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How to Test for Radon, Preparing Your Home for All Stages of Life, Get the Look of Hardwood Floors for Less, and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone right now, give us a call with your home improvement question. We are standing by to help you get the job done, no matter how big, how small, how simple, how complicated. If you need help, pick up the phone and help yourself first by dialing us at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, you can’t see it, you can’t smell it and you can’t taste it. But radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and it could be at dangerous levels in your home, particularly at this time of year when our homes are all closed up. And that’s why January is Radon Action Month and a great time for us to give you a few tips on how to avoid this dangerous and naturally-occurring gas.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And another part of staying safe at home means that you should actually be creating special spaces for all of life’s stages, from a young and growing family to enjoying your golden years in your own home. We’re going to have a few easy design changes that deliver safety and style for all of life’s stages.

    TOM: And also ahead, one of the easiest ways to update and add value to your home is to add a wood floor. And the good news is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. Coming up, we’ve got the lowdown on the best flooring deals around.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a tool that gives you a professional-looking paint job without the pro price. It’s a Power Painter Plus from Wagner and it’s worth $130.

    TOM: So, pick up the phone, give us a call right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mitch in Tyler, Texas, who is a repeat caller here at The Money Pit or should we say addicted do-it-yourselfer? Mitch, what can we help you with this time?

    MITCH: I think addicted do-it-yourselfer is probably a better selection.

    Here’s what’s going on. I live in a two-story, pier-and-beam house. It’s about 95 years old. We have some buckling going on now in our master bedroom, which is on the first floor, under the wood floor. And I want to know, first, what – how can I go about trying to match that wood flooring so that I can replace just the part that’s buckling and not have to redo the whole thing? And then, secondly, what may be causing it to buckle like that?

    TOM: Is this a prefinished floor or is it hardwood – raw hardwood – that was finished?

    MITCH: I think it’s raw hardwood that was finished.

    TOM: OK. Alright. So, the first part of the question is how do you pull out the bad stuff? What you basically do is you take a circular saw – I assume you’re handy, because it’s going to take somebody that’s pretty handy to do this.

    MITCH: Yes.

    TOM: But you take a circular saw and you plunge-cut – set the depth to the same thickness of the floor – and you plunge-cut into the bad boards and you take a couple of rips down as opposed to a cross-cut. You cut with the grain down through the bad boards and then you chisel them out at some point and start lifting them out. And so the plunge-cuts actually help to loosen that up; you can actually cut right through the joints, so you’re cutting through the tongue and the groove of the bad boards. So you’re loosening that up, you’re pulling those boards out and then you’re going to put new pieces in.

    Now, you may have to cut off – if it’s like a tongue and a groove – on the groove side, you may have to cut off the bottom of the groove so you can build this from the top down. You may have to place new pieces of wood in that way.

    Now, when you do that, it is going to be slightly different in color. I don’t know if this is stained or finished but even if it’s just a plain, clear coat of finish, there will be slight difference in color. It’s going to take …

    LESLIE: Well, just because of wear.

    TOM: Well, not so much wear, I think, but color. It usually takes six months to a year for them to fade back in to where they’re invisible again. But you can use a throw rug or something in the meanwhile.

    Now, in terms of why it buckled, typically it buckles when the floor gets wet or if it was pulled in with not enough space around the outside edge and it just got humid and it just pressed into each other. That’s typically why it buckles.

    MITCH: So if I have – if it’s buckling, let’s say, because it’s wet, then I probably need to go underneath and there may be another problem I’m going to have to fix then, too, right?

    TOM: Maybe not. I mean it could have just happened because of a one-time saturation or it just might, again, have been put in too tight.

    MITCH: OK, great. Well, I did want to make a comment on when I called you guys last time.

    TOM: Yeah? OK. How did it work out for you?

    MITCH: Well, I don’t know if you recall, I called and said that I had the fascia board on my roof was coming off and I had the electrical power line hooked onto that.

    TOM: OK.

    MITCH: And I asked you guys what I needed to do before the power line pulled it off and you all said, “Well, call your electric company. It’s going to cost you some money,” and all that stuff. Well, I happened to be – [monitor company] (ph) – we’re in a co-op in the area I live in in Texas.

    TOM: Right.

    MITCH: Well, I went down and told them about it. They came up that same day, fixed it. They replaced the fascia board, even, for me and didn’t charge me a thing.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: Wow. That’s great.

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s fantastic.

    MITCH: They said that the co-op members didn’t. It was nice but it kind of surprised me. I thought, “Man, I’ve got to call you guys and let you know.”

    TOM: Alright. Well, that’s fantastic, Mitch.

    MITCH: Alright. Well, thank you. Love your show.

    TOM: Glad to hear it. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Thought he was going to say, “Well, we had this big, electrical wire you guys didn’t tell me about and now I glow like a Christmas tree.”

    LESLIE: Mary in California is having an electrical issue at her money pit. Tell us what’s going on.

    MARY: Well, the bathroom plug-ins, where you’d plug in a razor or a hair dryer, in two different bathrooms – opposite ends: one upstairs, one downstairs of the same house – suddenly have no power to them.

    TOM: Right.

    MARY: And I checked the circuit-breaker box and everything is on. I bought one of those little tools to stick in the holes and there’s no power to either of them but I have power all over the house, everything else.

    TOM: Well, there is a very simple solution.

    MARY: Oh, there is?

    TOM: And it’s so simple, it’s going to – you’re just going to laugh.

    MARY: Move?

    TOM: No. No, the outlets that you talk about are covered by a ground-fault circuit interrupter – GFCI.

    MARY: No, they’re not.

    TOM: And somewhere – well, it sounds like they are. And you’re saying they’re not but I’m going to tell you where to look, OK?

    MARY: OK.

    TOM: Because the ground – somewhere in this circuit – and the circuit could include – do you have a garage?

    MARY: Yes.

    TOM: OK. Circuit very often includes the garage. It also includes the outside and it could include the basement. Somewhere in those rooms, you’re going to find an outlet that has a ground fault.

    LESLIE: That has a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

    TOM: And you’re going to see one outlet with a test and a reset button on it.

    MARY: Right.

    TOM: And the reset button is going to be popped out and you’re going to push it back in and instantly you’re going to have power in your bathrooms again.

    MARY: Well, I do – in the third bathroom, I have one of those things and it’s connected. It works. It works.

    TOM: But that might just be for that bathroom. The other bathrooms may be on a bigger circuit that covers the entire house. This is a very common problem. We hear it all the time. And people swear that they don’t have one or they can’t find it or they’ve checked. And I’ve had people call me on the phone, when I was a home inspector and had this conversation, and I’d say, “Get a cordless. Walk with me around the house. Go to your garage.” “It’s not here, it’s not here. Tom, it’s not here. Oh.”

    It’s right there, OK? Go find this little outlet with the test and reset button on it.

    MARY: OK.

    TOM: Because what happens is all of the wet-location outlets are wired together and the ground faults turn them off if somebody’s getting a shock. A regular circuit breaker only turns itself off if there’s – the wires are overheating. And if you’re part of that circuit, you’re in trouble. But a ground-fault breaker turns it off if there’s someone getting a shock and very, very quickly.

    So, you’ve got to find the ground fault. It’s somewhere in an outlet in your house. It could also be outside, by the way. Most typically, it’s in the garage, OK?

    MARY: OK. I will look for that.

    TOM: Alright. Alright, Mary. Let us know how you make out, OK? Good luck with that project.

    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, design, décor question. Whatever you are working on, we are here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, it’s a potential silent killer and it could be lurking in your home. We’re talking about radon gas. We’ll tell you how to get rid of it, next.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    (theme song)

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

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, not only will we answer your home improvement question, you’ll also be entered to win a Power Painter Plus from Wagner. It’s perfect for painting hard-to-reach places because it delivers a steady stream of paint at any angle. So give us a call right now to qualify for this Power Painter Plus. Going to go out to one caller at the end of today’s show. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Nate in Utah needs some help with a home office. What can we do for you today?

    NATE: I’m building (audio gap) and I’m building an office. I got the walls all up and I drywalled the outside of the walls but I’m noticing a really annoying cracking, popping, creaking sound in my floor that wasn’t there before I put this wall up.

    TOM: OK.

    NATE: And I don’t really want to (inaudible at 0:11:19) the other side of the wall if there’s something I can do to get rid of that noise.

    TOM: Hmm. Where did you put the wall up?

    NATE: Right in the middle of my living room, so …

    TOM: OK, you sort of divided it in half?

    NATE: Well, yeah, I divided the room in half.

    TOM: I see. OK. And so now you’re getting a cracking sound in the floor.

    NATE: Yeah.

    TOM: Well, you didn’t do anything that affects it structurally. This is just a partition wall. If you tied that wall into the floor, you may be impacting the expansion and the contraction of the flooring products; that could be causing that noise. What kind of floor is it?

    NATE: It looked like it was waferboard when I put the 2x4s for the wall down.

    TOM: Right.

    NATE: And underneath it, it’s wood and I-beam joists that are about 24 inches apart.

    TOM: Oh, yeah. There are actually sound-control products that you can use to quiet a floor like that. It’s essentially an underlayment, Nate, that goes between the waferboard floor and then you would put a second layer of flooring on top of that. There’s a number of them available from manufacturers around the country. You can find them online.

    One product is called Quiet Curl and I think something like that would give you the silence that you’re looking for. Because you have a waferboard floor or an aspenite floor on top of those plywood-beamed joists, you’re always going to have a lot of movement there and that’s always going to result in a fair amount of sound.

    What was your finished floor plan for this? Was it going to be carpet or what?

    NATE: It’s carpet. The carpet is there.

    TOM: Oh.

    NATE: This is – I cut my carpet down the middle where the wall was going to go and I put the wall up.

    TOM: I see. Yeah. Well, unfortunately, this is a solution that would require you to pull all the carpet up, so you really have to decide whether or not it’s that important to you.

    NATE: OK. Well, I will look into that. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, you can’t see, smell or taste radon but it could be present in your home and at dangerous levels.

    Now, radon is the top reason that non-smokers die from lung cancer, killing 20,000 Americans a year. But radon exposure is completely preventable. So the best way to avoid radon is to make sure that you test your home. Because if you’ve got a problem, you can fix it.

    TOM: That’s right. So how do you go about testing, though? Well, there are several places to turn. The National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University is one of the best, because they’ve got discounted test kits online for as little as 15 bucks. Just go to SOSRadon.org. You can order it online. Everything is processed online; you can look up your results online. Very simple to do a radon test in your home with that particular kit.

    You can also find them in home improvement centers, hardware stores and so on. And some state programs actually offer low-cost or discounted kits. You’d have to check with your state websites for that information. And you can also take a look at the EPA website, because they’ve got contact info for every single state’s radon program. And that you would find at EPA.gov/Radon.

    Definitely worth doing a test. If you’ve never done one, why live with radon gas if you can avoid it? And you don’t have to hold your breath either.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Gary on the line who’s looking for some efficient baseboard heating. Tell us what’s going on and what you need some help with.

    GARY: Well, I have a bathroom on the north side of the house and in Nebraska, it gets pretty cold in the winter. And so I was wondering about using a baseboard heater to warm up that corner of the house: how efficient they are and what the advantage of a 240 is over a 120-volt.

    TOM: So it’s just a stand-alone bathroom on the north side of the house that doesn’t get enough heat?

    GARY: Yeah.

    TOM: OK. So, a couple of things. First of all, adding electric heat to that is the – definitely the easiest. Since it’s a small room, you don’t have to go with 240-volt; you can go with 110-volt. I would have it centrally wired and not use a plug-in unit.

    Since it’s such a tiny room, I mean it’s – a strip baseboard heater is the best. If it was a bigger area, I might recommend a larger space heater but just a strip baseboard heater should be fine. The downside is that the thermostat on those is mounted on the unit itself. If you buy a little bit better-quality one, you can actually have one that’s mounted on the wall. But I think that’s an easy way for you to increase the heating in just that one small, very strategic area of your house.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And of course, for cost-effectiveness, you’re not going to put this on and keep it on when you’re not in there. You’re going to put it on, you know, a couple minutes before you go in there. And because of the size of the space of the room, it’ll really do a great job of heating it effectively and quickly. And then once you’re done in there, turn it off.

    But of course, since it’s a bathroom, you want to make sure that you manage the moisture well, because if you’re dealing with extremes between hot and cold, you’re going to get a lot of condensation in there.

    GARY: Uh-huh. Well, this one I was looking at does have a programmable thermostat.

    TOM: Oh, good. Well, good. That’s a good choice then. I think you’re on the right track.

    GARY: Alright. Well, thanks very much.

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

    LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line with a mold question.

    LAURIE: My husband and I think that there possibly might be some mold in our drywall or insulation in our home and we wondered the best way to check for that. We don’t have any airflow in our home, though.

    TOM: What makes you think you have mold? Do you physically see it?

    LAURIE: Well, we have an underground – part of our home is underground and there is a lot of moisture. It seems like in the air, we’ve seen some mold on some items in our home. And we have some cold-like symptoms from time to time that we think might be caused from it.

    LESLIE: It’s like allergies, you’re saying.

    LAURIE: Yes.

    TOM: So it’s more of the effects of it that you’re concerned about.

    LAURIE: Correct.

    TOM: And this is in the basement.

    LAURIE: Yes. It’s in the part of the home that’s underground and I had read online that some of those mold test kits are unreliable that you buy in the store or mold inspections can be very costly. I just didn’t know the best choice there.

    TOM: Well, the truth is that mold pretty much exists in every home and so we can always find mold. The question is whether or not this is causing a problem in your house.

    What kind of floor do you have in that basement, Laurie?

    LAURIE: It’s cement and then there’s carpet over that.

    LESLIE: That’s a huge mold trap right there. If you were to get rid of that, you would notice. Even if there’s moisture management in a basement, we never recommend putting a carpet down on a concrete slab in a basement area, just because concrete’s hydroscopic. It pulls the moisture from the ground. That then gets into the carpet pad, the carpet itself. And then the dust gets in there and you’ve got a breeding ground for mold.

    So if you were to get rid of that, put down laminate or tile, use some area rugs, you’re instantly going to notice a better respiratory situation, I think.

    TOM: Well, exactly. Plus, carpet is a filter material, so that carpet can trap dust, dust mites and all sorts of other allergens. So there could be other things, Laurie, here that are causing the breathing issues.

    So let’s just give you some general clean-air advice. First of all, as Leslie said, the carpet’s not a good idea. Secondly, you want to make sure that your basement remains as dry as possible. And the way you do that is by making sure the gutter system is clean, free-flowing and the downspout is discharging well away from the house itself.

    Secondly, we may want to add some sort of a filtration system. Now, do you have forced air into that basement space?

    LAURIE: We do not. We do have a dehumidifier that we run and we have some ceiling fans but not in every room or not in every area.

    TOM: So, is it a hot-water heated house?

    LAURIE: No, it’s electric.

    TOM: It’s all electric?

    LAURIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: OK. So what we would really like to see is some sort of a filtration system in there – a good-quality, portable air filter, electronic air cleaner perhaps – that will pull the dust and dust mites and anything else that is of allergen basis out of that basement space. So a portable air cleaner could be a good addition.

    But I suspect, from everything that you’ve told us, reducing dampness and removing the carpet will make that space a lot more comfortable.

    LAURIE: Excellent. Thank you so much. That gives me some great ideas.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project, Laurie, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LAURIE: Thank you.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, do you still have dated or grungy wall-to-wall carpet in your house? You might think that replacing it is out of your reach but you can update it with a beautiful hardwood floor. And you can do that without breaking the bank. We’ll tell you how, after this.

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

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, we all know that winter can be tough on your house, as well as those people that live inside of the house.

    TOM: True.

    LESLIE: But seasonal stress, it doesn’t just happen at the exterior of your home; it actually also happens inside the house, as well.

    TOM: That’s right. As the heating system kicks on, walls, windows, doors and floors all dry out and shrink. This can lead to cracks and gaps and squeaks, especially in the floor. That’s why we’ll turn now to our friend and expert, Nate Poe, from Lumber Liquidators, for some insight and solutions to this potentially annoying problem.

    Hey, Nate.

    NATE: Hey, guys. How’s it going, today?

    TOM: It’s going really well.

    Now, I think that when folks hear a floor squeak – let’s start there – they tend to think, “Oh, my God. Structural problem.” But not so much, right?

    NATE: Absolutely not. Anybody who grew up in a house that had hardwood floors, we can all remember that squeaky board. Or if you’re at Grandma’s house and it has that kind of squeaky sound to it – but that’s actually a pretty common and normal part of a hardwood floor.

    You see, wood is a hydroscopic material. That means it’s exposed to air, it’s going to pick up moisture or lose moisture and that happens a lot this time of year.

    TOM: It’s basically a sponge but not as soft.

    NATE: Exactly, exactly. Moisture absorption is typical with a solid hardwood floor and it happens, like you said, especially this time of year when the heat cycle’s on. The interior of the house can begin to dry out and you can get gaps or squeaks. So it’s usually nothing to get too concerned about. There are some guidelines in terms of what’s acceptable.

    And a good NOFMA standard – that’s association of hardwood-flooring manufacturers in the U.S. Their guideline is a good gap is going to be no bigger than about the size of a dime. So if you happen to come home one winter evening and you look down and you notice some gaps in your hardwood floor, don’t be too concerned as long as they’re not a lot thicker than a dime.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And Nate, you shouldn’t attempt to do anything as far as filling, because once the weather does warm up and moisture returns, it’s going to go back the way it was, correct?

    NATE: Absolutely. Come spring, come the April showers that bring May flowers, you’re going to see those boards swell back up and those gaps are going to close off. One real way to help avoid gapping and movement, squeaks like that, is going to be helping – keeping your house at a constant temperature and humidity. You should try to keep it between 60 and 80 and a relative humidity of about 25 to 30 percent.

    TOM: That’s a great point. We hear from folks that, say, fly south for the winter and they ask if they should totally turn their heat off. And I always caution that when you do that, you may not recognize the inside of your house when you get back, because of issues like this with the swelling, with the shrinkage, with the moisture that gets in, the mold that can form. If you turn your heat totally off, even if you have your water off and all the pipes drained, you’re still at risk of quite a bit of movement as a result of that.

    NATE: Absolutely. And I always tell people, at Lumber Liquidators when you’re investing in that new floor, it’s going to look great. One thing you can do is try to make sure that you stay invested in it and keeping looking great, you know?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, Nate, when you install it – your flooring – are there any sort of steps that you can take to make sure that there is no movement? Or is it really just inevitable?

    NATE: No, absolutely great question, Leslie. Acclimation is key. When you go to the store and you pick out a new hardwood floor, the floor you install that you want to bring it into the home and you want to let it sit. A good guideline is a seven-day period. If you let it acclimate for that seven days, it’s going to gain or lose humidity relative to your home. The nice thing with that is then when you go to nail it down, your subfloor and your new hardwood floor are going to expand and contract at the same rate over time.

    TOM: We’re talking to Nate Poe. He is one of the experts at Lumber Liquidators, online at LumberLiquidators.com. Their telephone number is 1-800-HARDWOOD.

    Nate, we’re coming off the holiday season now and folks are thinking about being sort of locked down inside the house all winter long. Starting to talk a lot about some of those interior improvements. Hardwood floors, obviously a good thing to do. What are some of the best ways to get good prices on hardwood floors? How can you save money if you want to do that project? We know it adds value to the house but is there a way to cut costs on the selection and the installation?

    NATE: I think, first, that I would love to reiterate your point that it adds a ton of value to any property that you own. And it’s a great improvement, aesthetically, as well as for indoor air quality. So any listener that’s out there that’s thinking about putting in a hardwood floor, I absolutely recommend it.

    With that said, though, a great way to save yourself some money and some time is to make sure that you do your homework. Always compare apples to apples, because if you go out there and you shop on the market and you find a product that looks too good to be true or the price is too good to be true, a lot of times it is. So even though you may save and find that super-bargain, you may not end up with it as – being as happy with it as you would if you had spent a little better on a better product with a nice warranty.

    So, when I say apples to apples, make sure you’re looking at the grade of the material, that you’re comparing apples to apples there. The finish warranty is going to be important. And then make sure that you’re not buying seconds or that you’re not buying defective pieces. A lot of retailers out there carry those odds and ends and closeouts and sometimes, they can be the great deal for the right project. But if you’re really making an improvement in your home, my recommendation is always first-quality materials.

    TOM: We’re talking to Nate Poe. He is one of the experts at Lumber Liquidators. Their website: LumberLiquidators.com. Their telephone number: 1-800-HARDWOOD. A great source for hardwood floors.

    You have a tremendous selection there, Nate, and when you are making those apples-to-apples comparisons, certainly you want to see the products at Lumber Liquidators. We have seen them up close and in person many times and it really is a quality product.

    NATE: Thank you very much. Our products are high-end, they are industry-leading in quality and aesthetic. So, we really appreciate the compliment.

    LESLIE: Now, Nate, this time of year, the weather is terrible if you live in a colder climate. You’re dragging in all sorts of slush and ice and in many cases, icy melt. What do you do, short of a doormat, to make sure that anything that does get on the wood floor doesn’t damage it too terribly? And if it does, what do you do?

    NATE: Leslie, this time of year, you have the snow boots out in most of the parts of the country and that winter weather is something you really need to be cautious with, whether you have a laminate floor, whether you have a hardwood floor. You need to be careful because wood and water do not mix.

    So, prevention is worth a pound of cure. And so you want to make sure that you try to – if you do drag snow in onto the floor, that you wipe it up quickly. I think of a doormat inside and outside as a great thing when it’s snowing. You know, I make my kids take off their boots at the door.

    TOM: Good point. Nate Poe from Lumber Liquidators, great advice, as always. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    NATE: Thanks for having me, guys.

    LESLIE: Well, you probably know how important it is to childproof your home but did you know that your windows might actually pose a greater danger to the little guys than your electrical outlets? We’re going to tell you ways to keep your home safe, after this.

    (theme song)

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

    TOM: Where home solutions live, 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. And you should give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to help you get your home improvement projects done around your money pit. But one lucky caller this hour is going to win a really great prize.

    We’re giving away the Power Painter Plus from Wagner. And it’s a power-painting system that uses EZ Tilt technology so that when you’re painting, you can hold that sprayer at any angle and it will work as effectively, as efficiently as if you were spraying right in front of you. It’s worth 130 bucks and the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT, so give us a call.

    TOM: Well, through all of life’s stages, your home will be the place that you seek refuge, whether you’re a young and growing family with little kids or perhaps you’re an empty-nester that’s beginning to enjoy a little bit more free time. Your home will always be your safety net, so it’s very important to make sure that space is safe during every stage that life has to offer.

    For example, parents of young kids probably have outlet protectors and toilet locks covered. But one of the most dangerous areas in your home is your windows. Consider installing a safety-guard system: one that is hard for kids to work but easy for you to open in case of an emergency.

    We, for example, as our kids were small, had baby guards where you could pull a big tab and open the window guard very simply, so you didn’t need a key or anything. You just needed enough strength to sort of pull out the tab. Had a big circle on it where you could grab it with your hand or just a couple of fingers and get those guards open really easily so we could get out in the event of an emergency. But the kids, there’s just no way they could get through it. And we could leave the windows open in the summer without worrying about them falling.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I also think it’s important that when you’re baby-proofing your home, you need to remember that infants, they learn different things every single day. So today’s plan might not work tomorrow and that chair that you didn’t think your child could climb may suddenly be able to climb on it today. So, keep your kitchen counters clear, put away sharp stuff. Just be smart about it.

    TOM: That is totally true. And you know what? If you’re planning to retire in your home, keep in mind that lighting is super-important. Make sure all of the hallways, the task areas and the kitchen, bathrooms, those areas, they’re well-lit.

    And speaking of bathrooms, think about grab bars. They’re a lot more decorative today than ever before and they’re really strong.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And they’re really easy for you to install yourself correctly, as well. It used to just be a pro’s job because you had to get into certain spots but not so; there are some amazing anchors out there that make it a really easy do-it-yourself project.

    Now, if you want some more information on these topics, just search “universal design” or “childproofing your home” at MoneyPit.com and you’re going to find so much information for you to get started this weekend.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rika from rainy Oregon on the line looking to replace some siding. How can we help you?

    RIKA: Hi. I’m calling to see if you can recommend the best siding for our climate.

    TOM: OK.

    RIKA: We’re out here in the Northwest where we get a lot of rain and wind. And our T1-11, the paint has been peeling off and it’s starting to kind of disintegrate.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s a high-maintenance siding, T1-11. And if you’re not familiar with it, for those that are listening, that’s a plywood siding. And it’s OK as long as you paint it every day before you go to work; otherwise, it does wear out quite quickly.

    LESLIE: Now, when you’re talking about wind, Rika, are you saying that you get like super-duper-duper high winds like hurricane conditions? Like we should be looking at a certain mile-per-hour rating or just normal rainy/windy?

    RIKA: I mean we did have one hurricane out here, so it survived through that and stuff.

    TOM: You know what the nice thing about T1-11 is, though? It makes a really good sheathing. You don’t have to take it off to put siding over it.

    LESLIE: Should you paint it and seal it and make sure it’s in good, coated condition?

    TOM: No, no, no. You’re not going to rely on its weather resistance whatsoever; you’re just going to go right on top of it. So you could put a building paper or a Tyvek or something like that and go right over it.

    And the kind of siding that I think is probably one of the most weather-resistant sidings out there is a siding called HardiePlank, which is a siding that’s a cementitious type of a siding product. It’s molded. It can look like clapboard, it can look like wood cedar shingles. I’ve got an 1886 house, Rika, and I’ve got on my house real, old-fashioned wood shingles on the house and on the garage, we have HardiePlank. And I’ve got to tell you, from the street, they pretty much look identical.

    RIKA: Wow.

    TOM: Because the HardiePlank is just so well-made and it has that appearance of being like an old shingle. But it’s not organic; it’s not wood, so it doesn’t fall apart. And we actually ordered them from the factory primed and painted, so it was a little bit more money but so worth it. Because when you factory-paint this stuff, you just do so much better of a job than you can possibly do on-site itself. So, I would definitely look at HardiePlank siding that’s made by the James Hardie Company as one of the options.

    RIKA: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, has your gutter system turned into a gross, green mess? We’re going to tell you how to fix it, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And are you following us on Twitter? If you aren’t, it is a quick and easy way to get your home improvement tips sent directly to your computer or your mobile device. Just follow @MoneyPit and you will be tuned in to all of the tweets that Tom and I are putting out there.

    And you can also post your questions on MoneyPit.com. And I’ve got one from Lou who says: “I paid a lot of money for copper guttering. It performs perfectly but it has turned a dirty green color. Is there any way to remedy this?”

    TOM: Yeah. That’s what you paid for, Lou.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: That’s a beautiful patina that copper fades to.

    LESLIE: Well, it oxidizes, too.

    TOM: Yeah. Most people would live with that and enjoy it. I mean it’s the same thing for copper roofs, for copper light fixtures. It’s part of the attraction of buying copper. It’s too bad that you bought it not knowing that but I would just live with it, buddy.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: People pay a lot of money to see that green color.

    LESLIE: The oxidation, it looks beautiful. If you’ve got a brick home, that copper-oxidation color looks fantastic against that color of brick. If you don’t like it, you can actually get rid of it. It’s going to take a lot of work. You’re going to be on a ladder …

    TOM: A lot.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You can do it by mixing table salt with vinegar or table salt with a lemon, because you need the acid and you need the salt to sort of etch away the oxidation. And once you’ve gotten it to a place that you like – it’s never going to look brand new – you can spray it with an acrylic to sort of seal it. But I don’t know how long that’s going to last.

    TOM: It’s going to be a lot of work, Lou. I would get used to it.

    We’ve got another post here from Sarah who says she got an environmental report done on a house that she’s about to buy. It says there’s a dry cleaner nearby. She can’t find out how much of a danger this actually poses to her family.

    You know, Sarah, I think it probably poses a greater damage to your real estate value, especially if it’s really, really close by. But in terms of how much of a danger it is to your family health-wise, there’s a lot of different information online, including on sites like EPA.gov, about the effect of dry-cleaning chemicals.

    But the bottom line is I think it’s a bigger risk when you take them into your house and lift off those plastic bags and breathe all that stuff than just being sort of nearby it unless, of course, it impacts your property value. So that’s what I would be concerned about right now.

    LESLIE: Alright, Sarah. Hope that helps you with your home-buying decision.

    TOM: Well, winter storms are unpredictable at best and they can whip up at any moment. Your best defense, though, is a good offense. Leslie has got some tips on how to get ready for that white stuff, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Before those winter storms are even forecast and you get snowed in shortly thereafter, right now is a great time to gather all of your snow-removal supplies and really make sure that they’re in good condition.

    Now, the morning after a big snowfall is not really the time that you want to discover that your shovel’s handle is broken. And it’s, of course, the absolute worst time to actually go out there and buy deicer or any of those necessary supplies.

    If you are one of the lucky ones and you’ve got a snow blower, now is the time to have your snow blower serviced and make sure you’ve got the gas tank filled with fresh gasoline. You need to remember that gas is only meant to last for about 30 days, so be sure that you add fuel stabilizer so it can actually last up to a year.

    You also want to stock up on supplies of calcium chloride for deicing and mix up a batch with sand, because that combination will deliver traction without destroying your concrete surfaces. And you’ll totally be ready the next time you wake up and you find that it’s a beautiful winter wonderland. Just be prepared; it’ll make those snowstorms so much easier to deal with.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, we hit the road and head to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, where we’ll be reporting on the latest advances in home technology. All that high-tech cool stuff is out there now to help make your home more comfortable, more energy-efficient, more fun to live in. It’ll be there at CES and we’ll be there to report on it live from the floor.

    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 2012 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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