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How to Have a Clean and Safe Fireplace, Replace Your Mailbox to Increase Curb Appeal, How to Have a Safe Shower for Every Member of Your Family, and more.

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, 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: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We know there’s a project on your to-do list. Look around; think about the last thing your husband, your wife, your significant other asked you to fix around the house. Call us; we’ll help you get it done the easy way, 888-666-3974.

    You know, Leslie, this past week, I had the chance to go out to Ellis Island, where so many millions of immigrants came to the United States of America. And the tour guide mentioned that Ellis Island was in a constant state of restoration and I thought to myself …

    LESLIE: Oh, so it’s the original money pit?

    TOM: Yes. I thought to myself, “That’s much like our home.”

    So, if your home is in a constant state of restoration, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up on today’s program, if you’re considering a remodeling project, then you are among millions of homeowners who agree the time is finally right to invest in your home once again. Hooray! But to get the most out of that redo, you want to think about all the family members that will be living there at all stages of life, by following the principles of universal design. It’s really easy to do and we’re going to have some tips on that topic, coming up.

    LESLIE: And it’s beginning to look a lot like fall. Is that OK? Do we have to pay anybody money for me humming that ditty?

    TOM: I don’t think so.

    LESLIE: OK, good. Good, good.

    TOM: I think – I don’t think anyone wants to take credit for that song the way you sing it.

    LESLIE: Aww. I actually used …

    TOM: But it is starting to look like fall.

    LESLIE: I know. And you know what? I’m so excited. It really is my favorite time of year.

    But you know what? Just because it is becoming autumn, that doesn’t mean you need to stop using those fun outdoor spaces, like your deck or your patio. In fact, with less bugs, this is actually the perfect time to enjoy your outside spaces. We’re going to tell you how to take the chill out of the air to enjoy outdoor living well into the fall, with a review of patio heaters, coming up.

    TOM: Plus, your house gets only one chance to make a first impression and so an old, broken-down or outdated mailbox can pretty much ruin that opportunity. We’re going to tell you how to replace it and add back to your home’s curb appeal once again.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, one caller who makes it on the air with us is going to get a good night’s sleep thanks to the prize this hour, which is a twin-size Therapedic Memory-Foam Mattress Topper. And it gives any bed a super-comfortable and quick facelift.

    TOM: It’s worth, actually, about 200 bucks. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement project. So pick up the phone, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Pamela in Tennessee on the line who’s got a shingle question. What can we do for you today?

    PAMELA: Our house was built in 1994 and it’s at the point where it’s going to be needing a new roof and we started getting estimates. And the last man who came offered to put a new roof over the existing roof. And I had thought I had read somewhere that that was never a good idea but he gave us the two options: the price with removing the old and putting on the new and another one for just putting a new layer over the existing roof. And I was just trying to find out which is the best way to go on that.

    TOM: Well, Pamela, both are viable options for a roof replacement. It kind of comes down to how long you expect to be in that house. So, is this a house where you think you’ll be in it for the next 15 or 20 years, which would be the life of the new roof?

    PAMELA: Well, we would like to move tomorrow if we could. We’ve had it on the market a couple times in the last couple years and we haven’t even had any lookers with the economy being what it is. So, we haven’t really had any issues with leaking, as far as we know, but every time it storms or the winds blow really hard, we lose a few more shingles.

    TOM: Right. OK, well, that’s really good to know. So, the answer is that you most likely will sell it, say, in the next 10 years because the economy will eventually recover in the real estate market.

    And the reason I ask that is this, Pam: because when you put a second layer of shingles on a roof, the first layer tends to hold a lot of heat, which causes the second layer to wear out just a bit faster. I’ve seen it wear out anywhere from 25-percent to, say, 33-percent faster – from a quarter to a third faster. So that means that you’d have a bit of a shorter roof life. Instead of going 20 years on the next roof, maybe you’ll go 15. However, it does save you some money.

    So when does it make sense to tear it off? Well, if you’re going to be there for the whole 20 years – 25 years of that roof – then I would say tear off, go down to the plywood sheathing and go up from there. If this is a short-term house for you and you’ve already got just one layer so you’re only putting a second layer on, no reason not to put a second layer of roof on that. It’s clearly going to last for the next several years and more. And by the time you’re ready to sell it, no one really cares whether there’s one layer or two; they only care whether it leaks. And when that new owner gets around to replacing the roof, then they’ll strip everything down to the sheathing.


    TOM: But that’ll be their expense, not yours. So I think it’s OK to put a second layer on at this point.

    PAMELA: OK. Well, I appreciate your answer. I had just not had anybody else give us that option; it was just this one guy. And so I didn’t know if it was a good idea to do that or not.

    LESLIE: You know, I would also check with your village. The only reason I say this is that when we were looking into having our roof replaced, the rules within our village were that if you were putting a new roof on top of your existing shingles, you didn’t need any permitting. But if you were taking off the existing and putting on a new set of shingles, getting down to the sheathing, then you needed a permit. It’s just something to look into.

    PAMELA: OK. Well, I appreciate that because I wasn’t aware of that. But I will check into that and I thank you both for your answer.

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

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

    JODY: Actually, I have a big enough house where I have three furnaces. And the condensation that comes off the heat exchanger – sometimes the tube will get plugged without anyone knowing. And then it’ll overflow the pan; then you’ve ruined ceilings and what-have-you in my house and stuff.

    TOM: Right.

    JODY: And I wanted to know if there’s – I read this article in one of the magazines about woodwork and stuff and helping people with doing things around the house, where they would have (inaudible at 0:06:57) you could put in the pan and you would never have that fungus growing that’ll plug up your tubes.

    TOM: OK. So what’s clogging up the tube, in this case, is algae. Is that correct?

    JODY: Yes.

    TOM: One of the things that you can think about doing is to apply a product called Wet & Forget, which is generally used to keep algae from growing off sidewalks.

    JODY: Yes. Uh-huh.

    TOM: But when that pan is dry, I would suggest that you try to spray it down with Wet & Forget. And that prevents algae from growing, on contact. So that’s not a bad idea to give that a shot.

    JODY: So I’ll try that.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it is officially – well, almost officially – the autumn season. Your kids are back at school, so are you working on something around your money pit? If so, or even if you’re thinking about it, we are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to give you a hand with that project at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, are you feeling a slight chill during your evenings spent on the outdoor deck or patio? Well, you can still enjoy those outdoor spaces very comfortably if you have a patio heater. We’re going to have tips on how to choose the right one for your home, after this.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number to call here at The Money Pit is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one caller this hour – you’re going to get a ton of help with your home improvement project – that is what we are here for – but we’ve also got a great prize up for grabs. And you know what? With the holiday season approaching – it’s true, it’s approaching – you’re going to have a lot of houseguests. So, we’re giving you a quick makeover for a bed in your home.

    We’ve got up for grabs a twin-size Therapedic luxury-quilted, memory-foam mattress topper. And it’s a great way to make a bed more comfortable without paying the hefty price of getting a new mattress. It’s worth 200 bucks, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

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

    SUSAN: I have recently purchased a home and there are three areas in the home that seem to emit a cat-urine odor when it gets very …

    TOM: Eww. Yuck.

    SUSAN: Yeah.

    TOM: Alright. So, is it on – is it carpet? What kind of flooring you got there?

    SUSAN: Actually, I’m finding it in the garage, on concrete.

    TOM: Oh, OK. OK.

    SUSAN: And around the front door – which there’s a brick exterior and it’s a metal door. But then it also – have discovered that there’s an area in the bedroom. It seems to be under a window. So maybe on the drywall? The carpeting has been replaced.

    TOM: OK.

    SUSAN: The home – and when I purchased the home, the carpeting had been – all had been replaced.

    TOM: Well, here’s the thing. Let’s take it one area at a time. If it’s the garage and you have a concrete floor there, that could have absorbed some of that unpleasant liquid. What I would suggest you do is take the opportunity to add a new epoxy garage-floor paint to that surface. Very easy to do. Comes in kits. Made by lots of different manufacturers. QUIKRETE makes it, Rust-Oleum makes it. And basically, you mix up the paint and the hardener and it takes about 45 minutes to apply it and then a couple of hours for it to dry and probably the next day, you’re moving the car back in.

    SUSAN: Wonderful. That’d be a great idea.

    TOM: So I would definitely put an epoxy paint down. That will seal in any type of odor that’s there.

    Now, as far as that bedroom is concerned, my fear is that they pulled up the nasty carpet, put down new carpet but didn’t fix the problem underneath. But if there was dog or cat activity on that floor underneath, it should have been primed with an oil-based primer.

    LESLIE: And it could be that the padding wasn’t replaced, as gross as that sounds. But I mean that’s a possibility; you never know that.

    But Tom is right. If you have an odor issue associated with the carpet, when you pull up that carpet, that subfloor, whatever it is, does have to be painted with an oil-based primer just pretty much to seal in whatever is there.

    Now, at this point, I hate to tell you you’ve got to go back down to that point and do it but that’s really probably going to be the only way. Because come cooler months, you’re not going to notice it as much but add moisture, high temps, humidity, you’re going to get that scent back again.

    So, it’s possible that the same piece of carpeting can be reused but I would definitely look into making sure that that padding was replaced. If not, do it – and painting that subfloor.

    TOM: I would think that the carpet could definitely be reused. You basically just have to pull it back up, pull the padding up. If the padding is not new, it should be replaced. And if it is new, just peel it back, prime that whole area of the floor and then put it back together. So you’ll need a carpet installer to help you with this, because it has to be tacked in properly. But you can absolutely do it without damaging the existing carpet, OK, Sue?

    SUSAN: OK. Can I use just any oil base or do I need to use like a …?

    TOM: I would use KILZ – K-I-L-Z – or B-I-N.

    SUSAN: OK. Oh, OK.

    TOM: As long as it’s oil-based, I think it will do a good job of sealing it out.

    SUSAN: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

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

    Well, have you ever been to a restaurant and sat under one of those giant sort of umbrella-shaped patio heaters?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Sure.

    TOM: You can do the same thing at home. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of them. They’re very, very affordable, they come in either a tabletop or a freestanding version. They range in price from probably around $100 on up. And they can run on propane, natural gas or even electric. And when you compare them to other heat sources, like fire pits, they actually produce fewer emissions.

    Now, most homeowners that are going to do this will choose, at least initially, one of the tabletop patio heaters. And we have one of those and we really do enjoy it. There are advantages to them: they are lighter, they are smaller, they are easier to carry around. And it’s much easier to replace a small canister of propane than it is a big one.

    LESLIE: True. Now, the freestanding patio heaters, they’re larger; they’re about 95 inches tall. But they’re also more powerful and they can actually heat a pretty decent-sized area.

    If you do choose a stationary heater, you can hook it up to your natural-gas line and then you won’t have all of those tanks that you’ve got to replace and refill, which can become kind of a nuisance. So that’s a really great benefit if you do have natural gas at your home.

    But if you do plan on moving the heater to different locations, a portable model is going to be the best option for you. And they really are a great addition to any outdoor space.

    TOM: Now, whatever you choose, a patio heater will definitely help you enjoy that outdoor living area much, much longer into the fall season. So, give it a shot if you’ve not had one yet. It really is a pleasure. Once you have a few nice dinners out there in the beautiful fall weather, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to pick one up.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sonya from Illinois on the line with a foundation question. What’s going on?

    SONYA: Well, I have a – I live in a two-story house with a basement underneath. And attached to that house is a garage and behind the garage is a family room.

    TOM: OK.

    SONYA: And the family room is on a crawlspace. Now, the foundation between the garage and the family room has shifted and cracked due to settling of the house.

    TOM: Alright. Sonya, let me stop you right there. What’s the crack look like? Is it vertical or horizontal?

    SONYA: Vertical, actually.

    TOM: OK.

    SONYA: But it goes down for quite a few of the cinder blocks.

    TOM: Blocks, blocks. OK. Is it hairline or is it opened up?

    SONYA: Part of it is opened up.

    TOM: Oh. And the rest of it’s hairline?

    SONYA: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: I wouldn’t worry too much about it. That’s a very typical kind of crack and it probably is from settlement.

    So I would do two things: first of all, I would seal the crack with a silicone caulk; secondly, I would reassess the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. Because if the soil around the outside of the house and the outside of the foundation is allowed to get overly wet – how would that happen? Well, if it’s flat, if the soil is sloped back to the house, if the gutters or the downspouts are overflowing or the downspouts are dropping a lot of water there, that tends to make the soil wet, which makes it weak, which makes the house settle. So I would just take a look and make sure that the soil is as stable and dry as possible. I would fix the crack and then I think that that probably will solve it.

    Now, if the crack continues to move after all of that and you have some pretty good evidence that it continues to move, then at that point – and only at that point – would I suggest bringing in a home inspector or a structural engineer to take another look. But if it’s a hairline to 1/8-inch or so crack, it’s not displaced, that’s probably pretty typical. That may have happened a long time ago, too. I don’t know if this is something that you’re recently noticing.

    SONYA: This is recent, because the door frame of the door between the garage and the family room actually shifted, also, to the point where we could not close the door.

    TOM: Listen, if you want to be absolutely sure that you don’t have an ongoing problem here with movement, you could have it looked at by a structural expert. But I would encourage you to make that expert not a contractor and here’s why: contractors are going to sell you a repair, whether you need it or not. You want to have it looked at by an independent professional that’s an engineer or a home inspector and then make a decision based on that advice.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got William in Florida on the line who’s got an insulation question. What can we do for you today?

    WILLIAM: Yes, I have a brick home that was built back in the 70s.

    TOM: OK.

    WILLIAM: There’s no insulation between the drywall and the brick.

    TOM: Right.

    WILLIAM: I was wondering, what would be the best way to do – would be to blow insulation in there, like cellulose or fiberglass? Or can I do foam or – without having to rip drywall off? I’m trying to find the easiest way to do that.

    TOM: So the brick wall forms both the interior and the exterior structural surface? There’s no studded wall in the …?

    WILLIAM: No, just the exterior. The interior is drywall.

    LESLIE: Right. Are there studs between the drywall and the brick?

    WILLIAM: Yeah.

    TOM: If there is studded wall between the drywall and the brick, then that studded wall would be filled with fiberglass insulation in the typical way. If you can’t access it, then you can blow in fiberglass or you could consider blowing in cellulose.

    That said, William, the most cost-effective place in your house to add any amount of insulation, even if you had no insulation in the exterior walls, is the attic. Because that is the main source of energy loss, both in the winter and in the summer. And so I would start up there and make sure that I have the right amount of insulation which, in your area, is going to probably be in the 15- to 20-inch range.

    You can learn more at EnergyStar.gov. They have a calculator there that will, based on zip code, tell you how much you need. I would start there and make sure I have that adequately insulated. And if you’ve got some time, energy and money left after that part of the project, then you can

    go ahead and think about adding the wall insulation.

    But the biggest energy savings will be to add to the attic first. Does that make sense?

    WILLIAM: Yeah, it does. What would be the best product for the walls: the cellulose or the fiberglass? Or does it matter?

    TOM: Either. I think either is fine, as long as it’s blown in. You may find that it’s a little bit easier to handle one or the other or one or the other might be more available in your area. But you would have – you’d pretty much have to use a blown-in at this point, because you’re not going to take your drywall down on the inside of your house.

    WILLIAM: OK. Alright. Well, thank you. Appreciate it.

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

    WILLIAM: Thank you. Bye.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, you can have the most beautiful house on the block but a shabby looking mailbox is going to be the first thing that people notice. We’re going to tell you how to step up your curb appeal with a brand-new box, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by American Craftsman, an Andersen company. Now enjoy 15-percent off special-order American Craftsman windows and patio doors at The Home Depot. Valid through September 26. See The Home Depot for details.

    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, do cooler temperatures have you wondering if your old heating system is going to make it through the winter? If so, head on over to our website at MoneyPit.com and search “heating and air-conditioning system repair or replace.” If you do, you’ll learn whether it’s time to update your system now, to reduce those energy costs ahead, just in time for those chilly days that are a-coming.

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

    BARBARA: We’re restoring my mother-in-law’s 130-year-old home. Not that she’s 130 but this home is.


    BARBARA: And I’m having a problem with the carpenter. I want to put in pocket doors and for some reason, he keeps telling me not to do that. He doesn’t want to do it. It’s not structural; it’s just he doesn’t want to do it.

    TOM: Yeah. And you know what, Barbara? I mean a pocket door is a lot of work. And maybe that’s why he’s trying to talk you out of it. It will be far more expensive than a normal door to install because, essentially, it’s not just a door; it’s a wall, too. You have to put in the pocket side of it in addition to the door side of it. And that means that you have to kind of re-drywall that whole section so that it truly is a disappearing door.

    That said, I’ve got a pocket door in my office and I love it because I don’t have room for the swing. And we’ve got a full-size, 30-inch by 72 or – I’m sorry, 30-inch by 80-inch door in this pocket that swings into the wall. But I remember the process of getting this thing in and it is a lot of work. So that might be why your contractor is a little reluctant to take it on.

    BARBARA: Do you have some words of wisdom I can share with him to encourage him to do that?

    TOM: Yeah, tell him to expand his horizons, that the customer is always right and you want your pocket door and you’re willing to pay for it, pay him to do it. And he’s probably working by the hour, “so stop whining and get to work.”

    LESLIE: And phrase it exactly like that. No, don’t.

    TOM: Just like that. “Stop whining and get to work.”

    BARBARA: I like it. That’s great.

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

    LESLIE: Well, the roadside mailbox at your driveway may be the first impression your house makes to visitors. And there are some very decorative and stylized options available now.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. But roadside mailboxes also need to be built tough to stand up. Between bad weather, snowfall, snow plows and the occasional more deliberate forms of vandalism, mailboxes can take a real beating.

    Here to teach us how to build a mailbox that can stand the test of time and everything else is landscaping contractor Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thank you. And I’ve got to tell you that this winter wreaked havoc on mailboxes in the New England area.

    TOM: I can only imagine. In New Jersey, as well, there were – seemed to be more laying down than standing up.

    ROGER: Between the snow that was pushed on top of them or the plows hitting them themselves, the lawns were literally littered with mailboxes in the spring.

    LESLIE: Once it all melted.

    TOM: Alright. So, Roger, let’s say the snow has melted and we saw the scattered remains of our formerly beautiful mailbox. We’ve got to put it back together or we’re going to build one right from scratch. The position of that mailbox is really important; it’s actually controlled by the federal government, correct?

    ROGER: It is very important but there’s one more step that is really super-important and that’s calling your utility-locating service.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: Now, you can reach them by dialing 811 nationwide.

    TOM: So, across the country, 811 works.

    ROGER: Right. And they’re going to come out and you have to give them 72 hours and they’ll mark out all the utilities in the street. So you’ll know that – where you can put in the mailbox and not hit, say, a gas line. Because taking your post-hole diggers and digging a hole in a gas line can ruin your whole day.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: And that’s really because the location of the mailbox is just on the perimeter of your property. And that’s, you know, really the property of the town/village/city. That’s where they put all those utilities for your home and everybody else’s.

    ROGER: Yep. That’s where all the lines tend to be.

    TOM: Now, once we’ve cleared that the lines are not there and we’re safe to dig, what’s the key to making sure that that mailbox can really stand up?

    ROGER: Well, first you have to consider that when you’re putting it in, that the federal government has regulations. They want that mailbox 41 to 45 inches high and they want it 8 inches back from the street. Once you have those measurements and you know where you’re going to put it, then you can decide what type of material you want to work with. There’s everything from plastic, wood or even wrought iron.

    TOM: Now, when you set that mailbox post, that’s really the first part here. Digging that hole, concrete? No concrete? Stone? What do you think?

    ROGER: Well, if it’s vulnerable to snow and a plow, I would say put concrete around it. If it’s not, just pack it in good gravel and it should be OK.

    LESLIE: How do you make sure that that post is square and standing up straight?

    ROGER: They make a special level – a fencepost level – that fits onto the board of the mailbox. And it’s great because you tie it, strap it onto the mailbox. Your hands are free and you can just look at it as you’re moving that post around and level it up very easily rather than taking the handheld and going from one side to the other. Makes short work of leveling up the post.

    TOM: Now, you mentioned the materials before. PVC is becoming very popular. Is that strong enough to stand up as a mailbox post?

    ROGER: You have to reinforce it a little bit. What we do is we either slide a 6×6, if it’s a 6×6 vinyl post, inside it and that’ll give it some strength. Or we fill it with concrete.

    TOM: Alright, Roger. And as a final tip, when we’ve got that new mailbox installed, any tips for landscaping around it?

    ROGER: I like to use some perennials around it or some real hardy annuals, because it’s going to be a high-traffic area.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: So you want to make sure whatever plans are there can withstand the traffic.

    TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit with a plan to build a mailbox that will never miss a letter, moving forward.

    ROGER: Hey, Tom, they have this new thing? It’s called e-mail.

    LESLIE: Alright. And now that Tom and Roger won’t be getting any mail this year, you can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on how you can install a new mailbox, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by Stanley Tools. Stanley, make something great.

    Up next, at some point in your life, you’re probably going to be faced with caring for an aging parent. If you add a few home improvements to make their house safer, well, that’s a good start. We’ll tell you how, after this.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. And one lucky caller is going to win this hour’s prize, which is the twin-size Therapedic Memory-Foam Mattress Topper worth 200 bucks. It’s actually 3 inches of memory foam that takes the pressure off your back. So give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. See? We can take the pain off your back and take a project off your back at the same time.

    LESLIE: Kerwin in Mississippi is on the line with a septic-system question. What’s going on over there?

    KERWIN: Hey. Comment allez-vous? We’ve got a situation. We bought a tax-sale property.

    TOM: OK.

    KERWIN: Paid 3,000 for a trailer that still had all the stuff in it from Katrina, so it was a mess; took a couple months to fix. And it was a 100×150 lot with a trailer and an addition on it, so it was a great deal.

    TOM: OK.

    KERWIN: My problem is when we went through the process of trying to get power turned on, which we have no – we’re really living off the grid. We have no water, no power.

    TOM: OK.

    KERWIN: And we’ve got a compost toilet. And the problem, when an inspector came out from the Health Department, was it should have been grandfathered in but they started hemming and hawing about it being – they changed the rules. Instead of it being 10 feet from the property line, now it’s got to be 25 feet. And ours sits at 22.

    TOM: OK.

    KERWIN: So, we’re dealing with the raw sewage with the compost toilet. We need to deal with the septic-system graywater. And I’ve been looking – and they also tried to say that, oh, it might be a wetland. Well, it – I actually found a …

    TOM: Still think it’s a good – still think it was a good deal?

    KERWIN: Actually, I do.

    TOM: OK. Alright. So what’s your question, Kerwin? Is it the septic inspector – the health inspector is telling you you can’t put in a septic system? Is that right? Is that what it is?

    KERWIN: We’ve actually – we can’t get anybody from – we had an engineer come out and he said there doesn’t seem to be a problem.

    TOM: OK.

    KERWIN: They told me I had to – they referred me to an engineer. I got one to come out and now I can’t get a septic company to even come out and repair it. He said all it needs is repair.

    TOM: OK.

    KERWIN: So, I’m in a bind. So I looked for grants. I’ve thought of moving it myself.

    TOM: What’s the job that actually has to be done? What’s the repair?

    KERWIN: I think if we can find a way – if there’s a source or information on doing a graywater system, we can get by.

    TOM: First of all, you did the right thing by involving an engineer. The engineer will – his opinion will basically supersede that from the Health Department. The engineer is recommending a repair. The first thing I would do is ask the engineer if they can give you a referral to somebody that does this kind of work, aside from the two guys that you’ve been calling over and over and over again. I can’t believe there’s only two guys in this area that do this sort of work.

    I would not try to change the entire way you’re putting this system together just because you can’t get a contractor out there that does this. I mean I would place an ad on Craigslist to find a contractor or some other online directory, rather than change my approach, to basically redesign the system. If the health inspector says you get an engineer and the engineer says it’s repairable, let the engineer – put the engineer in charge of the project. Let them find somebody that does this.

    Yeah, you want to find somebody that can – has some credibility with the guys that are doing the work, that wants to get more work for them. You’re just kind of one and done but if you have your engineer that’s doing this all the time maybe GC the project for you, maybe that engineer can help you identify a contractor that’s going to be responsible and reliable. Even if it costs you a little bit more, it’s going to be less than trying to redesign the entire system. And if you get it done right, then you can get the power moved in and kind of move on your way.

    So that’s the way I would approach it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, we hear more and more homeowners telling us that they are staying put in their home as long as they can. I know I am. So if that’s your plan, as well, or maybe you’ve got an aging parent, it’s wise to plan for the future in your home’s design.

    Now, a home that’s perfectly suitable for you now might not work for you when you’re a senior.

    TOM: Now, you can add value to your home by applying the principals of universal design. Sterling, one of the proud Money Pit sponsors, actually has a great product that can help in one of the most dangerous places for differently abled people and that is the shower or the bathtub.

    You know, slip-and-falls are common there and having a safe and comfortable seat can make that area a lot easier to use. Sterling makes the Accord Seated Shower, which is nice because it’s a wide shower that features a movable and actually a removable seat. And it can be installed in most existing shower alcoves.

    The Accord also offers grab bars, which can give Mom or Dad something to hang onto while getting in and out of that shower.

    LESLIE: And you know what? I think this is really important. They’re also very pretty, so you don’t end up having that hospital look that you sometimes see with other universally designed showers. So check them on out. I promise you’ll like what you see. It’s the Sterling website is where you want to go and it’s SterlingPlumbing.com.

    TOM: That’s SterlingPlumbing.com.

    LESLIE: Lotus in California is on the line with a sliding-door question. How can we help you today?

    LOTUS: Well, I’m very interested in finding out how to make my sliding-glass door – we have two of them but one of them gets a lot of usage. And all of a sudden, it’s just almost impossible to open and close.

    TOM: OK.

    LOTUS: So rather than replacing it, is there a way that I can fix it and not spend the money in replacing the door?

    TOM: Well, why is it hard to open and close it? Is it dragging on the bottom?

    LOTUS: It seems to be dragging on the bottom and it’s the last 4 or 5 inches when I try to close it that is really hard to push.

    TOM: So, if you look along the bottom of the sliding part of the door, there’s usually some pegs or plastic buttons that cover the wheel mechanism that’s under the door. And if you pop those out, sometimes you can stick in a screwdriver or an Allen wrench and adjust the height of the wheels. The wheels under the door move up and down and with a couple of clicks of a screwdriver or an Allen wrench, you could move those wheels.

    If those are accessible, you may try raising the door a bit to get it up off the ground. Because they may have worn and now the door bottom is actually dragging across the aluminum sill. But if you make the wheels a little deeper, you’ll get that clearance again. That’s the first thing I would try.

    LOTUS: I see, I see. So it’s a matter of pushing those up so that the door sits up higher, is what you’re telling me.

    TOM: Correct. That’s it.

    LOTUS: OK. I got it. Good. Well, thank you for your help.

    TOM: 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. Up next, a flat-screen TV can be a showpiece if it’s mounted on the wall and it’s mounted the right way. If you mount it the wrong way, however, you could actually damage your TV and your wall. What a mess. We’re going to teach you the right way, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by American Craftsman. Right now at The Home Depot, special-order American Craftsman windows, patio doors and accessories are 15-percent off. Whether you’re replacing your windows, adding a new room or building a new home, American Craftsman, an Andersen company, offers products for your project at an unparalleled value. Quality, energy efficiency, low maintenance and even better, great value. American Craftsman windows, patio doors and accessories now 15-percent off at The Home Depot. Valid through September 26, U.S. only. See store for details.

    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.

    Hey, you guys, we love that you love The Money Pit. You guys write in to us, you ask us questions, you’re always super-happy and thankful to be part of The Money Pit community. Well, we want you to not forget to “like” us on Facebook.

    It’s going to open the door to the best home improvement advice around, plus you’re going to learn about our exclusive, weekly prize giveaways; you’re going to get instant access to the newest Money Pit shows, articles and videos; and you’re going to get priority access to have your questions answered right here on the radio show. So go to Money Pit’s site today and click the Facebook icon and then you are a friend of ours on Facebook.

    TOM: And you know what? We’ve been running a lot of promotions on Facebook where we’re giving away tons and tons of prizes. I mean we gave away a whole bunch of tools this summer from Black & Decker, we gave away a whole bunch of cooling products at the end of the summer. So, something is happening there all the time. That’s at MoneyPit.com. Just click on the Facebook icon and you can be part of the whole excitement that’s going on online with us.

    LESLIE: Alright. And you can post your question, just like Janie in Virginia did and she writes: “I’m about to get my husband a large, flat-screen TV.” Alright. That’s a nice present. “My question is whether any wall can hold a wall-mount television. Do I need any special equipment to make sure it’s not going to fall off?”

    TOM: First thing I say: “What a gal,” you know?

    LESLIE: Seriously.

    TOM: Taking care of getting that flat-screen for your husband.

    So, listen, Janie, to install it – a flat-screen TV – the good news is they’re actually a lot lighter than the old-fashioned TVs. So they don’t need a lot of wall strength but they do need at least one or two studs. And fortunately, behind every wall, you’re going to find, within the width of the traditional flat-screen TV, at least two studs that you can catch.

    Now, the flat-screen TV is either going to come with or you’re going to have to buy the bracket that’s used to hang it. And the bracket is going to have multiple holes and allow you to kind of find that first stud, then measure over probably 16 inches to the second one. Once you get a couple of studs on this bracket, you put a screw up high, a screw down low and you’re pretty much good to go.

    So the trick here is to actually find what’s behind the wall and you can do that with a stud finder. There are lots and lots of different versions. They’re not very expensive and they’re available at home centers and hardware stores. And actually, it is a pretty easy project to do.

    Now, the other part of it though, Leslie, is hiding the wires. You have a couple of tricks of trade on that.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And also, keep in mind that there are certain mounts for certain types of televisions. So make sure that the mount you pick is compatible to the TV.

    Now, you’re going to end up with a whole host of wires that will then be hanging down from the TV, going to wherever you’ve got the cable box. So a couple of a different things. Some people get super-savvy and the TV happens to be hanging in front of a wall that’s got a closet behind it, if that makes sense, in the room behind it. And they put the cable boxes and whatnot in there and drill holes and pull all the wires through. If you’ve got that, great. Most of us don’t.

    So what you can do is you can either – there’s a cord cover, which is essentially a piece that snaps over the cordings and you paint it the same color as the wall. It almost acts as a little case. It’s something you screw onto the wall first and then snap over all of your cables. You can build a little U-shaped channel. You don’t have to get so fancy. There’s a lot of stuff ready to purchase on the market. The key is painting it the same color as the wall and then keeping everything tidy going from all of your other components to, say, your surround-sound speakers. Because if you’re buying all of this for your husband, I can only imagine that a surround-sound system is going to be the next request.

    TOM: It’s kind of viral: once you buy the first thing, it just grows and grows and grows and grows.

    LESLIE: Alright, Janie. I hate to tell you this. I feel like you’ve opened Pandora’s box because now you’ve got the awesome TV, your next step is going to be the surround-sound system. I can only imagine where this is going and how many cables you will eventually have to hide. But enjoy that new TV.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Hope we gave you some opportunities to kick off the fall season with a few easy home improvement projects that you can tackle in the months ahead.

    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 2012 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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