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How to Troubleshoot a Broken Vacuum Cleaner, Learn How Shower Mixing Valves Protect Against Shower Shock, Get Tips on Cleaning Your Windows Screens 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 you should go to the phones right now and give us a call with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. It’s as easy as that. Before you pick up the tools or before you throw the project down in utter frustration because it’s just not going well, well, pick up the phone and call us.

    LESLIE: Take a step back and use your phone.

    TOM: We’ll tell you to throw it down and start again.

    LESLIE: Aww.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    And here on the money pit, Leslie, we love to celebrate holidays, right?

    LESLIE: Yes.

    TOM: We’re always good for a holiday celebration.

    LESLIE: I love holidays.

    TOM: But this week, we’re going to break new ground. We’re going to celebrate That Sucks Day, which falls about this time every year and not so coincidentally, at the very same time your tax returns are due.

    LESLIE: For real? Ah. Which does suck.

    TOM: So, in celebration, we’ll make sure that one appliance in your house that is supposed to suck – of course, we’re talking about the vacuum – actually does just that.

    LESLIE: Oh, OK.

    TOM: We’re going to have some troubleshooting tips to make sure your vacuum sucks up dirt and crumbs exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

    LESLIE: Alright. And also ahead this hour, it also really sucks when you’re taking a shower and all of a sudden you’re hit with what’s commonly known as “shower shock”: the water turns icy cold or super-scalding hot in just a few seconds.

    TOM: Usually followed by a scream.

    LESLIE: Yes, usually. And sometimes preceded by a toilet flush and a laughing child.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: But if you’ve got everything squared away, you’ll be alright. You know, the problem is your shower valve and that’s what’s causing this problem. So we’re going to have the step-by-step solution to help you stay safe in your shower.

    TOM: Plus, just ahead, we’ve got some easy, window screen-cleaning tips to keep your windows and screens in tip-top shape.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got a $50 Lowe’s gift card, courtesy of our friends at Therma-Tru, up for grabs.

    TOM: So, let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Jessica in Texas is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you today?

    JESSICA: Hi. I wanted to find out – we were going to install wood flooring and I’m debating between the laminate and regular wood. And also, we have three kids and so I want to know which one’s easier to clean and take care of.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s the killer right there. If you’ve got kids, if you’ve got pets and you’re going to have that kind of activity, you’re going to have the need to have a floor that is as easy as possible.

    LESLIE: Super-durable.

    TOM: Very durable, yes, and as easy as possible to care for. So, with that in mind, we would tell you that laminate flooring is probably a little easier to maintain than wood flooring. But even having said that, if you are going to go with wood flooring, Jessica, you want to get one that has the best warranty possible because the finishes – I mean there are finishes right now that could last 50 years. I know Lumber Liquidators has got a – what is it – Bellawood line that has a 50-year warranty on it.

    LESLIE: Bellawood, yeah.

    TOM: You’ve got to get something that’s got a really good warranty finish on it.

    LESLIE: Almost like a commercial finish on it, as well.

    TOM: Well, exactly, because that’s what’s going to stand up to that kind of traffic. The care is totally different for wood floors; you don’t use very much moisture at all with them when you care for them.

    LESLIE: Like a damp – really damp like ….

    TOM: Yeah, very damp mop or not – I should say just a very-slightly damp mop. Laminate flooring, you could be a little more aggressive with. We have three kids that we brought up on our laminate floor and I’ve got to tell you, it was the right choice for us. But of course, it’s never going to look exactly like wood.

    JESSICA: Right.

    TOM: It could do pretty well but it’s not going to look exactly like it.

    JESSICA: OK. Which one’s easier to install by yourself? Is laminate pretty …?

    TOM: Laminate and engineered hardwood, which is similar to solid hardwood except it’s made up in layers. Both of those are floating installations where the tiles or the floor pieces sort of click together.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, they snap together and then lock down.

    TOM: Right. They don’t get glued down.

    JESSICA: Oh, OK.

    TOM: They float and then you use molding around the outside of the room to trim up that last space.

    JESSICA: OK, great. Thank you so much for you guys’ time.

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

    LESLIE: Greg in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    GREG: Well, I got some squirrels that got up in my eave; there’s a hole. And they crawled up inside there and now they’re up inside of the roof. And I don’t know if there’s an easy way to get them out of my roof and then cover up that hole or if I have to call somebody to get them out of my roof, I guess? I don’t know.

    LESLIE: Well, Greg, do you have access to the area of the attic or the area of your roof line, I guess, where they’re sort of hanging out?

    GREG: Yeah, I do. There’s an actual trap door that goes up there.

    LESLIE: OK. But they’re not getting into your house. They’re staying up there, correct?

    GREG: They’re staying up there, yeah. No, they’re not in the house but they make quite a bit of noise and my dog kind of tends to have a good time when they start doing that. So, wakes me up in the middle of the night with the barking and stuff, because you can hear them up in the roof, so …

    LESLIE: Good. For now. For now.

    TOM: What about a Havahart trap?

    LESLIE: Have you tried one of those?

    GREG: What’s that?

    LESLIE: A Havahart trap?

    GREG: I have not.

    LESLIE: It’s a very humane way of sort of containing the squirrels, if you will. And it’s an in-one-way/can’t-get-out-the-other-way type of trap. And you really have to be careful with the type of bait that you choose to use, because these squirrels are sneaky little guys. And they will get in there and take – whether you put an apple or something with peanut butter, something that they’re going to want to eat. You have to make sure that you wire this piece of fruit down into the cage because they have been known to sneak in there, grab the fruit and get the heck out before it has a chance to lock them in.

    So if you can sort of wire the piece of fruit that you’re using to tempt them in, down, they’ll come in, they’ll hang out, they’ll have a snack. The trap door will close, then brave you climbs up into the attic and takes your Havahart trap and drives them to the park – somewhere far away – and sets them free and runs.

    GREG: Well, I’ll try that. I just didn’t want to have to call somebody to do it and spend a lot of money.

    TOM: In that order, right?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    GREG: But I’ll look into that. That sounds like a good idea, so …

    TOM: Alright, Greg.

    LESLIE: And then, once you get them out, you can seal up that hole.

    GREG: Yep. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright, Greg. 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, with the holidays just a few days away, let us help you get your house in tip-top shape for the spring holiday season. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Up next, it definitely sucks when your vacuum cleaner doesn’t suck. But it’s not hard to figure out what the problem is so it can be repaired. We’re going to have some easy, vacuum-cleaner troubleshooting tips, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide four times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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 you should pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $50 Lowe’s gift card, courtesy of our friends at Therma-Tru. They’re supplying this gift card so that you could use it towards the purchase of a Benchmark by Therma-Tru door, which is sold exclusively at Lowe’s. It’s made of fiberglass, which looks like wood but insulates up to four times better. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Pick up the phone. We would love to help you with whatever you are working on at your house.

    And perhaps you’re getting really into the spirit of the spring season by just cleaning your house up a storm. But maybe when you’re getting to the cleaning process, you’re finding out that your vacuum cleaner is kind of acting up. So before you take it to the repair shop or worse, just give up and buy a new one, take a few minutes and try to pinpoint the problem.

    Now, the fix, it actually could be easier than you think, so start with the suction. Is the suction poor? Is it just not happening? If that’s your issue, there could be a clog in the hose or the bag or the filter. Or maybe the canister is full or maybe something in that canister needs to be replaced or just simply emptying out that canister.

    Now, if you’re hearing a funny noise or a weird vibration, first try to find out exactly where that noise is coming from. If it sounds like it’s coming from the motor area, it could simply be a broken fan blade. If the noise is coming from the brush area, then it may be a defective brush-roller bearing or the brush roller itself. If either is defective, that needs to be replaced.

    TOM: Now, if your vacuum cleaner is hard to push, it might have a broken or a worn belt or it could have come off the motor spindle. If your vacuum has a burning-rubber smell, that might also be coming from the belt. You want to check the brush roller for obstructions and clear away any hair or carpet fibers, because it makes the brush hard to turn and that causes some friction with that actual rubber belt. If the brush roller does spin freely with the belt removed, you can reinstall the belt and test it for proper operation.

    And if you find that you need to replace your vacuum cleaner’s belt, do yourself a favor: buy two and tape the extra one to the vacuum handle, so it’s always there and handy the next time your belt breaks. They’re cheap and they’re worth having an extra always on hand.

    For more troubleshooting tips just like that, head on over to MoneyPit.com and search on vacuums.

    LESLIE: Martie in Nebraska is on the line with a fencing question. How can we help you with your project?

    MARTIE: Hello, Leslie. Hi, Tom.

    TOM and LESLIE: Hi.

    MARTIE: I have a question – actually, two questions – about our wooden fence. We have a four-year-old, 6-foot wooden fence that we want to either stain or paint this summer. My first question is, do we need to put a primer on that fence? And my second question is, would it be better to stain it or paint it? And if we paint it, what type of paint?

    LESLIE: Hmm. And there’s nothing on it currently?

    MARTIE: No, no.

    TOM: Yeah. So what I would do is I would wire-brush it to make sure you get off any of the dead wood fibers.

    MARTIE: OK.

    TOM: Then, you know, if you use an oil-based, solid-color stain, if you prime …

    LESLIE: It’ll give you the kind of look of paint.

    TOM: Yeah, if you prime it, it will last longer but it’s a lot of work for a fence to do priming. But certainly, it will last longer. You need to use an oil primer underneath it. I did my last fence without a primer but I did use a really good-quality, oil-based stain with lots and lots of solid color, so it had lots and lots of pigment in it. And I’ve got to tell you, this wood fence is about ready to be replaced now but it’s been probably 15 or 16 years since I put it in there.

    LESLIE: Really?

    TOM: It’s lasted an amazing ….

    MARTIE: Oh, my goodness. That long?

    TOM: Yeah. And you know why? For two reasons. First of all, because I did a really good job finishing it and secondly, most of the fence installers put fences in that are too close to the ground. I made sure – I stood over the installer’s shoulder and said, “I want this thing to be about 3 inches off the ground so that the boards don’t come in contact with the dirt at all or with the grass during normal growth.”

    LESLIE: With the floor at all.

    TOM: Because when it gets wet on the bottom edge of the boards, that’s what starts the rot kind of riding right up the board.

    MARTIE: OK. So, that didn’t happen when ours was installed; it is flush with the ground.

    LESLIE: Touching the ground? But that’s OK.

    TOM: Alright. So you can undercut it. You can undercut it. So, take a board – like a 2×4 – lay it on the ground so – then draw a line 3 inches off the ground.

    LESLIE: You can even snap a chalk line from one end to the other.

    TOM: Yeah and cut that – those boards – so you have a little bit of air space underneath there.

    LESLIE: Do you have a circular saw?

    MARTIE: Oh. Yes.

    LESLIE: Because that’s great. If you snap a chalk line right across the entire length of the fence at the desired height, you just plunge-cut your first plank off and zip right across. Just watch your posts. Make sure …

    TOM: Yeah. You know why the fence installers put it in that way?

    LESLIE: So you’ll need a new one.

    TOM: It’s job security.

    MARTIE: Oh, oh, OK. So wire-brush it, then use – after it’s undercut, wire-brush it and then use a really good, oil-based stain.

    TOM: Solid color. Yeah. Solid-color stain. Solid color.

    MARTIE: Solid color, right.

    TOM: Right. As opposed to semi-transparent.

    MARTIE: Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ed in Indiana on the line who has got a water-heating question. How can we help you with that project?

    ED: Hi. Thanks for having me on. Well, what I’m looking at right now is I’m trying to make my home more energy-efficient. And I’m looking at the – GE came out with a GeoSpring hybrid hot-water heater, which basically runs like a hot – like a heat pump.

    TOM: It’s a heat-pump water heater, yes. Mm-hmm.

    ED: Right. And if you figure the dollars that it costs – it’s about $1,600 – and the savings per year could be up to about $320. They’re saying about 62 percent more energy-efficient. Looks like about a five-year payback. But this is a new product on – out on the market and I’d just kind of like to have your thoughts on it.

    TOM: So the technology has been out for probably about two years now. We’re starting to see the heat-pump water heaters be released by multiple manufacturers, including GE. GE makes a great appliance. The other thing to figure into this is that there is a tax credit that’s available. Now, it’s not as big as it was last year but it’s still decent; it’s a $300 federal tax credit if you buy and install it in 2011.

    So, the technology is solid and this is for folks, though, that right now have electric water heaters. So you’re not comparing this against gas. You had electric originally? Is that correct?

    ED: Oh, yeah. I’m totally electric.

    TOM: OK. So, you’re totally electric, you’re basically heating your water the most expensive way possible and now you want to try to save some money. With a heat-pump water heater, definitely the way to go with that.

    ED: Yeah. It looks like about a five-year payback period if it is true. You’ll save about 320 a year, so …

    TOM: Right. And you’ve got to use them correctly. They’re very sophisticated, though, with their control systems.

    ED: Yeah, absolutely. And I know water – heating your water is probably the most costly thing that you can do in your home but we’ll have to have a …

    TOM: Yeah. It certainly can be expensive but these water heaters are very, very good at what they do. They employ basically two technologies: they have the heat pump, which does most of the water heating most of the time but under periods of high demand, they still have the electric-resistance heat built into it. So you’re not going to run out of water because you’re heating it with a heat pump.

    ED: Alright. Well, thanks so much. I appreciate that.

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

    LESLIE: You know, GE is so savvy. When we were at the builders’ show, Tom, I don’t know if you remember this but at their booth, they were presenting this very new technology that sort of allows all of the appliances in the home to speak to one another and then to speak to the power company, as well, to give you the tools that you might need to decide – “Alright, if I do my laundry right now, it’s going to cost …”

    TOM: Yeah. Smart metering. A smart meter.

    LESLIE: I mean it’s really fantastic. So, they’re hopefully – you can monitor your entire home and really make smart choices to use your energy appropriately, efficiently and affordably.

    TOM: Absolutely. And like I said, the technology is solid, so I wouldn’t be concerned about it. And it’s going to be a heck of a lot less expensive way to heat your water.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Leslie calling in and it’s not me. And Leslie has a question about window condensation. Welcome.

    LESLIE (CALLER): Hello. Yes. My question is, how can I reduce or eliminate condensation that forms on the inside of my windows? The home was built in the 50s and so the windows are stationary; they’re not intended to be opened or closed.

    TOM: Right. Yeah and obviously, you have very inefficient windows. You probably do not have insulated glass, correct?

    LESLIE (CALLER): Probably.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, you’re fighting physics right here, Leslie. What’s happening is you have warm, moist air that forms in the house from everything that we do inside a house – from cooking to bathing to breathing – and that strikes the cold glass, which is not insulated, and condenses. So while you can take steps to reduce the amount of moisture inside your house, with dehumidifiers and things of that nature, you are almost always, most certainly going to have some level of condensation unless you replace your windows.

    Now, if you are thinking of replacing windows, I will say that doing so before the end of this year is wise, because you can qualify for a $1,500 tax credit and that will help offset some of the expense.

    LESLIE (CALLER): Wow. Alright. So, also, the wood around it is really weak, especially at the bottom.

    TOM: Yeah, well, because it’s …

    LESLIE: Because there’s water damage.

    TOM: Sure. Yeah, it’s subjected to all that water. You only need 20 – raise the water – the moisture inside the wood – 20 to 25 percent before the decay organisms wake up. So, yeah, that doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    LESLIE (CALLER): Lovely. Alright. So replacing the windows, then, is …

    TOM: Is a wise thing to do. I’ll tell you what. On our website at MoneyPit.com, there is a free download of a chapter from our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure, that has everything you need to know about choosing replacement windows. It’s got all the latest information in it, too, about the tax-credit program.

    So, go to our website, MoneyPit.com. I believe it’s on the home page; it’s one of the rotating panels there. And you can download that free chapter and that’ll get you started.

    LESLIE (CALLER): Alright. Thank you, guys, so much.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come this hour, this month we celebrate That Sucks Day. And …

    TOM: Still love that name.

    LESLIE: It’s just so meaningful, for so many reasons, especially this month of the year. So still to come, we’re going to help you find out what is causing that shocking shower: when your nice, warm shower suddenly turns freezing cold or scalding hot. We’re going to keep you out of shower danger zone, after this.

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And you can listen to The Money Pit on the go, with The Money Pit iPhone app. You can get the full show, full show archives. You can ask a question on the community – in the forum or you can connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. It’s all free online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Mildred in California is on the line with an air-conditioning question. What can we do for you?

    MILDRED: Yes. I’m in Sonora, California and in the summertime, we usually have three to six weeks that maybe gets up to 110, maybe 112, really hot.

    TOM: OK.

    MILDRED: Whenever my – I’ve got a roof – central heat and air-conditioning unit. So, whenever the air conditioner kicks on, it’s like hot air comes out first and it even smells almost like the furnace is on, until it gets that hot air out of the vents, I guess.

    TOM: Yeah.

    MILDRED: But they tell me I’ve got plenty of insulation. It’s a tight, little house. I’ve got the screens on the window to keep the sun out and everything, to keep my energy bill down and everything. But that first gush of hot air, can you get rid of that?

    TOM: No, not unless you move.

    MILDRED: Oh.

    TOM: Your forced-air system is going to have stale air that’s going to be in it and it’s going to get really, really hot. And when you first turn on the system, it’s going to blow all that out of there.

    LESLIE: It’s got to evacuate it somehow.

    TOM: And it’ll take a couple of cycles for that to do that. So what you’re describing is totally normal and it lasts for a very short period of time and it’s something that you really kind of have to live with.

    MILDRED: OK. I wondered if maybe there was something where you could put insulation around the vent pipes or something.

    TOM: No, because you – it’s not – there’s nothing to cool the air, OK?

    MILDRED: Oh, OK.

    TOM: Yeah.

    MILDRED: Oh, well. It just really shocked me; I guess I’ve never lived any place that it got this hot at one time.

    TOM: Right. Alright. Well, hopefully, we have put your mind at ease. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s probably happened to you at least once or twice: you’re standing in your shower and you’re having a great time, the water’s hot, you’re feeling good and then all of a sudden, it’s like “Gwah-zoiks (ph)!” The water turns either freezing cold or super-duper hot.

    TOM: And that’s an experience that can knock anyone off-balance. The solution, however, is to install a pressure-balanced valve. With us to talk about that is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing expert for TV’s This Old House.

    Hi, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hey, guys. Nice to be back in The Money Pit.

    TOM: And this is a situation also called “shower shock,” for a very good reason. Can you tell us exactly why it happens, so at least when we do get zapped the next time we’re in a shower, we’ll understand it?

    LESLIE: We know the reason.

    RICHARD: Well, you’ve got a hot pipe and a cold pipe that come up to your shower area. And they should have the exact same pressure, because the pressure coming in from the street should make it consistent. So let’s say that’s 40 pounds on each side. If you now flush a toilet and all of a sudden, the pressure drops on the cold-water side while you’re taking a shower, then the hot-water side has higher pressure. Thereby, more heated water goes through the shower head and you get scalded.

    TOM: So it’s really a matter of volume. If you spill off some of the cold water to flush a toilet or run the dishwasher, all of a sudden, there is that imbalance.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s volume but it’s really pressure, you know.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: Some volume of water goes when you flush the toilet but it is – all of a sudden, there’s a pressure imbalance and the hot-water pressure wins.

    LESLIE: So it’s like the tortoise and the hare; suddenly, the hare takes off and it’s gone.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. And it is a common problem and I – we’ve been in love with this basic, single-lever, pressure-balance shower valve for years. It was one of the great innovations in plumbing because it can eliminate this completely.

    TOM: So how, exactly, does that work then?

    RICHARD: Well, imagine it has a piston. We did a great, cutaway explanation of this on Ask This Old House in the studio. And so, now, there’s a little piston inside this shower valve that when it feels the cold-water pressure drop, it slides the piston in the opposing direction. It’s very counter-intuitive and it makes the pressure on the hot-water side go lower to match whatever the cold water is. So it’s constantly going to slide that piston back and forth to make sure that the pressures at both hot and cold, regardless of what happened in the house, stay the same. What a joy to be in a shower and not have to worry about that scald.

    LESLIE: Now, are you going to notice a drop in the pressure of the shower water itself, just because it’s balancing it?

    RICHARD: Slightly. It really depends on how much the pressure has dropped, meaning if the plumbing system is properly sized, you won’t see any real, noticeable change. If it’s undersized, you’ll see a drop but if it’s sized properly, you’ll see no appreciable change in pressure.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, the pressure-balance valve, this is something that’s installed behind your shower wall, so – and I imagine that every house is pretty much getting one of these. But what happens if you’re one of the unlucky few and you don’t have one? How do you sort of correct this without tearing down a wall?

    RICHARD: They have the most ingenious repair kit, a replacement kit. Now, the 1930s, 40s and 50s bathroom that – maybe not the 50s but it would have had the three handles: the hot, the cold and then the middle one to determine whether or not …

    TOM: The mix.

    RICHARD: Yes.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: That it went up to the shower head or down to the tub spout. Now, with this, you can mount a template. You can remove that valve, chip away the tile and there’s this cover plate that can cover exactly where those three handles were and allow you to retrofit this single-lever, pressure-balance valve.

    LESLIE: Oh, wow.

    RICHARD: We’ve done it on the show a couple times and it’s really a great solution for people. It’s amazing people live with this level of fear. They spend their whole lives – “Don’t tell me to go back into the …”

    LESLIE: “Don’t flush the toilet.”

    TOM: Right. Yeah. It’s the – yeah, it’s the source of all this domestic stress.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: And it doesn’t have to be, because …

    RICHARD: “Don’t run the dishwasher while I’m up there.”

    TOM: Divorces have been caused by less.

    RICHARD: But we do marriage counseling, too.

    TOM: Alright. He’s a very, very flexible guy. Lots of skills, including teaching us how to avoid the dreaded shower shock.

    Richard Trethewey from This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit once again.

    RICHARD: Glad to be here.

    TOM: And actually, on ThisOldHouse.com, there is a very, very good article called “Stop the Shock,” that walks us through some of these very same tips.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now remember, you can watch Richard and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by Stanley. Stanley, make something great.

    Still ahead, we’ve got tips on how to clean the grime off your window screens, so you can really let those warm-weather breezes come straight through.

    (theme song)

    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. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We would love to help you with all of your spring home improvements. All you have to do is dial 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, when you get us on the phone and you ask your question on the air, one of you will win a $50 Lowe’s gift card, courtesy of our friends at Therma-Tru. And a great spring project that’s really going to spruce up how your entire house looks, with really one simple project, is replacing your wood, front-entry door with a fiberglass door.

    Fiberglass doors, they look just like wood – I mean they really do – but they insulate up to four times better. And the Benchmark Collection by Therma-Tru is sold exclusively at Lowe’s. So one lucky caller that we talk to on the air is going to win that $50 Lowe’s gift card, courtesy of our friends at Therma-Tru. So give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, now that it’s getting warm outside, you might be ready to throw open the windows to let some of that springtime air sail through. Before you do that, you want to make sure to carefully clean your screens.

    Here’s what to do. First, you want to start by removing the screens from the frame and placing them on a flat surface, like the driveway or even your lawn. Then use a soft-bristle brush with mild soap and water to scrub away the dirt and the grime. And make sure you clean both sides of the screen before you rinse it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you want to remember never to pressure-wash your screens, because the force of your pressure-washer – which, we all know, once you get one in your hands, you just really want to get aggressive with it. So if you happen to use your pressure-washer while cleaning your screens, you could actually damage them.

    Now, most importantly, you want to remember that window screens are really just meant to keep insects out of your house and help you to provide ventilation. They’re not meant to support the weight of a pet or a child, so please keep your furniture away from your windows and teach your kids not to push on the screens.

    If you want some more information on window screens and windows, visit our friends at Simonton.com.

    TOM: Or pick up the phone and call us right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Terry in Arkansas is on the line with a tiling question. What are you working on?

    TERRY: It’s a bathroom floor and a walk-in shower.

    LESLIE: OK.

    TERRY: And I was just wondering – my tile on the floor – should I be leaving a ¼-inch grout all the way around, next to the wall?

    LESLIE: Between the first tile and the wall, where you’re going to have your wall tile sort of sit on top of?

    TERRY: Yes.

    LESLIE: I don’t know. I would try – I feel like a ¼-inch doesn’t seem like a lot but once you deal with grout at those joinery points, they lack the flexibility to sort of stand up to the normal wear and tear and movement. So after you get cranking in the shower, maybe give it a year and that grout’s going to start to crack out.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Whereas caulk, sort of sealing these two areas, really getting as close as you can with the tile to that corner area or that wall surface, that caulk will sort of seal everything together and move with it. I have a contractor friend who likes to mix grout with silicone caulk. I haven’t seen the results. He raves about his work; I’m not sure if it really works. But he does talk about it.

    Tom, what do you think? Does that work?

    TOM: I don’t like the idea of mixing it together.

    LESLIE: Right. It seems like the composition was off.

    TOM: Right, exactly. No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    LESLIE: Yeah. So if I were you, I’d just get as close as you can to that wall surface and then just caulk the edge so that it’ll move with it.

    TERRY: OK. And my other question was, would you guys recommend thinset or a type of mastic on the shower walls?

    TOM: Well, I would use a tile mastic, because the thinset is more of a leveling bed sometimes and I would use the tile mastic on the shower walls.

    TERRY: OK.

    TOM: This way, you’ll get good adhesion. And make sure you use a glue trowel on it, because it really requires the glue to stand up a little bit to be able to grab the edge of the tile.

    LESLIE: Mary in Delaware needs some help with a painting project. What can we do for you?

    MARY: Love your show. Wouldn’t miss it.

    LESLIE: Thanks.

    TOM: OK. Thank you.

    MARY: I have – oh, it’s a brick wall down in the basement.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Concrete-block walls?

    MARY: Yes. And I’d like to repaint them but I’d like to have them scrubbed down first.

    TOM: Why do you want to scrub them down? Are you a very tidy person?

    MARY: Well, there’s some black marks on them.

    TOM: They’re black marks? Is it because somebody was drawing on it or is it – are you concerned about any …?

    MARY: No, I don’t. No, I don’t do that kind of thing anymore.

    TOM: OK. Well, I don’t think you have to scrub down walls. If you have any moisture that’s gotten through the walls, it could have left some mineral deposits on it.

    MARY: I think that’s what it is.

    TOM: OK. Well, you can just brush that off; that’s not a problem. If you want to rinse it with anything, you can use a little bit of a vinegar-and-water solution. That will also make it come off.

    MARY: Oh, OK.

    TOM: And once it’s really, really dry, then you can use an epoxy paint on those walls or damp-proofing paint on those walls.

    MARY: Oh, how about DRYLOK?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s the same sort of thing.

    LESLIE: Same type of thing.

    TOM: It’s a damp-proofing paint.

    MARY: OK.

    TOM: And that’s fine. Very high odor, so make sure you ventilate the space very, very well. And what you want to do is get a fan – like a room fan – and see if you can stick it in front of the window so you’re always pumping – pulling some air out of it, sort of depressurize the space, so you have a draft sort of going through the whole basement while you work. That will make it a lot more pleasant.

    If you have the fan sort of – you can even sort of hang it up on the ceiling, in front of the window, so it blows out. And then open the door from the upstairs and that’ll cause a draft, where the air will kind of wash through the basement and push out. That makes that whole painting process a lot more pleasant.

    MARY: Oh, I thank you for that tip.

    TOM: You’re welcome.

    MARY: And I thank you for being there for all – I’m a long-time listener.

    LESLIE: Excellent.

    MARY: And I tell all my friends about you and I think they’re all listening, too. Keep up the good work and God bless you both.

    LESLIE: You, too.

    TOM: Thank you, Mary.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, spring means warmer weather but it also means that the pests are back in full force. We’re going to have some tips on how you can control those little buggers before they get out of control in your home, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Get all your spring and summer pest-control questions answered at MoneyPit.com. Everything we’ve ever written about pest control is available. It’s free and it’s at your fingertips when you search “pests” at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And while you’re online, you can post a question to our Community section. And pests were clearly on the mind of Steve who posted: “The stink bugs that went away for the winter are now back. How do I get rid of them?”

    Now, these are terrible, gross bugs, Tom, right? That if you happen to crush them, they just smell awful, right?

    TOM: They are. They smell terrible. And apparently, though, they can fly south for the winter so I guess they’re back now, here in the Northeast.

    LESLIE: Ugh. And you know what? The worst is if you look them up online – because when I heard the question, I had never actually seen one. I’d heard the myth of the stink bugs. They’re actually kind of pretty. And if you see something that’s orange with a colorful section in the center of a band of black-and-white striping in the center, don’t crush them; try to kill them intact, if that’s possible, or just get them out of there.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. And you can do all the same, basic things that you do with any kind of pest-control steps in your house: of sealing up gaps and that sort of thing. But if you really need to get rid of them, you need to use a chemical and you can’t do it yourself; you have to have a pro do it. But it’s cypermethrin; that’s the type of chemical that will kill off the stink bug population and stop them from coming back.

    But other than that, just clean them up by vacuuming them. As Leslie said, do not crush them because the odor will not be pleasant. Hence, the name “stink bug.”

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I think if you happen to, say, crush them on drywall or on the carpets – something that’s more porous – the stink that’s in them – and that certainly does suck, so that would be a This Sucks Month story. So the stink bug, if you get their oils or whatever it is that contains that odor, it could saturate into that surface if it’s slightly permeable. And you’ll never get that funk out of your wall, carpet, whatever you happen to squish one on, so really just be super-careful if you do have them. And call somebody right away.

    Alright, next up, Eugene from New York posted: “I had my house sided with vinyl siding. When the sun hits the siding or the temperature changes outside, I hear rippling and creaking sounds. It has woken me up at night because it’s pretty loud. What could be the cause of this and is there any way to fix it?”

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: Do you think it’s too tight?

    TOM: I know exactly what the cause is and that’s exactly right: it’s put on too tight. Now, vinyl siding has a very, very large expansion-and-contraction rate. And that’s why, if you look at a piece of vinyl siding, it doesn’t have nail holes in it; it has nail slots. And a pro installer is not supposed to take that last smack with the hammer and attach it to the house; they leave it loose so it can easily sort of slide back and forth.

    So the noise that you’re hearing is probably because the siding’s on too tight. And the fact that it looks wavy is further evidence of this because as it expands, of course, it has nowhere to go so it gets kind of wavy and buckle-y.

    So, vinyl siding has those issues and the way to solve it is basically to take the siding off and rehang it. You can’t sort of make it looser nail by nail. But I think this is just a bad installation and that’s going to be the only way to permanently fix it.

    LESLIE: So, really, rehang it.

    You think the best step is to sort of get that guy back in and have them evaluate their work or get an inspector?

    TOM: Well, yeah. Yeah. But you know what? Who’s going to evaluate their work and say, “Oh, yeah. I really put it on wrong. I’ll take it all off and replace it.” But that’s what has to happen. If it’s on too tight, it’s on too tight. You can’t make it looser any other way.

    LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps. You know, really, with vinyl siding, you do need to make sure the proper steps are taken. So, ask the questions, get that pro back in there and make them redo the work so that it looks good and it doesn’t keep you and your neighbors up all night long.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Happy Spring, everybody. Hope that you’re going to get a lot done in your money pit this weekend. We certainly are.

    We’re actually going to install some doors, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Alright. I like that project.

    TOM: Been putting it off but the 1886 house is ready for some new entryways and that is the project du jour for the week.

    Thank you so much for spending the hour with us. We hope that you will get your projects done successfully, with a bit of help from us. If you need to reach us 24-7, the number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leave a message right there; we’ll call you back the next time we produce the show. 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.

    (theme song)

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2011 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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