How to Size a Room Air Conditioner, Tamper Resistant Outlets and Ways to Go Green with Grilling

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  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. So pick up the phone and help yourself first. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Man, it is hot out there these days. And if that weather has got you thinking about buying an air conditioner, I’ve got a tip for you: bigger is not better. We’re going to have some ideas on how you can pick the best one for your home, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you’ve got kids like me, then you know tamper-resistant outlets, they are a must. We’re going to have tips on how you can add this important technology to your house.

    TOM: Plus, you can go green as you celebrate the red, white and blue. We’ve got advice on eco-friendly grilling options for your July 4th cookout.

    LESLIE: And we’ve got a fantastic prize we’re giving away this hour. It’s the new Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Gauge Brad Nailer Kit worth $379.

    TOM: And that powerful tool is available at The Home Depot but we are giving one away, this hour, to a lucky listener. Make that you. And call us, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Tim in Illinois is on the line with a mold question. What’s going on?

    TIM: The house was painted five years ago. It’s got a new roof, new gutters. And underneath the soffit, I have this black mold that – it’s kind of splotchy, pretty – it’s getting – it’s like a black-ish film. And it’s starting to come down the siding. And it wasn’t like that last year. I’m just – I don’t know what to use to clean it and to prevent it from coming back.

    TOM: I wonder if it’s mold. It could be something else. Sometimes, if we see any kind of growth, we call it “mold.” But it could be moss or mildew or algae.

    There’s a product on the market called Spray & Forget. It’s very effective against all those things: mold, mildew, moss and algae. And as the name implies, it’s very easy to use. You spray and then you kind of walk away. And the product goes to work, basically inhibiting the ability of that growth to continue. And then it will basically dissipate after that. So, I would go ahead and pick up some Spray & Forget.

    And it is safe to use around plants. It’s a cleaning – an effective – very effective cleaning product for situations like that.

    TIM: Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thank you for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Barbara in South Dakota is on the line and having a problem with a renovated bathroom at her money pit. What’s going on?

    BARBARA: We had our bathroom remodeled about three years ago. And maybe six months after, we noticed that the tiles were kind of shifting a little bit when we walk in the most prominent places. And then, pretty soon, about 30 coming out. And I was wondering, do we have to replace all of our tiles or is there something we can put in there that would move with the grout or with the tiles? It’s a [heated bore] (ph).

    TOM: How is it heated, Barbara? Hydronic heat? Is it hot-water heat under the floor or is it electric heat? What kind of heat is it?

    BARBARA: It’s electric heat.

    TOM: I’m really sorry to hear that. You know, I mean this was a mistake that was made in the installation. Where that mistake was made, it’s hard for us to tell. But there’s no way that those tiles should be loosening up. And unfortunately, there’s no really easy fix for this. The reason the grout is breaking up is because the tiles are loose. And as the tile loosens, the grout doesn’t really have any structural integrity.

    LESLIE: Right. But isn’t that the result of an uneven subfloor?

    TOM: Not always. And even if it was an uneven subfloor, Leslie, if these were installed right, they would be – there would be enough adhesive or base under them to stop them from wiggling.

    BARBARA: Think it’s the base underneath that’s not right.

    TOM: Yeah. So I guess you have two options, Barbara, one of which is for you to go ahead and do what you may already be doing, which is repairing them as you go. If you find that you have a loose tile, if it’s loose enough to come up, you’re just simply going to add some additional floor adhesive and press it back down again. Or you have to remove the whole floor and replace them. But of course, that’s a big job because you’d have to also – you can’t really save the heating coils that are underneath. You’ll probably end up having to replace those, as well. It’s really hard when you have a bad tile job, especially one that’s over heating coils like that, to do anything short of replacing. It does not lend itself well to repair.

    BARBARA: Alright. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright? Sorry. I wish we had better news, Barbara. But thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And that’s why we call the show The Money Pit.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Larry from Arkansas on the line who’s got a landlord running an extension cord from his home into Larry’s place. This does not sound good. What is going on?

    LARRY: The extension cord is plugged into our front porch. And it’s connected to a light at an attached shed. And the real problem is I’m thinking about putting a freezer in the shed. And I strongly suspect that that’s not enough electrical support for a freezer.

    TOM: Probably not. And the thing is an extension cord is supposed to be a temporary solution, not a permanent solution. If you want to run power to another building, shed or not, on the same property, it should be run properly, which is generally underground with cables that are rated for that, that are tied into their own circuit with a proper circuit protection.

    So this is a shortcut, which I wouldn’t recommend and especially if you want to put an appliance out there. Freezers pull a lot of power when they – when the compressor kicks on. So, you kind of have this voltage drop that happens when they first kick on, because of the draw. And so, I would suggest that if it’s something you really want to do, you should think about having a circuit run there. That’s really the best way to go.

    LARRY: I will check into doing that. I was concerned.

    TOM: And rightfully so, Larry. Rightfully so.

    LARRY: Well, he’s got the extension cord buried maybe a couple of inches some places.

    TOM: Oh, he buried it?

    LARRY: Yeah.

    TOM: Oh, man. That’s really dangerous.

    LARRY: Yeah.

    LESLIE: No, because extension cords are meant to be air-cooled.

    TOM: Well, yeah. But they’re not – they’re certainly not designed to be underground. That’s a certain rating for wiring. Yeah, yeah. Really dumb.

    Should definitely take that out, Larry, OK? Good luck. 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 Pick up the phone and give us a call and let us know what you are working on this beautiful Fourth of July Weekend. Maybe you’re taking it easy, maybe you’re doing some work around the yard. Whatever it is, we are here to give you a hand. And we’re here for you at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, do these hot days have you thinking about buying a brand-new window air conditioner? Well, before you do, there’s one very common mistake that many people make. We’re going to stop you from doing that, next.

    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: We’d love to talk with you about the project that you’re working on in your money pit. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, we’ll give you our best answer for that question and an opportunity to win a great prize. Because this hour, we’re giving away the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Gauge Brad Nailer Kit from The Home Depot worth 379 bucks.

    This particular tool has best-in-class power to consistently seat nails below the material, even in hardwoods. And I love that, because there’s one thing that I hate about tools like this is when you use them, the nail sticks above the wood. And then it catches things and you’ve got to kind of smack it in and you’ve got to set it by hand. And it really takes a lot of time away from your project. It’s also got great run time. It can actually deliver 1,200 nails per charge.

    Now, you’ll find that Milwaukee tool at The Home Depot and online at The Home Depot has the brands you trust and the innovative products you need. Head to a local store or visit for more.

    It’s worth 379 bucks. Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Dorothy in Wisconsin on the line who has a Wizard of Oz-themed garden and needs some help with her characters.

    How exciting. Have they blown away many times? Is the house on the witch? What’s going on?

    DOROTHY: Dorothy and my scarecrow have costumes on them and they’re made of cotton, I believe. And I’m looking for a product that is water-repellent and sun-resistant.

    LESLIE: I’m not sure about the UV-rating but there are many products that are made for, you know, camping equipment, like tents and sleeping bags, that you would spray on that make the fabric water-resistant. There’s one called KIWI Camp Dry and it’s a heavy-duty waterproofing spray. It’s good for tents and boots. I just don’t know if they’re UV-rated but they definitely do keep things – clothing – water-resistant.

    DOROTHY: Right. I’m trying to find a product that is also UV-protectant.

    LESLIE: You know what? If you head on over to the Trek website – and it’s actually – I just quickly popped over there and I looked at their Aqua Armor product. And it says it’s UV-activated.

    DOROTHY: Oh, I thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Howard in Texas is on the line with a brick wall that’s heading for Humpty Dumpty to have a great fall. What’s going on? It’s leaning forward?

    HOWARD: The house is old – about 30 years old – and I assume the retaining wall is probably similar in length. It’s a – there are two walls. There’s one about 6 bricks high and then a 3-foot-deep flower bed and then another brick wall about – landscaping brick wall about 4 bricks high with another 3 feet behind that of shrubbery, no flowers. And it’s – yeah, it’s been leaning. I noticed it last year. And I thought it might go away and it’s not.

    TOM: See, the thing is what happens here is over time, that soil is going to fill up with water, it’s going to be moist and damp and it’s going to expand and push on the wall. And that sort of ratcheting action from the frost heave, wall won’t come back from that. So every season, season after season, it pushes a little more, a little more, a little more. So, it’s not a structural issue, because it’s landscaping brick, but it’s eventually going to have to be replaced.

    HOWARD: OK. So you mean tear it down and rebuild it.

    TOM: Now, there are other types of retaining walls that can be constructed that are designed not to lean. For example, there are different types of block wall – fancy block wall – like precast concrete-block walls that go together like puzzle pieces, one on top of another, that sort of lean back as you go. You stack one up and the next one doesn’t stick out quite as far and the next one on top of that, not quite as far as the one below. And those are rather permanent when they’re installed. But just a basic brick wall like that, yeah, that’s eventually going to lean and fall over.

    HOWARD: Well, when I say brick, it’s probably 4 to 5 inches thick and deep.

    TOM: Yeah. No, I hear you.

    HOWARD: Well, that makes sense.

    TOM: Same thing.

    HOWARD: Yep. OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project.

    Well, it’s time now for cool tips for a hot summer, presented by Haier, the world’s number-one appliance brand and your expert in air-quality solutions.

    Well, if you’re planning to buy a room air conditioner this summer, one of the most important considerations is this: the size of the unit. And here’s something that most folks don’t recognize: bigger is not better. If you buy a unit with too much cooling capacity, you’re going to waste energy. And if you buy one that’s too small, it’s just not going to do a good job of keeping your home comfortable.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And here’s something that very few people understand: an oversized unit, it is going to cool the air quickly but it’s not going to run long enough to dehumidify your home. And this is going to result in your home feeling really damp and just uncomfortable.

    TOM: So, determining the best size air conditioner for your room is going to depend on a number of factors, including the type of air-conditioner unit that you want to install, the size of the room you need to install it in and the size of the window. Don’t forget about that before you head to the store.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And manufacturers like Haier will offer handy calculators that’ll do the work for you., they have one called the Find Your Cool Tool. And it’s going to step you through the most important considerations and then deliver the right recommendation for your home.

    TOM: Good advice. From air conditioners and dehumidifiers to space heaters and kitchen ventilation, Haier has just the thing to keep every room in your house comfortable this summer and year-round. Learn more at That’s Haier – H-a-i-e-r –

    LESLIE: Dixie in Illinois has a question regarding a crack in the basement and the possibility of it caving in.

    Dixie, are you calling us from a pile of rubble or are you just concerned?

    DIXIE: I am actually concerned because it started out with just hairline cracks following along the concrete blocks. And there’s cracks in each corner of the foundation above ground, as well as these cracks in the walls below, in the basement. But the cracks are getting bigger and bigger. I mean there are some of them that are gaping, I want to even say, an inch-and-a-half, 2 inches of …

    TOM: You have an inch-and-a-half crack? You mean width? It’s open an inch-and-a-half?

    DIXIE: Well, they are – well, you can’t see through the crack but the walls are bending in. We’ve even put reinforcements.

    TOM: Alright. So, horizontally – like the cracks are horizontal and they’re bending in, Dixie?

    DIXIE: Most of the ones that are bending in are horizontal, yes. But the cracks do go up and down, as well.

    TOM: Alright. So you need to immediately contact a structural engineer and have the foundation inspected. This sounds serious. I can tell you that, typically, horizontal cracks are caused by frost heave, where the drainage conditions are poor at the outside of the house, water collects there, soil freezes and pushes in.

    But you have that many cracks and those cracks are that significant, you need – not a contractor. I want you to find a structural engineer. You’re just hiring this guy to inspect the home and prepare a report discussing the condition of the foundation. And if repairs are needed, the engineer should specify those repairs. Then you can bring a contractor in to follow the engineer’s specification and make the repairs.

    And then finally, make sure you bring the structural engineer back to inspect and certify that they were done correctly. Because at this point, unless you follow those steps just like that, you’re going to have a serious deficit to the home value. So that’s why if you have it inspected by a structural engineer, repaired by a contractor per the engineer’s specs and certified by the engineer as OK, you have kind of a pedigree for that repair you can pass on to future home buyers, OK? Does that make sense?

    DIXIE: OK. But how do you find a structural engineer?

    TOM: So, there’ll be local engineering companies. You could also check the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org. Now, those guys will not necessarily be a structural engineer but there may be an engineer among them that’s also a home inspector.

    Alright? Thank you very much, Dixie. I hope that helps you out.

    LESLIE: Tony in Florida is dealing with some not-so-energy-efficient appliances. Tell us what’s going on.

    TONY: Yes. I have a Trane 19-SEER, 3-ton unit. It has a dual-compressor on there. I also have a Pentair variable-speed pool pump and one of those heat pump – GE water heater.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: And as far as I’m concerned, those are the two appliances that would be responsible for my big energy bill.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: After installing those appliances, I am still looking at an energy bill ranging between 180 and 2.

    TOM: Wow. That’s expensive.

    TONY: Yeah.

    TOM: So, let me ask you something about the heat – the Trane unit that you put in. When you put that in, did you just replace the compressor outside or did you also replace any of the internal parts?

    TONY: The full unit, as well as replace and re-duct.

    TOM: A couple of things that you can check. One of which is to have the HVAC contractor – or if you know how to do this, check the amperage draw for the compressor when it’s running. That can be done from the electrical panel with an amp probe. See if we’re pulling any excessive amperage. I’m wondering if anything is broken in the compressors or the fan system that’s causing it to pull more power than it should. So, you can check that against the manufacturer’s specification on both the heat pump, frankly. The heat pump, it’s a heat-pump water heater, correct?

    TONY: Yeah.

    TOM: So, check the draw. Secondly, is there any other major consuming appliance in the house? How are you cooking? Are you cooking with electric heat – with electricity, I should say?

    TONY: Yes. I’m cooking with a heat-induction stove.

    TOM: Heat-induction stove, OK. So, you are using quite a bit of power for that. What I want is to get to the point where we’re breaking this down on a case-by-case basis, to try to figure this out.

    Here’s what I want to tell you to do, OK? You’ve got a lot going on in that house. This would be a really good case for an energy audit. There are energy auditors that you could usually find through your local utility company or you can find them independently. And in many areas of the country, there are rebates for these or they’re even free.

    Energy auditors can come in and look at every source of energy that’s being consumed in that house, as well as insulation, windows and doors, things like this. And the nice thing about an energy auditor is they’re not there to sell you stuff, you know? Sometimes, when you call a contractor and say, “I want an efficient heating system,” they sell you what they want to sell you. Energy auditors are kind of like home inspectors but they specialize in energy efficiency. And they can do an independent evaluation of all of the elements in the house and help you very accurately pin down where that energy is going.

    Sometimes it’s free because it’s paid for by the utility companies. In fact, some utility companies, as a condition of licensing, are required to provide energy auditors or low-cost auditors. Find a good one. Research them carefully and get an energy audit done of your house. And I think that that will help you stop speculating on where the power – where the energy is being used and where it’s not and get some real, factual data that could help you make some intelligent decisions on how to cut those costs. Does that make sense?

    TONY: Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, tamper-resistant outlets, they’re not just for kids. They also can protect adults from a dangerous shock. We’re going to tell you what you need to know to keep your entire family safe, next.

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

    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, hey, it might be the Fourth of July weekend but we are also smack-dab in the middle of mosquito season. If that’s you, here’s a tip: get rid of that standing water around your house. And it might be over your head. Even clogged gutters – because most people ignore their gutters this time of year – those clogged gutters are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. So if that’s your situation, get rid of them and you will be much happier.

    LESLIE: Pat in Nebraska is on the line with a dishwasher that has decided to take the day off. What’s going on?

    PAT: Hi. Yes. Our dishwasher is on blink, literally. It doesn’t seem to work anymore. And as I look at it on the menu screen across the top, it’s blinking but doesn’t work when I hit the start button or cancel or open the door or shut it. Can’t get it to work anymore.

    TOM: How old is the dishwasher, Pat?

    PAT: I’d say about five years old.

    TOM: That’s a shame.

    LESLIE: It’s not that old.

    PAT: Yes. We’ve gone through 4 of them since we’ve owned this house, in about 20 years.

    TOM: Yeah. Wow.

    PAT: Really amazed.

    TOM: Yeah. And I’m sure a little annoyed, too.

    PAT: My husband shut the power off and turned it back on. And it still doesn’t seem to work. So we opened and shut the door, everything. So we think it’s – I went online and there’s something about some kind of a board that can – like a motherboard or something.

    TOM: Yeah. So that’s what I was thinking. It’s a failure of the control circuit and there’s a lot of electronic products in these newer appliances. And the question, of course, is repair or replace. And at five years old, you’re kind of right at that sort of balance point. You might be able to repair it. The question is: is it going to be worth a couple hundred bucks to either do that or would you rather take the 200 bucks and put it towards a new unit?

    PAT: That’s what we weren’t sure. So that’s why we thought we’d give you a call.

    TOM: I think if it was me, I’d probably not repair it only because what do you hope to get out of that? Eight years? Nine years? Having somebody come out to your house and fix anything these days is a couple hundred bucks minimum. So it would end up being a third of the cost of a new unit. I mean you could find a decent dishwasher for 500 or 600 bucks. And you could find a basic one for even less.

    PAT: So how much do you think the part would cost if …

    TOM: We don’t know that that’s the part. You have to have a service person diagnose it. But if you just wanted to satisfy your curiosity, there’s lots of websites online that sell appliance parts. And I’m sure you could find it. But the issue is that it’s a call to the service man to come out and diagnose it and that costs some money. And then a call – and then he has to come back after the part comes in. It’s not the kind of thing where they can keep these parts on the truck anymore, you know what I mean?

    PAT: Uh-huh. So, well, we were wanting your expert opinion. We kind of were leaning that way, anyway.

    TOM: I tell you what, if it was older, it would be a lot easier decision. I do agree that it’s still middle-aged. But I still don’t think it’s probably worth you putting the money into it.

    PAT: Yes. Alright. Well, I guess we’ll go shopping for a new dishwasher.

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

    LESLIE: So one of the first things that new parents do is childproof their home. You make sure that those curious little ones can’t get into your cleaning supplies or injure themselves at home. And one of the most important areas to childproof are your electrical outlets. More than 24 children are treated in emergency rooms due to electrical shocks and burns every year as a result of tampering with electrical outlets.

    TOM: True. But the old way of plugging in a piece of plastic is not only easy to figure out for little ones, it can be inconvenient for adults. There are much better ways to tamper-proof outlets. Here to tell us about them is This Old House electrical contractor Scott Caron.

    Welcome, Scott.

    SCOTT: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie. Thanks for having me here today.

    TOM: So those little plastic plug-ins don’t just cut it. There are tamper-resistant outlets that can not only be safer, they’re more convenient and they can really be a permanent part of the home, right?

    SCOTT: Yeah. Boy, those things are a pain in the neck. Pull them out, set them on the floor, that’s a choking hazard right there. So it’s not a great idea. And then you forget to plug them back in once you unplug your outlet.

    TOM: So how do these new, tamper-resistant outlets work?

    SCOTT: So these new outlets, they’re really neat. They look the same. You can’t really tell the difference except if you really look closely, you can see they have these little shields over – they’re hot in the neutral. What happens – you need to plug that plug in at the exact same time so that both of those shields come in contact with the actual brass contacts on the plug. So basically, you cannot stick a paper clip or a little bobby pin – you can’t stick it in that outlet individually. They have to both be pressed simultaneously.

    TOM: So you can’t do one side or the other.

    SCOTT: That’s right.

    TOM: You have to connect at the same time. And then they release themselves and you can actually install the plug into the outlet.

    SCOTT: Yep. They’re basically preventing anyone from accessing the hot portion of that outlet.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, that actually sounds really convenient and it seems like something that you’ll actually use because those plastic ones? I feel like every time I pull one out of an outlet and then I vacuum or something, I almost always forget to put it back in.

    SCOTT: Yeah, they’re really great. They do offer some retrofitting plates that almost do the same thing, where you put the outlet up – you put the plug up to the outlet, you slide it over and plug it in. But as far as a tamper-resistant outlet, which by the way is code now since 2008, we have put them in every single house. Whether it’s a new outlet or whether it’s a complete rewire, we always use them.

    TOM: Do you put them in every single outlet?

    SCOTT: We do. There’s really no way around it. It is required by code.

    TOM: So, Scott, this sounds like a fantastic innovation. But if I don’t have kids and say I need a new outlet or two, do I still need to use tamper-resistant?

    SCOTT: Yes. We still put tamper-resistant outlets where we’re adding an outlet. However, if you have existing, non-TR outlets in your home, it’s fine. No problems.

    TOM: I think you can’t go wrong by installing these outlets. And let’s face it: even many of us that don’t have kids, we certainly have children that are going to visit. Let’s keep them safe, as well.

    Scott Caron, the master electrician on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    SCOTT: Tom and Leslie, thank you for having me again.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.

    Up next, do you want to leave a smaller carbon footprint? Well, we’ve got green grilling ideas to help make your Fourth of July celebrations eco-friendly.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you with whatever it is you’re working on or not working on this July 4th weekend. But really, guys, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs that you’ll be using all summer and in fact, all home improvement season long. We’re giving away the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Gauge Brad Nailer Kit and it’s a prize worth $379.

    Now, it’s got, really, the best-in-class power and it’s going to consistently seat nails sub-flush to those materials that you’re working on. So nothing’s going to be sticking out that you’re going to have to hammer back down. And it has a ready-to-fire technology, so there’s no ramp-up time. I mean it really is a super-powerful, very efficient tool.

    You can check it out at the Milwaukee Tool Department at The Home Depot or at And Home Depot, they’ve got the brands you trust and innovative products you need. So head into a local store or visit for more. Prize again is worth $379. Going out to one lucky caller we draw at random.

    TOM: So make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Ray in Minnesota who’s working on a decking project. How can we help you?

    RAY: Yeah. I just bought a house and it was built in 2008. And I have a big, wraparound porch and it looks like it’s never been really maintained since they built it. And so, especially with the Minnesota winters up here and the weather, looking to seal it but not really sure what to use and also not really wanting to have to do it every single year. So, just wanted to get some advice about what I could do.

    TOM: So, is the porch flooring a finished floor or is it like a deck, like pressure-treated?

    RAY: Pressure-treated wood. It’s a deck.

    LESLIE: And is there anything on it currently?

    RAY: No.

    TOM: So, what you can do is you could apply a solid-color deck stain to that.

    RAY: OK.

    TOM: And a solid-color stain is going to last longer than a semi-transparent or certainly a transparent stain. But you use a deck stain because deck stains also have some durability to them.

    LESLIE: Yeah. The benefit of the solid-color stain is that because it’s a stain, it’s actually going to penetrate the surface of the wood, so the color will actually get into the lumber itself. And then a solid stain, obviously, has more pigment to it. So, given the fact that your deck has had nothing on it for however many years, it probably looks a little worn in places and maybe worse for the wear. So a solid stain is going to sort of cover all of that up while giving you some color and still act as a stain, since that’s what it is.

    And your – generally, if you apply it correctly, you’re going to get about five years on horizontal surfaces and about seven years on vertical. It really depends on the weather conditions, the application, how you prep it. Is the wood totally dried out when you’re putting it on? But a solid stain is probably the best bet.

    RAY: OK, OK. I had one question about it. I have seen some commercials for some new products that are more kind of concrete-based, almost like more of a paint-type thing. What about those? Are those good or would you recommend using something like that or …?

    TOM: Don’t do it. I think you’re talking about the products that are like liquid siding and things of that nature. If you were going to consider a product like that, I would Google the name of that product and the word “complaints.” Because we’ve seen a lot of complaints about those products that claim to, you know, encapsulate the surfaces that they’re applied to. Just not working very well.

    I would stick with the basics. A good-quality, solid-color stain from a good manufacturer is going to last a long time and you certainly won’t be doing it every year.

    RAY: OK, great. Well, I really appreciate the information and the help. Thank you, again, for taking my call.

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

    LESLIE: Hey. It’s the big Fourth of July weekend, guys. And if you’re grilling, we’ve got ideas to make your backyard cooking fest more eco-friendly. And it all starts with your choice of fuel.

    Now, a propane grill is much more eco-friendly than a charcoal grill. So if you’re grilling with gas, you’re already ahead of the game.

    TOM: Now, if you do have a charcoal grill, consider charcoal made from an ecologically-harvested wood. These charcoals are carbon-neutral and you can even get them in flavor-enhancing varieties, like mesquite.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next, let’s talk about your grilling utensils. You should look for ones that have bamboo handles and stainless-steel parts.

    Now, bamboo is an extremely renewable resource. The same thing goes for your serving supplies. Consider reusable plates as opposed to paper or foam.

    TOM: And finally, to keep those summer bugs away, consider all-natural citronella torches. Being green when you celebrate the red, white and blue is going to save you some money but it’s also going to make you feel better about your footprint on the planet.

    888-666-3974. If you’re thinking about a project to tackle this week or the next, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Stephanie in California is having a heating-and-cooling issue. Well, specifically, a cooling issue in the bedroom. What’s going on?

    STEPHANIE: Oh, we don’t know. Right now, we live in a four-bedroom house. Every room in the house, except for the master bedroom, gets cool in the summer. We have not done a winter yet. This bedroom – the master bedroom – is at least 5 to 7 degrees warmer than any part of the house.

    TOM: OK. Well, there could be a number of reasons for that. First of all, what side of the house is it on?

    STEPHANIE: It would be on the south side of the house.

    TOM: The more sun, the more cooling you need. So it’s not unusual for a room on the south or the west side to need more cooling power.

    So let’s talk about what you could do to try to improve this. First of all, I would check the airflow at the registers to make sure you’re getting good airflow at all of the A/C registers. In some cases, systems can be balanced so that they supply more air to one room and less air to another.

    Just as important is to check the return registers, Stephanie, because not only do you have to push cold air into the room, you have to pull the air back so it can be recooled. If you don’t have a return in the bedroom itself, it’s going to be a central return, like in the hallway, perhaps, outside of the bedroom. If that’s the case, you want to make sure that when you close the door of the bedroom, that there’s at least a 1-inch gap under the door. Because that’s how the air gets pulled back and again, recirculated.

    Other things that you can do would be to increase insulation over this particular room. So if there’s an attic access above, for example, you could double up the insulation over that and that would also help to keep it cooler.

    So I would speak with your HVAC professional, initially, to try to get the balance working a little bit better. And then if that doesn’t work, think about adding some additional insulation. And if that doesn’t work at all, the other thing that you could do is you could add supplemental cooling to that.

    I have a room, for example, in my house where I have a split-ductless system because it happens to be on the west side, in my case, and it overheats. It’s far away from the air-conditioning-system supply and so I never quite get enough cooling air into this one room to make it comfortable. So we have a split-ductless system in there that supplements it.

    So those are all good options to help even out the temperature of that room in the house. Stephanie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Up next, tank or tankless? We’re going to share some tips on choosing the best water heater for your home, 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: Hey, here’s a quick tip to help keep you cool this summer: if you’ve got central A/C or window air-conditioning units, keep your storm windows closed. Why? Well, the same air that leaks in during the winter cold months also leaks in during the summer and drives up cooling costs. So if you’ve got storm windows, keep them closed.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to jump into our questions that we get with people posting online. First up, we’ve got one from Trisha in Delaware who writes: “I’m building a new home. The builder suggested I get a tankless, on-demand water heater but my regular plumber says he’s concerned about the maintenance, repairs and parts. Any advice?”

    TOM: I’ve got to you, even though tankless water heaters have been around now for over a decade – I mean even longer than that but they’d been really popular for over a decade – there’s still a lot of plumbers out there that don’t like them. And I think it’s mostly because they haven’t really learned enough about them.

    What happened when they were first installed, when they were first on the market, is plumbers would install them incorrectly. They would use the wrong-size gas lines because tank water heaters typically needed a ¾-inch gas line. But tankless needed a 1-inch gas line. It has to do with the need to get a lot of gas to the unit, under a certain pressure. Even though it’s not using more gas, you have to have this flow. So they put the undersized gas lines in there and then they would complain and kind of badmouth the product because they say it didn’t work. Well, it just wasn’t installed right.

    So, with all due respect to your plumber – I’m sure he’s a great guy – I would disagree and say if you have an opportunity to go tankless right now while you’re building this house, now is the time to do it. Gosh, especially if you have kids. It’s a beautiful thing to never have to worry about running out of hot water again.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s terrible to run out of hot water. And tankless will truly stop that problem for you, just like that.

    Alright. Next up, I’ve got a post here from James in Texas who writes: “I’m considering buying a home with textured walls. It looks like plaster was blown on. How hard is it going to be to smooth that out?”

    TOM: Really, really, really hard.

    LESLIE: If radio could show the face I’m making, I’m like, “Ugh. It’s going to be hard. It’s a lot of work, James.”

    TOM: Really hard. Leslie and I are getting exhausted just thinking about it.

    You know, textured walls, textured ceilings seem like a really good idea for a while. I think a lot of builders use them because they also covered a lot of sins.

    LESLIE: It hides a lot of things.

    TOM: Yeah. And the builders used to get tired of having to come back to fix every ding and dent in the wall. And at one point, they got smart and they were like, “Wait a minute. If we put all this texture on the walls, everything’s going to look great.” Of course 10, 20 years later, you’re trying to get that crap off the walls and ceilings and it’s not so easy.

    The best way to do it is to dampen it first. So you can get a pump, like a garden sprayer, and fill it with water and dampen the wall. Don’t saturate it – we don’t want it to swell – but dampen it. And then you could scrape it with a spackle knife – a wide one, one that’s 4 inches wide – and see how it goes with getting the textured material off.

    Now, after that’s done, you’re probably going to have to do as much touchup, maybe some sanding as you can. You definitely, definitely, definitely have to prime the walls. And you want to use an oil-based primer for that. Because if you don’t do that, you’re going to have an adhesion issue. So you apply the oil-based primer, let it dry really well and then – and this is the most important thing – use a flat paint – a good-quality flat paint. If you put anything on that wall with a sheen, you’re going to see all the imperfections. If you put a good thick coat of flat, I think you’ll be good to go.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And flat paint really is the key. And just embrace it in the areas you can’t get rid of it and do what you can to cover up the stuff you don’t like.

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Hey, thank you for spending part of this beautiful Fourth of July weekend with us. We hope we’ve given you some great ideas and some inspiration to tackle projects around your house. If you’ve got questions, remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-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.


    (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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