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How to Trouble Shoot Your Vacuum Cleaner, What You Can Do to Avoid Shower Shock, When is it Time to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, 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: So happy to be here and to celebrate this beautiful spring weekend. It’s time to pick up the tools and get to work. And we’re here to help you do just that. Pick up the phone first, though, and help yourself at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    And if you’re like, “Tools? No way. Not for me.” Hey, that’s fine, too. If you’re going to hire a pro to get a job, we can help you make sure you ask the right questions, set up the right expectations so that your project comes out exactly as planned. But again, help yourself first by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up on today’s program, it is officially spring-cleaning season and as such, the number-one tool you’ll need to work with is, of course, your vacuum. But if yours just doesn’t have the sucking power that it used to, we’ve got some troubleshooting tips to make sure that number-one cleaning tool is working just right.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, there’s really nothing more shocking than getting into your shower and having it be either too hot or worse: too cold. Well, we’re going to have some tips on a special type of shower valve that can help you avoid that shower shock, coming up.

    TOM: And if your electrical service panel isn’t up to snuff, you could get a shock of another kind. We’ll walk you through the five signs that show it’s time to upgrade that service panel.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a $50 gift card to The Home Depot. You can use it to stock up on your spring-cleaning supplies, including products from HDX, which are available exclusively at The Home Depot.

    TOM: And that HDX line has value prices for all our favorite supplies, like household cleaners, without sacrificing quality. So let’s get to it. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call with your home improvement question and you might just win that $50 gift card to The Home Depot.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Bill in Hawaii has got a squeaky faucet.

    Bill, tell us what’s going on.

    BILL: When I turn a faucet on anywhere in the house or I flush a toilet, I hear – there’s a high-pitched whine. And it doesn’t seem to make any difference where and which faucet, whether it’s hot or cold or upstairs or downstairs. I get this quite high-pitched whine or high tone in the plumbing.

    LESLIE: Does it go away after it’s been running awhile or does it stay on?

    BILL: No. As long as I have a faucet on, it continues.

    Now, I went on the internet and one of the suggestions was that there was a pressure regulator on the input water to the house. So, a month ago, I was pulling and adjusted that one way and it got worse. So just yesterday, I went and turned it the other way and now it seems to get better. Now it just has a high-pitched whine when you turn it on or shut it off but not during. Is that a possible – something wrong there?

    TOM: Yeah. I mean it’s probably the pressure regulator or even the main water valve. And the reason that you have such a loud noise is because plumbing makes a really good transmitter of sound, you know? So, if you get a little bit of noise down one end of it, it will transmit through the entire house. And the fact that this is consistent no matter where you are in the house and what you turn on means that it should be at the main, coming into the house, because that’s the only pipe that’s on all the time.

    So, I think you’re onto something there with the pressure regulator. And I would consider having that replaced and/or the main valve replaced, because I think that’s where the sound is coming from, based on what you’ve just described.

    BILL: Alright. Well, hey, very good. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Priscilla in Massachusetts is on the line and while we all love birdhouses, guess who else likes them? Squirrels. Let’s help her keep them out. What can we do for you today?

    PRISCILLA: They’ve chewed away at the holes of it so that they actually have made it – the holes bigger. And because of that, the birds are not going in there because the squirrel can go in there. So I’ve already tried PVC piping, because I figured that’s something I can put in there – insert it just in the hole – and it’s not too big, kind of narrow. But I can’t find one that fits.

    TOM: OK. Most of the solutions for bird feeders or birdhouses are really in two categories. One, they make it rather unpleasant forthe squirrel to be able to get up that high, with things like cones or plastic bottles or slippery pipes or ducts or Slinkies or things like that that slide around and make a lot of noise.

    PRISCILLA: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: Or simply move it completely away from where squirrels can get to it. So, for example, if you were to string a wire between two trees and not have overhanging branches above, the squirrels would never be able to get to that birdhouse.

    PRISCILLA: Could I have – do you know of something I can insert in the hole, though?

    TOM: Right. But if you insert it in the hole, the squirrels are still going to hang out in that birdhouse and they might try to chew their way in via another area.

    PRISCILLA: Right.

    TOM: So that’s why I’m saying that I would not focus on reinforcing the birdhouse as much as I would focus on moving it to an area that’s less likely to be attacked by squirrels.

    Priscilla, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Kenneth on the line to The Money Pit who’s got a flooring question. How can we help you today?

    KENNETH: Hi. Well, I was going to ask you about – how do you fix squeaky floors on a second floor of a house that has rugs, without ripping up the rugs?

    TOM: There’s a couple of things that you can do. First of all, you need to understand what causes the squeak. And generally, it’s movement between the subfloor and the floor joist underneath.

    KENNETH: Right.

    TOM: So, to try to reduce the squeak or eliminate it – you mentioned that you’ve got rugs and you don’t want to take them up. I just want to tell you that, of course, the surefire way to stop these squeaks is to pull the rugs up and then to screw the subfloor to the floor joist using long, hardened-steel screws, which you drive in with a drill. You don’t want to do that, so I’m going to tell you a little trick of the trade on how you can fix some of the worst ones without doing that. And that is to locate the floor joist underneath the carpet.

    Now, you need to do that kind of by trial and error. You can do that by tapping on the floor; you can do that with a stud finder. There’s a whole new line of Stanley stud sensors that work really well and they’ll penetrate through the carpet. You need to find that beam.

    Once you find the beam, then what you do is you get yourself some 12-penny, galvanized finish nails. And I say “galvanized” and hot-dipped galvanized is the best. Those are the ones that are really sort of crusty on the outside. And you find that spot and you drive the nail straight through the carpet. Don’t let your wife see you do this, OK? Because she’ll get upset with you.

    Straight through the carpet and then with the nail set, you punch that head right through the carpet. When you finish driving with the hammer, it’ll look like the carpet is dimpled. But if you take a nail set, you punch it through the surface of the carpet and sort of pull the carpet back up and rub it with your hands a couple of times and it’ll disappear; that divot will disappear.

    What you’re doing is you’re securing that floor right above – right through the carpet without pulling the carpet up. Now, I wouldn’t want you to do this to the whole house but I’ve fixed this in lots of houses using two or three strategically driven nails. And I find if you drive it at a slight angle, it works better, because the nail holds better.

    KENNETH: OK. Well, I noticed they had on the old This Old House the other day on TV, they showed you how to do it with the rugs, before I called you. And they use this O’Berry Enterprising kit, which is a drill bit that’s only got three threads on it that you drill down until you find your stud. Then they have 50 screws with little socket heads on them and you drill those down into the beam and then you have a little tool that breaks the head off. And it’s ingenious. The only thing is is that I can’t find the beams.

    TOM: Yeah, you need a stud sensor. So that would be a worthwhile investment of a few dollars. Those stud sensors are $10 to $20, $25 for a real good one.

    KENNETH: I will and I thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it is the weekend before your taxes are officially due, guys. So if you are hiding underneath receipts trying to figure out what you can get a tax credit on, where’d you put that W-2, you’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, my friends. But we’re here to give you a hand and sort out whatever we can, home improvement-wise. You know how to reach us: 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, is your vacuum cleaner acting up? It’s not a good time for that, considering spring cleaning is here. We’ll have troubleshooting tips, next.

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    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: Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. You’ll get the answer, plus this hour we’re giving away a $50 Home Depot gift card. You know, you can use it to buy HDX products, like HDX brooms, mops and scrub brushes. In fact, that wide-angled broom made for the home is perfect for either outdoor or indoor use. It’s got an extra-wide sweep and angle cut that gives you the access to dirt even in those tight corners. And its dual-poly fibers are made to pick up both the fine and rough debris.

    You can learn more at Home Depot or HomeDepot.com. But if you pick up the phone, right now, and call us, we will toss your name into The Money Pit hard hat and perhaps be sending that $50 Home Depot gift card to you, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Delaware to chat with Ruth, who’s having an issue with water heating. Tell us what’s going on.

    RUTH: Our water heater is – I’m guessing it’s around 12 years old. And whenever I use the hot water, it doesn’t seem to last very long. And so a couple months ago, maybe 6 months ago, my husband and his friend – and his friend, I guess that’s what he does for a living. They emptied the water heater and they put two new elements in. But in my opinion, it’s still doing the same thing, like it didn’t – to me, it didn’t change the length how long the hot water lasted.

    TOM: And this is an electric water heater?

    RUTH: It’s not gas; it’s electric, yes.

    TOM: And so, when they replaced the elements, they tested both elements to make sure they actually work?

    RUTH: I’m not sure if they did that. I don’t know. He said they put new elements in. I’m assuming they – I mean I guess I could ask them later if they did that.

    TOM: Because here’s the thing. When you have a water heater that’s electric and it runs out of hot water quickly, it’s usually because one or the other of the two elements burn out or the control circuit breaks down so that they don’t actually come on. So, what you do, as a technician, is you run a continuity tester on these coils. And it’s a way of determining whether or not they’re working or not.

    Electric coils for a water heater is just like a light bulb: either works, doesn’t work; there’s no in between. And so, the first thing I would do is check the continuity on both of these coils to make sure they’re both physically working. Because what you’re describing, to me, sounds like one is not and that could be the whole source of the problem, OK?

    RUTH: Alright.

    TOM: Ruth, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Anthony in Tennessee on the line. How can we help you today?

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I’ve got a ’99 379 Peterbilt and it’s got one bed in it. And we pretty much live in the truck and we’re wanting to turn that one bed into a bunk bed. We tried to widen it and it didn’t work out too good. So I’ve got to go right weight, because I’ve heavy and the truck’s real heavy. So if I do it in 2x4s, it’s going to be a real heavy, heavy truck.

    TOM: Anthony, you know what comes to mind, that I think would be a good solution for you, is a metal bunk bed – an army cot bunk bed. The army cots, if you just Google “army cots and bunk beds,” you will see a wide variety of metal bunk beds that are stackable. And they certainly have them in light-duty to heavy-duty designs.

    They’re not terribly expensive. I see them online for $300, $400, $500. And they’re not very heavy and they’re super-strong and they can be two, full, twin-size beds stacked one on top of another.

    ANTHONY: OK. Well, the bed that’s in here, the frame of that bed is part of the truck.

    TOM: So it has to sit on top of that, correct?

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I have to set something into that framework above my bed.

    TOM: Right. So then maybe what you want is just basically one half of that cot-style bunk bed. And then you have to build supports to get it up in the air for the space. So I would take a look at these metal bunk beds online.


    TOM: I think you’re going to find your solution there and it’s going to be a lot easier to deal with than trying to frame something out of wood.

    ANTHONY: Yeah, because then I could just set it in place and mount it to my bed.

    TOM: Exactly.

    ANTHONY: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that.

    TOM: Alright, Anthony. Well, I’m glad we helped you out. And I’ve got to say, this is one very unusual question for us and I’m glad we were able to come up with a solution.

    LESLIE: Is your vacuum cleaner acting up? Well, the fix might be easier than you think. First of all, you’ve got to start by making sure it’s actually working, you know, sucking? So check the suction. If it’s poor or not even happening, there could be a clog in the hose, the bag or the filter. So you’ve got to kind of work backwards and see what’s going on. Or your canister may be full or it just needs to be replaced or emptied.

    TOM: Or are you hearing a funny noise or a vibration? I mean that’s a sign something is not right. If it sounds like it’s coming from the motor area, it may very well be a broken fan blade. If the noise is coming from the brush area, then it could be a defective brush-roller bearing or the brush roller itself. But the good news is that if either is defective, it needs replacing, which is a pretty straightforward DIY project.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now here’s another thing: if your vacuum is hard to push or if you’re smelling something burning, like a burning-rubber smell, it could have a broken or a worn belt inside. So you want to check the brush roller for obstructions, clear away any hair or carpet fibers, because these do get stuck in there and that really tends to bind things up.

    Now if you do find that the brush roller is spinning freely with the belt removed, you can reinstall the belt and then test for proper operation again.

    TOM: And if you find that you need to replace your vacuum cleaner’s belt, here’s a tip: buy two. They’re cheap and you can tape the extra one to the vacuum handle so it’s always there and handy the next time your belt breaks.

    For more troubleshooting tips, visit MoneyPit.com and search “vacuum cleaner.”

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading on over to Ohio with Bobbie, who cut down a tree but is now wondering what’s going on with the dirt settling and sidewalk.

    This sounds like it’s got an interesting story, Bobbie. What happened to the tree?

    BOBBIE: Well, it got a disease in it. And they recommended that I cut it down before it falls on my house. So, I had it cut down and they ground out the stump. And now, I was wondering how long do I have to wait for the dirt to settle or if I even have to wait to extend my sidewalk.

    TOM: Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to build a sidewalk on top of all of the ground-out sawdust, because that clearly is going to decay away. I think the best thing to do is to try to add some stone to that stumped area. Maybe rake out all of the sawdust and pack it with stone and then make sure the new sidewalk is poured over that stone or even embed some of the stone into the concrete. Because otherwise, you’re going to build a sidewalk on top of an unstable piece of soil and that could crack.

    Another option there is to have the mason add some reinforcement to the sidewalk. And make sure the reinforcement straddles the weak area of the soil so that, again, if you do get some additional compression, the sidewalk won’t crack and sink in that area.

    You’re wise to raise this question. You do need to work around it and I think a good-quality mason can help you do that.

    BOBBIE: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ralph in Missouri who’s working on a ceiling project. Tell us what’s going on.

    RALPH: There’s two rooms upstairs and the one side, I’ve changed into a bedroom, put a bathroom up there. The other one, I’d like to take the existing ceiling out and put a cathedral ceiling in. I just want to open the room up. The ceilings are kind of low now. Somebody has put suspended ceilings in there, which …

    TOM: Made it even lower.

    RALPH: Well, yeah. And it’s got the old tongue-and – or lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings and all that. So I guess they didn’t want to go with the mess, so what do you do? You just stick up a suspended ceiling.

    But anyway, I’d like to take the existing ceiling joists out and maybe not use the rafters for the cathedral ceiling but add some new rafters to kind of follow the outline of the roof line. But I just want to make sure that if I pull these joists or ceiling joists out of here, that the house isn’t going to fall down, you know what I mean? The walls aren’t going to bow out and fall out on me.

    TOM: Well, the house may not fall down but the roof might collapse. That’s not any better.

    You see, look, if you’ve got a very high-pitched roof like that and that roof is resting on the top plate of the exterior wall and you take the ceiling joists away, those serve the purpose of tying those exterior walls into the rest of the house. Now, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it but you just can’t do it without somehow replacing that structural element.

    I would recommend that you not do this yourself, that you get help from an architect to design this. Because it’s a little more complicated than what you might think. It’s easy to cut stuff away; it’s not so easy to put it back together in the right way. And when it comes to this kind of modification, it’s got to be done just right.

    There’s other issues, too. Now, you’re going to have to make sure that this cathedral ceiling is properly ventilated and properly insulated. And that’s going to take some work. Otherwise, you’re going to add an energy-leaking hassle to your home that won’t bode well. And you might want to think about adding some additional lighting, like a skylight or something of that nature.

    So, it’s a project that can be done but it’s a little more complicated than meets the eye. I would getsome professional design help on this and not just get out the old Sawzall and cut – start cutting things out of the way.

    RALPH: OK, OK. Yeah, well, that’s good advice.

    TOM: Alright, Ralph. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, do you experience tripped circuits a little more often than you’d like around your money pit, say, when you’re in the middle of blow-drying your hair? Well, you might want to see if it’s time to upgrade your electrical service panel. This Old House electrical contractor Scott Caron is going to give us the five signs you might need an upgrade, after this.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-like tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

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

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    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: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We are here to help you with your home improvement or home décor question.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Phyllis in Ohio on the line who’s having an issue with some plants and a neighbor’s A/C. Tell us what’s going on.

    PHYLLIS: Yes. Their air conditioner is on the back wall of my patio and they run it 24-7 during hot weather.

    TOM: OK.

    PHYLLIS: And my plants are beautiful until they turn the air conditioner on. And even though I’d water them three times a day, they turned into nothing but sticks. And I’m wondering if something could be built kind of around the – or the air conditioner so they can have their use of it but I can still enjoy my plants.

    TOM: So, this is a wall air conditioner?

    PHYLLIS: Yes.

    TOM: You can create an enclosure around that. So, for example, if you were to build something with lattice that was sort of walled and separated that area from your patio – as long as you – you need to leave about 12 inches of air space around the air conditioner for it to work correctly. So if they’ll let you, you could build something with lattice around it. And then perhaps on the lattice, you could add a vine or something like that that would fill in nicely and be nice and green and give you a bit more privacy from that space, as well.

    I do question, though, why the air conditioner could be causing the plants to die, unless it’s the fact that there’s a new airflow that’s always pulling air through there or it’s hiding some of the sun from getting it or something like that. So I wouldn’t necessarily totally blame the air conditioner but if you’re asking me can you build some sort of a screening, yeah, you can do that with lattice, as long as you leave about 12 inches of space for the air to get around it. Because otherwise, the air conditioner is not going to work properly.

    PHYLLIS: I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Well, your home’s electrical panel is made up of circuits that provide electricity to your home. You probably never think about it until a circuit trips and you have to.

    TOM: True. But if you find that happening more often, could it be a sign that you need to upgrade your electrical service panel? Scott Caron is a master electrician and electrical contractor for This Old House and joins us now with five signs your service panel may need an upgrade.

    Hi, Scott. Welcome to the program.

    SCOTT: Hey. It’s good to be here.

    LESLIE: A lot of times, I think when people have one circuit breaker trip, they think they need a whole new panel. But that’s not the case, right?

    SCOTT: No, it’s definitely not the case. If there’s a circuit that’s giving them a hard time, either the circuit is undersized or it’s tandemmed (ph) onto something else that shouldn’t be.

    TOM: And that could be repaired without replacing the entire panel. But there are things that might indicate a panel replacement is due. The first one you suggest is faulty wiring. What do you mean?

    SCOTT: Faulty wiring is certainly one of the common causes of residential fires in the United States. There are some signs that you can look at: dimming of the lights or flickering. If you’re getting a shock when you’re near the washing machine or sink, (inaudible at 0:23:11).

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a bad sign.

    SCOTT: Yeah, it’s not good. And obviously, if you’re smelling something burning, after you call the fire department, you call an electrician, see what’s going on with that.

    TOM: Now, what if you have a fuse panel? Is that necessarily a bad thing? Does that mean that you need a new circuit breaker panel?

    SCOTT: You know, Tom, I’m not against fuses. I really like them. They’ve been around for a long time. When they shut off, they’re off and you call an electrician to find out what the problem is. But they are inconvenient and some insurance companies, they do have some problems with them. But it’s a good time to update because you can’t buy fuse panels anymore and they’re hard to expand with.

    TOM: And very often, over the years, folks will put the wrong-size fuse in the panel because 1 fuse – a 15-amp fuse and a 20-amp fuse basically fit in the same size hole, right?

    SCOTT: That sounds like you’re talking from experience, Tom. I don’t know where that comes from.

    TOM: It comes from 20 years as a professional home inspector removing those fuse-panel doors and looking inside and going, “Oh. Look at that. A number 14-wire on a 20-amp fuse. Not a good thing.”

    SCOTT: I could see the pressure there, though, if you’ve got Thanksgiving at your house and something’s not working.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SCOTT: There’s a little bit of pressure to get the lights working but you’re right. They can be interchanged. They came out with some safety fuses later on in the evolution of fuses. But circuit breakers are nice. You can’t mess around with them too much.

    TOM: Now, another sign, I think, is when you just see people really trying to stretch that electrical system to the limit. They’re got extensive electrical cords and power strips and the like. Yeah, that might be a sign that you’re just really short on wiring.

    SCOTT: Tom, everything has a plug on it these days. Whether it’s a cell phone or – I mean everything. You need a plug for it. And we put a lot of outlets in because of that. But yeah, if you need to expand, you’re going to need to add circuits to it.

    TOM: Now, as an electrical contractor, I guess there does come a point where you’re doing all this wiring in the house as it is. Replacing the panel doesn’t really add significantly to the expense at that point.

    SCOTT: No. The minimum-size electrical panel is 100 amps that we’re using in houses these days. A more common one is 200. Now, back in the 80s, we used to put 400s in for some of these, I guess, average-size homes but not anymore. Because of all these ENERGY STAR appliances and LED technology with the light bulbs, we’re actually using less power and they’re not as required.

    TOM: That’s a good point because that’s another reason that folks would replace their panels: because they were putting in new appliances. But they’re just that more – that much more efficient these days.

    SCOTT: Yeah. Sometimes, we’ll take out a 40-amp range and put something in that only uses 20, 25 amps. So, I see it every day. The refrigerators are getting better and those are your two biggest uses of electricity in the house, so …

    TOM: And I guess if you are planning on upgrading or renovating your home and you’re doing that work, replacing that panel could be the perfect project to add to that job.

    SCOTT: Absolutely. And obviously, it’s an electrician’s job. I have seen some homeowners do it in the past but they …

    TOM: Not a good idea.

    SCOTT: No. They have somebody working very closely with them. They had to have.

    TOM: Scott Caron, the electrical contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    SCOTT: You got it. It was fun to be here.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Still ahead, have you ever experienced shower shock, like maybe when your shower suddenly goes icy cold or scalding hot? Good news: there’s an easy fix. Learn how when The Money Pit returns, 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.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. You are going to get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a very useful spring-cleaning prize. We’ve got up for grabs a $50 Home Depot gift card, which is awesome. But you can use it to buy HDX products, like brooms, mops, scrub brushes.

    What’s super fantastic about the HDX products is that there’s a wide-angle broom, which really is perfect for either indoor or outdoor use. You’ve got an extra-wide sweeping angle that gives you access to dirt, even in those tight corners. And its dual-poly fibers are meant to pick up both fine and rough debris. So whether you’re cleaning inside or outside of the house, you’re going to end up with a super-spotless area.

    Check it on out at HomeDepot.com or Home Depot. And give us a call, right now, for your chance to win that $50 Home Depot gift card.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Chuck in Rhode Island needs some help cleaning something. What’s going on at your money pit?

    CHUCK: How would you suggest I go about removing blood stains from carpeting?

    LESLIE: Well, I’m assuming since you’re calling in, it’s nothing that we want to hide or cover up, correct?

    CHUCK: No, no. Oh, no, no. No, no, no, no.

    TOM: Alright. Have they been down there a long time?

    CHUCK: Yeah, about six months.

    TOM: Alright. So, there’s a couple of different things that you can try. One of which is to make a paste out of salt. And so you take a bowl of cold water and you put enough salt in to make a bit of a paste. And then you apply that to the carpet, let it sit a bit. Brush it in with a small brush, like a small hairbrush or a toothbrush, and see if it starts to lift the stains away. You can dab it with water to kind of thin out the salt.

    Then after it dries, you can vacuum it and that will pull all the rest of the salt off of it.

    CHUCK: Uh-huh. OK.

    TOM: So that’s one way to do it. The other way to do it is to try to make a mixture of hydrogen peroxide up and water. This hydrogen peroxide will also clean up blood. I always say to try this, though, in an area that’s inconspicuous because it also has somewhat of a bleaching effect. We don’t want to have you bleach out the carpet.

    So you can try it in a corner, under furniture, in a closet, wherever you have a less visible area.

    CHUCK: What ratio of the peroxide to water?

    TOM: Well, no, actually, you can just put the peroxide on without water. Just put like 3-percent hydrogen peroxide.

    CHUCK: OK. I’ll try those items and see what happens.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Well, it’s probably happened to you at least once or twice: you’re standing in your shower, you’re enjoying the warm water when all of a sudden, yikes, the water turns freezing cold or scalding hot.

    LESLIE: Yeah. That experience can really knock anybody off-balance. But there’s a simple solution and that’s to install a pressure-balanced valve. Now, it works by adjusting the pressure changes as the water comes in through the hot- and cold-supply lines. A piston in that valve will automatically open or close to maintain that balance in the pressure, which in turn will keep that water flowing at an ambient temperature: you know, the one you want.

    TOM: Yep, exactly. Now pressure-balancing valves are now required in new construction in most states. Installing one does require plumbing work. It’s not a DIY job, because you have to cut through the back of the wall where the faucets are located. But it’s really worth it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? If you’re already opening up a wall back there, take this opportunity to add an access panel. Because if anything ever happens again, at least you’ll be able to just quickly get into it to make repairs, to make changes, upgrades, whatever it is, rather than having a big construction project at your hands.

    Now, if you don’t want to get that involved with a pressure-balance valve, you can simply adjust your current valve, which is a fairly simple DIY project. First, you want to take off the hot-water shower handle. Now, there may be a screw on the end of that handle that needs to be removed before the handle will come off. So do that, find the large valve stem. It’s going to be directly behind the area where you removed the handle. There’ll be some screws attached to the valve stem. Now, this screw controls the shower-mix valve.

    TOM: Right. Now, if you want to release more hot water, you simply turn that screw counterclockwise and of course, you can turn it clockwise if you want to release less hot water. You want to test the valve to see where that water temperature is at. I wouldn’t go any more than 90 to 100 degrees because, other than that, it’s going to get pretty scalding hot. And when you’re done, you reattach the shower handle, you replace the screw that holds it in place and you’re good to go.

    If you have a question about your home improvement project, we’ll help you make sure you’re also good to go on that job. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Scott in Iowa on the line who needs help with a painting project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    SCOTT: I just recently bought a rental house and the plaster – it’s an older home and the plaster was falling off the house. Well, the guy I bought it from had repaired it but if you look at it, it’s falling out in some areas and bowing back in in some areas. And I was just wondering, would I have to re-drywall it or is there a cheaper and easier way to fix that?

    TOM: How much of this exists? Is there a lot of this that’s where it’s – the plaster seems to be loose?

    SCOTT: Throughout the whole house.

    TOM: Yeah, OK. So it’s a problem because it’s going to be dangerous.

    What happens is the plaster, when it’s applied, it’s applied over something called “wood lath,” which are like thin strips of wood. Kind of looks like those sticks we use to hold up garden plants and tomatoes and things like that. And the plaster expands to behind the lath and it sort of locks in place. 

    But over the years, with an old house, those “keyways,” we call them, loosen up and then the plaster is not attached to the wall anymore. So you are looking at a situation where the walls are going to get worse. It’s not going to get better. And if it’s the ceiling that’s loose, it could be dangerous. Because when that plaster falls, it’s really, really heavy. I’ve seen it dent floors and certainly could hurt somebody.

    So now we have – the question is: what’s the best way to deal with this? “Should I tear the plaster out? Should I drywall over?” I’ve done it both ways and I’ve come to the conclusion, after trying it this way for many years, that the best thing to do is to put drywall on top of the plaster, not tear it out, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s less messy. Secondly, that even when you tear out the lath and the plaster, you’ll find that the studs from the old house behind it are not very even. So when you put drywall up, it tends to warp sometimes.

    So what I would do is I would attach new drywall over the plaster. You can use 3/8-inch-thick drywall, too; you don’t even need to use ½-inch drywall. And then by attaching from the drywall, through the plaster into the studs, you’ll help secure that loose plaster so you won’t have any further movement in that room. That would be my recommendation.

    SCOTT: That works out.

    LESLIE: Hey. Still to come, does your driveway and sidewalk look like a scene out of a horror movie: you know, Attack of the Killer Weeds? Well, we’re going to help you get a head start on controlling the weeds with our tips, when The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Glisten. Glisten makes it easy to clean, freshen and maintain your dishwasher, disposer, microwave and washing machine. So improve the performance of your appliances with cleaning solutions from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Visit GlistenCleaners.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And if you’d like tips, advice and home improvement info delivered right to your inbox every Friday morning, you need to sign up for The Money Pit’s free e-Newsletter.

    LESLIE: Hey. And it’s just in time for all your weekend projects, so you’ll get a lot of great ideas on what you should be working on around your own money pit. Just like our Facebook page. That’s Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. And look for the sign-up button right there on our cover photo.

    TOM: And by signing up, you’ll have access to our weekly e-Newsletter, a great resource for do-it-yourselfers and direct-it-yourselfers. Check it out at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    LESLIE: Alright. And post your questions online, as well, because we’d love to help you out with all of your e-mails and posted questions. Now, here’s one from Old House DIYR who writes: “Twelve years ago, we bought a 100-year-old home. We gutted the second floor about eight years ago and one of the walls on the second floor developed a crack, then a second and a third. My concern is not how to repair but I’m wondering if I have a structural issue.”

    TOM: Well, old houses – and new houses, for that matter – have quite a bit of movement in them as they expand and contract. The question with these cracks is whether or not they’re normal movement or indications of, say, a deeper structural problem. So, if this is drywall – I’m presuming since you took all the – you probably took a bunch of plaster down, you put drywall on – it’s indeed possible that these cracks are nothing to worry about. It really depends on if they’re progressing.

    And I think to be absolutely sure, I would probably have this looked at by not a contractor – that’s very important because they have motivations to sell you a repair – but perhaps a professional home inspector who is not in the repair business or an engineer if you have access to one or want to hire one.

    And then when it comes time to do these repairs, many people make mistakes when they’re trying to repair wall cracks and they just sort of spackle over it. And it looks good for a moment but then, of course, the crack opens up again sometimes within weeks. What you want to do is put a drywall tape over that crack. We recommend the perforated tape, like the fiberglass kind of mesh tape only because it’s really easy to work with. And then use spackle over that. That tends to bridge the gap of the crack and not open up again as the walls expand and contract.

    Now, if it does turn out that there is a structural problem, you obviously have to have it fixed. I would, at that point, engage an engineer to recommend and specify exactly what the repair that has to be done is. Then you bring in the contractor, have them work off the engineer’s design to make that repair.

    Next, there’s one more important step. You bring the engineer back and have them certify that it was properly fixed. And this way, you have kind of a pedigree if it ever comes up, perhaps, in a home inspection later when you’re trying to sell the house that this crack existed and was repaired. You’ll know that it was done correctly and you’ll be able to prove it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s really helpful, especially, even as Tom said, if you’re going to sell the house down the road and something shows up, it really is super helpful.

    Alright. Now we’ve got a post here from Nick who writes: “How do I kill the weeds growing in my gravel driveway? I’ve tried vinegar. Can I try anything else? I’m spraying the driveway about once a month.”

    TOM: I think what I would do is I would recommend a product called Roundup. I’ve used that myself on patios where you have weeds that come up in between. And you simply want to spray the weed very strategically. One way to do that is to take a milk jug and cut the bottom off of it, surround the weed with the milk jug and then spray through the top of the milk jug so you know you totally get that weed and you don’t get drift. Because if you do get drift with that Round-up material and it gets on your grass, you’ll kill that, as well. Just chase it with the Roundup. I think you’ll be good to go.

    LESLIE: Alright. Focused spraying. Good luck, Nick.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on a beautiful spring weekend. We hope we have inspired you with some tips and ideas to tackle the projects that you need to get done around your money pit. Remember, if you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT and always online at MoneyPit.com.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2016 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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