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How to Hire a Plumber, Building a Safe Room, Staining Projects Made Easy, and more

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here for you, to help you with your summer home improvement projects. So take a look around the yard, maybe in the morning while it’s cool, and then plan your day. We know there’s something you want to get done. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you take that first step. Too hot outside to work? Well, lots of inside projects can get done in the summer, as well. Just give us a call and we will get going together, 888-666-3974.

    Well, speaking of summer, as we’ve already seen, those summer storms, including tornados, strike fast and without much warning. They can be totally devastating. So, we thought, “Hey, are you prepared?” Well, you may not be. So this hour, we’re going to talk about what we can all learn from the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma.

    LESLIE: And have you ever found yourself in need of a plumber, like immediately? Finding a good plumber is really important but even more difficult when you’ve got an emergency situation. We’re going to tell you how to find a competent pro the easy way.

    TOM: And have you ever wondered if you’re able to get the best deal for your utilities? You might be able to do something about it. In fact, in some parts of the country, homeowners actually have the choice in terms of which company supplies their power. We’re going to tell you how to use that power of choice to lower your energy costs.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, one caller is going to get a fabulous, time-saving, new way to cook dinner. We’ve got a new Frigidaire Professional Convection Oven up for grabs and it’s worth $150.

    TOM: And we’re going to give that convection oven away to one caller that has the courage, the fortitude, the bravery to pick up the phone and call us and say, “Hey, I need help with my home improvement project.”

    The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We will draw one name out of The Money Pit hard hat from those that reach us for today’s program and send out, perhaps, that Frigidaire Professional Convection Oven to you worth 150 bucks. So, let’s get started, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: We’ve got Terri in Pennsylvania on the line who’s got a gutter issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    TERRI: I have white aluminum gutters and on the gutters that face the southern exposure, the part of the gutter that faces out is turning black and there’s like – where the water runs off it, it’s like a dark gray and just water drips all along the face of the gutter.

    TOM: Right. So does it seem like the gutters are overflowing and the water is coming over the top and getting these sort of drip marks? Is that what’s going on?

    TERRI: Well, yeah. I have what’s called a “gutter insert” to keep the leaves out. And I know that – well, I’m pretty sure that that’s not causing it, because I had the same problem when I lived on Long Island. And it was only the gutters that faced south and on Long Island, we had a white aluminum top to the gutter to keep the leaves out?

    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.

    TERRI: And then the water would roll off of that and then go into the – it would be caught into the gutter. So, it’s a different type of leaf system but I’m still having the same black drip.

    TOM: Right. OK. So, first of all, I would make sure that the gutters are not blocked and that water isn’t backing up and overflowing that particular gutter, so that – because that water rolling over the top of it, it can get behind it, it can rot out your fascia.

    The dark stains are probably from the water and tree sap and everything else that gets into those gutters. The gutters also fade quite easily; the paint wears off and fades quite easily. So I don’t think it’s a stain that you’re going to actually have to be able to clean. I think what you’re going to end up having to do here, Terri, is repaint those gutters.

    So what I would do is I would wash them down with a trisodium phosphate, get as much of that gunk off. Then I would prime them and I would paint them again. But just – but do make sure that they’re not clogged, because that could be leading to the problem.

    TERRI: But yeah – no, they’re definitely not clogged. And I tried scrubbing it – the ones that aren’t on the second story, where it’s worse. But the ones that are on the first story, I tried cleaning it with a Fantastik and it bleeds into the stain a little bit but I didn’t realize that the aluminum gutters – was it like a hydrostatic or electrostatic painting process?

    TOM: What happens is – and you’ll see this: if you take the gutter and you wipe your hand over it, you’ll probably get some white paint that will come off. It oxidizes because it’s exposed to UV. And so then the paint doesn’t tend to last more than maybe 10 years or so on aluminum gutters.

    So I think, though, if you clean off as much of this thing as you can, prime it and paint it, it’ll look great.

    TERRI: Alright. Great. I’ll give it a try.

    LESLIE: Ed in Minnesota is on the line and needs some help getting his deck ready for summer. What can we do for you?

    ED: Yeah. I’m needing to restain my deck. Wondering what the proper prep is for that and what – most of all, what the moisture content should be before a guy stains.

    TOM: That’s a great question. Is this an older deck? Something that you had on for a number of years?

    ED: It is. And it’s a pine – 2×6-type pine wood.

    TOM: OK. So, the most important thing is that you clean the deck thoroughly before you stain it. You need to make sure you get rid of any mildew or algae. And you can use a mildicide to do that – a product like Wet & Forget or another mildicide – to clean any debris that’s off that deck.

    You asked an important question about moisture content. We’d like to see the deck be a few days without rain, or certainly without it being sort of washed down, so that the new stain or finish absorbs properly. One little, quick test that you can do is if you put a cup of water on the deck and it all gets absorbed pretty quickly, then it’s probably OK to go ahead and stain it. And this way, the stain will really bite down into that.

    When it comes to the stain, you’re going to have choices of clear, semi-transparent or solid color. You’ll find that if you use a solid-color stain, you’re going to get a lot more pigment. And it’s going to stay that color for a lot longer than if you use a semi-transparent, which tends to show the grain of the wood through a little bit more. But frankly, with a flat grain like pine, it’s not going to make that big of a difference. So I would recommend solid color.

    ED: That answers my question.

    TOM: Terrific. 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, the calendar says it: it’s officially summer. And let us help you get your money pit, and the yard around your money pit, in tip-top shape for prime summer relaxing. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: And summer means it’s also severe-storm season. Do you know what to do if a severe storm is heading your way? We’re going to tell you, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by DeWALT. DeWALT’s new rugged and innovative line of mechanics tools is so tough, DeWALT is proud to back them with a full lifetime warranty. When there’s a tough job to get done, rely on a trusted name. Rely on DeWALT. Available at Sears. For more information, visit DeWALT.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now. 888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number, 888-666-3974. We’re going to answer your home improvement question and perhaps you will be the lucky caller who gets a new Frigidaire Professional Convection Oven. We’ve got one to give away. It’s the ultimate, time-saving way to whip up a gourmet meal with a large oven space that uses infrared technology to heat up evenly and quickly.

    It’s worth $150. It’s available at Target through the end of June but you can check it out at Frigidaire.com or call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’ve got to have a home improvement question. We will answer it and put your name into The Money Pit hard hat and perhaps you’ll win that oven from Frigidaire. So let’s get to it, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Pam in Missouri is on the line and has a question about installing a dimmer, a great do-it-yourself project. How can we help you, Pam?

    PAM: I have a room that has fluorescent lighting in it and there’s two entries into that room. So there’s a light switch on each door, so it’s a two-way switch. Can I put a sensor on that so that when you walk in and walk out, the lights come on and go off?

    TOM: Are you asking me if you can? Can you put a sensor on that?

    PAM: Yes.

    TOM: Is your concern that you want the lights to come on automatically or is your concern that you don’t want people to leave the lights on when no one is in the room?

    PAM: Both.

    TOM: Well, I guess you could use an occupancy-sensor switch there but you would need to set it in vacancy mode, not occupancy mode. See, in occupancy mode, the light comes on when there’s motion. So if you had a three-way, what could happen is you walk in the room, the switch closest to you picks up your motion, turns the lights on. You continue halfway through the room until the one on the other side picks it up and turns the lights off, so that wouldn’t work too well.

    A better option might be to just replace one side of it – just one of the switches – with an occupancy sensor but set it in what’s called the “vacancy mode.” So what that means is you manually turn the light switch on but if there’s no motion in the room, it will automatically go off.

    So we use these, for example, in the bedrooms upstairs at our house because kids turn lights on but as we all know, kids don’t turn the lights off. So, if you set it in the vacancy mode, they can turn the lights on but then they’ll go off, depending on the period of monitoring you set. They’ll either go off 1, 5, 15 or 30 minutes later.

    PAM: Oh, OK. Alright. That would work. Thank you.

    TOM: Hope that helps you out and thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Olen in North Carolina on the line who needs some help with a radiant floor-system project. Tell us what you’re working on. Are you doing this yourself?

    OLEN: Yeah, I am a do-it-yourselfer kind of guy and I’m going to just do the rough end of the tubing myself. I’m going to leave the pumps and whatnot to the professionals. But it’s sort of smart to let the – to have somebody to do the hard stuff for you. But I figure I can do the tubing myself.

    And my question regards the choice between PEX and Onix tubing and about cost-effectiveness.

    TOM: OK.

    OLEN: And which one is more appropriate for my region? I’m in North Carolina.

    LESLIE: Well, what type of subfloor are you working with?

    OLEN: I’m going to be working on my existing, open floor joists and 16-inch centers, so I’ve got plenty of space under there to staple up either the aluminum plates or to put up the rubberized Onix material.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And what’s going to be your flooring?

    OLEN: Above it, I will have a hardwood floor and in some areas, I’m going to be putting down the cement board and tile on top.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, when you’re dealing with radiant flooring with hardwood, you have to make sure that the certain type of hardwood you buy is appropriate for radiant. And it depends on the way the graining is cut. And I forget exactly what it’s called but you have to make sure you buy the correct type of grain, the way the piece of flooring for the wood itself is cut. Otherwise, you’re going to get a lot of shifting and movement just due to the nature of the heating.

    OLEN: Right. I hear that the PEX tends to cause a little bit more expansion and contraction in the tubing itself. And my floor is actually existing pine floor; it’s only a certain area where I’ll be putting in the cement board and the tile.

    TOM: Well, look, I think that either product, as long as it’s installed consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions, is going to be fine. PEX is really the more common, known product for this and we’ve seen it in many, many houses. PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene. Onix is cross-linked EPDM, so it’s another formulation for a radiant-tubing product.

    Personally, I would use PEX only because it seems to have the history. I know that Onix was used a lot on outdoor applications for snow melting and that sort of thing. But because it’s inside the house and because it’s got such a great reputation, I would use PEX. And I have seen PEX become very, very indestructible when it comes to its ability to work with all sorts of conditions inside the house.

    In fact, I saw a demonstration once. One thing that’s cool about PEX is the memory that it has. You can heat this stuff and stretch it to twice its length and let it go and it goes back to its original shape. So it retains its original shape.

    So it’s a pretty impressive product and I think it’s got the history. And that’s what I think I would trust if I was going to go radiant in my house.

    OLEN: OK. Well, thank you.

    TOM: Well, after seeing the devastation that was left by the massive tornado that tore through Moore, Oklahoma this past spring, we thought it would be a very good time to review the best way to prepare your family for such a disaster.

    Now, your best bet for survival is riding it out underground. To do that, you need a designated meeting place, perhaps in your basement, that your entire household is aware of. It really should be free of debris and anything flammable.

    It’s also a good idea to keep an old, fresh transistor radio down there because this way, you can keep up with the progress of the storm if the cell towers go down.

    LESLIE: Now, if you don’t have a basement or even if you do, for that matter, another option is to build a tornado storm shelter. Now, FEMA has a free guide book to tell you how to do it or you can purchase ready-to-assemble kits.

    Tornado shelters, they’re designed to protect you from an F5 tornado and architecturally can be blended into your home to serve a dual purpose. You can get one that doubles as a master-bedroom closet or even your garage.

    TOM: But really, the most important thing that we can all learn from the folks in Moore, Oklahoma is that people there listened to the warnings and took them seriously. Otherwise, it would have been an even more tragic event than it was.

    The tornado there was rare. It was so large, the call went out to evacuate. People understood that their lives were worth more than their homes and those who could got out fast. And thousands could have perished if they didn’t.

    So, one way we can honor the people of Moore is by following their example. In severe weather, be prepared, pay attention and act.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dwayne in Arkansas on the line who’s got a chimney issue. How can we help you?

    DWAYNE: I have a rock chimney, probably about 30 years old. It’s about 6 foot by 4 foot on the outside. The inside flue is about 16 inches by 18 inches and the top part is capped off with mortar.

    And over the years, that mortar has cracked and somebody has come in and put a – that sealer on top of it, like comes in a gallon or 5-gallon bucket: the black roof sealer? The sealer that often – it’s done a good job but I’m afraid if I have a chimney fire, that stuff might melt and catch on fire and run down and catch the house on fire.

    TOM: Well, if you have a chimney fire, Dwayne, you’re going to have a bigger problem than this. Because a chimney fire is super-hot and can burn your whole house down.

    DWAYNE: Right.

    TOM: So I wouldn’t worry about it melting. But it wasn’t the best thing to do to the mortar. The right thing to do when you have cracking and chipping of that chimney area is you want to replace the mortar between the liner and the outside of the chimney.

    DWAYNE: Right.

    TOM: So that crown has to be broken off and then replaced. And it’s not that big of a deal. I mean you can go up there with a mason’s hammer and break it off in chunks; it’ll come off pretty easily. And then lay in a new crown around it and just make that slope go from the liner out.

    If it’s got a couple of cracks in it, you can always caulk it to kind of buy you some time. But replacing that chimney crown is really the easiest thing to do. That plus adding a cap to it – a chimney cap – can help try to keep that water out, as well.

    DWAYNE: Yeah. I didn’t know. I have about a ½-inch of the flue still sticking up. I didn’t know if they made some kind of a mortar-type substance that I could put over the top of what’s there.

    TOM: I would not put it on top of that asphalt. I would – at this point, I would take all the asphalt out.

    See, here’s what’s wrong with the asphalt patch is that the water is going to get under that. And it can still deteriorate the mortar and it can freeze and break and really wreak havoc on that chimney. So I would pull that old stuff out and just replace that chimney crown. It’s not a difficult job to do.

    DWAYNE: Alright. I thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Kirk in California on the line who’s dealing with a patio issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    KIRK: I have a 1974 house. And in the back, I have a patio that I believe was probably poured in the 70s, too. It’s approximately 20×14, cordoned off into about 6 quads separated by 2x4s.

    And under the eaves, with the little bit of rain we get, and along the main walkways, it’s kind of getting worn down a little bit. And I wanted to know how to preserve that.

    TOM: OK. So, first of all, in terms of the patio itself, if the surface is wearing off, you can use an epoxy patching compound on that surface. QUIKRETE makes a whole bunch of products that are designed just for that. You want to make sure you choose a product that’s designed to stick to concrete and one that’s designed to be a patch. Because if you try to use any type of just regular concrete or mortar, it just won’t stick well. It might look good for a week and it’ll start to chip and break apart, so you want to use one that’s really going to adhere very, very well.

    KIRK: OK. But how about with the epoxy? Will it still give it the original look?

    TOM: Actually, if you do it to the whole patio, it’ll look like a completely new patio. It will be actually quite attractive. You can get it in different colors, as well, OK?

    KIRK: OK. I’ll try that. OK. Thanks so much.

    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, having a plumbing emergency is bad enough. Now, not knowing how to hire a plumber is even worse. This Old House plumbing expert Richard Trethewey is going to tell us how to find a pro, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: Starting an outdoor staining project? Make it faster and easier with Flood Wood Care products. Start today at Flood.com/Simplify and use the interactive selection guide to find the right Flood Wood Care products for your project. Flood, simple across the board.

    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: Would you like to know one of the most important keys to avoiding major and expensive home repairs? It’s very simple: just clean your gutters. Log on to MoneyPit.com, check out our gutter-cleaning tips and you won’t get caught spending needless money on home repairs.

    The scope of home defects that can happen because of clogged gutters is a very long list: cracked foundations, slippery sidewalks, wet basements, flooded crawlspaces, you name it. Don’t let it happen to you. Go to MoneyPit.com, get the information. Just search for “gutter-cleaning tips.”

    LESLIE: Alright. Gene in Tennessee is up with a roofing problem. Tell us what’s going on.

    GENE: About 12 years ago, I built me a screened-in porch on my house. I’ve got a ranch-type house.

    TOM: OK.

    GENE: And I used the metal clips – the little hangers – to hang my rafters. And I went in beside of my rafters coming off my existing house and it only gives me a 1-inch drop per foot. And I had a little trouble with it leaking and so I had the regular asphalt shingles put on and it leaks.

    So, when I had my new roof put on about two years ago, I – seven years ago, I roofed the house and they recommended I put a rubber roof on a 10×30 addition to my house so the water would run off regular. And here, recently, about two years ago, I had one of the new shingles put on my roof. And I noticed that while I was up there, that the rubber seems to be kindly breaking down a little.

    TOM: OK. So, a couple of things. First of all, you have a low-slope roof. You originally had asphalt shingles on that, which was a mistake because asphalt shingles, you really need at least like a 3:12 pitch to put those on. If you’ve got a 1:12 pitch, that’s not enough.

    So now you replaced that with a rubber roof, which was the right thing to do. But now you’re seeing the rubber roof start to crack. So your question is: “How do I stop that? How do I protect it? How do I preserve it?” Correct?

    GENE: Yeah, well, I want to add a few more. It was guaranteed 10 years but it’s about 7 years old now and I want to make it last a little longer, yeah. Some kind of coating?

    TOM: So what you want is simply roof paint. Now, roof paint is a very specialized type of paint. It’s usually aluminum in color and sometimes they call it “fibrous aluminum.” And what it does, it has a high degree of UV reflectivity, so it reflects the UV from the sun back out again. And that keeps the roof cooler and makes it last longer.

    So, I would definitely give it a coat of roof paint. And if you go to a home center or a roofing-supply center and look for roof paint, you shouldn’t have any problem finding it. It’s very, very specialized. And we’re not talking about the kind of paint you put on your walls; it’s a roofing product. OK?

    GENE: OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, the plumbing system is something that most consumers pay very little attention to unless, of course, it breaks down.

    TOM: Definitely. And when that happens, you need it fixed, you need it fixed fast and usually to stop the water from flowing where it shouldn’t be. So, even though the water could be streaming through your ceiling, how do you keep a clear head and hire a plumber that can get the job done fairly and fast?

    Joining us now are two experts who know a lot about that topic. On the phone, we have Angie Hicks – she is the founder of Angie’s List, a website devoted to helping consumers find the best professionals for their projects and service needs – and Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Angie.

    ANGIE: Thanks for having me on the show.

    TOM: And welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hey, there. How are you doing?

    TOM: We’re doing well.

    Richard, let’s start with you. First off, plumbers have specialties, don’t they? I mean how do you make sure you find the right guy for the particular projects that you have?

    RICHARD: Well, there are good general practitioners but we also tend to see there are guys that just do remodeling. They’re used to going into these old houses and fighting their way into existing buildings. There are guys that just do commercial work and we call those “poodle kickers” because you wouldn’t ever want them to be at the residential house.

    TOM: Poodle kickers?

    RICHARD: Because they would quietly kick the poodle when the homeowner wasn’t looking. They’re not used to being in the …

    TOM: They don’t like people.

    RICHARD: Right.

    LESLIE: The finesses.

    RICHARD: They’re not used to doing it in the residential environment.

    And then there are HVAC mechanical guys. So you really want to start with – “What am I trying to do? Am I trying to just repair something? Am I trying to do a full remodel? Am I trying to add a whole new mechanical system?” And find the right person.

    TOM: Now, Angie, let’s go to you. It seems that many times, the need to hire a plumber is not optional. It’s more of an emergency like when a pipe breaks. Are consumers more likely to make a hiring mistake when that kind of thing happens?

    ANGIE: Hiring under an emergency situation is sometimes a disaster waiting to happen. Because all too often, we are overwhelmed by the experience that we end up hiring without doing our normal due diligence. So, some of my best advice is suggesting, hey, find a plumber that you can work with before you actually need it, because emergencies happen at the darndest times.

    I had an experience over the summer where I had friends visiting for the weekend and the ejector pump on my toilet went out in my basement. And unfortunately, the last thing anyone wants is to find out that their guests are plunging their toilet, you know? There’s nothing less inviting than that. And then you’re ending up scrambling to have someone come out and do that so – to get it fixed.

    So, do your research ahead of time so that you’re prepared when the inevitable happens.

    LESLIE: Richard, I think when it comes to hiring a plumber, there’s really some specialized questions that you need to ask. So, how is it different when you’re looking for a plumber than when asking for a different type of pro?

    RICHARD: Well, I grew up with the – a sign in our office and at home that said, “The plumber protects the health of the nation.” It’s an old saying that we’ve lived by and so, with that, we come – we have this trust to bring clean water and to make sure the sewage goes away.

    So there’s heavy licensure. You have to be licensed. Even becoming an apprentice nowadays is much harder. We’re also the guys that are working with gas and there’s safety issues with gas. And so, we are heavily educated because we have to be and we’re licensed. So, I think it’s – with that comes a price in order to get a good guy or girl.

    TOM: Well, absolutely. And that licensing requirement – yes, let’s not leave the ladies out.

    RICHARD: Thank you.

    TOM: That licensing requirement really is a big commitment on your part to make that happen. And that really does protect the consumer, right?

    RICHARD: That’s right. We have to – we have apprentices that have to be three years of working there, 300 or 400 hours of schooling and then they can stand for their journeyman test. And then they can go and do another year or more and get their masters. And so that’s a difficult process.

    You have to work as an apprentice below real market rate and so – and even then, to really be good at it, it takes a long time to know the tricks of this – like any industry, it takes a while. Just getting your license is not enough; you still have to be in it to have the experience to do it well.

    TOM: Let’s talk about the – what it costs to hire a plumber. How do plumbers charge for their services? Is it always by the hour or does it really depend on the project?

    ANGIE: They can range a wide variety, whether it be garbage disposals that don’t work because we decide to put things in garbage disposals that just shouldn’t go there. Sump pumps. Sump pumps are those silent friends. You think they’re always working perfectly for you until the day they don’t and your basement’s full of water.

    Clogged sinks. I mean that’s probably the most common thing we hear. And people think, “Oh, that’s a do-it-yourself kind of project. I can get some drain cleaner and fix that.” But a lot of times, you really want to call a professional and make sure that drain is cleared well so that you don’t potentially cause additional damage.

    And then one of my favorites is the overflowing toilet. No one likes it when the toilet doesn’t work. So, that’s probably one of the more dreaded experiences.

    LESLIE: Because so many projects for a plumbing situation really seem to be answering an emergency, Richard, is it good to have a plumber sort of in your pocket – one that you’ve got a relationship with and that you trust – prior to any of these things going wrong?

    RICHARD: If you want to sleep at night – and most people have this: they have a plumber that is their plumber. And this …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You have a good bond with your plumber.

    RICHARD: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: I feel like you get a good relationship.

    RICHARD: Our family business has been around since 1902. We’re now dealing with fourth and fifth generations of families that we’ve maintained their plumbing and it’s sort of a trust that we have together. You want to have somebody you know, somebody you can trust that’s going to be there. And it’s better to have that relationship before the emergency because once you start dialing in the phone book at night – and people don’t know you’re not going to get the same response as you would from somebody that you already had an established relationship with.

    TOM: Great advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House, and Angie Hicks, the founder of AngiesList.com, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and teaching us how to find and hire a good plumber.

    Richard?

    RICHARD: Great to see you.

    TOM: And Angie, thanks so much.

    ANGIE: Thank you.

    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.

    And for help finding a great pro to tackle your projects, visit AngiesList.com.

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by Angie’s List. Get reviews you can trust, on Angie’s List.

    Coming up next, did you know you might have a choice in terms of which company provides the energy for your home? We’ll explain how to take advantage of that option and save some money, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: It’s a battle we all fight: cost versus comfort. But now you can end the struggle. With Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating systems, you’ll enjoy ultimate comfort while dramatically reducing energy costs. Mitsubishi’s eco-comfort technology gives you single-room control so you don’t have to pay to cool or heat areas you aren’t using. These units also filter allergens. And there’s no ductwork, so a contractor can install them in less than a day. End your battles with high energy costs, at MitsubishiComfort.com. Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating, live better.

    ANNOUNCER: As an Orkin man, I know how to bait for ants. Based on your home, I might use liquids or gels or granules. I know to bait with protein in the spring and sugar in the fall. I can find them when they’re outside in the ground and when they’ve decided to move in and nest in the walls. Every colony has a queen but I know every queen can be dethroned. Orkin, pest control down to a science. Visit OrkinMan.com to get guaranteed pest control.

    ANNOUNCER: Getting ready to stain your deck, fence or other outdoor wood? Make your staining project faster and easier with Flood Wood Care products. At Flood.com/Simplify, there’s an interactive selection guide to help you find the right Flood Wood Care products for your project. Plus, you can watch straightforward how-to videos that will show you how to apply Flood Wood Care products and print a supply checklist to take with you to the store. Get started today, at Flood.com/Simplify. Flood, simple across the board.

    ANNOUNCER: For more than a century, the same question has been asked: “Who left the lights on? Who? You?” It has been shouted by aggravated parents since the invention of the light bulb. But with the Lutron Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch, which turns on the lights when you enter a room and off when you leave, this question will never be asked again. Learn more at LutronSensors.com. Save more, shout less. Available from your local home center, lighting showroom or electrical professional.

    ANNOUNCER: DeWALT heavy-duty ratchets outperform the competition with three times the life of standard ratchets. Available in ¼-inch, 3/8-inch and ½-inch drives, the DeWALT heavy-duty ratchets feature a 72-tooth gear system. Their slim design, anti-slip handle grooves and a low-profile directional lever allow for maximum control and maneuverability in the tightest of spaces. Backed by a full lifetime warranty, DeWALT mechanics tools are available at Sears. For more information, visit DeWALT.com.

    ANNOUNCER: For contractors and do-it-yourselfers alike, Sakrete has a full line of premium concrete, mortar and stucco mixes, along with maintenance and repair products for concrete and asphalt. Sakrete has over 75 years of expertise helping people with their concrete projects. Whether you’re laying a new concrete slab, repairing cracked concrete or resurfacing concrete, Sakrete has the products to help you get the job done quicker and easier. Visit Sakrete.com to watch our how-to videos and for easy-to-use project-material calculators. When tackling any project type, trust Sakrete, the pro’s choice since 1936.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by DeWALT. DeWALT’s new rugged and innovative line of mechanics tools are so tough, DeWALT is proud to back them with a full lifetime warranty. When there’s a tough job to get done, rely on a trusted name. Rely on DeWALT. Available at Sears. For more information, visit DeWALT.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Taking your calls at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a Professional Convection Oven by Frigidaire. It’s got a sleek, stainless-steel design, requires no pre-heat time at all and it’s big enough that you can cook a 12-slice pizza or toast 6 slices of bread.

    Worth $150 and is available at Target through the end of June. But you can see it online at Frigidaire.com or pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    Well, many of us spend a large percentage of our household budgets on our energy bill. But did you know that in many parts of the country, you may have the power to choose the utility company that supplies the energy that powers your home? And that’s a very good thing because any time there’s competition for your business, it leads to savings and even more eco-friendly options.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, it used to be that a single utility company made or acquired the energy, whether it was natural gas or electric, and then they sold that energy to you. But deregulation means that your local utility company might just deliver that energy, and you can actually shop around for the best price from another company to purchase that natural gas or electric.

    Now, there’s a few things to keep in mind and we learned about them from Michael Meath from the American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers.

    MICHAEL: What’s the term for? In other words, how long are you making a purchase decision? Is it for a month at a time? Is it over a season? Is it over a year? Is it over multiple years? That’s number one.

    Number two, is there anything at all different about the commodity and what might come with the commodity? Is there another service that comes with it? Is there anything else that differentiates it? Get that in very plain English from that supplier.

    Number three, understand what you can do to get out of the deal. Can you just walk away at any time?

    LESLIE: Also, consider the billing method, the source of the electric or gas and if there’ll be any lag time once you make that switch.

    TOM: For more information and some great questions to ask yourself before shopping around, visit CompetitiveEnergy.org.

    LESLIE: Tony in Iowa is having a hot-and-cold water situation. What’s going on?

    TONY: Well, I’ve got an electric water heater. And the main feed that comes in from the city, that goes into my electric water heater, it’s a cold line. But yeah, I get cold water to come out of my faucets and everything but that cold water line, up around through the water heater there, it’s hot, the line, when I touch it. And I’m just curious what’s going on with that.

    TOM: So, you have an electric water heater and that’s going to be fed by a cold-water line and it’s going to go through the water heater and come out as a hot-water line.

    TONY: That’s correct.

    TOM: OK. And so what’s the problem? So far, it’s normal.

    TONY: The water line that goes into the water heater – the cold water?

    TOM: Yes. Yep.

    TONY: That line is hot.

    TOM: Well, some of the heat from the water heater can be working its way back up the pipe. So you may be feeling some conductive heat that comes from – the hot water in the water heater itself could be making that pipe warm. But if you go farther down the line, you’re going to feel that it’s cold again.

    It goes in cold and comes out hot but the fitting right around the top might feel like it’s a bit warm. But that’s only because of the conductive heat of the water in the water heater coming back up the metal pipe.

    TONY: OK. That alleviates my concerns then.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, adding wood floors is totally a do-it-yourself project, even when it comes to complicated, upscale patterns. We’ve got tips, after this.

    (theme song)

    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: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, if you’ve ever had one, you know it is just a terrible situation when you find yourself with a wet basement. And a wet basement really is a sure way to keep potential buyers from making you an offer on your home. If you want some tips on how you can waterproof your basement, head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “basement waterproofing tips.” And you’ll learn the right way, and some wrong ways, to keep the water away.

    TOM: And while you are at MoneyPit.com, you can post your home improvement question in our Community section or really any time at The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    And Betty in South Carolina has a flooring question and she says, “I really love herringbone wood floors. Is that design something that has to be created by cutting special angles on the wood? I’ve looked and looked and have never seen planks precut, especially for herringbone patterns. Can I, in fact, do it myself?”

    LESLIE: It’s a very specific type of layout – a herringbone floor – which, of course, will require many special angles cut specifically to your space.

    Now, a pro in the olden days could do this and make it really gorgeous. There are kits available but even with the kits, you’ve got to keep in mind that no room today is built perfectly square. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments that need to be done, sort of on the fly, during the install. Angles may need to be recut.

    I don’t know if this is an ideal do-it-yourself project for your first-time flooring project to jump into. And I’m not sure what your experience is with power tools and miter boxes and compound miter saws that you might need to create this. It’s definitely a beautiful installation but there are some kits available on the market. Do a Google search; you’ll find some out there. I think it’s going to end up being a little bit more complicated that you thought, so it might be best to either hire a pro or look at some other ideas.

    TOM: You can also get kits for parquet floors. But something you said about the floors not being square, that’s probably the most common misconception about any house. You always start by thinking, “Well, the wall is square, the floor is square.” It is never, ever square. You create your own squareness by kind of figuring out where to start – in the middle of a floor, generally – never starting on one wall and working across because it never lines up on the other side.

    LESLIE: No. And that’ll be so obvious with a pattern like that.

    TOM: Yeah. And the most common sort of rookie mistake is you start on one side with a full piece and by the time you get to the other side, you didn’t lay it out right. You end up with these tiny slivers that just never go well, so – and one end of the room is like 4 inches and the other end, the cut is 2 inches and it’s angled. It’s a mess.

    So, you really can create your own squareness by starting in the middle with a line that’s equidistant between the two walls that you’re trying to join.

    Alright. Another question here. Let’s try to get this one in from Julian in California who says, “Do you know how I can get an old ink stain out of a sisal rug?”

    I’d say if it’s an old ink stain, it’s going to be very, very difficult. But I would try WD-40. It is, in fact, one of the 1,001 uses for WD-40. That fluid will break down the ink. Now, you might just want to try it, especially if it’s a dyed rug, somewhere to see if it also takes out the coloring. But if it’s just sort of a plain, natural rug, I’d give it a shot if it really bothers you. It might actually work. Do it outside and rinse it thoroughly after you’re done and you might just clean that right up.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, Julian, I was going to say, with a sisal rug, if this is an area rug and not a wall-to-wall sisal or it’s manageable, get it outside. And once you do clean it with the WD-40, you do want to give it a good rinsing because that sisal is so porous. I mean it’s essentially just like a jute rope. So you want to make sure that you get that out; otherwise, it’s going to be stinky and greasy for a while.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope you’ve learned a few things to help keep you busy and maybe a little out of trouble for the summer week coming up.

    If you’ve got questions – maybe you took on a project that’s a little too tough, you need a rescue – well, head on over to The Money Pit website at MoneyPit.com, post that question in the Community section or on our Facebook page and we will get you the help that you need.

    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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