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How to Take the Work Out of Lawn Mowing, Prevent a Common Type of Toilet Leak, Outdoor Spring Checkup Checklist and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And the weather is finally getting warm now across the country. Gosh, it couldn’t happen any sooner after that crazy, crazy winter that we had. But you know, as the weather gets warm, something else happens: the lawn grows and then you’ve got to mow. So we’re going to have some expert advice this hour to make that job a little bit easier, from This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, one of the worst kinds of leaks that you can possibly have is one that you don’t know anything about. They’re usually small and they’re sneaky. Because when you finally do figure out where it is, there is a lot of hidden damage that you have to then repair. Well, one common spot for that is under your toilet. We’re going to have a solution for that, coming up.

    TOM: Plus, there’s never been a better time to give your home’s exterior a little step-by-step check to see what kind of damage it may have sustained over this winter. So we’ll have that checklist, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a $40 prize pack from Concrobium, which is a fantastic mold cleaning and prevention product. And you can learn all about it at CureMyMold.com.

    TOM: But first, let’s get to the phones, 888-666-3974. We want to hear about your home improvement questions, we want to help solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas. If there’s a project on your to-do list, well, maybe you can move it over to ours. We’ll work on it together, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Patrick in Iowa is on the line with a roofing question. How can we help you today?

    PATRICK: OK. I bought a home; it was a for-sale-by-owner. The roof was put on about four or five years ago. And in the disclosure, he mentioned there was nothing wrong with the roof. But since moving in – now, being in Iowa, we get severe weather and I understand a couple shingles might rip off during a windstorm or something like that. But it’s literally – it’s daily, shingles are coming off.

    So I patched some of the shingles but it is – it’s every time we get a wind, shingles are just blowing off. And so I ask him, “Can I have the name of the company that did the roof?” And so, I got the name and phone number and I talked to the workers that did it and they said, “We’ve been out there every single year, year after year. We told him it’s no longer covered. He has to pay for it himself.” And he – and they asked, “Didn’t he mention that in the disclosure?” And I looked through the disclosure and of course, there’s nothing in the disclosure that mentions anything (inaudible at 0:03:07).

    TOM: Right. Of course. Yeah. Wow. Sounds like you have a pretty strong case of fraud.

    PATRICK: And of course, I don’t want to go down a road that is going to be months and months and months or years. But it is – it’s just one of those cases that if it’s not in the disclosure – but then I can prove that it is. I mean is there any recourse whatsoever?

    TOM: Well, yeah. The recourse is to hold him legally responsible for the cost of replacing the roof. And this is really more of a question for an attorney than for home improvement experts like ourselves.

    But I was a professional home inspector for many years. I’ve seen these situations before. And if you have a seller that outright misrepresents the condition of part of the property on the disclosure, then they should be held liable for that and in some cases, can be held liable for multiples of what the actual damage is which, in this case, is essentially going to be the cost of a new roof.

    PATRICK: And it’s not just that. If I was told, then I could have just budgeted for …

    TOM: Right. You could have headed it off, exactly. But it’s – some people just want to make sure – just want to misrepresent their home and try to hide all the problems. And that’s why you have professional home inspectors out there which – by the way, did you get a home inspection done, Patrick?

    PATRICK: Yes. There is a mortgage on it. Of course, the mortgage company did their inspections.

    TOM: Well, no, besides the mortgage company, did you have your own, independent, professional home inspection done?

    PATRICK: I did not.

    TOM: Yeah. So that probably was a mistake. Because home inspectors work for you and not for the mortgage company. And a good-quality home inspector – for example, one that’s a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors – would have spent two to three hours going over that house and probably would have seen all of the repaired shingles. Because that’s something that’s actually fairly obvious to see.

    So, unfortunately, you can’t focus on the past but you should try to hold the seller responsible and maybe you could take him to small-claims court. I don’t know. Again, question for a lawyer but it sounds like you’re going to need a new roof.

    PATRICK: Well, I know that it’s a metal roof that’s going to be going on, so …

    TOM: OK. Alright. Well, good luck. Sorry that happened to you, Patrick. Good luck with the project, though. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Vicky from Ontario on the line with a blinking-light situation. What’s going on over there?

    VICKY: Well, I know it’s – summer’s here or spring’s here. I don’t know why it’s giving up now but however, yes, we have this light fixture that’s in our laundry room. It’s not really a fixture over top of the light bulb but it’s just the light-bulb thing. And every once in a while – and we’ve been trying to figure out just a pattern but there is no pattern; it’ll start blinking.

    So we thought it was the light bulb, so we changed the light bulb about three times and it was fine. And then it started to blink again. It started blinking, so my husband took the fixture – like undid the fixture to see if there’s any loose wires but there doesn’t seem to be any. So, we’re just wondering – now, we’re wondering if maybe it’s – where else should we look? We don’t want to have to call in an electrician. We thought maybe you could help us out.

    So, we’re just wondering if there’s – we don’t want a fire or anything like that.

    TOM: So, there’s only a couple of places that you could look, one of which is in the fixture. And if the fixture is breaking down internally – so it’s not a loose wire; it’s something internal – then that could cause this. Likewise at the switch. So at the switch for the wall, for the light, if that is breaking down internally or not connected properly, there could be an issue there. Or it could be further down the circuit. It could be something in the main circuit breaker for the house or perhaps even something in the connection.

    So, it’s nothing to mess with. And when you get a blinking light like that, it could be pointing to something that’s brewing in a wall or in a switch or in the fixture itself. So I would call an electrician and get it resolved.

    VICKY: OK, OK. Like my husband would say, “Oh, don’t worry. It seems to be fine now.” And it would be but then, again, it would start acting …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s fine until you have a house fire and then it’s not fine.

    VICKY: Yeah. That’s what we were trying to avoid; we’re very cautious of anything like that. So, well, OK then. Then we will go ahead and have an electrician come in and take a look at it and see what he has to say.

    TOM: You know what? If you’re going to have an electrician come in for a little job like that, maybe there’s a couple other things that you want done around the house at the same time. Bunch them up and sometimes you can get a better – you get more done for the same money or for a little bit more, OK?

    VICKY: Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Get it to get done together.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck, Vicky. Thank you 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. We’d love to help you out with whatever you are working on this spring season. Those May flowers are just around the corner, so let us help you get your money pit in tip-top shape, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, did you hear about the guy who fell through the floor when he sat on his toilet?

    LESLIE: Man, gravity sucks.

    TOM: It sure does. Well, toilet leaks can go undetected, sometimes for years. And that can lead to a soggy and weak subfloor in your bathroom.

    LESLIE: That’s right. We’re going to have tips on how to prevent those sneaky leaks, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Foundry Specialty Siding. Foundry vinyl cedar siding gives your home the beauty of real cedar shake without the hassles and worries that come with wood siding. Foundry, unsurpassed beauty and strength. Find out more at FoundrySiding.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, 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: And we would love to hear from you with your home improvement question. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a spring-cleaning prize pack from Concrobium worth 50 bucks. The winner is going to get a bottle of Concrobium Mold Control and a bottle of Concrobium Mold Stain Eraser and a jug of Concrobium House & Deck Wash.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, what’s really great about Concrobium is that it cleans indoors and outdoors. And it will completely remove mold stains, it will eliminate mold and then, of course, prevent it from coming back. So it’s truly a great product to have in your spring-cleaning arsenal.

    Check out their website at CureMyMold.com for more information and call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Dennis in Wyoming is on the line and has a question about a backer board. What can we do for you?

    DENNIS: Yes. I just wondered your opinion on the greenboard being used behind a thermoplastic shower wall. I’m installing a shower in an alcove and they sent me the base.

    TOM: OK.

    DENNIS: And then I’ve got these three walls that I have to glue …

    TOM: Usually, it’s – that kind of a liner usually goes on top of tile. Can you put it over greenboard? Well, the problem with greenboard is it’s not very water-resistant. I mean it’s more water-resistant than regular drywall but it’s not terribly water-resistant. It’s designed to be a tile backer.

    So I would say if you’re going to do it, it’s probably OK but just don’t kid yourself into thinking this is something that’s going to last for more than a few years or maybe 10 years max. But I would be very careful to silicone-seal all of the seams so that you don’t have water that goes through the seams of that shower enclosure and saturate through the greenboard. Because it will sort of soften up and rot out.

    DENNIS: OK. Well, thank you very much.

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

    OK. So, imagine waking up in the middle of the night to take care of nature’s call and when you take your seat, the toilet collapses and you fall through the floor. The worst part is it’s not a nightmare; this is real. Because the gasket under the toilet had leaked and was probably doing so for years.

    Now, if your toilet bowl is not seated properly on the flange, it’s very easy for water to leak or seepage to damage or weaken or rot out completely that subfloor over time. In fact, here’s a little inspector’s trick of the trade and it’s amazing how many times we found rotted subfloor in the years I was a professional home inspector.

    What you do is simply place your foot next to the base of the toilet and gently press down on that area close to the base: the right side, the left side. If it’s soft, you will feel it immediately. The other thing that you can do is sort of take the bowl and wiggle it from side to side. And if it’s loose or again, if that floor is soft, you could have a serious problem. You need to get that seal replaced before it leaks any further and causes additional damage. Otherwise, you may be the one that sits down on that toilet and takes the fall for all of those years of neglect.

    LESLIE: You could call that the ride of your life, actually.

    TOM: No kidding.

    LESLIE: Man, that’s a surprise.

    Well, if you’d like to avoid this from ever happening to you – and I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t want to avoid this. I’m sorry I’m laughing but could you imagine? But it’s still funny.

    Now, if you actually want to avoid this – and we all do – there’s a wax ring available on the market, right now, from Danco and they’re one of our newest sponsors. And it’s actually called the Perfect Seal. And this is much more than your traditional wax ring. It actually forces the wax into those critical sealing zones around the flange and that will eliminate the chance of having hidden leaks.

    TOM: Now, the Perfect Seal really has the strongest and the most secure seal of any toilet-installation product on the market. And it fits a very broad range of flange heights, so this eliminates any guesswork. And it’s been tested to withstand three times the pressure of an ordinary wax ring.

    And this is also cool because the design allows the toilet to be repositioned as needed. You can’t do this with the ordinary wax rings without replacing the entire ring. So if you drop the toilet back down after replacing it and you get it wrong and you have to reposition it – and that can ruin the wax ring in the process. That won’t happen with the Perfect Seal.

    LESLIE: The ordinary wax rings can really be a pain because that wax ring, in general, they’re messy, they’re sticky. And often, this isn’t a one-person job to replace a toilet. But with the Perfect Seal, it will actually stabilize the floor bolts, making it easy to position the toilet without having a friend to give you a hand. And it works with any ordinary 3-inch or even 4-inch toilet flange.

    TOM: It’s available at The Home Depot. Learn more at ItsAPerfectSeal.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Patty in Illinois who’s got a toilet that is running constantly. Tell us what’s going on.

    PATTY: Well, it doesn’t run constantly but it runs about five seconds, several times an hour. And it’s gone to the point that my water bill has gone up quite a bit and I’m needing to know if I need a new toilet or if I need new seals or a new handle pump or – what would you think?

    LESLIE: It’s actually an easy fix and this tends to happen kind of regularly. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that there’s actually some level of toilet maintenance, because it’s just an appliance in your house that’s there and you use it and you expect it to work.

    But inside the tank itself, there’s a fill and a flush valve. And those need to be replaced not that often but every couple of years or so. And of course, now that you’re dealing with this water-running issue – Tom, is it Fluidmaster?

    TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is sort of a mainstay of replacement valve parts.

    And they just wear out, Patty, over time, so this is a pretty easy fix.

    LESLIE: And it’s probably 10 bucks to get both of them. But if you go to Fluidmaster’s website, the only reason I recommend that is because on their website, they’ve got a really great how-to video. So you can actually see what the fill valve is, what the flush valve, the flapper valves – you know exactly what you’re looking at and how to replace it. And it’s a really easy do-it-yourself project that you can do confidently and definitely decrease your water bill.

    PATTY: Thank you. That sounds wonderful. I appreciate it and thank you so much for taking my call. Love your show.

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

    LESLIE: Gary in Pennsylvania unfortunately had a flood and needs some help picking up the pieces. What can we do for you?

    GARY: We had a flood here, a flash food. Rain came down in 8 hours, about 7 to 10 inches. It flooded our basement with about a foot of water. And I’m interested in finding out from you folks how we can get back to normal as far as the basement is concerned. It smells. We did manage to get the sump pump going and get the water out of the basement. But it was – like I said, it was a foot around the furniture and everything. And how can I manage to get things back to where they were before the flood?

    TOM: Alright. So, when you have a flood situation like that, of course it’s human nature that you want everything back just the way it was, as soon as possible. But from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t always work that way. Here at the Jersey Shore, we faced one of the worst hurricanes in history, last October, with Hurricane Sandy. And that was the natural reaction; everyone wanted to get back. And we always say, “No, you can’t get back that quickly because you’re going to make some mistakes along the way.”

    So what you want to do first is you want – as you’ve already done, you got rid of the water. Secondly, you want to prevent further damage by removing all of the wet materials. So, wet carpet has to be tossed out. If the basement is finished, does it have drywall down there? Those drywall sections have to be cut out to above the flood line. If there’s insulation in the walls, that has to be pulled out. If you have furniture that’s water-damaged, you may have an option of saving some of that if you can get it upstairs and start to dry it out and kind of make a decision as you go. But frankly, a lot of that should be covered by insurance so I wouldn’t maybe try too hard to save it. But get all of that material out of there.

    Now, you said it was a flash flood and it flooded the basement quickly. Any time you have water infiltration that’s consistent with rainfall, it can always be reduced, if not eliminated, by making sure that your drainage conditions outside are proper and that you have gutters, they’re clean, they’re extended from the house 4 to 6 feet – not just a few inches like normal gutters are – and that the soil slopes away. So those sorts of things can prevent further water infiltration.

    And then after it’s all torn out, then you’re going to want to spray those – that basement floor and the walls down with a solution of bleach and water, about 10 to 20 percent bleach with water. That will kill any mold spores that are left behind. Then get some fans down there; dry that all out. And then once it’s dry, then you can think about putting it back together.

    And next time, I would not put carpet on a basement floor because that’s a breeding factory for mold and mildew and dust mites, as well. OK?

    GARY: Sounds like a winner to me. I certainly appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come, are you looking forward to mowing your lawn? What? You’re not? Well, why not? It’s the greatest summertime chore. We’re going to have tips for the perfect cut, every time, from Roger Cook of TV’s This Old House, next.

    KEVIN: This is Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House, the longest-running home improvement show. And I want to send out a big congrats to Tom and Leslie for the most downloaded home improvement podcast on iTunes. Well done, guys.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

    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 if you visit us on Facebook, you can get in on our Go Green for Earth Day Sweepstakes. We’re giving away $1,000 in prizes from Staples to one lucky winner, including $500 worth of Sustainable Earth by Staples products.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. This eco-friendly line is actually going to help lessen your impact on the environment. And it includes everything from office supplies to cleaning products.

    All you have to do is “like” our page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit to enter.

    TOM: And don’t forget to share the sweeps. And if you do, you’ll even earn bonus entries.

    LESLIE: Terry in Mississippi is on the line looking for some help to get rid of termites. Tell us what’s going on.

    TERRY: Yes. I’d like to know: what kind of spray should I get for termites?

    TOM: Well, termite treatment is not a do-it-yourself project. Because termites really need to be professionally treated because of where they live. They live deep in the soil, Terry. And so, to treat them effectively, a termiticide has to be applied to the soil and in a continuous bond all the way around your house.

    And what happens with the modern termiticides is they’re undetectable, so the termites don’t know it’s in the soil. They pass through it, they get it on their bodies and then they go back to the nest and pass it to all their termite friends. And that wipes out the entire nest.

    So, it’s not really a do-it-yourself project. I would talk to some exterminators and maybe ask specifically about a product called Termidor – T-e-r-m-i-d-o-r. Good product. It’s been around for a long time. I used it in my own house and it’s an undetectable termiticide that’s very effective and lasts for many years.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you think the best way to save time and energy when cutting the grass is to set your mower as low as possible so you don’t have to mow that often, you might be surprised to find out that that can actually end up being more work in the long run.

    TOM: That’s right. There’s a method to cutting grass that, if followed, can really improve both the look and the health of your lawn. And here to give us some tips is a guy who has spent many years behind a lawnmower and a hedger and a trimmer and a chainsaw and just about any other landscape tool you could name: Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, most people don’t really give much thought to cutting the grass. And as Leslie said, they figure the shorter they cut it, the easier it’s going to be to maintain that lawn. Not true, though, huh?

    ROGER: Not true at all. The shorter you cut the lawn, the more chance it has of getting scalped or getting weeds that come into the soil.

    TOM: And so that’s just not going to help the health of the lawn, it’s not going to help the appearance of the lawn and it’s going to ultimately be more work. Because not only do you have to get that grass to grow again, you’ve got to get rid of all the weeds that you allowed to get in between all that grass.

    ROGER: Right. And it’s amazing to know that the longer a grass is, it creates a little bit of shade and it actually stops the weeds from coming in. And it also transitions during the year.

    I don’t cut the lawn short in the spring but I cut them at a medium-low height.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: And then, in the summer, I actually cut them higher. When they’re cut high, it shades the root system and helps it from drying out all the time.

    There’s also a correlation between how deep the roots grow with how long the leaf of the grass is.

    TOM: That’s funny because you never think of grass as a shade plant, right? But it really does shade itself.

    ROGER: And cool it off.

    TOM: And cool it off, yeah.

    So, what about whether you’re cutting it by hand, say, with a push mower or you’re using a gas mower? Does it make a difference?

    ROGER: It’s the right tool for the right spot. The whole trick to mowing a lawn is to cut out where you stop and make a corner and come back.

    So if you’re using a big rider mower on a little area, that’s all you’re going to do is stop and turn, stop and turn. And if you’re using a little mower on a big area, it’s just going to take you forever to make the passes. So finding the right tool for the right job is important.

    LESLIE: Now, is there a benefit to waiting X amount of hours after watering? Or do you not mow on days that you water? Is there any science to that?

    ROGER: Well, it’s common sense more than science. You wouldn’t – believe it or not, but you can actually wear down tracks in the grass if you water it when it’s wet or you do the same pattern over and over. That can really become a problem.

    What we do is we change the pattern every week. Usually, we’ll go the long way, the next week we’ll go the short way, then we’ll cut it at a 45 and then a 45 the opposite so we don’t get any compaction of the soil.

    TOM: So how do you get the beautiful, crisscross diamond pattern that you see in the ballfields?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    ROGER: Oh, they drag something behind the mower.

    TOM: Oh, is that right?

    ROGER: Yeah. It pulls …

    LESLIE: Oh, really?

    TOM: I didn’t know that.

    ROGER: Yeah, it pulls all the grass in one direction and that’s what gives it the look. And then they can come by at different angles and change the direction going the opposite way.

    TOM: That’s the same way the space aliens make crop circles, right?

    ROGER: Yeah. Yeah, no. But if your lawn allows it, the best way to cut a lawn is in a circle.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: Because if you start in the center and work out, you’re not making any corners, you’re not stopping. It’s the most efficient way of …

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: You’re going to be really dizzy but …

    ROGER: That’s OK. It’ll look good. That’s all that matters. Dizzy? Nah, we can handle dizzy.

    TOM: We’re talking to Roger Cook. He’s the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Now, let’s talk about clippings. What’s your advice on clippings? Do you leave the clippings? Do you collect the clippings? Do you need a mulching mower to leave the clippings?

    ROGER: I would love for everyone to leave the clippings on the lawn but there are times when you can’t: when it’s too wet or the grass is actually so long that when you cut, it leaves it on the top of the lawn.

    TOM: Right. OK.

    ROGER: It’s very important that if you’re going to try to leave clippings, you have to use a mulching blade on your mower. If you just mow your lawn with a regular blade, you’re going to leave clumps and those clumps are going to kill the lawn.

    If you can’t leave it on the lawn, which is – I would love everyone to do. If you collect it and put it into the compost pile, well, that’s the second-best thing you can do.

    LESLIE: Now, what about watering? How much water does the lawn really need and what’s the best way to gauge that?

    ROGER: There’s so many different factors – sunny, shady, type of lawn, type of soil – that you have to feel your grass out a little bit. The basic rule of thumb is 1 inch of water per week. And what I tell everyone is I like to break that up into two doses. Really, water it so that the water goes down deep into the soil.

    The other thing is that if you water every day, the root system will become lazy and just stay in the top. So if something happens and you don’t water it, it’ll dry out very, very quickly.

    TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is proudly brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating. Live better. Go to MitsubishiComfort.com.

    Still ahead, are you wondering how your house fared after the long, rough winter? We’ve got your spring-checkup checklist, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Foundry Specialty Siding. Foundry vinyl cedar siding gives your home the beauty of real cedar shake without the hassles and worries that come with wood siding. Foundry, unsurpassed beauty and strength. Find out more at FoundrySiding.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. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One of the callers that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a great, spring-cleaning prize pack from Concrobium. And it’s worth 50 bucks.

    Now, it comes complete with everything you’re going to need to get rid of mold for good, including a bottle of Concrobium Mold Control, a bottle of Concrobium Mold Stain Eraser and a jug – which, I imagine, is a lot larger than a bottle – of Concrobium House & Deck Wash.

    TOM: You know, what’s great about Concrobium is that it can clean up mold indoors and outdoors. It completely removes mold stains, it eliminates mold and prevents it from coming back. You can fight mold like a pro with Concrobium Mold Solutions.

    Visit CureMyMold.com for more information and call us right now for your chance to win $50 worth of Concrobium products, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Heidi in North Carolina is on the line with an electrical problem. How can we help you today?

    HEIDI: Well, I have kind of a two-part question. I have an older home. It’s about 68 years old. We paid an electrician to come in when we converted over to a heat pump from an old furnace to up our service. And we have an old fuse box that are the screw-in type fuses. And when he put the system in – the new electrical box – he was supposed to convert everything over into the new electrical box and he left the little electrical box – the little fuse box – in my kitchen.

    And unfortunately, he put the new electrical box on the outside of my house. That would be OK, except I’m a single woman and I don’t – safety reasons, I don’t think it’s really smart considering I have a full-size basement it could have easily been put in.

    LESLIE: Right.

    HEIDI: So do I need to – I mean I would never call this guy again, for lots of reasons. But do I need to pay somebody else to come in and convert that last part of my home into this other fuse box? These little fuses are hard to find and when they blow …

    TOM: So, it’s definitely an active panel, right? The fuse panel?

    HEIDI: Oh, it’s active. Yes, sir.

    TOM: OK. So that’s called a sub-panel and that’s going to be a sub-panel from the main panel. You said the main panel is now in the basement or the main panel is outside?

    HEIDI: It’s outside. We have a full basement and why he put it outside, I have no clue. But he put the main panel …

    TOM: Yeah, that makes no sense. Because the only time you usually see full panels outside is maybe a condominium situation and then they’re in utility closets. So I can’t imagine why that was done that way. It doesn’t make sense. It sounds to me like you do need a better electrician to come in and take care of this.

    If it makes you feel any better, the fact that you have a fuse box does not mean that it’s unsafe. Fuses are actually quite safe if it’s the right-size fuse matched against the wire that’s hooked up to that circuit.

    And so, to know if that’s the case, somebody has to open the panel and say, “OK, this is Number 14 wire, so it’s a 15-amp fuse. And this is Number 12 wire, so it’s a 20-amp fuse,” and so on and physically write that right above the fuse on the panel so you know what size to put in there. Because it’s too easy, with a fuse box, to put in a 20-amp fuse on a wire that’s only rated for 15 amps. Then, of course, that’s potentially unsafe.

    So, it does sound like you need another electrician. It’s obviously not a do-it-yourself project. And unless there’s some compelling code reason in your part of the country to put that outside, I don’t understand why they would have done that. And you could consider rerunning it back to the inside and unfortunately, that’s kind of where we’re at. It’s not an easy fix; it’s one that’s going to require the investment of a good electrician.

    HEIDI: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

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

    Well, after our long, snowy and rather ice-battered winter, it’s a good time to inspect and tidy up the outside of your home for signs of wear and tear brought on by winter weather.

    Start with a roof check. You want to use binoculars to look for shingles that are missing, broken, buckling or blistering.

    LESLIE: Next, you want to clean and inspect your home’s siding. You can use a pressure washer to clear away dirt and algae. And you check for developments like buckling, warping and even insect damage.

    Next, you need to check the angle of the grading at the perimeter of your home. And you want to make sure that it hasn’t settled so much that it will no longer drain water away from your house.

    TOM: Yeah. And if it has settled, you want to add soil to maintain that slope away from the foundation. And be sure to clean your gutters and extend your spouts, too. And those are just a couple of pointers from our spring-checkup checklist, which is online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: John in Pennsylvania is on the line and has a question about flooring. What can we do for you today?

    JOHN: We’re about to become homeowners and we need to rip up some carpet. And we want to install hardwood flooring. We were curious how far you have to leave it away from your new floor – away from the wall.

    TOM: Is it prefinished hardwood, John?

    JOHN: Yeah, it’s all finished. Yep.

    TOM: OK, well, that’s great. Now, I would recommend probably around ½-inch.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: You want to make it so that a piece of baseboard molding plus shoe molding will cover it. So, between baseboard and shoe molding, you’ve probably got about an inch to an inch-and-a-quarter of overlap, so to speak. So generally about a ½-inch will work.

    Most of the flooring manufacturers will give you specific advice on what the gap should be but I’d say generally about a ½-inch is fine. And remember, that’s a ½-inch away from the drywall. Because even – you have space under the drywall, as well as another ½-inch. That should give you plenty of room for expansion and contraction.

    JOHN: OK. And then the other question was: when we get the new floors delivered, they said you have to leave it a certain amount of time before we install it to get, I guess, acclimated to our weather?

    TOM: Yeah, you want to acclimate it to the space that it’s going to be in. Because if it comes really cold, for example, it’s going to kind of shrink and then if it expands, it could buckle up. So you want to just put it in the room that you’re going to install it in and leave it there for a good couple of days to acclimate.

    JOHN: OK, great.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. It’s very exciting. This is your first house?

    JOHN: Yeah, yeah. First house, yep.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck.

    JOHN: Appreciate it. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Hey, do you guys have too many trees keeping the sunshine from shining on your home? We’ll tell you what you can do to let the sun shine down, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

    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.

    Hey, I love Pinterest. I’m pinning pretty much everything from sparkly nail designs to bathroom-makeover designs. I just love, love, love Pinterest. So, I’m definitely a pinner. Are you guys a pinner? If you love Pinterest like me, take a look at Weekend Projects section of The Money Pit’s Pinterest page. You can find spring do-it-yourself repair tips and even cleaning solutions.

    And if you’re working on something, brag about it in our Community section or ask us how to do something and we’ll lend you a hand, just like Jillian in Oregon posted. She says, “My roof and my house, for that matter, get barely any sun with all of the shade trees around here. Many of them are evergreens, so not even in the winter. And they’re huge. I want to get rid of some but I don’t even know where to start. Could I try to thin out some of the branches myself? Can I do any of this myself? Sometimes tells me calling in a pro is probably going to cost me.”

    TOM: Yeah. But you know what? It might be the best money you ever spent. If you’ve got big evergreen trees like that, seriously, for you to open up some sunlight to get through them or even to take them down, it’s just not a do-it-yourself project. It can be dangerous.

    In fact, Leslie, do you remember just a few weeks ago, we had a photo that we posted on our Facebook page of a professional landscaper who had a rather gory accident with a chainsaw where he got stabbed in the neck with a chainsaw? One of those crazy, crazy x-ray photos that shows the chainsaw in his neck. Fortunately, it missed major arteries, miraculously, and the guy is apparently OK. Or as OK as you can be with a chainsaw in your neck, I guess.

    But I mean the point is that even pros can get hurt doing this stuff. And so, the solution to your dilemma with the algae and the mold in your house is to thin out the trees, because sunlight makes the best algaecide out there. And I think what you’ll find is if you not only thin out but maybe eliminate some of those trees, the others will sort of grow in naturally to fill that space. So it may look like you have a big hole for a while but it’ll kind of compensate for itself. And the upside is you’ll get more sunlight in there.

    So I do think it’s something you should turn to a pro to do. And now is a great time to do it, so that’s our advice. If it is a do-it-yourself project, we’ll tell you but in this case, I wouldn’t do it. Too much risk of getting hurt.

    LESLIE: The other part is so much of this is so high up that I don’t even think you’d have a ladder to reach any of this. We have a white pine in our backyard that’s just – I’m going to say it’s a million feet tall. It’s not but it’s super-high and it constantly shades my backyard, which is really tiny, and there’s nothing I can do to reach it. And any piece of material that I see my tree guy bring in is something that I’d be afraid to stand on, I’d be afraid to operate: saws with ropes, chainsaws that are on ropes, things that they tie themselves to the tree with. I would not even attempt it.

    Alright. Next up, Manny in Michigan posted: “I was getting ready to redo my bathroom and during the demolition, I found out that I had some plumbing on the outside wall, which I know is a no-no. Do I have to replumb? Can this be covered by my insurance since it was done, before I bought the house, without my knowledge?”

    I feel like there’s always going to be some plumbing on an exterior wall that’s unavoidable. You just have to insulate, right?

    TOM: Yeah. And it’s not the insurance company’s responsibility that you didn’t check your house out thoroughly enough.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: That’s something a home inspector should do. So, unfortunately, it is your dime that has to pay for the repair here. And it is a good idea to get that plumbing off the exterior wall or you could just take one winter in the house and see what happens. It might be that it’s stable enough that it doesn’t – or insulated well enough that it doesn’t freeze. But the best thing is to not have plumbing on exterior walls.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I’ve got a sink on an exterior wall in the kitchen. Knock wood – me banging on my head – it works fine.

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you a few tips, ideas, suggestions and solutions to improve your home. If you’ve got questions, we are here 24-7 at 888-MONEY-PIT. You can call any time of the day or night. Our screeners never sleep; they’ll take your question if we’re not in the studio. We’ll call you back the next time we are. Or you could post your question online at MoneyPit.com in the Community section, Facebook page, Twitter, you name it.

    That’s all for today. 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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2014 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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