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How to Keep Wildlife Out of Your Yard, Tips on How Much Mulch to Use, Advice for Storing Flammable Liquids 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 we are here to help you tackle your home improvement projects on this beautiful spring weekend. Pick up the phone and call us. We’d love to chat about what’s going on in your money pit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, reminders of spring are cropping up everywhere. We’re seeing the flowers, the trees and yes, the wildlife. We’re going to have tips on how you can keep deer, rabbits and groundhogs out of your yard.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, mulch is a great insulator for new planting but put on too much and you’ll suffocate the growth. Learn how much mulch, in just a little bit.

    TOM: Plus, we’ve got tips on storing flammable liquids safely so your garage does not become a fire hazard.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’ve got a terrific prize to give away. It’s a beautiful Hampton Bay Crossfire Fire Pit from The Home Depot worth $89.

    TOM: What a great way to enjoy the chilly evenings. That Hampton Bay Crossfire Fire Pit is going out today to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Getty, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    GETTY: Oh, hi. My uncle is struggling with a mouse problem.

    TOM: OK.

    GETTY: And he wants to get rid of them the old-fashioned way but his wife doesn’t want them to be harmed or killed or anything.

    LESLIE: That’s a tough one.

    GETTY: Yeah. So they’re trying to figure out a way of, I don’t know, catch them or keeping them out of the house, stuff like that.

    TOM: So, what I would suggest is that, first of all, you try to mouse-proof your house as much as possible. So, by doing that, you need to seal all the gaps that may surround the exterior, most commonlyaround where pipes and things come through the walls.

    Secondly, you want to avoid anything that creates a nesting site or areas where the mice can sort of dig into. For example, a common one might be firewood piled close to the house and that sort of thing, high grass. So you want to try to make that as un-mouse-friendly as possible.

    Next, you want to look at moisture sources and food sources that are inside the house. So, for example, I’ve seen folks develop mouse problems because they have pet food – in the big, heavy pet-food bags – perhaps sitting on the garage floor where the mice decide they’re going to cut their own door into the side of that bag and help themselves. So, you want to make sure that any type of food source is off the ground, up on shelves and in rodent-proof containers, metal containers.

    GETTY: OK.

    TOM: You could also put in – now, see, she doesn’t want to kill them. So pretty much any other way to get rid of these things is going to remove – is going to kill them. I mean you could use bait stations where they’ll – does she just not want to kill them or she doesn’t want them to die in the house? Because it’s a fine point, you know? If you use a bait station, they usually take the bait and go outside while that stuff goes to work.

    GETTY: Right.

    TOM: I can understand her perhaps not wanting to use mousetraps, because that can get kind of messy and gross. But I would suggest you try to make your home as rodent-resistant as possible. We’ve got a great article on how to do that. It’s called “Beating the Rat Race”. It’s on MoneyPit.com. But I do think that if you really want a permanent solution, you’re going to end up having to use some rodenticides, as well.

    GETTY: OK. I think that’d be a fair idea. She’s wanting to catch them all and take them down the road somewhere.

    LESLIE: Oh, geez.

    TOM: You’re not going to catch them. They’re pretty fast.

    GETTY: Yeah.

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

    GETTY: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Melanie in California on the line with a decorating question. What can we do for you today?

    MELANIE: I have untreated (inaudible at 0:04:17) knotty pine throughout the house. I would like to continue into an 8×12 bathroom with the same. Is this the best application for the bathroom or will untreated wood hold up to condensation?

    LESLIE: Now, where are you seeing this? On the walls? On the ceiling?

    MELANIE: Oh, well, I’d like to do the whole bathroom. Yes, walls and ceiling.

    TOM: I would say, Leslie, that knotty – untreated, knotty pine is a really bad idea for a bathroom.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: I actually do have a bathroom that’s got pine wainscoting but it’s completely sealed. And it goes up about halfway up the wall. I would definitely not put unfinished wood in a bathroom because it’s going to soak up the moisture. It’s going to grow mold or mildew and just is not going to look right. You can’t clean it, either. So, a bad idea for the ceiling.

    That said, if you like the look of wood, there are many ceiling-tile products that do look quite a lot like wood.

    MELANIE: OK. We’re limited. We’re in a small area, so we’re limited as far as hardwares go and paneling. We checked out our local hardware stores. And where’s the best place to find, oh, say, ceiling paneling and …?

    LESLIE: Well, now, a clever, creative idea – which, you know, you might be able to source online and perhaps you haven’t looked at some of this in the local places to you – would be a laminate flooring that’s a plank that looks like a knotty pine so that we could utilize that in the same application that you’re talking about. But it’s made to withstand high-moisture situations because it’s a manufactured product and not a natural product.

    MELANIE: Sure, sure.

    LESLIE: And that, because it’s sold in planks, if you do have to order it online or if somebody has to order it from the vendor directly through your local stores, it ships really easily because of its packaging. And being plank size, you’re not going to have a hard time getting it in, rather than a sheet product.

    MELANIE: Oh, OK. Very good. And I think that would look far better than a sheet product. We just – I think that’s why I don’t care – the wainscoting or coating, how do you pronounce that?

    LESLIE: Oh, absolutely.

    MELANIE: Is that …?

    LESLIE: I say “wainscoting,” but I think everybody says it every way they feel like. Tomato, tomato.

    MELANIE: OK. It’s just very attractive. But we need to do this complete, up the walls.

    TOM: You don’t have to. You could go partially up the walls and then trim off the top edge of it.

    MELANIE: Hmm. And then would – OK.

    TOM: It depends on what look you’re going for. For example, Leslie, you’ve often given the suggestion that you can take an old door, turn it on its side and that could be a wainscoting.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That works out beautifully, especially because it gives you the paneling sort of built right into the door. The only issue there is that anywhere you’ve got an electrical outlet or something that might protrude from the wall, you’re going to have to bump that out to accommodate the extra thickness of the door. Not a big deal but it’s an extra step.

    MELANIE: Boy, it sure is. Oh, boy. OK. Well, thank you so much. That’s a lot to think about and I really like that plank-flooring idea. That was a thought that never even crossed my mind, so – nor my husband’s.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project.

    MELANIE: Thank you so much. And thank you for taking my call.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. 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. It’s the perfect time of year to get working on your money pit and we’d love to lend a hand. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, deer and rabbits are a sign of spring but maybe not a welcome one if they’re in your garden. Learn how to keep these intruders away, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a really great prize. It’s the Hampton Bay Crossfire Fire Pit worth 89 bucks. You can burn either wood or coal in this durable, steel fire pit and it comes with a cooking grate. And it also has a heating area of 2.32 square feet, which makes it especially good for grilling. There’s a mesh screen for added safety and it’s available at The Home Depot.

    You can get everything for your patio and for all things spring at The Home Depot or online at HomeDepot.com. But the Hampton Bay Crossfire Fire Pit is going out to one caller drawn at random on today’s show, so make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Time to talk to Phillip in Rhode Island about a roofing question. What can we do for you?

    PHILLIP: Well, in Rhode Island, in my neighborhood in Jamestown, there’s a lot of beautiful, red cedar-shingled houses. And I just put brand-new, red-cedar shingles on my house, on my roof. I noticed some of the houses age beautifully. Like when I – what I mean in beautifully is they age darker red and sometimes little bits of black or streaks of black and red and deep, deep red. And some of them don’t age that way. It’s like – and I’m just wondering if you guys know anything about how to get them to age the way I want them to. I don’t want them to age light; I want them to age darker red.

    TOM: Yeah, we don’t always get to choose how we age, right? And that applies to our shingles, as well.

    So when you choose red cedar, that gets darker over time and it will turn to a very dark gray, typically, as it’s exposed to sunlight. I guess it’s possible that you could apply a stain to the cedar shingles, even though they’re roofing shingles, but most people don’t do that.

    So, what we typically get calls about, when it comes to cedar, is how to not to have – how to prevent them from getting darker. And one way to do that is to replace the vent across the ridge of the roof. Or if you don’t have a vent there, you can essentially do the same thing with a strip of copper.

    If you were to overlay the peak of the roof with, say, a 12-inch-wide strip of copper – so half goes on one side and half goes on the other – what happens is as rainwater strikes that, it releases some of the copper. And that acts as a mild mildicide and helps to keep the roof shingles clean and prevents algae growth.

    PHILLIP: Oh. But it still – then they wouldn’t age dark; they’d stay lighter.

    TOM: It would be less likely to get as dark and they certainly wouldn’t grow an algae. Perhaps you may have noticed that sometimes when you look at houses, especially around chimneys that have metal flashing, you’ll see bright streaks at the bottom of the chimney. That’s for the same reason. What happens is that metal flashing releases some of its copper and then cleans that area under the chimney. That’s why it gets streaky there. But if you do it across the whole peak of the roof, then it will sort of clean evenly.

    PHILLIP: It’ll clean evenly. But I’m looking for that aged look: the kind of the darker-shingles aged look, the darker color. And I guess it’s just up to Mother Nature is what you’re saying.

    TOM: It really is.

    PHILLIP: Yeah.

    TOM: It really is.

    PHILLIP: I appreciate it. Thanks very much, you guys.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tammy in Philadelphia on the line who’s looking for a better shower. How can we help you today?

    TAMMY: Hi. I was calling in because I wanted to find out – I have an old Victorian house and I have a three – it’s three stories. I have a bathroom on the third floor and a bathroom on the second. And when I – if someone is in the shower on the second floor and then someone takes a shower or runs the water upstairs, on the third floor, the shower goes cold. And I’ve been asking my contractors and my plumbers and I’m not getting a consistent answer. So, I’d like to remedy that, because I’m doing remodeling.

    TOM: OK. So are you opening up walls as part of this remodeling?

    TAMMY: Yes. Completely stripped down to the studs.

    TOM: OK, great. So, first of all, the reasons you have reduced water pressure in older homes are generally because you have old steel pipes that suffer from internal rusting and they clog. They close down, kind of like a clogged artery and then you can’t push enough water through it.

    Now, that could be your main water pipe, it could be the supply pipes that are inside the house or a combination of them. And so, since you’re taking the walls apart, the general rule of thumb is that whenever you expose these old steel pipes, you want to replace them with copper pipes or with PEX, which is a different type – a newer type of plumbing pipe.

    Now, the other thing is that you may not have enough water pressure coming in from the street.

    TAMMY: Well, the pressure is not that big of a deal, because I think that the pressure is kind of OK. It’s just that, basically, we have two bathrooms in the house and you can only use one at a time. Like the water completely goes ice cold if you’re in the shower and somebody comes in and uses the sink.

    TOM: Well, that’s because the pipes may not be supplying that hot water. They may not be moving enough hot water.

    What size water heater do you have?

    TAMMY: Forty gallons.

    TOM: Alright. Well, that’s a minimum size but it should be OK for two bathrooms.

    TAMMY: OK.

    TOM: And is it an older water heater?

    TAMMY: No, I just replaced the water heater.

    TOM: When you replaced it, did they change any of the plumbing around it? Is it still going through the steel pipes?

    TAMMY: I don’t think that they changed the pipes around the – no, I don’t think so.

    TOM: So, you need to talk with your plumbers about what kind of pipes you have, whether or not that’s contributing to the problem. And you need to know what the water pressure is at the street. Because if you’re not getting enough pressure, that could be the whole cause of it.

    TAMMY: OK. Now, I Googled and I saw something online called a “pressure-balance valve.” Would that remedy the issue at all?

    TOM: So, a pressure-balance valve is designed to be used primarily in a shower. And what it does is it keeps the mix between hot and cold balanced so that you don’t get scorching or freezing-cold water when the pressure drops. So if somebody was to, say, run hot water downstairs and now rob all that hot water from the upstairs shower, it would not change the balance of water from – the mix of water between hot and cold. So the flow would be less – you’d have less of a stream – but it wouldn’t be – the temperature wouldn’t change.

    TAMMY: OK, OK.

    TOM: Right. So, no, that’s not it. I don’t think that’s the cause. I mean that would certainly be a good thing to have and something you should consider. But I don’t think that’s the reason you’re not getting hot water on the second floor. I just don’t think you’re moving enough water up there.

    TAMMY: OK. So, basically, what I need to do is tell them to check the piping around the water heater.

    TOM: Yeah. And the plumber should know this. Not only around the water heater but basically, if you’re going to open up those walls, what kind of pipes do you have and are they corroded? And should they be replaced to help alleviate this, OK? And if all else fails, you could always add a second water heater upstairs. You can add a tankless water heater, which would be a really small unit. And it would supply additional water to that second-floor bathroom.

    TAMMY: Oh, OK.

    TOM: Well, as you head out to your yard in these warmer temperatures, you might discover that you’re not the first to get your paws on the dirt. Deer, rabbits and groundhogs can be a pleasant reminder of the wonders of spring but they can also be destructive intruders that trample and chomp all of that hard work.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And here’s why. Now, deer return to the same feeding grounds every year and they can consume more than 10 pounds of foliage in 1 day. Meanwhile, rabbits, groundhogs and other nesting animals, they launch ground attacks on all your budding plants.

    TOM: So what’s the solution? Well, fencing is one and you can do that in the form of a high structure or a decorative border or a low wall. You can also use natural repellants. And with those burrowing animals, a good idea is strategically place planters in freshly mulched garden beds. They’ll disrupt that familiar nesting spot.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Billy in Texas is on the line with some deck-building questions. What can we do for you today?

    BILLY: My question is what wood should I build it out of to last longer: redwood, the treated timber or – I don’t know. I’ve had buddies tell me I needed to go with the Louisiana wood that they …

    TOM: Yeah. Your options are treated wood, a decay- or disease-resistant wood like redwood or cedar or a composite. You wouldn’t use untreated wood because it would rot quickly.

    But here’s the thing: if you like real natural-looking wood, then there’s no reason not to use treated wood. If you want to step it up a little bit, you could use redwood or cedar. It’s going to be an expensive upgrade. But no matter what kind of wood you use, you will have to treat it. Because even if you use redwood or cedar, if you don’t put a seal or a stain on there, it’s going to fade because of the sun and it’s going to splinter and break down and crack. So if you’re going to go with wood, you’re going to have to use a solid-color stain on there to make sure it’s preserved.

    Now, the other option – what you didn’t mention – is composite. And if you go with composite decking, then there’s really almost no maintenance that you have to do to it. Sometimes it gets a little dirty and has to be scrubbed but it doesn’t crack, it doesn’t check, it doesn’t twist. It’s always comfortable under bare feet. It’s going to be a little more expensive but when you add up the cost of the wood and the maintenance and the stain and all of that, maybe …

    LESLIE: And the physical cost of actually doing the maintenance.

    TOM: That’s right. Maybe not so much.

    So, those would be the pros and cons of going with wood versus composite. But if you want something that’s not going to have a lot of maintenance headaches and it’s going to last a long time, I would definitely go with composite.

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

    LESLIE: Margaret in Arkansas is on the line with atiling question. What can we do for you?

    MARGARET: I’ve got a big imagination. I was hoping that there was a product out there that would equal it.


    MARGARET: I’ve got an old floor that I was hoping that I could maybe fill the cracks and the little places it’s chipped out and then refinish the whole floor to where it looked like new.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s – I would not pursue that. Because you know what? First of all, the reason it cracked is probably because the subfloor wasn’t properly installed or has weakened for some reason. Because tiles don’t bend. And if they’re cracking, that means that the floor is weak underneath.

    So, except for the occasional odd repair when you’re just fixing like one or two broken tiles, it’s not the kind of thing that you want to invest any time in whatsoever.

    MARGARET: So, the best thing is just to take it up or …?

    TOM: You can either take it up or you could actually put a new floor on top of that if you don’t want it to be tile. You could, for example, install a laminate floor on top of that, which goes down in interlocking pieces. And then that sort of floats on top of the tile; it’s not physically attached. It just sort of stays in place by its own weight. It’s really beautiful and very durable stuff and not too expensive. Certainly a lot less expensive than redoing the tile floor.

    MARGARET: OK. Laminate is what it’s called.

    TOM: Laminate. It’s called “laminate floor.” Lots and lots of different types out there.

    MARGARET: OK. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, still to come, mulch is a great way to insulate newly planted trees and shrubs but too much mulch can starve them. This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook is joining us next with his advice on the right amount of mulch to use.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-like tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

    MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit: my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, spring is here and that means the hot days of summer are right around the corner. But you know what’s hot right now? The latest hardwood styles and flooring trends and the huge savings you’ll get at Lumber Liquidators’ April sale.

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    LESLIE: Dan in Pennsylvania is on the line with a plumbing question. What can we help you with?

    DAN: Yes, my son has an older house with cast-iron or steel drainpipes and they go – the main line goes straight down from the toilet and then under the basement floor. And he’s continually getting clogs because of the – the cast iron gets rough over time and tends to catch things.

    So I’m wondering – I realize normal drain lines, you drop them an inch a foot so you don’t get too fast a drain and siphon out the traps. But can you – with the main line, can you do pretty much whatever you want with that? Like, say, two 45s and then straight down to get it to the edge of the property? And then that way I’d only have to tear up a little bit to get to – out of the house with the plastic pipe.

    TOM: Well, you may not have to tear anything up. There’s a pipe-lining technology that you can consider where, essentially, they reline the cast-iron pipes with a fiberglass sleeve that’s smooth and doesn’t have those types of obstructions. It also helps stop root growth that can sometimes get into the seams of cast-iron piping.

    DAN: Awesome.

    TOM: And that can be done with the pipes in place. You wouldn’t have to tear anything up.

    DAN: I would have to cut the pipe though, I’m guessing, because if it goes down and then underneath the portion of the basement at some sort of a – probably a 90. And there may be a trap in – under the basement floor, as well.

    TOM: But all of this can be done without you having to access it. Because the way the pipe lining works is – first of all, they put a camera down there to figure out which way the drains are going and they can do that with a pipe camera. And then they run what looks kind of like a fiberglass sock through the pipe.

    And it’s kind of like – if you can imagine turning a sock inside out, they do that with water pressure. And it turns inside out and sort of forms against the inner walls of the cast-iron pipe and then sort of dries and hardens to this sort of very strong, smooth surface that won’t obstruct the flow.

    DAN: OK. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: How can you help a newly planted tree grow? Well, it needs mulch to protect its roots and prevent weeds.

    TOM: Ah, yes. But there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to mulch, at least when it’s applied the wrong way. Here to tell us more is This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Hey. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: Now, this is a project that many of us do every year and I think that folks tend to over-apply it or at least apply new over the old. And before you know it, you have these big sort of conical piles of mulch around trees. That’s not really doing them much good, is it?

    ROGER: I hate mulch volcanoes.

    LESLIE: Is that what they’re called?

    ROGER: They’re a scourge. I call them that. Scourge of my life. Everywhere you drive, you see them. And it comes from a couple of different things. First, it comes from the landscape. Edging around the tree with his edger and he flicks the soil and grass up on top of the tree. And then because he did that, he has to put a wad of mulch on top of it to hide it. And year after year after year, it just builds up around the tree.

    TOM: So what’s the best way to replace your mulch? Should you dig it out, down to grade, every single year?

    ROGER: You don’t have to take it out every year but every two or three years, yeah. Take it away. And then when you put it in, just put it in by the handful. Too many people come over and dump a whole wheelbarrow on top of the tree. And because they dumped the wheelbarrow, that’s what they use and it’s way too much mulch.

    LESLIE: So if you’ve got too much mulch, are you in danger of suffocating the whole root system or just putting too much moisture? Other than looking funny, what’s so bad about it?

    ROGER: All of the above. It just compromises the root system. It can compromise the trunk of the tree. It can compromise the root flare. Ultimately, you can end up with a thing called “girdling root,” which is a tree root that actually grows right around the trunk of the tree. And over time, it will strangle it and kill it.

    TOM: Let’s talk about the types of mulch that are available. You know, you have hardwood, you have rubber mulch. There’s just so many choices today. What plays into the choice of the materials for your house?

    ROGER: Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m going organic. Some sort of pine mulch is great but I don’t like the red-colored mulch.

    LESLIE: Oh, me too. I don’t like it.

    TOM: It doesn’t look natural.

    ROGER: When you look for mulches, you want to make sure it’s mulch. It’s just ground-up bark and some wood, not something that’s been treated or painted or stained or anything like that.

    TOM: I’ve also heard that there’s funguses, like shotgun fungus, that sometimes is attracted to the manufactured mulch but you really won’t find it in the natural, organic mulch.

    ROGER: Yeah, I’ve heard that too. And it’s pretty wild to see how far those things shoot up on a building, isn’t it?

    TOM: Yeah. And they can – they look, basically, like a shotgun kind of blast. And they’re very, very difficult to get off.

    ROGER: But there are other things you can use for mulch, too. You can even use a groundcover for a mulch. It’s great. You can put pachysandra, something like that, or some of the more aggressive plants because they are going to be fighting that tree for root – for water and nutrients.

    TOM: So I guess the mulch really serves that tree year-round. In the summer, it’s going to help hold the moisture in. In the winter, it adds a little bit of insulation to the root ball, right?

    ROGER: But the most important thing it does is it keeps the lawn mower and the string trimmer away from the trunk or the tree. Too often, you’ll have people that let grass grow right up around the trunk. And then they’ll come by and go to trim it away or try to cut it with a lawn mower. They’ll gouge the bark of the tree and eventually, that can lead to decay and a tree that ends up suffering and dying.

    TOM: But not on your watch.

    Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit and helping us to keep our trees healthy.

    ROGER: I hate mulch volcanoes.

    LESLIE: Alright, guys. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating. Make comfort personal.

    Up next, we’ve got tips on how you can safely store household flammables, when The Money Pit continues after this.

    KEVIN: Are you looking for a little help with your home improvement projects? Ask This Old House, ready to lend a hand every week on public television. Our team of experts travels the country to answer your questions and teach practical home repair lessons to people just like you. Whether replacing a toilet in San Francisco, fixing a window in West Virginia or planting a garden in Florida, we’ll teach you the skills you need to do the job yourself. Tune in to Ask This Old Houseon PBS. Visit ThisOldHouse.com for your local listings.

    LESLIE: Lumber Liquidators’ 13th Annual April Sale is here.

    TOM: It’s your chance to get once-in-a-lifetime prices, like North American and European laminate from 29 cents with the purchase of underlayment, 150 styles of prefinished hardwood from 89 cents and 30 varieties of prefinished bamboo from $1.79.

    LESLIE: And beautiful Bellawood up to $2 off a square foot, plus clearance prices on vinyl plank, wood-look tile and more. And special financing.

    TOM: Visit LumberLiquidators.com to find a store near you and get to the Famous April Sale today.

    ANNOUNCER: Do you want to make sure your home stays warm in the winter, cool in the summer and saves energy year-round? Then download The Money Pit’s new guide to insulation. It’s yours free at MoneyPit.com, courtesy of Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. Insulation is vital to maintaining a comfortable and energy-efficient home. Learn what Tom and Leslie recommend you use and what to avoid, all in this free guide available from MoneyPit.com and presented by Icynene, the evolution of insulation.

    TOM: Nothing makes outdoor projects fast and easy like QUIKRETE Fast-Setting Concrete in the red bag. Want to set posts without mixing? Just pour it in the hole and add water. It sets hard in about 20 minutes.

    And want to make it even easier? Check out their step-by-step, how-to project videos at QUIKRETE.com. QUIKRETE Fast-Setting Concrete. Look for it in the red bag. QUIKRETE, it’s what America is made of.

    LESLIE: Is your dishwasher not cleaning the way it used to? Does it smell, have stains or leave residue on your dishes? Then you need Glisten Dishwasher Magic, the number one-selling dishwasher cleaner.

    Hi. I’m Leslie Segrete. Dishwasher Magic is the most powerful dishwasher cleaner. It removes performance-robbing buildup and disinfects as it cleans. It can help your dishwasher work like new by eliminating limescale, grease and odors. Get Dishwasher Magic from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. See their full line of cleaners at GlistenCleaners.com.

    ANNOUNCER: Introducing the latest innovation in construction adhesives: new LIQUID NAILS Fuze*It All Surface. Glass, metal, wood, whatever your job, LIQUID NAILS Fuze*It bonds almost everything to everything. LIQUID NAILS Fuze*It has an instant grab time, performs just as well in blistering heat as it does in biting cold and works on even the most water-drenched surfaces, indoors and out. LIQUID NAILS Fuze*It All Surface Construction Adhesive. Don’t just glue it, Fuze*It. Available exclusively at The Home Depot.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to help you work on whatever it is you are tackling around your money pit this weekend. Plus, we’re giving away a really great prize for this time of year. We’ve got up for grabs a Hampton Bay Crossfire Fire Pit worth $89.

    Now, you can burn either wood or coal inside this really amazingly durable, steel fire pit. And it comes with a cooking grate and has a heating area of about 3 square feet, which makes it really great for grilling if you wanted to, also. And a mesh screen helps to provide some added safety.

    It’s available at The Home Depot. You can get everything that you need for your patio and for all things spring at The Home Depot or online at HomeDepot.com.

    TOM: That’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Joyce in Missouri is on the line with a floor-finishing question. How can we help you?

    JOYCE: I do have a question about my hardwood. It’s the old, solid hardwood from – it was put down back in the 50s. I love it and I refinished it, oh, probably about 15 to 17 years ago. And with the time and traffic, the top is wearing now and I need to sand it down and resurface it. When I did it then, I used GYM-SEAL. But I want to know what would be the best product that would be long-term lasting and something that would be user-friendly for an individual.

    TOM: OK. So, first of all, in terms of the sanding-it-down part, does the floor have any really severe wear or is it just the finish that’s worn?

    JOYCE: Just the finish.

    TOM: So you don’t have to sand it down all the way. What you can do is you can basically just lightly sand the surface. There is a machine called a U-Sand machine, which is like an abrasive disk sander that you can rent at a home center or a hardware store. It has four abrasive disks in it. It does have a vacuum system built in so it doesn’t leave dust all over the place.

    But it won’t wear down the wood too much. It’ll just sort of take that top layer of finish off and get it ready to be refinished. Because with hardwood floors, you don’t want to sand them completely down if you don’t have to, because that takes many years off their life when you take all that finish off down to the raw wood. It’s really not necessary.

    And then after you sand it, then you can apply an oil-based polyurethane. So not water-based but oil-based. Not acrylic-based but oil-based. And you’re going to apply that with what’s called a “lambswool applicator.” It’s kind of like a mop. And you dip it into a paint tray, you apply it in a very smooth, even coat. Start on one end, work your way out the door and then leave for a good four or five, six hours depending on the weather.

    JOYCE: OK. With the windows open?

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah. If it’s a nice, dry day and the windows are open, that’s the best thing. But just remember: whatever it says for drying time on the can, at least double it because it tends to be a bit sticky for a while.

    JOYCE: OK. So an oil-based polyurethane and a lambswool applicator.

    TOM: Yup. And then with a light sanding before you start the whole thing. OK?

    JOYCE: Sounds wonderful. Thank you so very much and you all have a wonderful day.

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

    You know, we get more questions on floors than any other topic on this program.

    LESLIE: And they occupy a large portion of your home. And there’s always something to do with them.

    TOM: They do. And they take a lot of abuse, so that’s probably why people need to fix them all the time.

    LESLIE: They do.

    TOM: Well, flammable liquids are a major cause of household fires. But if you’re a homeowner, you probably already have a few flammable liquids stored somewhere. You want to make sure that they are stored safely.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, the most common and the most dangerous flammable is obviously gasoline. But there are other highly flammable products that you also need to consider, like paint thinner, charcoal-lighter fluid andkerosene, just to name a few.

    TOM: The problem is not just spills. These all give off invisible vapors that ignite whenthey come in contact with even the smallest of sparks. So you must keep them in properly labeled andtightly sealed containers. And also make sure they’re non-glass containers andstoredas far away as possible from anything that could produce a spark.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s a greatidea to keep these liquids safely locked up outside of your house. So you might consider a shed to just specifically store these types of liquids safely.

    TOM: And be especially careful in the garage. That’s the one place where toys and toxins can be stored side-by-side. And you’ve got to keep those dangerous liquids up and away from kids.

    888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Dennis in California is on the line with The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    DENNIS: Yes. I have a house that was built in 1979 and it has T1-11 siding on it and I’m wanting to change the siding on it. I want like a cement-board lap siding but my question is: is it practical or feasible to just Tyvek-wrap over my T1-11 and then go ahead and put my new siding on top of that? Or will I be sandwiching in some problems?

    TOM: Well, T1-11, for those that are unfamiliar, is essentially plywood siding and it serves two purposes: it’s the siding and it’s the sheathing. So you do not have to remove that. Now, the downside is that you’re going to have pack out, so to speak, around the windows. The trim will – the windows will be a bit deeper than perhaps you’ve seen in the past. But that siding can stay just like that.

    You can put Tyvek over the siding and then – over the existing T1-11 siding and then add your HardiePlank over that. Just follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. But there’s no reason for you to pull that plywood off because frankly, if you did, I’m afraid that you would have to replace it with just regular plywood and there’s really no point to that. The T1-11 serves a structural purpose, as well as keeping the water out of your house.

    DENNIS: Oh. That makes sense. I didn’t think that it actually takes care of the shear, doesn’t it?

    TOM: It does. That’s right. Mm-hmm. It protects it against the shear and the racking forces.

    DENNIS: That makes sense. OK. Great. Now I have a direction to go. My concern was is that if I put the solid – if I sandwich something in, was I sandwiching in some moisture or anything like that? And I didn’t want to create problems down the road.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, let’s hope not. If you use good siding on top of Tyvek, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.

    DENNIS: OK. Great. Well, thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Hey. Are you not sure about how your wood trim details are holding up? Well, consider replacing railings, handrails, shutters and other exterior trim with synthetic materials. Learn where this is a good option, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Glisten. Glisten makes it easy to clean, freshen and maintain your dishwasher, disposer, microwave and washing machine. So improve the performance of your appliances with cleaning solutions from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Visit GlistenCleaners.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online at MoneyPit.com. That’s what Garrison did. Garrison says, “I’ve got an oceanfront home. My porch rail is made from wood that isn’t holding up well. Should I replace it with wood or a railing made of another material?”

    Well, if you’ve got an oceanfront home, Leslie, you’re always fighting the elements, right?

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah. And there’s a ton of humidity and moisture just because of your proximity to the water.

    TOM: I think a good option might be use a composite material in this case, Garrison. There’s a lot of brands out there that make composite railing systems. You’ve got AZEK and TimberTech and Fiberon and Fypon. There’s just a lot of them out there.

    And the nice thing about composites is they cut like wood and they’re shaped like wood but because they’re not organic, they’re not going to rot or decay. And if you want to paint them, you can. The nice thing about that is because they’re not organic, the paint actually lasts a really long time. So I would definitely consider composites. They are a little more expensive but I’m guessing if you’re talking about an oceanfront home, you probably can afford it. OK?

    LESLIE: Yeah. But you know what? It’s like I feel like these composites are great for every location. It just cuts down on the maintenance, which really helps a ton.

    TOM: Yeah. When you add in the fact that you don’t have to paint it as often, it starts to look much more economical.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here that says, “I just recently purchased a home and unfortunately, the previous owners were Michigan State fans. There are all sorts of green-and-white reminders of that throughout the house, including the landscaping: white rocks in the landscaping beds. And worse of all, the concrete foundation, garage floor and walkways are painted green.”

    TOM: Oh, God.

    LESLIE: “How can I remove it safely?” Yikes. I guess go Spartans?

    TOM: Yeah. Or more accurately, go away Spartans. I mean these folks are finding themselves in a sea of green.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: So I think the best approach isn’t necessarily to strip the old paint off, because it’s going to be almost impossible, especially on all that masonry, because it really soaks in. I think what you want to do is just remove the loose paint. You know, use a wire brush to get as much of that old stuff off as you can. And then you’re going to put a primer on: a masonry primer. And I would use an oil-based primer from a well-known manufacturer. That will seal in everything that’s under it. And then I think on top of that, you’re going to need two coats of good-quality exterior masonry paint on top of that primer.

    And I think that that will do the best job possible in trying to seal in the look of that Michigan State history that that house has. Either that or you’ve got to sell it to a Michigan State fan, right?

    LESLIE: It’s a marketing point right there.

    TOM: Next up, Robin writes: “First, we love your show. We own a lake house and it’s in a very damp area. We’d like to replace the floor on the first level but are looking for something that’s water-resistant. What do you recommend?”

    LESLIE: Oh. You know what’s always great for those below-grade and just essentially damp areas? Laminate floors. They come in so many varieties, so you can really pick a flooring that will look like whatever you want. And so many of the wood-look laminates look so realistic, you even get that hand-scraping look to them. So I think, depending on what your price point is, you could find a wood-look laminate that will do great in that condition.

    And then, of course, if you want to warm it up a little bit, you could throw in some area rugs. That’s really the best way to continue that sort of homey look.

    TOM: Now, keep in mind that’s not going to be waterproof but it will be water-resistant and very water-resistant, as a matter of fact. The other thing I like about laminates is they don’t have to be glued down. They float, so they’ll sit on top of that lower level. And just with some trim and saddles to make the transitions, you should be good to go in very short order.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And really, you have so many choices when it comes to laminates and at so many price points. So I think if you do a little research and head to some of your local stores, maybe even Lumber Liquidators, you’ll find something that really suits your style.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this spring hour of your weekend with us. We hope we’ve left you with some good tips and ideas to fuel your projects for the next few weeks. If you’ve got questions about your projects, remember you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or online at MoneyPit.com.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2016 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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