all the good work that you did. So I would spend this summer getting the information that you need to kind of come up with a plan.
Now, in terms of whether or not you remove the old sod or not, if it’s really loose and disconnected and not really knitting – sort of sitting on top – then, in that case, I would take it out and then prep the soil below. If it has connected, then I would leave it.
Now, if you have sod – is it weedy? Is it also weedy, Katherine?
KATHERINE: There are lots of weeds. So it’s not so much the sod that’s the issue but it’s the plastic mesh netting, that was on the back side of the sod rolls, that’s there. And I just don’t know – can we till with that there or is that going to get all caught up in the tiller?
TOM: I think you probably can. In my experience, those types of backers are designed to stay there and not be removed. And they just sort of deteriorate naturally away.
KATHERINE: Hmm. OK.
TOM: So I don’t suspect that that would be an issue. Because otherwise, how would you ever lay it down?
KATHERINE: Right, right. Yeah, I don’t know. I didn’t know what was supposed to be common, just that it hasn’t degraded at all. After a year, it’s still totally there.
TOM: Well, here’s an idea: one of the things that you could do is you could rent a seeding machine that slices the lawn. There are machines out there that will actually slice it and you – and drops the seed sort of into the slits and that will cut through it. But really, before you do any of that, the first thing to do is do a soil test and see what’s going on there.
LESLIE: Now, this way, you’ll know how to feed it, how to take care of it, when it’s going to want to be seeded. That will really answer a lot of questions for you.
KATHERINE: OK. That makes a lot of sense.
TOM: Yeah. And if the sod – if you end up deciding to leave the sod in place and if it gets really weedy, one thing you could do is something called a “Roundup restoration.” You can spray Roundup right on the sod and kill the sod and actually leave it in place. And then put the seed right up into the dead grass. It will hold it really well and it will resprout. And the Roundup will not prevent the new seed from taking root.
KATHERINE: OK, OK.
TOM: That’s called a “Roundup restoration.”
KATHERINE: Hmm. Alright. That makes sense.
TOM: Alright, Katherine. Good luck with that project. Let’s hope there’s some more green in your future.
KATHERINE: Yes, I hope so. Thank you.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Well, we are gearing up for the big Fourth of July Weekend. And lucky us this year, the Fourth falls on a Friday. So maybe we’re taking an extra-long weekend, maybe got some stuff to work on, having a big party. Let us know how we can give you a hand at your money pit. Give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT.
Here’s one thing you don’t want to happen when you’re having a party and your house is filled with all your family and friends: the air conditioning kicks out. If you know if your air conditioner is really ready to beat the heat, we’re going to give you some tips on what you need to know about A/C maintenance, to keep cool all summer long, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number to call is 888-MONEY-PIT.
And one caller who gets on the air with us today is going to not only get the answer to their home improvement question but will also win a Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop from Bissell.
And what’s so cool about this is it’s actually two products in one.
LESLIE: That’s right. The Symphony vacuums and steams at the same time, so it eliminates the old process of broom, dustpan, mop and bucket.
Now, the powerful, cyclonic action cleans away dry debris. The steam sanitizes, which can eliminate up to 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria, which is great. Because with a 19-month-old at home, he eats everything off the floor and it’d be kind of great to know that the floor’s pretty clean.
TOM: It’s worth $219. Going out to one caller, so give us a call. Let’s get to it, 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Stuart in Rhode Island has got a water-heating question for us. What can we do for you today?
STUART: Had an oil-fired, hot-water heater – a separate oil-fired, hot-water heater – separate from the (inaudible at 0:10:26). And it finally went bad after 13 years. I guess that was a good time period. And my plumber is urging me to replace it with an electric hot-water heater with a timer on it. It’s much more cheaper to do that than buy a – to replace the oil-fired, hot-water heater that I had. But I’m just wondering, are there any negatives to it?
TOM: Well, it’s a little more expensive to run than oil but as you say, it’s a lot less expensive to buy. I’m actually surprised that it only lasted 13 years because oil-fired water heaters seem to last a lot longer than standard water heaters. I mean if you’ve still got the warranties, the standard water heaters – the electric water heaters – may have a 5-year warranty on the tank, maybe a 10-year warranty on the tank. But I found that oil-fired water heaters last 20 to 25 years on a regular basis. So the fact that it failed at 13 is just plain bad luck.
I have nothing against the idea of you putting an electric water heater and saving some money there, as long as you are using it with a timer. It won’t last probably as long as what I would have thought your oil water heater would have lasted but it will save you some money.
I presume your house also has oil heat. Is that correct?
STUART: It does.
TOM: And is it hot air or hot water?
STUART: It’s hot air.
TOM: It’s hot air. OK. Yeah, so the water heater is completely stand-alone. Yeah, so I think it’s a potential – I don’t really have a strong feeling one way or the other. It’s really a personal preference. But if you want to save some money, there’s no problem putting – there’s no reason not to put the electric water heater as long as it’s sized properly and it is on a timer. Because, of course, you only want that to run when you have to.
Water heaters are dumb; they heat the water 24-7 whether you use it or not. So you want to make sure that it’s properly insulated and the timer is set up so it’s not running all night long when you don’t really need it running.
STUART: Right. OK. Any idea how many hours I should probably have that shut off?
TOM: Well, what I would do is I would shut it off kind of after you’re done with your evening cleaning tasks, because the water will stay warm for a while. So, if you like to shower and bathe at night, whenever that part of the evening is done, that’s when you want to shut it down. Then bring it on about an hour before you wake up in the morning.
If you leave to go to work on a regular basis, you can turn it off while you’re away at work. But if you’re home or you work from home and you need it on during the day, you might have to skip that cycle. But the key time to have it off is in the middle of the night.
STUART: OK. Very good, then. I think I’ll stick with it.
TOM: Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you haven’t already, you are most likely going to close those windows and crank up the A/C for the hottest part of the summer. Now, before you get that unit to run almost non-stop for weeks, consider a checkup of your A/C system.
TOM: Now, this is something that needs to be done by a qualified HVAC professional. But taking the time, the effort and the money to do this now could mean the difference between a cool summer and a very expensive breakdown on the hottest day of the year, which is not pretty.
LESLIE: Yeah. So what should an A/C checkup include? Well, you can start by checking your thermostat settings to make sure comfort levels are maintained when your home and energy is saved when you’re not at home.
Now, a pro is going to check that electrical connections are tightened and motor voltage and current is measured. All moving parts will be lubricated and he or she will inspect the condensate drain in a central air conditioner and remove any clogs if needed.
TOM: Yeah, that’s really important because those clogs can force the system to run under stress. And that could lead to a breakdown.
Now, the controls will also be checked for proper and safe operation, including the starting cycle, the in-service operation and the shutdown. And make sure the service includes cleaning of the evaporator and the condenser air-conditioning coils, checking refrigerant levels and cleaning and adjusting the blower components.
Now, for more tips and a step-by-step guide to A/C maintenance, head on over to MoneyPit.com and simply search “heating and cooling system maintenance.”
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Hong in Pennsylvania on the line who is having an issue with carpenter ants. Tell us what’s going on.
HONG: One day – within the front of the house, we have these wooden pillars. And in the round base, I saw there was a neatly cut hole and the carpenter ants were climbing out of that. What’s an effective way of getting rid of them?
TOM: Well, there’s a product called Phantom – P-h-a-n-t-o-m – that’s a professionally applied pesticide, Hong. Works very well for carpenter ants and roaches and other types of pests like that.
And the reason it works particularly well is because it’s a non-detectable pesticide. So the ants go through this product and they bring it back to their nest and they pass it from insect to insect. I think of it as germ warfare for insects. And as they pass it from insect to insect, it will very quickly wipe out the entire nest.
And I think a professional product like that is going to be the safest and most effective way to get rid of these ants. Because if you use a lot of over-the-counter products, chances are you’re not going to get all the ants where they live, because you’re not going to find any product that’s non-detectable that’s available as an over-the-counter. And you’ll end up putting more and more pesticide in than you probably really need to.
So I would take a look at PhantonHome.com – P-h-a-n-t-o-m-Home.com. You can put in your zip code, find a number of pest-control operators near your house and have them provide you some estimates for controlling this. You really need to get it under control, because carpenter ants are called “carpenter ants” for a very good reason: they do eat wood. We want to make sure they don’t eat anything that’s structural in your house.
HONG: Yeah. You know that that’s what I was – I thought. OK.
TOM: Good luck, Hong. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Pat in Iowa is on the line with a question about painting. What can we do for you today?
PAT: Yes. I would like to paint my aluminum siding on my home. I can’t afford to side it right now and I was wondering if it’s possible to paint aluminum siding.
TOM: Absolutely. There’s no reason you can’t paint aluminum siding. What you want to do is clean the house really well, power-wash it perhaps. And then you’re going to have to prime that siding. That’s really important.
LESLIE: Otherwise, nothing is going to stick.
TOM: Exactly. So you need to do a primer coat.
PAT: OK. Well, what kind of primer?
TOM: Well, you’re going to use a primer that’s designed to work with the paint that you select.
So, for example, if you’re going to work with the Benjamin Moore family of paints, you’re going to use a Benjamin Moore primer.
TOM: And the primer is the glue; it’s the adhesive coat. That’s what makes the paint stick. And then you put the topcoat on top of that.
PAT: Now, will this peel on the south side where the sun hits?
TOM: No, not if you do a good job on the prep. You know, that’s why we’re telling you to prime it. And because the siding is metal, that paint job should last you a good 8 to 10 years. Less if it’s an organic material, like wood siding. But with metal siding, it can last a long time if it’s done well.
PAT: Oh, good. That’s a good thing to know. OK. I wasn’t sure I could even do it. I thought maybe it would just peel right off.
Now, the power wash, is that with – I’d have to hire somebody to probably do that.
TOM: Yeah, unless you happen to have your own pressure washer, yeah, you’d have to hire somebody to do that. And they’ll use a detergent and clean off any dirt and debris and algae and so on that’s on the metal. Then you let it dry really, really well. Then you prime, then you paint.
I mean it’s a big project, Pat. If you’re not comfortable with 10-foot and 20-foot ladders, depending on how high your house is, you might want to hire a painter to do this.
PAT: No, I’d probably hire someone else to do it but do you think it’d be real expensive? Or would I be better off to find a good vinyl-siding man to put …?
TOM: Well, I think that you don’t have to side the house. You don’t have to put siding. You can paint this house and paint it successfully and I think it will be less expensive than siding.
PAT: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome, Pat. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still ahead, we’ve got tips to take your ceiling to new heights, literally. We’ve got advice to help you transform a blah ceiling into a wow ceiling, with help from This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.
LESLIE: Today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Stanley Tools. Stanley Tools has been helping to build America since 1843. Look for specially marked Stanley packaging featuring the Made in U.S.A. With Global Materials logo. Visit StanleyTools.com/BuildYourAmerica.
ADAM: Hey, this is Adam Carolla. And when I’m not swinging a hammer, I’m catching up on The Money Pit with Tom and Leslie.
ANNOUNCER: Starting an outdoor wood-staining project? Get it done the simple way with Flood Wood Care. With products like Flood CWF-UV, you get long-lasting quality at a great value, plus guidance to help make the whole process easier. Get started at Flood.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And for the latest in new product trends, listen to our Top Products Podcast, on now at MoneyPit.com. Just look for the Radio and Media tab at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Well, when you look up, is the view less than exciting? Decorative ceilings could be your solution.
TOM: You know, with decorative ceilings, you can turn your blank and bland ceiling into an architectural showpiece. Here to tell us how is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.
TOM SILVA: Thanks. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: I think that homeowners that are looking to add interest to their sort of charmless ceilings really should be considering what they could do to decorate them. Because it really can be a key architectural element of the room, right?
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. I think the first thing that comes to mind – everybody thinks crown molding is the way to dress up a room. It’s that final touch there and it’s great.
TOM SILVA: It can be challenging to install. And you can build up the crown molding from a simple crown molding to multiple layers of crown molding.
TOM: Well, you’re right. So crown molding is difficult to install. But I’ve seen now foam crown molding that seems to adhere with caulk. And you can practically cut it with a utility knife. That seems to be the good DIY option, right?
TOM SILVA: It’s a great DIY option. I’ve actually installed it with joint compound, where you could butter up that edge of the joint compound on the top and the bottom of the crown molding. You can push it into the ceiling and into the wall. And the nice thing about that: it actually fills the gap between the ceiling and the wall and you just wipe it off with a wet sponge.
TOM: So when it’s painted, really can’t tell the difference?
TOM SILVA: You can’t tell the difference. You can also fill the joints with a joint compound, too. So if you’re really sloppy …
TOM: That makes a big difference because you don’t have to do the math surrounding the compound miter cut.
TOM SILVA: Right, exactly. Exactly. Yep.
LESLIE: Another easy solution, I think, are ceiling medallions. And while they were a very traditional look, I feel that there’s some modern designs kind of coming back with medallions. And it’s a good option.
TOM SILVA: It’s a great option. Polyurethane today. Before, they were heavy plaster and they were either made in a mold and then picked up and then stuck to the wall with plaster. But today, you can use a polyurethane and they can duplicate any medallion that you want with a three-dimensional camera and so on. We’ve done them on a This Old House project and they’re pretty cool.
TOM: Now, what about tin ceilings? Tin ceilings are a very traditional, old ceiling. A lot of options. Besides the original tin, you could go with a drop ceiling that looks like tin, today, right?
TOM SILVA: Yeah. They have a drop ceiling. You see them a lot in hotels and restaurants that you really – they have great spaces, they go in quickly.
TOM SILVA: A tin ceiling can be time-consuming because lots of times, you put a plywood sheathing over the ceiling first and then you staple them in.
TOM SILVA: And then, around the perimeter, they actually have the crown-molding detail that’s tin, also. It’s tricky and you want to use gloves because the edges can be sharp. But it makes a huge difference.
LESLIE: I think that tin ceilings just look so beautiful but there are so many other options. I’ve seen coffered ceilings and tray ceilings. And I think a lot of people get confused. And unless you’ve got an architect or a builder who’s kind of into doing something like that, which might not be the easiest to find, how do you sort of know if that’s going to work for your space?
TOM SILVA: Right. We do a lot of coffered ceilings because some of the stuff that we have is high and you want to bring that ceiling down into place.
TOM SILVA: And there’s all kinds of details that you can do. You can do a large square in the middle with little rectangles and squares in the corners. Or you could do multiple square options and then you can really dress up the beams around the coffered ceiling with crown moldings or cornice moldings and …
LESLIE: This all sounds very expensive, by the way.
TOM SILVA: It is very expensive.
LESLIE: OK. You’re like, “And this molding and that molding and another molding.”
TOM SILVA: Well, if you think about it, if you do a simple crown molding around a room and then you say, “Well, I want to dress it up,” you may have three or four buildups of crown molding. So you’re not going around that room once; you could be going around four times. So it makes a big difference.
TOM: Now, Tom, a lot of folks think that anything but a white ceiling makes the room look small. Do you run across those types of objections with your customers?
TOM SILVA: I very rarely do a white ceiling.
TOM SILVA: It’s always got a little bit of a tint to it, a little bit of – less of a sheen to it. A lot of people like flat ceilings. I like a little bit of a sheen to it. And lots of times, we’ll pick from the color of the trim and then take the white and put a little bit of the color of the trim in the white so that it blends and softens it a little bit.
TOM: But it doesn’t necessarily make the room look smaller.
TOM SILVA: No, no. I think it really warms it up.
TOM: Yep, exactly. A little contrast is a good thing.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. There’s one that’s Benjamin Moore I like. And I think it’s called Blush and it’s like a super-super-soft pink/white.
TOM SILVA: Yeah.
LESLIE: And it has this warm skin tone, almost, to it that when you have a beautiful chandelier in a bedroom, you know, it just kind of gives a really nice ambiance to the space.
TOM SILVA: Right. We just did one on the This Old House project where we discovered an old, plastered ceiling up underneath the ceiling that had been lowered in the 60s. Because that was pretty common.
TOM: Was common, right.
TOM SILVA: Yeah, they were trying to save energy, so they have less cubic feet. But we discovered a beautiful crown molding that we had to fix – it was plaster – and then the medallions.
So what we did is we painted the trim and the crown one color and we painted the ceiling a color that would blend. And the medallion was also painted the color of the trim. But you – it was just a – such a subtle difference but it really set things off.
TOM: I bet that was one magnificent transformation, something that you do quite frequently.
Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.
Up next, if the power goes out and you’re not at home, what do you do? Panic at the thought of returning to a flooded basement, perhaps? Well, that’s not going to happen if you add a standby generator equipped with a home monitoring system that allows you to check the status of your home’s electrical system from anywhere you are. We’re going to have details on how you can get just that for your home, 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 LutronSensors.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. And the number here to call is 888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, one caller who gets on the air with us today is going to win a Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop from Bissell. What’s so cool about this is that it’s two products in one. Symphony vacuums and steams at the same time. The powerful, cyclonic action will suck up dry debris and the steam heat eliminates up to 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria.
TOM: And it only weighs about 10½ pounds, so it’s easy to take from room to room. It’s worth $219 and goes out to one caller we talk to on the air today. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Brandon in California has been taking some cold showers. Well, not intentionally, anyway. How can we help you with that?
BRANDON: My old water valve, when I – it just happens just to the cold water. If I turn on the hot water, it doesn’t have the problem. But when I turn on the cold, it does this knocking or like a bang in the wall. And the pressure is reduced significantly. And it just will – it’ll come out really low pressure unless I really turn it on. And then the pressure comes back but I don’t know what – I don’t know if that’s called “knocking” or “hammer-knocking” or something like that but …
TOM: Yeah, it’s called “water hammer.”
BRANDON: Water hammer. Is that what that is?
BRANDON: OK. It’s not like a continual knocking, though.
TOM: OK. So, first of all, when you open up the faucet and all the water kind of runs forward towards it, that has a lot of force with it and that will bang the pipes sometimes. And if the pipe – especially if it’s not attached well to the floor joist or whatever it happens to go through, makes that banging sound. That’s why we call it “water hammer.” It can be lessened or completely repaired with some plumbing work. But it may or may not be worth it, because it doesn’t really damage the pipe; it’s really just more of an annoyance.
Now, in terms of the pressure issue – so the water comes on fast and then trickles out after that? Is that what’s going on?
BRANDON: Well, it comes out normal but then it just seems like someone’s in the wall kinking the line. And it’s just coming out – like it comes out still; it’s not like trickling out, like drips.
TOM: Is it one faucet in the shower? What about the sink that’s right next to it?
BRANDON: No, there’s the three. One on the left is the hot, the center transitions it from the bathtub to the showerhead and the one on the right is the cold water.
TOM: What about your sink? Does it do the same thing at the sink?
BRANDON: No, it’s just in the shower.
TOM: So, what I would do is I would install a pressure-balance valve in the shower. The pressure-balance valve, essentially – and it’s not going to address the water hammering but what it’ll do is it’ll keep the pressure even between hot and cold – keep the mix even between hot and cold so that you don’t get any sort of shell shock when you step in the shower and somebody runs a fixture somewhere else and it changes the temperature.
LESLIE: Yeah. So no more pranksters flushing the toilet and getting a super-scalding shower.
TOM: And the fact this is only happening at the shower means it’s a problem with the valves; it’s not a problem with the plumbing lines. Otherwise, it would be happening at the sink, as well.
BRANDON: OK. That kind of makes sense. Because sometimes it’s just – sometimes it’s hard to balance when we’re in the shower. It’s like, “Oh, man, this is just scalding hot.”
BRANDON: And we’ve really got to crank up that cold to get it kind of balanced out right.
TOM: Yep. That’s what you need: a pressure-balance valve.
BRANDON: Alright. Perfect.
TOM: Well, when the forecast calls for severe weather, a standby-generator system can make sure you’re ready for the storm. According to the experts at KOHLER Generators, here is what you need to know.
LESLIE: Well, standby generators run on natural or propane gas and they’re installed directly to your home. So if you lose power, the generator will automatically start up and restore power to your home. Depending on your home’s size, it can power just a few critical items or you can go for the entire house, including lights, HVAC, fridge, sump pump, security system, electronics. You name it, you can power it.
TOM: Now, many manufacturers, including KOHLER, also offer remote-monitoring capabilities. So homeowners will be able to manage their automatic standby generators from a laptop, which is a pretty cool technology. It enables you to know exactly what’s going on whether you’re home or not.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And manufacturer websites like KOHLER’s feature a variety of helpful tools, including a sizing calculator and a dealer locator. Because this is not a do-it-yourself project.
TOM: And this Severe Weather Tip is presented by KOHLER Generators. Running on clean propane or natural gas, a KOHLER standby generator is permanently installed outside your home and comes on automatically within seconds of a power outage. To learn more, visit KOHLERGenerators.com.
LESLIE: Robert in Michigan is dealing with hard water. Tell us what’s going on.
ROBERT: I have a lot of problems with hard water, a lot of iron.
ROBERT: And I’ve seen advertised these electric water softeners, where you don’t use salt? It goes through an electric box or something? And in my mind, I can’t figure out how they would work.
LESLIE: Well, we’ve had some experience with one called EasyWater. And how this one, in particular, works is you take a – I guess is it a power supply, Tom? It’s an electrical cord or wire that you wrap around your water-supply pipe.
TOM: Well, the EasyWater itself actually – that’s exactly what it does: it creates a magnetic field. And so this is wrapped around the supply pipe and then it magnetizes or demagnetizes, so to speak …
LESLIE: And pushes everything away from each other so that they’re not going to stick. And then it sort of just rinses through rather than getting stuck where you see all of the issues that you get with hard water.
ROBERT: Alright. How do they work?
TOM: Well, they seem to work pretty good. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the system when we installed it. And we’ve heard from folks that have installed it. It worked well for us and it seems to work well for also the folks that we’ve talked to, so I would not be afraid to give it a shot.
And I know that they have a pretty good warranty on that. So if you have any problems, you can send it back.
ROBERT: OK. I don’t have any information on it now and I don’t see it advertised anymore on TV.
TOM: Yeah. You know what? It’s actually pretty easy to find, Robert. Their website is EasyWater.com and that’s spelled out E-a-s-y-Water.com. Don’t use the initials because that’s a competitor. There’s a lot of folks that have been trying to steal their traffic, so to speak. So if you just go to EasyWater – E-a-s-y-Water.com, you’ll find it. The product is made by the FREIJE Treatment Systems Company – F-R-E-I-J-E.
ROBERT: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Say, do you feel like your home is the star of When Animals Attack!: Suburban Version? Well, critters are cute but when they infringe on your home, they can be a nuisance. We’ll have a tip to keep one pest away, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Looking to take your questions at 888-MONEY-PIT or on our Facebook page at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s talk to a couple of folks here – or let’s respond to a couple of folks – that posted on our page. First up: Joanne.
LESLIE: Alright. Joanne writes: “How do I repair holes made in my house by woodpeckers? Some are 6 inches or wider. We do try to eradicate them but others return.”
I feel like if they like your house, they like your house.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. If you’ve got a 6-inch-wide hole, Joanne, you’re looking at a basic carpentry-repair project. So, I don’t think there’s anything specific to woodpeckers that’s going to affect how you repair that hole.
What you do want to do is get rid of them and I’ll give you a couple of tips on that. Some things that we found that can help dissuade woodpeckers without harming them would be to hang tin pie plates in the areas that they like to infest. Because the twirly silver things kind of freak them out. And the other thing is to take some black plastic bags, like Hefty bags, slice them so that you have sort of a ribbon of these bags sort of blowing in the wind.
LESLIE: Like a trash-bag streamer?
TOM: Yeah, like a streamer effect. That also tends to dissuade them.
But in terms of the repair, I mean look, I don’t know what kind of siding you have but if it’s clapboard siding, you’re going to want to cut that siding out and not just at the 6-inch hole. The thing is, you want to go much wider than that so it doesn’t look like a patch. You want it to look like a whole piece of siding was replaced. Remember to prime it before you hang it so that you have primer on all sides of the board. Then paint it and repair it.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you could always – if you’re replacing your trim pieces, your fascia or siding or anything, you can always go with something that’s made from an extruded PVC that they’re not going to like.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Bill who writes: “What should I stain my new cedar decking with, if anything?”
TOM: Well, I think it’s a good idea to stain your decking. See, here’s the thing about cedar and redwood and other decay-resistant lumbers: just because they’re not going to decay doesn’t mean they’re not going to crack and check and get all kinds of splintery – and that’s going to not be a very pleasant surface.
So, if you want to enjoy the natural season for maybe one summer, that’s fine. But listen, you’re going to have to stain and seal it pretty soon thereafter. And the best time to do it would be perhaps in the fall, before the winter weather does set in.
You’re going to want to use a solid-color stain, not a semi-transparent. Now, that frightens some people because they think solid color means paint. It doesn’t. Solid-color stain lasts a long, long time.
In fact, we just restained our house this summer and you know how long ago it was stained? Fourteen years. Fourteen years for an exterior staining job. And it wasn’t like we ignored it for the last 10. It looked really good for all of those years because we used solid-color stain, which fades but doesn’t peel. So you want to use solid-color stain on that cedar decking to preserve it, stop it from cracking and checking and getting uncomfortable.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Theodore with a block-wall question.
TOM: Yeah. Theodore says, “I offset and reconstructed a retaining wall against my house. And in doing so, I exposed more of the basement’s cinder-block wall, which apparently has a coating of waterproofing on it. My wife hates how it looks and thinks it would be awful to tar the rest of the wall to match.”
I agree with your wife, Theodore. I don’t think you need to apply that tar. It’s only designed to be below-grade, so what I would do – it’s probably all dried out now. I’d clean the wall really well and then I would simply paint the foundation with a masonry paint. Paint it gray or tan or whatever color you prefer and make sure you’ve maintained – now that you’ve both built that wall, make sure you’ve maintained a positive slope away from that wall so any rainwater is going to roll away from it and any gutter downspouts are going to be discharged well away from it, so that you don’t impact the ability of the wall to remain watertight.
LESLIE: And that should keep you dry.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this fine summer day with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips, some advice, some inspiration so that you won’t have too much perspiration when you tackle those home improvement projects. If you do need help, we’re available 24-7 at MoneyPit.com.
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.
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(Copyright 2014 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.)