How to Repair Trip and Fall Hazards before Halloween, Learn How Plastic Can be Green, How to Winterize Your Garden, Tips to Make Sure Your Windows are Working Properly and more
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And what are you up to on this beautiful fall day? If it involves home improvement, home repair, home décor, we are here to help. Help yourself first, though, by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Well, the kids, I’m sure, are counting down to Halloween about now. So we want to make sure, this hour, that they can count on safety when they come to visit your house. We’re going to have some tips on how to check your front entry for any trip-and-fall hazards before that big day arrives.
LESLIE: Yeah. They’re not looking for safety; they’re looking for candy, I’m pretty sure.
TOM: Loot. They’re looking for loot.
LESLIE: They’re looking for candy, so you better have a safe walkway and some tasty treats.
I actually had a little girl tell me, when I offered her two pieces last year, “No, thank you. I don’t like your candy.” Alright. Thanks very much.
TOM: She was a candy connoisseur.
Alright. Also ahead, we’re learning about some new, high-tech ways that plastic can help you save on your heating and cooling costs and help you go green in the process.
TOM: Also ahead, have you checked your windows lately? We’re going to have a checklist for you to make sure that your windows are still as energy-efficient as they were the day they were installed.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a fantastic prize from Red Devil. It’s a whole boatload of their products for patching and sealing up around your house.
TOM: It’s a prize pack worth 200 bucks, so let’s get right to the phones. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That Red Devil prize pack is going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us on today’s program, so give us a ring, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Rich in West Virginia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RICH: Hi. I’ve got a drywall question. My house is only about nine years old but a lot of the seams between the sheets of drywall have – where the tape was – the tape is cracked and it’s curled up a little at the edges.
RICH: It’s especially bad out in my garage – the unheated garage – on the ceiling pieces but even some in the house. You know, I don’t know if – I’ve heard different things: that they could have put it in when it was cold and it froze before it set or …
TOM: Let me tell you what’s going on, Rich. Nine years ago, as they do today, the builders will drywall the garage for one reason and one reason only: because they’re required to to maintain the fire separation between the garage and the rest of the house.
But being builders, they only do what they absolutely have to do to get past code. I always tell these guys, “It’s like you guys are proud of being – of getting a D, not an F. You want to get a D. Nobody really strives for an A.” It’s like how would you feel if your kid came home from school and said, “Guess what, Dad? I got a D. Ain’t you proud?” The builders just do the absolute minimum.
So in the drywall situation in the garage, that means this: they put on the tape and one coat of spackle. Only one. Where in the house, they put on three because that’s the normal thing you do. So they save a few pennies by only putting on one coat of spackle and you’re faced with tape that – what a surprise – falls off over the years.
RICH: OK. Yeah.
TOM: So, in this case, Rich, if it’s loose and separating, you really can’t put spackle on top of that because it’s not going to get between the paper tape and the drywall underneath. I would cut off any loose tape and then I would put another layer of tape on top of that or in lieu of that. And I would use perforated drywall tape, which is very forgiving, especially for somebody who’s an amateur spackler, because you don’t have to worry about getting the paste underneath the tape. It actually goes through the tape; it’s more like a netting.
TOM: And then you do that with three coats and sand it out in between. Take your time; it’ll take you a little while to kind of get used to it. But that’ll do the trick there. Then prime and paint.
And as for the areas inside the house, it’s not at all unusual for a nine-year-old house to get some cracks in the seams or where corners come together or above windows or doors. And you pretty much handle those the same way. If the tape is absolutely loose, you have to take it off and replace it. But if it’s just cracking, you can actually put that same type of drywall tape on top of that, three coats of spackle, prime and paint and you’re done, OK?
RICH: OK. Sounds good.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Rich. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Britt in California is on the line and needs some help with a skylight. What can we do for you?
BRITT: My husband and I are considering putting in the skylights in our home.
BRITT: OK. Are we better off to put a round skylight? A square skylight? Are we better off to put it toward the middle of the roof line or at where it’s opened up on the deck?
TOM: OK. So you have a couple of options with skylights.
First of all, you can use a physical skylight, which is a hole in your roof with a glass skylight inserted into it. There’s another type of skylight kind of thing: it’s called a “sun tunnel.” It’s a lot easier to install. And basically you put in this tube that goes into the roof and opens up the roof. And then you connect a flex duct from it down to the ceiling of the room that you want to light and that actually brings a lot of natural light into the room. It’s called a “sun tunnel.” So you have skylight or sun tunnel.
A sun tunnel is going to be a lot less expensive than a skylight. If you’re going to go with the skylight, you probably want to – you have to position it in the room where it’s going to look the best, so that would probably be in the middle. But the expense is creating the light shaft; that’s what you create, you construct, from the point of the roof down to the ceiling level. And that’s kind of the more expensive, complicated part about putting the skylight in. Cutting it through the roof is really pretty easy.
What I would recommend is that you use a good-quality skylight. I like Andersen skylights, Pella skylights, VELUX – V-E-L-U-X. All good-quality skylights because they’re curbed: they sit up off the roof and they have flashing that makes the seal between the skylight and the roof itself.
And I’ve had, for example, a VELUX – a V-E-L-U-X – skylight that’s been in my house for 20-plus years. Never had a problem with leaking through many a storm. So it’s definitely worth putting in a good-quality skylight but those are your options. I hope that helps you out.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, Halloween is just days away but there’s still time to make a quick safety check outside your house so that any little visitors to your front entry get only treats and no tricks. We’ll tell you what you need to know, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Citrus Magic Air Fresheners, the perfect fresh-air solution that eliminates bad odors naturally and replaces them with fresh scents. There’s magic in the air. Available as a solid air freshener or non-aerosol spray, online or at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger or your favorite local hardware store.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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: Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re giving away a $200 prize pack from Red Devil this hour, including putty knives, utility knives and a caulk gun, also acrylic sealant and ONETIME Patch & Prime Lightweight Spackling.
LESLIE: You know, it’s great for painting preparation. There’s no sanding or priming required. It dries super-fast and it’s ready to paint in minutes.
TOM: The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And you can visit SaveOnRedDevil.com for great, money-saving offers. Let’s get back to those phones.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Cynthia in Tennessee, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CYNTHIA: I have white dust on my shoes – my leather shoes – and my purses inside my closet. And my shoes can be inside of a shoebox and I don’t understand what it is.
TOM: Do you have a heating duct inside that closet?
CYNTHIA: No. But right outside the closet, I do.
TOM: Well, generally, if you get a lot of dust in the air, then you don’t have good filtration in your heating system. And so, if you have a forced-air system, you ought to have a good-quality filter on the return duct. And unfortunately, a lot of folks use those fiberglass filters which don’t filter very much. I always call them “rock-stoppers” because everything else goes right through.
But if you improve the quality of the filtration on your heating system, that will go a long way to cleaning the air in your home and reducing the amount of dust that’s laying not only on your shoes, in this case, but on your tables and chairs and everything else in the house.
CYNTHIA: OK, great. Thank you. Have a great day.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Daniel in Washington is in love with his older home’s windows but needs some help working on them. What can we do for you?
DANIEL: I want to know how I can remove them without destroying them or having to cut off the weights and letting them fall in the wall, as I was told that’s what I have to do.
TOM: Well, why do you want to preserve the weights, Dan?
DANIEL: Well, I just – my biggest fear is they’re upstairs windows and I don’t want them to cause any damage when I cut them loose. And I just want to pull them out intact, I guess, for seeing what exactly they are. They’re being used for weights.
TOM: Yeah, you don’t have to worry too much about that. How old is your house, Dan?
DANIEL: It was built in 1900.
TOM: OK. So, the weights themselves are these sort of round, tubular pieces of solid cast metal. And I wouldn’t worry about letting them drop. They’re only going to drop to sort of the bottom of the wall cavity. They’re not really going to do any damage. They’ll drop down a couple of feet and stop. But what you do is cut those cords or disconnect the chains, let the weights drop, pull out the pulleys, take out the upper and the lower sash and then you insert the replacement window into the rest of the wood, sort of old window frame that’s left.
That’s the smart move because it’s very easy to do. You don’t have to tear up any siding or anything like that. You basically just take apart the operable sashes and slip the new replacement windows inside, which you can do because all replacement windows are basically built to fit. That’s the way the technology is designed to work. If you put in an order for replacement windows, they put all the numbers into a computer and it spits out the window at the other end of the assembly line. And you just slip them in and you’re done. It’s a very easy installation.
You need to be really careful in the measuring, though. And I would have the company that you’re buying the windows from do the measuring to make sure you get it right. But not to worry about the weights. Not a big deal.
DANIEL: And it’s funny you mention that. He actually did come out and look at them and he told me that he wouldn’t be able to give me the measurements to get the windows myself. Because when he – they order them, the guys that install them have to do any work that’s needed to make them fit properly. Because he just takes a rough measurement.
TOM: So was he just giving you an estimate? Was he there to measure for an estimate?
TOM: Yeah. Well, I mean that makes sense. Plus, I’ve got to tell you, every company does it a little bit different. So if you buy it from Manufacturer A, they may measure one way and Manufacturer B might measure it slightly differently. So whoever you buy these from, they have to do the exact measurements. He may have just been measuring so he knows how to price the order but it may have to be measured again before you actually do the order.
LESLIE: Plus, they’re – the numbers are really guarded. He might be thinking that if he gives you the exact measurements, you’re going to turn around and go to another company or order them yourself and try to do it yourself.
TOM: Which you really couldn’t do because what if he has the numbers wrong? You’ll end up paying for windows that don’t fit.
DANIEL: So if we already did – I measured the frame on the windows, not the window itself. And we did just put the order in. So I could be in trouble here.
TOM: Are you going to put them in yourself?
DANIEL: Yeah. Because it’s – half the cost of the windows was the labor to put them in.
TOM: Well, how did you know how to measure them? Did you get advice from who you bought the windows from?
DANIEL: Yeah. He told me to measure the frame – not the window, not the part of the window that moves – but he said the frame itself.
DANIEL: And he said that’s the number that they would use if they sent somebody out.
DANIEL: And then he offered, because it was free, and when – to send somebody out. And when the guy showed up, he did the kind of – “Whoa, hold on. I just kind of give them rough numbers and they do what they need to do to make them fit from there.”
TOM: What I would do, if I were normally ordering windows, is I would get the advice on how exactly they need to be ordered. I would make – take the measurements and order them to fit. If that’s what you did and you followed their instructions, you should be OK. The thing is, if you’ve got it wrong, you’re going to get a window that doesn’t fit and you’re going to have a problem. But as long as you followed their instructions, then you should be OK.
DANIEL: Alright. It just kind of made me worry when the guy that showed up here gave me a different story than the guy down at the store.
TOM: Yep. Yeah, well, they’re all experts; they all have their way.
LESLIE: And clearly they’re not talking to each other.
DANIEL: Yeah. Like I said, that was the part that scared me and why I wanted to get some advice on this.
TOM: Well, before the neighborhood goblins arrive, it’s a good idea to make the path to your trick-or-treat headquarters safe and welcoming. So, the first step is to make sure the steps leading to your door are in good condition. Check them for loose bricks, paving stones or uneven areas in walkways.
LESLIE: Yeah. You also want to make sure that you add the brightest bulbs that are rated for your fixtures. And you might even want to consider some strategic illumination of your walkways with maybe low-voltage lighting kids or some motion-activated security lights.
You also just need to have some fun with your Halloween décor but you also really need to make sure that these decorations don’t interfere with your steps. You’ve got to make sure you’re able to grab onto the hand-grabs or the walkways are clear. You want to make sure that those decorated hand rails aren’t too spiky.
I know one year I used this metal sort of weird-looking garland that looked very viny. Not good for the kids to grab onto the banister at all. That was never used again. So, really, think about what decorations you’re using. Just make sure they’re fun but safe at the same time.
TOM: And finally, remember that pets can also get spooked by dramatically dressed visitors with the scary sounds that they make, so make sure that they’re tucked away safely indoors and away from those trick-or-treaters.
Hey, if you pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, we promise you a treat in the form of the answer to your home improvement question, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Bill in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a lightning rod. Tell us what’s going on.
BILL: I would like to get your recommendation with regard to lightning protection. I would like for you to tell me what you recommend with regard to the best protection for lightning.
TOM: Well, installing a lightning-rod system makes a lot of sense. And the key, though, is the installation has to be done correctly. Because if it’s not, it could actually sometimes cause more damage than it can prevent.
One of the common mistakes is that when the lightning rods are installed – and typically, in the average roof, it’s going to have three of them – that the cable that connects them to the ground source, you have to make sure that they run that cable across the roof and then down the side of your house nowhere near any other copper wiring or copper plumbing. So you would want to keep it – for example, if you had plumbing running through the same wall, you want to keep it away from that.
And the reason you’re doing that is because if you get a lightning strike, it can run down the ground wire on its way to safety where it dissipates into the soil. But it will transfer or jump across to the plumbing system in the house and electrify that.
So, that’s just one part of the system; you also have to take a look at your electrical panel and make that sure that that’s surge-protected. But a combination of those systems makes a lot of sense, Bill, if you’re in an area that’s really prone to lightning.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Linda in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LINDA: We bought the house next door to us, when the man passed away, and he had dogs and a cat. He apparently let them use his house as a bathroom.
TOM: Oh, no. That’s terrible.
LINDA: Oh, yeah.
LESLIE: Never a good thing.
LINDA: And the smell of urine was really bad. And my husband took up all the subfloor and put it outside, let it air out.
TOM: You took up the plywood floor?
LINDA: Yeah. It was boards – small boards.
LINDA: Like 1-inch boards or something.
TOM: Alright. It probably was 1-by. Yeah, alright.
LINDA: Yeah. And he had to take that up to fix the floor joist.
LINDA: So we put it outside hoping to air out the urine smell and then he put it back down. And he put ¾-inch OSB on top of that. But sometimes, when you walk in there, you still smell the urine smell.
LESLIE: Especially on a humid day.
LINDA: Yes. So is there anything you can buy to put on there to get rid of that smell?
LESLIE: I mean there are several things you can do. The OSB – have you put any actual flooring on top of that yet or can you still take that up?
LINDA: No. We were wanting to put laminate on top of it.
LESLIE: OK. So before you do that, pick up the OSB.
LESLIE: And what I would recommend – at this point, because you’re dealing with 1-by – now, Tom, they essentially don’t need the 1-by, correct? The OSB could go directly on top of those floor joists and get rid of that …
TOM: No. You didn’t have to put the 1-by back down again but the problem is you’ve already covered the problem with OSB. And what Leslie is leading to is that you – what you should have done is primed all of that subfloor with a good, oil-based primer because that would seal in the wood. And so now that you’ve put the OSB on top of that, I’m afraid even if you were to prime the OSB, the odor will still somehow work its way through.
LESLIE: Right. So I’m thinking pick up the OSB, pull up the 1-by, put the OSB down and just get rid of the 1-by.
TOM: Well, these animals are long gone but their smell has lingered on. And I think that if you take up that old flooring – and I know you tried to probably save a few bucks by putting it back. But if you either prime it or just replace it with the OSB, you’ll be much better off for it.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, did you know that you can go green at home with plastic? It sounds strange but it’s absolutely true. We’re going to learn how plastics can help your home be more energy-efficient, next.
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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 hey, did you know that air leakage accounts for about 40 percent of your annual energy cost? That’s terrible news. But the good news is that there are very many, easy and inexpensive ways to cut down on that air leakage and save money.
LESLIE: So here to give us some advice on specific insulation that can help is Kelly Frauenkron of BASF Corporation, for Plastics Make it Possible.
KELLY: Thank you very much. Good to be here.
TOM: You know, I think a lot of consumers don’t recognize the fact that it really is the air infiltration that adds to the energy bills. And there’s so many places. I’m always amused by the fact that we make houses today pretty much the same way we’ve made them for the last 200 years. We start with Swiss cheese and then we pack all kinds of stuff around it – siding and insulation and windows and doors – to fill in those holes. But we never quite get all of those gaps and I think that’s where some of the technology that’s available in plastic really can help us.
Let’s talk first about spray-foam insulation. There’s different levels of spray foam but there – we should start by talking about what’s available to the consumers and how it works.
KELLY: Sure. Tom, it is important to think that insulations are one of the key components to energy-efficiency upgrades. But it isn’t just insulation; it’s also air barriers. We like to say, “For using foam plastic insulations, homeowners can either think big or think small.” Because you can go out, as a DIY consumer, and try and tackle some projects yourself, like using a can of foam plastic insulation to fill the gap around old window frames or use some plastic caulking to fill cracks and seal air leaks around the molding, pipes and outlets in a home.
But if you really want to get big impact on your energy bills, you can have a whole-home energy audit that can identify some of those bigger air leaks, like the Swiss-cheese holes you were talking about. Because trying to heat and cool that escaping air is really just wasting energy and money.
TOM: And that helps you be very strategic about where you’re really attacking those gaps because you can actually, specifically, find them. And I think folks are often surprised by the ports – the parts of their home that do leak. They may think it’s a window and it turns out it’s a wall, for example.
KELLY: Exactly. Those uncontrolled air leaks actually can fill your home with dust and pollens and allergens: things you don’t want in it. But spray-foam plastic is not only an excellent insulation product but it also acts as an air barrier, so it can help stop that leakage, reduce that wasted energy bill. And as you mentioned, it’s 25 to 40 percent of the energy that we use to heat and cool a typical home today. So, you can save that money every month for the life of the home if you use a product like spray foam to actually seal those leaks.
LESLIE: What I think is interesting, when you get with the spray-foam insulation, is that it really sort of fills in all of those nooks and crannies that perhaps something that’s a little bit more rigid or not as liquid in its initial phase can get to, in addition to helping with waterproofing and, I think, pest infiltration, as well. You’re keeping out those bugs because it’s really filling in all of those nooks and crannies.
KELLY: Exactly. And even though there are other foam plastic insulations that are more do-it-yourselfer products, like the rigid foam-board plastic insulations that you were speaking of – and those a homeowner can go buy at a large home improvement store to, say, insulate an interior basement wall or a crawlspace that may not be insulated. So, there are a large offering of foam plastic insulations out there that can really fit these needs for energy-efficiency improvements.
TOM: And what about – where do you draw the line between do-it-yourself and pro? What types of foam insulations would you suggest are within the realm of a do-it-yourselfer? And at what point do you go pro to make sure you’re getting the best job possible?
KELLY: Well, when thinking big about energy efficiency, in most cases, you’ll need a properly-trained professional contractor, especially when installing spray-foam plastic insulation because it is a more technical product. But the rewards for that are big, immediate and long-lasting.
So, otherwise, the do-it-yourselfer products are more the cans and the board products that you can go buy in the home improvement stores. So, there’s both options out there.
LESLIE: So, Kelly, while definitely we’re getting the benefit, as the existing homeowner, of financial savings due to fixing those energy leaks, do you think when time comes to sell the home you’ve actually improved the value of the house because you can say this is the insulation you’ve got?
KELLY: It definitely can. Not just because it’s insulation but if you can show them the record of overall energy costs that are lower for your home compared to a similar home in the neighborhood, that can really make the value of your home go up. Because an insulating air barrier, such as foam plastic, can make that home not only more cost-effective to operate but more comfortable, less drafty, less dusty and doesn’t let the pests in and more energy-efficient and easier to maintain.
TOM: Kelly Frauenkron from Plastics Make it Possible, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
Hey, if you’d like to get more information on foam plastic insulation, head on over to the Plastics Make it Possible website and learn, also, about all the ways plastics can make your home more energy-efficient. That website is PlasticsMakeItPossible.com/EnergyEfficiency.
KELLY: Thank you.
LESLIE: And still to come, we’re going to teach you some step-by-step techniques to make sure that your windows are working the way they should, so stick around. More from The Money Pit, after this.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Plastics Make it Possible, reminding you that October is National Energy Awareness Month. From plastic foam insulation to LED light bulbs, products made with plastics help you save on energy bills in your home and contribute to sustainability year-round. For more information, visit PlasticsMakeItPossible.com.
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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ve got a great prize up for grabs this hour. We’ve got a $200 prize pack from Red Devil, which includes putty knives, utility knives, a caulking gun, acrylic sealant and ONETIME Patch & Prime Lightweight Spackling. I mean a ton of great products in here.
TOM: Yep. And it’s great for painting prep. There’s no sanding or priming required. It dries fast and is ready to paint in minutes.
The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT. And you can also visit SaveOnRedDevil.com for some great, money-saving offers.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Andrew in North Carolina on the line who’s dealing with shower-drain issues. What’s going on?
ANDREW: When you take a shower, about a couple minutes after the water has been running, it’ll start to back up, to some degree, into the shower itself. And if you take a plunger and you use the plunger up and down, up and down maybe four or five times and you pull it up, all of a sudden, as the water starts to go out slowly, you’ll get a slurping noise. And then you get through taking a shower and it’s running out. But you can go back in and 20 minutes later and the same thing happens again.
TOM: Right. So you know what that slurping noise is?
ANDREW: No, sir.
TOM: It’s your shower drain gasping for air. For some reason, that shower drain is not vented properly. So, as the water drains out, you create sort of a suction and that’s what slows it down. And so I suspect with you using that plunger, you’re freeing up that suction and loosening up the water so it has a chance to grab enough air and go down.
Was this shower added after the home was built, by any chance?
ANDREW: No, sir. It’s been that way and – of course, the plumber said there was nothing wrong. I said, “Well, there has to be something wrong.”
TOM: Yeah, if you’re getting a gurgling sound like that, you’re not getting enough air in it. And so it sounds to me like you probably need to add an additional vent. This is assuming that there’s no clog there.
ANDREW: Right. Because we used – my wife has used Liquid-Plumr, I’ve used a plunger, the plunger, the plungers and it goes out. But then when you stop, the same thing happens again.
TOM: Right. Well, I wouldn’t use the chemicals. What you could do is run a snake down that line and make sure it’s clear.
TOM: Just to make sure there’s no hair or any other kind of gunk that’s trapped in there. But generally, when you have a drain like that that’s gurgling, it’s looking for additional air. And it usually means that the vent is not there or the vent is obstructed and that’s what’s really going to be the source of this: making sure we have enough air in there.
If you had to add additional vents to it, you know, depending on how easy or difficult it is to get to that line, it is possible.
ANDREW: I appreciate your help and thank you, again.
TOM: You’re welcome, sir. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, it’s time now for today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron, makers of the Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch.
TOM: Yeah. And now we want to talk to you about windows because this is a very good time of year to inspect your windows for signs of drafts that can drive up energy costs. So, start by looking at the edges of your windows and your patio doors for hot and cold drafty areas. If you feel the draft, it means there’s air infiltration, which hugely can cut down on the energy efficiency of your windows. So if you find those drafts, look to weatherstrip them or to caulk to seal them so that draft stops letting that hot air out and that cold air in.
LESLIE: You also want to look for some burnt-out or faded areas on your furniture or your carpeting because this could indicate that damaging UV rays are coming into your home through your windows or your doors. Now, if you see that, you can use a shaded window film, which will help cut down on the amount of UV light that actually makes it into your house.
TOM: And if your windows don’t open or close easily, it could mean key components inside are damaged or need adjustment. And that could mean that the windows are no longer as efficient as they once were, so it might be time to consider replacing them.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.
TOM: That’s LutronSensors.com.
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.
EVA: Yeah, OK. Well, thank you very much, dear.
LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Still to come, we’re going to tell you what to do with your lawn and garden to make sure that your plants and shrubs will survive the cold winter and make a great comeback next spring, so stick around.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain MyQ Garage. When you forget, it alerts your smartphone so you can close your garage door from anywhere, on most garage-door openers. Coming soon. For more information, go to Chamberlain.com.
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: Give us a call right now with your home improvement question or log on to MoneyPit.com and post your question on the Community page, like Patricia did in Florida.
LESLIE: That’s right. Patricia writes: “When carpet becomes loose or wrinkled, do I need to purchase new padding? How much can I expect to pay per square foot for stretching the carpet?”
Now, I think if the top layer of the carpet, if you will, is what’s loose, I don’t think you even mess with the padding. I think you strictly work with the top layer, correct?
TOM: Yeah. And I don’t see why you can’t just restretch it. I mean carpet does stretch out over time and generally, within its lifetime, it has to be restretched at least once, if not twice.
How much should that cost? It’s really kind of a service call sort of thing. It shouldn’t be terribly expensive. It certainly shouldn’t be something that you pay on the square foot. You know, if you pay a service contractor to come in and do that repair and he charged you $100 or $200 for the trip, I think that would be very fair. But not much more than that because there’s just not that much work to do to get that project done.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now I wonder, do you think regular steam-cleaning will sort of help a carpet keep its shape, Tom?
TOM: I don’t think so. Because a good-quality steam cleaner puts in the moisture and takes it right out again, so it’s not like you’re soaking it. And I don’t think it’s going to shrink when it’s done.
LESLIE: Hmm. So it’s not like washing your favorite jeans and getting them to fit again.
Alright. Brian in Virginia writes: “I recently installed a replacement window in my bathroom and used silicone caulk. When I tried to wipe it away, some had already dried to the wood. Tried to paint it; it’s not going to get the paint. I’ve tried to scrape and sand it but the silicone has dried into the grain of the wood. What can I do to either remove it or paint it? What should I do?”
TOM: Well, it shouldn’t be that terrible but what I would suggest is sand it down again, get as much out as you can. And then I want you to use an oil-based primer. If you use an oil-based primer, you will have the best level of adhesion possible against that area where the silicone soaked in. Once the oil-based primer dries, you can use latex on top of that and you should never see it again.
And let this be a lesson to you: don’t silicone any window that you want to paint.
LESLIE: Yeah, Brian. Silicone caulking products, they’re really reserved for sort of masonry jobs. If you’re going to be doing anything that you want to paint, really stick with latex caulk because that’s going to really absorb the paint the way it wants to and take the paint and really give you exactly what you were looking for. Better luck next time, dude.
TOM: Well, after all the work that you’ve put into your yard and garden, this time of year, there’s one more chore to do and that’s to winterize. Leslie has the steps to make sure your landscaping can survive the cold weather, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. Come on, guys. We think winter is rough and we get to go inside to heated homes but winter can be especially rough on your outdoor plants and shrubs. They’re just sitting out there in the dipping temperatures and strong winds, which will eventually rob those shrubs of some precious moisture, so you need to protect them with burlap, anti-desiccant sprays or rose cones.
Now, if you’ll be seeing a lot of snow where you live, you need to take an extra step to prevent plant damage by tying up shrubs with jute or even building a wooden, A-frame shelter to protect any of those fragile branches simply from the weight of the snow itself.
You can also winterize your container plants by either bringing them inside. It doesn’t have to be in the house; you can put them in an unheated garage or you can even dig a hole in a garden bed and then place the plant, in its container and all, right into that hole. And then just insulate at the surface with mulch or wood chips. Because that insulating value of just the earth and the extra dirt in there will actually keep the plant warm to survive the season.
And if you take these few steps to protect your plants from the extreme temperatures that, unfortunately, we’re going to be seeing ahead, they’ll be ready to thrive again come springtime, which is what we’re all looking forward to.
TOM: Coming up next week on The Money Pit, our special coverage of This Old House: Jersey Shore Rebuilds continues, with a report on the progress being made in one seaside town. It’s called Point Pleasant. And we’ve got the story of one homeowner who rode out the storm in his house, only to end up having to ride out of the neighborhood, the next day, on a kayak. That’s coming up, 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.