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How to Quiet a Loud House, Spotting Termites in Winter, and DIY Master Bedroom Ideas – In Time for Valentine’s Day

  • 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: Welcome to this hour of the program where it is our job to help you tackle your home improvement projects, to help you solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas, maybe those organizational challenges that you have around the house. Maybe there’s an indoor project that you’d like to get done, sort of take it off your list because it’s just too darn cold to work outside. Or maybe you are listening to us in a warm part of the country. Don’t brag but pick up the phone and do call us with a project that you’re working on. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Hey, no matter where you live in the country – and this is something that happens to all of us – imagine laying in bed at night and listening to all the noises that your house makes: the squeaks, the creaks, the pings. All of those noises can kind of freak you out if you don’t know where they’re coming from. We’ve got tips for ID-ing and silencing them once and for all.

    LESLIE: And a termite problem is easily spotted over the summer. But how would you know if you had termites during the colder months? And we’re going to tell you what you should be looking for in the winter when those destructive bugs are harder to spot.

    TOM: And also ahead, have you run out of Valentine’s Day gift ideas for your partner? Well, a master-bedroom redo can add more than just a dash of romance; it can help your home’s value, too. We’ll have some suggestions, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And one lucky caller this hour can finally hang all of those frames and artwork. We are giving away a laser level, which is perfect for making the right cut or hole or marking, whatever you need, the first time.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth almost 30 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Giovanni in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    GIOVANNI: I have a septic tank that a water softener flushes into. And we put up drywall next – (inaudible at 0:02:20) next to the septic tank for the saltwater to regenerate and bump into. But when I (inaudible at 0:02:27) 25 years or 10 years or 20 years – I can’t remember. When they cleaned the septic tank out the last – this year, they said the walls are becoming deteriorated to the tank because of the salt. And I might only have a three-year life left in the tank.

    TOM: What’s the tank made out of?

    GIOVANNI: Concrete.

    TOM: I’ve never actually seen a septic tank wear out. I can buy that you may have some deterioration in the walls of the concrete. But unless they’re broken up, I don’t know if I would believe that you’re going to have a three-year life left in it. I mean I think those things are pretty indestructible.

    Now, what – did you have somebody open it up and inspect the inside of it?

    GIOVANNI: Well, they cleaned the septic tank out about a month ago before they holidays, because they had all the kids and the family coming over. And I was thinking – I didn’t ask them the question – is it deterioration on the inside or is the drywall overflow from the water softener plug about to be – and pouring salt around the outside of the tank. I haven’t been able to get back to him yet. He’s not – he never returned my calls.

    TOM: Yeah. I don’t have a high degree in confidence in the advice that you were given on this. I don’t think I would be too concerned about it, because I don’t see salt deteriorating concrete. You know, it’ll deteriorate the surface but I don’t think – with all the water that’s being run through there, I don’t see it having that kind of serious deteriorating effect. If you put a rock salt on a concrete sidewalk, it’s going to cause it to pit. When you’re using saltwater along with the tens of thousands of gallons of other freshwater that gets dumped into that kind of a tank, I just don’t see it as having the same kind of effect.

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

    LESLIE: Judy in Arkansas is on the line with a floor that’s coming apart. Tell us what’s happening.

    JUDY: Well, it’s been down about 13 years. It’s like a $5,000 floor is what it cost us. A thousand-square-foot room. It’s Pergo. We have some seams that have kind of bubbled up a little bit. Is there any way to fix this? I don’t intend to replace it, OK?

    TOM: So, you say the seams have bubbled up on laminate floor? So, they’re pressing together and sort of pushing up?

    JUDY: Yeah, just a little bit. I have some extra boxes out there but not enough to fix all of this.

    TOM: Yeah. If that’s happening, though – if that’s happening on a wide-scale basis, then I suspect something was done incorrectly in the installation. A couple of things to remember about laminate floor. First of all, the floor that it goes down on top of has to be pretty flat. It’s got a very low tolerance to floors that are even the least bit out of level, that have any kind of bumps or rolls in it. Secondly, if it’s put on too tight so that it doesn’t have enough room to expand and contract, then you can see that floors will buckle up. They’ll press in because they’re expanding and they’ll push up and have those seams come apart. So those are the things that you really need to look into with this.

    I would get your contractor back and have them address this, because that definitely should not have happened once that floor was put down.

    JUDY: Even 13 to 14 years out?

    TOM: It definitely shouldn’t have happened.

    JUDY: Do you think it could be moisture?

    TOM: It could be. It could be moisture-related. Have you had an excessive amount of moisture recently when this started to happen?

    JUDY: No. Uh-uh. Not at all.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But it could just be consistent moisture from the hydroscopic nature of the concrete over time.

    TOM: Yeah. It could be.

    JUDY: And the house is about 30 years old.

    TOM: How long ago did it start to come up?

    JUDY: It’s been going on. We’ve been noticing spots off and on for a while.

    TOM: Well, Leslie’s correct. It could very well be moisture-related if it’s going to – if it’s that frequent and it laid down flat for all the other years up to that.

    JUDY: OK. There’s nothing else I can do?

    TOM: No. You can’t fix something like that, Judy. Unfortunately, you have to replace it. Well, what I would do if I replaced it, I would be very careful about measuring the moisture in the concrete to make sure it’s not wetter than what the manufacturers allow. And secondly, I’ll give you a trick of the trade, which is that even though the laminate floors today are lock together-type pieces, you can add glue to those seams, as well. And that gives you a more permanent protection against this happening again.

    JUDY: OK. Well, thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Judy. 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. Give us a call with your home improvement question. We are here to lend a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Coming up, it’s a popular home improvement project that can add value and perhaps some romance. We’re going to teach you how to upgrade your master bedroom, just in time for Valentine’s Day, after this.

    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: Here to help you with your home improvement project. Help yourself, first, by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you might just win a very cool prize we’re giving away this hour. It’s a laser level. It features a very unique ball-and-cup mounting system. It’s great for leveling and lining pictures and shelves and cabinets and mirrors and more.

    It’s worth 28.95. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: John in Maryland is on the line with a gutter issue. What’s going on at your money pit?

    JOHN: I have an area where I have a system over top of the gutters that is very similar to a very famous helmet-type company that you may have heard of. But it’s not that. But it’s the same type of product and it seems to be overflowing. Well, of course, they’re never supposed to need to be cleaned. And actually, I got up there figuring, OK, well, I guess that’s sort of not true. Maybe I have to clean it. Get up there and it’s completely sealed.

    So I looked at some stuff online as to why they might overflow like mine are. And apparently, there’s somebody who said something like it could get pollen and things like that and – from the trees. And I do have a fairly heavily wooded lot and the trees were definitely overgrown for the past couple of years before I trimmed them back recently.

    TOM: So I guess this particular gutter product that you purchased probably came with a guarantee for clog-free gutters. Is that correct?

    JOHN: I don’t know if this system did, and it was so – it’s probably been 10 years ago, at least, since I had them installed.

    TOM: Alright. So here’s my experience with those types of gutter covers. I have seen them work and work quite well in some cases. Usually, where there’s a problem is when you have a fairly steep roof and your water, as it trickles down, builds up a lot of momentum and hits that gutter cover and never really draws into the gutter itself; it washes over the top of it. So you may possibly be seeing gutter water that’s running over the top of it because it’s not – the surface tension of the water is not strong enough to pull it all into the gutter itself. They usually work well with moderate rainfalls, not heavy rainfalls.

    The other thing that I’ve seen is if you have the kind that has a fine mesh. Yes, you can get some fine particulates that will block those up. But that should be visible to you when you’re looking at it. And if you don’t see that, I don’t think that’s the case.

    If it’s not working and those two solutions don’t make a lot of sense to you, then it might be time to remove and replace it. I’ve had good experience with a type that has small holes. It looks like a shutter, like a louver, that fits over it. And I like it because it works most of the time and if occasionally it gets clogged, it’s very easy to lift it up and pull the leaves out.

    JOHN: I see. OK.

    TOM: Alright. Well, I hope that helps you a little bit. Good luck with that project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve Diane in Massachusetts on the line with a noise question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    DIANE: Sided the house 12 years ago and I had blown-in insulation put in 3 years. And the house is noisy. I can hear a humming. It’s annoying. It’s a buzzing. I don’t know why, after doing all of this surrounding the house and trying to keep it warm, I would hear a humming, a resonance in the house.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what: there’s got to be a reason for this and it’s going to take some real detective work to figure it out. I’ll give you an example from my own home. You know, we recently had mentioned earlier on this show – put in spray-foam insulation and sealed up the attic and it’s never been warmer in the house as a result of it. But in one part of the house, it still was technically a conditioned attic. So by code, we were required to leave some vents in that attic. Now, it ended up that it was so tight in that attic space, even with the vent, that whenever the wind blew, we’d get this really weird, almost like haunting sound.

    You know when you were a kid and you would – took an old bottle and you blew across the top of it and it made a big, deep sound with it?

    DIANE: Yeah.

    TOM: Like a big jug? Well, that’s what it sounds like when the air blows across this vent. And it makes a really weird sort of vibrating sound in that part of the house. Until I figured it out, I was really scratching my head. So there’s always a reason for this. In our case, it was a vent. In your case, it could be plumbing. Very often, we get noises in homes that are sourced from plumbing. Sometimes when you run hot or cold water, pipes will expand or contract and cause sort of like a creaking sound that will vibrate through the entire length of the pipe and amplify itself, as a result. It could be electrical. If there’s outlets or panel boxes in those parts of the house, they definitely should be inspected to make sure that nothing is disintegrating inside that electrical area.

    There’s nothing about adding blown-in insulation that will cause a noise, so the source must be somewhere else that you’re going to have to dig into a bit more, Diane, before you’ll know what to do about it. But I would trust your instincts. If you’re hearing it, it definitely exists. Sometimes, people think they’re going nuts. But I’ve got to tell you, there’s a reason for that but it’s definitely going to take some detective work to get to the bottom of it.

    DIANE: OK. You coming over?

    TOM: Alright. Well, you put on the coffee and next time I’m up in Massachusetts, we’ll stop by.

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

    Well, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re looking for a great gift or a way to spice things up, a master-bedroom reno does that and more.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Turning your master bedroom into a luxurious master suite is generally a great way for you to add value and style. Now, one important thing to keep in mind, though: if you knock down a wall to incorporate an existing bedroom and then make a master suite, that can actually impact the value of your home negatively since home value is really largely based on the number of bedrooms and rooms, really, that you have in your house.

    TOM: That’s right. So whether you’re adding space or not, though, using that space well is the key to a lush master bedroom. Think about how you use your bedroom or you would like to use it and plan from there.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Reading nooks, even personal gyms, cozy fireplaces, those are all popular upgrades. And some couples swear that adding his-and-her closets is really the boost that pretty much every marriage needs. Drapes, window dressings, they can also help you add ambiance like you’ve never had before, as is updating your lighting. And get this, guys: adding a dimmer, the ability to control the level of lighting, especially in the bedroom, makes a lot of people happy, especially the ladies, guys. Just saying.

    TOM: And if your master bedroom makes you want to spend more time there, you’re in luck. Gourmet coffee makers and even refrigerators in bedrooms are gaining in popularity.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. This is The Money Pit.

    LESLIE: Pete in Wisconsin is on the line with a garage-door problem. What’s going on at your money pit?

    PETE: Well, I’m a mostly do-it-yourselfer but I do call the professionals and have them come in when needed. I installed a steel, insulated garage door about three years ago, maybe four now. And worked just fine until just recently. It sounds like it’s binding when I – when it’s still going in the up position. And I ran it like 50 times trying to find where it’s binding. I’m not seeing any place where it’s rubbing on the track or anything else but it sure is making a noise like it is. And as I watch it, it appears as if one side may be going up slightly higher than the other. Any ideas, guys?

    TOM: Pete, can you disconnect the garage-door opener from the door itself?

    PETE: I can and I have.

    TOM: OK. And once the garage-door opener is disconnected, can you open and close the garage door smoothly and evenly with no binding whatsoever?

    PETE: There is less binding but there is still some. You can tell that there’s still a load on one side at times, it feels like.

    TOM: So it sounds to me like maybe the roller bearings are shot on some part of the door. Because there’s those roller bearings that fit inside the track and they help move the door up and down. And if something is stuck – if one of those bearings is not turning, it’s going to jam on that one side and they’ll sort of fight itself and it’ll try to come up crooked. And that might be what’s causing this.

    I would disconnect the garage-door opener from the scenario and work on getting the door to operate nice and smoothly.

    PETE: OK.

    TOM: If it’s binding – if you feel like it’s binding or uneven without the garage-door opener attached to it, then that’s the heart of the problem right there.

    PETE: OK. Do you think that would solve the appearance that one side is being raised? I imagine it would.

    TOM: You mean raised more than the other side? One side comes up first?

    PETE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. Because if the side that’s staying down is binding, then there’s a drag on that, so it’s going to try to pull the door up crookedly.

    PETE: Wonderful. Well, I think you may have fixed my problem. I’m going to go check those rollers and make certain that those are all good. And if I need to replace any of those, those are relatively inexpensive. So the money pit isn’t so bad tonight, it looks like.

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

    LESLIE: Victor in North Carolina is on the line with an addition problem. What’s going on at your house? And it’s not math-related; it’s a home addition.

    What’s going on, Victor?

    VICTOR: Yes. What’s happen is we had a contractor to extend our kitchen out; we wanted to enlarge our kitchen. And the wall was extended out, possibly, 10½ feet and somewhere the wall – the stationary wall – was was moved out and the floor – there is a drop in the level of the floor approximately 1, 1½ inches from the wall – where the wall previously was to where the new wall is.

    TOM: OK. So this was an addition or this was a relocation of a wall?

    VICTOR: It was a relocation of the wall.

    TOM: OK. And the wall you relocated, was it a bearing wall or a non-bearing wall?

    VICTOR: It was a bearing wall.

    TOM: OK. So how did you support the structure of your house that it was – that was holding up – being held up by that bearing wall?

    VICTOR: Well, there had to be – in addition to the foundation, there had to be a – think it was laminated timbers that had to be put in place to support the wall.

    TOM: Did you have a – you had a builder that did this? Was there an architect involved?

    VICTOR: Yes.

    TOM: So here’s what I would do: I would write a letter to the builder and the architect reporting this potential structural defect as a result of their construction and/or design. And invite them to come and inspect it for you and give them – give you their opinion.

    They’re responsible for this kind of work and I would just do it in a very nice way so you put them on notice that there’s this observation and there’s this issue and they really should take a look at it for you. Because that should not have happened and I’m concerned that it was a bearing wall. And we need to get to the bottom of what caused it and whether or not it’s an active problem or it’s something that happened one time and it’s not going to happen again. Does that make sense?

    VICTOR: Yeah. OK.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, does your house keep you awake at night? Well, it doesn’t have to. We’re going to tell you how to get rid of those creaks and groans and all those other common household noises, after this.

    ADAM: I am Adam Carolla. I’ve built hundreds of houses and I can tell you how to avoid falling into that money pit: listen to Money Pit Radio with Tom and Leslie.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, could your siding or shutters or roof use a refresh? Well, you can match the new shade to your home’s age. Matching your home’s color and exterior palette, based on the era it was built in, can add some style and value. You can get started with the details right now. They’re on our home page at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Well, if you love old homes, you know that they can definitely have personalities. And some of that personality can come out in the way of a noisy plumbing system.

    TOM: With us to talk about some of those sometimes mysterious sounds that your plumbing system can make is a very popular plumbing personality: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Nice to be here.

    TOM: So, I guess the question is: are all those banging and clanging noises that we hear from both our plumbing and our heating systems just a nuisance or can they potentially signal a more serious problem?

    RICHARD: Well, I am the pipe whisperer and I can hear sounds that nobody else can ever hear.

    It’s usually telling you something. It’s usually – we laugh on Ask This Old House that so many of the letters we get are about people trying to describe the sounds in their houses.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: And there’s some obvious places where it comes from. It’s any time that a pipe expands and so on a heating system, like a baseboard system, that thermostat comes on and all of a sudden, 180-degree water goes through that pipe. And now, that pipe wants to get longer and so now you’ll hear that tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. And as it gets up to temperature – tick-tick-tick – it slows down.

    TOM: Slows down, yeah.

    RICHARD: It slows down and then it does it again 20 minutes later. And so you’ve really got to look for where that pipe is rubbing against any wood, because that’s part of it, or anywhere it just can’t expand. And so there’s a whole bunch of tricks that we’ve done through the years to try and release this thing so it can expand.

    LESLIE: But that’s really not an issue of concern; it’s just more of a nuisance, correct?

    RICHARD: Well, if it wore long enough – it that pipe rubbed back and forth against wood or metal over time, it could wear the sidewall of the copper pipe and you could have a little pinhole leak, yeah. So it …

    TOM: Because it’s pretty soft copper, right? I mean it’s not going to abrade well.

    RICHARD: Yeah, it’s not really heavy, heavy-duty, so – particularly the heating pipes are a little bit even thinner than the water pipes are.

    TOM: So how do you diagnose that? Do you have to isolate that pipe that’s making the noise?

    RICHARD: Well, you listen for it, try and – it’s always best at night; it’s always best when you’re asleep, trying to sleep. If not, you’ll keep – there’s no other noise in the house. And then you’ll find it. And then, usually, you can look where the pipe comes through the wall. And you might take a little bit of cardboard or the matchbook and sort of put it in so it releases that pipe from rubbing against the wood.

    And it’s a piece – you’d be surprised. We did one where the whole thing was so loud on the show that it just made this noise that woke people up. And we looked and it was – the pipe was so long when it was first installed, it had no room to expand.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: So it just was pushing the outside wall out a little bit. And we cut it shorter and fixed it.

    LESLIE: I think another call that we get a lot at The Money Pit is about something called “water hammering,” or they’re hearing this loud clanging and banging when they’re getting the hot water running.

    RICHARD: Yep. Sure.

    LESLIE: And they immediately think something is horribly wrong.

    RICHARD: Yep.

    LESLIE: But in that situation, again, it’s just a rubbing situation or – how is that?

    RICHARD: The thing that makes it happen, the water is going through the pipes to any fixture. And if the fixture is what they call a “quick-acting valve,” like a washing-machine valve that suddenly shuts off or a dishwasher valve that suddenly shuts off – now, the water has a certain amount of inertia going through the pipes. And all of a sudden, it stops so suddenly that it’s as if you’ve now taken a hammer and hit that pipe. The water is actually creating the bang, the noise.

    So we’ve installed, through the years, a thing called a “water-hammer arrestor.” It’s really like a shock absorber for your car but it’s a little sphere with a little neoprene bladder in between, so it – when the water comes, it can sort of be absorbed into that bladder, like a little bit of a shock absorber. And they work; they really do work.

    TOM: And that absorbs the energy and stops the pipe from shaking.

    RICHARD: Right.

    TOM: Also a good idea to take a look at those pipes to make sure they’re properly secured. Because sometimes, you go in the basement and this pipe’s just like hanging and loosely just – like almost from point to point, like a curtain, yeah, that’s drawn.

    RICHARD: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Hanging.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s exactly – the thing I was going to jump on is that for lack of a 20-cent clip, that pipe has been banging for its whole life. And so, any time you can, just clip it. Don’t clip it too much; let it breathe a little bit. But just clip it at least every other joist when you’re going horizontally.

    TOM: We’re talking to Richard Trethewey – he is the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House – about silencing noisy plumbing systems.

    Now, here’s one that really can wake the dead: when you get one of these screaming, squealing faucet sounds. What causes that?

    RICHARD: Some foreign matter has gotten into one of the smaller openings inside the faucet, generally. In my own house, right now I have a diverter. The little thing that makes your spray hose work has a very small opening and that must have something in it. So, you can hear my faucet, so this is like the case of the cobbler’s kids having bad shoes. So, I’m leaving from the studio to go to repair that, yeah, so …

    TOM: Go fix that. It’s on your honey-do list.

    RICHARD: That’s right, so …

    TOM: But that’s pretty straightforward to fix, then, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah, it is. Yeah, you have to take it apart any place that people have really hard water, high minerals, high calcium, where it can get in and sort of clog the inner workings, you know. You may have to shut the water off, take apart the aerator, take apart the stem units and the things inside the faucet and just clean them out a little bit. And at the worst case, you have to replace those working parts that are just closed down a little bit.

    TOM: We’re talking to Richard Trethewey. He’s the plumbing-and-heating expert on TV’s This Old House.

    Finally, Richard, let me ask you about radiators. Sometimes, you get a whistling sound that happens from the radiator and particularly, steam radiators. How do we straighten that out?

    RICHARD: Hissssssss (ph).

    TOM: That’s it.

    LESLIE: I like it.

    RICHARD: I’m the master of all voices.

    TOM: He’s going to be our new sound-effects man.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Every time a steam radiator comes on …

    LESLIE: An angel gets its wings.

    RICHARD: Thank you.

    The air that’s in the radiator, in the off cycle, has to leave the radiator. And so this little valve on the end of it has to allow all the air out. And so it has to hiss and it’ll hiss until steam touches it. And when steam touches, it’ll shut completely. So, that is a function that’s – you’re supposed to have a noise.

    TOM: So that’s normal.

    RICHARD: You’re supposed to, with a steam radiator. The thing about steam radiators is you can also have a bang with steam radiators when – the water that used to be steam turns into what they call “condensate.” And if the radiator’s tipped the wrong way, it can sound like somebody took a sledgehammer in the middle of the night. Anybody who’s lived in New York City or Boston that has these steam systems – any urban environment, they know steam.

    TOM: Those are little steam explosions inside, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah. That’s when you put your little iPhone earpieces on and go to sleep. Turn the music up.

    TOM: But you say you can correct that by re-pitching the radiator?

    RICHARD: Yeah. On the hammer – the banging of the steam radiator – you can pitch the radiator so that the water goes back towards the pipe of which the steam came up through. And the air vents, you can change and put new ones on to try and get it to sort of clean – to whistle a little bit less.

    TOM: So you don’t have to tolerate it; there are solutions to all of these noises.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: It does not mean your house is haunted.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: It just means it needs a little plumbing TLC.

    Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating expert from TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

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

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    Still ahead, are you confident that your home is termite-free? The bugs can be harder to spot in the winter. Learn where to look before possible damage kicks in, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to help you with whatever you are working on these winter months at your money pit. We’re also going to give you a great prize because this time of year, I love to redecorate and rearrange things and move my accessories and change pictures and artwork. So we’ve got up for grabs a laser level, which is really great to help you align and level all your pictures or if you’re adding shelving, even cabinets and mirrors. Pretty much whatever you want to hang, you can make sure it’s all nice and straight.

    It’s worth 29 bucks but it’s going out to one lucky caller whose name we draw at random. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, termites can wreak havoc on your home and turn buying and selling into a nightmare. Now, the key to avoiding these costly headaches is to identify termites as soon as possible which, depending on the season, can actually be kind of hard to do.

    TOM: Well, that’s right because termite activity actually slows down when it’s cold but the hungry bugs don’t stop. So, while an infestation is harder to identify during the winter, even for some home inspectors, it’s just as important to catch.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s true. Now, a few things that you should be looking for in the winter months are mud tubes on your walls or floors, sunken wooden surfaces that seem like mild craters on the surface or even insect wings. You’ll still see those in the winter months that get shed all around your house.

    TOM: It’s also a good idea to do at least an annual inspection of your floor framing to find termites. Now, I did this for over 20 years as a professional home inspector and my favorite tool was simply a big, old screwdriver. We’d go around the basement and tap the bottom of all the floor joists where they rest on the foundation wall, as well as the sills and the box beam there. And you’ll be surprised that once in a while, you’ll find one is hollow. You can hear it; it sounds hollow. And sometimes, you’ll poke right through it and you’ll know you’ve got a termite issue there. They like to work in these dark places and they do a lot of their work before they break through the surface to the outside. So by tapping on those beams, you can find them early.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, you want to keep termites from chomping down to begin with, guys. So keep your firewood away from your home’s foundation, try to get yearly inspections performed on your house, too, preferably in the spring or the summer.

    TOM: Yeah. And that way, if the termites have recently made their way in, you can treat the problem before serious damage is done.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to your calls. This is The Money Pit.

    LESLIE: Eva in Florida is on the line and has a cooling question. How can we help you today?

    EVA: My home is 40 years old and I’ve been in it from the time it was built. I’ve had two change-outs on the air-conditioning unit.

    TOM: That’s about right.

    EVA: It’s a central air-conditioning unit. And every time these guys come in – I have one guy come in once every six or eight months to check the cooling or the heating unit to make sure everything is up to snuff. And every time they come in, they say, “Well, you ought to update your thermostat.” And I’ve had them tell me three or four times that I need to replace my thermostat.

    Well, I had a friend of mine who tells me – he says, “Well” – he said, “Basically, all your thermostat does – heat, cool and shut off.”

    TOM: So, I think what – have they mentioned to you that you might want to install a clock-setback thermostat, Eva?

    EVA: Well, they just said thermostats; they didn’t tell me any particular kind.

    TOM: I’m betting that you have a very simple thermostat, which is heating and cooling, and you just set it and forget it, right?

    EVA: That’s correct.

    TOM: So what they might be suggesting is that you replace the old thermostat with an updated one that has a clock setback built into that. And how that can help you – and it helps you more in the cooling – in the winter season, which you don’t get a lot of down in Pensacola. But when it gets chillier, you can set the heat to be a certain temperature at the day and then another temperature at night, so you don’t waste heat at night when you’re tucked nice and warm and cozy under the comfort of the blankets.

    EVA: Yeah. But I just leave my thermostat at one – at 70 degrees at night. I don’t change it.

    TOM: Well, if you just leave it and you don’t change it, then you might be fine with that 40-year-old thermostat. If you want the technology and the energy savings of a thermostat that can go up and down, based on a clock, then you would go to a clock setback. But there’s nothing wrong with leaving the one you have if it’s working properly for you.

    EVA: And is it – either way, I’m going to use the same amount financially?

    LESLIE: If you’re truly just leaving it exactly where it is?

    EVA: Yeah. But when I get up in the morning, I have to turn it on so that it comes back up to warm up the house.

    LESLIE: Correct. If you’ve got a clock-setback thermostat or a programmable thermostat, you can enter in your usage. So you can say, “OK, at 7:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the morning” – whatever time, maybe a half-an-hour or so before, you know, you’re going to get up – “set it to such-and-such temperature.” And then you can say, “OK. And then at this time, when I go to bed, drop it down to this temperature.” This way, you never even have to go over to the thermostat. You can just say, “Bloop” and it’ll do that program for the day, so you don’t have to do anything at all.

    Then, say, you’re going on vacation or you’re out of town, you can have an “away” setting and set it to that so that you’ve got it, obviously, at much lower temperatures and it’s not running that program while you’re not there, wasting that energy and your dollars.

    So it depends. If you want to sort of take yourself out of the equation and have your thermostat do its thing on its own, a programmable thermostat really is what you’re looking for.

    Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Still ahead, do cold, tile floors feel like your feet’s worst enemy? Well, there are heating options cheaper than radiant flooring that can help you take the edge off that chill. We’ll share all the details, when we return.

    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: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: You know, most of us are dreaming of warmer weather right about now. Perhaps you’re considering a vacation home for soaking up the sun and fun. But before you buy, beware: the wrong rental or purchase and your vacation home can chew up all of your precious downtime. And make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Get tips for picking an easy-care vacation home. The details are on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re on the home page, you can also post your questions or even brag about what you’re working on at your money pit. We’d love to see pictures, we’d love to see what everybody’s working on, and see how you guys help each other out. But right now let’s help Sarah who writes: “I have a tile floor in my kitchen. It does not have any in-floor heating. Are there any good products that could be put on the underside of the subfloor in the basement to help heat the floor and room some?”

    TOM: Well, certainly, if you have a hot-water heating system, Sarah, for the rest of the house, you could add a zone that uses PEX tubing, which is cross-linked polyethylene tubing, which will be mounted right under that subfloor. Now, if not, you could consider one of the many sort of electric-radiant systems that are out there that are mounted from the kitchen side. However, those would require that you have a new floor installed at the same time.

    So if you’ve got a hot-water system now, I would lean towards just adding an additional zone for that radiant floor and then mount it from the bottom on up. Perhaps not as efficient as if you had it just under the finished floor surface. But I think, certainly, it would do the trick and make that floor nice and toasty.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Chris who writes: “My dryer vent is on the opposite side from the wall outlet and the vent hose kinks. Is it OK to run a length of PVC pipe with elbows?”

    TOM: Don’t use PVC. That could be very dangerous. Any material except for approved dryer vent material is a problem. What you really want to do is use a metal dryer vent duct. A substitution could be really dangerous because other materials are not going to stand up to the high heat in the same way that a metal dryer hose will.

    Now, there are hoses available in all shapes as well as dryer ducts that can make those tight turns that you described. To find the right venting system for your house, you should check out what’s available at home centers and hardware stores, especially when it comes to the sort of tight-angled ducting. They have pieces that are premade, for example, that would take that dryer exhaust duct and turn it 90 degrees inside of a wall bay if that’s the way you have to do.

    What you really want to do is aim for as few turns as possible. The quicker you can get that duct outside, the quicker the clothes will dry and the less chance it’s going to build up a lot of lint. Because a lot of folks don’t recognize how much lint will sit in those dryer exhaust ducts. And if you don’t clean them regularly with – there’s a tool out there called a LintEater, which is like a long, fiberglass rod with a brush on the end that you attach to a drill. You sort of spin it in the duct and you pull it out. If you don’t use a tool like that every few months, you can really build up a dangerous amount of lint in there. And if that catches on fire, well, you’re going to have a serious issue on your hands.

    So I would stay away from anything but metal ducting. And frankly, even if you’ve got – some of the older dryers used to use a white, flexible, plastic hose kind of dryer exhaust duct. Don’t like that, either. It just doesn’t do a good job. And if you’ve got a long run, sometimes you’ll see those will sag and you’ll get moisture condensation that’ll sit in them. Just not a good thing. Use solid-metal dryer exhaust ducting. It’s definitely the best way to go.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And then we saw that interesting product last year over at the Builder’s Show – or the National Hardware Show, rather. It was called DrySafer, which was basically a meter that you put in the exhaust, from the backside of the dryer. And it monitors if there’s a reduction in airflow, which would indicate a blockage. So it’s not bad to invest a couple of bucks just for that peace of mind.

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show always on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Hey, we hope we’ve helped you out this hour with some tips and advice to get your home improvement projects accomplished. Remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT and always 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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