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How to Lower Cooling Costs this Summer, Prepare Your Home for Hurricane Season, Discover Why Your Concrete Surfaces are Cracking 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: Pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. And do that before you pick up the tools. Why? Well, because we can probably save you a step, save you some hassle as we kick off this official start to the summer home improvement season.

    That’s right. It is in season to do work around your house. Not that it’s ever out of season but I mean now is a great weather time to do those projects.

    LESLIE: It’s always in season.

    TOM: I love early-morning summer projects like painting and deck-building and doing stuff like that. We’re installing some doors here. I’ve been waiting all winter to get my doors in, because I didn’t want to tear the house wide open while it was in the depth of all the deep freeze that was going on.

    But now that it’s nice weather, it’s a great time to do lots of projects and we are here to help you get your projects done. For example, now that the heat is here, there are some easy things that you can do to cut down on those cooling bills and we’ll tell you what that is, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Alright. And summer season also means that hurricane season is unfortunately underway. And the experts are predicting a very active season, so we’re going to tell you what you can do to protect your home in case a hurricane is forecast in your area, a little later.

    TOM: And also ahead, if your concrete sidewalks and driveways are showing cracks, we’re going to have an expert stopping by with advice on how to fix them once and for all, without worrying about the cracks ever coming back.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a Raid prize pack from SC Johnson worth $55.

    TOM: It’ll help keep you bug-free this summer, so pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your home improvement question. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us for this show at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get started.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Tony in Des Moines has got a question about a townhouse. What can we do for you?

    TONY: I have a townhome that I am living in right now and we are – my wife and I are moving into our first home together. And we were considering finishing off the basement to my townhouse and renting it out.

    And I was just curious if it would be worth it to finish the basement, because I don’t know how much more it would add to the monthly rent the people would be willing to pay for the – for that finished basement. It’s going to cost me, I’m estimating, six to eight grand to finish the basement with carpet and drywall and everything. I was just thinking that maybe I should leave it unfinished or if I should actually finish it off. I’m pretty handy, so I could probably do most of it myself.

    TOM: But Tony, you are missing a very important opportunity here, my friend. And that is that eventually, you’re going to want to turn that into your man-cave.

    TONY: My man-cave? No, I’m going to have my own man-cave in my house.

    LESLIE: Alright.

    TOM: Oh, the entire house is going to be the man-cave. Well, what’s your wife going to say about that?

    TONY: Yeah but (inaudible at 0:04:27) this old property that I own or it’s going to be sold.

    TOM: Alright. OK. Well, I’ll tell you this: a finished basement does add significantly to the amount of usable space. And so, it will be more attractive if you have the finished basement. If you can do it yourself and keep the costs in line, I think it probably is a very good idea for you to do it. Are there any moisture issues with the basement, in terms of dryness or flooding or anything like that?

    TONY: Not at all. I live in Des Moines, so we don’t have a lot of flooding issues.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: I do have a dehumidifier down there that runs straight into my pump; my added pump that runs it into my tank. So, I haven’t had any problems, as far as moisture goes, at all.

    TOM: Well, what I would suggest is just make sure you do it right, in terms of the heating and cooling and make sure you extend it to that space properly. And then make sure you have plenty of wiring down there. Just do it like you would do any other room in the house; don’t cut corners. You can do this without spending a whole lot of money, I think, if you do it yourself.

    And I think it would add to the value to – of the place and make it more competitive, too, in a tight market, that you have a finished basement like that where folks can create a rec room or a family room, a place for the kids to hang out.

    LESLIE: Anything. Extra office.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It’s a good idea to have it.

    TONY: OK. Absolutely. Then I appreciate your input, guys. I listen to you guys all the time.

    TOM: Alright? Alright.

    TONY: I really appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Tony. Good luck with that project and call us back if you get stuck at any point.

    LESLIE: Alright. Rachel is calling in from South Dakota with some windy issues. What’s going on?

    RACHEL: Well, a while back, last fall we had some hail damage and the wind starts taking over and started blowing some of the shingles off.

    TOM: OK.

    RACHEL: So we need to replace the roof – the whole thing – but I look around and I see that all these barns have the metal roofs and nothing is happening to those roofs. And neighbors and everything are all having trouble with their shingles, too. And I was wondering, is a metal roof better than going with just your average shingle or …?

    TOM: Well, it depends, OK? Let me tell you why. First of all, if you have a high-wind situation, you want to install high-wind shingles. There are storm-resistant shingles. There are some asphalt shingles out there that are designed to stand up to, I think, near 100 miles an hour. I know Owens Corning …

    LESLIE: I think even higher. Owens Corning is like 130.

    TOM: Yeah. And there are other manufacturers, as well.

    That said, a metal roof is an excellent roof. And the metal roofs today have low-E coatings on them, so they reflect heat in the summer and keep you warm in the winter but they’re very expensive. You know, they’re called investment-grade roofs because they do cost quite a bit of money to install.

    So either is a good choice but I just don’t want you to think that you – that there’s no alternative for standard asphalt shingles; there is and they’re called high-wind shingles.

    RACHEL: OK. And you said Owens Corning was …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. They make a good one.

    TOM: Yes, they make one. Mm-hmm.

    RACHEL: They make a good one? OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

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

    LESLIE: Gene in Georgia is dealing with some cracks in the concrete. Tell us what’s going on.

    GENE: I have a problem in my garage and in the outside. I have some small cracks that need to be sealed in the garage and in the outside.

    TOM: OK.

    GENE: And I was trying to figure out what the best way might be to get that done.

    TOM: So the cracks are in the concrete surface, the floor, the – what about the …?

    GENE: Yes. Concrete surface, yes.

    TOM: OK. So we’re talking about the floor or the foundation or what?

    GENE: The floor.

    TOM: The floor? Alright, well, there’s a couple of options here. If they’re wide cracks, you can use a product called a flowable urethane. If they’re narrower cracks, you can use silicone or you can use an epoxy patching compound. But you don’t want to use regular concrete because that’ll simply crack and fall off.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Won’t ever stick in there.

    GENE: And do they carry something like that at The Home Depot?

    TOM: I’m not sure if they have it at Depot but if not, you could find it at a lumber yard, I’m sure.

    GENE: Oh, OK.

    TOM: Alright?

    GENE: Alright. You’ve been very helpful. I really appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-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, home improvement, design, décor, summer barbecuing ideas. Whatever you are working on around your money pit, we are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’re going to have some tips that can help you shave an easy hundred bucks off your summer energy bills. That’s all coming up, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac, makers of the number one-selling Guardian Series Home Standby Generators. Now introducing a full line of consumer and professional power washers. Whether you need to power it, clean it or protect it, Generac can help. Visit Generac.com to learn more.

    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 1-888-MONEY-PIT. This hour, we’re giving away a Raid Max Bug Barrier Gallon Starter Kit. The winner of this kit also gets a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit, and a $25 gift card for The Home Depot. It is a prize pack worth 55 bucks. Going out to one caller we talk to on the air this hour, so give us a call right now with your question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to give you a hand with what you are working on. And since it is officially the first weekend of summer, we know that many of you are already feeling the heat. And keeping cool during the summer could be a challenge when you’ve got a budget to consider. So, you want to save energy by taking advantage of periods in the day when your home doesn’t need to be kept as cool.

    Now, a programmable thermostat, if you set it and use it properly, can save about $100 in energy costs every single year. And Energy Star models have options and settings that can keep you comfortable without actually wasting energy.

    TOM: Now, if you have ceiling fans, you want to use them to help cut costs, as well. You can turn up your thermostat several degrees while using those fans to deliver the extra cooling comfort. And if you’re adding or replacing ceiling fans this summer, keep cool with Energy Star models; they really are more efficient. They move air more efficiently and the ceiling fans also have lighting that uses a lot less energy. And the fans are designed to really, very strategically move that air through the house.

    And remember, if you are using ceiling fans, they actually cool you and not the room. What does that mean? Well, the moving air actually initiates what we call evaporative cooling; that’s the coolness you feel on your skin as the breeze blows over it. So, when you leave the room, turn the fan off; you really don’t need it anymore.

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

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Mark in Georgia could possibly be dealing with a flooring issue. What happened? There was a flood?

    MARK: There was a flood. Ended up with about a ¼-inch baptizing my condominium. But the issue is, is that the adjuster from the insurance company – the first adjuster came out and was adamant that all the floors were going to have to be replaced.

    TOM: OK. Now, this was a private adjuster or the adjuster for the insurance company?

    MARK: This was actually a company adjuster.

    TOM: Really? OK.

    MARK: Yeah. Then, one of the private firms that they contract through came out and said that the floors could be saved.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: And I just – how do you know? They are very expensive. They’re the real, genuine-McCoy Il Parquet floors.

    TOM: Right.

    MARK: And I had them done when I moved into the unit about nine years ago and …

    TOM: OK. And these are parquet floors, not strip-hardwood floors?

    MARK: Correct.

    TOM: Well, because they’re parquet floors, I’m a little more concerned about water damage.

    LESLIE: Because there’s so many small nooks and crannies and the boards themselves are so little, right?

    TOM: And also, there’s some degree of adhesive at play here. You know, the adhesive gets – glues each little piece of hardwood down to a subfloor in a parquet design. So, if the adhesive was disturbed by the water, it could look fine and a year later, you start getting all these little pieces or chunks that are going to come up. And you’d have a devil of a time convincing the insurance company it was related to the flood.

    So, I would think that if they’re offering to replace it, I might take them up on that or at least take the money, so that you can do it at your own accord later.

    MARK: Alright. Thank you. That I needed to hear. Nobody else has said that.

    TOM: Alright. Great, Mark. Glad to help you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    CATHERINE: Yes. Well, I have a historic brick home that was built in the 1820s and I’m trying to figure out how to vent the attic without compromising the historic – the integrity, I guess, of the house.

    TOM: OK. So you are talking about an attic. Is this an unfinished attic that you need to vent?

    CATHERINE: Yes, it’s an unfinished, third-floor attic.

    TOM: Alright. So, why not add a ridge vent down the peak of the roof? And I mean it’s going to be expensive but if you want to preserve the historic character, you could make that a copper ridge vent.


    TOM: And that would be very attractive and that would let plenty of warm air out.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Patina really nicely, too.

    TOM: Exactly.

    CATHERINE: OK. Would that suffice to take care of the whole issue in the attic or do you need an inflow and an outflow or …?

    TOM: Yeah. You should match that with soffit vents. Do you have an overhang on this roof?

    CATHERINE: Yes. You mean like – are you thinking along the lines of a soffit?

    TOM: Yes, a soffit. Do you have a soffit?

    CATHERINE: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we do but it’s decorative and it’s brick and so it’s curved and …

    TOM: A brick soffit that’s curved?

    LESLIE: Interesting.

    CATHERINE: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a real funny, old house. So it – yeah.

    TOM: OK. Well, let’s assume that you don’t have a soffit that you can do anything to. So then what you do in that situation is you use something called a drip-edge vent.

    Now, a drip-edge vent goes at the edge of the roof and it essentially extends the edge of the roof about 2 inches and creates a mini-soffit. And it would be invisible from the street when you look up but it would let air into the underside of the roof sheathing, it would ride up under the sheathing and then exit at the ridge.

    CATHERINE: Wonderful. I knew you people were the right people to call.

    TOM: OK. Well, you’re very welcome. It sounds like a lovely home. Good luck with that project.

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

    LARRY: Yeah, I’ve got an old house – it’s about 100 jillion years old – and we moved into about – oh, about …

    TOM: A hundred jillion. That’s a lot.

    LESLIE: Is that what you said?

    LARRY: Everything about this house is old. I’ve had satellite TV put in, I’ve had drills – and then they tried to drill through the walls. “This is pure oak.” I said, “Well, I can imagine.” It’s just an old house that built – it’s sturdy; it’s a nice house.

    And the problem I have is I’ve got a central-air unit downstairs and it doesn’t seem to want to – the air doesn’t seem to want to go upstairs. I’ve had a ceiling fan at the top of our stairs, tried to draw the air up. Doesn’t seem to work.

    When I had the house rewired, I had a 220 line put upstairs in the attic just in case I need to put a unit – I guess some old houses have roof or attic units that have central air, since the central air doesn’t go all the way upstairs.

    TOM: Right.

    LARRY: I have one vent that goes upstairs: goes to my daughter’s room. She loves it. Well, the rest of the upstairs has to suffer because she shuts her door. It wouldn’t – it really wouldn’t circulate anyway, so …

    TOM: Right.

    LARRY: I guess one of my options is – do I try to pipe another pipe upstairs to go to the attic to distribute the air or do I get an attic unit to do the job for the upstairs?

    TOM: Well, it depends. I mean if the duct system is installed correctly – and that means you have the right number of supply and return registers – you can have one central system that handles both floors.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And the dampers have to be properly adjusted from the air handler in the basement or the attic.

    TOM: But that really depends on whether or not the system is big enough, first, and secondly, whether or not you could run the right-sized ducting. Obviously, having one supply with your daughter is not going to do the trick.

    LARRY: I was told the central-air unit wasn’t really that big enough, so he was trying to sell me one upstairs in the attic. So …

    TOM: Well, having two zones with two separate systems is not a bad thing to do but it’s an expensive alternative. I would want to know if there’s a way that I could run enough duct work, supply and return to that second floor to avoid that, because that’s going to be the least-expensive thing to do right now and the least-expensive system to run. Because remember, if you have two systems, you have two compressors, you have two air handlers and you have two bills to run it.

    LARRY: Right. So do I just call somebody up that does heating and air conditioning and ask their appraisal of it and see what I need to do with that from then on or …?

    TOM: You would need to have a good HVAC contractor to help you with this, yes.

    LARRY: OK. OK.

    TOM: It’s not a DIY project.

    LARRY: OK. Well, I sure appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Bill in Michigan is calling in with some kitchen guidance. What can we do for you?

    BILL: Yes, I’m just getting ready to start a remodeling job and I was …

    TOM: OK.

    BILL: We’re looking at knocking out the existing wall in between the kitchen and the dining room, trying to make more room.

    TOM: OK.

    BILL: So is that something that we should do? And we’re looking at resale.

    TOM: So you want to – you have two separate rooms now. You have a kitchen and dining room and you want to consider creating one room that basically encompasses both spaces.

    BILL: Exactly. And both rooms are very small, so that’s the problem.

    TOM: Yeah.

    BILL: The dining room is almost too small; the kitchen is almost too small. Get rid of that in-between wall and we’re hoping that’s going to make a more usable space.

    LESLIE: Is there anything on that in-between wall that would then hinder your kitchen operation? By taking away that wall, are you losing valuable countertop space, cabinets, appliances?

    TOM: Cabinet space.

    BILL: No, it’s a blank wall. As far away from the sink as possible is where you’re – and then there’s a little, small doorway that goes into the dining room.

    TOM: Right.

    BILL: The dining room is kind of – I don’t know. I want to say it’s maybe 10×10, something like that, so …

    LESLIE: OK. Now …

    TOM: Well, could you take that wall and cut it down in half and …?

    LESLIE: Yeah, make like a pass-through.

    TOM: Right. And kind of have it look all wide and open but you still sort of retain that sort of dining – official dining-room space?

    LESLIE: I feel like you’re going to be sad if you take that wall away and now you’re sitting down to a formal family dinner and you’re looking at the kitchen.

    BILL: Well, (inaudible at 0:19:37).

    TOM: Yeah, the other question that I would have, too, is it really depends – you’re really asking a house-value question and really, it’s going to depend as much on what else is available in the neighborhood. If you know any realtors, that might be a good question to ask them because they see a lot of houses. And I tend to think that a bigger, more functional kitchen is going to outweigh a dining room every day.

    BILL: Alright.

    TOM: But if you don’t have a functional kitchen or a functional dining room, in this case, I think that I would probably just go for the kitchen.

    BILL: OK. Yeah, the contractor has come and he sent us two different plans, with and without that wall, and we’ve got to make a hard decision here coming up. So I was hoping that you guys could give me some valuable insight and you have. So thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, after the long, cold winter, I am willing to bet that your concrete driveways and your sidewalks might be showing a few cracks. So we’re going to tell you how to fix those so they won’t come back, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. And now you can easily cut through the most difficult projects with ease, with a Power Cutter from Skil. With powerful, lithium-ion technology and an auto-sharp blade system, Skil’s lightweight Power Cutter will soon become your favorite tool, too. The Skil Power Cutter. It cuts just about anything.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And concrete is one of the most durable building materials around. But that does not mean it’s indestructible. If you are noticing that the years are not being kind to your concrete – we’re coming out of some awful winters all around the country. If you’re just now discovering that your sidewalks and your driveways are – leave a little bit to be desired, we have got some solutions for you.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And here to tell us about those solutions and how we should go about doing those is Bob Schmidt from Sakrete Concrete.

    Welcome, Bob.

    BOB: Thank you very much, Leslie.

    TOM: So, Bob, we had a really rough winter on our concrete surfaces and that has to have had an impact. I think the types of issues that most of us are concerned about are the deteriorating surfaces but in addition to that, just the uneven concrete sections and also the cracks that form. So let’s talk about battling that winter, to begin with.

    Now, if there – although there is – we have been, for years, telling people not to use sodium chloride and rock salt on their surfaces of your concrete, we know there are people out there that have done that. As a result, they’re looking at very pitted surfaces. What do we do about that?

    BOB: Well, Tom, my recommendation for that is a resurfacing material that’s specifically designed to bond to concrete.

    TOM: And that’s the key, right? Because it’s the bonding issue that – where I think a lot of people make the mistake. When they try to repair concrete, they try to just use normal concrete so – to do that and it just doesn’t stick, correct?

    BOB: It does not. Materials that are specifically designed for that have a polymer in them that are designed to help cementitious materials bond to concrete material. If you simply put down a normal concrete or mortar, it will not bond; you need a special bond in there.

    The important thing for something like that is really in the preparation. If your surface is not properly prepared, it’s very much like painting your house. If you paint it over a dusty wall, it might look great for a very brief period of time but after that, it’s going to come right off. It’s critical that you prepare the surface properly. You need to – in most cases, a garden hose with a good amount of pressure can blow off the material that’s on there. In some cases, you might need a pressure washer but preparing the surface is absolutely critical.

    TOM: Alright. And the types of products that we use on top of this, you mentioned that they have to bond. Are we talking about epoxy products here or are there different formulations that give you that bond?

    BOB: No, typically not. Typically not epoxies. These are polymers – a variety of polymers – but not epoxies. Epoxies are a very different type of material. Typically, if you go into a hardware store or home center, you would not find epoxy coating materials. You’re going to find materials that have a – different types of polymers to them: either latexes or acrylics but not epoxies.

    LESLIE: And would the same sort of – go if you’ve got a crack within your walkway or your sidewalk? Do you want to also reach for a product like that? And what would be the prep? Because I know sometimes those cracks are kind of small. Do you need to make it larger before you can actually fill – there’s always a lot of confusion and I think people think concrete is so durable, which it is, but they just don’t know how to go about repairing it.

    TOM: And there’s also a lot of junk in those cracks.

    BOB: Yeah, it’s very important to get all the material out of the cracks and typically, you can just do that with a garden hose. Now, the type of material I would fill a crack with is a little bit different; it depends on the size of the crack. There are materials that come in tubes – acrylic materials, polyurethane materials – that you would put in a caulk gun and squeeze out into those cracks.

    Leslie, you make a good point. Some cracks are actually too small and you do need to take a hammer and chisel and make them a little bit wider and then squeeze that material in there. There are also different types of materials. The caulk-tube materials are not sanded products. There are, however, sanded products.

    When you have a crack that’s, say, a ½-inch wide, there are sanded products; typically they come in a quart container that you would simply squeeze into the cracks. If they’re deep enough, you can put backer rod or even fill the bottom of the crack with sand and then squeeze the material on top of it so it’s – you’re not putting in more than about a ½-inch in depth.

    TOM: Talking to Bob Schmidt – he is an expert with Sakrete Concrete – about how to tackle some pretty common concrete repairs around the house.

    Bob, I have a question for you about these cracks. Now, one of the issues with repairing these cracks is the patching material inevitably doesn’t match the sidewalk or the step or whatever you’re working on.

    Now, years ago, I used to have a little trick of the trade that I did where I would take a masonry drill and I’d find a spot in the sidewalk or in the side of the step where it wasn’t that obvious. And I’d drill out some concrete, because the dust would be the same color and then I would sprinkle that on top of the patching material. You got any more sophisticated ways to keep the color consistent?

    BOB: No, not really. Tom, unfortunately, that is a problem. You’re patching a material typically that – either you’re patching a sidewalk that’s been down for 10 years or 20 years. It’s oxidized; it’s very light in color and the patching materials tend to be darker. Your suggestion is an excellent one.

    The only thing I tell people – if they’re patching the repair so that the repair – so that the crack doesn’t get worse – and the worst thing that happens is you leave a crack, water gets down in it, you go through a number of freeze/thaw cycles and now a little crack is a huge crack. If you’re just trying to do that and you’re not concerned about aesthetics, then you don’t need to worry about it.

    But if you are concerned about aesthetics and you use a powder-type material like we have, like the Top ‘n Bond, what you can consider doing is coating the – go ahead and patch it and then take, with a very – a thin coat, almost a paint-on consistency and paint the rest of the sidewalk so that it’s all the same color.

    TOM: Good advice. Bob Schmidt, Product Manager for Sakrete Concrete, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    BOB: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, hurricane season has officially begun so when a storm is forecast in your area, are you going to be ready to protect your home? We’re going to tell you what you can do to shore up your windows and doors, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. And now you can easily cut through the most difficult projects with ease, with a Power Cutter from Skil. With powerful, lithium-ion technology and an auto-sharp blade system, Skil’s lightweight Power Cutter will soon become your favorite tool, too. The Skil Power Cutter. It cuts just about anything.

    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 you should pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, because we’re giving out home improvement advice, always, but we’ve also got a great prize up for grabs. We’re giving away, this hour, a Raid Max Bug Barrier Gallon Starter Kit. And the winner of this kit is also going to get a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit, and a $25 gift card for The Home Depot.

    It’s a prize pack worth $35, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your help with your home improvement project and also your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, hurricane season is now officially underway and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is urging coastal residents to prepare for above-normal activity this season. And that is millions of you, from the Gulf Coast to the Eastern Seaboard. And even if you don’t live on the coast, a storm system that includes a hurricane can affect areas far inland.

    One way, though, to get ready is to board up the windows and the doors. Taping over windows is not going to do very much to protect them, even though that the video you see in just about every storm-prep story on the news – not so much a very good idea.

    What is a good idea is to use precut plywood to cover those windows. Now, you can precut this well in advance of the storm and label it as to which window it goes to and then it’s really easy just to hammer it up when it’s time to get ready for that storm. But don’t wait for the storm, to have to go out and buy the plywood because what’s going to happen?

    LESLIE: There’s going to be none left.

    TOM: Well, there’ll be none left.

    Now, hammering those fasteners all over your windows can definitely take its toll but there is a new, cool tool on the market that can help. They are the Stanley-Bostitch hammers and they can make the job a little bit easier because, first of all, they’ve got a 75-percent larger strike face – that would be the head – and they’ve got AntiVibe technology.

    Now, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been using Stanley hammers with this AntiVibe technology for many years and it’s amazing. It totally minimizes the vibration and the shock at impact and it really gives you a lot less stress on your arm as you swing those hammers over and over again.

    You can get more information on Bostitch.com.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, another area of your house that you really need to reinforce in storm preparation is your garage, because your garage door is probably the biggest and potentially weakest opening of your home. And when those high winds blow in your garage door, the force is so strong that it can literally blow the roof off of your house. Now, there are braces that are made specifically for this purpose or you can actually create a makeshift brace from 2x4s.

    If you want to learn more about what you can do to prepare for a hurricane in your area, head on over to MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: 888-666-3974 is the number you need to reach us, so call us right now with your home improvement question.

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

    GAIL: Oh, hello. Thank you. I’m calling because I like to feed the birds and I have two birdfeeders hanging on a planter pole, on each side of a planter pole. It’s about 4 feet above the ground. And I have all kinds of birds; cranes sometimes come and eat. And the seeds end up on the ground and they’re growing, of course. And my husband put down plastic and rocks on top and that’s not working because it’s making such a mess with the seeds growing and I was wondering if you had an idea for me of what I could do for a platform there.

    TOM: So what’s the surface that you have right now?

    GAIL: It’s grass but he put down plastic and then he put large rocks, pretty rocks on – you know, make it pretty there.

    TOM: Right.

    GAIL: And the birds eat between the rocks most of the time but the thing is, is they – the seeds grow when it rains and …

    TOM: What if you created a little paver patio there? Is that a possibility?

    GAIL: A paver patio?

    TOM: Yeah.

    GAIL: Well, I was thinking of concrete. But see, the pavers would have in-between places.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Well …

    TOM: Yeah but if you do the base properly, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    GAIL: What would you suggest?

    LESLIE: Well, here’s something else in addition to pavers. There’s something that you can find – I don’t know if you can get it at regular pet stores or bird stores or if you have to look at it at a home center – but there’s something called a seed catcher.

    GAIL: Seed catcher.

    LESLIE: And it looks like – it almost looks like a colander; it’s like mesh screen material but it’s on a rigid, circular round. And some of them are made to slide up posts and some are made to hang from the same hook that you would hang one from a tree and they sort of sit below.

    GAIL: Oh. OK.

    LESLIE: That might be an easy fix. It might not look attractive with your birdfeeder so that maybe a paver area beneath it is the better solution there. But it’s worth a search just to see what you can find in your area.

    Now with pavers, you want to make sure that you prep the area below it, which means you kind of have to dig down. Maybe if you’re making a little square around your post, you want to remove the soil and the grass and go down a couple of inches. And then you want to put some aggregate, which is basically just a loose stone of assorted sizes, and then sand and then your paver on top.

    And there’s a great product by QUIKRETE called JOINT-LOCK, which is a locking sand that you sort of brush over the pavers and then wet with a hose and it sort of locks all the pavers together. So whatever seeds do land on there, you can just sweep right up rather than sort of getting …

    GAIL: That sounds good. Oh, well those are all good. I appreciate it very much.

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

    LESLIE: Jody in Rhode Island needs some help with a fireplace project. What can we do for you?

    JODY: Yes, I was wondering if you have an easy idea regarding taking off the soot from the walls so I can repaint it.

    LESLIE: Oh, soot from the walls. So it’s not on any of the masonry. It’s actually on the drywall?

    JODY: Yeah, right.

    LESLIE: Have you tried – there’s a solution that you can get at the home center. It’s usually in the painting aisle and it’s called TSP, which is trisodium phosphate. And that’s basically like a wall cleanser. It’s a prepping project that a lot of professional painters use. And if you mix it according to the directions, it should get that right off. Because it’s also – it’s like a degreaser. It’s a good cleanser.

    JODY: OK.

    LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit. Well, “safety first” is a good motto, especially when it comes to one of the biggest fall hazards at your home: your stairs. We’re going to tell you what type of railings that you really need to have at home, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by ODL’s Add-On Blinds. Enclosed behind tempered glass, they eliminate the need for dusting and exposed cords, both problems with traditional blinds. Plus, they easily install over your existing entry glass. Visit www.ODL.com to learn more.

    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 are insects starting to bug the heck out of you? That’s always the sign that summer is here, when the insects sort of take over. If you’ve got those kinds of problems, you can search the answer at MoneyPit.com. All you need to do is search for pests. We have lots of resources on how to deal with things like bed bugs and the mosquitoes and carpenter ants and termites and all of the summer-season pests, all online for free at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, you can post a question in the Community section of MoneyPit.com. And I’ve got one here that Andrew in Wisconsin posted. And he writes: “I have outside doors that go into a basement. The stairs do not have a handrail. Is it required by law to have a handrail for all stairs?”

    That’s a good question because I think there’s a lot of gray areas, especially if you’re in a stairwell that seems kind of confined by walls, you know? What are the rules there?

    TOM: Well, if you have generally more than two risers – so that’s one step – you generally do need a handrail. So it’s a good idea to have one. The height on a handrail, typically about 30 to 34 inches off the nose of the stair. The nose of the stair would be the front edge of the stair. So if you measure from the front edge of the lower stair up to vertically about, say, 30 to 34 inches and do the same at the top of the stairs, that would sort of be the line that the handrail needs to follow.

    So, important to have a handrail, even if you have sort of walls on either side and certainly, absolutely, if you have open stairs do you need a handrail. So, you really can’t go wrong adding a rail, Andrew.

    LESLIE: Alright. Ron in New Jersey writes: “I love your show and need your help. I’m installing a cedar picket fence and would like it to be white. Will it last longer as a good white paint and primer or a solid-white stain?”

    TOM: Actually, a combination. I would use a primer and then a stain on top of that. In fact, we used an oil-based primer on the last picket fence we put up, followed it with a solid-color white stain and I’ve got to tell you, it’s lasted about 14, 15 years.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: The other important thing is this: don’t put it too low. You want to leave about 6 inches between the bottom of the pickets and the grass, because that makes it drier and that’s where it rots. Fences rot from the bottom on up.

    So, fight the temptation to put it close to the ground. Leave it up so there’s air that gets under it – it’s for decoration; it’s not to keep anything in or out – and you’ll find that it’s going to last an awfully long time.

    LESLIE: Alright, Ron. I hope you enjoy that fence project and have a great summer.

    TOM: Well, home gardens are increasing across the country and even the White House has its very own vegetable garden. They are a great way to get kids to eat their veggies, stay healthy and save money, all at the same time.

    But now there’s actually one more reason why a backyard garden may help your family and Leslie has that insight in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Gardening is indeed taking the country by storm and it’s got lots of great benefits besides the obvious of saving money and of course, eating healthy.

    Now, some studies actually show that it helps kids with attention and learning disorders. Among kids with learning disabilities, gardening was linked with enhanced non-verbal communication skills, cooperation and relationship-building skills, so that’s a big help.

    Now, because kids with high-functioning autism like Asperger’s Syndrome – they tend to be extremely picky. So gardening is a good way to get them to try new foods, because it’s foods that they’re actually cultivating and harvesting themselves. In fact, a number of studies have actually shown that physical activity and gardening time can significantly reduce those ADHD symptoms and increase focus in these kids.

    Now, even kids with no disabilities can benefit, because these studies have shown that kids score higher on achievement tests and then they learn valuable life skills. And lots of great evidence really point out that you can’t go wrong with gardening with your kids, so go ahead, get your hands dirty, have some fun and then enjoy the harvest.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, speaking of getting your hands dirty, do you have an area in your lawn where the grass just doesn’t grow? We’re going to teach you how to fill in those bare spots and make them green again, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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

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    (Copyright 2011 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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