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How to Keep to Budget on DIY Projects, How to Avoid Mold from Growing in Your Storage Spaces, Avoid the Hazards of Fires from Home Appliances, Tips on Keeping Your Garage Cool and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And what are you working on this fine weekend? We’d like to go to work with you, help you get that project done. If it’s a do-it-yourself dilemma, call us. If it’s a project you’re wondering if you could do it yourself or if you need a pro, call us. All great questions. We’re here to help you turn your money pit from house to home to castle. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, did you know that nearly half of all homeowners that plan renovations completely blow their budget, according to a new survey? We’re going to have a pro tip that will help you plan your project properly and stay on budget right through to the last nail.

    LESLIE: Man, we couldn’t do this episode of The Money Pit before I started the project at my house?

    TOM: Nope.

    LESLIE: Come on, Tom.

    Alright, guys. Also ahead, we’re going to share with you the shocking results of a new report. Now, it really shows how many home fires are started by appliances and the worst part is that many of them are in your house right now, kind of lurking. That’s really freaking me out. We’re going to tell you how to avoid fire hazards at home from common appliances, a little later. So turn everything off and wait until we talk about it.

    TOM: Plus, mold remains a serious problem across the country. So we’re going to tell you about one very common storage product that’s in your house right now, which is a leading mold contributor.

    LESLIE: And three callers that we talk to on the air this hour – that’s pretty awesome, three; we’ve got three prizes for three callers – each of them is going to win a $50 gift card to The Home Depot, which is courtesy of LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive.

    TOM: Very cool. Give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’re going to pick three callers from those that reach us on today’s program. And if that’s you, you’ll win a $50 gift card to The Home Depot.

    Leslie, let’s get to the phones. Who’s first?

    LESLIE: Michael in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    MICHAEL: We have a hot-water heater in our garage on like an elevated plateau. And we noticed the other day, there was a slight leak underneath it but it looked like it might have been coming from a PVC-type tube coming from the top of our water heater. And it’s the length of the water heater. It’s a tube. And we’ve never seen water under that area before and we now notice some of that. So I wasn’t sure why – if it was a sweating situation or what – some type of relief valve, maybe, or something like that. But I’m not sure why water would have been there.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a temperature-and-pressure relief valve. It’s mounted on the side of the water heater. It’s designed to open up if the water heater develops too much pressure, as a safety mechanism.

    However, they frequently wear and leak. So, I’m going to tell you what you can try to do but I’m also going to warn you. There’s a lever on the side of that and sometimes you get a little bit of a debris that’s stuck inside that temperature-and-pressure valve. When you pull the lever, it’ll shoot some water out that tube. You want to make sure you have a bucket under it. Just two or three times; it’ll kind of blast some hot water out of there.

    However, the warning is that sometimes, once you do that, the valve never sits back properly and it ends up leaking worse. So it’s possible you could make it worse by doing this but that’s worth trying. If you just want to leave a bucket under it and monitor it for a little while – how old is this water heater?

    MICHAEL: About 1990, 1998.

    TOM: Oh. Oh, well, you know what? You’re due for a new one. So, 1998 – I wouldn’t wait too much longer before I replace that because let’s face it, it’s about, what, 15 years old now? And so a water heater that gets past 10 is well on its way to needing – to the end of its useful life.

    So, I would – you could monitor it, stick a bucket under there, keep an eye on it. But I think it’s about time to think about replacing. It’s not an emergency replacement, so you’ve got some time to shop around. One of the problems with water heaters is once they do leak, they usually have to be done immediately and people get taken advantage of because they need it today. But you’re not in that situation, Michael, so you could take some time and shop around and find the one – the contractor – that you want. But 15-year-old water heater, you might want to think about replacing it.

    MICHAEL: Alright, sir. I appreciate that very much.

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

    LESLIE: Betsy in Georgia needs some help tackling a ceiling project. What’s going on?

    BETSY: My question is how to remove popcorn ceiling. We have a bonus room above our garage that the popcorn ceiling was falling down in spots.

    TOM: OK.

    BETSY: And we scraped and scraped and we weren’t getting very far with it and we damaged the drywall with gouges from being scraped. So my husband put stippling on the ceiling to cover up the gouges and I don’t think it looks good at all.

    TOM: OK.

    BETSY: It looks dumb.

    TOM: So he kind of put more texture back on where he had the old texture?

    BETSY: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah. So now do you have to remove the stippling, which was probably done with the spackle, correct?

    BETSY: Yes.

    TOM: Ugh. Boy, I tell you what, you made it – it went from bad to worse. You know what I would do if I wanted a really clean ceiling and that was the situation? I would knock down as much of that as was physically possible so it’s nice and flat, make sure as much of the popcorn is gone as possible and then I would put a second layer of drywall over the whole thing. Tape it, prime it, paint it and be done with it. You’ll have a brand-new ceiling.

    LESLIE: Bury it. Hide it.

    TOM: I’m like, “Bury it.” Because that drywall is probably so damaged now from the scraping off of the old popcorn to the adding of the stipple. And then you’re going to have to sand to get rid of that. I just don’t think that – all the work that’s going to be worth you putting into that is just not worth it. You’re just not going to get a really clean look. So why don’t you just put a second layer of drywall over it? It’s really clean, easy to do and it will look much, much better in the long run.

    BETSY: Right. And then we – our other ceilings have popcorn but we haven’t tackled that. So is there an easier way to get it off?

    TOM: Well, here’s the right way to do it – is that you would dampen it and then you would scrape it.

    LESLIE: So you use a paint sprayer or a garden pump sprayer and then you just lightly spray that on the ceiling. Get it wet. You’re going to have to cover everything; it is a messy job. And then you just scrape it away with a spackle knife.

    TOM: And by the way, though, if you want to buy yourself some time and maybe – what happens with the popcorn, it gets dirty and grungy-looking. You can actually paint that. There’s a special type of roller that’s a very thick roller that’s got sort of slits in it and presses the paint up inside the sort of the pieces of popcorn. And you can get a nice bright, clean look to it. So, it is possible to paint that and have it look a lot nicer and a lot cleaner.

    BETSY: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    When you tackle a home improvement budget, do you tend to blow it every single time? Well, there’s a new pro planning tool that’s available to loyal Home Depot customers and we’ll tell you all about it, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Bostitch professional-quality, pneumatic nailers and staplers. Designed for productivity, built to last. For more information, visit Bostitch.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: And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And three callers we talk to on the air this hour are going to each win a $50 gift card to The Home Depot, which is courtesy of LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive.

    Now, LIQUID NAILS is a go-to for do-it-yourselfers for many reasons.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, it really delivers extraordinary strength and a lot of durability. You can use it both indoors and out and it’s going to bond a wide range of construction materials, so you can really use it in a lot of applications.

    Check out their website. It’s LIQUIDNAILS.com. You can learn a lot more there and of course, pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement questions.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Michelle in Iowa on the line who’s looking to spend some more time outdoors with a fire pit. How can we help with that project?

    MICHELLE: Well, we started making an outside fire pit with fieldstone. And our mortar that we seem to be using, it just seems like it’s awful dry and it’s like it’s cracking. So, didn’t know if you had a different brand that you thought would work or any suggestions.

    TOM: Well, one tip is that if it’s a really warm, dry day when you’re working, you might want to consider putting some plastic over the areas that you’re working on, to slow the evaporation rate. Because if it dries really quickly, sometimes it can shrink and crack.

    MICHELLE: And no certain brand of mortar you think would work best as what the stores recommend for outside fireplaces?

    TOM: Well, I mean QUIKRETE works extremely well, so you could look to the QUIKRETE brand. And one of the advantages of QUIKRETE is they’ve also got lots and lots and lots of videos online that give you the step-by-step on how to properly mix the product, for example, in this case.

    MICHELLE: OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: William in North Carolina is dealing with some sticky doors. Tell us what’s going on.

    WILLIAM: Well, I’ve got this problem going on now. It’s been, oh, many years since we moved into this house, in 1992.

    TOM: OK.

    WILLIAM: It seems like some doors stick and the others don’t. And then when the doors that were sticking don’t stick anymore, the ones that were not sticking stick. So I can’t figure it out. I’ve been wondering, is it the paint job that they put on the doors when they built the house or is it something doing with – dealing with the climate or what?

    TOM: Well, it has to do with the climate, William, and it’s the fact that when it gets moist out, when it gets humid out, the doors will tend to swell more than when it – in the wintertime, when things are drier.

    Now, you can fix this by adjusting the swings – the door installation. You may have to reset the hinges to make a little bit more room around it. One of the things that you might also want to check is you could take the door off the hinges and look at the edge grain; that’s the very top and the very bottom of the door. If that wasn’t sealed, then that kind of acts as sort of the open door for all the moisture to get into that door and cause it to swell.

    So if you were to seal the top and the bottom of the door – I bet the sides are: the hinge side and the striker side. But the very top and the very bottom tend to be left untouched very often. And if you were to seal those with a clear finish, for example, or just to paint them – I don’t know if your doors are clear or not – then that will have an effect on stopping the doors from absorbing as much moisture.

    So it’s really a carpentry problem. It’s nothing mysterious about it; it’s just the doors are swelling, getting stuck in the openings. And you can rehang the door to address that. You can also seal the top and the bottom to slow it down, OK?

    WILLIAM: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    Well, do you do so many of your own home improvement projects that you’re sort of the go-to person in the neighborhood and they’re coming to you for advice on their projects? Well, even if you know a lot about home improvement, we’re going to give you a little extra information with an Insider’s Trick Of The Trade Tip, which is presented by Pro Xtra, The Home Depot’s new loyalty program for home improvement pros. And this tip is about keeping to a budget.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Going over a budget can actually turn your dream project into a nightmare. Now, 43 percent of do-it-yourselfers are looking to remodel. They are going to exceed their budget, according to a recent survey. So you need to start by compiling a detailed list of tasks, tools and products associated with your project, from prep to cleanup.

    Next, you want to sign up for Home Depot’s Pro Xtra and take advantage of The Home Depot Estimator. This is going to help you get an exact idea of how much your project is going to cost. Then you can go ahead and put the estimated cost onto a project card. And these prepaid cards will store your project budget, so you can actually see how much you’re spending exactly down to the penny. And that’s going to really help you keep track along the way.

    TOM: Yeah. It works really well. If you want to learn more about The Home Depot’s pro offerings, visit their dedicated pro web page at HomeDepot.com/Pro. And also find out more about the Pro Xtra membership by visiting your local Home Depot on August 27th and 28th.

    And check out the first-ever, nationwide pro-appreciation event. This is a two-day appreciation celebration to say “thank you” to The Home Depot’s valued pro customers. It features special deals on top products, free delivery on some products, 10-percent off your first purchase when Pro Xtra members open up a new credit-card account, giveaways, snacks and more.

    LESLIE: So go ahead and check out Pro Appreciation Days at Home Depot stores nationwide, from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Check out their website, HomeDepot.com/Pro, and you’ll find out a ton more ways that you could be saving.

    TOM: And pro or not, pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Claire in Alaska on the line who’s dealing with a first-time basement. What can we do for you?

    CLAIRE: Well, I have purchased a 1900 house and it has this basement that is getting moisture. It has this sticky, black paper on the outside but it is not functioning properly, apparently, because there’s a lot of moisture coming in.

    TOM: Right.

    CLAIRE: And it would require digging out on the outside to do the outside. Is there any way to address it from the inside?

    TOM: Well, there’s another way to address it on the outside and that is to pay attention to the angle of the soil around the house. So when it does warm up and you have the opportunity to regrade the foundation perimeter and make sure that the angle of the soil, the angle of the grade slopes away from the building.

    CLAIRE: I put French drains in all around the property and sloped it and put gravel.

    TOM: So there’s – well, OK. Now, if he sloped it with gravel, then he didn’t really do you a favor because the gravel is porous. So the water goes through the gravel, back to the dirt underneath and into your basement. So if you’re going to slope it – yeah, give him an A for effort but it’s not going to be successful. You have to grade it with clean fill dirt so that you can tamp it and the water will run away from it. Water is not going to run over gravel; it falls through it.

    But there’s a second thing to check and that is: do you have gutters on the roof?

    CLAIRE: No, because the snow pulled them off.

    TOM: Right, OK. Well, look, if you can collect the water at the roof edge – and even if you have deep gutters or if you use the type of gutters that have the warming cables up on the roof. If you prevent water from running off the roof and against that foundation perimeter, you’ll prevent a wet basement because most of the water collects at the outside.

    Protect the perimeter; keep it as dry as possible. And a lot of wet basements are caused because gutters are missing or gutters are clogged and the water rolls off the roof right against the foundation. Soil is flat, so the water has got nowhere to go and it just sits there and leaks into the basement.

    CLAIRE: OK. So I’ve got to work on that.

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

    LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Kenneth on the line to The Money Pit who’s got a flooring question. How can we help you today?

    KENNETH: Hi. Well, I was going to ask you about – how do you fix squeaky floors on a second floor of a house that has rugs, without ripping up the rugs?

    TOM: There’s a couple of things that you can do. First of all, you need to understand what causes the squeak. And generally, it’s movement between the subfloor and the floor joist underneath.

    KENNETH: Right.

    TOM: So, to try to reduce the squeak or eliminate it – you know, you mentioned that you’ve got rugs and you don’t want to take them up. I just want to tell you that, of course, the surefire way to stop these squeaks is to pull the rugs up and then to screw the subfloor to the floor joist using long, hardened-steel screws, which you drive in with a drill. You don’t want to do that, so I’m going to tell you a little trick of the trade on how you can fix some of the worst ones without doing that. And that is to locate the floor joist underneath the carpet.

    Now, you need to do that kind of by trial and error. You can do that by tapping on the floor; you can do that with a stud finder. There’s a whole new line of Stanley stud sensors that work really well and they’ll penetrate through the carpet. You need to find that beam.

    Once you find the beam, then what you do is you get yourself some 12-penny, galvanized finish nails. And I say “galvanized” and hot-dipped galvanized is the best. Those are the ones that are really sort of crusty on the outside. And you find that spot and you drive the nail straight through the carpet. Don’t let your wife see you do this, OK? Because she’ll get upset with you.

    Straight through the carpet and then with the nail set, you punch that head right through the carpet. When you finish driving with the hammer, it’ll look like the carpet is dimpled. But if you take a nail set, you punch it through the surface of the carpet and sort of pull the carpet back up and rub it with your hands a couple of times and it’ll disappear; that divot will disappear.

    What you’re doing is you’re securing that floor right above – right through the carpet without pulling the carpet up. Now, I wouldn’t want you to do this to the whole house but I’ve fixed this in lots of houses using two or three strategically driven nails. And I find if you drive it at a slight angle, it works better because the nail holds better.

    KENNETH: OK. Well, I noticed they had on the old ­- This Old House the other day on TV, they showed you how to do it with the rugs, before I called you. And they use this O’Berry Enterprising kit, which is a drill bit that’s only got three threads on it that you drill down until you find your stud. Then they have 50 screws with little socket heads on them and you drill those down into the beam and then you have a little tool that breaks the head off. And it’s ingenious. The only thing is is that I can’t find the beams.

    TOM: Yeah, you need a stud sensor. So that would be a worthwhile investment of a few dollars. I mean those stud sensors are $10 to $20, $25 for a real good one.

    KENNETH: I will and I thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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. Still ahead, we’re going to share tips on the most common, hidden home hazards when The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues, after this.

    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.

    So, you want to know something super-scary? Get this: your microwave can suddenly just turn itself on and then set your house on fire. And that’s just one of the six surprising home hazards being featured in this month’s ShopSmart Magazine, which is a division of Consumer Reports.

    And joining us now to talk about these really scary things that we should all be aware of is Consumer Reports Senior Editor Dan DiClerico.

    Welcome, Dan.

    DAN: Hey. It’s good to be here. Thank you.

    LESLIE: So, seriously, my microwave could possibly just turn itself on in the middle of the night or while I’m away and just burst into flames?

    DAN: Unfortunately, it does happen.

    LESLIE: Really?

    DAN: This is all part of an ongoing investigation that’s taken us about two years to uncover some of these alarming things that do happen with appliances in homes.

    LESLIE: And you’ve really heard about this microwave. Is there a story that goes along with this?

    DAN: There is. We actually submitted a Freedom of Information request to the government and got several hundred documents related to microwaves made by Whirlpool, GE, other major manufacturers. And yes, in those documents, there were numerous instances fire did result, causing tens of thousands of property damage to the homes. So it is a very real and present danger.

    LESLIE: And is that just a manufacturing defect that they might issue a recall on or is this like, “Bleh, any microwave you have may just bloop, ‘I’m on and now I’m on fire'”?

    DAN: No, it is. There have been recalls for this type of thing, self-starting microwaves, in the past. We should put this in some perspective. There are millions of microwaves that nothing happens to.

    LESLIE: That nothing happens to.

    DAN: Yes. And we don’t want to be overly alarmist here. But as I said, it does happen. There are some things to look for. In many of the cases, many of the documents that we examined, there were some telltale signs, including some electrical funny business with the clock on the microwave, for example, flashing an error signal. So that’s one sign that perhaps your microwave is not functioning as it should be and it’s time to get a repair person in there pronto to have a look at it.

    LESLIE: But you’re even saying that microwaves weren’t top of your list. Actually, burners and ranges were.

    DAN: That’s correct. Yeah, ranges. The Consumer Products Safety Commission tells us that there are about 150,000 appliance fires each year. And the vast majority of those do involve ranges. And oftentimes, it is human error. It’s somebody leaving a pan of bacon unattended and a grease fire starts. But there are, also, electrical failures. So things that are fires – that are caused by the range themselves. And again, it can be a self-starting malfunction. So you haven’t turned the range on but all of a sudden, it fires up and that can result in, obviously, in a fire in the home and lots of danger.

    Again, look at the clock, look at the electricals. Because oftentimes, the issue is some sort of electrical failure. So pay attention. Look for error signals on the clock on your range. That’s one sign that something’s not going – not right.

    LESLIE: You know, I’ll never forget there was – we had just gotten a new oven. It was a GE Profile and literally, two days before Easter, they issued a recall. And it was a pretty major one. It was a fire thing. Definitely something where you were like, “OK, I’m not going to turn on the oven.” And of course, mine was one in the issued recall codes. And sure enough, my cousin, who normally hosts Easter, was super-pregnant and I was supposed to make the ham and all of these things. And I had to call her up two days before and be like, “So my oven’s been recalled. I can’t help you this year but I can come over to your house and cook.” I felt so bad but I was like, “Of course. All the dumb luck.”

    Now, here’s an item that I fully would expect to be on this list: clothing dryers.

    DAN: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. A huge number of fires happen each year in clothes dryers. Oftentimes, it has to do with the buildup of lint, so this is something you can really do to protect yourself. Just make sure you empty that lint filter regularly. I mean even with every load of laundry, it’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of emptying the lint filter.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think it’s important to remember don’t run the dryer when you’re sleeping or throw it on before you leave the house. I’m sure we’re all guilty of that, especially as parents. It’s a huge time-saver to be like, “Oh, I’ll just throw the dryer on and by the time I come back, everything will be done.” But you need to be present in case something does go wrong.

    DAN: Yeah, that’s a great point. That’s true with dryers. Obviously, you don’t want to have the kitchen range – the oven – on high when you’re not at home. Even the dishwasher. We do see a lot of fires resulting from defective dishwashers. I think a lot of people are in the habit of turning it on before they go to bed. It’s really not a great idea. It’s always best to be running appliances when you’re around and when you’re awake.

    LESLIE: That’s so funny because that’s the last thing I do before I go to bed at night; I turn on the dishwasher.

    DAN: Yeah. No, you’re not alone. But yeah, we did hear from several homeowners who used to do that. One gentleman, in particular, told us how he’d turned his dishwasher on, got into bed and then all of a sudden, he did smell smoke. And he came in and there had been a short circuit with the circuit board in his dishwasher. And this is a very common occurrence, unfortunately.

    And he really does believe if he had not gotten up, the dishwasher would have caught fire and he could have been in real danger there.

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. Well, I guess the lesson learned here is truly make sure you register your product with the manufacturer so that when there are recalls issued or something does come up with that item, you will be notified about it. I think that’s really important for people to remember and probably a safety tip that could save your life.

    DAN: Absolutely. Yeah, do register those appliances.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, Dan DiClerico, the senior editor from Consumer Reports talking about ShopSmart Magazine’s article this month, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    DAN: Great to be here. Thank you.

    TOM: Still to come, mold. We’re going to talk about that because it’s also a serious home hazard. But did you know that one common household item can make it worse? Find out what it is, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by LIQUID NAILS. For tough jobs, demand the extraordinary strength of LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive. It bonds a wide range of materials, indoors and out, for a job done once, done right. Learn more about LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive at LIQUIDNAILS.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 here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, this is kind of amazing because three lucky callers who get on the air with us this hour are getting a $50 gift card to The Home Depot. And that is courtesy of LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive. LIQUID NAILS is a go-to for do-it-yourselfers for so many, many reasons. It really does deliver extraordinary strength; it’s really durable. You can use it both inside and out. And it’s going to bond a wide range of construction materials, so you can use it pretty much on all your projects.

    TOM: Visit LIQUIDNAILS.com to learn more and pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Now we’re talking to Pauline in New Jersey who needs some help with a countertop. How can we help you today?

    PAULINE: I have a lot of counters in both bathrooms and the kitchen. And from the – I have backsplashes, as well. And where the backsplash and the counter meet, it’s coming up white and it looks like dry paste. And also, what’s happened over the last few years – at first, I took a little bit off with my nail but now it’s getting really bad. And it’s – there were splash marks, as though when they put the counter in, they didn’t clean off the – so whatever they used. And it looks like you splashed something on that dried up.

    And I don’t want to use anything that isn’t right for the granite and ruin it. So I was wondering if you had a suggestion that might be easy for me to use and get rid of this stuff.

    TOM: How long have you had these countertops? When were they first installed?

    PAULINE: Seven years ago.

    TOM: And they’ve never been sealed since?

    PAULINE: No, no.

    TOM: Well, granite tops do take quite a bit of maintenance. People think that they’re fairly maintenance-free because they’re somewhat indestructive. But they really do need a lot of care and they need to be resealed from time to time.

    And it sounds to me like the white stuff that you’re describing is most likely mineral salt. And what happens is the countertops, when they lose their seal, they absorb more moisture. Then the moisture evaporates off and it leaves behind the mineral-salt deposits that’s in the water. And that forms that white sort of crust; it’s like a grayish-white crust.

    Now, what are you using to clean them on a daily basis?

    PAULINE: Generally, just water and a little – they told me to use the Windex.

    TOM: Yeah, you can make a homemade granite cleaner with rubbing alcohol – standard rubbing alcohol – mixed with maybe a half-a-dozen drops of dishwasher detergent.

    PAULINE: OK. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve got a basement or an attic that’s moisture-prone, you are no doubt familiar with the battle of mold. But did you know that there is one common culprit you probably have in your home right now that can be a big mold contributor?

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s cardboard boxes, guys. We all have had these things in our storage areas from time to time. And really, getting rid of them can cut down on the chances of mold taking hold in your home, almost immediately.

    Cardboard storage boxes, they really are a feast for mold in a damp basement or attic because mold is going to need both moisture and a food source to grow. And a cardboard box is like a gourmet restaurant to mold.

    TOM: Yep. It’s like red meat to the lions. So, to protect your belongings and your home’s air quality from mold, try to store items in plastic bins and use metal shelving on basement floors. It keeps everything up off those moist areas.

    And if you’ve got any basement water leaks or if mold has already started to grow, get it taken care of immediately. If it’s a big project, if it’s a lot of area, you need a mold remediation pro. If it’s a small area, pick up the phone and call us. We’ll tell you exactly what to do at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

    STEVE: Yeah, we’ve got a square fire pit out in the backyard. It’s really nice. We bought it about a year ago. It’s got nice, Southern tile on top. And in the middle of it, it’s got a round Lazy Susan. And you take off the Lazy Susan and it’s a fire pit with a stainless-steel fire ring. And we’ve got a bunch of fire glass in there. It’s really nice.

    And the – one of the things that we’re disappointed in somewhat is that the flame isn’t really very high on the thing. It’s really a nice kind of romantic, low fire but we’d like to figure out if we could find some way to make that a little more robust. And I’m thinking about just drilling out the holes in the fire ring to – and I’m wondering if that might solve the problem or if I’d be creating more problems than solving.

    TOM: Generally, you don’t want to modify a gas burner like that. Was this a manufactured unit that you purchased and installed?

    STEVE: Yes. Yeah, it was – it all just came – all we really had to do was just pretty much plunk the thing down and hook up the gas.

    TOM: Well, you certainly don’t want to mess with the manufacturer’s design because that was very specifically designed to do a certain job. And if you start drilling bigger holes in it, you could create something that’s very dangerous.

    But let me just ask you this: is this natural gas or propane?

    STEVE: It’s natural gas. Yeah, when we landscaped the yard, we had a natural gas line run out to the area of the yard. Then we poured a really nice, big, oh, 18-circular-foot pad out there. And then the – and then stubbed it right in the middle, so that’s where the fire pit is.

    TOM: Alright. Have you checked the gas pressure to make sure that it’s where you expect it to be?

    STEVE: No. I’m not really sure, no.

    TOM: I would have a plumber check the gas pressure to make sure that the gas pressure is correct. If you have low gas pressure, that could account for the low flame.

    The other thing I would do is contact the manufacturer to find out what flame level that’s designed for, because it might be doing exactly what it’s intended to do. And if you add more – if you try to modify that, it could be, certainly, dangerous. So we’d not encourage you to drill out the burner or anything of that nature. I would encourage you to check the gas level – the gas-pressure level – as well as the valves that service it because something is partially closed or you just don’t have enough pressure coming through that line, for whatever reason. That could also be the solution, as well.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, is your garage useful for more than just a place to store your stuff or your car? If it’s a hobby space, you might want to make it warm and toasty. We’ll tell you how to do that, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, have you had a chance to check us out on Facebook? That’s Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. Guess what? All month long, we are running our Dog Days of Summer Sweepstakes and it’s a really great chance for you to win some awesome prizes, which will help you enjoy the end of the summer season, like a security package from Schlage and Nexia, a Kichler ceiling fan or a Namath Rapid Cooker grill from EdenPURE.

    TOM: Just “like” The Money Pit on Facebook to enter, then you can share the sweeps with friends to get bonus entries. For every friend that enters, you get five more chances to win.

    LESLIE: And of course, if you’ve got a question, while you are online you can post it in our Community section. We’ve got one here from Barbara in Wappingers Falls, New York and she writes: “We are thinking of having a retractable awning installed. However, the contractors want to install it with a roof mount. We are afraid of having holes drilled into the roof and just having caulk around it, possibly causing leaks. The roof is only two years old. Are we being overly concerned?”

    TOM: Yeah, I think so. If the installers know what they’re doing – and I’m sure they do – you can attach anything to a roof and not worry about leaks. I mean let’s think about it: we’ve got satellite dishes on roofs, we used to have antennas on roofs. You know, there’s all sorts of things that attach to roofs. I wouldn’t worry too much about using that as part of the support structure for the awning. Because if it’s done correctly, it’s really not an issue.

    It’s just not a matter of just driving a nail through a roof and slapping a little tar over it. When these things are done correctly, it could really be an integrated installation that’s not going to leak for a very long time.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Sharon in Somerset, New Jersey who wrote: “We have well water, which is very cold. In the spring and summer, our toilets sweat water when they fill up and the condensation drips on our bathroom floor. We now have a third bathroom floor that has to be replaced. How can we insulate our toilet tank or any other suggestion to correct this problem?”

    TOM: Oh, geez. There’s actually a very simple solution that’s a lot easier to install, Sharon, than replacing your floor three times. There is a mixing valve that can be added to the plumbing that basically spills a little bit of the hot water coming off the water heater into the cold water that’s filling in the toilet. So it kind of warms the water going into the toilet, for the sole purpose of preventing that major condensation problem.

    You don’t want to insulate the inside of a toilet. It gets really gross. So just ask your plumber to install a mixing valve in that situation and the water will – the toilet will not drip any further.

    LESLIE: And you know what? I bet as an added benefit, just having the toilet water a little bit warmer might keep your tushy warm in the colder months. I’m just guessing.

    TOM: Well, if you’re struggling to keep your home cool this summer, you might want to consider that your attached garage could be adding to that struggle. Leslie has details on how to correct that issue, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Keeping your garage as cool as possible is not just so your car can live in luxury. Come on, we’re not all that spoiled.

    Now, garages truly can become boiling in the summer season and that will send heat into your home. So to stop this, first you want to make sure that that wall that’s in between your garage and your home is well insulated. Many homeowners are thinking that the garage itself, well, that seems like insulation. Not so. You should also insulate the ceiling overhead and the additional exterior walls.

    If you’re well insulated and still reaching record temps in there, you might want to think about adding some shading. A well-positioned tree really can work wonders.

    Now, if your garage doubles as a hobby space, it might be worth adding air conditioning. A split-ductless heat-pump system is really the way to go. Tom and I both have one of these. They work fantastic. It’s basically an air handler that mounts on the wall inside the garage and the compressor is outside. And you can run it only when you need it. You just want to make sure that you get one that’s ENERGY STAR-rated. It really is an excellent addition to any money pit.

    TOM: Good advice.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, in nature, leaves and pine needles fall on the forest floor and they create a mulch that protects and preserves the trees. So on the next edition of the program, we’re going to teach you how to follow Mother Nature’s lead and create your own mulch that will protect your plants for the fall season 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 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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